Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Aww, Pick It, ______ !?"

I've looked around the web and I don't think anyone's yet made this connection:
There is just a little bit of a Monkees spirit floating around the uber-hip 1968 album Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, and Stephen Stills: Super Session.

Follow this, if you can dig:

Exhibit A--1966: Mike Bloomfield is part of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. In August (a month before the debut of The Monkees on TV) they release their highly influential album, East-West. Though it's largely known for the title track, which basically invented the free-form jam in rock music (for better or worse), track one on side two of said album is a little song called "Mary Mary" by a largely unknown songwriter named Michael Nesmith.
A month or so later, of course, that name would only be met by scorn by hipsters who didn't realize that the guy running around every week on TV with Micky, Davy and Peter was the same guy that wrote the song.
A few months after that, The Monkees version of "Mary Mary" would appear on their second album (More of The Monkees) with Glen Campbell on guitar, since The Monkees weren't yet allowed to play on record. (By the way, their live versions--just the Monkees doin' it themselves-- were great).
Apparently, some Butterfield fans would say to the band/their label,  "do you realize this Monkees guy is saying he wrote your song?" And of course, after learning the truth, the fans would walk away enlightened. Or probably more like angry and confused and questioning their hipness.

Mary Mary--The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, 1966

Mary Mary--The Monkees, 1967

Exhibit B: 
1966: On the Monkees' debut album, Nesmith has a song called "Papa Gene's Blues" (with James Burton on lead guitar!). Halfway into the guitar solo, Nesmith calls out "Aw, Pick It, Luther!". Which is a shout out to Johnny Cash and his guitar player, Luther Perkins.

HOWEVER, prior to the remastered CDs, I always thought Nesmith was saying "Aw, Pick It, Wilson". As in making a joke--Wilson Pickett. Pickett Wilson. Ha ha. No?
(a couple friends of mine thought he said "Pick it Elizabeth". But that's beyond the point. And I don't believe they were referring to folk/blues lady Elizabeth Cotton. Get it?)
(while we're at it, it also sounds a bit like "Pick It, Lucifer", which could be interpreted as Nesmith acknowledging that by signing with Don Kirshner, he knew he'd sold his soul. but now we're just free-associating in parenthetical sentences. back to business.)

Perhaps I'm not the only one who thought Nesmith was saying "Pick It, Wilson".
On side two, track one of Super Session, part way into Stephen Stills' solo in a peppy version of Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry", Al Kooper says, you guessed it, "Aww, Pick It, Wilson!". Yup. Same inflections, and at the half way point in the solo.

The Monkees--Papa Gene's Blues, 1966

Super Session: It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry, 1968

A footnote to this can be found in the form of Gram Parson's "Return of the Grievous Angel". James Burton is the guitar player on that song too, and before his solo, Gram intones, "Pick it for me, James!". 

I wonder if the Super Session version of "It Takes A Lot to Laugh..." perhaps pointed the way for both The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Grateful Dead? The harmonies, the loose but dance-y vibe. Maybe? Kind of a cross between "Christine's Tune" and "I Know You Rider"? Well, also a bit Monkees-sounding too. If you're a faithful reader of this blog, you know that I think Gram Parsons,  Jerry Garcia and Mike Nesmith were a supergroup in a parallel universe. Or at least a George Jones cover band. All three of them played with Elvis' drummer Ronnie Tutt, you know...

Exhibit C: In 1965, Stephen Stills tried out for The Monkees but didn't make it (he referred them to his pal Peter Tork, however). But he remained friends with the band, and in1967-68, Stills was constantly orbiting the Monkees' universe, hanging out and playing on sessions... at least (so it would seem) until their star plummeted and his shot upwards around 1969.

Peter Tork with Stephen Stills-1967-68. 

Stephen Stills with Micky Dolenz. Summer 1967. Photo by Henry Diltz

Exhibit D: "Fast" Eddie Hoh on Drums!!

Did you listen to the drums on that Super Session track? Pretty distinctive, no? That restless, "playing around with the One" type style. I've read it described as a rock version of Elvin Jones, and I'd agree.  Not everyone can get away with that kind of stuff, but Eddie Hoh (aka "Fast Eddie") could.

Who was Eddie Hoh? Gah! I've been digging his drumming since I started playing (1986) and only recently decided to investigate his life. And it's a strange and incomplete story.

Besides being the drummer on Super Session he's all over the Monkees' best album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones" (that drum break on "Salesman"? Eddie Hoh)as well as many other assorted Monkee tracks. Check him out on "Tapioca Tundra" and "Writing Wrongs" on  The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees.
And "Star Collector" (on PAC&J), on which he goes totally nuts for the last 3 minutes.  (That song also features the first use of a Moog Synthesizer, trivia fans).
Oh!! And of course the awesome tight and fast drumming on "Pleasant Valley Sunday"!
That kind of solves why he's called "Fast Eddie".

Who else did Eddie Hoh play with? The Mamas and Papas, Flying Burrito Brothers, Gene Clark, Tim Buckley,  and more.

One of his best drumming performances? Here you go:

The Monkees--Goin' Down, 1967.

I looked to see what he's doing now, and it's a total mystery! Totally contrasting information. Al Kooper and Denny Doherty (Mamas and Papas) have both been quoted as saying Fast Eddie died (when and where were not given).
But some others say "No, I just saw him. He went crazy/became a drug addict and has been living semi-homeless in Chicago".
But no one can prove anything. On line, at least.
In any case, he's one of the great, great drummers in all of rock and roll history. I'll stand by that. I just have no idea whether he's alive or not. He deserves more than to just be a footnote.

And we'll end this post in an unintended different place. Here's the only picture I can find of Eddie Hoh. He's with Phil Spector and The Modern Folk Quartet.
The Modern Folk Quartet have quite a few Monkee connections too, if you must know. Chip Douglas was handpicked by Mike Nesmith to produce The Monkees' first (and only) "real" album, Headquarters. And "Tad" (Henry Diltz) was The Monkees unofficial official photographer--the guy they trusted and could have fun with.  But until now, I had no idea Eddie Hoh played with the MFQ.
Very cool picture.
Thanks for reading and I hope you learned something. If not, I hope you can teach me something.

ADDENDUM: I just picked up the latest issue of Shindig Magazine, with the Bee Gees on the cover. Oddly enough, there's an article about The Modern Folk Quartet! With the below picture as well as another one that gives a much better picture of what Eddie Hoh looked like. Coincidence! 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Neither Gods nor Frauds: Indies Digging the Dead Part 3

"If there is a common thread in the hipster reclamation of the Dead, it is an insistence on filtering them. This is a new way of appreciating Grateful Dead culture."
Jesse Jarnow in the August 2008 issue of Relix 

Somehow I missed the article quoted above, as well as the audio/video clips below.  Jarnow's excellent article concerns the new generation of non-Deadhead (or "hipster") Dead fans, as opposed to the stereotypical Deadhead who listens to primarily the Dead or Dead-related music and looks down on most everything else.  It wasn't the article itself that inspired this blog post, but the comments that follow it (it was posted on a jam-band website). You can read them for yourself, but in a nutshell, many of them say things like "Who the fuck cares what those wussy hipsters think? We don't want those posers around.." and blah blah blah.
In other words: Come hear Uncle John's Band...unless you also like 3 minute pop songs and wear skinny jeans. In which case, get lost.
This is troubling, but I will address all that after you dig these groovy clips (which I was turned onto via the Jarnow interview).

Of Montreal--Shakedown Street 
 “It took me a long time to even give them a listen, ‘cause they had such a stigma in my mind. I was definitely not expecting them to sound like they do.”--Kevin Barnes

Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy/Palace Brothers etc)--Brokedown Palace
“Like many, I fall most fully into the Jerry camp. I’m drawn most specifically to the way Jerry sings and plays, and his work with Robert Hunter and David Grisman, among many others. I learn from his phrasing, from his song choice, from his manner overall.”--Will Oldham

....and this picture of Emily Haines (Broken Social Scene, Metric, Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton) in a Garcia shirt at a festival gig in Toronto in 2007.

So if you read the whole Relix article, and the comments, you'll notice the disconnect between Dead fans from the indie/punk side and Deadheads from the jam band side (I'm going to go ahead and make the--maybe wrong--assumption that "hipsters" who like the Dead don't want to be referred to as "Deadheads"). The two camps don't exactly see eye to eye. The "hipsters" don't want to be lumped in with unwashed, tie-dyed, dreadlocked, 9-people-3-dogs-and-a-pound-of-weed-stuffed-into-the-microbus Deadheads. And the "real" Deadheads don't want no clean cut hipster telling them that a '73 Dark Star sounds like some indie noise band. Or that Built to Spill have been doing "Ripple" in concert.
Like all things, both sides don't see the whole picture.
Scary how it's like different Christian sects. They worship the same "god" (JC or JG) but would rather stress the differences rather than celebrate the similarities to the other side.
I admit, I like showers, wearing ties and 3 minute songs, and would be very nervous and uptight in a crowded minibus. But I could also listen to the Dead on a 5 hour road trip--preferably alone and not high-- and be happy (as long as it was 1967-78). 
I read a quote (in a recent Rolling Stone) by someone in the Dead office that they are looking for the best ways to present the Dead's legacy to new generations who were too young to ever see them live (or worse, to only have seen them in the final two or three years).
I'm not sure the dancing bear video game is the way to go. But I'm also bitter because I actually had a Dead video game idea a couple years ago (but know nothing about how to make video games.)

So there seems to be two camps out there. Those (like me) who want to take the Deadhead group-think aspect out of the band and judge the music on its own merit. Take the subjective, non-musical aspect out of whether a show/song/album was good or not. Take the do-no-wrong fundamentalism out of critiques of the band. Because all that is scary, cult-ish, and flies in the face of the personal freedom that the band espoused. (Though I guess choosing to be a sheep is still a choice).

I can understand wanting to keep the Dead a secret back when they were around, because popularity (post "Touch Of Grey") really did spell the end. They earned their fame, but it wasn't good for them. Jerry Garcia did all he could to deflect all the hero-worship. But to still be cheered when you're obviously in no shape to be in public, let alone singing to 50,000 people, is the point of no return. To be told you sound great when you KNOW you don't really sucks. Especially to someone who probably spent 80% of his waking hours playing music in one form or another.
But now he's 17 years gone, and it's OK to have anyone discover them. There are no gates to crash. No great seats to be taken away from 20-year tour heads by corporate bankers who like "Hell In a Bucket". It's also OK to honestly critique them (but, like anything, not OK to put them down for no real reason).

Reading Dead forums, most folks are funny, witty, intelligent, educated, well-rounded musically and open minded. But there are some whose sexism and racism bleed into their tie dyes, making them truly repulsive. Take those folks out of a "we all agree" Deadhead group, and they wouldn't be able to rationally debate the relative merits of their favorite band.  It's like when conservatives, all fired up from hearing Hannity or Libmaugh's hateful talking points, call into a liberal radio show and have nothing to say when challenged on their opinions. They just repeat their talking points again like a pre-programmed conserva-bot and resort to name calling and personal attacks. 
This is nothing new.
But back to the music--I can't believe I just brought up religion and politics. I'm sorry. No, I'm not.

If Brooklyn (or wherever) hipsters are (were? maybe this resurgence is long over) embracing the Dead-- this defunct band of schlubby, stoned San Franciscans from a prior generation-- this means that they are in it for the music. Because they genuinely are curious and open minded.  And "real" Deadheads shouldn't try to belittle them. Because your average hipster is most likely musically very well-educated and well-rounded and has come to appreciate the Dead because they realize their importance in the greater fabric of where music came from, where it is now, and where it's going.
And, like a religious zealot who says The Bible is the only book, some Deadheads, who ONLY listen to the Dead, should not judge anyone else's taste, because they really cannot back up any of their opinions without sounding narrow minded, misguided and ignorant.
Example: someone dissing PETE TOWNSHEND (!!!!) based upon footage of the 20 minutes he spent jamming with the Dead in 1981. Yes, such a critique exists on YouTube. Really? You think Pete Townshend, undisputed genius, doesn't deserve to be on the same stage as The Grateful Dead? Get a goddamn grip.  It's scary. But, like I said, it's the minority fringe.

But this is most likely where many of the "hipsters" are coming from: The Dead can supply a very good musical and historical education if you want it. Look up the original authors of their many cover songs. Look up the historical and literary references in Robert Hunter's lyrics. AND, look up the musicians who admire the Dead or vice versa. Do it all with an open mind. Dead haters will discover the importance of the band outside the Dancing Bears and bumper sticker quotes. And Dead zealots will hopefully loosen their isolationist tendencies.
You'll discover the genius of George Jones, Buddy Holly, Miles Davis and Chuck Berry. Not to mention Rainer Maria Wilke and T.S. Elliot. As well as Suzanne Vega, Warren Zevon, Robyn Hitchcock, Sonic Youth, Will Oldham, Camper Van Beethoven and Of Montreal. Your pallet will grow and evolve. You might develop opinions that are scary to you. Like the realization that Garcia wasn't in fact the best guitar player ever, but that he was undoubtedly the only one of his kind.  Or that Mickey and Billy could be maddeningly sloppy or uninspired, AND that they were often amazing. Or that in the 80's-90's, Bob Weir's guitar tone was the worst in the history of rock, but one listen to his inventive chords and rhythmic patterns in a Dark Star from 1969-74 and you'll hear exactly why he was integral to the band.
Read interviews with Garcia and see that he was talking excitedly about punk (in 1978) and post-punk (in 1981). And that Robert Hunter was saying that he really digs Morrissey's lyrics (in 1988). I wonder: Was this the common opinion of most Deadheads at those times?

Many Deadheads hated "Shakedown Street" when they first heard it, because they were trained to believe "disco sucks". Wow. How about remembering history? Lots of what the Dead were doing, groove-wise, could be lumped in with disco's precursors. "Eyes of the World", "Help On the Way", "Music Never Stopped" are pre-disco, but undoubtedly disco-ready (proven when, in 1977-78, the drummers seemed to play Four-On-the-Floor as often as possible.)  How is Funk OK but Disco so hated? They have the same mom and dad. They just wear different clothes.

I'm speaking to both sides: Uninformed Dead-Haters and Uninformed Everything-But-The-Dead Haters.
Don't be scared to expand your pallet, the two of you! It's like moving to a new part of the world and getting used to the customs. Or going from high school to college. You see your place in the world.  Deadheadism should not mean isolationism. Unless those people in charge of "the legacy" want to keep preaching to the choir and watch the legacy die out with the last generation of those "who were there".
There are legitimate reasons to love and not love the Grateful Dead. It's just the irrational love/hate that drives me nuts.

I think it's all about the greater fabric. And if The Dead can't stand out in that context, that would just mean that they were pretenders, hacks and frauds. Which they weren't. Not gods, but also, not frauds.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Mr David Thomas Jones, baby!"

Or at least that's how Mike Nesmith would introduce Davy Jones at Monkees shows during their summer 1967 tour (a bit more flattering than Micky introducing him as "the Velvet-Voiced Midget").

(and by the way, sorry about two death-related posts in a row. if I could prevent such things, I would)

Well, I don't have many words about the guy. I met him once, at a book signing in Worcester, MA in 1993. I stood in line and when it was my turn, his assistant looked at me and said "this guy's got the Mickey hair and the Nesmith sideburns".
Davy looked up at me and said "Don't listen to him. All he does is make a fool of himself"
I replied "Can't take him anywhere, huh?"
Davy said "I can't even take him to bed!"

So that was it. A quick bit of improv comedy with Davy. Not that it made a whole lot of sense, but hey, it was something. My girlfriend at the time took a couple photos but I think I moved out of the way at the last second, so Davy and I weren't in the same frame. I don't have those photos any more.

But the interwebs have MANY photos and video clips of the man, and I'm going to pay tribute to Davy Jones with a hand-picked selection. Enjoy. A huge thank you to the various folks who posted these photos. One who I'm sure is behind many of them is Meghan Brozanic, who runs the Psycho Jello sites on both Facebook and Tumblr. I've spent many hours poking around those sites over the last year or so. Thanks for all your hard work and fandom and sharing your great collection with the world.

So, to start, some cool photos:

Sharp Dressed Man

From "Monkees A la Mode"--freaking out magazine editors by making them think he's actually bald.

By necessity, Davy learned both bass and drums so he could fill in during various numbers.

Ladies Man. On a date with Sally Field.
Man's man. Rack 'em up, light 'em up. 

I'd like to think that Davy's in a place similar to this right now. But with lots of horses too.

He had to show a lot of patience during the Headquarters sessions of '67. Doing 40 takes of a tambourine track while Mickey got his drum part down or Mike learned pedal steel....
Doing what he did best. From Head, 1968.

Ladies man part 2: With pop star Lulu.

Shaken, not stirred. The high life.

But how do you really feel?

Chatting with opening act, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, July 1967. 

....And now some videos.....

 Davy's cool pre-Monkees version of Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe".  A bit less biting than the original. 

Davy and "critic" Frank Zappa. From Head.

Looking pretty cool in this scene with Deana Martin (Dean's daughter)

Sounds a bit sped-up, but a groovy clip from the second season. They look like they're having fun. 

 With Goldie Hawn on "Laugh In" 1969

Odd Clip entitled "Walking In New York 3 (1969) Leo Bennink"

Wow, Davy. Highest guy to ever appear on a family show. Fresh from a session in the famous "Black Box", one would guess. 

Nilsson #1: The Monkees' rendition of "Cuddly Toy" enabled Harry Nilsson to quit his day job. Trivia: This was the final studio track to feature all four Monkees playing. Until 1996's reunion album Justus. 

Nilsson #2: Davy, solo, with Sam and The Goodtimers, performs Harry's "Together" and then is pretty funny during the interview. 

The Edge Bows Down to Davy as Davy owns the stage at this U2 show in 1997

A clip of Davy doing the lovely "French Song" from the 1971 film "Flowers and Lollipops". 
Kind of weird. Awkward acting when he sits down during the solo. 

A compilation of some of the unscripted interviews at the end of Monkees' episodes. 
Davy shows his biting wit in some of these.  

Davy's second to last concert. NYC, February 18, 2012.  

And finally, this gut-wrenching scene...Rest In Peace, Davy.