The Dave Clark Five

April 9th, 2014

The Dave Clark Five. Beginning upper left hand corner, going clockwise: Mike Smith, Rick Huxley, Denis Payton, Lenny Davidson. That's Dave Clark in the center.

I’m a huge Dave Clark Five fan. I have every one of their records and bought all the unreleased stuff when it debuted on i-tunes. I saw them perform live back in 1966 with an entire theater full of screaming teen girls, the only “screaming show” I ever attended. If you’re not from my generation, you might not realize that the three biggest groups during the first British invasion of the 1960s were The Beatles, the Dave Clark Five and the Rolling Stones — in that order. The Dave Clark Five hold the record for the most appearances on the Ed Sullivan show with 18. More than The Beatles; more than the Stones.

As a drummer myself, Dave Clark was a real icon and inspiration of mine. I was really looking forward to seeing the two hour special on the DC5 last night on PBS.

Boy, was I disappointed.

The show was one big puff piece for Dave. I found it repetitive (why the same songs over and over?), padded (the band’s home movies seemed to go on forever) and embarrassing. It didn’t help that Dave has not aged well, or that his enthusiasm during the stories he told was barely above comatose (this guy had acting lessons?).

It was great to see bits of interviews with the band’s incredibly talented lead singer and keyboard player Mike Smith — but why none of the other guys, especially Lenny Davidson, who’s still alive and who sang lead on a couple of their hits? Was the band really all right with Dave dissolving them? So much went unsaid. There was no depth whatsoever to the examination of the group.

Guests Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Ian McKellen, and other prominent gay icons — as well as a Judy Garland shout-out — made it seem like Dave was finally going to come out, which could have been very interesting (I first heard the rumor — from female fans — at the concert I saw way back in 1966)…but no, it was not to be.

It was interesting to hear what sounded like a demo/jam version of the rockin’ “Got Love If You Want it” (not the blues standard). It hinted at perhaps lots more unreleased stuff. It was a real surprise to see and hear them do “Georgia on My Mind” for the Queen (Mike was decent — no Bill Medley or Stevie Winwood, though — but the back-up vocals by Dave and Lenny had me cringing).

No mention or footage of Phil Spector (who was prominently featured in a DC5 TV special) or Bobby Graham (the great session drummer who secretly played for the DC5 and a number of other British invasion bands on some of their records), but that’s not surprising if the show was all about polishing Dave’s image. All of those favors called in for appearances on the show, with McKellen’s and Laurence Olivier‘s comments revealing lots between the lines, made me feel sorry for the show’s “guests”. The Tom Hanks induction speech (when they were belatedly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), though, remains one of the best I’ve ever heard and vividly captured the excitement of hearing and seeing the band. I hope there are lots of extras on the DVD/Blu-Ray (including an uninterrupted version of Tom’s speech) — but I’m not counting on it. It should at least include all of their song videos (which I have on a Japanese laser disc); the band was perhaps the earliest rock video pioneer.

The DC5 have pretty much been forgotten. Dave made some brilliant business moves throughout the band’s career but also made a few key mistakes. His owning the band’s masters kept him financially independent and, except for Ray Charles, unique in the pop business world. But by not leasing the DC5′s music to various media and waiting much too long to release their music on CD (Dave was holding out for an unrealistic payday), the DC5 got no airplay on the oldies stations nor public reminders of their greatness via film soundtracks. They eventually released a double-CD greatest hits collection through Disney’s Hollywood Records but, by then (1993), the band had pretty much left the public’s consciousness. The rest of their LP and single recordings (they waxed 18 LPs from 1964-1970!) remain unreleased on CD to this day, except as gray area semi-legit/semi-bootlegs in Germany and the Czech Republic.

My wife is two years older than me. She missed the DC5 and a lot of the other British Invasion groups. This show did not make her a convert. At the end I felt kinda sorry I put her through all two hours. Her conclusion was, “Wow. Dave’s got quite the ego, hasn’t he?”

The show seemed like a pathetically desperate cry for attention and historical recognition. Sadly, I guess that the band’s true assessment will have to wait until after Dave passes. With three band members already gone, though, I’m afraid we’ll always be missing key parts of the DC5 puzzle — most of which are held (and, I’m guessing, will probably never be released) by Dave.


March 28th, 2014

Hi, Monster Fans!

I hope to see all of you today, tomorrow or Sunday at the incredible Monsterpalooza show! I’ll have art and books and sketches galore for sale and will be happy to sign the Stout collectibles that you bring with you. Everybody I know in the make-up and effects biz will be there. I hope that you will be, too!

Details can be found on the Appearances section of this website.

The Outer Limits! Opening Tomorrow!

March 21st, 2014

Hi Outer Limits fans! I’ve been asked to participate in an event honoring the 50th anniversary of the sci-fi TV show The Outer Limits. I recently drew eight new pieces (that Zanti Misfit above is one of them) especially for this show. The opening is tomorrow! Here are the details:

Creature Features

2904 W. Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91506


Saturday, March 22, 2014
6:00 – 10:00 PM
The exhibit runs until April 12, 2014. I believe that all works will be for sale.

Besides me, participating artists include Steve Bissette, Tim Bradstreet, Norman Cabrera, Monte Christiansen, Ken Daly, Ricardo Delgado, Frank Dietz, John Fasano, Wolf Forrest, Garrett Immel, Phil Joyce, Bob Lizzaraga, Rebecca Lord, Gregory Manchess, Ken Mitchroney, Kemo (aka Ken Morgan), Rafael Navarro, Greg Nicotero, Mike Parks, Jeff Pittarelli, Eric October, Tim Polecat, Mike Soznowski, Woody Welch, Bernie Wrightson and more!

If you haven’t seen Taylor White‘s latest incarnation of Creature Features, you will be blown away!

See you there!

50 Great British Blues Recordings – Part 9

March 17th, 2014

41) Duster Bennett – Complete Blue Horizon Sessions (1968-1970/2007)
Duster Bennet is backed by Fleetwood Mac (if not the entire band, then by Peter Green) and by Top Topham, the Yardbirds’ first lead guitarist, for a lot of his Blue Horizon recordings on this 2-CD, 44 song set. I find a lot of his performances too frenetic or intense to enjoy, but you can’t miss with his oft-recorded classic “Jumping at Shadows”, plus “Times Like These”, “Shady Little Baby”, “I Wonder If You Know (How It Is)”, “Rock of Ages Cleft for Me”, “I Love My Baby”, the Kinks’ “Act Nice and Gentle” and “On Reconsideration”.

If you like the Blue Horizon set, then I also recommend Bright Lights Big City – The Collectors’ Duster Bennett (2002), another 2-CD set that spans most of Duster’s musical career. Besides a couple of the songs mentioned in the set above, “Lone Wolf Blues”, “I’ve Been Down So Long”, “Blue River Rising”, “Back in the Same Old Bag”, “Wasted Time” and a surprising bluesy version of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” are all standouts.

42) Paul Rodgers – Muddy Waters Blues – A Tribute to Muddy Waters (2002)
This all-Muddy Waters songs blues set sees former Free and Bad Company lead singer Paul Rodgers employing loads of blues guitar guest stars, such as Jeff Beck (on “Rollin’ Stone”, “Good Morning Little School Girl” and “I Just Want to Make Love to You”), Buddy Guy, Brian Setzer, Steve Miller, David Gilmour, Slash, Gary Moore and Brian May. Guest guitar stars aside, Paul’s great vocals contribute enormously to making this entire CD a real blues treasure.

A second CD featuring revamps of Paul’s Free and Bad Company hits is included as well.

43) Gordon Smith – Complete Blue Horizon Sessions (1968-1969/2008)
Why isn’t this unsung hero of the British blues better known? Is it because his recordings were all acoustic or his guitar playing too authentic? This 28-track set of Gordon Smith’s Blue Horzon recordings begins with Smith’s Long Overdue LP. It includes 12 previously unreleased tracks and 7 Smith originals, the rest of the material all fine covers of blues classics. Four songs feature backing by Fleetwood Mac. This is a great set by a vastly underrated British blues singer and player.

Smith is still at it: check out The Essential Gordon Smith (2009), a strong collection of 15 of his 1997–2008 blues recordings of classic blues numbers, including three self-penned songs. Gordon is in fine form; they’re all gems.

44) Steamhammer – Steamhammer (a.k.a Reflection) (1969/1992)
Unlike their later prog-influenced albums, Steamhammer’s first LP is a strong collection of original British blues, beginning with the brilliant opening combo of “Water/Junior’s Wailing” and followed by B.B. King’s “You’ll Never Know”, Eddie Boyd’s “24 Hours” and an outstanding array of blues originals. Guitarist Martin Pugh later joined the YardbirdsKeith Relf in the band Armageddon.

Blues from Steamhammer were scarce after their first LP, but fans searching for more good British blues will be rewarded by “Contemporary Chick Con Song” and “Another Traveling Tune” on MKII (1969/1992)…

…and “Riding on the L&N/Hold That Train” on Mountains (1970/1990).

45) Them – The Story of Them Featuring Van Morrison (1964-1966/1997)
This double-disc set collects everything recorded by the Irish group Them while Van Morrison was fronting this great blues and R&B group (1964-1967). The band was terrific, yet occasionally they ere replaced on record by session musicians (i.e., Jimmy Page played that great guitar on “Baby Please Don’t Go”). There’s an embarrassment of riches here, but the crème de la crème should include Big Joe Williams’ ”Baby Please Don’t Go”, Rosco Gordon’s “Just a Little Bit”, Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City” and “Baby What You Want Me To Do”, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins‘ “I Put a Spell On You”, T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday”, Slim Harpo’s “Don’t Start Crying Now“, John Lee Hooker’s “Don’t Look Back”, Fats Domino’s “Hello Josephine” and Jimmy Witherspoon’s “Things Getting’ Tougher Than Tough”.

Van has proved himself to be a superb blues songwriter on par with his heroes, as evidenced by the incredible “Mystic Eyes”, as well as “One Two Brown Eyes”, “All For Myself” and “Bring ‘em On In”. Although they’re not blues songs, let us not leave without mentioning Van’s garage band classic “Gloria” or his hit “Here Comes the Night”, both included on this set.

How appropriate to end this chapter with Van the Man on St. Patrick’s Day!

…Almost to The End…

50 Great British Blues Recordings – Part 8

March 10th, 2014

36) Duffy Power – Leapers and Sleepers (2004)
This 34 track 2-CD set covers blues soloist Duffy Powers’ career and Parlophone recordings from 1962-1967. Duffy’s aggressive “Shake Rattle and Roll” features wild organ by Graham Bond, Jack Bruce on bass, Ginger Baker on drums and a subdued John McLaughlin on guitar (McLaughlin toughens up on “Little Boy Blue”), as does “What’d I Say” and “I Got a Woman”. “Parchman Farm” (the Mose Allison song) and “Tired, Broke and Busted” have Power backed by The Paramounts (later Procol Harum); nice Robin Trower guitar on both. “I Don’t Care” sounds like very early Eric Clapton-era Yardbirds. “Money Honey” also features Duffy’s drummer of choice, Ginger Baker. The blues cut “I’m So Glad You’re Mine” and Southern prison song “Dollar Mamie” sport aggressive bass by Jack Bruce and drums by Ginger Baker mentor Phil Seaman. Duffy shines on Oscar Brown Jr.’s (by way of Nina Simone) “Rags and Old Iron”.

If you like this collection, then I also recommend Vampers and Champers, a 33-track (8 previously unreleased) 2-CD collection that includes Duffy’s entire Little Boy Blue LP and his fine acoustic covers of Muddy Waters’ “Louisiana Blues” and “I Want You to Love Me”, as well as a deeply heartfelt version of Nina Simone’s “Gin House Blues”. The melody of the Beatles’ “Come Together” bears a strong resemblance to Duffy’s verses for “City Women”.

Duffy Power passed away last month at age 72.

37) Pretty Things – The Pretty Things (1965/1998)
This 1998 expansion of The Pretty Things‘ first raw blues LP adds 6 single tracks from the same period. The early Pretties sound like a damn good high energy garage blues band (although I find the amateur harmonica plating intrusive and annoying) — a far cry from their latter day pop group incarnation on Led Zeppelin’s Swansong Records. I like “Unknown Blues”, Bo Diddley’s “Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut” (which sounds to me like The Standells), the rocking “Honey, I Need”, and their moody takes on Bo’s “She’s Fine, She’s Mine” and “Pretty Thing”. The two standout tracks, however, are their hits “Rosalyn” and “Don’t Bring Me Down”, both covered by David Bowie on Pin Ups.

38) The Rolling Stones – No. 2 (1964) (US variants: The Rolling Stones, Now! and 1965’s 12 x 5)
Great blues and R&B covers dominate The Rolling Stones’ second LP.

The Rolling Stones, Now!, the US version of No. 2 (there were two US versions, the other being 12 x 5) replaces Irma Thomas’ “Time Is On My Side”, ”Grown Up Wrong”, Amos Milburn’s (by way of Will Bradley) “Down the Road Apiece”, The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk”, Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and Dale Hawkins’ “Suzie Q” with ”Heart of Stone”, Bo Diddley’s “Mona (I Need You Baby)”, Barbara Lynn’s ”Oh Baby (We Got a Good Thing Goin’)”, Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster” and “Surprise, Surprise”.

12 x 5 substitutes Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around”, Jay McShann’s “Confessin’ the Blues”, “Empty Heart”, ”Good Times, Bad Times”, Bobby Womack’s ”It’s All Over Now”, “2120 South Michigan Avenue” “Congratulations” and Wilson Pickett’s ”If You Need Me” for Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”, The Coasters’ ”Down Home Girl”, Chuck Berry’s ”You Can’t Catch Me”, “”What a Shame”, “Down the Road Apiece”, “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, Otis Redding’s ”Pain in My Heart”, and “Off the Hook”.

For their debut LP, 1964’s The Rolling Stones (US version: England’s Newest Hit Makers), the Stones recorded a fine collection of blues and R&B standards. On the UK version you get Bo Diddley’s “Mona (I Need You Baby)” instead of Buddy Holly’s similar song on the US LP, “Not Fade Away”.

American Version

A great version of Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee” is on both the US and UK LPs.

39) Savoy Brown Blues Band – Shake Down (1967/2005)/Getting to the Point (1968/2005)
The Savoy Brown Blues Band‘s Shake Down is a gritty collection of blues standards. Their second LP, Getting to the Point, is dominated by band originals. In 2005 BGO released both of them as a 2-CD set. For me, Shake Down’s best tracks are Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Ain’t Superstitious”, Charles Brown’s “Black Night”, John Lee Hooker’s “It’s My Own Fault” and Bukka White’s “Shake ‘Em On Down”,

Getting to the Point has a decent, moody version of Muddy Waters’ “Honey Bee” as well as a blistering take on Muddy’s “You Need Love”, worth comparing to The Small Faces’ “You Need Loving” (from which Led Zeppelin lifted “Whole Lotta Love”). As stated above, unlike Shake Down, the rest of Getting to the Point is composed of band originals which, in my opinion, don’t come up to their classic blues cover versions. The band’s songwriting skills would soon grow, however.

40) Savoy Brown – The Savoy Brown Collection Featuring Kim Simmonds (1993)
This is a fantastic 2-CD set dominated by Savoy Brown’s great blues recordings and blues rock hits. My faves from this set are Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Ain’t Superstitious”, Bukka White’s “Shake ‘Em On Down”, their great self-penned hit “Train to Nowhere”, Muddy Waters’ “Louisiana Blues”, “Money Can’t Save Your Soul”, their solid hit “Tell Mama” (not the Etta James song), Koko Taylor’s “Wang Dang Doodle”, their full 9:10 version of “Hellbound Train” and the Vanda/Young (of The Easybeats) song “Shot in the Head”.

More Coming Soon, British Blues Fans…

50 Great British Blues Recordings – Part 7

March 7th, 2014

31) John Mayall with Eric Clapton – Blues Breakers (1966/2006)
A.k.a. “the Beano album”, this LP launched the “Clapton is God” graffiti all over London and was responsible in a huge way for the spread of the 1960s British blues boom. The 2006 Deluxe Edition 2-CD set has both the mono and stereo versions of the album, plus 19 bonus tracks from 1965-1966. Eric Clapton shines on Freddie King’s “Hideaway” and “Steppin’ Out”, and Robert Johnson’s “Ramblin’ On My Mind” (an early Clapton vocal). I also like the pop/blues number “I’m Your Witchdoctor”, a single A-side on the second disc of this set. Ignore John Mayall’s piano if you can and savor the tough, early guitar work of Clapton on “Bernard Jenkins”. A nice E. C. lead opens “They Call It Stormy Monday”. I’m ordinarily not a big fan of Mayall’s nasal vocals (I didn’t warm up to his singing until 1968’s Bare Wires); Clapton’s superb playing throughout both CDs is the reason to get this set.

33) Gary Moore – The Best of the Blues (2002)
The first disc of this 2-CD collection is 17 great tracks from five of Irish blueser and Peter Green devotee (Moore owns Green’s famous Gibson)  Gary Moore’s early 1990s LPs. The second disc has 14 tracks of unreleased concert material. Fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the fresh crunchiness of “Walking By Myself”, the fierce “Pretty Woman” and the mournful “Still Got the Blues”. “Story of the Blues” and the live version of “Midnight Blues” are haunting; Moore shreds on “All Your Love” and “Texas Strut” and connects with “I Need Your Love So Bad”, “Jumpin’ At Shadows” and “The Supernatural”.

The bonus live disc boasts four cuts with Albert Collins, two with Albert King, and one with B.B. King. Moore and Collins really mix it up on “Further Up the Road”.

34) Nazareth – Razamanaz (1973/2009)
Nazareth really hit their stride with their breakthrough third LP, a crackling collection of meaty blues rockers produced by Deep Purple’s Roger Glover. Stand-outs are “Razamanaz”, Woody Guthrie’s (by way of Ry Cooder) “Vigilante Man”, “Woke Up This Morning”, the Bo Diddley-ish “Night Woman” and “Bad Bad Boy”. The 2009 CD release is sweetened with 6 bonus tracks from that same time period. Lead singer Dan McCafferty‘s raspy vocals were made for the blues.

35) Christine Perfect – Complete Blue Horizon Sessions (2008)
This CD of 1969-1970 material is comprised of the entire Christine Perfect LP (minus “I’d Rather Go Blind”, which is on the Chicken Shack anthology), plus 5 previously unreleased bonus tracks. Original Yardbirds lead guitarist Top Topham plays lead on all the tracks except “Crazy ‘Bout You Baby”. The future Mrs. McVie (she married bass player John McVie before joining Fleetwood Mac) especially shines on “Crazy ‘Bout You Baby”, “I’m On My Way” and “And That’s Saying A Lot”.

More to Follow, of course….

Fine vs. Commercial Art & Consistency

February 27th, 2014

I just wrote this response to a gallery owner’s essay on the importance of being consistent as an artist (he posits that diversity creates unwanted confusion among art buyers). It’s an interesting subject, something I’ve been struggling with for years. I thought I’d share my thoughts on this — and ask for your own.

I read your essay with great interest, as I have a reputation of being one of the most diverse artists in the world (I chalk it up to insatiable curiosity and a short attention span). Being diverse is a double-edged sword, for sure. I’m never bored but it makes my work difficult to pigeonhole and/or recognize. Be consistent and your work will be more recognizable, making it easier to become “famous” — a crucial element when it comes to breaking through the glass ceiling of pricing limits. But being consistent also puts you in danger of becoming the “Flavor of the Month”, ending up with a short burst of popularity followed by being ignored and abandoned as soon as the next “Flavor of the Month” is discovered.

I began as an illustrator with a reputation for being able to perfectly duplicate any art style. Eventually, I developed a few styles I could claim as my own, though I still like to experiment and try new approaches to art. A sort of consistency developed as I found some styles much more comfortable to work in than others. While being more consistent than I was decades ago, I still produce work that’s all over the map stylistically, from comic book-style art to well-researched oil paintings of prehistoric life for natural history museums to ink and watercolor portraits of blues musicians — and everything in between if I so feel moved.

For the past two decades I have developed a healthy fine arts career, while still taking the occasional commercial commission. I differentiate between illustration and fine art this way: With illustration I do my absolute best work in the time allotted to me. With fine art, I do my absolute best work no matter how long it takes. With illustration, the subject matter is often dictated by the client. With fine art, I do whatever the hell I want. The lines occasionally blur, as I often take a fine art approach to my commercial art (though rarely the opposite).

I have many fine art painter friends who complain that their galleries dictate their subject matter (“Your barn paintings sell; paint some more of those for me”). My response is that if they follow that advice, then they are commercial artists — not fine artists. I’ve found there’s a big difference, though, in openly being a commercial artist as opposed to being a commercial artist disguised as a fine artist. The commercial art world is much more honest. You do the job, you get paid. In the fine arts world, everything is on spec. You do the barn paintings your gallery requested, then hope they sell — without any guarantees you’ll ever get paid for your time and work.

I went into fine art bass-ackwards. Instead of spending years represented by a gallery before finally achieving a one man show at a museum, I had over a dozen one man shows at museums while I searched for a good gallery to represent my work. That search for a good, honest gallery took decades. Many galleries wanted my work but I didn’t want them. They either had a bad reputation, wanted too big a cut (some galleries now demand 60%!) or wanted to dictate what I would paint, down to style and subject matter. I quickly discovered that ANYONE can open up a gallery. There is no degree necessary, no license (other than a business license) necessary and, in many cases, no apparent knowledge of art seemed to be necessary. Several of my colleagues have been cheated by unscrupulous gallery owners. Many galleries suddenly close, with the gallery artists’ paintings going to the gallery’s creditors if the artists didn’t keep a careful paper trail of ownership and consignment.

Happy Ending: One facet of my array of styles (what I call my “storybook” or “fairy tale” style) is now represented by a great gallery, American Legacy Fine Arts (we courted each other for years prior to our signing). I’m prolific, so I have no problem supplying the gallery with a flow of work in that style while still experimenting with many other graphic and creative approaches to art (i.e., I recently worked designing a major motion picture, I just drew a cartoon T. Rex atop a stylized chopper for a museum exhibition on motorcycles in art, followed by a CD cover for a famous pop star from the 1970s, followed by a ten plate folio of images of the characters from Peter Pan for my gallery).

Thanks again for the essay and the chance to respond and participate in the discussion.

I offer up my experiences here to show to my comrades in diversity that there is a way to make both worlds work for you.

Dino Gallery LIVE!

January 27th, 2014

Hi friends, fans and family! This Saturday, come see me at Taylor White‘s new Creature Features in Burbank, the coolest monster shop in America! We;re having a huge celebration of All Things Dinosaur! Be there or be square(ly on the wrong side of the K/T boundary!

Great New Book on Rhino Records, Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Movies!

January 18th, 2014

I just read a terrific book, The Rhino Records Story – Revenge of the Music Nerds by Harold Bronson (full disclaimer: I designed the original Rocky Rhino logo character for Rhino Records and several of their record covers back in the day). If you have any interest whatsoever in the music business, this is the book for you. It’s the fascinating tale of how two passionate music lovers (Bronson and Richard Foos) who ran a quirky record store started their own record label with practically nothing but humor and imagination and quickly built it into the finest reissue label in the world. Besides reissues, they also ended up releasing a number one hit. The Rhino “brand” became so strong and trusted that they became one of those extremely rare record companies whose product often sold just because Rhino’s name was on it (“Not since Motown has a music label forged a meaningful brand identity” – Brandweek magazine).

The Rhino story also functions as a quite contemporary rise-and-fall allegory. Bronson goes into delicious detail after detail about just what it takes to be successful in the mercurial music world. Partly, it was that very attention to detail that helped make Rhino so successful. It’s sad and more than a little ironic that the Warner Music Group eventually acquired Rhino and then killed it off — despite the fact that Rhino was the most profitable branch of their record company. Reading this book gives you an insider’s front row seat as to how this could (and did) happen.

The book also gives the reader an up-close-and-personal chronicle of the many huge changes that swept over the music business in the past few decades and why (the main reason being that the people now in charge of the music business don’t really give a damn about music).

Because of the author’s passion for The Turtles, The Knack and The Monkees and those bands’ subsequent relationships with Rhino, there is a chapter on each band. There is a riveting chapter on Tommy James and James’ involvement with a mob-connected record company head that brought back scary memories of some of my own work in the entertainment business.

Harold’s honesty is refreshing. He doesn’t hesitate to point out who screwed up and how (even when it’s himself; he predicted no one would want to watch The Sopranos), as well as who came through like a champ and went out of their way to be thoughtful and helpful in this tough business.

Rhino also branched out and produced films (and 14 books as well). Budding filmmakers will love learning the ins and outs of making Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Daydream Believers: The Monkees’ Story and Why Do Fools Fall in Love.

Valentine’s Day is less than a month away. If you know someone who is passionate about music or film and loves knowing the insider behind-the-scenes stories of these worlds, then pick up this fascinating book immediately. You can get it here:

Satan’s Portrait

January 15th, 2014

Every word of what you are about to read is true.

In 1971 I was in my last year of art school and living in Hollywood. I regularly picked up The Los Angeles Free Press, an informative free weekly hippy newspaper. The Freep always had a variety of ads in their back pages. One ad seized my attention, as the advertiser was looking for an artist for a job that involved the occult, witchcraft and other dark or supernatural subject matter. Perfect! I had been painting the covers and creating interior illustrations for the horror pulp magazine Coven 13 for the past couple of years. I loved monster and horror movies as well, so this job seemed like it could be right up my proverbial dark alley. I called the phone number listed in the ad and made an appointment to show my portfolio the following Friday night.

When the evening arrived, I drove to the nearby address on Orange Avenue in Hollywood. The apartment I was seeking was on the second floor. I double-checked the address and apartment number, then knocked on the door.

The door creaked open to reveal a medium sized bald man. He had crinkly eyes and a slightly mischievous grin. I identified myself, although I’m sure the bulging portfolio under my arm told him exactly who I was. He greeted me in return.

“I’m Mr. X (I have forgotten his real name). Come in, come in!”

He handed me his business card (I recently ran across his card about a month ago — then immediately lost it again. Sorry).

I stepped over the threshold and WHAM! It suddenly felt as if I had smoked an entire gram of high quality hashish. I was stoned out of my gourd, totally blitzed.

My host beckoned me to sit down on the sofa. I did, while attempting with every fiber of my being to hold it together. After all, this was a job interview!

The man looked through my portfolio. I tried to clear my head but couldn’t. I noticed other people moving throughout the room, men and women, all around his age (he seemed to be in his fifties or sixties but then, I was twenty, so everyone over thirty looked like they were in their sixties to me). They didn’t appear to be stoned at all. I noticed there were black candles on the mantle as thick as my arm. Between them was a reproduction of an old engraving that I had seen before in one of my reference books on witchcraft. It was a full-length portrait of Satan as a goat.

Satisfied I could do the job, my host refocused on me. He explained that Anton Szandor LaVey (1930–1997), whom I knew to be the head of the Church of Satan (based in San Francisco) had just made him the leader of the new Los Angeles branch of the Church of Satan. His ambition was to spread Satanism throughout southern California. He then proceeded to explain the church’s philosophy. To my heavily blasted brain, Satanism all seemed to boil down to being exactly like Christianity ––– but with more sex.

What the church needed from me was a nice, large painted portrait of Our Lord and Master Satan. He wanted Satan’s goat head inside a pentagram (an upside down star. The points of the star hold the goat’s horns and ears; the bottom point is the goat’s beard). He asked if I could complete it in two weeks. I said I could. We agreed upon a price. I promised to return on Friday two weeks later at the same place and time.

I struggled to my feet, shook hands with him and approached the door. As soon as I stepped outside, WHAM! My head instantly became clear again. I was no longer high, not even slightly.

I drove back home.

The painting didn’t take very long, even though I added elements beyond the simple job description. I always like to give my clients more than they’re expecting. Part of that comes from really doing my homework. I heavily researched previous portraits of Satan as well as Satanic pentagrams. I discovered they often included Hebraic letters as part of the design, so I included those letters. I didn’t make the goat just a goat; I added some humanity to his leering face.

I finished well before my deadline and I was pleased with the results (I’d do it differently now, of course. I like to think that with over forty more years of painting under my belt that I’ve become a better artist).

Friday rolled around. I arrived right on time, re-consulting the address on the same piece of paper I had taken with me two weeks ago. I knocked on the door, portrait of Satan under my arm.

The door opened — but this time it was a good-looking young man in his mid-to-late twenties.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m here to see Mr. X. I’ve finished his portrait.”

“There’s no one here by that name.”

“Did he step out?”

“No. What I mean is, there has never been anyone here by that name. At least not in the last three years since my wife and I have lived here.”

“Wait a minute. I was here three weeks ago. This is your address, right?”

He looked at my scrap of paper.

“Yes; that’s our address.”

“Well, two weeks ago I was commissioned to paint a portrait of Satan and deliver it here tonight.”

The young man looked back into his apartment and shouted.

“Honey, do you know anything about a portrait of Satan?”

As he was turned away, I looked inside the apartment. His wife was an attractive young blonde. In front of her was the same sofa on which I had sat. On the wall opposite the sofa was the same mantle from two weeks ago. The mantle no longer had the black candles, however, nor the old engraving of Satan on the wall above it.

“No, dear ––– nothing.”

He turned back to me.


With nothing more I could do or say I returned back home to my Beachwood Drive apartment in the foothills of Hollywood with my unpaid-for portrait.

To this day, I have no explanation for what happened. How did they instantly make me feel so heavily stoned? How did I instantly lose that sensation when I stepped out of the apartment? What happened to Mr. X. and the Los Angeles Church of Satan? Was the young couple claiming no knowledge of the church lying to me? Were they actors, hired by the church for some kind of cover-up? Had the head of the church run into some kind of trouble?

I guess I’ll never know.

I thought I had sold the portrait to my friend Terry Stroud, co-owner back then of the American Comic Book Company. I vaguely recall him buying it because he liked the story so much. When I contacted him, though, Terry told me that he never purchased it and didn’t have it. So, I never knew what had happened to it.

I had to vacate my studio about a year ago when the building was sold. In the process of moving I found all kinds of things I had forgotten I had. One of them was my portrait of Satan. I thought posting it here would make a fitting end to this story.