The Traveling Wilburys

In the eighties, I made no secret of my dislike for a lot of music during that period. When I heard The Traveling Wilburys in 1988 it was like an oasis in the desert. A band that contained George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty. I went out and bought the album Traveling Wilburys Volume 1 and wore it out. There is not a song on that album that I didn’t like.

George Harrison started the group with Jeff Lynne and eventually, they picked up Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty…not a bad choice of additions. Just hearing Bob Dylan sing lines like “You don’t need no wax job, you’re smooth enough for me If you need your oil changed, I’ll do it for you free” was the worth the price of the album.

Handle with Care was the first single and it went to #2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs charts. I was surprised when I researched the other charting songs of The Wilburys first album… End of the Line went to #2 on Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs, “Last Night” #5, “Heading For The Light” #7 “Inside Out” #16

Tweeter and the Monkey Man is my favorite song off of that album. Bob taking playful jabs at Bruce Springsteen. The song reminded me of some of his earlier work.

Hearing Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan singing together was something I never thought I would ever hear. Roy’s voice was magnificent as always and it is sad that he died two months after the album’s release.

On the second album, Vol 3 of course… the songs as a whole were not as strong but I still like the album. They did miss Roy’s vocals and presence. Again Dylan sang my favorite song on the album with “If You Belonged To Me” with Dylan sounding vulnerable.  She’s My Baby went to #2  and The Wilbury Twist got some radio play but nothing like Handle With Care.

They also recorded two other songs Runaway and Nobody’s Child which was recorded for a benefit album. They did an excellent job of Nobody’s Child.

This helped revive the career of Orbison…unfortunately he didn’t get to enjoy the success of his solo album and hit “You Got It.”

Two bright spots in the late eighties for me was The Traveling Wilburys and Keith Richard’s solo album Talk Is Cheap.

I really wish older rockers would try to do this sort of thing now. Let’s say Fogerty, McCartney, Young, Richards, and throw in a younger David Grohl…or fill in your own names…No it wouldn’t be the same but I would like to hear the results.

You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) Beatles

I bought the Let It Be single by the Beatles in the mid-1970s from a relative’s yard sale. I loved Let It Be and then I flipped it over. The song started off with a catchy piano riff and then took a left turn never coming back.

I won’t even attempt to describe it because it would lose everything in words. It is a funny record (I don’t mean “My Love” bad funny… wo wo wo wo, wo wo wo wo…sorry Paul) it’s a comedy record. You could tell they were having a great time doing it.

Brian Jones played saxophone on the recording. Yes, that Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. He dropped by the studio and John and Paul thought he would play some guitar but he had a sax so they thought of this tune and he played on it.

My friend and I would listen to this over and over. We would quote from it…”Welcome to Slaggers” at school. Sometimes…and this is probably sad but we still do.

The song was recorded in May of 1967 and June of 1969 and was released as the B side of Let It Be in 1970.

It’s just so off the wall. The thing that surprises me isn’t the 1967 sessions…it’s John and Paul working on this in 1969 when they were not exactly best mates anymore. How could you not get along and make this? I guess they went through bad and good periods like any friendship or partnership…

The original version was 6:08 long but John edited it down to 4:19 for the single release.

Here is a quote from John Lennon

“That was a piece of unfinished music that I turned into a comedy record with Paul. I was waiting for him in his house, and I saw the phone book was on the piano with ‘You know the name, look up the number.’ That was like a logo, and I just changed it. It was going to be a Four Tops kind of song – the chord changes are like that – but it never developed and we made a joke of it. Brian Jones is playing saxophone on it.”

 

Paul McCartney on Brian Jones

“I naturally thought he’d bring a guitar along to a Beatles session and maybe chung along and do some nice rhythm guitar or a little bit of electric twelve-string or something, but to our surprise, he brought his saxophone,”

“He opened up his sax case and started putting a reed in and warming up, playing a little bit. He was a really ropey sax player, so I thought, ‘Ah-hah. We’ve got just the tune.”

“It’s not amazingly well played but it happened to be exactly what we wanted. Brian was very good like that.”

Gower Guitars

I have three Gowers and one Grammer Guitar and I’m really proud to have them. They are part of my family heritage that I had nothing to do with…My family built guitars (Gower Guitars and Grammer Guitars) starting in the 1950s and made them until the 1970s. Country artists such as Johnny Cash, Leon Rhodes, Gordon Terry, and George Jones played Gower and Grammer Guitars.

I keep my eye out for them but on eBay, they are anywhere between $1500 – $5000 and more. They are rare…if you run up on one for a good price grab it. I don’t want them only for the family connection…they sound great.

I have two acoustics and two electrics. They didn’t make a lot of electric guitars. They all play great and the acoustics have the feel of a Martin. I asked my dad once why they didn’t make more electric guitars. He said because acoustics took craftmanship and electrics were basically “2 x 4’s with strings.”

Well, the electrics I have are more than that. The Green sunburst hollow body electric I have has a Gibson 335 feel and the mahogany solid body electric I have with original DeArmond pickups I would put it against any Gibson SG…

In the sixties, my family also built a studio where singer-songwriters Joe South, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Ray Stevens, Johnny Bragg and drummer D. J. Fontana recorded demos there.

I remember when I was 4 or 5 and walking into the Grammer guitar shop in the early 70s around the time it ended. I will never forget that smell of wood and glue…I also remember the studio and walking in with my cousin Ricky and seeing egg crates on the wall. I do wish they would have continued.

I will let two of my relatives who were there at the time and remember, tell the history…one being Randy Gower who’s father was J.W. Gower and Ricky Moore who’s mother was Alma Moore. My father was Bobby Max Gower.

The below is some history by Ricky Moore and Randy Gower

Ricky Moore

In 1955 J.W. Gower and his sister Alma Moore started the Gower Company. The first guitar was made by bending the sides on a tree. This did not work well but they still got the Guitar together. After a few months, they had purchased some woodworking equipment and had a brick building built by their duplex where they lived.

They built acoustics and electrics from 1955 until the early 1960’s. They made their own guitar pickups. Alma Moore’s husband Kellice Moore built a machine out of an old sewing machine and an old part from a car to wind the pickups.

Randy Gower

Then one day, out of nowhere, dad (J.W. Gower) decided he wanted to build guitars. He went and visited a violin maker in town and picked his brain and as George Jones would say “The Race Was On”. The beginning of the guitar business was slow. If you had seen the first one you would have known why, uglier than a bowling shoe.  Made out of maple it was a big jumbo guitar.  The sound was good but it looked rough. He made the beast and he did not stop there. He made another one that looked better. Dad and his sister (Alma Moore) decided they could do this for a living so he and Alma’s husband Kellice Moore got together to build a brick o block shop in the back of the house where they could build guitars and do repair work on others. Gower Guitar began. It wasn’t long until he had the shop going. Alma and him would make a guitar on occasion. To help pay the bills they did a lot of repair work for the guys at the Opry. Paying the bills proved to be a challenge. I was only ten years old and I could tell for the time he was putting in on some of these jobs he was not charging enough. He would work 2 hours on a job and charge .50 cents. Granted this was 1958 and .50 was worth much more then than it is today but he was never going to get ahead. The shop was a who’s who of country music stars. Stonewall Jackson, Faron Young, Sonny James, Earl Scruggs, Eddie Arnold, Harold Bradley, Pete Wade and many more would hang out or pass through over the years.

I can remember being in the shop with a fire going in the old pot belly stove in the shop when Faron Young came by to pick up a job. He told dad he had just left the studio where he thought he had cut another hit. He reached down to pick up a guitar that was laying there, strummed a cord and said, “Hello Walls how’d things go for you today”. He was right it was a hit, a big hit.

Then there was Eddie Arnold. I came in from school one day and dad was on the phone with Mr. Arnold. As usual, I went over and ask for a nickel. For all of you, youngsters a nickel would buy a soda or candy bar back in the day. I regressed, he waved me off but I was persistent, I said give me a nickel, once again a wave off. I tried once more with the same response at which point I ran my hand down into his front pocket. I did n’t reach the bottom when out of nowhere a hand came flying across my face. He had smacked the shit out of me. I bounced off the block wall and stood there stunned in disbelief. That was the only time he ever smacked me but I will say I never really gave him a reason again, nor did I ever put my hand in his pocket again. To this day, if I hear or see Mr.  Eddy Arnold the hair will stand up on the back of my neck. Life lesson learned.

At some point in the early 60’s J.W. Gower and Kellice Moore decided to build a recording studio in the building they were making guitars in…no Gower guitars would be made again until the mid-1960’s. Around 1964 Billy Grammer came to the house and ask dad if he wanted to go into business with him making guitars. They went and got a third partner in Clyde Reid to help sell stock and raise money. The start of Grammer Guitar had its start.  They brought in a man named Fred Hedges who was an outstanding machinist to build equipment for the manufacturing process. It wasn’t long until dad realized the thing was not going to work out.  Billy and Clyde wanted to go to a laminated Rosewood for the backs and sides. Like most companies, this was just a cost saving and nothing more. However, dad contention was it affected the sound of the instrument and would not go along with the change.  They could not agree so dad left the company in ’66.

There was a gap between Grammer and the new Gower Co.

At some point, Hatch Reid approached dad about starting up Gower Guitar. Hatch was Clyde’s uncle and there again the money man.

J.W. Gower and his sister and brother Max started manufacturing acoustic guitars around 1966. The company was in business until sometime around 1969 when they went bankrupt. A salesman that worked for the company took orders for guitars and pocketed the money…

Alma Moore and her brother Max went back to Grammer Guitars and worked there until Grammer went out of business. Tut Taylor bought all the equipment at auction and leased the same building Grammer used. Alma Moore and her brother Bobby Max Gower worked for Tut Taylor until he also went out of business. She would go on to work for Gibson Guitars for 11 years until she retired. Max went on to work with Tut Taylor’s son Mark for a few years building wooden instruments.

J.W. Gower moved to Franklin, TN and made more Gower Guitars with his son Randy.

 

I’m proud to be associated with these guitars and studio if only by family. Not long ago I met the great guitarist Leon Rhodes before he passed away. We were introduced and when he heard who I was he started to tell me some stories about the old days and my family that I didn’t know.

All in all, I have 12 guitars… I like playing vintage guitars through vintage amps because I like the instruments to have a history. I like knowing I can get the exact sound now that someone got in 1970…I have some older guitars but the Gower guitars have part of my history.

This guitar was given to me by Randy Gower that J.W. Gower made. I wouldn’t take anything for it. My guitar guy installed humbucker pickups and I can get about any tone I want out of it.

gower green.JPG

This one plays like a Martin. It is the best acoustic I have. It was made in the early sixties.

Gower acoustic.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

An American Werewolf In London 1981

I always come back to this movie. This is a horror-comedy movie that works. It’s not a parody. It’s a horror movie that happens to have funny moments.

Two Americans (David and Jack) are traveling through Europe. They go to a pub (The Slaughtered Lamb) and it’s strongly hinted for them to stick to the main roads on their way out by the unfriendly locals…well guess what? They don’t and soon Jack is ripped to shreds and David is badly scratched by a werewolf. David wakes up in a hospital with Nurse Alex Price taking care of him. That is the nurse I would want.

David starts having horrific nightmares. In the hospital, Jack reappears to David as a decomposing corpse. He keeps telling David that he should kill himself because David will turn into a werewolf and kill others. David goes home with Alex and Jack keeps reappearing and eventually, David does turn into a werewolf.

He ends up killing bystanders as the werewolf and now Jack comes back and is decomposed more and this time brings the new kills to meet David.

Jack cares about David and hates the situation but he will be left to wander like this unless the werewolf curse is broken…

When the movie came out on VHS I bought it. It was one of the first movies I bought on DVD. It is very effective as a horror movie with comedy. That can be a hard thing to do without it becoming an outright parody.

John Landis had just finished The Blues Brothers and Animal House when he directed this. In two years he would hit again with Trading Places. Then came the Twilight Zone with the Vic Morrow tragedy. After that Landis’s career was damaged.

Rick Baker did the special effects for this movie. The transformation is great and the wolf is effective. The effects look good today.

The music is great. Bad Moon Rising, Blue Moon, and  Moondance are featured.

The cast is David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Augguter, and Rick Baker makeup effects.

If you like horror movies you should like this. I would not recommend the sequel An American Werewolf in Paris…that one doesn’t stack up against the original.

Supposedly Max Landis, John’s son is planning to remake this movie. Personally, I don’t think it needs it. It’s hard to remake a classic.

Waging Heavy Peace

An Autobiography by Neil Young. Neil is one of my favorite artists. He tells some history about Buffalo Springfield and CSNY and also the Mynah Birds with Rick James. Neil Young and Rick James in a band together…its just hard for me to imagine that.

He gets into how he started his music career with his first band and how he loves Crazy Horse.

Now all of these stories are great but… this is during the period he came up with PONO music… a high-end music player that plays music with much more quality than CDs or mp3s. This venture eventually failed years later but he is very excited about it in the book. That is great but sometimes it seems forced. I honestly don’t think he was plugging PONO…I think he was just that excited about it. His enthusiasm is unquestionable.

Cars…the man loves cars. I admire that in him but again he talks A LOT about electric cars and hybrids. Then he combines the two…PONO music systems being installed into…fuel efficient cars. I will admit it is interesting and you get to see what makes the man tick.

Some of it reads like a diary because that is the way he wrote a lot of it. He will say he is going to Hawaii and then a page or two later…he will tell you he made it there. It’s like being in conversation with someone who will just switch subjects on a whim. Neil tends to ramble.

He is part owner in Lionel Trains and you can feel his love of trains coming through the pages. He also talks about his quadriplegic son and the Lionel Train control he designed for his son to operate the trains. That I found really heart touching. He really tries to connect with his son and that is what the album Trans is all about.

He goes through his drug and drinking problems, medical problems, marriage problems, and every single car or bus he has had in his life…which again he just loves any kind of vehicle.

The disappointment for me was Neil didn’t talk enough about the music. Yes, you will learn more about Neil Young. I did learn many things about him that I didn’t know. The problem is he spreads the music sections out and just when he gets on a roll, you are thinking… cool he is writing about playing with Buffalo Springfield and also where they hung out…here comes the PONO Music bit or more car information.

I guess the best way to sum it up is yes you will get a lot of the musical info you are looking for but you have to wade through a lot of rambling.

Overall if you can find this book 2nd hand, get it. If you are looking for a definitive Neil Young bio this is not the one… He does have great things to say about the members of CSNY, Buffalo Springfield, and Crazy Horse. Maybe I wanted another Testimony or My Cross to Bear…this wasn’t it…but what did I expect? It’s Neil Young and he is going to do what he wants to do… that is the reason we love him.

I will admit this…after he mentions all the vintage cars and busses he has owned his enthusiasm rubs off…I started to look these models up and reading about them… but it wasn’t what I had in mind going into the book.

The Kids Are Alright 1979

Besides the Beatles Anthology, this is my favorite rockumentary for the lack of a better word. Jeff Stein the director did a great job on this film about The Who.

Jeff was a fan of the band and pestered them until they let him do this. He had no prior experience in filmmaking but this was the 1970s and he got the gig. His timing was eerily perfect. He caught the original band at the very end of their tenure with the great Keith Moon.

He searched high and low for clips of the band in earlier years. Stein keeps the appearance mostly in order. There is sadness in this. You see the band through the years from 1964 to 1978… you see all of them gradually age of course but Keith Moon ages faster than any of them. I’ve read where it hit him hard while watching the rough cut right before he died. His drinking and drug taking had taken its toll on him. He saw a young energetic kid that looked like Paul McCartney’s younger brother to a man who was 32 and looked like he was in his 40s.

This may be the first or one of the first video bios on a major rock group. Led Zeppelin had The Song Remains the Same but it focused on one concert in New York… The Beatles had Let It Be but those films didn’t show their history like The Kids Are Alright.

It this film you see a band that is fun… unlike Zeppelin the Who were more open to their audience and didn’t have a dark mystique hanging over them. They would crack jokes from the stage and Moon treated it like a High School talent show until he started to play…then he got serious.

You see film segments that were fun like the video of Happy Jack, the interview on the Russell Harty show, Keith with Ringo, and Keith and Pete sharing a joke that only they could understand. One of my favorite segments is The Who playing Barbara Ann with Keith singing and the band having a good time. They also played I Saw Her Standing There but it didn’t make the film…you can watch it in the outtakes. I can’t imagine Zeppelin doing Barbara Ann and goofing for the camera.

The Who did a couple of live shows for the film besides being interviewed. Stein mostly used old clips but he convinced the band to do a couple of concerts where he could get a definitive version of Won’t Get Fooled Again… which personally I think is the greatest rock song live you will ever hear. You see Keith’s last performance as he is looking pudgy, older, and slower but still pulls it off. Pete wasn’t too thrilled about doing the concerts for the film but it turned out good. They ended up only using a version Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley.

Keith died a few months before The Kids Are Alright debuted. The film showed The Who at it’s best. Kenney Jones from the Faces replaced him but it was never the same. You cannot replace Moon…he was the engine that drove the Who. The only drummer that has worked well with the Who since Keith has been Keith’s Godson Zak Starkey…Ringo’s son.

zak.jpg

I acquired a VHS copy of this in the mid-eighties. It wasn’t a great copy but my friends and I wore it out. One of them worked at a small cable station. The station was in a small county that usually aired farm reports and advertisements. Basically, it was a very small building in the middle of nowhere. All they would do there is broadcast videos.

We had the tape in hand and wanted to see it so we went there one afternoon. He popped it in the VHS player and played it. He had no idea but it was going out live. Near the end of the film, he took a phone call from his boss. I didn’t think anyone ever watched that station…but it turns out they did and they were not fans of The Who. He didn’t get fired but they took his key for the door. It was a big subject the next day at school as some teenagers loved it but their parents didn’t appreciate their videos on farming being interrupted by My Generation and Keith Moon in bondage.

This film covers the original Who and being such a Who fan I’m glad Jeff Stein was so persistent in doing this because many of the tapes he was able to borrow probably would have been erased and used again by the BBC as was their policy.

 

 

Logan’s Run

1970’s futuristic sci-fi movie. That’s all it takes for me to watch.

Sometime in the 23rd century… the survivors of war, overpopulation, and pollution are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the forgotten world outside. Here, in an ecologically balanced world, mankind lives only for pleasure, freed by the servo-mechanisms which provide everything. There’s just one catch: Life must end at thirty unless reborn in the fiery ritual of Carousel.

And so begins this movie from 1976.

A future society living in a dome and everything is run by a computer. Everyone is under 30 because when you turn 30 you are killed in the Carousel ceremony. Logan and Jessica try to escape and after nearly being killed, they find an old man outside the dome who tells them how life used to be many years ago. it’s a bit more complicated than that but a good sci-fi movie to watch.

The Cast is Micheal York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne (Voice only), Peter Ustinov and a brief appearance by Farrah Fawcett.

Peter Ustinov is great in this movie as the old man… He keeps this movie grounded and he is my favorite character in the movie.

I like the special effects for its time period. You can tell it was made in the disco era and this was pre-Star Wars. Some of the set looks huge and they mix them with miniatures. I wish I could have a room like Logan’s.

Jenny Agutter is beautiful in this movie and there is a small appearance by Farrah Fawcett.

I’m very surprised that there hasn’t been a remake since everything else has been remade to death.

Roger Ebert’s review in 1976

“Logan’s Run” is a vast, silly extravaganza that delivers a certain amount of fun, once it stops taking itself seriously. That happens about an hour into the film, but even the first half isn’t bad if you’re a fan (as I am) of special effects and cities of the future and ray guns and monorails whizzing overhead. The movie was made on a very large budget – the figure $9 million has been whispered about Hollywood – and it looks it. “2001” it’s not, but it has class. The plot is fairly routine stuff, by science-fiction standards; It seems to be a cross between Arthur C. Clarke’s “The City and the Stars” and elements of “Planet of the Apes” (1968). It’s about another one of those monolithic, self-perpetuating domed cities we’re all scheduled to start living in 300 or 400 years hence. 

People wear the regulation futurist leotards and miniskirts, and glide around enormous interior spaces that look like modern buildings in Texas (these scenes were shot on location in modern buildings in Texas). They don’t seem to eat anything, although they drink stuff that’s apparently nutritious, and when they feel like sex they just plug themselves into a cross between a teleporter and a computer dating service and materialize in each other’s bedrooms. 

The only catch in this idyllic existence is that nobody’s allowed to live more than 30 years. On the appointed last day, they ascend heavenward in a “carousel” that incinerates them while their friends applaud. In theory, if you get to the top of the carousel without being zapped, you can continue to live. But there are no old people in the city . . . 

Our hero is Logan, played by Michael York with a certain intelligence (meditate on how some of his dialog would sound coming from anyone else and you’ll see what I mean). He’s a “sandman,” assigned to intercept “runners” who attempt to escape their society. Most people start to run just as they’re approaching their 30th birthdays – Logan’s world is just like ours. One day, after being double-crossed by the computer-mind of the city, Logan runs, too. And the beautiful Jessica (Jenny Agutter) runs with him. 

It’s here that the movie gets to be fun. Logan and Jessica float through an irrigation system, are trapped on an elevator, get into fights with other sandmen (during which we reflect that everyone’s death rays are terribly inefficient), walk through an ice tunnel populated by Roscoe Lee Brown playing a computerized Tin Man and finally emerge into a largely abandoned Washington, DC. This flight is not unaccompanied by laughter on our part. The audience seemed to laugh a lot, indeed, but it was mostly tolerant laughter. Maybe the moviemakers themselves even knew some scenes would be funny, as when, Jessica and Logan, dripping wet in the ice tunnel, get out of their wet clothes and into some dry animal skins and then immediately, inexplicably, put their wet clothes back on again. There are the obligatory shots of the man and woman confronting the brave new world with their arms about each other, and then a truly marvelous confrontation with the lone survivor of Washington (played by Peter Ustinov with a twinkle in his eye and, I swear, in his voice, his beard and his toes as well). After a knockdown fight borrowed from old Westerns, the movie’s ending is unabashed cornball utopian. But “Logan’s Run” has wit enough to work on such a level; even while we’re chuckling at such an audacious use of cliche, we’re having fun.