Category Archives: Books

Daydreaming: The Art of George Hage, by George Hage

Title: Daydreaming: The Art of George Hage

Author: George Hage

Publisher: self-published

Publication Date: May 25, 2018

www.george-hage.com / available via Amazon/CreateSpace

North Carolina rocker and artist shows off his graphic design chops in eye-popping anthology.

BY FRED MILLS

George Hage, who hails from the BLURT home base of Raleigh, NC, is perhaps best known as guitarist/vocalist for hi-nrg, cinematic, Americana-tinged rockers Jack the Radio, whose 2015 album, Badlands, notched across-the-board kudos from fans and critics alike. (Read our review of the album HERE, and also check out a track from it that we premiered HERE, one of numerous JtR tunes and videos that have been featured at BLURT.)

Yet it’s also Hage’s outsized talent as an artist that’s steadily elevated his profile. His work as graphic designer——from posters to album covers to apparel—is what his new book Daydreaming showcases, with ample examples of what makes the boy’s brain buzz when he’s not scribbling down lyrics and strumming chords. It’s a visual feast from start to finish.

The first section of the book, “Illustrations,” commences with his poster art for the Raleigh-based Carolina Hurricanes professional hockey team, and although the ‘canes have not been having a good couple of years, it’s certainly not due to Hage dropping the ball, er, puck, drawing-wise. One standout is a hockey-suited and space helmet-clad cartoon bear zipping around in the cosmos like some latterday Flash Gordon, his hockey stick smacking a glowing energy puck in lieu of a raygun pointed at Ming the Merciless; Hage also includes his preliminary sketches here, something he does on much of the book’s offerings, which allow you to see exactly how he developed his visual idea. Art books tend to just publish the final product, not the in-progress part, yet this strategy seems the perfect way to pull the veil back a bit more if you really want to learn what makes an artist tick. Another Hurricanes poster made me laugh out loud, a brilliant R. Crumb “Heroes of the Blues”-style homage depicting the bear in iconic Robert Johnson mode (suit/fedora/guitar); I suspect more than a few sports fans didn’t get the reference, and merely thought that the poster’s “Say Goodbye to the Blues” text was just a thumbs-up message of hope and good will to the beleaguered hometown hockey heroes.

Similarly, there are posters Hage created for Nashville-based Rayland Baxter (depicted as a one-eyed giant stomping through the wilderness) and Raleigh bluegrass/Americana outfit New Reveille (fiddle, banjo, upright bass and dobro chilling out beneath a tree and under the moonlight)—not to mention an intricate detail of his progression of proposed Nudie jacket designs for another Raleigh Americana outfit, American Aquarium, whose frontman BJ Barham also contributed guest vocals for Jack the Radio’s Badlands. Those nudie jackets would eventually wind up on the sleeve of American Aquarium’s Live at Terminal West; you can watch a video of Hage creating it at YouTube.

Next, Hage struts his chops with a portfolio of his posters for festivals, most notably the Hopscotch Music Festival, the celebrated annual Raleigh music conference that has been shaping up to be something akin to the East Coast version of SXSW, and a Dali-esque Residents-centric image for this year’s Artsplosure art festival in Raleigh.

Musical acts remain the book’s dominant theme, with everything from a Zap comix-style comic strip for Charlotte rockers Banditos, to a remarkably subtle rendering for a Bill Frisell concert, to (of course) Jack the Radio gig posters with a recurring jambox-headed-human theme. Comic books and comic book culture also crop up several times, such as a poster for Charlotte, NC, comic store Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find, and posters for regional comics conventions.

Later in the book comes the “Digital + Vector Art” section, with one particular standout being an intricate yet impressionistic set of vintage modular synthesizers that recur, Warhol-style, across a series of renderings. And the “Apparel” section features photos of people wearing some of the striking, teeshirts that Hage designed. Ultimately, there’s enough consistency across the entirety of the artist’s visual style that a sharp eye might instantly recognize a design as being a Hage one regardless of whether or not you’re a Carolina Hurricanes fan, a Moog synth fetishist, or a Jack the Radio devotee.

He tops it off with a final “Coloring Book” section which, you guessed it, comprises black and white versions of several previously viewed images. Me, I’m planning on diving in to the aforementioned R. Crumb blues homage and try my hand at coloring, which I haven’t done since grade school. Now where did my mom put my box of Crayolas?

Good Summer Read: Flamin’ Groovies’ George Alexander’s Memoir

 

By Fred Mills

It’s always good news when some Flamin’ Groovies news arrives. Let’s add Slow Death: My Life with the Flamin Groovies, a new memoir from George Alexander, erstwhile bassist for the Groovies. An original member of the beloved power pop and garage rock icons, he describes the book thusly:

The following pages represent my thoughts, feelings, reflections and experiences garnered mostly from my posts on social media and centered around my time as a member of the Flamin Groovies. I interject much of my own philosophical and moral beliefs, between the pages I have written concerning the history of the band, to add context and insight into my idealized and admittedly imperfect personality as the writer of this account.

The self-published book is currently available at Amazon and it offers some terrific behind-the-scenes moments about the band, along with equally terrific photos. (Photos here are from Alexander’s Facebook page.)

Incoming: Chris Bell (Big Star) Biography in August

By Blurt Staff

Considering how BLURT pretty much covers everything related to Big Star, this one’s a no-brainer: Venerable music journalist Rich Tupica has authored a biography/oral history of the late Big Star co-founder, Chris Bell, and it arrives in August via the equally venerable HoZac Records’ book division. Need we say more, other than we plan to be first in line at the bookstore for There Was A Light? Advises HoZac, “After FIVE solid years of painstaking research and hard work, Rich Tupica’s epic tome on the deep end of the BIG STAR story is ready.”

Indeed, Tupica interviewed pretty much anyone who knew or worked with Bell, and he also excavated key comments and quotes from folks who are no longer with us via archival interviews (Alex Chilton, among them). Clearly a must-read. You can view the preorder page HERE.

WHY SHOULD THE DEVIL HAVE ALL THE GOOD MUSIC?, by Gregory Alan Thornbury

Title: Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music? Larry Norman And The Perils Of Christian Rock

Author: Gregory Alan Thornbury

Publisher: Convergent Books

Publication Date: March 20, 2018

www.crownpublishing.com/archives/imprint/convergent-books

The Upshot: Christian music maverick and iconoclast – who was characterized by some critics as the Todd Rundgren-meets-Frank Zappa of Xian music – loved rock as much as he loved Jesus, and as a result of those complexities he remained outside the mainstream—and therefore retained his integrity all the way to his untimely death.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

 Years before the Christian Rock was a multi-million-dollar industry; before there were massive days—long music festivals spread across the country dedicated solely to it; before it could be divided in sub-genres, of sub-genres like “Christian Ska” or “Christian Hardcore” and “Christian Hip Hop;” before all of that there was Larry Norman.

Norman, born in Texas and raised in Northern California as an evangelical Christian, he loved Jesus and he loved contemporary Rock and Roll, so he decided to marry the two in a way that no one before him ever had. As a result, he made a slew of fans across the globe and just as many enemies. (Count the BLURT editor, who saw Norman perform in the late ‘70s and was blown away by the man’s psychedelic muse, among those fans who still obsessively collect his music. – Books Ed.)

In Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?, Gregory Alan Thornbury deftly tackles the complex life of Norman, the patron saint of Modern Christian Rock.

From the late ‘60s, after joining the San Francisco band People!, Norman first saw the power of rock music to draw in listeners, particularly with the band’s million-selling cover of the Zombies’ “I Love You”; but it wasn’t until his solo records – opting for major labels like Capitol Records over the tiny Gospel/Christian music labels – that he really started to combine his religious beliefs with his music. Through his songs and interviews he often railed against the hypocrisy he saw in established religions that seemed to turn their back on the poor and needy. That view point dovetailed nicely into the burgeoning hippie and spiritual movements in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He also took full opportunity at his shows, speaking to the fans between songs, about what he saw wrong with the world and established churches. As a result, leaders in the evangelical world say Norman as an enemy.

(Below, listen to a pair of tracks from Norman’s 1972 conceptual masterpiece, Only Visiting This Planet.)

Thornbury does a brilliant job of covering all the complexities in Norman’s life – not simply laying out a fawning bio on the influential rocker and part-time street minister, but also covering his often-prickly personality, growing ego and eccentricities. The musician was surrounded by seeming inconsistencies, including his first marriage to Pamela Fay Ahlquist, a model who also posed regularly for magazines like Playboy.

Though his records were rarely massive sales juggernauts – his grassroots label, Solid Rock, is still considered by many to be one of the first nationally-recognized indie rock imprints – he regularly sold out major venues across the globe. To get an idea of just how broad Norman’s appeal and influence was (and still is a decade after his untimely death, in 2008, following persistent heart problems), consider that conservative tech entrepreneur and Trump supporter Peter Thiel and The Pixies’ frontman Black Francis both contribute blurbs of praise to the book jacket.

For the uninitiated, Thornbury does a commendable job of explaining that appeal. For true fans of Norman, the author lays out a definitive biography.

Devo Unmasks Its Brand Via Official Book(s)

By Barbi Martinez

iconic, er, iconoclasts DEVO are publishing a book to chronicle their 4-decade-long career. Make that BOOKS – there’s to be Unmasked, chock-full of rare photos and bandmember accounts, plus The Brand, a more straightforward rendering of the group’s history. Taken together, the two volumes, which founding members Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale are overseeing, are intended to paint a complete portrait of the group over the years via member commentary, press coverage, discussions about the records and tours, and of course visuals that will include classic and unpublished videos and artwork. You’ll be able to snag the set as a regular book, aka the “Classic Edition” 320-page book (cost: $65); and the limited-to-500-copies (and expensive, at $330) “Signature Edition” featuring deluxe clamshell packaging autographed by the band.

Details: http://devobook.net/

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives Vols. 1 (Southern Rockers) & 2 (Punk Rock), by Rev. Keith A. Gordon

Title: Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives Vols. 1 (Southern Rockers) & 2 (Punk Rock),

Author: Rev. Keith A. Gordon

Publisher: Excitable Press

Publication Date: November 03, 2017

www.excitablepress.com / https://excitablepress.wordpress.com

The Upshot: The Rev at the front lines interviewing everyone from the Georgia Satellites, Webb Wilder, and Charlie Daniels, to the Ramones, Jello Biafra, and the Screamin’ Sirens —and living to tell the tales.

BY FRED MILLS

The good Reverend Keith thumbs once again through his back pages, having not long ago published the final volume of his reviews (albums, DVDs, books, etc.) archives and now turning his attention to some of the interviews he’s published over the years. Dating back to his ‘80s journo days when he was music critic at Nashville’s The Metro publication (he currently calls Batavia, NY, his home), The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives offers some choice snapshots of artists both big and small, and the results are both engaging and, at times, revealing. Never forget that musicians often toe the party line when being interviewed, donning their promotion ‘n’ publicity hats and dutifully plugging their latest record, their current tour, and of course their eternally cool selves.

Volume One covers a subset of artists clearly very dear to Gordon’s heart, the southern rockers who began emerging within the post-punk college scene of the ’80s. Having previously devoted an entire book to Jason & the Scorchers, his inclusion of an out-of-print interview from ’86 with Jason Ringenberg and guitarist Warner Hodges is a no-brainer. The 1990 story on the Georgia Satellites is, likewise, a logical choice, for both of those bands were hugely influential across the Southeast back in the day; I should know, I was on the scene myself as a Charlotte-based music critic. Some may raise an eyebrow over a Charlie Daniels piece, I suspect, given Daniels’ reactionary image among liberal-leaning sorts. But at this point Daniels wasn’t particularly interested in pushing a conservative agenda, and his insights on country music (“It’s become so static”) are as applicable now as they were at the time. And speaking personally, revisiting Texas’ Slobberbone and Nashville’s Webb Wilder were treats; Gordon rightly pegs the former as having built-in appeal to rednecks and punks alike, while the latter opens up candidly on a number of subjects instead of dipping into his well-documented oddball persona.

Volume Two is no less close to home for Gordon, who has been a lifelong champion of punk rock, something that no doubt made him stand out as a music writer in Nashville. Kicking the book off with a 1990 conversation with Jello Biafra, at the time under scrutiny once by various moral majority types in the wake of the 2 Live Crew dust-up, things quickly devolve —er, kick into high gear! — from there. Prior to reading about them here, I was not familiar with hardcore outfits Blanks 77 and Choreboy, and I’m always up for a piece on the Descendents, DOA, the Meat Puppets, and the Ramones. The ’93 interview with Billy Idol on the occasion of his prescient album Cyberpunk was also an unexpected treat, the rocker coming across as extremely thoughtful and curious rather that interested in polishing his rebel-yell image. And any writer who will cover the Screamin’ Sirens is tops in my book. Having hung out with the distaff twang-punks one raucous, debauched, memorable evening in the mid ‘80s myself, and knowing the Rev as well as I do, I think I can safely say that his summit with lead vocalist Pleasant Gehman was a writer/musician pairing destined to be.

Gordon has a knack for drawing people out, and while this can be attributed either to an empathetic bedside manner in which the profile subject realizes Gordon coming from the same place as they are, or to the fact that he’s a biker-sized dude who could easily beat the ass of pretty much any musician aside from Glenn Danzig, the results are a win-win-win for readers, subjects, and author.

 

 

Everything is Combustible, by Richard Lloyd

Title: Everything Is Combustible: Television, CBGB's & Five Decades Of Rock & Roll: The Memoirs Of An Alchemical Guitarist

Author: Richard Lloyd

Publisher: Beech Hill Publishing

Publication Date: October 24, 2017

www.beechhillpublishingcompany.com

 

 

Discorporate and we’ll begin: a review of the erstwhile Television guitarist’s memoir. As long as one’s expectations are not set upon finding a typical memoir within its pages, it’s time well spent. 

BY BILL KOPP

Everything is Combustible is not your run-of-the-mill rock memoir. But then Richard Lloyd is nobody’s idea of a run-of-the-mill rock musician. As a founding member and leading light of Television, Lloyd was at the front edge of New York City’s music scene in the late 1970s. And Everything is Combustible addresses that period. But Lloyd’s life has been not unlike that of Walt Whitman: it contains multitudes.

The weighty tome—it comes in just shy of 400 pages in a hardbound cover—spans Lloyd’s life from birth. In fact he spends a good bit of ink telling readers of his memories from when he was a mere nine months old. Like most every recollection in the book, the story is told in a deliberately dry, reportorial style, one completely void of both emotion and—it would seem—agenda.

Lloyd goes on to tell stories of his early efforts in wordless communication, and of entering a kind of fugue state. To take him at his word—and there’s absolutely no reason to do otherwise—is to realize that Lloyd was no average kid. His tales of sex, drugs and (eventually) rock ‘n’ roll are recounted in that same take-it-or-leave-it style.

And damned if it doesn’t work. Lloyd’s history is unusual enough that any other approach—especially one that leveraged the more salacious and sensational aspects of his life—would have failed to do justice to that story. And like any good story, each sequence of experiences and events—often presented in a kind of slightly disjointed, vignette style—all seem to lead inexorably toward the next chapter.

Lloyd subtitles his memoir “Television, CBGB’s and Five Decades of Rock and Roll” (it’s sub-subtitled “The Memoirs of an Alchemical Guitarist,” so there’s that) but readers will have to wait until Chapter 18 to get to the rock, Chapter 41 for CBGB’s, and somewhere in between for Television. Luckily the half of the book not about those things is quite engrossing … and more than a little off-kilter.

A recent backstage conversation with a member of a high-profile group yielded this quote: “Most musicians are somewhere on the [Autism] spectrum.” Far be it from me to engage in unlicensed diagnosis from afar, but time spent reading Everything is Combustible leads me to think this just may be true.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. Lloyd is a masterful storyteller, albeit a decidedly idiosyncratic one. His stories about leaving his body make sense when one reads his prose; the man often writes with a kind of detached objectivity that suggests he really can discorporate.

Readers looking for detailed accounts of exactly which Neumann mic was used on a specific Television track are doomed to come away disappointed; Everything is Combustible simply isn’t that kind of rock memoir. And while Lloyd occasionally dishes on other well-known personalities, it’s not really that kind of book, either. He doesn’t much like Tom Verlaine, but then you probably knew that already. (Ed. Note: Speaking of musical personalities, early in the book Lloyd takes in on the chin—literally—from Jimi Hendrix. Later on, Patti Smith takes in on the chin—figuratively—from Lloyd. Coincidence?)

As long as one’s expectations are not set upon finding a typical memoir within its pages, time spent with Richard Lloyd’s Everything is Combustible is time well spent indeed.

EVERYTHING IS COMBUSTIBLE, by Richard Lloyd

Title: Everything Is Combustible

Author: Richard Lloyd

Publisher: Beech Hill

Publication Date: October 24, 2017

www.beechhillpublishingcompany.com

BY TIM HINELY

Wow is all I have to say. If you’ve read Television co-founders’ book you may come away with the same reaction. The guy has lived a hell of a life and it’s all here in black and white in the nearly 400 pages of Everything is Combustible.

Lloyd was born in Pittsburgh but moved with his family to NYC in the 1960’s and, well, he got into all kinds of trouble living in the big city. After some rough patches (drugs, arrests, mental hospitals, etc) Lloyd slowly began finding his way  and among many of Lloyd’s friends, mostly freaks and burnouts, he met a young man namned Velvert Turner who not only helped Lloyd’s guitar playing, but also introduced him to Jimi Hendrix. Lloyd tells of spending time in Hendrix’s company (usually with Velvert) and has some interesting stories (no spoiler alerts here) while later he met Anita Pallenberg and her then boyfriend, Keith Richards ansd spent plenty of time in their company (he met and hung with another famous Keith too, Mr. Moon and also some guys in another band called Led Zeppelin).

Through his roommate Terry Ork (Ork Records) Lloyd went down to a bar one night to see a songwriter perform named Tom Verlaine. Ork introduced Lloyd to Verlaine and the beginnings of Television were sewn that fateful evening.

Throughout the book Lloyd dishes on Verlaine (umm…seemingly not the easiest guy to get along with) and talks about the early day of the band, including their days at the legendary clubs like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. He also tells how the classic picture on the cover of Television’s classic debut, Marquee Moon, came about (and why drummer Billy Ficca’s face looks vaguely orange).

From the initial Television breakup in 1978 to their reappearance in 1992 (and Lloyd leaving the band again in 2007 to concentrate on his solo career) Lloyd’s life has had more ups and downs than the streets of San Francisco. After finally getting clean for good Lloyd ended up touring in the 90’s with Matthew Sweet and John Doe as well as others, and to say that Lloyd been huge influence on just about every worthwhile guitartist working today would be an understatement.

The story is told in Lloyd’s no-holds barred style. He holds nothing back and tells it exactly like it happened (to the best of his memory) in his very, very philosophical (cosmic) style. The guy is an excellent writer and Everything Is Combustible is at times hilarious, sad, and terrifying. The guy is a survivor who is still out there doing his thing. This book is a must read and one of her best rock bios I have ever read. Again…wow.

 

 

 

BOOK EXCERPT: Jimi Hendrix – The Illustrated Story, by Gillian G. Gaar

Early last month Voyageur Press published Hendrix: The Illustrated History, the latest book by Northwest-based journalist (and longtime BLURT contributor) Gillian G. Gaar, who has penned volumes on Elvis, Nirvana, the Doors, and more. The handsomely appointed, 224-page hardcover is far more than just an “illustrated” history, although the wealth of images that pepper the book’s gorgeous layout certainly tell the Hendrix tale in vivid fashion, from photos both iconic and rare to reproductions of records both key and obscure (Hendrix collectors are particularly well-served by all the overseas singles pictures sleeves here).

Gaar also submits the kind of detailed, insider’s-view story that makes H:TIH different that most coffee table music books. It’s broken into seven lengthy chapters, each wrapping up a specific period in the late guitarist’s life, literally from birth to death to aftermath—both man and legend are outlined with painstaking precision. Below you’ll read the first section of Chapter 6, “The Wink of an Eye,” which picks up at the dawn of the Seventies—January 1, 1970, to be exact, as Hendrix and his recently-assembled Band of Gypsys are onstage at the Fillmore East.

An essential read for even the most thoroughly schooled Hendrix devotee, Hendrix: The Illustrated History hits all the right notes from cover to cover. And speaking of that cover: The day-glo front is textured with black velvet, giving it a decisive, and literal, ‘60s artifact feel. Nice touch, that. —Ed.

The following excerpt is from Chapter 6 (pp.155-159), “The Wink Of An Eye”. (Text and images used with the kind permission of the author, and Voyageur Press/Quarto Group.)

January 1, 1970, found the Band of Gypsys back on stage for their second night at the Fillmore East. The engagement was well received—promoter Bill Graham called Jimi’s work “the most brilliant, emotional display of virtuoso electric guitar playing I have ever heard.” “It appears Hendrix is finding where he should be at, and he might well emerge as the greatest of the new blues guitarists,” DownBeat magazine’s critic wrote. “I can only hope that he learns that it is not necessary to amplify to or past the point of distortion.” And Jimi had more plans for the Band of

Gypsys. After the final show, he told Al Aronowitz of the of the New York Post that he wanted to take the band “back to the blues” and have Buddy Miles do more of the singing.

But by the end of the month, the Band of Gypsys was no more. In late January, Jimi got into a fierce argument with his manager when Jeffery wanted to fire Buddy Miles and reunite the Experience. When Jimi refused, Jeffery threatened to tear up their contract. Jimi backed down; as much as he complained about his manager and talked about leaving him, he never took any serious steps to do so. He also undoubtedly felt conflicted, as he wasn’t entirely happy with Buddy’s presence in the band himself. Buddy was used to being the leader of his own group, and Jimi didn’t like being challenged. “Jimi truly loved Buddy,” Billy Cox said, “but he was the star. He was the boss.”

In this fraught atmosphere, the Band of Gypsys came together to play what would be its final show, an appearance at the Winter Festival for Peace at Madison Square Garden on January 28. Despite his dislike of the group, Jeffery had nonetheless arranged for the performance to be filmed for a possible TV special. When Jimi showed up backstage, he seemed unwell. “When I saw him, it gave me the chills,” Johnny Winter later told Guitar Player. “It was the most horrible thing I’d ever seen . . . it was like he was already dead.” He watched as Jimi made his way to a couch and put his head in his hands: “He didn’t move until it was time for the show.”

Buddy Miles would swear that Jeffery had given Jimi LSD to deliberately sabotage the show and the band, but that hardly seems likely given that Jeffery had put up $6,000 to film the performance. Jimi himself said that it was Devon Wilson who had dosed him. Nor was there any shortage of intoxicants backstage, and Jimi was becoming increasingly reckless in his drug use. “Drugs were not only screwing him up, they were destroying the environment he needed to create,” said Electric Lady Studios manager Jim Marron. “Hendrix sat through many paternal lectures about his drug use from all of us, but I doubt it had any long-term effect.”

The show ran late, and the band didn’t take the stage until 3:00 a.m. Following another argument with Jeffery, Jimi sent out one of the crew to get lighter fluid so he could burn his guitar, but the delivery was intercepted by Gerry Stickells. It was a wise decision, as Jimi was so intoxicated that he ran the risk of setting himself on fire. Billy and Buddy weren’t sure Jimi would even make it through the set, and their fears were confirmed as the band staggered through the opening song, “Who Knows.” The band then played “Earth Blues,” only for Jimi to abruptly stop playing and announce, “That’s what happens when earth fucks with space. Never forget that.” He then stopped playing and sat on the drum riser until he was helped offstage.

After this debacle, Jeffery fired Buddy—an action Buddy always believed was solely Jeffery’s doing. Certainly there was no love lost between the two, but those who worked for Jeffery insisted that his focus remained on business and that he would not have fired a musician without Jimi’s tacit approval, which, given Jimi’s disinclination to be the bearer of bad news, seemed likely. In any case, it was a dispiriting end to the band, and Billy Cox soon returned to Nashville.

Now Jeffery could get underway with what he’d wanted to do all along: reunite the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Noel and Mitch were agreeable, a press release was sent out, and the three musicians came together for an interview with Rolling Stone on February 4 in New York City. Jimi called the Winter Festival for Peace concert “like the end of a big long fairy tale” and explained his performance by saying he was “very tired.” But he also didn’t sound completely committed to the reunion, saying that he still wanted to “have time on the side to play with friends. That’s why I’ll probably be jamming with Buddy and Billy; probably be recording, too, on the side, and they’ll be doing the same.”

The interview turned out to be the full extent of the Experience’s “reunion.” On reflection, Jimi decided he had no wish to play with Noel again and persuaded Billy to return to New York. Sadly, no one thought to inform Noel of this decision, and he also returned to New York in March to wait for rehearsals to start. He finally learned he’d been kicked out of the band when he contacted Mitch at his hotel after days of waiting for a call, only to be told that Mitch was off rehearsing with Jimi. Jimi never apologized, but he did drop by sessions for Noel’s solo album Nervous Breakdown, playing on the track “My Friend.” The song, and Noel’s album, remain unreleased.

Jimi was also working with Eddie Kramer in preparing the Band of Gypsys album, and work was completed on February 19. Jimi hoped it would resolve the ongoing legal situation with Ed Chalpin. Then, in March, he learned some news that stunned him: Kathy Etchingham had gotten married.

Since Jimi now spent most of his time in New York City, he’d fallen out of touch with his one-time girlfriend. Kathy knew he saw other women, which bothered her less than the sycophantic hangers-on that surrounded him. She had no wish to be a part of such an entourage, and as she hadn’t heard from Jimi in months, she assumed their relationship had run its course.

Now, he called not only to ask if it was true she had married, but that he was also returning to London to see her. Kathy met him at the airport and was surprised when he took her hand on the ride into town and asked, “This is just a spur of the moment thing, isn’t it. It’s not serious, is it?” Kathy was taken aback at how “completely devastated” he was by the news. Jimi had expected her to be “waiting for him, the good little woman keeping the home fires burning. . . . I realized that in his mind I had let him down just like his mum and dad had before me.”

Jimi tried to persuade her to come back to New York with him, assuring her, “All those people I was hanging out with have gone.” But Kathy refused, not wanting to get caught up again in the “mayhem and madness” of Jimi’s life. To her relief, he eventually seemed to accept her decision.

Jimi found time for a little session work as well, coming by Island Studios on March 15, where Stephen Stills was recording his self-titled debut album (released in November 1970). Jimi played lead guitar on “Old Times, Good Times” and played on two other tracks that as of this writing have yet to be released. On March 17, he joined Arthur Lee at Olympic Studios, where Lee was working on Love’s False Start album. Jimi played guitar on the track “The Everlasting First”; the album was released in December. He then returned to New York.

March also saw the US release of Band of Gypsys, which reached No. 5. The UK release followed in June, with the album reaching No. 6. The US album cover was straightforward, featuring a color-tinted shot of Jimi in performance; the UK version was decidedly odd, featuring puppets created by artist Saskia de Boer—there was a Jimi Hendrix puppet, a Brian Jones puppet, a Bob Dylan puppet, and a puppet of British DJ John Peel. The cover drew numerous complaints, resulting in Track reissuing the album with a new cover, though the new design was just as odd in its own way—it was a picture of Jimi performing at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, not a Band of Gypsys show. In the United States, the single “Stepping Stone” was released to accompany the album in April, but it failed to chart.

The Woodstock film also had its debut in March, running just over three hours and featuring three songs from Jimi’s set: “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Purple Haze,” and “Villanova Junction.” With a $600,000 budget, the film went on to gross over $50 million, making it a remarkable success. The soundtrack, which featured the same three songs, was released on May 27 in the United States, topping the chart, while in the UK, the album was released in June and reached No. 35.

Work on Electric Lady Studios was continuing. Michael Jeffery secured a loan from Warner Bros. to help finance the project, which would eventually top $1 million. Jimi went back on the road to keep money coming in but mostly did shows on the weekends, sometimes including a Thursday or a Monday, which gave him a little breathing room. Mitch Mitchell was back, and Billy Cox was persuaded to return as well. Even Buddy Miles was around; the Buddy Miles Express opened for Jimi at the Los Angeles Forum on April 25 and at Cal Expo in Sacramento on April 26.

The band wasn’t officially the Jimi Hendrix Experience, though they were sometimes billed that way. Jimi seemed relieved to put the group behind him. “I’m not sure how I feel about the Experience now,” he told Keith Altham in April. “Maybe we could have gone on but what would have been the point of that— what would it have been good for? It’s a ghost now—it’s dead—like back pages in a diary. I’m into new things and I want to think about tomorrow, not yesterday.”

The group was booked into stadiums and other large halls but returned to a smaller venue for one night, the Village Gate, on May 4. The occasion was a benefit concert for Timothy Leary, who’d been convicted of marijuana possession. Noel Redding was also on the bill, and it was the last time Jimi shared a stage with his former bandmate.

 

 

Incoming: Chris Stamey Memoir on dB’s and NYC in Late ’70s

 

By Fred Mills

The University of Texas Press is well-known for publishing top-notch books about music and musicians, in particular the American Music Series which has yielded memorable volumes about Ryan Adams, Los Lobos, John Prine, Chrissie Hynde, and Vic Chesnutt (penned by fellow musician Kristin Hersh, no less), and others. That series is overseen by Acquiring Editor Casey Kittrell and edited by Jessica Hopper, David Menconi (who wrote the Adams book), and Oliver Wang.

Now word arrives that in April of next year the series will yield A Spy in the House of Loud: New York Songs and Stories, by Chris Stamey. The product description reads thusly:

A cofounder of the dB’s, Chris Stamey re-creates the music scene in late 1970s New York City, recalling the birth of punk and other new streams of electric music as well as the making of the cult albums Stands for deciBels and Repercussion.

It’s definitely a book indie music lovers will eagerly embrace, as Stamey had a front-row seat to – and was a part of – the punk and New Wave explosion in NYC. He’s also the kind of guy who’s blessed with a sharp memory (something a lot of us ’70s refugees can’t necessarily lay claim to) and even sharper observational and analytic skills. It’ll definitely be a keeper.