Tuesday, April 29, 2003
A musician writes about how to think of music as a language.


The following comment was posted on the old commenting system:

Date/Time: May 24 2003, 09:30 am


IP address:

Email: none

Homepage: http://

Music is not a language, although it can be regarded as language. I like the old European saw to the effect that the difference between a dialect and a language is an army, and suspect that with some of the more widely paid-for and easily audible cases of music (musical or otherwise) the army fostering the universal language (or hack journalese) is that of mammon.

Monday, April 28, 2003
It's still April, and April is National Poetry Month:

Snoot Full of Snow
by Allen & Grier (1963)

Whacka-whack-doo whacka-whacka-doo
Whack-whack a-whack whack whack

A-dope dope dope dope dope-ope-ee-oh
Reef- reef- reefer snoot full of snow
Op- op- op- op- op-opium
Goofball goofball

A-dope dope dope dope dope-ope-ee-oh
Reef- reef- reefer away we go
Op- op- op- op- op-opium
Fly up high with me

I want to turn it on with you
Inside my cozy den
You know, you're my hero
You're my heroine
A-rot rot rot rot rot-a-lee-ot
A-beep beep beep beep sniff of pot
A-boop boop boop boop boop-oop-ee-oop
Morphine morphine

A-rot rot rot rot rot-a-lee-ot
A-beep beep beep beep mainline shot
A-boop boop boop boop boop-oop-ee-oop
Dialated eye

Doo whacka doo whacka doo whacka doo whacka
Doo whacka doo whacka doo
Doo whacka doo whacka doo whacka doo whacka
Doo whacka doo whacka doo
Doo whacka doo whacka doo whacka doo whacka
Doo whacka doo whacka doo
Doo whacka doo whacka doo whacka doo whacka
Doo whacka doo whacka doo
Take a fix!
You're my spoon of sugar
And you're my poppy seed
Let's connect together
Inhaling loco weed

Cud- cud- cud- cud- cuddle-ee-poo
A trifle Miltown just won't do
Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss-a-lee-poo
Cocaine is good for you

Tea for two and two for tea
A horse for you and a monkey for me
Euphoria and ecstasy
Alone, together

Hug hug hug hug huddle-ee-wug
Sit around and drag that drug
Vo vo vo vo vo-vo-dee-oh
I hope the cops don't know

(All lyrics are property and copyright of their owners and are provided for educational purposes only.)
Which musician shared these empathic reflections on music critics?

"Sort of in defense and criticism of the music press, they don't have room to enjoy music in their head, because they have to think about it all the time in this critical way. They sort of have to form an opinion because they can't feel free to sort of have feelings about it. And that's not the way you listen to music. You're supposed to either turn it off if you want to, or you turn it on if you want to. But if you have to write about it, you have to turn it on, and you have to have something to say about it.

"And that's going to fuck with your emotions," he continues, "just like if you were a prostitute and you were trying to have a normal sex life with your partner: You can't do it."

(answer: the music prince of darkness)
Sunday, April 27, 2003
Words to the wise and to those who aspire to become music journalists
[courtesy of the fine folks at music journalist]

Here's a welcome teaser, and a breath of humanity:

"I feel that part of what it means to be a music journalist is the practice of helping people who ask for advice. I am honored and privileged to be involved in the craft of music journalism. As such, I feel obligated to share some of the knowledge that I have acquired. My aim in writing this piece is to answer any potential questions that new writers may have. If I've failed to answer any questions that come to mind, please don't hesitate to contact me. Questions and comments are very much appreciated."


(From NOLA by Jon Newlin)

"Antonin Dvorak, the Bohemian composer residing in the United States as head of the National Conservatory of Music, wrote in the New York Herald in May of 1893, 'I am now satisfied that the future music of this country must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies. This must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States. When I first came here last year I was impressed with this idea, and it has developed into a settled conviction.'

"And so it happened, as it would have even without the benediction of a famous classical composer. In the wake of the 1890s, the period covered in this handsomely produced and formidably researched book, came much of the body (certainly the blood and muscle and guts) of modern popular music: blues, country and urban, gospel, hot jazz and swing and rhythm and blues and rock'n'roll, with no end in or out of sight, and ancestral voices prophesying Waller and Ellington, Bessie Smith and Aretha Franklin, Armstrong and Charlie Parker, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Sonny Rollins."

By Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff
University Press of Mississippi, $75

Saturday, April 26, 2003
More on the Purdue-UW 1700hz site: There is no specific format that needs to be followed when writing a review.

“I wrote a review where two people are having a conversation about an album,” Vande Slunt said. “Another review is written as a recipe.”
Friday, April 25, 2003
And today, a music journalist begins a career in Bermuda.
Here are a few spins on Friday's thoughts about globalization and music.

1) From a site where you can buy a tasty college term paper, the g-word and music

2) From a journal (with peer review standards): the music industry and the g-word

Older but still recent articles about possible trends are many times interesting to think about. For instance, one of the final remarks in First Monday asserts there will be more superstars in the future. At first, this may seem to contradict the conclusions of a similar report published as a Rand study (a link to reading this entire book for free inconveniently buried deep in the ancient archives). But there's no real contradiction. Obviously, there may be more superstars but of much shorter duration of career span.

Madame Flavah predicts the era of musicians having 35 and 40 years at the top end of such a career arc may well be ending now. The dilemma for up and coming musicians is that the majority of the attention and financial returns may go only to support the infrastructure supporting the superstars, leaving the musicians (and artists) in the middle ground facing a future where fiscal reality means always being required to hold a day job while working on their art in spare time. Yet, we may all be in for a surprise, if you care to think more about this, because many independent record companies report they're doing better than they ever have.

Thursday, April 24, 2003
While some classical critics ponder the growing trend of "crossover" artists becoming the ones who are selling classical music these days, murmuring sadly not all comes from young students being inspired at Tanglewood. There are "crossover" critics, too, because every one who talks about music can be regarded as a music critic. Just as I have a hard time swallowing the stuffy attitudes of some classical music buffs, I sometimes dislike hearing other people go gushy over it. The last person I heard ... not coo, but over-emote ... about seeing Yo-yo Ma in concert was at least ten years ago and sadly I still remember the experience. Sometimes I just hate hearing somebody I don't like talking about a musician or music I might like, especially if they like them.

I have an especially bad memory of a retired New York movie theatre owner in his casual wear of street basketball attire wherever he went. This ensemble consisted of ratty grey sweatpants under red cotton striped gym shorts, t-shirt, and battered sneakers. I encountered him in such attire in a coffee house. He was a pushy, loud person, obnoxious I would say, and though he was wounded by the world in some way I could feel little compassion for him; he had revealed in a hundred small ways that he held the world and people in poor regard. There are so many rip off bastards in the world, he'd say in a thousand different ways in a million loud anecdotes of proof. It was clear he felt the world owed him something, and he was always trying to get something for free to get back at it. Free phone calls, free cups of coffee, free cups, free newspapers.

That day he wanted to share his personal triumph in pulling one over on the mean old world. He was prancing about in delight and kissed the tips of his cupped fingers, waved his hand in the air in some dated Euro-trash affectation after exclaiming "Yo-yo Ma!" Actually, first came "Yo-yo Ma" then came his own private fingersmack followed by an affected "mwah!"

The core reason for his delight was he had made the prime cut, and was getting a reduced fee on some cruise line trip out of New York to some foreign port of call because he (and this was before the movie came out) was hired to dance with cruise ship wallflowers in the ballroom. That, I supposed, and watch the radish roses turn brown, the buffet's ice sculpture melt, and passengers offloaded and marooned for being found with a pack of matches. And, of course, he was getting a reduced price ticket and Yo-yo Ma was scheduled to play throughout the cruise. That's where Yo-yo Ma came in. The guy never really mentioned the music, only the prestige of the name.

I thought this had been happening for quite awhile anyway, but Purdue engineers experiment to "make average singers sound like vituosos"
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Where the elite meet

This article on Carmina Burana reminded me of Sandy Bull. I'm glad to have had the good fortune to have listened to musicians like Sandy Bull early on because he helped teach me about music. Sandy's first album had already won a treasured spot close to my record player and I probably was still waiting for his second to be released when I first heard the Beatles. I didn't even know where Sandy Bull came from, except that he was known to play around Boston, but before I'd even heard them I'd been told the Beatles were a big hit in Germany (which made me suspicious of their quick prominence here). And that they were a hit band in England, which had previously exported only Mr. Akerbilk to these shores (and that was the only other English music act I could think of at the time, and "bilk" had a negative connotation, you know). I knew the Beatles were getting lots of airplay on AM radio which aside from a few little interesting regional pockets here and there was the province of squareballs whose taste in music was by the mid-'60s getting so bad it was hard to tell the records they played from the farm reports they read. But I was willing to give the Beatles a try.

There was no real disappointment as I listened that Beatles' album, aside from that sense of regret of having not spent more time with it in the listening booth, I having talked myself into believing I might get more from it listening at my leisure at home. My first feeling was a twinge of buyer's remorse of having flushed away those 3 hard-earned dollars on what turned out to be a clunker. Musically, I noticed one of them was borrowing one of Little Richard's best known vocalizations ("adapting, and making it his own"), but I was already accustomed to that sort of thing. I was having no reponse, and I felt nothing too much about their music. Until I became slightly embarrassed for them once I heard "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean".

As an accident of geo-chronicity that generational cohorts can't help but mention one to the other, because such things give a generation something in common to talk about, my husband saw the Beatles live, in performance at the Cow Palace.

Now that may make your heart flutter, as the Cow Palace -- just as a venue name -- likely conjures up images of regal residence to which only the most gentile or refined receive invitation ... or the name may prompt thoughts of noble blue bloods, descendents of some lofty pedigree with lineage traceable to Hereford, Jersey, or Guernsey forebears, perhaps bejeweled with tasteful strands of pearls, resting upon the mohair chesterfields while sipping rose hip tea from translucent porcelain cups.

The Cow Palace was not like that when my husband saw the Beatles in what turned out to be an historic occasion ... their final public appearance onstage as a band ... or anywhere together ... ever ... again. He describes the Cow Palace that time as being more ... "like a zoo". With some form of wire fencing (he first thinks chicken wire, but admits it may have been chainlink) strung like a cage in front of the stage. And much hysteria and general pandemonium coming from the audience drowning out the group onstage. So he really didn't enjoy the concert but admits he really didn't hear a single note that was played, either.

I wasn't crazy about the Beatles at first but I admit they improved quite a lot over the next few years. I remember the evening when the Beatles made the leap from being broadcast everywhere all the time on AM radio and TV, plus being mentioned always in newspapers and magazines, to even being broadcast on underground FM radio in San Francisco. It felt like a needless intrusion, as there was plenty of the Beatles everywhere else and these precious broadcast hours and the public listening could likely be better served from exposure to other music not so easily heard. But David Crosby phoned in his account of meeting the Beatles in Europe and while he knew he looked like a hippy wild man with fringed leather jacket, boots, and long hair, he reported that the Beatles had "big old mustaches" (which he pronounced "moose-taches"), too. Then the KMPX dj played the new album that Crosby had already heard in London through studio headphones, as if to say it was okay now to be commercially successful and still be broadcast on underground radio, as if such a form of acceptance would have mattered a whit to them. Of course, Crosby was publicizing his own new group in the process, too, as just the magnitude of the Beatles couldn't help but rub off on them.

The Beatles are one group where the people who were introduced to them later on genuinely got to hear the absolute best from them, but they really didn't need that broadcast time on one underground FM station. This is about the same as them getting fawned over by every shop keeper or restauranteur and receiving special favors everywhere they went. They'd already had enough special treatment to last them a lifetime, so spread it around to someone else once in awhile.

An important public service announcement about music: "After all, with just a little work, you can be a source of informed opinion as well.

"But beware. These insights come at a price. And once you develop a taste for the good stuff, whether in art, music, literature or cognac, it's hard to go back. If giving a damn makes me an 'elitist,' then so be it."

Oo-ooh, now it might be getting good -- Purdue college students launch website where they talk about music. The news is out now.

First things first, is a feature on how music is heard.
Some of the other things music journalists who have a real bug on do ... (how an interview series with the right subject can and should grow into an archive).
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Uh oh. Rumblings from the foreign press on how we be bored and demand entertainment.

"First, MTV updated Carmen. Now, the cable music channel is offering a modern take on Wuthering Heights.

"Erika Christensen, who played a high school stalker in last year's Swimfan and a drug-addicted teen in 2000's Traffic, will star as Cate in a musical version of the Emily Bronte novel.

"Mike Vogel will play a homeless musician named Heath with whom Cate falls in love, and Chris Masterson (Malcolm in the Middle) will play Edward, whom Cate agrees to marry instead.

"Christensen, Vogel and Johnny Whitworth, as Cate's brother, Hendrix, will make their on-screen singing debuts in the film, which is scheduled to begin production in May in Puerto Rico, MTV said. It's set to air during the third quarter of this year.

"A previous MTV original film, Carmen: A Hip-Hopera, starred Beyonce Knowles of Destiny's Child in a contemporary version of the classic opera."
Charles Deemer's ongoing and always in process online memoirs: When personal history intersects with music and culture or when black R&B was like a call to revolution
Monday, April 21, 2003
A big big big hunk o' pop culture just waiting for you to read.

Changing the World:
Rock 'n' Roll Culture and Ideology


David N. Townsend

(Operating under my own fractured sometimes hard to comprehend code of honor here. Stevie Nixed found this piece and posted it on her site as current reading for today. Sorry if it's humbug, but it seems only fair that you skitter over there to link and read in full. It's just a link away ... )
Sunday, April 20, 2003
Commentary on culture, music, and indigenous aliens.
I like reading and hearing about shows I didn't see, especially if they were good ones or give a glimpse into culture or history.

I never did see Big Jay McNeely, but my sister did, and not only was her evening memorable, I remember her account of it to this very day. Johnny Otis had a weekly television show broadcast throughout Los Angeles direct from Compton (might have been channel 5) and he owned a club in Compton, not exactly a shack on the tracks (which is how some historians would like it to be), but more like a storefront on Wilmington or some other big boulevard, but the rear door faced an alley, then a wide expanse of prairie, then there were the Southern Pacific railroad tracks (though it might have been Union Pacific).

My sister, being an adventuresome music-loving teenager, would on weekend nights tell my parents she and her neighborhood friend were baby sitting, and they would sneak off to hear "that jungle music." They'd arrange this like a military operation, at a pre-arranged time a carful of friends would be waiting for them in the food market's parking lot a block away, and they'd head out to go hear music at the Olympic or another big ballroom. In the times I am speaking of, those uneasy times of pre-Civil Rights movement integration, the white kids could come and listen, and the black kids could dance. Once in awhile I would hear some of the stories of those ball rooms -- one kid diving off the balcony. Others dancing the "dirty boogie", hopping towards each other while the boy suggestively unzipped his jeans, and always stories about the music!

Big Jay played on Johnny Otis show, and in clubs. He was eventually banned by city ordinance from playing in Los Angeles because "he stirred kids up" and they "turned into wild Watusis" as the expression went. My sister saw him, and described how he played while walking up and down the bar stepping past people's drinks and how he would lay on his back on the bar and solo for half an hour, all while playing the same song. She thought he was so cool, she and some other girls copped part of his act for the junior high school talent show. They painted white cotton gardener's gloves with flourescent paint then switched off the lights during the song, so all you could see were the gloves moving in the dark and hear the singing. Anyway, Big Jay's music was well known and only by reputation. I think he made just a very few records back in the '50s when he was most renown, I've heard because he was suspicious of the business, having watched others get ripped off getting paid $50 for their record while the record company owner ended up driving a Cadillac from it.

Anyway, one evening my sister and her friend went "baby sitting" again but that particular ruse came to an end when they returned home earlier than expected, arriving in the back seat of a police car. It was simply was not allowed for white girls to listen to black music even from a sidewalk outside a club, and the policemen who would cruise in front of the club had caught them unawares. He threatened them not only with arrest for loitering or truancy but a stint in the California Youth Authority while driving them safely home.

Music critics and their musician critics.

Musicians when writing or talking about music critics usually follow the same self-defeating trajectory: Shut up, especially if you don't like the music (because if people read that, they might not buy the record).

Assumed is the fact musicians look on one another like the card-holding union brothers they are, but also regarding themselves as members of an elite, noble, struggling brotherhood, or as some would have it, "brethernhood". They seek to defend certainly themselves and any other musician they happen to need, like, or depend on for making a living from the onslaught of daily abuse that just being alive and living in the world happens to bring. If you've been around musicians at all, you will know how competitive and ungenerous with compliments many are. Every other musician, regarded as competiton, they demean or slash apart in crude, uncharitable remarks that would traumatize you just to overhear. Typically, as the first argument, musicians point out that music critics do not play the music they write about (just like literary critics don't write the famous novels they read, examine, and write about. I can accept that observation as true. Simple, perhaps, obvious certainly, but true. )

Assumed is the belief that musicians hold dear as treasure, that only musicians should discuss music because they are the only ones qualified to discuss music.

Musicians generally here tend to express a belief that it's the critics who are static and conservative, that critics can't comprehend risk, growth, change, or evolution and are stuck in the past. Sometimes this pops out as an offensive argument when the musician is feeling defensive (Like John Lennon in his early solo career erupting suddenly with, "No! You're the one who wants to keep me playing 'Love Me Do' "). Though usually this mechanism is brought into play when a critic looks back at early works by the same musician or form (even comparitively), which if they happen to prefer then that preference is regarded as reactionary. (It is, after all, the current record the musician is trying to sell.)

If overly sensitive, the musicians typically remarks, "If you think it's so easy, go try it yourself" or "Go write a hit song yourself" or even "If you think it's so simple, write a successful commercial jingle yourself." So the belief among musicians is what a musician angrily sniffed as he said to me decades ago, though this is a slightly more elevated retort than the sandbox taunts cited earlier, "They write about it because they can't do it." Once again, only musicians make or understand music or are qualified to discuss music, and the proof is all around.

As the typical argument declines comes again the re-iterated statement only musicians understand music, and the only musician who really understands the music enough to discuss it is the one who made the music, and therefore that musician is the only one qualified to discuss the music. Any one who attempts to discuss music without being the one having made it is "second-guessing" like an "armchair quarterback" (though now, you can be sure, they'll be saying "armchair general"). Other musicians respect this logic, partly because it lets them off the hook and frees them from the responsibility of making a public remark about another musician's work that might be misconstrued and serve to their own detriment, only winning themselves more enemies in the process should another musician and his/her fanbase take offense.

This is my assumption as a critic: Only in America is a near-perfect sense of pitch or an ability to tap your foot in time become regarded as major life skills worthy of a life time of cultivation. Every where else in the world, music is exactly what it is -- music, something that is a part of life, and so it is talked about and not always respectfully.

If I'm won over to the argument, that musicians are the only ones who are to discuss their own music, then you as a musician have no further options but to 1) write about your own music (which people might or might not think is self-involved, self-serving, self-promoting), or 2) talk about your own music but control every thing that is said and printed, which will inevitably lead to much less being said and printed, or 3) buy ads.


The following comment was posted on the old commenting system:

Date/Time: Apr 26 2003, 03:38 am

Poster: graham

IP address:

Email: shankarji@btinternet.com

Homepage: http://

Hi b - as a musician currently submitting my work for review over at Garageband.com, I have some experience of the critical skills of fellow musicians. Most of the reviews are 'written' by the other 'musicians' on the site and I'm sorry to have to tell you that the vast majority of them are virtually illiterate. It would be nice to occasionally receive a well written critique, something you would think that people who purport to be 'a writer' would be able to accomplish. But no. An unintelligent 'this song sucks', or an equally asinine 'this song rocks', is about all you can expect from most of my 'brother' musicians. My theory is that it takes intelligence to separate the subjective from the objective. These amateur reviewers react only to their subjective appreciation, or non-appreciation, of the music and are unable to adopt an objective viewpoint. After all, you should be able to appreciate the skill of a musician and recognise his ability to perform, without neccessarily liking the music. I cite in defence of my argument people like Kenny G! Obviously a skilled sax player with decent technique, but the music leaves me colder than a duck's backside in winter! Keep up the good work -- always interested to read your stuff, which is why I'd appreciate the occasional intelligent review!!

You can probably guess I didn't buy a lot of rock records or go to a lot of rock shows (and never have) but I have seen hundreds of music shows of all kinds. I got to hear the tail-end of West Coast jazz in small beach town nightclubs, to the brand new surf music at what was billed as the first surf contest ever at Huntington Beach pier in 1960. Frank Zappa playing in his own little coffee house in Pomona he called "The Circle of the Zodiac" before the espresso machine blew up one Tuesday night and he moved to north to "The Pit". I may have even have accumulated some sort of pop credentials for having seen a few of the Dick Clark American Bandstand Roadshows when they rolled through L.A. And hippy-dippy credentials for having seen the Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company on the same bill in their own environment of a rented ballroom, complete with balcony seating, strobe lights, a primitive gelled light show and all, but I couldn't tell you what they were even playing as I was so unfamiliar with their music and the scene.

Some are crummy memories (see my post below about that English group on my only stadium rock experience). Some are mere snippets of a special moment of recognition that can be a glimpse into the dynamics of the music being played (Jino the bassplayer going up on stage to play even though he was really, really mad at Earl Hooker -- or Charlie Musselwhite woofing a bit, and standing on stage about to begin a set, when he suddenly played unamplified while staring straight at a fellow at a front table, just to say something to him. Then he stopped, nodded his head like "Take that and chew on it" and soon began the show)

Funny snippets of memory suddenly spark alive in front of my eyes, bringing the distant rooms back to life. Why do I think about these?

Clifton Chenier was genuine magic, there's no other word.

Lightning Hopkins onstage in Los Angeles in 1964 or so. He was playing his hard blues, then drifted into something else and was beginning to edge into his rare never-recorded folksy rhyming about the people in the room but he was interrupted in flow. He was distracted by an overexuberant young black guy who was gesticulating, testifying, shouting out encouragement, saying "Yeah" too loud and things like "Tell it like it is" and Lightning just looked at him and laughed and went straight back into his regular sort of show. During intermission, I ran into some friends and asked rhetorically, "Who was that guy?" They knew who I meant, but they liked him, he was one of their friends I could tell as they remarked with a smile, "That's Taj." "Oh," I said perhaps too politely, I had heard of him a bit around L.A. and so recognized his name, but that evening Taj Mahal was a bit in his cups. "Learning to talk black" I later sneered to my companion on the drive back home, but only when we realized the enormity of what we might have missed and would likely never see again. I saw Hopkins perform maybe three times and while I sometimes wish it could have been more, three times is precious.

Another is like the strike of lightning. There was this lap slide guitar player that Charlie Musselwhite had added to his group in the late '60s. His name was Freddy Roulette and he sometimes was so brilliant when he popped everything up into a higher wilder octave that you’d see stars and then he’d just casually move into something else that would just fill up the whole room with this big fat sound.

God, it was like a transformative experience to hear him. There was nothing like that man's playing, he just would pull stuff from some place so beautiful it seemed not of this earth and slide it into the blues. Well, this was so good I could hardly believe it. I wanted to tell someone right away. I felt it had to be shared and instantly, and my mind was racing, I thinking of people who I could call and get them down to the club to hear this. Then I remembered some people I knew were playing up the street and I was absolutely compelled to run out of the club in between sets, hightail several city blocks to another club and tell them about this.

I can't even remember what I said, I was so excited. But I actually pulled a musician (that was David Lindley) and his wife out of there, and down the street from where he was playing. David listened for a bit and then turned to stare at me in disbelief. He was standing by the jukebox and I was behind the counter of the bar. His mouth was slightly open and his ears beginning to tingle. He suddenly turned again and fleeted down the aisle and up to the stage and stood stock still and listened some more standing at the edge of the stage. Satisfied he was really hearing what he was hearing, he began saluting Freddy by giving “ah shalom, master - ah, shalom, master - ah shalom, master” series of bows. David and his band came back to play at Mandrakes one time, a wild bazongo show of thousands of foreign sounding electrified strings complete with a pregnant belly dancer, and David Lindley began searching out lap slide guitars in pawn shops to begin practicing and has in the past thirty years become a fine lap slide player himself. He must have heard Freddy before, though.

I mean, that Freddy Roulette ... that was some powerful playing (and to my way of thinking he has never really been recorded decently, though he is most deserving, but hopefully that will change someday soon.)

The memories just roll into each other like waves. Others are of strange nearly unbelievable encounters, like when I was walking in a park in Honolulu and spotted what seemed like a bona fide hallucination, a older black man sitting on a park bench and playing guitar to keep himself company (and in Honolulu, you can't help but notice), but it was really Brownie McGhee who I had not seen or talked to for twenty years ... and he had settled in town.

But all of those I've seen, the ones who moved me, I genuinely feel privileged sometimes. Just given the time frame and population ratios, I suspect most people alive today didn't see or hear these people, or if you did it might have been in a little different way than I did, and this is a way of sharing (before those memories become ossified or irretreivable.)

Listen to more Lightnin' Hopkins at Wolfgang's Vault.

(That was May 28, 1965 I saw Lightning Hopkins at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles. Per Wolfgang's Vault, this is one of the tunes he performed, which I recalled, so I'll share that here. I think that was the only time I ever went to the Ash Grove. I wasn't big on clubs or the scene in Los Angeles. I may have been to half a dozen of them, one time and one time only).
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Do you hope there will soon come a time with more links to decent articles about music? Me, too. People bashing the Dixie Chicks and stories about billionaires as they relate to music are the only articles people are writing, or at least the only ones getting coverage.

capitalist rocker is taking it public

experience music project expands to science fiction experience

Friday, April 18, 2003
good luck and good night.

And now, for the lurid aspects of real human memory ...

The good parts are memories of Leopold's. Leopold's was one of the more interesting experiments I have ever even tangentially participated in. You know that business of the bootleg Stones record. Back when that item was first offered to the record collective, there had to be a meeting. As this was the first time a bootleg was presented to the store, this was the first time the people working there had to consider such issues. This item seemed to go against the grain of the spirit in which the record co-op (a worker's collective as well) was founded. As workers, they didn't want to be exploited for profit. They were working for the same for all workers.

I have to keep reminding you because this is probably like a foreign language now that the record collective after all was a creation of the times. The collective decision was to work for certain wages to allow profits (excess moneys) to accrue to be eventually delivered into the community for social works. The one thing that everyone at that time had in common was the belief in community, and feeling the necessity to support areas of the community with the record store profits.

In expanding economic theory in dealing with merchandise, they recognized they had no control over money once it left their hands and was given to the record companies. They had to trust the money that went to the record companies might end up in the proper hands. As this was a bootleg, "the work" of the artists would profit only the guy clever enough to make the tape and press the records. There was an issue about royalty payments to the people who had not only performed the material but had written the material. Lots of issues were discussed. It was recognized that the Stones probably had more money than they knew what to do with, but there was a collective belief it was up to the Stones to decide if they wanted a share of their rightful profits forwarded to them from the sale of this record.

To show that Leopold's tried to operate fairly: If the Stones opted to forego profits on this venture, they would have a vote at the time when the collective met to decide to disburse the funds. In other words, the Stones could have 1 vote for a community group they'd want to fund with this distribution, I think that's how that weird, stuggling proposal ended up.

The collective developed a statement of objectives and delivered it via courier to the Hotel Claremont where the Stones were staying. This was an exclusive hotel nestled in the clouds high in the Oakland Hills. Not surprisingly, the collective member was treated like cheap shit by the hotel and by the Stones representative he'd called on the desk phone, so he just left the statement with the desk clerk to pop into the appropriate message box. Never hearing back from any of them (why would they bother, after all), the collective met and decided to purchase and sell the bootleg. Without input from the artists in question, they were forced to treat this as any other record, and "trust the money goes into the right hands."

Shortly later, the tour manager of the Stones, at that time Peter Rutledge (probably soon to be Sir Peter Rutledge), doubleparked on the street, ran up the stairs, came into Leopold's and bought five copies of the record. Jason was pleased, he thought the Stones would be pissed. There was a hundred dollar bill on the counter for payment and Rutledge ran out with the records, but Suzanne in her usual ensemble of bibbed overhauls and bare feet ran down stairs after him to try to give him his change.

The bootleg was but one of the records that helped keep Leopold's going, but given the publicity surrounding the Stones having hung out in the Bay Area, Altamont, and the continuing publicity attendent to not only that event, but the upcoming film about Altamont (all within the short span of a year and a half or two years), the record sold steadily until such time the order clerk one day had enough and just refused to restock the order. I don't know how many copies were sold, but I'll say by steadily I mean I'm guessing 2 or 3 or so copies per week. With a bit of discussion, it turned out the order clerk had strong feelings about "the social irresponsibility" of the Stones and this was brought forward in a store management meeting, wherein it was collectively agreed to withdraw the record. As the Stones by all published accounts appeared to be transforming into "the enemy" and the record collective could not in good conscience continue profiteering from this venture.


As I mentioned, that English music group were hanging about the area waiting to find a location for their free concert in 1969, and several representatives of their entourage invaded the club I was working in. One of whom not only insisted on better seating towards the front, but had a couple of lesser creature roadie-types order the people away from the table. That creature who insisted on preferred, ringside seating was always waving hundred dollar bills about. Another of their entourage was equally boorish; took one sip of the cheap wine he'd ordered and poured the remainder on the floor.

The hundred dollar bill guy held up a big bill for me to take (he could not bother to turn his head, or hand it to me, he held it in the air like a small flag) for the $1 beer he ordered. I had to go across the street to the jazz club for change. Soon, he did it again, even though he had smaller amounts to pay for his beer. I think he was trying to give me a $99 tip. There was something about his attitude that grated on me, so I asked him to make his future orders at the bar. I was busy but came across the bartender smiling and stuffing a hundred dollar bill in his jeanspocket. I scolded him and told him he was just a conduit and should give back the change or just put the money in the club's till, and we could meet with the owners and decide what to do with the excess. He thought I was nuts, and looked on this as his personal good luck. He was impulsive and opportunistic in the way that spoiled children or little criminals are, and it was clear he could be bought. It was unfortunate he had ended up with that money, and to make matters worse his brother the doorman got a hundred dollar bill, too. They were undeserving of good fortune sorts -- bourgeois boys raised in the Berkeley hills who having failed at an Eastern school were drifting into bad things (every bit as bad as the lousy music they played as a duo on their Gretsch guitar and champagne sparklers drum kit), and I had some idea of what they'd be doing with the Stones' fans' hard-earned money that had been passed along to them as a tip.

The Stones rented the club for a rehearsal, kind of a party for friends, and I happened to be there when a few of them performed a few songs as a lark wearing different parts of the costumes they'd found upstairs in the "sound room" (a folding table with a mixing board and a small box with switches for the stage lights). That was a nicer gathering in so far as the performance was fun to watch, but the people who travelled in their entourage weren't people I felt comfortable talking to much less being around. They were still in the area weeks later and I heard they brought Chuck Berry or somebody such like in for a private performance with some of the local musicians scraped up to serve as his backup band, but I didn't see that show.

Believe it or not, some of the Stones entourage showed up at the estate where I was living, and I found them sitting in the geneticist's kitchen.

Sandy-haired and mustachioed Peter Rutledge the obnoxious tour manager was wearing a wine colored shirt, black trousers, some stylized version of black cowboy boots you could only get in a New York boutique, and a rather high ticket buckskin colored jacket. He had a small tan briefcase that was a fancy imitation of the satchel a doctor used on housecalls (back when doctors gave housecalls), that item reeked of Vuichon carriage house leathergoods, and the way he kept it clutched on his lap, I assumed it was filled with money and drugs. He was said to perform a parlor trick to amuse his insider friends who knew the satchel was full of money, wads of cash, and more money. Once in awhile, he'd open the case in a hotel room and dramatically turn it upside down to have a single five dollar bill flutter to the floor. Then he'd make his dramatic and humorous exit.

This guy, who I recognized as the hundred dollar bill blowing it everywhere person who I finally refused to wait on, was chatting with his pals when I came in. He had taken over sitting in a wheelchair that a friend of mine was storing at the house, and he was playing and careening about. A woman was blithering to another about a shrimp-throwing game on Bill Graham's lawn and how Bill had given everyone a bota bag as a party favor. This Rutledge character was in the wheelchair lurching about like a genuine spas, rolling wildly into a houseplant, knocked it over, caught it and shoved it partly back into place at a tilt. I asked him to knock it off, and just told him he should try to be more respectful. That also, I reminded him, was a very expensive chair. Then he just got up and picked up the telephone to use as if he were in his own hotel room, like "Oh, yeah, I nearly forgot to make this critical call." Then he slammed down the receiver, the cord having become tangled under the telephone in his quick use, and the receiver wasn't even sitting on the phone correctly. He didn't give a crap even if he noticed.

They were soon leaving this place, he'd picked his satchel up and started taking long-legged strides moving towards the door, two girls swept into his wake trying to keep up with him. I wasn't about to go anywhere with them like they'd even asked. They were on their way out of the building. I arose in time to act the thoughtful hostess, like saying, "Please, allow me to show you to the door" and then escorted them to the outside where I regaled them with the botanical mysteries of the agave plant, which had just bloomed. The so-called century plant blooms but once in its long lifetime, not a century really, actually it's more like 20 or 30 years depending on the water supply, but I guess that can seem more than a century given some circumstances. That manager guy in brushing up on his typically English whatever you would care to call it (I think it's the English trendy tendency to quip about anything, as long as it somehow is direspectful or cheapens the other person's views or observations) dismissed their departure by making a joke, "Seems fitting in that I've noticed the ones who succeed in the world seem to be moving steadily faster."

Twitter twitter. That was a cute joke, but not as funny as the woman hanging by him tittering overlong in appreciation. They couldn't get out of there fast enough to suit me. Thereafter, when people I didn't know appeared at the door, I'd peer out from behind the red and white tablecloth that was an impromptu curtain for the French style door, and say, "Nobody's home."

The Stones gave their free concert, too, but I didn't go near it, I was scheduled to work that evening and the "vibes" were weird around town all throughout the day.

Later, several people asked me to attend the Stones' big Bill Graham production concert in Oakland. Tickets were $5 (which happened to be the same cost of tickets the only other time I saw the Stones in concert, back in 1964 on their initial tour of the U.S. and they ended up at the unlikeliest spot, the Orange Fair in San Berdoo. Anyway, for this later Oakland concert staged at a huge concrete coliseum there were lots of free tickets floating around. "Deacon" of Deacon and the Suprelles got one or two, Leopold's got offered some, and so on. Terry Reid opened the show and impressed the crowd that was there only to see the Stones. He performed a number a person I'd known in high school had written. (It's a very small world I lived in.)

Ike and Tina Turner were on the bill and she succeeded in bringing down the house. The Stones were forced to wait a long while before coming on. The curtain rose to screams and whistles, the Stones onstage postured for their music assault. Keith began trying the lead-in for the opening number, to discover the guitar wasn't amplified as should be when he played, the sound cut in and out, then nothing and he was strumming making no noise like he was playing acoustic in an overamped band, then he fiddled with the dials on front, a few electric squeals of feedback as the rest of them played on, and he tore off the guitar and threw it towards a speaker, and stalked off stage. That is to say, he exited stage right. Poor impulse control, I thought. A roadie was onstage stopping the guitar in its skid towards the speaker, poised and ready to react just that fast, as if he were well rehearsed, and he held the guitar by the neck and moved stage right.

A lot of other really egregious things occured connected with that concert, including a concert photographer who was pushing and shoving people roughly out of the way to snap his photos of the band. While I felt like strangling him to death with his own camera strap, I'd moved down to the floor close to the stage dancing, as Mick was going to jump off stage and dance with the audience. Dangerous, but I guess he felt it important to do after Altamont. He did, too, head into the crowd. Yes, this move was pre-planned spontaneity. It was a heap of humanity swirling there, but the roadies on stage had cleared a small path for him to make his leap from the stage. He was singing almost directly in my ear, and then moved away to hop and bop, and I'll be damned if that idiot photographer didn't grab at me and start pushing me roughly out of the way of his camera lens. Then Mick soon made his way back up on to the stage, about halfway through the song. The concert went on, but I was steamed at the photographer, and found him later standing by a wall talking to a security guard and so had a few words with him. Then I went back up to my seat in the nosebleed section. The concert went on to conclusion, and the exits from the arena were packed and stalled for what seemed an eternity with shoulder-to-shoulder people. Everybody was still in a lather after the show, and this had all the charm of a being in a cattle-car unloading down a narrow chute. I looked at my escort, and he was laughing, and suddenly he started lowing like a cow. I thought that was funny, so I began moo-ing in response, and he eventually brought the sound into "Moo-oo-oove!"

The evening didn't end there, we made our way out into the night air past several women sprawled on the stairs overcome by the heat and crowding, another was sobbing uncontrollably, another in a swoon being half-dragged and half carried by a security guard down the hall (it was looking more and more like a mausoleum not a coliseum). It ended up that the tires on my escort's truck were slashed, but I just figure that's the kind of vile energy that was attracted to the Stones.

I resolved never to have anything to do with them ever again, and within a day collected what few Stones records I had and gave them to the first guy I saw on Telegraph who was trying to sell rings made out of paperclips or other items he would find on the street. I figured he could at least get a meal if he sold those. Peter Rutledge I am pleased to report I heard or read was soon fired. As for me, never again.


Update 1/17/11
Good Luck and Good Night link above once led to this article in the Rolling Stone

Beatles LP Boycott: Outrageous Price

Compilation too costly for Berkeley buyers

The Beatles

"As bad as Chevrolet"?

Leopold's, a student-owned, non-profit co-op record store is refusing to sell the new Hey Jude (nee Beatles Again) album in protest against its "outrageous" $6.98 list price.

"We're trying to make it clear that the boycott is not against the Beatles themselves but against Capitol records in specific and other labels in general for their outrageous record prices," asserted store manager Jason Gervich.

According to Gervich, Abbey Road was the first rock album to ever list at $6.98, even though the British version sold at the same price as any other Beatles album. He believes that the reason for the disparity in prices rests with American business, and possibly that record companies will try to jack up prices on all their albums if there is no backlash over the expensive Beatles albums. Hence, the boycott.

"We're the only store I know of willing to boycott it, so it probably won't make much difference. It should sell well despite us, but it would be nice if it didn't. Not because of the Beatles, because they probably don't even know their albums are the highest priced rock albums ever put out. It's not a question of the Beatles charging more because they need more bread; it's a question of businessmen charging more for the Beatles because they want more bread."

Leopold's is explaining to their customers via leafletting why they are refusing to sell this album. They expect some feedback, because not being able to purchase the album at Leopold's means people in Berkeley will have to go to one of the higher-priced commercial stores to get the album -- a highly-prized collection of such old singles as "Hey Jude," "Rain," and "Ballad of John and Yoko" not available on other albums. Chances are good, though, that in the political climate of Berkeley, the store will make as many friends as it will lose by refusing to sell it.

"I don't think we'll get anything out of doing this, but we're going to do it because it's the right thing to do. This is just a greatest hits album - there's no production on it at all except to put some already-existing songs on it in a different order. It should be cheaper than most records. Abbey Road was the same; there was no packaging with it at all, yet it's super-expensive. I really hope we get the ball rolling, so sales of the album are lower. It may be the only way to keep prices from getting completely out of control," Gervich said. "This is just complete bullshit. There's no reason at all for that high-priced an album. Capitol's getting as bad as Chevrolet."

"And the quality of them records is getting worse. We ended up taking boxes of The Band album back to our distributor because they were returned to us with excessive surface noise, or because they skipped or are so thin you couldn't put two records on your record player," he added.

Leopold's is a small enough enterprise that they have little fear of the record companies trying to shut them down because of their action.

"We thought about it, but we're just not worried. They couldn't do it. They'd have to get every distributor in the Bay Area to refuse to serve us, and it would hardly be worth it to them because once they've sold their album to the distributor they've pretty much made their money. Even if they did try to close us down, we'd just get a court case going," Gervich said.

Which attitude is very much in keeping with the image of Leopold's in the Berkeley community. Since they went into business less than a year ago, they have become synonymous with student power. They sell more albums for just a slight bit more than they pay for them at the distributor, serving more as a middleman than a salesman.

Students of Berkeley (S.O.B.), the non-profit corporation which run the store, makes sure that Leopold's charge no more than is necessary to pay rent and provide salaries for the employees. The result is a crowded, funky little store over a restaurant where customers rap rock and roll with the personnel and buy their albums at regular prices cheaper than anywhere else in the Bay Area.

"Hopefully, some other record stores will follow in this us in this boycott; if not, good luck and good night," Gervich laughed.

(RS 53 - March 7, 1970)
More on the transience of community memory which with reflection can become another good argument for writing about music:

James Russell weaves music cylinders, degrading tapes, and other thoughts of "immortality" together.

Our memoryscape can vanish like a dream, too.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Another Country Heard From Dept.

Australian music journalist describes being press ganged.

This year's model: the homecoming heroes return.

Leopold's, The People's Record Collective (or Nothing Lasts Forever)

Leopold's Records in Berkeley, California, a controversial entrepreneurial venture absolutely representative of the times, was finally started up in early 1970 after a series of on campus meetings. The store was created on a small loan of something less than $1700 from the associated students organization. Four people attended the early pre-org meetings. Jason was wispy and slight in a black turtleneck, his blond hair pulled back in the popular ponytail of the times, and he always wore a navy-blue capote in the form of an English bobby's cape as he spoke at the front of the borrowed room. Bill wore drip-dry longsleeved polyester shirts, an "Isro" (which was the Jewish version of an Afro) and iguana-skin cowboy boots that were rumored to have cost three hundred dollars. There were a couple of other people there, too, dressed every bit as badly.

After discussion, Leopold's was named in honor of Leopold Stokowski.

Why honor Leopold Stokowski:

1. Stokowski was one of the greatest conductors of all time. "Born in London on April 18, 1882, he started his musical career as an organist. In 1903, he took the post of the principal organist at St. James' Church in London, situated in a small side street to the famous Piccadilly. Although only 21 years old, he became soon well-known and after two years he received an offer of St. Bartholomew's Church in New York, which he accepted gratefully. The congregation there loved him especially for his uncommon musical repertoire. But he went too far. In 1908, he was thrown out after he had concluded a service with 'Stars and Stripes Forever' with all the organ-stops pulled out."

(That was a famous story. There's a version of that event scripted into a 1960's Yul Brenner movie ("Once More With Feeling"???) where as conductor he has the piccolo section stand for their part in the song. Stokowski was a movie star, too. He conducted in "Fantasia", which introduced countless millions of people all around the world to classical music. Anyway … Stokowski!)

(clarification 11.19.10 Just to clarify, Stowkowski didn't really want to include the Stars and Stripes Forever .... it was an obligatory closing of the time, a theatrical contrivance demanded by convention ... so he played it, but blasted it ....)

The movie which I vaguely remember because it's like 50 years since I've seen it explored somewhat his troublesome reluctance as a minor plot twist, then tidied up the ending and so mistold the story in the long run, because in the screen play Yul (as Stowkowski) fell for a girl, and had the piccolo section stand up all for her ... Hollywood ..... Fantasia .... Disney .... )

2. Stokowski had a sense of humor. He sported an improbable Slavic accent despite being born and raised in England

3. Stokowski drove one of the Dymaxion cars (which R. Buckminster Fuller had designed.)

The store was conceived as a direct reaction to the way "the record collective" perceived the entertainment industry. People figured that the people (i.e., mostly students) would be buying records anyway, and Leopold's would act as the middle man. Leopold's would give the people the records they wanted to buy and donate the profits to fund community activities. This was an important concept, a self-supporting enterprise that would hopefully support community groups. And by providing a product that people wanted. If the system that created the entertainment was a big screwed up system, at least the end result could be socially useful. If the musicians were screwed up by their own system, either exploited "made-for-hire" artists or the opposite (the others who profit excessively from the screwed up system), and even if they turned into pigs themselves, we could still get some good out of them.

Even if they all were trying to pretend they were like us by singing a benefit concert here and there, while the result was sometimes laudable, we didn't need to ask any special favors of them, either. We didn't need their benefits and we didn't need their donations. We didn't need to ask them to do a goddamn thing. We could make use of them, too, but in a way that they all had agreed to -- sell the records they had made to be sold. In a way we could play out that old show biz joke, "Just shut up and sing!" So, it's true, I helped to a small degree to start up Leopold's, and worked closely early on with a few of the members. The Record Collective was a direct response to disbelieving "The Big Lie" that any of these people working as recording artists however rich and famous they got to be were "independent" in any way.

Leopold's moved into a cubicle that had been recently abandoned by Cleo's, one of those brand new 3-cents a copy photocopy businesses that had started up. They'd succeeded wildly and had moved down the hall into larger quarters.

Leopold's started up with an inventory of four or five records. These were special orders for records that the buyers wanted (the same people who were at the pre-org meetings). Mine was an album of the collected hits of Huey "Piano" Smith & The Clowns. I chose that record because in an era when many serious things were going on, people tended to take themselves seriously. No one in their right mind can take themselves too seriously when trying to sing along with the chorus of "Don't You Just Know It" and it is a good safety valve.

Leopold's could not afford stock, and in the beginning would special order records. Leopold's succeeded, purchased merch to stock the bins in the store, and prospered for a number of years. They had to move their location several times. Partly as a result of expansion, sometimes the landlords would raise the rent. With one notable exception, the locations were always situated at the top of steep flights of stairs as ground level shops had premium rent. This made it a challenge to get the boxes of records up the stairs, as each box of 50 lp's weighed close to forty pounds. The workers in the "record collective" earned wages that fell within the acceptable range for like work in the area, they were something like $4 per hour back then. Although people working there would be "comped" by the powers that be, sported to free tickets to all concerts, of course in the corporate hope that the record store people would "push" particular records. Those were the hotsy-totsy years of Fillmore, Avalon, and boogie-woogie-woogie parlors, but the freebies for the most part were generally disregarded by the workers. I never went to those shows.

Leopold's kept the costs of running the business down, made plenty of mistakes, and provided much needed funds to support the activities of community groups. This was an exciting venture in the early years. It was educative as well, allowing people to see and experience first hand not just the kinds of things people go through to create a business venture and learn the price of mistakes. Also, the venture allowed people to witness first hand the types of tactics competitors would resort to as stock and trade in their corporate success. The current manager of what became The Record Store, for instance, was particularly hostile to the very idea of Leopold's while the other record merchants in the neighborhood, having come up in Berkeley, were not so threatened. In fact, the students spontaneously picketed what would be the future location of The Record Store when it was revealed what the construction alterations were about: The Record Store had decided to move into giant quarters nearly next door to Leopold's. People loved Leopold's.

That's because Leopold's responded to people's needs. With all the new records coming out, people were reluctant to take a risk on an unknown product when "only one track is any good." (That's when records were $5, mind you). As the store was in a busy part of town, full of traffic noise, other distractions, and given to large groups of people who needed a hang out, Leopold's opted not to set up listening stations for any record in print but allowed people to check out records for $1 for three days to see if they wanted to buy them. Always on our toes, a person would have to "join the club" and front the full price of an album as the membership fee, in the event they moved or something and forgot to return the rented record, or heavens forbid were trying to run a scam on the place. People could rent ANY record in the store, their choices weren't preselected for them by us. Of course, the manager of the The Record Store heard of this rental scheme and began voiciferously lobbying for his version of ... of (he barely could find a concept that would excuse his response to what he saw as a competetive threat, and he reached to find a politically correct phrase that would win him community support, but settled on "copyright protection.") Until it was pointed out to him that listening to a record might make a person want to buy it, and there was no assurance the consumer would buy the record only from Leopold's. They might decide to buy it any place. He began fraternizing with the Leopold rental desk on breaks, and asking the names of the most popular rented records. He, I am sure, believed he was being energetic, proactive, and clever. We thought what a lazy dumb shit.

The campus area in Berkeley is always a busy area, but this Leopold's enterprise sprung forth in the maelstrom of the demonstrations. The tear gas and the police barricades made it difficult to deliver a shipment of records from the record jobbers. One time the pickup truck was trapped a half block from the store with a riot going on around them, people were running about, the cops in riot gear were running and swinging their truncheons, the tear gas was swirling, and a cop came over and told them to get out of the area by beating his truncheon on the hood of the truck a few more times than was necessary to get the message across.

One of the best ads was a handbill for a new bootleg record, announcing it was available at "Leopold's, the People's Record Collective" and there was an advertising motif borrowed from a paint manufacturer, a large can of paint pouring over the earth and beginning to spread saying "Cover the Earth". (That was the only bootleg that Leopold's ever knowingly sold and it only was offered only after much discussion. I'll tell that story another time, if you think you're interested in how Leopold's had a visit from a representative of a big famous rock group.)

One of the best things Leopold's did was to act as host for the Community Memory Project, which is kind of where you are today, thanks to some visionaries. (Here are some more community memories of them.)

Though fueled by some of the more admirable motivations, Leopold's eventually lost focus and disappeared as the active community groups wound down. But it served an important purpose while it existed for those few years, and also provided funds to fuel community actions and activities.

Where are they now? I don't know. One of the four persons involved from the days of the pre-org meetings stayed on for many years, managing the store to the bitter end, until it became a private profit venture. In the mid-seventies, he commuted to Sacramento to get the name Leopold's registered under his sole ownership as the name was due to expire the next day. The rest of the early dreamers, well, you know, moved from Berkeley and haven't been seen or heard from since. (Here's another account of Leopold's which mentions another Bill, not the person I referenced above, but that only goes to prove there were always a lot of bills attached to Leopold's).

During those decades following the '70s, the Leopold's name was sold and a few little ersatz-Leopold's popped up, ugly brown and orange phony little plastic record cottages; feeble appendages of a big record store corporation that just didn't have the stuff to win the solo monopoly rights to operate as The Record Store and so has just folded its corporate flags. I'd said goodbye to the real Leopold's many decades past. As for the corporate megastore, stick some glittery fringe on the epaulets of your satin jacket and blast out an offtone parody of taps from a cheap gold-tone plastic trumpet as the corporate flag is lowered.

But always wish a happy birthday to Leopold Stokowski and try to remember the real driving spirit behind Leopold's, the store named in his honor.

How Community Memory Came to Be, Part 1


Lee Felsenstein, as told to Bernard Aboba

The Origins of Community Memory
The Community Memory Project had its origins in my quest for the right medium for the growth and realignment of communities. I had been through the 1960s in Berkeley, and had seen episodic community creation in 1964 with the Free Speech Movement.
As a result of the Free Speech Movement, tens of thousands of people realigned their idea of who they were and what they were doing, and as a side effect, it became legitimate for people to open up conversations with strangers. A lot of barriers disappeared, and they discovered matches and possiblities they didn't know existed. Haight-Ashbury and the "Summer of Love" were an offshoot of that.

In 1969, during the crisis of People's Park, a lot of energy went towards the construction of the park, but there was also an openness to experimentation. I was an engineering student at Berkeley during this period, and so I tried to use the technical skills I had in the service of this process. I started by working in the underground press, with the Berkeley Barb.

I saw the Berkeley Barb as a possible mechanism for nuturing a community, but it didn't stay that way. As it grew, the structure inherent in the print medium reasserted itself, and it became a paper whose purpose was to attract attention to itself, rather than to attract attention to other people.

In 1971 I dropped out of Berkeley and went to work at Ampex Corporation in Redwood City. I was sent to The Service Bureau Corporation to learn Basic; in those days minicomputers were brand new, and service bureaus were where they were used. We had selectric terminals, and the instructors were quite full of themselves, and would delight in telling us how the terminals were typing more slowly because they had turned off the computer in Los Angeles and were now using the system in Kansas City. From this I understood that this medium was independent of geography. The other thing they taught us was that you could make a file public to various degrees; a file could be made accessible to your account only, to other groups of users, or to everyone.

Putting the two capabilities together, I understood that you could create a system independent of geography where a number of interest groups could exist, and where people could join in ongoing conversations. This was the medium that could faciliate the kind of community self-building that I was interested in. All that remained was to facilitate access to the technology.

In 1969 there were many switchboards, which were people with index cards and telephones that were listed in the underground press. People would call them with resources that were available, and then other people would call looking for information. There was never much of a filing system, and so the people running the switchboards got burned out.

I had investigated the switchboards in Berkeley, such as the Free Church Switchboard, and so I wanted to see if my engineering skills could help the organization of the files. What I found was that the Free Church was more interested in being a church than a switchboard.

At that time, someone told me about a computer in San Francisco that people wanted to use for good things, and gave me the phone number. This was Resource 1, a non-profit corporation that was a splittoff of The San Francisco Switchboard. The other half of the split was The Haight Ashbury Switchboard, which only recently closed up shop.

Resource 1 was run by people who had left the Berkeley Computer Science department after the invasion of Cambodia: Pam Heartt, Cris Macie, and Chris Newstroup. They started out by soliciting donations of computer time on mainframes for use by community groups.

The Resource 1 people, because their organization started out as a Switchboard, decided to get a computer to act as a common file area for the switchboard. They began a process of fund raising, and solicited a donation of a Xerox Data Systems 940, serial number 4. Only 57 of these devices ever existed, and that one had previously served at SRI, and was owned by TransAmerica Leasing. Resource 1 then raised $20,000 for a 58 Mb drive the size of two refrigerators, and we built a hard disk controller for it.

I started hanging out at Resource 1 in the late fall/winter of 1971, and when I went back to school at Berkeley and finished my degree in June of 1972, I was put in charge of maintaining the mainframe. The person who was supposed to teach me how to do this disappeared on the day that it arrived, and showed up months later without an explanation.

We started writing an information retrieval system. I was stimulated by Abe Greenblatt, a legendary MIT hacker who passed through town and got us all fired up about writing a retrieval system in 24 hours. Thus was born the Resource One Generalized Retrieval System (ROGERS). By that time I had brought Efram Lipkin into the project. Efram was in Berkeley and was looking for something socially useful to do with his computer skills.

It took about a year to get the keyword indexing working, so that you could index things under any number of words. We then went back to the switchboards, and said "here is this powerful tool. All you have to do to connect to it is to rent teletypes for $150/month." Well, the people at the meeting had no knowledge of computers, and only one of them had even known that we were working on this. We hadn't talked to them in advance, and it turned out that the switchboards were not interested in doing the work to reconceptualize their card files, or paying for something so speculative.

We had built a tremendously powerful system and there was no one to use it, so we began to explore possible uses. One was facilitating libraries. We thought of becoming a library like the Bay Area Reference Council, a library of libraries. This is where you called to find out where something was if your library didn't have it. Today they call this interlibrary loan.

But when we took it to the librarians, they said "what you have is a library with no books on the shelves. Why don't you get some books and come back to us?" We were trying to sell shelves to libraries! This gave Efram the idea of putting terminals out on the street to see what information we could collect. We went to Berkeley and at that time Leopold's Records was owned by the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) and controlled by the student senate, with the goal of driving down record prices.

Community Memory goes online
We presented our case to the Senate, and they thought it was a great idea to put a terminal in Leopold's. We got a used model 33 teletype donated to us by Timeshare, and build a cardboard soundproofing box for it. A Timeshare executive named Roy Worthington was very helpful, and he came up with the name Community Memory. We installed it with a 110 baud modem, on a phone with an Oakland number, which would give us unlimited calls to San Francisco. On August 8, 1973 we opened up the first terminal.
One of us had to be in the store at all times, standing next to the teletype, which was in front of a bulletin board used mostly by musicians. We would ask people "Would you like to use our Electronic Bulletin Board, which is on a computer?" Almost without exception the people who heard this brightened up, and said "can I use it?" This was a record store, so the people were mostly of student age, who were going to more receptive, and we targeted it that way.

Our assumption was that people would use it mostly for finding housing, cars, and jobs. However, since the system was located next to a musician's bulletin board, all the musician's information traffic moved over to the terminal, and music and musician's items became the largest identifiable group, which was a bit of a surprise. We also found that a much wider range of items was entered than we thought was possible. People were entering typewriter graphics, and poems. They were inputting little literary works, and selling and buying the strangest things. I could see that it was functioning as a kind of public place that otherwise didn't exist.

Like other similar systems, Community Memory stemmed from the EIES system, which was a conferencing system that had been set up at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. But there is a difference between conferencing systems and bulletin board systems. I believe that Community Memory was the first bulletin board system, and we developed our BBS software through an empirical process, one that could not have been done commercially.

It was clear that it was popular, and in January we changed over to Hazeltine 1500 CRT terminals, and moved it out of Leopold's Records to the Whole Earth Access store, which was then on Shattuck Ave. Whole Earth Access was at that time a catalog store for alternative cultures. You could get wooden stoves there, which you couldn't buy anywhere else.

These terminals didn't make noise, and didn't require anyone to stand next to them. We also opened a terminal at the Mission branch of the San Francisco Public Library, where we knew the librarian. There was a another terminal in Berkeley at our offices on Dwight Way, and one in the offices of Vocations for Social Change, so we had a four terminal network.

The system had a number of flaws. There was no clustering of items, and it was too easy to invent new keywords. There was no incentive to group items under a single keyword, so it began to be hard to find things.

Nevertheless some important things happened, such as a learning exchange item that turned up in the first month. We seeded the system with questions such as "Where can you get good bagels in the Bay Area?" In 1973 there were not good bagel shops in the Bay Area, as there are today. We got some expected answers, but one was unexpected. That was that one should call the following number, and an ex-bagel maker would teach you how to make bagels.

So here was a learning exchange being offered, where the person offering it wasn't asking for anything in return. This was the kind of exchange that had been postulated in Ivan Ilych's Deschooling Society, which discussed alternatives to institutional education. I don't know if anyone ever learned to make bagels, though.

Another thing was that someone started entering a lot of information on lock picking and how to cheat the newly opened BART system, and encouraged his friends to put their information on, using the common keyword OUTLAW. He would come in and use the system, prowl around, and attach comments to items, saying "see OUTLAW."

This had been predicted in 1971 in a paper by Chris Beaty, who had attempted to set up a computer bulletin board system in Los Angeles that was surpressed by the Los Angeles Times. There were government agencies that said that to advertise cars you had to have a car dealers license or own a newspaper, and they used this as a pretext to shut down the system. In his paper, Chris described the function of the gatekeeper or information sharer, and this person fit the description quite well.

Lee Felsenstein, lee@interval.com, last modified: 1/18/94
At the same moment Sir Mick was garnering the usual sort of press in India (the tour in some way attached to a group desirous of attracting investment income to England), I came across another article that proved people were genuinely busy elsewhere with music and investing in the future.
This article does more than imply that the major labels had already decided and acted to trim back on "product" before testifying before Congress that sales were plummeting due to file sharing.

(Teaser extracts from The Music Piracy Myth)

"So think about this. As the original research I conducted indicates (and has been verified by SoundScan via BusinessWeek.com), the record labels began to reduce the number of releases BEFORE the Napster hearings. When they went in front of Congress to complain about downloading, Hilary Rosen could confidently state that sales were going to suffer.

"Because it was engineered.

"Here's another interesting point. I can go to www.discmakers.com and order CDs for $1.89 each. Not "replicated" but created from a glass master. As I understand it, the current wholesale price for a CD is about $12.

"So how can EMI's Cost of Goods Sold (2001 -- at Hoovers Online) be 71% of their income? BMG's 2001 annual report blames industry shortcomings "long obscured by market success" and Vivendi told its stockholders that an "anticipated lighter release schedule" had something to do with it. BMG is the only one that even mentions file sharing -- as a justification in investing in Napster.

Why does "sales are down 10%" overrule any other explanation for declining sales? A bigger question is -- Why won't anyone in the media even discuss this?"

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
A big, big, big hunk of links courtesy of a music journalist all about music journalism.
Music looms large in shattered or empty landscapes, allowing people to find grace.

in the mood

the musical powers of que
Sunday, April 13, 2003
"Music is much more than a form of entertainment: It's philosophy. It's sociology. It's religion. It's a chance to reconnect with the soul. ... I hope practitioners understand that the goal of music is that when you leave the bandstand you should leave a better person." More ways of looking at music from a South African jazz-artist-in-residence.

"To copy [note] for [note], word for word, image for image, is to make the known world your own . . . It is within an exuberant world of copies that we arrive at our experience of reality." Hillel Schwartz 1996, 211-2

"There was a time when radio was pure magic . . . the magic [came] from entering a world of sound, and from using that sound to make your own vision, your own dream, your own world. " Susan Douglas 1999, 28

Covers, Copies, and "Colo[u]redness" in Postwar Cape Town by Carol Ann Muller

Malaria pills, worm caps, and yankin' and bankin'. All part of a day's work as a music group tours the Middle East.

Jag Star
TOT (Ooby Dooby) wins today's jiminy cricket award for pointing his readers to an excerpt on ethics from The Weblog Handbook by Rebecca Blood..

It's probably a rainy, lazy Sunday where you are, so have some French toast and follow Blood's links to a wide variety of journalism ethics pages. There's quite a lot of them (Poynter Media Ethics, et al.) and for darned good reasons, you know. Deserving of much bookmarking, rumination, and constant referral.

Saturday, April 12, 2003
Introducing Images of America: Integrating U. S. History with Educational Technology by Deborah T. Aufdenspring

Good job. (This is to teach people how to analyze music videos. Be sure to check out Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire". )
"I think...it's an aspect of the culture that we live in.... The media, as fast and as well designed...as glitzy and expensively produced as they are, they're gaining power... And in that...they tend to replace to a degree our critical judgement and critical ability...".

(From interview with jazz critic, Jeff Kaliss)
Two ways of relating to music: Writing music for poetry (Remembering Robert Lax)

Creating art about music, that allows engagement with music in ways other than listening.
For some reason, I just remembered how Europeans always regarded Americans as declasse when it comes to the fine art of living and the arts. We know this. I also just remembered hearing a hilarious send-up of the Marlene Dietrich school of cabaret chanteuse ("See What the Boys in the Backroom Will Have") done by Tallulah Bankhead singing "Set 'Em Up, Joe". We can be funny sometimes, though, can't we? As these tunes are unlikely available for download from any P2P or file-sharing programs, you'll just have to be satisfied with my memory.

When music makes its way into another culture.

Who copped my hip-hop?

"Why play jazz?" "Kakko ii kara (Because it's cool)."
Friday, April 11, 2003
Armando's memory is jolted into the past: Remembering pirate radio and introductions to a favorite ("oh the intensity")
April is National Poetry Month.

Bus Load of Faith
by Lou Reed

You can't depend on your family
You can't depend on your friends
You can't depend on a beginning
You can't depend on an end
You can't depend on intelligence
You can't depend on a god
You can only depend on one thing
You need a Busload of Faith to get by
You can depend on the worst always happening
You can depend on a murderer's drive
You can bet that if he rapes somebody
there'll be no problem having a child
And you can bet that if she aborts it
Pro-Lifers will attack her with rage
You can depend on the worst always happening
You need a Busload of Faith to get by
You can't depend on the goodly hearted
The goodly hearted made lampshades and soap
You can't depend on the Sacrament
no Father, no Holy Ghost
You can't depend on any churches
unless there's a real estate you want to buy
You can't depend on the air
You can't depend on a wise man
You can't find them because they're not there
You can depend on cruelty
crudity of thought and sound
You can depend on the worst always happening
You need a Busload of Faith to get by

(All lyrics are property and copyright of their owners and are provided for educational purposes only.)

Two places music journalists can go for background research:

online print (for example, rocks back pages or portals through places like cbmr)

offline print (for example, subscribe to an old-fashioned clipping service.)
Two different versions drawing a sketchy line about the emotional attachment to music.


Literature and way out music combine in a party-like atmosphere in clubs, where else but in Russia.
Ok, then there's the often discussed ballad, "poetry's bearer of bad news".

But biting humor is also an approach to music.
Learn about the "peculiar ways that musical memory, meaning and pleasure work." (Hornby again)
This might do something to account for the paucity of music articles posted online lately. The writers and musicofanatics are all busy elsewhere, at EMP for one place. And here I thought the dearth of recent music criticism was revolving around a dearth of good music to write about.

Check out this year's EMP Pop Conference panel members and their topics for an amazing slice of popular culture.
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
No end to sad news. Michael Babatunde Olatunji died Sunday morning in hospital in Salinas, California. He had been living at Esalen in Big Sur; he was hoping to return to Africa before he died, but that did not happen for him. His Drums of Passion was likely the first recording of African music ever made in America, and everyone listened to him, everyone. What are you going to listen to next?

Monday, April 07, 2003
An interesting look at globalization in music and a fierce defense of local culture. ... culture deserves analytical coverage.

The reportage of culture in this country has been confined to entertainment - music shows and albums, theatre and beauty parades. The print media is more guilty of this lapse than the electronic. ...

Culture can be defined in many ways. The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines culture as "customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organisation of a particular country or group."

The Concise Oxford Dictionary says it is "the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively."

Famous Kenyan historian and political scientist Ali Mazrui has a more sophisticated definition: "Culture is a system of inter-related values active enough to influence and condition perception, judgment, communication and behaviour in a given society," he says.

According to him when culture endures and is innovated through the generations, it becomes a civilisation.

Veteran journalist and Zamcom deputy director Edem Djokotoe, a dyed-in-the-wool ethnicist, agrees with Professor Mazrui.

In Mr Djokotoe's own understanding Mazrui's description suggests that for culture to live it must respond and adapt to the stimulus of change.

"It is on the basis of this characteristic that you can talk in broad terms about Western civilisation which consists of liberal democratic, individualistic, plurarist, constitutional, technologically-oriented and capitalist values shared by all the nation-states which were once part of Christendom (Papal Rome)," Mr Djokotoe says.

He lists some of the countries sharing these values as Germany, France, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. Over the years the US has become the custodian of this culture, which it has successfully exported to many other parts of the world.

It is in this light that the current spat between the US on the one hand, and Germany and France on the other, over the US-led war on Iraq should not be expected to culminate into a total fall-out.

The cultural ties between these sibling nations are too strong to be severed by mere differences of opinion on a crumbling regime presided upon by a single-track minded despot.

As Mr Djokotoe observes, "the citizens of those countries might speak different languages, but the fact that they have a common denominator of shared cultural experiences mitigates against differences among them."

What a unifying force, then, culture can be. It has so much grip on people that it controls and directs every aspect of their daily lives.

Culture is driven by the environment, which generates the stimuli triggering certain behaviour and beliefs of a particular society. The degree of willingness by the people to respond to their environment determines the preservation or extinction of their culture. ...

Culture, therefore, gives people an identity and is expressed in many ways, but mostly through the arts - songs, paintings, drama, folklore and sculpture. ...

Beautiful oil paintings and caricatures adorn the walls of bars, night clubs and restaurants depicting the core activities of the local people - fishing and hunting - and the dangers and beliefs they attach to them.

All this testifies to the way the environment shapes people's culture and gives them an identity.

It is safe, therefore, to assert that culture is a manifestation of what people are, what they think, what they believe in, who they think they are, what they wear, what they eat, how they spend their spare time and how they relate to one another as they respond to their environment.

When people start living and behaving in a way that is divorced from their own environment, to imitate the lives of other people from a different environment, then they lose their culture and, therefore, their identity.

"If culture does not endure, its manifestation disappears and that culture dies. Culture should be fed for it to survive," Mr Djokotoe told a group of journalists in Lusaka recently.

Each generation should be able to inherit culture, innovate it and pass it on to the next if it has to prolong its span.

People are identified mainly by their culture - indigenous language, rhythms, food, dress and beliefs.

Therefore, once you lose your culture and start imitating other people in far places, you become vulnerable to exploitation, manipulation and oppression.

Colonisation in Africa thrived mainly because the colonisers knew how to apply this principle. They attacked the culture of the natives first. Using the Bible, money, education, food and intimidation, they convinced the Africans that their culture was primitive and inferior to theirs.

They should discard their culture and adopt that of their masters.

"Colonisation has two phases," Mr Djokotoe explains. "Firstly, the foreigner colonises you physically by taking away your land in which you live, then he colonises you psychologically by controlling your behaviour and manipulating your way of thinking."

This is also what happened in Zambia. Although Zambians have liberated their land they are still to purge themselves of the poisonous thinking planted in their minds by the colonisers that anything African, particularly Zambian, is primitive.

Culture thrives on music and other arts. When you, therefore, throw away your own music to imitate the music of other people thousands of kilometres away you voluntarily colonise yourself culturally. The problem is that you will not be respected by other people because you will have no identity.

If you despise your own culture and adopt that of foreigners what do you expect them to think of you?

This explains the current obsession by young Zambian musicians with the morally rotten and rhythmically empty Western R& B and ragamaffin, which is basically the music of convicted thieves, paedophiles (child defilers), rapists, drug addicts and satanists where it comes from.

The tragic result has been that the copycat, mediocre R & B and raga produced in Zambia by the young singers, mimers and rappers cannot sell across its borders. It has pitifully failed to penetrate the international market.

No wonder Professor Mapopa Mtonga, an ethnomusicologist at the University of Zambia says, "Globalisation has created a situation in which we have become consumers. We don't produce music that can provide us with therapy, but are relying on foreign music which has relevance only where it comes from."

Our youngsters are even trying to imitate Kwaito music which the South Africans themselves have lamentably failed to sell in Europe and America because of its lack of originality.

How do we expect to preserve our culture if the young people who are expected to inherit and innovate it are obsessed with imitating foreign music, which only depicts other people's cultures? ...

When will the musicians in this country play their role as custodians of our culture and agents of its preservation? And when will our journalists look beyond entertainment and give culture the serious analytical coverage it deserves?

Compiling the best online articles about music so there will be more of both in the future. In periods of drought, the reader will be innundated by my own blogs on the matters.

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