Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen!

Leonard Cohen turns 80 years old today! In celebration, we chose a special excerpt from the new publication, Leonard Cohen: Everybody KnowsHere, American poet, teacher and DJ James Cushing shares his views on the conception of Cohen’s style.

“I have to insist that the first Cohen LP is one of the absolute best, most effective boy-girl make-out records of the very late sixties, totally equivalent to Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On from a few years later. As a radio DJ for over a third of a century, I still get lovers requesting cuts from those two albums.” – James Cushing, 2013

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By the summer of 1967, some of Cohen’s poetry collections had made their way to book and underground head shops in America, and hipper university professors assigned Beautiful Losers in modern literature classes. By early 1968, with Songs of Leonard Cohen, we could hear him sing some of his poems, like “Suzanne,” or lyrics that were crafted for songs.

Remember, he did not make this LP until he was thirty-three years old. Like Howlin’ Wolf, who first recorded at age forty-one, Leonard Cohen was not an adult offering supervision, but an adult giving us permission.

Willie Ruff’s bass provides a chamber-jazz aspect to the production of the album. Ruff, as one half of the Mitchell Ruff Duo [with Dwike Mitchell,] was used to the idea of crafting a whole presentation with very sparse instrumentation – bass and piano. The players must listen to each other’s every gesture and play together to serve the music. The first Cohen album exemplifies non-egocentric collaboration. The whole group creates a single organic sound, not a hierarchy with the singer being “backed up” by other musicians.

At the same time, this quiet and revealing record lands in the middle of the psychedelic world, in post – “Summer of Love” culture. Members of the Kaleidoscope perform on several tracks. So we have psychedelic roots-based folk-rockers joining with a jazz master to enhance the intimate vision Cohen was seeking. Or the vision that found him.

C. Eric Banister on Cash

On this date in 2003, the legend that was Johnny Cash sadly passed away. Johnny Cash FAQ author C. Eric Banister reflects on the legacy of the Man in Black and how, even after his death, his artistry continues to have a powerful impact upon his fans.

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It seems odd to say someone died in their prime at age seventy-one, but it’s true of Johnny Cash. It might be more accurate to say it was one of his primes, since Cash had a habit of fading away and then making a comeback of sorts. When he passed away on September 12, 2003 his newest album, the fourth in the American Recordings series, was not a year old yet and was on its way to a #2 peak on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart (and #22 on the Billboard 200). Just after his passing the boxed set Unearthed was released, and along with the two remaining American Recordings albums released in 2006 and 2010, showed that he was still in a creative upswing even though his health was in a down period.

The sales numbers of these final projects showed that Cash still had legions of fans and the world would miss him immensely. Even now, eleven years after his death, Cash still claims large numbers of fans. In March of this year a “new” Cash project was released in the form of Out Among the Stars. Based on recordings made in 1981 (and 1984) with legendary producer Billy Sherrill and later shelved, the album wasn’t what fans of American Recordings had grown used to, but the fans took it to #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and #3 on the Billboard 200.

Cash’s legacy remains a driving creative force, as evidenced by the recent release of Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited. Fifty years ago, Cash released the masterpiece Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian. It was a bold move for a country musician and one that saw him shift a bit in the eyes of many to a more folk-centered singer. It didn’t matter how others saw him, Cash was doing it because he cared about the cause and he liked the songs, many of them from the pen of Peter LaFarge. At a time when many were picking up the banner for civil rights, Cash did so as well. Except where many picked up on the struggles of the African-American in the South (and rightfully so), Cash was drawn to the “Red Power” movement.

Even with the shift in tone for Cash, the album still topped the Country Albums chart and broke the Top 50 of the Pop chart. Its lone single, “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” peaked at #3 on the Country Singles chart, but it was a battle with disc jockey’s to accomplish that. (Cash famously put an ad in Billboard calling them and other industry folks out for cowardice).

Throughout his life Cash was often compared to Hank Williams, both in terms of artistry and in self-destructive behavior. Like Williams, Cash’s creative art will continue to inspire musicians even another fifty years from now. Eleven years gone, and never forgotten.

The Beatles at the Chicago International Ampitheater

50 years ago today, the Beatles took to the Chicago stage. This was no ordinary concert; in fact it was one of the most bizarre shows that Beatles reporter Larry Kane had ever seen! How many time have YOU seen cuts of beef thrown at a concert? Larry recounts his experience in his book, Ticket to Ride:

Chicago: What a city! Clean, organized, another great American melting pot, glistening on the shores of Lake Michigan and, with its great Midwestern flair, absolutely ready for the Beatles.

The flight from Milwaukee was the shortest on both tours, but we didn’t land where we expected. Scheduled to land at O’Hare Airport, the American Flyer’s turboprop touched down instead at Midway Airport. But the airport switch didn’t fool several thousand fans who had 00128670been alerted by a local radio station. The Beatles, all nursing sore throats and looking wan and exhausted, moved quickly down the steps to the waiting limousines. Our motorcade moved swiftly to the Stockyard Inn, a restaurant famous for its steaks. The inn was an old building with a variety of rooms. Four of us from the press corps enjoyed a meal down the hall from the Beatles’ private dining room. For once, we got to avoid the hot dogs and French fries of the concert halls.

It was looking like a pretty good day in Beatle-land until we arrived at the stage entrance to the Chicago International Amphitheater, which was adjacent to the restaurant. By September 5, it was obvious that jelly- beans, stuffed animals, flowers and stick pins were the most likely objects to fly in the direction of the Beatles. But how often do you get struck in the chest by a slice of raw filet mignon thrown by a young hurler in the tenth row? At least Paul McCartney saw the beef missile coming at him and avoided the surprise, if not the impact.

Correspondent Art Schreiber remembers the beef incident: “McCartney was just standing there, doing his thing, when the meat hit the left side of his jacket, splattering a bit of beef juice but falling to the floor, where George sort of kicked it out of the way. The most dumbfounded of all was Ringo, who stretched his neck out over the microphones on the drums to see what the hell it was. It was funny, and it was weird.”

The kids in the crowd were too occupied shrieking and crying and pulling their hair out to see the UFO (unusual flying object). In the crowd, people like Barbara Singer were swooning with delight:

“I had just turned fourteen. Miraculously, my father managed to snare a pair of tenth-row tickets to that concert for my sixteen-year-old sister and me. My sister and I were ecstatic when we took our seats on the night of the show. We were so close to the stage that we could almost touch the microphones that had been set out in front for John, Paul and George. The air was thick with anticipation as we waited impatiently for the music to begin. Finally, the Beatles took the stage to a chorus of screams thirteen thousand strong. My sister joined the frenetic crowd and began to shriek loudly into my right ear. I realized with dismay that the pandemonium around me was drowning out the sounds coming from the stage. Frantically, I begged my sister to stop screaming so that I could hear the Beatles. My pleas fell on deaf ears. My sister continued to squeal with the crowd throughout the set. Fortunately, somewhere between ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Twist and Shout,’ my sister overcame her frenzy just long enough to take a photo of the Fab Four with her Instamatic camera. We still have treasured copies of that singular snapshot, reminding us of the great- est concert that we never heard!”

Barbara’s sister and the thousands around her provided us with the loudest reaction yet to the Beatles. The amphitheater was small, and the screaming seemed to resonate as if it were projected into a canyon. I heard not a word of lyrics. I did get an eyeful of Beatles— though I had to venture into the crowd to get it. But soon I found myself pinned between the crowd and the stage. The situation was so very tight that I had no choice but to stand in place and watch. It actually turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to take in the scene. Here are my notes, which I scribbled on the plane later that night:

“Ringo. Beating the drums so hard. Wonder how he can hear what’s going on with the crowd noise. He keeps on putting the stick to the drums. Looks around. Smiling. George kicks the slab of meat off the stage. McCartney and Lennon face-to-face, cheek-to-cheek, almost in perfect harmony on “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Girl behind me puts arms over my shoulders, reaching out to try and grab Paul’s shoes. Her face is pressed against the strap of the tape recorder. Cop has arms spread out to prevent movement toward stage. Paul looks down at me with an expression that reads, “What are YOU doing down there?” He smiles. Wonder if I’ll make the motorcade or get squeezed to death here. Breathing difficult. Sweating loads. Girl in rear crying. Is it pain or pleasure? “Hard Days Night” playing. This was a hard night. Being in the middle, between Beatles and fans, makes me feel closer to it—what- ever “it” is. Clarence Frogman Henry is standing near the stage, taking it in. When “Hard Days Night” is over, I start pushing and shoving to get out, but some private guard holds me back. I move to the other side and reach rear entrance. No chances here. I get to the cars before the Beatles. Neil brings boys to limo. Ringo jokes about flying meat. Derek looks pissed. Hope I never see this place again. It’s too hot and sticky.”

Win Bill Wyman’s Framus Star Bass

Contest Slide 770x420Guitar 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 stunning Framus bass! Andy and Greg wrote about Bill’s decision to play a Framus in Rolling Stones Gear.

 

BILL WYMAN’S FRAMUS STAR BASS

During August and September, the group began doing more shows on the ballroom circuit. Crowd hysteria and chaos grew with their popularity. Bill was no longer comfortable using his customized fretless Dallas Tuxedo bass onstage, fearing that it might be damaged or, worse yet, stolen. So, he went to the Art Nash music shop in Penge on September 2 and purchased a Framus Star F5/150 bass. He 152147-FR05150 STARB SH V11remembered: “I decided to buy a new bass guitar. I helped finance my purchase by selling my old bass cabinet and amp to Tony Chapman for £25. He had put together a new band with Steve Carroll and some friends. They called themselves the Preachers.”

On why he decided to go with a Framus Star bass, he explained: “I never really settled on
anything. About the only thing around at that 
time that was suitable was a Framus Star—you know, with the big cherry body. I played it
 upright because it was still quite a long guitar and 
my arms are short as well. I found it physically 
easier to stretch up and down than sideways. I
 played one of those up through 1968. I tried a 
few Vox guitars, some Gibsons, and various
 Fenders, because of the sound. The boys always 
used to say, ‘Why don’t you try a Fender—you
 get a really good sound and it’s easy to record 
and all that. I would agree, but I could not play
 the bloody things. I tried the Mustang, the
 smaller version, and there were a couple more I
 can’t remember. I actually did an album with the
 Mustang, though I can’t remember which one.
 After that I tried a Gibson for onstage, but the 
bottom strings were really dull sounding.” He
added that, “It was better for what we were doing then. My bass [the Dallas] was wonderful for the blues—you know the real down-home, earthy blues—, because I got a fantastic sound with that. When I went on to the Star Bass, it became more R&B, when the Stones became more R&B as well. I got that in the when we started to do ballrooms. The endorsement came after we started to become popular.”

Bill’s Framus Star F5/150 bass was a single-cutaway, 18-inch wide, thin hollow body with two white-bound ƒ-holes. The bass was finished in a red-to-black sunburst and had white binding, two pickups, and a black pickguard, on which the Framus logo was embossed in white. The white volume and tone controls were mounted directly on the pickguard instead of the body of the bass. The adjustable bridge was made of rosewood, with a Framus trapezes tailpiece engraved with “Star Bass.” The bass was fitted with a very thin, multi-laminated, long-scale, bolt-on neck with a bound rosewood fingerboard and a two-per-side headstock with white plastic-shaft tuning pegs.

Fred Wilfer founded Framus in Germany in 1946, at first concentrating on acoustic instruments. By 1954, Framus had started adding pickups to their guitars and was making thin body, semi-acoustic guitars and basses by 1958. Framus was known for their multi-laminated necks and their unique pickups and electronic designs. With the help of the escalating beat boom, the instruments became very popular and were distributed in Great Britain through the London-based Dallas company.

Bill first used his Framus Star bass on stage the same
day he bought it, at Studio 51, the group’s Monday 
evening residency. He remembered, “That night I used it
at Studio 51 and had to admit it was much better than my
homemade bass.” He used it for the first time on television when the Stones mimed “Come On” on ABC-TVs “Lucky Stars Summer Spin,” which was filmed on September 8, 1963, and aired on September 14.

Q&A with Harvey Kubernik (Part 2)

Here is Part 2 of an interview with Harvey Kubernik, author of Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows at Heck of a Guy — The Other Leonard Cohen Site.

00126365Q: Of all the stories you’ve heard through the years about Leonard Cohen, which strikes you as the most moving? funniest?A: To this day I still find it strange and funny, and still can’t comprehend on some level that in 1967 Leonard Cohen had a full length mirror in the Columbia recording studio so he could watch himself play and sing during his initial LP sessions. If he got lost in the creative process he could employ the mirror to keep him on track or remember lyrics or chords.

I also found the quotes from Nick Cave on Leonard very moving. In the mid-eighties I produced a Nick Cave spoken word reading at the Lhasa Club in Hollywood and we talked about Leonard Cohen around settlement. We were all in same frame game together. The impact an early Cohen LP had on him four decades ago was immense.

Q: You wrote that “this book is neither definitive nor encyclopedic.” How did you decide which content made it into Everybody Knows and which didn’t make the cut?A: Many of the choices were influenced by the supportive working relationship that developed among myself,  publisher Colin Webb, and UK editor  James Hodgson.  After I put together a formal proposal with areas of interest and interview subjects, we had many discussions. Both Colin and James were easy to work with. They were pleased to see names that had never been in a Cohen book and often emailed me about getting a photo to accompany a given quote or section of text. Sometime a photo would trigger a text to be written or a pull quote or a sidebar I would want inserted. Or they would ask if I was interviewing someone and I’d respond, ‘just ran tape on them.’

I also made the musicians a top priority way over the women or lovers in Leonard’s life, none of whom I even spoke to. It wasn’t that sort of biographical examination. If organically something is revealed, fine. But on this Cohen book I felt Leonard’s creative life needed to be re-defined partially by my own hand-picked west coast team of friends and musical associates as well as worldwide interview quotes I gathered to inform the text and enhance the visuals. “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

After my brother Kenneth, my regional editor, reviewed the initial large sections, he made some first look observations, namely that my manuscript had to be condensed from 100,000 words to 60,000. That was a stressful and exhausting process for me. You edit alone.

Authors, including Andrew Loog Oldham, gave me some important interior editing tips. Poets and writers Harry E. Northup and Jimm Cushing provided especially helpful feedback, reinforcing that the new data and photos were as potent as I hoped.

I wouldn’t have bled for this book if its pages didn’t contain extraordinary, important insights and observations.

Any major Leonard Cohen project demands certain essential voices and interview subjects. There are, as well, specific subjects and a biographical chronology the reader has to know. That being acknowledged, it was my responsibility to incorporate these obligatory elements with new material to create a portrait of the man from a unique perspective.

There is a bit of redundancy, such as citations and quotes from other publications, but as UCLA basketball coach John R. Wooden once explained to me, life, like hoops, is a game of repetition – as long as it moves the ball to the basket it’s OK.

View the rest of the interview HERE!

Q & A with Harvey Kubernik

Harvey Kubernik met up with One Heck of a Guy for a long interview about his new book, Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows. Stay tuned for part 2 of the interview later this week!

 

Music means everything because it informs everything if you let it. ~ Harvey Kubernik

Harvey Kubernik is to music journalism what Shane Battier was to Duke basketball. Harvey is also one of the few individuals likely to read this post who will understand that analogy without an explanation: Harvey and Shane have achieved distinction in their respective fields because of their hard work, energy, enthusiasm, dedication, perseverance, and commitment. They are both hustlers.

00126365Harvey Kubernik is the kind of guy who knows 97% of the individuals associated with popular music and knows folks who know everybody in that other 3%. During his 40+ years career, he has authored six books, including This Is Rebel Music (2002), Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon (2009), and, most recently, Turn Up the Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972. He has written liner notes for Carole King and Allen Ginsberg, appeared on documentaries about Bobby Womack and Queen, collaborated with Brian Wilson on a limited edition volume, and published multiple articles in Melody Maker, The Los Angeles Free Press, Crawdaddy!, Musician, Record Collector, Goldmine, MIX, The Los Angeles Times, MOJO, Discoveries, UNCUT, Music Life, Classic Rock, HITS, and Record Collector News. In addition, he has worked as a broadcaster, producer, and musician.

Harvey has a knack for turning up in the right place at the right time. He was, for example, in the studio during some of the sessions of the Leonard Cohen-Phil Spector collaboration that spawned Death Of A Ladies’ Man. That experience resulted in two classic Harvey Kubernik articles: What Happened When Phil Spector Met Leonard Cohen? and The Great Ones Never Leave. They Just Sit It Out Once In A While.

Most significantly for our purposes, Harvey Kubernik is the author of Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows, which I described in my review of the book as “either the most textually substantive coffee table book ever published or the most lavishly illustrated narrative about a Canadian poet-novelist-singer-songwriter-icon on the market” and the subject of today’s Q&A.

THE HARVEY KUBERNIK Q&A

How did you come to write this book about Leonard Cohen?
A couple of years ago I was contacted by Colin Webb of Palazzo Editions, an England-based book company and packager. He has read my three interviews I conducted with Leonard from the mid and late-seventies, and was mulling over a Leonard Cohen book. He was preparing a sample text which would include all my archive quotes along with photos for a presentation at a book fair he was visiting.

Colin asked me for permission to utilize my archive, and, if things went further, would I be receptive to writing a book on Leonard? A year later his name showed up on my computer screen and we put it in motion. I did stress the aspect of a multi-voice narrative for the book and he was receptive.

How would you describe the readers you view as the primary audience for Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows?
That’s a good question but early in the game, like a basketball match, before the opening tip off, I decided it would be a book I wanted to do for myself. Yes, it would be geared a bit to readers who already know lots of things about Leonard’s work, books, recordings and his road work, as well as the uninitiated, or new potential readers who might have just Greatest Hits package or checked him out only after hearing ‘Hallelujah” in some capacity.

Always ticking just a little in the back of my mind are the hardcore collectors and “Cohen Heads,” including website principals, previous Cohen book authors and pop music history book buffs that I knew would relish the information and data I would present.

Why even bother with the gig if I don’t deliver some new “voices” and observations as well as photos with visuals never displayed before. For a well-documented artist like Leonard Cohen I know I tossed in plenty of three-point baskets.

Even without this Cohen book scheduled. I have written and conducted interviews for decades without formal assignments or the security of publication. I like the education, the fun, the struggle, and the results. The last ten years book publishers have come to me about potential titles and suggestions for books. They are also mining Los Angeles and Hollywood for literary subjects or regional studies and not exclusively possessed or obsessed with New York subject matter or New York authors.

Secretly a lot of publishers and literary agents love and worship the lore and lure of L.A. and Hollywood, but most won’t admit it, let alone fund it. But the literary game has now changed and I’m in the league as team Kubernik.

View the rest of the interview HERE!

Scott Bomar and Music Tomes

Southbound author Scott B. Bomar answered some interview questions over at Music Tomes! Read the entire article HERE.

And for all of you Californians,  Scott will be doing a 2:00 pm book signing August 30th at the Barnes & Noble on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Don’t miss out!

 

How did this project come about?

Mike Edison, who is a fantastic writer, was an editor at Backbeat Books. He was the guy who 00102657worked with Will Romano on an illustrated history of prog rock that came out in 2010. Will’s book was really cool, and Mike thought it would be great to do something similar with Southern rock. He contacted a good friend of mine named Randy Poe, who wrote a great biography of Duane Allman for Backbeat called Skydog. Randy recommended me to Mike. I was not a Southern rock expert, but Randy and I had worked together on some projects, and he thought I would bring a fresh perspective to the subject. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas, so it was just sort of “jump in and go.” This is kind of funny, but the first thing I did was listen to “The South’s Gonna Do It” by the Charlie Daniels Band and I wrote down the names of all the acts he references in the lyrics. From there I began reading everything I could get my hands on, and contacting all the great surviving Southern rockers for interviews. I grew up in the South, and I had listened to a ton of this music growing up, so I really connected with it.

Southern Rock has been something that has been often hard to define. How do you define it?

In the Introduction to the book I really grapple with this issue. There are a lot of ways that people have defined Southern rock, and most of the artists who are categorized with that label have been pretty resistant to the term. Gregg Allman pointed out that saying “Southern rock” is like saying “rock rock” because rock music originated in the South. Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and all those guys were Southerners. After the British Invasion, rock music shifted away from the South. By the time the psychedelic era ended, however, the Band, Bob Dylan, and Creedence Clearwater Revival heralded a return to the simplicity of rock’s Southern roots. That set the stage for the Allman Brothers Band, which came together in 1969. To me, Southern rock is about an era as much as it is about a sound. It was music that was created by guys (and sometimes girls, but mostly guys) from the same geographical region who shared a similar cultural background. Though you can point to specific sounds – multiple electric guitars, for instance – the music that I would categorize as Southern rock today is the music that best captures the spirit of the golden age of the genre in the 1970s.