Archive for the ‘New Haven Register archives’ Category

My phoner with Ray (Ray Manzarek, 1939-2013)

May 20, 2013
Ray Manzarek, 20th century. Not a fox, but a damn good keyboardist.

Ray Manzarek, mid-20th century. Not a fox, but a damn good keyboardist.

May 20, 2013

Editor’s note: This is the end for Ray Manzarek. The clock said it’s time to close now. News just came in a few minutes ago of the death today of Manzarek — The Doors’ keyboardist/co-founder and producer of X’s first two albums — after a long battle with bile duct cancer. He was 74. (Can’t believe he was only three years younger than my mother …)

I interviewed Ray on the phone one morning in April 2003 for the New Haven Register. It was a preview of The Doors 21st Century — that abomination of a tour with Ian Astbury pretending to be Jim Morrison — coming to the Oakdale Theatre in nearby Wallingford; the story and sidebar ran on the morning of the show, April 28. It was the first time Ray and Robby Krieger (with a hired-gun drummer and bassist) had played that close to New Haven since, well, Dec. 9, 1967, when they did a little show at the old New Haven Arena.

None of my Register stories made the conversion to electronic archives unscathed (every one of my stories I’ve found has had the first sentence, paragraph or page missing), and all my clips are in storage, but thankfully, I’ve been able to find the pieces here and here. Ray seemed very upbeat over the phone from his home in Los Angeles — maybe because he was anticipating a return to New Haven? Who knows? But it went well. And here are the main story and the sidebar in their entirety:

Strange days, indeed

Three decades later, a reincarnation of The Doors

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

April 28, 2003

The big question isn’t why Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger have revived The Doors without the band’s focal point. After all, they recorded two albums and carried on for 16 months after the death of singer Jim Morrison in July 1971. As what’s being billed as The Doors 21st Century pulls into Wallingford’s Oakdale Theatre for a show tonight, the big question is: Why now?

There have been other times when it would have made more sense – say, the late ’70s, when Doorsmania inexplicably erupted (hallmarked by the Rolling Stone Morrison cover: “He’s Hot. He’s Sexy. He’s Dead.”); or perhaps in 1991, when Oliver Stone’s film “The Doors” came out, starring Val Kilmer as Morrison.

“Why now? Because it’s the 21st century,” said Manzarek, the band’s keyboardist, from his Los Angeles home two weeks ago. “The Doors were not going to get together in the 20th century. But there’s wars going on and the economy is going down the drain and the environment is being threatened … it’s like the ’60s all over again.” Besides, he added, “In ’91, it would have been clever to capitalize on the movie. But who would we have gotten to sing?” You could hear the sneer. “Vallll – Kilmer?”


New Haven Register Archives: “Hearts of Solid Gold: The Fleshtones just love the music”

March 1, 2012

The Fleshtones, 2001. Back then, they'd only been at it 25 years. Front: Peter Zaremba. Back, from left: Bill Milhizer, Keith Streng and Ken Fox. Photo by Anne Laurent.

Editor’s note: Once in a while, music writers are lucky enough to get the chance to write about their favorite musicians and bands. I was lucky enough to have been able to do interviews/features with Brian Wilson and the band that’s been my favorite since 1984, The Fleshtones.

This story ran as the centerpiece of the Friday, March 23, 2001 Weekend section of the New Haven Register. They were playing the next night as part of a Junk Culture Festival at the late downtown club the Tune Inn, and had recently released the album “Solid Gold Sound” on Blood Red, a small indie label out of Portland — run by a guy who worked, if I remember right, full-time as a nurse to fuel his passion for music.

And they’re still going, nearly 36 years after Peter Zaremba and Keith Streng played their first gig, at CBGB. The early days of CB’s. Before punk was punk.

The piece comes to me thanks to the good graces of one Jay Mucci, a fan of my music writing since my Waterbury days — and a big music fan, period. Jay has a blog called The Beat Patrol, where you can find countless music stories and reviews, by me and a lot of other people. Jay was kind enough to have included this on his site.

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

You’d think they would have quit a long time ago. Instead, The Fleshtones just released their 16th album, Solid Gold Sound, on Blood Red, a Portland, Ore., indie label. They’ll also return to the Tune Inn Saturday night to play in the club’s two-night, 20-band Junk Culture Festival, going on at 9:30.

So why are they doing this? They’re not getting rich — or younger. Why put themselves through the grind, long past the point where others’ hearts would have shattered?

The answer can be easily seen at one of their shows. Like all the Whos down in Whoville, singing around where the Christmas tree once stood, The Fleshtones’ hearts haven’t been tarnished by material disappointments.

Singer Peter Zaremba still sweats and strains, frugging and swimming himself into a medallion-swinging frenzy out of a ’60s discotheque. Guitarist and fellow original member Keith Streng still bashes chords as if a young man. Bill Milhizer, in the band since 1979, still pounds the sweat-soaked beat that drives the hybrid of ’60s rock and soul that Zaremba calls “super rock.”
Bassist Ken Fox, the junior member, with 11 years in The Fleshtones since leaving Jason & the Scorchers, still has as much fun as he did when he was a fan of the band in the mid-’80s.

They just love what they do.


NEW HAVEN REGISTER ARCHIVES: Legendary saxophonist Clarence Clemons turns 62 Sunday. But the two nights before, he’ll show the Mohegan Sun crowd HE’S STILL A YOUNG MAN

June 19, 2011

This interview with Clarence Clemons ran as the cover story of the New Haven Register’s Weekend section Friday, Jan. 9, 2004, two days before his 62nd birthday; it was a preview of shows by his own band, Clarence Clemons’ Temple of Soul, that night and the next at Mohegan Sun Casino’s Wolf Den.

Anyone who puts out a newspaper’s entertainment section, as I did for 11 1/2 years, cringes around the holidays, since the two weeks of January after the holidays are usually the deadest time of the year for events, and finding people for interviews during the holiday season? Fuggedaboutit! But as serendipity would have it, the Big Man was coming to one of Connecticut’s two monstrous casinos (free shows, at that), the editor of the paper was a bigger Springsteen fan than I was, and I was able to line up something far enough ahead of time.

Clarence called from his home in Florida and, true to what I suspected and hoped, he was a nice guy. It wasn’t an earth-shattering interview, but it was pleasant, a good way to start the year. (My general experience as a music writer: The people who had the most reason to have an ego had the least egos, and vice versa.) I chose to focus on him, rather than stray into E Street territory — he had his own material, I didn’t quite know what I could add to the Bruce dialogue at that point, and besides, how many people actually had ever heard what Clarence had to say?

As it turned out, it was, I believe, my last big music interview out of hundreds I did for the Register, starting in September 1992. Minutes after I put the section to bed that Thursday night, as the wind whipped in the adjacent courtyard in 9-degree weather, the features editor of The Fresno Bee called me, from the 72-and-sunny San Joaquin Valley, to ask if I was still interested in an assistant features editor job. Two-and-a-half months later, I was in California — and on, unknowingly, to the adventure of my life.


New Haven Register archives: Playing his Pet Sounds: Once-reclusive Beach Boy legend Brian Wilson really seems to be back these days. And he’s coming to Connecticut.

March 10, 2011

ABOVE: Brian Wilson will be quite visible on Sunday, his 57th birthday, with show at Mohegan Sun Casino and a new, two-hour A&E "biography" installment, "Brian Wilson: A Beach Boy's Tale." both start at 8 p.m. Photo by Neal Preston.

This interview with Brian Wilson ran as the Weekend section lead of the New Haven Register Friday, June 18, 1999. It was an advance to his performance two nights later, on his 57th birthday, at Mohegan Sun Casino. I got the chance to meet him that night, after his soundcheck. It was as simple and short as a handshake and a “Hi Brian. Happy birthday” and “Thank you very much.”

It was one of my more nerve-wracking and challenging interviews. How do you come up with interesting questions for someone whose life — both the glories and the dirty laundry — has long been in public view? And how do you interview your all-time favorite musician without coming off like a gushing fanboy?

Anyway, the interview took place a couple weeks before the show, on a Friday evening, and it went really well. I actually was able to keep his interest for a half-hour before he said he had to go, and I thought it was cool to be able to tell my friends afterward, “I was talking to Brian Wilson in my kitchen …”

I actually got to interview him again a couple years later in advance of a return show. But there was something special about this first one. And in my 11 1/2 years of talking to performers for the Register, this was one of just two interviews (the other being Ray Charles in 1993) that I kept in Q-and-A format.


New Haven Register archives: JOHNNY CASH COMES FULL CIRCLE: Yale Whiffenpoofs flock to singer’s side for Toad’s show

March 2, 2011

Johnny Cash played two sold-out shows at Toad's Place on York Street in July of 1990.

(This story ran on Page 15, in the Living section, of the New Haven Register Tuesday, Nov. 3, 1992. It was the preview to a scheduled show that Thursday at Toad’s Place in New Haven by Johnny Cash. He was to have performed a couple of songs with Yale’s famed Whiffenpoofs, whose longtime home, the supper club Mory’s, stands next to Toad’s. Unfortunately, the shows were canceled, but I did get to see him that Saturday, sans Whiffs, at the Garde Arts Center in New London.

This tour came at the low point of his recording career. His late-’80s albums for Mercury went nowhere and he seemed to have fizzled out, and was trying to figure his next move. A year and a half later, he shocked us with the stark simplicity of the first of his Rick Rubin albums, which re-established him for good and sustained him the rest of his life.

Johnny called me one morning a few days before, just before he left for the funeral of his longtime agent, who died the same day as Johnny’s good buddy Roger Miller. I did apologize right off and tell him I felt badly that he called me at such a trying time. His response, in that voice: “Well, you got me.” I was eternally grateful that he took time to talk to a stranger, especially given the circumstances.)

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

This is the type of trivia question that starts bar arguments: What was the first song Johnny Cash ever sang in public?

“Hey Porter”? “I Walk the Line”? Some Hank Williams number? A hymn? Don’t knock yourself out. You will never guess; I guarantee it. So let the man tell you himself:

“The first song I ever sang in public, in front of a large audience, was at commencement exercises at my high school when I was in 11th grade. It was ‘The Whiffenpoof Song,’“ he said last week.

Of all the songs.

Thus, Cash, on his return visit to Toad’s Thursday night — he played there in July 1990 — will open his new tour by singing at least that song on stage with another American musical institution — Yale’s Whiffenpoofs.

They’ll sing “The Whiffenpoof Song” and Cash’s timeless “Ring of Fire” at the second show, scheduled to start at 10:30. Whether they perform more depends on how quickly Cash can make it up to New Haven from Nashville after Wednesday’s memorial service for old friend Roger Miller.


New Haven Register archives: THE MODEST GENIUS: Ray Charles, who performs tonight at the Shubert, gets a thrill from the honors he has reaped

February 24, 2011

Ray Charles will tell you "I've been a very, very blessed, fortunate human being."

(This story originally ran as the lead of the New Haven Register’s Weekend section Friday, Oct. 29, 1993. It was an advance to his show that night at the Shubert in New Haven. It was one of only two interviews I ran in Q-and-A form; the other was my June 1999 interview with Brian Wilson.)

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

There’s simply no way to do Ray Charles justice in the confines of a newspaper; even a magazine piece may not be long enough. Despite his out-and-out humility, this is one of the pivotal figures of American culture — maybe not the most influential, but one of the most transcendental, and easily one of the most recognizable.

Forget about the Diet Pepsi commercials and the “Uh-huh”s; forget about even his individual hits — “I Got a Woman,” “What’d I Say,” “Hit the Road, Jack,” “I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You,” “Georgia on My Mind.” The Genius’ genius lies in his ability to travel from one musical style to another — blues, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, country, jazz, classical — tying together many threads of our collective culture while maintaining a high level of excellence.

His last album, the Richard Perry-produced “My World,” released in March, even explores the new jack territory.

Without trying to sound trite about this, Ray Charles Robinson, now 63, is a unique translation of the American success story.

Born in Albany, Ga., and raised in Greenville, Fla., he overcame one strike after another. A poor black child in the South in the ’30s, blinded by glaucoma at 7, he studied music and parlayed it into a 45-year career.

As an adult, he overcame heroin addiction and has lived to enjoy the fruits of his long labor: induction into the Rock’N’Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, 11 Grammy Awards, Kennedy Center Award, NAACP Hall of Fame Award, honorary chairman of the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

A week ago Wednesday, we talked by phone from his publicist’s office in Los Angeles, one of his infrequent interviews. Thirteen days earlier, he received his latest honor, a National Medal of the Arts from Bill Clinton at the White House.

There’s a limit to what you can cover in 20 minutes with anyone, let alone Brother Ray. Since his words speak well enough for themselves, I’ve left them in question-and-answer form:


New Haven Register archives: Let’s give it to ’em — right now! For some reason, the long career of rocker Iggy Pop, who returns to Toad’s tonight, always returns to ‘Louie Louie’

February 23, 2011

Iggy’s older and wiser, but he still has attitude to spare. Photo by Chris Cuffaro.

(This story originally appeared in the New Haven Register as the Weekend section lead Friday, March 25, 1994. It was an advance to his show that night at Toad’s Place in New Haven.)

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

For all the years Iggy Pop has been performing – and that’s more than three decades now. If you count his teen years in Michigan, with the Iguanas – there has been one simple, recurring, two-word touchstone: “Louie Louie.”

That’s right. We’re talking about Richard Berry’s four-chord 1955 R&B cha-cha, transformed by the Wailers and then definitively by the Kingsmen into a trash-rock classic. Whether he be a singer/drummer with a frat/garage-rock band; a self-destructive, pre-punk noise demon; or a well-respected, high-energy musical father figure, everything in Iggy’s musical life has boiled down to that one song.

As Iggy, now 46, put it last week from New Orleans, “All songs are ‘Louie Louie.’ As people go on to college, they lose sight of it. You can load anything onto this music. You can use it to sell clothes, to (have sex), to promote the classics. But it’s all ‘Louie Louie.’”

As he prepares to return to Toad’s Place tonight, let’s look at how the song has figured into his career:


New Haven Register archives: LOCAL BOY DOES SPLENDID: After a career of character roles, Elm City native Paul Giamatti has his first lead role in ‘American Splendor’

February 17, 2011

New Haven native Paul Giamatti’s first leading film role, after over a decade of character parts, is that of Harvey Pekar, a Cleveland VA hospital file clerk, who enlisted some artists to draw a comic book about his mundane life called “American Splendor.” The film of the same name, based on Pekar’s life and books, won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year; it opens locally Friday. Photo by John Clifford.

(This story originally appeared on Page B1, the Living section cover, of the New Haven Register, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2003.)

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

You would think this would be a film’s kiss of death.

In “American Splendor,” which opens locally Friday, Paul Giamatti plays Harvey Pekar, a longtime file clerk at the Cleveland VA Hospital who with the help of several cartoonists, including underground legend Robert Crumb, created a comic book about his mundane existence.

There’s also the real-life Pekar on camera, looking at Giamatti and rasping, “He don’t look nuttin’ like me! But whatever…”

But it’s part of the charm of Pekar — an unvarnished, pessimistic, abrasively honest, obsessive-compulsive-neurotic working-class intellectual. And it sure didn’t prevent the film from winning the grand jury award at Sundance this year.

Besides, said New Haven native Giamatti, “I actually do think I look like him.”


New Haven Register archives: ’60s garage rock sees daylight again with new box set

February 17, 2011

Barry Tashian (foreground), who has gone on to a successful folk/country career, fronted The Remains, a Boston band that had a regional hit with “Don’t Look Back” in the mid-’60s. The drummer, Waterbury native Chip Damiani, lives in New Haven these days. The keyboardist was Bill Briggs; Vern Miller played bass.

(This story appeared on Page G1, the Arts section cover, of the New Haven Register Sunday, Sept. 13, 1998.)

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

Chip Damiani of New Haven is a little bewildered. He’s wondering why a rock band he quit 32 years ago is popular enough to be playing a reunion show in Spain next week.

“I don’t have a clue. I have no idea,” he said. “(Our music) wasn’t popular in the first place. I just accepted that our recorded stuff was not good. I find it remarkable we sold any records at all.”

Kurt Robinson of Torrington is likewise amazed that total strangers bring up his teen-age band.

“You’re kidding me,” was his reaction four years ago when “some guy called me from Utah, Nebraska, somewhere, and asked for some memorabilia. I said, ‘Why do you want to talk to me?'”

Damiani was the original drummer for The Remains, a Boston band that achieved fame in mid-1966 — shortly after he quit and just before they broke up — with the regional hit, “Don’t Look Back,” and the opening slot on The Beatles’ final tour.

Robinson played keyboards for The Squires, a Bristol-based band originally called The Rogues, which released two singles that got local airplay.

These days, “Don’t Look Back” and The Squires’ “Going All the Way” are regarded by aficionados as two of the best rock songs of all time.

Those tunes are among the 119 to be found on Rhino’s new four-CD box set, “Nuggets,” which comes out Tuesday. Until now, “Nuggets,” which was also re-released on Sire in 1976, was the only album in Rolling Stone’s top 200 of all time that hadn’t been released on CD.