Listen: C. Eric Banister on Pop Culture Tonight with Patrick Phillips!

C. Eric Banister, author of Johnny Cash FAQ, talks with Patrick Phillips of “Pop Culture Tonight” about Johnny Cash’s musical legacy and Banister’s book.


00119344Johnny Cash remains one of the most recognizable artists in the world. Starting in 1956, he released an album every year until his death in 2003. In addition to these albums, there were also some posthumous releases in the years after his death. From rockabilly to country, folk to comedy, gospel to classical, the prolific Cash touched them all. His hit singles crossed over from country to pop, as he transcended genres and became a superstar around the globe.

Cash skyrocketed from the beginning, flying through the ’60s until he was one of the country’s biggest stars by the end of the decade. Following his own muse through the ’70s, Cash slowly faded commercially until he nearly disappeared in the ’80s. Instead of giving up, he made an incredible late-career run in the ’90s that took him into the new millennium, along the way collaborating with various contemporary rock and pop artists.

His offstage problems often overshadowed the music, and his addiction often takes center stage in the story, pushing the music off the page. But Johnny Cash FAQ celebrates the musical genius of Cash and takes a look at every album Cash released, the stories behind the hits, and how he sustained a fantastic nearly 50-year career.


Listen: Natasha Scharf talks with the Grand Dark Conspiracy

Listen to Natasha Scharf’s conversation with the Grand Dark Conspiracy host Daniel Bautz! Together, they discuss the beginning of goth along with Natasha’s book, The Art of Gothic.


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 sub genres, 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.

Dale Sherman: KISS Update

00122479With the upcoming release of Dale Sherman’s latest FAQ book (Coming in March!), Quentin Tarantino FAQ, Dale is celebrating by going back to his previous books in the series to pull up some new details for readers! This week, he has provided additional information on KISS!

In KISS FAQ I cover the making and ramifications of the notorious television movie, KISS Meets the Phantom of the ParkThe chapter of the book certainly held no surprises to readers in the acknowledgement that the movie contains wooden acting, a bizarre musical soundtrack (namely in the televised version; not as much in the later theatrical one), bad special effects, and a clunky script, but one myth that was put to rest was of KISS Meets the Phantom being one of the highest rated television programs of 1978. NBC certainly wished that had been the case, as they pre-empted a showing of their popular cop series, CHiPs for the movie in hopes of gaining a good chunk of young viewers.

It was a gamble that NBC needed, as they were floundering; the network had only two 00333153programs with ratings high enough to place in the top twenty-five programs of the 1978-1979 television season: the family-oriented drama about frontier life, Little House on the Prairie, and the police series CHiPs. Even so, a gamble on using the CHiPs timeslot earlier that October for a two-part showing of Rescue from Gilligan’s Island had earned a 40 share for NBC, making Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park in the same time the last Saturday of October a seemingly good risk.

However, when the ratings came out, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park was nowhere near the Number One slot. It wasn’t even in the top 25 for the week. It finished at #45, leading to Variety , to proclaim “NBC had its worst Saturday of the year,” with the KISS movie being the reason. Its failure in drawing interest as a television movie was only the starting point of concern for those connected to the film, as it was about to be released as this type of filmic albatross in theaters overseas. But that story and other details about the movie can be found in the pages of KISS FAQ.

Check out the rest here!

Listen: Martin Popoff on the Grand Dark Conspiracy

The Grand Dark Conspiracy host Daniel Bautz chats with Martin Popoff about his new book Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-by-Day.


00123694Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-by-Day aims to add to the shockingly slight representation of all things Oz-man in book form with celebrated metal expert Martin Popoff plotting the crazy 30-plus-year run of rock’s most adorable madman, day by day, milestone after milestone, the hirings, the firings, the rehabs and relapses, the bats, the doves, Zakk Wylde, and most seriously, the tragic death of Randy Rhoads in a fly-by-prank gone wrong.

Adding to the considerable textual substance of the tome (which promises to leave no Oz-related scrap of trivia unearthed) is a running oral history of the band, making use of Popoff’s extensive interview material with Ozzy plus various band members and producers (along with press quotes), augmented by an explosion of garish imagery culled from the band’s record sleeves, live shows, ads, and memorabilia. Indeed, Ozzy’s shock-rock visuals are some of the flashiest in the biz, making each page of Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-by-Day explode with heavy metal power.

Happy birthday, Mick Taylor!

Tomorrow is Mick Taylor’s 66th birthday! Mick Taylor played guitar with the Rolling Stones from 1969-1974. In honor of his birthday, here is an excerpt from Rolling Stones Gear: All the Stones’ Instruments from Stage to Studio by Andy Babiuk and Greg Prevost:



“Honky Tonk Women,” “Country Honk,” and “Live With Me” were recorded between May 12 and June 12, with the emphasis put on the completion of “Honky Tonk Women” as an immediate single release. During the May 31 session, both “Honky Tonk Women” and “Live With Me” were being worked on when ex-John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers’ guitarist Mick Taylor was brought in for a dry run on Mick Jagger’s invitation. By the end of the session, it had been decided that Taylor would be Brian’s [Jones] replacement. Asked why he was chosen, Taylor recalled: “I think probably because John Mayall recommended me. They’d known John Mayall since the early days, and they were both blues bands when they started out. But Ian Stewart recommended me as well, and that’s how it came about. It came about very quickly. I’d been in LA with John Mayall, and towards the end of the tour, he announced he was going to change his band and use a different lineup without a drummer. He was going to have an acoustic guitar player, a saxophone player, and it was all going to be a little bit experimental, so that particular band split up, and I got back to London, and, after a couple of days, I was thinking about forming my own band, but I got this phone call, from John Mayall actually at first, saying he thought the Stones were interested [in] me possibly doing some session work. So, I went down to Olympic Studios, played with them one night, and we hit it off almost instantly, and they asked me to join. And that was it.”

Michael Kevin Taylor, born on January 17, 1949 was a fourteen-year-old schoolboy in Hatfield, twenty miles north of London, when the Stones’ first single, “Come On,” was released in 1963. Taylor started listening to records and playing guitar steadily at an early age, and, with the exception of a few chords his uncle showed him, was self-taught. “I was about ten years old [when I started],” he recalled. “My uncle was in the army, stationed in Germany. There were lots of American bases there; Mick_Taylor2there still are. I think he got his interest in music from listening to American music there, R&B and blues, things like that. He brought back a guitar with him. That was where my interest in the guitar started.” He continued, “As my interest in the guitar developed, my interest in blues music in general developed. By the time I was fourteen or fifteen, I was into the blues, and I was buying blues records, as many as I could get ahold of.” In 1964, Taylor joined his first band the Juniors, who ultimately evolved into the Gods and included Greg Lake (later of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) and Ken Hensley (later of Uriah Heep). The Gods’ potential went unrealized, however, as Taylor explained: “Nothing happened. We didn’t make any records, didn’t have any management, and didn’t do any gigs.” When he was sixteen, Taylor happened to jam with John Mayall at a Bluesbreakers’ gig, sitting in for Eric Clapton, and, a little more than a year later, Mayall asked him to join his band, replacing Peter Green (Clapton’s replacement), who’d left with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie to form his own band, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. Taylor commented, “One minute I was playing with local musicians in Hatfield, and the next minute touring America with Mayall” During his two years with the Bluesbreakers, Taylor appeared on Crusade, Bare Wires, Blues From Laurel Canyon, and both Diary of a Band albums.

After the Let It Bleed album was released, Keith explained the evolution of “Honky Tonk Women” this way: “Last Christmas, Mick and I flew out to Brazil and stayed on a ranch. It was just like Arizona, and, somehow, we got into cowboy songs. I wrote ‘Honky Tonk Women’ then, and it was a sort of Hank Williams tune. Back in London, we worked on it – trying to make it sound funkier with my guitar – and eventually we got the sound that was the single. It just knocked us out . . . we thought, ‘Wow, that has to be a single.’ But I never thought it would work the way it did. It was a bit like ‘Satisfaction’ in that it transcended all tastes. Some of our records are more for America, some are more suited for England, but ‘Honky Tonk Women’ was for everyone. Actually, you can hear the complete, Hank Williams-like version of the song [‘Country Honk’] on the Let It Bleed album.” He elaborated: “That was how it was originally written. All I had was a little guitar I bought off some guy in Rio. A beautiful little Dobro thing. And we were on the veranda and there were gauchos. We were in deep country. And that was the way it was written. The next day we polished it up.”

Taylor picked up the story: “Well, I definitely added something to ‘Honky Tonk Women,’ but it was more or less complete by lot0108-1-980x400the time I arrived and did my overdubs. They had already laid down the backing track, but it was very rough and incomplete. I added some guitars to it. But I didn’t play the riffs that start ‘Honky Tonk Women'; that’s Keith playing. I played the country kind of influence and the rock licks between the verses. My part on ‘Country Honk’ wasn’t on a regular guitar; it was one of those cheap little Selmer Hawaiian guitars, which I played on my lap.” Taylor owned and used the Selmer lap-steel during his stay with John Mayall, explaining, “I found that guitar in London for about $40. I wish I still had it; I used that guitar in regular tuning.”

Happy Birthday, Elvis Presley!

Elvis Presley would have turned 80 today so in honor of his birthday, here are a couple of fun fact excerpts from Elvis FAQ books, Elvis Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King’s Recorded Works by Mike Eder and Elvis Films FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll in Hollywood by Paul Simpson.

His breakthrough hit was Heartbreak Hotel, released in 1956 – a song inspired by a newspaper article about a local suicide:

00333500“A record that altered the path of so many people and things, “Heartbreak Hotel” is the song that put Elvis on the map. It was written by Mae Boren Axton, who was inspired by a story her friend Tommy Durden told her about a John Doe who left a suicide note reading, ‘I walk a lonely street.’ Axton gave Tommy and Elvis a third of the credit and royalties on the song, the latter because Axton felt sorry for the kid from Memphis who just escaped from poverty. “Heartbreak Hotel” stands out as a composition because of Axton’s use of imagery. The hotel is at the end of ‘Lonely Street'; there’s a crying bellhop, and a desk clerk dressed in black. The music matches the glum mood of the lyric, with the piano of Shorty Long sounding, in the immortal words of author Robert Matthew-Walker, like ‘sad-rain.’ Elvis sings with distress in his voice and a newly honed sense of the dramatic. Still mysterious and alluring, “Heartbreak Hotel” is an incredibly unusual song. Teens could relate to the feeling of bottomless despair, and moreover Elvis made anguish sound cool. As “Heartbreak Hotel” slowly became a phenomenon, it gave young people something of their own to hold on to. Elvis launched the whole rock-and-roll image – he talked the talk and walked the walk. He wasn’t going into this thinking he was going to change things in society; he just wanted to be good at what he did, make enough money to give his parents the things they wanted, and, most of all, find some personal redemption. After all, how many people who are considered outcasts actually bend society to their way of thinking?” – Elvis Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King’s Recorded Works

In 1956, he began his film career with a western, Love Me Tender:

“…Presley made his screen debut in the B western Love Me Tender, originally titled The Reno Brothers, which 00314953had been revamped to give him a significant supporting role in which he could sing four songs. The cast and crew on his first movie weren’t sure what to make of him. His love interest Debra Paget summed up Hollywood’s preconceptions when she said later: ‘Before I met him, I figured he must be some sort of moron.’ On set, his humility, charm, and industry overcame such skepticism, but it could do nothing to shield him from the critical abuse that greeted the movie’s release on November 21, 1956. The Hollywood Reporter dismissed Presley as ‘an obscene child’ but did note that the new hero possessed ‘mannerisms by Brando out of the Actors Studio’ and concluded: ‘The new hero is an adolescent. Whether he is twenty or thirty or forty, he is fifteen and excessively sorry for himself. He is essentially a lone wolf who wants to belong.’ That last line pretty much sums up Elvis’s status in the movie industry as his film career progressed and, you could argue, the tragedy of his life and death.” – Elvis Films FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll in Hollywood



2015: The Year of the Starr

Happy New Year, everyone!

ringo-starr-031-2Ringo Starr has recently announced some exciting news for this new year, including a new album and tour! The former Beatle said the LP has been recorded and mixed and also teased of concert dates with his All Starr Band in February and March of this year.

In addition to a new album and tour, Backbeat Books is releasing a book on the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee entitled Ringo: With a Little Help, written by Michael Seth Starr (no relation to Ringo). The book is set to be released on Ringo’s 75th birthday, July 7!

Ringo: With a Little Help is the first in-depth biography of Beatles 00333865drummer Ringo Starr, who kept the beat for an entire generation and who remains a rock icon over fifty years since the Beatles took the world by storm. With a Little Help traces the entire arc of Ringo’s remarkable life and career, from his sickly childhood to his life as The World’s Most Famous drummer to his triumphs, addictions, and emotional battles following the breakup of the Beatles as he comes to terms with his legacy.