Meeting Little Richard at his old Hyatt haunt

In the mid-nineties it was easy to get an acquaintance with Little Richard. All you had to do was haunt the bar at the Hyatt Hotel on Sunset where he lived and at one time or another you would find yourself talking to him over a drink…talking about how he discovered rock and roll or a new project…listening and watching a legend perform in front of you, as if you were at Carnegie Hall. Read the rest

What a Transparent Day: A new musical compilation of psych nuggets is upon us

When the original Nuggets collection came out in 1972 on Elektra Records….it was a BIG thing. Collecting some of the greatest garage and psych recordings from the 60s, the record took a period of music that was only, at most, seven years old and celebrated it as if it were straight from Tut’s tomb (with a third eye hovering above) holding it up as a pantheon of one of recorded sound’s greatest (drippiest?) evolutionary eras.

Found within the grooves were not songs from the mega bands of the time, like the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, or The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but instead bands that emerged from the garage…bands with no-hits, regional hits and the occasional national hit. Bands with names like The Chocolate Watchband, The Blues Magoos and The Magic Mushrooms. Dig it, man? Bands that were making music that realized, musically and lyrically, the free, rebellious, acid visions that bled from the streets and the clubs of both the big cities and the small rural lands across America. Nuggets made the music accessible, influencing the tastes of the next generation of music freaks (and influencing musicians as well).

With the success of Nuggets came more volumes. A box set. Another box set featuring European Nuggets. All releases killer. All presenting the drooling enthusiast with wonderful psychedelic sounds excavated from oblivion. And there were other great compilation series adding to the conversation: Pebbles (VOLUME 3!), Back From The Grave, Acid Visions, Psychedelic Pstones, anon. With each release, a feeling of amazement that there was still quality music to be mined from a relatively brief era. Read the rest

Story of the man who became Playgirl's Playmate of the Year 1979

There have been many scenarios post the fall of the second temple for a young Jewish boy to try and get out of studying for his Bar Mitzvah, but in his debut book, my friend Lou Cove tells a story that seems almost as big of a fiction as the bible itself. The book is called Man of the Year, and it's a memoir about 12-year-old Louis’ swapping Hebrew study to spend time on a campaign to help his father’s friend become Playgirl’s playmate of the year in 1979, all while living in provincial Salem, Mass. And what is more, the candidate, Howie Gordon, not only wins but goes on to become one of the great male adult film stars during the golden age of pornography.

Lou went on to raise millions of dollars for non-profit organizations, using this experience as a formative guidepost.

For those of you unfamiliar with Playgirl, think about Playboy magazine, but for women and filled with photos of guys showing their junk. When Howie Gordon posed for the magazine, he was the first to break the erection-barrier…posing fully-masted in his Mr. November 1978 pictorial. By the time he and his wife came to Salem, he already had bigger (harder?) ambitions of winning the competition for Playgirl Man of the Year. All he needed was a campaign manager.

And while Howie’s story is so very compelling, Man Of The Year is definitely Lou’s story. He shares his experience of moving with his family from exciting New York to a seemingly more-boring Salem, how his father’s friend Howie and new bride Carly moved in with them and shared with the family (at the Thanksgiving table) Howie’s Playmate ambitions, Lou’s excitement of having Howie take on the role as XXX Mary Poppins (with his more modern take on spoonfuls of sugar), hand watching his parent’s marriage collapse as he hit the campaign trail to help Howie. Read the rest

Old-timey mass evangelism and the phonograph

The Grammy nominations were announced today and along with Beyonce, Drake, Adele, and Kanye there was a nomination that went to music recorded by Ira D. Sankey, Winfield Weeden, Silas Leachman and the Rittersville Singing Club. No, those are not artists from today… In fact, those performers lived 125 years ago and their recordings have been newly compiled by a husband/wife team dedicated to bringing back to life the music of the post-Industrial Revolution 19th century.

Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey have one collective dream, and that is to preserve, expose and celebrate the earliest eras of recorded sounds for new generations of listeners. Their label Archeophone Records has produced dozens of releases showcasing music created even before electricity got in the way. These are acoustic recordings created when the music industry was still “cutting wax” and "the business” was in its infancy. John Phillips Souza’s marches were chart toppers, along with sappy ballads and jocular tunes. The world was introduced to “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight,” and of course, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”

Richard and Meagan collect the cylinders for each release, digitize the music found in the 100+ year old grooves, painstakingly master the tracks, rabbit-hole copious amounts of research about the recordings, the artists, and the era, and bring forth a truly amazing product that takes any listener back to a time long forgotten..an almost alien world.

And while in many circles they are known for their Grammy-winning expert work, nothing can prepare an enthusiast for their latest epic deep dive. Read the rest

Swim Through the Darkness: the strange story of a mysterious 60s psych songwriter

Swim Through the Darkness: My Search for Craig Smith and the Mystery of Maitreya Kali is the much-anticipated story of one of the more esoteric, fascinating casualties of the flower power generation. As told by Ugly Things magazine creator Mike Stax, the book tracks the odyssey of Craig Smith, a musician who evolved from clean-cut singer songwriter, landing gigs on the Andy Williams show and a Monkees-esque television pilot, to a post-institutionalized street messiah, Maitreya Kali. Smith wrote songs for The Monkees (and was nearly cast in the band) and Glen Campbell, headed the much fabled psych pop band The Penny Arkade, and released two of the most acid-drenched folk records of the early 70s before fading into obscurity. After his initial songwriting success, he used the money he earned to travel the world, only to return as a permanently damaged shell of his former self, complete with a spider tattoo on his forehead.

Until now, Smith’s life has mostly been told by the music he left behind. And even so, his Penny Arkade recordings were only made readily available within the last twenty years, while his psych folk records, self-released under the moniker Maitreya Kali, have only been experienced by extremely lucky record collectors or in varying quality online. Apache and Inca, those latter releases, include an early demo of the Monkees' "Salesman" (from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd.) as well as alternative versions of songs recorded by The Penny Arkade. But what the records are really known for is their otherworldly vibe that could only be made by someone whose mind was no longer on Earth. Read the rest