A few weeks ago I bought The Association album Birthday. Prices for used albums are $1.00 a piece, or three for $2.00 where I volunteer at Booktique, a charitable used bookstore three blocks from me in Lake Oswego. I have a huge music collection of 120,000 songs, and normally this album wouldn’t be to my taste.

The reason I wanted it was that The Association started with Brian Cole on bass. In 1965 or 1966, Brian was hanging out with my best high school and college buddy Gary and me at Gary’s place. Brian had been a year ahead of us in high school, where I had been vaguely aware of his existence. I inferred that he was in the in crowd, but other than that knew little about him. Both Gary and Brian were involved with music and art whereas I was a math and science guy.

Brian had moved to Los Angeles and gotten into the music scene. He was hanging out on the Sunset Strip and catching popular acts of the time, like Johnny Rivers. He was a part of a group called The Men, as he explained it, to separate them from mixed gender groups like The Mamas and Pappas. Later I found out that the group had changed personnel and name to become The Association. After that, I never saw Brian again in person, although I saw them on the Smothers Brothers show in 1967 and 1968. One of them was quite silly with the group wearing deliberately bad wigs. Clips are available on YouTube.

The Association was one of the first folk-rock bands. Their first big hit, Along Came Mary was considered a reference to marijuana, which was not unusual for rock music at that time. Their other big hits were Cherish, Windy and Never My Love, all of which were fairly sappy love songs.

After a very few popular albums and songs, The Association sank back into obscurity, although their big hits are remembered and played today. Our local community band, The Lake Oswego Millennium Band, in which my wife plays bass clarinet, has played Cherish.

August 2, 1972 Brian Cole was found dead of a heroin overdose. Because he wasn’t Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin, I didn’t find out until many years after, even though we lived in Los Angeles at the time. From reading biographies of Keith Richards and Ginger Baker, I know that heroin was hugely popular in rock circles on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Association continues in some form with one of Brian’s sons in the band.

Birthday was a big disappointment for me. Gary died a few years ago.

Because there have been so many true horror stories in rock’s history, as a reaction I wrote the cheerier fictional “Eagle” which was serialized in AWS.

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