Vail, CO – “The Taylor Tattoo” – March 8, 1999

We’ve got STICKERS people!!!!!

This little symbol represents the sun, the moon, and the ocean and my aunt, Kate Taylor, created it when she was only 16. Little did she know then it would come to symbolize the whole Taylor family and brand generations of our lineage. Here’s how it happened.

Kate, 16, was doodling with a pal and came up with the circular image you see here. She got her heart set on getting the symbol tattooed on her earlobe. On a trip to visit my dad in London, fresh off the plane, she announced her intention, holding her napkin doodle up to my 19-year-old dad’s icy blue eyes for inspection. My dad, new to London, had just scored the ultimate honor; a record deal with The Beatles’s record label, Apple Records, as its first non-Beatle artist. He was in London to record his first solo album and though he was new to the area, he told sister Kate he’d heard about a guy in the English countryside who inked tattoos on musicians. Kate spent the better part of her visit begging my dad to drive her there.

Photo Credit: Peter Simon

On a rainy afternoon, after a long drive past electric green fields peppered with clouds of sheep, Dad and Kate found their body artist stationed in a makeshift tent. “The guy was covered head to foot in tattoos,” my dad recalled years later “and his wife had a dotted line across her neck with the words “cut here” scribed below it.” Dad slid his finger across his throat with an incredulous, ‘Those were the good ol’ days’ smile spreading across his face.

Unphased by the artist’s severe and ominous-looking work, Kate showed the man her drawing and requested it etched on her earlobe.

“Yer two married?” asked the tattooed man in an almost indecipherable West Country accent.

“What? No. Married? No. This is my brother,” blustered Kate. My dad pronounced his chin and raised his brow in agreement.

“I don’t tattoos unmarried women ‘bove the neck, I don’t. Don’t want any future husbands comin t’get me if yar knew.”

Thinking fast Kate amended her request. “What about on the top of my foot?”

“How old are ya then?” The man continued his inquiry “I don’t put marks on anyone under 18 so.” Kate was devastated. “But you have to,” she cried “This symbol is our family sign,” she lied. The man considered his two patrons as rain dripped from a hole in the roof of the tent and his silent wife organized needles on a table missing a leg. “Alright my lover,” said the man, “if it’s your family sign then your brother’s gettin’ it too.”

And that’s the legend of our family tattoo. My dad walked out of the tent that day with his sister Kate’s sun, moon, and sea branded on his right shoulder and Kate walked hers out on the top of her left foot. The rest of their siblings followed suit in the years that followed. I got mine in Newport, Rhode Island the day I turned 18 driving there in my own rainstorm. It hangs in the sky of my upper back. To me it represents my family having my back and G.O.D: the Great Out Doors. It represents who I am at my core: strength, integrity, stability and truth.

Los Angeles, CA – “Snapshot at a Quarter Century ” – January 6, 1999

It’s the day before my 25th birthday and my moods are as tropical as a pina colada.  I cannot stand the way I feel in my skin.  I look fat and bloated especially when I smile which makes me frown and feel worse.  My eyelids feel too heavy to open and my hair feels like straw.  

The fact that it’s a glorious day and I’m in a green Mustang convertible, sipping a mocha frappuccino outside a Starbucks on Sunset Strip just proves that happiness is not contingent on external circumstances.  Joy is an inside job. 

Let’s see, how can I summersault myself into a different way of metabolizing this moment….

I’m wearing my tight red sweater.  Golden, shoe-string braids hang lightly over my shoulders. The breeze is cool on my cheeks and life is actually pretty sweet.  I mean fuck it,that my new barrettes flew out of the window as I cruised down the 10.  Fuck it that my pants feel tight around my waist.  I am a totally powerful babe and pitying myself for being a woman is not, and has never been helpful.

There, that’s better.

Dad called while I was grabbing breakfast at “The Firehouse” in Venice.  Over an egg white omelet and hot coco, he congratulated me on making it to a quarter century.

“You’re half my age and you’ll never be younger than half my age EVER again!” He reported enthusiastically which I thought was a very dad-like calculation to have made.  I thanked him for inviting me to this life and letting me tag along for a while on his.  He liked that.

“That’s a good thing for you to say my Sal.”

Aspen, CO – “Post-Gig Gifts” -The Howlin’ Wolf – December 29, 1998

We’ve played The Howling Wolf two nights in a row.

My audience is so generous.  People shower me with unmerited gifts after shows.  Some give me pot, some mushrooms, some validation, some drunken hugs, and sometimes someone gives me pieces of myself I thought I’d lost for good or didn’t even know to miss.  Sometimes it’s a photograph or the recollection of a summer day our paths crossed at a county fair.  These are the most precious of post-gig gifts. The true benefit of celebrity affiliation is that people collect pieces of your life you didn’t know to make precious in the moment. Here are a few such gifts.

Greenwood, CO – Fiddler’s Green with Dad – July 28, 1998

Dad was coming to town.  He called Thursday to say he was at the international airport in Denver and, would I be interested in playing “Sign of Rain” at his sold-out 18,000 Fidler’s Green Amphitheater show over the weekend.    

His call came in as I was packing up after a terrible, nerve-wracking gig opening for a local gal named Lee Nestor.  I clutched my new cell phone between my shoulder and my ear as I repeatedly stabbed my guitar into my trunk trying to tetris it between a mic stand and amplifier.   The night was cool. A low garland of clouds stood sentinel around the foot of the Flatiron lit by the moon. 

“What Dad?!?” 

“Do you want to play one of your songs at my gig at Fiddler’s this weekend?”

“Yes, Of course, I want to Dad!  God, thank you so much for asking.”

“Sure my Sal.  I really love that song.” I was terrified and thrilled. 

“Let’s meet up before the show and work out some parts.”

“Yeah, sure, of course,” I said absentmindedly, consumed by fear at the prospect. How was I going to play for 18,000 people when I’d just come from an audience of 20 shaking from head to toe?

Dad and I met up backstage at Fiddler’s Green on the day of the show in the Kraft services room which was peppered with processed meats, chips and sugar cookies.  I grazed nervously on pineapple slices skewered un-consentually with grapes on flimsy toothpicks.  Dad fisted handfuls of mixed nuts, tossing them around in his palm like a percussion instrument waiting to finish his last mouthful. It was great and relieving to see him.  We sat on red pleather couches and worked up some harmonies. He complimented my voice which made my confidence soar. 

But after sound check and vocal exercises and the last pineapple kabob, I began to get nervous in a way I’ve never before experienced.  I had to put a towel over my head and lie down on the couch in Dad’s dressing room.  I found myself choking on heartbeats stuck in my throat. 

When I told Dad how scared I was, he reassured me sweetly, “You know, I still get nervous going on stage too Sal.”  I was pretty sure this was untrue but his warm hand on my shoulder was gentle and calming and even when he left me in the shadow, stage left, to enter the blinding lights on stage, I could still feel his hand there, letting me know it’d be ok.

I don’t think I moved, let alone took a full breath between that moment and the time he introduced me.  But as he said into the mic “I’d like to introduce my own flesh and blood, Sally Taylor.” I pulled my spirit back into my belly with a full laugh and a toss of my giant hair. I leaned into every one of those knife-like nerves knowing they had enough voltage to electrocute me.  I didn’t squint into the light, I let it burn me alive and as I plucked the first 3 strings, I was connected to Source by 36,000 eyes.  This was AMAZING and miraculously, as I went into the chorus “Maybe it’s a sign of rain..” the heavens opened up and it started to rain a warm, relieving, summer rain on the crowd. I could hear an audible “ahh –“ and when I turned to look at Dad, his eyes were glowing like sapphires, full of pride.

My song.  MY song.  MY SONG!  Vibrating through all those hearts. 

And here is what I learned — The nervousness I felt, was my body’s reaction to resisting the love trying to come through me, meant for the audience.  It was so hard to hold all the love the universe had in store for that giant crowd.  I didn’t trust I could deliver it.  I felt like a congested pen desperate to deliver ink to a brilliant thought.   I realized that perhaps that is the job of the artist. Dancers, writers, painters, perfumers, singers, we strive, less to create than to remove obstacles that stand in the way of people receiving the love always meant for them.  We attempt to transcribe universal love into the language of the human heart.  We are conduits, vessels, and postmen. are pens, not the ink.

Thank you Dad.  What an amazing opportunity.  Thank you Fiddler’s Green.  Thank you Rain.

Boulder, CO – Mom & Dad React to my Demo – April 5, 1998

I successfully handed out all 10 copies of my rough demo of songs on my trip to LA.  Some of the songs I recorded with “Not Eric,” now calling itself “Tiny Yellow Ducks.”  Others I recorded on my 4-trac in my apartment which feature the scratching skills of Fatty J who likes to get in on the action.  I felt weird about handing out my cassettes with their handwritten song titles.  It was so self-promoting and forward but when I was sure I was going to die on the airplane back to Denver I kept chanting through hyperventilating breaths “Everything is gonna be OK” and “Your babies (songs) are out there.”  And that made me feel reassured. 

I woke up to an enthusiastic message from Mom.  Overly enthusiastic in fact.  She was raving about my music.  “I just got the tape this morning and it’s so amazing.  I’ve only listened to the first 4 songs but I love ‘Complaints’ and ‘In My Mind’ is great and ‘Sign of Rain.’  The line about Alex liking when the weather matches how he feels inside is fabulous.”  It was sweet of her to overzealously compliment my music.  Before I put the cassette in the mail to her I told her how much her opinion meant to me and how vulnerable I felt about sending her my “Babies.”  She was excited for me but in my heart, I disbelieved her enthusiasm.  It felt too expensive and perhaps too elusive to claim.

Dad met in Boulder for lunch at “Dot’s Dinner with a bunch of my pals, musicians, record company execs, and Kipp, my new boyfriend.  Clustered into a red pleather booth inside the makeshift gas station, we bribed waiters for egg white omelets and talked shop. 

Back at Dad’s hotel room #300, I played him a couple of songs: “Cowboy” and “I Meant To” which he tweaked and twanked but said he liked a lot. “I’m blown away by what you do with your voice.” He told me, “Your soul really comes through in your music.” 

“That means a lot to me pop.” I said and of course, that was an understatement.

He asked me if I wanted to take Ben’s route into the music business:  “You know, find a manager, a record label, and a booking agent and go all in?” he asked, elbows on knees watching the floor like it were a taro card.   I Couldn’t tell if he was offering to help me or not.  “You’ve got what it takes to make it in the industry though I’d never wish this career on anybody.” He said.  “Being a musician, it’s a blue-collar gig my Sal. It takes a ton of elbow grease and grit and it ain’t easy on relationships either” He said. 

It was the first time I actually believed such a thing (a big famous-filled career with all the glitz and all the shit) was possible.  As I peered in at the possibility in the cloud bubble above my dad’s head, the idea looked not so appealing.  Too big, too scary, too fast.  Too many sharks swimming in the icy dark water.  So I said “No. No pop. I think I want to go it alone.”

Leaving Dad and walking back up the hill to my pad it hit me, I don’t really know all that goes into a music career.  You think I would, having grown up with two legendary musicians as parents but frankly, I don’t even think they fully know. 

As the sun dipped below the surface of the day I realized I wanted to create my own label.  I want to find my own band, I want to book my own gigs, and do my own PR until I know how much I’d pay someone not to have to do those jobs anymore.  I want a hands-on music business career. 

My pace picked up as the night grew sweater-worthy and I passed by the Fox Theater where people qued in Birkenstocks to see Zuba in concert.  The first thing I’m going to do next week is make a better recording of my demo tape, next, I’ll find a bunch of band mates and then. I’m going to buy a big ass van.