“I’ve got to get divorced today,” Ariel Pink says, with the casual nonchalance of someone saying they need to pick up light bulbs from Target.
This is how our conversation begins. No banal pleasantries, just banter about marital dissolution on a scalding afternoon late in this dystopian summer. He’s wearing cherry red pants; his hair, once blond, then fuchsia, is now black. His polo shirt is a late-30s, yacht-club divorcee pink.
“I didn’t know you were married,” I reply.
“Neither did I.”
If you know Ariel Pink, this makes perfect illogical sense. For the last 15 years, the Beverly Hills native has slowly turned himself into the sun-cracked waking myth that he always aspired to be — somewhere between Arthur Lee and Angelyne, Dennis Wilson and Dennis Woodruff, Frank Zappa and Frank Stallone. A revered cult hero ingrained in the civic fabric, a postmodern reinvention fable told with self-aware absurdity and deceptively brilliant songcraft.
“I got married about 15 years ago,” Pink explains, walking to Folerio’s, a favorite neighborhood restaurant near the Highland Park apartment he’s inhabited for the last decade.
“I thought my ex filed the papers but apparently she never did,” he continues. “She surprised me last week, like — OK, we haven’t spoken in forever, but now I need a divorce.”
We’re nominally meeting to talk about Pink’s latest album, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, released next week on Mexican Summer. Predictably, the conversation splinters into miscellaneous tangents. In another dimension, Pink should’ve been a regular on Merv Griffin.
“It’s like we have the original bad guys from Batman all fighting right now,” he quips. “The Russians are back. Hitler is back. It’s like we’re fighting a 10-headed monster.”
He gulps down some penne pomodoro pasta.
“It’s The Truman Show or Big Brother starring Donald Trump,” Pink laments. “We need to stop acting like Cain and Abel. This is America; we need both sides to work together to make this the shitty place that it is.”
Don’t be concerned; this is the furthest thing from an Ariel Pink political album. Instead, he’s composed a tribute to the late Bobby Jameson, a Sunset Strip ’60s singer-songwriter expected to be one of the greatest stars of the Aquarian Age, but whose career dissolved in a haze of drug abuse, management and label swindles and depression.
A Zelig-like figure who collaborated with The Rolling Stones, Crazy Horse and Frank Zappa, Jameson eventually disappeared into the ether until his music was slowly rediscovered in the early ’00s. Until his death in 2015, Jameson kept a blog that functioned as both autobiography and a soapbox to castigate the inequities of the music business.
“It’s so well-written and vast that I got completely engrossed in it,” Pink says. “His music was OK, but it’s about his voice as a writer. It resonates with me in so many ways, from the planned obsolescence of the industry, the pathos, his different aliases, and the audience’s inability to never see the thread running through them.”
It’s easy to understand the kinship between Pink and Jameson. The former figured he’d languish in lo-fi record-store obscurity until being anointed as one of the most important musicians of his generation. Though his outspokenness and idiosyncrasies have garnered him more headlines than his songs in recent years, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is another batch of whimsical, bizarre and outstanding songs from a singular L.A. original, a reminder why he deserved to make it to the other side.
“I just want to be a totally boring, blowhard, career artist,” Pink says, half-jokingly — raising his eyebrows, completely aware that at least the latter half of that fate is secure.
Ariel Pink's Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is out Sept. 15 on Mexican Summer.
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