Earth, Wind and Fire. Rick James. The Commodores. These were all big names back in the ’70s and ’80s—people who created music that made people want to dance.
However, no act made people want to celebrate more than Kool and the Gang. The R&B and funk band made numerous songs that became disco staples—and the group is still going, with four original members among the current 12-piece band.
Kool and the Gang will be performing at Spotlight 29 this Saturday, March 25.
During a recent phone interview with Robert “Kool” Bell, one of the topics we discussed was the group’s 1979 hit “Ladies Night,” which has been featured in many films, and is used by Eagles of Death Metal as an intro song at some concerts. Bell said he did not expect the song to become such a big hit.
“I’m happy that it did, but I’m surprised to some degree,” Bell said. “That came about back in 1979, when my wife and I were hanging out in New York, and we noticed some of the clubs such as Studio 54, they all had a ladies’ night on the weekend. When we decided to get a new lead singer, who was James “J.T.” Taylor, we were putting together the album. George Brown, who is one of the songwriters in the band, he had the music and was looking for a hook on the concept. I said, ‘Why don’t we go with ladies’ night, because every weekend has a ladies’ night around the world?’ So, we started working on the hook, and it was perfect. It became our first single with a new lead singer.”
Bell listed what the band members would like to be remembered for down the line.
“Our music, the songs we have written and the fact we were able to stay together for over 50 years,” he said. “We still have four of the original eight members of the band; four have passed away. If you work together and you decide to resolve your problems—because there are always problems in a group that you have to work out, and we have been able to do that—(you can). So, I’d say we’d like to be remembered for working hard, staying together, staying united together and being successful.”
During Van Halen’s 2012 U.S. tour, Kool and the Gang were asked by Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth to open.
“When that first came up, people were scratching their heads, of course, and couldn’t figure that one out: How is Kool and the Gang going to go on tour with Van Halen?” Bell said. “David Lee Roth was in London when we did the Glastonbury Festival. That weekend, it was Coldplay, U2, and it was all rock ’n’ roll. He saw us. They were getting together for their 40th anniversary tour and had just brought back David Lee Roth. He said, ‘I just saw Kool and the Gang at Glatonbury, and they rocked the house. That’s who I want to be our supporting act.’ They were like, ‘Are you sure?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, those guys back in the ’80s had “Celebration,” and we had “Jump.”’ Back in the ’70s, he used to play ‘Jungle Boogie’ and ‘Funk Yourself’ in the clubs. I didn’t know any of this. He thought it was a perfect match.”
But Bell wasn’t sure about the idea at first.
“He told me that 50 percent of his audience are ladies,” Bell said. “I said, ‘Oh yeah? I thought it was all hard rockers.’ He said, ‘You guys wrote “Ladies Night,” so let’s go out and have a party.’ We did that for 42 cities.”
A Van Halen tour isn’t the only strange place the members of Kool and the Gang have found themselves.
“We played in Algeria. We were doing festival at some Roman ancient ruins,” he said. “We were leaving the hotel and had to go through this little town, and our escorts in this little town were carrying guns for protection. We’re going through the city, looking up through the buildings and all that. We finally got out to the gig, and it was beautiful, because it was at this beautiful Ancient Roman coliseum. The people loved it, but that was strange. You understand what I’m saying? Algeria!”
Kool and the Gang just released a new single, “Sexy (Where’d You Get Yours?),” and the group has some other new things coming in the near-future.
“(The single) has a bit of a young sound,” Bell said. “We’re always identified by our horn section. On the other side of the fence, we’re working on a book and a documentary. These should be out in the next couple of years.”
While you could sit at home and watch a Kool and the Gang concert on the Internet, trust me: It’s worth going and seeing them in person.
“A lot of our shows now are up on YouTube and the whole social media thing, but we do a segment of the ’70s in our show, and then most of the other songs are the hits of the ’80s,” Bell said. “We try to do a high-energy show, and we try to please our audience.”
Kool and the Gang will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, at Spotlight 29, 46200 Harrison Place, in Coachella. Tickets are $45 to $65. For tickets or more information, call 760-775-5566, or visit www.spotlight29.com.
Kate London is a local artist on the rise. After performances at The Date Shed, The Hood Bar and Pizza and Bart Lounge, and winning second place at the CV Open Mic Competition, she just released a new single, “Love Me Right.” For more information on Kate London, visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/katelondonmusic. Kate was kind enough to recently answer the Lucky 13; here are her answers.
What was the first concert you attended?
The first one I can remember was Reba McEntire in the fifth-grade. I loved country as a kid … wore Wranglers and everything.
What was the first album you owned?
I think it was Reba McEntire, or Garth Brooks on cassette. Ha ha!
What bands are you listening to right now?
These aren’t really bands but artists: Banks, Solange Knowles, Rihanna, Bethel Music.
What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?
Hmm … that’s hard. I think everyone gets moved by music in different ways, and that’s cool. Right now, I don’t think there is a trend I don’t get or dislike.
What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?
Lana Del Rey. She is so inspirational to me, and I love her sound and style.
What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?
Probably Beyoncé. I slay!
What’s your favorite music venue?
House of Blues in San Diego. I grew up there and saw a ton of shows. My favorite was seeing Britney Spears there right after she went crazy and cut her hair off.
What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?
For some reason, it’s Beyoncé, “Crazy in Love”: “Got me lookin’, so crazy my baby.” For some odd reason, I’ve had that stuck in my head for about a year.
What band or artist changed your life? How?
Gwen Stefani comes to mind. No Doubt was my first real pull into knowing I wanted to be an artist. As a teenager, we can feel uncertain about who we are and just like we don’t fit in. I was so drawn to her and their music; I feel like it got me through high school. I still feel so connected to her; it’s like we grew up together. She inspires me with her fashion, music and faith. When I listen to them today, I can see myself in my room as a teenager. It takes me back and also shows me how far I’ve come and makes me smile. I’m still just a girl!
You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?
I’m going to go with Jay-Z and what I would ask is: “What’s the No. 1 mistake you made or think artists make in their career that prevents them from getting where they want to be?” I think he’s been so instrumental in developing some of the major artists of our time and would have some great insight to share.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
I always loved the song “The Funeral” by Band of Horses. Seems appropriate.
Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?
There are so many! Probably No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom.
What song should everyone listen to right now?
Solange from the A Seat at the Table album, “Cranes in the Sky.” It’s so beautiful all around and moving. (Scroll down to hear it.)
Local DJ Alex Harrington has made a name for himself as one of the Coachella Valley’s most in-demand DJs—but he’s also been spending a lot of time on the production side, creating his own house music.
It appears that hard work is starting to pay off. He recently released a new EP, and has yet more new tracks in the works.
During a recent interview in Palm Springs, Harrington—a former Independent contributor—discussed his recent goings-on.
“I’ve been trying to focus on my production work, doing remixes, putting out EPs of originals, and also keeping up a presence with live gigs,” Harrington said. “As before, there was exploration involved. Now, I know the ropes and what I can do with them.”
After doing some work with nu-disco and tropical styles, Harrington said he’s currently focusing on house music. Harrington added that stepping up his production game has helped him grow as a DJ.
“When I changed from All Night Shoes to Alex Harrington, that was a big decision to dedicate myself more to house versus what I called myself before, ‘indie dance music,’” he said. “It was a mix. I think that when I changed over to Alex Harrington, which is my real name, I decided to focus more on my production. Instead of (my songs) being 3 to 4 minutes long, structured like a radio song, now they’re more made for clubs. That became my focus, and I think that my production work evolved, because the target changed. Before, I’d put it on the Internet. … Now, a lot of this is mostly for clubs and for people into this sound.”
Harrington has DJ’d beach houses in Malibu and clubs in Los Angeles, and is regularly performing locally at venues including the Saguaro and the Avalon.
“What I do is a little different, and it’s very similar to what an indie rock band does,” Harrington explained. “You play those small gigs; you build up; and last year, I had the chance to go out to Los Angeles a lot. Even if it’s an unpaid gig, I’ll head out there sometimes to play. We’re in a bubble out here, and we’re still evolving. I’m grateful for places like the Saguaro and the Avalon. I’d describe it like ‘Franken-gigging,’ because you patch together the good ones moneywise, and try to make it all look good as best you can, if you can.”
Harrington explained what he does to win over a crowd.
“I try to bring a stage presence,” he said. “Some DJs rely on a song selection and play what the crowd wants to hear. There are people who are really good at that and know what to play. For me, that wasn’t natural, and I wanted to do something different and engage the crowd. I find it more challenging, because it’s like a DJ trying to be a band. People walk in and already have a stigma of, ‘Oh, he’s pressing buttons.’ I passionately try to think of what songs to mix, and a lot of it is similar to what bands do. I use a four-count on a lot of songs and bring in another track; it’s about matching beats, and it’s not about pressing buttons. When the crowd engages, it’s magical, but there’s a stigma (about being a DJ), and you have to overcome it by not being obnoxious.
“I’m also not going to put on a helmet or anything like that,” he continued with a laugh. “To each their own, but I’d get too hot in a helmet.”
Has the term “EDM” died with the rise of house music?
“You and I probably remember house music in its infancy in the ’80s and ’90s when it was still raw and very powerful,” Harrington said. “Now that it’s popular, you hear the term ‘house’ a lot, and it’s so broad. I have tried to avoid … labeling, but you kind of have to at the end to give people an idea of what it is you’re doing. It’s a positive thing, and I think that’s why it’s exploding and why it’s here to stay—it’s so broad.
“The term ‘EDM’ was created because they tried to make dance music corporate, and EDM was a tagline. I think that house music is different. People who say ‘house music’ either love it or hate it. But people should do themselves a service and step outside the box. … When you walk into the café, and there’s a guy playing guitar or a girl singing, you don’t know who they are, but you think, ‘This is good,’ and you’re engaged by it. That’s what I’m trying to do with my music.”
While Harrington loves hip-hop and has remixed 50 Cent and Azealia Banks in the past, he is currently listening to a wide variety of music.
“A lot of the stuff I’m listening to right now is, of course, house, like Sonny Fodera,” he said. “A friend of mine, Husky, who is from Australia, makes a lot of great music in that scene there. I’m also listening to Fatboy Slim, who’s making kind of a comeback. He’s a perfect example of someone doing what I love. He’s put out some great tracks recently. I’m also listening to GoldLink, who is a rapper.”
Harrington has more new music to come.
“I have another EP coming out on April 5,” he said. “In May, I have a single coming out on Nylo Music, which is based out of New York and Europe. It’s kind of nice this year, because instead of me releasing my own music, I’m having labels come to me. There will also be a lot of remixes in between.”
For more information, visit www.alexharrington.co.
Tower of Power is one of the most beloved bands to come out of the ’70s soul and R&B scene—and the band keeps on going, despite loss and tragic events over the years.
Tower of Power is playing a sold out concert with Average White Band at The Show at Agua Caiente Casino Resort Spa on Saturday, April 1.
During a recent phone interview with saxophonist and vocalist Emilio Castillo, he explained what he loves about R&B music.
“R&B music is basically soul music, and it’s music that moves you emotionally,” Castillo said. “A lot of people say that Tower of Power is the greatest funk band in the world, but funk is a very small part of R&B. There’s also the heart-wrenching ballads, finger-popping shuffles and medium tempo love songs, and they all move you emotionally.”
Some people say that today’s newer R&B lacks the same appeal and style as the music from Tower of Power’s heyday. However, Castillo does not necessarily agree.
“There’s always good R&B, and I’m not one of these people who say, ‘There’s no good music today,’” he said. “There’s always good music, and there’s always junk. The young people always find the good music, and that’s just the way it is. I remember when I was very young, seeing people say, ‘Elvis Presley, this is crap!’ Now he’s an icon. They said the same thing about the Beatles; they said the same thing about Nirvana, and that’s just the way of the world. People tend to stick to their ways and say, ‘The only good thing is what I like.’ In truth, there’s lots of good music and lots of good R&B, because people like to be moved emotionally.”
I asked Castillo about his favorite albums in Tower of Power’s catalogue.
“My favorite is Urban Renewal. That’s probably not one of our biggest sellers,” he said. “But for me, production-wise, writing-wise, performing-wise, the musicians and everything about it—it remains one of my favorites. I always enjoy listening to it, and I’m very proud of it.”
A band name such as Tower of Power carries a lot of, well, power. Castillo laughed when I asked about the name, and he told me the group was once called The Motowns.
“If I had to do it all over again today, I wouldn’t have even picked it. It sounds kind of braggadocios,” Castillo said. “But back then, I was a young man, and we were trying to get into the Fillmore. The whole hippie thing happened, and the Fillmore West was the place to be. We started changing with the times, wearing bellbottoms and doing all that. We knew we’d never get into the Fillmore with a name like The Motowns. We were looking for one of those weird names like Grateful Dead, and I was at a recording studio in Hayward, and I was sitting in the office during a break, and there was a list of all these potential band names. They were all weird. I see the name Tower of Power, and I thought, ‘That describes your sound.’ I went back into the studio and said to the guys, ‘Hey, what about Tower of Power?’ They all said, ‘Yeah!’ We’ve been stuck with it ever since.”
Castillo explained what keeps the band going, despite rough times.
“We make the music exactly the way we want it to be,” he said. “We quit chasing trends in the late ’70s and early ’80s. We realized that no matter what we did, we sounded like ourselves. Record companies were trying to make us sound like other bands, telling us, ‘If you could sound like this band or that band, we could get you more airplay.’ They were giving us a lot of money, and we tried, but it always came out sounding like Tower of Power. For a while, we thought that was a curse, and asked, ‘Why can’t we sound like the others?’ The record deal dried up, and things got tough, and we said, ‘Well, you know what? If nothing is happening, let’s make the music the way we like it.’ We just went back to being ourselves, and things got better. It wasn’t a curse, but a blessing to sound like yourself. … I made every mistake in the book you can make—drug abuse, alcohol abuse, poor decisions, poor management, acting poorly, living wrong—and through it all, God took care of us, and we just showed up.”
Back in January, drummer and full-time member David Garibaldi and bassist Marc Van Wageningen, who was subbing for bassist Rocco Prestia after kidney surgery, were in a serious accident in Oakland before a performance when they were both hit by a train while walking across railroad tracks.
“They’re much better, but they’re not OK. They’re far from good, but they’re going to be OK,” Castillo said. “Dave, he probably won’t be back until early November. He’s going to have two or maybe three eye surgeries after a facial reconstruction surgery. Marc, he’s been in an induced coma in (intensive care) for seven weeks. He just came out of it to everyone’s amazement and happiness. They just sent him home. He’s still got a long road ahead of him as well.”
For those who have never seen Tower of Power play live, Castillo accurately described the show as bringing a lot of energy.
“Both in the way we play the music and the audience participation,” he continued. “If it’s a slow love song, we ring it out like a rag. If it’s an up-tempo funk tune, we’re doing high energy to the max. It’s like a James Brown show and a Prince show at the same time.”
Tower of Power will perform with Average White Band at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 1, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. The show is currently listed as sold out. For information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.
Chris Shiflett is best known as the guitar player for the Foo Fighters—but he’s been spending an increasing amount of time writing and performing country music.
His solo country project, Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants, will be playing at Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, March 30. During a recent phone interview, Shiflett talked about the recording of his third country album, West Coast Town, slated for release on April 14.
“I made it last summer out in Nashville,” Shiflett said. “I went out there and worked with a producer named Dave Cobb. He’s been a producer for things I’ve been a big fan of, like Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and a lot of other stuff. It was a pretty different experience for me. The way Dave Cobb operates is a bit different than how I’ve made records in the past. It’s a good effect.”
Shiflett explained his newfound interest in country music.
“It was just like anything else. It was a slow progression,” he said. “You like one thing, and it sort of leads you down the rabbit hole. I think once you start playing with people who are into playing the same thing you’re into, you start getting turned on to music you might have missed. I just wasn’t around or even really paying attention to it.”
While his solo country records are unlikely to bring him significant mainstream success, Shiflett said he enjoys making them.
“All I hope with each record that I do is that it gets more out there and gets me established a little more,” he said. “I don’t kid myself that this is a mainstream record that’s going to be getting airplay in mainstream outlets. We’ll see what happens. All I want to do is just keeping making records.
“I guess my dream was always to play music one way or another. But when I was a little kid, I never imagined myself being Eddie Van Halen, or even Buck Owens. Things change as you get older. In a way, I feel like I’m starting over with this record. I feel like this was an important record for me to make, given the last one was mostly cover tunes, and it had been awhile since I made an album of originals. I felt like I had to make a statement with this record, and I really dug deep and wrote the best songs I’ve ever written and made the best record I’ve ever made, as far as my solo stuff.”
Did Shiflett listen to country music at all while he was growing up?
“Not at all,” he said. “I had older brothers, and I pretty much listened to their records. We were just little hard-rock kids—‘70s and ‘80s classic rock was more along the lines of what was going on in my house when I was growing up.”
I asked Shiflett about his favorite country record. “That’s a tough one. There are just so many … probably something by Merle Haggard or Buck Owens. I really like that West Coast honky-tonk stuff going on during the mid-to-late ’60s.”
His most recent solo album, All Hat and No Cattle in 2013, included a cover of Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?”
“That’s an interesting song. I remember being fascinated by that song, because that song is like the ultimate in songwriting to me: It is literally just two chords. It literally never changes. There’s no chorus, and it’s not even that hook-y, really,” Shiflett said. “There’s just something about that song that gets people moving. When you play that song live, it always gets the dance floor moving. They just start grooving on the floor. That’s a really difficult thing to achieve, and you really have to hand it to Waylon Jennings and whomever he was playing with at the time. If you really listen to that song, it’s simplistic in arrangement. … It goes back and forth and tells that great story. You can’t miss that groove. I love playing that song live, because you can stretch it on forever. Everybody gets a solo. Bass solo! Drum solo! Everybody gets a solo!”
I asked him if he’s felt like the Foo Fighters have ever incorporated any sort of country into their sound. After all, the band recorded a song with Zac Brown on its most recent record, Sonic Highways, and has seemingly included some country elements here and there.
“I think if you were to ask Dave (Grohl) that question, he’d say no,” Shiflett said. “But the thing about country music and rock ’n’ roll is that they’re pretty closely related, style-wise, especially in modern country music. I don’t think those genres have a whole bunch of space between them, personally. But I don’t think the guys in the Foo Fighters listen to a lot of country. Maybe it’s seeped in there somehow, but I don’t know how overt that would be.”
I mentioned the country-sounding song “Keep It Clean” that the band performed on a flatbed truck in Kansas City, Mo., in 2011 outside of a concert venue. The intended audience: Westboro Baptist Church members who were protesting their show.
“Ah, yeah. I guess you got it there,” he said, laughing. “No denying it on that one.”
Shiflett is no stranger to Pappy and Harriet’s, having played there in the past, and he said he’s excited about his upcoming show there.
“I just love Pappy and Harriet’s. I always tell people it’s one of my favorite venues in the whole wide world,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad show there. It’s always great, and always make us feel welcome. They always take care of us. Whether it’s playing our own shows or playing at the Campout with Camper Van Beethoven, it’s always a good time out there. There’s something about that room and that location that makes sense with this kind of music.”
Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants will perform with Brian Whelan at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 30, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $10 to $12. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.
Even though Duran Duran began in 1978 and was one of the most popular new wave bands of the 1980s, the band’s current music still sounds cutting-edge.
Duran Duran will be returning to the Coachella Valley to perform at The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa on Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18.
During a recent phone interview with bassist John Taylor, he explained what has kept Duran Duran going.
“I guess it’s some kind of tenacity,” Taylor said. “It’s some kind of belief in the group ethos. I left for a few years, so I can’t take responsibility for it. Fortunately, Nick (Rhodes) and Simon (Le Bon) didn’t; otherwise, there wouldn’t have been anything to go back to a few years later when I wanted to come back. You have to have a pretty strong belief in this group thing, am I right?”
In 2015, Duran Duran released Paper Gods, which became the band’s first Top 10 album in the United States since 1993. The group worked with artists such as Mr. Hudson, Nile Rodgers, Janelle Monáe, Lindsay Lohan, former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante and others. Taylor explained what made the album a hit.
“It’s quite tricky, actually, because you do make a lot of missteps along the way,” he said. “You have one ear on your past and your heritage, and you have one ear on the street and what’s happening now. You have to make something that kind of walks down the center of that. More often, we kind of got it wrong, but I’d say we’ve gotten it right recently. Mark Ronson was there for us again (as a producer). Mr. Hudson was great, and we got to have Janelle Monáe come in for a song. We really opened up to collaborations, and we let a lot of energy in. I think that’s the key: Left to our own devices, it’s almost impossible to grow. There comes a point where you just can’t change anymore. Even if one or two members of the band are really focused on the present, maybe there are a couple who aren’t. Fortunately, you’re saved by an audience that isn’t exclusively interested in how you are adapting to the current times.
“Some people actually value staying together, whatever the weather. We’ve become like a family microcosm and a soap opera. The action of staying together, no matter what, gains us something. It’s not all about the new music. There’s also something about how we handle our legacy and the grace we muster.”
Taylor mentioned the recent Grammy Awards show.
“I was watching the Grammys, and I was like, ‘Fuck this shit!’” he said. “But I wanted to be part of the conversation. I find the contemporary conversation interesting. It’s different than the conversation that was going on when I was 18—way different. But I love the conversation, and I want to be in it. I don’t want to be on the shelf watching from a distance. I was thinking, ‘How do we get in the conversation?’ You want to be able to feel like you’re contributing to the culture of today.”
I mentioned how many musicians, from metal to rap, have cited Duran Duran as an influence, and I quoted Moby, who said about Duran Duran in 2003: “They were cursed by what we can call ‘The Bee Gees curse,’ which is: ‘Write amazing songs, sell tons of records, and consequently incur the wrath or disinterest of the rock-obsessed critical establishment.’”
“We just have our own story. If you don’t hang on to who you are, then who are you?” Taylor said regarding Moby’s quote. “I can always take a look at somebody else’s career and say, ‘I wish that was me right now.’ For many years, I would do that, but I kind of feel curious about us right now, and where we go next, and I don’t know where that’s going to be. What’s there? We had a nice cycle around the Paper Gods album. I feel proud of that album, but now where do we go? Again, you have to fucking dig deep, and it’s easy sometimes looking sideways at people who are on their first or second album and what they are. … We are still in a unique position, and we can still handle ourselves in a unique way that is expressive and inspirational.”
Duran Duran was huge on MTV in its early days. Taylor talked about what he thought was Duran Duran’s best music video.
“‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ was just like a fucking explosion,” he said. “I was watching a BBC documentary about post-punk, and they had all these artists like Joy Division and Gang of Four, and it was great music. But there was a monochrome quality to everything. Then, suddenly, ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ was on there. They were using it as a way to show how we moved off the path of purity, but to me, it was like an explosion. It was extraordinary. For a three-minute-long pop presentation, there had never been anything quite like it before. I think that’s pretty groovy. I also think ‘The Chauffeur’ is one of the sexiest videos we ever made.”
Taylor said the band is playing better live now than it has in years.
“I went out to Desert Trip, and I saw the Stones. I hadn’t seen them in 15 years,” he said. “The last time I saw them was after Bill Wyman had just left. What I loved was they were way better this time! I didn’t think that was possible. As naive as that sounds, I just assumed it was a steady decline, and the older you get, you get lamer. I saw Stevie Wonder this past summer, and he was way better than when I saw him in London 20 years ago. That’s exciting to me—and I know we’re playing better. We’re a better band on this Paper Gods cycle than we were 10 years ago, or even on the reunion tour. I know how well we’re playing.”
Duran Duran will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, March 17, and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 18, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $135 to $185. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.
When the Beach Boys released Pet Sounds in May 1966, neither the band’s fans nor the music world in general were ready.
Brian Wilson, the band’s frontman and main songwriter, will be performing the album in its entirety on Saturday, March 18, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.
Pet Sounds today is considered one of the greatest rock albums ever made, and a significant milestone in psychedelic music. For the Beach Boys, a group that had previously written songs about fun, surfing, the beach and the California lifestyle, Pet Sounds was both a departure and a turning point.
Brian Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown while on a plane during the band’s 1964 tour; after that, he opted not to tour with the band. While the band performed in Japan, Wilson began recording the album with session players, most of which were part of the legendary Wrecking Crew, including bassist Carol Kaye, country singer Glen Campbell on guitar, drummer Jim Gordon and others.
“They were all great musicians,” Wilson said during a recent phone interview. “They read the manuscript, and it just worked perfectly. (Their participation) was very beneficial.”
Wilson is a notoriously tough interview, and he gave me brief replies to all of my questions during a recent phone chat.
Pet Sounds was unlike anything ever recorded. Wilson used real dogs to contribute some of the sound effects; the rhythm section used Coca-Cola cans and orange juice jugs as instruments; and some of the musicians—the bass players, for example—each played in different keys.
Wilson explained the most difficult aspect of the recording of Pet Sounds.
“The roughest part was doing the vocals,” he said. “We had to keep concentrating on it until it was perfect.”
When the rest of the Beach Boys—Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and Al Jardine—returned home to record their vocals for the album, they were not prepared for the change in direction.
“They really had to reach for those notes,” Wilson said.
The album’s initial reception in the United States was lukewarm. It peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard albums chart, and initially sold just 500,000 copies. But in the United Kingdom, the album shot to No. 2 on the charts, stayed in the Top 10 for six months and was the strongest-selling album in the final quarter of 1966. Later, the album eventually went gold and then platinum.
Wilson said Capitol Records executives were not initially fans of the album.
“They didn’t like it, and they thought it was too advanced,” Wilson said. “A couple weeks later, they said, ‘OK, we’ll release it.’ So they released it. We knew we were onto something great, so we just kept writing and writing.”
The Beatles previously said that Pet Sounds was an influence for them when it came time for the Fab Four to record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“I was surprised,” Wilson said. “Paul (McCartney) called me and told me loved the sound of Pet Sounds. The music was inspired by it, but Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper’s are two entirely different albums.”
Wilson said that while it might be possible to record an album such as Pet Sounds today thanks to digital production techniques, it wouldn’t be as authentic.
The album that was supposed to follow Pet Sounds, titled Smile, was interrupted and later shelved due to Wilson’s mental illness. The Beach Boys released a stripped-down version of the album, Smiley Smile, in 1967; Wilson eventually went back and finished Smile in 2004. Could Wilson do the same touring for Smile as he’s currently doing for Pet Sounds?
“We don’t know yet. We were thinking about it, but we don’t know for sure yet,” he said.
Over the past year, Wilson has been on tour with Al Jardine and former Beach Boys guitarist Blondie Chaplin, performing the album in its entirety for its 50th anniversary. He’s calling these shows the final performances of the album in its entirety.
The late Carl Wilson said the Beach Boys had turned down offers to perform the album in its entirety because it was too complex, and that Brian Wilson couldn’t sing the original parts of the album. However, Brian Wilson said that performing the album isn’t difficult for him.
“It’s not difficult, but it’s very cumbersome. You have to keep trying until you get it just right,” he said.
Wilson said he’s pleased by the responses he’s gotten during live performances.
“People seem to like it. They always do standing ovations,” he said.
Brian Wilson will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 18, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $49 to $89. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.
Coachella and Stagecoach are just around the figurative corner—but March is bringing local music fans a lot of amazing shows to tide them over.
The McCallum Theatre’s fantastic season just gets better: The theater is dark just two days in March. At 8 p.m., Monday, March 6, you can experience Benny Goodman’s legendary 1938 concert with the Salute to Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall. This all-star tribute features some of today’s most talented jazz musicians. Tickets are $37 to $77. And now for something completely different: At 3 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 12, John Cleese of Monty Python fame will be appearing. The comedy legend will be telling stories from his autobiography, which also covers some of his best work, such as Life of Brian, The Holy Grail and A Fish Called Wanda. Tickets are $57 to $97. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, Art Garfunkel will be performing. In 2014, I attended his performance at Fantasy Springs and enjoyed his mix of poetry, solo songs and well-known Simon and Garfunkel hits. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.
If you thought Fantasy Springs Resort Casino’s February lineup was great, the events in March are just as spectacular. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 4, singer-songwriter Paul Anka will be performing. “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “My Way,” and “(You’re) Having My Baby” are just a few of the Canadian crooner’s hits. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 24, Saturday Night Live alumnus Dana Carvey will take the stage. Carvey is also well-known for the sketch-turned-film Wayne’s World and a handful of other comedy movies. Party on, Garth! Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, you’ll be happy to know that former Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers will be returning to the Coachella Valley. Rodgers was also part of Free, as well as The Firm, and performed with the surviving members of Queen. Tickets are $49 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, smooth-jazz superstar Kenny G will break out the sax. Kenny has sold 45 million records, and if you’ve ever been in a dentist’s chair to have a root canal, you’ve heard Kenny G. Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.
Agua Caliente has a packed March. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 3, Southern-rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd will be performing. After losing three members in a plane crash in 1977—including original frontman Ronnie Van Sant—Skynyrd kept going and found new life when Van Sant’s brother, Johnny, took over on lead vocals. Sadly, the band has continued to tragically lose original members, and guitarist Gary Rossington is now the only one left. However, the band is still fantastic and puts on a great show. Tickets are $96 to $126. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 24 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, country great Alan Jackson will take the stage. Jackson has had a string of hits, and he’ll always be remembered for his post-Sept. 11 song, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” Tickets are $130 to $160. At 7 p.m., Monday, March 27, Placido Domingo will be performing with the L.A. Opera Orchestra. Domingo has made more than 200 recordings, and is one of the world’s most popular opera tenors. Tickets are $65 to $400. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.
It’s a trend: Spotlight 29’s March is also filled with great shows! At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 11, heaven help us all, because Michael Bolton is back. Wasn’t he just here? Anyway, tickets are $56 to $86. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 18, country singer Martina McBride will perform. She’s had six No. 1 hits and has sold more than 18 million records. Last year, she released her 13th studio album, Reckless. Tickets are $99 to $139. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, get ready to dance, because Kool and the Gang (above left) will be stopping by. After 45 years in the business and 70 million records sold, they are still fantastic. At one of my former workplaces, we had a saying: It wasn’t “That’s cool”; it was “That’s Kool and the Gang!” Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, country singer-songwriter and actor Dwight Yoakam will be coming back to the Coachella Valley. I admit: I’m a big fan. You must listen to his Dwight Sings Buck, his tribute album to the late Buck Owens. Tickets are $55 to $75. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.
While Morongo Casino Resort Spa’s lineup is not as insanely good as those at the other local casinos, it sure isn’t bad. At 10 p.m., Saturday, March 4, P.O.D. will be stopping by. P.O.D. was one of the first Christian-metal bands to receive significant acclaim. The video for “Rock the Party” went to No. 1 on MTV’s Total Request Live back in 1999, and the band toured as part of OzzFest in 2000 and in 2002. After the success peaked, the group went back to making music for a more conservative Christian crowd. I don’t know what Jesus would say about playing a show at a casino, but rock on! Tickets are $20. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.
Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some fine shows leading up to the craziness of April. At 9 p.m., Saturday, March 4, queen of the high desert Jesika Von Rabbit will be performing; also on the bill are the Yip Yops. Von Rabbit, chosen as the Best Local Musician by Independent readers, has enjoyed more widespread success recently thanks to her new single, “Going Down,” being played on KCRW. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 10, pop-punk band Joyce Manor (below) will be performing. The Epitaph Records band has become quite popular after the 2014 record Never Hungover Again became a hit. A new album, Cody, dropped in late 2016. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real will be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s. The entire band backed Neil Young on a recent tour, which included both weekends of Desert Trip. Lukas and his brother, Micah, are Willie Nelson’s sons; do you need any other reason to go to this show? With or without Neil Young (and who knows when he’ll show up?), Lukas and the boys are great. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.
Meanwhile, in Indio, The Date Shed has a couple of events on the slate. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 11, Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band Righteous and the Wicked will be performing. I’m not a big fan of tribute bands, but they can be fun sometimes—and any band willing to take on the Chili Peppers songbook must be pretty cool. Tickets are $10 to $15. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, Date Shed regulars Fortunate Youth will be back. Tickets are $20 to $35. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.
- mccallum theatre
- john cleese
- art garfunkel
- fantasy springs
- fantasy springs resort casino
- paul anka
- dana carvey
- paul rodgers
- kenny g
- agua caliente
- lynyrd skynyrd
- alan jackson
- placido domingo
- spotlight 29
- michael bolton
- martina mcbride
- kool and the gang
- dwight yoakam
- Morongo Casino Resort and Spa
- pappy and harriets
- jesika von rabbit
- joyce manor
- yip yops
- lukas nelson
- lukas nelson and promise of the real
- The Date Shed
- fortunate youth
- righteous and the wicked
A growing number of young students are eschewing college in favor of vocational or certification programs—and as part of that trend, a new facility in Desert Hot Springs is offering classes that help underprivileged and at-risk men and women take steps toward vocational certification.
The slogan of Smooth Transition Inc., located at 13070 Palm Drive, is “Believe, Achieve, Receive.”
During a recent phone interview with executive director Robin Goins, she talked about the history of Smooth Transition, which has moved into a space where an alternative high school used to be located near Stater Bros.
“We’ve been in Desert Hot Springs providing services for about five years—but on a small scale,” Goins said. “We were working with the Department of Social Services. We started working with the (DHS) Family Resource Center, and we grew into a small class space that was down the road.
“Last August, the mayor said they had this space that was abandoned and suggested I go look at it. The rest is history. The next thing I knew, we had an 8,000-square-foot school. It doesn’t surprise me that nobody really knows about it, because we haven’t really been out in a big way until this past September.”
Goins started what would become Smooth Transition by teaching life-skills classes at a library in Riverside.
“We were founded in 2009 after the housing market crashed,” she said. “Everybody was losing their homes, their jobs and everything else. I’m a professor by trade, and I had about $17,000 worth of seed money. I decided I wanted to start training people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, because they financially don’t fit the model of continuing education, which I don’t really believe works for everybody. … Even community college doesn’t work for everyone; there are people who just learn differently. It started out with a small life-skills class I taught, and grew and grew and grew. I convinced the IRS that it was an emergency state, which it was at the time, and we received our nonprofit status in three weeks.
“From there, we’ve been growing. We did a lot of services in Riverside, but we’re finally putting our footprint in Desert Hot Springs in a big way.”
The age range of people who seek services from Smooth Transition is quite wide.
“The youngest we’ve ever served is 16,” Goins said. “We’ve had people in their late 70s doing computer training at the Salvation Army. I would say that the average is about 20 to 40. Some are people just starting careers, and others are people trying to start new careers and new paths.”
When I visited the Smooth Transition facility in February, I was shown the new radio-broadcasting studio that is being run by Michelle Rizzio and her local radio station, KDHS. I also peeked into some of the classrooms, where teachers were offering lessons in various programs.
“We start with a basic life-skills class, which teaches financial literacy and how to function on a day-to-day level,” Goins said. “We have GED classes, and everything else is all vocational-focused. We have computer trainings and (classes on) how to use Microsoft. We go as far as six-month certification programs and have the same accreditation as a community college. We offer certifications in radio broadcasting; we have a culinary program; we have the sewing arts; we have interior design, fashion design and merchandising. We have a new (program where) we’re bringing in people to teach how to install satellite dishes. We’re always looking out for programs people can take to get them into the workforce.”
Goins said education is currently undergoing a shift in the United States—and that shift will likely continue.
“I think the last recession showed us that corporate America cannot be something that you aspire to, and that retirement (is not something) you should aspire to or expect; we need to think of new ways to do things,” Goins said. “I see the return of small businesses and people taking control over their destinies. I also think that corporate America and other organizations realized people coming out with degrees are not always the most-suitable candidates.”
Goins said the community in Desert Hot Springs has embraced Smooth Transition.
“The community has been very supportive and excited,” she said. “You have people who don’t want to do anything with their lives, but then you have people who really do, but don’t have the resources. They don’t have transportation; they don’t have support at home; they don’t have money, or whatever. We have people coming in every day who are really interested and excited.”
Of course, the nonprofit faces obstacles as it grows.
“The biggest challenge we have right now is funding,” Goins said. “We have people who don’t have money, and we know that going in. We’re always trying to fundraise for tuition. … We will not be putting (people) in student-loan debt; I will not do that. I think that’s an atrocious thing to do. So we’re always looking for creative ways to keep our programming going.”
For more information on Smooth Transition Inc., visit www.smoothtransitioninc.com.
In 2001, stoner-rock group Unida recorded an album for Rick Rubin’s American Recordings.
That album, now called For the Working Man, has become legendary: It was never formally released, due to various legal issues. It’s been said that the band sold CD-R copies at some shows, and that a rough-cut version was sent out on accident by the band’s management.
I recently saw a posting in a Facebook group by someone selling a version of the album on eBay. I alerted guitarist Arthur Seay—who hastily responded to the post, which was soon taken down.
Unida consists of John Garcia (formerly of Kyuss), Arthur Seay (House of Broken Promises and ApeShit), Miguel Cancino and Owen Seay.
During a recent interview with Arthur Seay in Palm Desert, he told me the story about the album.
“Do you want the long version, or the short-as-possible version?” Seay asked me with a laugh. “What happened was Rick Rubin signed us, and we recorded at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. We did the record, but what we didn’t know when we signed is that Rick Rubin does four-year-long deals.
“His company, American Recordings, was signed with Sony/Columbia Records. Rick Rubin owns American Recordings, but Sony was the machine doing all the work at the time. Sony/Columbia loved us at the time and thought we did great shit. They wanted to build their rock; Alice in Chains was the only other big rock band (on the label), but that was when they were kaput (and wanted to build up their rock presence).
“When we were done with our record, Rick Rubin’s deal was up, and he could have signed with them again, or he could go somewhere else. He was pissed off at Sony about something. He made a deal to go back to Island/Def Jam, which was a 6-to-8-month-long deal, and another 6 to 8 months of, ‘Well, what the fuck is going on?’ All this crazy shit was happening, and we had it in our contract where we could get out, because they weren’t meeting deadlines. We used that to get out of our deal … but we didn’t get the record. We had other labels that wanted to buy it, and it cost $350,000 to record it. George Drakoulias, who worked with Tom Petty and the Black Crowes, produced it, and Rick Rubin executive-produced it.”
Seay, who has been a judge during recent local-music showcases, has been known to give bands not only pieces of criticism, but lessons in how the business works. He said musicians often have similar issues to the ones Unida faced.
“It’s one of those things that happens every day in the music business,” Seay said. “It happened to 10 other bands on the label, and a lot of those bands got totally fucked and couldn’t even get out of the deal to do anything else. Island/Def Jam didn’t have any rock bands at the time and didn’t really give a shit. It’s why you need to pay attention to the business, and that’s why I preach that to other people coming up in the business.”
Seay said he hopes the album will eventually see a proper release, possibly as soon as this year.
“It was actually supposed to come out last year, but due to our schedules, we pushed it back to this year. It just depends on everyone’s schedules,” Seay said. “All the other guys want to do it, and I’ve had meetings with the label. They went in the vault and found the record after a period in time where they couldn’t find it. It’s all there. It’s pretty much just everybody’s schedules coinciding where we can have the focus and do it right. I have new House of Broken Promises, Death in Pretty Wrapping and ApeShit records coming out. John is doing another solo record … but I definitely want to get that Unida record out. It’s been a thorn in our sides forever. It’ll be a mainstream, major-label push, which will help all our other projects. It’s going to be new to a lot of people, and it stands up today as it did then. The music is as cool now as it was then.”
While there unofficial mixes from the album on YouTube and in other places that Seay can tolerate, he had a big problem with the aforementioned offering I saw mentioned on Facebook.
“We did this whole rough mix with another engineer before we even did the final mix, and the guy had that—and I don’t even fucking have that,” Seay said. “I’ve been trying to track that guy down, because that’s our property. That’s like the actual CD master from the studio. It’s not just that he has a copy; he has the actual CD master from the studio.”
Seay said he has high hopes for For the Working Man.
“I hope people buy it; we make money; and we tour our fucking asses off,” Seay said. “We’d like to get it out and figure it out from there. We’d like for it to do well, and tour. I just want to get it out for it to see the light of day. If it grows legs, and we do a lot more, awesome.
“This has been like having your kids kidnapped for over 10 years. I worked really hard in writing all that music, and it’s like it’s been kidnapped, and I can’t do anything with it.”