NOT ONLY NOT DEAD, BUT KICKIN’ HARD
Since I erroneously killed off cult legend Simon Stokes in my column two weeks ago, it’s only right that I report that he kicked out the jams at his tribute concert last week at Taix Restaurant in Echo Park.
For a rocker so unfairly obscure, there was a big crowd packing the back banquet room at Taix. No stage, chairs moved around, very informal, but very well organized by his friend Todd Westover. Mostly musicians, it seemed to me. And just maybe most everyone was there because they knew Simon well enough to know what a great guy he is, underneath the image his blood and gore songs convey.
I caught up with Stokes shortly after arriving asked if Terry Reid was going to make it. “Sure, he’s right there, chowing down at the bar,” he said, pointing. Simon likes to put you on, and when he mentioned Terry married his daughter, I forgot for a moment that I knew that. Can you imagine those family singalongs?
Former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra was a star attraction and a treat, adding much personal commentary about his old friend Simon and his songs, and he superbly covered Stokes’ classic, “A Boa Constrictor Ate My Wife.
The other fame name of the evening is one you may not know, but should, for his talent and his history. Reid was subdued but brilliant, acoustic guitar, in covering the Stokes cover of the Elvis cover, “One Night with You,” with the original lyrics by Smiley Lewis that comes out, “One Night of Sin.” That’s more Simon’s speed.
I owe him an apology to Reid, who once performed on my cable TV show, for what I wrote last week. I read somewhere that his nickname among English musicians was The Voice, and he cringed at the reference. “I much prefer Superlungs — that was the name of one of my early albums, you know.” The other is more egregious: I kicked along the erroneous story that he turned down the lead singer job in the nascent Led Zeppelin, as a teen ager. It’s a long story, but closer to the truth is that he should be given credit for putting the band together. It was only a short tour for the disbanded Yardbirds, contractual obligations, and Reid was not available, and the rest is history, but not the history you may have heard.
Throw Rag’s Sean Wheeler did a bang-up job with “Mini Skirt Blues” and music biz pro Harry Garfield sang the seminal early LA rock masterpiece “Talk Talk” (because he was with Music Machine) and one of the few not-Stokes songs of the evening, and also did justice to Simon’s superb “Johnny Gillette.” As often happens, familiar songs in the hands of others often shines a light we hadn’t seen on the words.
Stokes took it all in and when he finally took the stage, to front his old band the Black Whip Thrill Band, who had not played together for 45 years (!), he beat it down. Still knew all the words. The BWTB was more than nostalgia, they were the bomb.
BULLETIN! NEWS FLASH!!
This is nearly an exclusive!
Ocean Park resident, Simpsons voices, longtime Le Show radio mogul, SNL vet, Credibility Gap comedy troupe performer with Michael McKean, and most importantly, my hoops partner — no, I mean, alter ego of Derek Smalls, Spinal Tap’s legendary (they say) bassist, just sent me this:
‘Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing),’ the first solo album from legendary Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls, is out Friday, April 13 via Twanky Records/BMG.
A poignant contemplation on aging and all things loud, the record features guest appearances from some of the greatest talents of rock and roll music and beyond, including Donald Fagen, David Crosby, Dweezil Zappa, Rick Wakeman, Richard Thompson, Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Steve Lukather (Toto), Joe Satriani, Waddy Wachtel, Michael League, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Paul Shaffer, Steve Vai, Larry Carlton, Judith Owen, Jane Lynch and many more.”
Oh joyous rapture, can’t wait to hear it, but my editor wants this column first so, next Thursday, hmm? Stonehenge wasn’t built in a day, you know.
(not too much to choose from this week, still, if you saw all four of these you’d be floating on a cloud, and exceeding the quota for excellent live music available to you in a month in most places in the world… and that’s why I moved to LA)
THE ENGLISH BEAT (when this UK late-’70s ska revival band stops playing and you stop dancing, grinning and “whooo”-ing, you’ll say, I remembered “Twist and Crawl,” “Ranking Full Stop,” “Mirror in the Bathroom,” but I had no idea they had that many great songs! — I’ve heard that reaction many times; nevermind that’s only frontman Dave Wakeling from the original group, his is the voice you want to hear and his band will be excellent — would get a Highly Recommended but for the drive and the price, but go, go!). Fri, The Canyon, Agoura Hills, 9 PM, $24-38
DAVE ALVIN (Blasters founder-guitar master, grown to be a California and national treasure for solo work mining California’s rich country-folk tradition, in the perfect setting, right here in town), Fri, Sat, 8 PM, McCabe’s Guitar Shop, $25.
BARBARA MORRISON (jazz-blues master vocalist), Tues, 7 PM, PIPS Pizza, LA, no cover — actually, every Tues. Such a deal.
NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS (love this band, especially live, nothing matches the energy and catchiness of their hit “S.O.B. [Give Me a Drink!]” but every single song I heard in a live show was in a groove worthy of their being signed to Stax Records), Wed, 8 PM, Troubadour, W Hwd, $35.
BAND NAMES OF THE WEEK: Crematory Stench (on a bill with Fetid and Ensepulcher); I Hate You Just Kidding; GayC/DC; Flaccid Mojo
LYRIC OF THE WEEK: “All I really, really want our love to do, is to bring out the best in me and in you, I wanna talk to you, I wanna shampoo you, I wanna renew you again and again, applause, applause, life is our cause.” — Joni Mitchell (“All I Want”)
(wishing Joni the best as she recovers from serious illness — she is one of the very few musicians alive I would call genius)
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com