Mississippi Charles Bevel

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.

Terry Reid

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

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.

Suzanne Pleshette

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.

Hi Bob.

John Sebastian

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

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.

The Ramones at CBGB, September 9, 1976. Photo by Bob Gruen.

Ronnie Hawkins

Ronnie Hawkins, RIP. How he made it to 87 the Lord only knows. An genuwine Arkansas rockabilly cat who moved to Canada figuring rightly they were dying up there for the real stomping thing, his fiercely rockin’ 1963 take on the Bo Diddley classic Who Do You Love was one of the very last rockabilly hits. Listening now, though, you can hear how his raw Arkansas sound (played by his crack Canadian bands) was heading well into the tough bluesier rock’n’roll starting to bubble and boil in roadhouses and bars in the States and Britain in the sixties. That nasty guitar here I think was Roy Buchanan, who, like Robbie Robertson afterward, had a sound much shaped by hard years playing in Ronnie’s gritty fired up bands. This wasn’t art, this was rock’n’roll. Just play yer asses off and give the people a show.

Spirit

Just to age myself even more, I got that Spirit box set which includes the first four albums plus another album and a soundtracks and singles, outtakes and whatever else they could squeeze on five discs. Hot damn this shit is good. Always loved these guys. Poor bastards were not big enough to be really popular but too big to be considered a cult band. Spirit were the band whose manager cancelled their Woodstock appearance so they could play a high school auditorium in nearby Binghamton. Well, they got paid for playing Binghamton, there was that. But imagine playing a set to a few hundred people when you were could have been playing for hundreds of thousands a helicopter flight away. It shall be.

The Informer

Been a decade or so since I saw John Ford’s The Informer and though I remembered it was riveting and powerful, unrelentingly so, I’d forgotten what a kick to the solar plexus that ending is. Jesus. Audiences in 1935 must have sat in stunned silence afterward for several long seconds. Talkies were only a few years old and I doubt they’d ever experienced anything like that before. Nearly a century later it’s still so intense it’s uncomfortable to watch and as the credits roll you’re left staring at the screen for a few long seconds, not feeling good about yourself at all.

Recommended, obviously.

Wizard of Oz

Watching Wizard of Oz. This was a big national event when I was a kid, the one time all year you could see the Wizard of Oz and families would crowd around the TV to watch. CBS reaped incredibly high Neilsen ratings. It became one of my childhood memories. The Wizard of Oz was one of those rare things that stayed the same as we moved back and forth across the country, over and over. I’ve only seen it a couple times since then. The technicolor startles me everytime. When I watched it as a kid it was in black and white. We didn’t have a color set for years. My dad could keep any old TV running forever, so we had a black and white set long into the color era. Dorothy would open the door of the house and if she and Toto weren’t in Kansas anymore the hues gave no clue. My dad filled us in. The road was bright yellow he said. But I had no idea it was as bright as it looks now. Crazy yellow. Psychedelic yellow. And all those crazy midgets.