Peter, Paul and Mary, Judy Collins, Bruce Cockburn and the Washington Squares will perform at Constitution Hall on Sept. 22 in a fundraiser for Countdown '87, an ad hoc, Washington-based organization that, according to Danny Goldberg, is "aimed at influencing adversely any Reagan attempt to get new funding for the contras." Goldberg is head of the Gold Castle label, for which all of those performers record.
Goldberg insists that Countdown '87 will dissolve at the end of October after the congressional vote on contra aid. "We're not trying to create a new organization, but to influence that one vote," he explains. "I've been to Central America, as have many of these artists, and there's a feeling that if it's a marginal vote, if it's close, maybe this could make a difference. Also, it frees everybody from the burden of figuring out who to support for president right now."
There will also be Countdown '87 fundraisers in Los Angeles with Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and various other folks and a New York concert featuring Joan Baez (another Gold Castle artist). The Washington concert will mark the first joint appearance of Peter, Paul and Mary and the Washington Squares, who bear a striking visual and aural resemblance to the '60s stalwarts.
Goldberg is also head of the Musical Majority, an ad hoc group organized two years ago as a response to perceived attacks on the music industry (though he says, "We're really just an adjunct of the American Civil Liberties Union, which gets involved every time there's a music censorship case"). Goldberg has provided the most consistent counterpoint to groups like the Parents Music Resource Center.
"I don't want to make a career out of it," he says, "but I feel it's important to have a mechanism to answer irrational characterizations of music. For instance, I just sent a check to the Jello Biafra defense fund, though I've never personally listened to a Dead Kennedys album. But the idea that any artist is going to trial to defend a poster in his package is disgusting."
Biafra's is the most notorious "censorship" case so far, and his trial got underway last week in Los Angeles. The lead singer of the now-defunct Dead Kennedys is facing obscenity charges resulting from his inclusion of a reproduction of a sexually explicit painting by Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger in the group's 1986 album "Frankenchrist."
Misdemeanor charges were dropped last week against three of the five defendants, but Biafra and codefendant Michael Bonnao (general manager of the Dead Kennedys' record label) are still charged with distributing harmful material to minors without taking prudent precautions. (A 14-year-old girl purchased the album for her 11-year-old brother; their mother's complaint started the legal ball rolling.) A sticker on the album cover stated "Warning: the inside fold-out ... is a work of art by H.R. Giger that some people may find shocking, repulsive or offensive. Life can sometimes be that way." Biafra insists that the First Amendment protects him from prosecution.
According to defense attorney Philip Schnayerson, the poster is not pornography but a symbol of the Dead Kennedys' hope for social change. "These are committed young people, not purveyors of smut. These are young people upset about the drug culture, racism ... "
Deputy City Attorney Michael Giuarino apparently disagrees, but while the defendants could be imprisoned if convicted, Giuarino has said he will not seek jail terms. The poster is no longer included with the album, which sold about 50,000 copies. Beatles Collectibles "The Beatles" (better known as "The White Album") and "Yellow Submarine" are the latest Beatles compact discs to hit the street, though they've done so with a lot less fanfare than "Sgt. Pepper." Incidentally, Beatles fans unhappy with Capitol/EMI's "Pepper" packaging can turn to CD-only specialist stores like Compact Discovery on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring for the kind of limited edition package that the British specialize in. HMV, the largest record store chain in England, already had offered special boxed sets of the four initial Beatles CDs and then of the subsequent trio of releases, but it has outdone itself with a "Sgt. Pepper" package that comes in individually numbered, album-sized boxes with gold lettering and an alternate shot of the fabled "Pepper" cover (it includes Bette Davis and Albert Einstein).
In the box: a full-sized character cutout sheet, a button with the drum logo, the slipcased British CD and booklet plus another album-sized booklet with more cover-session photos, the Beatles talking about individual tracks, and background notes on the album. The whole thing sells for under $50; fewer than 2,500 sets were manufactured. For the truly devoted "Pepper" enthusiast, a New Jersey company called Starshine is offering collectible "Pepper" dolls (18 inches tall, with porcelain heads, hands and feet). These dolls (authorized by Apple Corp.) will also be a limited edition, but a bit more expensive at $125 a Beatle. Greg Karukas' West Coast Success Maryland's Greg Karukas was a familiar face on the local music scene for a number of years, starting off as the teen-aged keyboardist, composer and founding member of Tim Eyermann's East Coast Offering (in 1978 he left with the rhythm section to form his own group, Natural Bridge). Five years ago, Karukas moved to Los Angeles and began an impressive run of road and studio stints (his current group is the house band on the Garry Shandling show on Showtime and he's also a member of the successful fusion band the Rippingtons). Karukas, who brings his group to Blues Alley tonight, has just released his debut album, "The Nightowl," on Optimism, and he'll be featured on Barry Manilow's upcoming jazz album, "Swing Street," with Stan Getz and Dianne Schuur.