Rolled another number for the road. A perfect shot snapped by photographer Henry Diltz with his right hand as he takes the joint from album cover artist Gary Burden who hasn’t yet exhaled. Neil Young, way stoned, probably rolled the reefer. Or I hope he did, anyway. It’s somewhere in rural California, no doubt, sometime in the 70s. Diltz is still very lively and kicking and posts stuff like this on Facebook regularly, incredible photographs and memories of west coast rock’n’roll in the 60s and 70s. Gary Burden died a couple years ago, he did most of the Neil Young albums until Zuma, I think (I’m really aging myself here) and his list of album cover credits is like a playlist of early 70’s FM radio here in LA. I assume the three of them are on their way to a photo shoot.
Think I’ll roll another number for the road, Neil sang, feeling able to get under any load. Though his feet weren’t on the ground, he’d been standing’ on the sound of some open-hearted people goin’ down. I remember, as a teen, having no clue what the hell those last lines meant. Years later, stoned, it dawned on me. Years after that, unstoned, I was finally able to parse it grammatically. Closure.
(The things I find going through my drafts folder….)
Meanwhile, Godzilla and Rodan are tearing it up. No sign of Ghidorah. Caught two Bogie references in the space of about thirty seconds a few monster attacks ago. Nick Adams at his jaded tough guy best telling the Japanese alien scientist dame madly in love with him that their whole thing would be worth a hill of beans if the aliens destroyed Earth. And then she’s Claire Trevor in Key Largo making a scene while furtively slipping her ray gun into Nick Adams pocket just as the alien robot thugs are taking him away. Finally Godzilla and Rodin, having switched sides at some point, destroy Ghidorah in a monstrous splash with the inevitable tsunami and the world is saved. Godzilla does a monster victory stomp dance and Rodan, flaps and soars in glee. Nick Adams finds out he’s being sent back to Planet X as earth’s first ambassador. Whatever’s fair, pal, he says, this looks like beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Every time I watch Plan 9 From Outer Space I’m disappointed. Not by the movie. I actually kinda like the movie. I’m one of those type of intellectuals who can while away time he could spend on something useful and instead watches Plan 9 From Outer Space. Unironically, even. But every time I do watch it I’m disappointed that it is nowhere near being the worst movie ever made. That’s what people call it. But it’s not. I mean arguably The Killer Shrews is worse, even with Ken Curtis, or the scientist in my favorite death scene ever (I totally identify with the guy, typing his fatal symptoms unto death). But the shrews, Jesus. Dogs in shrew costumes. I didn’t even know they made shrew costumes. Do they still? Can one buy one? Maybe a whole herd’s worth? Considerably less arguable is that From Hell It Came, which I’ve seen innumerable times, is a much worse movie than Plan 9, though I’ll spare you the details. I mean a tree monster? And it is an absolute physical fact that The Beast of Yucca Flats is worse, and indeed might be THE worst film ever made, well, worst science fiction film. I can only imagine the depths reached by directors and screenplays and casts in other genres. Those I can’t watch. But I’ve watched The Beast of Yucca Flats several times, and even written about it (one of my favorite pieces ever, in fact), something I’ve never even done with Plan 9 From Outer Space. And then there’s—oh wait, Lyle Talbot just walked on. I gotta go.
In 1957 a Philadelphia teenager in black top, black jeans and black boots howls like a wild animal at an Elvis Presley concert. Rock’n’roll had been unleashed. Elvis did a few quick tours that year and they were apparently frenzied affairs, Elvis and his band getting down, the audiences getting crazy. In one city the audience stormed the stage after the the last song and dismantled it, tore it apart. Ha. The problem with going to an Elvis concert is you can get killed, a reporter wrote. This chick has the right idea. And a couple decades later twenty something me would have been drawn to twenty something her like a moth to flame, of course. Must be the Irish in me.
I was born in Long Branch, New Jersey the day before this photo was snapped. I had newborn baby long black sideburns. My rock’n’roll crazed uncle—leather jacket, ducktail, the whole seventeen year old greaser look—brought all his similarly attired hoodlum buddies down to the maternity ward to see his nephew Elvis. They raised hell singing Elvis songs and making Elvis moves until the nurses scooted them out and they drove off in their fifties car to raise hell along the Jersey Shore. I suppose it was an omen.
Picked up this album from 1973 in the back room at Rockaway probably twenty some years ago. Sale day and everything in that room was 75% off and nothing had been over three bucks anyway. This was the nadir of vinyl, everyone was buying CDs and most records weren’t worth much of anything anymore. Those were good days. I’d go full nerd in there, walk out with a stack of records for less than $50. Jazz to die for, nearly all of it mint or unopened. Rock albums people now pay ridiculous money for. Country they couldn’t give away (I remember getting a whole stack of classic Buck Owens in flawless condition for less than a buck a piece). And all kinds of music from all over the world. When records are under a buck you really can’t lose buying whatever. This was one of those. Probably paid six bits for it, unopened. I had never heard it, and his name was only vaguely and very distantly a memory and I had no idea from when or where or how. Later at home I put it on the turntable. This tune caught my ear. Listened to it again. Again. The liner notes gave an interesting backstory, how he’d lived in Liberia for a couple years and this was a conversation he’d heard on the local bus, hence “Overheard”. I put it aside and played some other records, then later went back and played the tune again. And again. And again again. I bet I listened to it—just this song—a dozen times in a couple days. And I just now listened to it now three times in a quick row. Weird how some songs get into your ear and under your skin like that, and you find’ll yourself hearing it from memory at odd times forever after, and have no idea why.
Just love this, Terry Reid—I so dig his voice and guitar playing, both unique as hell—performing ”Dean” at Glastonbury Fayre in 1971. He’s got David Lindley (Kaleidoscope had called it a day in 1970), and that’s Alan White laying down an incredibly loose unYes groove on the traps, and just as the tune is ending a thoroughly psychedelicized Linda Lewis wanders up on stage and carries it along tripping another four minutes (of which she remembers nothing, she confessed later, but she did remember dancing with a tree.) I never did understand why Terry Reid never made it, I suppose his thing was just a little too off center, his groove a little too serpentine and scratchy, even for those days. Oh well, rock’n’roll. This is from the Glastonbury Fayre documentary, which if not Nicholas Roeg’s finest moment is one of those incredibly hippie things with lots of naked muddy way out people way out on acid, and lots of way out great music. Even extremely way out music. Apparently they never got round to tell us who’s playing what, not even band names, which will drive you slightly nuts, but subtities are for squares anyway.
Alas, in the year since writing this, the clip from Glastonbury Fayre has been removed from YouTube, and hence I never posted this. It seemed a shame to throw out such a nice little piece, though, and now someone has posted the audio recording from the Glastonbury documentary so here that clip is. The still is from the film. I heartily recommend purchasing a copy of the film, though. It’s no Woodstock as far as production quality goes, but it still a pretty amazing document.
The Monster That Challenged the World is a 1957 film that MGM must have offered a big wad of cash to Tim Holt to come out of retirement for. They got their money’s worth, he does that Tim Holt thing like it’s The Treasure of Sierra Madre but instead of battling Bogie’s Fred C. Dobbs it’s some dude in a man eating snail get-up. “He was a quiet, nice man”, one of the cast said of Tim Holt, “the most unactor actor I ever met.”
The title of the flick might be a tad overwrought, the world so challenged is actually the Salton Sea (the plot never takes it further than it’s shores), and the monster is a giant killer mollusk. Of course, the huge octopus that Ray Harryhausen had destroy the Golden Gate bridge in It Came From Beneath the Sea was also a giant killer mollusk, but the monster in the Salton Sea in our flick here was some sort of huge mondo gnarly shellfish, apparently, and shellfish are only so scary. So you suspend your disbelief just a little more than usual. I liked the flick even better the second time than the the first time I saw it, several years ago. Not as good as, say, the Monolith Monsters (again with the necessary extra suspension of disbelief for that one) but it’s still one of the cooler weird shit in the desert 1950s movies.
David Duncan wrote the thing, he’d just written the surprisingly creepy Black Scorpion (with the giant scorpions created by Willis O’Brien, who had probably kicked off the whole giant monster thing with King Kong), after this he did a much better money gig penning The Time Machine and then did the story or treatment or whatever for Fantastic Voyage, where those weird squirmy things wrap themselves around Raquel Welch. Perhaps you remember.
Did I mention Hans Conried? He’s the scientist, in a rare non-comic part, and I kept expecting him to be funny. You totally age yourself if the first thing you thought of was Fractured Flickers. You’ll age yourself a little less if you thought of Snidely Whiplash. Joel McCrae’s kid Jody, who you didn’t recognize, plays a sailor and gets et by the critter. He gets to swim around and look quite fit, though, which probably landed him a role in those idiotic beach movies. And Max Showalter you’ll recognize from everything.
Some people never do outgrow old monster movies.
Nothing in this lobby poster has anything to do with the actual story of The Monster That Challenged the World, it never destroys a city. It doesn’t even flatten Bombay Beach.
Steve McQueen smoking a cigarette through Suzanne Pleshette’s toes.
We have her dog dishes. Went to a yard sale in Los Feliz and the guy had a mess of stuff from her garage he’d gotten in an estate sale. He’d had some connection to her, I can’t remember what it was. Anyway, there were these two ceramic bowls still wrapped in plastic. Of course I had to have them, I’d adored Emily Hartley since my impressionable adolescence. We bought them to fill with dips for parties. It wasn’t till I was washing the bowl after a party that I saw the face of a puppy in the bottom of the dish. We’d been serving people onion dip and salsa out of Suzanne Pleshette’s doggie dishes. Still do. It’s a tradition.
The 400,000 people at Woodstock were still antsy, high and loud after Santana’s starmaking performance, but the crew didn’t dare put another electric band on stage till the weather settled down. That upstate New York weather. John Sebastian was hanging around back stage just tripping on the acid he’d dosed somehow, when Chip Monck—that’s his voice, introducing him—told him he needed to play. John, way too buzzed, said no. He hadn’t even brought a guitar with him. Not even an autoharp. Someone handed him Tim Hardin’s guitar. (Tim didn’t make the cut for the movie so his guitar is as close as he got to Woodstock movie stardom that day.) Darling Be Home Soon is one of Lovin’ Spoonful’s classics, a hit you don’t hear on the classic rock stations, one of those earnest folkie things, like a Simon and Garfunkel tune, overly arranged, a loud horn section, perfect grammar and sweet melody, rhyming dawdled with toddled and with an unforgettable hook in the melody. He begins the song and the crowd cheers, like they’d been hoping that he’d sing it, and within a few seconds the vast throng is hushed, swaying slightly with the rhythm, quiet as a church, listening to the words, just John Sebastian and a guitar and a melody and the 400,000 people not making a sound. Go, he sings, and beat your crazy head against the sky, the melody somehow soaring like a big rock band, try and see beyond the houses and your eyes, it’s OK to shoot the moon, which a half century later sounds a little clumsy, but in the summer of 1969 in a sea of 400,000 heads and hippies it must’ve sounded like pure poetry, and it wasn’t until he sang the last few words that you can hear the sounds of 400,000 stoned people again, their cheers like waves rolling in from the deep to inundate the stage.
Present at the creation. Well, slightly after the creation, but still way early. Dig all the long hair, the band’s and the audience. Tommy’s is the hippiest. Johnny takes care of his. And everyone looks so nice. Rock’n’roll was still very nice in 1976. It had probably never been nicer. Nice people, nice music. I don’t think anyone had a clue about what was to erupt in a year. Punk rock—were we even calling it that yet?—was still a college kid thing. Not a drop out thing or a fuck up thing or a this close to being put away psycho thing. And it looks like somebody was recording the show on the state of the art portable recording machines (I’d say recorders instead of recording machines but recorders were still those inexpensive little woodwinds that hippies drove us up the wall with). The cassette he recorded would have sounded like he’d recorded inside a blender. Unlistenable. He probably still has it somewhere, Ramones scrawled across it in ball point pen, the venue and the date. Sometimes he finds it in a junk drawer and remembers.