Saturday, July 20, 2019

THE BLOG TO COMM INTERVIEW---JAY DOBIS!

(you don't know him, but you WILL!)

BLACK TO COMM-What can you tell us about growing up with Jonathan Richman. Like, what kind of a guy was he and (I assume) you were both heavily into music during your growing up days, right?

JAY DOBIS-We grew up in a quiet suburb of Boston, which was about 20 miles away, in a lower middle class/middle class town. We met at Bennett-Hemingway Elementary School in first grade and became friends right away, probably because of our senses of humor and love of baseball. He was easy to get along with. We were both smart and quick witted; he was the extrovert, and I was an introvert… I was captain of my third grade softball team. I wanted my best friend on the team, so I regularly went over to his house to teach him how to play. He learned quickly and became very good. John Felice would peep over the fence occasionally to see what we were doing. Later, we played on baseball teams together and went to the same summer camps… At some point, he decided to become a painter. He was very good... As far as ‘heavily into music,’ it seemed everybody was: It seemed ‘normal.’ Local radio played great songs. We could watch “Shindig” and “Hullabaloo,” and there were many syndicated rock shows, particularly “Upbeat,” and even a rock show with local bands somewhere in New England. He liked the Beatles; I didn’t, but loved most of the rest of the British invasion bands. I can remember being 15 and listening to kids in high school arguing about which was the better band: The Beatles or The BeeGees. I sided with the latter view. Jonathan was a big fan of The Four Seasons and The Lovin’ Spoonful… After he started listening to The Velvet Underground, he changed from wanting to be a painter to becoming a successful musician. Jonathan saw The Velvet Underground many times and became known as “the kid who saw The Velvet Underground more than 100 times.” Though I doubt anyone in Natick (except me) knew that or the fact that (probably in junior and/or senior year) he would fly to NYC every weekend and hang out at Andy Warhol’s Factory. He was very upset when Andy was shot… Perhaps the most remarkable thing about our friendship of 60+ years is that in all that time two guys that (each in their own way) were considered (by some) as ‘difficult people’ have never had a major argument or following out or even a hissy fit. Never. The only arguments that we have ever had were aesthetic. For example, in 2004, when Jonathan visited me in Istanbul, one afternoon we were in the offices of the promoters of his shows in Istanbul and Ankara, and for some probably ridiculous reason, the subject of Stevie Wonder came up. To the amusement of the other 7 or 8 people in the office, we had an aesthetic argument concerning the value of Stevie Wonder’s music with me saying it was all down hill after “Fingertips pt. 2” and Jonathan saying he had written beautiful love songs, which I totally disagreed with… About ’89 or ’90, I took my girlfriend of the time to see Jonathan play at the Middle East in Central Square Cambridge. After the show, I drove him to where he was staying, and for 30 minutes, we sat in the car and hilarity ensued. We laughed so much that my girlfriend said: “You must’ve driven your teachers crazy in school,” (which wasn’t in fact true). So I started telling her about the time when we were 15 that Jonathan and I decided to form a comedy duo. One day I went to his house for a rehearsal, which amounted to Jonathan and I improvising and throwing lines at each other for about 10 minutes until his mother -- wondering what was going on because we were laughing so much – came into the room with a mock serious look on her face and said: “What are you two boys getting up to?” This ended the rehearsal. Then Jonathan and I talked about the rehearsal and came to two conclusions: 1. We knew we were funny, but didn’t think other 15-year-olds would understand and 2. Adults wouldn’t listen to a pair of 15-year-olds doing comedy. So, we’re sitting in the car and I’m telling my girlfriend this story, and I notice Jonathan is in the backseat looking down and shaking his head. So I ask: “What’s up Jonathan?”

He says: “I don’t remember.”

“No. Not at all. I’m not saying it didn’t happen. I just don’t remember.”

“Jonathan, I can even describe every moment. This is etched in my memory!”

“I don’t remember.”

A random thought: In the early ‘80s, I was reading one of the weekly Boston area papers (either the Boston Phoenix or the Real Paper), and it had an article about America’s number one gay porn star: Al Parker Jr. It said he was from Natick, and he was our age. I wondered: Did Jonathan and I graduate with this guy? I knew there was no Al Parker at Natick High, but the article didn’t mention his real name. About 35 years later, via IMDB, I found out his real name. The article had been wrong: He was a year younger and graduated a year after us. I never knew him and didn’t recognize his photo. BTW: Both the name ‘Al Parker Jr.’ and his real name have since been expunged from IMDB.

Another random thought: Two months ago, I asked Jonathan if he had ever known (let’s call him) ‘X.’ He hadn’t. Maybe you or your readers can guess or find out the answer to the question: “Who was the most successful songwriter to graduate from Natick High School?” One hint: His band was included on a famous compilation that I’m sure is beloved by everyone who read your zine or reads your blog. And he was involved in writing some major rock songs that all of you are familiar with.

BTC-Is that graduate of Natick High Barry Tashian, or Willie Alexander?

JD-NO. Neither was from Natick. And I meant HUGELY successful.

BTC-You got me stymied with that one...who is it?

JD-You should let your vast readership do the research.

Just telling is far too easy.

BTC-I'll have to think about that (any of you readers know who this is?) Wha, if anything, can you tell me about Jonathan, Jon Kriedl and VIBRATIONS?

JD-I can’t tell you very much. It was an excellent Boston-based music magazine that I would read whenever I could find a copy. I have no idea whether it had national distribution, but it should have. I can’t remember if I ever met Kriedel, but Jonathan was a friend of his, and as I said in the Vulture article, one issue included a 4-page, newsprint insert written, designed, and illustrated by Jonathan. I think VIBRATIONS may have lasted 7-11 issues, but I’m not really sure.

BTC-Let's get back to yourself, what can you tell us about your Boston-area days as a budding music aficionado?

JD-In Natick, I listened to the radio a lot, particularly WBZ, and late at night there was a very strong station out of Buffalo, NY. One school night, about 3AM, this station debuted a song for the first time. It was The Beatles, and I actually loved it. It was amazing cause I hated The Beatles. The song ended, and the DJ said: “That’s the new hit song by the Knickerbockers –‘Lies’.” Oh well. I saw The Mothers of Invention in ’67 at the Psychedelic Supermarket, which was probably my first real concert. I was suppose to see Kaleidoscope the same year at Club 47 in Cambridge (with Jonathan I think), but I didn’t go… BTW: An older friend of mine had also managed a local garage band in the ‘60s, The Renegades or Richie and The Renegades, for a while. Erik Lindgren would probably know… I wasn’t much of a record collector until I entered Boston University as a freshman in September 1969. I lived in a dorm in Kenmore Square. One of my roommates had had a top 30 hit in Baltimore in ’65 or ’66. There were 2 record stores nearby. One of them was Strawberries, where I picked up Don Cherry & Okay Temiz live in Ankara (I was already collecting ethnic records and rock records influenced by Middle Eastern and Indian music. One day, at Strawberries, the manager tried to convince me not to buy the 1st Blue Oyster Cult album I bought it; unfortunately, they never were as good again. The closest record store to my dorm was New England Music City, and it was managed by Jeep Holland, who I had been told had come from Detroit and released the first single by The MC5. But a year or so ago I saw a photo of the Jeep Holland that released that single and had also moved to the Boston area, and now I’m just not sure who is who. Music City had a buyer named Jim who was into Krautrock, and had lots of cool albums, so I probably picked up CAN’s Monster Movie in ’69 or ’70: The first of many Krautrock albums. Jim had a short-lived nationally syndicated radio about Krautrock. Then I started picking up Amon Düül albums, Embryo, Passport (the one that sounded like Soft Machine, a band that I loved and had seen in a tent in Framingham, MA in ’68 opening for Jimi Hendrix. I liked the Softs more. The friend that I was with went on to manage a few local bands later be a roadie for Link Wray. In the same tent I later saw The Mothers again and 10 Years After). I loved bands like Family and The Move (but could never really get into their early pop hits). A 7 minute walk from my dorm was the 2nd manifestation of The Boston Tea Party and I saw lots of cool bands there, such as Pink Floyd, The Byrds, The Everly Brothers, The Kinks (the first of 5 times I saw them), Sha Na Na (actually great in their 1st incarnation with Henry Gross and their original lead singer), Quill, Doug Kershaw, Lee Michael (with Frosty, perhaps the worst drummer I’ve ever seen – what a dreadful night), and many more… I had an agreement with one of my roommates: When I was there, he wouldn’t play ELP, and when he was there, I wouldn’t play CAN.

Saw New York Rock Ensemble at B.U., and they were incredible. Also saw Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Had albums by Stretch (1st two are great blues rock) and Headstone (two great albums). I loved bands like East of Eden, Faust. I almost forgot: While in high school, late at night I would listen to UNCLE T AND THE FREEDOM MACHINE, which was broadcast on 3 local college radio stations, but most importantly the radio station at Boston University. Uncle T played great music. I still remember listening to him playing Yaphet Kotto’s single “ Have You Ever Seen the Blues” many times. Uncle T later moved to WBCN (so-called underground radio), but you could tell it was too structured…

There were many concerts on the Boston Commons where I saw the Beach Boys, The Strawbs, Deep Purple (when they were reputed to be the loudest band in the world [hard to believe]), Stone the Crows, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Rod Stewart and Faces. At Boston Garden, I saw Cactus and Badfinger (who were incredibly powerful live and a thousand times better than their records) open up for Rod Stewart and Faces (I was in the cheap seats watching while others threw firecrackers down on those in the expensive seats). Saw lots of cool shows at The Orpheum: David Bowie and The Spiders from Mars (almost ¾ full), Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies tour (that some unnamed fanzine editor raved about for their excellence when in fact they weren’t very impressive. I ran into Jonathan there. We both thought it was kind of juvenile. Alice’s best days were already way in the past), Ramatan (with according to David Robinson who I ran into at the gig, the female lead guitarist used to be a he, and the drummer who had been so great with Hendrix in ’68 was but a shadow of himself) opened for Procol Harum, who were great, particularly the drummer. I saw Suzi Quatro, Climax Blues Band, and Chet Baker at a short-lived club in Harvard SQ. And I saw The Modern Lovers many, many times. The only other local band that I enjoyed was the Sidewinders with Andy Paley… I started subscribing to New Musical Express (for 10 years) in ’72 and also read Melody Maker on occasion. I was always seeking new, interesting bands outside the main stream… Studied archaeology in Israel in the summer of ’73. In ’77, I lived in London on and off for 6 months. When not in London, I was visiting 27 countries. In London, I would go to punk gigs every night. I saw Phil Rambow, who was very good, and 999, who were terrible. I was shocked to find out that in Boston that they were a big deal. I saw Wire at a small club, and they were great fun, also Hawkwind, Caravan, a band (can’t remember the name) that could play songs off of “Who’s Next” better than the Who, The Yachts (great fun), at The Roundhouse saw The Dictators, who pissed me off because they were pandering to the Hell’s Angels in the audience, took my girlfriend to The Marquee (about the size of The Rat) and saw gobbing for the first and only time and enjoyed watching people spit on Billy Idol non stop for 45 minutes (that girlfriend went on to marry the lead singer of SPK a few years later). I also saw Jonathan’s first two shows ever in London at the Hammersmith Odeon, and the first night was (at the time) the best show I had ever seen. Backstage, Jonathan asked me about some acts that his label owner (Mathew King Kaufman) had mentioned, particularly The Sean Tyler Gang. I told him: “I saw them. Just a mediocre bar band.” I saw Marc Bolan walking around Earl’s Court two weeks before his traffic accident and saw Robert Wyatt at the London Film Festival. Despite interesting songs on a badly produced first album (courtesy of the overrated Brian Eno), I never expected Ultravox to be such a powerful, fantastic live band (at The Roundhouse). I saw many other bands… Got back to Boston in time to go to The Rat every night of the recording of “Live at the Rat.” And spent many nights at the Rat over the next 18 or 19 years...

On Oct.2, 1973, at Cirkus Khrone in Munich, I saw CAN, and they were magnificent. And don't believe that mediocre, mistake-filled "all gates open:" Damo's final tour with the band was not that October. He had left the band a few weeks earlier, but he was there, sitting in the audience watching, as fans flocked to his seat to talk to him. The opening band was Amon Düül II. Twenty-eight years later, I would be in a restaurant in Taxim sitting next to Chris Karrer, who was touring with Embryo on oud. He was telling me cool stories of his time in Amon Düül II, while I was telling him about Turkish psychedelic music of the '60s and '70s, particularly Erkin Koray. Christian Burchad and the other members of Embryo were there too, along with Okay Temiz.

BTC-What more can you tell us about the time Zappa asked you to join him on stage?

JD-Zappa didn't ask me to join him on stage. I was 16, and the first one in the Psychedelic Supermarket. He just asked me if I could help him set up the chairs.

BTC-What kind of guy was Zappa that night?

JD-That night, Zappa was just an ordinary guy. He was setting up chairs in the club for the audience. He was just affable. At that time in my life, I was too introverted and shy to talk to him. I remember that I enjoyed the show, but don't remember anything else.

BTC-Back to CAN, I find it amazing that you were aware of them and krautrock so early on. How did you learn about these groups long before everyone else in the USA did?

JD-New England Music City was just down the street from my dorm, and I would go in 3 or 4 times a week to check out records, particularly starting in January ’70, as I came back after Christmas Break with a $99 sound system. I would always look in the import bins. CAN’s “Monster Movie” caught my eye – the cover – and I kept looking at it day after day, and then I finally bought it, brought it to my room and was just blown away by the music. Throughout my life, I was frequently an intuitive buyer of records: buying records that I knew nothing about: where I hadn’t heard of the artist or heard the music. And I rarely made a mistake, rarely bought a lousy record. Usually, when I bought something that I didn’t like, it was because I’d read a good review or someone had told me how great something was, and frequently they were wrong. I’d never heard of, knew nothing about nor had heard any music by Pink Floyd when I bought “Piper at the Gates of Dawn in ’67,” and the same goes for Captain Beefheart’s “Safe as Milk” that same year… And the same held true when I searched the import bins in ’70 and later; somehow, I intuitively knew which albums to buy and which to avoid. I was reading the usual magazines at the time: Creem, Fusion, Crawdaddy, Who Put the Bomp and others, but I don’t remember any of them discussing Krautrock. In ’72, I started subscribing to New Musical Express and occasionally buying ZigZag. Slowly but surely, I started learning more from a variety of sources and picking up great discs: Amon Düül, Faust, and more. I’m sure that Jim at Music City made some recommendations. And there was another Music City in Harvard Square with different managers and buyers.

And soon it wasn’t just Krautrock; I was picking up albums by bands from Scandinavia (Burning Red Ivanhoe, Archimedes Badkar, and others I can no longer remember how to spell), Holland (Q65, Supersister), France (Heldon, Pôle, Urban Sax). After studying archaeology in summer ’73, as I traveled westward thru Europe, whenever I met someone from other European countries, I’d ask them about bands that I liked. Invariably, they’d have no idea what I was talking about. Except for one German guy, Klaus, I met in Greece who was very knowledgeable about Krautrock and told me lots of stuff about CAN, Faust, and others – stuff that didn’t surface until years later. By this time, I’d already picked up a lot from NME and MM.

Others over the years led me astray. I think if someone recommends a “legendary” album – run for the hills (Ant Trip Ceremony anyone?). Over the years, I’d read about the “legendary” Vashti Bunyon album. Finally, it was released on CD. I bought it. My initial reaction: “Buy this woman some NEW FUCKIN’ TEETH!” I hated it! Her pronunciation was so bad it made Trump sound articulate. But I digress…

BTC-How about Mahogany Brain, Dagon, Red Noise, International Harvester and the more intense mainland groups?

JD-Not familiar with Mahogany Brain, Dagon, Red Noise. I always liked International Harvester and its various offshoots. There were many, many bands on the continent that I liked very much. In Finland, Denmark, Sweden, etc. CouldN't remember (or spell) all of them. I think the first ALGARNAS TRADGARD album is the absolute best psychedelic album.

BTC-ALGARNAS TRADGARD...never heard of them before! Any additional information on 'em?

JD-In 1972, ALGARNAS TRADGARD released "Framtiden är ett svävande skepp, förankrat i forntiden." It is the most psychedelic, haunting folk-psych album you'll ever hear. Archival recordings from '74 were released about 12 years ago, but not up to the same level.

From prog archives:

"ÄLGARNAS TRÄDGÅRD's music never lapses into drugged-out silliness or aimless noodling. It ranges from earnest, to Medieval, to completely creepy - a sort of 'RIO meets folk'. They concoct some earthly (and unearthly) sounds using a combination of traditional, modern rock instruments and ethnic/archaic ones, the result being a spectacular blend of slow-smoking psychedelia with a strong vernacular Swedish folk bent. Their guitar-based, trance-like music is reminiscent of ASH RA TEMPEL; it also shares GONG's organic mayhem and the hypnotic qualities of early TANGERINE DREAM. If you can imagine a Nordic version of AMON DÜÜL II or ASH RA TEMPEL, you'll have a pretty good idea of what they sound like. The 2001 cd "Delayed", which makes heavier use of drums and guitars, is yet another marvellously atmospheric and creative mixture of prog and psychedelia."

The group's name translates to "garden of the elks," while the album title translates to "Two Hours Over Two Blue Mountains With A Cuckoo On Each Side"

some live '70s tracks on youtube

BTC-While we're on the subject...any thoughts about Savage Rose?

JD-I like them somewhat, but don't listen a lot. the singer's voice can be a bit too much.

BTC-What can you tell us about the seventies Boston scene, the Rat and groups like Fox Pass, the Yarbles, Mong, Hot Rain, the Third Rail...

JD-I have no memory of the Yarbles, Mong, Hot Rain. I think I saw Fox Pass open for Roxy Music, and probably saw them another time or two. They were a decent pop band. Third Rail was okay and the leader was a part time mortician. Most of the bands at the time were nothing special: The Boys, Dawgs, The Infliktors, Rings, Someone and the Somebodies. The best were The Real Kids, DMZ (and later its two offshoots: The Lyres and Bad Habits/The Odds, which was as good as The Lyres, but they played most of their gigs 50 miles from Boston in Worcester), The Nervous Eaters, and at the end of the ‘70s MISSION OF BURMA – a fantastic band that I probably saw more times than any other until I moved to Istanbul. There are probably more bands – both good and bad – that I just can’t remember at the moment. One just occurred to me: The Classic Ruins: I know a lot of people really liked them, but I was lukewarm about them. The Girls were very good, but I only saw them once or twice. I liked The Neighborhoods too.

There were lots of other cool clubs too. The Underground, Cantones, Space, Inn Square Men's Bar, The Club, The channel, and more.

BTC-As far as the Modern Lovers went, were they as popular in the area as I've believed for years? Seems strange considering the era they were up and about.

JD-NO. Not at all. A long-term acquaintance who I use to see at lots of Modern Lovers and I were just amazed that they were one of the best bands in the world, and their gigs were not at all well attended. At he Stone Phoenix where I saw them many times, there would be 15-25 people. They were not particularly popular in the area at the time. There was no real local rock scene. The Modern Lovers and The Sıdewinders were the only game in town, and it was a very small game.

BTC-Talking about another under-appreciated Boston band...any personal insights into the Sidewinders?

JD-Not really. Sorry no personal insights. I saw the band a couple of times. They were very good, but not nearly as good as The Modern Lovers.The only member of the band I even remember is the singer: Andy Paley. These were the only two decent bands in town at the time.

BTC-What can you tell us about Turkey and the music scene there? What you have written sounds extremely exciting, as if the music was yet another Velvet Underground rebirth.

JD-About 35 years ago, I made a 90-minute tape for Jonathan Richman called “Songs the Velvets Taught Us, which was a compilation of saz players, mostly from small villages all over Turkey, as though they had been influenced by The Velvet Underground, though they obviously hadn’t. The sound of their saz playing and the sounds on the White Light/White Heat album was uncannily similar, particularly that of Lou Reed’s guitar. Jonathan gave his copy to a friend, I lost mine in a move, but I may have sent a copy to David Lindley of Kaleidoscope. I know that some people in Turkey were aware of The Velvet Underground because a friend of mine was in a private high school in the U.S. in 1970, and he had a Turkish roommate (from Istanbul) whose favorite band was the Velvets, particularly the White Light/White Heat album.

The rock scene in Turkey in the ‘60s and ‘70s was phenomenal, particularly picking up steam starting in ’68 when bands started using amplified traditional instruments. The sounds of many of these bands was as unique as the Velvets but in a very Turkish way. I can’t say that the music was another Velvet Underground rebirth, but it was as distinctive.

When I put together HAVA NARGHILE in 2001, it was to let the rest of the world know what had been achieved by Turkish bands and the hope that current bands would emulate what their predecessors had achieved.

Many Turkish musicians and others have thanked me over the years for helping them remember what the great bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s had achieved. However, no bands here – as far as I know – were inspired to come together to play Anadolu Psych, although Replikas, an excellent band, did record an album of ‘60s and ‘70s covers of Turkish rock that was released in Turkey and the U.S.

However, the situation is different in Western Europe: At least two very good bands play Anadolu Psych:

1. Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek

2. Altin Gün

And both have albums out and numerous videos on Youtube.

Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek video:




And check out this cool video by the band I managed in the ‘90s.

ZeN – Derdimi Anla:



For the original Anadolu Psych of the ‘60s and ‘70s, check out: Üç Hürel, Moğollar, Grup Bunalim, Selda Barcan (currently touring with the Israeli group Boom Pam (named after the big hit by Aris San), Baris Manço Kaygızızlar or Kurtalan Ekspress (his tracks with Kaygızızlar are harder to track down but I prefer them. And get his album “Ben Billirim”), Erkin Koray (particularly “Elektronik Türkoler), Ersen, Edip Akbayram.

For more recent great Turkish rock, check out:

REPLIKAS’ albums – Köledoyuran, Dadaruhi, Avaz (a psychedelic masterpiece), and Biz Burada Yok İken (covers of ‘60s and ‘70s Anadolu Rock classics and released in Turkey and the U.S.). These four albums are absolutely essential!

ZeN – a great live band. Only one album really captures their sound at its best: Bakırköy Akıl Hastanesi’de, which was recorded live at Bakırköy Mental Hospital.

One summer night in ’96, I was in their rehearsal space, but only 3 members showed up. That night, Merih Öztaylan (co leader who sang and played bendir) played a ‘70s analogue synth), Murat Ertal (co leader) played electric saz, and Emre Onel played darbuka. I had tried to convince the band to record all their rehearsals to no avail. This particular night was a perfect example of what was lost. What they played that night could only be described as Anadolu Space Music. It was absolutely amazing. I have never heard anything else like it in my life. I was the audience. Incredible. If only they had been recording.

AYYUKA is another of the great Turkish bands of the 21st century. Their first album came out on vinyl and collects their older tracks. They have since released 3 albums that are phenomenal: Kiracı Odaları, Baba, and Sömestr. Have a listen.


One night, I went to one of their rehearsals, but only the drummer (Alican Tezer) and the bass (and occasional e. mandolin) player (Altan Sebuktekin) showed up, along with a cousin of one of the members of Replikas. The cousin played bass, and Altan moved to lead guitar, and he played perhaps the greatest wah wah psychedelic guitar solo for 25 minutes that I’ve ever heard. Incredible!

About 16 years ago, I picked up a demo in an Istanbul shop by Ankara-based HAYVANLAR ALEMİ. I was immediately impressed and wondered if they’d been influenced by the Sun City Girls, but they’d never heard of that band, but then checked them out and understood my question. They now have had a number of albums released (one released in the U.S. on sublime frequencies), some for free, and plenty of tracks on Youtube. The members now live in various countries but tour at least once a year in Europe.

Here’s an interview with the band.


And here’s an article (a bit old now).


I can also recommend Gaye Su Akyol (3 albums), Birbinasek, and (if you’re into Rembetiko) rising world music star Çiğden Aslan (2 albums).

I forgot to mention The Ringo Jets, an excellent punk/garage band.

They cover some very interesting songs, such as “Children of the Revolution” and “Heart Full of Soul,” and their own are excellent.

Check their song about the Gezi Protests in Turkey in 2013, which is called “Spring of War:”



BTC-What brought you to Turkey in the first place?


JD-That’s a long story… When I was 10, I was friends with 2 brothers – one my age, the other 5 years older. In the older one’s social studies class, the teacher had given all the students a list of countries and their information offices in the U.S. (all in Washington D.C. or NYC). So my friends were getting mail all the time. I wasn’t. So I borrowed the list and wrote to 2 info offices: Mexico and Turkey. I don’t remember what Mexico sent, but Turkey sent me a comic book about Istanbul, and it looked fascinating. Over the years, whenever I saw something about Turkey or Istanbul in a newspaper or on TV I would pay close attention, and I started reading books about the Ottoman Empire and Atatürk, the father of modern Turkey. But most importantly, thru my interest in rock music and record collecting, I expanded my interest into what was then called “ethnic music.” And I found that my favorite type of ethnic music was Middle Eastern music, and favorite type of Middle Eastern music was Turkish. I would pick up many interesting records at the Harvard Coop in their ethnic music section. But I remember picking up the first Kaleidoscope album and seeing my first saz and finding its sound very interesting. By this time, I knew that I wanted to visit Istanbul, but thought I’d never have the chance and never thought I would make it there. When I studied archaeology in the summer of ’73 in Israel, one of my friends on the dig was from Guatemala. His father was born and raised in Istanbul, and he wanted to see it for himself, as his father had told him many stories. And he asked me if I’d like to go there, and I jumped at the chance. It was a very different time then. There were no tourists in Istanbul, and no one spoke English, and I may very well have heard Moğollar live (but I couldn’t see the band). We got by on his Spanish and French. We spent 8 days in Turkey, and I loved it and thought I’d never make it back. But 4 years later, I decided to quit my job, and see the world. I found a type of travel that I doubt exists anymore. I was going to do a 9-week trip to 24 countries in Europe, including Turkey. We’d sleep in tents in campsites in these countries, and the cost for traveling, 2 meals a day, and some entrance fees was $900. In Istanbul, I walked into a music shop and bought 50 cassettes. Some were nothing, some were interesting, and one had these incredible sounds – like the greatest psychedelic garage band that you’ve ever heard. It was truly an amazing tape, but it had no info, and as I’d later find out, the song titles were in the wrong order. About 5 years later, while working at Boston University, the tape had stopped working, but I had a friend, a violinist and klezmer musician, who told me he could fix the tape. He did, and he told me that the musical instrument was a saz (and unbelievably, it was acoustic) and a percussionist. A few years later in ‘85, a friend of his called me and said he had heard I was looking for a saz to buy, and I bought it. It took me 9 months, but I found a saz teacher in East Boston (he was a musician, an instrument maker, a master of ebru (paper marbling). And then in ’88, I made it back to Istanbul where I bought an electric saz and a cumbuş (basically a cheap oud with a wooden composite neck and a tin body). I went again, in ’91 to try answer 2 questions: 1. Was there any such thing as Turkish horror films and 2. Was there such a thing as Turkish rock ‘n roll. The answer to #1 was no, but in the ‘70s they’d had these incredible fantastic films, such as “Dunya’ya Kurtaran Adam” (The Man Who Saves the World) and “Üç Dev Adam,” in which Captain America and Santo battle an evil Spiderman. For #2, I lucked out and found an expert on Anadolu Rock/Psych who invited me to his apartment and played one amazing record after another. This was the music I’d been searching for for almost 30 years. I also met the leaders of ZeN at his apartment. I asked them how their music was received, and they said: “We tend to get thrown out of bars.” I said: “That’s an excellent sign.” They gave me some tapes of their music, and it was fantastic. I went to Istanbul again in ’95 and taped one of their concerts. When I got back I gave a copy of the live concert tape to Byron Coley who shared it with Thurston Moore, and they decided they wanted to release an album by the band, making ZeN the first Turkish band to have an album released in the U.S. What I didn’t know is that while I was in Istanbul, all my colleagues at the publishing company where I worked were told that the 2 divisions in Cambridge, MA were going to be closed, and all of the jobs sent to Dublin. After getting back, I spent months like my colleagues wondering what I was going to do. My boss asked if I’d thought of relocating to NYC or San Francisco, and I thought about it, but then realized: I’ve always wanted to live in Istanbul; if I don’t do it now, it will never happen. My job dragged on for 7 months, giving me enough time to pay off my credit cars, then I took a 1-month course in how to teach English as a 2nd language, and moved to Istanbul for what I expected to be 1-3 years. However, I spent 17 years in Istanbul, but 6 years ago, I moved to a small beach town on a mountainous peninsula in southwestern Turkey and work remotely as a copy editor for a daily newspaper, which I’d done for my last 3 years in Istanbul, too. I’m now married, and we adopted a street dog about 4 years ago.

In 2013, REPLIKAS released a box set that included remastered versions of their first two albums "Köledoyuran" (2002) and "Dadaruhi" 2002) and "EP No: 1" (2013). This box set is great! It's available from Amazon and sources in Turkey and shipping shouldn't be expensive. With this box, their 3rd album "Avaz" and their album of '60s and '70s Turkish covers, you'll have some great music from what was once one of the best bands in the world (now deceased).

And I've been listening a lot to the live album by ZeN - "Bakırköy Akıl Hastanesi'nde." I was at the concert. It was amazing. The audience consisted of the members of ZeN, friends, doctors and nurses, and mostly patients. Watching patients sing along to the improvised lyrics as though they had heard the songs a thousand times before. After the concert, I asked (co-leader) Murat Ertel what he thought about the concert. He said: "That was the most difficult concert we've ever played." I asked why. He said: "We didn't want to over excite the patients. But I think it was great."

In addition to leading his current band BaBa ZuLa, Murat is now also a member of Dirtmusic,
which recorded the album "Bu Bir Ruya" in Istanbul. You probably know more about Dirtmusic than I do. (Ed. note---no I don't!)

About 15 years ago, I met Jaki Liebezeit at a party in Istanbul, and he agreed to be interviewed by me. At the time, Jaki had a band that consisted of some musicians
from Western Europe and 2 friends of mine from ZeN/BaBa ZuLa: Murat Ertel (electric saz) and Levent Akman (percussion). ZeN were an incredible improvisational band, while BaBa ZuLa was heavily into Anadolu Psych. The band was called K34 and were recording an album in Istanbul where K34 also gave a fantastic concert, which was kind of like a cross between ZeN and CAN. During the interview, Jaki discussed at length how much he liked Turkish music and how important it had always been to him as a drummer and how impressed he was by Turkish musicians, such as Murat and Levent. K34 was great!

I hope this isn’t too late, but I had two more things to say.

One is another quiz: one of the top female comedians of the ‘60s and ‘70s, who appeared in the top TV shows of the era, such as Ed Sullivan, Laugh-In, The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, the Merv Griffin Show, and many more, used to live down the street from Jonathan Richman and John Felice and, most importantly, she used to play mah jong with my mother. Who is she?

And here’s another story, I just remembered: sometime in the ‘80s, I was driving around with Michael Guardabascio, who was or had been a drummer for Jonathan Richman. He told me a story about when he was on tour in Europe with Jonathan (just the two of them I think), and they were playing somewhere in northern Finland north of the Arctic Circle. It was very cold, and everyone was dressed in animal skins (and I don’t mean leather jackets), and no one spoke English. Guardabascio said that it was an absolutely incredible show and that despite the language barrier Jonathan mesmerized the crowd and that he had never seen anything like it.

(Here are some more nice li'l anecdotes Jay relayed to me post-interview!):

I met up with Jonathan, and we visited his (younger) brother Steve. We were walking around the town where Steve lived, and I asked Jonathan if he remembered Jan Slickman from our childhood. He said: “Of course.” I asked him if he’d heard about that movie “A Civil Action?” He said: “Yes, but I haven’t seen it.” So I tell him: “The star of the film, John Travolta, is playing Jan.” Jonathan: “It can’t be the same guy!” I tell him: “It definitely is, but he’s changed the spelling of his last name a bit.” Jonathan: “It’s hard to believe that anyone would make a film about the Jan we knew as kids.” Me: “Yup. Nonetheless, it’s true. And you know what makes it even more bizarre. He was a lawyer representing families negatively affected by the dumping of pollutants in Woburn [Massachusetts]. And I know one of the families. In the book that the film is based on, the writer only dislikes one member of those families. He’s my [now former] brother-in-law.” Jonathan: “Damn!”

In the early ‘80s, Jonathan wrote a song about me that was supposed to appear on an album. The song was called: “I See My Father and I See What’s Underneath.” It was about his mother, his father, his brother, and me. I was at The Channel in Boston for one of his shows. His first two songs I’d heard many times before. The third song was new to me. It sounded very cool. He was singing about his mother, his father, his brother, and then I realized he was also singing about me. It was very touching. When he finished the song, Jonathan pointed at me and said: “I see you Jay.” After the show, he ran up to me and asked: “Did you recognize yourself.” I said that I had and that it was amazing. While recording his new album, in the studio Jonathan decided to play saxophone. If you’ve ever heard him play saxophone, you’ll understand why the song didn’t make it onto the album.

I mentioned my Aussie girlfriend in London in ’77 before who a few years later would go on to marry the lead singer of Australia’s most notorious industrial band, SPK, and death (are double suicides still considered romantic?), but what I failed to mention was that she had a much older brother back in Sydney who was a very good friend of RICHARD NEVILLE, who wrote the excellent rock books “Play Power” and “Hippy, Hippy Shake” and also a book about Charles Sobraj who isn’t very well known in America, but is famous among Aussies and Kiwis for being a serial killer in Southeast Asia on the hippie trail in the ‘70s. Neville made a splash in Australia and the United Kingdom in the 1960s as the co-founder of counterculture magazine Oz, which was known for its use of satire and pop art alongside serious journalism. Oz got busted for obscenity in both countries. Oz specialized in dissent and was known for pushing boundaries, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono marched in rallies to protest their guilty verdict.

(Final note...still trying to figure out who the Natick High School fellow who made it big is.  Anyone out there smart enough to let us all know???)

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Chris

Thank you so much for this interview. Heard "hava narghile" a long time ago. good memories! Am i wrong or did jay Dobis played on a pep lester 7" back in the 80's( jad fair related stuff) ? Well and i think i can't help you with the fellow from natick high school. famous compilation = Nuggets ?? je laisse ma langue aux chats.
Bye and hope to see more interviews like this. Hats off.

Thierry Mear

MoeLarryAndJesus said...

Some Rascal Flatts guy went to Natick. So did Doug Flutie.

diskojoe said...

Great interview. I wonder if Jay saw the Modern Lovers play in the North Shore (MA) town of Beverly at a place called Sandy's Jazz Revival where the original version of the Modern Lovers last played. As for the comedianne who lived in Natick, I would guess Totie Fields.

Christopher Stigliano said...

JAY DOBIS WRITES- Hi-I just tried to respond to the 3 comments on the interview and I started getting bullshit about having to have a gmail account.

So, perhaps you could add my comments?

Back in the '80s, I played on one song on a 7-inch Pep Lester EP called Jack O Lantern Moon. A song called "Don't Take Nothing For Granted." And one song on a Pep Lester album (a cover of Flipper's "Sex Bomb Baby". As far as Jad Fair related -- I have no idea. I did meet him once in NYC. And glad you liked Hava Narghile. And yes, the famous compilation is NUGGETS. I know nothing about rascal flats. as far as flutie: one of my brothers went to high school with his brother.

I definitely saw the last Modern Lovers gig at Sandy's in Beverly, and later that same night saw the Lou-less Velvet Underground at Oliver's in Kenmore Square.And the quiz answer is Totie Fields.







diskojoe said...

Jay, thanks for answering my question. It seems that Jonathan had some sort of connection w/Beverly (the original lyrics to "Fly Into the Mystery" mention Beverly), which fascinates me since I live over the bridge in Salem.

Also, since the compilation is NUGGETS, I'm going to say that the songwriter from Natick is one of the Magicians, whose "No Reason to Cry" is on NUGGETS & wrote "Happy Together" for the Turtles (guy w/the last name of Bonnor?)

diskojoe said...

Upon looking on the Wiki, I was close, but it was Alan Gordon, not Bonnor, who was from Natick

Christopher Stigliano said...

JAY DOBIS WRITES: not sure if my reply to one of the comments made it through again.

I know Jonathan liked playing in Beverly. That night at Sandy's is the only time I was ever in Beverly, though I probably passed thru on occasion. I really know nothing else about the town.

And you're right. It was Gary Bonnor's partner Alan Gordon, who was 7 years older than me and Jonathan.

John Elliot was also from Natick Do you know who he was?



diskojoe said...

The only John Elliot from Natick that I could find was a Puritan missionary.

Have you ever heard/seen Barrence Whitfield & the Savages? He was a backup up voice on the It's Time for Jonathan Richman album & has toured Europe extensively. He lives in Beverly. His latest album is a cover of Sun Ra tunes.

Christopher Stigliano said...

JAY DOBIS WRITES: Please add my latest comment. Verify is going crazy.

John Elliot was the first man to translate the bible into Indian, and he was from Natick.

I saw Barrence Whitfield & The Savages many times when I lived in Cambridge. In fact Barry had been a friend for a long time that I knew from visiting record stores where we got to know each other… One day I got a call from Decibel Dennis MacDonald who said: "Let's go see Barrence Whitfield & The Savages." I said: "I never heard of them." He said: "Barrence is a friend of yours." I said: "I don't know any named Barrence." He said: "That's our friend Barry." So we went to see the band that night at the Rat and many times after.

I just recently got back in touch with him after many years via Facebook.



diskojoe said...

Jay, thank you for taking the time to answer my various inquires. I appreciate it very much. Barrence works in a record store here in Salem when he's not running around the world. I just saw him perform in Beverly last weekend & he was great as always.

Kelvin MacAderm said...

GREAT interview! I think we need to interview Jonathan and ask him about growing up with Jay Doris.

Anonymous said...

diskojoe: You're welcome. Say hi to Barrence for me next time you see him.