ABOUT SUMMER (the most important part)

I wrote this for the Songs For Summer website around 2000 and thought it should be online somewhere….

ABOUT SUMMER (the most important part)

m_singer (1)Summer Lynn Brannin was born on June 23, 1976 at Tri-City Hospital in Oceanside, California about a half hour north of San Diego. She grew up in Cardiff, a beautiful little beach town in the North County of San Diego. She was instantly beautiful and towered over everyone in her classes (finishing a respectable 6’1″). For most of her childhood, she and her brother were brought up by her mother. Summer developed her creativity early on, making up games for her and her brother to play, drawing, painting and starting on the path to becoming a gifted artist. They eventually moved to a nearby country style house in Leucadia, where she attended San Dieguito High School.

From a very young age, Summer loved music. Her mom would play classical music, quiz the kids on the pieces, and even left the stereo on for the family cat to enjoy when no one was home. As a young teen, she was lucky enough to have a few friends who recommended all kinds of music to her. More than anything, she loved old jazz and “swooshy” British rock. Her music collection was mostly full of old thrift store records (sometimes purchased only for the cover art) and import albums by bands that are still unheard of on these shores. Because most of her favorite groups either skipped San Diego altogether or played 21 and up clubs, she was always going to Los Angeles for concerts. She really knew her stuff. This was all when she was just 16.

It was around this time that she sent a letter and a mixtape to a local zine called 360. One of the writers, Sam O’Daniel, was blown away that they liked so much of the same music and they struck up a friendship. Eventually, Sam, myself, and my friend Pat moved up to the Bay Area together. Summer would occasionally call and whenever Sam wasn’t home, we’d talk a little. We became phone friends. I liked talking to her and neither of us had made many new friends in awhile. It turned out we liked lots of the same music and had been to lots of the same concerts, including one two years earlier where she actually remembered seeing me simply because I was wearing a Bjork shirt.

Just before Sam moved out, I suggested Summer & I meet when I came down to San Diego. We hit it off but no sparks flew. I invited her up for a party that we were having and when she hit the Bay Area, she came alive in a way that I hadn’t seen before. We fell in love and were talking about moving in together by the end of her stay. She always felt a huge connection with that part of California and we were actually planning to move there from San Diego until she became sick. We decided to wait and I was promptly offered a job in Los Angeles that I took. Summer continued working, taking night classes to finish up high school and working full-time at a nearby health food store. She would take the train up to Los Angeles and, to pass the time, would write me wonderful, hilarious accounts of her trips, filled with drawings.

My job didn’t work out and after living at home in San Diego for a short month, we decided to move in together. We found a nice, cheap place in Kearny Mesa, an uninteresting part of town that was within walking distance of a health food store and a junior college. Summer was excited to move into her own place but even more excited to have an entire apartment to decorate and fill with her stuff. She filled it alright. She once put monster eyes, nose and mouth on a huge avalanche of laundry spilling from the closet. There was a corner for “lounge” stuff, sleepytime things hung over the bed, and the kitchen had all kinds of food related things on the walls.

One of the best parts about living with Summer was being around her artwork so much. When we started dating, I would get brilliant, endless letters full of drawings, magazine clippings, stickers and anything else she could fit in an envelope. Now that we lived together, I’d sometimes come home to find her asleep with the floor covered in drawings she’d left for me to see. Maybe she’d leave arrows pointing to the bed. I saved every single note she ever left for me. Then she started taking art classes and I got to see her attempt new styles of art. Of course, she was the best in whatever she tried. I always thought she was the greatest artist ever but I’m pretty biased. I was so proud to see how many fellow artists agreed with me. One of her teachers leaned over her shoulder once and said, “I wish I was making lines like that when I was your age.”

Just before the market she worked for went out of business, Summer heard word that a Whole Foods Market opening in San Diego. An old boss of hers was setting up the deli department and was thrilled to have Summer help. She loved working there and her customers and co-workers all clearly adored her. Sometimes we’d go grocery shopping and it would take forever because everyone knew her and wanted to talk. Along with my family, she now had another extended family that she felt close to. She continued to go to school full-time while she worked there. I don’t know how she did it.

The fact that she was so incredibly healthy made her illness all the more unfair. You don’t need the whole story. The point of this project is to do some good. The short version is that she’d been having back pains for some time. In February of 1998, a high fever took her to the emergency room. When they ran some tests, they found a high sed rate, which can usually mean other things. Hospital tests showed nothing but a few days later, they found something on her kidney. We were so naive that we both started laughing when they told us we had to go back to the hospital for more tests because it just seemed like a huge inconvenience to us. What they found was a extremely rare type of kidney cancer that wasn’t treatable by chemotherapy. There was nothing they could trace it to. No one will ever know how or why this happened to such a healthy young girl.

As soon as she was diagnosed, the love she’d given came back in a big way. She had more people wanting to help and visit her than the hospital had ever seen. People donated their time, their money, their words, and their love. Her co-workers and employees from other Whole Foods stores donated their bonus money. Regular prayer sessions were organized in the hospital chapel. Her uncle flew out from Iowa for several weeks to help care for her. Her entire family completely redid a room in her mom’s house for her to stay in. She was never alone. I could go on forever about all of the good deeds that were done during that time. She couldn’t have left feeling more loved but she couldn’t have lived with the amount of spreading the cancer did in just seven weeks. Doctors said it was more like seven MONTHS worth. She was never well enough to start any treatment or undergo any surgery. Most people would’ve given up long before her but she fought incredibly hard. Everyone was in disbelief at how strong she was and how she still managed to care for the people around her. She passed away on April 19th, 1998, less than seven weeks after first being admitted to the hospital.

After she passed away, people continued to show how much they cared about her. Her funeral, candlelight vigil and celebration of life were all filled with dozens of people expressing how much she’d meant to them. People gave thousands of dollars to help pay for funeral and hospital costs. Her friends and I put together an art show of her work. Several thousand people have come through this website and many have left notes about how touched they were without even knowing her.

You might have heard the phrase “she doesn’t have a bad bone in her body” but it was all too true for Summer. Her name couldn’t have described her positive disposition more perfectly. She brought joy anywhere she went. She made everyone (myself included) feel short, fat, and ugly when she walked into a room and then completely at ease the moment she spoke to you. Everything she wore looked amazing, even if it was a dress and jeans (her favorite fashion statement). Some of her best friends were over 80 years old. Kids loved her. She adored animals of all kinds. She was funnier than any comedian. Her artwork was pure genius. Everyone she ever met remembers her fondly.

I can only hope that all of the great things she left behind continue to bring people happiness. She would want me to end this with something to leave you with a smile, so here’s some silly stuff she wrote……

Now, it’s late. Mr. Sandman and I are playing hide and go seek, only it’s not as fun when you’re so tired that you begin to spell “stired” instead of “so tired”. I’ve got visions of cocoa beans dancing in my head to the beat of mariachi madness….

if only sleep grew on trees…..

I love black and white newsprint on pink paper. I once thought about marrying it. In fact I even asked it…I’ve yet to receive a reply.

I found the sandman. Guess where he was? in my fuzzy hay sweater. I just put it on and I’m suddenly very sleepy.

 

More about Summer at SUMMER BRANNIN, ANGEL 1998-PRESENT

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91X, 1988 & ME

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A few goodies but I usually think of 1988 as an off-year in between big albums when the airwaves were ruled by forgettable tunes by Information Society, Edie Brickell and Timbuk 3 but, DAMN, that first Primitives album. This might’ve been the only year I ever listened to the whole countdown, so that’s my very own dot matrix typing action there.

1988. Ending eleventh grade at University City High School and starting my senior year. More of the same. School became more interesting as a few friends took over production of the school’s television program and we were suddenly the most visible comedians on campus. After helping fix up our family’s apartments while cataloging every song I heard on 91X, I landed a job at the nearby Baskin Robbins and suddenly all of my friends were eating free ice cream. Other than that, the year was mostly spent watching my friends drink, doing a little homework (despite going to a San Luis Obispo camp to encourage study skills) and getting caught by the fuzz in a park with a pot-smoking friend. On New Years Eve, I listened to the 91X top 91 countdown in a borrowed van instead of being inside with my drunk friends. Priorities.

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RIDE ARTWORK (No, I’m not a child pornographer)

smokerNow I know how Pete Townshend feels.

One of many things I love doing for YDG is finding outtakes of album covers I love. When UK band Ride reunited a few years ago, they put up a great collage of photos on their new website that included uncropped photographs used for some of their singles. The black and white pictures of children for the “Leave Them All Behind” and “Twisterella” singles were taken by photographer Jock Sturges. In looking him up quickly, I saw another famous one of a young girl smoking I didn’t know he’d taken.

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I excitedly uploaded them to Yer Doin’ Great’s Facebook page, knowing some of my fellow shoegaze loving readers would love seeing them as much as I did but I got some kind of error message. Confused, I tried again and again, figuring it was like any other occasional glitch. I was suddenly logged off of Facebook and asked to answer some security question. When I logged back in, I saw a note about somehow violating FB’s rules of appropriateness. It mentioned obscenity or nudity or something that hadn’t occurred to me. A quick look into the work of Sturges immediately showed me full nudes of young people taken at nudist communes in northern California and France that resulted in all kinds of accusations of child pornography. Oops.

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Sleepy Xmas 1997, San Diego

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Future roommate Joel

I’d had those singles for years. My girlfriend was a fellow fan and we had a HUGE Twisterella poster over our bed. To us, it was a beautiful portrait of the innocence of youth….and a great song. It never occurred to me that there was something obscene about the photos. I always assumed they were three boys, which would be acceptable in nipple-phobic America but now I see it’s titled Christina, Misty Dawn and Alisa. Does three more feminine girls in the same window setting or the Sturges photo of a topless girl used on the Japanese Ride “Grasshopper” EP Japanese Ride “Grasshopper” EP seem more wrong? I can’t say. It’s such a gray area I’m glad I’ve never had to consider.

Beautiful pictures. Great songs. Strange experience….

All photographic images by Jock Sturges

ALSO READ RIDE LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO: Twenty years and 500 miles later

11345, our little East Bay music family

Wrote this for the 1999 release of the 11345 Records compilation, Horseshoes & BBQ’s.

The 11345 story started in late 1993, when three young men looked northward to the Bay Area. They wondered aloud if life could be sweeter there than it was down in the sunny region of San Diego, where they were currently residing. What motivates such a 500 mile relocation? Women, of course. Patrick Secor was chasing a young, black clad “goth” woman, Sam O’Daniel was chasing his lovely fiancee, and Adam Gimbel was chasing two young ladies handling the fanclubs for musical acts Jellyfish and Redd Kross. The three were associated by coincidence, happenstance and friendship. Gimbel had done collegiate level radio with O’Daniel and worked at a major music retail establishment with Secor. They unified to make the exodus as a trio. O’Daniel and Gimbel pulled into town in January of 1994 and after an exhausting one week search for a suitable place to take up residence, called a number inquiring about a three bedroom flat in El Cerrito (just north of Berkeley) for just $800. The call was answered by a tropical fish store employee. They knew they’d found their home.

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1994 sign still intact in 2017

Looming large above several businesses (a nail care boutique and a facial care establishment in addition to the fishstore), El Cerrito Manor is located at 11345 San Pablo Ave, just across from Atlas Liquors, spitting distance from Target and just a stone’s throw from the El Cerrito Del Norte BART stop. Nestled on the border of rich, rolling suburban hills and one of the most dangerous “hoods” in America, as the city of Richmond was labeled in Rolling Stone shortly after the trio’s move-in), it simultaneously gave the appearance of extremely posh digs AND street credibility thanks to an overgrown backyard, treacherous back staircase and breathtaking view of the five star Travelodge hotel . Although there are neighbors located on either side of the building, one is more or less free to make as much noise as is desired and that is exactly what happened there.

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Adam’s beautiful mess 1994

Shortly after arriving, O’Daniel, himself a gifted guitarist and part-time vocalist, answered an advertisement in a local publication and found himself in the company of one Geoff Bock, local resident and singer/songwriter extraordinaire. The two formed the band Tucker and, with Steve St. Cin and Jim Summers as the rhythm section, rehearsals commenced at 11345. The bedrooms were so big that an entire four piece rock unit (drums included) could fit comfortably inside. Before the band played a single gig, they placed in the top 25 spots of a Conan O’Brien national band search with a one shot video done in the corner of O’Daniel’s bedroom. The quality of the band’s material was such that the submitted song was soon out of the set!

sanpablopalooza1For its debut gig, the band played a set at the first ever gathering of local talent at the flat in August of 1994. Dubbed Sanpablopalooza, the event was a monumental undertaking and sister event to the “other” major alternative festival then touring America. The show was opened by the three guitar, no bass, rock force known as Cover Me Badd, consisting of the three roommates (Gimbel, Secor, O’Daniel) plus visiting friend and future 11345 resident, Mike Flinn. The band dared to play songs by The Brady Bunch and Camper Van Beethoven in the same set, even going so far as to play tunes by Smashing Pumpkins, the Temptations and Neil Diamond in the space of one medley. Tucker’s set went down like a firestorm, leaving many disbelieving the fact that it could actually be the band’s first performance.
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95 tuckerThe group started to play outside of the cozy comfines of the chateau 11345, performing memorable concerts on both sides of the Bay, including a memorable night where they reportedly “stole the show” from a laughable, yet up-and-coming band called Third Eye Blind (at least that’s what the 20 people who stuck around said and one of them was a young Bill Graham Presents employee that wanted to manage them based on that one performance). The band played out regularly and their circle of musician friends started to expand. The core group of friends rarely performed together outside of the regular celebrations at 11345. It was only at these gatherings that you could see such influencial local acts as Tucker, The Moore Brothers, Nova Come Home, Street Vendors (now called rar.), and Adam Gimbel, right alongside regional artists like Mike Flinn, Dan Buczaczer, Ripley Caine, and many others, all on one free bill.

94-acoustic-chanukahIn direct competition to alternative rock stations’ annual Christmas shows, the Acoustic Chanukah show was staged in December of 1994 with members of the inner circle of the 11345 scene all playing acoustically, including Tucker. The event marked the debut of the second scene supergroup: Beatnik Bitch. The acoustic trio (Secor on bongos, Flinn on sax and Gimbel on acoustic guitar) dressed all in black and sported sunglasses for the indoor nighttime set. Gimbel mainly used the act as a platform to spout “tongue-in-cheek” poetry (though rumors circulated that he took himself quite seriously) and perform an occasional “song”, like the cult hit “Killing Mr. Furley”, an ode to America’s favorite landlord’s suppression of Jack Tripper’s heterosexuality.

seis-de-mayoOnce enough time had elapsed, the organizers looked for an excuse to stage another event and, finding that their desired excuse didn’t fall on a Saturday, invented Seis De Mayo. Despite the early blasphemous accusations in the Hispanic press, the event was a huge success. The usual talent was assembled for the show with an in-between act soundtrack that included everything from “Born In East LA” and “La Isla Bonita” to bits of how-to speak Spanish tapes. The spirit was jovial (as most events with piñatas are) despite huge changes in some of the central acts of the scene.

beatnx11345 and Tucker founder Sam O’Daniel had left the band and had also left 11345 to pursue marriage. He was replaced on guitar by Carvel Bass and the already amazing band took a turn toward a more midwestern/country sound that cemented their place in rock history, despite the lack of a record deal, national following or full length album. Even more surprising, Secor was kicked out of Beatnik Bitch (now called Beat n X) midshow during their now-infamous “Drunk Bongo Player” number. The slack was taken up by the addition of San Diego costume assistant Summer Brannin and the dual acoustic guitar attack of the Street Vendors. Still, the performance was to be the band’s last as Gimbel was also soon to leave 11345.

el-cerrito-cdsIn the ensuing years, there were many inhabitants and bands that filtered in and out of the 11345 scene. The founding members have all followed separate paths:

  • A few short years after applying his bachelor degree to being a short order cook at a golf course, O’Daniel found himself working as a high powered computer industry bigwig, owning a home in Concord and playing father to two lovely children (one can only presume that his second child, still in utero as of this writing, will be equally as lovely as his first). His current studio project, The Foster Brothers, practices and records several times a year.
  • 95-sanpablopalooza1n2Gimbel had narrowly escaped the devastating earthquake that flattened his alma matter (California State University at Northridge) just days after his arrival in the Bay Area and took it as a sign to not pursue his audio production degree. The fanclub connections he had relocated north to pursue fizzled away by the time he arrived there. After stints as a rubber stamp technician in Berkeley and music management front office assistant in West Hollywood, he has settled into the position of being the CEO of the foremost antique automobile part locating guide publisher in the country. After stints in side projects like the Atlas Lickers and Suzanne & The Summerz, he has begun to perform acoustic solo shows under the pseudonym Adam The Gimbel.
  • Secor first moved to the Bay Area after raising necessary capital to release the first full-length release for multi-platinum hardcore punk rock outfit Blink 182 through his now-defunct label, Filter Records. After several critically acclaimed releases through Filter, Secor proved himself to be a true chameleon of rock, reinventing himself, once again, under the banner of 11345 Records, an obvious nod to the apartment that has helped shape an entire generation of music lovers. He has recently done session work, drumming with several local acts and has set up a worldwide online distribution center for his record label at 11345.com.
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The roommates n Shari Brukman outside Amoeba Records, 1994

11345 is still the hub of a thriving scene as creative artists continue to pass the aparment down to worthy inhabitants. The northwest suite has now been inhabited by Gimbel, Bock, and Flinn, considered by some to be the holy trinity of American songwriting. Secor has even moved back into the apartment’s familiar walls after a self-imposed exile (though tabloids report that he is planning to move out again). Rock historian Katie Skibinski recently created the 11345 website to document the scene’s history for generations to come.

h-&-bbqsAll-star extravaganzas were staged to celebrate the release of the 1999 compilation Horseshoes & BBQ’s, 11345 Records’ debut release. It is the first audio commemoration of the legendary circle of talented friends. Gimbel penned the still-unreleased title track for the album’s San Francisco record release party (later recorded by his band Rookie Card, see link below). Even strangers to the story of 11345 have instantly been intoxicated by its imagery of the early years of the scene that the song depicts. Close your eyes and imagine a living room packed with a group of people all committed to making and appreciating great musical art. In each corner of the room, compass points remind you of the global nature of life and each point (N, S, E & W) is surrounded with appropriate icons associated with each letter. Neil Diamond stares from the North, the Sesame Street gang supports the South, Elvis Presley guards the East wall and Wham carelessly whispers to you from the West corner.

Close your eyes and remember. Here’s hoping we never forget.


“Horseshoes & BBQ’s” (Gimbel)
Star Search Factor Songs 1999

Boxcar Willie tumbled off the tracks
near the end of the Richmond line.
He said “Now, move over shorty.
El Cerrito Del Norte looks like it would suit me fine.
Well, I’ve been saving up some wishes
for a store that sells some fishes
down San Pablo way.”
So he aimed his boots across the parking lot
and went heading for Target (pronounced in French)

Singin’
“Throw your horseshoes and barbeques in the air
and throw a Travelodge backyard party
like you just don’t care.”
All the shit kickers
come to Altas Liquors.
But, they don’t even compare
to the folks across the street and up the stairs.

They said “Well, you can stay with us
if you sing us a song.”
And he swore they wuzza heaven sent.
They said “We’ve got some extra room
down in the Twilight Zone
and we already pay cheap rent.”
Well, he faced the east corner of the living room
and he waved towards on Ohio.
He said “I’ll rock every compass point
that’s left on the walls
on the evening of Seis De Mayo.”

Beatniks and Vendors, Sandycoates and Tuckers
all can have a place to roam
and we’ll even leave a light on
just in case Nova comes home.

Well, your red and black kitchen
is lookin’ mighty bitchin’.
And how about those hardwood floors?
If you need a posh flat to stay tonight
just dial 2-1-5-6-2-2-4!

11345now

11345 2017

Also read “The least embarrassing first song ever written”, the tale of Gimbel’s song for the Horseshoes compilation, “Miss Right Now”.

JELLYFISH TALE #5: HELLO, HELLO

Jellyfish Inspiral Carpets SDSU Backdoor 1991

Thought I kept a concert scrapbook, I never had an ad for this show until I found this recently on the San Diego Reader’s online archives. I had no idea the Inspirals played the Backdoor just two days before I saw them in Hollywood.

This was originally written for my Jellyfish site in 1996 when these memories were far fresher. Highly edited 21 years later with more than enough geeking out still intact. Yer welcome…

After months of loving their debut album, Jellyfish was finally coming back to southern California.  Who knows how I got San Diego concert news back in late 1990 (not from this brief mention in the SD edition of the LA Times) but I found out they were playing my hometown, which was only a two-and-a-half hour drive from where I was going to school in Los Angeles. Close enough. Someone in the band once told me that they, like many bands, just didn’t do well in LA. After doing early shows at Club Lingerie and the Roxy, they only did one more headlining show there, at the Palace in Hollywood in 1993.

Inspiral Carpets were playing said Palace the night before and I was going through a wicked Manchester phase.  Even Anglophiles Jellyfish weren’t immune, name-checking the Carpets onstage at one of their first shows, mentioning the Stones Roses in interviews and even covering “Fool’s Gold”.  My friend Jim, who’d introduced me to Jellyfish AND the Roses, came down for both shows from Santa Barbara, where he’d seen Jellyfish a few months earlier. After making us wait for two hours, the Inspirals opened with “Weakness” and induced instant pandemonium, immediately prompting a stage diver to land on my nose.
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90 kcr logoThe next day, Saturday, February 23, 1991, we picked up Jim’s girlfriend and future wife, Sonya, and drove down to San Diego State University, where I’d attended school the year before. The show was in a small downstairs room in the Aztec Center student union called the Backdoor, where bands like Talking Heads, the Ramones, Tom Waits, U2, the Replacements, Jane’s Addiction and Metallica had been playing since the early 70’s.  As a child, I’d watched The Black Stallion while going to summer camp there and, in late 1989, had seen Food For Feet play the same room.  Before the show, we walked across campus to visit radio station KCR, where I’d spent most of my freshman year. On the air was my old friend Jeff Motch, who would soon start 360 Magazine, design album covers and eventually own several successful restaurants around town. By the time we got back, there was a huge line to get into the show. I couldn’t believe how many people had heard of them. The album had been out less than six months but still hadn’t received much radio airplay.

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What the arcade next door probably looked like when I was seeing the Black Stallion at camp. Photo c/o http://universe.sdsu.edu/

I’d seen local opening act If Tomorrow, several times before. They brought the house down, closing with an epic cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”. The band came offstage excited about their version, until someone told them that someone who had worked with Pink Floyd was in the crowd and they quickly went from “Yeah!” to “We butchered it!” They were followed by an LA band called Everything who played a chugging, well-received set.

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SDSU Aztec Center c/o https://library.sdsu.edu/

We jockeyed for a decent spot and the anticipation ratcheted up. I’d never enjoyed watching a stage being setup so much before. First, you notice that all four of them are lined up at the front of the stage. Christmas lights are draped over the instruments. Here comes a bubble machine and sections of white picket fence to lean against the instruments. I couldn’t wait.

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Niko Wenner, early 1990s, Palo Alto photo by Hillary Sloss

Out they come in 70’s outfits, of course. Having not seen them before, I didn’t notice that the guitarist looked a little different. It turns out that it wasn’t Jason Falkner, but, Niko Wenner, a Bay Area friend from the band Oxbow. Jason had dislocated his shoulder earlier the year before and when it acted up horribly in November, it required surgery. Wenner filled in for him from December to February of 1991. No one mentioned Jason that night, Wenner sounded great and I didn’t know the difference.  I’ve never seen any pictures or video from these shows but audio from a San Francisco show at Slim’s popped up on the Jellyfish media archive at http://jellyfish-archive.de.  It included a rare cover of Todd Rundgren’s “Couldn’t I Just Love You” I uploaded earlier this year.

The only snag the band hit was when they played a show in Long Beach recorded by the Westwood One Radio Network. Jason didn’t want any of the songs to be released as Jellyfish tracks unless he played on them. So, he went back into a studio and re-recorded the guitar and vocal parts, which were released as b-sides and in full on the 2012 live album Live at Bogarts. Wenner wasn’t thanked on the original release but was on future pressings.

Jellyfish-Live-At-Bogarts-Product-ShotThe band starts in and it’s not something from the album. I know I know it, but, I’m not sure from where. Wait, it’s “Hold Your Head Up” by Argent. Despite my classic rock childhood, I’d only recently heard it on the Queen’s Logic soundtrack. From there, they go right into their unreleased gem, “Hello”. Perfect rocking hooky guitar pop. I’m in heaven. I was wondering how this band with only one album was going to do a full set and they’re not disappointing.

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It’s the THE JELLYFISHERS, damnit!

From there, they go RIGHT into “Calling Sarah”. Interesting, the first song they play off of the album is the last one on the record. Finally a breather in between songs. Some guy keeps yelling that there’s too much reverb on the snare. Andy sarcastically replies, “Thanks, pal.” Before we have time to think, they’re doing “King” and it’s glorious. The middle eight vocals are unreal. From there, we hear “I Wanna Stay Home”. Next, we get two more new songs. The first is “Mr. Late” and it’s incredible. The next is “Bye, Bye, Bye”. They’re doing a polka! This is too much.
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“She Still Loves Him” is the biggest rocker of the night. They mention that Chris Isaak is in town and Roger does a fun impersonation. Also, they just went to an outdated Chuck E Cheese style restaurant called Bullwinkle’s, where the puppets still sing Hall & Oates songs. Important stuff. Here comes another new one called “Marry Me” and, again, it’s as good as anything on the album. “Now She Knows She’s Wrong” follows it and the acoustic parts sound soooo good. They start into a lounge thing, no wait, it’s Player’s “Baby Come Back”!!!! They do a bit of it and go right into “Baby’s Coming Back”. Next up, they cover “Jet” by Wings. In the middle, Andy yells, “Ladies and gentlemen, Linda McCartney!” and Roger plays the solo horribly. The last notes go right into Badfinger’s “No Matter What”.  They rock out “All I Want Is Everything” and leave the stage.

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Aztec Center at SDSU Photo c/o https://as.sdsu.edu

The crowd goes nutso and gets them back out to play “The Man I Used To Be”. The band informs us that the Gulf War ground war has just started, as we’d all been fearing, so hopefully “this will send a scud missile straight to your heart”. “Into battle” would never sound so eerie. They follow it with a bit of “Let ‘Em In” by Wings. Too much! Saving their biggest radio hit for last, they segue right into “That Is Why”. They leave again and come back to people yelling for every 70’s band imaginable. Finally, in a brief moment of silence, someone yells out “Fleetwood Mac!” and Roger immediately starts playing “Go Your Own Way”, nodding as if to say “Oh, you want Fleetwood Mac?!” Our jaws drop as they actually do the….WHOLE….SONG. We were disappointed to find out later that a friend of theirs knew it was coming and yelled for it.  Still, an amazing closer.

We staggered away knowing the trip had definitely been worth it. I passed up buying a shirt with the circle logo on the chest and a square with the album cover’s bellybutton in the appropriate place but grabbed some stickers and a postcard to join their fanclub, the Jellyfish Army. We went out back to wait for the band and talked to Everything for awhile. They’d played together a few months earlier at the Roxy in Hollywood, where the drummer told me JF had done a hilarious Dennis DeYoung soundalike contest onstage.  Jellyfish had asked them to come down to open this show and, not long after, I saw them play a noontime set at my school, Cal State Northridge. Years later, singer Dave Ambrose found our site and recalled playing with them: “Both times we played our hearts out, both shows they blew our asses right off the stage. No band played tighter or sang better than those guys.”

We’d been hanging out near the backstage area awhile and it was getting late. As some current KCR DJ’s were excitedly telling me that they still played commercials I’d produced there, someone finally ran up and told us that the band had walked right out the front door. We rushed around to the front to see them chatting with fans. I wanted to ask Roger about their previous band, Beatnik Beatch, but couldn’t remember the name, accidentally asking him about Beat Happening. He knew what I meant but refused to remember. Andy was friendly and happy to tell us how they’d met Cheap Trick recently and that they hadn’t aged well. I told him he actually looked a little like Robin Zander and he replied, “Don’t say that!”

ct w jf color

Chris is alright, Tommy’s alright, Roger’s alright, Jason’s alright, Robin’s alright….

We talked a little bit about the covers in their set and he and Roger both agreed in unison. “Too many covers,” they said, shaking their heads. We reassured them that it was good fun and I asked if they’d ever consider doing a Beatles song. Andy said that Wings were a little more their speed, though they soon played a bit of “Rain” during a rainy MTV taping and covered “Eleanor Rigby” on Japanese television in 1993.  They told us about a recent interview they were “FREAKING OUT” about where Kurt Loder had mentioned them in an interview with Paul McCartney. I’d always wanted to find it but- oh, hello, internet.

It was the nicest conversation I ever had with Andy, so, naturally, I ruined it by asking for his autograph. No one seemed to have a pen, so I started to run back to my car, only to realize halfway there that I hadn’t driven. When I got back, someone had found a pen and lacking any paper, I had him sign the back of a coupon I had for Mexican restaurant La Salsa. It reads “Adam-An official Flying Burrito Brother. Andy”.
91 andy autograph

Jellyfish returned to SDSU just four months later, opening for the Black Crowes at the Open Air Ampitheater, where I’d gone to my very first show back in 1984. Although I moved back to San Diego in 1995, I never saw another show at the Backdoor, though I did see the Grays’ Buddy Judge play guitar with Liz Phair upstairs at Montezuma Hall. They closed down the room for concerts in 1997 and it became a meeting space before the amazing midcentury student union built in the sixties was sadly demolished to make way for a brand new student center in 2011.

demolished

2011 demolition photo c/o http://newscenter.sdsu.edu/

Sooooo, after waiting for months to see Jellfyish, they’d gone way beyond expectations and I couldn’t wait to see them again. Little did I know I’d see them another twelve times in just three years. To my surprise, I got to see them less than two weeks later….

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GROOVE IS IN THE HEART: the samples

unherd

Photo by Ricardo

Locally produced ABC-TV music show, Unherd, just aired a Thanksgiving Special, inviting local viewers and musicians to fill-in for the regular hosts. They had me write something for the music history section normally hosted by radio veteran Mike Halloran. I was asked to relate it to A Tribe Called Quest since a review of their new album was preceding it, so I wrote about Q-Tip’s guest spot on Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart”.

Despite the combination of my hastily assigned and written script, bad eyesight and a quick shoot in a dark graffiti park in front of a group of strangers, I managed to get through it in just 374 takes. They were nice enough to post amateur outtakes on Facebook with my mistake obviously hinting at how frustrated I was getting.  Definitely a HUGE newfound respect for folks who have to read tele-prompters.  Here’s the section with my piece and staff-writer Andrea’s Lou Reed history.

Lito did a great job with the graphics and editing. The only thing they left out was explaining why I bothered mentioning my BMG intern desk.  See if you can spot the Tribe promo album flat.
deskThe short piece was only 100 words long which was quite an exercise in editing, especially for such an interesting tune. Here’s the 291 words it started out as……

Born out of the late 80’s New York dance clubs, Deee-Lite preached
global unity with a diverse lineup made up of Russian immigrant Dmitry
Brill (Supa DJ Dmitry), Japanese design student Dong-hwa Chung (who
became Towa Tei) and frontwoman Kierin M. Kirby, better known as Lady
Miss Kier.  Often dismissed as a one hit wonder, their debut album
World Clique is a layered dancefloor masterpiece from front to back
and they topped the US dance charts six times in their short five year
recording career.  None of the singles nearly matched the hook-filled
worldwide success of their debut, “Groove Is In The Heart”, which hit
#1 in Australia and was voted single of the year by the staff of both
NME and The Village Voice.

Jonathan Davis (the Q-Tip one not to be confused with the singer from
Korn) saw the band perform the song at the Hotel Amazon in New York
and asked if he could rhyme on the recording.  He wrote his 16 bars on
a notepad while famed Parliament bassist Bootsy Collins laid down his
bass part and then recorded his rap in just one take.  Collins also cut a
rap that found its way onto the song’s remixes and recruited famed
James Brown bandmates, horn players Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley to
play on the track.  Almost everything else on the song was sampled
from a wide-ranging selection of sources from a belly-dance
instruction record to Eva Gabor sighing “I” on the Green Acres theme.
Most of the song is anchored on two samples, the bassline from the
Herbie Hancock song “Bring Down the Birds” from the 1966 soundtrack
album Blowup and 70’s R&B singer Vernon Burch’s “Get Up” for the
song’s drums, tambourine, crowd noise and famous (whistle) which kept
the world’s slide whistle industry in the money for years.

Here’s a Youtube playlist I put together of the songs sampled in “Groove”…

Sample breakdown c/o Wikipedia:

  • Bel-Sha-Zaar with Tommy Genapopoluis and the Grecian Knights – “Introduction” from the album The Art of Belly Dancing, 1969, Gateway: GSLP 3527 (intro music, vocal sample: “We’re going to dance, and have some fun“)
  • Herbie Hancock – “Bring Down the Birds” from the soundtrack album Blowup, 1966 (bassline)
  • Vernon Burch – “Get Up” from the album Get Up (drums, crowd noise, slide whistle)
  • Ray Barretto – “Right On” from the album Barretto Power, 1972 (cowbell)
  • Theme from the TV series Green Acres (vocal sample: looped “I” sample (“I-i-i-i-i-i“), sung by Eva Gabor)
  • Ralph MacDonald – “Jam on the Groove” from the album Sound of a Drum, 1976 (percussion)
  • Billy Preston – “Uptight” from the album Wildest Organ in Town!, 1966 (breakbeat under rap by Q-Tip)
  • The Headhunters – “God Make Me Funky” from the album Survival of the Fittest, 1975 (drum fill)

adam-drink

THE STORY BEHIND THE ONLY PHOTO OF ME DRINKING ALCOHOL: Some musician friends of mine decided to have their wedding reception at the legendary Lafayette Hotel in San Diego. It was a great night but when it came time for us to dance, the DJ they’d hired slowly began to ruin things. Time after time, right when he’d get a ton of excited, happy dancers going, he’d cut away to something that would empty the dancefloor and punctuate it with a “Lookin’ good out there!” on the mic. Finally, when he played “Groove Is In The Heart”, a song the bride and I had talked about dancing to earlier, I ran over and BEGGED him not to cut it short. About 90 seconds in and WAY before Q-Tip’s rap, he segued into Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and immediately cleared the place. ENTER SANDMAN!? I started SCREAMING at him until people had to hold me back. I don’t drink. EVER. I grabbed someone’s beer and went back to the empty dance floor and sat down, yelling “LOOK what ya did!” I hate to name names but this man is known as The Party Rican. “I’m a Puerto Rican that loves to party. Get it?…The Party Rican!” Yep, we get it. I was so inspired by how proud he was of his heritage that I almost started using the name “Jew Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party” when I DJ’d friends weddings. Almost.

Thanks again to everyone at Unherd TV for the invite!

OH, CAROLINE NO. REMEMBERING CAROLINE CRAWLEY

Lost my breath when I read about Caroline Crawley’s recent passing. What a voice to be silenced.  It was hard enough knowing how little of her adult life was spent singing publicly. Seems fitting to finally repost what I wrote close to twenty years ago about Babacar appearing on the Songs For Summer charity record…..

When your name is Summer, you see your name everywhere. Summer vacation, summer camp, summer everything. Most importantly, you have lots of songs with your name in it. When I first met Summer, I asked her what her favorite summersong was and she replied “Summer Flies” by Shelleyan Orphan. At that point, I knew it was over.shelleyan1

Shelleyan Orphan was a British band whose baroque, almost classical sound is beautiful beyond description. Not your typical rock. They’re credited with influencing bands like The Sundays and The Cranberries but those bands aren’t even in the same league. Singer Caroline Crawley is one of the most talented singers to ever sing a note. You may have heard her vocals on This Mortal Coil songs but the band’s biggest claim to fame (at least in America) was that they opened for the Cure on the Disintegration tour in 1989. If I’m not mistaken, it was on this tour that Cure drummer Boris Williams met Shelleyan singer Caroline Crawley.

I saw that tour in San Diego. My friends and I dressed up goth. I looked more like Ian Astbury from the Cult with short hair. Summer tried to be goth for a few months but all she ended up doing was wearing magenta and listening to Sisters of Mercy a lot. I don’t remember much about the Cure’s show other than LOTS of smoke but I remember LOVING Shelleyan Orphan and losing my friend Jim’s father’s fake earring during their set. After the show, we saw some members of the band walking anonymously through the crowd. It almost seemed like a bet that they wouldn’t get noticed even though they’d just played in front of thousands of people. We chased after them to tell them how great we thought their set was and they seemed genuinely flattered.

shelleyan2I couldn’t believe it when Summer told me how much she loved “Summer Flies”. The fact that she’d even heard of the band was good enough for me. I remember writing a letter to the afforementioned Jim to tell him that I’d started dating a girl named Summer and her favorite summersong was “Summer Flies”, just to make him jealous. He responded with a tape that had one side filled with summersongs. I filled up the other side with more and gave it to her.

The band put out three great albums and then disappeared. Summer was always on the lookout for information about them but never heard anything. While we were on vacation in New York City, she excitedly ran up to me in a record store carrying a cd by a band called Babacar. It had a sticker that said it featured Caroline Crawley. Then she pointed to the best part: the name of the song featured on the British single was “Midsummer”. Too much. Not surprisingly, the song was amazing, as many people who love Songs For Summer have told me. The single had very little information about the band and we never heard anything else about them.

After Summer passed away, one of the first things I did was make a mixtape of some of her favorite songs to give to family and friends. I HAD to include “Summer Flies”. I wanted to put the song on Songs For Summer but I looked into it fairly late and the red tape was pretty thick. By chance, an e-mail I’d written fell into the hands of Brad Morrison, the man who had handled the band’s American affairs for ten years. He also released an entire Babacar album on his label, Absolute A Go Go Records. It turns out that Babacar was mainly Caroline and Boris but they enlisted the help of Jem from Shelleyan and Porl Thompson from the Cure among others. He was touched by Summer’s story and suddenly “Midsummer” was as good as on the record. He phoned Caroline and Boris in England and they instantly agreed to let us use the song.

I don’t remember how it came up but Brad told me that when he first met his wife, she mentioned the band Big Star (one of Summer’s favorite bands) and he knew she was the one for him. Great minds. Is that so wrong?

More Summer tales here.