-April 2006-

Other Fein Messes

1st Recor/1st Concert

First record? That's easy. It was an album: Surrealistic Pillow by
Jefferson Airplane. It was purchased for me, at my insistence, by my
mom at White Front, a deep discount store in South San Franciso in the days
before the proliferation of deep discount department stores. It was
the same day I got my record player-a step up from a close'n'play.
That little player carried me through till I was a pre-teen and my
first "stereo." With the stereo came the discovery of FM radio and a
whole new world of album rock'n'roll but during that Summer of Love, I
was six years old and Surrealistic Pillow was my world. Or at least it
was a symbol of the world where I thought I should be, where I wanted
to be. Anywhere but where I was would've been all right by me.

My cousins were older and hip to the scene; one of them lived across
from Golden Gate Park and I swear you could hear the music from the
polo fields throughout the Richmond District on some afternoons. It was
from them I got the idea to buy Surrealistic Pillow-must've seen it in
their stacks. In this midst, I also got the idea to be a hippie:
Haight-Ashbury was calling my name, if only I hadn't been born10 years
too late.

My parents had moved us away from the City a couple of years earlier in
a panicky white flight moment. Delivering their young family to the
suburbs, away from their own families and the place that most looked
like safety to them, we were far away from the action. But even then,
it was my desire to be Where the Action Is..like at girl scout camp in
'68, I had no interest in the nature portion of the program; my most
vivid memory of the experience being the girls with transistors and
pink curlers in their hair, dancing to "Psychedelic Shack." That's
where it's at. I knew it then and I know it now: If it doesn't move me
like that, it's nowhere, man.

Of course in the Summer of Love, the center of the universe was San
Francisco, so close and yet so far for little me, but the people on my
newly received pink-toned album cover and the music inside personified
the City and its hippie scene for me. Even their names. Jack, Grace,
Marty, Jorma, Paul, Spencer sounded exotic to me. I'd never heard
names like that.Grace, Spencer, Jorma.and Denise. my mother, father,
sister, brother. As for my musical impressions? I was six, what can I
say? All I know now is that every time I hear the songs, especially
cut one side one ("She Has Funny Cars") or cut one side two: "3/5 of a
Mile in 10 Seconds" it hits me deep, down in a place inside where the
very oldest of my memories and feelings go. The music makes me feel
safe. It makes me feel strong and serene; I'm part of a community and
things are beautiful. I revel in this feeling.ideal protection.
Rock'n'roll has always provided that for me-a shelter from the bad
stuff and the freedom of feeling like I belong. "Take me to a simple
place, where I can easily see my face.and all the other freaks can
share my cares." That's what Marty sang then. That idea still moves
me, nearly 40 years on.

My first concert experience is more typical, less mystical, also
visceral and totally on target for a teenager in 1974. Elton John at
the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Finally, I'd found my people. I
remember very little about the actual concert though mind-altering
substances aren't the cause of the blackout; rather, it was sheer raw
excitement of it. Seeing my favorite artist at the time, live on the
concert stage, was like having an out of body experience. Oh sure, I'd
seen Sonny and Cher in the round but that was a family outing. This
was different. This was my life and it had just begun. I went with my
friend Stephanie and her older sister Carla and we were dropped off by
someone's parent and picked up by another. That's all I know. Who
cares? These are incidentals. The predominant feeling was that I
needed more (though it would be another four-six months before concert
number two--Pink Floyd, same venue).

I'd been acquainted with Elton's music ever since 4th grade when my
crush, Marshall Battani, asked me on the mini-bus on the way home from
school whether I'd heard Elton John. I had to admit I hadn't but I
immediately made it my business to learn everything I could about him.
I was easy to do the research: "Your Song" was a hit on my favorite
station, 610 KFRC, I just hadn't matched the song to the artist yet.
"Originally born Reginald K. Dwight." I found out Reg's name change
(what a concept!) was inspired by his idols Elton Dean and Long John
Baldry (not that their names meant much to me, but it was also the
first time I heard the unusual name, Alexis Korner. I remember that.
610 just happened to be running an Elton John special!). As time wore
on, I made it my business to get straight the name of the record and
the artist and to know it first, before anyone else, so I would never
be caught out the way I was with Marshall Battani ever again.

A few years later I revisited Elton at the Cow Palace for the Captain
Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy tour, but I was well over him by
then. I'd glommed on to terms like "sell-out" thanks (or no thanks) to
newly discovered reading material like Rolling Stone and Creem. By 15
I was officially no longer interested in what was on offer to the
mainstream. That said, as a reporter in the '90s I was assigned a
review of Elton's show at Oakland Arena, and happily returned to the
familiar concert venue of my youth, relishing every note and costume
change in Elty's revue. "A supreme showman!" "An astounding song
catalog!" There are far worse first concert experiences to have had.
Today I feel oddly proud of being among the screaming teenage fans of
Elton John's early '70s prime. It marks the time in my mind when I
officially arrived. Finally, I was where belonged: With all the other
freaks who shared my cares.

Denise Sullivan is an author and journalist. Her column, the Show Goes
On, appears in the Contra Costa Times.

 

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Another Fein Mess/
AF Stone’s Monthly
April 2006

Footsy Talk

I read an article about Birkenstocks. Never had a pair, but I bet they’re comfortable. When I was younger I wore narrow, pointy-toe cowboy boots, but then switched to soft-sided cloth shoes and when I went back to the c-boy boots - well there was no going back.

But about sandals - I have heard people groan about the wearing of socks with sandals. Why? The feet get aerated almost as well, and the general public is spared the sight, and possibly foot-to-leather daylong odor, of bare feet. I have on occasion been seated on a plane next to some guy wearing barefoot sandals and the sight and proximity made me uneasy. Toenails are NEVER aesthetically pleasing. They are sensual yet revolting. Little bitty girly toes are better, but their nails, too, are harsh. After all, they’re just stunted claws. Three cheers for sandals with socks.

Manilow

I was watching a Barry Manilow PBS fundraiser. He’s sure peppy. Recently I overheard “Mandy” on the radio and wondered what the real lyrics were, as I’d never paid much attention to the song. The phrase I vaguely recalled was “You gave and I came without warning,” but that couldn’t be right.

Someday someone will go thru my effects and find the first Manilow album autographed “To Art - Thanks for sticking your neck out.” It was signed my second night at a Bette Midler show. My review of her show, printed in Variety, had singled out his performance of “Could It Be The Magic,” so he thanked me in writing.

He and I have the same birthday0; astrology is an exact science, hence the way people confuse us. Well, maybe once, in 1982, when he recorded a Shakin’ Stevens song, “Oh Julie,” actually predating the Stray Cats’ “Rock This Town” in America. I didn’t hear it on the PBS special, though.

0 But he’s older. Ralph Bellamy is the other June 17 celeb.

..And we’ve got something to say

I come from a revolting generation: our noisy ones made the news. While musically I clung to Little Richard, I certainly shared some sentiments with the Revolution, though I committed to nothing. I didn’t trust anyone.

Comes now kids in their 20s working at major daily newspapers. I wrote in the L.A. Times and others in my 20s and occasionally took a dig at the status quo, but this view was not spotlighted nor were any others like it. “The paper” was the voice of responsible people who worked, raised families, ran businesses, ran the country. Young people sometimes supplied color, but it was slight seasoning in the overall stew.

But today newspapers, seeing slipping sales, reach out to young people in a gross and careless way. In their 11/27/05 L.A. Times Current article about Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power,” Ryan J. Smith and Swati Pandey offered a tangleheaded analysis of previous Black anthems. One line was “In 1969, Jimi Hendrix’s version of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ blasted peaceniks out of their drug dreams and into the streets.”

I question the notion that everyone was in a drug dream in 1969, but it was Gene Sculatti who pointed out that one Big peacenik lost in drug dreams was Jimi Hendrix. He was flower-power to the hilt, and undeniably drug-influenced. So why this bending of history to have him as a leader who led a lost generation out of their peacenik (?)1 haze? Because he was Black, and kids today project that he was a revolutionary.

Another thing that comes up all the time is “boomer” as a pejorative. In a 3/12/06 L.A. Times Calendar article, non-boomer Richard Abowitz mocks Nevada state officials2 for discouraging gangsta rap in Las Vegas hotels. Where he rightly ridicules their definition of such music, he maligns “boomers” who now constitute that rotten Nevada city’s customer core. “A boomer sensitivity pervades” says a photo cutline, icily.

I cannot recall a blanket condemnation of the Sinatra/Wayne Newton hegemony in a major newspaper 30 years ago. Vegas was there, we knew it, and we stayed away bec it didn’t beckon to us. I saw no articles written by hippies ridiculing casinos for not booking the Grateful Dead.

Moreover we didn’t have a name for the largely WWII vets who populated those hotels and casinos. They were the previous generation, our parents, and we didn’t expect their hotels and resorts to book in3 Bob Dylan (though in retrospect it looks like he would’ve been the first to go).

Today we have kids at newspapers who have big chips on their shoulders about ‘us.’ And the more we read them the more we slip away (I don’t mean, primarily, into the ground). Alienating us, the print media turns its embrace to a generation that, by all indications, doesn’t read newspapers.

1 Are we damning peaceniks now? In favor of what?

2 Both Abowitz and the newspaper kowtow to Nevada interests by referring to gambling as ‘gaming,’ like people losing their earnings there are having fun playing games.

3 I looked back at a 1995 AFPP where someone predicted that the present Sinatra/Wayne Newton axis would die off and Las Vegas would become an old-rock museum. Ten years ago the Old Guard still held fast.

Sneering Section

An occasional feature. I save these.

An October 1, 2005 L.A. Times story begins “It’s an indelicate question to ask4: Does a new Stevie Wonder album really matter?”

What a sickening and audacious statement, disguised as a question, posed by a writer who thinks he knows the answer: No. The guy, Geogg Boucher, next complains that he and a gaggle of press from around the world had to wait two hours for Stevie to appear at a special press performance of his new album; Stevie showed up late. Apparently boiling with resentment, he sneers that Wonder’s performing his new album for writers was not unique - someone had done it before. (Amazing!) And finally mentions wearily that the presentation went almost three hours.

Well tough titty, Boucher - Get a grip: Millions of people would like your soft job, and are equally qualified to do it. Don’t complain about long waits or bad seats or overlong private concerts!

Then he writes that Wonder’s spirit “elevated 1970s Wonder albums such as Innervisions and Songs In The Key Of Life to magical heights. But then that approach also gave his later work an airy, New Age polish, and songs such as ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ scored great chart success but were skewered by critics for being closer to Hallmark commercials than Hall of Fame material.” Hallmark and Hall of Fame? And this guy criticizes a writer? (Could have been Hilburn’s hand; it’s clumsy enough.)

Somebody get me a gun. “I Just Called To Say I Love You”5 touched millions of people with hearts, not heart-dead rock crits. (By restating what critics thought, Boucher condones them.) What sickening doggerel. And arrogance! One still awaits Boucher’s masterpieces.

4 Why “to ask”? Didn’t this guy go to journalism school? Fewer words the better!

5 A version6 of this song on the Rhino album, Big Daddy (RNL 852) is arranged in the style of “Whispering Bells” (with a “Mr. Sandman” break) and absolutely slays me. Bob Wayne’s vocals are wonderful, and the song reaches a new level of excellence.

6
Not a cover.

Shopping News

* I took my Hoover vac7 to Gardner Vacuum at 3106 Los Feliz, near Costco/Good Guys. The brush on its head spun freely unless you placed it on a carpet, then it stopped. “It’s the band” said Leonard, the tech. “Do you want me to fix it right now?” Stunned at the notion of immediate service, I said “Yes.” Three minutes later it was fixed. “Your machine needs a new filter, and a bag.” Go for it, I said. His mother tallied it up with a pencil on an older tear-off receipt machine. “That’s $3 for the band, $1.25 for the filter. $1.50 for the bag. Five seventy five. Plus tax.” I stared: what year was this? “Don’t forget labor” Leonard interjected. Here it comes, I thought. “That will be four dollars” mama said. Ten bucks for an on-site repair? No estimate charge? They had a sign saying they also do VCRs, tv’s, and anything electrical. I have worn a path between my house and their store with a lamp, tv, casette deck, and VCR, all with satisfactory results. (But not ten bucks. That was extraordinary.)

* There is a better can-opener. I went to Albertson’s8 after our fancy manual one broke, and studied the gadget shelf. There was a $3 and a $4 one and a $12 one. I wondered why the $12 one cost so much. It was plastic with a horizontal half-ring to the left, which enclosed a circular blade. I decided to try it. At home I maneuvered it, with difficulty, into play, and twisted the handle. But when I’d completed a circle, the top didn’t fall. I puzzled over the seemingly uncut can, then pulled the lid. It lifted off with a lip that allowed you to reseal it! And neither the top nor the can had sharp edges! It’s a miracle. A revolution! But who cares besides me. A Good Cook Safe-Cut can opener #11834.

7 In Blighty, home of Hoover, the verb for vacuuming is “to hoover.”

8 Albertson’s, though a chain, is a last vestige of variety in grocery stores in L.A. Soon when it is sold there will be two chains running the city, with the price-setting that near-monopoly brings.

Diggy Liggy Lo

I loved Doug Kershaw so much in the early 70s. I’d try to go to any show he did in California. He was the key to my appreciation for rural Louisiana music: I knew about Huey Piano Smith and Fats Domino, but this stuff....

Just recently I spotted a Rusty & Doug CD at Amoebo for only five bucks and grabbed it. And playing “Louisiana Man” in my car (cassette player with one of them CD adapters leading to a portable CD) I was overcome with emotion. The story is so damned honest and beautiful - and the music, my god. It’s like Stephen Foster. I heard this song on the radio when I was a kid, in 1961 (then, not exactly like now, fiddle-driven country records were played on rock radio, at least in Chicago), and went into some sort of dream state. What was that fiddle sound? What was that harmony? What is he talking about? - “He’s setting traps in the swamps catching anything he can, try to make a living he’s a Loosiana man.” It was so exotic! So colorful! And in 1970 I saw Kershaw, finally, when the Medicine Ball Caravan came through Boulder, Colorado.

I think I wrote this story already. But I had not recently suffered - or, rather, enjoyed, an emotional breakdown upon hearing Rusty & Doug again. My new friend Mario, 16, heard it a few days later in the car, but I think he was puzzled. I hope he becomes entranced, too.


Art’s Photo Archives



Rick Danko, Rusty Kershaw, Jack Good, Doug Kershaw.
Roxy Theater, L.A. 1976


Air America

In the early-mid 1990s my wife and I discovered Rush Limbaugh9. When we’d take the 360-mile drive to her parents’ house, we’d revel in his pompousness and fatheadedness. But then, at some point, he became unfunny to us and repulsive10.

Around that time I discovered George Putnam on KIEV radio here in L.A. His call-in shows were like circuses, every right-wing retiree in the world turning up. Cheerleader Putnam had a biased slant 11 that seemed amusing in its extreme prejudice, and the Clinton administration provided endless opportunities for his slander and distortion. Yet when I left the country for four months in mid-1997, I found that the headaches I had been engendering by listening to Putnam and his worm-can of callers had disappeared, so when I returned to L.A. I quit him. Which was just as well, because Clinton was soon out of office, and Putnam out of ammo. I stopped listening to radio entirely til the appearance of Radio America last year. It’s liberal, but it’s worse than nothing.

For one thing, as Phil Hendrie pointed out upon their debut, they’re not radio people. They’re polemicists who have the personalities of writers. It is difficult to listen to droning idealists who lack flare. Though the term “air personality” always amused me, I’ve come now to think that it’s appropriate, for deserving yakkers.

Theirs is the same reckless simplification and prattle I hear on right-wing radio. Bush sound-bites are played, and are mocked as if by teenagers at a party. Every known liberal canard is raised and re-raised as fact, such as “George Bush doesn’t like black people.”12 It’s a whiney and ineffective outlet for serious thought. Stephanie Miller was reckless and shallow but somewhat restrained on her local KABC show in the 1990s. Now, unfettered, she’s like Don Imus, a twit surrounded by sycophants. The highly-Gotham accented afternoon woman, when I tuned in, was talking about the importance of having a window garden - in New York! What is this twaddle? Franken wastes airtime (and a live audience’s time) questioning whether California’s governor should be on the masthead of a muscle magazine. Who cares? Are no liberal solons members of professional organizations? WHERE’S THE SUBSTANCE?

There are only two effective liberal spokesmen and they’re not on Air America: Harry Shearer and Jon Stewart (and his writers). Watching Al Franken on Comedy Central face Stephen Colbert’s satirical(?)right-wing jibes (“Why do you hate our troops?”), I was shocked and disappointed by Franken’s inability to repel or even respond. He doesn’t hold up under pressure, even make-believe.

And, Democrats13, why don’t we hear more from Robert Kennedy, Jr.?
The guy’s terrific yet I’ve seen him only on the Daily Show.

9 I’d like to visit him in jail. I wish he’d hurry up and get there.

10 At SXSW I asked fr Randy Reeves if he was still on a Robert Tilton tilt. In the 90s he’d alerted me to a Tilton-mocking movement based in Tilton’s, and Reeves’s, hometown of Dallas. No, he said, the defrocked and refrocked religious charlatan (who resembles, nearly identically, Brother Dave Gardner) was no longer amusing, just sickening. When I said I was currently enthralled by a newer hyper-insane religious creep, Columbus, Ohio-based white soul-man Rod Parsley, he cringed and said “They say he had a hand in swinging Ohio to Bush.” Life keeps ruining my fun.

11 A slant, not a “take.” We’re not making a movie.

12 I’m sure Bush doesn’t like the guy who said that, and neither do I. It’s cheap and victimish. To disenfranchise people because of color is politically unwise. New Orleans is below sea level in a bowl next to an ocean. A 4-year-old could see it was going to flood eventually. FEMA, was clearly unprepared, but it also had to deal with a state cancerous with corruption. WHERE WAS THE LOCAL PREPAREDNESS? I thought this region of the country was big on states’ rights.

13 I suppose I’m a Democrat. Got anything better?



* Fur & Steve, Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance, El Cid, L.A. 3/06



* Russell Scott & Tom Yearsley of the Paladins, ditto.



* Chuck E. Weiss, AF. Parking lot, Mayfair Mkt, Hollywood 3/29/06



* It’s Good, But Is It Art’s? Heck, yes. “Art” piece (smashed cab door) purchased at a NY gallery, sold to the Fein family at a garage sale in the Hollywood Hills, 3/12/06

Funny California

During the mid-March rain here, we saw tv footage of local newsmen in the mountains demonstrating with glee how you wipe snow off a car. One talking head, Eric Stillman, pointed to a Frazier Park street lightly dusted with snow said "I don't know if they're closing the schools today."

Well I hope so! Someone might slip and fall.

- 57 -


Mark On The Move

It sounds like the start of a joke:  “This Orthodox Jewish reggae singer does an in-store and a thousand people show up. . .”  Well, I have seen Matisyahu at Tower Records in Northridge launching his new album Youth with the patronage of KROQ, and can report that the crowd – combining a dizzying collection of Jewish school kids in yarmulkes, pierced Latino gals with crucifixes ‘round their necks, dreadlocked jamband enthusiasts, some parents with lil’ kids, and what appear to be a lot of gang wannabes bouncing their heads to the riddems and holding up cellphones for pics – sang and chanted along with all Matisyahu’s reggae-raps about the sacred texts, Jerusalem, the Holocaust, the Messiah, the spiritual quest, the whole-you’ll-pardon-the-ethnic-expression Megillah.
 
“Me no want no sinsemilla/That would only bring me down. . .Torah food for my brain, let it rain til I drown” isn’t a sentiment you’d find in Bob Marley or Toots Hibbert discs, although they do use Babylon as a metaphor for decadence just like Matisyahu. This new star, dressed in Orthodox-regulation black suit & hat, fringes of his prayer shawl flying as he dances, is reaching the kids in a big way, and from a place that must be pretty alien for most of his fans, primarily non-Jewish and unaware that screaming “sing that shit!” over and over like the Latino guy next to me would constitute “improper speech” in Matisyahu’s synagogue.  
 
Matisyahu (Miller’s his last name) has sold out shows nationwide, and by the time you read this will have moved over a million copies of his three albums.   I don’t understand his wide appeal myself – as a Jew I dig the message, with big grains of salt for the Chabad-style Messianism, but don’t think he’s an outstanding reggae artist from any angle – but why should I be in touch with the phenomenon?  I appeared to be the oldest person in the crowd by at least a decade, and looked more like Matisyahu than anyone else in the place.
 
- Mark Leviton

Letters

Regarding the L.A. Times Obit for Buck Owens --------------------------

Buck Owens died early Saturday morning (March 25); Randy Lewis's
obituary ran in Sunday's Los Angeles Times.

It was a fairly straightforward obit, covering all the main points of
Owens's career.
 
Dwight Yoakam evidently wasn't available for a comment. Merle
Haggard's office issued one to anyone who needed a quote. Lewis got one
from Chris Hillman, who's strong a champion of Owens's Bakersfield
sound as Yoakam, if not as well known. Hillman's articulate and knows
his stuff, and made an interesting point about the Norteño influence in
Buck's sound.

And then, for whatever reason, Lewis solicited a comment from Robert
Hilburn, who recently stepped aside as Times pop music critic.

"Buck Owens won't be remembered as one of the great artists of country
music," Hilburn pontificated, "...because his music lacked the soulful
insight and character of some of the field's true giants."
 
Hilburn was speaking of a member of both the Country Music Hall of
Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Clearly, somebody in
high country music (or, as The Times' headline put it, "Country-Music")
circles disagrees. Not that you'd know it from the obit, which mentions
neither honor. 
 
 "But he will be remembered," Hilburn continues, "because his music
was so superbly crafted that they (sic) still make your emotions soar."
 
Now, I'm not one of Buck's biggest fans. Fact is, the things I dislike
about his records -- simply-written songs, a shrill overall sound --
are qualities that endear Owens to his fans. The direct emotions of
songs like "Crying Time" and "Together Again" clearly connect with many
in a way that more sophisticated lyrics never could, and I'd argue that
Owens has one of the most soulful voices, not to mention one of the
most distinct, in any genre of music.
 
Disagree with me if you will. But even if you agree with Hilburn's
assessment, is an obituary the proper place for it?
 
And where was incoming Times pop critic Ann Powers when Lewis was
trolling for quotes?  

- Todd Everett

I'm sure with your circle of expert media-watchers out there, you've already had plenty of takes on this, but I was reading a beautiful obituary for Buck Owens in the LA Times this Sunday when I was jolted in the middle of it by what may be the most egregiously inappropriate (and 99% of people would also say egregiously incorrect) opinion and "back handed compliment" ever utter by the Times' favorite Springsteen & U2 disciple:

"Buck Owens won't be remembered as one of the great artists of country music," Hilburn said Saturday, "because his music lacked the soulful insight and character of some of the field's true giants. But he will be remembered because his music was so superbly crafted that they still make your emotions soar."

Forget that most people--including his god Springsteen, whom he probably forgot to check with beforehand--would completely disagree with this first sentence, what was the point of inserting this in the middle of an obituary for one of the most important musical figures in California's history? I'm sure even Nashville music honchos--who have often ignored California's country scene and were tweaked by Buck himself when he offered a counter to their "countrypolitan" direction of the early 60s--would be surprised to learn that Buck would not be remembered as one of the great artists of country music. The fault would actually seem to largely rest with the writer, Randy Lewis, and his editor, but given the influence of Hilburn as the Boss Tweed of the Times' music critic machine they may not have had a choice.

Music reviews, interviews and articles in newspapers have a short lifespan.
However, obituaries last much longer. Most research libraries have a bound volume of Variety obituaries, which provide some of the only available information on forgotten show business personalities from 100 years ago. Hopefully Buck Owens will never become that obscure, but I'd hate to think that some researcher decades from now would form any opinion on him based on this dunderhead's ill-formed and misplaced opinion in an obituary.

- Brent Walker


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