The Long and Winding Road – For Real! Part 2

28 Apr

Continuing from last week, we’ll pick back up The Now Explosion Rock ‘n Roll Miracle Story when Bob had just been given the 45 RPM record of The Long and Winding Road after he had said, “I’ll do it for free.” Genii Macaulay had responded, “You’re hired.”

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Everybody always thought Bob was on drugs. He wasn’t. He was on film. Who needed drugs when you had film? The bug had bitten him very young and he had been infected with it ever since. After school he would study the craft of making movies in the FSU library not far from his home in Tallahassee. He would save his lawn-mowing money to buy precious rolls of 8mm film and make his kid brother Randy jump through hoops (figuratively and literally!) for the camera. He graduated to Super 8 a few years later when everybody thought his “hobby” should have been long gone. He had done whatever was necessary to learn how to make films and it never once occurred to him he wouldn’t eventually be successful at it.

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All of that had been in preparation for this moment. He was incredibly excited, but to see him you wouldn’t have known it – because he was focused like a laser beam. There was no way he was going to blow this opportunity to shoot for The Now Explosion!

He drove straight home to his apartment on Campbellton Road, sat down on the sofa and pulled the 45 out of the paper sleeve. He knew he would never forget the feeling of pulling this piece of round vinyl out of this particular square, paper pocket. This was it.

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He slid the 45 down the spindle of his record player and played The Long and Winding Road over and over again. He liked it, but thought it was an unusual piece, a little sad for the Beatles. He got out his stopwatch and a legal pad and timed out the lyrics, the chorus. He jotted down the words and the visuals they brought to mind until finally a storyline began to emerge. He could see the scenes play in his head, it was already becoming a movie. When he got to the point where the entire song was a visual in his mind, he stopped playing the record and wrote out the script shot-by-shot.

He called a friend, an aspiring actress who had been in his 15 minute 16mm epic and told her he was going to put her on TV, but she had to be ready before dawn. Alva Sanders was quiet for a second, then said, “Okay.”

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He had just enough sunlight left that Thursday evening to get shots he needed of the flowers that were the pride-and-joy of the older lady who lived next door. She said it was fine for him to take pictures of her flowers, but she had never heard of The Now Explosion. The sun was setting, so he quickly got shots of his apartment complex while there was still enough light.

He needed a photo of a handsome young guy for the girl in the film to think about and as he rummaged through his drawer, he almost laughed out loud that the only one he had on hand was Randy’s senior high school picture.

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Whether he had wanted to be or not, Randy had always been in Bob’s movies, he might as well be in this one too! Bob stuck the photo in a frame and grabbed a shot of it. The next thing was the clock on the kitchen wall. The only other thing he could shoot inside his apartment were rings on the table. Although he was about to hop out of his skin with excitement, he knew he had done everything he could that night. He set his alarm for 4:30am.

He pulled up at Alva Sander’s house at 5:30am so they could be at this open field he’d found west of Atlanta ready to shoot when the sun came up. It was too early to talk much, and besides, Bob was deep in thought about how he was going to pull this off.

He knew precisely what he wanted to do from the moment they arrived. He placed Alva at one end of the field and he was positioned on the opposite side. With a long lens, he shot a scene of her running through wild flowers, silhouetted against the rising sun. And so he continued methodically, working through the hand-written script, timing each shot with his stopwatch.

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Several hours later they finished with that location and went back to Alva’s parent’s house. The light was perfect in Mrs. Sander’s bedroom, so that’s where he placed Alva, looking longingly out the window. He was finished shooting there by around noon and Alva’s mom had sandwiches ready for them. He gulped his lunch, said a quick “Thanks!” as he ran out the door and hurried downtown to get shots of people on the streets. He was a man with a vision, a stopwatch and a deadline!

He arrived at Cinema Processors lab around 2:00pm and Phil, who ran the lab, had his film in the “soup” a few minutes later. He screened it there, thought it was pretty good and was back at WATL by 3:30. Genii was too busy to look surprised that this insistent young man was back in her office already, she had two phones and three cigarettes going at the time.

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She showed Bob where the editing room was and said to let her know when he was finished. There was a Movie Scope viewer with a 3″ wide screen, a single gang synchronizer for measuring the footage as he cut it, a cement “hot” splicer and a pair of film rewinds. He had no way of running the music with the picture when he was editing, so he had to rely on his stopwatch settings that he had also used when he was shooting.

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Okay, I’m going to take a breath and say that again, just to make sure you heard me: HE HAD NO WAY OF RUNNING THE MUSIC WITH THE PICTURE! He used his stopwatch to figure out where to cut!?!! Now, keep in mind, this was the original film he was cutting, the same film that had been running through his 16mm camera a few hours before this. There was no workprint, this was newsreel style and there was no avoiding that splice marks would be visible. True guerilla filmmaking – no mistakes allowed!  Impossible to keep it in sync with the record – inconceivable!

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It was about 6:00pm when he was finished cutting The Long and Winding Road, and Genii called Bob Whitney and a couple of the staff in to screen the film. There was a small record player on the conference table, they turned it on and cued the film up in the projector. I have absolutely no understanding how they got the film and the record started at the same time, but they did!

There was no reaction from the group as they watched Bob’s film. Miraculously, it was in perfect sync with the record. Bob thought it looked great and was waiting to be congratulated, but there was only deathly silence when the film ended. Everyone just kept staring at the blank screen. No one had ever seen anything quite like it and really didn’t know what to make of it. Before this, they had been primarily taping teenagers dancing with psychedelic effects in the background or dancing outside with simple outdoor scenes.

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This film was something different entirely: a story showing sincere emotion and intercutting seemingly unrelated scenes that amplified those emotions. Her loneliness contrasted with the lonely, crowded streets; the beauty of her love as reflected in the flowers but contrasting with the stark and ugly apartment complex – all shot in available light for heightened realism and a more personal feel.

He had put his heart into it and now Rector’s heart was in his throat as he thought, “Oh shit, they hate it!”

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Whitney looked at Genii, nodded his head, and Genii said, “Okay, we’ll see.”

Later that night the film was transferred to 2″ quad video tape and put on an individual reel ready to go into the show’s rotation. That was Friday.

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Bob went home and collapsed. He was exhausted and a little confused, but still confident. How could they not like it? I did a terrific job! He would be up and waiting in front of the TV set at noon the next day.

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About fifteen miles away, as the crow flies, I was waiting in front of the TV set too. The new Beatles song, The Long and Winding Road had just come out. I had heard it on Quixie that week on the Skinny Bobby Harper show and was hoping it would be on The Now Explosion. Great song and pretty poignant since the Beatles had just broken up about a month earlier.  It didn’t come on right away, but after about half an hour, I heard Skinny Bobby say in his best I’m-the-most-charming-DJ-in-the-universe voice, “And now the latest hit from the Beatles, The Long and Winding Road.”

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And there it was, the film Bob had been shooting just the day before. He sat stunned, wondering how many hundreds of thousands of people were watching it. It was beautiful, he had done it, just like he always knew he would. Then the phone rang and Alva was screaming, “Did you SEE it?! Did you SEE IT?!” A few minutes later the doorbell rang, it was the lady next door all aglow, “I just saw my flowers on TV!” And then Randy called and said somebody had called him and said they had seen him on this television show and “What the hell, man?”

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The break up of the Beatles wasn’t what concerned me that Saturday as I watched the images of The Long and Winding Road flicker hauntingly across the screen. It was the break-up of a much more personal nature that I was consumed with. My boyfriend and I had just broken up. We had been together for over two years and had thought we would always be together. As I watched the girl in The Long and Winding Road, that girl was me.

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She even had long, dark hair like I did. And she looked at the picture of the boy she loved, just as I had done a hundred times. She was broken-hearted too, and I cried as only a seventeen year old girl can cry. I cried for her and for me.

How could I have known that it was the young man who had made The Long Winding Road, Bob Rector, who was destined to be my husband.

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The Long and Winding Road was by far the most requested video of the weekend.

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On Sunday afternoon, Genii called Bob and asked him how many films he could turn out in a week. “Oh, one a day,” he said, not thinking for a second what shooting five films a week would entail. Genii told him to be in her office first thing Monday morning and she’d give him the records he would shoot that week. He asked her if he was going to get paid and in typical Genii no nonsense fashion she said, “Yeah” and hung up.

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Forty-three years later Bob Rector and I have been happily together for almost thirty-eight years. What’s the story behind that? Well, I’ve already written that one, in my Mutinous Boomer book!

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But, now we find ourselves thrust unexpectedly into the world of The Now Explosion once again. How in the world did that happen? Well, I’ll tell you…

Last October, our son Matt, who just so happens to be a musician himself, emailed his dad, “Get ready for a trip back in time, I know how you don’t like time travel but I think you might like this. Click on the link to be transported.” Bob didn’t think anything about it because Matt is always sending us movie trailers and such, and everybody knows Bob isn’t fond of time travel. But, Matt was right, he was instantly transported when he clicked on the link and saw Alva Sander’s face.

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He called out for me, his face was flushed – he had been hit with a bolt from the blue. I stood behind him, my hands on his shoulders and we both watched as forty-three years melted away, our eyes misty from the sheer power of the memories.

The Long and Winding Road indeed.

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By Marsha Roberts

Author of Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer

http://www.mutinousbabyboomer.com/

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8 Responses to “The Long and Winding Road – For Real! Part 2”

  1. claudenougat April 29, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    You’ve done it again, Marsha! Love this evocation of a magical moment in both your lives, so intense, suspenseful even, and then the last image you give of both of you, watching with bated breath a rerun of that long-ago genial video! Marsha, you are a very gifted raconteur – I should say raconteuse, but the feminine form of that word doesn’t exist even if it should! Thanks so much, I really enjoyed your post and I think all your readers will too!

    • Mutinous Boomer April 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      Yes, the feminine form of the word SHOULD exist! But I’ll take that lovely compliment in any form! Thank you so much Claude. It means a great deal to me that a writer of your talents finds my work so interesting. I’m so glad you found it suspenseful – that’s what I was going for!

  2. Michael Murphy April 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Certainly brings back memories for me. Can’t wait to read more.

    • Mutinous Boomer April 30, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

      Says he who KNOWS Woodstock! This was less than a year later – those times… they had such an influence on us. Look forward to sharing more with you! Thanks for reading!

  3. Lynn Schneider April 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    What a great story. Loved hearing about it, and now I want to listen to The Long and Winding Road!

    • Mutinous Boomer April 30, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

      Thanks Lynn! You can also SEE the original music video that Bob made back in 1970 – it’s on The Now Explosion Facebook Page. Enjoy!

  4. svpeddle April 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    I loved this. I’ve got a load of Year 13 students (17-18 year olds) who are going to start to create their own music videos in a few weeks. I am so looking forward to getting them to compare this story of Bob physically editing video tape with a stop watch, to all the sophisticated digital equipment they have in my school. I watched the video on vimeo too and he did a better job than some of my kids!
    Brilliant and you tell it so well.

    • Mutinous Boomer April 30, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

      SV, thanks for sharing it with your students! It would be hard for them to imagine not having the tools at hand like they do. One of the interesting things is that we have found out that film schools all over the country have used this film and several others Bob made as an example of innovative film making at that time. Very cool! I’ve enjoyed telling this story and will tell more soon!

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