Frank Gutch Jr: Lighthouse Revisited, Wilderness Road, What Were the Odds (Game & Ratchell), and Notes…..

“I have to tell you, New York is just like a chick.  When she hates you she beats you to death, but when she loves you you know you’ve been loved…”  I don’t know exactly who said that but it was a member of Lighthouse and is but one line of many out of a radio documentary on that bandyou need to hear (assuming, of course, you have any interest in the history of rock and/or jazz music at all).  It was recorded during the band’s very first live gig at, of course, New York’s Carnegie Hall, a gig so impressive that fans and critics alike thought that this was the beginning of something incredibly huge.  Huge it became— in Canada, at least— but the States had better things to do than to listen to the new and the odd and, to the American mainstream, horns and this jazz/rock fusion was both new and odd.  Skip Prokop and crew, you see, took it further than Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago ever did.  Way further.

I first heard of Prokop through The Paupers.  I was a budding drummer back in the sixties and when I read that Prokop was not only a rockin’ good drummer but solid rudimentarily, as well, I had no choice but to listen.  The Paupers were doing what I wanted to do.  They were rocking out and doing it in fashion.  By the time Lighthouse replaced them, I was ready, even though I had no clue who anyone else in the band besides Prokop was.  I soon learned.  The first to make a dent in my ears was Ralph Cole, the guitarist.  His wide ranging style was perfect for a horn and jazz-oriented rock band— the perfect solo guitarist, yet able to blend in in support of the others.   Paul Hoffert struck a chord, partially due to his ease of style but also his willingness to utilize vibraphone when needed (you would be surprised how few rock bands use that amazing instrument).  Slowly but surely, I became acquainted with the others—  Freddy Stone and Russ Little, horn players of no small talent.  Howard Shore, who would later score The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Grant Fullerton, who rocked the bass.  One by one the names made their way into my vocabulary.  I was hooked.

It wasn’t until the Good Day album that I became a fanatic, though.  White Buffalo, the opening track of that album,had that odd cinematic approach to music and the Gypsy-like vocal harmonies caught me unawares.  From that point on, to my ears at least, they could do no wrong.  By that time, the band had developed a revolving door, musicians filling in when needed, musicians replacing musicians, the sound changing with the personnel.  When I go back to listen, I am astounded at the different levels at which they played over the years.

That is why when I saw that the band had been honored with a radio documentary, I dropped everything to listen.  I smiled all the way through the early years to the Carnegie Hall concert and would have stayed with it to the end but it for some reason stopped.  I went back to the link and clicked again and once again it stopped right after Carnegie Hall.  I checked with others.  They seemed to be getting the whole broadcast.  My teeth gnashed.

They are still gnashing, but it is a mild gnash.  I want to hear the rest.  I want to follow the band from the pre-RCA days on in their own words and I will, but I will have to do it piecemeal.  That’s okay.  The seed is planted.  It will happen.

In the meantime, Prokop has— well, I don’t want to say “reinserted” himself because he never really left— but he has re-energized his whole music campaign.  It has been over forty years.  Musicians, music historians and fans are ready for another round of Prokop.  He recently released an album titled  Smoothsidehe hopes will help that re-energization.  He calls what he does jazz or smooth jazz now, but it is that same groove, that same jazz/rock fusion which defined the Lighthouse years.  Indeed, there is an If-like groove here and there, for those who remember those UK “pubrockers” from around the same period.  It’s the horns.  Or the funk.  Or maybe it’s just Prokop.  No matter.  What I’ve heard has me convinced.  The man had a vision and a sound in his head.  I dug it.  No.  I still dig it.  He still does.

For those interested in the radio documentary which sent me off on this little tirade, you can listen by clicking here.  God love the CBC.  Lighthouse deserves to be remembered.  No, they deserve to be heard.  And unfortunately, the world outside of Canada has not heard them enough.

Wilderness Road…..

Which got me to thinking a lot about my past— my musical past.  Meaning the music which molded me into the man I am today.  Man.  That’s a strange word and one I rarely use when it comes to myself, but man I suppose I am.  In my head, I don’t feel like a man.  I feel like that same bumble-headed kid who left the tiny logging town of Sweet Home, Oregon on this path of musical glory— not mine, but that of others.  I never grew up.  I didn’t have to.  My world was one of music and everything outside of that was fantasy.  Well, that fantasy has become reality.  Finally.  Only it is not the reality I had envisioned.  It is a reality filled with broken dreams and partial paths.  It is a reality of correcting the wrongs of a music business run amok.  It is a reality of writing about the reality because, whether you like it or not, the icons of today weren’t alone.  They were part of something much bigger than themselves, though one would not believe it by the mass conception of music history.  So let us correct a few things here.

Number One.  The Eagles were not the first band to put together a concept album about the Old West.  As much as I love Desperado (it is the only Eagles album I ever embraced), that band’s nod to the Dalton Gang was predated by an album by a band from Chicago— one Wilderness Road.  Their self-titled album was released on Columbia back in ’71, telling the tale of a mysterious rider who travels the plains trying to survive by wits but failing, thanks to a world stacked against him.  Religion, women and drugs did him in in eleven tracks which were rock more than country rock, true, but rock of an intriguing nature.  Music writer Paul Nelson heard it and wrote a piece in Rolling Stone which could have made them at least a mild sensation, but didn’t (to read, click here).  Few others cared.  I mention them now not only because of the misconception about Desperado, but because some intriguing film of Wilderness Road has surfaced on YouTube chronicling the last concert of the last tour of the States by that band.  It took place at Provo Park in Berkeley, California in 1972 and was free.  If you want to hear what they had to say and play, that concert has been  broken up into segments which you can view at  Lord, Jaysus, may the good’uns never die!  More myths imploded in the future, I promise.

What were the odds…..

I’m living in San Diego in the mid-seventies, working for Licorice Pizza‘s Pacific Beach store— living in Paradise, it seems, looking back on it.  Life was a surfer’s dream— walks down to the beach a few blocks away where there was the Boardwalk and half-naked ladies and a crepes restaurant which made the best crepes I’ve ever had.  The hours at the store were a non-issue because I was almost always there and it seemed the sun shined the few hours I wasn’t.

One day, this guy comes in and asks if we sell musical equipment.  I say no, only records and tapes (and bongs and papers— this was before the feds went on their stop-the-drugs-by-making-the-tools-illegal binge) and asked why.  I’m a roadie for the band which is playing Mama’s tonight and one of our chords is shorting out, he said, and I asked which band that might be.  “You’ve never heard of them,” he said.  “They’re not from around here.”  “Try me,” I said and he said, “Game.”  Now, if you would have known me back then, I was as much of a bottomfeeder as I am now when it came to music.  I had two Game albums at home in my collection and listened to them a good amount (the first features some mighty tasty jazz riffs amidst their rock repertoire.  “Hell,” I said, “Not only have I heard of them, I have two of their albums,” to which he seemed quite flabbergasted.  “Come on down,” he invited.  “The guys would be thrilled to talk with you,” so I did.  I walked into Mama’s clutching both albums and took a seat against the wall to the left of the stage and waited.

Now, one thing you must know is that when you went to Mama‘s, you were usually looking toward getting drunk and/or getting laid.  Around band time, the place filled up quick with busty ladies in skimpy outfits and guys in fashionable shorts and Hawaiian shirts, all of them looking like they’d just stepped out of a spray-tan booth, perfect teeth white against perfectly tanned skin.  Conversations at Mama’s, I found, revolved around which guy was which girl’s, which girl was which guy’s (they were marking turf without the urine, I suppose) and who was paying for this round of drinks.  Until the music started, there was little intermingling of sexes.  After it started, there was nothing but.

I watched Game stumble through a set of covers and call a time out at which time I made myself known.  I walked up to the stage, introduced myself as a fan and asked if they would autograph an album.  They were thrilled but seemed a bit tentative.  They came over to my table and talked and the first thing I asked was why the covers?  Why no originals?  They said it was in the contract.  They had to play covers, by contract?  What the hell?  Yup, they said, and the contract was lucrative enough for them to toss aside their artistic bent.  I looked around at the crowd and shook my head.  One?  Just one, I asked?  We’ll have to clear it with the bar manager, they said, and they did.  I don’t remember which original they played when they took the stage for the second of their three sets, but I remember which song they followed it with:  Bungle In the Jungle.  The floor was practically deserted during the original, but it was packed for BunglePacked!  I have never hated a musician as much as I did Ian Anderson at that moment.  Of course, to be fair, even before that night I had never hated a song as much as I hated Bungle In the Jungle, either.  It sucked (and still does), but you couldn’t tell by the way those clowns on the dance floor sang along with it.  No wonder I hate the Top Fifty.

I pulled out that copy of Game the other night just to see what they’d written.  Chuck Kirkpatrick and Eddie Keating had just signed their names, but keyboard man Les Luhring had written “Les Luhring is happy to know someone appreciates this record.”  I did, Les, and I still do.  And I find it a lot strange that I had to move to San Diego and visit a meat market like Mama’s to see a Miami band no one there that night besides myself knew anything about.  I think they call that serendipity.

It wasn’t more than a few weeks later that practically the same thing happened.  A guy walks into the store again, looking for chords or batteries or something.  Why, I again asked.  Band’s playing tonight down at Mama’s he says and they need equipment.  Which band, I ask.  You don’t know them, he said.  Again, I said, try me.  Turns out that that band was Couchois (pronounced koosh-wa).  Now, I had never really heard of Couchois, but I had heard of the Couchois brothers.  Wouldn’t include Pat or Chris, would it?  Of Ratchell (pronounced ray-chel)?  He smiled.  Again, an invitation to visit, only this guy was insistent.

I went home to grab my two Ratchell albums and decided to throw in my two Ratchell promo 45s and headed down to Mama’s once again.  The crowd hadn’t changed, the situation hadn’t changed and nothing happened there that night that changed my attitude toward either the place or the people who chose to inhabit it.  It remained an intellectual vacuum, is what I’m saying, and the contract remained law.  Either Pat or Chris Couchois reluctantly approached the manager to play an original and the manager checked me out to see if I was a paying customer and the beer in front of me said I was, so he acquiesced.  One, he agreed, but only one.  I remember that one.  It was Julie My Woman, side one, track five of Ratchell‘s first and self-titled album.  They obviously had not played it in some time, but it hit the spot anyway.

Two things I learned that night.  One, that they were handed a list of songs by the establishment which were acceptable for play and, yes, Bungle In the Jungle was on it.  The other was that Pat Couchois was a chick magnet.  I knew because between sets, he came over and asked to borrow the 45s and albums to prove to various ladies that he was, indeed, a working musician and not just a cover flunkie.  Did it get him laid?  I have no idea.  They quit around 1 AM.  I had to work the next day.

Not long after that night, Couchois announced a record deal with Warner Brothers Records.  Two records came out of that deal.  I have them both.  But more importantly, I have autographed copies of the two Ratchell albums.

Remind me to tell you about T.I.M.E sometime.  It stands for Trust In Men Everywhere and included not only Pat Couchois and Larry Byrom from Ratchell, but also Richard Tepp from Richard & The Young Lions and William Richardson from The Hardtimes.  To me, that was a supergroup.

On My Turntable…..

It’s getting close to Christmas, friends, and whether you still believe in giving the gift of music or not, I sure as hell do.  This year has been one hellacious year for music thus far and I will be putting together a whole column of thumbnail reviews with links so you can check out tunes you might want to pass along to friends and loved ones.  Thus far, that list will include Alcoholic Faith Mission, who I was so fortunate to have seen at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Oregon this past summer (Cam, you da man!)— Picture the Ocean, who played an absolutely stellar set at the Alberta Street Pub— Mist and Mast, a Bay area band of note who just put out a fantastic album a few months ago (Follow a Bad Map)— Keith Morris & The Crooked Numbers, whose Love Wounds & Mars album strikes a very good note— Laurie Biagini, whose A Go-Go Girl In a Modern World hits some real highs— Whispering Pines, whose recent self-titled album leaves me feeling like the early seventies all over again— and many, many more.  Be watching for it.  In a way, it will be a partial year-in-review.

As for my turntable— or CD player, actually—  it sees these albums during various home projects like dishwashing and dusting.  You know what they say— “Whistle while you work…”

And now, it’s time for those pesky little

Notes…..  Jeff Finlin‘s heading back into the studio to work on a new project he is titling Moby Dick.  He says it’s going to be a whale of an album.  A few bucks for the album, but it costs a mint to ship.  I’m kidding, of course.  If you have ever heard his The Tao of Motor Oilalbum, you know what a tremendous talent he is.  Check him out at his website for details.  (Click here)…..  Time to once again mention the rockumentary Teen A-Go-Go which runs down the Fort Worth music scene of the sixties.  A look back into the eye of the musical storm.  And now San Diego’s Ray Brandes dug up a page which features a clip from a ’60s documentary titled Teen Revolution, one I would give my right arm to see.  This clip features a band from California called The Bushmen.  If you like the ’60s teen scene, check it out here.  You won’t regret it…..  Under the category “Imagine the whiplash… BE the whiplash,” I am constantly astonished that The Weaver Twins have gotten so little respect from the viewing/listening public.  I LOVE these guys and really dig this video, along with a few others in their stash.  So without further ado, I give you the outlandish and very cool video, Mounting the Scaffold (click here).   Watch it and then explain to me how it can possibly have less than 10,000 hits…..  I’ve been having a flashback for Hannah Miller this past week.  I remember like it was yesterday how her O Black River EP completely took over my conscious world almost a year ago and her music has been part of my subconscious since.  She recently posted some new (old) Youtube vids (but not vids) and brought it rushing back to the surface.  The reference to new is that they were newly posted.  The old is that the songs were from an earlier 2010 release.  All good.  See what I mean hereHear what I mean here…..  Good friend and musician Nathan Hill of The Putters and the 667s pointed me toward a surprise in the form of We Say Bang!, a real honest to goodness garage band who sound like they time-tunneled back to the sixties to record their new album, Ignite.  The new album is available on their bandcamp page as a name-your-own-price item.  Stream it and then buy it, if you want some new vintage tunes.  And if you’re in or around Seattle, check the venues to see if they’re playing.  They sound like they could blow some minds…..  Here’s a video so demented that the Australian government made them list all of the perpetrators for possible criminal prosecution.  Here are The Round Mountain Girls (who, in fact, are not girls at all) dragging Walk Like An Egyptian through the outback.  Oh, what some guys will do for a date, huh?  (Click here)…..  It’s The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes as seen through the Eyesores of Alec K. Redfearn— some of the damnedest animation/music spelunking I’ve seen recently.  Damned good, that is.  Click here…..  Don’t make me come to your house and force you to watch this video.  The music is by The Cynz, the subject something we all need to be more aware of— child abuse.  Hell, we need to be aware of all abuse because as much as we pat each other on the back all the time, us humans are not all that cool.  I may just make this my go-to video.  It is a prime example of music and reality making a point.  Very late-sixties-sounding with folk rock vocals and jangly guitar.  Take a listen/looksee…..  You remember me writing about Maggi, Pierce & EJ?  Well, finally— and I mean finally— EJ has sent me a copy of his most recent project (copyrighted 2009— sigh).  It came in the mail yesterday and I am working on carving out a time slot for a special listen.  He plays under the moniker You Purple Vision on this one and the album is titled Heart Like a Tiny Jewel.  I absolutely loved the stuff he did with MPE.  I don’t think I will be able to go into this with any semblance of objectivity, but when I am confident that I get what he is doing, I will let you know…..  Jesus, has it been that long since Bill Jackson‘s Steel & Bone album was released?  It says 2008 on the Soundcloud page which Jackson just put up of a demo of Long Way From Water which made it onto that album.  You want to hear why I think the States and Australia are blood kin, listen to this.  Features Jackson on vocals and guitar, the amazing Pete Fidler on dobro, and Ruth Hazleton on voice and clawhammer banjo.  Click here…..

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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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.”


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