June 20, 2014
Rarely, have I ever been disappointed with a record that was produced by Mickie Most. I’m intrigued by not only the artist who made the record, but also the person, in other words, the wizard, behind the curtain that pulls all the levers and pushes the buttons. Mickie Most had the vision thing down, and the entire 1960s and most of the 1970s he was quite the visionary. I was around 15-years old, and I found myself in London, wanting to make a record. I was in a teenage band, but I wanted to go beyond our Led Zeppelin obsession and make a really heavy commercial rock single. At the time, I had heard rumors that while producing The Yardbirds’ “Little Games” album he insisted that all the songs be around the three minute mark, and this was the era when musicians wanted to expand their song length. Most, at heart, only loved the 45 rpm single, and therefore that is the reason why I love Mickie Most. I wrote a song called “Can the Ass That I'm ” and I had the opportunity to audition the record in front of Mickie Most. He liked it, and I told him right off, that I too believe in the power of a single that is under three minutes. He smiled when I told that, and he organized a session for me for later that week.
Even though I was a teenager, I had unusual obsessions as a youth. I was totally fascinated with 1920s Berlin, and I thought somehow I can fit that into my image or use the imagery of that period for the upcoming single. That week before the recording, I studied a lot of images from that era, and came up with a great Kurt Schwitters’ college that he did in the 40s. It was out of bound with respect to the era I was interested in, but then again, the beauty of pop is that you can exchange an idea or a series of images and make them your own. The truth of the manner is I co-wrote the song with a German writer by the name of Elisabeth Hauptmann, who actually wrote most of “The Three-Penny Opera” for Bertolt Brecht. It was an odd pairing of me being 15 and she was around her early 70s, but that is also what makes “Can The Ass That I’m” so unique. So writing a song with a woman who wrote for Brecht in Berlin 1920s and making that record for Mickie Most, in addition to having a Schwitter college as its cover - well, how perfect is that!
Truth be told, Elisabeth pretty much wrote the song, including the melody. She wrote it as if it was a German cabaret song, and what I did was updated her version of the song to sort of a heavy rock piece. Art works in mysterious ways, but God it worked! When I showed up to the recording session, I was surprised that Most got John Paul Jones to do the arrangements, and also Big Jim Sullivan was going to handle the guitar. As we went through the song a couple of times, I went up to the microphone with my lyric sheet and started singing:
“You know what I can, when I’m such a fan
That such a bland, no-it-all
Can the Ass that I’m and I aim to please
So darling, don’t spread your candy
Before I shake my pop, before my po-pul-ar-ity
A tat-tat-tat You’re so
Delicious, palatable, luscious, and mouthwatering too
Oh baby, can the ass that I’m
Oh baby, can the ass that I’m”
(Tosh Berman/Elisabeth Hauptmann/Bertolt Brecht, ©RAK Music Publishing)
For the b-side, John put together an arrangement of an Eric Dolphy piece from his album “Out To Lunch!” called “Hat and Beard.” I really had nothing to do with the b-side or its recording. But it sounded cool to me, and I was fine with it. Funny enough, listening to it now, it reminds me of Brian Wilson’s work for “Smile, ” and I wonder if maybe he picked up on this record. But who knows, that was so many years ago. The record was never a hit, and it was the one and only recording I have done. At that point, I went back to Los Angeles to complete school (or I should say it finished me) and eventually I worked at a bookstore for many years on the Sunset Strip. One evening, while I was behind the counter, Mickie Most came in and bought some British newspapers. He was looking at the papers, but he did catch my eye, and clearly he didn’t recognize me. Well oh my, can the ass that I’m.