-December 2002-

Other Fein Messes


I bought my first record at Taylor Electric, the all-purpose appliance/electrical-supply store in my tiny Northern Calif. hometown. Buchanan & Goodman's "Flying Saucer" (1956): I bought and re-bought it because, being brittle shellac 78's, copies broke easily. I pray that someday its preposterous flip, "Martian Melodies," will make it to CD; on it, an "outer space" voice introduces an instrumental rock ballad that plays at triple speed as a throng of voices guffaws at odd intervals. Where were these laughers--in a club? a ballroom? And what were they seeing that made them crack up as the silly music spiraled by? I may never know.

My first rock & roll record per se was Ricky Nelson's "Be Bop Baby" (1957). A red Imperial 78, it had a great cold start (love those inverted "Jailhouse Rock" chords), a purpose (the girl next door used it to teach me the bop) and an odd sexual component. For some reason, my 10-year-old ears heard the verse "She's got plenty of rhythm and plenty of jive" as "She's got plenty of ribbons," which conjured the image of a woman wrapped in nothing but scarlet ribbons. Monroe, I know, was infiltrating even the youngest minds in those wild days.

The first real concert I attended was at Frisco's Fillmore Auditorium, March '66: the West Coast debut of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, supported by Quicksilver Messenger Service. I hitchhiked from U.C. Davis with a friend. Mike Bloomfield tore it up, with a pre-album "East West," QMS made searing R&R out of old folk and blues, the lightshow bubbled across three two-story walls, and the whole packed place--it was early enough that there were still people dressed as Victorian dandies and Wild West cats--came on like a breakaway planet that just happened to crash down inside this joint on Geary Street. It was loud, lively and nothing like the way the "hippie" scene has since been depicted.

-- Gene Sculatti


Ho Ho Ho

Dec 02 Mess


Ever have a song ruined for you by a commercial, or a parody?

Whenever I hear the "Blue Danube" I think of a Chicago tv commercial, "Give me Rival Dog Food, arf arf, arf arf." Surely there are some now-grown kids who think "Good Vibrations" is Sunkist Orange theme. Or that "Revolution" is about sneakers.

Most insidious for me was something that Roger Miller sang between songs during a set at the Troubadour in the 70s:

"Delta Dawn, whip them drawers off you got on."

Saturday Night Lukewarm

Saturday Night Live never as far as I know had a salient musical moment.
No breakthroughs, no Janis at Monterey. Like Woody Allen's mother's deflavorizing machine, the show killed music (1). The closest thing to excitement was when Belushi got Fear to play, and anarchy seemed at hand (2).

But also, the SNL band has always been horn-driven. Why? Can't any show have a rock & roll band? Conan O Brien has a horn band. (With a drummer sitting alone like a child at a high chair. Ludicrous!) Letterman. Leno. Horns, horns, horns - all of them are trying to ape Johnny Carson.

SNL, which has had a horn-band from the git-go, was unbearable in the late 1980s when G.E. Smith ran the band. The poni-tailed guitarist mugged insufferably, insisting, through his grimaces, that you were lucky to be seeing him.

(1) I'm talking 1975-90 or course. I thought Metallica's appearance a couple of years ago was pretty stunning, but what the heck do I know?

(2) Funny itself bec like the Sex Pistols (3), Fear was strictly a joke-band, led by an actor.

(3) Don't tell a rock crit that the Sex Pistols were buffoons. In interviews during their comeback in '96, Rotten gaily yammered about the band's long tradition of insincerity. But crits told him he was wrong!


I am not a performer. I cannot fathom what makes a person appear in front of strangers seeking their approval.

And in that field, a few stand out in their self-satisfiedness. My first was Ann-Margret. I saw her in State Fair and thought, "Gee, that girl sure is stuck on herself." I felt that way on SNL when Kathleen Turner came out and opened her arms like the audience should be grateful she's there. Also Joe Piscopo, whose reaction to adulation was likewise papal. And new on my list is the hit-and-run girl, Halle Barry.

But G.E. Smith took the cake. His smirk really ground my guts. Seeing the reruns on the Comedy Channel (4) I grit my teeth anew.

(4) I prefer to think of it as the Comedy Channel, which started out with black & white comedies from Ernie Kovacs, Steve Allen, Spike Jones, and other subsequently-abandoned sources.

Crock Tears

Item about J. Entwhistle's death, from punmaster.com:

The Vegas show has been canceled but the rest of the tour was undecided, said Beckye Levin of promoter Clear Channel Entertainment.

"I was told he passed away in his sleep last night," Levin said, breaking into sobs during a telephone interview.

Those Clear Channel people, they care!

Eric Boardman on Clear Channel:

Regarding a recent Bob Dylan concert: "I'd like to offer a big shout-out to the greedy bastards of Clear Channel who took the seats out of The Wiltern (5) so they can herd one more sheep into the shearing pen."

(5) "Festival seating" (one of the most cynical, spit-in-your-face phrases ever coined by a businessman, and that's saying something) was invented by Bill Graham Presents in 1972. I worked at Variety then, and, being a human, I slanted my story to say that BGP had discovered a sickening new way to vacuum people's pockets while providing less value. Of course, my problem then, as now, was that I didn't get the trade-paper game: I should have written "BGP has presented a terrific new way to get more money from your venue."

Good Songs Same Title

I have two excellent records called "I Wonder." One is by the Ronettes, the other by Pvt. Cecil Gant. I came across yet another great "I Wonder," but have misplaced it in my mind. Know one?

Another good pair of songs involves the name Mehitabel. On the "archy and mehitabel" album alley-cat mehitabel (Carol Channing) duets with big black cat Bill (Percival Dove) who boasts "and the heart that jumps in the cage of my ribs is hot and black and hard!" Likewise, on the 1971 Jack Bonus album is an accordian-driven song called "Sweet Mehidabelle" which has long been one of my favorites.

Great Sue songs? Runaround Sue (6)....Suzie Darlin'? Linda songs? Linda Lu by Ray Sharpe. (But have you noticed that tv commercial uses the 'dum ba da da' intro to Linda Scott's (7)... Say, I don't know which song it is!) I can think of a lot of good girl-name songs, but not many greats.

(6) I must reiterate that Dion sings this in the person of Diana Ross, the chief Supreme: "There's Flo on my left and Mary on my right." On an E! profile of Welcome Back Kotter, they played the brilliant theme-song submitted by Dion! John Sebastian's, of course, won out.

(7) Both Linda Scott and Dodie Stevens had songs called "Yessiree", but both were short of great. In 1960 people thought that Linda Scott and Jack Scott were sister & brother bec he was Canadian and she was on Canadian-American Records. But his real name was Jack Scafone, and hers Linda Sampson.

Surrealistic Non-Pillow Talk

Twice I thought I had a chance with a flirtatious female country singer.

The second time, 1989, was in the lobby of a record company where I maintained a faint business relationship: I feared that if I acted forward toward this famous belle I might be chastised. (Also, though I didn't think she would 'report me,' that too, was a possibility: women have been known to flirt insincerely, in history.) And besides, I was driving a 1970 Volkswagen (8) with no heater, and had no known income.

Small difference from the first time, 1975. If all went well, coupling would require going to SOMEONE's place, and it would be impossible to go to hers, as she was in the public eye. However, I could also not take her to my place in North Hollywood bec she would see what a drip I was. Instead of a Hollywood stud with a posh Sunset Strip apartment or even a starving writer with an artist's garret, I was a near-30 record-collector goofball with a house full of records and walls lined with pictures of Elvis and Suzi Quatro.

This thrush was a world-player. My status as a hopeless fan of startling childishness would surely dampen her ardor. I stood ready, but at the same time knew I was completely incapable.

The burning memory of this is what horrifies me about rock crits in positions of public influence. They should be writing in fanzines and internet columns. Most are permanent children, as I was.

(8) That car disappeared in 1995 when former Rockabilly Rebel Jerry Sikorski took it to repair it and never returned. In '98 I got a call from the Palm Springs police asking whether my stolen car was a dune buggy. I said no, and they said "It is now." I didn't press them any further, overjoyed as I was that my vehicle, in whatever form, had been recovered. Never heard from them again. And whenever I apply to the state for a replacement for my SO FEIN license plate, they reply "You can't have it, it's been stolen."

How History Is Written - Pt. 2

When I read about rock & roll in non-rock media, I goggle at the mistakes.

Sometimes it's shadings: the L.A. Times obit for one of the Clovers said he sang the "rollicking" hit "Love Potion #9."

Rollicking? Maybe "Wooly Bully" or "Papa-Oo-Mow-Mow." Or "Delicious" by Jim Backus. But "Love Potion" doesn't rollick. Maybe the writer (9) drew a conclusion from the title. Or perhaps he/she does not have a command of English -- that wouldn't be new.

And there's syndicated columnist Liz Smith's surprisingly restrained article on Elvis 'cuisine' in the NY times fall 2002 Style & Entertaining magazine. The pic of Elvis eating had the cutline "Elvis at home with his father, Vernon, and grandmother Minnie Mae." Even the minorest Elvis fans, I thought, would recognize this photo as being at his off-post apartment in Bad Nauheim, Germany, not "home." Did the photo editor think he ran around Graceland wearing an army uniform!?

And what of scholars? In Joan Didion's "The White Album," she bemoans the strain of keeping notes. Then, writing about a visit to a Doors recording session, she mentions the then-current song, "I Heard It On The Grapevine." And David Halberstam, the historian, writing about Elvis in "The Fifties" saying his first record was "I'm Alright, Mama." (10)

It's like that American guy in Japan, whose Japanese is letter-perfect but the native Japanese mock him for nuances. Rock knowledge is slippery, and if you're not "one of us" you never can quite get it right.

(9) But there was no writer. It was "From the Washington Post," like the newspaper itself wrote it.

(10) It could be laziness. I should know. Writing in a far less influential place (this column) last month I cited a Stones song, and credited it to one of the two Stones albums I like, "Beggars Banquet." That sat well with me til deadline time (self-imposed - nobody's asking for this), when I actually GOT OUT OF MY CHAIR and walked to the record rack and pulled out that album, only to learn the song was on the other Fein-likes Stones album. In that same screed I also wrote, initially, that a Kinks song was from the "Sunny Afternoon" album, when a small walk to the album file revealed that was not the album title.


Now that I delve further into last month's AFM, I realize I made at least two other mistakes. I said "Right Behind You Baby" was by Warren Smith on Sun, when it was Ray Smith. And I said that the Freberg "Original Cast" album was from 1961, when it was from 1959 (11).

Nobody complained. My friends are tired of pointing out my mistakes.

(11) Capitol did not date its albums in the 50s and 60s. I took the Freberg catalog #, 1242, and matched it to a Kingston Trio album that I knew (12) came out in 1959. It predated it.

(12) OK, I'm lying. I did not "know" this any more than the other stuff I thought I knew. I looked up K-Trio in the Joel Whitburn book "Top Pop Albums 1955-1992" and 1242 fit neatly between two of their releases in 1959. BTW, Freberg only had one chart album! The history one, 1961. (I checked!)

I Me Mine (13)

Supposedly "we" of the post-WWII birth-increase statistical bulge were the first generation to raise self-love and self-importance to political action. Of course, the Viet Nam War helped: "We won't go" was half genuine objection to the war, half wanting to save our necks. Certainly as I look back on "We want to teach our own classes" and "Don't trust anyone over 30" and "I'm stealing this silk blouse bec the store is run by capitalists" I see little principle and a pitiful load of selfishness.

So what about now? "Kids," which is to say young adults, certainly rule the media. Articles in our local dog-trainer (14), the L.A. Times, come right out and insult anyone over whatever the age of the writer, and commonly discover things that, I think, everybody knows.

In the 60s, young adults were fashion models, and, inescapably, rock stars, but that was about it. Magazines like Time or Newsweek were for adults. TV shows were too. I was watching Burns & Allen (9:00 Sunday mornings, Nickelodeon) and thinking that a typical ute of today would say "You like that stuff because you're old" - and it wouldn't be true. Burns & Allen were in their 50s when I watched them in my pre-teens. I loved them. I liked kids on tv too, sometimes, but didn't cling to my identity group. There were plenty of kinds of people on tv. (15)

I think age-grasping is still distant in music, though. I know when I was a kid I cringed seeing kid in rock & roll. I thought the Collins Kids looked like goons in their cowboy outfits, and the scenes in The Girl Can't Help It that used real teens -- children of the movie's producers -- made my skin crawl. Late-teen singers today appeal exclusively to pre-teens (16) (they, too, don't want people their own age), while late-teens and above seem to embrace it all: Jimmy Page or Mick Jagger still draw interest, even idolatry, from some of them.

(13) The title of a George Harrison book. Adapted in 1999 (?) by VH1 for a bunch of promos featuring humiliated musicians chanting a similar non-catch (and non-catchy -- I can't remember it) phrase. ("Me My Music"?)

(14) This is a Harry Shearism. Possibly copyrighted.

(15) Looking back on "Make Room For Daddy," whose titled was never fully explained ("daddy," Danny Thomas, was a traveling nightclub comedian who only came home for short visits -- every week), routinely referred to his Lebanese roots, and had an Uncle Tonoose! When I saw Ernie Kovacs conversing in Hungarian with Hans Conreid (Uncle Tonoose!) on tv, I rocked from the weirdness of it. Today these people would be bound to Middle-eastern and east-European stereotyping.

(16) And if they are 1/3-dressed girls, men over 40.


In the Nov 5 L.A. Times, Geoff Boucher, citing exerpts from Kurt Cobain's diary, repeatedly inserted "(sic)" next to the misspellings.

"What does sic mean?" my daughter asked, parenthetically.

"It's a technique for writers to show their superiority" -- imagined superiority -- "to the people they write about. They burst their buttons finding flaws. It's what they do."

I've seen it thousands of times. Someone being interviewed makes a grammar error, and the writer coyly sneers "(sic)".

It's understandable, bec few have the nerve to shoot the interview subject like that Chapman guy, who, though not a rock crit, had a rock crit's vision of cutting someone accomplished down to their size.

It was comforting the following Saturday when a letter in that paper chided Boucher for citing the "stationary" (sic) Cobain wrote on.

Gone In A Flash

I was close to Flash Cadillac & The Continental Kids when they lived in L.A. in the 70s. When they moved back to Colorado Springs, I maintained ties with Sam McFadin, the lead singer, who died (heart attack, 49) last year.

I first saw them in Boulder in 1969. I was dazzled by their musicianship and spirit -- their flash. In 1971, I was at a club in the Santa Cruz Mountains when Sam took over (17) the first time as lead singer (18). I brought them Roy Wood's "See My Baby Jive", and they recorded it. I worked for their manager for a summer when they were in the Phillipines for two months getting dysentery and losing their equipment while filming their part in "Apocalypse Now." (19) Last time I saw them was 1995 when they did a rock-meets-the-symphony show in Long Beach. (20)

When I was going through Sam's effects last summer I found a lot of stuff I'd sent him. It warmed me to think I had any effect on him. He sure affected me. I think about him a lot.

(17) The original Flash from 1969 flew the coop in 1971. The band recruited Sam from Colorado Springs' apparently abundant talent pool.

(18) At Sam's wake, Warren (Butch) Knight said that their band had a unique way of auditioning musicians: "Other bands get the best musician, and then see if they like him. We choose someone we like, and then make him the best musician."

(19) They actually had two lengthy stays in the Phillipines -- the first was curtailed by a typhoon. Coppola, like George Lucas, who put them in "American Graffiti," loved them, but ultimately truncated their performance of "Suzy Q" to a 10-second background visual in that marathon movie.

(20) In the 1990s their booking agent Scott O'Malley (also proprietor of Western Jubilee record company www.westernjubilee.com) concocted a plan for the band to tour America playing in front of symphonies, with charts supplied by the Flash Cad organization. It paid off -- they were added to many symphony programs across America as a "change of pace" feature, many of the orchestra members dressing in 50's duds. I'd never heard "River Deep Mountain High" with that much force. (Off the record, that is.)

A Christmas Gift For You

Sam's family Xmas card from 1998.

- 57 -

Art Fein

Other Fein Messes