Sooner Or Later

You always knew when you were around my old rock’n’roll friend Tom Santo that sooner or later something bad was going to happen, and now he has gone and died on us.

I hadn’t seen him since our band split up in the early eighties, but I got a call from one of the other guys in the group last night. Tom had had a seizure, gone into a coma, come out of it, was recovering, then got some kind of infection and was gone by morning. I said I’d been thinking of Tom and wished I could have seen him, but I couldn’t track him down. Turns out he didn’t want anyone to track him down.

I met him when he joined the wedding band I was playing with in 1975. We were thrown together in a showbiz twist of fate: in order to mount a tour of Japan, he needed a band and we needed a singer. Playing hard rock for concert audiences in a foreign country seemed like a good idea to us, compared to what we were doing, but there was just one catch: We had to leave in five days. I would learn that with Tom, everything happened fast. He was always late, and always in hurry.

The promoter pulled strings to get us passports in two days instead of three weeks. We had a couple of days of frenzied rehearsals. I could tell that we were not ready musically, but Tom wasn’t fazed. I’m sure his mind wasn’t on such details. He was no doubt thinking of adoring crowds and cute Asian girls. Before any of us were fully aware of what we had agreed to, we were on an L-1011 bound for Tokyo.

That trip was a blur of liquor, limos and laughs. I’d like to say I’ll never forget it, but the fact is I don’t remember much about it. I do recall that Tom was clearly the star of the show and the center of attention from the start to the finish. He wasn’t the eye of the hurricane — he was the hurricane.

The next time I saw Tom was when he brought his new band into my studio in Hollywood. This was around 1978, I think. We were recording a lot of L.A. punk bands: X, The Alley Cats, Black Randy and the Metro Squad, The Weirdos, and “New Wave” was just starting to happen. Tom was oblivious to all that, and his band played good old fashioned straight ahead rock, written by Tom himself. We recorded six songs, and before that project was finished I had gone from engineer to band member. As with so much of my involvement with Tom, I still don’t know how that happened.

That band became The Rev, and played the whole L.A. punk/new wave scene: Madame Wong’s, Club 88, The Hong Kong Cafe. It was exactly like being rock stars, except we didn’t have a record deal, so we never got ripped off by a record company. But we worked hard, played our asses off and partied like crazy. Basically, wherever Tom was, there was a party, and it was crazy.

After a couple of years with no big breaks, The Rev disbanded. Once again, the collapse happened fast and I don’t really know the reasons. If I did, that story would have to wait for another post anyway.

I never saw Tom again.

After a few years I heard he was doing a cabaret show at The Dresden, but I couldn’t find the time to check it out. Over the years I asked old band members and friends if they’d seen him and how could I get in touch with him, but there was always something.

The last time I saw Tom we were in our thirties and he had more energy than any three teenagers. When I’m rockin’ and rollin’ on stage these days (yes, I still do), sometimes I get a glimpse of myself, maybe in the mirror behind the bar, maybe just in my mind, and I wonder what the hell I think I’m doing, and how long can this go on? The next time I think that, I’ll remember you, old friend, and I’ll answer the question as I’m sure you would have:

One more time!


I don’t have a picture to post, but I can see Tom in this recording. Maybe you will too.

   Click the blue button to hear Sooner or Later, by The Rev, featuring Tom Santo, circa 1981.

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Friday Night Random

Just a couple of random thoughts before I start my wild weekend.

I was getting a little tired of Tim Russert. He’s the guy who started the school of broadcast journalism known as “Gotcha.” He’d bring some lying scumbag politician on his show and read him a quote from a speech he made six years ago at the commencement ceremony of the Idaho Skinhead Academy or some such, and then ask “Do you regret making that statement?” Better yet, he’d play the video, and then we’d all get to watch Tim’s victim squirm and wriggle, trying to put some kind of acceptable spin on it. Really, it was a miracle that anybody ever went on Meet The Press.

But the technique was so compelling that everybody on the teevee eventually came around to thinking there was no reason to discuss actual issues with actual newsmakers when it was so much more fun and telegenic to just hoist them on their own petards and watch them sputter in the wind. What Tim was doing was taking advantage of politicos who had not yet figured out that the times, they had a’changed, and there was no hiding anymore. Stuff you said to a racist crowd in the deep South was gonna get played back in New Hampshire, and right before the election, too. Everything was on tape, and modern technology made it all available to the producers at NBC. The problem, in my mind, was that everyone has said something stupid in their lives, and Tim generally didn’t bother making any distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. He tortured them both equally, and he usually let both off the hook at the end.

Still, I admit I watched the show every chance I got, and I’m sad that Russert is gone. I mean, he milked the Democratic primary as hard as all the other pundits, trying to make it seem as if there was really any suspense to it, but when it was over (after the Indiana primary) he was the first to just come out and say it was over. I could tell he was crestfallen about it, too, not because he didn’t like the way it turned out, but because he was enjoying the ride and he didn’t want it to end.

I can’t even remember who the hosts of Meet The Press were before Tim Russert, and I can’t imagine the show without him.


The concept of habeas corpus is the basis for a little thing I like to call “the rule of law.” Yesterday the Supreme Court upheld our right to have a legal proceeding before a civilian court whenever any part of our government wants to put us in jail. They have to say why they want to lock us up, and they have to prove their case. They can’t just lock us up because… well, just because. Let me rephrase that: Without habeas corpus, we got nuthin’.

The Bush Administration has been doing that whole detention thing without charges, hearings or evidence for six years now, and yesterday the Court smacked them down for it. But, of course, negative guy that I am, all I can think about is that four Supreme Court justices voted against the preservation of this precious right, which has been a sacred, untouchable part of Anglo-Saxon law for at least 500 years. That’s four votes out of nine.

We are one vote away from becoming a police state.

The next president will likely make the appointment that could change the balance, either in favor of the Constitution, or against it. So if you’re thinking you’re going to vote for McCain because of “the way Hillary was treated,” or because “there’s no difference between the two parties,” or because “the country isn’t ready for a black president,” or for the perfectly logical reason that Barack Obama is a Muslim, you might be really surprised at the way things look in this country in a few years.

As always, my heart beats only for you. Have a great weekend!

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Alone Again, Or

Arthur Lee died last week. Thursday, to be exact.

Arthur Lee
Arthur Lee, 1945 – 2006

He died of leukemia in a hospital in Memphis, his hometown. In the 1960’s his band, Love, blazing for only two years, made music so powerful and compelling that even today many critics consider it the best ever. You’ll find their third album, Forever Changes, on many Top Ten lists.

After that release in 1967, Arthur started to waste his life and his abilities, and he kept it up for 35 years, including six in prison. I know a little bit about that kind of waste, and so I have an idea of how urgent it must have been for him to tour again, as he did starting in 2002, and to recapture the joy of playing and singing for people. I really, really wish he could have had more time, so he could have shone his light once more.

Arthur, do you remember cruising Pacific Coast Highway in the dark that summer of ’66? Me and my friends had all the windows rolled down on the Buick, and your record “7 and 7 Is” was playing on KRLA. The moon hung low, the waves pounded white on Huntington Beach, and anything was possible.

Goodbye Arthur. I’ll catch up with you soon.


Washington Post remembrance.

Wintermute’s post (The Daily Docket)

Alone Again, Or (Live performance video, 2003)

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Ken Lay, 1942 – 2006

Kenneth Lay
Wiped out the life savings of thousands of his own loyal employees.
Ripped off everyone who invested in his company.
Gouged millions of utility customers.
Lived like a sultan.
Built nothing.

Never took responsibility for his actions.

Try your double-talk at the pearly gates, asshole.

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Please don’t wake me. No, don’t shake me. Leave me where I am, I’m only sleeping.
John Lennon

Twenty-five years ago today in New York City,
a deranged and sad little man, whose name is of no importance,
shot and killed John Lennon, bringing to an end
a life of genius, joy and love,
and leaving millions bereaved. John was barely forty years old,
and we have no way of knowing what gifts he had left to give.
They may say he was a dreamer, but he’s not the only one.
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