Frank Gutch Jr: My Head Is Leaking! My Head Is Leaking!

FrankJr2I have plugged every hole I could find, but my head is still leaking!  I’m not really sure what to do short of listening to Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber simultaneously, or maybe at the same time.  I noticed it the other night when I was doing some research.  Every time I poured info in, it leaked out.  Radio charts, rock ‘n’ roll history, new artists, digital distribution buffoonery— no matter what, it wouldn’t take!  So I guess you’ll have to take potluck this week.  Maybe I can catch a few mental morsels to print here before the skull empties.  Speaking of empties, I’m a bit short this week.  Anybody got any pop bottles or beer cans I can recycle?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeople will scoff at this because there are certainly people who have had more trouble in a day than I’ve had my whole life, but I figure everything is relative and even the best lives experience dips in the road, even if they are dipped in chocolate.  Last night I started looking back on decades spent in the music business and those dips, magnified and glorified (as opposed to Glorified Magnified, one of the best damned rock albums to be foisted upon an unsuspecting listening public), came into focus like they seldom do, the real world pushed out of the music bubble in which I often engulf myself, music replacing the ambient sounds of a dark and foreboding world or even a wonderful and warm one.  I don’t know why, but like a stone skipping across water, songs began making ripples in my mind, and the moments which caused those ripples.

phonolog1It began with a mental image of driving across the overpass on I-5 which led to Albany, Oregon one bright and sunny June day of 1966, the radio blaring Sean & The BrandywinesShe Ain’t No Good full volume as if there could be no better moment in time.  Like all teens, I was a potpourri of conflicting emotions and values, the seemingly perfect days of the late fifties and early sixties giving way to a less certain present and future, the aura of war hovering over a country in denial.  I had just completed my first year of college and even though I was on probation (grades), I knew I was going back in the Fall and I carried my draft registration card marked very clearly “4-A”  (college deferment) in my wallet, ready to pull it out if stopped by the authorities who I am sure looked upon every able-bodied young American as quota-fill rather than a human being.  I had begun questioning authority a few years before while attending Sweet Home Union High School, a school seemingly there to help students prepare for real life which was looking both promising and a little bit scary at the time.  The moment I crossed that overpass, though, all was right with the world— you could not have asked for a better day nor a better song to pick you up by your bootstraps.  A week later, on a visit to Eugene, I stopped by Thompson’s Record Mart and ordered the 45.  Thank the gods for Phonolog because not one person at the shop had heard of the band, but they looked it up and, sonofagun, there it was, printed in ink.  They wrote out a special order and said it might be two weeks, so every two weeks, like clockwork, I begged Momma to take me to Eugene, 35 miles distant (a long distance in those days), so I could get buy the record.  Every visit, they explained that they had been “zeroed”, a term meaning that there was none at the warehouse to ship— a term, in fact, which I would come to know all too personally over my years in records.  In late August, not long before returning to the University, they pulled it out, the special order form scotch-taped to the plain white 45 sleeve, and with a huge smile, allowed purchase.  One of the guys who worked there asked about it and when I told him, asked if I would mind bringing it into a listening booth for a listen.  I acquiesced and we listened and as I left, he was copying the info from the special order form onto a fresh one.  I have often wondered if he ever received the 45, or if maybe he got “zeroed” to the point of giving up.

My point being that while other people look at music as a benchmark in their lives— the first kiss, the summer of puberty, the first year of college, the first song shared with future husbands or wives— I looked at it as adventure in music.  The music began to be first and the attached memories secondary.  Perhaps this little memory exercise I am experiencing is to balance my world because lately I have experienced more than one instance in which the past has loomed greater than ever before— or at least, more encompassing.  I mean I was floored by that song, but goddamn, it was a beautiful day, too!

KASH chartThe same thing had happened a couple of months before, though I knew the song.  It was another beautiful Spring day and a couple of college friends and I decided to drive to Sweet Home to do something, I forget what.  The three of us piled into an MGB convertible one of the guys owned and cranked the music full volume.  Just a few miles later while we were truckin’ north on I-5, The Mamas & The PapasCalifornia Dreamin’ came on good ol’ radio KASH, 1600 on your AM dial, and we were in seventh heaven.  To make it even more magical, the DJ followed it with The Five AmericansI See the Light.  Our heads almost exploded.

Those days of AM radio were some of the most positive days of music I have ever experienced.  I remember where I was when I first heard The BeatlesRain (outside, leaning against the family car, listening to my sister’s transistor radio), Fontella Bass‘s Rescue Me and The Grass RootsMr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man) (studying at my desk in the dorm and again, radio KASH providing the entertainment), Simon & Garfunkel and Dave Van Ronk (“That Dorm Guy” down the hall had what I considered a huge collection of albums in those days— must have been 25!  And not one of them bought for a hit single, neither!), Chicago Transit Authority (my buddy Sid had just bought it and while visiting him at his house, he put on I’m a Man.  To this day, it is the only Chicago album I can stomach).

A few years later, I would be taken aback by a song by a band called Space Opera, thanks to radio station KEED.  They seemed to be the only station to have locked onto what I was sure was going to be a smash hit, Country Max.  Turned out that the disc jockey responsible for playing it was fired not long after.  Evidently Country Max was not the only song he played outside the accepted playlist.  I don’t recall his name, but he was legend to me.  One night, he got in a shouting match over the phone when he was working at KASH.  He put the last part of it on the air, screamed a few cuss words into the mic and cued a 45, then walked out of the studio.  It was night and he was the only person working and for about 45 minutes, all you heard was the scratch and thunk of the needle being recycled over and over at the end of the record.  Like I said, the guy was a legend.

deeppurple69There has been a lot of chatter about Deep Purple lately, most likely due to their non-inclusion to the embarrassment that is The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  I have to laugh because most of the people heading the fight for DP focus on the post-Rod Evans band.  I knew fans of the band during their Made In Japan days and, to a man, they discounted the albums released in the States on Tetragrammaton Records.  Three of them, there were, and musically more adventurous than anything they did thereafter.  Hush, the single from DP’s Shades of Deep Purple, was a cover and still kicked ass on the later lineup.  In fact, that early lineup had a way with covers, taking them way beyond the originals.  But their originals— whew!  The later DP only wished they could put music that adventurous on vinyl.  I love all three of their albums, but my favorite is The Book of Taliesyn, a screaming mix of classical/prog-induced rock with a nod toward pop in places.  Jon Lord is freaking amazing on the organ and I don’t think Ritchie Blackmore ever played a guitar so ahead of its time.  When I came back to Eugene the summer of 1971, all I had was Shades of but Gary Haller at Eugene’s House of Records reintroduced me to the band and I picked up Taliesyn and Deep Purple and never looked back.  The first time I ever heard Made In Japan all the way through was at a party at Gary’s house (or was it his partner, Frank’s?).  Everyone was drunk and/or stoned and the sound system was cranked up.  All I could think was, what the hell happened?  These guys used to be excellent!  While DP was heading toward superstardom, Evans was fronting one of Capricorn Records‘ best acts, Captain Beyond.  Don’t get me started.

Brewer and ShipleyI am amazed at how many people think Brewer & Shipley were a one-hit band.  I don’t deny that One Toke Over the Line was a smash back in ’71 (I’m sure because of the mary jane insinuation), but they were around before and long after and producing albums worth hearing.  Of course, my introduction to them was through The Poor, an early Randy Meisner project (their chance at fame was a cover of Tom Shipley‘s She’s Got the Time (She’s Got the Changes), listed on B&S’s Down In L.A. album as Time & Changes).  (You can hear the track by The Poor by clicking here)  B&S, though, have a number of albums to their credit, all good to excellent.  Once again, Gary at the House of Records forced me to take a copy of their Shake Off the Demon album home, pointing out the inclusion of David LaFlamme (It’s a Beautiful Day) on one track and John Cippolina (Quicksilver) on another.  In those days, I was just beginning to learn the importance of guest artists and their worth.

The Roman Forum was a small tavern between Eugene and Springfield back in the early 70s.  I spent quite a few nights there listening to music.  Outside of the handful of shows by Portland/Eugene legends Notary Sojac, one night sticks out.  Cat Mother (after they had dropped All Night Newsboys) arranged a gig on the fly (probably needing gas money) and Frank Vignola,co-owner of The House of Records, who never went out with us on our little music junkets, broke down and said he would go.  He and I headed down early, hoping to be able to save a table.  We got there about five and started sloshing down beer without eating and by 6:30 were so blitzed we could barely see.  Needless to say, Frank unloaded his liquid lunch all over the table, practically guaranteeing a good seat no matter how large the crowd.  The mess was cleaned up by the time the rest of the guys showed and the band started playing.  My moment for the night was yelling for the bass player to lean down, while playing, so I could request Albion Doo-Wah, the title track from their latest album.  All he did was nod every time I asked and finally I got pissed.  I screamed once again and when he leaned down that time, I yelled, right into his ear, “Albion Doo-Wah!” to which he yelled back into my ear, “That’s what we’re playing!”  Sobered me right up.

albiondowahad 001

It’s funny, but whenever I look for something I need, I find a ton of things I don’t, but when the brain is melting you use what you find.  Back in ’76, a guy came to San Diego to start a new san-diego-reader-logoentertainment newspaper— a freebie along the lines of the city’s The Reader but totally entertainment, you know?  Oh, The Reader?  A free newspaper put out weekly which covered a whole lot of bases but which had the goings on of the weekend printed in great detail and classifieds the younger set (meaning those attached to the meat markets) really dug.  It came out every Thursday and sure as hell, every Thursday morning, people would start coming in at 10 AM or so asking if it was out yet.  Usually, they were delivered anywhere from 2 PM to 5 PM, at which time, if they weren’t there yet, people began to unravel.  Don’t ask me.  Every Tuesday in Seattle, the taverns filled to the brim.  I had no idea what was going on there, either.  And no one could clue me in.

writerswantedAnyway, this guy put feelers out for writers and I attended the first meeting with an example of my handiwork.  He sat me down and asked what I would like to write about and I said music and he said, great, no one else seems to know anything about it.  Luckily for me, it was the only thing I did know.

The name of the paper was The Entertainer.  It was December and he asked what I would like to do and I said what about a year-end best albums list.  He hopped on it.  I wrote about my twenty favorite albums of the year.  He changed it to the twenty alternative albums of the year, after the fact.  Anyway, here was my list, FYI.  I wasn’t always as deluded as I appear to be.  Oh, and for comparisons sake, the other music page in the issue (erm, the only issue, I might add) listed reviews of four albums— Led Zeppelin/The Song Remains the Same, Electric Light Orchestra/A New World Record, Elton John/Blue Moves, and Chuck Mangione/Main Squeeze.  Keep those in mind when  you read my list of “alternatives”.

dwighttwilleyThe Dwight Twilley Band/The Dwight Twilley Band— Hey, I love that first album, even today. I’m On Fire was a stone classic upon release!  2.  Camel/Moonmadness— No big surprise there.  My pick for album of the previous year, 1975, was Camel/The Snow Goose3.  Talton, Stewart & Sandlin/Happy To Be Alive— Another automatic for me.  Tommy Talton was guitarist for one of my favorite country rock bands of the 70s, Cowboy.  In fact, Cowboy‘s 5’ll Getcha Ten was my album pick for 1971.  I played TSS until my stylus needed replacing.  4.  Earthquake/8.5— Anyone who knows anything about Beserkley Records would appreciate this.  Earthquake had this semi-power pop thing going on.  When they rocked, they really rocked.  The rest was icing.  5.  Kansas/Leftoverture— While I loved that first self-titled album from Kansas, file this under an album which just does not hold up well in retrospect.  It was a good album, but my God, how many times can you hear Dust In the Wind before wanting to kill someone?  Anyone!  A good argument to reverse Georgia’s new gun laws. 6.  David LaFlamme/White Bird— I was one of the supporters of It’s a Beautiful Day in their early days and welcomed LaFlamme back to the fold.  He had spent a few years battling good ol’ Matthew Katz over ownership of everything IABD (Katz won suit after suit, thanks to conservative application of law) and ended up not only taking over the band but winning the rights to the albums for a number of years.  During that period, the band received nothing beyond mechanical royalties while Katz pocketed a bundle.  I may have put this a bit too high on the list, but I figured it was good enough and LaFlamme, after taking all that crap, deserved it.  7.  Lucifer’s Friend/Mind Exploding— I was a German music fanatic in those days.  I had a whole string of albums by teutonic rockers, from Satin Whale to Thirsty Moon to Grobschnitt to Karthago.  The sound was in my head.  It still is.  8.  Atlanta Rhythm Section/Red Tape—  This was as close as I wanted to get to Southern Rock.  I was sick of Skynyrd and Free Bird and wanted nothing to do with anything that sounded anything like it.  ARS was actually a musical alternative— a touch of the South with a whole lotta musicianship to make it palatable.  9. Raspeberries/Best—  What can I say?  Overnight Sensation is a power pop classic!  10.  April Wine/The Whole World’s Going Crazy—  The mid-AW period and my favorite (except the very first album which shall remain my absolute favorite forever).  I mean, I loved Stand Back, but The Whole World’s is smooooth, you know?  11.  Flamin’ Groovies/Shake Some Action— I get in arguments with Groovies fans all the time— Loney or Jordan?  I know a whole lot of friends who lean toward the harder and 50s side of the Groovies, spearheaded by Roy Loney who has never given up that edge.  I preferred the jangly power pop of Cyril Jordan, who kept the Groovies name and kept on janglin’.  I always thought this was a great comeback album, though it really wasn’t.  Some really fine 60s-influenced tracks on this.  12.  Judas Priest/Sad Wings of Destiny— You can file this  right next to Kansas.  It is a decent enough album, but in retrospect, it pales in comparison to what I thought it was at the time.  13.  Larry Raspberry & The Highsteppers/In the Pink—  Raspberry, in case you don’t know, was the main man behind The Gentrys who hit it big in the 60s with Keep On Dancing.  After that band had run its course, Raspberry took to the bars and taverns and honed a live act you had to see to believe.  I stood outside The Rainbow Tavern the week I got to Seattle in 1978 watching a revue which floored me, even though I had to hear it through a plate glass window.  That was supposedly the band which had recorded this album.  Just enough pop and a whole lotta rock.  You can dance to it.  And they did.  14.  Mark Ashton/Mark Ashton— Of course, I was going to slip this one in.  Ashton was half of the reason behind UK band Headstone.  I had and loved both of their albums (and still do).  Ashton just headed in a mellower direction.  15.  Willis Alan Ramsey/Willis Alan Ramsey— This is the guy you can blame for Captain and Toenail’s piece of glop Muskrat Love.  It was a magnificent song titled Muskrat Candlelight when Ramsey wrote and recorded it.  I’ll bet he was thinking, thank the gods they changed the title.  That, and which way to the bank.  This album was to be all we would get, but I didn’t know it at the time.  He coulda been a contender.  16.  Mike Berry/Rock’s In My Head— Berry was a Brit who lived off of updated 50s-sounding songs.  He would sometimes take hits from the 50s and 60s and rework them, David Essex-style (Rock On, anyone?).  He had a flair for covering Buddy Holly  songs and reworked Elvis’s hits Baby I Don’t Care and Don’t Be Cruel to perfection.  It was enough for me.  17.  Sons of Champlin/Circle Filled With Love—  I always loved The Sons and when they came out with this, I was ecstatic.  Call this a personal choice.  18.  Scorpions/In Trance—  In case you didn’t know, we are a country of wankers.  When In Trance was released in Europe, the cover album featured a hot blonde straddling a guitar (or doing something with it, anyway) with a breast hanging out (and what a beautiful breast it was).  By the time RCA/US got done with it, all that remained was the hot blonde and the guitar.  I already had the import or I would have thrown it back in RCA’s face, except for the cargoerampfact that it was a great hard-rocker.  19.  Steve Young/Renegade Picker— I wasn’t much into country back then, but I was into the Burritos and Steve Young.  When it is good, you can’t deny it.  20.  Wishbone Ash/New England— By the time Home‘s Laurie Wisefield joined WA, their run had almost ended.  It was a new beginning for me, having been a Home fan since the beginning of that band’s existence.  Some of Wisefield’s guitar on this album was tasty as hell.

Hard to believe that list.  Makes me wonder what other choices there were that year.  In case you are curious, here were my choices for albums of the year not already listed:  1970:  Glass Harp/Glass Harp1972:  Cargoe/Cargoe1973:  Phil Keaggy/What a Day1974:  Big Star/Radio City.  All hold very special places in my collection to this day.

Music Notes smallNotes…..  Here’s a tip for you.  To celebrate the release of their brand spanking new self-titled album, Chris and Gileah have put up FREE downloads on Noisetrade.  Two tracks, one each from Gileah and Chris, PLUS (and this is a bonus!!!) a free download of Gileah’s music recorded for The Love Library.  That includes the album recorded by Gileah & The Ghost Train and Gileah’s primo double-EP,  What Kind of Fool/A  Crooked Line.  This music has the approval of The Great Gutchola.  If you don’t take advantage, a curse will be put upon your heads.  Click here.….  Oh, and Chris and Gileah is scheduled for a May 27th release date…..

There’s smoke down under!  The Bill Jackson Band slapped Jamgrass around with this beauty of a version of Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody.  Hot shit!  Now, if we can only get Bill to unleash that album he’s been working on for the last two years…..

And, yeah, I know it’s from last year, but imagine how much better they are now!

Lots of new releases coming up.  Here are a few videos to support the cause.

Bonsai‘s three-song EP will hit the streets May 27th.  While I couldn’t find anything to support the release, here is a video from Simone Elyse Stevens‘ earlier band, Fiery Blue.  Simone is the voice behind both bands.

Also due for a May 27th release, Chris & Gileah‘s self-titled album.  While this song is not on the new album, it will give you an idea of just how good they are together.

Once again, May 27th is the day of release for Zoe Muth‘s new World of Strangers album.  Again, no video yet, so take a listen to a track from her earlier EP, Old Gold.

Here’s one you surf punks might not know about yet.  Chris Ashford at Wondercap Records just announced a new studio album by The Gears will be available around the first of June.  Titled When Things Get Ugly, it is more insanity from them madcap Los Angelesians.

Bow Thayer & Perfect Trainwreck are on a roll.  Here is a track from their recently released Eden— Live at the Chandler album.  The more I hear these guys, the more I wonder why the Left Coast hasn’t found them yet

Petunia & The Vipers are about hep as you can be these days.  They remind me a bit of Pee Wee King and Spade Cooley— lots of country swing and boogie.  Very cool.  This is good stuff!  New album will be called Inside of You, if it is not already called that.  This guy and his band are destined for cult status, for sure.

Here is a video tribute to silent film star Louise Brooks and her film, Pandora’s Box by The Green Pajamas.  I have wanted to do some reading about her but am plain afraid, having been drug beneath the waters when I read Shadowland, a biography of Frances Farmer.  I am afraid that Brooks’ life might have a real dark side, especially after having watched this video.

What the f**k?  Slam Suzzanne!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think that just about does it.  Keep the faith.


Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

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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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