The following is an email I wrote to a friend in response to a mention of Bill Halverson, who produced the first ZEPHYR album. After I finished, I thought this might contribute to our little project. To me, it sounds somewhat angry, but all in all, I think it’s an accurate recollection and analysis of what happened.
ZEPHYR: Tommy Bolin | Candy Givens | David Givens | John Faris | Robbie Chamberlin | Bobby Berge ....
I learned a lot from Bill Halverson. He was a mainstream Hollywood engineer when we worked with him in late ‘69 and he introduced me to 16 track recording, use of outboard gear, editing, and mixing as well as working as a musician/producer in the studio. He also taught me what happens when you take on a project that you don’t comprehend, what happens when you put your loyalty to your paycheck ahead of your ethical responsibilities, and what happens when you try to apply old methods to new opportunities - no good in any case, I assure you.
You can trace the loss of both Tommy and Candie to Bill’s failures and here’s how: ZEPHYR had it going on, people loved what we were doing and we were on top of the world when we left Boulder for L.A. in the autumn of ‘69. We ranged in age from 18 to 21 and none of us had spent any time to speak of in a recording studio. We had asked the record company to record us live - the correct idea still, in my opinion, since that’s what we did and what we understood. However, the record company demanded that we make a studio album. Halverson was responsible for the project, he was the adult supervision, for which he was very well paid and he failed. We recorded everything we knew in the first two sessions - the same way we recorded our demo at Summit Studio and according to Bernard Heidtmann, our road manager and long time close friend, it was beautiful and complete. Halverson wanted to spend more dollars in the studio; he knew the record company had set a budget of $150,000 (1969!) and he wanted Wally Heider’s to get as much of it as they could. So, he tossed all of our recordings and put us to work building up tracks in the classic L.A. studio style - record the rhythm section with a pilot vocal, then go back and add solos, backup vocals, and finally lead vocals. We had no experience doing this and Bill was no teacher. He was so accustomed to working with session cats who understood the process that he assumed we’d just be able to do it. We weren’t. Both Tommy and Candie performed take after take to the point of physical and especially creative exhaustion. We ended up keeping tracks because Candie or Tommy had managed to get through a piece without making irreparable errors after 20 or 30 or 50 takes, when we should have been keeping tracks for what they said to the listener. Bill’s idea of teaching us was to make us listen to recordings he had made of Tom Jones jamming with the L.A. studio cats! Told us he was a PRODUCER, when in truth, he was a trombone playing, old school big band loving, ENGINEER who pretty much despised what we were up to. He told me he thought Jimi Hendrix sucked, that he was just making noise - HENDRIX! Wish he’d said that when we were interviewing producers. His big idea was to get Candie to make an album of standards. That’s very nice, but that’s not what we were there for and as it turned out, Candie suffered the most. If you listen to the Summit Studio demo (all first takes), you hear her doing what she did - some of it was over the top and some was subtle, but she was in control. Remember, she was singing with a very loud band - Tommy played with four hot-rodded Fender Twins with all dials on 10 - and if you mix the music to sound like what she was hearing on stage, what she was doing makes perfect sense. If you mix her way up front, as they did in those days and Halverson did on the record, she sounds like an idiot.
On top of all that, Halverson was working a full day of sessions at Heider’s before we ever arrived at the studio in the evening and he was usually pretty toasted by the time it was our turn. He actually fell asleep behind the console on a number of occasions. I’ve told the story of me and Tommy and Candie wheeling him around the control room in his big chair laughing our heads off as he lolled back and forth.
Halverson never created a way to capture the magic we could create and we were the ones who had to come home with our tails between our legs to face the people who had supported us and wanted to know why we hadn’t come through for them. None of us, particularly Tommy, Candie, and I, could ever hold our heads up as we had before we made a record with Bill Halverson. I understand that it was a character builder for me, but for Tommy and Candie, it amounted to taking a very public beat down when they needed all of their pride and strength to pull off the task they had set for themselves. And it was not their fault, they did what was asked of them and Halverson threw it away because he was too stupid to recognize what he had and/or he was too venal to let us get away without spending a hundred grand. When we were finishing up the album and we had come to realize that it wasn’t going to be what we had expected, I asked Bill what he had thought he was getting when he decided to work with us and he told me “Another Cream”. We were what we were and certainly not another anyone or anything else and yet that’s all he saw. Love us or hate us, we had created something unique that should have been nurtured and cultivated.
Sadly, Bill’s still getting paid from that album, Tommy and Candie are dead, and I’ve never gotten a cent from the record despite the fact that I wrote and arranged the majority of the music and it continues to sell steadily to this day after 40 years.