Listen: Natasha Scharf in conversation with Liisa Ladouceur

Listen to Natasha Scharf in conversation with Encyclopedia Gothica author Liisa Ladouceur! Together, they discuss “what is gothic?” along with the release of Natasha’s new book, The Art of Gothic.

>>LISTEN HERE<<

00127606The gothic look – head-to-toe black attire and extreme makeup – has been a popular one since the 1980s, with each generation reinterpreting this dark aesthetic as its own. From the staccato postpunk of Siouxsie and the Banshees and the dark rock of the Sisters of Mercy through to the industrial metal of Marilyn Manson and the funereal emotional pop of My Chemical Romance, gothic culture has strong roots in music and continues to adapt and survive. But gothic art is about more than just album covers and ephemera; it’s about fashion, book jackets, cinematography, and fine art. Its influence frequently seeps into mainstream culture too. Nowadays, “goth” comes in many shapes, sizes, and even colors, as it encompasses a myriad of subgenres, including cyber, death rock, gothic metal, gothic Lolita, and emo goths. Although each is different, followers are identified by their striking, often theatrical look, music with a hint of melancholy, and the ability to find beauty in morbidity, sometimes even in the macabre.

The Art of Gothic is the first heavily illustrated tome to explore the aesthetics of this fascinating style in great detail. Previous books on goth have given a bold overview of the music and culture associated with the genre, but this book goes deeper and hones in on the album art, intricate fashions, fantasy illustrations, and more.

Bill Wyman’s Vox Amplifier

Contest Slide 770x420

Guitar Player and Rolling Stones Gear have teamed up to give you a chance to Win the Brands of the Rolling Stones! Now you can own some of the major brands of equipment the Rolling Stones played including Fender, Martin, Framus, Zemaitis, Gretsch, and Vox in this exciting new sweepstakes! They are also giving away the new book Rolling Stones Gear: All the Stones’ Instruments from Stage to Studio by Andy Babiuk and Greg Prevost. Now you have a chance to win this top-notch Vox amp! Read this excerpt from the book about how the band used to worship these amps!

Solid Senders

Bill Wyman officially joined the group on January 5. Apparently, Mick, Keith, and Brian had finally decided that Bill was in after what could best be described as a trial period. Bill explained: “They didn’t like me, but I had a good amplifier, and they were badly in need of amplifiers at that time! So, they kept me on. Later, when they were going to get rid of me, I think I clicked or something and I stayed. I must have just fitted in.” Ian Stewart later commented, “There is a certain amount of truth that Bill was taken on for his equipment, but Bill was very good.”

VoxAmpThe group immediately incorporated Bill’s amplifiers into the backline. While the Watkins Westminster, a 10-watt amp
that came with an 8-inch speaker,
two inputs, a volume control, and a
tone control that also acted as an on-
off switch, was a nice addition, the 
real prize was Bill’s Vox AC-30.

Keith, more impressed by this 
particular amp than he was with 
Bill, later commented: “Bill had
 amplifiers! Bill came fully equipped.
 A Vox AC-30 amplifier, which was 
beyond our means to possess. Built by Jennings in Dartford. We used to worship it. We used to look at it and get on our knees. To have an amplifier was crucial. First off, I just wanted to separate Bill from his amplifier. But that was before he started playing with Charlie.” Watkins, later WEM (Watkins Electric Music), was a London-based company started by Charlie Watkins that specialized in amplification.

The Vox AC-30 was considered the best and loudest guitar amplifier on the market in England at the time. Bill’s AC-30 was tan or beige, commonly referred to as “fawn-colored.” The official model name for the amp was the Vox AC-30/6 Twin Normal; “6” meaning six inputs, “Twin” meaning two speakers, and “Normal” meaning the guitar rather than bass version. The AC-30 was equipped with four EL84 power tubes, five pre-amp tubes, and a single GZ34 rectifier tube. Jim Elyea’s definitive book Vox Amplifiers The JMI Years states that: “Bill’s original ‘fawn’ AC-30 was built in approximately February 1962 and was purchased from the Art Nash Music Shop. Bill’s is a Normal model with a brownish copper panel with no Top Boost circuit. The two original leather handles have been replaced with newer Vox SBU handles. The amp is equipped with a pair of Celestion Blue T.530 12-inch speakers and has a sticker inside the amp indicating that the amp was serviced by Alan Pyne.”

The Vox factory was located in Dartford, where Mick and Keith
grew up, and the primary Vox amplifier showroom was the Jennings
 music shop on Charing Cross Road in central London. Jennings Musical
 Industries was established by Tom Jennings in 1958. In 1962, the
 operation further expanded its horizons with the introduction of Vox 
guitars The company’s Vox amplifiers were devised by JMI’s chief design
engineer, Dick Denney.. Denney, who was also the creator of the AC-30,
started the Vox amplifier line with a 15-watt unit. He then reasoned that
what musicians really needed was a twin-speaker amp with six inputs.
Denney remembered Tom Jennings’s reaction to the concept: “He said to
me, ‘Well, you do what you like Dick, but if it doesn’t work, your head’s
on the chopping block.’ As it turned out, the AC-30 became the jewel in
 Vox’s crown; it’s what put Vox on the map. I made the amp so that it
sounded good to me. It was old technology, and I think old technology
still prevails.” One of the design oddities of the AC-30 was the situation of its control panel at the back of the top of the cabinet. Denney explained that his fellow guitarists at the time often sat behind their amplifiers, which projected a reverb-type effect into the hall from the front and a “dry” sound from the open back. Wyman’s Vox AC-30 amplifier cost £105, about $300 then, the equivalent of about £1,340 ($1,870) today.

On January 14, 1963, Tony Chapman was fired at the end of a gig at the Flamingo Jazz Club in Soho, London. The January 14, 1963, entry in Keith’s diary reads simply, “Tony Sacked!” Bill Wyman remembered: “Tony was told that his services were no longer required. He was furious and said, ‘Come on, Bill, let’s go and start a new band.’ I told him I was staying with the Stones, and Tony just upped and left.”

In Memory of Joan Rivers

Yesterday, the world lost a talented comedian, activist, and pioneer for women in Hollywood. Joan Rivers will be greatly missed. Here is an excerpt about Joan from the Applause publication Comediennes: Laugh Be A Lady. Joan was a “comedy factory” like no other.

 

Besides a mainstream comedy boom, the ’80s gave us cable networks ONTV and Select, video games by Atari, and musical groups with big hair wearing tight pants. There were jiggle shows, goofy sitcoms, lawyer dramas, funny Bette Midler movies, and unemployed traffic controllers. And then there was Joan Rivers.

JOAN RIVERS

She had to compete against all of that. No problem. She’d cut her comedy teeth in Chicago’s Second City and comedy clubs in New York’s Greenwich Village. As Johnny Carson’s go-to guest host, the raspy voiced comedienne who’d been plugging away since the ’60s was finally getting some serious attention. So much so that in 1986, the newly christened FOX network beckoned Rivers over to do her own late-night talk show.

Being a pioneer means sacrifice. Not only did Rivers’s show die a rancid death, after attempting to fire husband, Edgar Rosenberg (who was the producer), FOX ended up firing them both. Three months later, Rosenberg was found dead from an apparent suicide. Joan blamed FOX. Several years later, she found success on a daytime talk show. She also got daughter Melissa in on the act by co-hosting the E! Entertainment network’s Golden Globes pre-show and Academy Awards pre-show and ripping celebrities a new one.

“I like people that don’t really give a damn and just say whatever. Sometimes I wish I had balls like that, but I’m too scared to hurt people’s feelings.” —Nikki Carr

Joan Alexandra Molinsky from Brooklyn didn’t have time to care about other people’s feelings. She was too busy trying to get ahead. After graduating from Barnard College with a bachelor of arts degree in English literature and anthropology, she worked a number of diverse jobs: tour guide at Rockefeller Center, writer/ proofreader at an ad agency, and fashion consultant.

Rivers began her show biz career in the theater and New York comedy clubs and landed on The Tonight Show hosted by Jack Paar. She was a gag writer for Candid Camera, as well as a plant to sucker participants into doing wacky things. It was during the ’60s that she made her first foray into the talk-show format with a daytime talk show of her own. Her first guest was Johnny Carson. She also released two comedy albums during this decade.

The 1970s saw a Rivers expansion. She appeared on variety shows (The Carol Burnett Show), participated in children’s programming (The Electric Company), and did game shows (Hollywood Squares). She wrote the Stockard Channing movie comedy The Girl Most Likely To . . . and wrote and directed the Billy Crystal film Rabbit Test. She also introduced herself to Las Vegas audiences as singer Helen Reddy’s opening act.

By the ’80s, Rivers was headlining Vegas. She took her growing cache and wrote a bestselling humor book, The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abramowitz. Her popularity was such that she found herself initiating a lawsuit against drag queen Frank Marino for doing her stand-up material as part of his impersonation of her. This was also the decade she became estranged from longtime friend and mentor Carson after jumping over to FOX and directly challenging him for viewers and precious ratings. Once that whirlwind of missteps and tragedy subsided, Joan stepped back into the daytime talk- show arena with The Joan Rivers Show and got an Emmy and a five-year run for her efforts.

The only thing that was getting more attention than Joan Rivers’s own biting self-deprecating wit was her multiple plastic surgeries. She’s never shied away from the fact that she’s had some work done, having popped up on three episodes of Nip/ Tuck playing herself and as a vagina that’s had too much plastic surgery in the animated adult show Drawn Together.

The new millennium found business-savvy Rivers being omnipresent. She had an $8 million deal to do TV Guide’s red- carpet show, leaving E! holding considerably less. She had a line of baubles called, what else, The Joan Rivers Collection being hawked on the QVC shopping network. She was one in only four Americans invited to Prince Charles’s wedding and won Donald Trump’s NBC reality show hit, The Celebrity Apprentice. Joan Rivers is no mere comedienne. She’s a comedy factory.00314938

A New Generation of FAQs: Lifestyle and Pop Culture

Soccer FAQBeginning in the spring of 2015, Backbeat Books will take the FAQ series beyond performing arts and publish Lifestyle and Pop Culture FAQs. The debut titles will include Tattoo FAQ, Soccer FAQ, UFO FAQ, The Beat Generation FAQ, Pro Wrestling FAQ, Beer FAQ, Dracula FAQ, and Cocktails FAQ.

Since its 2007 launch, the FAQ series from Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group has evolved into a robust, successful line of books. Originally conceived by pop culture historian Robert Rodriguez, the FAQ series offers books

Beat Generationthat are one-stop sources of info, history, and minutiae on a given subject—from a music artist to a film genre to an iconic television show. Packed with a staggering amount of data and rare photographs and period ephemera, these reader-friendly volumes are presented in a lively, engaging style. Each chapter serves as a freestanding article on any aspect of the story, allowing readers to put down and pick up the book with ease.

In the past seven years, Backbeat Books and Applause Books have published more than 30 FAQ titles, earning critical acclaim as well as success in the marketplace. Library Journal called James Bond FAQ, “A complete and appealing volume of information,” going on to say that “Bond aficionados, movie buffs, and trivia junkies will enjoy this title and refer to it often.” Vintage Guitar said of Bruce Springsteen FAQ, “Flip to any page and you’re bound to find something to grab your attention.”

Wrestling FAQ

“The FAQ series has had great success within the subject area of music, film, and TV, appealing to passionate fans who wants to know all that’s left to know about a given subject,” explained Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group publisher John Cerullo. “It is a natural evolution to take the series into subject areas beyond performing arts with the logical next step being pop culture.”

The fast-paced, entertaining format and depth of coverage that define the series are no longer limited to fans’ favorite bands, films, or television shows. Book lovers can now enjoy the same stimulating reading experience with their favorite hobbies and varied interests.

Keep an eye out next Summer for the introduction of new lifestyle FAQs!

 

Listen: Cary Ginell on Inquiry – The Evolution of Mann

Cary Ginell, author of Mr. B: The Music and Life of Billy Eckstine and Walk Tallrecently met up with the folks at Inquiry (again) to discuss his The Evolution of Mann!

>>LISTEN HERE<<

00333476More than any other musician, Herbie Mann was responsible for establishing the flute as an accepted jazz instrument. Prior to his arrival, the flute was a secondary instrument for saxophonists, but Mann found a unique voice for the flute, presenting it in different musical contexts, beginning with Afro-Cuban, and then continuing with music from Brazil, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Japan, and Eastern Europe. As Mann once said, “People would say to me, ‘I don’t know where you are right now,’ and I would respond, ‘And you’re not going to know where I’m going to be tomorrow.’” A self-described restless spirit, Herbie Mann also was a master at marketing himself. His insatiable curiosity about the world led him to experiment with different kinds of sounds, becoming a virtual Pied Piper of jazz. He attracted thousands to his concerts while alienating purists and critics alike. His career lasted for five decades, from his beginnings in a tiny Brooklyn nightclub to appearances on international stages. “I want to be as synonymous with the flute as Benny Goodman is for the clarinet,” he was fond of saying. By the time he died of prostate cancer in 2003, he had fulfilled his desire.

Gibson Interviews Tony Bacon

In Sunburst, author Tony Bacon explores the origins of the Gibson Les Paul Standard and asks the question: was the Burst really the best guitar ever made? According to guitar greats such as Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, it sure is! Gibson reached out to Bacon to ask him why the guitar world remains enraptured with the sunburst Les Pauls. Read the whole interview here!

 

Superstrat cover singleWhat, to you, is the allure of a sunburst Les Paul? “It pains me to say it as an author, but the allure of a sunburst Les Paul is quite difficult to put into words. It’s like Frank Zappa said: ‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture.’ Why is a guitar good, why is it bad? How does it feel for a player? These are all very personal things. “So I don’t really address that in the book. What I tried to do was address why original Les Paul Bursts were overlooked at the time. And why, later, people hit upon it. And what’s happened since, including how Gibson reacted over the years… right up to now, and doing a very fine job of recreating the “uncreatable” if you like. The magic carries on. This is my fifth book about Les Pauls, but it’s always an interesting story and I keep coming back to it.”

Why did you write the book now? “I wrote the Million Dollar Les Paul book in 2008, but that was more of a conventional textbook. The criticism of that was: where are the pictures? And that was fair criticism. So Sunburst is, in some ways, a reaction to that. This book has the greatest pictures. “I keep finding out new things, there’s lots in the book, but it still can’t quite explain why original Bursts were so good. To understand, you have to pick one up and play it.”

Why do you think so many guitarists are obsessed by sunburst Gibson Les Pauls? “On the surface, they’re just wood, plastic and wire. But they’re not. Jimmy Page’s #1 is something else. Billy Gibbons’ “Pearly Gates” is something else. The Peter Green/Gary Moore Les Paul is something else… and it goes on. There are more pictures of all these sunburst guitars in this book than any other, I think.”

 

David Rothenberg on Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

Fortune in My EyesRubin “Hurricane” Carter, the boxer who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1967 and spent almost two decades in jail before being exonerated, died on Sunday in Toronto. He was 76.

David Rothenberg writes about meeting Carter at Rahway State Prison in his book, Fortune in My Eyes: A Memoir of Broadway Glamour, Social Justice, and Political Passion, published by Applause Books.

Here is an excerpt.

* * * * * * *

My visits to the Rahway penitentiary, beginning with my appearances on the inmate radio program, evolved. The prison officials had placed a moratorium on the number of visits afforded me, so—using their prison-acquired inmate wiles—several of the men created a class, which enabled me to return weekly as a teacher. Most of the guys in the class were doing heavy time. Several had been released from Trenton State Prison’s death row after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1972 that declared the death penalty to be unconstitutional…I would arrive on Saturday morning and read the class a page-one story from the morning edition of the New York Times. I would then ask for the students’ reactions to the article. At first the men balked, suggesting that this was not a class. As the teacher, they argued, I should give them my interpretation of the story. I insisted that their opinion of the news event was as valid as mine.

Tommy [Trantino] then challenged me: “Why are you the teacher?”

My answer satisfied them: “I’m the teacher because I’m getting you to think about what is happening in the world, and your personal assessment of a story demands that you think.” In fact, that was my goal. Most of the guys admitted that they were school dropouts and had hated and been intimidated by the classroom and the teachers, who tortured and embarrassed them. If I could create a classroom environment that was nurturing, they might be motivated to take advantage of some of the more traditional and formal classes being offered in the institution, and even aspire to a GED or a college course that might be available. If my class accomplished anything, it was that a few of the men, on their own, did go on to explore other educational opportunities. A few even contacted me upon their release from prison.

There was an intense man, Rubin, always sitting in the front row. Cocoa-skinned, bald, and with glasses, he listened intently but rarely spoke. In the many classes I have taught, I have always looked for that eager face, someone who is soaking up everything even if they are not asking questions. Rubin was particularly responsive when guests would join me. Judge Bruce Wright visited several times—canceling his treasured Saturday morning tennis games to travel with me to Rahway—and fascinated the students with his candor about the courts and racism in our society.

One day after class, Rubin asked if I could call his agent. “Rubin, why do you have an agent?” That seemed an appropriate question to pose to a man situated in a prison. “Of course I will call your agent, but what kind of an agent is this?”

He told me he was writing a book, and I figured, why not? Everyone in here has a story to tell. I asked him to write down her name, address, and phone number, and by the way, “Rubin, what is your full name?”

He said, “Rubin Carter.”

I looked at him for a long minute and asked, “Are you the Rubin Carter called Hurricane?”

“That’s me.”

I never asked last names in the class, nor did I take attendance. It was all voluntary. I had had no idea that the attentive young man in front of me was a former boxing champion.

In 1999, when the movie The Hurricane was released, with Denzel Washington giving a deeply moving and memorable performance in the title role, I had heard that Rubin was going to be in New York City for some promotional interviews for the film. He had long since been cleared and released after several courtroom dramas. I called the film’s publicity department and introduced myself as a host of a weekly radio program on WBAI in Manhattan. I requested an interview with Carter. “Of course,” the condescending and impatient publicist said, “everyone does. We have him scheduled with PBS, GMA”—and some other initials were thrown in.

I listened respectfully and said, “Rubin and I go way back. Why not just ask him and let him make the decision?” The impatient rep conceded to my logic.

Ten minutes later the call came: “Rubin is anxious to appear on your radio program.”

He arrived at the studio on Saturday morning looking like a million dollars, in a nifty suit with a professorial look. I told him that I appreciated his joining me, and he said, “David, you were there when no one else was. We can’t forget where we came from. By the way, you were taller then.”

“No, Rubin, I was standing up and you were sitting down. Now it’s the reverse.”

He was living in Canada, working with the Innocence Project and delivering inspiring lectures. He and Tommy Trantino had bonded in Rahway, and theirs was a dramatic demonstration that black and white guys could work together to give inmates a united voice. Because both men were charismatic and had respect from other prisoners, they were able to create some alterations in the traditional apartheid of the joint they were in.

Both Rubin and Tommy rejoined the human race in spite of prison’s attempt to dehumanize them.