BLUE NOTES By Buddy Blue
What I'm about to essay is going to irritate the "Turner Diaries"-reading public among us to no end, but oh well - someone's gotta do it. Please refrain from burning crosses on my lawn, though, as that would certainly be ill-mannered, plus, hey, some of my best friends are Aryans. Betcha I study and treasure hillbilly music more than Tom Metzger and Bo Gritz combined, too.
Anyway, it's like this: black people are way, way cooler than everybody else, and I won't consider arguments to the contrary. Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway; Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis; T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King; Ray Charles, James Brown and Sam Cooke; Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton and Snoop - I mean, c'mon! And that's only scraping the surface, name-checking the most obvious. The fact is, almost every significant movement in music, fashion and dance since the dawn of recorded media has been spearheaded (whoops! I mean heralded) by the iconic sons and daughters of Africa. Any American who isn't black ought to feel a sense of cultural inadequacy, as far as I'm concerned.
Happily, I've been able to glean at least a modicum of pride in my own ethnic heritage as a Jewish Hebrew Semitic person, as I must consider The Tribe the Number Two contributors of domestic musical significance. Dig it: Irving Berlin, the Gershwin brothers, Harold Arlen, Al Jolson, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Stan Getz, Buddy Rich, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Simon & Garfunkel, Randy Newman, Lou Reed, Joey Ramone, Perry Ferrell - all cut.
The downside: us world-banking-system dominate Z.O.G. types are also responsible for unleashing the likes of Kenny G, Dave Koz, Michael Bolton, Richard Marx, Barry Manilow, and - g-d help us - Barbra Streisand upon a hapless world. I'm duly ashamed and offer my deepest apologizes to you goyim for the lot of 'em, and wish they'd all convert to Islam or something.
Which brings us to the Number Three - or perhaps the Number Two-A - musical race, in my regard: the Italian-Americans, who are something like Jews with larger biceps and better food. My beloved olive- complected cousins have graced the planet with the likes of the Original Dixieland Jass Band, Russ Columbo, Eddy Lang, Wingy Manone, Louis Prima, Frank Sinatra, Frankie Laine, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, the Crests, Bobby Darin, Dion & the Belmonts, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, the Rascals and Frank Zappa.
The pasta passel has a dark secret of its own, though. The teen idol phenomenon of the late-'50s/early- '60s - a movement which many music historians believe came thisclose to killing off rock 'n' roll with it's wholesome, cloying, whitebread sensibility and complete lack of any discernible talent on the part of its biggest stars - was almost exclusively prosecuted by Italian-Americans. This group posed a greater threat to the U.S.A. than Mussolini ever did.
Among the key perpetrators were Fabian (born Fabiona Forte Bonaparte), Bobby Rydell (Robert Ridarelli), Frankie Avalon (Francis Thomas Avallone), Bobby Vee (Robert Velline), Brian Hyland (Carmine Granito), Tony Orlando (Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis was originally marketed as a teen idol) and the Queen Bee, Annette Funicello, who apparently used her given name professionally.
Even Dion - perhaps the most stylishly tuff, talented and quintessentially Italian singer ever - was briefly marketed as a teen idol, but his undeniable substance (and nasty heroin addiction) precluded a successful and erroneous pigeonholing as a wuss, and Dion eventually assumed his rightful position at the rock & roll mountaintop.
It is of grave concern that my beloved KSURF Oldies 540 AM has been increasingly despoiling its once- redoubtable playlist with an increasing amount of excruciating swill from the abovementioned; hearing the Bobby Brigade played back-to-back with Fats Domino and Screamin' Jay Hawkins is akin to mixing Muscatel with Moet Chandon.
Worse yet, the unholy triad of Avalon, Rydell and Fabian have been playing concerts in the area with alarming frequency, collectively billed as "The Golden Boys," casting aspersions on a perfectly magnificent precious metal, not to mention grievously wounding the collective Eustachian tubes of area
residents; the regurgitative recital resumes Sunday night at Pechanga Casino. Please, ye unclean trio of naught gifts, faded youth and contrived effervescence, I beseech you: return
thyselves to the hellish environs of Branson from whence ye came and where ye belong; despoil my fair hamlet no more, and most importantly, cease and desist the ongoing debasement of your own people's noble musical accomplishments.
Okay, I've spoken my peace, guys. The next time you show up in town I'm calling in a favor to my close personal friend, Paulie Walnuts - are we all clear on this? I thought so.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> By Buddy Blue
If you live in or spend any time around La Mesa Village, you've almost certainly seen him skittering about, clutching parcels of apparently great import, looking conspicuously out-of-place amid the Boulevard's myriad eateries, boutiques, and antique shops in his skin-tight trousers and distinctly British mid-'60s retro 'do. His gangly frame - all arms, legs and neck - seems in a noticeable rush to get wherever it is he's going.
You've pondered who he is, where he comes from, what he's up to. You might have said "hello" in an endeavor to initiate contact and suss him out, only to be met by a brief, nervous nod of acknowledgement, as he continues to strut apace without pause, no time for leisurely pleasantries with strangers. Unquestionably, he ranks among La Mesa's finest exemplars of local color.
Meet Mike Stax: among San Diego's most interesting and diligent music veterans; a figure better-known and appreciated outside the county line, although the local scene would never have been quite the same without him.
Stax has been a member of such internationally influential but decidedly subterranean groups as the Crawdaddys, the Tell-Tale Hearts, and more recently, the Loons, whose CD release party for "Paraphernalia" goes down Saturday night at the Casbah.
"Paraphernalia" is a stellar example of Stax's stock-in-trade - channeling the essence of that brief-but- blissful, post-Merseybeat/pre-Haight-Ashbury rock & roll era, a phase with no limits to the creative madness found lurking in the grooves of a 45 RPM record.
On "Paraphernalia," one encounters viciously distorted 6-string and melodically jangling 12-string guitars; droning, ethereal sitar; wailing, reverb-flooded harmonica and recklessly thrashing rhythm; all set off by Stax's expressive vocals; by turns beefy and unglued as Love's Arthur Lee or the Music Machine's Sean Bonniwell; hypnotically reflective as the Yardbirds' Keith Relf or Nazz-era Todd Rundgren.
But the Loons is no mere knock-off group. Whereas the Crawdaddys and Hearts - as well as other, lesser-known/shorter-lived Stax groups - were keen to precisely capture the sound and style of their mentors, the Loons is a more unique and versatile configuration.
"Of course we're influenced heavily by bands like the Yardbirds, Love and the Pretty Things, but those influences have been deeply absorbed over many years, and the music we play is a reflection of those influences rather than an imitation," says Stax. "There are a lot of bands doing little more than historical reenactment. That can be fun, but ultimately it's very shallow -- at the end of the day, you're going to listen to the real thing, not a simulated version. I'd like to think that what we do has more depth to it. We work hard on sounding original and having a strong personality of our own."
Stax was born Michael Dixson in a town north of London in 1962. He grew up enamored by the legendary British bands of the '60s, and was "blown away" when he heard the San Diego-based Crawdaddys playing very authentic, vintage, British-sounding R&B on the radio.
Stax wrote them a fan letter and singer Ron Silva replied, asking him to join up as Crawdaddys' bassist, even though Stax was a greenhorn musician living a continent away at the time. He moved here in 1980, playing on and off with the 'Daddys through 1983.
Ironically, all Stax-associated groups have found greater acceptance overseas than at home. "We played the Purple Weekend in 2002 in Leon, Spain and the Las Vegas Rockaround last August," he says. "At these events, you can play to 1,000 to 2,000 people whose tastes are inclined towards garage rock and '60s music in general, who have traveled from all over the world to be there. We're playing at the Beat Bespoke festival in London at the end of March. From there we're on to gigs in France, Germany and Holland."
Stax is equally active behind the scenes. He publishes, edits and is principal writer of "Ugly Things," which has grown from its 1983 origin as a photocopied cut 'n' paste job to a magazine with a distribution of 6000-plus copies worldwide. "The goal of the mag has been to champion overlooked bands and musicians, primarily from the '60s, but also sometimes the '50s and '70s," he explains.
Stax has also written liner notes for dozens of historical CDs, including both editions of Rhino Records'
illustrious "Nuggets" boxed sets, and has contributed to magazines including "Goldmine," "Record Collector" and "The Oxford American," as well as books including "The Blues Rock Explosion" and "Hollywood Rock." His label, UT Records, is expanding to include reissues by obscure old rock groups as well as Loons releases.
As a musician, Stax's goals are at once modest and far-reaching. "I don't have any grand ambitions of rock stardom - after all, I'm 42 years old," he says. "What I want is to create something timeless that maybe someone like me can discover and dig 100 years from now. I suppose like most 'artists,' I have that somewhat pathetic need to leave behind something that outlives me and says, 'I was here.'"
The Loons CD release party with special guests the Millionaires and DJ Tony The Tiger, March 5 at the Casbah, 2501 Kettner Blvd. in San Diego, 9 p.m., $8, (619) 232-HELL.