Frank Gutch Jr: THE ALL-TOO-HUMAN SIDE OF ROCK….

Boy, did Bob Segarini get the gears moving in my head with his recent column about The Doors and Jim Morrison.  Very few people who spent a couple of decades in the music business didn’t have their brushes with greatness, as some scribes tend to call them.  I guess greatness is one thing  to one person and another thing to another.  Wait a minute… guess?  Of course, it is.  I am learning that as I interview various rock musicians for history pieces I am writing.  Ask five members of a band about something thirty or forty years ago and you are as likely to get five different answers or pictures as you are to get a perception of what really happened.

God knows what Morrison would have remembered of Segarini had he lived, if he could remember anything.  Maybe “That dude from The Wackers and I once had an interesting conversation about Stendhal’s The Red and the Black.”  (You really have to read Segarini’s column to follow this)   “Cool hair, but man, those clothes…..”  Maybe “The Wackers?  Never heard of ’em.”  Maybe by this time, it would have been a grunt and a glazed stare.  Who knows?

Well, this got me to thinking of the musicians I have seen and heard and the impressions I retained.  I was looking through my boxes of pictures and garbage I have saved and was shocked to read some of the comments I had written.  What I thought then was hardly the way I remember it now and, man, does it ever make me want to retract some of the comments I have made over the years.  Evidently, we remember from a present day perspective and that tends to, shall we say, warp the reality?

What I remember of The Doors and Jim Morrison can be boiled down to two separate instances.  The first happened on Nov. 11, 1967 at Gill Coliseum on the Oregon State University’s campus.  I was a huge Doors fan by then, having purchased the self-titled album on release (either at the behest of Chrystalship‘s Ron Prindle or just because I dug the album cover) and decided to drag my somewhat conservative fiancee to the concert which was scheduled to coincide with some kind of Cotillion or something.  I put on my Sunday best (meaning my one pair of pants without patches or holes and a plain blue long-sleeved shirt, also without patches or holes) and she dressed up in an impressive dress, something she had plenty of (boy, did we live in different worlds), and we headed out.  Gill was filled with the upper crust by the time we took our seats and the opening bands (listed as “Red Coatsmen” and United Travel Service on the mildequator.com website) were forgettable, as is evidenced by the fact that I forgot.   Truth is, we may have gotten there late.  I can only remember one opening band, in fact, and I think it was The Redcoats, though I cannot be sure.  By the time The Doors took the stage, the crowd was restless.  When they started playing, it became even moreso.  Here is a recollection I posted some years ago:

“Saw them (The Doors) perform at a cotillion or something at Oregon State University in ’67 or early ’68. Very conservative college at the time. Morrison was a little over the top for such a place and as the expletives spewed, students in gowns and monkey suits began their exit. By The End, maybe half of the crowd was left. The music was superb, in spite of the venue. Great sound and very, very energetic and impressive show. I was totally in awe of the band in their support of Morrison. They were far better than what I’d been led to believe.

“Caught them again at the Eugene Pop Festival the summer of 1969. Different result. Morrison was decked out in denim and was obviously overweight. His energy lacked, but his attitude really sucked! At one point toward the end of the concert, a small crowd had gathered at one exit, screaming “Let us in!” Morrison’s reply was “F*** them. If they want to see us, let ’em pay.” Needless to say, that attitude pretty much overlaid his performance. Again, the band was fine, especially Manzarek who seemed to feed off of the “lack of Morrison”. High points of the day were seeing an early version of J. Geils (that info is suspect) and the Bizarre era Alice Cooper. And, my personal favorite of the day, Rockin’ Foo, who had an unfortunate afternoon slot on a hot, hot day and received little crowd response, excellent as they were.”

Needless to say, some reviews of the Gill Coliseum gig were not as kind.  When Morrison grabbed his crotch and fell to the floor, rolling around screaming into the microphone, writers dropped their pens and sat with open mouths.  Corvallis was not used to such “crudity”.  One reason I attended The University of Oregon instead.

By the time I hit Los Angeles around early ’74 or so, I was ready for the Big Time.  Unfortunately, the Big Time was not ready for me.  My whole reason for heading there was to show those clowns how to sell records.  Not  only did they not care, they swatted my ass to the curb in a “Don’t bother me, kid, I have work to do” kind of way.  So I went retail.  Not only that, I went rogue, but that is a story for another time.  After running projectors and background music for strippers at a nude theater (hey, I had to eat and through that gig I met some damn nice ladies and, through them, some excellent jazz musicians, most of whom played on occasion with Hampton Hawes and his circle), I was pulled from that job into the Licorice Pizza family of record stores.  I worked at the Wilshire Boulevard store (good ol’ #9) and with some of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working alongside (though in later years, Peaches/Seattle would re-create the experience).  And the musicians were everywhere.

I didn’t bother them much, but it became hard not to.  Some came in with bodyguards, some in disguise.  Joan Baez bucked that trend by dropping by in a limousine one night with three friends, wearing what looked like  a gown and a fur coat, and blew off fans who requested autographs, something for which I have never forgiven her (though maybe I should because who knows what her time constraints were).  Cloris Leachman stopped by with her kids and was surly as hell, but I wrote that off to being concerned about the kids.  Terry Sylvester, the voice that carried The HolliesHe Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother and Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress) into the Top Ten (that was his voice, was it not?), stopped by to plug his forthcoming album at the time, a solo album for Epic Records.  Sylvester I remember as a great guy and someone who befriended all who would befriend him.  Robbie Krieger stopped by quite a few times while he was working on The DoorsFull Circle album.  He would nod at me and head for the back of the store, head down and hoping to not be recognized.  Too many questions about Morrison, I would bet.  When we talked it was always about the new album and what they could do to promote it.  Krieger was as confused about the business at that time as most of us are today.  Actor Herb Edelman came in one day and bought tapes for a road trip he was taking with his girlfriend (or was it wife?) at the time.  He was incredibly funny and had us all rolling on the floor in no time.  T-shirt, jeans and sandals— no socks.  Driving a VW van.  From that point on, the guy was a star to me.  But I’m getting off the subject here.  This is supposed to be about music, right?  Right.

Just after heading down to San Diego to open Licorice Pizza’s first SD store, I was handed “tickets” to an Asleep at the Wheel show at the much venerated Palomino Club in North Hollywood.  My friends and I headed down only to find that our names were not on the list, but one of the guys was a wheeler-dealer and convinced the doorman that the name had been misspelled and that (pointing to a name) was supposed to be his.  The door magically opened. We later found out that the guy whose name was really on the list was pissed to find that someone had taken his “tickets”.  We hid ourselves while the doorman and the guy searched the floor for us and were relieved when they gave up.  Here is what I wrote home about that show:

Johnny Bonds opened.  Asleep started their set with a few swing tunes, mainly Bob Wills, when who should pop out of the audience to play but Glen Campbell.  Man, that guy can pick.  It was heavy.  The crowd was going apeshit yelling for Glen to play his hits.  Far out.”  What I told people years later:  “Worst show I ever saw was the Asleep at the Wheel show at The Palomino.  The music was good, but Glen Campbell ruined it for everybody.  The band had him come out of the audience for what was supposed to be a few of his hits and Campbell took over.  Just what I didn’t need to hear— crappy live versions of songs I couldn’t get away from when they were hits— Wichita Lineman, Gentle On My Mind, Dreams of the Everyday Housewife, By the Time I Get to Phoenix.  Ruined the whole show.”  While I am sure it didn’t, I remember being quite disappointed.  That disappointment grew with time.  I was there to hear Asleep at the Wheel.  I guess I didn’t hear enough.  That said, I do believe I owe Mr. Campbell apologies, belated though they are.  It was evidently not as disappointing to everyone as it was to me.  In fact, it was evidently not that disappointing to me, either.  Not the me who was there, anyway.

RHINO— THE HUMAN SIDE OF RETAIL…..

I have a few hundred retail stories I could tell, from The House of Records in Eugene to the heyday of hippie stores like Longhair Music Faucet and Music Millennium in Portland (with a side glance at The Sun Shoppe in Lake Oswego), but they pretty much pale in comparison with a place I got to hang out in all too seldom— Rhino Records “on Westwood Boulevard” as Wild Man Fischer sang on his classic Go To Rhino Records 45, one of the earliest of the Rhino releases.  When I hung out there, there were mostly four guys handling the store— Richard Foos, who I believe was the owner; Harold Bronson, who managed the place (and may have had a percentage besides); Jeff Gold, the store’s fanatic record collector; and resident jazz freak Leigh Kaplan (Jeff always claimed his real name was Lee but his ego made him change it to something more exotic).  The store itself was more like one of those storage units you see on Storage Wars than a record store, bins packed with LPs— in fact, LPs stashed anywhere they could get away with it.  There were 45s but I’m not sure if they were for sale, and there were magazines and newspapers, mostly of the free variety.

My favorite stories of Rhino revolve around Fischer, whom I found to be delicate, at best.  There was a manic side to him I at first found a bit unsettling but which dissipated with exposure.  He talked incessantly and tried to hustle people for money in the oddest ways, mostly by selling them songs.  I’ll sing a song for you, he would say, for a buck.  If you turned your back, the negotiating began.  Fifty cents, he would say, and usually before you could even respond, he would say, okay, a quarter.  A quarter.  He would sometimes be almost frantic by the time he hit a dime and more than once, Richard calmed him down and told him he had to leave.  Richard didn’t want to do that, but he had work to do and customers to protect and while he knew that Fischer was harmless, the customers most of the time did not.  From what I could gather, Fischer spent a lot of his time living on the streets of L.A. and I have since learned that he was institutionalized now and again.  More than once, I saw Richard slip him a dollar or two as he left.  And more than once, Richard gave me the golden look— There but for the grace of God…..

The guys at Rhino were crazy as loons in those days.  They tried like hell to promote the store and came up with some of the most godawful ways to do it.  They offered a recording contract to people who submitted a tape— it was a contest.  Whoever won got to record a single for Rhino.  The girl who won, after hearing the final product, was evidently embarrassed and refused to sign a release, so Richard sat on a few hundred pressed copies of something he couldn’t sell.  I told him I’d buy one.  He refused.  I begged for one.  He refused.  I threatened his family, his dog and his manhood.  No matter what I did, Richard would smile and say no.  I can’t, he would say.  She would sue me.  And then that smurf smile would slowly turn the corners of his mouth up.  I always thought the bastard was toying with me, but I respected him for it.  To this day, I have a hankering to at least hear that record.  I will probably go to my grave unhankered.

Did I ever tell you that I won a contest at Rhino?  I did.  I walked into Rhino on a Saturday, probably on the way home from work at Licorice Pizza, and Richard told me I could win two records if I entered the daily contest, which that day was John Denver/Silly Walks.  I asked him what the hell that was and he shrugged his shoulders and said, walk like John Denver.  I wobbled across the floor, Richard laughed and said, guess what?  You won.  I got my two albums.  One I can’t remember but the other was Les Dudek’s first solo album, the album they were playing when I walked in.  To this day, it is one of my more favorite albums and still brings a smile to my face remembering “the walk”.

Another story:  I walked into Rhino one day and this big sign hung from the ceiling over the record bins.  It said something about Mo Ostin and record prices and God knows what else, but the bottom line was that the guys were so pissed off that Ostin (WEA) had earmarked the next Queen album as the album to spearhead a record price hike that they listed Ostin’s home phone number and requested that people call him personally to discuss it, preferably at two or three in the morning.  God love Rhino.  That was a store with heart.

Leigh Kaplan, by the way, was a jazz bass player and went out of his way to keep himself in poverty by throwing concerts guaranteed to lose money.  He would rent spaces you could fit maybe fifty people in and put on a concert by the most fringe jazz musicians you could possibly think of.  He told me once that if ten people showed that he or the musicians didn’t know, he considered it a success regardless of the gate (meaning money people paid to get in).  The guy was so full of ideology when it came to the music he loved, he was destined for failure.  At least, financial failure.  I couldn’t help but admire his tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds.  Sometimes, failure is success.

Jeff Gold was a David Bowie collector of legendary proportions.  I was not a Bowie fan and spent most of my time throwing elbows into Jeff’s midsection— constant jibes about Bowie designed to get under his skin, but Jeff was unflappable.  More than once, I heard stories of Mick Ronson and The Spiders from Mars and everything else Bowie-related and had to admit that if Jeff liked it that much, it was okay with me.  His collection, BTW, had Ronson vinyl in it that Ronson didn’t even have.  Jeff went on to A&M to work in the salt mines (he preened the Captain Beefheart EP for release— you know— the one with Diddy Wah Diddy).  Then he went to work for Warner Brothers, I think.  The last time I saw Jeff, he came up to Seattle for the first ever live concert of David Werner which took place at Seattle’s Paramount Theater.  We visited Hendrix’s grave and toured the area for record stores so he could finagle some trades (Jeff always had amazingly rare records).  Then he followed Werner all the way down the coast, catching every West Coast concert he did.  Jeff was crazy when it came to music and one of the best guys I’ve ever known.

What can I say about Richard Foos and Harold Bronson except that they took that old Rhino store and a handful of the oddest ideas imaginable and turned it in to Rhino Records:  The Label (film at eleven).  They latched on to a few good people (the most notable, to my mind, being Gary Stewart, who had the drive to push through so many excellent historical projects that he deserves a plaque at the Hall of Fame) and started paddling and the rest is history.  In fact, some of my favorite people in the record biz worked at Rhino at one time or another.  From the minds of great people, eh?

THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS…..

Musicians are people, too.  As a society, we have a tendency to think of stars as unapproachable, as better than most of us and at times as god-like.  Maybe some are— unapproachable, that is— but the good ones are as human as anyone.  Many times I have talked with musicians, telling them that I saw them at one time or another and would have said something but didn’t want to bother them and to a person, they all said I wish you would have.  John Stewart, who filled a life with his music, told me that when people responded to it, it was a sign of its worth and that he wanted that contact— in fact, needed it.  Sometimes we as fans forget that— that musicians are not gods, that they do not live in a vacuum, that they buy clothes and cook and eat food and have fights with friends and family members, just like us.  And they, like us, take pride in what they do.

Bob Segarini told me that many times, but Bob stood shoulder to shoulder with musicians and people in the music industry before stars became superstars.  Many of those names he took for granted as always being there are now gone, not the least of whom was Bill Graham.  Here was a guy who I always thought was a tyrant, a Nazi.  Every time you heard about him in the news, he was rough and callous and sometimes browbeating the press or some poor sucker who happened to be handy.  So it seemed.  I interviewed Bob for a special issue of a magazine I once wrote for— Pop Culture Press— and boy, was I set straight.  Graham was evidently a businessman and a damn good one.  Bob held Graham in highest regard— as did Gary Duncan (Quicksilver), Peter Albin (Big Brother & The Holding Company) and Tracy Nelson (Mother Earth), whom I interviewed for the same issue.  They all loved the guy.  Me… I will take a good person over an asshole any day.  Makes me wonder why the assholes win as much as they do.  It ain’t right.

Notes…..    How the universe works, part one:  You write or think or talk about someone you haven’t heard from in years and, voila!, they appear or call or write.  I included Mist & Mast in last week’s column as playing music I will never want to get out of my head and sonofagun if Jason Lakis doesn’t whip me an email saying that they are just finishing up a new album.  You have no idea how much this cheers me up.  You will have, though.  I’ll be writing about it.  And them.  A lot…..  Howie Wahlen at Green Monkey Records, knowing how much I revere Power Pop (when it’s done right) and The Shoes (who do it right), sent me a link to a track by Nerk Twins, a duo consisting of Shoe Jeff Murphy and cohort Herb Eimerman, who has been showing on my radar quite a bit lately.  The track, Against the Grain, is Brit Pop/Power Pop to the max and filled with melody and harmonies you would expect from such a collaboration.  It is part of an International Pop Overthrow compilation album you might want to check out in its entirety…..  This just in:  A photo of Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers in Glasgow.  Packed out!  Now, THAT is respect!  Maybe now people in The States will pay attention…..  Ollabelle‘s Byron Isaacs is working on a new project with Peter Cole and it is well worth picking up on.  Here is a video, lo-fi according to Byron, of Lost Leaders covering a Tom Petty song.  It almost makes me want to listen to Petty again…..  Here is something intriguing.  Paul Marsteller and Gabriel Rhodes of Fiery Blue are putting together an opera, of sorts— or more of a music scenario.  Titled Chandelier, this musical story follows a young immigrant to the US from Europe who marries and is abandoned.  She makes her way across the continent as a matter of survival.  This is the 1860s, you understand, and the music reflects that (in a 21st Century kind of way).  You can stream the music and find out about the project here…..

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

 

 

 

3 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: THE ALL-TOO-HUMAN SIDE OF ROCK….”

  1. Patricia Davis Says:

    Great perspective! Yep, musicians are people first. I love those musicians who realize it, too. So thankful that they share their gifts and insight, too.

    Love Frank’s ability to connect the past to the future while living in the moment.

  2. Good reading Frank!

    One correction however, The Hollies lead singer on those songs was Allan Clarke. Terry Sylvester was Gram Nash replacement and a fine (mostly) harmony vocalist at that.

  3. You learn something new every day, Howie. I’m surprised you didn’t catch me on it when we worked at the record store. I always mentioned Sylvester as being lead singer on those songs. But maybe you had stopped listening to me by then.

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