Saturday, December 22, 2018

KLAATU: The Band, The Record

My next album-related topic will be about the band KLAATU.

I recently picked up a decent copy of their third album, SIR ARMY SUIT, at a dollar sale. Their name was familiar but I couldn't remember why.  For a short time I thought they were STARSAILOR, a group that Rolling Stone once termed a ripoff of YES.

However, SIR ARMY SUIT - while having proggy tendencies - actually sounded more like the Beatles. Then I remembered that in 1970 there were rumors Klaatu were actually the Beatles recording under a different name. Since both bands were on the same American label, Capitol records did nothing to dissuade listeners from this belief, and in fact encouraged it. This was the era of PAUL IS DEAD (which I found fascinating at the time) so it wasn't hard for people to believe crazy shit about their artists.

My dollar copy of SIR ARMY sounded pretty good, and I was able to clean up much of the record ghosting from the white cover, so it's selling at my Amazon store for $9.48. However, I like the music enough that I might be taking it back, or buying a better copy.

When I read the Wikipedia page for KLAATU I realized that I had heard one of their only hit songs back in the 70's: "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft." Since this track opens their first album, I found an "almost Near Mint" copy on Discogs for about $6 to get acquainted with the band.

Though the vinyl LOOKS clean, there's unfortunately a lot of surface noise; however the full dynamic range of the music makes it a worthwhile purchase for now.  I've only played it once through but will have more to say when I get back to it; but for now, I found it very engaging in a Beatles Abbey Road sort of way, and with a more progressive feel overall than Sir Army Suit.

Updating on January 4, 2019

I'm now playing this album through for the third time. Since I started this post, I'm finding that it probably won't reward repeated listenings as I'd hoped. It's nice music but not quite essential.

I do love the opening track "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" though I'm not sure if it's the music or the fact that I'd head it a few times before. This is also the first time the Beatle influences crop up, especially in the piano, keyboards, vocals, and production. The Mellotron, Moog, organ, and treated pianos really do summon the Mystery Tour-era Fabs. However, these singers are clearly not John and Paul, and that should have been obvious even in the 70s!

"California Jam" immediately channels Paul, but again, not him! I doubt if this song refers to the Rock festival of that name - too early by a few years. Nice Beatle / Beach Boy style harmonies and interesting production on this one. However, they end with the cheesy trick of a live audience cheering (I've done it twice myself!)

"Anus of Uranus" - cringeworthy title and a pretty standard rock song.

"Sub Rosa Subway" - if we're keeping score, this one gets a very high Paulie Soundalike Score, as well as a veritable wall of Mystery Tour / Penny Lane horns and keyboards. There's even some George Harrison-style guitar and a Megaphone-enhanced Lennon voice. It finally cascades to a finale that sounds almost exactly like "It's All Too Much" from the Yellow Submarine, with handclaps and vocal hoots and bells and horns and wailing guitars... you get the idea.

And onto side two!

"True Life Hero" is pretty standard 70s Cock Rock style.

"Doctor Marvello" is an Indian-influenced tune in the style of a forgettable George Harrison song.

"Sir Bodsworth Rubblesby" is the kind of old-timey 40's style song that Paulie loves, with the exception that the vocalist sounds like an English Grover (from Sesame Street). Very goofy and very much of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Bonzo Dog Band - Van Dyke Parkes retro style of the 70's. It's a fun and creative tune, certainly a stylistic change from the rest of the LP.

"Little Meutrino" - no, computer, that is NOT a typo - ends the album with a ominous synth fragments fading in and out, until the acoustic guitars come in: suddenly we're in SUPERTRAMP or early GENESIS territory. Very cool, robotic vocal. Heaviosity. Dramatic chord crashes. Tons of sound effects across the soundscape as we draw to a close. I like it!

So the question remains: my copy has a lot of surface noise, and there are moments on this LP where a quiet platter would help a lot. Is it worth hunting down a better copy? Maybe I'll find one at a dollar sale!

Also, am I intrigued enough to bridge my KLAATU collection with the 2nd album, before getting back to the third?

Magic 8 Ball says All Signs Point To Yes.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Year of Living Dangerously Soundtrack by Maurice Jarre (Varese Vinyl)

This is the first in a series of posts about albums I am selling or have bought for myself. They will just be quick impressions; nothing definitive or even necessarily correct!

I saw THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY at an advance screening hosted by radio station KPFK where my girlfriend Ahna worked. We both enjoyed it tremendously. I remember the love scene in the pouring rain, the dramatic backdrop of Sukarno's presidency, and the awesome  & unexpected performance by Linda Hunt.

I did not remember the music, so it was interesting to find this soundtrack album in a dollar bin. The cover is a bit worn, but the vinyl was clean and unmarked and played beautifully with minimal surface noise.

Maurice Jarre is a name that should be familiar to most moviegoers, at the very least for Doctor Zhivago. For this soundtrack he has blended a minimalist synth score with Indonesian and Asian influences. It is amazing how similar this music and its sensibility is to the soundtrack of BLADE RUNNER, another of my favorite movies. Most 80's Synth Music has not aged well (and Drum Machines were a terrible idea, at least without live accompaniment) but this music recalls its time and place without sounding especially dated.

I am listing this LP for $7.87 in my Amazon store. That's below the minimum I try to keep for selling records but this is one that somebody will really enjoy.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Dream of Musical Fame

Dino and John Gibson at the Cavern Club, Elmwood Avenue, 1970

For a major portion of my life, I have dreamed of Musical Fame.

Maybe not Beatles-level; maybe not Husker Du level; most probably not even your favorite indie band-level. But I did believe Musical Fame was possible for me, whatever that might have looked like.  A novelty single catches on, an LP is recorded, a few shows, a few write-ups, and a bit of money for my continuing releases.

At the same time, I also dreamed of Movie Fame. Director, Screenwriter, independent filmmaker. Someone known for making his visions and stories a reality on the big screen.

So how have I done?

Clearly, I got a lot closer on the movie front. I directed some student films and penned a few screenplays, only one of which was produced (on a very low budget). I taught filmmaking to kids, among them Patricia Arquette, Josh Koenig (son of Walter), and David Prior, a documentary filmmaker who does all the companion videos for David Fincher's movies.

In my own career, I scaled down my directing and writing dreams to sound editing, for which I had an affinity thanks to my love of music and tape recorders.

I've had credits on countless movies & TV shows and even some great ones. My sound creations have been heard by Presidents and Despots, as well as most of the children in the world (thanks to HOME ALONE). I've won an Emmy, and my name was even mentioned on the Oscar broadcast for SKYFALL. I've walked the grounds of every studio at which I've ever dreamed working, and am even now cutting sound effects on NARCOS, a highly popular and well-reviewed series.  I'll be retiring with a great pension and health benefits.

So... THAT part went okay!

But what happened to the dream of musical fame, especially given that I am still writing songs for a future CD?

I have only just realized what happened.

As much as I loved music and wanted to be a famous rock star, I just as badly wanted to be with GIRLS.

It's a hoary cliche that most guys pick up a guitar to help get them chicks, and it certainly helped me. But while those guys would party with their girls and then get back on the stage, I'd get stuck with the girls and lose my way back.

From my very first girlfriend, I've always picked the women who would feel most threatened by my interest in anything but them. Though my first band wouldn't have lasted anyway, I was unceremoniously dumped because my girlfriend (also my ride to rehearsals) felt threatened and kept devising ways to keep me from my friends (usually sex). And of course, I was complicit because I allowed it to happen.

In my mid-20's, my filmmaking partner Eric and I had big plans to write and direct a movie that would feature OUR band (The Shades) as part of the story. A screenplay was written, songs were rehearsed. But this time, I was dating an older woman named Ahna who, once again, seemed to resent my time doing ANYTHING else but being with her. I chose to stay in that situation, and my music again went nowhere.

Finally, in 1984, I bought the TEAC multi-track tape recorder of my dreams: I was reborn as a solo artist, playing all the instruments myself. I discovered an underground network of like-minded artists, had my music reviewed in underground AND legitimate publications, and even had offers of live gigs and management.

However, yet again, a woman came into my life and everything changed.

Julie was the mother of my two children. She was a wonderful person in many ways, and I was absolutely in love with her. However, she turned out to be the biggest hindrance to my music that I had yet faced.

Her resentment at my music time was so obvious that we started talking about it in therapy after just two years. For a while it was a deal-breaker to my agreeing to get married.  It was only AFTER we had hammered out a legal document-like agreement to my music schedule that I finally went forward with the marriage.

Six months before my son was born, I released my first CD.  My previous cassette, GOWER STREET, was a high-water mark: 500 copies were pressed, and well over 400 of them were in the hands of listeners. Reviews were great and interest in my upcoming digital offering was high.

But with the arrival of my infant son, it was made clear to me that anything besides his care (and my job) was to be put on the back-burner.  After mailing out 80 copies of my CD, the other 420 copies were literally shoved under the bed to be distributed later. Spoiler alert: "Later" never happened, my musical moment was lost, and to this day I use those CDs as blank covers.

So, Musical Fame was now finally off the table for good. But I still loved making music, and I planned my next CD as a stripped-down rock album that would be recorded partly in a pro studio with the $5k my Grandmother had willed to me.  Julie encouraged this plan, but as the months passed, she began dipping into my recording budget for house repairs, until finally declaring that the money was no longer mine to use.

It took SEVEN YEARS of selling off my music collection and scraping pennies off the floor to finish my studio recorded tracks and release TRAIN GOING NOWHERE. I was pleased with the result, but in no sense did it sound like a CD that required seven years to finish.

And then Julie died in 2004 from a car accident.  I grieved, then slowly but surely began recording CDs again, though never as fast as I used to.

I married Sharon in 2010. Ironically, the situation is now reversed: she has always encouraged me to work on my music, but I'm the one who now wants to concentrate on my final years of working & then find a house in which to retire.

I still have a guitar in my editing room and the song ideas still pop up, but I've been lucky that the shows I work on are a perfect release for the creativity I would otherwise bring to music. I know the songs will be there when I'm done.

But my realization has been this: I never quite made it in music because I didn't want it enough. I wanted musical recognition, but also wanted to be with a woman I loved, and I wanted a comfy job that paid enough for me to do music on my own terms. A person like that doesn't rub shoulders with The Greats, the guys and women who want to perform their music more than anything else. That's something I now accept.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Love and Mercy

Thank you, Brian Wilson Biopic, for casting my 16-year-old self to play young Brian!

Monday, June 8, 2015

I, Handicapped

Almost 15 years ago, I was felled by a herniated disc for the second time in my life (the first was in 1988) and suddenly, because of nerve damage, lost the ability to lift or pull back my right foot and toes. This is called a "Dropped Foot".

My Doc rushed me into surgery, hoping to fix my back AND my foot, but only the back pain went away - my right foot remains "dropped" to this day. I can push down without any problem, meaning that driving is still part of my routine, but I had to learn to walk quite differently, and that first year I tripped at least two or three times a week until I got it down.

Years have passed, and most people have been unaware of my dropped foot unless I point it out. I love walking barefoot, but need to be extra careful since my toes can easily curl under. I've tripped on occasion when my foot got tired, but for the most part I was fine.

Then, I did two stupid things.

First, I tried to run. BIG mistake! It caused a ham string injury that took almost a year to heal. Then, on Fathers Day last year, I tried stepping over a velvet rope at Universal, and immediately fell flat on my knees. That was painful enough, but because I'd weakened my knee, I started tripping all over the place and injuring my knee over and over until it required surgery.

I'm now fully recovered, though I carry a walking stick most places because falling down just isn't an option anymore.

Anyway, while recovering, my knee doctor got me a temporary handicapped parking placard.


If there is such a thing as Nirvana within day-to-day city life, the handicapped placard is the Golden Ticket.

Los Angeles is a car town - end of story. Driving and parking is 95% of our daily reality. Parking is the Wild Card that can make or break a day trip or nighttime date. If you can't Park, you can't DO.

The Handicapped Parking Spot was SUCH an unattainable thing, that even after getting my placard, I kept forgetting to use it. But once I started, I knew I could never go back. Not only do you park way close to wherever you're going, even on a crowded day, but you also get to park for free, ALL DAY LONG, in front of parking meters. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

My original placard was good for 6 weeks but took 4 weeks to get to me. When I returned to my doctor, I made the case that my knee injury was the result of my dropped foot, and having a "Compromised" extremity is all you need for a permanent placard. Surely I qualified? But no - he felt that since he wasn't the doctor who diagnosed my dropped foot, he couldn't use that to get me permanent free-spot status. He did extend the temporary placard for another six weeks, however.

Not to be deterred, I then visited my GP, and she saw the logic and signed the form immediately.

I'm now waiting to see if that blue placard does indeed show up in my mail. If not, I'll be fighting to get it however long it takes.

Having a dropped foot is certainly not the worst thing that could befall somebody, and I've always been grateful for my relatively good health. A few surgeries, meningitis, and diabetes are child's play compared with all the debilitating shit that's out there.

But I feel I've been a stoic and uncomplaining member of this city for the 15 years since my foot injury, and if the injury is now threatening to pop up and derail everything I've worked for, I think it's totally acceptable to use any assistance that's legally and morally available to me.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

40 Years In The Time Machine! 1975-2015

Happy 5th Wedding Anniversary Sharon!

Sharon, thank you so much for marrying me and STAYING married to me! I cherish every single day, especially the good ones but even the tough ones, because they have all been spent with YOU!

Thanks so much for being so generous with our Saturday anniversary so that I could attend my band's reunion, and instead spending a fun Sunday with me at the Rose Bowl swap meet and then early dinner at The Smoke House.

Love You 4 Ever Baby!!