Friday, October 18, 2019

Let There Be Light, Momma!

—A Poem by Smith and Lady of Cleveland, OH
—Visuals by Smith


Standing in an old shack store
in Memphis

I waited while the black proprietor
sold a couple records
to an old black man

After he left
the guy said,
That was Rufus Thomas

You mean the guy that sang,
Walking the Dog?

We started talking about
soul music and I told him
one of my favorite songs was
Behave Yourself, by Booker T
and the MGs
Once I said, Behave Yourself
the proprietor's
whole attitude

he started talking to me

I told him,
I used to lie on the floor
in the dark
on the rug
my head under the speakers
in high school
in early ‘60s
playing it over and over

He pointed out back, said,
See that shack?

Booker T recorded Green Onions
there. They worked all night,
over and over, drinking, recording,
perfecting Behave Yourself

Come dawn,
drunk and tired,
they decided they needed a
and in 5 minutes,
threw together
Green Onions

(their biggest hit)


Early ‘70s
I was writing
concert reviews
for a Baltimore weekly

Went backstage to interview
Bill Haley of the Comets

The usher took me up
and said, Excuse me, Mr. Haley,
this man's here to interview you
for the paper

Haley looked up at me,
said, Go away, kid.
I'm counting my money.

And that was it.

And the sad part of this
I could've interviewed Little Richard instead,
whom I've never met,
instead of a used car salesman


Same newspaper,
I was at a radio station
to interview Alice Cooper

who was there with his opening act,
Flo & Eddy, who were
half of the Turtles, and had
also played on some
Frank Zappa albums

Radio station supplied the dope

we all got wonderfully stoned

Alice was rather a drag
as he insulted fans who called him up
on the phone

But Flo & Eddy, who also recorded as
Phosphorescent Leech and Eddy,
were warm, funny,
friendly, marvelous folk,

As I left the radio station
without my interview with Alice Cooper
(I was really good at not getting the interview)
a parking lot full of teenyboppers
started SCREAMing

and one little girl ran up to me
and said,
Are you somebody?

I had to say,
No, I'm nobody


I interviewed Tiny Tim for 45 minutes
same newspaper
Tim was broke, touring these
little tiny honkytonks

And I watched his act
as he went through all the normal stuff,
Tiptoe thru the Tulips and all the
vaudeville jokey stuff
and then he went into a
50-song medley
and sometimes a song would be from 1890,
sometimes it'd be Creedence Clearwater Revival,

went back after the show
and told him I was blown away
I thought he was a genius

and he was so hungry for
he actually took my tape recorder
out of my hand
and for 45 minutes,
he talked and sang into it

He did a Bob Dylan song
in Rudy Vallee's voice
and he did a Rudy Vallee song
in Bob Dylan's voice

He told me about being in
a party somewhere and he opened
a closet somewhere
and there was George Harrison
in a cloud of marijuana smoke

Told me how he was totally
ripped off by his managers
he was broke
they stole everything
and every now and then his wife,
Miss Vicky,
would try to get him to do something else

after the tape was up
the manager came in,
said, Mr. Tim, There's only about
6 people out there for the next show.
Do you want to cancel?

Said he didn't care if there was only one,
he was going to go on

And now for another bit of
one of my shame things,
he wrote his address
in my notebook, my journal
and made me promise to send him
the review, the interview,
which turned out to be a front-page piece
and I wrote a real good review
saying what a genius he was,

a totally honest, but good review
and I never mailed it to him

Man needed it
I promised it
I didn't deliver it
and it still bothers me a little bit

Shame never goes away


I got drunk with Paul Williams
but that doesn't really matter much,
we talked about hobbits

He wanted to play a hobbit
in the movies

He wrote a bunch of hit songs
for other people like perhaps
We've Only Just Begun for the Carpenters
and he'd had a couple hits himself
and he had a role in some movie
and he toured with his band,

He was funny,

He ordered up a box of
white wine,
tore it open,
and we started talking about hobbits.

Like I said,
I'm not real good at getting the interview.


Jack Dangers
from Meat Beat Manifesto has
actually been here
but that's a whole complicated story
it hasn't jelled

* * *

In fact I think 4 of 5 of
Meat Beat Manifesto has
been here—
some twice—

After the second time
I walked into Joe's Deli
and he said,
You're gonna be famous,

I said, I'm already famous,
just waiting for folk
to notice


I smoked liquid
synthetic hashish
with Alex Patterson
of the Orb

I met him backstage
at one of the Meat Beat

At one point the drugs
were wearing off,
I was tired,
I was sitting on the stairs
weary and leaned over
on my knees

And he walked back,
and patted my shoulder twice,
said, You'll be OK

The tour bus had a
videotape I'd made
of Mom's and my art

And Alex had seen it
and the second time I met him
I was in the car taking him
to the radio station

and before he got in,
the person said,
Smith's here
and Alex said in his
British accent,
Ooh, Smiff and his Mum


One final thing,
Alex sent me a postcard
saying he wanted me to do a collage
for the cover of his record

Wrote back,
said, I'd love to

Ain't heard since

but I understand

life is complicated

* * *

Jack Dangers also said
we'd work together someday

and maybe we will

* * *

At that time
I wasn't more interesting
than most of those people

I do respect
Rufus Thomas
Yes, that man had some cools

Oh yes ma'am
tonight we have
sex, drugs and

And the baby boomers
just gonna keep doing
what they always done

more badly


I've never wanted to be anybody
but me

But I would like to get stoned
with Willie Nelson
That's one of my dreams

That, and go into
outer space
be a member of the human race

I got mutant jive,
give me five,
Baby Lady

Oohh, yeah, oohhh, yeah
Let there be light, momma
let there be light
Give me 4 and a half, momma
Give me 4 and a half


Today’s LittleNip:

A plethora
(hot bath, black coffee, a toke)
of pleasure



Today Smith (Steven B. Smith) sends us his ode to his interview career, full of his usual bump and grind and look-backs into the past—rosy and not-so-rosy—with the help of his fine Lady. Thanks, Smith and Lady; you two kids keep ‘em coming! (And thanks for the pre-Halloween visions of yourself, Steven! Spooooky!)

Tonight, The Other Voice in Davis features Vincent Kobelt and Ann G. Walker plus open mic, 7:30pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Patwin Road in Davis. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

—Medusa, still bumpin' and grindin' with the best of ‘em!

Captain Smith 

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.