ALL THE THINGS ARE HAPPENING
GUNNING FOR HITS 2 * FEB 13
JEFF WHALEN / 10 MORE ROCK SUPER HITS * FEB 15
WIRE TRAIN / …in a chamber Expanded Edition CD * FEB 22
RELEASE DATE! THE REVIEWS ARE POURING IN!
Creating a comic book has been a lifelong dream - and that comic is released today! See what the critics are saying:
“a fantastic mix of words, pictures and great music” – Original Rock
“enticing and fresh” 92%/100 – Comicsverse
“seems like something that Shelly Bond or Karen Berger would have put together” – Twin Cities Geek
“a cleverly written book and I’m highly anticipating the next issue” – Comics Heating Up
Comic of the Week! “a Wolf of Wall Street style survey of the biz, before pulling out the big guns and flipping into noirish territory. Rougvie’s experience and candid sense of humour makes him the perfect tour guide, with Moritat’s gift for impish illustration giving the story a page-turning playfulness.” – Broken Frontier
“8/10” – Batman’s Bookcase
“A perfect first comic of the year for any music and/or gangster fans out there, and one that’s already setting a high bar to jump over for the rest of 2019. - 4/5” – Big Comic Page
“quite original – 9/10” The Brazen Bull
“a compelling read -4.5/5” – Comic Crusaders
GUNNING FOR HITS #1 / BOWIE IS APP / NEW BOWIE DEMO COLLECTION / GLASTONBURY TAKE
My first comic book, Gunning For Hits (see site here for more info) is released on Wednesday, January 9th.
The first story is inspired by my experiences working with David. Making a comic book was a childhood dream, and when David (and Prince and Darwyn Cooke) passed in 2016, the loss of these adventurous artistic spirits pushed me to challenge myself outside my comfort zone.
I’m honored that Image Comics (publishers of Walking Dead, Saga, Spawn and many more) have been so supportive of this project. Issue 1 has 32 pages, only one of which is an advertisement! The rest is all original content, including pages of behind-the-scenes backmatter!
If you’re interested in owning a physical copy, I urge you to support your local comic shop. You can use this site to find one near you (call first to see if they have copies).
I’ll be signing copies on release date, January 9th! Stop by Harrison’s Comics on Essex Street in Salem, MA between noon and 4pm and I will gladly sign your copy (or any Bowie stuff he worked on)! See you there!
BOWIE IS.. APP
I’ve also been spelunking through the Bowie Is.. app that launched today. Nicely priced at $7.99 US, I’m in the early stages of using it, but can safely say it’s worth getting, especially if you missed the exhibit. I can only imagine how much David would’ve loved this sort of thing.
UNRELEASED MUSIC - YAY! FORMAT - WTF?
So.. apparently someone has decided that the news of any Bowie release must be designed so as to set of a storm of complaints. This album (?) is being released as a box set of 7” singles, although all of the tracks have been previously released digitally - albeit briefly. The format is the source of the complaints, although Parlophone are being quite clear that these tracks may appear in other formats at some point (DUH). If so, I certainly hope they’re part of a free-standing, full-length album and NOT a Super Deluxe (aka expensive) reissue of Space Oddity which would be an obvious cash grab. The 7” box set format is really the lowliest option for a physical release and would appear to be yet another fan-exploiting decision by Parlophone.
It’s worth noting that David may never have wanted these released - although clearly his Estate authorized this - but their hand may have been forced by copyright laws. These say once an unreleased recording hits a certain age, it becomes public domain UNLESS it is put into the marketplace by its creator. Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys and others have done limited releases to protect works. Obviously, releasing them is the logical thing to do in the face of the alternative, so I want to be clear that I intend no malice towards any party involved in making the decision to release these and I’m excited to hear them. Poor Chris O’Leary though!
IF YOU DON’T KNOW CHRIS…
Speaking of Chris, if you’re a Bowie fan, please make sure you have his wonderful book, Rebel Rebel, which is about to be joined by a sequel - Ashes To Ashes. These two books take deep dives into every known song by Bowie (including covers) and are fascinating reads.
Finally, apologies for not uploading my Glastonbury review as promised previously, but the more I analyzed it, the more I thought another review wasn't necessary. Instead I’ve written an essay framing it historically, in the context of David’s career and tying it in to previous landmarks therein. It should be up within a few days, and will, I hope, be more interesting than telling you what I think about things you’ve already made up your mind about.
NEW STORY ON GUNNING FOR HITS; BOWIE GLASTONBURY REVIEW COMING SOON
I’m a bit behind on my review of the David Bowie Glastonbury 2000 set. At least based on what I’ve read so far, I have some different takes on it. Please stand by.
In the meantime, heres’ an interview about Gunning For Hits at the Comics Beat website, which gets more into how Bowie inspired me in life and in death.
Click on the logo for the link:
HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM SALEM (& THE MISFITS RELEASES THAT SHOULD’VE BEEN)
ORDER GUNNING FOR HITS NOW FROM YOUR LOCAL COMIC SHOP!
Gunning For Hits #1 is coming out on January 9th, 2019! Here it is in the new issue of Previews, a monthly catalog of comic book and related products!
Please let your local comic shop know you want a copy before December - they place their orders in the first week of December for books coming out in January! You can find your nearest comic shop here.
MISFITS BEHIND THE SCENES
In 2003 I returned to Rykodisc and signed the Misfits. The result was the label’s first top 200 album since Kelly Willis (incidentally, Kelly was the last artist I’d signed during my first run of employment with the label before becoming DVD Director under the Chris Blackwell Regime).
There’s a lot more to my Ryko-era Misfits story of 2003-on, but I’ll unfold that whole saga in the Rykodisc book. This bit came after and won’t be in the book, because Ryko was sold to Warner Music Group in 2006 after a bidding war with EMI. Subsequently, I was hired away by EMI, along with some other Rykos. EMI wanted new blood to take over and revamp their Caroline division. My role was to take over the Caroline label.
The label had been doing mostly reissues at this point, with the philosophy that these titles must compliment what was happening musically at Astralwerks, which was considered the “core” label of the division. This was ironic, as Astralwerks was started as a sub-label of Caroline. As Astralwerks acts took off, the Caroline label was subsumed.
We were going to reenergize it with new acts, but we wanted to make a statement about the label, reminding the music world what had made Caroline great. Recently they’d ventured far from what their perceived strengths were, doing quality, but boring, stuff like putting out Heaven 17 reissues (I love the first two Heaven 17 albums but in 2006, these were hardly attention-getting releases). In the 90’s they’d launched Hole and Smashing Pumpkins, but the Misfits were the act that had endured and defined the label. Their catalog outsold pretty much anything else on the label, including the best-selling titles in the Astralwerks catalog.
I had worked with the active band (Jerry Only and whoever he could enlist) and the reunion with Glenn was years away. We’d given the Misfits their highest charting record at that time, which outsold their previous releases through Roadrunner. But working with the band’s management was exhausting. To make things worse, their manager demanded a meeting with the head of WMG after we left, during which he undeservedly threw us under the bus in no uncertain terms.
So I wanted to have new Misfits product, but didn’t want to deal with their management. The obvious choice was to approach Danzig, because if we were going to do an archival release, he was going to need to sign off on it and I already knew the (then-current) band was eager to do anything that referenced the glory days of the Misfits, especially as they were hoping to reunite with Glenn for a tour.
I particularly didn’t want to re-live the experience of a previous Caroline exec. He’d done a new mix of a recording session that included both Bobby Steele and Doyle on guitar. Steele had been booted out before any of the recordings were released and his guitar was removed from the mixes, leaving just Doyle.
The concept of including both player’s guitar tracks was a good idea, because the band had played live in this formation and also – more guitars never hurt. The project was designed and pressed up as “12 Hits From Hell,” only to have Jerry and Danzig block the release.
MY understanding from employees who were there at the time is the Misfits and Danzig claimed they had approval over any alteration of the original recordings. This was likely true, but I’d guess they were really mad because they hadn’t been paid an advance for the release. Caroline had no option but to acquiesce, leaving them with lots of product they had no choice but to destroy.
You can see why getting Glenn on board was key.
Contractually, Caroline owned all the Misfits recordings, including the original self-released Plan 9 singles. These singes were super-desirable selling for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
I’m pretty sure the box set has all the single masters on it, but I wanted to reissue replicas of the original singles, with picture sleeves, in a deluxe box set. After that sold out, we’d do a compilation album of the tracks.
Danzig was open to the idea, but even though the contract stated EMI owned the masters, he wanted to get paid. His management claimed the single versions were not covered by the agreement, but EMI’s lawyers disagreed. I pointed out that it was still worth playing Glenn an advance because a) the release would be a best-seller and b) it wasn’t worth fighting with him. The lawyers agreed, and we offered a six figure advance, which they verbally accepted.
Some stuff they were very open to – we agreed to inclue the never-released “Static Age / Teenagers From Mars” 7” (with a picture sleeve!) and the solo Danzig single “Who Killed Marilyn.” We also proposed a re-release of “Beware,” a UK 12”, EP be rolled into the deal as extra tracks on the CD and as a separate 12” vinyl release, and I think they agreed to this as well.
There was also discussion of including know sleeve variants, reproducing the sleeves using original processes (silk-screens, hand-assembly. xerox copying!), and even having Glenn customize one set that would have been randomly inserted into the inventory.
I started working on mock-ups for the box exterior, purchasing assorted 7” boxes and making collage-style artwork like Glenn had for the original singles. I had no illusions that Glenn would approve my designs, but I wanted to have different examples of box styles for him to consider. They’re floating around my archives.
The devil was in the details though, and it took ages to hammer out insignificant details. Danzig’s lawyer changed positions on these tiny points many times. I recall they asked for an astronomical amount to remaster the tracks.
In the course of the discussions, Danzig’s lawyer explained that Glenn was close to closing a deal with American Recordings to do a deluxe multi-disc anniversary edition (20th, maybe?) of the debut Danzig album. He implied that contract was also taking forever, but insisted they were close to locking it in, and Glenn would focus on getting that project done first.
Obviously that deal never came to fruition. I can’t say where it fell apart, but American was bouncing around from Distributor to Distributor at that point, so maybe they dropped the ball, but it could just as likely be that Danzig either dragged his feet too long, or micro-negotiated it to the point that American gave up. It’s my favorite Danzig album, and I’m still curious what material might’ve been included.
I very much got the sense that being Danzig’s lawyer was tough work, and his client wasn’t particularly motivated to do anything that was going to require a lot of decision-making. Considering the income from Misfits merch and sales of recordings and publishing (Metallica!), who could blame him? I mean look at his website! He doesn’t even have his latest album in his discography section and his merch stores are dead links. The guy does a little recording here and there, is supposedly directing a movie, plays about 15 dates a year (mostly west coast), does a Misfits show or two and takes the rest of the year off. Cheers, Glenn, you win!
full disclosure: I have sold comic book art to Glenn Danzig via eBay
Anyway, just a few years earlier, Danzig had cut a deal with E-magine Entertainment, a small, well-funded label that reissued a bunch of Danzig albums, and a box set of the Samhain albums. The latter contained albums that had been previously been released through Caroline. E-Magine had flamed out after just a couple of years and the box set was already selling for big money on the aftermarket. I expressed my interest in the Samhain catalog, too, but we agreed closing the Misfits singles deal took priority, and adding Samhain to the discussion might’ve muddied the waters. The Samhain material remains sadly out of print to this day.
Weeks dragged on into months. There many moments where we thought we had a deal but another issue would arise. If I had to guess, I’d say Danzig’s lawyer was stalling on behalf of an indecisive client. The EMI lawyer I was working with was extremely frustrated, but stayed in it and eventually we had a deal. I sent her a huge bottle of high-end vodka.
Unfortunately we never got to toast the deal over that bottle, because EMI was sold to Guy Hands and then Universal, and, as expected, thousands of EMI staff were let go, killing many projects, including this one.
I’m amused to see the Misfits catalog is now listed as being on the electronic label Astralwerks (!!) and sad to see the really cool Misfits CD box is out of print. It was a costly item to manufacture, but it always sold. It’s not even on Spotify, so maybe there are rights issues.
Anyway, there you go; there was almost both a Misfits Singles Box set and Compilation and a Danzig Deluxe Edition. Instead you got a cash-in reunion with no new product to support it (except the t-shirts, I guess). Viva Las Vegas!
THAT COMIC BOOK & DAVID BOWIE
Check out this recently uncovered 1980 TV clip that shows Bowie rehearsing “Ashes To Ashes” for a Tonight Show appearance (thanks to Steve Pafford for the catch!). The voice-over says "His image is that of a man still striving for artistic, rather than commercial, success."
This is a key idea in Gunning For Hits, the comic book I’m writing (with art by the great Justin “Moritat” Norman). The first issue comes out on January 9th, 2019 - right between the anniversaries of David’s life & death.
The date is no coincidence. I had the idea for the book when I began working with David in 1989, and those experiences, combined with hundreds of others spawned the idea of an ongoing series about the music business.
Back in ‘89 Ryko had just made a huge (for us) investment in David. But his public and critics had turned on him in the wake of his 80’s output, and his label hated Tin Machine, whose album they were desperately looking for ways to scupper, before, or as an excuse for, eventually dropping him.
Even though we had a great deal of confidence in our investment, there were reasons to have a brief moment of doubt. This led me to wonder; what could we do if it really DOES all go sideways for him? Could he really become a minor footnote in rock history? How do you overcome someone who can’t help themselves out of a hole they’ve dug?
Luckily that investment turned out to be a bargain for Ryko, but my caffeine-and-comics stimulated brain had already imagined various fantastic scenarios out of that particular jam.
So, if you find the idea of a crime drama set in the NYC 80’s music business appealing, well, I hope you’ll give this book a chance. It’s fiction, but based in the real world - no-superheros, no-sci-fi, no-fantasy.
Although I encourage you to visit your local comic shop on the 9thto purchase GFH, those of you without convenient access to such an emporium can also buy the book digitally via Comixology or Kindle stores.
SUPERMEGABOT LABEL NEWS
We made some noise about my new label, formed with Thomas Enright, in the fall of 2017, but you may have noticed there’s been little activity since. Sadly, at the time we made the announcement, Thomas had been diagnosed with lung cancer, which he beat. Tragically it returned this spring, and Thomas passed about a month ago. It doesn’t even make sense to that I’m writing this.
That said, the label will continue as planned. You can buy our Human Sexual Response titles on Amazon, Discogs or eBay right now, the Jeff Whalen album is on PledgeMusic and promised reissues of great albums like Neurotic Outsiders and Wire Train will be coming soon.
I encourage you to read more about this truly wonderful man at the Supermegabot site, and to hold your loved ones tight.
DO YOU REMEMBER HALLOWEEN?
In the coming months, I’ll talk more about my life-long love of comics and how my plan to make comics for a living was sidelined for 30 years by the music business, but check back on Halloween, October 31st, for a story about the Misfits and Danzig that very few people know – not even hardcore Fiends!
BOWIE LTA BOX SET REVIEW
Finally, you can read my review of the latest David Bowie / Parlophone box set, Loving The Alien, by clicking on the image below. Two people who’s views on both Bowie and the handling of his catalog I respect very much, Chris O’Leary of Pushing Ahead Of The Dame (if you’re a Bowie fan unfamiliar with this remarkable site I don’t recommend you visit without a LOT of spare time) and Paul Sinclair of the excellent reissue site, Super Deluxe Edition, have both written reviews that tend to align with mine, although they are possibly more forgiving and less wicked in their dissections.
Apologies in advance to any 80’s era Bowiephiles I may offend, you’ve been warned.
Well, that was a long time between updates. Between all my work and this Presidency, I've been distracted, stressed and super busy. Expect more frequent updates going forward as many projects come to fruition and / or continue to develop.
Let's talk about COOL STUFF!
1) HAPPINESS! 10 More Rock Super Hits by Jeff Whalen: Jeff Whalen was the primary architect of the band Tsar (they are no more), who I consider to be the Big Star of this century. I don't say that lightly, and you shouldn't take it lightly, either. He's now a solo artist.
I've been a huge fan since I first heard Tsar's debut album, and the similarities in career trajectory are very similar. While you could call what Jeff does power-pop, that's like calling Big Star power pop. It IS, but that's not the whole story. I'll be posting more about the specifics of Jeff's music and my involvement on social media in the near future, but if the state of the planet has you down, please consider this album the perfect antidote.
It is relentlessly joyful.
I have played it (without exaggeration) at least once EVERY DAY since I first heard it a year ago and I'm not tired of it, it makes me happy every day, and has gotten me through some dark times by injecting me with good cheer and optimism.
It's so good, we didn't wait ten years to do the super deluxe edition, we put out a limited 3 CD version exclusively through PledgeMusic. You can buy it (and many other iterations of it) here.
Here's a sample, get smiling:
FULL DISCLOSURE: I am an owner of Supermegabot Music, which released the album.
2) TV Recs: I guess I have watched some TV in the months since I last updated. My wife and I are wired differently when it does to sleep patterns - I stay up late, she goes to bed early. With our schedules, that means we only get to spend three-four hours a weekday together and it's the only wind-down time I ever get so in that brief window we either go out to dinner - or watch TV.
My top three over the past few months are:
a) The Detroiters: I usually like my comedy dark and nasty but this upbeat yet hilarious series (buried and under-promoted by Comedy Central) is the perfect palate cleanser. Here's the pitch: "Executive produced by Lorne Michaels and `Saturday Night Live' alumnus Jason Sudeikis, `Detroiters' stars best friends and Detroit natives Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson as fledgling ad men in the Motor City."
This is total underselling (note Lorne gets the top nod, even though the show is clearly all about the leads). The series is too edgy for a major network, but not very edgy - I have no doubt it would be a hit anywhere else - and it's as good-natured as it gets. It makes you want to hang in Detroit, and I say that after having seen "Hardcore Pawn". Check it out, Season Two is on right now.
b) Letterkenny: There are five seasons of this brilliant Canadian sitcom about a fictional town called Letterkenny. The first two are on Hulu and I watched them all in a couple days (to be fair they are only 7 half hour episodes in a a season). While there's an element of Canadian-slanted humor, the concept is universally recognizable as rural comedy. What's really delightful about Letterkenny (besides all the laughs) is the fully realized world the creators have established. The show seems to be flying on pure instinct and has its own voice, a rarity in TV, where too may cooks usually fuck up the stew. Thanks to Steve Kiwus for the referral.
c) The Good Fight: I veered away from The Good Wife when it started because it seemed more like a romance story than a serious drama, but I was wrong and got sucked into it around season three - great show. When it ended, I was interested in this spinoff series but put off by it being on CBS All Access, a subscription platform owned by a major network with only a handful of exclusive shows, only one of which I'm interested in. When my wife had a week off, we subbed with a 7 day free trial. During this time, we watched & loved both seasons of Good Fight. I commend CBS for taking some chances and giving this show an opportunity to, like the other two mentioned above, feel like it's own unique thing. While it's not too risky - familiar characters are back, the rating and scripting is top-notch, the courtroom stuff is fabulous (the depiction of all judges as put-upon and impatient is hilarious) - there is salty language and most importantly, the show has a very definite political viewpoint (Trump supporters, you are NOT going to be fans) that would never fly on Network TV. Although we tore through the episodes and canceled the sub before being charged, I'd gladly pay a month's sub to watch season three when it's complete and available (shows are released weekly, not dumped all at once, like on netflix). I personally don't see the platform surviving against strong original programming options elsewhere, but CBS seems willing to keep shoveling money at it, as evidenced by hiring Patrick Stewart for a cameo as Captain Picard on their utterly forgettable Star Trek series. Even if takes a month or two to watch the first two seasons on a pay model, it's well worth the cost for the quality.
3) Music: While writing lately I've been playing lots of Ramones, Oasis and Sisters of Mercy, so not a lot of enlightenment on new stuff here. That said, I'm eager to hear the new Lucero record (just out) and the upcoming Alejandro Escovedo record, which sounds like a veritable MONSTER - read about it and hear a track here.
Of course, I'm looking forward to the upcoming Bowie 80's box, Loving The Alien, if only to see what they do with a difficult period. In my talks on Bowie I frequently point out my controversial (but totally defensible) opinion that "Let's Dance" is a weak sauce album. It has one great pop single - Modern Love, although it's not a particularly great Bowie single - and another that's borderline racist - China Girl, although I blame Nile for coming up with that obvious guitar signature, but Bowie for letting him leave it in. If it hadn't been for the MTV exposure I'm not sure we wouldn't recognize this as the moment where the Bowie ship sprung a leak. That said, it's the strongest album of the three that form the spine of the box, so it's going to be a rocky ride, I figure. I'll have more to say when I get my hands on it, stay tuned.
Special shout out to my buddy Mike Marrone, who I worked with at Rykodisc. Mike founded the Loft channel on Sirius / XM - one of the few on the service with a unique, not-easy-to-categorize musical viewpoint. He hired excellent jocks with great musical knowledge and the programming never talked down to the listener.
Of course, corporate guys don't understand that and Mike has left the Loft (which still exists on the Sirius streaming app, but was bumped from satellite by an all-Eagles channel - gag!).
In the meantime, Mike has put together a bunch of great shows that you can access here, check them out. Mike is a guy who loves music so much, he recorded his most recent show in the hospital while undergoing his third round of chemo. Feel the love.
4) Movies: Infinity War: Rethinking my initial wishy-washy feelings about it. After seeing it again, I'm more impressed at many levels. That said, it'll all be for naught unless the sequel/part 2 explains this GIGANTIC plot hole: Thanos wants the infinity stones to *alter reality* so he can *mercifully* kill half the population of the universe because there aren’t enough natural resources to sustain them. Why don’t any of the geniuses he meets suggest he alter reality by *increasing resources*? Just sayin’.
Deadpool 2: I love Deadpool (and have for years), but DP 2 was a few great moments and lines without a plot strong enough to support it. I think the creators realized fans wanted Cable to show up, but the filmmakers didn't understand the character or find a path to making him work in the context of a film.
Jurassic World 2: disappointing after the re-energized first entry in the re-launch; lots of call-backs and fan service, not enough logic. Couldn't have felt more "we need to fill this summer slot."
UPCOMING: I'm hoping to see Incredibles 2 in the the theater before it vanishes, but not optimistic.
Unashamed to say I'm DYING to see The Meg; I expect it to be both unapologetically stupid and thoroughly entertaining.
5) Social Media: I would dearly like to opt out like my wife and others have, but I can't. So while I choose to be exposed to (and foolishly participate in) ugly political discourse, I find relief from the horrors of the modern world in a few feeds, particularly that of Seth Abramson, a Harvard Grad, Defense Attorney, UNH Professor, author and Metamodern Journalist. His twitter feed is the platform for the latter, which focuses on Trump / Russia.
It's frankly astounding / horrifying to see the mainstream press catch up to things Seth pointed out literally a year ago. I'm not 100% sure if that's a testament to Seth's brilliance or the failure of contemporary news reporting, but I guess it's a bit of both. Seth keeps all the facts in his head, not on paper and he tackles complicated topics in lengthy, but well-written and clearly explained threads (this is metamodern journalism, in case you were wondering).
While I decry Trump's claims of fake news, when you look at the demands on traditional news sources - what will get traction and retain viewership, pandering to either base, filling a 24 hour cable channel with ill-informed talking heads blathering opinion instead of facts, financial pressures, etc ad nauseam, it's easy to see why we're trending towards getting reliable news from newer / non-trad sources. That may sound like a slippery slope, but it's reality. Check out Seth here. WARNING: If you're on Team Trump-Can-Do-No-Wrong, this will only make you mad.
PREVIOUS UPDATE APRIL/MAY?
I accidentally deleted this block of text while editing my August update so apologies. I'm pretty sure it was me apologizing for so few posts and then telling you how great Danial Pemberton's soundtrack to Molly's Game is. You should hear it, because it rules.
2) Schitt's Creek: this Canadian comedy is a family affair, which is great because it's Eugene Levy's family. The show was created band stars Levy & his son, Catherine O'Hara (Levy's Wife & Daniel's Mother) co-stars and their daughter has a minor recurring role as a local waitress. As an added bonus the underrated and frequently mis-used Chris Elliot is a series regular. This is a sitcom and generally mindless fun, but the scripting elevates it to a new level and is worth your time to seek out. In the US, it's on the Pop network - an organization so lowly that it's only broadcast in SD by my provider. Find it, it's great.
3) Napoleon / Kubrick book from Taschen: Finally available in an affordable edition, so I finally have it. After a great series of Kubrick books, this volume covers the unmade Napoleon film Kubrick worked on for years. Kubrick was a detail demon so every film he made took years to gestate (moreso as he got older). Unfortunately, he frequently battled with studios - over everything from budgets to newspaper ads. You can't argue that his efforts weren't worthwhile - it's an amazing body of work. This is as close as we'll get to seeing this film, stuffed with copious notes and images.
OTHER THINGS: I spent a week in NYC and was lucky enough to catch up with many old friends, including a delightful Rykodisc dinner in Chinatown. Paul Dickman (Ryko Biz Affairs Director and my Best Man) spent over 4 hours interviewing and reconciling recollections for the Ryko book. There's been some discussion of a Ryko Reunion in Salem next year to commemorate the 20th Anniversary the closing of the Salem office, which really was the spiritual ending of the label (although I had great times there when I was back in the early 00's, but it was significantly different). More great stuff for the Ryko book.
I finally saw "Bowie Is" in person. It was really nicely staged and I suggest you see it before it closes in July, I think. This is the last stop, which seems premature - did it ever make it to LA or SF? Although I was told I'd need multiple 4 hour visits, I was pretty satisfied that I'd taken everything in within 2.5 hours. Notable myth-building: Bowie's height was listed somewhere in the exhibit as 5' 10". C'mon dude - let's just be honest that short-guy complex has given us some of the greatest achievements of history (see Napoleon). I didn't buy anything in the gift shop, although I would've bought the exclusive live show if it was on CD. But what do you expect? - it's Brooklyn.
Finally, I took a tour of Madison Square Garden that gave me some concrete ides for visualizing the finale of my upcoming project.
On the 26th, we took our 15 year old to see the comedian Anthony Jeselnik. Child services are probably on their way as I type. Jeselnik is an amazing, hilarious comedian, but he is NOT for everybody. He did at least ten minutes on Murder-Suicides, which was amazing, but left even some of CROWD THAT PAID TO SEE HIM offended. We loved it and I highly recommend seeing him live if you can. The pacing, material and delivery is the work of a consummate professional. Not sure how I feel about the beard, though. To give you an idea of how much I enjoyed it, I saw Infinity War the same night and Jeselnik clearly won the day.
Okay - back to work! Please check out the Jeff Whalen PledgeMusic Campaign - I'll be writing more about the sheer magnificence of his new album shortly. See the hype video below and pay attention to the music in the background. He really is our last Rock Star!
How is it the end of March? Apologies if you've been checking in, hoping for more stuff.
I assume if you bother to look here, you may follow me on social media and that probably feels very political and grumpy lately. And not without reason; I'm not a fan of the President, more sensible gun laws are probably my #1 political issue, Toys R Us is closing, Best Buy has abandoned the CD and there's a sense of growing misery in the world. Anyway, I know that social media rarely has impact (although Laura Ingraham may disagree), but it's worth considering that one day we may have a President who is getting all of his news from social media sources, especially if they keep using our data to steer posts into our feeds. I'm sure Bowie would've had a field day with this idea.
Anyway, thing are actually really going great and in the interest of conveying that by being bit more upbeat, I'm going to try to tell you about some stuff I really LIKE for a change. Here goes:
1) WACO: TV miniseries - very well-written and interesting take on the situation (Bill Hicks actually went and filmed some stuff there as it was all going down!). It features fine performances (Michael Shannon, especially) and may be the project that finally gets people to stop asking the question, "why does hollywood keep trying to make Taylor Kitsch happen"", he was excellently cast here. I was a bit distracted by his appearance, looking something like a late 80's Rick Springfield. The wife disagrees, but tell me, can't you see it? Of course, you know the end already, but the different views of the situation made it worthwhile.
2) SLOTS: Comic book miniseries - published by Image Comics / Skybound. There should be a trade paperback soon collecting this fantastic story about a tough Vegas boxer who tries to right his past wrongs. Full of great twists and turns, art with character and real-feeling-but-hilarious human interaction, I read this first from my comic pile every week it came out. It is written & drawn by the same guy, which, if the creator has his shit together, is a beautiful thing to behold. Unlike his deeply flawed characters, Dan Panosian has his shit thoroughly together.
3) WILD WILD COUNTRY: Netflix Documentary Series. It is hard to believe this is a documentary, never mind from the guys who brought you Stranger Things, but I was riveted to this true (and truly) insane story of a(nother) cult(?) leader and his followers who built a compound out in the wilderness, much like Waco. You won't know where to land on the good or bad qualities of the various characters from episode to episode. It's presented as an oral history, so versions of events are skewed, but it truly fascinating stuff.
4) NEW 'AMAZING SPIDER-MAN' CREATIVE TEAM OF NICK SPENCER and RYAN OTTLEY: Marvel Comics. They haven't released an issue by this team yet, so to a certain extent this is just as much a response to the previous team leaving, but that's not fair to the many fine artists who drew some of the previous writer's ten year stint. Look, I was born the same month and year of Spiderman #1 and Spiderman has long been my favorite superhero. I've read every issue and frankly I'm looking forward to some new blood who, at least on the face of it, seem to understand and be appropriate for what makes Spiderman work. The last guy is a great writer and told some great stories; they just weren't Spider-man stories. Looking forward to some FUN in this book again.
5) THOR: RAGNAROK: Marvel Movie. I only got a chance to see it once in the theater, where I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe superhero fare isn't your thing, but I have been a fan of MOST of the Marvel films and am excited for Infinity War. RAGNAROK has not disappointed on home video and as an added bonus, the commentary is fantastically hilarious. It's in the spirit of Guardians of the Galaxy more than say, Dr Strange or Ant-Man and has the best use of "Immigrant Song" there will ever be. I personally don't really care for Zeppelin, but this use is existence-justifying stuff.
6: RECONNECTING WITH RYKODISC FRIENDS: real life thing. In the past month I've interviewed original founder Arthur Mann (four marathon hours) and Lars Murray (one of the longest running employees and a guy who was behind some of Ryko's greatest (and painfully unsung) technological achievements. The point is, not only is the book coming along, but Rykodisc was truly a second family for many of us and connecting again has felt like picking up where we left off. In fact, if time has taught me anything, it's that I appreciate these people and the unique environment that was Ryko more than ever.
Sadly, none of us are getting any younger and I'm looking forward to speaking with many more Rykos soon, but that joy is tempered by the knowledge I'll never get to talk to Ryko friends like Eric Roggensack or Don Biederman because they are gone.
Well, that's a seemingly sour note to end my positive and upbeat post on, but remember, friends are good stuff and hey great news! I saw a dog today!
Finally, I've just gotta say
JEFF WHALEN - CAN'T WAIT FOR YOU ALL TO HEAR HIS ALBUM!
Hard to believe it's been nearly two months, something must be done about this shoddy upkeep.
That said, this is because I am incredibly busy.
I'm now considering bringing on part-time help.
I'm currently working on the following:
Running a record label
Writing a comic book series
Managing 5 websites
Writing a history of Rykodisc
Selling stuff on eBay
Trying to run / supervise social media for all
and catching my breath (not possible)
The successful applicant will be cool under pressure, ORGANIZED, into pop culture (no Kardashians or Batchelor pls), creative, media savvy, social media proficient, computer proficient (yes, I realize that's a huge field, so: able to create and edit video, edit audio, photoshop skills all a must), with careful attention to detail and the ability to safely handle and pack delicate items ranging from porcelain goods to comic books.
Would like to try out a couple of days a week, I'm flexible within weekday daytime hours. I'd prefer to have someone on site a few days a week, but I do have some jobs that could be farmed out to remote workers.
If you're in or near Salem / the North Shore and think you'd like to try being an on-site worker, hit the contact page.
One of may most pressing needs is for someone to create short promo videos to post online (largely from existing materials). If you're interested, hit the contact page and be sure to link to some examples of your work.
...to all who came out to the Bowie Event in Rhode Island. I can't say enough good things about the staff at the West Warwick Library or the crowd of great folks who came out. No other dates are scheduled at this time, but if you're interested, contact page.
Very excited about all the projects coming together here. I've been talking with Matt Sorum, the drummer from GnR, Velvet Revolver, the Cult & many, many more, but most importantly, the Neurotic Outsiders. Matt & I may have some special stuff up our sleeves for this release.
I can't say how thrilled I am to be working with the amazing Jeff Whalen. His album is easily my favorite of this decade so far, and I've been playing it every day since last summer! Still not tired of it and it makes me happy every day. In my opinion, Tsar are the Big Star of this century, criminally under-exposed but with the coolest fans (wait'll you see some of the heavyweight endorsements of Jeff's new album!).
Jeff is the sum total of the rock n roll art form, every thing that was great about the form distilled into one magical carbon being. Seriously, the songs are insane and the record combines the best of 70's glam, punk's adrenalin, ELO's studio wizardry, Beatles songwriting, and, well, just about anything that ever made you smile.
If you trusted my judgment with Bowie, Big Star, Elvis Costello, Bob Mould & Sugar, and others from my days working for other companies, you'll want to have Jeff's album.
I can't wait for you to hear it.
If you don't know who Jeff is, check out this video from his previous band Tsar. It's actually the opening credits to James (Guardians Of The Galaxy) Gunn's previous film, Super, starring Rainn Wilson.
The song, Calling All Destroyers, was James' favorite song the year it was released and he'd imagined this animated, choreographed intro to Super all during the project's conception.
I believe I said in my previous post this would be coming in the fall. Let me check myself. It will be fall of 2019, not this year. This, incidentally, coincides with Chris Blackwell's sad closing of the Salem Rykodisc office and my (first, short-lived) departure from the label. That closing party was quite a thing.
Anyway, so much information and ephemera has come my way in the short time since I've announced the book, with many many more interviews to go, that this is turning into a massive undertaking and one that will take longer than I thought, especially considering book design and printing.
I will most likely be crowdfunding it through Pledgemusic, but I'll keep you updated on the progress (and share some teasers) here.
Finally, I'm more optimistic than ever I'll have another big announcement for late summer. I'll just leave this here:
Happy New Year everybody! In Salem we are buried under the first significant snowfall of the season (18 inches-ish) and heading into arctic temps. Good times! Here's hoping all of you are safe and warm!
A couple of announcements;
1) I'll be talking about Bowie again, at the beautiful Warwick Public Library in Rhode Island. It's free this time and there will be no band, a format that I discovered actually works best. The date is Wednesday, January 24th at 7pm. The discussion runs 45 minutes to an hour and will be followed by a Q&A. Please come join us.
2) My label, Supermegabot Music Concern has almost all of our first wave of releases in stock and we have already started shipping the first titles (Human Sexual Response). A lot of great people have put a ton of effort into making these look and sound great, and I'm very proud to say they did a great job!
Please check out the label website here.
3) On the writing front, I'm optimistic I'll have a big announcement late this summer. Cross your fingers!
4) I'm hoping to have the Ryko book finished for a fall launch (the first Ryko release was in late 1984, so this only ties in seasonally). I've done a bunch of interviews and have already learned a lot of cool stuff even I didn't know.
The plan is to crowd-fund the book, but barring disaster, it will be written well before the campaign launches. I'm only crowd-funding to avoid a publisher messing with my ultimate vision of the publication, and there will be lots of tiers available, including many cool Ryko treats I've kept in the vault since the Salem office closed in 1999 (!!!!).
PS: The book will have an editor - so you can forget teasing and taunting me about the many spelling & grammar errors typically found on this site. Sharpen your knives for a whole new world of factual errors, though!
That's it for now - stay warm!
My new label with Thomas Enright (ex-Ryko, MoFi, Geffen, etc )has launched with it's first two releases. Supermegabot Music Concern LLC is here and, for now, our titles can be purchased here. The label site will soon offer them as well.
To launch, we've re-released the first two albums by Human Sexual Response, a well-known New Wave avant grade band from Boston, who had hits coast to coast with "Jackie Onassis" and "What Does Sex Mean To Me?" in the early 80's. They sound like a cross between Talking Heads and the B-52's with three vocalists backed by a power trio.
Their debut album "Fig. 14"was only briefly issued on CD in the early 90's and has been out of print for 20 years! With a stunning cover designed by Hipgnosis and many of their best known tracks, "Fig. 14" is once again "Fig. 15" with the addition of bonus track "Butt Fuck", a song which made the band notorious when they performed it live on a local TV station back in the day. Search youtube for the video - in the host's eyes you can see him slowly realizing what is happening and that he's just lost his job.
Their follow-up, "In A Roman Mood", is making it's debut on CD with 2 bonus tracks from the "Pound" 12" single. Greeted with less than thunderous applause at the time of release, like most underground masterpieces, it is now widely considered ahead of its time. Some of the band's best material is here, including the stunning "Andy Fell" and what may be their masterpiece, "Land Of The Glass Pinecones."
Both titles are packed in mini-sleeve replicas (they are CDs but in tiny sleeves that replicate the original vinyl packaging). The sleeves are printed on 18 pt stock, coated, with stiff cardboard inner sleeves (smooth finish on the inside to prevent scuffing your discs) and include inserts replicating the original inner sleeves - complete with lyrics and ringwear!
Your patronage is appreciated!
On the Bowie front, the NCIANT issue peaked with Parlophone recanting their defense of the 'Heroes' dropout and promising replacement discs to all. This is, I think, a win and a costly expense for the label. Good for them and thanks to everyone for speaking out, especially the folks at SuperDeluxe Edition, who did a great piece about the new label here.
Also, although it hasn't been announced yet, I will be doing another Bowie presentation in January, this time in Rhode Island. More details here when the date is officially announced.
BOWIE NCIANT BOX SET THOUGHTS
As many of you have no doubt heard (or experienced first-hand) the latest release in Parlophone's series of Bowie box sets, an 11 CD or 13 disc vinyl set covering the "Berlin"-era is causing Bowie fans unprecedented agita.
Not that it doesn't have fans - it truly does. I think everyone would agree the packaging is of a high standard. No one doubts the quality of the music. But the way that music has been handled this time is causing controversy and the excuses are raising eyebrows, including my own.
The sheer volume of negativity "A New Career In A New Town" has generated is so significant, Amazon UK has stopped selling it (an Amazon practice that kicks in when customer complaints and return requests flags a product in their system as having issues). It has 2.1 stars on Amazon US and is still for sale there as of this writing (despite using the same masters as the UK versions). A remarkable 54% of Amazon reviews are single stars, many quite harsh, some including tales of partial refunds to appease angry buyers. Steve Hoffman's infamous audiophile forums have 213 (!!) pages devoted to the box. Henry Rollins has warned fans to avoid the release. With the internet's ability to turn a spark into a wildfire A NEW CAREER IN A NEW TOWN is taking a brutal critical beating the previous boxes avoided. The (by comparison) nitpicking complaints Parlophone got about the earlier boxes must seem like a beautiful dream. Under this kind of fire I'd imagine they are significantly panicked.
To wit, they are freaked-out to the point that Paul Sinclair of the excellent reissue website Super Deluxe Edition was called in to the London Parlophone offices to have a nearly two hour sit down during which the label attempted to explain away the problems with a mix of curious, and at times, conflicting, reasoning. This was followed by a press release from Bowie's team. Neither gesture has seemed to quell the unrest and it's not hard to see why.
The box retails for between $120-$200 depending on which physical format you choose. From Parlophone's perspective, they have considerable money invested in just manufacturing. Plus, this is a product they've got a high expectation to generate significant financial rewards, especially in the crucial holiday period. And before everyone piles on about commercialism triumphing over art, realize this is a company that has an obligation to perform both financially and artistically at peak, especially in an industry with significantly diminishing returns. Making money isn't evil and no one is forcing anyone to buy anything. That said, I still have many reservations about what I view as fan-predatory practices of the program to date, going back to the initial, bonus track-free versions of 1999.
I've been on both sides of this equation, so before I go deeper, let me say that a project of this scale, by an artist of this stature - especially when it features music many of Bowie's hardcore fans hold particularly dear - is an enterprise not undertaken lightly or without fear of fan wrath. These boxes have been coming at a steady rate and there's no doubt many inside the walls of Parlophone - no matter how big a Bowie fan they may be - are human, and may be, at this point, somewhat Bowie-fatigued. After going through so many reels listening to and cataloging the vault, I certainly was.
In short, I'm sympathetic. The Ryko titles contained mistakes. We were lucky - when the Ryko releases were prepared, David was alive. He signed off on all the re-masters we created, so we could safely deflect to him, regardless of who was initially responsible for any slip-ups. And, thank God, they came out before the internet was a thing, or I might've offed myself while reading comments.
Since the fuss started, I've discussed the issue with a range of people who've spent time with ANCIANT, from fans to renowned re-release producers. This has provided interesting fodder for my own thoughts.
Parlophone and Bowie's publicist categorically deny any of the issues are unintentional. In fact, they claim these perceived problems are absolutely critical to the concept of this particular box. Yet that pretense conflicts with the apparent logic behind the previous boxes.
I hate it when people presume to know what my thoughts are or were without asking directly, so I'm hesitant to state categorically that the first two boxes were intentionally envisioned to be at odds with NCIANT, but logic follows that if you've set a standard, you ought to maintain that thread throughout the campaign.
Conversely, if you're planning a deviation, that should be clearly communicated prior to release. Otherwise, well, here we are.
The brick walled mastering is unfortunate but not uncommon. While audiophiles balk, many consumers DO prefer it because it is LOUD. If you don't brickwall, your release sounds quiet next to a contemporary pop album - and this was especially obvious during the MP3 heyday when 1989 CDs dumped into iTunes didn't sound as loud as 2005 CDs did - resulting in jarring volume disparity. I'll admit that, on occasion, depending on the music, I can enjoy brickwalled mastering.
But this is some of Bowie's most complex and cleanly recorded work from his Great Decade, and the mastering choices aren't compatible with the music. Yes, Visconti was there for the recording and certainly knows what at least he (if not David, or Eno) was after on the original sessions.
On the other hand, David signed off on the Ryko masters and we never got any notes to boost the bass, which we could've (and would've) done if requested.
It's worth noting Tony's work has become increasingly bass-y over the years. Maybe this is by choice or perhaps he's (understandably) lost some hearing range as he ages. Maybe the fact that he's a bass player is a factor.
All this considered, mastering choices are subjective and driven by many factors including source material and end goals. So let's agree that maybe you don't like the choices made, but someone had to make a choice somewhere.
This might seem like a brush-off of a fairly significant issue, but I am moving past this it because it's wholly subjective, and therefore least problematic, IMO. FWIW, I think the "Lodger" remix is excellent, a real improvement (unlike the "Ziggy" remix, which didn't have the ferocity on the basic multitracks Bowie hoped for). Conversely, I do not like the "Lodger" remaster, and neither do the fans.
Even so, I find throwing Tony under the bus an odd move considering the label must have heard the box before it was manufactured. One assumes this would give them an opportunity to reconsider.
Or it's not out of the realm of possibility that quality control just failed / dropped the ball.
Sinclair details accounts of a mind-boggling number of test pressings, so the final approval process must've taken months, at least.
This indicates there was trouble early on in the process, but it's also important to remember that listening and re-listening to the same music, slightly modified, over and over, will cause a listener to develop ear and / or material fatigue and possibly lose the plot on the entire exercise, forgetting the original goal.
Maybe whoever was in position to pull the trigger finally threw their hands up in frustration after the 50th test pressing hit their desk - "I just can't tell anymore! Make the damn thing!"
Labels are businesses. They have annual sales goals. That's not inherently an indication there's malicious foul play afoot. It's in everyone's interest if most fans like the final product, at least enough so they don't try to word-massacre it online.
But the rationale behind the "Heroes" flux is..... not well thought out, to say the least.
Which brings me to my next point; it's flat out fucking bizarre that, all of a sudden, they've decided to use ONLY original (un-EQ'd, I assume) master reels as the source material, warts and all. This MIGHT make sense if they were touting these as flat transfers, but instead they've remastered them drastically, altering the sound of the original recordings.
Again, we shouldn't be so quick to blame Parlophone. It may not be the label's fault. Perhaps this was the deal with Bowie prior to his passing; leave the job to Tony and release what he delivers, no compromise.
In my view, the sole point of using un-EQ'd master tapes is to get the best possible sound quality, period. Those tapes, presumably, are the closest to what the artists and producers played back in the studio and signed off on before some mastering guy EQ'd the record for whatever format was active at the time. This is indeed the right place to START, but not necessarily the source material you WANT to use throughout.
When Ryko handled Bowie's work, Toby Mountain, his team, and I vigorously reviewed ALL the source material at hand, including multiple safety copies, reels made for cassette duplication, different territories, etc, etc.
Using the un-EQ'd master tape wasn't always desirable because some masters WERE damaged and wouldn't have provided the purest reproduction. In those cases we'd review all tapes containing the damaged songs. Once we found and agreed on the best-sounding version, we'd use it. This generally worked, but also led to our snafu of using "Gouster" mixes of "Young Americans" tracks, without realizing they were slightly different. I do NOT recall the "Heroes" master having any issues, but that was 25 years ago. I may have forgotten, or it may have been damaged since.
Previous Parlophone Bowie boxes may not be mastered to everyone's liking, but this is an impossible result, despite insistence to the contrary by hardcore audiophiles - there are no absolutes in art, boys! But it's reasonable to say were generally well received.
Now, if the label's being honest, when they included Romanian-only single edits or similar on recent comps and boxes in the interest of serving / praying on the completist, they were rarely (if ever) sourcing what are most likely long-lost master reels of regionally mutilated single versions from the 70's. Instead they're very accurately re-creating an edit they've heard on a 7 inch 45, using far more reliable tools than a reel of oxidized plastic, tape and a razor blade. Mastering studios have significantly better gear now than we did in 1989-92 when the bulk of Ryko's Bowie titles were mastered. Even by 1996, mastering software had made huge leaps and bounds, prompting us to remaster in 20 bit for the gold AU20 series.
So why is master tape purism suddenly the be-all-end-all with box #3? We can only guess.
If it's not bullshit and they're deliberately deviating from the process and standards established by the previous boxes, don't fans who are most likely $250 to $400 into these sets already deserve a friendly heads-up instead of a "this was intentional" excuse after they've already laid their money down? I'd think so.
Again I can only guess at the kind of snafus that'd create such a derided product. The hiss, the flutter, the unintentional clipped fade-in; all would probably be forgiven with the explanation the label has offered.
It doesn't MAKE SENSE, but fans would probably accept it.
But the "Heroes" dropout? That's a mistake, plain and simple. You can fix that within minutes in a digital studio while still maintaining the integrity of using the original source tape barring a few seconds. WHO WOULD NOTICE? WOULD VISCOUNT BE UP AT NIGHT TOSSING AND TURNIG BECAUSE OF THREE SECONDS FLOWN IN FROM ANOTHER SOURCE? HAVE WE FALLEN SO FAR THAT FANS WANT TO HEAR ALL THE DAMAGED TAPES? Of course not. For Parlophone to insist otherwise is a little insulting.
I've maintained all along that the current spate of re-releases is designed by trainspotters to serve trainspotters. The packages are nice, but what "new-old" content are they adding? "The Gouster"? Please. Remixes? Edits? Spare me. I like the "Lodger" remix, but let's not pretend it's anything but bait on a hook as the catalog takes a final (?) victory lap before physical product fades from the mainstream.
Again, I'm not an anti-capitalist. If Bowie and Parlophone want to milk the catalog, without offering anything significantly new to the fanbase, that's their right. But this approach and the poor QC displayed on ANCIANT may have finally gotten us to the the point where even the most fervent completists feel they've been taken advantage of.
That 80's box just became a significantly harder sell.
OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF OUR NEW LABEL,
SUPERMEGABOT MUSIC CONCERN LLC!
Former Rykodisc Staffers Launch CD-Only Label, Supermegabot Music Concern,
Encourage Music Fans To Take the Supermegabot Challenge To Win First Year’s Worth of Releases!
September 27, 2017 – Salem, MA - This Fall, consumers of physical music will have a new, yet instantly classic record label to thrill them with sounds current and vintage. Jeff Rougvie and Thomas Enright, both formerly of Rykodisc and EMI/Caroline are launching Supermegabot Music Concern, LLC with six releases before the end of the year, all on CD (with select download sales).
Supermegabot plans to release all titles on CD only, at least initially. “We get that some people prefer vinyl, but CD is the better format when it comes to sound reproduction,” says Rougvie, adding, “Vinyl isn’t out of the question at some point, but for now we’re sticking with the format that doesn’t degrade every time you play it.”
Rougvie, who produced David Bowie’s Grammy-winning Sound + Vision series and A&R’d many of Ryko’s most beloved releases (Big Star, Sugar, Elvis Costello, Morphine, Meat Puppets, Nine Inch Nails, Bill Hicks, Golden Smog) is Executive-Producing all of Supermegabot’s re-releases with the same kind of care and attention to detail that music lovers came to expect from Rykodisc. Fans can look forward to expanded track listings and special packaging wherever possible.
“Much like when Ryko started, our original focus was on catalog, but an amazing artist came along that was too good to turn down. Now we’re taking a unique approach to developing a new artist,” says Enright.
In an unconventional twist, the label is launching without announcing any upcoming titles. Instead hardcore music fans are invited to compete in the Supermegabot Challenge to try and guess the releases. On https://www.supermegabot.com/ fans can see tantalizing visual and written clues about the albums. The first person to accurately guess all of them will win a copy of each of the label’s first year of releases. If no one correctly guesses them all, a winner will be picked at random, so even a guess could win!
“We’re music obsessives launching a label for music obsessives – so we want to reward one of them for proving their depth of knowledge. A contest seemed like a fun way to launch and engage music fans at the same time”, says Rougvie.
Enright, whose career in independent music artist development, sales and marketing spans three decades, adds “These aren’t all super-obscure titles, either. Our first batch includes a band with three Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members in it. Supermegabot refuses to be tied to one musical genre; initial releases include punk, power-pop, art-rock, new wave, and 80’s funk. That said, we are all about discovery – lots of great records and artists never got a fair shake. Uncovering these gems is key to the label’s DNA.”
SALEM HORROR FEST, MORRISSEY 25 YEARS AGO & MORE
First, it may seem easy and obvious to have a horror festival in Salem in September & October, but it's hard to imagine any more exciting or thoughtfully planned than this first of (hopefully) many annual events, Salem Horror Fest. The festival looks at fear from a variety of viewpoints and examines subtext in horror films.
I can't begin to get into the depth of great guests, programming and amazing selection of films (including some that wouldn't traditionally be considered horror, but really are) like Cruising, an 80's Al Pacino flick that's rarely screened in theaters, with an incredible punk soundtrack.
Check out the full program here, and if you're on the fence about coming to Salem, consider that Metallica's Kirk Hammet is exhibiting his incredible collection of horror movie posters and memorabilia at the acclaimed Peabody Essex Museum.
In addition to the usual Haunted House and Seafaring events that typically take place in Salem every Fall, there's a lot of opportunity for new kinds of high-end thrills in Salem this year! I encourage you to take part so we get similar activity in the future!
Click on the image below for a link to the PEM's Hammett exhibit page.
ORPHEUM THEATER, SEPTEMBER 12, 1992
It was 25 Years Ago Today (he said again) that I saw Morrissey for the first time at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. It was the opening night of the "Your Arsenal" tour. YA is still my fave record he's ever done, including the Smiths catalog, probably because of the amazing arrangements by Mick Ronosn, who produced the album.
Gallon Drunk opened the show. They had recently become a Rykodisc act after Howie Klein called and told me the band had signed to Sire (Morrissey's label), but their new album wasn't going to be ready in time for Sire to get it out for the tour, and they needed someone fast and nimble who could get two older GD albums out before September 12th. I figured the tour would be enough marketing to sell sufficient copies of the albums to make the deal worthwhile (it did, but not spectacularly).
Since Morrissey had hand-picked Gallon Drunk as the opening act, I figured there was a good chance I might get an opportunity to meet the Man Himself and maybe talk some Bowie, and I lived in Minneapolis at the time, so I went over to the venue in the afternoon to say hi to Gallon Drunk, who acted like assholes. Instead of offering to buy them dinner as intended, I split the dressing room and hung around in the hallways of the backstage area hoping to run into S. Morrissey.
Sadly, no luck, so I went out in the street to meet up with my GF at the time. The crowd was spilling out into the bus lanes of Hennepin Avenue and there were clearly lots of people who'd flown in for the opening date ion the tour. Kids were crying everywhere, they were so excited. The whole situation felt very safe but highly volatile, at least emotionally.
The show was amazing. Well, the Morrissey show was - his band was incredible, way more rocking than the album, which was a surprise considering YA is one of his meatier recordings. The crowd was largely baffled by Gallon Drunk - no surprise, they were a difficult listen.
The kids had been going wild, jumping onstage and getting tossed off, a few of them connecting with Morrissey and dancing with him. Unfortunately, this only encouraged more fans to get onstage and the encore was interrupted by a massive stage invasion, which abruptly ended the show during "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful."
Top night out. Here's the setlist:
You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side
Girl Least Likely To
Certain People I Know
Sister I'm a Poet
The National Front Disco
November Spawned a Monster
Such a Little Thing Makes Such a Big Difference
My Insatiable One
We'll Let You Know
He Knows I'd Love to See Him
You're the One for Me, Fatty
Seasick, Yet Still Docked
We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful
(stage invasion, show ends abruptly)
I'm still holding off on news (how do people do this on the regular??) but I did want to let you know two things I'm very excited about:
1) My pals at the amazing Omnivore Recordings are having a SALE!
50% off all CDs, the superior format!
Does not include pre-orders, so don't add as-yet-unreleased titles to your cart or the order will be delayed & you won't get the discount (discount will show in your cart, not on the product page).
Titles include their new Chris Bell pre-Big Star collection, Raspberries Live, their amazing Big Star releases, Game Theory, Jellyfish, Bob Mould, The Muffs and many, many more - all loving curated!
GO GET 'EM!
2) In my view, the greatest rock band of the 21st Century was the LA band Tsar, who, like Big Star before them, were buried in history by record company shenanigans. Their Facebook page mysteriously hints at things to come, and there are rumors of Jeff Whalen issuing a solo album. If you heard my interview on Rock & Roll Geek Show (hit the link and find the Celebrating Bowie episode), you'll know I'm a huge fan (as is RnR Geek Michael Butler!) and if Whalen's album is anything near as great as the Tsar albums were, I expect it'll be my record of the decade.
Find them @rockgroupTsar on Facebook.
Finally, really, BIG ASS NEWS IS ON THE WAY!
Still on the brink of major announcements (some are only 5 years in the making), but in the meantime, I did an interview with "Always Never Yesterday" - an e-mail magazine about the future.
The subject of this issue (#10) is "Future-Proof" edited + curated by Ean McNamara, a talented artist who worked on the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" amongst others.
We talk about Star Wars, the music business, audio formats, Capitol Record Shop, and (of course) David Bowie.
Amazingly, after the interview was completed, we discovered the interviewer is the son of friends from my Hartford days!
You can sign up to get the issue delivered to your e-mailbox when it's released later this month. Here's the link.
SO MUCH NEWS... BUT NOT QUITE YET
Wish I could divulge more, but after years of working on a variety of projects, it seems like they are all coming together at once - which is very exciting.
I'll be dropping clues here, but as my talented friend (and future collaborator) Butcher Billy says, "Find what you love and LET IT KILL YOU!"
Yours truly, ready to die doing what I love.
MY THANKS TO ALL WHO CAME OUT ON MARCH 12th TO THE PALACE DANBURY!
To be blunt, I was quite nervous about doing the presentation without a band for the first time. You guys were great and I must give special thanks to the staff of the Palace, especially the lovely Carol Spiegel!
I'll be talking about David's history and how he got happy again after a rough patch in the 80's based on conversations he and I had between 1990-1997. Also, I'll show some rare material, discuss the history of Rykodisc, and we'll have a Q&A!
Tickets available here or click on the image above.
Sunday afternoon, show at 3pm!
To all who came out for a very successful (300+) second show at Arlington's historic Regent Theater on March 3rd - you guys are the best, and I hope you enjoyed it!
The Daily Pravda killed playing Bowie classics and the Regent Staff was amazing! And we got to the Q&A and you guys had great questions! It was great meeting so many of you after the show.
NEW VIDEO FOR 'NO PLAN'
Keeping the mythology going from beyond....
Saturday Jan 7, 2017 at the REGENT THEATER, ARLINGTON, MA
Presentation by JEFF ROUGVIE
BOWIE MUSIC played by the DAILY PRAVDA
Join us as we celebrate one of our era’s most creative artists! This event will bring to life the magic of David Bowie, offering a first-hand glimpse of his uniquely-gifted and chameleon-like genius.
In 1989, Rykodisc, a tiny independent record label located on Pickering Wharf in Salem, Massachusetts, was hand-picked by David Bowie to curate his amazing body of work spanning 1969-1980, including classics like Space Oddity, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Young Americans, Low, Heroes, and Scary Monsters.
What followed then set a new standard for audio-visual presentation, re-affirmed David Bowie’s genius for a new generation and helped him rediscover his creative powers. One man behind the scenes in this amazing story was Jeff Rougvie, Rykodisc’s VP of Special Projects, who worked directly with Bowie on nearly 20 releases over 10 years.
During this special live event Rougvie will discuss the magic of Bowie using visuals, unseen material, accompanied by Boston’s own Daily Pravda, who will perform live versions of some of Bowie’s most memorable songs, followed by a Q&A session.
All tickets are reserved seating:
TICKET PRICE: $17.00 ALL SEATS
Get them here!
ABOUT THE REGENT:
Built in 1916, the historic Regent Theatre remains true to its roots as a vibrant vaudeville house. An intimate 500-seat performing arts center with superior acoustics and comfortable seating, "Arlington's Show Place of Entertainment" features live music concerts, theatre, dance events, family entertainment, comedy, film specials, and more.
Conveniently located just minutes from Cambridge and Boston, the Regent is MBTA and handicap accessible with free parking across the street (nights and weekends after 3pm on Saturday) and a variety of great restaurants and shops within easy walking distance.
The Regent is dedicated to bringing the highest quality events to the area, and while we are a community theater attracting audiences from Arlington and the surrounding towns of suburban Boston, we have a number of exclusive events throughout the year with nationally and internationally known performers-many of whom are bona fide legends.
LAST CHANCE TO ORDER LAZARUS VIA AMAZON PRIME & GET IT ON RELEASE DATE!
Order here - plus you get auto rip, so you can sell the sealed CD and still have the music!
BIG STAR: COMPLETE THIRD IS RELEASED FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14th
This long in-the-works, and impeccably executed 3 CD set is out on Friday!
Finally bringing together the sprawling sessions that led to Third, this box includes stunning music (much of it officially released for the first time), and many previously unseen pictures.
The booklet has stellar liner notes telling the story of this masterpiece from people who were there, along with reflections on the work by artists who were influenced by it. The many facets of Third are explored by musicians like John Stirratt, Ken Stringfellow, Pat Sansone, Steve Wynn, Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Gary Louris, Mitch Easter, Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson, and Mike Mills. I'm honored to be included among these legends.
If you're a fan of Big Star, power pop, or dissecting masterworks, this is a must-buy release. You can buy here and get it on day of release - why not?
WHY YOU SHOULDN'T GET BENT OUT OF SHAPE ABOUT "LEGACY"
In the wake of "Who Can I Be Now" and another hits compilation "Legacy", there's been a lot of grousing about the quality of the product. Not the music, mind you, the product.
My voice has been part of that chorus as I find it disingenuous to tell people "The Gouster" is an "unreleased album" in order to get them to buy a $125 box set without a scrap of unreleased music on it.
I recently responded to some friends on Facebook about the "Legacy" collection, coming just in time for Christmas. For what it's worth, here's what I said:
“One of the last truly prescient quotes from the man himself was this: "in X years copyright will be meaningless" - and he's not wrong.
Certainly all of these releases are sanctioned by either DB or the estate and, with the end of the rock era and people actually paying for music on the horizon, it's probably smart to make hay while the sun still shines.
There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to build as much wealth as possible in the wake of a passing. After all, if you were he, would you not want to provide for as many generations of future Bowies as you possibly could?
Refreshing greatest hits packages every few years is commonplace and this is the first since DB left us. This package isn't designed for hardcore fans, it's designed for the masses.That said, the marketing of these things as containing "new" material is deplorable, abusive of the fanbase and predatory, IMO.
A big part of the Ryko pitch to DB was to limit the number of compilations, especially in the wake of RCA's post "Lets Dance" cash-in comps. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into compiling "The Singles" and we outright rejected three comp ideas DB himself had proposed because I thought they were maybe good for the bank account in the short-term but bad for long term cred (ours and his).Even though I'd guess he was befuddled by that decision, I'm happy we held the line and I'm sure it has helped his legacy, but those were different times.
Remember, you don't HAVE to buy as much as you may feel ritualistically compelled.”
Thanks to everyone who came to the Gloucester, MA Bowie Event! Read about it on AXS Boston!
Check it out here
Here We Go Again: Talking About Bowie In Gloucester at Cape Ann Cinema & Stage on September 25th with the Daily Pravda!
I'm pleased to announce my next Bowie presentation on Sunday, Sept 25th at Gloucester, MA's prestigious Cape Ann Cinema & Stage, right above Mystery Train Records. I'll be accompanied by the Daily Pravda, who'll be playing Bowie songs for your pleasure and delight. The program will commence at 6:30 pm.
For those who came to my previous presentation in Salem, please note Gloucester will be considerably less Ryko-centric (although if there's time for a Q&A please feel free to ask any Ryko questions you like).
The presentation back in May was largely spurred not only by Bowie's death, but also because few folks remember Rykodisc anymore, never mind that it was right in Salem, a situation I thought should be rectified. That said, Ryko was briefly HQ'd in Gloucester, too, for about three years at the end of the 90's/early 00's. I'll give a dollar to anyone who attends and knows where the office was.
This time, the talk will be almost entirely about Bowie and I'll get into more of the career minutiae we didn't have tie for in May.
There will be specific discussion of his activities during the Ryko era (89-97) and the first public showing of a mock-up of a 4 CD unreleased Ziggy Stardust 25th Anniversary Box Set that never happened, amongst many other gems & witticisms, I'm sure.
To the turd in the punchbowl who griped about my swearing at the last program: I guarantee a similar amount of cursing (if not more) will ensue at this one.
August 15th, 2016: Big News for Big Fans of Big Star; Complete Third Sessions Box Set!
Honored to have been invited to contribute to the set by Omnivore Recordings. You can read more about it and listen to a track from the upcoming box right here.
August 8th, 2016: Malcolm Gladwell Is Out Of His Elvis Costello Idiot
Check out this piece on pseudo-intellectual Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, where he pontificates a theory on artist's methods, using an Elvis Costello song as an example, one that disproves his theory in the process. Oops! Find it on the Elvis Costello page in the "MORE ARTISTS" dropdown menu.
August 05, 2016: I Answer More Of Your Questions:
Planned Ryko Bonus Tracks
Steve Jones asks:
"i saw images of proposed additional tracks of Pin Ups and Space oddity(Salem may, 12 2016), can you reveal for me proposed additional tracks for Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs and Young Americans , please?"
If you're Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, yes.
Otherwise, I'm not sure how, if or when I'm going to be releasing more of the proposed Ryko tracks. Once I figure that out, I'll announce here. Sorry!
That said, it's often assumed we didn't know about tracks or didn't ask for them. The proposed track lists you've seen in pictures from my presentation were our wish lists, and we had to clear approvals with both David and Tony DeFries to include anything we were asking for.
It's logical David wouldn't want to release any more pre-76 tracks, because these would've then ended up in the pool of material generating revenue for Tony, so it's possible he wanted them kept under wraps. All that is water under the bridge now, but it certainly was an issue back then.
My Opinion of Sound + Vision 2004 Version
Since I get loads of question through the site, I thought it might be best to answer them here, as they are often of broad interest. Here we go:
"As an owner of a used copy of the last Ryko S+V (3disc and book) I was fascinated reading your blog about the backstory of how the set was compiled. I've shared your blog with several friends.
I'm wondering what you think of this latest release of S+V that adds a 4th disc with Tin Machine material. Perhaps you could add a new blog post sharing your thoughts."
I've touched on this before, but happy to recap.
In my view the original S+V encapsulates a very specific period that hangs together quite well, with a clear beginning and end. If we're honest, it's Bowie's greatest body of work.
Each disc in the set was designed to highlight an era and, as seamlessly as possible, follow a thread through the work. The idea is to show musical genre switching that may have seemed like jarring stylistic changes at the time are shown as logical progressions of work that came before.
Back in 2003, when EMI first rejiggered it into a 6x12" set with a fourth disc, the 3 CD Ryko version had been out of print for years, had never been released outside North America, and still included a bunch of otherwise unreleased music.
So there were plenty of good reasons for getting the set back into the marketplace, especially globally.
On the other hand, if you're going to do it, do it right.
If they'd expanded content within the years covered in the original S+V, that may have worked. But chopping the first three discs apart loses the graceful arc of the innocent intro to "Space Oddity" through the onstage killing of Ziggy and the Spiders. And from the first song on disc one to the last on disc three we don't end with Major Tom's (at the time) grand mystery solved.
Instead they tacked on songs from the deleted "Singles" 2-CD set, oddball "rarities" and less than stellar album tracks, ending with a live version of "Pallas Athena"? Because Thank God there are TWO versions of that song included, instead of something a little more interesting.
That said, Bowie's work post-"Scary Monsters" should be properly compiled and made digestible, I just think this was a shit attempt. Listen to everything from "Cat People" on and tell me if the programming shows any thought. I can't find the thread.
A better idea than expanding the first iteration would've been releasing "Sound + Vision 2" - maybe a 2 CD set that would represent the 80's (obviously there's much less 80's material than we had from the 70's), and then S+V 3 for the 90's and so on.
For the most part, I don't know exactly what the architects behind the post Ryko catalog handling were thinking or what challenges they faced. That said, I was told by people in the room that EMI was dead set against adding the Ryko bonus tracks (or any bonus tracks) to the initial re-re-releases of the individual albums, because they wanted fans to buy updated versions later.
To me, and I think a lot of fans, the handling of David's catalog by subsequent producers feels like an exercise in bean-counting and trainspotting; here's a remix, b-side or obscure edit that's never been compiled, tack it on here! It's all by the numbers, with no heart. The latest series of boxes is exactly the kind of taking advantage we promised NOT to do when we sold David on Rykodisc. I mean, "The Gouster"? How desperate and sad to use THAT as a tease to get fans to buy a $100+ set.
We got things wrong at Ryko (sometimes at DB's insistence!) but respect for the fans was at the top of our priority list. We rejected compilation ideas he had because they added nothing to the campaign and felt exploitative. I'm sure he was shocked by our refusal, but I think we did him and the fans a massive favor and I have no regrets.
PS: I see the reference to "S+V" as a teaser for the series is back again on Wikipedia, this time credited to me - when in fact, the link used to illustrate this point is me specifically denoting that S+V was NOT designed as a teaser. Fuck me.
Anyway, if you have questions, feel free to send them to me through the form on the contact page. I'll answer as I can.
GUNNING FOR HITS:
Here's the logo for my upcoming comic book. Design seem familiar?
On May 12th I gave a presentation at CinemaSalem about Bowie & Rykodisc - and the amazing Daily Pravda performed Bowie songs!
Thanks to everyone who came - I'll be doing it again this fall!
CLICK ON IMAGE BELOW TO READ A REVIEW!
If you're a returning visitor, please note our menu is streamlined. Artist pages are now (mostly) organized under the "MORE ARTISTS" drop-down menu, and the "CONTACT ME" page now includes LINKS and other stuff. Enjoy!
Jeff Rougvie is an American record label executive and founder, music consultant, IP expert, music expert witness in legal matters, music producer, DVD producer, artist, writer, publisher, toy & collectibles expert, DJ (who isn't?), music historian, and partner in Supermegabot, a company that produces & sells limited edition Compact Discs, Art Toys, Novelties & other collectibles.
Thank you for visiting!
Jeff Rougvie c/o Supermegabot / 422 Lafayette St / Salem, MA 01970 / USA