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Gilbert Klein

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About Gilbert Klein

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  1. Please place yourself in a time when a pop group had such an impact that songs were written, recorded and released about them, and yes, we’re talking about the Beatles. How much of an impact did the Beatles have? Yes, the Beatles have been covered extensively here, there and everywhere, so l let’s look at it from an unusual angle. Today we specialize in the area of novelty items. No, not those novelty items! Music! I’m talking about music! Why hasn’t this been covered, you ask? Well, in the mid- 1950’s and early 1960’s, the American music charts were dominated by clean-cut, normal teenage singers and groups, and you’ll notice that they were almost all clean-cut ditties we could dance to. We all listened religiously to them on our AM radio stations, we all watched American Bandstand, and a lot of us bought the records and played them at home and at dance parties. God, how I regret the loss of those dance parties. We all knew each other from school and teams and such, so those parties and dances were communal, exciting… and terrifying. For me, it took daring; it was rock and roll, it was fun, it was exercise, and those slow songs were the only time we got to hold a girl up close and not get slapped. You know, on slow dances you could hold the girl and feel her breasts against your chest. Wow… and our parents thought it was cool! My God, you people have no idea what that meant to us boys. You are probably questioning the point of that regression, and it is this: At the beginning of 1963, we all listened to the two AM radio stations that played the hits; they all played the same songs, anyway, and we knew all the groups. Bands weren’t the thing back then, but we knew the groups. Then we all heard about this English band, and while probably few of us knew why it was important that they were coming, enough of us thought it was that several thousand of us went out to the airport to watch them get off the plane. Then, on the first Sunday night in February, the Beatles played two songs on The Ed Sullivan Show and American teens went freakin’ nuts, and the culture started coming apart. Not at once, of course, but surely. I sort of chuckle when I think about our parents, who had been Bobby-Soxers and looked silly to their parents as they literally screamed and fainted over Frank Sinatra. So our parents knew the mania engendered by this group would swell and fade, and soon be over. Ha, I say now. No one knew what was coming, and I know you’ve heard about it and maybe you’ve heard too much about it. I’ll grant you that point. But you had to be there! Nuts! I’m telling you it was nuts! They played the Sullivan show in February, and by April, the Beatles had five of the top ten hits in New York City and from there it spread. It was all anyone talked about, and while the phrase “must-see TV” was invented as a promo in the 1990’s, in 1963, this was must-see TV on a generational level. Okay, to the point: Once the Beatles arrived, the American boy and girl teen groups left the building, as it were. Now it was all about the English groups. If your group was English and you’d just played a gig, turn around, mate, some guy was trying to sign you. Of course, not all the American groups disappeared, and why should they? There were still talented singers and song-writers, and producers and label reps and sales and marketing departments, and every one of them had bills to pay. Everyone had to make a living, so everyone needed product. But the radio wanted English groups and the competition for airtime was (and always has been) fierce, so what was a semi-honest music producer or label owner gonna do? Some kept making music their way, some succeeded, some faded away, and some adapted and tried to surf the tidal wave. A few rode the wave by making novelty songs, and that’s what we’re discussing today: novelty songs. I don’t know if anyone other than Weird Al is still making novelty songs, but the Beatles were a tidal force and if you couldn’t compete with them, you could have some fun with them. Yes, it rarely boded well for the singer as a career starter, but producers and labels were talking about the product they needed now! Here are three novelty tracks aimed at Beatles fans, and one of them has two major players who will surprise you, but don’t skip ahead. While there are few avenues left to discover, off topic today are some of the American groups who got signed by appearing to be British. Say hello to the Beau Brummels, who were from the Bay Area, and from Texas came the Sir Douglas Quintet (who were actually early Tex-Mex/rockabilly) and others. Herein we will look at three exemplars of producers coming up with a way to appeal to Beatles fans without actually competing with them. Here’s one now: This one is almost cheating. We all know about Elvis and the commotion he caused among teens in 1956. When something big enough comes along that impacts the whole culture, there is a reaction to it, an echo, if you will. In the wake of the commotion caused by Elvis’ being drafted in 1957, there appeared on Broadway a smash musical romp called “Bye Bye Birdie,” about an Elvis character—now named Conrad Birdie—being drafted into the Army (as was Elvis), and it was a huge success. The 1960 play and the 1963 film that followed were both set in 1958, when Conrad got drafted, and featured a chorus of girls from Rydell High singing a tribute to Conrad, called “We Love You, Conrad.” In the song, they sing of their devotion and a chorus of boys retort. If you listen to the song (which we at Computer Audiophile have taken pains to provide you at no cost to yourselves), you will see how simple a song it was. Elementary, as it were, and yet it struck a simple chord. So it is with a mixture of admiration and despair that I note an almost word-for-word copying of the relatively well-known song, changing only the names. Several lyrics in the song are responses to lyrics in the Beatles’ hit “She Loves You.” Here then, from 1964, are The Carefrees with a song that reached No. 39 in the U.S. and hopefully better in the U.K. “We Love You Beatles.” So it didn’t take a genius to cash in on the Beatles’ popularity: all it took was a recording studio, a distribution network and little moxie. The next group needs no introduction because none would help and nothing would increase their importance in music history. I don’t know what to say about Gigi Parker and the Lonelies. I couldn’t find any background on them or this record, I couldn’t find any release date other than 1964 and I couldn’t find its chart position. I think this was their only record, so here are Gigi Parker and the Lonelies with Beatles Please Come Back. Wouldn’t it be nice if somewhere an old lady is resting in her overstuffed chair when her granddaughter rushes in and says “You’re famous!” because after years of hearing about her grandmother’s alleged singing career, the granddaughter a) set her laptop to pick up any hits on Gigi Parker and the Lonelies, b) her laptop pings, c) she looks, d) she sees this article you’re reading now, and… e) rushes over to the old lady’s place and says, “Look at this, Gran!” Wouldn’t that be nice? Moving on to... Oh, no, it’s Phil Spector, the legendary record producer, egomaniac and control freak! We’ve covered him before here. Spector was maybe the most successful producer of teen music from the mid- 1950’s until the Beatles showed up and stole his thunder. He was pissed. He was freaked (and freaky) that his style of music wasn’t making him any more money or fame, and he wanted to get back in the game. Girl groups were a Spector specialty, and he always had a singer on hold. The girl he had on mind for this track was good-looking and sort of in the pre-hippie mold, which was good now, which was hip, and boy, could she sing. But sing what? To whom and about what? Well, Maybe no one knows what was in Spector’s mind when he came up with it, but he wrote a song about Ringo, he wrote the charts, he booked the studio, he called the chick, and they cut it. It was a novelty song, and I don’t know of any others that Spector did, but he must have thought that this would get him the attention he so richly felt he deserved. Part of what pissed Spector off was… was it national pride? Did he have that? In any event, almost all the songs on the charts those days were by English acts, and maybe Spector wanted to get someone American on the charts, and this chick was good looking and she could sing and all, but the name Cherilyn La Piere just wasn’t American enough, y’know, so he changed it to Bonnie Jo Mason, and if that ain’t an American name, then I’m a Klingon feng shui consultant. And no- I’m not. Well, the song was an easy ditty to write and easy to record, but when it came out it died an ignoble death. So the chick singer started working with another producer, some guy named Sonny, who encouraged her to use her real name, and we now know her as Cher. But here, for the nonce, is Bonnie Jo Mason with “Ringo I Love You.” Fun Facts: The name of the singer in “Bye Bye, Birdie” was going to be 'Ellsworth', which was soon changed to 'Conway Twitty' before the producers discovered there already was a performer named Conway Twitty, who was threatening to sue, so they changed it to Conrad Birdie. Twitty is best remembered for his long career as a country music star, but in the late 1950s, he was one of Presley's rock 'n' roll rivals. In “Bye Bye Birdie,” Rydell High School was a reference to teen heart-throb Bobby Rydell Reading the label of “Beatles Please Come Back” reveals one of the writers was Chip Taylor, who is best known for “Angel of the Morning” and “Wild Thing,” and who will be familiar to KFAT fans for everything on his album “Shoot Out The Jukebox.” Also known for being the brother of Jon Voight. In Cher’s “Ringo I Love You,” shouldn’t there be a comma after Ringo? Wasn’t anybody checking? Didn’t anybody care? Aaarrgghhh! I’ll be back next month. Please Stand By. 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 three books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, FOOTBALL 101 and Watches Over Drunks and Fools. 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. Editor's Note: Gilbert told me about his new book a few months ago when I visited him in Mexico. I said I would do whatever I could to help him sell copies because I like Gilbert and his writing. And, let's be honest, the lucrative world of being an author isn't as lucrative as it once was (hint, it never was). Plus, you know how they say the book is always better than the movie? You should meet Gilbert in person. He's even better than his books. I mean that in the best way possible. Gilbert is such a great person who has lived an incredibly colorful life. Anyway, Gilbert asked if he could include a link to his new book in this article. I said of course and I demanded that he include a link in the article. Gilbert won't let me buy the new book, insisting he send me one instead, but I'd love it if the CA Community could support Gilbert's latest endeavor by picking up a copy of God Watches Over Drunks and Fools and I Don't Drink. Heck, fill a few stockings this holiday season with missives from Gilbert. Thanks for supporting Gilbert and CA over the years. - Chris The Missing Musicologist I wrote this story for CA about a year ago. At the time, I was putting together a collection of my adventures in life, music and et cetera, and my pal said, “No, this should go in the book.” So here it is, and at the end of the story I’ll put a link to the book’s site. But first, let me tell you about the time… Well, maybe you’ve read some of these stories by now, and I feel like maybe we know each other enough to expose some of our most embarrassing moments. I’ll go first. Back in 2008, The Tall Ships, also known as the Festival of Sail, were coming to San Francisco, and my friend Fil was hired to manage a lot of it. Fil asked me to do the hiring, placing and overseeing of sea chantey-singing groups in several locations, and I thought, “why not?” I had nothing against sea chanteys or those who sang them, but of course this was before I was exposed to the whole sea chantey-singing community and started booking them. First, I was amazed at how many sea chantey singing groups there were. Then I was amazed at how many people admitted to being in sea chantey singing groups. I joke, but generally I found the people who sing in these groups, and the one guy I met who sings them solo, have all been lovely, personable, and intelligent people. I liked every person I dealt with over the long weekend and the run-up thereto, but after so much close and constant exposure to the form, to this day if I hear even one line of “Yo ho, and up she rises…” I’m going postal! You’ve been warned! So I could tell you about the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me, and I will, elsewhere in the book, but this one is in second place. Not only was it pretty damned embarrassing personally, but I’m afraid I also managed to embarrass an entire city. If I was smart I’d keep it to myself, but everyone has a price, I’m getting paid for it, and this is what happened. My pal Fil (yes, that’s spelled correctly) had successfully produced all kinds of events in San Jose and was expanding his reputation by taking on events all over the Bay Area. Among other events, for several years Fil booked and oversaw every damn detail of San Jose’s massive, three-day July 4th festivities. He hired the vendors, laid out the sites, oversaw set-up and out-go, booked the bands for all three days of shows, hired the stages, booked the band gear and the sound and lighting systems. He also managed all the PR, hired every crew for every job and did everything else, and that’s how I’ve had some wonderful times, met some wonderful people, heard some great music, and gotten paid for it. Fil was good at his work and his list of successes was growing when the Tall Ships came to San Francisco, after having been in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. You would think that such a long-established international event would have had its act together, but you would be wrong. They were disorganized and critically under-funded, and Fil got screwed in the end. But I got this story, so all’s well, right? I was given a budget and tasked with hiring purveyors of sea chanteys, each group for an agreed-upon number of hours at agreed-upon locations. When I started putting some effort into finding these performers, I was quickly inundated with applicants; the Bay Area sea chantey groups knew about it and wanted in. To be honest, they were all fun people, as I guess you need a fun personality to be attracted to preserving this music and this bygone period. These people were historians in their replication of the songs and costumes, and I admired their refusal to let such a colorful art form disappear. Great, funny people, and I had many a laugh whilst booking them. Frankly, from their enthusiasm and reluctance to ask for more money than I was offering (which was a first), I knew that alone in my band-booking experience, these people were happy to be allowed—much less paid—to perform in public before what promised to be a fairly large crowd of people. “Huzzah!” they might have said among themselves. “We’ll do it!” they said to me. Everyone I spoke to was a member of a group, but there was one fellow, Richard B__, also known as Dick, who performed alone, and was, I was told, the Grand Old Man, the éminence grise of Bay Area sea chantey singers. Everyone recommended I get him for the gig, so of course I wanted him, too. I called and we spoke, but he was indifferent to the gig—sort of snobby, in fact—and when I asked him to perform and told him what I had in the budget, frankly, I expected him to accept, but he declined. He didn’t seem anxious to play the gig, and he told me why, but I forget what he said. ‘Tweren’t important, what he said- he refused the gig and I moved on. Then, as I was about to send out contracts, they cut my budget, which is always a bad sign for an event, and it meant that I had to do some fast re-negotiating. Then, right after I sent out the hastily redrawn contracts, they cut my budget again, which told me that the event was in trouble at the same time that others on Fil’s team were also finding this out. However, while one generally eschews self-aggrandizement, I must say that I had my end of the gig covered. With the new budget cut-backs, I made calls, I sent out new schedules where I stretched hours here and cut hours there; I had the main site—the corner of Jefferson Street at the Hyde Street Pier—covered, and the other sites almost covered, but I was within my budget and all I had to do was hang out in the grounded tugboat on the Hyde Street Pier that was going to be my office- and run some periodic checks to see that my groups were working. And thus I settled in for a fun weekend. The tugboat office actually belonged to the National Park Service, but when I showed up thinking the tugboat was my office, the Park Rangers welcomed me, but had not been told of my assignment there. They were gracious, as they knew their turf was about to be inundated with thousands of idiots tourists, and some of the inevitable upcoming issues would be my responsibility, not theirs. Welcome aboard, Gilbert, want some pizza? Yes, thanks. Now, to backtrack just a bit: I have a certain predilection, a tendency, as it were, to have fun with my work. One of the rules of the event was that everyone we hired had to wear some sort of identification to show that they were part of the event, including guides, vendors, docents, executives, managers, and that included my singers. They all had to wear those silly crack-and-peel labels that had the Tall Ships logo, but I thought they were boring. I wanted my people to have some ID that would be… impressive. These groups, I found, were generally thrilled when they were allowed to play in some pub, and the evening was a success if they were given beers for their efforts. Now they were not only a) getting paid to perform b) for what would undoubtedly be large crowds, they would also c) be associated with the Tall Ships, an internationally-known organization that celebrated the bygone era that they were so clearly enamored of. This would be a big deal for them, and I wanted something better than those crack-and-peel “Hi! I’m _____” stick-on tags you got at conventions, reunions and such. If you’ve ever been invited backstage, you’ve probably been given a crack-n-peel sticker to put on your pants or shirt, and it means you’re allowed to be back there. They’re cool and a lot of people save them, but they’re for punters like you and me. The IDs with real value are the lams, the laminated passes, and they’re only worn by those in the crew. Everyone from the stars in their dressing rooms to the lowly merch guy sharing a van with a punk crew, they get the lams. It’s the sign of the real Insider. So, my people would be given the valued sign of in-ness, the laminate. Yes, my people would have lams. Who’s a good Gilbert? And again, I like to have fun with my work and I like to toss around multi-syllabic words, so I came up with a design using the Tall Ships logo on top, and below that in a large, easily readable font, it said NAUTICAL MUSICOLOGICAL AUTHENTICIST. You can see the lams in the upcoming video. I handed those out with lanyards, and their eyes lit up. You could see it: they were a huge hit. From the occasional bar or pub in the far corners of the East Bay to the tourist-filled streets of San Francisco, the sea chantey-singing community was already ablaze with enthusiasm, and then they were handed the best freaking souvenir they’d ever been given. You knew they were going to keep these forever, put it on the mantel, frame it, stick it on the fridge- something. They loved them! I’m a good Gilbert! I mean, they weren’t going to fall down and weep in gratitude when I handed them out, but I knew that they were a big hit, and I had that confirmed as the first day of the event was winding down and I got a phone call from Dick B__, who’d now decided that he wanted to play the gig. Did I still have a place for him? Could I still use him? Yes, I could use him at noon on Sunday, but I only needed him for four hours. Was that okay? Sure. I told him to meet me at the tugboat—Sure, he said, he knew where that was—20 minutes before noon. Then we discussed a few details, and then he asked me…. ‘Uhh, if he performed, uhh… could he still get one of those laminates?’ Yes he could, and I scheduled him for Sunday, expected to be the biggest day of the event. I’d left a little flex room in my budget, so I put him on from noon ‘til four, also expected to be the busiest hours. I reminded him about checking in with me at the tugboat at least twenty minutes before his start time, and that’s when I’d tell him where to sing. He said he’d see me there at 11:40. The tugboat office was just off Jefferson Street, on the Hyde Street Pier- a popular tourist site, as it was the permanent site of the Balclutha, a fully restored and rigged 19th Century Tall Ship, plus some other restored old-time ships. All of them would be open to the public for inspection, tours, demonstrations and lectures. It was family-style entertainment, and there’s never enough of that in San Francisco. Ask any grandparent. The pier was chock-a-block with families at 11:30, with strollers, prams, children, couples and groups, milling, talking, looking, hanging out, watching the singers and taking photos. I remember hearing a lot of Japanese and I heard a wide diversity of European accents. It was international and multi-culture up the wazoo out there, but I was waiting at my office, it was now 11:45, and there’d been no sign of Dick. Of course I was concerned; everything else that weekend had gone wrong for every part of the event but mine, and I wanted to keep it that way. I had an end-of-event report to write and I wanted it to glow. I was the stage manager for this variety show, there were people out in my audience who needed to be sung to, and Dick was supposed to be singing to them in… nine minutes! I walked up and down the length of the pier, always looking behind me for fear that Dick would get to the office, not find me, and wander off. Oh no! I told him yesterday that I’d place him where I needed him, and I’d tell him where that would be when he got to the tugboat. So if I missed him he might wander off and just start singing… anywhere! Oh no! I made it all the way to the end of the pier and back and still no sight of Dick, so I made a quick jog to where the pier meets Jefferson Street, and looked among the crowd there. Lots of people, but no Dick. I’d never met him, but I’d seen his photo, so I knew what he looked like, and I didn’t see him and I went back to the tugboat, and… still no Dick. Now it was five before noon. About twenty yards up the pier from the tug was an empty bench and I walked over to it and stood on it and looked over everyone’s heads. The pier was jammed with tourists, but I saw no sign of my missing singer. Standing on the bench, looking, scanning, over to Jefferson Street, about forty yards away, I saw one of the singers from another group, the Seadogs, walking on Jefferson Street. I waved my arms to get his attention and luckily he turned and looked up the pier, and saw me. I wanted to shout to him, but there was street noise, people talking, cars moving and honking, and a plane going overhead. Now it was noon and I was beginning to panic but I needed to be heard, so I cupped my hands around my mouth and took a breath and shouted as loud as I could, slowly and carefully enunciating every word, loud as I could, so he could hear me all the way on Jefferson Street, “I’M… LOOKING… FOR… DICK!” On the pier, everyone froze. Until that moment the place had been bustling with happy, chattering tourists, everyone involved in their little dramas, but suddenly everyone stood stock still. No one moved, no one spoke, not one stroller was pushed, not one person spoke on that pier in that moment as everyone within fifty yards stopped and looked at me with open mouths and puzzled looks. Then it hit me: Oh, my God! What did I just say? Did I just say that? Did I just scream that? Yeah, I did… So I lowered my head and hunched my shoulders in an attempt to disappear, waved a “never mind” to everyone to indicate that I didn’t mean it that way, and I got off the bench and headed for Jefferson Street where I could hide in the crowd. I wouldn’t go to my office because I was much too embarrassed to let anyone know where that guy was hanging out. So, out to Jefferson Street I went, mingled with the crowd for a few minutes, looking innocent, waited a few minutes and snuck back to the tugboat, hoping none of the Park Rangers had heard it. No one was there, so I sighed and sat down, and moments later, Dick came through the door, out of breath, and apologized for being late, saying that parking was… and he… and y’know… Except for Fil getting the shaft, all went well after that, and I still enjoy telling this story, telling people what happened that day, and we’d have a good laugh, and then I’d wait a couple of beats and say, “yeah, it’s was embarrassing and all, but I got a date out of it.” Well, I won’t do that to you, but the wrap-up is that my end of the gig went well, I’m proud that the laminates were a success, and I’m sorry about Fil getting screwed. But mostly what I’m left with from that weekend is the knowledge that when some of those tourists went back home and talked about their trip to San Francisco and told their friends that what they’d heard about San Francisco was true. They’d all heard it was a sexually liberated place, sure, but they could tell them it was not only true- it was worse. They’d seen it themselves: people stood on benches in crowded parks in San Francisco and screamed for sex. Sorry, San Francisco. ANNOUNCMENT: I have just written a book recounting some of my more… unusual …experiences. Please check it out: http://www.drunksandfools.com Also, if there’s one of my essays I’d like you to read, it’s this one: http://www.twominutescreed.com/You-Knew.html 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.
  3. If you think of rock music as a house with many rooms, we’re going to open a creaky door into a dusty room that was once a popular party space, but hasn’t seen much activity for almost fifty years, since the time of the hippies. It was so exciting, only partly because of all the new music that came out. It was as much of a massive cultural shift as you’ve gotten tired of hearing, but it was the music…. The music was for us. After the Beatles and Stones had their pop phases, a new wave of artists crossed the pond, and among them was someone who had a great impact on me. I loved him; I waited for his music to come on, I grooved to him, and then he was gone. I have something a little special planned for next month, but for the nonce, we visit a barely-remembered but much-beloved footnote in rock history. Well, okay- much beloved by me, if you have to ask, but footnotes are fun. And if this guy ever comes up on Final Jeopardy, you’ll be ready. I know, I know, I know. I know. There are those who missed the 60’s, there are those who miss the 60’s, and there are those who never want to hear another fucking word about that over-exposed, over-analyzed and over-praised god-forsaken decade. Well, settle down out there, as we here at The Music In Me Headquarters are about to reminisce with you about someone who’s been called “a man with an interesting story to tell.” Well, he’s not here today, so I’ll tell it for him. To whit: Singles? We didn’t have no stinkin’ singles. Of course, I don’t know if anyone still listens to the radio, but the selection of songs and artists you might hear on the internet today has exploded into uncountable options, but in 1968 the selection was limited to several dozen artists who dominated the airwaves, and among those acts was Terry Reid, of whom Robert Plant said, "Terry was probably the best singer of that period." Reid had a sexy, rasping tone that sounded at once intimate and dangerous. His riffs were simple, direct, and his songs rocked with an attitude that said he knew whatever he was singing about: he’d lived it and he felt it. He was young, he was dangerous, he was real, he was confident, and I believed him. He was all over the FM radio back then, but if I don’t tell you about him, who will? Reid quit school at fifteen and played anywhere that they let his band play. You know- the early days. He was spotted by a touring act and the next year his band opened for the Rolling Stones. Graham Nash of The Hollies was at a Stones show at the Royal Albert Hall, saw them, and got them a contract. But the single failed and the band broke up. He was then found by famous record producer Mickie Most, who was a partner with the infamous Peter Grant. Reid put together a group with a drummer and an organist, a modestly successful single was issued, but the album tanked. A tour had been booked to push the album, but it was in the United States where Reid found an audience when they opened for Cream, and this is where it gets interesting. The aforementioned Peter Grant managed guitarist Jimmy Page, whose group, The Yardbirds, had just disbanded, leaving Page with rights to the name, but he needed some band members for a Scandinavian tour that had been booked. He was looking for a guitar-playing vocalist and wanted Reid, but Reid was already under contract for two tours with the Stones and one more with Cream. He told Page that he’d like to be in the new group, tentatively titled the New Yardbirds, but he a needed two things from Page before he’d sign: He wanted to be paid not only for the gigs he’d work, but also for the gigs he’d miss, and he wanted Page to call Keith Richards to explain why he was backing out of his contract. Peter Grant refused to do that, so Reid was out, but not before Page asked him if he could recommend another singer. A local group named the Band of Joy had a singer that had impressed Reid, and he recommended that Page check him out, and the drummer was really good, too. The singer was Robert Plant and the drummer was John Bonham. John Paul Jones was asked to play bass because he was a session musician that Page had worked with and felt was talented. They got together, rehearsed, changed their name to Led Zeppelin and went out on tour. So: good for all those guys, not so much for Terry. Unfortunately, none of the raves from music critics after any of those tours helped Reid all that much, and he drifted in obscurity until the singer from Deep Purple left the band, and they offered the spot to Reid. Again, Reid was tied to contracts and was unable to accept, and he went further into obscurity. So 1968 wasn’t such a good year for Terry Reid. In 1969 Reid opened for Jethro Tull and Fleetwood Mac, but his records were ignored and I never heard anything about him after the infamous 1969 Rolling Stones tour, the one that ended at Altamont Speedway, but Reid was off the tour by then. Once off the tour and disappointed in his lack of charting success, Reid fell out with producer Mickey Most, who wanted Reid to follow his formula, demanding that Reid stop rocking and start crooning. Mining his waning popularity, Reid’s brief tours were most effective in the U.S. Playing sporadic dates while waiting for the outcome of his lawsuit over his contract with Most, he returned briefly to Great Britain to perform at the Isle of Wight Festival, and after the lawsuit, Reid fell deeply into obscurity, where he remains until this day. But not for me. When the spliffs get passed around and the music gets serious and conversation turns to nostalgia, I am apt to bring up Terry Reid, whom of course, none of my younger friends know. But a few years ago those ramblings about the past paid a dividend. In 2004, my pal Eddy had a club in LA and knew what the what was in that town, and he called me one night and said, “Hey, remember that guy you used to talk about? Terry Reid?” Yeah, I remembered, and lo, Eddy told me that Terry Reid was playing with a pickup band Monday nights in a dive bar in West Hollywood, and I should come up and see him. Yeah, I said I would, and then it got better. His pick-up band had different players each week, but they were all the best players in town, the stars and the session players, and it was the place to be in LA on Monday nights. Well, I didn’t much care which was the place to be, but wherever Terry Reid was playing was where I wanted to be. It was less than a three-hour drive to the club, so I drove up and Eddy and I went out for dinner and over to The Joint on Pico Blvd in West L.A. It wasn’t so much a Terry Reid gig as a pickup gig. Yes, Reid was the singer every Monday, but it was more of a jam among friends, musicians who look for a place to play for fun, and this was the spot for the hot session guys in L.A. Yeah, I was going! The band was put together and led each week by Waddy Wachtel, who readers of liner notes will recognize from playing with Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks, Keith Richards, James Taylor, Iggy Pop, Warren Zevon, Bryan Ferry, Joe Walsh, Jackson Browne, Andrew Gold, and others, plus much work on film scores. Waddy Wachtel is a heavy. That night the band featured Bernard Fowler, who I knew as a singer from previous Stones tours, plus Waddy Wachtel, Rick Rosas, a legendary session player with Neil Young, and I can’t remember the name of the drummer. The band was great, just great musicians, all of them. They were a treat. This was rock and roll played the way I like it: great musicians in a small club. Yes, rock stars can make a lot of money and live well, but those on the fringe or those who hadn’t had ongoing success might be worse for wear, and so it was. It was a disappointment. Maybe it was me. I mean, the musicians were great, the music was great, the songs were classic and bluesy and rhythm & bluesy, standards, pop, a cheesy hit or two, and altogether the band was clearly enjoying themselves. Well, we knew they weren’t there for the money, and this is always the best way to see live rock ‘n’ roll: played by masters for fun. But it looked like Terry Reid had had some hard years, and I guess I was looking for something from the past. Because, y’know… the past. Now he was sort of… puffy. He looked a bit bloated in a sharkskin suit that didn’t quite fit. And a pork pie hat. You know, a snap brim. Okay, it was a trilby. But the puffiness… you know how drinkers look. I didn’t know what to think then, and I’m still unsure about what I wanted from Terry Reid. I was glad he was alive, I was glad he had such impressive friends who wanted to play with him. I think I just wanted more. Pop songs, some hits, some blues and some rhythm and blues. Everyone was into it, and so was the crowd of maybe twenty-five people. He was having a good time, and in the end, that is what I took away. I’m sure the problem was with me. We had both aged over forty years and neither of us had what we had in 1968. The rasp was there , but the swagger was not. He hadn’t weathered the past well and I should not have had the expectations I had, but he’d been so dynamic back then. Maybe I shouldn’t have been disappointed. I had I good time and saw some great music, right? Reid was a shooting star: observed by few, of little discernible impact, but a wonder when seen. I have to say I’m really sorry I never heard more from him, and when I did, I wish I could say it was on a comeback. Maybe I wanted too much from him that night in LA, but I wanted more. I wanted him to be dynamic, impressive, not just good. I wanted to be transported, not pleased. Know what else I want? I want world peace, a steamer trunk full of fifties and a girlfriend named Lola. Although you might not have heard of him, Reid hasn’t been idle since his heyday in 1968. His 1973 album River has received some glowing reviews, but again, scant album sales. Since his heyday, Reid has accumulated an impressive list of credits as a player on other people’s albums, as a composer of songs for other artists and for film soundtracks, and as a player on the club circuit. There are simply too many credits to list here, and many of them are impressive, so here’s Terry Reid's Wikipedia page for you to peruse as your interest dictates: Here’s Reid’s website: Terry Reid And perhaps you know about Marc Maron’s podcast, WTF, and here is terry Reid in 2016 on WTF: Now, how about seeing and hearing what I’ve been talking about: Bang Bang: YouTube Link Superlungs: YouTube Link Season of the Witch: YouTube Link Soulful singing on his second album: Stay With Me Baby: YouTube Link I’d always thought rockers were his strengths, but you, like I did, may find otherwise. Checkout the trailer for the Superlungs documentary about Terry Reid. Looks really good. - Editor Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  4. The Music In Me: Juan Carrión

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

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

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

    View full article
  8. Article: An Even Whiter Shade of Pale

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

    Close. Should I post the answer here or in the next article?
  10. An Even Whiter Shade of Pale

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