Kim Fowley

Kim Fowley  (July 21, 1939 – January 15, 2015) was an American record producer, singer and musician.  He is best known for his role behind a string of novelty and cult pop rock singles in the 1960s, and for managing the Runaways in the 1970s.  He has been described as “one of the most colorful characters in the annals of rock & roll”, as well as “a shadowy cult figure well outside the margins of the mainstream”.  (More from Wikipedia)




Last week I was reading the local paper and learned of the death of Kim Fowley (pronounced like “foul-y” not “foley” – and, yes, he is a guy) .  Mixed with sadness at his passing was my wonder at the size of the article about his death on the Obituary page in the Sun Herald.  Entitled “Kim FowleyRunaways Creator, Dies at 75”, it didn’t miss being a quarter of a page by a whole lot.  I know that the Sun Herald is a Knight-Ridder newspaper (now McClatchy) – the Charlotte Observer is another of their papers that I am familiar with – but this Mississippi paper has surprised me more than once by giving prominence to hip news. 


The newspaper obit mentions Kim Fowley’s work with a #11 hit by Skip and Flip called “Cherry Pie”; also, with Gary S. Paxton – aka “Flip” in the other band – Fowley had a Number One hit in 1960 that was released under the name the Hollywood Argyles called “Alley Oop”, based on the comic strip character Alley Oop


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band stalwart Steven Van Zandt now hosts a show on Sirius XM satellite radio called Little Steven’s Underground Garage, where Kim Fowley regularly appeared.  He released a statement about his death:  “Kim Fowley is a big loss to me.  A good friend.  One of a kind.  He’d been everywhere, done everything, knew everybody.  He was working in the Underground Garage until last week.  We should all have as full a life.  I wanted DJs that could tell stories first person.  He was the ultimate realization of that concept.  Rock Gypsy DNA.  Reinventing himself whenever he felt restless.  Which was always.  One of the great characters of all time.  Irreplaceable.”


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Wikipedia says of Kim Fowley in their introductory paragraph:  “He has been described as ‘one of the most colorful characters in the annals of rock & roll’ and as ‘a shadowy cult figure well outside the margins of the mainstream.’”  

In a second article called “Kim Fowley Rocked an Industry as a Salesman of Unruly Sounds” that included on their website, Randall Roberts writes:  “Fowley reveled in being the bad guy.  His business model was similar from the start:  Record music using unknown bands in by-the-hour studios and then pawn the songs.  If it didn’t hit, discard the band and song and try again.  Indie labels were desperate for records to feed the dozens of independent Southern California distributors shipping product across America.  Kids were crazy for 45s, and the music that filled them had to come from somewhere.” 


In a quote from this article, Kim Fowley describes the early days of rock and roll as being a lot like the Wild West:  “You could sell any tape for $100, and there was no playing clubs for guys in suits.  We were kids running amok in studios like rappers do now, except the rappers have attorneys.  We were all thieves – there was no (expletive) about art or integrity or sensitivity.  People were willing to pay us to do it . . . and keep doing it, and we were addicted to the process.”  


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Decades later, these slapped-together recordings still have the ability to charm their listeners – or at least this listener.  I have one of Kim Fowley’s collections of his early recordings entitled Under Ground Animal, filled with 15 great songs by virtually unknown bands plus one of his own excellent recordings, “Astrology”.  Among these obscurities are “Teen Animal”, the second single by the Gamblersdiscogs notes that the “A” side of their first single, “Moon Dawg!” is sometimes regarded as the first surf music single (LSD-25 was the flip).  The two tracks by the Renegades (both instrumentals), “Charge” and “Geronimo”, which represent Fowley’s first credit as a record producer, are also here and date from 1959.  The Hounds released two albums in 1967 and covered the classic “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, originally by the Tokens.  The Rogues were a garage rock band that included Michael Lloyd and Shaun Harris that were later in the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band


The last song on the album is the most chilling cautionary tale about the dangers of drug abuse that I have ever heard, “The Story of Susie” by Bill Woods; the chorus (the only part that is sung) goes:  “She wanted to be like everyone else / Now she’s all alone in a room by herself”.  Along with Buck OwensBill Woods with his band the Orange Blossom Playboys was a pioneer of the Bakersfield sounds in country music.   


Norton Records has issued at least three Kim Fowley collections in this vein, with the first being titled One Man’s Garbage and the second Another Man’s Gold


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Randall Roberts writes of a story about Kim Fowley in Barney Hoskyns’ book on Los Angeles pop music, Waiting for the Sun:  “[Kim Fowley] exaggerated history and his role in it, and his competitiveness knew no bounds.  Longtime music mogul Lou Adler described to Hoskyns a particular encounter with Fowley:  ‘I once made him open up his suitcase, and there was nothing in it, which sums him up.’”  


Randall Roberts offers a glimpse of the exploitive side of Kim Fowley in his article:  “Most infamously, Fowley formed the all-girl rock band the Runaways, a relationship that delivered fame and success for the band while confirming Fowley’s avowed sleaziness. The band’s Cherie Currie, for example, accused him of holding a ‘sex education class’ for some of the teen girls – a charge Fowley denied.  (Currie and Fowley later reconciled.)” 


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Kim Fowley was a hustler first and foremost and would be a contender with James Brown as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, at least among those (mostly) working behind the scenes.  The Sun Herald obituary noted:  “[Kim Fowley] went on to write or produce songs for a range of musicians, including the Byrds, the Beach BoysFrank Zappa and the Mothers of InventionGene VincentHelen Reddy, and Warren Zevon” – but the article could just as easily have listed a different half-dozen prominent names. 


Basically a chameleon, Kim Fowley was always moving in and out of various musical scenes, with numerous musicians and bands that he was promoting or scouting at any given time, and scoring a hit every once in a while.  Thus, there is no particular narrative associated with the Kim Fowley story – he just seemed to pop up everywhere. 


Perhaps Kim Fowley was best at spotting talent, and as with the Runaways, he often worked with rock stars many years before they really hit their stride.  Mostly he stayed in the underground where he seemed happiest.   


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As mentioned, Kim Fowley is best known as the man who brought together the early all-female rock band the Runaways.  In 1974 or 1975, he placed an ad in the fanzine Who Put the Bomp looking for women who wanted to start an all-female rock band.  He got zero responses; but eventually, drummer Sandy West and rhythm guitarist Joan Jett introduced themselves to Fowley, and the band was in place by late 1975.  As Fowley recalls (from Wikipedia):  “I didn’t put the Runaways together; I had an idea, they had ideas, we all met, there was combustion; and out of five different versions of that group came the five girls who were the ones that people liked.”  


The bandmembers in the Runaways were all young girls when the band was formed – much as “runaways” are in real life – and several went on to successful musical careers, among them Joan JettMicki Steele (later in the Bangles), and heavy metal chanteuse Lita Ford


Two of the bandmembers were also featured in major motion pictures; Cherie Currie appeared in the 1980 film Foxes and also (with Vicki Blue) in the 1984 cult classic This Is Spinal Tap


I wrote about the Runaways in some detail about a year ago, so I won’t say too much more about them now.  (Same goes for another Kim Fowley project that was put together a few years later, Venus and the Razorblades).  But I will mention this.  I have previously noted that their first album, The Runaways listed the bandmembers’ ages on the back cover.  For the record, they are a little older than I had remembered (or at least they were by the time the album was released):  Joan Jett (16), Sandy West (16), Cherie Currie (16), Jackie Fox (16), and Lita Ford (17). 


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The Runaways’ sole hit Cherry Bomb was included on the tape Awesome Mix, Vol. 1 that was prominently featured in the 2014 mega-hit Guardians of the Galaxy.  Not surprisingly, an album called Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix, Vol. 1 has also been released, and it too includes Cherry Bomb.  In his Allmusic review of the album, Stephen Thomas Erlewine says that “the ‘Awesome Mix’ . . . offers a nostalgia trip that’s potent even if you’ve never seen the film”.  


For his part, Kim Fowley downplays the band’s role in his own life and career – it was just one more stop along the way.  From a 2010 interview by Chris Estey for the Seattle radio station KEXP – who practically opened his interview with Kim Fowley by gushing, “I don’t know what rock and roll would have done without you” –  Kim Fowley recalls:  “Anyways, the Runaways wasn’t my career.  So I had a career in rock and roll from 1959 to 1975, and that’s when the Runaways started.  And when I completed my work, I was gone by late ’77 or early ’78.  And that’s 32 years ago.  I’ve lived in 39 American cities, 22 overseas countries.  I’m a cancer survivor; I lived with positional vertigo; a Polio survivor.  I’ve had a lot going on in my life, and the Runaways is no more important to me than you reminiscing about your fourth grade classroom.  Some of the songs are good, and some of the records are good, but it’s not the obsession of my life.” 


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Remarkably, a movie about this band was made in 2010 called The Runaways, starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning; it is based on Cherie Currie’s book, Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway.  Michael Shannon appears in the film as Kim Fowley; about Shannon’s performance, Fowley told Chris Estey:  “He’s a genius.  He’s the new Christopher Walken.  And I’m privileged that he was able to get enough of me to make it watchable.  It transcended the printed page.  He’s working with Martin Scorcese on his Broadway project, that’s what he’s doing now.  This guy’s like John Garfield or Humphrey Bogart playing you.  I mean, wouldn’t you like that?”  


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Kim Fowley is the child of two relatively obscure actors; his father Douglas Fowley is a character actor who (as Wikipedia says) “is probably best remembered for his role as the frustrated movie director Roscoe Dexter in Singin’ in the Rain (1952)”.  As Kim put it, his mother Shelby Payne “was one of the two cigarette girls in The Big Sleep with [Humphrey] Bogart and [Lauren] Bacall”. 


In the Chris Estey interview, Kim Fowley describes his early show-biz work in his usual name-dropping and self-promoting fashion (not that there is anything wrong with that):  “[M]y first major job in the business was working in the publicity, and press, and background music, media, for Doris Day’s production company; and I was the boy genius in the office.  The two movies that I worked on were Please Don’t Eat The Daisies and Pillow Talk.  I brought Bruce Johnston in as a songwriter, and stayed with him his entire career.  He wrote I Want to Teach the World to Sing . . . ’, whatever that was, the Barry Manilow classic [‘I Write The Songs].  And then all those songs for the Beach Boys, I can’t remember all the titles.” 


Fleshing out the details (via Wikipedia), Kim Fowley’s first venture into music was to become the manager in 1957 for a band called the Sleepwalkers that included Bruce Johnston and drummer Sandy Nelson; future superstar record producer Phil Spector was also occasionally with the band.  Last month I mentioned a band called the Gamblers which released an instrumental in 1961 called LSD-25; Johnston and Nelson were both in that band also. 


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The following year (1958), Phil Spector assembled the Teddy Bears (the only vocal group that included Spector as a member); Sandy Nelson was a last-minute addition, with other bandmembers including Marshall Leib and lead singer Annette Kleinbard.  Phil Spector wrote a song for the group called “To Know Him Is to Love Him”, based upon an inscription on his father’s tombstone, and the song became a Number One hit in December 1958.  As Wikipedia put it:  “At 19 years old, Spector had written, arranged, played, sung, and produced the best-selling record in the country.” 


Perhaps believing that there was only room for one Annette in show business, Annette Kleinbard changed her name to Carol Connors and had a lucrative career as a songwriter and performer.  For instance, with Terry Melcher (Bruce Johnston’s partner in Bruce & Terry), Carol Connors co-wrote the hit song Hey Little Cobrafor past UARB the Rip Chords.  


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Kim Fowley’s first producer credit was on the song Chargeby the Renegades, a band that was composed of Bruce JohnstonSandy NelsonNick Venet – yet another future record producer, specifically at Capitol Records – and Richard Podolor, whose later credits as a record producer include “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night.  


In 1961, the two men who put together the Alley Oop Number One hit helped craft the first song by Paul Revere and the Raiders to make the Top 40, the instrumental “Like, Long Hair”, with Kim Fowley as co-producer and Gary S. Paxton as arranger.  Kim Fowley was the songwriter and record producer for “Nut Rocker”, an adaptation of a section of The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky; the artist was given as B. Bumble and the Stingers.  The record was a #1 hit in the UK in May 1962 and hit #23 in the US


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Popsicles and Icicles by the Murmaids is a long-time favorite of mine that has a timeless quality to it, and a remarkable convergence of talent went into its creation.  The vocal group was composed of sisters Terry Fischer and Carol Fischer plus Sally Gordon.  Mike Post was a schoolfriend of Terry Fischer and cut several demos for the trio; Post would sometimes bring the women to Gold Star Studios to provide backing vocals on various recordings. 


While he was in basic training in San AntonioMike Post provided early guidance to the legendary Texas garage rock band the Outcasts; he wrote and produced the band’s first single, “Nothing Ever Comes Easy” b/w “Oriental Express”.  He also recruited the Outcasts as the back-up band for performances by Jimmy Carlson (who was active in the New York folk music scene) and by Jimmy Hawkins (a long-time actor who later worked in Elvis Presley films and on The Donna Reed Show). 


Mike Post’s many later musical credits include producing the first three albums for the First Edition (where Kenny Rogers got his start) and creating the theme music for Law & OrderThe Rockford FilesHill Street Blues, and many other TV shows.  


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Popsicles and Icicles was one of the earliest songs written by David Gates, after his family relocated from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Los Angeles in 1961.  Gates is best known as the bandleader and lead singer for the under-rated soft rock band Bread.  


David Gates had been in various local bands in Tulsa, and his high school band backed Chuck Berry for a concert in 1957.  David Gates also wrote “Saturday’s Child”, and the Monkees included this song on their first album, The Monkees.  Writing for Allmusic, critic Matthew Greenwald says that Saturday’s Child has a “proto-heavy metal guitar riff” and is “one of the more interesting curios of the early Monkees catalog”. 


Glenn Yarbrough had a #12 hit with another David Gates song, “Baby the Rain Must Fall”, the title song for the 1965 Steve McQueen/Lee Remick film Baby the Rain Must Fall.  The film is notable as the screen debut (uncredited) of Glen Campbell.  If that isn’t eclectic enough for you, David Gates also produced two singles and wrote one song for Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band for A&M Records that were hits in the L.A. area. 


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Terry FischerCarol Fischer and Sally Gordon came to the attention of Kim Fowley while they were doing backing vocal work for Mike Post, and he offered to record a single for them; at the time, according to Wikipedia, Fowley was “the in-house producer for Chattahoochee Records”, which released the single.  Fowley produced Popsicles and Icicles and four other tracks for the band (now known as the Murmaids), each of which served as the “B” side for various releases of the song. 


Popsicles and Icicles by the Murmaids reached #3 on both the Billboard and Cash Box record charts in January 1964.  Additionally, the song was ranked #1 on the Record World charts for the week of January 18, 1964; since the next Number One song on the Record World charts was “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles, Popsicles and Icicles is often cited as the last Number One song of the pre-British Invasion era.  


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Kim Fowley always wanted to be where the action was, so he relocated for a period of time to London by late 1963.  One of the first fruits of his sojourn there might have been a rollicking cover version by Bo and Peep of the Sonny James/Tab Hunter romantic ballad “Young Love” that was released on Decca Records in 1964 not long after Fowley arrived in the UK.  The long-time Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham was on hand, and it is clear from the record that the studio was jammed with people.  Rumored to be among those participating in the recording are Mick Jagger (and perhaps other Stones), Gene Pitney and Kim Fowley.  The song is included on the Pebbles, Volume 6 LP and the English Freakbeat, Volume 6 CD 


There is no question that Kim Fowley was there for the peculiar flip side of the Bo and Peep single, “The Rise of the Brighton Surf”, which is included as a CD bonus track on English Freakbeat, Volume 6.  Andrew Loog Oldham and Kim Fowley are listed as the, uh, songwriters; and that is Fowley doing the vocalizing on a reworking of “The House of the Rising Sun” as a paean to the English coastal resort town of Brighton with lyrics that (as Greg Shaw says in the liner notes) appear to have been made up on the spot.  


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As recounted in Greg Shaw’s liner notes for the English Freakbeat, Volume 2 CDKim Fowley connected with another American expatriate, P. J. Proby.  After several failed singles in this country, Proby had a series of UK Top 20 hits that included his cover of a Lennon/McCartney song, “That Means a Lot” that the Beatles were never able to record to their own satisfaction. 


Kim Fowley worked with the N’Betweens and produced one of their singles, “You Better Run” that was released in December 1966; this band later evolved into Slade.  Fowley also produced the flip side of the first single by the Soft Machine, “Feelin’ Reelin’ Squeelin’” that came out in early 1967.  Jimi Hendrix is rumored to have played rhythm guitar on the track; he was recording “Hey Joe” at the same studio. 


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In 1967Kim Fowley produced the sole album by the Belfast Gypsies and also co-wrote some of their songs.  The band included some members of Van Morrison’s first band Them before he left to become a solo artist.  The album was misleadingly named Them Belfast Gypsies (particularly as the title is laid out on the cover).  Allmusic gives the album 4 stars, and Richie Unterberger notes in the write-up for the album:  “Their tense version of ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ is one of the greatest obscure Dylan covers, and the magnificent harmonica on ‘Midnight Train’ is a highlight.” 


The future bass guitarist for Led ZeppelinJohn Paul Jones released a surf instrumental record in 1967 called “Kalani Honey”; Kim Fowley produced the record, and it is included on the Fowley compilation album, King of the Creeps: Lost Treasures from the Vaults 1959-1969, Vol. 3


Greg Shaw included both sides of a December 1964 single by a band called the Lancasters on the English Freakbeat, Volume 2 CD , “Earthshaker” and “Satan’s Holiday”; both songs were co-written by Kim Fowley.  One of the members of the band was a young Ritchie Blackmore shortly after being in the backing band for Screaming Lord Sutch called the Savages and several years before he became one of the original bandmembers in Deep Purple


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In 1972Kim Fowley recorded some songs by the proto-punk band the Modern Lovers, building on previous recordings that had been produced by John Cale.  As Wikipedia reports:  “These included re-recordings of ‘She Cracked’, ‘Astral Plane’, ‘I’m Straight’, ‘Girlfriend’ and two versions of ‘Roadrunner’, as well as the songs ‘Walk Up The Street’, ‘Dance With Me’ and the a capellaDon’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste’.  [Bandleader Jonathan] Richman also credited James Osterberg (Iggy Popas co-writer on ‘I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms’ as a way of acknowledging that the song borrows a Stooges guitar riff.” 


The recordings were first released on Kim Fowley’s short-lived Mohawk Records (a subsidiary of Bomp! Records) in 1981 under the title The Original Modern Lovers.   


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Kim Fowley’s own albums are an uneven lot to say the least, though this appears to be intentional to a considerable extent.  His third album, Outrageous (1968) is the only one of his albums to (barely) crack the Billboard Top 200 Albums charts.  I don’t have the album, but there is a mélange of radio ads for the record that is given at the end of Under Ground Animal.  Village Voice rockcrit Robert Christgau gave Outrageous his second-lowest rating (E) and said:  “I don’t understand how he continues to earn a living, but he does.” 


One of the albums that I have, Born to be Wild (also from 1968) sounds like Kim Fowley is playing the basic melody for mostly familiar songs on the organ with one finger, accompanied by an anonymous band.  It is a cut above basic Muzak, but just barely.  I guess this is one of what Greg Shaw calls his “put-on albums”.  


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My most recent acquisition, Wormculture by Kim Fowley & the Rubbertown Freaks (1994) feels mostly like a sleazy conversation between Kim Fowley and an unnamed woman that is interspersed with several pretty good songs about how bad everything is, with “Momma’s Got a Shotgun (Riot Girrrl Versus Zombie Man)” being a particular standout. 


My favorite among the 6 or 8 Kim Fowley albums that I own – and he released dozens of them – is Sunset Boulevard (1978).  The basic template of most of his albums – competent punk rock, stream-of-consciousness monologues, interviews with street denizens, and mock-steamy conversations with young girls – works particularly well on this disk.  


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My recollection is that I first encountered Kim Fowley when I found the above album, Living in the Streets.  The cover is a pastiche of photos and text that are taken from an interview published in 1977 in Sounds magazine.  The interview continues onto the back cover; a pull quote that is given there proclaims:  “I am the Dorian Gray of rock ’n roll.  If you saw me physically, you wouldn’t believe I was as old as I am, and I’ve never aged.” 


As if that were not enough to catch my attention, the list of dozens of bands and musicians mentioned in the interview that is also given on the cover includes one of my very favorite bands, the Pink Fairies.   


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One of Kim Fowley’s best known songs is “The Trip”, the first single to be released under his own name; it was included in the soundtrack for the 2008 Guy Ritchie film RocknRolla.  The song is included on the album that started the garage rock/psychedelic rock revival that began in the 1970’s and continues to this day, Pebbles, Volume 1.  In his review of the Pebbles series for AllmusicRichie Unterberger comments:  “Though 1972’s Nuggets compilation reawakened listeners to the sounds of mid-’60s garage rock, it only focused on the tip of the iceberg.  Behind those forgotten hits and semi-hits lurked hundreds, if not thousands, of regional hits and flops from the same era, most even rawer and cruder. . . .  More than any other factor, these compilations [in the Pebbles series] were responsible for the resurgence of interest in garage rock, which remains high among collectors to this day.” 


The Trip is a monologue about the psychedelic experience with an appropriate musical accompaniment.  The single was released in 1965; according to, a copy of the original US pressing on Corby Records of the 45 sold at auction on eBay in 2007 for $185. 


The liner notes by Nigel Strange on Pebbles, Volume 1 (the CD that is) says of Kim Fowley:  “What more can be said about this writer/singer/producer/hustler who’s had his hand in everything from ‘Alley Oop’ by the Hollywood Argyles, to Helen Reddy, to the Dead Boys, to Guns N’ Roses. . . .  This song, released at the onset of teenage freakout mania, was something of a sensation in L.A. at the time and was covered by others including Thee Midniters and disc jockey Godfrey.  A real classic.” 


A cover of “The Trip” by a band called the Fire Escape is included on Kim Fowley’s 1980 album Hollywood Confidential that also features songs by the RunawaysVenus and the Razorblades, and the Seeds


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Kim Fowley’s follow-up single to The Trip was a cover of the bizarre novelty songThey’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” that made the charts.  The original version of They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! was recorded in 1966 by Napoleon XIV, the pseudonym of Jerry Samuels.  The lyrics include just about every pejorative and urban legend ever applied to the mentally ill:  berserk, flip my lid, funny farm, men in white coats, basket weavers, maniacal laughter, etc.  The song climbed to #3 on the charts but then plummeted almost out of the Top 40 just two weeks later after radio stations quit playing the record because of its offensive lyrics. 


The flip side, “!Aaah-Ah ,Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er’yeht” is simply the record played backwards – the simple structure and gleeful singing with echo effects make that much more listenable than might be imagined – and almost everything on the label was printed in mirror-image, including the song name, artist’s name and even the Warner Bros. Records logo. 


The album They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! does not include the backward track (despite song listings to the contrary), but there is a sort of answer song called “I’m Happy They Took You Away, Ha-Haaa!” that was credited to Josephine XV, who is presumably the girlfriend who left him and caused his torment.  (Joséphine was the name of Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife). 


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As reported in Wikipedia:  “In 1973[Kim] Fowley produced three recordings by Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids for the film American Graffiti (1973).  These songs were ‘At the Hop’, ‘Louie Louie’ and ‘She’s So Fine’.” Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids (now known as Flash Cadillac) is a retro-rock band who appeared in the film under the name Herbie and the Heartbeats.  They formed in Boulder, Colorado in 1969 and are still active more than 40 years later. 


At the Hop” and “She’s So Fine” (but not “Louie Louie”) are included on the official 1973 soundtrack album, entitled 41 Original Hits from the Soundtrack of American Graffiti, where the songs are presented in the same order that they appeared in the film.  The other 39 songs on the soundtrack album are the original hits by the original artists, having been recorded between 1954 and 1964


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As I remember, the interview that was spread across the cover of Living in the Streets was where I first learned that Kim Fowley had worked with Helen Reddy, of “I Am Woman” fame – specifically, her albums Ear Candy (1977) and We’ll Sing In The Sunshine (1978).  Of the long list of musicians and bands who worked with Kim – and there have been dozens of them that I have learned about myself – she is the most surprising. 


About Ear Candy, the album that I have, Stephen Thomas Erlewine writing in Allmusic says:  “Ear Candy qualifies as a genuine oddity in Helen Reddy’s catalog, a record that finds the queen of Australian soft rock paired with the king of L.A. sleaze, Kim Fowley, and his henchman Earle Mankey, a pair who were just coming off of the teenage kicks of the Runaways.  Fowley and Mankey pushed Reddy toward unusual territory, but that doesn’t mean they lead her toward the gutter:  They encouraged Reddy to write, prompting a surprising five originals on this ten-track album, let her dabble with synthesizers on the lurching ‘Long Distance Love’, and had her do a Cajun stomp with ‘Laissez Les Bon Tempts Rouler’ [French for “Let the Good Times Roll”, and a frequent slogan down here in Mardi Gras country]. . . .  [W]hile there are no big hits here, there are few dull spots, and the odd moments help make this one of Reddy’s most interesting LPs.” 


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Kim Fowley slowed down somewhat in the post-Runaways period, but he definitely still kept his toe in.  Kim Fowley discovered a demo tape for Steel Breeze when he went through about 1,200 (!) such tapes that were about to be thrown out by a Hollywood nightclub, Madam Wong’s.  Fowley produced the band’s debut album, Steel Breeze (1982) that produced two hit songs, You Don’t Want Me Anymore and “Dreamin’ Is Easy”.  The video for You Don’t Want Me Anymore was a hit in the early days of MTV (which signed on just the previous year).  


In the mid-1990’sKim Fowley edited a video demo and went to 24 record labels trying without success to sign three young brothers who were in a band named Hanson.  In 1997Hanson got a major-label contract and had a worldwide hit, “MMMBop”; they also received three Grammy nominations that year. 


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After appearing in a 2003 documentary called Mayor of the Sunset Strip about the disc jockey Rodney BingenheimerKim Fowley became an experimental filmmaker.  He won the Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Melbourne Film Festival for two of his films, Golden Road to Nowhere and Black Room Doom.  


Black Room Doom is also the name of the all-female band that is featured in the film of the same name – his answer to the 2010 film The Runaways


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Kim Fowley closes his interview with Chris Estey by contrasting the Hollywood movie about the Runaways with his own film, Black Room Doom; and in his trademark wide-ranging manner, he provides a vision of rock and roll that is so different from the situation today, when many rock bands are lasting for decades and are releasing albums that are designed not to offend any of their fan base: 


“And that’s why Black Room Doom is more important to me than The Runaways.  It’s a movie, and the premise is that a bunch of girls get together at noon in a recording studio, who have never met each other.  And I say, ‘By the end of the day you will have recorded, and you will have danced and sung, and have pizza together.  You will finish songs that you have played together, and then at 6 PM you will go home.  And that will be your band experience.  What do you girls think?’  ‘Let’s try it.’  And it’s a bunch of happy women.  And girls.  For that afternoon.  And when it’s over, the movie’s over.  Maybe all bands should form in one day, and at the end of the experience just break up at the end of the day. 


“You think I’m kidding, but you go back to the early days of rock and roll, and there used to be people who would show up and play under a phony name, and sing together from other bands, and they all need $25 or $50 so they show up and sing and play.  The drummer from one band would be the guitarist from that band, etc.  And they would never play again.  And they were called ‘One Hit Wonders’.  Remember them?  What if bands could be one hit wonders?  What if you could form a band just for tonight?  It would be a great night. 


“And I do other things like run a rock and roll workshop, and help a studio, and supply food to musicians and technicians and anybody who’s good to come in to make noise if they want to.  I don’t care what kind of music it is as long as it’s interesting.” 


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More recently, Kim Fowley made an appearance in the 2014 music video for the Beyoncé song “Haunted”.  


The first part of Kim Fowley’s memoir came out in 2013, called The Lord of Garbage.  It covered the years through 1969.  The Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin said that it “might be the weirdest rock ’n’ roll autobiography since . . . well, I can’t think of what.”  


As to what comes next, Wikipedia reports:  “The second installment of his autobiography will be called Planet Pain and will cover the years 1970-1994.  The last part of his autobiography was intended to be finished on his deathbed and released posthumously.”  


On September 24, 2014Kim Fowley married longtime girlfriend and music executive Kara Wright in a private ceremony in Los Angeles.  


His final album, Detroit Invasion by Kim Fowley’s Psychedelic Dogs came out in December 2014 on the record label The End is Here


Kim Fowley died of bladder cancer in West Hollywood, California on January 15, 2015 at the age of 75.  


(January 2015/1)


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Items:    Kim Fowley 


Last edited: April 7, 2021