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Musical Memories

Beata’s recollection of the song “Old Friends” from the Simon and Garfunkel album “Bookends,” brought back the nostalgia of a lyric which was about looking backward from an older age. I well remember the album, and the two which preceded it, “The Sound of Silence,” and “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” And that caused me to think about ’60’s music, and how much better I think it is than the pop music of today. And then to think about the various musical artists I have seen over the years in the pop and rock modes.

This is in no way an attempt to impress anyone with the concerts I have seen. I think about the artists I wish I had seen. I was not adventurous as a teenager, and there was no way I was going to travel to the Sunset Strip during that incredible musical period. A few of those groups I got to see later on, which was great, but it wasn’t the same thing. I actually saw many of my favorite artists via reunion tours, trying to make up for missing them the first time. I thought that it might be fun, in the midst of all this political tension, to think about some great music. And if Janet Gray is still following this blog, I think that she will enjoy the reminiscences.

I loved the music of the Mamas and Papas, and the first two rock albums I ever had were their “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears,” and “Revolver” by the Beatles. My parents were thoughtful enough to buy tickets, and drive my brother and me to see the Mamas and Papas at the Hollywood Bowl, with opening act Jimi Hendrix, whom John and Michelle Phillips, who helped to manage the Monterey Pop Festival (that was something I have wished I could have seen, far better than Woodstock), had been impressed by at that event.

I did get to see concerts by Donovan and by Simon and Garfunkel at UCLA, a few years later. I have seen Judy Collins much later than that, several times, and I saw Roger McGuinn of the Byrds and Collins combine for a concert, singing a few songs together at the end.

And one of my greatest thrills was to see Arthur Lee and a new incarnation of his incredible group Love, play all their great songs, with Lee making a comeback from a down period in his career and life, and sounding as good as he ever did.

In the ’70’s, I ventured out more, by myself or with a date, to see artists like Gordon Lighfoot, and then many of the groups which comprised the so-called “L.A. Underground,” our answer to New York’s “New Wave,” in the late 1970’s. I did see the Talking Heads, an East Coast New Wave group, though we really did not see them, just hear them, because it was so crowded that one could not see the stage. From Los Angeles, I saw the Go-Go’s back before they had done an album, but I had heard them on the radio when they were more of a punk-type band which played the songs fast, before their producer slowed the songs down and they sold millions of copies of “Beauty and the Beat,” I saw the Motels, with the extraordinary Martha Davis, prowling the stage, looking beautiful, intense and edgy.

Also one of my favorite groups from that period, whom I don’t think that anyone here has heard of, Vivabeat,with a great guitarist and bass player, a charismatic lead singer, and keyboardist a and synthesizer player Marina Del Rey. Others, too, which no one outside of L.A. has likely ever heard of.

I got to see Howard Devoto of the brilliant British group Magazine, who was a solo act at that point, with opening act The Fall. That was a great concert. I saw the Simple Minds, but that was decades later, on a reunion tour, they still sounded great. And I was so excited to see a reunited Roxy Music, one of the best concerts I have ever seen, which is pretty much shown on their “Roxy Music at the Apollo” on DVD. I also got to see Blondie, with just about all the original members, a couple of times.

Jumping around, I went to a two-day event featuring ’60’s artists, twenty years later. The highlights were The Association, who always were great in concert, and a reconfigured The Animals with Eric Burdon. I saw a reunion of the groups of the “Paisley Underground” of the ’80’s in L.A., which were an homage to the ’60’s. The Bangles, Green on Red, The Dream Syndicate, unfortunately missing the great Kendra Smith, and The Rain Parade.

I finally got to see Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks a few times, what an amazing talent he was. And Johnny Rivers, Roky Erickson, and Al Stewart. I was thrilled to see Petula Clark more than once, in her ’80’s, as melodic and charming as ever. I even got to see Donny and Marie Osmond, whose music is not my favorite, but who put on wonderful concerts. I saw the reformed Jefferson Airplane/Starship, with Cathy Richardson a more than worthy successor to Grace Slick.

I haven’t gone to concerts lately, because I feel uncomfortable going to large events, with so many people refusing to wear masks. Hopefully, there will be a time before very long, when one can feel safe again at concerts, There are still a few performers I would like to see, including Paul McCartney, and maybe Bob Dylan, whom I have the highest admiration for, but who I have heard is somewhat erratic in the quality of his shows. I like Florence and the Machine, and would like to see them again. I would go to any Loreena McKennitt concert on the West Coast. I saw her three times when she was last here, and she is a treasure.

A lot of memories which I can call up in my mind, even though I never tried to record any of it on my phone.I wish I could see them again, though. Artists whom I wish I could have seen, some of whom probably did play here, but I did not know of them at the time, or was too young to venture out to see on my own, were the Seekers, Ultravox with John Foxx, Altered Images, B-People with Alex Gibson, The Doll. The Popguns are my favorite group now, but they do not often play concerts out of England.

And I will always regret not going to a concert by Broadcast on their last trip here, before the incomparable Trish Keenan, who to me evoked in music the poetic quality of an Emily Bronte or Christina Rossetti, came down with swine flu on a concert tour in Australia, and tragically died of pneumonia a few weeks later, at age 42. As I said on a radio show I got to guest host, I saw them five times, and I wish I had seen them five hundred times.

Ray Davies and the Kinks sang, ”They can’t stop the music playing on.” And they can’t, though I wish it were as good as in some of those earlier times.


18 Responses

  1. Wonderful essay, William. Such a welcome break from politics!

    Are there a few videos of your favorite artists that you would like me to put in the comments?Tell me the artists and the name of the songs. I will do my best to post them.

    BTW, Bob Dylan is erratic in the quality of his concerts but well worth seeing anyway. I have seen him twice. I would see him again if possible but my days of going to concerts are over.

    Two artists/groups I wish I had seen: Paul McCartney (Paul, my crush since I was 3 years old!) and The Beach Boys (the original group).

    • Oh, there are so many, and I hate to ask. But here are a few.

      “Between Clark and Hilldale” by Love. Those are two streets which adjoin the Sunset Strip, and the song is about everyone hanging out there back then and having a nice time. Such a brilliant lyric, with the unsaid last word of each stanza being the first word of the next one.

      “Closets and Bullets” by the Motels, album version or live.

      “Hiroshima Mon Amour” by Ultravox.

      “Desire Me” by The Doll.

      “Unchanging Window/Chord Simple” by Broadcast. The last part always brings tears to my eyes because it it is so beautiful. They were even better live than on the records, and Trish is unerringly hitting the keyboard notes with one finger on the instrumental part.

  2. I’m impressive today. I got Wordle in 3 guesses. Yesterday I was a failure. Too many possibilities and I choose the wrong ones. I’m trying to be philosophical about it (it’s just a game! Wordle does not represent my worth as a human being!) but it’s still a bummer.

    • I should have written I *chose* the wrong ones yesterday.

      But as the man said, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. That is so true about Wordle.

  3. Love: “Between Clark and Hilldale”

  4. The Motels: “Closets and Bullets”

  5. Ultravox: “Hiroshima Mon Amour”

  6. The Doll: “Desire Me”

  7. Broadcast: “Unchanging Window/Chord Simple”

  8. Disclaimer: The above musical selections are William’s, not mine. I posted the ones he requested. (It’s All Request Thursday on RD radio!) My choices would be very different.

  9. Thank you, Beata! That was fun to listen to.

    Yes, those were some songs I very much liked, and if anybody did not like them, you can blame me, but I do not see how one would not! Tastes in music will differ, of course, but even so…

    • I do like the Love song. I was too young to have listened to it when I was growing up but it’s a good song.

      • “Forever Changes,” the album it is on, is one of the top three albums of the ’60’s, in my opinion.

        I perhaps should have picked more ’60’s songs, but I wanted to play a few of the ones which stood out to me, except for “Desire Me,” which I had liked in the late ’70’s, then somehow thought of it a year or so ago, and found more about The Doll, and Marion Valentine, who I now think should have been a superstar, but the group had some personnel problems, and when they finally put out their album, there were too many other artists filling the airwaves, and the group disbanded. And no one has any idea of what Marion did after that. I like to think that she is still out there, glad when people buy the double CD containing all her songs, which Beggars Banquet Records finally put out in 2011. So it is nice that you could put it on here. They did an extended version of it. like with Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” but that song got to Number 1. and made Blondie famous, while “Desire Me” only got to Number 28 in England, but I think it is a better song.

        Thanks again!

  10. One of my musical memories:

    When I was in elementary school, my musical idol was Melanie. I had a guitar and loved to play and sing her songs. I imagined I was Melanie. The summer I turned 11, my mother lost her job and we were having trouble paying for food and electricity. I had seen hippies downtown near the university playing music on the street and collecting money. So after supper one evening, when it was still light, I slipped out of the house with my guitar and made my way downtown. I set up in front of a ‘head shop’ (I only vaguely knew what they were) and started to play and sing. I had collected a couple dollars in change when an older man, probably a professor, asked me if I had a home. I said yes. Then he asked if my mother knew where I was and what I was doing. I said no. The man told me it wasn’t safe for a pretty little girl to be out here alone. He said he would give me $20 if I would go straight home and never do anything like this again. He made me promise. I said I would. I went home with the $20 (and change) and gave it to my mother. She was livid about what I had done, going downtown alone like that. She thought I was at a friend’s house across the street. I didn’t realize how unsafe I had been. I thought I was just like Melanie, performing her songs. I’ll always remember that nice man and his good advice.

    • A year or so after this experience, I got to see Melanie in concert. My best friend’s mother bought us two tickets to celebrate my friend’s birthday. What a magical memory that concert was! Melanie’s voice was so powerfully beautiful. She radiated love and peace to everyone in the audience. She is an incredibly gifted artist.

  11. Off topic: I have a recommendation for anyone who enjoys listening to readings of classic British horror and mystery short stories: Bitesized Audio Classics on You Tube.

    Simon Stanhope, a British actor, is the narrator of the stories. There are at least 100 of them, mostly from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Perfect for Halloween or anytime. Scary!

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