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Gilbert Klein

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About Gilbert Klein

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  1. If you think of rock music as a house with many rooms, we’re going to open a creaky door into a dusty room that was once a popular party space, but hasn’t seen much activity for almost fifty years, since the time of the hippies. It was so exciting, only partly because of all the new music that came out. It was as much of a massive cultural shift as you’ve gotten tired of hearing, but it was the music…. The music was for us. After the Beatles and Stones had their pop phases, a new wave of artists crossed the pond, and among them was someone who had a great impact on me. I loved him; I waited for his music to come on, I grooved to him, and then he was gone. I have something a little special planned for next month, but for the nonce, we visit a barely-remembered but much-beloved footnote in rock history. Well, okay- much beloved by me, if you have to ask, but footnotes are fun. And if this guy ever comes up on Final Jeopardy, you’ll be ready. I know, I know, I know. I know. There are those who missed the 60’s, there are those who miss the 60’s, and there are those who never want to hear another fucking word about that over-exposed, over-analyzed and over-praised god-forsaken decade. Well, settle down out there, as we here at The Music In Me Headquarters are about to reminisce with you about someone who’s been called “a man with an interesting story to tell.” Well, he’s not here today, so I’ll tell it for him. To whit: Singles? We didn’t have no stinkin’ singles. Of course, I don’t know if anyone still listens to the radio, but the selection of songs and artists you might hear on the internet today has exploded into uncountable options, but in 1968 the selection was limited to several dozen artists who dominated the airwaves, and among those acts was Terry Reid, of whom Robert Plant said, "Terry was probably the best singer of that period." Reid had a sexy, rasping tone that sounded at once intimate and dangerous. His riffs were simple, direct, and his songs rocked with an attitude that said he knew whatever he was singing about: he’d lived it and he felt it. He was young, he was dangerous, he was real, he was confident, and I believed him. He was all over the FM radio back then, but if I don’t tell you about him, who will? Reid quit school at fifteen and played anywhere that they let his band play. You know- the early days. He was spotted by a touring act and the next year his band opened for the Rolling Stones. Graham Nash of The Hollies was at a Stones show at the Royal Albert Hall, saw them, and got them a contract. But the single failed and the band broke up. He was then found by famous record producer Mickie Most, who was a partner with the infamous Peter Grant. Reid put together a group with a drummer and an organist, a modestly successful single was issued, but the album tanked. A tour had been booked to push the album, but it was in the United States where Reid found an audience when they opened for Cream, and this is where it gets interesting. The aforementioned Peter Grant managed guitarist Jimmy Page, whose group, The Yardbirds, had just disbanded, leaving Page with rights to the name, but he needed some band members for a Scandinavian tour that had been booked. He was looking for a guitar-playing vocalist and wanted Reid, but Reid was already under contract for two tours with the Stones and one more with Cream. He told Page that he’d like to be in the new group, tentatively titled the New Yardbirds, but he a needed two things from Page before he’d sign: He wanted to be paid not only for the gigs he’d work, but also for the gigs he’d miss, and he wanted Page to call Keith Richards to explain why he was backing out of his contract. Peter Grant refused to do that, so Reid was out, but not before Page asked him if he could recommend another singer. A local group named the Band of Joy had a singer that had impressed Reid, and he recommended that Page check him out, and the drummer was really good, too. The singer was Robert Plant and the drummer was John Bonham. John Paul Jones was asked to play bass because he was a session musician that Page had worked with and felt was talented. They got together, rehearsed, changed their name to Led Zeppelin and went out on tour. So: good for all those guys, not so much for Terry. Unfortunately, none of the raves from music critics after any of those tours helped Reid all that much, and he drifted in obscurity until the singer from Deep Purple left the band, and they offered the spot to Reid. Again, Reid was tied to contracts and was unable to accept, and he went further into obscurity. So 1968 wasn’t such a good year for Terry Reid. In 1969 Reid opened for Jethro Tull and Fleetwood Mac, but his records were ignored and I never heard anything about him after the infamous 1969 Rolling Stones tour, the one that ended at Altamont Speedway, but Reid was off the tour by then. Once off the tour and disappointed in his lack of charting success, Reid fell out with producer Mickey Most, who wanted Reid to follow his formula, demanding that Reid stop rocking and start crooning. Mining his waning popularity, Reid’s brief tours were most effective in the U.S. Playing sporadic dates while waiting for the outcome of his lawsuit over his contract with Most, he returned briefly to Great Britain to perform at the Isle of Wight Festival, and after the lawsuit, Reid fell deeply into obscurity, where he remains until this day. But not for me. When the spliffs get passed around and the music gets serious and conversation turns to nostalgia, I am apt to bring up Terry Reid, whom of course, none of my younger friends know. But a few years ago those ramblings about the past paid a dividend. In 2004, my pal Eddy had a club in LA and knew what the what was in that town, and he called me one night and said, “Hey, remember that guy you used to talk about? Terry Reid?” Yeah, I remembered, and lo, Eddy told me that Terry Reid was playing with a pickup band Monday nights in a dive bar in West Hollywood, and I should come up and see him. Yeah, I said I would, and then it got better. His pick-up band had different players each week, but they were all the best players in town, the stars and the session players, and it was the place to be in LA on Monday nights. Well, I didn’t much care which was the place to be, but wherever Terry Reid was playing was where I wanted to be. It was less than a three-hour drive to the club, so I drove up and Eddy and I went out for dinner and over to The Joint on Pico Blvd in West L.A. It wasn’t so much a Terry Reid gig as a pickup gig. Yes, Reid was the singer every Monday, but it was more of a jam among friends, musicians who look for a place to play for fun, and this was the spot for the hot session guys in L.A. Yeah, I was going! The band was put together and led each week by Waddy Wachtel, who readers of liner notes will recognize from playing with Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks, Keith Richards, James Taylor, Iggy Pop, Warren Zevon, Bryan Ferry, Joe Walsh, Jackson Browne, Andrew Gold, and others, plus much work on film scores. Waddy Wachtel is a heavy. That night the band featured Bernard Fowler, who I knew as a singer from previous Stones tours, plus Waddy Wachtel, Rick Rosas, a legendary session player with Neil Young, and I can’t remember the name of the drummer. The band was great, just great musicians, all of them. They were a treat. This was rock and roll played the way I like it: great musicians in a small club. Yes, rock stars can make a lot of money and live well, but those on the fringe or those who hadn’t had ongoing success might be worse for wear, and so it was. It was a disappointment. Maybe it was me. I mean, the musicians were great, the music was great, the songs were classic and bluesy and rhythm & bluesy, standards, pop, a cheesy hit or two, and altogether the band was clearly enjoying themselves. Well, we knew they weren’t there for the money, and this is always the best way to see live rock ‘n’ roll: played by masters for fun. But it looked like Terry Reid had had some hard years, and I guess I was looking for something from the past. Because, y’know… the past. Now he was sort of… puffy. He looked a bit bloated in a sharkskin suit that didn’t quite fit. And a pork pie hat. You know, a snap brim. Okay, it was a trilby. But the puffiness… you know how drinkers look. I didn’t know what to think then, and I’m still unsure about what I wanted from Terry Reid. I was glad he was alive, I was glad he had such impressive friends who wanted to play with him. I think I just wanted more. Pop songs, some hits, some blues and some rhythm and blues. Everyone was into it, and so was the crowd of maybe twenty-five people. He was having a good time, and in the end, that is what I took away. I’m sure the problem was with me. We had both aged over forty years and neither of us had what we had in 1968. The rasp was there , but the swagger was not. He hadn’t weathered the past well and I should not have had the expectations I had, but he’d been so dynamic back then. Maybe I shouldn’t have been disappointed. I had I good time and saw some great music, right? Reid was a shooting star: observed by few, of little discernible impact, but a wonder when seen. I have to say I’m really sorry I never heard more from him, and when I did, I wish I could say it was on a comeback. Maybe I wanted too much from him that night in LA, but I wanted more. I wanted him to be dynamic, impressive, not just good. I wanted to be transported, not pleased. Know what else I want? I want world peace, a steamer trunk full of fifties and a girlfriend named Lola. Although you might not have heard of him, Reid hasn’t been idle since his heyday in 1968. His 1973 album River has received some glowing reviews, but again, scant album sales. Since his heyday, Reid has accumulated an impressive list of credits as a player on other people’s albums, as a composer of songs for other artists and for film soundtracks, and as a player on the club circuit. There are simply too many credits to list here, and many of them are impressive, so here’s Terry Reid's Wikipedia page for you to peruse as your interest dictates: Here’s Reid’s website: Terry Reid And perhaps you know about Marc Maron’s podcast, WTF, and here is terry Reid in 2016 on WTF: Now, how about seeing and hearing what I’ve been talking about: Bang Bang: YouTube Link Superlungs: YouTube Link Season of the Witch: YouTube Link Soulful singing on his second album: Stay With Me Baby: YouTube Link I’d always thought rockers were his strengths, but you, like I did, may find otherwise. Checkout the trailer for the Superlungs documentary about Terry Reid. Looks really good. - Editor Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  2. The Music In Me: Juan Carrión

    Just last month, Juan Carrión died at 93, and why that should concern you is an interesting piece of rock ‘n’ roll trivia. In 1966, Carrión was teaching English in a high school in southern Spain. Knowing that he needed to keep his students motivated to learn the language, he came up with a plan: as the Beatles were hugely popular in Spain and all his students loved and talked about them, he started teaching them the lyrics to Beatles songs as a way to learn English. It was a big success except for one small detail: he couldn’t always figure out what the Beatles were saying in their songs. Please note that at the time, no rock bands were including the lyrics to the songs on their albums. Like, none of them. I think. Well, certainly not the Beatles. No, no one else. I think. Señor Carrión wrote out the lyrics as best as he could understand them, but he was a dedicated teacher and he wanted all the words. This was before the internet, where everything is available, so he decided to write to John Lennon, sending the lyrics he knew, leaving out what he didn’t know, and asking Lennon to fill in the blanks. Considering the hundreds of pounds of fan mail the group received daily, he was not surprised that Lennon never replied. But he was determined, and when he heard that Lennon himself was coming to Spain to film “How I Won The War,” he bought a bus ticket to Almería, two hours away, where Lennon was filming, and with his clothes and sundries, he packed the notebook with the blanks where words should be. As you might surmise, public school teachers in Spain don’t get paid a lot. Carrión had little money, so the bus ride was almost all he could afford; with enough cash for some food, some wine and a week’s lodgings, he settled in to some cheap accommodations and started asking around as to where he might run into Lennon. Following a tip, he went to a bar where he met Les Anthony, who was Lennon’s bodyguard and driver. A friendship was quickly struck and Carrión explained what he was doing there and handed the lyric sheets to him, asking him to give them to Lennon. It took almost the whole week, but Carrión got to meet Lennon, they chatted for about a half-hour and got on well. So well, in fact, that Lennon made three promises to Carrión: one was that he would mail Carrión the lyrics to Beatles songs before they were released on albums, that he would publish the lyrics on future Beatles albums, and that he would come to Cartegena to visit Carrion at his school to meet his students. The lyrics did indeed appear on the next Beatles album, which was Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and on all the subsequent Beatles albums. Carrión and Lennon kept up a correspondence and the lyrics kept coming for almost three years, until Yoko Ono came aboard, the band broke up, and Lennon died before fulfilling his third promise. When Carrión died in September, dozens of his students from the 1960’s came to say good-bye, and several who were interviewed about his passing indicated that they also had become English teachers. I like to think about how it must have felt to be in a small class in southern Spain, reading the lyrics of the songs from the most famous music group in the world before anyone else in the world had seen them. “How I Won the War” was a flop in theatrical distribution, but while he was filming in Spain, Lennon wrote “Strawberry Fields.” And the next time you go to an album, google or Wikipedia to look up the lyrics for a song you like, and they’re there, you have Juan Carrión to thank. Yeah, I’m going to think about being in that class the next time I hear, “Let me take you down…” R.I.P. and gracias, Señor Carrión. Odds and Ends There are some fun things and oddities wandering around in my brain. I suppose you have them, too. Here are some of mine. Roy Orbison was having a middling career despite what everyone later acknowledged was an excellent singing voice and an impressive vocal range. I mean, he could sing like nobody’s business, but that slightly pudgy guy with the thick glasses and black frames just wasn’t setting the girl’s hearts afire. Then there was the show where he was about to go onstage and he couldn’t find his glasses. He told his manager he needed them to go on, so his manager looked, too, but no glasses were to be found. They looked and looked and… where were they? As we know, the show must go on, and his manager told him to go on wearing his sunglasses instead, as they were in his prescription. He went on and the girls started screaming. He was a lot sexier with those shades, y’know, like a bad boy, and they helped make him a star, and if you’ll notice, anytime Orbison’s on stage he’s wearing shades. Elvis Presley hadn’t impressed Sam Phillips when he came in to cut two songs for his mother’s birthday. In fact, Phillips didn’t even remember Presley when a few months later the singer for a demo date cancelled with the guitar and bass already there and about to be paid for nothing. Phillips secretary was the one who remembered the truck-driving kid with the sideburns and Presley’s recording career was set in motion with two recordings of country standards, “That’s All Right, Mama,” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” But he still wasn’t a performer and had no idea of his power until one of his earliest shows. Phillips put the guitarist and the bass player together to form “The Blue Moon Boy and his Hillbilly Cats,” and it was after their second show when they got offstage, Elvis asked his guitarist why the girls were screaming. The guitarist, Scotty Moore told him that it was his left leg. He’d been so nervous his leg was shaking and the girls thought he was doing it on purpose and they loved it, so Elvis kept those gyrations in his act. Nat Cole was the piano player in a combo until one night the singer didn’t show up. Rather than cancel the gig and lose the dough, Nat “King” Cole sang that night, the crowd was blown away at his warm, sensuous tones, and he never looked back. And his daughter, Natalie Cole, was a pretty good singer, too. One night while onstage, Chuck Berry slipped , but caught himself before he went down, the crowd thought it was part of his act, and so that became a Chuck Berry trademark: the duckwalk.
  3. Article: Meet the… BG?

    Here, here to Peter Green!
  4. Meet the… BG?

    This isn’t the story I was going to write. I was watching a BBC program on the making of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and I heard a sound that made me think of something else. “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” were recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, but not used for the album. It was the vocal track for “Strawberry Fields Forever” that struck me, and I thought about where I’d heard that sound before. Where was it…? (sound of harp strumming and wavy dissolve) Ed Sullivan had landed in London one afternoon in late 1963 and was amazed by the thousands of screaming teenagers who’d come to the airport to welcome home a rock group. Okay, he’d seen mobs at an Elvis show, but… the airport? In England? Always attuned to potential bookings for his show, Sullivan asked about them, then booked them for the following February, and so many teens tuned in to the Sullivan show that night that it set viewing records that weren’t beaten until M*A*S*H went off the air. I think you have to understand the context. The context was everything because the music was everything as 1964 saw the first wave of the British Invasion. The Beatles had opened the floodgates and many bands that followed were good, some were great, and almost all of them were exciting. But the Beatles led the pack and for a period they had the top five positions on the singles charts, a feat never since duplicated. Everyone at my school and everyone at every other school knew about them. The Beatles were something important, they were coming, and we all got the memo, which was: Watch! And 73 million people did. (And parents started freaking out. If you’ll allow me a brief digression: At my school soon after the Beatles’ first appearance on the Sullivan show, Little Bill Miller was a junior and had hair maybe a quarter-inch over his ear until the Vice Principal, Mr. Canosa (remember him, Abbi?) came into Little Bill’s Social Studies class and took him downtown to the barber shop and paid for his haircut. Yup, that happened, and it was starting to happen all over America. And yes, there was a Big Bill, he was a senior.) Their first album released here was “Meet The Beatles.” The music was poppy and excellent, but then the experimentation started with Rubber Soul, and we kept up. At that point anything could happen. We studied the covers of their albums, we listened carefully, looking for clues and hidden gems. The Beatles were playful and we paid attention. By Rubber Soul, album cuts had our interest rather than the singles. We were all smoking pot and some were taking LSD, and if you looked at their recent photos, they were, too. We heard about them on the news and in the music mags, and we paid attention. We were all up-to-date with whatever news came out, but after Revolver, there hadn’t been any news. None. Total blackout. We knew they were in the studio, we knew they were getting more “out there” and we wanted to go with them, but it was taking a long time. And that was it. If you think the anticipation over the newest iPhone is intense, you have no idea. We had grown, and to some measureable extent, they had led the way. We wanted more; we were starved for new Beatles material. To say we waited for their next release doesn’t do justice to our interest. We were avid collectors of Beatles news and rumors; we traded them and discussed them. Some of us were perfervid, man! In August of 1966, The Beatles had upped the strangeness with Revolver, whose singles were “Yellow Submarine” and “Eleanor Rigby” only one record on sides A & B. Then nothing for seven months! We were waiting. And then they put out “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” and we settled in for another long wait until another song hit the radio waves. It had to be the Beatles, but no one was saying who it was. But- just listen! The vocal on “Strawberry Fields Forever” sounded like it was recorded in a cave, and so did this one! It had to be the Beatles- but the DJs said they didn’t know who it was, and all they told us was that the record had come in with a blank label with only “BG” on it. Speculation was rife that BG stood for Beatles Group. They liked to play with us, remember? And it sounded like them! And then we heard that the group was managed by Brian Epstein, who everyone knew was the manager of the Beatles!. And it was a bit eerie, so yeah, it had to be the Beatles. Who else could it be? The song was “New York Mining Disaster, 1941.” This is what happened: Ever hear of Robert Stigwood? He produced music and later, films, and he was a very big deal in 1966, which was when the Beatles stopped touring. In 1967, Stigwood made a management deal with Brian Epstein and used his connections and his PR wiles to introduce his new group from Australia. BG was the Bee Gees, which we later found out stood for the Brothers Gibb, and you know all about them now. So in 1967 the culture had formed around the music and we were letting our hair grow, smoking pot, decorating our rooms with psychedelic posters and all the rest, and we listened to the underground, free-form radio station that played the hip new music. It was ritualistic, it really was. Music was our religion and songs were our mantras; radio was the soundtrack and albums were the doctrines we studied. We were serious about it, so when we heard this new song… Everyone listened to it, studied it, sang it, and wondered who it was. It was a huge mystery. Yeah, we talked about it! It was a brilliant strategy, friends, and this was how everyone in America met the Bee Gees, who most people now only know from their disco days. Everyone knows them now, and “New York Mining Disaster, 1941” was their first American release. They followed it with some wonderful music that I hope you know- songs like “I Can’t See Nobody,” “To love Somebody” and “Holiday.” But this was about their first release and how they did it. Robin Gibb recalled: "We recorded this at London's IBC studio because it was dark and emulated a mining shaft. The result was a very lonely sound.” Barry and Robin Gibb wrote the song while sitting on a darkened staircase following a power cut, and the echo of the passing elevator inspired them to imagine that they were trapped in a mine. The song recounts the story of a miner trapped in a cave-in. He is sharing a photo of his wife with a colleague while they wait to be rescued. According to the liner notes for their box-set Tales from the Brothers Gibb (1990), this song was inspired by the 1966 Aberfan mining disaster in Wales. According to Robin, there actually had also been a mining disaster in New York in 1939, but not in 1941. The song begins in the chord of A minor; but as Maurice Gibb explained: "There's a lot of weird sounds on this song like the Jew's harp, the string quartet, and of course the special way that Barry plays that guitar chord. Because of his tuning when he plays the minor at the beginning of the song which is different from a conventional A minor, it's a nice mixture when I play my conventional tuning together with Barry's tuning because his open D and mine are different." Barry said, "It's Hawaiian tuning, there they play the same way I do. I got a guitar for my ninth birthday and the guy who lived across the road from us just came back from Hawaii and he was the one who taught me that tuning, that's how it started and I never changed.” Maurice Gibb recalled: "The opening chord doesn't sound like a conventional A minor. Barry was using the open D tuning he'd been taught when he was nine, and I was playing it in conventional tuning. It gives an unusual blend. People went crazy trying to figure out why they couldn't copy it.” Robin Gibb said: "...all the DJs on radio stations in the US picked it up immediately thinking it was the Beatles, and it was a hit on that basis. It established us in those early years. It helped our following record which was nothing like the Beatles.” Fun Facts: Paul McCartney said: "It was the 'Mining Disaster' song that [manager Robert Stigwood] played me. I said 'sign them, they're great!' And they went on to be even greater.” The 1969 David Bowie song "Space Oddity" owes a debt to the style, arrangement and lyrics of "New York Mining Disaster, 1941." Like that song, "Space Oddity" is about a trapped man who is doomed to die, and the song is similarly structured as a series of statements addressed to another person. "'Space Oddity' was a Bee Gees type song," Bowie’s colleague John "Hutch" Hutchinson has said. "David knew it, and he said so at the time. The way he sang it, it’s a Bee Gees thing. As Marc Bolan (T. Rex) explained: "I remember David playing me 'Space Oddity' in his room and I loved it and he said he needed a sound like the Bee Gees, who were very big then." Atco retitled the song "New York Mining Disaster, 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones?)" to make sure people could find it in the shops. When a music magazine reported "widespread rumors" that this song had been written by Lennon and McCartney, Robin Gibb said, "Rubbish! We've always written our own songs. I've been writing since I was ten, before Lennon and McCartney were even on stage. People can say what they like. If they don't believe us, they can ask The Beatles." The song is unusual in that the lyrics do not contain the song's title, though the originally planned title, "Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones," does appear in the chorus. Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison met Maurice Gibb at a party several years later, and told him that he had bought a copy of "New York Mining Disaster, 1941" because he thought it sounded so much like The Beatles. Maurice's response to Harrison was that the resemblance "was unintentional" and Harrison said, "I knew that, I admire your work.” Barry Gibb explained about this song: "If you sounded like the Beatles and also could write a hit single, then the hype machine would go into action, and your company would make sure people thought you sounded like the Beatles or thought you were the Beatles. And that sold you, attracted attention to you. It was good for us because everyone thought it was The Beatles under a different name. Bassist Maurice Gibb, though, had previously said that "New York Mining Disaster, 1941" was in fact influenced by the Beatles, said, "New York Mining Disaster, 1941" was a total rip-off of The Beatles, we were so influenced by them. In fact it started a mystery [in the USA] about us, because they started playing [it] and saying, 'They're this new group from England that begins with a B and finished with an s' so they all said, 'Ah, it's The Beatles, not naming it, they're doing that trick again.' The disc jockey would play it and play it and play it and, 'Guess who it is?' and people would guess, and they wouldn't get the answer. To us it was an honor, to actually think we were as good as The Beatles. Gibb also said the success of this song owes a lot more to the perseverance of Robert Stigwood than he has previously been given credit for. "We had quite a hard time at getting the Bee Gees played. We weren't all totally convinced that Stigwood was picking the right song to plug, but at the end of the day, he was a forceful character. All of these guys were... Chas Chandler (manager of Jimi Hendrix) was the same, Kit Lambert (manager of The Who) was the same. They all argued their case with passion, you know, they lived it, they were like that." For fun, here are The Bee Gees in 1963 singing “Blowin’ In The Wind.” Bee Gees “Time’s Passing By” from 1960. Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  5. Article: Meet the… BG?

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  6. Article: An Even Whiter Shade of Pale

    You are close, JoseL. The answer is kind of in the article, but you had to be there to know it. Or had a friend who was there. How about this: I'll come back in two weeks and tell y'all, giving some people a chance to earn those free drinks. And something I forget to do: thanks to all of you who've been so supportive and said such nice things about the column. I read them and they mean alot to me, but I always forget to reply. And one other thing I didn't put in the article: I was freakin' awful that day at the Chelsea Hotel, but I got better and played adequately in my next band, 22 years later. Someone put us on YouTube...
  7. Article: An Even Whiter Shade of Pale

    Close. Should I post the answer here or in the next article?
  8. View full article
  9. An Even Whiter Shade of Pale

    Once again I expose my sordid past for your amusement and edification. Maybe you’re tired of hearing about the damn Sixties. I understand that, but I don’t care. Maybe this one’s too obscure for some of you but I doubt it. Everyone knows it, but no one knows what it’s about. It’s a classic song, d-d-dammit, and you’re gonna learn something. And afterwards, besides amazing your easily impressed friends, this is going to kill the next time you’re at a karaoke bar. Everyone who listened to radio knew it, and most of the people who collected records had this one. If I remember correctly (sometimes I do!), this was a song that we didn’t always sing along to, sometimes we’d just listen. It put us in a melancholy, wistful mood, and we all seemed to take the song personally. It’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” by Procol Harum. It was one of the hippest records around and no one knew what it was about. But it sounded so cool… and that legendary organ break! Classic Hammond organ through a Leslie speaker. It was fifty years ago next month, or maybe the month after. I’d just gotten back from California and was living in my parents’ house and looking for a way out, when I got a call from my old friend Bob, who asked what I’d been doing. I told him about being there and being here. He knew I’d played folk music, but he didn’t know I’d picked up an electric guitar and got a band together. I told him we had four guys and a chick singer and we called ourselves Heads and Tail. We played one date, a school dance, but I had the fever. He told me he was connected to a band that was looking for a rhythm guitarist, and that’s what I was! Oh, I knew I was no musician, I could never play lead, but I knew a bunch of chords… He said the band needed the slot filled so they could go out on tour, and asked if I wanted to audition for the group. The next day I was at the infamous Chelsea Hotel* with Bob, struggling to tune my red Hagstrom 12-string guitar without embarrassing myself, when Bob left to find the bass player, who was going to audition me. Ever tried to tune a 12-string with no “ear?” What my ear told me was one step ahead of a guess, but soon it was either in tune or close enough, so I sat until I was led to another room where I was introduced to the band’s bass player, who asked what kind of music I liked to play. I said blues and rock. “Okay, let’s play a blues,” he said, “How about in E?” I was clumsy and inept and… awful. I was just so awful. To this day I admire the guy for being kind enough not to laugh. How bad was I? When he said a blues in E, I asked about the A chord, asking “You mean the E chord up on the fifth fret?” Y’see? Hell, if I wasn’t getting paid for this, I’d never tell you about that. It took less than five minutes to see that God had deprived me of any discernible musical talent, he said “That’s enough,” and I asked, “Was that okay?” He said, “Sure, sure. That was good.” Then he thanked me for coming in from the Island, and said he’d call. I went home and told my mother and my friend Freddy that I was going out on tour with the Pleasant Street Blues Band. I was in a band! I was going nationwide! My pal Freddy was blown away. My mother was not amused. The bass player never called and there were two reasons: I was awful, and the next day the band’s singer and lead guitarist shot up some bad heroin and the left side of his face was paralyzed. It would be twenty-two years before I got into another band, and I must have written about that somewhere. But that’s not what this is about. This is about what happened before my audition, in that brief period while I was waiting in the first room. I was sitting on a bed in the Chelsea Hotel while Bob had gone out, and once I had the guitar in tune I looked around and saw a Billboard magazine. I browsed through it and read a story about the newly-released-but-already-classic, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which had just come out and was an instant hit. I read the piece, and all I remember of it is that they printed an unknown third verse. A third verse? Everyone knew the song and could sing all two verses… but a third verse? I never knew about that- and I read Rolling Stone faithfully, d-d-dammit! And no one knew else it or knew of it. I collect rock ‘n’ roll trivia, y’know, so I memorized it, and up until this week I still remembered everything but the last line. Then I waited years for the chance to amaze and amuse friends and strangers with my erudition, but so far… nothing. And then I remembered that I have this column, and I finally had someone to impress. And then I remembered Google, so I went looking for the missing line of the third verse, and you know what I found out? There were four verses! Four! The song is credited to Keith Reid, Gary Brooker, and after a lengthy lawsuit, Mathew Fisher. Reid wrote it, Brooker sings it and plays piano, and Fisher plays organ. Reid said he overheard someone at a party saying to a woman, "You've turned a whiter shade of pale", and the phrase stuck in his mind. Despite various interpretations, Reid said, “I was trying to conjure a mood as much as tell a straightforward, girl-leaves-boy story. With the ceiling flying away and room humming harder, I wanted to paint an image of a scene. I wasn’t trying to be mysterious with those images. I was trying to be evocative. I suppose it seems like a decadent scene I’m describing. But I was too young to have experienced any decadence, then. I might have been smoking when I conceived it, but not when I wrote. It was influenced by books, not drugs.” Just before we get to all four verses I want to show you why this song is worth a little extra time: “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was released on May 12, 1967, and in two weeks it reached number 1, where it stayed for six weeks. It reached No. 1 in several countries when released in 1967. Considered an anthem of the 1967 Summer of Love, it is one of fewer than 30 singles to have sold over 10 million copies worldwide. According to a music journalist, in the context of the Summer of Love, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was the "one song [that] stood above all others, its Everest-like status conferred by no less than John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who were enthralled by the Chaucerian wordplay and heavenly Baroque accompaniment" Jim Irvin of Mojo said that its arrival at number 1 on the national singles chart on June 8, 1967, on the same day that the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band topped the national albums chart, marked the start of the “Summer of Love” in Britain. Another writer said that “amid the search for higher consciousness during the flower power era, the song galvanised a congregation of disaffected youth dismissive of traditional religion but anxious to achieve spiritual salvation." In 1977, the song was named joint winner (along with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody") of "The Best British Pop Single 1952–1977" at the Brit Awards. In 1998 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, it appeared at number 57 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time." More than 1000 recorded cover versions by other artists are known. The song has been included in many music compilations over the decades, and has also been used in the soundtracks of numerous films. Cover versions of the song have also been featured in many films. British TV station Channel 4 placed the song at number 19 in its chart of "The 100 Greatest No. 1 Singles." It was the most played song in the last 75 years in public places in the UK (as of 2009), and a United Kingdom performing rights group recognized it as the most-played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years. When Reid was asked what “Procol Harum” meant, he said, “It’s the name of a cat, a Siamese cat.” Don’t forget that thing about killing at the karaoke bar. Also useful in bar bets. Thanks for waiting. Click here for “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” by Procol Harum. A Whiter Shade of Pale We tripped the light fandango, and turned cartwheels across the floor I was feeling kind of seasick, but the crowd called out for more The room was humming harder as the ceiling flew away When we called out for another drink the waiter brought a tray And so it was that later as the miller told his tale That her face at first just ghostly turned a whiter shade of pale She said there is no reason and the truth is plain to see But I wandered through my playing cards and would not let her be One of sixteen vestal virgins who were leaving for the coast And although my eyes were open, they might just as well have be closed And so it was that later as the miller told his tale That her face at first just ghostly turned a whiter shade of pale And so it was that later as the miller told his tale That her face at first just ghostly turned a whiter shade of pale And so it was that later as the miller told his tale That her face at first just ghostly turned a whiter shade of pale She said I’m home on shore, though in truth we were at sea So I took her by the looking glass and forced her to agree Saying ‘you must be the mermaid who took Neptune for a ride’ She smiled at me so sadly that my anger straightaway died And so it was that later as the miller told his tale That her face at first just ghostly turned a whiter shade of pale If music be the food of love, then laughter is its queen And likewise if behind is in front, then dirt in truth is clean My mouth by then like cardboard seemed to slip straight through my head So we crash-dived straightway quickly, and attacked the ocean bed And so it was that later as the miller told his tale That her face at first just ghostly turned a whiter shade of pale *Extra Credit: I’ll buy a drink for anyone who knows what a Chelsea Straw is, and another drink if they tell me how they knew that. Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  10. Sequences and Consequences

    Editor's Note: After reading this article, take a look at Setlist.FM to test the accuracy of this information. I browsed around a bit and must admit I was surprised to see some of my favorite bands following this formula. Who knew? Not me. - CC Some of this may go back over thirty years, so some of what’s below might be outdated but still applies as an ingrained reality. Where it applies, this is where it came from. I say this because most of what my guest was speaking of happened by 1987, and rock has splintered into unpredictable areas since then, most notably in hip hop, and I wanted to know how current those ideas were, so I asked someone who would know: my friend has for years toured with one of the biggest country stars in the world. His shows sell out in minutes, he hosts major televised awards shows and performed at the Super Bowl. So my pal should know. As my questions were about the art of performance, I was lucky to have him for a reference. I’ll let him react to Hewlett’s comments at the end. Here we go: In researching FAT CHANCE, my book about KFAT, I met Hewlett Crist, a Texas musician and record producer. Among KFAT jocks, Hewlett was unique at a station that considered itself professional when a jock showed up on time for his or her gig. Typical of free-form radio, the jocks got there and improvised what they played, the next cut often being inspired by the previous song. Then there was Hewlett Crist, who showed up an hour early for his four-hour shift, and selected every song for four one-hour sets. By air time, he had four piles of records for four hours’ worth of programming. He was unique there for other reasons, but what stayed with me since our talk why he selected his sets in advance, and that was because of a guy in Las Vegas. He told me that when a casino wanted to hire a band for a lounge, they would send them to this guy, who would review their sets and make recommendations. This guy’s recommendations were thought of as holy writ in those Vegas casinos, and no band would be hired if they ignored his advice. He’d watch their act and then teach them two things: how to look when performing, and what sequence to play their songs in. He was so successful that if you ignored his advice, you didn’t get the gig. Also, he never charged for the consultation, but when you started the gig, you paid him your first $1,500. And you don’t renege on debts in Vegas. I remembered that story, so I called Hewlett to ask him about it. Hewlett is one of those curious types: bright, intellectually curious, musically gifted, country-oriented and likes his independence. Born in San Antonio and raised in Laredo, he found his way to the Bay Area playing in Doug Sahm’s band. Sahm was a Texas musician at the time of the British Invasion whose record company was more interested in English acts than cowboy bands. Sahm accommodated them by calling his band The Sir Douglas Quintet, and they had a hit with “She’s About A Mover.” Sahm toured behind it, then went back to his roots as soon as he could. Sahm used several musicians, and one of them was Hewlett Crist. Crist followed Doug Sahm out west, played in and produced a bunch of bands and recordings, and for a while, he had a successful school in the Bay Area for training musicians in recording techniques and music law. Needing to learn more about entertainment law for his school, he took a job as a paralegal in an entertainment law firm. He learned a lot about entertainment law, but he always kept his hands in the production and arranging end, until he abandoned the business in 1982 after producing his third album by Zydeco star and KFAT fave, Queen Ida. That album was Queen Ida in San Francisco, and it won a Grammy. In 1987, Ida had an important gig for the popular PBS music showcase, “Austin City Limits,” and she wanted Hewlett back. She’d booked two shows for just before taping the show, and she called Hewlett to come tune the set up. Ida remembered her discussions with Hewlett about sequencing the set for the album that had won the Grammy. That was why I asked Hewlett what he’d learned from the guy in Vegas. He said that he’d watched and listened to Ida’s first night and made notes, then rearranged the set, neither adding nor eliminating any songs, and when they played the second night, Ida was blown away by the response. She came off stage and told Hewlett, “My God! What a difference!” Queen Ida’s sets always got a strong response, but that second night…! She’d been performing that set for years, and she swore she’d never had a better reaction. She then used that sequence for the taping, and the reaction was the same. Hewlett had changed the order of the songs and added some tricks, like a “specialty number.” I asked what he meant by a specialty number, and he said it was an audience participation song or some other way of breaking up the rhythm of the show. Turns out, it was simple. In the set sequence he knew, songs get broken down into fast, medium fast, slow, and specialty numbers, which get inserted in the middle of the set. When I asked for an example, he said he’d added “Zydeco Taco” to the set- a song he’d co-written with Ida for this purpose. In this song, she doesn’t sing, she chants through the recipe and the audiences paid attention. They’d written the song specifically to be a change-of-pace number- one the audience would follow along with the recipe. And they did, happily, cheering lustily. Hewlett hadn’t worked with the guy in Las Vegas, but he learned the sequence from his first hire for his music business academy, a man who’d worked with Wayne Newton for many years in Las Vegas. Newton had been trained by the guy I keep calling the guy, and his shows were so successful that Newton was known in Vegas as “Mr. Entertainment.” Hewlett’s new hire taught it to him. I asked if the formula was applicable to any musical entertainment form and he said, “Yes, except for maybe grunge, rap and all non-successful artists.” Gilbert Klein : Do bands know about this sequence, this order? Hewlett Crist: “No, not at all. The ones that get the training are the ones that sign with the big agencies like William Morris, CAA, ICM, some of who use outside trainers.” GK: What’s the formula? HC: “Fast, medium fast, fast, slow song or ballad.” He said, “If you don’t get ‘em with the first four songs, they’re un-gettable... Fast, medium fast, fast, then a specialty song. Then you go back to fast, medium fast and then another ballad… The sequence can vary a little bit, but that’s the basis of it. When you get to the last song of the set, you do an audience participation. They get audience participation because everybody in the audience knows that song, and it builds up almost like a neo-political-type patriotism feeling and you go out with that.” GK: Is that your last song? Because you’ve just stirred up the audience, so what do you do for the encore? HC: “If you do that properly, it will guarantee you an encore, because within that, you get people to participate with clapping… standing and clapping and the song’s over and while they’re standing and clapping, the lights go down and the band runs off the stage. People are still standing and clapping. For what? Oh, well, they want another one. Y’see, there’s people who have studied this so minutely and all of your successful acts have been doing this for years, since the old Vegas days." “And I don’t want to use the term ‘brainwashed,’ but they’ve (audiences) been taught by the success of the format to react in certain ways to certain functions that are produced by the stage act. And if you don’t use the sequence that they’re familiar with, they don’t really relate to it.” Then Hewlett talked about the timing of the shows and said that the successful acts all know exactly how long each song is as well as each set, and it never varies. He said that the bands need to stick to the timing as well as the sequence, and they are playing for themselves as much as the audience. I asked if he’d been to a show recently that used that sequence and he said, “Absolutely. I went to see Air Supply a few days ago, and they’re more of a slower song group, but they used what was for them a fast song, then a medium fast song, and followed the sequence. At the midway point of the show, the band left the stage and the lead singer was hit with a double spotlight and that was all you could see. He talked about being in that local area, then said he only had four minutes left and wanted to read a poem he wrote. He recited the poem and the lights came back up and the band was back in place for the next song.” It was the timing that Hewlett noticed. Sets are planned and rehearsed for consistency, and timing is key. On the stage at 8:00 sharp, and off the stage at 9:15! And he added that they used three specialty songs to fill out their set, because people would only know the hits." "For their last song, Air Supply did one of their biggest hits, a song everyone was waiting for, and of course the audience was standing and cheering when the band left the stage and they were still standing and cheering, waiting for the encore when they came back. It had gone as planned and it worked- again." GK: Is there a difference in sequencing a set for a lounge act versus a headliner? HC: “No. Same exact thing. The sequence was created back during the lounge act phenomenon in Vegas, and became so successful that the big talent agencies recognized it when those shows suddenly became massively popular.” GK: Is there a difference in the sequencing of a show versus an album? HC: “No. There’s fewer songs on an album… but it’s because people that have been seeing these major acts since they were teenagers, they’ve been (I’m looking for a nicer word than brainwashed…) subjected to the sequences used in albums because the effect is the same, and the audiences… may not understand it, but expect it without knowing it.” GK: In your experience, do up-and-coming bands pay attention to the sequence of successful acts and use it? HC: “Very few do.” GK: I’ve heard stories of massive fights over stage and album sequencing between bands and labels. True? HC: “That’s true. The bands never really know. The labels know that they’ve got to be trained in the set sequence and in stage performance. The producers and the labels know about it and use it, but the artists never know it, so they’re the ones that argue the most.” GK: What do they teach about stage performance? HC: “There was this good old country boy, had good songs and got signed. They sent him to LA because he would stand on stage with his legs apart like he had a big ol’ pecker, and stay there. And the bass player was just standing there with one leg crossed over the other and he looked like a wimp. I trained three groups and in all three, the band members were slouchy and had no idea how to project themselves to an audience. You don’t stand there, you don’t stare at your hands. The first night of training I used a video camera and shot them only from the waist down. When they saw the video, they got it.” In another case, “A band had a female violin player, and I noticed her hunching over her violin hiding her chest and most of her face. After watching her, I thought she was embarrassed to be flat-chested on the stage, and was hiding her torso, so I got her a blouse with a bare shoulder, and told her to ‘stick that bare shoulder up so people can see it.’ And after a while she started playing that way, and all of a sudden she became a performer.” "Bands get signed by the way they sound, and the minute they get signed the agencies look at their recordings and realize they may play well enough, but they have to be trained to do well on the concert circuit to make them look as good as they sound. They work on visual development.” Going back to timing, Hewlett said that when the bands see the difference the sequence makes, they work hard to time their sets to perfection. He reminded me of the Air Supply set, that they’d worked and worked so hard trying to time and perform the perfect set that every time they perform, between them all, they’re trying to play the perfect set without screwing up. And what happens is the audience becomes secondary. It doesn’t make any difference if people are out there or not. To paraphrase: the set must go on. And the big acts do it so well it looks like they’re gushing all over the audience. The audience thinks, ’they love us!’ The group don’t care about them, they have to watch videos of their rehearsals, of their performances, and the timing is so important that they have to time it down to the minute.” He reminded me about the importance of timing. Again, he said, “Timing is key.” I’m of the belief that Hewlett meant that the bands’ primary thoughts are to the performance rather than the crowd. He said that timing is so important for the lighting director, the sound people, the back line, not to mention whatever special effects might be used. It was obvious to Hewlett that Air Supply carried their own sound and lighting people, so everyone on and off the stage knew their cues and when to hit their marks, and the show went off without a hitch. “Because they’d been doing it for years.” Also important is that in the major venues, if a band goes over their time, they get their pay docked. In union houses the rules are set and everyone pays overtime for extra time on stage. Lighting and sound crews, everyone gets time and a half. And the pay doesn’t come from the house, not the producer or management or the label- it comes from the band’s paycheck. GK: Ever been to a show with a major act where they did not use the sequence and were still successful? HC: “No.” My friend who tours with a country star thought: "Most acts will end with the song that every audience members wants to hear. The encore formula is fairly logical, finish with a big hit or song that they are waiting for, but hold that other HUGE song they just HAVE to hear, stage goes dark, the audience starts creaming their jeans for it, then BOOM! The lights pop back on and that mega huge song starts, the crowd loses it. It’s fun to watch every night. As many shows as I’ve done and seen, it’s almost the same deal every time. The formula can be different for MEGA HUGE acts. Take for instance U2 who I just saw a few nights ago. They played for about an hour and a half, left the stage, audience cheers and claps etc. for about 5 to 10 minutes, lights stay dark, and then here they come. Crowd goes nuts, and they play all kinds of songs for 45 more minutes. So they can differ, yet, they do end with the crowd pleaser where everyone sings along. Pretty cool." "Cool info in this article. I’d say Hewlett is spot on, but not necessarily in all genres or all cases. Over time, most bands or acts (including lounge acts) will work out a pattern for themselves that does mimic what Hewlett said. It’s kind of, common sense. There are bands/artists that can diverge from this due to their material and type of audience. But, yes, for the most part, successful sets end up being somewhat along the lines of the formula Hewlett mentioned." "Most acts will end with the song that every audience members wants to hear." "I’ve never heard of one guy who is the “go to” guy for info on set sequencing, but it makes total sense, especially for Vegas. I’d say Hewlett knows what he’s talking about." Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
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  12. I was back in San Francisco in April and went to the de Young Museum to see their exhibit “The Summer of Love,” and I’ve got a complaint. It’s a small one, perhaps, but it bugs me. I want to yell at someone about it, and I’ve got you. Somehow, I saw a Facebook page called “The Summer of Love.” They’re getting ready to celebrate its Fiftieth Anniversary this year, but I was there that summer of 1967, and I know they’re wrong. They’re preparing some activities for this summer, and, y’know, they’re welcome to their celebrations, but I was there in the Haight in 1967, and there was little to celebrate Whoever organizes these things celebrated the Summer of Love’s twentieth anniversary back in 1987. I know what they were celebrating; they’re right that it was a remarkable time, but it just didn’t happen when they say it happened. Here’s what happened, and honestly, I’ll try to do this part briefly: The end of the Second World War saw millions of happy, horny, proud American troops return to a country that welcomed them with parades, waiting wives and girlfriends, a booming economy and a plenitude of jobs. The government was ready to show its gratitude with money for college, business and home loans, all of which fed an unprecedented sense of superiority and optimism. Plus we had just kicked the enemy’s ass and had the only Atomic Bomb in the world. We ruled the roost. The warriors came home and had children, and having survived not only the war but the Great Depression, they spoiled indulged their offspring with more freedom, education and expectation than any generation before it, which, unknowable at the time, engendered an unprecedentedly culture-wide sense of entitlement. As if you didn’t know that already. Added to that mix was the advent of mass communications like radio and later television, and oh, my God, the Pill! Then add The Beatles and their outdated standards-exploding brethren, an insanely unpopular war, a few other things, and you had the Sixties. Whew! One paragraph and we’re through it, and we’re closer to my complaint. Everyone knows about the hippies and their hair and the clothes and the pot. And the hash and the LSD and the hair and the living together and the hair. As the Beatles knew: yeah, yeah, yeah. Then, in January, 1967, Time magazine published an article about what was going on in the Bay Area, its focus clearly on what was happening in the Haight. Yeah, it was happening in Berkeley, too, and in spots elsewhere, but the Haight was the center of the scene. That’s where the bands lived, where the hip stores were, and that’s where everyone came to hang out or gawk. The Diggers and the Free Clinic were right off Haight Street, the hippie newspaper, The Oracle, had offices around the corner. Buses used to take tourists through Haight Street so they could see the shocking scene they’d read about. People—and parents in particular!—wanted to know what was going on out there. And what a scene it was! It wasn’t just the way they dressed or wore those flowers literally in their hair or painted their faces, it wasn’t just the diffraction discs and the patchouli oil, it was something new: they were trying something new. Kids who would never have thought about this before were now living together, trying to make a go as a couple. Trying other things, too. The ubiquity of “free love” was exaggerated, and clearly not universal, but let’s say… plentiful. Permissions seemed to have been given, so for many the era was a time to experiment, and even more, it was a time to experiment in new ways of thinking. Perhaps too much of it turned out to be naïve, but much of it was worthy of our better natures, and that alone is laudable. But if they’re going to celebrate the spirit of the time, they’re off by a year. Again, I was there. In the summer of 1966, I was working in San Francisco and living in Berkeley, which scene might need no elucidation. Sure, I hung out in the Haight, I went to the shows at the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom and I’ve still got the posters. I dressed up in my anti-work clothes for the hanging out and the shows. Couldn’t wear that shit at work, boy, oh no. And it wasn’t just the clothes or the hair, and to be sure, the hair was causing incalculable consternation among adults, aka “straights.” It was more: people were taking on new identities. I knew a guy who wore only black and called himself Black Bart; I never learned his real name. I remember Mark from my hometown on Long Island before I went west, and when I got back there, he was Cinnamon. I forget the other names, but people took on identities and tried to live as them. Outside of undercover operatives, that was new. Back to Time magazine. They ran the story, with photos, of course, in January, 1967, and it set off a viral reaction around the country, and by that summer, one figure I’ve seen said that 300 people moved into the Haight every day. Yes, every day. That would be 27,000 people. The estimate I think I saw at the de Young Museum was 100,000 people moving into the Haight that summer. Whatever the figure, that summer was when the sudden overcrowding generated a wave of hunger, filth, rip-offs, bad drugs, hard drugs, and ill will, which engendered increasing police intervention and a general sense of fear, hostility and paranoia in the area. By the summer, the bands had left, the stores were closing, and the beautiful people moved (mostly) north. Hello, Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino. By that summer, the magic had left the Haight to the degree that no less a beautiful person than George Harrison showed up one day on Haight Street to see all the beauty he’d heard about, and he was appalled. Recognized immediately, a crowd gathered and followed him as he walked the street, but he’d seen enough and wanted to leave. Like… now! ‘No, man! Here, George, play a song!’ the crowd called as someone handed him a guitar. He took it, gave it a brief check for tuning, sang the just-recorded “Baby, You’re A Rich Man,” which asks the question, “How does it feel to be one of the Beautiful People?” Then he handed the guitar back and left town. That was what George saw in the summer of 1967, and that’s what they’re celebrating these fifty years later. I saw it and I understand Mr. Harrison. What I saw in 1966 was quite something else. There were few enough people in the scene to make it a comfortable place to be, a place where you could go to find other people like the rebel, the individualist that you were. The place was for us, it was ours, and the shops knew us and catered to us, (okay, except for Bruno at the Persian Aub Zam Zam), the cops kept a wary distance, and while others might dispute it, my experience was that of a community. The press wasn’t on to it yet, so it was comfortable. I remember the Village in New York City back before the British Invasion. This was the time of the beatniks, and they had a scene in lower Manhattan and a scene in San Francisco’s North Beach. Just before The Beatles showed up, I remember the article in Life magazine in 1963 about the beatniks and their culture. I remember reading the translations of the new “beat” terminology and memorizing them, thinking I’d need it sooner or later. Yeah, it sounds dorky, but that was me. It was a scene unto itself, but smaller and harder to get to, and not for everyone. Then in 1967 the whole nation found out at once about the scene in the Haight, and while few had run away to become beatniks, just four years later there was a ready market for those who aspired to hippie-ism, and they did it at home, or hit the road. They were the Baby Boomers, and there were millions of them ready for a little revolution, especially one that promised all kinds of personal freedoms. In 1966, the people I met in San Francisco were open and friendly, and rife with the idea of Free Love. This all happened in the immediate wake of the introduction of the birth control pill, which put risk-free sex into play and left us only to deal with our guilt. The impact of “The Pill” was immeasurable, and in addition, pot was popularized and new ideas were floating freely, un-moored by the past, and admittedly, sometimes un-moored to logic. But there were so many ways to try new ideas, new possibilities, so much…possibility, that there was an excitement in the Haight, an optimism in 1966 that was gone by the summer of 1967. Also, LSD was legal in ’66, but not in ’67, and I remember a panel truck parked on Haight Street in 1966 which had a big sign over it: LSD. And that changed things, even if you never took it. Parents were already seriously worried about pot, but LSD just freaked them all the way out. Every parent seemed to know someone who knew someone who knew someone who’d taken LSD and jumped off a tall building, thinking they could fly. Leave us have no more about what happened back then; you’ve probably heard too much of it by now. Also, lest you think I was saying it all was beautiful in the streets back then, I’m not. There were assholes, jerks, rip-off artists and other bad-karma generators around, and I met some of them. So now to my complaint, which will appear as both minor and major premises. The minor premise: I went to the de Young with my sister, who I love like a sister, and it was a disappointment. I thought the museum handled the major trends and events of the period ineffectively, and there was no sign of what I expected would be, at least in part, an “immersive experience.” I’m sure they had it in their budget to be more creative. It needn’t cost much. People who come to the exhibit want to know than a little of what happened; I think they’d want more of the why, how, who and who was affected. They had some screens facing each other in a circle, and you could walk inside where some unidentifiable film was projected onto the screens, but the light in the room was too bright to see clearly what was on the screens. My best guess is that it was shot from inside the Fillmore, and I say that because I saw a lot of bodies waving around and a brief shot of a drum kit, but if that was supposed to give any sense of being inside a show at the Fillmore, it was woeful. Put some music in there, de Young! The display of “Hippie Clothes” weren’t worn by anyone I ever saw in the City. They had a Wavy Gravy onesie, but scant information as to who he was or why he merited being in the exhibit. They had a suit from one of The Charlatans, who are credited with being maybe the first bands of “the San Francisco Sound,” but gave no explanation of their significance. Just a suit and a hat. They had only a small space for the display about Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests, which many credit as the start of The Sixties. LSD was freely and abundantly distributed and the band that played those parties was The Warlocks, soon to change their name to The Grateful Dead. The information there was so inadequate that I started filling my sister in on what was missing, and I wasn’t talking loudly, but people nearby started listening to me and asking questions, then following me to other displays as I explained what was missing. My sister and I were probably not alone in wondering “where were the docents? Where were the people to explain this stuff?” Also, as much as I hate the stuff, if you wanted a cheap and easy immersive Haight Street experience, you’d post a sign outside a room saying that this was a room with a mist that might be offensive to some, and those with allergies might think twice, and then they’d walk into a room with a gentle aroma of patchouli oil. You don’t need a lot! And I hate the smell of fucking patchouli oil, but if you want to know what the Haight smelled like, there you are. Fucking patchouli oil! Maybe it’s like the rule about Woodstock: if you remember it, you probably weren’t there. Yes, that’s a spurious standard, but if you’d been there in 1966, and been there in 1967, and you were looking to celebrate a spirit, a zeitgeist, if you will, then they wouldn’t be celebrating it in 2017. Missed it by a year. Fie on you, de Young. And I saw more that was lacking, but now to the major premise, and thanks for staying with me. So the Time article appeared in January, 1967, caused a sensation, and the rush westward was on as soon as school was out. Right around that time, a well-known San Francisco Disc Jockey named Tom Donahue got fed up and quit his gig on the highly-rated Top 40 station, KYA. Back then, all anyone listened to was AM radio; no one I knew had an FM radio- not in the house and not in the car (two-band radios started showing up in cars around 1974 when the hippies grew up, got married, got jobs, got rid of their VW Beetles and started buying cars). The radio gig paid well and all, and he was famous, but it had gotten to the point where Donahue could no longer stand the insipid songs and inane ads. So he quit. One night in March, he was sitting at home with a friend, smoking a joint and listening to the new Doors album, and he bemoaned aloud, “Why can’t we hear music like this on the radio?” His friend agreed, then said something like, “well, you know, FM has stereo.” BOOM! The next day he started calling FM stations, hoping to find one in trouble, and he found KMPX, whose phone was disconnected. He went to see the owner, whose station was struggling, renting out blocks of time for foreign language programs—mostly Filipino—and because Donahue was a known entity in San Francisco radio, a deal was struck. That was in March. Starting in April, Donahue brought in hip records and hip people to play them, and as more foreign language programs’ contracts expired, Donahue took over those hours, putting on more people, and soon KMPX was the hippest show in town, and running 24/7. It wasn’t just a success, it was an explosion. Within weeks, every hipster in the Bay Area was listening exclusively to KMPX. It was all anyone listened to. There simply was no competition. KMPX played the music the hipsters wanted to hear, and it was so successful that Donahue’s “Underground” format was quickly duplicated in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia and everywhere else. Now there was a revolution in the culture and there was a revolution in music, and we all listened to the revolution on the radio whenever we could. In San Francisco, the revolution was on KMPX, but all over America, radio became the soundtrack of the Sixties, and it started in San Francisco. They played the bands we went to the Fillmore or Avalon to see, and the bands also listened and came by for chats, and KMPX, more than almost anything else in the hippie pantheon, made the scene a community. The PSA’s concerned almost everyone, and the ads and other notices were meant for us, too. Was it KMPX or KSAN who had the reports from the drug lab about the purity of the acid or speed that was going around? Does anyone remember “window pane” acid? I think I remember the report that said it was excellent. And it was. And the music was incredible. Today it would be called narrowcasting, but it was a specialized demographic and it worked spectacularly. KMPX was the common sound woven throughout the community and all of its members. If you lived in the Bay Area, you might have gone to a show at the Fillmore or the Avalon, or in some park that summer, but whether you went to see live music or not, you always listened to KMPX. It was our music, it was the right programming for the right crowd. It was the only programming for that crowd. KMPX was nothing less than the soundtrack of the Summer of Love. It was everywhere you went: in restaurants, in shops, at home, at your friend’s pad, and in your car. And… are you ready for this?.... I didn’t see one mention of KMPX in the exhibit at the de Young. Nary a mention! No mention! Zip, zero, nothing, nada, none. Am I right, people? Are you angry? Well… disappointed? Damn right you are! As you should be! Thanks. I feel much better now, so let’s leave the museum and get to the song that I think most identifies with the Summer of Love, and a little of the history behind that song that I was surprised by. Hendrix, Cream, Beatles and Stones. Quicksilver, Big Brother, The Airplane and The Dead. Yes, KMPX had them all, plus The Kinks, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne James Taylor, Terry Reid (who’s probably coming to this space) and the Mamas and the Papas when they were still good. We also heard from too many that I can’t remember, and you’re lucky for that. There’s a word I like called paralepsis, which is when you say you’re not going to list an entire category by name, and then you go and list them all. Sadly, I was about to do that when my memory failed, so that’s all I’ll say about who we heard a lot of in the summer of 1967, but if I had to concentrate on one song, one song to typify the period, I’m gonna have to go with “Let’s Get Together” by The Youngbloods. It’s still around, so I’m pretty sure you’ve heard it, We all knew it well back then, but I was surprised by its history. I chose Let’s Get Together because it, like KMPX, was everywhere and everywhen back then. I think if you listen, it’s easy to see why it resonated throughout the time of the hippies, and has survived into today. If there was some way (and there probably is!) of seeing how many plays a song gets, I’d like to see the stats on this one. It was just… the right song at the right time, and I think that’s all you gotta say about it. The song was written in 1963 by Chet Powers, a folk artist who performed as Dino Valenti when he joined The Quicksilver Messenger Service, who more people have heard of than heard. When Valenti joined QMS, he became their singer-songwriter and leader, moving them from their earlier trippy acid-influenced ramblings into the more melodic. Here is QMS’s very Sixties song, “What About Me?” which is as emblematic of the Sixties as any song you’ll ever hear. Some might compare it to “Ohio” by CSNY, as both reference the killing of four students at Kent State University in Ohio, but that was more about a specific incident, and this is more about the anguish of those who feel left out of the culture. Perhaps more than any other song of the period, this song speaks for the displaced and disheartened. If you’re looking for a hippie anthem, I nominate this one; listen to the lyrics and see if they don’t sound like it was written yesterday; it’s too bad no one knows it anymore. After today, it might go back into the dustbin of forgotten Hippiana, but see if you’re not humming it later. Interspersed with various reunion groupings of QMS, Valenti's career was blighted by several drug busts. After an arrest for possession of marijuana and while he was awaiting trial, he was searched again by police, who found more marijuana and amphetamines in his apartment. He received a one-to-ten-year sentence, served partly at Folsom State Prison. To raise money for his defense, he sold the publishing rights for "Get Together" to Frank Werber, the manager of The Kingston Trio. The song was originally recorded as "Let's Get Together" by the Kingston Trio and released on June 1,1964. While it was not released as a single, this version was the first to bring the song to the attention of the general public. The Kingston Trio often performed it live. A version of the song first broke into the top forty in 1965, when We Five, produced by Kingston Trio manager Frank Werber, released "Let's Get Together" as the follow-up to their top ten hit "You Were on My Mind". While it did not achieve the same level of success as the other, "Let's Get Together" provided the group with a second top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 when it peaked at #31. It would be their last hit record. "Let's Get Together" was the third song on side 2 of The Jefferson Airplane's first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, released in August, 1966. As Tim Jurgens said in his review of the album in the January, 1967 issue of Crawdaddy, "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off is the most important album of American rock issued this year; it is the first LP to come out of the new San Francisco music scene." He called "Let's Get Together" a "most sensitive, hopeful and contemporary ballad," and wondered why it wasn't sung in church. However, the song wasn't released as a single, although the album did make it to #97 on the top 100 of 1966. In 1967, the Youngbloods released their version of the song under the title "Get Together". It became a minor Hot 100 hit for them, peaking at #62 and reaching #37 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart. Renewed interest in the Youngbloods' version came when it was used in a radio public service announcement as a call for brotherhood by the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The Youngbloods' version, the most-remembered today, was re-released in 1969, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Another version was released in 1967 by the Chicago psychedelic group H. P. Lovecraft on their debut album. In 1968, the Sunshine Company released a version of the song titled "Let's Get Together" as a single that reached #112 on the Billboard chart. Also in 1968, the Canadian group 3's A Crowd released their version of the song as a single, titled "Let's Get Together.” It peaked at #70 on Canada's national singles chart. In March 1970, the Dave Clark Five reached #8 on the UK Singles Chart with their version retitled "Everybody Get Together," which looks and sounds a lot like “Hey Jude,” if you wait 55 seconds. Later in 1970, Gwen & Jerry Collins released a version of the song as a single that reached #34 on the US country chart. In 1995, Big Mountain released a version of the song titled “Get Together” as a single that reached #28 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart and #44 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Youngbloods version of the song has been featured in several films, including Purple Haze, Forrest Gump, The Dish, Stephen King's Riding the Bullet, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and most recently Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. In The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror II", Lisa wishes for world peace and her wish comes true. All people on Earth start singing "Get Together" and dance in a large peace sign. 1989: Indigo Girls call it “Get Together” on the Epic Records release of their album Strange Fire. The song also appears on the soundtrack for The Wonder Years. Christian Slater echoes the chorus in the 1990 movie Pump Up the Volume. The South Park episode "Smug Alert!" contains a parody of the song which repeats the line "come on people now" several times. In 2008, the Youngbloods version of the song was used in a commercial for Luvs diapers. A snippet of the Youngbloods version of the song was used in a 2014 commercial for KFC. A snippet of the Youngbloods version of the song was played in the beginning of Bart's dream in The Simpsons episode "Oh Brother, Where Bart Thou?" Krist Novoselic sings part of the chorus of this song at the beginning of Nirvana's recording of their song, "Territorial Pissings.” The Christian hard rock group David and the Giants released “Get Together” on their CD Giant Hits. On Inauguration Day, 2017, the group Bahari released their version of the song. Last Fun Fact: Did I mention KSAN earlier? Remember? Here’s a fun fact: Because KMPX was a huge, instantaneous hit, the station suddenly had great ratings, whereupon the owner got himself an attitude. After six months of success, he decided to issue standards like a dress code that were anathema to the hippie ethic. A dress code for hippies? Ha! And so they all went on strike. After eight weeks of striking, a classical-format station in the financial district was struggling; a call was placed, an offer was made, and the staff of KMPX moved into KSAN, which became the dominant rocker in the Bay Area for the next 25 years. KMPX was sold and became a footnote. Bonus Tracks: While everyone has heard “Let’s Get Together" ad nauseum, here are two of my favorite tracks by The Youngbloods that have fallen silent that I enjoy and think you will, too: Darkness, Darkness just rocks nicely, and when the bands and hippies moved out of the Haight, Jesse Colin Young moved to Marin, where he wrote Ridgetop, which was played frequently in the late sixties to general acclaim. Bonus Question: Does anyone remember diffraction discs? If you’d like to hear what KMPX sounded like on May 5th, 1967, here's a sample: Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
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