Whenever I hear someone say, I have no regrets about anything in my life, I wonder. Really? I understand the philosophy that says, everything in my life has brought me to where I am today, and I am thankful for it.
But — wouldn’t you be in the same place if you hadn’t done that dumb thing when you were 16 that broke your mother’s heart? How about that very hurtful thing you said to your best friend? Running a stop light and nearly killing someone? Sure, it all turned out okay, but — no regrets? If so, I admire your spiritual enlightenment and certitude. Or, maybe, your wide-eyed ability to fool yourself.
I do not regret where life has taken me, but no regrets, not one? I have two regarding the late Mr. Stokes. One, that I didn’t stay more in touch with him, by phone at least. Two, regarding songwriting. I wish he had recorded a song my wife Diane and daughter Nicole wrote that we thought would be perfect for him, called “My Mean Side.” I must’ve sent him a link half a dozen times, and seven times he asked me, with sincere apologies, to please send it again. I don’t think he was ducking it because he was usually the one who brought it up. Some people just aren’t that well organized. He had suggested that he might write a song with Nicole. I think he felt someone a couple of generations younger might spark something interesting, and fruitful.
Sorry, Nicole. I would love to have that song. But I never made it happen, never found a date we were both free to drive to Palm Desert, because she might not feel comfortable going alone, to someone she didn’t really know. Especially a tough-looking dude known for tales of drug deals, dismemberment and death. What would they have written together? I have to say, Nicole sang a very convincing rendition of “My Mean Side.”
I DON’T KNOW IF SIMON STOKES
Had any regrets. He certainly had cause, professionally. He didn’t get the recognition he deserved for his exceptional writing, musical and performance talents. But he had a loving family and the praise of those who knew music. He left us on Dec. 13, at 83, and I have not been able to find his name on any list of musicians who passed in 2020, including ones updated to today, and a couple with more than 100 names. That is ridiculous.
It’s true that most of his groundbreaking work came decades ago. But that’s also true for many on those lists. And unlike many of them, he kept performing, at an undiminished level, into his 80s, until mental decline made it impossible. A tribute to him was staged at Taix Restaurant in Echo Park, on Jan. 25, 2018.
WHEN I SAW THE NOTICE (“TRIBUTE”)
I ran to my laptop, athletically jumping to conclusions, and wrote his premature obituary. (He laughed it off that night. “It isn’t the first time,” he quipped.) It was an amazing night, with the first reunion of the original Black Whip Thrill Band in 45 years, and unforgettable duets with both Jello Biafra and Terry Reid.
I corralled them in the hallway for one of my all-time favorite photos, all of us looking like scruffy drinking buddies. But I already knew Terry — Simon’s son-in-law — from when he sang on my cable TV show. That magnificent gravelly rock and roll voice (Jimmy Page wanted him in Led Zep) was put to standards, and Christmas songs, with his young daughter.
That tribute night was perfect for me to mix and chat with a roomful of longtime fans, mostly musicians, of the artist and the man. Nothing but accolades, admiration and love. And when it comes time to take that final ride, doesn’t that count a whole lot more than how many albums you sold? Oh yeah — Simon absolutely killed it that night. If it turned out to be his final performance, it was a perfect swan song.
There is a jaw-dropping photo, which I may or may not be able to post with this column online (it’s pretty dark), of him discussing writing a song for a film funded by the Nation Of Islam (Louis Farrakhan was in the room but off camera), and he’s leaning over to brainstorm with Richie Havens, Sammy Davis Jr and Muhammed Ali. A white guy that they were choosing to write the right music for their film. Just let that sink in.
THE FIRST ALBUM EVER BANNED NATIONALLY
For its cover (not to mention the band’s name), of a cartoonish illustration of scantily-clad women being tortured in a S&M dungeon by monks, was “Simon Stokes & the Black Whip Thrill Band,“ released in 1973, the same year as “The Incredible Simon Stokes.” Both pretty ballsy titles, actually.
Those are just some of the legendary notes but you should go to his Facebook page to get a full story, including some concert footage you’ll find nowhere else. It’s great to have now that he’s gone, and his studio albums were few but worthwhile, but I’m here to tell ya: there was nothing like seeing Simon Stokes live, that scruffy-bearded diminutive pro making the dinner crowd drop their forks with his vivid, graphic tales of murder and mayhem. He may have spotted you a foot in height and 100 pounds but you left thinking, I hope I never run into that dude in a dark alley. If I hear, “Hey, You!” as I go to the parking lot, I’m just going to run for my life!
— unless you caught him after a set and started chatting, and then you would quickly discover the secret all his friends knew. That bad mutha was one of the sweetest, most soft-spoken, generous, humble souls you could ever meet. So, Mr. Stokes, a final “Goodnight M***F***s” — for years his gently-crooned closing ballad. I’m glad I caught your act, and I’m honored I could call you a friend.
BRING MUSIC HOME
Not too late for a gift card! (See last week’s column.)
Link to pre-order: https://bringmusichome.com/store/p/bring-music-home-book
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,500 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