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Riff Raff 

Wednesday, Nov 25 1998
Well, Muni Drivers Are Already Wearing Polyester Mark O'Hara, the lead singer of local funk and disco cover band SuperBooty, announced his candidacy for mayor of San Francisco last week. O'Hara, who performs "Car Wash," "Jungle Boogie," "Super Freak," and other slabs of '70s nostalgia under the stage name of Skippy Tornado, plans to take a page from the playbook of Minnesota Gov.-elect Jesse "The Body" Ventura and run as a Reform Party candidate. Like former Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra's run for city mayordom in 1982, O'Hara's candidacy has its fair share of goof-ball aspects: He plans to launch his own Booty Party, and on the short-list of his demands is a request that a giant disco ball be placed on top of the City Hall dome.

We called O'Hara and asked him the important question: How would he fix Muni? "I would see what the total revenue is, and then see if all of it is going back into the system," he said. "My guess is that some or a lot of it is being redirected to other departments." O'Hara says he won't solicit campaign donations, and plans to gather the required signatures at SuperBooty shows. Campaign slogan? "A booty in every barn, a titty in every tent. Tornado in 2000," said O'Hara. Ahem. (M.A.)

Pegged Once again, Riff Raff brings you yet another clip-and-save photographic memory of essence, the local lowercased singer/songwriter whose press releases are rife with glowing phrases like "mindblowing," "stunning," "development deal," and "consistent draw." This week's photo reminds us that there's more to the acoustic guitar than just strings, a sound hole, a neck, and a plectrum; there's a head on the guitar as well, and tuning pegs too. And, as essence demonstrates here, it's the perfect place for the weary, beguiling minstrel to lean her forehead when it all gets to be too much. Speaking of too much, more next week. (M.A.)

Oh, Mama, Can This Really Be the End? Last week, word came out that Bill Graham Presents, which handles concerts at the Fillmore, Shoreline Amphitheater, Warfield, and a number of other Bay Area venues, will be switching to TicketMaster as its ticket vendor, ending its 25-year relationship with Concord-based BASS. The changeover takes place on Jan. 1, 2000, bringing BGP in line with its New York-based parent company SFX Entertainment, which bought BGP last year and struck the TicketMaster deal resulting in the changeover. However, BASS Vice President and General Manager Doug Levinson says the company wasn't dropped by BGP so much as it decided to bow out of the bidding. "SFX approached Advantix [BASS's Newport Beach-based parent company] some months ago," says Levinson, but the company dropped out due to concern about a high-stakes bidding war taking its toll on concertgoers. "There gets to be so much money on the table that the consumer will pay in the end through higher convenience fees." Levinson acknowledges that while the changeover hurts BASS in the Bay Area, the company's recent relationship with Advantix still allows it to compete nationally.

There's still the question of what impact the changeover may have on ticket buyers in the form of higher service fees. "I don't see anything changing in the immediate future, up or down," says Nicholas Clainos, co-president of BGP. "In the long run, there may be opportunities for a manifestation of lower service fees." Levinson disagrees about the possibility of the eminent TicketMaster era resulting in higher consumer costs. "In the short term? No," he says. "In the long term? Yes." (M.A.)

Folk You Rock critics aren't immune to criticism, of course, which is something rock-crit warhorse Greil Marcus has been learning firsthand throughout 1998. Earlier this year, the New York Times unceremoniously yanked a column given to the Berkeley-based author, and recently a backlash has set in regarding his 1997 book Invisible Republic, which took on Bob Dylan, the Band, The Basement Tapes, Appalachian banjo folkie Dock Boggs, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and, oh, just the entire history of the 20th century. The Wired-owned Web zine Suck recently awarded Marcus one of their "Evil Genius Grants," dubbing him "The Nutty Professor" and assailing him for "music writing that is hyperbolically personal, and cutely personal -- and somehow still meaningless."

The latest brick thrown through Marcus' window comes wrapped in the pages of the November issue of The Atlantic Monthly. In a piece titled "Corn Bread When I'm Hungry," New York Press contributor William Hogeland criticizes Marcus' commentaries on Boggs, which appeared in Invisible Republic, and in a similar form in the liner notes of Country Blues: Complete Early Recordings (1927-1929), a compilation of Boggs' early work released earlier this year on John Fahey's Revenant label. Hogeland, after calling Marcus' writing "opaque" and saying it "risks leaving false impressions about the style and significance of [Boggs'] recordings," claims that Marcus overstates the influence of black blues music on Boggs' banjo-playing style. Hogeland writes that for Marcus "to describe [Boggs' playing] as an improvement in melodic clarity over that of the white musicians Boggs had seen and then to associate that imagined improvement with black playing reflects a misunderstanding of an instrument crucial to the development of country and blues and thus of rock."

We asked Marcus for a response. Reached at his Berkeley home, Marcus said he hadn't read the piece, but when told of its authorship, he noted that "the New York Press has had nothing but vile things to say about me over the years." As for Hogeland's claims that Marcus' writing about Boggs is, well, wrong: "I never said anything about 'melodic clarity.' I was talking about emotional clarity. As far as associating his playing with black sources, Dock Boggs very clearly understood his style as an attempt to play blues patterns on the banjo." Marcus cited the works of Appalachian State University Professor Cecilia Conway, whom he called "the pre-eminent scholar of black banjo playing," as support for his statement.

"This is a disagreement," said Marcus, in a voice suggesting he's been through this sort of thing before. "He doesn't hear music the same way I do." (M.A.)

It's a Benefit About a year before his death in 1996, Oakland blues legend Brownie McGhee founded the Blues Is Truth Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to perpetuating blues music and launching community outreach programs in Oakland. On Monday, Nov. 30, the BIT Foundation will stage a benefit to celebrate what would have been McGhee's 83rd birthday. Scheduled performers include Roy Rogers & Norton Buffalo, Angela Strehli, Barbara Dane, and others. The show takes place at 6 p.m. at Eli's Mile High Club, 3629 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland. Tickets are $20; call (510) 653-1602 for details. (J.D.P.)

Oops Last week's item on the recent "Louie, Louie" lawsuit ("The Check -- and the Fragile Master Tape -- Is in the Mail") mistakenly attributed authorship of the song to the Kingsmen. "Louie, Louie" was written by Richard Berry. We apologize for the error. (M.A.)

Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Mark Athitakis (M.A.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), and Heather Wisner (H.W.). Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.


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