Matt Potter 4:39 p.m., April 22
Kim Fowley Turns 73, Says He's "Preparing For Death"
"I am preparing for death," says the most polarizing producer in rock, Kim Fowley, who turned 73 on July 21. "That includes withdrawing from all human contact except for accountants, attorneys and industry meetings," he says in a statement posted via All Things Must Pass Inc. Music Publicity.
"I am working on dying. I am a bladder cancer surgery recall patient. Every six months wires, cameras and instruments of pain such as knives and scalpels go in through the penis all the way up to my stomach. They take out elements of my body and do biopsies. Bladder cancer is the fastest recurring cancer but you can't do a CAT-scan or an X-ray or any other mumbo jumbo. You have to keep repeating the procedure in order to know how your margins are."
"To deal with that kind of Auschwitz intrusion on your body in a hospital setting is horrifying." He claims his final performance has already happened, and now he's ready to retire. From life.
"Death is a juicy topic. It's like nudity and drugs. It's right up there with LOL, cats and puppies. It's an American tradition, just like Disney and chocolate."
Born July 21, 1939, Kim Fowley was two when his mom put him in a College Grove foster home. At the age of six, his dad moved him to Malibu, though Kim frequently returned to San Diego to live in a local polio hospital.
He produced his first hit “Alley Oop” -- based on the comic strip and performed by the Hollywood Argyles -- in 1960. He went on to work with Sonny Bono, Kiss, and Phil Spector, among others, before co-creating the all-girl band the Runaways in 1975.
Fowley released his own solo records and toured with his own punk band, often travelling with San Diego scribes Richard Meltzer and Lester Bangs. However, he’s best known for working with everyone from Jimmy Page to Frank Zappa, Blue Oyster Cult, and Jimi Hendrix.
He emceed John Lennon’s Live Peace In Toronto event and worked on records with Alice Cooper, the MC5, Helen Reddy, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, and countless others between 1960 and 2011.
In 1980, he was scouting for bands in San Diego when he began booking local all-girl band the Dinettes at venues in La Costa and San Francisco, as well as auditioning local San Diego singers. “Kim Fowley is seeking groups, solo artists, composers, and lyricists who dream of international stardom,” read the large display ads running in the Reader circa late 1980. Several photos of Fowley accompanied each ad, including one of him with Jimmy Page, along with a request for cassettes, bios, photos, and “a summary of your career goals.”
Thirty-eight years old at the time, Fowley was considering a permanent move from L.A. to San Diego and had already been scouting the city for his next all-girl band for nearly a year. His interest was first piqued by locals the Dinettes, who — á la Josie and the Pussycats — had a black girl in the group, guitarist Joyce Rooks (at least for a while in ’79).
Fowley booked the Dinettes for his Battle of the Girl Bands at the Coo Coo’s Nest in Costa Mesa, expressing interest in signing them to some unspecified label or rep firm. However, that band’s constant lineup shifts and an aggressive fast-talking manager named Gene King led Fowley to instead pine for local Girl Talk singer Lauralei Combs (though they never signed a deal).
“I spent a good portion of my formative years in San Diego,” he told local Kicks magazine in November of 1980. “The kind of music I’m producing now, most of it sells and is released outside of the continental United States. I can record records in, let’s say, San Diego, and get them out all over the world without having my acts go through the psychological rape of playing the horrible L.A. clubs...right now, if you’re a San Diego band and want to have an American record out, you have to move to New York, L.A., or Nashville and start all over again at the bottom.”
For Fowley’s local talent search, he said, “I’m looking for people to work with who, in the past, have held back selling themselves to the San Diego rock community, either because they don’t think there is a rock community in San Diego or because they have bigger ambitions than being the most popular thing from National City to Leucadia.
“It’s necessary for a band to have charisma, and it’s necessary for a band to have a Kim Fowley in there someplace. The behind-the-scenes people are as much a part of rock ’n’ roll as the guys onstage...Kim Fowley is a necessary evil.”
Fowley -- colorfully portrayed by Michael Shannon in the Runaways movie -- ultimately opted to maintain his evil empire near L.A. In 2010, Fowley met former Wild Weekend frontwoman Maren Parusel, helping her re-record her song “Ordinary Day.”
Another local who came across him is Diana Death, who later said “I met him once and he totally skeeved me out. I wanted to dip my aura, which he said attracted him, in bleach...I think only dudes like him.”