When Deep Purple played 4th&B on August 16, I hoped they wouldn't play "Smoke on the Water," which I consider one of the worst songs of all time. How could they not, though? That riff is so popular that in June about 1700 guitarists in Kansas played it as a radio station promotion. They made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Former Kansas guitarist Steve Morse is now with Deep Purple. When I met Morse in L.A. a few years ago, I asked him about being a pilot...if it's harder to fly after 9/11.
"No, it's easier," he told me. "I sometimes fly to my own shows. When I take commercial planes, it can be a pain; they want to take my guitars apart and check everything out."
It was around midnight when Morse and the rest of Deep Purple came outside after their 4th&B show. One woman had them sign parts of her body. I asked if she was going to have them tattooed on.
"No. I just like the bands to sign me. I had Gene Simmons sign my ass once."
When singer Ian Gillan signed her breast, I asked him, "Other than body parts, what's the weirdest thing you've ever been asked to autograph?"
"A goat," said Gillan.
"Did you get any cheese out of the deal?" a fan asked.
As someone handed Morse a Dixie Dregs album to sign, I said, "Dude, we're kind of pissed. The Dregs were supposed to play a small theater in North Park earlier this year, and you guys canceled."
He said, "Well, uh, that's because my father died."
The crowd was silent. I told him I was sorry for his loss.
As I walked to my car a fan said, "I bet you feel stupid for asking that."
When Cake played Del Mar after the races on August 17, I found out that security would no longer let people watch from behind the stage. When Cake or the Violent Femmes play there, thousands of fans cram into the small stage area. I asked the security guard what the deal was.
"Hey, you should tell someone they have to do something about this venue. So many folks out there are pushing and shoving, and everyone's coming up to me complaining they can't see. The main reason they changed this area is because the bands have to leave the stage, and they were getting mobbed by fans."
When Eric Burdon and the Animals played at the fair this year, I saw what he meant. Before the encore, the band was standing in an area that was ten feet by ten feet. I was 100 yards away and saw five or six fans ask Burdon for an autograph. He was trying not to look at them as they waited to do an encore.
After the show, a few security guards walked him to another area as fans grabbed at him and stuck papers in his face. He didn't sign a single autograph, but guitarist Hilton Valentine, an original member, did.
When locals Louis XIV played the Del Mar Fairgrounds, soon after their song "Finding Out True Love Is Blind" became a national hit, they were nice enough to stop and talk to the fans.
One fan at the Eric Burdon concert said, "Eric Burdon is such a dick. How could he not sign a few autographs?"
I told him that when the Bacchanal was around on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, I was 19 and couldn't get in to see him. The security guard backstage was nice enough to keep the door open so that I could hear the show. I waited by his tour bus with about 25 other fans after the show. He let me and 5 other people on and said when we leave, he'll let 5 more on.
As I sat with Burdon and he signed my albums, I asked him about a Donovan song he covered. As he smiled and started to answer, an older guy with a British accent started screaming, "Who let all these guys on the bus? Get them out of here! Let's get some women in here!" Burdon signed my albums as the four other guys laughed. This man then screamed, "I'm serious! Get out of here!"
As we walked off the bus, the rest of the crowd was waiting to get on. They were bothered when the only two women standing out there were the only ones let on.
There were more women when R&B star John Legend appeared at the Verizon store in Mission Valley a couple of years ago. The crowd of 300 was about 90 percent female. His show that night at Humphrey's was sold out.
Legend was signing posters, pictures, and his recent CD for the first 25 people. As the line grew, his 6'3" bodyguard told a Verizon employee, "Tell everyone in line only one autograph. And only one photograph. That's it! I don't want to start getting mean and yelling, but I'm going to have to start in a second if things don't get more organized."
I didn't care about an autograph. I wanted a quick interview. I walked over to the side of the table and asked him, "Is Legend your real name?" He smiled and said what it was (something like "Stevens"). He then said, "I know, I know. It sounds a bit presumptuous, doesn't it?"
I had heard someone in line say that rapper Snoop Dogg performed on his CD. "How did you get Snoop Dogg on this record?" I asked.
"I have a friend who works with him, so I just called him and asked."
"Does he smoke as much pot as everyone says?" He paused to think about how to answer that.
"Uh, yeah, I think he does."
Security then said, "If you want to ask him any more questions, you'll have to wait in line."
When Alice Cooper played Humphrey's around six years ago, a large crowd waited around the resort to see him after the show. Security wouldn't let anyone in certain areas, so fans were crammed between the pool and rooms. One guy with a homemade shirt with song titles all over it said, "I drove all the way down here from Phoenix. And, Cooper is always in town places since he lives there. He doesn't sign autographs for crowds this big."
Cooper came out, and the crowd started yelling things. A few applauded. He said, "Hey, guys. I'll sign autographs, but just one per person."
As he started signing, it was quiet. How often would you get this chance to be this close to someone you're a fan of? I finally said, " 'Be My Lover' is one of the best rock songs ever written." He looked up and said, "Thanks, man. I appreciate it."
It wasn't until I got home and pulled out the CD that I saw he didn't write it.
Afew people I've met have been jerks, and it's hard to figure out why. Joe Jackson has played 4th&B several times. At one show, he grabbed the mike stand and was about to hit a guy in the front row for taking pictures.
That afternoon before the concert, my girlfriend and I were having dinner. We walked past the venue and heard him doing a sound check. I brought a CD in case we saw him. One of the security guards said he hurt his leg and probably wouldn't be in the best mood. He came out limping, and I asked him to sign my CD. I asked him a question about a new song that had Marianne Faithful singing. He didn't answer me. Another person asked for an autograph, and he just walked away. There was a crowd of ten people shouting at him to stop and sign autographs. He just got on the bus.
A friend of mine got a room at Humphrey's and saw him before a show there. He had three albums, and Jackson said, "I'll sign one of these. So, pick your favorite." When a guy told him how much he loved certain songs, Jackson didn't respond. He just walked away with his pen.
The second time I saw Jackson at 4th&B, I got there early to have him sign one of my CDs. There was a crowd of about 25 fans. I waited 20 minutes and then left. When I got to the show that night, I recognized someone in line that had been outside waiting. I asked him if he got Jackson's autograph.
"Oh, yeah, but he was in such a bad mood. I had the Jumpin' Jive album, and he yelled at me, 'Why do you want me to sign this? I didn't even write these songs!' I responded, 'Yeah, but you're covering them, and it's your album.' He then wrote on the record, 'I didn't write these fucking songs, Joe Jackson.' I'm so pissed."
"Hey, that's kind of weird," I said, "but it sure makes it an original signature. I'll buy it from you. Or I'll trade you one of my signed CDs."
The guy thought about it and decided he'd keep it.
Todd Rundgren has always been a great autograph signer. When a friend and I were having an early dinner before the show at Humphrey's a couple of years ago, we saw him and his wife sit down a few tables away. We weren't about to bug someone who was eating, but when he finished and was walking by our table, my friend held out his ticket for him to sign.
When we walked out ten minutes later, we saw a person with 20 albums ask for his autograph. Rundgren said, "What's your name?" The guy said, "Oh, well, don't personalize the autograph." Rundgren's wife said, "Oh, he's going to sell them." The guy pleaded, "No, no. It's not that. It's just for a personal collection." Rundgren laughed and signed them all.