My New Book With Iggy Pop On The Stooges

This week Third Man Books (part of Jack White’s Third Man Records) announced a book I’ve been working on for quite some time.  Here’s their press release.  As the winter release comes nearer, I’ll be posting some updates, but for now, this tells the story.

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THIRD MAN BOOKS ANNOUNCES TOTAL CHAOS: THE STORY OF THE STOOGES / AS TOLD BY IGGY POP

  • Third Man Books is excited to announce one of the most anticipated books of the year about one of the most influential bands of all time…The Stooges. TOTAL CHAOS: The Story of The Stooges / As Told by Iggy Pop is the first time the story of this seminal band has been told entirely in Pop’s own words.

    Author Jeff Gold and contributor Johan Kugelberg, noted music historians and collectors, spent two days with Pop at his Miami home, sharing with him their extensive Stooges collection and interviewing the legendary singer. Pop’s candid, bare-all responses left them with the almost unbelievable tale of the band he founded—the alternately tragic and triumphant story of a group who rose from youth, fell prey to drugs, alcohol, and music biz realities, collapsed and nearly 30 years later reformed, recording and touring to great acclaim. In 2010 The Stooges, credited with having invented punk rock, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Their continuing influence can be felt today in the shape and sound of rock-n-roll music.

    Jeff Gold, Johan Kugelberg and editor/contributor Jon Savage are among the most respected music authors and historians working today. Their efforts include numerous acclaimed and best-selling books and a Grammy Award. TOTAL CHAOS stands as a work for all fans of the band and rock music to draw inspiration. Including an absolute treasure-trove of rare and unseen photographs, TOTAL CHAOS is a book that shows AND tells the story of The Stooges. A metallic k.o. of only the best kind.

    COMING WINTER 2016

    It was a rare privilege to sit with Iggy as he downloaded the story of The Stooges. He’s an incredible storyteller with a fantastic memory and a great sense of humor, and he held nothing back. The Stooges were pioneers in sound, look, and live presentation, and along the way invented a genre—punk rock—and influenced countless others that followed. There was no precedent in rock music for what they did. They’re definitely the only group in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who started out playing an amplified Waring blender, a vacuum cleaner, spring water bottles and a 200 gallon oil drum. — Jeff Gold, Author of 101 Essential Rock Records

    Iggy and The Stooges have to be one of the greatest American rock bands that has ever been. — Joan Jett

    What does it mean to be Iggy Pop, five decades of being ‘the wildest man in rock’? Iggy Pop is many things. Rock Star. Singer, Rebel. Primitive. Stooge. The Jean Genie, Passenger. Legend. — Johnny Marr

    Iggy Pop has turned the interview into an art form. In this book he tells the history of The Stooges with a mixture of wit, candor and spontaneity: from their early beginnings to their full flaming flare over three groundbreaking albums before the crash and the triumphant return that no-one could have predicted. Profusely illustrated with dozens of unseen images, this is the story of The Stooges like you’ve never read it before. — Jon Savage, Author of England’s Dreaming.

    ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS INCLUDE:

    Ben Blackwell
    Joan Jett
    Johnny Marr
    Jack White
    & more.

    Cover photo by Dustin Pittman

 


RIP PRINCE

An hour ago I learned that Prince has died.  I  had the very great privilege of working closely with him during the 1990’s, while I was at Warner Bros. Records, his record label.  At Warner Bros, and before that A&M Records,  I had the good fortune to work with many extraordinarily talented artists .  But Prince was the only true Genius.  With a capital g.  I think if you polled all the other artists I’ve known, they’d probably agree.

An incredible guitarist.  An amazing songwriter.  A world class dancer.  A visionary and tireless live performer.  A masterful record producer.  A business visionary.  Prince was not afraid to do things his own way–in fact, he was fully committed to doing so, no matter what anyone thought.  I spent a fair amount of time with him, art directing a number of his album covers, and overseeing the marketing of his records.  I’ll be writing more about my experiences with him, but right now I’m just processing the news.  The world will be a much lesser place without Prince.

David Bowie : A Personal Tribute

Today I’m listening to David Bowie’s first 8 albums in chronological order, and thinking about one my all time musical heroes.  When I heard he’d died, I was shocked, but not surprised.  There were rumors of ill health, and he hadn’t looked well in recent videos.  But still…

In the 1970’s, I was obsessed with David Bowie.  I first heard him when a local L.A. radio station broadcast his October, 1972 Santa Monica Civic concert.  I ran out and bought the Ziggy Stardust album, which I LOVED, and then the reissues of his second album (Space Oddity), Hunky Dory, and my all time favorite, The Man Who Sold The World.  The records blew me away like little else; so different, so original, such great songs, high concept but accessible. I played them endlessly.  Soon there were bootlegs, and I bought those too.

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One of my most prized possessions: the UK “Man Who Sold The World” album, signed by Bowie, Mick Ronson and Tony Visconti

I was already a serious record collector, but enlarged my focus from finding every Jimi Hendrix record in the world to include Bowie rarities too.  Record collecting was far different (and exponentially more difficult) in those pre-internet days.  There were no discographies of rock artists.  You depended on other collectors, friends of friends, pen-pals in foreign countries (found through ads in Melody Maker), old magazines, people who worked in record stores.  Anyone who might know more than you did.

In Los Angeles we were fortunate to have Tower Records and their incredible import section, and a monthly record swap meet in the parking lot of Capitol Records.  In the early 70’s I was the only person in L.A. seriously collecting Bowie and Hendrix records, so things found their way to me.  Somebody told me about a guy in Long Beach who had the legendary UK pressing of The Man Who Sold The World with Bowie wearing a dress on the cover, something I’d never seen.  I tracked him down and paid him the outrageous sum of $25 for his mint copy of this ultra rarity, and a mint copy of Bowie’s first album on Deram.  People at the swap meet though I was out of my mind–$25 for two David Bowie records!

Moby Disc Records would let you reserve import LP’s before they were released, if you put down a $1.00 deposit.  My brother and I did so for Aladdin Sane, and when I called him a few weeks later from a camping trip and he told me Moby had our albums, I left the pay phone, went and packed up my tent, and headed home.  I couldn’t wait another day!

We made sure to see Bowie when he came to L.A. in March 1973, at both the Long Beach Arena and Hollywood Palladium.  Quite simply the best concerts I’ve ever seen, by anyone, to this day.  He and the Spiders From Mars, especially the great Mick Ronson, were astounding.

I started buying rare Bowie records from UK auction lists in Alan Betrock’s pioneering record collector zine, The Rock Marketplace (the only place collectors could buy and sell records via auction and set-sale lists.)  I searched for Bowie’s earliest efforts, non-album singles on Pye and Deram.  I placed classified ads in Melody Maker looking for rare singles.

In 1974 my friend Harvey Kubernik, who wrote for Melody Maker, called to tell me Bowie and his band were rehearsing at that very moment at Studio Instrument Rentals in Hollywood.  I rushed there and sat outside for five or six hours until Bowie’s bodyguard, Stuart George, emerged.  I shyly asked him to sign a photo I had of him with Bowie, and we began to talk.  I showed him the dress cover Man Who Sold The World, which he’d never seen, and he invited me inside.  He brought David out to meet me, and he graciously signed it “For Jeff, with my very best wishes, Bowie ’74.”  I couldn’t believe it.  I’d met my hero.

Later that year, when the BBC made a documentary about Bowie, they wanted to interview a big fan.  MainMan, Bowie’s management company, sent them to me.  And today, on YouTube, you can see my 18 year old self talking about Ziggy in the Cracked Actor BBC Special (I’m 40 minutes and 30 seconds into the show.)

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Other versions of “The Man Who Sold The World”, as pictured in my book “101 Essential Rock Records”

 

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During preparations for the BBC doc, I got to try on Bowie’s cape (me on the right!)

In 1975, I made my first trip to Europe, and on the very first day scored a copy of Bowie’s first record, “Liza Jane” by Davie Jones and The Kingbees, for 20 pounds at London’s Vintage Record Center. That was a LOT of money to pay for a single in 1975, but I was floating on air.  That summer I spent every cent I had at record stores and flea markets in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Holland.

I loved Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups, and Diamond Dogs too, but Young Americans threw me for a loop. I loved rock music.  People who liked rock hated disco, and Bowie had gone disco.  But I was back soon enough, with Station to Station, Low and Heroes.

Harvey continued to give me hot tips when Bowie was recording or staying in L.A., and I would stake him out.  I’d begun a Bowie discography, and along with getting autographs, there was no better source of information than the man himself.  I met him two or three more times, and he was always very kind–signing things, confirming his participation in singles like “I Pity The Fool” by The Manish Boys, and chatting for a few minutes.  In 1975, he recorded Station to Station at Cherokee Studios in Hollywood, and on more than one occasion I waited outside until 2 or 3 AM, when he’d emerge.  As always, he couldn’t have been nicer.

Another thing people tend to forget about Bowie.  He deserves a great deal of credit for popularizing Iggy Pop and the Stooges, and Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground.  Bowie’s passion for Iggy was the impetus for new management and record contracts, the Stooges’ Raw Power, and a lot of ensuing publicity. His constant championing of the Velvets, cover versions of their songs and co-production (with Ronson) of Reed’s Transformer album brought the band a great deal of publicity, and Lou his first and biggest hit, “Walk on the Wild Side.”

While many love Bowie’s later albums, my interest began to drop off by the time of Lodger. Though I would check in with his albums from time to time, I found his post Spiders/Ronson and post Fripp/Eno albums far less compelling than his earlier work.

But I’ve never stopped listening to (and loving) his classic albums; and have always had the utmost respect for him as a continunally evolving, boundary pushing artist.  So his death yesterday hit me hard.  As I was processing it, I realized, yes, it’s very sad.  But we are lucky indeed to have so much great music (and filmed performances) to savor for years to come.

So blast  Ziggy, or Aladdin Sane, or Hunky Dory.  Or watch the Ziggy farewell concert, or sample Black Star, released only two days before his death.  Few will leave as enduring a legacy as David Bowie. Let’s make the most of it.

Jeff Gold

January 11, 2016

Also see our great friend Jon Savage’s Bowie tribute

Dylan Guitarist Bruce Langhorne in Hospice Care / Make a Contribution If You Can

I’m sorry to report that the great Bruce Langhorne is in hospice care and dying.  I visited him a few days ago and he is in a good place and at peace.  But the 24 hour care he needs is expensive, and so I suggested letting his fans know, in case anyone is able to make a contribution to his care.

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Bruce was the inspiration for Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and played guitar on many of Dylan’s greatest works, including “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” “She Belongs To Me,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Maggie’s Farm” and other tracks from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home and Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid.

In the liner notes for Dylan’s “Biograph” box set he recalled ““Mr. Tambourine Man,” I think, was inspired by Bruce Langhorne. Bruce was playing guitar with me on a bunch of the early records. On one session, (producer) Tom Wilson had asked him to play tambourine. And he had this gigantic tambourine. It was like, really big. It was as big as a wagon-wheel. He was playing, and this vision of him playing this tambourine just stuck in my mind. He was one of those characters…he was like that. I don’t know if I’ve ever told him that.”

Bruce also made important contributions to albums by Richard & Mimi Farina, Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Rush, Richie Havens, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Gordon Lightfoot, John Sebastian, Carlos Santana, the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, and many others.

Below is a message from Bruce’s close friend Cynthia Riddle, who is helping to organize his care.

Bruce Langhorne is preparing for his final curtain call.  He is in the care of hospice and his days are numbered. He is in a peaceful state at home, filled with joy and love. A steady stream of old friends is coming from near and far to play some music, pay their final respects and have a few more laughs.

End of life care is extremely expensive and we would appreciate any support you could offer. If you would care to contribute to Bruce’s care, you can make donations and purchase Bruce’s CDs here.

On behalf of Bruce, we offer you our deepest gratitude. Thank you, and keep the love flowing. Or, as Bruce might say, “Carry on Nurse!”

_____

“If you had Bruce playing with you, that’s all you would need to do just about anything.” Bob Dylan

“If he were to walk in right now and you didn’t see Bruce, you would feel his presence. He just emanates love and kindness, in addition to being a virtuoso on like 50 string instruments.” Peter Fonda

“Just occasionally you come across these geniuses. Bruce Langhorne was one; he responds instinctually to the visual image. Bruce has done some of the most beautiful scoring I have ever been involved with, or ever known.” Jonathan Demme

Download Bruce’s song, Old Dog, for $1.00, to support organizations that rescue abused and abandoned dogs.

For more information about Bruce, see our earlier post, an interview with Richie Unterberger,  his AllMusic page, and his website.

Thanks,

Jeff Gold

December 29, 2015

Virtual Museum – Handwritten Set Lists by the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and The Clash

I love set lists–the list of songs an artist puts together to perform at a particular concert.  To me, they’re among the most compelling of all music collectibles — ideally, handwritten by a musician, used on stage during a performance, and documenting a specific moment in that artist’s evolution.

Some artists play the same songs every night.  Others, Bob Dylan probably foremost among them, play different songs every night, to suit their mood, the city they’re in, what they think the crowd will react to, or for a hundred other reasons.

In the pre-computer age, set lists were always handwritten, and virtually never saved. That’s why vintage ones are so rare and sought after.  Today they’re mostly computer printouts; far less exciting to see, and near impossible to tease meaning from.

Below are some extraordinary handwritten setlists from some very important artists.  We hope you enjoy them, and should you be looking to add one to your collection, they’re all for sale.

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A Velvet Underground set list in guitarist Sterling Morrison’s hand, from a show circa 1968/1969.  Only a handful of Velvet Underground set lists have survived, all preserved by the late great Morrison.  I don’t know the exact show this was from, but it includes songs from the Velvets’ first three albums, as well as some tracks unreleased until much later.

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This is an exceptionally rare Rolling Stones set list handwritten by Mick Jagger, almost certainly for rehearsals for the group’s secret show as “The Cockroaches”, at Sir Morgan’s Cove, Worcester, Mass on September 14th, 1981.  During August and September of that year, the Stones rehearsed for their first tour in three years at Long View Farm in nearby West Brookfield, Mass.  On short notice, they decided to play a secret warm up date at a local club under an assumed name. At the last minute, word leaked and the area around the small club was mobbed by up to 4000 people.  At the top, Jagger has written “Blues, CB’s + Encore” indicating this is a list of blues songs, Chuck Berry songs and possible encores.  The list includes four Chuck Berry songs, six blues standards, and four Stones originals (most of the non-originals have been covered by the Stones).

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Mick Jones’ handwritten set list for The Clash’s January 25, 1982 concert at the Festival Hall in Osaka, Japan.  Written on a 3″ x 7″ torn piece of paper, as usual it differs slightly from the set the band played. As many bands do, The Clash used set lists as a plan, but regularly added the occasional unplanned song.  The silver duct tape probably attached this to the stage or an amplifier.  (We have a Joe Strummer set list from the same tour elsewhere on the site.)

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A Bruce Springsteen handwritten set list from his acoustic performance at the first annual concert to benefit The Bridge School, at the Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, Ca., October 13, 1986.  The Bridge School benefit concerts are annual non-profit, acoustic shows organized by Neil and Pegi Young.  We acquired this set list from longtime Neil Young associate Joel Bernstein, who noted “At the time, I was working as a guitar technician and occasional musician on a tour of the U.S. with Neil Young and Crazy Horse…Bruce arrived from new Jersey in the late afternoon with, as I recall, eight acoustic guitars, four of them twelve strings, and all desperately needing new strings to be stretched and tuned (by me) in time for Bruce to do a soundcheck before doors..Bruce wrote out this list in his dressing room, brought it with him onstage, and placed it at his feet during the set.  In the end, he added “Mansion On The Hill” between “Darlington County” and “Fire”, otherwise he held to this sequence.  Between his set and encore…I made sure to retrieve the set list, as a memento of the day, and especially of Bruce’s short moving, and powerful set”.

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A Neil Young handwritten setlist for the Shocking Pinks section of his July 1, 1983 show at the Kansas Coliseum (during his 1983 Shocking Pinks tour). Joel Bernstein was Neil’s guitar technician on this tour, and after Neil’s solo set, he would dash off stage and decide if he wanted [his band] the Shocking Pinks to play. If so, he’d quickly put together a setlist, have it delivered to Joel offstage, and he’d get his guitars ready for that sequence.

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A setlist handwritten by Joni Mitchell, for her 1995 performance at the Gene Autry Museum in Los Angeles on January 26, 1995. This was a date to promote her Turbulent Indigo album, and was broadcast live on the radio.  Joni’s longtime friend and collaborator Joel Bernstein was her guitar technician at the time and she gave him this list to prepare her guitars for the show (at the left are her indications of the guitar she wanted for a particular song.)

For those interested in more, see our 2010 post on the subject.

Jeff Gold

Music History You Can Visit In Memphis and Nashville

In May, my wife Jody and I drove across the America, coast to coast, from Los Angeles to Savannah, Georgia–a bucket list dream of mine.  And much to my wife’s delight, I ended up driving the whole 3000+ miles.  We spent about 19 days, stopping in 10 cities, seeing the sights, visiting friends and for once, not looking for records.  We had a fantastic time and saw some great music related sights, which I thought I’d write about for those who may be thinking about a little music tourism. For this post, we’ll focus on Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee.

If you’ve never been to Memphis I highly recommend it.  Soulful people, great food and much to see.  We visited the National Civil Rights Museum, which is at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated–an incredible and moving museum that I can’t recommend enough.  And for music fans, there are a number of essential stops.  On this trip, I was luck to visit Sun Studio and the Stax Museum.

Sun Studio is of course where Elvis Presley first recorded, where he was discovered by Sam Phillips, and where Phillips also cut Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins,  Howlin’ Wolf and so many more greats.  Incredibly, though the building had housed other businesses over the years, the actual studio baffling and control room had just been covered up–so when it was turned into a museum, it was easily restored to its original state.  It’s a working studio today, and they’ve got a great display of memorabilia including some of Phillips’ original equipment, memorabilia belonging to Elvis, vintage Sun acetates, and a re-creation of Memphis DJ Dewey Philips’s broadcast studio.  The tour guide’s patter was a little cheesy for me, but there is much to see and the vibe is definitely there.  It was well worth visiting.

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Also in Memphis is the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Stax music academy.  The original Stax building was torn down, but the museum is an exact recreation on the same site, built from the original blueprints.  There is a tremendous amount of great memorabilia here, including Otis Redding’s draft card and suede jacket, Isaac Hayes’ custom Cadillac and stage outfits, Booker T & The MG’s instruments and an exact recreation of Stax’s original movie theatre studio.  Lots of memorabilia from artists who recorded at Stax and Memphis artists too, including Al Green, the Staple Singers, Ike and Tina Turner, Carla and Rufus Thomas–even James Carr.  Next door there’s a music academy where young people learn to play music.  Well worth a visit.

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Other essential Memphis music pilgrimage sites include Graceland and Al Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, where Reverend Green preaches most Sundays.  But I’d visited both a number of times (and worked closely with Al Green while at A&M Records) so this trip I visited places I hadn’t been. But both are highly recommended.

From Memphis we drove to Nashville, where we visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and Jack White’s Third Man Records.  The Hall of Fame was a bit of a disappointment, as the main draw for me was their Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats exhibit.  The exhibition’s premise was that Bob Dylan’s decision to record in Nashville brought many other non-country artists, including the Byrds, Neil Young, the Beau Brummels, Joan Baez etc. to record in Nashville, with the cities’ exceptional session musicians.  While it’s an interesting story, I found the exhibit largely centered on the session musicians– the “Nashville Cats”, with a scattering of Dylan and Cash artifacts.  There was a lot to see, but I thought the layout was difficult to follow, and exhibit overall a missed opportunity.  I wasn’t much interested in the museum’s other mainstream country offerings, but was thrilled to spot Gram Parsons’ Flying Burrito Brothers Nudie Suit while walking to the Nashville Cats exhibit.  As iconic a piece of stage wear as you’ll ever see, covered in marijuana plants and pills.

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Jack White’s Third Man Records was much more to my taste.  It’s clear White and his cohorts love records and music, and Third Man has refined and reinvented the form in an extraordinary way.  Our tour guide was the great Ben Blackwell, who helps run Third Man and is a true vinyl visionary.  Parked outside the Third Man retail store is their “Rolling Record Store”, which travels to gigs, festivals, and other places fans congregate.  The retail store carries all of Third Man’s releases, and an incredible number of Third Man branded artifacts, including everything from Dead Weather playing cards to a high end yellow & black custom turntable.  Located in the store is their Voice-o-Graph recording booth–the actual booth in which Neil Young recorded his 2014 album A Letter Home–and where you too can record a song and take it home on a custom 6″ record, for $15.  The Third Man complex also includes a live concert venue, just behind that a recording studio (which has the lathe from King Records, and is the only place in the world you can record live, direct to disc), a video studio and editing suite, photo studio, art department, warehouse, direct mail operation, and much more.  We were blown away by their reinvention of the music business.  Don’t miss it when in Nashville.

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From Nashville, we drove to Athens, Ga., home of R.E.M., who I had the good fortune to work with at both A&M and Warner Bros. Records.  We visited with some of our friends from those long ago days, and briefly stopped by Wuxtry Records, where clerk Peter Buck met customer Michael Stipe — and the rest is history.  They’ve got some great early R.E.M. posters on the wall.  Then on to Savannah, a photo standing on the rental car at the end of the road, and on the last day, my karmic reward for not looking for records along the way.  In a bin of LP’s at an antique store, voila–a near mint UK first pressing of The Who’s debut album, My Generation, on Brunswick, for $25!

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So, as Van Dyke Parks recommended with the title of his second album, Discover America!

Jeff Gold

July 2015

Bob Dylan’s Newest Masterpiece – “Shadows In The Night”

There’s been a lot written about Bob Dylan’s new album of songs sung by Frank Sinatra, Shadows in the Night.  People seem to love it or hate it, and I can’t understand why.  I think it’s a masterpiece.

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I’ve listened to Shadows more than any new Dylan album since Time Out of Mind.  I play it over and over and it just blows my mind.  So incredibly soulful.  Heartfelt. Melancholy.  The songs (most of which I didn’t know) are all so great.  The inventive arrangements, just guitars, bass, light drums and occasional horns, with steel guitar as the lead instrument.  And incredibly recorded by the great Al Schmidt.  Live in the studio, with no overdubs.

Bob’s singing better than he has in years.  Decades in fact.  Yes, his voice breaks occasionally as he reaches for a note, but he’s singing as soulfully as ever.  It’s a late night record.  One friend said it required “active listening”.  Not made for driving or playing while you’re doing something else.  It’s an album to sit down and listen to.  My wife and I play it constantly, different songs stuck in our heads at different times.  We’ve bought 15 copies to give to friends.

Admittedly it’s not for everyone.  I’m not a big Sinatra fan; I like some of his work and some I’m ambivalent about. But the songs Dylan has chosen, mostly from the 40’s and 50’s, I love.  I have friends, thought, who see Sinatra as the enemy of rock, and can’t stomach an album of Bob “paying tribute” to him.  Others can’t understand why a writer as great as Dylan would do a covers album of “old” chestnuts like these.  To me, it’s just Bob.  Inscrutable as always.  Like the photo on the back cover, of Bob holding a Sun Records (Elvis) 45, with a woman wearing a mask.  Sinatra and his then wife, Mia Farrow, were pictured wearing masks at Truman Capote’s “Black and White” ball. What does it all mean?  Who cares?

 

Attachment-1 copyFrank Sinatra and Mia Farrow Wearing Masks

 

It’s been an amazing year-and-a-half for Dylan fans.  Two incredible Bootleg Series Box Sets–Another Self Portrait and The Basement Tapes Complete, a great tour,  Shadows in the Night, Dylan’s first interview in 3 years in the AARP Magazine (that’s right, the American Association of Retired People), probably the most straight-ahead interview he’s ever given.  Then the remarkable and unprecedented speech he gave at the Grammy Tribute–really the only speech of length he’s ever given.  And then–unbelievably–a follow up interview, clarifying some of the things he’d said in the speech, posted on his website.  Again, being completely up front and straightforward.  And the hidden gem of Daniel Lanois’s interview with the Vancouver Sun.  Lanois tells of how Dylan visited him and talked of music when he was growing up.

“He spoke for an hour and a half on how, as a kid, you couldn’t even get pictures of anybody. You might get a record but you didn’t know what they looked like. So there was a lot of mystery associated with the work at the time. As far as hearing live music, he only heard a couple of shows a year, like the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra might come through.

“But the music he did hear really touched him and he felt that a lot of that music was written not only by great professional songwriters at the time, but a lot of it was written from the heart, from the wartime, and people just pining for a lover. He felt there was a lot of spirit in that music. He felt there was a kind of beauty, a sacred ground for him.

“After having said all that, we then listened to the music and I felt everything that he talked about. For one of America’s great writers to say, ‘I’m not gonna write a song. I’m gonna pay homage to what shook me as young boy,’ I thought was very graceful and dignified.”

Bob Dylan certainly has nothing to prove.  He’s reinvented music many times.  The songs he’s written and the records he’s made will outlive us all.  And at 73, he’s still making challenging music, speaking his mind, making provocative visual art, and bringing a lot of joy to the world.  Who could ask for anything more.

If you don’t have Shadows in the Night, get it.

(During the Shadows sessions, Dylan recorded another album’s worth of Sinatra songs. I very much hope he decides to release it.)

Reward – Can You Identify These Frank Zappa Manuscripts ?

UPDATE: All have been identified, and very quickly at that.  See results at the bottom of this post.  Thanks to everyone who helped out.

Here’s an experiment in crowd-sourcing.  We recently acquired two original Frank Zappa music manuscripts, and a lead sheet for a third composition, all of which were handwritten by the great man himself.  The two original manuscripts are untitled, and the lead sheet is for Arabesque, a 1966 song we can find  no reference for. (These originated from the collection of ex-Mothers road manager Marty Perelis.)

We’ll happily offer $300 in Recordmecca credit to the first person who can identify these compositions (and tell us if Arabesque was ever released with a different title.)  If you can only identify one or two compositions, we’ll pro-rate the prize.

Just post a comment below, and be sure to include your email address.  And to state the obvious, only the first person who submits a correct answer through the comments section gets the prize.  And of course, the music on these manuscripts belong to the copyright holder.

We’ll post the answers here as soon as we have them.

“Part II” (first two pages; double click to enlarge)

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Second Composition (first two pages)

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Arabesque (Dated 1966)

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We have a winners on all three manuscripts–thanks to everyone.

For Part II–Robert Mangano identified it as “The Rejected Mexican Pope Leaves the Stage” from the album “AHEAD OF THEIR TIME!”

We have a revised winner on the Second Manuscript (thanks to Matthew Galaher who pointed out his answer wasn’t exactly correct.) The new winner is Duncan James Mitchson who identified it as “Music For Electric Violin And Low Budget Orchestra” from Jean-Luc Ponty’s King Kong album (though with slightly different orchestration).

And for Arabesque–Pat Buzby, who wrote “Arabesque” was released later under the title “Toads Of The Short Forest.”

Thanks to everyone who helped out.

All the best,
Jeff Gold

 

Dylan – Houston Street Acetates and the Media Frenzy

Sorry to have been away so long, and I promise to post more frequently in the new year.  Today, I want to write a bit about the reaction to my last post, detailing my discovery of the 149 Bob Dylan Houston Street Studios Acetates.

I assumed this would be a big story in the Dylan collecting community, but was astounded at the overwhelming reaction from the mainstream media.  Before writing about the acetates here, I spent a few months documenting and transferring the music with the help of two friends.  When I finally wrote about the discovery in June, I was incredulous when the very next day it showed up on the front page of RollingStone.com.  Even more surprising is that the Rolling Stone writer hadn’t reached out to me, but instead simply paraphrased my blog post.  I know some of the writers there, and it would have been extremely easy for them to have contacted me.  In the past, at the very least Rolling Stone would have a fact checker call to verify all the information.  But in today’s instant media age, they just went with it.  Everybody wants to be the first on a story.

 

Dylan acetates NY Times Article

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning, I was contacted by a reporter at The Wall Street Journal for a short phone interview about the discovery.  Soon the floodgates opened–it went viral.  In all probably 100 newspapers, blogs, and other media outlets around the world published the story, including The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, The Guardian, and Billboard.  In almost every case, they simply rewrote my blog post and copied the acetate photos from my blog.  I think the only people who actually spoke to me about the story were reporters from the Journal, Daily News and The New York Times.

I’m writing about this, because it blew my mind how the internet has changed the way a story is reported.  I’ve done many interviews over the past 35 years, as a record company executive, music historian, and collector.  But I’ve never, ever experienced anything like this–reporters, en masse, simply re-writing a blog post, with no fact checking or any attempt made to contact the author.

A few weeks after the media frenzy died down, it dawned on me–I could have made this whole thing up, and nobody would have been the wiser.  Of course I didn’t; the whole thing is true.  But probably 100 newspapers, websites and magazines for the most part just went with a story on a blog that sounded true.  It does go to show, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet–or in a newspaper.  (Happily, though, you can believe everything you read here.)

A few of the Houston Street Studios Acetates are available at Recordmecca.

Jeff Gold

January 29, 2015

A Major Discovery — 149 Unknown Bob Dylan Acetates From His NYC Studio

Treasure hunting.

It’s what I love most about my work as a music historian, collector and dealer. Nothing matches the rush of discovering something previously unknown and historically significant, which adds to the collective understanding of a great musical artist.  And three months ago I made one of the great finds in a lifetime of looking.  149 unknown Bob Dylan acetate records, discs that Dylan himself used during the making of Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait and New Morning.

 

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It started with a referral from a friend.  For everyone’s privacy, I won’t use names, but  I was put in touch with a gentleman from the Northwest.  His sister had recently died and he was the executor of her estate.  She  owned a building at 124 W.Houston Street in Greenwich Village and while selling off her personal items so the building could be put up for sale, he discovered two boxes labeled “Old Records” in a closet.  The boxes were filled with 10″ and 12″ acetates; he had never seen an acetate before and while he recognized them as some sort of records, he didn’t really know what they were.  Most had labels with Bob Dylan’s name, the address of Columbia Records, and a song title.  He knew Dylan had rented the ground floor of the building in the late 60’s and early 70’s as a studio space, and theorized Dylan had either left them when he’d moved out, or thrown them away and his sister had rescued them from the trash (at the time Dylan rented the space, he lived two blocks away at 94 McDougal St.)  In either case, they had been sitting, boxed up in the closet, for more than forty years.  He took two home with him, and eventually discovered what they were, and we were put in touch.

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The acetates were found in these boxes

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124 W. Houston St. NYC Dylan’s studio was on the ground floor

After some discussion, I flew to New York to inspect and hopefully buy the collection. The executor didn’t have an inventory and wasn’t even sure that all the acetates were by Dylan, but I’m a fanatic Dylan collector and love rare records, so I made the trip.  When I opened the boxes and took a quick look at the contents, I was blown away.  They were indeed all by Dylan, all were in excellent condition, and many had handwritten notes on the sleeves.  They all dated from the sessions for Dylan’s albums Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait and New Morning, about equally split between 10″ discs with a single song and 12″ discs with multiple songs. Though I couldn’t listen to them on site, I knew this was a major discovery, and made an offer for the collection more than double what I had expected to pay.  The executor was thrilled and we quickly made a deal.   He told me he’d found the boxes on his fourth (and final) pass through the building, in a small closet in a loft above the bedroom, which he hadn’t noticed before.  We took a moment to contemplate what might have happened if he hadn’t found them.  The building would have sold, the new owners would have hired a crew to gut and renovate the place, and the boxes tossed into a dumpster from a third floor window.   Phew.

I hand-carried the most interesting looking ones home, and had a friend ship the rest.   Acetates are  individually cut on a lathe in real time, in a process that is basically the reverse of playing a record.  A blank aluminum disc coated in lacquer is put on a turntable, and the master tape of a recording is played, the signal of which is sent to a heated needle which cuts a groove into into the revolving disc.  Acetates are made so an artist or producer can listen to a recording that is a work-in-progress; they can be played on a regular turntable, but after 20 or 30 plays the sound quality begins to deteriorate.  But the sound on a carefully preserved acetate can be incredible–it’s a first generation record made in real time directly from the master tape.  And that was the case here.

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Since these acetates were remarkably well preserved, it was important we document what was on them.  After auditioning everything, my friend Zach Cowie made a high quality digital transfer of the most interesting discs.  We photographed each disc to have a complete visual record, and inventoried everything.  Then, with the help of friend and noted Dylan collector Arie De Reus, Zach and I began the exacting process of comparing the music on the acetates to the released versions of each song.  We discovered many of the acetates were unreleased versions of songs, in some cases with different overdubs, sometimes without any overdubs, many with different mixes, different edits and in a few cases completely unreleased and unknown versions.  There are outtakes too, including electric versions of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and “Folsom Prison Blues” recorded during the Self Portrait sessions, and a gospel tinged version of “Tomorrow is Such a Long Time” recorded during the New Morning sessions.

These 149 acetates provide a remarkable look into Dylan’s working process at the time.  Dylan recorded Nashville Skyline in Nashville;  Self Portrait in Nashville and New York and New Morning almost entirely in New York. Dylan’s producer at the time, Bob Johnston, worked out of Columbia Records’ Nashville studios.  These acetates were for the most part cut in Nashville and sent by Johnston to Dylan in New York for his comments and approval.  This kind of collection is very unusual; usually an artist and producer would make decisions about takes, mixes and overdubs while together in the studio.  But Dylan was living in New York and Johnston headquartered in Nashville–so acetates were a simple way for Dylan to monitor what Johnston was doing.

Bob Johnston’s handwritten sequence on sleeve

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Dylan makes changes to Johnston’s sequence and writes BLUE MOON.

On a number of sleeves, Bob Johnston has written sequences, timings and in a few cases instructions for remixes  (Johnston confirmed for us that he’d had these acetates cut for Dylan, and which handwriting was his.)  Dylan himself has made a number of notations about which versions he liked, which he didn’t and what he wanted changed.  It’s clear these discs were the result of many discussions Dylan had with Johnston; he’d ask for changes, Johnston would have acetates of new mixes, versions or sequences made and send them to Dylan.  While Dylan once claimed he made Self Portrait as an album his fans “couldn’t possibly like” he clearly spent a great deal of time refining and perfecting it. The Houston Street Studios acetates include probably ten different sequences of that album, and many different sequences for New Morning as well (including one version with only 10 songs.)  These acetates were Dylan’s working tools, and it’s easy to understand why he didn’t keep them–they were used to get the albums to the point where he felt they were finished and ready to release, but once the albums had been released, these became redundant.

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Dylan doodles and makes notes about changes to songs for New Morning.

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New Morning acetate with unreleased gospel version of Tomorrow is a Long Time and Dylan’s handwritten notes.

The music on these acetates covers much of the same time period as last year’s exceptional Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (I’ve always loved Self Portrait and New Morning and it’s great to see these albums get their due as a result of the release of this great box set.  Go buy it if you haven’t already.)  We’ve provided transfers of all the music on these discs to Dylan’s office; the multi-track master tapes of these songs likely still exist in the Columbia Records tape library, but Bob Johnston’s original unused mixes may not exist elsewhere.

I’m keeping many of the acetates, but am offering some of these truly unique discs via Recordmecca.  It’s been a remarkable experience to work with these discs, previously owned and used by Dylan himself, to create three of his classic albums.

Jeff Gold

June 30, 2014

 

Here’s What AUTHENTIC Bob Dylan Lyrics Look Like !

On April 30, the news broke that Sotheby’s would be auctioning Bob Dylan’s original handwritten lyric manuscripts for Like A Rolling Stone and A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall in June– big news in the Dylan community.  As someone who’s written more than his fair share about Dylan and his manuscripts, I’ve gotten many calls and emails about these–and I can happily confirm they are indeed the real thing (unlike many dubious “Dylan handwritten” items that have surfaced.)

Dylan Like A Rolling Stone lyric     Dylan A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall

Last year I was fortunate to have brokered the sale of two other Dylan manuscripts from this same cache, for similarly legendary songs (as these were private sales,  I can’t say more about which songs or the selling prices.  Suffice to say they were equally important songs in Dylan’s canon.)

It’s rare to see authentic Dylan lyric manuscripts on the market, and these are as good as it gets.  According to The New York Times, Sotheby’s “expects “Like a Rolling Stone” to fetch as much as $2 million. That would double the current record price for a rock manuscript at Sotheby’s, held by John Lennon’s “A Day in the Life,” which the house sold in 2010. “Hard Rain” is expected to sell for $400,000 to $600,000.”

That might be a bit high for Like A Rolling Stone, but maybe not.  I think these are certainly in-the-ballpark estimates for these two enormously important cultural artifacts.

And since authentic Dylan manuscripts rarely surface,  I thought I’d share two more genuine ones, from his 1966 masterpiece Blonde on Blonde.  Below are working manuscripts for I Want You and Absolutely Sweet Marie.  While the Sotheby’s manuscripts are pretty much finished versions, these  illustrate Dylan’s working process in a different way.  Absolutely Sweet Marie is probably Dylan’s earliest attempt at the song; here he’s working out lines and verses, coming up with rhymes, but leaving dashes where he’ll later fill in words.  I Want You is further along, with Dylan likely refining a previous draft, but still not having written the “Queen of Spades” verse.  In both cases, he hasn’t written out the chorus; I’d guess the chorus was the starting point for each, and he didn’t feel the need to write it out.

absolutelysweetmarieLARGEISH    I Want You DYLAN

Dylan finished most of the lyrics to his Blonde on Blonde songsduring the recording sessions at CBS’s Nashville studios.  Musicians who played on the sessions reported they sat around killing time for hours, playing ping-pong, taking naps and watching television while Dylan worked late into the night on his lyrics.  These two manuscripts were part of a group of lyrics that Blonde on Blonde engineer Charlie Bragg kept after the sessions, and later gave to a friend.

If you’re interested in reading more about Dylan manuscripts and handwriting, put “Dylan” in the Search Blog box on the top right for a number of other posts.  And if you’re really got time on your hands, you can read about (and watch me) authenticate Dylan lyrics on the PBS show History Detectives.

Jeff Gold

Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland–The Final Word On First Pressings and The Blue Text Hype

Last year I posted Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland—Exposing the ‘Blue Type’ Hype, about people’s mistaken notion that the UK version of Hendrix’s masterpiece with the blue type was the true first pressing.  If you’re one of the 98% of collectors who couldn’t care less about this, I invite you to move on to something more interesting.

If you care about this arcane issue read on, because the answer has emerged.  To recap, there are two major variations of the UK Electric Ladyland album cover.  Most copies have white type and small photos of Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell inside the gatefold, but some have blue type and larger photos of Mitch and Noel.  On the “blue” copies, the type is a mottled blue, which looks like a printing problem of some sort.

Since the advent of Ebay, some have maintained that the blue text copies are the true first pressings. In my previous post, I disputed this for a variety of reasons.  The vast majority of copies have the white type.  Hendrix was a superstar when Electric Ladyland was released, and it was a immediate best seller.  If the blue copies were the first, there would be far more blue than white ones.  As I wrote last year, I own Hendrix’s personal copy of Electric Ladyland–surely he would have had an original–and his is the white type version.  And well known English illustrator Edwin Pouncey (aka Savage Pencil) still has the copy he had special ordered prior to the album’s release—and it too has white type.

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In late October, I had the good fortune to visit David King, the art director who designed the UK Electric Ladyland cover, as well as the covers for the single disc versions, Electric Ladyland Part 1 and Part 2.  David is a hero of mine, and also designed the covers for Axis:Bold As Love, The Who Sell Out and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown–in my opinion some of the greatest album covers ever created (I look forward to writing more about my visit with David at his London home.)

Obviously David was the man who could solve the blue/white mystery for once and for all.  He told me that in the 60’s recording artists were rarely involved with their album covers.  They were usually on the road or in the studio, and he typically had only a few days to come up with an idea and create the artwork.  In the case of Electric Ladyland, the Hendrix Experience had been touring the US for three months prior to the album’s October 25, 1968 UK release, and didn’t return until after the album was out.

King, the Arts Editor at the Sunday Times Magazine was a friend of  Track Records co-owner Chris Stamp (also co-manager of The Who.) Stamp liked King’s aesthetic and hired him to design various album covers for Track.  For Electric Ladyland, King recalls having only three days from concept to turning in the finished art.  Stamp was enthusiastic about King’s idea to picture nude girls on the cover, and happily anticipated the controversy it would undoubtedly cause.  King told me Hendrix had no involvement with the cover, and even disavowed it after its release, saying “I don’t know anything about it.  I didn’t know it was going to be used.”
King hired photographer David Montgomery to shoot the nineteen nude models, and on the inside used an existing photograph of Hendrix (he’d previously hired Montgomery to shoot the photo for a Sunday Times Magazine article that never ran.)  King added the small photographs of Mitch and Noel as an afterthought.  His original design had the white type and smaller photographs of Redding and Mitchell; in fact King showed me his white type printed samples, stored in his flat files since 1968.

So why was there a blue type/larger photos version ?  It turns out the problem was the size of the photos.  King told me that when Redding and Mitchell saw the finished cover, they were very upset that their photos were so much smaller than Hendrix’s.  Consequently, Chris Stamp had the printer to enlarge their photos for the next run.  The printer mistakenly used blue type instead of white—perhaps because the text on the Part 2 album cover was the same shade of blue—but in the process of “fixing it” created the blotchy blue type on the blue versions.  King was not involved in the “fix” and would never have approved it the way it was printed; he told me “until you mentioned it a few weeks ago, I’d completely forgotten about the blue type, that it ever existed even for a moment.”

Chris Stamp died last year, so there is no way to definitively know what happened next, but we assume that since the printing job turned out badly, and the Experience broke up in mid 1969, Stamp made the decision to go back to the original version—which at least was printed properly.  The white type version on Track was still in print in the early 1970’s, and was the version later reissued on Polydor.  Last month, an ‘interm version’ was sold on Ebay, with white type but bits of blue, particularly in the slashes between songs.

So for those who share my obsession with things like this, we now know the pressings were-

  1. White type/smaller photos
  2. Blue type/larger photos
  3. White type/smaller photos (with a bit of blue)
  4. White type/smaller photos (Same as #1)
  5. Polydor reissue; White type/smaller photos.

And there you have it—case closed !

-Jeff Gold

 

 

Lou Reed & Exactly How Many Albums The Velvet Underground Sold

I was in London two weeks ago when my daughter texted the sad news that Lou Reed had died.  She was very upset, which was surprising as I never knew she was a fan.  But the real surprise was how the rest of the world reacted.

As a huge Velvet Underground fan, I know how important Lou’s contribution to music was.  He changed music forever.  But it was absolutely stunning to see the amount of press generated–not just music press, but mainstream press–by the death of someone most people thought of as a cult figure.  As a friend who had worked closely with Lou emailed, “you’d think he was John Lennon.”

I worked with Lou in the 90’s when he recorded for Sire/Reprise, and found him to be as portrayed in most of what I’ve read– hyper intelligent, complex, charming and sometimes difficult.  When the Velvet Underground reformed in 1993 a few co-workers and I headed to Edinburgh for the first show.  We went backstage before the show and for me it was a surreal experience.  While I was a music business executive,  first and foremost I was a Velvets fan.  I couldn’t believe I was backstage with Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker, about to see them play.  I’d listened to those records hundreds of times, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get to see them live.  Or meet them.  Or work with them.  I had them all sign my pass.

And when Lou got together with the absolutely wonderful Laurie Anderson, another Warner Bros. artist and soon the love of Lou’s life, I was fortunate  to spend a bit of time with them together.

While I don’t have much to say about Lou that hasn’t been said, I can add to the discussion of the Velvets.  As John Jurgensen wrote in the Wall Street Journal,  “Almost every obituary for Lou Reed has cited a variation of the same quote by composer and producer Brian Eno, who said that the Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut album didn’t sell many copies, but everyone who bought one started a band.”

In his article, Jurgensen identified the journalist Eno made the remark to, Kristine McKenna (an old friend, I had no idea !) and quoted Velvets lawyer Christopher Whent as saying the exact number of albums the Velvet Underground’s debut album sold is lost to time.  Whent told him “My best guess as to pre-1984 domestic sales…is that the album sold perhaps 50,000 units.  More is unlikely, and I would be surprised if it were as little as 10,000, but I cannot be accurate.”

Jurgensen contacted me, having heard that I might know the exact number, and in fact I do.  Many years ago I purchased some documents that had been sent to Nico, including her royalty statement for that album, The Velvet Underground and Nico.  In just under two years, it sold…drum roll… 58,476 copies in the U.S.

According to Wikipedia, the album was released March 12, 1967.  The royalty statement is for sales through February 14, 1969.  It lists sales of mono copies (V 5008) as 13,336 and stereo sales (V6 5008) as 45,140 (77% of copies sold were stereo.)  Note that the Velvets received 29 cents for each mono and 36 cents for each stereo copy (plus songwriter’s income which would have been paid separately by the publisher.)  In addition it notes royalty income paid by MGM’s affiliates in Germany, England, Canada and income for sales on tape (reel-to-reel, 8-Track) by the Ampex Corp.  With complicated royalty rates and deductions, it’s impossible to know how many copies were sold in these countries and on tape.

Below is the royalty statement–the definitive solution to this long debated mystery. I hope Velvets Fans enjoy seeing this true piece of history.

And goodbye Lou.  I’m sure you would have enjoyed all the tributes, and knowing how important your music was to so very many people.  Myself very much included.

smaller WM Velvet Underground Royalty StatementJeff Gold

November 10, 2013

 

 

And While We’re On The Subject of Record Collectors…

If you’re a record collector and don’t know Dust and Grooves, you should.  Eilon Paz’s site documents record collectors from around the world, telling their stories via interviews and his fantastic photographs.  I’m a huge fan of Dust & Grooves, and was honored to be featured this month.

And here are a few more links I’ve been remiss in posting– my friend Zach Cowie’s megamix of songs from my recent book 101 Essential Rock Records.

And the History Detectives episode where my friend Andy Babiuk authenticates the guitar Bob Dylan played at Newport when he went electric, and I authenticate Dylan song manuscripts found in the guitar’s case.  OK, enough self-promotion.

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Craig Kallman – Record and Memorabilia Collector Extraordinaire

If you’re a record or memorabilia collector, don’t miss last month’s Wall Street Journal article on Atlantic Records chairman Craig Kallman.  Craig, who I first met in the 90’s when I was an executive at Warner Bros. Records, has 750,000 records.  That’s right, three quarters of a million albums.  That’s got to be the largest record collection in the world.  If your significant other thinks your collection is out of control,  send them a copy of this article for a reality check.

 

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And while quantity doesn’t often equate with quality, Craig’s collection is amazing.  For many years, he only wanted sealed original pressings, or absolutely perfect examples of the records he sought.  In the past few years, he’s relaxed his standards a tiny bit to simply mint, “to create a working library for his artists, songwriters and producers.”  He’s also got exacting standards for his incredible memorabilia collection.

And none of this would impress me if Craig didn’t love music as much as anyone I’ve met.  This is a man who lives and breathes music.  Whenever he comes to Los Angeles, he calls to see if I have anything new.  If he visits, we’re talking music when he’s not on the phone talking to an artist or executive.  He’ll leave late on a Saturday night, heading off to visit an artist or two in the studio, then waking up early for a Sunday morning breakfast with another artist.  I worked at major labels for twenty years and rarely if ever did I meet anyone as obsessed with music as Craig.

He’s converted the Manhattan apartment next to his into the ultimate listening room/recording studio/office/record haven (see it in the Journal article’s accompanying slide show.)  Craig’s got 40,000 records there — about 2% of his collection.  He often takes meetings with musicians there, as well as recording tracks with Atlantic artists in the studio.  When I visited earlier this year, he was talking private press Hip Hop records with a mutual friend.  During a lull in the conversation, I asked him to play us something, and he put on the first Hot Tuna album.  Now that’s eclectic.

If I was a young recording artist, this is the guy I’d sign with !

Jeff Gold

 

 

Fake Acetates Everywhere !

Every morning I check CollectorsFrenzy.  That’s the site where you can see the 25 most expensive records that sold on Ebay the previous day.

There’s a LOT of discussion these days about the records on Collector’s Frenzy.  That’s because in my opinion* there’s been a rash of fake acetates selling for big money.  Hundreds and thousands of dollars paid for fake Led Zeppelin, Doors, Beatles, David Bowie, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan acetates.  Every time one sells, I cringe for the person who bought it.  People paying hard earned money for a worthless fake, and probably none-the-wiser until they try to sell it, years later.

Just this week I received an email from someone wanting to sell five Beatles acetates they had bought on Ebay. I told him unfortunately they were fakes, and never heard back.  I forwarded the email to a fellow dealer, who it turns out had told him the same thing the week before. The acetate owner told him he was going to try to consign them to an auction house.  Oh boy.

As a collector and dealer of high end music memorabilia, I get lots of inquiries for people selling music collectibles.  Most of it is authentic, but I do get the occasional fake autograph, second printing poster sold as a first, or fake acetate.  But it’s crazy time for acetates now.  With scanners, color printers, photoshop and access to acetate cutters, a few bad apples have gone wild.

I won’t write about how I know that these are obvious fakes.  It would be akin to giving crooks an instruction book on making better forgeries. Suffice to say I’ve been collecting and dealing in rare records (and acetates) for 42 years.  I worked for A&M and Warner Bros. Records for nearly 20 years, and got many real acetates in the course of my job.   So I’ve got a very good idea of what a genuine acetate looks like.  And I’ve never seen anything that looks like these.

Most of the classic rock acetates offered on Ebay now, especially the ones advertised as being from–ahem, a country in the Southern Hemisphere–look, in my opinion, ridiculous.  I’ve also seen fake acetates sold by Italian dealers, and a large collection of fake Beatles acetates were sold by an American seller, which Richard Morton Jack has written about on his blog Galactic Ramble.

I love collecting records and music memorabilia.  It’s a great hobby, the people are interesting, and you get to enjoy owning things that often appreciate in value.  The dishonest people are few, happily.  But the times seemed right to once again post some tips that anyone buying rare records, memorabilia or acetates or any collectible might want to follow.

1)  If it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is.  Nobody has an endless supply of ultra rare collectibles.  Or acetates.  These things are rare, folks.  People like me literally travel the world and spend fortunes acquiring them.  And with the internet, people know the value of truly rare things.  You may find a bargain here and there, but an endless supply should be a huge red flag.

2) Buy from known and respected dealers who will give you a lifetime money-back guarantee of authenticity, in writing.  Period.  If they won’t do it, run the other direction.  A good dealer has the expertise and does the research for you.  It’s simple.  I guarantee everything forever.  So if I have any doubt about something, no matter how small, I don’t buy it.  My reputation is far more important to me than any deal I might make.  So I make sure that anything I offer is absolutely authentic and extensively researched–and any good dealer should. My friend  Gary Greenberg has written about this on his blog Gary Rocks.  Check it out.

3) A COA or letter of authenticity is worthless.  If someone is dishonest enough to sell you a forgery, they’ll happily include a COA certifying the fake is authentic.  The only thing that means anything is that written lifetime money-back guarantee (from someone who is well established and will take your call should there ever be a problem.)

4) Auction houses make mistakes too.  People assume that if something that comes from an auction house, it must be genuine.  And it is most of the time.  But auction houses are generalists, not specialists.  They sell what comes through the door.  Some may know rock memorabilia, but they aren’t Bob Dylan handwriting experts.  That’s why the better ones consult experts.  I regularly get calls from auction houses wanting to know if Dylan handwritten items are authentic.  Yet I still see fake Dylan items showing up in auction house catalogs.  It’s not that they’re dishonest–they just may not have the resources or inclination to do their own research.   The biggest auction houses only guarantee the authenticity of what they sell for five years.  Some smaller houses don’t guarantee authenticity at all.   Read the fine print.  Do your own research.  Ask questions.

*(I qualify this as my opinion as I don’t want to become involved in litigation that may erupt around this issue.  Obviously everything on this blog is my opinion, but in the case of the fake acetates,  this is also the opinion of every record expert  and dealer I’ve spoken to about this.)

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