the 60s (37)

It Was 20 Years Ago Today…

Glenda walked into the office a few days ago and said, “It was 42 years ago today when I saw the Beatles in Atlanta.”

How did you like it? I asked.

“Oh, I was one of those screaming idiots,” she said.

Her words rang a bell. Later That afternoon, it popped into my head:

It was twenty years ago today,

Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play

They’ve been going in and out of style

But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile.

So may I introduce to you

The act you’ve known for all these years,

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

(Smile if you can hear the horns right now.)

Like when JFK was shot, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard that album. 1000 feet above the ocean on a Big Sur hillside, housesitting for friends on a dark night in June, 1967, fire burning. What is this?  An out-of-the-blue album, a happy rock opera, with English music hall tradition, it was a jolt of joy.

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Exile on Main Street

With all the recent publicity about the reissue of the Stones’ classic album, I realized I’d never owned it, so bought the new version. It’s tote-uh-lee great. Reminds me of the days when not a few of us dope-smoking drop-outs from polite society would vicariously strut along with Mick as he sang these incredible songs with his kick-ass band. Greatest rock and roll band in the world, you bet. Unique spin-off of deep and real American blues. I remember thinking that the English no longer control the world’s seas, but they have sure revolutionized music. How could white boys be so good?

I’m enjoying the heck out of it this foggy sunny morning, working on my tiny houses book. Here’s an anonymous comment on the album on Amazon:

“I came to terms with Exile when asked by a friend what I thought the five all-time greatest Stones songs were — songs that will still be alive 50 years from now. My response was fairly quick — Satisfaction, Gimme Shelter, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Wild Horses, and Sympathy for the Devil. Just my opinion. But I realized immediately none were from Exile, which I think is the Stones’ all-time best album. Yes, Tumbling Dice and Happy are up there, and some cuts on Exile are, IMHO, absolutely awesome (viz their cover of Robert Johnson’s Stop Breaking Down) — but clearly Exile is not rich in standout hits. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Like few other albums, Exile is a world, a place I immerse myself in — a distillation of American blues and gospel and country and rock — a funky smokefilled bar or afternoon fishfry or steamy bordello, with beer and bourbon, pianos and slide guitars and hard-partying working people letting it loose, shining a light, shaking their hips, boogieing, scraping the sh*t off their shoes, rocking the joint all down the line.…”

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Me at Gravel & Gold in SF Friday night

I arrived a few hours early for my presentation at Gravel and Gold in San Francisco’s Mission District. I had a problem: my new MacBook Pro laptop wouldn’t accept the plug-in from my Epson projector. I’d been to the Apple store on the way over, and couldn’t find the right connector. The three owners of the store, Cassie, Lisa, and Nile weren’t dismayed. We tried all kinds of variations, but nothing seemed to be working. Lisa kept saying, “Don’t worry we’ll figure it out.” I wasn’t so sure. Finally she took off in her car and came back with a borrowed projector. We transferred the data to one of their laptops, then couldn’t get the projector going. We tried various combinations, with me having my doubts, but Lisa saying, “We’ll get it working.”

Finally one of their friends came in and knew just what to do, and 10 minutes before starting time we were in business. I started by talking a little bit about the first Whole Earth Catalog, and how it and the Dome Cookbook by Steve Baer were my inspiration for getting into the publishing business. Then I showed slides from the three main builders featured in Builders of the Pacific Coast. Finally I showed some slides of tiny houses, the subject of my next book. (Actually, in retrospect, these were photos I grabbed at the last minute and they weren’t really representative of the great material I have for this book.)

For me it was a pretty wonderful evening. The store is unique, with eclectic clothing, art, jewelry, crafts, and items you’d never think of until you see them there. Good vibes. The median age in the audience was, I’d say, 30. It’s great to be connecting with this generation. Someone asked what I thought of Dwell magazine. I said I couldn’t figure out who lives in those houses, but there seems to be no warmth or soul (or funk) evident in the Dwell style. Further, that people like us are interested in shelter that is full of life and warmth and the touch of the human hand.

Gravel and Gold has been mentioned in the New York Times and Vogue magazine and seems to be catching on. It’s at 3266 21st St., between Mission and Valencia in San Francisco. Website here. Blog here.

Photo by Evan Kahn

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