Monday, April 29, 2013

Song Cycle Revisited (Van Dyke Parksed) by Peter Reum

Van Dyke Parks continues to record and play live in his 71st year. Last night, thanks to some folks at the smileysmile board, a link was posted to a show he performed a few years ago at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia. Like many talented musicians, Van Dyke's abilities as a multi-instrumentalist have brought him steady work through the years. This particular show featured Van Dyke on piano, which is the instrument he has become well known for playing on session work in California. Van Dyke's piano work is active and vigorous. His hands seem to express the ideas he cannot articulate fast enough verbally.

Van Dyke's albums are infrequent, and as someone who bought Song Cycle when it came out, I can tell you that great things were expected of him at Warner Brothers Records.  They spared no expense advertising his first album, and it was well received in Crawdaddy and other music magazines of the time. The fact was that it was not immediately accessible to average listeners who were buying records in 20th Century America. I loved the album, and yes, it did sound a little like Charles Ives. In retrospect, there are delightful musical creations on Song Cycle. The length of time it took to record and mix Song Cycle is fairly comparable to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album, and longer than it took to make Pet Sounds.

In 1968, the era of giving birth to baby elephant albums in terms of gestation had arrived. In particular, a number of the San Francisco bands such as The Grateful Dead, Steve Miller Band, and Jefferson Airplane had made creative control of their albums a part of their contract with major labels. In particular, Warner, Reprise, and Elektra Records all had strong reputations as artist centered labels. The  problem with Song Cycle was that, while it was brilliantly written and arranged, it did not have the listener accessibility of a Sgt. Pepper or Pet Sounds.

The critical response to Song Cycle, as quoted  in Richard Henderson's fine book on Song Cycle (part of the 33 1/3 series) was generally favorable. It was as if Bruce Johnston's quote about the post Pet Sounds Beach Boy albums also applied to Song Cycle. Bruce said "It is tough to swallow the idea that the public thinks we're Surfing Doris Days, but 5 guys at Crawdaddy Magazine are going to love each album," Presciently, Bruce had nailed the reaction to Song Cycle. Paul Williams at Crawdaddy loved the record and wrote unreservedly about its excellence. The general public and even progressive radio didn't know what to do with it.

The album was produced brilliantly, and had a number of sounds on it that just automatically brought the question "how did they do that" to mind.  Van Dyke had gone to some effort to get the exact sounds he wanted on to Song Cycle. There are a couple of examples Van Dyke cites with Richard Henderson, one being the money going into the machine at the beginning of Donovan's Colors, and the quivering violin at he beginning of By The People. These small touches are spread throughout the album, and add color that in the complex presentation of each song can be missed easily. There is a great section of Richard Henderson's book in which he allows Song Cycle mixing engineer Bruce Botnick to recall how Song Cycle was put together.

One of these days, I want to catch Van Dyke live. The odds of it happening are slim, but it is a wish. One thing I learned from Richard Henderson's book was that Van Dyke was responsible for bringing Allen Toussaint to Reprise. This and the revelation that he co-produced Southern Nights by Toussaint helped explain my immediate attraction to that album, which is a part of my all-time 50 best albums list. It has that ethereal Van Dyke Parks touch that is not only irreplaceable, but not capable of being duplicated.

It is not surprising that young independent groups and artists are attracted to Van Dyke. He is a maverick of universal proportions. More importantly, his music has the feel of uniqueness that only a man who marches to his own creative spirit can create. I hope people in the future study his creative efforts the way people do the classical composers today, because his contributions are that significant

Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cribbage: The Bonding Experience

When we got back from doing whatever work my father's hobby farm demanded, after dinner, after a badly needed hot bath, more often than not, my dad would break out his cribbage board and say "You want to get beat?" I'd respond with something lame, and sit down for our semi-weekly game of cribbage. Now, this was also a ritual at my father's work, and there was rarely a noon hour for 32 years that passed that my dad did not sit down with some co-workers and play a game of partner's cribbage.

Cribbage is not as complicated as pinochle, nor as easy as rummy. If there is a strategy to it, it is limited to what card to lead, what card to play in the part of the game when cards are laid out in combinations to score points, and what cards to get rid of into the spare hand called "the crib" that is counted after playing out dealt hands. Games are tabulated on a cribbage board, and each game is won by scoring 121 points before your opponents can. If you win by 31 or more points, the win counts for two games. This is called a "skunk." If you win by 61 points, it's called a "double skunk."

The game allowed my dad and I to interact on a competitive level that was "safe." I found the nights when I won exhilarating. Nights when I lost, or did not get the cards were very deflating. My dad was a person who was very athletic, and could play almost any physical game well within a few hours of taking it up. My athletic ability was good, but nowhere near my dad's. Although he was quite a bit older than the average dad, he was still quite lithe for an older man. Our games of cribbage were played on a level playing field, because even though I was seven or eight, I rapidly understood the basic game, and began to play him evenly fairly quickly.

My dad loved to work. He worked 45 to 50 hours a week, and then came home and worked 12 hours a day on his hobby farm. He liked me to work beside him. I wanted to please him, and working beside him and getting any praise he gave me was gold....better than any currency. The cribbage games were a time when I didn't have to work, I could just be with him and play. The skills I learned from him playing cribbage were subtle. I learned the skill of man-talk, that is, the short hand dialogue between men in which what is not said is more important than what is said. I learned to lose with grace, and win with modesty. I learned to use humor as a way of expressing feelings in understated ways. I learned to enjoy my father as a man, and to think of myself as a man to be.

My father was a guy who did not think violently, hated guns, and yet helped develop some of the most deadly weapons ever created. Somehow, cribbage just let him be himself, without the heavy trappings of work, family, or great expectations. He would sit down with the guys he supervised, or with me, and for a few hours, all was forgotten. He could just have fun. His favorite gift that I ever gave him was a beautiful wooden cribbage scoreboard, with bronze and silver scoring pegs. Late in his life when he was losing his sight, and could barely see due to macular degeneration, we would sit down together when I was in New Mexico visiting, and play cribbage. I would walk up to him, and say "You want to get beat?" He'd laugh, smile, and our bonding ritual would bring us together once again.

He died of smoking induced emphysema at age 70 in 1985. He apologized to me every time I visited, saying "Peter. you were right, I should have stopped smoking, but I didn't listen to you." I would reply by saying "I don't like being right, dad, I wish you were feeling better." After his death, a number of his  personal effects came to me. The cribbage board was a part of them. I have it on my bookshelf next to my stereo and books in my bedroom. I pull it out and look at it once in awhile. But I have never played cribbage with it, it's just not the same.

Friday, April 26, 2013

From Yellowstone to Yosemite: The Landscape Artists of the 19th Century American West Part 1

Almost 40 years ago, I traveled to Cody, Wyoming on a 3 day holiday in my first visit to Wyoming and Montana. I stopped at The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, and, for the first time saw in person the great Western Landscape Paintings of the 19th Century. Some of them measured 6 feet high by 8 feet wide, and the detail in them took my breath away. I was already familiar with the Yellowstone Geological Expedition, having seen the incredible work of William Henry Jackson at the Denver Public Library.

 William Henry Jackson on the 1872 Hayden Survey of the Teton Area

William Henry Jackson was born in 1843 in New York State. He served in the Civil War, and developed  his ability as a painter before he became better known for his pioneering photographic work in the West. Jackson's exodus from the Eastern United States was hastened by a broken engagement, and he ended up settling in Omaha, Nebraska with his brother. He apparently served as a 'missionary" to indigenous people of the Great Plains, and he took some of the most incredible photos of his career of members of several Nations living on the Plains. Over the course of his 99 years, Mr. Jackson took over 80,000 photographs of the American West. At age 96, Jackson served as a consultant for the filming of Gone With the Wind.

Hopi Man circa 1885

Assiniboine Man-1879

In 1866, Jackson was hired to photograph scenic scenes along the Union Pacific Railroad lines going west. This led to his photos being seen by Frederick Hayden, who took him on Geologic and other surveys from 1870 through 1878. The iconic scenes you see immediately below are some of Jackson's famous photographs from the 1871 Yellowstone Region Survey. 

All photos below by William Henry Jackson

Old Faithful-1871

Norris Geyser Basin-1871

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone-1871

These photographs were taken by William Henry Jackson under the most primitive of conditions. He hiked up and down mountains carrying some 80 pounds of photographic equipment to gather the incredible exposures that were later used by the United States Congress to designate Yellowstone as America's first National Park. In addition to William Henry Jackson, the brilliant landscape artist Thomas Moran accompanied the expedition. Jackson's use of the hot pools of Yellowstone to develop his photographs is a quaint piece of the Expedition's history.

Thomas Moran at the site of Sheridan, Wyoming on a bridge over Goose Creek-1871-All photos above by William Henry Jackson

Not only did the expedition have to cope with wilderness, but they also were deep in the territory of Indigenous Nations such as the Blackfeet, Crow, Lakota, and Shoshoni. Thomas Moran along with William Henry Jackson was hired to accompany the 1871 Hayden Survey. Many of the historians of the Hayden Survey and the Yellowstone Region credit both men with the persuasion of Congress to set aside Yellowstone as the nation and world's first National Park. Later, Thomas Moran accompanied the  John Wesley Powell Grand Canyon Expedition.

In the early part of the 20th Century, Moran helped found the Taos Art Colony. Both Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt, another Western landscape artist, were Europeans who were inspired to travel the American West and document the wild land, indigenous people, and wildlife. Moran came to Philadelphia with his family when he was 16, and became an apprentice to a wood engraving firm. He began to paint and draw seriously, and was introduced to the work of James Hamilton, a British marine artist. Moran spent time back in London in his twenties studying the work of British landscape and marine painter JMW Turner. Upon his return, he went with Hayden and Jackson to the Yellowstone Region. 

Thomas Moran by Napolean Sarony

There, he completed sketches and studies that led to the two influential paintings that were purchased by Congress for display in the U.S. Capitol. The purchase price, $10,000 for each painting, was unprecedented for purchase by the government of works of art.  The two paintings, "The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone," and "The Chasm of The Colorado," were some of the first general depictions of the Yellowstone, Grand Canyon of the Colorado, and Yosemite regions.

The Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone-Thomas Moran

The Grand Canyon Of The Yellowstone   2 - Thomas Moran -

The Chasm of the Colorado-Thomas Moran

Moran painted over 400 paintings over the course of his 80 plus years of life. His later work on other parts of the Western United States was not as well known, but his growth as an artist can be seen as the years passed. Like Jackson, he lived a long and productive life, dying at age 89 in Santa Barbara, California. Here are a few more of his iconic paintings of the Western U.S.

Yellowstone Lake by Thomas Moran-1875

Old Faithful - Thomas Moran -

Old Faithful by Thomas Moran-1872

Wyoming Fall by Thomas Moran-1872

The Yellowstone River at It's Exit From Yellowstone Lake by Thomas Moran-1872

The Hot Springs of the Gardiner River-Upper Pools by Thomas Moran-1872

Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park was named for Thomas Moran in recognition of his influence in preservation of the Greater Yellowstone/Teton Region. 

As the railroads began to connect distant parts of America, the demand for scenic landscapes of The West grew. Numerous artists came West to document the indigenous peoples, scenery, and wildlife of the West. Besides Moran and Jackson, probably the most famous Western Landscape Artist of the latter 19th Century was Albert Bierstadt.  

Bierstadt.jpgAlbert Bierstadt 1885

Albert Bierstadt was born and raised in Germany. Like Moran, his family migrated to the U.S. when he was a young man. Like Moran, Bierstadt began painting the West by accompanying Frederick Lander, a land surveyor for the U.S. Government. Also like Moran, Bierstadt served in the Civil War, and began his career in large scale painting by painting scenes from the Civil War that had been photographed. Bierstadt was not as praised by art critics of his time as Moran, but his paintings sold for large sums. He was well known for his larger canvases, and also for his more idealized manner of showing scenes he painted. He would later paint scenes using dramatic features of nature to inspire awe in his viewers. Bierstadt shared a love of the West, and painted several Colorado and California landmarks like his fellow landscape artist, Thomas Moran. Bierstadt painted a number of scenes from Switzerland, especially such dramatic peaks as the Matterhorn and Wetterhorn. Bierstadt's dramatic interpretations of Western scenes captured my imagination at the Buffalo Bill Center, and I purchased a print of his Among the Sierra Nevada, California which I had framed and which still hangs in my living room to this day. Mount Bierstadt in Colorado was named for Albert Bierstadt.

Among The Sierra Nevada Mountains  California - Albert Bierstadt - Among the Sierra Nevada, California-Albert Bierstadt 1868

In many ways, Bierstadt was a product of the Romantic Age, and his canvases brought him great prosperity. He was elected to the National Academy of Design  in 1860, and was a member until his death in 1902. His output over his lifetime rivals Moran, and may number as many as 500 paintings. Both men worked around Yellowstone and Yosemite, as did William Henry Jackson, and their interpretations of similar scenes is quite interesting. 

Upper Falls of the Yellowstone - Albert Bierstadt -

Upper Falls Yellowstone River-Albert Bierstadt 

Lower Yellowstone Falls - Albert Bierstadt -

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River by Albert Bierstadt

Surveyor's Wagon in the Rockies - Albert Bierstadt -

Surveyor's Wagon in The Rockies by Albert Bierstadt

In this painting, Bierstadt is more literal in his depiction of the difficult life of working on a survey in the remote Mountain West. Like Moran, some of his paintings were developed from studies done in the field, or occasionally by photographers accompanying the surveys.

Old Faithful I - Albert Bierstadt -

Old Faithful by Albert Bierstadt

Yellowstone Falls - Albert Bierstadt -

Yellowstone Falls by Albert Bierstadt

As can be seen in comparing the work of Moran and Bierstadt, Bierstadt tended to use light and dark to more effect than Moran, yet Moran's eye for the dramatic colors of the Yellowstone region are more striking than Bierstadt. Bierstadt did more varied work with wildlife of the region than Moran. Shown below are a few examples.

Rocky Mountain Sheep 1 - Albert Bierstadt -

Rocky Mountain Sheep I by Albert Bierstadt

Elk - Albert Bierstadt -

Elk by Albert Bierstadt

In the next segment, I'll be taking a look at some of the other scenes these men painted that influenced our nation to set aside lands as National Parks and Monuments. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review of The Bamboo Trading Company Album by Peter Reum

Is there really an Endless Summer? Is there a place we can go where time is stopped, responsibilities are gone, and pleasure is constant? If there was, would you go there? A place where Don't Worry, Be Happy is the motto all day, every day....Another way to look at this album would be that it could be one answer to The iconic Beach  Boys song When I Grow Up. That song asks if the singer will still like the same things he did as a young man, and if he will still be able to joke around. Bamboo Trading Company's new album is intimately wrapped up in these questions. The members of this group are current and former members of The Beach Boys Band: Randall Kirsch, Gary Griffin, and Philip Bardowell, and in the case of Matt Jardine, a son of a Beach Boy.  Rounding out the group are Miami Dan Yoe and Chris English. who both bring long term musical careers to this group.

Good Time Music or Sunshine Music, or whatever term one would want to use, has been the currency of  Southern California music for 50+ years. This is not to say it is exclusive to that tropical locale, because such groups as Lovin' Spoonful and Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band have recorded their share of  Good Time Music as well.  The idea of escaping to the tropics is as old as The Beach Boys, along with other groups such as Jan and Dean,  America, Bruce and Terry, Harpers Bizarre, California Music, Pablo Cruise, and many more also musically addressing the topic.

Dean Torrence appears on several tracks, as do such luminaries as Alan Boyd, David Marks, Probyn Gregory, and Katie Torrence. The album begins with a brief  introductory segment setting up a cycle of songs with a theme of coping with growing older and still having fun.  A flight from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to California  is the point of departure.` David Beard is a resident of the venerable state of North Carolina, is Endless Summer Quarterly's Editor, and also co-produced this album with Gary Griffin, who also engineered it. Mastering was by Mark Linett. The album's first full tune,  Kitty Hawk, has a couplet that goes "C'mon let's soar, I want an endless summer, There must be more, Out there in California."

It is a fine American tradition to look over the next hilltop, to focus on youth cultural trappings, to think of the next horizon. California has come to symbolize youth, being a bellweather of change, a place where opportunity abounds, and prosperity means a carefree life. When part of America was burning in heat in the time of the Dust Bowl, millions of formerly prosperous farmers migrated to the West Coast hoping to find a new life. The Beach Boys' own families migrated from Ohio and Kansas to rebuild their lives. Yet, John Steinbeck punctured that dream in his Grapes of Wrath.

We as a nation continue to need that hope, that dream, that possibility of an Endless Summer.Yet, when we finally assume adulthood, the very people we love become strangers to us because we are divided in so many directions in the way we expend our energy and time. This is the subject of Tweet (Don't Talk Anymore). The very pursuit of our American Dream causes us to lose our anchor....our family, our roots. We don't mean for family to be disposable, but it happens. At the time of national crisis is when The Beach Boys music sold the best. Their album Endless Summer took us to an earlier, more innocent time, when plumbers repaired pipes instead of stealing elections. In America, escape becomes a way of in the past or future allows us to avoid the pain of the present. On Peter Lacey's We Are the Sand album, Peter Lacey and David Beard's Drinkin' In Sunshine explored the idea of  sunshine as a way of coping with reality. It was almost a Zen experience. On Bamboo Trading Company, the same song seems to scream "we're out there having fun, in the warm California sun." On another level, the old Zen koan comes to mind "don't just do something, sit there!"

Star on the Beach explores the subject of getting to the age when a middle aged person is still on the top of their game, but sees that time coming to an end. It is almost the middle age equivalent of When I Grow Up. David Marks and Probyn Gregory contribute guitar and production to this tune. The tune also speaks to the kind of person who chased the next rush and horizon for so long that he did not know where he belonged. Alan Boyd sings on this song and others on this album. Like many songs on this album, the melody on this tune is impossibly catchy. After an instrumental interlude entitled Haulin' Cargo, the story resumes with a tune called Shrewd Awakening. This tune is a metaphor for several ideas, from mosquitoes, to family discord and unhappiness, to urban sprawl destroying California. Tonga Hut seems to address the escape from reality through partying hardy. Again, this is another approach to escaping reality.

Jericho is a tune by Miami Dan Yoe that addresses the experience of going to a place where people still come first, and learning people and relationships are what last. When we focus on relationships with people, we learn that although there is always potential pain there, true reciprocal relationships beat chasing money, highs, or other artificial and bogus relationships. I've Always Loved the Ocean explores the rapport that comes from creating together in a group. It is apparent that this bunch of guys made the process of creating this album a priority over how successful it might or might not be. By living in the now, as they put it, the group has grown together, had fun, and realized that their ability to live in the present contributes to the quality of their music, their families, and their listeners. Don't Say It's Over, the last full song on the album, seems to say "let's not say goodbye, just until next time." Another catchy melody anchors this tune, as they do throughout the album.

The Bamboo Trading Company Theme invites the listener into a relationship with the band's music, and  brings us full circle to landing the plane as "The Band that keeps you company." The album brings a group of long time musicians into their own place on the beach, apart from The Beach Boys, yet  obviously fond of their California Music mentors. These guys have forged their own identity, and show promise not only in their gift for melody and group harmony, but also a willingness to share and support each other's tunes and work for group excellence. That is the mark of mature musicians, who know themselves, and how they can create together. This is indeed Good Time Music for the 21st Century, and if you give it a spin without prejudging the album, you will find yourself with a big smile on your face, and grateful for 40 minutes of pure musical enjoyment.

Bamboo Trading Company is available through

Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lowell George...You Are Missed by Peter Reum

Lowell has passed through my musical consciousness at least once a week for the last 40 years. Like many creative forces who died young, the accomplishments Lowell left behind are often overshadowed by the "what would he have done had he lived" speculation. Like Duane Allman, another slide player who died young, Lowell was not only a powerful creator within his own band, but a potent sessions player whose contributions to other artists' albums were tasteful and enhanced most songs on which he played.

In reading Lowell's biography, Rock and Roll Doctor, written by Mark Brend, the complexity of this man and what drove him to express himself musically is explored in a sympathetic manner, yet with enough distance to allow Lowell's human frailties and compulsions to show.  Song by song, album by album, Lowell's contributions to the Seventies musical map are discussed.  The early history of Little Feat would be terribly diminished had Lowell not been there. It is easy to see Little Feat now as a band whose early years were formative, with their post Let It Roll catalog as their more contemporary work. Their work from Let It Roll until today is dominated by the dual talents of Bill Payne and Paul Barrere, with the addition of Fred Tackett, the powerful rhythm section of Richie Hayward, then Gabe Ford, Sam Clayton, and Kenny Gradney. There have been some people who took Lowell's place as lead singer, Craig Fuller, and Shaun Murphy. The parallel with the Allman Brothers Band is continued with that band's longevity despite Duane's and Berry Oakley's tragic deaths, which has been followed by years of powerful music from that group over roughly the same period of time as Little Feat's history. Both bands were begun in 1969.

One excellent point that Mark Brend makes about some of the early Little Feat group dynamics is that Lowell was a fairly controlling individual, an "alpha male." Despite this trait, at times Lowell was burned out, either due to poor health, or overwork, and recognized that he was not getting done what needed to be done, despite the need for control that  he had. This internal conflict is more common than uncommon among artists, visual or musical, and has plagued many artists through the years. What Lowell let go in Little Feat was the essence of their early sound...the quirky and often humorous songs, the beautiful and understated slide playing, and the lead vocalist responsibilities. By 1977's Time Loves a Hero, Lowell was a ghost in what had been his own band. The closest parallel to this situation might be the years when Brian Wilson was barely present on Beach Boys albums.

Still, there are the albums where Lowell's presence is not only felt, but is dominant. The first four albums were a body of work that any group would be excited to have released.  As Feat moved from a jazz/blues driven band to a New Orleans Funk influenced band, slowly the public's tastes caught up with them. As Mark Brend points out, sales went from 11,000 for the first album to eventual Gold Record Award sales levels for Feats Don't Fail Me Now, and eventually Waiting For Columbus.  While the latter was enhanced in the studio, it is a powerful document of live Feat, with there being plenty of "unofficial" unadorned live albums available for anyone who has ever wanted them. Lowell's prowess as a slide player who knew silence was his friend is prominent throughout his tenure with Little Feat.  It could be argued that by Time Loves a Hero, the silence was detrimental instead of helpful. Lowell's understated playing went counter to the long and loud guitar solos of the Seventies.

On his solo album, Thanks, I'll Eat It Here, his vocals came to fruition in what could be considered an uneven album as a whole. The unifying thread running through this diverse palette of songs is Lowell's exquisite use of his voice as an instrument. There is less of the "White Boy Sings the Woo Woos" as Van Dyke Parks once termed it. Lowell's vocals are still soulful, but are smoother and less blues influenced. When I asked Van Dyke about Lowell in 2004, he was visibly affected by my question, and the grief on his face was palpable, with Lowell's death seeming to have recently happened, rather than 25 years earlier. That Van Dyke loved Lowell is unquestionable, and his work with Lowell's daughter Inara has been a highlight of Van's recent work.

Had Lowell lived, I think he would be making music with Van Dyke and Inara. He would have been delighted to see his old friend mentoring and collaborating with Inara. Lowell's sense of humor is one of his best remembered traits. In listening to Inara's album with Van Dyke, I think she inherited some of his humor. I hope she has a long and storied musical life, and that her father is smiling, wherever he is.

Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum-All  Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Beach Boys Party (article from 1981) by Peter Reum

Author's note: This article was originally published in the UK Beach Boys Stomp Magazine and reflected some tremendous frustration that many old time fans felt with the quality of Beach Boys performances in the early 1980s when Carl Wilson left the band for a year or so. This is a little trip backward in this writer's time machine....


The two recent concerts that I have attended either in person or through the media were the August 20, 1981 concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, Colorado, and the July 5, 1981 Long Beach, California broadcast by satellite over most of North America.

The atmosphere reminded me of the "media splash" style used by many political groups who have a desperate fear that they will not be heard unless the do it "in a big way."  In the Sixties, such events were called "happenings."  A third rate motorcyclist named Evel Knievel promoted such a hyped event in his attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon on a motorcycle. The thing about the jump was that nobody ever took Evel Knievel seriously after it was over.

When I watched the concerts on last July 4th, 1980, and this July 5th, 1981, in Washington D.C. and Long Beach, respectively, I got the same feeling that people had about Evel Knievel. The music was tired! Few songs were performed competently, studio remixing and board tactics nonwithstanding. The concert that I attended in person at Red Rocks was similar. Every time Brian Wilson would try to sing a high note, some hired gun would step in and sing it for him. The pained and disgusted look on his face was hard to bear. It was as if they were trying to sweep dust under the rug when the whole house was dirty. Wrong notes were rampant, no one sang on key consistently, and the bass player was so loud that the ragged harmonies could not be heard. It made me wonder if the bass was mixed that way on purpose. The songs were strange...strained, they played very little past 1966, and they seemed to avoid songs that required even a modicum of harmony singing. Heroes and Villains, and a number of songs that made them popular in the early Seventies were conspicuous in their absence. The version of Be True to Your School they played was a direct lift from Papa Doo Run Run's version of it. The Beach Boys copying a copy of their own certainly was a strange twist of fate. I am waiting for the day they do Surf City, One Piece Topless Bathing Suit, and Horace the Swinging School Bus Driver.

The whole atmosphere at Long Beach seemed like a carnival. When Wolfman Jack showed up I knew I should have been watching I Love Lucy instead. I wanted to see if Little Ricky had been born yet. The Jetsons were on was the episode when George teaches Astro how to fly. But no....I had to be watching Wolfman Jack. Three Dog Night shared the stage with The Beach Boys. They were good, their song selection was representative of their entire career, and Danny Hutton never looked better. In short, they looked professional, even if no new material was performed.

There was no such feeling like that during The Beach Boys segment of the program. Things were ragged, and Mike Love looked like it was his show, which it was, and Brian said it was "the longest day of the year," which it was. To listen to Wolfman Jack, one would think that The Beach Boys played that way every time they performed, not just that day. I shuddered and hoped that it wouldn't get any worse. It did.

The show at Red Rocks on August 2, 1981 was a litmus test for me. If the debacle on July 5th was repeated, I was going to do a Carl Wilson and not show up again until they rehearsed. Red Rocks is a beautiful place to see a concert. Situated near Morrison, Colorado, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, it is an outdoor amphitheater naturally shaped and surrounded by sandstone cliffs that provide nearly perfect acoustics. I have seen and experienced shows by The Kinks, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and Bruce Springsteen there. The setting was optimal.

After an opening show by the latest Michael McDonald soundalike, The Beach Boys came out and played the same show that they had on July 5th, the same way. After five songs, I knew I had been taken. After ten songs, I looked at my friends to see who looked most like a pigeon. We all cooed to the music and I knew Carl's instincts had been right.  It finally had become intolerable. Mike Love had won. It was a complete self-parody. Most of all, my heart went out to Brian. He paced before the show, the crowd not realizing that the big guy walking back and forth like a caged panther was the reason they were all there.

I took stock of the crowd, and realized that they didn't know what Sunflower was, much less Pet Sounds, and if anything clicked in their minds, they wondered which of the guys was the one who cracked up in the car wreck in 1966. The question that kept recurring to me throughout the concert was "am I just too jaded?" I wondered if I had been there too often in the times when they did rehearse, played new material, and cared what they sounded like.

The answer is complex, and intimately tied up with the inner politics in The Beach Boys themselves. Mike Love obviously has control, and his thumbprint on my forehead felt like a burn job.  Several years ago several of my friends joked about what would happen if Mike Love got control of The Beach Boys. The consensus was that it would be "Mike Love and the Beach Boys" playing garage band versions of the old classics in some proto-naugahyde lounge in Las Vegas. This "worst possible" scenario is rapidly becoming reality.  Meanwhile, the new fans continue to flock to the group, others having memories of "the good old days" back in '74, '71, '67, or whenever The Beach Boys were good in live performances. I can see the day in 1985 when some of us will look back at 1981, because Evel Knievel will be singing with Mike Love before Evel tries to jump The Pacific Ocean with The Beach Boys playing in the background with 25,000 pigeons in person and millions of pigeons watching on tv. You, too, can be part of a Beach Boys Party.

The last time I listened, Mike and company were trying to set up a concert at Fiesta Island in San Diego, and the folks with the City of San Diego were saying they didn't want any part of it in their neck of the woods. Listen Mike, there's a great little bullring down in Tijuana, but do me a favor and do the concert with the bull present, o.k.?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meditation of a Landlocked Sailor by Peter Reum

Meditation of a Landlocked Sailor

There can be no doubt that the need to dull pain, especially emotional pain, is a fundamental human drive, like belonging and feeling safe. The urges to be tame and wild conflict in each of us daily. The need to feel safe is so fundamental to human existence. What happens when we don't feel safe? What happens when every new situation feels scary? What happens when human contact becomes aversive? What happens when what once comforted us creates terror?  There are questions every therapist often gets asked, but these are the most common. What happens when the first reaction to novel environments is panic? What happens when isolation is the only place where feeling safe is present? What happens when as small children we see screaming, hitting, and anger, or experience it ourselves?

This song is the answer to some of those questions. A wise man once said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Our base instincts as children are to love and be touch and be touched, to seek comfort from those we feel safe with. When those people do not consistently answer with safe touch, comfort, and a soothing voice, our needs become unmet. We begin to become little people who believe that the only person we can rely on is ourselves. This is the beginning of dulled self-service, of narcissism. The demi-god Narcissus was smitten with his attractiveness and according to Ovid, denied the love of Echo, a nymph, and was punished by the Greek god of revenge, Nemesis, as a result. Narcissus afterward spent his life admiring himself in a reflecting pond, denied the chance of ever finding true love again, dying without ever knowing true love.

Narcissistic Personality traits are controversial, and the prevalence of such traits, to the point of it being a personality disorder, are rare. In 20 years of counseling, I only saw an average of two patients a year who were truly narcissistic. This out of roughly 110 patients per year. The symptoms according to Mayo Clinic of Minnesota are:

  • Reacting to criticism with anger, shame, or humiliation
  • Taking advantage of others to reach own goals
  • Exaggerating own importance, achievements, and talents
  • Imagining unrealistic fantasies of success, beauty, power, intelligence, or romance
  • Requiring constant attention and positive reinforcement from others
  • Becoming jealous easily
  • Lacking empathy and disregarding the feelings of others
  • Being obsessed with self
  • Pursuing mainly selfish goals
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Becoming easily hurt and rejected
  • Setting goals that are unrealistic
  • Wanting "the best" of everything
  • Appearing unemotional

  • According to Mayo Clinic, "In addition to these symptoms, the person may also display dominance, arrogance, show superiority, and seek power. The symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder can be similar to the traits of individuals with strong self-esteem and confidence; differentiation occurs when the underlying psychological structures of these traits are considered pathological. Narcissists have such an elevated sense of self-worth that they value themselves as inherently better than others. However, they have a fragile self-esteem and cannot handle criticism, and will often try to compensate for this inner fragility by belittling or disparaging others in an attempt to validate their own self-worth. It is this sadistic tendency that is characteristic of narcissism as opposed to other psychological conditions affecting level of self-worth."

    There are a number of possible factors contributing to Narcissistic Personality Disorder as cited by Mayo Clinic. The cause of this disorder is unknown, however Groopman and Cooper, as cited by Mayo Clinic, list the following factors identified by various researchers as possibilities:
    • An oversensitive temperament at birth
    • Excessive admiration that is never balanced with realistic feedback
    • Excessive praise for good behaviors or excessive criticism for bad behaviors in childhood
    • Overindulgence and overvaluation by parents, other family members, or peers
    • Being praised for perceived exceptional looks or abilities by adults
    • Severe emotional abuse in childhood
    • Unpredictable or unreliable caregiving from parents
    • Valued by parents as a means to regulate their own parental self-esteem
    The italicized traits indicate behaviors often seen in families that are unhealthy due to addictive behavior.

    Mayo Clinic goes on to say "some narcissistic traits are common and a normal developmental phase. When these traits are compounded by a failure of the interpersonal environment and continue into adulthood, they may intensify to the point where NPD is diagnosed. Some psychotherapists believe that the etiology of the disorder is, in Freudian terms, the result of fixation to early childhood development."

    The individual who is Narcissistic has concluded at a very early age that the only way he or she will get needs met is to rely on self. Through later childhood, the child will make new friends easily, and build them up as saviors or rescuers. The moment that the friend does not meet the Narcissist's expectations, they are relegated to the sidelines of the Narcissist's life. This pattern repeats endlessly into adulthood as the Narcissist's hopes for being "taken care of" by friends or lovers is dashed due to the unrealistic expectations of the Narcissist. In adult life, this person may search repeatedly for someone to rescue him or her from perceived threats. The narcissist never feels safe and blames others for these feelings.

    This is theorized, and has been validated in research into addictive behavior, to be a result of early childhood physical and emotional abuse, inconsistent parenting, and being used by a parent to fulfill the parent's need for adulation and adequacy.  How do adults with Narcissistic traits deal with this constant disappointment? Many of them turn to using mood altering chemicals or activities to dull the pain  and the emptiness they feel. Common addictive activities, such as workaholism, insatiable seeking of wealth, gambling, overeating, bulimia, and anorexia,  often proceed from the feelings of anger and inadequacy these unfortunate people feel almost perpetually. Chemicals are often a matter of constant cross-addiction, with tobacco, alcohol, opioids, cannibinoids, amphetamines, and hallucinogens being used to escape the feelings of isolation, self-doubt, and pain these individuals live with daily.

    Addiction, which comes from the Latin word addictus, mean to be nailed, is both the symptom and the disease that often results from Narcissism.  Most people with chemical and/or activity dependence almost have to be reparented to learn the fundamental elements and rewards of human relationships, due to the abuse and/or the inconsistent parenting they experienced as babies and preschoolers. They have to learn that the rewards of human relationships are real, but can be at times difficult to perceive. Expectations must be tempered, and discipline and trust must be taught. For people with chemical or activity dependence, the therapist and family must be almost implacable, letting nothing rattle or disrupt the relationship behaviorally. The untamed inner child must be taught to be tame, the horribly negative judgmental parent voice in the addict's brain must be unflinchingly disputed and retrained to learn consistent civilized behavioral values, and the part of the brain that lives in the moment must be allowed to govern the inner child and parent. The voice of this part of the brain will be nonjudgmental, rational, and interested in life as it exists in the moment, without shame from the past, or fear from the future overwhelming it.

    When the brain's adult voice learns to live in the moment, mindfulness has become habitual, and the past and the future will no longer disrupt the present. The exhausted sailor of life will no longer feel shameful pain, nor feel that he or she has to solely rely on himself or herself for every emerging need. Love blossoms, because in learning to be tame, to trust, and give self and possessions away, the newly emergent adult will have overcome self-doubt, self-promotion, feelings of unsafeness, and unquenchable, burning need. The reciprocal rewards of a relationship with others and ourselves can be savored as they happen. Life's unending possibilities, as the quantum mechanic might say, are open, and the sailor is alive every moment of every day. Sounds like heaven....

    Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    A Proposed Future Beach Boys Archive Release Agenda by Peter Reum

    There is hope for the Beach Boys future archive releases. Upon transfer from Capitol to MCA/Universal, it would have been easy to discontinue plans for archive releases, and to focus elsewhere. To everyone's credit, MCA/Universal decided to continue archival releases planned by Capitol before the transfer. The first of these planned releases is the Made In California boxed set, which has a release date of August 27 of this year at the time of this note. People working on the project say that the track lineup is all set. This is encouraging as well.

    What would a future release program at MCA/Universal look like? Well, they don't need my advice, but here it is anyhow. The first suggestion is to continue the reissue mono/stereo release program for the remaining Capitol albums from the Sixties. There is room for a stereo Wild Honey, Surfin' Safari, with stereo 20/20 and Friends as well. We need both shows from London in 1969, both shows from Sacramento in 1964, and from the Seventies, Carl and the Passions with bonus tracks, In Concert as a double cd with the first proposed track line up, Holland with bonus tracks, 15 Big Ones with bonus tracks, Love You with bonus tracks, MIU, LA Light with bonus tracks, Keepin' the Summer Alive with bonus tracks, Beach Boys 85 with bonus tracks, Carl Wilson's two albums released perhaps similar to Dennis's Pacific Ocean Blue, plus perhaps a collection of orphaned Seventies tracks such as the 1976 Adult Child tracks Brian cut. This will sound strange but an unfinished tracks cd for some of Dennis and Carl's Seventies work, plus some of Brian's Seventies stuff that turned a few years ago such as Just An Imitation would be enlightening.  Rooftop Harry and My Solution would also be nice. It might be time to finally buy the Hite Morgan stuff and do a sympathetic package there as well.

    The Beach Boys have not mined their treasure trove of live concerts dating back to the early Sixties. We know from unauthorized releases that there are first rate board tapes from 1966 forward. There is a cool 1964 live show from Sweden that deserves official release, as does the Fillmore show with The Dead, and the 1966 Michigan State show, and shows from 1967-Hawaii, and much better tapes from later in 1967. From the Seventies, there are any number of shows, the Fillmore Closing, Good Vibrations from London and Central Park, the Syracuse 1971 show, The various Carnegie Shows, The radio Luxembourg Show, the shows from the recording void (1974-76), and the 15th and 16th Anniversary Shows recorded at the Forum. There is the Largo, Maryland 1977 show, and the CBS Convention Show the same year. There are a number of concerts that were cut with Brian from 1978-80,although many of them may not be very good. From then on, probably the next worthwhile shows would be the 1993 Tour promoting the Good Vibrations Boxed Set.

    There is a big need for a collection of Brian's demos from 1962 on through to the present. The ones that exist and have been heard are amazing. There is most likely enough for a double or triple cd set. Does any of this pique your interest? If not, it would be surprising. When do we begin?

    Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

    Monday, April 8, 2013

    Reissues-Helpful or Harmful? by Peter Reum

    The reissue is the tool used by record companies to present an artist's catalog for several purposes. They can include profitable use of masters that have already earned their costs and are now cost-effective, as well as "piggybacking" occasions when public awareness of artists' albums or lives have created an interest or market for representations of back catalog material. These things we call reissues have a place is the music business, but can be detrimental to an artist's career as well as helpful. What occasions are helpful and what occasions are detrimental? Let's examine some occasions where both of these outcomes happened.

    For many artists, the reissue has been a useful tool in bringing early career work to the public's attention. Recent reissues in The Who's catalog have amplified early work by presenting monaural mixes (or stereo mixes), and placed their work in context. I have purchased the deluxe editions of The Who's albums, and have enjoyed most of them. The My Generation double cd set allowed the legal issue of an album that had grown very rare on vinyl, had been bootlegged, and was never available on cd. Mono and stereo mixes were presented, and several additional recordings were released. Similar work on The Who Sell Out deluxe double set added some tunes that were previously unavailable on cd, and in some cases were only found on bootlegs. The Who's Next deluxe double set added an early mix of most of the songs on the album, plus a live presentation of the same material. The Japanese have released a double cd set of Whos Missing Volumes 1 and 2 that is wonderful soundwise, and adds instead of detracts from their catalog. It is quite apparent that some of the ridicule that MCA/Universal was been subjected to regarding The Who's catalog has found an ear inside their corporation, and more thoughtful packages have been put together.

    The "Boxed Set" became a tool for archive material presentation in the early 80s. I was involved as the booklet author and photo archivist for The Beach Boys Capitol Years 1980 boxed set, which was spearheaded in the UK by two collectors who involved other BB fans from around the world, Mike Grant and Roy Gudge. The resulting package collected singles issued in the UK and their "B" sides, as well as  top album tracks from the Capitol catalog. For the first time, Brian Wilson's Productions outside of The Beach Boys were also presented. Despite some flaws in presenting songs in duophonic format instead of mono, the set was a major step forward in promoting The Beach Boys catalog. The Good Vibrations Boxed Set, from 1993 presented Smile Sessions music legally for the first time, as well as numerous previously unreleased tunes from the vaults.  It garnered several awards, including "Best Reissue" from Rolling Stone Magazine. The reissue of Dennis Wilson's first solo albums, with supplementary material from the sessions for his second album shed new light on a work that is evidence of what was Dennis's growing mastery of the studio and songwriting genius.

    Conversely, many of The Beach Boys albums were deleted from the Capitol catalog, to their detriment, and then reissued incomplete in the early 70s to the sound of crickets chirping. The fact that these reissues deservedly stiffed made Capitol rethink their while approach to The Beach Boys. As a result, Endless Summer was issued in 1974, and sold in the millions of copies because it thoughtfully compiled Brian Wilson 's early songs in a themed manner to a country shellshocked by Vietnam and Watergate. Sadly, it gradually also turned the touring Beach Boys into a human jukebox, but that was a commercial reality they had to reckon with in order to keep touring. Capitol's treatment of both The Beach Boys and Beatles output in the Sixties was horrible. US and UK Beatle albums were different, and US Capitol squeezed 11 albums out of the Beatles' first 7 UK albums. Right after Pet Sounds, Capitol issued a horrible Best of the Beach Boys album that for many other groups would have ended their career. Greatest Hits albums at that time signalled that a group was washed up. Capitol repeated this action two more times to less and less sales, with Best of the Beach Boys  Volume 2 not receiving Gold Album status until years later, and Best of the Beach Boys Volume 3 deservedly turning into a "stiff."

    With artists' collaboration, Capitol has more respectfully reissued both groups' catalogs on compact disc to deserved success. The Capitol "2-fers" presented The Beach Boys Capitol and Brother records material in a manner that encouraged new buyers to purchase unheard albums and discover them years after they were first issued. Capitol's unification of The Beatles material, at Apple's behest, to a standard format worldwide showed respect for the material as The Beatles first released it, and also gave US buyers a look at albums as they were released, instead of the mangled versions released by Capitol in the Sixties.The later issue of both Mono and Stereo Boxed Sets of their entire catalog showed the subtle and sometimes important difference between Beatles albums as mixed before their initial release.

    For Motown fans, there has been a structured and progressive reissue of important parts of the Motown catalog, beginning with the Hitsville USA boxed set, and moving into reissues of numerous landmark albums from the Sixties and Seventies, along with compilations of singles for each year into boxed sets, and unissued masters. The reissue of some of Marvin Gaye's albums in the Deluxe series has offered some important insight into his creative process. What's Going On offers an alternate mix of the entire album, plus a live concert from the same period with album material.

    Many artists have had excellent compilations of their work reissued in a manner sympathetic to the artist, and also have shed new light for listeners who do not want to buy expensive lps on the collectors'market. The Follow That Dream reissue program is designed by collectors for collectors, and amplifies phases of Elvis Presley's recording career in a way that allows the hard core collector to experience new discoveries that revitalize their interest in Elvis some 36 years after his demise. For less hardcore fans, such as myself, there are the Elvis RCA boxed sets collecting masters from the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies.

    Clearly, in these times of growing willingness of artists to forego signing with a major company, thereby skipping the "middle man," so to speak, existing major companies-Warner, MCA/Universal, and Sony, are challenged to use their back catalogs wisely and present historical material from their catalogs in a respectful and creative manner that keeps artists from the past in the spotlight. Artists like Frank Sinatra, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Leonard Bernstein, and thousands more deserve to have their material available to new and upcoming listeners in formats that encourage discovery of their creative histories and preserve the legacy they created. Folklore is being reissued by The Smithsonian Institution in the same manner with their presentation of the Folkways and Lomax recordings. This is the approach needed with such archival material. Sloppy and thoughtless presentation of artists' catalogs is no longer in the interest of record companies or the artists they have in their vaults.

    Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

    Thursday, April 4, 2013

    Outtakes and Unreleased Music: The Impossible Quest by Peter Reum

    I have had the chance to observe some discussions on one of The Beach Boys Message Boards regarding a Dennis Wilson song called (Wouldn't It Be Nice To) Live Again. I remember when we Beach Boys collectors were able to document a number of titles using articles and interviews from the past as well as copyrights in The Library of Congress. Titles like Mona Kani, Holy Man and Pacific Highway Blues, Fire, Soulful Old Man Sunshine, Just An Imitation, Don't Do It, Rock and Roll Doctor, and so many more fired the imagination. I had the chance to listen to Pete Townshend's demos for his solo albums or Who albums, and marveled that one man could create such great sounding tunes.

    Beatles and Dylan collectors chased The Basement Tapes, The Decca Audition Tapes, and many of rock music collectors tried to accumulate live recordings of as many concerts as possible by their favorite artists. Finally, The Grateful Dead and Little Feat decided to set up taper's sections at their shows. All of this brings to mind  the need of an artist to set down their ideas on tape or canvas, versus the public's desire to hear or see the works in progress or the discarded ideas that did not reach fruition. There was an American Masters biography of Neil Young last month that perhaps explained the situation many artists face when they are true to their muse. Neil made the point that had he not stayed true to his art, he would have not been able to respect himself. At times, artists want to grow, and the public's expectations stifle growth. Certainly many groups have faced the dilemma of producing what the public demands versus their own desire to move forward artistically.

    For years, The Beach Boys had to deal with questions about Smile. It got to the point to where several groups members just began to give ridiculous answers to interviewers' questions. Yet, we as listeners fail to realize that episodes in a music group's life like Smile can be terribly painful to discuss. For years, Pete Townshend utilized interviews to refine his creative ideas. Some 30 plus years after initially conceiving the project, Pete chose to release what he had as a boxed set with a recording of the Lifehouse radio play and the various Lifehouse demos. Brian Wilson's Smile was on the shelf until his family realized that he would only gain some inner peace if he were to walk through the storm. With the help of Darian Sahanaja and Van Dyke Parks, Smile was reformatted as a live performance work, and came to be regarded as a tour de force which surprised Brian, and redeemed both men's outlooks on their creative ideas some 37 years prior. 

    Sometimes artists die and leave behind a body of ideas that would not have been released had they lived in the manner the came out. I listened to Buddy Holly's incredible 6 cd set and discovered how his sketches on tape were changed by Norman Petty after Buddy's death. I had met Mr. Petty in the 70s, and toured his studio while he was still alive. I asked him about Buddy, and he felt that his work had presented Buddy's work in the best possible light. Elvis Presley's work has been issued as concert tapes surfaced, or demand for detailed and well organized boxed sets of studio outtakes grew. Jimi Hendrix's work was released posthumously and controversy followed each release. When Jimi's family finally gained control of the rights, releases became more refined and praised instead of being called exploitative.

    Rarely do outtakes live up to their imagined excellence upon finally hearing them. I was fortunate to  be involved with the release of the Smile Sessions Boxed Set in 2011, and I think it probably addressed the legends that had built up around those sessions in a manner that was a win/win situation for Brian and Van Dyke and The Beach Boys too. The Beach Boys' hard work on those sessions was vindicated, and Brian was able to let the music stand on its own due to the public reaction to his 2004 version of Smile. For most of the public, they have little interest in outtakes because they like to hear familiar versions of music that bring back memories. For those of us who have "insatable curtiosity" as Rudyard Kipling called it....there is always that next version, that unheard version, that song that someone raved about to pursue and possess.

    Copyright by Peter Reum 2013-All Rights Reserved