Kim Fowley, iconic talent scout, occasional recording artist, Sunset Boulevard perennial, high-concept rock producer and tireless self-promoter died last week.
I’m not from LA, but if you were chances are you knew him or knew someone who did. He’s being remembered as the guy who thought up the Runaways, all-girl teen band who enjoy a proto-punk reputation today. But he is responsible (guilty?) of so much more. Indeed, you will find few figures in the music business who worked with acts as disparate as Kiss and Helen Reddy (in the same year!). That he did so may have as much to do with his capacity to spread his name around and worm his way into any scene he happened to find himself in as with any native music/production talent.
That’s by no means a put-down; there was a symbiosis at play in the Fowley aura and if you were lucky enough to get him on your side he would do a lot to get you noticed, talent (his and yours) having little to do with the equation, and nobody knew better than Kim that in the rock ‘n’ roll business, hype is an art form of the highest order.
His own recording career is spotty, to put it mildly, but the fact that he got major labels like Capitol to promote him as a rock star is pretty impressive. If you want to own one Kim Fowley album, I recommend his 1973 “I’m Bad”, which has the distinction of getting one of the the worst reviews ever from the Dean of Rock Critics (D.O.R.C.), Robert Christgau.
“I won’t defend you or love you, but I’ll keep you crazies gassed!” - KF