From The Desk Of Chuck Prophet: Jack’s Record Cellar And Roy Loney

On his 10th studio album, Temple Beautiful (Yep Roc), Chuck Prophet found his muse in the city he’s called home for 30 years. Exploring the local landmarks and myths with friend and poet klipschutz, Prophet winds his way through San Francisco, stretching tales even taller along the way. But this guided tour isn’t a detailed and prefabricated concept album, so much as it’s the product of spontaneous inspiration, and it’s not a document of the city’s past as much as it is of its present. Prophet will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Q&A with him.

Prophet: You’ve probably heard of the Haight Ashbury. Well, the Haight Ashbury over time became simply the Haight. Then it was the Upper Haight. At which point Haight & Fillmore turned into the Lower Haight. It’s not all that confusing as it sounds. Anyway, the Lower Haight is where you’ll find Jack’s Record Cellar, open on a schedule it takes a minute to wrap your head around. (“Open to the public on Saturdays, on other days by reservation only.”) Someone once said that the first thing you’ll notice in Jack’s is that record-store smell. The kind of smell that lets you know you just might find something mind-blowing here.

Behind the counter at Jack’s, if you’re lucky, you might find Roy Loney. Yes, the Roy Loney. I was there recently and Roy, DJing from behind the counter, played a bunch of Elvis and Hank Williams 78s: all titles I’d never heard before. They sounded like they were recorded last Friday.

I’d seen Roy on the street for years and always been too shy to introduce myself. But when I’m making a record, I can’t be shy. We were recording the song “Temple Beautiful” when I reached out to and told him, “I don’t think we’ve formally met. But I feel like I know you. Any chance you’d be willing to come by the studio and lend your thing to the title track?”

A couple hours later he was standing in front of me, singing and being Roy Loney. Fifteen minutes after that he’d chewed right through the tape. He was nice enough to sign my lyric sheet before he disappeared back into the fog.

Temple Beautiful was made in San Francisco by San Franciscans about San Francisco. The song itself started as a title, and that’s all it was for months. It doesn’t exactly rhyme with anything but somehow it survived. It’s set in a long-closed punk-rock club located in the old Reverend Jim Jones’s People’s Temple. I saw my first gigs there, and I still have a Temple poster with Roy Loney at the top of the bill; opening the show was Black Flag.

Roy was there. He’s always been there.

Dig this Dirk Dirksen clip. (I really think Dirk says it all: “People laying it on the line in an effort to express themselves.” Yeah!) He embodied the golden era of S.F. punk. There was no dogma. No uniform. It was a freak show. Dig your inner weirdo. Wave that flag as high and as proud and high as you want.

Another photo after the jump.

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2 Comments

  1. Michael Row
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Don’t forget EYE PROTECTION, feat. a young Andy Prieboy!

  2. Georgie Porgie
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Eye Protection’s “Elroy Jetson” is a classic of that era.

    Also, I’ve always been confused about the 2 “temple” buildings next to the Fillmore, untill I read this story today & went googling. Thankfully the history documenters have sorted it out. 1839 was the old Temple Beth Israel, and later the Temple Beautiful punk rock venue. 1859 was the Scottish Rites Temple (Masons), and at one time Jim Jones’s People Temple.

    Great data here: http://rockarchaeology101.blogspot.com/2009/11/1839-geary-blvd-san-francisco-ca-july.html

    And here: http://rockprosopography101.blogspot.com/2009/11/1859-geary-blvd-san-francisco-geary.html

    Good info in wikipedia also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peoples_Temple_in_San_Francisco