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Fein Mess Oct 00
The Harmonic Convergence
I've attended shows that meant something to others but not to me, just to go and maybe get a contact high; David Bowie in 1973, Bob Marley at the Roxy.*
With that sort of mild interest I went to see Brian Wilson at the Hollywood Bowl September 22nd. I never was a Wilsonite, but in 1988 I loved his solo album: like "Blood On The Tracks", "Brian Wilson" summed up everything I liked about the Beach Boys sound.
Mark Leviton took me and we had good seats near the front. It was billed as Brian Wilson with the Hollywood Bowl orchestra, and I couldn't figure for the life of me who wanted this combination: rock & roll is lean. Orchestras only worked for Spector, Queen, and ELO. My question were answered in the negative when Van Dyke Parks came out and conducted an orchestral pastiche of Wilsonia. I'm sure it was fabulously inventive, but it reminded me of seeing Beatle Music similarly served at the Bowl last summer -- what's the point?
When Wilson came out, the crowd rose to its feet. He was stiffly funny. Songs ensued. Then a break. Then the Pet Sounds re-telling, which had Pet Sounds aficianados gasping. Then oldies, and goodnight.
Near the end I got that contact high I'd sought. The performers were having such a ball, and the crowd was so grateful that it suddenly overwhelmed me: people had flown in from ALL OVER THE WORLD to see this, and that counted for something. It was great and I'm glad I was there.
When P.F. Sloan was on my show recently, I commended him on strumming the intro bars to "California Dreamin'" and added "Too bad you don't get royalties on that." Puzzled, he looked at me and said "I do."
Phil-Adelphia. P.F. (Phillip) Sloan outside Adelphia Studio, Art Fein's Poker Party. 2000
Let's Fade Away
The 50s are so dead. A powerful number of deserving 50s rockers are stuck in limbo, unable to enter the hallowed (just kidding) Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because today's phalanx of rock writers didn't grow up with them. But, please, PLEASE make sure Kiss gets in.
Likewise, I was looking at a list of the 133 Essential Canadian CDs in the Montreal National Post**. Six albums by Tragically Hip. Barenaked Ladies. April Wine? Thrice. Joni and Neil. Two Band albums, two by Jesse Winchester, the American draft-dodger. And they even included the Diamonds and Jack Scott. What about Paul Anka? Lost in the ozone. Ronnie Hawkins! NO RONNIE HAWKINS!!!???
If they dug a little deeper they would've included the Beau Marks. Their 1960 hit "Clap Your Hands" wasn't too big (#45 U.S.), but their album, The High Flying Beau Marks, contains some of the most brilliant and definitive 50s/60s cusp rock & roll ever recorded. I cherish that album.***
But they ain't digging deeper. They're staying true to their peers. Much of the list is stuff they were awakened to in the past ten years. Not that that's invalid; it's just that it's so true to the rock-writers code that you could predict it. Hell, it's true to writers generally: write what you know.
Rock crits are in their 20s. If they're beyond that they're on their way out, or oughta be: 30s you're like a 4th-grader in a sandbox; 40s's everyone but you knows you oughta quit. Beyond that -- you didn't figure it out long ago so I guess you never will.
When the Beatles toured America, they chose people they liked to open their shows: Ronettes, Jackie DeShannon, others. The Stones, to their everlasting credit, used interesting little-knowns til late in their career: Ike & Tina, Clifton Chenier****, more. The Clash put Bo Diddley on their 1980 tour. Do popular acts still do this?
The worst double-bill I ever saw was at the Long Beach Auditorium in 1973: B.W. Stevenson, the bearded, bib-overall wearing singer/songwriter, opening for T. Rex.
A seeming contender for worst, The Blasters opening for Queen in 1981*****, was actually OK. When the house lights went down at 7:30 and the Bics began to flick, the Blasters came out to the crowd's consernation and slight disdain, but then won it over.
A great unseen moment in the Blasters' career came at a WTTW taping in Chicago in the early 1980s. Carl Perkins and Phil Alvin sang a duet, back and forth, on "Matchbox," which wasn't included in the show that aired. What was remarkable, and lost on PBS, was that Perkins was singing his own, famously adapted lyrics, while Phil was singing the original "Matchbox Blues" by Blind Lemon Jefferson, to Carl's bewilderment.
If you see Ken Erlich, the show's producer, ask him for a copy of the outtakes.
Vonnegut would have a word for them: moments that are one-offs, seen by passers-by and taken for the rule. For instance, if you only went to one basketball game in your life, and that day they were experimenting with lime-green basketballs, you would go through life assuming basketballs were green. Or if the only flag in your school was the transition period (post-Alaska, pre-Hawaii)one with 49-stars (and then you moved to Antartica), you'd assume they were all like that.
I've had a bunch of'em. In 1982 or so I went to New York, and half the cabs on the street of Manhattan were Peugots. I've mentioned this to New Yorkers lately and they looked at me like I'm nuts. It's true. I asked a cabdriver what was going on and he said they ran on diesel, which saved money. (This was before the comedians at the oil companies raised diesel prices above premium.) If I'd never gone to New York again I'd've assumed Peugots ruled the road there. Likewise, when I was in Montreal in 1970, food in restaurants was not taxed unless the meal was over $2; they taxed the rich. I mentioned this to my friend who just moved to Canada and she said, Huh? This ancient and ineffective law was removed nearly as soon as it was enacted. I thought it was current, and pretty neat.
So here's the music one. I ignored Alice Cooper's ascension bec he was teenage and I wasn't. But I thought "Only Women Bleed"****** was a pretty good song, and kept the single. Years later, naming Atlantic acts with a fellow record-geek, I said Alice Cooper. He said, "What are you TALKING about? He was on WARNER BROS."******* I stopped and cogitated, then realized that Cooper's only Atlantic album was from the period I liked him.
Another semi-related one, bec it was at a nightclub, was that one day in, oh, 1976, I was driving past the Troubadour on a Sunday and the marquee read, "Ed Begley Jr. -- The World's Biggest Queer." I thought that was an odd title for a band, or a play, but just filed it away, thinking, "Well, a lot of them are coming out now." In 1987 I had Begley on my tv show and asked him about this. He was flabbergasted: the club manager had done it as a joke, and it stayed up only a few hours til one of Begley's friends called him and he raced down and removed it. But it was my only impression of Begley!
Boy, When I Miss'em I Miss'em
In February, 1973, I was on my last legs at Capitol Records, where I "ran" the college promotion dept.******** But when John & Yoko came in the bldg to meet the prez, next thing I knew they were at my office door. I was chosen to promote her new album, Absolute Infinite Universe, to the college market.********* We went to lunch, then I spent two weeks with them, every day, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, setting up phone interviews. Bla bla bla, literally. (I think I've covered this in a previous Mess.)
But I brought my camera only one day, and that day, as we waited for Elliot Mintz, their buddy, to come get them at 4:00, I snapped some shots with my Nikon. Two rolls of black and white.********** Then I took out my roll of Agfa brand (chosen bec it was cheaper) film and loaded it into the camera. I looked at the cannister and the box and couldn't find the ASA rating! I needed the information immediately -- Mintz might be there any second -- but didn't have time to call the camera store and ask them. Instead, I simply didn't take any color shots.
In ensuing years I would have shot it at a neutral speed like 125, and told the processors to adjust for the actual speed, but I wasn't so smart.
If I only knew then what I know now.....
- 57 -
* None of my tagalong shows have been earth-shakers, like, say, my friend Gene Sculatti seeing Janis Joplin's first night with Big Brother. However, I was at the first Flash Cadillac show to feature the "new" Flash, Sam McFadin, up in the Santa Cruz mountains in 1971. So there!
** Sent to me by my friend Donna Boni. Friend? She never writes!
*** Another true oddball choice is my favorite rockabilly album: "Rockaphilly, Volume 2," a comp of Pennsylvania favorites.
**** I was at a Chenier show at Verbum Dei High School in 1979 when Jagger came in. It made no difference to the show - the music wouldn't've been improved by him getting onstage - and it made an impression on me, that, this far on, he and the Stones were still rejoicing at great music. (The only people not rejoicing there were the rock writers, who were stone-faced staring at the interlopers, trying to ascertain the importance of their presence.)
***** I was at Flippers, the roller disco in West Hollywood, when the three Queens, minus Freddie, came in and saw the Blasters singing at roller-rink center, much like the scene in the Buddy Holly story. They were blown away by the band's exuberance and added them to Queen's west-coast swing.
****** Like the Mothers, whose name was lengthened to Mothers Of Invention by the record company to head off a predictable and obscene extension, "Only Women Bleed" was shortened to "Only Women" by the record company because -- I don't know.
******* The word "brothers" is never spelled out. Company policy.
******** All the majors formed college depts then; it was the vogue. When they cancelled them, record sales were not affected.
********* It was a sop to John. The company considered college depts marginal at best, but a good place to throw a Yoko album and seem to make an effort without making one.
********** The black & white negs and proof sheets were stolen from a box behind my apartment in Hollywood December 24, 1983. What were they doing outside? unguarded? Ask any fool.
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