When I was growing up in Greensburg in the late 60's, I regularly hit Greensburg News, the local newsstand, to buy a copy of the Village Voice. Why? Because of the "Scenes" feature authored by Howard Smith, a name shamefully forgotten in the annals of that era's now-revered cultural history (revered by many--my own views are mixed). Smith did a feature called "Scenes" that involved him interviewing some of the biggest movers and shakers in the culture and music, which particularly interested me. His interviews were of the moment and reflected the way things were at a given moment. And he didn't just do them for print. He hosted a night time show for the innovative New York City rock station WPLJ-FM, a pioneer of the "progressive rock" radio format that at the time was revolutionary.
Smith captured the states of mind of a lot of the political types of the era like Andy Warhol and Abbie Hoffman, but more importantly (at least for me), Pete Townshend, Arlo Guthrie, Sly Stone, John & Yoko in the wake of the Beatles' breakup, Clapton, Mick Jagger, Carole King, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and so on. Later, he and Sarah Kernochan won an Oscar for producing Marjoe, the 1972 documentary about former kid evangelist turned actor and producer Marjoe Gortner, long before the imfamous televangelist scandals of the 80's.
Like I said, Smith, now 76 and suffering from cancer and until now his cultural chronicles have been forgotten except by the hardcore. That's that's a shame, but it's about to change. Starting today "The Smith Tapes" will be downloadable on Amazon as mp3 files and on iTunes on November 27. This Vanity Fair article offers more info and a sample of the John-Yoko interview, talking about the final two Beatles albums and their breakup. The clip (even with Yoko inserting herself) gives an idea of how on top of things Smith was and why the rest of the material is worth hearing. The New York Times has a piece as well.
To raise money for "The Smith Tapes," a box set of the material, with a list of interviewees, there's this Kickstarter page. Note it's racking up some impressive pledges at this point.
From YouTube, this is a three-part Smith interview with the Doors' Jim Morrison, surprisingly mellow, from November, 1969. This isn't seasoned, mellowed and distorted by decades of revisionism, fading memories and BS; this was Morrison's frame of mine at the time. The other tapes reflect the same sort of mindset.
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