Rock Obit: Kim Fowley, Lord of Garbage & Dog Food, 75

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:38 pm by George Smith

At RockNYC:

Never speak ill of the dead. And so it has been for Kim Fowley, Hollywood impresario, producer, self-promoter and talent scout for the crass just-for-the-sake-of-it, third or fourth-tier glam rock artist, all of it over the span of half a century. In the obituaries everyone’s come out with praise and fond memories of a life goodly lived.

As organizer/producer of the Runaways alone, that would have been enough. In the last dozen years Fowley was a major character in three movies, two on the Runaways (one, the big famous Hollywood production with Michael Shannon with the vulpine producer, the other the not-so-famous documentary, Edge Play) and one about Rodney Bingenheimer, “Mayor of the Sunset Strip,” If Bingenheimer was the mayor, Fowley, as it appeared, could have certainly been its animal control officer.

“[Fowley] sometimes claimed to have been born in the Philippines in 1942 (many accounts say he was actually born in Los Angeles), which would have placed him there during the vicious Japanese occupation in World War II,” Billboard wrote dryly in a recent obit. So what if it’s fiction?

It’s a good detail and who would care if all the plaster stuffing up the cracks between the facts of Fowley’s art and business is somewhat made up?

The consensus of the death notices is that Fowley relished being thought of as a bad man with a heart-of-gold, that, perhaps, he wished he’d been American tv famous. But you get the idea he kind of knew it would never happen with bands like Venus & the Razor Blades, The Orchids (the Runaways redone), the Quick, the Hollywood Stars and, yes, the Runaways. Not even with enough albums to asphyxiate an elephant, a number of them big sellers in name. Not in Seventies America.

At least that’s what it looked like back in the Rust Belt while paging through Creem, Circus and Rock Scene magazines. Fowley always got great publicity. Heck, it was still great entertainment!

And so you see the print, the concept, the photos, the minor desecrations of American middle class pieties for short, amusing and sometimes almost anthem-like tales of garbage spied in the streets were actually better than the reality.

“Punk-a-Rama” and “Dog Food” as in, they ate it in place of cake, by Fowley project Venus & the Razor Blades read and looked great. And then the record arrived. You kept it but after scoring five years later you’d only played it ten times.

Fowley had hits. “Alley Oop,” a novelty by the Hollywood Argyles. “Nutrocker” by B. Bumble & the Stingers. The latter probably earned him the most money when Emerson, Lake & Palmer covered it on a vilified but stentorian live tribute to Mussorgsky sold at a promotional bargain price, “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

Believe me, laugh now, but that moved units in 1971.

As for Fowley’s glam rock trip, “International Heroes,” from 1973, again — looked real good on paper and in early rushes. There he is in gender-bender lipstick and eye-shadow, the poor man’s Ziggy Stardust but perhaps with a disease.

“Kim Fowley’s new album … will place him in the ranks of David, Mott, Alice and Lou in the hearts and palms of the American teenager,” reads Capitol’s press. In the palms? All right!

But you’re going to have to listen to it in the clips before crossing that bridge.

And you can see ’em here, believe me, you’ll want to, they’re short, along with the rest.

Or go to YouTube and type Kim Fowley. There’s no shortage of material. The man was made to be the video platform’s Ed Wood.

Comments are closed.