Peter Case

Rock ‘n’ Roll

The Plimsouls Live, 1983 Who’s Gonna Break The Ice?

This is from a live album, Beachtown Confidential, recorded at the Golden Bear, in Huntington Beach, one of our favorite clubs, in 1983, and released on Alive/Naturalsound Records. This and the other two Plimsouls Live recordings I believe are the best recordings we did, and surpass the studio versions for sound and excitement. We were a live band!   Below is a link to the record at the Alive store. There’s another one available there, Live! Beg, Borrow and Steal, from The Whiskey a Go Go Halloween 1982.

There was talk at the time that this tune would be the next single…

 

Both of these are available at iTunes and Apple Music:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/beach-town-confidential-live/id492812876

 

For the vinyl or CD:

http://www.bompstore.com/plimsouls-beachtown-confidential-custom-mixed-yellow-marble-vinyl-ltd-ed-of-100-lp/

Beach Town Confidential (1983)

 

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This track I made with Stan Ridgway has just come back into focus…

Let’s Turn This Thing Around is a track we recorded at Stan’s Lumberyard Studio, back during the W. Bush epoch.  Sad to say, it’s come back into relevance. But it’s a rockin’ little number I want my jockey to play, ‘cept that never happens. So, here it is!

Me on vocals and banjo, Stan on drum machine and SOUNDS.

LET’S TURN THIS THING AROUND!

Let’s Turn This Thing Around

when the next election comes & goes•

before it’s stolen by a nose

Americas been growing strange•

we the people want a change

 

LETS TURN THIS THING AROUND

Democracy is our ideal •

without the truth its all unreal

Jesus Christ said it plain•

you can’t serve God on a golden chain

 

LETS TURN THIS THING AROUND

 

Our countrys split that what were told

Our constitutions bought & sold

turn off the tv hear the news

without the lies & violent spews

 

LETS TURN THIS THING AROUND

who are the heros? who, the thieves?

who tells lies & who believes?

we the people hear the voice

the time has come to make the choice

 

LETS TURN THIS THING AROUND

when the next election comes & goes•

before it’s stolen by a nose

Beware the ones who turn their backs•

on reasoned words for false attacks

 

LETS TURN THIS THING AROUND

Americas been growing strange•

we the people want a change

LETS TURN THIS THING AROUND

 

How many thousands more will die

before they suck this country dry

They listened in what’s that about?

The time has come to raise a shout

its up to us to clear THE HOUSE

LETS TURN THIS THING AROUND

LETS TURN THIS THING AROUND

LETS TURN THIS THING AROUND

 

 

This was released on The Case Files compilation of rare tracks, on alive/naturalsound recordings a few years back. It’s still available on LP and CD:

Heres the link http://www.bompstore.com/case-peter-the-case-files-pink-vinyl-ltd-ed-last-copies-lp/

 

The Case Files (2011)
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Joey And Chris And A Million Miles Away

[above: Chris and Joey] [earliest version of A Million Miles Away, from 1981 tour]

 

 

I ‘d met Joey Alkes and Chris Fradkin at  just the right time, the same week the Plimsouls began playing in the Hollywood clubs. We’d hit it off immediately.

I ‘d always wanted to be a Brill Building songwriter,  like Otis Blackwell, Doc Pomus, or Carol King,  who were adept at composing three minute rock ’n roll symphonies on demand.  I felt Joey and Chris were my ticket to that dream, to that kind of fun. And we always had a blast writing songs.

I’d get up in the morning, get some coffee and head straight over to Joey’s. Chris would show up, and we’d get right into making up songs, trying anything and everything out, looking for a real idea.

Joey’s from Brooklyn, was a few years older than me and Chris, had been in the army, was a published poet, too, but  his specialty was great song hooks.

Chris had studied music, and played guitar and piano. He’d been music director for a wild band Joey had managed in Denver, and always had a lot to say about grooves and arrangements.

Chris and I would sing and play riffs or chords on our guitars, me still banging on the Yamaki deluxe, that same guitar I’d been banging’ on for years. We’d work for hours without stopping, sometimes making up several songs in a session. It was fun, a lot of laughs, tough sometimes if you thought you had something and the other guys gave it the thumbs down.

But the great thing about writing with Joey and Chris was the camaraderie, and that came through in the music. I wrote a different kind of song with them than I did alone.

Joey  lived in one of those Hollywood pads where the apartments circled a pool. Even on the sunniest day, we never sat by the pool, but we sort of looked at it through the windows as we gathered around his kitchen table and worked. Joey didn’t play an instrument, but he’d be singing choruses and horn parts—just making sounds, that added to the general feeling.

We knocked out a load of songs over there. “Now,” “Lost Time,” “Hush Hush,” were all on the first Plimsouls album. “Hypnotized,” the first song we wrote, was featured on our debut e.p.. Writing became nearly my favorite thing to do, and whenever the ‘souls were back from the road I’d go over. Sometimes it would be like a party; we’d buy beers and bottles of wine, or whiskey, get high, and keep writing. Sometimes we’d get too messed up and have to adjourn to the next day. But we just kept writing songs. It was so much fun, walking in with nothing and coming out with a song a few hours later. When we got one, we’d put it down on the boom box, making a cassette I could take with me. I’d go learn it with the band. And then, when everybody got to it, wow, that was the best feeling.

Meanwhile it seemed like every gig the band played was bigger than the one before it. The EP had been a hit on local radio, especially a song I’d written on my own, called “Zero Hour.”  Like Rodney Bingenheimer, KROQ’s great punk rock dj liked to say, “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!” And there was pressure to come up with a powerful song to lead off the next record.

One night Chris and I went out to see the Germs play a gig at the Starwood. The place was going nuts. Punks were climbing up the walls to the balcony and diving off head first, back into the crowd. We watched it from the back for a while, then decided to work on a song.

We drove to Barney’s Beanery, a horrible bar and restaurant a mile or so up the road. We sat in a booth in the back, and Chris ate dinner, while I drank a beer and scribbled lyrics on a scrap of paper. We talked about the words, and each kicked in some lines. I was remembering something from a long time back and the feeling was pouring into the song. I’d been having an affair with a girl I really thought a lot of, and that had just broken off. Something of my childhood was in it too. A lyric was taking shape based on all of this. We wrote the second verse and a bridge but still had no title or chorus.

We got out of the restaurant and drove the five minutes over to Joey’s. He rang us in the front door of his building and met us outside his door.  His wife Esther was asleep. I went in and grabbed the cheap acoustic 12 string I’d left behind the table and came back out playing. The whole song came to life as I sang the lyrics. I played the guitar riffs between the lines the way Chris and I had laid them out that afternoon, and the build up of the bridge. It was all coming together in a rush. But what’s the title, where’s the chorus? I told Joey I wasn’t sure, then somehow  Joey nailed the chorus, just like that. “I’m a million miles away” and I threw on the tag “and there’s nothing left to bring me back today,” and we had another one.

We taped it on cassette, adding it to the other two songs we’d done that day, and that was it. We forgot all about it for a while.

 

———————

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Dangerous Book (Plimsouls with Clem Burke) ( & a few words about my Bookstore Education, thanks to Acappella Books!)

Kool Trash (1998)

When I was a kid I read for hours in the local bookstores, working my way through the Hardy Boys detective series, then moving on to Ian Fleming’s secret service novels. I didn’t understand anything about detectives or spies, so it was strictly fill-in-the-blanks, piecing together a picture of the world from bookrack to bookrack, unguided, racing through the set-ups to the death-defying sex scenes.

I loved the nearest branch of the public library too, ever since the Friday night when I was six, in 1960: My pal Pete Damon and I had our first sleepover and brought five or six picture books about bugs back to the house to study by flashlight, all night in bed. That’s still one of the best times I ever had in my life, it was so much fun, reading about walking sticks, and praying mantises, sharing the pictures of anthills and beehives. Life seemed huge, friendly, ancient, inexhaustible.

But the reading experience at Ulbrich’s Books at the local suburban plaza, was different. They had popular titles, the latest things, like The Sport Of Judo by Kiyoshi Kobayashi and Harold Sharp. Me and Pete poured over that and eventually brought it home, learning to throw each other all over the yard, using Advanced Foot Sweeps, and the Major Outer Rear Drop Throw. That was 1965, when I was 10. I still have my copy of that summertime obsession.

Another big bookstore discovery, perhaps the most important, was in February, 1966, when a Dell paperback called Folk-Rock: the Bob Dylan Story, by Sy and Barbara Ribakove,  appeared one day on the same rack that held James Bond and Mike Hammer. “The First! The one and only!” shouted the cover in a red balloon. I purchased a copy for 50 cents. The book began with a list of all the times Dylan ran away from home, and told the story of his first flight, to Chicago, when he was ten.

“Destiny appeared in the form of a weathered Negro street singer strumming a guitar. Bob, awed, couldn’t pull himself away. ‘I went up to him and began accompanying him on spoons—I used to play the spoons when I was little.’ …Before the police corralled him and took him home to his parents, Bob spent three months tagging after the street player and his friends, one of whom gave him the priceless gift of an old guitar.”  Man, that’s better than Pinocchio.

As I got into my teenage years, I found and read Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media, a book that still carries a message for me. Norman Mailer’s Why Are We In Vietnam?  amazed me because the story was of a teenage genius named DJ, along on his father’s demented hunting expedition to Alaska. The novels that spoke to me the most were Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey. It seemed like you could base your whole life on those. Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Coney Island Of the Mind, and Leonard Cohen’s The Spice-box Of Earth inspired me to make my own poetry.  William Blake became important to my survival, and as life got more psychedelic, I had my portable copy. All of these eye-opening texts came my way at Ulbrich’s Books. I spent hours perusing books in the store, but the owners were patient, and never once threw me out.

I grew up, said goodbye to my pals, and got out of that town a few years later. I remember reading Ed Sanders’ book The  Family, before I split. It was a terrifying vision of California, and Charles Manson.  At the time,The Greening Of America was a sensation as well, though I never bought it, just glanced into it. And Future Shock. Well, everybody was living that one.

Despite Sanders’ warnings, I landed in San Francisco at 18 years old and began living a precarious existence as a wandering street singer for several years, no doubt inspired by my reading about Bob Dylan’s nonexistent friend.

My bookstore of choice in San Francisco was City Lights, an iconic landmark even then. I knew it was Ferlinghetti’s shop, and had read much of the poetry he’d published by Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and others. I’d see him coming and going about his business, as I played on the busy corner across the street.

During the day, if traffic was too slow on the sidewalks to bother playing, or if it was cold or raining, I’d go into City Lights, downstairs into the basement, pick a book out from the shelves, pull up a chair, and read for hours.  The Travels of Marco Polo introduced my imagination to the magic, mystery and beauty of the East—what a story! Charles Dickens, and his street characters in Oliver Twist captivated me, with tales of running away into city-wide adventure. I bought Hunter Thompson’s satire of ’70s America, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas and read it straight through, sitting all night at the counter in Hunt’s Donuts at Mission and 20th.

My next trip back to City Lights, I climbed the stairway above the front counter cash register and in the quiet room up there, devoured  Harlan Ellison’s  I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. But my bible at the time was Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. The tales of Doc the marine biologist, and Mack, the king of the bums, mythically reflected the adventures I was having in San Francisco.  All of these books were spellbinders, opening up in vivid ways ideas of life beyond the world I knew.

Back downstairs, in the philosophy section, I was reading Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good And Evil, which left me dumbfounded. What the hell? I would have loved to go beyond that duality, but I didn’t get it. I was struggling, but enjoyed the aphorisms anyway. Martin Buber’s I & Thou—which I was led to believe by a writer named Stephen Pickering had been one of Dylan’s favorites—was about the quest for God. I reached, tried to understand, didn’t get so far. But it was fascinating. I was willing to know more, and that was a start. Not “getting it” was sometimes a major piece of my bookstore education, as I tried to come to terms with concepts that were beyond me. Anyway, I spent a lot of time in there, sometimes even nodded off, but the City Lights staff never pushed me out.

After joining a rock and roll band, I moved to Los Angeles in ’76. My favorite bookstore down there eventually became Dutton’s, where I became friends with a poet, the late Scott Wannberg, and once again spent a lot of afternoons hanging out reading, and talking, though I didn’t quite have the time for that I’d had before.

I’m back in San Francisco now,  after years of living in Southern California, and I’m happy to report that City Lights is booming. With online book sales and high rents shutting down bookstores almost daily, that is quite an accomplishment. I still make a pilgrimage there, going up to the poetry room, which is, without wanting to get too saccharine about it, like a visit to a sanctuary, a peaceful spot where life can be appreciated and contemplated, and important and beautiful voices can be heard.

I went there for the 60th anniversary of the store, walked upstairs, and there was the man himself, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 94 years old, pouring champagne for well-wishers and enjoying the day. I had a copy of his new book Time Of Useful Consciousness and I asked him if he would please autograph it. I took the opportunity to thank him for the poetry, as well as the store, for allowing me to read my way through it, in the ’70s.

“I used to go up in that room above the front door, and read. I was homeless at the time, and I want to thank you for your hospitality. Sometimes I’d even fall asleep up there. You and the staff were always so kind. I feel like I got a lot of my education here.”

“Ah yes”  he replied, “That was the science fiction room.”

 

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Magic Touch at The Golden Bear

 

From the album “Beach Town Confidential”  recorded live in 1983, [released a couple years ago by alive/natural sound recordings]with the original line-up.  I wrote this song with Eddie, and we had high hopes for it as the follow-up single to A Million Miles Away, but a KROQ rep told me: “Too primitive!”   Which I thought was a selling point.  Oh well…maybe somebody didn’t make their payments, is the impression you get from reading the book “Hitmen” about the era, and Geffen in particular. That’s rock ‘n’ roll for you, like they say, its a vicious game. But this song was pure fun. Peter Zaremba said it was an update of the Buddy Holly and the Crickets sound…maybe so.

 

One original feature of this was Louie beating the drums and playing maracas at the same time, I’ve seen people do it since, but never before…who knows?

 

 

This song and the album are available at iTunes and Apple Music:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/beach-town-confidential-live/id492812876

For the vinyl or CD:

http://www.bompstore.com/plimsouls-beachtown-confidential-custom-mixed-yellow-marble-vinyl-ltd-ed-of-100-lp/

 

 

 

In the picture below, for some reason I’m checking my pulse!  Racing for some reason, hmmm?  1983…yikes!

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The Action Dogs “I Can’t Get Through To You” 1981

The Action Dogs were a collaboration with the Plimsouls, their NYC pals the Fleshtones, guitarist and rockabilly legend Danny B. Harvey, rock and roll pianist extrordinaire the late Uncle John Herron, and A Million Miles Away producer Jeff Eyrich. A twelve piece band, recorded live to two track in Hollywood, a late night, drink-fueled session that nearly none of the participants clearly recalled. The song I had started for the Nerves and never recorded, then the Fleshtones added a  great section halfway through and everybody kicked in some lyrics, and it was just really fun, I think!!! Check it out. Listen on big speakers or headphones for the full effect… Thanks Danny for the copy.

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The Day the Plimsouls Got The Big Phonecall

The Big Phone Call

The Breakways broke up, and I painted houses for a year, working for our old road manager, Ron, and making about 5 bucks an hour. The whole time I kept writing, playing and trying to meet musicians I could start a band with. It took a while. The Plimsouls started January 1, 1979, three of us backing up a blind singer and guitarist named “Doc” Holliday at a joint in El Monte California called The Place.  It was three nights a week, five sets a night, and we did it for a few months, ’til the boss came in sober one night, I got fired, and the rest of the band quit.

At that point we moved into the Hollywood club scene, immediately got a fanatic following, and cut a record, “Zero Hour,” for an independent label from Long Beach, Beat Records. Radio picked that one up, and we started breaking attendance records at the local clubs.

I was relaxing one afternoon in my rundown fourth floor Hollywood hotbox apartment. The Plimsouls had formed on the first day of the year, and were already becoming a popular club draw in town.

The phone rings: a woman’s voice: “May I speak to Peter Case of the Plimsouls?”

“You got him.”

“Can you meet with Abe Somers in his office in Century City, tomorrow at 11am?”

“I’ll be there,” I said and hung up.

Abe Somers was the most powerful music business lawyer in LA. I knew that because I’d just seen his name in the LA Times: “The Ten Most Powerful Men In The Music Business.” Abe’s name was at the top of the list.

I felt a combination of nerves, exhilaration, and anger. It’s great that a guy like this is  calling; he must want something. That could mean good news for me and the band. But the fucking nerve of these guys just having a secretary call up like that and deliver the request like it’s Cinderella or something. “Oh well maybe we’ll get to make a decent sounding record,” was how I put it to myself.

I told a couple people about the meeting, but went alone, feeling suspicious. I wanted to have freedom of movement, and didn’t want to get stuck in there if it got stinky.

After driving my trusty ride across town, a baby blue ’64 Ford Galaxy, that I’d bought for four hundred dollars from Louie, our drummer’s dad, Manny Ramirez, who had a shoe repair place out in Paramount, I found the address of my destination in Century City. It was a twenty five floor tower, so I parked my car in the garage and took the elevator up to the top floor, to the offices of Somers, Etcetera & Etcetera: Attorneys At Law. !

A fashionable and pretty young receptionist immediately led me back into Abe’s office. Abe was standing behind his desk, smiling at me. We shook hands. The gal brought me a glass of water that I’d asked for, and left the room. Before she left, Abe said: “Rachel, please hold all of my calls.”

Abe was still smiling at me. I was in a chair in front of his desk. Behind him, and all around us, were huge plate glass windows, offering a view of the entire Los Angeles area, from the ocean to the Santa Monica Mountains, and beyond. For a second I was afraid I was gonna jump through the window and try to fly away, but the feeling passed.

“I understand you are really quite the songwriter and performer,” he said, or some nonsense like that. “Some people I work with are very interested in your future.”

Just then the phone rang, and Abe looked irritated, hesitated, then picked it up.

“Rachel, I thought I told you to hold my calls…Oh…Okay. But just for a second…Yes, put him on…Hello, Prince Rupert! How are you doing? Look, I’ve got the million for Mick. Tell him it’s all taken care of, will you? Great… you’ll have to excuse me now, I’m in a very important meeting, I can’t chat… Okay…best to you and Mick, great, we’ll talk soon.”

He put down the phone and smiled graciously. “Excuse me, Peter. I’m sorry for that interruption. Now, please, tell me about yourself.”

That was my least favorite conversational opener back in those days. They all seemed to go at it like that, these big wigs, trying to put you on the spot. I’d been on the run, lived on the street, been involved with a lot of this, that and the other thing, and opening up with older, high-toned strangers made me nervous. I was struggling to pull some words together, something inane about ”Me and the band are just waiting for the right opportunity, “ some jive like that. I was sweating, uptight, and felt at a complete disadvantage.

The phone rang again, and Abe jerked around angrily, picked up the phone and shouted “Rachel! What the devil is it? I thought I told you to hold my calls! I’m in a very important meeting! Who? Well for God’s sake, can’t he call back later? What? He did? Well, okay, tell him just for a second, though. Yes, put him through. . .Hello? Mayor Bradley?  I’m going to have to kick your ass on this stadium deal! I’m in a very important meeting and I can’t talk right now, but I’m not happy with the way this thing is going. Okay? We’ll have to work this out later. I’ve got to go.I’m in the middle of something. I’ll have to speak with you later.”

He hung up and returned his gaze to me. “Sorry, Peter. Where were we?”

The upshot of the meeting with Abe was that he was representing a Columbia staff producer named Joe Wissert. Joe wanted to sign the Plimsouls to the label and produce the record. Could I bring the whole band back tomorrow, and meet with them  there at the office? Joe would come by, and we’d get things rolling.

Okay. I brought the band, which was me, Louie, and Davido, back the next day. Abe had Rachel hold his calls, and I wondered to myself who it was gonna be this time: Maybe Jimmy Carter was gonna call from the White House for some advice about the Hostage Situation or something, but no, things took another quick turn.

The band shook hands with Abe, exchanged pleasantries, shifted uneasily in the silence, as Abe smiled at us.

“So Lou, Louie Ramirez. What does your father do for a living, Lou?”

“He owns a shoe repair shop in Paramount,” Lou answered.

“Well, how would you like to buy him a whole chain of shoe repair shops?”

Louie said he thought that would be great. Abe said, well work with me and you’ll be able to do that in no time. Dave was quiet. Lou was impressed. I was ready to leave.

We meet with Joe, who it turned out had never even seen the band play. He’d heard us on the radio and read about us in the LA Times. I wasn’t so knocked out by his studio resume, even though he’d produced Boz Scaggs’ trillion selling album Silk Degrees. There was nothing so rock ’n roll about that.

I’m thinking, Joe seems like a nice guy, but his lawyer is bringing us into the deal. That seems like a conflict of interest right there. Abe says he’ll represent us, but that would be like having no representation at all, if anything goes wrong with Joe or the company.”

Abe was going to prepare the deal. We were supposed to leave and go home and think it about it. It just smelled like a big corporate rip off to me, where the bands gets chewed up and spit out, the records tank, and the careers are ruined. I had my eyes out for this stuff. I wasn’t buying.

Lou’s dad was sure gonna be glad to open that chain, if anybody ever heard from us again after we signed this deal. I can’t remember what he used to entice the rest of us. I wasn’t listening anymore. Sorry, Louie. It wasn’t gonna be that easy. On our way out of the office past Rachel, I borrowed her pen and a piece of paper and scrawled: “Thanks But No Thanks: The Plimsouls.” I handed the paper to her and said, “Please pass this note into Abe for me.”

And that’s how I handled the opportunity that came with The Big Phonecall.

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