It has been said that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there. Author Kathy West was there and she remembers a great deal which she has recently shared in a memoir called A Song for You: the Quest of the Myddle Class.
The Myddle Class, formerly known as the King Bees, was known in the late sixties as the greatest garage band on the east coast. The band was comprised of local musicians who attended Governor Livingston, Watchung Hills Regional and North Plainfield high schools.
Members of the band included: Dave Palmer lead singer, Rick Philp guitar, Danny Mansolino organ, Charles Larkey bass and Myke Rosa on drums who was raised in Berkeley Heights.
West, who graduated from Watchung Regional High School in 1965, met her first love Rick Philp, a talented guitarist in the Myddle Class. Through Philp, West met and became friends with a circle of musicians, who have, since gone on to achieve great success in the music field. They include: Carole King, Gerry Goffin, King’s first husband and Charlie Larkey, who was raised in Mountainside and was King’s second husband, and Dave Palmer.
Sadly, West’s boyfriend, Philp was murdered by a former college roommate in 1969.
West, 63, whose maiden name is Esoldi, was raised in Stirling, NJ, and currently lives in Manalapan. She signed books at Tailoring by Marco on Springfield Avenue on Saturday, May 7, 2011, and was greeted by old friends and others who remembered the musical group that was once considered the greatest garage band on the east coast.
Robert Stapperfenne, 62, of Gillette showed up with a faded copy of one of the Myddle Class's newsletters.
Buddy Falzarano, 59, who was raised in Stirling and is a current resident of Liberty Corner, said he was excited that West wrote this book.
"I've been feeling really nostalgic about the old days. I can't wait to read this book. Back then, every body had a garage band, but the Myddle Class was something special," said Falzarano.
Carol Barkhorn of Bernardsville read about the book signing and said she just had to check it out.
"I visited Gerry Goffin and Carole King at their summer home in West Orange in the late sixties," said Barkhorn who said she dated Danny Mansolino when the two attended North Plainfield High School.
Deborah and Tom Lynch of Long Valley came out to meet with West to relive memories. The Lynch's met when they were teens living in Berkeley Heights and Deborah met Myke Rosa in the eighth grade and Charlie Larkey in the ninth grade.
Tom Lynch handled lighting and sound for the Myddle Class.
“I’m so glad she wrote this book. It’s an extraordinary story, the kind of story they make movies about,” said Lynch.
He said he loved the book, but admitted that when he was about to read the details about the murder of his old friend, it was very difficult to go back to that time.
Lynch said that Philp was one of two guitarists that everyone was talking about in New York City at the time.
“Rick and a guitarist named Danny Kalb were considered the best talents at the time. Rick was a terrific kid, God knows what he would have accomplished had he lived,” said Lynch.
West was inspired to go back and retrace the feelings and the events of a tumultuous and exciting time in political and music history when she found a box of old letters and other memorabilia from that time and began to tell her son about her life at that time.
“In the fervor of Facebook I think many people my age want to find out what has become of old friends and particularly old flames. In writing my story I pursued friends I had lost touch with for many years and it has been as if no time has passed,” said West.
She said once she decided she would share her story in a memoir, she began to dig more deeply into the old letters to help her restructure a chronological sequence of events.
“The recall came quickly. I often got up in the middle of the night with memories and thoughts of how I would describe them. This took only several months; I had very little writer’s block. The hardest tasks were creating a bibliography and an index. Editing was tedious, but I am known to be quite tenacious, so I just kept at it every day, until I got it right,” said West.
West said that Garage Hangover, a Web site devoted to garage bands of the 1960s, helped her a great deal in gathering current information about members of the Myddle Class.
“I read a great tribute to the band with comments from fans. Rick’s brother, Steve Philp had posted a comment and with an exchange of a few emails, I was phoning and meeting with Steve along with many other people who remembered Rick very well. I traveled to Boston to research the circumstances of Rick’s death and I had a wonderful dinner meeting with Steve and Sheila Philp,” said West.
While she said she is not sure whether she has fully resolved the trauma of Philp’s untimely death, she feels that writing about the events has helped to reach some sort of closure with her loss.
“After facing a deeply suppressed heartache, I think I am okay with the past as I like to focus on being pleased with who I am now. As always, I still mostly feel pride in how fortunate I was to have had such a thrilling youth sharing loving relationships with an extremely talented, sensitive and unique circle of friends,” said West.
West, who holds a master’s degree in psychology, said she believes that it is important to deal with personal psychological burdens so that one can gain a better understanding of themselves and what motivates their behavior.
“On the other hand, it doesn’t help to take oneself too seriously. Lingering pain and anger need to be overruled by fun and laughter. I urge people my age to surround themselves with enjoyment,” said West.
West said she has already written the screenplay of her memoir complete with a soundtrack.
She said that while the careers of Carole King and James Taylor, among others, have already been made into an intriguing documentary about the evolution of icons starting with the days they played the Troubadour nightclub in L.A., her screenplay would be based on a true story -- embedded in a history of the pop music industry.
In addition to a number of people who came out to buy West’s book and share old memories of the Myddle Class, West said the comments are pouring in from friends, teachers and people who were close to The Myddle Class.
West said, “They are commenting on how well they remember Rick, not only for the person he was but mostly for his influential talent. If I don’t get another compliment, all my effort will be made worthwhile by the comment -- Thank you for a wonderful evocation of a wonderful kid. What great things he might have accomplished, had he lived.”
West’s book is available on Amazon.com at: http://www.amazon.com/Song-You-Quest-Myddle-Class/dp/1456817906