“What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live? What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie? Are we meant to take more than we give or are we meant to be kind? And if only fools are kind, Alfie, then I guess it is wise to be cruel and if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie, what will you lend on an old golden rule?…”
By Burt Bacharach and Hal David, performed by Dionne Warwick, 1967.
What is this all about? I mean, this blog? Why do I keep doing this? Why does it take so long for me to roll one of these posts out?
The problem with maintaining a blog that lives up to the title “Mapping Happenings” is that you must write about the moment at hand…otherwise that moment is lost; the happenings become stale. For example, I attended one day of the Adams Avenue Street Fair the weekend of September 29 and I wrote down my observations and impressions immediately afterward, but then had to go back on the road for work before I could finish. I had finished the writing, but importing the photos (and hopefully this time videos) became an impossible task for my PC. Technology is advancing to the point that my 2013 PC is now unable to handle the tasks it once handled easily, let alone adding something new. My iPhone videos and photos do not transfer as quickly as they used to, and the PC slows to a near grinding halt. I had to sacrifice posting videos because I could not get them copied to the blog without getting the dreaded BSOD (blue screen of death).
Now I am back from Miami and will be home for two weeks. But it is now two weeks since the street fair. Despite the stale nature of this information I refuse to trash what I had written. Keep in mind I have been attending some wonderful and memorable performances throughout 2018 at various venues such as The Belly Up, Tio Leo’s, Riviera Supper Club, Covo La Jolla, and others, but I don’t want this read to turn into another book. The nature of my life right now is that I travel about 40-45 weeks of the year, and when I get home there are “home things” that require my attention. My blog is a lower priority as it is a hobby, and not a necessity. But when I can I do post. And here we are. So here is a rundown of the Saturday, September 29 events my wife and I attended.
Adams Avenue Street Fair
With all the craziness in the world I needed to get totally away from it all. Fortunately, we had the 37th annual Adams Avenue Street Fair. This was a great escape for me.
This year the street fair was confined to Normal Heights, with Adams Avenue closed-off only seven blocks for both Saturday and Sunday. In prior years it covered a two-mile stretch from University Heights to Kensington. Now the street fair has fewer stages. Not all the performances were at the one indoor (Lestat’s) and five major outdoor stages and the music schedule only listed artists on these stages. So, if it had not been that we knew Dave Humphries and Mike Alvarez, we would not have known they were performing in the DeMille’s beer garden.
Nevertheless, there was some amazing music-making happening at this street fair. We only attended performances at four of the seven major stages. Cloning would have been necessary to see any more than we did. We saw eight artists and eight brilliant performances. The only big drawback was the parking. We parked over a mile away after searching for a space for about 20 minutes. This caused us to miss the first half of the set by the first band we wanted to see – Jake Najor & The Moment of Truth.
Najor is a Grammy nominated drummer who has worked with several nationally known artists, including De La Soul – one of my favorite hip hop groups. The group played a 70s style funky jazz reminiscent of The Crusaders, Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock, and early 70s Herbie Mann (the Push Push LP is a good example). Jake’s band consisted of Matt LaBarber groovin’ out on electric bass, David Carano on funky guitar (with a style somewhere between Larry Carlton and David Spinoza), Tito Frescas on fantastic keys, and Andy Geib who brilliantly played fluegelhorn, trombone, and flute (not at the same time) and of course Najor, with jaw dropping beats, on drums. We got spoiled from the beginning with this hot, tight, funky band.
We moved from the Groove Stage over to the Blues Stage to hear Karl and The Hornets. Karl is Karl Cabbage who has performed in other blues bands such as West of Memphis, The Smokin’ Knights, Red Lotus Revue and The Holla Pointe. This was straight-ahead greasy blues, heavy on the harp and soulful singing. This was a basic four-piece unit with drums, electric bass, guitar and Karl on harmonica/vocals. Impressive to say the least.
From there we moved on to the Roots Rock Stage to hear Jonny Wagon & The Tennessee Sons. I was not expecting anything like what we saw. I did not read the bio for this band before seeing them. This was a large band with drums, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, electric bass, keyboard, trumpet, baritone sax, and lead singer Jonny Wagon. Jonny reminded me a lot of Bruce Springsteen in vocal style, and surprisingly I could see comparisons between this band and the E Street Band. I enjoyed watching the trumpeter who sort of danced to the rhythm in a unique manner that I thought was cool. And then another surprise happened when they closed with Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and the band nearly did the Wings’ original recording note-for-note; quite good.
We then headed for food, but on the way, we took in Charlie Chavez y Su Afrotruko at the Groove Stage. This was another larger band with an Afro-Cuban style that reminded me of Mongo Santamaria’s early bands; lots of percussion and brass; excellent musicianship. It reminded me that I was going to be heading to Miami in a couple of weeks, but with little time to look for great music like this.
After lunch at DeMille’s we moved back to the Blues Stage to the watch award-winning band, The Fremonts; another basic line-up of drums (Al West), guitar & electric bass (Patrick Skog & Tony Tomlinson interchanging duties), and vocalist “Mighty” Joe Milsap, who played washboard, woodblocks, and a small djembe. There was a deep South – Gulf Coast swampy feel to this band’s blues. The band’s emphasis is on the lyrics, with straight forward playing and no “look at me do this” moments. At this point we noted many people dancing – more than with the other groups. Perhaps the beer was kicking in, but we also noted that about this time, late afternoon, the kooky and the crazy seemed to become visible both dancing and meandering through the crowd. I love to watch people and had to be mindful to pay attention to the great sounds coming from the stage.
We stayed at the Blues Stage for the set by Robin Henkel and Whitney Shay. Both individually are San Diego Music Awards winners. Now here they were together, once again, performing some old r&b and delta blues standards from Big Mama Thornton, Elmore James, Sun House, Etta James, and the like. Robin on guitars and vocals; Whitney with shakers and on vocals. Some great fun! Later we learned that Whitney performed with her band, Shay and The Hustle, earlier in the day at The Rabbit Hole, another Adams Avenue venue, that was not posted in the street fair schedule.
We broke free for a bit to head back to DeMille’s Beer Garden to see Dave Humphries and Mike Alvarez perform some 60s British invasion rock and Humphries-penned songs of a similar style. Dave was on vocals and guitar and Mike was on electric cello and backing vocals. Unfortunately, we got to our destination mid-set, so we only heard less than a handful of songs.
Once Dave’s and Mike’s set ended, we headed toward the car, but not without stopping at the Casbah Rock Stage to hear The Schizophonics. This is a three-piece, with Pat Beers on guitar and vocals, Lety Beers on drums, and an electric bassist (name unknown to me). Pat is a crazy man on guitar – about 20% Hendrix, 20% Pete Townsend, 10% Jackie Wilson and 50% Iggy Pop. He jumped, twirled, did splits, somersaults, and raced from one side of the stage to the other, and occasionally he got to the mic to let out occasional yelps as well as lyrics…all while still playing guitar. The guitar pickups were at top volume, so his one-handed playing came through clearly. Strings were broken – luckily no necks were broken (neither his nor his guitar’s). He wrestled with the mic stand and sometimes the stand won, but he kept going. Lety is a fantastic drummer and she and the bassist kept things moving which only fed fuel to the fire of Pat’s guitar pyro techniques. We were exhausted watching him, but I just had to quietly sing along to “Red Planet”. Worn from a day in the sun, we did not stay for the second half of their performance and headed to the car which was a great distance away.
We had good intentions of heading to the Riviera Supper Club to hear Three Chord Justice but decided to go home to change first. Well, when we got in the door, we decided we had enough music for the day. Nancy had to volunteer at the blood bank the following day and I had to begin writing what you see here as well as get bills paid and other home-related activities before flying to San Antonio.
A Not-So-Stale Bit of Happening
Friend and super music supporter, poet, and former music promoter Molly Lynn McClendon had her birthday party on October 6 at Proud Mary’s. Performing that evening was Casey Hensley with her band. Casey put her heart into this, as she always does. She is the closest in style to Janis Joplin I have heard out of San Diego. The only thing missing was the Southern Comfort. Her power and vocal range are phenomenal. Her sense of the blues and emotive delivery are delectable. The way she can go from a low growl to a sensitive and sustained high is amazing. She is only in her mid-20s. If she keeps growing as a singer, she will easily become an international star. Casey was complimented with a wonderful backup band featuring Steve Wilcox on flame-throwing guitar. With Mark Campbell on electric bass and Evan Caleb Yearsley on drums holding things together in the rhythm department, Casey blew the roof off the building and Steve burnt it down.
Molly Lynn is known for doing live feeds online from her phone at music events over the past two or three years and here she is doing it again, even at her own birthday party while dancing with Casey who was taking a break while the band stretched out on some heavy blues.
In Other News
Some great acquisitions have been received this year. I’ve also been upgrading some of my CD collection that had been purchased prior to 24-bit remastering technology. So now, my Hatfield & The North, Matching Mole, Daevid Allen & Euterpe and other CDs are much clearer and crisper. Box sets arrived recently including The Turtles complete album collection, Small Faces box set with all three Immediate label albums, and Yardbirds 5-CD box set, Glimpses, which includes career-spanning musical selections and several short interviews by Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton of this ground-breaking band.
I have also been completing some vinyl holes in my Pittsburgh area collection: Groov-U, The Electrons, Napoleonic Wars, The Time Stoppers, and other rarities. I will have more to say about many of these as time permits but not here.
I am deeply saddened to report the demise of Hardy Fox, aka Chuck Bobuck, of The Residents/Cryptic Corp. Hardy was the musical genius behind The Residents music and performed in their live shows until 2015 when he decided to stay off the road for health reasons and simply compose the music. In 2017 he revealed himself as the group’s co-founder and primary composer. He also began releasing solo projects under the name Chuck Bobuck around 2012, and later under his real name, Hardy Fox. In early September, 2018 he posted a strange note of confusion on his Facebook page that nobody understood. Shortly after that he posted on his own Website the dates 1945 – 2018. He made comments about his impending death. Here is the quote “Yes got sick, making my pass out of this world, but it is “all” okay. I have something in my brain that will last to a brief end. I am 73 as you might know. Brains go down. But maybe here is my brain functioning as I’m almost a dead person just a bit of go yet. Doctors have put me on drugs, LOL, for right now. Anyway. Probably the last of seeing me. Thanks for checking in. Love you all.” He also later made the comment “Almost dead. So what.” This comment, as well as his goodbye statement and his entire Facebook account have been removed. At present, the dates of his birth and “death” have also been removed and it simply says he no longer writes music. This last entry was written by Rebecca Rothers on Hardy’s website. She refers to a novel, The Stone, written by Hardy which is available for free that perhaps reveals what is going on “by the end of the book.” On Facebook, his sister posted to correct those who presumed he died on October 1, that he was still alive at that time.
I had some email communication with Hardy in the early 2000s regarding advice on promotion of an iconoclastic artist from the late ‘60s I had worked with regarding a Terrastock event. A year later, Nancy and I attended the Demons Dance Alone performance by The Residents at the Anaheim House of Blues and we had a nice conversation with Hardy where he subtly let me know he was one of The Residents.
It appears that just as in life, Hardy continues in mystery, perhaps even in death. My belief is that he is not yet gone. He may be gone from being an active participant in the world of music but is still around. I do believe he is gravely ill, perhaps unable to communicate effectively and is simply waiting for the end to come. I have my doubts we will know when he really does pass on to the other side of this life. His long-time associate with The Residents, Homer Flynn, posted a photo of himself with the obviously ailing Hardy in late September. I have copied it here. R.I.P. in this and the next life, Hardy.
Lyrics excerpted from “Angie Baby”, Written by Alan O’Day, performed by Helen Reddy
From the Helen Reddy LP, Free and Easy, 1974
I grew up “out in the sticks” of Southwestern Pennsylvania. A pre-teen kid growing up in the country has no stores within walking distance. My major stimulus was nature. For me, media was confined to my parents’ Life Magazine subscription, our radio and television, and a stack of 45s with music primarily from the 1940s. My family did not own a stereo until I was in junior high. Before that, all we had was a record player designed for 45 rpm singles. I played their 45s to death, and unfortunately ended up ruining many. Our television was black and white and there was no such thing as cable TV. Our station selection was limited to the six local stations in the tri-state area that our roof-installed antenna could capture on our 13-channel Motorola set. Our radios had AM but not FM. The only musical instruments in the house were my older brothers’ trombone and clarinet that they played in the high school band, and after they grew up the instruments left with them. I was only nine years old when the youngest of my brothers graduated from college and moved out. Until my teenage years, my resources for contemporary music and art were quite limited.
There were not many kids on the unpaved road where I lived, and houses were far apart. Farms bordered our 1.6 acres on three sides. Radio became my friend. Sometime in my junior high years I became interested in hearing radio stations outside our local area. I became excited that during the day I could hear the hit songs that were playing on WKYC in Cleveland, Ohio, and that some of these songs were different than what was playing on local Pittsburgh stations. In the evening I was amazed that I could hear stations as far away as KMOX, St. Louis, Missouri, or WRVA, Richmond, Virginia. I began writing down what I was hearing, by location on the radio dial. Soon, I was hearing stations further and further away from my rural home outside Washington, Pennsylvania. There was XEG in Monterrey, Mexico, CBJ in Chicoutimi, Quebec, and CBA in Moncton, New Brunswick. At that time, I had no idea there were others like me all around the world who were interested in hearing distant stations as a hobby. But there actually is such a hobby and it covers the entire radio and television spectrums. I soon learned about this hobby when in 9th grade my parents bought me a radio that covered AM, FM, and shortwave, coupled with a subscription to the now-defunct magazine, Radio-TV Experimenter which included White’s Radio Log. Soon I was listening to stations around the world, including Radio Ghana, Radio Brasilia, Radio Moscow, Radio Australia; I logged stations on every continent, including Antarctica. Listening to radio provided exposure to regional differences within our country as well as cultural differences throughout the world. I heard different perspectives on world and local news as well as different music.
I have written before about my attraction to music that is strange, obscure, or rare. That attraction seems to be hotwired into my DNA and affects more than music. It affects all my interests, including radio. I was not just interested in hearing the huge powerhouses across the globe like the BBC, Radio Moscow or Voice of America. I wanted to hear the flea powered stations in obscure locations like Radio Saint Helena from that tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What really excited me was the obscure, and the mysterious; stations not only of low power in remote locations, but stations that are on the air but a fleeting moment – enter pirate radio.
The first time I heard a pirate radio station, I had no idea what was going on. The station announced as “The Voice of the Purple Pumpkin”. I heard it on shortwave in 1970. It was a countercultural station playing cuts from The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson”, and it used the famous intro to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in their station identification. They had a risqué comedy skit about “the establishment” and they spoke against the Vietnam war, claiming they were broadcasting from Hanoi, then capitol of North Vietnam. I later learned that they had originated in Maryland and were closed-down in 1973 by the FCC. My next pirate station was from a ship far across the pond, in the North Sea, named “Radio Nordsee International.” This was soon followed by another ship station off the coast of the UK, “Radio Caroline.” This was in the early ‘70s. A decade later I was hearing several more pirate stations, both from Europe and North America. While difficult to hear due to distance and signal weakness, the European stations were quite regular in their broadcast schedules. What made the American pirates interesting was that you had no idea on what frequency they would appear, or at what time they would appear. To avoid detection from the FCC they would only appear for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. One had to be familiar with propagational characteristics and sunspot patterns to know where and when to listen. Stations began to announce “mail drops” (an address of a third party) to communicate with listeners. They would reward verified listeners with what ham operators call a “QSL-card” verifying reception. At one brief point in the early 1990s I held the international record for verified pirate radio stations. But my interest in such stations waned in the late-1990s when the US pirate radio scene began to be increasingly populated by people with a right-wing extremist political agenda and with little interest in quality content but more interest in hatred and vulgarity. It also waned because much of the “mystery” had been removed when I began to discover who the real operators of these stations were. In some cases, one person could be responsible for as many as 10 very different but well-produced “stations” at a time. Some pirate operators were DJs of legitimate stations where they felt stifled from exercising their creative juices in their real jobs. Pirate radio gave them that creative outlet that was lost when most US stations began airing nothing but network affiliated programs. Of course, these DJs also had to have a knowledge of radio electronics or have a friend who had such knowledge to be able to set up their own broadcast station. It is surprising how with only some low cost used amateur radio equipment, a mixer, microphone, and some tape, one could produce and broadcast a professional-sounding show. But the mystery was gone for me.
But, the mystery is never gone in music. From my ongoing research I am constantly being rewarded with new and exciting sounds from rare and unusual music. Once one mystery is resolved there seems to be a never-ending source of new mysteries to discover. That is because I haven’t heard all the old music and new music is constantly being created.
My interest in radio and music intertwined. And the mysteries of both were mixed together in some unexplainable way. Of course, being exposed to the latest and greatest top 40 hits I eventually succumbed to enjoying them all. In fact, due to the sense of nostalgia, I think I appreciate some of them more today than I did when I first heard them – not that some have withstood the test of time, but because they provide flashbacks to the early stages of my life’s development. They have become forever attached to fond memories.
I turned 13 in February 1966. Officially I was a teenager. Around that time my parents purchased our first stereo that played LPs. Of course, their first LPs were things like Al Caiola, Herb Alpert, and Percy Faith. But, I found myself gravitating more to rock than to my parents’ musical interests. It was also the beginning of the psychedelic era, and the experimentation found in psychedelic rock. I immediately found a kinship with these psychedelic rock pioneers. At first it was the hit-makers like The Beatles, Spanky & Our Gang, Count 5, and Blues Magoos; just their hits. My parents continued to purchase music gifts for me from Herb Alpert, Baja Marimba Band, and Pete Fountain. Finally, for my 15th birthday, they relented to giving me the “Incense and Peppermints” album by Strawberry Alarm Clock; my first rock album. While my interest in this album originally was their title track hit, I soon became fascinated with the myriad textures of their more “psychedelicized” songs on the LP. This opened the door to more explorations. I remember going to K-Mart with my folks and while they shopped for other things I hung out at the LP racks, staring at the album covers of “Freak Out!” by The Mothers of Invention, “Tenderness Junction” by The Fugs, “After Bathing at Baxter’s” by Jefferson Airplane, and the eponymous albums by Silver Apples and Ultimate Spinach. The thing that really drew me in was that none of these albums listed song titles on the outside jacket, neither front nor back. I thought “How could this be? How do I know what is in these interesting and weird looking albums?” It was just too much mystery for my teenage mind to bear. I had to hear them. So, with the little money I received from chores and gifts I began to accumulate a small collection of this psychedelic music. I purchased that Ultimate Spinach album and loved it to death! I also bought “The Beat Goes On” by Vanilla Fudge, which is considered by some critics to be the worst rock album in history. But I still loved it at the time. Of course, I still liked many of the hits in both the rock and pop world, so I was still getting music by Richard Harris, Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, as well as Steppenwolf, Cream, Jefferson Airplane and the like.
Yet I seemed to be hotwired into gravitating to that which is unusual, obscure, or challenging more than the hit sounds. At first, I rationalized that some of the lesser known artists I loved were as good as, if not better than, the hit makers. But in all honesty, while this is true for some, it is not true of others. I know quality when I hear it, for sure. But for some artists, it isn’t quality or virtuosity that draws me in; it is something nebulous and hard to describe. If you have ever heard “Hungry Freaks, Daddy” by The Mothers of Invention, or “White Light/White Heat” by The Velvet Underground you will note that the vocal harmonies are intentionally dissonant, seemingly executed poorly, but on purpose. Now, I didn’t laugh at this, but it clearly caught my attention and it worked to draw me further into the music of these artists. By the way, there were less than a handful of 45s issued by these two groups combined, and only at the insistence of their managers at Verve Records. Their singles never hit the charts. At my most rebellious time, not having hits was a badge of honor in my book. I have since seen the flaw in this thinking, but also recognize that having hits does not guarantee the music is worthy of interest.
I am by nature also a collector. This is something that I share with my brothers. Some of our interests are the same, such as collecting Native American prehistoric artifacts and the salt-glazed pottery made by our ancestors’ businesses back in the 1800s. But we also collect many different things. Vinyl and CDs have become a big item for me. Adding to the music, itself, I find that rarity is a factor in my interests. This has led me to an interest in private press LPs from the 60s and 70s.
We often talk about the hit makers, and sometimes we talk about the ones who came close but never became well known. For example, let’s look at the San Francisco scene of the 60s. You had the big guns like Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe & The Fish, and Big Brother & The Holding Company. Those are the bands that people often think of when you mention the music scene in San Francisco during the “Summer of Love”. So, let’s call them first tier groups. You had a second tier, which included some hit makers. Some of these bands were formed elsewhere but made the Bay their home and became quite popular. Santana, Steve Miller Band, Moby Grape, Beau Brummels, Sopwith Camel, and even Blue Cheer would fit the tier two category; there were quite a few. Then, there were third tier groups who were considered interesting due to the quality of their work. These would be The Great Society, The Charlatans, It’s a Beautiful Day, Mystery Trend, The Vejtables, and Sons of Champlin. Digging deeper you find a fourth tier including Indian Puddin’ & Pipe, West Coast Natural Gas, Tripsichord Music Box, Frumious Bandersnatch, and Ace of Cups. You can continue peeling the onion into fifth and sixth tier groups as well. Keep going and you will eventually get to the private press recordings of groups so obscure that nobody remembers, nor wants to remember. Here you will find The Ethix, which later evolved into the fourth-tier San Francisco group, Fifty Foot Hose. Another would be Christian Yoga Church’s only LP, with some of the artists moving from San Francisco to Tennessee to form the longest active commune in the US, The Farm, and subsequently forming The Farm Band. These private press albums were usually only issued in pressings of 1,000 or less, many in the 100 to 500 pressing range. There are even some with as few as 50 or even 25 pressings. From Pittsburgh there is the band, Fresh Blueberry Pancake, that only had 25 of their only LP, Heavy, pressed. Thankfully, within the past two decades, Shadoks, a record label in Germany, located a clean copy of their album (master tapes for such rarities are usually never found) and reissued it on both CD and LP. They also gave it artwork that somewhat fits the band name and the heavy, guitar-laden music within.
Then there are recordings from more famous artists that were never intended for public consumption. Or, they were released before the artist became popular. Perhaps there is an acetate, a test pressing, or a cassette that has been duplicated and circulated to appreciative listeners and collectors. Many of the recipients of these rarities are other artists who find inspiration from them. Some have been withheld by the artists because they do not feel they are worthy examples of their work. I have been privy to some of these and can tell you that perhaps where the artist did not think it worthy, I found it to be a gem. There are a couple recordings that I possess where the artists insisted that the music they shared with me was only to be enjoyed by me and never to be shared with anyone else. I’ve honored their wishes and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, some of this work is worthy of mass consumption by those who would appreciate their talent, but by restricting my ability to share, it robs me of the joy I get from sharing. For sharing is the other side of the coin to collecting rare and interesting music.
So now that I have laid the ground work, please entertain my efforts and the joy I receive from sharing some of my “finds” of the past few years. Note that photos were taken by the author, and not from stock photos. Please excuse the lack of centering on some.
Cardinali Brothers – More Than Luck (1971)
I had been on the lookout for this southwest country rock album for years. The music is like early Eagles, or more like Glen Frey’s earlier band, Longbranch Pennywhistle. There is a folky flavor with beautiful vocal harmonies and top-notch songwriting. Last year, on a lark, I did a Google search and found the brothers have a music store in Ojai, California. After making contact, they offered to send me a digitized copy if I provided them the CD-R. I now have in my possession a CD version of their album, in great sound.
Dick Watson Five – Baker Street (1966)
I had lusted after a copy of this rarely seen album for well over a decade. It never appears on eBay, Discogs, or any of the other Internet music sites. This was an album of pre-psychedelic, British invasion influenced rock by a bunch of New Jersey teenagers. It is based on a Broadway musical about Sherlock Holmes, hence the name of the band, “Dick Watson Five.” They had taken the music from this show and put it into a rock format, with somewhat convincing success, albeit their fake British accents. The band also can boast that one of their members, guitarist Jim McCarthy, went to a Fugs concert in 1966 and as a result he decided to quit the Dick Watson Five and form underground NYC band, The Godz with some of his work buddies from Sam Goody’s. Well, I located the drummer for the Dick Watson Five, Carmen Deligatti, who had moved on to bigger and better things. When I found him via the Internet, he had sold his only copy of the Baker Street album, but he had made a digital recording before selling it. This digital recording was made early in the development of mp3s, so it is not of the digital quality which can be achieved today. However, it is obvious he had kept his LP in pristine condition based on the digitized version that I received. Whoever was the lucky person to purchase the original LP, I sure hope they some day contact one of the labels releasing rarities such as this. It deserves a wider release, even if only for historical purposes.
The Music of the Santa Cruz Mountains (1974)
Another seldom seen album, with four artists (J.J. Johnson, Kai Moore, Bruce Frye, and Bahia) from the Santa Cruz mountains in the early 70s. I found someone who had an original copy for sale in excellent condition. The front cover has an attractive painting of a forest scene, but it is glued onto the album jacket and has some ripple effect to it. This only adds to the private press aspects and the rural hippie vibe of the music. This has a very enjoyable, laid back ambiance with some Laurel Canyon influences; a very professional sound without getting commercial.
Dennis the Fox – Mother Trucker (1972)
Dennis Caldirola (aka Dennis the Fox) is a crooner. But Dennis wants to be a rocker. He does not succeed at either, but is somewhere between the two, or perhaps just out there somewhere. He is not at all a bad singer. And his descriptive and colorful songwriting, emotive vocal delivery, along with excellent studio musicianship carries the album. These qualities are somewhat convincing that Dennis the Fox has been around and knows things. But it is not enough to make him a star in any respect. Like Mistress Mary, who I discussed in a previous blog post, he gives the appearance of someone with unbridled talent that has not been reigned in enough to become a top shelf artist. Despite it all, I love this private pressed album and was very happy to see it reissued on the Modern Harmonic label. Originals, like the others above, command big bucks (unless you are lucky like I was with the Santa Cruz LP). The reissue has been remastered from the original tapes and is well worth the listen.
Hawaiian Spotlighters – Mauna Kea Breeze (1965)
This was an LA based family affair, producing a Hawaiian-based recording that is perhaps one of the rarest exotica albums ever pressed to vinyl. Their origins are Hilo, Hawaii, when they were known as Al’s Spotlighters; Al being Al Pabilona. He and his family moved to Hayward, California and recorded this album in the family garage in 1964. Only 200 copies were pressed, and few exist today. Using top of the line restoration, the album has been reissued on Bacchus Archives. Placing this LP on the turntable one needs to sit back on the recliner, sip a mai tai, and let the Mauna Kea breeze float by.
Canaries – Flying High with The Canaries (1970)
Who would name a rock band after a small yellow bird? Well, someone from the Canary Islands, of course! In their home base, they were known as Los Canarios. The album was recorded and released in the United States while they were on tour, trying to strike it big in the States. Unfortunately, that did not happen for them. But we have this lasting recording of teen beat sounds to enjoy. Originals were on the BT Puppy label but mine is a 1982 reissue on Spanish label, Cocodrilo.
The Minister and The Nuns – When the Heart Sings (1966)
Imagine a Presbyterian minister from South Charleston, West Virginia doing missionary work in Brazil, teaming up with a group of Brazilian Roman Catholic nuns to record an album of eclectic sounds to minister to “who knows”. This is what you have with this very limited released album. Musical style varies from late 50s easy listening to bossa nova to a very tame rock sound. They all sing, and the nuns provide the instrumentation. There is simply nothing like this unclassifiable sound, but it is interesting and pleasant and the religious message in inobtrusive. The album is quite scarce, yet I was able to find a copy, autographed by Rev. David Wayne Smith, in near mint condition. Before acquiring this LP, I was able to find and download a recording of the minister talking about his missionary work and how it came about that he recorded with the nuns.
Minette – Come to Me at Tea Time (1968)
Another album that brings four-digit figures when it even appears on the market is Come to Me at Tea Time by real people female impersonator, Jacques Minette. Usually such albums are full of sexual innuendo and nothing more. But this album is full of social commentary about the Vietnam war, overthrowing the government, and even psychedelic drugs. The cover has Minette encircled by marijuana leaves. Maybe the title’s reference to “tea” means tea of a euphoric nature? I will leave the other double entendre in the title alone. The slightly out-of-tune piano fits perfectly with Minette’s unusual vocals. I was very fortunate to locate a download from a near mint copy.
In Other News
I wanted to mention that in 2017, there were three album releases from artists living in San Diego County, that in my opinion deserve recognition.
The Hollywood Project – Olympic Boulevard
The Hollywood Project is a collaboration between Dave Humphries, who wrote the music and some of the lyrics, and Stephen Kalinich, who wrote most of the lyrics, and was produced by Wolfgang Grasekamp. The music is performed by Humphries, Grasekamp, Tom Quinn, Todd Sander, Mike Alvarez, Gus Beaudoin, Sven-Eric Seaholm, and Jacques Mees. The style is in the category of post-Beatles Harrison, Harry Nilsson, Brian Wilson…well you get the idea. Beautiful melodies, pensive lyrics, and impeccable performance. They bring to the table subjects we don’t like to talk about but leave you hopeful and optimistic at the end. A touching, beautiful bouquet of songs.
Cindy Lee Berryhill – The Adventurist
This is Cindy Lee’s first offering since the death of her husband, Paul Williams, who had founded Crawdaddy magazine. In this she writes of her loss and her life in poignant, emotive lyrics that at one moment can bring you to tears and the next get you laughing. The album is a musical painting, skillfully crafted, sung, and performed by top shelf musicians. The music can be challenging, quirky, and yet beautiful. It kept me on the edge of my seat upon my first listen. This is an album you want to really sit quietly and listen to, as you would an intense classical piece. The Adventurist was nominated for album of the year by the San Diego Music Awards in 2018, and has received enthusiastic national attention, including from Rolling Stone.
Marie Haddad – Stories from Atlantis
This is an amazing album. Marie’s vocals have never been more intensely emotive. The music is exquisite. There is a mystical element to the music, perhaps due to the Middle Eastern element in her writing, both lyrically and musically. With the collection of eastern European instruments mixed with typical pop instrumentation, there are a variety of styles going on, and they are all neatly woven together to make it an experience full of wonderment. It was no surprise to see long time recording artist, Jeff Pekarek contributing on bass and bouzouki – his 1982 album To Each Their Own, has always been a favorite of mine when I am in the mood for Asian-influenced cosmic musical travels. I am tempted to write about each song on Marie’s album and how it affected me, but it would make this post go far too long. Just let me say I LOVE THIS ALBUM! I was so happy when it won the 2018 San Diego Music Award for best pop album.
And so, I will end it here. There have been many music events and new artists I have heard since the beginning of 2018. Maybe I will write about them next time. But, I’ve been promising to get this out the door for far too long. Stay safe. Blessings!
“I spoke to you in cautious tones. You answered me with no pretense. And still I feel I said too much. My silence is my self-defense. And every time I’ve held a rose, it seems I only felt the thorns. And so it goes, and so it goes. And so will you soon I suppose.” Billy Joel, from the album, Storm Front, 1989
If you haven’t noticed, I have been silent for nearly a year. It is not that I have had nothing to write about. I have been to several music events, and they were all uplifting and refreshing. I have also made some great purchases and acquisitions that I cannot wait to talk about. But in the first couple months after my last post, which was in January, there had been moments when I had an idea that could blossom into something to write, but the will was not there. Generally, I am not a person who suffers from depression. But the best way I can describe it is…depression. This began around November 8th of last year, and became increasingly worse after January 20th of this year. But I am slowly getting back to being my abnormal self.
When I finally gathered the motivation and presence of mind to write this, it was a cold and wet May day. There was nothing playing in the CD player. I heard the traffic in the distance, a few birds announcing their territorial boundaries, the hum of the fan in my PC, and the clicking of the keys as I typed. I heard my breath, sighing occasionally as I considered my words and avoided painful thoughts.
Then, just as I do now, I wanted to feel hope. I wanted to live hope. But it is difficult to hope. I think if I write, it will give me hope. But I am not so sure about that thought. I am not certain I can count on that to be true. But I must get on with it; buck up. Put one foot ahead of the other and lean forward. Press one key at a time, complete a word, hit that space bar and keep it moving. Hep, two, three, four! Hep, two, three, four!
I am thankful that there have been some awesome events to attend. And looking back I have attended quite a few. Here are some.
Music from ‘The Nutcracker’ – A Jazzy Exploration of a Holiday Classic, 2016
During the December holiday season, there was a jazzy musical event with violinist, Jamie Shadowlight, at Café Bar Europa in Pacific Beach including the usual suspects of Mikan Zlatkovich on keys, Kevin Higuchi on drums, Will Lyle on bass, and PJ Ortiz (PacificYO) on beatbox. The highlight for me was hearing Grammy nominated jazz flutist, Lori Bell. Lori’s 2016 album, Brooklyn Dreaming, has won accolades from Downbeat Magazine, Huffington Post, and others. It was a great evening of holiday jazz, fine food, and hanging with friends.
Pre-Beatles Fair Promo Show at the Queen Bee, 2016
Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve there was a show at the Queen Bee to promote the upcoming Beatles Fair in March, 2017. The three mainstays, Dave Humphries Band, The Rollers, and The Baja Bugs performed, but in addition there were some duos and solo acts. The one that stands out for me was “Fast Heart Mart” Martin Stamper on banjo doing “Norwegian Wood”. Another great evening hanging with friends and hearing some great 60s music. That evening, the Dave Humphries Band was the expanded 5-piece consisting of Dave Humphries on guitar, Wolfgang Grasekamp on keys, Greg Gohde on electric bass, Make Alvarez on electric cello, and Todd Sander on drums.
Sometime in January we saw Cadillac Wreckers at Proud Mary’s doing many familiar songs plus some I had never heard them do before. Dana Duplan on guitar and Dane Terry on harmonica and vocals are the main Wreckers. I did not catch the names of the drummer and electric bassist. A tight bluesy band that are always enjoyable to hear.
We have made several excursions to the Riviera Supper Club on Thursday nights to hear Liz Grace and the Swing Thing duo, consisting of Liz and guitarist, Jon Garner. Great songs from a great era, and Liz is such a versatile singer. Jon is also an exceptional jazz guitarist.
One evening in February, we went to Rebecca’s Coffee to experience a rare performance of The Flip Side / The Pink Floyd Experience. They perform B-sides of hit songs from the 60s and early 70s. Todd Sander was on drums and vocals, Wolfgang Grasekamp was on rhythm guitar (used to seeing him on keys), Tom Quinn on lead guitar and vocals and Gus Beaudoin on bass and vocals. A strong unit handling songs from a variety of 60s bands and styles. Also, Dave Humphries Band played some songs as sort of a rehearsal for the Beatles Fair, where their set would concentrate on the songs of George Harrison, including his time with the Traveling Wilburys. Todd and Wolfgang (on keys this time) were part of the band along with Mike Alvarez on cello and Tom on lead guitar.
It was a thankfully rainy winter and the desert wildflowers were in magnificent bloom. We made it a point in March to experience this desert splendor, and coming back from Borrego Springs we stopped at Wynola Pizza to hear Plow and to get some great pizza. Dane Terry was not with them on harmonica, but recent addition, Alex Sharps, was with them on vocals and fiddle. They also had some young fiddlers, who have been students of Alex, show their stuff on what they have learned. A truly fun evening.
The Beatles Fair
Lineup at this year’s Beatles Fair at the Queen Bee in North Park included Francisco Gomez, The Phoenix Band, Mojo Working (featuring Scott Mathiasen), The Dave Humphries Band, The Baja Bugs, True Stories with a Ringo Starr tribute featuring Nico, and headliner Billy J. Kramer with Liberty DeVitto on drums on the Kaiserkeller Stage. There were three other stages, but we did not spend much time at these. All local acts did a fine job, but I was a bit partial to The Dave Humphries Band, who really knocked it out of the park with a George Harrison tribute, featuring songs “Isn’t It a Pity”, “All Things Must Pass” and “Beware of Darkness” from his first (3-LP) album and “Handle with Care” from Travelling Wilburys, including Mike Alvarez handling the Roy Orbison parts, among the highlights. They also did an assortment of 60s Beatles and British invasion tunes as well as some penned by Dave Humphries. This was an expanded band with Dave Humphries on guitar and lead vocals, Todd Sander on drums, Greg Gohde on bass, Wolfgang Grasekamp on keys, Mike Alvarez on cello and vocals, and Tom Quinn on lead guitar and lead/backing vocals. The Billy J. Kramer set started out promising, but he seemed to be having trouble with the monitor and he often moved off-key. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Billy J. Kramer, he toured with The Beatles on several occasions in the 60s and had a minor hit with “Little Children”. I got to meet him after his performance and secured an autographed copy of his recent CD. Liberty DeVitto was the drummer in Kramer’s band. He had been the tour drummer for many years backing Billy Joel, but now is touring with Kramer. My better half got a photo op with him. It was a fun evening, especially hanging with good friends.
Baja Bugs at Riviera Supper Club
I ventured out to see The Baja Bugs at the Riviera Supper Club sometime in March (or was it April?) with friend Randall Cornish. We also met up with George Rubsamen while there. The Bugs not only covered Beatles music, but also other 60s bands such as Rolling Stones, Kinks, Zombies, plus some self-penned songs. In great form, as usual.
Revival of the Singer-Songwriter
Produced by Ken Rexrode, March 26, at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. Hosted by Whitney Shay, with performances by Whitney Shay, Wish & The Well, The Moves Collective, Mimi Zulu, Karina Frost and the Banduvloons, and Taylor John Williams. This was a great show with a variety of music styles performed by amazing people. For me, the standouts were Whitney Shay, and The Moves Collective, both of whom were winners at the 2017 San Diego Music Awards.
Spring Harp Fest
This was my third or fourth time to attend the harp fest, at Harry Griffen Park in La Mesa, held this year on April 4. Performers were Phillip Fauquet with Chet Cannon and the Committee, Karl Dring (replacing Jeffrey Joe Moran, who could not make it due to an injury), Billy Watson, John Clifton, Eric Von Herzen, Harmonica John Frazer, TJ Klay, and headliner Kellie Rucker accompanied by Robin Henkel on guitar. The highlights for me were the Billy Watson and Kellie Rucker sets. Kellie used to reside in San Diego but now lives in Florida. It was a beautiful day for music in the outdoors.
Mundell Lowe 95th Birthday
Dizzy’s hosts the birthday performances for Mundell Lowe. This year, on April 21, Mundell was accompanied by Bob Magnusson and Rob Thorsen on bass, Jim Plank on drums, Bob Boss, Jaime Valle, Ron Eschete, and others on guitar. From New York City, jazz guitarist Tony DeCaprio did a solo set, and Mundell’s step-daughter, Alycia Previn, performed with him on violin. Mundell still had his chops, providing competition for all the other players. I was pleasantly surprised when Tony DeCaprio performed. I had not known about him prior to that evening and he totally knocked me out. This was an evening of jazz mastery from some of the finest players to be found anywhere on the planet.
NOTE: Mundell Lowe passed away on December 2. He was one of the greats, working with such major artists as Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Frank Sinatra, Andre Previn, Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis, Jr., Marlene Dietrich, Johnny Ray, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, Benny Goodman, the Everly Brothers…the list goes on. He was self-taught in guitar, and became a composer and arranger of movie and TV scores and a member of NBC’s staff orchestra, playing on the “Today Show” in the 50s and 60s. He appeared on the Grand Ole Opry in the 30s. He wrote music for shows such as “Hawaii Five-O”, “Starsky and Hutch”, “The Wild Wild West”, and even Woody Allen’s film “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)”. Adjectives used to describe him include “versatile”, “elegant”, “sophisticated”. I consider myself fortunate to meet and talk to him at his 93rd birthday performance at Dizzy’s and again to attend his 95th birthday performance.
Carlsbad Flower Fields Blues Day
This was held on April 23, at the Carlsbad Flower Fields. We had just missed Chickenbone Slim & The Biscuits, but got there in time to hear Robin Henkel with Whitney Shay, with Troy Jennings on sax, Caleb Furgatch on bass, and Marty Dodson on drums. We have seen this configuration of artists before, and they never disappoint. It was another enjoyable outdoor performance. And we got to talk to Larry Teves (Chickenbone Slim) even though we missed his set. We also spent time walking about the variety of beautiful flowers on display.
Adams Avenue Unplugged
This year at the Unplugged event on April 29, I finally got to see Marie Haddad perform, as well as Sven Eric Seaholm. Both are quite talented performers as well as capable songwriters. Marie is a very expressive quality singer and keyboardist. She did some self-penned songs as well as covers, leaving me wanting to hear much more. She will be releasing a new album later in the year and I will be in line to obtain one, for sure. Sven did an acoustic guitar set, but the environment was not conducive to a musical performance. The Adams Avenue Business Association needs to rethink using that noisy location with poor acoustics as a venue. However, we were up close to enjoy his covers of 60s and 70s songs, along with some self-penned songs. We ended the day at DiMilles’ Pizza to hear Robin Henkel doing a solo country blues set followed by the Dave Humphries Band, which was a three-piece consisting of Dave on vocals and guitar, Greg Gohde on bass, and Mike Alvarez on cello and backing vocals. I have written much about both in the past, and cannot add anything more regarding their prodigious talents. After the Dave Humphries set, we decided to leave the Unplugged event and headed over to the Riviera Supper Club to hear some twang with Three Chord Justice before calling it a night. This was the last time for me to hear the band with guitarist and long-time member, Jeff Houck. Jeff has since moved on to other ventures.
Six String Society – 27 Club
The Six String Society, at the Belly Up on April 30, presented a tribute to the artists who died at the age of 27. Among the members of the 27 Club covered in this production were Robert Johnson, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Curt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. Taylor John Williams did a brief set to warm up the crowd. Then the fun began. Beginning with a tribute to country blues legend, Robert Johnson, presented by local country blues legend, Robin Henkel, a slide presentation created a multi-media environment as Robin told the mysterious story of Robert Johnson, playing some of Johnson’s classic songs as well as other country blues songs. Following this informative set, Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer (with Steve Miller Band) guitarist Greg Douglass and singer Louis Patton performed a tribute to Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. Then Gregory Page did a musical introduction to guitarist Jimmy Patton with a tribute to Jim Morrison of The Doors. The next 27 Club member was Janis Joplin. For this set, the phenomenal Casey Hensley sang Janis’ songs accompanied by a band fronted by Greg Douglass on guitar and Johnny Viau on sax, with Evan Caleb Yearsley on drums and Mark Campbell on bass. I kept looking up to see if the Belly Up roof was still intact after hearing Casey tearing it up. Next was a tribute to Curt Cobain of Nirvana by Canadian/San Diegan alternative band, Sister Speak, fronted by Sherri Anne on vocals and acoustic guitar, Jacob (Cubby) Miranda on bass, and Zach Guglin on drums. Greg Douglass also joined in on electric guitar. I really liked their sound. Sister Speak is another San Diego Music Awards winner. They were also joined by Jimmy Patton and Taylor John Williams on their last Nirvana song. For the Amy Winehouse tribute, Whitney Shay literally was the incarnation of Amy, with her hair style, red flower in her hair, and voice. Whitney was backed by her band, The Hustle and accompanied again for some songs by Greg Douglass. This led into the final tribute, for Jimi Hendrix, with Greg Douglass doing some pyro techniques on guitar, accompanied by Mark Campbell on bass and Evan Caleb Yearsley on drums. Vocal duties for Jimi’s songs was handled by Louis Patton. And, of course, all performers gathered on stage for the last song. It was a tremendous night of legendary music and fantastic performers.
Mother’s Day at Urban Solace
We went to Urban Solace for their bluegrass brunch on Mother’s Day, May 13. Plow, represented by a trio of Doug Walker on bass, Jason Weiss on banjo and a guest guitarist/vocalist that I cannot recall – that’s what I get for not writing this as soon afterward as I should have. Chris Clarke, Mark Markowitz, Dane Terry and Alex Sharps were not available as they were celebrating Mother’s Day and if I recall correctly, Chris was also ill that day.
Joshua Tree Music Festival May 18-21
Prior to the music festival, Todo Mundo had mentioned via a Facebook post by Jamie Shadowlight that they were giving away two free tickets to the festival and all one had to do was to give the reasons why they thought they were deserving of the tickets. On a lark, I responded. Little did I know that I would win. I was not out of town but had not reserved those days as vacation days. I then got an email from Todo Mundo that they wanted additional information in case I won. I had not yet responded when Jamie told me I won the tickets and needed to get this info in ASAP. I had to quickly request the days off and then responded. The tickets would be at the front gate for the festival. I was amazed. These are $240 tickets each! I booked the hotel using my points. So, the only cost to us was food and gas, plus anything else we wanted to buy. It was an awesome experience with several performers from around the world. That first evening began with Canada’s Sasha Rose doing a DJ set followed by local artist, Chris Unck with his high desert band. Chris’ music reminded me of the German space rock of the 70s. It was an instrumental set, and they performed as the sun was setting. Todo Mundo, including Jamie Shadowlight, was the featured artist of the evening. This was my first time hearing them and they knocked me out of my socks! How do I explain them? World music including reggae, Caribbean, gypsy, and you name it, all with a Latin flavor; with guitars, percussion, drums, bass, sax, trombone, trumpet and violin; all this with the powerful and soulful vocals of band leader, Santiago Orozco. Their performance is high energy with a powerful message of world unity and love, and all players were dressed in white. We headed back to our hotel room musically sated but anticipating more the following day. We met up with Jamie, Santiago and his wife, and others, and relaxed to the sounds of local artist, Philip Rosenberg in the background. After checking out the merchants we settled into listening to a band from Wonder Valley, TheAdobe Collective, with a psychedelic Americana style, and La Inedita from Peru, with a Latin harder edged pop-rock style throwing in a bit of Spanish rap. For the sunset performance, Kraak and Smaak from Netherlands did a disco/pop-electronica set that would be suitable for a rave, complete with light show effects. Later in the evening we heard another local artist, Gene Evaro, Jr. with a funky yet folky style including roaring guitars on some songs. While there was one more performer to go that evening, we called it a night and headed back to the hotel; the desert heat had worn on us and I wanted to be ready for the next day. Our Saturday morning’s arrival was greeted by an acoustic set by Sasha Rose, who had DJed on Thursday evening. Later we heard the wonderful acapella harmonies of Sirens of Soul, who hail from all over – three female artists with beautiful voices and one guy on bass. Their music and stories were uplifting, affirming, and for us, a great way to end our time at the music festival. As we were leaving the Desert Rhythm Project was just beginning their set. We had things we had to accomplish on Sunday, so we needed to get home. Keep in mind that the music is just one (but central) aspect of the festival. There were a variety of artisans, healers, and a place for children’s activities. This will not be the last time at the festival for us. Next time, we will plan so that we can take in all four days’ music. We also learned that there was a hotel much closer where I could still use my hotel points instead of staying in Palm Springs and driving an hour each day from the hotel to the festival.
Art Around Adams
Art around Adams has been reduced now to one day, which this year was Saturday, June 7. First up was a performance by True Stories, including Bart Mendoza on guitar and vocals and Dave Fleminger on keys and guitar. We then walked across the street to see the tribute to Dick Van Ransom, owner of Mariposa Ice Cream, who passed away a year ago after a car accident. Dick was a huge promoter of the arts and all the street fairs on Adams Avenue. The first artist during the tribute was George Rubsamen on acoustic guitar and mandolin, who was accompanied in part of his set by Nico Peters on percussion. George’s set was primarily 60s pop and rock with an Irish flair. Next set was by The Baja Bugs doing primarily Beatles tunes but a few other 60s artists were covered. The tribute ended with The Dave Humphries Band performing more Beatles songs as well as songs by other British invasion artists and some self-penned tunes. A presentation was made by a local government official to Dick Van Ransom’s wife. We then headed back to the other stage for The Joyelles, consisting of bandleader, Normandie Wilson, on keys and vocals, Symea Solomon and Maggie Taylor on vocals, and backed by Dave Fleminger on guitar, Danny Cress on drums, and Martin Martiarena on bass. The group are well-steeped in 60s pop and soul, covering artists such as Petula Clark, Burt Bacharach, and Dionne Warwick, and more esoteric artists of the 60s, including some French ye-ye pop stars such as France Gall. There are also many songs penned by Normandie Wilson; songs that one would be surprised to find are recent and not from the 60s. Normandie, Symea, and Maggie take turns with lead vocals. This band has a vibrant sound which got a lot of people dancing at the Blindspot stage. I was surprised at the size of the crowd gathered for their music – it gives me hope that 60s pop still rules! We then ventured over to DiMille’s for some pizza with many of our friends. After dinner we moved over to the DiMille’s Beer Garden stage to hear Alvino & The Dwells with their supersonic surf music. This power trio consists of Dave Fleminger on guitar, Tony Suarez on bass and rhythm guitar, and Didier Suarez on drums. This band is reminiscent of the great surf bands of the 60s. We also ran into visual artist/drummer extraordinaire/instrument maker, Owen Burke, enjoying their set.
Bar Pink CD Release Party for The Joyelles & Alvino & The Dwells
I attended the CD release party for The Joyelles and Alvino & The Dwells at Bar Pink on June 9th. This was a well-attended show, with The Joyelles doing the first set and Alvino & The Dwells doing the second. All that was said about these fine bands regarding their performances at Art Around Adams can be repeated here. While enjoying the music I ran into many familiar faces. We all had a great time.
Other Shows Attended in June
Once again, we made our pilgrimage to Rebecca’s Coffee in South Park on Sunday morning, June 11, to hear The Dave Humphries Band. On Thursday, June 15, we celebrated Mark Markowitz’ birthday at the Riviera Supper Club listening to Mark play drums for Liz Grace & The Swing Thing, which was a four piece that evening with Mark on drums, Liz Grace on guitar and vocals, Jon Garner on electric guitar, and Doug Walker on bass. Later, on June 17, my son and his girlfriend accompanied us to Wynola Pizza to hear Three Chord Justice with an acoustic set, featuring their new lead guitarist, Alex Watts. Alex has played with the band on many occasions when Jeff Houck was not available, but since Jeff has left the band Alex has become a full member. Another fun evening with great music.
The Music Box
We had an opportunity to hear Todo Mundo at The Music Box on June 16. When we found out that The Moves Collective would also be playing we just had to go. We had dinner at Buon Appetito, just a few blocks away from The Music Box. While standing in line to get in we ran into Carmelia Toot Bell. Little did we know that Carmelia would be performing later that evening. Soul Brigade opened the show with some high energy electric blues and funk. They were followed by The Moves Collective performing some high voltage Americana. Todo Mundo, featuring Jamie Shadowlight on electric violin and on a few songs Carmelia Toot Bell on vocals. It was another uplifting evening, with Todo Mundo bringing it to a beautiful conclusion.
Revival of the Singer Songwriter
June 18 at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, Shay and The Hustle, Greg Douglass, Israel Maldonado with Dante, Patric Petrie and Jillian Calkins, Shane J Hall Trio, and Steph Johnson with Rob Thorsen put their talents out there to bring on another wonderful evening with a variety of music styles. Patric Petrie and Jillian Calkins have joined forces to present a world folk music duo with an emphasis on Irish and French styles and culture. Their voices blend beautifully. They are now going by the name, J’Adore. They are planning a musical tour of France sometime next year. Shay and the Hustle, with vocalist Whitney Shay, provided a set of funky electric blues that was truly invigorating. There were some great guitarists at this event: Greg Douglass, Israel Maldonado and Steph Johnson. Douglass presented more of a hard-edged blues rock style reminiscent of Clapton, Page, and Hendrix. Maldonado provided acoustic stylings with a Latin flair. Johnson played a funky jazz set of originals with an uplifting, socially conscious theme. Shane J Hall Trio was a new treat for me, with a bluesy Americana style. It was an enjoyable evening of music.
A bit about the Six String Society/Revival of the Singer Songwriter events at the Belly Up, and now the Wednesday night events at Tio Leo’s near Old Town as well as the long-standing Fallbrook open mic events. These are organized and produced by Ken Rexrode. Ken has put tons of time and energy into promoting and supporting music and musicians in San Diego County. I highly recommend any of these events as well worth your time to experience.
Cirque Du Soleil Beatles Love, June 22
The Beatles. The Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas. Cirque du Soleil. Breathtaking. The Beatles’ music and the wizardry of George Martin. Superior talent and skill. What more is there to say? We attended this for my wife, Nancy’s birthday, which was June 22. It was Love.
The Hollywood Project prerelease party at Rebecca’s Coffee, June 25
Representing The Hollywood Project were Dave Humphries, Greg Gohde, Mike Alvarez, and Wolfgang Grasekamp. This was the San Diego prerelease party for Olympic Boulevard, the second album by The Hollywood Project. If this appears to be an iteration of the Dave Humphries Band, you are correct. There were others involved in the production of this release, however, who were not available for this performance. Stephen Kalinich wrote the lyrics for many of the songs, Tom Quinn played guitar on many of the tracks, Sven Eric Seaholm played on the album as well as providing production and engineering along with Wolfgang. There are others I am probably missing, but these are the primary individuals responsible for this excellent release. After the performance, Dave Humphries and his wife Robbie Taylor, along with many of us regulars at Rebecca’s ventured down to The Station for lunch and tasty conversation.
The Garners at Riviera Supper Club, August 3
The Garners, formerly known as The Strivers, are Jon Garner and his wife, Lorelei Musique. Jon plays guitar and sings, and is an essential part of Liz Grace and The Swing Thing. Lorelei plays ukulele, guitalele, and sings. Together they dig into the music of the 20s through the 50s, with songs from Tin Pan Alley, classic pop and jazz, including a good dose of Django Reinhart and other early guitar greats. Lorelei is an accomplished vocalist with an expressive vocal style reminiscent of Billie Holiday, with a touch of Ella Fitzgerald. And, her work on ukulele and guitar compliments Jon’s playing nicely. I’ve written earlier about Jon’s excellent guitar work – he stays true to the early masters while adding his own unique twist to classic guitar jazz. It was another evening of great food and great sounds.
August through December
We visited the places we regularly frequent such as Wynola Pizza, the Alano Club in South Park, Riviera Supper Club, and Rebecca’s Coffee to see the bands we like to see such as Plow, Three Chord Justice, Liz Grace and The Swing Thing, and the Dave Humphries Band.
Dave Humphries at Rebecca’s
Dave Humphries at Rebecca’s
Dave Humphries & Mike Alvarez with friends Mike Evans (left circle) and Will LaFond (right circle), last time at Rebecca’s Coffee on Sunday morning before they close
Lestat’s West on Adams Avenue, October 13
We attended a performance by Marie Haddad at Lestat’s West where she played songs from her latest album, “Stories from Atlantis.” I consider this album to be an all-time favorite of mine. While over the years I have thought highly of many releases by many local artists, this year there were three that were in my opinion jaw-dropping excellent, and this is one of the three. I will have more to say about the three albums in a later post. Of course, the songs sounded different at Lestat’s because it was just Marie on her keyboard, but her beautifully emotive voice and the exceptional lyrics and songwriting made for an enjoyable performance. Following Marie was Isaac Cheong on solo voice and guitar. His self-deprecating humor and sensitive songwriting has left me wanting to hear more. Isaac was followed by a husband and wife duo from Tucson, Arizona (originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina) calling themselves Birds & Arrows. This was a guitar and drums performance with Pete Connolly on drums and backing vocals and Andrea Connolly on guitar and lead vocals. They wrote their own music, which was a mix of Americana and hard-edged alternative rock. Andrea was amazing how she held up the rhythm and lead to make this performance sound like a full band. In talking with them at the break, they said they really like playing in San Diego and plan more gigs here in the future. I surely hope so. We did not stay for the other two artists performing that evening, Lisa Sanders and Mary Scholz. I am sure they would have been worth our time, but it was getting late after a tiring day.
Rebecca’s Coffee Farewell Concert, December 16
On a sad note, after more than 25 years providing coffee, scones, and a venue for music and poetry as well as promotion for animal rescue, Rebecca’s Coffee is closing at the end of the year due to new ownership of the building and a doubling of the rent. A farewell concert was held at Rebecca’s on December 16. This featured several artists who had been regulars performing at the coffee shop over the years. Included were Dave Humphries accompanied by Mike Alvarez, and Tom Baird and Friends. A bittersweet evening.
San Diego Troubadour Holiday Party and Fundraiser 2017, Grassroots Oasis, December 17
While my better half suffered from the flu, I attended the Troubadour Holiday Party meeting up with friends and enjoying the music of Bayou Brothers, Tom Baird and Friends, Dave Humphries and Mike Alvarez (and featuring Owen Burke on drums, and with Liz Abbott on vocals on “Bluebird”), Robin Henkel with Whitney Shay, Asspocket of Whiskey, Nina Francis, among others too many to mention. All were in the holiday spirit and it was great seeing everyone and hearing some wonderful music.
The Nutcracker: A Jazz Exploration, Café Bar Europa, December 22
And here we are full circle. Performed by Jamie Shadowlight on electric violin, Mikan Zlatkovich on keys, Will Lyle on string bass, Monette Marino on percussion, Russell Bizzett on drums, with special guests PacificYO on beatbox, Carmelia Toot Bell on vocals, and Albert Lin throat singing. It is exactly as described, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker put into a jazz format with tons of wild improvisation and experimentation; much was done impromptu by super talents who can pull this off with ease. Plus, it is always a joyful event to be with Jamie. It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
Despite the flu and other infirmities, despite a government gone insane, despite a monstrous work load this past year, and despite fighting a downer regarding the uncertainty of our future and retirement under the current American leadership, this has been a good year for music and for experiencing music in San Diego. In fact, the music is what has kept me going. I have made many friends in the music community, and many of those friendships have grown deeper in the past year. As we look to 2018, I can know that despite what natural or human disasters occur in the next twelve months, and despite what calamities our government throws at us, we have the joy of music and of friendship, and that will get us through.
Before we leave 2017 I will be writing a second and hopefully shorter post regarding some recorded music discoveries during the year that I would like to share with everyone. In the meantime, try to avoid this nasty flu that is going around and value one another! Happy Holidays!
“No fun, my babe, no fun. No fun to hang around. Feelin’ that same old way. No fun to hang around. Freaked out for another day.”
By Dave Alexander, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, and Iggy (Stooge) Pop, from the song, “No Fun” on The Stooges first (eponymous) album, released in 1969.
Happy 2017. Really. My excitement for a “new beginning” overwhelms me. Whoopee. Happy days are here again. (yawns pessimistically) But of course, we must make America great again, right? We will do this while we make America straight again, make America fake again, make America gray…and make Americans afraid again.
But this time the fear is not from without; it is from within. Well, far be it from me to swallow up or destroy… the party. After all, it’s my party (no, it’s not), but I fear all tomorrow’s parties. Now if you close the door I never have to go to parties again. I am peaceable and faithful to the “new King”, for I am scared shitless of him. Now let me be clear that when I use the term “party” I am not thinking of a political party (lies, lies, lies). I am thinking about the kind of party where cake is served. You know, let ‘em eat cake? Ummmmm, boy!
So, readers may ask, “Popeswami, where are you going with this?” I am going nowhere. I am nowhere, man. Can’t you see? Perhaps you should tell me what you see. I will hold out hope that you see something different. But I can see for miles and miles and miles, yet all I can see is a river of shit. And I’m getting tired of it. But enough of the cheap efforts to be clever, using snippets of songs or song titles to make a point. There is no point. Pretty dull, eh? Well, happy 2017, anyway.
Seriously, America enters 2017 with more uncertainty than ever. It is difficult to remain optimistic, but I will attempt to continue to be a Ray of light and spread any joy I can muster. So, let’s talk about music! Hell, I quoted enough lyrics and esoteric Biblical references above!
Isabel Baker – I Like God’s Style
Speaking of the Bible, let me start out with what may be the earliest American Christian rock album ever recorded, Isabel Baker’s “I Like God’s Style”. This LP (in the form of a limited issue pressing on Harkit Records in 2015) was one of my prize acquisitions of 2016. While parts of this album sound like music from a Jimmy Swaggart revival, there are excellent examples of garage-rockabilly stylings coupled with down-home, real people singing and songwriting. All songs on the album were written by the mysterious teenager, Isabel Baker, who also sings and plays rhythm guitar. Not much is known about her. The liner notes, written by a certain Naomi E. Fieldstad, reveal that she was 16 years old when she recorded the album. Her father was an evangelist named George Baker. Besides Ms. Baker, the album includes Joe Utterback on piano (adding revival tent flourishes on the ivories that would make Jimmy Swaggart proud), Bob Garvey on lead guitar, Don Nunn on bass, and Jim Kincaid on drums. Per album notes, the original album was recorded in two days, on June 18th and 19th, 1965, in Wichita, Kansas. It was issued on the Kansas-based Romco Records label, with only 100 to 500 being pressed. They were primarily sold at her father’s church and prayer gatherings as they traveled the West and Midwest. It was produced by her father’s organization “The Challenge of Calvary Ministry, Inc.,” headquartered in Garden Grove, California. The front cover shows Isabel with her Fender Jaguar guitar. Upon hearing, it is obvious that Isabel has no formal music or vocal training. An insert in the reissue package says that Joe Utterback, who provided some recollections of the recording event, later became an annual performer for the Tony Awards gala reception and has recorded several solo jazz piano albums. On the other hand, efforts to track down Isabel Baker over the years have proven futile. People have posted several songs from this album on YouTube. Here is the title track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbXz2Z5_WN0
Michael Angelo – Michael Angelo
Another acquisition this past year was the self-titled LP by Michael Angelo. His album was issued in 1977, on the Guinn label from Kansas City, Missouri, in a limited pressing of 500. Michael Angelo Nigro was a studio musician at the Liberty Recording studio in Kansas City at the time. Late at night and at other times when the studio was not being used, he would record the songs that would become this album. Liberty was not interested in issuing it, so he did the final mastering at Big-K Studios, a smaller studio in Kansas City, that issued it on the Guinn Records label. All vocals and instruments except drums were performed by Michael Angelo; all songs were written by him. Drums were provided by Frank Gautieri. The master acetate was destroyed shortly after the album was released and the record company went out of business. Original pressings sometimes go for over a grand. There were a couple reissues in the late 90s and early 00s using the needle-drop method with lots of Cedar noise reduction, which literally ruined the sound and ambiance of the album. A South Korean label, Big Pink/Beatball, issued a CD taken from one of these reissues and should be avoided. When I communicated with Michael in 2010 he was not aware of the Beatball release. Fortunately, a pristine original Guinn LP was located and provided for an excellent reissue by Anthology/Mexican Summer in 2015, with full permission of Michael Angelo Nigro. This release was also limited to 300 copies and includes an accompanying 7” record with three songs, one of which did not appear on the LP. Later in 2015, Lion Productions issued a double CD, again with full authorization of the artist, which includes both this album and a never-officially released second LP, “A Sorcerer’s Dream,” plus a third LP, “Nuts”, which was released under the name Michael Nitro. This double-CD release of the three LPs was made possible with the assistance of the late Patrick (The Lama) Lundborg (Acid Archives editor and author of the book, Psychedelia), Aaron Milenski (contributor to The Acid Archives book), Mike Stax (Ugly Things magazine), and Vincent Tornatore (Lion Productions).
So, how does it sound? It sounds both retro and ahead of its time all at once. Keep in mind this was recorded and issued in 1977. It did not fit that period, musically, hence it went nowhere. Besides, it was very limited in its exposure with such a small pressing. There is a Paul McCartney influence both in voice and melodicism. Perhaps this is an indirect influence, since he sounds even closer to Emitt Rhodes, who himself, was influenced by The Beatles, and McCartney in particular. However, that is where the similarity ends. Michael Angelo’s songs are more “dreamy” with references to Greek mythology and a darker, romantic, and even suicidal longing. There are flashes of the late 60s Los Angeles sound but then there are new innovations overlapping Middle Eastern scales with 60s Donovan-like psychedelia coupled with an aggressive guitar, pointing to a newer sound from which perhaps Big Star and REM in the 80s and My Bloody Valentine, Lush, and other shoegaze bands in the early 90s took their cues. Yet, the album is significantly an understatement through-and-through; beautiful, but not flamboyant, leaving a sense of longing for some form of resolution. His second album, “A Sorcerer’s Dream,” sounds like an extension of the first. His Michael Nitro album is a bit more aggressive but it certainly has his trademark sound and songwriting style. Here is “Future,” the closing track from his first album:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwnNML4uyy0
Mistress Mary – Housewife
A few years ago, I watched a cache of original copies of this LP in sealed, mint condition go for nearly a half a grand each at various online auction houses. In the meantime, Companion Records had been promising for years to obtain permission to re-release it, making it more accessible to those of us who were curious to hear what all the fuss was about. My waiting paid off. In 2016, Companion Records released the LP, along with a digital download of the album with three bonus unreleased tracks. The original album was issued on the Afton Co. Records label, from Hacienda Heights, California, in 1969. Note that Mistress Mary’s real name is Mary Afton. It is rumored that Roger McGuinn and other members of The Byrds are the backup band on the tracks “And I Didn’t Want You” and “My Country Boy”. We now know that the 5-day session was conducted at Darrel Cotton’s Ion Studio, and the session was led by Cotton and steel guitarist Carl Walden. Also, one Byrds alumni is identified as Clarence White. Early rockabilly artist, Johnny Redd, also participated in the sessions. It is said that Mary was dissatisfied with The Byrds’ treatment of her songs, making them sound more rock than country. While her singing isn’t on the level of the leading country singers of her day, it isn’t bad at all. And, her songwriting, while a bit quirky and definitely unique, is solid. Being from Southern California, her singing has a softer touch than most country artists of the era. Mistress Mary – Housewife rides the picket fence line between a real people vanity recording and a commercially viable country sound. The back cover shows her being a true “Los Angeles housewife,” sporting a black negligée while mopping the floor and preparing a meal. The liner notes are hand-written, and Mary describes herself as “Wife – Mother – Civic Leader – etc. – Artiste,” and she refers to “the more intelligent and perceptive of her in-laws.” This should give an idea of what her lyrics are like. The original pressing was only 500 copies, with about 50 of these going to key people in the music industry, including Elvis Presley. Mary Afton’s efforts to break into the country charts were met with little interest. So, after a couple years with no “bites” she moved on to other interests, including auto mechanics instructor for women, female self-defense instructor, belly dance instructor, and disco dance instructor. She continues to live in Southern California, and she loves throwing huge pool parties for hundreds of people at a time in her back yard. Here is “And I Didn’t Want You” from her LP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Dnd94lsrBs
Palmer Rockey – Scarlet Love/Rockey’s Style
In the “anals” of recorded music, the Palmer Rockey story is one of the most amazing and incredulous. I was amazed, and quite pleased to find that Trunk Records located a mint copy of the first version of this album, Scarlet Love, and re-issued it on both LP and CD in 2013 (but using the third release, Rockey’s Style, title). I purchased the CD version soon after it was issued. This past year I was very fortunate that the Mr. Weird and Wacky blogsite had the other music version for download, and it is a crisp, clear copy. The original pressings of this album were in 1979, 1980, and 1981, all on the AB-Rock Music label. It is unclear how many were pressed, but with the scarcity of originals, it could not have been many. There were three pressings but as far as I can tell, only two variants of the music. The first version is what was re-released on the Trunk label in 2013. This version has two songs that do not appear on the other two versions, “Sunday Love” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight”. The second and third versions are musically the same but the second retains the “Scarlet Love” album title while the third release is retitled “Rockey’s Style” and both have slightly different sleeves. The latter two versions have a slightly different mix of some of the songs that appear on all three versions, and have two songs that do not appear on the first release, “Love, Love Rock” and “Love Is Deep Inside,” and one song title was changed from “Rock It Nice N’ Easy” to “Rock It”. There are three variants of the sleeves but none of them match the songs and sequencing on the first release. And to further the confusion, the album sleeves provided no guarantee which version of the LP would be found inside.
The music is what would be considered Twilight Zone crooner lounge, with some lounge rock thrown in for good measure. Little is known about the sessions. According to liner notes on the CD, it is rumored that the recording “sessions were fraught with tension and madness.” The session musicians are professional. Palmer Rockey’s singing is not. It is obvious his voice is untrained, but he tries to sound hip, sometimes attempting to imitate Elvis, and at other times attempting to sound like classic crooners such as Dean Martin. His singing is unique and some lyrics sound like they are improvised. All songs were written by Palmer Rockey. The songwriting is fair to good musically, but corny and weak lyrically. Sometimes the lyrics are just weird, meaning it is right down my alley! One song, “Rock It,” sounds like it was designed to be used in aerobics classes. We don’t know if Palmer Rockey played any of the instruments during the session, but my bet is that he didn’t, otherwise he would have stated it on the album cover.
The album is supposed to be a soundtrack to his second movie, “Scarlet Love.” It is suggested that this movie evolved from his first, “It Happened on Sunday,” also titled in some sources “It Happened One Weekend,” from 1974. He was working on edits to the second movie for years, even after the last release of the LP. On his Lysergia Website, the late Patrick Lundborg provided many hilarious and interesting details about the making of the movie. It seems Mr. Rockey swindled many wealthy, elderly Dallas, Texas women to obtain the money for his endeavors. He maintained a post office box where he was known to read “mail from Hollywood” out loud for those passing by. When approached in the 90s about the album and movie, he informed the inquirer to never contact him about this again. He passed away in 1996. He was married to Mary Ann “Cookie” Carson in 1968 when she was just 21 and he was 47. They were divorced in 1977, prior to the release of the movie and soundtrack. Cookie Ann Rockey recently wrote a book about her life with him, “The Rock: The Life and Crimes of Palmer Rockey.” Here is the song “Scarlet Warning” from the LP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdsJ1greKh8
Frunk – If at First…
Another rarity that sells for a grand today is an album that could possibly be the first karaoke album ever produced. It contains the music of five young women in their 20s singing along to some popular songs of their era. It was recorded in the private studio (Vampire Studio, Haddonfield, NJ) of Peter Graulich, who was the brother-in-law to one of the singers. It was pressed in a limited quantity of 25 on the RPC label. This would have been beyond all possibility of being heard let alone being owned by this Popeswami if it had not been for Peter Graulich discovering that he had 8 original Frunk LPs stashed away. He came to my attention when I saw him selling them on eBay for around $600 each. He used the funds to reissue the LP, again in limited quantity. It is one of these re-pressings that I was able to obtain. In his own words, here is how the recording came about:
“The album was released in the Summer of 1972. There are 8 copies available and we believe the initial pressing was 25 records, not 100. We have also located the original Master as received from Frankford-Wayne Recording Labs at 212 N. 12th St. in Philadelphia PA. I have also located the original master tape on which I recorded all of the sessions, then mixed them down via a TEAC 4 channel mixer, to the final set. The record was recorded on a Teac 3340 10 1/2″ reel 4 track recorder. The tape is exactly as it was when it was delivered to the pressing company. If you would like details of how the record was created and the group formed: Back in 1971 I was just getting into serious electronics and high end audio was my current compulsion. I was living in Haddonfield and I build a recording studio in my basement. One day my sister in law and her friends were visiting and I was playing “500 miles”, Peter, Paul & Mary in the studio and they came in and started singing. It sounded interesting, so I suggested we record. Over the next few weeks we recorded many takes on my Teac 3340 4 channel recorder. As there was no karaoke in those days, I dubbed the girls voices over the original music from the turntable. Eventually we got “acceptable” material. I mixed it all down and created a 10” reel with the master on it (which I still have) and took it to Frankfort Recording Labs and had 25 copies made. We created covers, pasted them up and poof! We had a record. I gave the girls each a 3 copies and asked if they could sell them (for $5 each to help off set the cost of the project. I think my Mom bought the only copy sold, but I felt sorry for her and gave her a refund)…”
The five singers were Dee Graulich, Mary Anderson, Kathleen Anderson, Mary Anna Baptiste, and Terry Wadlinger. Peter Graulich was audio engineer and producer. Larry Viarengo was responsible for the cover design. The music sounds a bit eerie to me, hearing the original music with different singers. But there are a few giveaways such as hearing Paul Simon singing in the background on “El Condor Pasa”. Their singing is not always synchronized with the recording, but it really was never intended to be a commercial release. It was definitely for themselves, their friends and family. Here is Frunk singing along with Karen Carpenter on “Close to You”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXMHSJjUrDY
I did not discuss any local outings in this post. But believe me, I have been seeing some great stuff in San Diego. I will write about it later. This will be my final post before the presidential inebriation. In the meantime, stay safe and warm.
I am sorry for this sounding like something from the presidential campaign. This election is probably the worst I’ve ever seen in my entire lifetime. But enough of that. I will now grope toward the keyboard to write this entry into posterior posterity.
I will forgo the usual litany of shows I’ve been to, even though seeing The Strivers (Lorelei & Jon Garner) at the Riviera Supper Club was a nice surprise,
…and that the Strings of Thought house concert in La Jolla was simply amazing,
…and that a jazz interpretation of West Side Story at Dizzy’s was totally awesome,
…and that Robin Henkel Horn Band at Lestat’s was really cool,
…and that Billy Watson with Junior Watson (of Canned Heat fame) at Proud Mary’s was as entertaining as hell,
…and that the Swing Thing Duo (Liz Grace & Jon Garner) at Riviera Supper Club was as great as ever, …and that Plow with new fiddler and mandolin player, Alex Sharps, at Urban Solace was fun. Whew!
Never mind all that. We have Halloween at the end of this month!
Wowie zowie! The holiday that brings thoughts of trickery, seduction, witches, ghosts, and goblins is upon us. Whoooooaaaaa! And, of course it brings scary music! So this time around I want to talk about some of the fun and not-so-fun music that reminds me of Halloween. I will approach this by first discussing those artists who promise big things in the thrills and chills department, but end up giving us nothing for our listening efforts. Then I will look at the stuff that makes Halloween fun. And last I will discuss those who are as scary as hell because we know their intentions are dark and maybe even evil.
Just a disclaimer before we get into this: I have an enormous collection and it contains artists who come from all angles of the human condition. When I post something about them, it does not mean I am advocating a particular religious, spiritual, scientific, metaphysical, or behavioral way of thinking. I simply post what I have and my brief impressions of the art and/or artist.
Let me list some from my collection here:
AC/DC – Highway to Hell and Back in Black: The first album is straight-out 70s hard rock. Nothing more, nothing less. On the latter, the boys played with the idea of a darker side, especially with “Hell’s Bells” but, still, it is just hard rock albeit well done.
Black Sabbath – s/t: This album has one of my favorite cover photos, designed perfectly for Halloween, but while the band plays some great bluesy hard rock, it really loses the “chills and thrills” factor after the first song.
The Fuzztones – Lysergic Emanations: Scary photo on the front cover leads you to believe this will be more than good solid rock, but it isn’t. And the lysergic connections are tenuous at best. They attempt to redeem themselves with song titles like “Living Sickness”, “She’s Wicked”, “Epitaph for a Head”, and “Green Slime” but it is not enough to convince me.
Plan 9 – Dealing with the Dead: Like The Fuzztones, it just doesn’t convince me of anything but that they were good neo-psychedelic rockers.
Ghost – Second Time Around: Another good neo-psychedelic rock band, this time from Japan, but there’s nothing ghostly about this group.
Pulsar – Halloween: Now you would think that with an album title honoring the holiday, they would live up to the title, but they don’t. If you like your 70s progressive rock a-la-France, then Pulsar is for you!
The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request and Beggars Banquet: Two classic 60s Stones albums. The former is more psychedelic while the latter is harder edged rock, but all the allusions to Jagger being the Devil are just plain silly today.
Vampire Weekend – s/t: Great NYC modern rockers without an authentic bite. Ho hum.
Werewolf – Creation: This 1984 progressive band from the Netherlands crafted an enjoyable set of tunes here but there is more werewolf in “Werewolves of London” than on this disc.
Witch – Lazy Bones: Zambian 70s rock band with nothing to do with witches. Instead, the name is actually an acronym for “We Intend To Cause Havoc”. Welllll, sorta witchy, I guess. Enjoyable rock.
The Satans – Raisin’ Hell: This Andover, MA prep school band from 1962 thought it would be fun to use a devilish name and album title. But it was all in fun and there are no occult references in their music.
The Fun Seekers
Now, a lot of the attraction to the holiday is having fun! Here are some selections thaare intended to be fun.
Robbie the Werewolf – At the Waleback: This 1964 live comedy record only has tangential ties to the dark side. The humor is old and stale, but the album cover is priceless.
Bill Cardille – Chilly Billy Goes on Record: The late great Pittsburgh television host of Chiller Theater made an LP back in the late 60s that is full of puns and bad jokes but with a spooky twist.
David Greenberger and Phil Kaplan – Duplex Halloween Planet: These are Halloween-themed statements from the Duplex nursing home residents’ newsletter “The Duplex Planet”. Some are totally whacked-out, such as confusing Groundhog Day with Halloween. In a sense it is sad, but funny in a dark and twisted way.
Fun World – Thriller/Chiller Sound Effects: This was taken from a Halloween-themed sound effects tape to be used at children’s Halloween parties. Quite effective.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Original Soundtrack: All fun. The music is great, especially Tim Curry’s songs. But it seems something is missing when listening without the movie.
St. John Green – s/t: From psychedelic 1967 Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles, we have a group of artists with a one-off album with an occult theme. Only convincing at times, but it is obvious they just wanted to make a fun LP. And they did! Cool LP cover also.
Various Artists – Spooky Tunes: This is a collection of tunes from various sources with a Halloween theme. All light, somewhat naughty, somewhat scary with many standards such as “Zombie Stomp” by Elvira, “Halloween Spooks” by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, “Welcome to My Nightmare” by Alice Cooper and, well, you get the idea.
Various Artists – Halloween Fairy Scary Tales: This is a collection of less popular but still fun recordings such as “Punky Pumpkin” by Rosemary Clooney, “Transylvania Twist” by Baron Daemon and the Vampires, “Dracula’s Wedding” by Lord Chatterly, “Voodoo Doll” by Rhonda Silver and the like.
Then you have the very underground, but all in fun, pirate radio shows. Halloween is a time where mysterious stations pop up suddenly on shortwave, and then disappear just as quickly without explanation. Many wish to hear from listeners, but cannot reveal their location so they use “mail drops” to communicate. Just like amateur radio operators and many legitimate broadcast stations they provide QSL cards to verify the reception of appreciative listeners. Here are three that stand out for me:
The Voice of the Purple Pumpkin – First broadcasts appear to have been heard in the late 1960s from a location in south-central Pennsylvania or northern Maryland, with anti-Vietnam War and anti-establishment themes. They were shut down by the FCC in 1971 but then reappeared in 1982, only to disappear again until 1989, when they began to do annual appearances at Halloween, and then adopted a mix of popular and Halloween music. In the mid-90s there was a brief appearance of New Voices of the Purple Pumpkin that outlined the history of the station. Since then there have been many other stations using that moniker but none that live up to the mysterious originators.
Voice of the Abnormal – This broadcaster only appears at Halloween, with host, Yukon Jack, who sounds quite similar to Wolfman Jack. This show is totally Halloween songs with a mix of obscurities and popular tunes, and humorous banter in between. Very enjoyable and professionally done.
Tube Radio – Halloween Special, Straight from Hell – Tube Radio was quite active in the early 1990s but then disappeared with this being their last broadcast. This broadcast was quite eerie with announcers Ray Cathode and Lady Diode, and much mention of their third-but-deceased announcer, Zippo Hiplock. They apparently went to Hell in search of their deceased friend. Howling wolves appear throughout the show and are even superimposed on the already eerie music. Only a half-hour broadcast, they closed down so that “the FCC would not have to go to Hell”.
Some of my favorite compositions to play around this holiday were not intended for Halloween but really do fit the bill. They include:
The Mothers of Invention – “The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet” in 2 Tableaux, “Ritual Dance of the Child Killers” and “Nullis Pretii” This is from the 1966 LP, Freak Out!, and takes up all of side four. Percussion, “audiosonic hypophone” in high-pitched ear piercing tones, random piano tinkling, and seductive moans amidst party banter and screams. Spooky and sexy at the same time.
Pink Floyd – “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” from the album UmmaGumma from 1969. Sounding like it was indeed recorded in a cave, there are munchkin-like voices representing a variety of indescribable creatures, and then a Scotsman begins reciting something like a warrior tale to them in a thick Scottish brogue. With the accent and the cave echo effect it is hard to decipher what he is saying. Haunting to say the least.
Can – “Aumgn” from the 1971 LP Tago Mago. This side long selection has no words but the pronounced song title in heavy reverb while assorted percussion, barking dogs, screams, and weird instrumentation perform an obviously improvisational directionless chaos for your listening pleasure.
Vanilla Fudge – Season of the Witch from the 1968 LP, Renaissance, this is a cover of the Donovan hit, but it is greatly slowed-down, and organ heavy, with additional dialogue and weeping and moaning, ending with, perhaps, the death of one as he says “Momma, I’m cold.” This is a classic. Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xld25GDuBYM
Down to Business
All right, enough of the light and fluffy. Let’s sink our teeth into someone’s neck some really serious stuff.
Aleister Crowley – 666: Some have called him the evilest man who ever lived, or “The Great Beast”. This album has original recordings Crowley made from around 1914. One disc is all Crowley. The other is Crowley enhanced with electronic music performed by Barn Jehovi.
Anton LaVey – Satanic Mass: Exactly what it says. LaVey plays dark, self-composed pipe organ music on one side of the LP and conducts an actual mass on the second side.
Coven – Witchcraft – Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls: Rock band, Coven, played Satanic-themed rock on one side of the LP and had a “Black Mass” on the second. The inside photo of the LP’s gatefold cover revealed female singer, Jinx Dawson, lying nude on an altar, with her nether parts covered by a human skull while surrounded by the other (male) members of the band sporting ritual outfits. Coven might sound familiar due to their hit, “One Tin Soldier” from the movie “The Legend of Billy Jack”.
Lucifer – Black Mass: All electronic music by one Mort Garson, posing as “Lucifer”. Not quite as authentic-sounding as the others above but still a bit curious.
Closed on Account of Rabies: Poems and Tales of Edgar Allen Poe: Various readings by Ken Nordine, Diamanda Galas, Dr. John, Iggy Pop, Deborah Harry, Ed Sanders, Jeff Buckley, and others. Galas’ reading is especially enthralling. Dark and sinister, as only Poe could be read.
Paul Chain – Dies Irae: This is totally out-there electronic music with Sandra Silver doing vocals in an imaginary language. Quite eerie and sensual at the same time. I keep coming back to this one.
The Wicker Man – Music by Paul Giovanni and Magnet: Soundtrack to the original movie. The movie is dark and wicked, and this music does it justice. Don’t listen alone. Don’t listen in the dark.
Jacula – Tardo Pede in Magiam Versus: This is music leading up to and a part of an actual séance. Quite disturbing, especially since it is all in Latin. The music is not as scary as one would expect, however.
Devil Doll – Eliogabalus and Sacriligium: I have all five of the albums produced by Devil Doll. They are some of the most commanding progressive rock / symphonic rock ever recorded. Ever! I have listened to tens of thousands of recordings from a variety of artists and these Slovenian occultists are thee best. The two mentioned here I believe present the most sinister sounding of the set, but they are all damn close. The singer sounds like the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera. Totally theatrical. The band broke up when their recording studio and all their equipment were destroyed in a fire.
Barbara the Gray Witch – s/t: Barbara recorded a double album in the 70s that describes various types of witchcraft. Not really wicked-sounding. More informational than anything else.
Louise Huebner – Seduction Through Witchcraft: Another self-described witch from Los Angeles who produces an instructional album on this topic with electronic music.
Antonius Rex – Ralefun: If you notice, the work “Funeral” is hidden in the LP title. One of the bands created by Antonio Bartoccetti. He was also the founder of Jacula. Both albums mentioned here were from the early 70s Italy. This, while attempting to sound sinister, is simply light progressive rock with annoying bird sounds. A similar group, Cherry Five, changed its name to Goblin and recorded several horror flick soundtracks. Neither Cherry Five nor Goblin sounded the least bit scary to me.
The Occult Explosion – Nat Freedland and others: This is a documentary album that touches on all forms of occultism, and unfortunately mixes new age thinking, Eastern religions and astrology into the mix. But of course it is the 1970s so what would you expect. Some of the topics are quite interesting but not scary in the least.
English Heretic – Curse of the Conqueror Worm and A Hilltop Hanging from Witchfinder General: These are just two of several releases I have by this collective of musicians who research historic events that are tied to the unexplainable or exceptionally sinister. They perform music frequently at the sites of these historic events and it always has an other-worldly, dark ambience. Some of the darkest music in my collection.
Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood – Lucifer’s Bride: One of several BOTOS releases. All are dark, acoustic instrumental with occasional voice humming and electronic sound. Cacophonous and sometimes sounding directionless, they keep my attention always.
Other dark recordings are listed here:
Comus – First Utterance
Current 93 – All The Pretty Little Horses – The Inmost Light
Eleanor’s Visceral Tomb – Lady, Hap Yer Lingcan
Shibboleth – Winter Heresy
Paul Roland – Danse Macabre / Burnt Orchids
Stone Breath – Songs of Moonlight and Rain
Ruth White – Flowers of Evil
Shub Niggurath – Les Morts Vout Vite
Sol Invictus – Lex Talionis
Univers Zero – Heresie
Terry Earl Taylor – Another Time
Sharron Kraus – Beautiful Twisted
Kenneth Anger – Lucifer Rising
So there you have it. Some from my collection of dark, brooding, sinister, occult sounds. Just fit for a frightful Halloween. Some of these recordings are becoming nearly impossible to obtain while others, from the more popular artists are fairly accessible in stores and online. If you ever want to know more about any of these, or others to recommend, just let me know.
This entry will be in three parts, to signify what was happening between my last post and before I was caught in the flood in southern Louisiana, and what has happened since.
Before the Flood
“You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard
But you don’t understand
Just what you’ll say
When you get home
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?…”
Bob Dylan, from “Ballad of a Thin Man” from Highway 61 Revisited (1965) and Before the Flood (1974)
It has been quite some time between posts, and I hope that this does not become a habit. I really really really want to post more often but Time Won’t Let Me; makes me feel like an Outsider.
After experiencing the Beatles Fair, and other great shows in the spring of 2016, I truly considered I had seen the highlight of the year before the halfway mark. Well I was wrong. Here is why:
June 24: Jamie Shadowlight’s String Theory – Going to California, a fusion exploration of Led Zeppelin, at 98 Bottles in Little Italy. The band consisted of Jamie Shadowlight on violin, Caitlin Evanson on violin and vocals, Mikan Zlatkovich on keys, Antar Martin on bass, Kevin Higuchi on drums, Pedro Talarico on guitar, and special guests Lorraine Castellanos (guitar), P.J. Ortiz (beat box), Carmelia “Toot” Bell (vocals). What a fun evening! It began with a long drone that evolved into “Kashmir”, then followed by Caitlin’s plaintive vocals on “Black Dog”, and things just kept going, from dueling violins to fantastic drum solos, and jazzy instrumentals featuring Mikan, Antar, Kevin, and Pedro. Lorraine Castellanos was featured with solo acoustic guitar for one song. Then there was the most unusual take on “Whole Lotta Love” featuring Carmelia “Toot” Bell on vocals, transforming the song’s lyrics into a cosmic love fest. Jamie’s shows are always entertaining, uplifting, and a bit transcendent.
June 25: Dave Humphries, Wolfgang Grasekamp, Mike Alvarez – Rebecca’s Coffee Shop, South Park. The last Sunday of the month Dave Humphries performs his original tunes as well as British invasion standards from the 60s at Rebecca’s. As usual, he was accompanied by Wolfgang Grasekamp and Mike Alvarez. It is always a good time hanging out and watching them perform these classics and originals.
June 25: Dave & Normandie’s Excellent Wedding Celebration Bash at Bar Pink in North Park. Normandie Wilson and Dave Fleminger were married on the 24th, but wanted to invite all their friends to a musical celebration the following day. It was a fun evening of music and dance, and meeting lots of new people as well as old friends. First up musically were Alvino and The Dwells with some great surf tunes and Dave Fleminger’s guitar pyromania. They were followed by The Amandas who did some excellent alternative pop/rock with Dave Fleminger on guitar again. The Joyelles were up next featuring Normandie Wilson on vocals and keys, Symea Solomon on vocals, and Maggie Taylor on vocals. Backing them up was Dave Fleminger on guitar, and Bart Mendoza stepped in on vocals while Maggie took a break – which created the old Casino Royale lineup. This was my first time hearing this new band and they were great with beautiful blending vocal harmonies on a mix of obscure and popular tunes reaching back to the pop 60s. Following The Joyelles was Manual Scan, with Bart Mendoza on guitar, Dave Fleminger (does he ever rest?) on keys, Kevin Donaker-Ring on lead guitar, but unfortunately I cannot recall the drummer nor bassist (Tim Blankenship?) that evening. But I do know that the original Manual Scan drummer from the early 80s, Paul Kaufman?, was there and sat in for one song. Lots of originals as well as 60s mod and psychedelic rock. Two other bands were going to be playing, Bitchin’ Seahorse, and The Gargoyles, but it was getting very late and I had to work the next day so we left after Manual Scan’s set. It was too bad because Bitchin’ Seahorse was described as a bit avant-garde, which is right down one of my back alleys. It was a memorable evening of excellent music and good friends.
July 8: Steph Johnson Band – Pre-CD-Release Show at 98 Bottles, Little Italy. Steph’s band played music from her soon-to-be-released CD. The show featured Steph on guitar and vocals, Rob Thorsen on string bass, Fernando Gomez on drums, Curtis Taylor on trumpet and ??? on keys. Funky jazz with some great sounds from all. Steph’s lyrics show a social and transcendent consciousness that brings a message of hope, unity, and oneness. I call it holistic healing music. Beautiful. Beautiful.
July 23: Three Chord Justice – Summer Concert Series, Bird Park, near Balboa Park. This fabulous country band consists of Liz Grace on vocals and guitar, Mark Markowitz on drums, Dave Preston on bass, and Jeff Houck on lead guitar. I have written about them before. And this time it is no different. They are great performers and lots of fun. This open air concert was well attended as evidenced by the fact that we had to park several streets away, but the walk to the park was well worth it! One thing I noticed about this performance is that they only played original songs – no covers. Songs were penned by either Liz or by Dave and were all well-crafted compositions. The last time I saw them Jeff was absent and Alex Watts was filling in on guitar. Both players are excellent but a bit different in style, with Jeff having a harder-edged rocky style. But both players fit perfectly with the others in the TCJ sound.
July 24: Dave Humphries at Rebecca’s. If it’s Sunday its Meet the….no, not press. Press play. Time to hear Dave Humphries play his mix of 60s British rock standards and his self-penned compositions. This time, in addition to Wolfgang Grasekamp on keyboard and Mike Alvarez on cello, we had Greg Gohde on electric bass. Now, Mike and Greg perform together as Bass Clef Experiment. So for a bit of the show, Dave and Wolfgang stepped aside to let Mike and Greg, as Bass Clef Experiment, perform some of their songs. So this Sunday we got two-for-one, and a cup of Joe to go with them. Not a bad deal at all.
July 24: Robin Henkel with Horns at Lestat’s in Normal Heights. Robin has a standing gig at Lestat’s on the last or next to last Sunday of the month, with his horn band. These performances are free, and well worth the money. Seriously, if there was a fee I would gladly pay. This time we had Robin on guitars, Jodie Hill on string bass, Erdis Maxhelaku on cello, Troy Jennings on soprano and bari sax, David Castel de Oro on sax and clarinet, and Gary Nieves on drums. This was the first time I had seen Robin with a cello in the band and it worked very nicely. All these players are highly skilled professionals so what you hear is a top notch performance of early American jazz and country blues with a bit of country swing, and sometimes even the avant-garde mixed in. Robin also provides a narrative on many of these songs and the players who made them famous, as well as how his own compositions were birthed. Every song has a story, and Robin makes those stories fun.
August 2: Woodstock, 2016, Bethel, New York. No, there was no Woodstock event this year, but I was working 10 miles down the road in Monticello, New York so it would have been unthinkable for me to miss this opportunity to visit the location of one of the greatest events in rock music history. The farm is no longer owned by Max Yasgur or his family. It is now part of a historic park owned by the community. There is a huge museum containing videos, photos, and mementos from the event and the era. There was information regarding the planning and development as well as the event itself and what became of some of the key players in making this event happen. There was even a full-scale replica of the bus, Further, by which The Merry Pranksters led by Ken Babbs and Ken Kesey arrived. It took me two full hours to peruse the museum before going outside to check out the grounds where the 1969 event occurred. There is a memorial stone and plaque close to where the original stage was located, overlooking the basin and hillside where everyone watched. It was a far out experience being there. I was 16 when Woodstock was going on. During the event I listened to ham operators on my shortwave radio talking about the thruway being blocked with cars and what a big mess it was for this area of upstate New York.
August 11: Sam Broussard, Blue Dog Café, Lafayette, Louisiana. I had a decision to make that Thursday night – whether to go to another venue I had been told had great Cajun music and dancing, or to go to this quieter café where I could hear a jazz/rock guitarist with a Cajun flavor perform while I had a delicious meal of catfish smothered with crawfish etouffee. I chose the latter. Broussard used two guitars. One was a hollow body with a pickup and the other was a solid body electric. He used a loop so that he could build a song with both guitars and sing. Every loop artist I’ve seen makes it look so easy to do – it makes me wonder if it is that easy or if they have to practice for hours to get the timing down. I put my money on the latter. I talked to Sam afterward and purchased a couple of his CDs. He has a Facebook page and I tried messaging him when I returned to San Diego, but got no response. I am hoping he did not lose his home or livelihood in the big flood. His site shows no current postings. The flood was just beginning that evening. When I left the café to return to my hotel, it had started to rain.
August 11 – 14: Lafayette, Louisiana. I had arrived in Lafayette on Sunday, August 7. The weather was beautiful all week, until Thursday evening when it began to rain. I thought nothing of it. When I got up Friday morning I noted that it was still raining, and it was a hard rain. When I arrived at the work site, I noted there were some parts of the streets where water was beginning to pond big time. After my work was done that afternoon I headed straight to the airport, only to find that my flight was cancelled. The situation had begun to get serious. I made a call back to the Doubletree Hotel, where I had been staying all week on the 13th floor. They had a room so they sent the hotel shuttle to get me. My flight had been rebooked for Saturday morning. While not happy that I was not getting home that night, at least I had a nice hotel and all my luggage. They put me on the 12th floor this time. I had a nice dinner and went to bed thinking I will be home by mid-afternoon Saturday. However, Come Saturday Morning (sorry for that) I learned that my flight had been cancelled again and was rescheduled for Sunday morning. All day Saturday I watched out my 12th floor guest room window as the water kept rising, covering the street, and going up the walls of the Outback Steakhouse, the Fairfield Inn, and the Comfort Suites across the street. Later, they evacuated guests of those two hotels by boat and brought them to us. We were on a little higher ground but we were right next to the Vermillion River. The water had reached the deck and pool that were outside my window, 12 stories down. Sunday morning, I received a call from American Airlines informing that my flight had been cancelled once again, and it was now not leaving until 5:30 pm on Monday. The rain appeared to be slowing but when I looked out the window, the water was halfway up the wall of the Outback Steakhouse. When I went down for breakfast I learned that water had got into the area where the food was stored. While the hotel salvaged some, they would run out after breakfast and the hotel was now relatively full with people stranded like me due to the flood. The guests from Fairfield Inn and Comfort Suites were now at this hotel. I had a big breakfast and was not hungry until early afternoon, but when I went down to the pantry next to the registration counter, there was nothing there. Someone or several people had cleaned out the snacks since there was no lunch and no way to get anywhere else.
Luckily the rain stopped by noon. I actually watched the waters recede rather quickly. The street became visible again, and traffic, while sparse, began to be seen. There was a food delivery before dinner time, but dinner was still quite limited. At least it was food. Monday morning was sunny. Breakfast was available, and I checked out at noon – the latest I could stay. My flight was not for another five and a half hours. However, as the five o’clock hour approached I received a call from American Airlines. My flight was delayed. It would now be a 6:30 departure. Then another call – delayed until 7, then 7:30. Finally, we were in the air sometime after 9 pm, headed for Dallas. I was sure I had missed my connecting flight but I didn’t because it, too, was delayed. But it was not due to weather. They were working on this 2-week old jet due to an oil leak. Finally, they said we were not leaving that night. They put me up at a Q Inn and Tuesday morning I was on another jet, and in first class. I got home by noon on Tuesday.
After the Flood
“Sang soulless loud
Herding step on flesh
And nothing else
To drown & drown
Sleight of reason
How they come
Cain in number…”
From “After the Flood” by Talk Talk, from Laughing Stock, 1991
Since the great flood, I’ve been on the road from Hartford, Connecticut to Eugene, Oregon. I was hoping to see Haley Loren perform live, since she is from Eugene and was not out of town, but we only connected after I had returned to San Diego – perhaps someday. And, I hope it is soon.
Since I do more than simply work and write, I had other things occupying my time throughout this past week, passing up some local performances that I am sure would have been worth my while. I did learn of some promising weekend activities, but with so many going on I had to be selective. Since I want to get this out before I leave Sunday for Los Angeles, I will end it with last night’s performance.
September 9: Gramophone Gregory Page at Java Joe’s in Normal Heights.The evening began with Gregory playing early 78s on a 1928 His Master’s Voice gramophone. He would put one on, then leave the stage, come back and put on another. The setting was interesting, with a heat lamp above the gramophone. The bulb was partially coated in blue with part of the blue missing. There was a lit “On The Air” sign, a 1950s black telephone, and a digital recorder containing several songs taken from 78s. There was a stack of 78s on a nearby chair, some of which Gregory played on the gramophone. Finally, he greeted the audience, and went into his typically humorous story-telling and singing of songs from his voluminous recording output. Gregory performed on his acoustic guitar with pickup, and also with old 78 recordings. He then introduced his drummer, Josh Hermsmeier, who operated solely on a snare (mostly with brushes), assorted child toy shakers and noisemakers, and a cowbell. The assorted toys were resting on the side of an old beat-up leather covered suitcase. Leaning against the suitcase were assorted drumsticks and mallets. One must understand that a Gregory Page performance is an unpredictable thing, and it is more like performance art with a musical predominance. There is humor, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes poignant, sometimes subtle, but always interesting and often endearing. Story-telling is an essential part of his performance. The music is a mix of folk and modern Americana style, Irish folk, and popular music from the great depression era and earlier. His fingerpicking style includes elements of Southern Appalachian picking. Another part of a Gregory Page performance is educational, luring the audience into an appreciation of songs and singers long lost to history. His demeanor is gentle and often slightly self-deprecating in a humorous manner. The quality of his performance is impeccable as is his recorded output. Another drummer, Owen Burke, was in the audience. Owen is a multi-talented artist, hand-crafting guitars, ukuleles, and other string instruments, as well as displaying his art at Art on 30th Gallery. For the last selection of the evening, Gregory coaxed Owen to come on stage and perform on the snare. With two drummers on stage, Josh picked up the various toys he brought to the show, plus pulling off the wall some of the string instruments on display (made by Owen) and for sale. Owen, as usual did not limit his playing to the snare, tapping out rhythm with a variety of pitch on chairs, signs, walls and even the instruments Josh was playing. It was free form organized lunacy without deteriorating into cacophony. It was a relaxing yet stimulating evening.
Tonight we are headed to a house concert entitled “Strings of Thought”, performed by Caitlin Evanson, Pedro Talarico, Jamie Shadowlight, and Nico Hueso. And tomorrow morning we are going to Urban Solace for breakfast where we will hear Plow, including Mark Markowitz and Dane Terry. I will say more about these in my next blog post.
In Other News
Within my collection of recorded works are many spoken word albums covering a variety of subjects. One thing anyone who knows the Popeswami should know by now is that I have a perverted interest in the drug culture as it developed and influenced society, especially the arts, from the 40s through the present. Some of this includes “scare tactic” recordings issued by various religious and political groups and passed-off as educational albums in the late 60s and early 70s. There will be more about those in a later post. Right now I want to focus on those recordings from the scientific, philosophical, and artistic communities regarding such matters.
Albert Hofmann – LSD: My Problem Child. We begin with the Swiss chemist who accidentally discovered the psychoactive powers of d-lysergic acid diethylamide tartrate-25, better known as LSD, in the Basel, Switzerland-based Sandoz Laboratories in 1943. He had first synthesized LSD on November 16, 1938, but had done nothing with this 25th lysergic acid derivative until April 16, 1943, when he accidentally had some of the drug absorbed through his fingertips. So by accident, he discovered the wild effects of this drug. On April 19th he conducted an experiment, this time purposefully dosing himself with 250 micrograms of LSD, and then riding his bicycle home. That famed bicycle ride has been the subject of many psychedelic rock bands from the 1960s, as well as by the proponents of the use of LSD who have declared April 19 as “Bicycle Day”. Here is what Hofmann reported after the accidental exposure to LSD on April 16, 1943:
“…affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition faded away.”
This is a quote from his 1980 book, “LSD, My Problem Child.” Hofmann gave a talk at the 1983 Psychedelics Conference in Santa Barbara, with the same title. That talk has been recorded for posterity. I was able to find and purchase a CDr copy of this recording which is quite illuminating. Dr. Albert Hofmann died in 2008, at the age of 102.
Humphrey Osmond – The Early Days: Mescaline Opens Huxley’s Doors of Perception. This talk was also from the 1983 Psychedelics Conference in Santa Barbara and was issued on cassette, with a very limited CDr release. I was fortunate to purchase a copy of the CDr. Dr. Osmond was a British psychiatrist who was working in Saskatchewan, Canada in the early 1950s at a psychiatric hospital where, looking for a cure to schizophrenia, he performed experiments on schizophrenic patients with LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs. In 1953 Aldous Huxley initiated a correspondence with Osmond with regard to his experiments. Osmond met Huxley later that year in Los Angeles where he supplied Huxley with a requested dose of mescaline and supervised Huxley’s trip. Huxley later wrote a book about his mescaline experience titled “The Doors of Perception”. Osmond is credited with the invention of the word “psychedelic” to describe hallucinogenic drugs. This happened through his correspondence with Huxley on creating a term worthy of these hallucinogens. Huxley wrote, “To make this trivial world sublime, take half a gram of phanerothyme.” Osmond responded with his own rhyme, “To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.” Osmond first used the term “psychedelic” in public in a talk he gave at the New York Academy of Sciences in 1957. The term means “mind manifesting” based on the Greek words “psyche” and “delos”. In the recording, Osmond recalls those early days and his associations with Huxley.
Aldous Huxley – The Human Situation, Volume Two: Visionary Experience. A rare CD of this lecture from 1961 in Los Alamos which discuses psychedelics as well as other concerns. It was not released until 1969, and was later reissued on CDr. Huxley, who as a novelist was famous for “Brave New World,” also wrote of his experience with mescaline in his book, “The Doors of Perception.” This book was the basis for the name of the rock group, The Doors. The Elektra record label insisted that the band shorten their name from Doors of Perception to simply The Doors, which they did and the rest is history.
Gerald Heard – Rebirth, from the 3-LP set “Explorations Volume 2, Survival, Growth & Re-birth,” from 1961. Heard was a philosopher, historian, and science writer who advocated for the use of LSD. On this recording he deals with psychedelics, invoking the Tibetan Book of the Dead amidst organ interludes. I obtained a digitized copy on CDr from The Barrie Family Trust which owns all of Heard’s illustrious output. I would love to obtain a copy of the two original 3-LP box sets he produced in 1957 and 1961 respectively.
Alan Watts – This Is IT. This is a 1962 recording by British philosopher and writer, Alan Watts and assorted friends. Many consider this to be the first authentically psychedelic music album. Watts has many spoken word recordings, but this is not one of them. This is a music album, consisting of free form improvisation using drums, French horn, piano, lujon, and bass marimba as well as vocals consisting largely of wild cacophonous chanting. Watts was fascinated by Eastern religion and culture, and this comes out in his lectures as well as his recordings. This album relates directly to his book “The Joyous Cosmology.” It is a tough listen, but once you get into it, is quite inspiring. I was lucky to get a CD version of this before the price went out of reach.
Timothy Leary, Ph.D., Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., and Richard Alpert, Ph.D. – The Psychedelic Experience: Readings from the Book “The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead.” Recorded in 1966. This is the first appearance of any of these three famed psychologists on a commercial recording. Timothy Leary was soon to record several more albums in 1966, and a lecture by then Richard Alpert at the 1966 LSD conference was released many years later. Ralph Metzner did not release recordings on his own until decades later. This recording is exactly what it says. Timothy Leary does the reading. Someone rings the bell signifying the change in phases of the trip, and who knows what the third person does. Maybe it was their trip. Note that it has been claimed that this was the first time the Tibetan Book of the Dead was associated with LSD, but as stated above, Gerald Heard beat them to the punch by three years.
John C. Lilly – E.C.C.O. Earth•Coincidence•Control•Office, from 1993. John C. Lilly was a physician, neuroscientist, psychoanalyst, philosopher, writer, and inventor. He is known for his consciousness research using isolation tanks. In the early 1970s, he was introduced to the psychoactive drug, ketamine. He had been introduced to LSD in the 60s. During this time, he was in contact with Timothy Leary and Ram Dass (aka Richard Alpert). In 1974 his research using these drugs led him to conclude there was a certain hierarchical group of cosmic entities, with the lowest being the E.C.C.O. Out of these studies, Lilly concluded “For the first time I began to consider that God really existed in me and that there is a guiding intelligence in the universe.” The E.C.C.O. recording from 1993 incorporates electronic and ambient music with dolphin sounds and Lilly’s voice. Music was provided by P.B.C., Spice Barons, and Heavenly Music Corporation. The CD is credited to Lilly but it is not known how much involvement he had in its creation. Much of the spoken word snippets on this recording come from a 1988 cassette-only release, “The Cogitate Tape” by Lilly. The dolphin sounds most likely come from a 1973 Lilly release “Sounds and the Ultra-Sounds of the Bottle-Nose Dolphin.” This is one of the most unusual albums in my collection and is very authentically psychedelic.
Timothy Leary, Ph.D. – LSD with Bonus Tracks, from 1966. The bonus tracks are from a later time, including the infamous dinner party attended by Leary and G. Gordon Liddy, and Leary being interviewed in 1967 at the height of the hippie movement. In the title recording, which is broken into 13 segments in the CD version, Leary poses frequently asked questions about LSD and gives his “authorized” answers. Actually I find the bonus tracks to be much more interesting but it is an historical recording and Leary was in some respects accurate regarding the use of LSD.
Richard Alpert, Ph.D. – 1966 LSD Conference, University of California, San Francisco. As a gift for providing a copy of “Love Serve Remember” to the Ram Dass Tape Library, I received cassette copies of “From Bindu to Ojas” as well as this rare copy of a lecture given by Richard Alpert before his trip to India where he took on the name, Ram Dass. It is quite interesting, as this includes pre-India stories as well as his thoughts on the potential use of the drug for autism and artistic enhancement. I copied it to CDr, but then sent the tape to electronic music artist, J.D. Emmanuel, who was more than happy to professionally transfer it to CD for me since he had never heard it before, himself.
Ram Dass – Here We All Are (1969) with bonus “From Bindu to Ojas” (1970) which accompanied the first edition of the book “Be Here Now”. This is a four CD set. Here We All Are was the first recording of Ram Dass lectures after his return to the USA in 1969. First pressings were unauthorized and had speeded-up audio so they could fit the lecture onto three LPs, giving Ram Dass almost a chipmunk sound to his voice, but was later released by Ram Dass as a 3-LP box set (still with sped-up voice). The CD version brings his voice back to normal. This is straight lecture for three CDs. The fourth, bonus CD contains music from various artists associated with Ram Dass as well as chanting and lecture. The bonus CD is simply titled “Be Here Now” and has no division between selections and no credits to the music, unlike the original LP.
Love Serve Remember – Ram Dass and Various Artists, from 1973. This is a 6-LP box set and I was lucky to purchase a near mint copy. I transferred this to CDr, and made a copy for the Ram Dass Tape Library since at that time they did not have a copy. Later I noted they obtained the masters from the ZBS Foundation, which first issued the set, and they were offering the collection as a download at minimal cost. This contains radio station call-ins to station guest Ram Dass, as well as readings from Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist holy scriptures by Ram Dass, music by both Krishna Das and Bhagavan Das, as well as by Amazing Grace, The Sufi Choir, Mirabai, Guru Blanket, Sarada and Rabindranath, Berkeley Community Theatre, The Brothers of Mount Savior Monastery, and an uncredited Buddhist monastic chant. This is one of my favorite sets.
Ralph Metzner, Ph.D. – Bardo Blues and other songs of liberation, from 2005. While Ralph Metzner was part of the Harvard University psychology team researching psychedelic drugs, along with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, he primarily stayed behind the scene rather than release recordings of his lectures. There are some unauthorized releases from the 1983 LSD Conference, and a few others, but nothing authorized until 2005 when he tried his hand at music. Here we have simple songs that subtly lay the foundation for mapping consciousness, and teaching us about our human incarnation, from birth to the beyond. A hidden gem.
And that is it for now. Some of these recordings are easily available at your favorite online music store, but others may not be so easy to find. I will share more as time goes by. As for now, I am back on the road again, but will make an effort to post more often as work allows. Aloha.
“On a dilemma between what I need and what I just want…
… She sees you in her place, just as if it’s a race
And you’re winning, and you’re winning
She just can’t understand that for me everything’s just beginning…
… So before this feeling dies, remember how distance tells us lies”
By Robert Wyatt, “Moon in June” from the Soft Machine LP “Third”, 1970
Is there really anything that is truly merely coincidence? This month is June, 2016. And earlier this week we experienced something that had not occurred since the Summer of Love, 1967: the full moon appearing on the northern hemisphere’s Summer solstice. And I awoke the morning after with Soft Machine’s, “Moon in June”, becoming that day’s earworm. This 19-minute song has reverberated in my mind since the night before Thanksgiving, 1971, when it ran constantly in my head while tripping at a party. And it has been quite relevant “in my life now and then”; or now as well as then. It is a strange thing, this interplay between self and sound. And we can learn from these experiences. Perhaps earworms provide a means for our subconscious to elucidate something that we need to learn. After all, if we look around us we can see that everything and everyone are potential teachers – people, animals, plants (especially plants), inanimate objects, chemicals, coacervate molecules, music, aleatoric sounds, time, space, dreams, free range thoughts.
Now, I am not going to expound upon “Moon In June” although it is tempting to do so. It is not the only song that has grabbed my attention during an altered state, or has become an earworm.
There have been evenings,
and a few days,
out of the bewildering haze,
I associated altered moments
with specific waves,
whether it be “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, “The Rain, The Park, and Everything” by The Cowsills, “Dark Star” by The Grateful Dead, the Quicksilver Messenger Service album “Happy Trails,” or even more recently the album “Hello Nasty” by The Beastie Boys. This raises an issue that used to be discussed among my college buddies back in the early 70s:
“What is psychedelic music?”
The late Paul Kantner once said psychedelic music is simply any music listened to while tripping. Although I respect Kantner as an artist and political catalyst, I am not so sure that I agree with his definition. For me, there is music that takes me outside the realm of the time and space packet I exist within (typically called reality), and this is what I would call psychedelic. It is something that takes me out of this reality and into other realities, or non-realities. And the same song may do this on one occasion and not on another, depending upon the ambiance, my approach, and the conditions existing at that moment. So, for me, no one music genre or style is psychedelic but any can be. Yet, there are some compositions that when I hear them, I know they are psychedelic, hands down. It is sort of like the definition of pornography offered by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 in Jacobellis v. Ohio: “I know it when I see it.”
But that is a personal definition. In the attempt to find a definition that would be workable for anyone, I believe psychedelic music can be described in different categories:
Overt psychedelia: this music is either created under the influence of psychedelics, or is an attempt to describe within a musical context the composer’s or performer’s psychedelic experience. A good example of overt psychedelia would be the album, “Electric Music for the Mind and Body” by Country Joe and The Fish, from 1967. The highlight and most exemplary selection from this album would be the song “Bass Strings”, with the lyrics “Just one more trip now, you know I’ll stay high all the time.” What is interesting about this song is that it ends with Country Joe McDonald whispering repeatedly “L-S-D” over very trippy music. This leaves no doubt as to what the band was attempting to convey. Sometimes it is not the words, but the musical sounds that directly convey that what you are hearing is a re-creation of a psychedelic experience, such as in Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive”. These are just two examples, but I am sure the reader can come up with many more.
Discreet or subtle psychedelia: here neither the music nor the lyrics can be interpreted just one way, but one of the ways would be to describe a psychedelic experience. Examples can be found going back as far as 1830 with Hector Berlioz’ “Symphonie Fantastique,” or perhaps even earlier. Berlioz may have been writing to describe his passion for a particular woman, or he could have been describing his experiences under the influence of opiates, or both. In the 1960s, The Byrds recorded “Eight Miles High” which generally describes the band’s first Atlantic flight to and arrival in the United Kingdom to perform for their British fans. Upon its release in 1965 the song was banned by several US radio stations because it sounded like the “trip” described in the song was actually a chemically induced trip. The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” may have been an intentional reference to LSD, or it could simply be what John Lennon said it represented: a drawing by his then four-year-old son, Julian, and tapping into “Alice in Wonderland” imagery. Of course, Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson), the author of “Alice in Wonderland,” has often been associated with psychedelics, but there is no indication he ever indulged in any mind-altering substances, while there is evidence that he suffered with a form of epilepsy.
Inferred (or designated) psychedelia: could be considered a cop-out definition, I suppose. Basically it is any music that an individual considers psychedelic. In this sense, Paul Kantner’s definition works, since a person could be listening to anything while tripping and from that point onward associate the composition with a psychedelic experience. I could also apply this to my experience with “Moon In June”. I have found Jim DeRogatis’ book, “Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock” to be quite an enlightening guide on modern psychedelic rock. At first, I questioned some of his choices, but then I realized that psychedelia “is in the eye of the beholder.” In other ways, I think he limited himself too much, for there are recordings that fall under the genres of classical, country, folk, exotica, and jazz that I consider to have psychedelic elements. In classical, I consider Richard Wagner’s “Tannhauser Overture and Venusberg Music” as well as the electronic composition “Time’s Encomium” by Charles Wuorinen, to be very psychedelic. Under country, I would say David Allan Coe’s album, “Requiem for a Harlequin,” is a fine example. In folk, Dylan’s song, “Visions of Johanna,” would qualify as well as Jake Holmes’ “Dazed and Confused.” As for jazz, Herbie Hancock’s album “Sextant” as well as Miles Davis’ “Bitches’ Brew” have psychedelic elements. Ethel Azama’s “Exotic Dreams” LP would be an example of exotic psychedelia. I could cite many more examples in all genres.
There would also be a category I would call “pseudo-psychedelia”, which masquerades as overt psychedelia but is simply a fake. Pseudo-psychedelic music often has similar characteristics but instead of reflecting an authentic psychedelic experience, it often overstates sounds and lyrics, since it is not based on real experience. An example, from 1967, would be the song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” written by Mickey Newbury and popularized by The First Edition. Interestingly, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version of this song prior to the more popular version. While the intention of this song was to describe a scary trip in order to discourage the use of LSD, it ended up being derided as phony and treated as a humorous parody. A sub-category of pseudo-psychedelic music that found its way to the late 60s bargain bins and grocery store check-out stands would be exploito-psychedelic albums such as The Animated Egg’s untitled album from 1967. This recording was created by a collection of studio musicians under the leadership of surf guitar ace, Jerry Cole. In fact, it is suspected that many releases on the Alshire, Somerset, Custom, and related labels with various “band” names contained Jerry Cole compositions, and often the same recordings appeared on different albums under different titles, including on albums by The Id, “The Inner Sounds of The Id”; The Generation Gap, “Up Up and Away”; and The Projection Company, “Give Me Some Lovin’.” There are several others. Even Muzak specialists, 101 Strings, got in the game with their album “Astro-Sounds”. None of these supposed bands ever performed anywhere except in the studio to create fake psychedelic music.
But in some instances, pseudo-psychedelia can be psychedelic, but not based upon the innate characteristics of the music, but based upon environment and other variables. Those that come to mind include Fire & Ice, Ltd. “The Happening”, from 1966, excerpts of which appear on the 1966 documentary LP “LSD” on Capitol Records. Two more with similar names include The Fire Escape’s LP, “Psychotic Reaction”, and The Firebirds’ LP, “Light My Fire”. The latter has a sister release, “Hair,” by the band, The 31 Flavors but it really sounds like additional music from the same recording sessions. One of the most humorous of such recordings is from a band named The Unfolding, with an outrageous LP title, “How To Blow Your Mind & Have A Freak-Out Party” complete with printed instructions for your very own freak-out party. The California Poppy Pickers (another outrageous band name) actually released four country rock LPs, all in 1969. While they never performed publicly and were merely a collective of studio musicians, the label hired an actual performing band to record their last album “Honky Tonk Women”. The band was in reality an early Christian rock band, Wilson McKinley, that used the proceeds from this album to fund their Christian music endeavors.
So, to conclude this discussion of psychedelic music, perhaps we should simply leave it to each person to decide the definition that works best for them. Then again, how many really think about such things when they listen to music? Probably a fewer number than those who think about the moon in June.
In Other News
Well now, let me come back from the world of LSD to the present and what I have been seeing in San Diego. The month began with the Art Around Adams 2016 music and art walk. There seemed to be more stages and more artists packed into this one-day event (Saturday, June 4) than I can recall in previous years. I probably saw less than a tenth of the artists performing. But what I did see was very impressive. All were excellent, and all very different.
I started at the Kensington Library Park stage, enjoying the music of singer/songwriter Kimm Rogers, who was accompanied by Beezie Gerber. Many of the songs were from her excellent recent album “Where the Pavement Grows” but some dipped back to her two albums on Island Records from the early 90s, “Soundtrack of My Life” and “Two Sides.” It was a great way to begin the day.
Next, I moved to the Blindspot Records stage by Smitty’s Garage to see The Elements, a new four-member band started by Bart Mendoza with another familiar face on keyboards, David Fleminger. These guys were tight, and on fire with excellent self-penned modern pop-rock as well as 60s standards. You would think all of them had been playing together for years.
I then paid a visit to Rosie O’Grady’s to hear Zach Cole with Eric Freeman performing some basic country blues with Eric on acoustic guitar and Zachary on blues harp. This reminded me of Tomcat Courtney’s performances I enjoy from time-to-time on Thursdays at Proud Mary’s.
Left photo: Zach Cole with Eric Freeman Right photo: NST
At the Integrative Health Stage I caught part of the performance by jazz group, NST, reading poetry accompanied by drums, sax and bass. Quite interesting, but it was super-hot with no shade available. So, I moved on to DeMille’s to have lunch, rehydrate, and prepare for harpO, followed by Alvino & The Dwells at the DeMille’s Beer Garden stage. This was the first time seeing harpO, a tight blues-rock band. I would not mind seeing them again. When Alvino & The Dwells plugged-in, they blew the sky open with cosmic surf music that was at once fresh and new, as well as taking me back to the 60s. They always provide a great show.
Left: harpO Right: Alvino & The Dwells
I then moved back to the Blindspot Records stage to see The Cherry Bluestorms, followed by The Schizophonics, then Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters, and finally Hills Like Elephants. These four bands are so different from one another that it is quite surprising they were performing on the same stage. And yet the audience stayed for most of it. The Cherry Bluestorms were very mod/pop-rock with original tunes, and quite accomplished playing. They piqued my interest enough to pick up their latest CD, “Bad Penny Opera,” which by-the-way, is excellent.
Left: Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters
Top Right: The Cherry Bluestorms Bottom Right: Hills Like Elephants
Schizophonics were, well, schizoid. My gawd! Guitarist Pat Beers is simply unbelievable to watch. I actually was hoping he had a spare guitar waiting in the wings because I was certain the one he was playing was going to be destroyed when he jumped, fell, sprung-back, and rolled-over, while never missing a note. Wait, were they notes? It was all such a blur. He is explosive! Guitar sounds of Jimi Hendrix, visuals a mix of Pete Townshend and Iggy Pop, and a band sound similar to MC5 from their live “Kick Out the Jams” album. I do want to know if Lety Beers took drum lessons from Mitch Mitchell. Sure sounded like it. I did not catch the bass player’s name but God bless him, he kept up with it all and successfully improvised when Pat experienced audio problems with the equipment. Their performance was the highlight of the day for me.
Next came a huge band, Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters; I mean like, a 10-piece unit, including two go-go dancers. We were suddenly transported to 1964 and the reign of the Tijuana Brass on pop radio. With backing sax, trombone, and trumpet plus bass, guitar, drums, marimba, and a lead singer/trumpeter, they went through a repertoire that would make Herb Alpert proud, including the TJB hit, “Spanish Flea”. What a fun bunch!
What followed was modern alternative jangle rock by Hills Like Elephants with expressive lyrics and fine playing – but it was getting late and so I left before the end of their set. It was another great Adams Avenue event put to rest.
Thursday night, June 16, found us at Riviera Supper Club’s Turquoise Room in La Mesa. Performing was Liz Grace and the Swing Thing. That evening the band consisted of Liz Grace on vocals and Jon Garner on guitar. Jon is an excellent jazz player and is always fun to watch – things I never learned to do he can make look so easy. Listening to Liz sing is pure joy as she performed popular songs from the 40s through the 60s. Liz’ other band, Three Chord Justice, does all country, yet she seems comfortable in both genres. I do think she is one of the most versatile and accomplished local singers I’ve heard in San Diego. Later Liz’ husband, Mark Markowitz, stopped in and visited with us as we listened to the band. It was an enjoyable evening.
On Friday, June 17, I began the weekend at Java Joe’s. Performers that evening included Dave Humphries with Mike Alvarez, followed by Sara Petite, and ending with Jacques Mees. This was an evening of varied styles that seemed to fit nicely side-by-side. With Dave Humphries on guitar and lead vocals, and Mike Alvarez on cello and backing vocals we were treated to a collection of 60s British invasion pop/rock standards as well as recent songs penned by Dave Humphries and The Hollywood Project. I never get tired of his performances.
I had heard a lot about Sara Petite but had never heard her perform. What a pleasant surprise! With a beautiful voice straight out of Nashville, she performed all originals providing stories of personal experiences leading into her songs. I could tell I was witnessing a truly old soul inhabiting a younger body. Sara pulled no punches with her honest and revealing stories. Beautiful.
Jacques Mees’ performance was the highlight of the evening, which is really saying something. Again performing several personally penned songs, as well as tapping into such modern folk venerables as Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Susanna Clark. He is another storyteller who shared his wisdom in song. When it was over I walked back to the car with a contact high.
Well that does it. If I am to get this out I have to end it here. I do want to dedicate this to jazz singer Shelley Moore, who lost her battle with cancer this week. She was the mother of my good friend, the late Bryna Golden, founding member of goth-psych band Babylonian Tiles. I got to know Shelley through Bryna. She was a warm and giving person, and thanks to Bryna I had the great fortune of seeing her perform in Santa Ana a few times about 10 years ago. R.I.P. Shelley.
Jeff Lynne, Electric Light Orchestra, from Face the Music LP, 1975
Well, it is time.
I have been absent since early January for many reasons. First, I have been freakin’ busy with work, out of the area nearly every week after January and so busy that there was no time to seek out venues while on the road. In fact, some of the locations were small towns where the word “art” has been forgotten. January was a slow work month, with all scheduled trips getting cancelled. I took advantage of this situation and used my time to see some amazing performances by local artists. This continued through February and March although I was on the road a great deal of the time. When I could, I got out there. However, since my time was limited I did not get a chance to write anything except for brief comments on Facebook.
And then a horrible thing happened. While I was in Oklahoma my better half was tripped by our blind dog going down the stairs in our home. She fractured her shoulder and wrist, eventually having to undergo surgery on both breaks. So when I was home, I was mostly helping her with things she could not do with just one hand. Hence, there were even more delays to get what you are reading now out the door.
Now that the healing process is underway, and I am off the road for a few days, I have some time to report to you what has been going on in the music world of the Popeswami. Allow me to summarize these dignified proceedings. New Years’ Day, we had breakfast at Urban Solace while taking in a performance of the innovative old-time/bluesy folkies, Plow. I talked about this in my last post. On January 15 we made the trek to O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Carlsbad to see the Irish band, Brogue Wave, including our friend and Irish fiddler supreme/vocalist, Patric Petrie. They were a trio that evening with David Lally on guitar and vocals, and Jordan McKinley on drums. BTW, the Pub’s chicken boxty is simply amazing. The following day I paid a visit to Record City in Hillcrest to see legendary mod/power pop band, Manual Scan, in a rare instore performance. The band features friends, Bart Mendoza on vocals/guitar and David Fleminger on keys, as well as Kevin Donaker-Ring on lead guitar, Jarrod Lucas on drums, and Tim Blankenship on bass. The following evening found us at Lestat’s in Normal Heights to see Robin Henkel with Horns, featuring Robin Henkel on guitars, Jodie Hill on bass, Al Schneider on drums, and Troy Jennings on saxes. This may have been one of the best of this unit’s performances I have seen so far. Totally awesome American blues and jazz with informative stories by Robin.
Plow at Urban Solace in North Park, January 1, 2016
Brogue Wave at O’Sullivan’s in Carlsbad, January 15, 2016
Manual Scan at Record City in Hillcrest, January 16, 2016
Robin Henkel with Horns at Lestat’s in Normal Heights, January 17, 2016
The evening of January 22 was a magical night with Jamie Shadowlight and company at 98 Bottles. The theme of this show was Electric Ladyland. With Jamie was the JazzMikan Trio consisting of Mikan Zlatkovich on keys, Antar Martin on bass, and Russell Bizett on drums. The show also included Arnessa Rickett and Carmelia “Toot” Bell on vocals and the opening number “Paint It Black” included sitarist, Ignacio Hernandez. That version of “Paint It Black” set the tone with a mystical drone improvisational style – Jamie on electric violin fed through various pedals and wah wah to give a surrealistic feel. I thought this show was the highlight of the month for me. But the following night we were at Dizzy’s to hear the Daniel Jackson tribute. Included were some budding new artists from Idyllwild Arts Academy and the International Academy of Jazz, San Diego, plus Marshall Hawkins on bass and piano, Jamie Shadowlight on violin, Bob Boss on guitar, Charles Owens on sax, Brett Sanders on drums, and special guest, spoon player Leland “Spoonful” Collins. Another night to fly high with the music.
Electric Ladyland at 98 Bottles in Little Italy, January 22, 2016
Daniel Jackson Tribute Concert at Dizzy’s in Pacific Beach, January 23, 2016
January 24, Sunday morning, we stopped by Rebecca’s Coffee Shop to see Dave Humphries on guitar/vocal, Wolfgang Grasekamp on keys, and Mike Alvarez on electric cello. A special treat was to hear Mike Alvarez doing some solo work, introducing some new songs he had written, and singing! Lots of 60s British invasion classics as well as songs by Dave Humphries and Tony Sheridan. Mahvelous!
Dave Humphries with Mike Alvarez and Wolfgang Grasekamp at Rebecca’s Coffee, in South Park, January 24, 2016
We were not yet musically sated for the month of January. On the 28th we were at Java Joe’s to see once again Robin Henkel Horn Band, with the incomparable Whitney Shay. This configuration included Robin on guitars and vocals, Jodie Hill (bass), David Castel de Oro (sax, clarinet), Troy Jennings (saxes), Al Schneider (drums), and of course, Whitney on vocals and whatever she could grab and shake (thankfully not me). And, following that, Robin Henkel and Billy Watson (harmonica/vocals) plus Evan Caleb Yearsley on drums were performing at Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook on January 31. We had been looking for a performance to take my nephew, Aaron, to see when he was in town for a medical conference and this was perfect. It was also a chance for another nephew, Craig, as well as great nephew & niece, Jereck and Devon, to experience our local talent. It was a fun way to end the month.
Robin Henkel Horn Band with Whitney Shay at Java Joe’s in Normal Heights, January 28, 2016
Billy Watson with Robin Henkel at Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook , January 31, 2016
There were fewer times out in February, but they were memorable times. First, on February 12, at Lestat’s there was a round robin performance by Caitlin Evanson (touring violinist for Taylor Swift and beautiful vocalist), Tim Connolly (keyboards, vocals, songwriter), and Kennady Tracy (guitar, vocals, and songwriter). Each took the lead in performing with the others either accompanying or standing by. Caitlin did a superb cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”, accompanied by Pedro Telarico on guitar, that was the highlight of the evening for me. The following evening, we went to Proud Mary’s in Kearny Mesa for some New Orleans cuisine while we enjoyed Chickenbone Slim and The Biscuits. This turned out to be a special evening. Former Biscuit, Mike Chiricuzio, joined them on bass and sang one with the band. And then it got even better when 87-year-old blues singer/guitarist, Tomcat Courtney, joined in to do a few songs, including “Hootchie Cootchie Man”. The following week on the 17th I noted that HM3 (Harley Magsino Trio) with DJ Teelyn was performing at The Studio Door art gallery. The theme of the art displays was “crows”. The music was in the style of Mwandishi/Hancock funk-jazz from the 70s mixed with techno, dubstep, trip hop, and a bit of the avant-garde. The players: Harley Magsino (bass), Joshua White (keys), Charles Weller (drums), with Trish Nolan (aka DJ Teelyn) on turntables. The music: awesome. On my birthday, February 27, it was Chickenbone Slim & The Biscuits again, this time at Hooley’s in La Mesa. Mike Chiricuzio was still in town so he joined them again. Also on both occasions, Bruce Stewart of Little Kings was the drummer and Nick “Chowda” Walsh the harmonica player. The next morning, we made our pilgrimage to Rebecca’s Coffee Shop to see Dave Humphries, Wolfgang Grasekamp and Mike Alvarez. And that evening, we once again headed to Lestat’s to see Robin Henkel (guitars & vocals) with Whitney Shay (vocals), Jodie Hill (bass), and Toby Ahrens (drums).
Kennady Tracy, Caitlin Evanson, and Tim Connolly at Lestat’s in Normal Heights, February 12, 2016
Chickenbone Slim & The Biscuits with Mike Chiricuzio and Tomcat Courtney, at Proud Mary’s in Kearney Mesa, February 13, 2016
HM3 (Harley Magsino Trio) with DJ Teelyn at The Studio Door in North Park, February 17, 2016
Chickenbone Slim & The Biscuits (with ex-Biscuit Mike Chiricuzio) at Hooley’s in Grossmont Center, La Mesa on February 27, 2016
Dave Humphries with Wolfgang Grasekamp and Mike Alvarez at Rebecca’s Coffee in South Park, February 28, 2016
Robin Henkel with Whitney Shay at Lestat’s in Normal Heights, February 28, 2016
Acoustic Ladyland at 98 Bottles in Little Italy, March 4, 2016
March began with another Jamie Shadowlight event at 98 Bottles. On March 4, the event this time was titled “Acoustic Ladyland”. The performers: Jamie Shadowlight (violin), Caitlin Elizabeth Evanson (violin & vocals), Mikan Zlatkovich (keys), Ken Dow (bass), Richard Sellers (drums), Pedro Telarico (guitar), and Anita Weedmark (piano), Pacifico “PJ” Ortiz Luis (beatbox), Debbie Beacham (dulcimer). The players were awesome, as usual. March was starting out to be pretty cool musically. Next up, on March 12, was The Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Choir San Diego, presenting “All ‘Bout the Blues – A Musical Celebration” at the Joan B. Kroc Theatre in San Diego. The show was produced, directed and choreographed by Arnessa Rickett, and the musical director was Carmelia Bell. Band director was Grammy award winning Kevin Cooper. The band consisted of Mikan Zlatkovich on keys, Kevin Cooper on bass, Walter Gentry on sax, Ignacio Sobers on percussion, Michael Sanders on organ and Tim “Flagg” Newton on drums. Kenneth Anderson was also on piano. The cast was huge, including the MKLCCSD Choir. The theme was the story of the development of the blues from the beginning of the country in the 1700s all the way through modern times, including gospel, jazz, r&b, and the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. An excellent production with singing, dancing, and instrumental performances tied together with the story of the blues. March 20 we headed to Hooley’s in Rancho San Diego to hear some blues fireworks on guitar by Charles Burton, accompanied by Larry Teves (aka Chickenbone Slim) on bass and Becky Russell on drums. Burton is a rapid-fire blues player similar to Rick Derringer or the late great Johnny Winter with a bit of jazz embellishments – a unique and accomplished player.
All ‘Bout The Blues – MKLCCSD Choir, Arnessa Rickett, Carmelia “Toot” Bell, Kevin Cooper at the Joan B. Kroc Theatre in San Diego on March 12, 2016
Charles Burton with Becky Russell and Larry Teves at Hooley’s in Rancho San Diego, March 20, 2016
March 26 provided the musical highlight of the month in the form of the Beatles Fair at the Queen Bee in North Park. Outside, we saw Madame Nina Leilani on keys and vocals, and Rhythm Rose Turner on drums and featuring Jamie Shadowlight on violin doing some Beatles material as well as some originals. This was an unexpected surprise, but there were even bigger surprises inside the Queen Bee. First, we got to see True Stories with a surprise appearance of Ringo Starr, er-um, a Ringo lookalike in the form of Baja Bugs drummer, Nick “Nico” Peters. Nico had all the looks, moves, and singing down perfectly and with a tight band like True Stories backing him it was a lot of fun; and excellent tribute to The Beatles drummer. True Stories were followed by The Dave Humphries Band, with original music, including a tune Dave Humphries wrote with Tony Sheridan, as well as a tune co-penned by Tony Sheridan and Paul McCartney plus other Beatles and British Invasion tunes. The Rollers were next and did a set of early Beatles tunes. This is a young band and they are very promising. Following The Rollers came The Baja Bugs, who knocked it out of the park. If I closed my eyes, The Baja Bugs really were The Beatles and I was at the Indra Club in Hamburg. Amazing energy and tight playing, both from The Baja Bugs and The Rollers. On the Queen Bee patio was an open mic stage. During breaks we ventured out to the patio and listened to some of the hidden talent of San Diego. There were vendors inside and outside of the Queen Bee, as well as food trucks. We got to talk with John Borack, author of “John Lennon: Life is What Happens”. John autographed a copy for us. And it kept getting better. The headliner of the Beatles Fair was Denny Laine, who had been with the Moody Blues and sang their hit “Go Now”, plus was the guitarist for Paul McCartney & Wings for the full duration of Wings. First there was an interview with Denny onstage, and then he made himself available for autographs and photo ops. I took full advantage of this, and in the process found that he was particularly fond of Wings’ first album “Wildlife” which has always been my favorite. He then performed a solo guitar and vocal set of many of the songs he performed over the years, from “Go Now” with the Moody Blues on through “Mull of Kintyre” which he co-wrote with Paul McCartney and performed with Wings. He told stories between songs, and brought a quirky sense of humor to the stage.
Beatles Fair 2016 – in order: Madame Nina Leilani (outside); True Stories with Nico (Ringo Tribute); Dave Humphries Band; The Rollers; Denny Laine & moi; The Baja Bugs; The Baja Bugs, Dave Humphries & others; Denny Laine – at Queen Bee in North Park, March 26, 2016
Due to injuries mentioned earlier, and a heavy work schedule, the Beatles Fair was the last performance I attended until Memorial Day weekend. We were taking a little ride on Saturday and noticed the time. We figured we could be at Wynola Pizza, near Julian, by the time Three Chord Justice would begin performing. We arrived shortly after they began. In this more acoustic configuration they were a four piece, with Alex Watts featured on lead guitar, and the three mainstays of Mark Markowitz on drums, Dave Preston on bass, and Liz Grace on rhythm guitar and vocals. The band was great, cranking out some enjoyable country standards, a Dylan tune, and many songs penned by Dave and by Liz. Alex was quite a picker, with some slick lead work that I especially appreciated. Mark got a variety of sounds out of a single snare, throwing in an assortment of rhythmic tricks while keeping everything on course. Dave kept a consistent bottom end, making sure the band was tightly together. Liz’s beautiful voice danced over all the instruments weaving stories with emotion and poise. This is an exceptional band. Every time I’ve seen them I have considered my time well spent and came away very gratified.
Three Chord Justice at Wynola Pizza in Julian, May 28, 2016
The following morning Dave Humphries, with Mike Alvarez and Wolfgang Grasekamp were performing at Rebecca’s Coffee in South Park. As usual, Dave was on guitar and vocals, with Mike on electric cello and Wolfgang on amazing keyboards. New were the vocal harmonies Mike added to some songs. They introduced some new songs that will be on a new Hollywood Project release sometime in the future, as well as performing a number of their standard 60s pop and rock tunes and more recent originals.
And that brings us to this moment in time, and to the end of this entry. I had planned this to be shorter on the live happenings and longer on other esoteric concerns, but due to being 3-4 months overdue, I am keeping it to the happenings. Stay tuned for my other concerns in another post that will be soon to follow.
Before I go I wanted to mention the passing of San Diego’s Godfather of Jazz, Joe Marillo. Joe founded the non-profit San Diego Society for the Preservation of Jazz, hosted a jazz radio show, gave saxophone lessons and mentored many young jazz musicians. He had quite a history, working with Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, and Sonny Stitt before settling in San Diego. Before a performance at The Haven Pizzeria during one of the Adams Avenue events, Joe spotted me and came over to visit me and my wife while we were waiting for our order to arrive. We talked about jazz, MSNBC and Rachel Maddow, as well as Deepak Chopra and philosophy. He was a terrific guy, kind-hearted but with an ascerbic wit as well as being a tremendous sax player. Joe lost his battle with cancer on March 25, at the age of 83. There was a tribute jazz concert at Dizzy’s on May 24 but I was on the road and could not attend. R.I.P, Joe.
I thought that since I have not posted anything since early January it was time to do so even if just to say “stay tuned”.
Well, I decided to purchase a classier package from Word Press. This comes with my own domain, which although unnecessary, I intend to take full advantage of it. There is much to learn and you already know how much I travel if you have been following me. That means I won’t have much time to experiment. My learning will be restricted to perhaps an hour per week. Once I get the appearance and features the way I want them, I will begin to communicate on a more frequent basis. In the meantime, keep your head down and your powder dry. BTW, the new domain is mappinghappenings.com.