Lost Grooves newly released for June 10, 2008

This is a big week for Beach Boys freaks, with the release of the ginormous US Singles Collection Box collection (1962-65), a 16-CD limited edition set of early A & B sides, live and alternate takes, with a 48-page hardbound book of photos, all wrapped in a hotrod inspired box with wood, foam and foil inlay.

Two early, deeply weird Alice Cooper Band albums see the light of day anew with Rhino Encore's reissues of Pretties for You and Easy Action. This is the Alice we like to talk about on the Esotouric Where the Action Was rock history tour, hanging out at the Landmark Hotel getting his eyes did by Miss Christine of the GTOs. Also new from Rhino Encore, Warren Zevon's Mr. Bad Example, from 1991.

Collector's Choice issues a couple of mid-period albums from Arthur Lee's Love, Out Here (with the remake of "Signed D.C.") and False Start (with a Lee-Hendrix collaboration).

Then there's the Lydia Lunch video compedium Hysterie – 1978-2006, just the thing to celebrate this week's Teenage Jesus & the Jerks reunion in NYC.




Carl Franzoni guest-stars on Esotouric’s Where The Action Was bus tour

Here's a link to a little Youtube excerpt of Carl Franzoni's recent guest appearance on Esotouric's Where the Action Was rock and roll history tour, rolling down Fairfax talking about his friend Bryan Maclean, then dancing a freaky tribute to Bryan in a graveyard. This clip comes from Carl's public access show Karl's Kitchen.

Catherine Huberty shot the footage, and that's fellow guest star John Trubee to Carl's right. The female voice you hear, sharing a recent Wild Man Fischer sighting, is yours truly, tour host Kim Cooper.

Next tour: June 28, with guest star Ruthann Friedman! 

Aeroplane and others at NYC 33 1/3 series reading

On March 26, I'll be reading a short excerpt from my 33 1/3 book about "In the Aeroplane Over The Sea" as part of a 33 1/3 – Writers on Music panel at Housing Works Used Book Cafe in NYC. Also appearing are Andrew Hultkrans ("Love's 'Forever Changes'"), Amanda Petrusich ("Nick Drake's 'Pink Moon'"), and Kate Schatz ("PJ Harvey's 'Rid of Me'"). The reading is followed by a Q&A hosted by writer/director Keith Bearden ("The Raftman's Razor").

WHAT: 33 1/3- Writers on Music event
WHERE: Housing Works Used Book Cafe, 126 Crosby Street, NYC 10012
WHEN: Tuesday March 25, 7pm-9pm
COST: free
INFO: https://33third.blogspot.com/2008/03/33-13-authors-at-housing-works-nyc.html

10/21 LA- Where The Action Was rock history tour

For immediate release
September 18, 2007
New Hollywood Rock and Roll History Tour stars Phil Spector and Bobby Fuller

LOS ANGELES- Esotouric, the eclectic collective whose offbeat bus tours expose LA's secret history, returns to founder Kim Cooper's rock and roll roots on Sunday, October 21, when they launch WHERE THE ACTION WAS. This new tour, co-hosted by pop critic Gene Sculatti, explores the musical history of Hollywood and the Sunset Strip through visits to celebrated nightclubs, recording studios, record label offices and other places of subcultural importance.

The launch date is no accident, falling one day before Bobby Fuller, the gifted rocker whose "I Fought The Law" is one of the great singles of the 1960s, would have turned 65. Fuller's mysterious 1966 "suicide" (thought by many to be an unsolved murder) is one of several storylines followed on the neighborhood tour, which also explores the life, the highs and lows of super-producer Phil Spector, the racially mixed psychedelic lions Arthur Lee & Love and the folk-rocking Byrds and their extraordinary entourage of self-proclaimed freaks and go-go dancers.

On WHERE THE ACTION WAS, passengers will make a fascinating journey back in time, from the mid 1960s through the punk era, when Hollywood was ground zero of a series of cultural explosions that started in the music industry, but quickly spread to film, publishing, fashion and lifestyles. The area covered is relatively small, but packed with important spots including nightclubs (Whiskey A Go Go, Pandora's Box, Rodney's English Disco, The Masque), record labels (Capitol, A&M, RCA), teen hang-outs (Ben Frank's, Canter's, Tiny Naylor's) and some familiar locations with unexpected rock and roll connections. Artists featured include Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass, The Beach Boys, The Buffalo Springfield, The Doors, The Bobby Fuller 4, The Germs, The Grassroots, Jan & Dean, Janis Joplin, Arthur Lee & Love, The Mamas & Papas, The Monkees, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Sonny & Cher, Phil Spector, Iggy & the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, and many, many more.
Illustrated with an elaborate onboard slide show featuring rare vintage photos, album art, concert ads and ephemera, and hosted by a pair of historically minded music fiends eager to share fascinating tales, WHERE THE ACTION WAS is a must for rock fans or Hollywood dwellers who've heard the famous names, but need some help figuring out where is all happened.

The tour visits the unassuming intersection where teens rioted over an unfair nightly curfew (inspiring the Buffalo Springfield's Stephen Stills to write "For What It's Worth"), the hotel where Janis Joplin died, the one-time roller disco parlor where Prince made his L.A. debut, the notorious Continental "Riot House" hotel in which Led Zeppelin partied with teenage groupie queens, the Hullaballoo Club (later the Aquarius and now Nickelodeon), Ciro's, PJ's (later The Starwood), the Troubador, and many more. It explains how Canter's Deli's continued popularity as an after hours gathering spot is directly tied to its willingness to serve hairy weirdos in the 1960s, reveals how Elvis Presley's shopping trip to Wallich's Music City influenced L.A.'s surf and hot rod music scene, and recalls a time when the Tropicana Motel was simply THE place to go for star spotting.

WHERE THE ACTION WAS is a long overdue celebration of the people and the venues that made Southern California the center of the rock and roll world for more than two decades.

The tour will conclude with a snack break at Scoops, the avant garde gelato shop featuring high concept flavors inspired by Esotouric tours. Available for purchase on the tour will be autographed copies of Gene Sculatti's "The Catalog of Cool," Kim Cooper's books and back issues of Scram magazine.

ABOUT THE HOSTS: Co-host Kim Cooper is the editrix of Scram, the acclaimed journal of unpopular culture that over 22 issues has celebrated neglected musical genius, and spawned the anthologies "Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth" and "Lost in the Grooves: Scram's Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed." Her latest book is the best-selling volume of the 33 1/3 series of little books about great albums, on Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over The Sea."

Co-host Gene Sculatti is a writer, editor and music-business veteran whose work has appeared in USA Today, Rolling Stone and Creem. Gene was Editorial Director of Warner Bros. Records and Director of Special Issues for Billboard magazine. His book "The Catalog of Cool" was the bible of pre-internet hepcat exploration. Gene is also author of "Too Cool," "San Francisco Nights: The Psychedelic Music Trip" and "The 100 Best Selling Albums of the 60s."

Upcoming Esotouric bus tour schedule:
Sat Sept 22 – In A Lonely Place: Raymond Chandler's LA tour
Sat Sept 29 – Blood & Dumplings (San Gabriel Valley true crime tour)
Sun Oct 7– Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles (architecture/urbanism tour)
Sat Oct 20– The Real Black Dahlia tour
Sun Oct 21 – WHERE THE ACTION WAS (rock history tour)
Sat Oct 27 – Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski's LA
Sun Oct 28 – Hallowe'en Horrors featuring Crimebo the Clown
For more info on Esotouric, visit https://www.esotouric.com

Arthur Lee Has Died

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Love leader Arthur Lee died yesterday in Memphis from the leukemia he has been fighting all year. He was 61.

Growing up in Los Angeles, one heard many strange stories about Arthur, who was already pretty far gone by the time I discovered Forever Changes and realized all the astonishing things that this homegrown black psychedelicist had done with the genre. Paired with Bryan MacLean, a beautiful blonde Beverly Hills boy with a jones for Broadway show tunes, this smart, weird, twitchy kid transformed pop with an aggressive ease that made it all look effortless. Black people didn’t look or act or sing like that in the sixties; Arthur Lee was so original, he might as well have been an alien.

And if that was all in the misty past, while the guy who wrote the songs was reported smashing into parked cars in front of the Whiskey while racing away from a gig he’d decided not to play, well, misty pasts sound fine on thick Elektra vinyl from the Goodwill store.

But writing about Love always risks sounding flat and dry (Andrew Hultkrans did good work in his 33 1/3 book, though). They were lyrical and powerful and surprising and exploding with stunning melodies.  Arthur’s Love was beautiful, but unreliable. I’ve seen the Baby Lemonade version of Love bring crusty old record collectors to sobs, and I’ve seen Arthur blow his UCLA homecoming gig so resoundingly that you just wanted to grab his shoulders and shake him and yell "don’t you know how much better you are than this?" (Word was, later, he was scared and popped too many valium hoping he’d calm down.)

Well, there won’t be any more stunning returns or frustrating failures, now illness has taken Arthur home. 

The first time I saw Arthur play, at the old Raji’s on the south side of Sunset in the early 90s, I talked with him in the parking lot after the show. A grizzled old groupie was trying to drag him home, and it was obvious he’d rather talk with nice people than go off with her, but life and shyness called and I walked away. Immediately regretted it, and still do. What’s the point of loving someone’s music if you don’t give something back when they need it?

So be kind to your heroes when you meet them, even if–especially if–they end up disappointing you as people. Notice their aches and pains, since they might not. Decades of pushing themselves past reasonable limits can leave them unaware of signs of serious illness. Killer Kane’s leukemia crept up and practically ate him before he did anything about it. I don’t know about Arthur’s illness, but it seems to have been quick.

It’s a sad day for psychedelia and for the arts in California. Arthur Lee, Rest in Peace.

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Black Merda

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In a recent post on the current resurgence of soul, Scott Homewood mentions that the cult funk act Black Merda is again active. When I stumbled on their website a few months ago their reemergence, though welcome, seemed improbable, given the apocalyptic desperation that pervades their classic second album, Long Burn the Fire. As far as I knew, nothing had been heard from the group since 1973.

Perhaps the pleasant surprise of their return is just the result of too-close identification of the artists with their work. Still, listening to Long Burn the Fire, it seems like an easy mistake to make. Warnings about the dire effects of economic depression, too rapid racial integration, and general social upheaval flash by like dispatches from the ghetto wire service, mixing with elaborately arranged confessions of personal failure that cut heartbreakingly close to the bone. It would have made sense if the band had, along with the family in one of their songs, “decided to go to the moon.”

On their site, which is the first information about the group I’ve come across beyond what can be gleaned from the sleeve of Long Burn the Fire, the second album is treated as the poor relation of the group’s canon. Frankly, this surprised me: their debut (which, admittedly, I came to later and know less well) strikes me as fairly rote post-Hendrix black rock, not that much different from what other groups were doing at the time. Long Burn the Fire, on the other hand, incorporates white pop elements as brilliantly as Cicero Park or even Forever Changes. The strings that appear on about half the tracks might have seemed unnecessary or even ideologically retrograde at the time, but from a more distanced perspective they serve an important aesthetic function, highlighting through contrast the band’s unconventional and unsentimental approach to the exposition of interior states.

From the opener, “For You,” the writing is startling sophisticated. Riding on a sprung, vaguely Caribbean rhythm, major/minor key changes mirror the inconstancy of the person addressed in the song and the bipolarity of the singer. In pop music, one normally takes the assertion that “I’m nothing without you” with a grain of salt; the statement itself implies a fairly significant level of egocentrism. When Black Merda sings “I could have been a great man, you know I could’ve/ But the great man is gonna be somebody else/ ‘Cause you lied to me. . .” it’s clear that even before his inamorata’s deception the singer’s chances of being somebody were slim at best.

The pay-off at the end of “My Mistake” ensures that it will remain Black Merda’s most notorious song, but it can obscure the care with which the evolution of the singer’s attitude toward his dead friend is elaborated throughout the song. The rambling lyrics, with their circularity and loosely extended metaphors, perfectly encapsulate the dynamics of thought: “I know my love for you will last through the ages/ Just like a monument/ To a president of our land/ Who was great. . . .” Why Coleridge himself couldn’t do better than that! The pizzicato strings that respond to the closing call of “I made a mistake” sound as if they’ve stumbled in, disoriented, from a Barry White session. If the listener laughs, it’s only to keep from crying.

Of course, the band’s own playing is sufficiently awesome to obviate the need for additional instruments. As they motor into infinity on the closing instrumental, “We Made Up,” it’s clear that even lyrics and vocals are unnecessary adjuncts to their ability to capture the rhythms of introspection. To me, this makes Black Merda not only funky but truly psychedelic as well. Do them and yourself a favor and buy their CD, The Folks from Mother’s Mixer, which packages both the early 70s albums, on Funky Delicacies. Let it burn!