SOME STUFFS: First Bill Wyman solo album since 1982 to be released.

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He’s the oldest living member of The Rolling Stones, despite the fact he hasn’t been a member of the group since 1993. At 78, bassist Bill Wyman will be releasing a new album, something he hasn’t done since 1982, and it’s only his fourth album. Back To Basics (Proper) will be released on June 22nd and is being joined by Terry Taylor, Guy Fletcher, Graham Broad, and Robbie McIntosh. Wyman co-produced the album with Andy Wright, who worked with Jeff Beck, Eurythmics, and Simple Red. Wyman had always been driven to make music, but wondered if it would be appropriate for him to do so. He states “Initially I thought I’m a bit old for this but then I thought all the old blues musicians played till they dropped so why don’t I give it a go.” The Rolling Stones have always worked like blues statesmen, so it would make sense that Wyman would give it another short at this phase in his life. The album will have 12 songs and a bonus track that will be iTunes only, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s found on the CD in the Japanese pressing.

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BOOK REVIEW: Glyn Johns’ “Sound Man”

 photo GlynJohns_cover_zpsdf6c2566.jpg If you have bought any rock albums in the last 50 years, you will have come across Glyn Johns’ name a number of times, as he was responsible for producing and/or engineering some of the music that has become a part of your life. He has been mythologized due to the work he did with The Rolling Stones and The Beatles but Sound Man (Blue Rider Press) tells the stories direct from the man himself, from his childhood tales to joining a choir that would lead him to become not only part of the recording studio, but part of the record industry.

As someone who is known as a producer and engineer, I had wondered (and perhaps hoped) that he would get technical about some of the projects that has made him someone to work with. It doesn’t get too technical or “over the head” at all but instead, he touches on meeting and working with the artists, his interaction with everyone involved and the experiences he may have had during a recording session or live shows. One is able to read about certain equipment from time to time but Sound Man isn’t a gear essay. Instead, Johns speaks from the perspective of someone who was there, yet at times he also writes as he was just a fly on the wall, observing what’s going on while putting together the process of what was and still remains his work.

The bulk of the book focuses on what he did in the 60’s and 70’s, which means extensive work with Led Zeppelin, the Stones, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, and so many others. It’s a chance to find out about the negotiations for artists, doing a lot of traveling from England to Los Angeles or New York and back, and seeing everyone pass him by as if it he was just taking a stroll through a school building and saying hello to old friends. Johns does reveal a few facts that may have been overlooked, such as certain musicians that played in well known songs and why, so if you loved Charlie Watts’ drumming in “It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It)”, you’re actually listening to Kenney Jones behind the kit.

The tales from the Sound Man are that from an employee and a fan, which makes it a pleasant read. By the last third of the book, we get to the 80’s and 90’s and the changes of the music industry as a whole and despite the setbacks, he moves forward and sticks with his job, occasionally having a bit of self-doubt but realizing his ears and expertise still hold a lot of value, as it has since the early 1960’s.

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COVERED: The Rolling Stones vs. The Rich Hands

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46 years ago, The Rolling Stones released “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” on Decca Records and came up with this photo for the picture sleeve, taken by David Bailey. The Rolling Stones had fun with their album covers and definitely played around with their singles too, including dressing up like women for “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing In The Shadows” and a crime scene for “Street Fighting Man” that would ban the sleeve in some circles. For “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” it was just the Stones in disguises and such, with guitarist Brian Jones holding a pitchfork and showing an expression that showed a bit of decay. The back of the sleeve was meant to be a perspective from the rear, but Jones’ perspective not being 100 percent accurate. The photo would be celebrated by Stones and rock’n’roll fans for decades.

Texas band The Rich Hands are playing in SXSW this week and as they prepare to release a new album, they’ve released a single for the song “Teenager”. Not only is the cover homage to the “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” picture sleeve, but they also cover the Stones song as the non-LP B-side. Perfection.

BOOK REVIEW: “Mick Jagger” by Billy J. Altman

 photo MickJagger_cover_zpsb1ff86c1.jpg It seems when it comes to The Rolling Stones, their career has always been treated like a Duke Ellington song, a bit of “to be continued”. Years ago they released a documentary video by 25×5 as a way to represent the band’s first 25 years and some laughed at the thought of these “old buzzards” playing for another year. Little did anyone know they would continue for another 25. Billy J. Altman covers the story of its most vocal member in his book simply called Mick Jagger (White Star Publishers).

Considering that Jagger has been in the public eye for 50 years, it’s hard to say what people want to read about him. Do you want the complete guts of the matter, or do you want something that skims the surface? Altman goes as deep as possible by exploring every aspect of his career and personal life, from his youthful origins of a war-torn England to finding musical commonality with Keith Richards, and what lead to them finding the musicianship of Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and Ian Stewart. Then 1964 happens, and you can say that Jagger’s adventures become more, well, adventurous. The book is written in essay form, and the photos and how they’re used throughout the book is very elaborate so you get a chance to understand what the public felt (perhaps you were someone who celebrated along with them) and what Jagger and the rest of the band felt, along with the interaction they had with Jagger. You get the Let It Bleed era, the Exile On Main Street grit, the Some Girls and Tattoo You warmth, the Flowers, the Steel Wheels, along with the band entering the 1990’s and 21st century. The Beatles only had seven years of output and yet The Rolling Stones outdid them by seven times. It’s a lot of content and history to go through by Altman does it quite well, both scholastically but not too deep to where it may alienate the casual fan. The use of key Jagger quotes throughout the book also help to detail the life Jagger has lived, which may make readers jealous but also envious of what has happened. We also see a man age into maturity, and how that maturity can still have a youthful spirit if you do not forget what brought you into the music in the first place. Mick Jagger holds up quite well and would be welcome in any book collection, and it may move itself out of your collection to strut once in awhile. This is the story of the midnight gambler revealing that he enjoys waking up to see the sun too.

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RECORD CRACK: Kamehameha Drive-In and bootleg records

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On my website, I have referred to the Kamehameha Drive-In a number of times as a hot spot for me in my pre-teen years, as a young music loving vinyl junkie. I will now explain why with the help of this aerial shot.

The photo you see is the remains of what was the Kamehameha Drive-In (or Kam Drive-In for short) out in a part of Honolulu called Aiea. I have itemized sections of the photo by numbering them, and I highlight it for a specific reason.

1) This is Pearlridge Shopping Center, which remains to be the only place on Oahu to catch any level of a monorail system, at least for now. I was a kid who was raised “in town”, which meant Honolulu proper, which meant “closer to downtown”. Going to Aiea meant driving west in what felt like 15 to 20 miles, when in truth it’s eight to ten (then again, I was a kid with no car, any time in a car seemed like “forever” if it wasn’t a visit to the beach). According to Wikipedia, Pearlridge is the second biggest shopping center in Hawai’i, the first being Ala Moana.

2) Kam Drive-In used to be a single screen drive-in for years, and this is where it was positioned.

3) When the second screen opened in the late 70’s/early 80’s. I definitely remember seeing Clash Of The Titans (1981) on screen #2.

4) This is where the snack bar and concession stand was. Burgers, grease ass fries full of ketchup, extra buttery popcorn, and ice cream malts were mandadory in our visits to Kam, and oh did that cheese smell so good. Even in 1981, it seemed incredibly dated but cool. If that food was made today, I might not find a liking to it but who knows, I might like it a bit too much. Then again, maybe those ingredients don’t exist anymore, so it’s a mixture of nostalgia and longing for what was.

This leads me to the section in the photo that is:

5) This was a wall, a border that separated the Kam-1 and Kam-2 sections. Anyone could walk around it or drive on the sides, there were no chains or police blocking anyone from walking back and forth if needed, but sometime in 1980, I witnessed something I hadn’t seen before nor have I seen since. As a kid getting into The Beatles for the first time, I had discovered a type of a record called a “bootleg”. This was a bit new to me, and the idea of someone random pressing up records of live recordings or studio outtakes seemed cool to me. One day in 1980, there was a dealer who was selling records by the truckload, and I mean a literal truck. Boxes and boxes of records in white covers with covers with pieces of paper that served as their covers, with weird colors although you could still see the photos and song titles. Oh, those song titles. I may not have known the Rolling Stones catalog deeply, but I knew that some of those song titles were incorrect on those sheets. It featured photos of the band I had never seen before, and it wasn’t just one or two Stones bootlegs, but at least 20. It seemed a good amount of them consisted of recording sessions from Some Girls and Black And Blue, as that would have been considered “current” for the time. I don’t remember if there were any boots in support of Emotional Rescue, but there were also albums for live concerts. I had never held a bootleg in my life, but I decided to browse through. As I did, I also saw Beatles titles I had never seen, along with one or two Bruce Springsteen records, an artist of which I knew little of but knew he was the “it” man at the time.

My parents were frequent visitors of the Kam Swap Meet, my dad looking for car parts and magazines, and my mom looking for some bargain involving dresses or nick-nacks. As a young kid with my own record player, the swap meet was my first sense of finding great music at prices much cheaper than I would find at Woolworthy’s, Sears, or GEM’s, although as was the case, I didn’t get a record with each visit. When I did, I’m sure I promised that I’d never want another record for a long time, or I didn’t need a present for Christmas, anything to “get my way”. As I was looking in the bootleg section, I noticed the price: 10 to 15 dollars for each record. WHAT?!? These were much more than the album I could get at a regular store for $5.99 to $7.99, and these were singles. I was exp… well, my mom was expected to give me $15 for a single record? I dare not even ask for one, but I was blown away at the site of these illegal records of unknown origin. “Do they make them here in Hawai’i?” I’m sure I asked myself. Did someone from Asia ship them here? Are the sellers the bootleggers? I’ve never found an answer, nor did I see the bootleg dealers at the swap meet again.

However, at record stores like Froggy’s (when it was next to Cinerama movie theaters), they sold bootleg albums like crazy. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and of course Bruce and The Beatles. They also sold counterfeit pressings of albums, and that’s when I had obtained a copy of The Beatles’ Christmas Album. Again, I’m a young Beatles fan who wanted to hear as much music as possible, and here was the album, THE ALBUM, sitting at Froggy’s. I remember telling my mom “I must have this, I must have this.” How much? $15. WHAT?!? There was no way she was buying it. I waited a few more weeks. I pleaded, asked her about it and said she wouldn’t have to buy me anything for the rest of the year. I had good grades and thus my mom bowed down and allowed me to have The Beatles Christmas Album. When I got it home, the first thing I noticed was that the label was a bit blurry. I found out later that that was definitely a counterfeit pressing, as no used record store would sell an original for under $100. I had the songs though, and I was very grateful.

The bootlegs in the used record bins lasted for about two years or so before they were removed, although I would eventually purchased Beatles bootlegs like Sweet Apple Tracks I & II, Yellow Matter Custard and Indian Rope Trick, and Jimi Hendrix’s Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window, many from a great record store that used to be on King Street called Strawberry Fields Forever.

To my eyes, seeing a swap meet dealer with boxes of bootlegs felt like I was looking at someone who worked at the bootleg factory, and while seeing boots at used record stores became part of the norm for me, it never topped the vision of those white covers in 1980.

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RECORD CRACK: P.S. I Love You – The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You”

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The Rolling Stones are a group of my mom’s generation, but as a kid I’d always hear their music on the radio. The first time the band became a band that was not of my past was in 1978, and it was due to this song. “Miss You” was the first single from Some Girls, and back then the complaint was that the song was “too disco”, it wasn’t traditional Stones. Many said that it’s trademark disco rhythm, the “four on the floor” was either too lazy or “too black”, as if the Rolling Stones ever shied away from their love of black music. Nonetheless, at 8 years old I wasn’t into the technical, it was just a song that sounded good. Even now, it remains one of my all time favorite Rolling Stones songs. When I hear it on the radio, I leave it on.

Unfortunately, as is the case with many hits from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, most radio stations these days do not play the “single edit” of the song. I like the single edit a lot, for it eliminates the saxophone solo and fades out before Mick Jagger does his harmonica solo coda as the song fades out. The single edit is perfect, but the release of greatest hits albums and compilations have made radio stations play the album version.

Looking back, this picture sleeve seems to try to be of the times, with the band in their leather gear, standing by a brick wall. Very punk rock, very Ramones, very much Rolling Stones being cocky enough to say “we were sleazy before you punks were even punks”. Plus, you have a street-attitude photo in a pink tint? That’s even more punk! This sleeve was used in a number of countries, and was also used for some pressings of the 12″ single which featured an extended remix of the song.

When my dad got his paycheck, he might get me a record. Or if I had good grades, a record would be my reward, and that was prompted by mom. I loved “Miss You”, but when I played the B-side, I thought the 8-year old equivalent of “what the hell is this?” I didn’t grow up in a household with country music, so this seemed weird and in my mind, unlike the Rolling Stones. Was this a joke? It being an “oddity” made me play the song, and I’d play it again, and again. Soon, I’d be miming Jagger talking about driving home early Sunday morning through Bakersfield, listening to gospel music on that colored radio station. I had been attracted to the power of radio since a kid, so maybe this song about a man driving long distances and finding that his radio gave him a bit of comfort was comforting to me. The songs true sentiment, about a man longing for a woman with “Far Away Eyes”, really didn’t click until I started finding women attractive, and I understood what Jagger was singing about.

There’s probably a generation who have no idea how this record was sold to fans, or their only association is the Some Girls album. For me, I sometimes think of this “sleazy” sleeve, which looks less sleazy these days and more a reflection of a time long gone.

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RECORD CRACK: Super deluxe edition of The Rolling Stones’ “Exile On Main Street” due out May 18th

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It may be two more years until The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street celebrates its 40th anniversary, but the group decided “hey, let’s celebrate it early”. The band have approved a new remaster of the album, so you are able to not only buy the new remaster as is, but a “Super Deluxe Edition” of the album will be available for the diehards.

This deluxe edition will featured two vinyl records, three CD’s, a DVD documentary about the album, and a 50-page book documenting the making of the album and what it became after its release on May 12th:

  • The two LP’s will be the way the album became known by fans, along with the two CD’s. The third CD features previously unreleased material, some of which has been bootlegged for years but fans are able to hear it in pristine quality for the first time.
  • Stones In Exile is a documentary covering this much-discussed period in The Rolling Stones’ career, and features footage from such Rolling Stones films as Ladies and Gentlemen… the Rolling Stones and the infamous Cocksucker Blues.

    In celebration of the 38th anniversary, the NBC late night talk show Late Night With Jimmy Fallon has established the way of May 10th as “Rolling Stones Week“, with various artists appearing on the show throughout the week performing one song from Exile On Main Street. They include Phish, Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, and Green Day. On Friday, the Stones In Exile documentary will make its world premiere on the show with “limited commercial interruption”. If you’ve ever wondered why so many people look to Exile On Main Street for inspiration, and you’ve been curious as to what the fuss has been about, watch Fallon from May 10-14th.

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