When Classic Rock Ruled

In an era today where hip-hop, country, and fluffy pop songs seem to dominate the media’s attention, let’s not forget that there are still millions out there who love their classic rock from the seventies and eighties. Maybe you’re even one of them. If so, then Goodnight, L.A. is for you. It’s the never-before-told, behind-the-scenes story about the creation of hit record after hit record that came out of the epicenter of  it all, Los Angeles. Back when artists such as the Eagles, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Fleetwood Mac, Warren Zevon, Chicago, REO Speedwagon, Loggins and Messina, and so many more willingly sacrificed everything in the hopes of somehow carving out a career in the music business.

What my first book, The Wrecking Crew, was to AM radio, 45-RPM singles and pop, Goodnight, L.A. is to FM radio, vinyl albums and rock. In particular, the countless interviews I conducted with music stars, record producers, studio engineers and others who were all there during the heyday has provided Goodnight, L.A. with a rare measure of depth and authenticity. At least I think so. And hopefully you will, too. If you end up enjoying Goodnight, L.A. even half as much as I did while researching and writing it, then I will have done my job. Though sad, it is no exaggeration to say that we will never see the likes of this music or the caliber of these performers again. But, man, it sure was great while it lasted!

Bobby Keys – RIP

You’d recognize him in a second if you heard him. He gave the Stones some seriously nasty sax on a bunch of their best-known hits, particularly “Brown Sugar.” His name was Bobby Keys and he was not only a virtuoso on his horn, but was also the only one who could keep up with the legendary Keith Richards in the substance abuse department. Until Bobby’s liver finally gave out, that is. Though he unfortunately passed away recently at the age of 70, Keys left us all with an enduring legacy of monster performances. Below is my personal favorite, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” from 1971’s Sticky Fingers. Check out his solo about halfway through the song during the impromptu jam — the cat could blow.



Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV

While doing some research for a book I have in the pipeline, I came across this classic bit from George Carlin. It’s as funny now as it was in 1972 when George first blew people’s minds with it. Listen and prepare to laugh (but if profanity offends, then this definitely won’t be for you).


Where Frank Did His Business

Inside the men's lavatory at Ocean Way Recording Studios, looking exactly as it did 50 years ago.

Inside the men’s lavatory at Ocean Way Recording, looking exactly as it did 50 years ago.

Once in a great while, if a person is lucky enough—if the stars line up just right—they might find themselves watching actual history take place. I’m here to say that I am one of those people. Well, at least I saw where “history” used to take place.

Sure, there are some who have witnessed presidents being sworn in or Apollo rockets being launched or any of a variety of improbable major league sports-related milestones being achieved—certainly all laudable events. But how many can say that they have actually seen where a legendary crooner used to go to the bathroom?

Now, before you left-click your way onto another site, let me explain. Having had the good fortune of hanging out at many an old-school recording studio in LA, one day a couple of years ago I found myself inside Ocean Way on Sunset Boulevard.  The birthplace of countless platinum albums from over the years (think Clapton, Petty, the Stones and more), the studio was originally known as United Recorders way back when it was built at the beginning of the ’60s. And one of the initial part-owners was none other than Frank Sinatra himself, who did most of his Reprise recording work there.

On my visit, courtesy of the BBC, who flew me in to appear in one of their documentaries, I received the grand tour. As I tried my best to not drool while checking out all the incredible recording gear, the magnificent mixing console, and the unparalleled Neumann microphone collection, my guide also insisted that I take a gander inside the adjacent men’s room. “It’s where Sinatra used to go,” he said, clearly in awe.

With eyes wide and camera in hand, feeling like I was entering a hall of greatness, I dutifully then stuck my head inside the smallish, retro-tiled chamber and took several photos, one of which is shown here (along with a shot of Frank on the wall in the hall and another picture of his onetime upstairs office).

So, now you, too, can see where the Chairman of the Board did his business while the Chairman of the Board was busy doing his business. Kind of historic, huh?


Frank Sinatra's photo on the wall at Ocean Way Recording in Hollywood.

Frank Sinatra's former upstairs office at Ocean Way, looking virtually identical to the way he had it in the '60s.

Frank Sinatra’s former upstairs office at Ocean Way, looking virtually identical to the way he had it in the ’60s.


Studio A at Ocean Way, formerly United Recorders, where Sinatra cut "Strangers in the Night."

Studio A at Ocean Way, formerly United Recorders, where Sinatra cut “Strangers in the Night.”



The Captain and Me

Doobies_CaptainAndMeSounds like the title of an old Doobie Brothers album, doesn’t it? Well, it is—and a great one at that. Maybe their best, from back in 1973. “China Grove” and “Natural Thing” are tough songs to beat. Given, too, that I recently wrote a book about the music biz, that would be a pretty darn good guess as to the topic at hand. But, that’s not what I’m referring to here. Nope, not this time around. I’m talking about an actual man. Perhaps, I might add, one of the most famous men in America during the Sixties and Seventies. Revered, even. And, much to my surprise, this man—a burly ex-Marine, no less—insisted upon hugging me when we first met. Me, that is, and about three hundred other people.

No, it wasn’t one of the Village People (yes, I know what you’re thinking…). Huh-uh. Instead, it was none other than Captain Kangaroo himself, Bob Keeshan. In 1999, the good Captain wrote a memoir about his days spent in the Treasure House on TV and he came through Seattle on a nationwide book tour to support it. Living in the Emerald City at the time, and thoroughly grooving on all things retro even then, I made a beeline for his book signing. And I couldn’t be happier that I did.

As I finally made my way up to the Captain’s table, after standing in line for at least two hours along with every conceivable manifestation of the human species, my entire childhood instantly flashed before my eyes. There he was: the man who had patiently read a story to me (or “stirry,” as he pronounced it) every weekday morning of my early single-digit years. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, anyone? The man who was constantly outwitted by Bunny Rabbit and who fell for Mr. Moose’s knock-knock jokes every time, getting a shower of ping-pong balls on his head for his trouble.

Bob_keeshan_captain_kangaroo_1977But before I could open my suddenly-dry, thirty-nine-year-old mouth to form any kind of comprehensible sentence, the Captain asked me my name, I mumbled a faint reply, and then he motioned for me to come around behind the table. There he gave me a hug like he had known me all my life. And, in a way, he had. He knew millions of us, his surrogate kids. A kindly-looking grandpa-sort, Captain Kangaroo was nothing short of beloved. And that’s why the Captain’s trademark jacket with the oversized “kangaroo” pockets is on display, to this very day, in the Smithsonian Institution.

Don Peake & Michel Rubini

Here we have two illustrious members of the Wrecking Crew: Michel Rubini holding my book and the other fellow in all black is Don Peake. Flanking the two are Dede Harris and David Carpenter, the producers of the upcoming musical of The Wrecking Crew.

Thank you, Shirley Manson!

Here’s Shirley Manson, the dazzling, charismatic lead singer of the band Garbage,  in September of 2012 at the Roseland Theatre in Portland. Garbage used to be one of my music biz clients back in the day and they invited me for a visit in their dressing room before the show.

As you may know from checking out the back flap of my book, Shirley was kind enough to write a blurb for me. Take it from me, they simply don’t come any cooler than she.