Mountain At Charles Lane

by Thomas Beller

06/03/2001

14 Charles Ln, NY, NY 10014

Neighborhood: West Village

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Charles Lane is a narrow cobblestoned alley that connects Washington Street and the West Side Highway. There is nothing particularly remarkable about it, except it feel like one of those narrow crevices in the city which time has forgotten, even though it is tucked into a peculiarly modern housing development. 

A rehearsal studio called Charles Lane studios was once in business there. I went there to rehearse with my first band. We weren't even a band. I was thirteen years old, the other guys were a year older. I recall shivering on the corner of Washington Street and Charles Lane in the middle of winter, waiting for the other band members to show up. Once we got the hang of it, we could waltz in on our own, one at a time, but in the beginning it seemed to important to make an entrance as a group.

It was a strange place. The guy who ran was a small, skinny pale skinned man who always seemed to be recovering gamely from a terrible hangover. He lived there so the sense of having roused him from sleep was very strong. He lead us through the waiting room/living room area back in the studio, and then left us there. We set up, and commenced to make a racket, which I have no doubt he slept through, because he always seemed equally dazed and just awoken when we left a few hours later.
 

The feeling of epic debaucheries haunted all the rooms.

What I most remember about the place was the fact that a band called Mountain had once rehearsed there. Large framed posters of the band were on the walls. And the amplifiers we plugged into had once belonged to the band themselves.»

Mountain's front man was Leslie West, who is (or was) a very large man, with unruly hair. I remember staring with an odd kind of reverence at the pictures of him and the band on huge concert stages, rocking out. It made me feel special to be rehearsing in a place once occupied by such rock Gods. I had only heard one song of theirs, "Mississippi Queen," but that was enough. One of the things about that song is the way it suggests massive volume, an avalanche of rock. 

Now when I walk by Charles Lane it seems like a lost, quiet place, and I wonder vaguely about what parties and debaucheries took place at Charles Lane Studios those nights before our arrival.

*

I wrote the above in 2001, give or take, which is when I took the photograph. it looked then more or less as it looked two decades earlier, and I imagine as it had looked for most of the 20th century. But in the years since there has been a building boom of sleek glass high rises along the West Side Highway. Charles Lane has one at the end but, more striking, there is one in the middle, a bulging geometric cube intruding into the alley and rising upwards. Very strange. Yet the cobblestone street is still there, still rutted like something from the 19th Century. It still has the quality of hushed, secret space in the city.

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§ 29 Responses to “Mountain At Charles Lane”

  • gary gray says:

    Mike (heavy set guy) was the owner and Cliff was the skinny guy you refer to. They were actually Mountain’s Road Crew !
    I rehearsed there for many years with my band Pleasant Dreams which was
    changed to Andromeda (www.andromedamusic.org ) if you go to the site, you will see a few photos taken at the corner you
    speak of (the band is crossing Charles Lane a la Abbey Road and others are
    the building at the corner.

  • Glen Bringslid says:

    Hey there. This is great to see! Charles Lane studios also holds a special place in my memory. My band named Third Stone, back in the late 8Os used to have the 5-7pm Monday through Friday time slot at the studio from ’87 to ’89…
    They used to have Mountain’s gold records on the office wall of the studio and My band became kind of the home band there as we probably kept Mike and Cliff from starving single-handedly! Haha! We definitely gave them enough money on a weekly basis to buy groceries for both even at the expensive NYC supermarket prices!
    I used Corky Laing’s old drumset and more interestingly I found out RECENTLY that The SUNN Bass amps my bass player was using next to me was reportedly used by Felix Pappalardi AND Jimi Hendrix! Apparently, Felix had obtained Jimi’s SUNN guitar rig which were actually Bass Amps according to lore. They sounded great!…
    I used to also “babysit the studio” for Cliff and Mike when they wanted to go away for a weekend here and there. The usual boring stuff letting bands in, setting up mikes and taking their money at the end. But there was a real charm about that mellow time-worn street called Charles Lane and I just loved the Bohemian Vibe that exuded from the cobblestones… If streets could talk, I’d love to listen!

  • Eric Gribin says:

    Hey Glenn:

    I think I remember you and the band Third Stone! I used to rehearse at Chales Lane with the band I was playing with back in the late 80′s/early 90′s ‘Leona & the Tax Evaders’. I remember Mike and Cliff, but the real memory is of the studio itself. There were Mountain promotional items, Felix Papparlardi produced records on the wall and a sound board/engineering room which we never got to use, but my guess is that some very talented people had used the space before. I enjoyed playing on some cymbals with real character.

    A great memory. I wonder what the place looks like today.

    Eric

  • Bob Burke says:

    Wow, Charles Lane Studios really brings back a lot of great moments from the mid 70s! I played bass for the band Mantis and I can well remember using that Sunn bass amp during our sessions at Charles Lane and an incredibly deep and rocking sound it was too. Ed Blocker, our lead guitarist, used Leslie West’s Stramp amplifier. One time, Mountain (or at least Felix Pappalardi) must have been between tours because Felix’s Gibson Bass and Mellotron were in an unlocked storage room. Bob Evola, our keyboard king (he went to Pleasant Dreams/Andromeda after Mantis) actually used the Mellotron on one of our recordings. We used to refer to Mike the portly owner as “Fatsby” – not to his face, of course. Mike offered us a great deal when we were making our third recording and were low on cash. Mike offered us a great discount since he was still familiarizing himself with recording in the studio. But, of course, you get what you pay for. There was one night when we asked Mike to leave the tape machine on while we did a first run-through of a tune. Naturally, the guys whipped out a killer rendition and then eagerly anticipated hearing it back only to have Mike respond “the machine wasn’t on.” Ed really got into it with Mike over this only to have Mike clue him into reality: “How about if I lock you out and don’t let you come back again?” Notwithstanding our recording problems, I’ll always remember Charles Lane fondly because, from September of 1975 through the summer of 1976, that’s where the sound of Mantis really came together (a big thank you to Bob E., Ed B., and Larry C. for the music and friendship)!

  • Wow ! Small world ! I was the drummer for Pleasant Dreams and Andromeda with Bob Evola on Keys. Then we disbanded another Band called Frost. I used to use Corkys kit but eventually moved in my own kit and would just move it over to the cover and cover it up :) Charles Lane holds many special memories and Mike and Cliff will always be remembered !

  • Bob Burke says:

    Good hearing from you Gary! I remember you and the other musicians in Andromeda. In fact, I jammed with you guys one night(your bass player was on the outs at one point) at Charles Lane and, unless my memory’s off, it was a great jam. I especially remember the big guy, Alex, the only lead guitarist I knew who might just be able to stand head-to-head with Leslie West and convince everyone that they were brothers. Alex had that cool double-neck guitar akin to the one that Jimmy Page used on “Stairway to Heaven.” I gotta give Andromeda credit. Mantis & Andromeda both used Charles Lane Studios. We produced 3 reel to reel tapes there while your band actually issued an album. Those were great times!

  • I remember rehearsing and recording at Charles Lane in 1985/86 with The Astorians, hanging out with Mike and Cliff, and having Cliff run sound for us at gigs. Great memories. I have a snapshot of us hanging out next to the gold records… oh well, we achieved some good times and good memories, even if we never got our own gold record! I walked by there today for the first time in 20 years and decided to google “charles lane studios” for the first time. Glad to see folks posting their memories of the place. VH/MJB

  • Gary says:

    Hello ! It is really a treasure reading everybodys memories. Yes the gold records on the wall. We actually did some recordings there (3 songs actually ) with Cliff as the Engineer and they came out sounding quite well. I used Corkys drums but my own snare and cymbals. The place had real charm and one of a kind ! Those were very special times and I will forever remember them. It would be nice if other musicians came across this blog to share their memories also !

  • Chuck N says:

    I was there a lot earlier, late 1973 with the first version of Battlaxe. At that time we were under the impression that Leslie owned the place. The first lineup did not last too long and after changing members we went back to rehearsing back in Qns. And lasted until 1980. Charles lane did have a cool atmosphere.

  • Irwin Bailey says:

    Chuck N, Battleaxe, also Magpie 1973, did you play at Coventry on Queens Blvd. with Buzzy Linheart @ Kiss? Some of my best memories. Loud and long jams. Their was a guy Joe who had a day job in a stationry store near wall st. I worked at Disc-O-Mat records in those days. I took some friends through Charles Lane last year & was tempted to ring the bell. The trucks are gone.

  • Bob Burke says:

    I wonder if anyone else out there has shots of their bands in action at Charles Lane Studios. Here’s a pic from way back in 1976 of several members of Mantis taking a break from recording vocals: link to flickr.com

  • BillW says:

    I bet I can find some pics of the Charles Lane days. I rehearsed and recorded demos there with a band called the Jet Screamers and later, The Thangs. I always thought it was funny how Cliff lived in a nest like room above the kitchen. He had this little ladder and would scoot up there in this weird little space. I also remember hanging out in their apartment and sitting in some kind of swinging chair.

    Richie Haven’s passing made me think about the place the other day as his studio was on the first floor.

  • Mike Lacovara says:

    My name is Mike, they used to call me Little Mike, I worked with Mike and Cliff for many years in and around CLS. The day Mike died and I realized that it was all over, it was like having my heart ripped out of my chest…. a chapter in my life ended that day! I Remember ” Chariot” and “The Astorians” and “Mike Quashi & Kingdom”. “Sighs Five” and “Liquid Liquid”and “The Ants” (not Adam & the Ants ) but the “Ants” soon to become “Antenae” then morphing into El Futuro, ” Eve Alexander” “The Backbones” and I could go on and on, and a host of other friends and aquaintances through the years, Shakur who worked in the deli on the corner, Eileen Diamond a neighbor down Perry Street, Robin, Leslie, Simon, Eleanor, Harrison, the Thaylers who lived right across the street, in the new buildings, after they got rid of the wharehouse and truck dock…how many of you know that there used to be a guy years ago, whose name escapes me now, but had a pony ride in the lot that ran from Washington street to half way down Charles Lane, bordered by Charles Street? I think the City shut him down and sold the land to the trucking firm….It does my heart good to after all these years Google CLS and see all your posts, Mike was like a dad to me and taught me so much about the music biz and just work in general, and one of the few people that believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself; I truly miss him, and even you Cliff, you little basdtid, where you hidin’? Baltimore last I heard…

    Yeah, BillWSays, Richie!! You know downstairs was Richie’s Rehearsal Spot, and I still remember the first time I saw him, leaning in the crook of that steel and brick garage door at night, in the rain, and got yelled at for saying hello, cause “we don’t talk to him”… whaaaa? (that was Cliff, right?)Just a little acerbic SOB

    Sorry; like I said I could go on and on about CLS but glad to see there were others who “got it”, thanks…

  • I spent many year at Charles Lanes Studios starting back around 1972 till about 1981 or so.. Mike and Cliff were always great friends, and helped me along with several projects. I read with much sadness the post above from Little Mike of the death of Michael Lynch, but glad to hear Cliff is still around somewhere causing chaos. Over the years I had asked many musicians, and tried several Google searches to find those 2 guys just to thanks them for all they had done for me.
    Everything described in the posts above bring back so many happy memories, even remembering all the gear there. From the Sunn 200s bass cabs to the Stramp 500w, and Corky(from Mountain’s) white Ludwig kit.
    My personal favorite was the Mellotron in the front office used as a plant table. Great people, great times!!!
    Thanks.

  • Mike Lacovara says:

    Walter, would I know you? I was there in the years you spoke about, and right up into ’86 when Mike died. What band did you play with?

  • I have a vague memory of you, so we definitely have met. I was working with Chariot and Pete Taylor Band, also with Doug Yule for a little bit.There were other projects even before that too. You can click on my name and see my web site. I have a couple of photos that were taken at Charles Lanes studios posted there.

  • Gary says:

    Hey Walter, I am trying to locate your Charles lane Photos ? Please direct me, Thanks

  • walter garces says:

    Gary check your Facebook, sent you a message and friend request

  • Tom W says:

    Hi everyone,
    I have many fond memories of CLS as I am Mike Lynch’s nephew. I was just watching a PBS show on Lou Reed and it took me right back to the 70s and GV and the studio. Missing Mike a lot right now and these posts have helped quite a bit. Its great to know that he and Cliff are remembered. I was wondering if Cliff was still hanging out somewhere as I had lost touch with him after Mike’s passing in ’89 (not ’86). Looking at Reed also reminded me of Cliff as I saw some resemblance…at least as far as my memory goes.

    I remember the studio well, was only 14 in ’74 when j was first allowed to sleep over there. And those outrageous New Years Eve parties they had…was there in ’78 or ’79 and it was packed…Mike would tell me of the times they had like 2-300 people celebrating.

    He was the coolest uncle to have. I miss you, uncle Mike. Hope there is an afterlife where we can meet again.

  • Tom W says:

    Yeah, Richie Havens, that SOB stole equipment from the studio thru a common access door between floors. That’s why “we don’t talk to him.”

    I never knew/found out about what happened to the studio because of stupid family issues, nor do I know what happened to Cliff. Its sad because we spent all the holidays together and now its getting to be that time again.

  • Lisa Helm says:

    MIKE LACOVARA – wow – I have been looking for you – do you remember me – would love to hear from you – the cute singer – how could you forget hehe :)

  • mike lacovara says:

    Tom W,

    Tom, the door in the floor, as soon as you walk in, directly in front of you is the west wall; in the floor is a trap door, between floors, are you saying, that Richie robbed the studio? What about the scar on Cliff’s nose? He told me richie did it with a guitar… why were they always so cryptic, secretive even?

    Lisa, yes tall, short reddish brown hair, freckle faced white girl, Irish, right; pretty, yes! Don’t remember the name of the band you played guitar, and sang with but yes, I do remember you and how jealous I was of you, that at such a young age you knew what you wanted to do, and you were doing it! Hope you’re still doing that….:)

  • mike lacovara says:

    I just gotta add… for those of you that might know what I mean… I often see ” The Lane” in movies or TV, and it always breaks my heart to remember how special that place was, and how much Mike Lynch made it just that, a special place, and of course, you too Cliff. And I was proud and grateful to be a part of it for the few years I was… :) God bless us all…and those like us!

  • mike lacovara says:

    Mike’s Nephew… his sister’s son… Tom Jr. I remember you. I always thought that you resembled Mike… I was very disapointed when your mom did what she did, instead of trying to keep it going, but I guess she wasn’t in the business and was pretty distraught having just lost her brother…

  • mike lacovara says:

    Lisa Helm…Pretty, thin, blonde. “Sighs Five”? Roof top across from the Ninth Circle? I remember that! thought you weren’t very happy with me, that somehow I dissapointed you…well here I am; you’ve been looking for me? why? I’m in “joisey” still play, but work mostly. I run a large property here. It’s good to be king!

  • mike lacovara says:

    No the pretty thin Blonde, was Leslie Lynch, from “Sighs Five” … sorry Lisa Helm, I am still trying to place you; gimmee another clue!

  • Mike Lacovara says:

    Lisa. My Beautiful Black Queen…no never forgot…how can I reach you? indigoisgoodtogo@gmail.com…findme! I would love it!

  • Bob Burke says:

    My lead guitarist and I had tried several other rehearsal studios in Manhattan, including Daily Planet, which was where we met our keyboard player and formed Mantis. He was the one who guided us to Charles Lane. The first time we jammed there, we took the train down to Christopher Street and somehow found our way over to Charles Lane. Standing outside, I remember thinking, “What the hell kind of studio is this? It looks like somebody’s house.” Then we stepped inside and were greeted by Big Mike and Cliff, who escorted us into the studio to show us the equipment. I remember Charles Lane being kind of dark and atmospheric, like a great big rock and roll cavern. But what really caught my eye was the Sunn bass amp. I plugged in and jacked the controls up to 10 (just to test out the amp, of course) and you could feel the rumbles through the floor. Our lead guitarist plugged his Gibson SG into the Stramp and started doing his best Jimmy Page impression while our drummer flailed away at the drum kit. Sometimes, if our keyboard player was late, I’d turn on the Hammond B3 and the three of us would try jamming as a keyboard, guitar, drum trio. There was a certain vibe to Charles Lane that we never found anywhere else – a looseness and atmosphere that encouraged creativity and improvisation. Our first session with the four of us playing was extremely loud with lots of showboating but subsequent sessions became more musical. I’ll never forget – Cliff really made our night when, after we had finished a practice session, he got together with us for a bit and said, “You guys remind me of The Doors!”

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