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.
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.
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?
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.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 27 Jan 00 17:10
Yes. What impact is internet radio having on broadcast?
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.
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?
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.
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!
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!
Reva Basch (reva) Sun 30 Jan 00 11:49
Yes, thanks so much, Ben.
Gail Williams (gail) Sun 30 Jan 00 12:07
Great projects! And a delicious conversation, this has been fabulous.
blather storm (lolly) Sun 30 Jan 00 14:22
I've really enjoyed reading this, Ben. Thanks!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 31 Jan 00 14:39
David Gans (tnf) Mon 31 Jan 00 15:12
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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