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Keith Richards Writing Children's Book

Keith RichardsI don’t know why I’m surprised. In this day and age, it seems musicians are doing just about everything, and as much as Keith Richards is probably one of the last people I’d peg to write a children’s book, it seems I’d be wrong. Billboard reports that Richards’ story, Gus & Me: The Story Of My Granddad and My First Guitar, details Richards’ own relationship with his grandfather, Gus Dupree. Illustrations will come from his daughter, Theodora Richards (ok, so that’s kind of sweet), and the book will be released this fall. Barnaby Harris and Bill Shapiro will assist in the writing, so I guess we don’t have to worry about any of that drug abuse and debauchery that appeared in his memoir, Life, popping up. Keep an eye out for Richards’ book, released on Little Brown Books For Young Readers this fall.

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A Super Heavy Supergroup
From Sammy Hagar’s Aliens To Keith Richard’s Blood Transfusions: Rock ˜n’ Roll’s Most Outlandish Claims

"Crossfire Hurricane" Tour Doc To Shine A New Light On The Rolling Stones

Storied british rock band The Rolling Stones announced a new band doc, Crossfire Hurricane, earlier today. The tour doc, commemorating the 50th anniversary of The Stones as a performing unit, marks another authorized entry into the already deep documentary videography that The Stones have amassed over the years. Classic rock nerds will also note that the film pulls its title from a lyric in “Jumpin Jack Flash.”

Crossfire Hurricane appears to be pretty broad in focus, covering the trajectory of the group from their earliest touring days in 1962 to the band as we know them as today.

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Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Mitch Ryder Keeps His Promise

What we think of today as “classic rock” would probably still have existed in a world without Mitch Ryder, but it most likely would have sounded quite different. Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels ruled the radio and monopolized the singles charts between 1965 and ’67, taking the R&B sounds emanating from their native Motor City and elsewhere and amping them up into a sweaty, ecstatic explosion of rock ‘n’ soul abandon. Query any major American rock act to emerge between the late ’60s and the late ’70s”odds are the influences they’ll cite include plenty of classic Motown and Stax artists, but their adaptation of those soulful sounds into their own music will be most immediately informed by the mid-’60s Mitch Ryder hit parade. “I think it’s true when they say that we crossed that bridge from Motown into white-boy rock & roll,” says Ryder. “We had enough R&B influence in our music, but we also had that teenage angst and energy and drive that comes with being a rock & roller, and we somehow magically stumbled onto a hybrid mixture of those two. And that created not only our sound, but it allowed for young rock & rollers to cross over [into R&B].”

In fact, the first half of “Devil With a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly,” the 1966 medley that became Ryder’s biggest hit, came straight from Berry Gordy‘s R&B empire. The original version was cut by soul man Shorty Long for Motown two years earlier, at about half the speed of Ryder’s fervid reinvention. “We doubled it, maybe tripled it,” Ryder says of the original song’s tempo. “If the average band was playing 100 beats a minute, we were playing 160 beats a minute, it’s just adrenaline.” That adrenaline helped to make stars of Ryder and his Motor City mates in an era dominated by British groups whose own interpretation of American R&B was watered-down by comparison. Listen, for instance, to the Rolling Stones‘ early attempts at blues and soul back to back with Ryder’s contemporaneous output for verification. In fact, Keith Richards and Brian Jones were guests at the recording session for Ryder’s momentous ’65 single “Jenny Take a Ride,” and the latter artist’s intensity was not lost on them. “There was a little bit of arrogance,” Ryder recalls of the Stones’ demeanor on the date in question, “but there was a genuine interest because of what they were listening to. And they had the ability to acknowledge the fact that the music was exciting, and made predictions that it was going to be a hit. I had mingled with them on and off and seen them in London,” remembers Ryder. “Keith and I actually would go out and party together a little bit in New York.”

Unfortunately, Ryder’s commercial success was nowhere near as long-lasting as that of his British drinking buddy. The Wheels didn’t survive past the ’60s, and Ryder’s last real moment in the spotlight in America came in the early ’70s with his short-lived band Detroit. Though he has maintained an active recording career in Europe from the ’70s to the present, Ryder spent decades as an unknown soldier in the US. His last domestic release was 1983’s John Mellencamp-produced Never Kick a Sleeping Dog, and his next dozen or so albums never came near American ears. That trend is about to undergo a long-overdue reversal with the American release of The Promise. Produced by Don Was, Ryder’s first American album in almost thirty years dovetails nicely with the publication of his new autobiography, Devils & Blue Dresses.

In the book, Ryder chronicles his rise and fall with a candor that spares neither himself nor those who screwed him over in the music biz. Producer Bob Crewe, for example, helped make Ryder’s early hits possible, but also hastened the downward slide of the Detroit dynamo’s fortunes. Asked about Crewe’s current whereabouts, Ryder references the producer’s work with The Four Seasons, mordantly remarking, “The latest quote I heard from him is when [Four Seasons musical] Jersey Boys came out, and he said, ‘That’s like hitting the lottery twice.’ Had I been eating chicken, I’d probably be choking on the bones.'” Ryder nevertheless remains evenhanded in his estimation of Crewe. “He had no lack of confidence, and no morals or ethics either, for that matter. But I give him his proper credit in the book, and state quite clearly that those songs, no matter how talented our band was, couldn’t have become as powerful as they were had he not been present to cause that excitement in the minds and hearts of the young teenagers [Ryder and The Wheels] he was surrounded with.”

Ryder’s book is a fascinating rock & roll memoir along the lines of Tommy James‘s cautionary tale, Me, The Mob & The Music, even featuring some of the same mendacious moguls. Ryder states simply, “If you’re gonna write an autobiography, why glitz it up and try to hide things? Most of my life I’ve lived in Detroit, and Detroit’s a funny place”we can live with omissions but we will not tolerate a lie. So I decided when I started writing that it was gonna be as truthful as it could possibly be. It was so truthful that the [publisher’s] legal department pulled many, many pages from the book. They were afraid of lawsuits. All I did was lay out the facts and told the truth.” Ryder doesn’t let himself off the hook for anything either, casting an unblinking eye on his own personal and professional missteps throughout, but the sixty-six-year-old singer remains philosophical about it all. “If it happened, it happened,” he says, “Why take on any bad feelings about it? We all make mistakes. Why regret something, why torture yourself so late in life with things you can’t change? For me it’s just a documentation of what the trip was about.”

Ryder’s accounts also include intriguing close encounters with legends like Bob Dylan. A twenty-year-old Ryder was a fly on the wall for one of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited sessions. “That was thrilling,” remembers Ryder. “I was focused like a hawk on a mouse on Dylan, and he was so active in the studio, he would stop a song and take out a notebook and write something down¦suddenly they’d be playing a song and he’d stop and go over to the piano and play something¦it was a long process for him. There was a lot of guesswork on the part of the musicians¦he would do maybe sixteen bars here and the next verse would be ten, and that was all just at his discretion. I remember [Dylan guitarist Mike] Bloomfield just looked at me once with these weird eyes, like ‘This is crazy.’ His music made you think, whereas the music that we had been turning into hits was pretty much party music.”

Nevertheless, the ’70s found Ryder beginning the long process of establishing himself as an incisive songwriter as well as a powerful performer. At least as far as America goes, most of this artistic evolution has taken place under the radar, so many might be surprised at the intensity of the artist’s own compositions on The Promise. “I’m an oldies act here,” he says, “People have no reference point, for all they know I’ve just been real lazy, and just trying to milk that cow until it runs dry, when the fact of the matter is that I’ve been working my ass off and I haven’t stopped.”

With the help of Don Was and a core team of crack players, The Promise melds hard-hitting R&B and rock & roll grooves with uncompromising lyrics that mine the personal and the political with equal aplomb. “Don and I know each other from quite a few years back,” explains Ryder. “I simply called him one day and said ‘Don, what would it take for us to make an album together?’ Because my career in America was really taking a tailspin, and I had to do something to at least let people in America know I was alive so I could work. When I go to Europe it essentially pays my bills for maybe four or five months, the rest of the year depends on the work I get in America. So to survive I had to do something to get myself back into the public eye, and the album was one piece of it. The book became a second piece.”

All these years later, Ryder is still living in the Detroit area, and even as he returns to remind the public of his status as a true rock & roll original, he remains a cheerleader for the Motor City sound. Asked how he looks at the Detroit rock legacy he helped create, as carried through the decades by everyone from The MC5 to the White Stripes, he enthuses, “I’m very happy with it. We just keep trendsetting, and we keep sticking it out there. It still comes out of the city and it’s still being recognized. We have people coming out of here all the time, and it’s been that way since I can remember, so it’s a good breeding ground for artistic abilities. We’re probably more highly educated than the rest of the country would like to think.”

Friday, January 6th, 2012

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Turn It Loose

    The So and So’s

    Technical precision can be a thing of beauty. Musicians like Steve Vai and Neil Peart have inspired and influenced countless fans with their flawless mastering of their instrument. But imperfection can cast its own kind of spell, too. Keith Richards‘ rough and rangy style of guitar playing has certainly helped sell some records. The So and So’s, out of Manchester, England, fall into the Richards’ school of technique. Not Today is a loose and shambling melody made up of reverb guitars and the moony croon of singer-songwriter Richard Dutton. More upbeat, Jeckyll and Hyde shuffles along with the help of a bubbling bass line. The So and So’s are best described as part Morphine, part Kooks, as the strutting tremolo guitars and bleating sax of Unmistakable You prove. They’re not polished, but they’re gutsy”a perfect band for those who like it rough.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    A Super Heavy Supergroup

    A new supergroup is on the horizon, but “new” isn’t really the right word” the band has been recording its debut album in secret for the past eighteen months. The seed was planted by Dave Stewart two years ago, when he called up Mick Jagger and proposed the idea of fusing several different genres together. After some brainstorming and a few phone calls, they picked up Joss Stone, Damian Marley and A.R. Rahman to complete the spectrum. We don’t have any doubt that people are intrigued by this illustrious medley of musicians, but let’s face it: Jagger isn’t exactly known for playing nice with others.

    Mick and Dave

    We could have called this article “When Egos Collide,” but then again, none of these guys are notorious egomaniacs with the exception of Jagger. Rahman, considered “the world’s most prominent and prolific film composer” by Time Magazine, has been quoted saying “[T]here is only one of the two that can reside in our heart: God or ego. If God is in, ego is out.” Jagger, on the other hand, has been quoted saying “Obviously I have this sort of strange animal magnetism. It’s very hard for me to take my eyes off myself.” Let’s not be too judgmental, though, because the quote’s taken out of context and there’s a good chance that he’s kidding around anyway. But what about his lifelong friend Keith Richards, who refers to Mick as “her majesty” and “unbearable”? You could chalk it up to jealousy, the nature of their relationship or even argue that Mick has earned the right to act the way he does, but come on, it’s pretty obvious that there’s some truth behind the words. Either way, it’s going to be interesting to see if he can share the stage with four other music heavyweights.

    It’s still unclear if the supergroup, called “Super Heavy,” will have a definitive frontman or not. According to CNN, Jagger is excited about having four vocalists in the band because it gives him a chance to play other instruments, as well as alleviate some of the dependence on him as a singer. The issue probably won’t come up anyway, unless the band goes on tour, but touring certainly seems like a possibility. “I think if we’re rehearsing and it sounds great and people love the idea then nobody would rule out the possibility of it,” said Stewart. But it’s hard to picture Mick giving up his share of the limelight for the likes of Joss Stone, Damian Marley or anyone else for that matter. In the meantime, the album is recorded, as well as their first video, and it looks like they’re planning a release around September.

    From Sammy Hagar's Aliens To Keith Richard's Blood Transfusions: Rock 'n' Roll's Most Outlandish Claims

    Did you know that Sammy Hagar was abducted by aliens? We didn’t know this either until we caught a glimpse of his interview with MTV Hive last week. Sammy was plugging his book when the interviewer couldn’t hold back any longer:

    MTV Hive: Okay, let’s just cut to the chase. I’m just going to come out and ask it. Have you ever been abducted by aliens?

    Sammy: I think I have.

    MTV Hive: What? Really? I was kidding. You seriously believe that?

    Sammy: [Laughs.] Now you’re making me sound like a crazy person.

    Hagar then goes on to state that the aliens, “uploaded something from his brain” and that he also saw a UFO flying across the countryside at the age of four. Sure you did, Sammy.

    Rock stars live outlandish lifestyles. This is an expected and encouraged trait; we, as fans, want to see the musicians/artists/bands we love as larger than life figures and we feed on the absurdity that that mindset generates. Every memoir better be filled with outlandish sexcapades and tawdry backstage stories and we trawl memoirs, gossip rags and the Internet to catch glimpses of rockers behaving badly. Most of the time, all in good fun. However, sometimes rock stars do things that fall outside their expected behavior and we realize that some of them are not just “fun” crazy but also “legitimately crazy” crazy. Sammy’s confession reminded us of some other claims some of our favorite musicians have made over the years that are just a little hard to swallow.

    Pete Townshend wanted The Who to blow up… literately.

    The Who are, indisputably one of the biggest bands in rock history. However, their impact, their legacy might’ve never come to be if Pete Townshend had his way. Citing the more “punk” attitude the band had in the early days, Townshend claims that, “I thought we should literately destroy ourselves, perhaps pour petrol and blow ourselves up, which Keith Moon thought was a fabulous idea.”  However, Roger Daltrey had to go be a downer, ruin everyone’s fun and vetoed the idea of the band blowing themselves up. Too bad for Townshend as he has recently stated that if he could’ve done anything differently he, “would have never joined a band.” Oof.

    Let’s not forget, fireworks did make appearances in the group’s work. Case in point, “My Generation”.

    Keith Richards beat heroin with a blood transfusion and snorted his fathers ashes.

    We all know that Keith Richards is a wild, wild man. His autobiography, Life, which came out this year has been hailed by many critics for its candor and lucid tone as Richards recounted his rock star life and every debauched moment in it. However, everyone’s known Keith’s been crazy for years. It was once stated by various Rolling Stone biographers that Keith had gotten clean of heroin by having all of his blood transfused in some backroom treatment in Mexico. The absurdity of such a procedure has been well documented as well, with health care professionals stating that such a treatment does not exist and is impossible. Keith also went on the record that he was the cause of the rumor, stating that he made a comment about the blood transfusion as a joke.

    What a kidder.

    However, Keith has at least one more notable claim to his name. In 2007, Richards claimed in an interview with NME that after his father’s death, Richards “snorted [his] father. He was cremated and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow.” Later on, Richards did claim that he had been misquoted. “The cocaine bit was rubbish,” Richards said. “I chopped him up like cocaine, not with.” Well, to each his own.

    Led Zeppelin had one of their groupies have sex… with a fish.

    This might be the most infamous and the most mysterious of all the big rock claims. It’s a story which has been propagated over the years and has gathered layers of exaggeration and embellishment over the years. The story has been told in a number of different ways with varying levels of salacious detail. However, there are a few aspects that remain the same throughout; while Led Zeppelin was staying in Seattle after a show, they encountered a rather enthusiastic groupie whom they successfully encouraged to have carnal relations… with a mud shark. There’s actually more than a grain of truth to back this one up. There was a groupie and there was a fish, but that’s about as far as it goes. The fish was no shark but really a red snapper (perhaps a red herring?) and it wasn’t the band instigating the episode but their manager, Richard Cole. Snopes gives a good rundown of the rumor and the truth of the matter, but warning to all readers, both the rumor and the truth are pretty gross.

    Thursday, March 3, 2010