When Brian Chidester and I headed North from Los Angeles to San Francisco for the Rick Griffin, Frank Holmes and John McCambridge art show at Mollusk, it looked real gloomy. I mean, I’d lived in San Francisco for six years and had never seen the sky so dark. And, it was a torrential downpour of a tropical storm. Man, we thought this event was sure to be a bust. None of the San Francisco newspapers or weeklies had covered this display of pre-Fillmore Rick Griffin work, which only bolstered my general disdain for the self-enamored Bill Graham/Grateful Dead boosterism still left over in the city. Yes, it looked grim, very grim in the dead of winter for this All Summer Long art show.
However, once we got inside, the gloom ended real quick. McCambridge and Chidester got the Rick Griffin art up in a flash, Frank Holmes had his wall lookin’ fantastic, the DJ gear was up, the oil lamp groove was on the ceiling, and the people started pouring inside from the pouring rain outside (at around 7 p.m.) We all got warm and interior together, with Mollusk feeling like the inside of Winnie the Pooh’s tree. I gave the cat in the upstairs overlook the Surf movies, which he projected on a huge upper wall just beneath the oil lamp show on the ceiling.
By now, I was well down with DJing all this stuff… I brought 4 boxes of rare Surf instrumental singles I’d bought off of Bob Dalley when he needed the bread to publish his book Surfin’ Guitars, plus a stack of similar rare Surf movie soundtracks — Harry Betts’ The Fantastic Plastic Machine, Lalo Schifrin’s Gone With The Wave, the Sandals’ Last of the Ski Bums, Dominic Frontiere’s On Any Sunday and the Stu Phillips / Dino, Desi & Billy Psych/Surf/Pastiche masterpiece Follow Me.
All was goin’ cool, and by my guesstimate, about 200 people showed up. It was swingin’… Mollusk seems to have its own, built-in crowd of relaxed, 1969-style Surf people who do not remind me of anyone I see in the water in Southern California these days. They seem to carry the same calm, confident smile on their faces that the P.S. I Love You — Palm Springs, California celestial sun bumpersticker carried in ’69… somewhere between Mod and that first Crosby, Stills & Nash LP vibe. John McCambridge has designed the interior of his shop with a really cool paint job on the circular interior windows, and it runs down to all elements of his shop, right down to the table loaded with great new T-shirts by both John McCambridge and Thomas Campbell, the artist responsible for Paul Frank’s line last summer. A few of Campbell’s prints were for sale up front, as well.
Some of my friends who showed up included French singer/songwriter Helene Renaut, whose minimalist combo Beam is a recent fave, Brett from the Flakes and his gang of pals, Mike Markesich (from New York, compiler of the Teenage Shutdown series) and his gal-friend Sherry Lowinger. Paul Grushkin, author of both
The Art of Rock and The Art of Modern Rock dropped in with some ace commentary, and New York City public releations man Sal Cataldi drove all the way in from his vacation in Lake Tahoe (despite bunk weather) to make the event. Also present was Alec Palao, who I always call “the guy who put together the Zombies box set” but in fact has done much, much more than that for Ace Records. This includes the bitchen Nuggets From The Golden State series… for my money, the best music to have come out of San Francisco during the ’60s (i.e., tons of Folk-Rock and Garage from Autum Records, usually produced by Sly Stone).
With Alec present, it gave me the charge to play a whole hour or so of Psychedelic Surf Pastiche Washout stuff like “Mrs. Bluebird” by Eternity’s Children, “Just Can’t Wait” by the Full Treatment and “Awake in a Dream” by the Giant Jellybean Copout. Lots of Psych/Pop romp. During all this, Brian Chidester played host of the art show, describing to all who were asking the connection between Griffin’s early work and the comical, thematic Psychedelia of Frank Holmes’ work for the Beach Boys’ unreleased Smile album. Brian Chidester was able to use the music in the air to draw a narrative line from early Surf to early Sunshine Psych.
Next was a Soul music set (beginning with Billy Stewart’s “Summertime”) by my pal Dennis Cabuco from the band Harold Ray Live in Concert! (a bunch of Garage/Mods if that makes sense… just a wild band to dance to, o.k.?) As the show went late into the evening, we brought out one special film clip that made sense of it all. I was still spinning records (cooling out the room with Nick DeCaro’s A&M version of “Caroline, No”), and as I cued the 45 “It’s As Easy as I, 2, 3” by Jill Gibson, we played Mike Dormer’s opening credit sequence to Muscle Beach Party. This huge painting may still be lost, or somewhere in some drifting-through-corporate-space archive in A.I.P.’s fragmented years of being bought out and split up. But here on film, we were able to enjoy pans, sweeps and zooms of all the characters Beatnik/Surfer Dormer threw together in his brilliant Hot Curl style. The remaining crowd (it was after midnight) stood around kind of stunned… it was a true moment of awareness, all of us caught up in a swell of sound and vision, all of us looking at the same thing and realizing where this all came from, how it all happened, and how it was so common, yet so rare in our midst. Frank Holmes could not believe what he was seeing, and the film guy in the crow’s nest (Tyler) just nodded to Brian Chidester, like… “got it!” Mollusk Surf Shop & Gallery really gave us the opportunity to bring the spirit of these cartoonish Surf characters from 1960-1966 alive, and we all became amoeba Surf dwellers throbbing in the sounds of the dwell knob.
Jan & Dean-related material that helped kick in the groove:
“La Corrida” by the Matadors (co-written, arranged, and produced by Jan Berry, Colpix Records, 1963)
“The Theme From Leon’s Garage (Hal Records Scab Dates There)” (produced by Dean Torrence and arranged by Gary Zekley, on Dean’s Bre’r Bird Records, 1965)
Founder / Co-Editor of Dumb Angel No. 4: All Summer Long
Author of Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson’s Lost Masterpiece (Sanctuary Publishing), 2005