I first met Art Fein in the early ’80s when I traveled to Los Angeles with Charlie Burton and the Hiccups for some shows that Fein helped book at the now legendary Club Lingerie and Madame Wong’s West.
Catching up with him at South By Southwest over the years, I earned a footnote mention in his 1996 book “The Greatest Rock & Roll Stories: The Most Outrageous, Magical and Scandalous Events in the History of Rock & Roll”.
And, for quite a while, I had a room full of boxes of “Art Fein’s Poker Party” videotapes, which I tried, unsuccessfully, to put on Lincoln’s public-access television channel.
That’s the full-disclosure background for my take on “Rock’s in My Head,” Fein’s captivating and entertaining memoir of six decades in the music business hitting stores and e-book outlets Wednesday.
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Based on journals he’s written over the years, with some passages directly quoted, “Rock’s in My Head” is pure art, opinionated, funny, brutally honest and revealing, and always driven by rock and roll, not the rock and roll of the living room. from fame or “classic” rock, but from the actual 1950s stuff that, through Elvis, hooked Fein as a boy in Chicago.
Moving to Los Angeles after attending the University of Colorado, Fein landed a short-lived job at Capitol Records, where her first assignment was to spend a week with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Their stories then turn to memories of Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss, managing The Blasters and The Cramps, throwing shows like their annual Elvis birthday party, helping fuel the ’80s rockabilly revival, and, for much of from the book, hanging out with Phil Spector.
As a “guest guest” for Spector in the ’80s and ’90s, Fein would invite a group of his friends, who loved Spector’s music, to the lonely, shaky mansions of the producers, where they would be cooped up for hours, experiencing the Spector rants, listening to stories from his early ’60s days. He was the genius creator of “little symphonies for kids” through his Wall of Sound and eating the hot dogs he served for a very late-night dinner.
A rare friend whom the seemingly paranoid, gun-toting, drug-addicted producer came to trust, Fein joined Spector, memorably, on a trip to Nashville to collect a BMI award, had the chance to experience a recording session with Celine Dion (of all people) who gave him a life-affirming gift of hearing Spector create his legendary sound and he and his friends shared lunches with Spector when he stood trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson.
Those stories and Fien’s observations, some positive, some negative, some painfully personal, make “Rocks in My Head” the most intimate look at Spector I’ve ever read, and I’ve read most, if not all, of the books written about it. Spector. to the.
That Spector is portrayed as insecure, fickle, threateningly unstable, manipulative, demanding, selfish, reclusive, sometimes loving and loyal, and a savvy rock ‘n’ roll genius.
Does Art believe that Spector shot and killed the drunk and drugged actress that night in 2003? Maybe yes, maybe no. She clearly wants to believe Spector’s defense that she killed herself, and she doesn’t seem to believe that she would have maliciously pulled the trigger. But she resents the fact that Spector never explained exactly where she was when she shot herself, and had seen her unstable behavior up close and personal.
There are also many stories of the taping of “Art Fein’s Poker Party,” a public-access television show that became a nationwide hit with appearances by the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Elvis’ barber, Larry Geller, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Hal Blaine of The Wrecking Crew, and most memorably, Brian Wilson.
The poker party came to an end when the Los Angeles public access channel shut down a few years ago. But the best of the shows can still be seen on, elsewhere, on YouTube. There you can see Joe Strummer from The Clash, Southern Culture on the Skids, Chris Isaak, The Blasters, my old friends The Skeletons, Dion, The Stray Cats and many more giving it their all with Art and co and playing some songs.
It’s beyond a good chance, before you found this piece, you’ve never heard of Fein. And, as I tried to indicate in the introduction here, I’m more than a little biased. That being said, I highly recommend “Rocks in My Head,” my favorite rock ‘n’ roll read of 2022.
Contact the writer at 402-473-7244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @KentWolgamott