Tuesday, September 19, 2017

THE BLESSINGS and THE SLOTHS' DYNAMIC DOUBLE BILL live 7.19.17

Above, THE BLESSINGS; below, THE SLOTHS
 Monty Bar in a southwest corner of downtown Los Angeles, cool but slightly inaccessible via a public transportationless locale bereft of neither street nor public parking, proved the exact place one had to be to be earlier this summer. 7.19.17 sported a primo double bill of L.A.'s favorite blues/country/soul/rock THE BLESSINGS and half-century later surprise retro-resurgents THE SLOTHS.
One hopes readers aren't desensitized to frequent praises heaped upon THE BLESSINGS, because they remain every bit as deserving of any and all accolades. Their Exile on Main Street classic orchestration of singer, strong backing singer, 2 guitars, harmonica, keyboards, bass, drums sounds even better in today's climate of anemic band/faux pitch-bent vocalist, all dance/percussion chart hit formulae. The Blessings also remain every bit as deserving of fame and fortune for the high quality of their songwriting. When was the last time you left a gig with all of one band's repertoire as firmly imprinted in your brain as if it already was your alltime favorite album? I can't wait until their latest tunes "Meaning Of Sorry" and "Uptown Too Long" make it to current releases to the public.

The combination of brilliant original fare, lively onstage personalities and virtuoso performing continues to serve The Blessings, live or on their assorted cd/streaming releases Tomahawk Inn and Bare Bones. The Blessings are Jeremy White, lead vocals, harmonica, guitar; Lavone Seetal, vocals, percussion; Mike Gavigan lead guitar; Jason Upright drums; Jeffrey Howell Keyboards; Lights Out Levine, bass.
 
 
...and as for THE SLOTHS...

Between 1964 and '66, Beverly Hills/West L.A. born and bred The Sloths opened for The Doors, The Animals and Pink Floyd at vintage Riot on Sunset Strip venues like The Whisky A Gogo, The Trip, Pandora's Box, the Sea Witch, etc. Then...prolonged hibernation until a Back From the Grave garage band compilation resurrection, then 2011 clamorings for a reunion. Original member Jeff Briskin reunited the band via a private detective (!) minus its two deceased members and adding apropos new Sloths. After gigging 2011-13 he returned to his law practice but the band continued its momentum. No matter the hiatus: then as now they sound like The Chocolate Watch Band, Count Five and assorted better/lesser young bands I heard in the original era at assorted school exchange dances.
 



















 The current band: O.G. Sloth Michael Rummans, original Sloth guitarist who remained in music and helmed a cult band I once championed called Starz, an original glitter era glam band of similar NY Dolls-type promise. In place of deceased first vocalist Hank Daniels we have vintage Sloth school buddy and Rummans' bandmate in splinter groups from the 1960s on, lead singer Tom McLoughlin. 

The following transgression is mentioned in the official bio, but Tom must have been the second boy kicked out of Beverly Hills High School for having long hair, since I actually know the first one (Michael Verdick, still in the music biz as a multiple Grammy-nominated sound engineer/producer.)  Besides Slothdom, Tom remains a much in-demand television director (USA Network documentaries like D.C. Sniper,) film director of fare like Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, also film professor/lecturer at Chapman University. Remaining 2017 Sloths are "Pooch" (Pat Di Puccio, beloved L.A. musician/scenester/writer at original punk's "Flipside,") Mark Weddington and Greg Rom.
  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

TERRY REID LIVE at McCABE'S SEPT. 10, 2017


Sunday Sept. 19, 2017 saw the return of legendary British* vocalist TERRY REID to McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica for a solo "storyteller" format he first pioneered at that same venue in 2010. His nonstop 2 hour set featured personal favorite original and cover selections alongside amusing anecdotes of popstar life in the Swingin' '60s and beyond. Best of all, the famous voice was in even better fettle than when I photographed him but a few years ago.

He proved a great raconteur in the play a little, talk a little configuration. Stories included an amazingly generous, impromptu gesture to one particular audience by his late friend Steve Marriott of The Small Faces, despite the latter's loony raver reputation, also ruminations of recording methods of staunchly solo accompaniment morphing into doubts of adding ever-growing orchestrations.

By eschewing his actual chart hits from his worldclass rockstar days, a far more wonderful window was opened to his unique mind and artistry, like some fanciful visit to Terry Land. Playing assorted guitars from his collection including a truly giant Hofner acoustic one (this "monster" he explained via early 1960s British economic trade accommodations) dating from when Reid was 15 years old, he zeroed in on many with 'moving bodies of water' imagery including those from his The River release. "Seed Of Memory" from its eponymous album remained a standout. 

Most intriguing was his choice of unusual covers, suitable only for major vocalists like his own bad self such as Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe," (the 1958 hit, not the 1927 Showboat tune by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein); the ballad "Scarlet Ribbons" first recorded by Jo Stafford in 1949 and later popularized by Harry Belafonte in 1952 plus by proto-pop/country band The Browns 1959; and the still astonishing for a Beach Boys 1964 hit "Don't Worry Baby" (by Brian Wilson and Roger Christian) with its teen angst lyrics like "Well its been building up inside of me for I don't know how long/ I don't know why but I keep thinking something's bound to go wrong... Oh what she does to me/when she makes love to me/ And she says 'Don't worry baby...' "

This was a great showcase of Terry Reid's talent, and I hope it presages many more opportunities at same for him. You're not seeing a lot of my photographs due to the acoustic nature of the show and my professional concessions to same. My friend Evita next to me claimed she was completely unaware of my ever snapping a shutter at all, since I know that during acoustic performances I should only take pics during loud guitar downstrokes or loudly sung notes. Anything else is unfair to both performer and audience.


*although he's resided in the U.S.A. for the last 47 years!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

SUBJECTIVE BEATLEMANIA 1964 - 66


 Paul McCartney at The Grammy Awards
 
Recently I was interviewed, as I am "a certain age," about my personal experiences with live shows by the Beatles during the height of Beatlemania in the U.S., 1964 - 1966. And as frequently much of what is meted out ends up on the cutting room floor, here's all of what I offered, which might be removed herein if and when the book She Loves You by Eddi Fiegal is published...

While eschewing the query as to my exact age, I will confess to early teenhood which precluded my driving myself to any entertainments in Los Angeles, a city lacking then or now any reliable public transportation after hours. To the matter at hand, that meant I was dependent on others to witness the Beatles live twice at the Hollywood Bowl and lastly at Dodger Stadium, all in L.A.

I saw a postcard photo of The Beatles from a British-born classmate mid-1963, slightly before the band broke in America, and thought they looked cute in their European movie, nouvelle vague longer haircuts. It was closer to the cool surfer look here than the normal, straight, American, Marine soldier norm for male teens everywhere of that era.

I had liked rock and roll from the moment I heard the radio station that my parents' maid had found (then called, unfortunately, a race station) which retained the open-mindedness to play Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" along with its normal R&B fare. 'Liked it all immediately. Heretofore, popular 1950s broadcast music was Perry Como mellowmush to me. In the early 1960s, popular American broadcast music still was mellowmush and teen formula (like...today!) until wheels started turning at Vee Jay and Capitol Records to put the foreign phenomenon of The Beatles on heavy rotation, starting with "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."   Wowza!  Love at first listen! Then correlation to the postcard cuties I had seen.

The mechanisms of that heavy rotation as it turned out provided a useful life-lesson in the mechanics of the entertainment business to yours truly, who aimed her talents at same, at a very young age. The Beatles' first show had sold out in one hour while I was at school. Frantically I prevailed upon any grownup up I ever had met in the entertainment biz for connections to get a coveted ticket. One of them was the head of Dot Records, Randy Wood, who, while he couldn't help with my immediate concern, had the kindness to give me a consolation prize, that of an unusual Beatles promotional item. It was an EP record of an interview with the Beatles in which the questions had been expunged so that various radio stations' DJs could be heard asking the questions in "an exclusive" for whatever that radio station was.

This was such an important life lesson of what went on behind the curtains of The Biz that I've forgotten how I eventually procured that first Hollywood Bowl Beatles ticket. Hence my Beatlemania was objective as well as subjective, with the addition of more to that in a moment. I do recall what I wore-- a Japanese bamboo-patterned short shift dress to fake pre-teen sophistication-- and that I was dropped off and retrieved by parents, but not how I got the golden ticket.

With this much trouble getting tickets while I was at school, I went all out from then on. With the third concert I hit the jackpot on all three ticket sources and ended up with a plethora. That meant I could invite several of the cute young musician guys I had just met to the Dodger Stadium show, plus a parent who would provide transportation. My musician friends had wanted to record this show. With yesterday's technology that meant giant reel-to-reel tape recorders, which they begged me to smuggle in within a girl's normal beach bag. So I did, and before we found our seats the tapes fell out and unspooled all the way down the sports' stadium bleachers' seating. But they didn't care, re-spooled same, and got a recording of nothing but tens of thousands of girls and other teens screaming their heads off nonstop. I'm told the band The Byrds did the exact same thing to procure those screaming sound effects later used on their 45 single release "So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star..."

My second important life lesson via The Beatles came from the coincidence of exact location, era, proper age and gender. I had slightly older girlfriends who both met and occasionally slept with assorted Beatles on those first three American tours. They had access at parties from their well-connected parents, or, in a most original introduction, one of them rode her horse over to the mountaintop mansion enclave where "the boys" were housed and requested entry. Beatles' security even then was sufficiently well trained to let a beautiful teenaged girl wearing a poncho and little else on a well-behaved horse into their rarefied grounds...

Therefore the Beatles' phenom was personalized into an expression of superior musical talent by a group of guys who potentially were "one of us" to me via these girlfriends. I had heard the stories. So later I provided the pictures, and to this day fifty years late I remain a pro music photographer. However in this earliest case I provided the artwork. For a fee I would draw my girlfriends en flagrante with her favorite Beatle or Rolling Stone...

-Heather Harris
 Sept. 12, 2017

Sunday, September 3, 2017

REST IN PEACE WALTER BECKER

 Rest in peace Walter Becker (at left) of Steely Dan. Their reach did not exceed their grasp, and they were so successful in accomplishing the goals of their ambitious music, all while tickling the mainstream charts...
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