Gilbert Klein

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About Gilbert Klein

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  1. 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: 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. 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. Don’t ask why, but I have two of these. Long story. Two! 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. I may not do a lot of responding to the comments in these pages, but I always appreciate them. It's so nice to hear someone enjoy what I enjoyed, or to tell me when their experiences matched mine. I"m here to remember and honor, our experiences and I love when you honor those same things and those same people. I like the connection with y'all, and as we're diminishing in numbers, our memories are being lost. These stories are for those memories, and those we wish to share them with. Thanks for your thoughts.
  5. No startling revelations today, no mysteries unraveled, just a forgotten teen idol who was an unrecognized pioneer, and a lot of links. Ricky Nelson pioneered country rock before anyone else was doing it, and it was his rebellion. We know: child actors have a habit of growing up screwy. There must be a list somewhere… Here’s a story of how it turned out well. Until the end, that is. Eric Hilliard Nelson’s father was a mid-level bandleader and his mother was the singer in the band. Ozzie Nelson was born and raised in New Jersey and that’s where all four Nelsons lived. There was Ozzie, Harriet, David, born in 1937, and Eric, born in 1941, and known as Ricky. Ozzie, Harriet and David moved to Hollywood to star in a TV series starring Red Skelton while Ricky, shy and introspective, stayed behind with Grandma. When Skelton was drafted in 1944, his producer created a radio sitcom for Ozzie and Harriet. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet debuted on Sunday, October 8, 1944, to favorable reviews, and Ozzie became head writer for the show and based the episodes on the love/hate exploits of his sons. The Nelson boys were first played on the radio by professional child actors until twelve-year-old Dave and eight-year-old Ricky joined the show on February 20, 1949, in an episode called “ .” (If you click on that, you’ll see that episode re-created for the TV series.) The radio show was a success, but television was new and calling, so in early 1952 Ozzie got them into a film called Here Come the Nelsons. The film was a hit, and on October 3, 1952, it was rewritten and became the pilot for The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which made its television debut and remained in first run until September, 1966, becoming one of the longest-running sitcoms in television history. In 1956, rock ‘n’ roll had broken out and infected America’s youth. As the son of a bandleader and a singer, music was Ricky’s heritage and he wanted in. He sang well, and he played the clarinet and drums, but it wasn’t Big Band music that was rock ‘n’ rolling through America, so Ricky picked up a guitar and learned a few chords. Singing in the bathroom at home or the showers at the Los Angeles Tennis Club for the echo, he imitated Carl Perkins and tried to emulate the guitar break in Perkins’ . From there, it didn’t take long. And remember that Carl Perkins thing. His girlfriend was a big Elvis fan, so he told her he was going to make a record, too. The problem of not having a recording contract was solved by Ozzie, who took him to Verve, a jazz label that was looking for a handsome kid who could be taught to sing. This was going on at labels everywhere as they scrambled to cash in on the rock thing, and that was why someone saw a handsome kid on a door stoop in Philadelphia and trained him to sing. Okay, so at best Fabian Forte warbled, and that last name had to go, but he had the looks, which was what the labels and producers wanted, and they were right: Fabian sold millions of records. In March, 1957, Ricky also had the looks, Verve wanted him, he signed a one-record deal and later that month he recorded Fats Domino’s hit, “I’m Walkin’” and “A Teenager’s Romance,” and they were released three weeks later, in mid-April. Just before the single was released, he made his television rock ‘n’ roll debut on April 10, 1957 singing and playing the drums, then taking the mic for " " in the Ozzie and Harriet episode " ." I like that the dance scene in that episode shows the transition from Big Band to Rock, and yeah, that’s how kids dressed back then. At the end of the scene he grabs a girl and does the Lindy, which was the descendant of the Lindy Hop, the dance from the 20’s and 30’s, and yeah, that’s how we danced. Soon after that episode, he made an unpaid appearance with the Four Preps at a high school lunch hour assembly in Los Angeles and was greeted by hordes of screaming teens who’d just seen the television episode. They’d seen that impossibly handsome face with the soft voice, those long lashes and sleepy eyes. Oh yeah, they’d seen him. "I'm Walkin'" reached #4 on Billboard's Best Sellers in Stores chart, and its flip side, "A Teenager's Romance", hit #2. When the television series went on summer break in 1957, Ricky made his first road trip, playing four state and county fairs with the Four Preps, who’d also had their own hits. By the end of that tour, he was more seasoned and more confident as a performer, and he was itching to go out again. Screaming girls, y’know… Ozzie Nelson was a college grad and wanted his sons to have something to fall back on when the TV show went away, but by thirteen, Ricky was making over $100,000 a year, by sixteen he had a personal fortune of $500,000, and by eighteen, he was already in the 93% income-tax bracket and saw no reason to attend any more schools. That used to be a lot of money. Ricky's wealth was carefully managed by his parents, who channeled his earnings into trust funds. His parents permitted him a $50 allowance at the age of eighteen, but Ricky was often strapped for cash and one night had to collect and redeem empty pop bottles to get himself and his girlfriend into a movie theater. Beginning to feel his power after that first tour, he told his father he was unhappy playing with the old session men at Verve who were openly contemptuous about rock ‘n’ roll, so Ozzie got him signed him to a lucrative five-year deal with Imperial Records, which gave him approval over song selection, sleeve artwork, and other production details. He exercised his power immediately and formed his own band, which later incarnations included the soon-to-be-legendary guitarist James Burton, and also included the soon-to-be-a-founding-member of The Eagles, Randy Meisner. Later his band was called the Stone Canyon Band, and if you ask me, they were the first of the country-rock bands like Poco, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Clover, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and of course The Eagles. By then, Ricky was Rick and he’d been on the road, ahead of his time. But that came later. Ricky's first Imperial single, " ” generated 750,000 advance orders, sold over one million copies, and reached #3 on the charts. His first album, Ricky, was released in October, 1957 and hit #1 before the end of the year. Following these successes, Ricky was given a more prominent role on The Ozzie and Harriet Show and ended every two or three episodes with a musical number. But Ricky always insisted on sounding like Ricky, not those teenage crooners the labels were selling, and he chose his own material. At Imperial, he sold over 60 million records, including 22 gold records. Ricky recorded “ ” for his second album, Ricky Nelson, released in June 1958. On August 4, 1958, "Poor Little Fool" became the #1 single on Billboard's newly instituted Hot 100 singles chart and sold over two million copies. But rock ‘n’ roll was still new; crooners and oldsters scoffed, and parents were afraid. Nelson said: “Anyone who knocks rock 'n' roll either doesn't understand it, or is prejudiced against it, or is just plain square.” Now, it’s possible that you’re reading this and you’re thinking: well, all this history is interesting, I guess, but what’s the point? The point is that Ricky—and later Rick— was always a country music fan and steadfastly steered his path outside of commercial schlock-rock and trod the thin, diaphanous surface between rock and country. Listen to his first, “Be-Bop Baby” or “Poor Little Fool” or almost any of his many hits, and you can hear the country influence from back in the day when he went into the bathroom and tried to sound like Carl Perkins. On May 8, 1961 (his 21st birthday), he officially changed his recording name from "Ricky" to "Rick," but no one forgot the teen idol, and once the Beatles landed, the hits dried up. As they will. His childhood nickname proved hard to shake, especially among the generation who’d grown up with him on "Ozzie and Harriet." But Ricky-now-Rick was a performer who loved the music he played, and he played where he could through six barren years. In 1971, soon after recording Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me” with the Stone Canyon Band, he got himself booked onto an oldies show at Madison Square Garden, and you might have heard something about what happened. The other players that night included Chuck Berry, Bobby Rydell and Bo Diddley. No longer the cute teen idol from the TV show, he was now a handsome man, his hair was down to his shoulders and he wore velvet bell bottoms, an unexpected fashion choice. John Lennon and Yoko were in the house, and maybe George Harrison,too. Yeah, he played the old stuff, starting with “ ,” then he went into the new stuff, starting with “Honky Tonk Women,” which was when the booing started. Some people thought the booing was directed at the police, who were trying to move people along, but Rick took it personally and left the stage. Nelson watched the rest of the performance on a TV monitor backstage until the promoter convinced him to return to the stage and play his "oldies". It was what they came for. He complied and the audience responded with applause, but he left that gig a shaken man and wrote “ ,” in which he bitched at the shallowness of the audience. He wanted to record an album featuring original material, but the single was released before the album because Nelson had not completed the entire album yet. "Garden Party" reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and was certified as a gold single. It was a huge hit, and became his last charting song, and I wonder how many people caught the reference in the last line of the song. Someone else thinks it was a reference to Elvis, who used to drive a truck, but I think it was a shout-out to “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream.” Guy was telling us how hip he was. And he was. But if it’s just me, then maybe I’m hipper than Rick. Am I? Are you? Nelson was with MCA at the time, and his comeback was short-lived. When his next release took a dive, Nelson's band resigned and MCA wanted him to have a producer on his next album. He moved to Aspen and put together a new band, calling them Canyon, and began to tour for the Garden Party album. Nelson had been playing nightclubs and bars, but he’d advanced to higher-paying venues because of the success of Garden Party, but that didn’t last. By 1974, MCA was at odds as to what to do with the former teen idol as subsequent albums failed to have an impact. Nelson became an attraction at theme parks like Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland. He also started appearing in minor roles on television shows, but that didn’t help MCA. Nelson tried to score another hit but did not have any luck with songs like "Rock and Roll Lady." With seven years to go on his contract, MCA dropped him from the label. But Rick Nelson was a performer, and he carried on touring and playing. From his first release onward, he considered himself a musician and a performer. He retained his chops, his passion for the music, and those amazing looks. Although he hated flying, on December 31st, 1985, on his way to a New Years gig, Rick died with his band when his plane crashed into a wintry field northeast of Dallas, two miles from the runway. Immediately following his death, rumors abounded that the cause of the crash was Rick’s freebasing, but the NTSB investigated the rumor for a year and determined it was a burst fuel line that caused the fire. Note: Here is a link to the complete NTSB report (PDF Link) - Editor His music never had the high gloss of the other, managed teen heartthrobs like Bobby Vee, Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell. Their output always had more production and less emotion. Ricky Nelson always followed his own path and I wonder if anyone remembers him anymore, and what about respect? He was a star when I was a kid and he was a star to me again when he came out with his country rock outfit. His natural voice was always that of a balladeer, but more than all the teen idols who followed a commercial path in order to outsell Elvis, in his heart, Ricky Nelson was… wait for it…Rockabilly! So I’m glad that when, in the early 80s, he finally met his idol, Carl Perkins, who told him that the two of them were “the last of the rockabilly breed.” I wonder now what he would have done if he’d lived, and I remember him fondly, so I wanted to introduce him to you. Here’s , in December, 1985. The last song of Ricky’s set that night was Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” and as he left the stage he told the audience, “Rave on for me!” Rave on, indeed, Ricky, rave on. Fun Facts: During 1958 and 1959, Nelson placed twelve hits on the charts in comparison with Presley's eleven. By 1960, the Ricky Nelson International Fan Club had 9,000 chapters around the world. Nelson was the first teen idol to utilize television to promote hit records when Ozzie Nelson had the idea to edit footage together to create some of the first music videos. From 1957 to 1962, Nelson had thirty Top 40 hits, more than any other artist except Presley (who had 53) and Pat Boone (38). Many of Nelson's early records were double hits with both the A and B sides hitting the Billboard charts. The term “Teenage Idol” was coined about him by Life magazine. In 1960, Rick said the most embarrassing moment in his career was when “six girls tried to fling themselves under my car, and shouted to me to run over them. That sort of thing can be very frightening!” Nelson worked with many musicians of repute, including James Burton, Joe Maphis, The Jordanaires, Scotty Moore, and Johnny Burnette and Dorsey Burnette. Nelson's music was known for being very well recorded with a clear, punchy sound- in the rockabilly mold. In 1979, he guest-hosted on Saturday Night Live, spoofing his television sitcom image by appearing in a Twilight Zone sendup in which, always trying to go "home," he finds himself among the characters from other early sitcoms, Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Make Room for Daddy, and I Love Lucy. In 1985, Nelson began a "Comeback tour" with Fats Domino. He put the "y" back on his name and became "Ricky" again. He sang the songs for which he was famous and released a greatest hits album, Ricky Nelson: All My Best. His comeback was cut short when, while on the tour circuit, his plane crashed on New Year's Eve. Nelson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1515 Vine Street. Along with the recording's other participants, Nelson earned the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for "Interviews from the Class of '55 Recording Sessions." In 1994, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Nelson #91 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Bob Dylan wrote about Nelson's influence on him in his 2004 memoir, "Chronicles, Vol. 1." On December 27, 2005, EMI Music released an album entitled Ricky Nelson's Greatest Hits which peaked at #56 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Nelson's estate owns ancillary rights to the Ozzie and Harriet television series. In 2007, Nelson was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. The John Frusciante song "Ricky" was inspired by Ricky Nelson. Hall of Fame baseball player Rickey Henderson was named Rickey Nelson Henley after Ricky Nelson. For the 25th anniversary of Nelson's death, Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer, James Burton, Nelson's original guitarist for nearly ten years, spoke about his friendship and experiences with the singer in an extensive series of interviews. Click here to see the legendary . As a bonus—and just for fun—I’m throwing in Rick’s cousin Sandy Nelson, whose drum-driven singles I liked. Click here for “ .” Who’s your pal? Editor's Note: For some high resolution Rick Nelson music, check out the remastered version of Rick is 21, and the remastered version of More Songs by Ricky. 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. Also: Just found this today: Pink Floyd's Nick Mason Talks 'Early Years,' Syd Barrett - Rolling Stone also
  7. A couple of comments: I was gobsmacked when Chris pointed out that "Emily" did not appear on the English LP. Shocked and confused me. My best guess is that Billy also brought the single when he got back from London, because- and perhaps you'll forgive me for all that smoking and the memory lapses due to that- I remember specifically remember listening and talking about "See Emily Play." So it HAD to be that he brought back the single. My record player, seen in the photo, played 33s, 45s and 78s. Also, in the photo you see one blue wall, but it was a suite in that there was a side room that I made into a study (?), and all the other seven walls were that blue, and when it was dark and we only used a candle, the room was very... enveloping. This was the room where, as I wrote in my article on The Sons of Champlin, where my mother took several of my Fillmore posters and GLUED THEM TO THE WALL. I'm almost done with therapy on that one. The British flag was the curtain for the bedroom and a smaller one was used for the study. I still have them both. As to how out there they were, I agree that "Rain" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" were also out there, this was the single by an unknown band. No label wanted to release a single that wouldn't be a hit with the kids, but Pink Floyd did that. And the rest of the LP: wow! Thanks for the responses. I appreciate them all. I also want to say that I am really enjoying writing these.
  8. In August of 1967, my friend Billy came back from London with two albums, which he gave to me, and almost fifty years later, I am still impacted by those albums. It seems that during my junior high and high school years, among my friends’ parents I was thought of as something of a bad influence. Yes, I earned some of that… but some of it wasn’t my fault! Then, continuing the tradition after high school, which for me was 1964, my room became something of a hippie redoubt where the nascent neighborhood stoners convened. My parents were away for weeks at a time, which would be when all that convening occurred. I had the cool pad with the stereo set up… just so, and thanks to the absence of parents, we played it loud. I’d moved into a large, finished attic, painted the walls electric blue, used two piled-up mattresses for my bed on one side of the room, and two more for a couch on the other side, both covered similarly. Then I went to one of the “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS!” places in Times Square and got a 9 X 12 oriental rug for $79.99 and used British flags for curtains. Let’s call it proto-hippie décor. Now, I’m not saying that I was the coolest guy around, because I wasn’t, but I had the coolest hang in the nabe, and, as they would, friends came to hang. Hanging out also meant that this was where the stoner set came to hang out. Remember, back then there ‘tweren’t no internet, so no Spotify, no iTunes, no YouTube, no downloading of anything; what we had back then was television, AM radio, the recently discovered FM radio, and records. Except for extremely rare exceptions, television didn’t show the acts the FM crowd wanted to see. Yeah, the Doors played “American Bandstand” and English acts played there when their hits came out, but only a song or two, and you had to live through the commercials and the vapid singles aimed at the core demographic of teen TV viewing. Does anyone remember, “It has a good beat and you can dance to it. I give it an 85?” If you wanted the deeper stuff, the edgier music craved by the freaks like us, they had to be seen and heard in clubs, halls or anywhere up to a stadium after the Beatles filled Shea, or you could listen to “progressive radio” on FM, or you could play your records. Yes there were records, and that’s why we’re here. When Billy came back from London he brought over the first Jimi Hendrix album, Are You Experienced? and the first Pink Floyd album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. We’d never heard of either of them, and we knew no radio stations had them, either. So we put them on and they blew our fucking minds! I mean, they just… blew our fucking minds! No other words would do. That’s what they did. They were both so out there, so daring, so psychedelic, so… perfect for us. No one else in America had this music, and no one else knew about it but us. They were not in the stores or on the radio. Well, one listen and we knew why it wasn’t on the TV or on AM radio. But… not on FM? [Editor's note 1: The track See Emily Play was left off the original UK release of the The Piper at the Gates of Dawn album, instead it was released as Pink Floyd's second single in June 1967, before the August 1967 release of the 'Piper' album. 'Emily' was however placed on the US release of the 'Piper' album. Thus, it's presumed that Billy brought back both the UK version of the 'Piper' album and the UK 'Emily' single when he returned from his trip to the UK. ] I’m writing this for the same reason that I wrote about “Strange Fruit.” When I asked friends what they knew about the song that was so important that Time magazine called it “the most significant song of the 20th Century,” and most of my friends—and I hang with a pretty music-centric crowd—had either heard if it but knew nothing about it, or had never heard of it. Just like Syd Barrett. Just like “See Emily Play.” No one knew them. Everyone knows about Jimi and what he did and what he meant and everyone knows a healthy portion of his work, so I’m not going to focus on him. He was a genius, his innovations were spectacular, his loss is tragic and we can all wonder what he’d have done if he’d lived longer. Not all my friends are music freaks, but enough are for what we’re going to call a sampling, and that sampling surprised me when I told them which song I was going to write about, and they said, “What?” So I told them about the album it came from, and they said, “What?” Let’s fix that. There are myriad iterations of the phrase, “there are two types of people in the world…” My favorite is that the two types of people are those who divide the world into two types of people and those who don’t, but we’re not concerned with humor here, we are concerned with music, and among my friends there are two types: those who like Pink Floyd and those who love them. No surprise there, because Pink Floyd is great and no right-thinking person disputes that they deserve all the accolades and album sales they’ve gotten, but what amazed me was when I tell people about their first album is how so few people had heard of it. Didn’t know it existed. Everyone knows and justifiably admires David Gilmore, but they didn’t know that he wasn’t in the band yet. It was another guy, who left the band after the first album, and Pink Floyd were… different…after he left. Well, yeah, they were always different… I was surprised even more to learn how little of the early Pink Floyd canon anyone knew. The start date for most people seemed to be The Dark Side of the Moon, and I understand that; that album catapulted the band into the mainstream with near-constant airplay, and surprisingly often the stations would play either an entire side or the entire album. I was around, I was there, I heard it, too, and Pink Floyd was now an important part of the culture. But Dark Side came out in 1973, and we’re going back to the summer of 1967. Well, you all know Dark Side, and you all know The Wall, and you might know that they became the two best-selling albums in history. But we’re going back; back before Dark Side (1973), which came after Obscured by Clouds (1972), which came after Meddle (1971), which came after Atom Heart Mother (1970), which came after Ummagumma (1969), which came after the soundtrack they did for the film More (1969), which came after A Saucerful of Secrets (1968), and finally we get back to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which was where my friends said, ‘What?” Yeah, those earlier albums didn’t get a lot of popular notice, and I know why. Generally, at first listen, the music is discordant, difficult listening, challenging, creating something between acid rock, jazz and symphonic chamber pieces. It was indefinable and followed no recognizable rules. I remember great confusion about Pink Floyd when they released their first records. Pop music was charting then, as now, and the experimental stuff had to find its following, and these were not pop. They did not create easy listening music, and frankly, I think it was generally understood that you needed to be pretty stoned to follow their flow. With the exception of Syd Barrett, the band did not do drugs, but back then, many listeners did, and were rewarded fully. I remember that confusion abounded among critics and the public as to how to appreciate this band, and it was Eric Clapton who said they we should ‘pay attention to these guys, they were making serious music,’ or something very close to that. But that came later, and what came first was The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. And what a trip that was, and when we played it at my house, it just… well, it blew our minds and it scared us a little. Originally, Syd Barrett was The Guy. He put the band together and he wrote the songs, and was their principal lyricist, lead singer and lead guitar. So he was The Guy, but he started out strange and then he took a lot of LSD, and he got stranger. Then he took more LSD and then some more, and he got so far out he never came back. Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd after their first release and went into an isolated retirement from which he never re-emerged, and he died in 2006, a virtual recluse. But that first album was a Syd Barrett production. And they scared us. By roughly 1966, the British Invasion had pretty much won. Then came the drugs and all the hip English and U.S. bands, and a full-on hippie revolution was upon us, bringing with it new waves of music, hairstyles, lifestyles, clothing options, philosophies et al. New modes of thought, exposure to new philosophies, religions and possibilities; the ideas came in waves and I was surfing many of them. But we’re here to discuss the music, and prominent among that wave was Jimi Hendrix, who, as everyone knows, blew everyone’s mind when his first album was released in England in May, 1967 and in the U.S. on August 23. No one had ever played guitar like that. No one had ever made music like that. It was indefinable. He stretched and pulled musical conventions to startling, unexplored realms. I called it psychedelic blues and you can call it what you want, but it was new, unprecedented, exciting as hell and perfect for stoners. Like those people that kept showing up at my house—people like Billy. We toked and we listened and we rapped as we listened to the music, and then Billy came back from London and we had three weeks with Pink Floyd before anyone else heard them. Everyone knows about Jimi’s first album and the impact that it had, and no one disputes its importance. But as startling as what Jimi did, he did within a musical convention that we all understood. But what was going on in the other album? Who were these guys and what were they trying to do? Just how “out there” was this band in the summer of 1967? Remember that this was the height of the British Invasion, and television and AM radio were full of peppy, dance-able songs by the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, the Kinks, the Hullaballoos, Herman’s Hermits, the Kinks, the Merseybeats, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Freddy and the Dreamers, and if know how to do The Freddy you’re either as old as me or just peculiar. It was all peppy, poppy, bouncy music; uptempo happy stuff. Think about this: for a band’s first single to be successful, for the song to become popular and sell records, you want to put out something the kids can relate to, something they like to listen to, maybe something they can hum or sing along with in their cars or at school, something they want to hear again. You want to sell records? You put out something the kids can dance to. But the band’s first single, “Arnold Layne,” was about a transvestite who stole women’s underwear, and the BBC wouldn’t play it. So Pink Floyd’s next, the first single to get airplay was “See Emily Play.” The kids wanted to dance, but who the hell was Emily, and what was her deal? And this was the single? In the summer? What? Why? The sound was weird, the lyrics were obscure and there was no discernable beat to dance to. It was just so out there. What was that, Keanu? Oh, yeah: Whoa! I don’t know how you’re going to forget all you’ve heard since 1967, but try, if you can, to imagine what it must have sounded like to the unsophisticated guys in my room in 1967, before anyone had ever heard of Pink Floyd, or had ever heard anything like this before. I know the saying, “you can’t un-ring a bell,” but if you could put yourself into a listening mode where distractions are not an issue, please put on the track and See Emily Play. And remember: this was the single and they wanted to sell it to the kids. Listen, and then ask yourself… what was that all about? Who sare these guys? It’s Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd. My advice: harken back to the days of yore, get comfortably numb and blast this motherfucker. [Editor's note 2: A 24 bit / 96 kHz high resolution version of See Emily Play can be purchased on the newly released Pink Floyd album The Early Years, 196701972, Cre-Ation (link).] Watch it here: As a bonus cut, here is David Bowie doing the song from 1973: I don’t know why someone did this, but… why not Teletubbies? For more early, randomly selected Syd Barrett Pink Floyd fun, play with these. Try ‘em all. They’re free! Astronomy Domine: Scarecrow: Lucifer Sam: For a true Pink Floyd freakout, here’s Interstellar Overdrive: Fun Facts: "See Emily Play" is included in “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.” In 1999 Rolling Stone magazine gave “The Piper At The Gates of Dawn” 4.5 stars out of 5, calling it "the golden achievement of Syd Barrett." Q magazine described the album as "indispensable" and included it in their list of the best psychedelic albums ever. In 2000 Q magazine placed “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” at number 55 in its list of the 100 greatest British albums ever. It was also ranked 40th in Mojo magazine's "The 50 Most Out There Albums of All Time" list. In 2012, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” was voted 347th on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums ever. In July 1969, precipitated by their space-related music and lyrics, they took part in the live BBC television coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing, performing an instrumental piece which they called "Moonhead." In 2004, MSNBC ranked Pink Floyd number 8 on their list of "The 10 Best Rock Bands Ever." Rolling Stone ranked them number 51 on their list of "The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time." Q named Pink Floyd as the biggest band of all time. VH1 ranked them number 18 in the list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time." Colin Larkin ranked Pink Floyd number 3 in his list of the 'Top 50 Artists of All Time', a ranking based on the cumulative votes for each artist's albums included in his All Time Top 1000 Albums. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2010. Pink Floyd were also admirers of the Monty Python comedy group, and helped finance their 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Pink Floyd was recording Piper at Abbey Road Studios, as the Beatles were next door recording Sgt. Pepper. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is widely understood to be about Syd Barrett. 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.
  9. Thanks, Esau- never knew that.
  10. Way down south, Memphis, Tennessee Jug band music sounds so sweet to me ‘Cause it sounds so sweet Ahhh, and it’s hard to beat Jug band music certainly was a treat to me There are two direct influences on my life from Jim Kweskin: to this day I have a moustache, and I first grew it in 1964 because Jim Kweskin had one. Also, I found jug band music in my freshman year at a New England university, joined a jug band, stopped attending some of my classes (I was… a business major?) and promptly flunked out of left that college. So yeah, Jim Kweskin had some influence in my life. When I wrote that second sentence up there, I capitalized the J, B and M, but it’s too funky, too down-home for that, as of course one generally eschews frivolous aggrandizement. How funky was jug band music? Brother or sister, you do not know funky until you’ve heard bass notes made by huffing air across the top of a clay jug. If you were any good at it, you could get anywhere from one to two notes out of that jug. Did I mention bass? It was a stick stuck on an upside-down old-fashioned washtub with a string going from the top of the stick to a bolt screwed into the center of the tub. You get the notes by holding onto the string at the top of the stick and either sliding your hand up and down the stick, or moving the stick back and forth to create different tensions on the string. And you put a brick under the washtub to allow the notes out, and if a brick is part of your kit, friend, you’re playing in a funky outfit. Back in high school I had been as excited about rock music as anyone else, but I don’t think I thought of learning to play a guitar until I was in college. By the time I got there I was a nascent folkie, which means that I knew and admired Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Yeah, I can now admit that I thought Peter, Paul and Mary were okay; I was indifferent to the venerable Weavers, but at least they were trying, and I knew the Kingston Trio and the Limelighters were crap passing themselves off as folk musicians. I got to college in the fall of 1964, where I met the other folkies and heard those new-to-me recordings of new folk acts like Donovan, Miriam Makeba, Tom Rush, Ian & Sylvia, Dave Van Ronk, Phil Ochs, Buffy Ste.-Marie and more, and then more. Like with most musical forms, digressions, diversions and individualities emerged in time. Look at rock, which has splintered into, what? I don’t know, maybe twenty categories? The new interest in folk music also brought to light the originals like Appalachian songstress Jean Ritchie and The Greenbriar Boys. Of course, Woody Guthrie, and after The Weavers there was still Pete Seeger, whose brother Mike was in The New Lost City Ramblers. And all those older black artists, mostly from the south. My God, all of them! Authenticity abounded, in both flavors: Original and Approximated Originality. So, in folk there were styles and categories. Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs were the leaders in the new Protest Music category but there were always other voices (say hello to Richie Havens, Odetta, Eric Andersen, et al), and there were traditionalists like those mentioned above. It was all new to me and I liked them all, I guess, but it wasn’t long after I got there that a guy played a record called “Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band” and I fell in love. Call it old-timey, call it revival, call it uptempo or goodtime music or whatever, but what it was called, was jug band music. Before I go into some of the history of the form, I want to say that Mr. Kweskin has been influential in my life besides the moustache. That period led me to learn to play guitar which led me to many adventures, and to this day, when I need a lift in spirits, I know I can always count on Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band. Despite the unusual instruments, the people in his band all played so damn well, and Geoff Muldaur is still mostly unrecognized as a great singer, and with Kweskin’s singing and ragtime-infused playing, you’ll see why they give me such a lift. And that was also the reaction we got from happy callers when we played them on the late, lamented KFAT. Now I’ll try to convince you that the form is both venerable and respectable, and I’m gonna win on at least one of those. While some low-revenue people in the early south were making or grabbing whatever made an acceptable sound and jamming their tunes—and blues is directly related here—the first jug bands have been traced to the early 1920’s. The people you may know in the folk iconography, people you might have heard of but had no idea were also associated with jug bands would include Ma Rainey, Big Bill Broonzy and Memphis Minnie. How about that? Not impressed? Okay, more recently: Dave Van Ronk had The Even Dozen Jug Band, which included John Sebastian, who left to form The Lovin’ Spoonful- who were all over jug music. Besides John Sebastian, Van Ronk’s jug band also had master musician David Grisman and Maria D’Amato, who left that outfit to join Kweskin’s unit and married Geoff Muldaur. Yes, that’s her singing “Midnight at the Oasis.” Country Joe and the Fish came from The Instant Action Jug Band. Mungo Jerry, who had evolved from an earlier blues group, Good Earth, were in effect a jug band on their first live performances and recordings. Remember “ ”? For reasons of graphics, I suppose, some of the most sought-after Fillmore-era posters feature The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, who started out as a jug band. When Jesse Colin Young left his folk career back in New York and moved to Marin and formed The Youngbloods, their first release was a jug band classic. Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan were in Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions before forming The Warlocks, which evolved into The Grateful Dead. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, too. Creedence Clearwater honored the form in their album Willy and the Poor Boys. In the early 1960’s in England, jug music was showing up as “skiffle” music, best known in this country by Lonnie Donegan’s hit, “ ?” Oh, yeah, and there was another skiffle band you might have heard of. Called themselves The Quarrymen, two of whom were John Lennon and Paul McCartney and later, George Harrison. And if that’s not enough, I saved the best for last. Don’t know if you know who Ed Ward is, but he’s one of the oldest, most widely read and respected rock music writers, and I’m tellin’ you how freakin’ respectable he is because Ed Ward “once listed the most Important bands of the early 1960s as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Byrds and the Jim Kweskin Band.” I’m not sure if I agree with that, but I’m not making this up. And have I mentioned that that was Ed Ward, who (or whom) I’ve read for years and only saw this today? So I was right, right? Like a lot of forms, jug music might have adjusted and adapted to time, place and available instruments, and mutated and changed into something new, but thankfully it has not. I mean, you wouldn’t play bluegrass on a synthesizer, would you? You could, but… yeah, you shouldn’t. And jug band music needs to be acoustic and it needs to be fun, and that is why I am writing this piece. Jug band music is fun. I found a source that said, “Kweskin is probably best known as a singer and bandleader, but he is also known for his guitar stylings, adapting the ragtime-blues fingerpicking of artists like Blind Boy Fuller and Mississippi John Hurt, while incorporating more sophisticated jazz and blues stylings into the mix.” And it all came out as raucous, head-bopping fun. Y’see? It has a joyousness that is only equaled in my experience by Klezmer or some Zydeco music. Jug band music always seems to hit the fun notes. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sad note by a jug band. Listen to Kweskin’s version of the blues in “ .” If you can play this where others will hear it, do it and watch how many people come up and ask what the hell you’re playing, but notice they’ll all be smiling. I almost rest my case. After I left that school I lost track of my friends in The New Hydraulic Banana Revival Jug Band, and while I was still interested, there wasn’t much in the news about Jim Kweskin or the band until 1971, when Rolling Stone published a feature article on the debacle that had overcome the band. It seems that after I left my jug life behind, Kweskin got a new harmonica player named Mel Lyman, who, according to the article, took over the group, turning it into a cult, and discord and disarray ensued. Rolling Stone called Lyman “The East Coast Charles Manson.” I don’t care. I have “Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band” on an LP, a cassette, a CD, my phone and on my hard drive. If I get down, I always go to Jim. I’ll never forget the first song I heard on their first album: Some more from the Jim Kweskin Jug Band: “ ” “ ” “ ” “ ” (where “even though you’ve got a corneo, you’ll dance to the break of dawneo”) If you want 14 ½ minutes of Kweskin fun that isn’t referenced above (listen for the bass solo in “ ”) Here’s the How about some history? Here are two of the best known jug bands of their day: The Memphis Jug Band with “ ” from 1930 Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers doing the blues classic “ ” from the late ‘20’s Here’s a modern jug band, and please don’t notice that there is no jug. I had a hard time finding one, so I included this because it’s ragtime as hell, the bass player really rocks it, and the guy on washboard is really good- and that was my axe. He’s great, I was loud: One last note: This one was in line for sometime soon; I had another essay ready to post, and then I saw that Jim Kweskin is on tour and performing in National City late next month, less than thirty miles from me, and I posted this one so I could send it to him before I try to meet him. I’ll let you know how that goes. Me! I’m gonna meet… Jim Kweskin! ATTENTION!! BONUS!! Follow this song and see what a long, strange trip it’s been: 1928: Here’s The Memphis Jug Band doing “On The Road Again”: 1965: And here’s 1:51 of unadulterated raucous rock ‘n’ roll bliss by The Lovin’ Spoonful: 1981: Here’s The Grateful Dead’s take on the song: 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.