Along Comes Gary?

Only one man knows why the Association were the true bad boys of rock. And now we can't even find him!

Unless you're a diehard fan, working with a former rock star isn't all that memorable an experience. Most likely your co-worker resembles one of the great unwashed instead of a big-time idol. And depending on the hourly wage he's pulling down, our rocker's probably a bitter and sullen old fellow that you practically have to beat the American Bandstand anecdotes out of.

You would have thought that by the sheer force his moniker, my good friend "Power Pop" Pat would've committed to memory his momentary encounter with '60s pop royalty and volunteered the information in a prompt fashion. But given the vagaries of his particular story, it's understandable that he didn't. After hearing "Along Comes Mary" for the millionth time on KOOL-FM, Pat remembered that some guy at his work named Gary once claimed, rather matter-of-factly, that he used to be in the Association. Pressed further, Pat remembered hearing Gary mumble something like, "Yeah, I wrote 'Cherish,' but those fuckers cheated me out of credit and I quit."

Now, no one in his right mind could be expected to know any of the Association members' names. After all, Terry, Gary, Ted, Brian, Russell and Jim don't exactly roll off the tongue the way John, Paul, George and Ringo do. But a furious glance at a dog-eared copy of And Then . . . Along Comes the Association confirmed there really was a guy in the Association named Gary who quit after the first two albums. Attired in drab gray three piece, Gary Alexander looks as nondescript as the other five suits, something like a cross between the Doors' Robbie Kreiger and the Stooges' Larry Fine. Pat squinted hard at the photo and said that the Gary he met looked even older.

Churlish is the word: Judging by this photo, it wasn't easy making the Association look like "rock stars." Gary Alexander is third from right.
photos by Fred Poore
Churlish is the word: Judging by this photo, it wasn't easy making the Association look like "rock stars." Gary Alexander is third from right.
Hare Gary: His Jai guru days were just around the corner.
Hare Gary: His Jai guru days were just around the corner.

Thanks to the typically verbose 1966 liner notes on the Association's first album, we gleaned even more about the elusive Gary Alexander: "(Gary) doesn't smoke, drink or eat meat and he would like to travel to India 'to study the religious life there.'" According to The Billboard Book of Number Ones, Alexander did indeed quit the group to study Eastern philosophy. But not before dropping a bomb.

In late 1966, the Association followed up their first No. 1 hit "Cherish" with the unexpected psychedelia of "Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies," which only got as far as a disappointing No. 33 before making like a dead yogi. Nobody tried to cheat Alexander out of his sole writing credit for that bit of mystical mumbo jumbo, sung in a voice that sounds like an enlightened version of Kermit the Frog. Oddly enough, The Association's Greatest Hits has been the only album of the group's to remain in print up to the present day. And while it's teeming with non-charting singles and boring album filler like "Requiem for the Masses" and "Six Man Band," "Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies" has been conveniently forgotten. Just like Gary Alexander.

Pestering Pat to get me an audience with this mystical magi, I was chagrined to learn that this slippery Gary had a different last name and had stopped working with Pat about eight months ago. Was he one of those crackpots who claims to be a member of the DeFranco Family just to get a free hot meal out of good kind star-struck folk, or was he the real thing? A guy who played guitar in a chart-topping band, found that lacking, went to Bangor and found the secret of life, found that lacking, and was last seen working as an APS rural security guard making sure nobody tries to steal 10 dollars worth of power wire, or that some little critter doesn't get zapped accidentally.

It's probably worth checking out the Association's downtown Phoenix New Year's Eve appearance, if only to see if the real Gary shows up, if other fake Garys show up, or if anyone shows up. With most millennium blowout bashes turning out to be busts, the lure of the Association would seem quite resistible at first glance. After all, even in their prime these guys looked more like attorneys than revolutionaries, and their hits sounded like something your dentist might listen to on his day off to remind himself of work. But you'd be wrong.

Glancing at the hyperactive sleeve notes of And Then . . . Along Comes the Association again, I learned that "The Association can outblues the Stones, out rock the Raiders and outfolk the Kingston Trio."

Why do you think our city fathers paid upward of 65 grand to secure whatever original members of the Association are left? Because the Raiders also are appearing on the bill and have been waiting to kick their asses since 1966. Screw seeing the Judds making nicey-nice in public again; we want the century to culminate in an oldies blood bath! Rumor has it the Kingston Trio might fly in just to "folk" with their minds.

But rabble-rousing Paul Revere and company ought not underestimate the Association, who were the true bad boys of rock 'n' roll, at least according to our Gary -- the security guard and purported onetime member of the band. We gathered together some of his former co-workers, and they recounted whatever infrequent wild tales of the Association they could recall him muttering between mouthfuls of ham-and-cheese lunches. If I were Mick and Keith, I'd watch my ass in the future, too.

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