Happy Birthday to my friend and mentor John van Hamersveld. While I have no great love for my years in Los Angeles (2000 to 2004), my time spent with John was something I will always be grateful for. In a town full of social climbers and fame addicted narcissistic idiots, John was a man of great wisdom and talent, a man who exuded a love of art and creativity.
There are few I can credit with actually changing my thinking, but John did that, though not through argument or constant rants, but by posing questions, almost as if talking to himself, sometimes just loud enough for me to hear. His subtle engagement about the politics of the time, the war, whole horrible state of the country chipped away at my A-political stance. I hadn’t voted in over a decade, but ever since I’ve moved back to New Jersey, I never missed an election.
I worked closely with John to restore images from his incredible career to print posters from a large format giclee printer I had in my studio in North Hollywood. He’d created some of the most iconic images of the 60’s and 70’s; album covers such as The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour, Rolling Stones “Exile On Main Street”, Kiss “Hotter Than Hell”, Beach Boys “Wild Honey”, Blondie “Eat To The Beat”, posters for The Velvet Underground, Hendrix, Cream, and possibly the greatest poster of all time: The Endless Summer.
We spent long hours together in my studio, and he told me stories about meeting the Beatles, photographing the Stones, hanging out with Dylan, and the death of Rick Griffin. But the best stories were about art, about creating images. I’d always felt schizophrenic in my desire to explore a variety of styles. But when I looked at John’s body of work, I realized it was quite healthy to go off in different directions and not repeat one’s self. I also learned to be okay with my dyslexia, John said it was our advantage to see things differently. So thank you John, for the time we spent, for your profound influence on my thinking. And a very happy birthday.
Almost 20 years ago I made the above T-shirt as a humorous response to the rise of two alt-rock juggernauts: Nirvana and Matt Pinfield. While Nirvana was Â all over the radio and MTV, Pinfield’s star was just starting to rise. In New Jersey, Matt was a local hero; serving as programming director and afternoon record jock at the Jersey shore’s 106.3 WHTG and DJing at the Melody Bar in New Brunswick three nights a week. Matt and I had crossed paths several times, but when he was DJing at a wedding reception I attended around 1989, we got into a long discussion about new bands. He asked me if I liked The Wonder Stuff and we’ve been friends ever since. Years later I would take him to his audition in New York for MTV.
When I first heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” I thought it was a new Pixies tune. I later found out that was exactly what Kurt Cobain was going for. The song seemed like it was everywhere, yet I never grew tired of it. I never really appreciated the rest of the album, but I always felt Teen Spirit was one of the greatest rock songs I’d ever heard. Some months later, I received a frantic call from Pinfield, “…how fast can you get into the city? I’m at NBC studios! Nirvana is doing their soundcheck for Saturday Night Live Â at Rockefeller Center!”
Since I was only 45 minutes out of Manhattan, I raced up the NJ Turnpike, bolted into NBC, found Matt and we were whisked through glass doors past a group kids on a class trip. I’ll never forget how wide their eyes got as the doors opened and Teen Spirit blasted out into the hall. The doors closed behind us and the kids pressed themselves against the glass to here more. We entered the Saturday Night Live studio and there was G.E. Smith, the legendary bandleader and music director of SNL. We sat in the dark with a few people from CMJ magazine. There was Nirvana, bashing out Smells Like Teen Spirit for the five luckiest people in New York City at that moment in time.
I heard Sonic Youth’s 1990 hit “Kool Thing” the other day, and it stayed in my head all weekend — what an absolutely brilliant tune from an exciting time in music. Around the same time, I was looking at original Kirby pages on http://www.whatifkirby.com/, when I came across a few pages of Princess Zanda attempting to seduce The Black Panther. And then I heard the line “Kool thing, walking like a panther…” I showed Kirby’s art to my wife Judie while playing the song and we laughed about inserting the lyrics into Kirby’s art. And here’s the video to the song:
A fantastic night with so many friends, great performances by Holmes, Bad Karma, and The Ribeye Brother’s ( made up mostly of former members of Monster Magnet) made it a rip roaring night of rock. And to top it off, the pride of the Garden State himself, Bruce Springsteen joined us to wish Judie a happy birthday at Â the Asbury Lanes. Pay no attention to that nonsense on MTV, this is the real Jersey Shore.
I’ll post more here about The Ribeye Brothers “New Ways To Fail” release here later. For now, just know that it rocks. Not much does these days. There’s a lot of good new music out there, but rock is rare. Some of the best garage rock I’ve heard in ages. Outstanding!!!
check’em out here www.myspace.com/theribeyebrothers
The groove is strong with Mackrosoft, the 27 piece project that evokes 70’s keyboards, horns, and wah-wah peddle guitar. Much thanks to Wax Poetics magazine for hipping me to this disc.
give it a listen, then pick it up here at amazon music downloads
Oddly enough, I’d been playing older songs by The Magnetic Fields around the house the past week or so, because our friend Kate told my wife it was her favorite band. My wife, Judie had never heard of them and quickly became a fan. So the discovery of this release was rather serendipitous.
For some, this new release “Distortion” may be a tough listen. Truth in advertising be told; the unifying sound here is distortion. The whole record sounds recorded in the red. This sound can be fatiguing, but I’ve always enjoyed my Magnetic Fields in small doses, sprinkling their cuts in mixed tapes or iTunes equivalents. For me, even a distorted Magnetic Fields record is a welcome gift. There’s a sarcasm in their songs that seems like it can only come from my corner of the world — and I appreciate it.
Radiohead “In Rainbows”
I’ve owned this for some time now, but this is a sneaky record. It didn’t grab me like “Kid A” or “OK Computer” once did. This is more placid, almost background music. The lyrics don’t seem to jump out. Usually, when I take the train into Manhattan, I’ll listen to something that’s not distracting so I can read, but also drown out the incessant banter of inane cell phone users. “In Rainbows” has done the trick. But I need to actually start paying more attention. My friend Adam tells me there are some brilliant tunes here.
Working For A Nuclear Free City â€“ â€œBusinessmen and Ghostsâ€
Clocking in at 1.7 hours, Businessmen and Ghosts is all over the modern British music musical map. This Manchester band is one part Fluke, one part, Stone Roses, a touch of Ride, some Radiohead, a little ambient, a pinch of low-fi, groove, experimental, and a whole lot more â€“ hell, thereâ€™s 29 songs on this release. At times, Iâ€™m not sure itâ€™s the same band from one track to the next. Iâ€™m not even sure if I like the whole thing â€“ but thatâ€™s not the point of this entry â€“ itâ€™s just what Iâ€™m listening to this week. If I were to give them a grade, I would say A for Ambitious, but D for Donâ€™t Know Which Way To Go.