Say It's Your Birthday: Emitt Rhodes

One of the great lost heroes of power pop it's hard to

believe that Emitt Rhodes could be turning forty-six today. But the paper work

confirms that he was born in sunny (and then relatively smog-free) SoCal back

in 1950. Growing up in suburban Hawthorne, the young Emitt of course admired

the what the neighboring Wilson brothers were accomplishing as the Beach Boys.

But not being quite true to his school, Emitt's heart secretly belonged to the

Beatles. When his group Merry-Go-Round (which included an ex-member of the

Leaves and a future member of the Grass Roots) debuted with the hits "Live" and

"She's A Very Lovely Woman," it sounded more London '65 than LA '67. Rhodes

released his recorded-at-home one-man-band first solo album in 1970, the year

Paul McCartney released his recorded-at-home one-man-band first solo

album. And guess what--Emitt's album was the better of the two. It even cracked

the top thirty on the charts (of course Paulie's went to number one). But

cracked is also an appropriate word to describe something that happened to

Emitt internally at this time. His two subsequent albums seemed deserted by the

spirit that had moved the best of his band and solo work, and he was reportedly

crushed by the pressures of the biz and eventually retired as an artist

altogether, devoting himself instead to a career as a recording engineer and a

private career as a songwriter. His abbreviated legacy is superbly anthologized

on the CD Listen, Listen: The Best Of Emitt Rhodes released by Varese

Sarabande last year. It measures equally the weight of his inspired presence--a

surprising number of these songs still sound, to work in the title of his 1970

hit, "Fresh As A Daisy"--and his abrupt and continuing absence. Maybe Noel

Gallagher should look him up the next time Oasis plays L.A. Other birthdays

Beatle George Harrison, almost Beatle Stuart "Woody" Woods of the Bay City

Rollers, Mike Peters of the Alarm, English singer Elke Brooks, and Creem

magazine founding publisher Barry Kramer.