Some blistering guitar work in this linked video by Mike Bloomfield with the Electric Flag at the Monterey Pop Festival. The Flag, alas, were one of the acts that didn’t make it into the movie, which is a shame as Bloomfield was at the top of his game. But then the Electric Flag not making director Pennebaker’s final cut was really just another in the long line of missteps and misfortunes, mostly self-inflicted, that has left Mike Bloomfield perhaps the most forgotten guitar hero of them all. Indeed so forgotten that it’s startling to hear him speak in this clip from the Newport Folk Festival (about 3:20 in, just past Son House) because unlike his now legendary sixties guitar hero brethren, almost none of us has ever heard him speak. So dig his rap, the rushes of words, fragments of sentences, full of beatnik speak and musician jive and sounding incredibly like Jimi Hendrix, actually, whose voice we all have memorized. It must have been the way serious young players talked in the joints and road houses and cafes on the circuit in the early-mid sixties, where both Mike Bloomfield and Jimi learned their trade. And though some of you, perhaps even most of you, might not recognize Mike Bloomfield by name, you definitely know his sound–that’s him on Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone, indeed all over Highway 61 Revisited, and that was him raising hell with Dylan at Newport. The second half of the sixties was an amazing period for Mike Bloomfield–Dylan, Paul Butterfield (East-West was one of the rock’n’roll game changers back then), The Electric Flag, Super Session–but he disappeared up his arm in the seventies and ceased to be entirely before the eighties even got started. A long time comin’ is a long time gone.
Eddie Money was punk rock to me. Or was that Meat Loaf. Yeah, Meat Loaf. Eddie Money was Meat Loaf to me, but also punk rock. No, that was the Ramones. The Ramones were punk rock to me, Eddie Money was Meat Loaf to me, and Meat Loaf was, I dunno, maybe Pat Benatar. Anyway, RIP.
Somewhere there is a man about seventy who considers the perfectly placed Hot Damn! he shouted at 5:40 on the live Midnight Rambler to be his great contribution to rock’n’roll, and he’s right. I always marveled at that guy’s hog calling skills. And you don’t worry about his fate like you do about the chick out of her mind on something who screams her brains out contrapuntally throughout. He was probably just a kid from New Jersey. She might have joined the Manson Family.
Linda Ronstadt’s Long, Long Time must have been a huge hit in LA in 1970 because you’d hear it regularly on the local FM stations for years. All the teenage boys would freeze and listen and sigh. I hadn’t heard it in a while, and maybe the effect is accentuated on this iPhone, but why did producer Elliott Mazer bury her in the strings? Not right away. It’s all Linda Ronstadt for a minute, almost like Kitty Wells, and you’re hooked. But from then on Mazer starts piling strings on by the regiment full, and Linda’s battling to be heard over the arrangements. They’re everywhere, these charts full of lush baroque things growing like triffids, filling every available space. At one point the harpsichord is louder than she is. It’s almost like a Phil Spector thing, Tina Turner batting Phil’s Wagnerian demons on River Deep, Mountain High. Linda finally wins in the end, though, even if the strings and that strutting harpsichordist get to do their dirge thing for a bit too long after her vocal fades, though I suppose the logic of the arrangement demanded it. These things require patience. At last they’re done. That’s a wrap, Mazer said, and maybe someone went to chuck a few too many cellos and violas into the Cumberland. Anyway, a lovely tune.
Flipped on the radio and it’s Loan Me A Dime and talk about nostalgia, like a foggy Sunday morning in Isla Vista, or late night hippie sounds on KNAC out of Long Beach way back when. This was the ultimate long playing FM song for a while, Boz Scaggs before Low Down, still in boots and jeans and a beat up cowboy hat. It starts out slow, just this side of a dirge, but builds into a rollicking piano pumping blues, and Duane Allman laying down lick after lick of the meanest Muscle Shoals lead guitar you ever heard for several exuberant minutes. You hope it never ends. But it does, finally, after thirteen minutes, fading out with the band still rollicking and Duane Allman still on fire, and you can’t believe you were lucky enough to hear it again because almost nobody actually had the album. It was just this amazing thing you heard on the radio, and it was hippie long, long enough to smoke a whole joint to. A big bomber joint even. And if the deejay then spun Voodoo Chile or Low Spark or that long medley off Abbey Road you know he’d been out back smoking that joint. But that was nearly half a century ago. This deejay today segued (if you can call it that) into a coked out Eagles cut and ruined everything. The vibe was gone, poof, instantly. Life In the Fast Lane. What’s the opposite of nostalgia? Because that’s what this was. Memories of being stuck in the mid seventies and looking like I’d never get out.
The AC3 at the Garage, I think, a zillion years ago. Allen A. Clark III was all of three years old here and already quite the drummer. His pop, Allen Clark Jr and mom Zebra (aka Zaida Clark, that’s her legs) formed the trio when AC started syncopating before he could walk, taking after his old man (once the driving beat of the Lazy Cowgirls) who is playing guitar here off to the right. You have to imagine it, as he’s not in the picture. I remember carefully composing this picture to get the perfect balance of child and gams, but I didn’t bother with Dad. After you’ve seen a guy leap stark naked into your drum kit there’s nothing much else to see. But that’s another story, deep in the blog somewhere. And little AC the tyke drummer is now huge AC the monster drummer, and mom and dad and son are rocknroll lunatics back in Indiana. And if that ain’t a wholesome tale I don’t know what is.
Terrific Mike Watt & the Missing Men set last night in MacArthur Park. For some reason their take on Little Johnny Jewel was my favorite this time but the whole damn thing was great. Perfect even. And I had never seen Bastidas! before. Great three piece, noisy and dissonant and young enough to run all over the stage without hurting themselves. There was a biblical prophet or a fur trapper or maybe one of the lesser known members of ZZ Top spinning obscure 70s Europrogopsych and zany glam and fucked up bubble gum before sets. Don Bolles, he said, but I knew better.
Great night, saw a lot of pals. And standing there on a cane a nice lady brought me a chair. I could get used to this gimp shtick.
And thus began our summer concert season.
I’m digging this drummer. He’s right there in the pocket with Carl Perkins, doing a rockabilly hep cat Mitch Mitchell to Carl’s playing and singing and bopping the blues. It’s a house band and I assume a house drummer, but the cat is so hip and has that rockabilly thing down in a Krupa crazed torrent of sticks and cymbal crashes that never ever loses the bloozy dancing shuffle of the tune. You don’t even see him till the last forty seconds or so, then there he is, eyes locked on Carl, a thirty something cat who’d probably played in every Western swing band this side of the Mojave and yet loves that Sun rockabilly, loves it so much he’s singing along as he plays. All his friends are bopping the blues, he sings, drum stick dancing across the high hat. He loves you baby, but he must be rhythm bound.
It came out in 1969 and even though I’d heard of it for years, I didn’t actually hear Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica until much, much later: 1978. Nine years late. Talk about uncool, uneducated, and unhip. Still, it immediately had a huge impact on me. Not just the mind blowing music (“Pena” remains the strangest piece of music I’ve ever heard), but the stunning imagery in the lyrics, which shaped my own prose (especially “Bill’s Corpse” for some reason I could not begin to explain). People read my stuff and assume I’ve read James Joyce but I never have, what they’re hearing is Don Van Vliet. But perhaps most surreal to me now is the fact that four decades have transpired since this now five decades old album finally connected with my gray matter. It was on the third spin in perhaps as many days and it still eluded me until half way through “Hobo Chang Ba” I got it. Hobo Chang Ba, the Captain groaned, Hobo Chang Ba, and suddenly all was clear. What exactly made it so clear I do not know, but suddenly the frantic clattering music made perfect sense. It still does, most of my lifetime later. Forty years can make a man’s eyes, a Beefheart fan’s eyes, flow out water, salt water.
While being subjected to Lady Di’s mega-televised funeral, I started giggling and got shushed. I kept giggling. Angry stares. What’s so damn funny? She lived her life, I said, like a camel breaking wind. As the giggling spread, I was asked to leave.