Kim Fowley Biography

21 July 1942, Manila, the Philippines. A prodigious talent, Fowley’s role as a producer, songwriter, recording artist and catalyst proved important to 60s and 70s pop. He recorded with drummer Sandy Nelson during the late 50s and later worked with several short-lived hit groups including the Paradons (‘Diamonds And Pearls’) and the Innocents (‘Honest I Do’). Durable success came from his collaborations with school friends Gary S. Paxton and Skip Battin, who performed as Skip And Flip. Fowley produced ‘Cherry Pie’ (1960), their US Top 20 entry and, with Paxton, created the Hollywood Argyles whose novelty smash, ‘Alley Oop’ (1960) topped the US charts. The pair were also responsible for shaping Paul Revere And The Raiders’ debut hit, ‘Like Long Hair’ and in 1962 they assembled the Rivingtons, whose gloriously nonsensical single, ‘Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow’, was a minor success. That same year Fowley produced ‘Nut Rocker’ for B. Bumble And The Stingers, which was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic and a UK number 1. In 1964 Fowley undertook promotional work for singer P.J. Proby and the following year began embracing the Los Angeles counter-culture through his association with scene guru Vito and Frank Zappa’s nascent Mothers Of Invention.

Fowley came to Britain on several occasions. The Rockin’ Berries recorded ‘Poor Man’s Son’ at his suggestion, he composed ‘Portobello Road’ with Cat Stevens, and produced sessions for Deep Feeling (which included Dave Mason and Jim Capaldi, later of Traffic), the Farinas (who evolved into Family), the Belfast Gypsies and the Soft Machine. Fowley also recorded in his own right, completing a cover version of the Napoleon XIV hit, ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!’, and ‘The Trip’, a hypnotic paean to underground predilections. He became closely associated with flower power, recording Love Is Alive And Well in 1967. This debut album was the first of a prolific output which, although of undoubted interest and merit, failed to match the artist’s intuitive grasp of current trends for other acts. He produced material for the Seeds, A.B. Skhy, Warren Zevon and Gene Vincent, while maintaining his links with Europe through Finnish progressive act Wigwam.

Skip Battin joined the Byrds in 1970 and several collaborations with Fowley became a part of the band’s late period repertoire, although long-time fans baulked at such ill-fitting material as ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘America’s Great National Pastime’. Battin’s first solo album, Skip, consisted of songs written with Fowley, while their partnership continued when the bass player joined the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Fowley’s role as a pop svengali continued unabated and in the mid-70s he was responsible for piecing together the Runaways, an all-female group whose average age was 16. They quickly outgrew the initial hype and abandoned their mentor, who in turn formed a new vehicle, Venus And The Razorblades.

The advent of punk provided scope for further exploitation, but as the 80s progressed Fowley’s once-sure touch seemed to desert him. He remains a cult name, however, and as such can still release challenging records. The 1995 album Let The Madness In was idiosyncratic and unfunny, while 1998’s The Trip Of A Lifetime saw Fowley branching out into a club-orientated direction.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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