Friday, March 27, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Rolling Stones

For over fifty years, the music of the Rolling Stones has been blasted out of our speakers and performed on concert stages across the world. As absolute legends of rock music and the longest continually active band of their generation (if not of all time), the time was ripe for a career retrospective book by the band, for the fans.  That moment is finally here with Taschen's officially authorized book, titled simply The Rolling Stones.

***special thanks to Julie and Mallory at Taschen for sending me a copy of the book to review!***

I first need to get the obvious out of the way: this is a MAMMOTH work of art, with emphasis on those two words for a reason. The book is absolutely huge, handsomely presented in hardcover with a dust jacket featuring a photo by the legendary Gered Mankowitz from the Between the Buttons cover session on the front and a shot of a massive concert audience on the rear.  The book comes housed in a folding cardboard case complete with carrying handle (see photo below).  A quick look at the table of contents reveals that, in addition to the gorgeous photos contained within its 500+ pages, there are also some essays on the Stones and large sections in the back dedicated to other aspects of their history. I'll go through these in order as the review progresses, so keep reading...

The book next to its box
This book is an officially authorized photographic history of the Rolling Stones, put together with complete cooperation from the band; this included access to their vast archives in both London and New York City. It spans the period of 1962, when the nucleus of the band first came together, up to the present day.  Most of the photos take full advantage of the high quality paper stock and large page sizes and are of such high resolution and clarity that many of them look as though they could have been taken yesterday, never mind decades ago. What makes this book more than just a collection of photographs are the detailed captions that accompany each photograph. These include the year, date (when available), photographer, and a brief explanation from both the photographer as well as the subject of the particular picture. Thus, even as you go through the visual tour of the book, there is information and background for each photo that puts it into context and clarifies what is going on.  Sprinkled throughout are the essays, which are interesting enough although they don't really offer anything too new in terms of information that any serious Stones fan won't already know. Additionally, one of the essays is rather annoying in how the author feels the need to simultaneously tear down the Beatles with every compliment he bestows upon the Stones; it's doubly pointless since then as now, both bands have been good friends and were never rivals.

Starting with the earliest photos, the book traces the history of the band from their beginnings as shaggy young men playing blues and R&B in sweaty London nightclubs as they worked their way up the ladder to become one of the leading bands of Swinging London and 1960s rock.  From their 1969 American tour to the present, the Stones became larger than life and beyond immersing themselves in now-cliche rock and roll lifestyle, they became the rock and roll lifestyle. We see them go from young, shaggy, wide-eyed young men who cannot believe their good fortune to get paid for making music to the road weary, drug-addled bad-boys of the mid-to-late-1960s over the course of many pages. Most fascinating and also most tragic is witnessing the gradual physical and mental decline of Brian Jones over these same pages.  From 1969, when Mick Taylor replaced Brian shortly before his (Brian's) death to the present, the Stones were (and still are) larger than life; this is conveyed perfectly through the pictures.  The bulk of the book (I'd estimate ~2/3 of it) focuses on the 1962-1975 era which coincidentally happens to be what I and most Stones fans consider their best era.  The remainder of the photographs cover the Ron Wood era in rather rapid succession which is surprising given that this has been the longest-lived incarnation of the band! Indeed, it feels as though once the book gets past the release of the Some Girls album in 1978 it rushes fairly quickly through the rest of their career. There is a paucity of images documenting the 1980s...the Dirty Work album (admittedly, one of their worst) is completely absent from the book. I was also really surprised (and a little disappointed) that there weren't extra photos devoted to sixth Stone Ian "Stu" Stewart, their loyal friend, roadie, and piano player who tragically passed away in 1985. I would have expected numerous photos of Stu when the book got to the point in their history when he passed, especially given the love and admiration they've expressed for him throughout their career. Not something I'm taking major points away over, but a confusing omission nonetheless.  Finally, the end of the book has two large sections devoted to Stones history: the first is a detailed chronological list of their history year-by-year starting with the birth of the oldest member (Bill Wyman) and hitting every milestone over the past 50+ years.  The second section is a collection of single, LP, and magazine covers from all around the world over the same time span.  It's truly a wealth of history and imagery that is almost too much to take in all at once!

Overall, this is an absolutely gorgeous and extremely well thought out, well put together book chronicling one of the most important rock bands of all time.  It's nearly flawless...the only things I will knock it for are the aforementioned thin selection of photos from the 1980s and the fact that there are several pages left blank apart from small captions pertaining to photos on the opposite page: I would have loved even more pictures from the archives to fill these pages up.  These are minor quibbles, however, and no serious Rolling Stones fan can be without this book.  This should be the benchmark by which any band who aspires to put a photographic history together should measure.

MY RATING: 9.5/10

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Matching Fitness Expectations With Your Age (or, I'm Not Going to TakeThis Getting Older Thing Laying Down!)

Just a short personal post on getting a little bit older and not being too happy about it...

The other day while I was out for my run, I became frustrated yet again that my average pace the past year or so has been slower than it used to be. I've also been getting increasingly frustrated with the fact that I seem to get sore and unable to run more than four miles in one go; it especially galls me when I remember than as recently as 2013 I was running six to nine miles each time I went out.  Now before you think me an ungrateful complainer, let me acknowledge right off the bat that I realize I should be thankful that I'm physically able to do what I am doing. I am very thankful that I am healthy enough to be able to run on a regular basis.  My frustrations stem more from the fact that lately I have not been able to force my body to do what I want it to do, especially since I was able to not that long ago.

Really, what I'm struggling with is that scourge we all have to deal with which is starting to push back against me with equal force. I am of course talking about AGE.  I turned 35 this past February and while I certainly wouldn't classify myself as old, I am finally (reluctantly) coming to terms with the fact that I am not young any more, either.  I'm in great physical health but the aches and pains last a bit longer and the minor injuries I accrue throughout everyday life take a bit longer to heal than they used to.  I remember in my early 20s going to play hours of pickup basketball when I had the flu, a sprained knee or ankle, a stiff back, you name it.  Like anyone at that age, I bounced back quickly and felt indestructible.  I still felt that way around the time I turned 30, especially after I'd gotten back into shape at that age. However, over the last five years I've definitely begun to notice the shift.  Most recently, I've been suffering from a sore hamstring and glute in my right leg that has been nagging for weeks.  I have no problem running through it, but no amount of stretching or rest seems to speed up my recovery. Five years ago it would have been as good as new in a few days.  I kept complaining about it until my wife once again reminded me that I'm a little older now than I was then.  I certainly haven't been accepting of it and I still complain about it a lot. It has taken my wife gently reminding me that I really am getting older to make me gradually realize that this is really happening and that I am going to have to learn to live with it. But just because I accept it doesn't mean I have to like it or be limited by it, right?

The challenge for me now is to temper my fitness expectations by taking the age factor into consideration.  Maybe it's okay to not be as fast or spry or flexible as I was at 30 or 25 or 17.  Maybe it's no big deal that I heal a little slower from aches and pains.  Short of finding the fountain of youth, there's nothing that can be done to reverse the march of time and its effects on the body.  That being said, I am slowly coming to grips with it and realizing that it's perhaps okay to be a little slower, or only run 4 miles instead of 6. It doesn't mean I will never be able to physically do the things that I was easily doing a few years (or more) back; it just means that it's going to take me a bit more time and effort to get there again. Luckily, I like a challenge..and I will get back there!

Friday, March 20, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Beatlemania: The Real Story of the Beatles UK Tours 1963-1965

The Beatles' legendary tours of America between 1964 and 1966 are etched in rock and roll lore, as are their various tours around the world. Which Beatles fan doesn't know about their Australian tour when Ringo was ill and a substitute filled in for a fortnight? Or their disastrous experience in the Philippines in 1966? These are all part of rock tour legend, but a vital part of their touring history is often overlooked, and for reasons which are at once confusing and inexcusable.  I refer to, of course, the six UK tours they undertook between 1963 and 1965. These tours were what set the band on their path to superstardom and were the genesis of the phenomenon known as Beatlemania, yet they are often overlooked when the bigger picture of their touring years are considered.  Clearly this shouldn't be the case and an in-depth look into these tours and their import in the Fab Four's career is the subject of Martin Creasy's book Beatlemania.

***special thanks to Neil at Omnibus Books for sending me a copy of the book to review!***

Having read and reviewed the definitive work on the Beatles' American tours, I was very interested in reading Beatlemania as I viewed it as a companion work in the sense that it focused on the same aspects of the UK tours that Some Fun Tonight did with regards to the US tours.  However, it does this in a completely different format: whereas Some Fun Tonight is a mammoth tome full of photographs, memorabilia, and breaks each tour down by show, Beatlemania is more of a narrative chronicle of each UK tour. Martin Creasy has exhaustively researched each tour and takes the reader through them in chronological order from beginning to end.  There are details and background on each of the support acts, cities and venues, and in most cases the tour managers and venue support staff as well. Additionally, the memories of numerous audience members from each show who were interviewed for the book help put each show into proper context. There are also quotes from interviews the Beatles gave to newspapers in each city they visited as well as what contemporary reviewers in the press said about each concert. Photo sections corresponding to each tour show the reader some of the tour posters and ticket stubs (see photo below), as well as photos of the Beatles and their tour mates onstage and backstage.  There are even some great never-before-seen pictures, most notably the only surviving photographs of the band from their first UK tour in early 1963 (supporting Helen Shapiro).

This is the inside of the dust jacket...VERY cool!

As the book progresses, the Beatles go from being an unproven supporting band far down on the bill who were virtually unknown outside of northwest England to the the biggest headliners the country (and later, the world) would ever see.  Indeed, on their first two tours, supporting Helen Shapiro on the first and Chris Montez/Tommy Roe on the second, the band won over new fans and eventually made such an impact that by the end of them they had usurped the headliners. Concurrent with these tours were their first #1 singles, "Please Please Me" and "From Me To You," which cemented their status.  However, even on their third tour they were not headlining and were supporting the great Roy Orbison (of whom they were all big fans). To his credit, Orbison graciously gave up his headlining slot when he saw the riotous reception the Fab Four were getting although in doing so, he put them in the unenviable position of following directly after him!  By their fourth tour of 1963 there was no doubt that the Beatles had arrived and were bonafide headliners.  The success of "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and their first two albums solidified their spot as the top rock band in all of England.  The mania was at fever pitch but the band, though exhausted, didn't seem to be tired of it. A different picture is painted for their final two tours, though. The 1964 UK tour saw slightly dampened crowd frenzy, but it was still a harrowing adventure getting into and out of every gig. The band were physically wearier and also tired of the incessantly banal and stupid questioning they were subjected to before and after every show.  By their final UK tour in December 1965, it was clear they'd had enough and were nearing the end of their touring rope.  That final UK tour consisted of only nine dates, although they had support from the Moody Blues as well as the Paramounts (who would eventually form the nucleus of Procul Harum).  While the Beatles should be commended for continuing to add their new material to their set lists, they were hamstrung by the state of concert equipment in the mid-1960s and could no longer reproduce their ambitious material onstage. As we all know, this was the primary (but not the only) factor in their decision to stop touring after their summer American tour of 1966.

Beatlemania is, overall, an enjoyable book to read although it does tend to get monotonous the further along you get into it. This is down to its construction, which consists of very similar paragraphs for each show of each tour. After the first few tours, it becomes a repeated cycle of the band getting smuggled into the venue, the crowd shouting down the support acts with "we want the Beatles!" and the band playing into a hailstorm of screams and constant crowd mania before making a mad dash for their lives to escape the venue.  The excerpts of archival newspaper, radio, and TV interviews with the band and their support that are sprinkled throughout, as well as new interviews with the support acts and fans who were at the shows, help break the monotony up and place the reader back in that moment in time.  As an added bonus, at the end of the book there is a list of every UK tour date and venue the Beatles played between 1963 and 1965 as well as a splendid appendix with more in-depth interviews the author conducted with many of the central figures from the tours. These include tour promotion staff, support acts, and fans.  I actually would have preferred more of these interviews were included in the main body of the book in place of the repetitive analysis of every show.  I do still think this is a valuable and fun book for the hardcore Beatles fan, though. While it doesn't do for the Beatles' UK tours what Some Fun Tonight does for their US tours, it is still a worthy and impressive reference work. Creasy's attention to detail and his level of thorough research are certainly impressive and commendable, making this a valuable and substantial Beatles book that I am happy to have in my library.

MY RATING: 7.5/10

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Great Album Art From the CD Era

For those of us who take our music seriously and also who remember the (original) days of vinyl, the art and packaging of the album as a self-contained work of art is as important as the music contained within.  While the art of the original vinyl era of the 1960s and 1970s and even the new vinyl that is being released now is highly regarded, it's also used as further proof that vinyl beats all other formats.  Now, I've written about my love of vinyl and the personal experiences and memories I have of it and those feelings will never change. However, as someone who grew up in the peak period of the CD age and whose collection is predominantly on CD (1000+ CDs and counting), I also need to defend this assertion that only vinyl albums have worthwhile art and packaging.  Since you're currently reading this, it's obvious what my intentions are with this post, so without further ado let me set up what I want to share with you.

While interest in CDs and sales of the format are at an all time low, for many of us who are old enough to remember an era before digital music, physical formats will always trump digital-only collecting. I like having my most beloved music in a physical format for a variety of reasons, chief among them because I value the art and packaging as much as the sounds and, God forbid my ipod or hard drive crashes (and it has happened to me...twice), I still have copies to fall back upon. When bands still released their music primarily on CDs, many of them took as much care and effort into the artwork and packaging as their foreefathers in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s did.  As someone whose musical tastes spans the early 1960s to the present, I've seen this firsthand and so I want to share some of my favorite examples from my own massive CD collection.

(***A NOTE*** I am not taking into account reissues of albums from the 1960s and 1970s on CD which include the original artwork/packaging/booklets/inserts/etc. Not because they're not great...they are! But these are CD versions of the original vinyl albums. I am only focusing on albums released during the CD era, which I am defining as 1985-present, when the primary/only format bands released their albums on was CD***)

***...and please keep in mind that this list is purely subjective; these are simply some of my favorite examples!*** 

...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

One of my favorite modern bands also happens to be one of the leading lights when it comes to keeping the flame of great album packaging burning bright.  Trail of Dead play a bombastic mix of noisy alternative and grandiose epic progressive rock and their album art always has the cinematic scope to match the music.  Part of the reason is that they are fortunate to have a fantastically talented artist in Conrad Keely, who also happens to be the chief singer/songwriter/guitarist/creative force within the band.  Keely is responsible for drawing and/or painting all of the album covers and inserts, as well as writing the accompanying liner notes and librettos.  As a fellow lifelong comic book fan, Keely's approach really appeals to my sensibilities and these albums could just have easily have been released in the 1970s or 80s and fit right in.   All of their albums have great art but the ones below are my personal favorites from their discography.  

The first album of theirs to have truly elaborate art was 2005's Worlds Apart, with a Marvel Secret Wars-inspired front cover, an elaborate triptych gatefold, and a booklet with illustrated lyrics.

The inner triptych

Their 2009 album, The Century of Self, had artwork from Keely that was drawn 100% in blue ballpoint pen which is very intricate and striking.

2001's Tao of the Dead was a gorgeous package where there was more to the story than just the music.  Several of the tracks on the album are part of a story Keely is working on called "Strange News From Another Planet" and the album art incorporates characters and scenes from the story. Also included in the package is a graphic novel containing the first part of the story (the rest is supposed to be forthcoming as a standalone graphic novel in the future).

The mini graphic novel
Inside the mini graphic novel

For 2012's Lost Songs, the CDs are housed in a thick book containing a 180-page story (with illustrations) by Conrad Keely. The CDs also contain the album in two versions: one version as discrete tracks, the other version as one continuous, segued piece of music.

That is a thick book to come with some CDs!

Their latest album, from 2014 and entitled IX, continues their tradition of elaborately designed artwork and illustrated booklet.

Some fans and critics consider the band's presentation to be ostentatious and over the top, but that's one of things I love about them. Besides the music, they understand that the experience of an album involves more than just the music; it's an appeal to the imagination and to the senses.


While Radiohead is well known and highly regarded for their ambitious music, they also have very interesting artwork for all of their albums (except for maybe their debut), which is due to their collaboration with artist Stanley Donwood. Each of their albums have interesting presentations, but the ones below are my favorites.

2000's Kid A had very stark, ominous artwork which in and of itself was cool, but there was something else hidden underneath the CD tray...

What's that under the tray?

...why, it's a second album booklet containing some very interesting, bizarre, and disturbing artwork and writing.

Pop off the tray and voila! Bonus booklet!

Lots of weird clues and things in this one...

Their 2007 album In Rainbows was notorious because the band let fans name their own price to download it before the physical version was released in stores. However, if you're like me and you must have the physical version, you were in for a treat with the packaging.

The package folds open to show a bunch of goodies...

...including the CD in slipcase as well as stickers and inserts in order to create your own jewel box version of the album (if you so desire).

Construct your own jewel box, complete with stickers and inserts

2011's King of Limbs, while a rather disappointing album (my opinion), has neat packaging, being presented like an old vinyl album. It opens up into a gatefold with the CD held on the right hand side.

The Smashing Pumpkins

I distinctly remember buying this mammoth double album when it came out in 1995; I'd been a fan of the Pumpkins from their first album and after the exquisite Siamese Dream I was curious where they would go. What they ended up releasing was a sprawling epic that was 1990s American alternative rock's version of The White Album, and that included the packaging.

Each disc had its own title and theme and the album came with two booklets.

The first booklet contained elaborate color art that loosely (maybe?) related to the music but was nonetheless interesting to look at.

The second booklet was made to look like an old manuscript and had the lyrics for all of the songs accompanied by little drawings and doodles.


Beck's 2006 album is great musically, while artistically it was a blank slate...literally. Apart from a sticker with his name on it, the album cover was nothing more than blank graph paper. This was because... 

Where's the cover art?

...Beck invited his fans to create their own unique album cover! His thinking was that no two covers would be alike and in order to accommodate this, there were six sheets of stickers with different graphics and logos.

I've never had the heart to use the stickers, but it's still cool to look at them every once and a while


You all know Mansun are a favorite band of mine for their music, but I also have always enjoyed the artwork for these two following albums.  Their second album, 1998's epic Six, is one of the lost masterpieces of the 1990s; a quasi-prog rock album with layer upon layer of complexity that somehow was categorized as BritPop when it came out!  The striking album cover is full of clues and references to the music contained within, as well as items of personal meaning to the members of the band.

The album was set up to be listened to like two-sided vinyl, complete with an interlude track halfway through. The booklet has lots of great photos of the band as well as the lyrics to the songs and is more like a theatre program than an album booklet.

Finally, I've always liked the painting on the rear cover of the booklet...the other half of the day for the cover's central figure (and it also happens to be a reference to my favorite song on the album, "Television.")

Mansun's fourth and final album, Kleptomania, was released in 2004 (after the band split up) due to fan pressure from a petition that was signed and submitted to Paul Draper and EMI/Parlophone. It was a 3CD set, with the first CD containing the final album, the 2nd CD containing popular singles and B-sides, and the third CD made up of rarities and demos. I just really like the presentation of the package, from the clear slipcase to the way the black and white lettering looks when the case is unfolded. The booklet is again a thing of beauty with notes about each song from Paul as well as lots of great photos and a potted history of the band.

The Bluetones

Last but not least, the second album from another favorite band of mine; this is probably also my favorite album of theirs. In keeping with the theme of the title, the booklet for 1998's Return to the Last Chance Saloon is hidden behind mini saloon doors which need to be opened before you can get at all of the lyrics and recording info. Neat!

Miniature saloon doors!

There you have it, some examples of what I think are great album packaging and art from the CD era. There are many more within my collection and I have a feeling I'll be doing at least one more post like this as I happen to go through and pull some of those albums out in the future, but these were the examples that came instantly to mind when I thought of doing this post. I hope you enjoyed it and would love to know what you consider some examples of great CD-era album art from your own collection.  Please share in the comments below!

Monday, March 9, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones

They've been called "the greatest rock and roll band in the world," and for a time during the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was hard to argue that it wasn't true.  Bursting onto the rock music scene in 1964 in the wake of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones are music history's greatest runners-up.  Ironically, while the media pitted the Beatles and Stones against each other as rivals, the bands were good friends.  However, whereas the Beatles were universally adored and considered a national (and later, worldwide) treasure, the Stones were set up as their polar opposites by the press: scruffy, dirty, vulgar, and dangerous. As usual with these sort of things, the truth of the matter lies somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, although it is fair to say that the Stones did have a seedier image, lifestyle, and mystique attached to them. This reached its fever pitch during their golden period of 1968-1973 when they released a run of albums and singles that stands with the best that any band of any era produced.  In the middle of all of this, from 1968 to 1970, writer Stanley Booth traveled with the Stones and the resulting book, The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, ended up being one of the greatest rock and roll books ever in spite of its tortuous gestation period (more on that in a bit).

***special thanks to Stacey at Chicago Review Press for sending me a copy of the book to review!*** 

Drug busts,  trials, sentencing hearings, and the rapid deterioration of Brian Jones forced the Stones off the road after their 1967 European tour.  Even though they'd continued to release several excellent singles and albums in the interim, by early 1969 the band were itching to get back on the road and play in front of crowds, especially in America where they hadn't toured since 1966. Complicating matters was the mental and physical degradation of Jones, who had become increasingly irrelevant to the Stones' music since the end of 1966. With Mick Jagger and Keith Richards firmly in control as the songwriters and creative drivers of the band, Jones was marginalized as he sank deeper into his addictions. Several months before setting out on their comeback tour of the US, the Stones replaced Jones with Mick Taylor, whose debut show was to be a massive festival in London's Hyde Park in July 1969. A few days before this concert, Jones was found dead in his swimming pool, turning the concert from its intended introduction of Taylor into a tribute to Jones. Three months later, the band would head to America to rehearse for the tour, which started in November and became one of the most epic and mythical tours of its era (at least until the Stones' equally celebrated 1972 US Tour). Into the middle of all of this dropped Stanley Booth, an at the time unknown writer from Waycross, Georgia who spent 1968 and 1969 in London working on a biography of the Stones before accompanying them on the 1969 tour. The resulting book would turn out to be more gripping, informative, interesting, and shocking than either the author or his subjects could have ever known.

The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones was originally written between 1968 and 1970, but wasn't published until 1984.  Thankfully, it has been reprinted for its 30th anniversary by Chicago Review Press and it is this edition that is the subject of the present review.  The book is set up as both a history of the Rolling Stones from their inception to the present (ie 1970, when Booth's time with the band was over) and as a blow-by-blow chronicle of the 1969 tour as it happened.  The structure has chapters alternating the band's history with the ongoing tour before they meet head-on at the end.  After starting the book with a tease about the situation at the ill-fated Altamont Festival (which we'll get to later) prior to the Stones taking the stage, Booth takes the reader for a ride on two parallel tracks: from humble beginnings in the country suburbs of London and the R&B clubs of the city before the Stones achieved stardom, and the decadent sleaze and boredom of a rented house in Los Angeles a month before the US tour starts in November 1969.  The central figure of both tracks is Brian Jones, the enigmatic and doomed young man who founded the band before he was usurped and pushed to the side the more successful they got.  As far as the band history part of the book goes, Booth does an excellent job tracing their history from the nascent jazz and R&B clubs of London where the band members began sitting in with each other to the moment when the five of them finally came together and started down their road to success.  Besides the concert riots and negative press that dogged them at every turn, what was most shocking to learn was just how soon after the Stones became famous that Brian's influence and participation in the band began to wane.  Indeed, Mick, Keith, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and Ian "Stu" Stewart all recall how Brian would not turn up for gigs or recording sessions, leaving the band to capably carry on without him.  Additionally, while Jagger and Richards' dismissive and often cruel treatment of Jones is well known and well documented, most fans (myself included) usually consider it to have started in the 1966-67 period, when Brian's drug problems became overwhelming and he lost his girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, to Keith. However, the book clearly shows that the Stones (and then-manager Andrew Oldham) took this attitude toward Brian as early as 1964 and in earnest by 1965.  The book also gives the most detailed and in-depth look at the infamous Redlands drug busts of Mick and Keith and the resulting overreach of the courts in sentencing (and then releasing) the duo. However, Brian's offenses are also discussed, in even more detail as Booth was present at the hearings, and it's quite surprising as to how differently he was viewed by the media and the courts when compared to his two bandmates.  Booth also managed to interview Brian's parents for the book, albeit after his death, and their somewhat ambivalent yet ultimately loving feelings toward their late son and his former bandmates makes for fascinating reading.

Running concurrently with the band history is Booth's diary of the 1969 tour which is the beating heart of the book, bringing all of the threads together.  Beginning in October 1969 when the band, their various mates, management, and hangers-on decamped to several rented houses in Los Angeles to rehearse and prepare the logistics of the tour, Booth's prose is a narrative of not only what was going on in the Stones' world, but in his own life.  His troubles with his agent and publisher in getting his advance and a proper contract for the book drawn up, the strain the assignment put on his marriage, and his burgeoning drug addition as he imbibed alongside the Stones and their friends are all issues that continued to dog him throughout the tour. Along with this, he does a great job detailing the boredom and drudgery that accompanies a lot of rock and roll touring. While the Stones were demigods by this stage, earning a small fortune every night for a few hours' work and able to have their every whim and desire catered to, there were still endless hours slogging around on airplanes, buses, taxi cabs, in hotel rooms, and the constant bouts of hurry-up-and-wait as they flitted from city to city. All of this led to the inevitable climax, the disaster at the Altamont Festival. The last show of the tour (although not actually part of the tour proper as it was added at the last minute and took place a week after the true end of the tour), Booth had a backstage view of the mayhem and violence of the festival from the moment the Stones arrived at the site all the way through their performance and their harrowing escape to the safety of their hotel. In particular, his play-by-play recap of the concert itself (which, along with listening to the audience recording of the entire show and watching the Gimme Shelter film gives one an almost completely immersive and accurate picture of what went on) makes for edge-of-the-seat reading.  Indeed, I literally could not put the book down while I was reading this chapter. His grisly description of Meredith Hunter's fatal injuries at the hands of the Hells Angels doesn't make for easy reading, especially when he conveys an eyewitness account from a man who was involved in trying to save Hunter's life. While most accounts rightly point the blame at Hunter for pulling a gun in the midst of the huge, restless crowd (and indeed, it's all captured in the film), the manner in which Booth describes the entire event is terrifying and places the reader firmly in the pitch dark madness of that cold California night in December 1969.

After that disaster, the finality of the tour is remarkably brief as everyone in the Stones entourage scattered to the four winds almost immediately after Altamont.  The rest of Booth's story, both in terms of his personal life and his book, is no less troubling.  It took him many years to recover, emotionally and physically, from the experience; he had to kick his drug addictions after a few more years of spending time with the Stones on subsequent tours nearly cost him his life.  The long and winding road his book took to being published, as well as the various missteps made by his publicity handlers, cost him a lot of money and fulfillment which led him to the desperate brink of suicide. He never made much money off of the book despite its critical darling status since its publication and this seems to have left a slightly bitter taste in his mouth, and understandably so.  However, we should be eternally grateful that the book did come out and that it is now available again.  If method acting involves an actor getting so immersed in his or her character that they actually become the character for a time, then Booth was a method writer as he became one of the Stones during this period in his life, and he paid a dear price for it both mentally and physically.  Apart from some rather dense and perhaps overly verbose and slightly pretentious passages scattered throughout, this is a fascinating and enjoyable book that puts the reader there in the moment. It's not fly-on-the-wall writing so much as it is fly-in-the-ointment writing, and it also contains one of my new favorite sentences of all time:

"In the sixties we believed in a myth: that music had the power to change people's lives; today people believe in a myth: that music is just entertainment."

That is powerful, profound stuff and so, so true.

This book has rightly been hailed as a classic of rock music writing and I can't argue with that assessment. It is, in my opinion, the most rock and roll book about the most rock and roll rock and roll band ever. And I meant that sentence exactly as I wrote it.  None other than Keith Richards himself said "Stanley Booth's book is the only one I can read and say 'Yeah, that's how it was.'" If it's good enough for Keef, that's more than good enough for me.

MY RATING: 9.5/10

Friday, March 6, 2015

Star Trek: Living Long and Still Prospering

Spock, Kirk,, do I love this show!

The recent passing of Leonard Nimoy was not entirely unexpected given that he was in his 80s and had been suffering from health issues the past year, but it was nonetheless sad.  The outpouring of tributes from his friends, family, colleagues, and fans was nice to see and showed just how much of an impact his work as an actor, director, voice artist/narrator, and photographer had made over his long career.  Of course, to almost everyone he is and forever will be linked with the character he played that defined his life as an actor: Spock.  Certainly this is how I knew Nimoy best as an actor and director, and his passing made me step back for a moment and really reflect on why I'm such a huge Star Trek fan.  I'm a science fiction fan and enjoy many series and franchises, from Star Wars (the movies) to Dune (the books) and more, but my absolute favorite has and always will be Star Trek.  And while I'm a fan of all of the TV series and movies they've made, the first one I ever became hooked on was the original series and it is still my favorite to this day.

Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry, who envisioned a serious show taking place in the future where different species of aliens and humans would live in relative harmony and band together to protect and explore every corner of the universe. To this end, the original crew of the USS Enterprise was made up of human men and women of different races (white, black, Japanese, Russian, etc) and a Vulcan named Spock, portrayed by Leonard Nimoy. Rounding out the main characters were Captain Kirk (played by William Shatner), Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForrest Kelly), Engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan), Mr. Sulu (George Takei), Communications Officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), and Ensign Chekov (Walter Koenig).   The series focused on the deep personal bonds and friendship between Kirk, McCoy, and Spock; of particular interest was the struggle of the half-human, half-Vulcan Spock trying to balance the logic of his Vulcan side with the emotion of his human side. This internal struggle and Spock's (through the excellent acting of Nimoy) journey through life trying to reconcile the two made him the most popular character of the entire franchise, as well as one of the most iconic and popular characters in television history.

The original run for the first Star Trek series was from 1966 to 1969. In that time, it ran for three seasons (79 episodes) and did poorly in the ratings, yet it had a rabid and dedicated fanbase made up almost exclusively (at the time) of teenage boys.  My dad and two uncles, who are big Trek fans, grew up during this time period and watched it during its original run; they were hooked on it then and are still fans to this day.  The series was initially cancelled after the second season but was renewed for a third season after a huge letter writing campaign from fans swayed NBC to bring it back.  However, it wasn't until the series was cancelled for good in 1969 and it went into syndication that the fanbase exploded and the Trekkie phenomenon was born.

The demand for more Trek was so great by the end of the 1970s that creator Gene Roddenberry had planned a new TV series called Star Trek: Phase II, which would continue the adventures of the original crew. However, the series was scrapped and eventually turned into the first Star Trek film, which was released in 1979 and kicked off the second wave of Trek mania that has endured to this day.  There were a total of six movies made featuring the crew from the original TV series, as well as four more TV series starting in the late 1980s (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise) and multiple movies featuring the Next Generation crew. All of the series and movies were tied together, taking place in the same universe across hundreds of years and featuring a lot of continuity between characters, planets, storylines, and so on.  More recently, JJ Abrams has relaunched the franchise with two excellent new movies in the 2010s that take place with a new cast, detailing the adventures of the original USS Enterprise crew but in an alternate universe. As a nice touch, a part was written for Nimoy to reprise Spock, stranded in the alternate universe that the new films inhabit.

While I am a fan of all of the Star Trek series and films, my favorite has and always will be the original series and the first six films featuring the same characters.  Part of this is due to the fact that it was the series I grew up watching as a kid and thus is the one I know best. But the main reason that it's my favorite is because in my opinion it has the best characters, the best writing/acting, and the best stories of all of the series.  Yes, the special effects were primitive, even for their time (the show is legendary for the shoestring budget they were given to work with by NBC and how fast they had to film each episode), but beyond possessing a late 1960s charm, the effects are really not that bad. Furthermore, the success of the show and the fact that the storylines (well, most of them) were and remain so captivating and interesting shows that it was a series driven not by impressive visual effects, but by characters and stories that drew in and captivated scores of fans.  Star Trek was blessed with some great writers during its initial run, writers who were able to weave gripping and interesting stories that took turns featuring each of the main characters, investing time and energy in presenting fleshed out lives and backstories for all of them.  Whether a particular episode was humorous, depressing, philosophical, political, exciting, or a combination thereof, there was usually something interesting going on.  Some of the best known episodes, which are also among my favorites, are "Amok Time," "The City on the Edge of Forever," "Balance of Terror," "The Doomsday Machine," "Space Seed," "Mirror, Mirror," "The Trouble With Tribbles," and "The Tholian Web," to name some but not all. 

 The Doomsday Machine, one of my favorite Trek episodes

Take, for example, "The City on the Edge of Forever," which was written by the great science fiction writer Harlan Ellison and is routinely sited as the greatest Trek episode of all time. It deals with issues including time travel, love, and making difficult choices that may be right but aren't easy (I don't want to give anything away if you haven't seen it). The emotional ending was and still is something not seen on most network television shows, especially in the 1960s.  That is perhaps the way in which Star Trek was most ahead of its time and the aspect of the show for which Roddenberry and his writers deserve the most credit: their bold and visionary presentation of societal and technological matters through the medium of a dramatic television series.  Their vision of a somewhat Utopian future where citizens from different nationalities and alien races would come together in peace to work toward a better future was, for a time, realized in our lifetimes (although this has sadly been undone over the past decade-plus). The presentation of women and minorities in positions of authority and importance in Starfleet, which is basically the outer space version of the Navy, was groundbreaking and something we take for granted now in both real life and in entertainment.  Furthermore, where Star Trek was really eerie in terms of its prescience was in its depiction and prediction of future technology.  From the belt-clip communicators (cell phones), phasers ( long as they're set on "stun"), and tricorders (iPads) to all of the various non-invasive medical advances they portrayed on the show (many of which are very real in 2015), Star Trek showed what was possible with imagination and vision, while the real world turned those fictions and fantasies into very real and beneficial reality. Of course, we haven't solved the problem of space travel and human space exploration beyond going to the moon (yet), but I certainly hope that when we do, the future will look more like what is depicted in the Star Trek universe than the alternative.

A great scene from the best Trek film of them all

As to why I have loved this show and all of its spin-offs so much, it really comes down to the fact that it has fired my imagination with so many interesting ideas and philosophies that have always kept me thinking long after I've finished watching.  The interesting characters, ships, alien races, gadgets, battles, and storylines are all great, of course, but what has kept me and countless others captivated for so many years are the ideas the show presents; much of this is because of how much closer our world has come to resemble the world of Trek, at least in terms of technology, communications, and the subsequent shrinking of the world these have engendered. Perhaps the bigger picture is that it forces us to think and to ask questions of ourselves: how would we react if our future were like that of Star Trek? When presented with similar situations and choices to make, would we choose the pragmatic path? The peaceful route? Would we resort to force only as a last resort? Would we set out to conquer and colonize the universe as we have done for millennia here on Earth, or would our missions be more similar to the ancient explorers who simply wanted to chart the world and make contact with new societies and civilizations for peaceful purposes?  Obviously none of us have concrete answers to any of these questions since we are not at the point of needing to answer any of them in 2015.  It does, however, make you step back, pause, and think a bit and for me at least that is the coolest thing Star Trek has to offer.  In a way, I've always thought it was the most realistic and grown-up science fiction on film.  While I've always been a huge fan of its closest rival Star Wars, the way I've always looked it is that Star Wars is children's entertainment that can be enjoyed by adults, but Star Trek is grown-up sci-fi that kids can also enjoy.  My understanding of Star Wars and the concepts behind it haven't changed too much from when I was 10 to now, but the absolute inverse is true when it comes to Star Trek; I understand it a whole lot more now at 35 than I did at 10.  Maybe it sounds silly to be discussing a television and movie franchise in this way, but then again Star Trek has always been more than that and it will continue to be long into the future. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

New Twitter Handle

I've been using the twitter handle @blackbookblur since I joined twitter back in 2010 because in those days, I was only writing my Blur books. However, since the scope of my writing & various projects have grown a lot since then, I thought it was time for a handle that reflected that.  As of right now, I am @rocknrollchem on twitter, so please update your bookmarks accordingly!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Interview with Jake Rohrer, author of A Banquet of Consequences

The Rock and Roll Chemist is privileged to bring you the following interview with Jake Rohrer, former go-to guy (think of him as a quasi-manager) for legendary 1960s rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival.  As a bit of background, in the photo above Jake Rohrer is pictured at his desk in the CCR Berkeley headquarters, the "Factory," circa 1970.  The woman in the photo is Jake's sister, Mary Goodrich, who helped him run the fan club and hold down the office when they were on the road (photo credit: Deiter Zill).  His recently published memoir, A Banquet of Consequences: Sex (not too much), Drugs (plenty), Rock & Roll (of course), and the Feds (who invited them?) is at once unpretentious and profound, dramatic and humorous, and goes far beyond his association with Creedence Clearwater Revival which could even be considered secondary to the rest of his story. Today he lives with his wife in rural upcountry Maui, where they farm the land, maintain a recording studio, and administer their music label featuring the traditional music of Hawaii.  

I've previously reviewed his excellent memoir, A Banquet of Consequences, and Jake was kind enough to elaborate on his life and career by answering some questions I had about his book. I hope you enjoy reading our interview as much as I enjoyed speaking with Jake.

RNRChemist: Jake, thanks so much for speaking to me regarding your excellent book and your fascinating story.  Let's get right into some questions!  First up, the obvious one: what motivated you to write a book about your life?

JR: Simply the joy of writing (discovered while incarcerated) and thinking I'm probably not very good at fiction.  Recent loss of the retail CD markets and loss of music markets in general found me with lots of time on my hands. I turned to writing.

RNRChemist: Can you give a little background into your upbringing? What was it like?

JR: I was raised by successful, caring, and loving parents; We had everything we needed in the America of the late forties and throughout the fifties.  Home life was supportive and comfortable, lacking only in progressive idealism which wouldn't come along until later on.

RNRChemist: How did you first get involved with the guys who ultimately became Creedence? What did you do over the course of working for them?

JR: They showed up on my high school campus in the fall of 1960 as the Blue Velvets, a genuine rock & roll band.  I was enamored by their music and sought them out as friends.  About nine years later I was working for them as their representative in press relations, public relations, touring support, general factotum, diplomatic attache, and all around front man.

RNRChemist: You had a pretty successful (by the sounds of it) auto dealership business that your family ran. Was it hard to leave that behind to go into the music world when CCR hit?

JR: Not hard at all when looking at the invitation to come work for CCR.  I'd lost my father who started the business before I was born. The joy and challenge of the auto business was eventually gone with him.  I was ready for a change and who could resist the opportunity to work on the world stage of rock & roll with close and admired friends?

RNRChemist: What was the relationship between the guys in CCR like back in the early, pre-fame days? Was there any hint of the bitterness that was to come?

JR: None that I ever saw. These guys were like brothers (Tom and John, of course, actually were), supportive, respectful, fun loving, music loving and hard working. They were great friends to me and among themselves.

RNRChemist: During the band's heyday, what was it like? How was the relationship between the guys?

JR: It was like a dream come true, everything they did seemed to work like magic. They were treated like royalty everywhere they went.  They were personally close and proud of their achievements. John's leadership and musical abilities were respected and held in high regard by the others.  I wasn't aware of any internal dissension until just before Tom left. I could feel anxiety building and it felt to me as though what had been taken for granted, an easy-going and humble acceptance of fame and accomplishment, had somehow turned into something precious and breakable.  Suddenly it seemed like all that success wasn't enough. Things relaxed for a couple of years after Tom left the band, then--to me inexplicably--the tension and anxiety returned around the recording and release of Mardi Gras.

RNRChemist: What were your initial impressions of John? Doug? Stu? Tom? How about since they split up in 1973?

JR: As high school friends I looked on them as fun loving, talented guys.  Stu, and especially Doug, were gregarious and outgoing.  John was quieter, seeming more serious, but still ready for a good time.  I looked on all of them as capable and smart.  I didn't get to know Tom until I came to work for them and knew him even less after he left the band. Now he's gone, gone, gone...I still occasionally communicate with Stu and Doug and value their friendship. A few years back I was in Columbia, Missouri, visiting my son and his family, and Creedence Clearwater Revisited was performing in town.  Stu and Doug took the time to come to my son's home for a dinner and autograph session with all my son's pals and their wives, all totally thrilled.  What great sports. They did that for me and I love them for it.  John:  John is John, so different from anyone else I've ever been close to.  He was a loner when I worked for him, and I assume he still is. There was a quiet intensity about him and yet a warm and smiling side as well. Except for some pleasantries exchanged when I was a witness in a CCR related lawsuit, we haven't spoken since we parted ways in 1977. Sure, I miss him. He was a close friend and confidant who I greatly admired. I can't even imagine how he's changed since then.  I guess I have, too.  He acquired a new wife and family and I wish him only happiness. My greatest disappointment concerning John was when he refused to perform with Stu and Doug at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.  I thought it malicious, a blight on his legacy. Here was an  opportunity to mend old wounds, to revisit and celebrate their greatness. I don't know why the HOF people let the show go on.  Stu said it best: " ... it wasn't John Fogerty they were inducting."

RNRChemist: CCR's never ending legal battles with each other popped up again when Stu and Doug recently sued John over use of the Creedence name in promotions. If you had to take sides in this mess, which side would it be and why?

JR: This is a business dispute that will be settled by lawyers.  It's not up to me to take sides on a subject that sure isn't any of my business and I know very little about.

RNRChemist: After they split and you stopped working for them, you worked with John for a while as he started his solo career. What sort of things were you doing for him?

JR: A while was about four years, the same amount of time I spent in prison. I generally acted as his representative for matters of business and the public, very much what I had done with the band. We spent a lot of time in Troy, Oregon, building John a house while he acquainted himself with the finer points of hunting and fishing and the great outdoors. We also drank some whiskey and played country music in the local honky tonk. We spent some limited time in L.A. after John signed with Geffen (Asylum), but it never felt to me like we boys from Berkeley fit with the L.A. scene. John's solo career didn't really take off until "Centerfield" in 1985 when I was seven or eight years gone from his employ.

RNRChemist: Why do you think he developed such writers block around that time, which lasted the better part of a decade?

JR: I think John lapsed into a dark, quiet place, struggling with the reality of all that had gone down during his professional career: from the beginning he and the others were tied to a crappy, one-sided contract (like most musicians of the day were), the loss of his band, the loss of their money in a sham off-shore trust, the loss of confidence in his song writing, a bitter battle with Saul Zaentz and Fantasy Records, equally bitter battles with band members, and who knows what else? I believe he convinced himself that he was a victim, that others had taken unfair advantage of him, and he just wouldn't let go of that idea. I think that sort of thinking only holds you back.

RNRChemist: You pull no punches about your time in the drug trade during the 1970s...what led you into that world?

JR: The ease of opportunity and I needed a job.  All of a sudden I was making rock-star money, and I liked the sense of freedom it afforded. I didn't have a lot of moral hangups about drugs; I don't have an addictive personality and thought cocaine easy to deal with. It was rampant throughout the music business and I never thought much of it.  I was later to realize how insidious a drug it is, that it sneaks up on a lot of people, and truly, we're better off without having it around as a recreational habit.

RNRChemist: Did you ever worry about getting arrested or killed by a rival dealer while you were doing that?

JR: No. I entered into a fraternity of honorable guys who didn't believe in violence. Rule number one: you don't lie, cheat or steal, and you don't rat on your brothers. Like all good things, that didn't last forever, and the huge profits attracted the kind of people who were as willing to cut your throat as look at you. Things got somewhat dicey down the road.

RNRChemist: You were ratted out by the guys higher in the operation than you were and got a pretty heavy prison sentence while they got off relatively easy. You could have been really bitter and angry about that but you weren't, which I thought was quite impressive. Why were you able to keep a different perspective on it?

JR: I was bitter at first. I wasn't caught doing anything, I was told on. It was only one guy, the guy who was said to be at the top of the chain and they were letting him go in exchange for being an informant. It wasn't an "operation" per se.  There wasn't a  gang or cartel involved. It was  a group of non-violent, independent entrepreneurs who knew and trusted one another.  When I finally accepted responsibility for my actions, realizing that I had created my own karma, things got easier. I became convinced that I was far better off serving my time than the informant who traded his prison time for a life sentence of a different nature. I looked back on the drug life as a facade, an ugly and dangerous waste of time.

RNRChemist: You also mention in the book that while prison isn't anything anyone should aspire to, you "enjoyed" your time there (relatively speaking) and are thankful for it. Can you elaborate on that a bit?

JR: Sure. A better man came out than went in. There was plenty of time for reading and contemplation.  I discovered the joy that can come from writing. It's also opportunity to get your temple (body) into shape and kill off your bad habits.  I went in weighing 230 pounds and came out under 180, lean and in great shape. I quit my tobacco habit. I originally called my book "The Fortunate Son," because I've always considered myself fortunate.  I was fortunate to have the parents I did, to grow up where I did in the era that I did, to do the things I've done.  And I was fortunate to go to prison when I did, before sentence requirements got so crazy, and fortunate to be in prison circumstances where I could play sports, play music, enjoy a camaraderie with fellow inmates, all of these things--it was like going back to high school again even though I was in my forties, lacking only females. I came out feeling twenty years younger. Imagine a second chance at youth. Even today I sometimes I walk around feeling like I must be in that Paul Newman movie, "Somebody Up There Likes Me," so grateful to be alive in good health, able to extract the joy from each passing day.  I don't want to paint a picture of every single day being something great.  Shit happens.  In prison and out, yesterday, today and tomorrow. But, taken as a whole experience, I got value out of prison. I accepted being locked up, I had earned that, and made up my mind to make the most of it.

RNRChemist: Are you still in touch with any of the characters from your time in prison you mentioned in the book?

JR: Sure. Foremost my brother. We've always been very close. I've never, though, been able to find my "amigo," Chris, from my days at the medium security prison at Terminal Island.  I met Chris, who'd spent half of his life behind bars, on the day I walked in, and he became my friend, teacher and benefactor, significantly easing my transition into the prison environment.

RNRChemist: You mention at the end of the book that while your time in prison doesn't seem too bad based on the stories you told, there were some bad things that happened that you didn't want to include in the book. Is there any chance you could share some with us, if you don't mind?

JR: No "bad" things happened to me in prison. I was never assaulted, disciplined, or sent to the "hole."  I was never caught doing any of the bad stuff we did. The negative I was balancing consisted mostly of a rigid control by a bureaucratic system that never let you forget who's in charge. Boredom, missing loved ones, and occasionally having to take shit from some nasty, mean-spirited guard whose sorry existence revolved around keeping other people jailed. Worse than that, having to take shit from that guy's boss, a similarly dull-witted, mean-spirited, bureaucratic robot whose sense of purpose in this world was predicated on extracting society's revenge from those under his dominion. I witnessed a lot of what I considered mean and cowardly behavior by prison administrators, most of whom were morally and intellectually inferior to those over whom they held their sway. On the other side of that coin were those working in the prison environment who were fair-minded, decent, thinking and warm human beings.

RNRChemist: What have you been up to since you were released?

JR: That's almost like the whole second half of my life. Here's a thumbnail: right out of the halfway house, I went to work for an old friend in his law office in downtown Oakland.  I was the investigator, paralegal and office administrator. I stayed with that job for ten years, until one day my wife announced, "I'm going to Maui. You coming?"  Of course I was.  Most of my family lived on Maui and we already owned a home  there. I had no idea what I would do when I got there, but I knew that first I had to build a garage and a cottage for my aging mother.  One day my brother asked if I could write some radio commercials for his travel business. I had an 8-track cassette recorder and a couple of AKG C-1000 microphones. Sure I can. My wife and I had been playing music together (she ukulele, me guitar) for kicks and supporting hula halau (schools) on the mainland and on Maui. I wrote clever commercials, doing the music and voice over, and my wife would sing the jingle. They were very successful and provided a good part of our income for several years. Another day, local spiritualist and recording artist, Lei`ohu Ryder, brought my wife home from a heiau (ancient Hawaiian temple) work party with a broken leg. Learning that I had worked with CCR (she was a big fan) and that I had the beginnings of a recording studio, she ventured, "Let's make a record!"  Sure I can. That kicked off our label, Ululoa Productions, and my career as a producer and engineer. Our first recordings, Lei'ohu's "Lady of the Mountain" and Ata Damasco's Hawaiian gospel album "From the Valley to the Throne" still sell in respectable numbers today, 14 years after release. Over the next decade or so, we produced, manufactured and released over 20 commercial CDs of mostly traditional Hawaiian music by mostly local Maui artists, as well as many recording jobs for other artists. Hawaii is a small market and now, without distribution and retail stores to sell them, the death knell has all but tolled for retail CDs. Our once busy studio has few projects today. We still administer our label and our releases are still available, but the market isn't what it was. With time on my hands, I thought about writing a book

RNRChemist: Any regrets or things you'd have done differently during your time with CCR? After?

JR: Hindsight is always 20-20 and life's been too good for regrets. Sure, there are things I would have done differently, but I don't dwell there.

RNRChemist: Some quick hit questions:

Favorite band?

JR: I just don't know. I hardly listen to rock music anymore.  I'm more likely to listen to real rock and roll out of the fifties than anything else in that vein. Who's better than Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and those other great pioneers? I still like the Stones, Allman Brothers, Creedence (of course), loved the Blasters and the Beatles. I like Zeppelin until Plant starts screaming at me. Most current bands sound like digital noise to me. I like roots music, Americana music, traditional music, blues... like good food and wine, I want to taste the earth from which it came from. The music I love has that same earth-connection, regardless of genre. I like those records that make me pull to the side of the road and wait for the end so I can write down who and what I just heard.

I've also developed an interest and fascination for the great philharmonic orchestras of our day.  I love watching those superb and dedicated musicians interpret the tempos and arrangements from the conductor, working together, and the tremendous sound they create from their acoustic instruments. They sometimes remind me of the best rock & roll band you can imagine, on a great night.

RNRChemist: Favorite album?

JR: I literally have thousands of albums (yeah, 33-1/3 rpm) and CDs collected over a lifetime. How could I have a favorite?  The best new release I've come across in recent months is Dave and Phil Alvin singing the songs of Big Bill Broonzy.  Wonderful stuff.  Right now I'm listening to Dion DiMucci, Bronx in Blue, released a few years back. He was seventy years old when he recorded that. What a great voice, great chops, then and now. It's hard to start naming names. There's too much great music out there. I recently mastered about 60 hours of cassettes to CD from the late, great KFAT radio in Gilroy, CA.  I did it for Gilbert Klein, a KFAT stalwart, for love of the music and the memories. I just don't think Pandora can compete with KFAT. Or most of the other stuff I can pull off my shelves.  Or pick the music that means something to me.

RNRChemist: As far as CCR goes, what's your favorite CCR album and song?

JR: Green River and "Green River."  Willy and the Poor Boys, a close second.

RNRChemist: Finally, after you wrote the book, did you look back and think "wow! What an interesting life I've had so far!" ?

JR: No, not really.  Everyone's life is interesting, or can be.  I take more pleasure in reading what I wrote, "Wow!... I nailed that scene!"

RNRChemist: Jake, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me; your insight and perspective on your life and on music are really inspiring and fascinating.  And for my readers, I highly recommend you pick up Jake's's an incredible story and a very enjoyable read. Thanks again, Jake!