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Gilbert Klein

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About Gilbert Klein

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  1. 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 - CC Some of this may go back over thirty years, so some of what’s below might be outdated but still applies as an ingrained reality.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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  3. 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.
  4. A Warning: The last two songs in this article might offend some people, so keep that in mind if you’re playing it in a public space— Gilbert. An Introduction: Look, I know I know too little about this subject to say I’m an expert, so I’m not. I’m not going to opine on the form or its practitioners, proponents, prophets or phans. (Sorry, I just had to do that. You get it, with the phat thing, right?) I know there must be rap artists who are soulful more than angry, and I know some people are making beautiful music that’s called rap or hip-hop, and I’m sorry but I must conflate the two. I don’t know about it or the scene, and I don’t have to, because I only want to tell you about the first rap song that I heard, and do a little history. I like a little history. I’ll bet there isn’t a rock fan out there who doesn’t know who Chuck Berry is and his music, but I’d bet there aren’t many rap fans who know who Gil Scott-Heron is. But first, the history, and I’ll ask you to keep in mind that in the entertainment industry, innovation is quickly replicated and exploited. The History: Oh, I am so not the right guy to expound on the history of rap. But I heard a few lines from a song I hadn’t heard in years, see, and it made me think about it. And I have this column, see? I’m telling you now I’m no expert. I’m just a guy. Okay, a guy with a column. Like a lot of old people, I don’t get rap music. I didn’t get it when it started and I’m probably too old now; I ignore it now because when it first broke big, I just didn’t like it. There was too much violence, too many gats, glocks and putting a cap in someone’s ass. It all seemed to be swagger about n--gers, bitches, blunts and bling. I understood anti-social sentiment, honest- I’ve enjoyed a bit of it myself in my youth, but where was the music? Suddenly everyone was clever for stealing using bits from other people’s music. That didn’t used to be cool in the 60’s, man. I appreciated the innovation, but I just didn’t find the music in there. Okay, if melody was going to be subverted by cleverness, I gave it a listen, but what I was hearing just seemed… angry. I understood the anger coming out of urban, less privileged areas like Brooklyn, the Bronx and lower Manhattan. I got that. I got why it was coming from places like Compton. But I missed melody, you know? So rap sells a lot of music and is one of our most popular music forms. But nothing comes from out of a vacuum, so where did it come from? First, let’s look at the word “rap.” Yeah, it’s a bad thing if it refers to a criminal charge, but that wasn’t what it meant when we used it back in the mid-Sixties. It came from “rapport” and it usually meant that you were under the influence of the demon drug, marijuana. It just meant someone went on a talking jag. Logorrhea, as it were. Could have been about someone on meth, but it came out of the pot community. People got stoned and went off on verbal tangents, sometimes seemingly endlessly. It was kind of a joke, you know, when a guy looked around him and realized he’d been talking nonstop and had no idea what he’d been talking about. That was rapping. Or, you could be with someone else, or even a group, and having an earnest discussion. Pot wasn’t necessarily a component in this instance. That was rapping, too. I used to cringe when they called it a “rap session,” but that’s what we called them back then where I was, and I was in a lot of places. It was just silly talk or a serious discussion; either way, we rapped. And now it means something else, but that’s where it came from, and this is about how it got to here, so we’re going backwards. Let’s start with all the rap music that’s out in the world right now, and go back from there. Let’s include Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Biggie and Tupac, and N.W.A. and Ice-T and Snoop Dogg and Eminem and Nicki Minaj and Kesha and everyone you know in that field, and there’s a lot of them. Let’s call all of them current artists, and yes, I know who’s dead. Let’s say that these are the folks you know, and for those of you that know more than I do about the recent history of rap, please excuse my glossing over most of the details to get to the first of it. Let’s go backwards to January, 1981. You’ll like this. The first mainstream rap hit song was “Rapture,” by Blondie. Rap song? Blondie? The New Wave hit machine? Well, it had a rap, no doubt, and up ‘til then, rap had always been tough black guys, mostly gangsta, you feel me? Well, Debbie Harry was as opposite all that as you could devise, but it was rap—okay, maybe rap-ish—but Blondie was a powerhouse group and the song did have rap. It was also the beginning of the Age of Video, and MTV played the bejeesus out of the song. It was November, 1980 when that song came out and became the first major pop hit with rap in it. It was dipping your toes in rap, but it was huge. What preceded it? Well, that would be “Rapper’s Delight,” by The Sugar Hill Gang, which came out in September, 1979, and went to #36 on the Billboard Hot 100, #4 on the Soul chart, #1 in Canada and Europe. It’s thought of as the first song to introduce rap (or hip-hop) to U.S. audiences, was a great big hit, and you know about sampling, right? This would be when sampling came into prominence, and from that development two phenomena emerged: today’s rap music, and a whole boatload of very wealthy lawyers. And you know who they sampled for this big hit? Well, that would be “Good Times,” by Chic, which came out in June of 1979, and went on to be sampled too many times to even estimate at this point (note: check out Who Sampled for a list of the 180 times this track has been sampled and many other delights - CC). But “Rapper’s Delight” was the first to almost go mainstream, and when it hit, Debbie brought legendary singer/songwriter/producer/ recent Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee Nile Rodgers of Chic, to a club where he heard his beats and bass lines being used in some other guys’ song. He asked the DJ what record it was, the DJ told him he just bought it that day in Harlem, and it was an early version of “Rapper’s Delight,” whereupon they sued over the use of their record, and he and his bass player are now listed as co-writers. So, was “Rapper’s Delight” with all the “Good Times’” samples the first rap record to get serious airplay? No, that would be “King Tim III (Personality Jock),” by The Fatback Band, in March of 1979. And think about that title for an indication of how rare this was. It was happening fast, wasn’t it? Where’d this come from? The funk dance outfit The Fatback Band was looking for something new, something energetic to put out. Knowing about the parties (remember- we’re going backwards here), they hired Tim Washington, an almost unknown MC who used to throw out raps at parties, and they recorded the song. They were a funk band, but they’d wanted something innovative, something to drive the song, so they went to a rapper because that was still all but unknown on any music charts, but there were dance parties in the Bronx and now elsewhere that were increasing in popularity, and rap was still exciting and daring. They thought the dance parties were not their dance crowd, so they put it out as the B-side. They thought those parties out there were for someone else, but the song took off like a shot in clubs and parties, and they re-released it as the A-side. I’m guessing the folks over at Sugar Hill Records thought they were on to something as they prepared to release “Rapper’s Delight,” shortly thereafter, and they were right. So now we’re back in March of 1979, when “King Tim” came out. So where’d he come from? Glad I asked. What had been going on until “King Tim” was parties with MCs, starting in 1973, when Coke La Rock and DJ Kool Herc teamed up for a dance party in the Bronx to celebrate his sister’s birthday. La Rock improvised lines over the beats, mostly calling out to friends in the crowd and making up short stories to the beat, puffing up him and his friends. He did their first few parties from behind the speakers so no one knew who was rapping. For the sixth party, he started calling himself La Rock, and stepped out in front and got bolder, incorporating more poetry into his lines. His antics were getting closer to rap, but it was closer to a combination of performance art and showing off. The idea caught on and other parties started featuring MCs, and I’m using the term in a general way or we’ll be here all day. Their success made these two players influential as the other MCs started showing up at dance parties. Violence was always a part of the raps because they reflected the reality of life in the ghetto, but the lore must have included the night when DJ Kool Herc was stabbed at a party, and when La Rock went looking to settle the score, he found that friends of the perpetrator had sent the guy out of town. La Rock mostly retired from rapping after that, but his influence lived on with the current and then the next generation of rappers. Later rappers eschewed La Rock’s improvisations, writing out the lyrics out and rehearsing their rhymes with a crew, which allowed them to become more complex. These parties continued outside the notice of mainstream record labels and the songs appeared mostly on tape until The Fatback Band, and we’ve been there and done that, so what the hell could possibly have preceded Coke La Rock in 1973? I’ve got two names for you: Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets. Summer, 1971. The “Sixties” are over, but racial tensions continue to erupt. And this is where I came in. In the old days, the pre-Sixties, we only had AM radios and all we listened to was Top 40. When all that changed with the Underground Radio revolution, we all listened to our FM stations, and that was where this essay starts. The snippet of the song I heard that started me on this quest was in the opening music for the just-ended season of “Homeland,” on Showtime. I heard a phrase that I’d heard the first time in the song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” by Gil Scott-Heron. It would only ever be played on FM in the summer of 1971; it was too hot for AM, and I don’t mean “hot” in the good way. Over the years, the phrase popped up now and then, and I know there isn’t an ex-hipster out there who forgot it, and when I heard it on that show, I wanted to know more about it. It was played on FM because it was daring, it was about “the revolution” that had evolved into the middle class when the hippies got married and had children; some were left some behind. AM wouldn’t touch it, and it didn’t ignite any flames that I know of, but I heard it, and so did those of us still listening. I wasn’t alarmed, but I did think that this was something new. Not just the message, but the medium. That was new, and I paid attention. It was in 1971, and it didn’t ignite any flames, but it was something different, and that’s what I heard. Different. It was jazzy and pop-ish, but it had a message, maybe a warning. In the early Sixties, Dylan wrote: “Yes, it is I who is knockin’ at your door if it is you inside who hears the noise,” and we heard him knocking when he sang, “Oh the foes will rise with the sleep still in their eyes And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’ And they’ll pinch themselves and squeal and know that it’s for real The hour when the ship comes in” The message was received, the Sixties had come and gone, and there’d been some changes made. But not enough for a lot of the black community, who were still restless, waiting for all the freedoms that were promised so recently. Black Olympians had raised their fists in the Black Power salute, James Brown said “I’m black and I’m proud,” but where were the changes? The influence of the Black Panthers had come and gone by 1971, when Gil Scott-Heron released “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” He was speaking for a group that was virtually unheard in pop culture, and we heard the warning. We’d heard it from Dylan, and he’d been chillingly right… I remember comparing the two in 1971. When I heard it recently, I asked myself if this wasn’t the origin of rap. It was certainly so in my mind, and then I saw that confirmed in my research, but I also found one more step backwards in the history of rap, and that would be to The Last Poets, a group founded in the wake of the late 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, and its Black Nationalist’s offshoot. Angry revolutionaries, they made no effort to couch their message in radio-ready language, and so it was months before Scott-Heron put out “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” that they released The Last Poets, which, out of concern for my host’s inbox I will call: this song and the other song, neither of which you may play in sensitive situations. I never heard this group back then, and I can guess why. Maybe it was because of the language? I don’t know, maybe Station Managers or Program Directors or owners felt that playing Gil Scott-Heron was daring, but playing The Last Poets was a bridge too far. Even hippie stations had to sell ads and keep their licenses. Don’t know, don’t care; this is about the first rap music and I think this is it. Maybe you never heard of The Last Poets, either, but they were not unheard, and if you listen, you can hear their echoes today. Them and Gil Scott-Heron. Were they angry? Definitely. Got a point? You decide. What I decided was that this was as far back as I can trace rap. Yes, there may be evidence of rap as far back as the early 18th Century in Congo Square, but 1970 is as far as I go. Now rap is everywhere and has fragmented into styles and methods, as it should. It’s in clubs, on TV, on the web and stuck in people’s ears; if there are still boom boxes, then it’s there, too. It’s on the guy’s radio next to you at a red light, and at or near every 7-11 in at least in Southern California, and it’s in movies and TV soundtracks, and it’s in the news, and its biggest stars are the biggest stars, and it’s come a long way from The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron and Coke La Rock and The Fatback Band. You may now go back to the present day. And good day to you. 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. Hah! This one’s going to write itself. Yes, we did this cover thing before, but we all need to have some fun. Fun for me, too. This one’ll be less text and more listening. But fun for me and you. Have I said that already? Okay, it started in the summer of 1964. There was a hit on New York radio called “Gloria,” by the Shadows of Knight. Sure, why not? The British Invasion was in full attack mode and that “Knight” thing was as English as it got. Then my friend Phil played the song for me by the guys who wrote it and played it first: Them. Blew me a-way! This was still before FM radio came into view and all we had were the Top 40 stations and American Bandstand. But this band!! This band named… Them! Phil played the whole album, and they rocked like no one was rocking on AM radio, so I went to the local record shop and ordered it- because no local record shop had ever heard of Them, much less stocked their record because they weren’t on the radio. Thanks, Phil! Know who their lead singer and songwriter was? Yeah, Van Morrison. And that, friends, is why we are here today: the Shadows of Knight were also-rans and Them was the real deal, but the Shadows of Knight had the hit. I’m ashamed to report this, ladies and gentlemen, but my thoughts when Phil played that album were: fuck the Shadows of Knight! Who, incidentally, I never heard from again, and there you have as cogent an example of karma as you will ever get. Not that I wished those guys any harm, you understand, but I was angry at the injustice. No, it wasn’t anger. Anger fades; I was indignant. And an indignant Gilbert back then was a Gilbert who would stifle his anger, sublimate his indignation, and write about it fifty-three years later. And so I have, and so here we are. If you’re going to listen to those two tracks, you’ve either already listened to them or you will later, so let’s move on and prove that less-text-more-listening thing. Released in 1983 at the beginning of the MTV era, Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” went to the top of the charts, won her fame, awards, a career, and has been covered by so many other artists that brevity forbids their inclusion. But where did it come from? She got the song from an EP (extended play: an LP- sized disc, but not enough songs for a full album) by Robert Hazard, whose band Robert Hazard and the Heroes was popular in Philadelphia in the early 80’s, and their EP was released in 1982. When you listen, you’ll hear that the distinctive sonic characteristics of a song from the early 80’s. They sound like other 80’s bands, and then remember what Ms. Lauper did with it. Here’s Hazard’s original version. Quickly, now, we move on to Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll,” which she released in 1982 on her second album, her first album with her new band, The Blackhearts. Jett was touring England in 1976 with the infamous Runaways when she saw the American band Arrows perform it on TV. Arrows were popular enough in England to have their own show on British TV, and band leader Alan Merrill was a teen heartthrob. But no one knew them in America. She first recorded the song with two of the Sex Pistols. This first version was released as a B-side in 1979, but in 1981, Jett re-recorded the song, this time with her band, the Blackhearts, and it became a number-one single in the U.S. for seven weeks. Billboard ranked it at the No. 3 song for 1982. Jett's album, I Love Rock 'n Roll reached No. 2. Jett's version was ranked No. 89 in the list 100 Greatest Guitar Songs in Rolling Stone and has also been inducted into the Grammy’s Hall of Fame in 2016. Here, by Arrows, is “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Next up is Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” which Aretha made into an anthem. Countless iterations have come and gone, but everyone knows it’s Aretha’s song. She heard it from Otis Redding. Here’s all I need to tell you about Otis Redding: In his tenure as the world’s top rock impresario, Bill Graham booked and saw all the greats of his day. He saw legendary performers at their peak, and the person whose performance he most admired was that of Otis Redding. One more thing: it’s a little eerie that during his performance at the historic Monterey Pops Festival, the camera keeps him going in and out of the white light, which is spooky in that he died shortly after this was shot. But this is not the space for pseudo-spiritual digressions, and so here is Otis Redding singing “Respect.” That was fun, right? This wasn’t. In 1927, the Mississippi River overflowed, causing utter devastation and despair to those who lived there. Farms, homes, businesses, livestock, pets, people and whole families were washed away. In 1929, Memphis Minnie and her husband, Kansas Joe McCoy wrote and recorded ”When The Levee Breaks.” Led Zeppelin cut it in 1971, basing it on the original recording and giving writing credits to Memphis Minnie and members of the band: “When The Levee Breaks.” If you liked following those two from the 1920’s, try these: From 1927: Here’s an east coast update from 1965: Here’s what happened on the west coast the next year: We’re back, and this one speaks for itself: Of confused authorship, “Hey Joe” was first recorded, then re-recorded by a Los Angeles garage band named The Leaves in 1965. In 1966, Jimi Hendrix took “Hey Joe” and made it his. But have a care for The Leaves; they were a punk band before there was punk, and they had a regional hit and it got taken away from them. So: a little love for The Leaves. Here’s a shout-out to you 80’s People: Everyone knows “Manic Monday” by The Bangles, and everyone remembers that Prince gave it to them. But do you remember that around that time Prince had a protégé—or a girlfriend, or who knows what went on with that guy?—but he was seen with and pushing the musical career of a tall, sensuous singer named Apollonia? And that Apollonia had a group called Apollonia 6? And Prince originally gave the song to them? And who knows what happened, or why Prince gave it to the Bangles, but here’s Apollonia 6 and “Manic Monday.” And I left this one for last because I need to expand a bit on that brevity thing. When I took this gig, maybe the first story I thought of writing was about The Strangeloves, because they were the first band I ever hung out with. I still should write the story because it’s a good one, and it would take too long to explain why I haven’t, but here’s the deal. They had three big hits in 1965: “I Want Candy,” “Cara-Lin”, and “Night Time.” No, really- it’s a great story, but for brevity we go to 2005, when Bow Wow Wow was playing a gig that I was stage managing. Their one big hit had been a cover of “I Want Candy,” so I hied myself over to their dressing room and introduced myself. I told them I used to hang with The Strangeloves, and did they know anything about them? No, they didn’t, and yes! they were interested! It was Bow Wow Wow’s biggest song and they had no idea about The Strangeloves. Briefly, there were three producers who wrote a song and hired a band called The Sheep to play it. Then, when it became a hit, they fired the bass player from the band, kept the drummer, guitar and keyboard player, and put them out on the road, and they were still on the road in the late 60’s when I met them. Okay, that wasn’t so interesting, but their story was that they were three brothers from Australia, Niles, Miles and Giles Strange, their father had made a lot of money by inventing some new kind of sheep, affording them enough money to come to America to rock us. Yeah, we bought that back then. They wore tight black leather pants, no shirt, a zebra-skin vest and zebra-skin belt. Let me add here that the drummer, Joey Piazza, is, to this day, maybe the best drummer I’ve ever heard. He was hard and tight. Hard and tight! There’s a good story here and I’m still gonna write about them some day. But wait! No bass? Atop the organ rested a Fender Bass keyboard, which was about fifteen inches long by about eight inches deep, and he played bass with his left hand and organ with his right. The cool thing was, he had these two mammoth drums with zebra-skin heads, and they were huge, maybe three feet high, and they hung off each end of the organ, and he played the keys with a mallet strapped to each wrist, hanging down, and when the song called for those booming beats, he’d flip his wrists up in the air and grab the mallets by the handle and pound on those drums! Boom! Boom Boom! Boom Boom! They sounded like Taiko drums, filling the halls, enveloping the people with martial, percussive beats. It was pretty powerful. Gotta write their story, ‘cause there’s a lot of story there. Listen to them do “I Want Candy.” They’d sing, “I….. Want Candy!” Boom! Boom Boom! Boom Boom! And that, ladies and gentlemen, had Bow Wow Wow clapping, laughing and cheering. They knew the beats were solid; they never knew what made them. In the video are the three producers, not the band yet, and that big drum in the middle, that’s the ones that were on the sides of the organ. And those were the clothes they wore, except they didn’t wear shirts on stage. And here, from 1982, is “I Want Candy,” by Bow Wow Wow. See? I told you: it wrote itself. And we’re done. 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.
  6. Friends, we are all spoiled and most of us don’t even know it, do we? We didn’t even miss it back then, and now it’s all over the place and I love it when I hear it. To explain, we have to go back to the 50’s and the earliest rock ‘n’ roll. Elsewhere in this space I’ve alluded to discussions I’ve participated in where the subject was the first rock ‘n’ roll record, but for the nonce, we’re going to look at the early days of lead guitar in rock music. So: not early rock, but early lead guitar. Right, maybe I shouldn’t have started out with, Hey, you out there: you’re spoiled! Right, I should try to make friends in this space, so, uhh… look, I’m sorry, and I’ll start again, but it’s true. If you like rock music and careful enough to discern art—or skill, at the least—when you hear it, then let’s go back to when rock was being invented and we teens were the focus group. What they gave us was pre-programmed to get past our parents, because whatever we watched or listened to had to be parent-proof or they’d never put it out. The music we heard might not pass muster today for sophistication, but back then it rocked us because we didn’t know something was missing. Songs were all under three minutes and most of them were made for dancing, so we danced, we sang, we threw our arms, legs and everything else around, and we had a good time not knowing we were deprived of excellent, daring, challenging rock lead guitar. Back then, lead guitar was simple riffs, sometimes merely repeated. No screaming breaks, no heights of emotion or stellar explorations. Back then Jimi Hendrix got thrown out of a pre-Experience Top 40-type band for “showing off.” He broke Rule #1 in Showbiz: never outshine the star. The lead guitar wasn’t the star? What the…? There were a few lead guitar-driven songs, and we’ll look at what that meant in the early days, when rock was being invented. Rock was simple and formulaic, and no one was in what we now think of as a garage band because the bands practicing in garages were trying to sound like the Top 40 dance records that were on the AM radios that everyone listened to; no one was looking to overturn the establishment, and for that matter, I’d bet that any decent garage band in America right now has a lead guitarist way better than any of the guys we’re going to look at today, when the level of lead just wasn’t played because there was nothing like that around to emulate. The players were there, the skills were there, they just didn’t kick it up that extra notch. No judgment, here, because as with any art: it’s easy to copy, but hard to create. More exciting music was coming soon, but back then no one was thinking of serious lead guitar. It just wasn’t an issue. Ever see the scene in Back to the Future when Marty McFly—with his knowledge of modern rock—grabs a guitar at a teen dance and starts Chuck Berry-ing all over the place before anyone had ever heard of Chuck Berry or his brand of rock or seen his stage antics, and the kids in the crowd were stunned into silence? They just weren’t ready yet, and neither were I or my classmates in the mid- and late 1950’s, when the record industry controlled the recording output and no one wrote or played on their own songs. The writers, singers, players and producers followed the charts and it was a safe, neatly tied-together, pre-digested package that teens sucked up until the mid-60’s, when all hell broke loose in every corner of our culture, and music drove the revolution. There was rock lead guitar in the early days, but it followed a simple formula; no one took extended, adventurous breaks, no one was challenged by the music, no one was overworking the amps or had effects pedals, and hardly anyone played more than six notes; but no one knew we were missing anything. Some songs had a few guitar licks thrown in, and that was always a highlight for me, but the breaks were never extended beyond a few bars and then went back into the background. But even as I appear to be disparaging what we had, I have to tell you that it was great! It was new, it was ours, and we loved all the hits. Rock belonged to the teens and not to their parents, so it was even better when our parents screwed up their faces in uncomprehending distaste at the sound of it. Rock was simple, it was mostly about love and lost love and used simple themes, it was made for dancing, and it was… simple. The best rock followed a faithful 4/4 beat and you could dance to it because we all did the same dances they did on the biggest, most-watched afternoon TV show in America, American Bandstand, with Dick Clark, which we all watched when we got home from school and then talked about that night on the phone if we were done with our homework and our parents let us use the phone because that was pretty expensive and our parents hated us tying up the line because everyone had just one line in the house and this was before “call waiting,” and parents could be testy about stuff like that, especially if we were talking about “that jungle music” and anyway we had all day tomorrow to talk about it. American Bandstand had a daily feature where they’d play a new release and three kids would give it a grade, and at least two if not all three would include somewhere in their evaluation, “well, it had a good beat and you could dance to it…” Everyone watched it and we all learned the new dances from watching the show, which was necessary after a few years of doing the “Lindy,” when Chubby Checker came out with “The Twist” and every few weeks thereafter saw another new dance, like the Frug, the Hitch-hike, the Swim, the Monkey, the Madison, the Watusi, the Mashed Potatoes, and my favorite, the Stroll, some of which I can still do. We had dances and parties, which I liked but was awkward at, especially during those slow dances… those slow dances… when we got to hold a girl close and smell her perfume and feel her heartbeat... Hey, how many people reading this have danced to rock ‘n’ roll anytime recently? Okay, I guess weddings and such count, but rules of civility prevail at those. What about a nightclub? Would you know how to dance there? I don’t know if I would. Just saying. We did then. It was simple and naïve, but joyful, and I wish I knew how to get that back, but let’s get on with the other thing: lead guitar. For perspective, let’s start in 1954 with what some say is the first rock ‘n’ roll record: Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock. Okay, maybe you are among the many who thought this was the first rock record (and please don’t say that to Ike Turner! See below), but no one disputes it is one of the most important rock releases. Haley’s lead guitarist took a lead break, but it was only maybe six notes, played fast. Other than that brief lead, the band had two guitars playing rhythm. As we’ll see often, it’s a basic three-chord, twelve bar blues they’re playing. Simple rock. And pay attention to that six-note thing. As long as we’re in this period, here’s a quick shout-out to Scotty Moore, legendary guitarist for Elvis Presley, who took some bluegrass, some blues, and made early rock guitar a standout instrument. Yes, Elvis was important, but it’s Moore that the coming rockers listened to. Along with being influenced by Duane Eddy, guitarists like Keith Richards George Harrison, Pete Townsend, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, John Lennon all studied Scotty Moore, and every right-thinking lead guitarist and rockabilly soul everywhere reveres him. Now I’d like to jump to April, 1958 and introduce you to my first guitar hero, Duane Eddy, and when you’re ready, please stop reading this tripe and listen to Duane Eddy’s first hit, Rebel Rouser, with the understanding that this was exciting, rockin’ lead guitar. Eddy produced a low, reverberant sound that he called “twangy.” It was a new sound and it rocked us. Duane Eddy was a new thing: a guitar slinger, and I wanted in. My father said I could take lessons, but the only guitar teacher around was, like, 60, and he’d let me buy the sheet music to any song I wanted to learn as long as I completed my classical assignments, which of course I hated. And yes, we used to buy sheet music. But I practiced diligently and got through those exercises so I could get to what I wanted to play. The deal I agreed to was that if I took the classical lessons, my father would buy me a gut-string guitar, because of course having an electric guitar in the house was out of the question. I agreed to it, I got me a guitar, I started playing Rebel Rouser, and my father never forgave himself. Cannonball, Eddy’s next hit, stays with the three-chord rock we’re looking at today, and deviates only slightly from the standard 12- bar blues format. Oh, yeah, for sophistication at the halfway mark he bumps it up a key, but it’s still simple music compared to what we know today. And 59 years later, it still rocks, and 59 years later, how many of us still do? The ranks are thinning, folks, and I’m glad our host at CA thinks enough of preserving some of this history, because after the Boomers go, you gotta do the research yourself if you want to know this. But you still have me, so let’s look at some other examples of early lead rock guitar. There were few guys around whose fame was lead guitar, but hardly any of them sang, and among the most prominent was Link Wray, whose first release in May, 1958, Rumble, made him legendary, perhaps because the guitar had a unique sound, and perhaps because the song was banned in New York and Boston for fear that it would lead to an outbreak of gang violence, aka: a rumble. The song uses a distinctive, distorted guitar sound that many credit as the first power chord, and Quentin Tarantino hasn’t hurt Wray’s oldies career any when he featured this song and another in Pulp Fiction. Other films that include Rumble are too many to burden you with. Listen to it and try to imagine why this song might start a gang fight. Wray played chords emphasizing the bass, and it was heavy, but Eddy played lead on those strings, and this was as heavy as it got. Just for fun, here’s Jimmy Page talking about Rumble. Listen to the lead break: basically he’s holding one chord and strumming in double time through the whole break, and the lead break lasts all of twelve seconds! Man, that’s what I’m saying! That was lead guitar! Also, that guitar he’s holding in the video is a Danelectro, and that’s the first electric guitar I got. I had to rent it because my father wasn’t going for a full-time Gilbert-owned electric guitar in the house. What would be next, one of those amplifiers? And my parents were normal! Parents were scared, friends; maybe not all of them, but there were pockets of troublemakers waiting for their chance, and all parents knew it. If my dad wouldn’t buy an electric for me, I had to rent it, and I got a Danelectro ‘cause, y’know, you gotta have style. Danelectros are a trip, they’re really collectible now, and players love to have them worked on and moderned-up. I don’t know how to explain it, but when I heard Link Wray’s sound, it thrilled me and Jimmy Page. And yes, I liked saying “me and Jimmy Page.” Yeah, we were a bit unsophisticated, but this was all new to everyone, and it thrilled us. Speaking about how a new sound could have an impact, long ago in this space I recounted that the song many say as the first rock ‘n’ roll record is 1954’s Rocket 88 by Ike Turner. What many credit—in part—for the success of that record was its unique guitar sound. Ike’s drummer wrote the song in the car on the way from Florida to record in Memphis, but when they unpacked at Sun Studios, they found the guitar amp speaker cone was torn, so Sam Phillips stuffed some paper in there and the resulting “fuzzy” sound was so new and exciting that it helped drive the song to #1 on the R&B charts. Again, yes to being unsophisticated, but yes to everything being new and exciting, and once again we see that the music was simple, but although it was a rockin’ track, it was the sound of the guitar that people talked about. Interesting, mais non? Now may I introduce the absolute star instrumental of the period (and please don’t disagree with me): Walk, Don’t Run by The Ventures. Easily the most-played and most recognizable instrumental of the period, it started out as a jazz tune in 1954, then re-cut by country guitarist Chet Atkins in 1956, and re-cut in 1960 with a 4/4 back-beat by The Ventures, when it went to #2 nationally. It became the only song ever re-cut by the same group and made into a hit again with a different version. Rolling Stone magazine named it one of the top 100 guitar songs of all time. After it came out, everywhere in America it became not only the first song a band learned, it was also the first song any aspiring guitarist learned. This song was everywhere! Ubiquitous, as it were. So look at the video- and no laughing out there, d-d-dammit, they were our stars! We rocked to them! They rocked us at home, in the car, at dances and on TV. Let’s not think about how that band would go over today if presented un-ironically. No one rebelled yet, no one had long hair and only the JDs (juvenile delinquents) had sideburns. We all wore clean shirts and slacks, and jeans were only for weekends and after school. We were good boys and girls and that’s how it was. We all wore the proper clothes, and except for American Bandstand, we watched the same TV shows as our parents. We said thanks and may I and we toed the line and that’s why our parents were freaked-the-fuck out when it all changed after a group we never heard of got booked to do two songs on the Ed Sullivan Show. But back then this was lead guitar and we liked it! Concluding chronologically, we refocus and go back to those six notes that maybe you thought I was kidding about as we look to Jörgen Ingmann and Apache from 1961. Ingmann had been influenced by Les Paul enough to build his own recording studio in Copenhagen and began experimenting in multi-tracking and distortion. Apache made it to #1 in Canada, #2 in the U.S. and in Europe, but I think the main reason I threw in Apache was so I could tell you that before his one hit, Ingmann played in an early 50’s duo named The Unmelancholy Danes. I know! You’re welcome. But I’ve been harping about the sophistication thing, and it’s important, so let’s use a fun example of our sophistication back then by using a song that everyone (absolutely everyone!) knows- The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens. You know the song, you like the song, and too many of you have sung the song at some karaoke thing I was at. Good song, sure, a standard since 1961 (a #1 hit in 36 countries!) but by now you’ve also watched a lot of nature shows and you’ve all seen the lions out there on the plains, and you never thought: “Wait! There are no lions in the jungle! There are tigers in jungles, yeah, but there just isn’t a jungle anywhere with lions in it.” Okay, it’s kind of cheesy that they got away with that, but wait! Wait! Lions don’t sleep at night, they hunt at night! They sleep during the day to avoid the heat out there in the Serengeti Plain, that deathly-dry place that hardly has any trees, and when the sun starts setting they wake up and stretch and go out hunting, or ask the ladies to do it. So that song… it was all bullshit! Liked that song, didn’t ya? Sucks, doesn’t it? And consider how long it would be before the net blew up with outrage if that song came out today. Yeah, I know you’re gonna think about that every time you hear the song from now on, and worse- you’re going to tell everyone around you about it the next time the song comes on. And yes, you’re gonna be a jerk just like I was. Yes, telling you that was a shitty thing to do, but if you’re ever on Final Jeopardy and they ask, “What was wrong with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”? you’re ready, Eddy. And again, you’re welcome. To wrap up here, we must ask where that leaves us vis-à-vis guys like George Harrison, Keith Richards and all the guys in the first wave of the British Invasion. George, Keith, Pete Townsend and Jimmy Page all loved Duane Eddy, studied him when lead guitar meant something very different than it does today, and I’d bet that almost any garage band in America has better lead players than George or Keith. No, that is not, I repeat not, sacrilege, because these guys came up before guys like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman and everyone who followed their leads (pun unintended but enjoyed) made their mark by following a path of experimentation that wasn’t in the wind yet. For me, Keith Richards is Mr. Rock and Mr. Roll, and his leads are bold and exciting, but lacking in the sophistication of those who came after. That stinging, piercing lead in Sympathy for the Devil is an all-treble attack, but look at what he does with so few notes. That’s Keith, man: give him a second and he’ll sting ya! Play it loud! It’s supposed to hurt! But remember that when Brian Jones died, they didn’t go looking for a rhythm guitarist, they went and hired Mick Taylor, one of the hottest, boldest lead players in the market. And when he couldn’t keep up with the Rolling Stones’ lifestyle, they hired Ronnie Wood, who I believe to be a better player than Keith, and who I believe holds back in the band because, people: what was Showbiz Rule #1? Right. George Harrison improved, of course, but no one that I know has compared him with his friend Eric or Jimi or Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page or… But like with Keith, it’s the soul of the player, not the licks. And this is where we get to Chuck Berry, who is so important to this issue, and who, because he falls into a separate category, I won’t insult anyone by mentioning him only briefly, but with the promise of further explication. In a word, Chuck Berry is a category by himself. To conclude (no cheering out there!), in the event that I haven’t made Duane Eddy’s contribution to lead guitar important enough for you, have a few of these: "Rebel Rouser," featuring yells and handclaps by The Rivingtons, became Eddy's breakthrough hit, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It sold over one million copies, earning Eddy his first gold disc. Eddy sold over 12 million records over the next few years, and his band members, would go on to work as part of Phil Spector's Wrecking Crew. One writer I found was convinced that Eddy’s raunchy guitar helped keep rock ‘n’ roll alive in a fallow period, a period I think of as the time of the Jimmy’s and Bobby’s. He sure did for me. Duane Eddy continued a non-stop string of releases, most of which made little impact, but in 1987, he released Duane Eddy, which featured the original Rebels (his backing band), plus John Fogerty, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ry Cooder, James Burton, David Lindley and Steve Cropper, all of whom you should know. The album was co-produced by McCartney, Jeff Lynne, Ry Cooder and The Art of Noise. In the spring of 1994, Eddy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Eddy's "Rebel Rouser" was featured that same year in Forrest Gump. Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers used "The Trembler", a track written by Eddy and Ravi Shankar. Also in 1994, Eddy teamed up with Carl Perkins and The Mavericks to contribute "Matchbox" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country. Eddy was the lead guitarist on Foreigner's 1995 hit "Until the End of Time", which reached the top ten on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. In 1996, Eddy played guitar on the soundtrack for the film Broken Arrow. In 2000, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, the title "Titan of Twang" was bestowed upon Eddy by the mayor. In 2004, Eddy was presented with the Guitar Player Magazine "Legend Award". Eddy was the second recipient of the award, the first being presented to Les Paul. Among those who have acknowledged his influence are George Harrison, Dave Davies, Hank Marvin, the Ventures, John Entwistle, Bruce Springsteen, Adrian Belew, Bill Nelson, and Mark Knopfler. Eddy was the first rock and roll guitarist to have a signature model guitar. In 1961 Guild Guitars introduced the Duane Eddy Models DE-400 and the deluxe DE-500. A limited edition was reissued briefly in 1983 to mark Eddy's 25th anniversary in the recording industry. In 1997 Gretsch Guitars started production of the Duane Eddy Signature Model, the Gretsch 6120-DE. In 2004 the Gibson Custom Art and Historic Division introduced the new Duane Eddy Signature Gibson guitar. A new Gretsch G6120DE Duane Eddy Signature model was released in spring 2011. So: was Duane Eddy important? 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.
  7. I met Jim Marshall just after he’d shot someone. And bam! I’ve discovered that, knowing it or not, a writer might be waiting all his life for an opening line like that. Although I’m not really sure how true it is. I could have asked about it over the years, but it just never came up. That’s how he was introduced to me, he didn’t deny it, and the person introducing us had known him for many years, so I believed her, and meeting him that first time gave me no reason to doubt it. I said in a previous essay that I admired passion in art. This is about an artist beset by his passion for music, and whose axe was a Leica. While some songs become memorable, some photos go straight onto the American heritage landscape. Whoever you are, you’ve seen his art. Jim was loud, demanding, belligerent, arrogant, dictatorial and profane (he used to say “fuck” more than Joe Pesci in Goodfellas) and yet, god-dammit, somehow he was lovable. What a package! My pal Tim was talking to our host at CA, Chris, who told him about my connection to Jim, and Chris got in touch, wanting to know more about Jim. Apparently, Chris is a photographer of note and a collector of the form, so he knew about Jim and he knew the photos, but I know a bit about Jim, himself, and I’m here to share. Anyone can see and admire Jim’s photos in books, magazines, museums, homes and galleries, but this is the backstage tour. I’m going to be indiscreet because I know Jim would approve. Many articles, blogs, essays, books and photography compilations have devoted so much space to Jim, and they’re all consistently respectful of his art, as am I, and that has been my habit in this space. Today, rather than extol the obvious virtues of his abilities, I’d rather impart my personal experiences with Jim. Throughout the essay, I’ll post some links, including to a show of his photos currently running in San Francisco until June 17, 2017. As I spent many an afternoon with Jim looking over his contact sheets, I’ll also post a link to a bunch of those, and invite you to browse, as I used to. Until then, it’s about me and Jim in the world we lived in at a crazy time. What made it crazy? Well, a lot, as it turned out, but among the variables are two stand-out components: cocaine and people like Jim Marshall. Swarthy, big-nosed, rarely clean-shaven, Jim Marshall somehow always looked almost well put-together. Well, I just wrote that, and I apologize because I was putting off deciding on how much to tell you. The Jim I knew was just this side of frumpy, as a matter of fact. What’s funny about that is if he were still alive and I told him what I wanted to write, I believe he’d laugh his ass off and tell me to go ahead. No, that wouldn’t be Jim; he’d laugh his ass off and then threaten me with violence if I didn’t write it. Threaten? For someone new to Jim, what might sound like a threat was his normal conversational tone. He could intimidate you while sitting, standing, speaking, yelling, whispering or, I’m here to tell you, leaning over your right shoulder. To meet Jim was one thing; to hang out with him meant you had to know what he meant. And what he meant was either harm or no harm. He was loud, he was in your face, but once we had each other in focus, our times together were almost always fun. Except for the time he dared me to come over and meet the .45 caliber bullet that was waiting to meet me. It didn’t seem like a good time, so I said no thanks and called back a few days later. But that was just the once. In the mid- 80’s, a friend was an admirer of Jim, and when he found out about my connection to him, he plied me with questions. I told him about the times I spent with Jim in the small room between his kitchen and his living room, where he had those oak artist’s file cabinets, the ones with all the two-inch-high drawers. He had all his contact sheets in there, all sorted, dated and accessible. I’d ask about a band or an artist and we’d sit at that small table with lines and some wine or some single malt I might have brought and go over the sheets, and he’d tell stories. No one had better stories than Jim Marshall. He’d been everywhere I wanted to know about, and he’d had more access than anyone. Which became a problem for Jim in the 1970’s: he demanded full access. When he started out, his attitude—okay, belligerence—got him backstage for shots that no one else was getting, and because it was so early in the 60’s, no one else was competing with him for those shots. Jim got total access at a time when that was still available, but by Springsteen, access to the stars or the stage had tightened to the point where everything was a tense negotiation with handlers, managers and agents before anyone ever got to shoot anything. That was a problem for Jim. Yeah, he’d taken those candid shots of all the greats, and many of those shots became iconic: Johnny Cash giving the camera the finger at Folsom. Jimi at Monterey, Mick Jagger or Keith Richards anywhere, Miles in the ring after a workout, The Beatles’ last concert at Candlestick Park, Cream and so many more. But when the business of rock went corporate, no one was getting the access that Jim still demanded, and there were so many others by then who would get the shots and charge less and be less of a headache to deal with because Jim had this arrogance thing you may have heard about. By the 80’s, Jim still had work, but a lot of the high-paying gigs dried up. I assume Jim used a clipping service as he diligently maintained a relentless regime of monitoring newspapers and magazines for his photos that had been used without his permission, and then he’d demand payment or threaten to sue them. The threat was usually enough, because Jim knew the laws, he knew the language, and there were the offending shots right in front of him. Plus, he sounded like an angry Jim Marshall, and if they already knew who he was and about his fascination with guns… But those were never our issues, and hanging out with Jim, alone in that small room with him and those contact sheets… Ah, those afternoons with the contact sheets! There was Hendrix backstage, seen in sequence, maybe ten minutes of shots of him hanging out, talking with has band-mates, or alone and thoughtful before he went on, and then he’d put that sheet aside and show me the next sheet with the next few minutes as Hendrix walked onto the stage, and then the next several sheets of the performance, all of them Jim Marshall-level exquisite shots, all well-timed and exposed, and almost all of them unseen by the public. No one knew that he was going to light his guitar on fire that night, but as Jimi walked onto the stage, he whispered to Jim, "Just have a lot of film ready." And don’t even ask about the San Francisco bands! All of them! And don’t forget about Jim’s shots of Led Zeppelin or The Who! And more! It could be overwhelming to spend an afternoon with Jim Marshall. God, how I miss those afternoons! My friend asked, so I told him about those afternoons, and he verily salivated at the prospect of meeting Jim, and asked me to introduce him. I said I would, but he had to know two things before he went. He had to know that Jim would seem belligerent and threatening because he was, especially about his art. I told him not to be put off; he had to allow Jim to say whatever he said, and just go along with it, and please try not to disagree with him. The other thing, the most important thing, was that he’d better bring some cash, because Jim Marshall was going to hound him into buying something. I meant it, so he’d better come prepared to part with a few hundred dollars. Cash. He listened, he went with cash, and when he left—unharmed—he had a photo he’ll always treasure and an afternoon he’ll never forget. Let’s go back a few years to the late 70’s and early 80’s, when a substance I mentioned earlier seemed to be everywhere, and you probably won’t believe me if you weren’t there, but it was, and several people I knew were, uhh… hobbyists, weekend warriors, as it were, where Jim was passionate. As long as we’re Back In The Day, so to speak, does anyone remember those little coke bottles that came in two sizes? Gram and half-gram? Small, clear glass bottles an inch or inch-and-a-half tall, with black plastic tops? Anyone? Anyone remember that they came with those cheap, tiny spoons connected to the tops by a thin, cheap chain? Remember those tiny spoons? Well, everyone had those bottles, so everyone had those spoons, but Jim had a shovel. It was custom-made of silver, and it fit exactly inside one of those bottles. Yes, a shovel. Everyone had those bottles and everyone used those spoons, but I had a friend who used a shovel. Ladies and gentlemen: Jim Marshall. Have I mentioned the profanity? Jim swore a fuck of a lot (sorry, couldn’t resist), and when I interviewed him for my talk show on KFAT radio, I reminded him that it was not us just sitting around like we used to, this was for broadcast, and could he please watch his language? Thankfully, Jim was respectful enough to curb the profanity, and when Joan Baez’s mother heard the interview, she called the station, claiming that it couldn’t have been Jim on the show because “the guy didn’t say ‘fuck’ once!” Ladies and gentlemen: Jim Marshall. He lived above an art store in a fashionable part of Union Street in the City, and I remember more than once sitting in my car near his place, transferring half of my stash into a second container because I knew as God was my witness that nothing of what I took inside with me was coming out again. You know what we’re still talking about… right? Look, I’ve got stories I can tell and more that I can’t, and I’ve been pretty open so far, haven’t I? So I’ll tell you two more Jim Marshall stories and then, even though this is usually a column about my connection with music, I’ll take you on a tour of some of my Jim Marshall shots. The almost last story: I’d recently moved into San Francisco and there had just been a series of tremors. I was thinking: what if that had been a big one—or worse yet, The Big One—what sort of civil rule might prevail? Would there be any rule? I’d never thought of myself as either a pessimist or a survivalist, but, I mean… and what if no disaster had happened, it was a normal night, but there was someone rooting around in my house at three o’clock in the morning? I mean, whoever it was, they weren’t there for the suntan, so… so I decided to get a gun. Did I want a revolver or an automatic? Or a rifle or a shotgun? I knew nothing about guns, and I didn’t want to ask a salesman what I needed. What I needed was a friend who knew about these things. I needed Jim. I called—Jim wasn’t someone you popped in on—drove over and parked out front. Yes, yes, I switched half my stash and rang his bell. He stuck his head out of his second-story window, saw me and yelled, “Gilbert! Come on up!” and the buzzer sounded. He waited for me at the top of the stairs and told me to follow him. No, that’s not it; he barked, “C’mon!” and led me to his bedroom. On the way, he told me he was watching a movie and it was almost over. He got on the bed with his shoulders against the headboard, facing the TV, so I sat on the other side, facing the TV. It was an old black & white film from the 40’s, and ten minutes later it ended. Jim looked over and said, “What’s goin’ on?” I told him I was thinking about getting a gun, and didn’t know what kind, how big, or anything. He nodded and said, “Okay, look,” then he leaned forward and with his left hand he reached behind him and from under the pillow behind him he took out a gun. I…I… I don’t know what to tell you about it. It was, uhhh… medium size, I guess, and mean looking, and he said, “If you want stopping power with a decent recoil, this is a good gun,” and then he went on about its details. I’d always thought all you needed to know about a gun were two things: was it loaded, and did I want to shoot it? Jim went on about its recoil, then he covered its reliability, cleaning, various bullets and their different effects, their accuracies at what distances, and the list of legal and illegal additions, modifications, alterations and the benefits and disadvantages of each. So I sat there and listened, trying to take it all in, telling myself to remember all this. Then he slipped it back under the pillow, took his left hand out, held up his left index finger and said, “But if you’re looking for sheer stopping power…” and with his right hand he reached under the pillow on my side of the bed and took out a gun so big that it seemed to take a lo-oo-ong time easing out from under the pillow. I remember thinking it seemed like a battleship reversing out of its berth, and when it was finally all out and pointing at the ceiling, he went on about stopping power and what would be shattered and what ammo would assure utter devastation no matter where it hit because of something about arteries or something, and how far it would go into an automobile engine block, and then he went on about the recoil, which could be a real handicap, and why it took periodic use at a practice range to be comfortable with this gun, and how strong was my wrist? He took about the same amount of time with this one as the last, and I sat there trying to absorb it all. After putting away the second gun, he told me to follow him, then led me around the rest of his apartment, pulling out two other guns and two knives from their hiding places. Ummm… uhhh… okay, thanks, Jim, uh, thanks! Now that I’m warmed up and into it, I wish you were here and I could tell you the other stories, but I feel that would lead to yet another regret, and I already have too many of those. Although I think it’s great that I have so few regrets, few are still a few too many, and we’re almost done, but here’s one now: As I approached 70, I had, perhaps like others, looked back on those years to see if I could judge how my life had gone. I think you have to look at how much good you’ve created, how much harm; is the world better for your presence or not? One of my metrics has been always been how much regret I’ve accrued. While this is almost certainly too much information, I have long considered among my blessings that I have so few regrets, and lucky that many of those were minor gripes, and sadly here I must add that Jim Marshall is a named co-respondent in one of my regrets, and therein also hangs a mystery; so Jim’s passing has left me with an unanswered question and a regret. Observe: High on that list of regrets (and this will tell you how lucky I am that something relatively minor rates so high) is that back in 1971, I had a ticket to see the Allman Brothers Band at the Fillmore East, and I didn’t go. I was driving a cab back then to get through college, and my shift started at 7AM and lasted twelve hours. I knew that the show wouldn’t end until after two, and I had a 90-minute drive home, which gave me maybe two hours of sleep before a long day of driving, and I already knew that the company discouraged sleeping while driving. I remember once complaining to the dispatcher that twelve hours was a damn long shift, and he responded by pointing out that it was “only half a day,” so I knew there would be no sympathy for a day off or coming in a few hours late. I needed the job, so I gave my ticket to a friend, and I’ve regretted it ever since. I loved the Allman’s, and Duane Allman is among my favorite guitarists. The show became legendary, the live album of that show became the standard of live concert recordings, almost all the tracks were in heavy rotation at every hip radio station in America, and the cover of that double album became one of the most iconic images of the 60’s, and it was shot by Jim Marshall. Over several years of friendship with Jim, I acquired, as you will see, a modest collection of his shots, and I always, always, always wanted that shot of the Allman Brothers Band. But I never got one, and lo, these years later, it is too late to get it from Jim, and I do not know why I never asked about it. I could have gotten it from him anytime. Anytime. If Jim were still with us, I would get on it in a trice now, but…. So there. I regret not going to that show, and I try not to blame Jim for it. You might say that he was just an innocent bystander, but that night the band was in New York, Jim was in New York and I was in New York. Alright, he was busy, he didn’t call, I get it. But now I regret not going to that show and I regret that I never asked Jim for that photo, and I don’t know why. I love the ones I have, and I got to pick out all of them, and some are rare and some are one-offs, and I love them all, but… that show! Do you know that show? Look, I know there are people out there who will want better audio than YouTube provides, and I know there is better audio available on other platforms, but man, it’s this incredibly iconic album and you should know it. The band was on fire that night, on fire! and Duane Allman is an amazing musician. And even if you know it, how long has it been since you’ve heard it? Don’t you think you should listen to some of it again? Here’s a . I’ve said some harsh things about Jim, and he might have been made to appear as anti-social or worse, but he wasn’t. He was an intelligent, highly moral man and a loyal friend with a great sense of humor, who cared deeply about his art and would never strand a friend or leave them in need. You might not get it from this article, but he could be charming and he was as funny as anyone I’ve ever met. Of course, you wanted to be on the right side of Jim at all times, and even if I didn’t have these photos I would still have been lucky to know him. The last time I saw Jim was in December, 1995. It was New Year’s Eve, I had a nightclub in San Francisco, and we were open. Jim came by—unannounced, of course—with two pretty black ladies, one on each arm, and he barked, “Gilbert! Take care of my friends here!” I said I would, and Jim turned back the way he’d just come in and yelled over his shoulder, “Happy New Year!” and he went back out into the night. The two ladies seemed unsure, and it was nearing midnight, so I got them some hats and offered whatever assistance I could. I brought them into the bar, signed for their drinks and introduced them to the bartender. I told her their names and told her they were friends of mine, to please look after them. Then I went back to work, as it was closer to midnight and I had… what were those? Oh, yeah: responsibilities. I knew they wanted to be somewhere for midnight, now they were, and I had responsibilities. An hour later, with the festivities still at a frantic pace, I got back to the bar, but they were gone. I’d lost track of them and Last Call was coming up, and that needed my attention. I hope they had a good time. I hope they had a good year. When the party was over and we closed for the night, my bartender told me she’d spoken to the two ladies. They told her they’d never met Jim before, that he’d found them wandering on Haight Street, unsure where to go. He came up to them and told them that he saw that they were all dressed-up, but looked lost, and he demanded to know where they were going. When Jim decided their answer wasn’t satisfactory, he walked them straight into my place, knowing they’d be taken care of if he asked me to, and he went back out to greet the new year. As usual, he was alone that night. Later that year, I moved out of town and I never saw Jim again, but I’ll never forget the back of his head nodding as he waved his right hand over his head and gave me the backwards wave. Ladies and gentlemen: Jim Marshall. Late Fun Facts: Jim said, “When I’m photographing people, I don’t like to give any direction. There are no hair people fussing around, no make-up artists. I’m like a reporter, only with a camera; I react to my subject in their environment, and if it’s going well, I get so immersed in it that I become one with the camera.” Jim was the chief photographer at Woodstock and Monterey. In 1967, he dated Folgers coffee heiress, Abigail Folger, who was murdered in 1969 by the followers of Charles Manson. In 1973, a man offered to buy the camera that Jim used to shoot Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock for $25,000. Jim refused. In 2017, that would be approx. $142,018.82. Dennis Hopper once said that he based his character in Apocalypse Now on Jim Marshall. In 2014 Marshall was posthumously given a Trustees Award (part of the Lifetime Achievement Awards) at the 56th Grammy Awards, the first photographer, and as of 2014 the only, to receive one. Annie Leibovitz said “Jim Marshall was the rock ’n’ roll photographer," and when Rolling Stone hired her to put together Shooting Stars. The Rolling Stone Book Of Portraits (which now sells for $1,000), she said ‘if I couldn’t get Jim Marshall in the book, it wouldn’t be worth having the book.’ His photos appeared on the covers of over 500 albums and even more were published in Rolling Stone and other magazines. Jim Marshall was born in Chicago in February, 1936, and lived in San Francisco. He died on March 24, 2010. He was in Manhattan to promote his new book, Match Prints. Want more photos? Go: http://www.jimmarshallphotographyllc.com/ I regret losing Jim Marshall like I regret not going to that Allman Brothers show. Here’s a tour of most of my Jim Marshall photos: Grace Slick and Janis Joplin. This is from his site. I have it framed and signed. Joni Mitchell in her house in Laurel Canyon. Same as above. These are better images than I could take. The Beatles at their last concert, Candlestick Park, San Francisco, 1966. I sat with Jim for over an hour on this one. I wanted what I wanted, and Jim let me be the picky jerk I can be. I wanted George at the mic in one shot, I wanted Ringo in one shot, and I wanted Paul and John sharing a mic. I knew which shots I wanted with Ringo, and Paul and John, but I couldn’t find the George shot. So Jim offered to use a Paul/George shot I liked, and black out Paul. I know on paper that sounds like sacrilege, but it solved the problem, and here’s what I have: a one-of-a-kind triptych of The Beatles. Another Paul and John. I chose this because John and Paul were watching each other as they sang, and if that ain’t The Beatles, friend, then there ain’t no Beatles. Here’s a lesser shot that sells for $6,500! Holy jeez, Jim would roar at that! But he’d insist it was worth it. Contact sheet of Mick Jagger. It was printed in 1980, but the shots were from 1969 when Mick was in Los Angeles. This is #9 of 10. By the way, all of these are signed by Jim. (18 x 22) BAM Magazine (Bay Area Music) gave Jim a show, and I asked him to blow up the invitation and sign it. To my knowledge this is the only one. Jim took this shot of your reporter presenting an award at the First Annual Bammies (1978). That’s Dusty Streets, formerly of KSAN, with me. I know you’ll understand why I am so honored to have this photo. Photos of Jim over the years: 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.
  8. Article: The Music In Me: Songs In The Key of Passion

    Interesting twist on the duel story. Wonder where the truth lies? I wonder: if the other guy played the clam, why were they dueling? Unless the guy denied it and Bechet insisted. which he might have. Also, thanks for the relation to Louis, and so glad to learn that Bechet is still thought of- and so highly. Thanks for the link.
  9. This might be a short one today, because it’s all about a story I heard once, and it’s a short one at that. But I never use three words when I can get away with ten, so sit down and we’ll begin with a visit to the Bay Area. I was up there for Thanksgiving, and I had my usual lunch with Bob, my lawyer, guide and friend for over forty years. I can’t say enough about Bob, but it’s not about him, so let’s get to the tour. I hadn’t been in Bob’s home for a long time, and he was showing me around when we got to his den, and the first thing I saw was this big old stand-up record player, and I was stopped cold. He said it was from 1913, and he picked up the lid to show me the 78 rpm disc on the turntable. It was one of my favorite boogie woogie pianists, Albert Ammons, and the song was “Early Morning Blues.” Then he flipped it over and I flipped out: it was Sidney Bechet playing “Viper Mad.” A Sidney Bechet record! Dude played clarinet and soprano saxophone, and he was so excellent! Bechet (pronounced Bih-SHAY) was born in New Orleans in 1897 to a musical middle-class creole family, and, self-taught, achieved notice at six playing in his brother’s band; by his teens he was the only player in New Orleans who could share the bandstand with Louis Armstrong without embarrassing himself. Bechet was one of the founders of jazz, but not many know about him, and although everyone recognizes Louis Armstrong as being among the first jazz artists to put their craft on wax, Bechet beat him to the studio by several months. That may seem insignificant now, but at the time it was quite important. While playing in London, Bechet discovered the straight soprano saxophone, and quickly developed a style quite unlike his warm, reedy clarinet tone. His saxophone sound has been described as "emotional", "reckless", and "large," using a very broad vibrato, common to some New Orleans clarinetists at the time. Bechet was known for his forceful delivery, well-constructed improvisations, and that distinctive, wide vibrato. He was as arrogant as he was talented. In 1922 that attitude got him arrested in London for beating up a prostitute, but he did not isolate his anger solely on women, as other players felt his wrath if he didn’t think they were playing up to his standard. After serving almost a year in a London jail, he was deported back to New York, where he got off the boat and went to Harlem (naturally), where sat in with a band before confronting saxophonist Coleman Hawkins for his disparaging remarks about New Orleans musicians, playing so fiercely in Hawkins’ direction that Hawkins ran off the bandstand, out of the building and down the street, with Bechet right behind him, blowing his soprano saxophone at him all the while. Almost there… I hope you’re intrigued by this relatively unknown jazz giant, but I will never forget the story that endeared him to me instantly and eternally. Because I love passion. Everyone might have their own definition of art, but there had better be passion in there, or what you got ain’t art. To me, art is passion coupled with vision and technique. If you have one or two but not the third, it might be good, but it won’t be art. And Sidney Bechet had all of those in spades. He knew it and he demanded it in others. If you hadn’t mastered your axe, Bechet wouldn’t play with you. And yes, he could be an ass about it. You can hear his passion and technique in his recordings, but what sold me on his passion happened early one morning in 1929, in a small club in Paris. The one in France. He was playing with a group he’d gigged with before, and all were up to his exacting standards. The night wore down, the late set was over, and they were packing up their gear when the piano player told Bechet not to worry about that clam, that bad note. “What clam?” demanded Bechet! The player told him where, in which song, he’d played the bad note, and Bechet went ballistic. He said “Sidney Bechet does not make mistakes!” The other guy said he’d heard it, ‘but not to worry about it,’ that the band had passed over it, and it was over. ‘Just don’t worry about it.’ Bechet was incensed, denied making a mistake again, and the guy said something like, ‘Well, I heard it,’ and Bechet exploded, called him a nasty name and challenged him to a duel. Now, you have to give it to Mr. Bechet for passion, but passion and clear thinking are frequently at opposite ends of how things turn out, and despite cooler heads trying to prevail, rather than repairing to the traditional country field at dawn to play out this madness, Bechet and his newest mortal foe repaired to the middle of the street in the middle of Paris in the middle of the morning rush hour. When all was ready and all pleas for reason were exhausted, the two men stepped into the street, turned their backs to each other and paced the agree-upon number of paces. Bechet turned to his opponent and shot, and reports thereafter differ. One witness has him wounding a bystander in the shoulder, another has him wounding three people, but both reports say the piano player was left unharmed. Now, c’mon! The dude! He’s the Dude! The dude played like a champion and cared so much about his art that he went out to face death for his it. C’mon! I mean… C’mon! Whatever the result, the French authorities expressed their disapproval of dueling in downtown Paris by arresting Bechet. Once again he spent less than a year in jail before—once again—being deported back to New York, this time just after the stock market crash of 1929, when, needing work, he joined Noble Sissle’s orchestra, with whom he plays on “Viper Mad,” and with whom he toured Europe, playing dates in Germany and Russia, but not England or France. Sidney Bechet was a musical genius, a megalomaniac, and a man with a violent temper. His erratic temperament hampered his career, and despite his talent, it would not be until the late 1940’s that he earned wide acclaim, even in Paris. With special permission, in 1950 Bechet performed as a soloist at the Paris Jazz Fair, where his performance resulted in a surge in his popularity there. After that performance, the French government relented and Bechet relocated to Paris and thereafter had little problem finding well-paid work in France. Shortly before his death, Bechet dictated his autobiography, Treat It Gentle, to Al Rose, a record producer and radio host who had worked with Bechet several times. Rose thought Bechet's view of himself in his autobiography was starkly different from the man he knew. "The kindly old gentleman in his book was filled with charity and compassion. The one I knew was self-centered, cold, and capable of the most atrocious cruelty, especially toward women." Sidney Bechet died near Paris from lung cancer on May 14, 1959, on his 62nd birthday. Well, I told you this was going to be a short piece, and it wasn’t. I told you what I wanted to tell you, and now, if you haven’t gone there already, I’ll turn you over to Mssrs. Ammons and Bechet and their respective recordings—the ones on Bob’s record—after which you may read the lyrics to “Viper Mad.” Peace out. Viper Mad: Early Morning Blues: (By the way, back in the day, a viper was a drug user. “Viper Mad” was about pot.) Just viper mad to have my fun I’m never sad, it can’t be done The people talking but I don’t care I’m 21, far from done, I’ve just begun Wrap your chops around this stick of tea Blow this gage and get high with me Good tea is my weakness And I now it’s bad It sends me, gate, and I can’t wait I’m viper mad 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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