Archive for Doug Kershaw

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: ‘Zachariah’ soundtrack

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , on February 5, 2010 by 30daysout

I came across this record – the soundtrack for the 1971 movie Zachariah, which was billed at the time as the “first electric western.”  Do you remember that one?

This movie, I believe, was one of the strange films that came out of Hollywood after Easy Rider virtually destroyed the old-school big-studio movie model in 1969.  In the wake of that groundbreaking movie, filmmakers saw that there was a huge untapped market in the era’s youth – so you had a lot of low-budget movies with avant-garde leanings … and a lot of rock music.  It didn’t hurt that Easy Rider was kind of a western too.

So dig this: take the central idea behind Easy Rider (two buddies on the road, searching for something) and put it back in the Old West: check.  Rock music? Check.  Hey, how about putting rockers in the movie as actors?  Oh yeah, check.  While we’re at it, let’s just give them their electric guitars and let ’em play on screen!  What????

Yeah, that’s Zachariah. The movie opens on this arid desert scene, there’s a lonely rider getting off his horse and scuffling through the dust, then – three dudes playing electric instruments!  That’s the James Gang, and that sets into motion the story of young Zachariah (played by John Rubenstein), who gets a mail-order gun and winds up shooting down some dude in the local saloon.  He and his friend Matthew (Don Johnson!) join the Crackers, a rock band who are also pitifully inept stagecoach bandits.   Zachariah and Matthew eventually set out to become big-time gunslingers, but a break in their friendship grows into a rivalry that can only have deadly consequences.

At first it’s kind of disorienting to see dudes riding around on horses then go into a saloon where Joe Walsh is tearing off a riff on his guitar.  Immediately you get the idea this is some kind of spoof, maybe some kind of thing where the people who made it were stoned (it was written by two members of the Firesign Theatre), maybe the movie was intended to be seen by audiences who were also stoned.  I remember seeing it when it came out, and even as a 16-year-0ld I thought it was pretty stupid.  But I also thought the rock music in the film was killer bee.

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Sampler Daze: A Last Look at the Loss Leaders

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2009 by 30daysout


When The 1969 Warner/Reprise Songbook appeared in early 1969, the liner notes said, by way of explanation, the sampler’s goal was “hopefully to win new friends for some very creative people.”  People like Jethro Tull, the Pentangle, Frank Zappa, Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, even Tiny Tim.  Warner Bros. Records, founded in 1958, was just beginning to hoist its freak flag, and in just a few years the label’s roster would be the cream of the crop.

And so the ride began: with L.A. street freak Wild Man Fischer’s “Songs For Sale” introducing “My Sunday Feeling” by Jethro Tull.  Eleven years later, the Warner Bros./Reprise Loss Leaders series ended on the sampler Troublemakers with Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols snarling, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

Well, no.  The 34 Loss Leaders samplers that appeared between 1969 and 1980 formed my musical tastes and exposed me to artists I would never have dreamed of seeking out, to people who may have been just a little too adventurous even for early-Seventies radio.  I remember calling up my local AM pop station and smugly asking the DJ to play some Zappa and the Mothers, or that flip side by the Beach Boys, only to get the response, “What?”  The Loss Leaders made me cooler than the disc jockey!

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Walkin’ To New Orleans: Cajun Swamp Rock

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2009 by 30daysout

Doug Kershaw

We’re taking a trip from Texas to New Orleans and plan to get there in time for Mardi Gras.  Along the way, we’re revisiting some of the interesting characters we’ve met in past years.  Today we’re in the dark swamps along the Atchafalaya River, but the story begins back in Texas.

I remember this scene as clearly as yesterday: I’m in a small garage apartment and two music legends are sitting in my living room.  Jivin’ Gene Bourgeois and Johnnie Allan, both South Louisiana music legends, are doing some publicity for a music show in Port Arthur and they decided to “take it” to the reporter.  Where he lives.

I had met Allan – who was a high school principal in Lafayette, Louisiana, at the time – at a South Louisiana music legends show the year before.   We drove to the show with Jivin’ Gene, who was a neighbor and old friend.  Allan was, and still is, one of the most tireless proponents of the South Louisiana music sound.  That sound was a tasty blend of rock and roll, R&B and a bit of rockabilly made spicy with some Cajun seasoning.  A British guy started calling it “Swamp Pop” in the 1970s but I always hated that term – “Swamp Rock” is more appropriate.  Because, as we used to say in Port Arthur, that shit rocks.

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