Monday, July 16, 2018

Happy Together Tour | Lefsetz Letter

There wasn’t one song everybody didn’t know.

That’s the difference between yesterday and today, the ubiquity of the hits. If you were alive, you heard them, they penetrated not only the airwaves, but society, and these acts had a bunch of them.

The surprise was the Cowsills. They were so tight, the harmonies so perfect, it was amazing, you noticed, as you did the band that backed up all the acts, they were superb, proving once again that real music can triumph.

In the sixties.

The other jaw-dropper was Chuck Negron, who sang with oxygen, I kid you not. I even sang along a bit with “Joy To The World,” which I absolutely HATED back when, but with the passage of time…

But this was not a nostalgia show, they were not tugging on our heartstrings, and that was so weird. I expected to sit back in my seat and have the sixties flash before my eyes, but really it was all about the songs, it was a celebration of the songs, you sang along to all of them.

There was a video screen that showed hair products during the Cowsills, did you know Dippity-do had sunscreen? But other than that…

This is a low budget production, even the screen is small. And those in attendance are not hip. The upstairs was filled with the nearly-dead, purchasing their seats on Goldstar. And speaking of upstairs, where we sat, the sound system was inadequate, couldn’t they afford some sound reinforcement for the upper deck at the Saban?

The show began with the Malibooz, who played some surf rock and Walter Egan’s hits, “Magnet and Steel” and “Hot Summer Nights.” It was the latter, and that’s my favorite Egan number, so that was good.

The Cowsills… They were ersatz back then, a slightly hipper Osmonds, but now…

They’ve been knocking around L.A. forever, gigging, waiting for another chance. But the system doesn’t give you one, that’s what players don’t realize, it’s not only how good you are, but whether the label, management and radio want to afford you an opportunity. At least back then you could play in bars, sustain yourself, it’s even harder today. And I found their rendition of “Hair” cringeworthy back in ’69, but here it was good, but not as good as “The Rain, The Park & Other Things.”

Mark Lindsay wanted to convince us that no time had passed. He too had video, of the Paul Revere and the Raider days. And he performed the hits, I liked hearing “Just Like Me” and “Good Thing,” but when he kicked his leg up with “Kicks” I winced… You’re over seventy, so much of the audience is addicted to Grecian Formula, can you act your age, get rid of the sunglasses and shiny suit? But once a teen idol, too many are locked in amber, even though the audience ages, it’s a bit creepy.

But the Association acted its age. In matching white jackets and shoes. And I don’t know why this act doesn’t get more love, their songs were SUPERLATIVE! Not only the not-cheesy “Cherish” and the upbeat “Windy,” but the exquisite “Along Comes Mary” and “Never My Love,” it was their songs that made me feel best.

As for Gary Puckett…

I’d seen him live back then, just as “Young Girl” was rising on the chart, they played it twice. But last night the sound was amped up, it all became a wash. And could you sing “Young Girl” today, I doubt it!

As for Chuck Negron, he’s a survivor, send him to schools to scare students straight. But his voice is mostly intact, powerful, and he’s so happy to be there…

But Howard Kaylan was not.


He was never that thin.

Have we hit that era, where acts are trying to fake out the audience?

But the Phlorescent Leech, aka Flo, aka Mark Volman, told us that Howard was in the hospital, they’d thought of canceling the tour, but the show must go on! And his replacement was Ron Dante, of Archies fame, Dante’s a legend, it was good to see him live.

But the stunning highlight of the “Turtles'” performance was…

PEACHES EN REGALIA! That’s right, the opening cut on Zappa’s “Hot Rats,” I was astounded. Yes, it’s played live on “Fillmore East,” two tracks after the Mothers with Flo and Eddie go into “Happy Together” and…

That’s last night, the performance ended with “Happy Together.”

Now that I have memories of. It brings back Stratton and Steph, but really it’s about the sound of the introduction, it’s heavy, pregnant with meaning, we think about them day and night, we do, imagine how the world could be so very right, and then…


Bah bah bah…

You couldn’t help but stand and sing along. Actually, one of the shocks of the evening was the standing ovations, but in this case you weren’t standing for the performance, but your own life, remembering the optimism, the hope.

And now it’s all these years later, you are who you are, you made your choices and you have to accept them, it’s too late to turn back now.

And to a degree the joke is on the acts, they’re prisoners of their success. Have a hit or two and you can’t give up. Then again, these people did it for the applause to begin with. And at this point, a lot of the audience members are richer than the performers, they might not be famous, but get older and fame becomes a joke, why would you want it, it’s meaningless. But the songs…

This evening was a celebration of the songs. Which are blue chip. They don’t sound anything like today’s “hits,” they’ve got melody and changes and were from an era where everybody had a transistor and was listening incessantly. Music drove the culture, we followed it like the World Cup, heroes were larger than life. And there was a dearth of information, you had to go to the show to see them.

And some acts have survived with their reputations intact. Paul McCartney, of course. And Paul Simon. Certainly Bob Dylan.

But most…

Are in the rearview mirror, no matter how big they were at the time.

But so are we.

These songs are the story of our lives.

Sing along.



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