Archive | July, 2016

A Storyteller of Precise Angles And Forces

31 Jul

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I submitted this piece about the handful of times I hung out with Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Kung Fu writer and Logan’s Run co-creator George Clayton Johnson for hopeful publication to the San Diego Comic Con International 2016 souvenir program book. Unfortunately it didn’t make the cut, probably due that three or four other people had already beaten me to the punch with tributes written about George and the untimely passing of Darwyn Cooke which occurred just before Memorial Day (of which his last project, Future Quest, a tribute to the Hanna Barbara action heroes was conceptualized before his death was already covered in the Jonny Quest tribute blog posted a few months ago) that probably contributed to being pushed aside. However, a photo or two from this entry made it in the final edition, so I guess that’s just as good as compensation.

Anyway, with the format, I could make it a little bit longer with some photos of a recent trip I took down to Laguna Beach to investigate the area where George was a co-owner of a somewhat historical and controversial coffee shop that once existed in the late 1950’s through the early 60’s called Café Frankenstein which looked a little something like this:

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It wasn’t long to be on this earth as the local police had to constantly be called to the premises as local resident complaints festered concerning the use of drug paraphernalia (spiking the coffee with brandy) and public acts of nudity which landed George Clayton Johnson in jail on occasion. They were persecuted by a local church group for using the Frankenstein Monster on stained glass. The coffee shop also ran a bookstore consisting of banned book and were probably piled ceiling high with William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac books. 

Upon my investigation, I discovered I had more in common with George than I originally thought. This café was a not even a half a block away from the street corner I used to hang out in Laguna Beach down the street from an aunt of mine’s cottage from where supposedly Timothy O’Leary first started introducing LSD to the masses of delinquent Orange County beatniks. Also, songwriter Steve Gillette of folk group,  the Stone Poneys, an acquaintance of my twin aunts both living there in the 1970’s, wrote and performed songs on the store front’s porch.

A recreation of the coffee shop was constructed for the San Diego Comic Fest, a moderate gathering of the old San Diego Comic Con alumni held every February with help from designer Wendy All who helped with restoring some of the stained glass artwork.

Here is the original text for the 2016 Comic Con International Souvenir Book that probably never got the chance to pass the editor’s smell test.   

I recently came back from a fan memorial tribute held over at one of Hollywood’s most oldest and prestigious luxury movie revival houses called the Egyptian Theater, knowing much more about the man I’m going to say a few words about than what I knew then.

His once writing partner and best friend, William F. Nolan summed it up most eloquently during the presentation concerning his best friend, legendary lauded ‘fictioneer’, George Clayton Johnson: ‘Getting old is s@#t!!’

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Perhaps ‘perpetually old’ is the way I’ll always remember my first meeting with George. Old, as in if ‘old wise and powerful sage’ had  allowed an unintentional mentor into my life and had easily departed just the same leaving me completely spellbound as if Don Juan stepped tirelessly into material form as from out of an old Carlos Castaneda book that I would check out quite frequently from the library in my New Jersey youth from time to time.

George Clayton Johnson was a modern-day sorcerer seen usually adorned in an orange double downed goose feathered vest and a straw hat, had by chance nonchalantly took it upon himself to sit down next to me at a porch table at an early nineties San Diego Comic Con party held in the unlikely of all places, at a golf driving range in the middle of downtown San Diego (which was directly parallel to the Santa Fe Depot). His first words to me were to ask if he could bum a cigarette off me. For the price of that cigarette, he began enthralling me with tales of transcendence hovering between the metaphysical scales of life and death, and writing for television shows, particularly at some point a yearning to pitch to the X-Files.  Weird combination of subjects interweaving in an out, thinking to myself but there was no way I could bring myself to cut him off because he seemed to articulately knew what the hell he talking about even as I sat there looking back at him with a blank stare of befuddled comprehension of how I could possibly keep up with his meandering tangent.

I didn’t know who the heck he was at first, but he kept bumming cigarettes from me and I, like an attentive inquisitive child kept listening to these stories woven by him for like three hours or at least until the pack of smokes ran out. Then the announcement rang out that they were closing off the no host bar. I realized I was having so much fun listening to him. He reminded me was like the wacky relative I had yearned for all my life.

However I do remember him dropping the bomb on me that he was the co-author of the book based on the film Logan’s Run.

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Interesting bit of trivia mentioned by William Nolan: the first draft of Logan’s Run was torpedoed out in the matter of ten days during the mid-sixties, written completely in a Malibu beach motel room 24/7 with either William or George getting up to get food or cigarettes at a county market (most likely the Trancas Market – if I’m estimating my geography correctly) while the other remained in the room to pound away on the manuscript. It was practically a twenty four hour operation of conscious thought of making it up as they went along.

That revelation put me on a higher plateau of respect for this stranger. I loved Logan’s Run as a kid. It was one of my favorite movies of all time while growing up. Wasn’t really too crazy about the cheesy television adaptation though. Before too long I also learned he had penned a handful of classic Twilight Zone episodes, specifically the one that gave a young actor by the name of Robert Redford his first big break portraying a very young “Death” in a form of a hapless pacifist rookie policeman.

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He asked me of my age and I responded to him I think my ‘life clock’ had just freshly ran out. Then I remember him narrowing his eyes at me and asked, ‘well, now that you’re thirty – do you feel any different from when you were, say, twenty or twenty-five’

I responded with some trepidation revealing that “I feel somewhat wiser now that I’m talking to you” even as all around us, the party was closing down for the night. Just before I thought we were going to depart with a gentlemanly handshake, he handed me a comic book that he written called “Deepest Dimension Terror Anthology” and I couldn’t help notice it was published by Revisionary Press, a small publishing imprint owned by a frequent letter writer to the Comics Buyers’ Guide (ditto for me as a contributor) named Jay Allen Sanford. I later told him about this crazy idea I had in my head about a private investigator who only took cases on in the afterlife (that same character later became the future focus of my self-publishing venture called the Deposit Man) that made the wizened sage talk to me for another twenty minutes as we were walking down a downtown city street. I think the concept appealed to his sense of storytelling modus operandi. He had a fascination with subjects of life transcendent unto death, but in real life, was quick enough to shy away from it himself.

I would run into George over the years at San Fernando Valley local events such as birthday parties held at bookstores such as Dark Delicacies in Burbank or at the Mysterious Book Store in Glendale which was where I got to see him one final time while taking a hooky day from the con last year.

There was even a time when I ran into George aboard a LA transit bus in Studio City wondering how in the heck he missed the stop at the corner of Laurel Canyon Blvd and Magnolia Blvd running late for a Duttons’ bookstore signing. Seeing as how he was a little disjointed, I had to get back on the bus with him and help show him where it was. Sometimes he knew me by name and sometimes he didn’t. All I had to do to bring a copy of my comic book, The Deposit Man and he would be reminded “Well, yes – I like that book. You wrote that?”

There was something that George’s son Paul said during that Egyptian Theater panel which particularly resonated with me: ‘didn’t you feel that my father somehow knew each and every one of you? He loved people. He didn’t care whether you were rich or poor or what background you came from. He loved everybody and would talk to you as if you were his equal. He was a child from the depression. He was raised to be that way.’ Paul nailed it perfectly. THAT’s exactly how I felt when I first met his father. A man of such prominence sitting down with me to converse with a nobody such as myself and had carried on an enlightening conversation as if I was amongst his peers.

I’d like to think that his uncanny ability to speak on a myriad of subjects   must have had some profound effect on me; because whenever I sit down to write dialogue for my independent comic book, The Deposit Man, I find myself dialoging  in all sorts of tangible directions, never pausing once to throw out the kitchen sink. Hanging out in brief intervals with George at various conventions and gatherings WAS the living embodiment of stepping into a guided tour of the Twilight Zone.

Aside from an autographed book of Twilight Zone scripts and treatments that he wrote, I really don’t know much of his later outputs other than hearing from a couple of tearful eulogies presented by his grandchildren at the Hollywood tribute event that he used to assist them with writing their own stories.

One of the things, I plan on investigating further as soon as I put this tribute to bed, is to investigate the interesting stories I heard about the coffee shop that he used to co-own along the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach called the Frankenstein Café, just to see what is in standing in its’ place this day. I lived briefly in Laguna Beach in my teens but I’d never heard of that place (I do remember a bookstore named  Fahrenheit 451 after Ray Bradbury on that same street, Coincidence perhaps, seeing as George professed to have been his protégé).

The above four images are approximately where George was once a co-owner of a coffee shop/beatnik hangout called Café Frankenstein. The physical address of 860 Pacific Coast Highway no longer exists, it is now a parking lot and motor repair shop. The closest street corner would have been Cleo Ave and the Pacific Coast Highway which INCIDENTALLY was the corner of where I used to hang out the most in the summer of 1978 before starting my freshman year of high school reading my comic books and checking out the surf chicks. The pictures were taken recently this past July 4th weekend. It’s pretty much the same way I remembered it with the difference only being that the Ralph’s used to be an Albertson’s and the Taco Bell was a mere take out shack before getting bulldozed over to be made into condos.

The last time I saw George at Comic Con was at the Bradbury memorial tribute panel in 2014, so when I heard he wasn’t making it last year due to ill-health, I had to head back home for that one last birthday celebration. He told me last summer at that party that he wanted nothing more than to be here with the rest of us, but the doctors rejected any type of strenuous travel.

Cheers forever to this phenomenal sorcerer of storytellers and I give thanks for some of the craziest mystical pep talks we shared. My convention experiences may have altered, but the cosmos await him to forge on with old friends long lost seen.

Cary Coatney has worn many hats in the past twenty or so years in the industry. He’s been a retailer, a department head for this convention, a contributor to Comics’ Buyer’s Guide, a studio lackey, and now currently does his day-to-day routine as a residual consultant for many of the Hollywood union area guilds. He self publishes a comic book called the Deposit Man only when he feels like it.  

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OF WINE, WOMEN, AND POST PROGRESSIVE SOUNDS – A GUIDE TO The HEROINES of K-SCOPE MUSIC

18 Jul

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Firm, but fun, short and sweet blog entry this week due to this week’s Comic Con International.

The girls of K Scope Music.

2016 has been a very heavy banner year for female singers this year on the mighty K Scope Music. This year, the post progressive sounds started out with a bang with January’s The Anchoress debut album up to last month’s second outing by the husband/wife duo of Se Delan. In this blog entry, here are five distinct mini-spotlights on woman singers & instrumentalists that are featured on the greatest music label of all time.

  1. Lee Douglas (Anathema) has the utmost uncanny ability to make men instantly ‘tebow’ before her during any given Anathema performance and make them propose marriage foolishly while bent on knee. Trust me, as the only female out of this whole group I’ve seen perform live, mens’ hearts instantly go all aflutter when she takes the stage. They listen attentively and then once she slinks back into the shadows to allow the Cavanagh brothers to take over with their hypnotic techno and layer building minimalist riffs, the heavy metal libido will once again fill the room. Then when they bring her out again the savage beast is calmed instantly again with the audience’s shoulders swaying back and forth as bic lighters are lit to make the scene more cinematic as lightning bugs who escape their captivity from airpoked jars. And you can’t help but be moved by the harmonic melding of camaraderie of strangers, especially when you have such an emotional song such as the title track of their 2004 album, A National Disaster to support the need for convergence from a song that first introduced Lee coming out front and center. A song so poignant, that the Cavenagh brothers had no choice but to feature Lee as a later co-conspirator in their new musical direction that they later undertake on the next three albums, “We’re Here Because We’re Here, Weather Systems, and Distant Satellites – equating Lee as a gifted lyrist and a valuable band member in her own right.

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One of the most moving songs you’ll ever hear in your lifetime.

2. Belinda Kordic (Crippled Black Phoenix & Se Delan)

I was having a facebook conversation one day with Jason Bonham Experience lead vocalist, James Dylan asked me out of the blue. “Coatney, for as long as I’ve known you on facebook, you’ve always had this unique eclectic taste in music. Always out discovering new kind of sounds, You’ve always known of these hit bands BEFORE they even became hit bands (in addition to progressive rock I always had my headphones buried into, I WAS probably the only guy in my high school listening to new wave acts such as SOFT CELL, PET SHOP BOYS, THE CURE, and the HUMAN LEAGUE. I had heard “Don’t You Want Me Baby” countless times during Scott Muni’s WNEW-FM Friday edition of British Things way before it became an US Dance hit.). What are your recommendations these days?”

We were having this conversation on a tour bus – well, actually he was facebooking me from the tour bus and immediately upon hearing of his question,thought of this husband wife duo who go by the name of Se Delan as that they were releasing a new album called Drifter at the time this conversation was taking place.

And I came to serenade James with this apt description of them: ‘imagine a parallel seventies rock universe  if Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, & John Bonham got so fucking fed up with Robert Plant’s freakin’ shenanigans after the release of their classic fourth album and just decided to kick his arse to the Johnnie Walker empty bottle curb and then turned around to ask guest vocalist Sandy Dennis, who sang a duet with Robert on the song “The Battle of Evermore” to continue as their lead vocalist- that is what Se Delan sort of sounds like.

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I don’t exactly know if that stretched out scenario actually grabbed James’ attention, but Se Delan certainly grabbed my attention with their debut album two years ago entitled The Fall with this particular video and single called “Chasing Changes.”

Belinda and her husband Justin Greaves were involved in a previous band together called Crippled Black Phoenix of which some of its’ back catalogue is now readily available on K-Scope Music. However, Se Delan is a personal project of theirs meshing together their mutual interests of music, life, and film. Their new album Drifter is a fascinating collection of songs that look at the hollowing descent into mental madness.

3. Catherine Anne Davies. (Simple Minds, The Anchoress, Paul Draper) is a relatively new girl on the block, but she seems to have racked up plenty of kudos during her freshman tenure so far with last January’s release of her debut Confessions of A Romance Novelist under the guise of The Anchoress which is getting a ton of glowing reviews and has been compared by NPR as Wales’ answer to Lana Del Rey. She spent most of last year as a touring side guitarist and auxiliary keyboardist for long time new wave stalwarts Simple Minds and also has worked with the likes of both Peter Murphy and the London Symphony Orchestra. Former Mansun lead singer Paul Draper produced Catherine’s debut disc and it sold so well, that a second release is more than imminent in the near future. In return, Catherine helped Draper with some of his songs for a forthcoming solo album, some have which now appear on Draper’s brand new EP debut. aptly titled “EP ONE“of which his debut single “Feeling My Heart Run Slow” from the EP ONE is charting well, and also features a collaboration with Steven Wilson on a track called “No Idea“.

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Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, PhD and producer Catherine Anne Davies (aka The Anchoress) sums up her debut album’s overall concept as “deconstructing normative ideas of love and romance”, with each song sung by a different character – “what you might call a musical ghost writing of sorts”. You can hear this distilled in the Prince-inspired feminist manifesto ‘One For Sorrow’ that questions the concept of marriage. There’s a different take on infatuated obsession in the album’s title track, whereas the album’s narrator ironically references her “bedroom shrine to Margaret Thatcher”. Meanwhile, ‘You And Only You’ – an anthemic ode to being better off alone – features the distinctive operatic indie-wail of Mansun’s Paul Draper, who co-produced the album with Catherine.

(Above paragraph was Wikipedia fixed)

By watching the following video, you can immediately tell it’s a tasteful homage to Kate Bush’s first ever video “Wuthering Heights.”

4. Jana Carpenter (Sweet Billy Pilgrim) in addition to being the band’s guitarist, is also an actress, appearing on popular British shows such as Doctor Who, Agatha Christie’s Marple, and Superstorm. In addition to acting and before joining Sweet Billy Pilgrim in 2010 she was also a guitarist for county folk act Piefinger.  

Sweet Billy Pilgrim @ Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen

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Sweet Billy Pilgrim are an English genre spanning band, who are also composed of bassist/banjo player Anthony Bishop, guitarist and singer Tim Elsenburg, and drummer/percussionist Alistair Hamer. Often described as Rock, Folk Rock, Folktronica, Americana, Alternative, Art Rock, Electronica, Pop or Prog, they describe their sound as “Thrash Pastel”. Jana is the only American born prancing around in this pantheon of post progressive rock talent.

(The above paragraph was Wikipedia fixed.)

Once you put their latest platter called Motorcade Amnesiacs  on your turntable or CD player, be prepared to be transported to the magical era of hard rocking clever blues, folk, and 70’s infectious style hooks quite reminiscent of the days of the J. Geils Band, Average White Band, or INXS with just enough smattering of surprise endings that will make you instantly clamor for more.

I was a little late to the party for this one. I literally just picked up this albums just a few days ago. They have a very clever video to go with their single ‘Sling Shot Grin’ that employs the idea of verse and chorus as a mode of communication breakdown between random quarreling couples. You may see a familiar face in this video: actress Kama Sutra’s Indira Varma, who currently has a recurring role on “Games of Thrones.”

It’s just been announced that K-Scope Music will be re-issuing the three-fourths quartet from Aylesbury ‘s debut album from 2004, “We Just Did What Happened and No One Came…”

5. Marjana Semkina (iamthemorning)

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They are from Russia and I’ve been very, very unlucky in locating both of their albums in the US, so pardon me if I get a few things unclarified in my brief summary.

I love the story of how they came to be: Vincent Cavanagh of Anathema saw a little lady in serious danger of getting trampled to death in a rush to the stage at one of their shows in St. Petersburg and immediately grabbed her to pull her up on stage. In thanks for saving her life, little Marjana put a copy of hers’ and her pianist collaborator Gleb Kolyadin’s first album in his hands. After Daniel listened to the album, he stormed into K-Scope Music A & R head honcho’s Johnny Wilkes’s office and demanded that this duo got signed to the level. Then within a span of few years, the duo became known as iamthemorning, named after a song on the much missed defunct band angst punk band Oceansize’s debut album. They’ve worked on their second album entitled ‘Belighted” with Tori Amos’ producer Marcel van Limbeek as well as their newly released “Lighthouse”. Both albums feature guest performances by fellow Porcupine Tree alumni drummer Gavin Harrison and bassist Colin Edwin along with Riverside’s vocalist Mariusz Duda and were recorded both in Moscow and in London.

As the above video demonstrates, Semkina is today’s definitive version of what a siren’s cry luring a sailor to sea should sound like accompanied by the graduatory piano talents of Saint Petersburg Conservatory’s own Gleb Kolyadin which leads you to a mind blowing exploration of the perfect amalgamation between pop and chamber music.

Well, that’s it for this week. Next month, Yes will be in my hometown touring with full lengths performances of both the Drama & half of Tales of Topographic Oceans. Maybe I should plan a special Yes Log accordingly.

I Leave you with this bonus video: “The Dirge” by Se Delan which serves as the backdrop theme for their first album; ‘The Fall.”