Friday, September 13, 2019

Okay, B-Sides is officially published. There are a lot of interesting chapters in the book. I'll highlight some of my favorites over the next few weeks but will start off by tipping my cap (and a draft beer) to Joe Bonomo for writing about Hank Thompson's Smokey The Bar. If you're not familiar with Hank (and his ace group, the Brazos Valley Boys), he's a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame who specialized in a sophisticated fine-tuned country swing sound that went back to Bob Wills.  He had a lot of hits in the 50s and 60s (more than Wills) and was still active into the early 21st century.  If you've seen the movie Crazy Heart, the Jeff Bridges character "Bad Blake" was modeled after Hank Thompson in his later career after the Brazos Valley Boys disbanded and Hank's commercial star descended.  Hank would tour like Chuck Berry, working with local bands without rehearsal. That would explain why the concert I saw in 1989 was really cringeworthy. I probably owned several dozen Hank records and was totally psyched to see him live.  But the back-up band was clueless and tried to render themselves invisible as the (mercifully brief) set unfolded. Regardless, do yourself a favor and dial up some classic Hank over the weekend.  You'll be glad you did.  (Unfortunately, Smokey The Bar has never been reissued as near as I can tell. But Dance Ranch is a great starting point.)

Which brings me to my main topic can you hear the Springsteen show I wrote about?  For quite a long time, it was available in its entirety on YouTube but it seems to have disappeared recently.  Not sure why that would happen as there are tons of Springsteen postings on YouTube.  Bruce Inc. seems to have given up long ago trying to prevent uploads of independent origin.  When I took my son to see Bruce in the early 2000s, someone on Bruce's crew had a fit that my son was trying to take a few pictures on his cheesy cell phone from the front row of the second level.  Kept shining a laser pointer at him (must be nice to be that important).

So where to find it?  Do a search and if you're familiar at all with "recordings of independent origin" and how they're shared, you'll find it.  Below is a description from the posting where I discovered it.  What really blows my mind is that Hobart and William Smith is a small college and my friends and I were at the center of the Springsteen fan base.  My friend Peter Kapp took over the concert committee reigns after I graduated (he basically produced the 1975 Born To Run tour concert at the Geneva Theater for Mike Appel).  So it would seem to have been likely that if a tape of this quality was made by a student, it would have found its way to Peter.  I'm going to try to find out the ultimate source of the tape and will report back.

Springsteen has been releasing concert recordings through for a while but very little from the 1970s (he's just gotten around to the legendary oft-bootlegged 1978 broadcasts).  I've read a lot of the commentary on fan sites and there's been a debate as to why there's no releases from 1975 or earlier.  A few of the main opinions as to why are:
> high quality tapes don't exist
> tapes exist but the ownership is murky (seems to me though that Bruce has enough money to be able to solve that problem with a check).
> Jon Landau is loathe to highlight how great Bruce was before Landau took over from Mike Appel.  It goes against the myth (perpetrated by Dave Marsh and others) that Landau saved Bruce from the clutches of the evil / clueless Appel. (That narrative doesn't quite explain how Bruce made arguably his two best albums with Appel behind the board.) I'll write more about Appel in future posts.  Having worked with him on a concert and witnessed five early Springsteen shows, I've always firmly believed that Mike is the largely unsung hero in the Springsteen story. It's been great to see him get more credit in recent years for his pivotal role and for he and Bruce to reconcile.  I was at the concert in Buffalo (Clarence's last concert) where Bruce acknowledged Mike (he had flown up with the band) and cheered mightily.

This is an audience tape and as someone with thousands of ROIOS, I can tell you that an audience tape of this quality from the early 1970s is rare indeed.  A lot of the Springsteen fans on chat boards obsess over the quality of the releases and would probably bristle over the release of an audience tape.  That's never been a problem for me if the captured performance is as tremendous as this one.  Play with your stereo knobs to dial in the best sound and turn it up loud. After a few moments you'll be swept along and not even notice that the sound quality isn't equal to an official live release (which as we all know may not be that "live" after all the overdubs in post-production).

So here's the info.  Happy hunting...

Bruce Springsteen 
Geneva Theatre 
Geneva, NY 
December 7, 1974 
previously uncirculated show and recording 
ML reel source via JEMS 

recording gear: unknown tape recorder > stereo mics 

JEMS 2015 Transfer: Likely first-generation reel copy (3-3/4 IPS) > Otari 5050 mkII azimuth-adjusted transfer > USBPre 2 > Audacity 2.0 (24/96) capture > IZotope RX + Ozone 5 > iZotope RX MBIT+ resample 16/44.1 > Peak Pro XT (volume smoothing / edit / index) > xACT 2.21 > FLAC 

01 Incident on 57th Street 
02 Spirit in the Night 
03 Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street? 
04 I Want You (Bob Dylan cover) 
05 Growin’ Up 
06 E Street Shuffle 
07 It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City 
08 Gimme That Wine (Clarence Clemons lead vocals) 
09 Jungleland 
10 Kitty’s Back 
11 New York City Serenade 
12 Rosalita 
13 Sandy 
14 A Love So Fine 
15 Wear My Ring Around Your Neck (Elvis Presley cover, written by Carol and Moody) 
16 Quarter to Three (Gary US Bonds cover) 

Known Faults: 
-E Street Shuffle: splice 

JEMS is pleased to release another lost and found recording, this of a previously uncirculated show at the Geneva Theatre in Geneva, NY, December 7, 1974, Bruce and the band’s second to last gig of the year. According to the indispensible Brucebase, the concert was booked by the local Hobart & William Smith College and featured Jae Mason as the opening act. 

Geneva turns out to be an unusually solid tape for the era, recorded with two mics in stereo and remarkably free of material cuts. The crowd around the mics, presumably the taper and his friends, are going crazy but it only adds to the atmosphere on this highly listenable document of a fantastic period in Springsteen’s concert history that featured Suki Lahav on cello. 

While the show is largely standard for the era, that sells short a set list that includes a stunning “Incident” to open, the striking cover of Dylan’s “I Want You,” and an epic three-song stretch that moves from the as-yet-unreleased “Jungleland” to “Kitty’s Back” to what just might be the longest ever performance of “New York City Serenade,” clocking in north of 24 minutes of majesty. 

From the sublime to the ridiculous, due to Bruce breaking a guitar string, we’re treated a rare lead vocal from the Big Man, Clarance Clemons, on the time-filling vamp, “Gimme That Wine.” The show wraps with a rousing “A Love So Fine” into a storming “Wear My Ring” and last but not least, “the greatest dance record ever recorded,” “Quarter to Three.” 

The tape itself is one of half a dozen reel-to-reels loaned to JEMS from ML, which were all low-gen copies of known recordings with this one major exception. A big thank you to him for shipping out the reels and letting us release the show. Thanks as well to AM and PR, whose enthusiasm for Geneva got me even more excited about it. Tapeboy handled the pitch adjustments, which are much appreciated. And last but not least, thanks to mjk5510 for catching the files as always when they come off the post-production line. 

BK for JEMS 


Monday, August 5, 2019


Hi Everyone - Couple of things...

On the Big Star front, if you haven't checked out the Kickstarter page for the Alex Chilton documentary in the works, you'll want to do so immediately.  The director is posting some very cool footage and you'll have the opportunity to contribute to help bring this project to fruition. (Note: I've donated my interview tapes for my book to be used however possible.) 

On the Springsteen front, the 33 1/3 B-Sides anthology is slated to be published early in September. One interesting twist for this book is that readers will be able to vote for the chapter that they would most like to see become a full-blown 33 1/3 book and the winner will be offered a contract. One of the parameters for B-Sides is that we were held to a strictly-enforced word count (2500). My first draft was nearly triple that in length – and I was trying to be concise!  But writing about an essential chapter in the development of a major artist raised that to date has gone undocumented raised all sorts of questions / observations about how much the music business has changed since the early 1970s.  Suffice it to say, if a young performer of Springsteen's level of skill and talent came along today, he or she wouldn't have to scuffle for years to get noticed. It was indeed a weird feeling to walk out of a Springsteen concert feeling like you'd just seen one of the greatest performers on the planet and realize that beyond a small (but quickly growing by word-of-mouth) group of fans, no one had even heard of him.  

Once the book is published I'll expand on some of my observations but here's a small one.  When you go to concerts today, it's the norm to see racks of guitars in the wings – almost like a mini-Guitar Center.  Some guitarists swap out guitars almost every song.  Even up-and-comer bands usually have back-up guitars for the back-up guitars.  But when Bruce toured in late 1974, he travelled with one guitar.  That's it. When he broke a string, he replaced it on stage while Clarence sang a song (Gimme That Wine in the case of Geneva). But those were the days when even the biggest bands in the world (The Who, Led Zeppelin etc.) used minimalist stage set-ups. Amps and drums on the stage floor (LZ might have added a riser later on I thing). Some monitors. Simple lighting (certainly by today's standards). Minimal, if any tricks like pyro. It all came down to what was coming out of the speakers. You sank or swam with the music and if you were drowning, there was no second stage you could magically fly via a harness / rigging to escape to / distract the audience.  As much as I don't really connect to Ed Shearan's music (and at my age I imagine I'm not really his target audience), I'm a bit fascinated by the fact that a guy with just an acoustic guitar and a few foot pedals can perform to 80,00 people. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

As promised, here's a link to my interview with Rich Tupica, author of the outstanding Chris Bell bio, There Was A Light, for the Please Kill Me blog. As I noted earlier, this is really a must-have book if you're a Big Star fan. Check out the interview and then order the book from the publisher (HoZac) or Amazon.  

Thursday, December 20, 2018


Hi Everyone or Anyone who is still out there...

I've been on an extended medical adventure (bone marrow transplant etc.) but am back in the swing of things.  There will be some upcoming posts about Big Star and also Bruce Springsteen in the very near future so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you're a Big Star fan, the new Chris Bell biography - There Was A Light by Rich Tupica - is an absolute must-buy.  A fantastic look at Chris and Big Star with lots of new interviews and graphics / photos.  I'll be announcing a major interview I did with Rich on a well-known music website shortly.  But buy the book for yourself as a Christmas present.  You'll be glad you did.  It's available from Amazon and the publisher (HolZac).  

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  More to come soon...

Friday, October 11, 2013

Those of you who have read the book or strolled through the back pages hear know of Peter LaBonne, a singularly unique artist who Alex really dug (he once told me that if he recorded an album of Peter's songs he would have his first million seller).  Peter lives deep in the Adirondack mountains and rarely performs although his recorded output is immense.  He recently performed in Troy NY.  Here's an on-the-scene report by Chandler Travis - he being a cult artist with a rather significant following in the New England region (Incredible Casuals, Chandler Travis Orchestra).  Chandler put out the only CD by Pete that captures his element to a significant degree (Meditation Garden on Sonic Trout - pretty easy to find a used copy online).  Here's a link to  Chandler's includes some live footage...
Pete LaBonne live

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 2, 2013

So where did the year go?  Two words: sandwich generation.  And no, it has nothing to do with swiss cheese and ham.

As most of you know, Nothing Can Hurt Me: The Big Star Story goes into general release this week. I saw the movie in Rochester NY last month and was just knocked out.  The filmmakers have done a fantastic job telling the Big Star story and that wasn't an easy task.  However many hats I own, I take them all off to Drew, Olivia, and Danielle.

For starters, you could readily divide people who will see the movie into two groups: rabid Big Star fans who know the story and a lot of the detail and viewers who at best might have a thumbnail sketch of the story, if that.  It's like when I tell music fans I wrote a book about Big Star...some will light up and be super-enthusiastic and some will just give me a quizzical look and I know I have to go into my brief (and well-rehearsed by now) explanation. But you could watch NCHM from either perspective and be really enthralled by the film.  For a Big Star fan, it's heaven on celluloid.  For an intelligent person who likes an interesting tale of art, commerce, and interesting people, it's very compelling, even if you've never heard a note of Big Star.

Then there's the matter of there being no live footage of the band from the 70s.  And then add in the fact that neither Chris nor Alex were interviewed on camera (Chris for obvious reasons.  The directors had extended conversations with  Alex before he passed away before anything was resolved. I donated tapes of my interviews with Alex for my book to the directors and you'll hear a few snippets in the film.)

So whether the film is playing in a theater near you or you watch it on iTunes (available July 5th), your holiday week isn't complete without seeing the film.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Okay...I'm back.  And glad to be back.  I'll be catching you up on some things in the days ahead, but first something of importance on this day of June 26...the 33rd anniversary of the day I met Alex and we played the epic show at McVan's described in the book.

If you haven't checked out the Kickstarter  page for the forthcoming Big Star documentary, please do so immediately.   There are only 41 hours left for you to help with the completion of the movie and get some really cool BS swag in the process.  I've spent some time with the filmmakers and am completely confident that this is going to be a rock doc that goes far beyond the typical story of a band.  So click on the link below and get started.

Nothing Can Hurt Me

More soon...