MILES DAVIS | “IT’S NOT ABOUT STANDING STILL AND BECOMING SAFE…”

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The epic tales of Miles Davis and his need for speed have been on heavy rotation again lately, as they are just too damn good to die. I mean, who splits their Lambo Miura on the West Side Highway, and screams at a good samaritan responder for dumping two bags of blow for him before the cops show up? Both ankles were crushed and all Miles wants to do is jump out to see how busted-up his ride is. Cocaine is a helluva drug. The love of cars can be a vice all its own, and Miles had it bad from early on.

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Miles Davis, Red Ferrari, New York City, 1969 – Image by © Baron Wolman

Miles Davis And His Mercedes 190SL:

“…In 1955 Miles Davis dragged his quintet into the Prestige Records studio and recorded five albums in a row for the purpose of satisfying his obligations to the label. Although Davis himself had turned away from the worst of his heroin addiction, his crew was all hooked on something — from John Coltrane, who had conspicuous tracks up both his arms, to ‘Philly’ Joe Jones, who showed up to the session with just one drum and a hi-hat because he’d pawned the rest to get high — and nobody could have predicted that the group would settle down and turn out some of the greatest music in recorded history.

Miles hated Prestige. They famously paid $300 a record and didn’t seem to be familiar with the concept of residuals. The moment he had a chance to jump the fence to Columbia, he did so, and celebrated by buying a Mercedes 190SL with pretty much all the money he had at the time.

A new 190SL cost about four grand — easily four times what Davis had just cleared on the Prestige session — and it was not exactly a rapid automobile. Most of them wheezed perhaps 85 horsepower back to the swing-axled rear wheels to push the 2600lb mass. The real hot ride was the 300SL, famous today as the ‘Gullwing’ but far more popular as a convertible back in the day, but Miles would have had a hard time buying one and a harder time keeping it maintained.

Miles eventually fell in with the fast crowd, which included the Baroness Pannonica ‘Nica’ de Koenigswarter-Rothschild. She rolled in a Bentley, and she was well known among the community. PIanist Hampton Hawes recalls:

Thelonius Monk and his wife and Nica and I driving down Seventh Avenue in the Bentley at three or four in the morning… and Miles pulling alongside in the Mercedes, calling through the window in his little hoarse voice… ‘Want to race?’ Nica nodding, then turning to tell us in her prim British tones, ‘This time I believe I’m going to beat the Mother F#cker.’”

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Miles Davis, Red Ferrari, New York City, 1969 – Image by © Baron Wolman

“That photo of Miles Davis and his red Ferrari (275 GTB) was taken on New York’s West Side Highway in 1969. We had just shot some portraits in his apartment near Central Park. He said he wanted to go to Gleason’s Gym to work out. He was am amateur boxer, as you probably know. Anyhow, we’re driving along and I said, ‘Miles, pull over. Let’s do some shots of you and this totally cool car.’ He said ‘yes’, we did, and then proceeded to the gym where he threatened to knock me out.” –Baron Wolman

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Miles Davis, Red Ferrari, New York City, 1969 – Image by © Baron Wolman

“Davis had an affinity for flashy cars and trouble seemed to follow him whenever he was in one. While it’s been rumored that he cruised around in his Lamborghini Miura with a .357 magnum under the seat and enjoyed outrunning the fuzz with people sitting shotgun (he once scared Jimi Hendrix half to death), Davis was arrested in 1970 on weapons charges when he was sitting in his red Ferrari and an officer noticed he had accented his ensemble of a turban, white sheepskin coat and snakeskin pants with a pair brass knuckles. One might have thought brass knuckles might not be enough protection, considering he had been shot in the hip while sitting in another Ferrari less than a year earlier in an alleged extortion plot. In 1972 he crashed his Lamborghini Miura and broke both of his ankles. He promptly ordered another.” Via

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Miles Davis, Lamborghini Muira – Image by © Joe Sackey

Director James Glickenhaus Tells Jalopnik: “How I Saved A Coked Up Miles Davis After He Crashed His Lamborghini.”

“Someone posted in Ferrari Chat that Miles Davis had fallen asleep at the wheel and stuffed his Lambo. I was there and responded.

There was a bit more to it than that. He didn’t fall asleep at the wheel. He tried to make a right angle turn at 60 mph from the left lane of the West side Highway to the 125 ST exit across three lanes of traffic. He didn’t make it. He hit the WPA Stone exit ramp and the Lime Green Miura came apart like Brazilian plywood in the rain. I pulled over and ran back to his car. He was wearing leather pants and the bones of both of his legs were sticking through the pants. He was bleeding badly.

He looked at me and said, ‘Is my car f#cked up?’ I told him the car was gone. He said, ‘I got to take a look.’ I told him both legs were broken and he wasn’t going anywhere. I ripped up a shirt I found on the floor and told him to hold the cloth over the bleeding with pressure as it was getting bad but not arterial. There were two large plastic bags filled with white powder on the floor and one had broken open. The interior was dusted. I grabbed the bags and ran to the sewer and chucked them. He screamed, ‘What The F#ck You Doing!!??’ I used rain water to wipe down the car as best as I could. The cops arrived. One of them asked me who I was. I told them just one of the guys he cut off. He looked at Miles and at me and told me to split.

Years later I was directing ‘Shakedown’ with Peter Weller. Weller liked Miles’s music and I told him that story. One night he went to hear Miles. He went back stage where Miles recognized him. ‘Hey Robo’ Peter told him the story and asked if it was true. Miles got real quiet and said, ‘I always wondered who that White Mother F#cker was. You thank him for me, and tell him to come by anytime.’

Miles was in the hospital for a long time and didn’t play for almost a year…” –Director James Glickenhaus

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13 thoughts on “MILES DAVIS | “IT’S NOT ABOUT STANDING STILL AND BECOMING SAFE…”

  1. Wow!, You know it really doesn’t get much better that that. Pretty much makes life worth living.

  2. Super freak genius ego bastard, what a talent, who else could lay claim to changing the modern musical landscape on three seperate occasions ? Great post JP.

  3. Miles, the king of cool, always pushing it forward…he sure could scramble dem eggs!

  4. Fantastc…..well done, JP….I, Mah Own Damned Self, never tire of tales of jazz lore….

    • Oh baby … the stories I could tell on the subject . Suffice it to say Jazz has more than a few tales / skeletons / lore that barely see the light of day in the mainstream and musical press

  5. Yeah?
    So what?

    I was gonna leave it at that, but worried ‘for our younger viewers’ (It’s one of the greatest albums of all time kids).

    Great stuff JP.
    Good to have you back.

    • Well …… at first I was ” Kind of Blue ” reading your post . But then …. as I I sat ” In a Silent Way ” for a bit I simply decided to inform you that ‘ So What ‘ was not in fact an album : but rather a song that was on ” Kind of Blue ” so I guess that makes you ” Under Arrest ” amongst the Mile Davis pedantic’s ( hope you’re appreciating the humor of my response and not taking offense to it )

  6. That’s a 275GTB (if it has the hotter 4 cam engine it would be 275GTB4) on which Miles is leaning, oh and for the record it’s a Lamborghini “Miura” capito? I covered an auction in NYC for a Blegian car rag where a silver one sold for $1.25 million at the end of crazy junk bond days in 90 or 91.

    Miles was one of the 20th century’s most influential people. Satch, Dizzy and Miles changed the sound of their instrument influencing their generation and any every generation that followed. Few musicians can claim that.
    Miles was always moving, searching and changing. His first quintet started with Sonny Rollins on tenor but left to deal with his drug habit. He was replaced by John Coltrane along with Red Garland and Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers. Look at his second quintet assembled in 63 and 64 -Tony Williams 17 years old (too young to work in clubs!), Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock (24 y.o.) and Ron Carter. All these player took jazz to the electronic rock generation in bands such as Lifetime and Weather Report.
    Additionally Mile Davis was officially the coolest man on the planet for at least 20 years if not 25 years. He had the nicest clothes, really nice cars, nice flats, and very, very classy women. He did some nifty film scores too, and if you have never seen Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour echafoud (elevator to the gallows) you are missing a great film noir experience.

  7. The ‘ Glickenhaus ‘ story has never been corroborated /confirmed by any second party and therefore cannot be taken as fact : but rather Myth and perhaps just another in a long string of Glickenhaus created Myths to further his own credibility in the automotive world and music community .

    As to Miles ? What a legend . What a master . A royal pain in the _____ you bet but at least he had the talent to back up his BS ! Too bad Hendrix didn’t live long enough to fully explore all his relationship with Miles near the end was teaching him . As well as too bad the Hendrix family has steadfastly refused to release the tapes Hendrix and Miles did manage to lay down .

    Hmmn . Fast Cars and Musicians . A never ending relationship from Piazzola to Clapton , Jeff Beck , Nick Mason and beyond . Wonder what it is that drives us ( musicians ) to go so damned fast ? I’ve given up trying to analyze it personally and simply go with the flow

  8. TSY, never stop doing what you’re doing, man. Seriously, these posts are such a cool trip back into time. You provide quite the noteworthy service for nostalgic saps like me, lol…well done, good sir!

  9. have never been into Jazz, but bought Kind of blue and it has blown me away.
    after 50 years , all those wasted years . miles was unbelievable.

    in terms of coolness only steve mcqueen and dean martin can come anywhere near him

    EVER.

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