WEIRDLAND: November 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chilly Reveries: Strawberry Fields Forever, The Winter Dance Party (told by Dion)

Through the lens of LSD, Strawberry Fields Forever turned from simple nostalgia into inward reflection. John Lennon's self doubt came to the fore, at times clouded by inarticulacy and hallucinogenic sensations. Although it was to end up as a psychedelic masterpiece, Strawberry Fields Forever began relatively simply. John Lennon recorded a series of solo demos in mid-November 1966 at his home in Weybridge, Surrey. Instead of opening with the chorus, the early versions of the song began with the first two verses back-to-back. This initial arrangement was also used on take one in the studio, also available on Anthology 2. This first take also has a rounded end+ing; a Mellotron and guitar instrumental passage, in stark contrast to the psychedelic spectacle of the final version.

Imagine if a dose of LSD or magic mushrooms could help a person get over their alcoholism or even stop smoking. Despite the fact that most psychedelic drugs are illegal, many scientists have been claiming for decades that they are in fact highly therapeutic, especially when it comes to treating addiction. A new study in the journal Current Opinion in Behavioural Sciences has pulled together all the available evidence going back to the 1950s in order to make a pretty compelling case for the power of hallucinogens to combat substance abuse disorders.

Before LSD became the driving force of the counterculture revolution of the 1960s, scientists were busy exploring the drug’s effects on the brain. They discovered that it binds to serotonin receptors, generating feelings of positivity and helping to regulate people’s moods. In light of this, they decided to examine whether or not it could help alcoholics stay off the bottle.

Like LSD, psilocybin – the active hallucinogen in magic mushrooms – activates the brain’s serotonin receptors. The authors also point to a small number of studies involving an Amazonian brew called ayahuasca, which contains the psychedelic molecule DMT. While much more research is needed in order to bulk up the existing evidence, the early signs suggest that ayahuasca may be an effective treatment for alcohol, cocaine and tobacco addiction.

Delving deeper into the neural mechanisms behind the effects of these hallucinogenic substances, the researchers reveal that many appear to increase synaptic plasticity in the brain, meaning they allow brain connections to become reshaped, enabling users to break free from certain rigid modes of thought and behavior. Source:

The recording of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, along with it’s double A-side partner ‘Penny Lane’, represented a high-water mark in the Beatles’ career. November 24, 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the recording of the song at Abbey Road studios. Interviewed throughout the years, the one song Lennon was persistently pressed about was ‘Strawberry Fields’. Was it a place? Did it really exist? What did it mean? What was really real? The exercise in introspective lyrical stream of consciousness was oddly arresting to millions of listeners. Equally as arresting as the lyrical theme, however, was the sonic instrumentation which accompanied it, especially its dreamy melodic intro invoking a childlike lullaby. 

When this glorious phase of recording ended late in 1967, it was really the beginning of the end for the band. The actual origin of the song can be traced to Lennon’s journey to Almería, Spain, in September 1966 where he travelled to film Dick Lester’s How I Won the War. For John Lennon, Santa Isabel’s iron gate and overgrown gardens evoked a haunting of a different kind – nostalgic recollections of his childhood and a favourite hideout. The the gate and gardens struck Lennon with its similarity to Strawberry Field orphanage and Salvation Army home, where as a boy he had frolicked and hidden away in the gardens of Strawberry Field with various childhood friends. This nostalgia trip to brighter days gone by was in fact keeping instep with what was truly behind the British psychedelic scene: a deep yearning for the past.

In Lennon’s lyrical exploration, the place was both real and unreal, a physical place recalled from the past and existing now in its perfection only in a child’s memory. On returning to London on November 7, Lennon took his acoustic demos into his attic studio at Kenwood and set to work finishing the song, tweaking its structure and doodling with electric guitar and other instrument parts. During these extended home demos, Lennon can be heard adding layers of organ sounds in an attempt to experiment with the general ambience he had in his head. Most likely these sounds were provided by an instrument which he had acquired over the previous year (in August 1965), and although it was in his possession throughout the Rubber Soul and Revolver sessions, the mellotron was yet to feature on any Beatles recording. 

It was perhaps these experimentations which prompted Lennon to decide that the mellotron could provide the otherworldly sounds he had in his head to accompany his dreamy nostalgic lyric. IBC Studios in London is the location where a Beatle most likely first encountered a mellotron. On August 9, 1965, Lennon produced a recording of ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’ for The Silkies at IBC Studios. All three Beatles likely encountered a mellotron at IBC during this session as Lennon ordered one (black with gold lettering) from the London Mellotronics office and this was delivered to his home in Weybridge precisely one week later on August 16.

What happened to the mellotron used in the recording and its location is a mystery that may never be solved. Contrary to another myth, McCartney does not own it.  ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ was a total departure from anything the group had recorded before, in a sonic sense and in a sense of how they approached recording a song. The unique input each member provided (Lennon: vocals, guitar, mellotron, percussion; McCartney: mellotron, bass, piano, guitar, percussion; Harrison: mellotron, guitar, swarmandal, percussion; Starr: drums, percussion; Martin: mellotron, score for cello & trumpet) demonstrated how devastating the group could be when they worked together to pursue perfection. Hitting a peak in 1967, the Beatles became an almost organic and sentient unit who pulled so far ahead of their contemporaries as to seem completely untouchable. Happy 50th birthday, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. Source:

Ed Ward: (author of The History of Rock and Roll, Volume 1, 1920-1963): After Buddy Holly's death, the so-called apartment tapes were overdubbed by Petty, using both The Crickets and a local band called The Fireballs as backing; these new singles came out through 1960. Now that the complete, undubbed tapes are available, a more complex Holly emerges. And he was thinking about rock 'n' roll, as if he were trying to figure something out, recording acoustic versions of current hits like The Coasters' “Smokey Joe's Cafe.” Most telling, though, there are three versions of “Slippin’ n’ Sliding” — fast, slow on electric and acoustic guitar — as if he were looking for something the tempo would reveal. We'll never know what he was looking for while his wife, Maria Elena, did the dishes, but I'm confident now that he'd have found it. 

"I've said all my life that I think the most psychedelic song in the world is Buddy Holly's 'Slippin' and Slidin', and it's not even trying," offers Jason Pierce from his home in London. "It's not trying to make itself that music, but I think psychedelic music is rooted in something deeper than just the kind of tricks people can do or studio effects. It would be nice if you could just throw some effects in there and that would work, but that invariably doesn't work."

Pilot of UK outfit Spiritualized, Pierce has crafted some of Britpop's most ambitious and grandiose songs, eloquent sonic waves that surge simultaneously with driving, hypnotic rhythms and lush, expansive orchestration. From 1997's seminal Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space to 2012's Velvet Underground-ripped Sweet Heart Sweet Light, Spiritualized's soundscapes both warmly envelop and aggressively pummel. Source:

Dion Dimucci: In the fall of 1958 my wife Susan (she was my girl at the time) was hanging out with Jackie DeShannon and Sharon Sheeley (Eddie Cochran's girlfriend). In the first three weeks of October 1958 I went on tour with Buddy Holly and we got very close. I'd met Buddy in New York because of the Alan Freed shows. Holly was a visionary, a very interesting guy; he wanted to start a label called Taupe. Maria Elena was pregnant with his child and Buddy wanted to get some money from Norman Petty. Petty told him all his money was tied up, and a rift started. Holly needed some cash so [promoter] Irvin Feld started putting this show together: The Winter Dance Party tour.

We were honing our skills, we'd be like we were in a contest: Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and myself, we had these new Fender Stratocasters and we were in a contest to see who would make it ring the longest. Buddy loved his father (a hard working guy), his family, and loved being a Texan. He'd talk about Samuel Houston and the Treaty of Texas. Buddy wasn't an angry guy nor a resentful guy, he was a very classy guy. Onstage, very clean, structured and formal, deliberate, very decisive. He was fearless. I remember Buddy telling me 'Dion, I don't know how to succeed but I know how to fail.' If it wasn't for him saying that I don't know if I would have done Runaround Sue, The Wanderer, Ruby Baby, Donna the Prima Donna, Sandy, etc.

Susan and me have been married for 53 years, that had a little to do with Buddy Holly and his modelling marriage. Every time Buddy was talking to Maria Elena he'd say: 'I adore you, I love you, I miss you.' He was a model for me. Buddy, Ritchie and I used to jam together. It was a bit of heaven. When I'm inside a song, I know exactly who I am. And when we were playing in the back of the bus, I knew it. When we hit those chords and were stompin' on the floor of the bus and we were rockin' and taking solos and taking verses... that was home, that was family, that was the connection, salvation, touching the very center of my heart.

We were in the middle of a blizzard, trees were snapping in the wind, it was 30 below, and the snow was coming down so hard we couldn't see out the windows. Buddy and I huddled together under a blanket, and just to pass the time, I'd tell him stories of the Bronx and he'd tell me stories about Baptists in Lubbock. One of the Belmonts had a bottle of scotch, so we'd all take a shot. January 31st 1959, Saturday Night show: we had a huge crowd in Duluth. Sunday Morning, we get on the bus going to Appleton and Green Bay (Wisconsin). On the way down to Appleton, the bus breaks down. Early Sunday four o'clock in the morning; We were in the middle of who knows what. Just blinding snow, black and total darkness. Some guys are so cold they began to burn newspapers in the aisles of the bus. The trumpet player says 'you don't understand, we're going to be dead in two hours.'

Despite the increased tension among the weary performers, the bus pushed on to Duluth. Although the bus heating system was unable to provide enough warmth for the singers, temperatures were rising inside the bus. “Tempers got a little short at times,” Tommy Allsup recalls. “Mainly because guys were not getting any rest.” Carl Bunch: “It had gotten really tedious trying to live on that bus. It got to where we were joking with each other and we were calling Dion and the Belmonts Moron and the Bellhops, and they were calling us Bloody Holly and the Rickets.” The winds were howling off the frozen waters of Lake Superior, one block east of the armory, when the singers arrived for the 8 PM show. “The smell of that diesel [from the bus] coming off that ice would just literally stone you,” Bunch says. The weather was becoming a deadly serious matter. Temperatures approaching 35 below zero were predicted for Duluth that night, and the tour was booked for a 1:30 PM show Sunday in Appleton, Wisconsin, some three hundred and twenty miles away. With the Duluth show to run until midnight, tour manager Sam Geller had no choice but to have his entourage travel through the night while the singers tried to sleep. Headlights in the distance spurred Sam Geller into action. He jumped from the bus and waved down a car, which turned out to be driven by the county sheriff. The sheriff drove Geller to Hurley, where he found an old crankhandled telephone and woke the operator. After hearing of his group’s predicament, she said, “Oh my God, you’ll freeze to death.” —"The Day the Music Died" (2003) by Larry Lehmer

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Adam Curtis documentaries, Fifties Nostalgia

Hypernormalisation (2016) by Adam Curtis, is titled after a term coined by the Russian-born Berkeley professor Anton Yurchak to describe the dying years of the Soviet Union. The film’s core thesis is that, somewhere around the mid-1970s, politicians began to realize the “paralyzing complexity” of modern society was too confusing and alarming for most citizens to grasp. In response, they “constructed a simpler version of the world in order to hang onto power,” spreading propaganda narratives that would eventually come back and explode in their faces. In the 21st century, Hypernormalisation concludes, we are paying a steep price for all this smug self-delusion and toothless political theater. The cyber activists behind the Occupy movement and Arab Spring uprisings soon found themselves out of their depth in the dark, messy, bloody arena of real-world revolution. Western politicians have become ensnared by their own simplistic fantasies, leaving a power vacuum for would-be demagogues like Putin and Trump to fill with their cynically warped versions of reality. Source:

It felt like a kiss by Adam Curtis (2009): The story of America's rise to power starting in 1959, it uses nothing but archive footage and Amercia pop music. Showing the consequences on the rest of the world and in peoples mind. Americans, Curtis’ text tells us, “had found a new world to conquer inside their heads.” The film crescendoes to adventures in psychedelics and self-actualization, as the definition of “freedom” devolves into a lack of limit on consumption. And then comes the dark side: self-loathing, psychotherapy, self-destruction.

As Jeff Smith argues, Hank Williams’s self-destruction via substance abuse can itself be read as a commentary on the decadence of the American society represented in The Last Picture Show (1971) as past its prime and already in an advanced state of decay, leaving the movie’s young protagonists nothing to look forward to but ‘‘a life of quiet desperation, desolation, and death.’’ Fredric Jameson describes American Graffiti as the ‘‘inaugural film’’ in a new wave of cinematic nostalgia. Peter Bogdanovich’s much bleaker The Last Picture Show (1971), is a nostalgia film that locates the end of the good old days as early as the film’s setting in 1952 and 1953, associating the premature death of Buddy Holly in 1959 with the premature death of Hank Williams Sr. on January 1, 1953.

It is certainly the case that the most prominent nostalgic visions in recent American culture have focused on the 1950s, and the ‘‘mesmerizing lost reality of the Eisenhower era.’’ One major reason for the seeming desire of the 1970s to be nostalgic: the large first generation of baby boomers, who grew up in the long 1950s and graduated from high school at the end of that period, had now spent years in an adult world punctuated by the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the difficult economic times of the 1970s.

One of the most telling means of representing that nostalgia involves the phenomenon of time travel, in which a character or characters from the film’s present is transported back to the 1950s. Time-travel films have become an important genre of postmodern science fiction, but movies such as Zemeckis’s Back to the Future (1985) and Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) are hardly science fiction at all. Instead, they merely posit time travel of various sorts as a possibility in order to allow them to transport characters from their own present time into the setting of the 1950s. 

American Graffiti seeks, in an almost allegorical fashion, to parallel the transition of its protagonists from the simpler days of childhood to the more complex days of adulthood with the concurrent shift in American society from the sureties of the fifties to the more uncertain times of the sixties. The film clearly portrays this transition as a loss. As Jeff Smith notes, ‘‘The particular selection of songs serves to romanticize the late fifties and early sixties as a lost Golden Age.’’ By 1962, as John Milner notes, the good old days, even of rock music, are over. Thus, complaining about the new surf music, he concludes that ‘‘rock ’n’ roll’s been going downhill since Buddy Holly died.’’ —"Postmodern Hollywood: What's New in Film and why it Makes Us Feel So Strange" (2007) by M. Keith Booker

In February of 1974, Crawdaddy magazine featured a story by Tom Miller. The cover of the magazine carried the headline Who Killed Buddy Holly? The story alluded to an investigation of the accident undertaken by members of Watergate Senate Committee counsel Sam Dash’s staff. There were names of bus drivers and ticket-takers who had contact with the singers in their final hours and details of the accident itself. Superimposed on an illustration accompanying the article was part of the first page of the Civil Aeronautics Board’s aircraft accident report from September 15, 1959. I soon realized that Miller’s Crawdaddy story was a clever blend of fact and fiction. 

Besides the tragedy of the plane crash, the tour seemed doomed from the start. It seemed an odd proposition to me that singers of this magnitude would subject themselves to such treatment. I was determined to learn more about the Winter Dance Party tour. I placed an ad in the Mason City Globe-Gazette in early 1976, seeking information from people who may have been at the Winter Dance Party concert at the Surf Ballroom in nearby Clear Lake on February 2, 1959. In the front passenger seat, Buddy Holly was trying to persuade Roger Peterson to get the plane into the air. Reluctantly, Peterson switched on the plane’s landing lights and turned the Bonanza into the wind.  

Whatever we may think of rock ‘n’ roll, we’ve got no choice but to admit rock ‘n’ roll is part of our national culture. Musical considerations aside, most of us could live happier without that nerve-jangling piano, that neurotic sax, and those jack-hammer rhythms. Rock ‘n’ roll has got to go. —Downbeat magazine, September 19, 1956

Backstage, DJ Bill Diehl recalls, the musicians were excited: "I can still see Buddy Holly going over and talking to Ritchie Valens. I saw him patting him on the back and talking to him and they’d peek out and look at the crowd. I’m sure Buddy was telling him to just relax and don’t be nervous. Buddy was kind of a parent figure. He was this tall, slender fellow making sure that the lighting was right, that the band instruments were right and that all the speakers were working. He was a very, very thorough fellow." Bob Hale (a local radio emcee) sat at a table in the Surf Ballroom lounge, sipping hot drinks with J. P. Richardson and Buddy Holly and discussing their three pregnant wives. Holly was disappointed to learn that Clear Lake didn’t have a place where he could get his laundry done.—"The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Budddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens" (ekindle, 2012) by Larry Lehmer

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Teenage Impersonators: J.D. Salinger, John Lennon, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper

One reason that J. D. Salinger’s writing can seem juvenile is that it contains no adult sexuality, which is not the case with Mailer, Kerouac, and Burroughs. The Teenage Impersonator impersonated only boys. Salinger is Holden Caulfield, but Salinger is not Esmé. “What do you think about Esmé?” Salinger asked. “She’s right on the edge between the innocent wise child and the woman,” Peter Tewksbury said. “And the whole story rests on that moment... a minor chord that builds up to that peak moment before it becomes a major.”

Salinger agreed to allow Tewksbury to make his film on one condition: Salinger would cast Esmé. In March, Congress convened hearings as part of its investigation into the ratings industry. Tewksbury was the first person to testify. Tewksbury charged that ratings could be bought. Salinger admired Tewksbury, and not just for “It’s a Man’s World.” Toward the end of the nineteen-sixties, Tewksbury threw his Emmy out the window of a car and left Hollywood. Source:

It probably takes an eccentric to really do Howard Hughes justice, so the enigmatic Warren Beatty is well-suited to the film. Although he’s playing Hughes at a point when he was still in his fifties, Beatty, although often shrouded in darkness or seemingly wearing make-up to soften his features, looks remarkably good for his age and isn’t hard to believe in the role. Poking fun at his own ladies-man image, here Hughes is almost buffoonish with ladies, not that it matters much with his money. Largely playing the role for laughs, Beatty is funny in the role and seems to be having a ball, especially when imitating Hughes’s wayward way of making a point, while occasionally giving us a peek at the very real mental issues the mogul was facing.  Source:

Men who see themselves as playboys or as having power over women are more likely to have psychological problems than men who conform less to traditionally masculine norms, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. “In general, individuals who conformed strongly to masculine norms tended to have poorer mental health and less favorable attitudes toward seeking psychological help, although the results differed depending on specific types of masculine norms,” said lead author Y. Joel Wong, PhD, of Indiana University Bloomington. The study was published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology®. Source:

The Howard Hughes of Rock and Roll: Phil Spector. When, in the mid-1960s, the British Invasion eclipsed him, Spector's fragile self-esteem was shattered. When he tried LSD, he glimpsed his father's suicide. Freaked by the Manson family murders, he withdrew behind electric fences, guard dogs, bodyguards and guns. His career-rescuing collaborations with John Lennon, likewise deserted by his father at a young age, concluded with Spector firing his revolver into the studio ceiling. Increasingly crushed by the weight of his own achievements, he took to the bottle and gradually faded.

Poleaxed by Lennon's murder in 1980, Spector disappeared altogether with a third wife, Rachelle Short, his erstwhile PA. When Mick Brown interviewed Phil Spector for The Telegraph, he seemed consumed by his self-image as Rock's Howard Hughes. Source:

John Lennon himself withdrew for many years, then tried peeking out again, with the tragic results we know. These questions come to mind in reading David Shields and Shane Salerno’s biography “Salinger” (2013) because, in one of the most bizarre sections of a bizarre book, they themselves raise the issue of murder-by-bad-reading, in connection with the murder of the Beatles’ John Lennon by Mark Chapman, who happened to have hallucinated a motive within “The Catcher in the Rye.” Shields and Salerno insist that Chapman was not just a crazy hallucinant, but in his own misguided way an insightful reader, responding to the “huge amount of psychic violence in the book.” Now, there is a section in “Catcher” in which Holden fantasizes about shooting, but it is exactly a bit of extended irony about the movies' effect on everyone’s imagination. In Salerno’s “acclaimed documentary film” a witness points out that the word “kills” occurs with ominous regularity in the text—failing to acknowledge that this is Holden’s slang for the best things. “She kills me” is what Holden says about his beloved little sister Phoebe. 

A simple theory is flogged: that Salinger was a victim of P.T.S.D., screwed up by a brutal combat experience in the Second World War. It’s a truth that Salinger himself dramatized at beautiful length in his story “For Esmé—with Love And Squalor,” and then left behind. Holden is far too young to be a veteran, and Seymour Glass was in the armed forces, like most of his generation, but never in combat: the proximate cause of his suicide is a bad marriage.

In any case, Salinger’s work emphatically editorializes its moral point, which is about as far from sublimating violence as any writing can be: Phoebe, the Fat Lady, Esmé, innocence, and small domestic epiphanies are good. Violence, the military, cruelty are all bad. That Salinger was wounded by combat is obvious;  Holden’s sweetness and essential helplessness was shared by hundreds of artists of the period (most of whom had never held a rifle). The two writers who meant the most to Salinger, Ring Lardner and F. Scott Fitzgerald, seem left largely out of the book’s discussion. Source:

Danger and death became essential ingredients of the rock generation's ethos, infusing young people with a sense of tragedy. The materialistic world of the fifties seemed to snuff out the sensitive, like poet Sylvia Plath, or drive them to nervous breakdowns, like Seymour Glass and Holden Caulfield. Rock and roll was banned on the BBC, but John Lennon listened to it on the privately owned Radio Luxemburg. The Los Angeles Buddy Holly discovered in 1957 was at its height as a supermarket of cockeyed metaphysical urges; a neon sign on La Brea advertised "Car Wash and Mind Control." There were Mildred Pierce-type restaurants with numbered booths and nice apartments on Holloway Drive that could be rented for $227 a month. On the road, Buddy Holly concealed his .22 in his shaving kit. He had acquired his gun when he started collecting the Crickets' performance fees directly from the promoters. The Big Bopper once said that you must always get a 'first count'. –"Buddy Holly: A Biography" (2014)

-Ear Candy Mag: In the book THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED, it was mentioned that the Big Bopper just wanted to stay in the singing business long enough to get money to buy his own radio station…

-Jay Perry Richardson: That's what dad wanted to do, mom says he wanted to buy a station in Denver to start with. For some reason he wanted to move to Denver. And the performing side of it, dad was really a shy kind of guy. When he put on that jacket or got behind a microphone, he was a character. People say, "Boy, your dad must have been a crazy guy". And, he really wasn't. I mean my dad. Now the Big Bopper, yeah he was a nut. That was part of the act.

The Big Bopper was a 'character'. That was not my dad, distinguish the two. My dad was a laid back, intellectual thinking kind of guy trying to move forward in the music business and had all these ideas and knew where he wanted to go. The 'Bopper' was the thing that he created for his radio show. And they just took it into his music. Just so happened the first song that he recorded - "Chantilly Lace" was the flip side of "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor". It just so happens that it took off. I believe that my dad just would not believe the way people react to his music today... he was just trying to make a living to support his family. Source:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Buddy Holly's honeymoon & Philadelphia's American Bandstand

Buddy Holly and his band, The Crickets, created a template that groups from the Beatles to Nirvana would follow. And it was a Philadelphia radio personality who helped launch Holly's career. In their book Remembering Buddy: The Definitive Biography of Buddy Holly, co-authors John Goldrosen and John Beecher credit longtime WDAS disc jockey Georgie Woods with helping "That'll Be the Day" become a hit in the summer of 1957.

Bob Thiele, who was in charge of scouting and artist development for Coral Records, which included Brunswick, confirmed Deutch's account for Goldrosen. "For weeks and weeks, nothing happened. There were no orders," Murray Deutch, of Peer-Southern, which handled Holly's music publishing, told Goldrosen. "All of a sudden, the record started to sell. The sales department called, and they had one order from Philly alone for 20,000 copies."

That led to the Crickets appearing on Philadelphia-based American Bandstand on Aug. 26, 1957, miming to "That'll Be the Day" in one of their first appearances on national television. While the broadcast helped the song top Billboard's singles chart, Crickets drummer Jerry Allison had mixed emotions about the presentation: "We had to act like a vocal group," he recalled, even though he and bassist Joe Mauldin never sang on Holly's recordings.

Holly and the Crickets came to Philadelphia on October 28 to promote their new recordings for Dick Clark on American Bandstand. Allison recalled a tense moment in the dressing room before the show. Someone from Clark's staff asked Holly to return the check he received as a favor for Bandstand's playing his songs. "Buddy stood up for himself and refused," Allison says. "He told him, If Dick doesn't like our songs, tell him not to play them." In early November 1958, Holly, Allison, and Mauldin went their separate ways over differences with manager/producer Norman Petty. 

For his final tour in early 1959, Holly formed a new band that included future country star Waylon Jennings on bass. Jerry Allison was just 19 when he and Holly split, leaving him to wonder what would have happened if they had stayed together. "That might have been the worst mistake I ever made," he says now. Source:

Jerry Allison was, according to Peggy Sue, often angry or depressed. It seems that she never loved him (“Standing at the wedding ceremony. The biggest mistake of my life.”) What do we learn about Buddy Holly? Always kind and understanding, like his parents, but he could erupt when pushed. When his car got blocked by some hoods, he reached for his gun and said, “I’m giving you five seconds to move that fucking car and then I’m going to start shootin’.” We learn that he helped “the Lubbock girl with the bad reputation” when she got pregnant: “Really, I loved her”, Holly reportedly said of her. Except when she went shopping, Maria Elena seems to have been in a permanently bad mood, and simply “shaking her head in disapproval”. Right from the start of the joint honeymoon, she told Holly and Allison to stop playing around, and spent the evening eating alone in her room.

Maria and Jerry seem to have spent some of the honeymoon as drinking buddies, but she soon turned against him and said to Peggy Sue: “If he thinks he can‘t be replaced, he should think twice”. One of the most bizarre passages is when Maria accuses Norman Petty of looking up her skirt. Do you want me to ask Norman for money to buy my panties, Buddy?”, Maria urged. At first, Buddy kind of laughed it off and Jerry was chuckling as if Maria had told a joke. But she kept it up and Buddy finally said sternly: That's enough, Maria Elena! After the funeral, Maria told Peggy Sue, “I’m going to get the man who killed Buddy”. However, Peggy Sue says that Norman had always paid and the assets were being held up by the promoter, Manny Greenfield. 

What has always set Buddy Holly's persona apart from others in the rock ’n’ roll pantheon is its air of maturity, sympathy and understanding. To successive generations of fans he has seemed less like an idol than a teacher, guide and friend. His songs have become synonyms for a drape-suited, pink-Cadillac belle époque which we have come to regard almost with the same misty-eyed nostalgia as the golden years of Hollywood.  "Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly" (2014) by Philip Norman

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Buddy Holly & The Picks story

"Meet Me at the River, Buddy Holly" (2013) by Bob Lapham is a novel, except the prologue and Chapter 13 titled Buddy Holly and the Picks are true; throughout he book the name of the guy I call Trebor Maple. Trebor Maple is Robert Lapham spelled phonetically backward. That’s me. Bob Lapham, the last surviving member of the pop-R&R trio that was Buddy’s primary vocal backup group on the original Crickets songs, mainly an album considered one of early rock ‘n’ roll’s classics that won the 1958 Billboard best new vocal group award.

Treb lies in the back seat. His eyes close. Immediately he shudders, blinking in the semi-darkness. He is certain he can see Buddy Holly, unsmiling as he stares straight ahead, seemingly oblivious. Treb fends off encroaching sleep, surprised to see the rock ‘n’ roll figure unchanged in his wide-awake vision and wondering if he should initiate conversation. Louise looks back, over the seat. “I’m talking to Buddy,” he whines. “Holly? Be sure to tell him I always liked Elvis better.” Treb concentrates, deciding that if this is a valid vision, he can communicate closer to a spiritual level. He can’t see Buddy’s lips move, but he hears, as plain as the whirring Chevrolet differential just below him. “It doesn’t matter anymore…” Treb replies¨: “You mean, after all these years, you’re gonna answer me in song titles? you rank second only to Elvis in the list of influential rock ‘n’ roll pioneers!”

Treb is really feeling sorry for himself now. The old recording sessions at Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico used to take their toll on him, both physically and mentally. “So, get ready to meet me at the river, Buddy Holly.” “What?” Louise Maple asks. But her husband has fallen into the deepest sleep he’s ever experienced. “Your father is in la-la land,” she tells her daughter, taking a drag on her cigarette. Being a Texas Tech student for four and a half years, with a journalism degree, as well as being well versed in the strange nature of Lubbock, he had got a kick out of remembering the night a teenaged Buddy Holly lost his virginity in the back seat of a car parked on a dirt road that paralleled an irrigation ditch in a South Plains cotton field.

Coral was a subsidiary of Decca Records, which originally had Buddy under contract for a horribly produced country album recorded in Nashville earlier. Decca gave approval to let Buddy try rock ‘n’ roll stuff with Coral, and good riddance, it seemed was their attitude in the Nashville country music end of the label. But not That’ll be the Day, which had been on the Nashville album. As I understood the situation from studio gossip in Clovis, Coral was starting to spread its independent wings. It had latched onto an old abandoned label from the 1920s and ‘30s. Brunswick Records was picking up offbeat releases. Somebody in Coral’s office, upon Norman Petty’s prompting, decided to cover Decca’s That’ll Be the Day by Buddy Holly on Brunswick, with the newly formed Crickets as the artists, when Decca and the record-buying public got around to figuring out the end play. 

The result was the birth of a rock ‘n’ roll legend with That’ll Be the Day, prompting Brunswick to hastily make plans to put out the Chirping Crickets album, all while Buddy Holly’s separate rock ‘n’ roll solo career was taking off on Coral with Peggy Sue and Everyday. “When Norman re-recorded That’ll Be the Day in his Nor Va Jak Studio in Clovis, he lowered the key for Buddy that Decca had produced. For that little production suggestion, Norman cut himself in on songwriting credit, sharing three ways with Allison and Buddy, where Buddy had written the song that Decca recorded. It must’ve been a nightmare to sort out, money-wise, but in later years royalties from that one song alone, a classic that would be covered by dozens of artists through the decades – notably Linda Rondstadt – provided hundreds of thousands of dollars for the three shareholders.

Norman’s soon-dominant cutting himself in for credit as songwriter was born with That’ll Be the Day, I believe. But it sure didn’t end there. Also, he had already formed his own publishing stable, working through Southern Music Publishing in Nashville. So if you came to Clovis to peddle a song, chances are Petty would agree, if he could publish it and record it through Nor Va Jak. And if he could get it recorded, well it seemed only fair to him that he be cut in for songwriting credit. That’s where the real money in music recording came. Royalties for air play made a lot of non-performing songwriters very rich. This started in the Big Band era, but the practice really got sophisticated when rock ‘n’ roll became a producer’s and publisher’s paradise.” True Love Ways proved to be perhaps the best ballad the Picks ever did with Holly.

Listening to Trebor Maple tell about his and co-Picks Bill and John Pickering's contribution to the Holly legend during the summer and fall of 1957.--- The early world of rock ‘n’ roll had been littered with hastily forgottens; those performers who had hit quickly, then took express trips to permanent obscurity. Nino and the Ebb Tides (Franny Franny), Patience and Prudence (Tonight You Belong to Me), Rosie and the Originals (Angel Baby), John D. Loudermilk (Language of Love), and Paul and Paula (Hey Paula). Even Kenneth Copeland had enjoyed a stand-alone teeny-bopper hit in the fifties, but a huge following as a TV evangelist years later kept him far from becoming obscure. 

Buddy was better off, but only temporarily. That’ll Be the Day, written by him, was strictly a Crickets hit. Two months later, on a companion label thanks to a bit of managerial chicanery by their manager-producer, Norman Petty, Peggy Sue (the greatest rock'n'roll anthem) introduced the world to Buddy Holly, a world that quickly figured out the same guy was featured vocalist on both records. The Crickets seemingly were a vocal group that sang and played with Buddy. However, with one exception involving Niki Sullivan, they were not singers. Two big hits in a period of three or so months, and no place to go. Buddy, Allison, young 17-year-old standup bass player Joe B. Mauldin, and rhythm guitar Niki Sullivan were quickly on the road, doing one-nighters.

Petty and his wife, Vi, had all but abandoned their modest regional enterprise of playing for dances in Lubbock, Amarillo, and elsewhere along the Texas-New Mexico border. Clovis, that large stucco two-story building next to the studio housed an apartment where Norman and Vi lived upstairs. Never far out of sight was Norma Jean Berry. She’d slip in and out of the studio. I got the idea early on that Norma Jean was a glorified housekeeper. But she never did any housework that I could see. Norman was a very secretive guy. Intermittent rumour had it that Vi Petty and Norma Jean carried on a lesbian relationship; that Norma Jean and Petty had once had an affair; even that the three participated in troilistic sexual acts. The truth appears to have been that all three, for different reasons, were virtually sexless, and that Norma Jean clung to the Pettys as her surrogate family.

The Crickets had helped Norman install speakers at one end of the garage, and microphones at the other, to make the echo effect that was remarkable, especially for a home-made fixture. Phil Spector later told an interviewer that his “Wall of Sound” was inspired by Norman Petty’s Clovis sound. Particularly what the “Crickets” (actually the Picks, both as arrangers and vocalists) did on Holly songs such as Oh Boy! It's March, 1957: Petty usually worked best at night, in the wee hours, when huge trucks or a train were less likely to rumble by and be picked up on tape in the not-completely-soundproof studio. The Pickerings would go out and have hamburgers with Buddy and the Crickets together in early morning hours, after an all-night session. 

Holly’s bridge between obscurity and certain stardom (Peggy Sue) was in the planning stages. And eventually, rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame status. Buddy and the Crickets, deservedly so. But not the Picks. Treb, John and Bill’s lone claim to recognized achievement was being named to the little-known Rockabilly Hall of Fame in the 1990s. At any rate, Oh Boy! took off when released in October. It anchored The Chirping Crickets album that emerged then too, with the Picks backgrounding on nine of the 12 songs. Included were the ultimately charted singles Maybe Baby and Tell Me How. Treb told Brad that his favorite among the throw-away songs was An Empty Cup and a Broken Date, a real weeper, written by Roy Orbison. Orbison, tiring of Sun Records’ facilities, was beginning to experiment with the Clovis sound.

On a hot day in August, 1957, in the tiny six-by-eight foot control room at Norman’s studio, we were prepared to listen to a playback of the final tape version of Oh Boy!, which Buddy and the band hadn’t heard yet. The Crickets were dressed almost identically, in faded blue jeans and white T shirts, and wearing penny loafers. Buddy was wearing the same attire, except for natural-leather moccasins on his feet. Chances were, he had made them himself. The sudden stars seemed unaffected by their rise to fame. They were a bashful sort, according to John Pickering’s assessment. They have been called "the true gentlemen of the rock 'n' roll" or "the good boys of rock 'n' roll".

Buddy listened intently until the all the “dum-de-dum-dum—oh boys” had faded. Then he beamed. “You guys did it!” he exclaimed, going to each of the Picks and shaking their hands. To Buddy, Maple had been the bumbling, stumbling and often off-key foulup of the several sessions they had worked together. Now, Holly was ecstatic and animated. “You guys were really great!” Holly said. “We got ourselves another hit!” Later in the year, Holly would confide to an interviewer that he liked Oh Boy! more than his signature song, That’ll Be the Day. “That’s as good as anything Pat Boone ever did,” John Pickering offered, after Oh Boy! had been played again. “Pat BOONE!?” Buddy shot back. “Man, Pat Boone ought to be standing in the background, doing doo-wahs!” John pretended to take offense. “Thanks a LOT, Buddy.” The rest of the room erupted into laughter. All except Holly. He was concerned that his remark, intended to put down Boone, had been misinterpreted by the Picks. “I didn’t mean it that way,” he said. Buddy would be the first self-deprecating rock-star. 

From that time on, around the studio the Picks were dubbed The Doo-Wah Boys. Soon after Oh Boy! was released, Buddy and the Crickets were booked on The Ed Sullivan Show. American audiences who saw Buddy and the Crickets never seemed to mind that half the songs they sang didn’t sound like the record i.e. didn’t have vocal background. It wouldn’t be until their tour of England that fans began demanding to know what was going on here. They found out, thanks to John Beecher. So to this day, the Picks are virtually unknown in America, in reference to Holly. But England’s more loyal fans are quite familiar with them. Then, disappointment riddled the Picks’ euphoria. They came to the studio a week or so prior to “the big shew,” and Norman had a telegram from Sullivan to show them. “Don’t bring the other boys unless they belong to the union,” Sullivan said. “We’re making money, but we can’t afford that. Not yet,” penny-pinching Petty told the Picks with a frown. It would cost about five-hundred dollars apiece, he claimed. None of the Picks could afford it either. Buddy was disappointed as much as they, Treb said. Norman retained control of all money coming in. 

We knew Norman was lying. But the darker sides to his personality began turning the Camelot in Clovis into failure, shortly after that storied summer of 1957. Buddy got married to Maria Elena, against the wishes of Norman, who had assumed near-parental attitudes with the Crickets. He had an even tighter hold on their money. After Buddy’s marriage, he and the Crickets began drifting apart. Allison and Mauldin tried different sidemen, and returned to Clovis. Meanwhile, Buddy was in the process of severing ties with Norman and was recording in New York. His actions, it was reported, led Petty to angrily tell one of the Crickets, “Let him try! I’ll starve him out!” Buddy was threatening legal action to get to what he claimed was considerable money owed him.  

Both Pickerings got to know Maria Elena fairly well, particularly John (who, at the request of Buddy’s family, sang two Baptist hymns during Buddy’s funeral). Treb said he didn’t meet Buddy’s widow until they had lunch together in 1999. “We told each other stories about Norman Petty,”  Treb said. “She loved it.” Buddy was on the low-paying Winter Dance Party tour because he was broke, with tens of thousands of dollars belonging to him lying unattainable in a Clovis bank. “Buddy’s in his room,” Mrs. Holley told Treb. “The last time I saw him, Buddy wore a black leather jacket over a white T-shirt. He had black motorcycle boots over tailored Levis. He was slowly combing his coal-black hair. He looked at me. He wasn’t wearing his horned-rim glasses at the moment.”

“I had one more meeting with Petty, almost thirty years later. That was in a Lubbock hospital, a month before Norman died it 1984. Bill Pickering was living with his mother in Lubbock, and the first Buddy Holly & the Picks compilation album was about to be pressed. I did comment about all the many people Norman’s money-hungry ways had hurt; perhaps even killed, in Buddy’s case. How many dreams he had not respected enough to give a fair shake.”

Tommy Allsup: Buddy Holly was very likable. Very confident. He was more reserved off stage than people would think. He was truly a creative genius, not just as a songwriter or performer, but in the way he approached making records and doing the music business. ("The Flip of a Coin", 2010)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Untamed Youth: Buddy Holly & Eddie Cochran

Buddy Holly was terribly shy; he tended to complicate his alienation because of his extreme shyness, his self-consciousness about his 'homely' looks.  He never seemed at ease with the lime light of the show business scene. Buddy not only knew rock 'n' roll would last, he also understood it had to evolve over time. Buddy was our superior from a musical theory aspect.


At a big New Year’s party, Eddie Cochran invited everyone. Don Everly brought a girl with him and they got into a big argument. The girl locked herself in the bathroom and refused to come out. Eddie watched Don’s dilemma and said, “You don’t have the right technique, Don. I’ll handle this.” Eddie knocked on the door... “Who is it?” “Buddy Holly.” She opened the door, there Eddie stood, beer in hand, laughing. She slammed the door shut again. At about this time, Buddy arrived at the party. He noticed Don and Eddie standing by the bathroom door. “What’s going on?” he asked. “Oh, this girl, she’s mad at Don and locked herself in the bathroom. Hey, Buddy, if anyone can talk her out of there, I’d bet you can,” Eddie suggested. “I’ll give it try,” Buddy knocked on the door... “Who is it?” “It’s Buddy, Buddy Holly.” When she opened the door this time she had armed herself with a hairbrush. Whoosh-bang! Poor Buddy, he didn’t know what hit him. Before she realized who stood there, she crowned him right on top of the head. Eddie stood by howling of laughter.

Later, back in Hollywood I had a date to go to the movies with Eddie. The August early evening air, stifling hot. What we Californians refer to as ‘earthquake weather.’ “Sharon, sit down, I want to talk to you,” Eddie said. His suite had two sofas across from each other. I sat on one, and he stretched out on his stomach, his chin propped on his hand, his mocassin’d feet dangling. He stared at me without mercy for a few moments. “Sharon, are you in love with me?” he asked in a very quiet voice. I could hardly bear it. I struggled to get a few words out, “Why...what makes you think that? Just because everytime you turn around I’m there? How rude! I— I don’t think that you have the right to ask me such an embarrassing question!” “Well... let me tell you... You’d damn sure better be because I’m in love with you.” A Hollywood screenwriter could not have written a better movie scene.

My heart thumped, then stopped, and I heard bells ringing in my ears. He got off his sofa and sat down close beside me. He put his arms around me and gave me a big luscious kiss. “I love you very much,” he said with passion. “When did you know?” “The first time I ever saw you.” “And you let me chase you around for two whole years? Why on Earth didn’t you tell me?” “Do you love Ricky Nelson?” Eddie asked. “No, of course not.” Ricky Nelson at the peak of his career idolized Eddie. “Do you love Don Everly?” “No!” I started to wonder where he was going with this. “Do you love me?” “Oh, yes!” 

“You see, Kid Cochran’s not so dumb. I had to make damn sure.” Eddie gave me his ring and ID bracelet to seal our engagement although he preferred to keep it a secret for now. Sure he dated Connie Stevens, Julie London and the likes. I mean, with that kind of competition, how could I stand a chance with him? He never dated any of them more than a few times. His mother later told me that I was his first, and the only girl he ever loved. My competition as it turned out was not other women, it was music, his guitar... —"Summertime Blues: A True Rock 'n' Roll Adventure with Eddie Cochran" (2010) by Sharon Sheeley

According to Eddie Cochran's nephew Bobby Cochran: "there was definitely a mutual attraction between Eddie and Mamie van Doren and some hint of hanky panky between them." In 1986, Mamie van Doren told fanzine Kicks the film "Untamed Youth" (1957) was one of her favorite films: "Eddie Cochran appeared in the film and we rehearsed the songs at my place in Hollywood Hills. Buddy Holly accompanied him sometimes. Buddy Holly was completely crazy, Eddie was charming... Eddie was more handsome than Elvis, terribly sexy and cool."