Here is the complete interview with Kim Fowley about his experiences as producer of the Belfast Gypsies, conducted on March 2, 2004. Inevitably, the conversation drifted to other subjects as well. Parts of this interview appear as a side feature to the lengthy story on the history of the Belfast Gypsies in issue #23 of Ugly Things magazine.
Q: When you recorded "Gloria's Dream" with the Belfast Gypsies, was the idea to do something like Them's "Gloria," which hadn't been a hit in the UK, where it was used as a B-side? Although the Shadows of Knight had a big hit with it in the US, and the Them version had some popularity in the States.
KF: Well, there were other people besides the Shadows of Knight that attempted "Gloria." Various regional bands, and then in certain cities, it [Them's version] was a hit. In other cities, "Mystic Eyes" was a hit. In other cities, "Here Comes the Night" was a hit. Them [had] checkerboard chart activity, because the band kept changing between different singles, and different artwork, and no one was quite sure who the band was, other than Van Morrison was the lead singer. There was all this mystery about who was in the band, and were there session musicians or not. I remember in L.A. where I lived at the time, "Gloria" was huge and "Mystic Eyes" was huge. In other places, it wasn't. It's a lot of regional confusion. But "Gloria's Dream" was not a conscious derivative move. Meaning that there were two members of Them in the Belfast Gypsies, and I looked at it as a continuum. There was "Shout" by the Isley Brothers, and there was "Twist and Shout." So in my mind it was "Gloria," and "Gloria's Dream." It was a continuum -- a continuing narrative.
Q: But "Gloria" wasn't well known yet in the UK, where the Belfast Gypsies were recording.
KF: I don't care. I was looking out from an L.A. point of view, sitting in England with members of Them who sounded like Them. So why not go with it? Just like, how many watusi records there were? How many surf records were there? How many twist records there were? I mean, I wasn't looking at it from a 2004 point of view. I was looking at it from a 27-year-old record producer. "Oh, let's do a 'Gloria' record! Okay, let's do one!" And then we did one.
Q: Is the reference to "black gloves hide the sun" in "Secret Police" about cops in L.A. using black gloves, as Ken McLeod remembers you explaining?
KF: Probably. There was police right on the Sunset Strip, episodes in L.A., even before I met the Belfast Gypsies. I was a guy who emceed a lot of the love-ins, and then I sang at the love-ins when the bands didn't show up. We'd need to put impromptu bands together. The police were a big part of the '60s in America, in particular on the West Coast, in particular in the Hollywood-L.A. area. So any police statement was, once again, part of the time. Look at your cops'n'robbers literature going all the way back to pulp fiction detective stories, going through the B-movies of the '40s, detective shows, 77 Sunset Strip. I mean, there was all kinds of culture about cops'n'robbers. Later after the Belfast Gypsies sang "Secret Police,'"then you had "Police and Thieves," covered by the Clash [from] the Junior Murvin record. So rock'n'roll and repression, good and evil, cops and robbers, school, teachers, ministers, parents, police, bullies, victims, heroes, friends, enemies, good cops, bad cops, the whole bit.
In the Regents was a policeman, did you know that? When I was spending time with Blondie in New York, he was one of the off-duty cops who was their bodyguard. And he was one of the Regents, who sang "Barbara Ann." So I finally met a policeman who had #1 records. Like, it can't all be bad, can it?
But it was, once again, part of the culture, part of the mythology. "Oh, okay -- let's do a cops and robbers record. Alright." I mean, we didn't have much time, we didn't have much money to work with. So the lyrical content and the overall content was real soundbite. There was no "MacArthur Park," Bob Dylan gigantic 119th dream narrative here. It was, we're doing junk food disposable garage rock here. And let's just have fun with it, let's not try to write the Magna Carta.
Q: Speaking to the British rock journalist Pete Frame, Jackie McAuley claimed that "Fowley instructed us to act psychedelically." Do you remember doing that?
KF: What you had in the context of 1966 -- drugs were part of the culture. And the audience of rock music of the time were either drug-inspired or drug-participating or drug-wishing. So it wasn't an audience that was as sanitized as the Monkees hoped it would be later. It was a bunch of kids trying to score beer with fake ID and reefer or grass. So if you could smoke dope or something, it might make it better for you as an artist if you had a drug culture acceptance for your work. Just like today, I'm sure rappers are told, make it hard, make it OG, Original Gangsta. Or an R&B singer might be told, make sure you have one for the single mothers with a high voice. It was the same old decision. It was just like country guys -- make sure you have a song about trucking in your albums, so the truckers play it on the jukeboxes. It was a sales and marketing decision -- make it psychedelic. So we did.
Q: Are the lyrics about the man-a-comin' with a gun in "People Let's Freak Out" more impressions of the cops in Los Angeles, like the lyrics in "Secret Police" might have been?
KF: No, because that was all part of the culture of the time. It was oppression, and the man could be your father. The man could be your big brother stealing your bike from you. I thought "People, Let's Freak Out'" was about Frank Zappa goes to garage in the UK and makes a record, you know? Freaking out was a dance. Freaking out was a love-in. Freaking out was painting your face and scaring your mom and dad, or playing the radio loud, or putting on bell bottoms, like Sonny & Cher freaking out.
Q: According to Ken McLeod's diary, by early June 1966, "Gloria's Dream" and "Secret Police" had been accepted for release in 12 countries. Was that your doing?
KF: Yes, it was.
Q: Was it really 12 countries?
KF: Yeah. Let me try to remember. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America, Ireland, England, France, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, probably Belgium and Holland. [I'm] guessing. I mean, I've made 5,000 records, and I've written 5,000 songs in 45 years. And it's hard to remember every last country and every last song. But, remember we were dealing with singles. We weren't dealing with albums. It was a different time, where you had a snappy single, somebody would put it out. Doesn't mean it would be a hit, that doesn't mean you'd make a million dollars. It just meant that it was easy to get singles out.
Q: Was the idea all along with the Belfast Gypsies to record enough songs for a full-length LP, or were you just assembling tracks, without a conscious design to putting out an album?
KF: No, I looked at it archeologically. I figured, well, here I am in England in 1966, and here's half of Them standing in front of me. Oh boy, I get to make a record like "Gloria" and "Mystic Eyes." All my friends will be impressed when I go home after the summer's over. Oh, okay. Why not? Let's have fun in the studio. I had a few hundred dollars, I went into a studio. I think they had one amplifier in the whole band. And they didn't have any clothes for the photo session, so I loaned 'em the clothes -- a lot of those clothes are mine. And we did it in about ten seconds, the whole record. And then -- "that was fun. Thank you. See you later. Bye. Boom boom boom." In those days, you made records every day. You found people who wanted to make noise. So you went in and made noise. You weren't thinking of five-year album deals and double-albums with foldout lyrics and Pink Floyd meanings. All that stuff hadn't happened yet. It was still crummy music for crummy reasons. It was stupid, it was artful. The sheer joy of being stupid and noisy and fun and Cro-Magnon -- all that was part of the culture at the time.
You, who weren't there, are looking at it as a journalist, imagining what it may have been like. Ken McLeod was the guitar player in a band that spent ten seconds in a recording studio. Two dead people [Pat McAuley and Mark Scott], I don't think know what they think. And the guy who hides from everybody [Jackie McAuley] probably hides because he probably went on to do serious music later in Trader Horne with a singing partner, and probably is embarrassed by the beauty of that record [the Belfast Gypsies LP]. Because it's stupid. It was designed to be. Because, what else are we gonna do? Why not enjoy being stupid? I think being stupid's great. I still strive every day for stupidity. If you don't believe me, turn on American Idol. Look at William Hung singing. All the rejects -- their shows have bigger ratings than the people who sing great. Just like Adam Sandler has the #1 movie for the last 200 weeks. People like stupid stuff. They don't want to think too much. No matter what people say trying to impose content on stupidity, stupidity will always be stupid.
"Louie, Louie" -- I mean, c'mon, isn't that great? Look at Nuggets. I mean, anytime you feel sad, put on Nuggets, and listen to "Psychotic Reaction," and feel good.
Q: I was disappointed that nothing by the Belfast Gypsies got onto Nuggets 2, the box set of non-US '60s garage-beat-psych.
KF: Well, that's political. Because when people are sitting around making up the content of all these packages, you have people who have their record collections with agendas attached to them. And their memories, from their town. Just like if you go to a high school reunion and you start talking to people about what it was like 30 years or 20 years ago, they all have different memories and things important to them. When you're dealing with memory and nostalgia, you're not getting what was the best that was there that would represent the time now. It's generally you subjectively -- what happened to you when you heard that song. That was the night your dog bit your mother, or that was the night you broke your leg at the dance, or that was the night your brother got hauled in for a fake ID, or ran over a bridge and the car got drenched in the lake. And the song that was playing at that moment might have been really stupid, but that's a great moment in your life. So at the meeting at Rhino Records, you're gonna insist that record be used. And if everyone wants to go out lunch, they're gonna say, okay, okay, yeah, yeah, if you say so. I don't know why the Clefs of Lavender Hill should be on here, but we all want to eat, so yeah, yeah, yeah, give them that song, sure.
And I think that when they've had these meetings, somebody doesn't bring every great single from the last 100 years in the meeting, and they say, let's listen to all this stuff and then arbitrarily decide what really is great. I know, I'm doing a movie right now, and we've been picking music for it all week. And we've got hundreds of songs. And it's all in the database. Sometimes you're looking for a certain song and it's not there, or "wait a minute, I remember that! Put that on." And you go, "Wow!" Sometimes it just works, and the song that you were pushing for doesn't work. Maybe picking oldies is the same thing. There's a lot of other records that should have been on Nuggets 2 that weren't, and so what? I didn't get one on there, and man, I produced a lot of good records. I have a record on Nuggets, "The Trip," sung by me, but there's other stuff that I worked on that was really good that didn't get on. So what? Next question, please.
Q: Was Bill Farley the engineer on the Belfast Gypsies sessions at Regent Sound?
KF: Yes, he was. He was also the engineer of the Andrew Loog Oldham-produced Rolling Stones all the way up to the Dave Hassinger era. In 2Stoned, the Andrew book, he writes about Bill. Bill also engineered Black Sabbath, I believe. Bill also engineered "Gloria," the original. And his studio, Regent Sound, was so good that Andrew called it Impact Sound on the liner notes so nobody would know where it was. And it was a tiny, friendly little room on Denmark Street. I cut Slade there under the name 'N Betweens, which is their former name. That's brilliant stuff. I mean, Bill Farley, East End guy, East Ender -- he was as good as Sam Phillips as an engineer. I don't know where he is now. Is he still living?
Q: No, he died a few months ago, in December 2003.
KF: Awww. Is he unknown and unsung, or what? A wonderful guy. He was great. He got it. He said, "What do you want?" "I want it to sound like gust and sweat and sunshine and a little bit of darkness." He'd say, "Okay. There it is." What you'd say, that's what he'd give you. You'd yell some words like, "Reindeers and pineapple," and you'd get it. So it was a wonderful time, I thought. I had a good time in there doing it. We didn't spend much time. I don't drink -- you either went to a pub and drank beer, or you went looking for girls at the park, or you made a record, you know. I think we did it in three-hour blocks.
Q: Do you know anything about the last session the group did in Copenhagen?
KF: No. There were recordings made after me and before me, and I don't know about that stuff.
Q: It was with a Scottish producer who worked for Sonet, Jimmy Campbell.
KF: I don't know. I wasn't there. I might have said, call Sonet when you get there, and then they called Sonet, and Sonet had a guy, and they said, come over here and make noise. I don't know. No idea.
Nobody remembers. We were making records, man! I mean, tons of records, every day, and different people for different reasons under different names, and nobody knows.
Q: Did you know anything about how the Freaks of Nature single with the overdubbed version of "People, Let's Freak Out" happened?
KF: Guy Stevens and Robert Wyatt were involved in that record. And don't ask me what they did, 'cause I wasn't there. But apparently they both, according to folklore at the time, somehow showed up with our tape and made noises on it. The two of them.
Q: It seems like a lot of effort for a single that had only had 100 copies pressed.
KF: I don't know. Just for the sheer joy of mailing it to your friends, probably!
Q: Iggy Pop once told you that "Secret Police" was one of his favorite records?
KF: Yeah, it was a hit in Detroit. Once again -- that was regional radio. Different cities played A- and B-sides of different records for different reasons. I wasn't in Michigan at the time, I am surprised -- I never knew anybody ever heard that record until I met him and he told me about it.
Q: It seems like the Belfast Gypsies might have gotten more airplay than they realized. I was told by a collector in Denmark that "Portland Town" got a lot of airplay on Radio Denmark in the autumn of 1966.
KF: Scandinavia was like the Idaho of Europe. We were in London, so it took a little bit of time for this music to creep around the world.
Q: Did you first became aware of the song "Portland Town" when the Belfast Gypsies recorded it? A little later, the Rose Garden would put it on their sole album, where it was titled "Flower Town," the songwriting credit listing all the members of that band plus you.
KF: Oh, everybody recorded it. It was a public domain song, several hundred years old. And everybody who changes a word in it becomes the writer. It's like "House of the Rising Sun," there's thousands of versions of that. And "Sloop John B," "Cotton Fields," all that stuff goes into that public domain folk area. "Greensleeves," these songs that just keep -- are just passed around through generations and generations of singers and musicians. "Frankie and Johnny," all those type of songs. "Stagger Lee." "Portland Town," there'll probably be a reggae version someday, and those guys will say they wrote it.
Q: How would you compare Jackie McAuley's vocal style with Van Morrison's? There were close similarities.
KF: Jackie had a great prank played on him by God. He looked the way you wanted Van Morrison to look when you heard Van Morrison's voice. And when you heard Jackie's voice, it was Van Morrison's voice. But Jackie looked like Jack Palance Jr. He had a great rock'n'roll look. He was Elvis's version of Jack Palance on a moody Northern Ireland level. He had the rock star, mysterious dark vibe, with Van Morrison's voice. And if Van Morrison hadn't sung first, if Jackie had sung first, life would have been different for everyone who heard that voice. Similar to Alan Price. If you hear Alan Price singing, and then you hear Eric Burdon, you wonder who came first, the chicken or the egg? Like, did Eric hear Alan, and then he became Eric, or did Alan become Eric after he played keyboards for Eric?
Q: When you hear Alan Price's version of "I Put a Spell on You" [a British hit single in 1966], you can imagine Eric Burdon singing it that way.
KF: Yeah. So when you hear Jackie in the Belfast Gypsies, and then you hear Van in Them, it's pretty close. I mean, it's really similar. It's like U2 and Big Country, remember they were similar for a while? Just like the Swinging Blue Jeans sound like the Searchers. You wonder, well, who was first? The Beatles were first. But maybe there's somebody else like Them and Jackie, before Them or Belfast Gypsies performed. I don't know where that voice came from. Both of them had the same voice. One looked like a rock star, and one looked like a clerk.
Q: How did you rate the other guys in the band?
KF: The drummer, his brother, was great, John. He sounded just like Them. And Jackie sounded just like Van, and played keyboard in the original Them. And the bass player, Mark Scott, he was an excellent bass player. And Ken was a good guitarist. It was ensemble. They were an ensemble group, so there weren't any great soloists. But ensemblely, they were excellent for the kind of music they played.
Q: How would you compare the Belfast Gypsies' version of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" with Them's?
KF: Interchangeable. The same thing.
Q: How do you think the group would have evolved if they'd been able to stay together and record longer?
KF: Tragically. Because when I met them, they were too late. And if they would have waited six months around with me and not gone to Scandinavia, they would have been ahead of Count Five and the Music Machine and the Seeds. They were too late for the first leg of the British Invasion, and they didn't wait long enough to be in Nuggets. Because if you listen to what we did compared to what came after six months later with those records that got on Nuggets, we were better. We were first-generation late, and now the second-generation garage.
Just like the same time I produced the 'N Betweens, the same four guys became Slade five years later. We were way early. And when I sat down at dinner with those guys and the late Chas Chandler [ex-Animals bassist who went on to co-manage the Jimi Hendrix Experience and then to manage Slade], we were all sitting there and I said to the table, well, I was too early and Chas, you were too late. They probably should have charted before '72. They should have been recorded after '66. And we all sat there and kind of felt that I was too early and the other guys were too late. In America, they never really happened until Quiet Riot covered that one song, "Mama Weer All Crazee Now," which proved that by the time that kind of hair-metal showed up, finally Slade were vindicated. And ironically, I became a co-writer with Kiss years later, and Gene [Simmons] and Paul [Stanley] mentioned that Slade were a big influence. Of course, they didn't know I once produced the group, but I didn't know that they thought that. But it's interesting that I produced the four guys of Slade, and it's all interwoven there, it's all linked together through the years.
Q: Do you think anything could have been done to get the Belfast Gypsies to last longer than they did?
KF: No, because in those days, nobody kept anybody. "Hi, you wanna make a record?" "Yeah, okay." "Now what?" "We want to go to Scandinavia." "Okay." There was always another band ready to make a record. Nobody thought in those terms at the time.
Q: It's amazing how fast and cheap that record was done. You told Mike Stax in your big Ugly Things interview a few years ago that it cost only 28 pounds.
KF: Fourteen [pounds]. That was the "Gloria's Dream" and the B-side, "Secret Police." Fourteen pounds.
Q: Some people might say that it might have sounded better had you spent more time and money on it...
KF: No, not with this kind of music. We probably spent too long in the studio.
Q: My thought is that had more time and money been spent, it might well not sound as immediate as it does.
Q: Thanks for talking about the Belfast Gypsies for Ugly Things.
KF: Well, you know, this is my job, to tell you how great Kim Fowley is, and for you to write about it. And to quote Cyrano de Bergerac when he spoke to the queen of France after scene one of the play, the queen says to Cyrano, "Cyrano, you're a great man." "No, your majesty. I do great things." So whatever I do, it's up to the listener or to the viewer what he's seeing here. But I know you guys are all out there, and when I meet bands like this, Belfast Gypsies, you always hope that somebody else gets excited sooner or later. And it's a shame you have to wait ?- how many years has it been? 38 years, to get recognized by somebody of your caliber. That disc was actually worth 14 pounds [to produce], which was 28 bucks or something. You can't say it's a work of art.
The final little epilogue is, "So, Kim, how do you rank this record in your canon of work?" Wait till you hear the other stuff you don't know about. There's just so much of it, you know.
Q: I thought the Belfast Gypsies was the best stuff you did in the '60s in England; that and the first Soft Machine single.
KF: The Slade stuff was awfully good too. Did you hear the reissue that Ace put out, Impossible But True?
Q: Sure, I have it.
KF: There's some English stuff in there, like the Spider record and other things, too. There's going to be a volume two of that. And then Norton's also putting out some stuff. And if you know who Karl Ikola is, he's putting out some stuff on his label. Karl's coming down here, and is gonna spend time going through all of this stuff. I've got so much vinyl and these amazing records where they only printed 25 copies and all that stuff -- reissue some of that too. I produced the Hellions, who became Traffic; two of them did, anyway, [Jim] Capaldi and [Dave] Mason. That's another article, about where's the money from all these things? Well, the next question's, where are all the sales from all these things? And then, with downloading and tape copying, wow -- great mysteries.
What are you going to call the article?
Q: I don't know.
KF: Why don't you do a thing like this? My suggestion: "Rock On, Rock'n'Roll Is a Lifestyle, Not a Music." Okay. And then the article should be: "The Belfast Gypsies: Too Late for the British Invasion, Too Early to Be the Founding Fathers of Underground Garage Rock'n'Roll." Brackets: "[A Rock and Roll Tragedy]". And the rock and roll tragedy was, that nobody but us, and Bill, the engineer, knew it. The six of us knew it, but nobody else did. The labels, of course, knew enough to put the stuff out. But the public wasn't there, but they were competing with the Beatles and the Stones, who were under 25 years of age, and nobody had the capacity to seek all these records out. There was so much great music at the time that no one had the allowances from their parents, or the ability to shoplift it all, and it wasn't distributed everywhere. And radio was overwhelmed with these amazing singles, and couldn't play them all. There was only so much you can absorb at the time.
It's like I said when we started, it's archeology, folks. Learn how to dig. Because I know who reads this magazine, I've met readers. They're all waiting, they're all reading, they're savoring. It's like eating a really good piece of meat, you chew it slow and you enjoy the juices. "Is there any more music like this that we haven't heard yet?" Yes! Where is it? In dark rooms, waiting for people like Karl and Ace and Norton to license it. And secondly, is there any modern people doing it? You bet there are. All you guys, get out of those vinyl caves you live in, and go support your local underdog rock'n'roll band in the underground garages of the world. They're there. And they're all tormented bastards, so they all need your loving and your support.
Q: Anything else you want to say about the Belfast Gypsies?
KF: The Keepers in Belfast exist right now, and they're a modern version of the Belfast Gypsies. Two brothers, just like the McAuleys, [and] two friends, morbid guys, with dark clouds over their heads. They've sent me their stuff, and it's just like a throwback to the Belfast Gypsies. I told Ken about it, and he's been corresponding with them. And I volunteered my services as a producer. If they all can get together and keep it stupid and noisy, I'd love to show up. So there is a modern version from Belfast of the Belfast Gypsies right now.
Q: Have they put out any records?
KF: On their own label. They are legendary, and they've had weird records out, licensed in Spain and Switzerland. They've toured in Belgium and I'm sure that your readers who know how to use the Internet can find them. They're really something. But they're in a time warp. They're not doing it as revisionists or Sha-Na-Na kind of tribute. They are actually like that. They write their own material, and they do strange arrangements of songs from that time, and it's as though there's never been a Celine Dion, or there's never been a Tom Cruise, there's never been a Brad Pitt or a Britney Spears, when you talk to them and hear their music. Perfect time warp. I recommend people seek them out. I'm a fan of their music. They've got some really nice messy tapes they've sent me. All tormented and brooding, just like the original band.
Q: Would you go to Northern Ireland to produce them?
KF: I'd go anyplace if anybody could get it together. Bands today, I'm in mourning for the bands used to be. When you'd meet a bunch of guys [and say], "Hey, you guys sound good. Do you have a song?" "Yeah." "Okay. Wanna make a record?" "Sure." "Let's go make one." "Okay." "Gee, you have anything else?" "No." "Well then, just write one." Or, "What records do you have at home that you think should be re-recorded, and you could do it better, or different?" "Okay." "Is there a song you guys do live that people love? Let me hear it." "Okay." "How many songs did you write before you were in the band? How many songs have you written that the band hasn't heard yet?" And all of a sudden, people's napkins with lyrics and demo tapes and notebooks [emerge], and all of a sudden, there'd be the album, and then you'd bring your food down and your friends would come and watch and you'd go in there. In a couple of afternoons you'd be done, and "gee, that was fun. Wow, great."
Nowadays, it doesn't work that way. I went to the UK in September to participate in "In the City." I had my own Kim Fowley night where I had unsigned bands I met on the Internet. We had our own night, and everybody showed up. Everybody played one song apiece. We had soloists and trios and quartets and quintets and duos, etc. And it was a great night. And there were thousands of people at the convention. End result was, when the convention was over, I met 22 bands, and I agreed to finance and record all 22 if they could do the minimum of what all the bands that we're talking about used to do. And nobody could do it. And out of the 22 bands, there's only four now that I still talk to. The other 18 just couldn't handle writing choruses, writing solos, tuning their instruments, shaving moustaches, getting an amplifier, finding a van. Or getting a flier! I mean, these were good groups, who -- the Dick and Jane aspect and the ABC, 1-2-3 part of it, they couldn't get down. And they have school and the dole and drugs and Jesus and Mom and Dad and baby and girlfriend and day job distractions, and they get confused about the word urgency and immediacy. And then people like me who are spontaneous get tired of waiting. The month of December, I chased these 22 bands. I spent $748 on the telephone doing nothing but telling bands why they should have an encore song, if somebody wants to hear one more.
What am I doing now? Well, I've been invited by Little Steven to be the Saturday and Sunday celebrity DJ on the SIRIUS Radio Network, playing music of this era. I'm starting on Memorial Day. We have a handshake on it and discussion. Now, I haven't seen the contract yet. Who knows what that's gonna be like. But at this point, I'm four hours on Saturday, and five hours on Sunday. It's the underground garage format playlist, which is no ballads, can't talk over the intro, and any stuff that I just want to play as a personal pick has to be cleared by him. But he's very lenient, that's why he's rock and roll. And I said, what's the core artist gonna be? He has 24 hours, seven days a week, he said the Ramones [are] his core artist for the format. So I said okay. I've been a disc jockey before, I was Alan Freed-trained, I was AM guy at KGEM in Boise, Idaho. I was on 7HT at Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. I was on FM in Melbourne, Australia. I've done my radio. I've paid my radio dues. I've had weekend shows and morning drive time. I was Captain Hollywood in Australia. So I have a radio background, and, yeah, we'll see what happens.
But it has changed. We can't play a song over three minutes and thirty seconds long, either. So I'm going to be playing nothing but urgent and immediate stuff. I can't play some pop opera thing, you know?
Q: Ken was saying that you'd told him a lot of the bands these days were only doing music part-time.
KF: That's true, part-time. Well, because right now you have the Internet, you have university, you have welfare, you have dole, you have adult children. You have guys 36 to 42 years old living with their parents. You have college graduates that have never had a job. You have, in America, a class of person who's never had a job after school because the jobs are overseas and offshore now, and illegal aliens are doing the menial jobs that you think are too good to do, so you don't work. And there are people north of Watford in England who've never had a job, either, who have cars and television sets and families and furniture. They're in a welfare state, and they've never worked. So it's very strange. There's a real bad work ethic of these artists, the 18 artists of the 22 I was prepared to finance. They had an awful work ethic. They didn't know how to learn songs or write 'em or steal 'em or acquire them or borrow them or interpret them. They just didn't know.
So right now, my energy is in radio and film. As an actor, I have a movie coming up for three weeks with David Bowie and Cher. It's called The Mayor of the Sunset Strip. It's a Rodney Bingenheimer documentary. And I'm finishing up the Kim Fowley movie right now, which is very immediate. Chris Darrow's in the movie, and Kim Fowley. Guess who else is in the movie. Are you sitting down? Jody "Endless Sleep" Reynolds. Oh, man. Whoa! Jody Reynolds lives like Frank Sinatra in a beautiful, billion-dollar piece of property. He greeted me in the best turquoise diamond ring combo. He had the red jacket, he had the turquoise belt buckle, the Elvis glasses. He sang "Endless Sleep" on camera. We jammed on camera. And guess what the caveat of the whole day was, guess what he brought out of the closet? Are you sitting down? Alan Freed's 45 singles record collection, with Alan's name encoded, his way that he encoded his records. His personal collection.
Q: So did it have stuff like old singles by the Moonglows and the El Dorados?
KF: How 'bout stuff like "Story of Love" by Gloria Mann? How about Jo Ann Castle? How about the Flamingos? How about Jack Scott? How about a rockabilly single by Sal Mineo? And we filmed it. It was like being an ice cream store with access to all the ice cream. I mean, I couldn't believe this. And on camera, we filmed Alan Freed's record collection. We just filmed the whole damn -- I held up, "Look at this record, and this one." He had the whole collection, because when Alan died, it was Alan and [his wife] Inge, Alan's son Lance, and Jody; that's who was in the room in Palm Springs when he died. Tremendous records. And the most unique part of all of it was, Alan always thought he might be on the radio again even after he wasn't on the radio, and he was still grabbing records for his re-entering that never happened. And he had Beatle records on VJ. Alan was right there. Beatles singles. He knew what was up, even then. He had the right side, and he just kept up.
He was a great man who, when I was living on a cot in a gas station, hired me to be his assistant and help him. [I] ran for food, and he let me sit in there while he picked the records, and that type of stuff. My pay was two meals a day. He encouraged me, and six months after I worked for him, I co-produced "Alley Oop" and had the #1 record in the world. So that was my teacher. That's why I was able to make that record, because I knew what to do. I could recognize this stuff. I was encouraged by those kind of people.
Q: Was it a really huge collection?
KF: No. It was in a giant shoebox. He didn't have a big collection, but it was dynamite. It was like -- a good record collection, it's like you go and see a guy who DJs, who plays vinyl in the rap community, they don't have a lot of records. But they have the records that can turn out the house party, can turn the people out of their chairs and onto the floor, keep them on the floor. Or in case of Alan Freed, gangs of kids cruising the suburbs, lonely people putting one hand on the radio and one hand on their heart, and laying in the dark, because rock'n'roll would save your soul. Guys like Bruce Springsteen listening to "Pretty Flamingo," Roy Orbison, you know. Records encouraging him. For him, those kind of records that made his career possible, because they heard them. There were guys who played that stuff in the middle of the night when the world was asleep. But there's always some guy in a dark room changing his life.
It happened to me. I listened to Bill Gavin and Earl McDaniel and Huggy Boy and people like that in L.A. [from] '57 onward, and listened to the Channels and the people from New York who were on Herald-Ember Records, like the Mello-Kings. And rockabilly geniuses like Jimmy Williams who no one ever heard of, probably. And songs like "What a Wild, Wild Party Hollywood Had Last Night" on Era by Dick Summers [Kim remembered this as by Dick Summers, but Dick Bush was the artist credited on the single, believe it or not], whoever he was. The Del Vikings, man, come on! You know, this changes your life. That's why I sold 102 million records in 25 years. I mean, I was listening. You gotta listen to all this, because it's history, and all the themes are there, and all of the secrets are there.
Q: You're still working with Chris Darrow, whom I've talked to a bunch of times.
KF: Chris Darrow's in Sand. He played on the Sand record, and he's in the movie. He has songs in the movie, and he's an actor in the movie too. Great guy. Chris Darrow is the founding father of West Coast roots rock. And he's in that tradition of father figures in rock. You can put him right up there with John Hammond Sr. and Jerry Garcia. That's who Chris Darrow is, in terms of who he's given birth to and started. James Taylor, Ben Harper, Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and the various other -- the Floggs, have you heard of them? They were a bunch of guys in the '60s. He was in that group, they were kind of a radical version of the Troggs. Their album's coming out, and that's rather remarkable. He's always doing new stuff, and his catalog is rather remarkable.
Q: How about that book you were working on for Feral House, is that coming out?
KF: No. They were going to put out a book, and then the great artistic differences came into it where I had a lot of content I wanted in there. And then there was editorial conflict and confusion, and changing positions about content and point of view. And then I chose not to deal with it. I also co-wrote another Kim Fowley book with Barney Hoskyns. I am in 44 pages of [Hoskyns's history of Los Angeles rock] Waiting for the Sun. So we had a literary agent and we had 13 great chapters, and he ran all over New York and came up with the following comment: "Too much movie and music literature." Nobody cares. The glut of it in the marketplace -- nobody cares. "Oh, okay." So right now, for me anyway, it's radio and film. I've given up working with new artists, 'cause I can't find any that are prepared to do what's required in order to have remarkable recordings.
And I have a lot of old songs that I'm involved in that continue, because of people who are seeking this stuff out. And this stuff has a life of its own, it's like automatic pilot. I have thousands of records and songs, and if you look at my website, www.kimfowley.com, [it has details on] my current rock activities. I'm not gonna bore you with them all, because they're massive. I have tons of stuff moving around, going on, and I have a new album right now, it's selling a lot, it's third pressing, called Adventures in Dreamland on Weed Records. And last year, we had a record that got five-star reviews all over Europe, Sand featuring Kim Fowley and Roy Swedeen. My stuff's selling, and I'm very grateful that is. [On] Adventures in Dreamland, there's a song that ends the album called "Vinyl," which I dedicated to Russ Tolman and Karl [Ikola], and it describes all you guys, who wake up to the smell not of coffee, but of vinyl.
And I've played live in the UK last September, and sold out Dirty Water club in a controversial show there. Girls rushed the stage when I said, "who among you wants to kiss a dead man's lips?" A bunch of young women couldn't wait, leaped up, and did just that. So I'm one of the few that continues. Because after all, all my heroes were ancient anyway. All those great blues guys were old men. I lived in New Orleans for five years from '96 to 2001, so I got to meet Earl King before he died and spent time with John Sinclair and member of Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns. We used to all hang out together and run around and barbecue. That's a great town for partying. It's like Ireland. Detroit, Ireland, and New Orleans were all the same. Great music culture, no music business. You had this remarkable music there, but there's no infrastructure like New York, L.A., Nashville, London, to nurture along this music.
So now I've moved to the edge of the California desert, which I call the edge of nowhere, out here in Redlands, California, which gave the world Alien Ant Farm and Joan Baez and Cracker. And we have a studio. We work out of Redlands International, which is our version of Sun Records. It's all on the website, what we do. And anybody who's interested, send us your stuff. I have a house, it sleeps up to 30 musicians at a time in those rooms. We have a soundman, we have a rock'n'roll workshop, and we do all that stuff. On my website, there'll be email instructions to anybody who wants to reach me.
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