Boneyard Media

Archive for February, 2008

Pop Matters review of Vinyl Highway

Thursday, February 28th, 2008


Dee Dee Phelps, one half of sixties pop duo Dick and Dee Dee, just put out this memoir, Vinyl Highway, and it’s a lot of fun, especially if you’re interested in those oddball post-Army Elvis/pre-Beatles years. (And the cover is pretty impossible to resist.) You can read my Pop Matters review of it here. Phelps got the book going through a series of writing workshops and I’m glad she did.

Here’s a little cross referencing fun I don’t include in my review: On pages 267-272, the chapter called “Band Attack,” she reports on an incident at the happening LA folk rock club The Trip in which loose cannon Dick St. John explodes at the hipster back up band just before going on stage with them, for not appearing to treat him with proper respect. The performance is awful – Dick and Dee Dee are singing off key and Dee Dee sees the guitarists snickering out of the corner of her eye. She realizes the group has probably retaliated by tuning up a half step, while Dick, after the set, blames it all on her.

Jump over to Love drummer Michael Stuart-Ware’s 2003 memoir Behind the Scenes on the Pegasus Carousel, on pages 24-25. He’s talking about a gig at the Cinnamon Cinder, where he’d been playing regularly with the Sons of Adam (featuring guitarist Randy Holden). Dick and Dee Dee arrive just before the gig, tension’s in the air, and all throughout the disastrous set, Dick says things to the audience like “Jeez, this band is crappy, isn’t it?” and how big stars like him sometimes have to put up with crap like that.

The back story to this gig, according to Stuart-Ware, was that Dick had previously attempted to groom the Sons of Adam in his image, recording some demos and adding his own unique voice into the mix. He was furious when they finally begged off, so when Dick and the band were unexpectedly reunited by a promoter, Dick got his revenge, Stuart-Ware implies, by berating the band on stage and trying to make them look like inexperienced schlubs. Dee Dee mentions in her book that Dick (strictly a business partner) was always up to music biz stuff she didn’t know about, so maybe this was yet another example of that. Was it the same gig? Although each of their anecdotes take place at different venues, my hunch still leans towards yes.

[Update: Thanks to Dee Dee for setting my idle speculation to rest (see comments) – sounds like these were different gigs altogether – and for giving us a heads up on Dick Peterson’s Kingsmen memoir, Louie Louie, which has another account of St. John’s adventures.]

Exclusive Track from Kendell Kardt’s lost solo LP, Buddy Bolden

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008


Not long ago I wrote here about Rig, a country rock early seventies outfit I’d gotten curious about. Their only LP – long out of print – was released by Capitol in 1970 and had Elliott Mazer as a co-producer. I’d been especially intrigued by songwriter Kendell Kardt, whose preoccupation with old Americana subjects, as well as his memorable and playful treatment of them, gave the Rig album so much of its personality. After tracking down Kardt in New Jersey, I found out that shortly after Rig unraveled in 1971, he’d gone to San Francisco to record an entire solo LP for Capitol, which featured the helping hands of members of the Grateful Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage, among others. Due primarily to shakeups in the A&R dept., the finished album – which was to be named after Buddy Bolden, the early 20th century New Orleans jazz icon – was shelved and Kardt’s recording career never really recovered.

When I heard about this, I realized I’d just tripped over another one of those Great Lost LPs that might have made a significant contribution to its era but instead languished in the vaults thanks to music biz shenanigans. I’m really hoping that the album can one day be heard the way Kardt intended it to be. It’ll take a certain bit of legal wrangling to get it properly released, although it’s nothing any moderately well-functioning label wouldn’t be able to handle rather effortlessly. So here’s hoping. The happy news, though, is that Kardt has given me permission to post the album’s terrific title track, never issued anywhere, right here. Sounding like something that would have fit in snugly on any of the early Jesse Winchester or Delaney and Bonnie albums (the female voices, by the way, belong to Barbara Mauritz of Lamb and Pamela Polland of the Gentle Soul), it also glows with the same unique personality you can hear on Kardt’s Rig tracks. “Buddy Bolden” makes a pretty clear case for why the album finally needs to be heard. Give it a listen and see what I’m talking about.

Kendell Kardt – “Buddy Bolden” (1971)

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posted by Kim Simpson

Pop Matters review of Sweat

Monday, February 18th, 2008


For me, Joe Bonomo’s Sweat – an indepth history of the chronically underappreciated Fleshtones – was one of the happiest book events of ‘07 (it came out last September). You can read my extended rave about it over at Pop Matters.

Fleshtones Clinch ’08 Album of the Year Honors

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008


I’m feeling so much love for the Fleshtones these days. First of all, I just finished and thoroughly dug Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band, the new book by Dr. Joe Bonomo, which is an unthinkably generous reward for fans like me who’d resigned themselves to reading about the group in short takes. Let’s hope it makes whole legions of new fans. [Update: see my review at Pop Matters.]

(By the way, Google Joe Bonomo and see what comes up first – a tribute to a mid-century strongman written by Norton Records’ Miriam Linna. She’s an early Fleshtones booster/pal who appears in the book and I can’t help but think Bonomo’s name was an asset of sorts early in the game.)

Second of all, the guys have gone and released one of their best records ever. This is a big statement from me because I love all their records. I’m one of those evidently all too rare faithful who’s been snatching up new Fleshtones releases hot off the press since I hopped onto the Super Rock Express in ’84. And I’m all too apt to assess a new release as “another great one!” But this one is just so especially pleasing to me for the following big 12 reasons:

1 – It’s a forceful, “any questions?” supplement to the new attention they’ll be getting from the book and forthcoming (rumor has it) movie documentary.

2 – It’s co-produced to stunningly straight-ahead effect by Ivan Julian, who’s been working the musical trenches of NYC as far back as his days as one of Richard Hell’s Voidoids.

3 – It’s a thirty-minute riot that leaves you wanting more.

4 – Not that genius titles are anything new for this group, but it’s got a song called “Shiney Hiney.”

5 – It contains guitarist Keith Streng’s best ever vocal performance, which happens to be the aforementioned selection.

6 – The songs are all original. Not that I really care, because one of my all-time favorite records of theirs is the all-covers Fleshtones Favorites. But for a group whose songwriting chops never get the same credit as their live shows or even their reputations as cover artists extraordinaire (just like Elvis), this is well worth pointing out.

7 – Not only are the songs all original, but Keith, singer Peter Zaremba, and bassist Ken Fox all pitch in as songwriters.

8 – The album title is taken from a favorite catchphrase of the late Fleshtones sax man, Gordon Spaeth.

9 – “First Date” channels the Dave Clark Five doing “I Like it Like That.”

10 – The last song on the album, which is the title track, features Peter losing his mind, fading off with shouts and yells into the strait-jacketed realm of Napoleon XIV. (It sounds riveting, but let’s hope he’s just kidding around.)

11 – In this same song, Peter lays it on the “frowning think-they’re-so-cools,” the would-be hipsters of the “tattoo covered, goateed, sock-cap wearing” ilk. If these really are the folks who’ve been standing in the group’s way all these years, then we should share Peter’s disdain. (Word of warning to those of you who have the album cued up in the family station wagon: Peter lets an exasperated F bomb fly here. But that shouldn’t stop you from appreciating them as essentially a family band.)

12 – They sing about going “back to school” – a pretty funny joke for guys who’ve been busy doing all the schooling for over thirty years now.

So if I haven’t made it clear yet, the Great ’08 Album of the Year sweepstakes are a wrap, folks. Your Arcade Fishermen and Animal Collectors can release an album per month if they want, but it’s purely academic from here on out.

Now go on and get it.

posted by Kim Simpson