Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Foster and Kleiser

In the ten years following the release of Rubber Soul, rock music evolved from the Beatlescentric Brit invasion and the folk-rock of Laurel Canyon to an unprecedented diversity, along the way leaving us L.A. Woman, Blue, Deja Vu, Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds, American Beauty and Dark Side. 1976 gave us the first post-Gabriel Genesis LP, the jazz-infused Royal Scam by Steely Dan (not to mention Joni's Hejira), the blue-eyed soul of Bowie's Station to Station and the Eagles' Hotel California. Rock music was all over the map.

In L.A., music was who we were, what we did, and it manifested itself at Tower Records, at the Roxy and the Whiskey, and through Bill's Signs, which was the working title for Jay and the Americans. My father was the Leonardo of the Sunset Strip.

In 2012, probably without knowing him (my father's fame was anonymous), Robert Landau published what for him took a lifetime, a virtual retrospective of Bill's Signs, Rock 'n' Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip, a beautiful coffee table book published by Angel City Press (available on Amazon and at Barnes and Nobel). Landau stated, "I was a kid and a music fan, I was buying those records, but my sensibility was more visual. I was drawn to the billboards because they were so non-commercial. A lot of them didn't even have text on them. It was like having an art gallery in my back yard."

"The first one I shot was in 1969, for one of my favorite albums—the Beatles' Abbey Road.  But in my research for the book, I talked to Jac Holzman, the founder of Electra Records, and he told me the first billboard that went up was for the Doors in 1967. They'd be up for a month, and then they'd all be painted over and a new one would go up," said Landau. That was my father's first billboard. 

Because of my father and those billboards, I grew up a writer and a music critic, but I never once asked him about his work or if he realized the impact of those billboards. He retired from Foster and Kleiser in 1977 and opened an art gallery in Jerome, Arizona, a "ghost town" in the desert between Prescott and Sedona. That was what he was proud of. The billboards were just life, a job, how he was able to mail out his child support checks and pay for his prized red Barracuda. To me, he really was Leonardo, on a grand scale.

Jay and the Americans (like Miles from Nowhere), is available all over the world!
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