Jeff Smith 2:30 p.m., June 26
Gary Wilson: Cult Hero’s Return, plus 50 Locals Reveal Fave Beatle, Fave Twilight Zone, and Birth of Their Band Name
Exclusive chat with a mysterious local legend
1 – Gary Wilson: A Cult Hero’s Return – Exclusive chat with a mysterious local legend in the midst of the most unexpected and unlikely comeback ever
2 – Birth of a Bandname: 50 Local Bands Describe How They Got Their Name
3 - No Good Charlotte - Band Burns Their Fans
4 - Eben Brooks Goes Sci-Fi - Zelazny Rocks!
5 – We Asked Twenty-Five Local Musicians “Lennon Or McCartney?” (and why?)
6 – Twenty-Five Local Musicians Answer “What’s Your Favorite Twilight Zone?”
7 - Deepest Dimension: The Inside/Untold Story of a Locally-Produced Twilight Zone Spin-off Comic Book Series, co-created with original Zone writer George Clayton Johnson
GARY WILSON – RETURN OF A LOCAL CULT HERO
"You don't remember who I am, do you?" Gary Wilson asked me via e-mail. I'd been interviewing the indie-rock pioneer about his rediscovery since being name-checked in Beck's "Where It's At" ------
"Passin' the dutchie from coast to coast/ like my man Gary Wilson rocks the most."
When an e-mail from Wilson mentioned "Don't you remember lending me that article you wrote about [TV show] Thriller?", I realized that I'd known and hung out with Gary Wilson for years.
Wilson was employed at the same local strip club where my housemate at the time ("Savannah") worked. I used to hang around the place to talk with him about music and vintage TV shows we both loved, particularly the aforementioned Thriller series. He may have mentioned he used to be in a band.
But I didn't know he was THE Gary Wilson, whose homemade '70s records are being reissued to such acclaim.
A recent documentary film, You Think You Really Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story, details the life of the eccentric indie-punk pioneer, best known for his highly sought 1977 LP You Think You Really Know Me. The album was recorded in the basement of his parents' house, and only a few hundred copies were pressed -- many of them smashed over Wilson's head at shows.
“I originally pressed 300 copies in 1977 and then pressed another 300 in 1979,” Wilson tells me. “I only have one copy left. When I went back home [to film scenes for the documentary], I did find the original lyric sheets for YTYRKM, but no more copies of the records. I found copies of my first album, Another Galaxy."
Even many devotional Wilson fans (and their numbers are legion, growing every day) often aren’t aware that You Think You Really Know Me wasn’t his first homemade album. “Another Galaxy was self-released in 1974,” Wilson tells me. “This was an instrumental album consisting of four extended selections. Gary Iacovelli, who was later featured on some of the songs from You Think You Really Know Me, played drums.”
Highly influenced by avant-garde performer John Cage, Wilson says "I feel [Cage] is the most important composer of our time. Mr. Cage was my idol when I was growing up. When I was 12 and 13 I was listening to Edgar Varèse, [Alban] Berg, [Arnold] Schoenberg, other 12-tone music. I thought that that music sounded cool and weird. I went to the local university record library and listened to the album that I consider the most important album in my life. It was called Concert for Piano and Orchestra by John Cage, with David Tudor on piano. When I heard this record, my ears and thoughts expanded. I started to go for the most extreme avant-garde music and art I could find."
Born in upstate New York in 1953, Wilson grew up admiring Dion and the Belmonts, even copying Dion’s piled and styled hairdo (which once got him beat up by neighborhood bullies). After seeing the Beatles play Shea Stadium, the multi-instrumentalist joined his first band, Lord Fuzz, a teen group who’d released a single and opened for the 1910 Fruitgum Company.
He was still living in the small town of Endicott, New York, at the time. After he founded his own offbeat group, “Gigs for an experimental rock band were hard to come by. One time, I booked a gig at the local American Legion for my band. The place was filled with senior citizens expecting a waltz or a polka. I arrived with tape recorders and things to make noise with. I had contact microphones, highly amplified, hooked up to various objects, and the Blind Dates would scratch these objects against one another. This produced a horrible screeching sound. The tapes and the feedback along with an amplified saxophone produced a highly chaotic show. The Blind Dates were all wrapped up together in duct tape and covered with flour and paint."
"After about 20 minutes we finished our first 'song.' The manager of the American Legion came up to us in shock and said, 'What the hell was that?' I asked him if he wanted us to continue. He told us to get the hell out of the place. Sometimes I would book my band into the wrong venue, just for my own enjoyment."
In 1978, Wilson moved to San Diego, in hopes of furthering his thus-far DIY music career. "Some of the original Blind Dates -- Joey Lunga, Butch Bottino, and Dave Haney -- had moved from Endicott [New York] to San Diego a few years before me. I ended up moving into a house with them, and we were able to practice and put the group back together."
(Gary and the Blind Dates in San Diego - note Gary's Turtles-style Coral Sitar/guitar)
Wilson and the Blind Dates performed all over San Diego in makeup, led séances from the stage, and were known to wear beekeeper's hats or sheets of plastic held together by duct tape. Club operators at long-gone area venues like the Roxy in PB, the Skeleton Club(s) downtown, and Straita Head Sound often booted him over the messes.
“I have a fond memory of total chaos onstage, and someone from Straighta Head Sound yelling to Joey [Lunga, keyboardist] to please not throw the TV set off the stage,” Wilson recalls. “Joey, who is a big guy, picked the TV up over his head and threw it on the floor below the stage. The television set shattered into a thousand pieces. It was a great ending to our show. The stage hand was horrified.”
In late 1979, Gary Wilson and the Blind Dates played CBGBs and Max's Kansas City in NY, among some other east coast dates. Six of the shows were recorded for a possible live album. "At the time," says Wilson, "I had two-track master tapes recorded right off the board at CBGBs. I lost these tapes. Hope to find them at some point."
Around the same time, local music paper Kicks were running constant ads for Wilson's new album, produced my Michael Coyne. "Michael Coyne produced and put up the money for Invasion Of Privacy," recalls Wilson. "Michael was in negotiations with Capitol Records and would guarantee me to Capitol Records. He then got popped in Lima, Peru and spent years in Peru's jail. He lost everything."
"Gary Wilson had tape and stuff wrapped around him and there's flour being thrown all over during his performances," recalls Mark DeCerbo of Four Eyes. "I'm sure the crowd there that night had never seen anything like it in their lives.... Gary would run through the crowd like a maniac and out of the club and disappear. We would see him back at the house after the gig, and he'd be sitting there in the dark."
Some of the Blind Dates would go on to play with Four Eyes.
"Our equipment was broken down and ragged and literally held together by duct tape," recalls Wilson today. "Something caught on fire onstage; I think it was caused by a power cord from one of our amps. After our performance, there was a tremendous amount of flour all over the stage and the club's equipment. It looked like a snowstorm hit the place.... I can't remember being paid for the gig. The owner probably got mad at us and docked us our pay."
In the early ‘90s, You Think You Really Know Me was reissued by Cry Baby Records, an offshoot of Philadelphia Record Exchange.
“They were fans of the original 1977 pressing and thought it would be good to re release the record,” according to Wilson. “I said sure, and sent them the tape and the photos. They sent me a 50% advance and then, after they pressed it, sent me the other 50%. They also changed the cover of the original 77 pressing from black and white to a negative red. As I recall, we had to have the Cry Baby reissue remastered, because the speed of the reissue was different then the original. Since I recorded it on my home equipment, their tape machines didn't match mine. I guess the times and circumstances (lack of publicity, etc.) were not quite right, and the Cry Baby reissue never went anyplace. I think they pressed 1000 copies.”
Around the same time, Wilson was the anonymous keyboardist for a local lounge act called Company East, fronted by Donnie Finnell – not even his bandmates knew he was THE Gary Wilson. With a monthly gig at the Rancho Bernadino Inn, the group was pretty sedate, though Wilson recounts one incident that harkened back to those crazy old sets with the Blind Dates.
“It was New Year's Eve, early 1990s, at a private party held at the house of the president of a big company. The band was finishing up our last few songs for the evening when all of a sudden there was a loud noise and commotion in the other room...a fight had started and guests started running out of the room screaming. They were covered in blood and their tuxedoes and gowns were ripped and destroyed. Two of the guests went through the picture window and were rolling around on the lawn. Glass everywhere...we continued to play for another five minutes. I remember breaking down the equipment as fast as we could."
Years later, after Sub Pop Records cited Gary Wilson as an indie inspiration, Beck made him immortal by mentioning his name in 1996's "Where It's At" ("Passin' the dutchie from coast to coast/ like my man Gary Wilson rocks the most").
New York's Motel Records decided they wanted to rerelease Wilson's seminal YTYRKM LP, and they hired a private detective to find the long-vanished, reclusive rock pioneer.
He was rediscovered working at the local porn shop and strip club where I used to chat him up while dropping off or picking up Savannah. In short order came the reissue, new records, sold out concerts, and glowing reviews all over the globe touting this most unlikely comeback success story.
All of a sudden, Wilson was earning tons of glowing mainstream press, in the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere. 20 years after his final show as Gary Wilson, he returned to the stage on May 16, 2002, with two sold-out concerts at Joe’s Pub in New York City.
The reclusive legend is usually backed in concert by Blind Dates Joey Lunga (keyboards), Butch Bottino (bass), Dave Haney (drums), and Ian (guitar). A couple of hugely successful reunion shows have been staged here in San Diego. “Had a good time at the Casbah last night,” he emailed me after one show. “The flour was flowing freely.”
“Motel Records threw a big party for me at Chateau Marmont in 2002,” he says. “I was playing at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood and I had a chance to stay there…they had a good review in the Village Voice of my 2002 show at New York's Joe's Pub.” He still seems genuinely astonished by things like this.
Gary Wilson’s music is now spreading so far and wide that one of his songs was included on the Adult Swim Cartoon Network CD Chrome Children, also on the Stones Throw label. “It's funny,” he emailed, “they are using an instrumental, ‘Dreams,’ that I put out as a single when I was 17.”
Continuing the DIY work ethic even into the new millennium, Wilson’s CDs often include homespun photography and artwork by his long-time girlfriend, Bernadette Allen, who also shoots video footage screened behind Wilson in concert. She’s known Wilson long enough to have seen him promoting the original 1977 album at Max's Kansas City in New York. Here’s her surreal video “When I Think of Gary Wilson”:
(Concert shots 4-28-08)
On Thursday, July 10 of this year (’08), You Think You Really Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story screened in LA at the Silent Movie Theater, in conjunction with the Don't Knock The Rock Film And Music Festival. The gig was to promote the documentary’s DVD release by Plexifilm. “I will be doing a performance after the screening,” Wilson emailed at the time. "The back up band is Ross Harris on electronics, Patti Wilson on backing vocals, Ariel Pink on bass, Adrian Milan on drums, Adam on keyboards, and Grady on guitar. Should be a wild show.”
After the show, he wrote to say “We played on the rooftop of the venue...It was a warm night, so it worked out well. We went on about 12:45 a.m. I'm surprised the cops didn't stop us, but that's good.”
A few days later, Wilson’s new CD Lisa Wants to Talk to You was released by Human Ear music. “It’s all-new material,” he says, “recorded in my home studio, no computer.” Besides Beck and myself, others who cite themselves as Gary Wilson fans include the Roots, Questlove, and Simpsons creator Matt Groening.
You Think You Really Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story, was reviewed in the New York Times: "Mr. Wilson's magnetism has lost some of its valence when you see the experimental films he and his friends made in their youth.... His ponytailed locks are thinner and grayer, and his antics seem twitchier and creepier....Indie-rock enthusiasts will find much to appreciate, however, in a film whose soundtrack is more enjoyable than its narrative. Gary Wilson and the Blind Dates, as his band was known, come off as pioneers of the suburban underground. They do for used record stores what R. Crumb and Harvey Pekar do for used comic book stores."
Footage of Wilson in the 74-minute documentary includes interviews conducted while he worked behind bulletproof plastic in the San Diego porn shop (see above pic).
GARY WILSON’S FIVE FAVORITE RECORDS
1 - Dion, "Runaround Sue" or "Lovers Who Wander" ("Either single. Dion was my idol when I was nine...my mother would wake up in the morning and curl my hair [like Dion's] before I went to school.")
2 - The Fugs, Tenderness Junction ("I saw the Fugs at Cornell University right after they released it...one of the first real underground bands.")
3 - Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, We're Only in It for the Money or Absolutely Free ("I saw Frank Zappa many times. I still like the early recordings better than later records.")
4 - Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Trout Mask Replica ("A great recording. When I was 16 years old I saw [Beefheart] for the first time in Ithaca, New York. I saw him about four times.")
5 - The Rolling Stones, Between the Buttons ("I was a fan when they still had the late Brian Jones playing with them.")
FAVORITE TV SHOWS
1 - Boris Karloff's Thriller ("Aired in the early '60s -- fantastic. I have a collection of episodes on VHS that I watch over and over, to the dismay of my current girlfriend, Bernadette.")
2 - The Twilight Zone ("Rod Serling is from the same [New York state] area that I'm from.")
3 - The Outer Limits ("The television shows have to be the original black-and-white episodes or I can't watch them.")
1 - Carnival of Souls, 1962 ("I must have watched my VHS copy a thousand times. Just recently [got] the director's cut on DVD.")
2 - The Mask, 1961 ("When the character in the film puts on an ancient mask, the audience simultaneously puts on a pair of 3-D glasses. This opens the audience up to the world that the character in the film is seeing.")
FILM TRAILER “YOU THINK YOU REALLY KNOW ME: THE GARY WILSON STORY”
"A Duff is a Designated Ugly Fat Friend. They are most commonly spotted within a small group of girls hidden behind a large burrito or super-sized meal. They have a violent temper and must be approached with extreme caution. They get drunk and occasionally hook up with average people. Duffs, beware: This group will no longer tolerate awkward, hung-over mornings waking up next to you...Duff-O-Cide is a union of concerned citizens with a shared goal of spreading awareness about the Duff problem in San Diego, through the use of power chords and guitar distortion." -- Scott Gawlik, lead guitar
"Our name is a code that police use to describe white trash. Example: 'We got a 4:20 whiskey tango on the corner of Bixby and Fourth.' Translation: We got some dope-smoking white trash...it also means to do the drunken stumble. When you have a lot to drink and begin to stumble around, you are doing the Whiskey Tango." --Phil Bensimon, bass/vocals.
THE COYOTE PROBLEM
"When we moved into this neighborhood, one of the first things our neighbors told us was, 'We have a coyote problem.' I love listening to the coyotes howl almost every night. It's a beautiful, ancient sound. They're magnificent animals, really, just trying to survive like the rest of us. Coyotes ply the netherworld between the city and the country. They're the ultimate suburbanites. They've been hunting these hills for 100,000 years. We've been here for two hundred. Maybe I should have called our band the Human Problem." -- Peter Bolland, guitar/vocals.
EVE WHITE EVE BLACK
"We chose the name of a Siouxsie and the Banshees song that our singer Amy and I love. It's an aggressive and loud song that captures you with its insane howling by Miss Sioux. The title is also a reference to psychosis and the multiple personalities of a woman who is schizophrenic in The Three Faces of Eve" (the book and film). -- Neva Chiva, bass.
"There are three types of people in this world: sharks, guppies, and shark bait. Sharks are the doers; they act instinctually and without fear. Guppies are the majority; they lack certain qualities necessary to explore deeper waters and are regularly feasted on by sharks. Shark bait tend to be young and female, and even the mightiest shark must realize that, while tempting, shark bait can actually be quite dangerous. We chose to name ourselves after the most stylish shark in the sea: the homey wearing the stripes." -- Travis Hunter, guitar/vocals.
"Our band name was taken directly from the pages of Dante's Inferno. Our songs are about people in the different levels of Dante's conception of Hell. We're completely secular -- I'm not even sure if any of us really believe in Hell, or gods for that matter, but humans make an interesting study, and humans live to f--k things up. According to Dante, the eighth level of hell is for the fraudulent, the liars, the panderers, and the false flatterers. I think that covers nearly the entire human race." -- Jen Otis, vocals.
THE BUZZKILL ROMANTICS
"In my last band, I started to gain a reputation for anti-enthusiasm, eventually acquiring the nickname Shruggs Buzzkill. But that's pretty bland on its own, eh? Everything I write is about the downside of love, the exultation of passion, and the conflict between reason and emotion. Hence Romantics, [although] more Edgar Allan Poe than Valentine's Day." -- Jason Hee, guitar/vocals.
"Our first guitar player was an architect, and he noticed most of the buildings he drew up around here need to have a certain rating to be able to stand up to an earthquake. Seismic zones are labeled one through four, with the numbers representing increasing risks and magnitude of damage likely to occur due to earthquakes in those zones. Here in San Diego, buildings have to be rated to withstand a 'zone 4'--type quake." -- Jim Popeney, guitar/vocals.
THE PLOT TO BLOW UP THE EIFFEL TOWER
"We're a gang of Jews and homosexuals [who] draw our main inspiration from the rioting queers at Stonewall, babies throwing temper tantrums, the Hell's Angels at Altamont, and really ugly, greasy sex noises...we're proud of that p-ss waterfall that got us banned in Baltimore. So we took the [band] name from a book by rock critic Greil Marcus called Lipstick Traces, because we figured he might write about us if we plagiarized him." -- Brandon Welchez, vocals/saxophone.
"[It means] bowel sounds, the gurgling, rumbling, or growling noise from the abdomen caused by the muscular contractions of peristalsis, the process that moves the contents of the stomach and intestines downward. The group has been rumbling around the San Diego area since 2000. The sounds they make are the perfectly normal gurgles and growls from the belly of the musical underground." -- Marcos Fernandes, percussionist/improvisation.
"Our first bass player grabbed a dictionary, and I did too. We started at A. She came up with Abigail, and I came up with Attic. An 'Abigail' turns out to mean 'a woman's servant' -- weird sh-t. At every show someone yells out, 'Who's Abigail?' and we show them our mascot doll. She always sits on the bass drum. Abigail is a cutie pie who aspires to front her own all-mascot band someday." -- Val Easterbrook, guitar/vocals.
"Besides being an obvious rip-off of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, the name also describes the style of music we play. Looking at Earth from space, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe all come together in the Mediterranean, literally meaning the 'Middle Earth.' A lot of our music is derived from the Middle East. Also, Led Zeppelin had an influence on us. They had a lot of Middle Eastern elements in their music, as well as many lyrical references to Tolkien...we do instrumental covers of a few Zeppelin tunes." -- Frank Lazzaro, drummer.
"It started as a Kinko's error. We originally called ourselves Bloodbath, but the first time we had show flyers printed up, they cut [the flyers] at the wrong size and cut off the H. We went ahead and got a refund from Kinko's, but we kept the name Bloodbat because we're goth, so blood and bats make sense. All our [song and album] titles now play on existing titles...our Christmas album was I Saw Mommy Ripped by Satan's Claws." -- Jose Torres, guitar.
"The three indigenous Pacific Northwest Indian tribes are the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian, who considered northern British Columbia and southeast Alaska their territory. Ketchikan has two meanings in the common native tongue among these tribes. Depending on how it's pronounced, it can either mean 'sound of bird's wings' or 'stinkpit.' We tell girls it means sound of bird's wings, and we tell guys it's stinkpit." -- Jarad Johnston, guitar/vocals.
"San Diego is an odd place to grow up if you are Chicano...in my personal opinion, Chicano culture in San Diego is considered a novelty. It has been designated simply to a park in National City and similar areas were you can't deny the overwhelming presence of the people who live there. These are the barrios of San Diego. They were designed to keep a culture and a race of people segregated from the rest of America; glass menageries to keep novelties like Mexican culture in. There are other cultures in similar situations here, to be sure, but Mexico is in our blood, so this is who we represent. We are the Brown Side Players, and we are taking the culture out of glass cases and displaying it to the rest of the world." -- Russell Gonzales, saxophone.
RETURN OF MR. BLACKSHIRT
"The name came from a person I used to work with who only wore black shirts. Just a normal T-shirt, not a uniform or anything like that. He wore the same black shirt every day or he had a closet full of black shirts so he could wear a clean one every day. I never had the nerve to ask him, and the legend grew from there. So he left the company for a while, and after a few months he came back to work. Thus, the Return of Mr. Blackshirt." -- Mike Eckhart, guitar/vocals.
A WEEKS WORTH
"A week is the cycle of our life's routine. We work in this cycle, plan in this cycle, count the time that has passed, and even use it to justify our behavior. Some people promise to themselves this week will be different, while others enjoy a steady routine. Seven days can mean as much as the creation of the world or as little as the menial accomplishments many strive for in their work lives. Either way, a week's worth is what you make of it, just like everything." -- Danny Geiger, guitar/vocals.
"The Damaru is a two-sided percussion instrument that is shaken with two balls striking the membranes as part of spiritual practices in Tibet, India, and Nepal. The most powerful Damarus are created from human skulls, as described in Mickey Hart's book Drumming at the Edge of Magic. These drums are known to have mystical powers and can wreak havoc if placed in the wrong hands. In Hindu philosophy the Damaru is the drum held by Shiva through which the universe is created. The Damaru symbolizes the mystery of manifestation and the evolution of the cosmos." -- Frank Lazzaro, drummer.
"I was watching an episode of VH1's Behind the Music about the Black Crowes, talking about the Robinson brothers' rocky relationship and how at one point it boiled over as they were completing one of their studio albums. The fight came to blows, and one brother took the masters from the studio and threw them in the garbage. The name of that [Black Crowes] album was going to be Tall, which is a euphemism for getting high." -- Stuart T. Smith, vocals
HOLIDAY AND THE ADVENTURE POP COLLECTIVE
"Holiday references both vacationing and the great Billie Holiday. When Louis [Caverly] and I began working on old and new songs and decided to 'get the band back together,' therein lies the collective. When put together, our name combines the specific with concepts, dreams, and great escape. Think 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.' "-- Derric Oliver, guitar/horns.
"We started in 1994 in Sweden. I'm American and the other four original members were Swedish. After learning a few punk covers and adding a few originals, we were ready to play our first gig in the tiny town we lived in, Varberg, but we needed a name. After some long, weird drive through the country, the word 'Pride' popped in my head. Then I thought about how the Swedish bandmembers loved to bowl, since that town's six-lane alley was probably the only local place one could find people having fun on any given day. So we came up with the name 'Pridebowl' and said it over and over until it didn't make sense anymore. We really wanted a name that wasn't in the dictionary." -- Aaron Goulding, vocals
"One morning I went out to a family IHOP breakfast with all my relatives. My grandma pulls out this giant box of sheet music, old hymns, and popular singles you and I have probably never heard of that looked like they survived the Holocaust -- most of them did, dated around the 1940s. One sheet of paper literally started to crumble as I picked it up -- a chorus girl's résumé with a list of songs she knew. 'The Rosery' was one of the numbers listed, and Rose happens to be my mother's and my grandmother's middle name." -- Lucas Coleman, guitar/vocals
"Our name comes from the idea that the percentage of our brain that people use today is a fraction of what it should be. We have a lot more potential than we can even conceive. Television, media, and the government are all key players in the dumbing-down of the human race. Innerlimit dares one to explore the known realms of thinking...to create a better world." -- Drew Bent, vocals/percussion.
"I was named after an Indian boy that my father treated at a domestic psych ward during the Vietnam War...this eight-year-old boy named Simeon had a rare pituitary dysfunction that matured him too early so he was, in effect, a boy trapped inside a man's body. I could probably say the same about myself. People I meet are often disbelieving at how rock-and-roll my name sounds, to the point where I actually say I didn't have it legally changed or anything. I just had cool quasi-hippie parents." -- Simeon Flick, guitar/vocals.
"Our name came from the foothills behind our neighborhood in El Cajon. Eight years ago the property was sold to build a new housing development and a Wal-Mart. The hills were a part of all of our childhoods...we felt as if they had been stolen from us. We decided to carve 'Stolen Hills' in one of the concrete slabs in remembrance of the hills. When the band formed six years ago, we shortened the name." -- Erik Clabeaux, bass/vocals.
A PARK TRADITION
"Our three founding members, John, Nick, and Scott, all grew up in a town called Newbury Park [California], where absolutely everyone is in a band. You could go to a show somewhere almost seven nights a week and always have a friend or two playing. It might be because there's not a whole lot else to do there. When we moved to San Diego for school and realized not everyone is in a band or is supportive of new music, we thought we'd keep up our town's tradition here." -- Nick Norton, guitar/vocals.
FAT MAN'S MISERY
"One, I've been playing guitar for 35 years, and this is my first blues band. I've primarily been in progressive rock bands. Two, I'm fat. Not just a little overweight, but at my heaviest I was 431 pounds. It makes me very different from most people. The alienation and pain of being generally looked down on by others is something that is part of me, part of my guitar playing. Three, I am a very proud second-generation native of San Diego, and Fat Man's Misery was a place in Torrey Pines that my sister the bass player and I used to go when we were kids." -- Lee Loveless, guitar/vocals
"When our outlaw country/bluegrass band first moved from playing living rooms to having actual gigs, our mandolin player Keith borrowed a strap from our bass player Kent. One day Kent wanted his strap back. You would think a mandolin might have smaller strap pegs than a bass, but not so. It stretched out the [strap] holes so much that Kent's bass would fall off, repeatedly, onstage. Keith still didn't want to buy a strap for some reason so I offered to give him a shoestring as a strap. We also wanted a name that's impossible to say drunk." -- Dave Lowenstein, guitar/banjo
"The name was adopted from a classic Dragnet episode that dealt with psychoactive drugs like LSD, and 'travel agent' was a term for someone who guided you on your trip, so to speak. It could refer to a dealer, or also a spiritual guide, such as a Timothy Leary type. The show was so absurd and comical, with the Dragnet cops asking tripped-out dopers, 'Who's your travel agent, kid?' Since the band does psychedelic music in the style of the Grateful Dead and other bands from that era and genre, we decided it was a good fit. Ironically, I have since become an actual travel agent." -- Frank Lazzaro, drummer.
"Three of us in this seven-piece funk, soul, and R&B band are biotech research scientists, including one Ph.D. The name originated from a lyric in the 1973 Tower of Power song 'Soul Vaccination.' We promote our band as having infectious grooves, and not just because the bassist, keyboardist, and guitarist spend our daytime hours researching viruses and enzymes." -- Fred Kokaska, guitar/vocals.
"All of us in the band are huge Monty Python fans. The name is a reference to a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where Bedevere's 'Trojan rabbit' idea fails because they forgot to get into it...Bedevere says, 'Um, look, suppose we built this large wooden badger...' " -- Tenacious Lee, vocals
7TH DAY BUSKERS
"Busking is a European term for performing on city streets, subways, and at outdoor markets for tips. Before I moved to San Diego, I spent two years in Amsterdam and Ireland as a street musician, playing for tips. I stood out a lot in both places, since I was probably one of only two or three banjo players in the whole country.... When I formed the band here, we had no name at first, it was just a rotating roster of musicians who played -- busking -- at the Hillcrest farmer's market. We still play there every other Sunday, the seventh day." -- Shawn Rohlf, banjo
"Makai was formed in May 1988 when seven out of the nine members of Devocean left that band due to financial disagreements. Makai in the Hawaiian language means 'towards the ocean' or 'ocean side of the island.' When someone says the Makai side of the island, they mean near the ocean. Since the makeup of the band at that time was mostly islanders and because we had just left Devocean, we decided on Makai. People who have never heard us play sometimes think we play only island music." -- Benmar Felizardo, vocals
"Netzer is Hebrew for 'branch.' While you don't normally associate a branch with hard rock, this word has a special symbolism for us. The biblical prophet Isaiah talks about a branch from Jesse who will rule with righteousness. We believe that this refers to Jesus. Plus, 'Netzer' sounds cool." -- David Kasdan, bass/vocals
"I was asked to put together a band for the Sandbar, so I called a bunch of people I'd always wanted to play with. We met the night of the gig, and I realized we hadn't bothered to come up with a name. The Sandbar had an even smaller stage back then, so I was practically sitting on this big plastic storage tub. Hence, Tubby was born...we still can't agree on a better name." -- Neil MacPherson, keyboards.
"We got our name from the notion about how the human body loses a total of 21 grams weight upon death and how this is attributed to the weight of the soul leaving the body. I constantly discuss soul matters in my lyrics, so when we heard that notion we knew we were about to sniff out our new name. We were drinking beer at a gig when it came to us." -- Chuck Schiele, guitar/vocals.
"Ray Brandes and I were doing an acoustic thing we had dubbed the Fiascoes...Manual Scan was on hiatus around that time, and Ray and I decided to put a band together. One of our first attempts included former M. Scan drummer Brad Wilkins. We were tossing possible names around at a rehearsal, and as a joke we started to riff off of the fiasco theme. Every stupid name got a good laugh, until Brad said 'the Shambles.' We all just stopped and looked at each other. It was us. It was perfect." -- Kevin Donaker-Ring, guitar.
NO GOOD CHARLOTTE - BAND BURNS LOCAL FANS
Before Good Charlotte’s July 20 appearance at Viejas, the band agreed to play a private show for Radio Sophie contest winners at Alpine’s Liars Club. Radiosophie.com was to broadcast the show beginning at 5pm, but shortly before then a Sophie Twitter notice read “So Benji from Good Charlotte drove up by himself and is in traffic…Good Charlotte [at the Liar’s Club] won't start until 6 p.m. Being late is understandable, especially if the excuse you have is true.”
Later, blogger Rosemary Bystrak (www.sddialedin.com) posted a report from attendee Sarah:
“Good Charlotte was supposed to go on at 5, but lagged and did not take the stage ‘til 6:45. Underage fans sat around with nowhere to go and nothing to do, since they couldn’t purchase alcohol. When GC arrived, they sat on stage the whole time with sunglasses on…then mumbled an apology. The reason they were late was that Benji slept in because of late night partying in Vegas, while launching products in their clothing line.”
Radio Sophie posted a followup Tweet:
“There is reasonable, and there is ridiculous. The fact that fans showed up at 3 to be there in time for the first band scheduled at 4 meant that they sat in a restaurant/bar for over 4 hours…When Good Charlotte finally played, fans were filtering out to arrive at Viejas in time for the actual concert.”
Says blogger Bystrak, “Perhaps these rock stars need to remember that their fame and money is fleeting, that they are only as good as the latest teen craze, and it won't be long before they're forgotten. The way they disrespected this small group of fans, not to mention one of the only stations that supports them in this market, might bring their end that much quicker. And to that, I say good riddance.”
The Good Charlotte performance posted at radiosophie.com opens with a clip of DJ Jennifer White announcing “Guess who’s finally here…”
“I’m a very big fan of Roger Zelazny’s work, and I’ve read all the Amber Chronicles,” says singer/songwriter Eben Brooks, who just finished shooting an elaborate video for his song “Champs Élysées,” inspired by Zelazny’s sci-fi classic Courts of Chaos. “We chose Lestat’s to shoot at, because the writer and director wrote a script that fits perfectly with their setup and décor. Lestat’s has great stone gargoyles!”
Brooks explains the video story: “In Courts of Chaos, from the original Chronicles of Amber, there’s a scene where the protagonist is worried that one of the cornerstones of reality has been destroyed…the only way to save the universe is to create a new cornerstone. While he’s doing that, he lets his mind wander as he creates this new ‘pattern,’ to anchor reality once again. I read that passage, and the imagery was so powerful that I found myself thinking about it a great deal over the next several weeks.”
He says he’s influenced by sci-fi songwriting. “I’ve always been a big fan of Jethro Tull, who tend to weave fantasy and sci-fi elements into their songs. Hawkwind writes music heavily influenced by Michael Moorcock, and there’s always Led Zeppelin’s work based on Tolkien.”
Around a dozen people scheduled to appear in the video were no-shows. “An hour after shooting was to begin, we were frantically calling people to come to Lestat’s. Even the makeup and wardrobe girl ended up on camera, because of the lack of people.” The video for “Champs Élysées” – which opens on one of Lestat’s stone gargoyles - can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsTT2s....
Formerly with the Celtic folk band The Wild Oats (1991 – 2002), Eben Brooks has been playing monthly at Lestat’s since 2000.
WE ASKED LOCAL MUSICIANS “LENNON OR McCARTNEY?
JAMIE RENO signed a national record deal in 2004 with 33rd Street Records and 10,000 copies of his last record, Survivors’ Songs, were donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, to be given away to cancer patients and survivors. Guest players on the album include Charlie Daniels, Robert Lamm (of Chicago) and Peter Frampton. ”Paul's the best pop-rock melody writer of all time, and for all his money, fame and awards, he's still underrated by some clueless critics who think you can't be a genius and also write silly love songs. Most music critics are embittered wannabees and outcasts and their reviews are thinly veiled, cowardly attempts to exact revenge against a mainstream culture in which they never were fully accepted. Most music critics I've known say they love music, but in fact are quirky, pretentious, dark-hearted, elitist, former high school nerds with bad breath and bad taste who dismiss pure joy and sentiment in any form unless it is couched in something angry, artsy, oblique, subversive or 'socially significant.' “
GAYLE SKIDMORE considers San Diego her hometown. Originally a singer/guitarist, in 2006 she began composing piano pieces, performing her first show on piano that October. Ever since, she's been gaining momentum in the San Diego music scene as she experiments with new instruments (most recently banjo) and styles. In 2007, she held a masquerade party in celebration of her Paper Box EP release. “Paul McCartney. Sorry, John! Why? Two words: ‘Jenny Wren.’”
BLIZZARD performed almost 200 concerts in 2006 and has appeared on the TV show Veronica Mars, filmed and produced in San Diego. Singer/guitarist Chris Leyva has also appeared on the MTV dating show MTV Score. “Lennon. If he could come back from the grave and leave one message [for McCartney, regarding his divorce] he'd tell him, 'That's what I meant by "Instant Karma," bitch.'”
SIMEON FLICK Simeon Flick writes folky, jazzy, alternative, R&B, alt-country, and pop-rock music. He's building following with his musicality, soulful four-octave voice, engaging live performances, and memorable songs. He moved to San Diego in 2001. “I consider McCartney the ultimate Beatle. While John was loafing at his mock-Tudor palace, Paul was mastering all the instruments, constantly immersed in the betterment of his art, thinking of all the grand ideas like Sgt. Pepper, showing up early and leaving late, and pushing the envelope across the board. John was the fire under Paul's ass.”
GREG LASWELL arrived in San Diego in 1993 to attend Point Loma Nazarene University. After graduation, he played with the band Shillglen, who released one album before Laswell decided to go solo. Vanguard Records signed him in 2006; his sophomore release with the label will be out July 8. “Paul McCartney. I find that most of my favorite Beatles songs are ones he wrote: ‘Blackbird,’ ‘Yesterday,’ ‘Here, There, and Everywhere’ — the list goes on. I also think he was the better singer. No one else could have pulled off ‘Hey Jude.’ ”
ALFONSO DE LA ESPRIELLA is a Colombian-born singer/songwriter who has a degree in music therapy from the Berklee College of Music. Espriella has used music therapy as an aide in treating disabled children, teens in crisis, addicts going through recovery, terminally ill patients, and people with mental illnesses. “I don’t care much about either Lennon or McCartney, ‘cause I don't know them too well. Maybe Lennon. He’s a more fun and dramatic icon.”
BILL FARKAS is a singer, songwriter and activist who launched his political blog The Daily Rant in September 2004. His Activists' Forum is open to anyone involved in social and political causes hoping to cross-pollinate their calls to action, with efforts such as petition signing and fundraising. “John Lennon was the single greatest influence on both my songwriting and my view of the world through peaceful eyes. Lennon and McCartney were arguably the best songwriting tandem in music history. They changed the face of rock as the first stadium rock band, set fashion trends, ushered in the psychedelic era with Sgt. Pepper, and in one way or another influenced every musician that followed.”
GREG DOUGLASS co-wrote and played on the Steve Miller Band hit “Jungle Love” (1977), performed on Greg Kihn’s single “Jeopardy” (1983), and he’s toured and recorded with Van Morrison, Duane Eddy, Link Wray, Hot Tuna, Dave Mason, and Eddie Money. “Lennon. The guy really put his soul out there for the world to see. Also, McCartney was an active participant in both ‘Ebony and Ivory’ and ‘The Girl Is Mine.’ He deserved to be married to that one-legged bitch for making us listen to those musical felonies.”
JON KANIS: "If I had to pick only one of the 156, I'd probably say 'The Dummy' starring San Diegan Cliff Robertson and written by Rod Serling, a contemporary master of the morality play if ever there was one. Honorable mentions to 'Shadow Play,' 'Time Enough At Last,' 'A Game of Pool,' 'To Serve Man,' 'Person or Persons Unknown,' and 'The Masks.'"
RICHARD VAUGHAN of Silver Sunshine/Astra: “The one where there is a human-looking Martian hiding out in a diner from the police [Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?]. When all of the humans finally leave, the Martian brags to the cook about his species' plans to invade Earth. However, the cook then reveals that HE is in fact from Venus and his species has intercepted the Martian fleet.”
CONOR RILEY of Silver Sunshine/Astra: “The episode where a lady is living on Earth and it’s heading towards the sun [The Midnight Sun]. It turns out to be a dream and, when she wakes up, the earth is moving farther away from the sun.”
JD BOUCHARDE: “Living Doll. ‘My name is Talky Tina, and I think I hate you.’ Dolls that kill. Yowch.”
DYLAN MARTINEZ of Rookie Card: “Either the one where the state is going to execute a librarian for being obsolete [The Obsolete Man] or the one where the man opens a jail cell and ends up letting the Devil loose on the world [The Howling Man].”
JASON BANG: "The one where the guy is in charge of keeping the Devil locked up [The Howling Man], but since the Prince of Darkness is such a smooth talker, he's able to convince his captor to release him."
BART MENDOZA: "For me, it was It's a Good Life, with Billy Mumy as the monster - there are scenes in that where nondescript things are happening in the background. I saw the original and that was creepy enough, but when I read the story the show was based on - yikes! The TV show nailed it, yet kept the gore quotient zero. That one and The Howling Man, which not only gave us the devil, but also a Ron Silva fronted band."
MARCIA CLAIRE: " 'The Eye of the Beholder,' a.k.a. the 'Everybody Has a Pig Snout Except Me' episode."
GREG LASWELL: “The one where masked surgeons unwrapped a beautiful woman from her bandages, and they all shrieked at how ugly she was, and then the camera cut to shots of them without their masks on, to reveal that they were the deformed ones.” [Eye of the Beholder]
HANK EASTON: “The episode where everyone has a disgusting pig face and they all feel sorry for the beautiful lady ‘cause they think she’s hideous.” [Eye of the Beholder]
JENN GRINELS: “Time Enough at Last, the one where some sort of nuclear devastation leaves a lone man on the planet. All he wants to do is read. He finds a library, and he's in heaven! And then he promptly breaks his glasses. Oh, Hell.”
ERIC NIELSEN of High Mountain Tempel: “Time Enough at Last. Burgess Meredith’s wife finds his reading a waste of time. She asks him to read her some poetry, and he finds out she has blacked out all of the pages. He escapes to the bank vault to read a little at work, when he hears atomic bombs falling. He’s the last survivor on earth and is ready to commit suicide, when he stumbles onto a library and realizes he has all the time in the world to read. And, thus, he wants to live.”
JAMIE RENO: “The one in which airline passenger William Shatner is completely freaked out by a gremlin on the wing of the airplane [Nightmare At 20,000 Feet]. This one was remade effectively with John Lithgow in the Twilight Zone movie. This is probably why I still never want a wing seat.”
CASEY GEE: "I love the one with the little gremlin guy who lands on the plane wing, but only one passenger can see him [Nightmare at 20,000 Feet]. Probably because whenever I catch an episode, that's the one that comes on."
BILL FARKAS: “The one about the big-mouthed guy who never stopped talking as a member of that private men’s club, and a seemingly rich dude bets him ten grand that he can’t keep quiet for a year [The Silence]. Then, after the guy did it, you found out the rich dude was really a phony and couldn’t afford to pay the bet. The O-Henry ending was the guy had his vocal chords severed, just to win the bet.”
JOHN MEARS of Crash Carter: "The one with the astronaut who lands on a planet inhabited by tiny people that treat him like a god [The Little People]. He has the ability to leave but stays to rule over the people as he's now drunk with power, only to have another space traveler land moments later. Of course, the new visitor is thousands of feet larger than him."
PETE BAYARD: “A Little Peace And Quiet [1985 series], where some girl can stop time. At the end, she stops it seconds before Russian bombs impact her town and you can see the missiles hovering over the houses. She’s all alone wandering around with everyone else frozen and it’s her task to decide when she’s bored enough to release the missiles and thus kill her entire town.”
JAY ALLEN SANFORD: "I'm really partial to George Clayton Johnson's stories - especially Game of Pool, which can effectively be staged without even needing set walls, just two good actors and a pool table. Both Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters give the best performances of their careers, which is really saying something!"
GAYLE SKIDMORE: “My favorite is the one where they try to give the guy plastic surgery because he’s so ugly. He ends up being a regular looking bloke while everyone else looks like pigs. Genius.”
JON BISHOP: “When I was a kid, the whole theme song and Rod Serling narration freaked me out too much, so I changed the channel.”
JEFF BOWMAN of Tower 7: "Impossible to answer. I like them all."
MOLLY JENSON: “I'm not sure I've ever seen a whole episode all the way through, and if I did, I don't remember it. Ask me which Punky Brewster episode was my favorite and I could answer that in a flash.”
In the early ‘90s, I wrote and edited a comic book series called The Deepest Dimension Terror Anthology, the brainchild of original Twilight Zone writer George Clayton Johnson. It was published by Hillcrest-based Revolutionary Comics, best known for Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics.
George had already long been one of my mentors. Among his many Zone triumphs:
Kick the Can (old folks turning young again, remade for the Zone movie)…
…A Penny For Your Thoughts (Dick York hears thoughts after flipping a coin on its side)…
…The Prime Mover (Buddy Ebsen uses telekinesis in Vegas)…
…Nothing in the Dark (Robert Redford as Mr. Death)…
…A Game of Pool (Jack Klugman VS Jonathan Winters)…
(George Clayton Johnson on the set of Nothing in the Dark)
Each Deepest Dimension comic adapted a story by George, as well as tales by friends and contemporaries of his like Psycho creator Robert Bloch, sci-fi legend Larry Niven, horror author Dennis Etchison, I Am Legend author Richard Matheson, and others.
Art was by Vampire Lestat comic painter Daerick Gross, Matthew Alice artist Rick Geary, Zap Comix co-founder Spain Rodriguez, Dr. Bang creator Lyndal Ferguson, DepositMan artist Larry Nadolsky, and other high profile, in-demand and ultimately EXPENSIVE artists, whose salaries made the Deepest Dimension three times as expensive to produce as any of the other dozen or so titles we were publishing at the time.
The SECOND issue was where the Twilight Zone connections really unfolded. George’s story “Sea Change” was purchased by Rod Serling for the original Twilight Zone series. However, the show was cancelled just before a sixth season went into production.
It was a huge thrill for me, a devotional Zone fan, to work on the comic version of this (terrific!) Lost Twilight Zone episode.
(George promoting DD at Comic-Con, along with publisher Herb Shapiro – we came across a Zone pinball game, decorated with images from a bunch of George’s episodes! He’d never seen it before - I couldn’t resist taking some pics as he played it!)
Another Zone story was chosen for the next issue…George’s “Execution,” which WAS filmed for a Zone episode, albeit one radically different from the original story George wrote and submitted to Serling….
“Execution” was the one starring Gilligan’s Professor, Russell Johnson, as a scientist whose time machine accidentally brings into the future a western outlaw who was in the process of being hanged for his crimes when plucked from the past. One of the memorable scenes is when the hombre is shocked by the sight and sound of a jukebox, so he shoots it.
For the Zone episode, George’s story was adapted by Serling himself. And changed. A bunch. George has expressed displeasure over the televised result, tho he’s too gentle and diplomatic a man to rant and rail. During our conversations, we talked about the very different story he’d wanted to tell, and he ended up lending me an old typewritten draft of his original story, with pages affixed by a rusty old paper clip.
It was my job to adapt GEORGE’s version, for the Deepest Dimension! To re-envision a classic Twilight Zone, as the original author intended it to be...man, I’ve lucked into some amazing gigs….
Sadly, the “Execution” comic story never made it beyond the script phase, as the series was cancelled after two issues, in part due to that aforementioned cost factor. Here's a sample of the script (I may someday post the whole script online, but note it was done the old fashioned way, like George's original story - on a typewriter! There's no electronic version...):
Presented for your perusal…a selection of rarities from the Deepest Dimension archive, including unpublished artwork, alternate versions of the Zone-inspired logo, actual script pages, behind-the-scenes photos, and a few other goodies I dug up just for this blog …
It was through Deepest Dimension that I first met the legendary and mercurial author Harlan Ellison. I’ll retell a tale I shared in an earlier blog on this…
Ellison and I were both booked to sign autographs at a 1994 Atlanta comic book convention. Seated near each other behind a conference table, I was mostly signing copies of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics while Ellison promoted his upcoming Dream Corridor comic book. During one lull, I showed him a Deepest Dimension issue, featuring an illustrated adaptation of a short story which Ellison had published in his own “Dangerous Visions” anthology book -- "A Toy For Juliette” by famed "Psycho" author Robert Bloch.
Ellison's mood visibly darkened as he thumbed through the comic. "Nobody told me about this," he growled (and I do mean growled – think Schwarzenegger finding a parking ticket on his Humvee). He made the line of autograph seekers wait while he carefully read the comic (illustrated by Matthew Alice's own Rick Geary) from cover to cover.
I could almost see the thunderclouds forming over his head as he got to a brief scene that hadn't appeared in the original text story from “Dangerous Visions.”
"Who the f--k gave a no-name son of a b--ch like you the right to rewrite Robert Bloch?" he fairly shouted, so loud that people in line visibly flinched. "You put his f--king name on the cover, every g-d-mned word of this story should be by Robert f--king Bloch."
Ellison went on berating me without pause for another half minute (so I’m told – I was sure it was a half hour), his voice and gorge rising in tandem as he eloquently, if profanely, defended the sacrosanct nature of Robert Bloch’s storytelling.
Finally, running out of oxygen - if not epithets - he paused for breath, and I was able to tell him "I spoke with Robert Bloch about the comic script and he's the one who suggested the change and the new dialogue."
In a bipolar rush of reversal, Ellison’s scowl was replaced by an unctuous smile as he closed the comic book and handed it back to me with feigned grace. "Oh, well, why didn't you say so? In that case, I love it. Good work."
Ellison turned to the crowd of onlookers, bowed with Shakespearean theatricality and said "Every one of you should buy this Deepest Dimension comic. I highly recommend it."
Here’s the never-published pencil rough of a Toy For Juliette scene: the middle page NOT written by Bloch is what so-incensed Mr. Ellison (art by Matthew Alice/Heavy Metal/National Lampoon cartoonist Rick Geary) -----
Note the post-it from Robert Bloch himself, SIGNED, approving of the adaptation! Below is pencil version of the “Juliette” title page...
...and a printed copy from my collection, signed by Bloch.
Unpublished Deepest Dimension art by Daerick Gross, intended for a comic adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Vengeance of Nitocris.
Unpublished art for adaptation of George Clayton Johnson’s original Twilight Zone story, “Execution”:
Ad for unpublished issue.
REJECTED LOGOS: Top illo is what we ended up using for the comic. The other versions were ultimately rejected ----
COMPLETE STORY FROM DEEPEST DIMENSION #1: The art is by Zap Comix co-founder and occasional Reader cover artist Spain Rodriguez.
(Deepest Dimension editorial proof)