Tag Archives: Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa Graduates ► Monday Musical Appreciation

On this day in 1958 — 58 years ago — Frank Zappa graduated from Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, California. That was also the alma mater of Don Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart.

Zappa would go on to release more than 100 albums under his own name or that of The Mothers of Invention.

I have been a fan of Frank Zappa since his first record Freak Out! As I have written elsewhere, I saw the LP at my local Kresge’s. On the cover was the ugliest band I had ever seen in my life. I just had to have the record. I bought it, took it home, and listened to it over and over again until every note was imprinted on my brain.

This little ditty about losing status at a high school was on his 2nd LP, Absolutely Free.

Frank Zappa and his parents

Richard Berry ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Further Reading:

A Song So Great
They Named It Twice

When the final history of Garage Rock is written, today’s date will be remembered as an important milestone. On this day in 1935 the great Richard Berry was born. Twenty years later Berry would write Louie Louie, one of the most influential and recorded songs in Rock and Roll history.

Berry was born in Louisiana, but moved to L.A. with his family when he was a baby. From all reports he had a difficult childhood; having injured his hip, he was forced to use crutches until he was six. However, he picked up his love of music at a camp for handicapped kids, where he learned how to play the ukulele.

He learned his vocal chops practicing in the hallways of Jefferson High School. Soon he was “singing and playing in local doo-wop groups, recording with a number of them including The Penguins, The Cadets
and the Chimes, the Crowns, the Five Hearts, the Hunters, the Rams, the
Whips, and the Dreamers, an otherwise all-female quartet from Fremont High.[5] He then joined The Flairs (who also recorded as the Debonaires and the Flamingoes) in 1953
,” as the Wiki tells us.

After leaving The Flairs Berry hooked up with Rick Rillera and the Rhythm Rockers, described as a Latin & R&B band. That’s when he got the notion to write Louis Louis. As the Wiki explains:

Richard Berry
was inspired to write the song in 1955 after listening to and
performing the song “El Loco Cha Cha” with Ricky Rillera and the Rhythm
Rockers. The tune was written originally as “Amarren Al Loco” (“Tie up
the crazy guy”) by Cuban bandleader Rosendo Ruiz Jr. – also known as
Rosendo Ruiz Quevedo – but became best known in the “El Loco Cha Cha”
arrangement by René Touzet which included a rhythmic ten-note “1-2-3 1–2 1-2-3 1–2” riff.[3] 

Touzet performed the tune regularly in Los Angeles clubs in the
1950s. In Berry’s mind, the words “Louie Louie” superimposed themselves
over the bass riff. Lyrically, the first person perspective of the song was influenced by “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)“, which is sung from the perspective of a customer talking to a bartender (Berry’s bartender’s name is Louie).[4] Berry cited Chuck Berry‘s “Havana Moon” and his exposure to Latin American music for the song’s speech pattern and references to Jamaica.[5]

Crank it up and D A N C E ! ! !

Louie Louie might have remained in obscurity as the B-side to “You Are My Sunshine” by Richard Berry and the Pharaohs, on Flip Records, had it not been discovered by Tacoma singer “Rockin’ Robin Roberts” who recorded his cover version in 1960, using his band The Wailers [no relation], aka the Fabulous Wailers. It includes the ad lib “Let’s give it to ’em, RIGHT NOW!!” and, while it was a local hit, it sank without a trace when re-released for the national market.

In 1963 a Portland, Oregon band named The Kingsmen decided to make it their second single, after “Peter Gunn Rock.” The tune was arranged by bandmember Jack Ely. Again, Wiki knows all:

The Kingsmen’s lead singer Jack Ely
based his version on the recording by Rockin’ Robin Roberts with the
Fabulous Wailers, unintentionally introducing a change in the rhythm as
he did. “I showed the others how to play it with a 1–2–3, 1–2, 1–2–3
beat instead of the 1–2–3–4, 1–2, 1–2–3–4 beat that is on the (Wailers)
record”, recalled Ely. The night before their recording session, the
band played a 90-minute version of the song during a gig at a local teen

[…]The Kingsmen transformed Berry’s easy-going ballad into a raucous romp,
complete with a twangy guitar, occasional background chatter, and nearly
unintelligible lyrics by Ely.[18] A guitar break is triggered by the shout, “Okay, let’s give it to ’em right now!”, which first appeared in the Wailers version,[19]
as did the entire guitar break (although, in the Wailers version, a few
notes differ, and the entire band played the break). Critic Dave Marsh
suggests it is this moment that gives the recording greatness: “[Ely]
went for it so avidly you’d have thought he’d spotted the jugular of a
lifelong enemy, so crudely that, at that instant, Ely sounds like Donald
Duck on helium. And it’s that faintly ridiculous air that makes the
Kingsmen’s record the classic that it is, especially since it’s followed
by a guitar solo that’s just as wacky.”[20]

The Kingsmen’s cover of Louie Louie probably would have been a hit in any case, but the persistent, and widely believed, rumours that the lyrics were dirty probably didn’t hurt. Even the FBI was fooled, launching an expensive investigation into The Kingmen, the record company, and the radio stations that played it. I tell that story in A Song So Great They Named It Twice, which was based on my reading of Dave Marsh’s wonderful book with the unwieldy title: Louie Louie; The History and Mythology of the World’s Most Famous Rock ‘n Roll Song; Including the Full Details of Its Torture and Persecution at the Hands of the Kingsmen, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

Incidentally, despite there being THOUSANDS of cover versions of his tune, Berry didn’t make a penny off of them. He sold the rights to Louie Louie in 1959 for $750 to pay for his wedding. Luckily, he eventually did start to realize a fairly good chuck of change later:

In the mid eighties Berry was living on welfare at his mother’s house in South Central L.A.. Drinks company California Cooler wanted to use “Louie Louie” in a commercial,
but discovered they needed Berry’s signature to use it. They asked the
Artists’ Rights society to locate him, and a lawyer visited Berry. The
lawyer mentioned the possibility of Berry taking action to gain the
rights to his song. The publishers settled out of court, making Berry a

Garage Bands around the world celebrate today as International Louie Louis Day.

Okay, let’s give it to ’em 12
times right now! Me gotta go!

Zappa, Elvis & Nixon ► Monday Musical Appreciation(s)

Frank Zappa before the mustache

There are two big events in today’s music history and I couldn’t decide between them. On this day in 1940 Frank Zappa was born. In unrelated news, 30 years later Elvis Presley bluffs his way into Nixon’s White House and is presented with a law enforcement badge so the drug-addled King of Rock and Roll can help fight the War on Drugs. No, really!

I can still remember the day I bought Zappa’s first LP, Freak Out. It was in the Kresge’s record department and the band was one of the ugliest I had ever seen. I was 14 years old and had never heard of The Mothers of Invention before, but there was something about the cover that made me buy it. The back cover has what purported to be a letter from what purported to be a Suzy Creamcheese:

These Mothers is crazy. You can tell by their clothes. One guy wears beads and they all smell bad. We were gonna get them for a dance after the basketball game but my best pal warned me you can never tell how many will show up…sometimes the guy in the fur coat doesn’t show up and sometimes he does show up only he brings a big bunch of crazy people with him and they dance all over the place. None of the kids at my school like these Mothers… specially since my teacher told us what the words to their songs meant. Sincerely forever, Suzy Creamcheese, Salt Lake City, Utah.

All of that added up to GOTTA HAVE IT!

I distinctly remember taking it home and being surprised by that it was a 2 LP set (apparently only the 2nd double album of the Rock era, following Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde by mere weeks). I also remember how utterly confused I was after I listened to the entire 4 sides. The first 2 sides consisted of what could only be described as Demented Doo Wop. It was hard to tell if Zappa was satirizing the genre or lovingly recreating it, especially after listening to the final 2 sides. I didn’t have the language then for what it was, but I was immediately hooked. I have been a life-long Frank Zappa fan ever since.

However, as I keep saying, it’s all about the music. Here’s Frank Zappa’s first official LP of a career that produced more records than anybody else in the Rock era:

The unanswered question is why my unformed, teenager mind so readily glommed onto Zappa, way ahead of the curve.

Animation created by author from public domain White House photos

The Elvis Presley incident is a bizarre footnote to the entire Watergate presidency of Richard Nixon and provided a strange capper to the long career of Elvis Presley.

To make a long story short: Nixon went on the lam from Graceland and the Memphis Mafia after an argument with his wife Priscilla and his father Vernon over the cost of Christmas gifts.

First he flew to Washington, but then took off to Los Angeles. There he concocted an incredible plan to meet President Nixon. According to the Smithsonian Institute, of all places:

Elvis was traveling with some guns and his collection of police badges, and he decided that what he really wanted was a badge from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs back in Washington. “The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him,” Priscilla Presley would write in her memoir, Elvis and Me. “With the federal narcotics badge, he [believed he] could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.”

After just one day in Los Angeles, Elvis asked [Jerry] Schilling to fly with him back to the capital. “He didn’t say why,” Schilling recalls, “but I thought the badge might be part of the reason.”

On the red-eye to Washington, Elvis scribbled a letter to President Nixon. “Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out,” he wrote. All he wanted in return was a federal agent’s badge. “I would love to meet you,” he added, informing Nixon that he’d be staying at the Washington Hotel under the alias Jon Burrows. “I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a federal agent.”

That’s all it took to get an Oval Office meeting with Nixon, who happily posed for pictures with the King of Rock and Roll. The National Archives has an entire online exhibit called When Nixon Met Elvis and there’s a hilarious movie, Elvis Meets Nixon, which takes some liberties with the truth and features my cyber-friend Curtis Armstrong as Farley Hall. Both are highly recommended by me.

Nixon went on to quit the presidency over Watergate, while Elvis died on the crapper.

Headlines Du Jour ► Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hello, Headliners!  Today’s birthday belongs to composer and guitarist Frank Zappa. Among the other Headlines Du Jour of yesteryear:

Here is today’s Headlines Du Jour:











As The Planet Warms, A Remote Alaskan Town Shows Just How Unprepared We Are



NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered more than
950 confirmed planets orbiting distant stars.
Planets with a known size and orbit are shown below,
including Kepler 186f, an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone.


Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the
Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information
Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in
today’s open thread.

Headlines Du Jour ► Friday, February 21, 2014

As SciFi fans the world over celebrate Anthony Daniels‘ birthday, let’s take a quick look at some of the Headlines Du Jour from yesteryear:

1804 – The first self-propelling steam locomotive makes its outing at the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Wales.
1842 – John Greenough is granted the first U.S. patent for the sewing machine.
1848Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto.
1878 – The first telephone book is issued in New Haven, Connecticut.
1885 – The newly completed Washington Monument is dedicated.
1925The New Yorker publishes its first issue.
1947 – In New York City, Edwin Land demonstrates the first “instant camera“, the Polaroid Land Camera, to a meeting of the Optical Society of America.
1948NASCAR is incorporated.
1958 – The peace symbol, commissioned by Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in protest against the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, is designed and completed by Gerald Holtom.

1965Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam.
1972President Richard Nixon visits the People’s Republic of China to normalize Sino-American relations.

But, what’s happening in the world right now? Take a gander at just a few of today’s Headlines Du Jour:


Study: Homophobia takes
2.5 years off your life


Legalized Marijuana:
Companies Moving Now
To Cash In On Cannabis

Marijuana news: Colorado governor projects millions in pot tax and sales revenue


Investigator Tells a Lynching
Story, Forced to Resign


Income inequality: Among US cities, bigger ones are more unequal


Georgia House votes to allow
weapons in bars and churches


Ted Cruz Stands Up For
Hateful Racist Ted Nugent
During CNN Interview

Bachmann Explains Why Americans Still ‘Aren’t
Ready’ for a Female President


The End of America’s
Fake Consensus


Lindsay Lohan and Mom Do Cocaine Together? Actress Blasts New Reports

John Romano: Pam Bondi, Fox News a match made in conservative heaven


Bill O’Reilly Is Worried About “Homosexual Overtones”
In The Girl Scouts


College Security Head
Arrested For Jerking Off
Into Co-Worker’s Shoe


Scientists name bacterium for Frank Zappa


Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the
Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information
Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in
today’s open thread.

Headlines Du Jour ► Friday, January 17, 2014

Chris Christie in the headlines long
before he was NJ Governor.

Uh oh! My headline-collecting robot drones did not show up for the start of their shift. With no time left to hire interns, I had to go back to collecting the headlines by hand. While you read today’s Headlines Du Jour, I’ll ponder what this means.


13-year-old inventor cracks
the secret of trees to
revolutionize solar energy


Google developing smart contact lens


Texas Public Schools Are Teaching Creationism


Florida Medical Marijuana
Supporters Claim Victory

Backers of medical marijuana constitutional amendment
have collected more than 1.1 million signatures

New Hampshire governor promises to
kill ‘historic’ marijuana legalization bill

‘I like weed, and I’m a good person’: Pot smokers fight stereotypes


Tea Party Candidate’s Ad Touts His
‘Sexy’ Wife And Large Testicles


Final Exit: Group That Helps Suffering People Commit Suicide Is Active in Florida


Howard Stern: Fox’s The Five
Is ‘My Favorite TV Show’

◄ ◄ ◄ From the Not Now Silly Archives ► ► ►
The Five Is Simply Bad Tee Vee
— An Aunty Em Review —


D.C. officer charged with prostituting teens
had been investigated as early as 2011, police


Walt Disney’s Grandniece
Agrees With Meryl Streep:
He Was ‘Racist’


Fox News host says Americans don’t know their history, flubs history of Boston Tea Party


Spanish researchers discover the first
black hole orbiting a “spinning” star

Pluto Has a Fifth Moon,
Hubble Telescope Reveals


Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the
Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information
Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in
today’s open thread.

Headlines Du Jour ► Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Not Now Silly News Team has been working all night
long to compile the very best of today’s Headlines Du Jour. So, grab a cop of coffee and
settle down to the best damn headlines found anywhere.


Christian Tea Party Terrorist Claims 2nd Amendment
Authority To Shoot President Obama!


‘Stand your ground’ moves to Ohio Senate

Police find 12-gauge, rifle, and more than 100
rounds at George Zimmerman’s girlfriend’s home

Why George Zimmerman Was Arrested
Immediately When He Abused A White Woman

The Curious Case Of George Zimmerman’s Public Defender


Pot smokers warned: think twice
before crossing U.S. border

Canadians heading south to sample
legal marijuana should not expect
a warm welcome at the border


Task force to compile database
in Detroit blight fight

Thieves target massive water
tower at Packard Plant in Detroit

Torched: Jefferson Ave’s Historic Somerset Apartments

Video: The Diego Rivera Murals As You’ve Never Seen Them


Ed Schultz Blasts Fox’s ‘Steve Douchey,’ Cavuto
for Claiming Iran Deal Distraction from Obamacare

Sarah Palin Snubs Bill O’Reilly?!

Fox Host: Obamacare is worse than Katrina
or the Iraq War because it touches more lives


‘Ghost-hunters’ allegedly burn down historic Louisiana plantation

The Ghost In The Machine


Dominicans expel 244 Haitians over border killings


The Very Gay History of the Almost Lost
Tradition of the Sunday Tea Dance


Blair must explain why police didn’t arrest Rob Ford
Why did police sit back and watch the mayor for months while he repeatedly met with an alleged dealer and apparently took curious packages from him?

Drunken Mayor Goes Bonkers After Being Arrested by
His Own Police Force


Atheist drops golfer’s sponsorship over fears
Ted Cruz, Glenn Beck could taint business

The Day I Shook Hands With Glenn Beck


Yuliana Avalos, Miami Bikini Model, Sues
Match.com For $1.5 Billion Over Stolen Photos


This House Has A Massive Door Going To The Basement.
When You See What’s Down There, You’ll Get It.


Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary episode breaks the Timelord’s
number one rule and re-writes history – and reminds us
why Matt Smith and David Tennant were so irritating



Brian Wilson, Frank Zappa & Graham Nash Go Inside Pop
Fascinating 1967 film lifts the lid on “the strange and compelling scene called ‘pop music’”.

Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of National Trufax, a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Not Now Silly.,
home of the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic. Updated through the day. Use
our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in today’s open

John and Yoko and Frank and Flo and Eddie

John Lennon and Yoko One perform with Frank Zappa and The Mothers

Dateline June 6, 1971 – Frank Zappa and his newly formed Mothers play a notorious gig at the Fillmore East. This was the second night of a two night stand. As he had done previously, Zappa had a surprise for the audience: an encore set backing up John Lennon and Yoko Ono, just beginning their sojourn in NYC that ended so tragically.

The inner-sleeve from Lennon’s release
The minimalist cover as released by Zappa

Zappa had arranged for the night to be recorded, as he increasingly did for all live performances. He came to release the night’s performance by The Mothers as “Fillmore East – June 1971.” It was the latest chapter in the band’s “Touring can make you crazy” phase, which culminated in the movie 200 Motels. During the evening’s entertainment Flo and Eddie, alternatively playing both groupies and Pop Stars, document Vanilla Fudge having sex with a mudshark at the Edgewater Motel, meet Bwana Dik, reprise a few classic Zappa tunes, and eventually agree to sing their big hit song — WITH A  BULLET!!! — “Happy Together.”

Then Zappa sprung John and Yoko on the audience instead of the encore:

~~ Rare footage of Frank Zappa, Flo and Eddie and John and Yoko ~~

Frank Zappa turned the portion of John and Yoko’s performance over to him after the show. As was his wont, Lennon turned the tapes over to Phil Spector, who remixed the tapes and released it in 1972 as Side 4 of the “Some Time In New York City” double-record set. Frank Zappa was extremely unhappy with the results and lawsuits were threatened before it all got settled to everyone’s satisfaction. Frank Zappa tells that story:

Howard Kaylan tells the story from his point of view in his recently released autobiography Shell Shocked [reviewed here]:

If our first Fillmore show […] was wonderful, our second was transcendent. When the concert ended and the audience stood, waiting for their encore, it felt as if a herd of elephants had entered the auditorium as the world’s most famous couple walked onstage. The resulting jam was recorded by both Frank and the Fillmore and was released on two different albums. John released it as the 4th LP [sic] in his Some Times In New Your City compilation on Apple, although he took writing credit on every song, including Frank’s iconic “King Kong,” which h renamed and tried to publish. Frank’s lawyers had to sue John’s lawyers to straighten the entire thing out, and it really wasn’t all that great anyway, but at least I can say that I am among a handful of people, right alongside Paul McCartney, to ever share a writing credit with the immortal John Lennon. So there.

Zappa got the last laugh. He eventually released his own, remixed, versions of those recordings on the Playground Psychotics CD. He gave the songwriters the proper credits, but renamed one of the tunes “A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono.”



Unpacking The Writer ► Hits and Misses

Something happened overnight. I don’t know what it was, but I’m delighted.

When I woke up early this morning Not Now Silly already had 230 hits since 8PM last night. Normally there is only some 30-50 hits overnight, with an average of 350-400 hits for an entire day. That’s why this morning’s number was such a surprise.

Nearly half of those hits (97) were for what I consider to be a very important post. “Did Roger Ailes Dupe James Rosen, Or Did Rosen Dupe ‘Merka?” actually breaks new news about Watergate, some 40 years after the fact. In this post I accuse Fox “News” Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen of using his revisionist John Mitchell biography “The Strong Man” to cover up Richard Nixon’s treason. This treason is one of the lesser-known crimes of Tricky Dicky’s, which actually took place before he became president. While I only posted it in March, it’s become so popular with my readers that it already appears on my All Time Top Ten list at Number 6, leapfrogging my previous post that made fun of James Rosen — Aunty Em Ericann’s Bun Fight With James Rosen of Fox “News” — during the night.

The 2nd most popular post of the last 24 hours — but with only 1/3rd the number of hits as the Rosen post — is Another Magical Tee Vee Moment ► Barbara Walters ► Katherine Hepburn ► Trees, a small bit of silliness I posted exactly 1 year ago today. However, I promoted that archival post yesterday, so it garnering recent hits is not much of a surprise.

In 3rd place for the last 24 hours (as well 3rd for the entire week already) is my recent review of Howard Kaylan’s book SHELL SHOCKED; My Life With The Turtles, Flo & Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc. … Howard liked the review enough to have promoted it several times on facebook and Twitter. Thanks, Howie! [He wouldn’t have an ulterior motive, would he?]

Rounding out Today’s Top Ten:

Musical Interlude ► Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band
Day In History ► May 31, 1921 ► When Whites Went Crazy In Tulsa
Day In History ► Josephine Baker Born
Musical Appreciation ► Brian Jones [My All Time #1 blog post]
The Detroit Riots ► Unpacking My Detroit ► Part Five
The Sunrise to Canton Road Trip For Research
Fox “News” Spin Cycle ► Episode 34

Still with me, readers? If so, click on an advert over there in the right column. >>>=====> See them over there? It will cost you nothing to click on an advert, but I get a few pennies when you do. And, I do mean few. However, that’s the only remuneration I get for the many hours of work I put into crafting these posts for your enjoyment. Clicking on an advert is the least you can do.



Book Review: Shell Shocked by Howard Kaylan with Jeff Tamarkin

Actual cover by the actual Cal Schenkel

SHELL SHOCKED; My Life With The Turtles, Flo & Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc. . . .
by Howard Kaylan with Jeff Tamarkin

A few years back my buddy Alan scored some tickets to Hippiefest, the Rock and Roll nostalgia show then schlepping across ‘Merka during the Summer of Love, aka 2009. As is our wont when attending concerts, we went early for the people watching.

It could have been was the name “Hippiefest.” Or else it could have been the fact that Hippiefest included, along with The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, Joey Molland of Badfinger and Leslie West with a tribute to Mountain; all ’60s icons. Regardless, the audience was a veritable sea of tie die. Alan (who is 13 years younger than me) and I laughed and made fun of all the old, decrepid Hippies wallowing in ponytails and nostalgia — until I realized I was one.

Howard Kaylan, of the aforementioned Flo & Eddie’s Turtles, has now written his life story, which turns out to be a very funny book about far more than Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll — although it’s got plenty of that, too. This is a book about the very continuum of Show Bidnezz itself, filled with unexpected twists and turns and populated with cameos by the unlikeliest of people, including Soupy Sales, Ian Whitcomb, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, Care Bears, Johnny Carson, Jerry Lewis, Orson Bean, and Twiggy, just to name a few. And, of course, the book is also jam-packed with stories about those in the music business that you’d expect, like Marc Bolan, Frank and Gail Zappa, Ray Davies, John Sebastian, Chip Douglas, Bob Ezrin, Alice Cooper, The Beatles, Brian Jones, and Jimi Hendrix, among many others. [The last 3 encountered on the same magical night.] The list of cameos goes on and on, but none of it comes off as name-dropping on Kaylan’s part. He’s just telling his stories.

Flo & Eddie’s Turtles at Hippiefest during the Summer of Love of 2009

For me the most revealing scene takes place near the beginning of the book. Howard was still a kid and he’s on his first great Road Trip, riding in the back seat as his dad drove clear across the country to take a job with General Electric in Los Angeles. The Kaplan [sic] family stopped in Las Vegas and took in the free lounge show of Louis Prima and Keeley Smith. Kaylan admits:

Louis and Keeley invented a style of cabaret that my singing partner Mark [Volman] and I later adapted (all right, we took it, okay?) and still use in every single performance. Louis would clown it up, big time, while the lovely Indian maiden, Keeley, would stand as stiffly as a mannequin and sing in her mesmerizing style, seemingly oblivious to her husband’s mad antics. Only eight or nine short years later, those two fat front men in the Turtles were cashing in by doing the very same thing. If you don’t know who they were, maybe you remember David Lee Roth’s big hit “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”? That’s a note-for-note cover of Louis Prima’s arrangement. Seriously, if you are still drawing a blank, get a DVD or go on YouTube and check out their nightclub act from the ’50s and ’60s. They were amazingly ahead of their time. Hey, Sinatra loved them. The whole business loved them. They molded me.

[Full disclosure: “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” is a song that I have nailed many times during drunken Karaoke nights. I always do the Prima version, even though the Karaoke machine thinks it’s David Lee Roth’s version.]

By the time you get to the end of Shell Shocked Kaylan has detailed several more Road Trips, each more hilarious than the last. However, it was Kaylan’s stories about The Business of Show, like the Prima/Smith tale above, that gave me a new view of the entertainment industry. I had always viewed the invention of Rock and Roll as The Great Dividing Line™ between then and now. The Brill Building had figuratively burned down. Nothing was ever the same. However, Kaylan’s life story comfortably straddles that line between Old Show Biz and Everything That Came After. Show Bidnezz is, and has always been, a continuum, with Kaylan’s memoirs just the latest piece of the puzzle.

One of the most amusing stories in the book is also the subject of “My Dinner With Jimi,” the 2003 movie about Kaylan’s first visit to Swingin’ London, flush with his earliest Turtles fame. I won’t give anything away other than to say the telling of the story in the book is much funnier than the movie (written by one Howard Kaylan, tackling his first full-length movie script). I don’t know if it was the direction, the silly ’60s costumes and wigs, or the barely adequate acting, but the movie never grabbed me. However, Howard’s telling in the book makes it clear why someone wanted to film that story. It’s HIGH-LARRY-US. As a Show Biz Raconteur™ Kaylan delivers the goods time and time again in Shell Shocked.

Freak Out was the antithesis of bubblegum

What makes Howard’s story so interesting is that he’s far more than just a single thread in the great Rock and Roll tapestry. Yet so few people know him by name. They’ll be familiar with hits like “Happy Together,” “Let Me Be,” and “Elinore,” but The Turtles were not a group known individually.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a Johnny-come-lately to The Turtles oeuvre. Oh, sure I knew the hits, but back in the ’60s I had a predjudice against anything I considered “bubblegum.” That’s why I was a Zappa fan from Day One. Freak Out had one of the ugliest bands I had ever seen on the cover and bought it for that reason alone. I listened to it so much I knew every note and I could quote by heart the liner notes that said:

“I’d like to clean you boys up a bit and mold you. I believe I could make you as big as the Turtles.”
~~~~~A Noted L.A. Disc Jockey

That’s why it was such sweet irony that a few years later the two lead singers for The Turtles, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, had joined Frank Zappa and not the other way around. However, due to what must have been one of the worst contracts in the entire music bidnezz, Volman and Kaylan were not only prevented from using The Turtles name, which is slightly understandable, but were also prevented from using their own names, which is simply incomprehensible. That’s why they were forced to adopt the noms de song of The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie, eventually shortened to Flo & Eddie.

It was only as members of Zappa’s band that I came to appreciate Kaylan’s backstory and the subversive quality to The Turtles music, especially the latter LPs. However, it was as the voices of Zappa, singing about how touring can make you crazy, that gave Volman and Kaylan street cred, not only to me, but millions of Zappa fans around the world. Sadly their connection with Zappa came to an abrupt end when the 1971 tour disintegrated in disaster. First came the fire in Montreux, which burned the stage and all their equipment; an event witnesses by Deep Purple and memorialized in the song “Smoke on the Water.” The band gamely voted to continue the tour with borrowed equipment. A week later, while performing the encore at London’s Rainbow Theatre, a jealous fan jumped onstage and pushed Zappa into the orchestra pit.

At this point in their career Flo and Eddie were forced to reinvent themselves and strike out on their own again. [Even more full disclosure: It was at this low point in their career that I met Flo & Eddie and came to their rescue. I tell that tale in Flo and Eddie and Mark and Howard.] Flo and Eddie albums followed, as did backing vocals for some of Rock’s most iconic artists and songs, and then comes the family-friendly cartoons. Name any other artist talented enough to go from singing about sex with mud sharks to Care Bears.

All of these twists and turns are told with great verve and humour by Kaylan (although he chose to leave our meeting out). Kaylan kept a diary from his earliest days, which must have been an enourmous help, considering the Rock and Roll lifestyle makes many mornings cloudy.

A Zappa era song sung by Flo & Eddie about the Rock and Roll lifestyle.

Any quibbles I have with Shell Shocked are minor: 1). While Kaylan dishes the dirt, with most of the stories being told on himself, the most negative portrayals in the book have to do with ex-managers and other Show Biz people who ripped him off. However, Kaylan avoids naming names. Someone must have warned him about defamation lawsuits; 2). I had hoped to learn more about how he felt during the Kafkaesque period when he wasn’t allowed to ply his trade under his own name. Sadly he doesn’t talk about his feelings here (or elsewhere) in the book; 3). The actual business dealings with Zappa and, post-Frank, Gail Zappa. Gail continues to release posthumous Frank Zappa recordings that feature Flo and Eddie. My understanding is that Howard sees no money from these releases. However, Kaylan was very circumspect in describing Gail in the book and I get the sense he held a lot back.

Howard Kaylan, star of stage, screen, and now book lists

This is mere nitpickery on my part, only realized in retrospect for this review. I certainly didn’t miss it in the reading. From cover to cover Shell Shocked is a terrific, rollicking trip through the world of Rock and Roll. It gets the Aunty Em seal of approval.

SHELL SHOCKED; My Life With The Turtles, Flo & Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc. . . . by Howard Kaylan with Jeff Tamarkin; Backbeat Books, Paperback, ISBN 978-1-61780-846-3 304 pages, index, pictures