A composer and his 27-minute song 

One tune that songwriter Michael Koppy won't be performing live on his West Coast tour is his 27-minute epic, "All in the Timing."

"It would be unwise," an "imposition" or "inflected on people," he says on the phone from his home in Hawaii.

However, he will read lyrics from the tune, subtitled "A Hollywood Romance in Seven Chapters," at Book Passage in the Ferry Building on Thursday.

The song — with references to everyone from Orson Welles to Isaac Newton to Helen of Troy, and the first ever to be annotated, Koppy says — is on his country-folk album "Ashmore's Store," which is accompanied by more than 100 pages of text and has its own ISBN.

"I wasn't intending to pat myself on the back and write something unprecedented. I thought it would be about nine minutes," says Koppy, commenting that nothing is bigger than themes of life, death and love.

"A song about American history would be a lot shorter," he says, adding, "Recording it was a nightmare and a riot ... 17 pages of lyrics flying everywhere."

Another advantage of the tune: "It's not a slow ballad, it races along like a freight train. If there's something that's not well-turned, it's over," he says.

Despite the intellectual bent of the song, Koppy isn't an academic, calling himself too "impolitic." He was expelled from high school, and says, after attending five or six colleges, he now might have the equivalent of a bachelor's degree.

As a young man, he spent a pivotal time in Tallahassee, Fla., where he hung around the real Ashmore Store, a pocket of Southern-left liberalism that inspired his recording.

Still, he says, "I love the South with all my heart, but I wouldn't live there if you pay me."

During the 1970s and '80s, Koppy lived in San Francisco, where he worked as a producer (he presented at the CLIO Awards and other film events) and concert promoter (he proudly tells a story about how Bill Graham threatened him).

He spent some time in the New York theater world and in Los Angeles, doing blue-collar work on movie sets.

Through the years, his work has been self-generated, and he's admittedly "schizophrenic."

But there's one thing he is sure about. Clearly not tackling any endeavor just for money and fame, Koppy exemplifies his mantra: "If you're going to do something, do it." It also doesn't hurt, he says, "to treat audiences as if they're intelligent people who have intellectual curiosity."


Michael Koppy

Where: Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $10

Contact: (415) 563-6300, www.hotelutah.com

Note: Koppy also reads at 6 p.m. Thursday at Book Passage in the Ferry Building, and appears again in concert at 7 p.m. Monday at Osteria Acoustic Bistro, 3277 Sacramento St., S.F.

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Leslie Katz

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