Outlaw biker and counterculture artist Allan “Gut” Terk dies

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Aidin Vaziri | Allan “Gut” Terk was a key figure on the California counterculture scene in the 1960s. He rode with the Hells Angels. He made album covers, T-shirts and posters for psychedelic rock bands like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. And he provided the retina-searing paint job for Ken Kesey’s Furthur bus, an acid lab on wheels that carried the Merry Pranksters across the country spreading the gospel of LSD.

His head shop in San Francisco’s Mission District, Joynt Ventures, doubled as a rehearsal studio for local bands. In a brief attempt to go legitimate in 1968, Terk took on a gig managing one of them, the proto-heavy-metal outfit Blue Cheer. During his tenure with the group, Terk helped navigate the band’s debut album, “Vincebus Eruptum,” into the upper reaches of the Billboard album chart (it peaked at No. 11).

In the post-Summer of Love era, when cultural divides were clearly cast, the charming 6-foot-something Terk easily straddled scenes and classifications, befriending outlaws, icons and weirdos.

Terk died on Jan. 18, from organ failure caused by cancer, at his home outside of Reno, his daughter Aura Winarick, said. He was 78.

“He hit that whole scene full on,” said Winarick. “Everywhere he went, he was the center of attention. He was this big person with a big personality.”

But Terk’s creative potential was inevitably sidelined by his dependence on opiates. Shortly after he burst on the scene, bridging the vast chasm between bikers and beatniks, he all but disappeared.

“There’s a whole missing decade or two in there,” Winarick said.

He spent much of the 1970s and ’80s directionless, living on the streets of San Francisco, out of touch with his old friends and family. Winarick, 48, lost contact with her dad throughout her teenage years until he landed on her doorstep in New York in the late ’80s.

“He was strung out and looking for help,” she said. “But in a very charming sort of way.”

Winarick checked her father into a Veterans Affairs hospital in New York, where he detoxed. He lived for a while in a men’s shelter in the Bowery, running an art program, before he relapsed and made his way back to San Francisco.

Through the assistance of the Rev. Cecil Williams’ Glide Memorial Church, Terk cleaned up again and, in 1992, reinvented himself as a ranch hand, vowing to make a break from his past life.

Famous for designing coveted psychedelic rock posters for Big Brother and the Holding Company at Sokol Hall and the Trips Festival at Longshoreman’s Hall, he applied his creative skills to crafting ranch tools like knives, belt buckles and sheaths.

Terk was born in Concord on Aug. 1, 1939. His mother was Elma Kirschhofer and his father, Allan Carson Terk, was a descendant of the American frontiersman Kit Carson.

Out of high school, Terk served in the Navy as a submarine sonar specialist. He also joined the Hell Bent for Glory Motorcycle Club, which included several future members of the Hells Angels. He earned the nickname “Gut” due to his insatiable appetite.

Terk married his first wife, Jan Codorniz-Fridrich, at 18. They separated a year later.

Terk followed the Hells Angels from Sacramento to San Bernardino (where he served as the club’s president), before settling in with the Oakland chapter. There he formed a relationship with author Ken Kesey, who had scored big with his 1962 novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Terk joined him at his ranch in La Honda for parties where a group of Kesey’s friends, known as the Merry Pranksters, would experiment with psychedelic drugs such as LSD, which was legal at the time.

In 1964, to celebrate the publication of Kesey’s second novel, “Sometimes a Great Notion,” the Pranksters set off on a road trip to New York using a 25-year-old International Harvester school bus, which had been converted into a camper. Terk painted the psychedelic bus, and it was christened Furthur (sometimes Further).

Over the years, it became one of the prime symbols of the acid-laced ’60s in Northern California. The bus was immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 best-seller “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” described as “glowing orange, green, magenta, lavender, chlorine blue, every fluorescent pastel imaginable in thousands of designs, large and small, like a cross between Fernand Léger and Dr. Strange, roaring together and vibrating off each other as if somebody had given Hieronymus Bosch 50 buckets of Day-Glo paint and a 1939 International Harvester school bus and told him to go to it.”

Terk also worked as a graphic artist, creating the original lettering and T-shirt designs for the Grateful Dead, as well as the group’s first bumper sticker. He created the album art for Jefferson Airplane’s 1969 album “Volunteers,” released the year Winarick was born.

He was married to Winarick’s mother and his second wife, Nancy Winarick, for five years, although no one can remember the exact dates.

“He cut ties with everything and everybody, including his family. He was no longer Gut,” said his daugther. “He literally picked up a phonebook, flipped to the page that said ‘horses’ and pointed at some ad, called them up and said, ‘I need a job and someplace to live.’”

Terk eventually found work at a ranch in Richmond in 1992; and followed the same family to another ranch in Antelope Valley in 2002, where he settled in an RV.

It wasn’t until 2015, when he was first diagnosed with cancer, that Terk reconnected with his daughter and past life.

At the urging of the Outlaw Archive curator Bo Bushnell, Terk made a return to graphic arts the same year to design the cover art for the book “Halfway to Berdoo,” a chronicle of the early days of motorcycle clubs by Marilyn Ruthe Foster.

Before his death, Terk donated his Acid Test Diploma, along with a few of his other personal items from the Summer of Love era, to the Oakland Museum of California.

As well as Aura Winarick, his survivors include his granddaughter, Ruby Yassen, brothers, Ray Terk and Bill Irvin, and sister Susan Irvin.

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Todd Rundgren Keeps It Unpredictable

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Aidin Vaziri | Todd Rundgren is spending the summer on the road as part of a package tour with progressive rock heroes Yes and Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

It kind of makes sense, he says.

“You know, I have had a bit of prog-rock experience with Utopia,” Rundgren says, recalling his time as the frontman for the 1970s cosmic-rock outfit that toured arenas wearing capes and battling mechanical dragons. “Of course, this isn’t Utopia.”

The 69-year-old cult hero, who is scheduled to headline a solo concert at the Chapel billed as “An Unpredictable Evening With Todd Rundgren” on Wednesday, Aug. 30, in San Francisco, has hardly stayed on course since he set out with the psychedelic rock group the Nazz in the late 1960s.

A consummate workaholic, Rundgren has dabbled in heavy metal, baroque folk, synthesizer pop, computer funk, the occasional Broadway-style show tune and everything in between.

He once made an album, 1985’s “A Cappella,” using only his voice as an instrument.

“By the time I got to my third record, ‘A Wizard, a True Star’ (in 1973), it got overrefined,” he says, calling from a tour stop in Phoenix. “I could write a song in 20 minutes. It got to be too easy. It didn’t feel like I was expressing much except what everyone else expressed. After that I took a whole different approach.”

Prince and David Bowie were said to be admirers of his adventurous production — and outrageous fashion sensibility.

More recently, indie acts like Daft Punk, Simian Mobile Disco and the Lemon Twigs have taken notes from Rundgren’s playbook. When the British electronic pop group Hot Chip sampled his voice on its song “Shake a Fist,” from its 2008 album “Made in the Dark,” it put Rundgren back on the British charts for the first time since he scored a fluke 1973 hit with “I Saw the Light.”

It would be hard to ignore his influence.

Rundgren, who lives on an estate in Kauai, Hawaii, full time after selling his pied-a-terre in San Francisco’s Mission District two years ago, had a hand in some of the most important albums of the rock era.

In 1977, he produced Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell,” one of the best-selling albums of all time. While in a relationship with Patti Smith, Rundgren directed the making of her 1979 album “Wave,” a bittersweet project, he says, because they broke up after it was recorded and Smith married someone else.

He also recorded XTC’s breakthrough 1986 album, “Skylarking,” an arduous process that led to an ongoing feud with the singer Andy Partridge. “I can be impatient if I think that time is being wasted in the studio,” Rundgren shrugs.

Most of his own albums during his creative heyday were made under the influence of various substances, from 1971’s marijuana-enhanced “Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren” to the Ritalin-induced 1972 double album, “Something/Anything?,” on which he played all the instruments; through “A Wizard, A True Star,” which he made while using mescaline.

How did he not become a drug casualty?

“Drugs like cocaine and all its derivatives never appealed to me — especially heroin, because I hate needles,” he says, emphasizing that he doesn’t have an addictive personality. “But I’ve taken a whole lot of psychedelics in my life. I do it whenever I feel like I’m at some sort of plateau or my progress seems to have slowed and I need to shake myself up or see things in a different way. It was never about how high I could get. It was about getting to a place where I could open my mind.”

He was an early adapter to the music industry’s shift to technology: In 1993, he changed his name to TR-i, as in Todd Rundgren interactive, and released No World Order as a CD-ROM (back when that meant something); he was one of the first to give his songs away on the Internet, predating today’s streaming services; and Rundgren was also an advocate for mobile recording.

“As much as I hated school, I’ve never been shy of technology,” he says. “My dad was an engineer. I felt like I was always ahead of the public at large. I realized that once something becomes possible, then it’s likely probable.”

Rundgren has spent the past few years touring as part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band and has fronted a reunited version of the Cars called the New Cars. But he continues to look for inspiration, obsessively mining YouTube for clips that will help him keep pushing his music forward, as he plans to demonstrate at the Chapel.

“We have this list of about 50 songs — maybe half of them are mine and half are songs that the audience may have never heard before,” Rundgren says. “I pick the first song in the set and after that I start playing different songs on the list. It’s not like our usual shows. It’s a lot more fun.”

Third Eye Blind’s Second Act

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Aidin Vaziri | Stephan Jenkins spent years railing against everything that came his way: the music industry, the media, other bands, his own band, you name it. But as Third Eye Blind prepares to wind down a huge summer tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of its breakthrough self-titled debut album, the San Francisco outfit’s 52-year-old frontman seems to be approaching something resembling contentment.

“I don’t give a damn anymore,” he says, tearing into a breakfast sandwich at a bustling Sunset District coffee shop after a foggy morning surf session at Ocean Beach.

He’s wearing a loose black hoodie and pants that sag off his tall, sturdy frame, with a tight knit cap stretched over his sand-flecked hair. He talks just a little bit louder than everyone else in the room.

“I’m not done,” he continues, between mouthfuls of food. “I feel like I’m just beginning. But I have zero f— to give. It’s a very liberating feeling.”

And it was a long time coming.

Third Eye Blind is in the midst of the great rarity in the world of rock ’n’ roll — a verified comeback after a prolonged, perilous period when it felt like the group — one of the last major pop acts to break out of San Francisco — could easily go the way of Chumbawamba.

When “Third Eye Blind” came out in 1997, it turned the cagey Bay Area group into MTV superstars.

The album sold more than 6 million copies and spent 106 weeks on the Billboard chart. It spawned five hit singles with “Semi-Charmed Life” (possibly the catchiest song about casual sex and meth addiction ever), “Graduate,” “How’s It Going to Be,” “Jumper” (a song about suicide) and “Losing a Whole Year.”

Third Eye Blind opened shows for U2 and the Rolling Stones. Jenkins dated the actress Charlize Theron, befriended Winona Ryder; feuded with members of Green Day, Pearl Jam and Matchbox 20; and rode around town with his dog on a Triumph motorcycle. He was livin’ the life.

He was unapologetically cocky, with people in San Francisco’s cloistered ’90s music scene in particular bristling at his take-no-prisoners level of ambition — a byproduct, he says, of growing up in a broken home, being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome just before the band took off and watching other local bands lap Third Eye Blind early on.

“I had been working my whole life to get out of institutions and not ask people for permission,” he says. “I’ve always been a punk, and I felt like I was being put in somebody else’s fractal and that pissed me … off. I think I was just overwhelmed by that. It was hard for me to have good manners.”

The quick fame, combined with Jenkins’ alpha male posturing, splintered the band, and by the time it put out its second album, 1999’s “Blue,” the insults and lawsuits were flying. On its current tour, only drummer Brad Hargreaves remains from the original lineup.

The intervening years have been marked by a series of hiatuses and intermittent releases — 2003’s “Out of the Vein,” 2009’s “Ursa Major” and 2015’s “Dopamine.” The latter two were released on the group’s own Mega Collider label.

When one iteration of Third Eye Blind performed a free show in the middle of San Francisco’s Union Square in 2010, there were more pigeons than people watching the band at the lunchtime concert.

But at some point a new legion of fans discovered the band. They didn’t know much about the backstory and heard the music on its own merits, embracing the big hooks, frantic riffs and Jenkins’ delightfully detailed wordplay.

“If you come to our show, you’re going to see kids who were not born when the first record came out,” says Jenkins.

“There’s this whole generation of kids who weren’t there for any of the processing, marketing — the videos I would look at and say, ‘Pull the plug, I never need to see it again,’” he says. “They weren’t there for any of it. They just heard a catchy tune and it resonates with them. They feel it.”

Last year, the group played on the main stage of Bonnaroo in Tennessee and the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in Golden Gate Park. Now it’s headlining amphitheaters across the country.

“I knew from the first time I saw Third Eye Blind play at the now-defunct Paradise Lounge in SoMa back in like 1996 that Stephan Jenkins possessed all the inherent and vitally intrinsic characteristics of a budding rock star,” says Aaron Axelsen, music director of San Francisco’s alternative rock radio station Live 105 (KITS). “And it’s this swagger and charisma, coupled with a vast library of timeless alt-pop tunes, that’s helped him and his band remain relevant to an active fan base for 20-plus years now.”

On Sunday, July 23, it will play a homecoming concert at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley — performing the 1997 album in its entirety for what Jenkins says will be the last time.

“One thing I like about Third Eye Blind is that when we go out onstage, we are a brand-new band gunning for the gig,” he says. “We intend to go out there and do it full body.”

Jenkins credits the group’s resurgence on the fall of the old gatekeepers — major labels and monolithic publications — and the rise of social media and streaming services. But a bigger part of it, he adds, has to do with changing his own attitude.

“There’s probably some level of wholeness that I have achieved within myself — in poise and groundedness and self-love,” he says.

Jenkins, who grew up in Palo Alto and graduated at the top of his class at UC Berkeley before forming the band in 1994, says surfing played a big part in getting him to this state.

“So much about surfing, besides being one of the most physically involved and difficult sports ever created, is chucking yourself head first off a building into a rolling avalanche that can drown you,” Jenkins says. “And to do that is not courage, which is what I always thought it was. It’s calm.

“When you have courage, it means you’re doing something in spite of fear. When you’re dealing with fear, your body is stiff. The movement and action of surfing is a fluid, kinesthetic movement that has to be instantly in your mind, your body. It’s all happening at once, which is the definition of nirvana. That’s why I love it so much.”

Jenkins, who has always worked with causes close to his heart, is currently involved with the Jimmy Miller Foundation, an organization that teaches surfing to active-service Marines and vets who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I’m not a therapist,” he says. “I don’t have any training in that whatsoever. But I have an intuitive understanding of what it is to not be here, as in, ‘I’m not with you right now — I’m with my troubles someplace else.’ A lot of these guys are just not home. But when a wave comes at you — you’re not thinking about anything else. You accept that moment and get into a flow state with it. You are present.”

When Third Eye Blind finishes its tour, the band will return to the studio to continue working on what will become its next release, the “Summer Gods” EP (the band is done with full-length albums for the time being).

“There’s an authenticity to him that’s rare,” says Max Glynn, a longtime friend. “He’s fiercely loyal. I met him right before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and he became so protective of me. He was like my brother. He just wanted to help me, and I had nothing to give him in return.”

Jenkins already feels compelled to put his time in other areas and in the last few months has pulled the band into a more overtly political direction, as evidenced by his personal Twitter feed.

Last July, when Third Eye Blind performed at a party for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the singer used the opportunity to lecture the crowd on gay rights and taunted the Trump supporters by urging, “Raise your hand if you believe in science!”

A week later, the band released “Cop vs. Phone Girl,” a song about police brutality, which he wrote to show his support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“A lot of radio stations wouldn’t play it,” Jenkins says. “They would say, ‘We like the song, we just can’t play it on the radio.’”

Last month, a rumor started circulating that the singer had been handpicked by two Silicon Valley billionaires, Zynga’s Mark Pincus and LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, to run against longtime California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, on the ticket of the new Win the Future (WTF, for short) Democratic Party platform.

But he’s not ready to discuss his ambitions outside of music just yet.

“I’m not a politician,” Jenkins says. “I love Dianne. I think she’s a treasure. But I also believe our democracy is unraveling and we have to shore it up. I think by challenging her, we can push some of the issues that I think are vital — life or death — into the conversation.”

In the meantime, he’s relishing the band’s second shot in the limelight.

“Third Eye Blind has withstood the test of time by making fun music that people still love,” says Alicia Tyler, music director at KFOG, San Francisco’s adult alternative station. “Their lyrics may have seemed too real back then, but that’s why the kids loved it and continue to.”

“We’re actually larger than we were the first time around,” Jenkins says. “It’s an incredible feeling to be in a good rock band. The gift that’s been given to me is that people view my music as enlivening them.

“For years, I fell into a very un-rock state of mind where I was second-guessing myself. It’s like, come from a fierce and wholesome place, and huck it out there. That’s why Jackson Pollock can splatter paint. It’s coming from that place. Anything else is a mess. I think I fell into that mode and now I’m not, so I view it as a gift. I feel real gratitude for that.”

 

Clipping: What Daveed Diggs Did Next

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Aidin Vaziri | When the members of the experimental Los Angeles rap trio Clipping started working on their latest album, “Splendor and Misery,” they had no idea that their frontman, Daveed Diggs, was about to get swept up by his side gig in a little Broadway musical called “Hamilton.”

Two years and an armload of awards later, including a Tony and Grammy for his portrayals of a dashing Marquis de Lafayette and dour Thomas Jefferson in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop opera, the Oakland native is once again a free agent and turning his attention back to the group.

That hasn’t necessarily made it any easier to get Diggs in the same room as his collaborators Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson, both of whom also work as theatrical composers and sound designers.

“That’s proving more and more difficult as time goes on,” says Snipes. “We’re still figuring out how to work with Daveed’s new schedule.”

In addition to picking up a role in the ABC sitcom “Black-ish” since leaving “Hamilton” in July, Diggs, a Berkeley High alum, was cast in the Julia Roberts film “Wonder,” Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix musical drama “The Get Down” and a guest role on “Sesame Street.”

And yet, despite their hectic schedules, Clipping plans to reconvene for two headlining shows as part of this year’s Noise Pop Music and Arts Festival, performing at the Starline Social Club in Oakland on Feb. 24 and the Brick & Mortar Music Hall in San Francisco on Feb. 25.

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Pop Quiz: John Paul White

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Aidin Vaziri | John Paul White is flying solo on his current tour, having walked away from the country folk duo the Civil Wars just as things were getting interesting: a Grammy, a collaboration with Taylor Swift and a tour with Adele. Since parting with his creative partner, Joy Williams, in 2012, the singer-songwriter has devoted his time to family, co-founding Single Lock Records and producing music for other artists. “Beulah,” his first solo album in eight years, was released last summer, but White, 43, calling from his home in Muscle Shoals, Ala., says he never intended to make it.

Q: Whose idea was it to send you driving across the country in a van in the dead of winter?

A: Well, I can’t blame anybody else — a lot of it is my idea. Part of the trip wasn’t bad. It could get hairy when we get up in the mountains.

Q: Haven’t you read every rock biography where everything is going fine until they hit black ice on tour in the middle of winter?

A: Now I’m starting to rethink it.

Q: We should move on. You walked away from the Civil Wars right as the band was on the verge of a breakthrough. What were you thinking?

A: I just knew. I can’t pretend to be the wisest guy out there, but there are times in your life when there’s only one decision. I wish everybody could experience being able to shut down and experience what is in your house and what is in arm’s length for a period of time. That’s not how life works. I’m fortunate I was in a position where I was able to do that and really re-evaluate and reprioritize my life. It was necessary.

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George Michael: Absolute Star

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Aidin Vaziri | George Michael first appeared as a vision in leather and blue jeans in 1983, dancing and rapping in front of Dick Clark and a wildly enthusiastic audience of teenagers on “American Bandstand.” The show’s genial host marveled that the songs Michael performed as half of the English pop duo Wham — “Young Guns (Go for It!)” and “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)” — sounded “like a rap record from Detroit, Mich., or something.”

Michael was 19 years old, and he looked like the absolute star he would become.

The feeling carried over to the group’s globe-trotting videos for singles like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Club Tropicana” and “Careless Whisper,” in which, like chart rivals Duran Duran and Culture Club, Michael and Wham partner Andrew Ridgeley frolicked on beaches, draped themselves in neon and appeared as conquerors in eyeliner.

Michael’s public image during those early years belied his deep struggle with fame — a struggle that dogged him and sometimes played out in public, until his death at 53 on Christmas Day at his home in Oxfordshire, England.

He wasn’t a reluctant icon so much as one who didn’t trust the institutions he disrupted. Michael wrote shamelessly catchy pop songs for an industry he was certain ripped him off. He became one of the defining faces of the MTV era only to reject the idea of being perceived as smiling video moppet. He was a gay rights icon who didn’t embrace his sexuality until 1998, when he was 34 and after an undercover police officer arrested him for solicitation in a Beverly Hills park.

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The Woman Who Saved Oasis

melissa.jpgAidin Vaziri | Melissa Lim remembers the first time she locked eyes with Noel Gallagher, the lead guitarist of Oasis. It was backstage at the Bottom of the Hill on Sept. 26, 1994, where the quarrelsome British rock band was making its San Francisco live debut in support of its platinum-selling first album, “Definitely Maybe.”

“He came over and sat down next to me,” she says. “I had never been backstage before, so I asked him, ‘Where’s the afterparty?’ And he goes, ‘What afterparty? Can I hang out with you tonight?’”

The encounter would play a major part in the group’s formative years, chronicled in the action-packed new documentary, “Supersonic” (from the makers of “Amy”), which hit U.S. theaters last month.

Three days later, after a disastrous concert at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles — where the band members were high on crystal meth and saddled with mismatched set lists — things came to a head. Gallagher was struck in the face by a tambourine hurled by younger brother Liam, and decided he’d had enough.

Gallagher grabbed his passport, boarded a plane to San Francisco and reportedly went into hiding at Lim’s apartment in lower Nob Hill.

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