This interview with Linda Perhacs, conducted on New Years Day 2004, was the first time she spoke at any length about her brief musical career, creative processes, personal life and esoteric beliefs. The interview was conducted by Kim Cooper and Ron Garmon, and this appeared in Scram #19.
Linda Perhacs made just one album, 1970’s Parallelograms. It sold sparingly, despite FM airplay in sophisticated rural markets where its dreamy evocation of nature and sexuality resonated most strongly. Linda recorded the album over a long period while working days as a dental hygienist. When MCA didn’t ask for a follow up, she put all her energy back into her work. Years went by. Michael Piper, a dealer and reissue producer, decided to put out a CD of the record, a favorite of his since soon after its release. The project generated a nice little buzz among the international psychedelic collectors scene, and Michael sent a stack of copies and a letter to an address he found for one “Linda Perhacs.”
This interview with Linda Perhacs, conducted on New Years Day 2004, was the first time she spoke at any length about her brief musical career, creative processes, personal life and esoteric beliefs. The interview was conducted by Kim Cooper and Ron Garmon, and appeared in Scram #19.
As it happened, it was the right house-and in it, Linda was recovering from a serious medical crisis. Discovering that Parallelograms had taken on a life of its own and was treasured by young people all over the world helped Linda fight her way back to health. She shared her original dupes of the master tapes with Michael, explaining that the vinyl pressing was a disaster. Michael and his colleagues took the deteriorating old tapes back to New York and baked them, and after several years his label The Wild Places released the first edition of Parallelograms that sounded as Linda and producer Leonard Rosenman intended. The new mix was a revelation…what had always been an amazingly beautiful record now seemed positively otherworldly. This time the media paid heed too, with Mojo naming it one of the great lost records everyone should have and Rolling Stone giving it 4 1/2 stars. But the reviews were odd. Without any evidence beyond the text itself, the critics made assumptions about Linda, painting her as a dippy hippie sprite who somehow channeled these vast ideas unknowingly.
On New Years Day, Ron Garmon and I sat down with Linda in an empty business park to fill in the many gaps between the woman and her art. Unsurprisingly, she proved to be much more intelligent and complex than the two-dimensional fantasy that had been spun. What follows is the first in-depth interview ever granted by Linda Perhacs, a true artist who did nothing by accident. —Kim Cooper
Kim: What was your childhood like?
Linda: Straight. Very a-spiritual. I have a stepfather, and I lived in that household through high school. That was a very pedestrian life. We mostly watched Bonanza. I was very involved with school. Light touches of music, but they were important, and I would give a child much more support if I had seen any of those cues. I went into U.S.C., followed very straight, classic lines, biologically trained, had another whole career. And about age 27 I just made a complete pivot and went into another dimension of thought and creativity. There was very little support of that at home. Music just exploded in nine months. I absolutely started to wake up to where love was real. On that album people have said, “Why are there touches where it’s green and touches where you wonder why the whole thing wasn’t that exquisitely put together?” Because it came at me overnight, like a wave. I had no real prior training. The parts that are good are pure soul speaking to you. The parts that are green are because this was a person studying other things all her life.
Kim: Which song came first?
Linda: “Dolphin.” But the point I’m trying to make here—and I say this for the sake of any child—I was creating complex choreography and song and lyrics at age five, and no adult picked up that it was important. In fact I was told to stop doing it. But if a little child shows that kind of ability and it’s purely spontaneous and it’s complex and fully developed…they were full productions!…any parent ought to push that.
Kim: Do you remember this?
Linda: I remember it. I was disciplined in schools to stop; it was in the way of the curriculum.
Ron: It was an effort to stomp the art out of you.
Linda: They just didn’t understand. That’s the most important part of any child, whether they like taking apart clocks, or doing music, or directing other children. You’re looking at what their real gift is and it should be supported, ‘cause then it’ll come out earlier. But eventually that real part of them is going to come out, even if it’s at age forty. It has to come out.
Ron: So this whole thing was like a return of the oppressed, age 27…
Linda: No, it was more like something was already there, fully developed, but it was dormant. For it to start from zero and go to a full album in nine months means somewhere I already had that gift developed. It couldn’t have come out of nowhere. I remember standing in front of seventy people at Universal Studios, some of the best musicians in the world, including Shelly Mann, and Laurindo Almeida on guitar, and they’re all milling around after take six, and can’t get the feel they’re after. It was for a TV show. The producer and director were scratching their heads, saying, “That’s not right yet, try it again.” And finally in exasperation they asked, “ Is there anybody here who knows what’s wrong?” I was just called in as the lyricist and to sing on that one, and I said, “I know what’s wrong.” They gave me free reign, and I’m standing there telling ‘em what to do and I had the distinct feeling: I’ve done this before. That’s the best answer I can give you. It was the strongest feeling that I’ve ever had in music, that I’d already been there, already paid dues, and it wasn’t a new realm to me. But it was new to do it in this life.
Ron: So, you went to U.S.C. and studied–?
Linda: I had a scholarship. I didn’t want to file files all my life; I knew college was important, so I was taking it very seriously. And I chose dental hygiene…it was like nursing, but it allowed you the privilege to work one or seven days a week, to work four or twelve hours a day.
Ron: Did you pursue music in any way at U.S.C.?
Ron: After you got out?
Linda: I think the thing that probably helped the most in terms of music, poetry, spiritual development was meeting the man I married. I stayed married to him for seven years, I still carry his last name, and he was highly developed as a sculptor, a painter, a photographer, engineer. Multi-talented person with a reverent, deep love for nature. He took me out of the pedestrian environment, took me out in the wilderness. We never went to a park. We would go (laughing) to the wildest country you could find, or skin-diving, but it had to be pristine, pure and wild. He just opened my eyes to the universe. It was sort of like having your companion be a combination of da Vinci and Michelangelo, and I owe him a lot for that. He still sculpts, using natural forms, dolphins, etc., for airports and things like that. He would say, “It doesn’t matter what you look at. If it’s man-made and you look at it with a microscope, you’re gonna be looking at mush the minute you go this far. If it’s made by nature, it doesn’t matter how far you go, you’re never gonna run out of wonder, order, precision, depth and incredible beauty.” That’s the kind of person that wakes you up.
Ron: His last name was Perhacs? What was your maiden name?
Ron: After Arnold, Perhacs must have seemed wonderful.
Linda: I kept it because it was so unique. It’s a Hungarian name.
Ron: So you rediscovered your gift for music that had been repressed…
Linda: Actually, Ron, a lot of this centers around the seventies. There were many, many people meditating at that time. One night a friend of mine came to the door, said, “Here!” and put a piece of paper in my hand. He said, “It’s really for the person you’re going with. I was trying to meditate last night and I couldn’t get my own things taken care of because this kept coming through so strongly. It’s a description of the things he needs to take care of in his life. Here, I’ve done it, I’m done, I’m leaving. I wanna go on and take care of my own things!” So I open the paper and it was a perfect description of the other person’s problems, and at the very end it said, “Linda will be helpful to you, but there’s something in her that’s dormant and hasn’t awakened yet.” I’m thinking, maybe it means I’ll be a better healer, maybe it’s in medicine…I had no idea what it was! But it was probably less than a year later that this music started to evolve. And I wasn’t young at the time…I was maybe 25, 26.
Kim: How did it first manifest, when you felt it coming back?
Linda: I felt that the world, the sphere with which my reality was existing, was too small. I felt the need to explore a bigger perimeter, and I noticed these funny people all around, dressed kinda funny, and I wanted to know what they were up to! (laughter) So I began to talk to them and ask questions. I started to read. I started to question. I started to buy different music…and it just exploded within me. But if all of a sudden you grow that fast, it’s already in there.
Ron: Yeah, I don’t think anything ever comes out of nowhere.
Linda: Sometimes these things happen to people in their lives…they were meant to paint, and just discover it late in life.
Ron: I started writing in my thirties. I was always loquacious, a bullshitter, and just discovered I could write.
Linda: It connects you more with the real part of you. This world is just too shallow unless you probe deeper than that. It’s like getting out of a boat and getting in the water.
Ron: Do you have a spiritual explanation for this, or is it just a product of a materialist society that prizes one dimensionality because it’s easy to mass-produce?
Linda: I have a lot of ideas on that subject, Ron. Can we save that question? ‘Cause I brought a thing that I wanted to present to both of you, and it’s in that realm. [Linda is referring to a fascinating book of turn-of-the-century spiritualist drawings representing visionary manifestations of music and emotion that she shares with us after the interview.]
Ron: Sure. Who were you listening to at this time?
Linda: Well, each time there’s a review of this record of mine, it mentions Joni Mitchell, and I would like to give her a lot of credit. That was an era when women did not have a lot of doors open to them. She was one of the first to write her own music, to express an intimate and a personal life, and it was unique and it caught a lot of attention. Judy Collins, Joan Baez were singing other peoples’ music. I don’t remember another person who was writing as much as Joni Mitchell was.
Kim: Maybe Carole King, but a lot of her songs were being done by other people.
Ron: Same thing with Laura Nyro, she would put out these low-selling records that other people would do covers of.
Linda: Yeah. It gave you an idea, “Hey, maybe I have something I’d like to express too, instead of singing somebody else’s stuff.” But it was a new idea, and people putting up funds for albums wouldn’t have thought of it until they saw her do it. When MCA came to me, they said, “Look, we need some competition. She’s on Warner Brothers.” And I’ll be very honest with you…I was honest with them. I said, “You don’t want me: I’m green.” And they said, “We do want you, because we like what we’ve heard. This is an era when it matters more to us that we have the spirit of what’s coming up from the streets, that it be fresh and capture the spirit of the young people than that it be from Julliard.” And I said, “Okay, if that’s what you’re really looking for.”
Ron: So this came about when you had recorded demos and sent them around, right?
Linda: No, here’s how it happened. You want the truth?
Linda: Leonard Rosenman was my dental patient in a very upscale Beverly Hills periodontal office. His wife Kay, also. And we hit it off. They needed like ten appointments each, and we were friends by the end. One day Leonard said, “Linda, I can’t believe this is all you do.” And I said, “Well, I write little songs and I travel a lot; I have a very creative husband.” And he said, “Would you let us hear the songs? Because we need inspiration from the younger people. We have more assignments than we can take, to do movie scores and TV scores. Theme songs especially are not my fortÃ©. I can do the score, but a love song, the tender touches, Kay helps me with those because she has a big heart and a good sense of poetry.” So I said sure, and I gave him this little homemade tape…I thought it was good enough for campfires. They called me the next day, at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning, and said, “How soon can you get here? Those are beautiful.” They thought of it in terms of ghost writing, that I would inspire them. Their home was like something out of Rome. Pianos everywhere, homemade Italian food, people coming in and out, all kinds of musicians. It was just electrical excitement, and beautiful to look at. I would just be over there sharing ideas with them. I brought the idea of “Parallelograms” to Leonard, and he looked at me in dead seriousness and said, “Linda, do you realize you could live a lifetime and get one idea like that if you’re lucky? On this idea alone I’m going to produce this album.” That’s how it started.
Kim: And what was it, as an idea?
Linda: Can we get back to that?
Linda: Because I think that’s a very important question.
Ron: Now what year was this?
Linda: Has to be early seventies, maybe 1972.
Kim: I think the record came out in ‘70.
Linda: Some of them were published in 1970, but I believe the record came out in ‘72.
Ron: It’s widely assumed to be 1970 product.
Linda: It’s seventy-ish. In my memory it’s the year of my divorce, and that’s ‘72.
Kim: We can check the other records that Kapp put out, this one is number 3636, we can see what 3635 was. [Parallelograms slots precisely between El Chicano’s 1970 and 1971 albums. -editrix]
Ron: Kapp was not a big rock ‘n’ roll label.
Linda: Well, the big parent company was MCA, and they wanted to start a new label. I’m not sure how well it did. Remember, I was pretty busy with the other career, too. And this took all my concentration. We were in the studio for about a year. It was when Leonard and I could get away; we were both working on other things.
Kim: Would you always bring the same session musicians in?
Linda: The person who chose these musicians, with all love and respect, was always Leonard. He knew the best, and all he had to say was, “This is Leonard, can you come?” But the two lead guitarists, I worked with them intimately in private apartments for hours, note by note, because I knew what I wanted, I just couldn’t play it like an expert. One of them even had a joke, he said, “Here comes Linda, I gotta put on my pink underwear and play dainty!” (laughter) It was hard for them to do that…they were gutsier. In fact Shelly Mann was playing during that session with the seventy people, he was playing like Shelly Mann, and again with all due respect, he’s the one I had to tell, “You’ve got to tone the drums down. I know who you are and I know how good you are, but this is not a drum song.” He finally ended up playing the sand ashtray! (laughter) And that’s the one that ended up on TV for a series for many years, and that’s “Hey, Who Really Cares?”
Kim: Oh, what show was that?
Linda: It was first called— I remember the words “Matt Lincoln” and then it had another name, too, Hotline…
Ron: Matt Lincoln? It was a cop show!
Linda: Yes. They called me and said, “We need delicate lyrics.” They were inspired by M*A*S*H…
Ron: “Suicide is Painless.”
Linda: Yeah, that delicate song on top of hard action. They said, now get this, “This is one of the first TV shows where we’re going to have (laughing) an explosion of cars running into each other”…all the things now that are passé, but that was the first time. They said, “It’ll be for young people, there’ll be ambulances, sirens, car crashes, police, arrests on the street. We show the hard action, but we want a delicate song on top.” So I was called in, and I don’t think they gave me but a night to write those lyrics. It had to be done the following morning at nine o’clock.
Kim: Is this version on the album?
[we move into a sunnier spot, gathering up all our papers and machinery]
Ron: It’s the facts we are piling up today. Gotta get the history right.
Linda: Well, I want to be honest with you and give you all the facts you’re asking for, but I have some other stuff that’s much more magical, and I think will give you more dimension. Because that’s the part nobody has reviewed on it.
Ron: What we’re doing now is going behind and correcting everyone’s facts. We’re open to anything…this is your interview, it’s about you.
Linda: I have something that has a lot more heart, so we’ll get there later.
Ron: You can tell by what we wrote, we’re just so touched every time we hear this.
Linda: Ron, I’m surprised by the number of people that have been touched by something that was truly done by…in this life…an amateur. I hope I’ll have another life where I can refine the instrumental and composition skills.
Kim: Maybe that’s what punk has allowed, that there’s no such thing as an amateur musician anymore.
Linda: If you’re coming from pure spirit…
Kim: If you’ve got inspiration you don’t need the technique…
Ron: Or coming from pure anger. (laughter)
Linda: There you go. I think that’s what they’re relating to. They’re hearing something that they also have, which is that inner spirit.
Ron: Or a cherished dream, or at least for me…Kim keeps saying my magazine [Worldly Remains] is all about my sexual awakening, but it’s…
Linda: It was a very sexual time in history, with our young people. But it was very spiritual, too.
Ron: Like a leaf pressed in a scrapbook.
Linda: It was a time when everybody was encouraged to go there, and right now they’re encouraged to maybe be a little hard on the edges like steel. That was not what was being encouraged in that era, no matter what career you had. Doctors, lawyers, technicians.
Kim: I just read a terrific book by a woman who went out to Esalen as a journalist.
Linda: I’ve been there.
Kim: She hung around for about six weeks, watched different groups of people come in, participated in some of the seminars, and she also just hung out with the Gypsy kids who were living on the land. It’s an amazing analysis of the different kinds of people coming in and the ways that they were changing, the ways that they were rigid.
Linda: It was not uncommon for me to be in an office building and to hear the executives say, “I’m going to Esalen. It’s helping my marriage. It’s helping me wake up. I don’t want to be so stiff, so cold. I don’t want to be so shallow.”
Kim: And they didn’t feel a need to be discrete or secretive about going up there?
Linda: It was okay to say those things then. Now probably people might say, “What are you, a flower child?” and laugh a little.
Ron: So, the recording process took about a year. You collaborated with these two guitarists, who put on their pink clothes.
Linda: Yes. And they were experts, they were really, really good. The main percussionist on “Moons and Cattails” was Milt Holland.
Ron: Oh! That’s a name to conjure with. Wow.
Linda: Shelly Mann didn’t do that one. Leonard called Milt and he arrived with a moving van full of drums from all over the world! He’d say, “What kind of sound do you need?” and bring in another drum. (laughter) The guy was incredible. But also, the Parallelograms score was not musical notation. It was a scroll. We didn’t have computers and electronic pianos to do those beautiful drones, those wonderful deep sounds that are all over The Lord of the Rings. But that’s the sound I wanted! I might have even used a bagpipe, but I was afraid people would say, “That’s too folksy.” So how am I gonna create this sound that feels like the universe humming, that supports the rest of the action on top? I created it in parallel voices. But today I wouldn’t have done that, I would have created the sound I heard in Lord of the Rings, that “mmmmmmmmmm.” I love that. You put a light, beautiful voice on top and it’s pure magic.
Ron: It’s like a very small boat in a very large sea that’s swelling up.
Kim: Overlapping voices are very powerful because it makes it so intimate. Did you have a sibling that you sang with, because it almost sounds like you grew up…
Linda: No, every voice is mine. But I showed it to Leonard in drawings, parallel lines, and I said, “I need something like a drone, and on top of that we want to create a sound-painting.” So when Milt Holland came in he said, “This is great! I don’t have to read sheet music for once! This allows me to create more!” And they loved it; they had a great time.
Kim: Well, it’s funny, because things on scrolls can often be extremely pivotal, influential artistic objects…and I’m not even gonna go back to the Torah. But, On the Road was written on a scroll, did you know that?
Kim: Yes, Jack Kerouac had rolls of paper that he was gluing together, and he put it in the typewriter and did the whole thing on a single sheet.
Linda: Well, you can see the whole spectrum…this is supposed to be this many minutes long. I saw Leonard do the movies to a stopwatch, so I gave it to him in time increments.
Ron: The intimacy of a good film, a good record album, are unmatched. It helps pull the listener in.
Linda: Right, and I think that’s what we’ve lost in this era. They’re too concerned with a hit!…a hit!…a hit! Artists then were allowed to goof once in a while, and that’s where you get your real evolution and changes that are more life-giving to everybody’s creativity.
Ron: You can’t sell evolution when everyone’s interested in selling steaks.
Linda: They want a hit right now, and that’s not how you get life out of people. It’s how you kill an industry, demanding a hit every time. And that’s what we’ve done.
Ron: Who’s the Paper Mountain Man?
Linda: (chuckles) The one that received that note saying “here are your faults!”
Kim: Is that a real description of how to get to his house?
Linda: I described him accurately, yeah. He was a triple Virgo, and I loved him very, very much. But the pain he caused me when he decided on other ladies was excruciating. I never felt such pain, but I always say thank you to him, because that pain was so awful that I knew that either I was gonna die…and I say that with sincerity…or I was gonna aim upward. And that was the beginning of my spiritual climb, the pain from that relationship. And never again have I lost my balance to that degree.
Ron: You’ve got to know what out-of-control love is at least once in your life! You gotta be crazy. Any emotion strong enough is worth surrendering to. You have to be able to trust it to one degree or another because you can’t control everything in the world. No one can.
Kim: You keep telling me that.
Linda: What came out of that was understanding that there’s only one thing that can give that kind of love, which is really really that deep and forever, and that’s God. No person can be there for you to that degree. It takes a development beyond us. And I no longer ask that of a man…I had to learn not to. Now they’re my brothers, but I have to be okay with their faults and let them grow. And observe it but not get so disturbed by it, y’know?
Kim: Well, it’s not too much to ask that someone you’re with not go out with other women.
Linda: I figured I needed some development too, to even be worthy of that. I will say this: from the moment that I made that decision, that I wasn’t going to ask that of a man again, I’ve never had one leave me again. So there might be an important clue there. (laughter)
Kim: You loosened the reigns!
Ron: A lot of it’s about what your record is, because you go from very simple, homey things…it’s the literal clichÃ© of finding the cosmos in your kitchen sink, or looking at a lover’s face with the sunlight coming down, looking at the lines in the face and having some brief, shattering glimpse of the structure of the universe.
Ron: Where did the song “Parallelograms” come from? Because I hear in it hints of your methods of composition and even the way you experience the world.
Linda: Okay, let me give you a real honest answer. In the music world at the time, we were studying people like Joni Mitchell or…I love the Eagles, when did they come in?
Ron: Oh, they did their records in ‘70, ‘71, but they were a solid act with a big following in ‘69.
Linda: And Crosby, Stills and Nash, I loved them. There was so many, other names I can’t even think of, Seals and Crofts did beautiful music.
Ron: They put out some nice records, with the harmonies, great production job. They get dissed a lot.
Linda: And I’m not mentioning some of the greats. All I remember is just this flood of creativity, from everywhere.
Kim: Yeah, the L.A. scene was very vibrant.
Linda: Oh, vibrant isn’t even a strong enough word. It was wonderful.
Kim: Were you hip to what Tim Buckley was doing?
Linda: Yes, I tuned in there, and I tuned in to other names. I mean, they were all neat.
Ron: My fantasy about you is you should have fronted Kaleidoscope.
Linda: Oh, I would have loved to. I never did any live entertaining. I was mostly in the studio because I was doing (laughs) my straight job at the same time. I’d go at night and work on it.
Kim: Wait! You mean that day-time record was all recorded at night?
Linda: Well, I think sometimes I’d go over during the days, but a lot of the interaction and meetings and talking and stuff was, yeah, after work. You asked about “Parallelograms.” If you can imagine the era and the creative people, they are dimensions of parallelograms that were Leonard’s inspiration. Because he was doing atonal music in a very classical context…
Linda: Nobody ever heard it. They only knew him for his movie scores. But when I’d visit, Leonard and Kay would play those private compositions on large speakers, and you would explode with creativity. I’d get out of there and my mind was just going bluah-bluah-bluah! And “Parallelograms” was written on the Ventura Freeway at three in the morning. (laughter) After a day with Leonard and Kay, where the music of my age bracket was flooding me, and their inspiration was flooding me, and the two of them came together. “Parallelograms” came…bam!…like that. I probably was half-asleep, driving on an empty freeway, and I just saw it all at one time, where you put light through a prism and you get many color choices, all representing a different frequency. I had already seen music do that. You play a high flute, it has a high vibrational wave, a gold-yellow tone. Color, corresponding with that high note. You play a bass guitar, it’s got a slower wavelength, and it’s got a green-blue tone.
Kim: That’s synesthesia. You actually see these colors?
Linda: There were times when I was meditating enough to see them naturally…we’re not talking drugs now.
Kim: No, it’s a brain thing…
Ron: It took me drugs to do it.
Kim: There are people who can taste smells, there are lots of ways that these things overlap, and they’re very consistent.
Linda: Absolutely. And I saw, okay, if I want to paint with sound, then the higher things are gonna have a different wavelength, so I literally drew it on a scroll with the understanding that I wanted three dimensional shapes. But yes, it was a concept that came quickly, like a light bulb going on. And I saw it all at once, as a full composition where you’re painting with sound, the words are coming out as sound creating those shapes. And the only way I could see to do it correctly today would be to use surround sound, maybe a rock group that does Celtic sound, and computer graphics on a video or a DVD creating the shapes that that sound was meant to create.
Kim: Or even projectors doing a three dimensional…
Linda: It should be done that way. It shouldn’t be a one dimensional CD.
Kim: So you heard the second part of the song…
Linda: I heard the whole thing.
Kim: It’s sort of like a vine that goes into a huge flower.
Linda: Yeah. The intro and the exit are traditional twelve-string guitars, and multi-layered harmonies, and I think some percussion. In those days I didn’t want to go to traditional Irish sounds, ‘cause then they put you in the folk world, and I didn’t wanna go there. So I tried to create it a little differently, but my soul was hearing what you hear in Riverdance and Lord of the Rings. Those were the textures I really wanted. But that took electronic and computer equipment.
Kim: Do you still have your scroll?
Linda: I believe so.
Kim: I would like to see that.
Linda: It was pretty rudimentary. I think I made a few different copies, but the one I took into the studio was probably as long as this table [about 3′ long].
Kim: For each individual song?
Linda: Just for “Parallelograms.” The other songs were more linear, more traditional. I made a tape first and we studied from the tape.
Kim: So the only one with an actual scroll was “Parallelograms.”
Linda: Because the music had to become pictures, and move. That song hasn’t been done right to this day. It still needs some of the equipment we have now. When I think computer graphics…I’ve even asked about pricing…I’ve been told that animation would be too expensive. I know Leonard would love to see this realized, too, because we only had one piece of equipment in the studio to do that song, and it was called a voice modulator. He was using it in his classical music.
Kim: Is that the same as a ring modulator?
Linda: Yeah. It modulates the voice. That’s the only thing we had in those days, but now you can do it with anything. It’s an idea before its time which hasn’t been done fully yet.
Ron: Now, would Rock Critic A be correct in assuming that some of your songs were influenced by direct experience with hallucinogens?
Linda: No, not me. My blood sugar can’t take it. I can’t even handle a teaspoon of wine. I go almost into a coma. I’m out.
Kim: But you were talking to people who were having these experiences.
Linda: All around me, are you kidding me?
Ron: You got a contact high. (laughter)
Linda: Oh, yeah.
Kim: Less of a hangover that way.
Linda: I’m sure that’s true, because when I touch patients, if they’re on some kind of medicine that’s strong, I feel it. If they’ve taken something to tranquilize them. I’m calmer just by touching them. If they’re highly agitated, my own heart beats faster. And if they’re angry, I get shocks, like needle pricks, in my ankles.
Ron: My lord, you’re a natural empath. It must be difficult.
Linda: They say in medical journals that nurses, doctors, dentists and chiropractors develop that ability after about thirty years of touching people. You’re really trying to protect them, but you develop this awareness of their distress signals. These are sensors we all have, but to do that kind of work you begin to develop them more. So contact high is real, absolutely.
Ron: This is gonna hit people the same way that hearing Frank Zappa never did drugs other than coffee and cigarettes! (laughter) It’s such an acid-head record.
Linda: I was surrounded with it. Well, let me take you a little further. My real father, in World War II, was able to tell people, “Don’t walk there. There are mines.” He could feel the evil. They used to put him on the bow of the boat and the front of a jeep to tell them where the danger was, and which kind of people were involved, whether it was Turks or Japanese or Italians that were hiding. He trained troops in the Alps in mountain survival, in climbing, in feeling nature so much that you could survive under dire conditions. His sensory perceptions to danger were pretty famous, and he saved a lot of lives. So I may come by this naturally. Even in the business world, if somebody has a contract for me that’s not good, I’ll feel a dark cloud a day or so before, if they’re intending to do something that’s not right, and I’ll check it out with a lawyer.
Ron: More musicians should be like that. Most of these guys are walking around blind without a cane!
Linda: The point I’m trying to make is that these things that people think are all drug related, we have these abilities in us naturally, to hear music and see those colors. I mean the Eastern yogis have talked about this for 5,000 years. These things are a natural part of our make up, if we would just develop them.
Kim: And just use the drugs as a sort of expressway to that sort of experience.
Linda: I think they maybe sensitize the nervous system to be more perceptive, but they can get you in a cul de sac and you’re trapped, too. I know that nature has given us these abilities; we need to develop them naturally. It’s already there for us. Once I was working in a dental office and…you may not believe me, but I literally saw a swirling, like a little tornado of black and brown in the room. I’m working on a patient and I’m looking at this little thing in the corner that I knew was in the spirit world, but I could see it! And I’m thinking, “Somebody’s mad at me.” I studied it and I said, “Now, Linda, don’t be scared, just figure out what this is.” And I caught the personality attached to it as the dentist. I thought, “Well, my boss is mad at me. I don’t know what he’s angry about, but he’s angry.” So I finished two or three days of work, and the boss came back into town, and sure enough he marched down the hall and was furious with me! And that’s what that anger was in the corner. And what it was was that I had dismissed a world-famous V.I.P. fifteen minutes early on a Saturday when he wasn’t there. It was someone in the Shah of Iran’s family, and I sent him away early because my blood sugar had given out and my hands were shaking, and the man knew it. He said, “We need to stop, you need to eat something, you need to rest.” So I cut his appointment fifteen minutes short, and my boss was furious, and that anger was that. But I learned from it that thoughts are a projection. A thought doesn’t just stay here. It can go where your anger is, or it can go where your love is, or it can go where your desire to protect is. But these are natural things, it didn’t take drugs to do that. He didn’t take any drugs! (laughter) And I wasn’t taking any, I was working on a patient. These are natural parts of our being if we just learn to use them. And we can sense danger, we can sense love.
Ron: Wonderful trips through interstellar space like “Parallelograms” are followed on the record by this plaintive loneliness of “Who Really Cares?” Did you hope to accomplish something by the sequencing?
Linda: The sequencing was done by MCA. I was too green to know that I should have been there at the pressing to know that it was pressed right, that I could make those choices. When I recreated my own little cassette that I would show people years later, I had the sequencing in an entirely different order, and it had much clearer sound.
Kim: And that was from the tapes that Michael used for the reissue?
Linda: Yeah. So essentially, Ron, some of what people hear in that era as being drug-related, there were a lot of souls that came into the world that were meant to be there at that time, and because what was going to happen was an arena where they could awaken and express more. They were meant to be there at that time, just like some of our young people now are very high-tech, they’ve come here because that’s the era that’s best for them. There’s a lot of people who weren’t necessarily taking drugs, who were very intuitive and very capable in a higher part of their being, and they were in an era that would allow them to express that.
Ron: One thinks that about Zappa…
Linda: Oh, Leonard loved him. I didn’t know that music very well.
Ron: And he did it all on coffee and cigarettes!
Linda: I think maybe I did most of it on coffee!
Kim: Coffee’s pretty powerful stuff for a sensitive type.
Linda: You’re right. I do use coffee. I run slow, so I have to.
Ron: I have these notes— “Little girl lost with her feelings in a world of odd shapes and sudden discoveries.”
Linda: I was pretty young at the time, in my development. I still had a lot of growing to do. I feel a better sense of balance now, especially with men. There were some painful times, and it is expressed in the songs. But that’s part of being 26, 27, 30 years old.
Ron: Having some past, but not a lot, everything is still new. Not knowing yet the sameness of what love is like, and how the sameness is what really surprises you at the end.
Linda: I love this line from Paramahansa Yogananda. He said, “Human love is meaningless until it’s anchored in the divine.” And I think what that means is that…don’t count on anyone else to be as fully developed as you hope they are. Be sure you’re anchored someplace that is really solid, and then you can enjoy them more.
Ron: “Morning Colors,” a song like that can be heard as a domestic lament to a man…or it can be heard as a song about a cat!
Linda: Oh, no. It was a man! (laughter)
Ron: Any man in particular?
Linda: It wasn’t an important man, but I think the song turned out really good. (laughter) The reason the song became so beautiful was in the studio, Leonard brought in his young nephew [John Neufeld], who was a very accomplished— with flutes. I know they say “flautist,” but I don’t like that word. This man could play the flutes very well.
Ron: It looks like “flatulence!”
Linda: Yeah, right! Anyway, he played an improvisation on top of the recording we’d already done, that we thought was a little bit naked, and it was quite lovely. And then we asked him, “Just in case the first take wasn’t the best, why don’t you do it again?” And he played a second improvisation. And then the engineer, Brian Ingoldsby, who was really creative, played it all simultaneously. And it was perfect. Some of this was evolution rather than pre-thought, and the reason that one came out so beautiful was that it just happened.
Ron: Porcelain Baked Cast Iron Wedding” is rather stark portrait of a captured hippie chick princess. You get feelings of oppression and bourgeois atmosphere. Is this about an actual event?
Linda: I was working in Beverly Hills, and I remember I was pretty disgusted with the cost of the weddings of the young girls around me, the sacrifices they were making, the shallowness of the love, and the whole atmosphere. Daddy was paying for these things that were just displays of grandeur rather than concentrating on the vows that should have been the central concentration. And it disgusted me. I kept wanting to say, “Where’s the love?”
Ron: It’s the material versus the spiritual. That’s the cast iron part of it.
Linda: Yeah, and one girl spent a year planning her wedding, at the office, in front of me, and I never heard her talk about the guy! (laughter)
Ron: He was a prop! A necessary prop, but—
Linda: I knew the cost was breaking her whole family, and I just wrote the song because it was disturbing me. I had compassion for the father and for the girl that were trying to put up these funds, and I had concern, is this marriage going to last? What are we doing here? So it was just a commentary on our society.
Kim: When my grandparents were married, my grandmother’s dad paid for it, and she said she wasn’t allowed to invite anybody. It was all for his friends, it was purely a status thing, and that was in the thirties!
Linda: There you go. They still do it. Whether it’s a funeral or a marriage, keep it simple. There’s only a few things that really need to be a part of that moment. The time I almost died, I got a real reminder of what’s important, and I think the people in 9/11, what did they have, forty minutes to remember what’s important? And they got on the cell phone and called the people they loved. There are times in your life when that essence should be there. And I don’t think you need a five-day wedding and astronomical sums of money and everybody coming in from all over the world that just want to show off. That’s a time for intimacy, it’s a sacred vow. But some people want it to be a bash.
Kim: What sort of promotion did MCA do for the album?
Linda: Zero. (laughter)
Kim: Did it actually come out as a legitimate release? My copy’s promo.
Linda: Yeah. There was so much music in that day that they had many opportunities for hits. They realized this was gonna be a slow mover, a sleeper. The FM people took it over, embraced it, played it a lot, but not Top 40. If you’re an MCA distributor and your income depends on big numbers…they had to put their time into Top 40 type sounds, to stay alive.
Kim: Did you get any feedback from the people who were hearing it at the time?
Linda: What they told me is that it was playing and selling the most…and this is predictable…not L.A….Washington State, Portland, Hawaii, Canada, Colorado, Northern California.
Linda: Yeah, people who understood those things. But Los Angeles was more acid-rock, I guess, harder, noisier sounds.
Ron: The psychedelic experience coming into contact or conflict with urban reality.
Linda: This album does best with earphones, with the little ones that sit inside your ear. There’s delicacies that…it doesn’t do well on a radio in a car.
Ron: Which is where I first heard it, and I was taken by it.
Kim: What went wrong between the recording studio and the pressing plant?
Linda: They told me, “It’s going to be shipped to New York, and it’ll be pressed.” I said, “What does ‘pressed’ mean?” “Put onto vinyl.” “Oh, okay.” And I took off for Northern California to be with my friends and forgot about it! I didn’t push it, didn’t do TV shows. I didn’t know I was supposed to sign autographs. I thought, “We did it…it’s done!” The fact that it’s still moving, I’ve only now begun to adjust to it, but I’ve had four years of being told that now. I thought it was on a shelf, forgotten. I had no idea that it was in Japan, Korea and the Netherlands, the British Isles and Canada…except that BMI would send me these little things saying it was on Ironside [the show used songs from Parallelograms on several episodes], so it was played in Portugal. But that’s just TV shows.
Kim: Do you know how many copies have been sold, of the CDs or the original album?
Linda: I think if we could trace the pirating of it…and I say that in a kind way…people who just made their own copies, to have it, that that would be more complimentary, ‘cause that’s where I’ve started to get the feedback now. And the wonderful people who have contacted me, it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened in my life. I mean, these are really neat people, and they’re in all kinds of countries. And they have all kinds of musical tastes and all kinds of careers and all age brackets. The fact that under-30 is still talking to me about this…wouldn’t you be surprised?
Linda: If you did a piece of work that was long forgotten?
Ron: I’ve always amazed when any reader of my magazine tells me about it.
Linda: Well, that’s the way I felt. And it’s given me a kick in the bottom…this is a responsibility. There’s some nice people out there that deserve to be answered, deserve to be communicated with, deserve to be told “You’re a brother, and you’re a sister, and let’s keep that kind of thing alive, because that’s really powerful.” And that’s far more genuine than just buying hit singles. There’s something, well, we were saying infinite light goes into finite life, there’s something about that to it, and I feel very responsible.
Ron: Why didn’t you make another record?
Linda: I didn’t know I was wanted. I thought it was shelved. And I went into my other career and gave it full concentration. And people have needed my help. It’s a money-making career, and you do well, and you can look five years ahead and say, “I can help this much.” You can project. With music you can’t project, so if I was total music I wouldn’t have been able to help in ways that I have. I’m a practical lady, I’m a generous lady. I would always want to be able to do that. Music, it can’t always be counted on, so I would always make music the balancer but not the only thing.
Kim: How did you first become aware of the underground following that your record had? Was it when you got the CD in the mail?
Linda: Yes! Michael Piper…
Ron: (chuckles) What a great way to find out.
Linda: It’s a beautiful story. I was dying in the hospital, and they said, “You’re probably not gonna live, and if you live you won’t work again.” It was pretty dire. And I came home on a walker, had to re-learn climbing stairs. Two days after I got home, in the mailbox was a package from a Michael Piper. I didn’t know who it was. Family members said, “Linda, you better open this, it looks important.” When I opened it there were the CDs! I had only seen this album years ago as a vinyl, and here were these CDs and this beautiful letter saying, “I’ve been looking for you for about 27 years, and if this is the right Linda Perhacs, I have taken the liberty to turn this into a CD, because there are a lot of people who still want this. I don’t know if you know that you have a following.” I had no idea.
Kim: You must have been flabbergasted.
Linda: I was. And that was about four years ago, so this is still all new to me. (laughs) And he said, “I’ll come out and see you, and I’ll give you the emails, and I’ll let you know the activity on the internet, and who’s actually been the most interested, I’ll put you in contact with them.” That’s where it started. Then he did that laborious work about a year ago, taking the original masters and turning them in to the better sound that we now have.
Kim: These were copies you had kept?
Linda: For some reason, when I was working in the studio I understood that the best sound was always your original, second best was the second tape, so I saved them all those years. And when Michael first introduced himself, I said, “Why don’t you listen to the tapes and see if you can hear anything.” Well, they were stuck together! And he had to go through heating them…
Ron: Baked them, yeah.
Kim: That happens with almost everything from that era. Very unstable.
Linda: So the fact that he pulled this off was a lot of work for him. I think there were about three people working on it.
Kim: It’s worth it, though, because the sound quality is so different.
Linda: It’s incredible, isn’t it? (laughs) Well, I knew that all along. The first pressing made me so mad I just went, “ugh!” Put it away. I wouldn’t show it to anybody. It embarrassed me, because I knew the richness that was lost.
Kim: The demos at the end are pretty sophisticated. How were you recording? Were you using multiple tape recorders?
Linda: Oh, I didn’t have sophisticated equipment. (pauses) Loreena McKennitt , I don’t know if you know who she is, but I was charmed to hear that some of her original work she did in her kitchen. I’m gonna humbly admit those were made in my kitchen.
Kim: Good sound in a kitchen. Kitchen or a bathroom. Off the tiles.
Linda: Yeah, yeah. Late at night, when things were quiet and nobody would disturb me, I would put up a rather unsophisticated piece of equipment…in its day it was okay, but right now you’d laugh. But I’d learned if you put the speakers like this and you sang into them, you would get an echo. And so when I recorded it I was capturing that echo, that was kind of like watercolors, blurring and softening things, and gave it a nice texture. And in the studio they were not able to duplicate that same sound. It gave sort of a watery, rainy texture to those songs.
Kim: So including those in this new edition sort of shows another facet of the work.
Linda: Yeah. And then anything that was homemade by me was made that way, singing into the speaker to capture the echo.
Ron: I’m going to blush redder than hell asking this question. It was easy to write, but it’s going to be difficult to say. (laughs) There’s so much sexual desire and satiation in your songs. Despite much of what’s said about this era, this pure sexuality is rare in music, especially when it’s done by women. And I just wondered if you could account for this.
Linda: I’ll try to, Ron. We were all expressing our love for one another, whether friendship or experimenting with man/woman type love. It wasn’t an era when you just were with one marriage. And it was a youthful time for me, so naturally I was thinking along those lines. But let me also say that nature was a great focus for me, and it’s not nature in a “let’s go camping and stay shallow way,” but a reverent, deep, penetrating love for the whole universe. And when you walk…well, visualize a three or a four year old, and you’re taking a walk with them, whether it’s a beach or a mountain, or through leaves that are blowing, or water trickling somewhere, or rain falling, what does a natural child do? They wanna taste it, feel it, smell it, jump into it, run with it, feel it. And that was an era when everyone was being reminded to do that. Now they’ll laugh at you, but that’s how an artist senses things. That’s how you create! You draw it all in. And the biggest inspiration for what people have noticed in that album as being sensual touches really more honestly came from my deep love of nature. Yes, it was a time to relate to men, because I was young, and it was that hormonal time in my life. I guess essentially you’re looking for love and for that partnership that will be forever, which for me (laughs) didn’t occur yet. I believe that I’ve transferred that love to God. I can always trust him as being forever. Those sensual touches are a very deep expressive penetration into water, trees, leaves, air, sand, wind, sound, with the depth of an artist, a poet, an author, a musician, you go there, you go deeper. And a prayerful, meditative expression.
Ron: You anticipated my next question, which is about so much nature imagery, and a definitely vibe of personal renewal through the senses, even that the senses are themselves God, or you can touch God, or God can grow through you, through your skin, your eyes and ears—
Linda: Mmm-hmm. There’s a wonderful Hebrew scripture that I found recently, which says that infinite light came down and kissed finite world, and poured into the finite. And that to me is why nature is so awe-inspiring. Because when you look at a sunset, you do sense something beyond the finite.
Ron: It’s a common way for people to think about God.
Linda: You know there’s more there than just gross material, and you begin to say, “Well, what the heck is there?” And then you start asking more questions and penetrating further.