Sly Stone Lives! …. and other Sunday musings…

Yesterday, I witnessed some musical history.

Sly Stone in San Jose, CA 2007 - photo by Eric Predoehl

Sly Stone has reunited himself, and performed yesterday in San Jose, California. For those that love the music of Sly and the Family Stone, it was the show we’ve been waiting for. The elusive, ever-secretive musical icom emerged from the shadows of his mysterious hideaways to play music in public once again. While Sly may not have the on-stage magnetism he demonstrated during his prime of popularity, he actually showed up to perform, which is a great step in the right direction. Having heard so many stories about his mental capabilities being diminished by many years of drug abuse, and the fact that he hadn’t really been seen in public for many years, I really didn’t expect him to be at the top of his game.

He performed for approximately 15 minutes, singing on four songs. When he came on stage, he wore a white hooded jacket, baggy jeans, dark sunglasses and a baseball cap. His body language spoke “Quasimodo,” hunched over like a man with a heavy weight carried on his shoulders.

The first song he sang was “If You Want Me to Stay,” which was a wonderful way to reaquaint him back into the public eye. After that, it was “Sing A Simple Song,” which provided Sly an opportunity to sing harmonies with his sisters. The next song I didn’t recognize. For all I know, it could have been a new one. Then, he sang “I Want to Take You Higher,” slithering off the stage before the song ended. After that, he returned to the stage to complain that the police wouldn’t allow him to perform any longer. My friend Phil Anderson of Kaos2000, provided some insight on what happened backstage:

When he walked off the first time, I went backstage and asked the cops if they were shutting down the show. One cop laughed and said, “Hell no. We were kind of hoping he could actually finish a set. I’d like to see him. We told him he had half an hour to play still.” Then as we both watched Sly backstage in front of me, being dragged by his crew back up onstage, the cop asked, “Does he look like he’s in a shape to finish a set? Hell no. So of course the cops are always the blame. That’s fine. We’ll take it. HA!” Then Sly announced the BS line about being stopped by the cops. It was totally not true.

As far as I’m concerned, the biggest fault of this concert had nothing to do with Sly Stone, but more to do with the way the organizers put this whole event together. The show ran consistently late, and I got the distinct feeling that there were no sound checks prior to the show itself. The Average White Band was scheduled to perform at 4:30 pm, but didn’t actually take the stage until 6:30 pm. By the time the Family Stone took the stage, it was after 8:00 pm, which was when the show was scheduled to be finished. There was also a big screen video system that showcased a lot of out-of-focus camera work, which was consistently blocked whenever a tall guy stood in front of the soundboard, as nobody thought about giving the camera operators a riser to stand on. People were not allowed to bring their own bottled water, and were forced to buy over-priced food and beverages, which wasn’t very considerate for my friends with diabetes. The V.I.P. section was a bit of a joke, as nobody stopped any of the general admission folks from sitting in the higher priced “A section.” Being someone that didn’t actually buy an “A ticket,” I actually liked that, but I just wish I would have known about that policy ahead of time.

That being said, I’m glad this particular promoter created this event, as I don’t know how many companies would take a chance by booking Sly Stone, who’s got a controversial reputation for not showing up. I know it’s a massive challenge for Sly Stone to step back into the public eye after all the things that have happened to him, and all the various articles written about his career. Only Sly Stone knows what it’s like to be Sly Stone, and the rest of us can only guess about what’s going on in his head.

I remember seeing Brian Wilson during the early part of his solo career in the 90’s, and it felt like he was a shadow of his former self. His voice was shot, his on-stage mannerisms were awkward, and sometimes it felt painful to hear him attempt to sing the songs he once made famous. Years later, I saw Brian Wilson during the SMILE tour, and the difference couldn’t have been more dramatic. Brian was confident, his band was solid, and as far as I was concerned, his performance transcended anything he ever recorded with the Beach Boys.

I don’t know if Sly Stone is capable of returning to the musical greatness he once demonstrated when he was a young man, but I’m just glad he’s back. Welcome back, Sly… we missed you!

Some of you may ask … what connection, if any, does Sly Stone have to the LOUIE LOUIE universe? OK, here’s the only thing I can think of:

In 1954, Richard Berry (author of LOUIE LOUIE) sang uncredited with The Robins for a song called “Riot in Cell Block #9,” which has the lyrical phrase “there’s a riot going on…”

In 1971, Sly & the Family Stone released an album entitled “There’s a Riot Goin’ On.”

Of course, anyone reading this blog knows about the historic Fats Domino riot in San Jose that occurred on July 7, 1956, exactly 51 years before the Sly Stone show. As I mentioned, Richard Berry actually performed at that show, so I wonder if he did “Riot in Cell Block #9?” That would be a hoot…..

For those that want to read more about Sly Stone, I recommend the recent Vanity Fair article and the San Jose Mercury News review of yesterday’s show.

This morning, as I browse the various news articles of the day, I see that there’s new revelations about the death of Jim Morrison, singer of The Doors. If the story written by Sam Bernett is correct, then Morrison died on a toilet in a nightclub of a heroin overdose, and not of a heart attack in a Paris bathtub.

Today, I’m somewhat frustrated over the problems I’m having with two of my big LaCie hard drives that I’m using to edit my LOUIE documentary. Neither one of them is responding to my utility repair tools, and I’m hoping I didn’t lose many hours of irreplaceable footage. OUCH!

BONUS WORDS added a few hours later:

As I worked with my hard drives tonight, I was able to bring the most critical hard drive- the 2TB beast back to life. The other one still some serious attention. Perhaps the internal power supply on the casing has been fried, which explain things. I’m not out of the clear yet, but hopefully I’ll be able to recover these crucial media files without spending a big chunk of money.

Thinking about this Sly Stone event, I was frustrated by other aspects of the event itself. Whoever was running the sound system had no qualms about excessive volume. Even between the live music acts, the sound was extremely loud, and I had to YELL JUST TO TALK TO MY FRIENDS!

To make matters worse, there were no ear plugs for anybody at the First Aid booth.

Also, there was also no beer sold at this event, which was kind of a bummer…..

Is there any wonder why more people are staying home these days?

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