Monday, September 4, 2017

Ann Moses Interview

Ann Moses: The Groove Goes On
by Daniel Coston

From 1966 to 1972, Ann Moses had the job that millions of readers wanted, and music fans now wish that they could’ve had. Moses wrote and edited Tiger Beat Magazine, covering all of the teen idols and most popular musicians for many young readers. Along with writing for England’s New Musical Express, she was witness to some of the most amazing music events during that time. The Monterey Pop Festival, Elvis Presley’s 1968 TV Comeback Special. Tours with the Monkees, Paul Revere & The Raiders, and many more. Along the way, there was a lot of hard work, occasional heartbreak, and litany of experiences that Moses herself still marvels about. 

After years away from the spotlight, Moses has returned with a fantastic new book, “Meow! My Groovy Life With Tiger Beat’s Teen Idols”. Co-written with Charlotte author Ann Wicker, the book is a fun, yet honest account of those busy times. Moses is also a joy to talk to, which I hope comes through in this phone interview.

Daniel Coston: How did the journey to working on this book begin?

Ann Moses: I was working with millennials at a dentist’s office, and I was telling them about Tiger Beat after Davy Jones died in 2012. They started Googling me. They said, “You have 68 pages on Google.” I had never looked at it. And they said, “They woman said that she wanted to be you when she was 12 years old,” and what had come up was Ann Wicker’s blog post about Davy Jones’ death. That when I really started thinking seriously about writing a book. Many times, when people had said that I should write a book, I’d think, “Yeah, I can write a three-page article. But a book?” I didn’t think it was possible.

So I reached out to Ann via her blog, and she said, “Well, I’ve written a book, and I’ve done editing,” and I thought, “Oh man, this sounds good.” We agreed to meet somewhere, and that week was so hard. Where do you start? But we got a lot of work done that first week. By this point, I had also started a blog. She had seen the blog, and she said, “Your book needs to be major expanse of your blog, because the blog had a lot of stories that no one had ever heard before. She said, “It needs to be in your voice, and it’s good. We just need to expand on it.”I would  finish a chapter, and she would read it. And because she had read Tiger Beat, she would say, “Tell me more about this,” and I pull out my copies of Tiger Beat, and go back and write more about it.

We eventually came up with a book that was 120,000 words, and we knew that we needed to cut it down. Around that same time, I got a message on Facebook from a man that said that he been writing for over 25 years, and that he wanted to be me when he was nine years old. It turned out that he also lived in Arizona, and he and his husband are now our new best friends. He offered to help tighten up the book. Take out the things that didn’t move the story along. Which was good, because I couldn’t do that, because it was my story. I was fortunate enough have to Ann’s expertise, and then having Robrt [Pela] cutting things out.

Coston: What did you learn the most about yourself in writing the book? 

Moses: The biggest thing that stands out is that I really was an assertive, tenacious young woman. It didn’t seem that way to me, at the time. I just did what came natural.I had no qualms abut weedling my way in, via journalistic means. I wasn’t a groupie, but I found out ways to get what I was after. Just by being persistent and sincere. I didn’t realize that it made me different, but looking back, it really did. 

I also had to recount about my first true love, which was Maurice [Gibb] of the Bee Gees. I tell how that developed, and it eventually led to heartbreak. I had never told story, about from a few friends. I kept thinking, “Gosh, I’m writing about being in love, and all of these romantic gestures that he made.” I went over to London for three weeks to stay with him and his family. Surely, I’ve embellished this over the years, I thought. Three years ago, my mom moved to assisted living, and in the process of doing that, she sent me a box, and lo and behold, there were all the letters that I had sent during that three-week trip. How Maurice had picked me up at the airport at John Lennon’s Rolls Royce, and the things that we did. All this stuff was in the letters, and it was like, “Oh, I didn’t blow this up.” I then had to recount him breaking my heart, and I then had a rebound romance, which turned into a marriage, which wasn’t so great. The thing that makes me feel so wonderful is that people have been saying, “Thank you for being so open and honest”, which made me feel great. I reached down deep to try to explain how things went. 

Coston: In doing research for my North Carolina 1960s book, I was struck by how some older teenagers didn’t get the British Invasion at first, but younger teens, 12 to 16 years old especially, got the impact of the British Invasion full force.

Moses: It wasn’t so much the case with me and my friends. I remember seeing a picture of the Beatles for the first time, in my junior year of High School, which would have been 1963, and thinking, “Oh, that’s it.”

I grew up near Anaheim, two miles from Disneyland. Every Saturday night they would have dances, and my friends and I literally would go every Saturday night. The Standells played, the Beach Boys played. We didn’t stop and watch the bands, we were just dancing to their music. The Beatles came in just as I was graduating from High School. That summer, I worked a job as a volunteer as an usher at the Melodyland Theater. I went to work there one night, and it was the Dave Clark Five, the Astronauts, another group, and another group that I’d never heard of, named Sonny & Cher. As soon as the Dave Clark Five came onstage, I was like, “I have to interview these guys.” I was co-editor of my college newspaper, so I decided that I’d write it for the college newspaper. Any excuse will do. 

I interviewed them, and I wrote it up for the college newspaper. I just thought that I was so cool. And it runs in the newspaper, and my colleagues were like, “Oh, why are you writing about those long-hairs? Why don’t you write about someone like Bob Dylan?” And it was like, “Really?” And I get it now. The older kids were pooh-poohing it. But then, it took on its own steam. The British Invasion impacted a lot of people.  

When we were doing Tiger Beat, we thought that our strongest audience  was pre-teen girls, and then teenage girls. But I’ve gotten a lot of letters from boys that said that they read Tiger Beat, because they wanted to read about the groups. They probably weren’t dwelling on how to marry Davy Jones, but we did have stories about other music artists. I would slip in a lot of things that I was writing for the New Musical Express. Other writers might not have done that, but it was like, “Why not? I’ve already written it,” so it would end up in Tiger Beat. 

Coston: Did you write in a different style for the NME, then you might have for the Tiger Beat audience?

Moses: I would say that I did a little differently, because I knew that I was writing for a little bit older audience. Tiger Beat style was funny spelling of words. Pics, faves, things like that, and lots of trivia about the artist. It was more music-centered when I’d write for NME.  

I wrote a weekly column for the NME called America Calling, What resulted, apart from having access to some artists that wouldn’t necessarily give a hoot about talking to Tiger Beat, the artists in England would see my articles, and they would then contact me when they came to America, and make sure that they got reported in England. What did the Yardbirds do when they got to Hollywood? What would Elton John do? That’s what I was reporting back. And the Monkees became big in England, and the NME wanted coverage of that. When Jimmy Page was still with the Yardbirds, he called me and said, “Can you get me on the Monkees set?” And I said, “Absolutely.” I took him out there as my guest, and the Monkees thought that it was cool. We got these great pictures. That happened time and time again. We took  Dave Clark out to the set. My friend Genie The Tailor, she was asked out to dinner by Eric Clapton, and for whatever reason, she didn’t want to go alone, so I go to dinner with Eric Clapton. This was around 1967. I was just reading his autobiography, and he talks about how shy he was. And that’s the person that I met. This guy that you had to draw stuff out of. I was caught up in this whirlwind of amazing experiences. 

Somebody asked me recently, “Did I realize at the time how what a big deal that you were experiencing? I did. I recount the story of ending up being backstage with the Rolling Stones at the Cow Palace, in San Francisco. I had flown up there with Jefferson Airplane, who were opening, but I knew none of this when I got on the plane. And here I am standing two feet below Mick Jagger, and I’m getting these amazing photographs. I knew how incredible it was, but at the same time, I was operating on autopilot. I tried to get the best pictures I could. As much as I was in awe of everything that was happening, I was able to maintain composure, and do my job. It was seriously cool stuff. 

Coston: Jumping ahead, did you cover Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy any differently than the Monkees?

Moses: Not really. By that point, we had our staples in Tiger Beat. We always tried to get their life story. Bobby and I hit it off immediately. Bobby is one of the nicest people in the whole world. Anything that we needed to do things for the magazine, he was ready, willing and able. The ones that were on TV were always more popular than the music groups. The TV advantage was huge. 

To me, David Cassidy was a more artificial star than the Monkees. The Monkees turned themselves into performers, actors and musicians. I went to those early rehearsals for David’s shows, which I write about in the book, and I just thought that he was lacking.

He idolized his father, and was dying to be a serious actor. He wanted to be star, but he had no conception for what he was in for. To be a teen idol, and then not being able to pursue an acting career because he Keith Partridge. He didn’t have the support system, like others did. The Monkees were in their early 20s, and they all had someone close to them, whether it was their family, or fiancees or wives. Bobby Sherman was in his early 20s and had a super-nice family that were still involved with his life, at that point. And David had none of that. David was 17, his mom was out east, and his dad hardly spent any time with him. He just didn’t end up with a happy ending.

Coston: What were some of your favorite acts to see? And which ones really surprised you?

Moses: I was invited by Frank Sinatra to see his daughter’s debut at Caesars Palace, and I knew that the Osmonds were her opening act. So I arranged to do a “24 Hours With The Osmonds” feature, and I did all of the photos for that. For about a year at this point, I had been following Elvis Presley’s shows. I had been at the ’68 Comeback Special, and had been reporting for the NME about his Vegas shows, which were the height of his career, and he was awesome. But the Osmonds come out on stage, and they can dance, they can sing. Little Jimmy Osmond comes out with a fedora and sings “My Way”. They were consummate performers, so I loved them.

On the personal side, I was friends with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They played coffeehouses around California, and I loved them. They later asked me to write the liner notes of their first album, which was really something. Can I say every performance at the Monterey Pop Festival? I was at every performance at Monterey Pop. I loved every performance, except for Ravi Shankar. I struggled through that one (laughs). And I had seen many of those acts before, but everybody seemed to be a notch up for Monterey Pop.  

A lot of my work before Tiger Beat was for a little paper in Orange County that covered rhythm & blues, so they would send me up to the black clubs in south Los Angeles. That’s how I got to interview James Brown, and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. I was interviewing Smokey Robinson, and his final quote in the article was, “I would just like to see children of every color to be placed on an island, and that they could live in harmony.” This was over 50 years ago. It’s such a profound quote. To have captured that at that time, it’s like, whoa.

The Dave Clark Five called me, and said, “Can you take us to see Little Richard?” I had never seen him. So I set it up, and we him somewhere in Los Angeles, kind of like a piano bar. And I was blown away. I can’t believe that I didn’t ask for an interview after the show. A lot of good spur of the moment, “Oh, let’s go do this,” and then you have experiences that are just unforgettable.  

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