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Gilbert Klein

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  1. BTW: The five men in that photo are: Ronnie, Gary's son, David, Charlie, Gary and Keith, taken backstage on their last tour.
  2. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction Sleep I don’t think I’ve written about the Hard Corps before, but it’s worth knowing about their protean efforts on behalf of the Rolling Stones, and this one is about sleep. The Hard Corps? Knowing as you do that these days the top touring acts of any genre travel with dozens of crew for instruments, amps, sound and lighting, gear, wardrobe, catering, make-up, yoga instructors, masseuses and whatever and whoever else they want with them. Some tours have busloads of support staff. Up until the mid-1980’s the Rolling Stones, as big an act as they were, travelled with only a three-man crew to move and set up their gear. Those men would be Chuch, Gary and Johnny, and they called themselves the Hard Corps. For so major an act, it was as unusual as it was heroic that only three men controlled, tuned, repaired and set up all that gear. Unusual? Chuch (pronounced “chooch”) told me about the time the Stones were playing a stadium in the mid-west and the Sales Manager of the radio station promoting the show came up to him and asked how many radio station T-shirts the crew needed. Chuch said, “Two larges and a medium, thanks.” The guy said, “No, no- I mean the whole crew,” and Chuch said, “Yeah- two larges and a medium. Thanks.” Because he’d been through this before with all the big acts whose shows his station was promoting, the guy said, “No, man, I mean everyone! Everyone who works and moves all the gear for the Stones- everyone on the crew!” So Chuch explained the deal. He told me the guy screwed up his eyebrows like he was trying to process what he’d just heard, then nodded and walked away shaking his head, two larges and a medium lighter. So it was a small crew, and they’d become very tight with the band. The band called them roadies, the roadies called them bandies. Chuch, Gary and Johnny travelled, worked, partied and lived with the band in what had to be the tightest band-and-back-line team in rock and roll. They did practically everything together, on and off the buses, planes, trains, vans and limos, at the hotels, bars, parties, clubs, restaurants, airports and arenas. Well, I’m sad to say that Chuch is gone, so there’s no one who can confirm where this happened, but I know he said it was at Knebworth Stadium in England. Neither Gary or Johnny remembered the story, and while this may tell you something about life on the road with this band, what use were they? Oh, Gary, Johnny and me are still pals and all, but I have this column and they were no use; but I know it’s true because Chuch told me this story himself. If you knew him, you’d know he wouldn’t lie. I’m hoping you like Rolling Stones stories. Chuch was the Stones’ crew chief, and had been on the rock ‘n’ roll road for years. In fact, I understand it was Chuch who’d printed the first rock ‘n’ roll band T-shirts for the Small Faces when he was out with them. Someone smart saw it, and rock n roll merch became a thing. That could be another article, but this is about sleeping while living with the Rolling Stones. Okay, it’s more about hanging out with Keith. The show in question was at Knebworth in 1976. Chuch had just spent several days up on cocaine with Keith and, as crew chief, despite being desperately in need of sleep, he had to get to the stadium with Gary and Johnny several hours before the band went on. Not that Keith, still at the hotel, was going to use the time to catch up on some sleep… but back to Chuch. He got to the venue and they did their work; as headliners, the Stones would sound check first, and once that was done and the band gear was backstage, his road case (please see #3 below) was in place and locked, they had several hours ahead of them with nothing to do until the doors opened and people filed in. There was the usual backstage shuffle as the first of several bands was about to go on. More confusion, and no spare room anywhere… Scheduled to open for the Stones that day were the Don Harrrison Band, 10cc, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and Hot Tuna. It would be seven hours before the Stones hit the stage and then two hours until they finished their set so Chuch could do his after-show work and get back to the hotel for some sleep. Ouch! Long day ahead, brother, and with nothing to do until the Stones went on, he went looking for an out-of-the-way place to take a little nap. Maybe just a half-hour or so, y’know? Just some solid z’s to restore some zip, help him get through the rest of the day… Ever been backstage at one of those massive all-day rock fests? Where there were so many bands playing on one stage? It was jammed back there; people and equipment everywhere, movement everywhere, clutter and confusion. Amps, drums and drum cases, drum risers, mikes, mike stands, mike cases, instrument cases, work stations, road cases, spare gear, cases and cables upon cases and cables, and stuff that you didn’t know what it was for, and towels and rolls of tape, and keyboards and tambourines and maracas, and there wasn’t a spot that wasn’t being used for something. If a spot had been empty earlier, someone would already have put something there. Then the doors were open, people were filing in, all the gear that needed to be somewhere backstage was somewhere backstage, and the first band was on. So… where ya gonna go for a nap, Chuch? He couldn’t go back to the hotel, the dressing rooms were all full and the trucks and buses were locked up and parked off-site. Where could a guy go for a quick snooze? Just a few minutes of shut-eye… There’s no longer anyone one to ask where he looked before he found Hot Tuna’s drum kit on its riser off in a corner, surrounded by amps and instrument cases. It was a platform on casters, with another platform above it where the drum kit could be set up and left, then wheeled on and off stage with no set-up time. A lot of drum risers give you three or four feet of space between platforms, but looking at a photo of Hot Tuna onstage that day, we see that the drum riser was all of… maybe eighteen inches high? But you have to calculate for the casters. The photos reveal that for Hot Tuna, there was maybe a one-foot space, maybe fourteen inches between the lower platform and the platform the drums sat on. The drums had been assembled and were ready to be rolled onstage, the first band had just gone on, and they’d be just sitting there for a few hours. I guess twelve or fourteen inches looked like prime real estate to Chuch right then, and he slid inside. (end scene) (open scene) The sun had set and it was getting close to the Stones’ stage time. Keith was now in his dressing room where he and Mick met to decide on the set list for the night, they had it and Keith wanted to get it to Chuch so he could distribute it. By now, Gary and Johnny had been looking for the crew chief, who was nowhere! They were waiting for the set list so they’d know which instruments to pull and prep. This had never happened before and they were getting alarmed. It’s never just the band you see onstage, it’s also the crew behind the stage that makes the show happen smoothly. It took teamwork outside of the band to put on a Stones show. They’d looked everywhere, but… No one knew where Chuch was until he casually showed up and started unlocking his road case and people started screaming at him, wanting to know where the hell he’d been, and no one believed it when he told them. It seems that Chuch had slid into that space in Hot Tuna’s drum riser, passed out instantly, had still been asleep when they rolled the drums out for the Hot Tuna set, and he slept right through their hour-long set, one foot below the drums. Gary and Johnny thought they’d seen and heard everything about being on the road, but this one surprised them. They stood there, amazed. When Chuch reappeared at his workbench, he started setting up his road case for the show, not knowing that Hot Tuna had gone on, much less gone off, and that was when he found out. But while that was interesting to everyone, it didn’t really matter right then: he was rested and he had work to do. It was thirty minutes before show time, the set list was ready, so he went to get it from Keith. Now they knew which songs the band was doing, so they knew which guitars to get ready. Strings needed changing, guitars needed tuning, batteries needed changing and Chuch was back on the job, rested and ready. As it must, the show went on. These days Keith’s body man is Tony, but for years it was Gary’s other job. The body man goes everywhere with his charge and takes care of the details, both small and large. For example, wherever Keith is, Tony knows how many cigarettes are left in the pack in his pocket. Keith is never going to be heard saying, “Hey, can we stop at that 7-11 so I can get some smokes?” Tony knows how many cigs are left in Keith’s pack, and I’ve seen him slip the old, crumpled pack out of Keith’s pocket and slip a new one in, always open, of course, while Keith doesn’t seem to notice. Keith never walks into an event without being led to the spot that had been reserved for him. Unlike the other members of the band, Keith and Ronnie both loved to party and needed someone responsible within reach. Until he got caught with a girlfriend, Ronnie’s minder on and off tour was his wife, Jo, but that was also a job description of the Hard Corps, and it wasn’t always easy. Well, to hear these guys tell the stories, it was almost always fun and only occasionally easy. You have to understand that for several years, these three men went everywhere with the band—airports, harbors, planes, hotels, vans, nightclubs, wherever—and besides a few differences like pay and musical talent, they were tight. Chuch and Johnny might be off doing something else between tours, but Gary was on year-round full-time Keith detail. Hanging out in New York between tours, Keith had taken his usual suite of rooms at the Ritz-Carlton and settled in for the customary bacchanal. Perhaps you’ve heard it said that Keith eats iron and pisses rust, and his stamina is legendary, so as the party was rolling into its fourth straight sleepless day, Gary was getting a little tired. They were all hanging out in the main room of the suite when Gary told the others that he’d had enough fun, and went to get some sleep in one of the empty rooms. He told me he doesn’t remember getting into the bed, only that he was out like someone had flipped a switch. “Let those guys keep partying,” Gary thought, he needed a bed. As usual, Keith had taken the suite with no check-out date, and Gary thought he might stay right there in that bed until they all decamped. It wouldn’t be his decision, anyway, so… whatever. Gary remembers: “I laid down on the bed and was asleep instantly. Ah, the blessed relief of sleep, and how good it was, for about twenty minutes, when the manager of the Ritz-Carlton knocked on the main door of the suite. It seemed that Keith and the Rolling Stones were regular and valued clients of the hotel and the manager was beside himself with how sorry he was, but it seemed that when Keith checked in and took the suite, he hadn’t announced his departure date, and now the hotel was booked to the max and they were out of rooms, and… ummm… uhh… would Keith mind… uhh… was it possible to get back… just one of the rooms? Mr. Richards? “Apparently the room I chose to sleep in was promised to an old couple who every year takes this room and celebrates their anniversary. They were a very sweet couple. It was one of the rare times that I chose to wear a watch.” Keith told the manager, “‘Course, mate, hang on…” When someone knocked on Keith’s door, it was always someone or something interesting, and everyone paid attention, so everyone on the room knew what was going on, and everyone agreed that this was too good an opportunity to pass up. One of the partiers in the suite was the guy in charge of booking the rooms for the tour, and it was he that came up with a plan. They sent Chuch in to tell Gary that he’d been asleep for over twelve hours and they were getting worried about him. Slowly, groggily, Gary came out of his coma and read in Chuch’s face that something was wrong, and he sat up and asked, “What is it?” Chuch told him that he’d been asleep for over twelve hours and they were all “a little worried” about him. “Are you okay?” Chuch asked again, and Gary looked at his watch and thought that he’d been out for twelve hours and twenty minutes; he assured Chuch he was okay. So Chuch said, “Good, let’s get back to Keith.” Gary said “okay,” got out of bed, stretched, and went back to the party after a full twenty minute nap, and they continued on until the next day. Gary still remembers, “Not many things compare to cocaine from the pharmacy. Actually nothing I know of does. …. Just like Archie and Edith sang, "Those were the days." Indeed, you may assume that they were. These days Gary and I are still pals; he lives on the east coast and still sees Keith when he’s in the area. Johnny’s still a pal and resides in sunny climes and would probably say hello if he knew you. Fun Facts: Chuch really was a remarkable person and is still sorely missed. Here are some links for you: http://www.the-faces.com/odds/etc/thechuch.htm https://www.iorr.org/tour02/chuch.htm http://greatmuseums.org/explore/more/rock-hall-moment-the-rolling-stones-backstage-road-case (The Bulldog decal was a hash café in Amsterdam that the backline favored [I still have a menu from there], and I’m proud to say that in the opening shot in the upper right is a decal from Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy Camp, an event I produced in 1989. Nice to see that again. Thanks, Chuch.) Rolling Stones at Knebworth “You Gotta Move” Rolling Stones at Knebworth set list - LINK We’ve heard from Johnny in this space before, and I wanted to include him with the other two members of the Hard Corps, but we were sitting around talking, as we do, and this came up. He’d heard Gary’s story from Chuch, but didn’t remember Chuch’s story about Knebworth. We laughed and laughed, and I asked him if he had a sleep story to contribute. He laughed some more, thought about it and said, “It was always like that!” We laughed, and then we talked about something else. Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written three books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, FOOTBALL 101 and God Watches Over Drunks and Fools. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  3. Spooky Tooth! Yow! Do you remember Blodwyn Pig? What an exciting time for music- everyone tried so hard. I think Spooky Tooth played the Fillmore. I might have been there. I might not. Say hi to Jerry.
  4. I recently wrote in this space that I have no idea how kids dance today, and I threatened to burden you with memories of my youthful terpsichorean triumphs. No, I’m not interested in the way adults dance—now or then—let’s save that for the humor section. I’m too old and usually uninterested to go to clubs anymore, and at Coachella, the kids I saw dancing were so crammed together that it looked like they were in various trance states. The way they were packed, I understood that, and it made me wonder if anyone has dance parties any more. Dance parties? I doubt it, but I don’t know. No, I have absolutely no idea how teens dance today. I used to like watching people dance at clubs and shows; I like to see people lose themselves in music, wrapping themselves around a beat. I especially like watching people dance at reggae shows, where the white people down-beat on the two and four and the black people down-beat on the one and three. Heads bopping up and down on different beats? And everyone’s having a good time? C’mon, it’s funny! So let’s talk about dancing. No, not like Katy Perry or Beyoncé or Bruno Mars or any of the popular performers who use dance troupes and intricately choreographed routines. I admire those routines and the skills they show, and I admire the kids who are taking dance classes. You admire those folks, too, don’t you? You should, and of course I don’t know how old you are, but if you’re older than sixty or so, you might remember some of the dances the Boomers did, and if you’re under sixty, these may surprise you. Ask your parents or grandparents. They’ll enjoy telling you. As will I, and I’ll show them to you. No chuckling out there- I’ll find out. I know people where you live. For hundreds of years dancing in public had been stiff, formal and strictly regimented. Dances like the waltz and such. Then, starting back in the 1920’s a new form of popular dance emerged; it was a more improvised, individualistic style of dance. The new dances needed at least two people, but they could express themselves freely, physically, in ways that until then hadn’t been permissible in polite society. It came out of Jazz and of course our African-American brothers and sisters led the way. Jazz wasn’t an improvisational exploration until later; what you had by the 1920’s were groups playing increasingly pumped-up, lively music. Replacing tin cans, box-tops, kegs and cartons, drums took their place in the band and suddenly syncopation shot to the top of the charts as joyous, informal, personal dancing ensued. As it would. As it should. Regional dances had their regional names, and songs often had dances associated with them, like The Charleston, which came from Charleston, South Carolina, and went national. There were others, like the Turkey Trot, the Black Bottom, the Big Apple and the Shag, but what captured and focused the nation’s attention had an historic association. In 1927, one of the best-known pop dancers was asked what he called what they were doing, and as it was just four days after Charles Lindbergh galvanized America and the world’s attention by flying solo across the Atlantic—easily the biggest story of the day— he said it was called “the Lindy Hop.” The kids took it up and it instantly flew across American dance floors and it became the only dance of the hot jazz or Swing era to make into the next generation, where my classmates and I all knew it as “the Lindy.” Yeah, we did the Lindy. My sister and I had a routine. Here’s why I’m writing: our parents organized and approved of our dance parties after having danced the way we were dancing. They were known as Bobby Soxers back in the 30’s and 40’s, and they’d been dancing to Swing bands and to Frank Sinatra and the other crooners. You could sway and swoon to Frank, but you had to swing to dance to Swing Music. You had to move. In tandem, with a partner. Our parents thought the way we danced was cute because in the Swing years they’d had their crazy dances, most of which evolved from the Charleston. But in the mid-50’s, when rock and roll exploded, the Lindy was the last of the old dances and the first of a series of fast dances we all learned until 1960, when Chubby Checker released the Twist and then everything went crazy. Allow me to explicate. Dick Clark’s highly rated TV show American Bandstand ran from Philadelphia five afternoons a week, making him the most powerful music influencer of the 1950’s. A cultural touchstone for teens, an astronomical number of them watched Bandstand, where the music, clothing, dancing and hairstyles were avidly observed and copied. Some of the records Clark featured had dance moves associated with them and we learned them and danced them at dance parties. Yes, there were dance parties. Parties for dancing. A lot of it may have been a bit silly in retrospect, but it was fun, and teens and pre-teens have always exhibited a herd mentality and a general lack of inhibitions, so… we danced the silly dances. Didn’t seem silly, then. No judging out there… The Limbo was a hit and, when spoken slowly and dramatically, the origin of the phrase, “How low can you go?” But it was more of a party game than a dance, so let’s start with “The Stroll.” Guys and girls lined up in a row across from each other for this one. It was a slow dance and the best version I found on YouTube shows some decent Strolling, so here’s Dick Clark to introduce: The Stroll. I was a secret Stroll fiend and I can still do it, but I need a partner. Anyone? Then there was the Jerk. This video was from Dick Clark’s Saturday night show, so the kids were in seats and weren’t dancing like they did on the afternoon shows, but the kids in the audience were doing about all there was to the Jerk. People would stand in one place, shuffle their feet, and… jerk. Look, there were no cell phones with cameras, so we weren’t afraid of being embarrassed everywhere around the world. I refused to do this one. Dee Dee Sharp came out with “Mashed Potato Time,” and after you see it I’ll let you guess how it got that name. He’s a guy showing us the Mashed Potatoes and the same guy showing us the Hitch-Hike. We did variations using our arms, of course, but what you see below the belt was all there was to it. It wasn’t easy. I can still do it, but please don’t ask. Here’s the Swim, and we did this for a week or two, then moved on to the Watusi. The Watusi? Yeah, every few weeks a new song came out and so I guess we needed a new dance, but between my memory and this video, I suspect you could do any move you wanted and say it was the Watusi. It lasted about two weeks. Mercifully, I no longer have any memories about dancing the Watusi. Another come-and-go dance accompanied the release of “Mickey’s Monkey” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, another example of a dance craze that lasted a week or two in response to a hit song. You can watch the video and wonder what we were thinking when we did this, but it lasted less time than the Maracrena, and how many of you learned that one? Y’see? It was fun for kids and it was harmless. And soon forgotten. Like the Macarena. How many of you will tell your grandkids about the Macarena, and how many of you still do it at family gatherings, giving everyone a good laugh? For some reason, when you talk about this era with Boomers, the dance they always bring up is the Frug (pronounced “froog”). What I found interesting about this one is that everywhere I looked I found different versions of the Frug, and if I remember correctly, no one back then knew exactly how to do it, either. It seems that if you moved around and flung your arms about, you could call it the Frug. As an example of how misunderstood this dance was, when I tried to find a definitive video, one fellow pronounced it rhyming with shrug. Every video had a different thing going on, so… no Frug for you! For those in need of a good laugh, I have a brief instructional video of one of the stupidest things people did and might still doing at weddings and such: The Funky Chicken. Yeah, kids could do this, but adults should know better. At the Hop by Danny & the Juniors didn’t have a dance associated with it that I know of, but I included it here because this was one of my favorite dance songs from that period. It still rocks, and it’s the best example of how we used to dance. And all of this was going on between 1956 and 1962. I also included this because in between silly dance fads, we always went back to the Lindy. It was a dance staple until… Dick Clark broadcast “American Bandstand” weekdays, showcasing all the hottest songs and singers, and featuring new songs and dancing. Ever hear the phrase, “Well, it has a good beat and you can dance to it…” that’s where it’s from. Anyone? Clark was the man with the most influence on pop music in America when Hank Ballard put out “Teardrops On My Pillow” in 1959, but it was the B-side, “The Twist” that Clark felt would be the hit. Ballard’s only previous hit had been the naughtily suggestive “Work With Me, Annie.” Ballard didn’t help his image any with his next release, “Annie Had A Baby,” so Clark urged a local producer to record “The Twist” with the safer, clean-cut Chubby Checker. An almost note-for-note copy, Checker’s version was released in the summer of 1960 and shot to the top of the charts in the United States and several other countries. Yeah, that fast. And everyone was doing it. Jackie Kennedy did it, man! Everyone was doing the Twist! Of course some parents and church groups thought it was too suggestive, what with swinging your hips like that, but the kids weren’t gonna let it go. Then it wasn’t just the teens doing the Twist. Society wanted in, and then middle America caught on. Dance clubs opened in cities everywhere and called themselves Discotheques. Discotheques sprung up overnight, and the hottest, hippest, the most exclusive discotheque anywhere was, of course, in Manhattan. All of society came. And what was this world-famous discotheque called? Read on. In the film, “A Hard Day’s Night,” an interviewer asked George Harrison what he called his hairstyle, and he answered “Arthur.” Shortly thereafter, when actor Richard Burton ran off with Elizabeth Taylor, his ex-wife reopened Manhattan’s famous El Morocco nightclub and named it… Arthur. I love a good aside, and I hope you liked that one, but there’s more: I was in Arthur one afternoon while they were closed and I saw some motion off to my right. I looked and saw a man in a tan two-piece suit walking jauntily down the stairs from the office. It was Paul McCartney. A double aside! At no extra cost to you! The Twist went around the world in 1960 and came back in 1962 to be a hit again for Chubby Checker, and discotheques were full on weekends and everyone was twisting until February, 1964, when the Beatles showed up and swept all the twisting silliness away in favor of a different silliness called Beatlemania. It was a cultural tidal wave, and I don’t remember any new dances after that—other than one—and if by the time it came out we weren’t already past the silliness that preceded it, I believe this one killed any vestigial need to frolic so freely. So I’ll close with what was, to my mind, mercifully the end of the dance craze, the reason for which will be eminently clear with but a click. Yes, some of the younger kids were still watching American Bandstand, as Clark was booking the hot English acts, and this will be visual proof of why those dance crazes ended. I suppose some guys spent the necessary six seconds to learn this one, and I presume that those were the guys who never got a date through high school. Although who had the last laugh is debatable. Thus, I give you Freddie and the Dreamers, with “Do The Freddie.” And no, I never did this one. Amazingly, they actually had a second hit, with “I’m Telling You Now.” As far as I know, this was the last of the fad dances, praise______. When you see the way we danced, I’ll understand if you don’t believe we did these voluntarily, and I won’t be mad if you think we were jerks. We were having good, clean fun, so screw the haters. Fun Facts: Chubby Checker? Was that his real name? No, it was Ernest Evans, but he took the name as a play on the very popular Fats Domino. Chubby, Fats. Domino, Checker. In Latin America, the twist caught fire in the early 1960s, fueled by Bill Haley & His Comets, who was trying for a comeback. Their recordings of "The Spanish Twist" and "Florida Twist" were successes, particularly in Mexico. Haley, in interviews, credited Checker and Ballard. Coincidentally, Checker appeared in two musicals that took their titles from films Haley made in the 1950s: “Twist Around the Clock” (after Rock Around the Clock) and “Don't Knock the Twist” (after Don't Knock the Rock). In 1961, at the height of the craze, patrons at New York's Peppermint Lounge on West 45th Street were twisting to the house band, a local group from Jersey, Joey Dee and the Starliters. Their song, "The Peppermint Twist (Part 1)" became number one in the United States for three weeks in January 1962. Some people did a traditional Twist, others did the Peppermint Twist. One of the Starlighters’ younger brothers was in the Young Rascals (“Good Lovin’,” etc.). Trying to cash in, in 1962 Bo Diddley released his album Bo Diddley's A Twister. He recorded several Twist tracks, including "The Twister", "Bo's Twist", and "Mama Don't Allow No Twistin'", which referenced the objections many parents had to the pelvic motions of the dance. A world record was set in DeLand, Florida, on October 11, 2012, when Chubby Checker sang the song live and the crowd danced. An estimated 4,000 people twisted along with Checker, surpassing the previous Guinness World Record for most people twisting in the streets at once. Since street shoes and stones might damage the polished wood floors of the school gyms where the dances took place, the students were required to remove their shoes and flop dance in their bobby socks, hence the terms "bobby soxer" and "sock hop". If you’ll allow a moment of vanity, here’s Buzz In The System doing “At The Hop” with me on rhythm guitar and lead vocals. Yeah, I really liked this song. Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written three books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, FOOTBALL 101 and God Watches Over Drunks and Fools. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  5. ShawnC: Great minds think... eh? Also,it was my first brush with Ash vs. the Evil Dead. I liked it, but this is the 4th season, I think, so are you a regular viewer? Should I see more?
  6. Thanks to both of you for the comments. I love adding new knowledge to this stuff. I remember one article a LONG time ago that mentioned a guitar flash I met briefly in 1968- and a CA reader knew the guy! Also, I was watching TV last night and there was the season opener for ASH: Evil Dead. I'd heard about it but never saw it, so I tuned in. Funny, weird, gory, strange and all that, but at one point in the show (I think it was a fight scene) they played Bow Wow Wow's version of "I Want Candy." Again, thanks for the comments.
  7. If you’re going to spend your mis-spent years hanging out with musicians and such, it has to start somewhere, and mine started with the Strangeloves. Remember them? Heard of them? They had three hits in the mid- 1960’s, and I loved dancing to them. The beat, man, the beat was so strong, so… Bam! You could stomp your foot on the beat, and when your foot hit the floor... yeah! You were Stompin’! For me, it was a song of exuberance, and I liked to dance. I was secretly pretty good at it. I have to say I don’t know what dancing looks like today. I see stars dancing on TV and it’s mostly intricately choreographed routines, which makes for a great show, but what do kids dance like today? Are there still dance parties or am I the oldest man in Baja? You can go to YouTube and see how we danced on American Bandstand, but does anyone dance like that anymore? The kids I saw dancing at Coachella... it was like watching people in various trance states, and that wasn’t just the techno, emo or whatever other forms that were there, this was for the rock acts, too. (Okay, that’s it- I’m going to write an article on the dances we did when I was in public school. It seemed that every few weeks there was another new dance. I’ll write about the Watusi, the Hully Gully, the Stroll and the Hitch-Hike, but there were others. It started with the Twist, and ended with the Freddy, which I believe was the last of them, praise Whoever you prefer, but I need to get back to the Strangeloves, because therein hangs a tale.) If you were listening to the radio in 1965, you heard “I Want Candy,” “Cara-Lin,” and “In the Night-Time.” These were before heavy metal, and they were heavy rockers for their time. “I Want Candy” took the beat identified with seminal rocker Bo Diddley and then pushed it. If you don’t know Bo, or the beat, please check out “Bo Diddley.” Please do it now. I’ll wait here. ------------------------------------}{------------------------------------ Thanks. Here’s how it started. Phil Spector packed the studio for his “Wall of Sound,” and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys started making the studio as important as the group, and groups and singers abounded and owned the radio until the Beatles ate their lunch and all you’d hear on the radio seemed to be English groups or singers. Good for the teens, but a big bummer for music producers like Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer, whose career had been upended by all those English acts. Also, from now on, the three producers will henceforth be called FGG. Thanks. Their biggest hit had been in 1963 with “My Boyfriend’s Back,” by The Angels (and which for some reason I remember dancing to with my neighbor, Susan, which is strange), but by 1965 the times had changed, the old-style hits had dried up. It was that quick. Able musicians, Feldman and Goldstein had already recorded themselves as Bob & Jerry, and been in other unsuccessful groups. By 1964, the “girl group” thing they’d specialized was stale and they went looking for what the market was asking for. I’d love to know what the conversation was like, but in the end they decided not to find a group, but to create one. It had to be foreign because that’s what was selling. Something English-y would be good; they could play the instruments, but singing in an English accent would be beyond their skill, so they decided the new group would be from… Australia? Then they went looking for the song, and this is where legendary songwriter Bert Berns enters the studio. The guy was a hit-song-writing machine, and with FGG, they came up with the lyrics and named the girl after a fictional coquette from the novel “Candy,” by Terry Southern. Then they chose a beat, and their choice could not have been better. I mean that! Remember Bo Diddley from up there? They took his beat, put it up front to make it a little more powerful and added the lyrics, cut it a few times and bang! It was a hit. (inside joke alert: their label was “BANG”) I don’t know where the Strangeloves’ name came from, I’m guessing from the 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb.” I think they chose the name because the film was hip, controversial and well-known, and because they wanted to be hip, controversial and noticed, right? The competition for airplay was as fierce as ever and they needed a hook for the band, they needed a story, so FGG became three brothers named Niles, Miles and Giles Strange from Wilmot, Australia. Their father had (ahem!) invented the famous Gottehrer Sheep, which produced some kind of….ummm… I forget the rest. There was something about their father wanting them to stay at home and run the business, but they were rockers at heart so they had to leave their home and father behind to make their musical mark in the world. Yes, crap like that was passed off regularly to teen mags. This was before Rolling Stone, you understand, and rock journalism was just rock gossip for teens. Anyway, they had the hype about the band ready to go, but it wouldn’t matter if the band didn’t rock. They used session musicians and they rocked! Thanks, Bo! Okay, so they had a hit, and the next step was to tour, but FGG were not touring musicians. So now we meet The Sheep, a four-piece unit out of New Jersey. Rockers, they were, and the album cover featured all three of FGG, so they fired the Sheep bass player, kept the guitar, drums and keys, and gave them a story to tell and a tour to perform on. And away they went. They were a trio in a time when trios were almost unheard-of, and that was going to hurt after the hits were over. But what a show! And no one ever missed the bass, and I’ll tell you why after I tell you that in concert they made quite an impression on impressionable minds: anyone from Australia was exotic to the teens, and onstage they were bare-chested, wore tight black leather pants, zebra-skin vests and zebra-skin belts. They wore bear’s teeth necklaces and rarely smiled. Dangerous. Cool… Very cool, except when one of the Strangeloves came to pick me up for one of their gigs in his stage clothes, which caused my father to despair mightily about what was happening with his son and with the world. Good times… But the bass! Yes, you need bass in your band, and they had it. The keys player had a Fender Rhodes Piano Bass on top of the organ, over on the left, and he’d play the bass line with his left hand and the chords and breaks with his right hand. But it gets better: Hanging off each side of the organ was a huge drum, and the drum head was made of… wait for it… zebra skin! He played the organ and bass lines with a mallet strapped to each wrist so his hands were free to play the keys, and at the right moment, he would take his hands off the keys, flip his wrists up like a high-five, catch both mallets by the handle and pound on both of the drums off the sides of the organ. The drums were almost conga-size, but wider and louder. Properly miked, they made a sound like… Boom! sending out concussive pulses that were felt as much as heard throughout the room. Boom! Boom Boom! Boom Boom! Yowza! In the song, the music and singer would play on “I want Caa-aandy!” then Boom! Boom Boom! Boom Boom! It was powerful. It was electric. It was primal and it made you wanna dance! Here, listen to the song as you read the rest of the article: I Want Candy. So three-fourths of the Sheep were now the Strangeloves and they toured regularly in rock ‘n’ roll revues, and FGG and the Sheep (who I think were recording the tracks) had two more hits with “Cara-Lin” and “In The Night Time.” But FGG lost interest in the Strangeloves at a gig in Ohio when they found Ricky Z and the Raiders, the promising kid group they’d been looking for. But while the kids showed promise, they had to be brought along by FGG before they could play in the studio, and the music tracks for their first release, “Hang On, Sloopy” had already been recorded by the Strangeloves. In fact, if you listen to the Strangeloves’ version of the song, you’ll hear the same tracks being used, including the same mistake in the lead break at 2:13. FGG were never going to tour and Ricky Z and the Raiders—soon to be called the McCoys—already existed and were the future. When FGG lost interest, the Strangeloves hired someone to get them gigs, but the gigs were hard to find because they had no new hits and booking agents were wary of trios. This was before Cream, Hendrix, Rush, Grand Funk Railroad and Blue Cheer, and booking agents and club managers felt that trios couldn’t make enough noise to fill a venue. I found out they were wrong, but my opinion had little impact on the bookers, and the gigs got smaller. And further apart. Where I came in to this discourse was when the keys player of the touring Strangeloves left the band and a friend of mine from high school got the gig, but only after their string of hits had run out, which in this case means three. When Pete joined them, they were doing dates in the New York area. Dates they could drive to and drive away from. Jeez, they were good! Pete was great on keys, Jack Raczka played journeyman guitar and Joey Piazza was the hottest, hardest, cleanest drummer I maybe ever heard. Well, he’s certainly up there. Dino from the Rascals was awesome and you might not know that, and there are drummers extraordinaire out there and let’s not start a fight, but Joey Piazza was one hard and tight drummer. Jack played the simple licks with conviction, which was what the gigs called for. I was so proud of Pete up there, and when he flicked his wrists up and caught the mallets, I could see the crowd sway or nod their heads in time with his Boom! Boom Boom! Boom Boom! They rocked a simple rock ‘n’ roll and they rocked everyone in the hall. (At one Strangeloves show I attended a young man who’d seen me talking to the band before they went on came up to me and said he’d seen them before and he liked them and all… but wasn’t that organ player new? I told him, hey, man, they’re brothers, of course he’s the same guy. He nodded, thanking me, and walked away. And the myth was maintained. I wouldn’t try that now.) But wait! There’s more! The English New Wave group Bow Wow Wow was in the studio recording their first album with producer Kenny Laguna. They’d already recorded their live set, but Laguna didn’t hear a single, and they needed one for their upcoming release; the band wanted one, Laguna and the label wanted one, but they didn’t have one. Then Laguna remembered “I Want Candy” and had already begun working on the arrangement when he realized he didn’t know the lyrics. He made some calls and found Richard Gottehrer, who sang it for him. Laguna wrote the lyrics down and went back to work until he realized that he didn’t know the lead guitar break, and he’d liked it and wanted it. So he called back, and Gottehrer sang it for him. Laguna recorded it over the phone, the group worked on it, they released it in May, 1982, and I Want Candy became their only hit single in the U.S. Then, in 2004, I was the backstage manager for a concert that included Bow Wow Wow, so I hied myself over to their dressing room, introduced myself, and told them about my times with the Strangeloves. They knew nothing about the band and were happy to be regaled with the information. Leather pants? Those drums on the side of the organ? A trio? Wow, they didn’t know any of that; they loved it. They were great people, they roared at the stories and they were deeply grateful for the information, but frankly I left their dressing room with the impression that even though it had been their biggest (and only) hit, they’d never heard the recording by the Strangeloves. I hadn’t asked. Wouldn’t. Really? Hadn’t heard it? That was my impression then, and when I looked into this story, I saw what Kenny Laguna said about the night he called Gottehrer: "I learned the song, then I took what I had gotten over the telephone and I recorded it on a little tape recorder. Then I went in the studio and taught it to the band Bow Wow Wow. We cut it and learned it right on the spot. I've never compared it to the original." And apparently neither had Bow Wow Wow. When you get a minute, think about that. Quick fun facts: “I Want Candy” by the Strangeloves went as high as #11 “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow went to #26 in the U.K. and #123 in the U.S. Please don’t ask what an African animal skin has to do with Australia. I never asked, and now it’s too late The song doesn’t seem to go away. A few months ago a commercial came on TV for the game Candy Crush that used “I Want Candy” as background music, and just yesterday I heard it in a commercial for the realreal.com, and Party City used it in an ad. Old Navy used it and there are others, but that’s almost enough about the Strangeloves and “I Want Candy” Because it was the mid-1960’s, there are no videos of the group I knew Joey Piazza was a motherfucker of a rock drummer That’s enough about the Strangeloves and “I Want Candy” Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written three books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, FOOTBALL 101 and God Watches Over Drunks and Fools. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  8. Please place yourself in a time when a pop group had such an impact that songs were written, recorded and released about them, and yes, we’re talking about the Beatles. How much of an impact did the Beatles have? Yes, the Beatles have been covered extensively here, there and everywhere, so l let’s look at it from an unusual angle. Today we specialize in the area of novelty items. No, not those novelty items! Music! I’m talking about music! Why hasn’t this been covered, you ask? Well, in the mid- 1950’s and early 1960’s, the American music charts were dominated by clean-cut, normal teenage singers and groups, and you’ll notice that they were almost all clean-cut ditties we could dance to. We all listened religiously to them on our AM radio stations, we all watched American Bandstand, and a lot of us bought the records and played them at home and at dance parties. God, how I regret the loss of those dance parties. We all knew each other from school and teams and such, so those parties and dances were communal, exciting… and terrifying. For me, it took daring; it was rock and roll, it was fun, it was exercise, and those slow songs were the only time we got to hold a girl up close and not get slapped. You know, on slow dances you could hold the girl and feel her breasts against your chest. Wow… and our parents thought it was cool! My God, you people have no idea what that meant to us boys. You are probably questioning the point of that regression, and it is this: At the beginning of 1963, we all listened to the two AM radio stations that played the hits; they all played the same songs, anyway, and we knew all the groups. Bands weren’t the thing back then, but we knew the groups. Then we all heard about this English band, and while probably few of us knew why it was important that they were coming, enough of us thought it was that several thousand of us went out to the airport to watch them get off the plane. Then, on the first Sunday night in February, the Beatles played two songs on The Ed Sullivan Show and American teens went freakin’ nuts, and the culture started coming apart. Not at once, of course, but surely. I sort of chuckle when I think about our parents, who had been Bobby-Soxers and looked silly to their parents as they literally screamed and fainted over Frank Sinatra. So our parents knew the mania engendered by this group would swell and fade, and soon be over. Ha, I say now. No one knew what was coming, and I know you’ve heard about it and maybe you’ve heard too much about it. I’ll grant you that point. But you had to be there! Nuts! I’m telling you it was nuts! They played the Sullivan show in February, and by April, the Beatles had five of the top ten hits in New York City and from there it spread. It was all anyone talked about, and while the phrase “must-see TV” was invented as a promo in the 1990’s, in 1963, this was must-see TV on a generational level. Okay, to the point: Once the Beatles arrived, the American boy and girl teen groups left the building, as it were. Now it was all about the English groups. If your group was English and you’d just played a gig, turn around, mate, some guy was trying to sign you. Of course, not all the American groups disappeared, and why should they? There were still talented singers and song-writers, and producers and label reps and sales and marketing departments, and every one of them had bills to pay. Everyone had to make a living, so everyone needed product. But the radio wanted English groups and the competition for airtime was (and always has been) fierce, so what was a semi-honest music producer or label owner gonna do? Some kept making music their way, some succeeded, some faded away, and some adapted and tried to surf the tidal wave. A few rode the wave by making novelty songs, and that’s what we’re discussing today: novelty songs. I don’t know if anyone other than Weird Al is still making novelty songs, but the Beatles were a tidal force and if you couldn’t compete with them, you could have some fun with them. Yes, it rarely boded well for the singer as a career starter, but producers and labels were talking about the product they needed now! Here are three novelty tracks aimed at Beatles fans, and one of them has two major players who will surprise you, but don’t skip ahead. While there are few avenues left to discover, off topic today are some of the American groups who got signed by appearing to be British. Say hello to the Beau Brummels, who were from the Bay Area, and from Texas came the Sir Douglas Quintet (who were actually early Tex-Mex/rockabilly) and others. Herein we will look at three exemplars of producers coming up with a way to appeal to Beatles fans without actually competing with them. Here’s one now: This one is almost cheating. We all know about Elvis and the commotion he caused among teens in 1956. When something big enough comes along that impacts the whole culture, there is a reaction to it, an echo, if you will. In the wake of the commotion caused by Elvis’ being drafted in 1957, there appeared on Broadway a smash musical romp called “Bye Bye Birdie,” about an Elvis character—now named Conrad Birdie—being drafted into the Army (as was Elvis), and it was a huge success. The 1960 play and the 1963 film that followed were both set in 1958, when Conrad got drafted, and featured a chorus of girls from Rydell High singing a tribute to Conrad, called “We Love You, Conrad.” In the song, they sing of their devotion and a chorus of boys retort. If you listen to the song (which we at Computer Audiophile have taken pains to provide you at no cost to yourselves), you will see how simple a song it was. Elementary, as it were, and yet it struck a simple chord. So it is with a mixture of admiration and despair that I note an almost word-for-word copying of the relatively well-known song, changing only the names. Several lyrics in the song are responses to lyrics in the Beatles’ hit “She Loves You.” Here then, from 1964, are The Carefrees with a song that reached No. 39 in the U.S. and hopefully better in the U.K. “We Love You Beatles.” So it didn’t take a genius to cash in on the Beatles’ popularity: all it took was a recording studio, a distribution network and little moxie. The next group needs no introduction because none would help and nothing would increase their importance in music history. I don’t know what to say about Gigi Parker and the Lonelies. I couldn’t find any background on them or this record, I couldn’t find any release date other than 1964 and I couldn’t find its chart position. I think this was their only record, so here are Gigi Parker and the Lonelies with Beatles Please Come Back. Wouldn’t it be nice if somewhere an old lady is resting in her overstuffed chair when her granddaughter rushes in and says “You’re famous!” because after years of hearing about her grandmother’s alleged singing career, the granddaughter a) set her laptop to pick up any hits on Gigi Parker and the Lonelies, b) her laptop pings, c) she looks, d) she sees this article you’re reading now, and… e) rushes over to the old lady’s place and says, “Look at this, Gran!” Wouldn’t that be nice? Moving on to... Oh, no, it’s Phil Spector, the legendary record producer, egomaniac and control freak! We’ve covered him before here. Spector was maybe the most successful producer of teen music from the mid- 1950’s until the Beatles showed up and stole his thunder. He was pissed. He was freaked (and freaky) that his style of music wasn’t making him any more money or fame, and he wanted to get back in the game. Girl groups were a Spector specialty, and he always had a singer on hold. The girl he had on mind for this track was good-looking and sort of in the pre-hippie mold, which was good now, which was hip, and boy, could she sing. But sing what? To whom and about what? Well, Maybe no one knows what was in Spector’s mind when he came up with it, but he wrote a song about Ringo, he wrote the charts, he booked the studio, he called the chick, and they cut it. It was a novelty song, and I don’t know of any others that Spector did, but he must have thought that this would get him the attention he so richly felt he deserved. Part of what pissed Spector off was… was it national pride? Did he have that? In any event, almost all the songs on the charts those days were by English acts, and maybe Spector wanted to get someone American on the charts, and this chick was good looking and she could sing and all, but the name Cherilyn La Piere just wasn’t American enough, y’know, so he changed it to Bonnie Jo Mason, and if that ain’t an American name, then I’m a Klingon feng shui consultant. And no- I’m not. Well, the song was an easy ditty to write and easy to record, but when it came out it died an ignoble death. So the chick singer started working with another producer, some guy named Sonny, who encouraged her to use her real name, and we now know her as Cher. But here, for the nonce, is Bonnie Jo Mason with “Ringo I Love You.” Fun Facts: The name of the singer in “Bye Bye, Birdie” was going to be 'Ellsworth', which was soon changed to 'Conway Twitty' before the producers discovered there already was a performer named Conway Twitty, who was threatening to sue, so they changed it to Conrad Birdie. Twitty is best remembered for his long career as a country music star, but in the late 1950s, he was one of Presley's rock 'n' roll rivals. In “Bye Bye Birdie,” Rydell High School was a reference to teen heart-throb Bobby Rydell Reading the label of “Beatles Please Come Back” reveals one of the writers was Chip Taylor, who is best known for “Angel of the Morning” and “Wild Thing,” and who will be familiar to KFAT fans for everything on his album “Shoot Out The Jukebox.” Also known for being the brother of Jon Voight. In Cher’s “Ringo I Love You,” shouldn’t there be a comma after Ringo? Wasn’t anybody checking? Didn’t anybody care? Aaarrgghhh! I’ll be back next month. Please Stand By. Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written three books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, FOOTBALL 101 and Watches Over Drunks and Fools. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  9. Editor's Note: Gilbert told me about his new book a few months ago when I visited him in Mexico. I said I would do whatever I could to help him sell copies because I like Gilbert and his writing. And, let's be honest, the lucrative world of being an author isn't as lucrative as it once was (hint, it never was). Plus, you know how they say the book is always better than the movie? You should meet Gilbert in person. He's even better than his books. I mean that in the best way possible. Gilbert is such a great person who has lived an incredibly colorful life. Anyway, Gilbert asked if he could include a link to his new book in this article. I said of course and I demanded that he include a link in the article. Gilbert won't let me buy the new book, insisting he send me one instead, but I'd love it if the CA Community could support Gilbert's latest endeavor by picking up a copy of God Watches Over Drunks and Fools and I Don't Drink. Heck, fill a few stockings this holiday season with missives from Gilbert. Thanks for supporting Gilbert and CA over the years. - Chris The Missing Musicologist I wrote this story for CA about a year ago. At the time, I was putting together a collection of my adventures in life, music and et cetera, and my pal said, “No, this should go in the book.” So here it is, and at the end of the story I’ll put a link to the book’s site. But first, let me tell you about the time… Well, maybe you’ve read some of these stories by now, and I feel like maybe we know each other enough to expose some of our most embarrassing moments. I’ll go first. Back in 2008, The Tall Ships, also known as the Festival of Sail, were coming to San Francisco, and my friend Fil was hired to manage a lot of it. Fil asked me to do the hiring, placing and overseeing of sea chantey-singing groups in several locations, and I thought, “why not?” I had nothing against sea chanteys or those who sang them, but of course this was before I was exposed to the whole sea chantey-singing community and started booking them. First, I was amazed at how many sea chantey singing groups there were. Then I was amazed at how many people admitted to being in sea chantey singing groups. I joke, but generally I found the people who sing in these groups, and the one guy I met who sings them solo, have all been lovely, personable, and intelligent people. I liked every person I dealt with over the long weekend and the run-up thereto, but after so much close and constant exposure to the form, to this day if I hear even one line of “Yo ho, and up she rises…” I’m going postal! You’ve been warned! So I could tell you about the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me, and I will, elsewhere in the book, but this one is in second place. Not only was it pretty damned embarrassing personally, but I’m afraid I also managed to embarrass an entire city. If I was smart I’d keep it to myself, but everyone has a price, I’m getting paid for it, and this is what happened. My pal Fil (yes, that’s spelled correctly) had successfully produced all kinds of events in San Jose and was expanding his reputation by taking on events all over the Bay Area. Among other events, for several years Fil booked and oversaw every damn detail of San Jose’s massive, three-day July 4th festivities. He hired the vendors, laid out the sites, oversaw set-up and out-go, booked the bands for all three days of shows, hired the stages, booked the band gear and the sound and lighting systems. He also managed all the PR, hired every crew for every job and did everything else, and that’s how I’ve had some wonderful times, met some wonderful people, heard some great music, and gotten paid for it. Fil was good at his work and his list of successes was growing when the Tall Ships came to San Francisco, after having been in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. You would think that such a long-established international event would have had its act together, but you would be wrong. They were disorganized and critically under-funded, and Fil got screwed in the end. But I got this story, so all’s well, right? I was given a budget and tasked with hiring purveyors of sea chanteys, each group for an agreed-upon number of hours at agreed-upon locations. When I started putting some effort into finding these performers, I was quickly inundated with applicants; the Bay Area sea chantey groups knew about it and wanted in. To be honest, they were all fun people, as I guess you need a fun personality to be attracted to preserving this music and this bygone period. These people were historians in their replication of the songs and costumes, and I admired their refusal to let such a colorful art form disappear. Great, funny people, and I had many a laugh whilst booking them. Frankly, from their enthusiasm and reluctance to ask for more money than I was offering (which was a first), I knew that alone in my band-booking experience, these people were happy to be allowed—much less paid—to perform in public before what promised to be a fairly large crowd of people. “Huzzah!” they might have said among themselves. “We’ll do it!” they said to me. Everyone I spoke to was a member of a group, but there was one fellow, Richard B__, also known as Dick, who performed alone, and was, I was told, the Grand Old Man, the éminence grise of Bay Area sea chantey singers. Everyone recommended I get him for the gig, so of course I wanted him, too. I called and we spoke, but he was indifferent to the gig—sort of snobby, in fact—and when I asked him to perform and told him what I had in the budget, frankly, I expected him to accept, but he declined. He didn’t seem anxious to play the gig, and he told me why, but I forget what he said. ‘Tweren’t important, what he said- he refused the gig and I moved on. Then, as I was about to send out contracts, they cut my budget, which is always a bad sign for an event, and it meant that I had to do some fast re-negotiating. Then, right after I sent out the hastily redrawn contracts, they cut my budget again, which told me that the event was in trouble at the same time that others on Fil’s team were also finding this out. However, while one generally eschews self-aggrandizement, I must say that I had my end of the gig covered. With the new budget cut-backs, I made calls, I sent out new schedules where I stretched hours here and cut hours there; I had the main site—the corner of Jefferson Street at the Hyde Street Pier—covered, and the other sites almost covered, but I was within my budget and all I had to do was hang out in the grounded tugboat on the Hyde Street Pier that was going to be my office- and run some periodic checks to see that my groups were working. And thus I settled in for a fun weekend. The tugboat office actually belonged to the National Park Service, but when I showed up thinking the tugboat was my office, the Park Rangers welcomed me, but had not been told of my assignment there. They were gracious, as they knew their turf was about to be inundated with thousands of idiots tourists, and some of the inevitable upcoming issues would be my responsibility, not theirs. Welcome aboard, Gilbert, want some pizza? Yes, thanks. Now, to backtrack just a bit: I have a certain predilection, a tendency, as it were, to have fun with my work. One of the rules of the event was that everyone we hired had to wear some sort of identification to show that they were part of the event, including guides, vendors, docents, executives, managers, and that included my singers. They all had to wear those silly crack-and-peel labels that had the Tall Ships logo, but I thought they were boring. I wanted my people to have some ID that would be… impressive. These groups, I found, were generally thrilled when they were allowed to play in some pub, and the evening was a success if they were given beers for their efforts. Now they were not only a) getting paid to perform b) for what would undoubtedly be large crowds, they would also c) be associated with the Tall Ships, an internationally-known organization that celebrated the bygone era that they were so clearly enamored of. This would be a big deal for them, and I wanted something better than those crack-and-peel “Hi! I’m _____” stick-on tags you got at conventions, reunions and such. If you’ve ever been invited backstage, you’ve probably been given a crack-n-peel sticker to put on your pants or shirt, and it means you’re allowed to be back there. They’re cool and a lot of people save them, but they’re for punters like you and me. The IDs with real value are the lams, the laminated passes, and they’re only worn by those in the crew. Everyone from the stars in their dressing rooms to the lowly merch guy sharing a van with a punk crew, they get the lams. It’s the sign of the real Insider. So, my people would be given the valued sign of in-ness, the laminate. Yes, my people would have lams. Who’s a good Gilbert? And again, I like to have fun with my work and I like to toss around multi-syllabic words, so I came up with a design using the Tall Ships logo on top, and below that in a large, easily readable font, it said NAUTICAL MUSICOLOGICAL AUTHENTICIST. You can see the lams in the upcoming video. I handed those out with lanyards, and their eyes lit up. You could see it: they were a huge hit. From the occasional bar or pub in the far corners of the East Bay to the tourist-filled streets of San Francisco, the sea chantey-singing community was already ablaze with enthusiasm, and then they were handed the best freaking souvenir they’d ever been given. You knew they were going to keep these forever, put it on the mantel, frame it, stick it on the fridge- something. They loved them! I’m a good Gilbert! I mean, they weren’t going to fall down and weep in gratitude when I handed them out, but I knew that they were a big hit, and I had that confirmed as the first day of the event was winding down and I got a phone call from Dick B__, who’d now decided that he wanted to play the gig. Did I still have a place for him? Could I still use him? Yes, I could use him at noon on Sunday, but I only needed him for four hours. Was that okay? Sure. I told him to meet me at the tugboat—Sure, he said, he knew where that was—20 minutes before noon. Then we discussed a few details, and then he asked me…. ‘Uhh, if he performed, uhh… could he still get one of those laminates?’ Yes he could, and I scheduled him for Sunday, expected to be the biggest day of the event. I’d left a little flex room in my budget, so I put him on from noon ‘til four, also expected to be the busiest hours. I reminded him about checking in with me at the tugboat at least twenty minutes before his start time, and that’s when I’d tell him where to sing. He said he’d see me there at 11:40. The tugboat office was just off Jefferson Street, on the Hyde Street Pier- a popular tourist site, as it was the permanent site of the Balclutha, a fully restored and rigged 19th Century Tall Ship, plus some other restored old-time ships. All of them would be open to the public for inspection, tours, demonstrations and lectures. It was family-style entertainment, and there’s never enough of that in San Francisco. Ask any grandparent. The pier was chock-a-block with families at 11:30, with strollers, prams, children, couples and groups, milling, talking, looking, hanging out, watching the singers and taking photos. I remember hearing a lot of Japanese and I heard a wide diversity of European accents. It was international and multi-culture up the wazoo out there, but I was waiting at my office, it was now 11:45, and there’d been no sign of Dick. Of course I was concerned; everything else that weekend had gone wrong for every part of the event but mine, and I wanted to keep it that way. I had an end-of-event report to write and I wanted it to glow. I was the stage manager for this variety show, there were people out in my audience who needed to be sung to, and Dick was supposed to be singing to them in… nine minutes! I walked up and down the length of the pier, always looking behind me for fear that Dick would get to the office, not find me, and wander off. Oh no! I told him yesterday that I’d place him where I needed him, and I’d tell him where that would be when he got to the tugboat. So if I missed him he might wander off and just start singing… anywhere! Oh no! I made it all the way to the end of the pier and back and still no sight of Dick, so I made a quick jog to where the pier meets Jefferson Street, and looked among the crowd there. Lots of people, but no Dick. I’d never met him, but I’d seen his photo, so I knew what he looked like, and I didn’t see him and I went back to the tugboat, and… still no Dick. Now it was five before noon. About twenty yards up the pier from the tug was an empty bench and I walked over to it and stood on it and looked over everyone’s heads. The pier was jammed with tourists, but I saw no sign of my missing singer. Standing on the bench, looking, scanning, over to Jefferson Street, about forty yards away, I saw one of the singers from another group, the Seadogs, walking on Jefferson Street. I waved my arms to get his attention and luckily he turned and looked up the pier, and saw me. I wanted to shout to him, but there was street noise, people talking, cars moving and honking, and a plane going overhead. Now it was noon and I was beginning to panic but I needed to be heard, so I cupped my hands around my mouth and took a breath and shouted as loud as I could, slowly and carefully enunciating every word, loud as I could, so he could hear me all the way on Jefferson Street, “I’M… LOOKING… FOR… DICK!” On the pier, everyone froze. Until that moment the place had been bustling with happy, chattering tourists, everyone involved in their little dramas, but suddenly everyone stood stock still. No one moved, no one spoke, not one stroller was pushed, not one person spoke on that pier in that moment as everyone within fifty yards stopped and looked at me with open mouths and puzzled looks. Then it hit me: Oh, my God! What did I just say? Did I just say that? Did I just scream that? Yeah, I did… So I lowered my head and hunched my shoulders in an attempt to disappear, waved a “never mind” to everyone to indicate that I didn’t mean it that way, and I got off the bench and headed for Jefferson Street where I could hide in the crowd. I wouldn’t go to my office because I was much too embarrassed to let anyone know where that guy was hanging out. So, out to Jefferson Street I went, mingled with the crowd for a few minutes, looking innocent, waited a few minutes and snuck back to the tugboat, hoping none of the Park Rangers had heard it. No one was there, so I sighed and sat down, and moments later, Dick came through the door, out of breath, and apologized for being late, saying that parking was… and he… and y’know… Except for Fil getting the shaft, all went well after that, and I still enjoy telling this story, telling people what happened that day, and we’d have a good laugh, and then I’d wait a couple of beats and say, “yeah, it’s was embarrassing and all, but I got a date out of it.” Well, I won’t do that to you, but the wrap-up is that my end of the gig went well, I’m proud that the laminates were a success, and I’m sorry about Fil getting screwed. But mostly what I’m left with from that weekend is the knowledge that when some of those tourists went back home and talked about their trip to San Francisco and told their friends that what they’d heard about San Francisco was true. They’d all heard it was a sexually liberated place, sure, but they could tell them it was not only true- it was worse. They’d seen it themselves: people stood on benches in crowded parks in San Francisco and screamed for sex. Sorry, San Francisco. ANNOUNCMENT: I have just written a book recounting some of my more… unusual …experiences. Please check it out: http://www.drunksandfools.com Also, if there’s one of my essays I’d like you to read, it’s this one: http://www.twominutescreed.com/You-Knew.html Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
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