I remember one of my favorite Craig memories. It was 1994, and I decided to record a compilation CD of street musicians. And Craig was one of the first people I approached for the project. For Craig was the quintessential street musician after all. Braying out his songs to the midnight moon with his battered street guitar as he belted out druggy versions of every Rolling Stones song you could think of. And wiith all the anguished, tormented soul that Craig was famous for.
The recording sessions for the CD took place in this abandoned bank building on Shattuck & Bancroft. A friend of mine who worked for City Hall had given me the key to the building. And we set up a make-shift recording studio in there (great acoustics inside the bank vault but you sure don’t want that big round door to shut and lock on you).
I had invited about 20 street musicians for the first session. And when I showed up early that morning to unlock the building Craig was already there waiting for me, with a big smile and his guitar slung over his shoulder. Craig was so excited about the project he had gotten up at the crack of dawn to get there first. Or, more likely, he had been up all night doing speed and hadn’t even gone to bed yet. At any rate we were both thrilled at this once-in-a-lifetime chance at playing at being rock stars. And who knows maybe we’d get lucky and come up with a hit record — stranger things have happened. Or at the least maybe we’d get one of out songs played on the radio (we actually managed this one).
The two engineers with the recording equipment hadn’t shown up yet. So me and Craig took our guitars into the men’s room — where you get that great echo-y sound — to warm up. Craig went through his repertoire of Stones songs. And they sounded great. And for the first time I started to think that maybe this crazy project of mine — this crazy pipe dream (literally) — was actually going to work. I had a cheap-ass tape-recorder and i recorded Craig singing and playing in that dark and dank men’s room (most of the sockets in the building didn’t have light bulbs). And one of these days I’m gonna have to dig up that tape. It’ll probably make me cry.
When we got all of our recording equipment set up Craig was the first person we recorded. He had written an original song that was a parody of an Alice Cooper song that he titled “The Ballad of Isy Jones” (Isy Jones was one of Craig’s many street aliases — Sic Pup was another). He had reworked Alice Cooper’s lyrics into a dark and zany first-hand account of life on the streets (and jails) of Berkeley. I was proud of Craig — he had come up with a weird little underground classic. And Craig’s ravaged singing voice let you know he had lived out every line of the lyrics of the song, and then some.
When the recording sessions finally came to a close well after midnight, me and Craig and Monk (another crazy street rocker who could have been Craig’s brother from another mother) were hanging outside the building on the dark sidewalks of Shattuck. We were all definitely buzzed. But when I pulled the keys out of my pocket to lock up the building, the blotter acid in my pocket also came flying out and fluttered off in the wind.
“Oh fuck!” I said.
“What’s the matter?” said Craig.
“I just dropped my acid on the sidewalk.”
So the three of us are down on our hands and knees fumbling around on the dark sidewalk of Shattuck Avenue looking for that strip of acid.
“Found it!” said Monk.
Monk popped the acid in his mouth. And then happily bounded off down the street. And me and Craig bopped off in the other direction.
Just one more night in a seemingly endless expanse of nights on the streets of Berkeley. And we were all young and strong and just crazy enough to love the whole mad misadventures of our mad, mad lives.
That’s how I’ll always remember Craig. Bounding off down the street with his guitar slung across his back, off to his next adventure on the streets of Berkeley.