First Record/First Concert
Id just gotten my first paycheck from delivering newspapers. The
Seeds self titled album was my choice. There was something so intriguing
about it: the cover was shot outdoors, all the members had real long hair.
One dude was wearing an Indian headband with a feather. Another was wearing
glasses with a cowboy hat on. They had strange names: Sky Saxon, Jan Savage,
Daryl Hooper. In those days you would buy an lp just because it looked
cool. This one included Pushin Too Hard which was a
huge hit on the Los Angeles airwaves. I first heard it on KHJ Boss Radio
which featured my favorite deejay The Real Don Steele. Its snarling attitude
and sound attracted me. Ill never forget plopping down the needle
and digging I Cant Seem To Make You Mine. The
lyrics are forever embedded in my mind. There were some other songs that
were good too, such as Evil Hoodoo and No Escape.
Punk rock before punk rock.
I think it was Frank Zappa who said
in Cream Magazine that the Seeds were better than the Stones because Sky
Saxon was a better dancer than Mick Jagger!! Sky Saxon remained a mystery
throughout my teen years. He was in a commune at a health food restaurant
called The Source on Sunset Boulevard. One night around 1979 I was at
a show at the Roxy and was told that I could use my ticket stub to see
Sky Saxon, now called Sky Sunlight, and some guy named Rainbow Sunstar
at the Orpheum Theater across the street from Tower Records. I was excited.
Punk rock was in and you were suppose to hate long hair hippies so when
I saw Sky now looking like some 60s burnout with a full beard I
yelled, get a haircut!! Sky proceeded to give a long rap about
peace and love and feeding fresh cheese to your dog. Some creep put out
a bootleg record of this performance and he later told me he did it because
of my heckling!! A few years later I met Sky. I was advised not to talk
to him but I didnt listen. Within a few minutes of our conversation
he asked me if I knew where to score some drugs and meet some women. He
also told me he wrote songs better than the Beatles but he needed money
to record them.
I vividly remember my first two concerts. They took place at the Ash Grove
in 1969, Los Angeles premier folk/blues club, now the subject of
a great new Dave Alvin song. I was lucky to have liberal folkie parents
who would take me to such places. My recollections of these two shows
outshadow any of the hundreds of show I've seen since.
One was Lightnin Hopkins, and it was so unbelievable I cant
even began to explain what impression it made on an 11 year old white
boy from the San Fernando Valley. After the show, I decided to go and
meet Lightnin- a pretty ballsy act, since I was so shy. I said Mr.
Hopkins, you were so great. He ignored me and walked up the stairs
singing. I was bummed.
The other time, I walked up to the Ash Grove and saw a mysterious and
colorful trailer advertising Clifton Chenier. The music he played was
infectious. It was rockin and bluesy. Cliftons brother, Cleveland
Chenier, played a crazy metal rubboard which rested on his shoulders.
When some guy in the audience started talking to Clifton in French Creole,
Clifton informed the gentleman not to talk this way because children were
in attendance and pointed to my brother and me.
Both shows were religious experiences of the highest order. I will always
carry a mental picture of them.
Allen Larman is an outstanding music historian, deejay, and friend.
AFM Dec 03
Shake! (Or things I Just Found Out That Everybody Knows)
I loved the Otis Redding Live In Europe album, which I bought right around
the time he died. But then on his other live albums I recognized songs
from Live In Europe. There was dishonesty in the record business!
For many years I didnt listen to Live In Europe. Recently I was
making a tape and wanted the live Try A Little Tenderness,
and turned, lazily, to a live (CD Rhino 71439 Vol. 4). But
first I played the first cut, Shake.
Migod, it was a bombshell.
I knew it on Live in Europe, but it wasnt great - the voice was
echoed and distant. I dont know where the CD version came from but
it was on fire.
I dont credit the CD for the incredible sound, I credit
modern-day programmers who choose excellent performances that may contain
This cuts flaw is its rawness. And were lucky to have it.
On a wire service radio obit, Bobby Hatfield was said to be a member of
the Righteous Bros and sang with Bill Medley on such hits as Youve
Lost That Lovin Feelin and Unchained Melody.
If theyd dug they would have noted that he sang just a little
on the former and entirely, without Medley, on the latter.
When Phil Spector was arraigned recently, Yahoo! led his credit list with
Elvis Presley and offered a link to Elvis. Of course, Spector had no music
connection to Elvis. I first saw this fact emerge in last
Februarys press frenzy and now it stands unchallenged.
Lost In Translation
An L.A. Times writer describing a pizza caper said the guy went out to
deliver the pie. I stared for a second wondering why a pizza
guy would be delivering a pie. Then I remembered pie is east
coast for pizza. Likewise, a woman asked me how to get to the shore
and I scratched my head; the beach HAS a shore, but its just a line
where the water ends. Who would want a point so specific? Then, Oh!
I (Am Wishy Washy About) New York
I complain about New Yorks overkill in our culture, but I dont
hate the place. I just wish it would back off; its the behemoth
in the bathtub.
I was watching film of the crowd in Times Square on V-J Day, sailors kissing
nurses, confetti flying, and I realized how I accepted that THAT was America
celebrating the wars end.
It wasnt. It was New York. But New York is where the movie cameras
and news people were, so they walked downstairs and shot it. Was the celebration
in San Francisco as wild? Chicago? Chatanooga? Well never know,
bec those reporters and photogs didnt fan out and capture America.
They had America right at their feet.
Here in the nearly-as-cosmopolitan city of L.A., the L.A. Times, the monopoly
newspaper, greets us each Monday morning with an insult - a column by
one Geraldine Baum called -- gag -- New York New York. How
did we get this column? Who asked for it? Probably the new staff of the
paper -- brought in from guess where. This simpleminded gal writes about
mundane things made glorious by their happening in Gotham, a city where
people walk down the street eating pizza. As remarkable as that.
And I was lately noticing certain NY short-hand that had heretofore eluded
me. West Side Story is actually a very nervy title: who outside
NY knows, or knew, that the west side1
of New York was dicey? Likewise Miracle On 34th Street. Who
would know that street was the home of two, or more, NY dept stores? That
designation in fact baffles non-NYers -- is that street hi-tone2
or slummy? has it any tone at all? The Patty Duke show theme song said
one was from somewhere, another from Brooklyn Heights. What did THAT mean?
Ones a slum and ones the berries? I still dont know.
In the 90s, there was a live music show on CBS majestically called (now
I dont remember the title) Sessions on 57th Street. I knew a 57th
Street in Chicago, but it wasnt very memorable. Id imagine
many cities have 57th Streets. But the doyens at CBS, in that Big City
That Matters, felt that ANY number street means theirs. Who cares about
1 Two words, not
the loathesome Westside rammed down our throats by the L.A.
Times. Eastside has lately been rearing ITS ugly head.
2 Ritchie Valens-talk.
The word upscale makes me upchuck. Life inside my head is
Understanding Rap (Partly)
I remember ten years ago my friend yelling at his kid Do you HEAR
what that song is saying? The guy wants to kill a cop, do you think thats
GOOD? I sympathized with the pop, but latelyve been noticing
things about myself and others that parallel his kids rash musical
I am not a drugger, but I get the biggest kick3
out of sly4 drug
references in songs -- Goofy Dust by Dinah Washington, Cab
Calloway and the Reefer Man -- I dont include Puff the Magic Dragon
bec I dont believe its drug ties -- and furthermore to themes of
murder and violence -- I Shot The Sheriff, Beat On The
Brat, Id rather see you dead little girl than to be
with another man.5
I and others like me feel titillated by this nominal adjacency to visceral
blood-life. We conect musically to people who (even fictionally) are way
out there. We get a virtual taste of it, which virtually empowers and
emboldens us. So my friends kid never killed a cop or beat a ho,
he was just strutting like a kid wearing 6-guns.
3 The opening
line to I Get A Kick Out Of You by Cole Porter is I
get no kick from cocaine, but has been widely Bowdlerized to I
get no kick from champagne, which conveniently rhymes.
4 Now THERE was
a guy on drugs.
5 You who think
this is a Beatle reference, mind your details: Elvis sang it in Baby
Lets Play House and he got it from Hardrock Gunter, who probably
got it from.....
Understanding Old Men (Sorta)
Weve lived too long, some of us: cave men rarely reached 30. Hence
the dictum that you only live til youre 30, then reflect on what
youve done. So what to do with the extra years? The problem is that
your brain, like your ears, keeps growing til you die.
What do you think of old men at stores? Grumpy, complaining. Well much
of the time theyre right. I know, because Im becoming one.
You tell me to ring up my own purchase to save the store money, and I
say, WHAT? Young people snicker at your old values, comfortable in the
grip of the powers that rule them. What do you mean the warranty
is optional! you say to the crew-cutted kid at the electronics store.
He responds with the patience one gives a person who doesnt understand
how things work. When I took my kid to Laser Tag and asked where the water
fountain was, the clerk pointed to the $1.50 water bottle machine. I did
a slow burn, but realized my objection would be futile; he was is in the
grip of the system, and, knowing no better, accepted it.
The key to being happy is to be born yesterday.
I was a young grump too. In the 70s, you went to buy flashlight battery
at Radio Shack and the clerk would say Your name and address please.
I would say no thanks. Please, we need this hed say.
Id say I didnt have a home or a phone. Well I cant
ring this up without this information. Eventually I figured out
to ssay My name is CUSTOMER REFUSED.
Youre only grumpy as you feel.
McCain For President
A coppola months ago I mentioned the magnificence of Jerry McCain, the
black harmonica-playing rock & roll singer whose early work was released
on White Label in Holland in 1976. I recommended the 1995 CD Thats
What They Want: The Best Of Jerry McCain (Excello/AVI CD 3009) but
neglected to tell you to skip the first 12 cuts.
McCain recorded those dozen songs for Excello, and theyre fine,
but when the 1955 home-recordings kick in, the tone goes into interplanetary
overdrive and youre present at the birth of rock & roll.
Until a couple of years ago, spike meant
1. the golden thing they drove to join the Atlantic and Pacific
2. things that puncture your tires
3. the guitarist for Flash Cadillac
Now every rise in anything is a spike. Spike, spike, spike.
OK, Ive heard it. Can we stop? PLEASE ? Its no longer clever,
its no longer a .... spike.... in your writing. Cease. Desist. Its
as bad as quintessential and defining moment and the gorilla in the living
That reminds me. Sometimes I dont notice a cliche until someone
clumsy uses it. When an L.A. Times guy recently wrote that a musical group,
in doing its old songs, Played the nostalgia card, I recognized
just how worn is the anything-card.
When I first saw cable tv in the early 80s it flipped me. WTBS in Atlanta
ran ads for Piggly Wiggly stores there. Stuff ran in all kinds of languages.
Id stare at an amateur baseball game and try and guess where it
was from. (It was a college game from Vermont.) And the artier stations
ran short original films when the movies ran short of a half-hour.
Today everything is ... well, you know. When 30 seconds isnt sold,
the local carriers jam in house ads. Particularly astonishingly annoying
is a series on Adelphia encouraging you to use... cable tv. They have
an ad salesman pitching to a guy who says, But I run a video game
store -- do kids watch cable tv?
The guy runs a video game store. Doesnt know kids have cable.
Dont sell him any ads on credit, his business is going to fail.
But speaking of business, the cable business is in itself a tremendous,
transparent, cruel, cynical joke6.
In the 1960s, ads began appearing saying Fight Pay-TV. We
all wondered, Who the hell would pay for tv when it comes in on
the antenna? Like credit cards8
and bottled water, the illogical came to pass.
The original pitch of cable tv was that you would pay, but the programs
would have no commercials. Sounded logical -- the subscription fees would
offset the loss of advertising revenue, and we no longer would have interruptions
and our natural concentration would return! So they sold us cable tv and
-- voila! the commercials galloped in. And we took it.
6 I aint
no commie7, capitalism
is the only system, but it sure stinks.
7 When did communism
become inherently evil? As I understand it, it is unrealistically idealistic
and unworkable. When I hear about Communist North Korea in
1950, I wonder who cares about their economics, theyre attacking
us nationalistically. Shouldnt it be Utopian North Korea?
8 A few years
ago we moved a bunch of credit card debts to a new offer from Discover
-- 6 months at zero interest. At three months they changed their mind
and began charging 24% or something. It was hidden in the contract. Of
course they are pigs, but what financial institution is honest at its
9 When I cleaned
out our savings account last year, I left in $100 so we wouldnt
have to open a new one later. When I put in $1000, they said, Now
you have $1097. I said, No, I have $1100. They said. Well,
we charge you quarterly for a balance under $300. I looked at him
dizzy, like I was Alice In Wonderland, and said No, you dont
understand, this is a SAVINGS account. I dont pay YOU, you pay ME.
They shook their head like I was the crazy one.
On a tv documentary, it said the Army Corps of Engineers is tasked
with keeping rivers under control. TASKED!
The Lady Is A Tramp
This is a confusing song. I thought the title was ironic, demonstrating
the good things she does, but now that Ive read the whole shebang
Im more confused than ever.
Thats a multiplicity of negatives and turnarounds. And every time
I hear the song I wonder what people who think less than I do about such
things -- people with lives -- think. Having read the entire libretto,
I understand that she is proud to be in the hoi polloi and disdains trappings
like ermine and pearls. But still... its confusing.
Heres some impressions of this cockamamie song.
She gets too hungry for dinner at 8. Say what? Someone explain
to her, and me, that dining at 8 is classy. But if it is, her eating at
5 means she lacks control; maybe shes fat.
Wont go to dinner with people she hates. This seems
neither classy nor not, but obvious. Perhaps a high irony I cant
comprehend. Or do we assume that everyone in high society hates one another?
Thank goodness for the underclass.
Hates California, its cold and its damp. This
bull-goose loony line makes no sense nohow. I think it means that California
is hot and dry, hence the reversal. But the mountain areas and northern
coastal towns are cold and damp. So she DOES hate it, or its another
joke? Perhaps shes dirt poor, and has only come as far south as
And theres the word tramp. Today, as then, it has sexual
connotations, or else it means a hobo. Could tramp have once
been a synonym for working-class person? If not, then, why that word?
Writer, bring me the fact-check.
10 Thanks to Todd
Everett. And Eric Boardman, for this plethora of song-lyric sites:
In the 10/18/03 NY Times, Stephen Holden savaged The Mayor Of Sunset
Strip, the docu-bio of L.A. scene guy Rodney Bingenheimer, saying
it was an expose of an empty shell of a man whose only accomplishment
was rubbing against celebrities. This from someone whose only value
is rubbing against, via reviews, celebrities.
And in a 10/19/03 story about how great the New York rock scene is (!),
Jon Pareles fears for its long-term prospects writing Every celebrated
local scene has a half-life11,
from Detroit and Memphis in the 60s to New York City and Athens,
Georgia in the 70s etc.
You surprised his scene-sweep omits Los Angeles? There were many important
music scenes here, so why would a New York writer miss it?
Praps he is acknowledging that the music scene here is always alive.
11 The fancy analogy
is wrong. Half-life is the halfway point of radioactive life.
He MEANS every music scene is brief, but hes WRITES that every music
scene reaches a halfway point. As does everything.
Speaking of grouches, Anna Gormam and Randy Lewiss 11/21/03 L.A.
Times story about Phil Spector lengthily quotes aggressive Spector-hater
Mark Ribowsky, whose comments are both self-serving -- Ive
been telling people for months (Yeah? And whos been listening?
- AF) and scurrilous -- He is a musical genius for sure, but a miserable
human being -- considering Ribowsky never met him. If I were writing
a balanced story about a cat, I wouldnt interview a rat!
Nobody Knows Nuthin Still
In an L.A. Times article12
written during the grocery workers strike, a writer went to work
at a Ralphs Grocery for a firsthand look at conditions, and observed that
some people shopping there (!) chided him for displacing union workers.
At the storys end, he said he was now back at his desk at the L.A.
Times, no longer a scab.
Doesnt anyone know anything? This gaffe is gross: the L.A. Times
fought unions tooth and nail early in the 20th century, to the point where
the newspaper bldg was bombed -- and the paper has been working with strike
breakers ever since!13
The writer and the proofreaders and probably the New York staff of this
Chicago-owned paper apparently didnt know.
12 Thanks to Todd
again. What a friend we have in Everett.
13 One must remember
that L.A.s growth 100 years ago was fueled by its use of non-union
the states former center, was, and to some degree is, a strict union
14 Always say
Frisco when referring to San Francisco. Especially IN Frisco.
My Social Life
Highlights of November
LEFT: Fer Dixon & Steve Werner at the Poker Party 10-29-03
RIGHT: Marcy Levy & Carlos
Guitarlos on the Poker Party 11-12-03
LEFT: Lunch with Billy
Swan, who is moving to Nashville. 11-14-03
RIGHT: Lunch with Jimmy Angel at Dukes Coffee Shop 11-18-03
Stars Not (Yet) In Heaven
Ive long known there were celebrity shows where tv and movie stars
sit at tables and sell photos and autographs, but never attended one til
early November when I dragged Skip Heller, Rick Dubov and Kathe Schreyer
to the Sportsmans Lodge in Studio City.
It was a mind-rocker. I went in and looked left: there was Hugh OBrian
manning a table. Next to him, staring curiously at me was Edd Kookie Byrnes!
I recoiled, my head spinning, and walked straight ahead. On the left were
four Mousketeers, looking up expectantly; on the right Robert Horton from
Wagon Train. A few steps ahead were Spin & Marty15.
I live plenty in the past, but this was too much. My brain was overloaded.
It was my tv and movie past come alive -- many of these people Id
never seen in color! My eyes swept the room: Red Buttons, Rose Marie,
Tommy Sands, Alan Young of Mr. Ed, the Livingstons from My
Three Sons, Kevin McCarthy, June Lockhart, Margaret OBrien. Jane
friggin Russell !
But entering the room, at least at this sparsely-attended event (comic
Ronnie Schell told me this show was a bust), was uncomfortable because
you had to walk a gantlet lined with supplicants. Each celebrity and semi-
looked at you like a puppy at the pound. Half of them you didnt
recognize til you looked at their photo from 1959; a fourth you looked
at the photo and still didnt know.
I avoided everyone bec they wanted business, not attention. Ran into Laurie
Jacobson, the Hollywood history writer who used to work with me at Club
Lingerie, with her husband Jon Provost of Lassie! Skip got autographed
photos of Anne Francis and Yvonne Craig. The rest of us went home with
only memories for souveniers.
15 I actually
know Tim Considine a little. We chatted. And I learned he had taken the
cover photo for Joni Mitchells Blue album. (This items
No Degree of Separation
I recently heard Bob Dylans Visions of Johanna for the
first time in many years, and the line Jewels and binoculars hang
from the head of the mule reminded me of something.
On the cover of the Stones subsequent Get Your Ya Yas Out
album Charlie Watts is shown with a mule which has jewels and binoculars
hanging from its head.
(Cant see it on your CD? Ask an old person to show you the lp cover.)
Rod The Clod
After hearing Rod Stewart crooning standards, I remembered, vaguely, that
he was once with a rock band. But which one? Then I heard The Way
You Look Tonight and remembered it was the Lettermen.
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