Tag Archives: Mick Jagger

Blast From The Past: Let It Bleed

It might be their greatest album, and that’s saying something.

Took a drive through the country Sunday afternoon and slapped this puppy in the player. My god, it sounds as fresh and vital as it did in 1969, and as many Stones albums were during their apex, there’s not a duff track in the lot. Many people focus on the legendary tracks – “Midnight Rambler”, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Gimme Shelter” – and those three are certainly landmark tracks of the rock’n’roll era. But it’s the deeper dive that makes this album more rewarding.

Keith’s “You Got The Silver” is among his finest performances, and a perfect example of the “front porch” sound that he gleaned from his relationship with Gram Parsons. Hell, “Country Honk” could have been a Flying Burrito Brothers track. I remember being stunned that the band did not put “Honky Tonk Women” on the album; it was a massive hit single and leaving it off almost seemed counterproductive to the promotion of the album. But as a Stones fan, I was thrilled to have such a different take.

The title track is joyful (and sordid); impossible not to sing along to and timelessly infectious. Speaking of sordid, “Live With Me” is one of their raunchiest, featuring a killer bass line and a nasty sax solo. “Love In Vain” is a prime example of how the blues roots of the band flowered over time; what started as simple expositions of the form started to flower into inventive arrangements.

Charlie Watts is a monster, as always, but the underrated Bill Wyman has some great moments as well. And as much as I love Brian Jones, Mick Taylor was the greatest guitarist the Stones ever had (Ron Wood is a great player, but he has been wasted as a Rolling Stone). The band also pulled out all the stops with horn sections, gospel choirs and majestic arrangements; the sound of this album was phenomenal considering the year it was made.

This album came out as big cultural changes were occurring in the industry and for fans. AM radio was still pretty cool but FM was rearing its head. Singles were still huge (and selling) but albums started to become definitive statements rather than a collection of hit and failed singles. Let It Bleed was proving that these English boys not only understood Delta and Chicago blues, but country music and roadhouse rock as well. Hearing it made me feel cooler than I was. It gave me a window to what could (and would) be.

Listen to clips here…oh just buy the damned thing, willya?

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

Reading Red

So why does a guy who abhors gossip shows read rock bios?

I don’t know, but I do. I’m not talking about the ghoul books, where hacks write detached tomes about Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger without ever getting close to the subject or the inner circle. There are writers who make a career out of that, although their creative output wouldn’t fill a thimble. You know who they are, because their dust jackets brag about how many they’ve written. If you know anything about rock’n’roll and grew up listening to the artists, you already know more than you’ll ever get out of these pulp pissants – the equivalent of stones skipping across the surface of a pond.

But hey, it’s America – they’re free to write ’em and you’re free to read ’em.

I’ve actually become more of a documentary fan as I’ve gotten older, everything from social issues to films to music. The recent deluxe package of Bridge Over Troubled Water included a fascinating piece about the making of the album; it started airing on Palladia this weekend. I almost didn’t recognize Art Garfunkel, but he and Paul Simon were interviewed at length along with several key collaborators. I know that album backwards and forwards and the title song still gives me goosebumps (one of the greatest vocals, ever), but I came away learning something. More on that tomorrow.

I’ve been working like a fiend, 12+ hour days, and this weekend I knew I had to decompress, at least for a day or two. I’ve always been a voracious reader, a book a day from my teen years through my mid-twenties. When I do have the time I still enjoy reading, whether next to the fireplace on a miserable winter’s night, laying on the beach on vacation or just sitting in an Adirondack chair outside my house. Summer is short and sweet in upstate New York, so with the sun high in the sky and cocktail in hand, I grabbed Sammy Hagar’s bio Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock.

Video: Montrose:Bad Motor Scooter

I’ve never been a huge fan of Sammy’s solo material, but that first Montrose album was and is an absolute killer, and his first solo record had a few stellar tracks as well. Being a bit older, I grew tired of Van Halen rather quickly, but two of the best songs they ever did – “Why Can’t This Be Love” and “Finish What You Started” – were with Sam in the band. And although the musicians in Chickenfoot are all first-rate, it just doesn’t stick with me musically. Frankly, his smaller band (whether Waboritas or Wabos) sounds looser and more fun.

Red is a pretty quick read – dysfunctional childhood, outsider with ambition, chance meetings, a little magic, and a combination of solo success mixed with playing alongside one of the most innovative guitarists in history and one of the most psychotic, self-destructive people around. And those last two people are the same guy.

Hagar doesn’t pull many punches here – he’s pretty open about his own missteps and regrets – and with few exceptions (Michael Anthony, original manager Ed Leffler) the usual suspects have the stink of the business upon them. Irving Azoff is skilled but two-faced, Ronnie Montrose is brilliant but self-directed, Eddie Van Halen can be a charming and apologetic cat but is also criminally insane. David Lee Roth is a self-serving dick. The only relationship I couldn’t figure out was Alex Van Halen; Hagar alternates between saying they are so tight they call each other on birthdays, and that Alex conspires with Eddie to screw him over at every turn. I think something went amiss in the editing.

Video: Van Halen: “Why Can’t This Be Love

I went into the book looking for the insider’s view on what really went down in the Van Halen circus, but frankly I didn’t learn a thing. What I did discover – and it was never said overtly – was that Hagar has been smart enough to reach out to successful people for advice, and then take it. Like Jimmy Buffet, he modeled his lifestyle into an enterprise that will keep him independently wealthy for the rest of his life, which gives him the freedom to play music for fun rather than necessity. Between cantinas and his Cabo Wabo tequila business – eventually sold to a majority owner who made his percentage worth more than it was when he ran it himself – Hagar is a free man.

So since he didn’t write the book for money, was it to set the record straight about the bands he had been in? To declare that the low-scale concerts and smaller albums are by design? To distance himself from the myriad of casualties he’s been associated with and celebrate family and casual living? Frankly, I’m not certain. The book doesn’t even really end, it just…stops. I think he wants his fans to believe that he’s at heart a decent guy who supports charities, who takes care of people (the Wabos are paid year-round even though they play infrequently), who has gotten to the top through hard work and dedication. I would imagine his fans already know that.

So while the book was a quick read – conversationally written, very pleasant – it was an afternoon’s diversion rather than a deep-dive. I did come away liking the guy and respecting his drive, and although I remain ambivalent about the majority of his catalogue, there are several classic songs of his that have endured well over time. If I ever meet him and he wants to do a shot of Cabo Wabo, it would probably be a good time (I did learn that Sammy brings the party with him). But sadly, maybe that Van Halen story will never be known.

Unless…I wonder if Michael Anthony is interested in writing a book?

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Music, Reviews

Rock’s Darkest Day?

July 3rd is the anniversary of the deaths of both Brian Jones and Jim Morrison. Ask rockers about Morrison and you’ll get a highly divided camp; some revere his poetic lyrics and unique artistic expression with The Doors, while others see him as a bloated, self-indulgent hipster who yammered nonsense and called it art. 

I was a Doors fan and still enjoy their music – there are a series of great singles and many of the deeper tracks on the album were pretty fascinating. I thought L.A. Woman was a tremendous album and am saddened that they never got to continue that journey. But the drunken escapades, the supposed incidents of exposure, the pretentiousness of it all…yeah, I could understand someone resisting their work because they can’t get past that. 

But I’ll wrestle you to the mat about Jones

Brian Jones was The Rolling Stones. Without him, there wouldn’t be a band, let alone a Sticky Fingers or an Exile on Main Street or a Let It Bleed. Because it was Jones the blues purist who set the course, charted the direction and marketed the band in the earliest days when everyone else was ready to fold the tent and quit

Mick Jagger would have graduated from the London School of Economics and been a prissy accountant. Charlie Watts would probably have joined a jazz band and would be famous to a whole other audience. Bill Wyman might have lived the suburban life he seemed to be drifting towards, playing in r&b bands on the weekend and still pulling birds half his age. 

And Keith Richards? He probably would have done the same damned thing – overindulge in life’s pleasures and play some of the most timeless riffs man has ever wrangled from an electric guitar. 

I remember being crushed when Jones died. I was just a kid – other iconic deaths like Buddy Holly either predated my awareness or (like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding) involved people I liked but was not fully invested in. But The Rolling Stones were my lifeblood, and this was like losing a brother.

You have to realize that at the time, lines were drawn between Beatles fans and Stones fans; peer pressure said you had to be one or the other, and you’d better choose. All the cute girls chose The Beatles, of course…and that was reason enough for me to side with the Stones

He was the first rock star in my world; looked (at the time) like a golden god, played any instrument you put into his hands, added flavor to Stones singles that other bands would later copy and seemed like the coolest guy on the planet. When I saw the Stones on Ed Sullivan I looked right past Jagger and was mesmerized by him. And I wasn’t the only one…five hundred miles north of my New York City house, Andy and Greg of The Chesterfield Kings were watching the same program and getting their minds blown as well. 

And then he died – murdered, I still believe – and what had been this picture perfect vision of music and peace and utopia started to crumble. Soon it would be Jimi, and Janis and Jimoddly connected…and finally the nail in the coffin,  Altamont

Don’t get me wrong – I love the Mick Taylor era of the band, and although he’s been underutilized in his tenure, Ronnie Wood is one of my all time favorite guitar players. But the London singles the early Stones cut? Pure magic

Listen to the magic!

Had the Stones broken up after Exile, they would have that same unfinished legacy that Buddy Holly, The Beatles and James Dean have – a permanent snapshot of genius in its prime.  No chance to stumble and fall, or go ages between artistic releases, or climb on stage long past their prime and sing about want and boredom and being unsatisfied…right before pocketing millions per gig and taking a private plane home. 

What would Brian Jones have done after he got over the heartbreak of being squeezed out of his own band? I can only wonder. But I can also revel in what he left behind, which is a brilliant anthology of classic music that is as powerful to me now as it was as the impressionable boy with a transistor radio and a dream. 

What a drag...it is getting old.

And Happy Birthday to (among others) Kurtwood Smith, Fontella Bass, Franz Kafka, George Sanders, Dave Barry, and the late, great Ken Ober.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Music

Perfect Father’s Day Gifts

When the world is reduced to a smoldering pile of ash, only two things will remain – cockroaches and Keith Richards. Perhaps, given that sentiment, it’s time to stop taking the old geezer for granted and start learning the necessary methods of survival. You can start by practicing with this Keith Richards Action Figure. (It really exists – I’m not making this up).

Weave guitars with Ronnie Wood! Steal the girlfriend of Brian Jones! Bitch-slap preening Mick Jagger! Ingest every substance you find! Hang with Johnny Depp and still be the coolest guy in the room!

“But I can’t be like Keef”, you whine. Au contrare, wimp!

Now there’s an instruction manual for just that very thing! Jessica Fallington West’s What Would Keith Richards Do?

From the publicity brief:

The perfect gift for the legions of fans of the Rolling Stones: timeless wisdom and spiritual beliefs inspired by one of the world’s great survivors, Keith Richards. 

What is a wise man? What is a prophet? Someone with a strange, unflappable demeanor. Someone who speaks in cryptic koans, words whose meanings take years to unravel. Someone who has confronted death, God, sin, and the immortal soul. Someone unfit for this world, but too brilliant to depart it. Someone, in short, like Keith Richards.

Here, at last, the wisdom of this indefatigable man is recorded and set forth. These are his visionary words: “I would rather be a legend than a dead legend.” Or “Whatever side I take, I know well that I will be blamed.” And—indeed—“I’ve never had a problem with drugs, only with policemen.” 

The perfect Father’s Day gift!

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Music, Reviews

T.G.I.F. – Ten…Things

As you know, I’m usually thematic on Fridays with the TGIF feature. Ten comedy clips, ten classic bands, ten awesome artists…whatever. Mental alliteration. Synergy. Symbiosis.

But today my brain is a mess. I’m juggling three people’s worth of work, I’m already sinfully behind on a couple of projects for this site and my weekend is already overloaded so badly that only Red Bull and Deus ex Machina can save me. (That’s right – not one, but both.)

Remember that frog in the blender game? This week, I’m the frog.

So here are ten…things…that I’m excited about right now.

* Alternative Press Turns 25! It’s damn hard to keep a magazine afloat twenty-five weeks let alone twenty-five years, so this is a major milestone. Congratulations! (Full disclosure – never wrote for them, never was asked, never asked them if I could.)

* Rod Stewart: Sessions. I was supposed to get a copy of this last Fall for review and it never arrived. I waited and waited – didn’t want to drop $50+ if I didn’t have to – but it never arrived. Finally plunked the scratch to buy a copy and it is magnificent – how great he once was. (Please Rod, no more smooth rock!)

* Goodbye, Jack Bauer. What an incredible run 24 has had. Yes, Jack, I wanted to see Kim eaten by that mountain lion, and Tony had more lives than Patchy on Lost, but you can have my back anytime. Congratulations on a great saga – see you on the big screen!

* There’s a new Marah album! June 22 sees the release of Life Is A Problem, which should prove to be a highly unusual album from success-avoiding Marah, recorded in rustic settings with odd instruments and released on download, vinyl and cassette – no CD! The almost all new band lineup will hit the road in June. And how will they conspire to bollocks it up this time? We wait with baited breath.

* Thriller is coming to DVD! No, not that dance pop disc by Captain Plastic Surgery…the classic TV series hosted by Boris Karloff! Finally!! Boomers will plotz when they see this!

* Lost: The End. Yep, six seasons later, the saga of the plane crash survivors comes to an end in what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest television events of the decade. Don’t call me Sunday night.

* The World According To Sawyer. Okay, that’s two Lost references, but Sawyer’s many nicknames were a hilarious part of the show.

* The Exile On Main Street documentary is coming! “The wild nights, the orgies, the drug-taking. I remember it well,” reflects Mick Jagger. (Well, if you can remember it, how good could it have been?)

* Kevin Costner is going to save the world! Well, actually it’s his smarter brother who had the oil spill idea. (But how smart can he be if he let Kevin make Waterworld?)

* Mark Bacino has a new album! One of my favorite power-poppers; great singer, songwriter and performer. Check out Queen’s English at his website. Can’t wait for mine to arrive!

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Editorials, Film/TV, Music, Reviews

T.G.I.F. – Ten from 1969

"Set the Wayback Machine for 1969, Sherman..."

If the concept of how quickly time passes hadn’t already stunned me three days ago – realizing that it’s been almost thirty years since John Lennon was killed – an email from my friend Siege would have packed a bigger wallop. But looking at his list of albums that were released in 1969 made me think (1) “holy shit, that was forty years ago” and (2) “wow…that was a great year for music”. 

It was another transitional year for me – less AM and more FM, less singles and more albums, Woodstock, etc. Several artists’ debuts made an immediate impact – CSN and The Allman Brothers along with some on my list below. Some 60’s artists were soon to depart but left great statements like Abbey Road and Turtle Soup. Credence released three albums that year, and The Monkees were already up to Instant Replay. Others like Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye and The Kinks were shifting their priorities from singles to more thematic works. Bob Dylan released Nashville Skyline

Some artists who would become lifelong favorites were just getting started – Alice Cooper and Pretties For You, Fleetwood Mac with Then Play On, debuts from Yes and Warren Zevon and Mott the Hoople (which would soon see serious turntable time over the next couple of years from this soon-to-be disc jockey). The Moody Blues released two classics; supergroups were forming…I own or owned seventy-two titles on that list, and there are very few that I wouldn’t pull out and play right now. 

Any year in music is a pretty easy topic to research, and certainly the few years on either side of 1969 would also reveal a robust list of favorites and classics. But I took a trip through Siege’s tally and picked out ten that had particular impact on me then and still resonate now. I could easily shift the list on another day – great music being a subjective decision, after all – and your mileage may vary as well. 

But you’re here, so indulge me. Break one or more of these out and savor them; maybe you will relive some great moments of your own. And if you’re young enough to not have experienced these albums, take a plunge. Hell, I gave Death Cab For Cutie a shot, you owe me

So in no particular order… 

40 Years old and still kicking ass

In The Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson) — Still kicking today although they’ve been three or four totally different groups over the years. The album cover was only a mild tipoff compared to the psychedelic prog within; I’ve long argued that Ian McDonald was the MVP of this version of the band. An aural acid trip, an album truly worthy of adjectives like majestic and classic

Blind Faith  (Blind Faith) — Two thirds of Cream adds the bass player from Family and secret weapon Steve Winwood for a one-shot effort. Short and incomplete, its high points are timeless; great songwriting from Winwood and Eric Clapton, especially “Presence of the Lord” and “Can’t Find My Way Home”. 

Let It Bleed (Rolling Stones) — As the Stones weaned their way from Brian Jones and their blues based gameplan, as drugs and Jagger’s control-freak antics started to splinter a band into The Glimmer Twins and the other guys, as the music industry tripped headlong from pop singles into stranger days, the Stones might have fired their best shot across the bow. The bookend tracks (“Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) are career-defining moments, and they didn’t even put their hit single (“Honky Tonk Women”) on it. 

Odessa (Bee Gees) — In which a pop band – already firmly established with a few hit singles – decides to experiment and challenge themselves to move on to the next step. Oh, how I wish they would have stayed this course instead of donning those ice cream suits a few years later. I expound in detail here

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (Neil Young) — Consider this a club sandwich, with the opening, closing and middle tracks – three stone cold classics – the bread supporting the tasty filling. Hot on the heels of his debut, this first dalliance with Crazy Horse still resonates, soon to be followed up by After The Gold Rush to form one of the best opening trifectas any artist ever managed. Name another song where a one-note guitar solo (“Cinnamon Girl”) is even half as thrilling. 

Dusty in Memphis (Dusty Springfield) — I’ll admit it, I would have been perfectly satisfied with “Son of a Preacher Man” had I not read a review that piqued my interest and sent me in search of the album. Oozing soul (and yes, sex) this was a great marriage of voice, performers and material. (That English bird? Really? Yep.) 

Hot Rats (Frank Zappa) — Little did I know at the time that my initial Frank Zappa fascination would be even stronger forty years later and sixteen years (!) past his death. Because I was a fan of The Mothers of Invention, I was willing to open my eyes to the jazz and fusion I experienced here, although I can’t imagine anyone not loving “Peaches en Regalia”. Timeless majesty. 

The Stooges (The Stooges) — I’ll credit one of my older friends – as well as Creem Magazine, most likely – for making me give this more than one listen. Stereos were getting more sophisticated and progressive rock bands were flaunting daredevil instrumental virtuosity, but the Stooges were salmon swimming upstream. The Stooges first seemed like demonic sludge; the sound made when someone opened the gates of Hell and gave them a broken megaphone to broadcast with. Of course, after the initial shock, I was converted…and remain so. 

Tommy (The Who) — An opera about a deaf, dumb and blind pinball player. Sure Pete – have another toke. But although others (The Kinks, The Pretty Things) already had done it, The Who get credit for creating the first rock opera. Forget the semantics; this remains an incredible musical statement, from hit singles (“Pinball Wizard”) to underrated killers (“Sensation”); even the instrumental breaks and transitions are glorious. Skip the theatre and film musicals and slap on a pair of headphones for the original “Amazing Journey” 

Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin) — I know now that they ripped off old blues riffs and repurposed them; I know now that the band was really just the last version of The Yardbirds with Jimmy Page taking control, and I know that a few years later they would get so self-indulgent that I would sell the vinyl at a used store out of anger. (Ah, the folly of youth). But this first record was a kick in the nuts – this band really hit the ground running and killed on every track. (Rock perfection:  the percussive instrumental “Black Mountain Side” lulling you into a trance and then “Communication Breakdown” interrupting the haze and ripping your jugular apart. Plant’s scream before Page’s solo still makes the hair stand up on every pore in my body.) 

Rock me baby.

Leave a comment

Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews

Listen, People (Part 2)

On Thursday I waxed poetic about a recent concert featuring The Rascals, The Turtles and Herman’s Hermits and left off at intermission. Here’s the rest…

Peter Noone 2009

I wondered why Herman’s Hermits was set up as the sole act past intermission, an obvious headline ploy (as if the posters didn’t make it clear enough).  As the lights dimmed after intermission, a huge Union Jack dropped down across the upstage scrim in tandem with explosive fanfare and British anthems blaring. But when Peter Noone hit the stage with four younger, energetic musicians dressed as if it was 1964, my question was answered. The British were coming…again!

Peter Noone is 62 but looks like he’s in his mid-40s and sings like he’s in his 20s. In reality, by the time he was twenty, Herman’s Hermits were just about done. But on this night in a packed auditorium, the only sign of age was in the crowd; the band was on fire and gave the songs a boost they never had in their original form; for the most part they sounded as good or better.

Noone led the band through an entire catalogue of beloved songs, and as each one played two points dominated my thoughts. First, every one of these tunes was melodic, crisp and fun, and he and the band played them with such enthusiasm and life that they should just hit the club circuit and win over a whole new generation of fans; ones who avoid “oldies shows” like the plague. And second…my God, this was a prolific band!

What were you doing at sixteen?

When people talk about the great bands of the ’60s, Herman’s Hermits seldom enters the discussion. Why not? For starters, just look at this string of singles five Top Five hits…in five months! A dozen singles in the Top 15 in just over two years. Amazingly, in 1965, they outsold The Beatles in the United States!

And in addition to their own great material, Noone filled out the show with tributes both sincere and funny. Peers like Freddy and The Dreamers, Peter and Gordon and Chad and Jeremy got their due with excellent cover versions of some of their hits. But Noone’s funny between-song banter and occasionally randy storytelling also gave him an opportunity to imitate artists from Mick Jagger to The Sex Pistols (!) as the band launched into segments of “Start Me Up” and “Pretty Vacant”.  There was also a running gag about The Turtles being old men, although like Peter,  Mark Volman and Howard Kalyan are also 62 (their birthdays are a few months apart). It was just banter between and about old friends, playfully mocking them for being asleep in the limo before it gets to the hotel and wondering if it was their set list taped to the floor “because there’s only four hits on it“.

Like many UK groups from the pre-Beatles  era, there’s a strong music hall influence bleeding through their material, whether it’s vaudevillian jokes  about dim people requesting “She’s A Muscular Boy”, or the bounce in pop chestnuts like “Dandy” and “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat”. Until Noone pointed it out, I hadn’t realized that part of the charm about Herman’s Hermits was the unrelenting joy in their songs. Maybe “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” is a little sad, but only “The End of the World” is truly morose. The rest can’t help put a smile on your face.

The Tremblers 1980

He also wove in a couple of tracks from his underrated skinny-tie era album with The Tremblers and cheekily made up a song about his lifelong dream to be in this very theatre on this very night. By the time the vocal participation challenge went out to the audience during “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”, he had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand (not that there hadn’t been a few eating out of it since the moment he walked onto the stage). Knowing the show was closing with “There’s a Kind of Hush”, the audience was on their feet mid-song, providing Noone and band a lengthy standing ovation for what was truly a dynamic ninety minute show. The post-show autograph and merch line was enormous, and Noone graciously shook every hand and signed every item.

Some bands from long ago trot themselves out for these events to get a little adulation, connect with their glory days and make a little coin (sadly, perhaps for the first time in their career). Peter Noone and his new version of Herman’s Hermits might be a nostalgic act because of their catalogue, but their presentation, energy and musical chops were fresh and vibrant. No doubt they could kick the ass of a lot of current pop acts.

I’m not certain if Peter is writing songs these days, or even if he’s entertaining cutting new material in addition to bringing the old hits to his loyal fanbase of Noonatics. But he’s talented as hell, is a consummate entertainer, and he’s proven time and time again that he can deliver the goods. The Hermits era speaks for itself. The Tremblers album from 1980 still sounds wonderful. And as recently as 2001 he guested on pop wunderkind Richard X Heyman’s ep titled Heyman, Hoosier and Herman and nailed it with “Hoosier Girl”.

Someone get this guy and this band into a studio, get them the right material, and have at it. Something tells me we’d be into something good.

Peter Noone website.

Wiki pages for Peter and Herman’s Hermits.

Grab that Tremblers album!

56 tracks of Hermits

Heyman Hoosier Herman

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Reviews