Most music fans will recognize Kim Fowley’s name as the exploitive Svengali behind the Runaways; the all-female rock band that release four studio albums between 1975-1979. And perhaps best known for the lolita-single, Cherry Bomb from their debut. According to the band members, whose were intense years they spent together. Signed to a major record label, Mercury Records, and touring the globe. The Runaways never really achieved the breakthrough to fame and fortune which they had been promised. And there are those who would say that was true of everything Kim Fowley touched. He never had to mainstream success the music industry expected. Somehow, Fowley was always the guy standing on the outside of the party looking in at the beautiful people. Fowley was the ultimate outlier. I suppose it all depends on your point-of-view. Because long before he ever met the Runaways, Kim Fowley had secured a place for himself in music history. Writing, producing and performing a string of unique cult rock songs throughout three decades.
Born July 21, 1939 in Los Angeles, California, Fowley began a career in music at the tender age of 18. By his own account, he took a job as band manager for a local group, the Sleepwalkers and began “assisting” with music producer’s Phil Spector, Alan Freed and Berry Gordy. Eventually producing a single with the Renegades in 1959. An impressive achievement for an ambitious young man. Within the year he produced a number of singles in the Los Angeles area. Notably, recording the single “Alley Pop” with Gary Paxton for a band that never existed, the Hollywood Argyles. The track went on to reach the number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The music industry certainly seemed receptive to Fowley as a fresh, new talent and he continued to produce singles throughout the early sixties; including; Like, Long Hair for Paul Revere and the Raider and Papa-Onm-Mow-Mow for the Rivingtons. Eventually Fowley relocated to London, Engalnd to take advantage of the exploding music scene. Even writing a b-side single with Yusuf Islam (Cat Steven) and working with Richie Blackmore, Soft Machine and member of Them.
In 1965 Kim Fowley wrote and recorded his first song as a solo artist; “The Trip” becoming (perhaps) Fowley’s most unique and intersting contribution to music. A genuinely outstanding single, The Trip is fine early example of the experimental and psychedelic music that was becoming so popular. Incorporating distortion, reverb and guitar effects that attempt to evoke the altered consciousness of the true psychedelic experience. All produced safely in just 2 minutes; “Summertime’s here, kiddies, and it’s time to take a trip. If you feel so bad, if you feel so sad…” The song is actually much more strange then any psychedelic track I have ever heard. Providing the listener with a very unique (flying dogs anyone?) description of what hallucinogenic experiences would be coming their way. The song feels more like a fake come-on or exploitation then an actual endorsement of the drug experience. Which is exactly why the song is so brilliant and uniquely Fowley. Whatever The Trips actual intent, the song is a wonderful slice of trash-psych rock still sounds great today. Even earning a place on the expanded Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era compilation and, in a different versions, on the Pebbles album series, Volume 1 and 3. And finally, the song was feature in the 2008 Guy Richie’s film, Rocknrolla.
Impossible but True: The Kim Fowley Story is a unique listening experience that really shouldn’t miss. The CD on ACE Records pulls together 32(!) tracks that journey through forgotten and overlooked portion of Fowley’s amazing career in music. This is music for anyone who can appreciates the strange and brilliant vision of a unique talent. Great tracks like the Seeds’ “Fallin’ off the Edge of my Mind” and the Hellions’ “Dreaming of You” sharing space with all the obscurities, novelties and oddities that Kim Fowley helped to create. One additional point, if you are taken by Kim Fowley’s iconic career then check out Caroline Now! A tribute album dedicated to the songcraft of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Why the connection to our hero, Kim Fowley? Hidden away on the final track is Fowley’s rendition of Almost Summer from the band Celebration. A group front by none other then the Beach Boy’s own, Mike Love. With the original track being co-written by Brian Wilson and Al Jardine. Making Almost Summer an (Almost) Beach Boy’s reunion. Worth seeking out, if you are inclined to indulge such frivolities.