Virtual Museum: Janis Joplin’s First Record Contract / Big Brother and the Holding Company Sign With Mainstream Records

Here’s a true piece of music history we’ve just listed: Janis Joplin’s first recording contract, with Mainstream Records, signed by Janis and her Big Brother and the Holding Company bandmates on September 13 1966.

Signature page of Big Brother’s contract with Mainstream Records

From On the Road With Janis Joplin by John Byrne Cooke:

Big Brother was first approached by Bobby Shad, the owner of Mainstream, in the summer of 1966…Shad was in San Francisco to check out the new rock groups. He expressed interest in recording Big Brother, but he triggered all of [band manager and Avalon Ballroom promoter Chet] Helms’s distrust of outsiders from the music business, and Chet rebuffed the offer. Chet’s out-of-hand dismissal of Shad’s interest proved to be the catalyst that led Big Brother to dissolve their informal management agreement.

Soon after parting with Chet, the band took a month-long booking at a club in Chicago called Mother Blues, but Janis wasn’t sure she would go.  ‘I have a problem,’ she wrote to her parents… She told them what she had not yet told the boys in the band: she been approached by a record producer named Paul Rothchild… In the summer of 1966, Paul had sold Elektra [Records] president Jac Holzman on an idea: he would assemble a group of young urban interpreters of the blues, pay their expenses for six months, and see if the effort produced a viable band… Paul gathered several musicians in a living room in Berkeley [including future Canned Heat singer] Al Wilson, Taj Mahal and Janis…They traded songs back-and-forth for a while, and it was beginning to click… Janis was having a good time, but the Mother Blues gig was looming. She had to decide whether she was going to stick with Big Brother or take a chance that Paul Rothchild’s idea would pan out.

Janis wasn’t sure she and Big Brother were going to pan out. She had never sung rock ‘n’ roll before…But Janis liked the feeling Big Brother gave her, the power of it, and she loved the interplay between the bands and the dancers of the Avalon and the Fillmore.  In the letter to her parents, Janis expressed another doubt. ‘I’m not sure yet whether the rest of the band (Big Brother) will, indeed want to work hard enough to be good enough to make it. We’re not now I don’t think. Oh God, I’m just fraught with indecision!’

Janis and the guys in Big Brother had moved to a house in Lagunitas, in Marin County, north of San Francisco. The shift to communal living was intended to strengthen the bonds within the group and make them a true family band in the San Francisco style. One morning when everyone was up and about, Janis told the boys about Paul Rothchild’s offer, and she that she was considering it. Her announcement provoked a shocked response. To [bandmates] Peter and Sam and Dave and James, joining a band was a sacred trust. It wasn’t just a business, it was a commitment. You didn’t just back out after a couple of months when something that looked like a better offer came along. Peter Albin was the one who reacted most indignantly. He went at Janis hammer and tongs, demanding that she commit to the Chicago gig right then and there. Taken aback by Peter’s onslaught, Janis gave in.

In Chicago, Bobby Shad approached the band again, renewing his offer of a record contract. This time there was no Chet to blow him off. Peter and David and Sam and James wanted to go for it. Janis’s uncertainty about staying with the band had shaken them all. They recognized that her vocals were a vital addition to the group’s unique sound. Some of Big Brother’s San Francisco partisans had objected at first to the addition of a chick singer, but as the band’s music adapted to embrace Janis, her lead vocals had become the high points of their performances. A record deal would hold the band together, at least for a time.

The boys argued for accepting Shad‘s offer, and Janis gave her consent. Mainstream wasn’t Elektra by a long shot, but the record would be made now, not six months or more down the road, if the prospective blues band panned out. A more important consideration for Janis was proving herself to her parents. Growing up in Port Arthur [Texas], a Gulf coast oil town, and during her brief stab at college in Austin, she had always felt like a misfit. In San Francisco she found a band and a community that welcomed her, and made her feel like she belonged.  She wanted her parents to approve of her unconventional life. She had written to them enthusiastically about Big Brother in her first weeks with the group. Making a record would prove her contribution to the band was real. It would prove she could take a job and stick to it,

Big Brother’s music proved too out there for Bobby Shad. He wouldn’t allow the band in the control room during the final mix. Still, for all the hassles, the Mainstream deal and the Mother Blues gig did what the boys hoped they would do – they kept Janis in the group. After Mother Blues, she didn’t raise the subject of leaving the band again.

Big Brother recorded some songs at a studio in Chicago and more, later in the year, in Los Angeles. While they were in LA Mainstream put out two songs from Chicago sessions as a single that sank without a whimper. In May 67, Mainstream issued another single; the A-side, ‘Down on Me’, aroused some notice. All of this was before Monterey. After the band’s success at the Pop Festival, Mainstream scrambled to get out an album to capitalize on the publicity.

_________

This historic agreement—Janis Joplin’s first-ever record contract—is hand signed by Joplin, Peter Albin, Sam Andrew, James Gurley and David Getz of Big Brother, and countersigned by Mainstream owner Bob Shad.

While the seven-page contract, dated September 12, 1966, achieved the desired result of binding Janis Joplin to Big Brother, its terms were onerous, even by mid-sixties standards.  The group agreed to record enough masters (songs) for an album, and granted the label two additional one-year options if desired.  However, unusually, the group was paid no advance on royalties—they were merely promised “Union scale”—the minimum amount the union mandated musicians receive for each recording session.  And they received that only after each master was “accepted” by the label, and had to pay this back out of their royalties.

The contract comes from the archive of early Big Brother manager Julius Karpen.  In 1967, Karpen was fired and replaced by the far more experienced Albert Grossman, manager of Bob Dylan.  Grossman was soon negotiating with Columbia Records president Clive Davis, one of those greatly impressed by Big Brother’s Monterey Pop performances, to buy the group out of their Mainstream contract and sign Big Brother to the much bigger and more successful label.

It cost Columbia a fortune to get Joplin and Big Brother, but the band was fed up with Mainstream and Davis was desperate. As John Byrne Cooke recollected, “Shad demanded $250,000 to let Big Brother out of the contract and he is sitting in the catbird seat.  Columbia and Big Brother have no choice but to swallow their pride and pay him…Following the signing, Columbia throws a press reception for the band…The minions of the Fourth Estate buzz around Janis like flies on honey, ignoring the boys.  They feel left out, but…they sense that the next phase of their career is truly launched.”

Offered for sale with a telegram from Bob Shad to Julius Karpen regarding scheduling more recording sessions and the photographs used on Big Brother’s debut album, and an original Mainstream Records publicity photo of Big Brother.

 

Virtual Museum – 4 Mixing Session Master Tapes for the Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star/Born Cross-Eyed” / With 91 Mixes!

Here’s a remarkable Grateful Dead collectible we’ve just listed: a set of four 10″ 2-Track tapes from the mixing session of the ultra-rare Grateful Dead single, “Dark Star/Born Cross-Eyed,” with nearly two hours of unreleased–and very different–mixes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Dead collectors know, this single (with picture sleeve!) was issued in very limited numbers in fall 1968, in advance of the release of the Dead’s second album (and psychedelic masterpiece) Anthem of the Sun.  The single, as they say in England, failed to ‘trouble the charts’ and now regularly sells for more $500 to $700.

“Dark Star,” however, became a Dead Classic.  As Wikipedia notes: The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list and was ranked at number 57 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time…After 1973, “Dark Star” fell out of the normal rotation at Dead shows…Being present for a “Dark Star” performance became a “Holy Grail” for Deadheads. The song became so legendary that it was often referred to as “IT” by dedicated Heads. Knowing this, the Dead would sometimes tease the song’s introduction before switching into another song, finally bringing it back in the end of the seventies on New Year’s 1978, at the closing of Winterland.”

These four reels capture a live-in-the-studio mixing session where the band, during their most experimental period, demonstrate their complete lack of conventionality. The seventy nine (!) full or partial mixes of “Dark Star” and 12 of “Born Cross-Eyed” feature numerous fascinating experimental versions, mostly in mono, with various instruments dropping in and out, sound effects added or subtracted, vocals isolated, and tracks speeded-up or slowed-down.  Listening provides a fascinating glimpse into their working methods and willingness to try almost anything.

A more complete description of these unique tapes can be found here.  And if you don’t know Anthem of the Sun, do yourself a favor and check it out.  Whatever you think of the Dead, it’s a psychedelic classic of the highest order.

-Jeff Gold, October 5, 2021

Virtual Museum: Handbill for Bob Dylan at Gerde’s Folk City: The Most Important Shows of His Career?

Here’s a handbill advertising arguably the most important shows in Bob Dylan’s long career; his two-week stand opening for The Greenbriar Boys at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village. The first of these shows, on September 26, 1961, resulted in a rave review in The New York Times—the first article ever written about Dylan—and his signing to Columbia Records.

Howard Sounes writes in his Dylan biography Down the Highway: [Folk singer] Carolyn Hester decided to use backup musicians on her debut Columbia record and she suggested to [producer] John Hammond that Bob Dylan play harmonica.   Hammond independently asked the advice of Paddy Clancy [of the Clancy Brothers], who agreed he should give Bob a chance.  A rehearsal was arranged at an apartment in the Village.  “We were all seated around a kitchen table and John was seated next to Bob,” says Hester.  “Bob starts in on the harmonica and John turns and looks at him and couldn’t take his eyes off this character.”  When Hammond discovered that Bob wrote his own material, he said he would like to hear him.

Fortuitously Bob was about to play an important two-week residency at Gerde’s Folk City [opening for] John Herald’s bluegrass group, The Greenbriar Boys.  Robert Shelton had already decided to review the show for The New York Times… Many of Bob’s supporters were in the audience the opening night and he received such an enthusiastic reception he upstaged the more experienced Greenbriar Boys.  Afterward Bob went into the kitchen and gave [Sheton] his first press interview.   

The article was published in the Times on Friday, September 29, 1961, together with a photograph of Bob looking like Huckleberry Finn, under the headline BOB DYLAN: A DISTINCTIVE FOLK-SONG STYLIST.  It was an unprecedented plug for an unknown folksinger in the most influential newspaper in America, the very newspaper Bob’s father read.   

Shelton, almost ignoring the headlining Greenbriar Boys, began his review A bright new face in folk music is appearing at Gerde’s Folk City.  Although only twenty years old, Bob Dylan is one of the most distinctive stylists to play in a Manhattan cabaret in months…When he works his guitar, harmonica or piano, and composes new songs faster than he can remember them, there is no doubt that he is bursting at the seams with talent….Dylan’s voice is anything but pretty.  He is consciously trying to recapture the rude beauty of a Southern field hand musing in melody on his porch. All the ‘husk and bark’ are left on his notes and a searing intensity pervades his songs…Dylan’s highly personalized toward folk songs is still evolving.  He has been sopping up influences like a sponge…. His music-making has the mark of originality and inspiration, all the more noteworthy for his youth.  Mr. Dylan is vague about his antecedent and birthplace, but it matters less where he has been than where he is going, and that would seem to be straight up.”

Biographer Anthony Scaduto picks up the story in Bob Dylan:  The review simply amazed everyone, and it created some jealousy in folk circles.  None of the singers who’d been knocking themselves out had ever been treated to such an effusive bit of puffery by Shelton.  The critic was friendly with all the folkies in the Village, yet had never given any of their careers the boost he gave to Dylan…There was a good deal of backbiting about the review, but Dylan didn’t let that bother him.  He was totally ecstatic about it and carried it around in his pocket until it was falling to pieces. 

Carolyn Hester: The day of my recording session was the day the review was printed, and Dylan brought it with him.  He was absolutely delighted with it.  He would laugh and sort of shyly say something like he didn’t expect it and was so new in town and wasn’t that a bitch and wasn’t he lucky…And Hammond saw it.  We were in the studio working every day and I could see Hammond was getting more and more interested in him…the more Hammond saw of him the more impressed he got.

Hammond: So he came in and made some demos…and when I heard him I flipped.  I told him I wanted him to record for Columbia, and I had the contract drawn up.

And, as the cliché goes, the rest is history.

The exceptionally rare handbill also advertises a run of shows by blues legends Lonnie Johnson and Victoria Spivey.  Dylan wrote in Chronicles about learning a unique style of guitar from Johnson, while he recorded with Spivey and Big Joe Williams in March 1962.  Dylan used a photograph of himself with Spivey from those sessions on the back of his album New Morning.

Available at Recordmecca

Why I collect beat-up records owned by Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and members of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and Grateful Dead


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Mojo. It’s an early 20th century word meaning “a magic charm, talisman, or spell.”  Muddy Waters sang “Got my mojo working.”

And mojo is exactly why I collect records that were owned by my favorite musicians.

The music of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, the Grateful Dead and countless others has brought me immeasurable joy for many decades.  I often say music saved my life, gave me purpose, and it’s definitely been at the center of my career as a record executive, collector, dealer, archivist and author.

In the nearly 50 years since I traded a shopping bag full of baseball cards for my friend’s copy of Smash Hits by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, I’ve spent tens of thousands of hours (and a lot of money) tracking down rare records and music memorabilia, trying to capture just a little bit of the mojo of my favorite artists.

But let’s face it–records, concert posters, ticket stubs and the like don’t really connect you to the artists who made this incredible music.  An autograph…well, that’s a bit better, as Hendrix or Dylan actually held the thing they signed, if only for a moment.

But something really clicked when I went to the opening of Seattle’s Experience Music Project (now Museum of Pop Culture) in June 2000.  I was on a preview tour with some music executives and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (I’d worked with them at Warner Bros. Records, and they’d headlined the opening concert,) when we came to the museum’s incredible Jimi Hendrix exhibit.

Hendrix was my first record collecting obsession, and it was moving to see some of his instruments, clothing, and his handwritten diary.  But what really impressed me was a display of a dozen or so albums from Hendrix’s record collection.  The actual vinyl records he’d listened to and obsessed over.  The albums that inspired one of the greatest musicians of all time.  Call me crazy, but as a lifelong record collector (and non-musician,) it felt like these held a lot more of Hendrix’s mojo than any of outfit or guitar ever could.  But how could I ever hope to own some of Jimi Hendrix’s records…

Incredibly, the answer came almost exactly a year later.

On June 20, 2001 I stayed up until the wee hours to do some overseas telephone bidding in Bonhams and Brooks’ The Jimi Hendrix Auction.  One lot was 21 albums from Hendrix’s record collection, with provenance from his longtime girlfriend and flat-mate Kathy Etchingham.  I waited patiently, bid on some other things, but the records were what I HAD to win. When the time came, the bidding was surprisingly tepid, and I won Hendrix’s albums for a fraction of what I was prepared to pay.

When they arrived, they were what collectors euphemistically call “well loved” records; scuffed up and covered in fingerprints.  Ordinarily I would have cleaned them immediately.  But these were Jimi Hendrix’s records, with Jimi Hendrix’s fingerprints!  Cleaning them felt like sacrilege.  The fingerprints and wear were critical to the mojo. The collection included Hendrix’s own copy of Electric Ladyland, my favorite album of all time (there’s a famous photo of him appearing to bite this very copy, in the flat he shared with Etchingham.)  His copy of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits had a doodle on the back by Hendrix, which the auction housed somehow neglected to mention.  And the copy of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, from which he famously covered “Like a Rolling Stone,” had a few drops of Hendrix’s blood on the front cover, which Etchingham explained was the result of his breaking a wine glass.  Now that’s mojo! (There’s a pictorial essay on Hendrix’s collection in my book 101 Essential Rock Records.)

Hendrix with his copy of Electric Ladyland; it just looks like he’s biting it, but no teeth marks on the cover, unfortunately.

 

And so, it began.  Record collectors often have strange parameters to their collecting. My quirk was wanting to own the actual records that inspired my favorite artists—or their own personal copies of records they’d made. It’s as close as I’ll ever get to the mojo of these hallowed individuals.

As you might imagine, finding these is not easy.  At all. And being a stickler for authenticity, I only add something to my collection if I’m positive about the provenance.

My next big score came in 2006 when the late Suze Rotolo, Bob Dylan’s early 60s girlfriend (she’s with Bob on the cover of Freewheelin’,) sold her Dylan memorabilia at Christies.  I won the two albums I coveted, Blues anthologies to which Bob added his own handwritten inscriptions next to the liner notes.  On a Blind Boy Fuller compilation, he wrote “Drinked up and let out by Bob Dylan” and “Read thoroughly and with full throttle by Bob Dylan.”  On a Southern Blues anthology he added “Made for and about Bob Dylan” and “Hand read by Bob Dylan.”  Via the auction house, Rotolo told me he’d added those annotations as one might make notes in the margins of a book.  It later struck me that when he’d scribbled on these album covers, he’d only recently changed his name from Bob Zimmerman, and might have been just trying out his new name.

Dylan added to the liner notes on this Blind Boy Fuller album

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2014 I was able to purchase a collection of 149 Bob Dylan acetates, which had been owned by Dylan and used in the production of his albums Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait and New Morning, a discovery that went viral and was covered by The New York Times and many other media outlets.

Dylan-owned acetates of his album New Morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also acquired a small collection of Beatles and Apple 45s owned by Ringo Starr and his first wife, Maureen (via her second husband, Hard Rock Café co-founder Isaac Tigrett,) and a few of John Lennon’s Beatles albums, given to two of his employees.

Ringo’s Beatles and Ringo 45s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wonderful Martha Morrison, widow of the great Velvet Underground guitarist Sterling Morrison, sold me some of Sterling’s Velvets acetates, along with his own copies of their albums.  I bought an album from the collection of the great English folk singer Shirley Collins, from a friend who got it from her.  And when Jerry Garcia’s widow sold some of his possessions at auction, including his Grateful Dead acetates and test pressings, I was all in.

Jerry Garcia’s acetates of the Dead’s Skull & Roses album

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in 2018, and again this year, I was able to really score, buying some records from the collection—really, massive archive—of longtime Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman.

Bill is a world-class collector.  As a small child in London, he began collecting cigarette cards, World War II bullets, and anything else he could find.  His archive of Rolling Stones memorabilia is undoubtedly the most extensive collection of any musician or group in existence (I highly recommend the 2019 Wyman documentary, The Quiet One, which delves deeply into his collecting.) He’s written a number of books on topics as varied as the Stones, his friendship with the artist Marc Chagall, and his pursuits as a metal detecting enthusiast.

While doing some consulting for Bill, I was able to see his extensive record collection, and convince him to part with a few of his albums, including his UK first pressing of Hendrix’s Are You Experienced and The Beatles White Album.  So I now have Beatles records from the collections of two Beatles and one Stone!

A Beatles album owned by a Rolling Stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2020 Wyman sold over 1000 items from his still extensive archive at Juliens Auctions, and I was able to buy 24 lots of his records, including Stones test pressings and groupings of the blues and soul albums that influenced him.  Ever the collector, Bill often annotated his records on the sleeves with dates, and markings to indicate his favorite songs, etc.

With artist-owned records, conventional collecting criteria flies out the window. Usually, beat up records are worth a tiny fraction of what a mint copy might bring.  Any writing on an album cover is a major negative.  And an album without its proper cover?  Forget it!  However, with artist owned records, these ‘negatives’ become major positives.  Hendrix’s doodles and blood?  Wyman’s notations?  Sterling Morrison’s copies of the first Velvet Underground album and Loaded with home-made covers?

That’s major mojo!

Sterling Morrison’s copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico, with a sticker used to promote the third VU album

Sterling Morrison’s copy of Loaded, in a repurposed Buddy Holly cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, if anyone out there has a line on any artist-owned records, please let me know.

And if anyone is interested in beginning their own artist-owned record collection, I’m offering for sale a few albums owned by some of the above artists.  Because, after all, even I don’t need more than 100 of Bill Wyman’s records.

Take care!

Jeff Gold

December 30, 2020

Bonus trivia: After moving, Ringo leased his house at 34 Montague Square, London to Jimi Hendrix and Kathy Etchingham.  So it’s entirely possible that some of the Hendrix albums I own once lived at Ringo’s house.

Virtual Launch Event for ‘Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s’ Sunday Nov. 22, Pacific Time

Join me on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 1:00 PM Pacific Time for a virtual launch event for my new book, Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s. Mark Ruffin of SiriusXM’s Real Jazz will be interviewing me, followed by a question and answer session.  Signed books will be available.  Register here.

For more information, a video trailer, sample pages, early reviews and a playlist soundtrack visit SittinIn.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sittin’ In Jazz Club Book: Video Trailer and More Early Reaction

We’ve just posted a 3 1/2 minute video ‘trailer’ for Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s, which will give you an excellent idea of what my new book looks like (more info here.)

And here’s some more great pre-release reaction (see more in the previous post).

Vivid and beautiful

Los Angeles Times

Unprecidented…explores a seminal period in jazz culture, including how [jazz clubs] broke racial barriers

Jazziz

Fabulous; well thought out, beautifully put together and artfully done with superb taste…a treasure for all who care to know

Herb Alpert

Absolutely fascinating…a thoroughly entertaining, coherent, visually enticing package

Analog Planet

A revelation.  In these unique images of mid-century jazz clubs, the camera is turned on the audience–showing the hidden history of racial integration.

Jon Savage, Author of England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock and The Searing Light, the Sun, and Everything Else: Joy Division

It’s a stunner

Record Collector News

Early Reaction to New Book ‘Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s’, and Soundtrack/Playlist link

It’s less than three weeks until the November 17 release of my new book, Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s, and some great early feedback is coming in.

The book is based on a newly discovered archive of jazz club souvenir photographs and memorabilia.  Many jazz clubs of the era had in-house photographers who would photograph patrons at their tables, develop them quickly in on-site darkrooms, and offer them to customers for a dollar at the end of the evening.  Sometimes fans posed with the club’s performers, in a primordial version of today’s celebrity selfie.  The book also explores how these clubs were among the earliest places Black and white people could gather during the Jim Crow era, on stage and in audiences.

Actress Joan Davis and Duke Ellington with soldier, 400 Restaurant, NYC 1945

Charlie Parker with fans, Royal Roost, NYC 1945

The book features interviews with Quincy Jones and Sonny Rollins, who talk about playing these clubs in the 40s, legendary jazz critic Dan Morgenstern, who first went to New York clubs in 1947, musician/composter/educator Jason Moran, who speaks eloquently about what these images say to us today, and Pulitzer Prize winning critic Robin Givhan, who helps tease meaning from the photographs.  And my friend Tom ‘Grover’ Biery put together a great ‘soundtrack’ playlist for those who’d like to listen as they look.

The book website SittinIn.com features sample pages, a playlist/soundtrack and much more information.  In the meantime, here is some early feedback.

A great book…A story that needs to be told

-Sonny Rollins

Sittin’ In is in a word–exquisite. Meticulously laid out and extensively researched, it’s a deep dive into this amazing period of American cultural history. These venues and this amazing music were among the best vehicles for integration the country ever had. This was an America really making a go of bringing people together. It wasn’t legislation. It was Jazz. And it worked.  We are incredibly lucky to have Sittin’ In.

Henry Rollins, Musician/writer/performer

Jeff Gold’s vivid and beautiful Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s captures that heady time through photographs, evocative memorabilia and incisive text, including interviews with Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins and scholar Dan Morgenstern. The images set the scene, but the text tells the history of the hopping clubs that populated the major cities of America during those thriving years.

-Los Angeles Times

Without a doubt a MAJOR contribution to jazz history in so many ways…truly a must-have for anyone for whom swing is the thing.

-Loren Schoenberg, National Jazz Museum in Harlem

Any research project of this depth and breadth deserves celebration…So valuable, and so browsable. With inspired, insightful interviews with Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins, Jason Moran and others.

-Ashley Kahn, Author of Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece, A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album, and The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records

Charlie Parker’s Centennial, and My New Book on Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s

Jazz giant Charlie Parker was born August 29, 1920; one hundred years ago tomorrow.  The worldwide celebrations marking his centennial show just how much of a mark he made on music in his short 34 years on the planet.

Parker looms large in my forthcoming book, Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s (released Nov. 17 by Harper Collins).  I’ve just launched a website for the book with sample pages and excerpts, and a companion playlist but today I thought I’d share this fantastic photo of Bird posing with two fans at New York’s Royal Roost in the late 1940s.

I was incredibly fortunate to interview jazz giants Sonny Rollins and Quincy Jones for the book, and this photo is a small illustration of how, as they told me, jazz clubs were among the first places in Jim Crow America where Blacks and whites mixed, in audiences and on-stage.  Sonny said “jazz was really where the racial barriers were broken down heavily.”  Quincy offered “Back then, it wasn’t about color in the clubs, it was about how good you can play. Racism would’ve been over in the 1950s if they’d listened to the jazz guys.”

More on the book later.  Today, I’m going to listen to some Bird.

Jeff Gold

 

Hal Willner: A Remembrance

I’ve been meaning to write about the almost incomprehensible death of Hal Willner (of Covid-19 complications) since his passing on April 7, but to be honest, I couldn’t figure out what to say.  There have been some high profile obituaries and tributes (just google his name).  My wife just sent me Elvis Costello’s moving remembrance, and that finally got me typing.  Like Elvis, I’m taking the personal approach.

Hal with Soupy Sales’ original Pookie puppet, one of his proud possessions

[If you don’t know about Hal, the extraordinary record producer/impresario/raconteur/eccentric and longtime Saturday Night Live music supervisor, and the man who discovered Jeff Buckley, check out the 2017 New York Times article Hal Willner’s Vanishing, Weird New York.]

I first met Hal in 1984, when I was the assistant to A&M Records president Gil Friesen.  Part of my job involved turning Gil on to things I thought might be of interest to him. One day John Telfer, the manager of A&M artist Joe Jackson, mentioned Joe was doing a track for a Thelonious Monk tribute album produced by John’s friend Hal Willner.  At that time, Hal had only recorded a few tracks, and John was helping him find a home for it.  Hal had previously produced a Nino Rota tribute album with mostly jazz artists, but this time, he planned to use a more eclectic mix of rock and jazz artists.  I was intrigued.

I spoke to Hal to get more details before pitching it to Gil, who like myself was a jazz fan.  Though we knew it wasn’t going to sell millions of copies, it sounded like a great project, and something we wanted for A&M.  Pretty quickly we made a deal for the album—and Hal and I became friends.

We made three albums with Hal at A&M, and I think they are in some ways his ‘greatest hits’:  That’s The Way I Feel Now – A Tribute to Thelonious Monk (1984), Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill (1985), and the cumbersomely titled (more about that later) Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music From Vintage Disney Films (1988).  Each is a classic in its own way.  Yes, they had big names like Sting, Lou Reed and Tom Waits doing songs you’d never expect, but Hal loved cult heroes like Yma Sumac  and Sun Ra, and excelled at putting together oddball collaborations that somehow worked, teaming Bonnie Raitt with Was Not Was, and Ringo Starr with A&M co-founder Herb Alpert and NRBQ’s Terry Adams.

As expected, none of these were runaway bestsellers that spawned hit singles.  But they got great reviews, found an audience, and I think turned a bit of a profit.  And we loved Hal and were happy to be involved in supporting great projects like these.

Hal was anything but a traditional record producer; he was more like an alchemist.  A typical ‘producer’ might suggest changes to lyrics or an arrangement, or ask a musician to play a part differently. It seemed most of Hal’s work was done before entering the studio.  He’d figure out which songs he wanted for an album, and then cast them, with a ‘lead’ performer, and supporting musicians.  Hal relished mixing it up, teaming James Taylor with jazz musicians Branford Marsalis and John Scofield, or ‘word jazz’ poet Ken Nordine with guitarist Bill Frisell.  I was in the studio for a few of his sessions, and his vibe, there and elsewhere, was pretty relaxed.  He got everyone together and let the magic happen, maybe making a gentle suggestion, or asking for another take.  And it worked!  Those records sounded great then, and sound great now.

As many have noted, Hal was an endearing oddball and a master raconteur.  Here’s just one great Hal story.

Hal decided his next album would be a tribute to songs from Disney movies—“I Wanna Be Like You” from Jungle Book, “Heigh Ho” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” from Song of the South, etc.

He was pretty far along with recording when he came to see me to talk about the album cover (by this time, I’d been promoted to vice president of marketing and creative services).  We were excited about the project, and Hal casually let slip that the people at Disney, ahem, might not be sharing our enthusiasm.  In fact the lawyers at Disney viewed their copyrights and trademarks as sacrosanct, their holy grails, and weren’t into some weirdo New York record producer putting together a tribute album with a bunch of musicians they’d never heard of.  I’ll never forget Hal telling me the Disney business affairs lawyer he met with had a sign on his desk that said, in reference to Disney’s most important character, “Don’t Mess With the Mouse”.

That explains the legalese of the album title: Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films.  This was not to be mistaken for a Disney project.  I remember a particularly tense meeting with Hal, the Disney and A&M lawyers, and our marketing staff, where we learned we could absolutely, positively use NO images from any Disney anything on the album cover or in any marketing materials.  Great, we thought–a Disney based project, and we could barely use the name Disney in marketing or even describing it.

Happily, a few days later, while perusing fine art catalogs looking for inspiration, I had the miraculous good fortune to find a painting by Rodney Allen Greenblat that matched the album’s vibe and title perfectly.  Hal liked it and somehow we were able to license it.  Phew.

Hal popped up in major events in my life too.  In 1984, I met my future wife, Jody Uttal, at my friend Steve Martin’s house (the filmmaker, not the comedian; Steve later became one of Hal’s closest friends.) Literally minutes into the first conversation Jody and I ever had, we discovered we both knew Hal.

Four years later, Jody was pregnant with our first child, Ella.  The day before Jody’s due date, Sting was headlining the Forum.  We planned on going, but our contingency plan was to give the tickets to Hal and Steve, who checked in with us throughout the day.  Eventually Jody started having contractions, and Hal came and got the tickets; he was the last person we saw before heading to the hospital (thirteen years later they both came to Ella’s bat mitzvah, but that’s another story.)

And then Hal became our (occasional) neighbor. In 1998, I left the world of record labels, and our trips to New York (and hangs with NY-based Hal) became less frequent.  A few years later, we moved from Santa Monica to Venice, and a few years after that I was stunned to run into Hal around the corner from our house.  It turned out he had rented a guest house about a block from us, to use as his west coast base (I believe he had it until the end).

Hal had a incalculable number of friends and projects, not to mention his wonderful wife Sheila and son Arlo, and his ‘day job’ at Saturday Night Live– so he didn’t make it out here as often as he liked.  But when you’d least expect it, Hal would materialize with no warning.  Sometimes there would be a text or a call, but more often than not, we’d hear a loud banging on our window, open the shade, and there would stand Hal.  He’d come in, and we’d start right back up, usually for at least an hour or two.  I’ll never forget the last time—my wife called from downstairs that Hal had dropped by.  I came down to find Hal, fresh from a swim at the nearby beach, in swim trunks and flip flops and nothing else, dripping wet.  His rickety bicycle was parked in our yard.  I went upstairs and got him a t-shirt, which I told him he could keep.  It’s such a great image to have for our last Hal sighting.

Hal always wanted to see my latest musical finds (I collect and sell rare records & music memorabilia).  In the past few years I remember a deep dive into a huge jazz memorabilia collection I’d bought, and a previously unknown Lenny Bruce tape.  Lenny was one of Hal’s heroes, and he helped me figure out where and when the tape was recorded

I never visited his famous NYC studio, but from the photos, his Venice guest house looked pretty similar.  Every surface was overflowing with precarious piles of cds, books, ephemera, things falling off tables, a huge chaotic framed print on the wall, inscribed to Hal by his great friend Ralph Steadman.

Here’s a text exchange from a few years ago:

Me: Are you around?  “

Hal: Yes-but I got a fucking acting gig as a Jerry Rubin character in “Documentary now”!  Strange – you around this weekend?”

Hal as a “Jerry Rubin character”

Hal was very close with Lou Reed, who I’d worked with at Warner Bros. Records in the 90s, and who could be very difficult.  He was also friendly with Gail Zappa, Frank Zappa’s wife, who had a similar reputation.  In a text conversation, Gail’s name had come up, and Hal wrote “So weird that I got on well with people that no one else did and didn’t get on with people that…well…”

I think that was a reference to the more mainstream music business.  Hal kvetched about how, despite all the acclaim his projects received, he’d never get hired by major artists to produce their albums.  I’d remind him that he’d staked his territory as someone who made wonderful art projects, not million sellers, and as fantastic as his projects were, the mainstream record labels craved million sellers.

He knew, but…

In my modern Buddhist worldview, people live on in those they loved, taught or in some way touched.  It’s a tragedy he’s gone.  I can’t imagine what it’s like for Sheila and Arlo.  Jody and I send them all our love.  But the incredible outpouring of love and appreciation for Hal and his work shows just how much he was valued.  And how much he’ll be missed.  I think he would have been blown away.

Happily Hal left a lot of tangible work behind (including a fine Mingus tribute and most recently, two various artist compilations of sea shanties).  This is music that absolutely would not have existed if not for Hal’s passion, creativity, and vision.  So let’s celebrate his time on earth, listen to the records he made, and remember the late but absolutely great Hal Willner.

Jeff Gold

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the star studded Saturday Night Live tribute to Hal.

 

 

Fake Sealed Records With Hype Stickers Proliferate on Ebay

Hello everyone, I hope you’re all well, washing your hands frequently, and staying sane.

I’ve been meaning to write about the proliferation of fake sealed records being offered on EBay, particularly ones with bogus “hype stickers”.

Resealed records have always been a problem.  In the 70’s, I was friendly with an employee at Tower Records on the Sunset Strip, which had a shrink wrap machine in the back room, and a general manager who claimed “there’s no such thing as a defective record.”  I was in Tower’s back room any number of times while employees resealed “defective” records that had been returned to the store. These machines would seal records in loose plastic wrap, and then employees would ‘shrink’ the wrap by quickly moving an industrial strength hair dryer back and forth over the shrink.

Of course shrink wrap machines were used for legitimate reasons too, primarily by US record stores to seal expensive import albums, which were sold in Europe unsealed.  ‘Imports’ sold for premium prices, so stores ‘loose sealed’ them, for protection, and to identify them as imports.

Knowing how easy it is to reseal a record, I’ve never understood why people pay high prices for ‘sealed’ albums.  The same goes for open albums with intact shrink wrap–when I was a teenager, we used to slide the shrink wrap off albums we didn’t care about, and ‘transplant’ it onto other records we wanted to protect.

As prices for sealed records rose dramatically, so did fraud, with unscrupulous sellers resealing clean records and selling them as ‘factory sealed’.  Sometimes they would make fake ‘breathe holes’ in the shrink too.  When I saw an expensive ‘sealed’ record I wanted for myself at a store or record show, I’d buy it with the understanding that I could open it in front of the seller, to insure it was in mint condition, and not a ‘re-seal.’

In the past 10 years or so, people have also begun to pay premium prices for sealed albums with ‘hype stickers’, the record store or distributor stickers usually with wording to the effect of “Featuring the hit single…”  And of course with premium prices, again came fraud.

For the past few years, a number of sellers on Ebay have been getting very high prices for a seemingly unending supply of ‘sealed’ albums with ‘rare hype stickers’.  Sometimes these stickers are ‘previously unknown’.  There’s a good reason for that–it’s because the vast majority are fake.

It’s not that difficult to find a clean copy of a scarce album to reseal.  Then with a scanner and desktop printer, it’s easy to either reproduce a rare sticker, or with a modicum of design talent, create your own ‘previously unknown’ sticker.  And that’s exactly what is happening, on a relatively large scale.  Every week I see lots of resealed albums with fake stickers selling on EBay, and shake my head at the poor people who are getting taken.

This has been a big topic of conversation among dealers, including my good friend Gary Johnson, of Rockaway Records.  Gary recently sent me an EBay listing for a supposedly ‘sealed’ album with a rare hype sticker and a Rockaway price tag, noting  “I assume that the only real thing in this listing is my 2018 price sticker.”  He noted some of these sellers “attach genuine vintage record store price stickers on their supposedly sealed albums to give the buyer “confidence”, but the reality is that it is simple (and common) to remove these stickers from other LPs in shrink wrap and place them on their “sealed” ones.  It amazes me how these guys keep finding new suckers. All one needs to do is look at the seller’s other items and see an amazing amount of sealed albums. None of them have any relationship to each other (same label, store, etc). Common sense should prevail, but I guess it doesn’t.”

I agree. There’s no easy way to tell if a record is resealed or a sticker is fake from a small internet photo.  But I encourage everyone to be exceedingly skeptical.  Check the seller’s feedback, past sales, and other items; if they’re offering many other similarly rare sealed albums with stickers, that’s a big red flag.  I’ve been collecting records for nearly 50 years and can promise you, these just aren’t that common.  Look at how long the seller has been in business.  A few of the sellers of fakes have changed their Ebay ID, more than once.  And most important, as I always say, any honest seller will happily give you a written lifetime guarantee of authenticity. If you’re buying something expensive, insist on this.

I’ve written about the proliferation of fake acetates on EBay.  Fake sealed records with bogus ‘hype stickers’ are becoming a big problem too.  There are of course genuine sealed albums with hype stickers.  But I wouldn’t be buying them off Ebay without spending some time vetting the seller, making sure they don’t have an endless supply, seeing if they’ve sold rarities other than sealed albums, and most important, insisting on a written lifetime guarantee of authenticity.

The great Richard Morton Jack of Flashback Magazine has written a highly recommended post about this topic, with illustrations, on his Galactic Ramble blog.

Stay safe and healthy everybody!

Jeff Gold

3/31/20

 

Another Jimi Hendrix First Pressing Myth Debunked: The UK Polydor Red/Black Logo “Hey Joe” 45 Is a Second Pressing

OK record nerds, time for more Hendrix pressing minutiae. For many decades, like most of the rest of the world (or at least Hendrix collectors) I accepted the conventional wisdom that the first pressing of Hendrix’s 1966 debut single, “Hey Joe/Stone Free” on UK Polydor had red labels and a black and white logo.  Yes, there were a bunch of variants, with punch out or solid centers, and ones that credited to either “Jimi Hendrix”, “Jimi Hendrix Experience” or “The Jimi Hendrix Experience”, but the version with the red label and black and white logo was by all accounts the earliest pressing (we’ll ignore those variations here, for everyone’s sanity).

A few years ago I saw a copy on Discogs that had a textured label that looked darker red, with an all black logo instead of the black/white one.  I shrugged it off, thinking it must be a printing error, but something about it stuck in my mind.  One day I decided to see if I could find other Polydor 45’s with that unusual label.  “Hey Joe” has the catalog number Polydor 56139, so I just started putting Polydor numbers lower than that into the Discogs database, and soon found 45’s by Valerie Masters (56135) and Normie Rowe (56132) with the same darker red/black type label.  So it wasn’t a mistake!

FIRST PRESSING WITH ALL BLACK LOGO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SECOND PRESSING, WITH BLACK/WHITE LOGO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching in the other direction, I found the Polydor single released immediately after Hendrix’s debut, Wee Willie Harris’ “Listen to the River Roll Along” had the familiar black label with the red/white logo.  Voila!  The first pressing of “Hey Joe/Stone Free” was clearly the last Polydor single issued with the all black logo label.  When it became a hit, Polydor repressed the single on their “new” labels, with the red/white logo.

VALERIE MASTERS 45, ISSUED JUST BEFORE “HEY JOE”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEE WILLIE HARRIS, ISSUED IMMEDIATELY AFTER “HEY JOE”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I know this is trivia, but it interested me, as I’m sure it will some of you. If you are one of those people, here are links to two posts debunking the popular myth that the first pressings of Electric Ladyland are the ones with the blue type.

Now back to the real world!

Jeff Gold

July 16, 2019

 

 

RIP Gary Stewart: Music Icon, Social Justice Warrior, and Great Human Being

It’s been two weeks since Gary Stewart, my dear friend of 44 years, took his own life, and I’m still trying to process it. We met as teenage college students and music fanatics; I was a clerk at the Rhino Records Store in Westwood and Gary was an enthusiastic customer. He was a management trainee at McDonald’s, but eventually we convinced him to come work at the store, and our deep discussions about music continued for the rest of his life.

Me (left) and Gary (right) promoting DIY artist R.Stevie Moore; outside the Rhino store, late 1970’s.

Miraculously, we both went on to have successful careers in the music business.  Gary eventually became senior vice president of A&R for the Rhino label, and has been acknowledged as probably the greatest compiler of reissues and box sets ever (his LA Times obituary notes he is credited on over 700 albums).  In 2003 Steve Jobs hired Gary as chief music officer at Apple, where he curated iTunes’ offerings and oversaw their ‘Essentials’ playlists.  He left Apple in 2011, and launched Trunkworthy, a movie/tv/music recommendation website.  The name referenced his car’s trunk, filled with cd’s and dvd’s he thought people NEEDED, and his habit of forcing them on even casual acquaintances. He returned to Apple in 2016 for another run at curating their catalog, and left last year.  I still laugh about his career arc—even in his earliest days at the Rhino store, he was a huge fan of ‘Greatest Hits’ albums.  In an odd way, he made that artform his life’s work.

Gary was also a social justice warrior; incredibly committed to the underserved and underrepresented, through philanthropy and his very active participation in organizations dedicated to fairness and equality, particularly Liberty Hill, Community Coalition and Laane.

As befitting the passing of a beloved music business legend, obituaries honoring Gary appeared in the New York Times, Billboard, The Los Angeles Times and many other publications.

But I keep thinking these tell the story of Gary the music icon and committed activist–not Gary the person.  The Gary I knew was a big, sometimes awkward, occasionally goofy guy. He remembered dates like nobody I’ve ever known: “Sparks at the Santa Monica Civic?  That was December 3 & 4, 1975. They opened the show with…”  He had more friends and acquaintances than anyone I’d ever met. There were 400 people at his 60th birthday party.  I don’t think I could have paid that many people to come to mine.

Loyal to his friends, generous beyond measure, dependable as can be, when I think of Gary I think: reliable, insightful, committed, perfectionist, unwilling to settle, occasionally guarded, vulnerable, obsessive, brilliant, excited, voracious, neurotic, self-effacing, beloved.  As my wife Jody would say, Gary was dear.

At the 2010 Rhino store reunion; l-r Rhino’s Garson Foos, me, Gary.

The thing I’ll miss most is hugging that big bear of a man and our obsessively nerding out about music. I have lots of music fanatic friends, but I can’t think of anyone I’ve talked to more about music than Gary. When we first met, I knew much more than he did about music and records. But pretty quickly his musical knowledge overtook mine in a big way. His taste was so broad and encyclopedic, his interests so all encompassing. Gary listened to everything, read incessantly, remembered everything, was always looking for new music, and went to shows many times each week. His passion seemed to know no bounds.

As we aged, and his interests broadened to incorporate films, plays, television and movies, Gary was forever trying to get me to listen to new things, watch new TV shows, check out movies, etc.  When Apple hired him for the first time, he took his signing bonus and bought 150 box sets of the first season of ‘The Wire’ and sent them to his friends.  Crazy?  Absolutely.  But I had to admit, I’d never seen it, and once I’d watched it became one of my favorite television shows ever.

As a record collector and dealer, I always have more records in my ‘to listen to’ stack than I have time for, along with a pile of unread books, magazines, and a list of movies I’m interested in.  Gary was always trying to turn me on to new things, but I protested.  “Gary”, I’d say, “I don’t have enough time to listen to and watch what I already have”.  If I’m watching a movie, tv show, or listening to a record, and I’m not loving it, I move on to the next thing.  Gary would NEVER do that.  He always found something interesting in everything.  Eventually he came up with a line about me – – “for you it’s got to be an A”. Exactly right.  But for Gary, everything had something to offer.

I’m so glad we were able to spend an evening together the week before he died. We had dinner, went to see The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (an unreleased tv special from 1968), and sat in the theatre lobby and talked for more than an hour.  We discussed his present state of mind, his depression (my term; more about that below) and of course music. He said he was doing better, and seemed like it. We A&R’d the acts in the movie in detail—we agreed The Who were the best thing in it, and for Gary, his favorite 60’s group. We were both surprised at how good Taj Mahal was, and disappointed in how ho-hum the Stones were (they went on at 2 AM and were exhausted, though Gary was more forgiving than me, happy to see them performing Beggar’s Banquet material live).  We were surprised to see in the credits that the guitarist playing with Jethro Tull was Tony Iommi, who soon went on to Black Sabbath. That led to a long riff about which bands the casual music fan would be able to name all the members of—something we both were amazed we’d never thought about before (we decided: Beatles & Stones yes, The Who maybe, but not many beyond that).  I told him about the time a few years ago when I interviewed Pete Townshend for a Joan Jett documentary; and we both, once again, acknowledged how lucky we were to have met and worked with some of our musical heroes.  It was like hundreds of conversations we’d had over so many years. Eventually our energy faded, we headed to the parking lot, I gave him a hug and a kiss, told him I loved him, and we headed to our cars. Never for a second did I think this would be the last time I’d see him. But it was.

I will miss Gary for the rest of my life. But I’m fucking glad I got to know him and spend so much time with him for so many years.

Jeff Gold

April 27, 2019

I’m working with Richard Foos and Harold Bronson on an event celebrating Gary; to be added to the mailing list email garystewartmemorial@gmail.com

I wrote this on April 12 after hearing Gary had died:

I met Gary circa 1975, when I was a clerk at Rhino Records, and he was a customer.  We became close friends pretty quickly, and eventually I was able to convince him to leave his job at McDonalds (he was a management trainee) to join us at the Rhino store.  Gary had confided in me about his struggles, and I wanted to write this for his friends.

Just so everyone knows, Gary knew how much he was loved. He may have brushed it aside when told so, but he knew it. A few months ago at lunch we had a very frank discussion—he was depressed, lamenting not having a job, relationship, having spent too much of his Apple money and not knowing what the next chapter of his life was. He was obviously suffering, but didn’t sound remotely without hope.  I emphasized to him how unique and employable he was, knowing an impossibly lot about music, and having come from Apple, and that there would be many companies that would want to know about their inner workings. We spent a long time brainstorming ideas for a new job (he took notes), and he referred to his next chapter in subsequent email as Gary 4.0.  I invited him to write something for my blog which he wanted to do and was working on. I told him again and again how beloved he was and how much good karma he had.  He also told me that he owned his house and had enough money for at least 10 or 15 years, and that he was cutting back on going out and spending to make it last.  He was fully engaged in finding solutions to his issues, and wrote me the next day “And yes, I know just how ok I am-and how much, on every level, I’ve got-I always have really.”  A week or so later he wrote apologized for not getting the blog post to me sooner, saying he was working on it and ’that’s on top of two networking calls/meetings a day-with exercise and meditating thrown in for good measure.

I followed up with him regularly; he went on a meditation retreat (which he didn’t love that much, but was doing more meditating on his own), and he was definitely getting mental health care,   He alluded to a medical thing, but told me it wasn’t serious, and that he was fine.

Last week we had dinner, went to see the Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus film in a theater, and sat in the lobby for an hour or so afterward talking. He was again upfront about what was going on, and seem to be somewhat better, and said he was. We talked about ketamine being approved for depression, and I think he was going to ask his therapist about it.  I am pretty sure he told me he was seeing his psychiatrist the next day and was going to discuss changing his anti depressant,  but I’m not positive about that.  We discussed and I sent him a link to an Israeli film on a study where PTSD survivors were dramatically helped with MDMA/ecstasy. He wrote me an email this Monday telling me he really enjoyed it, and how it gave him a deeper understanding into a similar therapy a friend of his had tried.

I’m writing this to let his friends know that Gary knew he was depressed, had reached out to me, and I’m sure to others, was talking about it, trying to find a solution, and getting mental health care.  In no way did I think he was suicidal, but obviously I was wrong. But he was doing his best to try to help himself.  Gary was always working on himself, trying to be a better person, of service to his friends and humanity at large.

I loved Gary and always will. In my modern Buddhist worldview, reincarnation isn’t about being reborn into a new body.  It’s about how the departed continue to live on in those they loved, taught, or touched in some way, and how their energy is carried forward by those they leave behind.   I can’t think of anyone who put more great energy into the world, and so Gary will be reincarnated in each of us.

Dylan Signed Items: The Real and The Fake (A Warning)

A large percentage of the items we see advertised as  having been signed or inscribed by Bob Dylan are forgeries.  We’ve seen many fake signed albums, inscribed albums, magazine pages and handwritten lyrics offered online*.  Some are being offered by shady dealers, and others from reputable sellers with no idea they are selling fakes.  Just this week we were sent a list from a reputable seller offering multiple forgeries.  Some of these “lyrics” have even displayed in exhibitions as authentic Dylan handwritten manuscripts–but they are most certainly not.

We always advise potential buyers to insist on a written lifetime guarantee of authenticity.  Any reputable seller will be happy to provide this. If a seller will not, that should be a huge, flashing day-glo fluorescent red flag.

For those who enjoy the real thing, here’s an extremely rare clipping from the UK radio and television guide Radio Times, listing the poorly documented BBC-TV play The Madhouse on Castle Street, boldly signed in 1963 by one of its stars, Bob Dylan.

 

Wikipedia notes The Madhouse on Castle Street was broadcast by BBC Television on the evening of 13 January 1963…The production featured the young American folk music singer Bob Dylan, who soon became a major musical star.  The play was made with electronic video cameras, although recorded onto film rather than tape. The only known copy of the play was junked in 1968, as was the standard practice of the time, despite the fact that Dylan and lead actor David Warner were by then famous. Although extensive searches have been made by the BBC, only partial audio recordings of four songs sung by Dylan survive….[Director Philip] Saville had seen Bob Dylan performing in New York City in 1962, and in December that year he contracted Dylan to come to London for three weeks to star in Madhouse on Castle Street, in spite of Dylan’s complete lack of acting training or experience. This was the performer’s first trip outside of North America.  Dylan was originally supposed to have played the leading role in the play, but during rehearsals it became apparent that he lacked the ability to learn lines – stating that he would rather “express himself in song” – was lax in his time keeping, and would often wander off to smoke cannabis…Dylan performed songs commenting on the action in the manner of a Greek chorus as the new character Bobby, essentially playing himself. At the conclusion of the play, Dylan performed “Blowin’ in the Wind”,  one of the first major public performances of the song.

This  clipping, dated January 10, 1963, is a review of the broadcast, which ends “Appearing as Bobby the hobo is Bob Dylan, brought over from America especially to play the part.  Only twenty-one, he is already a major new figure in folk-music, with a reputation as one of the most compelling blues singers ever recorded.  The song for which he is best known is ‘Talkin’ New York,’ about his first visit to the city in 1961.  A skilled guitarist, his special kind of haunting music forms an integral part of tonight’s strange play.”

This is the only example of this article we’ve seen.  At the time of his appearance, Dylan had only released his self-titled debut album and despite the hype of the article, was largely unknown.  (We have sold this but wanted to post it for interested fans.)

[Recordmecca’s Jeff Gold examined over 5000 Dylan handwritten items while appraising The Bob Dylan Archive for his management.  He continues to be astounded at the amount of fake Dylan material out there.]

*Happily, as far as we know, there have been no forgeries of Dylan’s signed lithographs.

For those interested, some older posts here:

Dylan Memorabilia Lawsuit Settled

Autographs, Forgeries, Forensics and Autograph Experts

R.I.P. Robert Matheu, Photographer, Music Historian, Author and Friend

Yesterday was a terribly sad day, the memorial service for my friend Robert Matheu, rock photographer, raconteur, author, music historian and above all loving family man.  With his wife Sheryl he had three beautiful young daughters, Ruby, Rose and Veronica.  Bob died of an accidental drowning on September 21, at the age of 63.

Bob was from Detroit and his first love was the music from that city, most of all The Stooges and the MC5.  We met a decade or so ago, I think through his project to re-launch the legendary Detroit rock magazine Creem, and his book Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine.  Bob was also the author The Stooges: The Authorized and Illustrated Story.

Bob’s Stooges book was a pictorial and written appreciation of the band that invented Punk, with essays on the group’s history by a collection of respected critics and writers.  Some years later, I decided to do my own book on the Stooges, but from a different perspective, based primarily on long interviews I’d done with Iggy Pop, and a collection of rare Stooges memorabilia.

When I told Bob about my project, he couldn’t have been more supportive, helpful, and available.  He was an expert on the band and had been around for  much of their history, so I convinced my publisher to hire him to help me forensically research and clear photographs.  We spent many hours analyzing who had taken uncredited photos, searching for photographers, turning up previously unpublished pictures, and analyzing where images had been shot.  I remember Bob pointing out a snake armband that Iggy had apparently worn only once, at the Ford Auditorium show in Detroit in 1973, which nailed down where a group of photos had been taken.  I though it extraordinary that here was a guy who had written his own book on a subject near and dear to his heart, graciously and generously helping me get it right on my project, which in some minimal way would compete with his.

Iggy with his snake armband, at the Stooges March 27, 1973 show at Detroit’s Ford Auditorium. This was their first show after the release of Raw Power. Photo by Robert Matheu.

Here’s a great example of a classic Bob story.  While putting my book together, Bob sent me this 1981 photo he took backstage at the Second Chance Saloon in Ann Arbor, at one of Iggy’s Solo shows.

Iggy is posing with his former Stooges bandmates, a barely recognizable Scott Asheton and his brother Ron.  When I asked Bob about the photo, he deadpanned  “When the Stooges reformed, Ronnie said over and over in interviews that he hadn’t spoken to Iggy since 1974.  When I showed him this photo, he said ‘sure, I was there, doesn’t mean I spoke to him’”.  Naturally, that quote became the caption in the book.

Iggy’s authorized action figure based on a photograph by Robert Matheu.

I feel very lucky to have known Bob, and am still somewhat in shock that this vital, funny, talented, helpful and loving guy is gone.  You can see some of Bob’s photographs at Camerapress, RockPaperPhoto, and on his website, which also has poignant remembrances  by his daughter Ruby and friend Brian J. Bowe.  Also well worth your time are pieces on Bob by our longtime mutual friend Heather Harris in  DetroitRockNRoll Magazine and her FastFilm blog.

Bob, you are already missed.  You made a lot of people happy, and lucky for us, we have the indelible memories, stories, photographs, and most important your family who carry on your legacy.  Rest in peace.

Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland – PROOF The UK White Type Version Is the First Pressing, and the Blue Type Came Later

For years, Hendrix collectors have argued about which version of the UK Electric Ladyland came first–the one with the white type or the blue type.

In 2014, I posted what I hoped would be the final word on what I called ‘The Blue Type Hype’,  about the mistaken notion that the blue type version was the earliest 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’re a glutton for punishment, you can read my earlier posts on this topic here and here.

Here’s the short version:  The white type version came first.  In the earlier posts, I cite numerous reasons why, including testimony from UK collector Edwin Pouncey, who bought the white type version on the day of release; and my discussions with David King, who designed the cover, and told me the white version was the original, and the blue version came about because Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding were upset about the small size of their photos inside the gatefold.  The blue type version was an attempt to mollify them, done by the printer, and though it featured larger photos of Mitchell and Redding, it had flawed blue type, so eventually Track Records reverted back to the original version with the white type and smaller pictures of Mitch and Noel.

First version: White type, smaller photos

Second version: mottled blue type, larger photos

Despite this, people still argued, prompted by misguided (and worse) Ebay sellers insisting that the blue came first.  And then…a few weeks ago, wandering the internet, I found a post by the esteemed UK music writer and archivist Richard Morton Jack, with a clipping from the November 16, 1968 issue of UK music paper Top Pops, which features an Electric Ladyland display in the window of  the London boutique I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet, just as the album was released.  As I stared at the photo,  I realized this clipping provided definitive proof the white version came first.

From Top Pops, November 1968

How?  If you double click on the scan above, in the lower left corner of the photo you’ll see the inner gatefold of some copies of Electric Ladyland in the display, and they are clearly the white type version, with the smaller photos of Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell.  When I wrote Richard about this, he graciously sent me another photo of the window, where it’s even easier to see the inner gatefolds (with white type/smaller photos) of three albums.

Look at the albums in the lower left corner

The smaller photos & white type clearly visible in a close up

So there you have it.  Definitive photographic evidence from an Electric Ladyland display in London, published just a few weeks after the album’s release. While this confirms what the album’s designer told me, and Edwin Pouncey’s first person account, I have no doubt I’ll get emails from people with some twisted rationale for how it can’t be true.  But it is true.  As Public Enemy said, “Don’t believe the hype.”

Jeff Gold

July 6, 2018

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