Kim Fowley—
Love Is Alive And Well

Released 1967 on Tower
The Seth Man, August 2000ce
I believe this to be Kim Fowley’s first full-length album ever (although it was an extremely short ten-track-anything-but-long-player that caught Fowley in full L.A. ‘flower power’ mode...mere months before his switch to ‘Canyon People’ culture.) But Fowley was a man on the scene and already used to fully embracing all things new in the swirling musical trends, promptly adapting them to his own mysteriously teenage agenda. By one listen -- no, look -- of this record, you’d think he invented ‘flower power’ single-handedly. There he is, grimly staring directly into the camera on the front cover, stuffed into a Spector-ish velvet jacket with his hands pressed together in prayer around a flower as flower children cavort in the background in the late evening summer sun. And almost all the titles have the words ‘love’ or flower’ in the title, to prove how sincere he is about the whole thing. Is Kim Fowley sincere on this record? Is he ever? As usual, there’s enough ammunition on both ends of the scale to neither tip it either for or against, and besides, who cares. Because even if you don’t buy Fowley’s gambit for one single minute, you got to admit that it took unfeasibly big balls to foist this platter upon the public.

I suppose it’s not beyond the realm of reasonable doubt to assume that Fowley’s previous songwriting connections with young L.A. record producer Mike Curb landed him this one-off record deal with Tower Records. But the majority of the input on this record--producing, arranging and co-songwriting—is not from Fowley, who just sings and narrates, but from his teenage chauffeur and apprentice, Michael Lloyd (Lloyd later fell in with Curb during his reign at MGM, producing many a record for The Osmonds, among others. But enough with the twisted tendrils of the Los Angeles record biz in the sixties...)

“Love Is Alive And Well” does have many ludicrously funny moments, like in the chutzpah to record a song called “Me” with a co-written songwriting credit, no less! Or to even release a track called “Super Flower.” Especially when it has no music, no singing, but only Fowley interviewing a group of Sunset Strip teenyboppers with questions like: ‘Why do you love Kim Fowley?’ or ‘You, flower child; what’s your opinion?’ It would be magnanimous if it wasn’t such an obvious set up, with ‘...he’s beautiful, kind, considerate…generous…’ or ‘wonderful, marvelous’ the only answers! But the album is Kim’s deck, and as usual, it’s loaded to the gills, and so the rest of the world and its rules will have to wait another day.

And if there’s ever anyone influenced by the old saying “Amateurs borrow, professionals steal” it’s Kim Fowley (PS: I have absolutely no problems with this behaviour -- and you shouldn’t, too -- as long as it doesn’t head into derivative limpsville, OK?) “See How The Other Half Love” manages to shanghai the Beatles’ “She Said, She Said” guitar riff, while “Heatwave” is oddly woven into Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” on “Flower City,” but it’s a really shook up punker, so who cares who he’s ripping off if it’s done with this amount of passion and (dare) devil may care attitude, it’s no crime. And if Fowley had the above saying tattooed on his chest then his other one on his ass would read ‘If you got it, FLAUNT IT!’ because he does in a really big way by ripping off The Seeds, who spent a good third of their time in the studio re-writing “Pushing Too Hard” or “Mr. Farmer”! This man will stop at nothing: ripping off a group that ripped themselves off blind!!! But the track he creatively stakes Sky’s domain as his own is the absolute best song on the album, “Reincarnation”. Remember it, as it’s one of Fowley’s best ever. Organ and tambourine open, then a “Paperback Writer” punctuating guitar braaang, and Fowley’s off, Sky Saxon-ing it up to the hilt. And the lyrics are incredible, detailing what the afterlife has in store for him:

“I’ll be back
As a brown paper sack,
A wretched guitar
Or a Chinese car...”

Or perhaps

“I’ll reappear
As a reindeer
Or a tin can full of
Ice cold beer...”

Why this never appeared on a garage punk compilation is puzzling: it’s snot-snot-snotty, barely coherent and has that kinetic teenage Vox-Continental a-go-go rhythm that many tried for and only glimpsed for a moment. As for Fowley, he caught it barehanded and wrestled it to the studio floor in one take. “Reincarnation” is well worth the price of admission, and has recently surfaced on Rev-Ola’s “Mondo Hollywood: Kim Fowley’s Jukebox” compilation.

I’m sure “Love Is Alive And Well” was cut within a week’s time as Fowley was known for his economy in the studio -- contrasted by the self-penned liner notes that take up a good portion of the back sleeve:

”Love is alive an’ well. Our return to the innocence of childhood is the only flash of beauty and light upon the cropless field of life on which many of us may live.”

You see what I mean with that earlier ‘sincerity’ thing? It’s impossible to sum up Kim Fowley. But I’ll try: he’s a rock’n’roll enig-maniac like Iggy Pop meets Guy Stevens on the corner of Z-Man Barzell and Phil Spector who worked with The Soft Machine and appeared onstage at the Roundhouse in 1972 during a Deviants reunion gig singing “Pappa Ooo Mow Mow.”