Plenty has changed since the days of electric Kool-Aid acid tests, bell bottoms, and long hair, but Damnation of Adam Blessing guitarist Jim Quinn's recollection of the past isn't as fuzzy as you might imagine, given the amount of drugs he's consumed in the name of creative pursuits.
"I remember playing an SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] rally at the University of Michigan," Quinn says over lunch at the Watermark. "It was us, Iggy and the Stooges, the MC5, and Jane Fonda. What a great concert that was. I got pictures from that. After that we went to the president's mansion, and there was a tray of pot. We could have done whatever we wanted.
"There was another time when we were playing at the Whiskey in Los Angeles, and Wolfman Jack loved us," continues Quinn, who has reunited the Damnation for a September 27 show at the Rock Hall. "He wanted to sign the band and took us up to his private house. He had this woman there who looked like a Playboy bunny, and her job was to carry a silver tray with rolled joints on it and make sure you had one. That's what her job was. That's the way it was. We were kids in our early 20s, and people were writing wonderful stories about us, asking why Led Zeppelin was making it and Damnation wasn't. To us, life wasn't going to end."
But life did end for the Damnation of Adam Blessing, which, at the height of its popularity, played with acts such as Grand Funk Railroad, Bob Seger, and Alice Cooper. After releasing two solid albums -- 1968's Damnation of Adam Blessing and 1970's The Second Damnation -- the Damnation, which had had only a couple of regional hits, teamed up with producer Eric Stevens, who proceeded to water down its heavy music by adding overwrought string arrangements to its third album, Which Is the Justice, Which Is the Thief. All three albums have recently been reissued by the Italian label Akarma, which has packaged them in a box set that comes with a booklet and poster. Conflicts with its manager, coupled with the fact that Which Is the Justice didn't sell, resulted in the band getting dropped. Quinn says that the photo shoot for the insert art for the album served as an omen of things to come. After taking some pictures in the Flats, they went to a strip along West 14th Street, which at the time wasn't gentrified.
"All we hear is 'faggots' coming out of some window and we yell, 'Faggot you too, buddy,'" Quinn recalls. "A couple of minutes later, this Cadillac drives by and tries to hit us. The car pulls around, and the guy opens his trunk and takes out this metal bar and starts coming at us, and 14 guys -- steelworkers -- come running out of the bar and kicked our asses. They grabbed the photographer's beard, and I've never heard such a blood-curdling scream. Everyone was freaking out. Back then, it was horrible. Long hair was just not in; they called you girls and stuff like that."
The Damnation recorded one more album under the name Glory before splitting up in 1972. For his part, Quinn has stuck with the business side of things, operating a music marketing company, managing artists, and manufacturing software programs for the music industry. At the urging of David Spero, the Rock Hall's new public programs director, he recruited his old bandmates -- guitarist Bob Kalamasz, bassist Ray Benich, singer Adam Blessing, and drummer Bill Schwark -- for the Rock Hall show. He had to go to great lengths to ensure Benich would be able to join the group.
"Ray spent 18 years behind bars for attempted murder," Quinn says. "It was a domestic dispute, and there was a weapon involved. It was a bad thing. It was political, and he got buried in the system. I went on a campaign to get him out. In November, he came up for parole, and he was let go. Now, less than a year later, he's playing rock and roll. He walks the walk and talks the talk. He's a born-again Christian and a good guy."
Quinn admits that he's always been "savvy" about the business side of things, but says that the Damnation reunion isn't all about the Benjamins -- at least, not yet. "This isn't going to make us a lot of money -- we're doing it for posterity's sake," Quinn says, swatting away a bee with a flick of his hand. "We are going to play a new song that's called 'Rock and Roll Blue' -- it's about after the show's over. The rest will all be our classics."
It's hard to believe that Quinn, who drives a black cherry Cadillac, wears gold bracelets, and carries both a pager and cell phone, isn't concerned about cashing in, or at least getting the Damnation its due. He says the group will release a live album and hopes that this reunion might spawn a "shed tour" with another act from the era (there are plenty to choose from -- the Moody Blues, CSNY, for starters). He maintains that he still listens to new music -- Matchbox Twenty and A Perfect Circle are two of his faves -- but it's hard to imagine the Damnation's appeal existing outside of the realms of nostalgia.
"It's interesting how a lot of these young bands are going back to the garage rock groups," Quinn says, when asked about his thoughts on revivals. "Kids are searching for something new. Something new to them is something old to us. People are trying to make those old sounds with today's technologies. It's almost impossible to recapture some of those sounds. Those vintage amps -- we can't afford to buy 'em now."
Maybe after that shed tour, they will.