-February 2002-

Other Fein Messes


My Resume

The first star I ever talked with was Judy Collins. It was my first journalism assignment at the University Of Colorado. I was so awestruck I did not know what to say. That same year, 1966, I talked to Phil Ochs after his concert. I was not as flustered, but when he heard I was representing Billboard he treated me like an arm of the military-industrial complex and had little to say. Prior to them, I had met Ral Donner, in 1964. But we didn't talk.

The first star I saw offstage was Edd "Kookie" Byrnes in 1959. A radio station announced he was arriving at Midway Airport, so many kids went to see him. In good Chicago fashion, somene threw an egg and hit him in the forehead. My friends said they enjoyed the tight-packed crowd because it was a good opportunity to feel up girls, but I was not so advanced.


In his 1996 book, "The Story Behind Country Music Songs", Ace Collins cleared up something for me about the song, "Crazy Arms."

I always assumed the singer's girl was leaving the singer bec she had "crazy arms": she was a runaround. Collins points out that the songwriter, Ralph Mooney, drove HIS wife away bec of HIS "crazy arms." Jerry Lee Lewis screwed up the lyric on his first single by saying "your" crazy arms instead of Ray Price's "my" crazy arms (Price had the hit), leaving in his wake 35 years of misunderstanding by me!

It's Black History Month, so some cable channels will be airing "Hallelujah", the splendid all-black-cast 1929 drama. In it, you'll see the main character sitting on the levee singing "End Of The Road," which was the flipside of Jerry Lee's first single, "Crazy Arms," and the only song he ever wrote. Six years before he was born.

But Collins is not all good. He writes, in hideous blasphemy, that the 1950s country song "Making Believe," "cried out" for being covered by a contemporary pop artist like Whitney Houston.

There would be crying, alright, if Houston sang it. I have cried plenty over her banshee-howl version of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."

It's a BIG taste of Hell.

"Let's Change Positions"

I have long fought the notion that only musicians can judge music. My friend Douglas the rock star, who has been savaged by rock crits, said of them to me, "They can't even play an instrument."

When faced with such specious logic, I searched for analogies -- do you have to stomp grapes to judge wine? be a shoemaker to know your shoes don't fit?

I handed a guitar to a friend who doesn't know his pick from his ...... and he made some noise. I turned to Douglas and said "How was that?"

"Godawful. Why do you ask?"

I said, "How would I know? I'm not a musician."

I thought I made my point. But the inherent flaws of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame have caused me, partly, to join Douglas's stand:

Now I believe that ONLY musicians should elect members. Because musicians are kind, musicians are sympathetic, musicians know what moves them.

Too many R&RHOF voters are journalists. Journalists are mean, lack compassion. Journalists don't have feelings. They don't know what they think, they just run with the pack.1

So let's disqualify them. The evidence has been building for years, personified by the L.A. Times miscreant who has BELITTLED Rick Nelson, the Four Seasons, and the Moonglows, among others, for their presence in the R&RHOF. He says they're not important.2

HE is not important. Like his colleagues, he simply sticks his thumb up or down, without actually creating anything.3 Creating is the job of talented people, and talent should be the only criterion for R&RHoF judges.4

I say this because Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon is still barred from the Cleveland music mosque and its annual revel. Oh, he could buy a ticket, but he has not even been nominated by the dolts that run it.

WHY? WHY? WHY? The opening chords to "Tallahassee Lassie" (credit to Frank Slay and Bob Crewe, please 5) are as powerful as any of Led Zeppelin. "Way Down Yonder In New Orleans," an evergreen resurrected in the tradition of Fats Domino and the Platters, is a rollicking rock & roll adventure. (Whoo!) "Happy Shades of Blue" - sure. And "Buzz Buzz A Diddle It" (Freddy backed by a band he discovered at a record hop) is as sensational rock & roll as any by the Who or Zep or the Stones.

If you want proof, ask Roger Daltry or Robert Plant or Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney or Dave Edmunds (is HE in the R&RHOF? oh god tell me he is) or even Billy gosh-darn Joel if Freddy Cannon deserves membership and they'll to a man say "YES!"

Ask a prune-faced rock-writer and he'll look around for signs of approval and, finding none, say, "He's not important enough."

1 Others, similarly unqualified, are record company people. They, by definition, are heartless and blind. And frightened.

2 While endorsing Joni Mitchell's inclusion!

3 Memorable rock-reviews? I read the damn things, and cannae remember one.

4 Talented rock crits. A small list: Cameron Crowe and Nick Tosches, both of whom dropped out of the field once they got their wings.

5 And Dick Clark (!), who suggested the handclaps.

Battles Won

In the 60s, my theme song was "The Times They Are A Changin'."

But today it's the Ronettes' "I Wonder," because I'm not so sure about the changes we wrought.

Here are a few that trouble me.


The Corvair Monza was the first American car to have bucket seats 6. Hot diggity! Just like European sports cars. Mustang followed, and then GTO, and the bucket-set world arrived. Cool! Two separate seats with the automatic gear shift in the center just like a goldarn stick shift!

Isn't it time now they stopped? All cars come with separate front seats. In between them is a goddam lever that could better go on the column. Without that ridiculous protuberance THREE PEOPLE COULD SIT IN THE FRONT. In the G.O.D. if your drivers door was blocked you could slide over from the passenger side. Now you have to be a gymnast to enter, somehow get feet-forward, and vault over the shift and under the steering wheel. BRING BACK BENCH SEATS!

6 I hope I'm right! I complain a lot about people getting music info wrong, but car misinformation is as blatant. In "Dr. No," from 1962, the car that leaves the airport is a 1961 Chevy 4-door sedan, but when it gets on the highway it's a 4-door hardtop! Did the continuity person intern with Ed Wood?


In 1973, to cite a nadir year, nothing old was heard on radio. The 50s and recent 60s were over, replaced by the tamped down sounds of the new mediocrity.7 If in a day you heard anything from the past, it was a miracle.

Today there are oldies stations that play about 100 records ad nauseum: "My Girl" anyone? But also you can hear Gene Vincent's "Red Blue Jeans And A Poni-Tail" in a mall! TV commercials unearth impossibly obscure songs; writers throw oblique rock references into tv and movies. 8 The past is blasting out at us everywhere, and I'm hiding. It's too much! I used to hunt for Louis Jordan records, taping them at collectors' houses. Now he and Louis Prima are on Gap commercials, and every breath either one took is on a box set!

I would say, like about bucket seats, "Get rid of them," except for their value in drowning out the music of today.

I never imagined that someday Otis Redding would be "white noise!"

7 While the music of Tony Orlando, Carpenters, etc. was not inherently bad, the charts were so laden with pop non-rock that it was like 1954 all over again.

8 Todd Everett heard a character utter "B-I Bickey Bi Bo Bo Go" on a sitcom the other day. And there's that "Murder She Wrote" where the dead guy is Leo Fender.


By the time I joined the work force -- well, was aware of it -- 'dress-up' was over. Of course, the field I audited was the entertainment industry, where the guy with the sharp haircut and suit is the limo driver and the guy in baggy sweatclothes the movie producer, but still...

I have about 20 ties in my closet, if the moths haven't gotten them, but I don't have a plain shirt that buttons up to the neck!

It's my choice to wear a t-shirt and sport coat all year round, but I wish other people, like contestants on quiz shows, would wear nicer clothes. For chrissake, we're a nation of slobs.


When Rolling Stone started, they had a regular dope column - advice on what's good, what do to about bad trips, etc. It was part of the cloth of that time. I endorsed it, as an observer: the 20 times I smoked grass I became disoriented, and often giggly, so I stopped. That laughter irked me; to laugh when nothing was funny 9 was a gyp, like being completely exhausted and brain-dead without having had sex. Yet I tittered at cocaine or other drug references in movies and tv and nightclubs because it was part of "our" culture.

Recently I heard a Xmas record from the 60's which went thusly: "On the first day of Xmas, my true love gave to me, a cube of LSD." It went on to say gram of hash, line of cocaine, maybe heroin, lid of grass, etc.

The mixed-gender chorus was cracking up at the end; they sounded like teenagers. I'll bet if I heard it then I would have laughed too. Today it disturbs me.

I know people can handle dope as "well" as liquor, and I think marijuana should be legal, not bec it's so great but to keep people out of jail. And when I hear Cab Calloway sing about the reefer man and Ella Fitzgerald sing about wacky dust, it gives me a thrill.

Which makes me of two minds, at least, on this subject.


When I was a youngster I used to look at the cover of news magazines and think, "Why do they put those dull scientists and world leaders on the cover? I want to see Elvis!"

Well, someone was listening (be careful what you wish for...) and today news magazines have cartoons and actors and moronic celebrity crap on their covers every week. And I don't read'em!10

9 This approximates a line from "Daddy's Money," a real neat song on the Lost Gonzo Band's "Thrills" album on MCAain.

10 This is not because of their triviality. It is because of the Monica Lewinsky coverage. When Newsweek plastered her on its cover I vowed to never turn a page in that sheet again. Time went with it. Also, I abandoned Jay Leno and David Letterman. I had never regarded either with especial respect, but their cheap and foul shots at Clinton during this period were like barkers whipping up the crowd at a hanging. They were, not to put too fine a point on it, sniveling rats. (Not because it was about Clinton: I would have been as soul-sick if it'd've been about Reagan.)

Mark Leviton Submits:

from HITS online, 1/15

ADD GEORGE: The former Beatle will return to the top of the charts in the U.K. this week with his reissued '71 hit, "My Sweet Lord." .... Members of the Chiffons were reportedly cracking open champagne bottles at the news, since a judge ruled years ago that Harrison's hit plagiarized their 1963 smash, "He's So Fine."
Amazing. First of all, why would the Chiffons care if "He's So Fine"
was successful again? They didn't write the song and derive no income from it (unless - maybe - they get something from their recorded version). At any rate, George Harrison purchased the rights to "He's So Fine" ages ago after the court case, so his estate owns it (that was his rather smart way of solving the plagiarism problem). It's now published by Harrisongs Ltd. PRS.

Fein's Complaint

Asked whom I emulate, I am struck dumb: lotsa people I like, but none I resemble.

Now I've found one. I am Phillip Roth.11 As a one-time rock writer, I am now turning on my 'tribe' as Roth has been accused of by some Jews. But like him, I protest that assignation. I am strictly shining light on my clan's worse traits to improve its wholeness.

Having said that, I must point out the distance between writers and performers. Musicians are shamans, writers are, at best, shamuses. If you have made a record 12, there is something holy about you. The pedestal on which you perch is permanent. I have met one-time record makers holding real-life positions and brought up their childhood endeavors with awe. They chuckle for a moment, and then GET BACK WITH LIFE, which is what separates them from us:

They, having done something, move on.

We, having done nothing, loll in their past.

11 Come to think of it, I also take my cue from James Thurber and S.J. Perlman. They dissected and riduled new stories too.....

12 I'm not so sure this magic holds when you make your own CD. It's like in the 1950s, making a recording in a 50-cent booth.

I Don't Get It - Pt. 2

I forgot one critically-assailed thing I like, from last ish:

"It's Pat." The movie spun from the Saturday Night Live character kills me. It was critically panned, bombed a the box office, and Julia Sweeney disavows it. So why do I like it? The gags that work in this movie slay me. It doesn't matter whether it holds together or ends coherently. It's just like an uneven album with some very good cuts; worthwhile.

Shut Them Up!

Watching the VH1 bio of Oasis. The Manchester guys are shown, early on, bragging that they're the best band in the world, then it cuts to some drip from Rolling Stone who laughs, from a perch if not of superiority at least equality, "Of course, they were wrong."

You are supposed to laugh too, with him, at the band's temerity in pronouncing their greatness IN THE FACE OF OPPOSITION FROM THE LIKES OF HIM.

Why do they put these weasels in biographies? They mean nothing, they add nothing. The story continues to say Oasis's fourth album sold well "but the critics attacked it." How about, "but one box of CDs fell off a truck?" That would be equally important.

SCREW THEM! What the hell has any one of them ACCOMPLISHED to warrant inclusion in the same city, let alone the same roll of film, as the Oasis band? Nobody cares what they say; nobody knows who they are; nobody needs them around. (Remember the never-spoken sentence: "Quick, somebody get a rock critic!")The goddam film makers throw these pieces of driftwood into their documentaries to add....what, stupidity? pomposity? swaggering nothingness? Well, at least it's relief from all the interestingness.....


I can think of three cases where producers (could also be lead singers, or runaway musicians) have lost their big act and produced another one just like it.

1. "Love Is All I Have To Give" by the Checkmates LTD. When the Righteous Brothers left Philles for Verve, Spector got this group whose lead singer's voice resembled Bill Medley's.

2. "Teenage Rampage" by Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods. When Sweet left Chinn & Chapman, the producers had this rather-anonymous American group dress up like Sweet and do a Sweet song. It was, in fact, identical to Sweet, but it didn't matter as both faded from sight.

3. "Andrea" and "I Live For The Sun" by the Sunrays. Did Brian's dad Murray Wilson think HE invented the Beach Boys? From these fine post-separation efforts, that seems to be his claim.

Put Your Kot Clothes On

On October 8th, 2001 the LA Times ran a "Commentary" by the Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot, hitherto unknown on our shores, about music and September 11. It was Kot's chance to sneer, and pontificate, in a new city.

""You know what I'm terrified about now?" said a 40-year-old Chicagoan I met outside a record store on the North Side. "Not another terrorist strike. I'm terrified that Britney Spears, Destiny's Child, Michael Jackson and a whole bunch of other singers with lots of time on their hands are going to get together in the next few days and record a tribute song about the World Trade Center. Then it really would be the end of the world as we know it.""

Ho HO! The lip curls as Kot's stooge expresses his contempt for popular singers who don't have high critic marks.

"With lots of time on their hands?" All the named performers are busy as bees playing for their fans: maybe he was thinking of poorly-selling critic favorites like the White Stripes or the Mekons or that gal band with the hyphenated name -- Sloan-Kettering? Epstein-Barr? They have mountains of free time.

And Kot's supposed "friend" is forty. Forty is the age of the average rock critic. Was this unnamed phantom just a surrogate Kot? 13 I am not into conspiracy theories, but here is the smoking gun: regular 40-year-olds are not sticking out their tongues at Britney Spears -- they're earning a living and supporting families! Is it just COINCIDENCE that Kot met someone as shallow as himself on Chicago's mysterious "North Side"?

In contemplating the nonexistent tribute song, he wails "Does tragedy justify bad art, even when it's for a good cause?" The Man is troubled by THEORETICAL offenses and stands, like a hockey goalie, with his big mitt fending off imaginary wrongnesses. But there's hope:

"That is why Laurie Anderson's concert here on the night of the tragedy was so affirming."

Affirming. Affirming what? Laurie, bless her heart, is A-1 prime proven rock-crit correct. Not only is she certified in the art world and make her home in New York, she lives with Lou Reed.

Then Kot chisels this encomium: "But artists like Anderson raise the stakes for us all. Their art says the trivial music will sound even more inconsequential in coming weeks and the profound music will become even more meaningful."

Translation: If Laurie hadn't been doing her job, someone like Little Richard might've been screaming "a wop bob a luma balop bam boom"
and we'd be so, soooooo sad.

I don't disrespect Laurie. I just shudder at Kot's aloof and effete preaching. Why run it here?

13 Say! We're back to Philip Roth! "Operation Shylock"!

Speaking of clothes....

I have worn the same socks for 30 years. Not the same pair, the same style, thin all-cotton. They are sold only by J.C. Penneys. Every day I fear they will cease manufacturing them.

In 1965 when I went away to college, I began wearing sport coat, cowboy shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. Today I wear essentially the same thing, minus the cowboyness. On my last bday I went to a western shop and looked at contemporary cowboy shirts, which looked modest, or in the referee style of Garth Brooks. I asked the salesman, an old-timer wearing what looked like an Indian blanket, where they kept the gabardine shirts with contrasting floral design yoke and five-pearl-button cuffs.

"Oh, the good stuff? They don't make it anymore. Just this crap" he said.

I mention shopping for clothes bec a good friend of mine made a CD recently that's getting good reception in Europe, but the title song borrows the melody from a song by a famous songwriting duo we'll call Liar & Stealer. The song was recorded in 1960 by the songwriters' house band, the Doilies. L&S sued my friend for all his publishing money, and part of the record royalties. The record company is holding up payment til this is settled.

My friend, we'll call him Chickie, thought he had a defense. He found a 1954 record with the same melody. "I can tell a judge that they stole it too" he reasoned.

Sounds logical, but it won't work. Bec the songwriting team tracked down the rights to that first song and bought them -- just like George Harrison!

Now they own the song they stole, and Chickie's in dutch.


Elvis Show, House Of Blues, L.A. Jan 6, 2001

This, the 17th year of its running, was the best yet. The absence of any "big name" outsiders had no effect: woulda been good with'em, was terrific without'em. The L.A. rock and roots community brought forth its best, and we're all the richer for it.

Here's who played, in order: Harry Orlov, Paul Marshall, Fred Willard, Mario, Evie Sands, Justin Curtis, Pep Torres, Billy Tulsa & The Psycho Crawdads, Kings Order of Elmysah, Cadillac Angels, Rod & The Tonemasters, Danny Blitz, Barry Holdship, Levi Dexter, Billy Swan, Glen Glenn, Alan Clark, Donnie Brooks, Doug Fieger, Rip Masters, Ray Campi, Rosie Flores, James Intveld, Pearl Harbour, Big Sandy, Russell Scott, Sprague Bros, Groovy Rednecks, I See Hawks In L.A., Harvey Sid Fisher, June Bug, Kevin Banford & The Bakersfield Boys, White Line Fever, Jack & The Rippers, George Thomas, Jimmy Angel.

I cannot single out one act over the others because it would be like choosing a favorite among your children.

Below, selected shots by Yours Truly.

- 57 -

Art Fein

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