A Season In Hell

A Season in Hell #34 (04/18/11): Shakin’ All Over

April 24, 2011
1:41 pm

We had a 3.2 earthquake in the Bay Area on Monday. I heard it coming before I felt it. Crazy. I was on the 32nd floor of Embarcadero 1 when the 1989 earthquake hit. We were waving to the Bank of America building, and it was waving back. I worked at KRQR (The Rocker) then. It became Alice 97.3FM. Both station pretty much sucked. My quake story is a humorous on though. Perhaps I’ll share it sometime. Not tonight though.

Tonight we ROCK!

Roustabout: Elvis Presley
The Cactus: 3rd Bass
Peace One: John McLaughlin

Concert Outlook

Eight Miles High: Husker Du
Solitude Is Bliss: Tame Impala
Come on Over, Turn Me On: Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
Dear Fly, Love Spider: The Low Lows

Hot Summer Day: It’s a Beautiful Day
The Runaway: Danny O’Keefe
Time Has Told Me: Nick Drake

Hour Two:
Tommy Gun: The Clash
Why Can’t This Be Love: Gigolo Aunts

The House on the Hill: The Mummies
I Want Candy: Thee Headcoatees
White Punks on Dope: The Tubes
The Terror of Tiny Town: Jello Biafra and The Guantanamo School of Medicine

Fight the Power: Public Enemy
Cadillac: Bo Diddley
Cosmik Debris: Frank Zappa
Why (The King of Love is Dead): Nina Simone

Mountains of the Moon: Grateful Dead (12-20-68)
Long May You Run: CSNY (Live 1974)

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Tonight on A Season in Hell, with John Hell

April 11, 2011
1:21 pm

Local show producer/performer Ruce will be on in the 8 o’clock hour to hype the upcoming Japan earthquake/tsunami fundraiser “Cause to Effect Resolve“, Wednesday April 13th and Thursday April 14th at Kimo’s on Polk Street in San Francisco.

The second hour will be music from the Holy Kiss and some newly-found Mudhoney (both on vinyl), as well as some rare nuggets. Tune in.

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A Season in Hell #24: Just you and I

February 1, 2011
8:50 am

It’s been a while since I’ve been alone with you. I’ve missed your touch, the way you taste, the way you feel. Let’s take it real slow tonight, baby.

To hear this fine show, click on the archives link, then on the January 31st A Season in Hell podcast. Enjoy.

Roustabout: Elvis Presley
She Watch Channel Zero: Public Enemy
Home Affairs: Osibisa

Buenos Tardes Amigo: Ween
Aquarian Time: Wooden Shijps

Cocaine Blues: Johnny Cash
Messin’ With The Kid: Junior Wells & The Aces
5-Piece Chicken Dinner->Lookin’ Down the Barrel of a Gun: Beastie Boys
Peace Frog->Blue Sunday: The Doors

Constipation Blues: Hawkins, Screamin’ Jay
Hama: Boris

A Kiss to Build a Dream on: Louis Armstrong & Band (04-14-62)
I’ll Be Your Lover Too: Van Morrison
Halfway To Danville: Lee Simpson

Cortez the Killer: Neil Young and Crazy Horse (02-07-84)
Tom Violence: Sonic Youth (08-17-90)

The Catholics Are Attacking: Pop-O-Pies
My Way: Frank Sinatra
Derelicts of Dialect: Third Bass

Goin’ Out West: Tom Waits

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A Season in Hell #21: Live Evil

January 18, 2011
4:56 pm

Tonight on the show I welcome Laurent Martini of Live Evil.

Who is Live Evil?
(From their website:

“Live Evil ( is the heavy metal playground that existed only in the mind of wannabe rocker Laurent Martini, whose love of Motley Crue drove him to pen over 120 song lyrics during his teen-aged years as he tried (albeit in vain) to evoke the rocker lifestyle: loose women, boozing, and life on the road. Having leapt from his brain to the stage after 19 years, Live Evil is a two-parts fist-pumping arena rock concert, one-part failed high-school talent show and ultimately an endearing cocktail ultimately about a childhood dream that refuses to fade.”

Laurent will be on the show promoting the 5th anniversary party for a great show: Mortified (, which Live Evil will be playing at.

This should be lovely.

Hour One:
Roustabout: Elvis Presley
We’re All In This Together: Gabby Young & Other Animals
Mutant: Wavves

Pigs on the Wing 1 & 2: Pink Floyd (from the UK only 8-track release)
Red Lights: Holy Fuck
Marine Salute: Liquorball

Kissing Clouds: Sweet Bulbs
Dada Brown: Lil Daggers

The Smoke: Home Video
Get High Babe: John Wesley Coleman III

Hour Two:
Laurent Martini in the studio

Get Down and Blow Me: Live Evil

Laurent Martini in the studio

Wild Tonight: Live Evil
TnT: AC/DC (12-09-79)

Street Fighting Man: Rolling Stones (07-26-72)
Everyday People: Sly and the Family Stone (09-01-69)
In My Time of Dying: The Black Crowes with Jimmy Page (10-18-99)

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Don Kirshner Goes to the Great Rock Concert in the Sky

4:50 pm

If you were a rock music fan in the mid-1970s, you couldn’t have had a more unlikely savior than Don Kirshner. His nasal voice and balding, leisure-suited appearance made him less the stuff of hero worship than unbridled spoofing—and Paul Shaffer’s repeated impressions of him on Saturday Night Live in the late ’70s are still the stuff of legend. But Kirshner, who died Monday at age 76, was a critical pioneer for rock & roll on television with Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, the syndicated weekly show that ran from 1973 to 1982, its end perhaps not coincidentally coinciding with the birth of MTV. At a time when, if you wanted visuals to go with your music, you pretty much had to stare at an album cover, Kirshner was rock’s primary delivery system to American living rooms, nebbish or not.

It could be argued that Kirshner had an even more real and lasting influence on pop music as a behind-the-scenes figure in the early 1960s, when he was half-owner of Aldon Music, the famous Brill Building publishing outfit that signed songwriters like Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Gerry Goffin, and Carole King. He was also largely responsible for the Monkees—and the Archies. More creditably, he gave Bobby Darin his first big break.

But in the popular mindset, Kirshner will be remembered in the popular mindset less for any of those accomplishments than… that monotone. Not since Ed Sullivan had there been such a disconnect between the wild, world-changing rockers on the tube and the old-before-his-time nerd introducing them.

Watch the above clip of Kirshner introducing Queen on his television series, and you’ll see all the hallmarks that Shaffer was able to hilariously (and affectionately) spoof in the early years of SNL: the flatness of voice, the looking off-camera toward cue cards, and the completely incomprehensible recitation of an act’s record label, management, agents, and/or promoters, as if America gave a rat’s behind about who the suits behind the band were.

“When I did him on Saturday Night Live,” Shaffer said in a 2004 interview, “I would just make up names of promoters and managers. (But) the guy on Rock Concert was nothing like the real Don Kirshner. He’s actually a really funny guy.”

Indeed, if Kirshner could seem stilted and even a little tone-deaf on-camera, he was more than sharp enough off-camera, when he stopped looking like a deer caught in the headlights and got back to business.

Although Kirshner was left out of Beyond the Sea, Kevin Spacey’s Bobby Darin biopic, he was a crucial figure in Darin’s early career, having met the future star at age 20, when they began writing songs together. Their partnership as manager and client was close enough that Darin married fellow star Sandra Dee in Kirshner’s apartment. The two fell out as Darin’s celebrity grew, but Kirshner found another great partner in entrepreneur Al Nevons, with whom he formed Aldon Music. They were responsible for teaming up some of the greatest songwriters of the early ’60s and publishing such indelible hits as “Walkin’ in the Rain,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “On Broadway,” and “The Locomotion.”

Columbia Music bought the company in the mid-’60s but installed Kirshner as the head of Screen Gems, where he was the music consultant for shows including Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. More historically, however, he was the guy in charge of music for TV’s answer to the Beatles, the Monkees, and he had the faux four record smashes like “Daydream Believer” and “I’m a Believer.”

When the Monkees, like Pinocchio, got it in their heads that they wanted to be a real band, heads clashed and tempers flared. Michael Nesmith won that battle, if he arguably lost the war when the group floundered doing original material. One flare-up came when Kirshner wanted the Monkees to record “Sugar Sugar,” and, obviously, they balked. “I said, ‘Screw the Monkees. I want a band that won’t talk back’,” he recalled later. As sung anonymously by a crew of cartoon rockers, “it was the Number 1 song of 1969. It outsold the Rolling Stones.”

Kirshner kept on with the brave new world of pop music on television, becoming an executive producer on ABC’s nascent In Concert series in late 1972. He quickly moved on to start his own show, which went head-to-head in late night with not only the ABC series but NBC’s new Midnight Special. The crucial difference between the latter show and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert was that the Kirshner performances really were filmed in concert and not lip-synched, starting with the inaugural episode, a highly touted return to television by the Rolling Stones.

The show ran into the punk era; in the above clips, you can see Kirshner hedging with some “maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t” uncertainty over the Ramones and “judge for yourself” faint praise for the New York Dolls. Mid-’70s staples like Black Oak Arkansas, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, and Mountain gave way to the likes of the Police before Kirshner hung up his hosting duties in ’82.

He then all but disappeared for the last 28 years of his life, although in an excellent 2004 profile in the Washington Post, he laid out plans for a business comeback that never materialized. He also expressed resentment at never having been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s non-performer division. “I don’t want to sound like sour grapes,” he told the Post, “but I believe I shoud have been one of the first three or first five inducted. Seriously. I mean, they’ve got people in there that I trained, and I’m not in? It bothers me, on principle.”

Not to worry, Don. In the hall of fame that exists in baby boomers’ and early Gen-X-ers’ hearts, you’re well-enshrined, thanks to your show’s 180-episode run. You were the delivery system for glam-rock, punk, and other outre subgenres at a time when we had to wait seven days for another shot at seeing just what these brilliant clowns looked and acted like. And all that was worth sitting through a few superfluous names of promoters and managers—and even the sight of those horrendous wide collars—for.

If you want to see Shaffer’s amazing vintage take on Kirshner, here’s a link to a prime example from a 1978 episode, wherein the future Letterman band leader opened the show as the eminently spoofable Rock Concert host:

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