I’ve learned a thing or two, I hope, since high school, about writing for print.
One is that sometimes you have to come straight to the point. With news stories, of course – always. The inverted pyramid. Who, what, when, where, why. Oh, yeah, and how. I always forget how. Maybe it should be wow, so it goes with all the other “w” words. What is the wow factor? – so important now that journalism has become infotainment. (Don’t get me started.)
Columns and other opinion pieces are a different animal. You tell stories, and often you hold back the punch line. But here it is: There is a rock and roll show this Sunday evening that is also a rare cultural/historical event, on our doorstep at 52 Windward Ave. in Venice, and my heartfelt admonition to you, dear reader, is to not blow it. We don’t often get a second chance in life. Santa Monica, Westside, L.A., this is yours. No excuses, no crying come Monday, only huge grins and gosh, thank you, Charles!
Your first chance was a year ago when Love Revisited (that’s their official name, but I’m going to call them just Love) played, of all places, the Moose Lodge on Ocean Park Blvd. They performed the entire landmark 1967 album “Forever Changes” start to finish, note for note, with live strings and horns. It was transcendent. Right there in the Moose Lodge.
Rolling Stone magazine in 2003 named “Forever Changes” the 40th greatest album of all time. Mojo readers (UK), 11th. Me? Top 5. At least. This local gig will be a warm-up for their UK tour this summer, including a music festival in Liverpool. “It’s said you can’t go anywhere in Liverpool without being 200 yards from a copy of ‘Forever Changes,’” wrote the festival promoters. “That may be a slight exaggeration, but it illustrates the influence that California band has had here.”
Your second miracle opportunity for Love takes place now in a likewise unlikely venue, the cozy classy old Townhouse in Venice. 101 years old this year, during Prohibition the Townhouse basement, hidden under Menotti’s grocery store, was a speakeasy, and that’s where the music and other entertainment (comedy, jazz, burlesque, Mahalo Mondays, bluegrass, reggae, DJs) takes place now. I’ve heard some good bands there, and the atmosphere is cool.
Love advertises they will be playing songs from their first three albums (but also, I’ve learned, a couple from the fourth, “Four Sail”). So we can walk to a concert that the English have been hoping for for at least 10 years. On the band’s website some guy from Miami said he was flying in for this Venice show because it was cheaper than a plane ticket to England. And you’re not sure you’re going to go?
I know I’m really going out on a limb by being so gung ho. It puts my rep on the line. But I’m not worried. I know what these guys can do. I know every note, from the albums. If you close your eyes, at the show, you won’t be able to tell you haven’t walked through a time warp onto Sunset Strip, late ’60s. Nostalgia is not the goal, of course, it’s this band playing these great songs.
Founder/songwriter/vocalist Arthur Lee (died 2006, leukemia) had a distinctive, if not unique voice. (The Johnny Mathis comparison is naive.) When you hear Love/Lemonade’s Rusty Squeezebox sing, you will be amazed. Mike Randle de javus the distinctive guitar parts, along with original founding member Johnny Echols. Only Echols? It’s enough.
I spent most of my writing life as a music critic – whoa, stop right there! I can hear what you’re thinking. You… critics… tell me that album I love and play over and over is worthless trash. You… you… you’re trash! And you stink besides!!
See? See why I got out of that game? Even though I always got paid, the rewards were too few (though swag, free albums and guest lists can be pretty cool), and the punishments frequent, and sometimes harsh. I don’t need that. (I finally decided.) (After decades…)
But with that lifelong background and too much bad experience, I am hesitant to recommend reformed bands. Caution, red flag, where is the exit, please!
Love is different. They didn’t have even one hit. They were be-Loved in L.A. and more popular in England (“Forever Changes”: #24) than the U.S. (#154). But today’s Love consists of the L.A. band Baby Lemonade, who became Arthur Lee’s longest-lasting Love lineup after he heard them open for him at Hollywood’s infamous dive Raji’s, and promptly fired his own band and crowned them the new Love, in 1993 – only one year after they formed! Another demonstration of Lee’s formidable music instincts.
The musicians of Baby Lemonade, when they are Love, eschew showing off their own chops and instead take the utmost pride in reproducing those Love songs in the most accurate way possible. Which takes a helluva lot of musicianship, along with controlled egos. We benefit, gloriously.
Love in Santa Monica! If you cruise on by our own True Tone music store on Santa Monica Boulevard, you will find Mike and Rusty there, selling axes, guiding musicians of all levels. Surely they have some great stories – they played with Arthur for some years – but my interview with them got barbecued. Maybe next year? But Johnny Echols, who co-founded Love and saw the good, bad and ugly in the early years, has agreed to an interview before crossing the Atlantic. That should be fun. Stay tuned.
FOR THE RECORD
I love the train. Congratulations all around. Even you, Pam. (Oh c’mon, I’m teasing!!) In spite of all my misgivings, many of which remain. I rode it in for the opening ceremonies, and rode it back from downtown L.A. that night after a great show at the Teragram (best club in L.A.) by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (you heard me).
Best quote from the ceremonies: L.A. mayor Garcetti’s “praise” of MC County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for running the dais – “Doing a great job, our master of ceremonies, Mark Ridley Thomas – best MC money can buy.” Pretty droll. I think he’s aiming for the White House Correspondents’ dinner.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “If you love Love or even know Love, it’s clear you are a real music person.” – William Black
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.