- FEBRUARY 2012 -

Other Fein Messes
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Another Fein Mess
AF Stone’s Monthly
February 2012

Elvis Bday Bash 2012

First, let me get something straight. Ronnie Mack and James Intveld held the first (of our series) EBB in 1987. Nobody told ME about it (!), but the next year I brought it to Club Lingerie in Hollywood. Oh hell, wait, it was the Music Machine. But from then on it anchored at Club Lingerie, capacity 240, where people stood out in the street and couldn’t get in. In 1995 the brand-new House Of Blues lured us there and, not coincidentally, without this annual dependable big night, Club Lingerie collapsed.

The HOB lasted for 7 years til they wanted me to do it on a Monday because Saturday night was valuable. That caused a panicked search for a new venue that took ten years. Through the 00s the show wandered around Los Angeles, with City Councilman Tom Labonge securing venues for us, shredding and in some cases shedding our following.

I booked the venue and acts. The acts because Ronnie Mack played in clubs 8 nights a week and was badgered by musicians saying “Give me a better spot next year.” I was not beholden to musicians’ tears, so I took over.

However, in the first years the acts would praise Ronnie Mack only, as I stood in the crowd thinking “What am I - chopped Fudgsicle soup?” I had to goad the hosts (I didn’t appear onstage) to be mentioned. Then in 2000 Ronnie dropped out entirely and everybody called it Art Fein’s Elvis Bash while Ronnie continued to lead the house band.

Now it’s even-Steven, we work together, and I think we should merge our names. Art Fein & Ronnie? No, unbalanced. Ronnie Mack Works Like A Dog While Art Fein Takes The Bows? No, too long. Mackfein? Ehh. McFine. Poo. Ronnart? Uh uh. Artron.? Almost. R-Tron !


Rosie Flores walks the Echoplex gantlet, greeting comic/ singer/Sponge Bob voice Tom Kenny. All the tomahawks missed.

Todd Eckhart delivers ‘Lonesome Cowboy’ from “Loving You” with eerie accuracy and acumen. It’s the first time I understood the line “gotta rope and tie that dream of mine.”

The South Bay Surfers bring it on with less precision but unstoppable verve.

The Groovy Rednecks give it their 17th Elvis day shot!

Skip Heller, The Man In White, raises a gospel ruckus with Jesse Merlin, Clair Costa, George Wendt, Chris Clark (bass), and Mark Borinstein (hidden, drums).

Lisa Finnie looks to violinist Brantley Kearns.

Troy Walker the unstoppable, and one of the few acts on our show who actually knew Elvis.

Two femmes flagrant, Ruby Friedman and the Dusk Devils’ Jenny Gia.

Rip Masters in an uncharacteristically quiet moment. Rip rocks!

Ray Campi carries on in his sixth decade of rockin’!

Carla Olson tackles a pair of El songs with Texas gusto.

The Vaquetones, one of several East LA bands we had this year.

Rosie Flores can’t steal the show from Count Smokula’s friend Marky in his long-johns. Grinnin’ Tom Kenny says “I gotta get in this picture!”

Donna Loren somehow finds the dark part of the stage for her one-shot, get-down delightful version of “One Night.” Smiley Lewis would have been impressed.

Unscheduled but not unheralded, Pachuco Joe holds forth toward the evening’s end.

Hair slicked back like George Reeves, shirt and pants like Jim Morrison. Add two Elvis songs and Eddie Nichols is every pop hero you’ve ever known!

The night’s co-host, Treetop-tall Ronnie Mack, sends the crowd into the night (after he sang, not during) to mark the end of our 26th or 27th show, who’s counting. In the middle, but he’s not really so small, is Bday Bash guitarist Harry Orlove. On the right, steady bassist, Hawk, and solo performer Paul Marshall.

A Yank, eatin’

I know this is blasphemy, but fake bacon, the veggie stuff, is real good. In some ways better than real bacon. Thanks to my veggie daughter ... When I was living on nothing in 1971 in Santa Cruz we got food commodities from the government. (I was not a hippie, just impoverished.) One was bulgur. What the hell did you do with it? I’ve never seen it heralded in a vegetarian dish. I can always identify escapees from that period when I mention the taste of canned beef, the ‘commodity meat’ Hasil Adkins immortalized. They spasm, startled to feel an old horror arise.

Lyrical moments

Listening to Buckwheat Zydeco’s version of the Blasters’ “Marie Marie,” I heard another interpretation of the line that frustrates translators, “there’s gas in my car.” The first cover version I heard said “Your dad’s in my car.” This Louisiana guy, utterly baffled, sings “I live in my car” ... Hearing ‘Shut Down” on the “Mike Love, Bruce Johnston & David Marks of The Beach Boys Salute NASCAR” cd on the Union 76 label, I understood for the first time “Declinin’ numbers at an even rate,” the countdown before the drag race. But what does anyone make of “Tach it up,” meaning rev up your engine, whose rate shows on the tachometer?


Motorvatin’ around LA with my Frisco friend, “Like An Old Time Movie” 1by Scott MacKenzie came on the iPod. When I gushed that MacKenzie’s entire Ode album was great he paused, deliberated, and said measuredly, as to a friend, “Scott MacKenzie isn’t too well thought of in San Francisco.” Oh yeah, heh heh heh. “San Francisco” WAS horrible. But can’t a fella get a break for the rest of his songs? Same people who did the Mamas & Papas, y’know? Great singer! ... Ate at Off Vine, a real homey (in a house) Hollywood restaurant. Their iPod was playing contemporary women - Lady Gaga, Christine Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson were the ones the waiter ID’d for me. OK in their place, but each song built to a gasping shrieking climax that sounded like someone being murdered. It was the soundtrack of my indigestion ... I got a 2-disc Doris Day packet and listened to each song. I’m not strictly a rocker, but many of the well known songs were so draggy I lost track of the melody. Then it hit me: they weren’t meant to be heard. You put a stack of albums on a changer and then went about your business - screwing. (John Klemmer’s manager in the mid-70s told me that was the purpose of his recordings) ... the movie Zenith (2010) is self-described as “a retro-futuristic steam-punk thriller.” That about covers it all.

1 Rejecting a girl’s insincere advance he says “Don’t you think, that I can tell, when you’ve got no place else to go?”
Brilliant! (Well, maybe better sung.) How about “Don’t come on so groovy, you do better mean.” Love him!

This business of music

* A dozen years ago a guy who co-owned a small record company was asked by a representative of McDonalds if he could get audiocassette tapes (to be put in Happy Meal bags) made for 19 and a half cents each. He replied --

“Look, I’m not a broker. The best price I get is 24 cents.”
Well, I have to get them at 19 and a half.
“Sorry, that’s the best rate I get.”
I need 28 million of them.

* A foreign luthier who moved here to ply his trade delivered a bunch of handcrafted guitars to the guy who solicited his move, and the guy never paid him. The immigrant notified The Guitar - I mean a big store that his well known handcrafted easily identifiable wares were stolen so they could call him if the guy tried to sell them, but honor among thieves is exclusive and the central place bought them. 2. Reminds me of the rockabilly kid whose unique yellow 3/4-size standup bass was stolen at a gig. He notified all the instrument places in LA, especially the place he bought it, which is primarily a drum shop. Three years later in Canada he saw an LA bassist playing it and asked where he bought it. “The drum shop” he said. Remember -- mark your instruments and trust no one.

2 They normally sold for $3000 and the guy unloaded them for $500 each. Made things hard for the new guy in town, seeing his brand-new creations selling on Sunset for $1500.
(“These guitars are a steal!”) But he went to court and got satisfaction - from the thief, not the unprincipled big chain retailer’s Guitar Ghetto flagship.

(Caution, no information, just babble)

Isolated interest in the sound of a guitar is what interests me, which is to say it doesn’t. The subject, like so many things, is one I know nothing about. When I see someone pick one up and say “This is a nice guitar” I wonder what they’re looking at 3. Are they acknowledging the pegs aren’t glued shut? That the neck is not twisted?

I’ve seen a replacement guitarist in a popular band here play many times. The breaks are where they should be, never out of time, never a duff note. Yet people, musician-people, say they don’t like him. “He’s not imaginative” they tell me.

Well you’re a pro. Normal people don’t go see the same band a dozen times in 12 months. The guy plays the correct notes with vigor and precision - that’s his job. It isn’t his band. Nobody asked him to vary it.

My friend named some of his favorite guitar solos and I had nothing to say about his choices. What’s so great about guitars? Rock & roll should have a piano and sax. Otherwise it’s “Rock,” and who really likes that? Guitars are part of songs, and they fulfill a purpose - to repeat the melody while the singer gets a glass of water. A five-minute guitar solo? Don’t people get restless? I went to a Led Zeppelin concert and after a half hour my friend Bill looked at me and said “Too much soloing.” Bill liked songs, like I do. We left.

I don’t disrespect guitar-lovers, I simply don’t understand them. I like guitars in thousands of records, many of them guitar instrumentals. It’s people’s worship of them apart from the other elements of a recording that baffles me.

‘Round Town

Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance, 1st Monday of every month, fell on January 2 in this fine new year.

Billy Vera holds forth.

Jennifer Keith Quintet.

The Vaquetones

James Intveld jaws with steel player Marty Rifkin. Behind, Michelle Shocked with keyboard king Skip Edwards.


“If it bleeds, it leads” is the tv news motto, so shootings lead off every local newscast. Cause and effect? It’s known that it’s a rite of passage in some circles to get your shooting on tv ... Banner running under a local newscast: “Today is the fictional 40t birthday of R2D2” (or some other made-up character) ... Now that there’s nothing on tv anymore, I hark back to Comedy Central shows I taped 20 years ago. Alan King’s one-on-ones with comedians were the best interview shows I ever saw. His involvement in the conversation was uniquely intimate and true. I wonder if they’re commercially available ... Jack Benny reruns on Antenna TV are jarring. For one thing he’s a wolf, lusting after young women. It’s odd. And his relationship with Rochester is abusive - “Get over here and fix my tie!” would be grotesque whatever color Rochester was ...Rare in local tv news, a field devoid of intentional humor, the cutline under a disgruntled petroleum purchaser, “Jenny Lopez/ Getting Gas,” slipped by ... Matt F, on Comedy Central, calling his suburban white rap group “Straight Out Of Nordstroms” ... Last ish I mentioned CNN’s Erin Burnett’s inescapable adorableness based on my view of her sans sound. She does work it. But I have no opinion of her brain, never having heard her. On LA local news we have a news reader, Leslie Sykes, who sounds like she’s is riding a horse on a merry-go-round: “TODAY in MALIBU some WHALES were SEEN.” My neck aches from bobbing my head ... ABC network news: “The high divorce rate for people over 50 shows that women want more.” Are only women getting divorced?


In print, Jerry Lewis wears the same bulls eye as Kenny G, Dave Matthews and other artists whose popular appeal ruffles writers’ ugly feathers. That said, Greg Braxton’s 12-19 LATimes account of the flattering 12-17 Lewis-generated biographical tv tribute tested A-plus, which is to say veered from critical carping and focussed on his good work and his army of admirers. A big stamp of Braxton’s uniqueness is that he didn’t note that the program omitted mention of Lewis’s serious movie, The Day the Clown Cried. That Lewis never finished that film always causes crits to crow, as if they were superior for finishing their own article or sentence.

Perhaps alarmed by the praise, Calendar editors ceded space to another point of view 3, Robt Lloyd’s, which suggested that the Lewis people should have asked HIS opinion before making the tribute. Things like “It would be interesting to hear“ Lewis consider his suggestions, despite the market’s lopsided preference for Lewis over Lloyd. He sneered at Jerry’s popularity in Cannes “where the paparazzi flashbulbs pop and the citizens take him seriously.” And he gets in - thank goodness - “there is also no mention of The Day The Clown Cried or later not-so-good failures.”

At the end Lloyd singled out a Lewis mutterance that his comedy is “a stupid way to make a fortune,” and thrust, as if in a coup de grace, “He doesn’t mean it, I am at least half sure.” It was David with no rock.

3 My mini-recorder picked up some of my dying musician friend’s last words. “When our album got a great review the goddam music editor had someone else write a rebuttal. A rebuttal! Why the hell do you assign someone to write something bad about a band?” He died still suffering that written sling in the LATimes. (The music editor, who had championed the band, heard that some music critics didn’t like the act and needed to hedge his bet.)


Alex Tree-bek says “short-lived” with a hard I, as if “live” had a life other than as an adjective ...11-16-11 NYT Jason Zinoman says that Sarah Silverman is “now 40” but Amy Schuman is 30. When is Amy 30? Without “now” how can we know? ... A TCM lookback at WB movie studio featured some learned commentators, but I could detect the under-40 guy without looking up when he used ‘quintessential’ and ‘iconic’ five words apart. It’s a giveaway like the German chocolate bar in Went The Day Well ... TV news, “Students gather at Paterno’s iconic statue.” As in statuesque statue ... Do you hear a surge in “IN-shurnce” for insurance? It was a southern thing, down yonder where the syllables die ... Twice in 2 days I heard people on tv pronounce demurred ‘demured’ ...1-18 AOL news feed says a discovery was made near the “infamous” Hollywood Sign. They’re infamous for ignorance at AOL. Steve Chawkins, 1-25 LATimes, says a town is “infamous” as a speed trap. It means catastrophic, not badly famous, Stevie ... The Orange County tv interviewer said Bruce Dern has a “voracious memory.” Not as bad as Springsteen’s ‘hungry heart,’ which sounds like a sci-fi monster ... Reading Alexander Woollcott’s “While Rome Burns” (1934) I came across: shoon for shoes; appanage, a necessary expense; bouse, the french base for booze; anchorite, hermit; and whilom, former. And a woman he called “that somewhat different virgin.” All new to me, but I just got here ...

No spika da English

11-30, Randy Lewis. Sting was “uber-casual.” Jawold, mein herr. Umlat!! And “Sting kept things from careening too far.” To which side were they leaning?

Screw you LA! 4

Jessica Guynn 5 in her 1-15 LAT profile of a San Francisco guy named Houston, says his name is pronounced “like the Manhattan street, not the city in Texas.”

”How-ston” would have conveyed that simpler. Saved space, made it clear. But there’s room to spare in the shrinking LATimes - fritter away. AND NEVER PASS AN OPPORTUNITY TO REMIND PEOPLE IN L.A. THAT THEY SHOULD KNOW EVERY STREET IN NEW YORK!

If I wrote ‘The J in Jaime is pronounced like the J in Tujunga” in the New York Times, would anyone mind? Sure, NYTimes editors, who unlike their counterparts do not have other-coast envy.

Also, Guynn says Houston has “spiky Elvis Costello hair.” Does anyone recall a spike-hair period for him? She must mean “hair like Elvis Costello’s if he spiked it.”

4 “Screw You, Taxpayer” was a running gag on SCTV where they destroyed props while announcing their prices, to mock the Canadian government’s sponsorship of the show.

5 Young Jessie 6 follows in the footsteps of another LATimes Gotham-adorer, Jessica Gelt. My daughter, Jessica, has not been to NY yet, but when she does I hope she doesn’t come back spouting NYisms, though it seems inevitable.

6 Young Jessie, Obie Jessie, who did the first version of “Mary Lou,” the 1959 Ronnie Hawkins hit, was a guest on my show in 2006 alongside Penguins lead singer Cleve Duncan. It was a proud hour.

Tain’t it the truth 7

Barry Bonds to do time for lying about steroids? What the hell was my govt doing asking him? Who asked them? It’s a blot on the sport or not, but this is no different than making someone state whether he was in the Communist party.

I know levelheaded people who turned on Bill Clinton for lying about smoking pot. “I didn’t inhale” was a wink-wink generational thing. Did someone not get it? Even lying about Lewinsky -- who the hell’s business was it? Was it the equal of hiring burglars? Did the attorney general cover it up? There was no danger to the nation. There are plenty of reasons to rue Clinton, but not these.

Get government out of baseball, or next they’ll prosecute base-stealers.

7 Great Ernie K-Doe (Kador) song.

Funny, you don’t look shrewish

In everyone’s rush to condemn Newt G’s marital practices, the gloves are on when it comes to the women. The schreyer who was interviewed about ‘open marriage’ was the lucky devil who snatched him from the first wife. Shouldn’t she and the current Mrs. G be demonized? Or are women powerless to resist any man who asks.

Winner #3 would be a great interview subject.
She joined the team to make him look good !

The typewriter, and the damage done

I heard Etta James’s duet with Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows on the 1960 song “If I Can’t Have You,” and my mood turned dark as I harked back to 2000, when the Moonglows were elected into the R&R Hall of Fame and a local nationally-published newspaper pipsqueak wrote a column saying they didn’t deserve it.

That writer, reared here in Los Angeles, was awakened in the mid-1950s to both rock & and roll and country music with little exposure to black vocal groups. If you asked him if Carl Perkins was a rock & roll giant from just one hit he’d say ‘You bet!’ Johnny Cash? No rock & roll records, but ‘Sure!’
Yet if you asked him if the LA-based Platters 8 or Penguins or Robins (Coasters) or Etta James or Big Jay McNeely or Johnny Otis were important in music history he’d say ‘Oh, I don’t know. Maybe. Or maybe not so much.’

Newspaper babble is rarely anthologized so this dimwit’s words hurt only the person he criticized. (Fuqua was a longtime LA music figure, so surely saw the piece.) The singer’s admirers knew the writer was a weasel so gave it no further thought. Unfortunately, I’m still trying to dislodge it.

8 The Platters’ early records on Federal were great R&B sizzlers. And their (Zola Taylor’s) version of “Goodnight My Love” on the Platters Encore! album on Mercury/Wing is the definitive version if/ in case you ask me.


Ironic? No, coincidental that the preceding was written before Etta James’s death Jan 20th. ‘Ironic’ is that she is defined by the song “At Last.” Her version of that pop standard made it to just #47 in 1961, but in 1995 it became her signature song after it was used in a tv commercial for the Jaguar XJ automobile. Her best-charting records were “Dance With Me Henry,” the 1955 chart topper, and “Tell Mama,” which got to #23 in 1967. “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” was a monstrous good song, but didn’t dent the charts much. In fact her whole single recording career was spent in the middle and lower reaches of the Top 100.

I saw her twice. In the late 70s her record company held a showcase in a recording studio. She was in the throes of some kind of drug dilemma, leaning over and hanging on the mike stand, sometime squatting, writhing and looking not at all like the record company wished. It was painful to watch and I came from it shaken.

The other time was at the Roxy, when her Warner Bros album came out in 1992. She was straight and great. Hearing her sing “Take It To The Limit” stunned me - her singing it made you realize what that song was about. (The Eagles’ version didn’t do it for me.)

“Rage To Survive,” Etta’s autobiography, is as thrilling as a music bio gets. Her scrapes with drug dealers, police, record companies and more spill out in excruciating detail. Her performance of “I’d Rather Go Blind” with Doctor John, (on a staggeringly important Soundstage blues show produced by Ken Ehrlich in 1987) is one of the most powerful musical moments ever recorded.


Johnny Otis RIP

Here was a guy who so immersed in black music and culture that he joined the black race! (Born of Greek parents in Oakland, he answered to black all his life.) He did his own music and launched others’ careers. “Willie & The Hand Jive” was great and so was “Country Hop” and a lot of good ones that got away. His place in LA music history is rock solid - he did a weekly R&B tv show here in the early 50s and was a constant presence in LA life, performing constantly throughout the city. (In 1983 he played Doctor Demento’s wedding reception. I deejayed!) He was an indefatigable champion of harmony, both in music and racial relations.


In Randall Roberts’ 1-21 LAT appreciation of Etta James, he wrote “It’s been speculated” that B.B. King wrote ‘Sweet Sixteen’ “with her in mind.” Two things.

1. Something that hasn’t been speculated would be news, although impossible. “Crediting” anonymous speculation is not Big City journalism.

2. The notion that King was attracted to 16-year-old Etta, and in his amazement he wrote a song, overlooks blues history. Blind Willie McTell and Memphis Minnie, for two, wrote songs about the pleasures of 13- and 14-year-olds. Maybe King was raised in a seminary - uh-oh!

Both Roberts and the LATimes Randy Lewis cited lyrics from “At Last” to demonstrate what a great singer she was. I ran my iPhone over them in hopes of hearing them, to no avail. If no sound is supplied, what’s the point?

Etta’s 70’s/80’s/90’s guitarist Brian Ray was not consulted by reporters. The skinny blonde L.A. native figures largely in her autobiography, not just for his part in her music but for shielding her, at his home, from drug dealers. Ray played with France’s Johnny Hallyday in the late 90s and then joined Paul McCartney’s band, where he remains today.

In Dave Alvin’s fervid1-21 LATimes appreciation of Johnny Otis, a fifth of the space was devoted to explaining who Dave was without mentioning his Grammy.

But they’re our friends!

* The Big Four of Silico
n Valley signed a pact agreeing not to hire each other’s employees. That keeps secrets hid and salaries down. Kinda like the trusts of the late 19th century. Good thing Teddy Roosevelt’s gone.

* I inquired how to drop a Ballys health club membership. I was told that I must present proof that I have changed residences and do not live within 25 miles of a Ballys. “Oh, the one you joined was one mile away and it closed? Well move, or take out a loan for the gas you’ll burn.” Ballys once made pool tables, now they just make enemies.

Their rotten, insulting terms don’t matter now. LA Fitness took over Ballys in LA, so I terminated with LAF, which required simply mailing a form. But you can drop any health club membership by closing your bank account or credit card. When my credit was being checked 13 years ago, I asked how skipping out on a health club contract would affect it. They said “We see those on credit reports all the time. Nobody cares.”

What’s going on at the film academy?

This is how Nicole Sperling, LAT 1-7-12, identifies “some members” and “some leaders” who dislike the new prexy of AMPAS: “according to half a dozen academy insiders familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity because board deliberations are supposed to be confidential and because some fear reprisals.”

For one thing “some” always means less than “most.” (Later she iterates that it is a “minority” viewpoint.) So where’s the fire? She spoke to six crabby people; you can find that many in any organization. Then she says “many” expected another person to get the job. Why not a number, as in the 30-word space-waster about “some”? Still, many is not most.

The hardy movie board endured a ‘PR nightmare’ last year when the Academy Awards telecast producer, since fired, used the unforgivable outrageous dire insulting hurtful crippling word “fag” literally indiscriminately. His slip of the brain, the bitchers and Sperling concur, lay clearly at Hudson’s feet. That the organization soldiered on without collapsing from this sings bold of its mettle.

But what about those people, the ‘somes’? In confiding in Sperling they are so untrue to their vows of confidentiality THEY should be distrusted. And what was that about them trembling in fear? Good lord, it sounds like anyone speaking about “the company” will be garroted. It would be cheap to compare AMPAS to the Mafia, so I won’t.

Someone at the LATimes should follow up on these questions.
Just not Nicole, she’s blown her cover. If you are seen talking to her now, the jig is up. (Yoiks! Glad I’m not an Academy Awards telecast producer!)

At the dentist

Fifteen years ago the dental hygienist said to me, “With all the diseases going around, it’s not much of a sacrifice for you guys to use condoms.”

She held instruments of torture, so I withheld my reply, which was “Put an oral condom on your tongue every time you eat. The taste of food will be gone, but you’ll still have a sense of it from memory. It’s not much of a sacrifice.”

More famous encounters

- In 1976 (?), a party was held at the Beverly Hills Hotel to launch a new Grand Funk album. Alice Cooper came with Groucho Marx, and as they wedged through the crowd Groucho, somewhat dazed, accepted many of the outstretched hands that greeted him. Including mine.

- In the late 70s I was sitting at a desk in the Motown office and bumped into Stevie Wonder. Well, he bumped into me. Literally, he swayed slightly to the side and his leg touched me. In 2003 I went downtown to receive a plaque for the Elvis shows at City Hall and afterwards, in the hallway, Tom Labonge saw Stevie exiting a meeting and shoved me in his path and we shook hands. I’m working my way up to touching his shoulder.

That wasn’t so long ago, was it ..

The original MTV logo, when Music TV had music, was an IBM Selectric ball representing the earth, and modern tech.

Speaking of which, I have missed communications, invitations, affirmations, examinations (listen to Dylan much?) because I do not go to Facebook for real-life matters. FB is a pit of argybargy. I continue to send notices, questions, ideas etc via email just like we did in the 50’s.

It’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.


Best comment ever ...


Under this 1956 clip of Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps --
“What the fuck am I doing in the 21st Century!!??”

Good idea

A friend in SF always finds a parking space in his old neighborhood. Thirty years ago he painted the curb outside his house yellow, and now he parks there when in the area.

Proactive Punditry

New phrases stick like flypaper. This summer at a restaurant with a visitor I said, to my surprise, “That’s how I roll.” Five minutes later the waitress said it and I dropped it.

That’s my legendary quintessential iconic backstory.
The end.

- 57 -

I hadn’t been to The Canyon Club in Agoura for many years. Agoura is 25 miles from Hollywood, heading west on the 10

It is a barn-size venue with a large dance floor ringed with dinner tables. The acts that play there are still-breathing survivors of better times; Steppenwolf, Gordon Lightfoot, Champlin billed single-namedly and identified not from Sons of Champlin but the group Chicago, whose lead singer he was for a while. Fine entertainers all, the place fills the void, in live music, unfilled by the absence of second-run movie houses.(This graph generously donated by Art Fein.)

I went there to see Jill Sobule, who was scheduled to open the first of a series of shows for Lisa Loeb, the first recording artist to hit #1 on Billboard without being signed to a record label. (Her song “Stay” on the CD soundtrack to “Reality Bites” accomplished this in 1994).
Doors opened at 6 pm and the show was set to kick off at 8. Not wanting to purchase dinner from the club’s rather pricey menu, I figured showing up at 7 pm would assure a reasonably decent non-reserved seat.  (I got my ticket half-price from goldstar.com, which suggested tickets were not selling well.)  I was right, the joint only contained about 40 people when I arrived and I was seated at a table not far from the stage.  I figured I’d see Jill and have the option to bail if Loeb didn’t please.  A potential early night.
Unfortunately, when the curtain parted promptly at 8 it revealed an unannounced opening act, who proceeded, for 40 minutes, to caterwaul some of the most puerile songs I’ve heard (and I’ve seen plenty of bad acts).  She also giggled and talked about the cold she had and how it might interfere with an event she had scheduled later in the week, having raised enough money from her campaign at kickstarter.com to pay for a professional video shoot.  Despite the temptation to reveal her name so you might avoid her I won’t, in case “no publicity is bad publicity” is true.
Having endured this, I was now more than a little antsy after two hours of waiting to see Jill, when Lisa Loeb walked on stage and explained that as she was five months pregnant, she had prevailed upon Jill to allow her to open the show so she could get to sleep early.  Unfortunately, I did not find Lisa entertaining (although the crowd, now numbering about a hundred, seemed to like her okay).  I felt trapped in the play “Waiting For Sobule.”
There was a break after Loeb’s set, during which more than half of the crowd left, so when Jill finally went on at 10 pm, she acknowledged our remnant in a sweet way – “Thanks for sticking around.  I thought everybody’d leave!”  She invited us to move closer to the stage and then delivered her usual playful, tuneful and smart show, this time including two songs she’d written for a new version of “Yentl” (based on the I.B. Singer short story, not the Streisand movie), and her anti-Tea Party sing-a-long with the refrain “When they say they want our America back/What the fuck do they mean?”  I’m not sure I’ll jump at the next chance to give the Canyon Club a go, but I’ll still see Jill every chance I get.
The next afternoon, Freakbeat Records in Sherman Oaks hosted a talk, Q&A and signing of a new series of 45rpm releases, by Van Dyke Parks, whose massive talents as a songwriter, arranger, archivist and producer do not exceed his knack for speechifying.  (My friend Harold Bronson interviewed Van Dyke in the early 70s, and only had to ask one question to elicit an hour-long, quite brilliant answer.  I have personally encountered Mr. Parks’ erudition, feistiness and genteel Southern manners on a number of occasions; he can be depended upon to reveal information you didn’t know from an angle you didn’t know existed.)  His peroration on this occasion encompassed his father’s wisdom (“Don’t get in a pissing contest with a skunk”), experiences recording The Mighty Sparrow at Criteria Studios in Miami during a hurricane, the greatness of guitarist Grant Geissman (who was in attendance), his lack of interest in writing an autobiography (citing the curious omissions common in the form:  “I guess Stephen Stills just FORGOT that I suggested Buffalo Springfield as his band’s name after seeing a streamroller with that written on the side”), his disdain for the release of “The Smile Sessions” boxed set (“an exercise in redundancy”) and his correspondence with painter/Beatle-associate Klaus Voormann and cartoonist/author Art Spiegelman, two of several worthies who have supplied artwork for Van Dyke’s splendid new 45rpm series.
A true child prodigy, Van Dyke first started acting and studying music in the fifties (born Jan. 3, 1941 in Hattiesburg, MS) and is still in no danger of becoming “normal” thank goodness.
-- Mark Leviton

(Mark’s sixties-themed radio show Pet Sounds can be heard alternate Wednesdays 10pm-Midnight PST on KVMR-FM 89.5 in the Sacramento area and streaming at www.kvmr.org )

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