I'm trying to remember the first time Kim Fowley came up on my conscious periphery. He, of course, was up on my subconscious periphery from conception onward, as he was for anybody born from the 1960's to now. His pale, long fingers and electric brain contributed to works from artists as diverse as Helen Reddy, his proteges The Runaways, Kiss, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper and Warren Zevon, just to name a tiny handful out of hundreds. So, the likelihood of your primordial brain being touched and infected by something Kim Fowley had a hand in is incredibly strong.
But I think he must have popped up on my conscious periphery with my friend Scott. We had connected via a film fringe culture message board and hit it off. We started talking about Kim Fowley and it just took one look at his credentials and realizing the oodles of songs he had a hand in that I already loved, coupled with some amazing pictures, which included a then current Kim posing with a weird clown and teddy bears, for it to be instant love. Scott and I would exchange the coolest and strangest Kim Fowley pictures and stories we could find, with the both of us having just the utmost reverence for the man. Scott once wrote that Kim was like the bastard son of “Klaus Kinski and Boris Karloff,” a descriptor that the man surely would have loved. But Scott's gone now and so is Kim.
Born in the early Summer of '39 to Shelby Payne and noted character actor Douglas Fowley (who was in my personal cinematic touchstone, the Timothy Carey dancing epic Bayou aka Poor White Trash), Kim was an outcast from the beginning, as noted in his feverish tone poem of a bio, “Lord of Garbage.” But it is the ground of the outcast that usually springs the best and wildest blooms and there is no better example of this then Kim Fowley. He was a one-man music creating blitzkrieg, finding much fame as a producer, songwriter and a performer in his own right. Phil Spector might be more famous, especially for his work with some key girl groups, but you know what? Kim worked with girl groups galore, ranging from The Murmaids' incredible single, “Popsicles & Icicles” to spearheading the ultimate teenage rock band, The Runaways. Even better, Kim never murdered anybody (to my knowledge) and retained his impish bordering on sardonic sense of humor to the bitter end.
Fowley, in so many ways, was the Warhol of rock and roll. Both men were brilliant, made great art on their own and yet, often operated as creative conduits that attracted all manners of colorful and talented people. One great Fowley quote that lends well to this Warholian aspect of his genius is the following:
“I’m so empty that I don’t have distractions. If somebody has substance or has developed something, I have the time for them.”
But even that doesn't quite cover it, because Kim Fowley was one magical human being whose dualities would have made him an amazing cult leader, dictator or shaman in another life. In this one, he was rock & roll's numero uno zeitgeist that might as well have risen out of the sleazy, beautiful and vital primordial ooze that all truly great ground breakers emerge from. He was a hero to some and a villain to others and this you can etch in blood and bone, there will never be another like Kim Fowley.
You are missed, Animal Man.
For a superb introduction to the scope of Fowley's work, please check out the fantastically groovy Mal Thursday and the "Kim Fowley Trainwreck-a-Go-Go" episode of his internet radio program, "The Mal Thursday Show."
2015 Copyright Heather Drain