FIRST RECORD/FIRST CONCERT
By Jenny I hope you meant two single-spaced pages Angel
My little sister and I had a red and white record player that spun 33-1/3s,
45s AND 78s, with help from a few pennies taped to the arm. Early on we had
our Little Golden Records, plus a 45 from the BARC store, Youre Cheating on
Me by Tommy Leone (I dont know the label). Who knows why we had that
particular song, but I do recall that 45s were 5 cents each at BARC. So there
wed go, two little girls, howling in imitation, lounge-ish baritone, Youre
cheeeatin on me (ba-ba-ba-BA), cheeeatin on me
not the kinduva sweethaart I hoped youd be-ee
mother would ask, looking pained, Why THAT record? (Shed use
the same tone of voice when wed try to watch Hee-Haw.) We just
did not know except that we LOVED the ultra-hammy singing-along.
At my 10th birthday, a cluster of little girls calling themselves friends and
touting gifts suddenly appeared in my new, just-mine bedroom (Mom and Dad had
moved their room to the back of the house). You like John Travolta, dont
you? one golden-haired girl coyly asked.
Never one to keep my opinions to myself, I barked, I HATE John Travolta!! and
immediately she burst into tears. Whoops. When I opened her gift, it was, of
course, Travoltas solo LP (this was in his Vinny Barbarino days), and there
she went, blubbering again. This is one of my oldest memories of feeling like
a heel not the last.
All the little girls loved Randall, the boy with the long brown curls whod
wear his banana comb in his back pocket and brush his locks 100 times in class
(Im not sure what my teacher was doing all this time). One day he told
me, If you want to be cool, go get this Foreigner album. I knew Id
better move fast if I had any chance of Randall thinking I was cool. (This also
was how I lost my Magic Eight Ball to him.)
The Foreigner album cost me $6.88 of my own money. I remember because 1) that
was a lot of comic books; and 2) that was the last record I bought on the advice
of someone whose musical tastes I did not know. But how could Randall be wrong?
All of the girls liked him, and I never knew of or liked anything that was popular.
I wanted to be popular! Or at least not despised!
I just knew Id soon be in with the in crowd. But when I put that Foreigner
LP on my turn table, I realized in horror that Id been gypped. Randall
knew nothing. They all knew nothing. I ripped the album off the turntable, probably
scratching it, and got out the Scotch tape, but the LP wrapper was history and
the album was definitely now used. I remember walking up to the tall
record store counter, the wretched dud in tote, my heart pounding, explaining
to them nicely that thered been a mistake, Id gotten the wrong
record, and the bully teenager hippie LP-slinger coldly refusing to return
my money.Imagine! Turning down a little kid! I was incensed. For years, every
time I would flip through my record collection and see that cursed Foreigner
album, my thoughts would turn black. Never again would I listen to the Randalls
of the world.
For years after, though I played piano two, three hours a day and listened
to big-city jazz and blues stations pulled in off a special radio antenna Dad
had set up for the family, I didnt buy records. My little sister, meanwhile,
had turned into a 90-pound straight-edge punk, so off we went on 99 South to
Hollywood Book and Poster (for me) and Arons Records (for her). Thumbing
through the record stacks, I was drawn by three titles, grabbed them and headed
my sisters way. She was busy with The Toy Dolls, Adam Ant, Black Flag,
and mumbled, Yeah, I think Ive heard of those. You might like em. Id
And a Time to Dance (Los Lobos), The Blasters first
LP on Slash and Gravest Hits (The Cramps). The grotesque, the feverish,
the nostalgic, the frenzied, the hints of parties, sex and crazy fun I knew nothing
of except from obsessive movie-watching
under 15 bucks for all three. Lets
All the way home, I didnt look much at my movie stills. The LPs were buggin me.
The back cover photo of all those Cramps fan ghoul kids climbing over seats like
zombies trying to get on stage to rip apart the band; The Blasters J.D.-cool
looks and Phil Alvins monstrous grimace part pain, part ecstacy what
was he doing to cause him to make that face? Was this all real?
Back home in Bakersfield, nervous with expectation, I ran into my room and
put on the Cramps. First came an echoing, buzzing, descending guitar line I
felt my skin prickle. ThenCRASH! In came the rest of the band and Lux Interiors
cool, bothered, detached but deranged vocals. It was so exciting, so sick, so
cranked-up, so wow
I was in a trance. Next was Los Lobos: mischievous,
rollicking, good-time party music played by maestros (Mom loved them.). And finally,
The Blasters: twanging, pounding, rocking, rolling, that amazing boogie piano
and thrilling guitar, bomping percussion, and riding on top of it all, Phil Alvins
weird, high, keening voice singing of shakin, lovin, waitin in
an all night café, rockin in a Hollywood bed,
apparently DID do all these exciting things, and my life was changed forever.
I wanted to do them, too.
Then came Grad Night at Magic Mountain. I had never done any of the high school
proms or other rah-rah events, but by this time I was heavy into great LA bands
like The Blasters, X, Los Lobos, The Gun Club, The Cramps. Incredibly, playing
at Grad Night that year were X and The Blasters, among others. I had an 18-year
old boyfriend who looked 40 and carried a doctor bag a la the late Dr. Hunter
S. Thompson and yes, it was filled with party favors, which means the next
thing I knew, we were at Magic Mountain and X had already played.Hell!!! How
did that happen?!? It had been 4 pm in Bakersfield and now it was midnight
in LA and
Then I heard my boyfriend say, Are we gonna go see The Blasters? We
There they were!! The Alvin brothers, John Bazz, Bill Bateman, Gene Taylor,
Steve Berlin, Lee Allen: Id listened to their first two albums a million times
and there they were, in the flesh! It was awesome and terrifying! We stood above
the stadium area, looking down on the band and the crowd. They sounded so full,
so much like their records, but so alive, so vital, and cool kids in 50s
apparel were bop-dancing right up front did kids like that really exist?--,
the horns squawked, Dave Alvin leaped, Phil Alvin grimaced like a mad Bugs Bunny,
the joint jumped! I just stood there, struck stupid, wouldnt even go into
the stadium. It was too impossibly good to be real and if I moved, maybe itd
stop and thatd be worse than anything.
The show ended with Roll Em Pete and as the stage descended,
Phil Alvin waved and sang Baaaaaaah-bah, good-bye, aye, bah-bah-baby, budda-bye-bye!! The
crowd screamed and swarmed and I grinned like a little demon blowing its top,
heart palpitating, wanting nothing more than that rock and roll music that makes
souls soar and life worth living
and that, dear people, was my first
jenny angel is a carbon-based life form. she is a school teacher by day, Dusk
Devil by night. she has always lived--and maybe will die--in bakersfield, ca.
Another Fein Mess/
AF Stones Monthly
Jo Jo, Firesign, TV
Went Feb 9th to Tangier Restaurant to see Jonathan Richman in a small
theater in the back. It was an unbilled show: I heard it through the grapevine.
I paid the $10 and stood alone. It was great to see Jonathan. I thought I hadnt
seen him since 1979 when Kristine McKenna brought him to my apt when Eating Raoul
was being filmed there, but after the show Andy Paley reminded me Id seen
him when he played at Rajis in 1989. Jonathan is too tall; for his songs
he should be Paul Simon-sized. He did three songs in Italian. He played acoustic
guitar solos a lot. He had a drummer. It was just fine. Gaunt and short-haired,
wearing a t-shirt and jeans, he looked like a slightly more masculine Phranc.0
Feb 5th Mark Leviton took me to see Firesign Theater in Cerritos. It was good
the first half, fast and funny, but the second part disintegrated. I mentioned
to someone that the Rhino FS albums from around 2000 were too fast for me and
was told Most of their fans are chemically altered.
The Poker Party has been ragin. Feb 23rd we interviewed Kris Jensen, of Torture fame1,
and for the second time Charles Connor, Little Richards road drummer (whom,
I was corrected, played not only on Keep A Knockin but also Shes Got
It and Ooh My Soul). And on Feb 3rd we did a half hour with 75-year-old saxophonist
0 When I reviewed the John Waters
Xmas show, I forgot to mention that a brief song by sailor-suited Phranc was
the shows highlight.
1 Jensen worked for music publisher Snuff
Garrett in L.A. after his singing career waned. He said Garrett told him that
in the early 1960s he steered Bobby Vees career along the lines Buddy Hollys
Eric Boardman, Dick Blackburn, Willie Restum,
I Just Wasnt Meant For This World
I have to hand-write the side labels on the VHS tapes
I make. (I am still in the tape world. Dont make CDs or DVDs. Much.) When I got a modern computer
I was thrilled that it said Makes labels. So I bought a sheaf of
900 VHS side labels at about 2 cents each from an independent (important! chain
stores wont carry them!) stationery store and threaded them into the printer.
Then I looked at the printer instructions. Insert your Avery (c) labels
and press B.
The printer, in collusion with the huge Avery label company, designed it
so only their labels, of certain dimensions, fit in the program. Avery labels
cost 8 cents each (4 cents for side labels, 4 cents for face labels
that I throw away) in a $40 pack. Hand-wrting is more personal, anyway.
One of my public access tv stations (all are technologically
backwards because they are the burden, not the pride, of the cable companies,
forced upon them by law to give the community a voice) has begun using DVDs,
so I bought a 20-pack and proudly presented one.
-- Thats a Plus-R. We take Minus-R.
-- What are you talking about?
-- The format. Its like Beta and VHS, almost totally different. Sony
uses one, someone else uses another.
-- But this is what they sold me at the store.
-- Sorry. Get another pack.
The NY Times ran an article about how the Prince Charles and Camilla wedding
is Manywomans dream: A prince, relieved of a beautiful young princess,
marries a plain older woman.
Songs That Refer To Other Songs
-- Queen Of The Hop by Bobby Darin: Oh Julie, Peggy Sue, Good Golly
Miss Molly, Mary Lou, Short Shorts, (Hang Up My) Rock & Roll Shoes, Sweet
Little Sixteen, Yellow Dog Blues, Sugartime, Lollipop, The Stroll.
-- Respect by Aretha Franklin, is the female reply to the same song, Respect, by
Otis Redding. At the end she says Youre runnin out of fools, referring
to her 1964 Columbia record, Runnin Out Of Fools.2
-- Twistin The Night Away by Sam Cooke. Hear that song
called Soul Twist, hear that song called I Know.
-- Lets Think About Livin by Bob Luman. Johnny Cashs Dont
Take Your Guns To Town,3 Patti
Pages One Of Us, Everly Bros. (Don & Phil)
Kathys Clown and (obliquely) Bye Bye Love.
-- Teenager In Love by Dion & The Belmonts. I Cried A Tear, Nobody
But You, Lonely One.
-- Radar Love, Golden Earring: Radio plays some forgotten song,
Brenda Lee is coming on strong. Coming On Strong was a
Brenda hit in 1966.
-- La Dee Dah by Billie & Lillie cites My Special Angel,Be
Bop Baby, Little Bitty Pretty One (Pet,) You Send Me, Lotta
Lovin, Lips Of Wine,
Just Born, Silhouettes.
-- The most loaded one is Larry Williamss Short Fat Fannie --
the title itself a reversal of Long Tall Sally, much as Chubby Checkers
chosen name was the reverse of Fats Domino -- TOO MANY TO NAME.
And of course, you must hear Buchanan & Goodmans The Flying Saucers
(Pts 1 & 2) on Luniverse (!!!) Records. Its a humorous narration
of an invasion from Mars, sampling current (1956) recordings. That was
Laughing Lewiss recording, Knocking for Smiley Lewiss I
Hear you Knockin, and That was Pa Gerkins with Shoes, for
Carl Perkins Blue Suede Shoes. Narrated by newsman John
Cameron Cameron, a goof on real newscaster (and Timex plugger) John Cameron
2 For the most
part, her four years on Columbia Record were spent doing standards. (Rock-A-Bye
Your Baby With A Dixie Melody was her biggest hit there, #37 in the fall
of 1961.) But soulfully-done standards arent necessarily bad! I liked that
the film Ray explains that it was Ray, not his new white record
company, who pushed his switch to old pop songs.
3 Jerry Lee
Lewis did the answer to this song, The Ballad Of Billy Joe, on Sun.
It wasnt a hit.
Recently Paul Body and me were interviewed for a documentary on Eric Apoe,
the Seattle singer/songwriter we had known in L.A. A day later it struck
me that the interviewer, Stanford Wilson, who had blonde hair parted in the
middle and was wearing a horizontal-striped shirt, was dressed, for all purposes
like Kurt Cobain. I mentioned this to Penta (nee Leslee) Swanson formerly
Dynette Set and she said it was not a Kurt Cobain look, it was how guys dressed
in Seattle. She knew guys who changed their style when the look became identified
I know the feeling. I went to England with Ray Campi & the Rockabilly Rebels
in 1979. I dug all the Teddy Boy gear and bought a pair of white side-lace pointed
toe shoes which I wore proudly back in L.A. -- until that damn Joe Jackson album
came out and everyone said Oh, Joe Jackson shoes. Still gotem
-- is it safe to wear them now?
How Come Hes Not Writing For The L.A. Times?
Adam Gopnick, in the Feb 14-21 New Yorker, humorously remonstrates about
new easy-to-read street signs in NY because real New Yorkers know the street
names, and everyone else should go to hell. In it he takes this swipe at
“The new signs put you immediately in mind of those nightmarish
car trips in Los Angeles, where you begin somewhere and, forty-five minutes
later, you are somewhere else, and all the while you have been looking
for a big sign that reads ‘Pico.’ “
Sounds like an argument for better street signs, dunnit? “Those” trips
in L.A. is taken directly from local tv news -- “Those children
in Kansas” or “That crash on the 405” implying that
everyone knows everything the news-readers have been handed.
Slagging L.A. in NY is not exactly riskful; it was a bigger risk to
do it in such a tired and unoriginal manner in such a prominent publication.
Change In The Air
I am a coin-sound scholar. When silver dimes and quarters changed to copper-clad
in the early 60s, I was appalled, both at the lightness and insubstantiality
of the new toy coins, and also at the sound. Silver coins made a ring: the new
things made a flat sound. So when I see a new movie purporting to be from pre-1965
I listen when a coin drops in a pay phone. They always fall flat.
The coin switchover also affects people still using 1961 Zenith console
tv sets with Space Command. We had one in Chicago, and the
remote was a gold thing with bars that plinked, like a kalimba, to change
stations or raise the volume. (A motor turned a rotating knob.) I learned
that if I jingled the coins in my pockets it would advance the tv station.
It annoyed my parents and amused me, but not often: it was a rare day
when I had enough dimes and quarters to do it.4
4 When my teacher
asked me If you had $5 in one pocket and $2 in another pocket, what would
you have? I said Someone elses pants.
(Credit: Jack & Jill magazine, 1954?)
Early Surf Music
Recently hearing Ive Had It by the Bell-Notes, it struck me
that it is a surf record, however New York-born. Same for the seldom-heard original
version of Sheila by Tommy Roe. (Which I found on the 99-cent-retail
Diplomat album, Whirling With Tommy Roe, featuring the excellent
pre-hit version of Sheila and four songs by Al Tornello.)
New York has few surf claims: New Yorks A Lonely Town (When Youre
The Only Surfer Boy Around) could be a claimed connection, but the central
characters yearning for the waves in Pasadena puts the kibosh on that.
And tho the Beach Boys have, over time, put their stamp on Barbara Ann, it
is a Bronx record by the Regents5.
(I once attended a volleyball game pitting Los Angelenos from Los Angeles
against Los Angelenos from New York, and when the New Yorkers proudly
began singing The
Wanderer the sadly misguided natives responded with Barbara Ann. Hadnt
they noticed that the Beach Boys -- and Jan -- mumbled the words because they
dont know the song!?)
5 The Top Pop Singles directory gives
one of their names as Tony Hot Rod Gravagna. Did this refer to Gravagnas
Not Invented in L.A.
Doug Weston owned the Troubadour nightclub in West Hollywood, which in
and 70s was L.A.s premiere showcase for hot new talent. Performers
were compelled to sign a contract stating that they would appear again
at the Troubadour for the same fee -- $200 for a week, two shows a night,
six nights -- any time they played in L.A. in the following five years.
When the flashy Roxy theater opened in 1973 with less punishing contracts,
it easily stole all his acts. (Though some who subsequently became stars
fulfilled their obligations to Weston, many bought their way out).
I thought Westons contract was unique, then I read in Jack Douglass6 autobiography, A
Funny Thing Happened To Me On My Way To The Grave, that, in the
early 20th century, famed British funnyman Harry Lauder, when still an
unknown, signed a similar LIFETIME contract, to work for three pounds
a week once a year, with the Shakespeare Theater in Birkenhead, England.
Weston -- thats an English name, innit?
6 In case its not obvious by
the title of this title and other books he wrote -- My Brother Was An
Only Child, Never Trust A Naked Bus Driver, Shut Up And Eat Your Snowshoes
-- Douglas was a comedy writer. He was a frequent guest on the Jack Paar
show in the 1950s.
Forgive Them, They Know Not What They Write
L.A. Times writers are often funny.
In an article about accouterments for the Grammy show in Hollywood, Randy
Lewis opened a graph with And good news for Grammy junkies:
Free methadone? Reclining nod-out seats? Long-nailed Grammy girls who scratch
you all over?
And in Elaine Woos 2/22/05 paean (after three in the previous days
to Hunter S. Thompson, she describes Tom Wolfe as the icon of literary
journalism (Truman Capote, bah!) to whom Thompson was often
She meant he was considered in the same light, but she wrote that Thompson was
often considered to be better than Wolfe! (TE)
Those L.A. Times kids!
7 Thompson was
given a lot of space -- by Feb 28th there had been 8 articles about him in the
L.A. Times -- bec he is a famous journalist, the same way disc jockeys gave a
lot of play to records by disc jockeys. The spectre of a journalist with a personality
is so rare that the others clamber all over his memory, basking in the glow.
(See Letters, at the end.)
A while ago I wrote that I had sent Pauline Kael a copy of three or four
Sister Rosetta Tharpe songs on video, and she had called to thank me,
sent me an autographed book, and that I was mentioned anonymously in Afterglow: A Last Conversation
With Pauline Kael, by Francis Davis.
Heres how was I cited: Ive always been a freak for Sister Rosetta
Tharpe. I love her, but I never saw her perform. Someone apparently heard that
I loved her and sent me a video, seventeen minutes that he put together of her
from various sources. I just loved seeing her singing gospel and playing guitar
so incredibly fast. Ive rarely gotten a present from someone I didnt
know that went to my heart so completely.
It wasnt coincidental. Id showed the Sister Rosetta stuff to Dennis
Delrogh, a friend of Pauline, and he told me to send it to her. I didnt
get the footage from thin air. Up Above My Head, from an early-60s
St. Louis gospel tv show, came to me via Richard Foos of Rhino, who received
it in a submission from the Televison Hall of Fame in Chicago. The other cuts,
40s videos and two songs live at a train station in
England (?), were given to me by Kent Benjamin, the pride of Austin,
Rereading that interview with her made me swoon anew. Her 60s and 70s
movie reviews transcended criticism and are art themselves. She dissected other
critics writing and pointed out flaws. She jabbed at movies, or loved them,
in ways I would never have imagined. I was fascinated by how and why she thought
what she did -- it didnt matter whether I agreed with her conclusions.
In Bob Hilburns praise of Elviss first album (2-6-05) he wrote
that Im Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry was probably taken
from an old Martin & Lewis movie. (Not a new one?) The next Sunday
a guy wrote in to say that song was a hit for Roy Hamilton in 1954, so that was
He didnt add that the Dean Martin song Bob vaguely remembered was I
Dont Care If The Sun Dont Shine, Elviss second Sun single,
not on the first RCA album. From the M&L movie Scared Stiff. (TE)
But in the same article, Hilburn sneered that Carl Perkins was in the R&R
Hall of Fame only because of Blue Suede Shoes.
Heres a story I got from Perkins in a 1986 interview. In 1964, Carl traveled
to England as a sideman with Johnny Cashs show. He was told to go to a
house at 8:00 to meet the Beatles. When he rang the door and got no immediate
response, he thought I figured, they dont really want to see this
old country boy and started to walk away -- then the door opened
and he entered a room to cheers and a standing ovation from every Beatle.
He sat around with them half the night, and played on their recording
session the next day.
The Beatles recorded three Carl Perkins songs: none of them Blue Suede Shoes.
That establishes him as at least a little important. But not enough to impress
Hilburn. (See Letters at the end.)
When I taught a rock history class at UCLA, I mentioned that the Drifters There
Goes My Baby8 and
other NY productions at that time employed a Baion rhythm, from some island.
A girl from Out East asked, Is that Bayonne, New Jersey?
8 That song
was a puzzle when first recorded. Atlantic execs thought it was thoroughly confusing,
like two records playing at once. I could not, then or now, understand what confounded
Todd Everett, on a TV special about Saturday Night Live in the 1970s:
I didnt like the show that much back then, but compared to it today
it was the Marx Brothers meet Shakespeare.
Heard on Comedy Central. (Dont remember which comedian -- Sorry!)
Now that foods have long names like I Cant Believe Its Butter,
theyre renaming Top Ramen noodles I Cant Afford Supper.
- 57 -
(Another Fein Mess does not necessarily agree with the opinions of its correspondents.)
From Tom Wilt of Eugene, Oregon, re Robt.
dismissal of Carl Perkins as a one-hit wonder.
Add Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan n Tom Petty as guys who love
Carl Perkins. Lets see, how about Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and
Dave Edmunds? I bet even Elton John likes Carl Perkins.
WHAT A GODDAMN FUCKING IDIOT!!!!
From Gene Sculatti, re Hunter Thompson
Yep, it's official: The L.A. Times tells
us (2/22) the "father
of gonzo journalism" is dead. Interesting: Did Hunter S. Thompson's affected
style, basically self-advertising for his bad-boy posturing (itself a more expansive, early-'70s
followup of what bad-boy rock crits were already up to) inspire a school? Who
were the other prominent pracitioners of "gonzo journalism"?
Just him, as far as I can tell.
Publishing Thompson in R. Stone was a smart move
by Jann Wenner; millions tuned in to see what kind of spin the swagger-man
would put on his subject this time (Wow, a drug-addled gun fancier trips
to Vegas! Hoo-boy, a gun-totin' drug fan takes on Nixon!). In a way,
Thomas was something of an avatar-- in the same way that Andrew Oldham's
(also smart) marketing of the Stones as music hoods was prescient. The
bad-boy is now the dominant icon of American culture, from the guys who
drip mustard off their Carl's Jr. burgers and dare you to flinch to the
tough-truck drivers, graceless athletes, thug pop stars and my-way-or-the-highway
president. Give him credit: Thompson signed in at the image registrar
The Times' best gaff is the graph that calls HT "the
flipside of Tom Wolfe"; Thompson was the "wild man who embraced
chaos, while Wolfe was often portrayed as the button-down neutral observer." I
don't recall such portrayals being made during the general period of either
writer's heyday; this sounds like the kind of analysis that dawned on
the (probably youngish) LAT writer much later. Like the paper's
recent obit on Jim Capaldi, in which it reasoned that, since someone
told the writer that Traffic often jammed, they must have been respsonible
for the Grateful Dead and "the
jam-band phenomenon." Huh? The G. Dead preceded Traffic on the scene,
with records and free-form live shows, by two full years.
Wolfe and his compatriots in the "new journalism" were
at work in the field 5-6 years before Thompson sauntered onto the scene.
But, I guess if you're an LAT obit-ist, conflating all that time and
assuming that "new journalism" and "gonzo journalism" co-existed,
they must've had much to do with each other. Uh huh.