Frank Gutch Jr: No Small Children, More Fun With 45s, Notes and Maybe A Few Other Things… Maybe

FrankJr2A couple of years ago— well, maybe a few now— I spent a summer reading and hearing about how this Sheryl Crow track (I can’t think of the title at the moment) was the anthem of the summer and captured everything good about the season.  When I finally heard it, my mental jaw dropped.  I could not believe that anyone could hear anything inspiring about the song or the performance.  It was decent enough, I suppose, but it didn’t make me want to sing or dance or hit the freeway with the top down and sing along at the top of my voice.  That’s what an anthem is supposed to do, right?  Inspire?

Nothing against Ms. Crow, but naming that song anthem of the summer was akin to giving John Wayne the Oscar for that travesty of a performance in True Grit.  I mean, when I think anthem, I think Summertime Summertime (The Jamies) or Badge (Cream) or more recently Black Licorice, a song by River Rouge which had me dancing or bopping my head for months, smile embedded (yes, I said embedded) on my face.   To hear what I’m talking about, click here— woooo!  The 21st century’s answer nsc5ato Whittier Boulevard is what that is!  So when No Small Children finally whipped up a few studio tracks, I grabbed on to Wenches and Bitches thinking here it is— rockin’ chicks who spew positive attitude like a 250 horsepower lawn mower spews bluegrass (the actual grass, not the music).  I mean, I already knew Lisa Parade from her days with, not surprisingly, The Lisa Parade, her band from times past.  But to think she could pull of a three man (erm, chick) heist was questionable.  The key, I find, is in the other two chicks.  Nicola B (drums)and Joanie P (bass) are precisely the two she needed and man, can they smoke!  They have five songs which prove they can.  They’re on their EP, Dear Youth (to listen, click here).   I mean, how can you not amp out on a song about salad, for chrissake, and that Shangri-las spoken voice break?  Or a song about irritation?  (That’s irritation, dipwad, not irrigation).  Cause and effect, motherfuckers!  Kick out the jams!

I point to only four, sports fans, because that fifth song is special.  Beyond special.  Mystical is not a song I would normally attach to summer but it is so goddamned inspiring that I cannot do otherwise.  Written by former Heidi bandmate to Lisa, one Jilly B, it captures so much of who she was, especially toward the last.  Was.  Every day I am deluged by people and things that were and pretty much accept it as a fact of life.  Well, not this time.  When Jilly sat down and wrote Mystical, she was so much on another plane that she didn’t need the hooks and the rhythm and the power.  She more than made up for it with Truth.  Jilly had a heart as big as her music and every time I hear her music, for me it will be summer.

I sit here and think what it must be like for Lisa who lived a large part of her life joined at the hip with Jilly and how incredibly personal recording Mythical must have been.  When I listen, I fold the handful of typed conversations I had had with Jilly and the things both  had said about the other and the connection that they each had to the music and just how majestic is the song and I am pulled in opposite directions— exhilarated by the music and deflated because Jilly could not be here to hear it.  Mostly exhilarated, though.  I think because it was recorded with so much care and as a tribute to one whose life and music was cut so short.

More Fun With 45s….. 

It’s grab bag time, kiddies, and I have thrown a number of 45s into it and have shaken it up.  Pardon me while I reach in and see what there is…  ah!  Holy crap!  The first to come out of the bag is, of all singles…..

yukon pete 001Son of Pete & The Muffdivers/Saga of Yukon Pete—–  No, it wasn’t a hit but it did have one of the coolest things going for it.  It had a small comic book full of x-rated S. Clay Wilson cartoons telling the story of one Yukon Pete who was famous for…  well, let us just say that there were exploits and leave it at that.  That’s right.  The creator of such denizens of the comic world as The Checkered Demon and Captain Pissgums and his Pervert Pirates and Ruby the Dyke and Star-Eyed Stella went out of his way to draw a scene from the underground world of ol’ Pete, a cartoon legend who challenged that of the real world Johnny Wad.  The music?  It’s a fifties rock ‘n’ roll stripper’s jaunt through the porn world full of everything your mommy (and the police) ever warned you about.  Side A has the whole story complete with demented narration and drum farts.  The B-side just says “version” but means, as I just now found out, “Dub version”— instrumental sans vocals.  I can’t rightly remember how I came across this puppy but I used to do a bit of business with Beserkley Records when they were attempting to break out of the Bay Area and I think it was sent with a packet of promos with a note saying that it had a Beserkley connection.  On the Organ— Pillary of Sound label and evidently recorded on July 4, 1974.  Sez so right on the label.

As regards the underground comic scene, Wilson was one of a trifecta of comic writers/illustrators to whom I looked for entertainment.  The other two are R. Crumb (Fritz the Cat) and Gilbert Shelton (The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers).  I wiled away many an hour listening to music whilst flipping the pages of underground comics.  I loved those guys.

Manhattan_TransferThe Manhattan Transfer/Trickle Trickle— –  You can say all you want about The Manhattan Transfer to me and it will fall upon deaf ears.  As much as some of their music puts me to sleep, some of it makes me want to jump and shout and their version of  The VideosTrickle Trickle always has me jumping up and down.  Somehow, this gem got completely past me during its Videos run (as did Bob & Earl‘s Harlem Shuffle— what rock was I hiding under, for chrissakes) but the music gods paid recompense.  They handed me the Transfer’s version (click here) and said, go forth and ye shall find.  It took me one day to track down a copy of the original.  That didn’t stop me from enjoying the Transfer take, though.  Indeed, it gave even more credibility to that group as far as I was concerned.  I mean, as a vocal group, it is hard to deny the talent.  The voices are amazing and the material they write or choose is topnotch, but the arranging…  I mean, do you know what they did on Trickle Trickle?  They used the original arrangement.  I guess you could categorize this as not messing with perfection or maybe not fixing what isn’t broke.  Okay, so I look at the label and it says it was arranged by Jay Graydon (the producer) and The Manhattan Transfer.  Don’t tell that to my ears.  They may have changed a note or two, but what they do is The Videos’ arrangement.  No need for a judge, though.  I don’t care what they print on the label (unless it screws a songwriter or musician out of money).  In the end, it’s just plain good music and, as far as I can tell, quite the tribute.

turtlesgrimreaperThe Turtles/Grim Reaper of Love—–  This guy on Facebook plays this game occasionally.  He posts something, say, your three favorite Neil Young tracks, quick, without thinking, and I suppose it can be interesting.  I usually do not follow the threads because who cares what a bunch of people who don’t know music beyond that of the superstars think?  When he tossed up The Turtles, though, I had to look.  There were a lot of Happy Together‘s and Elenore‘s and It Ain’t Me Babe‘s— about what you would expect.  But not one Grim Reaper of Love.  I have gotten used to various snubs given by the general public and, seriously, you cannot fault them for not loving something they have not heard (or maybe just chose to ignore— I am always amazed that certain people think The BeatlesDoctor Robert and And Your Bird Can Sing are newly released tracks from the vaults— rolling eyes and headslap).  But to ignore Reaper is akin to Turtle blasphemy.  Look, I know it didn’t chart (and, yes, it was released as a single) but I always thought it had because when it was new, it got massive airplay on all the rock stations in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Eugene’s KASH (1600 on Your Radio Dial!) played the hell out of it as did KEED and KGAL and KSLM.  I thought it was huge!  And it should have been.  It was.  I swear.  Maybe this is how time changes history.  If all people accept later are the superstars or the superhits, you begin to think that that was all that mattered.  Sorry, Charlie, but I can’t live in a world like that.  Reaper was a stone dead killer of a song.  I know.  I heard it and played it a lot.  A whole lot.  And I saw The Turtles perform it at The Tork Club between Eugene and Springfield when I was in college.  They killed it!

You know, this brings up a lot of other things I’m not happy about when it comes to music, but I will only address one here.  The Turtles were not just Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan.  They were a band!  And that band had two songwriters among a few, Chuck Portz and Al NicholThey wrote this song and I’m glad they did!  For me it has been two minutes and eighteen seconds of bliss every time I’ve heard it.  Portz?  Nichol?  This one’s for you.  (Click here)

hometownbandThe Hometown Band/Feel Good—–  When I moved to Seattle about ’78 or ’79, the city was in the midst of a folk buzz.  Reilly & Maloney were packing out medium-size venues, Jim Page was busking the streets and making quite a noise, Jim Post traveled from the Chicago area to play the occasional gig and artists like The Hometown Band were still getting airplay.  It was folk heaven thanks largely to radio station KZAM-FM which promoted folk and the brand new “new age” music as well as local and regional artists such as Danny O’Keefe and even bar-rockers Jr. Cadillac.  First time I heard The Hometown Band was on KZAM and it wasn’t just them but with Canadian folkie Valdy.  It was fairly decent stuff, for sure, and did well in the hip folk community of Seattle, but the airplay was sporadic (the station had an almost free-form way of putting together playlists during a certain period) and eventually the station plain ran out of gas.  I found out later that the band was put together by one Claire Lawrence, formerly of the legendary BC bands The Collectors and Chilliwack, but the real spark was provided by one Shari Ulrich, who was a songwriter and vocalist of no mean talent.  Feel Good is one of those uppers you hear so much about— call it sunshine folk rock, if you will.  I liked the song enough to hang on to both the album and the 45.  (Click here)

BabeRuthBabe Ruth/Wells Fargo—–  You have to raise your eyebrows at a band who covers Theme From ‘For a Few Dollars More’ .  Of course, when I first  heard about these guys, I didn’t buy them for the music.  I bought the album because of the album cover designed by one of my favorite album jacket creators, Roger Dean.  The album is titled First Base and Dean made it all about cricket, I suppose, but in the States, all we know is baseball.  I didn’t care.  All I cared about was the semi-baseball/cricket reference and the sharks as a kind of surfboard for the fielders, for this game was played in outer space (very Roger Dean, for those who have followed his art).  The music?  Very crunchy and damn unique, thanks to excellent guitar (and songwriting) of Alan Shacklock and the vocal power of lead singer Janita Haan (Jennie).  Yep.  Vocal Power.  Says so right on the jacket.  I don’t know what happened to them.  They flopped badly in the States, but most bands were flopping thanks to FM radio going with the tried and true (even if FM did play deep album tracks) and AM already so heavy into the Top 40 that they were taking themselves, unknowingly, completely out of the game.  On record, I thought Babe Ruth smoked.  After watching this video, though, I wonder if their live show didn’t less-than-impress.  I mean, I’m impressed, but I could see where others might not be.  (Watch a complete live show in Montreal here)  Perhaps if they slowed things down a little, but they don’t here.  (Another live performance)  But I absolutely love the studio track.  (Click here)

pazop 001Pazop/I’m Still In Love With You—–  Boy, talk about hard-to-find information!  I have been trying to get to the bottom of Billingsgate Records since I heard the first Lucifer’s Friend album back in the early seventies.  What I have found out is that they were a label out Chicago and their first releases were leased out of Germany.  Supposedly, the first release was by Neu, a two-man group, both of whom had exited a very early version of Kraftwerk.  I have never seen a copy of the Billingsgate album though I have of their German release on Brain Records (Germany).  Released along with Neu (according to the discography) were albums by Lucifer’s Friend, Frumpy, and Scorpions.  The next year, Lucifer’s Friend‘s second album (I’m Just a Rock & Roll Singer) found its way onto the market as well as an album by another German hard rock group, Epitaph.  Shortly after picking up Epitaph‘s Outside the Law, I thought the label defunct until one day a promo 45 showed up in my mailbox.  It was by some unknown quantity which called itself Pazop.  No one-sheet.  No information.  Just the 45.  So I put it on thinking it would be another Epitaph or Lucifer’s Friend only to hear this insipid ballad by something as far away from those bands as they could be.  Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is insipid, but it isn’t rock ‘n’ roll.  Think polyester suits and shirts with wide collars, I guess.  Never heard of them again unless it referenced this 45.  I checked out YouTube to see if there was anything else and, sonofagun if there wasn’t.  A whole album.  Luckily, the rest of the album isn’t as bad as the 45.  To listen— that is, if you really want to— click here to listen to the flip side.  Hey!  This is your lucky day!  Whereas I just watched and listened a couple of days ago, whomever had it uploaded to YouTube has taken it down.  Some days you eat the bear, eh?

Kathy+SmithKathy Smith/Seven Virgins—–  I was at the University of Oregon one night and this guy came over and said, hey, The Dominions (at least, I think it was The Dominions) are playing at this dorm and rumor has it that Kathy Smith is going to sit in.  Who?, I asked.  Kathy Smith.  She is signing with Richie Havens‘ label and is heading south to record and she’s doing this as a last minute thing.  Fine, I said, so we headed down and scoped out the situation.  The band played its usual dance stuff and at a certain point, this girl took the mike and I have to admit to being impressed.  She was good and when she tipped her head back and let loose, she was really good.  Funny thing, though, I thought.  Havens’ label, Stormy Forest, is known as a folk label.  She didn’t sound folk to me.  She didn’t when the album came out, either.  She was rock.  Sure, she sang folk songs.  They just came out rock.  Sad thing is, they toned her down so much for the sessions that she didn’t get a chance to use her pipes.  Not really.  I thought the producer blew it..  I think Smith could have put out an album of real substance.  Oh, well.  Here is a recording which could have been so much more but for the lack of vision.  Click here…..

barclay james harvestBarclay James Harvest/Medicine Man—–  What the hell is it about the States when it comes to music?  Bands can be huge everywhere else in the world but the people in the States ignore it.  Such it was for Barclay James Harvest.  There was a problem, from what I understand, getting BJH to the States at all.  Seems that the musicians union would not allow bands into the States with a mellotron or something like that.  Crucial to the band’s sound, it was.  So the word was that BJH was ready but they weren’t allowed but by the time Time Honoured Ghosts was released, the restrictions were waivable.  I saw them play at The Troubadour one night.  They rocked the house, but what a strange place to see a band which would usually play venues the size of The Forum.  And why didn’t they receive airplay on their earlier albums?  Sigh.  There are so many things I do not understand when it comes to music.  Like how Katy Perry can be taken seriously as a musician while others of immeasurably more talent are ignored or kicked to the curb.  Oh well.  Ours is not to reason why, I guess.  The reason I have included Medicine Man here is that I found it on the flip side of Thank You back when it was unavailable on an album.  I thought it quite the find.  I think I still do.  Here is a reason these guys should have been superstars in the States.   Click here…..

t.g. sheppardT. G. Sheppard/Solitary Man—–  So one day, he said I think I’ll take a big hit and dress it up in country clothing, and so it was.  Who’d a thought?  T. G. Sheppard thought and did and damned if he didn’t come up with a hit, though it only charted Country.  What was #21 on the Hit Chart for Neil Diamond charted #14 on the Country Chart for T. G.  It was released on Hitsville, the non-soul label under Motown, and it looked like T. G.’s future was good.  Somehow, though, things went south from there.  A lucrative deal with Warner Brothers created a few problems and the next thing you know, T. G. is without a label and a wedge driven between himself and the music industry.  Or so it seems.  Truth is, had this one hit big, Hitsville might have survived and T. G.’s future would have been secured.  It is pretty much a clone of Diamond’s song dressed up in country instrumentation.  From the album Motels and Memories.  Nice stuff.  Click here…..

Flash Cadillac & The Continental Kids/Hot Summer Girls—–  Beach music.  Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it is very very good.  In this  case, it is the latter.  When these guys came on the scene, they made waves because of what they could do to the fairly recent “oldies” of their day.  Many people compared them to groups like Sha Na Na and they weren’t far from wrong.  They were a bit deeper than that sometimes, though, and they prove it on this smokin’ beach choogler which feeds more off of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean than the fifties takeoffs which gave the band their earlier reputation.  Hot stuff when you turn it up, so do!  Click here…..

Sparrow/Oh Doctor—–  In case you think Flash Cadillac and Sha Na Na were the only groups trying to capitalize on the older musical styles, a little known group calling themselves Sparrow jumped into the ring with a very cool arrangement of a song titled Oh Doctor.  It sounds like something Daddy Cool was doing in the early seventies— taking bits and pieces of the fifties and putting them together so it created a whole new sound.  The doo-wop sound is highlighted by vocal impersonations between verses, supposedly Bogart and Stewart.  Normally, this would take away from the music but it is done so well, it sounds very good, indeed.  This group, by the way, is not to be confused with the band of the same name which had a minor hit titled I’m Coming Back.  I would love to know more about that group as well as I love the song, but it has been my misfortune to be turned away at every lead I have tried.  Anyway, here is this Sparrow mimicking the doo-wop fantastic.  It is, by the way, produced by Chris White, a name quite prominent in early seventies music.  Click here…..

damnation1Damnation of Adam Blessing/Back To the River—–  Would someone tell me how these Cleveland boys missed?  I can’t figure it out!  They had everything that all of the other bands of the time had and more:  a crunch, great musicianship, an outstanding lead vocalist (and outstanding background vocalists too) and creative ways of twisting a song into anything from metal to psych to arena rock (well, that’s what they might call it nowadays).  When I found my copy of The Second Damnation, I almost thought I had found the Holy Grail.  I played it over and over and over again, all the time asking myself why so few knew of them.  Unfortunately, Damnation was to go the route of Gypsy, the Minneapolis-to-Los Angeles band which put out four excellent albums to very little acclaim.  I hate it because both bands deserved way more.  I love it because had they made it big, I more than likely would have jettisoned the albums from my collection figuring that if everyone liked them, they couldn’t be worth a shit.  Give yourself a moment and listen to this with a look back to what was happening musically in 1970.  These guys kicked seventies ass.  Click here…..  And here is a treat  for you who have stuck with this this long— a live performance by a Damnation reformed for a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame gathering.  Forgive the sound and the lack of professional photography and you have a band that should blow you away.  Click here…..  Just imagine what these guys were like in their prime.

The Illusion/Did You See Her Eyes—–  Long Island has probably kicked out more than a few big name acts but none has impressed me anywhere near as has The IllusionDid You See Her Eyes was a fair to middling hit in ’69 and had my ear but the rest of the world seemed to forget them after the song dropped off the charts.  The band went on to record two more albums after the one which contained this hit, then changed their name to Wiggy Bits for one last shot.  Needless to say, as  good as that album was, it wasn’t a shot heard ’round the world.  All four albums, though, not only found their ways into my collection but into my consciousness as albums of real worth.  This track may have been the first salvo, but the barrage of songs coming later have had me singing the band’s praises for years.  If you have a few minutes, take a listen to the long version of the hit single, then delve into the other songs which should have made them real rock stars.  Click here…..

fowleybookKim Fowley— Garbage Is As Garbage Does

Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t really care much for Kim Fowley.  He always seemed like an opportunist in a world of idealists, ready to take advantage of young girls at the drop of a hat.  That not so subtle reference to The Runaways is really the extent of my contact with the man.  Back when Fowley was working his magic with them, I saw four very young and insecure girls sat at tables in different sections of a restaurant and forced to undergo a series of interviews by the rock & roll media and thought I had a lock on the guy.  My human meter was pointing to asshole.  Then, just by chance, Fowley’s name came up during a conversation with Tom McMeekan, a friend and former lead guitarist with the legendary Pac NW band Notary Sojac.  Why is he such a dick, I asked.  He isn’t, Tom replied, and then schooled me on a fairly misunderstood man amongst musicians.  So I started asking around.  Turns out the only people who thought Fowley a bad guy were either ignorant or had an ax to grind.  I plead to ignorance.

Well, one day someone will write a book about Fowley and who he really is/was, but in the meantime, Fowley’s doing it himself.  There will no doubt be a lot of ego mixed in with his remembrances and maybe some skewed views.  It has to be that way.  But that’s cool because you have to have a base and as Fowley himself will probably tell you, he is as base as they come.  I say that chuckling, of course, because I have a feeling there will be a lot in the three volumes (the first is now available, titled Lord of Garbage) that we have not been hitherto privy.  For those instances alone, I want to read this book.  Then, if Fowley passes the test, I will want to read the two to come.

Fowley is a legend, for sure.  He has been amidst and behind more than any one man should have been amidst or behind, be it The Runaways or any of the other many projects of which he has been part.  And it is fitting that it is being published by Kicks Books, the publishing arm of Norton RecordsBilly Miller and Mirriam Linna are two people who understand the way the music business was and how important it is to get the information into print.  If you are of a mind to check it out, here is a link.  Click here.

Music Notes smallNotes…..  Sydney Wayser has been knocking me out ever since I found The Colorful and used it as background music for painting a house.  This past year, she followed up that album with Bell Choir Coast, a blast amazing enough to melt ear wax.  Here is Wayser’s latest video, this one of Come Aboard, a song which makes me want to listen to Bell Choir Coast once again, front to back.  Click here…..  It’s almost here— Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me— the rockumentary so many people have been waiting for.  In a way, I am bigstarpromopicsaddened to see such a big deal made out of them.  On the other hand, the fact that virtually everything seemed to work together to prevent the label’s success makes this film one to watch closely— not only for the story of bands who do not make it, but for the way that the record business did and still does, on the whole, operate.  Watch the trailer here…..  On the Jon Gomm front, he just posted information about his impending album release.  This will be an interesting release if only in that Gomm came out of virtually nowhere to punch Simon Cowell in the groin by refusing to participate in his X-Crap venture.  Read about the new album here…..  Damn, but I’m torn.  I don’t want to get into this whole “support the fundraising thing” and yet troubadour Danny Schmidt, a musician for whom I hold the highest respect, says that the new Jeffrey Foucault/Cold Satellite album is more than worthy of attention, so I log on to the page to see what’s up.  I am stunned.  Foucault has received way too much media attention for me to write about him (I bury myself in the deep deep indies) and yet the music I heard on the fundraiser video grabbed me by the head and crunched my head against the desk a few times.  I don’t know if you’re ever heard him or Cold Satellite, but I think you should at least give him a chance.  This is for a new album they hope to have ready for Signature Sounds Records by May.  Watch the fundraiser video here.  I think it;s worth a pre-order at the very least.  Call it the story behind the album and the artists…..  Know what?  As long as I’m on the subject, True Believers are back together and are winding up to enter the recording studio.  If you want to make sure you get their new songs as soon as they are ready, I suggest a pre-order.  This could be one of the best reunion sessions of the year!  Features Alejandro Escovedo and Javier Escovedo.  They’re gonna have an Escovedo good time and so should you.  Click here…..


Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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DBAWIS ButtonFrank 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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