Friday, January 30, 2009

5 Great 45's

I just got back to NYC and even though it ain't what is used to be it's always a relief to be home. Five days back in Florida where I spent the greater part of my youth and I feel like somebody took a vacuum cleaner and stuck it in my ear and sucked out that dried up little peanut looking thing that now sits where there was once part of a brain. Since I can't seem to finish anything I start today, I'll just do what I've been doing since I got home last night, spinning 45's. Somehow these little buggers always cheer me up, they're my favorite type of record, and the perfect delivery system for rock'n'roll. Here's five great 45's, in fact, five of my absolute favorites. First one is Tommy Jim Beam & his 4/5th's; if that isn't the coolest band name ever, it'll do 'til the coolest gets here. They were out of Fort Worth, Texas (despite the Tulsa and Nashville label info) and issued this disc on their own 100 Proof label. I'm gonna post both sides of this baby, the a-side (which I favor) is a spooky ballad called Bayou and it never fails to put chills up my spine. It's probably the best white disc ever to feature bongo drums. The b-side is a feral rocker: My Little Jewel which gets extra points for mentioning Dragnet. I believe it was released in 1958.  Next in the stack is from the great Fortune label from Detroit, Michigan. Fortune might just be the greatest label of all time, it's roster included John Lee Hooker, Nolan Strong & the Diablos, Dr. Ross, Andre Williams, Johnny Powers, Nathaniel Mayer, and this guy, Eddie Kirkland who began his career as John Lee Hooker's sidekick. He is often billed as Eddie Kirk for reasons known only to him. He's still alive and has made many great records, and is often seen beneath the ultimate sartorial touch-- a turban. He cut this canticle thrice, first on Volt as The Hawg (Pts 1 and 2), then this version retitled The Grunt, he re-cut it a third time for King as Hog Killin' Time. The year of our Lord, 1966. Plop goes the automatic changer and the next disc that hits the turntable is Bop Cat Stomp on the Folk-Star label, a subsidiary of Eddie Shuler's Goldband Records from Lake Charles, Louisiana. The titled might make you think it's a rockabilly platter, but it's not, it's a wild R&B instrumental rocker. The artist is King Charles and his Orchestra (the orchestra being guitarist Left Handed Charlie wailing away, a sax, piano, a bass player and drummer). If they still made records like this the world would be a much better place.  Since the subject sort of came up anyways, I must say rockabilly and Goldband Records are two things that go together well as exemplified by this beat up old slice of polystyrene. Ray Vict and his Bop Rockers-- We Gonna Bop Stop Rock. I think this band's gimmick was they tuned their instruments after the song, not before it like normal people do. Have you ever heard anything like this before? Or since? I think this one is from '58 also.  Now we set the Wayback machine for Chicago, 1966 and bingo, we land on Baby Huey & the Babysitters' Monkey Man on the Satellite label (not the Satellite label from Memphis that became Stax). Baby Huey & the Babysitters where hugely popular on the frat circuit around Illinois, and the rotund Baby Huey has received much posthumous acclaim for the LP- The Baby Huey Story: Living Legend, produced by Curtis Mayfield, it's something of a funk classic. I prefer this earlier and cruder sounding disc. Baby Huey (James Ramsey) was only 26 when his heart gave out in 1970. So keep your box sets, wax cylinders, and digital downloads, I'll take the little ones with the big holes every time. Maybe I'll do this (post five 45's) once a month, or once a week. Or never again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stranded In Canton- Eggleston's Harrowing Home Movies

I'm away for a week and won't be posting so here's a long one for you, it runs 1:17 hrs. It's put together from footage shot in the early 70's around Memphis and New Orleans by the photographer William Eggleston, one of the greatest and most famous photographers alive. If you're in NYC you can catch the retrospective at the Whitney (which ends Jan 25th so hurry), where this is also showing. Otherwse, turn to full screen and sit back. It's mostly drunken, quaaluded out, late night debauchery you could find anywhere in the south around that time. It reminds me a lot of growning up in Florida. Although I've never seen anyone bite the head off of a chicken as seen here. And Eggleston doesn't know any paint huffers. You'll also spot some (in)famous faces like bluesman Furry Lewis, Jim Dickinson, Jerry McGill (I think the only Sun Recording artist to go into bank robbery as a career, he made this great record with Jim Dickinson in '66, the last good Sun 45), Johnny Woods, Stanley Booth, Dewey Phillips, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, et al, all make cameos. It's fun and haunting and sometimes a bit unwatchable, but always riveting. It was edited together by Robert Gordon, author of It Came From Memphis (Pocket Books, 1995) and Can't Be Satisfied: The Life Of Muddy Waters (Little, Brown, 2002), both excellent. I'll be back around the end of the month and hopefully have something to say.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lightnin' loses his choppers...

Nothing to say today, but I love this clip of Lightnin' Hopkins from some European TV show circa 1962. If you look close at the end you can see him spit out his fasle choppers. Nick Tosches has something to say, check out his take on things here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hound Dog Taylor

Hound Dog Taylor's left hand, count the number of fingers.

 Live with Little Walter on harmonica. 

Hound Dog Taylor with the House Rockers.
 Here's some nice footage of Hound Dog Taylor, and that's Little Walter, near the end of his life (he was only thirty two when he died) on harp. The second clip I just added thanks to who ever left the comment. The photo is H.D.'s six fingered left paw, no he didn't use the extra pinkie to play slide, it was just there because God thought it looked cool. Although he died back in '75, Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers were probably the last really great blues band. Blues has become one of the most offensive marketing tools in history and by this point just the word gives me a headache, it brings to mind bands like best exemplified by Blue Hammer, the jock blues band in Terry Zwigoff's film (taken from Dan Clowes' comic book) Ghost World (2001), white guys in thrift store suits and silly hats, and idiot guitar solo worship. Or as my old pal Ike Turner said--"Who want to hear white guys imitating what the blues used to be"? But Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers were kinda like the punk rock of the blues, primitive, noisy and proudly showing off the chops they didn't have. They're a good place to plant the tombstone for blues, and a great band whose music hasn't dated at all-- sloppy, drunk and derivative (those are compliments), their sound makes me miss drinking. Theodore Roosevelt Taylor, born in either 1915 or 1917 in Natchez, Mississippi had been kicking around for years, cutting the odd 45 for Chess, Bea & Baby, Alley and other small labels before Bruce Iglauer started Alligator Records in Chicago to record him and his House Rockers (Brewer Phillips- guitar and Ted Harvey- drums), releasing three albums: Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers (which can be found here) Natural Boogie, Beware Of Dog (here), and later two more LP's of outtakes and live recordings-Genuine House Rockin' Music (here) and Release The Hound (look here, downloaders), all great, all sounding pretty much the same. They would be the only good records Alligator ever released as Alligator soon pioneered the beer commercial sound that we think of today as blues. Death to digital reverb. As Hound Dog said of himself, "When I die they're gonna say--he couldn't play shit, but it sure sounded good". Calling him derivative is besides the point, all blues (in fact all pop music) is derivative. Hound Dog Taylor based his sound on Elmore James' "Dust My Broom" riff, of course Elmore James got it from Robert Johnson, who got it from Kokomo Arnold, who got it from somebody else, it hardly matters who. On his earlier sides he comes off as just another enjoyable but fairly generic Elmore imitator (c.f. his version of Watch Out with Big Walter Horton on harp, issued by Chess in '67), but with the House Rockers' rhythm section he found a way to put his own personal stamp on the old riff, which is really what it's all about. Here's some highlights: Kitchen Sink Boogie, My Baby's Comin' Home, Roll Your Moneymaker, The Sun Is Shining, Dust My Broom and Brewer Phillips', who played the bass parts and lead guitar simultaneously, is showcased on this whacked out version of What'd I Say. They could even take a goofy tune like "She'll Be Comin' Around The Mountain" and make it rock and roll (I'd like to have heard 'em tackle "The Ink Dinky Spider"). It's obvious from these recordings that these guys were pretty drunk for most of their sessions and gigs. Now let's face it music was better when it worked on the alcohol standard (i.e., musicians were paid in booze and just enough money to buy a new set of strings). Perhaps a return to such practices would improve the dire state of modern music, if not the lifestyles of the rich and useless. I don't know if any amount of booze could help Coldplay but they sure couldn't get any worse. And I doubt if Hound Dog Taylor & his House Rockers would have sounded any better sober. The richer the artist the worse the music. Something to think about....

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dee Dee

I really miss Dee Dee Ramone. Of all the Ramones, Dee Dee is the one I knew best. We hung out on and off for around 25 years. It was always a pleasure to run into Dee Dee, he always had a funny story, a strange antidote, bizarre things always happened to Dee Dee. In a way he sought them out, but in another way he was just a magnet for nuts and weirdos. Dee Dee was a doer, and not in a small way. Whatever Dee Dee did, he did a lot of, good or bad. When he decided he was going to be a writer he knocked off three books in less than five years, and all three are great: Poison Heart: Surviving The Ramones (with Veronica Kofman) (Firefly, 1997, this has also been published as Lobotomy), Chelsea Horror Hotel (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2001), and Legend Of A Rock Star: The Last Testament Of Dee Dee Ramone (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002). When he got into painting he churned out hundreds of paintings (with help from wife Barbara and Paul Kostabi) we bought the one pictured above. He wrote thousands of songs. When he decided to move out of New York City, he moved dozens of times, first to Argentina, then Amsterdam, then a small town in the Netherlands, then back to New York, then upstate New York, then L.A., with Ann Arbor thrown in somewhere. He got a dog, an Airedale, it died. He got another dog, also an Airedale, it died, he got another. He couldn't figure out why they kept dying. If Joey had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Dee Dee had CCD (Compulsive Compulsive Disorder, a condition I just made up). When I went into the bar biz, Dee Dee really wanted me to do well so he offered to play (for free!) every Tuesday night. But since he'd long since stopped drinking he couldn't wait until show time and would just show up and start playing, sometimes before the audience even got there. If showtime was 9:30 he'd want to go on at eight, and sometimes did. He got Joey onstage with him, two weeks in a row, the first time they'd performed together since he'd left the Ramones eight years earlier, but everyone missed it because Dee Dee was insistent on going on so early! I don't even have a photo. When his novel Chelsea Horror Hotel came out he demanded that the book release party be held at the Lakeside (where the above photo was taken) instead of Barnes and Noble or someplace that would help sell the book. It was the last time I saw him. He sat an autographed books until he got bored, then plugged in his guitar, a rhythm section appeared and he played for an hour. He also gave me a tape of this song, I think it eventually was issued on a small label in Europe, he wanted it to be included if a film was ever made from the book that my wife co-wrote: Please Kill Me (by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil, Grove Press, 1996) in which Dee Dee plays a major (and hilarious) role. Hopefully such a movie will never be made. It's amazing that he was writing great tunes right up to the end of his life, he never lost his touch. We had a strange conversation that day, he was very bummed out by Joey's death and said something that would later haunt me. He had been clean for years and somebody at the bar offered him some dope, he declined but said, "If I ever kill myself that's how I'm going to do it, I'll shoot up ten bags". Five months later he was dead from an overdose, ten bags in the cooker. I'm sure he killed himself. Of course there was the crazy Dee Dee also, as detailed in the aforementioned PKM, and also in his own books. Chelsea Horror Hotel is an interesting look inside Dee Dee's mind. It starts off like a very well written horror story, then takes a left turn into insanity, much like Dee Dee himself. I only saw the crazy side of Dee Dee occasionally. I saw much more of his good side. He's often compared to a puppy, and that carried over to his loyal side. One story I want to share is that of a guy named Phillip Smith, a rather sleazy, low end drug dealer. Phil had lots of money and lots of coke and therefore lots of friends. Phil contracted AIDS around '90-'91 and went into Cabrini Hospital to die. It was ugly, and Phil's friends soon abandoned him, stealing everything in his apartment, etc. Except Dee Dee. Dee Dee was at the hospital almost every day for months. He gave Phil sponge baths, sang to him, brought him food and magazines and tapes. He never abandoned the guy, he was there until the bitter end. By the final days even Phil's family and girlfriend had stopped coming to the hospital but Dee Dee was loyal and stayed with Phil to the bitter end. My respect for Dee Dee jumped immeasurably. I could understand Dee Dee's freak outs and paranoia better after that, Dee Dee was willing to give a lot of himself to people and couldn't understand why they always let him down. It made him crazy. Or crazier. The only time he ever got mad at me was when he asked me to manage him and I turned him down. He already had a publishing deal and didn't want a big record deal (and couldn't have gotten one if he did) and there was little for a manager to do except babysit and/or keep him on the road touring, something he'd long burned out on after years of touring the world as a Ramone. I felt bad turning him down but as I explained he didn't need to give up 20% of his earnings to somebody who could do little to help him, I suggested he hire a good road manager to babysit. He was mad for a couple of days then forgot about it, but I felt like I let him down. I still feel guilty. One other thing I'd like to add is that by no means was Dee Dee dumb. The press, especially the British press loved to play up Dee Dee as idiot savant but it was an act. His thick Queen accent might have made him sound goofy but he mostly played dumb as a defense mechanism. It gave him a way to feel people out, to see if they'd try and put one over on him, but believe me, uneducated- yes, dumb, no way, Dee Dee didn't miss a trick. I miss running into Dee Dee on the street and hearing his latest crazy story. Or the phone calls (sometimes accidental because for years me and Joey Ramone had similar phone numbers, I was 777-9408 and Joey was 777-6881, so Dee Dee would call me by mistake and often babble for minutes before I could get a word in edgewise: Dee Dee-- "Joey, I have to talk to you, things are not right, this is fucked, we have to talk... Me--"Dee Dee, it's Jim, not Joey, you dialed the wrong number". Dee Dee-- "Jim Marshall? Sorry..." (phone hangs up). (phone rings again) Dee Dee- "Joey, this is Dee Dee... Me-- "Dee Dee, you did it again, it's Jim". Dee Dee-- "Sorry, you got any pot"? Me-- "Yeah, come on over and we'll smoke a bomber..."
Dee Dee Ramone,  he overcame tremendous odds to leave his mark on the world, but leave his mark he did.  Every time I see a Ramones t-shirt, or hear the "Hey Ho" part of Blitzkrieg Bop at a ball game, I think of Dee Dee, and how much I miss him.
The above clip is from Lech Kowalski's movie Hey! Is Dee Dee Home? a short documentary made mostly from left over interview footage from an interview Dee Dee gave Lech for his Johnny Thunders' flick. It gives a good sense of Dee Dee's personality.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It Came From Outer Space...

This is Chester. Cute little duffer, no? He showed up at our front door one day with a note taped to him that said: "I like magazines, loud noises, teeth, and stories about monkeys". The note also claimed he was from Pluto. We found a small, abandoned space ship a few blocks from our house. I know this sounds crazy, and after years of being told you are crazy you do start to wonder about yourself, but my wife agrees, this little critter seems to be trying to communicate with us. Sort of by telepathy. His favorite TV shows are Orangutan Island, Charlie Brown specials and the Teletubbies. Here's a few of his favorite records: the Ran-dells- Martian Hop, Little Ernest Tucker - Gonna Get Me A Satellite, Ray Sawyer- Rockin' Satellite, Nervous Norvus- The Fang, Bob & Jerry- Ghost Satellite , Bill Thomas- The Sputnik Story, the Equadors- Sputnik Dance ,the Roulettes- Venus Rock, Roosevelt Sykes- Satellite Baby ,Speedy West- Spacemen In Orbit ,the Medallions- Rocket Ship,Big Charles Green- Gonna Rock On The Moon Tonight, Charlie Ryan- Hot Rod Rocket , the Thunderbirds- Flyin' Saucers Rock'n'Roll, Joe Tate & his Hi-Fives- Satellite Rock , the Dovers- The Invasion , Jimmy Bryant & Speedy West- Stratosphere Boogie, the Jive 5- People From Another World , Terry Dunavan- Rock It On Mars , the Atlantics- War Of The Worlds , the Vigilantes- War Of The Satellites , the Fallouts- Satellite, Joe Meek and the Blue Men- Orbit Around The Moon , the Tornados- Life On Venus. I'd say he has pretty good taste in records, given his chartreuse Mohawk hair-do, you'd expect him to be into GBH or something. I wonder what the critter is trying to tell us?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Redd Foxx- A Funny Motherfucker

Redd Foxx. born John Elroy Sanford on Dec. 9, 1922, was as a funny motherfucker. These videos are compiled from his best LP-- You Better Wash Your Ass which was recorded live at the Apollo at the height of his Sanford & Son fame in the early 70's. He was raised in St. Louis and later Chicago where he attented DuSable High School where most of Sun Ra's Arkestra (John Gilmore, Pat Patrick, Marshall Allen) amongst others went. He never graduated. He hit New York in the late 40's and got a job washing dishes. The other dishwasher at the joint was Malcom Little, later Malcom X. Redd was known as Chicago Red, Malcom as Detroit Red. As recounted in his autobiography (The Autobiography Of Malcom X, co-written by Alex Haley, I can't find my copy but it's easy to find so you don't need the publishing info) they had some wild times together. Foxx made his name first on the chitlin' circuit, recorded dozens of LP's for the Dootone label in L.A., and became a huge draw in Vegas where stars like Frank Sinatra and Elvis showed up nightly to catch his act and be insulted. He even cut some decent R&B discs, here's one from Savoy cut in '48-- Let's Wiggle A Little Woogie, and here's one from his own Foxx label from the 80's -- Pussy Footin'. Not great but not bad at all, certainly better than anything that's hit the top ten this century. His sound didn't change much in forty years. Redd Foxx was the only entertainer invited to Elvis' wedding. Later Elvis gave him a watch worth $100,00 (in 1968 dollars), it was later sold at auction by the IRS. In the early 70's Foxx found mainstream fame on TV as Fred G. Sanford in Sanford and Son, a remake of a British show called Steptoe and Son. Fred G. Sanford was the name of his late real life brother. My favorite episode is when Fred and son Lionel (Demond Wilson) find the Blind Mellow Jelly 78's and donate them to the library, then steal them back when they find a record collector willing to pay $20 a pop for 'em. On Sanford and Son he hired many of his chitlin' circuit pals like Lawanda Page as Aunt Esther, Whitman Mayo as Grady, Slappy White as Melvin, Leroy "Sloppy" Daniels as Leroy, not to mention Stymie from the Little Rascals (Mathew Beard) who appeared in a couple of episodes as Otis Littlejohn. Foxx also made a memorable film appearance in Ossie Davis' Cotton Comes To Harlem which was based on the Chester Himes novel (with the classic evil cop duo Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, all of Himes' books are worth reading, but the Grave Digger/Coffin Ed series are essential). I saw Redd Foxx perform several times (and I hate stand up comedy) and he was one of the greatest performers I've ever witnessed. He was brutal on anyone who caught his attention, especially hecklers. The last time I saw him he walked out onstage with a breast shaped pitcher full of some sort of alcohol and quipped-- "I got this from Betty Ford". Then he looked at a guy at a front table (this was at the Desert Inn in Vegas) and said-- "Last thing I seen that ugly had a string hangin' out of it". Well, it when he said it, it was funny. Anyway, if the three clips above don't make you laugh, have somebody take your pulse, you're probably dead. Addendum: Great interview with Iggy on the subject of Ron Asheton can be heard here. Very sad, I'm not sure I ever heard Iggy cry before.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Horace Parlan

(I actually wrote this on Jan. 6th, then Ron Asheton died, which took up three blogs, then the Mickey Baker idea came to me so I shelved it. I've since reread it and decided since it's virtually impossible to find Up & Down I'd might as well post it, so as Bo Diddley's said-- "Here 'Tis"): "Shit and death are everywhere..."-- Bukowski Bill Landis, founder of Sleazoid Express died a few days ago, 49 years old, dropped dead of a heart attack. His two books-- Sleazoid Express (co-written with Michelle Clifford, Fireside, 2002) and the biography of Kenneth Anger, Anger:The Unauthorized Biography (Harper-Collins, 1995), are excellent bathroom reading (i.e., they'll make you shit, as Jerry Lewis would say).
Rev. Claude Jeter, lead singer of the incredible Swan Silvertones died a few days ago, he was in a nursing home up in the Bronx. I'd have never guessed he was still alive. He made many incredible records including this classic for the Vee Jay label: Mary Don't You Weep. I just can't bear to write any more about death right now, it's hit very close to home so many times over the last few years that I can't help but I next? I'll get to the Swan Silvertones at some future date (if I'm still here). I've decided that what this blog needs right now is life. So I closed my eyes and clicked the "shuffle" button on my Itunes (I've been running my computer through a Cayin T50 integrated tube amp and it sounds pretty good), so anyway, I decided that the first living person that comes up I will write about. Six tries later (good thing I wasn't playin' Russian roulette) the thing landed on a record that Bob Quine turned me onto, long out of print (although it was re-issued in Japan briefly in the 90's), and a real favorite of mine--- Up & Down by Horace Parlan (Blue Note) recorded in May of '61 and issued later that year, it's one of the many consummate Blue Note discs of that era. Great musicians at the top of their game, great vibe. Out of curiosity's sake I checked Ebay to see what the vinyl goes for these days and saw a copy had just sold for $200+. Somebody out there understands the value of this thing, if not the knuckleheads in charge of "catalog" at whatever multi-national now owns the Blue Note treasure chest (I no longer bother to keep informed on such things). Some background: Horace Parlan, born 1931 in Pittsburgh suffered polio as a child which affected the use of his fingers, but like Django, he did not let this stand in his way and he developed into an excellent pianist in the style known as "hard bop" (jazz critics are great for coming up with silly sub-classifications of music, in fact they invented the idea-- remember "anti-jazz" the etymological forerunner of "grindcore"?). Parlan is best known as the pianist in Charles Mingus' band during it's heyday: 1957-9. He then moved on to record as a leader for a series of eight excellent Blue Note LP's (compiled by Mosaic Records for the Complete Horace Parlan on Blue Note box set, now out of print). Parlan later worked with Lou Donaldson for a bit, joined Rahsaan Roland Kirk's band (1963-66), played with Jackie McClean (seen in the clip above, Parlan is barley visible on the piano). Horace relocated to Sweden in the sixties, later he teamed up with free jazz blower Archie Shepp for a series of duet LP's, none of which I've ever heard. Then, he seems to have disappeared from the jazz world although he is still alive, possibly still in Sweden. I imagine him like a missing character out of A.B. Spellman's Four Lives In The Be-Bop Business (Pantheon Books, 1966) scraping by in a piano bar somewhere, playing for tips to middle age, square head, drunks who have no idea of his accomplishments. Which brings us to Up & Down. Parlan's playing is nothing fancy, he was no Bud Powell, but his simple, rhythmic style had a lot of soul, he was an effective soloist and he as sympathetic an accompanist as can be heard, good thing, since the real stars of Up & Down are not leader Parlan but guitarist Grant Green and Booker Ervin on the tenor sax, the rest of the band on this session are George Tucker on bass and Al Harewood on drums. The record opens with Booker Ervin's "The Book's Beat" an extended jam on which both Green and Ervin's solos set the bar high, they're both at the peak of their powers here, and both would go on to become giants in their field. I'm especially fond of Green but that's another post, another day, when I get back to my specialty: dead guys with sad stories. But any of his early Blue Notes are worth owning, especially the ones with Sonny Clark. "Up And Down" is the only Parlan original on the set while George Tucker contributes "Fugee" and Green is credited with "The Other Part Of Town" (my favorite track, I think he means the part of town you go to to cop dope). The disc is rounded off with a sublime rendition of the linguistic genius Babs Gonzales' "Lonely One" (try and find a copy of his autobiography: i, paid my dues good Bread A Story Of Jazz...And Some Of It's Followers, Shyster Agents, Hustlers, Pimps and Prostitutes Expubidence Pub. Corp, 1967 and those aren't typos) and closes with Tommy Turrentine's "Light Blue".
The only thing more boring than writing about music is reading about it, although it can be fun to read about the characters who make those funny noises we love so much, I (and you) don't need someone to describe or analyze what you are hearing, you have ears, you can hear without somebody telling you what key or tempo the tune is in. On my copy the liner notes are in Japanese which is fine with me. The older I get, the better jazz sounds to me. There is something very special about that golden era of Blue Note records (from the early 50's to the mid 60's) from the warm clarity of Van Gelder's New Jersey studio to hep album covers. Blue Note was a class label. Maybe not $200 worth of special, but roll a spliff or pop the cork on some champagne (or whatever you do to unwind) and give old Horace a spin. It defines the word "vibe" in a way mere words never could. This is what great jazz is all about to my slowly deteriorating mind. These are sounds to dream to, pass out to, and Horace Parlan's Up & Down is a late night, dreamy classic.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Repost of Rare Stooges Photo

  left to right: Bill Cheetam, Zeke Zettner, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, Iggy Pop
Thanks to anonymous for cleaning up this rare photo of the Stooges. I think we own the only copy that exists, but since it's framed I had to re-shoot it through the frame to post it, it looks a lot better now. That's Bill Cheetam on the left, Zeke Zettner second from left, they were roadies who were briefly promoted into the guitar and bass slot for a few months in late 1970, they were replaced by James Williamson and Jimmy Recca before the band dissolved in '71 (a photo of that line up can be found on the Halloween 2 and Ron Asheton RIP postings). When the Stooges reformed in '72 to record Raw Power, Ron Asheton was moved to bass. A piano player was added after Raw Power (first Bob Scheff, late of the Prime Movers, then Scott Thurston who went on to play with Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and played guitar on Iggy's New Values LP).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ron Asheton 3: Danny Fields on Ron Asheton

If people got paid to be cool Danny Fields would be richer than Bill Gates. Danny Fields is the man who discovered the Stooges, the MC5, Ramones, and much, much, more. This was originally written in response to something that ran in a U.K. newspaper whose writer in his obit of Ron Asheton criticised Ron for collecting Nazi memorabilia (nobody ever bothers Chris Stein of Blondie about his collection....). Also they ran a second piece about Kathy Asheton, Ron's sister having to have police posted outside Ron's house to keep the scavengers away, so that is what he is referring to. It ran as a comment on a bulletin board which didn't accept photos so that's what he's writing about in the first paragraph. The photo of Danny and Ron was taken at Max's Kansas City in 1973 (I have other photos that Danny took that night where you can see Nitebob stage side but can't seem to find 'em at the moment). Thanks for letting me run this, Danny, you're a prince. The footage is from the Goosecreek Rock Fest, 1970, Dave Alexander's last gig, I added it Sunday, Jan. 11th. I'd have posted it sooner if I'd had known about it (it's from French Youtube). I wanted to put in a picture of me and Ron at Max's Kansas City, in New York, in 1973, but this space won't allow me to, and so I lost everything I just wrote. He's wearing an Eisenkreuze First Class, and I had a pack of Marlboros in my pocket. I ask you now which was more cool. Anyhow, Ron was so sweet, and this stuff is all so tacky. Yes, the press likes a fight among survivors when people die who were not quite headline-makers during their lifetimes, although Ron himself made headlines indeed in all those who loved rock and roll in its last golden age. He INVENTED the sound of rock and roll as we now know it. People who were appalled in 1968, if they are still alive, now accept the mighty contribution made by Ron Asheton and the Stooges as part of their lives. Some variation of what these guys invented is in just about every tv commercial now on the air; a weird kind of vindication, I know, but it usually takes "the world" a good 30 or 40 years to recognize something revolutionary as something that is acceptable, even quotidien. We all knew the music these guys made was EXTREMELY advanced for its time; that includes many of my colleagues back in 1968, at Elektra Records, to which I signed the band (after a phone chat with the company's president, Jac Holzman, about 18 hours after the first time I ever saw them). Remember that putatively Platonic (literally, first said by Plato) thing that went: When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake? Well, the origin of that opinion is often argued, but the truth of it is not, ever. And the "Psychedelic Stooges" certainly changed the mode of the music; the Ramones, for example, who changed it again later on in the very same evolutionary process, met each other because they were the only guys in the neighborhood who liked the Stooges albums, and so they gathered in Joey's mother's art gallery's basement to listen to it. It was the anthem of outcasts, that music, just as "I Wanna Be Your Dog" became the anthem of the so-called punk (I prefer to think of it as simply modern, the "p" word [punk, not psychedelic, but maybe both] is rather overexposed and simultaneously misunderstood. Modern will do, because the music is STILL ahead of OUR time, not to mention how despised it was 40 years ago. Today, anybody auditioning for a place in a band where a guitarist or bassist is needed, must own his or her take on "Dog." It was the first song the Sex Pistols learned and played in public, and so on and so on. By the way, please all be assured that Ron's fascination with Nazi memorabilia made him a Nazi about as much as seeing yet another version of "Dracula" will make you into a vampire, and do give that canard a rest. I wish y'all could have seen some of those leather trenchcoats he had, you'd be eating your hearts out, whatever your religion or politics--with which Ron's great taste had nothing, as far as I could tell, to do. Nevertheless, that sound it is the preferred vehicle for tv commercials (meaning that all songs should really be under thirty seconds long, but we needn't go into my quirkier opinions at this point.. Whatever, I am so proud of that band, of knowing those guys, of giving them a leg up (as if someone else would not have the next week or month), of being able to hug them all lo these many years later (one would prefer NOT to show pictures of THAT) but I can post the one where we were all younger and cuter if someone tells me how.) And so proud of that music; it will always be great. I thought Bach must have sounded like that to listeners in the 18th century, but let me outta here. This squalid quibbling about loading his guitars and Nazi medals into a truck is so beneath everything that matters. I'm sure Ron would have preferred a puzzling and clever murder, something like Colonel Mustard in the Library; though I'm not implying that he would have welcomed being murdered, or of finding the Colonel and sending him to the gallows. Still, I'm sure he would have preferred something like THAT to something like THIS. He had you know, besides the grace and talent of an angel, a super sense of humor. His loss is so sad, for art and for humanity. May he astonish the angels as he astonished us. What a beautiful guy. Peace and/or butchery, whatever, Danny Fields
Addendum To Today's Post: John Waters' Advice To Obama:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mickey "Guitar" Baker

If you asked me, and I know you didn't, but if you did, I'd say Mickey "Guitar" Baker is the greatest guitarist in rock'n'roll history. Bob Quine agreed with me. If you listen to all the tunes that accompany this bloogage you too may agree with me. In an attempt to ward off the tendency for this blog to become a mere death watch, Mickey Baker is still alive and will stay that way for at least a few more days, and hopefully a few more decades. Let's get the background out of the way so that we may get to the good stuff in what the guy on TV calls some sort of "context". Our, or at least my hero, comes into this life as McHouston Baker, born in Louisville, Kentucky on Oct. 15, 1925. He was arrested for stealing clothing at age eleven and was incarcerated in the Ridgewood Orphanage for three years where he attempted to learn to play trumpet. Upon release he worked his way north, arriving in New York City in 1945 where he took up the profession of pimping, however a beating at the hands of rival players sent him into a career detour of the equally sleazy profession of musician. Since he couldn't afford a trumpet he bought a guitar from a local pawnshop and took lessons for a year or so eventually landing a job in a group the Incomparables led by pianist Billy Valentine. Their music has been described at various times as mambo, calypso, be-bop, and according to Baker "some weird shit". The Incomparables worked their way west and somewhere in or near San Francisco, Baker had a revelation. He witnessed Pee Wee Crayton, a popular rhythm and blues guitarist who was driving the women wild in a packed club. The response to Crayton's music included babes in tight dresses showering him with bank notes while he played the guitar behind his head T-Bone Walker style. The Incomparables were getting no such response, in fact the audiences barely paid attention to their music, but Baker's revelation-- if that guy could do it, so can I, sent Baker into a totally new direction musically. He would no longer attempt to play jazz, mambo, calypso, or any weird shit. The money was in primitive, raw, blues influenced sounds, the wilder the better. And so it came to be-- Baker would invent a guitar style with the accent on wildness. By the mid 1950's Baker, a fast learner, was playing sessions all over the New York area. One of the best was for the Savoy label out in Newark where he and King Curtis (who would be another session regular) appeared on a series of instrumental sides by piano pounder Sam Price such as Bar-B-Q Sauce and Chicken Out. Sammy told me he thought Mickey was a "big mouth". He also started cutting discs under his own name, "Guitar" (with quotes) was now his middle name. It's hard to figure out the exact order of release but in the years 1955-6 MGM issued Spinnin' Rock Boogie while Rainbow put out several singles including Shake Walkin', Greasy Spoon, and Bandstand Stomp. There was also some sides released on the b-side of other discs, like Night Crawlin' on RCA's Groove subsidiary, the flipside of a Big John Greer record (Come Back Maybellene on which Baker gives his violent edge to the Chuck Berry riff). RCA's R&B subsidiaryy Groove recorded him under the name of Big Red McHouston on I'm Tired in 1956 as well as using him on many of their sessions. Baker knew instinctively just what to add to a record, whether it was the genius one note solo on the Coasters' I'm A Hog For You (Atco) or the crazed five thousand note fills on Louis Jordan's 1955 remake of Caladonia (Mercury/Wing) he left his personal stamp on each disc. He can be heard blazin' away on discs as diverse as Wilbert Harrison's Florida Special (Savoy) former Coaster Young Jessie's Hit Git & Split (Modern, heard here in an alternate take), Roy Gaines' Right Now Baby (Groove), Square Walton's Bad Hangover and Pepper Headed Woman (RCA), Eddie Riff's My Baby's Gone Away (Dover), even with rockabilly bus driver Joe Clay on You Look That Good To Me (Vik), doo wop greaseballs the Continentals' Don't Do It Baby (Jay Dee) and folk bluesman Brownie McGhee's Anna Lee (Savoy, another "Maybellene" cop). A complete session discography for Mickey Baker could fill up a medium size phone directory. It was around this time that Baker, who also gave guitar lessons to make ends meet, decided to team up musically with one of his students, the sultry Sylvia Vanderpool soon to be Sylvia Robinson when she married record biz gangster Joe Robinson (Joe would end up owning labels like All Platinum, Sugar Hill and buy the Chess catalog for a mere 3 million in the late 70's, less than half of what the Chess brothers sold it for earlier in that decade) assuring that Mickey would get no pussy out of the deal. Mickey and Sylvia hated each other, but commercially they were a winning team. After a few flops recorded for the Brooklyn based Rainbow label they were signed to RCA's Groove imprint. Mickey & Sylvia's first disc on Groove was a wild, upbeat, two guitar and washboard rocker-- No Good Lover and their second, adapted from Bo Diddley and Billy Stewart's Billy's Blues (see the Bo Diddley posting below to hear it), Love Is Strange became a smash hit. Again, the version here is an alternate take, you can here the original hit on aforementioned Bo posting. Their next disc- Dearest (with Bo playing rhythm guitar, again it's listed below) was issued on Vik as was their excellent LP-- New Sounds Of Mickey & Sylvia and several EPs. That LP featured an incredible instrumental called Shake It Up. Doc Pomus was at the session when Shake It Up was recorded and told me Mickey was in a particularly foul mood that day. Eventually Mickey & Sylvia's records grew softer and stopped selling, Mickey attempted to replace Sylvia with somebody named Kitty, recording for Atlantic a version of St. Louis Blues that failed to sell. Atlantic also issued a Mickey Baker solo LP, titled, appropriately enough The Wildest Guitar. On said disc Mickey shows the influence of Les Paul (try to get a stereo copy to hear the full effect), albeit, a twisted Les Paul, as he works his unique magic on standards like the Third Man Theme, Old Devil Moon and Milk Train. While not the wild rock'n'roll of his early 45's, it's a great album none the less, and rare too, since nobody bought it. That mattered little as the live work with Sylvia was lucrative and he was now New York's most in demand rock'n'roll session guitarist. Another steady source of income came with series of instructional guitar booklets he wrote and published such as the one pictured above. These became his main source of income. I have learned all nine chords in the above book and they work if you put 'em in the right order (three at a time is all you need). They're the only guitar books I've ever read that make any sense at all when it comes to playing rock'n'roll. By the early sixties it's was over for Mickey Baker and not just in rock'n'roll but in America itself. He moved to Paris in 1962 and has since rarely returned to the States. Since relocating he has cut records with Champion Jack Dupree and returned to what he'd always badly wanted to do--- play jazz. And he does, that is, play jazz badly. The greatest rock'n'roll guitar player in the world is one of the worst jazz guitar players in France. He released a few medicore discs before dropping from sight completely. He was last seen in New York City after the movie Dirty Dancing (1987) had made Love Is Strange a minor hit again, evidently he quietly slipped in and out of the country in a few days time. There's a rumor that he left the States after a row over his part of the copyright of Love Is Strange (which he shared with Bo Diddley although one Ethyl Smith is credited on the label) with a mobster, whom, since he's still alive I'll refer to only as "the Big Guy". It could even be true, who knows at this point? Only Mickey and the Big Guy, and neither of them are talking. For those who still buy CD's Rev-O-La has issued an excellent 31 song career retrospective called Mickey Baker In The 50's: Hit, Git & Split while the German Bear Family label has a double CD representing the almost complete works of Mickey & Sylvia-- Love Is Strange and a set of his early solo discs with some Mickey & Sylvia outtakes thrown in entitled Rock With A Sock. There are worse ways to blow your money than this. Last spring I was in Paris, just wandering around and every cafe I saw I'd scan the heads looking for a light skinned black man with reddish hair, knowing that somewhere in that city, Mickey Baker, middle name "Guitar", failed pimp, failed jazzman and the greatest rock'n'roll guitarist of them all, is living out his final years. I'll bet he's got some stories to tell..... Addendum To Today's Post Auteur Ray Dennis Steckler passed away yesterday. He directed and produced such cinematic classics as Wild Guitar (1962), The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies (1964), Rat Fink and Boo Boo (1966), amongst other great films, his last was Summer Of Fun in 1997, he was also the cinematographer on Tim Carey's The World's Greatest Sinner (1962), possibly the greatest movie ever made. Addendum #2: To see what James Williamson, who played guitar on the Stooges' Raw Power and Metallic K.O. and produced Iggy's New Values and Kill City has been up to scroll down to the third entry on this page. Thanks to former Stooges' soundman, Nitebob for pointing this one out.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ron Asheton 2

As details emerge over the tragic death of the Stooges' Ron Asheton I thought I'd post these pictures, taken by my wife Gillian McCain around 1994 at Ron's house in Ann Arbor. That's probably the chair he died in. Notice the hand grenade on the table behind him. I'm not sure what type of gun that is. Since his passing his sister Kathy has had police posted outside the house (which is the house all three Ashetons grew up in, Ron, brother Scott aka Rock Action (here's an unissued Stooges tune circa '74 that bears his name); the Stooges drummer and sister Kathy). Evidently people have been attempting to remove his guitars, including his personal roadie (who was probably just trying to move them to a safe place, but who knows?). Anyway,I thought some of you would like these pix while I work on the next couple of blog subjects, I got a bit behind this week after being sick and then throwing my back out. Check back for something really special in a day or so.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ron Asheton RIP

It's Tues. Morning, Jan. 6th, 10 AM NYC time. I just got word from my friend Michelle in Michigan that the great Ron Asheton passed away. Age 60. I'm in total shock. I'm re posting my Oct. Stooges posting because it's got some rare photos and rare tunes. One thing I mixed up back in Oct. In the bottom photo it's Bill Cheetam on the far left, Zeke Zettner second from left. Give a listen to the two takes of Jr. Kimbrough's You Better Run posted below. Pull out the Funhouse box. He changed the world with three chords and a Maltese cross. R.I.P.
I also wanted to mention Ron acted in five horror movies (his filmography can be found here) including a memorable appearance as a park ranger in the Mosquito (1995) which shows up on late night cable now and then. I've also added a picture disc 45 that Ron autographed for me for you handwriting freaks. Also, the Ron Asheton signature guitar can be found here. Ron's last TV appearance (MTV) is here: Halloween marks the forty first anniversary of the first Stooges show. As unlikely as it would have sounded at the time of their first show, they're still out there and despite a 29 year sabbatical, still the best rock'n'roll band on the road.
Rock'n'roll re-unions, at best are disappointing (the Velvet Underground), and usually just plain suck (the Byrds, New York Dolls), but the Stooges are always the exception to the rule, Hell, I've seen 'em three times since they've reformed and they were no less than great each time. Who would have imagined it? Hearing them on TV commercials doesn't bother me, I don't begrudge 'em a cent, hell Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Jimmy Reed all did commercials. Good enough for Jimmy Reed, good enough for anybody. I even like the Stooges last LP The Weirdness which nobody likes, but nobody ever likes their albums until they're twenty years old. There's not much left to say about the Stooges, but here's some rare sounds and pics for you. First off are two takes of Junior Kimbrough's "You Better Run" recorded for a tribute to Junior Kimbrough LP (which I've never seen, was it even released?). First one is here and the second take is here. Iggy really sounds like he's having fun, especially on the spoken part which he copies from Kimbrough's original verbatim.
If you missed the Funhouse Sessions seven CD box you really missed something great. I bought three copies but gave two of 'em away. From the first session from that classic set here's the very first take of "Down On The Street" and here's the first take of" Funhouse". There's more than twenty takes of some tunes, even two takes of "LA Blues". How did they decide which one was the keeper? Even the studio chatter is interesting. The box is worth killing for in my opinion. It's nice to have the whole mess on the hard drive so the various takes show up when I leave the box on shuffle. I'm constantly getting up to check the computer screen-- "Loose take 17", gotta remember that one", then I forget which take it was and what was different about it (some have completely different lyrics). The weird thing about the box is that since Ron overdubbed a second guitar part on the first three tunes, sp we never actually here the issued versions of "Down On The Street", "Loose" and "TV Eye". The issued takes are present but without the overdubs.
More Stooges tidbits-- The first LP has been re-issued with the John Cale mix thrown in as bonus tracks. Iggy's mix is better but it's fun to hear. I'll post some of those tunes some day. Speaking of mixes, Sundazed has re-issued the 45 version of "Search & Destroy" b/w "Penetration" which is still the best mix of any Raw Power tracks. I hated Iggy's remix of Raw Power (Ron agreed with me), all the Ig did was remove the effects from Williamson's guitar and make his own voice louder (and let the fades play through to the endings). I thought the one thing Bowie got right were the vocals and guitars, all Raw Power needed was for the bass and drums to be turned up. So you still need your old vinyl copy. The bass and drums are audible on the WABX tapes but the sound quality on those bootlegs are so lousy I can't recommend 'em.
Paul Trynka's bio Iggy: Open Up and Bleed (Broadway Books, 2007) is a hoot and well worth reading. Much better than Joe Ambrose's awful bio (the first edition of which was pulled from the market due to plagiarism, he literally stole about 1/3rd of it from Please Kill Me, uncredited). Ambrose hates Funhouse, so why bother writing an Iggy bio? He's practically illiterate, did none of his own research and has awful taste in music. It may be the lamest book ever published about a major musical figure, and that's saying something. Trynka's book however is extremely well researched and full of fun gossip, my favorite parts are Iggy's crazy sabbatical in Haiti, and the entire story of the recording of New Values (Williamson producing at gunpoint!).
The video clip of course is from the tv show Midsummer's Night Rock which aired in 1970. I saw it then, at age 11, and it was a galvanizing, life changing moment. It took a couple of years to track down their first two LP's (which I eventually got for .39 cents in a department store bargin bin along with the first Mc5 album) but from that first glimpse of them on TV I knew the Stooges were what rock'n'roll was all about.
The two bottom photos show the Stooges in odd line ups. The top photo is the Stooges in '71 with James Williamson (center) and Jimmy Recca (second from left) added to the band on guitar and bass respectively. Recca would later play with Ron Asheton in a band called New Order (not the English disco group). Williamson (who came into the Stooges from a band called the Chosen Few with a detour to reform school in between) would make a power play and force Asheton to bass when they reformed the band in '72. The bottom photo shows the group in late 1970 with members of the road crew, the late Zeke Zetner and Bill Cheetam in the line up. I'm not sure which one played guitar and which one played bass but Zetner is on the far left, Cheetam second from left. Since my wife got the photo framed before I could make a copy I re-shot it through the frame. We have another photo from the same session that's not framed that I may post some day. Since we seem to have the only copies of these photos that exist if you use them without permission I'll know where you stole 'em from.
Back in the early 70's in wasn't so much that the Stooges were unknown so much as they were utterly hated. If you met another Stooges fan back then chances are you'd be friends for life. Most of my oldest friends were people I bonded with over the Stooges.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Johnny Otis part two: Black Comedy LP covers

These are some of my favorite album covers. They are all issued on the Laff label in the 1960's, and all are recorded live in night clubs and feature the Johnny Otis Show as the backing band. Honestly, the covers are the best part. Pardon the crummy reproductions, the LP covers are too big for my scanner so I had to photograph them using existing light. Since I don't have a great camera, the flash would cause a ugly glare on the reproduced image or else get kinda fuzzy. You still can see them and I assume you get the idea. Or you don't. I hope you agree with me that as "art" they are infinitely more interesting than anything such big buck art frauds like Julien "I'm fat but I'm hairy" Schnabel, Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons have ever produced. Listening wise they don't hold up as well as their covers, here's the best track, Skillet & Leroy's The Republicans 23rd Psalm/The Boss. These LP covers were all designed by Howard Goldstein with photography by Bud Fraker. Unfortunately, one of the best covers-- Skillet & Leroy's The Okra Eaters I no longer own as Lester Bangs borrowed it from me back in '81 then promptly dropped dead two days later*. John Morthland who was the executor of Lester's estate refused to give it back to me when I asked for it, along with a book he borrowed: Persecuted Prophets by Karen W. Carden and Robert W. Pelton (A.S. Barnes, 1976) about Kentucky snake-handling religious cults. The book I've replaced, the LP eludes me still, 27 years later (partially due to my refusal to pay more than $10 for a copy). I don't know if Mr. Goldstein or Mr. Fraker are still alive but their work together deserve a retrospective at Moma (Museum Of Modern Art) or at least the Whitney. Art, politics, religion, music, medicine, literature, history, let's face it, they are all just branches of Show Biz. And American Show Biz was invented by P.T. Barnum. Need I say more? * I think it's funny there's someone out there bragging about "having Lester Bangs' copy of Metal Machine Music" and evidently paying big bucks for it. Lester owned over one hundred copies of MMM at the time of his death, including two copies I sold him when I ran into him on Astor Place where I was hawking promos a week before his death. Evidently someone is selling them for highly inflated prices as "Lester's personal copy". I'll bet all together he went through 2-300 copies (he was also always giving them away to folks who missed it the first time around in '75). A copy of MMM that wasn't owned by Lester is probably rarer than one that was.

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra
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