Segarini: Kim Fowley Part Two – The King of Hollyweird

Bob 2015

Part One “A Hick in Hollywood” Can be found here.

America has always had a place in its fickle little heart for novelty songs.

Songs like (I’m) Henry the Eighth (I am) , Who Let the Dogs Out, and Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer are just a few you may be aware of, However, novelty songs go back a lot further than those three.

We’re talking about as far back as recorded music goes.

Two early Novelty Records from the 1930s

Harry Roy & His Orchestra – My Girl’s Pussy (1931)

The Hoosier Hotshots – She Broke My Heart in Three Places

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But here it is 1961, and I am in Hollywood on my way to meet a man who would be responsible for two of the best and most enduring novelty records of all time…and that ain’t all he was responsible for….

stockton-asparagus-festival-25th-anniversary_mediumAs I found my way through the streets of downtown Hollywood in September of 1961, I felt like I was watching myself in a movie. Me, a kid from Stockton California, a farming community in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley breadbasket that proudly wore the sobriquet, FabianAsparagus Capitol of the World, about to meet a man in his own real recording studio in the Land of Dreams, Hollywood, California. A man who was willing to listen to my songs and maybe sign me up to a recording contract and plop me down on the cover of Dig Magazine with all the other Bobbys, Jimmys, and the one and only Fabian (so far).

I’m surprised I didn’t drive up on the sidewalk and hit a starlet….

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15 minutes after I started ringing the bell next to a battered door hanging between two blacked out display windows, the door swung open to reveal a man in a white shirt, with the sleeves rolled up, and a pair of chinos and desert boots. He had a mild look of annoyance on his face.

“You the kid who called? Billy?”

“Bobby. Yes…I didn’t…”

“C’mon in”

“…catch your name.” I concluded.

“Gary Paxton”

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argyles_mar120

Gary Paxton….

From Wikipedia…. “Early stardom came as “Flip” in the pop duo Skip & Flip (with Clyde “Skip” Battin), courtesy of a million-selling 1959 smash the two cut in Phoenix, Arizona, “It Was I”. In what became a pattern in Paxton’s early career, the song was recorded first and the group assembled second: after successfully shopping their demo to a label owner, Gary became “Flip” and Clyde became “Skip”, after the man’s pet poodles, a “group” put together just to have a name on the record. According to Paxton, he was up picking cherries on an Oregon farm when he heard the song on a transistor radio and realized it had become a hit. The duo made television appearances, toured with superstar deejay Alan “Moondog” Freed, and soon followed their success with another hit, “Cherry Pie”. After this second chart appearance, the pair split.

Skip and Flip – It Was I

By 1960, Paxton was living in Hollywood, California. A natural workaholic with an entrepreneurial verve, he had his hand in a number of projects, collaborating with others on the local scene as a performer, writer, producer, label owner, and audio engineer. He played a major role in the making of two novelty hits in the early ’60s and worked with artists like The Association, Paul Revere & the Raiders, The Four Freshmen, and Tommy Roe — over one thousand groups in total.

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Now, I didn’t know any of that when I was walking down a dim hallway with a stranger I had only had a brief conversation with on a motel lobby payphone. For all I knew, I was being led down the hall to his killing room, where I would be vivisected with a rusty hacksaw and my body parts individually wrapped in plastic, put in hat boxes, and sent to the L.A.P,D with a handwritten note smeared with my blood, to taunt the police and make them look like fools. I would be headline news for a while, at least…if they ever figured out who the stupid kid was who ended up in a pile of hat boxes in the Evidence Room downtown.

2012-02-06_Boynton-Beach-police-evidence_03

But this was years before Manson and the movie Se7en, and Dexter, so the scenario didn’t even cross my mind.

No.

I was wondering how long it would take from this moment to be a teen favourite, appear on American Bandstand, shake Dick Clark’s hand, and date Annette Funicello, Tuesday Weld and Sandra Dee.

From Wikipedia…. “Beyond his early work as part of Skip & Flip, Paxton is best known for his involvement in two novelty hits: the 1960 No. 1 smash “Alley Oop” — written by Dallas Frazier and cut quickly with a group thrown together by Paxton’s roommate Kim Fowley, The Hollywood Argyles.

The Hollywood Argyles – Alley Oop

 That version of “Alley-oop” greeted Chicagoland listeners as the first record played under then newly formatted WLS on the morning of 2 May 1960.”

I didn’t know any of that, either.

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There appeared to be no one else in the dimly lit building except my Host and I. We passed closed door after closed door without hearing any signs of life or running into any other human beings. Then a heavy wooden door loomed before us, that Paxton wrestled open to reveal…another heavy wooden door. I heard sound. When he opened the second door, the sound became loud and tumblr_mvyt3dRAjh1r7wc3mo1_500clear.

Drums.

Big, loud drums.

I followed Paxton through the double doors and closed them behind me.

The drums were blasting out of two massive speakers above and on either side of a large, double glass window that peered into a larger room where I could make out 4 musicians, amplifiers, guitars, and both an upright and grand piano. One of the people was seated at a large drum kit right in front of the window, his back to us, pounding away at his kit while the others smoked and looked at him with bored expressions on their faces.

ua_modular_consoleWe were standing in a recording studio control room full of knobs and dials and little blinking lights, and a sound board that was covered in switches, and big round knobs called “pots”. I had been in a studio in Stockton when I recorded 2 songs when I was 13, but it had been nothing like this. Where the little studio in my hometown (Make a record for 25 Dollars! 2 Songs! Only 25 Dollars! Inquire Inside!) was a 2 track tape recorder hooked up to a mic and a couple of little boxes, this…this was like the bridge of a starship…if a starship bridge was cluttered with candy wrappers, pizza boxes, beer cans, and the occasional empty bottle.

And I don’t think a Starship would have overflowing ashtrays and a couch so worn by the butts of musicians and nap-taking producers, that there would be springs sticking out of the frayed upholstery. I was in a REAL studio.

I was on my way!

There was a very thin man sitting on a stool next to the couch. Like a badly drawn stick figure, his legs and arms out of proportion to the rest of his body. Gangly. He moved like a marionette.

He seemed to be studying me. Assessing me like a security camera in an airport, or a human metal detector.

I stuck out my hand.

GE DIGITAL CAMERABobby…Segarini. I’m a songwriter and singer”, I chirped.

“I’m Gary’s on again, off again, roommate, Kim…Fowley. You look like Buddy Holly. He’s over. Lose the glasses”. He looked me over further, squinting.

“Maybe a nose job. too”

The drums drowned out whatever he said next.

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1975….

Olve Green Wall PhoneI was sitting on the can in the bathroom of our upstairs duplex on Marcil Street in the Montreal neighborhood known as N.D.G when the phone rang.

Thanks to 2 weeks of negotiations with Bell Canada, I only had to reach up with my right hand and take the receiver from its cradle on the wall next to me…above the roll of TP on its little cardboard tube, which rested on its little wooden spindle…and speak into the drab olive green phone.

“Hello”, I said, looking forward to telling whoever it was that I answered the phone in the bathroom…using the first phone installed IN a bathroom in all of Montreal, maybe even in all of Canada.

“Is this Bob Segarini…former rock star of Roxy and The Wackers? Leader of the next Beatles, All the Young Dudes?”

Kim God of the Street“Yes”

“This is your Brian Epstein. Your Col. Tom, only better. This is Kim Fowley calling all the way from Hollywood, California.”

Kim Fowley. A man I had only met once, way back in 1961.

How fucking weird, I thought. How incredibly fucking weird.

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1961

Not much came of my visit with Gary Paxton at his studio in Hollywood that day back in 1961, but there were some lasting effects of my long afternoon stay there.

For one thing, I got a quick education in mic placement and recording drums, guitars and bass from Paxton. It turns out he wasn’t much interested in my music, but he needed someone to help him out in the studio that afternoon, and I just happened to call after he had struck out with his usual go-to guys. So now I was not only in a real studio, I was actually working in one!

Happy didn’t come close to describing how I felt.

A Surf BandThe group he was recording was a young band who were part of a new Southern California movement called ‘Surf Music’. No vocalist, just guitars, bass, and drums, the reverb on the Fender amps turned up all the way and tremolo on the lead. The drummer was all arms and legs, beating his kit like it had offended him in some way. It was loud, and noisey, and Paxton sent me out to move microphones around and ask this guy to turn up and that guy to turn down. I got right into it.

After about an hour of this, they started to run down some songs. Kim remained on his stool, and I was standing behind Paxton, taking it all in. He decided on one of the songs and hit ‘record’. After about 5 or 6 takes, he turned to Fowley and said, “What do you think?” Kim, his marionette’s body lurching into motion, considered this for a moment, then said, “I don’t know…ask the kid.” Paxton looked at me, took a beat, and said, “Well?”

5 minutes later, I was out in the studio changing the drum entrance, the bass part, and the guitar tone.

I felt like I was either drunk or dreaming….

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By 1975 I was more than aware of who Kim Fowley was, or more to the point, what he had done since our brief encounter at Gary Paxton’s studio back in ’61.

Still…why was he calling me out of the blue all these years later?

It turns out, he had been reading about my latest musical project, All the Young Dudes.

dudes

Put together out of the ashes of The Wackers, The Dudes were a local Montreal ‘Super Group’ in a sense, with David and Richie Henman from April Wine, Kootch Trochim and myself from the Wackers, Wayne Cullen, who was in Wackers 2.0, and West Island wonderkind, Brian Greenway, late of Mashmakan and future April Winer. A seventh Dude, keyboard player Leon Holt left the band just minutes before our first gig, a sold out show at Café Campus at the University of Montreal.

We were a hit from the first note.

After that, we were booked non-stop. The Mustache, The Edgewater, and so many high schools and colleges, we couldn’t keep count.

Cover of Phonograph Record Magazine DudesWithin months, we started to get a lot of press…but not in Canada. Thanks to rock journalists old and new who had followed my checkerboard career for the last 10 years, the press was coming out of the U.S. of A. Greg Shaw, Ken Barnes, Ben Edmunds, and newby hot-shot Gary Sperrazza!, we were being written about solely on our live performances, and being touted as the ‘next big thing’.

…and that’s what prompted Kim Fowley’s phone call to my brand new, hard won, bathroom telephone, the first of its kind in Canada.

Kim was always looking for the Next Big Thing.

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Kim doing businessKim Fowley was always in the forefront of wild ideas and eccentric thinking in L.A. In a landscape that included Zappa, Carl the Birdman, Vito and Suze, Wild Man Fisher, and even Sunset Sam, Fowley ranked as a superior presence in a sea of freaks and geeks, dreamers and cartoon-like prophets and philosophers.

Kim did stuff.

He pontificated, he predicted, he pondered, and he produced…not just record after record…he produced ideas, streams of consciousness both informed and insane.

Kim Fowley never thought anywhere except outside the box. I don’t think he ever even knew there was a box.

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If ever there were a funnel through which flowed the total of existing pop culture, Kim was that funnel.

He kept up, he scrutinized, he channeled and dissected. He correlated, he analyzed, he equated and he projected. He made sense out of disparate trends. He encouraged experimentation. …and above all else, he somehow managed to create that which did not exist…even though he was told he couldn’t. The word ‘no’ didn’t register. Only Kim Fowley could change Kim Fowley’s mind.

Kim and RodneyHe could both jump on a perceived trend, or create one of his own. Along with Rodney Bingenheimer, Kim helped usher in the second wave of British influence in both fashion and music. The arc of his contributions to pop culture had no rules or restrictions. He could be a Hollywood huckster, cashing in on an existing hipster trope…and just as easily turn 180 degrees and do something that ran counter to what was expected of him, or accepted as ‘the cool thing to do’. Kim producing Helen Reddy? WTF?

Helen Reddy

He was a chameleon…a Hippie in an iridescent sharkskin suit, a businessman in full makeup, a recording artist who looked to create and find other recording artists and make them stars. One man with many dreams.

And always, always, Fowley managed to keep it raw and vital. If “Garage” was ever a genre of rock, Kim was the man that kept it fresh and alive all through his entire career….

Some of the Songs Written or Produced by Kim Fowley

1959 The Renegades: “Charge b/w Geronimo”

It was the era of Duane Eddy, Johnny and the Hurricanes, and Link Wray. Fowley’s contribution to the instrumental milieu was this gem of a guitar-driven romp, which was followed in quick order by The Ventures, Dick Dale, and Lonnie Mack.

The group he put together to record this song contained future surf/car craze/Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, future jazz producer and head of A&R for Capitol Records, Nick Venet, and Instrumental star/drummer extraordinaire, Sandy Nelson. The fourth member, Richard Podolor, who managed to be responsible for 18 top 10 singles in a row for Three Dog Night, and huge hits for Steppenwolf and Blues Image. “Born to be Wild” and “Ride Captain Ride”, also helped create the hit sounds of Donovan, The First Edition, the Dillards, Barry Mann, Glenn Yarbrough, The Monkees, Herb Alpert, the Electric Prunes, Iron Butterfly, Kitty Lester, the Standells, and Bobby Rydell.

1960 The Hollywood Argyles: “Alley Oop”

1961 Paul Revere and the Raiders: “Like Long Hair”

1962 B. Bumble and the Stingers: “Nut Rocker”

1963 The Murmaids: “Popsicles and Icicles”

1964 The Hellions (featuring Dave Mason & Jim Capaldi pre-Traffic)

1965 Kim Fowley – “The Trip”

The movie, the song, the LSD, Kim was there….

1966 Kim Fowley: “They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!”

Who in their right mind would remake this novelty record? Who indeed…

…and the flip side…

1967 The Seekers: “Emerald City”

1968 The Seeds: “Falling Off The Edge of My Mind” b/w Wild Blood

The Seeds had been one of the house bands at the Brave New World, a progenitor of the garage sound, and first home to The Byrds, and The Grassroots, who, when PF Sloane and Lou Adler took the name for another group called the Boshaymen, changed their name to Arthur Lee and Love. This is the club where I first saw Zappa, Carl the Birdman, and the rest of the L,A freak community. The club moved around from space to space, and Alan, a trippy surfer who owned the place would simply walk down Sunset at night and tell everybody where the club had moved to.

1969 Gene Vincent: I’m Back and I’m Proud!

Gene was very ill at the time this record was recorded. I used to run into him at Elektra while I was recording the Roxy album. A sweet man, still limping from the injuryhe sustained in the cab accident in London that claimed the life of Eddie Cochran. Kim Fowley, a huge fan of Gene’s rock and roll output in the 50s, secured a record deal for him and produced this record. Respect.

1971 Scorpion (Swedish Band) – Album

1972 The Modern Lovers: Some tracks included on 1981 album The Original Modern Lovers and on later CD reissues of The Modern Lovers

1973 American Graffiti Soundtrack – At the Hop, Louie Louie, & She’s So Fine

1974 Wide World of Entertainment (ABC) – Music for Desi Arnaz, Jr. Special

1975 Blue Cheer: “America Nights” and “Fighting Star”

1975 Alice Cooper – Welcome to My Nightmare: “Escape”

And after his brief involvement with the Dudes, Kim went on to do this….

1976 KISS Destroyer: “King of the Night Time World” and “Do You Love Me?”

1976 The Runaways: The Runaways

1977 The Runaways: Queens of Noise

1977 The Runaways: Waitin’ for the Night

1977 Helen Reddy: Ear Candy

1977 The Quick: Mondo Deco

1977 Venus and the Razorblades: Songs From the Sunshine Jungle

After his relationship with The Runaways went sour, Kim found an even younger (14) lead singer and put together Venus and the Razorblades, using session players on the record with the exception of the 14 year old Dyan Diamond on guitar and vocals.

1978 Dyan Diamond: In The Dark

1979 Vampires From Album Space: Album

1980 The Orchids: The Orchids

1981 Hollywood Confidential: Compilation (LP) and iTunes

1982 Steel Breeze: Steel Breeze

1988 Leather Nun: International Heroes

1999 Underground Animal: Compilation (LP and CD) Dionysus Records/Bacchus Archives

2003 Impossible But True – The Kim Fowley Story: Various artists (Ace Records)

2009 Kim Fowley – “Another Man’s Gold”; “Lost Treasures From The Vaults 1959–69 Volume Two”

2011 – Next Year Fails : “Timaras Bitchn”

2011 With John York: “West Coast Revelation” (GRA Records)[20]

2014 Ariel Pink: pom pom

…right up until the end. Kim wrote five songs for this album from his hospital bed just months before he passed away. He is probably still writing and looking for the next big thing, no matter where he is.

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1975

After explaining to Kim that we were already set for management, (Fred Heller, who represented Blood, Sweat, and Tears, and ex-Mott the Hoople front man, Ian Hunter, and Nat Weiss, at one time Brian Epstein’s American lawyer). He shifted to songwriting and advice. I welcomed his input, and in a matter of days, received a package from L.A containing a reel to reel tape and a sheaf of lyric sheets.

MarsThe tape, recorded by Kim and sometimes partner and good friend Mars Bonfire, (writer of “Born to Be Wild” among other classics), was a screed about what ‘the next big thing’ would be in 1975…which indicated (according to the two of them) that All the Young Dudes was the perfect fit. This was in line with what everyone from Greg Shaw to Gary Sperrazza! had already said in the American music magazines. At the end of the tape, while Kim summed up the theory, for all the world sounding like an authority on the subject that could not be argued with, his concluding statement was interrupted by a flushing toilet, a pause, and gales of laughter from him and Mars (Dennis Edmonton, late of The Sparrow, who went on to become Steppenwolf with his brother on drums) which continued until the tape ran out. To this day, I do not know if that was on purpose, or just a wonderful Dudes LP Covercosmic joke.

In any case, they were all wrong. The Dudes were not the next big anything…mainly because the record did not come close to sounding like the band that had gotten everyone’s attention. We had been neutered by the best of intentions, and a bad choice of producer and engineer to work with the band.

Nothing new there….

The lyrics Kim sent resulted in the title cut from the LP. Anthemic lyrically, I re-wrote a line or two and composed the music. Kim and I had collaborated without having been in the same room in 14 years.

This was the result of that collaboration.

All the Young Dudes We’re No Angels

CBS, our label in the U.S threw us a big party the night before we began our tour opening for the Bee Gees and to celebrate the release of our album, We’re No Angels. They spared no expense.

Dudes BeeGees Tour

…of course, we were musicians. We had NO idea that all the expensive dinners, the outrageous daily rental fee for the Prime Minister’s Suite at the Ritz Carlton on Sherbrooke was CND2500 dollars a day (for 2 days), plus the catering, bars, and staff, would come out of OUR royalties and advance, not the kind hearted accountants at CBS. At least my wife and I got to sleep in the same bed that Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor consummated their second marriage in…or passed out on in their clothes…or on the floor…no one really knows.

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1983

Bob on the Radio at CHUM FM 2I had left playing rock and roll live behind me and found myself working on radio as The Iceman, first at CHUM FM, and shortly thereafter, Q107. After a lifetime of making music, I was now playing it over the air, still writing and recording, bur concentrating more on voice over work, broadcasting, and producing. I had moved to Toronto from Montreal and was exploring other facets of the entertainment business and enjoying the city that would become my home.

The phone rang….

“Is this Bob Segarini? The Iceman? Producer of The B-Girls and The Romantics”, said the voice at the other end of the line.

“Yes”, I said,

“This is Kim Fowley, co-writer of We’re No Angels, producer and creator of The Runaways, and so much more”, the voice (and enthusiasm) was unmistakable.

Here we go again, I thought….

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1975

It was a hell of a party.

Dudes LP Cover.Cropped

The room was packed with CBS staffers from both coasts and Canada, the Montreal music scene was well represented, and guests like Ian Hunter and some other artists from CBS’s roster mingled with us, still unaware that we had probably paid for their airline tickets and hotel accommodations’.

…and standing about a foot taller than most of the guests, a gaunt man in a lime green iridescent suit, looking like a time-traveling Egyptian Pharaoh caught my eye and began making his way through the crowd toward me.

KimKim Fowley.

We chatted…or rather, he chatted and I listened. I was fascinated by him.

He spoke like a Life Coach, a public speaker who charged good money to enrich your life…give you pointers on how to succeed and end up as a short Asian man on your own yacht surrounded by bathing suit models. Tony Robbins without the giant head and horse’s teeth.

But Kim didn’t charge good money. Kim shared his thoughts and tips for free. He would, as always, earn his own way by doing what he did best.

Create

Discover

Enable

He was happy to be there, and I was happy to see him. Looking up at him as he pontificated and observed, his face shifted back and forth from 19 year old boy to 3000 year old time-traveler. I couldn’t turn away. I have never seen someone who vibrated on this plane of existence like Kim Fowley did. Not before. Not since.

I never saw him again.

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1983

Titan 1The reason for Kim’s phone call this time was a band he had come across from the Maritimes called Titan.

He had wanted to record them but unable to get them to L.A and unwilling to go to Halifax, he once again tracked me down by his usual supernatural means and asked…no…told me to record them for him.

Who was I to say no to Mr; Fowley?

As usual, his instincts were spot on. The band was tight, talented, and ready for Prime Time. On top of that, their material was solid and they were really nice guys. In a perfect world, they would have indeed been the next big thing.

This is the only track I have that we recorded in my little studio in Brampton Ontario. Not the greatest quality, just an old cassette mix I digitized, but the song, and the performance shine through.

Titan – Midnight Romeo

After I sent the recordings to Kim, I got one last phone call from him.

He thanked me for doing a good job.

I thanked him for thinking I could.

That was the last time I ever spoke with him.

Rest in Peace, Kim Fowley.

You earned it.

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The Kim Fowley Gallery

The World According to Kim

The Tomorrow Show on Punk with Kim, Joan Jett, Paul Weller, Bill Graham, and Robert Hilburn

As dense and removed as he was, Tom Snyder’s door was always open to whatever Pop Culture shifts were on the horizon. We don’t have television like this anymore, or a personality who would allow a disparate gathering like this to come together and actually discuss the subject at hand. Bill Maher provides this kind of forum for political round-tables and hot-topic discussions, but our pop culture has been stifled and corrupted by smiling himbos and bimbos who use 10 second soundbites to present the artists in easy to digest statements that pay more attention to fluff and detritus than actual interesting conversation.

This is worth your time…especially if this musical era is of any interest to you.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

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The Pictures

 Kim child actorKim the Child Actor

Kim and Mama Michelle

Kim and Michelle Phillips

Kim and Cher

Kim and Cher

Kim and Bunny Wailer

Kim and Bunny Wailer

kim runs away

Kim and The Runaways

Kim Jimmy Robert

Kim, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant

kim and kiss

Kim and Kiss

Kim and Bear

Kim at The End

Kim Fowley – Motorboat

Jim I just do it

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Any Questions or comments, please write them in the Comment Section below.

Your Comments Are Welcome

Segarini’s regular columns appear here eventually.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

5 Responses to “Segarini: Kim Fowley Part Two – The King of Hollyweird”

  1. A really nice and moving tribute, Bob! The first time I met Kim in Hollywood was in 1979 when he knocked on my door and said “Hi, I’m Kim Fowley… Rock and Roll Genius!” he then snapped his fingers and pointed to his assistant named Victor who said “15 Platinum, 25 Gold records” What a character! I loved that guy! He always liked my music and right up until the end always had great comments on the air for the Deadbeat Poets. I miss him!

  2. Reblogged this on Deadbeat Poets and commented:
    Great tribute to Kim Fowley by Bob Segarini!

  3. […] had a rebellious, raw edge and eventually became a punk hit.  Jett wrote the song with friend Kim Fowley. The Runaways did not do well in North America, however, they were a hit in Japan scoring three […]

  4. An amazing Original and still sense him strolling Sunset Blvd.

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