Ian Whitcomb is a highly respected performer, composer, and music historian. You can find all of his CD's, DVD's, Books, and Songbooks by clicking here.

 
You can find Ian's main website at
ianwhitcomb.com
 

Letter from Lotusland

December 2016

   

        2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of the pop comedy song “Where did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday On Saturday Night?” Al Jolson had the original hit but I recorded my ukulele-heavy version in 1966; I made 101 in the Billboard chart.

       I had discovered the song on an LP I’d bought on the strength of the enticing cover in Seattle in the summer of 1964. Gradually I had been drawn into the country of vintage American pop; I was putting such songs into my act   at the 92 Yesler coffee house in Pioneer Square where I was currently appearing.

        Singing and playing jaunty ragtime piano on the LP was Max Morath; I was determined to learn his act and in my own peculiar way I did. My fateful journey away from rock and back into the past was laid. I wish I had kept a detailed diary during this period so that I could consult it and be back in the feelings and odd doings of that time. To actually be back in times past. Now I have forgotten most of them—but sometimes when reading the diary I have kept since 1972 I find myself enveloped in the exact moment in all its glory and ghastliness and I am shrouded in a magical melancholy.

For this Letter I decide to arbitrarily pull out one of the diary volumes I keep stored higgledy-piggledy in a cupboard in the back bedroom. They’re copies; the originals are, thankfully, preserved in a perfect climate deep in the Huntington Library in their manuscript department. I pulled out a volume on the top of one heap. It’s 1992. What was I up to then, if anything? Will it time -travel me back to the past with all its dos and don’ts, thrills and regrets? Let’s see…

       I had moved into our present house in Altadena in 1979; much of the ups and downs of my life there in the 1980s have been described in my book Resident Alien”. I tried to get as near to the truth as possible without being boring. However, one of my friends was identified by his new wife while they were relaxing in their wedding bed. “Why you’re no more than a dirty rotter,” she said. Next morning, while I was shaving, he rang and read me his riot act. He would never speak to me again. Actually a few years later he revealed himself to be a real life crook and fled to England his home country.

       It’s hard to find an upbeat entry in my diary for the end of 1992. I was hosting “The Ian Whitcomb Show’ on KPCC (National Public Radio) four nights a week, a well as finishing a self-financed CD being made in a garage studio run by a musical friend of mine. He had great faith in synthesizers so that my recordings started to sound rather artificial.

       At any rate, here is a typical 1992 December day:

       “We are pretending this weekend that we are away on holiday. I’m not supposed to be making any business calls—but I am. Walked Inspector to the post office (Inspector was the old dog we’d inherited from the late Rudy Vallee’s widow- he came to us via film director and notorious character Kenneth Anger, arriving with his diet of hot dogs and one of the late crooner’s megaphones; within weeks, due to my neglect, the dog was hit by a van, fortunately outside a vet’s office, Dr Van Der Hoof). Inspector was upset that the vet’s was closed. For some reason he loves the place that cut him open.

       Later I paid some bills, sitting at this desk where I feel at my safest. Also, I was gloomy, remembering weekend summers in the past in England when I’d been out ocean sailing and examining the crests dancing on the merry waves inviting me to nestle inside them; or exploring ruined castle keeps; or lying in the boat on the lake getting my first kiss as the gramophone played Pat Boone’s “Love Letters In the Sand”

        Around 6pm we journeyed far to Pacific Palisades for dinner at the home of my record distributor, Thomas Arambasin, and his wife. Spanking new development, town houses with freshly planted palms, all darkened by threatening mountains. Up lots of steps, several floors built onto the side of a hill, studded with chinesey ornaments and Buddhist statues. Dining room at very top floor. Regina rather nervous at this point. I was dying for a drink.

       Thomas in billowing black silk clothes. His wife very friendly.

        Lots of rich red wine. Thomas has lived all over the world, mostly “knocking about in Spain, you know what I mean”. Their guest was a talkative fellow in his late 50s called Ramon, a Serbian born on the Orient Express. Didn’t exactly care for the look of the man. He owns racing cars and hires driving teams. Loves guns—“for shooting people”. A horrid rasping voice. Lives in West Hollywood surrounded by gays but protected by “diesel dikes”. Said gays aren’t interested in him mainly because he has a “flat bottom”. Talk drifted into fine wines and Monte Cristo cigars. Finally the wife served dinner—more than acceptable: hors d’oeuvre of salami and olives; ratatoille, lamb, carrots, endives, roast potatoes, red wine. Then cheeses, followed by raspberries and cream.

       Fell into bed, full. Nightmare that my old friend Christian Roberts had become a huge star as Spiderman. Lay awake and started getting into a bad area. All I seem to be concerned with is myself—my looks, my records—and I‘m not even a public figure.

Thought about the 30th anniversary of Daddy’s death. So hard to remember him.  Tried to put myself inside his soul. How did he react to life? Did he live for us? And Mummy—what about her?

And Regina—what’s it like to see life from her angle? I must start to live for others. What was it like before I was born? Are we all from the same intelligence source? I don’t want to visit there if it means meeting evil people.

       From these turgid waters I steered myself into a calm inlet;

      Where would I go or breakfast? Would it be healthy pickled herring and pumpernickel or delicious plump pork sausages slathered with Dijon mustard, poached eggs and thick-buttered white toast?”


Ian Whitcomb is a highly respected performer, composer, and music historian. You can find all of his CD's, DVD's, Books, and Songbooks by clicking here.

 
You can find Ian's main website at ianwhitcomb.com