The Return of Emitt Rhodes

On Feb. 25, Emitt Rhodes appeared at the Grammy Museum in celebration of his new CD, Rainbow End (Omnivore Recordings), which is his first album in 43 years. His last full-length, the prophetically entitled Farewell To Paradise, was released in 1973, back when 8-tracks were more popular than cassette tapes. His new album shows no rustiness. It is a wonderful collection of lovely, well-crafted songs, with Rhodes’ singing reminding me of a more genial, gentler Warren Zevon.

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His long-absence from the music scene is a big factor why his name isn’t more familiar. However, he is a huge cult figure, particularly in the power pop world. He was one of the first pop musicians to make a major label release on his own in his homemade studio.

The evening was quite an interesting one. Rhodes, in khaki shorts and black golf shirt, was understandably a little awkward on stage in front of an audience (even an adoring ones as this crowd was). He often forgot to hold up the mic but was very humble and appreciative of those who came out to see him. Rhodes admitted that one reason he hadn’t recorded his songs was because he didn’t think people were interested in his music. He also flashed some quick wittiness and sly humor.

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Producer Chris Price, Emitt Rhodes and moderator Steve Hochman

Sadly, the flu prevented him from singing, although he did sit in with the band assembled to play some of his songs. Rainbow End’s producer Chris Price did a terrific job in the unenviable role of being the substitute singer. The short set included “Isn’t It So,” “Dog On A Chain” and “If I Knew Then” from Rainbow Ends as well as older tunes “With My Face On The Floor,” “Fresh As A Daisy”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcXw18EDCDo

10 Take-Aways From Emitt Rhodes’ Grammy Museum Appearance:

  1. Rhodes went to high school in Hawthorne with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. Although his orchestral pop draws more comparisons to Brian Wilson.
  1. His first band, The Palace Guard, was the house band at the Hollywood all-ages rock club Hullabaloo, which is now the Nickelodeon Studios.
  1. Rhodes started his band the Merry-Go-Round because he didn’t want to be a drummer anymore (“I got tired of dragging the drums around”). Their biggest hit “Live” was later covered by the Bangles.
  1. Rhodes was, and is, a huge Beatles fan, which isn’t surprising if you have heard his music.
  1. Making music on his own, in his own studio, are very difficult and time-consuming in the early ‘70s. One reason he stopped making albums was that he couldn’t make the 2 albums a year pace as required in his record contract.
  1. When Chris Price first met Rhodes, Price wanted him to produce his own music. Price wound up producing Rhodes, but only after a seven years friendship developed.
  1. Rhodes keeps his songs in individual envelopes, which hold all of the drafts for the song.
  1. Rainbow Ends recorded the album at Rhodes’ home studio, only this time it was done on a laptop with Pro Tools. The recording basically took 2 days but the 2 days were done about a year apart due to scheduling reasons.
  1. He started to create an album in 2010 that involved Richard Thompson (Thompson’s Fairport Convention also covered a Merry-Go-Round tune back in the day) but it got derailed due to legal issues that Rhodes didn’t seem eager to talk about.
  1. Rhodes does hope that his next album doesn’t take another 43 years to make.

and neither do we…

About Michael Berick

I am a longtime writer, and lover, of music and pop culture. I have written for Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Scene and more places (that I wouldn't take up more of your time mentioning now).
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