History continued

Sherry's memory of that day is a little more rosy: "We sang for David Geffen and [producer] Richard Perry, and Jackson Browne [one of Geffen's first signings] was actually there, too. I know there was a favorable response because David wanted someone else to hear us the next day, but instead we flew up to San Francisco. That was extraordinary as well."

"So at that point we figured, 'We'll just find some musicians we like and play for them and they'll realize how great we are,'" Joel says, still amused by the group's na´ve chutzpah. "So we flew up to San Francisco and we sort of busted our way into Wally Heider Studios. The Dead were in one studio, the Airplane were in another, and Crosby, Stills & Nash were in another. So it was filled will all these players we liked. I made up some story to get past the doorman and we got in and immediately met David Crosby, who was understandably paranoid at first - 'Who the hell are you?' But after we chatted for a few minutes and he realized I wasn't a federal agent or something, he said, 'Fine, you come back tomorrow at one o'clock and we'll all listen to you. If you're any good we'll help you.'

"And that's what happened. We came back the next day and in Studio A we auditioned for various members of the Dead, the Airplane and CSN; they were there in a circle around us; it was pretty surreal. We took out our guitars and played for an hour and after it was over there seemed to be a feeling in the room of 'Yeah, we've gotta sign those kids.' So Crosby called Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic, which was CSN's label, and told him about us, and pretty soon after that he flew out to San Francisco to hear us. I'll never forget our audition for him because after he heard us play he took off his toupee and threw it across the room, he was so excited."

Crosby was working on his debut solo album - the incandescent and widely acclaimed If I Could Only Remember My Name, released in the fall of 1971 - at Heider's at the time, and it was he who suggested that R.J. Fox record with his engineer on that record, Stephen Barncard, who was fresh from having worked on the Dead's classic American Beauty album, as well. "Crosby said, very pointedly in the studio one day, 'I'm giving you these guys, Barncard. Don't screw it up!'" Joel recalls. "'This is the best band you're ever going to get!' There was a real symbiosis going on at the time, lots of musicians coming and going and hanging out. [Drummers Bill Kreutzmann of the Dead and Spencer Dryden of the Airplane even helped out]. We block-booked Heider's for a couple of months and made a really good record with Barncard producing. With our three guitars - what we used to call our acoustic salad - and what we did with our voices, I think we were something a little different."

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