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Fein Mess Nov 01
"Every Item Guaranteed To Have Music Content"
New Yawk, New Yawk!
I condone the ubiquitous I Love America signs -- akin to "I love breathing" and "Milk is good for children" in daringness -- because they're a symptom of the times. "God Bless New York," though, takes things too far.
A couple of my "New York minutes".
-- As a child I examined a pair of sunglasses at a store in Times Square. I asked a guy how much. He said a dollar. I took them to the counter. The cashier asked the guy how much. He said a dollar. The cashier said two dollars.
-- In 1967, leaving for my Europe trip, I was in NY for two days alone. I went to a restaurant and had a dollar meal. As I had only ten dollars for the two days, I left a dime tip. (I have since turned into an over-tipper.) I left, and the waiter came flying down the street after me waving my dime, yelling "Here, I don't want this!"
-- With the Blasters in NY in 1981, I stayed at the XXX hotel, along with the Go-Gos. The Blasters backed their truck filled with sound equipment against a wall so the rear doors could not be opened at night while they slept. The next morning they found the van completely empty, as the thieves had simply rolled the vehicle forward.
-- When I was managing the Cramps in 1982, I left the Peppermint Lounge at 5 a.m. and went back to the hotel with a problem: I had $7500 cash in a Pan Am flight bag, and no place to put it -- the Gramercy Park's hotel safe was insured for $500. So I rode the subway with it slung over my shoulder. The next night they played again, making my Sunday cash-and-carry $15,000. Good thing I don't look like a guy with "moneybags."
I ACTUALLY Love L.A.
Critics, on the whole, have nothing to live for, for sooner or later they understand the fundamental worthlessness of their position.
As "reviewers" they are reactors. If talented people do not produce, they sit silent, empty, without a raison d'etre.1 No wonder they're so crabby.
Inversely, they leap for joy when something comes along to destroy. They strop their razors when Michael Jackson does something, Kenny G makes a record, John Travolta -- oops, sorry, that was ten years ago -- Patrick Swayze makes a movie. It is group-kill time! Frenzied chickens in the barnyard, pecking to death the weak one.
And for all writers around the world, L.A. is the weak chick.
L.A. is the world's whipping-boy. EVERYONE, from EVERWHERE, has something snotty to say about L.A. Why? Because it's on their mind so much. It's a city that, while hardly a city, does not give a damn about what anyone says. People live here because they like it, and they interact as they see fit. They're all different! Yet what we read is that it's a place full of producers with gold chains driving Mercedes and doodling starlets while TRULY TALENTED PEOPLE wait on tables and shoot heroin. And that's just in the L.A. papers 2 ! Even the song "I Love L.A." is about what a rotten place L.A. is.
The arrival of each new anti-L.A. movie brings out the poison-keypeckers. "It's free-for-all time, we're gonna beat on L.A.!"3
Recently a famous director made a movie about tawdry LA, the city of disappointed dreamers. 4 In his NY Times October 6, 2001 review of the it, Stephen Holden's ridiculousness obscures the subject's:
"XX is a nervy full-scale nightmare of Tinseltown that seizes the concept by the throat and hurls it through the looking glass." (Does this man have no editor? The cliches run wild!) "By surrounding any semblance of rationality to create a post-Freudian pulp-fiction fever dream (It's a cliche lollapalooza!) Mr. XXXX ends up shooting the moon (Invoking "Darling, Be Home Soon." Alright!) with XX. Its frenzied final 45 minutes, in which the story circles back on itself in a succession of kaleidoscopic Chinese boxes (whew!) conveys the maniacal thrill of an imagistic brainstorm. (Does this guy know Ann Powers?)
Holden's 'imagistic' 5 vomitive notwithstanding, his point, like that of thousands before him, was that this film REALLY takes the veil off 'Tinseltown' (how can anyone use that wizened word without cringing?). Where have we read these sentiments before? Oh, in every New York report of L.A. in the past 50 years. LA the Dream Factory, she's a whore, yadda yadda.
Yet that review wasn't enough for the apparently bottomless hunger for L.A. slandering of New York Times readers (many of whom, by my count, live in L.A.). Sunday October 14th the NY Times allowed one Kristin Hohenadel (what kinda name is THAT?"6)to extend her thoughts (which is to say, every N.Y. writer before her's thoughts) in a terribly long, and terrible, diatribe 'inspired' by that same film.
Hohanadel (I'll never complain about MY name again) drools an extremely ugly string of spittle. Allegedly based in Los Angeles (she MUST be an outsider) her essay stinks with these bon mots: "Mr. XXXX has set his movie in the city's banal coffee shops" (not like the profound ones in New Yawk!); "the night jasmine blooms like cheap perfume" (what a ruthless twit, criticizing the city's natural beauty: New York's natural smells come from human body functions); "then, in an image that seems to capture the faint beat of the city's heart...." (Say, why don't you go somewhere else, like to hell?); "Nobody walks in Los Angeles unless they aren't permitted to drive" (How can ANY publication run such hackneyed drivel!); "It often takes an earthquake (OFTEN takes an earthquake? she been here 30 years?) for Los Angeles neighbors to introduce themselves, forced by fear from behind closed doors onto the street" (It's NEW YORK where people are behind doors in fear, you poor pathetic hack!); "It's the transients who" -- "make no house feel like home." (Maybe YOUR house, you understandably lonely worm!); "These (other) films are full of the reflexive (Surprise!, she's a reactionary) L.A.-bashing" -- "that is so much a part of everyday life in this city" (So much a part of YOUR everyday, trampled, hateful life?) "of which so much affection is demanded and so little returned" (Ah-ha! A woman's scorn explained; She has lost in love).
The rant goes on endlessly; they gave this gal her head, and she showed it to be empty of original thought. It isn't the smog that takes your breath away here; it's the dull-wittedness of visitors blind to L.A.'s greatness.
All The Rage
In "All The Rage," Ian McLagan's 7 excellent book about his music career with, and after, the Small Faces he explains the mystery of why, after Rod Stewart joined the Faces in 1970, Stewart's solo records were so good and the Faces' not so. "He chose the best material for himself" I quote approximately.
It came to mind when I was making a best-of tape recently. I chose the best of various wellknown music acts, both for my enjoyment and to start fights. Well, provoke a response. Anyone who sees such an absolute statement -- "this is their best" - will inevitably call me up screaming, or make their own tape in reply. (It's fun, but it's not a living.)8
My choice for Rod Stewart was "I Know I'm Losing You," a candidate 9 for the limited category "Hit songs that were better when they were done a second time."10 All the early 70s Rod songs were bathed in brilliant arrangements and musicianship to match his great voice, but this one more than others was a group thing. The jungle drum, the ripping guitars, wow, this was not Rod unplugged, this was a moment in the studio when a bunch of musicians got a groove and held onto it! I wondered, then, why the Small Faces never "got it on" like the band on this record.
So it was with great shock that I read this in Ian's book: "'Losing You,' although cut by The Faces, was on Rod's album." My god. All these years I've been saluting a onetime assemblage of studio musicians when I, and others around the world, should have been acknowledging The Faces! It saddened me, but McLagan seemed sanguine.
But it brings to mind the eternal philosophical conflict, artist vs. businessman. Few musicians are businessmen. Businessmen have avaricious genes, it's in their blood to take all they can. Musicians are people who are passionate and obsessed with their art, and slovenly about bookkeeping. At least at first. So musicians at the ripe bursting height of their expression and creativity USUALLY sign away most of their earnings to instinctive businessmen who follow money like the musician hears his Muse. It's a time-worn tale, and you know what -- maybe it's the way it should be because it's the way it is! How many stories are there about singers who had hits and ended up driving buses or shining shoes? Too many. Money flows, but not to the people who create. Movie business is the same. Hell, everything is! Think about computers. Bill Gates is the most successful businessman of all time, but that's all. He PURCHASED the DOS system and reaped millions re-selling it, then he COPIED the Apple software system, called it Windows, and his earnings squared. HE INVENTED NOTHING.
But don't weep for Apple -- they didn't create the 'revolutionary' icon and mouse system either. They bought it from the people who invented it.
In that best-of tape I mentioned, I used the Louis Jordan song I love most, "Louisville Lodge Meeting 11." It encapsulates everything about him. As it was a stiff, it is rarely anthologized. It comes from his fallow period of the early 1950s when his output was as good -- I think better -- than his heyday, but the public wasn't buying.12
In 1980 I came across a 78 of "I Need You So" by Ivory Joe Hunter, and a new world opened to me. The song is so .... magnificent when Joe sings it, it shakes the world. (Later I discovered that Sonny Til and the Orioles did a brilliant version too.)
I went out and got his three (bootleg, sort of, on the Route 66 series from Sweden) Ivory Joe albums13 which contained other masterpieces, "I Had A Girl," "Stop Rockin' That Train," "I Ain't Got No Gal No More," and "That's The Gal For Me." Johnnie Ray told me that Ivory Joe was his idol. As he's virtually unknown today someone ought to dig for his stuff -- so it can be dug again!
I just read "I Lived To Tell It All," George Jones' autobiography. I finished the book disturbed by Jones; the damage he did by his extremely long-term drunkenness is hard to wave off.
1. He played on a rock show in Austin, Texas, in 1964 and a British band borrowed his band's equipment and played so loud that one amp exploded. After their set a guy in Jones's group put Mick Jagger in a hammerlock til he coughed up a hundred dollars.
2. The same year, Country Comes To Carnegie Hall featured Jones, Buck Owens and eight others. In the May 18, 1964 New York Times, Robert Shelton wrote "There was a bit of noise, a lot of nostalgia, but enough good music-making for this circus to be one that country music fans would long remember." George wrote, "I wish Shelton hadn't called our show a circus." Goddam right! Goddam sniveling music-critic jerk has to throw in some pejorative to let his 'peers' know he's not really a shit-kicker. Some things never change! 14
Confrontation At, and With, The Gap
In a store in San Luis Obispo, I heard a recording of an unfamiliar male folksinger playing to a live audience. I asked the clerk who it was. She, a college student, handed me four CD cases. "It's one of these" she said, unable to distinguish among them. The CDs were the Rolling Stones, Blind Faith, David Bowie, and David Gray.
How Could I Be So Wrong 15
In 1973 I interviewed Neal Sedaka. To show off my broad knowledge of his work, I said that though he wrote many fine hits, I thought a flipside, "Forty Winks Away," was his best song. "Barry Mann wrote that" he replied cooly.
Last week I interviewed Gerry Goffin. He's written a raft of immortal hits, but I chose to single out "Crying In The Rain" by the Everly Brothers as my favorite. "Carole wrote that with Jack Keller" he said.
This Just In!
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