I GOT NOTHIN’
This week. Well, I’ve never really got “nothin’.” But on a lonely unmotivated coronavirus late Monday night, it sure feels like it.
So how do I get this column written? Well, this is a column about music, the greatest healer, greatest drug of all, the higher plane, so, duh, slap on the headphones and call up some great sounds.
It surprises me that a limited jukebox occurs to me to accompany and even inspire writing. Has to feel just right.
A lot of the time it’s Bob Marley and the Wailers. CCR when I need some energy. Classical, when that’s called for, maybe Sibelius or Mozart, Grieg or Brahms. At this moment — the Rascals! Or as I like to persist in calling them, the Young Rascals, what they were called the first time I saw them on TV, and for the first three albums. I dug out their debut album and it’s really interesting and good, cruising through covers (later they wrote many classic originals), some odd ones like the Dylan (still worth listening to). But when you flipped the LP over to side two (!!) you also got “Good Lovin’,” “Mustang Sally,” “In the Midnight Hour,” and the song I had heard on the radio that they performed on Hullabaloo, “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore.” That’s mo’ better stuff than most bands can manage in a year.
Anybody remember that show? Like its Brit counterparts, we had to endure corny, clearly unhip hosts and silly choreography and sets, apropos of the time, but what performances! (Even if most were lip synced.) Chuck Berry, Simon & Garfunkel, the Four Tops, the Turtles, Marvin Gaye, the Beau Brummels, Cannibal & the Headhunters, The Animals, Zombies, Kinks, Rolling Stones, Moody Blues, Beatles — Beatles manager Brian Epstein hosted B&W segments from London.
I had heard the Young Rascals but not seen them, so I was nonplused when — they emerged on stage peering out of trash cans strewn around an alleyway set (unheard of), wearing little Lord Fauntleroy outfits (including knickers — really, whose idea was that?), and, biggest shock — they were white. Italian boys from NJ. Despite not a blue eye in the group, the term “blue-eyed soul” was created to describe them. They had no bass player, Eddie Brigati banged a tambourine, their songs were in the beginning very simple but so compelling. Three of them sang but the star was keyboard player Felix Cavaliere, a one man musical tornado wailing on the Hammond B3 and singing his soul out, also writing or co-writing a still-impressive string of hits.
Local note: among the performers on Hullabaloo were the Womenfolk, an LA vocal ensemble of some recognition that included original member (and longtime SM resident) Elaine (Golden-) Gealer. But she told me she had departed the group by then, moving up to San Francisco to open a coffeehouse.
And speaking of independent venues —
SAVE THE TROUBADOUR — I like going to shows. I’d like to still have some venues in which to see those shows once this is all over, especially historically significant, independently owned venues like the Troubadour, est. 1957. General manager Christine Karayan was quoted in a recent LA Times article saying, “We’re lumped in with the big boys, and we’re not the big boys. We don’t have shareholders. We don’t have corporate money.” I have personally seen many memorable shows at the Troubadour, most recently this past February, C.W. Stoneking and Gaby Moreno. The venue has set up a GoFundMe, and I would invite you to consider donating, if possible, or simply spreading the word: https://www.gofundme.com/f/troubadour-relief-fund
CHARLES CHIMES IN — absolutely. And LA is rich with them. Economically fragile treasures even in good times, but especially the Troub, into its seventh decade, so much music history it’s a shrine.
I got a notice from the folks at the Teragram Ballroom & Moroccan Lounge, a couple of our better live music spots, describing similar straits, announcing they have banded together with more than 1,200 other music venues across the country to form the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), to urge Congress to help protect their industry with the financial support necessary to survive the shutdown. Please! Take a billion away from American Airlines and you could save them all. #SaveOurStages
RICKIE LEE JONES
Always a fascinating, daring, groundbreaking artist, since her jazz-flavored eponymous debut in ‘79, which included “Chuck E’s in Love,” “Easy Money,” “Last Chance Texaco,” “Danny’s All Star Joint,” “Coolsville,” “Weasel and the White Boys Cool” and “Company,” those last two co-written by Venice composer-singer-piano player Alfred Johnson (still lives here). She rounded up a pretty good bunch of musicians for that album, especially for a rookie: Dr. John, Michael McDonald, Randy Newman, Victor Feldman, Tom Scott, Red Callender, Nick DeCaro, Chuck Findley, Steve Gadd, Andy Newmark, Jeff Porcaro, Fred Tackett, Ernie Watts, Willie Weeks. Yikes!
That landmark album has just been reissued in vinyl, she has a tour scheduled to start in July (we’ll see), a new album titled “Kicks,” her first studio album in 10 years, and there is a new feature-length doc called “The Other Side of Desire,” about the recording of that album and her reflections on aging, being a woman in the music industry, and “the amazing and complicated life she has led.” And And next Friday afternoon, 5 p.m. PDT, May 15, you can join her on Facebook for “Live from my Living Room.” Busy lady!
THE SERMON ON EXPOSITION BOULEVARD
A lot of water and music under the bridge in the last 40 years, and 28 years down the road came “The Sermon,” perhaps her least-known album, also one of her most challenging and rewarding ones to listen to.
This is the album I chose for my Intentional Listening session this week, and I’m glad I did. I have it on a Super Audio CD, so all the raw strangeness hits you right in the face, uh, ear. Some was recorded in an art studio on Exposition Boulevard, and the outside noise leaked in a little.
But the most enticing aspect is the source, how it came about and what she did with it. It’s a long, fascinating story you should look up, but here’s the gist of it. Lee Cantelon spent years wandering the globe researching an idea he had to present the words of Jesus in a more modern form, that would spark new perspectives. It became his book “The Words,” and in the process of recording it with music he approached Rickie Lee to add something. She dug it so much she kind of took over and made it her album, and that was surprising but just fine with Cantelon.
The background you should have before you listen is her approach, which included not hearing the music first, not reading the text, just opening up the book and riffing, sometimes adding her own words. My favorites are “Nobody Knows My Name,” “Gethsemane,” “Falling Up,” “It Hurts,” “Tried to be a Man,” “Donkey Ride,” “Elvis Cadillac” and “I Was There.” No religious background at all is required to appreciate this underrecognized gem.
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 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org