Sunday, June 17, 2007

The importance of writing in plain English

I have just discovered the writing of Robert McCrum (right).

He has written an excellent portrait of my favourite man of letters, Gore Vidal (below),


in The Observer.

Some 30 plus years ago, I was besotted with Vidal's writings and I took the opportunity of writing the mandatory dissertation for my English degree at University College, London on Gore Vidal the polemicist.

I was initially assigned Stephen Spender as supervisor but once he realised I was not writing a hagiography I was passed along to the more academic and much more personable Stephen Fender. I had always wanted the man himself to read my now long lost work but really all that my original research amounted to was saying it was decidedly unfair for Gore the storyteller to make loose women in wartime carriers of the clap whilst at the same bestowing a squeaky clean image upon those preferring homosexual acts with one another.

Nevertheless, the late Burke Trend to whom I had passed along a copy at Lincoln College, Oxford wrote me a lovely, complimentary note.

But McCrum breathlessly manages a dead on portrait of Vidal and in so many words passes along Vidal's goodbye to his readers. Just a couple of howlers : having actually read some of them, the works by Vidal under the nom d'argent Edgar Box are only very loosely termed novels. And though his middle name is spelled Gerald , Edmund G. Brown Jr likes to be known as Jerry, not Gerry.

I note that McCrum read History at Cambridge. I found my own limited study of history at Westminster School as a 15 year old under the guidance of the late Charles Keeley the best opportunity for improving my English writing skills.

That it has taken me so long to discover McCrum is quite absurd. We are the same age, spent part of our lives growing up in Cambridge, England, appreciate many of the same authors.

I wonder how McCrum gets along with the academic set for what passes as literary criticism.

I know that when I went back for an English department reunion,
I was quite unfamiliar with the language spoken.

But Gore didn't put much store by going to varsity, either.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Posh, Mark and Rodney

I believe this photograph (photo credit : Tom Jamison) was taken in 1989 or so at a Mark Kostabi art opening in a Beverly Hills gallery (Martin Lawrence?). From left to right, we have scenester Rodney Bingenheimer, the singer Fontaine, painter Mark Kostabi wearing shades and yours truly, Robbie Fields wearing his beloved but long "borrowed by person unknown" 21 Jump Street crew jacket.

It was Rodney who demanded I drive in from my then home in Palm Desert to meet Mark.

6 years or so earlier, Kostabi had graciously allowed the group Gleaming Spires use of his striking painting "Bed of Nails" for the cover of their second album "Walk On Well Lighted Streets" released under my auspices on the PVC label. Since that time, Mark had moved from the suburbs of So. California to Manhattan and become one of the most talked and successful painters on the NY art scene. Mark has steadily built upon his early success and sells hundreds of his paintings each year.

He has also developed a significant career as a composer and pianist.

What is fascinating about Mark is how differently he is perceived in his 3 "homelands". In
New York where his art factory is located, he is a Page 6 celebrity. In Italy where he spends much of the year in his grand Rome apartment, he is a Painter and duly accorded respect.
In Estonia, whence his parents came, he is a national hero on account of his art and his repute as a serious music composer.

I have found Mark as a Type A personality refreshingly loyal. He has his eye both on Today and the long run of history. I am in awe of Mark's art, both his pictorial sense and his lyrical ability as a composer. As I have been fortunate to have been accepted within his inner circle of critics I am more often than not uttering candid criticism rather than gushing praise.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Who is Casey Serin? Seriously ...

Just as in Russia, where the term New Russian was coined to describe a particularly virulent embodiment of nouveau riche, are we at the stage in the United States where the term New American is coined to describe a new amorality, shared by native born Americans and immigrants alike? The remarkable site

by its very name hints at a new formulation as to what constitutes an American. That its owner Mr Rob Dawg (no relation) writes about what passes for modern American architecture speaks volumes about the depth of his blog.

If I tell you the Casey Serin saga is simply about mortgage fraud, I would be perpetuating a whitewash.

Look behind the curtain and we are witnessing a complete re-evaluation of what were presumed to be American values and whether they have any relevance today in a world where New Americans are usurping control and command.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Brandi, You're A Fine Girl, and so are you Azia and Brie. And let's not forget Paris, baby!

Say something about the 60's, the girls du jour had some substance. Whether it be Leila Khaled (above right) hijacking planes, Marianne Faithfull (above left) providing nutritional snacks between recording haunting melodies or Billie Jean Moffet (above centre) getting attention for playing very well with other girls.

Even underachievers like Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies (below) knew when to quit.

But 40 years later, the blogs and message boards are dominated by such pathetic, delusional creatures as

Miss Azia Kim .... The Stanford squatter

Miss Brandi Hawbaker .... the biggest story in poker since ... the joker was taken out of the deck.

Miss Brie Whitehead ... ranked in the Top 700 in Women's tennis but who habitually loses her matches 6-0, 6-0.

and last and maybe least talented, Ladies and Gentlemen, humans and alien life forms,

Miss Paris Hilton, currently living rent free in downtown Los Angeles, California.

Ravi Holy and I have something in common ...

We attended the same "prep" school in England, King's College School.

I discovered this piece of trivia owing to this being the season of school reunions and I have received invites from King's, Westminster School, Holland Park School and University College, London to attend one or other gathering.

A generation ago, school reunions were not exactly popular. I remember one year ... must have been 1991 .. when the next oldest person at a King's reunion had left 18 years before me and the next youngest had left 18 years after me. I have not been back since but that does not stop the annual newsletter reaching me which this year proved more interesting reading than usual, thanks to the Reverend Holy

and his glad tidings, as reported in the newsletter

Ravi is the curate at St Luke’s Church, Battersea.
One of the congregation
is Janice Vyvyan who left King’s in 1964.

I am so glad to report that the above message contains a typo. Ravi has informed me that it is Jamie Vyvyan who is a member of his congregation, indeed the boy I slightly knew at King's.

A partial history of Bloodstains

I had not realised that a lot of the punk discussion had migrated to blogs from message boards.

For some reason when I google references to Posh Boy, blogs don't come up unless you specifically search under "blogs".

Anyway this is a long winded way of saying that I just discovered a couple of neat sites that are boosting the Posh Boy legacy by featuring recordings that I helped create.

The only time I have a problem with their hosting mp3's is when we have those same recordings up on iTunes. If we don't, then I think it is only right that these recordings be made available, even gratis.

If the guy behind this site is also behind the records that have been issued over the years, I'd appreciate a check in the mail.

For all their good intentions, I have yet to find a bootlegger willing to pay royalties.

Of course, there are legit. labels that don't pay either. The Italian label
Get Back/Abraxas stiffed us on the last 6 Posh Boy re-issues they did, never paying an advance let alone paying royalties. They also manage to pay laughably small amounts for song royalties.

People ask why I don't continue manufacturing Posh Boy product. Simply because we can't get paid by distributors whose current business model is that labels provide them with sufficient trading capital.

We had it good 30 years ago. Indie distributors like Jem Records actually financed small labels. Coupled with support from the factories, that's how it was possible to create the artefacts that collectors drool over today.

Finally, here is a link to an interesting discussion of Bloodstains

and here are my own comments :

Let me see if I can help dispel the confusion surrounding this e.p. ...

The ROTR version of "Bloodstains" and the version most commonly licensed
for compilations and films is the original 1979 version when Soto was in the

The version on the featured e.p. is a 1980 re-recording without
Soto. On the original Living In Darkness album is a 1981 re-recording again
without Soto. Mike Palm has again at least twice re-recorded for Enigma/Restless
and Cleopatra without any other of the original members.

Rikk Agnew had
no part in writing "Bloodstains".

"Bloodstains" has been covered by
numerous other groups.
There was a dispute between my company Covina High
Music and my good friend Brett Gurewitz's Epitaph over the "borrowing" in "Come
Out And Play". Somehow I think if we hadn't all known each other, there would
have been a financial settlement but the dispute became quite personal.
Ultimately no lawsuit was filed as the expert musicologist report claimed among
other things that Agent Orange had been influenced by Nirvana!

However, one of the settlements that I proposed at the time of the dispute was that the Offspring cover an Agent Orange song. And though that suggestion was rejected
out of hand by Jim Guerinot, the Offspring's manager, Bryan Holland did start
playing "Bloodstains" live as a sort of "up yours". Later when The Offspring
were offered approximately $100,000 to provide a recording for the film "Ready
To Rumble", they chose to record "Bloodstains", offering us $20K, rather than
the customary $50K but promising to include the recording when they came to do a
Greatest Hits set. I accepted the deal, feeling that this was a more than
acceptable way to bury the hatchet.

Mike Palm, I understand, is still

Monday, June 11, 2007

An Interview Request

A certain Kate Carraway from the Orange County (California) Weekly newspaper contacted me today with an interview request. After explaining that I am on the other side of the world and can barely hear she submitted by email the following questions:

Can you say a bit about how and why you got involved in punk rock initially? How would you define or characterize OC punk? Orange County is considered to be a really conservative place, not just politically but culturally. Do you agree? Disagree? Why do you think punk rock flourished in OC? Do you see a real distinction between people involved in punk rock in Orange County and the majority of OC citizens?
So here's what I came up with :

I got involved in O.C. punk rock as early as 1979, when after seeing The Crowd play a club in Monrovia, I literally followed them back to their homes in Huntington Beach.

They opened that night for my friends, the Go Go's who were still in a formative stage. The Crowd, on the other hand, already had a distinct style of baggy sweaters, day glo colours in total opposition to the perceived punk look. They could get away with it because they were the quintessential California surfer boys. They even had their own dance that night, the worm, which soon gave way to another of their inspirations, the slam dance.

For me, then a worldly 26 year old, the summer of 1979 was a delayed adolescence.

Let me backtrack :

I was born and grew up in southern California. In 1958, my family made the move to what was then the end of the Santa Ana Freeway, at Brookhurst(!). 1940 W. Broadway, a tract ranch style house in Anaheim was my home for the first 4 years of my schooling.

Somehow the fates conspired to transport my family from the sunny orange groves to the bitter cold wintry weather of England in 1962.

Even though I was just 9 I had already bicycled all the way down Beach Blvd. to the H.B. pier, panned for gold at Knott's and watched nightly fireworks at Disneyland from our backyard. So I was suffering from this truncated development : what if I had continued at James Madison Elementary, gone onto Trident Junior High, graduated from Loara. What would have I become?

So I honestly did not get involved with O.C. groups because they were "punk", the major attraction for me was the fact they were from O.C.. And remember, the music these teen aged kids were making was really far removed from what was being called "punk" in Hollywood at that time.

That summer of '79 I was living in Alhambra and I would ride the RTD bus down to Seal Beach before going through what seemed a cultural portal and riding the O.C. bus down PCH.

It was a magical time of backyard parties, bleary eyed breakfasts at Bob's Big Boy, bands challenging each other to make new music. It was a liberated jock culture, where you didn't have to be a quarter back or linebacker to be accepted. But what became fascinating was how so many of the O.C. groups developed different sounds, different identities, yet all grouped together under the "punk" banner.

Some of the O.C. groups I worked with during that fecund period of 1979-1981 included The Klan, Agent Orange, Adolescents, Shattered Faith and Social Distortion not forgetting T.S.O.L. and Channel 3 whose members straddled the county line.

Ultimately it was these groups fans who made an enormous difference to the groups developing their own styles.

After the groups had refined their abilities in each other's garages and backyards, they took over the Hollywood clubs with their legions of suburban fans, leaving the Hollywood old guard muttering to themselves. If the groups had a demo tape, it was their fans who convinced dj Rodney Bingenheimer with their phone calls and personal pleas that the groups were "happening".

And for the kids themselves, the punk rock movement with its early D.I.Y ethos, was the catalyst to their creating their own culture as reflected through the O.C. prism.

So as much as these teenagers were indulging in normal teenage rebellion, they were at the same time becoming ambassadors for their distinctly beach suburban hedonism.

In this last respect, the generation of '80 had a great deal in common with the older generation, even the John Birchers supping along the beach at the Balboa Bay Club.