The rental house was perfect, on an east-facing ridge looking out over Wildcat Canyon. Everyone had their own room, and an extra bedroom was soundproofed for practicing. The neighbors only complained when Bicey would practice out an open window. California was a culture shock -- Co-Op food stores with organic produce, and 78 degrees under blue skies on Christmas -- definitely a long way from home.
With Disco all the rage, White Heat needed to do its best to fit in while maintaining its individuality. A matching wardrobe for the band was proposed, and Richard decided he would provide the contrast. It was all in the usual tongue-in-cheek style that characterized the band’s fundamental alternative approach. The music, however, remained unique and decidedly different from what people expected.
That difference made it hard to find work, even in a city as culturally diverse as San Francisco. Gigs in Berkeley were practically non-existent, and the few spots they would play in North Beach across the bay payed little more than gas money.
Then came a ray of hope. Two backers -- Richard’s old friend Frank Smith and Don Winstel -- came almost out of nowhere offering to put up money for studio time to get the band an album’s worth of release-ready material. They thought that some record company would jump at the chance to simply distribute something they didn’t have to spend money up front to produce. It sounded like a dream come true.
Don and Richard set about looking for a good studio that would also provide an engineer who could act as producer. They settled on Different Fur studios in the Mission District in San Francisco, a one-room facility built and operated by Patrick Gleeson, a synthesist who used the place to record his own albums.
The engineer / producer was a hip young guy named Steve Mantoani who seemed very eager to work with the band. Money was discussed, deals were made, and dates were set to start recording. It was finally happening.
Different Fur was home away from home for weeks. Things took longer than the band had hoped due to a desire to get everything just right -- this was the best shot at the Big Time that had ever come along, and no one wanted anything to be less than perfect. Unfortunately, time is money at a recording studio, and the time it was taking to pursue perfection was eating through the budget quickly. Bill cashed in some stock his father had given him long ago to pay the bulk of the remaining studio bills, but the band was still hundreds of dollars short. The master tapes were held hostage, and the band barely escaped with a 7-1/2 ips 2-track copy of the mixes that they could use to peddle the songs to the record companies.
Around this time the band was invited to perform on The Joe Bavaresco Show -- a local cable-access television program that was a cross between a variety show and a late-night talk show, hosted by the wildly flamboyant Joe Bavaresco in his trademark powder-blue tux. Two appearances were taped featuring three songs per show, and all recorded at around 9 in the morning -- hardly the time for a rock band to feel energized and ready to rock. Nonetheless, the performances were solid and well received, and there are copies of those performances available in the Videos section (see link below). They are the only moving pictures ever taken of the band.
Ironically, these were among the last live performances the band would ever play. They were at the top of their form, with some great recordings to promote, and they were on TV. The next logical step was stardom.
All the record labels were centralized in Los Angeles -- too far away from the Bay Area to be noticed. So, with the advice of Don Winstel, the group once again hit the road -- heading south this time -- to maximize their chances at success.
Before progressing to the final chapter of the saga, take a moment to see the photos and videos (which are priceless) from that era. All 10 of the White Heat recordings from Different Fur are online as well -- the most polished tracks in the archive.