Frank Gutch Jr: Sometimes the Past Is the Future (and Sometimes the Past Is Just the Past)— Revisiting Items Which Beg Revisiting…..

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Lots going on in music these days— Apple announcing their foray into streaming (I love the headlines such as “Apple May Save the Recording Industry”— I mean, what idiot thought that one up?) and the Brian Wilson biopic (My buddy Stan Twist says that if you are either a Brian Wilson or a Beach Boys fan, you won’t want to miss it) and there are lots of new albums to go over.  And, as always, old ones too.  But…

When ten thousand ideas refuse to coalesce into anything readable, what do you do?  Look to the past, I guess.  I’ve been wanting to revisit a few things for awhile but every time I look at the original pieces they seem to be covering everything I wanted to say.  Recently I have been thinking maybe they should be put together in such a way that they are not just reviews of the past but reinforcements of things which are really not past but ongoing.  I mean, I have been trying to get people to listen to certain albums since I first heard them, some decades ago.  I never really stop so why should I now?  Some of you have read some parts of this column before.  Try reading them again, this time with the wisdom you have accrued since.

But first (and I’ll bet you knew this was coming), let us go over a few albums which deserve another look and listen.  And a short list of albums just around the corner.

Albums To Look For in the Fairly Immediate Future (Meaning, Upcoming Releases)…

I will make this as painless as possible, sports fans, because there are plenty to go over, old and new.  The new?

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Susan JamesSea of Glass is scheduled for release in a week, June 16th to be exact.  Susan has mostly been known for her fusion of Pop and Country— what I would call country rock in places— and has had a few damn fine albums.  Sea of Glass is a step into a whole new area— Pop/Psych.  If you remember the music of the late sixties which combined the two genres, this one follows suit.  A retro sound done exceedingly well.  Excellent songs and beautiful production and performances by all involved.  Hell of an album!  You can keep up with Susan’s doings on her Facebook Page (click here) or on her site (click here).

One of my real favorites, Brian Cullman, is preparing a new album for release.  Tentatively titled Opposite of Time (though I can’t find anywhere in my notes exactly what he said it was), the music parallels his All Fires the Fire album from a few years ago, an album I truly love.  I need to talk Brian into building  real website so people can find him, but he’s an obstinate cuss and limps along on the old analog trail.  I will keep you posted on the new album, though.  The songs I have heard are stellar.

Charlie Faye has been working on an album which mirrors the girl group era. At first, I thought it an oddity, but after revisiting her Wilson St. album from a number of years ago I realize that she is as dipped in Pop Sauce as she can be.  You can get an idea by checking out the video below.  What I’ve heard thus far has been impressive indeed.  You can check her out by clicking here.

I cannot even begin to tell you how pumped I am about No Small Children‘s upcoming album. Just today, Lisa posted a picture of herself and Joanie at the mixing board with a comment stating that they would not leave until the album was finished.  I have not heard one thing these ladies have done which has not dented my head severely.  Just in case you missed all of their vids, here is a look at what they have done in the past (call this one ‘unplugged’).  I am sure they will match or better it on the new album.  You can check out their Facebook Page (click here) for timely updates.

The Madisons‘ new album (No One’s Ever Gonna Know Your Name) is just about ready for liftoff.  It has the same cool semi-country country-rockin’ feel on a few tracks that made You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back to West Texas so damn good.  What?  You missed that one? There is still time to pick it up.  In the meantime, here is a preview of the new album.  It’s a killer!

Stu Nunnery is using all the time he thinks he needs to plop his remastered solo album from way back in 1973 in our laps.  To be fair, he is anxious that it be done right this time.  If you haven’t heard his story, he will hopefully post it online with the release of the album.  It is a tragic one, to some degree, and involves severe hearing loss and a struggle to keep things together.  I have heard the songs, having been a fan since the release of the album, but am getting a bit anxious to hear the new versions.  Stu, by the way, is one of the good guys.  He spends as much time helping people as he does on himself.  A true class act.  No date locked in yet.

isaacsByron Isaacs of Ollabelle and Lost Leaders fame is taking a century or two to get his album to us.  In case you don’t know, not only is Isaacs involved with those two bands, he was also a member of Levon Helm‘s band for a number of years and plays with the Amy Helm Band whenever she goes out on the road (and he’s not booked).  I have heard tracks from his impending album and can attest to its classy Isaacness.  And he’s a really nice guy too.

Down Under’s Bill Jackson finally got a few tracks from his new release stateside so I could hear them.  The album is titled The Wayside Ballads, Vol. 1 and is more Jackson-fueled coolness.  Jackson is Australia’s equivalent to, say, David Olney and Tom Russell in terms of writing.  The true surprise that he included a copy of Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton‘s Declaration, still hot from the pressing plant.  I haven’t heard that one yet but will get to it right after the column is finished and put to bed, as them journalists used to say.  Anyway, here is a video of Jackson’s Try, a flashback to the days of protest songs.  You can follow Bill Jackson on his FB page (click here).  And by the way, Jackson just put up a proposed fundraising effort to record the second volume of the Wayside Ballads in Nashville with Thom Jutz producing!  That could be very cool.

Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin promised an album this year, didn’t they?  Or was that just me hoping?  Well, if they did, it is being held up.  The earliest we can expect anything would be Fall and there is a good chance we might be looking at an early 2016 date.  It isn’t easy putting all those songs together when you’re playing an entire Summer of gigs.  Then they will need to rest.  Good thing I have a couple of albums to listen to until then.

Music Hot Off the Presses…..

It doesn’t take much to drag our attention from thins these days.  Seems like every few seconds gives us too much information (which wouldn’t be all that bad, bug we seem to have trouble returning to what we were focused on before).  Here are some music projects I will bet most of you either missed or are now fading from memory.  Killer albums by damn fine musicians.

Gold Heart/Places I’ve Been… I wish my father were alive today just so he could hear these ladies sing.  They call themselves Gold Heart but they are really the Gold Sisters and they have the familial voices which my father loved best of all music.  He loved the hymns and the choirs and what he called “church singin’” and he would float away whenever he heard it.  He was not a religious person, per se, but he knew what he loved.  I think his favorite bluegrass album of all-time was Seldom Scene‘s Baptizing.  He would lay back in his recliner and close his eyes and listen intently to what I am sure he thought were the voices of angels.  These girls have those voices.  Their voices at times meld into a full organ sound which almost defy harmonics.  You like bluegrass, the vocal kind, you should really love Places I’ve Been.  Here is a live example of what they can do.  Oh, and you can plug into their site by clicking here.

The OF have been denting my ears a lot lately.  Escape Goat has the sensitivity of Zappa with the instrumental levitations of The Flock and the madness of The Firesign Theater.  Had I not already deluged this column with their video of Damn Dirty Hippie, I would post it again to give you the slightest idea.  Hell, I will do it anyway.  Be forewarned, though.  The album is much more schizophrenic than this track would have you believe.  Some of their jams are plain manic!

I will lay you five-to-ten that if you did not click straight over from the past few columns to Claire Holley‘s new album, Time In the Middle, you missed it.  If you did miss it, you missed one fine piece of work.  She writes outstanding songs and plays well with others, but she plays well with her own self too.  This is just beautiful.  Take it away, Claire.

Anyone who doesn’t think that Lost Leaders aren’t one of the top bands playing today have just now heard them yet, that’s all.  Their self-titled album released at the end of last year was my pick for Album of the Year for good reason.  They have a real sense of what they are doing and I get it.  You should too.  Here is a recent live recording at Telefunken Studios.  It blows me away.  Oh, by the way, the bass player is none other than that Byron Isaacs guy I wrote about earlier.

The Dixie Bee-Liners were one of the finest bluegrass bands I’ve ever seen.  Unfortunately, they have stepped off, stage left, though they could reform at some time in the future.  The individual players are still out there, though, and I’m sure they are doing well.  The latest album, Through My Screen Door, is yet another in an all-too-short stream of albums from this talented group.  This video from 2010, recorded live on radio, will give you a real sense of what they can do.  If you are smart, you will pick up everything they have available.

Ophelia Hope is one of the bands I cannot let go of.  They put out one album and slowly faded into the background but I cannot believe that they didn’t gain a cult following at the very least.  The songs were excellent, the recording magnificent and the package for the CD very impressive.  CD?  Hell, yes, CD!  While pompous idiots constantly change their minds about format, I believe the CD format to be just fine, thank you, especially being’s how the only other way you will be able to purchase this is by download.  This is a desert island disc for me— a disc you will have to pry from my cold dead hands.  I have few of those, trust me.  This is my go-to disc when I need to relax or contemplate.  Now, the reason I bring this up is that I see that CDBaby once again has stock on it.  It is from Norway, sports fans, and maybe the price is a bit steep ($15.97) but it is worth it.  For myself, many times over.  Please forgive the ambient noise in this video, but if you listen closely you might be able to hear what I hear.  They should have been contenders.  Way at the top of my Hall of Fame list.

Once a Pompous Ass, Always a Pompous Ass…..

I see that Garth Brooks is supposedly on the comeback trail.  I wouldn’t know.  I haven’t paid much attention to him since I wrote about his crusade against used record sales back in the Stone Ages.  Truth be told, I never understood why anyone liked the guy or the guy’s music, but there is no accounting for taste (or lack thereof) is there?  I was working at a record store minding my own business (which for a short time was ignoring Brooks and his minions of fans) when Brooks began waxing philosophic about how used record sales was taking money out of musicians’ pockets (meaning his own) and began raling against the machine.  In attempting to paint the independent and used record stores as the men and women in black, those of us who supported those stores began to see Brooks as the real man in black.  From a column dated Sept. 14, 2011:

brooksfinger1That bastard, of course, was Garth Brooks, the meanest, stinkin’est, and vilelest of varmints, and he went on to prove that crap emanates from his mouth even when  he’s not singing.  To hell with them used CD stores, he said.  Let’s cut ’em off!  And they did.  And what happened next was a shitstorm of untold dimensions.  CEMA (Capitol Records, Brooks’ label’s distribution arm) closed accounts, refused to open others, threatened this and promised that and basically threw free enterprise right out the Capitol window.  And they must have done it without passing it by legal because, as they admitted later, much of what they did wasn’t.  Legal, that is.  There was movement in the FTC as they looked at possible antitrust violations.  There was movement amongst the independents as they looked at ways to fight back.  And there was movement in the Capitol building as execs single-filed it into the mens rooms, hoping to avoid the press.  The sound of flushing everyone heard were careers circling the drain.

But back to Brooks.  He made statements to the effect that no record store or chain who sold used CDs would be able to purchase his next album.  Period.  In the halls of CEMA, the words rolled like thunder.  Outside, spectators gathered.  More words came.  Specifically, they were “I’ve just done a deal with my label and I need to do all I can to make it a profit and used CDs aren’t going to do my label s—.”  What was that word?  Think now.  I suppose one was not allowed to print “shit” back then. Ah, now you get it. Then they were “The writers are getting nothing, the labels are getting nothing and the artists are getting nothing.  I don’t know how anyone can stand for it.”  And “Between you and me, I wouldn’t buy a CD at $16.95 no matter who it was,” not that that had anything to do with the used CD controversy.  I just like how it made him sound arrogant.  In the July 19, 1993 issue of Hits, this obviously tongue-in-cheek quote appeared:  “Selling records is how songwriters feed their children,” (Brooks) said before preparing some beluga caviar for his own kid’s lunch snack.  “Now they are rewarded for their hard work by getting kicked in the teeth.”  (An aside: This is a quote!  No one at this website has anything against songwriters, musicians or anyone else involved in the music industry.  Except maybe certain rat bastards who shall remain nameless.)

I mean, I think I’m a nice guy, but Brooks brings the worst out in me.  To this day.  My mother loved Brooks, rest her soul.  All I can say is that I never once held it against her.

The Runaways— Deer in Headlights…..

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I went to a party in Hollywood once back in ’75, ostensibly to see and meet Heartsfield before they turned us all into fans later that night at The Troubadour.  Heartsfield didn’t show, supposedly because they were busy doing a soundcheck.  But The Runaways were there.  And Al Kooper and a few other rock personages.  It was the music industry in an A Clockwork Orange setting, no one talking Heartsfield, everyone talking schmooze.  I walked away disgusted, on the whole, that a party for Heartsfield should have virtually no interest in that band at all, and I walked away feeling sorry for the young girls who had somehow found themselves celebrities-to-be before they knew what it meant.  They were kids.  Literally.  And maybe they wanted it and got used to it, but that afternoon they looked exactly like what they claimed to be— runaways— alone and a bit scared.  From Nov. 26, 2011:

The Runaways were there so Kim Fowley must have been there too, but I didn’t care.  Fowley left a bad taste in my mouth thanks to street buzz which surrounded not only The Runaways but a handful of other artists and bands which he was obviously trying to exploit.  Years later, I would talk about Fowley with a good friend of mine, Tom McMeekan, guitarist with the legendary Pac NW band Notary Sojac, and he would set me straight.  The buzz was bullshit, he told me.  Fowley was a good guy and was trying to do the right thing in spite of obstacles put in his way.  Tom is the kind of guy you trust in all situations and I did a one-eighty and wished I could take back all of the negative things I ever said about Fowley.

That night, it was mostly about The Runaways.  Each of the girls had been placed at tables far separated from one another and the writers who had been invited took part in a speed dating concept of interviewing each in a musical chairs kind of setting.  We had taken a table in front of Joan Jett (who no one really knew at that point) and listened to her answer questions most writers of the time asked— influences, favorite bands, why music— all of the things Tiger Beat used to ask her male counterparts.  She was small, thin and look overwhelmed and she spoke haltingly with a lot of um’s and uh’s, basically a deer in headlights.  When one writer finished, another rotated in and it started all over again and she answered the same lame questions in the same halting fashion.  Fowley or someone must have prepared the girls for this, but watching the process was painful.  Their album would not be out for a number of months and the machine was already grinding.  Most of the writers were fawning.  The ones who weren’t look bored.  Welcome to the music biz, girls.

heartsfield-001Who was Heartsfield and what happened to them, you ask?  Heartsfield was a country rock band of exceptional creativity and talent.  I rank them right up there with Pure Prairie League and Cowboy and Uncle Jim’s Music in terms of the genre in its early days.  They recorded four exceptionally good albums, split up and licked their wounds.  While they didn’t make it in terms of major label success (thought they were a major label-backed band), they held their own.  The guys would get back together now and again and play St, Louis, thanks to the unending support of legendary radio station KSHE, Perry Jordan ended up reforming the band around himself in the 2000s and the band exists up to today, now fronted by Fred C. Dobbs, I believe, Perry having tripped off this mortal coil a handful of years ago (Rest in Peace, Perry— you had one hell of a run).  One day I will compile a few Heartsfield stories so you can “meet” the band.  But don’t hold your breath.  I ain’t getting any younger and I have a lo-o-ong list of projects I hope to get to.

Still No on Spotify (or Any Other Digital Streamer)…..

no_spotify-300x166It really disturbs me that something like digital streaming can change the entire landscape of ethics.  What has happened is analogous to what the railroad barons did to us back in the old days.  In short order, they backed laws which gave them alternating square miles of land on each side of any railroad segments they built in payment for doing what they were going to do anyway, which was bad enough, but they swindled the government (and people) out of thousands of square miles of land by simply handing government agents bribes to say that they had seen areas of track laid which were nothing but myth.  In other words, they stole land.  When the government found out about it, Congress just looked the other way thus giving railroad barons massive wealth they would never have received in an ethical world.

Digital streamers are being handed the same deal, lawmakers allowing them to write laws for what Congress has not yet found time to understand.  Asshats at Spotify, Pandora and a whole string of companies have made their own deals with the devils (the major record labels) who at one time had written their own deals with lawmakers and songwriters and composers.  Karl Fredrick Anderson, head man at Global Recording Artists, awhile ago pointed toward the inequities in the system being built to benefit corporations at the expense of artists who rightfully should own a larger chunk of their own creations.  He contacted me sometime around January of 2013 to explain.  To wit:

“I liked your article on streaming services.  I agree they need to get it under control.  Pandora I view more like a radio station.  You can choose a style or genre and it selects music for you. You cannot play entire albums or tracks over.  I think overall that is good for the music and the artists and it gives people a chance to hear new music by different artists.

“I am not sure about Spotify.  You get the whole album with Spotify.  It even links to your iphone mp3 player so you do not have to buy new music.  With Spotify it seems we (artists and labels) are just giving it all away to the venture capitalist.  Why would you buy music if you can get it for free?  And what (Spotify and Pandora) does pay is ridiculously low.  An artist I work with, La Fleur Fatale from Sweden, had 271,000 plays on a song and got a check for 64 cents.  How can an artist or label survive on that?  They can’t.

bigbrother1“I know it is great to get it all for free, but working with artists I have seen the impact. Dave Getz from Big Brother and the Holding Company (Getz is in the middle) consistently made about $50,000 a year in royalties from the Big Brother material till about 2002, when it started to decrease.  Since that time, with the mp3 and streaming services, he has seen that drop to $3,000.  It has had a serious impact on his life. I hear from people when I bring it up, well, the artist just has to work harder and make money from live gigs.  I tell them he is 70 years old and does about 80 gigs a year.  I should tell him he needs to work harder so he can give his music away??

“There needs to be a fair way to make music available to people. I know we are not going back to record stores and cds and the 8 track tape and that digital is the future, but the real question is how the artist and the label are going to be included in the future.”

Indeed, Karl, but it seems that the industry and even many of the songwriters and musical performers have given up and fallen in line as if it was okeydokey with them that asshats like Tim Westergren and now Brian McAndrews have stepped in to take charge of product which is not rightfully theirs.  It is not.  I contend that they have no legal right— neither the streamers nor the record companies— to set up a system without the full and unconditional approval of the artists involved.  I contend that they are nothing more than the pirates that Westergren and McAndrews and every other person involved in the Big Takeover would fight against if they (the pirates) attempted to do the same thing to them.  I award them the Universal Asshat Award and call on Congress to investigate the situation based upon not only “laws” which these pirates are undertaking to write but upon the whole idea of intellectual property in its entirety.  You cannot have a fair system without making it fair for everyone.  The fact that streamers are unwilling to participate in such discussions should tell you exactly who they are.

Rewriting Music History… The Truth Is in the Details…..

I am borrowing a chapter from Ralph J. Gleason, a co-founder of and the heart behind Rolling Stone Magazine before it became corporate packing for fish and chips.  He wrote a column for that magazine back when it started and on occasion would post one under the heading “Perspectives” in which he would try to make sense of the growth of the magazine in terms of its original goals.  One point he always tried to make is that if you disregard your original goals, you lose your way, and that has certainly happened in that instance.  We humans have a way, you see, of remembering or making things that they were/are not and what results is a rewriting of history.  I wrote this piece in October of 2010 and pull it out every once in awhile just to remind me why I write the things I do.  Please note that both Andy Hummel and Alex Chilton were alive and well when this was posted.

Big-Star-001“I never really felt like Big Star was part of the Memphis music scene at all.  I just finished reading Robert Gordon’s book It Came From Memphis and, quite frankly, that was the first I’ve ever known of most of the ‘Memphis Music Scene’.” – ANDY HUMMEL,  Big Star, from a 2001 interview with Jason Gross for the Perfect Sound Forever website.

It’s taken 30 years, but we’ve finally reached a point where you can hardly throw a pop bottle at a major rock concert without hitting a Big Star fan.  And if the bottle’s full, when they come to, they’ll inevitably swear that hardly anyone knows about them (Big Star, that is).

It’s interesting.  The growing fan base is enough to keep the band going even today, though the band has not really existed for years.  True, there is a Big Star living off of the name and a convoluted lineup consisting of the Biggest Star, Alex Chilton, and the core of the Posies.  And their jangly, hook-filled guitar sound does strike a note with the fan, but for those less enamored it’s more akin to expecting Creedence Clearwater Revival and getting John Fogerty with a few studio musicians.  I mean, if that’s what you want, fine, but it isn’t Big Star.

What we really have is a case of the legend overtaking reality.  It’s Martin Strothers all over again.  You know.  “What we have here is a failure to communicate?” Cool Hand Luke?  Hello?  Is this mike on?

big_star_press_pixThe truth is that whereas Big Star is a minor supernova in today’s rock world, during their actual existence they were barely a lit fuse.  Yet somehow the legend has given credence to no less than two books about 70s Memphis rock and a history of anything and everything Big Star by Brit Rob Jovanovic.  Not only that, numerous Big Star CDs and 60s and 70s Memphis compilations line the shelves of music stores everywhere (that is, if you’re lucky enough to know where one is anymore).  Hell, it practically takes a supercomputer to handle the Google responses to a Big Star/Chilton query on the Net.

So allow me to mouth the Big Question— What the hell is going on?  And allow me to mouth the answer— we are, once again, rewriting history.

The first time I noticed it was in the 70s.  Being a native Pacific Northwesterner, I cut my teeth on the armory and teen fair circuit of the 60s and music was as important to me as it was for most young kids of the day.  I say this only to explain that I knew the bands and the music and the scene and the fact is, it wasn’t really close to what mostly has been written.

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Let me guess.  I say Pacific Northwest and the first group that pops into your mind is The Sonics, right?  Maybe Paul Revere and the Raiders if you leaned away from the harder edge.  But they were only two cogs in the Northwest wheel.  We were inundated in bands of varying success and popularity, from The Daily Flash to Don & the Goodtimes to The Frantics to Mr. Lucky & the Gamblers to….  well, you get my drift.  So why is it that the vast majority of interest in the scene circles around The Sonics?  How is it that The Sonics can elbow reality out of the way?  The mere fact that it does is an example of rewritten history.

It is a simple matter of logic.  You start with A, move to B, then to C, then to D.  Now, A to B is a given, but the chances are progressively greater that the further along you move, say from A to D or A to G, logic (and reality) will fade.

Big Star may be a good place to start when you think Memphis, but there was a lot more to it at the time than them. Cargoe made the trek from Tulsa and beat Big Star from the Ardent gate, being the only Ardent act to chart on a national level.  Moloch rocked the houses and eventually morphed into Jim Dandy and Black Oak Arkansas. The Hot Dogs‘ tadpole studio sessions evolved into a live frog act.

There were many others, but they did not necessarily constitute a “scene.”  They were all musicians not unlike those who permeated the Pacific Northwest, trying to play music and survive.  The cohesiveness was in the music and the survival, not in the banding together for a musical purpose.  The same for Seattle and grunge, and the Athens, Georgia movement of the late 70s and early 80s.  The same for all of rock music.  I mean, would there have been a British Invasion without The Beatles?  Would rock and roll have died without Elvis? Think about it.

The truth is that truth lies somewhere between the poles and always has. In music history, it is a matter of perception. The problem arises when we apply today’s perception as reality. So be aware, all of you young musicologists out there.  When you step beyond the music, you take a chance of warping any future conception of the reality you know.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Andy Hummel.  Of course, what does he know?  He was only there.

Brought to you by the a-little-knowledge-is-a-dangerous-thing department.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

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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