LET US TURN YOU ON . . .
Dig a few new releases that we felt were worthy of special attention…
A Review of Mama Guitar Holiday
In a world where so-called "rockers" often can’t name four Chuck Berry songs, an all-girl trio from Japan has found the Chuck Berry-meets-surf tone that absorbed the entirety of the Beach Boys’ 1963 garage-band opus, Surfin’ U.S.A. One listen to Mama Guitar’s "Ready to Go" from their newest EP, Mama Guitar Holiday, and you’ll realize that their sound is no mistake. "After Dark" is a breezy, summer-night instrumental, replete with Mama Guitar’s gentle ‘la-la-la’ harmonies, akin to Brian Wilson’s blissed-out "Passing By" (from the 1968 Friends album). In keeping the vibe of 1963 real, during the break of Holiday’s "When We Put Our Bikinis On," lead singer Jun asks, "Am I so cute?" To which the chorus of Iris (bassist) and Yoko (drums) scream, "Yeah!" Jun retorts, "But I don’t wanna go!" Chorus: "Why not?" Jun: "Because I’m fat!" Oh no… this is all by design, friends. The lyrics and music only gets groovier from there. Dig these lunar lyrics to "Tomorrow’s Sea":
It’s time to leave here,
We’re in the sea breeze.
Somewhere else we’ll go,
Anywhere you want,
Dreaming of tomorrow’s sea.
White sand, moon, stars and you,
Only that moment, all of them are mine.
Dumb Angel co-editor Brian Chidester sat down with Mama Guitar for a little Q&A.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Jun (Guitar/Vocals/Songwriter): Brian Wilson, King & Goffin, Greenwich & Barry, Phil Spector
Iris (Bass/Vocals): Shangri-La’s and more.
Yoko (Drums): The Beatles!
What inspired you to do MAMA GUITAR HOLIDAY?
Iris: It’s a secret!
Yoko: Peaceful days.
Jun: We just put together some summer songs we already had been playing, and added a few more new songs.
If you could play anywhere in the world, at any venue, where would it be?
Yoko: California's beach or big grasslands somewhere.
Iris: I want to go to anywhere we can go!
Do you have a boyfriend?
Jun: No . . .
Iris: It’s a secret.
Yoko: I’m married!
What kind of boys do you like?
Jun: I like people who are kind, friendly and funny.
Iris: Gentle, and who has nice smile person!
Yoko: A gentle and bright person.
Favorite thing to do on a date?
Iris: Lunch in the park.
Jun: The Beach Boys, the Zombies, the Hollies, the Beatles, the Monkees, Four Seasons.
Yoko: Sly and the Family Stone, the Kinks, the Beatles, the Zombies, the Hollies.
Iris: Shangri-La’s, Kinks, Serge Gainesbourg.
Jun: Annette, Robin Ward, Shelley Fabares, Ronnie Spector, Claudine Longet, Yui Asaka, Brian Wilson, Colin Blunstone
Yoko: Colin Blunstone, Ronnie Spector, Carol King, James Brown, Bob Dylan.
Jun: The Beach Boys Today!
Yoko: The Beatles’ Rubber Soul.
Yoko: Collecting dolls and cute things, and shopping.
Iris: Making sweets, sewing and frogs… I’m keeping many little frogs!
Jun: Taking naps.
Jun: The Trouble with Harry
Iris: Anna, Betty Blue.
Yoko: Toto the Hero, Times and Honors, Buffalo 66.
Favorite TV show?
Yoko: Animation of the Beatles!
Jun: Sukeban Deka, Little House on the Prairie
Jun: Steak, Potatoes
Iris: Ice cream and spicy food.
Yoko: Cheese, seafood, chocolate.
Jun: Yogurt flavored Chelsea.
Yoko: Milk-flavored soft candy.
If you were trapped on a deserted island with one person, who would that person be?
Iris: My darling.
Yoko: My husband.
Favorite Sanrio character/animal?
Jun: Pigs, hippos and elephants.
Yoko: I'm not interested in Sanrio character, but I love Monchicchi! It's a monkey baby's doll.
Personal plans for the future?
Jun: I don't have any yet.
Iris: For now, I want to lose my weight!
Yoko: I want to be an owner of a little shop and I want to be a tender mother!
Are hippies ever cool?
Jun: It's not really my kind of style, so I don't have an opinion.
Yoko: I think so!
Do you like what Gwen Stefani is doing with pop culture today?
Jun: I don't know her, sorry.
Iris: Sorry, don’t know her.
A Review of Jan & Dean’s Popsicle (CD Reissue by Sundazed Records)
This is as good a place to get started with Jan & Dean as any. It’s pure 1966 marketing, which in itself is an enlightened thing. The Popsicle album was released by Liberty Records that year after Jan Berry’s accident, and the Sunshine Pop single climbed immediately up the charts... the last real Jan & Dean hit, in sequence. But... get this... "Popsicle Truck" (as it was originally titled) had been released on the Drag City album in 1963. That's the beauty of Popsicle; Liberty found a bunch of album tracks of ambient merit for 1966, and just pumped ’em out there. One can immediately recognize the quality of Jan & Dean's work, that is, stuff lyin’ around on their albums that coulda been singles, or that worked in another time zone. It actually becomes a collection of their most interesting material outside of the obvious hits, and therefore a new listener can come to the group with the whole thing being a fresh experience.
These great tracks are also sequenced in a groovy manner that makes for cool and casual listening. Side two runs through a vibe so lucid, it includes a Jill Gibson song, a Brian Wilson song, a Brian Wilson song, then another Jill Gibson song... all collaborations with Jan Berry (with pals Roger Christian and Don Altfeld pitchin’ in on occasion).
Once the side kicks off with a very, very Psyhedelic Surf Pastiche Washout version of the Beatles’ "Norwegian Wood" (love it when Jan Berry emulates and eventually uses sitars, like later on "Fan Tan," "Mullholland" and others from the still-unreleased Carnival of Sound album from 1968), it goes to the Jill Gibson/Jan Berry duet "A Surfer’s Dream." For my money, this is the most idyllic song of the whole surf shebang. Jill shows up again on the Brian Wilson/Jan Berry chillout "Surf Route 101", this time doin’ the sexy voice of the girl who tags along for a surfari . . . Jill intones "I dig your Woody, lover, let’s disappear." Next we cut to a brilliant, generally unheard Berry/Wilson rocker, "Surfin’ Wild," where Jan finally figures it out; "Well I know what I want, yeh, got it all planned, gonna surf all day then sleep in the sand." Sounds good to me.
The expansive Jill Gibson number "Waimea Bay" follows, showing Jan Berry already capable of arrangements on the level of what Brian Wilson would achieve by the time of Pet Sounds. This earlier production fits in with the 1966 feel perfectly.
Closing side two’s sequence is a nod to the fashion controversy of the decade, Rudi Gernreich’s topless bathing suit. That's another beauty about this LP. Jan & Dean got this wired during 1964 with "One Piece Topless Bathing Suit," which made for an even better environment on Popsicle, due to the growing promiscuity 1966 seemed to envelop. The greens and yellows so prominent in clothing and album covers that year are nothing more than a shift toward sunlight and lovers lyin’ around in the tall grass with marigolds all around them. "One Piece Topless Bathing Suit," the grand dandy of ’em all, makes for an optimistic closer, a good vibe, a good feeling, evocative of graphic design where sunlight through her tan hair became a stock, indelible image always harking back to that very 1966.
Then you get side one, too. After the joyous vibraphone and nonsense backing vocals of "Popsicle" comes "The Restless Surfer," kicking in the feel of wanderlust right away. This Gary Zekley tune title is what I plucked as a non-de-plume when I wrote the liner notes for those Surfer's Mood albums way back in the early ’90s (another golden decade, for people who loathe hessians, like me). Dean’s falsetto on the end of "The Restless Surfer" may also rank among the top yearning vocal moments in rock ’n’ roll, fully encompassing desire in the heart of the protagonist.
Next up is another boss, neglected Brian Wilson/Jan Berry number "She’s My Summer Girl," originally the flip side of "Surf City" -- the first in a series of Berry/Wilson hits including "Drag City," "Dead Man’s Curve," "The New Girl in School" and "Ride the Wild Surf"... (which you may already have somewhere). "Down at Malibu Beach" is a casual Chuck Berry workout; guitarist Billy Strange gets to pull a few hot licks, and that’s followed by another Malibu callout on "Summer Means Fun."
Without a doubt, this a cooler version of "Summer Means Fun" than the hit by Bruce & Terry, or the Fantastic Baggys’ fine version (which shares the same backing track as J&D). Jan Berry’s lead vocal just seems to capture the meaning of the lyric better, and in this respect, he’s in league with early Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry... again, having a real feel for rock ’n’ roll at its source. "Tennessee" closes, and at first it seems out of 1966 feel, but it’s great to go back to this 1962 track and hear Plas Johnson’s "Surfer’s Stomp"-like saxophone solo. It’s a hark back to R&B vocal times in a way similar to what the Mothers of Invention would achieve when they recorded Cruisin’ with Ruben & the Jets in 1968. Already, the psychedelic world was ready for a throwback.
The only cut that seems to be missing from this slapdash affair is Jill Gibson's "It’s As Easy As 1, 2, 3." But we won’t spend time second-guessing the uncredited Liberty Records employee who had the good sense to sequence this thing brilliantly otherwise. A year later, Paul Williams would write a review for The Byrds Greatest Hits in Crawdaddy! (later available in his book Outlaw Blues) describing the packaging and sequencing of this particular greatest hits package as an art form in itself. Popsicle manages that same artfullness for a collection of songs that, by Jan & Dean standards, would be their "underground" selections.
That packaging matched the gorgeous Watts Tower photographs of the 1966 Jan & Dean tour program designed by Dean Torrence — a precursor to his Kittyhawk Graphics work. In a year's time, Dean would be designing for the Turtles and did a similar tour program for the Mamas & the Papas. Jill Gibson also wound up in the Mamas & the Papas for a while (singing on the hit "Look Through My Window," and on plenty of the group’s second album). Popsicle, as packaging, can be seen as leaning in that direction, a sojourn both Jan and Dean would find on their own when recording the Psychedelic Surf Pastiche Washout masterworks Carnival of Sound and Save for a Rainy Day respectively. Popsicle, as music, shows that they had these expansive instincts with them during what may be considered, to some, as a more primitive juncture in their career. A time, however, that was high in both creativity and success.
If only their 1966 TV show pilot Jan and Dean on the Run would have been able to continue... a special nod here to "Time and Space" and "Capitol City" from that ready for Psych-Surf-Pastiche project. Oh well...
—Domenic Priore (with Mark A. Moore)
RECURRING BALBOA THEME
The editors at DUMB ANGEL have dug up more goodies from the seemingly endless well of coolness that has come out of Balboa. In a now-recurring theme of this blog site, we present you with a pair of reviews, a batch of film glossies and a summary of DUMB ANGEL’s April 2nd gig, in the Newport/Balboa area (at Sid’s Blue Beet).
United Artists, B&W, 105 Minutes
George Axelrod (Producer/Director)
George Axelrod and Larry H. Johnson (Screenplay)
Based on the Novel by Al Hine
The dark side, inner-workings of Beach Party-era star-making is just one of many social phenomena satired and deconstructed in the opulent, punk-spirited Lord Love a Duck. The hypocrisy and wasted time inherent to religion, the education system, psychoanalysis and used car sales are all equated; nothing is taboo. Roddy McDowall is a Dada-meets-Go Go version of the somnambulist in Fritz Lang’s The Cabinet of Dr. Calgari, one step ahead of everyone in his world. Tuesday Weld plays his foil, a High School vamp who is part and parcel to McDowall’s schemes. Harvey Korman (Blazing Saddles, The Carol Burnett Show) is typically despicable as the school principal. Students look bad-ass wearing sunglasses in class. Weld graduates from the lame rules of the Cashmere Sweater Club in school, and becomes a beach flick movie star, getting everything she wants through McDowall’s wise-guy maneuvers. On a trip to Balboa Island for Spring Break, the director of "15 beach movies" spots Weld and eventually turns her into a 16-year-old version of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. There is much twisting, hully-gully-ing and watusi during the Balboa segment, and punk music is soundtracked by both Neil Hefti ("Batman" theme) and the Wild Ones, a New York City combo who were then house band at Arthur (they also made a great appearance in The Fat Spy with Jayne Mansfield, played the After Hours shows at Hullabaloo on Sunset in '66, and at the L.A. version of Arthur when it opened at 666 N. La Cienega Boulevard in 1968).
Back to Balboa, by the Stan Kenton Orchestra (1958)
In 1958, Stan Kenton organized his latest version of the Stan Kenton Orchestra and took them back to where Kenton Mach One broke in 1941… the town of Balboa (and more specifically, the Rendezvous Ballroom). Back to Balboa was recorded live during the Kenton Orchestra’s last residence at the Rendezvous in 1957-58, and features a bevy of placid Lennie Niehaus sax solos, adding to the album’s overall lounginess. Label this another seaside tone-poem to be included in DUMB ANGEL’s ever-growing pantheon of Balboa LPs and singles. Several cuts feature the word "blue" in the title (a locale-description later employed by Joe Saraceno for his moody Mar-Kets hit "Balboa Blue"), while "Rendezvous at Sunset" wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the seasonal ’50s flick A Summer Place. The symphonic trumpet blasts that open the song (in classic Kenton pomp) quickly give way to a mellow moodiness rarely found in ’40s or ’50s Kenton. The dawn of "Champagne Music" had arrived.
The Orange County Launch Party for Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long… Featuring the Ghastly Ones, the Boardwalkers and special guest Billy Hinsche, Sunday, April 2
Last night’s show at Sid’s Blue Beet in Newport Beach went off like a charm. The Boardwalkers kicked open the bill and impressed everyone with their fine-tailored surf instrumental skill. Billy Hinsche followed, providing the folk enlightenment for the evening. He performed "Two in the Afternoon," "Tell Someone You Love Them," "Lady Love" and "Thru Spray-Colored Glass" (the theme song from 1969’s surf movie soundtrack, Follow Me), plus songs from his career retrospective Mixed Messages. The show was closed with an absolute punk-out by the Ghastly Ones, who brought the house down with their organ-drenched, garage-fuzztone. Tunes from the Ventures’ psychotic Wild Things! album were performed ("Fuzzy and Wild"). Celebrities in the audience included Rockin’ Jelly Bean (from Jackie & the Cedrics), Darian Sahanaja (of the Wondermints and Brian Wilson's band), 1976 World Surfing Champ Peter Townsend (who doubled for William Katt in Big Wednesday) and Jim Frias (from the original 1964 Santa Ana surf band, the Nocturnes… also a short-term member of the Chantays and the Trademarks). Here’s a few pictures from Sid’s, we’ll have more next month.
The Boardwalkers: Dan Valentie, guitar; Mark Hoeschler, bass; Marty Tippens, drums — © 2006 William Robert Thompson. All Rights Reserved.
Billy Hinsche provides the folk of the evening, giving the night a Five Summer Stories legitimacy. © 2006 William Robert Thompson. All Rights Reserved.
Debbie Shair (Marizane, Candypants) and Darian Sahanaja (Wondermints, the Brian Wilson band) share a moment of meditation and reflection with Dumb Angel Co-Editor Domenic Priore — © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.
Go Go Dancers Kari French (left) and Monique groove with the Ghastly Ones — © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.
Go Go bohemia with the Ghastly Ones, shot from the 2nd floor crow’s nest. © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.
Ghastly Ones organist: Dave "Captain Clegg" Klein — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.
Ghastly Ones drummer Norman "Baron Shivers" Cabrera steps out front, Trashmen style. ©2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.
Ghastly Ones bassist: Kevin "Sir Go Go Ghostly" Hair — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.
Ghastly Ones guitarist: Garrett "Dr. Lehos" Immel — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.
We'd like to think Morey Amsterdam (as "Cappy") is looking down on us from above — © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.