Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stones 50th Anniversary Plans Brewing? Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman Involved?

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 MagazineKeith 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.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review - Ace Frehley No Regrets

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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sabbath Reunion with Ozzy - Terrible Idea

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...

Book Review - Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

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.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jimmy Fallon Does It Again - with The Doors

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!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Frehley, Iommi Books Out

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!