Billboard posted a cool check-in interview with Geddy Lee this morning. I usually capture little bits and pieces for my loyal readers, but I found the whole thing illuminating, especially the notion of playing other albums end-to-end on future tours. Dig it:
Billboard: The Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage came out last year. What was your initial reaction?
Geddy: It was hard for me to watch in some ways. It was kind of fun to watch the old, old stuff, the bad hair and bad clothes. And seeing the old performances, I enjoyed that. It was kind of an out-of-body experience, because I didn't recognize that as me. But I found it uncomfortable just to see so much of us talking [laughs]. I enjoyed all the parts where other people were talking more than watching us talk incessantly about what we do.
Billboard: What moved you to perform Moving Pictures in its entirety on the Time Machine tour?
Geddy: We thought that was the perfect time, and the perfect album to do that with. Because I guess it would be considered our quintessential album, and it was the 30th anniversary of that album being released. It also gave us the opportunity to play an 11-minute song on that album called The Camera Eye, which we had never really embraced as a live song.
Billboard: Would you consider doing that with any other classic Rush album?
Geddy: I certainly would. We really enjoyed that whole experience. We played for three hours -- you can tuck a 45-minute album in there and still play lots of new things and lots of other things. If we were really out of our minds, we would attempt something like [1978's] Hemispheres. If Rush has a cult following, within that cult following there's a following for Hemispheres [laughs]. I'm not sure we're up for that one, but I could see us doing 2112.
Billboard: What can we expect from the next album, Clockwork Angels?
Geddy: The first two [single] releases from this album, Caravan and Brought Up to Believe, are a great indication of where this album's going, although there's much more variety than just what those two songs offer. When I look back at [2007 album] Snakes and Arrows, as happy as we were with that record, in retrospect I feel we kind of overdid it with overdubs. We'd like to simplify that, just in terms of making sure the guitar, bass and drum sounds are big and loud and clear, and any time we are going to add an overdub, to make sure that it definitely is adding and not subtracting.
Billboard: Your parents were Holocaust survivors. How did that affect your life and music?
Geddy: Certainly my personality, my sense of humor, my outlook on life was informed by the experiences of my parents, and the stories they shared with me. Red Sector A [from the band's 1984 release Grace Under Pressure] was informed by one of my mom's stories -- when she was liberated in Bergen-Belsen in Germany. When they saw that there were British soldiers coming in to liberate them, they were in such disbelief. They had assumed that they had just been abandoned. Neil [Peart, Rush's drummer/lyricist] and I talked about this, and he'd been putting together some ideas for a futuristic song about a similar kind of prison idea. That story had some impact on him for sure.
Billboard: You're known as an obsessive baseball memorabilia collector, with a museum-quality collection. How did your baseball passion develop?
Geddy: In the early '80s we were touring a lot in America. We'd be staying at a Holiday Inn somewhere, and after a 400-mile drive, we'd be waking up around midday. There was nothing to do but turn on the box, and there was almost always a Cubs game on. I started watching the Cubs every day, and before I knew it I was completely obsessed with baseball. It keeps me sane, or it keeps me insane, probably.
As the Stones ponder their 50th anniversary next year, they are re-kindling interest in the band by releasing a deluxe version of their 1978 album Some Girls, remastered (again) and with a full second album’s worth of songs rescued from the cutting room floor. I will review that release soon – but I’ll tell you now that it’s pretty great.
The group also issued a DVD shot in 16mm film of an intimate concert mid-way through the 1978 American tour that I have been watching pretty much non-stop for the past week, called Live In Texas ’78.
The Stones are in top form at this show. The film catches the band on probably its last tour before it got into the big shows with the over the top props and ramps into the audience and all of that. Here it’s a tight five piece with two keyboard players augmenting the sound. And while the band did do some stadiums on the 1978 tour, this show was at a 3,000-seat theater in Fort Worth, Texas.
The set list is exciting. They kick it off with Let It Rock by Chuck Berry and then slide into some older, familiar tunes like All Down the Line and Honky Tonk Women. But then they soon hit the new material, which was from the mostly punk-inspired Some Girls album. Here the band really hits its stride. Jagger straps on a Strat for When The Whip Comes Down and we see Keith cue the bridge when the time is right. Throughout the night, the Stones perform like they still have something to prove. And new band member Ronnie Wood has clearly added some fire to the lineup.
The band does seven of the ten songs on Some Girls, only omitting Lies, Before They Make Me Run and the title track. This is the last tour where they did so much new material live – and per a 2011 interview with Jagger in the DVD bonus goodies, this was unique even on this tour – they did all that new stuff on this night because it was a small show. A big highlight for me is the live version of Just My Imagination – not punk inspired, rather just groovy and rockin.
Despite the tightness of the group, the arrangements on many of the new songs are loose, with solo sections in different places than the album, and Jagger adding extra lines like in Miss You. In fact despite the fact that Miss You was the big single at the time, the song is pretty much an extended jam with Jagger again on guitar, so Keith and Woody take loads of solos, sometimes at the same time!
There is all sorts of shit in this film you’d never see in a concert film today, like a roadie mopping up a spilled drink by the drum riser during All Down The Line. And the hole on the ass of Jagger’s pants that is covered with duct tape during the first few songs but then is gone and it looks like his underwear is hanging out of the hole all night.
Or in Far Away Eyes, when Mick starts the song on piano but after a verse is having problems with it so he moves to the organ and just picks up where he left off. And…why are Bill Wyman’s middle two fingers bound together? That’s another weird little thing on this film. Regardless, he plays great. I always thought he was fairly mediocre but this music shows off his chops. Even on a slow burner like Beast of Burden his parts are moving and melodic. Good stuff.
Where the Ladies and Gentleman film from the Exile tour showcased Mick Taylor pretty much noodling through every song, this concert showcases the emerging guitar interplay between Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. Wood is rock solid and is just playing, instead of all the mugging he does these days.
In fact none of the band is mugging. Again, somewhere after this tour they became sort of caricatures of themselves in concert but here they are the real deal. Jagger’s voice is still in that really throaty mode, which he got out of later. It’s evident in Beast of Burden, which is a more aggressive delivery than on the album.
And let’s not forget Charlie Watts – rock solid and probably in his prime here.
After seven new songs in a row, the band shifts back to familiar ground with Love In Vain, an incendiary Tumblin Dice, another Chuck Berry cover, Happy (with Keith on vocal of course) and then the one-two punch of Brown Sugar and Jumpin Jack Flash.
The bonus tracks are interesting but probably only worth one viewing. The aforementioned Jagger interview is good. The band’s 1978 Saturday Night Live performance is on here – all three songs – and it’s just as I remember it. Terrible. The mix sucks, Jagger’s voice is gone and the performances are just poor overall. But Jagger and Dan Aykroyd doing a mock appearance on the Today show is a keeper.
You got a Stones fan you want to dazzle this Christmas? Get them this DVD, and Ladies and Gentlemen. They’ll love you forever.
The Stones will celebrate 50 years in the biz next year and the rumor mill is churning with tidbits - will the band do a massive tour? Will they record?
Keith Richards has been the most vocal about it, from Rolling Stone Magazine: Keith Richards will meet fellow Rolling Stones Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts in a London studio. "We're just going to play a little together, because we haven't played for three or four years," Richards says. "You don't necessarily want to rehearse or write anything – you just want to touch bases. That's a good start: me, Charlie and Ronnie. Mick's welcome, and I'm sure he'll turn up, but right now we just want to get our chops down."
OK, cool. But another string floating around is cooler - Richards has also invited Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman to consider getting ready for something.
He told Spinner in an interview: And of course everyone else is welcome. Mick Taylor's welcome. I don't see why everybody who was a Stone shouldn't be involved. I read somewhere else that Bill Wyman is at the ready for whatever transpires (can't find where I read it though!) Interesting since he gave up the band due to a loathing of touring.
Meanwhile, the Stones just re-issued Some Girls with 13 bonus/cleaned up tracks from the 1978 sessions, a-la the Exile on Main Street reissue. The band also put out a live concert film from the 1978 tour, called Live in Texas. I have the CD, and the concert DVD is in the mail - watch reviews soon. And while I think the Stones jumped the shark long ago, I'd be up for a concert with Mick Taylor, just to see him work with these guys again.
I ripped through Ace Frehley’s book No Regrets in about three days. I am a life-long KISS fan and thought I had read it all, but let me tell you – I learned more about Ace and KISS than I had in years. The book fills in all sorts of holes in KISStory and gives the first really comprehensive picture of the man behind the Spaceman persona.
Usually I want to skip over the ‘childhood’ portion of biographies but Ace’s is really interesting and goes a long way to explain his laid back live-and-let-live demeanor. His entry into music is really interesting too, with some great, great stories, like how he used to sneak backstage at concerts and one time got dragged onstage to set up Mitch Mitchell’s drums at a Hendrix concert!
I was pleasantly surprised that Ace didn’t spend a lot of time on stories that have been told a thousand times by Gene and Paul, such as the fact that the band set up hollow speaker cabinets in their first club gigs to make the backline look bigger. He wisely skipped all of that and instead told new stories – plenty of stuff I had never heard before. I feel like Ace could fill a whole book with stories about drunken escapades and escapes from near death, and… oh wait that is exactly what he does here!
Ace does not shy away from being a life-long addict and how it impaired his decisions and his career. He is brutally frank about how during the recording of the Destroyer album he switched from being mainly a drinker to doing lots of cocaine. This begins a vicious decades-long struggle with dependency (Ace has been clean for five years), and many crazy stories.
He is very understanding as to why Paul and Gene didn’t want to work with him after a certain point (neither are drinkers or drug-users). And despite the No Regrets title of his book, Ace does express some regrets that he could have handled certain situations with more poise in his drugging days. He also credits Paul and Gene for being understanding about his desire to leave the band, and says they both made earnest pleas for him to stay in, which I don’t know I had heard Ace admit in the past.
Despite the fact that the media portrayed the book as slinging loads of dirt at Gene Simmons, it’s pretty tame in that department. Ace does say that Gene is a sex addict, and that he never really understood music (was more focused on business, marketing etc etc) but he has way more good things to say about Gene overall. Not a bad word in the book about Paul Stanley either. And while he says Peter Criss was his best friend in the band (because he partied too) Ace concedes that Peter became an unpredictable and unpleasant person towards the end of his (Peter’s) stint with the band – yes, due to drug and alcohol use.
Ace’s description of what it’s like to be an addict is very intense. He basically says when he first did coke, it was incredible but then he was always seeking that same first high, which was unobtainable because his body had developed a tolerance. He also said that alcohol as a depressant and cocaine as a stimulant was the perfect cocktail mix for partying for days on end. But then you’d get too strung out and have to take sleeping pills to rest. Then you wake up hung over and start taking prescription medication for that. Pretty soon you become a walking pharmacy and your only concern is where you are going to get your drugs in the next town because you can’t bring enough with you. He makes it sound like a real hassle and a nightmare, and it is. Keith Richards told similar tales in his book of trying to think steps ahead to get his fix in the next town.
Aside from the rise of KISS from a no-name bar act to the biggest band in the world in just two years, Ace provides a great in-depth look at the making of his solo album in 1978 and how he came into his own as a singer and songwriter. He has kind words for manager Bill Aucion and band ‘coach’ Sean Delaney, who helped with a lot of the early stage look and even coordinated the band’s stage moves. Lots of credit given to those two for the band’s success.
Ace concedes that once he left KISS his career and life went south due to the drugs but he does touch on his solo career and the recording of the albums he put out post-KISS. He does not provide as much insight into what happened on the KISS reunion tours – maybe those memories are too fresh. But the story ends on a high note, with Ace celebrating five years of sobriety and the release of his recent solo album, Anomaly. I pulled Anomaly off the shelf after I finished the book and still really enjoy it. Sure there is some crap on it but there are many gems. Sounds like classic Ace and that’s a good place to be.
Ace seems happy and healthy. That’s the impression I got from the book at least. He is at a place where he can look back and marvel on his accomplishments and share a laugh or two with the world about the crazy road he has taken. If you dig KISS, get the book.
No one I know was really shocked to hear the news last Friday that Ozzy is getting back together with the rest of Sabbath for a 2012 tour and yes even a new album -- the first album since 1978's Never Say Die. It was the worst kept secret of the month, and something about the Spinal Tap-ish announcement on 11-11-11 seemed appropriate.
The response has been generally positive from what I have seen and people seem genuinely supportive. Me? I think this idea sucks. Ozzy jumped the shark 15 - 20 years ago and I guarantee the new album will be a piece of crap and the tour will descend into Sabbath playing the same ten songs they always play with Ozzy.
You want proof? See this Ozzfest show from 1999. You think Ozzy is going sound any better with these guys 13 years later? Dream on.
Contrast that with the STELLAR Dio reunion and Iommi and crew should have just gone out on a high note.
Call me a curmudgeonly old fart but I dunno...
Long-time readers know that despite this being basically a music blog, I will occasionally delve into technology stuff. And recently, I plowed through the Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs book and wanted to post something.
The list of markets Jobs revolutionized or invented is mind boggling: personal computing, desktop publishing (with Adobe), computers with a graphical interface (not having to type commands into the computer to make things happen), saving the music industry from Napster-like piracy with iTunes, the animated films industry (through Pixar – that part of the story is one of the most interesting), the mobile phone industry, retailing (Apple Stores), the app store for phones and tablets, and tablet computing with the iPad.
It might sound like I am an Apple ‘fan-boy’ as they are called, to agree with this list, but read the book. It’s all true. He either took an existing seed of an idea and made it work (graphical user interface, tablet computing), or outright invented it (iTunes).
Also true is that Steve Jobs was a major prick. This guy either thought you were a genius or you were shit. He led through fear and intimidation and pushed people beyond what is reasonable. Now, in many cases this method led to engineers and designers coming up with things that had previously been thought impossible. But still, not fun. He would also do things like send food back in restaurants after one bite, claiming it was inedible. And he pretty much totally neglected his family and kids. That kind of bullshit.
So while I very much admire the man, his perseverance and his genius, I don’t strive to be at all like him after reading the book. However, I do appreciate his take no prisoners attitude and the questioning of the status quo and responding to a ‘no’ with a ‘why not?’ And his willingness to fail. Nothing good happens without taking chances and failing. Most people and companies for that matter play it safe, and that is no way to change the world. Dream big and make it happen. Why not?
While Jobs died at the too-young age of 56, he lived a few lifetimes. The book presents Jobs’ life chronologically, with quotes from all the major players from the different phases of his life. Some of the most fascinating are from Bill Gates, who actually worked together with Jobs in the 80s to primarily design software for the first Macs. Later when Gates got into the operating system business, that is when their famous rivalry was born. But it seems like near the end, they had a grudging respect for each other.
The book is well-written and well-organized and is a pretty quick read for 500+ pages. The writer doesn’t sugar coat anything and you get a pretty good sense for what kind of guy Jobs was. Overall, it’s fascinating. I am not even presenting the tip of the tip of the iceberg. To relate something to my blog here, the section where Jobs convinced the big music companies to allow the use of their artists on iTunes is unreal. I don’t think anyone else but Jobs could have pulled it off. Read the book for that section alone…
And for the record, I typed this on an iMac, while listening to iTunes and syncing my iPod and being interrupted by calls to my iPhone. When this is posted, I’ll read it on my new iPad. Basically, I am a long-time Mac user.
In fact, after Jobs died, I pulled my Macintosh 512k from 1986 out of storage and guess what – it fired right up (see photo at left). That is highly cool. RIP Steve and thanks.
Jimmy Fallon's mind blowing imitation of Neil Young doing a Miley Cyrus song is still one of my top favorite viral vids. But now he's taken on the Lizard King (thanks to Seano for the tip) and it's just too good not to share. What's the material this time? Children's books. An instant classic. Enjoy!
I am half way through the Steve Jobs biography and as much as I admire what the man did and love Apple products, wow what a prick! He makes diva rock stars look like Mother Teresa.
Anyway, on the way to my mailbox are new books from Tony Iommi and Ace Frehley that came out this week. I will rip through those once I am done with Der Jobser and will certainly post reviews here.
In the meantime, both Frehley and Iommi are doing the promotional rounds for their respective books and there are some good quotes and stories floating around. Makes me eager to crack these tomes when I get them. Probably will read Ace's book first. Stay tuned!
Melodic Rock is one of the sites I troll frequently for music news, and I have noted over the years that the guy who runs it is a big Steve Perry and Journey fan, and he has broken some great Journey stories - to me, at least.
He has been trying to land an interview with Perry for years and it finally happened. Please go to the MR site for the whole interview but here are some of the highlights:
On joining the band at the demand of the label:
Well then the label says “We want you to have a singer” and then they went, “Well, I don't know, I don't know.” So, all of the sudden, here comes me, and I think it was a real challenge for all of us to find out what that really meant. They had to let go of doing it their way. I was bringing in ideas; they were growing. But, I will tell you this…being the singer in that environment with them as we were growing together on the Infinity record brought a certain kind of vocal strength out of me that the band required it have. Otherwise, I do not know if I would have ever found that anywhere else.
On re-listening to old Journey tracks for the upcoming Greatest Hits 2 CD:
Emotionally, I had to really listen to the tracks closer than I had in years. It was truly, emotionally extremely painful for me to be perfectly honest with you because I forgot how great Neal was…and I forgot how great the band was. And I think I've gotten away from it long enough to see that. And I forgot some of the things vocally that I used to do. I'm thinking, 'I was out of my mind, what was I thinking?' (laughing), you know?
On the vocal demands of the Journey repertoire combined with the band's grueling tour schedule:
I didn't know what I had left until the next day. And that was the hardest thing to have to explain to the rest of the band members, the neurotic fear that I would be going through because I'm in one city tonight and all I know is I've got to give it everything and I'm not going to skate it. I'm going to put it out there. And I would. And I wouldn't know how much I borrowed from tomorrow's show until the next day. So I'd wake up in the morning in fear. Do I have laryngitis? Is it gone? Is it there? So I would just try to speak on the phone or say something. And then I would be in fear. I couldn't try to sing because it's too early. So, I would just shut up and live in fear for the rest of the day until about 4 o'clock, when it's too late to cancel the show. And now I'm doing the soundcheck, and now, during the soundcheck is when I find out what I have for the night.
On life after the second Journey breakup:
People think, “Steve Perry should be the happiest guy in the world, what problems could he have?” Well let me tell you what problems Steve Perry has. The only problem Steve Perry has is that he's alive just like you are and he has to wake up in the morning like you do and he has to face the world exactly like you do. I'm no different than anybody else. I don't have some special coupon that excludes me from life on life's terms. There is no special coupon. Though, I'll tell you something Andrew: When I was younger I thought that if I could become famous and everybody would love me I would kind of have a special coupon. But guess what? The reality was that after I'd attained that, I realized that I am no different than anybody else. I still have to live life on life's terms. When Journey broke up for the second time...I think it damaged all of us again...From that experience, they went on with someone else. And I went away. I did. I've been gone. I just went away and tried to figure out how to live life on life's terms and just come off the ride...So, I thought in my mind it was better just to run away and not feel any of it. And you know Andrew, that worked for quite a few years but it certainly isn't a way to live life and I do not recommend it! (laughing) I do not recommend running from life, though I needed to. Because the break-up was so painful for all of us. And I'm not saying just for me, goddamnit. I'm saying for all of us. Please, I hope you print this. I want you to print this. The break-up was painful for all of us. But it necessarily had to happen.
You'll have to read the rest of the interview to find out what Perry thinks of the band continuing on with other singers and other topics. It would be cool one day to have Perry reunite with the rest of Journey for one gig, like Pink Floyd did for Live8 or Zeppelin for the O2 gig. But even Steve Perry knows how demanding his songs are to sing, and I wonder if he'd be able to do it justice to himself. Still, how cool would it be to see one more time?
Love 'em or hate 'em, KISS boasts one of the best front men to ever grace the stage, vocally. Paul Stanley's pipes have improved exponentially over the decades and I have always been blown away at his vocal power. Forget that he sings inane lyrics and his oft-laughable stage banter has warranted whole CD collections on the bootleg market.
Put it this way - I can see KISS replacing Gene Simmons some day with some clone they pull from a tribute band or more likely, a well-publicized and promoted reality show a-la Rock Star: Superonova. Hell, they already replaced Ace and Peter! But who could ever replace Paul Stanley? I don't know. You don't agree? Go try to sing Love Gun and get back to me.
Anyway, I had noticed a rasp creeping into his vocals, especially on some tracks on the recent Sonic Boom CD. I thought, well, shit can't they fix that in the studio or have him re-do the vocal?
Guess not. According to reports, Paul had vocal surgery on Tuesday. Per CNN:
KISS lead singer Paul Stanley underwent successful surgery for "recurring vocal cord issues" Tuesday that the musician said Wednesday "come with 40 years of preaching rock 'n' roll."
His doctors say Stanley, who's been touring and recording with KISS for nearly 40 years, will make a "swift and complete" recovery, according to a statement from his publicist.
"I hold myself to a higher standard than others do," Stanley said. "With that in mind, I wanted to remedy a few minor issues that come with 40 years of preaching rock 'n' roll."
Here's to a speedy recovery Starchild!
The 'side 2' medley of songs on The Beatles Abbey Road that starts with "You Never Give Me Your Money" and finishes with "The End" has got to be some of the best 16 minutes of music ever recorded. I am not kidding. The collection of little songs span all sort of different styles, and the flow is damn near magical.
The climax of course is a mimi drum solo out of "Carry That Weight" by Ringo followed by traded guitar solos between McCartney, Harrison and Lennon (in that order) and the final "and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make" bit. Makes the hair on my arms stand up every time.
There is a group of musicians called the Fab Faux that includes Will Lee, bass player in David Letterman's Most Dangerous Band. I had read about this group and how obsessive they are with recreating the sounds on The Beatles albums down to using the same kinds of amps and guitars.
My friend nedmusic passed on this truly gorgeous video of the Fab Faux doing the Abbey Road suite live in the studio last year. It is remarkable, and what is truly awesome is the vocal work. They really, really have those vocals nailed and if you believe what you read, there are no overdubs here - it's all live. Enjoy!
I am a bit on the fence with all this remastered Pink Floyd stuff. I mean, I already re-bought all of it a few years ago. How much better can it sound? And I am not an audiophile to the level that appreciates the "James Guthrie 5.1 Surround Mix in high resolution audio at 640 kbps" version found on the Immersion Set at more than $100.
But it is always great to see bands like Floyd get exposure to the level that might introduce the music to new generations. This remaster thing is all about that, I think.
Along those lines, Floyd fan(atic) Jimmy Fallon is trying to make up for his atrocious Roger Waters interview by hosting "Pink Floyd Week" and having Waters return the other night to talk a bit but to more importantly jam In The Flesh with the Foo Fighters.
Very powerful indeed, as the below video will attest. Also interesting to hear the song isolated from the rest of the album, where you realize it's a series of totally pummeling riffs with really only one verse! What do you think:
If you are a Rush fan, read this preview from Amazon and tell me you just didn't get a boner:
Neil's Peart's new 3-disc DVD set, Taking Center Stage: A Lifetime of Live Performance, is the most in-depth insight into Neil s body of work ever documented. Filmed in various locations over the course of a year, Neil takes you on a behind-the-scenes look at Rush's 2010-11 Time Machine Tour. Beginning with a visit to his personal pre-tour rehearsals, Neil shows the ways in which he prepares for the upcoming tour. The viewer is then transported backstage at a Rush concert to see the drum setup, soundcheck, and an unprecedented backstage interview where Neil explains and runs through his warm-up routine. Neil then presents a detailed look at every single song in the Time Machine set list (which includes the entire Moving Pictures album). For each song, key grooves and fills are analyzed by Neil. Full-speed and slow-motion drums-only demonstrations are included, coupled with PDF icons that allow the viewer to analyze and practice the patterns using the included PDF eBook. At the end of each song discussion, the viewer is transported onstage to a Rush concert to see the actual live performance of the song from the perspective of the drum cameras only (with an exclusive, custom audio mix that features the drums heard slightly louder than a normal concert DVD mix). With in-studio rehearsal footage, backstage scenes, live concert performances, and breathtaking interview footage filmed in Death Valley National Park, California, this package documents not only Neil s approach to live performance, but of the very essence of his drum style, on all the classic Rush songs...
Just saw on RushIsABand.com that there is even a teaser video, so here you go. This comes out October 14. Holy crap.
I've been listening to Yes’ new album Fly From Here on Spotify (so I didn’t have to buy it – ha ha) and it has grown on me after a few listens.
The key to me really embracing this album was to not worry about what version of Yes this was, should it be called Yes, etc. Once I got over that and really started listening, I started enjoying it.
Aside from its prog-rock excesses, Yes’ hole card has always been its vocals.
The Drama album showed that Squire has a huge part in Yes’ vocal sound, as do one-off tracks like Does It Happen from Magnification and stuff like Leave It from 90125.
Fly From Here also puts a spotlight on the vocals, and whatever you think about Benoit David as a Jon Anderson replacement, his voice sounds really good on this record, especially when paired with Squire.
The band is still clearly thinking that vinyl is still around, because the first ‘side’ is a 20-minute, six-song piece called Fly From Here. The Fly From Here chorus, which appears off and on in the six song suite, is very catchy with lush vocals and a gorgeous vocal arrangement. The music is very good as well, with some nice slide work from Howe, and killer classic ascending Squire bass riffs.
Geoff Downes brings a tasty, textured flavor back to the band, and it’s honestly nice to not have a ‘shredder’ on the keyboards, crapping all over the songs (sorry Wakeman/Moraz fans). Only part four of Fly From Here, the “Bumpy Ride” song, is cringe-worthy. Think Teakbois but not as irritating.
‘Side two’ is made up of five stand-alone songs, the first sung by Squire, called The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be. Very nice, catchy tune – the outro has a great groove and some cool repeating vocal calls. “Life On A Film Set” borrows its verse vocal melody from America’s “Tin Man,” which is a bad idea but the song gets interesting when it goes to 5/4 time in the second half. There is an obligatory Steve Howe acoustic piece that as usual is really good.
My favorite song on this album may be the very pretty acoustic song Hour of Need – the one song I could actually hear Jon Anderson signing. It sounds like part two of Nine Voices from The Ladder but it’s really nice. Great chord changes, again solid harmonies and Downes shows he can still do some quick keyboard runs when he wants to. The album closes with Into The Storm, a good song that would probably smoke live – soaring vocals on this one. A lot of this CD would be really good live, now that I think about it.
Let’s be clear – there is nothing edgy about this album. It’s very ‘easy listening’ but enjoyable. Sadly the drums are practically non-existent. I love Alan White but he’s slowing down on his chops for sure. Or – shock – actually playing for the song. But he has always been able to add a cool twist to a straight song, all the way back to Lennon’s Instant Karma, and there’s none of that here. Anyone looking for Gates of Delirium or hell even Changes will be disappointed. The drums even seem kind of buried and the overall mix is ‘light.’ Not sure whose fault that is because certainly producer Trevor Horn is well-qualified.
Fly From Here will be seen as an interesting footnote in the band’s career, and fans of the band’s oddball tangents like Talk, The Ladder and Magnification will probably enjoy this one as well. Just open your mind a bit and give it a chance, and put down the baggage first.
Here is a so-so promo video for the album. Interviews are not great and the song they chose to back most of it is that annoying one I don't like, but it's worth a watch:
What does a drum God like Neil Peart do when he's off the road? Well, he goes to Stewart Copeland's crib, meets up with fellow drum God Danny Carey (Tool) and Les Claypool and lays down some of the weirdest non-Rush music possible.
Brace yourself, the below video is not going to blow you away. It's more like Mother from Synchronicity than Cygnus X-1, but it's wild to see Neil and Stewart together, knowing how much The Police influenced Rush in the 80s. I guess it makes sense but I don't think I have ever seen those two in the same room, much less in a free-form jam situation.
Would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall but this video edit is close. Enjoy!
Yes has released its first Jon-Anderson-less album since 1980's Drama, called Fly From Here. The Drama connection doesn't end there. Fly From Here was a song written by the 1980 Drama-era lineup of Trevor Horn (vocals instead of Anderson), Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White and keyboardist Geoff Downes. The band decided to dust it off some 30 years later and make it the centerpiece of this new release.
This 2011 Fly From Here lineup has that very same personnel list as 1980's Drama, but with vocalist Benoit David instead of Horn - but get this - Horn produced the album. So I was not shocked to check out this first single, which is a short version of the almost 20 minute, six part version of Fly From Here on the new album, and conclude that it sounds a hell of a lot like the Drama lineup.
Benoit David sounds much more like Trevor Horn than he does Jon Anderson. Now personally, I love Drama - it is one of my favorite Yes albums. So it is cool to hear this 2011 Yes sounding a lot like the 1980 Drama Yes, mostly because of Downes' keyboard sounds and the vocals. Checking out the iTunes samples, it is nowhere near as heavy as Drama, but you can tell it's the same band.
The video is OK. You don't see any band members but you do see Trevor Horn on the airplane (white haired gentleman with sunglasses and hat) and at first glance I thought the flight attendant in blue was Chris Squire in drag. Agh!
Also, I can't help but wonder if the whole video is a metaphor for the band's career? Anyway, check it out and see what you think. I may just get this CD and review it here. Never thought I'd do that - pretty much done with Yes for a while now - but I like what I am hearing.
It's hard to fathom that it is 2011 and Jimmy Page has never had an official website until now. But Page said as reported in a Classic Rock post, “I’ve had the domain name for a number of years. I’ve just been sitting on it and a number of people had made approaches about setting something up and it got to a point that it felt it was the right time to put the website together.”
In addition to the usual photos, discography, tour dates and news that you'd find on a musician's website, Page is tapping his extensive archive to run a daily feature called On This Day that shows what he was doing on such and such a day in 1978 (worshiping the devil, for example), offer a rare audio or video clip etc.
The article says, "This is a daily diary of events spanning his entire career. It will include footage, audio clips, unseen photos, plus previously unreleased tracks, demos and home recordings. There will also be personal anecdotes. But be warned: each entry will be up for just 24 hours and then will permanently removed. There’s to be no archiving."
Page also launched a Twitter alias at @jimmypagecom but I can only imagine he has an admin running it.
In other Page news, he joined the Black Crowes last week in the UK for a rousing encore of Shake Your Money Maker. Dig that here:
I was not going to review this Rush show since it was the exact same setlist as the show I reviewed last August. As you can see, I took loads of photos and video that time but this time decided to not even bring in the camera, so I could just enjoy the gig without worrying about capturing it. I knew it would be the same show but I wanted to catch it anyway because this tour has been so great.
The August show was the 15th on the tour, and this was the third to last, so I was interested in seeing how things might have developed over the last year on the road. I did the same thing with The Police reunion, catching the second or third show on that tour and one near the very end. In that case the band was very, very rough at that first gig and was obviously still working out arrangements and even the keys of the songs. At the second, they were super tight.
Well, in Rush’s case they were tight both shows. I am not sure which one was better to be honest. They were visually stoked to play The Camera Eye on the front end of the tour and I think Alex Lifeson’s solo was better at that first gig. But I have to say, Geddy was on fire in Portland, jumping around and hitting every note – and I mean EVERY note. How he keeps his voice in shape on a long tour like this is beyond me.
While Neil Peart looked tired, he played great and my friend Dave who has seen Rush a million times thought the center section of Freewill might have been the best he’d ever seen.
So yes, same setlist, same awesome band. For me the highlights were Marathon, Subdivisions, all of Moving Pictures, which was still AWESOME to see live all the way through, and the new stuff – Caravan and BU2B. They were really fired up to play these new songs.
I still think the setlist was weird. Time Stand Still and Presto were not great choices for second and third place but whatever. Overall this tour was a real treat and I am looking forward to the DVD that will likely come from the Cleveland appearance.
In the meantime, here is video I shot at the show last August:
I didn’t think I’d review these CDs but I do feel the urge to post something. Basically, I had not bought the previous versions on CD because of the atrocious decision by Sharon Osbourne to replace the original bass and drums by Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake in 2002 with new recordings by Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin who were in Ozzy’s band at the time. Daisley and Kerslake had sued Osbourne for unpaid royalties and this was Sharon’s big F-U.
I read that the new versions in 2002 sounded horrible, and I just couldn’t support that decision anyway. I mean, who does that? Would Pete Townshend go back and replace all of John Entwistle’s bass parts on Quadrophenia if the former Mrs. Entwistle sued Pete for more money? God I hope not.
Or maybe is was continued business genius on Sharon’s part, who let’s be fair saved Ozzy from certain death to forge a very successful solo career with her firmly in charge. Maybe she knew people would buy these discs twice – once in 2002 and again when the original music had been restored.
Well, I didn’t. But I did get these new remasters and I have to say, I am impressed. I actually hadn’t listened to these two releases all the way through in years, due to the aforementioned issue of not being able to get a good version on CD. They stand up very, very well over the years. The songs are Ozzy’s best by far and stand up against a lot of 70s Sabbath if you ask me.
Whose responsibility was that? Guitarist Randy Rhodes.
Now, I was always the first guy in high school to dismiss Rhodes as a totally overrated guitar player who only got so famous because he burned up in a plane crash. But I have to say, hearing these CDs with fresh ears gives me a whole new take on the young man.
While all the tracks on Blizzard are credited to Osbourne, Rhodes and Daisley, and the same plus Kerslake on Diary (result of the aforementioned lawsuit), I can only imagine Ozzy and Randy sitting down to put these tunes together. Rhodes had fantastic musical ideas and Ozzy somehow put together lyrics that spoke to what was going on in his life at the time.
With a lot of stuff, the image outshines the music – but get rid of those lame album covers of Ozzy looking crazy and you have a collection of fantastic songs – I Don’t Know, Crazy Train, Over The Mountain, You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll, Flying High Again, Diary of A Madman, Mr. Crowley, Tonight. I mean come on, that is a seriously good two-album run of classic tunes.
Blizzard of Oz is a great solo debut, but Diary is an even better CD than Blizzard – the songs are more developed and Rhodes’ music ranges from heavy to classical. And on the reissue, you get a bunch of live tunes from the Blizzard tour. This is where Rhodes really shines.
Pretty sure this is the classic Ozzy, Rhodes, Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge lineup on these live songs. I have no idea how much of it was cleaned up in the studio, but Rhodes’ performance is pretty spectacular. Made me realize, for better or worse, that all those 80s hair metal guitar players were not trying to be Eddie Van Halen – they were trying to be Randy Rhodes.
I mean, you can’t really do EVH – he is one of a kind. But Rhodes took Eddie’s tapping and whammy bar dives, made them his own and added that classical scale shredding thing that became mandatory in every heavy band in the 80s. Which sucks, because most of it was crap – just an exercise in how fast you could play a scale. But it came from Rhodes who actually used it well and put some soul into his playing overall.
Ozzy’s voice is strong on these two albums and as I said, the songs are true heavy rock classics. It reminded me that outside of the bickering between parties, what a win-win that happened when Ozzy got kicked out of Sabbath. We got Rhodes-era Ozzy, and we got Dio-era Sabbath. With Dio’s death and the recent Heaven and Hell concerts and releases, it’s been great reliving and enjoying that Dio Sabbath. But now we can go back and refresh our memories on what Ozzy was doing between pissing on the Alamo, eating bird heads in board meetings and snorting ants. He was making great music with Randy Rhodes.
Neil seems to be getting more out of his shell with the media these days, and the below video is a pretty insightful interview - I guess this is a preview and the full interview will run tonight (Friday June 17) on CBC at 11:05 PM ET. Great questions from George Stroumboulopoulos too, which is refreshing.
It’s rare these days when I get totally geeked up about a new band (new to me anyway) and feel compelled to share but I have been totally blown away by the band Blackfield’s new CD Welcome to My DNA.
Now technically this is not a ‘new’ band to me, because it’s Porcupine Tree front-man Steven Wilson’s band, co-led with Israeli musician Aviv Geffen. On Welcome to My DNA, the band’s third release since 2000, Geffen wrote all of the songs except for one, so it’s really his vision. But Wilson, who sings a lot of the songs, brings that crisp, lush Porcupine Tree production to the whole affair.
I was actually pretty shocked to find that Geffen wrote all of these songs because the vocal melodies are so Porcupine Tree – just gorgeous vocal melodies with the PT Steven Wilson harmonies. The themes are similar as well – alienation, loss of innocence etc. The difference is that all of the 11 songs clock in between 3 and 4 minutes except for the title track, which is just over five minutes. That is a radical departure from Porcupine Tree and makes for the best of both worlds – concise songwriting plus the Porcupine Tree lushness I love. The songs are also not quite as heavy as many PT songs - rather, they are cut from the same cloth as Lazarus from Deadwing, if I had to make a comparison.
In an interview, Wilson said: Porcupine Tree would never be so focused on the art of a 3 minute pop song. Blackfield is all about the art of a great tradition pop song of verse-chorus-verse-chorus. Porcupine Tree has never been about that, although we have fraternized a little bit with the art of pop music. Porcupine Tree has always been more about horizontally complex long pieces and the album is an overall piece rather than lots of little pieces... Aviv is not a big fan of heavy music and he is not a big fan of long pieces so immediately the meeting point had to be somewhere where we were both focused on short melancholic songs.
So my take is that Blackfield songs are not pop songs, but Steven’s point is accurate otherwise. Short songs do not equal “pop,” nor do songs that have verses and choruses! But I do have to say that after just one listen to DNA I was totally hooked. I have listened to this CD more than 10 times since Sunday and I am very stoked to check out the band’s previous two releases.
Here is the first track, called Glass Houses. If you like this song, you will love this whole CD. Get it:
Neil Peart made an unorthodox network TV appearance on Thursday, on David Letterman. Reports from the taping were that Peart was nervous and dropped his sticks twice in the middle. But they had him re-do it after the audience left and presumably the below is a combo of the two. Regardless, the man is a fuckin machine and here you go! Can't wait to see the band in Portland later this month.
Props to nedmusic for turning me on to this. Jimmy Fallon has been doing these dead-on Neil Young impressions for a while now, but this one takes the cake. He does a song by Miley Cirus a la 70s Neil and has fuckin David Crosby and Graham Nash come out to harmonize. Not only is his version of Neil so creepily accurate, but Crosby and Nash laying on gorgeous harmonies makes me think this is the best Neil has sounded in a long time! Ha ha. Below is the clip, and below that is the song they are actually covering.
It's well-known by Beatles fans that John Lennon agreed to film and record most of his life, long before reality TV and Big Brother. The treasure trove of audio and film was tapped for the fantastic Imagine movie, as well as the Anthology series, which used loads of interviews from John's life to match the volume of fresh interviews from the other three guys, all of whom were alive at the time.
But you know who else kept the cameras running, and for much longer? Paul McCartney. And now, McCartney's lifetime of home movies, videos, photographs, documents, unreleased music, paintings and numerous other items will be stored in perpetuity on a new private cloud system designed, built and maintained by HP, according to this eWEEK article.
According to the article:
McCartney has been one of the world's most-renowned entertainment content creators for two generations. Like many people, his personal collection has been stored all these years on old-school media that's considered at risk.
"This is quite an undertaking, and the process is ongoing--and will be for awhile," Scott Anderson, HP's entertainment marketing manager, told eWEEK. "We believe there are more than 1 million assets in this library; there are shelves and shelves of boxes containing all sorts of things, personal and business. It all will eventually be digitized."
"He [McCartney] is one of the most prolific artists of all time--he's got thousands of hours of videotape that's been taken through his career; he's got artwork, he's got his music, of course," Anderson said. "Much of it is on media that's susceptible [to physical damage]." McCartney was looking for a company "that he could trust to work with him to preserve his unique assets," Anderson said.
The article also discusses the possibility of McCartney opening access to parts of this vast library to the public. I for one will be happy to roam those halls! You?
As discussed earlier and known by any Floyd fan who has had their ear to the ground this week, David Gilmour and Nick Mason shared the stage with Roger Waters at a recent Wall show in the UK last week.
Waters has been pretty transparent about posting high-res video clips of the appearances (below), and now Rolling Stone has published a short article with an interview with Mason, here. Some of the more interesting tidbits:
When Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason got to London's O2 arena last week, he had no idea that he'd be walking into David Gilmour and Roger Waters performing "Comfortably Numb" in a soundcheck for Waters' show that night. "It hadn't ever been quite finalized – there'd been talk about maybe playing in Paris or something else," Mason tells Rolling Stone. "So it was very nice to get there and see that [David] was there."
After soundcheck, the three took seats at a table in a backstage room and had a light dinner. "We were all just a little bit nervous, because it was a pre-show moment so it wasn't that sort of totally relaxed, 'Let's all chat about everything.' Since [David] hadn't played the track in so long, he was probably worried about the technology of lifting him up on the Wall. It's quite scary up there – I've been up there once and it's a long way up."
Next, Mason retreated to his seat on the floor of the arena, where fans greeted him enthusiastically, and watched The Wall for the first time as a spectator. "It was mind-blowingly good," he says. "It's a shame in a way . . . if you could turn the clock back and have access to that sort of technology, 40, 30 years ago, it would've been fantastic. I mean, it's interesting because I think The Wall has been brought up to date. When you look at the stage sets and the lighting that goes on now, it so eclipses what we used to do."
This is all great but it really made me miss Richard Wright because you know he would have been a part of this too. It would have been so cool for the original four guys to get together one more time, and in front of that giant Wall. Makes me all that much more thankful for Live8 (also below).
I was surprised to see all the promo around Paul McCartney reissuing his two solo albums McCartney and McCartney II. Both albums were put out as transitional exercises and were really Paul blowing off steam between formal recording projects.
I know there are a lot of people who hold McCartney close to their hearts, but as much as I have tried to enjoy that album, I still think it's mostly garbage. And don't get me started on McCartney II. A total piece of crap.
But I guess Paul is trying to save up for honeymoon number three, so he is putting out major packaging options around these reissues, such as double-disc Special Editions and Deluxe Editions, with DVDs and more bonus content. They will also be available on vinyl and digitally. Both versions come with all sorts of bonus tracks, including live material and B-sides.
The packages look gorgeous but you can't polish a turd. Hell, even in the below promo videos, Paul admits these were fun projects and were not supposed to be consumed as real top-notch recordings.
Unlike Pete Townshend's Scoop series, which offer loads of raw, unpolished noodlings and Who demos, Sir Paul is basically reissuing dross.
Paul is almost apologetic in the below but you tell me - are you going to buy any of this? Am I smoking dope here?
Well it happened! David Gilmour joined Roger Waters at the Thursday night Wall show in London. Atop The Wall, he sang the chorus and ripped the solos, while Waters mugged some 50 feet below.
Of course this was expected, as Gilmour had promised an appearance at one show in return for a favor from Waters.
But the surprise of the night was Nick Mason showing up, along with Gilmour and Waters after the bricks fell and the dust was settling, for Outside The Wall. How very fucking cool. Closest thing to a Floyd reunion we’ll ever get, due to the death of Richard Wright a few years back. And I’d bet it’s the last time, too. These guys don’t have many reasons to do it, really, except charity.
This is obviously a hugely exciting thing. But how did it sound? Based on the videos, Gilmour’s voice was a bit pitchy, and his middle solo was great but standard. The end solo? Not the best I’ve ever heard but pretty goddamn good, and it gets better and better towards the end.
Of course due to the magic of YouTube, lucky motherfuckers in attendance have posted these for us to enjoy. Sweet!
The Wrecking Crew was the name given to a group of session musicians in Los Angeles in the 60s who played on hundreds and hundreds of songs (Mr. Tambourine Man by the Byrds is one of the most famous, and they were on loads of Beach Boys tunes too) but never got credit by any of the artists.
Now there is a film that tells the whole story. Trouble is, it's not being released broadly yet as the producers need to raise funds to secure the proper rights for broad distribution. In the meantime, check out the trailer below. This film looks awesome!
Been working on some new songs with Flat Stanley (my power trio cover band) and put together this video from last week's rehearsal. Basically, we found the backing keyboard track to a few classic Who tunes and have decided to do two of them at our next show, which is this Friday.
OK this is such a wank I was not planning on posting anything. The 'news' is that William Shatner is putting out an album of space travel-related covers called "Searching for Major Tom," with various big-name guests. I assume the music will be semi-decent while the lyrics will be delivered in the same over-dramatic spoken word style that graced his 60s album, The Transformed Man.
The songs he has chosen to butcher are some of the all time greats, including Space Trucking, Rocket Man, Space Oddity, Learning to Fly, Iron Man, Walking on the Moon, etc. Wait - Iron Man? Hmm.
Then I looked at the list of guests and just had to share: Ian Paice, Johnny Winter, Bootsy Collins, Patrick Moraz, Michael Schenker, Warren Haynes, Ritchie Blackmore, Alan Parsons, Peter Frampton, John Wetton, Dave Davies, Zakk Wylde, Steve Howe.
Ok what the fuck? How in the hell did Shatner get Ritchie Blackmore off of the bench for a rock album? Unless he is going to play nylon string renaissance music with his warbly wife for Shatner to bleat over.
Likewise, Dave Davies? I thought he had retired. Patrick Moraz and Steve Howe? They ought to just do Relayer while they are at it.
Seano is gonna love this one. Word on the street is that Paul McCartney has tapped a number of bands to play some Beatles and Wings tunes for some kind of tribute CD. Didn't know people were supposed to coordinate their OWN tribute CDs but it's all good...
Anyway, several sources say that Paul McCartney is asking KISS to play on the disc, and the rumor is that they will do Venus and Mars. Now, I assume what they really mean is the Wings tune Rockshow, which follows the short Venus and Mars intro on the album of the same name.
Bill Joel and The Cure are also rumored to be contributing. In terms of KISS, I could totally hear Paul Stanley belting this one out:
Hard rock drummer brothers Carmine and Vinny Appice have always led very separate careers, going so far as to alter how their last names are pronounced - Carmine's is pronounced "a-piece" and Vinny's is "ap-ah-see." Hell, I didn't know they were even related for years.
But I can't think of any other brothers who have laid down beats for such a who's who of hard rock and metal stalwarts. According to fellow drummer Vic Firth on the brothers' Drum Wars web site:
Vinny and Carmine break out the heavy artillery in this entertaining no-holds barred battle to the finish. Carmine and Vinny...Vinny and Carmine! Don't know which one comes first, which one had the moustache first, or which one has the best legs! However, they are both great artists in their own genre. Carmine's track record includes Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, B.B.A. (Beck, Bogart and Appice), and Rod Stewart, to name a few. Not bad! Vinny has driven John Lennon, Black Sabbath, Dio and Heaven and Hell. Not bad! (I've been stuck with one band for 40 years - The Boston Symphony).
I am not really sure what this is going to be exactly, but here is a video from eight months ago that gives us a bit of a clue:
I wonder if it's an actual gig with a band or more like a drum clinic. Either way, it could be fun if they told stories from their careers, took questions, played together etc.
The Jon-Anderson-less Yes keeps chugging along, with a new album set for a July release on Frontier Records.
Called "Fly From Here," the album is named after an old song penned by the other Jon Anderson-less lineup from the 1980 Drama album. Trevor Horn (half of The Buggles with Geoff Downes) sang on that album, and truthfully it is one of my favorite Yes albums. Songs like Machine Messiah, Tempus Fugit, Does It Really Happen? and Into The Lens stand up with anything else in the band's repertoire.
ed note: I found this photo tonight, confirming that Geoff Downes is back in the band for the moment. Not sure who Grandma Jones in the middle is, but that might be Trevor Horn who didn't get the memo that only some of the band is dressing like old ladies for photos shoots.
I am always going to consider the current Jon Anderson-less Yes as slightly bogus, as Chris Squire and company decided to end-run around Anderson and replace him with a tribute band singer while he was ill and couldn't sing. Obviously the band is happy to not be under Anderson's thumb, hence the continued touring and new album.
But to add an interesting twist, Trevor Horn is back as producer! After the Drama tour and subsequent split-up of the band, Horn reemerged to produce the astounding Yes comeback 90125, where Trevor Rabin had replaced Howe on guitar and ushered in a whole new generation of the band. But Horn and the band had trouble on Big Generator, the follow up, and had not worked together since.
From a press release on Yes' website: Horn and YES bassist Chris Squire re-discovered the track FLY FROM HERE which has never been recorded as a studio track. “Chris and I were talking one evening about a song ‘Fly From Here’ that we never recorded,” explains Trevor Horn. “I said I was prepared to spend two weeks with ‘YES’ recording that song. When I arrived in America to record it, I was taken prisoner by the band and only allowed my freedom again in return for producing the whole album. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse!!!”
So, here is the deal. Fly From Here has been released. A live version is on the 3-disc The Word is Live set, released in 2005. Credited to Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes, it's...how do I put this?...shitty.
If that song is the central track on this new CD I will likely pass. But we'll see - I am more interested to see if Howe can still play guitar anymore. His performance at a recent Asia reunion I saw in Portland left me feeling like he has jumped the shark.
Another interesting tidbit is that I have seen three separate reports that Downes is back on keyboards for this album, which for sure makes it more interesting to me. Rick Wakeman's son Oliver has been in the current lineup for the last couple of years. Yes' site still has Oliver listed as the current ivory tickler. But we'll see...
Current Jon-less Yes doing 1980 Jon-less Yes (at a total snail's pace at that):
I mowed through Sammy Hagar Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock in two days. It was pretty riveting. Sammy co-wrote it with Joel Selvin from the SF Chronicle, which probably means Sammy dictated it to Joel and Joel banged it into shape.
But however they did it, the book is very conversational and is a great read. Sammy is indeed a funny guy and I was laughing before I even turned to the second page.
Hagar's family history is pretty interesting. I usually want to skip over the childhood years in music bios, but this was a good one. Sammy had a pretty tough childhood yet he presents it with a refreshing objectivity and it shows how his strong work ethic and easygoing nature were formed.
Also, he grew up in a very rural area (Fontana, California), and he paints a vibrant picture of what life was like back in the 50s as kid.
His teenage years were spent in the 60s, and he got the rock and roll bug in time to attend the Monterey Pop Festival and take all sorts of the usual chemicals of the time. The cool thing is, after a close call with the law, he decided to clean it up and really focus on his dream of making it as a rock and roller.
Hagar marries young and his wife sticks with him through the poverty and selfishness of living on nothing to chase a dream that few ever achieve, all the way through the payoff before and during the Van Hagar years, where Sammy is gone so much his kids never see him. And of course he ultimately dumps her for a newer model. There is more to the story than this (the wife train wrecked a bit), but it's a common theme and was the only bummer in Sammy's story.
Otherwise, you'd be hard pressed to find a more easy-going, motivated, smart guy in rock and roll. Most know of Hagar's Cabo Wabo venue and tequila franchise, but he was starting businesses all the way back in the late 70s. Some tanked and others did OK, but he diversified and invested wisely. Very few rockers grasp that concept without the nudge of the accountant!
Of course the big dirt in the book is all about Van Halen. If you believe Sammy's story, he was the great motivator behind getting the songs written and recorded on the numerous Van Hagar albums. The Van Halen brothers were disorganized and dysfunctional - basically rich rock stars who never grew up and always had some screws loose. The magic was prevalent from the start of their collaboration, but the seeds of the breakup were already sown as well, namely in the form of the Van Halen brothers' alcoholism.
Talk about head trippers - mostly Eddie, but Alex was a major enabler. I mean, I already knew Eddie has zero respect for his fans and is generally a clueless genius with no manners - that was clear from his Guitar Player interviews in the 80s. But Hagar really tears the cover off of it and it's pretty astounding. Did nothing to change my opinion of Eddie Van Halen as a human being, which was already pretty low.
I knew very little about Alex Van Halen, though. According to the book, he was a major alcoholic (possibly cleaned up at this point but hard to tell) and very co-dependent with Eddie. Not as off the rails as Eddie but didn't do anything to help him put the brakes on either.
And David Lee Roth? Wow, what a weird dude. Another deluded head tripper but I guess we knew that already. The stories of the Sam and Dave tour, and the Van Hagar reunion are worth the price of the book alone.
Hagar also talks about his breakthrough with Montrose, the arc of his solo career and his recent new band, Chickenfoot. The book inspired me to listen to that CD again and it's a good band. Great chemistry. I reviewed that CD here in 2009.
Overall, the book paints a solid picture of Hagar - an amazingly successful, talented, driven, slightly ego-centric rock and roller and business man. Despite some of the lifestyle and personal choices I wouldn't have done myself, I came away with a lot of respect for the man. And overall, the book is a fun, easy read.
I heard on the radio today that former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor announced intent to write a memoir book a la Keith Richards' book Life.
Taylor told BANG Showbiz,"I kind of loved it. I loved it and I hated it. The more successful the Stones became the more seriously they took themselves. I jot down my memories all the time and have done for years in case I ever lose my mind. I don't want to write the kind of book that will shock people, about the scandals, sex, drugs and rock and roll because Keith's done that with his book."
I would love a book by Taylor on his years in the band - their most prolific period by far. But then he said, "It's a hard book to write. My time will come but it's not yet."
So is he writing it or not? I dunno. So I dug around some more and found this far more interesting gem:
Examiner.com reports that Taylor joined Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Ronnie Wood onstage at a tribute to the Stones' late pianist and co-founder Ian Stewart. The story goes:
What may be the closest thing to a Rolling Stones concert in 2011 happened on March 9 at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. As previously reported in this column, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and former Rolling Stones bass player Bill Wyman were rumored to perform at a tribute concert in honor the late Ian Stewart, who was an original member of the Rolling Stones. That rumor turned out to be true, and former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor was also part of the all-star event (consisting of two separate concerts in the same evening), which was billed as a Ben Waters show "with special guests.
What? Holy shit. And YouTube, being the second most popular search engine on the planet, of course has front row video for your edification:
Footnote - the author of the article, Carla Hay, who has interviewed all past and current Stones? I knew her in high school. Oh Carla, I knew you way back when! You've come a long way, baby! Ha ha ha.
Props to Seano at Circle of Fits, who found and posted this already but I just had to steal it. Why in the hell was my elementary school music class not this cool? Holy shit. This needs zero explanation or analysis. Just watch it.
Well, actually two notes - see how the BOYS are much more animated by this music, and I do love the ripping air guitar solo section. 'Nuff said.
Got the new Rolling Stone in the mail - Snooki on the cover? Really? That is just insulting. At least that Bieber guy sold some records. Snooki is just a white trash piece of crap that no one will remember in one year.
But I rescued the issue from the recycling pile because I noticed there was an excerpt from Sammy Hagar's new book that dishes dirt on the Van Halen reunion in 2004. That is worth a read. I am actually pretty interested in his book, as I really enjoyed most of Van Hagar and it will be interesting to get Hagar's take on what went right and ultimately wrong in that band.
The book covers his whole career from Montrose to solo to VH to Chickenfoot - a band I love almost as much as Them Crooked Vultures. Plus he's a funny fucker and I bet it'll be a good read.
I have not read the Rolling Stone excerpt yet but I did see this Q&A with the magazine online, as reposted by Eddie Trunk. A few interesting quotes:
RS: Are there things you didn't put in the book because you didn't want to piss off Ed or David Lee Roth?
SH: Oh, hell no. I didn't really consider that, because they know what happened. I didn't make up anything. I didn't embellish anything. The only thing is that I didn't go as crazy as I could have about the sex, drugs and rock & roll part of my early years. I have a nine-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old daughter. I'm cringing as I'm writing this book going, "Oh, jeez. I really don't want them to read this." But how can I not? My wife looked at some chapters and went, "You're not going to put this in there, are you?" I'm going, "Yes I am!" I hope my daughters understand. I might have them read Keith Richards' book first.
RS: What do you think the percent odds are that you'll ever play in Van Halen again?
SH: I'd say it's up there around 90 percent. I would love to make another record with Van Halen. If Eddie was totally cool and was back to the guy I used to know, or a new guy, not the guy I knew the last time [laughs]. He can’t be that guy. I wouldn’t do it if he was like that. It’s below zero, minus zero. But if Eddie really got his life together, which it seems he has judging by the pictures I've seen, then definitely.
RS: You really think there's a 90 percent chance?
SH: There's no rumor. There’s no reason to say, "Yes, I’ve got this vibe going on." Right now, zero chance. When my book comes out, zero for a while. But someday, before we all die, fuck yeah. We might be in our nineties though. Back to burning bridges: If you choose to write an autobiography, which I did, then you only have one shot. If you don't tell it all then you sit there for the rest of your life telling stories and people are like, "Well why wasn’t that in the book?" I don’t wanna have to do that. It’s all right there.
ClassicRock Magazine is reporting that Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart are writing and recording an album, which would be their first full project since the late 60s/early 70s. Rumors flew around in December with reports of the two hanging out and talking about a project but Beck told CR.com many more exclusive details.
Beck is a funny fucker. Seems like he's tough to nail down. I don't know. Read the below snips and the full article and you tell me - what do you think the odds are of this actually happening?
There have been rumblings in the studio, and yes I have done some demos for him and with him. This happened after our lunch liaison in Los Angeles, but just as matters were proceeding his new baby came along and completely screwed up the whole thing.
Over our next lunch Rod and me will probably beat each other to death, but the fact remains he’s coming to see me and we are going over the material, all of it. I want to see that Rod is genuine into the idea and that it’s not just a weekend’s fancy. I don’t think it is because his manager (Arnold Stiefel) is well into it.
Stage One was just agreeing that it was basically a good idea and then Stage Two was the actual collaboration and co-writing. Stage Three was me lending my studio in Los Angeles to Rod for the demos, to the tune of $17.000! So I’ll be expecting a cheque from Rod for that! But I’ve got two chances there! No chance and no flippin’ chance! But while he’s sitting there listening to the tracks I’ll sneak out and….nah I can’t say that!
The article continues:
In 2004, the Jeff Beck Group reunited to play at the Royal Albert Hall with Ronnie Wood on bass, Rod at the mic and Jeff on guitar. They rehearsed a lot of classic material from their original albums and a couple of choice numbers like Rock My Plimsoul and I Ain’t Superstitious. And in 1985, Stewart guested on the Beck album Flash; the pair performed a cover of The Impressions’ People Get Ready.
“It sounded fucking brilliant,” Stewart recalled. But the concert was cancelled when Jeff phoned Rod and said he’d had a change of heart. Subsequently they did perform together in Los Angeles, and Beck caught the bug again. Now he has said that he “Would have to turn the clock back 20 or 30 years to match what Rod does, stylistically. Not that that is meant to be a derogatory statement. He loves the 60s. He loves blues he loves old stuff.” So no stretch for Beck there then.
Speaking of Jeff Beck-era blues guitarists, I missed the highly overrated Eric Clapton at the Portland Rose Garden last night. Friends who went (and share my opinion on him) said he was in fine form and that I should have gone. Shit. I do love his work when it's with other people (Roger Waters, Santana, BB King, soundtracks, etc). Oh well...
And back to Beck and Stewart, why should we care? Dig this ole gem for some context:
And Jesus H, scroll this to about 2:00 to see what it sounds like to have Jimmy Page in your back-up band!