I am probably the world's best-realized fan.
What is a fan? A person who rubs up against people he admires like my cat rubs against my ankles when he's hungry. My cat is grateful for what I supply, and expresses it. To him I am the great one, the great provider. For that, he admires me. I'm the same way.
The difference is when he's not admiring me, he has a life. He chases mice, kills birds, while I'm still waiting for my life to begin.
Not that my preparation for a life has been bad. I've got a family. I admire them also, rub up against them. But in the 20 preceding years of rock journalism, i.e. running in place, I met most of the musicians I dug.
That's really sayin' somethin'.
And also nuthin', because a fan is just a person who hangs around talented people.
That's been me, but not by design.
It all started with Elvis. I was 10 and a half when I saw him on Ed Sullivan and - zap! - I was transported. Childhood ended and some other more permanent childhood began. I bought his records, and put large pics of him on the wall of my room and smaller ones in scrapbooks. I went to college. Bought records, went to shows. Discovered thrift stores and their treasure trove of 50s oldies. Moved to L.A. in 1972 and began this peculiar life that's now winding down.
My fan 'fulfillment' developed rapidly in LA. I worked at Capitol, in college promotion, and encountered a few people I especially liked: the Band, folkie Bob Gibson, even spent two weeks with John Lennon, which was fun but would've meant more to someone else.
It was later, when I worked for Variety, that the fan-bombs really began dropping. At a Motown record-release party I espied Smokey Robinson. I sidled toward him, and timidly asked if he was indeed who he was, and he said yes. I said how do you do, and walked away shaken.
A huger bomb fell at a record-release party at the Continental Hyatt House in 1973. I was in the hotel lobby, looking for the elevator to take me to the roof for the Columbia Records reception for Iggy Pop when I saw Bobby Blue Bland. I nearly incinerated. Here was someone I idolized, whom I'd tried to see in concert five times and who'd never shown up. (Four times he didn't show: the fifth time I went the wrong night.) Without hesitation I said, "Are you Bobby Bland?" He smiled and said yes. "I love you" I said.
Weird, but satisfying.
On and on after that. I kept writing about music and kept meeting the musicians. It was great fun. I knew it was meaningless, but that it would be good to look back on when I began MY life of accomplishment.
I'm still waitin', and it IS good to look back on. Trouble is, I'm still doing it. On my public access tv show I've met and talked with a staggering number of musicians and characters.
Lee Allen, Steve Allen, Billy Boy Arnold, Dave Alvin, Phil Alvin, Jimmy Angel,
Buddy Bailey (Clovers), Hank Ballard, Ken Barnes, Paul Bartel,
Lew Bedell (Era, Dore), Ed Begley Jr., Gil Bernal, Richard Berry, Blowfly,
Hal Blaine, Pat Boone, Delaney Bramlett, Billy Bremner, Arthur Brown,
Ruth Brown, Peter Buck, Eric Burdon, Randy California, Hamilton Camp,
Ray Campi, Freddy Cannon, Jerry Capehart, Timothy Carey, Richard Carpenter,
Peter Case, Dave Clark, The Collins Kids, Ray Condo,Tim Considine,
Marshall Crenshaw, Burton Cummings, Cherie Currie,Spencer Davis,Ronnie Dawson, Willy De Ville, Pamela Des Barres, Jim Dickinson, Dion, disappear fear, Willie Dixon, Dr. Demento, Levi Dexter, "Teenage" Steve Douglas, Henry Diltz,
Marshall Efron, Willie Egan, Robert Englund, Tav Falco, Doug Fieger,
Harvey Sid Fisher, Flash Cadillac, Flo & Eddie, Rosie Flores, Forbidden Pigs,
Kim Fowley, Peter Frame, Stan Freberg, Lowell Fulson, Jay Geils/Magic Dick,
Gibson & Camp, Tony Gilkyson, Glen Glenn, Barry Goldberg, John Gorka,
Ronny Graham, Guitar Shorty, Paul Hampton, Jimmie Haskell,Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Ted Hawkins, Rev. Horton Heat, Skip Heller,Carolyn Hester, Dan Hicks, Chris Hillman, Peter Holsapple, Jac Holzman, Joe Houston, Dick "Huggy Boy" Hugg, Garth Hudson, Danny Hutton, Chris Isaak, Bull Moose Jackson, Wanda Jackson, Darwin Joston ("Assault On Precinct 13"), Paul Johnson (the Bel Airs - "Mr. Moto"), Bruce Johnston, Don Julian, Peter Kaukonen, Mathew King Kaufman,
Terry Kirkman(Association), Sneeky Pete Kleinow, Cub Koda, Al Kooper,
Paul Krassner, Alison Krauss, Robby Krieger, Art Laboe,
Eddie "The Old Philosopher" Lawrence, Arthur Lee, Johnny Legend
Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Los Straitjackets, Nick Lowe, Rip Masters, Sammy Masters,Spankly McFarlane, Gerry McGee, Ian McLagan, Big Jay McNeely, Jack McVea, Huey Meaux, Barry Melton, Richard Meltzer, Katy Moffatt, Mojo Nixon, Gene Norman, Andrew Loog Oldham,Carla Olson, Jimmy O'Neill, Shuggie Otis, Andy Paley, Earl Palmer, Panther Burns, Van Dyke Parks, Hank Penny, Jeffrey Lee Pierce,Slim Jim Phantom, Johnny Powers, Johnnie Ray, Russ Regan, Lee Rocker,
Roy Rogers (SF guitarist), Stan Ross & Larry Levine (Goldstar Rec Studios),
Kate St. John, Doug Sahm, Evie Sands, Tommy Sands
Little Jimmy Scott, Brian Setzer, Charlie Sexton,
Skeletons, P.F. Sloan, Maj. Bill Smith,
David Somerville (Diamonds), Southern Culture on The Skids,
Terry Stafford, Cliffie Stone, Syd Straw, Joe Strummer, Swamp Dogg, Billy Swan,
Shel Talmy, Chip Taylor, Teddy & The Talltops, Nino Tempo,
Rufus Thomas, Nick Tosches, Treat Her Right,
Ike Turner, Dwight Twilley, Gary Usher,
Sal Valentino, Kenny Vance, Ben Vaughn, Nik Venet, Billy Vera,
Mary Woronov, Don Walser, Wavy Gravy, George Wendt,
Ian Whitcomb, Paul Williams (Crawdaddy),
Brian Wilson, Dwight Yoakam, Billy Zoom
(Note to Oversight corporate offices: I expect each of these to be hyper-linked, with two pictures each. Signed, Napoleon.)
Again, tremendous fun, but I talked to these people because they DID something, while I....
I was uncomfortable when I managed, if that's the word, the Blasters in the early 1980s. This band satisfied my rock & roll hunger. The shows were amazing, especially in 1980 when it was a quartet and Phil's voice was ultra-strong and Dave Alvin's guitar playing was raw and out of control. But I was in a quandary. They were great and getting accolades, but what was I doing? If you'd asked me what was new I'd say "Dave Alvin just wrote a great song." I knew that wasn't the right answer, that wasn't what was new with ME. But I hung on bec it was fun, figuring MY talent would soon emerge. It never exactly did, though I took accordian lessons.
However, I lay claim to the dubious title of World's Greatest Fan because of my relationship with The World's Greatest Record Producer. I met TWGRP in 1986 when I was shopping The Heaters, The Best Band I Ever Saw. We all went up to TWGRP's house, and though he never produced TBBIES, we became friends. He began gatherings much like my tv show at his house, where he'd hold forth and we'd genuflect.
As a kid admiring Elvis, I'd wondered what it would be like if he came to my house. Would we shoot marbles? Play baseball? It dawned on me even then that I didn't need to meet the guy, the music held it all. And as later in life I met musicians, I knew the music was one thing, perfect, and the music-makers were something else.
But it was fun being around TWGRP bec he was sharp. We engaged in snappy conversation. We always met at 10 p.m., and stayed til 5 a.m. (He only 'locked us in' once.) All of us were around 40 years old. TWGRP regaling us with stories of New York and L.A. and London was like shooting marbles only better.
The 'clubhouse' continued between 1987 and 1989. We met maybe 20 times. I went to Nashville with him in 1989, and to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. And he came to my wedding reception.
Then TWGRP disappeared from our lives in a puff of smoke, just like he'd entered. Me and the guys still talk about those amazing times. They weren't 'musical,' just verbal exchanges with a man we all admired.
That's really saying nuthin.'
But also somethin'.
HISTORY THAT NEVER HAPPENED
In compiling music history, like any other history I suppose, conveniently located events interact even if they didn't.
I remember being with Ray Campi backstage after a Bill Haley Concert at the Royalty, in north London, in 1979. Ray and Bill were surrounded by well-wishing Teddy Boys and rockers. "When did you two first meet?" one of them asked.
It was an uncomfortable moment. Haley was a worldwide giant in 1955 and remained a rock & roll standardbearer til his death in 1981. Campi's terrific 1950s rockabilly records never made the charts, but were discovered in the 1970s. When these two met, Campi was a genuine 50's rockabilly hero, but in the 50s he was unknown. This was their first meeting.
In the old days, their accomplishments were in wide variance.
But in the eyes of history, they stand on equal footing.
Christmas Advice For You
It's December, and you should dedicate youself to listening endlessly to the TWGRP's Christmas album.
I always do.
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