Allen Ginsberg At Reed College: The First Recorded Reading Of Howl

by admin  14th Jan 2021 Comments [0]

By Harvey Kubernik


On April 2, 2021, Omnivore Records will be issuing Allen Ginsberg At Reed College: The First Recorded Reading Of Howl & Other Poems.

A description of the product appears on the Omnivore website.

“Allen Ginsberg’s first public reading of his epic poem ‘Howl’ took place at San Francisco’s famous Six Gallery in October of 1955. Along with Ginsberg, the evening included readings by Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Philip Lamantia, and Michael McClure. Poet and anthologist Kenneth Rexroth was the emcee, and Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Neal Cassady were in attendance.

“Unfortunately for literary history, no one recorded the Six Gallery reading, and it was long-thought that the first recording of ‘Howl’ was from a reading at Berkeley in March 1956. Before visiting Berkeley, however, Ginsberg had traveled to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, with Gary Snyder to give a series of readings. Snyder and Philip Whalen had been students at Reed and had studied under the legendary calligrapher Lloyd Reynolds.

“On February 13 and 14, 1956, Snyder and Ginsberg read at Reed, with the Valentine’s Day performance recorded then forgotten about until author John Suiter, researching Snyder at Reed’s Hauser Memorial Library, found the tape in a box in 2007.

“To reflect the distinctive culture of Reed College, Reed Professor of English and Humanities, Dr. Pancho Savery, wrote the liner notes and Gregory MacNaughton of the Calligraphy Initiative in Honor of Lloyd J. Reynolds created the cover in the style of what a poster for the event might have looked like hanging on the Reed campus in 1956. Savery’s notes trace the poem’s history and inspiration and highlight differences in this early, work-in-progress version to the final published text.

“Reading ‘Howl’ out loud in front of an audience is an exhausting and emotional experience, so Ginsberg warmed up by reading several shorter poems first. The Reed recording includes these shorter selections and most of Part I of ‘Howl.’

“The restored recording is crystal clear; you can not only hear Ginsberg turning the pages, but taking breaths after each long line. The audience is pin-drop quiet except for a few places in the reading, for instance, one moment when someone in the audience says something that can’t be heard that elicits laughter, to which Ginsberg responds, ‘I don’t want to corrupt the youth.’ Other lines generate laughter, but the audience is attentive and respectful, allowing for a present-day fly-on-the-wall listening experience. In testimony to how emotionally draining it was to read the poem two nights in a row, as Ginsberg launches into Part II, he stops after four lines saying, ‘I don’t really feel like reading any more, I haven’t got any kind of steam. So I’d like to cut, do you mind?’ Thus ends the first known recording of ‘Howl’… and now begins its 21st century access for all to hear.”


I KNEW ALLEN GINSBERG and interviewed him at length three times. I also co-promoted several of his Southern California readings in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, and produced a live recording of him in 1982 at the Unitarian Church.

My first Ginsberg interview initially appeared in 1996 in HITS Magazine and a very short edited version appeared in The Los Angeles Times Calendar section on April 7, 1997 when the daily newspaper asked me to pen one of the tribute stories on Ginsberg when he died. During 1999 a portion of one of my interviews was published in The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats. In 2007 I wrote the liner notes to the first-ever CD release of Ginsberg’s Kaddish for Water Records.

I provided handclaps on two tracks with Rodney Bingenheimer on the Leonard Cohen album Death of a Ladies’ Man produced by Phil Spector at Gold Star Recording Studio in 1977. On one cut Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan join Leonard on “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On.” Stan Ross and Larry Levine engineered these sessions. Leonard and I went to see Ginsberg read at The Troubadour club in West Hollywood. At the time I was doing a series of interviews with Phil and Leonard before and after they did that LP.

In December of 2005 I spoke with legendary record producer and author Jerry Wexler, then a partner in Atlantic Records with Ahmet and Neshui Ertegun. In January 1965, Ginsberg had signed a record contract with Wexler’s landmark Atlantic Records label to distribute his live performance of Kaddish on an album.

“For me it all began with ‘Howl,’ and then when I read ‘Kaddish,’ it stirred the dark Yiddish currents in my own blood. I experienced the joy and anguish, the exaltation that great poetry will bring on,” Wexler reminisced. “I don’t recall when or how I met Allen, but I telephoned him to see whether he’d be interested in recording ‘Kaddish’ for our record company. Better than that: he had taped a public reading at Brandeis, and it would remain only for us to do the manufacturing: the album design, the cover photo, the mastering.”

Wexler later went on to produce (with Barry Beckett) Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming and Saved albums, and saw a relationship between Ginsberg and Dylan.

“Absolutely, they both were geniuses, top of the line. Allen Ginsberg may not have influenced the generation as such but he sure influenced a hell of a lot of writers. And Bob Dylan, of course, changed the culture. So there is a correspondence between the two guys,” reinforced Wexler.

In 1975-1976, Ginsberg toured with fellow Gemini Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue and appears in Dylan’s Renaldo and Clara movie. The soundtrack of the film includes excerpts from Ginsberg reading “Kaddish.”

When Allen Ginsberg died at age 70 of liver cancer and hepatitis on April 5, 1997 at his East Village loft in New York City. That evening Bob Dylan was playing a concert at the Moncton Coliseum in Moncton, New Brunswick, and dedicated “Desolation Row” to him. Dylan had not been including the song in recent shows.


Allen Ginsberg and Harvey Kubernik. (Photo by Suzan Carson)

Harvey Kubernik and Allen Ginsberg 1994 and 1996 Interviews


Q: What kind of impact did FM Radio actually have on you as a writer and reader/ performer?

A: By the time I got around to getting on the radio, it was actually an AM station in Chicago with Studs Terkel; recorded the complete reading of “Howl” in Chicago, later used for the Fantasy record. It was broadcast censored. ‘59. KPFA in the Bay Area then started broadcasting my stuff in San Francisco, a Pacifica station. Fantasy put out “Howl” and that got around. Then, Jerry Wexler at Atlantic, put out “Kaddish.” It was radio broadcast from Brandeis University.


Q: What do you want from FM radio?

A: I’d like for some FM station to play all four CDs of my Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems And Songs 1949-1993 one night, announced in advance so everybody could listen to it, and I think it would change not only heads, but expand people’s emotional range. “All the time in eternity in the warm light of this poem’s radio.” That was 1953. So I was aware. I was laying out treasures in heaven, basically. I knew that after I was dead my stuff would slowly seep up, so I’m really glad I’m alive to put this (box set) recording together.


Q: Was there ever a conflict of written page origin then into audio land?

A: We wrote, and we were in the tradition of William Carlos Williams’ spoken vernacular, comprehensible common language that anyone could understand, coming from Whitman through William Carlos Williams through be-bop. We were built for it. I can talk. I’m an old ham.


Q: Does the vision change once it leaves the paper?


A: No. It doesn’t make much difference. The method of my writing to begin with is that I’m not writing to write something, is that I catch myself thinking; I suddenly notice something I have thought of when I wasn’t thinking of writing, and then I write it down if it is vivid enough. And as far as the choice of what to write down or not, the slogan is vividness, is self-selecting. So in a sense, the method is impervious to influence by the audience because I’m just thinking to myself in the bathtub.


Q: What about poetry readings and performances? Is it different reading with a musician next to you or now a bunch of people sharing the stage?

A: I have to focus on my text. I’m still pointing toward the tornado.


Q: You still read from text on stage, from a book or typewritten. Do you ever read from memory?

A: I rarely read from memory. I sing from “Father Death Blues,” and can sing “Amazing Grace” from memory, but I don’t know what lines are coming, so I have to refresh myself. I’m not particularly interested in memorizing perfectly ‘cause I think it’s distracting from interpreting the text differently each time. I think you have to have all the dimensions at once, the book thing, the poetry thing, plus the performance, plus the musical accompaniment, and if you have all of them, and they’re all in a good place, that’s fine.

But the reason I don’t try to memorize, I guess I could, but I’m too busy, and I like to re-interpret the poem each time. Certain cadences are recurrent and certain intonations are recurrent, but on the other hand, if I don’t memorize it, there’s always the chance that somebody noticing something, and empathizing puts it a little differently, and bringing out meaning that I didn’t realize before. So I prefer to have the score in front of me and interpret it new each time.


Q: Artists from new generations, alternative rock bands, still keep discovering your work and acknowledging your influence.

A: It’s fun. You always learn from younger people. I learned a lot from William Carlos Williams, and the elders of my generation. People who were much older than me when I was young. And that inter-generational amity is really important because it spreads myths from one generation to another of what you know, and all the techniques and the history. At the same time, Williams learned connection with Corso and myself and (Peter) Orlovsky. Renewed his lease, so to speak. And the advent of The Black Mountain Beat Generation Poetry Renaissance, San Francisco, really renewed his poetic life, in a sense, brought him out to the public and his mood of poetry. . .as the mainstream, rather than as the eccentric jerk from New Jersey.

All of a sudden, with the phalanx of younger people following his lead, he became the sage that he was. And I think it gave him a lot of gratification to realize he had been on the right track, and that it wasn’t in vein. And I get the same thing whenever I get to work with younger people. And I learn from them. I don’t think I would have been singing if it wasn’t for younger Dylan. I mean he turned me on to actually singing. I remember the moment it was. It was a concert with Happy Traum that I went to and saw in Greenwich Village. I suddenly started to write my own lyrics, instead of Blake. Dylan’s words were so beautiful. The first time I heard them I wept.

I had come back from India, and Charlie Plymell, a poet I liked a lot in Bolinas, at a “Welcome Home Party” played me Dylan singing “Masters Of War” from Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, and I actually burst into tears. It was a sense that the torch had been passed to another generation. And somebody had the self-empowerment of saying, “I’ll know my song well before i start singing it.”


Q: Can we talk about talent scout and record music executive, John Hammond, Sr., perhaps the A&R man of the century? I met him once. Wonderful man.

A: I visited him in the hospital, on his deathbed, years ago, and our final conversation was about Robert Johnson and Bob Dylan. Well, I think I ran into him in the early ‘60s. He knew my poetry quite well. But it was around the Rolling Thunder Review with Dylan that we got more intimate. I had already made one recording, William Blake’s Songs Of Innocence And Experience, in 1969, with some very good musicians, including Julius Watkins on French horn, Don Cherry, Elvin Jones used them. And also Herman Wright, a bassist that was suggested by Charles Mingus. Mingus encouraged me to do the Blake. So I had something to play.

I was on the Rolling Thunder tour, doing a little singing, and I had a whole bunch of new material I had done with Dylan in 1971. In 1971 Dylan and I went into a studio and improvised. I had 40 minutes of music with him. So I brought that to Hammond in 1975, after the tour. I had a bunch of new songs and he said, “Let’s go in the studio and make an album.” I had some musicians who had been with me since 1968 or 1969 since the Blake. David Mansfield from the Rolling Thunder tour, and a wonderful musician, Arthur Russell, who Philip Glass has just put out posthumously on Point Records. Arthur Russell lived in my apartment building, upstairs, and had accompanied me across country on tours, and managed The Kitchen in New York. We had a good little group of musicians.

Dylan made a record in the Columbia Studios. It was the first time I didn’t have to pay! Then, Columbia wouldn’t put it out because of dirty words they said in those days. The anti-smoking, “Don’t Smoke” poem. So things were in a stasis, but I continued recording myself in 1981, did a whole series of recordings with David Amram, by this time I was working with Steven Taylor, now the lead guitarist of the Fugs. He’s also the lead guitarist for the False Prophets, a punk garage band.

So we got together at CBS Studios and did another 40 minutes of music, and later, John Hammond put the two together. He had left Columbia and started his own label, John Hammond Records, to be distributed by Columbia. So he not only put out what he did with me, he put out a double album, and he got Robert Frank, who had done the (Rolling Stones) Exile On Main Street album cover, whose an old friend, to make a composite for our cover, and there was a really good play list inside, and the text was a good deduction.

However, the record didn’t sell. Before I had a chance to rescue the further 10,000 copies they (Columbia) had, they shredded them, so they were gone, and a rarity now.

Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems And Songs 1949-1993 is a summary of all the studio recordings I did, plus a lot of other stuff that was never done in a studio, but done in readings, plus another album with Blake, including Dylan on Blake, and a duet with Elvin Jones, including some work with Dylan out in Santa Monica in 1982 in his studio, the live Clash cut, and an excerpt from the opera I did with Philip Glass. So the range runs from a cappella up through folk, punk, dirty blues, classical, collaborations with Dylan, some rap, percussion and vocal with Jones. David Amram was on it as well.


Ticket for a 1967 reading. (Courtesy Roger Steffens)

Q: With the release of your box set, Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems And Songs 1949-1993, the vinyl-to-CD reissues, new audio recordings, is this further proof of the literature living and breathing?

A: The actual texts however, have not been re-written, and are now coming up to more public notice like Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and Kerouac’s new, unpublished poems, and for the first time, my actual voice available on a bunch of CDs, going all the way back to 1949 and stretching up to 1993, with the very first original reading of ‘‘Howl,” which is sort of a standard anthology piece, that has never been heard, or a poem like “Sunflower Sutra” or “America,” which was standard in the Norton anthologies in high school.


Q: I know that Burroughs introduced you to some key books in the mid–‘40s that were influential to your thoughts and writing, and Kerouac, around the same time, when you were attending Columbia University, maybe around 1950, had been into some form of Buddhism and spontaneous prose, but an older generation of writers had an impact on your eventual voice.

I joked when we were recording live and setting up the equipment “as far as New Jersey goes, it’s you, Bruce Springsteen and Frank Sinatra,” but you immediately added, “William Carlos Williams,” whom you met around age 20.


A: I knew him from my home town of Patterson, New Jersey. I’d seen him in 1948. He actually innovated the idea of listening to the way people talked and writing in that way. . . Using the tones of their voice and using the rhythmical sequences of actual talk instead of dat dat dat dot dot dot. “This is the forest…” Instead of a straight square metronomic arithmetic beat, there’s the infinitely more musical and varied rhythmic sequences of conversation as well as the tones. “‘Cause if you notice, most academic poetry is spoken in a single solitary moan tone that maybe doesn’t have the variety of when you are talking to your grandmother or baby.

It happens every 100 or 150 years. It did in the days of Wordsworth, who in his preface to lyrical ballads, suggested that poets begin writing in the words and diction of men of intelligence, or talk to each other intelligently, instead of imitating another century’s literary style. So, I think what happened is that we followed an older tradition, a lineage, of the modernists of the turn of the century continued their work into idiomatic talk and musical cadences and returned poetry back to its original sources and actual communication between people. That was picked up generation after generation up to people like U2, who are very much influenced by Burroughs in their presentation of visual material, or Sonic Youth, or poets, like Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo are interested in poetry.


Q: You worked with the Clash on Combat Rock. How did “Capitol Air” come together, incorporated in this box set? I spun it on KLOS-FM when I did a radio interview two years ago on deejay Frank Sontag’s Impact shift and the phone lines lit up as if somebody won the lotto.

A: Well, it’s an accident. I wondered into a place called Bonds, which at that time was a big (couple of thousand people) club in New York. The Clash at the time had a 17 night run, and I knew the sound engineer, who brought me backstage to introduce me and Joe Strummer took one look at me and said, “Ginsberg, when are you going to run for President?” And then he said there was some guy that we’ve had trying to talk to the kids about Sandanistas and about Latin American policy and politics, but they’re not listening. They are throwing eggs or tomatoes at him. “Can you go out and talk?” I said, “Speech, no, but I have a little punk song that I wrote that begins, ‘I don’t like the government where I live. . .’

So, we rehearsed it for about five minutes during their intermission break and then they took me out on stage. “Allen Ginsberg is going to sing.” And so we improvised it. I gave them the chord changes. It gets kind of Clash-like good anthem, like music about the middle, but they trail off again. The guy who was my friend in the soundboard, mixed my voice real loud so the kids could hear, and so there was a nice reaction, because they could hear common sense being said in the song. You can hear the cheers on the record.

I wrote “Capitol Air” in 1980, recorded with the Clash live, in 1981 or ‘82. “Capitol Air” was written coming back from Yugoslavia, oddly enough from a tour of Eastern Europe, realizing that the police bureaucracies in America and in Eastern Europe were the same, mirror images of each other finally. The climatic stanza “No Hope Communism, No Hope capitalism”. Yea, “Everybody is lying on both sides.” We didn’t play the whole cut because we didn’t have enough time, but they built up to a kind of crescendo, which was nice when the whole band came in.


Q: You did a poetry reading in England with Paul McCartney recently.

A: I had a gig at Albert Hall in London. A reading. I had been talking quite a bit to McCartney, visiting him and bringing him poetry and haiku, and looking at Linda McCartney’s photographs and giving him some photos I’d taken of them. So, McCartney liked it and filmed me doing “Skeletons” in a little eight-millimeter home thing. And then I had this reading at Albert Hall, and I asked McCartney if he could recommend a young guitarist who was a quick study. So he gave me a few names, but he said, “If you’re not fixed up with a guitarist, why don’t you try me? I love the poem.” So I said, “It’s a date.”

We went to Paul’s house and spent an afternoon rehearsing. He came to one sound check, and we did a little rehearsal there, again. And then he went up to his box with his family. It was a benefit for literary things. There were 15 other poets. We didn’t tell anybody that McCartney was going to play. And we developed that riff really nicely. In fact, Linda made a little tape of our rehearsal. So, then, we went onstage and knocked it out. There’s a photo of us on the CD. It was very lively, and he was into it.

Allen Ginsberg and Paul McCartney, 1995.

Q: Didn’t you see the Beatles play, and there’s some poem you wrote about the event?

A: Yes! I saw them in Portland, Maine. I was up there with Gary Snyder, probably 1965, 1966. I was with a couple of little children. I had gotten tickets and was sitting way out in the bleachers, and John Lennon came out and said, “We understand that Allen Ginsberg is in the audience. So three cheers. So now we’ll have our show.” He saluted me from the stage, which amazed me and made me feel very proud with all these young kids at my side. Then I knew Lennon and Yoko Ono lived in New York and visited on and off. I was involved in some political things with them occasionally.


Q: You know, I originally felt when you first started writing in the ‘40s there really wasn’t any musical influence or instrumentation behind or around your words. Yet the first track on this box set recorded in the late ‘40s in Neal Cassady’s pad, actually has the radio playing in the background on the tape.

A: The first cut has a jazz background, because the whole atmosphere from 1940 and on was permeated with be-bop and (DJ), Symphony Sid.


Q: What does music and beat do when it’s added to voice and text?

A: Well, a whole mish mosh. First of all, I grew up on all blues, Ma Rainey and Leadbelly. I listened to them live on radio station WNYC, back in the late ‘30s or early ‘40s. So I have a blues background. There’s some sort of Hebrewic cantalation relation to the blues that I’ve always had. So the first thing on the collection is “When The Saints Go Marching In” that I made up a cappella when I was hitchhiking, and recorded in Neil Cassady’s house a year later. Then things like my mother taught me. “The Green Valentine Blues.” Just coming from everyone who likes to sing in the shower.

Then there was the poetry and music, King Pleasure, and the people who were putting together be-bop, syllable by syllable, like Lambert Ross and Hendricks. I knew them in 1948. We used to smoke pot together in the ‘40s, when I knew Neal Cassady, around Columbia when I was living on 92nd Street.

Q: Hey, I met drummer Freddy Gruber last week. Buddy Rich’s main man. Freddy told me you tried to hit him on once.

A: (laughs). I had a crush on Freddy. I saw him recently. Around 1944, ‘45, Kerouac and I were listening to Symphony Sid, and I heard the whole repertoire of Thelonious Monk, “Round Midnight,” “Orinthology” and all that. I actually saw Charlie Parker, weekend after weekend a few years later at The Open Door. And in the ‘60s, went night after night to The Five Spot to hear Thelonious Monk, and actually gave Thelonious Monk, “Howl”, and got his critique on it two weeks later when I saw him again. “What did you think of it?’ He said, “Makes sense.”

In 1960 I delivered some psilocybin from Timothy Leary to both Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie. And Monk said later on, “Got anything stronger?” Later on I spent an evening with him on what is now Charlie Parker Place around 1960. Also in San Francisco, in the mid-’50’s, there was a music and poetry scene. Mingus was involved with Kenneth Rexroth and Kenneth Patchen. And Fantasy records documented some of that. The Cellar in San Francisco. By that time, I didn’t know how to handle it, so I never did much of that myself ‘cause I was more funky, old fashioned blues. I couldn’t cut the mustard with free jazz. So then in the 1970s, I began turning on to Dylan. I knew him in the ‘60s. He taught me the three chord blues pattern. So he was my instructor.


Q: What happens when the beat or the music collides with your words and voice?

A: Elvin has a very interesting attitude. He feels that he’s not there to beat out the vocalist. He’s there to put a floor under them. He’s there to support and encourage, and give a place for the vocal to come in, not to compete with the vocal, but to provide a ground for it. He’s very intelligent as a musician. We did it once together in 1969 on the Blake album; there was military type drum, and then this recent rap song. I’ve got some other stuff we haven’t put out with Elvin. I’ve rarely found opposition to the music because the musicians were very sensitive, and built their music around the dynamics of my voice.


Q: Subject specific answer required: You write something on a piece of paper. Other people, musicians, come invited to participate and collaborate. Does the original intention become a different trip once there is music and other elements involved?

A: Well, it widens it into a slightly different trip, but the words are pretty stable, and they mean what they mean, so there is no problem. The interesting thing is adjusting the rhythmic pattern and the intonation to the musician’s idea of what there is there. That’s pretty good, because I’m good as an improviser, I can fit in, as you can hear on “Birdbrain.” Where I can take a long line or a short line and fit in sixteen bars without worrying about spaces and closed places.


Q: As far as performance and poetry readings, when you read in recital, aren’t you trying to keep the same original birthplace word vision and not expand or bring in theatrical elements?

A: I like to stick to something that is grounded in anything I could say to somebody, that they wouldn’t notice I was really saying it as poetry. Intense fragments of spoken idiom, with all the different tones of the spoken idiom, which is more musical than most poetry. Most poetry by amateur poets is limited to a couple of tones, a couple of pitches, instead of an entire range, so that the poetry we do fits with the music because it has its pitch consciousness. The tone reading the vowels up and down.


Q: Explain the use of chronology in the ‘90s, reading original work written and created decades earlier?

A: My background was William Butler Yeats. Seeing the sequence of his development, maturation and growth over the years was really interesting as a novel. How he began as a vague, misty eyed young 1890s devotee of Irish Mythology, and how he wound up, this tough old guy who put a skin on everything he said. So I like the idea of seeing the development of the mind, or of the voice, or of the thought, or of the poetic capacity, and I want to leave that trail behind for other poets so they could see where I was at one point, or where I was at another. My oration, my pronunciation or my singing, my vocalization differs, and it builds.

As I get older it gets more interesting with more and more tones, and more and more breath, and deeper and deeper voice and higher and higher voice. But still the original rhythms and the original ideas are from the original text, so you’ve still got a chronology going. So people could see the development of the mind. I’m not writing about the external world. I’m writing about what goes through my mind. So, at a certain period I’m interested in this kind of sex, another period, this kind of politics, another period, this kind of meditation, and I like people to be able to dig there’s a development, and not a static process.


Q: I’m still amazed at your readings, not just the impact you have on the audience, but your paper trail, book catalogues, albums, vinyl, first edition printings, out of print classics people want signed. It’s like “This Is Your Life” on parade.

A: Not quite. It’s my mind on parade. That’s what the mind is for, to show other people.


Q: It’s obvious that people want to be writers again. I feel that.

A: They want to express themselves. Not just to be a writer to be a writer, but they want to be able to say what they really think.



© 2021 Harvey Kubernik



Harvey Kubernik is the author of 19 books, including Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows, published in 2014 and now available in six foreign language editions. Kubernik also authored Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic And The Music Of Laurel Canyon and Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll In Los Angeles 1956-1972. Sterling/Barnes and Noble in 2018 published Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik’s The Story Of The Band: From Big Pink To The Last Waltz. For summer 2021 the duo has written a multi-narrative volume on Jimi Hendrix for Sterling/Barnes and Noble.

Otherworld Cottage Industries in 2020 published Harvey’s book, Docs That Rock, Music That Matters, featuring interviews with D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, Albert Maysles, Murray Lerner, Morgan Neville, Dr. James Cushing, Curtis Hanson, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Andrew Loog Oldham, Dick Clark, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Travis Pike, Allan Arkush, and David Leaf, among others.

Kubernik’s writings are in several book anthologies, most notably The Rolling Stone Book Of The Beats and Drinking With Bukowski. Harvey penned a back cover endorsement for author Michael Posner’s book on Leonard Cohen that Simon & Schuster, Canada published in October 2020, Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years)

This century Kubernik wrote the liner note booklets to the CD re-releases of Carole King’s Tapestry, Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, Elvis Presley The ’68 Comeback Special and The Ramones’ End of the Century). Harvey is the Project Coordinator of The Jack Kerouac Collection, a box set of recordings.

In November 2006, Harvey Kubernik was a speaker discussing audiotape preservation and archiving at special hearings called by The Library of Congress and held in Hollywood, California.

In summer of 2019, Harvey was interviewed for director Matt O’Casey on his BBC4-TV digital arts channel Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac’s Songbird. The cast includes Christine McVie, Stan Webb of Chicken Shack, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, John McVie, Heart’s Nancy Wilson, Mike Campbell, Neil Finn, and producer Richard Dashut. Premiere broadcast was in 2020.

During 2020 he served as a Consultant on the 2-part documentary Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time directed by Alison Ellwood. Kubernik is currently working on a documentary about Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member singer/songwriter Del Shannon.

Kubernik also appears as a screen interview subject for director/producer Neil Norman’s GNP Crescendo documentary, The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard. Jan Savage and Daryl Hooper original members of the Seeds participated along with Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys, Iggy Pop, Kim Fowley, Jim Salzer, the Bangles, photographer Ed Caraeff, Mark Weitz of the Strawberry Alarm Clock and Johnny Echols of Love. Miss Pamela Des Barres supplied the narration. Norman’s documentary is scheduled for a debut broadcast on television during 2021 and then other retail platforms.

This decade Harvey was filmed for the currently in-production documentary about former Hollywood landmark Gold Star Recording Studio and co-owner/engineer Stan Ross produced and directed by Brad Ross and Jonathan Rosenberg. Brian Wilson, Herb Alpert, Richie Furay, Darlene Love, Mike Curb, Chris Montez, Bill Medley, Don Randi, Hal Blaine, Shel Talmy, Don Peake, Kim Fowley, Johnny Echols, Gloria Jones, Carol Kaye, Marky Ramone, David Kessel and Steven Van Zandt have been lensed.


THE PRETTY THINGS – Bare as Bone, Bright as Blood (Madfish) LP/CD

by admin  17th Dec 2020 Comments [0]

By Mike Stax


IT ENDS LIKE IT BEGAN. Two men digging into the blues, finding something new to lift them out of the mundane and into the sublime. When it began, they were art students: Dick and Phil, 20 and 18. A Howlin’ Wolf song on the record player in the common room, a Muddy Waters song in the cloakroom between classes, “Hey, Bo Diddley!” in Dick’s front room in Dartford.

It’s the same two men here on Bare as Bone, Bright as Blood: a guitar player and a singer, now with more than a half-century of hard road behind them, a half-century of life experience, of triumphs and failures, of family and friendship, and music. With “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and “Come Into My Kitchen” they’re back in that cloakroom at Sidcup Art College, digging the blues, finding something new. If you saw the Pretty Things live in the past ten years or so, you’ll know that these two songs were a featured segment of their set with just Dick and Phil playing together acoustically. The room held its breath and it was magical. And so it is here: Dick’s slide playing is magnificent (as it is throughout this album) and Phil is in fine fettle. They draw from that that same deep Delta well to bring us fresh interpretations of Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” and Leadbelly’s “Black Girl” (the CD also includes a fine version of Muddy Waters’ “I’m Ready”), as well as a pure bluesy reading of the old gospel song “Ain’t No Grave,” with more superb slide playing from Dick along with some tasteful harp by Sam Brothers; Phil throws in some of his trademark yelps as he improvises over the coda: “Not down… not down!”

But this isn’t just a blues album. As well as digging into their roots, they’re also on a journey of discovery—just as they were in the beginning—finding newer material to dig into and find their own resonance with. “Faultline,” a song by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, feels completely natural in their hands: a stark, simple arrangement with lots of empty space for Phil to place a nuanced vocal into, and a lovely, dirty slide guitar solo by Dick. “Redemption Day,” a Sheryl Crow song also recorded by Johnny Cash, is extraordinary. You can hear the weight of a lifetime in Phil’s world weary, fathoms-deep vocal. The song is laden with an unutterably heavy sadness yet at the same time the arrangement is so understated, moving like ripples across a vast, dark lake with huge rain-heavy clouds reflecting from above. Mark St John’s pure, uncluttered, analogue production is perfect throughout this album but no more so than here.

Gillian Welch’s “The Devil Had a Hold On Me” has an Appalachian folk-blues vibe that works really well with Phil’s voice, as does “Bright as Blood,” a remarkable, dark, stark folk-blues piece written by George Woosey, the Pretties’ long-time bass player. George’s acoustic guitar drives the song, which is enhanced by Sam Brothers’ banjo playing and Jon Wigg’s mournful fiddle.

The ominous, rootsy mood of the album shifts for the two closing numbers, like rain clouds parting to reveal the sun. “To Build A Wall” is a wise, tender song by Will Varley, and Phil embraced its sentiments completely: his voice straining with emotion, he never sounded more vulnerable. His frailty is exposed for all of us to hear, and I have to admit that the first few times I heard this—just after it was completed, while Phil was still alive—it was difficult to get through: the emotions were too real, too intense; I could hear in his voice that he knew he was reaching the end of his road. Listening now, I still hear that vulnerability, but I also hear strength and dignity. Phil asked that on the album cover the song be dedicated to his kids. What a remarkable gift he left them.

The vinyl album closes with “Another World,” a lovely, remorseful, romantic number composed by a young, unknown songwriter called Pete Harlen. Phil sings it beautifully, finding an asset in his fragility. And then it’s over.

No one wanted the Pretty Things to end, but all things must, so let it end as it began: two men digging the blues, finding something new to lift them—to lift all of us—out of the mundane and into the sublime.

One man remains. For Dick Taylor new music and new horizons still lay ahead. The music will endure.


This review also appears in Ugly Things #55, which can be ordered at this link.

The Ventures’ first Documentary: Stars on Guitars

by admin  17th Dec 2020 Comments [0]

By Harvey Kubernik


The first-ever full length documentary chronicling the 60 year career of the Ventures, The Ventures: Stars on Guitars, debuted on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD to cable providers and streaming platforms on December 8, 2020 via Vision Films Inc. Outlets for viewing include iTunes, Vimeo, Comcast, Spectrum, DirecTV, and Amazon. It’s the definitive history of the instrumental rock ‘n’ roll band from director Staci Layne Wilson, daughter of the Ventures’ founder Don Wilson and features 35 interview subjects. The filmic journey is told from the point of view of Wilson, the last original member of the band.

The Ventures are the bestselling instrumental rock group in history. The group has sold over 100 million records with nearly 300 different retail releases in the US and worldwide since beginning with “Walk, Don’t Run.”

The Ventures’ classic quartet lineup consisted of rhythm guitarist Wilson, bassist Bob Bogle, initially lead guitarist, Nokie Edwards, lead guitar, converted from bass, and drummer Mel Taylor. The Ventures were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

It was on a construction site in Seattle, Washington, in 1959 that two guitarists, Don Wilson and Bob Bogle, decided to perform together at local sock hops, initially as the Versatones. They added a rhythm section and then became the Impacts for a very short period. Finally settling on the name “The Ventures,” they recorded two songs that Don’s mother Josie released on her Blue Horizon Records label.

The Ventures self-pressed a second single, a cover of Johnny Smith’s “Walk, Don’t Run,” a song that Don and Bob had discovered on a Chet Atkins album. “Walk, Don’t Run” was a hit single in 1960, reaching Number 2, just behind Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now or Never,” and over the last forty-six years, Wilson and his partner Bogle have subsequently recorded 250 albums and sold 100 million records, 50 million of them just in Japan.

Over the decades the Ventures’ studio and concert lineup included Don Wilson, Bob Bogle, drummers Mel and Leon Taylor, guitarists Nokie Edwards, Gerry McGee, Bob Spalding, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, and keyboardist David Carr.

The late, legendary drummer Mel Taylor (Leon’s father), who started out playing and recording with Buck Owens and also anchored the rhythm section on the seminal hits “Monster Mash” (Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers) and “The Lonely Bull” (Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass) drove the Ventures beat from 1962 until his untimely passing in 1996.

The Kings of Instrumental Rock, influencing scores of musicians around the world to pick up electric guitars – they endorsed the Mosrite – and strum along to the nearest TV theme or dance craze, including many kids who bought one of their influential instructional LPs called Play Guitar with the Ventures. The group recorded five of those, which became the only instructional albums ever to appear on the US national Billboard charts.

Numerous musicians credit the Ventures with helping them learn their instrument, including Anthrax, the B-52s, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Dire Straits, Dave Edmunds, Marco Paroni (Adam Ant), Mick Fleetwood, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Johnny Ramone, Jello Biafra, Keith Moon, Gene Simmons, Jimmy Page, Toulouse Engelhardt, Jim Diamond, Chris Spedding, Insect Surfers, Black Train, Gary Pig Gold, Al Di Meola, Bruce Gary, Max Weinberg, and the Malibooz’s John Zambetti. “Everybody was influenced by The Ventures,” says Steven Van Zandt. “They were huge.”

In January 2006 the Grammy Hall of Fame added the Ventures’ “Walk, Don’t Run” to their list of the most influential songs in the history of music.

Over the last half century I saw the Ventures numerous times in concert and their television show appearances. In 2006 I interviewed Don Wilson in Burbank, California.


Don Wilson interview by Harvey Kubernik


Q: How did you find the Chet Atkins cover version of “Walk, Don’t Run?”

A: My partner Bob Bogle had a Chet Atkins album Hi Fi In Focus. And Chet had a song on it, “Walk, Don’t Run,” and we loved the melody. But Chet played it in a finger style, almost classical, almost jazz. And actually, it was written by a jazz guitarist Johnny Smith. Now, Johnny Smith’s version we never heard. But we were really enamored by that particular song. And so, we couldn’t play it like that. So, we started playing it in the clubs while we were moonlighting after our construction job. You weren’t making any money playing. You got $5.00 a night and played four hours. We played Duane Eddy and a little bit of Chuck Berry. I grew up in the 1940s and loved big band stuff. I picked up trombone and played it all the way through high school.


Q: Where was “Walk, Don’t Run” recorded?

A: Joe Boles’ studio. And prior to us he had recorded a group the Fleetwoods, “Come Softly to Me,” on his label Dolton Records. We had saved our money, and thought when we came into a recording studio we would do something different. And I did a ‘Walter Brennan’ voice in our show, and thought we would do a record like that and cut something like that. And we did. A standard rock ‘n’ roll song, make a stop, I’d say something, so the “Walter” voice. I think we pressed 500 of those and I think we still had 450 of them.

Then, we started playing “Walk, Don’t Run” in these clubs we were playing in and people would come up to us and say, “What was the name of that? The song you played?” I’d say, “‘Walk, Don’t Run.’” And they would reply, “Would you play it again?” And we’d play it twice through the night because we knew we’d had something.

The audience reaction didn’t really influence the arrangement or tempo of the song, but it evolved somehow. We did two, three or four other instrumentals, like a Duane Eddy, but also something we wrote ourselves. I would say it was about 50 per cent vocals and 50 per cent instrumentals. After “Walk, Don’t Run” was requested so many times, people would come up to us and say “Why don’t you record that?” “You think so?” And we did.

Not very many takes. Two-track Ampex. You’d have the bass and the drum on one track, and the lead and the rhythm on the other. So you’d have a pretty easy mix. (laughs). But, Joe Boles was very good at getting it right to begin with, even two-track. So he did a good job with ‘Walk, Don’t Run,’ even though you have a bass and drum on one, you’d better equalize them because you’re stuck with that.


Q: And since you had a balance of all the instruments on that record, it seems the lead guitar since has always been out front on the mix or featured a little more loudly sonically, not even counting the lead guitarist in concert situations.

A: That’s very true. (laughs). Our recording was different. We had four pieces. And I told them, “I want to hear everyone of them.” And the way it worked out is that you do hear every instrument. You hear the bass, you hear the rhythm, you hear the lead and you hear the drums.

The early Ventures. © EMI Records Ltd.

Q: How did the record breakout in Seattle?

A: As a matter of fact, we befriended a deejay, Pat O’Day, who just came from out of town. And he was a deejay for a very small station, and these were the only people who would talk to you. You could never get to the big station. “Who are you?” As luck would have it, Pat went to the biggest station in town, KJR. If it were not for him we might not have gotten that first record played. What Pat would do was use songs as “news kickers,” and take a song, and they had the news five minutes before the hour. And he would play a song, and not say who it was or who it is, and this is how they would find out if the audience, the listeners would like that song. And, when “Walk, Don’t Run” was played the switchboard lit up. And Pat didn’t have a piece of the record! (laughs).

So, Bob Reisdorf who had Dalton Records in Seattle heard it, he had the Fleetwoods, and he forgot that we had already brought “Walk, Don’t Run” to him four months earlier, and he passed. No one wanted the record. We went around trying to sell ourselves, and with help from my mother we started the Blue Horizon Records label, and did a previous 45, “Cookies and Coke” b/w “The Real McCoy.” Then later we pressed up “Walk, Don’t Run.”

So, Pat played it as a “news kicker” and it immediately went to number one. Three weeks. Then, Bob Reisdorf called from Dalton, who called the station, “Who is that and where are they from?” And Pat said “They are local. They live here.” Bob said, “That’s a natural, I want to talk to them.” Didn’t even remember we were in earlier playing it for him. So, he liked it before he heard it on the radio. The song wasn’t an immediate hit somebody thing.

Years later, we were out touring and the songwriter, Johnny Smith wanted us to come over and had lunch. He was making a few schekels on that. (laughs). He said to me, “If you hadn’t called that ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ I might not have recognized it.” That’s what he told me. That melody is so unique.

Q: “Walk, Don’t Run” then become a huge national and international hit?

A: We signed to Dalton, who was distributed by Liberty Records, and Bob Reisdorf was told by Liberty head Al Bennett “I don’t think it’s a hit.” And, Bob said, “I’ll guarantee it. If it loses money I’ll pay it.” “OK. If you want to make that deal that’s fine by me.” And it started climbing up the chart and went to number 2 in the nation.


Q: When drummer Mel Taylor joined the band in 1962, after your sixth album, he had already played on “Alley Oop” by the Hollywood Argyles, “Monster Mash” from Bobby Boris Pickett, and “The Lonely Bull,” the huge hit instrumental by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. Mel really brought a lot to the Ventures after joining when drummer Howie Johnson had to leave the band in 1962 after injuries from a traffic accident.

A: Well, in 1962, for one thing, we needed a drummer. We listened to Mel play one night at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood. That’s where we met him. But he was ‘Gene Krupa School,’ and played a lot of different things that most rock drummers didn’t play at the time. And we wanted him to join.

We had chemistry with Mel. It worked very well. He just stepped right in and we got along great. It’s important to that as far as I’m concerned you like the person you are working with. There’s a lot of groups who stay together and they are not happy with each other or ride in the same car. We were always good friends, and go out for dinner.

Luckily, we were smart along the way, and picked up ways of picking up vocals putting them into instrumentals. And ‘Venturising’ them, if you will. That was for band survival and for selling albums, too.


Q: Where did the concept come from where you and the group started recording and covering television and movie songs that were included in albums and your repertoire? Like “Batman” and “James Bond.”

A: If you play “Walk, Don’t Run” all the time, it’s just not gonna happen. We were looking for anything we could do, and those TV themes were mostly instrumental songs, 9 out of 10. That was a natural for us to go on instrumentally. And the songs could work without the visual. They were cinematic in nature, and minor keys we love. And that’s one of the reasons we got so popular in Japan. Minor keys are very prominent in Japanese music. And, there was no language barrier.

Our agent Tats Nakashima told us, “Your music is intimate, and people want to see you play it. I could put you in a ball park right now but listen to me, I don’t want to. I think you guys need to play places that hold no more than 5,000 or 6,000 people.” And there were venues all over the place like that.

When we came back in 1964 to Japan we played places that held 4,000 people, and played three times a day there and they were lined up five a breast around the block. Now we’ve been stuck with that (laughs). One year we did 108 concerts in 78 days. We ate Kobe beef and raw fish before a lot of people. I love it.

When we hit, teenagers were ready to play guitar and we just brought it to them. We went back to Japan after the Beatles played there. At first I wasn’t totally into them, it was a little bubblegum. As it went on I recognized their multiple talents, their arrangements and their vocal arrangements, and I thought George Harrison was a good guitarist. Good tone. He cited us in an interview.

I think that our early learning and our musical appreciation, even before we picked up guitars, were quite different from somebody who picks up a guitar and has only heard and only appreciates rock ‘n’ roll.

We go back to Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Jerry Vale, so many of these people that we really respected. And we learned those kinds of songs. We learned tunes like ‘Stardust’ after we really started playing, and probably playing not the most perfect chords but good enough. But we were very conscious of playing something that sounded not right. There could have been better chords, no doubt about it, but they weren’t bad chords. I’ve heard a lot of that. And we’d modulate – change keys – in our records. Modulating. We’ve done that a lot of times. You don’t want the damn thing to get boring.

We had always felt we were a good combination of ears. What I hear, Bob doesn’t hear. And what Bob might hear, I don’t hear. We were basically producing our own things. Most of our producers let us have our head. Neither Nokie nor Gerry McGee plays heavy. They play very light, using their fingers and thumb picks. Bob Bogle, who is really the Ventures’ sound of “Walk, Don’t Run,” “Perfidia,” and “Blue Moon,” the very first thing, plays with a heavy pick, but a great feel. But I still play the same as I would play anyway. I do what I want and I have a good feel for it. If I’m playing an acoustic guitar behind Gerry, I try and be as pretty as I can be. The reason we get along so well is because we don’t step on each other’s toes.


Q: Tell me about your concepts and philosophy regarding the use of vibrato and the tremolo bar also distinguished you from everyone.

A: Yes. Well, you know, there’s a very simple story to that. When Bob and I started, there were not really four-piece bands. You either had a saxophone or a piano. Two guitars, a bass and a drum. You need a piano or a saxophone. We didn’t know a drummer or a saxophone player. So, he and I when we started learning, I played very percussion rhythm, and he played with a vibrato, and coming to certain notes with a chord to make the sound even more full.

So the two of us together tried to make up for drum, piano or whatever else. And the whole thing was when we did get a drummer and a bass player that stuck with us. That was our style and the way we played. A lot of people come up and say “How do you get that sound?” Well, it’s not a matter of getting it. That’s what we do.

Q: Your Ventures In Space is very popular. It was one of Keith Moon’s favorite all time discs. He told me his first group was the Beachcombers and that he learned to play along with the pedal steel on that LP. No gimmicks.

A: That’s true. I’m surprised, but many followers of the Ventures, it is their favorite album. I don’t know if it has anything to do with not using anything electronic. We had a steel guitar player, Red Rhodes, he was absolutely great, and he put the first fuzz tone together. He owned a couple of equipment patents and he could play anything. But, using his steel guitar, and all the things he could come up with sounds, and all the sounds that we could come up with, and we tried, we accomplished, using no electronic at all. I think that impressed a lot of players.


Q: One of the most popular albums is your Play Guitar With The Ventures. The impact of that album is monumental with a great package with an instructional booklet.

A: Thank you, the first and only since that ever hit the charts. An instruction album that hit the charts and we had five of them. At one time we had five albums in the Top 100 at one time that hit the charts like Bobby Vee Meets The Ventures, and a country thing. Someone came in with an idea for an instructional album and that it would be good for us. We didn’t mind giving some secrets away. We’re pompous enough to think that nobody is gonna cop our sound regardless of what we tell them. I think it helped a lot of guitar players and they still come up to me and say “I learned to play off that album.”


Q: Guitarist Gerry McGee first came along in 1968, added something to the lineup. He’s on the early Monkees recordings and Delaney, Bonnie & Friends. I saw him blow an audience away in LA when he subbed for Henry Vestine in Canned Heat at a New Years’ Eve 1969 show at the Shrine Exposition Hall.

A: He can play anything. He shows up and plays his tail off and he’s got a feel that won’t quit. The tempos are faster on stage. I can remember the first time we played on stage in Japan. I can’t even believe how fast those songs were. They’re triple out of nerves. Trying to satisfy, not drag anything and we overdid it.

Q: One other aspect of the Ventures music is how your recordings continually are in movies and television shows like Hawaii Five-0.

A: Mel Taylor knew an engineer he worked with a lot named Ted Keep. He did the engineering for that TV show. Source music. He came to Mel and said, “They are starting this show and it’s been on for a month and the writer/composer, Mort Stevens only has a thirty second version of it and he does not plan to do a regular commercial release, and I think you guys should come in and do it.”

So we did. The record company hired 35 pieces, all brass, and we copied his version but with a guitar lead over the top. And his version did not have that.

We put it out in July 1968 and no one would play it. Then the show started getting better, but we still weren’t getting any airplay. So we hired an independent promotion man. He was real good and a go-getter. No one was promoting it and we said this is good and used our own money. We bit the bullet for a month or six weeks. Then the show’s scripts got better and then he got it played and to number one in one city. In Honolulu!

Anyway, he happened to know somebody who was a deejay who then became the program manager in Sacramento, California, and he started to play it as a favor to this guy. And it went to number one and it started spreading everywhere and it took seven months.


Q: Does it ever get tired or predictable that you are now in decades of playing “Walk, Don’t Run” nightly. I know people are paying money and want to hear it. Are you trapped by your past or are you in conflict about repertoire?

A: Never. I love to play it. We all have no qualms about playing it over and over. Now, Nokie Edwards quit, more than once, owing a little to “I’m so tired of playing those songs.” Bob and I, along with Mel, we know the audience loves it and want to hear it. We enjoy playing. I love to see the faces when we are playing “Walk, Don’t Run.”


Q: Jimi Hendrix was from Seattle. He saw the Wailers live, and Dick Dale at least a couple of times, too and heard the Ventures during 1960-1962.

A: I wore out his first album with “Hey Joe,” “Foxy Lady” and “Fire.”

When we first started in 1960, songs were 2:20, “Walk, Don’t Run,” and “Hawaii Five-O” is 1:50. In 1960-1965, if you played a song longer than 2:20 most disc jockeys wouldn’t play it, for a single. Then later in 1967 and ’68 Hendrix took it into a whole other world. He was amazing to watch. I did see him play live a couple of times in Seattle, probably 1967. ’68… Blew my mind… Amazing. I think it was his technique, and the way he hardly ever looked at the neck of the guitar. It was like he was in another world and playing those things you shouldn’t hear from a guitar. I think he was an innovator.


Q: Jimi was into science fiction. The Ventures even did psychedelic and space-titled long players.

A: In early ’67, a local LA deejay, The Real Don Steele on KHJ came to us and said, “There’s something coming up called psychedelic and you guys should get on that right away because it’s really gonna be something.” OK.

So we did the Super Psychedelic album released in June of ’67. We stretched out on that album. I really like it. We were older than the other psychedelic bands, wore velours and our hair was shorter. Man, red blazers, black ties, and white bucks. Drummer Keith Moon of the Who decades ago cited Ventures in Space.

Q: Man, you must have met every guitar geek on the planet digging your action.

A: For sure, for sure. They initially chose, or still utilize a Mosrite because of us. You put a Mosrite guitar out without the Ventures name what do you got? They were impressed and it had our name.

The most interesting one lately is Al Di Meloa who told me he learned to play off our stuff and also the garage bands. Even drummers we have influenced. At NAMM show I saw Mick Fleetwood and he came over. On The Johnny Carson Show many years ago, he was asked his early influences, and the first thing that came out of his mouth was “The Ventures.” And I reminded him of that. (laughs).


Q: I know some real major guitarists that play and are well-known global performers who acknowledge your influence.

A: Here’s a good story. We’re playing the House of Blues a few years ago. Aerosmith came to see us play, and sat at table near my family and friends. My son recognized Steven Tyler and somebody came up to them and said, “You guys are legends.” And Steven Tyler pointed to us and said, “No. Those guys are legends.” Now that’s a compliment. Two years ago I’m in Japan, or last summer. Aerosmith is playing the Tokyo Dome. Now, I don’t know Joe Perry. But he and I are waiting for a train. He looks at me and says “Are you a musician?” “Yeah.” And he said, “Who are you with?” “The Ventures.” “The Ventures! Can I get a picture” “Sure.” And he calls his manager and says, “Get over here. This is history!”

I talked to him all the way on the train. I had no idea they had an autobiography out. So anyway, he says, “I’m gonna get you tickets to our show and to come backstage.” “OK.”

My wife and I went backstage with Leon our drummer. Joe then said it was an honor to stand in front of me and talk. And then he’s on stage he said, “My teacher is out there.” He introduced and brought me out. Everybody knows the Ventures in Japan. The place went crazy and I didn’t even have to play. (laughs).


© Harvey Kubernik  2020


A Ventures playlist:


In 1964 Harvey Kubernik was the drummer/percussionist of a very short-lived surf instrumental group called the Riptides. In the late seventies he provided handclaps and percussion on recording sessions of the Runaways, the Surf Punks, the Ramones, the Paley Brothers and Leonard Cohen.

Kubernik is the author of 19 books. His literary music anthology Inside Cave Hollywood: The Harvey Kubernik Music InnerViews and InterViews Collection Vol. 1, was published in December 2017, by Cave Hollywood. During November 2018, Sterling/Barnes and Noble published the Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik The Story of The Band From Big Pink to the Last Waltz. The duo for the same publisher in September 2021 have written a book on Jimi Hendrix. In 2019, The National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC have asked Harvey to pen an essay on the landmark The Band album, which celebrated a 50th anniversary edition in 2019. Kubernik’s 1995 interview, Berry Gordy: A Conversation With Mr. Motown appears in The Pop, Rock & Soul Reader edited by David Brackett published in 2019 by Oxford University Press. Brackett is a Professor of Musicology in the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Canada. Harvey joined a distinguished lineup which includes LeRoi Jones, Johnny Otis, Ellen Willis, Nat Hentoff, Jerry Wexler, Jim Delehant, Ralph J Gleason, Greil Marcus, and Cameron Crowe.

Harvey’s 1996 interview with poet/author Allen Ginsberg was published in Conversations With Allen Ginsberg, edited by David Stephen Calonne for the University Press of Mississippi in their 2019 Literary Conversations Series. This century Kubernik wrote the liner note booklets to the CD re-releases of Carole King’s Tapestry, Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, Elvis Presley The ’68 Comeback Special and The Ramones’ End of the Century. During 2020 Kubernik served as a Consultant on the 2-part documentary Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time directed by Alison Ellwood which debuted this spring on the EPIX cable TV channel In late summer 2020, Otherworld Cottage Industries published Harvey’s film and music study, Docs That Rock, Music That Matter.