Saturday, February 26, 2011

Below are four never-before-seen photos of Alex in action at McVan's in Buffalo in June of 1979. I didn't even know these photos existed until a few weeks ago. They were taken by the late Lynn Adams, a photographer and part of the Buffalo music scene back then. She passed away several years ago and right before this past Christmas her mother called a friend of mine and told her that she was going through Lynn's archives and came across some photos that might be of interest. Included were photos of Buffalo appearances by Patti Smith, Blondie, and Iggy Pop along with these photos of Alex.

I find these photos to be really captivating and not because I was standing a few feet to Alex's right. These shots were taken very early in our set...probably in the first song. It was really hot that night and within a few songs we had taken off everything but our t-shirts (see photos in the book). I love how Alex has a pencil behind his ear. Combined with the sport jacket, he looks like he's about to settle in for an afternoon of reading and taking notes. Here we were, playing twenty-plus songs with no rehearsal at a time when Alex had a reputation for chaos and yet there's an analytical look to him that lets you know that there was a lot of method behind his purported musical madness. In the book I describe how Alex and Peter LaBonne started to trade solos in the first song (Bourgeois Blues) and things really started to click. You can almost see Alex start to listen to what Peter was doing and say to himself..."This is going to be a pretty interesting evening..."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A few random notes... If you haven't been to Chris Stamey's site for his Big Star Third project, head on over right now. A must read (and follow). Thanks, Chris ! (One of the little sidebars I left out of the book was that in October of 1977 I was in NYC for a month and went to Chris's apartment twice to interview him for Big Star magazine. He was playing with Alex at the time. The interview never ran because Bernie Kugel ran out of money for the magazine. Less than two years later I would get to play with Alex because Chris had walked away from a semi-chaotic gig in Austin with Alex, leaving the opportunity for my friend Peter LaBonne to jump onstage and start the wheels rolling. And many years later, Chris's then girlfriend, who remembered me coming to the apartment, married a really good friend of mine, Erroll. Erroll worked at the New York Public Library with a woman I'd gone to college with. One day he mentioned that he had a friend (me) who had this friend named Peter who made all this wild music. His co-worker flipped out because Peter was her cousin. You got all that? A lot of strange intersections of lives going on...)

On Grammy day, I'd like to say that I wish producers like T-Bone Burnett would take five years off. I'm sick of these guys who have a sound (which gets the critical seal of approval for supposedly being "retro") which they then impose on the artist or at the very least surround them with. Sort of like setting a gemstone in jewelry you create. The recent Gregg Allman album sent me over the edge on this. I respect Greg mightily. Love the ABB. His first solo album (Laid Back) is a classic. But I want to hear Greg's band (killer) with Greg picking the songs and then the producer bringing out the best from the band, not the producer calling all the shots with his pet legend of the month subjected to a predictable smooshy swampy sound of cool vintage instruments and amps. It's like a great looking meal that in the end doesn't satisfy. Which I guess is why I like producers / engineers like Jimmy Miller, Andy Johns, Glyn Johns, Bill Szymczyk, George Martin, and John Fry. The guys who made the band sound great on their own terms.

I just got a batch of previously unseen photos of Alex performing at McVan's. Will scan and put up a few soon. There's a great photo of Alex performing with a pencil behind his ear. The photos were taken during the first song we played (Bourgeois Blues) as he still has on his sport coat and sweater. It was really hot and we were soon down to t-shirts. You can almost sense Alex looking over at Peter during one of his first solos and thinking "hmmm....this is going to be a fun night."