Interview with legendary journalist, Harvey Kubernik: Music means everything because it informs everything if you let it

"My passion for the music and the truth, you have to live the life to truly know it, about what births and informs the music might be one characteristic that led me to the journalist road".

Harvey Kubernik: I Deliver The Goods

Los Angeles native Harvey Kubernik has been an active music journalist for over 40 years and the author of 6 books, including This Is Rebel Music (2002) and Hollywood Shack Job: Rock Music In Film and on Your Screen (2004) published by the University of New Mexico Press. Born at Queen of Angels Hospital in Echo Park, overlooking the Hollywood 101 Freeway, Harvey Kubernik first heard rock ‘n’ roll music in 1956 at the Coliseum Street and Muirfield Elementary Schools in the Crenshaw Village area and then later during El Marino Elementary School in Culver City. A graduate of Fairfax High School and West Los Angeles College, he holds a B.A. Special Major Degree (Health, Sociology, Literature) from San Diego State University.                                               Photo by Heather Harris © 2014

In 2009 Kubernik wrote the critically acclaimed Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon, published by Sterling. It was published in a paperback edition in 2012. He is also a writer of That Lucky Old Sun, a Genesis Publications limited-edition (2009) title, done in collaboration with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Sir Peter Blake, designer of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album sleeve. On September 21, 2014, Palazzo Editions published Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows, with narrative and oral history written by Harvey Kubernik. His writings have been printed in several book anthologies, most notably The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats, Drinking with Bukowski, and is featured in the 2014 book by Jeff Burger on Leonard Cohen “Interviews and Encounters” for Chicago Review Press. This century Harvey penned the liner notes to the CD re-releases of Carole King’s Tapestry, Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, the Elvis Presley ’68 Comeback Special and The Ramones’ End of the Century. Kubernik serves as contributing editor of Record Collector News Magazine. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

What characterizes your mission philosophy?

I like to have fun and at the same time educate people along my own path. It’s sort of hard to specifically analyze the mission. Musician  and environmental activist Dennis Dragon says, “We don’t define it. We just do it.”

I recently spoke with author Pamela Des Barres. She provided the narration for the GNP Crescendo music documentary The Seeds Pushin’ Too Hard from filmmaker Neil Norman. I’m in the movie, along with Iggy Pop, Kim Fowley, the Bangles, Johnny Echols of Love and the surviving members of the Seeds. The film screens November 8th in Encinitas California and December 6th in Brooklyn, New York. The trailer is on YouTube.

It was at the premiere of the movie at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. Miss Pamela went out of her way to compliment me on the accuracy and history contained in all my books.

She also reinforced it is our joint obligation to continue to get the real truth out there about events of the past and on some of our friends, and musical associates, who haven’t really been honestly or properly acknowledged.

So, once in a while, I become the correction factor, and that now becomes a bit more of the mission.

My theory is 1959 was the year the Los Angeles Dodgers professional baseball team won the World Series. It was a seismic shift and told the world L.A. was the future, if we use this subject sports event as a tipping point. And it applies to our lives as pop culture historians and active documentarians.

To me, biblically speaking, it’s almost a B.C. and A.D. divide on some division level. The people who were on two planets named Los Angeles and Hollywood before October 1959 know what I mean.

I’m also impressed by the millennials coming to my events and buying my books. People in their twenties. They have a sincere interest in the areas I chronicle. It’s been passed down to them from their parents, too...

In a way, my mission has always been to passionately expose and serve the music. I’ve proven this many times over the last 42 years as a journalist, author, writer, on TV, radio and film, and as a humanitarian.

Every day is progress. I think I’m getting into a groove this century.

I’m doing a few books for late 2015 and 2016 publication, and then I will be making a more consciousness decision to learn and write more about some contemporary music and iconic figures.

My books and five decades of writing have made a dent in book deals and distribution for some writers and poets of Los Angeles, and consequently, thanks to my efforts, a forgotten or neglected view of the impact Los Angeles music had is finally getting further exposed.  I’ve produced a new published vision, textually and graphically. I’m very involved in the photos and visuals selected for my books and articles, too.

Perhaps one of the secrets of my literary expeditions is that I include other voices in the adventure. Not just pull quotes or credits and acknowledgements in the back of the books attributed to them. I provide long sidebar platforms for writers, poets and friends of mine who actually have something to say that reinforces or corresponds with what I am presenting.

I’ve built a John Ford-like stock company group of characters. I give them lead roles. So, maybe, it’s more like an ensemble John Cassavetes film or how Roger Corman showcased actors during his American International Pictures period.

In addition, I’ve opened up the door for others to follow with their own era-specific books, and reporting, inspired by my original and unique work. People read me and then go discover or decide other arenas to explore. I like to think I still have plenty of hippie left in my soul.

If someone digs my books and articles and they decide to investigate the melodic world of my Los Angeles and Hollywood, or the countless reissue albums and artists I’ve positioned, that’s cool.

I realize my literary catalog is inspiring people and open minded music-lovers. I bring them into neighborhoods they need to know about and pivotal music they’ve missed. This includes the liner notes on packages I’ve done for Carole King, Elvis Presley, Allen Ginsberg and the Ramones.

A student from North Carolina just interviewed me for her academic dissertation Los Angeles Troubadours: The Emergence of the Singer-Songwriter Movement, 1968-1975.

And in October, I just did a live radio interview on KCSN-FM (88.5), the radio station on the campus of Cal State University Northridge. Someone informed me that I was referenced in a M.A. degree on campus about The Los Angeles Counter Culture 1965-1967.

Some students now ask me for a letters of recommendation to a graduate school. Others keep telling me to continue writing in the combination of oral histories coupled with long form narrative prose. We will see more of this in the future, and not just funded academia papers on popular music.

My buddy, Dr. James Cushing, a poet and English and Literature Professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, has instructed me “to hear them out and accept these requests as it serves the mission.”

I’ve also received enough fan mail, emails and interested and devoted fans at my Q. and A sessions after lectures that applaud and admire my deep research and results.

That impact goes far beyond me selling my books at a reading or signing. They go out and purchase books by other authors I recommend or albums I tell them about.

I know when some people read and absorb my books, or view my online articles on, or they may not ever feel the same afterwards about Los Angeles or the musical recordings I’ve covered.

At times, this part of the mission has been accomplished. One of the goals is to penetrate the skull.

How has the music industry changed over the years ?

It used to be that most of the people I encountered and worked with in the 1970’s and ‘80s were secure in their jobs and wanted to really serve the music and collaborate. This century anyone employed in the music business is primarily driven by fear or the consequences of not delivering and losing their jobs.

How difficult is for you to “carry” your name in the music business?

I never employed a stage name or modified my name, except for a brief one weekend “experimental” advertising job after I graduated from West Los Angeles Junior College where business cards were printed for me that read H. Robert Kubernik. Partially owing to the fact then, and this continues even to this day, even on Google, and when film school students at my lectures or movie world people seem to imply I am related to director Stanley Kubrick. Not true. I could have easily lied and gotten into the movie business or an entry lot job and also impressed some female interns who were trying to get into show business pretending I was related to Kubrick.

What do you think is the main characteristic of you personality that made you a journalist & producer?

My passion for the music and the truth, you have to live the life to truly know it, about what births and informs the music might be one characteristic that led me to the journalist road.  And the earlier reality that some jealous people many years ago went out of their way to doubt my intentions probably fortified the mission even if I was not aware of their agenda or motives.  Occasionally I am a producer because I want to make some things happen and don’t want to spend a lot of time being a consumer.

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

Learning to swim in the Dorsey High School pool as a tyke in the late 1950s in the Crenshaw Village in the Los Angeles area was the most important moment in my life. Might be traced to being a Pisces. Water plays a big part of my life. 

Today is now the most important period in my life. Grateful to be on the planet and actually knowing and now realizing my work has really impacted thousands of people, even if it is turning them on to a recording or a moment in pop culture history they missed.

Who of the people you have worked with do you consider the best friend?

Chris Darrow, possibly because I can call him at 3:00 am in the morning to ask a music question about a band and he will have the answer. Because he was there.

Long before crowds of people asked me for autographs Chris years ago always said my stuff was important and inspirational and reinforced to me that I was there as well and to bring my action into the future. Plus, he introduced me to some subject specific spiritual worlds that have partially protected me from the cooties in the music and film business.

Of all the people you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most?

Andrew Loog Oldham. As a writer and record producer.

Photo ©  by Guy  Webster - Andrew Loog Oldham

Are there some memories of Andrew Loog Oldham you want to share?

We are friends and I treasure the relationship. When a review of a book of mine appears in a magazine or newspaper,  he always seems to be the first to email “Well done.”

This is a man who changed our world. From discovering and producing the Rolling Stones and Marianne Faithfull to then founding the landmark Immediate Records independent label in the U.K. In addition to writing liner notes in 1964-1967 that were poetic and captivating. And then the gent follows those Herculean efforts with a series of marvelous autobiographies like Stoned and 2Stoned.          

A phone call, or lunch or dinner with ALO is always a treat. We talk about current affairs, film, music, sounds, family, and nutrition. If my brother Kenneth is at the meal, it can turn into a scene somewhere between The Charlie Rose Show meets The New York Review of Books.

On Andrew’s last visit to town, his exit line to me from a restaurant was, “Listen man, instead of watching the movie be the movie.”    

Andrew’s A&R skills still spot musical and entertainment business talent, and his Sirius XM radio program is wonderful.

His recent 20 minute audio salute on his Little Steven Underground Garage weekend deejay shift to his dear friend, Bob Crewe, was so touching when I heard it I had to stop writing for the entire day.

I remembered that I met Bob a few times, interviewed him for Melody Maker.  Crewe and Charles Fox did the music and lyrics for the Barbarella soundtrack.

Crewe wrote some classic standards for the Four Seasons. The Walker Brothers cut his “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.” Crew co-wrote “Lady Marmalade.”   

A recent suggestion from Andrew was to seriously investigate Canada. Besides living in Bogota, Colombia, he has residency in Vancouver.

What does BEAT GENERATION mean to you? What do you miss most nowadays from the Beats?

Initially, at college, San Diego State University, I received a C in a class on “The Beat Generation.” I was perplexed and the instructor did not comprehend my term paper action about Jack Kerouac’;s “On The Road.” Now when I think of the Beat Generation, I smile about working on the Kerouac box set, taping and hanging with Allen Ginsberg and setting up some poetry and book readings for Michael MacClure. I also know through some of my efforts I steered their work to many people. Especially their audible past.

Why did you think that Beat writers, continued to generate such a devoted following?

Might have something to do with the fact that most of them did not even primarily think of money when writing or toiling on their typewriters. A new America was being examined starting in the 1940s, and really popping in the ‘50s and ‘60s. New writing structures were being created.  And, the New York and other East Coast print media always remind us of their writers so their catalog keeps getting republished.

Keith Richards & Harvey Kubernik /Photo © by Robert Sherman

Are there any memories which you’d like to share with us?

There’s too many to list and I’m researching and writing at this very moment. I love Greek food which is one of the reasons I am very happy to communicate with someone in Greece who feels the music.  And, in my high school locker I had a photo of singer and actress Melina Mercouri in it. One alluring woman who wore glasses which was really cool.

Read my books and hundreds and hundreds of articles and columns as some of the data and Harvey action is in those pages. I will volunteer that a memory I do relish, that no one can smash or take away from me, was the night I formally met Keith Richards in Hollywood at a recording studio on Sunset Blvd. Charlie Watts invited me to some sessions for the Rolling Stones’ “Bridges To Babylon” album.

I was speaking at length with drummer Jim Keltner in the lounge about Eddie Cochran who was on the Liberty Records label, once located right up the street from the recording facility. Keith then bolted into the lounge with a bottle of vodka in his hand and remained quiet while Jim and I talked about Eddie’s great records. After 5 minutes, Keith, with his back still to us, then asks, “Do you know who played drums on the Cochran dates?” I answered, “Eddie played drums on just about all this recordings but Earl Palmer was on some tracks.” “Yeah! My name is Keith. Move over so I can sit down. Do you want some cherry juice in a glass of vodka?” Keith, Charlie and I later had dinner ordered from Pinot. Great nosh.

When was your first desire to become involved with the music & what does the music mean to you?

Seeing bandleader Spike Jones and his energetic band in the very late 1950s as a child with my parents at the Pomona Fair in Southern California.

Music means everything because it informs everything if you let it.

You’ve just written a book on Leonard Cohen, Everybody Knows. Why do you think that the Cohen’s poems and music continues to generate such a devoted following?

I presented a lot of evidence in my Cohen study that explains the devotion and his fan base.  Some of the reasons for Leonard’s ongoing and expanding demographic are certainly exhibited in my text as well in the photos and visuals. I display and examine his artistic moves and unplanned commercial growth. My first interview with him was in 1974.

One of my findings about the current popularity of Leonard’s music might be his ability to have a vocal delivery on one hand that is assuring and calm. It can also be foreboding and give us a verbal peak into The Outer Limits, territory we visit vertically or horizontally.

And, Cohen’s directive is coming from an older experienced voice birthed in Montreal, Canada and further nurtured in Los Angeles, California.

As Chris Darrow has pointed out, there comes a time, when an artist becomes “Elder Cool.” We thankfully saw it happen with Johnny Cash before the turn of this current century.  Some of that same appreciation and re-evaluation is enhancing Cohen’s recent stature.

In 1975, I interviewed Johnny Cash for Melody Maker. It was in Anaheim, California at a Christian Book Sellers Convention. A couple of years before he was dropped from Columbia Records. At the time very few people in the radio business and music media, gave a fuck about Johnny or his legacy. But I did. I have June Carter Cash’s autograph, too.

No one was happier than me when Johnny was re-discovered and supported by record producer and label owner, Rick Rubin. I have the same birthday as Johnny Cash. He lived in Southern California during 1958-1966.

In today’s world, we might learn some things about survival or renewal from Cohen as an “Elder Cool” figure. Leonard’s recorded songs or a line from one of his books. Or the feeling that lingers after one of his concerts.

Maybe Leonard has assumed this position filmmaker Jim Jarmusch told me about when I interviewed him in 1992 for the release of a documentary he did, Neil Young Year of the Horse.

In our conversation, Jarmusch suggested, “It’s like, when I worked on Dead Man, I spent a lot of time with native people in the States and Canada. One old guy was saying, “In our culture, to be old is like getting to go to the top of the mountain and looking out.” That’s a value all the young people respect... a guy who has been able to look out up there. Because in native culture, it’s very cool to be old, you know. Their view is from a higher place. That’s very valuable to those of us who are catching up to that, who are just starting out our climb up the mountain.”

I am grateful my Leonard Cohen Everybody Knows title has now been translated into six languages and first printing is 50,000 copies. I’m stoked there is an edition for Russia.

The exposure of the Cohen book has been aided by the recent release of his new Popular Problems album. Shipping in December is a 3 CD/DVD Leonard Cohen-Live In Dublin. That item will draw some extra attention to Leonard’s entire catalog and further introduce this book. In 2014, Leonard Cohen is bigger than he has ever been in the areas of exposure and sales. I’m thrilled for him. Nice to see a mensch really score.

I dig doing interviews with foreign journalists. They ask insightful questions. Some grew up reading me weekly in Melody Maker 1975-1980. Others have copies of my books. They are fascinated by the history of Los Angeles and the music and songwriters from here.

I like to think I have some sort of grasp on Canada, and the important musicians and singers that have come to Los Angeles and Southern California to live and create: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, and my friend, Burton Cummings of the Guess Who. I’m invested in the energy of Canada and waiting for an Angel from the North to arrive into my life. My very next book will be about a Canadian musician.

I don’t have to tell you about Leonard Cohen’s life and work in Greece. It is a foundation of his literary and performance life just after his initial Canadian roots that positioned his music and words to us for the last sixty years.

© 2014 Henry Diltz Photography Archives; Leonard Cohen, 1993

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Beat literature and culture with Leonard Cohen?

Leonard himself will tell you he didn’t have a whole lot in common with Beat literature. Although he did see Kerouac read in New York around 1957 when he briefly attended Columbia University in New York.

Ira B. Nadel did an earlier book on Cohen and Ira told me “Columbia was a distraction and only allowed him to explore New York and meet a few of the early Beats, but he did not click with them.”

Leonard also told Ira Nadel in his book that “I was always on the fringe. I liked the places they gathered, but I was never accepted by the bohemians because it was felt that I came from the wrong side of the tracks. I was too middle class. … I didn’t have the right credentials to be at the center table in those bohemian cafés. Maybe it was the tailored suits?”

I remember an advertisement in a 1968 issue of The Los Angeles Free Press touting Cohen’s debut Columbia album at a local drug store. The copy text read in part, “I’ve been on the outlaw scene since I was 15. I had some things in common with the Beatniks, and even more things with the hippies.”

Honestly, I probably might have more in common with the beats than Leonard. Living all through elementary school in Culver City, fairly close to Venice, Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean. I think you can possibly feel it or read it in my work.

With my parents and brother in Culver City 1957-1963, a few miles from Venice, I was exposed to their beach world. The constant scene depicted in and around The Gas House, beatniks, sandals, beards, books and bongos.

It was a coastal trip that author and radio commentator Lawrence Lipton examined in his 1959 book, The Holy Barbarians. Sorry folks, it’s not exclusively about San Francisco and North Beach, and Greenwich Village and New York where you think all the beat activities happened.

In adjacent Santa Monica, I went to the opening of Pacific Ocean Park in 1958. I first glimpsed Michael C Ford in 1957 in Crenshaw Village when I was in kindergarten. I was a tyke buying bubblegum and he was like an older dude.

In the early sixties I met up with Ford again around some night club show, might have been Julie London at the Coconut Grove. I was with my parents and there was Ford.

At Sam Diego State University in the seventies, I took a Beat Generation class. Years later, I was project coordinator of The Jack Kerouac Box Set Collection and brought in Jerry Garcia, Ray Manzarek and Michael McClure into the project to provide some of the liner notes for the package.               Photo © by Guy Webster - Alan Ginsberg

In the eighties, I produced a live recording with Allen Ginsberg and Harold Norse, and produced the first poetry readings at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica for Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, and Michael C Ford. In 2008 I penned the liner notes to the first ever compact disc of Allen’s Kaddish recording.

There has always been beatific and impulsive moments in my writing and dialogue with my interview subjects.

The beat generation world I experienced in the late fifties and early sixties had an influence on my life and work before my family moved to West Hollywood. Then I was old enough to really read and see some of the poets.

In 1968 I caught the Doors at the Inglewood Forum. Their group’s musical sound and Jim Morrison’s vision were informed by Beat and French poets.

I should also volunteer that for 18 months from 1969-1971, I worked at the West Los Angeles College Library from the day it first opened. I was age 18. I made sure to order and stock for the newly-opened library, various books by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers, and first edition titles from Aldous Huxley, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Henry Miller. I also initiated the first subscription to Ramparts magazine.

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the music?

Kim Fowley. Has always told it like it was and is. I try and view music and writing as an art form and he views it as business. Which it probably is.

What is the best advice ever given you?

Several come to mind.

John R. Wooden: “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail” and “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.”

Gore Vidal “Your first five books were never reviewed in The Los Angeles Times? My first five books were never reviewed in The New York Times! Young man, may I suggest looking at this injustice as a very positive thing.”

Andrew Loog Oldham: “Don’t fall in love with the act,” “There are no accidents,” “Have you tried Apple Cider Vinegar, Olive Oil and Collagen?”

Keith Richards: “No money in Jazz, Chuck. No money.”

Leonard Cohen: “When I see a woman’s face transformed by the orgasm we have reached together, then I know we’ve met. Anything else is fiction.”

George Harrison: “Beware of Darkness.”

Rosemarie Renee Patronette: “Beware of the friend zone.”

Cindy Kona: “TAKE it out of the FRIEND ZONE!”

Willie Nelson: Son, you have to outlast everyone.”

Lanny Waggoner: “I want you to call this chiropractor named Dr. Stanley Baker.”

Hilda Kubernik: “Revenge is a wasted emotion.”

Marshall Kubernik: “Any day after World War II is a good day.”

© 2014 Henry Diltz Photography Archives; Leonard Cohen, 1993

Are there any memories from Leonard Cohen which you’d like to share with us?

40 years ago when I first interviewed Leonard Cohen he had packs of vitamins in his hotel room and a constant pot of tea brewing. I decided to further check out vitamins and herbs. I knew about them. Health advocate, Gypsy Boots, used them.

Maybe that has had a little something to do with Leonard’s career today, in terms of stamina and energy. Right now being bigger than ever as a commercial and touring concert attraction.  And, I really believe his decades of meditating at the Mt. Baldy Zen Center, 60 miles from Los Angeles, have really been beneficial.

At age 22, I accompanied Leonard in a limo ride to the Canadian Embassy after an interview.  Cohen had some passport business to do. I asked him a question about girls and “going steady with them.” Leonard was almost twice as old as me and already was writing songs like “Suzanne” and “So Long, Marianne.”

Leonard slowly replied. “Relationships are complicated.” That response concluded my book on him in 2014.

In April your coffee table size book Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972 was published. What is it about?

I felt it was time to write and compile a book that brought music fans and record collectors and the audio sociologists into a somewhat hidden or overlooked world of 1956-1972 Los Angeles. The deejays and the recording artists. Some familiar and some very rarely noted in books or articles. It’s a saga of my own life from age 6 to 21.

The local AM and FM radio world is captured in print like we’ve never seen or felt it before. I put some the focus on the seminal blues and R&B music and sounds I heard growing up in Los Angeles. I crafted a book that cohesively blends the sounds of downtown L.A., East L.A. and West L.A. and Hollywood. It’s my western soul mosaic. I’ve been keeping mental notes on this since 1956.

Ultimately, the book proves that the Southern California basin defined this era and helped create some of the music that we still hear today globally. The sonic and recording business growth of Hollywood is also tackled.

I thought it was time, especially for a native of Los Angeles and a child of Hollywood, to remind the world about these special sounds and recording innovations that could only happen in Los Angeles and Hollywood back then. This is where the future began.

This book transports people to a world they can discover and further investigate.

I made it a point to include a color photo of the legendary Gene Norman-owned Crescendo night club on Sunset Boulevard that operated from 1954-1964. Jazz, comedians and occasional blues artists were booked nightly.

Your blues-loving readership might enjoy the first-hand accounts, anecdotes and sidebars I’ve incorporated in Radio! on B.B. King, Marshall Chess, Etta James, Johnny Otis, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. I saw and met Muddy Waters, Albert King and Willie Dixon at the Ash Grove club on Melrose Avenue. I hung with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells at a party in West Hollywood.

The geography of Southern California is always apparent in my work. I’ve just done a power point presentation and mixed media event at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles where I showed 60 photos from the book on screen and did individual improvisational comments on the images. A Q. and A. followed.

If you have the time, go on the web and read the few dozen worldwide reviews on Turn Up The Radio! From MOJO magazine in England to The San Francisco Chronicle. Or the reviews on Amazon or hear the couple of dozen radio interviews on the internet and terrestrial radio outlets I did supporting it.

I would recommend hearing the Turn Up The Radio! show that DJ Little Steven Van Zandt hosted in August on his Underground Garage Sirius XM radio program. It’s archived at:     

Aug 13, 2014 - Little Steven's Underground Garage Show 645 (Weekend of August 8 – August 10, ... Steven's Underground Garage channel (25) Sirius/XM satellite radio network... ›... › Shows 649-640

The impact of my Radio! book continues. The musical heritage of Los Angeles from the fifties-seventies hasn’t been displayed or housed like this before.

I’m very proud to have steered attention to some neglected pop and rock local artists and deejays that have been forgotten or marginalized in history. Tom Petty wrote the Introduction and Roger Steffens did the Afterword.

Last August, Turn Up The Radio! inspired a three night L.A. Rock on Film series in Hollywood at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. We screened The Doors at the Hollywood Bowl, The TAMI Show, and held the world premiere of The Seeds Pushin’ Too Hard documentary.

If you own some of my earlier books I encourage you to check out this one. The people I’ve interviewed and written about paved the way for many pop and rock records we still cherish and hear on the radio and in soundtracks.

If you have my Canyon of Dreams The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon, the coffee table endeavor of that melodic region, then Radio! in some fashion, might be the logical extension from that Laurel Canyon journey. Photographer Henry Diltz and his archivist, Gary Strobl, were extremely helpful to me on both these books.

The November 2014 issue of Ugly Things magazine featuring the endorsement of Andrew Loog Oldham probably best describes my new volume. I am appreciative for his testimonial.

"In his book Turn Up The Radio Rock, Pop and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972, Harvey Kubernik is our city of angels musical muse - he takes us to the source. He is the source. Our Thomas Paine with a back beat."


Do you have any amusing tales to tell from your experiences in Monterey? How did the idea of the book come about?

It might have partially been birthed in 1997 when I interviewed Ravi Shankar at his house in Encinitas, California. He was impressed by my knowledge of the Monterey festival. The idea of the book happened because I wanted it to happen and it needed to happen. Gary Strobl calls it “The persistence of vision.” And, with this book, my brother Kenneth and I are also involved in the Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation on an ongoing basis.  We gave at the office. 

Just seeing a Bob Dylan concert with Dr, James Cushing in 2010 was an experience. And the 2011 Mexican food Cushing, Ken and I had in Salinas on the way back to Los Angeles from Monterey was fantastic.

Why did you think that Harvey Kubernik continues to generate such a devoted following?

Might be the fact that I have been in the writing trenches for 40 years and my knowledge and information about some of the music in the universe penetrates and reveals and heals possibly like no one else on the planet.

If you go back to the past what things you would do better and what things you would a void to do again?

Things happen for a reason. I think. But I will offer I helped some people over the decades “who were mean to me,” as Curtis Mayfield wrote and sang, and I lost some valuable time and money on them. I should have been more self-centered and removed toxic figures after just one betrayal. Then again, I would not be in the situation where I am at this moment. “Tie goes to the runner at the bag” as they say in the game of baseball.

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Timothy Leary?

While we chatted he was drawing a picture of his God Daughter Wynona Ryder. He also gave me her father’s contact information who runs a book store and is a writer. 

Make an account of the case from the Laurel Canyon music scene & what characterizes the sound of Laurel Canyon?

The music that was developed in the region still has magic.

Anything in the 90046 zip code informs the sound of Laurel Canyon.

What is the strangest desire that someone have requested to give you the interview?

Marianne Faithfull requested a pack of cigarettes for our interview. I already knew the brand she smoked and had a pack already with me. Until then I had never purchased a pack of cigarettes for a woman. I don’t smoke them. I tired a puff in a high school bathroom and got dizzy. Marianne then gave me a 3 second kiss on the lips which I think of at least once a year.

Which of the artists were the most difficult and which was the most gifted front of the journalistic recorder?

Dr. Timothy Leary was the most difficult only because he was preparing and celebrating to leave the physical world and could only grant me 30 minutes, owing partially to the medicine he was taking at the time.

The most gifted was Allen Ginsberg, perhaps because our two hour sessions were focused on his music and recording activities. And he was so happy to be a yenta on his collaborations with rock and jazz musicians because he hardly was ever asked about his recording adventures.

Who would be the most funny, serious, moody, careless, careful, forgetful & joker musician during an interview?

Jack Nitzsche. His sense of memory and insights into the human condition were monumental and educational.

In February 2014 you published It Was 50 Years Ago Today The Beatles Invade America and Hollywood. The paperback edition explains their important relationship to Hollywood and Los Angeles.  A topic never really documented.

If you think you love the Beatles and you think you know a lot about them, then try and read my book.

History and some of the music media tend to push London as the launch of the Beatles when it was really Liverpool. The media in the U.S. will always position New York as the American city of the Beatles. Obviously, The Ed Sullivan Show debut and Shea Stadium concert.

Music scholars, historians and fans of the Beatles, who study the group on an ongoing basis, and who have read my book, come away impressed with the amount of new data and information that underscores and fortifies their ties to the musical heritage of Los Angeles.

The impact the regional independent and major record labels of L.A. in the fifties and early sixties had on the band.  From their early stage repertoire until Rubber Soul.

In 1958, George Harrison sang the Penguin’s “Earth Angel” in his classroom in Liverpool. Paul and John initially connected over Eddie Cochran’s “20 Flight Rock.”

I uncovered dozens and dozens of heretofore un-reported facts and then strung them along with memories from members of the Beatles, Beach Boys, Love, the Doors, Blondie, the Rascals, and the MFQ.

In addition, I spoke with Ravi Shankar, Jim Keltner, Mark Guerrero, Berry Gordy Jr., Chris Hillman, Kim Fowley, Ken Scott, Andrew Solt, Rodney Bingenheimer, Bill Mumy, Doug Fieger, Chris Darrow, Dan Kessel, David Kessel, Don Randi, Eliot Kendall, Bobby Rogers, Allen Ginsberg, and others. The narrative and the oral history reflections ramble a bit but I kept it that way to capture the frantic energy all of us felt during their records and appearances of 1964-1969.

Some people don’t want their Stateside Beatles defined by the obvious influence and sounds that emanated from Los Angeles. But I did it. Deal with it. And, the pictures are really strong, too. James Cushing penned the introduction. He’s a member of the important Cahuenga Press and a deejay on KCPR-FM.

Just how important was the city of Los Angeles and the surrounding Hollywood area on the Beatles? Three of them ended up owning houses here and another one spent 18 months in the town. Case closed.

In October you and your brother Kenneth, wrote the text and captioned the pictures for the coffee table format book, Big Shots: Rock Legends & Hollywood Icons: Through the lens of Guy Webster.

Just imagine having to pick the photos and write the text to the photography of Guy Webster, the man who did the album cover photo sessions for the debut Doors album, the Hollies’ Stop! Stop! Stop!, all the Mamas and the Papas albums, the Rolling Stones’ “High Tide, Green Grass,” the U.K. version of the Stones’ “Aftermath.

Guy also took the photo on the first Simon & Garfunkel LP and picture sleeve single, plus the back cover photos and did the hand-made collage on Love’s Da Capo, and the Byrds Turn! Turn! Turn! LP cover.

Webster did home studio portrait and location shoots with Captain Beefheart, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Bobby Darin, Allen Ginsberg, Igor Stravinsky, Bob Dylan, Michelle Phillips, Laura Nyro, Bob Hope, Taj Mahal, Canned Heat, Johnny Mandel, the Seeds, Graham Nash, Henry Mancini, Spirit, Merry Clayton, Gena Rowlands, Norman Jewison, Rock Hudson, Donald Sutherland, Otto Preminger, Nancy Sinatra, Andrew Loog Oldham, Dean Martin, Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, John Mayall, Nico, Jeff Bridges, Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Peggy Lipton, Sonny & Cher, and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

A challenging achievement for the hydra-headed Kubernik team. We were happily aided by the Buddhist directions of Guy and his assistant, painter Lisa Gizara.

When I really spent some time in Guy’s studio I had my mind blown. Just looking at his archives.  Guy said he had never met anyone like me with as much knowledge about rock ‘n’ roll and Los Angeles, Hollywood and his own personal history going back to the forties and fifties.

I first had to first pass a deep blues music quiz. Guy grew up in a home where Big Joe Turner and Duke Ellington would visit his multiple Oscar-winning songwriter father Paul Francis Webster.

“I can trust you.” What an obligation.

I called my brother and said, “We gotta do a book with this cat!”

Kenneth and I had done a previous book on the Monterey International Pop Festival in 2012, A Perfect Haze. Guy was the official photographer of the event. We included some photos of Janis Joplin, the Who and Jimi Hendrix from that monumental Monterey weekend in June of 1967.

Guy is a true artist. It’s his first real book under his own name. Kenneth and I conducted 30 hours of interviews with him about his subjects, artistic process and life story that were compelling. This was a real blessing and honor. Guy and Chris Darrow remind me “that karma is life-long.”

I know something cool always happens when you put three natives of Los Angeles together in a creative task. Occasionally, the universe allows these opportunities to happen.

We were subsequently asked by Guy to pose for an author photo when he was trying out a new camera.

To me, it was an arrival and felt like a sense of destiny. Here we are. In Venice. Next to the Pacific Ocean and in the presence of a master. In a studio photo shoot for the first time that’s being directed by Guy Webster.

We followed his previous sessions with the Doors, Beach Boys, Mamas and the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, Love, the Byrds, Katherine Ross, Joan Collins and Anthony Newley, Doris Day, Terry Melcher, Derek Taylor, Lee Grant, Cher, Carol Lynley, Olivia Hussey, Shirley Jones, Leigh Taylor Young, Joan Hackett, Ray Bradbury, Pricilla Presley, Petula Clark, Ron and Nancy Reagan, William Shatner, Jane Fonda, Natalie Wood, and Liza Minelli. Welcome to Hollywood.

Guy Webster is now fully prepared to answer all your questions about his Nico studio shoots and The Marble Index album cover he did with her.

Photo © by Guy Webster - Kenneth & Harvey Kubernik

What advice would you give to aspiring music journalist & producer, thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

Besides writing for yourself, the first assignment and the one that counts, possibly consider having a manager, a literary agent, a couple of lawyers, favors owed in the music business, as well as a girlfriend or wife to help hustle and position your self-imposed journey.

Are your music dreams fulfilled? What is your “unfulfilled” music DREAM?

I don’t think so. Many years ago so many people stomped on my few dreams, but this century I am dreaming again. As far as one of my “unfulfilled music dream,” I just saw a couple of Greek actresses on a movie screen I’d like to write songs with while we would split a rack of lamb and salad drenched with yogart dressing.

How do you see the future of music? Give one wish for the music

Do your own thing and don’t listen to anyone. One wish is for music to help support and protect the planet in some capacity.

What excites you about the music today? What is the “think” you miss most from the DREAMY OLD DAYS?

I’m really into Sirius XM Satellite Radio, especially Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel. Classic pop and rock mixed with new bands. I’m very happy Bobby Womack is being heard by more people due to his role in the Gorillaz group.  

Hearing Betty Moon sing a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love.” A very topical song. The “Dreamy Old Days?” Well, I miss the reality that Brian Jones and probably Mick Taylor are not gonna play in the Rolling Stones if they tour. A real central thing I miss is getting a free or cheap parking place at a venue.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?

There have been many important meetings and experiences. All have positioned me for the next day. A few months ago I was lucky enough to be in the Inglewood Forum hearing a talk by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

Most recent was a few weeks ago in Hollywood with a kindred spirit, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, in September at the Arc Light movie premiere of the Jimi Hendrix biopic JIMI: All Is By My Side.

We had a chat about Laurel Canyon music, his worship of Frank Zappa’s Weasels Ripped My Flesh,” and his love for the 1965 Gene Clark-fronted Byrds’ period. Tyler owns a copy of my Canyon of Dreams book.  He’s building a house in Laurel Canyon. I told Steven the Grammy Museum in downtown L.A. has a current exhibition, California Dreamin’: The Sounds of Laurel Canyon, 1965-1977, and the Berklee College of Music in Boston offers a yearly Laurel Canyon music class. Steven said he gave a recent clinic at the school for some students.       Harvey Kubernik & Charlie Watts, Harvey Kubernik Archives © 2014

I don’t want this to read as if I am name dropping, however, in the past there were meetings, very brief exchanges, and short and longer interviews that should be acknowledged: Ravi Shankar, Ram Dass, Deepak Chopra, Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Wexler, Ahmet Ertegun, Tom Dowd, D.A. Pennebaker, George Harrison, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Mitch Mitchell, Phil Everly, Mick Vranich, Keith Richards, Sir George Martin, Ice Cube, Steven Van Zandt, John Lennon, Charles Bukowski, Jack Nitzsche, Amiri Baraka, Marianne Faithfull, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger,  Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton, Phil Spector, Bob Crewe, KRS-ONE, Ringo Starr, Ray Davies, John Van Hamersveld, Denny Bruce, Lux & Ivy, and Charlie Watts, right off the top of my head.

I’ve also had informative moments with: Ram Dass, Charlie Rich, Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Roy Orbison,  Mae West, Ian Whitcomb, Sammy Davis, Jr., John Van Hamersveld, Bobby Womack, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Don Randi, Samuel Z. Arkoff, Roger Corman, Anne Francis, Truman Capote, Kim Fowley, Rudy Ray Moore, Stevie Wonder, David Ruffin, John Cassavetes, Lew Wasserman, Alfred Hitchcock, Edith Head, Natalie Wood, Richard Zanuck, Rod Serling, S. Ti Muntarbhorn, Paul McCartney, the Funk Brothers, Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Justin Pierce, Little Richard, Rosemarie Renee Patronnette, James Brown, David Bowie, Brian Wilson, Gene Chandler, Barney Kessel, Julie London, Bobby Troup, Louie Bellson, Mose Alison, Smokey Robinson, Levi Stubbs, Nancy Rose Retchin, Laura Nyro, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, Joey Ramone, Richard Pryor, and Buddy Collette.

What is the word "seal" of your work? How do you describe Harvey Kubernik's philosophy?

I deliver the goods.

It starts with a reaction: Can you feel it and then deal with it? The sizzle of the vibe and the intent registered. I am attracted to the revealing and healing spiritual ratio in the music. If a record or a band onstage makes you pick up an instrument, that’s groovy. When a record makes a woman smile, or want to dance, I get very interested.

I’ve always followed the music. That’s my musical philosophy. And that permeates everything I do and everything I write about.

Which memory from Charles Bukowski makes you smile? How you would spend a day with him?

Reading his regular column in ”The Los Angeles Free Press.” I didn’t know at the time as a teenager Charles Bukowski attended local Los Angeles High school. I did spend a long afternoon and very long evening with him with producer Denny Bruce when we did a live reading album with Bukowski that I helped release on disc. If I had another day with him I would ask about his writing process. Did he spend a lot of time editing his poems and columns before publication?


Of the entire of projects, records, books you made, what was your favorite?

The liner notes I penned for the CD of Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish” on Water Records in 2008. It was a group narrative text and I really felt like I was being guided a bit by Allen. Also being able to interview Jerry Wexler for the text was really important.

I knew I was in control and in a groove when he said, “No one has asked me about this recording in over 40 years!”

Did you help many artist in the meantime did you found any gratitude from them? What you should keep or forget of your career?

I helped, and continue to help many people. Only a handful never had any gratitude or appreciation for the blood or energy I donated on their behalf. Now I am starting to think, only for a minute, that I should be thankful for their lack of respect and lies. Might have now created some of the positive literary things emerging in my life.     

As wordsmith Harry E. Northup has said, “Forget them. They don’t even make your poems, let alone your books.”

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past?

I miss frequenting a lot of my record shops in Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. Like The Frigate, The Groove Company, Dolphin’s of Hollywood, Wallichs Music City, and Flash Records, I liked going to R&B and rock ‘n’ roll shows that had 4-6 acts on the bill.

Maybe in 2015, managers of bands and their booking agents will go on stage instead of their clients.

I miss free parking around concert and music clubs and the lack of traffic.

I’d like to see some real consideration or support of natives of Los Angeles or people who have been living here for many decades.

Look, I’m not trying to be the border patrol, but all these transplants and movie, music and TV careerists should have some compassion and empathy for the people who built the foundation of this city.

Now even more people are relocating here and the freeways are too crowded. The place was not built to handle so many cars and additional traffic.

However, I’ll give a free pass to anyone who wants to re-locate and doesn’t drive or own a car. I believe in public transport. Hopefully they will make as good record or write a good book. And honor the creative environment.

Los Angeles and Hollywood has had a large impact on your record collection and life.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Hopes.  Principal hopes are for my family, friends and myself to remain healthy. I hope everyone will try and at least be cognizant about global warming issues and pollution. I hope my books and literary activities are disguised blessings for everybody.

Fears of the future? A big earthquake and more shaking than the ones I experienced in 1971 and 1994.

I’ve been concerned about the environment for half a century. I used to be able to go into the Pacific Ocean and see my hand under the water. Now I can’t really go swimming in it anymore. Radiation, crap in the water. I’m a Pisces.

I think it all comes down to the water. I am fearful of what we have done to wildlife, fish and the water supply the last sixty years. We haven’t been good tenants of the earth. Maybe our answers for long term survival or a more manageable planet might be in the sun.

Mother Nature determines everything. And right now she is really angry. There are lava runs in Hawaii, tsunamis, hurricanes, chem trails, the catastrophe at Fukushima Electric Company, recent floods in New Jersey and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Now is not the time for me to start writing earth poems.

I’m not an alarmist, but I just try and stay aware of the drastic changes in our climate. Knowledge and the light are the new currencies and not just money.

The Doors and poet Jim Morrison in their jazz and blues-driven Paul Rothchild-produced music already warned us in 1967 with their record, “When the Music’s Over.”

“What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister?”

In 2011, Ray Manzarek told me in an interview when we discussed the Doors’ Waiting for the Sun,  “Ecology was very, very big. We were all trying to save the planet. The sun was the energy. The supreme energy. On our third album the Doors were working in future space. Many things have come to pass that Jim Morrison wrote about.”

© 2014 Henry Diltz Archives / Jim Morrison, Hollywood Bowl, 1968

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music circuits?

As far as laughing, finding a Rufus Thomas live album on vinyl cut at P.J.’s nightclub in Hollywood. A documentary on comic Mobs Mabley that Whoopi Goldberg hosted on a cable channel made me laugh. I heard some Lenny Bruce and Firesign Theater albums at a party and I laughed. I was pleased how totally relevant all their material still is today. And a long player by the comedy ensemble, the Conception Corporation, contained funny bits on it.

I also laughed, and was a bit amazed, by a cosmic circumstance that occurred during a September late night dinner encounter at Canter’s Delicatessen in Hollywood. Two women named Kansas and Sophie confessed to just hearing simultaneously, while also joyously discovering, the same record by the immortal singer, Gene Pitney. Let’s be real. When does the name Gene Pitney ever even enter any conversation these days? It was a psychic and enticing connection. An incident I’ve never watched Jamie, Shalyah or Alice comment about or offer advice on the MTV series GirlCode.

I was really moved by the October 2014 interview Neil Young did on the Howard Stern Radio Show. He discussed songwriting and also laid out some current environmental data and opinions that truly educated me.

I was extremely touched by the Foo Fighters: Sonic Highway HBO television series. Their Chicago episode. One of the best things I’ve ever seen on TV. The blend of old school, punk and blues musicians lensed in Dave Grohl’s celluloid roots homage really stuck a chord in my soul.

In America, you just don’t see Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, and Marshall Chess together very often in a TV program with Chicago bands like Naked Raygun and Verboten, along with Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick.

Dave’s enthusiasm and understanding of regionalism and the combining of multiple music genres reminds me of Mike Bloomfield, who was “Born in Chicago.” On the tribute aspect tip, it was akin to the concept of the 1969 Muddy Waters’ Fathers and Son live and studio double LP.

The closing group studio recording of “Something From Nothing,” developed during a session with Butch Vig, and then subsequently performed collectively on screen, was absolutely chilling.

The punk ethic I always thought existed was finally brought to fruition by Grohl and the longtime generosity of Steve Albini in this HBO broadcast. I eagerly await the Los Angeles segment. Message to Dave Grohl: The next time you or any member of your band eat at Brent’s Delicatessen in Northridge, the meal is definitely on me.

This past week I saw Rough Church do a real hot gig in East Hollywood. The deejay played the Flirtations’ “Nothing But a Heartache” before their set.

I also heard a preview of guitarist James William’s new Re-Licked album of re-recorded lesser-known Stooges’ tracks he co-wrote years ago with Iggy Pop and now cast with guest singers. Jello Biafra, Alison Mosshart (the Kills), Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) and a slew of other interesting vocalists.

© 2014 Henry Diltz Photography Archives; BobbyWomack 1985

Emotionally, from the music circuits, I miss speaking to the great Bobby Womack about soul music, Sam Cooke, record labels, food, and life. I am grateful that I was filmed in 2013 for the BBC-TV documentary that Matt O’Casey directed on B.W., Across 110th Street.

I just saw the new Doors Feast of Friends DVD and really miss my dear friend Ray Manzarek. In some small way I try and carry on his work and spiritual mission. I conducted the last interview with him via email for Guy Webster’s Big Shots.

My brother Kenny just showed our father a copy of the Guy book, and pointed to a photo of Mick Jagger on the back cover. “Who is that?” Dad replied, “One of the Rolling Stones.” Pretty fuckin’ good for age 92.  Nameste.

The “Live Uprising” DVD of Bob Marley is due in November. It’s emotional just knowing it will be commercially available. I saw the Wailers seven times.

What mistakes of the music business would you want to correct?

Events happen for a reason but I do feel I made a mistake taking a very close friend of 40 years to a high profile concert earlier this decade. I was given travel from a band member, full access, backstage, food, and choice seats. And then my pal’s now former wife huslted in, behind my back, abused my relationship even after I politely established the “rules” in advance. Her action consequently violated my world beyond belief.

Which of historical personalities would you like to meet?

The doctor who literally brought me into the world at Queen of Angels Hospital. I think being born at a Catholic hospital might be more important than I even realize. Maybe one of the reasons I really dig Catholic chicks. I would have liked to meet Thomas Edison.

What are the secrets for a good interview?

I am still learning to listen more and let the person tell a longer response. However, by always skipping around, even cutting in on their answers, I cover more territory in the limited time process. More often I obtain some things I would have missed. And therefore, myself and the reader might benefit from the information ‘cause I jammed in some additional questions in the interview.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

I’d be at Olympic Studios in London during 1968 viewing a Beggar’s Banquet Rolling Stones session, with Jimmy Miller producing the date.

Maybe sitting on a couch with Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg, watching Brian Jones tune an instrument. Then, I’d have a meal with Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull. Later in the night, going to a jazz club with Charlie Watts, but only after Bill Wyman gave me a couple Dolly Bird phone numbers.

Harvey Kubernik / Photo by S. Ti Muntarbhorn © 2014

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That I would have a paid weekly or monthly shift on a music radio station and select the records.

I was just invited to be a guest DJ and host an hour on the classic rock station The Sound 100.3 FM. It was on a Sunday night in Los Angeles at 6:00 pm. The promotions guy who booked the show told me their prime time slot has 1.4 million listeners.

My playlist was;

1. Stage Fright – The Band

2. Hey Bull Dog – The Beatles

3. Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers

4. 20th Century Fox – The Doors

5. So You Want to Be A Rock and Roll Star – The Byrds

6. Pleasant Valley Sunday – The Monkees

7. The Loner – Neil Young

8. Lively Up Yourself – Bob Marley and The Wailers

9. Any World (That I’m Welcome To) – Steely Dan

10. Prove It All Night – Bruce Springsteen

11. Along Come Mary – The Association

12. Take Me To The Pilot – Elton John

13. Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) – The Rolling Stones

14. Eleanor – The Turtles

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