-February 2007-

Other Fein Messes

1st Show/1st Record : Kid Squidd

The first live Rock'n'Roll I ever saw was around 1961, when I was 13. It was at some steakhouse in my hometown of Kankakee, Illinois. Dunno the name of the band, but they played all instrumentals, kinda like the Ventures & other surf/instro bands of that era. They wore matching gold suits and had pompadours. Didn't change my life or anything like that, but I do remember the vibe I got was unlike anything I had experienced before. Kinda like an alternate universe. That their world was different than mine. I didn't necessarily want their world, but it showed me there were other realities that were intriguing and quite a bit different than the Sports/ Basketball reality that I lived in.

The first record I bought was "Martian Hop" by the Ran-Dels, circa 1963. I liked the sound of the "space-gun" in the break. My life changed forever, though not as much as a year or so later when I heard "Not Fade Away" by The Rolling Stones, particularly Keith's acoustic intro, after which everything kicked into gear - the maracas/drums/bass/electric guitar/ Mick's vocals/Brian's blues harp...Wow!!! Like a shot of adrenaline, it WOKE ME UP! Then purchasing The Stones' first LP, "England's Newest Hitmakers pretty much ruined me for life. Never been the same. Opened up a valve in my soul that has remained open. It's a receptor for exciting music, beautiful music, kool music, great music. And it all started with "Not Fade Away". Not "Martian Hop"!

Ask me about seeing the Yardbirds in '66 at Schafer Lake, Indiana. Beck AND Page playing lead guitar. Jawdropping experience for an 18 year old kid from Kankakee! Met the guys backstage afterward. (Went home, telling everybody "I Met The YARDBIRDS!")

Kidd Squidd's Mystery Jukebox is on Saturdays 2-5 PM (MST) at KXCI 91.3 FM Tucson, Arizona (www.kxci.org). Show has a different musical theme every week. "Jukebox In A Border Town," "U.K. Melancholia" etc.

Another Fein Mess
February 2007
AF Stone’s Monthly

For Dope On The Elvis Show, Click Here

Why Don’t They Understand? 1

My friend Douglas is a hygiene enthusiast. After you are ritually deshod in his foyer he hands you a pair of black Chinese slippers, lest your feet get cold or stink up his floor.

When I was there last, he fumbled around in the huge slipper-box and handed me two. I said, “Well, if you don’t like my dancing JUST SAY SO!”

He looked at me quizzically like most people do all the time. Once explained, his look became ... even more quizzical, as in, “How the hell do you expect anyone to understand you?”

Explanation, if you need it, at the very very end.

1 A pretty good song by George Hamilton IV, the singer, not the tanned guy. Followup to the 1957 teenage love song “A Rose and A Baby Ruth,” which could not be played on the BBC because it named a product (the same situation the befell Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome”). A

I recall Kodak being the focus of home-rule campaign in England in the late 60s. It so dominated the film market that solons forced them to drop their high prices. Then with Kodak the same price as the locals’, the home firms were driven out of business.

How to Keep Your Drawers from Dropping

If you live in an area with an IKEA (no proper pronunciation: it’s an acronym 2), you know their stuff is often cute - chic even -but flimsy. Nearly all the furniture’s made of smashed together wood chips. If you’re putting socks or shirts in the drawers that’s fine - Just no bricks or anvils.

But there’s an engineering problem. The sides must support the thing, and those, too, are made of particle-board. If you pile things atop the dresser, like a lamp and a few books, the weight causes the sides to barrel out. And the the drawers are not attached - there’s a rod (in socket terms a male part) running horizontally inside the chest with sliding metal parts, and a matching trench along the side of the drawer to fit it. When the sides bow they pull away from the drawer-sides, and one side or another pancakes onto the next.

Recently, though, I went to them with some Barge cement, hoping to affix the drawers and dresser-sides permanently. Seems fixed. After ten years, you’d think I’da thought of it sooner.

2 I wonder if The Akron stores, in L.A. in the 70s were an “akronym” for someone’s name, like E.J. Korvette’s in the 60s for Eight Jewish Korean Veterans.

Look At Me! Look At Me!

I’ve always maintained there are two types of people - ones who live to be in front of other people and ones who fear it. I fall somewhere in between.

The only stage I stand on is at the Elvis show. There I speak into a mike 3 to people I don’t know, but I am confident we’re the same. Similarly, I do a tv show with my friends and silent camera people: I’m confident because I’m comfortable. Yet, I’ve relentlessly exhibited myself on tv for 23 years. Call me a semi-exhibitionist.

3 I hate people who write “mic.” I’m a pedant, but there are limits.


Early January I bought four donuts at Alex's, my Hollywood haven, before heading to my friend's house so he and another guy could work on posting some more Elvis Birthday Bash bits on youtube. (Nine were up already, from an audience member.)

Behind the counter was not an Egyptian woman but a Mexican man. I looked in panic at the fare: the "Cakes Soon" banner covering half the former donut space seemed odd - Has Mary gotten ambitious after 20 years? Then I looked at the chocolate glazed: It was topped with a ribbon of chocolate, not the drip-down-the-side excess that has proudly marked Alex's and made it the most standout donut shop I’ve ever found. I approached the guy with barely concealed ire and said "Same owner?"

"No, but the same donuts" he said. "Not really!" I countered. "This place is known for excess. The donut is soaked in glaze and then drenched in chocolate. THAT's why they cost a dollar." He looked rather sheepish at my unintendedly emotional attack, and said "Thank you for telling me." 
Further dispatches 4 forthwith.

4 The L.A. Times, which embeds a dozen NY reporters there so we can know how strikes are affecting them, what their mayor said recently, what brittle but resourceful folks they are etc., sometimes slugs these useless tomes “Dispatch From NY” as if it’s Iraq. Come to think of it, L.A. IS Iraq, newspaperly speaking. We are invaded by columnists such as Joel Stein (“When I first moved here from NY” is an oft-seen phrase that strikes a chilling but familiar note in our hometown paper) who are here like the U.S. in Iraq, observing our culture while not understanding it.
I just love reviewers. Pt one million

In a 10/2/05 (we keep NY Times book sections around for a while before reading them) review of a book by Rick Moody, Stephan Metcalf waxes nostalgic, with unconcealed glee, about a review of Moody by Dale Peck, “the novelist-critic,” in which Peck, an irascible - inevitable? - “bad boy”5 called him “the worst writer of his generation.”

That review was in the New Republic. Metcalf, apparently, is still in awe of Peck’s rapacity as if to say “Why don’t they let ME do one-sentence crap like that in the NY Times?” The Times, a few years ago, had indeed devoted two pages to Peck’s bilious upchucking 6. Now, the jagoff Mr. Metcalf preens, “poor” Moody has been “tasked” (!!!!!!!!!!!) with digging out from under the mountain of infamy that sprung from Peck’s peckish pen.

What incestuous garbage. Seeking giants among pygmies, the reviewing world props up one another dreaming that a slagpile of their work will reach the height of one honest book.

5 When I am emperor, any writer calling anyone older than 4 years old a ‘bad boy’ will be executed on the spot.

6 Which netted B him a book deal of his fucked-up reviews called “Hatchet Jobs.”

B Writers using the word “garner” will also be executed.


I like gals as much as I like guys.
But what’s with the news bias in their favor? It’s weird.

A recent poll finding that 51% of adult women lived alone was hailed by college-girl news writers as a great triumph. They phoned their peers and interviewed them about the great opportunities this enfranchisement has brought them.

What? I know plenty of women who don’t want to be alone. And an equal number of men. The statistic is interpreted by feminut writers as women flitting off Peter Panlike for a life of freedom. But it’s also fuel for husbands planning on dumping their wives: “Look, I’m making life better for you.” It is disingenuous to the hilt.

But it opened the floodgates - well, these gates were washed away long ago - for Barbara Dix of Lauderhill, Florida whose letter in the 1/18/07 NY Times cheered the disappearance of “a husband who has morphed 7 into an increasingly petulant and dissatisfied ungrateful wretch of a so-called partner.”

If a man wrote and characterized his dispatched wife as “a shrewish, stupid, slatternly slob,” would the Times print it? We’ll never know - MISTER Dix lost the typewriter in the divorce.

7 “Morph” has leeched into letter-writers. DROP IT!

What is this thing called, Luv?

I briefly bonded with post-1959 music in the early 80s. There was a spate of records that had a common sound -“Wake Me Up Before You Go Go,” “Come On Eileen,” “Stand Up” by Roman Holliday and even up to a point “Rock This Town.” It was vaguely ‘music hall,’ that music that rears up in nearly every 60’s/70s British rock band’s repertoire, but except for the Stray Cats it was horn-laden without significant guitar presence. Bouncy, hand-clap inducing dance music. But there was so little of it it never got categorized, so far as I can tell. Whadyacallit?

Also, Gene Watson had a country hit in the late 90s, which I liked, but now I can’t remember what the title of the song was.


I was already appalled, in perpetuum apparently (can’t find the clipping), about a NY Times gal’s review of a Beck show which featured marionettes of he and his band projected on the overhead video screen.

“Well, this caused quite a reaction in the press section!” said our ill-remembered NY Times scribbler (whom I picture in the posture and voice of Franklin Pangborn tut-tutting “What does he think he’s DOING?”).

Group-think. Every one of the press-donkeys reported that something silly was going on, oblivious of their own silliness. In any other fields, revealing that you confer on opinions would be cause for dismissal.

Then at the end of January I popped in a tape of “Hi De Ho,” a short 8 from Turner Classic Movies, which opened with the incomparable Cab Calloway conducting an orchestra of tiny plaster musicians. What if our contemporary howlers had seen that? They’d be still hee-hawing.

8 Following was a (b&w) Colored Revue with the Niklaus Brothers and others. One part featured Eunice Williams, an elegant singer, backed by the Five Racketeers, four guitarists and a drummer. Behind them was what seemed to be a colorful mural of a burst, with almond-shaped black dots emerging from the center. It wasn’t til the camera pulled back that I realized it was a slice of watermelon. D

The 0-29-06 NY Times ran an article (“Love ‘Springtime For Hitler’? Then Here’s A CD For You” by Alex Williams) about Jewish blackface, ‘race’ records from the turn of the century in which Vaudevillians performed songs such as “Cohen Owes Me 79 Dollars,” a Jew’s final words on his deathbed. Such stuff is now on a CD compilation called “Jewface.”

Hey, I’m A Critic Too

I saw David Lynch Jan 14th: they should have lynched him. 

Speaking at the Kodak Theater 9, he delivered a tedious proselytizing q&a “from questions you filled out on cards on the way in" (What cards?) about transcendental meditation. TM is great, I'm all for it. But it was infotainment, Laura Dern 10 reading cards from "Robert, Adam, Susan" - 50s names? nobody named Caitlyn, Brittney? - asking "How does meditation affect your moviemaking." It was dull at best, and insulting in the main: preaching under the guise of responding to the audience’s interests. Then Donovan sang "for the first time in 40 years" (if you don't count the thousands of times he has sung since 1967, or the Rick Rubin record deal) which was OK, but long (now I sound like a rock critic: "He kept singing and I wanted to go home!") bec it was being taped for a PBS special.

One interesting thing Lynch said was that he would henceforth only make movies on digital tape. An interesting thing Donovan did was sing two non-hits, both from the Mellow Yellow album, “Sand and Foam” and “Young Girl Blues,” though he tampered with the melody on the latter, once again following Dylan’s in this case lousy lead.

A 10-minute walk from my house, it was my first visit to the Academy Award theater. I’d planned not to go til they I got one.

10 In the Teenage Life section of the May, 1957 issue of Dig magazine (you know, the one with Robert Wagner and Sal Mineo on the cover) there’s a photo of a 19-year-old Univ of Pennsylvania student who refused to cut his “Elvis style” sideburns and was benched from the two-mile relay team. The uppity student was Bruce Dern, rocker.

It’s Not Only Not Rock & Roll, But I Don’t Like It

Word soup from Ann Powers, 1/27/07:

“Inner mobility is taking us far beyond what dialup postmodernists imagined, resetting all our sensors until dislocation is the status quo.”
(Annie’s fog is all our fog.)

“It’s no coincidence, then, that the first two really exciting releases of the year come from bohemian whiz kids (come again? AF) making retro-futuristic singalongs (rap singers made up like Mitch Miller?) about insomnia and anxiety attacks.” (No coincidence? A plot? Destiny!?)

The songwriter “came close to a breakdown after relocating to his Norwegian wife’s homeland upon the birth of their first child.” (Trauma, why? The weather? Food? Language? Onset of adulthood? Was he forced to watch the birth? - that has been known to traumatize men. Tell us!)

“11-minute yowls, murmurs, moans, yelps, snarls, yelpy earnestness, and coiling riffs, a summery strummed guitar, tightly wound rhythms, well-turned melodies and a bass that gently pops” (“Ooh, hot.” she gasps 11) all contribute to the “confessional pastiche.”

“(It) narrowly avoids racist caricature by making sure his other schizo selves keep butting in to smash a few windows.” (That was already done by Stan Freberg: “DAY-o! -- I come tru da window.”)

“The Shins are not the first artists in our jet-lagged era to take us down these mysterious corridors. Sofia Coppola’s films, the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro, even Robert Wilson’s stage events deal with the unrealities that entice -and can destroy - our flesh and blood.” (Now let’s rock!)

11 I’m sorry, but there’s female privelege again. No male critic could register gonadal response to music without being beaten to death with rolling pins.

Full Circle

Robert Plant came backstage to meet old-time rockabilly great-guy Glen Glenn, and Glen said “Well, Robert, I don’t really care much for that heavy metal stuff, I like rockabilly” and Plant said “Me, too!”

-57 -

Mark On The Move

A few weeks ago I revisited Harbin Hot Springs, the “clothing optional” resort/retreat in Napa. I was aware of “nudist camps” and such in The Sixties but didn’t partake, being pretty uptight as a teenager, and intimidated by the rumors of sexual abandon at spots like L.A.’s Elysium and Big Sur’s Esalen Institute. (When I was at Esalen recently, an old-timer, hearing an announcement that yoga was beginning at 3p.m., sighed “I remember when they used to announce an orgy was starting at 3p.m.”) As an adult I’ve gotten to enjoy nude beaches and these kind of spas, and have no problem getting nekked around others. Harbin is run as a non-profit now, but has a long history of habitation and tourism. The Miwoks called it “eetawyomi” (the hot place), and stagecoaches were bringing invalids in to “take the waters” in the 1880s. Depending on what accomodations you choose, you can stay there for anything from $35 a day for sleeping-under-the-stars to $180 for a private cabin. You can eat in the restaurant, or bring your own food and use their well-stocked kitchen.

There are at least seven hot and cold springs feeding the property, and the main areas are The Hot Pool (113°), Warm Pool (98°) and Cold Plunge (teeth-chattering icy). Running back and forth between those three, and the regular swimming pool, sundeck, sauna etc. will definitely wake you up, if it doesn’t kill you first.

Plus you get to check out all the naked people, as long as you are “cool” about it. Being “on the make” is discouraged by signs restricting “sexual activity” and “conversation” in the main pools, although especially at night, when the lights are not much brighter than the stars, couples and groups of various persuasions can be seen more-than-snuggling. (The Warm Pool has a nice slippery mineral feel to it, and once you have caressed your honey in it you may have difficulty heeding the signs.) I’ve seen gorgeous women strutting back and forth to make sure everyone’s checked out their boob job, and octogenarian men with beautiful forms sculpted by years of yoga. A young lesbian couple with breathtaking full-body tattoos drove me crazy one year, as they stretched out on the deck day after day oiling each other up, and another time a woman with hair down to her knees floating in the Warm Pool redefined my idea of Pre-Raphaelite perfection. There are also the morbidly obese, those with serious ailments, and just plain odd or typically ugly people -- but somehow they all become beautiful in their own ways when I’m there. Just the amazing variety of human body types and faces is enough to reduce me to simple awe. (Fellini should have gone to Harbin.) Plus, I get to see lots of uncircumsized penises, which are still endlessly interesting to me. How exactly do they work again?

You can also pay extra and get all kinds of massages and treatments (Cranio-Sacral, Lymphatic etc.), including Watsu®, a quite pleasurable floating massage done in the Warm Pool that allows the buoyancy of the water to promote limb and muscle movements you didn’t even know you had in you.

Of course, Harbin is also a magnet for various burn-outs, loonies, true-believers, and most of all health nuts. You can’t be there more than a few minutes before you hear someone describing how their life changed when they read a book about having a colonic every day, or how they cured their terminal cancer by following a raw diet, or how this or that wheatgrass or organic foodstuff is better than another. It seems everyone has a guru or has seen the true path, and now has The Answer. My basic attitude about these stories and testimonials is “well, that’s your trip, but don’t expect me to actually believe it happened exactly the way you are describing it.” Generally, I keep that kind of response to myself, though, and just nod a lot. Once, in the middle of a perfectly good Ecstasy trip (drugs are verboten at Harbin so don’t rat me out) I got into a pleasant conversation that became suddenly weird when my new friend began to rant about how nothing would change in the Middle East until all the Jews were expelled from Israel.

I can get pretty hippie-dippie after a trip to Harbin, and start to question my own general disinterest in health, exercise and taking care of myself. And then I get over it, eat whatever I want, and stay out late. Until next time I go there.
-- Mark Leviton

(Mark’s sixties-themed radio show Pet Sounds can be heard alternate Mondays 4-7am PST on KVMR-FM 89.5 in the Sacramento area and streaming at www.kvmr.org )


P.S. Mark is not “Bill from L.A.” Mark is a spirited, spiritual seeker. Bill, whose recent absence is a mystery, is just a bewildered clod. (AF)


Letter from one Billy Altman:

Great stuff this month. Loved the John Sebastian "dawdle" reference--to rhyme with "toddled," no less! (Remember, this is the same guy who wrote "Six O'Clock," featuring the line "A few hours ago she was standing here/Just watching the stars in our eyes and the lights as the tights disappeared." That last part is an all-timer for me...)

Speakin' of which...One time when I was in Birmingham, MI helping to close an issue of Creem, Springsteen was the "Creem Profile," and I helped out on the copy. I can't remember the exact phrasing, but for "Last Accomplishment," I wrote something to the effect that Bruce had won the Gordon Lightfoot Obscure Verbiage Award for his use of the word "aurora" in the song "Sandy."

Now: regarding strange words in songs--and since you mentioned "Kansas City," just before the guitar solo, Wilbert Harrison yells out a word. One of my old pals in college in Buffalo, NY loved to get drunk, play the song, and scream "Muskrat" at that precise point.

My question: Do you think that's correct? If so, was Muskrat the lead guitarist's nickname? Is that why he says it? (My theory, by the way). Or is he simply yelling out "Muskrat!" because it's a great thing to yell? And if it's not "Muskrat!," then what IS he saying?

-- Mr. Altman. I, too, had a personal connection to that mysterious utterance. My 8th grade friend John Davis * and I used to laugh at our elderly (not 40, 75) schoolteacher who once used the word ‘musty’ about the smell of one of the students, and he’d frequently bust out “Musty!” in class. It was just when that record came out, and we felt he had somehow heard us. But I believe it’s just garble for “Mercy!” AND, speaking of kwinky-dinks, I just got a note from Jan Athmer in Holland (j.athmer@kpnplanet.nl) asking if I had any further info about the .... passage .... of “Kansas City” from Little Willie Littlefield to Leiber & Stoller, in behalf of Little Willie Littlefield who’s living in Holland!

* In 1993 I wrote an essay in the Chicago Tribune magazine about the difficulties I faced trying to find John Davis, my Black childhood best-friend. (Try and find one John Davis in the Chicago phone book!) The next day he, alerted by a Chicago friend, called me from Florida and a few months later we met at Farmers Market in L.A. (AF)

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