-February 2005-

Other Fein Messes

-- Elvis Show '05 (Show Notes & Photos)

1st record/1st show  

While it's easy to remember my first record purchase -- "Teddy Bear" by Elvis Presley -- what my first concert was is a little more difficult to isolate. I saw Pete Seeger at a very early age and my father took me to see Louis Armstrong once at the Berkeley Community Theater. Chuck Berry and the Grateful Dead blew my mind at the Fillmore in 1966 and I went back every week for months. Hell, years.

But the most important early musical impression was undoubtedly created under the influence of LSD. In this current moral climate, it is no longer fashionable to ascribe any positive attributes to illicit drug use and I certainly don't want to go on record as recommending indiscriminate experiemention in these matters, but I have to come clean.

It was my second trip and I discovered stereo headphones. I sat and listened to the then current Rolling Stones album, "Aftermath," no, more than listened, experienced, until tears ran out my eyes. I went out the next day and bought a cheap stereo set and a couple of albums.

I don't think my life has ever been the same since.

-- Joel Selvin, author, journalist and friend of Arthur Fein's in good standing for 30 years (and counting).

AFM Feb 2005/
AF Stone’s Monthly


About 30 years ago a politico intoned that something “sends a message” to the powers that be. The phrase so caught on it became worn like a bald tire. Yet today you still hear it occasionally.

Also around that time came the “Jaws” ad teaser “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water....” The phrase “Just when you thought it was safe to” bla bla bla still stands today as a proud headline and story opener: people who write it have no shame, or knowledge of that cliche’s long lineage. I don’t exactly blame them, as when I was in J-school in the 60s, a teacher warned us about cliches like “fits like a glove” and I wrote that phrase down as fresh, brilliant expression! But dunderheads at newspapers today should have editors to cleanse their copy of worn out unfunny unoriginal word-clutches -- words that are usually delivered with great pride and preening!

I (don’t) suffer cliches. A fellow-sufferer is Jerry Seinfeld. On his show he (or his writing staff) had characters deride “happy camper,” “cut to the chase” and someone’s “take” on something. In a TV guide interview, Seinfeld himself recently said of “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” the show’s well-known gayness copout
1, “Are people still using that? It’s so tired.”

1 The final Seinfeld episode, lousy as it was, was a hammer-hit to fans saying “These characters are selfish, cowardly fools. Don’t admire them.”

Art Fein’s “Don’t Go There”* List
Is everything important a “wake-up call?”
Does nothing blend, must it “meld”?
Can something change without “morphing”?
Does smoke or smell never drift but always “waft”?
Things once rose sharply. Now they “spike.” Why?
When was contradiction replaced by the wise, head-nodding “oxymoron”?
When is a central person NOT a “go-to guy”? (Always!)
Can something false or artificial be anything other than “faux”?
Is any singer not a “diva”?
No one’s music “takes no prisoners.”
If it’s “hip” in the daily newspaper, it isn’t.
Can we be in agreement without being “on the same page”?
Who asked for “bona fides” and “gravitas”?
“Sea change,” you have served well. Come back in 50 years.
“Quintessential,” disappear.
“Retro,” get on the Metro, and make like Gonesville!
To call something simply “vintage” is to say it “has an age.”
It’s a plan, a format. It doesn’t have to be a “template.”
Is there a downturn that is not a “reversal of fortune”?
Can a pinnacular event NOT be a “defining moment”? (Please!)
Why can’t a symbol not be a “touchstone”?
Ban “famously.”
Inspire is nice. “Inform” is what traitors do.
Why are all past dates vaguely “in the day”? (Not the night!?!?!)
Can we just never again hear about a “poster boy” or girl?
The “buzz” is flies dying in the emptiness of your head.
Bling bling!

* Another cliche.


Movies should not show credits at the end. They are of no interest to filmgoers, only a few film geeks and the people actually credited. That information should be posted on a sign in the lobby, a sign which will not get much wear from customers tracing names with their fingers and whose question will less likely be “Who WAS the DGA trainee on that film?” than “What is a DGA?”.

Moreover, news articles should not be signed. They are news. News should be factual. We do not need to know who wrote it -- that’s “trade” stuff. Likewise, the tv news robots always say “I’m Jane Lopez and I’m at the scene of the big crime,” and as a signoff, “Back to you, Steve!” He says “Thank you Jane” as if they are one happy family, but Steve only cares about Steve, not Jane, or the news, and Jane wants his job. TV news people are prompter-readers who strive in other entertainment areas

A new Oriental news-gal here in L.A. posed in bikinis and negligee for a fashion spread. Just like Walter Cronkite. No fatties or wrinklies need apply! (Don’t go to journalism school, go to modeling school.)


My kid, 13, wanted me to find the cassette tapes I made for her when she was 6. I found a couple. Among the standout songs, I feel, were --

-- Almost Saturday Night by Karla DiVito. My favorite version of the great Fogerty song, her stellar singing encased in (Meat Loaf3producer) Jim Steinman’s faux (just kidding) Spectorian bells and clanging arrangement. Not everyone can hit notes like she can. Song, and album, was a flop, but not at my house.

-- Travelin’ Man by Dolly Parton. Is anyone more delightful than Dolly at her fullest? The mid-1970s were a pinnacle for her and Tammy Wynette, in no small part thanks to their producers’, and Nashville’s, embrace of modern musical embellishments. The productions are not country, maybe the emerging countrypolitan, but in a bursting, life-filled sense. I love the syndrums! And Dolly, the wonder!, is a smart gal who can hick things up as good as her wonderful role model Rose Maddox.

-- Hold That Critter Down by the Maddox Bros, radio broadcast 1940. It’s a ropin’ and brandin’ song about cowboys who work hard and go out on the town : “I’ll burn hair for next month’s tear” is a pretty unforgettable line. Of course, the damage they do to the “Chink cook” is not only un-PC but unpleasant. Danged cowboys. Lotsa whoopin’ and whistlin’.

-- I Can’t Stay Mad At You by Skeeter Davis sounds like a Neil Sedaka song, with a sentiment few parents can deny.

Tom Wilt in Eugene clued me to a Little Richard “discussion group” at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/littlerichard.

Joel Selvin, frontispiecer for this month’s Mess, has an elephant’s memory. I told him many years ago that I had “Leave Me Alone”/”Uh Uh Uh Uh” by the Canadian Squires, an early Band single - and he called in January for a tape copy for his radio show. Another person with a good memory was Richard Manuel. When I was with Capitol Records in 1973, the Band were in the studio doing ‘Moondog Matinee’ and I went down to watch. To nobody in particular I said “You guys still do ‘Leave Me Alone’“?, and he burst right into “I’m the talk of the neighbor HOOD”!

3 When I went on the UK tour bus with the Blasters and Nick Lowe in the spring of 1982, their Edinburgh show was cancelled because a Meat Loaf concert got all the ticket money in town.

The Day the Music Died

Forty-six years ago this month Buddy Holly died in that plane crash.4 It was my first death5. It was a real life-shaker. But I felt less awful than I would’ve if it had happened a year earlier when Buddy was making rock & roll records. His latest, “I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” was OK, but with the strings and things I could tell he had abandoned me and my music. His death didn’t cause the death of rock & roll, it just marked it. Rock & roll stopped breathing in 1958, didn’t reappear til the 1980s.

4 In Dave Marsh’s book about good songs, he opens the entry for “La Bamba” with “The plane didn’t crash” and goes on to follow the careers of Buddy, Ritchie and Jape.

5 First full-on death. Six months earlier I’d felt bad for Elvis when I saw him crying over his mom’s death.

There’s No Business

Business is squeezing the last drop out of the lemon. Then steal the other guy’s lemon.

My DSL service shut down on Jan 11th. On Jan 18th I reached them through a bramble-bush of voice-prompts designed to drive me away:

- I want to make sure I am not billed for these days.
- Did you get a case number when you called in before?
- No, I was assured it would be fixed.
- Well you have to have a case number if you want credit.
- Why?
- Because how can you prove you called in earlier?
- I don’t need to do that. Your company failed to provide service. It keeps records of the failure, doesn’t it?
- Yes, but you need to notify us that it’s affecting YOU.
- No, you know exactly what area is affected. Your rep told me.
- But we still need to hear from you to get your credit.
- No you don’t. If I deliver milk to you, and miss a week, I don’t bill you for that week.
- It doesn’t work that way here.
- You fail to provide service, but you bill anyway?
- You need a case number.

My DSL provider, Mister Globalnet (no first name, just initials, SBC) is a good businessman.


I was a Beatle fan from the (U.S.) start. But unlike the Crickets’ love, my interest did fade away with the Filler Album - I mean the White Album.

I recently saw part of a bootleg print of “Let It Be” recently, and it confirmed my disenchantment. They looked ugly and everything was forced - it was dark and the weather was bad. I know that is the ‘point’ of the thing, that they disintegrated before the camera lens, so what’s good about that? I’d also not want to see a close-up study of Elvis in 1977.

Tempus Fugit

When I glance at “Meet Me In St. Louis,” set around the turn of the century, I wonder why people made so many movies about this period during the 1930s. But then I realized that for audiences of that day, it was like today’s nostalgia for the 1950s.

I mean the 1970s.

Bad News

I’m no judge of writing style. I just want the facts. But some things in the L.A. Times astonish me:

8-7-04: Randy Lewis. Of Stephen Foster “Yet his name, unlike those of such musical disciples as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, often draws more puzzled looks than instant recognition.”

-- OFTEN! By WHOM? The Dylan reference is there to please his boss, but what bunch of dummies is Lewis canvassing? To be fair, Stan Freberg, in his second “United States Of America,” elaborately explained Foster in the intro to a parody. Maybe “people” are that dumb.

8-3-04: Martin Miller. “Everything you know about Franklin Pierce is wrong. First, he was NOT a character on television’s MASH. That was Bejamin Franklin. Second, Franklin Pierce was a noteworthy kind of guy. He was president. Yes, of the United States.”

-- The Ben Franklin remark was jest. But that last part, using the hackneyed “Yes,” was telling the reader “I’ll bet like me you never heard of him ‘til this article.” Give the reader some credit, Smartin’.

12-8-04: Lynn Smith & Scott Collins. “Considered a surprising choice,” the two (!) reporters say of a new tv show host.

Is this opinion just floating in the air, as they present it? Or were Smith & Collins the dolts surprised when network executives make a decision they didn’t foresee? I saw no other names.

9-14-04: John Daniszewski. From London, Daniszewski reports that Tony Blair might welcome a Kerry victory with “Or at least that’s the buzz in the political talking classes here.”

Where does one begin? The use of the horrid toy-word “buzz” in a news report? A news report that reports that other people are talking? (I.e., other reporters.) And what means “classes”? Does Blighty offer college classes in political talking? Are only certain classes in stratified England allowed to talk so? What argy-bargy.

10-1-04: Edmund Sanders, reporting from Baghdad of a fatal bombing: “It was believed to be the deadliest attack involving children since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.”

-- The last first: what other invasion of Iraq? Worse, with fundamental irresponsibility Sanders says “It was believed” as if such a fact could not be checked, as if someone -- Sanders! -- could not investigate whether it is true. He turns in a news story with an allegation and no editor objects.

11-16-04: Agustin Garza. Of 43 Cuban dancers defecting to the U.S. he writes “Knowledgeable observers said they believed that would be the largest such defection of Cuban artists to date.”

-- This is so loaded with qualifiers it’s breathtaking. Garza does not check whether this IS the largest defection, he simply cites -- not quotes -- “Knowledgeable observers.” If they’re knowledgeable, how come they don’t KNOW? Half-truth x half-truth = insufficient. What is Garza paid for if not to get facts?

11-30-04: Lynell George. Of a neighborhood turning “hip” he writes “Those hipsters who rolled up in their ironic ‘62 Ford Fairlines in the ‘80s look down two decades later on the guys with Beck hair, who are driving up their rent.”

-- This is a lallapalooza of zany confusion. Foremost, what the hell is an “ironic” car? That word is thrown around to mean sarcastic, dishonest and many things, but never applied to a car til now. It’s mindboggling. A ‘62 Ford FALCON would be less ironic? Today different cars are ironic? Please tell me. “Beck” hair is poorly chosen because it can be confused with “Breck,” a shampoo brand. Not to mention the confusing use of “driving” at the wacky sentence’s end.

1-2-05: Scurrilous James Verini wrote a long story about Jerry Lewis. I am always anxious when I see a Lewis story because every writer, by mandate, mocks his hair, his telethon, his popularity in France and what failures they can find. This one augured ill when in the third graph Verini said Lewis “claims” to be considering a number of movie scripts. The sneering tone continued over this long piece which embarassed me for Lewis, who invited this worm into his graces, and for the L.A. Time for printing it. Days earlier, Verini fell to his feet praising Sean Penn in a piece which proclaimed that everyone, women and men, stopped in their tracks when the magnificent Penn entered a room. But Penn isn’t a designated target like Lewis, and Verini won’t be scorned by his peers for praising him.

1-24-05: Daniel Hernandez. Re a bowling alley in Highland Park that is “hippening” says the bldg was converted to keggling sometime in the 1940s -- “no one today can say for sure” when.

NO ONE can say? Highland Park has no hall of records? Facts, Danny.

1-25-05: Scott Collins. In 26 column-inches of file news -- Johnny Carson owned his old Tonight shows -- he writes that Carson’s 4000-tape collection is “believed to be” one of the largest collections in the world.

-- IS BELIEVED? Everything else in the story is long-known, why couldn’t he unearth a new fact? Because the L.A. Times does not require it. This musty ‘news’ was in The Nation section bec of its enormous national impact.

Father’s Day

Feb 22nd was a special day in my family. It was my dad’s bday, same as George Washington. Dad died in 1984, age 72. That doesn’t mean I’ll die at 72, tho I might, because I’m adopted. I have no yearning for a family, as I had parents with me all my life. My “biological father” is nothing but a sperm-donor. “Bio-mom?” No thoughts.

The only handicap of being an adoptee is medical stuff. Otherwise I’ve run free all my life without a precept of what I should be. What did I become? I still don’t know, but it’s all me. An offshoot of this is I’m fascinated with resemblances, having no lookalike relatives. I find resemblances eerie. And because of this blank background, I am baffled by ancestor-worship, bec it is admission that you’ve got nothing going for yourself.

A while ago I saw men in Viking helmets at the Doo Dah Parade marching under a banner proclaiming “We discovered America.” No, I thought, you discovered nothing but a name common with others.

Balkanization makes me think like a right-wing radio host -- “I am not a hyphenated American!” Back in Chicago kids would ask “What nationality are you?” and I’d say American.

If you think you’re beholden to Ireland or Poland for your identity, consider how historical WWII look-backs feature U.S. fighter pilots with names such as Schmidt and Wolff who saw it their mission to kill Germans. No love for the ‘fatherland’ their ancestors abandoned. The supreme commander of U.S. forces who refused to shake a surrendering Nazi general’s hand was an American named Eisenhower.

Jewishness is problematic. Like every group I’m impelled into, I accept the good stereotypes and reject the bad. I like it that Jews are considered smart, even if I’m Irish. (Birth cert. say “Ely.”) My daughter’s being raised openly, but I put ‘Jewish’ on forms, as being part-Jewish is like being half-pregnant.

A Jewish name can rear up and bite you. When I lived in an apt bldg in Hollywood in the late 70s I got promo albums in the mail. Once when I picked up a batch at the office, the mgr, a young English actor whose license plate, IM FLYNN, bespoke his goal of portraying Erroll Flynn in a movie (that opportunity never came for anyone, did it?) said “Say, if you don’t want all those records, why not give me a few?” I said that I traded in the unwanted ones for more records.

“Oh yeah, you’re Jewish. You buy one piece of cloth and cut it into pieces and sell it for a profit.” The guy was from a Dickens novel.

Obit Crits

Friday, Jan 14th, The L.A. Times ran a good-sized box obit for Spencer Dryden, three-year drummer for the Jefferson Airplane. But next to it in the potters field was a brief one for Jimmy Griffin, of Bread6. Bread had tons of hits. For a member to pass nearly without mention is reflects the band’s lack of press cachet. NO rock crit singles them out. They were not newly sanctfied like ABBA. The only people who liked them were record buyers, and the crits know what swine they are.

Griffin recorded for Reprise (thru friends Johnny & Dorsey Burnette) in 1962: appeared in a teen-movie Summer Holiday; co-wrote “For All We Know.” Apparently he was a deep-down rocker: at Elektra I saw a tour movie in which Griffin was given his head to freak out on guitar on a portion of a Bread show, something I guess did not ultimately take him, or the group, in a hard rock direction7. When he moved to Nashville he joined Billy Swan and Randy Meisner in the Black Tie group, doing casuals. (The Times wire service report cited only Meisner, who was connected to the Eagles. Nobody found Swan significant.)

I dislike elitism. I dislike it especially in slams of musicians I like, but also in slights to bands I don’t like. Obits, as histories, should examine impartially all accomplished people.

6 There was a Bread and Jelly tour when both bands were on Elektra.

7 My friend Domenic posits that in 1976 everything went hard rock. I said “What about all the Elektra/Asylum acts? Except for Queen they got along fine with singer-songwriter stuff.” He shot back “The Eagles hired Joe Walsh to move into hard rock.” Perhaps Griffin felt it too.

This World In Which We Live In8

- With all the new electronics it is remarkable that my tv cable service is supplied, apparently, by wooden wire wrapped in burlap. What other explanation for the service going out every time it rains?

- Many big companies make you punch in your account number when calling. Then when you get a human, they ask for your number. I always, always, take one or two minutes to ask what happened to the number I punched in: Aren’t they connected electronically? “Is someone with a quill pen writing down my info and not passing it on? If so, you should find that person and ask him to cooperate.” I know I am wasting my time, but it pleases me to waste theirs.

- Ralphs is the main food-megabusiness in my area. They mark sale items with stickers, sometimes just to mock your cheapness. The colorful tags generally indicate deep slashes: “Was $4, now 2 for $5.”10 But they also have tags like this: “Was $4.99, now $4.96.” This is no banner sale. It is in fact no sale at all. But the colorful tag is there, and the lazy-minded shopper may grab it. And for every such sale, the people at the main office have a big laugh. There can be no other explanation.

8 Besides “Live And Let Die,” the most egregious gramattical error in a rock record is “Johnny, no he’ll never do, Bobby, no it isn’t him too” in the Ronettes’ ‘Walking In The Rain”9

9 The only Grammy Phil Spector ever got was for the sound effects on this record.

10 Like macaroni & cheese, which has five cents net value and sells for $1.29 and is occasionally marked down to 3 for a dollar, they still make money on it.

Passing Music Thoughts

-- “Woo Hoo”
11 is a hit on a tv ad. I have been loyal to that Rock-A-Teens record since buying it in 1959. Asked (hardly ever) what my favorite drum solo14 was, I always said the one in “Woo Hoo.” Ten years ago I heard Max Weinberg was doing a drum song comp for Rhino, so I asked them to alert him to “Woo Hoo,” since it was on Roulette, which Rhino owned. He didn’t hear it, or my suggestion.

-- Johnny Cash’s featured role on Columbo was simply fabulous. He played a Johnny Cash type guy, but boy did he have presence.

-- Johnny Bragg, lead singer of the Prisonaires, died last year. Who knew he was alive? His voice on “Just Walking In The Rain,” the song he wrote while in Tennessee State Prison, is simply beatific. (Johnnie Ray never heard him, he just followed a lead sheet.) The Prisonaires’ “Surleen” and “That Chick’s Too Young To Fry” are brilliant. On Sun Records.

11 When I went to the Loud, Fast & Out Of Control12 Rhino box to get a CD cut of “Woo Hoo” I had great difficulty finding the right CD. “Volume” was white on black, but the number was dark-blue on black. One of the non-joys of CDs is art directors’ insistence on putting dark miniature type over dark backgrounds. (Hell, who reads anyway....)

12 Last ish wrote that crits oughtn’t nitpick when a book or record is of great merit. “You don’t think they should point out errors?” Dave Stuckey asked. Sorta, yes. The Loud, Fast & Out Of Control CD box is a good example. It’s loaded with great fast rockin’ songs, the best-ever comp of its type I’ve seen.13 If the comp also has some unexplainable entries like “Bye Bye Love,” I say overlook it. The uninitiated should be led to buy the box. To heck with the anomalies.

13 Good hard-rockin’ comps are extremely rare. Another is the UK-only double-CD comp series “as good as it gets,” rockabilly edition, on Disky.

14 It also has my favorite guitar solo, simple chords strummed briefly. Guitar solos, unless driving rhythm, should be 15 seconds or less.

Borderline Radio

Many months ago I gave up on XM radio after a kindly friend sent me a unit. It was too announcer-heavy, to the point of the box showing the deejay’s name (!) instead of the song’s.

So I gets into a friend’s car last month and he proudly points to his Sirius Radio box. Fine, I said, maybe it’s better than XM. We listened to a few blues songs, then came the announcer.

“This is all blues! Real blues! For you! Now, I want you to call in and tell me ‘What was the worst Christmas present you ever got?’ “

He stopped the car so I could throw up.

Ya Gotta Quit Kickin’ My Doors Around

In Wayne’s World 2, Dana Carvey dreams that the ghost of Jim Morrison tells him to hold a rock concert. Rip Taylor is the only one who shows up to play, and Carvey asks him how knew. “A guy named Jim Morrison visited me in a dream. I told him I had never heard of him, and he played me some music. I said ‘You sound more like a crooner working in the rock medium, but I find you very enjoyable.’ “ Words like that.

In an old issue of Kicks (there are no new issues), they said they found Jim Morrison working at a White Castle in New Jersey, and asked him how he got such a rock & roll reputation when he sang like a lounge singer.

“Beats me” said Jim.

- 57 -


Brent Walker:

I have no idea whether Kevin Spacey does a good job impersonating Bobby
Darin. And I do like all facets of Darin--the rock and roll period, the
"from the half way mark" era, even the funky soul early 70's period (like in that special he did in 1973).

However, I had to laugh at Robt. Hilburn's comment to the effect that "who else played with both Buddy Holly AND Count Basie."  And could that have been on the same Alan Freed package show circa 1958 by chance, since Count was playing a lot of Freed shows, movies like JAMBOREE, etc. What a wild range of people to play with! (I guess Buddy Holly recorded with strings more frequently than Basie, so there is a discrepancy there.)

Jerry Lee Lewis has played with both Elvis and X, Willie Nelson's probably
played with Patsy Cline and the Supersuckers. The Friday before last I saw
96 year old Hawaiian uke player Bill Tapia. He said when he was 10 in 1918 he played a WWI USO show in Hawaii with John Philip Sousa and his band. On Friday at Taix's he was playing with King Kukulele.  I'm sure he's played with someone more famous than that who would be an amazing contrast to John Philip Sousa.  

Bobby Darin didn't live a long time, so he couldn't possibly have that big
of range of people. But I just found it funny to say he "played with one of
the presursors of R&B and rock and roll, and he played with one of the early figures of rock and roll," to show his musical range. (At least he didn't say "everybody from Buddy Holly to Count Basie," which I guess would have Buddy Knox and Jimmy Lunceford hugging really close on the inside borders.)

Todd Everett:

I often call people in thrilled disbelief about obscurities on the new local oldies station, K-SURF: Elvis's "Let Me;" a single by Little Anthony and the Imperials when they were still The Chesters; "Do the Freddie."

To my horror, they closed an hour recently with Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home." No disrespect to Mr. Loggins, who'd probably dig K-SURF if he could get it in Santa Barbara, but why the hell were they playing this wholly incongruous 1977 record?

I fired off an e-mail to the jock in question: "If you're going to audition for (smooth jazz station) The Wave, please do it on your own time." He quickly responded to the effect that he wondered why he was playing the record, too, and would pass my note to the station's music director.

I love 'em even more.


Last ish I mentioned that it was cosmic to see Johnny Powers backed by the Big Sandy band on an old show of mine. Turns out my memory failed me: It was a band assembled by Dave Stuckey, including some Big Sandy boys, backing up Powers so well.

-- Elvis Show '05 (Show Notes & Photos)

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