Shell Shocked: My Life with the Turtles

One of the most self-deprecating books I’ve ever read. Howard Kaylan goes through his career with the Turtles who never really took themselves too seriously. They wanted to be the American Beatles…just like every other band at the time but did it with a sense of humor. They were a singles band that had quite a number of top 40 hits. According to Howard, they lucked into most of it. They only wrote a couple of their hits.

Their hits included “Happy Together” #1, “It Aint Me Babe” # 8, “She’d Rather Be With Me” #3, Eleanor #6, “You Showed Me” #6 and many more.

After the Turtles broke up, he and Mark Volman went by the name “Flo and Eddie,” for legal reasons and made a career of unusual rock-comedy albums and developed a following. They immediately began playing with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and was there when Frank was pushed off the stage at the Rainbow. They were also in the Zappa movie 200 Motels.

After Zappa, they worked as a duo and released a lot of albums for many different labels.  They were more known for their live performances and they were a good opening act. Howard and Mark were columnists, radio hosts, session backup singers, talk show hosts, actors, composers, and anything else to make ends meet. They did the background vocals on Hungry Heart by Bruce Springsteen.

Howard and Mark wrote the Strawberry Shortcake theme and they wrote music for the Care Bears.

Another rock autobiography…big surprise! But unlike some of the others…Howard wasn’t rich and could not live off of royalties or constant touring like many of the other rock stars that have spilled it all recently.  After the breakup, The Turtles could not even tour as the Turtles until later on because of their label. They were broke many times but opportunities would pop up like being radio hosts and would help them make it to the next big thing.

Now they tour on the Happy Together tour with other artists and have been doing it since the eighties off and on.

They ended up owning their name and the master recordings from the 1960s because the label went broke and they were smart enough to get the rights… Howard and Mark were the first to sue rap artists for sampling their material without paying for it. They won and now everyone has to pay to sample anything from another artist. The Turtles were the first big artists with a catalog to sign with Rhino Record and helped the label to take off.

It may be the funniest of all the recent biographies. He ran into a lot of famous people and even made a movie out of meeting the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix in 1967 at the Speakeasy in London called “My Dinner With Jimi.”

It is a funny book with a lot of laughs but you have to scratch your head while reading about Howard making the same mistakes over and over. For Howard, it was drugs, women, marriage, drugs, a girlfriend, divorce, marriage and more drugs…maybe it’s not that much different from the richer stars after all.

I was never a big Turtle fan. I have an account with Audible and this was recommended. Overall I did enjoy it.

Below is an excerpt from the book about meeting The Beatles in 1967 and John Lennon being vicious toward Turtle rhythm guitar player Jim Tucker… Today Jim Tucker denies this ever happened. He said that John didn’t even say a word to any of them so who knows?

Paul said, “I really enjoyed your record.” And then, to me, “Great voice, man. Nice set of pipes.” I was bursting.
Then Lennon. “Yeah, that’s a lovely bit of Flower Power in the middle there with those ba-ba-bas.” And then all three of them sang the ba-ba-bas. And we were all beside ourselves with swollen pride.
“So, where did you learn to sing?” Paul asked me.
“High school choir, I guess. Then we formed the band and started playing local clubs, you know, a little bit of R&B stuff—”
“What kind of R&B stuff.”
“Oh, you know, ‘Money,’ ‘What’d I Say,’ ‘Justine’…”
“‘Justine’ by Don and Dewey? I love that song.”
And then Paul began to sing the Crossfires’ trademark soul song. I joined in on the answers and the chorus. Ringo played spoons on the tabletop while the customers watched and Lennon looked on as if bored to death. When we were done, there was a smattering of applause and Paul said, “That was great. I’d love to do that with my band some day. You sing great.”
“Oh my God, thank you,” I gushed.
“Still, it is a bit sappy on your record there when you sing ‘invest a dime’ with that cry in your voice. A bit light in the loafers, if you ask me.”

“What?” Yeah, I became defensive all right. “We’re just trying to be the American version of you!”
“Touché” said McCartney.
“Well, that’s not bloody likely, is it?” Lennon piped in. His eyes skipped from Turtle to Turtle, checking us out for the first time. “And what do you call that guy over there?” John pointed at Tucko, who was cowering in his wrinkled brown suit, thrilled just to be noticed.
“That’s Jim Tucker, our rhythm guitar player “
“Bad suit, son. And an even worse haircut. Did you tell your barber to give you a Beatle cut? It’s awful, man. You give rhythm players a bad name.”
Tucko, oblivious, stumbled for words. “You’re like a god to me, man. You guys changed my life.”
Much to his credit, Pons tried, in vain, to turn the conversation around. “We just heard Sergeant Pepper and I’ve got to thank you on behalf of the entire world for the greatest album of all time!”
Paul graciously nodded thanks and toasted us with his beverage. But John was not to be denied.
“Tucko, is it? I could have a lot of fun with that name. Let’s see… Tucko Tucko, bo bucko, banana fanna fo fucko…”
Tucker winced and Lennon saw the weakness and went in for the kill.
“There was a boy named Tucko, a very stupid fellow—”
Finally, Jim realized that he was the butt of Lennon’s abuse and could hold back no longer.
“What is your problem, man? You’re supposed to be the Beatles! I fuckin’ loved you guys and you turn out to be assholes.”
Lennon feigned shock and recoiled at the words.
“Tsk, tsk … such language. What would your mum say?”
“She’d say you were a dick, that’s what! Man, was I wrong. You’re a total shit! I’m sorry I ever met you!”
Lennon shook his head slowly, savoring every syllable. “You never did, son. You never did.”
And with that, Jim Tucker walked away from the table, up the stairs, and into a cab. And, following the few British shows we had lined up, Jim flew home and never played music again. The Turtles would continue on as a five-piece band from that time forward. The other guys followed Jim upstairs, and our goodbyes were a lot sadder than our hellos had been.

 

 

Roger McGuinn

Those glasses and Rickenbacker equals the sixties rock band. One of my favorite guitar players ever. I loved the jangling 12 string Rickenbacker that McGuinn is famous for… Roger heard George Harrison use one and then McGuinn took it to a new level in songs like Eight Miles High.

I was lucky to see him solo in 1987. He will not rip into a Hendrix solo but the sound he gets out of his 12 string Rickenbacker is great. On the songs, he did only on his 12-string acoustic he makes them sound full without a band.

His sound is the sound of the mid-sixties. He was a founder of the Byrds and was with them through all of their incarnations. The jangly pop, country rock, and the more rock music jamming faze in the early seventies.

The Byrds started in 1964 and lasted until 1973. McGuinn was the only member to remain with the band the entire run. Personally, I like all of the phases of the band. The last phase is probably the least well known but with Clarence White playing guitar with his B-Bender was fantastic. Songs like “Lover of the Bayou,”” Ballad of Easy Rider,” and “Chestnut Mare” are memorable.

McGuinn also collaborated with Bob Dylan on the soundtrack “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” and joined Bob in the mid-seventies on his Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

The Byrds influenced many artists like Elvis Costello, The La’s, Wilco, REM, and The Jayhawks but the one I think of the most is Tom Petty. Tom helped revive the jangly sound in the seventies with American Girl which sounded very close to McGuinn. This is Roger talking in 2014:

“When I heard ‘American Girl’ for the first time I said, ‘when did I record that?’ I was kidding but the vocal style sounded just like me and then there was the Rickenbacker guitar, which I used. The vocal inflections were just like mine. I was told that a guy from Florida named Tom Petty wrote and sings the song, and I said that I had to meet him.

Roger invited Tom to open up for him in 1976 and they were friends after that. Roger released an album in 1991 titled “Back To Rio” with help from Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, and others.

His solo career was never too successful until 1989 with a country hit “You Aint Going Nowhere” that made it to number 6 in the Country Charts. That was ironic after being told by Nashville disc Jockey Ralph Emery in 1968 that the song wasn’t country when the Byrds covered it. In 1991 he had his most commercial album “Back To Rio” that made it to #44 on the Billboard Charts and two singles “King of the Hill”#2 and “Someone To Love”#12.

Roger, Chris Hillman, Marty Stuart are currently doing a small tour for the 50th anniversary of Sweetheart of the Rodeo…I see the Ryman on there and I see me there.

https://www.jambase.com/article/byrds-co-founders-roger-mcguinn-chris-hillman-announce-sweetheart-rodeo-50th-anniversary-tour

 

 

 

Loyal Roadies

Roadies have always been an important part of a band. Occasionally some will be rise above and become well known and some will end up as an executive in the band’s organization. Some will burn out like their bosses and below are a few famous roadies.

Neil Aspinall – Beatles

The first roadie the Beatles employed. He started to help the Beatles out by driving their van from gig to gig. He was soon their road manager and personal assistant. He ended up being the Chief Executive of The Beatles company Apple Corps until 2007. He passed away in 2008.

He was a trained accountant and knew George and Paul when they were kids. He was well trusted by all members. He stayed neutral in all of the arguments while he continued to run a prosperous Apple Corps to the end.

Mal Evans – Beatles

He was hired to help out Neil Aspinall as a roadie. Mal became their personal assistant after they stopped touring. After the Beatles broke up he did some producing…he produced the Badfinger’s single “No Matter What”. He also produced Keith Moon’s first album “Two Sides of the Moon” but was replaced midway through.

In the seventies, he still did work for some of the Beatles accompanying them on trips and odds and ends. He then separated from his wife Lil and after that, he started to have bad depression. While depressed and reportedly using downers, he was shot by LAPD while holding an air rifle and refusing to put it down. He was thought highly of by all the Beatles…See George’s quote below.

George Harrison on Mal Evans

, “Mal loved his job, he was brilliant, and I often regret that he got killed. Right to this day, I keep thinking, ‘Mal, where are you?’ If only he was out there now. He was such good fun, but he was also very helpful: he could do everything…He was one of those people who loved what he was doing and didn’t have any problem about service. Everybody serves somebody in one way or another, but some people don’t like the idea. Mal had no problem with it. He was very humble, but not without dignity; it was not belittling for him to do what we wanted, so he was perfect for us because that was what we needed.” 

Red Dog – Allman Brothers

Duane Allman befriended Joe Campbell (Red Dog) a Vietnam vet and Red Dog stayed with the Allman Brothers for three decades. He gave the band his disability checks to help them stay afloat at the beginning. He soon became a trusted member of the team. His picture with all the roadies is on the back cover of the At Fillmore East album.

Here is a quote from Cameron Crowe on Red Dog when he published his book.

“I’ll admit it right now. I am a big fan of Red Dog, and have been even before he allowed me to interview him back in 1973 for a story in Rolling Stone. Hell, he was already legendary back then. But now I just have to say that I am extremely jealous of the Great Dog, because I’ve just finished reading A Book of Tails. True rock, the kind that lasts forever, is about honesty and humor and love and chasing the elusive buzz of greatness.

Ramrod – Grateful Dead

Lawrence Shurtliff (Ramrod) joined on the Grateful Dead in 1967 and in the seventies became the President of the Grateful Dead board of directors until Garcia’s death in 1995.

Bob Weir on Ramrod

“When he did join up, it was like he had always been there. I won’t say he was the missing piece, because I don’t think he was missing. He just wasn’t there. But then he was there. And he always will be. He was a huge part of what the Grateful Dead was about.”

 

 

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me Documentary

A friend of mine knows I’m a Big Star fan…he dropped this documentary of Big Star off for me to watch and I wasted no time.

Such a great band but a frustrating story. Someone in the documentary remarked, “Big Star is like a letter that was mailed in 1972 but didn’t arrive until 1985.” That is a great way to explain them. They made three of the best albums of the decade that were not heard until much later. When they were finally discovered they influenced many artists such as The Replacements, REM, Matthew Sweet, and more.

The first album got great reviews…you couldn’t ask for better. When the label called radio stations trying to get them to play it…the stations would say it’s not selling. When someone actually heard the songs on the radio they couldn’t find the record to buy it. This was basically the same story with all of the albums.

Distribution problems and just bad timing. Stax didn’t do a good job of distribution…they made a deal with Columbia before the second album to distribute the album…problem solved right? Nope, Clive Davis who made the deal was then fired at Columbia. The deal fell through and then Stax disintegrated.

Chris Bell who was key in creating the sound the band had quit after the first album. He came back but then quit again. Chris had depression problems and wanted badly to do something on his own. Alex Chilton continued and finished the second and third album with a new bass player on the third album.

After that, it follows Chris and Alex’s career to the end of both. It also covers  Jim Dickinson’s role on the third album. Family members, fans, and rock writers also share their love of Big Star and memories of the band members.

In May of 1973 Ardent Studios where Big Star recorded invited a 100 rock writers down to Memphis to hear Big Star live. They all loved Big Star and it went over great…but that wasn’t the band’s problem…it was the business side. What would have happened if they would have signed with a label more suited to them?

Before watching this documentary I didn’t realize Chris Bell was so instrumental in developing their sound. I knew it wasn’t the Alex Chilton band but Chris was invaluable and started the ball rolling. All 4 members did contribute writing and singing but Chilton and Bell were the Lennon and McCartney of the group.

It’s a good documentary about a great band that had the talent but not fate.

My recommendation? Get this and watch it…

A Couple of Songs by the Jayhawks

I first found out about this group in 2000 with “I’m Going to Make You Love Me” and from there I found an older song by them called “Blue.” I regret I didn’t notice them in the 1980s and 90s when they started.

They recently backed Ray Davies on his albums Americana and Our Country – Americana Act II. Their 2016 album Paging Mr. Proust was produced by Peter Buck of REM.

They formed in Minneapolis–Saint Paul in 1985 and played alternative country rock. They have released 10 studio albums and are worth checking out. Below are two songs… I’m Going to Make You Love Me (#40 in the adult contemporary chart) and Blue (#33 in Canada).

They combine country, folk, rock, and pop with good harmonies.

I’m Gonna to Make You Love Me – 2000

Blue – 1995

 

Deal by Bill Kreutzmann

The book is called Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead.

This book is what you would imagine from the drummer (one of them) of the Grateful Dead. Music, drugs, women, drugs, travels, guns, drugs, death, drink and more drugs. Actually, I really enjoyed the book. He is very open and very honest about his actions good and bad.

He is not a shy guy whatsoever. He shares his feelings about any subject that comes up. He does go into the music and how he feels about his bandmates. Most are positive but he does not hold back.

He covers the complete career of the band. He openly said he was very happy being the only drummer of the band when Mickey Hart quit and didn’t like it one bit when Mickey rejoined the band…at first anyway.

He goes into his relationship with Jerry Garcia. He also admits the guilt the band share in not trying to help Garcia more…but Jerry was his own man. He writes about the so-called keyboard player curse the band had in their career.

He tells us about the 72 European tour, shows they played near the pyramids and the Festival Express. I will say this…this band had fun. They were like a family and treated their employees well for the most part.

The only thing that I wish he would have shared more about was Pigpen. The band was apparently in the dark about how bad Pigpen was doing before he died. Maybe he didn’t share it with them.

I learned a lot about the Dead that I didn’t know about.

The book keeps going at a good pace. With the Dead’s long career he never lacks for stories. A lot of rock autobiographies are coming out and again this one takes the template that Keith Richards made with his book “Life” and fills it in.

Bill Kreutzmann from Deal about Garcia and heroin:

I’m pretty sure Jerry wasn’t into heroin during the making of Garcia; as far I know, he hadn’t even discovered it yet. But when he did, during subsequent Grateful Dead albums, it could become difficult just to get him to show up, unfortunately. That got to be really old, really fast, for all of us. We wanted to play music with him so badly that we’d put up with it, which—in hindsight—was crazy. Nobody else in the band would’ve been able to get away with it; at least, not to the extent that he did. But Jerry Garcia was the exception.
It also opens up a moral question that we can talk about now, but we can never truly answer, since he’s not with us. There was a certain feeling, toward the end, that Jerry was using the Grateful Dead to finance his drug habit. That’s a sad thought. I don’t think he ever intended it to be that way or for it to get to that point or to hurt anyone. He was as pure of a musician as they come. But heroin addiction will change a person in ways that are tragic and discouraging.

 

 

 

Are You Being Served?

A fun British sitcom that aired from 1972-1985. This comedy is not subtle…it’s obvious and in the open.

The show is about a department store called Grace Bros. owned by the elderly Grace brothers. It is operated with the British class system. The show highlighted the Menswear and Womenswear departments and also the Floor Walker the pretentious Captain Peacock. It also featured the incompetent floor manager…Mr. Rumbold.

The Women’s department was run by Miss Slocombe. A lady that is known for her hair color changing every day and the love of her pussy cat…they get a lot of mileage out of that. She tries to elevate herself over the working class but that is just what she is…Her assistant is the young very pretty Miss Brahms who talks with a cockney accent and is proud of being thought of as working class.

The head of the Men’s department is Mr. Granger who is older and near retirement and seems to be in a sour mood most of the time. Two more men work in the department… The junior in the department is Mr. Lucas who is always late and flirting with Miss Brahms, never has money and always has to wait his turn before he can serve anyone and make money because the other two men have seniority, The other man is Mr. Humphries…probably the most popular character of the show. He hints at being gay every episode but never comes out and says it…this is really played up…remember it is the 70s. The writers go for the obvious jokes many times but it’s still funny.

The Grace brothers owned the store and “Young” Mr. Grace was in fact not young at all. He was stingy and he always had a very young attractive girl by his side.

The maintenance guy Mr. Mash and Mr. Harmon were great. They would make the devices to advertise the merchandise. Sometimes the machine they made would blow up or show some naughty things to the customers. They were union and they thumbed their nose at the everyone.

Mix these personalities and you got a funny show. The purpose of the sitcom basically was to expose the class system and to parody it.

The customers that shopped at Grace Bros department store usually left disappointed. The phrases I remember the most are “Are you free?” and while having a customer try on pants that obviously doesn’t fit…You would hear an employee say don’t worry ”They’ll ride up with wear.”

Some of the cast left and past away during the run of the show. They were replaced with different characters and the show went on. When the show ended in 1985 a spin-off was made called Grace and Favour.

The core cast was strong and the show was very good until the start of the 80’s and like most shows, they were reaching more for stories and repeating themselves. In 1979 when Trevor Bannister who played Mr. Lucas left it started to go down.

The sitcom had 69 episodes and a movie in 1977… well, you can say 70 episodes because in 2016 a new episode was made with different actors playing the same characters.

I wouldn’t compare this to Fawlty Towers because Fawlty Towers was better written… but this is a fun sitcom nonetheless. I remember it when I was young being broadcast on PBS. It is worth a watch if you like British humor.

The cast was

Mollie Sugden – Miss Slocombe

Frank Thornton – Mr. Peacock

John Inman – Mr. Humphries

Wendy Richard – Miss Brahms

Nicholas Smith – Mr. Rumbold

Trevor Bannister – Mr. Lucas

Arthur Brough – Mr. Grainger

Harold Bennett – Young Mr. Grace

Larry Martyn – Mr. Mash

Arthur English – Mr. Harmon

James Hayter – Mr. Tebbs

Alfie Bass – Mr. Goldberg

Mike Berry – Mr. Spooner

Kenneth Waller – Old Mr. Grace