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Posted February 13, 2014 by Mark in Books
 
 

The Word is Good: Greg Kihn’s ‘Rubber Soul’

Greg Kihn "Rubber Soul"
Greg Kihn "Rubber Soul"

Greg Kihn may be best known for “Jeopardy” and “The Breakup Song,” but the Bay-area musician is more than those 1980s MTV-era hits. In the 1990s, Kihn became a leading radio personality and spent 16 years hosting the top-rated morning show at KFOX in San Jose/San Francisco.

He also began writing fiction, publishing his fifth novel, Rubber Soul, last year. A fun-loving mix of thriller, historical fiction and mop-topped hijinks, the plot centers on a fictional Liverpudlian named Robert “Dust Bin Bob” Dingle who befriends four hardworking local musicians just as they begin the ride of a lifetime.

Whopperjaw caught up with the busy Kihn for an exchange over email. Dare we call this our “Kihnterview?”

America has just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. That event – and Beatlemania in general – is central to your novel, Rubber Soul, but I’m curious about your personal experience with the phenomenon. What are your memories of Beatlemania from your boyhood?
I remember every detail of Beatlemania. The Ed Sullivan Show was a life-changer for me. I was 14 years old and already had a guitar and I knew three chords. Fortunately they were the same three chords that were in every Beatles song. I remember changing the direction of my hair. We all left school on Friday with our hair combed back, like Elvis, with a touch of Brylcreem (“a little dab will do ya!”). After seeing the Beatles on Sunday night on Ed Sullivan, every guy in school came back on Monday morning with his hair combed forward and all the greasy kid stuff washed out.

We changed the direction of our hair, and of our lives. I embraced the British Invasion and became a musician myself.

I noticed on your blog that you are almost finished with what you call the sequel to Rubber Soul. What can you share about that novel?
I just put the finishing touches on the sequel to Rubber Soul. I don’t want to reveal the title yet, or what it’s about, until all the business is settled. I had a ball writing it. It features the return of [Rubber Soul characters] Dust Bin Bob, Cricket, Clovis and Erlene, and of course the Beatles. At the end of Rubber Soul, I just couldn’t let those characters walk away. I started the sequel immediately.

Talk about the similarities and differences between writing songs and writing novels.
They both use the same creative muscle in your brain. Whether it’s a song you write in 15 minutes or a novel you write in a year, you start with the spark of an idea and expand from there. I love both processes. I recently started writing songs again after a few years. Writing novels sharpened my songwriting skills, and taking some time off really helped too.

You are not the first/only pop-rock songwriter to turn to fiction. Are there other songwriters/novelists you admire?
Great question. You’re right, there are several musician/writers out there. My favorites are Kinky Friedman, Ian Rankin, Ray Davies, Rick Wakeman, Graham Parker and Pete Townsend, to name a few. Non-fiction writers like Keith Richards and Sammy Hagar are fun to read too. A few years ago, I was contributing editor of an anthology of short stories by musicians called Carved in Rock. Most of these guys are in there.

Your agent has been in discussions to option film rights to Rubber Soul. Any updates?
There has been genuine interest from several companies but we are taking our time. There’s no rush right now. First things first – I had to finish the sequel. Now that’s done and we’re preparing it for publication. Then it will be time to turn our attention to selling the movie rights. It would make a hell of a movie.

Your upcoming gig on March 1 will be as a quartet. Is that two guitars, bass, and drums – kind of like, oh, the Beatles? And your son, Ry, is in the band. That must be a blast. How are rehearsals going?
Rehearsals have been going great! I love playing as a 4-piece! We spent many years as a 4-piece before we added keyboard in 1983. It was the classic Beatles lineup – rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass and drums, so all the early material is in that format. When you remove the keyboard it really opens the songs up. It’s perfect for the smaller venues like Moe’s [Alley]. I am incredibly tight with my band. Obviously, it doesn’t get any tighter than having your son as lead guitarist. Later in the summer, when we play the bigger gigs like the Kihncert, we’ll probably add Dave Medd on keys.

Before “indie rock” was a marketing term, category, or genre there was Beserkley Records, launched in 1973. Along with Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, Earthquake and The Rubinoos, you were on the Beserkley roster. In hindsight – which is always 20-20, natch – do you feel like a pioneer? How did it feel then?
Yes, I do feel like a pioneer! Those early days at Beserkley were magic. Someday I’m going to write the complete Beserkley story because that was the first truly whacko independent label since Sun Records. When I say whacko, I mean whacko – from Matthew Kaufman (self-proclaimed “Reigning Loony”) lying on the floor of the office of the president of EMI Germany clutching his balls in pain, to bonfires in England of unauthorized copies of The Modern Lovers and Chartbusters, to sitting around the kitchen of the Beserkley house smoking big fat joints of the best pot in the world, to the amazing adventures we had on the road, to the incredible studio work (with Jonathan Richman, the Spitballs, Count Pulaski and His Five-Minute Men, and Son of Pete), all the way to the major hits. I feel very fortunate to have such a diverse background.


Mark

 
Mark Woodlief wrote for the cool '90s magazines that didn't make it – Option, Raygun, Warp, The (Seattle) Rocket, CMJ – plus some daily and weekly newspapers, too. Seeing all the great bands – Mission of Burma, Husker Du, Volcano Suns, Flaming Lips, Wire, the dBs, the Feelies, Patti Smith, ad infinitum – he has seen has left him Whopperjawed.