Saturday, August 5, 2017

Friday, August 9, 2013

Julian Lennon "Everything Changes" Photo Exhibit / Album Review

Following is a review of Julian Lennon's photo exhibit and album review, which appeared in The Los Angeles Beat on July 6, 2013 (

On June 14, a launch party for Julian Lennon‘s new album “Everything Changes,” along with an exhibit of his photography, was held at the Morrison Hotel Gallery. The gallery is located in a small room adjoining the lobby of the prestigious Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood. Guests from the media and music industry crowded into the gallery, spilling out into the lobby and onto the patio outside, where the new album played over the speakers (drowned out by loud chatter).

As my husband Dave and I slid our way through the crowd, we spotted quite a few people (mostly overly-tanned, middle-aged rocker types) who looked familiar but whose names we couldn’t place. KCRW’s Gary Calamar told us that, sadly, we had just missed Steven Tyler (I’m not a celebrity chaser, but I would have been thrilled to have seen the colorful rocker in the flesh.). We did spot white-haired Ian McLagan, keyboardist for the Small Faces; I wanted to go up to him and tell him how much I loved his keyboard playing, but decided to leave him alone to nurse his drink. (Speaking of drinks – just a quick, irrelevant aside to note that the wine being served was terrible. Shouldn’t a swanky place like the Sunset Marquis provide something that tastes better than Two Buck Chuck?)

But this is starting to reading too much like a gossip column, so let’s get to the main subject: Julian Lennon. While standing outside on the cool patio to get a breath of fresh air, my eyes followed a horde of photographers, and I was then able to spot Lennon. Hair cut short nowadays, he is a young 50; the resemblance to his father is often noted, but he’s also inherited his beautiful mother Cynthia‘s high cheekbones. As soon as the horde of photographers dispersed and he retreated to the lobby, I walked up to him and said, “I just wanted to congratulate you on your latest album.” He was charming and gracious, pointing at his cheek for me to kiss it. Naturally, I did.( Having had a huge crush on Julian years ago in my youth, it was a giddy moment for me; hubby Dave was amused and stood by patiently, grinning.)

The Photos

Lennon’s photography is impressive, and not just in a rock-star-doing-something-on-the-side sort of way; viewed objectively, without the shackles of rock royalty attached to it, it stands on its own. It makes sense that many of his subjects are rock musicians, as he was born into that world; however, it’s not the subjects, but the way in which they’re captured, that make these black and white photographs so striking. A sparse photograph of The Edge, back turned towards the camera, wearing a black knit hat, stands in front of a white board in which “Wake Up and Dream” has been written in black marker; a tough, bald, tattooed, sunglasses-wearing Jason Bonham, arms folded, sits in front of his drum gear;  ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons rocks out on guitar, in all his bearded glory. (One photo included on Julian’s website, not for sale, is entitled “Someone To Look Up To.” Bono, wearing his trademark sunglasses, sits smiling in contemplation in the studio, leaning forward, hands clasped. Hanging on the wall behind him is an early photo of John Lennon, in leather jacket and greased-back pompadour; the viewer quickly realizes that the “someone to look up to” is not Bono.) Gritty black-and-white photographs portray various managers, producers and roadies, sitting in rock clubs amidst band posters or standing on street corners. In contrast to the rock photos are Lennon’s ethereal color portraits: clouds, oceans, mountains; they’re not as bold as the black and white photos, but they do capture the calm majesty of these scenes.

The Album

Though it was previously released in 2011, “Everything Changes” is being touted as Lennon’s first album in 15 years (it includes additional tracks not on the 2011 release). Produced by Lennon and Grant Ransom, it features performances by Steven Tyler as well as producer/musician Peter Vettese (who has played keyboards with artists as diverse as Jethro Tull and the Pet Shop Boys). Collaborators include Gregory Darling, Justin Clayton and Guy Platt. Compared with 1984′s “Valotte,” Lennon’s most well-known album, the listener finds less immediately-catchy pop hooks and more of an overall lush, haunting sound, that is modern without catering specifically to any current trends.

The haunting opening track, “Everything Changes,” could be a mid-tempo track by English band, Elbow. Beginning with a simple melodic piano line, the minimal string arrangement helps to slowly build the song in dynamics, without overtaking it. “Someday,” featuring Steven Tyler, is one of the album’s strongest tracks, with an Indian-influenced string line (think “Within You Without You.”). Starting off with the familiar line “how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people,” from “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” Julian borrows the hook from his dad in a way that’s fun and inventive, incorporating it into an a capella round at the end of the song.

Lennon’s early work is evoked on the piano-driven ballad “Lookin’ 4 Love.” Lyrically, it’s one of the more direct songs on the album, as Lennon expresses a painful yearning to be with that special someone: “I’m looking for love / but I’m looking in all the wrong places / Oh God from above / can’t you help me see through all of these faces?” “Just For You” begins as subdued and understated, then explodes into a powerful and passionate chorus: “I’ve talked to the Virgin Mary / prayed to the Holy Ghost / come with a bowl of sapphire / for the one I love the most.” “Disconnected” continues with the album’s general theme of spirituality and oneness: “Cuz I believe / that everyone’s the same / cuz we’re all so disconnected / But I have realized / every moment there’s a sign / hidden in the rhythm of the mind / that guides us all to where we ought to be.”

Fans of The Left Banke and Revolver-era Beatles might be drawn to the minimal strange quartet/acoustic guitar arrangement of the lovely “In Between.”  “Beautiful” is a touching eulogy for a departed loved one, a piano ballad somewhat reminiscent of ELO, without the bombast: “You were so beautiful / the love you left behind will carry on / you gave your heart and soul to everyone.”

Overall, Julian’s album has a gentle, comforting and familiar tone, both musically and lyrically. If one is expecting a work with an innovative edge, both sonically and thematically, they’ll be disappointed. But anyone who recalls “Valotte” will remember it as a pleasant album of memorable pop songs; heartfelt, not lightweight and fluffy, but also not breaking any new ground. “Everything Changes” also does not break any new ground, and that’s okay. It’s a mature album, focusing more on a holistic world view and less on romantic relationships, the stuff pop songs are made of. Julian’s philosophical lyrics of togetherness, change and love may sound a bit trite to the more cynical among us, but as a man who has made philanthropy one of the focal points of his life (The White Feather Foundation is just one of his charities), he sings these anthems with emotion and conviction.

It’s fair to say that Julian Lennon, as the son of a much-revered music legend, has had a very unusual life, and has often been subject to unfair comparisons; however, he has emerged through this storm older, wiser and with his individuality intact. His foray into the world of photography is inspiring, as well as the music he continues to create; both in the visual art world as well as music, Lennon has made his own mark.

The Damned / El Rey Theater, May 26, 2013

Following is a review of The Damned at the El Rey Theater, which appeared in the Los Angeles Beat on June 4, 2013 (

Photo by Heather Stansfield Anderson.
Legendary 70′s punk band The Damned performed May 26 at the El Rey Theater, and it was a good opportunity for people-watching. The elegant art deco theater, with its red velvet walls and chandeliers, provided an appropriate backdrop for the various ghouls and goblins in attendance. Young punks, most likely born fifteen years or so after The Damned’s first single (“New Rose”) was released in 1977, sported giant Mohawks, gobs of eyeliner, fishnets and leather. The “punks of a certain age” were fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately?) a bit more restrained, with dyed black hair and band t-shirts their only concession to the old days. Young fans could have easily been there with their old school punk rock grandparents; the age range was that wide.

After the ghouls and goblins (as well as relatively normal-looking fans) were packed into the theater, the lights dimmed; a blue hazy light projected onto the closed curtain, while dramatic organ intro to “Curtain Call” (from 1980′s “The Black Album”) began. The curtain opened to reveal the band: Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible (the only two original members currently performing with The Damned); Pinch (Andy Pinching) drumming, Stu West on bass, and Monty Oxy Moron, keyboardist.

Dave Vanian has transformed himself in recent years from a Victorian vampire in ruffled shirt, to a vampire Elvis with pompadour and leather jacket; nowadays, he doesn’t appear to be a vampire at all, but rather a gentleman strangler. Handsome and debonair in a white dress shirt, hat, sunglasses and black leather gloves, he could have been Don Draper’s sinister alter ego, bathed in a sickly green light through most of the show. (The famous optical illusion painting, “All Is Vanity,” in which the image of a woman sitting at a mirror also resembles a skull, made an ideal backdrop.) As always, in contrast to Vanian’s dark persona is that talented goofball, Captain Sensible. In red-and-white-striped shirt, red beret, and white-framed sunglasses, he was clearly the leader, cracking jokes and introducing songs throughout the show.

Although the band has released several new albums in recent years, the bulk of the material performed spanned the era from 1977 through 1985. During those years, the band expanded their sound from ferocious, catchy punk (as on their debut album, “Damned Damned Damned”), to dark, keyboard-heavy psychedelic rock (1982′s “Strawberries” embraced the band’s love of 60′s garage), and finally, to a relatively polished, major label act (1985′s “Phantasmagoria,” by which time Captain Sensible had departed, is the band’s most commercial album, yet still retained their unique identity and sense of humor). Set highlights included “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” (with Monty Oxy Moron providing the signature organ solo); the Motown-influenced “Stranger On The Town,” and the music hall camp of “Grimly Fiendish.”

The onstage banter was almost as entertaining as the music. After Sensible commented that the U.S. audience was considerably more attractive than the U.K. audience, the band broke into the rollicking “Dozen Girls,” with its end refrain: “He’s alright and he don’t care / he’s got thermal underwear.” Prior to playing “Alone Again Or” (a cover song by legendary Los Angeles 60′s band, Love), Sensible also reminisced about reading magazines as a kid during the 60′s, wishing he could have been part of that “shagadelic” scene. During “Ignite,” he led the audience in a sing-a-long of the “whooahhhhh” pre-chorus, urging them, “Come on! You can do better than Leeds or London!”

The band performed a generous encore, beginning with the spaghetti western guitar riff of “Shadow of Love;” the bratty “Neat Neat Neat” (segueing nicely into The Doors’ “Break On Through (To The Other Side);” “Melody Lee” and “Video Nasty.” Captain Sensible, shouting that they were “still alive, still here,” went on to rant that they were a much better deal than “those bastards, The Rolling Stones, charging a thousand dollars a ticket!” Dedicating “Smash It Up” to Keith Richards, the band ended the night with the full-length version of the song, with its moody, jangly intro leading into the quick-paced, infectious chorus.

As Vanian and Sensible are the only original members, some fans might have been doubtful that The Damned’s current incarnation (especially without Rat Scabies’ manic drumming) would live up to any high expectations. Monty Oxy Moron, Pinch and Stu West, however, played exactly what was needed and more, adding their individual styles without deviating too much from the original recordings. The band’s energy, musicianship, imagination and wit would put many a younger band to shame. At one point in the night, Sensible quipped, “Not bad for a bunch of ol’ bastards, innit?” Not bad, indeed; in fact, it was nothing short of mind-blowing.

Lance Loud: A Mother's Tribute

Following is a copy of my review of Pat Loud's book, "Lance Loud," which appeared in The Los Angeles Beat on May 18, 2013 (

The PBS documentary series “An American Family,” broadcast in 1973, was groundbreaking as well as controversial. Widely considered the first reality show, it documented the Louds, an upper middle-class family living in Santa Barbara, California; their daily activities, from mundane household routines to dramatic marital upheaval, were captured on film for the world to see. Eldest son Lance (considered the first openly gay person on television) made no attempt to hide his flamboyant lifestyle. Amongst today’s reality show-saturated audiences (and with homosexuality far more accepted among mainstream viewers), this would probably elicit no more than a yawn; however, in the early 70’s, it created quite a media sensation.

After “An American Family,” Lance and high school friend, Kristian Hoffman, moved to New York and reformed the rock band they’d started in Santa Barbara, the Mumps (initially called Loud).  Kristian wrote the material and played keyboards, while Lance was front man; Lance described the band as being “too pop for punk, too ‘old school’ for the New Wave.” The Mumps performed at legendary punk club CBGB’s along with Blondie and the Ramones, yet sadly not obtaining the level of success of their peers. The band broke up in 1980. Lance became a journalist, contributing to magazines such as Circus, American Film and Vanity Fair, and had a regular column in The Advocate. He passed away in 2001 at the age of 50 from liver failure caused by Hepatitis C and HIV co-infection.

In a loving tribute to her eldest son, Pat Loud, along with photographer and family friend Christopher Makos, recently published a colorful coffee table book; it is compiled of memoirs written by friends and family, as well as photos culled from Pat’s personal collection and professional sources. The common thread in all of the recollections is that Lance was a force of nature: spontaneous, charming, witty, shunning all things “boring,” kindhearted, generous, and sometimes maddeningly irresponsible. Friends recall Lance beckoning loudly outside windows (“Lee-Sa!”); desert road trips and thrift store hunting; his curiosity and passion for new life experiences, music and film; his love of food and classic L.A. haunts (several references are made to Pat’s excellent home cooking); and a fondness for cats. Unfortunately, his zest for living had a destructive side. One friend remembers, when Lance was on deadline for a magazine assignment, he would begin to panic: “I’m on deadline! I have to do some speed.” The friend adds that Lance “didn’t get a little high; he got a lot high.”
Judging from the photos, Lance’s drug abuse isn’t apparent; even in the later years when he became ill, he appears healthy, tan and muscular. The photos capture him throughout his life, from his 1950′s childhood as an adorable, well-dressed little boy, through his years as a journalist in the `90′s. There are Mumps press photos and live action shots (my favorite is of Lance, in black tank top, sweating and grinning mischievously, leaning against keyboardist Kristian Hoffman; in contrast, Kristian appears subdued and serious, a crisp short-sleeved dress shirt buttoned up to his neck). There are many celebrity photos as well: Lance posing with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Deborah Harry, Gus Van Sant, Dinah Shore, Steven Tyler, etc.

Lance Loud loved his family, and vice versa. In Kristian Hoffman’s piece, in which he writes about befriending Lance in high school, he recalls how affectionate the family was. He describes the difference between his own family’s distance towards one another and the Loud family’s warmth: “I was astounded that, when Lance and his siblings would gather together on the sofa to watch television or listen to records, they actually touched each other . . . here were a group of boisterous, hilarious children who actually enjoyed physical proximity, even intimacy! I had never looked at the world through that lens before. I wanted in!” Family photos portray this great affection, as do the written contributions from his siblings and parents. Mother Pat lovingly describes Lance as “the master of mischief”; sister Michelle describes Lance as someone needing to be looked after, and writes of having been very protective towards her older brother; Kevin admiringly writes of Lance as someone able to “exact pure justice,” relaying a hilarious incident of his brother deflating the ego of a vain and pompous CEO over a business dinner.

Although the stories told by friends are touching and often hilarious, ultimately it is the family photos and memories that make this book truly exceptional. After all, the Louds have the shared experience of being documented on television as a family, their personal matters exposed to the world and criticized in the media, appearing on the cover of Newsweek under the headline “The Broken Family.” No one can really understand what it’s like to have experienced the first “reality show” firsthand, except for the Louds. Pat Loud’s book is a love letter to her late son, but it’s also a fitting tribute to her whole family.

Pat Loud will be signing copies of her book at the “Lance Out Loud” book signing/Mumps musical tribute on June 30, 8:00 P.M., at the Trepany House/Steve Allen Theater. For more information and to purchase tickets, please go to

Lance Out Loud
Pat Loud
Glitteratti Incorporated: 240 pp., $50

my review of the Nilsson box set on Legacy Recordings for The Los Angeles Beat

Here is the link to my recent review of the 17-CD Nilsson box set, recently released on Sony:

You can also read it below:

“Nilsson’s my favorite group,” the ever-witty John Lennon once famously quipped about his friend, singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson. Lennon would have been delighted to receive this gorgeous box set of seventeen CD’s, spanning Nilsson’s RCA recording career from 1967 to 1977. The CD covers are lovingly reproduced from the album artwork, stacked snugly in the minimal tan and brown fold-out box (designed by Steve Stanley). Presenting the CD’s as miniature reproductions of the original albums is an appealing aesthetic choice (especially for vinyl junkies), but the text is often too tiny to be legible. The accompanying booklet solves this problem by listing the song titles, credits and extensive liner notes in clear, readable print.

Many of the CD’s have been released previously as expanded editions over the years, with bonus tracks, outtakes, demos and radio spots. However, the box set includes quite a few additional unreleased tracks, including the five demo tracks recorded for the Monkees on Nilsson Sessions 1967-1968: “1941,” “Signs,” “Cuddly Toy,” and “This Could Be The Night.” Also previously unreleased, from Aerial Ballet, are alternate versions of “One,” “Together,” “Bath,” and “I Said Goodbye To Me.” Liner notes are written by Andrew Sandoval, who worked on previous Nilsson reissues; he also compiled and produced the box set with Rob Santos of Legacy Recordings. Sandoval provides a brief yet detailed history of each album, including the three Nilsson “sessions” CD’s of bonus material containing 58 tracks (half of which are previously unreleased).

In just ten years Nilsson transformed from a clean-cut, clear-voiced pop craftsman, to a grizzled, bluesy, world-weary troubadour. From his RCA debut album Pandemonium Shadow Show in 1967 to 1977′s Knnillssonn, Nilsson’s material ranges from smartly-crafted pop, to melancholic ballads, to drunken meanderings, to feral rock’n'roll, sometimes all on the same album. There is the flawless beauty of Aerial Ballet, which includes the hit from the film Midnight Cowboy, “Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me” (written by Fred Neil), as well as the painful yet musically upbeat tribute to an absent father, “Daddy’s Song.” “Good Old Desk” is an ode to a dependable work pal: “My old desk doesn’t arabesque / In the morning when I first arrive / It’s a pleasure to see / It’s waiting there for me /To keep my hopes alive.” Fans of both Nilsson and Randy Newman will appreciate Nilsson Sings Newman, in which Nilsson recreates Newman’s musical stories in his crystal-clear, angelic voice (a vocal quality Newman, for his many talents, did not possess).

Nilsson’s career reached its peak with the commercial smash, Nilsson Schmilsson. As with “Everybody’s Talkin’,” he once again had a huge hit with a song he didn’t write, the heartbreaking ballad “Without You,” written by Badfinger‘s Pete Ham and Tom Evans. He also had a hit with the light, calypso-flavored “Coconut.” “Let The Good Times Roll” and “Jump Into The Fire” (which rocks a bit more than most of Nilsson’s polished, piano-driven, Tin Pan Alley-influenced compositions) are also well-known Nilsson classics.  My personal favorite off this album is the sleepy “Moonbeam Song;” one gets the impression that Nilsson wrote it while lying in bed, drifting off: “Have you ever watched a moonbeam / as it slid across your window pane / or struggled with a bit of rain / or danced about the weather vane . . .  ”

After Nilsson Schmilsson, the albums are hit-or-miss. Son of Schmilsson has its moments, and while it’s true that Nilsson Schmilsson is a tough act to follow, Son feels burned-out, let-down; his once-perfect harmonies out of key on “The Lottery Song.” Intelligent, literate, witty lyrics are replaced by amusing yet crass observations: “You broke my heart, so fuck you,” “I’d rather be dead than wet my bed.” Fortunately, the album of orchestrated standards that follows, A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, is like a sweet, sentimental balm to soothe the harshness delivered by Son of Schmilsson, offering beloved classics like “It Had To Be You,” “As Time Goes By,” and “Nevertheless (I’m In Love With You).”

The notorious album Pussy Cats was produced by John Lennon and recorded during his infamous “lost weekend” period in Los Angeles. Expectations of the genius pairing of Lennon/Nilsson were perhaps unrealistically high, and the initial album reviews were not favorable.  The partying among Nilsson, Lennon and pals at the time is legendary and is reflected throughout the recording; however, despite the madness (and sometimes because of it), the album has its shining moments. Opening track “Many Rivers To Cross,” a Jimmy Cliff cover, is achingly melancholic, resembling Lennon’s “Mind Games” in feel (Lennon lets out one of his famous screams during the song’s fade-out). The drunken rambling of bonus track “The Flying Saucer Song,” like most drunken ramblings, is simultaneously hilarious and depressing. A primal version of Dylan‘s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” could easily be a track off of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. (In fact, the album is often more Lennon in tone than Nilsson.) Even the lighthearted cover of “Loop The Loop” is followed by the overwhelmingly somber and beautiful “Black Sails”: “Black sails in the moonlight / black patch on your eye / you shiver your timbers, baby / and I’ll shiver mine.” The album alternates in a manic-depressive way between upbeat oldies covers and sad, tender ballads; however, the oldies seem like filler, and come off like forced cheerfulness. It’s the songs like “Many Rivers To Cross,” “Black Sails” and the exquisite “Don’t Forget Me” (on which his damaged voice lends a heartbreaking vulnerability) that stand out on the album. They’re proof that, even while drunk out of their minds, Lennon and Nilsson still managed to record some outstanding tracks.

On Duit On Mon Dei, the singer aims for more bluesy sound, heading into Randy Newman/New Orleans territory. Sandman is a better album; it’s a return to his rich harmonies and elegant arrangements, and it seems more focused than some of his 70′s efforts. Better still is Knnillssonn, his strongest effort in years. Although his voice has dropped about an octave since the early days (and almost resembles Leonard Cohen at times), it is clear and strong, and the songwriting is top notch. “All I Think About Is You” is a haunting orchestral ballad: “I’ll stand an hour knocking / knowing that my heart is mocking me / she doesn’t live here anymore.” “Who Done It” is a playful take on murder mysteries, and Nilsson has fun with its rhymes: “There were thirteen people in the house / The owner and his wife / the butler and his wife / Cook with her knife / a couple named Smythe.” Bonus tracks, such as a cover of the standard “Shuffle Off To Buffalo,” feel intimate, as if the listener is hanging out in Nilsson’s living room, listening to him bang out his favorite classics on a piano.

The sessions discs contain gems that will appeal to ardent Nilsson fans: acoustic guitar demos of “1941″ and “Cuddly Toy;” a piano version of “This Could Be The Night,” and a somewhat psychedelic (perhaps unintentionally so, due to the odd flange effect) version of “Sister Marie.” Also included is a faithful rendition of Procol Harum‘s “She Wandered Through The Garden Fence” and a demo of “One” (more understated and moving than Three Dog Night’s hit version). “The Cast and Crew,” from the soundtrack of Otto Preminger’s 1968 film Skidoo, is hilarious; Nilsson recites the film credits at a rapid-fire pace over a manic musical piece. I much prefer the version of “Joy” presented on Nilsson Sessions 1971-1974 to the comical recording on Son of Schmilsson, which is recited, not sung, in a thick cowpoke accent; on the Sessions version, there’s more emotional impact when he simply sings the song straight, with no goofy country affectation: “Joy to the world / was a beautiful girl / but to me, Joy meant only sorrow.”

Nilsson completists will be thrilled to have what a friend of mine accurately described as “all that genius and insanity in one box.” His stellar albums outnumber the less-than-perfect ones; even on those records where he’s not at the top of his musical game (and despite his best efforts to self-destruct), the moments of brilliance still shine through.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

recent writing for The L.A. Beat

Hey folks -

Following are some recent contributions to The L.A. Beat.

Here's a review of Pat Loud's book, "Lance Out Loud," about her son, Lance (lead singer of The Mumps), and their experiences of being the first "reality show" family on PBS's "An American Family."

Following is a review of legendary punk band The Damned, who performed at the El Rey Theater over Memorial Day weekend:

My latest contribution is a review of Julian Lennon's most recent release, as well as his photo exhibit at the Morrison Hotel:

Happy reading!

Love, Carolyn

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Three O'Clock reunion show, The Glass House, Pomona

Hi folks -

Hope life is treating you well (all three of you who read this blog). I will probably be writing less for my own little blog, and more for The Los Angeles Beat. The LA Beat is run by Elise Thompson and her husband, local musician (Clawhammer, Backbiter) and writer Bob Lee; it features a variety of articles, interviews and reviews of music, live shows, food, film, books, etc.

I wrote my first live review last week of The Three O'Clock's reunion show in Pomona. Not only was the show incredibly fun, it was also enjoyable to bring a little notepad and pen and scribble notes during the set for my review. (I'm very old school; I realize I could type into a digital notepad on my phone, but what's the fun in that?) I'm looking forward to contributing more pieces to The LA Beat - stay tuned for more music reviews, etc.

You can also read the review below:

When exiting off the 10 East in Pomona near the Fairplex, it doesn’t appear that the city would offer much in the way of arts and entertainment – it’s a somewhat bleak landscape of empty lots, drugstores, fast food chains and post-war ranch-style houses. However, turning onto W. 2nd St. in downtown Pomona, one encounters a completely different and vibrant side to the city. The Pomona Arts Colony is only a few blocks long, which means everything is easily within walking distance – antique and vintage clothing stores, galleries, wine bars and quality dining. The street is adorned with whimsical stringed white lights and century-old lamp posts. Weary Angelenos, accustomed to driving around L.A. looking for parking spaces or shelling out $20.00 for the privilege, can relax: the Arts Colony has a huge parking lot, with metered parking for only a dollar. (I was so happy.) For music, there is The Glass House, an all-ages venue at which legendary paisley underground band The Three O’Clock performed a reunion show.

While eating dinner across the street from the venue, seated with friends outside a restaurant, we were treated to a dramatic pre-show sight: a parade of people riding Vespa scooters arrived, heading slowly down the street towards the venue. (I suddenly felt like I was in a much cheerier version of Quadrophenia.) Sure enough, the old-school mods had indeed turned out in droves to see The Three O’Clock: clean-shaven guys dressed impeccably in tailored, mid-60’s suits, the girls with heavily lined eyes, miniskirts and boots. (No big bushy hipster beards in this crowd.) The excitement in the audience was palpable as the band took to the stage (and people got their smart phones ready to document the event).

Three of the original members of The Three O’Clock  – Michael Quercio, Danny Benair and Louis Gutierrez  – were performing. Unfortunately, original keyboardist Mike Mariano was not involved with the show. However, Adam Merrin (keyboardist for British invasion-influenced L.A. Band The 88) did an excellent job playing the parts, while adding his own style to the mix.
The band opened up with “Simon in the Park” and followed it up with “With Cantaloupe Girlfriend;” Gutierrez employed some Townshend-style showmanship, letting his guitar feed back and lifting it above his head. The band sounded a bit grittier live than their records, which was a good thing; though their recordings are brilliant, the band played their live set with a ferocity that brought the songs to life, and included some wonderfully noisy psychedelic jams. Quercio’s trademark tenor was clear and strong, and he and Benair locked in tightly to provide an excellent rhythm section. Skilled guitarist Gutierrez kept his roadie busy, often changing guitars to produce specific sounds (mostly of a mid-to-late 60’s nature, though his playing style wasn’t strictly confined to that decade). One would have never guessed that the band had been broken up for years; they played as if they had been performing continuously since the 80’s.

Several songs from the 1983 album Sixteen Tambourines (my personal favorite) were featured: “Jet Fighter,” beginning with its signature beat; “Fall To The Ground” (keyboardist Merrin performing the piano arpeggio flawlessly); “When Lightning Starts” (there was no brass section onstage, but the keyboards and guitar substituted the horn lines nicely); “Stupid Einstein,” and the Bee Gees’ “In My Own Time” (“It’s time for the Australian part of the set,” Quercio quipped beforehand). Other set highlights included “Her Head’s Revolving,” from 1985’s Arrive Without Travelling, and the Salvation Army song “Upside Down” (which had less of a 60’s pop influence than their later material and more of a garage feel; the cow-punk bridge evoked the sound of L.A. clubs in the early 80’s).
The band performed a generous encore set, starting with “And So We Run” from Sixteen Tambourines, a cover of The Byrds’ “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” and ending with the Salvation Army’s first single “Mind Gardens” (for which Quercio gave props to original guitarist John Blazing).

At one point in the set, Louis Gutierrez noted, “Wow, everyone’s gotten older! What happened?” As far as the band, though, especially the eternally youthful Quercio (how does he do it?), they’ve aged extremely well; more importantly, so has their music. Although droves of the band’s original fans came out for the show (no doubt many babysitters were making money that night), there were also quite a few starry-eyed 20-somethings, who seemed just as thrilled to see the band as the older folks. Great music stands the test of time, and The Three O’Clock is living proof of that.