Saturday, August 22, 2009

Apparently New York Yankee Derek Jeter girlfriend Minka Kelly and Alex Rodriguez’s girlfriend Kate Hudson do not like each other. It’s serious, the Yankees are going to hire extra security on bat day.

Since you asked:
First of all, I want to give a shout out to my reader in Belgium, Patrick De Witte. Do you have a regular reader in Belgium? No? Well, suck it, ‘cause I do. Patrick pointed out that there is a documentary done by the B.B.C. on the L.A.. rock scene in the early seventies called “Running on Empty.”

But I am going to do my “Bring Your Alibis” anyway.

In doing the research for “BYA” I am reading a great book on the subject called – what else?- “Hotel California” by Barney Hoskyns. It features moments where my head almost explodes with excitement, like when at a backyard barbeque at Joni Mitchell’s house, Stephen Stills debuts a country-influenced song called “Helplessly Hoping” and a visiting member of “The Hollies” from England, Graham Nash, decides to join in on the high part.

The more sane and artistic collaboration parties were held at Joni Mitchell and Mama Cass Elliott’s Laurel Canyon homes. The more depraved sex and drug orgies occurred at the movie stars and directors Bel Air/ Laurel Canyon estates. Thus came the warning from Mama Cass to Randy Newman which resulted in his song covered by Three Dog Night; "Mama Told Me Not to Come."

Nash would later write “Our House” about the same place. In the backyard at one of those gatherings, in a picture, David Crosby is holding a joint in front of Joni Mitchell as she is playing for a mystified Eric Clapton whose eyes were burning into her guitar because he could not figure out her crazy individual tunings on a song.

(If Joni didn’t like how hard it was to form a chord on one of her songs, she just changed the tuning on the string to make it easier. This dumbfounded the old-school and long-fingered Clapton who was shocked at how brilliant and easy that was. It was like telling a brilliant mathematician, “I don’t like 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, so I made it 4,z,achoo,5,b,&,6,monkey,l,w.”)

After the snotty East coast folk music business kicked out everyone who played electric guitars, they ended up living in Laurel and Topanga Canyons and recording on Sunset Blvd. This was an entire music scene – many Bob Dylan and or Beatles and Elvis devotees – who were desperately searching for an identity.

The two biggest influences at this time seemed to be one who made it huge and one who, despite enormous talent, never made it big time mainstream: Neil Young and J.D. Souther. Souther wrote non-corny ballads instead of folk songs and Young had a good handle on the electric guitar as it applied to Western rock.

On the one hand record labels were signing almost anyone, even groupies of these musicians to recording deals, and yet bands with amazing talent, like Souther, Hillman, Furay, never made it. They should have been Crosby, Stills, Nash and the Eagles times ten. So it was both the easiest time to be given a chance to make it in music and a hard time to hit it big due to all the competition.

If a record label did not apply just the right marketing touch, a band could come off as too country sounding, like Graham Parsons “The Flying Burrito Brothers.” Or too folksy, or too hippy and stoner sounding. Or too heavy metal. (Remember, a lot of dire hard core folk hippies really hated the Stones, the Who and Jimi Hendrix) The Eagles Don Henley and Glenn Frey were the first to really get that on a national level. Look at the names. Poco? Too country. Eagles? Perfect balance of rock and western country.

The Southern guys, like Graham Parsons and Stephen Stills, were pushing the Tulsa/Memphis/Nashville sound and blue jeans and cowboy boots that fit in with the ranches on Topanga Canyon , but the hippies hated that racist rednecks liked that music. Meanwhile the British guys, like Keith Richards and Jimmy Page, brought their “Lord of the Rings” influenced fashion and occult sensibility for scarves and mysticism that fit the fog and the leafy mountains of Laurel and Malibu Canyon perfectly, and both rubbed off on each other.

Sports loving Stephen Stills was the first to give rock football jerseys on stage.

Good friends of Graham Parsons are still furious that the Rolling Stones stole “Country Honk” “Wild Horses” “Dead Flowers” and “Sweet Virginia” from Parsons, but he was too stoned on trust fund drugs to care, Parsons seemed happy to be flattered.

And all of this was happening in the midst of the late Sixties class war. Being a hippy was still the label of cool. Nobody wanted to look and act rich because it was against the counter culture, but that is exactly why Eric Clapton and Keith Richards were hanging out with Graham Parsons – a trust fund baby - and John Phillips (Mammas and the Pappas) and Jack Nicholson, because they could afford nice hotels, fancy houses, suede jackets, silk shirts and expensive restaurants and trips to Spain. And drugs, like coke, barbiturates and heroin, were getting heavier and costlier. And, as a result, driving a rift between hippies and rich guys.

And, I hate to say it, but I was right, Charles Manson pops up constantly as a huge influence. He brought in the biker/criminal element. Half of Neil Young’s band Crazy Horse were Manson friends. But the movie stars and the rock stars were getting rich and the stoned-out hippies/bikers – like Manson - were not and there was deep resentment on the side of the hippies and paranoia on the side of the newly rich.

Finally, in 1969, Dennis Wilson and Doris Day’s son, Terry Melcher, and Jack Nicholson and Neil Young, got scared of and kicked out the broke-ass hippy bikers including Manson. (The bikers got the final heave-ho later that year at Altamont when the Hells Angels stabbed someone to death in front of Mick Jagger. Bitter, the Hells Angels then launched an ill-fated boat launch attempt on Mick Jagger's life in the Hamptons)

Many at the scene saw the Sharon Tate murders by Manson as the first attack by Manson in a class war that was developing in that incestuous group partying in West Los Angeles. Among others, the Mammas and the Pappas were supposed to be at the party at Sharon Tate’s 10050 Cielo Drive on that fateful August night.

No lie, if I could take my band back in time to Laurel and Topanga canyon circa 1969, assuming we stayed straight enough and set them up to play in “The Troubador” or Laurel Canyon’s Country Store, we all would have ended up, at some time, in studio or on stage with – or playing at a party with Little Feet, Poco, CSN&Y, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, et al.

Which is not to say, simply by being at that amazing scene and knowing how to play an instrument - especially amplified blues/rock harmonica - we would have made it big. You really had to write many big hits on your own for that to happen.

By the time I was at UCSB in 1978, a huge chunk of the money'd Laurel Canyon and Malibu had drifted up to Santa Barbara. Joe Walsh, Joe Cocker, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Jim Messina and Kenny Loggins and more lived there. Working backstage security at the Santa Barbara County was the first time I spoke to people so high on coke they could barely talk, two of them very nice about it, Jackson and Joe, and two nasty about it, Chrissy Hynde and her Pretenders drummer, Martin Chambers, they were a-holes. A PETA member picking the ass of her leather pants? Hynde really is a Pretender.