-December 2003-

Other Fein Messes

First Record/First Concert

I’d 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. I’ll never forget plopping down the needle and digging “I Can’t 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 60’s 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 didn’t 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 can’t 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. Clifton’s 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 didn’t 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 wasn’t great - the voice was echoed and distant. I don’t know where the CD version came from but it was on fire.
I don’t credit the “CD” for the incredible sound, I credit modern-day programmers who choose excellent performances that may contain flaws.

This cut’s flaw is its rawness. And we’re lucky to have it.

Check, Please

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 ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ ’ and ‘Unchained Melody.’ ” If they’d 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 February’s 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 it’s just a line where the water ends. Who would want a point so specific? Then, “Oh! - Easterner.”

I (Am Wishy Washy About) New York

I complain about New York’s overkill in our culture, but I don’t hate the place. I just wish it would back off; it’s 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 war’s end.

It wasn’t. 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? We’ll never know, bec those reporters and photogs didn’t 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? One’s a slum and one’s the berries? I still don’t know. In the 90s, there was a live music show on CBS majestically called (now I don’t remember the title) Sessions on 57th Street. I knew a 57th Street in Chicago, but it wasn’t very memorable. I’d 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 any other?

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 VERY difficult.

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 that’s GOOD?” I sympathized with the pop, but lately’ve been noticing things about myself and others that parallel his kid’s rash musical choices.

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 don’t include Puff the Magic Dragon bec I don’t believe its drug ties -- and furthermore to themes of murder and violence -- “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Beat On The Brat,” “I’d 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 friend’s 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 Let’s Play House” and he got it from Hardrock Gunter, who probably got it from.....

Understanding Old Men (Sorta)

We’ve lived too long, some of us: cave men rarely reached 30. Hence the dictum that you only live til you’re 30, then reflect on what you’ve 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 they’re right. I know, because I’m 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 doesn’t 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” he’d say. I’d say I didn’t have a home or a phone. “Well I can’t ring this up without this information.” Eventually I figured out to ssay “My name is CUSTOMER REFUSED.”

You’re 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 “That’s 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 they’re fine, but when the 1955 home-recordings kick in, the tone goes into interplanetary overdrive and you’re 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, I’ve heard it. Can we stop? PLEASE ? It’s no longer clever, it’s no longer a .... spike.... in your writing. Cease. Desist. It’s as bad as quintessential and defining moment and the gorilla in the living room ....

That reminds me. Sometimes I don’t 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. I’d 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 isn’t 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. Doesn’t know kids have cable.
Don’t 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 ain’t 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, they’re attacking us nationalistically. Shouldn’t 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 core?9

9 When I cleaned out our savings account last year, I left in $100 so we wouldn’t 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 don’t understand, this is a SAVINGS account. I don’t 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 I’ve read the whole shebang http://utenti.lycos.it/larryhart/trampsng.htm10 I’m more confused than ever.

That’s 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... it’s confusing.

Here’s 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 she’s fat.

“Won’t go to dinner with people she hates.” This seems neither classy nor not, but obvious. Perhaps a high irony I can’t comprehend. Or do we assume that everyone in high society hates one another? Thank goodness for the underclass.

“Hates California, it’s cold and it’s 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 it’s another joke? Perhaps she’s dirt poor, and has only come as far south as Eureka.

And there’s 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:

Lyric Search Engine


Lyrics World

Lyric Crawler.com

Music Sites.net


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 ‘60’s 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 he’s WRITES that every music scene reaches a halfway point. As does everything.

More Crits

Speaking of grouches, Anna Gormam and Randy Lewis’s 11/21/03 L.A. Times story about Phil Spector lengthily quotes aggressive Spector-hater Mark Ribowsky, whose comments are both self-serving -- “I’ve been telling people for months” (Yeah? And who’s 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 wouldn’t 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 story’s end, he said he was now back at his desk at the L.A. Times, “no longer a scab.”

Doesn’t 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 didn’t 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 labor. Frisco14, the state’s former center, was, and to some degree is, a strict union town.

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 Duke’s Coffee Shop 11-18-03

Stars Not (Yet) In Heaven

I’ve 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 O’Brian 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 I’d 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 O’Brien. 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 didn’t recognize til you looked at their photo from 1959; a fourth you looked at the photo and still didn’t 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 Mitchell’s “Blue” album. (This item’s music content.)

No Degree of Separation

I recently heard Bob Dylan’s “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.

(Can’t 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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