Doug Thompson: WHAT, IS IT NEW YEARS ALREADY?

Doug Thompson headshotJohn Lennon said it best in one of my all time favourite songs of his: “So this is Christmas and what have you done.  Another year over, a new one just begun.”  I do so wish that Lennon was still here to continue with his amazing talent.  But some self-centered asshole with a hand gun and a diseased brain (or a mind-controlled one, for all of you conspiracy buffs) silenced that legendary voice forever 33 years ago.

Holy cow, has another entire year gone by already?  The older I get, the quicker the years rush by.  But my oh my, what a fascinating year it’s been.

For 2013, these are a few of my favourite things.

Wrecking CrewDOCUMENTARIES:  “The Wrecking Crew”.  Yes, I realize it’s been completed for several years, but they’ve just recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign and raised just over $313,000.  They only needed $250,000. to pay for AF of M residuals and other publishing costs.  So now this amazing story of the LA studio musicians of the 1960’s and ‘70’s (Hal Blaine/Glen Campbell/Carol Kaye/Leon Russell/Larry Knectel/Don Randi/Billy Strange, Nino Tempo/Tommy Tedesco et al) can finally be released and seen by (hopefully) millions.  Denny Tedesco, the son of session guitarist Tommy Tedesco, realized (after his father was diagnosed with the cancer that would ultimately kill him), that the story of Tommy’s work and many other studio/session musicians had never been told.  So he started filming his dad and others (including Herb Alpert/producers Lou Adler and Bones Howe/songwriter Jimmy Webb/Cher, etc) and over many years, it became “The Wrecking Crew”.  This documentary is every bit as good as “Standing In The Shadows of Motown”.  It covers a much wider range of artists from the Sinatras, both Frank and Nancy, to being the recording cats for The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Mamas and The Papas, Carpenters and The Monkees, among hundreds of others.  These are the musicians who created producer Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’.  I contributed to their Kickstarter campaign and will receive my official DVD sometime after June of 2014 when the doc is released.  I’ve watched it many times (don’t ask how I got a copy.  I can say no more) and recommend this highly as a MUST SEE for anyone interested in how that era’s music was created.  I’ve interviewed many of these studio musicians, including Hal Blaine and Carol Kaye and the stories are endless and wonderful.  You can check out the trailer and outtake interviews at http://www.wreckingcrew.tv.

Good Old Freda“Good Ol’ Freda”.  This is the never-before-told story of the official Beatles fan club President, Freda Kelly from Liverpool.  I was sitting just one seat away from Freda when the movie was screened at TIFF (I’d interviewed her a couple of years before in New York).  The doc brought tears to my eyes in certain parts.  She’s just such an honest and loyal person.  Anyone who loved The Beatles will love Freda’s tale.  She was a Liverpool gal who saw ‘The Fabs’ many times before they became household names.  She was the local fan who ended up running their international fan club and hung out with ‘the boys’.  Beatles manager Brian Epstein wanted her to move to London with them, but she remained in Liverpool.  Even after she stopped working for them, she kept The Beatles secrets.  She was loyal to them, and they in turn were loyal to her.  Freda kept trunks of memorabilia that would be worth a fortune today, but she gave much of it away to friends and fans without asking for a dime.  It’s a heartwarming, highly emotional story of a very kind, gentle woman.  The title, by the way, comes from The Beatles 1963 Christmas message to their fan club members.  George Harrison thanks their fan club Presidents in London as well as Freda Kelly in Liverpool.  John Lennon then shouts, “Good Ol’ Freda”.  It’s another MUST SEE documentary.

BOOKS:  I don’t read fiction.  Biographies, non-fiction history and autobiographies are my reading stapes (mainly in the music/entertainment world).  So this year, my four favourite books were written by Dave Hull, Henry Bushkin, Jerry Blavat and Mark Lewisohn.  You may never have heard of any of them, so let me elaborate.

Dave HullDave Hull is a disc jockey whose heyday was the 1960’s and 70’s.  He was the Hullaballooer on KRLA in LA (actually headquartered in Pasadena).  The book is titled: “Hullabaloo! The Life And (Mis) Adventures of LA Radio Legend Dave Hull”.  I used to listen to Dave when I first moved out to LA in 1970 and interviewed him at his home in Palm Springs in 2005.  Hull on KRLA and The Real Don Steele on KHJ were my two favourite LA jocks of that era.  Dave’s book recounts his radio career and the many (mis) adventures throughout.  During Beatlemania, Dave gave out the real home addresses of The Beatles.  Needless to say, the Fabs were not thrilled.  He also managed to sneak onto The Beatles tour plane at one point and hilarity ensued.  Dave Hull was a wild and crazy jock for sure, and this book is an excellent read.

Johnny Carson BushkinHenry Bushkin was Johnny Carson’s lawyer/pal/companion for eighteen years.  This is a book that Carson would most definitely not liked to have seen published during his lifetime.  In fact, he would probably have sued to stop it.  The book, titled simply Johnny Carson”, shows us the real Johnny Carson – his mercurial temper, his drinking, his many marriages and feuds, his relationship with his mother (it was not a close bond), basically all of Carson’s warts.  There’s also a fun side to the ‘King of Late Night’ that only a close associate like Bushkin could tell.  If you were a fan of Johnny Carson and his legendary run as host of the Tonight Show, this is a book for you.  If, on the other hand, you’ve never heard of Johnny Carson and think Jay Leno is the king of late night…just move on.

You Only Rock Once - My Life In Music BlavatJerry Blavat is another legendary DJ – this time from the east coast.  His book, “You Only Rock Once: My Life In Music” is the story of this hip kid (he was once one of the teen dancers on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” when it was still based in  Philadelphia).  Blavat made it by being a teenage DJ playing teenage music for teenagers.  On air, he called himself ‘The Geator with the Heater’ (hey it rhymes and it’s catchy) aka ‘The Boss With The Hot Sauce’.  Blavat was close friends with Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Dick Clark (who wrote the forward to the book) and a Philadelphia Mob boss named Angelo Bruno.  Blavat had radio and TV shows, owned night clubs, and had one helluva time doing it all.  The Geator is still on the air in Philadelphia, creating radio magic for his listeners.

Tune In The Beatles“Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years” is the title of Mark Lewisohn’s latest book on The Fab Four.  It came out this past October, but was supposed to have been released in 2006 with two more volumes to follow in 2009 and 2012.  I guess it took Mark longer than he thought and apparently, there are two more volumes still to come (according to his introduction).  Mark Lewisohn is no stranger to Beatles books.  He’s written several and is well respected and revered as one of the most authoritative Beatles experts in the world.  His “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” is THE definitive research guide.  “Tune In” is the only one of these four books that I haven’t finished reading yet.  C’mon, it’s 944 pages.  Rolling Stone Magazine calls it “The biggest, deepest Beatles book ever”.  We’ll see.  It’s certainly been interesting so far.  I’ve learned quite a few things I never knew and I’ve written, produced and directed almost a dozen Beatles radio and television documentaries since I co-produced my first one at CHUM Radio in Toronto in 1970.  This book wraps up at the end of 1962, just as The Beatles are poised on world musical domination, so if your favourite Beatles album is “Abbey Road”, I suspect you’ll have to wait for several more years for Volume 3 to arrive.

NEW WORDS IN 2013:  Twerking.  Don’t care.  Don’t wanna care.  Will never care.  The word is actually more than twenty years old, but thanks to Miley Cyrus, it briefly returned to our vocabularies.  But it’s definitely time for it to go.  Oh, and ‘twerking’, while you’re slinking away into oblivion, please take the words ‘Cronut’ and ‘Selfie’ with you.

Editor’s Note: Is ANYTHING on the Internet real? Are we REALLY this gullible?

TIME TO GO:  I’m really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really tired of the biggest ego on the planet without the talent to back up that ego – Kanye West.  Kanye – you are NOT the second coming of Elvis, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, James Brown, Tupac or anyone else for that matter.  Please, please Kanye, go north, south, east or west, but please just go and take your baby mama, Kim Kardashian with you.  Baby North can stay though.  He hasn’t bothered anyone.

john candyPEOPLE I STILL MISS EVERYDAY:  John Candy.  He was a great friend and a wonderful man.  The networks ran several of his movies over the holidays (“Planes, Trains & Automobiles” and “Home Alone” (OK, so he only had a cameo in that one as a polka band leader who gets Catherine O’Hara home to Chicago in their rented truck).  I was friends with John for 17 years and worked for him in LA for nearly 4 of those years.  Every time we were out in public together, I’d watch people recognize him, then smile.  He had that kind of happy effect and it is sorely missed.

PERSONAL FUN TIMES IN 2013:  The Bobcast.  Bob Segarini and gang (of which I’m quite proud to be a member) would gather together each and every Monday night (we missed a few over the almost half a year run, but not many) at Cherry Colas on Bob Doug Geets DavidBathurst Street in downtown Toronto for a fun evening of innovative, evocative, sometimes controversial discussion along with some incredible music (both from house band X Prime and from special guests).  It was great radio…even if it wasn’t actually on the radio – yet!  Looking forward to Season II coming in April. (L to R: Bob Doug Geets Marsden)

MUCKED UP ANNIVERSARY:  The 50th anniversary of the JFK Assassination.  There can’t be that many people left on the planet who truly believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone (besides Vincent Bugliosi and Gerald Posner, both of whom wrote books posing this is the only correct position).  Conspiracy theories (none of which are new) include a Secret Service agent in a follow up car whose gun discharged when the Secret Service car sped up and his was the fateful head shot.  Uh huh!  Oh there are so many other theories that are equally as crazy.  I think the truth is out there (apologies to “The X Files” for ‘borrowing’ their sell line).  The Mafia and factions of the CIA collaborated (as they had several times previously, particularly in Cuba) to off Hit istKennedy.  It’s a tragic story that continues to haunt the baby boom generation (it was our first real exposure to assassinations.  Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be our last.  In the 1960’s alone, JFK, Martin Luther King, Malcom X and Bobby Kennedy were all shot to death).  There’s so much disinformation out there that it’s tough to actually get to the ultimate truth about all of these killings.  One of the most fascinating books on the subject is “Hit List: An In Depth Investigation Into The Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses To The JFK Assassination” by actor Richard Belzer (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and co-author David Wayne.  It came out in April of 2013.

ONE LAST THING:  As much as I enjoy reading the other bloggers columns here on “Don’t Believe A Word I Say”, there are two other sites that I never miss.  One is a daily blog from Ken Levine, an Emmy Award winning TV writer/director (pronounced Le-Vine as in wine).  Ken wrote for such classic television programs as M*A*S*H*, Cheers, Frasier, Wings, The Simpson’s, Everybody Loves Raymond and many more.  He’s also directed episodes of “Becker” as well as other series.  He and his writing partner David Isaacs wrote the script to the 1986 movie “Volunteers”, which starred John Candy along with Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson (aka Mrs. Tom Hanks).  Ken writes about all kinds of subjects, not the least of which are behind-the-scenes on television shows, most feature his unique style of humour (Canadian spelling).  Check Ken out at kenlevine.blogsite.ca

Stay TunedThe other writer I read regularly (new columns appear Tuesdays and Thursdays) are from Stan Cornyn.  Stan was one of the original employees of Warner Bros. Records way back in 1958 and was a 30 year Executive with the company.   Cornyn’s won Grammy Awards for Fugswriting record jacket liner notes (remember those?) for artists such as Frank Sinatra, Petula Clark, Dean Martin.  In the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s, Stan also created a series of innovative anti-establishment print ads that ran in ‘underground’ publications like Rolling Stone magazine (yes, Rolling Stone was once considered ‘underground’) for such Warners/Reprise artists as The Grateful Dead, The Fugs, Joni Mitchell and many more.  Those ads were the subject of one of his blogs.  Fascinating reading from someone who was there from the beginning.

Well, that’s my take on 2013.  Here’s hoping that 2014 is equally as exciting for you (although I could do without another ice storm, thank you very much).

Happy New Year to all…and to all, a good night!

=DT=

Doug’s column appears here every 4th Monday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com.

DBAWIS_ButtonDoug Thompson has spent his entire adult life in broadcasting, both in Canada and the U.S. and has won 152 awards for his work.  He worked with Canadian actor John Candy for 17 years, writing and producing commercials, specials and several weekly radio programs.

Currently, he’s writing and producing the second season of a television program for the Hi Fi channel in Canada called “Hi Fi Salutes”, a series of short biographical documentaries on Canadian musicians, producers and record industry pioneers.  One of those programs recently won a Platinum Award at the World Film Festival in Houston.

3 Responses to “Doug Thompson: WHAT, IS IT NEW YEARS ALREADY?”

  1. I have been waiting for a couple years at least to see The Wrecking Crew. I supported Denny’s project by buying a t-shirt and a poster. Now I have my dvd order in and will be getting it in June…Really looking forward to it…When the project came out, I figured Bob might have some insight on some of these musicians, being based in LA..I would love to hear his take on these cats, either playing with them or just hanging out. Give him a nudge please…As well we all heard Spector’s classic Christmas tunes this last Xmas and they were the great musicians on them…thanks for the new book reviews Dave, and Happy New Year..

  2. Doug Thompson Says:

    Strummer, Happy New Year right back at cha. You’re more than welcome for the new book reviews. I hope you manage to get hokld of those books and enjoy them every bit as much as I did…and my name is Doug by the way, not Dave.

    • I’m really sorry about that Doug 🙂

      I did get the new book by Robert Hilson, Johnny Cash- The Life for Xmas. I know there are many books about him, this one was reviewed favorably. Cheer’s

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