inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #101 of 120: Fuzzy Logic (phred) Thu 27 Jan 00 03:30
    
Wish I could be there, I'm in Portland.  Come on up and do a reading
at Powell's, Ben!

In the meantime, I wonder if you could give us some general thoughts on
the Bay Area music scene over the decades -- say 1970, 1980, 1990 and now.
And go further back (and ahead) if you want to.  

I also wonder if you'd comment some on the contribution the East bay and
specifically Oakland has made over the last few decades -- whether it's
Pigpen, Pete Escovedo (and Sheila E), Green Day, Digital Underground,
Creedence (or none of the above) -- certainly an underappreciated part
of the region.
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #102 of 120: Ben Fong-Torres (fong-torres) Thu 27 Jan 00 12:33
    
Sorry, but it looks like the Bay Area quartet of stores is it for this
book. Sorry because I like Portland; worked with a production company
from that city for "Cycling Through China," a documentary of a troupe
of American entertainers traveling from Macau to Guangzhou in the early
80s. Also, an architect friend, Dale Farr, does an R&B oldies show on
an NPR station in Portland. 

As for the Bay Area music scene, I never followed it on a regional
basis over the decades. I prefer not to make generalizations, like, for
example, how the 70s were the big Bill Graham Day on the Green
concerts and the end of the Fillmore/Avalon dance halls; how the 80s
meant the punk scene at the Mabuhay Gardens and the hard-rock scene up
Broadway at the Stone; how the 90s gave way to the return of the
dance--plus rave & electronica--scenes. And right now, there's a stir
over the decimation of the live club scene, and of how difficult it is
for new bands to get showcases, with the recent cancellation of the
Poptopia festival.
But thru all these waves, new & old, there seems always to be a core
group of clubs that continue to offer stages (small as they may be) for
musicians willing to work for next to no pay (or worse) and for an
audience that may not even exist. With no help from the big production
companies, radio stations, or record labels, these clubs somehow
survive. As with radio, music lovers have to look harder to find the
newer, fresher voices and sounds, but they're there. 

I don't know that Oakland's musical contributions are overlooked any
more than, say Marin County's. It's just part of Oakland itself,  as a
city, being overlooked, or overshadowed, by the big town. Those who
know music can take you back to the blues and R&B scenes out of Oakland
and environs circa World War II, and bump you through the years,
through Creedence, Tower of Power, the Pointer Sisters, and so many
others, to today. 

When I receive my award in March from the Oakland Chamber of Commerce,
I plan to evoke a song that fellow Oaklander Tom Hanks and I once sang
together in his trailer on the set of one of his worst movies
(something about a tall man with a red shoe?). It was by a REALLY
overlooked East Bay contingent, the Goodtime Washboard Three, and it
was called "Oakland." Just found a vinyl copy of it at Grooves on upper
Market, in fact. So I'll have the lyrics down...Tom, of course, had
them down pat. 
Those actors.

PS: The Book Depot reading last night was a blast. Thanks to all who
attended, and to the Depot itself. A charming place to have a cuppa Joe
and a browse.
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #103 of 120: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 27 Jan 00 12:45
    
Is that the "Oakland" song with the line "just outside the city limits
speeds a freeway called the Nimitz" or like that?
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #104 of 120: Ben Fong-Torres (fong-torres) Thu 27 Jan 00 16:14
    
You got it, Gail! Now, I haven't heard the thing in a few years, but
here are bits & pieces, probably wrong:
Oakland's got the Tribune Tower
It's got Lake Merritt too
The Raiders come from there...and then something about Jack London
Square...and maybe a line about how from Kaiser Center you can see
everywhere...
and it ends,something like
We've got pride, we've got hope, and oh, what a view,
Oakland we're for you!

Tony Bennett, eat your heart out...
Speaking of which, good ol' Tony will be in town for the Gavin Seminar
in mid-February. The Gavin, where I toiled as managing editor for a
few years, has brought the industry-only confab back to SF after six
years on the road, in N'awlins, Atlanta and San Diego. I'm going to
help out by conducting an on-stage interview with the woman who writes
ALL the hits, Diane Warren, and moderating a panel on the (sad) state
of radio. 

Got any questions for the radio pros? They'll be consultants and
programmers, mainly. And I'll want to bring up questions about where
consolidation leaves the small operators and ethnic minorities--not to
mention listeners.
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #105 of 120: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 27 Jan 00 17:10
    

Yes.  What impact is internet radio having on broadcast?
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #106 of 120: Ben Fong-Torres (fong-torres) Thu 27 Jan 00 22:09
    
thank you, Gail. I'll ask that, and post the answers on one of The
WELL's radio conferences after the Seminar, which ends Feb. 20.
My guess is that Internet radio has very little impact on over-the-air
radio, but, as with satellite digital radio, which will be breaking
this year with 200 channels, conventional radio is watching verrrrry
carefully, and co-opting as much of it as it can--witness the
proliferation of Web sites sponsored by commercial radio, and of
Internet stations simulcasting with over-the-air stations & networks.

My hope is that, with all the new outlets, there'll be room for a
return to the kind of radio we saw and heard when FM first exploded in
the late Sixties. We can't repeat those times,but it'd be nice to have
some freedom on the airwaves again.
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #107 of 120: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 28 Jan 00 12:00
    
Ben, I'd like to ask you about Marvin Gaye, a brilliant artist whose sad
end was both horrifying and tragic.

Did you interview him more than once? And when you did interview him, did
he seem to be as out of control as he must have been when he was killed?

And on a broader scale, do you think cocaine damaged a lot of potentially
strong careers in the music industry? And has its [supposed] comeback been
leaving a wake in the industry?
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #108 of 120: Ben Fong-Torres (fong-torres) Fri 28 Jan 00 18:29
    
Cynthia, Marvin Gaye was indeed brilliant--but also deeply insecure
and given to fantasies. At least that's the Marvin I saw. (I only saw
him once, in 1972, over several days in and around Detroit.) He was by
no means "out of control." Saavy about the media, he strolled out into
his living room slightly stoned, and offered a choice among Scotch,
gimlet, and grass. He later admitted that, had I been from another
magazine, the choices might have been more limited. He feared that he
couldn't follow up "What's Going On," and he talked about becoming,
here in his mid-30s, a professional football player with the Lions. So
yes, he was an adventure, but no, he wasn't nuts over drugs.
That apparently came later, as he went through an expensive divorce
from a sister of Motown head Berry Gordy, Jr.; various relationships,
and increasing drug usage. 
I can't comment on what cocaine has done to musicians. So often it's
part of a set of circumstances, and reactions to drugs vary so much in
different individuals. For all who've suffered because of drug abuse,
there will be those who maintain that they created or did some of their
best work while high. that's the way it's been since the 20s or
before; that's the way it is today.
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #109 of 120: Ben Fong-Torres (fong-torres) Sun 30 Jan 00 10:59
    
It's Super Commercials Sunday, and I'm outta here. Thanks to David,
Reva and Linda of Inkwell.vue for having me, and thank you for your
questions and comments over the past two weeks. I leave you with, what
else, a few final plugs:
* My last Bay Area reading of "Not Fade Away," February 16 at Book
Passage in Corte Madera, 7:30 p.m., with sound clips of Marvin Gaye and
Jim Morrison. 
* The Chinatown New Year Parade, Sat., Feb. 19, 6 p.m. If you aren't
attending, watch Thuy Vu & me bring it to you on KTVU. Repeats Sunday
at 11 a.m.
* The music site where I work. It's myplay.com, and it'll set you up
with free space on the Web to gather, store, arrange, play and share
your fave music. It's the future; you'll dig it.
* AsianConnections.com. This site is about to introduce a major
revamp, and I'll be part of it. AC is also updating and dressing up my
own home page, www.benfongtorres.com. Give me a week or so, then come
visit. Who knows? Maybe I'll have the transcript of this Inkwell visit
there, along with those Marvin Gaye and Jim Morrison sound bites...

Until we meet again, in cyberspace or on earth, best wishes. Go
Niners! Straight into the Hall of Fame!
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #110 of 120: David Gans (tnf) Sun 30 Jan 00 11:46
    
Ben, you have been a SPLENDID guest!  Thanks for giving us your time, energy,
wisdom and humor!
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #111 of 120: Reva Basch (reva) Sun 30 Jan 00 11:49
    
Yes, thanks so much, Ben.
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #112 of 120: Gail Williams (gail) Sun 30 Jan 00 12:07
    
Great projects!  And a delicious conversation, this has been fabulous.
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #113 of 120: blather storm (lolly) Sun 30 Jan 00 14:22
    

I've really enjoyed reading this, Ben. Thanks!
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #114 of 120: Ben Fong-Torres (fong-torres) Sun 30 Jan 00 21:44
    
We can't end on Number 113. So thanks again to all of you. David,
let's talk and get that Steve Allen tape on KPFA, if possible. 'Til
then, happy hyphenating.
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #115 of 120: Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 30 Jan 00 22:31
    

Loved having you, Ben!  Put a link to this interview on your website.
Better than a transcript. 
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #116 of 120: Judy Bunce (judyb) Mon 31 Jan 00 07:47
    
It was good to see you in Inkwell.vue, Ben, and I hope to see you elsewhere
around the Well in the future.
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #117 of 120: Ben Fong-Torres (fong-torres) Mon 31 Jan 00 14:21
    
Thanks, Judy. Please, let's stay in touch. And yes, I'll put this
whole thing on my web site. Altho I hear that salon.com has beaten me
to it!
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #118 of 120: Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 31 Jan 00 14:39
    

Huh?
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #119 of 120: David Gans (tnf) Mon 31 Jan 00 15:12
    
???
  
inkwell.vue.63 : Ben Fong-Torres
permalink #120 of 120: Gail Williams (gail) Mon 31 Jan 00 15:20
    
I bet a lot of folks will link to your interview.

All over.
  



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