Sunday, December 18, 2016

Book Review - Al Kooper Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards



                                                           





                             Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards

                                  Memoirs of A Rock & Roll Survivor

By Al Cooper

The book is a longish 327 pages that include a two-page intro and a four-page preamble wherein Cooper identifies a five block stretch of Broadway in New York City especially 1619 Broadway (at west 48th), more commonly known as the Brill Building. Tin Pan Alley era flourished at the Brill Building (1930-1955). In the mid-fifties the Brill Building Sound took over @ 1650 Broadway. This is where Elvis Presley’s publishing were looked after. It was the base of operations for the Goodman family who handled the Arc Publishing Empire. They had a total lock on R&B and Blues with songs of Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry and Howlin’ Wolf. Cooper certainly does his homework. He understands that British Invasion bands like the Stones, Dave Clark 5 and the Beatles recorded Arc songs to achieve a shaky cultural authenticity. As a wet behind the ears teenager, Cooper learned from some of the best songwriters on the planet including Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Aldon Music was the premier song publisher from the early sixties onward. Cooper continued to improve his songwriting craft and by 1958 he was in demand as an up and coming instrumentalist and got a gig with the Royal Teens. They had a hit with a song entitled Short Shorts. Bob Gaudio of the Four Seasons was an original member!

Kooper is a natural born story teller who can split the truth to make a point. Early on he befriended Gene Pitney and he decries his involvement with Gary Lewis when he wrote This Diamond Ring, originally conceived as an R & B song for the Drifters. They declined and a west coast producer by the name of Snuff Garrett cut a “white” version of the song. It became a massive hit that started Gary Lewis & the Playboys down the road of bubblegum and pop music for teenagers who liked their rock sugary and sweet.

In 1965 Dylan was god. Tom Wilson produced Dylan and he allowed Kooper to observe the sessions for Subterranean Homesick Blues. The next session was called for the next afternoon. As Kooper recalls, “Taking no chances I arrived an hour early and well enough ahead of the crowd to establish my cover. Suddenly Dylan came in with Mike Bloomfield and the session got down to business. I told Tom Wilson that I have a great organ part for the song.” Wilson was distracted with other chores and it allowed Kooper to play that ham-fisted organ part without Wilson’s consent. Dylan liked it, so he told Wilson to turn the organ up. Wilson complained, “that cat’s not an organ player” but Dylan wasn’t buying it so he told Wilson, “Hey, don’t tell me who is an organ player and who’s not. Just turn it up. Kooper admitted that he waited until the chord was played by the rest of the band before he committed himself to play the verses. Kooper was always an eighth note behind. However, “Like a Rolling Stone” was pure magic and it was the linchpin for the album Highway 61 Revisited. To this day, Kooper insists his abilities are only adequate, even though he plays several different instruments. He is also an accomplished songwriter.

Kooper has an astonishing list of musicians with whom he’s known. He developed Blood Sweat & Tears, his first great band, only to walk away when the tension proved toxic. The later incarnations of the band never got the acclaim that the first Kooper-led aggregate. It seems that Kooper’s early BS&T work was visionary.  Child is Father to the Man was an incredible album that is still highly regarded by rock/jazz historians.

Along the way he championed Lynyrd Skynyrd and helped build their illustrious career. The leader and singer Ronnie Van Zandt was close to Kooper and they became a strong alliance that created the band’s persona, that of country gentlemen, a close knit band of brothers.

 It seems that Kooper was everywhere at once, in demand as a session player or a producer whether it was the Tubes, Nils Logfgren, Rick Nelson, Eric Clapton, or Pete Townsend. In 1980, Kooper collaborated with George Harrison and Ringo Starr at Harrison’s home studio to complete his new album. They were on their fourth night of recording when news broke at 10am. An hour later Lennon’s death was confirmed. The sessions continued even as Harrison was grieving. Harrison was white as a sheet, real shook up. Wine was gathered and somber tributes made. The sessions resulted in Harrison’s album Somewhere in England. Harrison composed a single entitled “All Those Years Ago.” It was a loving tribute to John Lennon. Kooper was on the session providing the Wurlitzer piano.

Kooper has been there and seen it all. He struggled with addiction and loved and lost too many times to count. He ended up in television with his friend Charlie Calello, a popular musician and guru who arranged all the Four Seasons and Lou Christie hits as well as Kooper’s Stand Alone LP. Kooper and Callelo created whole new careers when they got involved with a television show entitled Crime Story. It gave them both a new lease on life.

This is a page turner of a book, an incredible memoir that leaves no stone unturned. It is both irreverent, lurid, and loving.  If you like rock & roll, jazz, blues, and a good story, then buy this book. It is an updated version that is a page turner with plenty of photographs. You can find copies on Amazon at a good price.

Peace

Bo



















The State of Music 2016 - You Might Be Surprised





                                       

                                    
                                            The State of Our Musical Union
                             Music Trumps Hairballs and Backroom Deals
By Bo White
For the life of me I cannot recall counting the coupe so viciously though I would scalp any low life billionaire who takes advantage of sloganeering and backroom deals in the name of progress. I’ve seen those people in grey with their feckless high-end uniforms, sartorial delights, and Viagra hard Eunuchs when they are just keeping up with appearances.  I’ve been down the road with the Kinks for forty-five years, loving their missteps, feuds, and musical faux pas.  It started with Arthur and took a hard left to Something Else and ended with Lola. I recently read a book about the Kinks written by Ray Davies. After a few hundred pages down road, it dawned on me that the book was incomplete; it went only to 1996, twenty years short of my goal of knowing the complete mania surrounding the kinkdom.
Oh, well. I’m not the man I used to be. I now get up at 4am, drive over to White’s Bar by 5am and I count all the money and laugh hysterically, maybe it’s the coffee. One thing I know for sure is there is a lot of great music in the Great Lakes Bay of Michigan.  Take Andy Reed, one of my musical heroes. He sent me three vinyl LPs including Always on the Run; The Legal Matters, Conrad; Relay Vol.1. I couldn’t imagine a better set of LPs since I love power pop, cool lyrics, and high harmonies. Reed is a musical institution in Michigan as well as parts unknown as the music drifts into the ether only to reappear when the aspects are right. I love Andy Reed because he is talented and honest. He doesn’t jump and jive and he offers no pretense to being pretty. I need to mention the Legal Matters recent vinyl release. It is an incredible piece of music and harmony plus it has a card so you can download some goodies.  The Legal Matters rocked the Magic Bag in Ferndale on November 5th, it is one of the last bastions of free world rock & roll!
The local scene is becoming more resilient due to the resurgence of White’s Bar. Allysha Guldenzoph is the manager and she has made White’s the place for great music and good vibes. There is a rotating group of singers/musicians who make the place hop from Michale Graves, Honesty & the Liars, Marsupial Creampie, David Asher’s DAB, Eastside Mike with Tommy Dolson and Chris, Joe Balbaugh, Tim Avram, The Mongrels, Charlie Klein, Margie & the Madness, Aaron Johnson Spout & the Orange, and the spirit of John Krogman, the man that made it all happen.
Chris Zehnder has been a compelling presence in the Music Scene in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan. He cut his teeth with the Avery Set, a great band that was done too soon. College, travel, and life itself intervened to give Chris a wanderlust that served him well. Thus, Zehnder matured and blossomed as an artist. He can do rock, country, alternative and acoustic solo without blinking. He’s earned his stripes the hard way, moving out and moving forward but never leaving us behind. Chris provides the proof that great music continues to be designed. Thank god for Andy Reed, Donny Brown and the host of musicians that created this living document of great music.
Michael Robertson deserves a special mention. After dissolving Maybe August Michael and Roscoe Selley created some incredible music together. Michael is older and wiser. He’s embraced playing music in smaller venues (like White’s Bar) and continued to focus on music and lyrics. He is now working with Honesty Elliott on a regular basis and the marriage of musical ideas have flourished. Michael sings low to allow Honesty’s high harmonies to make a statement. The band’s photos are silhouetted in perfect sepia tones, Michael’s hair is windblown and impervious to the overgrown grasses and haggard trees. Incredible!
 Lumber Barons Fire Bar and Stable Martini Bar has entertainment 7 nights a week. The Bancroft Wine & Martini Bar has great drinks, Ladies Night, and music from their vinyl record collection. At times, they have live music with cool artists like Joel Rydecki, Andrew Kitzman, Avenue Acoustic and the Jim Pagel Jazz Trio.
Counter Culture is located on 620 Gratiot Avenue. They feature great live bands. They are the good guys!
Jeff Hall is still a fixture at Delta and continues to play beautiful music whether it’s tenor or baritone sax. He can play piano if you ask nice. Jeff was acquainted with Sonny Stitt through his gigs at Bakers Keyboard Lounge back in the seventies. It was a heady time for music, music was everywhere!
My last rock & roll concert was in Detroit and it featured my all time favorite singer/songwriter/musician Todd Rundgren. I loved the show. Rundgren took a page from each of his most well loved LPs including Todd, A Wizard; A True Star; Something /Anything? Back to the Bars. Good Stuff!
It was a great show that highlighted Rundgren’s ability to make the crowd stand up and pay attention. Well known players like Kasim Sulton and Prairie Prince were excellent and helped layer the harmonies. Rundgren performed his greatest songs such as Hello It’s Me, Just One Victory; I Saw the Light and Open My Eyes (Nazz). By the last third of the show I was beginning to tire, my energy was spent and I was nodding off and just when I got into a deep REM sleep, Rundgren started banging his drum and I awoke with a start. I had been dreaming of days gone by when Angelo Lorenzo was playing Sleepy Time Gal and Kenny Roberts was singing Going up the Country while Dick Wagner defrosted the Mystery Man and Question Mark danced through all those tears and through it all Lillie Gonzales took what she needed especially when Bobby Balderama played his guitar. Bob Seger is our hometown hero, he played Daniel’s Den in 1969 and came through White’s Bar with Tom Wechsler back in the seventies.
Peace
Bo White


Ray Davies Live In Detroit



                                         

                                                                         
                                           Ray Davies

                                        Solo In Detroit



It’s been a few years since we met, old friend. It was 1979 at Cobo Hall. You had just released Low Budget, your American album. And suddenly you were quite popular again and you found yourself playing arenas with a new muscular sound. Dave still played glorious yet precise heavy metal solos, not as sloppy as in the past, none of you were. You had a new haircut, short and athletic. You seemed trim and just a bit hyper, but so remote, not like in the past, back in ’70 at the Eastown when you revealed your whimsical and self-deprecating nature with that almost pastoral British charm. Hell, back then you could getaway with Harry Rag or Big Sky and just floor the audience with those incredible images. And you were so good at poking fun at yourself, your brother Dave, and the Kinks. But in ’79 you were a rock star in an arena band; imagine the KINKS…an arena band. It seemed that the Kinks got better, more proficient. But …damn, I missed the sloppiness and your irreverent British point-of-view. It was all to calculated, so serious. Something gained, something lost. I never thought it could ever return. In the nineties, your days were numbered and you seemed to retreat into your cocoon just as Dave got busy with an odd and delightful solo career.



 I missed his show a few years back at The Magic Bag in Detroit, not for any lack of trying, as soon as I heard about the Dave Davies Show I dialed up my friend Willie Wilson from WDET to get some special accommodation, i.e. tickets and Willie said he’d get me tickets but Dave’s show was yesterday and that I just missed it and that he drove Dave in from the Metro Airport and Dave was cool not as prickly as legend would have it. The Kinks are notorious, can’t remember any Michigan rockers from the sixties or seventies that had a good word to say about you guys, maybe it was just the times and maybe our remembrances have a plasticity that cushion our own shame at someone else’s expense, someone more famous and unable to defend himself. And maybe you were just a drunken roustabout. Well, I was a drunken man way back then, it doesn’t matter anymore because I’ve made peace with myself and I’ve come to terms with Ray Davies, the Kinks and fandom itself and judging from this performance I think he has found something too, like home and peace. I saw the Kinks six or seven times between 1970 and 1979 and though the Kinks group changed personnel several times during that era, I never saw him play without his brother. I know he misses him; I miss him too. I hope he’s OK. I heard he suffered a stroke a few years ago.



Davies opened the show with an indefatigable and irreverent version of Low Budget, his paean to American consumerism. Looking fit and trim, Davies inexplicably - as it was something like 90 degrees outside - wore a brown wool jacket over his shirt. He was sweating just a bit and dancing around like some deranged middle-aged dandy or a Kink or something and after a couple of songs he really got down to business removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. This cat is serious. He was here to rock and roll us - and to reveal a little bit more than just his songs. In fact, Davies said, “To understand my songs, you have to understand me”. So, True. Davies could have sung all night and most of the next day and still covered only a portion of his extensive catalog. Tonight, he included Where Have All the Good Times Gone, You Really Got Me, All Day and All of the Night, an incredible extended version of 20th Century Man (with some great slide licks from Mark Johns), and Tired of Waiting, the Punks favorite along with Till the End of the Day which he also performed.



Davies also played a few tunes that were never or rarely played in public including Dead End Street (an obscure Dickensian ode to class inequality) from 1967 that he turned into a playful call and response scat and go exercise and A Long Way from Home from 1970’s Lola vs Powerman and the Money-Go-Round. Davies said it was written for his brother Dave and it was about coping with the pressures of sudden fame. Davies narrated his performance with incredible anecdotes about Dave asking “What the Fuck is that”? after he first heard the riff to You Really Got Me; auditioning for record executives who hated their music, dismissing Dave’s guitar work as sounding like dogs barking. Davies remarked, “I thought that was a good thing”. A sound was born and the Kinks were part of that early vanguard but they changed and Davies brief solo acoustic set with Sunny Afternoon and Well Respected Man illustrated the changes, with satirical lyrics and universal themes that nonetheless poke fun at the writer himself, overall a good vibe with just a hint of regret. I was most interested in his new material from his first solo record, Other People’s Lives. I bought it and loved its quiet majesty. Don’t get me wrong, Davies still rocked on the record but it was a return to the more pastoral musings of Village Green Preservation Society, Big Sky, Autumn Almanac, and Waterloo Sunset (Davies’ masterpiece). He played several of the new songs including After the Fall, an older tune originally meant for the Kinks; the funky Tourist, about his life in New Orleans. In introducing Over My Head, a tune that begs the question “Is life Good to You?”  Davies revealed that it’s about acceptance and putting your life in perspective that it reflects upon his own life; a life like so many others - both comic and tragic. The Getaway is a moody gem inspired by Leadbelly and Davies skiffle days. Before performing Next Door Neighbor he asked to no one or everyone, “Do you want to be my friend?”; he repeated the question and then said, “Let’s go out and you can have a few drinks with me and then you’ll see how it works.” That aside Davies possessed a self-deprecating charm, oddly endearing and so loveable. He took performance art to a deeper level – especially for rock n’ roll – and simply and exquisitely charmed the pants off the crowd. He closed the 90-minute set with Lola, a classic song that he could never sing, seems he wrote it out of his range. Where’s brother Dave when you need him? Still, Davies proved he is a master, a songwriting genius that has grown comfortable with the stage. This was an inspired performance that was strangely reassuring. Maybe I’m not obsolete after all. I left the Taste Fest feeling renewed and enlivened. My wife Lisa and I hailed a cab and returned to our room at The Hilton Inn on Gratiot Avenue, laughing and goofing around.  It was a good night GOD SAVE THE KINKS. I arose early the next morning, a good hour or so before Lisa. I showered and then brewed some of that complimentary individually packaged coffee that tastes bad but turns the lights on, so I drink it anyway and I get fired up and I decide to take a stroll down Gratiot over to Ford Field and Comerica Park. I’d never seen these stadiums, homes to the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions. The terrible over-the-top opulence stunned me, steel and concrete monuments to our cultural constipation and diversion as a way of life. I shivered at those lavish modern pyramids and wondered what future generations would think of us. I was alone on Gratiot as I turned toward the Fox Theatre. There were only a few random people around the corner, some shirtless, some with shoes but no socks; one missing a few teeth. As I walked back toward the Hilton, I noticed a young man with his head in his hands, sitting on the church steps, oblivious to my passing eye. I imagined that something happened to him and I wondered if I should say something but I didn’t bother. I was afraid for some reason but I shook off those awful thoughts like a cold chill and continued walking. After awhile I started to feel invigorated by the morning sun and felt the quiet pulse of the city begin to pick up before the hustle and bustle returned to the streets. I went back to my hotel room and told my wife about all these things. She smiled and kissed me softly. It was time to go home.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Book Review - Al Kooper Backstage Passes & Back Stabbing Bastards


                         
                         


                       Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards
                                  Memoirs of A Rock & Roll Survivor
By Al Cooper
The book is a longish 327 pages that include a two-page intro and a four-page preamble wherein Cooper identifies a five block stretch of Broadway in New York City especially 1619 Broadway (at west 48th), more commonly known as the Brill Building. Tin Pan Alley era flourished at the Brill Building (1930-1955). In the mid-fifties the Brill Building Sound took over @ 1650 Broadway. This is where Elvis Presley’s publishing were looked after. It was the base of operations for the Goodman family who handled the Arc Publishing Empire. They had a total lock on R&B and Blues with songs of Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry and Howlin’ Wolf. Cooper certainly does his homework. He understands that British Invasion bands like the Stones, Dave Clark 5 and the Beatles recorded Arc songs to achieve a shaky cultural authenticity. As a wet behind the ears teenager, Cooper learned from some of the best songwriters on the planet including Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Aldon Music was the premier song publisher from the early sixties onward. Cooper continued to improve his songwriting craft and by 1958 he was in demand as an up and coming instrumentalist and got a gig with the Royal Teens. They had a hit with a song entitled Short Shorts. Bob Gaudio of the Four Seasons was an original member!
Kooper is a natural born story teller who can split the truth to make a point. Early on he befriended Gene Pitney and he decries his involvement with Gary Lewis when he wrote This Diamond Ring, originally conceived as an R & B song for the Drifters. They declined and a west coast producer by the name of Snuff Garrett cut a “white” version of the song. It became a massive hit that started Gary Lewis & the Playboys down the road of bubblegum and pop music for teenagers who liked their rock sugary and sweet.
In 1965 Dylan was god. Tom Wilson produced Dylan and he allowed Kooper to observe the sessions for Subterranean Homesick Blues. The next session was called for the next afternoon. As Kooper recalls, “Taking no chances I arrived an hour early and well enough ahead of the crowd to establish my cover. Suddenly Dylan came in with Mike Bloomfield and the session got down to business. I told Tom Wilson that I have a great organ part for the song.” Wilson was distracted with other chores and it allowed Kooper to play that ham-fisted organ part without Wilson’s consent. Dylan liked it, so he told Wilson to turn the organ up. Wilson complained, “that cat’s not an organ player” but Dylan wasn’t buying it so he told Wilson, “Hey, don’t tell me who is an organ player and who’s not. Just turn it up. Kooper admitted that he waited until the chord was played by the rest of the band before he committed himself to play the verses. Kooper was always an eighth note behind. However, “Like a Rolling Stone” was pure magic and it was the linchpin for the album Highway 61 Revisited. To this day, Kooper insists his abilities are only adequate, even though he plays several different instruments. He is also an accomplished songwriter.
Kooper has an astonishing list of musicians with whom he’s known. He developed Blood Sweat & Tears, his first great band, only to walk away when the tension proved toxic. The later incarnations of the band never got the acclaim that the first Kooper-led aggregate. It seems that Kooper’s early BS&T work was visionary.  Child is Father to the Man was an incredible album that is still highly regarded by rock/jazz historians.
Along the way he championed Lynyrd Skynyrd and helped build their illustrious career. The leader and singer Ronnie Van Zandt was close to Kooper and they became a strong alliance that created the band’s persona, that of country gentlemen, a close knit band of brothers.
 It seems that Kooper was everywhere at once, in demand as a session player or a producer whether it was the Tubes, Nils Lofgren, Rick Nelson, Eric Clapton, or Pete Townsend. In 1980, Kooper collaborated with George Harrison and Ringo Starr at Harrison’s home studio to complete his new album. They were on their fourth night of recording when news broke at 10am. An hour later Lennon’s death was confirmed. The sessions continued even as Harrison was grieving. Harrison was white as a sheet, real shook up. Wine was gathered and somber tributes made. The sessions resulted in Harrison’s album Somewhere in England. Harrison also composed a single entitled “All Those Years Ago.” It was a loving tribute to John Lennon. Kooper was on the session providing the Wurlitzer piano.
Kooper has been there and seen it all. He struggled with addiction and loved and lost too many times to count. He ended up in television with his friend Charlie Calello, a popular musician and guru who arranged all the Four Seasons and Lou Christie hits as well as Kooper’s Stand Alone LP. Kooper and Callelo created whole new careers when they got involved with a television show entitled Crime Story. It gave them both a new lease on life.
This is a page turner of a book, an incredible memoir that leaves no stone unturned. It is both irreverent, lurid, and loving.  If you like rock & roll, jazz, blues, and a good story, then buy this book. It is an updated version that is a page turner with plenty of photographs. You can find copies on Amazon at a good price.
Peace,
Bo




                         


Monday, September 26, 2016

The Beatles; Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years By Ron Howard


              


                                      The Beatles Movie

                                  The Whole World Lit UP
                                     A Ron Howard Film

I must admit I’m a Beatles fanatic. I bought all their albums, bootlegs, 45’s and DVD’s. I was there watching my heroes on Ed Sullivan and I never looked back. As The Beatles became a marker for us baby boomers. We witnessed the killing of JFK and our colors lost their luster and darker sepia tones emerged to rob us of our sense of safety. The Beatles changed all the rules and came out on top. Ron Howard did it right starting with the early tours in Germany before Beatlemania broke out in America. He included dark passages at the Reeperbahn in Hamburg as well as Lennon’s misstep about religion and the subsequent violence ensued. Kids and parents tossed this precious cargo of music onto bonfires, needlessly destroying the music that could soothe and create even more love. Howard captured the Beatles in their early prime when the put on incredible concerts. Giles Martin (George Martin’s son) did an incredible job restoring the live performances as the original tapes were in bad shape. He also resurrected the Shea Stadium concert tapes with parts from the Hollywood Bowl concert. Giles Martin said, “the response to the movie and Hollywood Bowl album is just amazing, more than I expected. It’s great to see that people are being so emotionally touched by it.”

Howard has worked his magic once again. He took this small independent documentary and made it a masterpiece. This little film is out grossing multimillion dollar studios. Go figure.

There have been no demographic surveys but there have been anecdotal citing’s of adolescent girls who love Paul or Ringo and the other Beatles. Audiences have responded to the part of the film that reveals contract rider specifying that the Beatles would not to segregated audiences. Whoppi Goldberg saw the Beatles in their heyday and thought nothing about race. It was more about music and The Beatles attempt to replicate Motown, rock & roll and rhythm and blues. Howard captures the Beatles during a time of transition that were both political and cultural. They opened up America to all these changes.

The film is not available in certain markets but if you have HULU, you can watch the movie from the comfort of your own home. Check it out!



Peace

Bo White

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Monkees Are Back with a Great New LP

    
                                                                       
                           
                                                     

                                           Good Times

                                 The Monkees Are BACK

 Good Times is the twelfth studio album by the Monkees. It was released on May 27th, 2016 to resounding critical acclaim. It was an unexpected treat for baby boomers who love jangly rock & roll and pop music with a hook. The disc was produced by Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne) with some additional bonus tracks by Andrew Sandoval to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the band. Rhino executives John Hughes and Mark Pinkus initiated the project. The Monkees initially agreed to use unreleased songs by the songwriters used during their initial run in the sixties. They enlisted such stellar Brill Building songwriters as Carole King & Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, Harry Nilsson, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart along with contemporary rock & roll songsmiths such as Rivers Cuomo, Andy Partridge, Ben Gibbard, Noel Gallagher, and Paul Weller. The title track Good Times was a demo written by Harry Nilsson in the late sixties and it was resurrected as a duet with Micky Dolenz.  To this writer the resultant album is simply stunning. It is a tribute to the heyday of rock & roll and it recaptured that sixties jangly guitar sound and layered vocals with keen harmonies. The Monkees continue to astound critics and music fans alike. It was like a baseball hit deep out to left field and the wind blows it out of the park.

I was a fan from the sixties onward and by the time I was married with children. I passed on the gene for Monkeemania to my son Ryan. I gave him duplicates of all the albums and he played them relentlessly. He sang along with those great songs from 1966/67. He learned to read and write from copying the titles of all the songs and the names of Mickey, Peter, Davy, and Michael. Ryan was at the head of the curve. In 1986, I took Ryan and the rest of the family to Charlevoix to see the Monkees perform. It was a thrill and the band was on top of their game. I even bought a Live Monkees album at that performance and I display it prominently in my collection. A few years later I saw the band perform at Pine Knob. It was another triumphant evening! Years passed but I never forgot the thrill of those incredible songs and the spirit of the Monkees self-effacing humor. They gave us a nod and a wink and never wavered from their unique position in the annals of rock & roll. The Beatles got it even if critics could not be persuaded.
Time passed but the Monkees never went away. They released Pool It in 1987 and Justus in 1996 to mixed results despite their best efforts to be current.
The Monkees reunited for their 45th Anniversary Tour in 2011 with three of the founding members including Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz. They performed 40 songs. I attended the show in Detroit with my son Ryan and it was simply triumphant. The setlist went beyond the hits and reached into their substantial back catalogue including several songs written by Michael Nesmith.  Listen to the Band which ended the show.

The status of the Monkees turned sour when Davy Jones died of a heart attack on February 29th, 2012.  On Sunday April 7th 2013 this writer witnessed Nesmith’s solo show @ the Magic Bag in Ferndale just outside of Detroit. He re-imagined his hits and used spoken word and poetry to introduce his songs. The Monkees toured with Michael Nesmith throughout the summer of 2014. It proved to be a fitting tribute to Davy Jones, one of the most popular and beloved singer from the sixties but it also signaled the incredible lure and charm of the Monkees.
They already knew what the little girls understand. The Monkees knew how speak to the baby boomers as well as millennials. They taught their children about truth in harmony and good vibrations. Goodtimes is the musical equivalent of a holy grail that doesn’t exist.

 Listen….
                                                          


Goodtimes hearkens back to the days when music mattered and every hot blooded teenager would be listening to the latest songs on a low-fi transistor radio. The music and lyrics spoke to us in that secret language all teens share. It could be groovy or fab and it mattered. This song is an outtake from a Harry Nilsson session that speaks to us boomers in so many ways; it could be the jangly guitar, organ washes and sloppy drums. The late great Nilsson’s singing is double tracked with a strong Mickey Dolenz vocal. A great track! You Bring Summer brings a minimalist vibe that gives the song room to breathe without the sludge of heavier sixties ROCK, it’s more like an early sixties Brill Building classic that swings and sways. Dolenz hasn’t lost a step and in the coda he sings “Summer Baby, you bring the summer along.” The bass vocal gives the harmonies a nice bottom. This is an Andy Partridge song (XTC) that pops.

                                                     


Dolenz’s vocals are prominent throughout the disc and he hits the high notes without any problems. He takes the lead double tracked vocal on She Makes Me Laugh. The jingle jangle of the e-string gives it some flavor as well as a low-tech tambourine that shakes it all up in a frothy malt flavor that gives it a Summer Means Fun vibe as the boys chase the girls and laugh all the way to the beach.  The chorus is awesome! Our Own World is another triumph with Dolenz leading the way with his exquisite singing. He hasn’t lost a step. He is an expressive singer who can ooh and ahh and punctuates the singing with other vocalisms. The bass string lead-in is perfect. Gotta Give it Time is like a walk in the sunshine. It’s another Dolenz nugget. The background singers chant, “Give it time now baby, ahh give it time, your time.” This is a cool low-tech minimalist construction with no double tracking or analog layering. Mike Nesmith takes the lead vocal with Dolenz on Me & Magdalena.  It is a Ben Gibbard composition that resonates with the hope of love and recovery. It’s apparent that the singers have a shared history. It is the siren call of old friends who love each other despite the interlude of time. The lyrics share the ideals of love and promise for the future. Here’s a sample…

What do you see in the depths of the night

Do you see a long lost father

I know everything lost will be recovered

When you drift in the arms of the undiscovered



Whatever’s Right sounds like an outtake from a 1966 session at Colgems, in fact it is a song written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The instrumentation is sparse and allows the music breathe with a tambourine, strummed guitars and a precise keyboards and organ fills that sound like Peter Tork’s doing. Love to Love is a mid-sixties song written by Neil Diamond. It was a sleeper from its very inception, a bit cloying yet irresistible. It has been recorded by several different artists with a pop sensibility. It was a Monkees outtake when Davy Jones recorded it for Colgems. It was an unfinished nugget until it was resurrected for this album. It shows Jones in good form. He was an expert for filling in gaps and crafting cool mid-tempo rockers. The backing vocals are courtesy of Dolenz and Tork. The sessions were recorded on January 21st, 1967; February 4th and 5th, 1967; August 5th, 1968; February 2016.

                                             

Peter Tork’s Little Girls is a gem and shines the light on his compositional skills.

The e-string solo sounds a bit like Dick Dale’s surf guitar. His understated vocal is simply charming, low key like a Ray Davies outtake on Sweet Lady Genevieve sessions. Dig the lyrics;



Cheer up, come with me

Leaving castles in the sand

Like the rising sun over the sea

Shining and soft like my song

                                                                       

Perhaps the best song on the disc is Birth of an Accidental Hipster. It was written by Noel Gallagher(Oasis) and Paul Weller (XTC).. Nesmith takes on the echoed lead vocal and gives it all he’s got. Dolenz adds a vocal counterpoint like Lennon & McCartney on We Can Work it Out.  Mike Viola’s rock guitar echoes the sentiment as a piano trill segues to a sweet honky tonk groove. The e-string guitar provides substance to the coda. Tork’s version of I Wasn’t Born to Follow is one of those Brill Building chestnuts. It is a cool version though The Byrds version from Easy Rider still takes the prize. I Know What I Know is quiet and contemplative and stunning. It remninds me of Brian Wilson’s Til I Die . Nesmith’s lyrics are incredible thoughtful, quiet. It’s about love

I know nothing without you

I know what I see

I see nothing without you

Alone I am with a waiting heart

Alone I am a world apart

I know what I have

I know nothing without you



I Was There bops like a barrelhouse piano played by McCartney. It’s a drinking song filled with spirits. It harkens back to the sixties glory days when we were young and pushing our luck.

I was there

I was told I had a good time

I could swear you were there with me


Terrifying is a little too adolescent for a 70 year old rock star. Yet is still works on this playing field as the artists are replaying simpler times with primitive equipment and recordings heard through a transistor radio. For me it’s is the real deal as each sound, vocal, bass guitar or drum gets a turn to shine. It is the perfect ending to an incredible piece of music.
                         
As one reviewer stated The Monkees return is better than it needed to be, full of real heart and energy.

Yes!









Friday, August 12, 2016

Pete Woodman, Legendary Bossmen Drummer Performs in Freeland

                                                                          


                              
Pete Woodman

                                                         A  Sixties Icon

   The Prodigal Son Returns





Pete Woodman recalls the early days growing up in Freeland off old U.S. 10. He remembers when he hung out with his friends from the Music Box days and high school dances. Now they are in their sixties and seventies and those times have sharpened into prism of memories, fondly embraced. It was an era in which Butch White became a tentative rock & roller with the Playboys and perfected his craft just months before Dick Wagner rode into town with Lanny Roenicke and Woodman to become a rock and roll hero. He renamed the band the Bossmen and they became our Beatles. But the real story started several years before when 12 year old Pete worked his craft, learning drum beats from an Estonian band teacher that loved Pete’s spunk. Around that time Pete and his brothers Rock and Michael caught the bug. They formed a band called the King Toppers and they won a prize for best band at the Chesaning Showboat. Pete never looked back. It was in his blood. To this day Pete claims he is the most famous drummer in Freeland only because I’m the only drummer from Freeland!

Pete met Lanny Roenicke in high school, trading off gigs with Saginaw High and Arthur Hill bands. At this point Butch White was playing guitar and was the putative leader. Pete has a vivid memory of Butch performing gravy train and nailing it; At the time a piano player was making the rounds, he was loud and he was ripped but he could play like Jerry Lee Lewis and could singer better than most. It was warren Keith! Pete got to know him when he would sit-in occasionally in Adrian just north of Pontiac. Warren was in a band called the Eldorados and he told Pete about this guitar player who could play behind his back and could sing great. It just so happened that Butch White was going quit the band so Lanny and Pete drove to Drayton Plains and hired Dick Wagner on the spot! When Gary Lewis and The Playboys hit it big with This Diamond Ring, Warren Keith renamed the band, it was a cool name…the Bossmen!                                               


                              
                                                      

From 1964-1966 The Bossmen were mid-Michigan’s Beatles. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time of the music business when we could cut our own records and distribute them at teen dances and at local radio stations. Every one of the Bossmen 45’s were local hits. Pete says his favorite Bossmen Songs were You & I and Bad Girl and he felt the harmonies were perfect! The Bossmen performed all over the state and had a headlining show at the Grande ballroom shortly after the Grande opened for business. A local event for the new Montgomery Wards Record Department featured the Bossmen. They sang all the Bossmen songs all the A & B sides. Mark Farner was a full member of the group and performed a few R&B covers at that particular show. Pete encouraged Mark to write songs and his first composition was Heartbreaker, later covered by Mark when he was a member of Grand Funk Railroad!  Pete annd Mark became close friends and Pete got to know his brothers and sisters. To this day Pete  was thrilled with the acclaim of being a local celebrity. Pete says, “It was worth a million dollars, other bands would play our songs and they’d ask Pete, “did I play it right.” And I would always say, “Of course you played the right drum part.” It was kind of special!

After the Bossmen, Dick and Pete tried to put something together but it didn’t work out but when he hooked up with Bobby Rigg & the Chevelles that was pure magic. Pete agreed, “That was the best move for Dick because the Chevelles were a great band and everyone could sing!” Pete went on to talk about Wagner, “Dick was an established songwriter and he helped his new band to improve their craft and write better songs. When the Beatles came along with all those great songs, Dick wanted to be a Beatle. The Bossmen were the vehicle for Dick to write these songs. They are still great tunes with good arrangements!”

After that Pete put together a band called the Bean Machine and it included his future wife New Zealand born Susie Kane. At the time she was learning chords and scales on the keyboard and in no time she was proficient enough to tour and record with the band. The first song she performed onstage was Midnight Hour and it was a total groove. It wasn’t too long after that Rudy Martinez (Question Mark) asked Pete to play drums for his band. Pete agreed. The band was still red hot with their big hit 96 Tears (along with I Need Somebody). Pete rehearsed and I learned the songs essentially all the songs recorded for the first album. Pete  learned alot on the tour, touring the midwest and the southern states. Susie Kane became the tour manager and made sure there was gas money as well as the profit. Susie would count all the money, all singles. Often she would count out three or four thousand dollars! At that time merchandising was an afterthought, not a revenue source. While in New York Pete recorded Cherry July (on the Cameo Parkway Label) for one of the last great songs recorded by Question Mark & the Mysterians!

After our time with the Mysterians, Susie and Pete moved back to Freeland and we had lots of money.  Pete remembers, “So we decided to pack up our 1966 Chevrolet and it was a big load. We had my drums in the back and Susie’s organ on the top. I still wonder how we did it!” The move to California proved to be an epiphany. We met Boyce and Hart, Michael Nesmith , David Crosby, Joey Bishop, Steve McQueen, and Tiny Tim doing some cool vaudeville. Then we met a Detroit Band called the Southbound Freeway. They recorded an album at Gold Star Studios but their drummer left so Pete got the gig, though it was short lived it was a good band. They had a minor hit with Psychedelic Used Car Lot. But Goldstar was a haven for musicians and singers. Pete recalled that Buffalo Springfield, Sonny & Cher and the Byrds all hung out there.
                                                                         
                                                                
                                                                        

                                                                   Meatloaf Soul


Pete met Meatloaf shortly after he arrived in Los Angeles. Meatloaf was a big man, over 300 pounds. He had dirty blonde hair, he didn’t look very clean and he didn’t wear shoes. He was walking with a few other guys and one of them saw my drumsticks and he said, “You wanna play with us on these songs we have?”Pete agreed and so he went into the studio and there was Rick Bozzio and Meatloaf. They laid down several rough tracks and Susie played keyboards. The band was christened Meatloaf Soul. The band was quite successful in Michigan. Pete recalled getting gigs through Punch Andrews (Seger’s manager) and played the Hideout Clubs, the Blue Light in Midland and Bay City and Daniels Den. Pete recalls that at that point in the seventies, original live music was at its height of popularity! To this day Pete recalls teaching Meatloaf how to count in- 1,2,3 during a song! They even played the Grande Ballroom with the Fugs!

“When I look back, says Pete, I want to be able to say I did the best I could do. I had lots of fun and everything I did was positive. It was good for my direction in life. I wanted to feel good about myself. Every day is the best day ever is a phrase I used when I worked at Orchard St. Marys, an all boys Prep School for kids from 9th grade to 12th grade. I worked at the Field House on the Ice Arena. I would say to the kids “You’re going to be great today! The best day ever!! And the kids would yell back – “Best Day Ever!!”

Pete and his band HIPS with Susie and Sarah Woodman will be performing @ Freeland’s Tittabawasee Park in Freeland. Dick Fabian’s wife Gail will make a few remarks about her late husband Dick Fabian. The concert starts @ 7pm. Come and witness a local legend and dig the music!

Peace

Bo White