AND THE SUMMER MUSIC WAVE STARTS NEXT WEEK!
Some weeks you rock, sometimes it’s all that jazz, this week — great theatre, even outdoors!
“DEATH OF A SALESMAN” by ARTHUR MILLER starring Rob Morrow (Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play from 1949, this group of actors gives this very challenging material all it deserves, Morrow is nuanced and riveting but so is everyone else, Sarah Spitz did an interview with Morrow for her Culture Watch column last Thursday, Tatiana Blackington James did an excellent review, and there was a piece in the LA Times recently about Morrow), Fri-Sat 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Ruskin Group Theatre, SM Airport, $20-$35.
TONIGHT! — “ECHO IN THE CANYON” (don’t know if it ends tonight, another first-person account of rock and roll history, of the creative denizens of Laurel Canyon, but no “Lady of the Canyon” herself, Joni Mitchell? — maybe she didn’t want to, knowing how much dishing would be put on film), Thurs, Laemmle Monica, SM; The Landmark, West LA; various timers and prices.
TODAY! — A HOEDOWN & FOUR PLAYS IN FOUR DAYS (you could just take your tent and go camp out at this Topanga Canyon cultural landmark, starting today with their annual Family Barn Dance and Barbeque celebrating the 4th with a family hoe-down that includes live music, a barn dance, pie-eating and watermelon seed-spitting contests, a cake walk, horseshoes, relay races, dunk bucket, family games and more, with BBQ and fixin’s, beer and wine available for purchase, Thurs 11a.m.–5 p.m., Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga Canyon, free (kids under 4)-$50 (family four-pack, in advance only).
‘TWELFTH NIGHT” (they’re known for their mastery of The Bard), Sat 4 p.m. and various Fri-Sat-Sun through Sept. 28, Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga Canyon, $10-$42.
“AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE” (“Freely Adapted and Directed by Ellen Geer” but that’s a good thing, a very good thing, as the daughter of founder Will Geer has maintained a standard at this magical outdoor canyon theater that has lasted 46 years), Sat 8 p.m. and various Fri-Sat-Sun through Sept. 28, W.G.’s T. Botanicum, Topanga Canyon, $10-$42.
“A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM” (see above, 12th Night), Sun 4 p.m. and various Thurs and Sun through Sept. 2, T. Botanicum, Topanga Canyon, $10-$42.
“MOBY DICK – REHEARSED” (based on Orson Welles’ 1955 adaptation of the novel, it sounds like it requires a lot of “acting,” no whales, no ship — cool!) Sun 8 p.m. and various Fri-Sat-Sun through Sept. 29, T. Botanicum, Topanga Canyon, $10-$42.
THE TROUBADOUR THEATER COMPANY (presents its original production of THE ODD-ESSY, a family friendly, interactive spin on Homer’s classic Greek drama), Sat 5-7 p.m., (activities for all ages begin at 3), Reed Park, SM, free.
ALVIN YOUNGBLOOD HART (would you like to hear someone play guitar soulfully and really well, and rock the blues and other styles? — of course you would, and if you were that artist, wouldn’t you want a great name like that? and how wonderful is this description? — “the cosmic American love child of Howlin’ Wolf and Link Wray”), Sun 8 p.m., McCabes, SM, $25.
BILL HOLMAN BIG BAND, 7/13, Jazz Bakery at The Kirk Douglas Theatre, Culver City; PAUL MCCARTNEY, 7/13, Dodger Stadium, Echo Park; LED KAAPANA, 7/26, McCabe’s, SM.
AL “BLIND OWL” WILSON (1943), co-founder, main songwriter of Canned Heat, “the most gifted harmonica player I’ve ever heard,” declared John Lee Hooker, distinctive vocalist on “Going Up the Country” and “On the Road Again” and early member of the sad 27 Club (the age when too many talented musicians died), he deserves a book. But two weeks ago I promised you a tale about Beach Boy BRIAN WILSON (6/20/1942) and delivered half, so here’s the rest.
(Quick Canned Heat side note: the first time I saw them was at the 1st — also the last — Annual Albuquerque Blues Festival and Henry Vestine played his black LP Custom ‘RI Telecaster guitar louder, by far, than anyone I ever heard, before or since. He was driving even rowdy teenage boys out of the room, and it was a big auditorium. Downbeat Magazine wrote, following their Monterey appearance: “Technically, Vestine and Wilson are quite possibly the best two-guitar team in the world.”)
But back to Brian. My interview was conducted at the studio where he was recording, it lasted 50 minutes and was pretty disorienting, at least for me. There were three (3) tape recorders running — 1) that of David Leaf, longtime Santa Monica producer, author and college lecturer who was the point man for Warner’s on this pet project and probably knew more about Brian Wilson than anyone alive but his therapist; 2) mine; and 3) the therapist’s. Dr. Eugene Landy, who I later met and interviewed, had taken control of literally every aspect and moment of Brian’s life, and everyone who loved Brian hated Landy (who subsequently lost his license) — but also conceded that Brian probably would not be alive if it weren’t for Landy.
My first attempts at writing the interview looked like those old movies where the guy keeps tearing pages out of his typewriter and crumpling them up because it’s no good, he has to start over. I soon realized I had to speak with others close to Brian and this project before I could make any sense of my very disjointed interview. Here’s a typical scenario: I would ask him a question, he would pause to think about it, and then answer parts of two questions I had asked five minutes previously, that he hadn’t addressed. Sort of.
As I mentioned, I spoke with Dr. Landy, with multi-instrumentalist Andy Paley, Brian’s producer and songwriting partner on this eponymous first solo album (1988, 26 years after his first Beach Boys album), several times with Leaf, who was very helpful, and also with Lenny Waronker, the legendary president of the label. Only a handful of record execs could be considered legendary, but for his creativity and results, he was.
He took a close personal interest in this album, and especially in the cinematic eight-minute cut “Rio Grande,” which he was producing. When he showed me into his office, he did the “hold all my calls” thing to his secretary, at which I secretly scoffed. Yeah, right, if Madonna or Miles Davis or Prince calls, she’s going to tell them, sorry, he’s talking with Charles Andrews. But in more than an hour, his phone never rang.
I also read a couple of books about Brian, including Leaf’s, and tons of interviews and other pieces. Finally, after two months, I understood enough to try to make the interview make sense. Just writing it Q & A would have been gibberish, so I preceded and followed up each question and answer with enough background so it would make sense. What I submitted would have run 16 pagers in the magazine — and they printed every word.
A few months later Brian was making an appearance at Tower Records, and I brought a copy of the magazine to give to him, and one to autograph. He did, but when I quickly reintroduced myself he gave me a totally blank “no idea who this guy is” stare.
Brian seemed to get progressively better, and since then has released 14 more albums and played a lot of live shows. It took decades and a lot of people helping, but I guess he’s shown that he really was… made for these times.
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org