KERIM ÇAPLI, BLUE BLUES BAND & TURKISH ROCK
by Jay Dobis
review of BLUE (Director: Sertan Ünver, 2017)
[a documentary about the Istanbul-based Blue Blues Band (BBB)]
ED NOTE: a shorter version of this article originally appeared in 'taxidermia'
In June 1996, I moved to Istanbul where I lived for 17 years. Most of my friends were musicians, rock fans, record collectors, record shop owners, record label honchos, concert promoters, club owners, and the like. Much of this time, Istanbul was home to two of the best bands in the world: ZeN and Replikas (each releasing an album in the U.S. through my help). So when I heard that there was a documentary about the 'legendary' Blues Blues Band (BBB) of the 1990's, I wondered: "How could I have missed a legendary band in Istanbul?"
The band members were Batu Mutlugil (guitar), Zafer Şanli (bass), Yavuz Çetin (guitar) and Kerim Çapli, aka Kim Çapli in the U.S. (drums).
Çapli, who could play guitar, keyboards, and drums, was born in Karşiyaka, Turkey in 1949 to pianist Erdoğan Çapli and opera artist Azra Gün, but moved to the U.S. when he was six [his father had won a scholarship to come to the U.S.]. In 1963, he moved to Rochester, New York and played drums in his father's jazz trio at the Crescent Beach Hotel and the following year joined a local band, Groop Ltd. (a Beatles cover band), playing drums and singing lead and harmony vocals. The band, which included Jake Gerber, and released a single in 1965: "As Time Goes By/Tomorrow" (both written by Kim), which are pleasant but overly derivative of The Beatles. The record was a hit in upstate New York...
After Groop Ltd., he joined a Beatles and Rolling Stones cover band: The Heard, playing guitar and singing lead and harmonies. The Heard released a single written by Çapli: "Stop It Baby." It's a killer garage band song -- one of the best of the '60s. In late 1965, Çapli moved to Los Angeles and joined The Sundowners, which opened for The Rolling Stones and The Dave Clark Five, and toured with The Monkees and The Jimi Hendrix Experience in the summer of '67. The Sundowners backed members of The Monkees when the individual members did their solo spots. He befriended Hendrix and later reunited with him in New York City. Allegedly, Hendrix wanted to replace a member of The Experience with Çapli. The Sundowners appeared on the TV show The Flying Nun in 1968 as Sunny & The Sundowners (backing Paul Petersen of The Donna Reed Show) and appeared on the TV show It Takes A Thief in 1968 (billed as The Raspberry Wristwatch) and appeared in the 1967 feature film Don't Make Waves (Tony Curtis, Claudia Cardinale, and Sharon Tate) and once headlined over The Strawberry Alarm Clock (most famous for the hit song "Incense and Peppermint"). To me, The Sundowners sound like bland pop, though Mike Stax of UGLY THINGS magazine quite likes the band. Musical differences caused Çapli to leave the band during recording of their album "Captain Nemo."
In 1969, Çapli teamed up again with Gerber (a staff writer with A&M Records) to form a band doing all original material, but it came to nothing due to Çapli's alleged drug abuse.
On Chad and Jeremy's 3 In The Attic soundtrack album (1968), Kim played drums and percussion (the song "Paxton Quigley's Had the Course" by Chad and Jeremy (with Kim) was used on the Once Upon A Time In Hollywood soundtrack). A number of people say that he was the most naturally gifted musician they had ever met.
Çapli worked with Davy Jones, the front man of the Monkees, and he co-wrote the song "Hard to Believe." Çapli and Jones did everything on this song, which appeared on The Monkees' fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd (1967). According to songwriter and producer Chip Douglas: "Kim Çapli played all the instruments on that, starting with the drums. I'd never done that with anyone before." Çapli appeared on stage with Hendrix and jammed with Hendrix and Steven Stills in the studio.
And then? Friends and musicians in the U.S. who were interviewed for the documentary said that Çapli suddenly just disappeared. Most thought that he had committed suicide. Telling no one, he had returned to Turkey. One peculiarity of the documentary is that according to many sources, for a number of years, he played drums for one of the top bands in Turkey: MFÖ (two of the members had been in Bariş Manço's great backing band, Kaygizizlar, in the '60's); however, there is no mention of M or F or Ö or any mention of any of these musicians. I wonder why. One might have expected him to have made some incredible music in Turkey.
I looked forward to watching the documentary (and hearing BBB) in which numerous musicians and people keep referring to Çapli and Çetin as musical geniuses. Most of those interviewed were unknown to me except for two friends I have known for many years: Taner Öngür, who has been playing rock music for almost 60 years and best known for playing bass in Möğollar (one of the '70's great Anadolu Rock bands who are still going strong), and Mürat Beser, who has been one of the best music writers in Turkey for 30+ years.
Rock music is littered with talented losers who never manage to achieve what everyone expected of them, and here we see a Turkish example of this phenomenon. Çetin at least had some talent as a guitarist. However, BBB is just a bar band, nothing more and nothing less- a band with a repertoire that consisted entirely of obvious cover songs. When I attended university, I heard far too many of this type of band, yet many of these bands would throw in the occasional adventurous song choice, such as The Small Faces "All or Nothing" or The Yardbird's "Heart Full of Soul." BBB wouldn't have been the worst, but they certainly wouldn't have been the best. BBB was a band with no desire to rehearse (heaven forbid) or to come up with original material or to make an adventurous song choice or two. To someone like myself who has spent much of my adult life around excellent musicians, these guys come off as pathetic- musicians who are satisfied with wasting and squandering whatever talent they might have had.
Çapli recorded a solo album, and some who've heard it claim that he's as good as Steve Winwood (he isn't). The material and production sounds very dated. I checked out Çetin's 2001 solo album Satilik, and it's worth listening to. If you are into losers, you should be into the Blue Blues Band. If I'd known nothing about the band and someone had asked me back in the '90s to go to one of their gigs, I would've said: "Why would I want to see a band with such a boring, stupid name. They sound like losers." Moreover, having spent 17 years living in Istanbul and surrounded by excellent, talented musicians and other friends involved in one way or another with the music biz (musicians, rock bands, record collectors, label owners, etc.), not even once did anyone ever mention the Blue Blues band or Çetin or Çapli. No thanks.
After watching the documentary and listening to live BBB on YouTube and checking out Çapli's earlier bands, as a musician, Çapli seems to have peaked with that one great garage song he wrote when he was about 16. As I'm writing this review, I'm listening to his solo album by Çetin Satilik, and I have to admit that it is growing on me. He is an excellent guitar player; however, why didn't he show any of this in BBB? Almost forgot to mention that the album was released posthumously, as he committed suicide. Çapli's solo album (2019's Kayip) is crap and also released after his death. I guess this indicates that mediocrity kills. It must have been soul-sucking to realize that the best bit of music you've ever made occurred when you were a teenager (though I doubt, he had the intellectual wherewithal to realize this). Musically, his adult life seems to have been dedicated to mediocrity.
Blue is an interesting, well done documentary about a band of losers that squandered whatever talent they had due to ennui, inner demons, health problems beyond their control, mental illness, the fact that they just didn't give a damn, laziness, or life. There's not even a scintilla of genius on display. However, sometimes even losers deserve a post mortem tribute. If you care as much about music as I do, you won't care about the Blue Blues Band. But watch the documentary for yourself and be convinced to never listen to anything by any of these guys ever again except for "Stop It Baby" and perhaps "Satilik."
As I'm writing this article, I'm listening to a (mostly) '50's rock 'n roll medley by BBB that is about as uninspired and lifeless as one might expect, frequently stumbling along, although at times it rises to the level of competence. The best '50s rock 'n roll was FUN. This isn't.
Blue on IMDB
The Heard - Stop It Baby (written by Kerim Çapli)
ZeN and Replikas: two legendary Istanbul bands of the '90s and beyond- ZeN "Derdimi Anla" (1998)
ZeN: Bakirk öy Akil Hastanesi'nde [live at Bakirk Öy Mental Hospital]
Replikas: live at the Rock' n Coke Festival
Erdoğan Çapli: Turk Folk Potporisi (14-year-old son pictured on drums)/Üsküdar'a Gider Ilken (later coverd by the great band Mavi Işiklar)
Blue documetary about The Blue Blues Band [I saw this with English subtitles. YouTube has Turkish subs; about 15 minutes in English]
Chad and Jeremy (with Kim): "Paxton Quigley's Had the Course" was used on the Once Upon A Time In Hollywood soundtrack
Yavuz Çetin: Satilik (2001) [full album]
Kerim Çapli Project [I'm assuming these tracks are from his solo album: "Inside Outside"/"Mainline"/"Sunrise"]
Yavuz Çetin & Erkan Oğur: Dünya [Oğur is an internationally respected musician in a variety of musical genres: jazz, pop, rock, etc on guitar, saz. Studio improvisation. very nice.]
'50s/'60s rock 'n roll medley by BBB:
Lost Ghost: "Gimme Some Lovin'" ('80's band featuring 2 members of BBB and livelier than BBB):
For masochists, there are many more easy to find live videos of BBB on Youtube.
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