Guest Columnist: John Brower – Kim Fowley’s BIGGEST Contribution to Pop Culture

Brower

(Editor’s Note – Not wanting to make yesterday’s Kim Fowley Tribute any larger than it already was, I left this out, but realized today what a fine remembrance it is, and how absolutely essential Kim was to our musical history and culture. This addendum is an eyewitness account of Kim’s magic from another madman, my good friend and slightly crazed pop culture icon himself, John Brower….)

Kim Fowley left us this past week but he will always live on in the hearts and minds of so many millions who were the beneficiaries of his talent and generosity. I am proud and honored to be among them.

 

Kim and Gun

Unaware of Kim Fowley’s background when rock journalist Ritchie Yorke suggested that he and Rodney Bingenheimer be hired to emcee The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival planned for September 13, 1969, I was only too happy to follow Yorke’s advice and promptly booked them both to come to Toronto early the week of the show and do some “grease” as Ritchie was fond of calling any and all manner of hustle and promotion. And what a week it turned out to be. No sooner had they arrived than the show was about to be cancelled, for lack of ticket sales. I was given the task of having to tell the two but Kim wouldn’t hear of it and shot back with what at the time seemed absurd.

ticket

“Call John Lennon at Apple in London and ask he and Yoko to come over and be the emcees. He loves Chuck Berry and Little Richard and The Beatles have done songs by both of them and they opened for Gene Vincent at The Star Club in Hamburg back in the early days.” Damn I knew little of this and would have never in my wildest dreams thought to call John Lennon and ask him anything. But as Kim put it, “What have you got to lose? He can only say no.” Fowley also advised to only mention the names of the rock and roll legends that were on the show: Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley and Gene Vincent, surmising most likely that Lennon may be frightened off at the prospect of emceeing a show with over fifteen acts including Alice Cooper and The Doors.

Revival Poster

At the office the next morning my partners and staff and I huddled around a phone as I made the call and gave the receptionist at Apple the names of the legends and asked her to advise John Lennon they were playing in five days and I was calling to invite he and Yoko to come over and emcee. Click, I was on hold for what seemed an eternity but was probably only a minute, when the phone was picked up and John Lennon announces himself and asks me if all these legends are really on the same bill. I confirm and the next thing I hear is John saying, “Well we wouldn’t want to come unless we could play.”

Yoko and JohnAs the phone in our office in Toronto was on speaker so everyone could hear, there was a collective gasp before I stammered, “You mean The Beatles?” John replied. “No just me and Yoko and we’ll put a little band together.” “Ok, we’ll squeeze you in.” I blurted, immediately realizing how dumb that must have sounded, but John continued. “Well I’d better get off the phone now and round up a band. So it’s this Saturday is it?”

“Yes. We can’t pay you, but we’ll get airline tickets for everyone and put you up somewhere nice. Is that ok?” John agreed and I arranged to call the next day to get the names for the tickets. Ritchie who at that very moment was at Apple to interview George Harrison, was called in by John and quizzed about “these people from Toronto wanting us to come over”. Yorke quickly gave us our props and put John at ease. Talk about timing and opportunity walking hand in hand!

Richie John and Yoko

Ritchie John and Yoko

Whether Kim had given his idea much hope or not, he was all smiles when I rushed to his hotel at 6:30 in the morning straight from the call and told him the news. From that moment on The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival took on a life of its own, unimaginable to any of us just a day before.

plastic-ono-band_01

Come day of show I had John and Yoko, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman and Alan White safely nestled away in the bowels of Varsity Stadium. But not after much insanity during the week where no one would believe they were coming except Edjo and The Vagabonds motorcycle club, who correctly assumed I would not be foolish enough to let eighty of them ride out to the Toronto airport to escort John Lennon into Toronto if he weren’t coming. But now backstage John was nervously pacing and chain smoking. I asked Kim to come in and have a word and see how John wanted to be introduced since Lennon had advised me during the limo ride in to town that the group was named The Plastic Ono Band.

Platic Ono rehearsal

Plastic Yoko rehearse on the plane

Kim arrived in the dressing room and immediately sensed the tension. John announced, ”No John Lennon Beatles, Eric Clapton Cream, just Plastic Ono Band thank you.” Kim replied, “I understand John and I have an idea I think you’ll like.” He then turned on his heels and walked out.

Toronto Rock and Roll Revival

Who could have imagined what was in his mind or whatever gave him the inspiration but Fowley promptly went out on stage just as Little Richard had finished a scorching set and told the crowd. “Everyone get out your matches and lighters please. In a minute I’m going to bring out John Lennon from The Beatles and Eric Clapton from Cream and when I do I want you to light them and give them a huge Toronto welcome.” The Fire Marshall freaked and said no way, but Kim ignored him and minutes later marched out on stage ahead of the band. His introduction both respected John’s wish and made history.

Kim

“Get your matches ready. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Plastic Ono Band, Toronto, Brower and Walker present, The Plastic Ono Band, Give Peace a Chance, Give Peace a Chance.”

Lights

The rest is history. And the ritual of lighting matches and lighters to welcome performers to the stage was born; a tradition that continues to this day with cell phones.

cell homes lit

I know he is lauded for many other acts of musical and creative genius, but to me this ranks at the top for the sheer global reach of its impact. As I sit here Kim God of the Streetwriting, I am choked up at the memory of that moment that even today gives me goose bumps. To think that Kim Fowley decided to welcome John Lennon with a sea of sparkling lights is beyond the imagination. But this is who Kim Fowley was, is and always will be to me: a man to whom the idea of cancelling a show was not an option but an opportunity to shine.

Jon and Yoko

A feature film and documentary are in the works about this iconic day in rock and roll, and each will be, Dedicated To The Memory of Kim Fowley.

Brower 2John Brower

January 28th 2015

=JB=

Johndbawis-button Brower is what is known as a ‘character’. Like Kim Fowley, another madman mutual friend of mine and John’s, John seems like he is actually 4 or 5 little men in a John Brower suit. I must remember to look at the back of his head the next time I see him to see if there’s a zipper.

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