Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

10Jul/140

Live From The Cleveland Agora…

Cleveland_AgoraIt's Tuesday afternoon and I'm minutes away from phoning Matthew Sweet for an interview when I happen to hit Twitter on my phone and see a breaking story that Hank LoConti, longtime owner of the Cleveland Agora has just passed away at age 85.

The news hit me like a ton of bricks because Hank was always a guy who was so full of life that it was hard to imagine that he could actually be gone. He was someone that when you met him, you would be surprised to find out how old he was, because he always looked at least a decade younger than he actually was. And yet he had been sick, battling lymphoma for some time, which I was not aware of.

There are plenty of great stories and tributes that have popped up in the past day offering a proper remembrance of LoConti and what it was that he was all about.  For me as a music fan who ended up living in Cleveland, it's hard to even begin to collect the thoughts of all of the many different ways that the Cleveland Agora has made an impact in my life. There were plenty of shows, of course, with my first visit to the Agora happening in November of 1992 to see the Spin Doctors. Say what you will about the Spin Doctors, they were a hell of a band beyond the radio singles and their live performances during that time period were great.

My next trip to the Agora was a free show (!!!) with Brian May of Queen who played a headlining gig at the venue supporting his first solo album Back To The Light. Having missed out on the chance to see Queen back in the day, it was huge getting a chance to see Brian play guitar in such an up close setting, with Cozy Powell on drums, to boot.

As my concert attendance really started to ramp up in 1993, I would spend a lot of time at the Agora starting the following year, first with a gig from Joe Satriani, then Sarah McLachlan (Fumbling Towards Ecstasy Tour), Rollins Band with Therapy, Pretenders (a special "small hall" hometown gig on the Last Of The Independents tour that quickly sold out), Joe Cocker (right after he played Woodstock 94), Crowded House (Together Alone tour, with Sheryl Crow opening), The Smithereens and so many more.

1994 was really the beginning of my music collection coming to life in front of my eyes (something which I was reminded of recently when talking with Journey's Neal Schon, when he talked about his feeling that the reason that today's kids want to see their favorite bands live is that "they don't quite believe that it's real unless they're looking at it.")  and I had been to enough gigs by that point to know that if I had the chance to see one of my favorite bands play a club like the Agora, that was where it was really at -- with the chance to get up close and personal with some of the bands that I had spent a lot of time listening to by that point.

There was an experience that came with seeing a show at a true rock club like the Agora that you just didn't get in the same way by attending an arena gig. Sure, I had seen some amazing shows at Richfield Coliseum in that same time period (Peter Gabriel, Aerosmith, Eric Clapton), but having a chance to compare the two, there was no question that the more intimate gigs were better, which is why it was such a thrill to get a chance to see bands and artists like Pretenders, Joe Cocker and Brian May -- folks who I knew had usually been playing bigger places prior to that -- in a place the size of the Cleveland Agora.

To cut to the chase, Hank LoConti was the guy who was driving all of this. He was the man behind the Cleveland Agora, a rock institution that had been around for a long time at that point -- I didn't know the specifics at that time, but when you walked into that place, you could tell that it was a building that had a lot of history. As folks will be quick to point out, the current Cleveland Agora at 5000 Euclid Avenue is not the original location -- which burned down in the mid-'80s, but the Euclid Avenue location, was certainly a worthy successor to the original, housed in a building that had its own important history.

Over the years, I started to unpack the history of the original building as a fan, listening to the various famous concert broadcasts that had been done by WMMS, most of which were from the '70s and '80s. Everybody's got their personal favorite list and many of them can tell you stories about being at the gigs -- since I moved here in 1989, I missed out on that part of things, but the tapes that were left behind certainly tell plenty of great stories. There is of course, the famous Springsteen Agora gig from 1978, a special broadcast celebrating the 10th anniversary of WMMS.

Elvis Costello's 1977 performance is another favorite and when I saw Costello just a few weeks ago, playing a solo show here in town, he had fond memories of playing the Agora, calling it a "smoke-filled den of sin," adding that "sometimes you find true love in a place like that." Costello isn't alone in his memories -- it's a frequent occurrence to hear the legacy acts offer their memories of their first gigs in Cleveland at the Agora -- while performing at Gund Arena on the All You Can't Leave Behind tour in May of 2001, Bono offered his own recollections of an early U2 gig at the Agora.

Bryan Adams played a show at the Agora in 1982 and he would be back for another gig barely a year later in 1983. Both shows were broadcast by WMMS (with the 1982 gig getting a national broadcast via the King Biscuit Flower Hour) and it's interesting to compare the two performances and hear how much Adams had progressed in such a short amount of time. The 1983 performance, which was mixed by Bob Clearmountain, is an unbelievable show from Adams that sounds like a professional live album -- it would make great bonus material for an expanded reissue of the Cuts Like A Knife album someday.

The Police, AC/DC, Bon Jovi....nearly anybody you might want to name off, they all played the Agora at some  point. Thankfully, there are so many of those concert memories that have been preserved because they were broadcast.

The Agora is approaching its 50th anniversary and I'm happy that after some rough years, the venue seems to be back on solid ground or at the very least, in a better place. They're back booking a regular schedule of shows again and the shows seem to be doing well. As someone who grew up with the Agora at a time that they had a consistent schedule of shows that made it possible for you to go see live music at the club on nearly any night of the week (and with so much great variety to choose from in those days, too), it means a lot to see the Agora alive again.

As the years went by, I had the chance on a number of occasions to stop and talk with Hank. The first time, I had been sent to the Agora to pick something up. Not knowing Hank, I figured it would be a quick stop to grab what I was supposed to pick up and then I'd be on my way. I ended up being there for a couple of hours, sitting in Hank's office, hearing amazing stories of past Agora shows. That would be the case every time that I stopped by.

He was a walking piece of Cleveland musical history, one of several key leaders who helped to build the Cleveland concert scene as we know it today and he has continuously been one of the people working tirelessly through the years to help maintain it, never afraid to fight for necessary changes. He certainly leaves behind one hell of a legacy.  I have no doubt that we'll continue to see that legacy grow in the years to come and hopefully part of that will come in the form of proper releases on audio and video for some of the shows that he was really proud of.

4Jul/140

Continuing Journeys

I got a chance to speak with Journey guitarist Neal Schon for a piece that ran  in this week's edition of the Cleveland Scene prior to their upcoming show here in the area on Tuesday evening with Steve Miller Band and Tower of Power.

As is often the case, writing that story sent me to the music stacks to pull out some Journey. I was going to Buffalo to see Blue Rodeo and wanted to load in some tunes for the car. It's funny, for a long time, there wasn't really a lot of live Journey available officially beyond the well known (and for many people, the essential) Captured double live album which was released in 1981.

What I really wanted was a proper live album that covered more of the later material from Journey that came after Captured, you know, albums like Escape, Frontiers...they sold a few copies of those albums and had several hits, right?

Journey filled that request in 1998 with the appropriately titled Greatest Hits Live, which even though it was compiled from a couple of different shows, had a track listing that had the expected hits, but also went a little bit deeper with tunes like "After The Fall," "Still They Ride" the title track to "Escape" and "Line of Fire."  It was a good starter package that still works great if you're looking for a single CD that has a lot of their best tunes from across the years.

Released in 2005, Live in Houston 1981: The Escape Tour brought a famous Journey gig home to consumers, available on both DVD and CD (marking the first time that a Journey performance from that era had been officially released on DVD, unless you count the semi-official release of Frontiers and Beyond, which was available very briefly for a minute from the official Journey website in the early '00s). For reasons that aren't quite clear, the CD has a live version of "The Party's Over (Hopelessly in Love) while the DVD does not, which could be quite simple to explain -- maybe it just wasn't filmed. First shown on MTV in the early '80s, the Houston show had only circulated on bootleg prior to the official release.

I couldn't find my CDs for either of those releases when I went hunting for them, so instead, I grabbed a couple of bootlegs. One of them was a show recorded in Norman, Oklahoma for Westwood One in 1983. The other one was a 1979 show from the Evolution tour, captured in Chicago for the syndicated Studio Jam series.

Listening to both shows back to back as I drove to Buffalo, it was interesting to hear the differences between the Gregg Rolie era of Journey and the Jonathan Cain era of the group. Cain gets a lot of criticism for his alleged role in turning Journey into a ballad band, but that wasn't really what stuck out to me, listening to the shows. Instead, it was interesting to note how Perry's role changed in the group between the two shows. During the 1979 performance, Rolie still had a commanding presence vocally in the Journey lineup, but it was hard to miss the charisma that Perry brought each and every time he took the microphone, especially for the songs he sang the lead vocals on.

Journey as heard during the Norman, Oklahoma performance is a different story -- Perry has very clearly taken the reins of the group and even if it wasn't necessarily Perry's band behind the scenes, it was without question, a hell of a partnership. The songwriting that he, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain were engaged in produced quite a powerful batch of material that gave Perry and the members of Journey a lot of firepower to work with onstage.

Even now, more than 30 years later, Schon realizes why the power of Journey still endures. It comes down to the usual things that are most important for a band that wants to build a legacy (even if you might not realize that's what you're doing at the time). It's all about hard work and good songs, as he shared during the interview.

“I think on the Journey level [that’s] why we’re still prominent and out there,” he says. “I think it’s because we basically work our butts off and we tour every year. And we continually play the music and have new audiences come in all the time, we’re claiming younger fans. And also I think mainly, I think we just got it right, you know we wrote a lot of really great songs, the three of us; myself, Steve Perry, and Jonathan Cain. And it was like we just got some things right and I think that’s why it’s etched in stone.”

Journey soldiers on with Arnel Pineda at the helm in place of Perry these days and together, they present a concert experience that is arguably as close to seeing the band with Perry in his prime as you're ever going to get. While Perry himself has recently returned to the stage for the first time in nearly 20 years, performing a handful of guest appearances singing Journey songs while backed by the band eels, it doesn't seem likely that he and Journey will reunite again.

And that's okay with me -- in my mind, there's room for both. Let Journey continue to do what they do and let Perry make whatever sort of music he might want to make on his own terms. I enjoy both. I like to watch Neal Schon play guitar and I enjoy hearing Perry sing -- so even if that doesn't happen on the same stage, it's all good. And although  Perry's vocal abilities appear to have diminished from what he was capable of "back in the day," it would be fun to see him play some shows.

But as always, who knows what's up ahead?

22Oct/1230

SOME GIRLS GETS A MAKEOVER

SOME GIRLS
2011 – Universal Republic Records
1978 – Rolling Stones Records

 In the words of Lou Reed, “Those were different times.”

And they were.  New York was still reeling from a financial crisis and the country as a whole wasn’t much better off.  Son of Sam had kept the city on edge for months, and punk rock was exploding worldwide.

As punk became a real player, there was a heightened sense of competition among bands as rock and roll’s first generation gap began to appear and grow wider by the minute.

The Who, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones were common targets as the new guard called out the old as being washed-up and tired.  The newly-coined “corporate rock,” courtesy of Foreigner, Journey, Styx and others, was all over FM radio and it gave the punks a target as big as the hair on the heads of millions of leftover hippies and fist-pumping young rockers.

So here come the Rolling Stones, expatriates of the highest degree, absorbing the frenetically jagged New York vibe and turning it into the last undeniably great record of their then-vital career.  

They were somewhat on the ropes in ’78, coming off the recent release of some average product in Black and Blue and Love You Live. Having now survived the departure of Mick Taylor, the group was about to fully realize what a great choice they made in his replacement, former Faces member Ron Wood, who developed a very different chemistry with Keith Richards that proved equally as successful.

Keith’s drug bust, one of near-jail proportions, proved to be a catalyst for him to write one of his greatest songs and perpetuated his outlaw status.  It also helped to inspire him to lay down some of the roughest and toughest guitar he had brought forth in years.

Mick Jagger was the true sponge, bringing the underbelly of the city to life through his words and keeping the Stones on the edge with his attitude. His observations were keen and comical, biting and shaded.

Pulling it all together was engineer Chris Kimsey, who just plugged em in, turned em up and let them do their thing.  The crisp, stripped-down sound still had layers and texture, but contained a freshness that was both welcome and necessary.

In its decadence, wit, variety and fire, Some Girls launched the Stones well beyond their previous few years of self-indulgent output and placed them squarely in the moment with a lot to say.

Going back to these songs 34 years later, the Some Girls experience is still relevant, still compelling, and still rockin.

"MISS YOU"
They always knew how to jump start a dance floor and this time around, they were ready to take on the challenge again.  Not all of their fans were ready for them to do it via the disco route, but in the end it didn’t matter. What initially may have been looked at as trend-chasing has proven to be laying claim to a bit of territory.

“Miss You” is a true Stones classic, accepted within the context of their catalog because below the surface, it was genuine Stones.  After a nice even setup, the guitars get loud and rough, Mick takes you from falsetto to in your face, Charlie and Bill are way up front in the mix, and the well-placed sax solo fits nicely.

What acts as a weave for the song is the great harmonica playing of Sugar Blue, bringing a refreshing melodic change from the typical disco of the day.

You are hereby served notice that this is not your mid-seventies glitter-flecked Stones.  Not quite sure yet where we are headed, but it’s not back there.

"WHEN THE WHIP COMES DOWN"
If it’s too complicated, is it still rock and roll?  The answer to that begins with “When the Whip Comes Down.”

Responding to the kids, the critics, and their fans, they let loose with the first of the album’s back-to-basics rockers. The reflections of a mover in the city’s gay community, the song just cooks and occasionally flashes powered by the rat-a-tat of Charlie Watts and the extra depth provided by Mick playing rhythm guitar.  Gritty and loud with your feet on the street.  A great song and a sign of good things to come.

"JUST MY IMAGINATION"
Upon hearing the original Temptations version, who would have thought that the Stones would cover it, and then, how did they do such a great job?

The Stones own this one from the get-go, led by the swirly twin melodies of Keith and Woody. A big fat bass gives it a bounce and Mick sings like he means it. It’s all very solid and very catchy.  It helps to have a great song to cover and to be smart enough to know that you can pull it off.

Three songs in, we’ve gone disco, rock and roll and Motown.  Unpredictable and perfectly executed. 

"SOME GIRLS"
On “Some Girls” Mick cobbles together verses about the women of the world, Keith gives it a murky blues feel, and we get what resembles the adult version of a Dr. Seuss-like sing-song with its repetition and wordplay. This one is funny and catchy and again features Sugar Blue, who is right at home and it shows.

Love the reference to Bob Dylan and his troubles in Zuma Beach.  Also love the big fat bottom with Keith on bass.

"LIES"
Whoever is on the receiving end of this one (Was it ex-wife Bianca?) had it spelled out in all of its fury.  Crashing and banging out of the gate, this song never lets up until the shotgun blast ending. A perfect partner to “When the Whip Comes Down” and a warning shot to those who called them over the hill.

"FAR AWAY EYES"
Side two opens with “Far Away Eyes,” a country ballad that harkens back to a Charlie Rich or Conway Twitty record in its simple piano-driven story colored by slide guitar throughout.  However, Mick is neither of those guys and this one is far too campy to be at that level.  It’s well done for what its worth and here again we get funny and fun.

"RESPECTABLE"
The purest rock song on the album, “Respectable” just rips from start to finish.  Everyone is all in – Charlie’s trash can drums, Bill’s driving bass pushing it all along, the twin guitars slashing, and Mick spitting out “Get out of my life/Don’t take my wife/Don’t come back” as if he cares so much but could not care less.  Worth the price right here. 

Over the past four tunes, we’ve gone from blues to rock and roll to country and back to rock and roll.  The variety keeps comin and the quality is high. We’re building a classic…

"BEFORE THEY MAKE ME RUN"
The long-awaited bookend to “Happy,” this one is at once a story, a lesson, an anthem, and true Keith through and through. Outstanding in every way. Had things turned out differently for Keith, this would have been his closer and may have gone on to be better recognized for the great song that it is.  The way it backs up at the end and lets Keith groove is an understated moment.

"BEAST OF BURDEN"
With “Beast of Burden,” Keith pulled out a thoughtful and slippery melody and turned it into an unexpected hit.  Easy to dance to and sing along with, it brought the Stones to new ears and played well on non-AOR radio alongside “Miss You.”  The call and response chorus and lilting harmonies sealed the deal.

"SHATTERED"
“Shattered” is Mick’s summary statement about the city and its fragile condition.  He makes you pay attention while careening off of hotel walls and street corners.  Delivered with passion and urgency, you can feel, no matter where you are, the chaos within the lyrics.  A nervy riff partnered with an “Uh, Sh-doobie, Shattered, Shattered” refrain, by the end you feel as if you’ve taken the whirlwind tour and come to a screeching halt.  The absolutely appropriate capper to the album.

BONUS TRACKS
There are two ways to assess “bonus tracks.”  One is to worship them as unexpected moments of insight and prolonged enjoyment of your favorite bands.  Another is to say “There is a reason why they are called outtakes.”

An additional consideration is that this is the Rolling Stones.  Aside from Bob Dylan and the Beatles, not many superstars with 60s roots have been more often bootlegged and followed by such a large worldwide audience.

In this case, let’s say the best songs made the original album.  After living with this album for 34 years and having listened to it hundreds of times, it’s clear to me that Mick and Keith made the right decisions about content.

However, for the fans who eagerly awaited being able to replace their bootleg versions of these songs, we have a treasure; twelve songs ranging from country to blues to rock featuring newly overdubbed guitar parts and vocals.  Given that the songs were in various stages of completion, Mick and Keith gave them the final touches before release

The best of the bunch are the first three: “Claudine,” a rockabilly romp about Claudine Longet, accused at the time of killing her husband, skier Spider Sabich, “So Young,” a prototypical Stones rocker which would have sounded at home on either Emotional Rescue or Tattoo You, and “Do You Think I Really Care?” a catchy, countrified tune reminiscent of “Dead Flowers.” 

The next level includes the bluesy duo of “When You’re Gone” and “Keep Up Blues,” and the band’s easy-going take on the Hank Williams classic “You Win Again,” which was likely on the turntable when they wrote “Far Away Eyes.”

The single released from this reissue was “I Love You Too Much,” a tune that, like “So Young,” has a feel that is inconsistent with this album but was well-suited for either of their next two.

Beyond that, the remaining songs are of interest as a reminder of the incredible output that flowed from the Stones from 1978-1981, but cannot be called essential.

PRODUCTION

The sound is bright and full of the nuances that didn’t always come across many years ago on a less-than-stellar turntable or an aftermarket cassette player in the car or a first-generation remaster of the compact disc.  By filling out the subtle textures with this edition, the sound quality alone makes it definitive. 

The liner notes written by Anthony DeCurtis are very well-done and the studio photos are cool.  Unfortunately, the original cover which was recalled shortly after the album’s original release due to the band’s unauthorized use of photos of Lucille Ball, Raquel Welch and many other famous female celebrities, could not be restored.

*NEXT TIME 
A review of the Some Girls Live in Texas ’78 DVD

18Mar/1214

Contest: Win both volumes of Journey’s ‘Greatest Hits’ on vinyl!

Journey released Greatest Hits on November 15th, 1988. Sometime around that time, I saw it in my local record store (the sorely missed Crow's Nest in Crest Hill, Illinois) and had to pick up a copy.

Despite what my good Twitter pal @jukebox65 might want to believe, I was not a Journey diehard at that point. I was among the Journey curious, if there is such a thing. I had heard the name, knew at least a few of the songs and thought they had really, really cool album covers.

I wasn't alone in my purchase - the compilation has sold over 15 million copies through the years, making it one of those albums that everybody had a copy of at some point - right next to their copies of Aerosmith's Greatest Hits, Frampton Comes Alive and Bruce Springsteen's Human Touch and Lucky Town (ha! just making sure that you're still paying attention).

With the resurgence of vinyl, former Journey frontman Steve Perry set his sights on remastering the band's greatest hits for vinyl - both the original Greatest Hits release and a second volume to add additional tracks that were left off of the first one. Between the two, you've got a pretty good snapshot of many of the very best moments from Journey's career.

Perry's work on the two compilations allowed him to reacquaint himself with both the band's music and how great their songs sound when heard on wax. He says “I truly forgot how sonically exciting and just plain better these Journey tracks sound back where they originally lived…on vinyl.”

“The stereo separation, the center imaging and the sonic depth of the tracks themselves is more true to what we all loved about these original final mixes. All the instruments and voices, to me personally, sound so damn good that all I want to do is reach for the volume and turn it up!”

ATV would like to give you a chance to win vinyl copies of both volumes, plus a special added bonus - a unique journal notebook from Vintage Vinyl Journals, custom-made eco-friendly notebooks made from upcycled vinyl LPs and high quality acid-free paper. Each journal is unique and the one included with this prize pack includes artwork elements from Journey's Greatest Hits Volume 1 &2.

So you'd like to win this for yourself to enjoy on the turntable within the privacy of your own home as you scrawl your inner thoughts into your newly acquired vinyl-centric journal?

We'll make it relatively simple: send us a note with either your favorite Journey-related memory or perhaps an '80s concert memory in general, of a great show that you saw. We'll pick one lucky reader to be the recipient of this prize pack.

Good luck!

22Aug/1123

Journey to Steve Perry: Let’s hang out, bro.

I had to laugh when I saw this:

Steve Perry is welcome back on stage with Journey any time, guitarist Neal Schon said in a recent interview. In fact, current lead singer and Perry soundalike Arnel Pineda would be “overjoyed” if Perry were to show up for one of the band’s tour stops.

I was discussing the recently announced 'Greatest Hits Volume 2' release with good ol Mike Duquette of The Second Disc recently, admitting that it's very likely that I'll need to own it (it's coming out on vinyl, btw) despite the fact that I own all of the songs featured on the compilation. What's up with that?

One of my coolest acquisitions of the past year?  Getting a DVD copy of the 'Frontiers & Beyond' home video, thanks to a cool ATV reader who saw my plea for a copy. Even though I have it, I'd still welcome an official DVD version of it, perhaps with bonus footage?

We can dream, right?

3Aug/1126

Setlist: Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger at Blossom Music Center, 8/2/11

Photo courtesy of Frontiers Records
Going to see a Journey show always leaves me with so many thoughts. First, it’s great to have the opportunity to see a Journey show in 2011 and I have to give thumbs up each time to Neal Schon, because I know he and the other members did a lot of work and took a lot of chances to make that happen.

‘Greatest Hits’ was one of the first CDs that I bought as a kid, to test out a newly acquired stereo system, the very first stereo of my own. I know that everybody seems to feel like ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ is played out, ever since it was featured on ‘The Sopranos,’ triggering what seemed to be a worldwide rediscovery of that one Journey song. But man, what a song – hearing that classic piano intro from Jonathan Cain never fails to take me back to the first time listening to that ‘Greatest Hits’ CD, sitting cross legged on the floor (not a Chicago reference, really!).

Every time I hear that song and many others from the Journey catalog, I’m always amazed at the way they were able to line up the timing of the musical elements with Steve Perry’s vocals to create those instant classics that we still love all of these years later.

The actual sound of those songs and albums makes up a lot of it as well – I’d love to see an entry in the ‘Classic Albums’ documentary series to take us behind the scenes with the multi-tracks to open up and reveal the process behind the creation of some of these songs.

Journey and the other bands of their era created a sound and a way of songwriting that hasn’t ever really been duplicated and it probably never will. It was a whole different time, that damn wretched ‘80s period that so many lament. But look at all of those songs that were created in the decade where you had to hunt really hard to find real drums on a song!

All of this is an elongated opening thought leading into very brief thoughts about last night’s Journey show here in the Cleveland area with Foreigner and Night Ranger.

It really was an amazing snapshot of three bands from the era of arena rock and the incredible catalog of hits that they possess collectively.

For Journey, they soldier on with Arnel Pineda on vocals, finally armed with a vocalist who can help them to accurately reproduce those classic hits from the golden age working with Steve Perry. “Accurately reproduce” is the key here – they achieve that, but don’t really go above and beyond that. Certainly, what they deliver is solid, but they don’t really bring anything new to the rendering of the songs.

But it is those songs and the nostalgia that goes along with them, paired with the chance to watch Neal Schon do his thing on guitar, which is always something to behold. The dude simply does not get the appropriate amount of due that he should for his guitar work and year after year, it’s always a pleasure to watch him shred.

Setlist wise, I was a little bit surprised that the Journey set was only 14 tracks, clocking in at a hair under the 80 minute mark. Two of those came from the new album, with the remainder being classics from the catalog, although interestingly enough, ‘Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’’ was absent from the set for the first time that I can remember, since they returned initially with Steve Augeri on vocals. Aside from ‘Stone in Love,’ the setlist played things pretty safe with no real rarities or album tracks, ala ‘After The Fall,’ ‘Chain Reaction,’ but perhaps they were planning appropriately for the hit-loaded setlists that they’d be up against with Foreigner and Night Ranger on the bill.

If that’s the case, they were smart, because Foreigner delivered a performance last night that quite simply, was the performance of the evening. I’ve seen the new lineup of Foreigner with Kelly Hansen quite a few times now and they absolutely owned the stage in a way that I’ve never seen them do before.

It’s interesting, because they’ve been playing nearly the same setlist year in and year out (minus a bit of new material last year with a fresh album to promote) and it’s that kind of behavior that normally would have me griping about the lack of variety. But with Foreigner, it’s a seasoned set of songs that go together well and if they’re tired of performing the same songs over and over again, it doesn’t show a bit in their performance, which was completely exuberant and on fire for the nearly70 minutes of stage time. They didn’t play a single note of material from ‘Can’t Slow Down’ and that’s likely a calculated move as they continue to work to re-establish the Foreigner brand.

Related to that point, one thing that was common with all three bands on the night was the product placement-like display of either band logos or album covers, often between every song. Let’s face it, everybody is doing it and it was certainly an in-your-face way to remind the fans between each song exactly which band was on stage. The flaming Foreigner logo that was displayed prior to and during ‘Hot Blooded’ was a nice KISS-like touch.

(On a side note, they've got an interesting new release coming out in September, again via Wal-Mart, that will find them revisiting their hits both electrically and acoustically)

Night Ranger as the opener? Hell yeah. I’m always happy to have the chance to see Night Ranger live as they were one of those bands that broke up before I started going to concerts and I figured I’d probably never have the chance to see them live.

Their new album ‘Somewhere in California’ is a classic Night Ranger record in every sense of the word and it was very cool to see them open up with ‘Lay It One Me,’ one of the heaviest tracks on the new album and very unexpected – I honestly thought they would just toss out ‘Growing Up In California,’ since that was the initial single that everybody heard as an introduction to the new material.

They were on stage for a mere (yet expected) 40 minutes and I would have loved to have seen at least 20 more minutes on top of that. Midway through their set time, they dropped in a cover of ‘High Enough’ by Damn Yankees that felt a bit misplaced in comparison to their usual cover choice of ‘Coming of Age’ from the same group (frontman Jack Blades was in Damn Yankees, just in case you were born after 1993 and need help with the connection). Vocally, it just seemed like a song that might be ugly territory 20 years on and indeed, they seemed to be reaching for some of the notes.

Blades was wearing a vintage WMMS Buzzard BBQ t-shirt from a Blossom show that Night Ranger had performed at in the ‘80s with .38 Special – a very cool touch that hammered home the very real affection that Night Ranger has always demonstrated for Cleveland during their visits to the city, always giving big credit to Cleveland for being a major part of their success as a band as one of the first cities to play ‘Sister Christian.’

Overall, it was a really fun night with one of the better tour packages I’ve seen, rivaling the Journey show from a few summers ago with Heart and Cheap Trick.

My pal Matthew Wilkening wrote up the show for Ultimate Classic Rock and you can check out his words on both Journey and Foreigner.

Hear two out of the three bands for yourself tonight – Rewind 94.9 in Cincinnati will be broadcasting both Journey and Foreigner, live as it happens.

Setlists:

Night Ranger:

Lay It On Me
Sing Me Away
High Enough
When You Close Your Eyes
Don't Tell Me You Love Me (w/ teases of Hotel California and Highway Star)
Sister Christian
(You Can Still) Rock In America

Foreigner:

Double vision
Head Games
Cold As Ice
Waiting For A Girl Like You
Dirty White Boy
Feels Like The First Time
Urgent
I Wanna Know What Love Is
Hot Blooded

Encore:

Juke Box Hero

Journey:

Separate Ways
Ask The Lonely
City Of Hope
Only The Young
Send Her My Love
Guitar Solo
Stone In Love
Edge Of The moment
Lights
Wheel In The Sky
Keyboard Solo
Open Arms
Be Good To Yourself
Faithfully
Don't Stop Believin'

Encore:

Anyway You Want It

11Apr/1128

Interview: Author Neil Daniels Talks About His New Journey Book

Journey once ruled the earth. If you’re reading Addicted to Vinyl, you know this already. Even if you did, the Journey story probably runs deeper than you realize. And it’s all laid out in a new book by Neil Daniels, the UK rock author extraordinaire who’s written books about Bon Jovi, Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin. Don't Stop Believin': The Untold Story Of Journey is due May 3 from Omnibus, one of the world’s leading rock & roll presses. It’s the first book about the band, whose history spans over 38 years, six singers and more than 75 million albums sold.

(Full disclosure: This author has contributed to two of Daniels’ books: Linkin Park—An Operator’s Manual and All Pens Blazing Volume 1, a collection of interviews with rock journalists.)

Journey are best known for their glory days in the 1980s, which produced hits and classic-rock radio staples like “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Wheel in the Sky” and “Open Arms”—all sung by Steve Perry, one of the greater singers in rock history. But the group had a career before Perry, and they’ve been alright without him: The band launched as a jazz/prog/fusion outfit. Guitarist Neil Schon and keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rolie had played in Santana in the early ’70s. Then Santana roadie-turned-band-manager Herbie Herbert culled Schon and Rolie and began forming a band around them. Herbert is a rare source for unvarnished stories about the endless behind-the-scenes intrigue that kept Journey from reaching even higher heights.

If all you know about the group is Vh1’s Behind the Music special, you’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, and you’re seeing it from a misleading perspective. Perry had strict editorial control over the show, and he has remained a key voice in the band’s affairs even after their 1991 dissolution, 1995 reunion, and his 1997 departure. Even show-biz powers of the highest caliber can’t reunite the parties: Since 1995, Journey has been managed by music-biz legend Irving Azoff, the Ticketmaster CEO who has managed the Eagles and Guns N’ Roses.

The journey continued after Perry left. The band recorded and toured with Steve Augeri (ex-Tyketto, Tall Stories), whose voice simply couldn’t hold up under the rigors of touring. After a short run with Jeff Scott Soto (the former Yngwie Malmsteen/Kryst the Conqueror vocalist) in 2006-7, Journey saw recording artist Arnel Pineda covering Journey songs on YouTube and recruited the Filipino singer. Pineda sang on 2008’s Revelation LP, and the band continue touring with him.

We haven’t read any of the book, so we can’t vouch for it. But Daniels answered some questions about his latest project. — D.X. Ferris

How many people did you interview?

Well, I will say I interviewed the most important person in Journey’s history: ex-manager and founder Herbie Herbert. He very rarely gives interviews, but when he does he is very forthcoming and brutally honest. Anybody who has read Andrew McNeice’s interview with him at Melodicrock.com [Click HERE to read it, but wait until you have some time; clocking in around 20,000 words, it’s the length of a short book. And if you want more, this Herbert interview is great as well.] will know what I mean. He was great, though: very articulate and intelligent, with an amazing memory recall. What he said about Steve Perry might not please Perry fans and many Journey enthusiasts, but it’s certainly worth reading. I also did a great interview with Robert Fleischman, who toured with them as their first frontman for about six months before he was let go and replaced by Perry. He had a lot of good things to say too, lots of interesting anecdotes that will entertain fans. I did a lot of interviews with others too, including Jeff Scott Soto.

Steve Perry wouldn’t talk?

I emailed the two women that run his fansite and I got an email addy from a writer who had actually interviewed Perry a few years back; I’m guessing it was Perry’s PR person. I didn’t get any replies. To be honest, I knew it was a dead end anyway. There’s no way he would have cooperated with me on a book about the full history of Journey. I knew that anyway, just because he rarely gives interviews these days. It would not have been an objective book with too much involvement from either Perry or the band. It is often best not to involve the artist, which is an entirely different question…

It’s a full history of the band, right? Does each era get its own section?

Yes, of course. Each phase of the band’s career is written about in detail. Obviously people wanna know about the Perry years more than anything else, and I tried to give as much space to Raised On Radio as I could, as it was a vital phase in the band's career when the whole thing pretty much collapsed after [drummer] Steve Smith and [bassist] Ross Valory were let go [in 1985]. I think there’s a pretty good back story too, from when the band formed in 1973 and a fair bit on the time when Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon played in Santana, which was really when the Journey story started. The book comes right up to the present day.

In a nutshell, what are the band’s roots with Santana? I don’t think even the younger fans from the ’80s know about that—I never did, at least.

Yes, not a lot of people know that Journey’s first three albums are sort of jazz fusion instrumental type albums. It goes to show how vastly different the band’s roots were from the eighties heyday. The whole AOR thing started with Infinity, when Perry first sang for them, and obviously lasts to this day. It’s a convoluted story, but basically Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie both played in Santana, and it was former Santana roadie Herbie Herbert than got Rolie and Schon to play a gig together with some other musicians under the moniker Golden Gate Rhythm Section, which morphed into Journey.

In terms of fractions, how much of the book is early days, the Perry years and post-Perry?

Urm, well I don’t know the exact word count of each chapter, and bear in mind I was given a strict word count by the publishers, which I could not go over. I think there is a fairly hefty chunk on the Perry years and certainly the post-Perry years with singers Steve Augeri, Jeff Scott Soto and now Arnel Pineda. There’s enough on the Perry years, certainly during the few months Fleischman fronted the band. But before that, it was rather complicated and hard to track folks down, which is why Herbie Herbert was so helpful with his interview. He really put the years ’73-’76 in perspective.

What’s the band’s best pre-Perry work?

I think those first three albums each have their own merits, and [it] goes to show just how damn talented Schon, Rolie and Valory were back then and obviously still—though as you know Rolie left Journey in 1980 and was replaced by Jonathan Cain. Listen to, say, Next, and then listen to Frontiers, and you’ll hear two totally different bands.

How did the original fans react to Perry?

Sales of those first three albums were poor, which is why they were almost dropped by Columbia. They really built up a fanbase through touring, and they didn’t immediately warm to Fleischman or perhaps Perry, but given just how damn good a singer Perry is, it wasn’t long before he was held in open arms by a new wave of Journey fans. The [initial] idea was to have Journey play on the same bill as a band like Foreigner but then on the other side, play on the same bill as, say, Weather Report. They somehow wanted to appeal to the jazz instrumental fanbase that had been with them since the start and also the melodic rock fans that loved REO Speedwagon and Foreigner, etc.

Do you deal with Irving Azoff much in the book?

No, not really. Of course he is mentioned, but there isn’t a great deal of info out there on him, and I daren’t go in to too much detail. He is a very powerful figure, you know! He’s not someone I’d want to piss off, if you know what I mean. Besides, it’s about Journey and not their management, but I get what you’re saying.

How integral has Azoff been to their success?

Oh, very important. He has really helped the band reclaim some lost ground, although it has taken them awhile. I’m not keen on the way Augeri and JSS were treated in the end, especially JSS. I think he was treated rottenly, but JSS said the management were, in fact, very good to him while he fronted the band, so who knows, eh? Maybe it’s not the management but two key players? We can only read between the lines. Certainly the famous and now retired A&R man John Kalodner was important too, and I’ve read that he tried and tried to get Perry back with Journey after the whole Trial By Fire era, but of course—as we know—it did not work out.

In Behind the Music, Steve Perry says he never felt like a full-fledged member of the band—it’s one of the more famous complaints in rock history. Like most people, I’m inclined to say he was being overly dramatic when he said it. But then again, he did say it, so he probably really felt it. What’s your take on his relationship with the rest of the band?

This is such a famously complicated story and goes to show that behind closed doors, everything was not rosy in the Journey camp—there were two divisions with Steve Perry on one side and Cain/Schon on the other. Perhaps this is the reason why before there has never been a bio of Journey? It’s obvious that what Perry said was not strictly true; we can guess that. I mean, I’ve been told he basically took control of the band in the mid-eighties, and as we know Raised On Radio was meant to be titled Freedom, sticking with the one-word album titles. And is it a coincidence that ROR sounds a lot like Perry’s first solo album, Street Talk? Also, who fired Smith and Valory? Hell, I love Perry. He’s the greatest melodic rock/AOR singer of all time and one of the greatest singers in any style of popular music, but I think he had a lot more control than he has ever let on.

Do you cover his solo career?

Yes, thankfully there was enough space in the book for a chapter on Perry’s solo music, and it’s discussed in a fair bit of detail. I did write a chapter on Schon too, but it was too long and had to be cut out. Shame. But then again, he is very prolific outside of Journey with his solo work as well as HSAS, Bad English, Hardline and Soul SirkUS, etc. The book is about Journey though, so let’s not forget that. The Perry chapter is a bonus.

Why did Perry retire? He’s not coming back, is he—with Journey, with anybody?

Urm, well, if you read the book, there is a bit at the end about the possibility of a solo album, and rumor has it he is recording some solo tracks. But as for Journey and any type of tour or even a live performance…. I would not bet on it. I really can’t see it happening, and when I read rumors of a reunion, I just know they’re fabricated.

The band dumped Jeff Scott Soto right as “Don’t Stop Believin’” was getting huge again, after The Sopranos’ finale. Why do you think they axed him?

In the band’s eyes he wasn’t the right singer for Journey. They were contracted to finish the tour with Def Leppard and needed a frontman, so they hired JSS. I saw them in Manchester and thought they were great—but the collaboration left many Journey fans feeling cold. Let’s make this clear: JSS is a damn fine singer and one of the very best frontmen in melodic rock, but he wasn’t right for Journey in most fans’ eyes. However, the way in which his departure, after just a few months, was dealt with was not very nice at all. It was shitty, to be honest. Brian May wrote a very articulate piece about it on his excellent blog, Soapbox. JSS was very cool to interview—so articulate and well spoken and also honest. He’s not bitter at all. He loves Journey and even wrote a brief foreword to my book. He is one cool guy!!

Have you seen the band with Arnel Pineda? I saw a TV performance early on, and he was still doing the big hand gestures with those karaoke-style vocals, where everything got a little extra unnecessary flourish. And that soured me on him.

I thought Revelation was an amazing album and the best the band had made since Frontiers. But when I saw them in Manchester, Pineda really grated on me. I wanted Deen Castronova to sing the whole gig from his drum riser! [Pineda’s] running around and everything really annoyed me and I got bored. However, he’s really slowed down on all that and worked on his stage presence, and I thought the Live In Manila DVD was excellent. He has improved and will continue to improve, but he will also burn out?

The tours are still popular. All in all, how would you evaluate the move to add Pineda?

Vocally, he is the best singer they have had since Perry in terms of the way in which Journey songs are sung. It was either hire Pineda or shut the band down. I’d rather have Journey with Pineda than without. And let’s face it, as I said, Revelation was a bloody great album.

What do you think makes “Don’t Stop Believin’” one of the transcendent, perennially popular rock songs?

I’m fed up of hearing it! Ha. I think lyrically and vocally it is the perfect rock ballad. It has a very catchy and memorable chorus and some great keys and guitars. Let’s face it: Rock bands know how to make ballads!

What’s the band’s best deep album cut?

Hmmm… I think Escape and Frontiers are fine representations of Journey’s talent and of the AOR/melodic rock genre as a whole. They’re both damn fine albums with great singers, great production… the whole lot.

What song should have been a bigger hit?

They should have been a bigger band outside of America and Japan, and thankfully now they make return visits to Europe, which they did not do for a long time. It’s hard to say which ones should have been bigger songs but I can say that two of my fave Journey ballads are “I’ll Be Alright Without You” and “Girl Can’t Help It,” both from Raised on Radio.

By the time you were done with the book, who was your favourite character in the story—either someone you liked the most or someone who was the biggest character?

I’ll use this question as an opportunity to say just how criminally underrated I think Neal Schon is. I mean, he is one of the greatest and most versatile guitarists in rock music, yet do you ever see any mainstream attention? Or any other guitarists talk about Schon’s skills? I don’t know why. He really does deserve far more reverence.

When is the book coming out?

The book is out via Omnibus Press on May 3. If it’s not at your local book shop you can order online at Amazon US and UK or any other online book store. Feel free to email me through my website, www.neildaniels.com. Keep on rockin’!

4Apr/112

A Smart Ass In Every Room: Cruising The Bay Area with Joel Selvin

As someone with a passion for both music and writing, I really look up to the legendary members of the old guard that really paved the way for what is being done in their respective fields today.  On the radio side of things, I'm talking about guys like Rick Dees (now on Twitter @RickDees) and when it comes to print, Joel Selvin is definitely someone that I've enjoyed reading for quite a while, thanks to the availability of his music writings via the internet. Retired after a nearly 40 year run at the San Francisco Chronicle, Selvin is making headlines on his own thanks to two recently published books.  Smart Ass came out late last year, collecting the best of Selvin's writing through the years for the Chronicle, MOJO and other outlets. From the Beach Boys to the Grateful Dead, Smart Ass is a treasure chest of history and required reading for music geeks.

More recently, Selvin is in the spotlight as the co-author who helped Sammy Hagar finally put his story on paper with his new autobiography Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock. I enjoyed the chance to converse with Joel about his role in putting the book together for an interview that ran in two parts on the Riverfront Times music blog. Quite a bit of the conversation ended up on the cutting room floor, so I'm happy to share the rest of it with you here.

Let's talk about some stuff specific to your time covering music in San Francisco – this first question is Sammy related. Going back a little bit, music fans were excited about the prospects when Sammy reunited with Neal Schon, Michael Anthony and later, Joe Satriani for the Planet US project. What was the scene like there on the home turf when that project fell apart?

I don't think it's even mentioned in the book – I think it didn't even flip through Sammy's mind while he was dealing with it. I believe that the band lasted for two numbers during a Bay Area Music Awards – that was the extent of their career, that and some rehearsals.

Right. I know that some fans though are curious as to what the current state of relations is between Sammy and Neal and what the prospects might be for them working together again on another project.

You know, Neal and [Jonathan] Cain worked really hard at getting that Journey thing back together and you have no idea how much they gave up to unnamed parties in order to do that. So I would imagine that you're not going to see Neal involved in anything except informally other than Journey for some time to come. They've got a new album, he's pumped up about it. I saw Neal just a couple of months ago at [former Santana band member] Michael Carabello's wedding. And he looks good and seems to be in full vigorous health, in good shape and not all depressed and pissed off like he was during the years when he couldn't be Journey. He was a miserable son of a bitch, because he wanted to be in Journey and they couldn't – they didn't have enough ownership of their own goddamn band to go out on the road.

Which is crazy.

Oh, and frustrating and infuriating. I used to see Neal around a lot in those days because they weren't on tour all of the time, so he was out in the nightclubs and stuff and he was always sort of semi-pissed off.

What was the reaction like locally when Journey went outside of the United States to hire their latest vocalist Arnel Pineda?

You know, the idea that there's a new Journey up and running, I think has sort of been lost on the Bay Area music scene, whatever there is of it left. Without a Herbie Herbert behind it, managed out of Irving Azoff's office, putting records out in big store units, I don't think there's any sense around town that Journey is a local band anymore. They don't even all live here – doesn't Cain live in Nashville now? They don't do any gigs around here – it's not like they're singing anthems at the ballpark anymore. The San Francisco music scene, what little there is left, you have to be present to win – that's how you get to be a member, you take part in the community events. And we still see Mickey and Bob and Phil around at those things all of the time, even if they're not getting along – they'll show up at the benefits. They do the local gigs in the clubs and make it clear that they're part of the community in which they live. We haven't seen Journey here since they did a benefit gig in 1993 at Bimbo's – I can't remember the name of the singer, Steve Augeri, is that right? [We did some research and found that it was actually Chicago-based singer and Journey associate Kevin Chalfant, who made a couple of appearances with the post-Perry group prior to the hiring of Augeri much later]. He's a dead ringer for Perry, dead ringer! They played the benefit at Bimbo's and I think that was the last time I laid eyes on Journey in anything other than a major concert venue where they could have been anyone.

So they do play some of the big venues still in San Francisco?

Whenever they're on tour, they hit either Concord or Shoreline, the sheds. What's the shed outside St. Louis, there's one in the suburbs somewhere, right?

Oh yeah, it's the Verizon Wireless, formerly Riverport back in the day.

Of all of the loathsome intrusions of corporate culture on our life, that public facility naming thing pisses me off more than anybody. It used to be like you had to lay down your life for the country to get a building named after you. Now, Grandpa is forgotten, “yeah, I know your grandpa died in the war, but shit, Verizon just put up 50 grand!” [Laughs]

Your recent book collects nearly 40 years of writing for the Chronicle and it really strikes me that the bands that were in your backyard, the bands that we've talked about, were a little bit more high profile than most cities. Besides the Sammy story that we opened up the interview with, what's another favorite reaction by a local artist to something that you wrote?

Oh, there's so many good ones. Because we're all in the same playground together, right? Sooner or later we all show up at the same nightclub or the same dinner party or something over the 40 years I've been doing this. Everybody's made their peace or not with me. Don't ask Carlos! I remember the Summer of Love which I think was kind of the introduction outside the newspaper world for my kind of dark style, downbeat narratives [laughs]. Whatever it is, no happy endings! I remember Robert Hunter sent me a letter saying it was the first time he'd recognized the Janis Joplin he knew. I remember Country Joe telling me “man, I'm glad I didn't do any of that stupid stuff!” There've often been good ones, but my favorite of all is on the back of Smart Ass, Sam Andrew from Big Brother [ & Holding Company] introduced me to some friends of his and said “Joel's the Mickey Spillane of rock journalism.” That was it, that was all I wanted to be [laughs]!

You wrapped up your official career at the Chronicle in 2009 having lasted long enough to endure quite a few things including a couple of newspaper strikes. As someone that continues to be a journalist, what's your viewpoint of journalism and print media here in the present? Where's it all going from here?

Well, you know the whole culture is migrating to the internet. We're seeing that more everyday. And the future, the internet is so fluid, we really can't see much beyond the next app or two. Something like Flash comes and suddenly the internet's filled with videos, right? So we don't know what the next innovation is and innovation is definitely in the air. Newspapers, radio and here comes television, because now all of the TVs are internet ready. Broadcast TV is dead and cable TV is not feeling well [laughs]. Guys like you and me that spent our lives depending on a printed outlet for our writing, I'm not sure what to say about that. But you know, the internet has done a lot of good things for rock criticism – it's really opened up the dialogue between the so-called critical elite and the audience that they're addressing. It's democratized the voicing. I always wanted to be part of this conversation and I really wanted to work at a daily newspaper, but I never saw myself as the final arbiter on any of these topics, right? I just wanted to lead the conversation from my post at the Chronicle. And the more the conversation gets involved, the better my ends are served.

In the days that people had to write a postcard to tell you to drop dead, it was a lot less dialogue, you were a lot less in touch with your audience and the conversation was much more one-sided. Once the internet started and the email thing and the comment page and all of this kind of interactivity and interrelatedness started being part of the communication, it became a much more exciting and engrossing event for both sides. When MP3s showed up, man, I got MP3s right away. Now, I'm a very unlikely person to embrace technological advances – I carry a fountain pen and I have a 40 year old convertible. I am an old school guy and everybody doesn't have to know me long before they know that, but I love technology. And when I got an MP3 [player], I figured it out right away.

For a while there, I was doing articles based on my ability to secure and clear an MP3 associated with the article, just because I could post it on the Chronicle's website and send you, from the pages of the Chronicle to get one for your little iPod and it was like reaching through the pages and going “here, listen to this!” I mean, I've always wanted to do that! “No, no, listen to this yourself, check this out!” All of us in our racket, that's our number one thing. We don't want to go pee on the big bands that suck – we want to turn people onto things that we like and that's how we got where we are, right? That's the native impulse of the critic. So MP3s, it was like an unimaginable dream come true, like wow, I can just give them the Sal Valentino record, they can listen to it for themselves!

That's a really good point because it really does allow you to have a written conversation with your readers that is just like having them at your house saying...

“Yeah, let me put this on!”

You walk over and you put it on.

Oh yeah, and I also know that I put this Sal Valentino MP3 up on the web. You, my reader, you go out and you download it, you listen to it. You put it on your iPod and you go “wow, pretty cool.” And then like five days later, it comes up again on your iPod. Bingo! Not only “wow, pretty cool,” but you're now connected to the Chronicle and their pop music department. It's going to come up for you every time – we're embedding ourselves even more in your life like “wow, they gave me this MP3 that I wouldn't have known about otherwise, cool!” [laughs].

We couldn't do that with the newspaper articles! People would clip them out and sometimes they would clip them out and send them to people, look at this and scrawl on them, “this asshole doesn't know what he's talking about!” The advance of technology, social networking and the prospects of passing this stuff around, it just really opens up our ability to communicate with each other. And that's really at the core of what we're talking about. And another thing about me personally is that in my development, I was always in the newspaper business – I never went into the underground newspaper business racket too much, I was always in the daily newspaper. I dropped out of Berkeley High, 17 years old and went to work as a copy boy. So, I always saw all of this hip culture that I was a part of as exciting and interesting, but from the vantage point of this old time newspaper world where I really identified with sports writing.

You know, I heard you speak on that a little bit on one of your radio shows and I was really interested to hear that was where you found the perspective that you ultimately would apply to your writing style.

Well, the underground rock critics of the time were interesting to me, the Greil Marcuses and Jon Landaus and I certainly read them. We shared an avid interest in the topic and I was enthusiastically seeking all viewpoints. But I deplored the conversational style of the writing, the colloquial nature of it. I really felt like that there were tenants of old-fashioned daily journalism that merited being included in this discussion. So that's where I was coming from, I was an old time newspaper guy covering a new time beat. So I ended up being the tail end of the old guard! [Laughs]

You talked about the critics in your audience but you also had your own critics among the critics that were in your same field. When you consider the way that Sammy Hagar engaged you from the stage for your bad review, did you ever engage your fellow colleagues similarly when they took aim at you with the Selvin Watch column, for example?

Oh, Wyman [journalist Bill Wyman]! Selvin Watch was great and Wyman calls me up one day and leaves a message on my machine and says “I hear you and Dave Marsh are having a fight.” So I called him back, which just blew his mind, like why is he calling me back? This guy is riding me every week in the fuckin' newspaper. I got him on the phone and I said “well, you called to ask a couple of questions, you know?” First, he wants to know about Dave Marsh and I said “yes, we're having a fight, but that's not personal, this is just business. Dave was my friend before and he'll be my friend after.” “Oh.” So that sort of destroys his big hot story, but then we got into the Selvin Watch thing and I said “look, from my point of view, you're working trying to make me famous and back in the inner recesses of my heart somewhere, I'm flattered. And that was it for Selvin Watch, that was the last fuckin' Selvin Watch column.

It took all of the fun out of it for him – we started...we went out to dinner, we went to shows together [laughs]. But I was just me to the guy, right? First of all, anybody calls me asking a question, I'm going to give them the fuckin' answer. They don't have to say Selvin wouldn't comment, Selvin will comment! And if you ask, that makes you a fair and decent reporter and you deserve my help, just as all of the ones that I called, I wanted to help. Live in glass houses, don't throw stones – somebody calls and asks me a question, I'll give them the answer. Second of all, I think he read me as being a little more pompo pretentieux than I turn out to be, so now what do you do with that guy? And he's telling you that he's flattered that you're riding his ass about it? Deep in the inner recesses, I remember saying that!

During that time, I was working on this Sly Stone book and I was trying to get a hold of this ghetto guy that had been very involved in Sly's life. I finally got him on the phone and we talked and then he calls back and he says “hey, I saw your name on the cover of this magazine.” And I said “yeah, yeah, yeah.” “They don't like you much!” And I go, “fuck them!” And he goes “well, it sounds pretty good to me!” And I was like alright, this guy's making me sound like a bad guy! So Hamp [Hamp “Bubba” Banks, bodyguard for Sly Stone in the '70s] thinks I'm alright! [Laughs]

12Feb/1125

Random Youtube: Journey – Frontiers and Beyond

This is a classic documentary if you haven't seen it.  The doc was briefly available officially in the late '90s on DVD from Journey before it was pulled without explanation. When I had the chance to interview Neal Schon a short time later, he said (no surprise) that the DVD was pulled due to the objections of a certain somebody - I think you can probably connect the dots as to who he's referring to.  Since then, I've been trying to find somebody who actually purchased one of those DVDs, but I haven't come across a copy yet.  If you've got one, get in touch - I'd love to have a good quality copy! Gotta love the NFL Films voiceovers from legendary voice John Facenda!  The documentary is posted in multiple parts - click through to watch the rest of the segments.

6Feb/106

Good Listening: Bad English in Allentown, October ’89

"When I See You Smile" was one of those songs that I heard on the radio quite a few times, before I actually knew anything about the band behind the song.  Bad English was the band, a supergroup of sorts featuring vocalist John Waite, former Journey members Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain, bass player Ricky Phillips and drummer Deen Castronovo.  The legend behind the band name finds the members of Bad English playing pool.  John Waite misses a shot, and Jonathan Cain comments on how bad his "english" is, a reference to the spin of the cue ball.  Oh, you wacky pool players and your inside terminology.  The members of the band looked at each other (perhaps waiting for Waite to slug Cain), and realized that they had a band name for their new group.

Waite, Cain and Phillips had played together previously during the late '70s and very beginning of the '80s in The Babys, something a good portion of the music buying public probably didn't latch onto when they first heard Bad English.  To many, Waite was the "Missing You" guy, and this new Bad English project rocked a lot harder than they might have expected.