Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968
Well, as of earlier this month I was finally able to set aside enough extra coin to pick up Rhino's new box set dedicated to the L.A. pop music scene from 1965-68. Don't get me wrong, I had been planning on purchasing it from the moment it was released back in September was it? But sometimes with packages like this, it's better to sit back and wait for all the advanced reviews to come in before taking the plunge. There's a lot of ways to screw up archival re-issues like this, but I'm happy to say that Rhino's latest entry to the Nuggets series is a very worthy addition.
As one whose love of the music from this city and era goes far beyond casual fan status, my expectations were set quite high. Having immersed myself in these sounds for the better part of the last decade, I was skeptical that there wasn't much Rhino could present to me that I hadn't already absorbed and digested. Again, I'm happy to state that I was wrong on all counts. The package itself was just over $50.00 at Amoeba, which is reasonable for a 4-CD set with booklet and free T-shirt. The booklet itself is quite well done: There is information provided for every band, including label, chart, musician, producer and engineer credits whenever possible, along with a paragraph or two describing each song in greater detail. The discs themselves are housed within slots in the back cover-- From an artistic perspective it's a cool idea, but practically speaking it's a disaster. Complaints on the internet abound regarding Action's CDs arriving with heavy surface scratches and sometimes even glued upon! Fortunately, all four of my discs were delivered scratch free and in good shape. I immediately withdrew them from the slots and placed them in more protective cases.
I immediately slid Disc one of Action into my car's CD player just as soon as I hit the Durant Ave. parking garage and was instantly greeted by the agreeably familiar groove of the Standells' "Riot on Sunset Strip"; a tune I had previously selected for my 10 CD L.A. Gemstones set, released last year over at the Record Room and on this site. I should take a moment to state that I have no idea whether or not the powers-that-be at Rhino had any familiarity with L.A. Gemstones before they decided to put this set together. But since the original goal of Gemstones was to encourage some forward-thinking label to put forth a licensed compilation that could put money in the pockets of the musicians who made all this wonderful music, while at the same time helping to spread these sounds to as many people as possible, I can only be grateful that Rhino was up to the challenge. And since only a mere 16 of the 100+ tracks on this set overlap with the 250+ found on L.A. Gemstones, the two sets "play nice" together for the most part. (NOTE: The idea of going back and switching out those 16 overlapped songs on L.A. Gemstones with 16 alternative cuts not found on Where the Action Is! is something I plan on doing shortly-- apologies to those of you who have already downloaded it; I'll try to make the update process as painless as possible!)
Back to the analysis at hand, the raucous Standells cut serves nicely as an "opening credits" type number (just as it did in the movie from which it originally hails), and the rest of Disc one provides a Byrds-eye view of the nascent Sunset Strip rock scene starring all the usual suspects: the Doors, Love, the Buffalo Springfield, Iron Butterfly, the Byrds, Sunny & Cher, etc. Of the four CDs included on Where the Action Is!, the material here will be the most familiar to the casual fan. Still, archivists Andrew Sandoval and Alec Palao do a nice job of selecting lesser-known numbers by most of the big groups, and all are presented in their original mono mixes for added panache. No real masterpieces here (although the Association's spirited reading of "One Too Many Mornings" comes close) but plenty of great, catchy fun.
Disc two struck me as the most bizarre of the bunch, featuring as it does many artists that may be unfamiliar to all but the most stringent of collectors. I'll admit that groups like the Light, the Bush, Ken & the Fourth Dimension and the Others were so obscure as to be completely off my radar, and I thought I knew all there was to know about the L.A. scene! As such, this is the disc that will appeal the most to Garage fans, featuring as it does such genre heroes as Thee Midnighters, the Premiers, the Spats and Opus 1, whose all-time bizarro classic "Back Seat '38 Dodge" is the best thing here. Still, in terms of overall listenability and enjoyment, I'd rate this disc the weakest of the four.
CD three focuses more on artists who were at home in the recording studio, and has a nice mix of the familiar and the eclectic. It is here that we start to encounter some real underground masterpieces: the Full Treatment's "Just Can't Wait", Hearts & Flowers' "Tin Angel", the Oracle's "Don't Say No", Pleasure's "Poor Old Organ Grinder", the Ballroom's "Baby Please Don't Go"... These are amongst the very finest "pocket symphonies" ever recorded. The fact that none of these came close to being hit singles the first time around makes their inclusion here all the more vital. Likely they will now be heard by more listeners than they were in their own time!
The final disc starts off quite retentively in a folk-rockish vein with cuts by artists like Jackie DeShannon, Peter Fonda and the Rose Garden, but quickly evolves into a sort of psych-pop wünderland of obscuro delights. This is Action's strongest run, and I get the feeling Sandoval and Palao are just deejay-ing purely on feel at this point. Highlights pile up one after the other: spacey pop from the Motorcycle Abeline, rootsy rock from Gene Clark, a dippy Ricky Nelson number titled "Marshmallow Skies" of all things, an absolute stunner from Del Shannon (who knew?), Randy Newman doing heavy psych?!?! alternate "Heroes and Villains", "Come to the Sunshine", "The Truth Is Not Real", Love, the Byrds and, oh yeah, Barry Fuckin' McGuire. In short, every element that made the era special, wrapped up in one 30 minute stretch of songs.
All this is not to say that Action is perfectly compiled per se. Amongst all the quality selections are a few head scratchers, none greater than "Acid Head" by the Velvet Illusions-- a great song to be sure, but one not even recorded in the State of California let alone Los Angeles, it has no business on this set. Amongst the more established bands there are some curious choices as well: The Buffalo Springfield are represented by two of their earliest cuts (one a demo) at the expense of their more ambitious later material; The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, a band who released two classic albums for Columbia in 1967, see only one of their pre-CBS demos included here; The Doors and the Beach Boys-- arguably the two biggest groups to evolve from the scene-- only merit one cut a piece, while the much respected but less commercially viable Love rate two inclusions. Worse yet, some of the best SoCal bands of the era are completely absent. How could Rhino include songs by third rate acts like the Guilloteens (not even an L.A. band) yet leave out the Strawberry Alarm Clock, Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Grass Roots or the Millennium? (Other important artists such as Frank Zappa, the 5th Dimension, Johnny Rivers and Bobby Jameson are excluded as well, but due to licensing issues which are clearly not the fault of the compilers.)
Still, my gripes are that of an obsessive completist and fan who takes this stuff way to seriously, and as such should be taken with more than just one grain of salt. The beauty of Where the Action Is! is that is contains much to love, both for the neophyte and the avid collector. As such, is receives our highest rating: 5 Tabs
BUY "WHERE THE ACTION IS! LOS ANGELES NUGGETS (1965-68)"
Friday, November 20, 2009
Here's an unmissable video for all you Sphere-heads, brought to our attention from none other than WCPAEB biographer Tim Forster (Welcome, Tim!) himself. The guys touch all all aspects of the West Coast Pop Art gang; from their serendipitous beginnings at the 1965 Yardbirds tour party to their latter era backing of Bob Markley on the Markley: a Group LP. Throughout the interview Jon asks many probing questions you have no doubt been asking yourselves all this time, and of course Tim's responses are insightful and highly informative.
Although we're on record as disagreeing with Forster's assessment of the monumental Where's My Daddy? LP, which we still feel is an undisputed masterpiece of sixties L.A. madness and magik, this interview nevertheless receives our highest 5-Tab recommendation. Watch and learn!
(Also, you can read Tim's complete essay on the WCPAEB in Shindig Magazine's new Shindig Annual No.2, available at www.shindig-magazine.com)
Monday, October 19, 2009
Yea, I sayeth unto thee, explorith unto yon self this set-of-four. Containith thou it might not only thine stereo remaster (labelledith S-A-C-D) but also thine droppith of needle unto thy vinyl-of-mono quite pristine.
Henceforth, thou shalt also hearith thine album complete in instrumental form quite rare! Sequenced thou it is by Lord Pinniclith... Yea! He hath toiled long and hard upon ye olde Pro Tools to bringith forth yon treasures faire!
Per chance shall an additional discus of outtake-iths most scarce cause some little beaumont about ye to flutter? "Verily!" sayeth I. Lords and Wenches, listen unto thine acetates dubbed "Monitor Mix" in a form most unreleased! Marvel at mixeths borne of small platters from yesteryear, spun forth at forty-five revolutions per time-minute. Surely thine are't the work of some treacherous form of sorcery?!
Come forth! Indulgith thine own self upon a feast of musical magik and light quite certainly not to be found outside thy realm of Thee Olde Crystal Sphere. Groovith upon yon Mellotron as played forth by His Majesty Prince Jones, he of thee Prince Valiant coiffure. Wiggith out on ye olde Elizibethian piano interludes of Lord Hopkins as he whips the llama's ass forthwith.
Assuredly I say unto you, good sir or madame, that thou must partake-ith in all four of yon discuses presented unto thee for a Satanic experience most complete. Hast thou accepted thy crusade? Yon ho then!
1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The Who - Here for More | The UNi Records Story disc 1 | Jason Penick's SMiLE | Phantom Planet - All Over Again (1) (2) | The Underage Mothers | V/A - Here in Your Bedroom (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6).
Friends, you could do worse than to check these out if you missed out on them the first time. The Who release does a tidy job of chronicling their takeover of the U.S... The UNi set is sublime 60s psych-pop and soul... Nab the SMiLE set and let me know whether or not you think it compares to your preferred mix... Phantom Planet is the most underrated power pop band of the decade-- you all missed out on them the first time around, and it is now time to GET HIP and immerse yourself in these guys for a week; they're brilliant... The Mothers of course, one of the legendary L.A. bands, and surely you're a little bit curious what led up to their big Freak Out?.. Finally, Here in Your Bedroom is here to convince you that rock 'n' roll radio from the mid-90s on didn't suck quite so bad as you remember-- take a chance on disc 1 and see if that don't make you wanna check out the rest of this set.
Up next, another new twist on an old favorite!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Just an quick opportunity to say "sorry" to any of my regular visitors for not keeping this blog up to par the last month or so. Due to a mis-communication with youknowwho, a lot of the older links have gone down and I've since been getting many requests to re-post.
Please note that everything will be back up within the next few days, so please be patient. Time has been in short supply lately, but I have some more goodness lined up and ready to rain down upon the countryside very soon. But, as always, I like to encourage feedback from anybody who visits here. My goal for the Crystal Sphere was always to have it be something more than just a repository for old classic rock bands, but lately I've been at a loss for where to go next, which is why I need help from you guys. I mean do like the political stuff? the various tales from my life? Music from bands not 40 years old? Or would you rather I just post a hundred photos of Dennis Wilson for Beach Boys fans to jerk off to and hang it up for good?
I really don't mind all the leeches my hit counter tells me I have-- that's par for the course for this sort of thing-- but if half the people who just come here to check out my links and split bothered to leave a comment or some sort of feedback critical or otherwise, this whole scene would be a lot more vibrant than it currently is.
That being said: on tap will be more Monkees stuff, as well as shots from Echo and the Bunnymen, Hawkwind, T Rex and the legendary Pink Fairies. Additionally, we'll re-examine the L.A. scene of the 1960s with some *new* Sunset Sounds, and at the same time get heavy into modern rock music and some more ranting and writing from your's truly about politics, relationships and life here in the Bay Area.
Anyway, I'll get it together on my end, but feel free to leave some love in the comment boxes if you appreciate what we do here. Over and out.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
For the record, these pictures were taken by the legendary LA scene photog Henry "Tad" Diltz, formerly of the MFQ. Explains Tad:
"Buffalo Springfield was the first group that I actually photographed when I was still a musician. I was just starting to take pictures in late '65/early '66 and Stephen was a good friend of mine, and Neil. They lived up in Laurel Canyon and one day they said "Hey, we're going down to this folk club in Redondo Beach, why don't you come along and just hang out?" And I did, and while they were doing their soundcheck I was out on the beach photographing people. When they finished the soundcheck they walked outside the club and I said "Why don't you stand in front of that sign over there and I'll take your picture." And that's what this was. I was just along as a friend; it wasn't even a photo session or anything. Then a magazine, Teen Set, called me a week later and said "We hear you have Buffalo Springfield shots. We'd love to use one." They paid me $100, and it was a revelation. "You mean people will pay me for taking pictures? This is cool!"
Friday, July 24, 2009
Some of you may have never heard the term "cloud computing" before, but I guarantee you've all partaken in it. Basically it's a pretty simple concept: instead of running applications off of or storing data onto your local hard drive on your personal computer, you use the internet (cloud) to access online applications and storage. There are literally thousands of examples, such as Google Apps, Sendspace, Mozy.com and countless others services that many of us use everyday due to their overall convenience and nominal fees. (Google Apps even goes so far as to hype themselves as having improved security and reliability over local networks.) An additional benefit of the cloud model is that the user can get access to whatever they need from any computer workstation that's connected to the internet, since everything resides on centralized servers. (More on that later.)
So what's the downside then? Don't we all desire solutions that are cheap, easy and flexible? Well to get to the bottom of that, let's feather our mullets and do a quick time warp back to the 1980s: I'd like to use music/ sound recording as my example here since that's something we all dig, even though this lesson applies to all technologies. Anyway, as you may recall reading in one of my recent blog post here, I was a mere thirteen years old in 1988 and my favorite band back then was Megadeth. Their new album So Far, So Good, So What?! was burning a hole in my skull at the time, mainly because I was listening to it on my Sony Cassette Walkman while riding my bike around the 'burbs looking for trouble. What the hell does any of this have to do with the future of the internet you ask? Well hold tight and you'll get your answer.
Anyway Megadeth, being a good old school thrash band, recorded their music to analog tape, in which an electro-magnet applies magnetic flux to ferric oxide powder contained on the tape itself in order to encode the audio. The tape would "remember" this flux and convert the electromagnetic signal back into audio upon playback, via any loudspeakers that were connected to a tape machine. These studio master tapes would be dubbed down at a factory to thousands of tiny cassette tapes that were then distributed to rack job retailers such as the Sound Warehouse in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, where a certain young man would fatefully buy his first Megadeth tape sometime in late 1987.
The important thing here is, despite a distinct drop in fidelity between the master tapes and the cassette that I purchased that day (due to the width of the tape within the cassette itself), what I received was otherwise an EXACT COPY of what the band had cut in the studio. Furthermore, just as Megadeth's label got to keep their master tapes, I too got to retain ownership and possession of my little cassette copy, and I could even make copies off of it to give to my friends, courtesy of my dual cassette deck. (Bet you forgot all about those bad boys, didn't you?!)
But around this same time a different method of recording and distribution was really beginning to catch on. Yes folks, we're talking about digital. Instead of recording to analog tape, suddenly studios began to switch over to digital tape as a means of storage, again due to flexibility and ease of use. And instead of quaint little records or cassettes for the general public, we were introduced to THE COMPACT DISC ("perfect sound forever!"). Gone were the days of crackly records and hissy tapes, we were told. Now get out there and support America by re-buying every album you own!
All well and good then, except for the inconvenient truth that the initial hype surrounding digital recording and distribution was nothing short of a conspiracy to bilk music lovers out of their hard earned dough. Far from being perfect sound, digital tape did not record every nuance of the music the way analog tape did; it merely "sampled" what the artist was playing at regular increments and relied upon fancy algorithms to fill in the rest. (Learn more about sample and bitrates here.) Digital employed a process called PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) to convert these samples to binary data (zeroes and ones) that was then burned directly onto compact discs by a laser screening process. These CDs were then distributed to those same rack jobbers that we all used to buy our records and tapes at. Nobody complained and the World went wild for the convenient new format.
Now I probably don't need to tell anyone here that most early digital recordings sucked balls from an audio perspective. Indeed, any CD from the Eighties with the dreaded DDD emblem on the back was something you did not want to get involved with, even back then. This is largely because of crappy A/D (Analog to Digital) converters and low sample rates used in early digital studio setups. This would inevitably improve as technology progressed, and by the late Nineties as the concept of recording direct to hard disk became a reality, audio bit rates began to increase and studios started to shrink. By the turn of the decade it was suddenly commonplace for musicians to record entire albums at home using multi-track sound editing software, and even to burn their own CDs using CD-R drives.
With the mainstreaming of broadband internet in the early 2000s, the final piece of the puzzle was complete, as the amateur musician could now not only record his entire album at home, by himself, but he could also easily promote and distribute it online via Myspace, iTunes, CDBaby or seemingly a million other sites. It was nothing less than a full scale revolution, and probably the best thing to happen to music since the advent of magnetic tape. Likewise, these advances that I've just discussed have been paralleled in nearly every field, but specifically in movies and literature where online distribution has completely changed the way the game is played. For movies, independent directors can simply upload their films to hosting sites such as Youtube, while authors can either publish DRM-free .pdf files of their work for readers to sample, or attempt to sell it for a profit via such new DRM enabled text readers as Amazon's Kindle.
Now we are at the precipice of another digital revolution, centered cheifly around Google's soon-to-be-released Chrome operating system. The basic concept behind Google's OS is this: Microsoft's Windows has become bloated and obsolete because people don't want a slow, expensive OS, they don't want to shell out money for additional software, and they don't want to worry about their hard drive crashing and taking all their data with it. Google wants to give you a free OS that will run on any cheap notebook computer with a minimum of necessary hardware and disk space, that will also load quickly and have a web browser built directly into the desktop. Once on the internet, you'll have access to a wide range of free web-based software and plenty of storage space to upload all your docs, images and music files. And you'll never have to worry about where you stored that picture of you and Aunt Francine at Cousin Paddy's 16th birthday because Google's awesomely intuitive search feature will find that shit for you instantly. Finally, stress-free computing for the masses!
But there's one significant problem with Google's plan for World domination, and it's what I keep coming back to late at night when I tend to dwell on this kind of stuff. By uploading our docs, our images, our music and movies, our lives to Google's servers, they no longer remain ours. All of our beloved content, for better or worse, becomes property of Google; perhaps not legally speaking, but technically it's still all theirs. Maybe you've already sold off most of your books and CDs, dumped your DVDs and tossed your old photo albums aside in exchange for a bunch of zeroes and ones. Ask yourself then, if and when all your priceless stuff resides on their hard drives and not yours, who do you think really has control of it? The album you've been painstakingly re-recording; all your irreplaceable home movies; your blog you've been updating bi-weekly for the last three years-- They'll try to assure you that the data is secure and yours to do what you want with, just as the RIAA tried to assure you that CDs sounded better than real audio recordings and would last you a lifetime. My advice is not to fall for it. The signs are out there already if you look for them.
ITEM: Amazon CEO apologizes for remote deletion of Orwell's 1984 from users' Kindle devices. Still won't disclose what other dirty tricks the Kindle is capable of.
ITEM: AT&T technician blows whistle on illegal NSA National surveillance program.
ITEM: Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig predicts internet i-9/11.
ITEM: Man locked out of Google account; no explanation given.
ITEM: Federal Judge orders Google to surrender YouTube user data to Viacom.
ITEM: Google as Big Brother-- what do they do with all that data exactly?
Look, there's no way I can say with certainty that the shadow government is in cahoots with Google and Amazon to control the world's information and peoples' access to it, but after reading articles like the ones I just posted, sometimes it's hard to believe otherwise. Obviously the convenience of cloud computing is hard to resist for some (I'm certainly not immune to it-- just look at who my blog provider is!), but if you truly value your information/media/content, it behooves you to take precautions to ensure that it remains yours. Here's some good first steps you can take:
●Hang on to all your "obsolete" physical media-- books, DVDs, CDs (vinyl even better of course!)
●Store all of your digital content on your own hard drives, and do physical on-premises backups instead of using cloud services such as mozy.com.
●Consider investing in your own email server.
●Just say "no!" to DRM-encrypted devices such as the Kindle that do not let you retain ownership of the media you paid for.
●Boycott the RIAA, MPAA and any other organizations that bribe politicians to pass unfair laws and deny you your Constitutional rights.
●Support the good work many are doing at the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
●Most importantly, keep tabs on your elected officials and don't support anyone who's voted against net nutrality laws or taken bribe money from the anti-freedom lobbyists.
Hey, I love the internet. It's probably the greatest technological advancement of my lifetime, and it's responsible for making me about a thousand times smarter than I would probably be otherwise, because it provides me with a world of information at the click of a mouse. If you feel as strongly I do, let's continue the fight to keep cyberspace as a vital force for good in our World.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
"I think there are a lot of critics who think that... if we did not stand up [in the run-up to war] and say 'this is bogus, and you're a liar, and why are you doing this,' that we didn't do our job. I respectfully disagree. It's not our role." -- David Gregory (NBC News/ Meet the Press)
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Bringing You the News That Matters Most": This clip is a near-perfect example of the abject failure of America's mainstream media (MSM). Watch and recoil in disgust as they force feed the populace a steady diet of conjecture about dead entertainers, while we continue to sink further into depression and as civil unrest erupts throughout Honduras, Iran, Guatemala and much of the rest of the World.
"Bubble Headed Bleach Blondes": Don Henley had it right! Here's a double-dip of faux anger and hypocrisy from a couple of piggies from the Fox network. Yes, instead of ignoring the loonies at Westboro Baptist like any sensible newscast should do, these two bimbettes and their producer decided to give the Westboro Wackos five minutes of steady camera time so that they could attempt to link them to the ACLU-- Because we all know the ACLU hates dead American troops, right? Meanwhile the far more important question of what exactly these soldiers died for in the first place is never addressed.
"I Really Don't Appreciate You Bringing All This Up...": Stoking fear and paranoia in American soccer moms is CNN's Nancy Grace's stock-in-trade, what with her show's never-ending coverage of missing and abducted white girls. So how great was it to finally see her exposed as the heartless pig she is by one of those same young, melatonin-challenged young ladies that Grace typically exploits for ratings?
"You Can't Handle the Truth!": Who needs intelligent, thoughtful arguments and discourse when you can just score points with your flock of sheep-followers by calling your guest a lunatic while trying to marginalize her and put words in her mouth at the same time? Bill O'Reilly again demonstrating why he is the biggest asshole on the planet.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Anyway, this group of cosmic mind voyagers we fondly refer to as the WCPAEB (if you think I'm gonna keep spelling out their full name then you're nuts!) was initially founded in Beverly Hills in 1965 by teenage brothers Shaun and Danny Harris and a classmate of theirs named Michael Lloyd. Lloyd-- who was already well on his way to a career in record production that would ultimately net him a Grammy and millions of records sold worldwide-- had himself a home studio, and the trio first recorded a single under the moniker The Laughing Wind. The guys liked to get together and jam on standards like "Louie Louie" and "You Really Got Me", and the Harris Brothers also enjoyed folk music and harmony singing and probably would have made quite a dandy little folk rock band had fate not intervened.
Meanwhile, across the pond the Yardbirds were preparing for their first American tour (1965), when the group was forced by customs regulations to play a private party in order to obtain work permits. The band's manager Giorgio Gomelsky had previously met the acquaintance of one Kim Fowley the previous year when Fowley was visiting in England, and so Gomelsky called up the lanky California record producer and asked him if he knew of a house where the Yardbirds could perform a private party for 100 or so guests. It just so happened that Fowley knew of such a place.
The Laurel Canyon mansion Fowley enlisted for the event was the property of 33 year old Bob Markley, Attorney at Law and adopted son of a wealthy Oklahoma oil tycoon. A varsity tennis player, Bob also hosted the TV show "Oklahoma Bandstand" when a TV producer suggested he go to Hollywood to try to make it as an actor. Markley didn't get any acting gigs while in California, but he did cut a couple of early singles.
Despite his square upbringing, Markley was something of a Bohemian, known for walking around Laurel Canyon with a set of bongo drums hung around his neck. Bob also had a notorious fascination with underage girls which would certainly get him in trouble later in life. For now though, Bob Markley was living the life of Hollywood playboy, and having a hot band from England like the Yardbirds play a party at his pad would mean hobnobbing with the Hollywood elite, and more importantly, a gaggle of young starlets.
Kim Fowley was also a friend of Michael Lloyd and the Harris Brothers, and invited them to come on up to Markley's and check the band out. It must have been quite a scene. According to Fowley, as quoted in Tim Forster's definitive article on the WCPAEB, Markley's bash was attended by "over 180 industry journalists, programme directors, disc jockeys and a handful of the in-crowd. Al Kooper was the warm up act and Phil Spector came with his binoculars so he could watch Jeff Beck's fingers." Into this scene of (I'm assuming) unbridled Hollywood debauchery stepped the innocent teenage trio of Mike, Danny and Shaun, simply there to see the band. Sounds like something out of a Russ Meyer film, eh?
Anyhow, after the gig, Fowley introduced the guys to Bob Markley who in turn told him about the group. Almost immediately, the shrewd Tulsan formulated a plan that went something like this: He, Markley, would join the band as singer and producer. In exchange for control over all aspects of the group, Bob would provide the rehearsal space, gear and most importantly, his Hollywood contacts. Markley, meanwhile, would presumably reap the sundry benefits associated with being a rock star including, most importantly to Bob, young chicks.
Now that I've hopefully got you intrigued, though, check out Tim Forster's AWESOME Legend of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Take it from us here at the Sphere, this is one unforgettable story you don't want to miss! And while you're at it, you can dig all the tunes on a lovely little 2 disc set [1 | 2] compiled just for you by the Brotherhood here at the Crystal Sphere. So go ahead and turn on, tune in and drop acid to the very groovy sounds of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Summer '88 - the Soundtrack D0WNL0AD TH1S!!!!!11
This is the only remaining photo of my '87 Haro Sport. In the days before I had my driver's license, this (and other bikes like it) was how I got around in the suburbs. And as you can probably tell, I put a shit ton worth of work into this particular bike.
This picture was taken before I added the Dyno flip-down platforms and threaded GT pegs to the front. Back then I mostly rode ramp, but the sickest street trick you could do was the "Cherry Picker" and you needed front pegs to pull that one off. These future modifications would reflect my transition from ramp to street, just as Freestyle BMX as a whole started to revert towards ramp riding again with the emergence of Matt Hoffman as the king of the vert ramps. Typically poor timing for me!
I payed over $350.00 for this bike out of my own savings, which at the time made it one of the most expensive freestyle bikes on the market. Only the GT Mach One compared, but I always went with Haro. Sadly, this particular Haro was stolen at the Randhurst Shopping Mall in Mt. Prospect, Illinois in September of 1988 while I was inside looking at cassettes at Camelot Records. You haven't seen it by chance, have you?
Anyway, other than this one somewhat tragic turn of events, the summer of '88 was a good one for me. I was transitioning from middle school to high school and didn't have a job of any kind, so a typical day would involve getting up every morning and riding my bike past the Junior High school up to my best friend Dean's house. We'd hang out in his basement playing NES games or listening to Twisted Sister, Def Leppard and AC/DC cd's on the component stereo in his bedroom while we plotted our next move, which would inevitably be a trip to 7-11 for Slurpees or to Niko's for cheese dogs and fries.
When we'd come back, we'd kick it in his driveway with our shirts off and play one-on-one or horse until the rest of the crew showed up. We hung out with some of the older guys who all had cars. There was John ('85 Mustang GT), Carl ('67 Camaro), Matt ('84 IROC) and Dean's cousin Jim (70s' VW Bug). Car radios at the time were tuned to B-96, WCKG or "The Loop" (WLUP).
Carl had a quarter pipe set up in his driveway where we'd take our bikes and attempt to get "rad". Just getting even a little bit of air was an accomplishment, especially when the alternative was a quick trip to the pavement. Everybody would line their bikes up and just kind of root for the guy who was attempting the run. I remember the tape we listened to more than any other in those situations was the first Iron Maiden (the one with Paul Di'Anno on vocals, before Dickenson joined the band).
In the evening I would generally bike back home for dinner with my mom and then reconviene with the gang over at the pool at the Gary Marova Center. This was a big outdoor swimming pool that all the neighborhood kids and some of their parents routinely congregated at. All you needed was your park district pass and you could get in. These evenings generally resulted in us chasing the trim around (in good fun-- this was still a year or two before we all lost our innocence in that regard) and coming up with far-fectched plans that we knew we could never achieve.
Fast forward to now, and as horrible as the 80s look in retrospect when watching old music videos and TV sit-coms (those haircuts!) it was actually a pretty cool time to be alive. We were thirteen years old, and maybe we didn't have any internet or XBox 360, but dammit we sure as hell had our NES, our Hysteria, our Sony cassette Walkmen and our freestyle bikes.
I'd do terrible things to go back and relive just one of those gorgeous Summer of '88 days, when the nights were long and we could still take pleasure in things that were simple and fun.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Behold, "The Sweater"...
Please take a moment to sit back and revel in its awesomeness. Drink it all in and then ask yourself this important question... How is it that a young man living in circa 1966 America could ever procure such a quintessentially perfect piece of apparel?
Furthermore, in which era between the beginning of time and now would such a sweater EVER be considered an appropriate means of dress?!
An Observation: This was obviously a "dress down casual" shoot for the Springfield boys, as Stills, Furay and Martin normally wore suits on stage and in pictures.
In this shoot, Stills is outfitted in a plain black T-shirt, while Furay adopts a sort of Urban Cowboy look three years before the movie of the same name hit the big screen. Bruce Palmer seems to be the prototype for GEORGE HARRISON'S "gravedigger" look on the Abbey Road LP with his button-up shirt and Levi's. Dewey Martin is seen here wearing a typical Mod Cowboy lace-up top that he certainly must have procured from one of the local Hollywood or Topanga Canyon boutiques. Nothing out of the ordinary for these chaps.
But then there's Neil, with his roughed-up Prince Valiant 'do and his geometric multicolored drug rug, looking for all the world like a discarded Thurston Moore prototype. How these disparate personalities ever existed in the same band is beyond me.
Furthermore, from the way the group is set up in the shot, it appears that Dewey Martin was to be the featured member. (Not surprising, really, as his drums were often times moved to the front of the stage during Springfield gigs. But I'll do another thread later on the overall greatness of Dewey Martin.) Yet the viewer's eye is completely drawn towards Neil, and even more so to his remarkable, eccentric sweater!
It's as though the entire peace and freedom movement could be summed up in one individual garment. Nevermind the bell bottoms, fringe and tie-die of the hippies-- THIS is where it's at... er, where it WAS at.
If you have any other shots of Neil wearing this fantastic piece of apparel, please forward them to the Crystal Sphere immediately and await further orders.
Friday, April 10, 2009
As we originally envisioned the Crystal Sphere to be something more than just another music repository occupying space on the internet (not that we've got anything against said sites, mind), it's important to indoctrinate the uninitiated into the lifestyle. But before you get your panties all up in a bunch, this is in no way a post advocating cocaine usage... in fact far from it. We here at the Sphere highly advise against usage of said drug for a variety of reasons, mainly having to do with the inordinate cost of procuring it and the adverse health effects that seem to accompany its usage.
That being said, coke (or "Delilah", or "yola", or "white girl" or whatever the kids are calling it these days) is ubiquitous here in Oakland. It's truly boggling how the myriad of unemployed and under-employed hipsters that pervade the underground scene here are able to procure so much of it-- especially when they seem to already be dropping all their money at the bars on a near nightly basis. Meanwhile your intrepid leader works a 40 hour a week wage gig and maybe has money left over for a case of PBR if he plays his cards right. Yes, strangely it seems that it is the jobless of all people that are enjoying the good life amongst us here in post-Bush/ Cheney America. That isn't any kind of political statement, just an observation based on what I see around me all the time.
But I'm not bitter. Really. Bored as hell, but not bitter. Sure it sucks to be staying home on a nice Wednesday night in an area where there's a hundred different parties going on within a short driving distance of where you live. But when you have to wake up at 7 am every day, you learn to sacrifice for the greater good. You sock money away when you feel like you ought to be blowing through it. You subsist on frozen burritos when your brain is screaming for margaritas and fresh sturgeon. You manage.
But sometimes, maybe you look in the mirror and ask yourself exactly what the fuck happened? You can't burn down a bank when you're chained to a desk 8 hours a day, and you can't kick out the windows of a squad car when you're at home blogging. And it's usually at one of these crucial moments that a random thought enters your mind... Something you haven't considered for possibly even a year or so.
Yes, that is the only answer that will do. A one-way ticket to reckless behavior and wild times. Oh sure, you may start out innocently enough by shotgunning a couple of beers out on the porch and sucking down some Parliament Lights with your friends, BUT WE CAN'T HAVE A GOOD TIME HERE SO LET'S GO TO THE BAR AND GET SHITFACED.
Oh how many thousands of dollars have magically disappeared from my bank account due to this one isolated notion; one random stray neuron in my otherwise organized mind. We're talking money that could have been better served by investing in such precious, interest-accruing commodities as OBSCURO PSYCH AND GARAGE 45s AND ELL-PEES!
No sir, we're on the way to the bar and we're getting hammered. That much is certain. But hey, before we go, let's suck down some Whip-Its. You know, take the edge off.
BAR TIME: Jagermeister on tap and Pinkerton on the jukebox. Life is good, but... Wait! What's this? Which one of these emo looking assholes is harshing my buzz? DEPECHE FUCKING MODE?!?! Man, to hell with this "Blasphemous Romours" crap. I need to RAWK right now, fucker. Thin Lizzy. "Jailbreak". Done.
The memories are fleeting... drunken pool and missed shots; "Who wants a Scorpion Bowl?"; more war stories than can be found in the entire six-season run of Hogan's Heroes; "I'm cool to drive..."; digits exchanged with several strangers you know even now you're never going to call; "Fuck this place, let's go see some bands..."
(AN ASIDE: The Crystal Sphere accepts, nay, actively condones the controlled usage of psychedelic and mind altering drugs when used in pursuit of higher states of consciousness or being. This is clearly not what we're talking about here though.)
"Patrick just gave me a Percoset."
"No shit, does he have any more?!"
By now we're driving to the late night underground club, located on the absolute shadiest part of San Pablo. Park at your own peril. And when the homeless guy comes up to the car asking for change, simply greet him with an earful of Blink-182 sing-screaming "I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE GIRL AT THE ROCK SHOW" at top volume. You're just that kind of asshole right now.
Stumbling towards the club, you recognize the cat working the door right away. Same dude you see riding his bike all over town with his scraggly beard and keychain hanging off his belt. You know, like every other fucking hipster wannabe in the 510 region. You maybe said "what's up" to him at Peet's that one time.
Inside, the deejay is spinning garage and psych. He's playing some shit you've never heard before. Freakbeat? Definitely sounds like a UK band. You stumble over and harang him with some half-formed drunken rant about this or that band you think will trigger his interest. Instead he politely ignores you and goes back to spinning his music as the band on stage continues to set up. It's taking them a while because they have 13 members and are having a hard time tuning the singer's guitar to the other guy's harmonium. You wish that kick ass garage band from the other week was here instead, but they were on their way up to Portland and you never did get their CD.
You look around and realize all your friends you came with are out of your line of sight, and you're too drunk to even begin to try to work your way through the crowd. Nevertheless, you somehow manage to make eye contact with the guy working the door who meets your gaze in turn and gently taps his right nostril twice while raising his eyebrows ever so slightly.
(To Be Continued...)
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Called by many the “father of rock criticism” after founding Crawdaddy Magazine at the age of 17, crucial early champion of Philip K Dick, author of the underground classic Das Energi, confidant of John Lennon, biographer of Bob Dylan and traveling companion to the Grateful Dead, Paul Williams has lived a half dozen remarkable lifetimes, and his work as rock critic, holistic philosopher and avant-garde underground gadfly forms a unique and indespensible link through the past 40 years of pop and rock culture.
In 1995, Paul Williams suffered a traumatic brain injury in a bicycle accident, leading to early onset of dementia, and a steady decline to the point where he now requires full-time care. The burden on his immediate family has been immense.
Donations are currently being accepted over at PaulWilliams.com to help out with the family's expense. Fans of Sixties' music will undoubtedly be familiar with Mr. Williams and the magazine he founded, Crawdaddy! Basically, this was the first serious Rock magazine on the scene, predating even Rolling Stone by a year and a half. Mr. Williams' contributions to the cause of great Rock music have been enormous, and as such, I am calling on all you Children of the Sphere to help his family out, even if it's just a dollar or two.
And while you're over there, click on the "Writings" tab, scroll down a little bit and treat yourself to every issue of the original Crawdaddy! magazine, completely scanned and free of charge! I J-Pinnacle insist these are mandatory required reading for all denizens of my blog. Now go forth and feed your mind on some serious first generation rock crit!
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Well if the last few months of doing this blog have taught me anything, it's that the people that read it aren't interested in anything recorded after 1982. Try as I might, my last series of offerings (Phantom Planet, Top 100 Hip-Hop Songs and the Wu-Tang Clan EP) were total stiffs, sparking only a handful of downloads and zero total comments. Yet my Who and Beach Boys comps are still flying off the shelves, loosely speaking. I'm starting to sense a pattern here.
Anyway, after tossing around the idea of abandoning this blog entirely, I decided to at least go ahead and share one other comp of songs not hailing from the pre-CD era before giving up all hope. Contained here, 126 of the catchiest Alternative/ AOR/ Modern Rock hits of the last 15 years. If you can't find something to like on these, you'd better check your pulse.
The set starts off with Silverchair's 1995 grunge-gum classic "Tomorrow" and navigates through the highs and lows of mainstream rock radio, ending up on a sullen note with Death Cab for Cutie's 2008 hit "I Will Possess Your Heart". In between, you'll hear dozens of songs you remember but lost track of somewhere along the line, by artists with names like Nada Surf, Spacehog, Semisonic, Kula Shaker, Vertical Horizon, Three Doors Down, My Morning Jacket, Goldfinger, Jimmy Eat World and over a hundred others. If you've ever banged your head along to one of those "Buzz Ballads" ads on TV, this is sorta like that, only like a hundred times better because it contains pretty much anything anyone would want to hear from the years 1995-2008 that got played on Rock and Alternative radio.
We've been spinning this set non stop around my house lately, and you may find yourself doing the same if you give it a chance! Especially recommended as a starting point for those of you who've been hiding under a rock for the last 15 years and want to get caught up: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6