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This edition we catch up with old RARWRITER friend John Manikoff. The singer/songwriter/musician has literally come a long way since we first met him in Boulder, Colorado 30 years ago. A veteran rocker, commercial and film score composer, John has found success as painter and currently works in the advertising business in Michigan.
JOHN MANIKOFF - Artistic Journeys of a Former Bad Boy
It might be hard to imagine, looking at his current photo on the left, but artist/musician/songwriter/singer JOHN MANIKOFF was an enfant terrible. RAR recalls being at the Boulderado Hotel one night, about 25 years ago, listening to Gary Swan at the piano, when in rolled, rather noisily, The Bad Boys. They had just been kicked off Peter Rodman's Sunday night radio show.
The Bad Boys were a rock band along classic lines. John Manikoff was the lead singer, pianist and songwriter. Rock legend Michael Clarke was on drums; he of The Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame. Milt Muth, a sunny guy who might later have been mistaken for Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), was on bass. Michael "The Missing Link" Reese was on guitar. (Michael is a friend of the Links, featured on the Colorado page, but he has become a punch line among his associates when it comes to failed communications. His email inbox has been over quota for years and he doesn't free any space, and if something does get through he doesn't return a message.) They were a Jim Mason project. The then Colorado-based producer of Poco and Firefall had hoped to steer them to stardom.
That night on air at KBCO radio in Boulder, The Bad Boys had been doing a live interview with rock-talk disc jockey Rodman, and they were acting like...well, Bad Boys. Whether it was just part of the act, or just bad behavior, deejay Rodman was not having it. After several off-air warnings to the Boys about the language they were using, and the possibility that violations of Federal Communications Commission broadcasing standards could put the station at risk, Rodman attempted to continue with the live segment.
Things cooled a bit. There was some conversation about the long hours the band had been working, pulling their act together and recording, and Rodman, probably struggling a bit for traction with these jokers, innocently asked if the schedule was having impact on The Boys' "home lives" - as if any of these guys had any at the time. They did have girlfriends, though, and John Manikoff less than innocently responded by saying that when he does get home, his girlfriend's typical response was - "Who the fuck are you?"
Rodman immediately cut to commercial, went ballistic, and tossed The Bad Boys out on their ears, at which point they continued their night at the Boulderado, where I ran into them and heard this story.
John Manikoff had irked people before with his outrageous behavior. He was hyperactive and utterly unpredictable, very bright and possessed of an acid tongue. Based on his reputation, I recall feeling a little nervous about meeting him for the first time, though my concerns proved unjustified. He turned out to be a young man with an almost childlike enthusiasm for his passions. At the time, he was entirely consumed by his music aspirations and this was evident in his stage performances, which were electric. John brought an energy that could be described in terms of "star power." He seemed elevated by his own belief in himself and he could sell this to an audience. Based on talent and chutzpah, John Manikoff was a luminary on the Boulder scene, one of a few guys around at the time who seemed like he was already famous.
It should be said that this crap didn't mean much to his bandmate Michael Clarke, who actually was famous. I recall being at a Bad Boys rehearsal one night at Mountain Ears Recording Studio, the facility run by John Aldridge, whose family was featured in the previous edition of the Links. The Boys were set up in Mountain Ears auditorium-sized main room, positioned among baffles, and looking all very professional. The band started up, with Manikoff pounding at the keys, and they sounded great. But after a few songs, Michael Clarke abruptly stopped the music, glared at Manikoff and snarled - "You are singing like you're asleep."
I looked at my watch and it was 1 a.m. Readers of this site may effectively speculate on the type of drugs one must take to determine that 1 a.m. is a good hour to start band rehearsal. My thought was "he probably is asleep," but then Manikoff launched into a musical reposte McCartney-style, letting it rip, as if to put Clarke back behind his kit. No one was going to out-energy John Manikoff, at least not that night.
John contacted RAR recently, a little miffed over his treatment in a piece on the Links regarding yet another Boulder near-miss, the band Catseye. This is the haunted act. Just mentioning the name gets people upset. It was a project involving a lot of talented people in a quest convoluted by unique funding, bizarre personal dynamics, and lack of a singular musical focus. It seems to have represented the best single hope to so many people that its failure feels magnified. Wrote John - "I was the 'John Manion' mentioned in the 'Catseye' bio." Manikoff was, in fact, one of the founding members of the band, which included many of the area's top players: guitarist Sam Broussard, singer Robert Anderson, bassist Greg Overton, drummer Joey DeLauro, and initially John Manikoff on keys. John was eventually replaced by the multi-instrumentalist Steve Conn.
"After I left Boulder, I went on to have a very prosperous career in music, both in New York and Los Angeles," writes John. "I worked as a studio session singer, and performed regularly, and have many accolades to show for my efforts. I created music for a number of films" - perhaps most notably Morgan Stewart's Coming Home - "and sang on many records and commercials. There are still echos of me reverberating over the airwaves. In retrospect, I was able to accomplish quite a lot with my limited education. It's a competitive jungle out there, and the world will never lack in talent!"
In Los Angeles, John remained in contact with Michael Reese, before Michael returned to Colorado Springs, and most especially with Michael Clarke. "I maintained a friendship with him in California, until his very sad death. I knew Michael in a way few ever had the chance to know him. Removed from all the R&R nonsense, he was a compassionate and sensitive man."
John also maintained his association with Catseye, after a fashion. "I befriended Jonathon Coffino of CBS Records" - the executive producer who was responsible for Catseye's financing deal - "and remained friends with him when I lived in NYC. He was a very kind gentleman, who was genuinely committed to artists, and merely wanted any of us to be self-sufficient...a trait which was lacking in all of us in those days. Jonathon was entirely prepared to assist me in my career long after Catseye, but I frankly was not ready. The same could be told of Catseye. Artists who've gone on to have long careers are mature and single-minded. We were boneheads!"
Manikoff does maintain a high degree of respect for former associate Sam Broussard. "
John Manikoff began turning away from his rock life style at the end of the '80s. "I am 18 years sober this month," he writes. He returned to his family home in Michigan and in summers to Mackinac Island. "My family has a 100 year history there, which made it a natural for my focus," writes John. And he began turning away from music and toward another of his talents and passions - painting. "I returned to art school in the mid-nineties, earning two degrees, and now spend my days as a fine artist and freelance graphic and well, but also a fine example of someone who has gone on to prosper and grow beyond his days in Boulder. I continue to play music for occasional events, but make my living oil painting and in advertising as a graphic designer... a rare existence for an artist!
"I've illustrated two extremely successful children's books, which are designed to aid families and health professionals with children suffering trauma and loss. A large number of books
John Manikoff was the featured artist in the 2006 Summer issue of Mackinac Living Magazine. He is currently preparing for a month long showing of his work scheduled for July. RARWRITER.com will bring you more information on that as the date nears.
April 1, 2007 Edition
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