-March 2005-

Other Fein Messes

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, “You’re Cheating on Me” by Tommy Leone (I don’t 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 we’d go, two little girls, howling in imitation, lounge-ish baritone, “You’re cheeeatin’ on me (ba-ba-ba-BA), cheeeatin’ on me… You’re not the kinduva sweethaart I hoped you’d be-ee…” “Girls,” our mother would ask, looking pained, “Why THAT record?” (She’d use the same tone of voice when we’d 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, don’t 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, Travolta’s 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 who’d wear his banana comb in his back pocket and brush his locks 100 times in class (I’m 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 I’d 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 I’d soon be in with the in crowd. But when I put that Foreigner LP on my turn table, I realized in horror that I’d 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 there’d been a mistake, I’d 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 didn’t 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 Aron’s Records (for her). Thumbing through the record stacks, I was drawn by three titles, grabbed them and headed my sister’s way. She was busy with The Toy Dolls, Adam Ant, Black Flag, and mumbled, “Yeah, I think I’ve heard of those. You might like ‘em.” I’d picked “…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. Let’s go.

All the way home, I didn’t 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 Alvin’s 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. Then—CRASH! In came the rest of the band and Lux Interior’s 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 Alvin’s weird, high, keening voice singing of shakin’, lovin’, waitin’ in an all night café, rockin’ in a Hollywood bed, … well, people 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… Oh well… Then I heard my boyfriend say, “Are we gonna go see The Blasters?” We ran.

There they were!! The Alvin brothers, John Bazz, Bill Bateman, Gene Taylor, Steve Berlin, Lee Allen: I’d 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, wouldn’t even go into the stadium. It was too impossibly good to be real and if I moved, maybe it’d stop and that’d 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 concert.

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 Stone’s Monthly
March 2005

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 hadn’t 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 I’d seen him when he played at Raji’s 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 Richard’s road drummer (whom, I was corrected, played not only on Keep A Knockin but also She’s Got It and Ooh My Soul). And on Feb 3rd we did a half hour with 75-year-old saxophonist Willie Restum!

0 When I “reviewed” the John Waters Xmas show, I forgot to mention that a brief song by sailor-suited Phranc was the show’s 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 Vee’s career along the lines Buddy Holly’s was heading.

Kris Jensen

Eric Boardman, Dick Blackburn, Willie Restum, AF

I Just Wasn’t 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. Don’t 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 won’t 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.

-- That’s a Plus-R. We take Minus-R.
-- What are you talking about?
-- The format. It’s 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.

Upside Down

The NY Times ran an article about how the Prince Charles and Camilla wedding is Manywoman’s 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 “You’re 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.’ “

-- “Let’s Think About Livin’ ” by Bob Luman. Johnny Cash’s “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town,”3 Patti Page’s “One Of Us,” Everly Bros. (Don & Phil)
“Kathy’s 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 Williams’s “Short Fat Fannie” -- the title itself a reversal of “Long Tall Sally,” much as Chubby Checker’s chosen name was the reverse of Fats Domino -- TOO MANY TO NAME.

And of course, you must hear Buchanan & Goodman’s “The Flying Saucers (Pts 1 & 2)” on Luniverse (!!!) Records. It’s a humorous narration of an invasion from Mars, sampling current (1956) recordings. “That was Laughing Lewis’s recording, ‘Knocking’ “ for Smiley Lewis’s “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 Swayze.

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 aren’t 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 wasn’t a hit.

Fashion Parade

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 of Seattle’s 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 with Cobain.

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 got’em -- is it safe to wear them now?

How Come He’s 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 Los Angeles:

“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 When my teacher asked me “If you had $5 in one pocket and $2 in another pocket, what would you have?” I said “Someone else’s pants.”
(Credit: Jack & Jill magazine, 1954?)

Early Surf Music

Recently hearing “I’ve 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 York’s A Lonely Town (When You’re The Only Surfer Boy Around)” could be a claimed connection, but the central character’s 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.” Hadn’t they noticed that the Beach Boys -- and Jan -- mumbled the words because they don’t know the song!?)

5 The Top Pop Singles directory gives one of their names as Tony “Hot Rod” Gravagna. Did this refer to Gravagna’s car?

Not Invented in L.A.

Doug Weston owned the Troubadour nightclub in West Hollywood, which in the ‘60’s 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 Weston’s contract was unique, then I read in Jack Douglas’s6 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 -- that’s an English name, innit?

6 In case it’s 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 Woo’s 2/22/05 paean (after three in the previous day’s paper!
7) to Hunter S. Thompson, she describes Tom Wolfe as “the icon of literary journalism” (Truman Capote, bah!) “to whom Thompson was often favorably compared.”

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.)

Late Credits

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.

Here’s how was I cited: “I’ve 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. I’ve rarely gotten a present from someone I didn’t know that went to my heart so completely.”

It wasn’t coincidental. I’d showed the Sister Rosetta stuff to Dennis Delrogh, a friend of Pauline, and he told me to send it to her. I didn’t 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, 40’s “videos” and two songs live at a train station in England (?), were given to me by Kent Benjamin, the pride of Austin, Texas.

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 didn’t matter whether I agreed with her conclusions.


In Bob Hilburn’s praise of Elvis’s first album (2-6-05) he wrote that “I’m 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 Elvis’s source.
He didn’t add that the Dean Martin song Bob vaguely remembered was “I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine,” Elvis’s 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.

Here’s a story I got from Perkins in a 1986 interview. In 1964, Carl traveled to England as a sideman with Johnny Cash’s 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 don’t 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 Baby”
8 and other NY productions at that time employed a Baion rhythm, from some island. (Puerto Rico?)

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 them


Todd Everett, on a TV special about Saturday Night Live in the 1970s:

“I didn’t like the show that much back then, but compared to it today it was the Marx Brothers meet Shakespeare.”


Heard on Comedy Central. (Don’t remember which comedian -- Sorry!)

“Now that foods have long names like I Can’t Believe It’s Butter, they’re renaming Top Ramen noodles ‘I Can’t Afford Supper.’ “

- 57 -


(Another Fein Mess does not necessarily agree with the opinions of its


From Tom Wilt of Eugene, Oregon, re Robt. Hilburn’s dismissal of Carl Perkins as a one-hit wonder.

Unfucking real.  

Add Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan n Tom Petty as guys who love Carl Perkins. Let’s see, how about Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Dave Edmunds? I bet even Elton John likes Carl Perkins.



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 early.
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.


Email Art Fein

Other Fein Messes