Tuesday, July 16, 2024

ALAN EDWARDS: A NUMBER ONE ENTERTAINMENT PR

 

In the 60s Worthing was a good place for music. It had a large Assembly Room and a Pier Pavilion which promoters would hire to put on bands of all descriptions. Here's some examples: Cream, The Who, The Byrds from California, The Jeff Beck group, Small Faces, Black Sabbath, Fleetwood Mac. Underground groups from London like the Edgar Broughton band and Mott the Hoople.

We formed a group called the Worthing Workshop and started putting on our own events at these and other venues in pubs and clubs. Nightime 'meeps' on the downs with LSD. Free festivals in the park in the town. We hooked up with the art school and put on Hawkwind. We set up a short-lived folk-club in a bar near the station. It was opened by Shirley Collins, now widely regarded as the Queen of British Folk.

Several of us were to move into the music business in some way or other principally Ian Grant and  Alan Edwards who at various times worked together to stage and promote bands such as  Big Country and the Stranglers. 

 At the age of 20 Alan had returned from a trip to the hippie trail and discovered the London punk scene, cut his journalistic teeth on the music paper 'Sounds' and developed his skills by establishing a public relations agency called the Outside Organisation. 

This book catalogues his remarkable career in the celebrity entertainment world of music and sport. His closest contact was David Bowie who he collaborated with for thirty years. Mick and Keith of the Stones also used his skills as did the Spice Girls

Alan is a grand storyteller and his knowledge, tactics and experience have made him a number one entertainment PR. Good going man!

Ian went on to handle many bands with great success. I worked on the underground press, the NME and many other projects including an official portrait of Big Country entitled 'A Certain Chemistry'.  I continue to enjoy recalling those younger days and caring for my archive of memories.


Thursday, July 04, 2024

GUNS N' ROSES


 No person had better credentials to write up the story of Guns N' Roses than the late Danny Sugerman who, at an early age, got his first lessons in rock 'n' roll excess from the legendary Jim Morrison.

The back blurb reads: 'In 1987, GUN N' ROSES blasted their way out of the ruins of the Los Angeles Heavy Metal Scene - and announced to the world that they were the future of rock 'n' roll.

'Fifteen million copies of their first album, and half a decade of sex and drugs later, no other  band can match them for excitement...energy...controversy...or excess.'

The story begins with Axl's slagging off his own band in front of 83,000 people in the autumn of 1989 and using racist and offensive language. Rumours had gone round that the Guns would be opening for the Rolling Stones USA tour. In the end they played only four Los Angeles dates. The contrast between the two bands is carefully studied throughout.

This remarkable book not only provides a close-up picture of the band members and their full-on sex and drugs habits but also brings to life their battles  against the music business. Sugerman also makes comparisons with poets from the past like Shelley who was an opium addict. How drugs like heroin in music began with jazz. He delves into the origins of music and recognises that rock stars have links with the shaman of the past. His detailed interviews brings the band's characters to life. Surely this is one of the greatest music books about one of the greatest bands of our time who are always on the edge, right where they belong. 

[See my earlier review of Sugerman's 'Wonderland Avenue']

Friday, June 07, 2024

WITHOUT GETTING KILLED OR CAUGHT: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF GUY CLARK

 




'Guy often says that Nashville in the '70s was like Paris in the '20s. And if that is the case, Guy and Susanna were the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald of Nashville. Married in 1972, the Clarks would come to shape the folk and singer-songwriter scene in Music City much like the Fitzgeralds fashioned the jazz age.'

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This 95-minute documentary follows Guy Clark, Susanna Clark, and Townes Van Zandt as they rise from obscurity to reverence: Guy, the Pancho to Van Zandt’s Lefty, struggling to establish himself as the Dylan Thomas of American music, while Susanna pens hit songs and paints album covers for top artists, and Townes spirals in self-destruction after writing some of Americana music’s most enduring and influential ballads. Based on the diaries of Susanna Clark and Saviano’s 2016 book Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark, the film tells the saga from Susanna’s point of view, with Academy Award- winner Sissy Spacek voicing Susanna’s narration. 

Saviano, a longtime figure on the Americana scene as a journalist, artist manager, and Grammy-winning producer, had the complete cooperation of Clark, who sat for interviews on and off camera. Without Getting Killed or Caught (the title comes from Clark’s song, “L.A. Freeway”) also offers poignant reflections from Clark’s closest friends and musical allies, most prominently Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Vince Gill, Verlon Thompson, and Terry and Jo Harvey Allen, as well as record executive Barry Poss. The film, partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, makes good use of Clark’s songs, family photographs and archives, vintage film footage, and radio talk shows on which Clark appeared solo and in tandem with Van Zandt. The real emotional zing, however, comes from Susanna’s pained remembrances, culled from her private journals and secret audio diaries, as well as taped conversations that Susanna made of the trio and of the “salon” that regularly gathered around them--all serving as witnesses to this seemingly fated intersection of love, art, and tragedy.


Sunday, June 02, 2024

CHARLIE WATTS: BIOGRAPHY AND HIS TIME IN LEWES

  


Music journalist Paul Sexton has been interviewing The Rolling Stones for over 30 years, most recently about their latest album ‘Hackney Diamonds’.

No wonder he was asked by band and family to write the authorised biography of the remarkable and much loved Charlie Watts, who passed away at the age of 80 on the 24th August 2021. He missed only one Stones' performance in 57 years.

Sexton has cleverly and carefully weaved a complex tale of the working life of the Stones. . Over the years the band has become a huge operation capable of handling remarkable tours across large parts of the globe, entertaining vast crowds of hundreds and thousands in colossal  venues or open air festivals. Who can forget it when the band finally took over Cuba.

Behind the band and the band's story is Charlie Watts who, by all accounts, is considered  to be one one of the greatest drummers of  modern times. not something that he would say of himself, 

Just listen to any Stones track and you'll hear Charlies' perfect grooves which were vital to Keith and Mick. He was the rock of the Rolling Stones.

By all accounts he was  very polite and modest. His quiet nature was highly valued.

It is better known to many that Charlie was one of the world's best dressers with a huge collection of carefully selected suits, shirts and shoes from the leading brands around the world.

Charlie was also well known as a huge collector of many objects and things. He was very generous to his friends and families.

 When he did travel he did drawings of every hotel room he slept in. 

When the Stones started doing bigger venues he used in artistic abilities to help decide the designs, and backdrops.  A man of great taste.

In the spare time in-between The Stones fixtures Charlie developed a wide variety of Jazz ensembles who also travelled extensively and produced many albums.


CHARLIE IN LEWES

I have a personal interest in Paul’s excellent book as I have been a Lewesian since 1985. Charlie and his wife Shirley enjoyed two years in Lewes [1965-1967].

I am very pleased that Paul has included some material from two editions of my successful but short-lived local paper the Lewes Musical Express which documented the town’s musical history and current musical events of the time. I hope he does not mind me adding some reciprocating quotes.

‘In June 1965 the Watts were ‘thinking  of buying the 16th C Old Brewery House in Southover Street. Lewes. The manor house had survived when the Verral & Sons brewery buildings were demolished in 1905.

‘It was exactly what they wanted in an East Sussex town far removed from the Wild West End (and indeed from the Wild West of London)’.

‘They made an immediate offer, moved in by October. Shirley began her long passion of breeding horses. ‘Charley spent much of his time rummaging in antique shops in Lewes and Brighton.

Paul mentions Charlie doing a BBC interview in 1966 on a bench outside the house

‘In 1967 they moved to the village of Halland, 7 miles north-east of Lewes, into  Peckhams, a centuries-old manor house that NME’s Keith Altham says was once used by the 1st Archbishop of Canterbury.

 ‘He told Keith “It’s a very old town, the County seat of Sussex and its being overrun. I don’t like the houses in suburbia. I wouldn’t live in one for free.”

‘Charlie bought Peckhams from Lord Shawcross, a former Attorney General for England and Wales. Here they had room to indulge Charlie’s almost compulsive tendencies as a collector. Paul writes that at that time they had three Collies, one donkey and a racehorse.

‘They also bought a farm in France where they lived between tours and recordings. They were required to return To Peckhams after a burglary of antique guns and American Civil War relics.

‘In 1976 they moved to Foscombe House in Gloucestershire.

 Paul writes: ‘While resident in E.Sussex and ever neighbourly to those who respected his boundaries, Charlie befriended Norman Ashdown who staged concerts in the area.’

Norman’s son Michael who I interviewed for the Lewes Musical Express said

“ I don’t know how it started  but they were big mates and certainly in first name terms. I know dad used to consult quite a bit and Charlie would give him information about producers, managers and agents – who to avoid as well as who to go with and suggest people that were reliable. He’s got a lot to say about Charlie Watts.”

“ On Friday Dec 15th 1967 Norman staged a concert by the Alan Price Set.’   Michael told me “One of the reasons Dad wanted them was quite self- indulgent because he was a great fan of Alan Price. Charlie Watts was there. I remember him coming in with a bottle of scotch and going in the dressing room”

Paul’s book refers to in an interview by the NME: that night.

“I’ve got time to do things that I’ve never been able to do before..I’ve swept in and out of dressing rooms with Rolling Stones. Now I am able to talk to people like Alan and just listen to the band. He was very good. I really enjoyed that evening.”

Paul then refers to the Lewes Musical Express and another example of Charles’s obliging nature. “He was often driven round Lewes by the horse-loving father of Doug Saunders, the guitarist/vocalist with the late 70s Mod revival band The Lambrettas”

“ When I was a kid,” said Doug, “I used to get taken to one of their houses, either the one by The Swan or the bigger place at the end of the Broyle at Halland. I knew he was a pretty big star and thought it weird that he was so very ordinary and was making a cup of tea for us. I’ve got a shirt which Charles got from Mick Jagger and which, for some reason, he gave to my dad.”

Paul writes: ‘The Summer of Love drew to a close. Charlie was on amusing form with the Melody Maker about its presence in his neighbourhood.

“ When Flower Power started it was probably fantastic” he mused. “But now it has now become a funny word like rock’n’roll. There is even a shop in Lewes which has got “Herrings are Flower Power” written up in white stuff on the window. I suppose they’ll have “Sprats are LSD next.”

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Saturday, May 25, 2024

DONNY SUGARMAN'S WONDERLAND AVENUE

 


By chance this extraordinary book fell into my hand first in a tattered paperback [Abacus 1966] with a Ralph Steadman cover and gonzo style chapter headings. I was fortunate to meet Ralph and Hunter S. Thompson. The US hardback version [ William Morrow & Co/New York. 1989] came from AbeBooks.

My archive is stuffed with a cornucopia of Beat literature and music history books and drug material but this  book had missed my notice. I have spent the last couple of months off and on absorbed in its world.

Danny Sugerman's autobiography Wonderland Avenue /Tale of Glamour & Excess  was followed by several books about Jim Morrison and the Doors, including No One Here Gets Out Alive (co-authored with Jerry Hopkin) and The Doors: The Illustrated History]

The cover notes of the Morrow edition reads as follows:

Danny Sugarman had it all: a gorgeous house in Laurel Canyon, all the money, drugs, fast cars and pretty girls a young man could want. He was a success in the record business and he had been as close to Jim Morrison and the Doors as you could get without being a member of the band - until Morrison died and Sugerman had to continue all alone. Wonderland Avenue is the story of how Danny lost everything and ended up in a mental ward with a $400-a- day heroin habit.

Praise for the book: 

"Jim Morrison comes back to life in this hard-hitting, unique, and bizarre account of Danny Sugerman's coming of age in L.A. in the sixties" - OLIVER STONE

" This wonderful book is just like the fast-lane scene it d scribes - big bawling, excessive, scandalous, irreverent, entertaining, and scary - Wonderland Avenues is absolutely fascinating"  - TIMOTHY LEARY

'Reality beats fiction with maniacal laughter and crazy crying on Wonderland Avenue.  This book is a black diamond reflecting the high life and low life of siren-soaked Hollywood nights and scalding Los Angeles mornings." -  MICHAEL McCLURE 

" Danny Sugarman spent his youth in Hollywood's rock and roll fast lane, following the example of his mentor  and idol Jim Morrison. Although he crashed at age twenty-one, Sugarman ultimately survived and has given us this savagely engrossing account of his wild misadventures. Wonderland Avenue shatters the myth of the glamour of hard drugs and Hard living. a most entertaining and Informative book." - WILLIAM BURROUGHS





Daniel Stephen Sugerman (October 11, 1954 – January 5, 2005) 

He began working with the Doors answering their fan mail at the age of 12 years old,  Five years later, following the death of Jim Morrison in July 1971 he took over as the Doors'  manager and then to manage Ray Manzarek's solo career and first album. 

He was also Iggy Pop's manager for a while before their drug and alcohol addictions meant they both ended up in a mental hospital.

Later Sugarman managed The Joneses  a L.A based glam/punk band, founded by Jeff Drake, who supplied them both with high quality heroin. 

 He had appeared to go out of his way to appear visually like Jim Morrison. Same type of haircut, similar clothing. The similarity was uncanny. 

Sugerman died in Los Angeles, from Lung Cancer.


“He was a fine, good and decent man,” Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek told Rolling Stone. “Smart as a whip with a very high I.Q. He was my great friend. I’ve known him since he was fourteen years old, and he gradually developed into one of the new breed of Jewish American Buddhists. His heart was in the heavens and he is now in the light with the Buddha and Jim Morrison.”




Sunday, March 24, 2024

THE BLUES: ROBERT JOHNSON

I'm deep into the history of the blues starting with the short life of Robert Johnson whose 29 recorded songs are considered the greatest blues tracks ever laid down. Like a string of modern musicians he died at the age of 27. 

Rumours abounded that he sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for his extraordinary skill with the guitar and his haunting vocals. There were only 2 photos of him. 

He played piano and other instruments and could play country and church songs. He could pick up and play any piece of music. He travelled to New York and Canada playing in pubs, clubs and juke joints, busking in the streets, jumping the  trains.  By all accounts he visited a lot of women on his way through. His two wives+ children died. He was poisoned stone dead for eyeing up a barman's wife. That's how the skeleton of the  story went. 

These four books published in 2004, 2019, 2020 2023 have changed, enlivened, expanded, corrected and deepened our understanding of Robert Johnson.

Escaping The Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues.by Elijah Wald [2004]:

  The three main chapters of this chunky 342pp epic are The World That Johnson Knew, Thomas Johnson: The Life Remembered  and The Blues Roll On. 

He comes straight in with the fact that 'For its First Fifty years Blues was primarily black popular music. Everything suggests that Johnson hoped to make it on the commercial blues scene but he failed 

In the 1960s a world of white and international listeners discovered the blues, and for roughly the last 40 years, the style has primarily been played for  a white cult audience... Wald considers Johnson to be a bridge between these two very different worlds. His readable texted is packed with fresh perspectives and valuable after notes. Links to all his other books can be found here: https://elijahwald.com/

click to https://elijahwald.com/rjohnson.html  [Author's detailed exposition if the book]

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UP JUMPED THE DEVIL; The Real Life of Robert Johnson.

by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean

This highly detailed account of Johnson's life has been widely considered the most accurate story of  the musician's life, They worked on it for 50 years, interviewing as many people who new RJ as possible.

There is a lengthy review on the book in the Chicago Review Press:

https://www.thecountryblues.com/articles/up-jumped-the-devil-the-real-life-of-robert-johnson/

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BROTHER ROBERT: GROWING UP  WITH ROBERT JOHNSON

This is a  valuable intimate memoir by Robert Johnson's Stepsister Annye C Anderson. She is 95 and is planning to produce a second volume. Its a great insight into Johnson's family.

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BIOGRAPHY OF A PHANTOM: A ROBERT JOHNSON BLUES ODDYSSEY

by Robert "Mack" McCormick There's such a complex story here. A battle for rights. Mack spent 50 years on this book project of all his investigations. He died in 2015 after many years of legal battles over the rights to Johnson's work. This link explains the whole story very well. Macks' monster archive is now in the Smithsonian Museum

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xb8gtrmiohQ

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

MICK BROWN: Eastern/Western Journalistic Journeys


Mick Brown's new book The Nirvana Express is a substantial and valuable historical vehicle exploring as it does the Western interest in Eastern religions and spiritual thoughts from Victorian times to the 1960s world of beatniks and LSD hippydom and beyond. There are gurus galore of varying credibility up to the present day. This follows on from two earlier books: The Spiritual Tourist [1998] (an account of his own trip to India) and The Dance of 17 Lives [2004] ( an extraordinary investigation into the world of the Dalai Lama) 

Mick Brown was a top rate journalist for the Sunday Times for ten years and works as a main feature writer for the The Telegraph's magazine and many other outlets. 

His string of remarkable journalistic journeys includes his book American  Heartbeat [1993] which documents his travels across and up and down America from Woodstock to San Jose by Song Title on the grounds that the geography and emotional landscapes of America have been mapped out like no other country's in music and song.


In February1998 I received a curious and completely unexpected invitation... Would I like to interview Carlos Castaneda?' To the uninitiated, the invitation will mean nothing. But those who came of age in the Sixties counter-culture will recognise that it was like being invited to peruse the Cretan Minotaur.'

Mick allowed The Generalist to reprint this piece. It is one of our most popular posts. [See: Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan; Truth or Fiction /May 18th 2016]



[Mick has also written music biographies of  Richard Branson  and  Phil Spector. The latter book called 'Tearing Down The Wall'  is reviewed on April 11th 2007]