Rock Around the World
Newspaper Articles – Issue 13
-by Stephen Peeples
Your fleetfooted scribe really had to move this summer to keep up with the ridiculously large number of excellent live sets in town. Next summer I’m going to have ball bearings installed in my bootheels. Meanwhile, on with the highlights.
New volume restrictions notwithstanding, Heart‘s nights at the Universal Amphitheater crackled with energy. The Wilson sisters displayed admirable stageside confidence, avoiding “one of the boys” pitfalls. The band’s already talented lineup is further enhanced onstage by keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Howard Leese, who did session work on Heart’s first and joined the band for the second. Ann and Nancy bared their Zep influences again with an encore version of L.A.’s “Rock and Roll” that was at least equal to Zep’s.
At Griffith Park’s Greek Theater, the slight chill breezing through the open-air bowl lasted no longer than John Klemmer‘s first piece — the reedist blew so well people in the first twenty rows had to take off their sweaters or fry. Klemmer was appreciated as much as VSOP, populated by le creme of America’s younger jazz composers and players — Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard, and Wayne Shorter. One of VSOP’s many standout pieces was written for Flora Purim‘s new offspring. If anyone had the foresight to record this gig, here’s a big pat on the back from all of us. If not, here’s a big kick in the arse.
One of the summer’s finest Roxy stands was Nils Lofgren‘s three-nighter — all six shows sold out before anyone could say Bo Diddley. Nils and band delivered flaming sets, despite or maybe because of their sex months roaring through back-to back gigs all over the States and GB. The whole stand was recorded, even though Lofgren’s live double Performance LP is about to ship. Maybe a track or two from this gig will be included anyway.
Speaking of Bo Diddley, ready for a fresh BD story? Seems he was in Austin playing the Ritz, and one of the eager-to please promoters asked what he could do: “Whaddaya want — coke, speed, grass, booze — you name it, you’ve got it.” Bo Diddley’s comeback: ” To hell with all that jive — gimme 21 women, starting with the one taking tickets out front!”
Jerry Lee Lewis literally tore the Palomino apart two nights in a row. First night second set, the Killer was delivering an absolutely frenetic reading of “Chantilly Lace” when a fortyish (but well-preserved) buxom blonde sashayed onstage, seating herself at The Killer’s left on the piano bench. Aw, baby, that’s-a what he likes! Jerry Lee never missed a lick even as said pulled his shirttail out and commenced to massage his lower back with circular motions. Jerry Lee’s road manager finally led her from the stage, but as soon as he’d turned his back, the lady bolted for the bench again. This time she didn’t go quietly — there was a whole lotta kickin’ goin’ on up front, causing several of us to flee. Ron Wood retreated to the bar while Chrissie (laughing hysterically at the lady’s blown cool) jumped on Dave Mason‘s already full lap. Bryan Ferry sat agog during the whole fiasco, slackjaw with disbelief. Absolutely wild.
Someone talking with Wood later commented that Jerry Lee’s set was pretty good. “Pretty good?!?” Woody one-upped. “He was great!” After the show, Ferry stood near the bar with hands stuck in pockets, looking like a kid on his first trip to the circus. He readily agreed that one almost has to jettison any pretense of objectivity when talking about The Killer. “Oh, you have to!” he grinned. “He was fantastic! This was the first time I’d seen him, and it’s so encouraging to see someone like Jerry Lee live up to his legend.”
Ferry, by the way, is in town recording his next. Mick Fleetwood was leaning his worn-out frame against a backstage wall — Mac had come off the road earlier that night. “I got here a little late,” Mick told me, “but I really liked what I saw. Years and years ago I first saw him in England, and he’s still immensely popular over there.”
Woody, a resident of Malibu, was in town with the rest of the Stones finishing mixdowns on the Stones’ live lp, out now. “All of side three is from Toronto, that’s right!” he beamed. “The rest is from Paris, The States, and elsewhere. ‘Around And Around’ and ‘Little Red Rooster’ are on the album, too.” I was about to ask Woody if this was the Stones’ last blast, but before I could, Tiny ( the 350-lb. Palomino bouncer) hulked through the room yelling “everybody OUT! It’s quarter to three already!” The room emptied immediately, no questions asked. Time And Tiny wait for no one.
Legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker opened for Frankie Miller and the headlining Outlaws at the Starlight Bowl with a set of classic tunes like “Alcohol”, “Rock Steady”, and them ol’ “Stormy Monday Blues”. Bassist Mike Millwood, drummer Larry Martin, and guitarist John Garcia backed him well enough, but few in the audience seemed to know Hooker’s influence on rock and roll. their loss. Anyway, backstage everyone was hanging around Miller’s dressing room, so I managed to get a few words with the Hooker. “Where’d I get my band?” he echoed through yellowed broken teeth. “Why, they live right in my neighborhood up in Gilroy (near San Jose). I don’t need no phone to call ’em, either — I just stand on the stoop and holler, and they’re packed up and ready to go!”
The Outlaws, meanwhile, are back with the two-drummer lineup they used prior to their first LP; new drummer Dave Dicks and Monte Yoho work almost as well together as The Dead‘s Hart and Kreutzman, maybe even Trucks and Jaimoe (Allmans). “When Joe English left us to play drums for Wings,” Monte said later, “I was bummed. Since then I’ve always wanted to work with a second drummer. Dave and I are brothers-in-law, and he and I used to play together back in the Sixties, so we’re no strangers to each other.” No wonder they’re so tight.
There’s a live Outlaws LP in the can due this winter. Henry Paul, Outlaws’ rhythm ace and chief cryptic, mentioned that a few tunes recorded before Dicks joined had to be re-cut. “With Dave adding so much to the band, and with (relatively) new bassist Harvey Arnold, it’s essentially a whole new rhythm section.” Agreed. The whole band outdid itself on “Green Grass”. At the party afterward, someone asked Paul if he was going to try his skill on the coin-op quick-draw game rented for the occasion. “Sure,” he said, “only I brought my own gun.”
Another incredible Roxy stand was Booker T.‘s, with the original MGs. Well, almost — original drummer Al Jackson, who wound up on the wrong end of a gun last year, was effectively replaced by Willie Hall. Dusti Rhodes was on hand, and she reported Booker T., Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and Hall turned in the tightest, most compact set she’s seen any quartet deliver at the Roxy. Opening number was “Green Onions”, and they also did an excellent stretch-out on “Time is Tight”, another Booker T. classic. “They’ve rearranged it,” said Rhodes. “Surprising changes executed with absolute precision on that one, and it’s as contemporary now as the old version was then.” Partying at manager Lee Housekeeper‘s pad off Mulholland later were Deborah Lee Paget of MH2, Warren Zevon, Terry Reid, Michael DeBarres, Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner. June Lockhart, reportedly thick with Housekeeper, was there, too.
Speaking of Meisner, the rumor stating he was about to fly from Eagles‘ nest is true. Sources indicate Meisner has had it with the Frey/Henley/Azoff “dictatorship”, which does more than anything else to explain the band;s recent tour difficulties. the kicker — Poco‘s Tim Schmit has been named as Meisner’s replacement, which may be great for Tim and Eagles, but Poco’s left with a gaping hole up front. They’ll need someone like Chris Hillman to fill it. We’ll see.
Jerry Aiello, keyboardist with the Stills Band, joined the Universal Anti-Matter Jazz Band last month after a lengthy liver ailment, so a two-show benefit was thrown for his family at the Whisky. Sparked by the purpose and the Stills/Little Feat lineup, both shows sold out almost immediately by word of mouth. “This is like an Irish wake,” Stills said beforehand, “and we’re going to have a good time.” Prophetic — Feat turned in an excellent set of mostly older stuff, and Lowell George outdid himself that night. Bonnie Bramlett forgot the words to “Dixie Chicken”, if you can believe it, but she did a lot better during Stills’ smoker, which was backed by Joe Vitalle, Joe Lala, George Perry, and Mike Finnegan. Felix Pappalardi and his Pappalettes joined Bramlett and Stills on vocals. Tunes included “For What It’s Worth”, written a decade ago about the very same Sunset Strip, and set-closer “Carry On”. Ringo fell by second set to add tambourine to that one, and Davey Johnstone played guitar second set with Feat. Everybody did have a good time, alright. The occasion could have been morose very easily without the right attitude. The UAMJB is now based in Big Sur.
Not too much later, Jerry Jeff (Scamp Waffle) Walker opened for Willie Nelson and his Rollin’ Smoke Revue two sole-out nights at the Civic. Walker’s excellent new band includes Dave Perkins, Fred Krc, Les LeBlanc, Reese Wynans, Ron Cobb, Tomas Ramirez (the only Lost Gonzo holdover), and old friend Bobby Rambo. Encores were mandatory if those boys expected to get out of the Civic alive.
(The Gonzos, meanwhile, are recording with Walker producer Michael Brovsky at Odyssey in Austin; the studio has come a long way since the old Rap Cleaners days.)
Willie and his Heathens — Bee (Alvin Crow) Spears, Jody Payne, Mickey Raphael, Bobbi Nelson (Willie’s sister), Paul English, and Rex Ludwick — turned in halfway decent sets both nights, but they were obviously beat up after a year and a half on the road. They’ll be taking the last three months of the year off, paid.
The band has enough live material in the can for two live albums, but the LP they did at Studio In The Country near Bogalusa will be released first, as soon as Willie’s Lefty Frizzell LP gets the hell off the charts. Prolific mothers, aren’t they? But if that wasn’t enough, they’re booked into Caribou for two weeks in December to do another, and this time Booker T. will co-produce with Willie.
Willie, by the way, just bought a house out in Malibu a few doors from Dylan and Kristofferson, which gives Nelson another hideout from the crazies who seem to follow him everywhere. (He’s got a farm near Nashville, a big ranch near Austin, and at last count an apartment in Hawaii.) why a hew hideout in Malibu? “Nobody knows me out there,” Willie said. Better start looking for a place in Guam, Brother — you’re going to need it.
Backstage at the Civic, we ran into Jan Michael-Vincent and Gary (Teddy Jack Eddie) Busey — they’ve been in El Salvador working on Big Wednesday (a surf film with a plot), for the last seven months. The story traces a couple surfers from pre-surf-boom through the Vietnam war era. Jerry Lopez is the film’s technical advisor — he had to teach Busey how to surf. It’s Lopez you’ll see slashing across liquid faces in the film, and Jeff Bridges appears in the film somewhere. Busey and JMV are in L.A. to film a re-creation of the famous late-Sixties draft board riot on Broadway downtown. Also, another source tells me Busey has just been signed to do The Buddy Holly Story, set to begin shooting soon.
Fade from liquid space to the outer limits: some Star Wars bits you never read about in People, and they’re all true. When asked by a mutual friend the inevitable “what was it like?” Mark Hamill said, “a lotta little people, a lotta midgets.” The Jawas, those pint-sized, monk-robed space merchants, were kids of the people on the crew and various midgets. What you don’t hear on the soundtrack are the kids constant complaints about the 110-plus temp on location in Death Valley.
Also, the space vehicle Hamill drove is mounted on a three-wheeled BMW chassis; the wheels were erased from the film to give the illusion of an air cushion-propulsion system.
Darth Vader is played by a big-boned Scandinavian (David Prouse), who was nicknamed “Darth Farmer” by the crew because he kept banging his head on doorways and generally tripping over things.
And you know by now Vader’s voice overdub was done by James Earl Jones, though he’s not credited, which is rather strange. You also know by now most of the original cast has been signed to do Star Wars II and III. SW II shoots in April.
Lastly, the laser swords are no such things — they’re plastic rods covered with sandpaper and crushed up rhinestones. When the scenes were shot, special arc lighting was directed at the rods, and a special filter was used on the computerized camera that recorded the whole thing. Sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. In any case, the film really has no Oscar competition — it’s going to walk away with everything.
The extremely well-done animation that opens the Grateful Dead film stands a decent chance for a statue in that category, though. As a whole, however, the film was somewhat disappointing because it catches them at a relatively uninspired point in the band’s rainbow history — ’73 or ’74, judging by the tunes. Mickey Hart is in the film for one number at the end, and the only offstage interviews included were those with Garcia, Lesh, and Kreutzman. For this Deadhead, though, the film’s saving grace was a nearly half-hour “Playin’ In The Band”, Weir’s great meandering space vehicle. Inspired playing. In spite of the film’s shortcomings, though, it’s an important hunk of rock and roll history committed to celluloid.
In spite of Robert DeNiro‘s rather monodimensional treatment of this role as a hot-to-trot saxist, New York, New York is worthy for a couple of reasons — Firstly, Liza Minnelli‘s production numbers, and more importantly the jazz. The film is important for anyone interested in the big-band-swing to combo-bop evolution in jazz between ’45 or ’46 and the mid-fifties. During one of Minelli’s scenes, she’s got a 78 playing in the background that features none other than Django Rheinhart and Stephane Grappelli. Excellent.
Balcones Fault freaked through a series of opening sets for Jimmy Rabbitt and Renegade at the Roxy. BF, an eight-man rolling Looney Tune aggregation, was named after a central Texas fault line by Eddie “Armadillo World Headquarters” Wilson several years ago. the players cavort almost to the point of distraction, but that’s intentional. Also intentional is their proficient musicianship on a ridiculously wide range of styles — from West Texas swing to rockin’ soul, through Tex-Mex and country blues, back into jivin’ Volstead violations like “42nd Street”. BF leaves some people bewildered, but many others are inspired to hit Sunset afterward to pull a few Merrie Pranks of their own.
Oddly enough, just about the time their album was released, 420 fires broke out all over California. Smoke and soot in the atmosphere measured 420 parts per million. An earthquake rocked and rolled us for 4.2 seconds with a 4.2 Richter intensity. Then it rained for 42 hours, flooding 42 gas stations in the desert. What the hay? Anything goes these days.
Al Stewart and his band rolled back to L.A. with a couple new guys in the lineup — Robin Lamble has replaced Peter Robinson on bass, and Tim Tobias has been added on keyboards. Stewart’s Universal Amphitheater sets were very well-received in spite of the venue’s aforementioned volume restrictions. And though it’s logistically difficult to use his “Roads To Moscow” slideshow, both the tune and the presentation were sorely missed. But a couple nice surprises made up for it — new tunes like “Palace Of Versailles” (about the French Revolution) and “Ton Ton Macute” (about former Haitian dictator Papa Doc Duvalier). Also, “You Should Have Listened To Al”, a tune from the soon-to-be re-released Love Chronicles LP, originally released in England back in ’69. The second LP in the double-pocket repackage is a collection of the best from his other three English albums, by the way.
Emmylou Harris, the Queen of Coldwater Canyon, worked out some hew stuff during rehearsals for her Amphitheater gig with the Hot Band, including a possible autobiographical ditty called “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues”. another new one was “She Never Did Say So To Daddy”, written by Dolly Parton, who was in the audience. Hot picker Albert Lee melted his Tele strings on “Country Boy At Heart”, a neat trick he’s becoming quite famous for. Next axe, please!
At the Santa Monica Civic, The Sons Of Champlin opened for Ronnie Laws. Even though the Sons are splitting up, Bill Champlin left no doubt in anyone’s mind he’s one honkie who knows the blues. Laws blew some inspired reed solos as his band — including Sheila Escovedo sitting in on congas — funked behind him. Hubert Laws got a big round of applause from the audience after Ronnie introduced him.
Joan Baez was in high spirits for her half-acoustic/half electric Amphitheater set, cracking jokes and dancing disco-bump at various points. Significantly, the people on hand dug new and electric stuff like “Time Rag” of “Many A Mile To Freedom” as much as they dug “Love Is A Four-Letter Word”. Said Joan: “When I started to sing at age 18, I thought I’d die and go to hell if I put a bass and drums behind folk songs. Well, we’ve died and gone to hell, and we’re probably having a lot more fun now anyway!” Interestingly, Joanie’s Anita Bryant lampoons got the best response of any verbiage that evening: “I want to thank Anita Bryant,” she wisecracked, “for organizing the gay movement for the first time!” The place went crazy, and caused me to realize it was no wisecrack; West Hollywood locals were out in force! And Elliot Randall, after working on her last LP with David Kerschenbaum, put Joan’s touring band together; Randall plans to use the same guys on his next album — more on that later.
STUDIO FOLLIES: Despite problems between Dusty Springfield and her producer Roy Thomas Baker, her next album is finally nearing completion. Seems Baker was dissatisfied with a vocal on one track., and Dusty disagreed with his suggestion for improvement. Climaxing the ensuing verbal warfare, Dusty grabbed a tennis ball (which inexplicably was floating around the control room) and fired it at baker, nailing the dude square in the nuts. Pardon me while I wince. Not surprisingly, Baker quit on the spot, and Dusty wheeled around to her engineer: “You’re hereby producing these sessions!” There wasn’t any argument, and the album is due sometime this month.
Randy Newman ‘s Little Criminals is finished; players include Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Klaus Voorman, Willie Weeks, Waddy Wachtel, and Milt Holland. A few titles: “Jolly coppers On Parade”, “Texas Girl At The Funeral Of Her Father”, and “Sigmund Freud’s Impersonation Of Albert Einstein In America”. Says Newman: “I’ve got these long, cumbersome titles, and I can’t imaging people yelling them out from the audience!” I can’t either, but undoubtedly in the course of Newman’s upcoming 50-date tour, at least a few long-winded planktoids will give it their best shot!
Rod Stewart was in Cherokee with Tom Dowd for four days on the q.t. to lay basics for “Hot Legs”, “Ain’t Love A Bitch”, “Born Loser”, “Lost Love”, and also a sequel to “Georgie”. At last report, Stewart and Dowd moved the sessions to Canada to bypass some sort of tax hassle.
Sea Level finished basics for Sound Waves, their second, at capricorn in Macon last month; included is another Neil Larsen tune called “Midnight Pass. Permanent new members are George Weaver (drums), Davis Causey (guitars), and Randall Bramblett (keyboards). they join originals Nalls, Leavell, Williams and Johanson, and there are no holes in the new seven-piece sound. Mixdowns are now in progress at Hollywood Sound, with producer Stew Levine at the board. While in California, Sea Level will be opening four of five dates for the Marshall Tucker Band all over the state. Both bands will be recording — Sea Level just to see what they come up with, and MTB for their upcoming live album, the follow-up to Where We All Began. These dates are not to be missed!
Steven T.‘s West Coast Confidential is finished; Kim Fowley, a legend in his own mind, produced and harangued at Larabee. the LP will be released on Dream, Salsoul’s new rock label, One of the guys on the sessions, ex-Kaleidoscope Chris Darrow, said “it’s definitely California pop music, without one strain of country to be found anywhere on the LP. And there are no cutesy four-part harmonies.”
A new band called Vox Humana (Latin for ‘human voice’) just cut two sides for Rhino Records — “Lunar Tunes” b/w “Fountain Of Youth”. the group — which hakes its name from a ’63 composition by Carla Bley — plays jazz-rock, and could be called progressive new wave music from the West Coast because they work with a lot more than three chords. The band’s catalyst is keyboardist/composer Ken Russell, who says “we play music — it’s there if you want it.” The sides were produced by Bruce Gary, ex-Jack Bruce/Mick Taylor Band. Steven T. did a guitar overdub on “Lunar Tunes”, which clocks in at about seven minutes.
Steve Hillage‘s Motivation Radio is finished — basics were done at the Plant with mixdowns at Westlake, produced by Malcolm Cecil. All original stuff, except “Not Fade Away”, and there’s more emphasis on the vocals this time. Hillage’s guitar work shines, and they’ve been using the fascinating TONTO instrument. Our man incognito says “the LP was conceived in and shaped by the Southern California environment.” Hillage and his lady have taken up skateboarding, and he’s talking about riding the La Cienega hill between Sunset and Melrose about 5 A.M. The incline is a mere 45-degree angle, but what he’s got to watch out for are the tracks he’ll have to cross at Santa Monica Blvd. Scope it well beforehand, Hillage, and go for it!
Studio Instrument Rentals’ soundstages — including two new ones — were ampin’ this summer. Iggy Pop became one of the few to blow out S.I.R. p.a cabinets; he’s rehearsing sans Bowie for world tour . . . Randy Newman‘s rehearsing for his upcoming Little Criminals tour . . . Patty LaBelle was in working on voice lessons one day . . . Leiber and Kregs held and audition for their soon-to open L.A. production of Beatlemania . . . The Runaways have almost made S.I.R. their new home . . . Eddie Rabbit held a highly successful showcase, where Art Fein hipped Ron Wood to Jerry Lee Lewis‘ Palomino gig a few nights later . . .Robin Trower, Pure Prairie League, Al Jarreau, Thelma Houston, Kenny Loggins, Merilee Rush, LTD, Eric Carmen, David Soul, EWF, and a new kid named Jason Cahoon have all been rehearsing.
SHORT TAKES: Del Shannon is recording his comeback album at Cherokee . . . Tom Waits is working with Bones Howe on the next one . . .Detective is at Hidden Valley Studios near Calabasas, with Steve Smith (Bob Marley, Robert Palmer, old Traffic) producing and Robert Digby Smith (Free) engineering; working title is Competition, and it’s due mid-month. They’ll hit the road mid-October . . . The Crusaders, working as producers on session by salsa percussionist Ray Barretto have finished mixdowns; Crusaders Stix Hooper, Wilton Felder, and Joe Sample, with Average White Band kitman Steve Ferrone have contributed to the album, due to ship this month . . .Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted is the title of the first of two albums done by the original Animals; the first installment is somewhat uneven, but “Fire On The Sun” stands out as one of the best tracks The Animals ever did. That ol’ Vox electric organ is conspicuous in its absence, though, but ya can’t have everything . . . Hoyt Axton and his band have finished their next LP at Hoyt’s own Mountain Madness Studios (he changes the mane regularly to promote confusion) near Lake Tahoe . . . John Stewart‘s first LP in too long is finished, says lead guitarist Joey Harris; “a lotta windsongs” is how he described it. Some titles: “Promise the Wind”, “Fire In The Wind”, and “On You Like The Wind”. The LP is being mixed at the studio truck parked in Brian Ahern‘s Coldwater Canyon driveway, the same facility he uses for Emmylou and Mary Kay Place, among others.
Speaking of the wind, it’s time for me to get into it, so until we meet again, Happy trails!