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Ramona's Ramblings

A jaunt in the jag

Ramona Jan
Posted 2/6/24

Jag is short for Jaguar of which there are two kinds, cats and cars. The ‘cat’ was Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. The car, his collectable E-type lime green Jaguar. Truth: Driving …

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Ramona's Ramblings

A jaunt in the jag


Jag is short for Jaguar of which there are two kinds, cats and cars. The ‘cat’ was Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. The car, his collectable E-type lime green Jaguar. Truth: Driving Keith’s Jag was foisted upon me at the tender age of twenty-one.

If you read my column, you already know that I worked as a recording engineer in NYC starting in the mid-seventies. During my stint at Mediasound, I worked with many stars including the Glimmer Twins, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, a production duo overseeing John Phillips (The Mamas and the Papas) solo album, Pay, Pack and Follow.

In brief, my job included aligning tape machines, patching tracks into outboard equipment and setting up microphones for anything from a single vocalist to a forty-piece orchestra. This meant knowing the capabilities of each mic and where to place them in all applications. Orchestral setups also required knowledge of where and how to group chairs. For example, first violins went together on the left with second violins behind them. Violas were center front with the cellos to the far right. Horns, tympani, reeds, gongs, piano all had their proper places. 

Once the setup was complete, I’d thread the two-inch wide tape (weighing twelve pounds) onto the 24-track deck, check the track sheet, bring the faders up into a ‘rough mix’ and then wait for the client to appear. I learned all of this through a paid apprenticeship. Mediasound was my unofficial school.

I was still in training when I worked with the Glimmer Twins and therefore asked to do other things like make coffee, run to the deli for food, deliver tapes to the client’s apartments, etc. This grunt work revealed what rock gods ate and how they lived.

It was probably around 2 AM when Keith asked if I could drive. The simple answer was, yes. The details, however, were a bit more complicated. Before I could even think, he tossed a set of keys my way and told me to park his very expensive lime green Jaguar; a sporty-convertible that debuted in Geneva, Switzerland in ’61 as a ‘family’ car. A car that was double parked, blocking traffic just outside the main entrance.

I suppose I could have told him that when I first learned to drive, I had had a series of minor accidents (while totally sober) mostly hitting trees by merely backing up or driving headlong into them. I had poor vision and I guess I could have told him because of it, I had given up driving pretty much at the start. I could have confessed that I only kept my license at my mother’s insistence and that I hadn’t driven in years, and never had I driven in NYC. But I didn’t say any of that. Keith couldn’t park the car because he’d have to walk from the garage to the studio unattended and that might mean trouble for him. I was the only person available for the job. I was faced with a choice; drive the car or maybe get fired. 

When I turned the key, the engine revved along with my heart. Forcefully clutching the steering wheel as if the mere gripping of it would make me a better driver, I started moving. That’s when it occurred to me that instead of turning the corner I might just drive up Broadway…and away forever. Driving 15 miles per hour in a car that could go 155, I began unpacking that daydream while a chorus of taxi horns blared behind me. 

Under great duress of both driving and conscience diving, I finally pulled into the parking garage where I met with the most dangerous part of the drive, a steep incline. If the Jag’s pointy nose hit the cement that would not be my fault. Good that it didn’t. I had successfully delivered the Jag to the parking garage. Back at the studio, I smiled casually. “All done,” I calmly announced, but my heart wasn’t done. It raced for a good few hours afterwards.

RAMONA JAN is the Founder and Director of Yarnslingers, a storytelling group that tells tales both fantastic and true. She is also the roving historian for Callicoon, NY and is often seen giving tours around town. You can email her at callicoonwalkingtours@gmail.com.


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