Thursday, June 14, 2007

Old Rock Stars Never Die

A few years ago I met a homeless gentleman on the streets of San Jose, California named Leonard Carlton. Leonard was the singer and drummer for a band called Bad Inflection, a group that had one minor hit in 1965 called “Desert Howl.”

When I met the man, he was a complete wreak, the result of having done too much of every drug imaginable. Besides being a performer and a musician, Carlton produced a lot of records for various bands in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. I talked to him recently. Well, he talked and I listened. Here is an excerpt from that interview:

“Yes, it’s true – I’ve been through it all. You name it and I’ve been there. Tons of drugs, four failed marriages, enough booze to fill Lake Tahoe, several car crashes that almost killed me, more and more drugs. But, I’m a tough lad, and I’ll be just fine. When my music career came crashing to its unfortunate conclusion, I was strung out on heroin, vodka and naked twister.”

“Yes, I fell hard and it was a harsh awakening, believe me. One thing I’m happy about is that I’ve been able to help struggling young musicians over the years—blokes I came to know on the way up and then again on the way down.”

“Like KC and the Sunshine Band. I tried to tell those guys – hey, KC, the music is solid, but the lyrics, man—they just don’t cut it. I mean, “That’s the Way I Like It,” that song had like a grand total of 10 words in it. It was “That’s the Way I Like It, Uh-uh, Uh-uh.” I said, KC, you need more meaningful lyrics, man. Put some fricking words in that tune. Search a little. Delve a bit. Why is that the way you like it? What are the overall repercussions of liking it that way? The tune leaves a lot of questions unanswered, you know? It’s frustrating more than anything, really. Of course, the song went number one, with just those few words. I thought “Put the Lime in the Cocoanut” was going to be a big hit, so what do I know?”

“Here’s an interesting fact for you. The group, my group -- Bad Inflection was misnamed, a lot of blokes aren’t aware of that little tidbit of nostalgic trivia. The group’s name, the name we selected as a band, was supposed to be Bad Infection, but our publicist at the time was doing a lot of Secenol, that was the drug of choice back then, and he accidentally gave us the moniker of Bad Inflection, which was a bloody stupid name and suggested that we didn’t have it together, like we had problems speaking or something. Which was true, of course, I mean, we never annunciated; nobody ever understood any of the words to our songs. Hell, we didn’t even know them ourselves the majority of the time. It was a completely absurd situation. For years, we were stuck with that silly name.”

“I mean, the Who, if you’re trying to be grammatically correct, should really be the Whom, shouldn’t it? Bands change their names. It happens. Yes was once Maybe. Then they changed to Probably, then they were Most Likely, but that made them sound like a bloody bunch of poufs, so they went back to being Yes.”

“If folks are talking about me today in the context of “Where Are They Now?” all I’ve got to say is -- I’d rather be famous for one minute than spend my whole life being known to only my neighbor and the dry cleaners.”

“Where am I now? I’m right here. On the streets of San Jose, California. And lovin’ every minute of it, thank you very much. Thriving and surviving. Like someone said, it’s better to burn out than fade away. And boy, brother, did I ever burn out. But I never, ever faded away. That’s on record, man. Look it up.”

1 comment:

Biby Cletus said...

Cool blog, i just randomly surfed in, but it sure was worth my time, will be back

Deep Regards from the other side of the Moon

Biby Cletus