The French Connection
The Seeds Pay a Visit
On June 24, 2003, the Seeds came to Paris. Well, not exactly. We had one fourth of the original band; even Jan Savage, the original guitarist, had to quit after his shows in Spain 'cause he couldn't take it any more, getting drunk all night like he was still 20 and being homesick and all. It was quite an event, considering the fact that it was their first time on our shores some 37 years after they first hit the charts with "Pushin' too hard."
Advertised only a couple weeks before the show, the venue was jam-packed to the rafters, a solid sell-out! Incredible! Hungry fans had been waiting for all these years to catch a glimpse of their favorite garage band. For some it was a dream come true, for others, like me, we wouldn't even have dreamed of such an event in Paris! And so, they came with their sons and grandsons; it was an all-age-encompassing public like the Rolling Stones on a smaller scale, I tell you!
For once, ex-punks, new hippies, garage maniacs, psych-heads, skinheads, groopies, greasers, mods, popsters, executives, rock critics, and mainstream rockers were all united under the banner of the Seeds. It seemed as if they were everybody's favorite Garage-band. Sky was as skinny as a matchstick (the acid drugs, no doubt, keeps you in shape) with his long, straight, straggly hair and a guru beard. He wore a wild tiger, psychedelic-green shirt underneath a grey-striped, prohibition jacket, and silver sparkling, Teddy Boy creepers to boot under black silk pants! He jumped and jerked all over the place like a mad dysfunctional puppet when not sitting cross-legged waiting for the backing band to put the public into a monomaniac trance with an insistent beat. The only problem was that, Sky had lost plenty of his screeching, whining-nasal voice that made the Seeds' records so special.
At the beginning of the show, he had one-fourth of his original voice (quite an initial deception) then, gradually, as the public stirred up and the magic slowly took place, he finally gained about two-thirds of it. Not bad for an old 58-plus-years garage rocker! At some point, like an old wizard, Sky invited the public to come dance on stage. Naturally, everybody shied off (this being France).
Finally some post-futuristic, voodoo-space-freak weirdo out of a New York 1999 scenario, dressed in a conventional '60s bank-exec suit, topping a pair of ugly Dr. Marteens' boots and sporting a neo-Gengis Khan shaved natty hairdo, crawled up on stage. He began to do a wild, frantic '70s Elvis-Karate dance, something he afterwards called "Shock 'n' roll!" It was downright grotesque and a bit pathetic, if you ask me. Shortly thereafter, an ex-skinhead-aging bird joined him, and then Sky called for a girl dancer to form a pair. A lady painfully bopped to the music.
Poor Sky, having to put up with such out-of-place weirdoes; no more beautiful go-go flower-ladies like at Bido Lito's in the old "daze!" (This is typical of the patchy mixed-up crowd of rock'n'roll fans running astray in Paris, hating each others' guts during the daytime, while for this one Seeds' show, everybody was religiously attending the concert, for once united and listening and grooving to the two-chord messiah.)
After the show, I wanted to get my original albums signed by the man, but he was securely locked backstage by a barrage of security bouncers; inside, no doubt plagued by a bunch of reporters asking questions and harassed by groupies. I waited outside the entrance with my friends from the Men in the Moon, who had just opened for Sky in the provincial French town of Toulouse the evening before, for a good hour, hoping that he'll return on stage to sign autographs like Question Mark does at his shows, but, alas, to no avail. What I expected to be the climax of my evening at the Café de la Danse seemed lost.
A party was scheduled after the show in a hip neighboring Paris club called Le Wax with all '60s-designers' space-age original furniture. (Austin Powers, look out!) So I went there to relax and witnessed the real '60's hip crowd from the public chatting, drinking and dancing to the '60's sounds selected by none other than one time Flamin' Groovie Chris Wilson! One of the promoters of the show (a friend of mine) had taken my records and tried to have them signed backstage and I had been waiting for something to happen. Eventually, my promoter friend came back to me with two out of the three records I had purchased, signed, which is a good average. I figured that that's my lot for the evening.
I really wanted to meet and chat with Sky (one of my all-time idols) and talk to him about the old days. I wanted to chat with him about all the years I had covered his songs in rehearsals with my different bands and even about the few times I had performed them on stage. I cursed the way things were with the opportunistic rock critics, who, only last year, had been dismissing rock 'n' roll for electronica/ nu-sounds and BPM's before this whole garage craze came back with the Hives and the White Stripes (which ain't even proper garage to me)! And they were crowding him, pestering him now backstage, and preventing true fans like us to visit with him. (Damn the whole system!) But then, the unbelievable happened:
Martial, our bassist for Bang! and Scope' and his girl friend, a Chinese-American named Shirley, joined my girl friend and me. (He didn't attend the show because he was broke.) My girlfriend was sitting next to the window at the corner of one these long restaurant-like tables you find in night-trains. While I was standing near the bar, low and behold, look who enters the club and sits right next to us at the same table: Sky and the whole gang (Mark Bellgraph- guitarist from the Beeters; Rick Collins - bassist from the bands, Tongue and Decry; Dave Klein - organist from The Bomboras, Witchdoctors, and Invisible Men; and Justin Palamini - drums, who had backed Arthur Lee for six years!)
We couldn't believe our eyes! I thought, "Here's my chance and turned behind their backs, kneeled on the back chair and grabbed Sky's neck while he was rollin' a joint and they were ordering drinks. I whispered in his ear, "Sky, man, I've been a fan for twenty years! You're my favorite garage-band! My own band just released a cover of "Wild Blood," and I thought you'd like a copy." I gave him my Bang! Ep record on Teen Sound!" Groovy man, you're a brother!" answered Sky and he gave me a tight handshake, which started the following conversation:
"That's your band?" asked Rick Collins, sitting next to Sky.
"Yeah! And here's Martial, our bassist, sitting here in front."
"Oh! I'd sure love to hear it. We'll give it a listen at the hotel!" Rick added.
"Sky, would you care to give one to Jan Savage too?" I asked.
"Can you sign my album?" I added.
"Sure, man," he said as I passed him the last record that wasn't signed yet with my special marker. He then proceeded to draw a large graffiti-styled autograph: "To Alex, dear brother. Your band is great. Sky Sunlight Saxon" and he wrote it all around the picture cover of the Seeds first album, an early mono copy without the later black sticker which "includes the hit single "PUSHIN' TOO HARD!"
My girlfriend later told me, "Doesn't it bother you to have your original record graffitied that way?" knowing about my maniacal ways about my records. "What do you think?"
"Hey!" I said. "I tried to cover 'Trip Maker' and 'No Escape' on stage [actual tapes of that exists] over the years, but my throat went soar."
"Really?" Sky said. "Thanks, you' re a real brother!" And he hugged me and shook my hand even more!
"Sky, is that true that when the Stones came to tour California in the summer of '66, Mick Jagger turned you down as a supporting band because he was afraid you'd steal their thunder?"
"Yep! Exactly! That is true!"
"You toured Canada with Question Mark and the Mysterians in '66 and most recently the group backed your appearance at the New York Cavestomp festival in '98. What's Question Mark's real name?
"Ummm, oh yeah! I know. His real name is Rudy!"
A flyer for the imminent release of the movie we performed in, "Mods" was handed to us and I said, "Hey! That's the movie Martial that I played in! You see that picture of us? It's an art and essay film like French new-wave cinema of the '60s. It has a soundtrack of garage songs including your "A faded Picture" from Web of Sound! Don't worry, the rights have been paid."
"Oh, Wow! I' d love to see it," Sky said as he proceeded to mix his hash, and spilling tobacco right on the flyer! He then passed the joint around and we all had a puff and I had a drink of his orange-vodka as fans and hangers-on were processing in front and around the table, declaring their love for the Seeds and thanking Sky for such an unforgettable gig. A lot of the chatter was sincere and straight from the heart (which is kind of weird when you live here and know about France's sarcastic ways), and some snapped photos in a flash while Sky gave them the thumbs up or peace sign.
Of course, we had taken pictures too. Martial posed next to Rick and I put my head in between Sky and him while my girlfriend snapped away. The Scope meets the Seeds! Sky, the main man, handed by a smiling Rick! And there's one with Shirley stirring her cigarette while Sky posed next to her giving us the thumb.
Now let me tell you about this one:
While we were having fun and during the time I was talking to Rick Collins about his previous bands, congratulating Mark Bellgraph's work on fuzz guitar at the show and Justin Palamini about the shops he might check out before leaving the next day to gig in Germany (all the time this was going on, it was very hectic in the club: loud garage, freakbeat and '60s party music, dim red blinding lights, smoke permeating the atmosphere), Sky (that old tireless Casanova) realizing that Shirley was an American, was trying to convince her to sing with him on stage at their next gig in Germany and telling her how he'd like to suck her toes if she wanted to go back with him to the hotel!
Well, it didn't seem to bother Martial much as he hardly understands American lingo anyway; and even if he did have a clue, he could have cared less. In fact, he looked pleased and even smiled (he seldom does), knowing this was all just a game. After all, it was all in the name of Sky, wasn't it?
Then, guys from the Men In The Moon called Sky from the outside door (after all, they had opened for him the night before, dined with him, and befriended him) to smoke some weed with them. Sky stood up and left with Rick (the other members had already disappeared into the crowd trying to score with the chicks, no doubt) and that was that. We were left on our own, stranded in the club, having to deal with the manager about the huge amount of drinks left unpaid by the band! (Luckily, I called on my promoter friend, who straightened out everything, and argued with the boss while we all quietly left the table.) End of story.
In the meantime, the movie "Mods" has finally been released (Wednesday, July 1, 2003) amidst a lot of press coverage with much fanfare for such a little movie. (Incredible!) Our mugs were distributed on flyers nearly everywhere, in hip shops and clubs, plastered on the walls of the cinemas of Bastille, and next to the "Centre Georges Pompidou" for everyone to see. They were even posted in the hairdresser's salon where we usually have our hair groomed mod-style to promote his dressing! A few of the street people took note and some even recognized us, but we're far from being stars yet, just anecdotic! (There had been a premiere party at the "Musée du Cinéma" next to the Trocadero plaza on the eve of the Seeds' show. I wasn't there, but, reportedly, the place was packed, with Serge Bozon, the director and Benjamin Esdraffo, his assistant and one of the "Mod" actors, playing '60s freakbeat records after the viewing, with alcohol galore. I missed it because I was keeping myself straight for the Seeds the next day!)
What's more, still incredibly yet, an official CD of the soundtrack (with eight bonus garage titles carefully picked by Serge Bozon) is now in the shops, distributed by Pop Lane. It's displayed as pick of the month in major shops like the Virgin Megastore, Fnac's and Joseph Gibert's! (Nobody has asked us for autographs yet because everybody knows us all too notoriously well to ask for such a thing, and they either smile or sneer at us! And we weren't even paid for the whole trip!)
The actual soundtrack of the film is as follows (I was told not to reveal the contents to you a while back, so here tis now:
Phil and the Frantics - "I must Run"; The Alarm Clocks - "No Reason To Complain"; The Seeds - "It's a Faded Picture"; The Calico (spelled "Callico" on the CD!); Wall - "I'm a Living Sickness"; The Unrelated Segments - "It's Gonna Rain" (Only in France would one have this music accompany the modern conceptual mime dances in the movie!)
The booklet gives a slight explanatory introduction to the film and the CD titled, MODS - Musiques Autour du Film de Serge Bozon (Music Around the Picture by Serge Bozon) gives the rights to complement the CD with some bonus tracks in the same mold. Serge selected them to express the post-adolescent melancholy and dread in the film, a blue and gray feeling, on SHE 001 and the bonus are the following:
Phil and the Frantics - "Pain"; The Shandells - "Please Stay"; The Keggs - "To Find Out"; The Beaux Jens - "She Was mine"; The Paragons - "Abba" (They had a cool interview on Lance Monthly's staff writer, Mike Dugo's site, www.60sgaragebands.com and you should read it! I've already told Mike about their inclusion.); Phil and the Frantics - "Say That You Will"; The Barracudas - "Baby Get Lost"; The Magpies - "Everybody's Fool"
All surviving band members, please inquire about your rights to the guys at S-HEL-L-A-C (Société Héliotrope de Libre Action Culturelle; some typical French existential intellectual naming wankers!) 82, boulevard Ornano - 75018 Paris, France. E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: (+33) 1.42.55.07.84 or fax: (+33) 1.55.79.01.00.
Well that's it for now. Have a nice rest of the summer, you'all!
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