- February 2015 -

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‘Round Town

1-03 Came late to the big Ronnie Mack soiree at Viva Cantina and caught Billy Vera, Guitar Shorty and Big Jay McNeely.

Guitar Shorty really wails.

Ronnie Mack and Jeff Ross (“L.A. Rockabilly”) back up Big Jay.

1-06 Cops chased gang kids around the hills, cornered them in front of my house. Guns drawn, big stuff.

1-8 The 28th annual Elvis Birthday Show. see ELVIS

1-11 Party at friend Scott Meyer’s house for Dwight & Jan Twilley, in town to pick up some master tapes. As most people there were Twilley friends, I played chef. Nobody was poisoned. Tommy Keene was among the visitors.

Photographer Zox has Twilley “up against the wall” to get the Hollywood sign in the shot.

1-12 Another visit to Viva Cantina to see Troy Walker and Jimmy Angel, this time with the Twilleys. They stayed to talk to the house band afterward.

1-14 The Twilley acoustic performance drew a storeful to Wombleton Records in Eagle Rock. The next morning they started their trek back to Tulsa.

1-17 Diane and I went to see the Jimmy Angel documentary at a screening room on Wilshire Blvd. It is the soul-baring story of a guy who’s waited for his chance. And it looks like that time has come.

1-18 Dropped in to see poet/performer John Tottenham at Stories Books. We see him weekly there in the summer, before the Sunday afternoon Grand Ole Echo shows.

1-24 Took some new publicity pics of Rip Masters at Ray Campi’s house in Eagle Rock. They posed for dual shots, too, with Ray dog-sick with the flu. (The next day he canceled a concert appearance in England. Rip filled in.)

1-24 - Went to the Hudson Marquez’s art show at Wacko!

Another Fein Mess
AF Stone’s Monthly
February 2015

Breathing music

The digital explosion filled the holes after 40 years of searching for songs that got away. And on that quest I found thousands more. As the end draws nearer - I’m OK, just sayin’ - I am stuffing my soul with music.

What to do with this treasure? They can’t saw open my head. Someone, still, can get them off my ancient (2009) iMac from the Doug Fieger estate. But I’m not sayin’ that will always be possible, with landbound music less the norm daily.

Tonight’s total is 35,348 tunes. The ones I sought, plus ten or twenty thousand I found. But what’s it for? Solace ?

My delight after loading music borrowed from friends and libraries (no net downloads, not manly) is hearing them at random on the iPod in the car. I’ll have to take some long damn drives to hear them all. But the thrill of discovering a song is, well, really something. And it happens daily.

How does it compare to playing one single over and over like in the beginning? There is no comparison. That was intense because it was limited to what you could buy. Every spin was meaningful. Then there were albums, but you had to stand up constantly to skip songs you didn’t like.

So it’s good I didn’t have today’s technology when I was a kid. I would have grown into a music-obsessed old fool.

Kim Fowley 1939 - 2015

Kim’s was a name I saw on numerous records as I learned music history. When I got to LA in the 1970s, I found his extremely stylized presence distinct, and grotesque. He called his work a hustle, and I paid him little mind.

This century we bonded as our age-pool thinned. He’d spot me across a room and come over. I supposed he was drawn to someone from the ‘50s camp whence he sprang, and I gradually came to understand the guy behind the theatrics.
He was a guest on the Poker Party a couple times.1

At his funeral January 22, a handful of speakers - the chapel service at Hollywood Forever was limited to one hour - praised him for the joy he brought them. His ‘crowd’ was not mine, but here we all were close, the hundred of us.

Was he lonely? The thought never occurred to me because he was so aggressive and present. But when a speaker said that few people knew where he lived I wondered if anyone invited him to Christmas or other familial gatherings. He always said he lived in some dog this-or-that hole. Did people more sensitive than me take the bait?

I was touched by the ceremony, but it wasn’t until the casket began its glide out of the chapel and the music played that I choked up. He chose “Whispering Bells” for his final ride.

1 My shows are now being represented for documentaries and such. I phoned the organization to ask what happened when someone died, and I had footage of them. Did they send out a notice to news organizations? No, they said. “News outlets don’t pay. They take stuff off youtube.”


Every LA Public library seems to stock the MC5 ‘Kick Out The Jams’ album. Was a trainload donated? More to the point, they are filed in Popular alongside Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Was this some long-range plan from WEA to convert ‘squares’? Imagine the curious one who pops this, thus filed, in and hears “Kick out the jams motherfuckers” ... I know the internet is intensely scrutinized for accuracy, so when I stumbled on classicbands.com and read that Don Everly had died in early 2014 and Phil Everly was sad, I was sad too ... Memory? I recently recalled an afternoon free concert in Denver in 1969 at a roller rink. The acts were Joe Cocker, Free and Ten Years After. It seems absurd, but I’ve gotten corroboration. Surely a teaser to get you to come to their concerts ... The Slits and Sleater-Kinney are hailed, now, for just being. They were girls defined by not being males, heroines in an uncrowded field. They sold no records, and their songs were not recorded by others, but still ... In a PBS docu about Chicago rock, a band member says the group chose its name because it sounded English. It does, but that sidesteps everyone in the city’s recognition of the famous Buckingham Fountain downtown ... Racing out of the Elvis show (at its finale), deejay Shotgun Kelly complimented me on the show. He is pals with my deejay friend Bill Gardner (from KLZ in Denver, 1966). I mention Bill because he, a tall fellow, saw a picture I took of us when he visited here last year and went on a diet. He lost 87 lbs ... I am loath to criticize a musician, as most are trying. Paul Shaffer’s stance as a nebbish hero is good but taking it any further unsettles me. I recently was thrilled finding a dvd of Ken Erhlich’s 1986 HBO special featuring piano-players Fats, Jerry Lee and Ray (Charles) but was unnerved by the wild shots of Shaffer standing near Fats pounding the piano-top. It seemed to placed there to add legitimacy to Fats, this young credentialed tv guy. Shaffer’s nebbish role in the brilliant and never-seen HBO movie “Viva Shaff Vegas” was an admirable play on his character, but Shaffer performing a song as if on level with those guys? I’m sure it made him feel as bad in that light as it did me ... A hippie episode of ‘Dragnet 1968’ showed color newsreel footage of kids milling around Pandora’s Box at the time of the 1966 Sunset Strip riots. Ironic that ‘For What It’s Worth’ 2 - Stop - hey, what’s that sound - was written about Sunset Blvd teens. It stuck like glue to the Viet Nam war.

2 Turk a jerk? Goldstar Recording Studio co-founder Stan Ross often told a story about getting a call one midnight late in 1966 from Ahmet Ertegun in New York asking him to drive over to the Columbia Records studio on Sunset to help Neil Young get a certain guitar sound on "For What It's Worth.' "So I stayed there and fixed it and left when the sun was coming up. Ahmet never mentioned it. Never thanked me."


Richard Brody in the 11-18 New Yorker calls the Coen brothers attitude in ‘Llewyn Davis’ a “disabused fascination.” Say what? ... 2013 NYer, Jack London article, says he worked for “ten cents an hour” at a mill. Why does the NYer allow such flimflam without adding if not a wage comparison to today, at least “when a loaf of bread cost two cents”? ... 1-27, Sarah Palin, said Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, was “floundering in a sea of non-sequiturs.” The word is ‘founder,’ taking water and sinking. Only a sick flounder drowns ...

These Are the Times of L.A.

12-9-14 An area of downtown is deemed “increasingly hip” by clarions David Zahniser and Roger Vincent, who know ...12-11 Two pieces about Oscar picks aver that “clarity eludes” a consensus. Drivel, he says ... 1-6 In a piece about Malibu swells’ NIMBY efforts, Matt Stevens prefaced one crank as a “director and Emmy-winning actor” like it’s germane and you didn’t know ... 1-3 Calendar item, Saldana (?) “reveals twin sons’ names.” On Twitter. For this Nardine Saad gets a byline ...1-8 I know not Glenn Whipp, but for the opening line in a piece about a french moviemaker, “Nobody was waiting for Godard,” I say Ready! Aim! Fire! ...1-11 A gun battle in San Francisco. Area gentrifying, but not gentrified. Why does Lee Romney quote a New Yorker (!) Tweeting (!!!) that he didn’t move there (Oh, please stay) to get shot at? Why are we told that “at least” four guns (so, maybe twenty?) were involved? What value is the detail that bodies were found in a “double-parked Honda?” Or that the police chief says that this crime needs to be solved? Hold the story a day and get facts ... 1-25 And the prize for the most egregious flim-flam so far this year goes to Lauren Beale in the oh-so factual Hot Property column for reprinting this press release: “Zach Goldsmith and Rita Goldsmith of Hilton & Hyland/Christie’s International Real Estate was (sic) the listing agent and John Johnston of Sotherby’s International Realty represented (buyer) Mars, according to real estate agents not authorized to comment on the deal.” The jaw drops.


Don’t people at the LATimes look at the paper? Are there editors? This virtual duplication in the California Section, December 7 and December 13, is uproarious.

To get streaking-headlights shots you steady the camera and shoot for 1/15th of a second, or something slow. And shoot at dusk to get a little blue in the sky. Then your picture can look like the other 4000 that ran in America that day.

Streaks do not occur in life. No person sees them. We just see headlights. Cameras see streaks, and many, many, many photo editors ask for them.

The sight is not news it is trickery. You are seeing something unconnected to human experience. If this artificiality is good, why not run X-ray photos? Probably come up with some interesting effects. After all, nobody wants news in a news photo, just creativity. Posed photos, like a foreground pair of walking legs trisecting a scene, is “art” and has no business in a newspaper. Showing the president’s head boxed by two blurry heads suggests stealth - “I got the photo !” - when the president is plenty available alone. The snapshot fraternity races to outclever one another.

Go back to black & white, and make them carry Speed Graphics. Digital photography is the dullard’s workshop.

Listen To The Worm

Because newspapers are staffed with insecure people given a platform, they speak only in peer talk. This is criminally true in obits.

There is “music critic” loyalty that demands peer group agreement. Neil Young - good, John Denver - bad. No matter that both sold the same amount of records, Denver sold to the wrong people. The simple people. The proles.

Rod McKuen died January 30, and people touched by his work mourned. Not the obit desk of the LATimes. His ‘kitsch’ was not on a world par with, say Lou Reed, so the LATimes assigns his 1-31 obit to fear-driven knucklewalker David Colker who sprinkles the send-off with sneers.

At first McKuen is described neutrally, then Colker gets to crow. Though popular, critics “scorched” his poems. Exhibiting a quatrain from one, Colker clucks that it “gave them some ammunition,” them being smart people like Clucker. He salves this graceless note with “But the pans were not unanimous.” (He’s so above the guy who was loved by millions. It’s a crime his name too isn’t a crossword puzzle answer!) Near the end, Crockpot gurgitates that a 21st century McKuen ‘comeback’ (FROM WHAT? ) ‘mostly fizzled.’ He squats, he drizzles, he dumps.

Who wants arrogance in an obit? Get someone on par with the deceased to write a sendoff, not a downtrodden, unknown, resentful peer-fearing bonehead.

TV news

The man who left a botox clinic in San Francisco without paying “is now being called The Botox Bandit.” Each new appellation more childish and pathetic ... CBS network flutter over Gloria Allred coming up with women with accusations is not news. Her representing a man would be news ... “Some snow could accumulate, potentially causing a possible closure.” Say what? Say nothing ... “according to sources who declined to be identified, the company has no comment” is the epitome of nothingness. Channel 11 “news,” Jan 20 ...

Tech history.

A JFK assassination docu says that Zapruder had just purchased a “cutting-edge Super-8 camera” for the purpose of filming the president. Cutting-edge indeed, since that format was introduced in 1965 .... I had a 1960s b/w tv ‘til 1980, and then when I got a color one had to turn multiple knobs to lighten the picture or adjust the color, lacking cable.The tv signal came from the air, like magic, and commercials were limited by law to just three minutes per half hour. It was only when you began paying for tv reception that the commercial content was raised to ten or what the market will bear. A swindle, you say?

Still living in the ‘60s

A couple gardeners work here each week, about 20 minutes. Occasionally, like after a windstorm, they work longer. When it’s hot out I bring them water bottles. Last year I decided to give them each twenties at Christmas. The reception was quite cool. This year when I handed them to the one guy, he just looked at me. Later, opening the wrong trash can, I saw discarded envelopes with their names on them. Now I suspect my neighbor gave them hundreds. Brother ... Using Clarisworks, the word process that came with my first Apple around the turn of the century, keeps me out of the current world. Techs have to dance around its dusty framework. Well, everything written online in the past 20 or 30 years will evaporate anyway. A hard copy is the only hope (I’ve printed these columns). The up side is no Tweets will survive ...


The commercials for Progressive Insurance dishearten me. The gal in the nurselike outfit - she wants you to be well - is cheery at the Progressive store WHICH DOES NOT EXIST.

This insurance scheme is a bank of computers. You go to an agent who handles every insurer and ask for Progressive, if you want. The ‘promise’ of someone swell like Fern (?) selling you in a heavenlike setting is cruel. I was especially set off recently by their ad that showed a family ‘shopping’ and suddenly, and convincingly, jolted by the pleasure of recognizing her. It was heartrending to a fault.


Why do so many people pad stories?
Why do editors accept it?

If someone is shot at a Starbucks, a writer will say “This is unusual. This is a place where people come to drink coffee and work on computers, not be caught in gunfire.” If a car crashes into a french restaurant, “This is not normal for Chez Paris. People normally come here for bouillabaisse and crepe suzettes.” It’s like My Weekly Reader, the obvious stated doubly.


I passed through one at Farmers Market recently. It is a haven for people to be alone publicly, in a dark glow. People seated evenly with their backs to the wall suggest a full-bodied version of the catacombs of Paris. I looked a good long time before I sensed motion.


My 1994 SAAB’s female, you should pardon my french, seatbelt part broke. You can’t get a new replacement. The garage took one from a wreck. Had to remove the power seat, re-bolt it to the floor. $225 ... My daughter, whose 2002 Volvo ended up stolen by the mechanic who fixed it got a ‘99 Honda from my sweetheart Diane, who’s quit the road. I checked Jessie’s side-view mirror placement and insisted she turn them way back, so they catch the space adjoining the car. Center interior mirrors are designed to see both adjoining lanes behind. The side ones mirror the blind spots, should not duplicate the center one ..

Clothes to you

Christmas night, daughter Jessie sent me out for supplies for her party. A black guy in the Yucca Market parking lot asked for change. I handed him a buck. He said thanks, resumed standing, pointed to part of his jeans ripped straight down at the fly, torn square to the outside. “Cops gonna get me for showing my dick” he laughed. Nothing showed but a white pocket. I thought for a minute. “What size do you take?” He said 36, but 34 would do. I drove home and got an old pair of jeans and gave it to him.

On a cheerier, or not, note, five years ago I took a custom-made lime-green sport coat from Doug Fieger’s stuff, hoping that someday I would slim down to get into it. I didn’t, and moreover I didn’t get taller, so I gave it to Skip Heller, who wore it at the Elvis show. I’m sure this pleased Doug, who is still present there every year.

Very incorrect

While the great Bob Nolan song “Tie That Critter Down” features some fascinating westernisms about roundups and branding, especially the last verse celebrating how they’ll blow their pay -- “I’ll burn hair for next month’s tear - (burning hair meaning branding) -- there’s also this colorful but troubling verse -

When the sun goes down and the moon comes ‘round
To the old cook shack we’re headin’. 
We’ll throw the pie in the Chink cook’s eye
And tie him to his beddin’
And make him run to the tune of a gun
So hold that critter down.

When I first heard it by the Maddox Brothers, I thought they were saying “throw some lye in the Chink cook’s eye.” The actual words aren’t much better.

Who knows

A friend’s sister was burdened by a ne’er do well friend whose fallback plan was to hit it rich on Lotto. Since tickets get a second play if you register them online, the guy paid store owners to retrieve throwaways from the trash so he could re-try them. He won a million dollars.

Lyricists, give up. You’ll never do better.

“Stalin Kicked the Bucket,” by Ray Anderson, 1953 -

“He died of a hemorrhage of the brain,
They got a new fireman on the devil’s train.”

- 57 -

Mark On The Move - by Mark Leviton
The Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis has become one of my favorite concert venues.  The complex contains several performance spaces, the largest being the warm and woody Jackson Hall, which holds 1800.  The sight lines from any seat are excellent and the acoustics are superb.  They've got a booking policy that encompasses all sorts of music, lectures, dance and theater.  Their tendency to book shows at 7pm eases my return trip to Nevada City, 80 miles away.
In December 2014 the Brad Mehldau Trio performed a stellar 100-minute set.  I've been seeing Mehldau since his rise to prominence twenty years ago.  He was signed to Warner when I worked there, so I saw him play informally or in concert plenty. Once he moved to Los Angeles in 1996, he was also a sideman who seemed to show up everywhere: I once went to hear Charles Lloyd at a free concert at MOCA and Mehldau was in the band.  He appeared and recorded a live album with Lee Konitz and Charlie Haden at the Jazz Bakery, and I attended many of his shows at the Largo on Fairfax Blvd. (He titled one album ‘Largo’).  
Mehldau is an elegant and often cerebral pianist who can combine jazz, classical and pop; most regard him as the most accomplished heir of Bill Evans.  He drew early attention from non-jazz quarters through his unusual repertoire: songs by Radiohead, Nick Drake, Lennon-McCartney or Elliott Smith would often pop up alongside jazz standards and his own originals.  Brad is also known for his eccentricities (his lengthy CD liner notes sometimes appear to be written by a philosophy student), and his sometimes aloof stage presence and sour expression, as if things are always going wrong.  (They sometimes do.  While doing research in the Warner Bros. Records video archive, I watched a set from a Lincoln Center run where Mehldau started the 2nd set by apologizing to the audience for "playing like shit" during the first hour.) 
His long suit is the psychic connection with Larry Grenadier (bass) and Jeff Ballard (drums).  Although Brad's the leader and principle soloist, the trio is so locked in the music is never less than a highly-nuanced collaboration.  Starting with "Spiral," which showed the full bag of tricks (emotional ruminations, flashy percussive explosions, sly jokes, where-will-this-take-me noodling), the group also dipped into Brasilian rhythms, straight-ahead be-bop (Elmo Hope's "De-Dah") and lovely ballads that often threatened to burst open into something troubling ("And I Love Her" and "Since I Fell For You" have never sounded more like Chopin).  A new composition, based on a melody Mehldau heard when Philip Seymour Hoffman appeared to him in a dream, was titled "Seymour Reads the Constitution," and was played with great intensity, ever-restless, with moments of coil-and-release bravado.  It was a kind of musical catharsis as all three players meshed, pushed and pulled against each other, melting individual expression into a group mind.
On the Martin Luther King holiday, I returned to Jackson Hall for my first live hearing of Gregory Porter, a deep-voiced singer who combines jazz, r&b and gospel.  Porter was born in 1971, about 15 miles away in Sacramento, and spoke of the gig as a "homecoming," with many family members present.  I somehow missed him until the release of his 2013 album Liquid Spirit, although he's recorded several albums (with Grammy nominations and wins to his credit). 

To my ears, Porter most resembles Bill Withers, with the same type of deeply resonant, growling baritone range, but he also obviously draws from Marvin Gaye, Lou Rawls and Nat "King" Cole as well.  His diction is flawless and his stage manner engaging; his spoken introductions are to the point and the autobiographical details helped the songs blossom. 
 His 4-piece band was terrific, especially the fiery saxophonist Yohsuke Satoh and subtle, dexterous drummer Emanuel Harrold.  While the hour-and-a-half set included fine versions of familiar tunes like "Wade In the Water" and Cannonball Adderley's "Work Song," the focus was firmly on Porter's unusual originals.  His lyrics are full of surprising turns and poetic invention, expanding the idea of what jazz-soul might be about. 

The start of the waltz "Be Good (Lion's Song)" is "Be good is her name and I sing/My lion's song and brush my mane."  "No Love Dying" begins "There will be no love that's dying here/The bird that flew in through my window/Simply lost his way/He broke his wing I helped him heal and then he flew away/Well the death of love is everywhere/But I won't let it be/There will be no love that's dying here." Porter's melodies swoop and change direction, taking advantage of his vocal dexterity.  His songs are full of little shocks; sometimes he juxtaposes a beautiful melody line with an angry delivery.  "Wolfcry" is a love song of raw pain ("You have soaked your see-through silken gown with tears") and "Musical Genocide" is a fierce, and yet abstract, protest tune that recalls the work of Oscar Brown, Jr. or Gil-Scott Heron.

With his expert focus on all aspects of songwriting craft, Porter is operating within several traditions, incorporating Duke Ellington and Al Green, Sly Stone and Johnny Hartman.  He received multiple mid-song ovations and shouts of encouragement, and got the crowd involved in clapping and call-and-response singing more than once.  He's a rare, audacious talent, and I intend to follow his career closely from now on.
(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.  You can access his latest podcast and playlists at www.petsoundsmusic.com)

Elvis Show

This year’s, the 28th, was the best one because it was the most recent. Every act was great. We got the fancy Hollywood Palace, now the Avalon, with its hi-tech everything. The strict show schedule of three hours and 45 minutes meant every band got just one song, which thirty-two troupers did without complaint.

Attendance was hampered by our being shoehorned into a late afternoon opening. 5 pm on a Thursday is not prime concert time, so we missed out on working folk who’d come to our later or weekend events. Still, who’s complaining?

I got one complaint, from a fellow who felt bad that he didn't hear enough hits. Some bands, having done the show for 20 years, had worn out their repertoires and chose movie tunes and album cuts. It’s not just a rock & roll show, it’s also a hootenanny.

Preproduction went far beyond my usual showing up 3 hours before the start. For weeks I was embroiled in negotiations with the club. Their demand for details was understandable but all 'our' people already knew the drill. In the end, the show went very smoothely.

One funny note. Projected behind the performers was a huge montage of Elvis ‘68 pictures, and along the side were two banks of four vertical head shots. However, when I got there at 3:00, I was more than horrified to see that one of each of the side shots was not Elvis, just someone so identified on the internet, and the big image behind the band kit was some actor in Jailhouse Rock garb in front of the huge red letter ELVIS, probably taken from a biopic. If I hadn’t corrected that I’d’ve been boiled in oil.

Being not super-techie, I wondered why an iPhone was placed on the side of the stage with a girl’s face occasionally moving. Local rockabilly girl Valerie Kempner, who has moved to Montgomery, Alabama, has never missed an Elvis birthday show, so Rockin’ Rebels drummer Jerry Prefontaine placed the phone up on a speaker and she watched the whole show from the stage. Elvis Is Everywhere!


Friend and recent lawsuit victor Don Misraje, daughter Jessie Fein, friend, and Melrose Larry Green

Carla Olson rocks with band guy Paul Marshall

The Livingstons, Barry of tv show fame, and wife.

Backstage madhouse. On left John “Bermuda” Schwartz, drummer for both Weird Al and Rip Masters, red-coated Deke Dickerson. Count Smokula holds court.

Councilman Labonge thought it would be good to conduct interviews between songs. I discouraged this because the show was so tightly scheduled, and then I was handed an interview to do. Hank Garrett, seen here with his wife, was in a lot of movies, most memorably to me as the machine-gunning mailman in “Three Days Of The Condor.” When he was opening, as a comic, for Tony Bennett in Las Vegas, Elvis learned he was a boxer and asked him for some tips so they had some sparring sessions. While this was great for Hank and could have led to ten minutes of conversation, we had only 30 seconds and I felt bad that he showed up for such a brief appearance. He is a very fine fellow and I wish we could have spoken more.

The Joe Finkle band, from LA via Cleveland, rocked the house - and his mother, who was in the audience.

Swamp Dogg close the show with a sensational performance. It helped goose attendance at his show the following night at the Echo. Rock on, Swamp.

A couple of pretty girls in the backstage melee.

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