by Jay Allen Sanford
(edited version published in the San Diego Reader July 28, 2005)
Before we can get to the “Lists” Jon Kanis asks me, “Are you a Plimsouls fan?” Like any right-thinking music writer I say, “Of course” — which is how I find out Kanis was Peter Case’s newsletter publisher and road manager in the early ’90s. This impresses me, and I was already impressed with Kanis. I have been since his 1997 folksy/psychedelic EP A Pair Of Opposites, the first of his many collaborations with uberguitarist Mike Keneally (Zappa’s onetime touring axeman). In addition, I often use the services of the company Kanis spent six years building and running before going full-time as a musician, Reelin’ In The Years Productions, an historical music film and video archive that forms the building blocks of nearly every VH1 theme countdown show I’ve worked on (“Most Outrageous Heavy Metal Moments,” et al), so I’m predisposed to grant him instant cred. Kanis has always had an ear for good music and good musicians; witness how his early ’90s backing group the Wondermints is now Brian Wilson’s touring Smile band.
First instrument owned/age/cost?
My first instrument was my vocal chords that I was encouraged to use by my elementary school music teacher Ms. Hardesty (remember when we used to have music programs in school?) and by the time I was in high school I was screaming my way through a couple of different hard rock cover bands at various keg parties. I didn’t learn how to play the guitar until I moved to the west coast and six months later (having just turned 19) I bought a fairly cheap Martin copy (a Montaya) for around 150 dollars at the (now defunct) Jim’s House Of Guitars on El Cajon Boulevard. David Brauner helped me pick it out.
What’s in your CD player (up to five CDs – artist name and CD title)?
1) Stew Sweetboot (“An eight song disc that has the artist bootlegging himself; sometimes an artists’ best work are the spontaneous demo recordings that are ‘tossed off’ in a flurry of activity. This proves it.”)
2) 4 Out Of 5 Doctors Demos (“An obscure, teenage obsession from circa 1980-82 that I still haven’t quite shaken. A quirky, new wave band hailing from the suburbs of Northern Virginia, they put out two albums on CBS subsidiary Nemperor, but I still prefer the demos to their major label releases.”)
3) Bob Dylan Oh Mercy (“Possibly the equal of anything else he’s done, including the holy trinity of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited & Blonde On Blonde. Especially when you consider the outtakes of “Dignity” & “Series Of Dreams.” The master at the height of his powers with the best production of his career. Essential. Particularly after reading about it’s genesis and birth in Chronicles Volume One.”
4) Robyn Hitchcock Spooked (“His latest offering produced by David Rawlings. Beautiful, wise and inspirational in that after recording for almost thirty years his songwriting, playing and singing keeps getting better and better.”)
5) Peter Case Beeline (“I had kinda overlooked this when it came out in 2002 but I’ve been listening to it a lot lately. A sleeper classic of an album & his shows recently up in L.A. have been kicking much ass.”)
Favorite Twilight Zone episode?
Possibly my favorite television series of all time…if I had to pick only one episode out of the 156 I’d probably say “The Dummy” starring San Diegian Cliff Robertson and written by Rod Serling, a contemporary master of the morality play (if ever there was one). Honorable mentions to “Shadow Play,” “Time Enough At Last,” “A Game Of Pool,” “To Serve Man,” “Person Or Persons Unknown” & “The Masks.”
Worst cover version you’ve heard of a great song?
I don’t know, does Don Ho covering Peter Gabriel’s “Shock The Monkey” count? Inversely I would say that the award for converting a bad song into a great interpretation belongs to The Negro Problem for their version of Jimmy Webb’s overly melodramatic “classic” “MacArthur Park.” “Someone left their crack out in the rain…”
Most inspirational gigs you’ve attended?
1) Concert For George, Royal Albert Hall, London (11.29.02) (“The most emotionally moving & loving musical event that I have had the privilege of experiencing. Ravi & Annoushka Shankar, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Tom Petty…beyond words…absolutely magical. I can’t conceive of a better concert in this lifetime. But I’m certainly open to it.”)
2) Bob Dylan’s The 30th Anniversary Concert, Madison Square Garden, NY (10.16.92) (“Can you imagine seeing George Harrison, Stevie Wonder, Johnny & June Carter Cash, Lou Reed, The Band, Neil Young, Chrissie Hynde, Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton and countless others, all in the same evening paying their respects to possibly the greatest songwriter of the 20th Century? Not to mention Dylan himself at the end of the whole affair. Hard to imagine, but it happened. I ran around NYC on adrenalin for days afterwards.”)
3) New York Rock And Soul Revue, Beacon Theatre, NY (03.01.91, 03.02.91) (“Being a stone Steely Dan fanatic since the age of ten when Pretzel Logic came out I had always dreamed of seeing Donald Fagen perform live, but feared that it might never happen. My dream came true in March of ’91 when not only did I see Donald performing Steely Dan songs live in his own hometown, but on the same bill was blues legend Charles Brown, Phoebe Snow, Boz Scaggs & Michael MacDonald. My expectations were exceeded.”)
4) Pete Townshend, La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, CA (06.22.01, 06.23.01) (“Seeing Pete perform solo was an experience that I’m STILL trying to process. His performance of “Eminence Front” at the piano ten feet away from our seats was a moment I will treasure forever. One of rock’s greatest luminaries.”
5) Stax Museum Of American Soul Music/Soul Comes Home, Orpheum Theatre, Memphis, TN (04.30.03) (“Again, can you imagine seeing Al Green, Mavis Staples, Booker T & The MGs, Isaac Hayes, Solomon Burke, Eddie Floyd, Jean Knight, Percy Sledge & Carla Thomas…all on the same stage? The history of American soul music in one evening. Amazing.”
Honorable mention: Hole at SOMA (11.08.94)
Best and worst cartoons ever?
This is like a Rorschach test: Jay Ward vehicles (“George Of The Jungle,” “Rocky & Bullwinkle,” “Quisp,” “Crusader Rabbit”), Tex Avery, any Warner Brothers cartoon directed by Charles M. Jones. Worst cartoon? My complete ignorance of what is being broadcast makes answering that question difficult…
My equipment at the moment is fairly minimal, the aforementioned Montaya (with a handful of modifications from the guys at Top Gear), a black Epiphone that stays tuned to open C, a black Telecaster copy and a Bedrock amp. A couple of powered Mackie speakers and a cheap, functional (Behringer) 4-channel mixer that allows me to entertain as a disc jockey in addition to playing solo or with a group.
Best celebrity encounter?
Best in what way? Perhaps it was getting a piece of cinnamon Trident chewing gum from Frank Zappa, chatting for 15 minutes with Stevie Wonder or holding Yoko Ono’s hand for a few moments. When I was eleven and growing up in Arlington, VA on Memorial Day at the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier I met the only President in the history of the United States not to have been elected into office: Gerald Ford. But somehow that doesn’t seem as cool as having shared a moment with Robert Plant or Steven Tyler or Ram Dass. Or flying on an airplane with Lynyrd Skynyrd and hearing firsthand from keyboardist Billy Powell about the safety statistics of traveling by air. Wait a minute, maybe it was hanging out with Allen Ginsberg at the Chelsea Hotel…