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…
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.
“You’re walking meadows in my mind,
Making waves across my time,
Oh no, oh no.
I get a strange magic,
Oh, what a strange magic…”
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.
Well I woke up this morning with a pain in my neck,
A pain in my heart and a pain in my chest,
I went to the good doctor and the good doctor said,
You gotta slow down your life or you’re gonna be dead,
Cut out the struggle and strife,
It only complicates your life.
Ray Davies, “Complicated Life” from The Kinks LP, Muswell Hillbillies, 1971
Well, I did not wake up with a pain in my neck, heart, or chest. I didn’t have to see a doctor. I do have a pain in the heel of my left foot, probably a mild fracture or bruise from over use or from…never mind…it’s complicated.
People are complicated. Sometimes it is difficult to predict the response you get from them. I think that makes life interesting. But when the response is unexpected, perhaps unconsciously, it is a way for the other person to say “don’t seek a response from me!” Make sense? As social, communicating creatures we spend too much time trying to elicit a response from others, whether it be verbal or nonverbal. The reason I say this is because I think too often what we are doing is seeking self-affirmation from the other’s response. By nature, we desire control and predictability in our environment, and that includes our interactions with the people around us. When thrown off balance by not getting what we expect or want, we often become frustrated. To complicate matters even further, there are some who expect the unexpected in their quest for self-affirmation. And, since we often assume a person we are communicating with is like-minded, we give them what we desire to get back. Perhaps unconsciously we assume everyone is just like us, or in some cases, not like us. See how complicated this gets?
It is the same with music. I do believe that people, including myself, play certain music, or certain styles of music, over and over again because we are seeking self-affirmation in its predictability. For some people, when I put on an unfamiliar piece of music, especially if that music is unconventional, or as some describe “too far out,” they become frustrated; maybe even upset. Then there are those who love the unconventional, and for them when I put on a commercially successful piece of music, something that is overplayed in the media, they become bored and that brings frustration. For them unpredictability has become self-affirming. People are complicated. They think they like what they like and that is all that they like. For many, there are no strange familiars. There is just black and white, sacred and profane, good and bad, yin and yang. In reality it is all gray; all a blur. The big paradox for me is that the more you try to drill down and focus, seeking clarity, the more things blur. This is a crudely simple example of the application of the uncertainty principle.
But for me what keeps life fresh and exciting is opening myself up to something new; new sounds, new people, new places, new ideas, new sensations, new ways of doing something. When there is too much sameness in my life I become restless. Yet there are times I seek refuge in the familiar and the conventional. It is complicated.
When I was just five years old, I liked putting dissonant and discordant sounds together. The abrupt and unfamiliar excited me. I’ve never changed. When I was five, I was not seeking a response from anybody else in these aural explorations. I was simply entertaining myself. At that age, I remember hearing a certain song on the radio that I fell in love with. I have since found that we call the style of that song “exotica” and I later found out that that particular song was “Quiet Village” by Martin Denny. It was interesting to me because of the incorporation of frog and bird calls into the music. Yet there were other songs that were quite conventional that I have continued to enjoy such as Percy Faith’s “A Summer Place”. A few years later, on Pittsburgh radio station WRYT, there was a classical music program, which often played selections of modern 12-tone classical composers such as Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. That was exciting for me because it was different and very much what I imagined in my head when I was just five years old – had I been a composer when I was five, I would have written similar music. But yet I also was very much at home with Brahms’ Fourth “Tragic” Symphony.
When I was in grade school, in the evenings I would play with the knobs on our AM radios and pull in distant stations (none of our radios had FM until my freshman year in high school.) Living in southwestern Pennsylvania, we were in the skip zone for many Canadian radio stations, from Ontario (CJBC, 860 AM from Toronto) and Quebec (CBF, 690 AM from Montreal). A characteristic of the French service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was that they had an evening jazz program that played a lot of free jazz, such as Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Pharaoh Sanders, and John Coltrane. Being broadcast in French I did not understand what was said, or which artists were being played. I just knew I really loved these wild sounds. It was only later that I was able to put names to the artists I had heard.
When I was in junior high psychedelic rock began to affect contemporary rock music. This was a welcome treat for me with all the mixes of instruments from the Near East, Middle Eastern scales, odd time signatures, found sounds, swirling Farfisa organs and fuzz drenched guitars.
This is not to say that I never listened to or enjoyed popular and conventional music styles. But I would not say that I had a preference for any particular style. It was unavoidable that I would be subjected to traditional classical music, big band swing, cool jazz, and Dixieland from my family, plus the top contemporary hits in country, pop, rockabilly, and early 60s rock ‘n’ roll found on the radio and TV. By my freshman year in high school, my tastes ranged from Glen Miller, Burt Bacharach, Herb Alpert, Dionne Warwick, The Beatles, and The Association, to Krystof Penderecki, Albert Ayler, Ultimate Spinach, The Fugs, and The Mothers of Invention.
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
In my freshman year in college I remember hearing a lot about Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band being even more far out than Frank Zappa’s Mothers. My only exposure to “The Good Captain” before that was on the title track to Zappa’s Hot Rats LP where his Howlin’ Wolf-styled vocals were put to good use. So, without hearing the first note from the double LP, Trout Mask Replica, I just had to buy it. Man, that cover with the trout masked Captain in his top hat and coat, and the red-to-hot-pink background was such an irresistible attraction! When I got it home during break and put it on the turntable, I have to say that there was just nothing like it I had heard before. Abrupt time changes, odd mutated blues patterns, free jazz style horn blowing with a wild multi-octave Captain all over the map, sometimes not even able to fit in his obscure lyrics before the end of the song. There was a familiarity with the styles incorporated into his music, but the way they were pasted together came off like a quilt designed by the blind. The drumming was executed by the most capable John “Drumbo” French, who sounded like he was on some sort of maligned Motorific Torture Track. It took some time to warm up to this. The big lesson here was that there was music out there that could still challenge me. Another lesson was that if you listen enough, it becomes familiar; you begin to anticipate what is next, and then it does not sound so weird. You begin to hum his odd tunes and sing his oddball lyrics and it suddenly makes sense. However, in doing so I instilled fear and trepidation in all but my closest friends. I feel sorry for those who do not have the desire to take the time to push the envelope.
The multimedia performance and recording artists known as The Residents pushed the envelope much further than Beefheart. The Residents were very experimental and absurdist at first but things changed over time, just as The Beatles changed over time. Their thematic works became much darker and their music less unconventional. I first heard The Residents’ “Constantinople” on the Doctor Demento Show. This prompted me to seek out their music. The first LP I purchased was Not Available, shortly after it was released in 1978. I immediately fell in love with this, and still consider it one of their greatest achievements. It is true psychedelia in my book; conventionality slightly bent to put you a bit off kilter. The lyrics and the monophonic delivery is haunting. The spoken word portions sound mentally damaged. It is gripping in a waltz-through-a-slowed-down-world manner. After this I had to find everything they ever did. What I found was that each release was extremely different from the others until perhaps the last 10 years. I kept my collection complete up until the past three years when I decided the music was becoming a parody of itself. Hardy and Homer, if you are reading this, I am sorry.
The Mentally Ill and Developmentally Disabled
In recent years I have taken an interest in “outsider” artists who appear to march to a different drum or to no drum at all. The obvious ones that first come to mind are the supposed “acid casualties”: Pink Floyd’s Roger “Syd” Barrett; Moby Grape’s Alexander “Skip” Spence; Penny Arkade’s Craig Smith (aka Satya Sai Maitreya Kali); The 13th Floor Elevators’ Roky Erickson; and The Seeds’ Sky Saxon. All were already accomplished musical talents when they were diagnosed with schizophrenia (with the exception of Sky Saxon and perhaps Craig Smith) that manifested itself following years of hallucinogenic drug experimentation. In Craig Smith’s case it may have also been due to brain damage caused by a severe beating he experienced while exploring remote areas of Afghanistan in the early 70s. My feeling is that had it not been for the drugs the underlying mental illness for most of these artists may have been kept in check but then again, we will never know for sure.
I feel a bit guilty about my interest in those who may have been victims of developmental disabilities or mental illness who found an avenue to record and express their musical talents. One such recording I acquired was by the Hi Hopes, from the Hope School in Anaheim, CA. This was a school for the developmentally disabled and it must have had a music program as several albums were pressed in the 1970s of performances by the students. Other recordings I have stumbled upon include those of Daniel Johnston, a singer-songwriter who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He produced several cassette tapes in the 1980s and marketed them himself. His earliest have been put onto a double CD titled “Songs of Pain”. There is a melancholy delicateness and childlike naivety, not dissimilar to that of Brian Wilson, to his songwriting and singing that draws me in. Another artist who is much different in style and is credited to founding the musical genre “psychobilly” is Norman Odam, aka The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. I am not sure what to make of him but his music is full of childlike enthusiasm, in the same manner as Jad Fair of Half Japanese. However, Jad is true to rock and is a bit more in touch with the rest of the world. The Cowboy, fondly referred to as “The Ledge” by some, recorded the song “Paralyzed” in 1968 and unbelievably it was released as a single on the Mercury label. The song is total vocal insanity with backup instrumentation that is nearly lost in the cacophony of sounds emitted from this man’s mouth. Every human sound imaginable by mouth can be heard in total free-form abandon. While Odam never achieves the extremes of “Paralyzed” on his subsequent numerous recordings, he relentlessly tries to find new vocal sounds for self-expression, but sometimes he transitions into a more normal baritone singing style and uses real words! Larry “Wild Man” Fischer is another victim of schizophrenia who was first recorded on the album, Bedlam, attributed to a band named The Crazy People back in 1967. The album was produced by a supposed DJ from Vancouver, BC who went by the name Johnny Kitchen. Kitchen’s real name is Jack Millman, an accomplished jazz trumpeter whose career began in 1948! Later in 1967 Frank Zappa “discovered” Fischer singing on the streets of L.A. and brought him into the studio to record “An Evening with Wild Man Fischer”. In the mid-70s Fischer signed a contract with Rhino Records and recorded four more albums which have been collected in a 3-CD box set titled “The Fischer King”. Fischer was known for his ability to create a song on-the-spot, and primarily sang unaccompanied. Many of his songs were autobiographical and presented a picture of a family that did not know how to handle a child with mental illness who primarily communicated with song. Wesley Willis was a Chicago street singer who also suffered from schizophrenia. He accompanied himself on keyboard and amazingly had a punk rock band, The Wesley Willis Fiasco. Most of his songs were quite funny as well as being grossly vulgar, but repetitive in style and lyrical structure. His most famous songs were “Kurt Cobain”, “I Whupped Batman’s Ass”, and “Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonalds”. Willis was also a compelling visual artist and much of his artwork appears on his album covers. He died from complications following surgery at the age of 40.
Drawing by Wesley Willis
A few more artists who were either “touched” or “damaged” that come to mind, whose albums I own include the following:
Jerry Rayson – The Weird Thing in Town (1969)
Kit Ream – All That I Am (1978)
Randy Rice – To Anyone Who’s Ever Laughed at Someone Else (1974)
Alter Ego and Friends – Obsessional Schizophrenia (1972)
Gary Wilson – You Think You Really Know Me (1977)
The five artists listed immediately above only recorded in limited pressings, and are not widely known outside the world of collectors. Each is quite different from the other but for all of them their problems are quite evident after a few minutes into these recordings.
I am not sure of the reason for my interest in such music. I certainly do not listen with the intention to make fun of their disabilities. I simply find them to be curious and interesting. Perhaps it is due to my psychology background. But my fascination for such things began long before I took my first psychology course, so I just don’t know. It is too complicated. I will end this entry here but I am far from done with this subject.
In my next entry I will discuss other outsider artists who are simply eccentric, or determined and accomplished experimenters.
A Final Note
This morning I woke up to the sad news that David Bowie had passed away. I guess you never expect this to happen, yet it is inevitable with all of us. Bowie was one of those artists for whom I feel a great loss. He was continuously creating and reinventing himself right up to the end. His contributions were enormous. I really cannot say any more than what has been said these hours since his demise. But I will just end by stating my favorite Bowie albums: The Man Who Sold the World, Heroes, and The Singles. My favorite song was a collaboration between Bowie and John Lennon, “Fame”. And then there was “Let’s Dance”. The Tin Machine era was really challenging and I thoroughly enjoyed that band. He was a true star, a true rock pioneer. I will miss him.
“He had been walking for a long time, ever since dark in fact, and dark falls soon in December.”
Charlotte Riddell, aka Mrs. J.H. Riddell (1832 – 1906), “The Old House in Vauxhall Walk,” 1882
This is now the last day of December. I have not posted anything since early November. Yes, I have been quite busy, as I usually am, however there have been stretches of time where I could have been writing but had no inspiration to do so.
The holiday season is seldom cooperative with my plans. Due to this fact, I find myself making fewer and fewer plans every year. I simply “go with it”. Many unexpected delays due to home repairs, auto repairs, and computer repairs have consumed my time and money like voracious aardvarks gobbling up baskets of garbanzos.
But let me move out of the self-pity department and into the musical high points of the past year. I will put these into a series of lists – which is something I seem to do with many things.
The Listings Begin
Three artists of renown I met this year but did not get to hear perform were:
1. Buddy Guy – blues guitar legend and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer, at his 79th birthday celebration and CD release party
2. KC and The Sunshine Band – 70s disco hit makers, on an American Airlines jet from San Diego to Charlotte
3. Johnny “V” Vernazza – Blues and slide guitar great and gold record legend at the Blindspot Records anniversary party
There were other famous artists I had the good fortune to hear and meet this year:
1. Kawehi – loop artist, singer, guitarist, keyboards
2. Kenny Blake – jazz saxophonist with two Billboard top 20 albums
3. Roger Humphries – legendary jazz drummer who has played with all the greats
4. Mundell Lowe – internationally known jazz guitar maestro, at his 93rd birthday performance
5. Larry Mitchell – Grammy award winning producer and guitarist
6. Cindy Lee Berryhill – recording artist with roots in the early L.A. punk rock scene.
7. Kimm Rogers – singer songwriter and recording artist
8. Patric Petrie – internationally known Celtic fiddle player and vocalist
9. Dave Humphries – singer songwriter originally from Durham, UK
10. Gregory Page – American and Irish singer songwriter
11. Steph Johnson –jazz/funk guitarist
12. Allison Adams Tucker – jazz and pop singer
13. Ellen Weller –jazz and experimental flute, saxes
I also had the great fortune to add the following bands to the list of I’ve seen perform:
1. Manual Scan – five-piece mod rock style I had the pleasure of hearing for the first time at the Casbah just a week ago. Manual Scan began its existence in 1980 and became inactive in 1991, reuniting only occasionally in recent years. They had just come back from a tour in Spain a few weeks ago, and the Casbah event was also a release party for their new EP/CD, “The Pyles Sessions”. The tour and Casbah event reunited Bart Mendoza and David Fleminger with Kevin Ring, Tim Blankenship and Jarrod Lucas. Two other bands performed at the Casbah event, The Bassics and Alvino & The Dwells.
2. Alvino & The Dwells – Due to my work schedule I kept missing their performances over and over again, but finally got to hear them for the first time at Demille’s during an Adams Avenue event and then again at the Casbah, as mentioned above. This band is an instrumental surf/power trio consisting of Manual Scan alumni Didier Suarez and David Fleminger, and Tony Suarez. If you love surf music in the style of Dick Dale and the Del Tones, The Ventures, or Jerry Cole, this is a must-hear band.
3. The Bassics – They are an exciting young mod rock band with a punkish flair, who won the Best New Artist award at the San Diego Music Awards this year. Their drummer, Juan Carlos Mendez, is a total animal on the skins. And frontman/rhythm guitarist Sam Martinez is full of raw, yet controlled power. Vino Martinez on bass consistently augments the “bassic” rhythm. They have an accomplished lead guitarist but I did not catch his name and a search of the band online did not help.
4. Liz Grace and The Swing Thing – Liz is a great singer, fronting Three Chord Justice in a country vein, and using The Swing Thing as a platform for performing classic swing, pop, and torch songs. Jon Garner is a stand-out guitarist in this unit.
5. HM3 – This is the Harley Magsino Trio, featuring the incredible jazz keyboardist Joshua White, Charles Weller on drums, and Harley on bass. I saw them on the sidewalk outside Folk Arts Rare Records. They were joined by DJ Teelynn and Nina. This was a great performance, and I certainly want to hear more of them in 2016.
6. Missy Andersen – Excellent, excellent blues vocalist with a backing band that includes her amazing guitarist husband, Heine Andersen. This was an evening of soulful blues at Proud Mary’s. We totally enjoyed that evening.
7. Chet Cannon & The Committee – Chet is one of the great blues harpists in San Diego and was a founder of the annual Spring Harp Fest, where I met him. He is a powerful singer as well as a harmonica genius.
8. True Stories – This is another band that is currently lead by Bart Mendoza and includes David Fleminger on keyboards and guitar, Danny Cress on drums, and Orrick Smith on bass. Occasionally Normandie Wilson joins them on keys and vocals. I first saw them at the Air Conditioned Lounge, and then again at another Adams Avenue event. They played some of Bart’s originals as well as 60s mod and British invasion rock standards.
9. Plow – This is a quasi-blue grass and Americana band lead by Chris Clarke, who perform at Urban Solace every second Sunday of the month. Always an enjoyable treat while enjoying a great breakfast.
10. Podunk Nowhere – They are another country/folk/Americana band that we saw at an Adams Avenue event and want to see again in the coming year
11. Whitney Shay Trio – Had heard Whitney many times with Robin Henkel but never with her own trio, singing pop and jazz standards from the swing era.
12. The Zicas – Brazilian folk performed at Java Joes during the Adams Avenue Street Fair.
Standout Live Events of 2015 Mentioned in Previous Posts
1. A Jazz Exploration of The Beatles – Jamie Shadowlight, violin; Mikan Zlatkovich, keyboards; Mackenzie Leighton, contrabass; Richard Sellers, drums; Carmelia “Toot” Bell, vocals; Arnessa Rickett, vocals – at 98 Bottles
2. Songs of the Seeker: A Journey into Wonder – Shadowlight and !ZeuqsaV! – this was a multimedia experimental performance with Jamie Shadowlight on electric violin, Xavier Vasquez on visual projection and laptop with assistance from Mikan Zlatkovich. At the Moxie Theatre.
3. 6th Annual Women in Jazz – Allison Adams Tucker, vocals; Steph Johnson, vocals and guitar; Ellen Weller, flute and saxes; Melonie Grinnell, piano; Jodie Hill, string bass; Laurel Grinnell, drums – at 98 Bottles.
4. Mundell Lowe’s 93rd Birthday Celebration – Mundell Lowe, guitar; Bob Magnussen, string bass; Jim Plank, drums; Jaime Valle, guitar; Bob Boss, guitar; Alicia Previn, violin. At Dizzy’s.
5. Kawehi – at The Loft. Opening acts were: Tojou, On Fifth, and Zoya Music.
6. Across the Street at Mueller College, May 1, 2015 – with Connor Correll and Q Ortiz, Red Willow Waltz, and Jamie Shadowlight
7. Randi Driscoll and Friends at Java Joes – Including Noah Heldman, Randi Driscoll, Larry Mitchell, Jamie Shadowlight, Shawn Rohlf, Monette Marino, and the John Martin Davis Band.
8. Blindspot Records Anniversary Party – at the home of Patric Petrie, with performances by Casino Royale, Patric Petrie with David Lally, Tim Foley, and Ron Wild, and a solo performance by Sierra West. After we left, Marie Haddad performed a set. We will have to catch Marie in 2016.
9. Pulse of Life: Melodies and Rhythms – featuring Nacho Arimany and Monette Marino on percussion and Jamie Shadowlight on violin and singing bowl
10. Jamie Shadowlight and Naganuma Dance: (sub)merge – featuring Jamie Shadowlight on violin, maracas, and singing bowl, Anita Weedmark on piano, Erdis Maxhelaku on cello and djembe, and John Noble on modular synth. Dancers were Darcy Naganuma and Aurora Lagattuta.
11. An Evening with Songwriters – at Java Joes, featuring Bart Mendoza, Dave Humphries, and Kimm Rogers as well as Mike Alvarez, Mark DeCerbo, Samuel Martinez, Patric Petrie, and Beezie Gerber.
12. Cindy Lee Berryhill and Kimm Rogers – at Grassroots Oasis. Kimm performed a solo set, followed by Cindy Lee’s set and then they teamed up to do some additional songs, ending with Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale”. Beyond cool!
13. Manual Scan Reunion and EP/CD Release Party – at the Casbah, the evening began with The Bassics, followed by Alvino & The Dwells, followed by Manual Scan. The was an amazing evening of mod rock and surf. Kind of reminds me of surf and turf.
14. A JazzMikan Christmas – at 98 Bottles featuring Mikan Zlatkovich on keyboards, Jamie Shadowlight on violin, Katie Thiroux on string bass, Matt Witek on drums, and Carmelia ‘Toot’ Bell and Arnessa Rickett on vocals.
If anything jumps out at you in the list above, it should be the name Jamie Shadowlight. She seemed to be everywhere this past year with the most interesting groups of performers in every conceivable musical style and beyond. And I left some of her performances we saw this year off the above lists!
So, it was a very musically rewarding year in live performance for me.
I have to say that this year has been very fortuitous and very propitious based upon the department of redundancy department. Some highlights include:
1. The Velvet Underground – Re-Loaded, 45th Anniversary Edition with 5 CDs and 1 DVD.
2. Bob Dylan – The Mono Box with 9 CDs spanning his first 8 albums
3. John Gilbert / Meade River – s/t – rarity pressed as a memorial to 17-year-old rocker – super rare
4. Your Navy Presents: The Strawberry Alarm Clock, Dick Clark, M.C. Only one known copy remains and I now own it.
5. The Thunderbirds – Introducing the Fabulous Thunderbirds – not the more recent band but a group of Native American teen rockers from New Mexico in 1965
6. Mistress Mary, Housewife – weird self-penned country rock rumored to include Roger McGuinn’s assistance as well as other members of The Byrds. Limited quantity LP vanity press from the late 1960s.
7. Royalaires – a mid-60s prep rock rarity
8. Johnny’s World – a rare recording from the St. John Catholic Youth Organization in the late 60s.
9. Aeron – Paltareon: The Far Memory of Elves – psychedelic avant-garde
10. Jimmy Carter & Dallas County Green – Summer Brings the Sunshine
11. Jaim – Prophecy Fulfilled
12. Steve Drake – Cold Sweat
13. The B. Toff Band – Golden Greats
14. Butch – The Bitch of Rock and Roll
15. J. Teal Band – Cooks
16. 15-60-75 (The Numbers Band)
17. Tripping Out – Drug Education – scare tactic record that is hilarious, from the early 70s.
18. The Pied Piper – of drugs; another scare tactic drug education album. I love these old albums of weird misinformation about drug abuse.
19. Easy Chair – reissue of recordings by Jeff Simmons old band from the late 60s
20. Arcesia – this is a weird early 70s crooner in a rock format – a private press vanity album
21. Walkenhorst Brothers – a great 70s rock group gone totally unnoticed
22. T Kail – another early 70s rock band that went unnoticed.
23. The Toads – another prep school classic from the mid-60s
24. Sage and Seer – folk rock in Simon & Garfunkel style but very rare
25. The Mam’selles – Bubble Gum World – this is a lounge act, another soft spot with me, from late 60s.
26. Mississippi – Velvet Sandpaper – weird real people crooner from the 70s
27. Michael Angelo – finally, his Guinn album was redone right and now I own everything he has recorded and released.
28. Cincinnati Joe and Mad Lydia – soul/r&b in a weird mix – completely crazy. Mid 70s
29. The Ali Baba Revue – with classic “Rats in My Room” lounge rock act from the late 60s.
30. Steve Kaczorokowski – What Time Are You. This is ultra-rare from the first person (unintentionally) to record karaoke fashion. Actually not bad, since the music was stolen from recordings of other artists.
31. McKinney – rare folk rock album from mid-70s with a Johnathan Edwards connection.
32. The Grapes of Rathe – Glory. Not a religious album, as you might be led to believe from the LP title. This was a late 60s pop rock band with a killer psychedelic opening track.
I am sure there are others I am missing, but this just gives you some stand-outs for me, especially in the rarities department from decades ago.
And with that, I will close out the year’s blogging. I will be back next year, perhaps with expanded features.
Due to prior computer problems this is going out quick and I may post photos, etc. next time with regard to what I am posting here.
“I think love lyrics have contributed to the general aura of bad mental health in America. Love lyrics create expectations which can never be met in real life, and so the kid who hears these tunes doesn’t realize that that kind of love doesn’t exist. If he goes out looking for it, he’s going to be a kind of love loser all his life…The singer-songwriters who write these lyrics earn their living by pretending to reveal their innermost personal turmoil over the way love has hurt them, which creates a false standard that people use as a guideline on how to behave in interpersonal relationships.”
Frank Zappa, interviewed by John Winokur, 1992
Whether you agree or disagree with Zappa’s take on the love song, you have to admit that love songs have had a significant impact on interpersonal relationships and vice versa, and this has been true probably going back to before the first written lyrics ever existed. Now, let me clarify here. I am talking about, and it is obvious that Zappa was referring to, romantic love.
For the sake of not getting too dense in describing the concept of love, let me just state that we all know there are various types of love; the ancient Greeks divided it into four basic types – Eros, Philia, Storge, and Agape. And to me there seem to be shades and blendings of these types to create a huge quilt of love varieties. Romance falls primarily into the domain of Eros, but there are still so many mixes. Now we could go deeper with distinctions between the noun “love”, and the verb “love”. But, let’s not. Suffice it to say that several concepts can be thrown into the mix involving romantic love for good measure: eroticism, sexuality, sensuality, spirituality, intimacy, physical attraction, truth, Platonism, affection…why don’t I just use a Thesaurus?
I am stating the obvious when I say there are few topics not covered by music and lyrics, but when it comes to selling music as a product in a capitalist society, sex and romance sell the best. Right? They are powerful driving forces in human relationships and people can go from extreme highs to extreme lows when expressing their feelings about them – and this is always great material for the songwriter. But because of the millions of songs about this topic, it would become rather bland to just write about the love song. Rather, I am interested in the more unique observations, stand-out lyrics that reflect real emotions and situations people experience, or the mixing of unlikely ideas with the idea of love. So here are some stand-outs that I have had the pleasure of meeting.
Animal Collective – Applesauce For the past 30 years, music has taken advantage of the video to get a point across, and this music video stands out for me in a quasi-erotic and yet philosophical way. As with many other Animal Collective compositions, lyrics are vague yet clear enough to take them on several different trips. This music video features a silhouette of a woman eating some type of fruit – a peach, maybe, but definitely not an apple – with lyrics that make reference to people going away. The erotic aspect of the video is that she eats the fruit very s-l-o-w-l-y, getting it all over her face. All you see is her face around her mouth and nose along with the disappearing fruit. To me, this perhaps portrays a lover that is leaving; or perhaps that the singer is being consumed by his lover until his own identity disappears. Or could it be that the song is about people dying or otherwise leaving our lives just like rotting or eaten fruit? Could it really be that simple? It is a very thoughtful composition, and lyrically intriguing, but for me, musically, it falls flat without the video. The video is exquisite in my book. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIbtYzjLuMo
Joni Mitchell – A Case of You Few artists are as gifted as Joni Mitchell in writing about real human relationships, usually drawn from her own experiences. Taylor Swift has a long way to go to get to this level. Few love songs have captured passion in such a simplistic way as how Joni does here. The Appalachian dulcimer and solo voice balance the intensity of the lyrics in describing her declarations of ambivalence, surrender, and devotion to her lover. Frank Zappa be damned, this is a hot song! From the Joni Mitchell album, “Blue”. The link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YuaZcylk_o
Gary Numan – Cars; Queen – I’m In Love With My Car; Steve Miller Band – Mercury Blues; The Dead Milkmen – Bitchin’ Camaro; Autosalvage – Auto Salvage There is a certain fascination with cars in Western culture. In my choices here I try to remain familiar to the reader but there are literally hundreds of songs that could replace these. Gary Numan’s song could be considered a Zen-like experience of becoming one with his car. I can identify with his sentiments when I drive long distances by myself. My mind races with a variety of thoughts while another part of my brain is on autopilot, almost one with the car in that sense. Could it be a form of love? On the other hand, this song could be using the car as a metaphor for isolation, where he is asking if you will visit him if he opens his door so that he does not feel so isolated. In this sense, there seems to be a longing for a loving, trustful relationship where he can avoid the eventual demise that isolation brings. It has been said that Numan suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome and knowing this makes it more likely that this is about isolation, but for me it could work either way. Queen takes it a step further as the writer openly declares his love for his car. Or is it all double entendre? It could be, or it could be that Roger Taylor was expressing his carsexual tendencies. Objects, such as cars, do not talk back, so it could be he was expressing his preference for a powerful four-wheeled machine over a human love relationship. Or it could simply be a healthy enjoyment of vehicles and driving fast. Steve Miller was not the first person to record “Mercury Blues” but he may be the first to bring it to the general public. It was written by K.C. Douglas and Robert Geddins in the late 40s, originally known as “Mercury Boogie”. Several major artists have recorded and popularized the song since the Steve Miller Band’s 1976 release. The song expresses a love for Mercury vehicles as a means to “getting the girl”. It also expresses a love for cruising but let’s not get too deep here. This song means just exactly what it says. I used to love my Saturn vehicles. Still have one. I was very sad when that line was terminated by GM. The Dead Milkmen get even further away from the concept of love with their comedic song, “Bitchin’ Camaro”. But it is not that far off from “Mercury Blues” so I included it here. There is a reference to The Doors’ “Love Me Two Times” in the song, but then they get silly with sick humor, associating it with AIDS. Again, there is no intended deep meaning here; just fun in a mock-adolescent, braggadocios manner. Autosalvage is the only obscure group I mention here. They had only one LP, issued in 1968, but it did not go anywhere and the band folded a year later. The band name actually came after the song. Zappa heard them rehearsing and suggested they name their band after their song, “Auto Salvage”. They took his advice. The song pays homage to all the variety of vehicles on the road at that time, but it goes further. No matter which one you think is the best, they are all equal in the auto salvage yard. Could this be a reference to life? Such a variety of people and personalities but in death we have the ultimate equalizer. So, whoever you love or admire, we all come to the same end, and all that love and admiration is done at that point. And I am done discussing love and cars. Links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6YMAvfwTFo ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaEM4JYFPfw ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJJvyPXPssg ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1v3CzvQ9e_w ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GY6KVmx4E8U
Susan Christie – I Love Onions A novelty song from 1966 in a vaudeville/jug band style, this was Susan Christie’s only charting release. The song speaks for itself. And I love onions, too. Just a side note – in 1969 Susan recorded a rather dark album of songs for Columbia but they did not release it due to a lacking of commercial potential, so they thought. It is now available on CD. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM-lEhhsLQw
The Captain & Tennille – Muskrat Love Introducing Susie and Sam; two fornicating muskrats. This was written and recorded by Willis Alan Ramsey as “Muskrat Candlelight” but then America changed the title and had a hit with it. The Captain & Tennille took it to # 30 in 1976. No-one knows why. Later a parody was created entitled “Hamster Love” by Big Daddy, where the little critters frizzled and sizzled on the stove and a boy is heard to exclaim that the hamster sandwiches are delicious. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjqeNoi6EmM ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSt2RoZ8Ek4
So let’s deviate some more by looking at some deviations to the concept of sexual/mental love.
The Velvet Underground – Venus in Furs Most people reading this are familiar with this song, composed by Lou Reed. Recorded in 1966 by VU, it has been covered by many artists. But few are familiar with the cover of this ode to sadomasochism by Prydwyn recorded on solo acoustic guitar with male/female voices in a very dark medieval complexion. I like both versions, depending on my mood. The concept of the song was inspired by a novella of the same name by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch as part of his “Love” series. The references to a character named Severin in the song come directly from the novel’s character, Severin von Kusiemski. Alternative sexual themes are common in the music of The Velvet Underground, but this was one of their first and most striking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfN1-YeBnA8
Jefferson Airplane – Triad This is a David Crosby composition, and was recorded and performed by The Byrds in 1967, but was left off “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” LP because Roger McGuinn thought it was too risqué for public release. The in-fighting regarding release of the song was one of the things that led to Crosby being fired from The Byrds in late 1967. But Crosby found an outlet with the Jefferson Airplane, who included it on their “Crown of Creation” LP in 1968. Sung beautifully by Grace Slick, with a lush chord progression, it is a story of a ménage à trois. This is not an uncommon theme in today’s music, but in the 60’s it was unheard of. Decades later, The Byrds’ version was released on compilation albums and as a bonus track on The Notorious Byrd Brothers CD. There are also cover versions, most recently by Tina Dico in 2008. Here is the link to Jefferson Airplane’s version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKV9WFxDSfg
King Crimson – Cadence and Cascade The song is an allegory regarding dualism, cleverly cloaked in sensual innuendo on the surface. This was released on the King Crimson “In the Wake of Poseidon” LP in 1970 with lyrics by Peter Sinfield. The song is an essential piece to the album’s theme of Eros and strife. The characters of the song are Cadence, Cascade, and Jade. Cadence represents the formal structure of Logos, thinking, consciousness, ordered rhythm, or the Yang. Cascade represents uncontrolled energy, chaos, Eros, and Yin. Jade is balancing, grounding, and strengthening. The words are breathtakingly exquisite, hitting on both a sensual and spiritual level. The music is gentle and melodic, yet pensive. Highly recommended. Sinfield proves himself to be an erudite masterful lyricist here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpZqSg6U53E
The Fugs – The Garden Is Open This is a cleverly disguised mating ritual with lyrics by Tuli Kupferberg. The Fugs pushed the envelope in the 1960’s, even further than Frank Zappa, regarding sex and profanity in music, thus staying vastly unpopular commercially, but revered in the underground music scene. From the Tenderness Junction LP of 1967, this song is one of their best with regard to musical and lyrical aesthetics, and it has a menacing electric violin solo reminiscent of John Cale’s viola on Velvet Underground’s recordings. There is a very experimental cover of this song by Valinger/ZeBB/Runolf floating around on the Internet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1C9omgNzAAU
There are many songs about loving dogs or being loved like a dog. Salty Dog Blues first comes to mind. This song has been recorded by several country and bluegrass artists over the years (I first heard it performed by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos) and has become quite sanitized from its original sexually suggestive beginnings in the early 1900’s. Cat Stevens – I Love My Dog is a harmless song about a man’s affection for his dog. But Patti Page – How Much Is That Doggie In The Window smacks of dog prostitution if you ask me. Is Lobo – Me and You and a Dog Named Boo about a bestial ménage à trois? The Beatles – Martha My Dear sounds even more to the point. Who would have known McCartney was having a yiffing good time with his dog, Martha? For me I will stick with The Stooges – I Wanna Be Your Dog which at least keeps things on the human level; perhaps a bit furrie, but still human. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U9mdVn0jSQ ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qcqk_SEsLPU ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=safoNysTrbE ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TFQeJ-pQJ4 ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK5jy5rYeYg ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJIqnXTqg8I
One of the worst uses of the concept of love in music happens with what is called Contemporary Christian Music. In the past 30 years, I have heard some really bizarre songs where female and male vocalists sound like they are longing for a physical romantic relationship with Jesus. One could be forgiving of this if it was more obvious they were using a creative metaphor. However, either due to the lyrical limitations of the writers, or the shallow, sappy slobbering of the singers, this never is convincing and just leaves me feeling uncomfortable and undesirous of such a closer walk with Thee. Here are some stand-outs: Paul Baloche – Falling; Kirk Whalum – Falling In Love With Jesus. There are many more artists, and the female singers make me even more squeamish. Pick any of them on Internet sources such as Amazon and you will see what I mean.
Getting away from all that, I would be remiss if I did not mention one of my all-time favorite love songs, Like a Lover, written by Alan Bergman, Dorival Caymmi, Marilyn Bergman and Nelson Motta. It was first released by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 in 1968 with Lani Hall as the lead vocalist. This is my favorite version. It captures the longing one feels when apart from a new lover. The lyrics are beautiful and the melody is a perfect fit. Check it out online. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF4pN19mXws
The Mothers of Invention – How Could I Be Such a Fool This brings us full circle. From their 1966 “Freak Out!” LP, this is a Frank Zappa-penned…song of rejection in love! Oh my! Was Zappa trying to contribute to mental illness in society? When he said what he said in 1992, I wonder if he thought about what he wrote in the 60’s. This is actually a very well-constructed song that starts out in a ¾ waltz style, and the lyrics sound like they are grounded in experience. Unusual time changes occur to produce a sense of drama. One of his best. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpYmHNicnkQ
I hope this whets your appetite to hear some of the selections mentioned above. I stayed largely, but not totally, with the era of the late 60s to early 70s, simply because that is the era that interests me the most. This is an inexhaustible topic and one I might find myself coming back to in future blog posts.
ON THE LOCAL SCENE
L to R: Billy Watson, Whitney Shay, Robin Henkel
I have been on the road a large portion of the past month and a half, so it has been limited pickings as far as getting out to hear what is going on in the local music scene. And sometimes when I could go out, I had too much to do at home to get out, or I was simply too jet lagged. I did get out to see Robin Henkel (guitars, vocals), Whitney Shay (vocals), and Billy Watson (harmonica, vocals) at Proud Mary’s on October 8. While hearing all three artists in the past, I had never heard the three of them together until now. It was a nice fit. Robin had just had his birthday a few days before, so Whitney surprised him with a little birthday celebration during their performance. A couple days later Robin Henkel & his Horn Band were at Lestat’s. The advertised time was an hour early, so we hung out at the coffee shop until it was time to go over. With Robin was Jodie Hill on bass, Troy Jennings on saxes, and Gary Nieves on drums. Another fun evening. I have written about all of these artists in the past. Take my word for it, if you are in San Diego, you need to see them. You will not be disappointed.
L to R: Robin Henkel, Jodie Hill, Troy Jennings, Gary Nieves
On November 6, we attended the “Evening with Songwriters” at Java Joe’s hosted by Bart Mendoza, and also featuring Dave Humphries and Kimm Rogers. Supporting these fine songwriters and performers were Mike Alvarez, Mark DeCerbo, Samuel Martinez, Patric Petrie, and Beezie Gerber. The evening started out with Bart and Patric doing a number, followed by Bart and Samuel (of the Bassics). Then Bart and Mark did several songs, with Dave helping out on harmony on one song, and Patric joining in for a couple songs. Next up was Kimm and Beezie with several of Kimm’s songs. I had never heard Kimm Rogers before and I am now sold on her. She is not only a wonderful singer, but her lyrics are well crafted vignettes of real life situations, full of power and emotion. Finally, we had Dave Humphries and Mike Alvarez, with some 60s UK pop tunes along with many of Dave’s own songs. Dave, who hails from Durham, UK, weaves anecdotes of his time with Tony Sheridan (of Tony Sheridan and the Silver Beetles fame) and with Badfinger’s Joey Molland into his song intros, subtly letting us know he was there when it all started in the 60s. This was a fine evening of great music performed by some of the best.
Bart Mendoza and Samuel Martinez
L to R: Patric Petrie, Bart Mendoza, Mark DeCerbo
Kimm Rogers and Beezie Gerber
L to R: Bart Mendoza, Dave Humphries, Mike Alvarez
November 7, we noted that the Robin Henkel Band was appearing at Proud Mary’s. This configuration had Caleb Furgatch on string bass, Troy Jennings and David Castel de Oro on saxes, Big Al Schneider on drums, and of course, Robin on super-collider guitars and vocals. The band was exceptionally “on” with some great solo work from everyone. Wonderful Americana in the form of blues and jazz with many penned by Robin as well.
L to R: Robin Henkel, Caleb Furgatch, Al Schneider, Troy Jennings, David Castel de Oro
November 8 is the second Sunday in the month, which means Plow is at the Urban Solace restaurant and bar for the bluegrass brunch. Since I have been flying most Sundays in the past several months, we could not miss this opportunity. They were all there: Chris Clarke, Jason Weiss, Doug Walker, Joe Pomianek, Mark Markowitz, and Dane Terry. This was their 8th anniversary playing the Bluegrass Brunch at Urban Solace. And we got to witness it.
L to R: Jason Weiss, Mark Markowitz, Chris Clarke, Doug Walker, Dane Terry, unknown, Joe Pomianek
And so we come to the end of another entry from out of the mind of the Popeswami to the eyes and brains of all 2 or 3 readers of my blog posts. May you all sleep well tonight.
“And the voice said ‘Daddy, there’s a million pigeons
Ready to be hooked on new religions.
Hit the road, Daddy.
Leave your common law wife,
Spread the religion of the rhythm of life.’”
From the musical, Sweet Charity, song “The Rhythm of Life”
Music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Someone once said (I think it was me) that when you think you are “playing the system”, the system is actually playing you. Essentially we are all playing each other. In 1969, Timothy Leary said, “You can be anyone this time around.” In the same year Firesign Theatre said “How can you be two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all.” They were also known to say “We are all bozos on this bus.” I’m not afraid to admit my bozoness. So what does that have to do with anything? Well, to begin with, we are not who we think we are. We are a weird (or unique; take your pick) conglomeration of experiences we have had with our environment, and especially the people with whom we have associated over our lifetime. I am you; you are me; and there we be… musical tastes included. The music I have grown to love and appreciate is to a degree the result of people in my life sharing music they love to listen to. Radio and television have also been contributors – again, the result of disc jockeys, program directors, and others who decided what to air. But not all of it comes from these interactions. In the past 2 decades I have become obsessive about surfing the Internet, in search of the lost chord. I search out music to satisfy my curiosity. I read books about music and then search it out – testing the waters to see if it is something I want to add to my library. But again, some person had to write that book or post that article. On a local level, I search out artists to watch and hear perform, and out of this have sprung friendships as well as opportunities to experience even more music. As a matter of fact, this blog is the result of my sharing ideas about doing this with a local artist who enthusiastically encouraged me to get started. I bet she regrets encouraging me!!!
So let me share with you some of my most recent experiences regarding the local music scene….roll the film.
September 18, at 98 Bottles, Jamie Shadowlight and Naganuma Dance: (sub)merge
We had no idea what to expect but knew this performance was going to be a combination of music and dance, and would be profoundly unique. I will try my best to objectively describe what took place. Performing musically: Jamie Shadowlight on violin, maracas, and singing bowl, Anita Weedmark on piano, Erdis Maxhelaku on cello and djembe, and John Noble on modular synth. Primary dancers were Darcy Naganuma and Aurora Lagattuta. Sometimes they, too, contributed to the sound with maracas and other items. Plus, Darcy read a few paragraphs from what appeared to be a dairy or biography. Many in the audience were from Naganuma Dance and Aurora’s classes. At one point Darcy and Aurora went into the audience, gave a light kiss and whispered something to certain people (from their classes), and then brought them onto the stage area to participate in a free-form dance. But I am getting ahead of myself; let me begin at the beginning. Right before the performance began Jamie, Darcy, and Aurora brought pen and paper to each table instructing us to write ideas that come to mind as the performance progressed. It was a way for the audience to participate. Instructions were intentionally vague to leave open any inspiration that we experienced. Then it began, with Jamie shaking a maraca and Erdis on djembe while Anita created a rumbling, rolling sound with the piano. The performers were yelling and stomping their feet and encouraged the audience to do likewise. Then come the dancers, marching in like little toy soldiers with limited movement. From there they evolved into puppet-like movements, and then broke free of the strings. By this time Jamie had transitioned to violin and Erdis to cello, part droning, part improvisational jamming, playing off the dancers and the dancers playing off the musicians. The dancing and music seemed to flow in patterns like ocean waves and it was impossible to anticipate the next thing to hit the senses. The performance continued in this manner, with the audience never knowing what to expect. Once it was over, they collected the papers. Only two people (I was one of them) had written anything. Aurora read what we wrote for the audience to hear. It was explained that everything we experienced was improvised, in-the-moment, feeding off each other. This included what we, the audience, wrote…or didn’t write. Silence can speak volumes. This stream-of-consciousness expression of self, artistry, and love was nearly overwhelming and left us a bit lighter as we found our way back to the car. As we walked past the Casbah and the sound of loud, raucous rock, I smiled and considered even that and the sound of the traffic to be part of the experience. We were all, indeed, submerged in ourselves and each other that evening and it was spellbinding.
L to R: Erdis Maxhelaku, Aurora Lagattuta, Jamie Shadowlight, Darcy Naganuma, Anita Weedmark, and John Noble
Adams Avenue 34th Street Fair – September 26 & 27
The turnout at this event was huge considering the unbearable heat. Walking about the Street Fair I felt like I was being microwaved. I quickly turned my attention away from the heat, kept hydrated with water, and focused on the music. First up, on Saturday, we headed for Java Joe’s where The Zicas were performing. The Zicas play the music of Brazil. Three performers played percussion, guitar, and cavaquinho (a small Brazilian/Portuguese guitar-like instrument). They were great players and fun to watch, with their little antics. They reaffirm my love of the Brazilian culture and music.
Next up we ventured over to the Hawley Blues Stage to hear The BlueFrog Band. While rooted in Chicago electric blues, there is a definite mix of r&b and 70s rock for good measure. Blue Frog is Patrick Ellis, who sings, plays a mean blues harp and electric guitar. Dave Keefer was on lead guitar and took lead vocals on some songs. There was also a bass player and drummer but I didn’t catch their names. The big surprise was that Sue Palmer was on keyboards. Sue has her own band (Motel Swing Orchestra) and is quite renowned in San Diego as a great jazz keyboardist. The mix was heaven. Sue added a boogie woogie element to some songs that worked perfectly.
We returned to Java Joe’s to hear Shawn Rohlf & The 7th Day Buskers, with the added treat of Joey Harris from Beat Farmers/Farmers fame playing guitar and doing backing vocals. This is an Americana/old time music band with string bass, drums (consisting of snare, high hat and a suitcase replacing bass drum), and two guitarists – Shawn Rohlf and Joey Harris. Songs were all written by Shawn. They are a fun group to watch; great showmen all. The expressions on Joey’s face are priceless.
We took a break to eat lunch at Demille’s and caught the end of Steve Poltz’ performance at the Demilles Stage. Then back to Java Joe’s, where we have another entertaining and talented performer. Gregory Page presented an impeccable performance of music both from and in a style of a bygone era, when old hand-cranked Victrolas were all the rage. He also read some of his poems. Gregory has such a peaceful and warm aura about him. I always walk away with a sublime feeling after seeing him perform. Owen Burke joined Gregory on homemade percussion for some songs.
We ended the day at the Demilles Stage with Bass Clef Experiment, consisting of Greg Gohde on bass, Mike Alvarez on electric cello, and Owen Burke on drums. They did some of their own music as well as popular 60s tunes like “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and an impressive version of The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus”. Half way through their set, Dave Humphries joined them on guitar and vocals, performing some of his own songs as well as many 60s hits, ending the set with a totally mind-blowing version of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Dave told some stories about working with Tony Sheridan as well as the surviving member of Badfinger, Joey Mulland. He performed the Badfinger hit “Day After Day”. We are lucky to have Dave living and performing in San Diego.
Sunday we arrived later due to the heat. Late afternoon we saw Gregory Page again, followed by country/Americana band, Podunk Nowhere. Great songwriting, guitar picking, and singing from Heather and Johnny Janiga who performed with a bass player (who also played high hat) but I did not catch his name. Heather has to be from Texas or somewhere in the south with her subtle twang – something that is not native to San Diego, but charming. She has a beautifully expressive delivery. Johnny is very laid back but a very articulate player and even added a little dissonance to the chord arrangements to wise effect on one of the songs.
Closing out the Street Fair at the Adams Park Groove, we saw Tori Roze and The Hot Mess with a funky, jazz/rock set. Tori’s singing will knock you right out of your shoes! She can go from gentle and angelic to powerful and gutsy in a matter of seconds. Her mother was on flute and backing vocals. I can tell where Tori’s angelic vocals come from. Bass and drums held down the funky rhythms while the trombone and guitar took things off into a jazz universe. Tori occasionally played trumpet, augmenting the jazzier side of things. They are fun to watch and even more enjoyable to listen to. What a great band to close out the Street Fair.
We missed many bands we would have liked to have heard, such as Blue Largo (with special guest Taryn Donath), The Rugburns, 22 Kings, Lion Cut, Billy Watson & The Submariners, Robin Henkel. But strategic decisions had to be made. The Popeswami consulted the stars and I-Ching to decide on the perfect solution to a perfect weekend.Travelling home we witnessed the beginning of a full moon lunar eclipse, and continued watching from our back deck at home. It will probably be the last one in my lifetime.
In my next installment, I will not be discussing local bands. Let’s just say it will be interesting and keep it at that for the moment. Happy October!