Archive for November, 2011

The Rolling Stones, concert in Hyde Park – bye bye Brian Jones, hello Mick Taylor

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

There are a few great videos out there of the first concert that the Rolling Stones played in 1969, the free concert in Hyde Park in London, which eventually became a memorial concert for Brian Jones, who had just died. The concert is not online as a whole, but there are plenty of bits to be seen:








AC/DC – Let There Be Rock!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 27th, 2011
LTBR

LTBR

Let There Be Rock – This has been a great couple of years for re-releases of great rock ‘n’ roll concert films – first the little-seen “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones”, and now AC/DC’s classic “Let There Be Rock.” Awesome!

The film starts off with some pretensions of offering a backstage look, and there are mini-interviews with the band. There is a bit with the bit tractor-trailer trucks pulling into town, the crew setting up the wall of Marshall amps, roadies playing soccer in the pit, then the band backstage getting ready for the show. The PA has 3,000 watts, the lights 300,000 watts! Judas Priest was the opening band (?!!!!!?). Pre-concert, we see the band getting psyched up, Malcolm changes his shirt in the men’s room, Angus plays guitar, Bon does a photo session, the rhythm section (Phil and Cliff) duct-tape their own hands. There’s dodgy anti-Star Wars “Let There Be Rock” scrolling intro, which looks like it was done on pre-TSR80-level graphics. Flames (of course – it’s AC/DC!). Finally, we see the darkened stage, hear the low rumble of “Live Wire” – those magical three chords – and then you see Angus on the top of the amps, he jumps, and off they go.

The audience is alive and sings along with “Shot Down In Flames” from the start. Angus has his first guitar solo spaz here (he has three more stage-munching incidents ahead of him). Part of “Sin City” is a chilled out blues buzz, but then it just mounts back into insanity – there’s nothing else where AC/DC is concerned.

The directors break in here with a weird interview section. “Are you waiting for the third world war?” Bon answers: “That’s a good question…” He believes that musicians always do well during wartime. Far out… The other guys give slightly less coherent answers. There’s a brief flip-out as the band goes to visit World War I biplanes, with Phil Rudd driving a Ferarri onto the airstrip, they fly around in a biplane, Malcolm is a co-pilot, and Bon does a little dance on a snowy tarmac next to a lake…

Angus and Malcolm are still young in this movie. Bon will always be young (the film ends with a big “To Bon” card).

In “Bad Boy Boodie,” Angus does his striptease. There’s a great blues solo jam, crazy. Scene of Malcolm playing soccer, kicking the ball with one foot and drinking beer with one hand (AUGHHH!!!). Everyone in his interview has either a drink or a cigarette (or both) going. Angus sketches out his Angus devil cartoon. Bon signs autographs for les boys, then tells story about how he was a chauffeur who got the word that AC/DC were auditioning for a lead singer, so he went from being a chauffeur to being a singer (yes, he conveniently forgets to mention that he had already been a pop star before he was a chauffeur, singing in other Australian bands like The Valentines and Fraternity…). Admits that he drinks too much (famous last words…). The interviewer tries to coax him out of the closet, doesn’t quite work. The boys are de-corking their champagne, doesn’t work too well, even with a cutlass.

Camera is on Angus onstage as he switches guitar in “Whole Lotta Rosie”. Music seems off and overdubbed at times. Weird slo-mo editing during one part. At one point in “Rocker”, Bon goes backstage, he looks like he disappears in thin air, but it’s just the lighting. Angus goes off to the side-stage for oxygen (they put a hospital-grade mask over his face) and water, then heads out into the audience on the shoulders of a roadie, playing furiously, then he come onstage and plays from Bon’s shoulders; eventually, he rolls on the ground in a furious solo, finally climbing on top of the Marshall stacks to finish the thing off., doing a magnificent one-hand solo. YEAH! The guitar talks, the audience responds – I’ve never seen anything like it!

The packaging is crappy – no booklet!!!

Misty mountains

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Wow, another weekend. It’s quiet and empty here with Naoko and Zen in Japan. I have been reading and writing all day.

A busy week with some lunches and parties. On Wednesday I ate Russian food for lunch, then had a nice dinner party at the Boathouse near the Fullerton Hotel. Friday I bought Spanish Tony’s Stones book called Up And Down With The Rolling Stones. Friday night we auditioned a new guitarist and he’s really hot, I think he’s the one for us. Great news! The band is back in commission!

Here are some pics:

Naoko and Zen on their way off to Japan

Naoko and Zen going to Japan

Naoko and Zen going to Japan

Bukit Timah view

Clear Bukit Timah

Clear Bukit Timah


Misty Bukit Timah

Misty Bukit Timah

Bill Wyman’s Stone Alone

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

BWSA

BWSA


Bill Wyman, Stone Alone – While rock autobiographies have become the flavour of the day recently (Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Keith Richards, Ace Frehley and Duff McKagan have all written theirs recently, with Neil Young reportedly ready to pen his own), this is probably the granddaddy of them all – it was published in 1991 and precedes most of them (Bob Dylan published his in 2004), plus it is absolutely exhaustive! Wyman is the perfect autobiographer, being notoriously sober as an individual (as opposed to any of the above) with his memory presumably fairly intact; he’s also a meticulous journal keeper and an archivist of press clippings, meaning that he is his own encyclopedic source of dates and data. Stone Alone rocks!

It’s tough to review Bill Wyman and his book – first of all, Stone Alone is huge, 539 pages of text and several appendices. It is also only goes from his birth in 1936 (seven years before Mick Jagger and Keith Richards!) to 1969, ignoring the years between then and 1991, when the book was published. The book’s opening chapter of 32 pages deals with his life at the time of writing and his romance and engagement to Mandy Smith, who was 13 when he met her and 18 when they married (the marriage didn’t last more than two years and was ending as the book came out in 1991, even though he doesn’t hint at it much more than Mandie’s health problems, although the divorce wasn’t complete until 1993), but then quickly dives into his youth and leads up to his involvement in the Stones.

But Wyman doesn’t only write about himself, he also chronicles the background of each member of the band and their entourage, often also going into details of events he was not present for, such as some of the court hearings, or trips to Morocco, or tales from Brian Jones’ sex life before he ever met Wyman. Many of the pages of the book recount gripes of expenses, with Bill noting the balance of his savings account, highlighting monies that were paid out to other Stones and not him, or how he lost out on the songwriting royalties to “Jumping Jack Flash”, a song he claims he came up with the key riff for. Yes, lots of financial grousing, but also a fascinating trip through the dynamics of the Rolling Stones, the excitement of nearly being crushed to death by screaming teenage fans night after night on their grueling tours of 1963 to 1966. He also makes it his personal mission to vindicate Brian Jones as much as he can (and, being a balanced reporter, he also writes of the evil side of Jones’ nature). The book ends with Jones’ death on July 3rd 1969 (when I was only two months old). Wyman seems to have been close to Jones, probably closer than the other Stones (except maybe for drummer Charlie Watts, who attended Jones’ funeral along with Wyman), and the two were fellow womanizers, competing with each number to see who had the greatest tally of bed partners. They were also among those excluded from the songwriting partnership of Jagger and Richards, and on the financial short end of the stick after being marginalised in terms of the band’s leadership and direction, a bitterness that Wyman betrays indirectly in the pages of the book. Wyman is also very proud of the many awards that the band won: “When Mick came sixth in the best vocalist section of the popularity polls, Brian fourth in the best guitarist section and Charlie eighth in the drummer category, I won the poll as the best bass player.” The book goes all the way up to the death of Brian Jones on July 3rd 1969 and ends with a description of the Hyde Park free concert for Brian Jones, one of the first free concerts ever.

The thing that hit me the most in the book, anecdotes of which are repeated over and over again throughout the book, is of the extreme hostility that the group met over their appearance – their “long” hair was considered a catastrophe by so many, it produced waves of hysteria and people didn’t know how to deal with it (except the thousands of girls who went insane for them at their shows). Amazing that there was such low tolerance for such a minor break in decorum in those days (well, it’s not really that hard to imagine – my dad maintains a squareness about hair to this day, his skin crawls whenever his hair grows long enough to touch the skin on his neck – of if he sees another guy with hair long enough to touch the skin at the back of his neck). They must have been really brainwashed to be so threatened by hair touching the collar, or covering the ears. The band was regularly banned from hotels and restaurants and some concert venues. Wow! In Australia, a policeman said “You know, ten or fifteen years ago we’d have lumbered those blokes on a vagrancy charge for impersonating females.” Another said “I am unable to believe that five young men would make themselves look this way for real… it is all, I believe, a gigantic hoax on us, their elders.”

Wyman’s tome if full of interesting points. There’s a bit about drugs and the Exile on Main St sessions. He describes being the first Stone to release a solo album, Monkey Grip, in 1974, and Stone Alone in 1976, which had 40 guest musicians on it, including Dr John, Van Morisson, Joe Walsh, Sly Stone and the Pointer Sisters (?!?). But the Rolling Stones office couldn’t promote either, and in one case the answer Wyman got when he requested help was that the office was busy helping Keith find a nanny (?!?). Wyman’s eccentricities are well known, and here he describes one – his youthful sexual attraction to his widowed aunt! The book covers the many encounters the Stones had with the Beatles, all of them friendly (except for that time that Paul McCartney was trying to make moves on Astrid Lundström in the early days of Bill’s relationship with her), such as the time on the 15th of September 1963 when the Stones had “the unenviable task of opening a big concert that featured the Beatles at the top of the bill”. “The Beatles watched us and they were, as they told us years later, very nervous about the reception we got.” The gig was in aid of the Printers’ Pension Corporation, ironic considering the unkind things that were said about the Stones in the press, and they were paid £35. Jimi Hendrix praised the single “We Love You”, which had John Lennon and Paul McCartney singing backups on it, by saying “Production-wise, ‘We Love You’ is very complex. More so than their other hits, I feel. This record only really moves me towards the end. I wouldn’t say it was Beatles-influenced at all.” More stories of Beatles-Stones collaborations: they were going to invest in a studio together, they were both into transcendental meditation, the Beatles were not smoking as the Stones had been for a while, and Mick lived just around the corner from Paul. There are some funny, ironic episodes: “At the Cardiff show [in 1965] some local Bo Diddley fans came backstage and we all chatted to them. One of the guys offered us some grass. The whole band freaked out and had them ejected.” Ha ha ha!!! At that point, Charlie was the only one who had ever tried grass; this was soon to change.

There’s lots of talk about fitting curtains for the new flat, making repairs, ironic and unglamorous stuff. The 1963 Christmas wish: “Best wishes to all the starving hairdressers and their families.” Notes that the first Mick and Keith songs “It Should Be You” and “Will You Be My Lover Tonight” were recorded by George Bean. “The president of the National Federation of Hairdressers, Mr Wallace Snowcraft, announced that ‘A free haircut awaits the next artist or group to be the top of the pops. The Rolling Stones are the worst. One of them looks as if he’s got a feather duster on his head.’” One particularly harrowing story has Brian Jones, separated from the Stones as they exit a show post haste to get away from the screaming fans, running down the road, fans tearing off his jacket, waistcoat (vest), and half of his shirt. Our classic rockers were all young men in those times, and one day Bill and Ian Stewart jammed with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page at one club (!!!). One time in America they met Muddy Waters, who helped them move their amps (!!!), another time they met a snooty Chuck Berry, who perked up when he heard that they were recording one of his songs (and that he’d get royalties for it). “Swing on, gentlemen! You are sounding most well, if I say so. Wow, you guys are really getting it on!” Wyman recounts some of the postcards Brian wrote to his girlfriends or parents (how did he know what was said on them? Did Jones ask him to post them for him, and he recorded what was written on them for posterity?). Bill may have coined the word “groupie”, but on the Australia tour their code word for available girl was “laundry.” “Did you arrange the laundry for tonight?” they’d ask each other. In Melbourne, Mick told Bill that he slept with the woman who owned the motel that they were staying at and her daughter (but not at the same time, surely). “Two teenage girls who had been hiding in a cupboard in an adjoining room for two hours burst out and attempted to reach us; they were removed by security guards. Shame.” Wyman notes arriving in Singapore on February 15th 1965, the day that Nat King Cole died at age 45 of cancer (Cole apparently smoked three packs of menthol cigarettes a day, believing it helped give his voice a rich sound). He noted the incredible heat, and the heavy security. The group was driven to Government House with the British Deputy High Commissioner Philip Moore and his family. There were two concerts, each for an audience of 10,000. There were Chinese New Year firecrackers going off, and at an evening reception for the band on the menu also were ladies of the night for everybody, courtesy of promoter Freddie Yu. Wyman was too nervous being with a paid woman, his first time despite having slept with hundreds of women, and couldn’t perform – but the “toothpaste trick” finished off the deal. There are many stories of the establishment coming down on the Stones, such as a magistrate in Glasgow insulting the Stones, calling them “complete morons” and “animals”, and that “they wear their hair down to their shoulders, wear filthy clothes and act like clowns”. Then there was judge Block who admitted to a campaign to bring the Stones down a notch in dealing a harsh penalty at one of the trials by stating “We did our best, your fellow countrymen, I, and and my fellow magistrates, to cut the Stones down to size, but alas it was not to be…”, but then had to protest that he was only being “sarcastic”. Indeed – the Sarcastic Judge! Then there’s the tale of Mick Jagger’s girlfriend Chrissie Shrimpton getting in a cat fight with Beatles fan Ann Richards!

Like Keith Richards, Wyman often quotes other people’s accounts, even going so far as to quote people quoting him! An interesting example is:

Gered Mankowitz, photographer; ‘Bill was always stone-faced on stage and didn’t give very much. He told me why he held the guitar up vertically, like he did. It was to shadow his face from the spotlight so he could see the girls in the front row. I watched him pulling from the stage! He held the guitar almost upright against himself… everybody thought it was very moody and it looked great. But he was pulling the girls at the front – and mouthing his room number at them!’

It’s Wyman’s book, why didn’t he just say so himself? Weird. He recounts a tale of police brutality in Berlin, with cops armed to the teeth wandering around backstage scrounging drinks. Keith took a half-empty whiskey bottled, urinated in it, shook the mix up, passed it to the cops, who drank it. EWWW!!! Wyman smokes his first joint with Brian Jones and Bob Dylan, who then jam together by candlelight (there was a blackout that night) with Robbie Robertson and Bobby Neuwirth. Wyman calculates in 1965 that in the first two years of the band’s history, he’d slept with 278 girls, Brian 130, Mick 30 (among them a mother and her daughter in the same day), Keith six, and faithful Charlie only one (his girlfriend/wife). One time in LA they met two girls they had become acquainted with in Phoenix, they told them to walk into the studio naked for the rest of the band, after which manager Andrew Loog Oldham “grabbed one and pulled her into the control room for ‘action’ in front of everyone.” EWWW!!! The band had a lot of fun on another visit to LA: “In the nine days that Brian and I were there, our bungalows were staked out by about fifty girls who stayed outside on the grass, day and night, the whole time. We would take our pick of them, and I finished up sleeping with thirteen girls here.” Wyman quotes Mick as saying in June 1966

In ten years I hope I’ll be an actor and still make the occasional record. It’s very unlikely that the Stones will still be going in ten years’ time. I’ve worked out that I’d be fifty in 1984. Horrible, isn’t it? Halfway to a hundred. Ugh! I can see myself coming onstage in my invalid carriage with a stick. Then I turn around, wiggle my bottom at the audience and say something like: ‘now here’s an old song you might remember called ‘Satisfaction’!’

And that’s just how it turned out, isn’t is?!? Despite the recording and touring, Wyman highlights his domesticity: “As ‘Paint It Black’ soared effortlessly to the top of the charts on 28 April and Aftermath remained at number one, I was more concerned with the family dog.” Wyman lists one of Brian Jones’ shopping trips: a mandarin coat, a pink fringed coat, pink velvet cape, a flannel-and-lace jacket, embroidered and velvet jackets, two velvet scarves, four pairs of trousers, two scarves, two strings of bells a blouse, a pink beaded belt and two kimonos (this was in pre-Rush days). Whew!! There’s also some article that journalist Richie Yorke wrote in Canada claiming that the Rolling Stones did not write “Satisfaction”, that they bought the song from Otis Redding; meanwhile, Wyman ascertains that the song came about before they even met Redding and clears his name with another quote from Redding’s backup band. Check out Mick’s droll humor: when the record label objected to Beggar’s Banquet having a picture of a toilet on it, he said “We really have tried to keep the album within the bounds of good taste. I mean we haven’t shown the whole lavatory! That would have been rude. We’ve only shown the top half!” The first US cover of Beggar’s Banquet, which was quickly withdrawn, showed a street demonstration; it has become a rare collector’s item. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger and Ian Stewart played “Snake Drive”, “Tribute to Elmore” and “West Coast Idea” for a release called “Blues Anytime, Volume 1″! Wyman wrote in 1991 about the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, which had been shelved, but which has now finally been released. More domestic affairs: ”

My life in the country at Gedding Hall was calm. Gazing out of the kitchen window on New Year’s Day I spotted a big pheasant across the moat. That night, I took pictures of the almost-full moon from the tower. We enjoyed feeding and photographing the ducks. I applied myself for getting the house together for the return later in January of Stephen, who was staying with Diane over Christmas.

A funny anecdote about how Mick Jagger wrote to MC Escher “Dear Maurits…” to request an illustration for an album cover, but was snubbed quite badly.

The book has lots of great pictures – Wyman’s parents, a five-year-old Bill, Bill in his RAF uniform, his first wife Diane on their wedding day in 1959, an early publicity still of the Stones in 1963 standing on a ledge, pictures with wife Diane and son Stephen, pics of Keith and Bryan and Charlie at their new homes in the summer of 1966, Andrew Oldham, Allen Klein, Peter Frampton, Jimmy Miller, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus, the Beggars Banquet pie throw, court pics, Astrid Lundström, Brian’s casket, and finally a new guitarist to replace him – Mick Taylor.

Even the appendices are out of this world! Wyman reproduces eight letters of agreement between Allen Klein and the Rolling Stones signed between July and September 1965, in case there’s a lawyer among his fans. There’s a list of the Rolling Stones’ UK and US singles, album appearances, and full EPs and LPs from 1963 to 1969. A list of awards from 1964 to 1969 (gold discs, silver discs). Then there’s a 21-page list of shows, starting with the July 12th 1962 show that the band played with another drummer and bass player. The first show with the full band was on January 11th, 1963. Many days in 1963 they’d play two gigs, but at separate clubs (one show at each). He also lists cancelled shows (such as the June 1969 dates at the Coliseum in Rome), abandoned shows, first shows and last shows as a particular venue’s house band, days they played two shows and shows that Brian didn’t play due to illness. The schedule was grueling – the 1963 shows alone cover seven pages of this 21-page appendix. Yes, the Rolling Stones paid their dues! Wyman also lists which shows were on package tours with other bands, such as the Everley Brothers (1963), the Ronettes (1964), John Leyton (1964), Inez Foxx (1964), the Spencer Davis Band (1965), the Hollies (1965) and Tina Turner (1965). From September 24th 1965 to October 17th 1965, they played 24 dates in a row with the Spencer Davis Band, two shows each day! The only shows in Asia in the sixties were in Singapore, February 16th 1965 (two shows). The first Toronto gig was April 25th 1965, nearly four years before I was born (they played four nights in Canada in April of that year – Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and London, returning to Montreal and Toronto in October, and playing Vancouver in December). They played Montreal and Toronto again in June, 1966 (6.66), and in July Winnipeg and Vancouver. They’d sometimes play two cities a day, like Ithaca in the afternoon and New York in the evening, meaning that they needed to drive a distance of over 350 kilometers between them. The band only played once in 1968, that was at a New Music Express event. That was the only date between the short 1967 tour that ended in April, before resuming touring again over two years later in July 1969 upon Brian Jones’ death and the addition of Mick Taylor to the band.

There’s also an appendix of film and television spots, starting with a 1957 ATV show called “Seeing Sport” that features Mick and his father. The band’s various TV appearances are on the shows “Thank Your Lucky Stars”, “Ready Steady Go!”, “Scene at 6:30″, “Top of the Pops”, “Arthur Haynes Show”, “NME Poll-Winners Concert (1964, 1966, 1968), “Top Beat Prom”, “Two Go Round”, “Open House”, “Les Crane Show” (US), “Hollywood Palace Show” (US), “Clay Cole Show” (US), “Juke Box Jury”, “Six Ten”, “Here Today”, “The Man They Call Genius”, “Red Skelton Hour (US), “The Ed Sullivan Show”, “Glad Rag Ball”, “Shindig”, “Six Five”, a 1965 Rolling Stones special in Australia, “Eamonn Andrews Show”, “In The North”, “Big Beat 65″, “Hollywood a Go-Go” (US), “Shivaree” (US), Shindig” (US), “The World of Jimmy Savile”, “Hullabaloo” (US), “Man Alive”, “Carl Alan Awards Show”, “A Whole Scene Going”, “David Frost Show”, “Sunday Night at the London Palladium”, the “Our World” “All You Need Is Love” show of June 25th 1967, “Time For Blackburn”, “Line Up”, “Release”, “Frost on Saturday”, “The Stones In The Park”, “A Child of the Sixties, “Ten Years of What”, “Pop Go the Sixties”. Finally, there’s a whole list of radio spots, including a audition for “Jazz Club” that was rejected (it was also done without Bill or Charlie), and a broadcast of Saturday Club that featured Bill, Brian and Charlie backing Bo Diddley (!!!!).

Bill’s book highlights plenty of stuff for further look-up, much of which can be found on YouTube these days:

1957 ATV show called “Seeing Sport” that features Mick and his father.

First Mick and Keith songs “It Should Be You” and “Will You Be My Lover Tonight”, recorded by George Bean.

“Not Fade Away” single filmed for Top Of The Pops

“That Girl Belongs to Yesterday” by Gene Pitney

“Shang A Doo Lang” by Adrienne Posta

“It’s All Over Now” by the Valentinos

Wyman produced “What A Guy” for Bobbie Miller, backed by Wyman-Brian Cade composition “You Went Away”

Wyman joint-produced “Down And Out” by the Cheynes, and “Stop Running Around”, written with Brian Jones

Mick and Keith song “Blue Turns To Grey” by the Mighty Avengers

Charlie Is My Darling

Could YOU Walk On The Water” album cover, banned

Twice As Much’s “Sitting on the Fence”

“We Love You”, Stones single with John and Paul singing backup, there’s a film of Mick, Keith and Marianne shot in a church hall in Essex.

Bill’s Stones single “In Another Land”. The first single from “Their Satanic Majestys Requet”, Bill sings!

The End’s “Shades of Orange” and “Loving Sacred Loving” (both Wyman/Gosling)

‘Jumpin Jack Flash” promotional video

“Child of the Moon” promotional video. Interesting Kenneth Anger-ish piece here!

“Downtown Suzie”, a Stones song by Bill

Hyde Park concert shown in Invocation of My Demon Brother, the Kenneth Anger film

Concert in Hyde Park, July 5th 1969, “The Stones In The Park”

“Andrew’s Blues”, sung by Gene Pitney with the Rolling Stones and appearing on the Black Box collection CD1

(Si Si) Je Suis Un Rock Star – Bill Wyman’s 1981 solo hit single

Tony Iommi’s Iron Man, My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

TIIMMJTHAHWBS

TIIMMJTHAHWBS


Tony Iommi, Iron Man, My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath – Ozzy has already released his amazing I Am Ozzy autobiography, now it’s Tony’s time. Except there’s one big difference – Tony Iommi is not just a member of the original Black Sabbath line-up, he’s the only musician to appear in every Black Sabbath line-up. Yep – he’s the boss, and is solely entitled to tell the ENTIRE Black Sabbath story. Unfortunately, however, while we do learn a lot of great stuff here about the post-Ozzy line-ups of the band, Iommi’s book is skimpy and pretty boring. It also rather disingeniously hints at the possibility of another album and tour of the original Black Sabbath line-up of Ozzy, Tony, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, when the band announced at a press conference held ten days after the book’s publication that they would indeed do just that. Good news, even if the book isn’t so good…

The first warning is the large font of the book, the second is the many chapters (90!!), many of which are only two pages long (the whole book only has 369 pages). Nearly every chapter ends with a twee comment of sorts.

“What’s Bill doing?”
“Oh, he’s cooking his banana skin.”

And he said: “Well, you started it!”
There was no answer to that!

But I didn’t leave. The only person left standing was me.
Mug!

But who knows? Maybe we’ll do it again someday.
Just for a laugh.

But whatever happens, there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure about.
I will never set fire to Bill Ward again.

But the book is full of pain and conflict – Iommi has to justify his decisions as a band leader, hiring and firing people, and he lists a lot of expensive mistakes, such as the Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult “Black and Blue” tour, loans to various insolvent former business partners, ruined band equipment, the Stonehenge stage set, etc. He doesn’t address drug use the way that Ozzy does in his book (in fact, he talks often about being the only one not in therapy among the aging Black Sabbath line-up, making it hard to drink himself on tour). He talks about family pain as he recounts some of his marriages and relationships, along with the distress of his daughter’s life during a painful divorce. His father, like Ozzy’s, was too proud to go the doctor when he got sick in his old age, which also did him in, sadly. Then there’s also the various pains he’s had in his body, with the amputation of two of his fingertips that he had to create fake fingertips for (there’s a funny story about guitarists with perfectly good fretting hands building fake fingertips as well), carpal tunnel syndrome, bad hand joints, a decaying spine, snapped tendons, and much more.

Eerily, Iommi recounts being on hand as several people died, such as an aunt of his, and he talks seriously about seeing ghosts. He talks about his relationship with Lita Ford and the death of Ronnie James Dio and Cozy Powell. But all along Iommi also incessantly and with very good humour talks about his very good friends, people like Brian May, Rob Halford, John Bonham and Glenn Hughes and other people he has become close to over the years… including Ozzy, Geezer and Bill.

Pink Floyd, The Dark Side Of The Moon, Immersion set

Saturday, November 26th, 2011
PFDSOTMIE

PFDSOTMIE

Pink Floyd, The Dark Side Of The Moon, Immersion set – I’m a sucker for this sort of thing… and not only is Dark Side of the Moon one of my favourite all-time releases, I really really love box sets! This is one of the very good ones, as it comes with all sorts of goodies, with three regular CD recordings, audio and video on DVD, and audio and video on Blu-Ray, presenting all together ten different versions of the classic album in different formats and different mixes (CD, DVD and Blu-Ray). The sound part of the box include the regular release, a 1974 concert of The Dark Side of the Moon, and extra audio tracks that are linked to the release – this is a hodge podge that includes an early mix by Alan Parsons of the whole album, a song from the abandoned post-Dark Side of The Moon project “Household Objects”, and various live sequences that bridged album songs but are not on the album, along with an early demo of “Money” with Roy Harper singing. The video material shows two pre-Dark Side of the Moon songs performed live (hodge-podge territory again here – it’s “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” and “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”), a 25-minute documentary on the recording of Dark Side of the Moon, as well as the concert screens (animation, colours, patterns) shown at parts of the concert, but changed for various tours; three tours are shown here – the British Tour of 1974, the French tour of 1974, and the North American tour of 1975. Groovy.

Music review

Dark Side of the Moon (original release) (42 minutes long) – The 1972 release with the pretentious themes (life, death, war, money) is a truly insane recording, starting off with heartbeats (“Speak To Me”), pop (“Breathe In The Air”), nutty dogfight and plane crash sequences a la electronica (“On The Run”), weird booming bass and clock sounds and rock (“Time”), a long WHOOOOAH-WOOOOOOOOAHHH-WOOOOOOAHHHHHH gospel piece that mimics the last minutes of life (“The Great Gig in the Sky”) as the continuous tapestry of the first side. The second side gives the “Time” treatment to the concept of money (“Money”) with sound effects, and then rock, lovely piano bits that also soar in a song about the madness of war (“Us and Them”), the weird synthesizer bridge “Any Colour You Like” (also the longest track on the album), the guitar pop of “Brain Damage”, and finally the sweeping crescendo of “Eclipse” and its chants. The most complex piece on the album is “Time”, with its sound effects, booming bass, and three-part act that ends with… magic… and leads into the haunting wordless threnody. I listen to the album constantly and am not sick of it. But I’ve never owned my own copy, which makes this the right time to buy it and in the right and complete form. Unfortunately, curiosity in the additional bits is only that, and they neither truly improve or supplement the pleasures that the album itself holds.

The Dark Side of the Moon live at Wembley, 1974 (55 minutes long) – As the album fades in with “Speak To Me”, the live version introduces new sounds, a voice sample, and other strange noises, ticking clocks (to hint at “Time”, which is to come later), ghostly voices come in, and finally… “Breathe In The Air”, which has new guitar parts. David Gilmour sings it more gruffly and huskily than it is on the recording. Being a live concert, there’s no need to take a break between sides, and before “The Great Gig In The Sky” is over, you already hear the coins of “Money” coming in, and the song takes off. In “Us and Them”, the echo is provided by the backup singers, a bit cagey. “Any Colour You Like” goes off very differently than the studio version, sounding at times very Tangerine Dream-like, but with a bit of a drum beat. Great big long spacey guitar meander.

Most of the songs, especially the instrumental bits, are longer live (this means “Speak To Me”, “On The Run” and “The Great Gig In The Sky”, while “Any Colour You Like” is more than twice as long), as are “Money” and “Us And Them.

Extra audio tracks – First up is the original and early mix, which is 40 minutes long. The 1972 early mix of Dark Side of the Moon by Alan Parsons is largely the same as the final product, although sounding a bit rougher with some of the transitions and drum fills feeling unfamiliar. The initial “Speak To Me” intro is appended to some simple sound effects that only last 25 minutes, rather than the slow, silent heartbeat buildup that lasts just over one minute. “Breathe In The Air” sounds like the final version, albeit a bit stripped down, with the odd extra sound to it. The transition to “On The Run” is stark and doesn’t sound very well-mixed, but the track is very similar to the final version, except slightly shorter and perhaps with more emphasis on the running sounds, more airplane sounds, fewer voices, and no spectacular plane crash at the end, just a simple blend into “Time”, which sounds the same, albeit the chiming clocks at the intro are less intense and dramatic. The biggest difference in the recording is the absence of Clare Torry (and the final version’s sound samples) from “The Great Gig in the Sky”; here she is replaced by the voice of Neil Armstrong’s speech from the moon. While it sounds odd for people like me who have listened to Dark Side of the Moon hundreds of times, but it does give a nice opportunity to concentrate a bit more on the instrumental bits that were blasted to pieces by Torry’s splendid wailing! The new arrangement with Torry also lengthened the track, probably due to the passion and sophistication of Torry’s composition. “Money” is fairly faithful to the final mix, although it is half a minute shorter, with the final bit containing some slightly different guitar parts. “Us And Them” is also very different from the final version, being much more a duet between piano and saxophone, with an extended intro. It is nearly a minute shorter than the final version. Weird vocal echoing in the mix, much different from the final version in the “Up… and down” verse. In “Brain Damage”, the manic laughter is different, and in this case highly fake-sounding and annoying, like some hellish circus clown trying to drive someone insane; it enters the song at two points. The final version is way better. It is the only really startling thing about this mix. “Eclipse” has a guitar part on it that is not used in the final, where the pounding vocals are supremely high in the mix.

After Alan Parson’s early mix of Dark Side of the Moon, there’s a mish-mash of various songs and fragments, all instrumental until the last track, a demo of “Money” with Roy Harper, rather than Roger Waters, singing. “The Hard Way”, not really part of the Dark Side of the Moon project at all, is a trippy blend of hand claps and deep bass boogie, augmented later by spooky percussive and chiming sounds and echoing chatter, really trippy. The band wanted to make a whole album of sounds produced by household objects, if every song had come out like this one it would have really worked! But I understand that they only really laid down two songs (the other one is on the Wish You Were Here box) before they moved on to other things. Although it doesn’t really belong here, it’s nice that it was included. “Us And Them” is a light piano piece by Richard Wright from the Zabriskie Point film project that was never released as a soundtrack, it’s sweet but a little boring, and the ear strains to hear the brilliant vocals in the final album version. “The Travel Sequence” is echoey guitar that sounds more like something from The Wall than of this era, although there’s a little bit of jazz keyboard and piano there too. Nice jam. “The Mortality Sequence” sounds like an intro to “Us And Them”, but with more droning keyboard sounds, and new voice samples, such as an invocation from a priest, or someone speaking in a hospital. It goes into the sound of clinking coins, possibly as a setup to Money. “Any Colour You Like” is there too, from a live show in Berlin, but it’s baffling that they’d include just a fragment of a whole concert – where’s the rest of the show? What was so special about this short version of the classic cut from Dark Side of the Moon? It sounds great, but it also leaves you hanging. “The Travel Sequence” is jazzy, poppy instrumental funk with some swelling electronic burbles. Finally, the demo of “Money” with Roy Harper singing is interesting, as are the prototype money sounds that the song puts just after the middle, very different, of course, from the final version.

The set also comes with an audio-only DVD that contains five mixes: 5.1 Surround, 448kbps (2003), 5.1 Surround, 640kbps (2003), LPCM Stereo (1973), 4.0 Quad 448kbps (1973) and 4.0 Quad 640kbps (1973). I listened to them all in a full surround sound version, it was good fun. And loud! I liked the Quad mixes the best.

Video review

The live songs – In “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”, Roger Waters has the main role, firing up his bass and cooing the strange tics and howls of a madman, playing with a burning cigarette in the strings at the head of his bass, howling evilly, very scary whispering and cackling through a toothy, tight-lipped grin, great keyboard swells, fires ablaze, smoke pots burning. In “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”, Waters sings without playing bass, then at the crescendo of the song he dons the bass but doesn’t play it. Smashes the gong again, it burns around the edges! Waters plays bass finally, and then the live video breaks into nature scenes, for some reason: scenes of lava, golden ripcurls, etc.

The documentary – Mainly going song-for-song throughout the album with explanation and discussion, the four band members talking about what went on during the recording sessions for Dark Side of the Moon. “On The Run” is about the fear of death, the fear of flying, with Roger’s lyrics finally really coming of age as they discuss the pressures of life. Mature themes. Rick Wright explains that “The Great Gig In The Sky” goes from B minor through a series of changes, to finally end in B flat. No mention of Clare Torry at all (she had sued for co-songwriting credits and settled out of court, they probably don’t like her very much any more)! Waters descries his potter wife’s metal mixing bowl and how he put a mic and coins in the mixing bowl to get the sounds at the beginning of “Money”. Describes weird process, and then says “and that was it”, as if it was all very easy to do. “It was a dream fulfilled”, he says about the album, noting that if the band had any guts, they would have called it a day right there (and not produced Wish You Were Here, Animals or The Wall, of course). “But it’s a good thing we didn’t, because out of all the anxieties and enmities that were left in the rubble of the explosion and all the success [of Dark Side of the Moon] came all sorts of wounded creatures that had their own stories to tell.” Roger Waters hadn’t listened to Dark Side of the Moon in 20 years until this mix, but says he’s very happy with it (of course). Wright notes that “Us and Them” stands the test of time better than others, on account of what it can say about “this punitive war in Iraq.” There’s also an interview with Storm Thorgerson, who designed the iconic cover of the album, with him telling the tale of coming up with several ideas for the cover, but anyone who looked at them was immediately drawn to the prism and there was no discussing any of the other ideas – much to Thorgerson’s frustration. I wonder what they were, though, the band and everyone else is very silent on the topic (they must be around here somewhere… of course Thogerson may have also recycled them for other groups’ album covers over the years). Then he goes to explain how he did the various other covers for the re-releases over the years, etc.

The onstage screen visuals These are somewhat interesting, and there are clips of the films that were played together with the live performance of songs during three various tours: British Tour 1974 (six clips, 16:16), French Tour 1974 (seven clips, 18:27) and North America Tour 1974 (seven clips, 23:45). For the British Tour 1974, the videos open up with animated and beat-driven spectrum-influenced animation. the colours seem burned away and not crisp. There’s an exploding bookshelf, TV, fridge – which results in a flying chicken carcass. The French Tour of 1974 favoured fire, and has video for “The Great Gig In The Sky” showing a priest, then a burning cross. There’s an unusual clip here for “Assorted Lunatics”, which is just a sound collage of the spoken bits already familiar on the album, and then there’s solar flares for “Eclipse.” In the North America Tour of 1975, there’s more literal interpretation, with an ambulance, hospital hall, surgery, and scared eyes. While Clare Torry is singing, there are crashing waves, with some spectacular sun-through-lip-of-water shots. “Money” has a naked model and scenes of the old and the poor to juxtapose decadent wealth and youth with crushing poverty and age. There are also weird slow motions scenes of a squad of office workers walking down the street, their bodies twisting to a strange rhythm, scenes also of their pant cuffs and shoes moving in rubbery half-step.

The box set also comes with a Blu-Ray disc that contains all of the audio visual material, along with the five mixes found on a DVD in this set.

Packaging

One of the main points about Pink Floyd is packaging – lyrics sheets, gatefolds, big images, colours, design, architecture, it’s all there. This has it all too. To describe what you get it is:

- the box, which is heavy and durable and big enough to contain LPs, although it doesn’t contain LPs
- three marbles in a black velvet sack: the over-sized marbles show the endless circle of the white light becoming its six colours through one pyramid, and then re-melding into white light through another. Groovy… there are three people in my family, so I feel that this is special; if I collect the three Immersion sets (Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, The Wall), I will have 3×3 marbles, how nice
- Disc 5 and disc 6 in their own cardboard cases (each disc has its own triangle/light design) with groovy triangle/light motifs on their covers, but each in its own concept. I like disc 6, with its Magritte splotch concept, very nice.
- a scarf that is 1.5 metres long, with the six colours/heartbeat (in the green zone of the red-yellow-orange-green-blue-violet spectrum), nice feel to it
- a 12-page grey booklet of credits
- an immersion “memorabilia” envelope, which contains a Pink Floyd Tour 1973 sticker, and a ticket stub for Friday, February 18th, the Rainbow Theatre, Astoria, Finsbury Park, London, seat A29, Block C, whatever that means.
- a series of nine beer coasters, with the letters P-I-N-K-F-L-O-Y-D, and nice illustrations on the other side
- an envelope containing four cards of a series of cards; I got numbers 7 (horse on head), 21 (airmen), 42 (sand swimmer) and 55 (echoes). They are also very nice.
- a giant A4-sized envelope with a hand-written card describing the process of gathering the ideas bandied about by about the voices on Dark Side of the Moon. Was it, perhaps, written by Alan Parsons?
- there’s a beautiful Dark Side of the Moon “Liechtenstein” lithograph (but… what’s a lithograph?)
- a beautiful 36-page that includes all things triangular and light-like, meaning that there’s the original cover of the album on the cover of the booklet, then there’s the lyrics and some pretty pictures, there’s some of the original images from the album release (band pictures, etc), and then some pics of Dark Side of the Moon-inspired automobiles, fashion, design, stained glass, word art, tour posters, real pyramids at Giza from many many views, and an essay on the album cover design by Storm Thorgerson.
- a 24-page booklet of photos of the band from that era, including the great Clare Torrey, who sang backup, and who took over “The Great Gig In The Sky”; pics taken from 1972-1974

PBC

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Hey, that’s me on the BBC today, talking about Chinese and American banks!

It’s a Tintin weekend!

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Wow, this weekend Tintin opened! Naoko and Zen and I went to see it, it was pretty good. They combined plot elements from Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn (the model boat, Haddock’s ancestor’s fight with Red Rackham) and The Crab With The Golden Claws (Tintin meeting Haddock for the first time on the Karabujan, lost at sea, seaplane misadventures, wandering the desert, Middle Eastern oasis port town misadventures). In part there is some borrowing from Red Rackham’s Treasure, but not really.

After that, Naoko and Zen went off to softball practice, and I did some home stuff. Still am doing it, in fact.

For my review of the Tintin books, go here.

Here are some fun weekend pics.

We love Tintin, and we love each other

We love Tintin, and we love each other

Lookin' groovy in our 3D glasses

Lookin' groovy in our 3D glasses

Big bean!

Big bean!

Big bean!!

Big bean!!

God bless Black Sabbath

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Hooray – it’s a great time to be a Black Sabbath fan (fanatic, actually)… THE BAND HAS CONFIRMED THAT THEY ARE REUNITING FOR BOTH A TOUR AND AN ALBUM OF NEW SONGS!!!!! This is the best news I’ve heard for years. Go Ozzy, go Tony, go Geezer, go Bill!!

BSR

BSR

To commemorate, I’m uploading all of the Black Sabbath concerts I can find online for everyone’s listening pleasure. God bless Black Sabbath. To view videos, go here.

Zen’s birthday

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Zen has been so excited about his birthday for so many months, when the magic day arrived of course he was awake early to enjoy as much of it as he could. He got a few presents – some cash for his savings, two books (Tom Sawyer, and The Son Of Neptune) as well as a DVD for one of his favourite movie franchises – Transformers! His birthday, November 7th, was the Monday of a holiday long weekend, which was very nice – no school or work on Zen’s birthday, and we get to relax extra-much!!

We had planned a day out at Universal Studios with friends, who picked us up at 9:00, and we drove off to the amusement park. It opened at 10:00, and we went in to explore. First we took one of the spinning rides, then we went for The Pharaoh’s Revenge, a roller coaster that mainly rolls through a darkened hall, with mystic figures and ghosts and a few animatronic zombies, not all that weird, but pretty fun. We saw some cool “movie people” that people could pose with (an Anubis, an Egyptian magician on stilts, an Egyptian babe, Woody Woodpecker, “Marilyn Monroe” (looked nothing like her), Frankenstein, Puss in Boots, and a few others. We rode on a Battlestar Galactica roller coaster called Human (there was another one called Cylon too), then headed off to see the Waterworld show, which was pretty fun. Zen and the boys went into the “splash” zone, although they ended up only getting splashed by the actors who brandished buckets and water sprayers and were deliberately spraying people. Funny.

We went for lunch after that, and managed to beat the crowd at an “Egyptian” place that was neither crowded nor over-priced. We got our own table! The fables that Universal Studios would be impossible over-crowded on a weekend or a holiday are clearly exaggerated (everybody was either out of the country, gambling or siesta-ing)! After lunch we inspected Shrek-world (we saw the “4-D movie”), then the crappy “Donkey live”, and the mini-ferris wheel. We went into Madagascar zone for the boring water ride, we tried out the kiddy Shrek-coaster (it was scary for the five-year-old in the group, so it wasn’t too kiddy) and to a crappy Jurassic Park chairlift ride (two people face front, two people face back… it sucks to face back on a chairlift) before heading back for some more roller coasters – Pharaoh’s Revenge one more time, and a few rides on the Cylon roller coaster. We went to see the super crappy Monster Rock (there was hardly any rock – at one point they launched into a new song and it took me nearly a minute to figure out that it was “Welcome To The Jungle”!). There was a cheeky bit when they played a snatch of “The Bad Touch” (a bit outre for Singapore), but there was hardly anything fun there, just really irritating Broadway antics. Next.

We headed back to the roller coasters, and hit Cylon a few times, and Human once more. The queues had shrunk to nothing, we could ride three times in 20 minutes. We could ride for one minute or so, get off, run through the admission maze, and get right on again. Great! And so, now Zen is quite interested in Battlestar Galactica!

Overall, it was a great day, especially because of the short queues. Two rides were not available – they had shut down the Jurassic Park water ride due to reconditioning, and the new Transformers ride is not ready yet. We’ll ahve to go back later when they’re open and just concentrate on those rides, the Battlestar Galactica roller coasters, Pharaoh’s Revenge, and maybe a few others.

The monorail back to the mall where we parked our car had a super long queue, so we decided to walk back along the new boardwalk next to the bridge, it was really beautiful to enjoy the night scenery. Fantastic. We found the car and drove off home, ordered pizza en route, picked up some beers, and had a great dinner. The kids partied at home while the adults re-hydrated, and everybody went to sleep late. Tuesday was tough at work, and I went to sleep early that night.

Peggy gave Zen a great birthday cake - oreo cheesecake!!

Peggy gave Zen a great birthday cake - oreo cheesecake!!

Peggy gave Zen a great birthday cake - oreo cheesecake!!

Peggy gave Zen a great birthday cake - oreo cheesecake!!

We're at Universal Studios Sentosa - yay!!!

We're at Universal Studios Sentosa - yay!!!

Three cool cats!

Three cool cats!

One tall dude

One tall dude

Two tall dudes

Two tall dudes

Riding the antique cars

Riding the antique cars

Ancient civilisation

Ancient civilisation

Ancient civilisation II

Ancient civilisation II

Waterworld!!

Waterworld!!

Three cool cats... running and skipping.

Three cool cats... running and skipping.

Funky funky!

Funky funky!

Far far away...

Far far away...

Puss 'n' Puss 'n' boots

Puss 'n' Puss 'n' boots

Three-headed boy

Three-headed boy

Three cool cats

Three cool cats

Frankenstein and the frankfurters

Frankenstein and the frankfurters

Frankenstein and the battlin' beppin-sans

Frankenstein and the battlin' beppin-sans

Frankenstein and the battlin' bratwurst

Frankenstein and the battlin' bratwurst

Three-headed boy

Three-headed boy