A lot of people wear ugly Christmas sweaters at this time of year, and I was gonna wear one last night, but someone stole my idea. Take a look.
I would've looked so good in it. LOL. Well, According to our usually sketchy sources, Keith Richards, guitarist for the Rolling Stones and arguably the oldest man on earth, is 160 years old today. Happy Birthday, Keith. Well, the year is almost over and we had some great stories throughout 2011 so until the end of the year we will be looking back at the big news stories with the help of LEGO. Well-wishers, tourists and media gathered to watch the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's "first" kiss as a married couple following their wedding in Westminster Abbey.
Well, kids, it's Sunday, and you know what that means. My friend Jeff and I talk about football in what I call...
Me: Hey, Jeff, how are you? What's going on in football this week? I heard they are going to give Tebow the Super Bowl MVP ahead of time. I am betting against Tebow, to my wife's dismay. They will lose by 20 against the Patriots.
Jeff: The biggest news again is The Colts keep losing while The Packers and The Denver Tebows keep on winning. New England isn't as dominate as they once were so I don't think Denver will lose by that much. It should be interesting to see. I know NBC was hoping to move the game to primetime but CBS has the rights to the game and would not give it up. Tim Tebow's numbers aren't great as a QB but he adds such a different dimension to the team that they keep winning behind him! I will give him credit! And I hate to do it. There is also a lot of coaches getting fired including the Chiefs this week firing former New England assistant Coach Todd Haley. There could be up nine new head coaches before the start off next season, which is quite a turn around. Somehow Colts coach Jim Caldwell is safe. I mean it isn't entirely his fault Peyton got hurt.
Me: How did we do this week?
Me: How did we do this week?
Jeff: Both our teams won this week. I went 1-1 and you went 2-0. So now the score is Jeff 36, Jason 31.
Me: Shit, you're still winning by five. Okay, what's your pick this week? I already mentioned my pick.
Jeff: I am going with Saints by 9 and Ravens by a field goal! You realize you only picked one game next week. Patriots by 20? What's your second pick?
Me: Oh, crap. Okay, Buffalo will beat Miami by five. Jeff, what's your take on Superman a.k.a Dwight Howard leaving Orlando?
Jeff: It looks like it's almost certain Dwight Howard won't play for the Magic for a full season, which is a shame. He could have had a great legacy here in Orlando, instead he follows so many other plays like Shaq out the door of Orlando.
Me: Yeah, Shaq, Penny... every great player the Magic had Orlando screwed over. They don't know how to treat their star players. Alright, next Sunday it's Christmas so they'll be no entry that day. I will see you here at A Peverett Phile Christmas on Sunday. Thanks, Jeff, you did great as usual.
Today's guest is the 16th author to be pheatured on the Phile. His new book "Gimme Something Better" which is an oral history of punk rock in the Bay Area, compiling nearly 300 interviews and spanning three decades is available in book stores and Amazon right now. Please welcome to the Phile... Jack Boulware.
Me: Hello, Jack, welcome to the Phile. Congrats, sir. Your book "Gimme Something Better" is the latest book to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Book Club. Before we get into the book and stuff, I have to ask you what you call on your website the "Foghat Chronicles". This whole thing is pretty crazy, eh? For the Phile readers tell them what the "Foghat Chronicles" is about.
Jack: It all started in the late 90s, I think. I was going through a phase of listening to a lot of jazz. Which meant I was reading a lot of liner notes to jazz recordings. And the more I read these essays about musicians, the more pompous they seemed. If you look at them as a writing genre, it’s actually really hilarious, these highly educated white guys pontificating at great length about black music that emerged from black clubs and juke joints. I started collecting my favorite ridiculous phrases, seeing to what absurd lengths the writers would go, how far they would reach to academically categorize this music and the people who played it. So I decided to write a parody of a jazz album’s liner notes, and I thought I would weave in my experience of the very first concert I attended. Everybody has a story about their first concert, whether it’s the Rolling Stones or U2 or Green Day or the Sex Pistols. Mine was Foghat, REO Speedwagon, and Rick Derringer. So I layered in my memories of that show, and dreamed up a 10-CD box set of Foghat as the reason for the liner notes. A lot of bands were putting out box sets at the time, with extra recordings, outtakes, anything to pad out a release and make it worthy for the fans to buy one more time. I truthfully hadn’t listened to Foghat in years. I’d long ago sold off my vinyl. So I started from there.
Me: What did you say about dad? He was a chief magician, I think is what you said. That's brilliant. Did you ever see Foghat in concert?
Jack: The line “chief magician” was stolen from somebody’s liner notes about a jazz recording, I can’t remember exactly where it came from. All of the quotes about the Foghat members were actual things written about Elvin Jones, or Miles Davis or whomever. The drummer’s “pointillism,” the slide guitar being like a “fine claret.” Except the bass player’s “playpen of boogie.” That one was mine. I saw Foghat when I was 15. I had nothing to compare it to. I grew up in Montana, and no big touring bands ever came through. Up to this point, the biggest shows I’d ever seen were at my hometown’s National Guard Armory, this cinder-block building filled with tanks and jeeps, and the bands would play in the corner. They were always cover bands. One of them was called Menthol Green, and they were from Minneapolis, that was a big deal. Sometimes the bands would climb on top of the tanks, I have a vague memory of some guy from some cover band, playing a not-that-great solo from “Stairway to Heaven” while straddling the gun turret of the tank. For the Foghat show, I actually took the bus from Montana to Gillette, Wyoming, and my friend and I borrowed his mom’s station wagon and then drove to Denver, Colorado to see them. So yeah, I travelled three states to see my first concert.
Me: It was funny, because at that time we were talking about the box set idea my dad wanted to put out, and some of the things you mentioned are real and exist... except for the 65-minute take of "Slow Ride". LOL. So, I vaguely remember us talking about the article. Then you got an email, right? What did you think first of when you received it? I betcha thought what the fuck. What did this email say?
Jack: I posted these fake liner notes to my website, just for fun. I never submitted the piece to any publication. Earlier I had written about the concert in a newspaper column, because it’s one of those conversations everybody has, swapping stories about your first concert. So I had written about the show already. I finished these phony notes and just posted them online. And they sat there for probably two years, occasionally I’d get an email from a friend, or somebody who knew me. And then I suddenly got this email from a guy who said he represented the estate of Lonseome Dave Peverett, and he wanted more information about the box set. He’d researched the record company, they had no knowledge of it. He was very interested and eager to learn about this collection. I was shocked. I thought it was very obvious that the entire thing was a joke. One CD was allegedly a 63-minute version of “Slow Ride” recorded live during a hailstorm. The tapes were supposedly discovered in a janitor’s closet at Bearsville Records. I even added a bunch of extraneous detail about the recording and mastering techniques, all this specific about turntable flywheel characteristics and wow and flutter measurements, and how the Foghat tapes were rescued from the closet and mastered by Rudy Van Gelder in his kitchen in New Jersey. He was probably the world’s most famous sound engineer. He had recorded and mixed some of the great jazz albums back in the day, from Coltrane to Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. To me, it was kind of ridiculous that Foghat would suddenly enlist the services of this guy to mix their box set. I mean, Rudy Van Gelder painstakingly restoring a Foghat song recorded in a hailstorm? It’s ludicrous to me. He has spent his entire life working with jazzbos. But this guy, Michael, apparently just skimmed over all of my treasured nuanced parody and badly wanted to believe there was a box set.
Me: That was Michael who was working with us at the time, and was my dad's manager. Did you reply to this email? Did you hear back? You didn't, right?
Jack: I replied back to him and thanked him for the note, but I told him it was just a joke. There was no box set. None of it was true. He never replied back. I don’t know how he reacted to this news, but I imagine he probably felt a little stupid.
Me: Then 2 years later you receive an email from Foghat's bass player Craig MacGregor. You must've thought this was cool. What did you think?
Jack: I was pretty surprised he came upon the story, he must have been googling his own name. Nobody had ever linked to this story, anywhere online. It was just sitting there in obscurity. I also couldn’t tell if he thought it was a joke, or not. From the tone of his note, it was unclear. But he thanked me for keeping the Foghat legacy alive, and quoted something about boogying until they take him away in a hearse. I’m guessing that was a Foghat lyric, but I don’t really know.
Me: Yeah, that is a line from a Foghat song my dad wrote. Then two days later the shit hit the fan. Foghatgate broke out, am I right? You wrote an article for Southwest's magazine? What was the article about?
Jack: The story was primarily about Kings of Leon, but also about this resurgence of guitar-rock in popular culture. There were several bands that had long hair and guitar riffs, like the Hives, and Jet, and I mentioned that it was kind of funny how things recirculate in our culture. How music from your own past often gets re-interpreted by new artists and suddenly there’s guitar rock on the radio again.
Me: So, you mentioned Foghat in this article... were you thinking when you mentioned Foghat in the article you might hear from somebody involved with Foghat again?
Jack: No. I hadn’t thought about Foghat in years. Other than the band was part of my youth, and I mentioned it in the story.
Me: What did you say about Foghat in the magazine? Something about them petering out entirely?
Jack: I checked the foghat.com website, and there was a note up thanking the fans for all the years. So I assumed they had folded. A lot of 70s bands ended, and moved on. I mentioned this in the story, that a lot of those bands, like Foghat, have petered out entirely. This was based on the foghat.com website.
Me: And you got a reply back after you answered this new email? You got an email by mistake, right?
Jack: Well, as it turns out, there was a new version of Foghat still touring, and they happened to be flying Southwest that week, and picked up the inflight magazine, and read this about them. Obviously they were not happy. Their manager wrote me back. She was the wife of Roger, Foghat’s drummer. He was the only original member left in the band at that point. So she found my email address and sent me a harsh note saying the band had NOT petered out entirely, and that they were currently on tour, and had a new website. She was defending the band, and I understand that. I then sent her a link to the original Foghat box-set liner notes, and she replied back that she and Roger thought it was funny, and were both surprised that Michael had believed it to be true.
Me: I know they said in the email they were gonna send a CD and press kit. Did you ever get a CD and press kit? I know you didn't receive a DVD. LOL.
Jack: I then received another email, from the manager to somebody else in their world, saying to send this guy a CD and press kit, but explicitly mentioned “no DVD.” I was accidentally cc’d on this email. Nothing ever arrived in the mail. I always wondered, why not the DVD? What was on it, that I shouldn’t see!
Me: That was the end of everything, right? Well, until I contacted you, that is. Do I fall under the "Foghat Chronicles"?
Jack: Soon after this exchange with the current band, I got another email from Craig MacGregor, inviting me to look him up if I’m ever in Philadelphia. And then a few years ago I got a very heartfelt email from a young man who claimed he was the illegitimate child of Lonesome Dave Peverett, fathered while Savoy Brown was on tour. He had been trying to get the attention of the band’s management, and the Peverett estate, and was asking me if I could help him. The tone of his note seemed earnest, and it didn’t seem like he was making it up. But I didn’t want to be involved with this at all, any more than I already was, and so I chose not to respond. Initially it was kind of amusing to hear from all these people connected to Foghat, but the last exchange made me realize that sometimes life is not always a barrel of laughs, especially if someone has never met their father and is trying to connect and piece together his life. I have performed the series of emails at literary readings on occasion, but I don’t read the last note from the fatherless son, because it’s just too serious and depressing. I sometimes wonder if he ever got closure around that.
Me: yeah, that guy contacted us a well. We never saw or heard from him. Is there anything else I missed about the whole thing? Have you been through this with any other band?
Jack: No. I don’t write much about music at all, actually.
Me: Where can a Phile reader read the whole Foghat Chronicles business?
Jack: www.jackboulware.com/writing/the-foghat-chronicles. The last email has not been posted online.
Me: Thank you for that, Jack. Okay, let's talk about you. Did you go to school to be a writer? I studied journalism, but never went to college.
Jack: I took some writing classes in college, but I really learned on the job. I started two magazines, wrote for a lot of theater groups, and then was hired as a newspaper columnist in San Francisco. That’s how I became a writer.
Me: Where are you originally from, and where did you go to college?
Jack: I grew up on a cattle ranch in southeastern Montana. I went to college in Montana, Oregon, and San Francisco.
Me: What made you decide to move to San Francisco?
Jack: I liked the people I met from San Francisco. It had a lot of history that I was interested in, particularly the Beats and the hippie culture. And I knew I had to get the hell out of Oregon and see more of the world.
Me: If it wasn't for the internet and blogs like AOL Journals what the Phile started out on and now Blogger, I wouldn't be able to write anything and get it published. How do you think the internet has changed the press and writing? Apart from opening up a can of worms about fake liner notes, that is.
Jack: I think the internet has given an amazing opportunity to writers who want to get published. Anybody can do it now. But conversely, the value of writing has dropped. Websites know they can pay writers little or nothing for their hard work, because people want exposure. Huffington Post has built an entire media empire on people working for free, and there is a substantial backlash against them by writers who want to be paid for their work. Online writers are no longer journalists or authors, we are simply “content providers.” And if somebody turns down work because there’s no pay, there’s always somebody waiting for the gig, because they’re young and hungry. So it’s very, very, very difficult to make a living as a writer these days. I was lucky in that I got my feet in the business before the internet, and was able to get experience and exposure before the net scooped it up. People with blogs often find it harder get noticed, because there’s so much blog writing now out there.
Me: You write for a number of magazines and websites, right? What is your favorite subject you like to write about?
Jack: I used to love writing about obsessive people, people with a peculiar passion about something, because they are so absolute in their beliefs. Even when I was doing my own magazines, I was adamant to write – or try to write – about things nobody else was writing about. Always striving to write about something either nobody had heard of, or writing about something in a unique way. I don’t do that much anymore, because the gist of an obsessive-person story is always the same. They’re obsessed about something, it’s kind of entertaining, but there’s rarely any more of a story arc than that. Also, I felt I had plumbed the depths of wacked-out American subcultures, and it can give you a psychic windburn and permanently affect you if you’re not careful. These days I write mostly first-person travelogues, and I do a lot of readings and storytelling events, which are more autobiographical than anything else.
Me: When did you first decide to become a writer?
Jack: I was always the weird kid who relished the writing assignments in grade school – people would pass my papers around the classroom and read them out loud. But I never thought I would ever make a living at it. Growing up in Montana, it was a very hands-on world. Not much time for abstract thought. By the first year of college, I knew I wanted to pursue writing, so I transferred schools and moved away and started life over, and then after school I moved to San Francisco and started life over again.
Me: You used to publish a magazine called 'The Nose'. How long did that magazine last?
Jack: Six years.
Me: That's a good number of years, Jack. I am guessing the Phile will last about eight years or so before I get fed up with doing this. What kinda mag was 'The Nose'?
Jack: It was originally tailored as a West Coast version of 'SPY' magazine, a satirical investigative magazine that used the format of journalism as a tool to mock authority and tear down the pompous. It evolved into more of a fun, exploitation style publication. We used to read 1950s magazines for inspiration. All the publications by Robert Harrison, like 'Whisper', and 'Confidential'. They had such a great spirit, and although considered sleazy back in that era, they were actually the most widely read magazines in the country. We copped some of that style, and a great deal of the visual layout design. And we also did parodies of other magazines that irritated us. When 'Men’s Journal' launched as this up-market lifestyle magazine for adventurous white-collar men and their expensive outdoor hobbies, we stole their first issue’s cover photo and made it into a magazine called 'Deadbeat Dad', with stories on how to avoid your family, and ads for electronic “wife-tracking” devices. A lot of the contributors went on to careers in New York and Hollywood.
Me: You had another magazine as well, right?
Jack: Before 'The Nose', I started a magazine called 'U.S. Rag. Desktop' publishing was brand-new, and we took advantage of the Mac computer and proximity to Silicon Valley, i.e. free bootlegged software. It was a fictional humor magazine similar to 'National Lampoon'. Sometimes it was funny. But pretty amateurish.
Me: Okay, let's talk about your new book "Gimme Something Better". This is your fourth book?
Me: Explain what the book is about, Jack. You co-wrote it with a woman named Silke Tudor, right? Where did you meet her, and how did you split the work?
Jack: "Gimme Something Better" is an oral history of punk rock in the Bay Area, beginning in the mid-70s and continuing through the 1990's. Silke and I worked together at the 'SF Weekly' newspaper, we were both columnists, running around town looking for cool things to write about. We got the book deal, made a list of people in the punk scene that we knew, and started from there. We interviewed about 300 people, probably 700-800 hours worth of recording. We advertised on craigslist for volunteer transcribers, and emailed them the mp3 files. Looked through all the transcripts, and pieced together a history of this music and the culture. It took three years and it was supposed to be only a year. The publisher wanted a 300-page book and we turned in 800 pages, so we compromised and settled for 500 pages. The rest of the chapters we posted online for free at gimmesomethingbetter.com.
Me: Is punk your favorite type of music?
Jack: I like a lot of different types of music. But I definitely identify with the punk DIY spirit. I was in high school when the Sex Pistols toured America, and I think that had a significant impact on me. All my books have been very hands-on, I designed the first two myself. And I launched a literary festival in San Francisco. The world isn’t going to knock on your door and offer you opportunities. You have to go out and make your own movie.
Me: You approached a number of bands for interviews for it. Did anybody turn you down? I hate it when I get turned down for an interview.
Jack: Some turned us down initially, but once they realized we were interviewing their friends and fellow musicians, and people they went to high school with, they reconsidered and did the interview.
Me: What do you think of today's music, Jack? Are their any bands that stick out?
Jack: I have no idea. I’m old! But I do like some new things like the Black Keys. And I like a lot of music from my friends who are musicians. I hate going to concerts and big shows. I hate waiting in line.
Me: Do you think punk is dead, sir?
Jack: Punk is dead. Rock is dead. Hip-hop is dead. Jazz is dead. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re arguing with your friends about this stuff. Because you’re supposed to. I do know this... there are still punk shows going on every week in the Bay Area, out in the hinterlands of Oakland in a warehouse somewhere, with no advertising and no address, and I don’t know about them because they don’t exist for me, they are happening because those kids want to do it themselves.
Me: I believe the Sex Pistols last show was in San Fran, am I right? I am guessing you talk about that in the book.
Jack: We have a chapter about that show, and we interviewed many people who attended, as well as the promoter, and members of the Avengers and the Nuns, who opened for the Pistols that night, as well as members of Negative Trend, who were supposed to close the show after the Pistols but instead were shoved out the door with their equipment. It was the first real intersection of punk rock and the established rock-concert production machine, i.e. Bill Graham, and 5,000 people showed up, the bands were paid peanuts, and the promoters kept all the money. You can watch the entire concert online now. It was a pretty bad show, from what people remember. The sound was terrible.
Me: Green Day which is a band my son and I really like are from the Bay area. I know they are mentioned in the book... do you think they sold out with having a Broadway show their music?
Jack: If you read our book, the guys from Green Day never strayed from what they did or what they wanted to do. But there was an enormous backlash against them when they jumped to a major label. And yet, that’s what they always wanted to do – write and perform music for a large audience. You can tell in their earliest songs, they were destined for something more. Calling someone a “sell-out” is a tricky thing. Sometimes a band changes its focus so obviously, to achieve success, that it’s embarrassing. I don’t think Green Day ever did that. But to insist that people not make a living from their music, is a very stifling and simplistic way to look at it. There was a button from the hippie days, that somebody once gave me. It’s from the 60's, and it says, “I COMPLETELY FORGOT TO SELL OUT.” So that notion has been around a long time. And I’m sure bands will be accused of it through eternity.
Me: They are probably the most famous of the band's from that area I am guessing. I saw them in concert in the mid 80's and they played for no more then 30 people. Then I saw them twenty or so years later at the Arena here in Orlando and they sold out. They had pyro and everything. That's not very punk like, is it? It's more like Kiss.
Jack: At that point it’s entertainment. But if young kids see a Green Day show, and absorb some of the lyrics, and get angry with the status quo in our country, and the politicians we keep electing, I think that’s always valid. There aren’t a lot of arena acts who beat that drum. I think in their eyes, that’s one of the reasons why they keep going.
Me: So, I imagine you are always writing like I am, Jack. Do you ever take breaks from writing articles?
Jack: I write articles when the opportunities are there. This past year I’ve been working on a new book project, and writing pieces for live readings. Running a literary festival takes up most of my time.
Me: Please come back when your next book comes out. I wish you continued success and if you ever want to interview me... LOL. Jack, thanks so much for being on the Phile, and I hope you will come back again. Go ahead and mention all your websites. Take care.
Jack: Sure, thanks for having me! gimmesomethingbetter.com, jackboulware.com, litquake.org, litcrawl.org.
Well, that about does it, kids. Thanks to Jeff and of course Jack Boulware. That whole "Foghat Chronicles" thing is pretty odd. There's only four entries left of the Phile this year, can you believe that? The Phile will be back tomorrow with the guys from Three Bonzos and a Piano, then on Wednesday it's A Peverett Phile Phile Christmas with singer Karling Abbeygate. There'll be no entry next Sunday as it's Christmas, but next Monday it's Declan Harrington, singer for the band Shibuya Crossings. Then on Wednesday, the last entry of the year it's Erica Monzon, lead singer from the band Ledaswan. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.