Mesmerizer

The Lipstick Killers’ Mesmerizer is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

The Lipstick Killers Mesmerizer (Citadel, Australia, 1984)

On the strength of a Deniz Tek-produced 45 issued by Bomp subsidiary Voxx in 1979, Sydney’s Lipstick Killers decamped for Los Angeles and dreams of Northern hemisphere success. They lasted a year in the cozy grime of the Tropicana Motel and a bug-infested Silverlake apartment, playing about a dozen gigs, including a Brian Jones memorial at the Whisky and at Madame Wong’s with the Plimsouls. Mesmerizer is the document of one of these shows, recorded on cassette by Flesh Eater Chris D., cleaned up nicely and released posthumously on Radio Birdman crony “Brother” John Needham’s Citadel imprint. In the absence of an official studio album, this high energy set stands as slightly sloppy but irresistible evidence of the band’s magic. Over twelve songs, including terrific covers of the Chocolate Watchband’s “Let’s Talk About Girls” and the Elevators’ “I’ve Got Levitation,” the Lipstick Killers swagger like the Hindu gods of their signature song, all power chords, tribal drums and perfectly controlled frenzy. The band’s originals come across like unknown frat rock standards gene-spliced with a finely honed blend of psychedelia and DIY punk energy. Insinuation was their strong suit: “Dying Boy’s Crawl” and “Strange Flash” get right under your skin and pull you bodily towards the music. Maybe a band this tight and moody was nothing special on the Sydney scene, but they must have blown their L.A. competition sideways. Unfortunately, the usual band problems intruded–mental illness, money, the singer getting a day job to pay rent on the communal flat–and the Killers called it quits. The members eventually wound their way back to Australia, where they still occasionally play as the Lipstick Killers. When I saw them open for Radio Birdman in 2002 they fulfilled every promise of Mesmerizer and more. (Kim Cooper, from the book Lost in the Grooves)

Strum & Drum!

Sex Clark 5's Strum & Drum! is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive, with bonus tracks. Click below to sample music or purchase. 

Available CDs: Strum & Drum!, SC5 Rarities, Strum & Drum! + Rarities compilation

Be Sex Clark 5's friend on MySpace – click here! 

Sex Clark 5 Strum & Drum! (Records to Russia, 1987/ Beehive Rebellion, 1996)

Hailing from Huntsville, Alabama—the place where Wernher von Braun traded rocketry know-how for immunity, but perhaps more significantly birthplace of “Eight Miles High”—these lo-fi pop wunderkinder had one of the eighties’ great lost discs in Strum & Drum! Their name is one of the broad strokes forming a sly humored sensibility, this from a group also given to titling a noisy piss-take “Get Back Yoko,” and producing an electronic loop of the phrase “Girls of Somalia,” apparently a 5th dimensional play on the Beach Boys’ celebrations of regional pulchritude. But these are the oddities on a disc that’s 95% ebullient, near-perfect Beatlesque pop, delivered with careless glee all but unheard of in the power pop ghetto. None of singer/guitarist James Butler’s twenty songs clocks in above 2:43, giving them the opportunity to charm without boring. SC5 leaves you wanting more, but with the next unforgettable melody never far away. Take “Detention Girls,” a reductive micro opera with a cheerleader’s chant giving the if-you-blinked-you-missed-it bridge that extra jolt sending the whole marvelous package into sugary hyperdrive. “Modern Fix” is at once daffy and poignant. The powerfully delivered line “Why don’t we take all our gimmicks, put ‘em all in one box/ And trade ‘em for a bag of tube socks?” seems (and is) absurd on its face, but in context it’s the possibly final plea of a lover trying to make a rough love work. “Valerie”’s singsong melody seems somehow backwards, an exquisite medieval meander fused with a sweetness straight out of the McCartney songbook. Lightning-paced “Alai” is blessed with one of those hooks that won’t quit, though what the “alai-lai-lai-lai” the band is on about may never be revealed. Sometimes bassist Joy Johnson sings in the sweet, slightly flat voice of a serious little kid, but mostly Butler leads the show, mouth racing to keep up with the shambling, ecstatic rush of his band. These dizzy, precise little tunes are like musical meringues, each one a brilliant gem of an idea whipped to soft, gooey peaks. Look for the out-of-print 1996 CD reissue that includes the magical early “Neita Grew Up Last Night” EP. (Kim Cooper, from the book Lost in the Grooves)

The Communists Are Coming To Kill Us/Prank Calls

John Trubee’s The Communists Are Coming to Kill Us! is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive, available now from Maryatt Music Group. Click to sample John’s singles collection or purchase.

John Trubee’s legendary Prank Call CDs, available as MP3 samples, downloads or full CDs:

Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 1
Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 2
Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 3
Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 4

Review:
John Trubee and the Ugly Janitors of America The Communists Are Coming to Kill Us! (Enigma, 1984)

Mr. Trubee is best known as the man behind “Blind Man’s Penis,” a demented poem with lines like “Warts love my nipples because they are pink/Vomit on me baby, yeah, yeah” that was sent to a song-poem mill and turned into a deadpan country song which subsequently became an underground novelty hit. Lesser known, but far stranger, is his follow-up album. Trubee got the ball rolling by sending a fake suicide note to several associates, including L.A. Reader rock critic Matt Groening and Enigma’s Bill Hein, who agreed to meet with Trubee and negotiate a record deal. In Trubee’s words: “It was no negotiation. I wanted to do the record badly–that was obvious. It was similar to a horny teenage boy negotiating with a supermodel to lose his virginity. There is no deal–he just gets with her fast before she changes her mind. I told Bill I’d do it for no money. He set up mastering time at Capitol and I walked in … with a brown paper bag full of reel tapes and cassettes of teenage poetry rants, prank phone calls, aborted horn chart recordings from music school, and other weirdness. I had the flu and I sat with Eddie Shierer for six hours editing all this madness into an album.” What resulted was an extremely unique and, well, odd record. I came across it in a used bin shortly after it came out. It was both annoying as hell and insanely captivating, a collage of atonal avant-jazz, primitive electronic compositions, and spoken rants against stuck-up college girls and the suave men who slept with them, plus those juvenile prank calls, a revelation long before the genre became a pop cultural phenomena. If the record that was attached to the Voyager space probe had contained the sounds of all the alienated, pissed-off, shat-on people on earth, it would sound something like this. (Chas Glynn, from the book Lost in the Grooves)

Big Pine Boogie

Gibson Bros’ Big Pine Boogie is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

Gibson Bros
Big Pine Boogie
(Okra, 1987 / Homestead, 1988)

The debut from Columbus, OH blues and country archivists the Gibson Bros arrived at the height of indie rock

Fugu

Fugu’s debut Fugu EP is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

Fugu Fugu EP (Semantic, 1996)

Fugu is Mehdi Zannad, a classically trained French pianist who discovered he could only compose three-minute songs. Don’t be fooled by the indie world that tries to “Hello Kitty-ize” him. However pretentious Zannad’s titles, his music could be taken seriously by the sternest scholars. This self-released EP, which predates debut full-length Fugu 1 by four years, is as despicably rare as it is charming. I was able to obtain a copy directly from Zannad after a Boston performance. His jaw-dropping postmodern Beach Boys deconstructions (complete with four-part harmonies) combined with skillful power pop spelunking led me to confront his timid frame after the set and proclaim, “you are my new favorite band!” More consistent and battier than Fugu 1, the EP is one of the least boring and most rococo recordings you are ever likely to hear. “F29” is a trip into a cavern of multi-colored rock candy stalagmites triggered by swift piano arpeggios, skronky Vox organ hits, sweeping cello melodramas and Zannad’s own incoherent trilling. Complete with sighing violins, “F4” evokes a mythological place where the Beatles are composed of two French Paul McCartneys, the Velvet Underground’s Sterling Morrison plays his ultra simplistic “non-rock” leads, and Ringo pats on the muted snare, like on Abbey Road’s “Something.” On “Untitled” and “Interlude,” a cacophony of voices and bubbling machines intermingle with gurgling horns and myriad symphonic cutting-room floor clippings before returning to Earth. “F26” pits the thrush of strummed guitars, frowning horns and cotton candy organ against Zannad’s voice on the odd-canticle chorus. While it’s possible to be swept up in the obvious magical mystery of his production, or the fractured-ness of his arranging sensibility, there is always at the core an essential song, a framework to shake you of your every sun-baked boredom with pop music. Orgiastic, steeped in utter coherence. (Jonathan Donaldson, from the book Lost in the Grooves)

Chevrolet Sings of Safe Driving & You

"Chevrolet Sings" is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

The First Team
Chevrolet Sings of Safe Driving and You
(Columbia Special Products, n.d., likely c. 1965)

Avoiding the Red Asphalt approach to driver’s ed., our corporate friends at Chevrolet decided folk-rock was the perfect medium to sell the learner’s permit crowd on appropriate automotive behavior. The result was a sort of Schoolhouse Rock for timid auto-jocks, a catchy set of rules and prohibitions meant to instill a sense of cautious confidence in young drivers. It’s delightfully catchy, and achieves all its aims. “Grown-up Baby” (Driving Psychology) addresses those with a deadly weapon at their disposal who lack the emotional maturity to behave sensibly. Frenetic banjos build to a nervous climax as the hip parental narrators fuss about hotheads, wheel-squealers and other car-creeps. “Cities and Towns” (Driving in City and Heavy Traffic) skimps on the lyrical edumacation, but jangles like a lost Byrds track. “Nowhere Fast” (Observance and Enforcement) with its spooky, insinuating New England garage sound scans more like free verse than pop song: “there are many other THINGS THAT you will have to know/ like when a sign says STOP that’s what it means and not just slow.” Flip the disk for the shouldabeen hit, “Gentle Things” (Adverse Driving Conditions), a Simon and Garfunkel-style beauty with aggressively mournful harmonica. Dad guilt-trips us with the message that expert drivers let the weather be their guide, but this listener is too blissed-out on the melody to think of rain (“a gentle thing, except when you’re driving”) as a threat. “The Natural Laws” (Laws of Motion) is a cool little soul shouter about what a groove it is to be subject to centrifugal force, getting raunchy when the singer pants, “they are all, UH HUH, natural laws.” And “Man-Made Laws” (Common Sense Driving) is full of suggestions about rights of way, passing and distance. It’s all very useful stuff, and I often find myself humming snippets while maneuvering around afternoon gridlock in L.A. There are no performer credits, but the label states that Lou Adessa and Vince Benay composed the songs. This same talented pair wrote Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “SS 396,” also released on Columbia Special Products and given away by Chevrolet dealers around 1965. (Kim Cooper, from the book Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed)

about

Lost in the Grooves is an anthology, edited by myself and David Smay celebrating several hundred great, underappreciated records.

The Lost in the Grooves website is the book’s digital face, where the celebration extends to offering some of those hard-to-find and out-of-print recordings for purchase, as MP3s or physical CDs. The site will also feature other wonderful, neglected music not featured in the book.

LITG music is licensed directly from the artists, and they are paid for every track sold. And due to our partnership with Maryatt Music Group, you might even hear some of these tracks on soundtracks or in ads.

We are honored to be able to help get the word out about these remarkable artists, and to share their songs with you.

To explore the catalogue, including song samples, visit the Music Store. To learn more about the artists, the book and the critics whose picks fill it, poke around this site. We’ll be adding new artists and blogs regularly, and welcome your comments and recommendations, here on the site or in the community forum.

Thanks for visiting Lost in the Grooves, and for supporting independent musicians.

-Kim Cooper, Editrix, Lost in the Grooves & Scram Magazine

 

The Balboa Pharmacy Library

Balboa
Why Balboa, you ask? Which town did Gilligan, Skipper, Tina Louise and the rest take off from? Where did Dick Dale & his Del-Tones, in the summer of 1961, take off from? Where did Van Dyke Parks first witness crowds of surfers pack in the Rendezvous Ballroom to see the Beach Boys one night? He witnessed this standing in front of the Prison of Socrates folk club, across the street in Balboa. And what would you say if I told you that one segment of the Pet Sounds/Wall-of-Sound musicians started life as members of the Stan Kenton Orchestra? And that their concerts at the Rendezvous are where Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and his pals would head to in the late 1940s? What locale, in the head-spinning summer of 1963, did Sports Illustrated choose to depict on its cover as the center of “The Beach Explosion in Southern California”?

Balboa Beach

Dig the Sea & Ski and Coppertone tanning lotion Pop art beach umbrellas

Let me back up for just a second. Let me tell ya how it came to me. Here’s a quotation . . .

“So listen, man . . . Paul Johnson (who played his song “Mr. Moto” at the Rendezvous with his band, the Belairs) once told me this . . . are you ready? Paul Johnson said to me, ‘You know Domenic, this whole California Myth thing . . . it’s really neat and compelling and all. But the truth is always more bizarre and interesting.'”

Balboa Peninsula - Pavilion

Balboa Peninsula boardwalk and beach, featuring summer teen fashions from the mid-’60s — Balboa Pavilion in the background

Thus started the day I traveled with Domenic Priore through Orange County’s Pacific Coast Highway selling new copies of Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long to stores in the region. We headed down there with the intent of reminding the natives of Balboa about their groovy, locally-derived music scene.

Photo Booth

Bay Arcade photo booth. A perfect example of how sometimes, American “Mod” outstrips the British variety, as heard in those Garage 45s from ’65/’66. (Photo by Brian Chidester)

Photo Booth

The Wet Seal clothing boutique — mid-1960s

Before you, behold the locally-produced library of Balboa history and folklore we found when we got there:

Old Balboa Island StoriesOld Balboa Island Stories from 1907 to the Millenium by Jim Jennings (No Publisher)

  • An old man’s personal history of daily life in Balboa. However, he tells it with a sense of wisdom and inherent coolness from simply living through this quieter era, that it’s to reading what listening to an Arthur Lyman album would be like.

Tales of BalboaTales of Balboa by Jim Fournier (No Publisher)

  • An encyclopedia of important people and places in Balboa’s history, told by the town historian. Sort of a miniature version of Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County (University of California Press)

Newport - Balboa MapThe Newport/Balboa Map

  • General Newport Beach, Balboa and Corona del Mar area map, including illustrations of key locations and a list of phone numbers for local businesses.

Newport Beach PostcardsNewport Beach: A California Postcard History by Jeff Delaney (Arcadia Publishing)

  • Postcard shots of Newport/Balboa/Corona del Mar from 1900 on.

Newport BeachNewport Beach: Images of America by Pamela Lee Gray (Arcadia Publishing)

  • Archival photo paste-up book about Newport and Balboa’s history. Besides a host of deserted beach shots from the Victorian Era, there are four shots of the Rendezvous from Stan Kenton period through to Dick Dale, and ultimately when it burned down in 1966.

Newport Beach HarborNewport Beach by Gayle Baker, PhD (HarborTown Histories)

  • A linear account of how the Newport/Balboa towns developed during the early 1920s. The best re-telling of the Rendezvous Ballroom origins, and an unseen photo of the structure to boot. I would consider this to be the most literary of all the Balboa books thus far.

The Wedge DVD

  • Documentary of the ‘Dirty ol’ Wedge’ . . . the spot with the most intense body-surfing experience in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Dirty Feet DVD

  • 1965 feature film about Balboa folk singer Tim Morgon, shot on location at the Prison of Socrates coffee-house. To watch this movie is to be transported to a way of life that no longer exists, with shots of Morgon’s cool girlfriend Vicki passing out flyers to surf dwellers near the Balboa Pier, and rowdy folk music enthusiasts tearing up the joint by movie’s end.

We are proud that Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long has joined these fine books and films in the Balboa Pharmacy Library

Special thanks to Mike and Tom of the Balboa Pharmacy for keepin’ it real.

Balboa Pharmacy - Pavilion

Balboa Pharmacy and Balboa Pavillion, 1950s

Balboa Pharmacy - Pavilion

Coppertone clock relief — Balboa Pharmacy. (Photo by Domenic Priore)

Rounding out the sphere . . .

The complete collection of albums and singles on the Fink Records label (all of which were local-artist albums released out of Balboa’s Prison of Socrates coffee house).

  • Artists include Tim Morgon (“Dirty Feet” b/w “Mike Fink”) and Phil & the Flakes (“Chrome Reversed Rails” b/w “Blower Scoop,” 1965).

By BRIAN CHIDESTER (with editing, ideas and lots of laughter from Domenic Priore)

More detail about Balboa can be viewed and discussed at Sponto Gallery, in Venice, on July 19, 2006. Dumb Angel will host a screening of the Dirty Feet film, plus Bob Denver’s wild beatnik surf scene in For Those Who Think Young, Michael Dormer’s painting during the opening credit sequence of Muscle Beach Party (soundtracked by Les Baxter) and a slide show of all the long-gone beach coffee-houses in the Greater L.A. area during the ’50s and ’60s (indeed, Sponto was one of them — The Venice West Café). Others featured will be the Insomniac Café in Hermosa Beach, Sid’s Blue Beet in Newport Beach, Prison of Socrates in Balboa, and Café Frankenstein in Laguna Beach.

Prison of Socrates Mural

Original mural from inside the Prison of Socrates folk club, now displayed at the Balboa Historical Museum on South Bayfront Ave. The mural is in a section of the museum devoted to Balboa’s folk scene during the early ’60s. The display also features a selection of Tim Morgon album sleeves, one of Tim’s guitars and various Prison of Socrates posters, including one for a Hoyt Axton show. (Photo by Domenic Priore/Brian Chidester)

Dirty Feet Soundtrack — Tim Morgon, Susan Renaker, John & the Bazooki Band (Fink Records LP 1007)

Dirty FeetNever has one album so summed up the general feeling of Balboa during the early ’60s than this 1965 soundtrack to the rare indie film Dirty Feet, starring folk singer Tim Morgon and his sidekick Vicki Arthur. Morgon contributes two vocal numbers, the anthemic “Dirty Feet” and the hootenanny sing-a-long “Mike Fink.” What lies between these captures faithfully that rare environment between Balboa’s Island, Pavilion and Pier. The “Prison of Socrates” instrumental cut is traditional Greek folk music, and sets the stage for musical references that informed the Middle Eastern exoticism of many surf instrumentals. The moody “Gamblin’ Man” breaks stride with what is, otherwise, essentially a folk album . . . this being a breezy surf instrumental inflection of the night-time moon and tides. “Camping Song” sounds like surfboards sliding through the pilings . . . it works as happy music for anywhere. The Grecian formula-flavored “Odessey” rolls along with its combination of Amerian rock ‘n’ roll and European flair, and can be DJ’d along with any other Bosstella numbers you may prefer (not as frantic as the soundtrack to The Day the Fish Came Out, but on the way there). Next up, the instrumental backing track to Tim’s vocal number “Dirty Feet” works as somber 12-string guitar “walking music.” Susan Renaker’s “Summertime Wine” sounds like an ode to Joan Baez, with a strong falsetto vocal landing somewhere between “Kum-Baya” and an exotica siren. (NOTE: “Summertime Wine” is the title of a book that Tim Morgon is reading during the opening credits of Dirty Feet, his feet set on a bamboo table with empty bottles.) “Angel’s Camp” could refer to the Sunset Strip-esque Pop and Op shop, at 614 N. Doheny Drive back then, or, someplace in the San Gabriel mountains. Either way, it’s killer surf. “Cotton Candy” mind checks the prime dietary capital of the Balboa Fun Zone, and is a romatic surfer’s mood number. It’s followed by a slowed-down version of “Odessey” and a chugging Folk instrumental rendering of “Mike Fink.” The “Dirty Feet” theme is reprised vocally by Morgon in a profound, slowed-down version, and the LP closes. Generally speaking, the Dirty Feet soundtrack employs the same placid moodiness found in the Mar-Kets’ “Balboa Blue” single, only spread across an entire album. Though the whole affair might seem like a mind-altering trip to some lost astral plane, when you watch the film and walk around the town of Balboa, you get a sense that it is all really real, and that this type of music poured into the streets on any given 1964 night.

BRIAN CHIDESTER / DOMENIC PRIORE


Prison of Socrates Building

The Prison of Socrates Building Today. (Photo by Domenic Priore)

DIRTY FEET — LYRICS

Dirty feet, dirty feet . . .
Say that youth and life are much too sweet,
To be bound or confined.
Shoes are things that steal my peace of mind.

I want to feel the good earth under me,
The warmth of the sand beneath my toes.
Even mud squish when it rains,
It’s my life and I don’t care who knows.

Let me be foot loose and free,
Then with music every step will sound . . .
Though I walk with my head in the clouds,
My feet will be on solid ground.

Dirty feet, dirty feet . . .
Tell of summertime that was too fleet.
Soon enough, I will be,
Saying ‘fare thee well’ to liberty.

But now I must run barefoot through grass,
And find what waits over the hill.
Skipping puddles in the rain,
There’s part of me that’s a kid still.

I am sure as can be,
Lots of folks would find life more complete . . .
If they took off their shoes for a while,
And ran around in dirty feet.

Happy dirty feet!

— “Dirty Feet,” by Tim Morgon, 1964

Balboa Fun Zone

Barefoot Action — ’50s Balboa Fun Zone — You can almost hear ‘Surf Beat’ just by looking at this shot!

Balboa Blues

Sublime, early Psychedelic Surf Pastiche Washout disc, 1965

THE BEST OF FINK . . .

From Christopher Peake’s column “Take a Walk on the WARPED side,” in his 1984-1986 ‘zine 45-45

Phil & the Flakes “Chrome Reversed Rails” b/w “Blower Scoop” (Fink 1010)

A long-time favorite, it’s the label copy that gets your attention right off (see photo copy). This demented surfer (P. Pearlman is the writer’s name for both sides) is putting on a joke; it can only be. Top side starts out with what gives the listener the impression is going to be a good Surf instrumental tune, but then we get a two-part vocal group coming in and adding more to the intro, and then Phil comes on with his opening line; “When I go surfin’, my baby loves me so, she loves my chrome rails, how they gleam and they glow; . . . It’s my chrome reverse rails, woe-oh, that stuck my baby on me; . . . shoo-be-do-wah-pa-do-wah” (it’s just gotta be heard)!! All this is going on with the two-part female “vocal backup” now doing it up to a true “warp level 13,” with one part singing in unison with Phil on his lines, and one part which resembles (for lack of better likeness coming to mind), doing some Turkish harem-trip kind of high warbling part!? The lyrics remain just as cool throughout, until the mid-break, which sports some of the hottest Surf-guitar playing ever laid down!! “Blower Scoop” is right in the same groove (with another super Surf-guitar break), but the lyrics maybe get evermore far out there (if that’s possible). We know you don’t believe us . . . (editor’s note: . . . so check out the incredible Surf comp Wax ‘Em Down for a good repress of the flip).
— CHRISTOPHER PEAKE, 1985

“It seems that Phil and his pals were cruisin’ to drag and get in a quarter mile showdown with a rod equipped with a blower scoop. Well, just as the scooped coupe is about to pass, Phil’s buddy throws his ICE CREAM CONE into the oncoming supercharger and puts the kibosh on the guy’s mill! This genius platter is on Fink Records, who obviously felt proud enough of Beardo Weirdo Phil to put his hairy mug on the label.” — Deke Dickerson and Johnny Bartlett, from the liner notes of Wax ‘Em Down, 1995.

Phil & the Flakes were a house band in 1965/1966 at Sid’s Blue Beet, on the North end of the Balboa peninsula, near the Newport Beach pier.

Listen to “Chrome Reversed Rails” at Pegg Records.

For the full story of Phil & the Flakes, plus other related projects from this artist, checkout The Beat of the Earth.

Rendezvous Ballroom - Before and After

Photo by Brian Chidester

The Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa . . .
The two most important live recordings from the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa can be heard on these records:
Rendezvous Ballroom - Before and After

LEFT: The Original Rendezvous Ballroom / RIGHT: The Rendezvous building today. (New photo by Domenic Priore)

The Kenton EraThe Kenton Era — Stan Kenton (Capitol EOX 569). The opening eight numbers from this definitive early-’50s release were recorded live at the Rendezvous from July through September of 1941. The selections include “Artistry In Rhythm,” “Two Moods,” “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good,” “Lamento Gitano,” “Reed Rapture,” “La Cumparsita,” “St. James Infirmary” and “Arkansas Traveler”. “With the college and high school crowd that colonized the little resort town on weekends, holidays and vacations,” wrote Bud Freeman, “the young Kenton was an immediate success. Red Dorris, tenor saxist and vocalist, became a local idol within a few weeks. Howard Rumsey, who played amplified bass with spastic abandon, was known by his first name to every Jazz enthusiast in the area.” Rumsey later held sway with his Lighthouse All-Stars at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. The Kenton band would nourish, through the ’40s and ’50s, the school of musicians later referred to in Jazz circles as West Coast Cool.
Surfer's ChoiceSurfer’s Choice — Dick Dale & his Del-Tones. Released in early 1963, this collection is crucial to any Surf music collection. Most, if not all of the tracks were recorded live at the Rendezvous, including the insane “Surf Beat” (lots of great audience noise that pushes the actual content of the record), “Sloop John B.,” “Let’s Go Trippin’,” “Surfin’ Drums” (a takeoff on Bo Diddley’s “Hush Your Mouth”), “Mr. Peppermint Man” and the expanded guitar workout “Miserlou Twist”. Some of the Del-Tone 45s (“Jungle Fever,” notably) also feature the Rendezvous in rapture.
— DOMENIC PRIORE
Stuft Shirt

The Stuft Shirt Resaurant

Balboa BluesBalboa Blues — A lounge piano album featuring the bar room keyboard masters from the Stuft Shirt, Berkshire’s and the Reuben E. Lee restaurants. Side one opens with a cool cocktail take on “Satin Doll,” and ends with a night/tide version of “Girl from Ipanema.” Side two starts out with some standard Broadway fare, including “Hello Dolly,” sprung from the Reuben E. Lee (a riverboat/restaurant out to sea). Best of all, the piano lounge players are boarded on Balboa’s Ferry Boat (with a grand piano) for the album cover. — BRIAN CHIDESTER

“Henry Mancini keeps a boat here.” — from the liner notes to Balboa Blues, Mark 56 Records, mid-’60s.

Ruben E. lee Matchbook

Reuben E. Lee Matchbook

TRIBUTES TO BALBOA

Balboa Memories “Balboa Memories” b/w “Long Way Home” by the Breakers (Marsh 206)
What you have here is a Cascades-esque trip through the teenage hot-spots and inherent romanticism of Balboa, circa 1963. The Breakers slide effortlessly through a swirl of vocal harmonies and lyrics which suggest the whole city of Balboa was once akin to the P.O.P. theme park in Venice (with mentions of the Fun Zone, Bay Arcade, Ferry Boat and the Jolly Roger). The backing track is mid-tempo and Modern, bringing images of mini-yachts, cotton candy and sea shells to mind. Their world must have seemed perfect. — BRIAN CHIDESTER
“Those Memories of You” by the Bobby Fuller 4
Written by Jim Pewter, his original 1964 demo appeared on Surfin’ Roots in 1977. Pewter produced another cool version with Dick Dale for GNP-Crescendo in 1975.

Ace local photos of Balboa from a resident can be viewed and purchased at www.TalesOfBalboa.com

Dumb Angel Readers,

I thought I should share this with you. Brian Chidester and I went to Orange County on a Monday afternoon in January, and it was just empty . . . “off season” for these beach towns. We did our sales thing, but the sky had this forever sunset that was just amazing . . . Catalina fully visible over the Dana Point/Laguna Beach area . . . and while the sun was dipping outta sight, we crossed from Balboa Island to Balboa on the Ferry, looking West . . . Without cueing it, we just happened to be listening to “Busy Doin’ Nothin'”and “Diamond Head” from the Beach Boys 1968 Friends (!) album while on the Ferry boat, floating on the water, in the car. Outtasight!!! . . . to hear those steel guitars and percussion emulating volcanoes . . . true Brian Wilson Exotica music on a slow boat. Here’s Chidester’s e-mail to me the day after. I think you’ll appreciate the sentiment in it.

— DOMENIC PRIORE

Balboa Ferry

LEFT: The Balboa Ferry in the 1960s / RIGHT: The Ferry Today. (New photo by Domenic Priore)

I’m still riding high from that trip yesterday. I was just so sad and overwhelmed by how amazing Southern California once was. But zoning in on just the cool elements and having that music in the background, it melted my heart and made me long so hard for the days when beach houses and mini-yachts looked the way “Let Him Run Wild” sounded. Crossing that empty street on Balboa Blvd. to walk into the pharmacy . . . I had the most odd feeling. It was as though the wind was whipping some salt-air comfort over me, whistling the tunes of Tim Morgon out of the Prison of Socrates and Dick Dale playing “Greenback Dollar” from the Rendezvous. I felt so at home talking to that local in the Pharmacy and looking at the books and the homemade documentary about the Wedge. How could I get that sense? I never lived through 1963. I felt the way a scientist must feel when he makes a discovery that he knows is so profound, yet is going to be impossible to explain to the outside world. It was really heavy. Hard to even put into words. If we would have heard Jill Gibson’s “Easy As 1, 2, 3” last night after eating at Woody’s Wharf, I would have cried. Seriously. I would have balled my eyes out. I felt so emotional about SoCal last night . . . it was ridiculous. Such a cool day.

— BRIAN CHIDESTER

Balboa Map

Dumb Angel at Mollusk, San Francisco

Mr. & Mrs. Frank Holmes, Original Artist for SMiLE 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.

Domenic Priore Spins the Discs. Record Collector's Note: The two LPs on the right are 'Boss Dance Hits' on Teen Records 1001 (from Hawaii, 1966) and 'Shake! Shout! & Soul!' on Impact LP #2By 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.

Second from left: Featured Artist John McCambridge with FriendsSome 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.

Art Exhibits at MolluskNext 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)

DOMENIC PRIORE
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