Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Readers of the Future

Here's a song I wrote last night, inspired by something Paul told me many years ago (ed.-someone chastised me a few months ago for not saying who Paul is, if you need to know look at my little description of this page over on the far right)

Paul's books were on a series of small publishing houses. When I met him he was writing a book called Rock and Roll: the One Hundred Best Singles and he didn't actually have a publisher for it. Apparently he'd had one in England but somehow that had fallen through about half way through the writing of the book.

At any rate, I asked Paul if the lack of a current publisher or the prospects of being on a small one had an effect on his writing or finishing of the book. Not at all he said. His answer was honest and deliberate, something he'd worked out and set to work in his brain, and was able access in the face of any doubt. He said he could "feeeel the future readers" as he wrote the words. As though they were reading them as he was writing them. And that was the thing that spurred him on.

In fact, the stunning thing about the way Paul worked was he had little interest in where the book might end up, that was something he'd work out once the writing was done. And then when it was done, he'd be on to some new writing and let go of the economic hopes or failings of the last one. All that mind-kipple never seemed to impede his progress.

The painting of Paul is by Drew Snyder.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Car Accident Reflections

Night before last Alexander and I were in a car wreck. We're okay, sore, no broken bones, recovering, still have our wits.

* * *

Many years ago, back in 1990, I had a yogi friend named Tom. He'd been to India to study with some heavy spiritual types including one of Richard Alpert's gurus, Neem Karoli Baba. Tom was a disciple of sorts of Hanuman and sometimes lived at the Hanuman Temple in Taos. He was a free spirit, a twin to my own Gemini wiles and one of those kinds of friends you have for a brief but important passage of your life.

Tom was helping me pack my belongings into the back of my newly bought yet thoroughly battered 1970 VW bus. At some point during the packing I hit my head on the roof, not hard but enough to stop me in my tracks. And I started crying. One of those moments Tom called an Aha. It was a marker for an important time of change in my life, and he knew it. I was moving from New York City back to San Diego and I'd made a six month stop over in Taos New Mexico. Sort of a clearing of the energies, a place to hang my hat and have a few adventures and decide where I was going next in life.

Tom sent me off with a picture of his guru and stuck a little stamp sized sticker of the Indian trickster god Hanuman on my dash board. I didn't think much of it...until 2 weeks later I'm in San Diego, staying with friends and my VW bus starts honking at 3 o'clock in the morning. You see, one of the oddities about this old bus I'd bought from a Taosino was that it would randomly start honking it's horn when you'd start the car, not every time, but maybe every 3rd time you'd crank the motor.

I ran outside to see two scruffy guys in my bus, which was still full of almost all of my stuff, frantically trying to get it into gear, while the horn is honking away like crazy. I yelled at them "get out of my car", but they pulled away from the curb and slowly got the bus to move on down the street turning a corner and then out of site.

Days later the police found the bus, I went to the tow yard to see if there was anything I could salvage. Nothing. Not even a tire. Just a hulk, a shell. Not even a scrap of my belongings were left in the car. Well, the only thing left behind by the car thieves was the small stamp sized picture of Hanuman. It had been ripped off of the dash board and the mischievous monkey smile was glaring at me face up on the floor of the car.

I didn't even have a belt for my pants. Alot of my stuff was gone. Strangely, what was at first a very bad thing, having nothing, made room and time for a new life for me. Out of this came my Garage Orchestra album and a whole new way of approaching music. And then meeting Paul, who was, as he attested at the time, the embodiment of The Fool.

* * *

And now, for the first time in many years, I have no car. Our car is in a tow yard, very likely totally unfixable. I can rent and find a way to buy one again. But it's that bump on the head time again, figuratively ( fortunately I didn't hit my head in Friday's car accident).
It's the time in between fixed points.

* * *

As for our car accident, Alexander and I were traveling home from his piano lesson and my giving a guitar class. We were heading south on old Coast Hwy 101. It was drizzling and dark. I was going my customary 30-35 miles per hour, cuz it's a bit of speed trap right in there. On my left are multi million dollar homes on my right a guard rail and about 10 feet of bluff dropping 50 feet down to the ocean.

Suddenly a black sports car, out of seemingly nowhere, backs over the double yellow line into oncoming traffic, which is me. He was backing up fast and there was nowhere for me to go except for head on. Brake for 2 seconds and brace for impact.

I don't know what happened for a few seconds, I had my eyes closed during impact, but when I opened them we were moving forward again toward the guard rail and the ocean bluff. I pressed as hard as I could on the brakes and we finally came to a stop. My son Alexander, who's nine, said he couldn't breath but then he started crying and I knew he was breathing. I grabbed my cell phone and ran to the back to be with him, trying to remember how to dial 911.

A lady came over and said she was a doctor and lived across the street she looked at Alexander and stayed with him while I looked out for the ambulance. When finally it came my legs went weak, I didn't have to be the strong- hold it together force now. The paramedics took over eventually determining we were okay, but transporting us by ambulance anyways to get x-rays and evaluations...

And thank you to Susan and nine year old Guthry Hahm for being with us at the hospital, calming our nerves, bringing us back to ourselves. And thank you to all of you that have left us heart felt comments on FB and by email.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Should Be Doing Something Instead I'm Doing This

While some say they are afraid to look on the Infinite
the great big story we play out,
Some of us here have found a home
and the infinite is our window out.

* * *

in a trip to the Sierra Nevada's
at a very young age
my mother drove us east of Delano
and I became a little girl lost in the snow...

wandering away from mommy
lured by damned curiosity
and down a snowy hill
and past an old wood house
past a road
'til new snow began to fall
and down some more
and she knew she was alone.
she knew this for the first time:
she must awaken, become more.
and her own engines began to fire
her mind sputtered, sparked, started
then hummed
and she was afraid
She was in a place She'd never been before:
it was silent as snow
it was LOUD, with many voices
it was strangely familiar.
It was home.
and she turned around
retracing her steps
finding her mommy standing with nervous park rangers
her mommy, so long ago,
her mommy, who seemed like a stranger.
first secret. welcome home.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Meeting Paul, Part 2

Paul and I rendezvoused at Canters Deli on Fairfax, it was the day after we first met, at the Dylan Pantages show of 1992, it was about noon. We shared a pastrami on rye and some pickles. He brought along the manuscript to a book he was working on, The One Hundred Best Singles of Rock and Roll.
It wasn't finished, but he'd already written about three quarters of it. He showed me the table of contents and had me pick out a song on the list and then proceeded to read it aloud, over sandwiches. I'd chosen the chapter on the Beach Boy's Don't Worry Baby/I Get Around, it's still one of my favorite pieces of writing by Paul. (Sadly I don't have a copy of the book around the house, or I'd quote a passage.)

Paul was really easy to talk with. He didn't have an attitude about his past and it was fun asking him about the cool stuff he'd done. We finished our lunch, paid the bill, gave a bum a pickle on our way out and then proceeded to drive through LA to Santa Monica in my 1971 VW bus. I'd just made the trek up that way a few weeks earlier with my friend Mark Fried (formerly of BMI Music). We'd driven all the way up to Malibu in my bus and visited Papa John Phillips at his place. Now Paul and I were driving up that direction and talking about the process of music making and it's spiritual ramifications, talking the whole way.

I played him a song I'd just recorded, (something that's never been released called Cindy's New York) with some of my first experiments in self production. Paul really dug it and said he could feel the Brian Wilson type producer in me arising. I was amazed he could see where I was trying to go. All this was, of course a year and a half before I recorded my first self produced album, Garage Orchestra. He shared with me a concept he had about Brian as a "primitive" that is an artist formally untrained- that feels the music, hears it in his head and then has the ability to translate it via other musicians.

That idea still fascinates me, what exactly makes one a primitive? At any rate later in the year, as Paul saw me write and process the music that was to be Garage Orchestra, he used that phrase often to explain my own way of interpreting the music running around in my head. I don't think the head of Warner Brothers, where Paul introduced me and my music to the great Lenny Waronker, understood that phrase any better than me.

We drove back to Canter's and I dropped Paul at his car, then drove the 2 hours home to San Diego. On a cloud,.... (of exhaust from my 1971 muffler).

There are times when you meet someone where you feel the future and the past in the present moment. It's where our linear idea of time breaks down, doesn't make sense. It's important to recognize these moments.

Friday, November 26, 2010

For Paul Williams

I dreamt you were accepted by an exceptional elder care facility.
And I was glad to get you out of the place where they know your name (Mr. Paul) but not who you are and don't have time to know anyways.
And they lose your glasses. Again today.

We moved you to the new place which was just down the street and found your bed which was an upper berth. The patients slept in layers, of which you were near the top.
They knew your name and the same lady nurse waited on you. Bathed you carefully and clothed you in warm clean clothes. They put your name on a cloth tag and sewed it into the fabric of every garment. Carefully and with precision.

I love you. But I don't know if you know what that means anymore. And anyways, I'm not there to tell you that everyday. I know you smile when I smile.

I don't know how we could afford this new facility, it must have been we won the lottery. Or a scholarship for artists that did great work in their lifetime. The MacArthur Grant for severely ill genius's.

I was happy to have you in a home, with a garden, that was as caring and skilled with their clients as you were with your work, your writing, your books: the hours spent listening to a single piece of music so you could learn it's language, it's secrets which you could so effortlessly convey to us readers. And we would think, you knew something that we'd been thinking all along, and 'how does he know that?' 'How does he know my language?' And through this, you sacrificed your hearing for us. So that we might come to understand, that we are a community of thought/of feeling within this beloved piece of music.

When I left you there, standing in the hallway, a nurse by your side. I saw you'd become a child. Only 3 feet tall. Helpless, innocent. Someone I felt torn, heartbroken to leave for the night. But I knew, behind it all, you were in good hands, better than my own.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

First Kiss and Stupid Ruminations

Here's one of those things one doesn't want to talk about when you're married to a guy with deteriorating health, in this case dementia (might be different if your spouse still has his wits about him and you could share in the weird health issues). What does one do for companionship?

My girlfriend went through a divorce recently, things ended amicably enough, and I've been watching her experiences like a hawk. First she got right online and signed up for a number of those Internet dating interfaces, like Match.com or Plentyofish. She'd come over and use my computer and I'd get to watch how she sorted through the guys. I think this sort of "dating" might work for someone that's very visually inclined. I don't know, and I guess I really don't get it. But watching her adventures (and misadventures) has been a great amusement to me.

For one thing, she's decided at this age, (that is, past the desire to engage ones diminishing biological clock) that there are a lot of "Santa Claus'" out there. Okay, maybe I'm being a f*ing jerk, but what is it with some of the guys after the age of 50? Maybe too much beer or pasta...but then the beard comes out and the handle bar mustache and the Harley and the ripped tee shirt and the big ol' arms with prison tat's, (okay, maybe that's just my hometown)..... Some of the guys list old rock icons as the music of choice. So these guys won't have heard of Sonic Youth or Beck ("yeah, Jeff Beck!), or Elliot Smith or Kings of Leon or most anything past 1976.

It's tough. My husband Paul, is 62 years old and has early onset of dementia due to a brain injury (he'd actually recovered from back in 95) he lives at a nursing home now and he looks pretty good compared to some of the guys the website suggests for her. Then there's the problem with the 'content' or text on the profiles with misuses of words like there, they're and their (spell check? and you can tell when its a typo). Or, where I live, by the beach, many of the guys are hoping for a retirement in Tahiti in a few years.

Paul and I used to talk about the concept of retirement. Artists don't retire. Why would we want to stop doing something we love to do?

Whatever. Okay, I admit it. I am being a f--ing jerk.

And I'm not the greatest catch myself.
I'm worn out from years of caring for someone. I've still got Paul to care for in some small ways, and for, I'm sure, a long time to come. I'm lousy with a need to have some enjoyment, fun even, just as a distraction from the immensity of sad from the past 7 years. It's not like one sits around feeling sorry for oneself. I think it doesn't work that way once you're past the shock of it all. It's just the constant juggling of making daily things work right and putting up with the little indignities. Who will trims his finger nails? Who is in charge of making sure the nursing home finds his belts, so his pants won't fall down? Talking to the nursing home barber about not cutting his hair into a freaking crew cut, again.

I'm certainly no great shakes. As a musician I make a essentially what would be called a poverty level wage and I have a 9 year old to raise (a lovely one to be sure). On that note I just got a call today from Section 8 housing, which helps poor folk get into affordable housing. I'd signed up for it about 5 years ago, when things were so terrible with Paul living at home, and I guess my number has come up. The catch is though, you have to live in a place with others that are on Section 8 housing and that is probably not a block and a half from the beach like where I live now (and have lived for the past 16 years). Decisions. It could save me money, probably $400 a month, which could pay for 2/3rds of my health insurance, but I'd have to live in a place not nearly as nice as what we have now.

So there you have it.... I'm a loser, living amongst losers looking for losers. Aint it grand?

But no complaints. I had my first kiss in way too many years, and life is indeed, very grand.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Three Photos

Paul and Alexander Williams, Oct. 24,2010. This was the first of the three photos. I showed Paul the book I picked up a few weeks ago near Harvard: Patti Smith's Just Kids, and I'd bookmarked the page where she mentions her admiration for Paul and Crawdaddy magazine. He was very interested to read what she said and continued reading a few pages after. He rarely reads nowadays so it was nice to see him enjoying a book.

Paul often has one eye shut. The doc's never did figure out just why that is, speculating that it is a tic, like the bending over he does every minute or so. I asked Paul to open both eyes for this photo and you can see how hard it is for him to do. He really concentrated to make himself do it. I think whatever is going wrong in his brain is affecting his eyesight. Clearly you can see in this photo, he has a sort of 'wandering eye' gaze now. Something he never demonstrated until the last few years.

This one was the best of the three
photos Alexander and Paul look at ease with one another and Paul is relieved that he can close his right eye again. Alexander has a very minimal relationship with his dad, even before Paul was moved into the nursing home, but he does like seeing his dad smile. And Alexander consistently makes Paul smile.

Friday, October 22, 2010

If you believe in me

I’ll perform miracles, lewd acts of nature,

ripple the waters

and make the Earth wind round in smooth rhyme.

If you believe in me,

I’ll buy you a sandwich

unveil my face, untie the lace

and reveal the secret word

that admits you to the party.

If you believe in me,

I’ll wear your crown,

I won’t let you down,

you’ll get your money’s worth,

unless you expect nonsense and phony penance, for instance.

If you believe in me

I’ll invite you to the water, salty to the tongue

it’s warm and I’ve been waiting.

If you believe in me,

What’s so weird about that?

So what if they can’t see

we are blind most of us, mainly

but sometimes, plainly

there is a crack in the floor of heaven.

If you believe in me

I’ll turn back time

make it speed ahead

or suspend its existence altogether.

If you believe in me

I’ll reinvent the wheel

make you cry where you never feel

make all things new under the sun

then I’ll wash away your tears.

If you believe in me

I’ll call off the revolution

close the mines

settle all bets

bury the hatchet

take off the black dress

and make a pilgrimage to your holy lands.

If you believe in me

I'll part the red sea

the 2nd sun will come out

the naked moon will rise over the stones as predicted

and the villagers will reveal themselves.

How do I know this?

When I used to know bandits, bullet dreamers, idle threats...

How can I be sure?

Because your face made me see it.

Because you saw before they could,

and past the daytime,

shine a billion stars.

(clb 10/22/10)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mindful blogging

Breathing in I type some words. Breathing out I pause for a thought.

This weekend our son Alexander, turned nine years old. It was a drizzly dark end to the week but we found some light of our own making. Saturday night Alexander and I went to Lego Land for an October/Halloween Fest and costume contest. This year Alexander has become an astronaut. He decided they were very cool after watching Apollo 13 a few months ago.

This afternoon we had some family members over for cake and ice cream. I picked up Paul at the nursing home. My sister Tami took a 3 hour bus ride up from San Diego (only 30 minutes by car). And my mom drove the one and a half hours from Lake Elsinore. It was a very nice visit and Alexander came out ahead with some 25 dollars to add to his piggy bank and some nifty new books.

Paul was ready and clean when I picked him up at the home. He'd been bathed and shaved and had clean clothes on with his hearing aids in his ears. When I asked him if he said he wanted to come over he said, yes. But instead of sitting up or standing he handed me a weak hand expecting me to pull him off the bed.

I'm worried about how weak he is getting. And I wonder if he is 'giving up' to some extent. In his moments of lucidity he must wonder what is going on with himself. And does he have that kind of self awareness anymore? Recently he walks even slower and sometimes it seems like his legs are almost giving out. I asked him to pick up the pace this afternoon and that seemed to work for about five minutes, we were able to get out the front door , about 5 paces from the car and he made a bee-line for a bench and plopped down. I read in a pamphlet a few years ago that dementia can have a big effect on a persons ability to control their own body. They fall apart physically over time. And I think that is what's happening here.

Last weekend I brought Paul home for a little family time with me and Alexander and as we were leaving, getting ready to go back to his nursing home, he said to me "Me go bathroom" and I realized that his ability to access words has taken a real hit. He rarely says a whole sentence anymore. Almost never offering a comment or a thought, but still tries to answer questions, often thoughtfully.

Breathing in I am sitting on the bed. Breathing out I am aware of my fingertips touching the keyboard letters.

This past Wednesday I took him out for a mexican food lunch and asked him some Crawdaddy! history questions, like:

Why didn't you look for a big investor when the magazine had such a buzz and exponentially gaining readership? Why didn't you find someone that could front you a chunk of money so you could pay your employees and writers a good wage? He said, " Because you lose your freedom". He said it simply and clearly and with little forethought. I mentioned that Jann Wenner, creator of Rolling Stone, had done just that, he found a big investor in his girlfriend/wife's family and he could pay his writers more.....Paul smiled, didn't say a word. I mentioned that it was ironic that Jann married a woman with money and then turned out to be a closet gay guy that had been hiding his sexual preference even from his wife. Paul said "He knew what he wanted".

Still, some gems of wisdom from the great man. I take them where I can and they over ride the sad state of his deteriorating physical condition and loss of communication skills.

I do miss him. There's no question. A great deal.

But life must go on, right? If I were living in a god-forsaken land like Afghanistan or Iraq and saw wars ravages on my friends/loved ones daily, I would learn quickly to accept what is, life as it is. Not life as I want it to be, but what is in front of me. Some suffering, some joy.

And remember the pleasure of breathing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Paul Williams Bio-pic Part 3

Because it has been so long since the first two Bio-Pic entries were posted (back in February and March 2010), I've added them to this entry...the additional segments come in at Crawdaddy Issue Five....(ed- and have you seen the film The Social Network-Zuckerberg's story reminds me of the young Paul Williams. Would you agree?)

1. Parents meet and fall in love at Los Alamos both employed by the Manhattan Project under Oppenheimer. Robert Williams a young physicist, is invited to come watch the detonation of the worlds first atomic bomb. Women are not allowed near the test site but Paul’s mother Janet and a girlfriend sneak away and drive down to White Sands where they watch the exposion, from a safe distance, hidden behind boulders.

2. Paul was brought up in Cambridge but lived a short year of his childhood in Princeton where his dad taught Physics….at age five Paul was left to “babysit” his 2 younger brothers and decided to walk them several streets from home to a library. His youngest brother changed his mind midway while crossing a busy intersection and refused to budge. A friend of the family happened by and scooped up and saved the 3 young children. Janet, Pauls mother said “Paul was so mature at that age, he seemed fully capable of caring for his brothers”.

3. Paul teaches himself to read at age three while looking at old 78 RPM records. His father said he was tired of reading the names to him and Paul taught himself the names. By age 4, it is said, Paul would read the New York Times while being driven to nursery school.

4. Paul, age 5, writes a note to his mother one day “ Dear Mom, I have gone to Clinton’s house, but don’t be surprised if I’m home, because Clinton may not be home”. She sends it to the New Yorker where he has his first piece of writing published in the Talk of the Town column under the title “Logician”.

5. According to family legend, by third grade it is discovered that Paul has an exceptional mind and is given an IQ test, the score is 180. His parents move him to a private grammar school in Cambridge. He has trouble fitting in at school no matter where he goes and once admitted that kids called him “spaz” because his hand would fly up for every question.

6. In sixth grade Paul starts a newspaper, The Sunlight Herald.

7. At 15 he attends his first Science Fiction convention, soon after he starts a Science Fiction Fanzine called “Within”.

8. Age 16, Paul graduates from Browne and Nichols and decides to go to Swarthmore College. According to his mother he’d been offered a full scholarship from Stanford, where his father and grandfather had both received degrees, but Paul turned it down… “I didn’t want to be lured into the whole bay area music scene, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my school work.”

9. Paul becomes a DJ for the Swarthmore radio station. Paul has an argument, a disagreement in philosophy class with his professor, the man gets so riled up he threatens to kick Paul out of the class. Then Paul begins his first issue of CRAWDADDY Magazine from his dorm, two fellow college students contribute to the first issue. The name CRAWDADDY! came from Paul’s admiration of the UK music club where the Rolling Stones got their start.

10. After the first mimeographed copy of CRAWDADDY! is printed, Paul gives away as many copies as he can by hand, he receives a phone call at his dorm from Paul Simon who thanks him for his wonderful writing on the single “Homeward Bound” and praises him for writing intelligently about rock and roll.

11. One day while walking into his dorm a student yells out “Hey Williams! You got a phone call from Bob Dylan”. Dylan had read the latest issue of CRAWDADDY! and liking it invited Paul to come and hang out back stage at a show on the Blonde on Blonde tour. He also offers Paul an interview.

12. While attending Swarthmore Paul heard that his friend Richard Farina had died (Paul met him at a club in Philly where he was gigging and asked Richard for permission to reprint some of his writing in CRAWDADDY!, they hit it off) … there was to be a funeral for him in Carmel, CA. Hoping to catch a free ride on a cargo plane Paul is stopped in the airport and confronted by a Philadelphia police officer who calls him a hippy. A few hours later Paul is in jail and the next day in court for assaulting a cop. Paul told me the whole thing got thrown out when they realized that as he said “my glasses assaulted the cops fist.”

13. Unable to concentrate on his school work at Swarthmore…he moves back in with his mother in Belmont, MA where he starts his fourth issue of CRAWDADDY!, issue five would include writings by Jon Laundau a clerk at the local record store, Briggs And Briggs. Landau becomes someone that Paul would consult on music and current record releases. At some point Paul’s grandfather decides CRAWDADDY! is a good investment and pumps a little money into the paper, encouraging his grandson to start a business like he had, he’d manufactured a device called “the sniffer” which sniffed out gas leaks.

14. Issue number 4 had Bob Dylan on the cover with a now widely reprinted article called “Understanding Dylan”. Paul ambitiously takes handfuls of copies of CRAWDADDY! to sell at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival where Jack Holzman of Electra Records bought a complete set. Electra was to begin advertising in CRAWDADDY! with the next issue. There is a well known picture of Howlin’ Wolf performing at the festival that year the photo includes a clear image of Paul behind him. He is also seen in the film “Festival” dancing with a young black woman during the great Wolf’s set.

15. Paul sez “Jon Landau, certainly one of the best and most influential critics of the rock era, debuted as a rock writer in the fifth issue of CRAWDADDY!, September 1966. Paul now back in Boston was going to Club 47 (now called Paseem’s) three nights a week and hunting down rock and roll shows where ever he could the rest of the week. Flipping for bands like The Animals’ two hour show at Rindge Tech, The Rolling Stones at Boston Garden and Lynn Football Stadium, The Beatles at Suffolk Down “plainly audible, beautiful to look at, and confirmation that we—and I—existed as a special body of people who understood the power and the glory of rock ‘n’ roll.” Peter Guralnick author of the two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train To Memphis and Careless Love began writing for Crawdaddy after Paul asked him to help him interview Howlin’ Wolf.

16. Between the fifth and sixth issues Paul took a 2,200 mile “mostly business trip”, hitchhiking from Boston to New York, Cleveland to Chicago, and Wisconsin and back. In Chicago on a blues fan’s pilgrimage Paul stopped at Chess Records’ recording studios, which resulted in a full page ad in CRAWDADDY! and an assignment to write the liner notes for new albums (each called More Real Folk Blues) for artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Sonny Boy Williamson.

17. The Sixth Issue of CRAWDADDY! was published Oct 20, 1966 (the first issue of Rolling Stone debuted November 1967), in a print run of 2,800 copies, up from 1,500 copies of the previous issue. Paul writes, “….sales of the fifth issue had been good enough to attract the interest of a local magazine distributor who ordered 2,000 copies of the sixth issue. Tim Jurgens, a young subscriber from San Francisco moved to Boston to help out as an editorial assistant. Paul wrote, “ I don’t think I could have made it through the next few months of the magazine’s progress and rapid growth without Tim Jurgen’s friendship and hard-working support”.

18. In mid November CRAWDADDY! moved to New York City. Paul writes in The Crawdaddy Book (Hal Leonard), “The new office was a big second-floor room overlooking Greenwich Village (I used to spend a lot of time sitting on the ledge of a large open window with headphones on, watching the endless parade of people walking across Sixth Avenue and Third Street)." The room had previously been a guitar shop called Fretted Instruments, and the walls “were pleasantly lined with natural-looking pine planks installed by the former tenant”. “All of us (additional staff persons came along soon) did much of our work on a huge table in the center of the office. There was a small back room with no windows (halfway up the stairs from the street) where Tim Jurgens (the assistant editor, also from Boston) and I slept,” Paul writes in the Crawdaddy Book. An article was written in the Village Voice of CRAWDADDY’s arrival, it was just the beginning of a lot of press attention.

19. Ralph Gleason from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote on January 1967, “The most interesting publication in the U.S. covering the rock scene is a magazine called Crawdaddy….it is devoted with religious fervor to the rock scene.”

20. The seventh issue of CRAWDADDY! came off the press the first week of December ’66. There weren’t many ads yet but there was a new look. The typeface inside had changed, Paul was now leasing an IBM “Executive” typewriter, the resulting page looking more like other magazines of that era, “Instead of looking like a letter from a friend typed on an ordinary typewriter”, writes Paul.

The seventh issue is notable in hindsight for its opening sentences raving about the Doors (“the best new band I’ve seen this year...”)—the first mention of the Doors in a national publication. Paul had been given an acetate of the Door’s forthcoming album after he watched them make a promo film at the Elecktra office for their first single, Break On Through to the Other Side”. Paul had befriended their producer Paul Rothchild, at a Loving Spoonful show back in Cambridge at Club 47.

The list of writers that wrote for CRAWDADDY! expanded. Paul said, “Crawdaddy! didn’t have any money to pay its writers, so writers wrote for us mostly as a way of communicating their enthusiasm for, the music they loved”. Sandy Pearlman and Richard Meltzer both came from Stony Brook, Long Island, Peter Guralnick and Jon Landau from Boston, David Hartwell was a childhood friend from the world of science fiction, an illustrious list of writers, rock producer/managers and editors that would all make their mark in the world of popular culture.

In the Crawdaddy Book, Paul writes:

“Before we finished putting the next issue together, I made my first ever visit to California (thanks to a mid-sixties phenomenon called Youth Fare, which provided half-price airfare to those under twenty six). In LA I met the Buffalo Springfield and saw them do a great show at the Whiskey A Go-Go, and I spent a few days with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and attended a recording session for the never-finished SMiLe album. In San Francisco I was very impressed by Big Brother and the Holding Company at the Arc in Sausalito, and Moby Grape at the Avalon Ballroom, and Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead New Year’s Eve at the Fillmore. It was a good time to be a young music lover.”

In December Paul spent several days as a guest at Brian Wilson’s home in the Hollywood Hills. It was during the wildly creative Smile era and Paul stayed in Brian’s tent, which was in a sand box in his living room, next to the piano. The first time Paul smoked pot was with Brian in this oriental style tent. Brian played Paul the early acetates of Heroes and Villains and some of the other SMILE songs, which were never officially released. One day Paul spent time with Brian and the Beach Boys at the studio and remembered singing odd sounds and noises on one track (probably “Barnyard”-ed). And Paul was witness to this moment: “I was visiting a Beach Boys recording session in Dec. 1966 when Carl Wilson walked in with a record he’d just bought, something he’d fallen in love with during the group’s recent trip to England (Gimme Some Lovin’ by the Spencer Davis Group). He put it on a turntable eager to hear it--stopped after a minute and tried again--then grabbed the record and broke it over his knee in fury. He’d just discovered that the American record company had remixed the song in an attempt to make it more appealing to the U.S. market.”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

No One On The Other End Of The Line

I'm on tour this week. A little two week tour that adds up to a big deal for me. This being my first time back on the road, playing music shows, since 1998. And I had to write something tonight. It's been a lovely time being back on the east coast playing music, but something struck me tonight and I need to talk it through.

I'm sad. Amidst all the shared laughs with friends, and hearing Stan Ridgway's hilarious running commentaries (we played three shows with him), feeling appreciated for my music making, and sharing stories with my traveling cohorts, (Renata Bratt who is playing cello and Paula Luber who is playing glockenspiel)....I feel torn.

Tonight I played a show at a lovely old friend, the Tin Angel, a room in the historic district of Philadelphia. When I walked in I remembered the last time I'd been here. Must have been 1996. I did a show with Ben Vaughn and I remember talking to him in the back room. My husband Paul, who was merely a boyfriend then, was with me. Ben was so happy to meet Paul. It could have been, possibly 1996.

During the show tonight the memory came flooding back. Paul went out on the road with me here in the states twice. He was not always easy to travel with, as several friends will attest to, but we could have some fun times. Some of those nice times have occurred to me several times on this trip. I'm retracing old steps.

These places I'm visiting now were places I ventured to with Paul beside me or at least a phone call away. It's tough going back to those places and not checking back in with that loved one about how it's changed or how it looks now. There's no one on the other end of the line.

At the Tin Angel tonight I played several songs from the Garage Orchestra album, the album I was promoting in the mid nineties with Paul by my side. I suppose the more I do this sort of thing, get out and play these old familiar rooms and discover newer ones, the sooner I will discover my new feelings for this new life.

It's all very topsy turvy at the moment. This is my way of crying...... I feel much better now.

It's like I'm sloughing off the old me and it's still a tender place, still painful at times. But there's no turning back. Time marches on.
(photo courtesy of Ed McKeon)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Not Entirely Blameless

Not that I'm entirely blameless...

I met Paul in 1992. I had moved back to southern California, having lived in New York City off and on for about three years. I'd made an album in mid town Manhattan, accidentally marched with Al Sharpton, ridden horses in Prospect park, been telephoned by the FBI for questioning about a sublet I'd rented from a man who was associated with the IRA, and broken up with a long time boyfriend. I was ready to be back home.

I was pretty depressed though. I dated a few guys but nothing seemed to pique my interest. The only thing interesting in my life seemed to be happening in my dreams: like meeting and getting production lessons from Brian Wilson, a song given to me by John Lennon while we sat on a curb and he played guitar and banged the strings gently with a pencil, a convoluted storyline about a guy named Gary with the dream ending on a theatre marque stating The Leading Leg of Gary Handeman...

My imagination was alive and well but my love life was asleep. Then a surfer guy asked me out to a Bob Dylan show. It was at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. I feel bad in retrospect, he was a really great guy, a founder of Surfrider Foundation, and he deserved a more respectful date than what I was. We found our seats, he sat down and I excused myself, dashing out to the lobby to look for music friends.

Every now and then I'd check in on my friend with our seats but most of the time I was out in the lobby. I ran into a bunch of people I knew. Andy Paley was there, I'd just met him a few months earlier and hung out at his place talking about Brian Wilson. Andy had made albums with his brother in the mid 70s and somehow had become a Brian Wilson best friend in the late 80s. He had great stories. Wes was there, as in John Wesley Harding. I'd met him in London a few years before. Some other folks....don't remember who else.

At any rate, Andy introduced me to Paul Williams at the Pantages. It was a funny thing. I'd just read Dominc Priorie's book Look Listen Vibrate Smile, which was a compilation of writings (mostly from old newpapers and rock magazines) about Brian Wilson's legendary Smile album, and had just finished the interview (which had originally appeared in Crawdaddy) between David Anderle and Paul about Brian's work.

It was such a delight to meet him. I said, "Wow, I was just reading some of your stuff." He thought I'd read Das Energi, which has always been one of his most popular books. I said, no, it was the Anderle interview. I had a million questions to ask. We stepped away from the group and I got to ask a few. Then Dylan started and we all scattered to the wings.

I found my date and my seat but I could hardly think straight. I'd just met the guy that hung out with Brian Wilson in the 60s, during the making of SMiLe! He'd even made sounds on the sessions with others, like animal noises and stuff. And he'd stayed over night at Brian's in the tent that was in the sand box in the house next to Brian's piano. The first time he smoked pot was with Brian in that tent while listening to the acetate's of the SMiLe sessions. Dang.

And he didn't look old enough to have done all that cool old stuff. I can't say that I was attracted in that sexual or romantic way to Paul at that point. I was just attracted. Like that feeling you get when you meet someone and a surge of energy happens, undelineated, not yet appointed to any particular emotion. I don't think it even occurred to me, the idea of him being physically attractive or if he was sexy or anything like that. It was none of that. It was just a great big feeling that needed to be acted upon.

And so I asked him if he would kindly meet me at Canter's Deli on Fairfax the next day so I could ask him a million questions about Brian Wilson and his own ideas about what brought about an artists great work. I knew there was something I needed to learn.

....more to come...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Remember Tomorrow

It's a weird story. Eleven years ago I was given ten thousand dollars from Warner Brothers to make a demo of four songs. Nice. I'd approached them with a prospect. I had befriended two young girls in San Diego, Lindsay and Anna Troy they were 12 and 15 and asked them if they'd be interested in singing some of my songs on an album. Then I taught them the songs and alot of harmonies and put together a band.

My old pal Chris Davies (Garage Orchestra, Penetrator's) and I work-shopped some ideas for tracks at his place. For one song we built a track on a cassette tape consisting of a cha cha beat from an old Casio keyboard then put some staccato organ chords on it and a messed up sounding guitar...we bounced one track over to another cassette player again and again which increased the "distress" aspect of the sound. I was sure to record the "tracks", that is hold the cassette player, far away from the speakers so you could "hear the air" between the speaker and the player. I swear I could hear Phil Spector's famous "recorded air" in the final tape.

That is the track the rest of the band would have to play along with in the studio.

Somehow I was able to coerce some amazing players to join me in the studio. This is where having some money from a record label helped tremendously. (Look no one got rich. Then again no one ever does in the music business except for the insanely lucky and a few flashy pimps).

Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, NIN,imarobot) on bass, Roger Manning (Jelly Fish, Beck) plays the keyboards, Randy Hoffman (Gar.Orch/Harry Partch) on vibraphone/timpani/woodblocks, Stephen Hodges (Tom Waits, T Bone Burnett) on drums, Chris Davies lead guitar, Stew (Passing Strange, Negro Problem) on rhythm guitar and Henry Diltz taking photos and playing a bit of banjo and clarinet.

This session was recorded in June of 1999, one day for eight hours and the music tracks were done. A week later me and Lindsey and Anna sang the vocal parts. With the sisters singing the leads on the songs.

Everything looked rosy. Paul thought it was some of my best work yet. I took the demos to our guy at Warner Bros. he listened and said "I think we need to make the rest of the album now. And Cindy Lee, you need to make your next album here too."

My plan to take over the music-world, was all falling perfectly into place. Then, quite suddenly, all fucking hell broke loose...

My husband Paul, announced that he was about to embark on an affair with a woman he'd met at a science fiction convention. But he hadn't checked in with her on that just yet. It was a speculative idea. He said he thought it shouldn't effect us too much as he'd just fly out to see her three or four times a year, in Miami.

It was preposterous, it was insane and it was the same week that my point person, the Vice President of A+R at Warner Brothers, was abruptly fired after 15 years with the company. Then on the hell heels of this news, his boss, our new WB point person, was fired. But not until Paul poured water over his head during our meditation group lunch and ran screaming out of the room.

I wasn't going along with his affair plan the way he'd thought I would. He was shocked I wasn't okay with the 3 to 4 times a year plan. I told Paul he could go to Miami as much as wanted to, and explore endless possibilities with the librarian, because I wouldn't be in the picture anymore and then I moved out.

And so the four tracks were put on a shelf and the young girls grew up to be fine young women with lives and careers of their own. I went back in the studio a year later and recorded 3 songs with a string session, I was living up in LA and seeing a guy with photos on his wall he'd bought from a gallery, they were all black and white shots of dead and gunned up mobsters. ( "If you don't like these you're not gonna like my idea of a picnic in a Manson Cave.") He was a writer, one day we had a skirmish and he said to me: "You should treat me better, I'm a living legend you know".

I got a call from the living legend I was still married to, we shared a laugh, he told me he was seeing a therapist and could he visit me. Things just sorta went that direction from there on out. The evil days had passed and the heavenly spheres were back in alignment again.

A few months ago I heard those WB tracks for the first time in eleven years and I noticed that the hurt was all gone. The floods had passed and the droughts and what was left was the music. I had the opportunity to immerse myself in it's world again this week, (singing, adding Renata Bratt's cello and melodica).

It's a beautiful place, being in the midst of all that sweetness and intensity, a love affair in the form of sound.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Midnight Hour

Why am I up at this ungodly hour, listening to rock and roll and chewing gum? Because it's the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end. Something lovely must come to an end so that something lovely can start up.
I can't say what indeed has ended just now, though I could say it is any number of things. But I feel it in my bones. Feeeel it. And it comes in as a soundtrack, a film. Have you seen Pirate Radio?

When I was 16 a girlfriend of mine, very much like many of my girlfriends, who was very kind and sweet and very good took me to her big big church in the city where we teens were hussled into pledging our life to the Lord and then corralled into a basement room and asked to give up everything that was near and dear to us, that being rock and roll records.

It was my fault maybe, I'd asked the question. Do we have to give up everything? Even things that we love like our record collection? And the hip shirted man in his 30s said "yes, can you give your whole record collection today to serve God?".

I dug God. Certainly on my terms. He was alive there in the stars everynight right? Made me feel good, made me feel alright. Why was God separate from rock and roll. I didn't get it. Wasn't God everything good? God works in mysterious ways...

I needed a healing to be sure. But God healed me through rock and roll and I know I'm not alone. It still happens everyday all over the world.

* * *
And so thank you my teachers especially you Paul...xxoo g'nite sweetheart g'nite

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

One More Photo

This was how Paul looked when his old friend Trina came into his room and surprised him with a hug and a hello. Paul was just thrilled to see her. He remembers his old dear friends very well and even chimed in on some of the stories she told. Seeing his loved ones really makes a difference to him. I wish we lived in a place where a lot more friends could more easily drop in. Like in the Bay Area. Paul's brain injury happened only a year after he moved down here to San Diego, to be with me, and that injury made it that much harder for him to get out and meet new friends.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ccon 2010, And A Special Guest

Paul's dear friend Trina Robbins came to visit this week, she was in town for Comicon and Alexander and I got lucky and scored 2 extra passes!

Alexander really liked Comicon, especially getting to meet his Lego Hero Factory hero.
Here he is on Tatooine with a few old friends and a bag of Lego swag.

Paul and his girlfriend from the 1960s reunite for an afternoon in Encinitas. Trina Robbins is a writer of books and comics for over 30 years. She and Paul met on a flight from LA to Boston in 1967 (he was reading a Vonnegut book and then scooted over in next to her) and dated for a while. Some of their adventures included hanging out in Laurel Canyon with Van Dyke Parks. Trina is the "wampum bead" wearing Lady of The Canyon in Joni Mitchell's song. Paul has always spoken very fondly of Trina.
Underground Comic artist Mary Fleener, CLB, and Trina Robbins, I suppose we're all "tearaways" in our own right. I was just picking Trina up at the Encinitas train station when serendipity struck and we ran into Mary....
CLB, Paul Williams, and Trina Robbins at Paul's nursing home Saturday 7/24/10. We had a lovely time with Trina over cinnamon rolls and coffee at the Panakin. Thanks for visiting Trina!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New Glasses

Paul Williams in his new glasses, 6/27/10.

Alexander and I picked Paul up from Aviara and brought him home for a few hours today. He played solitaire for a while which seemed to amount to placing the cards in their suits. I changed the batteries in his hearing aids and used nail polish to write his initials on both hearing aids and his new glasses.

I'm concerned about his physical health. He's become considerably weaker and his balance isn't good. He teetered and swayed nearly falling several times before we reached the door to the apartment. I said to him, "If you walk a bit faster it'll easier to keep your balance". But he doesn't seem capable of walking at a normal speed these days.

This week I have it on my list to call his doctor and see if I can get him to prescribe Paul some physical therapy, which will amount to an order to the nursing home staff to walk him around the nursing home once or twice a day and maybe get him on the stationary bike.

Patients that are in the nursing home via Medi Care (usually staying no longer than 2 months) and are rehabilitating, have a room with a therapist putting them through some physical paces. Paul, like many long term patients without "long term health insurance", is there via Medi Cal (or Medicaid).

Medicaid's Skilled Nursing Facilities are what you can expect if you outlive your spouse and your relatives can no longer take care of you. It makes one think twice about those long term health insurance policies. They cover the cost of being in a privately run nursing home. Believe me the difference in the care, from what I've seen, is staggering. One home near us has ponies in the back yard for petting. A lovely walking garden. A pool. Daily exercise classes. The same staff members see you daily and know your particulars. Dogs are in rooms and hallways for petting. Meals for family members are complimentary and pretty good. And they make sure you and your clothes are clean. And this was a place specifically for dementia care.

At any rate, I asked Paul if he'd be up for the physical therapy and he said he thought it would be a good thing for him.