Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sleaze Rock

This edition of Sleaze rock will focus on contradictions and contrasts. First we have El duce educating women on their poor choices in trying to find "Mr.Right".  Underneath his violent, alcoholic, sociopathic demeanor and fun loving personality,GG Allin was certifiably insane. The bullshit Nelson and DC Talk were trying to sell us was no better than those two, and in some ways it was much worse.  You were warned!

This sleaze rock special is the king daddy of sleazy shit. El Duce sings.... like a donkey brays, "Bad Taste in Men" Apparently this video was filmed by D. W. Griffith and the audio recorded by Thomas Edison. Shitty production is befitting of shitty music, Top YouTube Comment: "so utterly devoid of any manner of artistic quality or effort, tis almost genius. I'm MAXIN'!"  emwprop

This sleaze rock special is the epitome of sleaze, GG Allin - Die When You Die, GG Allin was a despicable, homophobic, deranged, perverted, racist asshole. I bet his problems stemmed from the fact that he was hung like a chipmunk. Top YouTube Comment: "If you don't want to see spelling errors never fucking open anything with GG in the title. Now fuck off"   stupidgenious1

This sleaze rock special is Nelson - After the Rain, I must agree with the drunken step dad, that kid is fucking worthless, "sits in that room listens  to the tapes" Nelson's whiteness subsists in as a global cognitive dysfunction that upholds the Manichean divide. Top YouTube comment: They're dressed like rock n roll priests, Read between the lines. UBER CHRISTIAN ROCK.  popcynic 

This sleaze rock special is DC Talk - Colored People, These hubris swilling asshats had all the appeal of a Hitler Youth Rally.  Smug trivialities and hackneyed bromides devoid of existential authenticity.  Foot in mouth, take your solitary way and be gone. Top You Tube Comment: satan (I give him the grammatical middle finger by not capitalizing his name) jollyroger330

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Duck Rock

The folks in Hillsboro did the right thing when they pulled the plug on their annual Apple Festival. How could they do that? everyone asked, the event was extremely popular, drawing a few thousand folks from Southwestern New Mexico and El Paso. It seems that the legions of  drunken bikers loitering around the crowded main street, brawling and pissing in public, clashed with Hillsboro's quaint historical status. Ultimately, the Apple Festival became a nuisance. The time and expense of cleaning up after the sloppy drunk masses outweighed the money being pulled in. 

The Deming Duck races like so many money grubbing festivals held around New Mexico, was once a loosey goosey gathering with an ambiance that was both genial and inviting. A good time was advertised and more often than not, that was the case. Sadly, just like the Balloon Fiesta, the State Fair, The Whole Enchilada and the Hatch Chile Festival it's been taken over by professional vendors. Every last one of them feels that the consumer should foot the bill for their travel expenses and this is reflected in yearly price hikes.

Eight dollars for a turkey leg, is a bit much and any burrito worth more that five bucks better feed the entire family. And no, the vendors won't take EBT, the preferred method of payment for most of Luna County's cash strapped residents. The Deming Duck races are a prime example of minimal effort resulting in mediocre results. It's an artificial event, without any real purpose other than to milk the area's citizens of their hard earned dollars.The Duck races have run their course and even the organizers appear to go through the motions without much enthusiasm. Some would even say that The Duck races create a negative image for the city of Deming. 

The event continues because it still serves a purpose. The motels fill up, the restaurants stay busy  and all retailers see a spike in sales. It's an innocuous way to boost the local economy without disturbing the local routine or mobilizing a large police force to keep gang bangers in check. The one percenter rejects that ruined Hillsboro haven't gravitated to The Duck races (that long hot 100 mile run on I-10 from El Paso keeps them at bay ) The races are on the last weekend of August, which is when the Deming heat  really gets oppressive. Sitting in the makeshift bleachers watching meaningless duck sprints becomes a challenge as the sun beats down with brutal intensity.

The actual duck races are pointless and hardly entertaining. That wasn't always the case, when the event started the races were meant to be the primary attraction. This drew a small cadre of competitive duck breeders who took the duck races as serious as The Kentucky Derby. Enter Robert Duck (that's his real name) a man who understood the credo that drives anyone involved in competitive racing (be it horses, autos, dogs or ducks) "He who works harder and cheats a little, wins more races."  R. Duck bred his ducks for speed, carefully selecting the fastest and weeding (or eating) the slowest. 

He built a replica track at his home in Bosque Farms and put his ducks through their paces, just like Kentucky thoroughbreds. The natural outcome of this lopsided competition is that for the first 5 or 6 years, Robert Duck handily swept all the races. Duck was up to the challenge, almost daring anyone to beat him. His name became synonymous with duck racing, he made an appearance on the Tonight show, gamely submitting himself to Johnny Carson's quips. Local folks, started griping about his success and rumors were even floated about, that he was gaining the upper hand through the use of illicit performance enhancing feed additives. 

Robert Duck's success built the Deming Duck Races and in the end it almost killed it. Race organizers schemed to put an end to his dominance. Unable to do it on the track (Deming Duck Downs) they resorted to the tried and true All American method of exclusion. They banned Robert Duck from the races. "We'd like to spread the price money around to other folks" retorted one organizer when questioned about the questionable decision. "It's not fair, he always wins" exclaimed one sad eyed lady as she watched Robert Duck celebrate yet another victory.

"He's Cheatin" drawled an area rancher as he stroked his gander, aptly named "Today's Loser, Tomorrow's Supper" I guess something had to give, Robert Duck wasn't just winning first place, he was throttling the competition. The surest bet at Deming Duck Downs was Robert Duck to win, place or show. And yes, there was action on the races. In the shadow of  the courthouse minaret, bets were being placed. Under the shade of the giant cottonwoods around Deming's picturesque Court House park, sizable amounts of money were changing hands. Although, to bet against Robert Duck was a sucker bet, Demingites are natural born suckers. 

At some point the race organizers came to the conclusion that  the ill will created by Robert Duck's dominance and subsequent banishment was running counter to the "let's have some good old fashioned fun" spirit that the event's founders had fostered. To remedy this, they did away with serious racing. Now, you pay a fee and select a duck from a nearby enclosure (the trick is to try and not pick one that looks wilted or near death) This means that invariably some random kid will win the damn thing and step up to the podium to collect his prize money.

They drained the piss from the event and now the duck races amount to nothing more than buying a Belgian waffle ($7 U.S. no pesos accepted) and strolling around the park.  Local legend would have you believe that some colorful local cowboys, started the event while bending elbows at a local saloon. It's actually the brainchild of newspaper editor Harold Cousland and some tipsy  "fun-loving cohorts" The true locals avoid Duck Race weekend like the plague, so the crowd is heavy with out of towners looking for that quintessential small town, All American experience.

There is a sentiment within the business community that perhaps its time to move on to something else. The Duck Races were created to fill the void left by the demise of  "Butterfield Stage Days" an event that celebrated Deming's wild west past. It ran out of steam and at the end was reduced to little more than a shabby parade through town. That's probably what the future holds in store for the Duck Races  Due to public sentiment my choice of "Hang 'em High Days" probably won't ever happen (in 1916, several of Pancho Villa's Columbus raiders were hung from the Court House park cottonwoods) 

Dirt City Chronicles is a music blog, so there has to be a music angle to all this... and there is. Granted the entertainment isn't on the same level as The Silver City Blues Festival and the one truly accomplished musician that lives in Deming (Bob Forbes aka RedEyeC) stays clear of the event. Although Bob and his old band Red Eye Country recorded "Duck Race Song" for the event in 1981. For the seventh year, Shattered Faith Entertainment is promoting the event, which is sponsored by PNM. I suspect that Shattered Faith has some connection to one of Deming's most prominent non-denominational storefront church. 

My suspicions are confirmed as Friday's entertainment kicks off with The New Life Youth Praise Team, who according to The Deming Headlight "play classic hard rock with spiritual lyrics. (that's a roundabout way of saying they're a Christian rock band, or is that not cool to say anymore?) also on the bill is Reality Lies, "they are a new hard rock band from Deming and are causing quite a stir, "you might remember Anthony the drummer from Rock, Paper, Scissors" again I quote the Deming Headlight. "causing quite a stir!" who the fuck is writing this stuff... Dirt City Chronicles?

I do remember Rock, Paper, Scissors and I also remember that their drummer couldn't keep a beat. Reality Lies?.....  because naming your band Reality Sucks would get you blackballed from Shattered Faith events.  Let me guess, they also play hard rock praise music?  Speaking of praise or blasphemy, God Damn! I miss the Barb Wire Dolls. "The Living Word Church will headline the evening with Christian music that will have the crowd on their feet and hands in the air" Seriously who is writing this stuff?... "put your hands in the air, wave them like you just don't care"

Muslims, Buddhists or anyone that prefers their music not be impregnated with religious dogma is shit out of luck.  That the Living Word Church is "headlining" doesn't surprise me. The pastor of that church (which holds services in a downtown building that once housed a Sprouse Reitz store) is Andres Silva, who also happens to be Deming's mayor. Silva is a slimy prick with reptilian features who cruises around town on a $30,000 Harley Davidson, wearing black leather (that makes him look like he's trolling for rough trade) He's in the preachin' business... and business is a boomin'

Saturday's lineup starts out with a bang and ends with a whimper. Dirty Rotten Kittens from El Paso kick things off.  With a name like that I would bet that they're a gob spitting old school riot grrrl punk rock band, but they're not. Of course they're not, this is after all a Shattered Faith promotion. Dirty Rotten Kittens refer to themselves as a wild west Texas rockabilly band that plays church festivals all around town during the summer. Their name comes from a chew toy preferred by their mascot, a miniature dachshund named Rudi. 

Saturday goes downhill from there, the day's only saving grace (from a musical point of view) is that throughout the day  Max Crook will entertain on the ragtime keyboard. Crook has rubbed shoulders with some of pop music's greats. He is best known for co-writing Del Shannon's monster hit "Runaway" However Max is also an electronic music innovator, who invented a monophonic synthesizer in 1959 that he called the Musitron. Wikipedia describes it as  "a clavioline enhanced with additional resistors, television tubes, and parts from household appliances, old amplifiers and reel-to-reel tape machines" 

If you're wondering what the musitron sounds like, just give "Runaway" a spin and when you get to the funky keyboard solo break.... that's Max Crook. He was a member of Del Shannon's band for several years before branching out as a solo artist and recording several overlooked instrumental tracks under the name of Maximilian. His best know single "The Snake" became a favorite of British mods in the early 1960s and was released in the UK as a single on London Records. Later in the 1960s he worked as an electronic duo with Scott Ludwig, billed as "The Sounds of Tomorrow" (just imagine Esquivel, minus the Latin flair) 

Max returned to the pop music charts in 1970 playing keyboards on Brian Hyland's hit "Gypsy Woman" A native of Michigan, Max attended UNM out of high school and after living in California for many years, returned to make his home in Deming. On Sunday the Duck Races wind down and so does the entertainment. Reality Lies returns for an encore performance, closing out not just the day's events but the entire festival.... lucky them. 

For an event partially  funded and promoted by local government agencies and utilities (PNM), the music program really carries some disturbing religious overtones. And what's with this sweetheart deal that Shattered Faith Entertainment seems to benefit from? It all reeks of favoritism. Attendance at a church affiliated with the non-denominational movement appears to be a  prerequisite to get on The Deming Duck Race music bill. These fair feathered friends have overstepped their bounds, this whole affair smells of duck shit!

Park Entertainment Schedule:
Friday, August 24th
4-5 pm New Life Youth Praise Team (Christian Rock and Roll)
5-6 pm Realities Lies (Hard Rock)
6-8 pm Living Word Church (Christian Music)

Saturday, August 25th
12N-1 pm Dirty Rotten Kittens (Classic Rock-El Paso)
1-2 pm Jessica Juarez (Tejano Country)
2-3 pm New Life Blues Breakers (Blues)
3-4 pm Rein Garcia (Acoustic Country/Pop Rock Las Cruces)
4-5 pm Mariachi Diamontes (Mariachi)
5-6 pm Mario (Classic Rock/Acoustic Guitar)
6-7 pm Mariachi Rosas (12-15 year old girls) (Mariachi)
7-8 pm Mariachi Corazon (Mariachi)
In between Bands- Max Crook (Ragtime Keyboard)

Sunday, August 26th
12N-1 pm Veronika Barnes (Accordion)
1-2 pm Ramblin Rose Line Dancers (Line Dancing)
2-3 pm Justin Reyes (Country Music)
3-4 pm Mariachi Corazon Del Desierto (Mariachi)
4-6 pm Realities Lies (Hard Rock)

On a side note, my favorite Great American Duck Race memory was in 2002 (the year it was dedicated to founder Harold Cousland) Duke Energy North American had signed on as the corporate sponsor. At the time Duke Energy was involved in building the power plant north of town (Deming Energy Facility) Just before the Duck Races took place, Duke Energy filed for bankruptcy protection and bailed on the project. 
As the corporate sponsor they were responsible for collecting and disposing of all the trash during the three day event. Nobody caught this glitch and that year the event was marred by overflowing trash cans and huge piles of garbage piled up around the park. I had never seen so many half gnawed turkey legs, corn cobs and buzzing flies in my life. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

For a Song: Morning Dew

"In this last of meeting places // We grope together // And avoid speech // Gathered on this beach of the tumid river."   
T. S. Eliot  The Hollow Men

This the final installment in a somewhat tawdry Tim Rose trilogy.  This series, which I've now titled "For a Song" started with "Hey Joe" and "Dazed and Confused" and now continues with  "Morning Dew" The common thread that ties them all together is Tim Rose. Timmy (as Bonnie Dobson referred to him) was a gruff guy, who had a growling vocal style somewhat similar to Joe Cocker or Tom Waits (without any of their redeeming qualities or talent)

Tim Rose  was a rather obscure and minor figure in American music. A man better known for his plagiarism than for his music. Rose was a product of the early 60s folk revival, his first big break in music came as part of the folk trio The Big Three, which included Cass Elliot, soon to be known as Mama Cass of The Mamas & The Papas and John Brown. Rose had gravitated towards the trio (originally called Triumvirate) after the break up of his previous group Tim Rose & The Thorns (which included Jake Holmes, the man who wrote and originally recorded Dazed and Confused)

When The Big Three imploded over musical differences, (compounded by the secret marriage between Cass Elliot & Jim Hendricks, who had replaced John Brown) Tim Rose set out to establish himself as a solo artist. Rose became a fixture at the Cafe Wha? in New York City, which led to a multi-album recording contract. His first album "Tim Rose" released in 1967 contained all the songs he's best known for including the infamous duo of "Hey Joe" and "Morning Dew"

It's one thing to take cover songs and make them your own, it's another thing altogether when you start taking songwriting credits for material you didn't compose. Rose started playing a slowed down, angry version of "Hey Joe" shortly after The Leaves had scored with their hyperactive take on Billy Robert's song (credited to Chet Powers, who was actually Dino Valenti) Rose stated that he had learned "Hey Joe" as a child in Florida, and adamantly claimed that the song was traditional.

It was an old trick that took advantage of loopholes in U.S. copyright laws. The British were especially adept at taking songs written by Americans (African Americans in most cases) and claiming them as "traditional arrangements" to avoid paying royalties. If anything, Tim Rose was well versed on copyright laws. He steadfastly held on to his claim of authorship for "Hey Joe" Although, no evidence in the U.S. or elsewhere has been provided to support the claim.

This is the way the world ends  Not with a bang but a whimper.

Nevil Shute's 1957 apocalyptic novel "On the Beach" came out just as the U.S.  was starting to feel the first twinge of cold war stress. In 1959, Hollywood tried to cash in on the paranoia and unease by adapting Shute's novel to the big screen. It was a big production with big stars (Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins) directed by Stanley Kramer. The premise of Shute's novel was that mankind had been wiped out by nuclear war (started when Albania attacks Italy with nuclear warheads, which lead to a tit for tat round of nuclear retaliation) 

In Shute's unrealistic, almost comical novel, he surmises that the Soviets get blamed for the attack because their aircraft were used. The USA goes all fail safe on the commie pinkos, but not before Russia fires off a salvo of preemptive nuclear strikes against Red China. When it's all said and done the entire northern hemisphere is polluted by a killer cloud of radiation and hotter than a microwave burrito. With impending death slowly creeping to the southern hemisphere, we join our happy band of misfit survivors in the cultural capital of Australia... Melbourne, Victoria state.  

Ava Gardner is said to have described Melbourne as "the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world" The Aussies got all their knickers in a bunch over this, but the truth is.... she never actually said it. Some over zealous editor for the Sydney Morning Herald directly attributed the quote to Gardner after journalist Neil Jillett was unable to confirm or deny information from a third party source as they went to press.

There are people still alive in the southernmost outposts of civilization, and in Melbourne the locals have settled into an ordinary routine as they await the end of the world. A mysterious telegraph signal suddenly beams across the Pacific, it's tracked to  Seattle, Wa. (in the movie it's San Diego,Ca.) Hopeful that people are still alive in North America, the last U.S. naval vessel, a submarine that had been spared by a timely port of call to Melbourne is dispatched across the ocean to investigate. 

A theory espoused by Australian scientists that the radiation will dissipate before it reaches 'Oz is disproved by rising radiation levels at Point Barrow, Alaska. The submarine travels to San Francisco where one man jumps ship and is last seen taking up a fishing pole. The telegraph signal also turns out to be bogus, in conclusion... North America is devoid of life. The Naval men return to Australia to wait out what little time they have left. 

Oh, there's some romance and angst, but it all amounts to nothing. The automotive race organized by Fred Astaire's character, is worth the price of admission. Throwing caution to the wind, (because they're all going to die anyway) several of the participants are killed in brutal accidents.  And this folks is why they have restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega, because every day is the last day on earth for those redneck fools and we need to save them from themselves. 

The well run socialist machine that is Australia hands out suicide pills and injections to all its citizens to spare them the horrors of dying from radiation poisoning. The American sub, attempts to reach American waters so that the crew may have their final wish granted, to die at home. Those left behind take their own lives, each in his own way and at their own leisure. "On the Beach" doesn't have a happy ending, it is after all an apocalyptic drama set in the months after World War III.

That was the national mood in 1960 when Canadian folksinger Bonnie Dobson, fresh off a singing engagement in Los Angeles decided to take in a screening of "On the Beach" The film made a tremendous impression on her, which she explained in an interview, "Particularly at that time because everybody was very worried about the bomb and whether we were going to get through the next 10 years. It was a very immediate problem"

She sat up all night talking with friends about the film and it's impact, once everyone went to bed she started writing the first song she had ever written.  "I'd never written songs and this song just came out and really it was a kind of re-enactment of that film in a way where at the end there is nobody left and it was a conversation between these two people trying to explain what's happening. It was really apocalypse, that was what it was about"

The song Bonnie Dobson wrote was "Morning Dew",  she elaborated on its meaning: "It was really about that film and the feelings, the fearful feelings we had at that time. And then things got better and then they got worse and we are where we are now. Actually I think that the song, if anything, is more of this time, of the present than it ever was then" Bonnie performed the song for the first time in her hometown of Toronto in 1961.  A review in the Toronto Globe & Mail stated that Bonnie had sang "a mournful dirge called Morning Dew" 

"Morning Dew" became part of her repertoire, the song however wasn't included on her first album "She's  Like a Swallow" (boy howdy! that could easily be misconstrued as a double entendre) A recorded version wasn't released until "Bonnie Dobson at Folk City" It was also included on a Broadside compilation set that same year. Jac Holzman, who had founded Elektra Records out of his St. John's College dorm room in 1950 and Nonesuch Records in 1964, contacted Dobson in New York City.

Holzman asked Bonnie "You wrote Morning Dew didn't you" to which Bonnie answered "Yes" Jac then asked if she had published or copyrighted the song. Dobson hadn't,  "cause I was quite a little dumb dumb actually in those days" as she put it.  Holzman informed her that "Fred Neil wants to record it so we would like to publish it." Bonnie would later elaborate on her oversight "I hadn't done it the way you're supposed to do things so it was somewhat in the public domain."

Tim Rose would later take advantage of that oversight to justify his claim that "Morning Dew" was traditional and thus fair game.  Fred Neil's version was the first cover of "Morning Dew" recorded and released in 1964.  Neil took the liberty to add some additional verses at the end and then in a stroke of genius changed the opening line from "Take me for a walk in the morning dew, my honey" to "Walk me out in the morning dew my honey", it made all the difference, a fact noted by Dobson herself.

Bonnie Dobson never once met Tim Rose nor even really knew who he was. Rose had heard Fred Neil, a reclusive man who disliked performing in public (much like Harry Nillson the man who made him famous) perform "Morning Dew" and as he was apt to do, decided to boost it for himself. In 1967 as Rose was preparing to record his first album, his manager called Bonnie to ask if she could write a couple of additional verses to the song, so that Tim Rose could record it.

Reluctantly, Dobson agreed and on a flight from Toronto to Vancouver she did just that, but with reservations.  She submitted the changes to Tim's record label and that was the end of it. A few months later when the album came out, much to Bonnie's chagrin no changes had been made, but  Tim Rose was now credited as co-writer for the song. Dobson was livid " I think what happened was there was no way we could not actually cut him in on the lyric because I had performed it and [then] published it.

Tim Rose had made no substantial changes to the song, his version was basically a copy of Fred Neil's.  Bonnie had a different opinion of Fred Neil's alterations " if we're really honest about this, if anyone is going to be credited as co-writer or co-lyricist it should have been Fred Neil because all Timmy Rose did was take Freddy Neils changes and add his name to the songwriting credit."  Through the years, Dobson has consistently questioned his right to a credit.

In the U.S. by the late 1960s, Tim Rose was fading fast from the scene, but in the U.K. he was still quite popular. In fact, Tim Rose had a large and loyal following in both England and Ireland.  In 1968, while his song "Roanoke" was getting some airplay in the UK, Rose was considered as a possible replacement for Brian Jones's place in The Rolling Stones. During that same period he toured the U.K. with back-up musicians that included John Bonham (on two separate tours) Aynsley Dunbar, John McVie and a host of others.

To add insult to injury, when Bonnie Dobson performed in England (1969) at Queen Elizabeth Hall, everybody praised her fine rendition of Tim Rose's song.  It seems that in England, Rose had received sole credit for writing the song which led to the misconception that he was the actual composer.  "I've written songs with other people and I have never claimed them for my own. I just think it was really a dreadfully dishonest thing to do" spoke Bonnie. Honesty or honor were never Tim's strongest attributes.

"I still get my royalty check, but I still consider it quite a grievous injury" said Bonnie. When Lulu hit the charts with her version of "Morning Dew" (it's quite good)  in 1967, there was a full page ad in Billboard, trumpeting her version of Tim Rose's great hit. "I nearly went crazy, but there was nothing we could do" recalled Bonnie Dobson. By the late 1970s Tim Rose was out of music and living in Hell's Kitchen, a slave to the bottle and far removed from his days of headlining concerts.

"Liquid Karma's gonna get you,gonna knock you right on the head. You better get yourself together pretty soon you're gonna be dead." But, then he lucked into a gig as a commercial artist (his best known jingle was for Big Red Gum, remember that one?) He turned his life around and even went back to college and earned his degree and started working as a stockbroker. In the mid-80s with the help of Nick Cave he got back into music and started touring again (mostly in the U.K.)

Tim Rose had just completed an Irish tour and was preparing to tour the U.K. when he died of a heart attack during an operation for a lower bowel problem in 2002. He's buried in London.  No more morning dew for you culero!  "I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure." and no, Mark Twain never said that, it's just that everyone thinks he said it. Just like Tim Rose didn't compose "Morning Dew" he just stole the credit for it.

Bonnie Dobson moved to England after making her London debut at Queen Elizabeth Hall, She subsequently performed extensively on the BBC and the ITV, recorded two albums and appeared throughout Europe in concert and on radio and TV.   In the 1970s, she virtually retired from the music business, eventually becoming the head administrator for the Philosophy Department at the Berwick College of the University of London.

Footnotes:  "'Walk me out in the morning dew my honey!' A burly cigar-smoking man, who looks like a drunken fairground barker, growls this command with incrementally increasing urgency over a strident bassline. Women are sickened by him, but they cannot resist his brutishly simple sexuality. In my dreams I am Tim Rose in 1967. In reality, it is 2006 and I'm a fat Morrissey." (Stewart Lee, comedian)

An interviewer quizzed Bonnie Dobson about the numerous cover versions of her song "Morning Dew" he named off the most obvious, Fred Neil, Tim Rose, The Grateful Dead, Jeff Beck w/Rod Stewart on vocals, Lulu, Nazareth etc.  Eventually he got around to asking about Devo's version:   (interviewer) "I believe there is also a version by Devo"   (Bonnie) "Oh Yea, I've heard that version. That is really bad! It is terrible actually, sorry about that boys, but it's really bad. It was pretty grim, that version"

Monday, August 13, 2012

Death By Misadventure: Tommy Bolin

Well my mind has been overflowin' 'bout some things that don't seem right.

Marc Campbell, who writes for the blog, Dangerous Minds has the best description of Tommy Bolin (whom he knew from the early 70s Boulder, Co. music scene) "If, as the brujo Don Juan claims, death is astride our left shoulder at all times, than Bolin was wearing his mortality like a swashbuckling pirate wears a majestic parrot. It wasn’t hard to miss" Over the course of his brief and mercurial career, Tommy wowed his fans with both his musical talent and his total disregard for moderation. 

Tommy Bolin was the precursor to all those speed riff players who honed their skills studying under various accomplished instructors (ala Randy Rhoads) Bolin however, was a natural, self taught, versatile and driven by a restless compulsion to learn. He was a brilliant jazz fusion guitarist, influenced by American jazz & popular composers (his composition "Owed to G" recorded with Deep Purple, was a tribute to George Gershwin) Bolin was also a silky rock guitarist with an acumen for experimentation, frequently stretching out beyond simple hard rock riffing.

Barely seventeen years old, and having been kick out of high school for refusing to cut his hair, Tommy Bolin arrived in Denver, Co. from Sioux City, Iowa in the fall of 1967. Tommy was practically homeless when he ran into Jeff Cook (who would later join Bolin in Energy) practicing with his band (Cross Town Bus) Tommy talked his way into a jam session with the band, the members were so impressed that they fired their guitarist and hired Bolin. Cross Town Bus then  became American Standard, and nabbed the gig as house band for The Family Dog.

Denver's Family Dog was affiliated with Chet Helms' San Francisco club of the same name. Barry Fey (a familiar name to Albuquerque concertgoers) was the house promoter, responsible for bringing in national acts such as Cream, Canned Heat, The Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Grateful Dead and even Jimi Hendrix. Eventually, Tommy tired of the human jukebox grind (the band played mostly covers) and joined keyboardist John Faris in the eclectic blues/rock/jazz fusion band Ethereal Zephyr (they were soon joined by the husband and wife duo, David & Candy Givens) 

By the time the band arrived at Wally Heider's studio in 1969, the group's name had been shortened to Zephyr. With Bill Halverson at the helm, Bolin & the band co-wrote most of the material for the album and Tommy exhibited playing skills far advanced for his age (18) The single release of "Cross the River" led to an appearance on American Bandstand, where Candy & Tommy lip synced the lyrics while the entire band hammed it up. Pretty heady stuff for a kid who just two years prior had been walking the streets of Denver, guitar in hand. 

The California Zephyr was a train that ran between San Francisco & Chicago, with a stop in Denver. Zephyr also denotes a west wind and is considered the mildest and most favorable of the directional winds. In the vernacular of Colorado mountain men the winds blowing eastward  off The Rockies were referred to as Zephyr winds. Originally the group may have derived its name from the train, but surely someone in the band was also reading Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote of the "swete breth" of Zephryus, or Shakespeare "They are as gentle as zephyrs blowing below the violet"

In an interview David Givens explained: "If you have ever lived along the Front Range in Colorado, you know that the West wind can be gentle at times, but every now and then, it rages down out of the mountains at hurricane speed. We liked to think that our band was capable of those kinds of contrasts. The image of the powerful streamlined train combined with the many-faceted personality of the West wind embodied our vision of the music we played."

Zephyr didn't  gather momentum like a hurricane, due in part to Candy Givens' penchant for affected Janis Joplin vocals. Despite the best of efforts, the band's debut album sank like a stone, but it did set them up as an opening act for several established bands, including  Led Zeppelin.  The first "big name" band they opened for was John Mayall & The Blues Breakers. Tommy came out determined to show up Mick Taylor (who would soon join The Rolling Stones) Bolin blazed through his set and thoroughly outclassed Taylor, much to the delight of the crowd. Thus a legend was born.

And my gun is cocked and loaded, I hope I get me some sleep tonight.

With 20 year old Tommy Bolin firmly established as the focal point of the group's music, Zephyr blew to New York City to record their second album at Electric Lady Studios. Released in 1971 "Going Back to Colorado" was marred by producer Eddie Kramer's lack of focus & attention (he was still mourning the loss of Jimi Hendrix and had just broken up with Carly Simon) The album was a commercial disappointment. Tommy, dissatisfied with the musical direction of Zephyr, and not content to play back-up to Candy Givens quit to form Energy, a jazz fusion band. 

Energy created quite a buzz, for a band that never put out an album (several recordings were released posthumously) During this period, Bolin also played with Albert King. A man that Tommy credited with helping him take his talent to another level. "At the time I was playing everything I knew when I took a lead, and he said, Man! just say it all with one note"  Bolin said during an interview with Guitar World magazine "He taught me that it was much harder to be simple than to be complicated during solos, if you blow your cookies in the first bar, you have nowhere to go" 

Bolin returned to New York City and its budding jazz fusion scene. During his previous visit, Bolin had met and jammed with the cream of NYC's jazz fusion musicians, including Jan Hammer and Billy Cobham. Now Cobham (of the Mahavishnu Orchestra) called on him to play guitar  on his ground breaking album "Spectrum" In the studio Bolin was joined by Leland Sklar on bass and Jan Hammer, keyboardist (of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miami Vice theme music fame) Spectrum was a highly influential and commercially successful album that opened many doors for Tommy Bolin.

It's a common misconception that Tommy replaced Joe Walsh in The James Gang. In actuality, Walsh had left the band in 1971 while Bolin was still recording with Zephyr. The future Eagle did however, relocate to Boulder where he started putting together his next band, Barnstorm. (Joe would nick two of Tommy's players from Energy, Kenny Passarelli & Tom Stephenson) Walsh became acquainted with Bolin during this period, and when The James Gang went looking for a replacement for guitarist Dominic Troiano (who left to join the Guess Who) Walsh recommended Tommy.

The James Gang had been around since 1966 and had gone through various personnel changes. Joe Walsh himself wasn't an original member, he had replaced Glenn Schwartz in 1968. (Schwartz went on to from the moderately successful rock band Pacific Gas & Electric) The James Gang was at it's best with Walsh, two iconic albums (Yer' Album & The James Gang Rides Again) and two popular singles (Funk 49 & Walk Away) helped establish them as a popular live act. Although, by the time Tommy came along, The James Gang had seen much better days.

Jim Fox, Dale Peters & Roy Kenner had misgiving about whether Bolin could play hard rock or not. But, after a blazing audition set, he was hired on the spot. For Tommy it was a good paying gig at a time when he was in need of a steady income. Bolin's status as an already popular guitarist  bolstered The James Gang's sagging box office potential, if only temporarily. Tommy brought with him a backlog of songs he had composed with Jeff Cook & John Tesar, this plethora formed the bulk of both albums that Bolin recorded with The James Gang.  

Tommy and The James Gang, hit the ground running, recording an album "Bang!", that sold well and produced a single "Must be Love" that surpassed all the band's previous efforts on the music charts. David Jeffries of Allmusic describes it this way: "feels less like a band album and more like talented studio musicians on the loose, but die-hard fans of either the Gang or the late Bolin will enjoy it, if only in fits and starts." The band cashed in with a heavy touring schedule before returning to the studio to record the follow-up album "Miami" recorded appropriately enough in Miami, Fl. 

"Miami" tanked, Allmusic's take: "Again, there was a noticeable lack of memorable songs, but Miami is worthwhile for guitar aficionados" Meaning that Tommy's performance was its sole redeeming factor. The attention lavished on Tommy led to tension between Bolin and lead singer Roy Kenner.  Contrary to his reputation as "the best replacement guitarist ever" his welcome was starting to wear thin. In retrospect, Tommy's stints with both The James Gang and Deep Purple were marred when his drug problems began to manifest themselves.

Don't let your mind post-toastee, Like a lot of my friends did.

With Tommy Bolin, drug abuse was always the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. His desire to burn hard & burn fast was taking its toll, resulting in cancelled shows and sub par concert performances. Bolin left The James Gang in August of 1974. His use of drugs had grown to legendary proportions and whenever he set out on tour  there was often speculation around Boulder whether he would make it back alive or not. After a few months spent trying to put together a band in Colorado, Tommy left for Los Angeles to seek out better opportunities, he wouldn't have long to wait.

Alphonse Mouzon, the drummer for Weather Report was inspired by Billy Cobham's Spectrum album, he set about recording his own jazz fusion masterpiece. Naturally, this meant that he had to have Tommy in his band. Bolin had just finished up some session work for an album by Dr. John (Tommy's leads were eventually scrubbed from the project) So he eagerly joined Mouzon at  Wally Heider's in Hollywood. The recording sessions were completed in December of 1974. The resulting album "Mind Transplant" was a raw and powerful fusion of musical styles. 

Unlike "Spectrum" Tommy shared the guitar spotlight with noted session player Jay Graydon and jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour, who like Tommy was a young rising star on the jazz fusion scene. Keyboards and bass were handled by Jerry Peters and Henry Davis. After finishing up with the "Mind Transplant" sessions, Tommy began working on his first solo album. The sessions for "Teaser" took place in New York City, and during some down time at the studio, Tommy was asked to record some leads for Moxy (a Canadian hard rock band)  

Earl Johnson, the lead guitarist for Moxy had a falling out with the producer, and it just so happened that Bolin was in the studio at the same time. Tommy effortlessly laid down some blistering leads for the band, a feat that only added to his ever growing legend. On his solo album, Tommy had intended to record with Mike Finnigan on vocals, that fell through and he wound up doing the vocals himself. (Jan Hammer, Stanley Sheldon, Jeff Porcaro and a cast of many accompanied him) Work on the album was put off in June 1975, when Tommy received an invitation to join Deep Purple.

Ritchie Blackmore had just left Deep Purple, so the band had a choice between folding up or hiring another guitarist, they chose to continue. Lead singer David Coverdale claims that being familiar with the "Spectrum" album, he suggested that they audition Bolin in Los Angeles. Coverdale described the scene:  "He walked in, thin as a rake, his hair coloured green, yellow and blue with feathers in it. Slinking along beside him was this stunning Hawaiian girl in a crochet dress with nothing on underneath. He plugged into four Marshall 100-watt stacks and...the job was his"

On his part, Bolin claimed that Ritchie Blackmore himself recommended him to the band and not David Coverdale. Tommy had it written into his contract that he could finish up "Teaser" while working with Deep Purple. (when the album finally came out, a sticker reminded everyone that Tommy was also the lead guitarist for Deep Purple)  Bolin and his band mates immediately started work on a new album "Come Taste the Band" Tommy's arrival didn't go over well with all of Deep Purple's followers (or some ex-members) 

"Who is this bloke and why is he ruining my favorite band?" was the question raised by many hardcore fans, especially after some of Bolin's sloppy stage performances. Tommy really had no intentions of joining a band, he truly intended to focus on his solo career. However, his dire financial state, meant that he had to compromise. "Come Taste the Band" and "Teaser" were released at almost the same time. Tommy's solo album lost out as all his touring efforts went towards Deep Purple. "Teaser" released on Nemperor Records languished on the charts. 

"Come Taste the Band" despite mixed reviews was a commercial success. (it was certified Silver, selling well over 100,000 copies) Former lead singer Ian Gillan (who had left the band two years prior) on the other hand, has stated that he does not view the album as a real Deep Purple album.  Although Tommy Bolin brought a funk edge to their hard rock sound, that revitalized a dying band,  he couldn't wait to put some distance between himself and Deep Purple. Before he could quit however, Jon Lord and Ian Paice folded the band (seemingly for good) in March of 1976.

From people that I been meetin', Seems I got to beware.

Tommy returned to California and put together a group of musicians that came to be known as The Tommy Bolin Band (Mark Stein from Vanilla Fudge on keyboards, Norma Jean Bell from Frank Zappa’s band on sax, Reggie McBride on bass, and drummer Narada Michael Walden of the  Mahavishnu Orchestra, he had replaced Billy Cobham and played on Jeff Beck's Wired album) This was the original lineup, as Tommy's drug use spiraled up and down, musicians came and went.

During this same period (May, 1976) Tommy was breaking up with his girlfriend Karen Ulibarri (she would later marry Deep Purple bassist Glen Hughes, who was having drug problems of his own) When Tommy (playing loaded) almost fell off the stage at the Bottom Line during a showcase performance attended by executives from Tommy's record label, the fallout was immediate. Narada Michael Walden, fed up quit the band after the show. Nat Weiss the head of Nemperor Records advised Barry Fey (now acting as Tommy's manager) to find Bolin another label. 

Through Fey, Tommy was able to sign with Columbia. His new label pushed hard to make Bolin a headline act, but no effort was made to address his obvious drug issues. Mark Stein left the band for that reason, disgusted at the lack of action taken by management to help Tommy clean up. Bolin tried to kick on his own, he stopped using heroin, but not cocaine and alcohol. The Private Eyes tour kicked off prior to the album release in Albuquerque, July 16th 1976, venue unknown (probably the old Civic Auditorium) 

He then opened for Rush, ZZ Top, Jeff Beck & Peter Frampton (during Feyline's Summer of '76 concert series at Mile High, Tommy ran into his old pal Stanley Sheldon, who was now playing with Peter Frampton. He broke down in tears, visibly upset that Frampton's level of success had eluded him) When Tommy lost his voice after a drinking binge, the tour was shelved until the addition of  Johnnie Bolin (Tommy's brother) and Jimmy Haslip in August. 

Bolin's second solo album "Private Eyes" was released in September of 1976, produced by Dennis McKay & Tommy Bolin. The backing musicians consisted mostly of The Tommy Bolin Band minus Narada Michael Walden (Carmen Appice sat in on one track while Bobby Berge nursed a hangover) "Private Eyes" was a more conventional rock album than "Teaser" a blatant attempt by Columbia to get Tommy more FM radio play. It did accomplish that, as "Post Toastee", "Shake the Devil" and "Bustin' out for Rosie" all became FM rock staples. 

If you were to judge him by his best known solo composition "Post Toastee" you would think he was nothing more than a hedonistic rock & roller hell bound on self destruction. Sadly, there is an element of truth in all assumptions concerning Bolin. "Post Toastee"  is actually meant to be a cautionary tale. Tommy was starting to realize that the only one holding him back was himself. Advice is one thing, following it is another. Ultimately it was his haphazard "catch me when I fall" circle of friends that failed him the most. 

Well I don't know what went wrong, I hope I get me some sleep tonight.

Dec. 3rd. 1976, The Tommy Bolin Band opened for Jeff Beck at the Jai-Alai Fronton in Miami, Fl. By all accounts his performance was inspired and Tommy closed his set with a rousing performance of "Post Toastee" Afterwards Bolin and his entourage retreated to the Newport Hotel. Tommy drank at the bar with several friends before going to the room of L.C. Clayton, his bodyguard at 1:00 am on Dec. 4th. A small party was taking place, Tommy ran into a childhood friend, Phil Tolimeni and a man known only as Art. According to Clayton, Bolin asked Tolimeni if they could talk in private.

The three men (Bolin, Tolimeni & Art) went into Clayton's bathroom together, supposedly to talk about a business venture that Tolimeni could help Tommy with. They were in the bathroom for six minutes, upon exiting the three left Clayton's room and walked to Bolin's room, where another party was in full swing. There they continued their "business" discussions. At approx. 2:00 am. while talking on the phone, Tommy suddenly collapsed. Tolimeni called Clayton's room for help. Clayton, guitar tech David Brown, roadie Jeff Ocheltree and Bolin's current girlfriend Valeria Monzeglio quickly responded. 

Tommy was placed in the shower, Clayton quizzed Tolimeni and Art as to what drugs Bolin had taken. Both said "He shot H" however a few minutes later Tolimeni changed his story and said emphatically "No, No he snorted heroin" As the minutes ticked away, color returned to Bolin's face and he seemed to breath easier. His friends then helped him to bed. At 3:12 am David Brown called the hotel emergency number and spoke to the physician on duty, Dr.  Ira Jacobson. Brown told the doctor that Bolin had taken Valium and alcohol and that they couldn't wake him up. 

Dr. Jacobson suspecting that Brown wasn't telling him everything, warned him that Tommy could die and that they should get him to the emergency room at North Miami General immediately. Brown told Jacobson that he was afraid of the bad publicity, but assured him that they would take Bolin to the hospital.  Brown would say: "I got a bit worried a few times in the past when he drank a bit too much and passed out, He looked the same, acted the same. I'm not a doctor. I asked Jacobson what was the main way to judge things like that and he said, 'Is he conscious?'

At that point according to David Brown, Tommy came to and mumbled "L.C. I'm glad you're here" and then rubbed his eyes, to Brown he seemed coherent.  "It's happened many, many times before. If I had called an ambulance and had an emergency squad come down here, the publicity would have jeopardized the band that he'd worked very hard to keep with him." Clayton rubbed Tommy's body for over an hour, he would later state that he found no needle marks on Bolin. Tommy is said to have opened his eyes and talked a couple of times.

A call was never placed to the emergency room, the men left the room leaving Valeria Monzeglio alone with Bolin. His pulse rate dropped sharply and finally at 7:00 am she called for an ambulance. When the paramedics and police arrived, Bolin was already dead. The cause of death was an overdose of heroin, although the medical examiner's report showed that he had ingested a lethal cocktail of drugs (cocaine, barbiturates and alcohol) L.C. Clayton would recall that "There must have been a thousand maids and bellboys in the hall, it was a circus" 

Tommy Bolin died practically penniless, according to Barry Fey he was burning through $8000 to $10,000 per week. Columbia had deep pockets, but they were getting tired of footing the bill. His former girlfriend Karen Ulibarri described Tommy, "He was innocent to a fault. He was like a charming little kid -- people just let him have what he wanted, and if they didn't give it to him, he'd find someone who would"  Tommy Bolin was buried in the family plot at Sioux City, Iowa. On his finger, Ulibarri placed a ring that Jimi Hendrix was wearing on the day he died. 

Footnotes: Nemperor Records was primarily a jazz & pop label, which at the time Bolin signed with them, was distributed by Atlantic Records (It's currently owned by Sony Music) The label was originally founded by Brian Epstein and Nat Weiss as a management company. In 1974 Nemperor branched out as a record label. Nemperor was also home to popular 80s new wave band, The Romantics.

Candy Givens was the daughter of a Colorado outlaw and came from a family of trainrobbers and gamblers. Her vocal style, can best be described as a caterwauling mix of Grace Slick & Janis Joplin. Although folks around Colorado swore she was better than Joplin, her career never really got off the ground.

In January of 1984, Givens got into an argument with her boyfriend. She then consumed a large quantity of tequila, grabbed a handful of Quaalude, drew a hot bath and locked the door behind her.  Candy passed out, slid under the surface and drowned.