-February 2008-

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1st Record/1st concert

First Concert/First Record by Bob Davis

The first concert I remember was the Johnny Otis Show at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa. It was Summer 1956; Elvis was on top of the charts but I was more into Rhythm & Blues. I don't remember that much about the show but I do remember that the special guests were Buchanan and Goodman, who had just hit the charts with The Flying Saucer--Parts 1 and 2. They couldn't do it live on stage, but they received a warm reception.

Every summer my family would vacation on Balboa Island. My brother and I would take the ferry over to a miniature golf course near the Rendezvous. Subsequently I learned of Stan Kenton’s history here; Dick Dale and the Beach Boys came later. Today there's just a historical marker a block away.

Just a few months earlier I had bought a 3-speed turntable and 2-way pickup, running it through a home-made amplifier, meaning I could finally graduate from 78's to 45's and LP's. Most of my musical experience was through radio and records, including the Johnny Otis Show on KFOX radio. We even watched the TV version on Ch. 5; I remember the band wearing "loud" jackets that looked colorful even on black & white TV.

More than 35 years later, I saw "JO" live again, at the Vine St. Bar & Grill with my future wife. The song I most remember is Duke Ellington's Creole Love Call, which the orchestra played so movingly that it brought tears to my eyes. Of course they also did Willie and the Hand Jive and much more. After the show we went up to say hello to the master;

I had first met him when he was doing live radio from Conley's Famous Record Shop in Long Beach. I had a notebook where I had written down some songs I'd heard on his show but was unable to find. He went down the list and said they hadn't received enough interest and wouldn’t be released. During the show I saw some of the "dubs" they used to get songs on the air -- 78 rpm was still used for dubs even though everything else was on 45.

Here I digress to a special "first concert"--my first Evie Sands show. Back in 2000, I went to Borders in Pasadena and saw a band setting up with a dark-haired woman in a black leather coat tuning up an unusual-looking guitar (non-Fender, non-Gibson). When they started into I Ain't Done Yet I was hooked! At the break I dashed downstairs and bought a copy of Women In Prison and had Evie autograph it. When I went to another show at Borders Montclair, not only did she play my e-mailed requests, she announced one with "We had a request from Bob for this next one." I later sent an e-mail saying something like, "There could have been a Santa Fe steam locomotive and a three-car Red Car train outside and I wouldn't have noticed."

It's been through Evie that I learned about International Pop Overthrow and Elvis Birthday Bash. In recent years, Evie has been an integral part of Adam Marsland's Chaos Band, a most eclectic ensemble to say the least. Back in 2006 they had a gig at Molly Malone's on Fairfax. About halfway through the show, Adam asks, "Is there a Seventies Soul singer in the house?" (spotlight shines on Evie) "Why it's Ms. Evie Sands! Tell me, Evie, do you have a song for Bob tonight?" and Evie says "I sure do!" and launches into Don't Look Back Don't Look Down, an Evie original that I was so glad to see on a CD later in 2006.

First record? What comes to mind is William Tell Overture, by Spike Jones and his City Slickers, which my brother and I talked our mother into buying around 1950. We were fans of his musical mayhem; a few years later we'd see him on TV with his sycopated six-shooter and tuned brake drums.

Spike Jones brings up thoughts of Dr. Demento--I have been a guest on his radio program when it was live on KMET. Much as he loves "mad music and crazy comedy", he also likes trains, an affinity which I (a hard-core train and streetcar buff) picked up on during his shows. In 1978, I sent him a letter asking if he could announce an upcoming Rail Festival. He said yes, and sent me a note that included his confidential phone number.

I wound up sitting in as his special guest for a 30-minute segment of train oriented songs. This became an annual event until KMET changed hands and the live show became history after the 1983 festival. At the 1981 "Railway to Dementia" night, after the rail segment, "Weird Al" Yankovic performed a live version of "Another One Rides the Bus", which railfans enjoyed but the RTD probably did not find amusing.

Bob Davis goes waaayyy back. And comes to the Elvis show each year

What was YOUR 1st Record/1st Concert??



Art Fein on Elvis Birthday Bash

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Another Fein Mess
February 2008
AF Stone’s Monthly

California Reportin’

It gets cold in L.A. Not so much the past few years, but this year, in late January, the rain poured down and the temperature dropped with it. One afernoon in Burbank I opened the car door and hail clattered in. Yikes!

We no longer have that fabled smog from the 50s and 60s but the air still has a bit of fog or whatever it is, so when the winter wind and rain scrubs the air clean the resulting scenery makes life look like a Claritin ad - man, my eyes just got sharper! So beautiful here.

The winter cold is cold by contrast, it gets only down to 40s, maybe 35 -- but one January my visitors from Sweden complained it was freezing! The palm trees endure the same winters that the orange crops don’t, but 60 miles from Hollywood, atop the major north/south artery route 5 “Grapevine,” snow closes the roads several days a year. When they shut schools during the recent blizzard I learned that some high elevation mountain towns call themselves Rim Of The World. But even though winter-sports areas are an easy drive from L.A, I’ve never been to one. I’ve lived here 35 years, and it’s not for the snow.

Back on earth, Hollywood has slums and some really decent stuff, though nothing elegant yet. The square block W Hotel under construction at Hollywood & Vine may be a move in that direction. Til then the town is newly a party destination for party types, and apartments long neglected are sprucing up with rents rising accordingly.

The Hollywood hills are alive with wildlife. My area is a killing field. First cat Stanley was neck-broken by a coyote. Subsequent cat Peppermint strayed out one day and never came back - a highly paid Animal Search gal followed her scent only to a spot in the bushes. Across the way, a neighbor’s cat followed her when she went out to pick up the morning paper and then disappeared - those wolf/dogs are fast, and quiet. Over on the west side of Highland, above the Hollywood Bowl, deer roam. It seems preposterous, but it’s true.

Music Notes

What can kids make of the cover of Sgt. Pepper in CD artwork? Hardly anything, but more detail than on their iPod screen .... The Byrds bio I am reading over the course of a couple years (I have it in my car, but don’t go often enough to doctors’ offices) tells how David Crosby was embraced by the moptops and invited to the studio to listen to the just-completed “Day In The Life” ... That was a scene we’ll never see in a movie, but there are interesting similar moments in the 2004 film ‘My Dinner With Jimi’, a “day in the life” of the Turtles, produced lovingly by ex-Rhino founder Harold Bronson. It’s a very interesting slice of life (as told by one Turtle, Howard Kaylan, other Turtles’ stories may differ) that caters to deep record-reference people like you and me. The actor playing Jimi Hendrix is astonishing ... When a record label sent a press release announcing that the new Vince Gill CD came in a biodegradable sleeve, it wasn’t me but toddlin Todd Everett who pointed out that they were saying “You’re going to throw this away.” Like buying a hammer with a note “When this thing falls apart, the pieces can be recycled” ... According to an authoritative source, Ike Turner died with cocaine in his system, not of a cocaine overdose. But that doesn’t make juicy headlines ...

The Saturday Night Live skit where William Shatner tells Star Trek fanatics to “move out of your parents’ basement and get a life” has its origins, in my experience, with Peter Tork’s at a 1984 screening of “Head” at the NuArt Theater in Santa Monica. Bombarded with Monkees questions, he responded (in effect) “The Monkees was a tv show, it’s been gone for a long time, maybe you should find something else to think about” ... When I worked at Elektra in 1977 I went with David Gates to the Great American Food & Beverage for lunch. The waiter approached Gates with songs he’d written - the restaurant was known for musical waiters. This one also employed Severin Browne, brother of Jackson. I understood the West Side one employed Tork ... My youtube clip of Intveld/Zoom/Setzer has gotten a lot of hits and comments, now I can add this one from Billy Zoom to people who wondered why he didn’t sing: “Setzer started the song in such a high key that even Intveld was straining. That's why I didn't even try”...


I caught a minute of a movie called “Gas-s-s-s” on cable. It was from 1971 and what I caught looked like a scene from “Zabriskie Point” only less comprehensible. Bunch of hippies from Hollywood cantering humorously around the desert. I shrank from embarassment.

Why? I wasn’t responsible for this travesty, this unpalatable slice of youth culture served up to an unwanting public. Then, no movie represented that youth culture, such as it was. The notion that longhairs and girls with funny hats meant hippie box-office was a typical sad mistake, leaving preposterous and regrettable scraps of film for future historians to study as truth. “Skidoo” with Jackie Gleason also springs to my mind, commonly considered good for laughs, though I get shpilkes watching its strained wrongheadedness.

But Skidoo, at least, erred within its time. “Fifties” movies of the past 35 years have guys in black leather motorcycle jackets and girls in poodle skirts with cat-woman glasses - period. The notion that there was uniformity then was wrong, more wrong than the way actual 50s movies misrepresented kids 1.

In the very late 60s Easy Rider purported to mean something, but to see it left me empty and confused (“Was there some point to this?”). Seeing it today revives that confusion, and adds cringing: like Tony Clifton I want to call them “ya phony baloneys.” One great error in POST-60s Sixties movies is the hair. Studio hairdressers create reasonable ‘do’s.’ People in the actual 60s were not at ease; their freakout outcroppings looked and rested uncomfortably on their pates.

Was there a good punk movie? All I can think of is hilariously wrong Quincy and CHiPS episodes. My memory tells me that ‘Quadrophenia’ was shot in rainy grey black & white, but a recent peek showed my memory wrong. Still, it seemed to captured some of that scene’s essence. Rock & roll movies mostly miss their mark 2.

1 One interesting, understandable and abominable mistake was to show actual teens in movies. “The Girl Can’t Help It,” otherwise a masterpiece, has a slice of gangly, unformed, goony teens in a scene that had kids in the theater screaming inside “Get off the screen! I DON’T WANT TO BE REMINDED HOW HORRIBLE I LOOK.” The Sandy Nelson album “Teen Dance Party” showed actual undergrown, awkward teens (undoubtedly, like in movies, executives’ kids) on the cover. It tanked, though my reasoning as to its fate may merely be verisimilitudinous.

2 Hollywood Rock (1994), edited by Marshall Crenshaw, took the unusual tack of reviewing rock & roll movies from a music POV.

Small ‘L’ Liberal

Why wasn’t George Bush hailed after the California fires? People were moved from their homes and safely housed and the fires fought.

You might say “What’s he got to do with the California fires? It was all handled locally.”

Exactly. Katrina was mishandled locally. Bungled, advice not taken and money stolen. It didn’t take “George Bush” to tell them they lived in a bowl that flooded in 1927. City and state govt officials put preparation money in their own pockets so no plans were made. What were federal authorities to do - force them to address their own danger? If Clinton had a plan for New Orleans, did he take it with him when he left? On top of that, unlike the clear danger of fire, many New Orleansians evaluated the rising water and stayed home and drowned 3. It was a tragic political turducken - a calamity inside a comedy inside misjudgments inside a fiasco. Commensurately wrongly (or intentionally, shifting the spotlight from local villains), George Bush, personally, was blamed for the sins of a corrupt and inept local and state political system.

3 Many feared looting of their homes. And some had pets they couldn’t transport. In hindsight Army and National Guard troops should have evacuated them. That would have been a difficult “Liberal” moment, wrenching people from their homes at gunpoint. But a Conservative would have said “Let them drown. It’s an individual’s choice.”

The Fire This Time

L.A. is a wonderful city, and silly in wonderful ways. The unwonderful silliness is the frivolity and shallowness of the news media.

In the fall fires raged in Malibu. All the news reports were the same. Dozens of TV news readers stood in front of cinder piles and intoned, as if in synch, ”A few days ago a family lived here, but today that house lies in ruins.” Exactly how many blind viewers are there? And no reporter was too ashamed to use the phrase “perfect storm.” Many of these reports came from “anchors” flown in specially to explain the fire to the nation, lest California speakers be incomprehensible.

The L.A. Times, too, continues to send reporters to cities where local stories occur, reporters who are naturally less sharp than local reporters familiar with the town. Why send them? A friend there says the L.A. Times - unlike you and me -thinks of itself as a national newspaper, and that explains how a picture of a blurred person walking in front of a Home Depot in Seattle appears in a local story about big-box lumber yards: “We’re not just local, we cover the world!4” Lately they sent a reporter to London to see the Led Zep show, and the intrepid newswoman also filed a story saying that people queued up in orderly lines for buses, not like here. Incredible! What next - they drink tea? 5 Also, staff writer G Baum - ‘on assignment’ in Paris - delivered three breathless reports about France’s president’s girlfriend (“a former supermodel!”) who used to date rock stars. One full report was “Is he marrying her?” another was “Here’s what the newpapers here are saying” and another “Looks like they’re getting hitched.” If Britney Spears had shown up, Baum would have had a scoop “magnifique” (and the missing L.A. angle). Baum continues to send overlong analyses of Parisian issues (“New pricing at Paris department stores!”) to justify her vacation.

My source says the L.A. Times is obsessed with the New York Times, whom they consider, wishfully, a rival. Not surprising when much of the upper echelon comes from NY, or wishes they did. So how about a soul-searching left front-page article about the L.A. Times’ self-generated inferiority complex? I’d read it. Or write it.

4 Is YOUR hometown paper larded with architectural reviews of a new art museum in Denver or an airport in Philadelphia? Why on earth do we need this? And why is it BLASTED on the front page of the local ‘culture’ section? Nobody building anything around here?

5 So, so many L.A. Times reporters are naifs that a central element of many stories is “It’s news to me!”

Los Credos

I never had savings, struggled with money most of my life. And now that there’s some money in the family, my wife thinks I should change my penurious ways “because we can.” We’re not rolling in dough, but we don’t go without toilet paper just because it’s not on sale.

I understand that I should go to the store and buy what I need without checking the price. Soap. Orange juice. It’s just taking me a while to break old habits based on fear and survival.

Recently I went to a rent party for a gal who’s in DA, Debtors Anonymous. She’s not doing terrific right now, but keeping a grip. When I mentioned something I’d bought at a thrift store - a snooty one, not the Goodwill - she said “I don’t buy things at those places anymore. They tell you in the program ‘Don’t embrace your poverty.’ “

Heavy thought. It parallels my time-of-life motto “Buy the whole cashews.”


I was in a mall parking lot over Xmas, and, failing to find a parking space , drove to the second story on an inclined passageway.

I ramped up!

Real Americans

Had lunch with a longtime show biz publicist and manager. Her name had no identity to it, but wasn’t Smith or Edwards so I assumed it was Jewish.

“It’s Armenian” she said. “But my mother was born here and she refused to learn Armenian, so I don’t know any. When she would see people speaking Armenian she’d say ‘Look at those fools.’ “

Real Americans were the Nisei of California who joined the Army fresh from relocation camps, the Italian who called himself Iron Eyes Cody, Russian-born Irving Berlin who wrote “God Bless America.”

I’m heartsick about ancestor-worship. When my family moved to a Polish/eastern European neighborhood in Chicago, I learned that people actually identified with the culture of the countries their ancestors fled! I couldn’t believe it: I was horrified by old country rituals and language of my religion, why would these people wear foreignness on their sleeve?

When I think of Old Country ambiance I think of cold grey wet Chicago. That town is loaded with buildings from 100 years ago. Whereas I like antiquity - love them archeology documentaries - growing up there I felt like I was in a hellhole of ancient architecture. It looked like Russia.

Looking lately at a photo I took a while ago of a boarded-up Goldblatt’s department store there, I thought the 1910 style was interesting but at the same time hated it with all my might, it looked so much like post-Mrs. O’Leary Chicago. Ever-changing L.A. is my place.

No-Beverage News

I’ve drunk Postum since childhood, only I didn’t know it. It’s a coffee substitute that has been manufactured for 100 years. It was invented by Post, so it’s made of burnt cereals.

When I was a kid I’d buy coffee whenever I was away from home. When I asked the food vendor at Wrigley Field for a cup, she’d ask “Is it for you?” and when I said yes would hand me a hot steaming cup. I liked that Wrigley Field coffee, it was unlike any other.

In my 20s I wanted something like coffee late at night (put coffee in me after 6 p.m. and I’m up til 6 a.m.) and tried a bunch of health food store stuff, none of it good. So as a last resort I bought a bunch of normal ersatz coffee, Postum. Eureka - it was Wrigley Field coffee! That motherly hot dog stand vendor was looking out for my young health. I’ve been with it ever since, watching the price climb to nearly $7 a jar, but always paying, doing my part to support its continuation.

Now the worst has happened: stores in L.A. stopped carrying it. Its main customers were people between 80 and death who remembered it advertised pre-WWII. As that market shrunk demand went with it.

Oh Lord, Thou Didn’teth!!!!!

Holy shit, they’ve stopped making Postum! Not long ago 6 I bought tear-open pouches of it at Smart & Final, it was so common. And it was on the menu at Musso & Franks.

Now I’ll just have to get wheat bran, wheat, molasses and maltodextrin and make my own.

What next? Will they stop making VCRs?

6 The 80s was not long ago, was it?

TV Talk

Five years ago a show came on called The Naked Chef. Ooh, naked. He was clothed, it was just something stupid to draw people in. Now one of the geniuses from Queer Eye is on “How To Look Good Naked.” No nudity. And a scholar (...) is permitting himself to be being pegged “The Naked Archeologist.” No nude women like on Russian tv news, just clothed idiots... And I know this is a prudish country, but wasn’t a touch of nudity supposed to be part of the draw of “cable,” different from censored network tv? I mean, nude and tit shots from 70s movies are barred out, swear words removed. Cable tv is like network tv, only they figured a way to make you pay for it and still not give you what you want ... It’s funny how that one Geico ad with Little Richard was hilarious and every one since then has been lame ...

Califunny Politics

Early this century Democratically-elected governor Grey Davis was swept out of office mid-term by a wave of Republican indignation at California’s $30 billion deficit. Sneaking in came Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hacked at welfare programs and took the spokes off wheelchairs, for all I know whacking it down to something less (zero?).

Davis had inherited his shortfall from 40 years of deficit policy, like Bush, like Clinton, like all of ‘em. While the state or country economy roars, the debt is washed away: when inevitably the roar lessens, trouble 7. Now Schwarzenegger has announced a $14 billion deficit so he’s trimming school lunch programs and dental work for indigents. Hurrah!

But $14 billion is a lot of money: shouldn’t HE be recalled? In fact, shouldn’t the Republicans who railed at his predecessor OFFER to remove him? An administration half as bad as the bad guy’s is still half bad!

7 Believe none of this. My degree is in tiddly-winks.

Po’ Folk

In New Orleans, I think, people protested the destruction of a poverty-level housing complex, being razed to erect a better one. “This is my HOME” cried the residents and their supporters.

Poverty housing should be a stopgap, not a lifestyle.
“I want to live here for 50 years” is a terrible statement.

You’re poor temporarily! You get OUT of the projects!

Absolute Beginnings - 1

Pete Frame, of Rock Family Trees fame, has written a book with entire sentences - many - called “The Restless Generation,” the story of British pop music in the 50s. Tracing post-war British music circles, he cites the influence of New Orleans blues on the otherwise staid, calcified British music world. Of interest to know-nothings such as myself was the evolution of Lonnie Donnegan from a sideman to a British-earthshaking Pied Piper, and frequent UK resident Ramblin’ Jack Elliot’s influence on the nascent folk/blues/beatnik scene.

The book also delineates the careers of that island’s very-special early-rock figures and how they were, mostly, created. Frame walks both sides of the fence, saluting those pale but vital to England rock-boys while wringing his hands in anguish, such as in this passage about the American R&B song “Hearts Of Stone”: “Here, it was dismembered by that eminent student of black urban culture, Billy Cotton, who put it on the chopping block and turned it into dog food.”

The number of Ians and Clives and Dickies that joined and left bands is dizzying - had Frame created a signature “family tree” it’d’ve been as big as Texas - but no one’s going to remember them all. It is simply a fascinating chronology of a time and place in music we colonials know little about. Rogan House press, ISBN13: 978-0-95295-407-1. UK only.

Absolute Beginnings - 2

Fein Mess friend and American turncoat 8 Sid Griffin has written Million Dollar Bash, an exhaustive dissection of the Band’s Basement Tapes. Drawing on myriad sources, Sid turns these songs up down and all around, including an appendix with every version of the songs they did up in Woodstock, listing, for instance, more than a hundred versions of “I Shall Be Released.” (Know the one by Martyna Jacubowicz in Poland?)

Published in England, Jawbone press, ISBN978-1-906002-05-3

8 He lives in London to be near his young daughter.

This Just in from The Provinces

Occasional reader “Gene” said that Carole King’s “It Might As Well Rain Until September” made no sense to him in 1962, living in the Napa wine country north of San Francisco. I thought, ‘It doesn’t rain in the summer, it rains in the winter. What the heck is she talking about?’ “

Subtle One-Upmanship

At a gathering to see the Arthur Lee and Love documentary, people recalled the times they saw him: 1983, 2003, etc. When the chatter died down, I turned to Paul Body and said “How many times did you see Love in 1965? ” “In a week, you mean?” he said.

(Paul’s spoken-word CD, “Love Is Like Rasputin,” came out in 1995. It covers his life throughout the year of 1965.)

Personal One-Upwomanship

I went with daughter Jessie, 16, to see ‘The Odd Couple’ at the Wadsworth Theater in West L.A. When the Pigeon sisters introduced themselves as Cecily and Gwendolyn, she leaned over and whispered “Did you know that’s the name of the sisters in ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’? “

“Of course,” I lied.

- 57 -

Mark On The Move

I used to come back from trips to the British Isles with LPs, CDs and books not available at home, but now that the dollar is weak my recent trip yielded just a bootleg of Brian Wilson in London last year (purchased at Camden Market, greatly expanded but practically no music vendors left) and a copy of David Lodge’s The Year of Henry James, not published in America. Mr. Bernanke, tear down that wall!

The holiday was built around visits to Eastbourne (“God’s Waiting Room” in local parlance), a New Year/Hogmany celebration in Edinburgh and a few days in London to see friends. Long-time buddy Neil Pain joined us in a Hampstead pastry-shop along with Sid Griffin, Kentucky expatriate and Long Ryders/Coal Porters leader. Sid said that Ray Davies frequented the shop, and called me 10 minutes after we left to tell me we’d just missed him – Sid had passed him on the street! We also hung with L.A. transplant Dave Arnoff and his wife Penny, Roger Armstrong of Ace Records and my ex-Birmingham Univ. professor David Lodge. I also managed to take in Patrick Marber’s play Dealer’s Choice, the second act of which is a tense poker game – my kind of thing.

In Eastbourne I fulfilled a lifelong anglophile’s wish to attend a Christmas Pantomime show, a version of Beauty And the Beast featuring a drag queen, adult jokes about Plastic Bertrand and local politics, Monty Python-esque wordplay, an audience sing-a-long to The Proclaimers’ “500 Miles,” and big helpings of slapstick. I vaguely remember eating some food in between gallons of Gin & Tonic, beer and tea.

Hogmany in Edinburgh, held outdoors on Princes Street, had been rained out for several years so this year’s mere drizzle was greated with great joy. Throngs in the tens of thousands danced The Gay Gordons and Strip the Willow to a Ceilidh band. On another stage, Idlewild and Kasabian (with guest Noel Gallagher) drew a crowd too crushing for me. Fireworks greeted the New Year, but the Ceilidh band did not play Auld Lang Syne. What the fu’?

-- 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 )


Danny Dean

Johnny Legend

Barry Holdship band

Doug Fieger, Ronee Blakley Harvey Sid Fisher

Glen Glenn passing out photos

Foreground: Bob Reynolds, Harry Orlove, Lisa Haley. BG: Jamie James, Mike Stinson, Brian Ray, Marty Rifkin

Michelle Shocked wearing the coat she got specially for the show. Incredibly, each time she turned to show the coat-back, the light man turned off the spotlight. But she sang great.

Mike Stinson

The Blasters

Fur & Steve


Johnny Legend, Dave Alvin

James Intveld

Dave Alvin, Chris Gaffney

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