Frank Gutch Jr: Don’t Look Now, Musicians, But You’re Being Usufructed; New Albums From Jubal Lee Young, Mad Anthony, and Fisher; and Scattered Thoughts and Mindfarts (plus Notes)

  1. FrankJr2  1. Usufructed, and it ain’t fun.  Before you ever wrote or even heard that first note of that first song, the cards were already stacked against you.  Record labels, publishing companies and every other segment of what would build into the corporate structure which is the music industry have plotted against you from the start.  Of course, it was done legally.  God forbid that Universal or BMI take anything from you as regards what finally was termed your “intellectual property”.  God forbid that they treat the worker bees creating that which they would build into a multi-billion dollar industry like so much chattel.   I mean, after all, corporations are people, right?  And we know what people do to each other on a constant basis.

2. Before you even bent down to grab your ankles, the music industry was slipping it to you— by the right of usufruction.  To wit, The right to use and enjoy the profits and advantages of something belonging to another as long as the property is not damaged or altered in any way.  God knows what that really means or whether it even applies to music, legally, but it sure as hell applies to it in reality.  Record labels and publishing companies have built an empire off of the creations of songwriters and musicians and they did it knowingly.  Sure, they hid it behind the infamous “look what we’re going to do for you” ploy and back in the fifties and sixties, it looked pretty good.  It worked good, too, for a few who were lucky enough to strike it big— The Dylans and The Jaggers and, of course, The Fab Four.  Not so much for others.

cowboypromoI don’t think I was the only one who saw the faults in the foundation back in the seventies.  Of course, few were really paying attention.  Even the ankle-holders held out for better than what they were being handed because, hey, look at the pyramids being built for superstars, but we all know how that turned out.  Those of us paying attention, anyway.

God knows how it happened but the record companies and publishing interests spun a tale it was hard not to believe, how if you got lucky you were going to be rich and famous beyond all dreams.  What they didn’t tell you was that they were going to steal your creations and live off of them while you paid them back— everything they had put into you.  Every.  Fucking.  Nickel.  For guys like Dylan and Springsteen, that was no problem.  Neil Young?  Barbra Streisand?  Frank Zappa?  Automatic.  They sold well enough it was hard keeping up with the totals.  CowboyHeartsfieldMichael Fennelly (The Millennium and Crabby Appleton)?  That was a different story.

To look at it today, you would think music was tied into the economy much like the 1%/99% are today.  The Rich get richer/And their water never runs dry/The Rich get richer/Don’t you ever ask yourself whyBaxter Robertson knew when he wrote The Rich Get Richer, a song which made it onto TV a number of years ago— for sports, of all things.  There is a good chance that Robertson made more from those few plays than they did on the sales of the album, but that is a subject for another time.

The point I am trying to make is that the music industry has made it next to impossible for musicians to survive, especially taking into account their stance to not pay royalties on songs recorded before 1972, is it?  What they call “legacy” artists.  I have mentioned this before, I know, but it sticks in my craw.  They, in essence, have laid claim to the music without regard to songwriters or performers.  And they seem downright proud of their stance.

What it all really comes down to, for me, is Truth.  The Truth is that record labels and publishing companies built the paradigm on the backs of artists and composers and have usufructed their works.  The fact is that those same entities employ many lobbyists to stall any kind of legislation to correct practices which in any other business (except major league sports, which are another world of slime and corruption in themselves) would be called (and I neither know not care about any legal terms) some offshoot of fraudulent.  The fact is, musicians and songwriters have held onto their ankles long enough.

Now, I’m not so pompous to think that anyone would consider my thoughts relevant to a hill of beans (a view held by a few old girlfriends who, to this day, claim I am the devil), but I can tell right from wrong, which is more than the corporations parading as people can do.

Here’s the thing.  You invent rocks.  The sand and gravel people come along and say, hey, we’ll help you move those rocks, under these conditions.  Then they do what is best for them and hide the books which would tell you how much you are owed.  And they petition courts and the legislature to get the rules (which they created) changed, always to their advantage.  And they invent claims— we mined these rocks but they didn’t sell, so you have to pay us for them— or, we have to charge you a fee for wear and tear on our dump trucks.  Never a thought about the agreement.  Never a thought of the inventor, except how to get more out of him if at all possible.  Never a thought of fairness or right and wrong.  Never anything but the bottom line.

That bottom line is total loss of a creation, in most musicians’ instances.  True, there are mechanical royalties which must be paid, but those are a drop in the comparative bucket and more than likely do not come from the gravel company’s (or, for the purpose of this article,  record company’s) coffers.

no_spotify-300x166One day, I will attempt to go into detail about the various major labels and their unseemly practices, but it won’t be soon.  For one thing, I find the subject extremely depressing.  The fact that corporations do these kinds of things (and the people who work for them seem to have no conscience whilst doing the corporate bidding) makes me want to break more than a few kneecaps.

Suffice it to say that I am all for deconstructing the music paradigm (at least, the sales part of it) and building it from the ground up, the right way.  To hell with Universal and their attitude toward musicians and composers.  To hell with BMI and ASCAP, unless you can convince me that they do something more than just take a cut out of the artist/composer take.  To hell with Spotify and Pandora, who claim to be losing money with the pittance they allow artists and composers.  To hell with the whole system.  Without the music, the system would not exist.  That should be enough.  Time to raze and rebuild.

Upcoming Releases Worth Shouting About…..

jubalonadarkhighwaycoverJubal Lee Young/On a Dark Highway…..   For those unaware, Jubal is the son of Steve Young (not the football player) and Terrye Newkirk, both accomplished songwriters and performers in their own right.  I first found out about Jubal a number of years ago when interviewing Steve about his own music.  When I asked if Jubal was following in his footsteps, Steve made reference to an extra DNA strand which made him play hard rock.  I dropped it.  Between then and now, the DNA has evidently morphed because Jubal’s last album, Take It Home, showed less hard rock and more of what Steve and friend Waylon Jennings played in the old days (Steve wrote Jennings’ hit, Lonesome Orn’ry and Mean.  I think my exact words were “you can hear  the ghost of Waylon and Steve at every turn.”

Well, Jubal has taken two years to get this one together and he promises it will be a different direction, though I only half-believe that.  That  DNA Steve mentioned is a bit harder to buck than most would be willing to accept.  While I haven’t heard anything from the album yet, I can sense what is coming down the pike.  Jubal is one fine songwriter and what he probably meant was that he is in his comfort zone on this one— pumped to get it released.  He also made mention of a string of new songs he has written for his next project.  Must be hitting the coffee extra hard these past few months.

Just to give you a taste of what he has done in the past, let me slide these by you one time.

Ol’ Jubal better be good.  He grew up feeding on the music of many talented musicians and songwriters.  Here he is covering a David Olney classic (with a little help from Mr. Olney his own se’f), The Way I Am.

Jubal has yet to set a date but promises it will be soon.  As chaotic as the biz is these days, it doesn’t hurt to be somewhat organized.  Stay tuned…..

fisher3Fisher (the band)/3…..  As far as I know, Fisher is basically Ron Wasserman, the man behind the music for a handful of TV sitcoms (Kirstie and Hot in Cleveland) as well as the music for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), and Kathy Fisher, a vocalist of no mean repute.  I happened upon them when they released their album Water a few years ago.  It caught me totally by surprise, especially a song titled Water Burial, a song written by Kathy for her late father.  It was a musical blow to the heart and I have followed her (and Wasserman) since.  The past couple of weeks have found Wasserman completing some of the tracks for their impending album 3 and he was kind enough to supply a link to some of the songs—- some completed, some rough.

I think Kathy and Ron were meant to be together.  Their voices blend and the music flows smooth.  I am most impressed.  Of course, I should be.  These guys are pros.  And outstanding musicians.  Follow this link for a listen, and here is a video or two out of the past to whet the appetite:

madanthonyMad Anthony/Sank for Days…..  When I saw Mad Anthony last year, I was unprepared.  I was expecting some sort of cohesive rock and roll band and what I got was music madness.  It took me a few songs to get used to the stage show but after that it was pure joy!  If you really want to enjoy MA, you have to see them live!  They are like cartoon characters— I swear that there were moments the bodies came apart at the joints.

Musically, they remind me of an adventurous SF band during the psych days—- not the early days but the early seventies days when bands like Wilderness Road and Mendelbaum were traveling through.  Not quite like any band I’ve seen.

I have the first album but have yet to hear the new one.  They just got the vinyl in a handful of days ago.  Got to get my hands on one of those.

They got in a serious car accident last year, don’t you know.  Very serious.  They are lucky to be alive.  They know it.  This new album is a second chance.  A rebirth.  I’m turning it up when I get mine.  Loud!  This vid is a few years old, but it gives the basics.  They were wild men the night I saw them, though.  They come to your town, make it a point to see them!

The Gears/When Things Get Ugly …plus… a documentary?

  1. gearsfront2Word has come down from Wondercap RecordsChris Ashford that he has been putting together a documentary of The Gears and D.I’s (well, he didn’t specifically mention The D.I.’s, but I’m assuming) and is close to wrapping it up.  Or would be, except he keeps finding more material to add.  When it’s finished, Ashford says it will be approximately and hour and a half long.  He’s hoping to get it placed in a film festival or two and might even consider backing some theater showings himself.  Plans are in the early stages, though.  He has to concentrate on the music release itself right now.  He expected his first shipment of vinyl yesterday— on colored vinyl.  He also has copies of What Is It?, a punk compilation of L.A. bands (The Germs, The Dils, etc.) on 10” vinyl and copies of The GearsFour On the Floor, also on 10” vinyl.

When Things Get Ugly is what I expected out of The Gears, the band speed-shifting through some songs and chainsawing their way through others.  Lotsa guitar!  No vids from the new album yet, but here is a track from 1980.

Thoughts and Mindfarts…..

mendelbaumThe summer of 1969, I was in limbo.  The draft board was breathing down my neck and I knew I would have to either make a dash for the border, accept the punishment of refusing service, or being inducted into the Army.  While I waited, I lived on wine, beer and french bread, smoked a semi’s worth of pot (What can I say?  It was lousy) and visited with friends.

One day, my buddy Tom Picco and I decided we would hitch down to San Francisco to see our old roommate Lee Eide, stuck our thumbs out and was there by the next day.  That night, Lee asked if we wanted to see some music and of course we said yes.  After looking at the lineups available (it seemed everyone from SF was playing that night, from It’s a Beautiful Day to Santana) and having Lee nix them all, he read a paragraph from Ralph Gleason’s column in The Chronicle about a band from Wisconsin playing at The Matrix.  Gleason gave them the alternative thumb’s up and we headed down.

The club was empty but we were there and we saw what I considered to be a great show.  The band was The Mendelbaum Blues Band, which changed its name shortly thereafter to Mendelbaum.  They played a few originals but mostly did covers.  I thought them outstanding.  I ran across this video on Youtube and thought you young’uns might like to hear what I considered acid rock in the day.  It didn’t even occur to me back then, even though they called this kind of music a blues jam, that it really had its roots in the blues.  Ladies and gentlemen, Mendelbaum:

Note for note, Lost Leaders are one of the best bands playing these days.  Peter Cole and Byron Isaacs do more with less and do it exceptionally well.  Here is a video of them doing a cover of Neil Young’s New Mama.

Tom Mank and Sera Smolen are cold molasses when it comes to releasing music, swear to God.  They have a unique sound, thanks to Mank’s writing style and Smolen’s touch on the cello, and I look for whatever I can find when I get the time.  Recently, I came across this little gem.  This is what they call roots-infused.

This is one of my all-time favorite songs by The Animals:

This is one of my all-time favorite songs by Grand Funk Railroad:

Spencer Davis:

This may be the only Chicago (Transit Authority) track I ever really liked:

Hey, I’m boring you.  I can tell.  What say we get to the…

Music Notes smallNotes…..  Is anyone surprised that Chloe Albert is getting ready to blast out of the tundra?  A trip to The Juno’s this past year was way overdue as far as I am concerned.  First I saw her live video in some basement which froze me— deer in the headlights kind of stuff.  And no, I do not apologize for including this clip in my column once again.  I’ll bet only a few of you bothered to watch when I posted this the first 22 times.  Well, I’m calling you out.  If you don’t watch and listen this time, you lose all credibility with me.  Forever.


Just tonight, I found this.  This, my friends, is world class stuff.  I am going to hate it when everyone finds her but I’m pretty sure it is inevitable.  You can’t hide talent like this, no matter how hard you try.

In earlier years, if you had told me I would be seeing some of my favorite guitarists facing off against one another, I would have laughed because it would have seemed pure fantasy.  Here are two guitarists I have followed for years— Elliott Randall (who has played with damn near everybody but whom I found in the early Randall’s Island days) and Mick Abrahams (Jethro Tull, Mick Abrahams Band, Blodwyn Pig, et. al.).  I think Randall calls these “the couch sessions”.

Just so you don’t think ol’ Elliott plays favorites (though he obviously plays with favorites), here he is with David Spinozza, a guy I first heard from a guest spot solo on Nick Holmes‘ exceptional Soulful Crooner album.  Man, I could post these all day long.

When I first met Javier Escovedo, he was just a kid.  He and his band, The Zeros, had just started kicking up dust around San Diego and people were picking up on their mix of New Wave and Punk and you could almost see the paths opening for them.  Today, years later, he is still going, the most Pop of the Escovedo family, playing with a reformed Zeros, True Believers, and his own band, City Lights, among a handful of others.  The guy’s a workhorse, and a damn talented workhorse at that.

I think the idolatry in this trailer for The Seeds documentary is a bit over the top, but this could be one of those rock docs which could open a few eyes.  I remember a few of the stories about the band, none very complimentary, and if they go into the realities of the band and the rock scene of the time…  Myself, I loved the band.  I had the singles and the one album (the first album seemed to be the only one which sold, but that probably had to do with the overwhelming popularity of Pushin’ Too Hard) and treasured them.  I just hope the film isn’t a gushfest.

Melissa Payne is relatively new to me but I am picking up on some talk on the Net about her.  After stepping back a year or two, I am wondering why I had not heard of her before.  Her latest album, High and Dry, is as pleasant as they come, the music tripping between fifties and sixties pop and country.  Here’s a video I came across from an earlier LP.  I am liking this lady more and more the more I hear her.


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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