Rock journalist. PR guy for Led Zeppelin. Nirvana's manager. Good friend to Kurt and Courtney. Record company executive. These are but a few of the descriptions you might apply to Danny Goldberg, whose latest book, Bumping into Geniuses: My Life Inside the Rock and Roll Business
, hits the bookstores next month. In addition to the appellations I've already dropped, among the many behind-the-scenes tales Goldberg tells are how he covered Woodstock when nobody else wanted to, when he talked Kiss into taking it all off (makeup-wise), and how he launched Stevie Nicks' solo career. What emerges is the profile of someone savvy enough to know that doing business is all about relationships—and that you can't succeed at either one at the expense of the other.
For our purposes here, Goldberg also writes about such Paul Nelson favorites as Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Ian Hunter (whom Goldberg now manages), and Neil Young. Most importantly, he writes about Paul.
Touching on Paul's five years at Mercury Records, when Goldberg was writing for Circus
magazine, he also reflects on Paul's role in the Warren Zevon saga in a lengthy and loving chapter about the singer/songwriter's final years (Goldberg was head of Artemis Records and released not only Zevon's last three studio albums but also the fine tribute album, Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon
). He also reflects on Paul's memorial service at St. Mark's Church on September 7, 2006.
What emerges is Goldberg's admiration for both Paul the man and Paul the writer. As he wrote for RockCritics.com
shortly after Paul's death:
Paul was hopelessly miscast as a PR guy. He was literally incapable of hyping an album or artist he did not believe in and was always apologetic when he called about a Mercury artist.... Paul was far more likely to go into a track by track analysis of the latest Leonard Cohen album on Columbia than even to mention a mediocrity on Mercury. I don't know how he got himself into a position where he was able to sign the Dolls (not normally the kind of thing a PR person could do at record companies) but I suspect he just wore out his superiors. But he did enjoy the expense account that allowed him to take a long list of writers to La Strada and other Midtown restaurants.
Towards the end of Bumping into Geniuses
, Goldberg realizes that "People like me were only valuable to record companies to the extent we could identify and sign commercial talent. And the way that the business world judged your talent for picking and signing and working with artists was not how smart you were, how much you loved music, how hard you worked, what skills you had, or what critics thought of your taste. To be taken seriously by the grown-ups you had to be associated with big hits. That was the coin of the realm."
Which pretty much sums up why Paul Nelson's record company career ended in 1975.Copyright 2008 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.
Is anyone else as displeased with the new layout at Last.fm as I am?
I am seriously considering giving it a month, and if it hasn't grabbed me by then, deleting my account.
- Music:Led Zeppelin - Babe I'm Gonna Leave You
One of my all-time favorite records is 1982's Revenge Will Come
, the debut album by a poet/songwriter named Greg Copeland. Produced by his good friend (since high school) Jackson Browne and released on the Geffen label, the album was at once critically embraced (along with Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska
, David Johansen's Live It Up
, and Lou Reed's The Blue Mask
, it landed on Time
magazine's best-of-the-year list) and commercially forgotten. It has never been released on CD.
A few years ago, preparing for my move two-thirds of the way across the country and looking for ways to lighten my load, I sold off most of my vinyl collection, saving only those records that either had some sort of sentimental value or which were yet unavailable on CD. Revenge Will Come
came to New York City with me.
Imagine my surprise, then, in January of last year when I discovered, among the hundreds of cassettes Paul Nelson had left behind in his apartment, two tapes in particular: a promo copy of Revenge Will Come
and an interview that he had conducted with Greg Copeland. Surprise tinged with a little bit of confusion because, to the best of my knowledge, Paul had never written about the album.
Recorded over the telephone in late August of 1982, Paul began by telling Copeland how much he admired the album—that it was thus far his favorite of the year. He also divulged to the young songwriter that, though he indeed intended to write about the album for Rolling Stone
(where he'd been record reviews editor since 1978), he had just resigned from the magazine.
When I spoke with Greg Copeland earlier this year, he told me: "I remember the room I was sitting in when it happened. I remember talking to him, but I don't remember anything about what he said or what I said. Until you reminded me, I'd forgotten about it."
Unfortunately, Paul never wrote about Revenge Will Come
—nor would he write much of anything else for the next seven years. His departure from Rolling Stone
, combined with the upheaval that was his personal life, signaled the beginning of what his friend Michael Seidenberg calls "Paul's missing years."
The good news is that, twenty-six years later, Greg Copeland has recorded his sophomore album. "Now I'm back full circle," he says. "I work as a lawyer about half-time and write the rest of the time." The album is slated for release on Jackson Browne's label later this year. Copyright 2008 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.
Paul Nelson didn't write a lot about the Doors--and he only briefly met Jim Morrison--but what words he did put to paper were poetic, to the point, and unashamedly revealing of a critic yearning to understand not only the the band's music but the nascent and far from established new art form called rock & roll. For instance:
And Jim. To see him sing is like witnessing a man dangling in some kind of unique and personal pain. Watching Morrison come face to face with some ultimate truth in song can be truly frightening. The shrieks and screams come from a subconscious layer under the conscious artistry: Morrison is levels, not all of them pretty.
When I learned that the intense and talented writer and director Tom DiCillo
(Living in Oblivion
, Box of Moonlight
, and his most recent film, Delirious
, are among his best) is feverishly at work on a Doors documentary, I forwarded him Paul's rare writings about the group, the best of which is "Perceiving the Doors," a piece written for the long out-of-print songbook We Are the Doors
. "What an amazing writer," DiCillo responded. "It is pretty astonishing. I particularly liked his analysis of the Doors' sound":
When they play, they seem to be held together by both terrific, almost terrifying, strength and by sheer nervous tension. They expand, contract, and the song is stretched like a live thing to a point of birth or breaking or both. The passion is always contained within the control. Ray [Manzarek] plays the organ like a holy man, his thoughts almost as visible as smoke, while Robby [Krieger] oozes out those slow, melted flamenco notes as if he were shaking them from a slow-motion guitar. John [Densmore] is all speed and power on the drums, a perpetual-motion machine. And Jim. To see him sing is like witnessing...
"It is close to my own view of what distinguishes the group," DiCillo continued, "but he writes extremely eloquently and with real, knowledgeable detail. I thought his review of the first album showed real perception." In fact, so alive was Paul's forty-year-old prose that DiCillo had a request: "Can you please pass my admiration on to him?"
I informed him that Paul had passed away in 2006. "I had no idea," he replied, "It touches me deeply. It has much deeper meaning now."
Copyright 2008 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.
Plucked From Obscurity, Man Joins Favorite Band After Karaoke Wows Founder
By DESIREE ADIB and STEPHANIE DAHLE
June 1, 2008
Tommy DeCarlo of Charlotte, N.C., dreamed of becoming a rock star, listening to his favorite band's albums and memorizing their songs.
Tommy DiCarlo is the new singer for his favorite band Boston.
"A Boston song would come on and I'd get fired up and I'd start singing it," said DeCarlo, 43, a father of two kids -- Talia, 19, and Tommy Jr., 17.
But dreams didn't pay the bills, so DeCarlo worked as a credit manager at a Home Depot store in Charlotte to support his.
Still, he never gave up singing along to his Boston CDs, and his daughter Talia took notice. She posted a MySpace page of DeCarlo singing karaoke to Boston songs after the band's lead singer, Brad Delp, committed suicide in March 2007. And, in an instant, DeCarlo's whole world turned upside down.
"I wanted to share [the karaoke] with ... other Boston fans," he said.
DeCarlo had to sing with the karaoke track because he had sold his keyboard in 2006, using the extra cash to buy Christmas presents for his children.
Meanwhile, up in Boston, members of the real band were struggling to continue playing as the coped with Delp's suicide.
"My wife was at her computer playing our tunes, and I asked whether it was us playing live," Boston founder Tom Scholz told USA Today. "She said, 'It's some guy in North Carolina singing your songs.' I said, 'I know Brad's voice, and that's Brad.'"
Still, a skeptical Scholz was intrigued.
"In order to believe it, I had to plug the computer into the big speakers so I could listen to the background music and see if it was the band," Scholz told ABC News. "And I realized it wasn't the band, it was a karaoke track. Somebody was singing to it, and it wasn't Brad."
So the band decided to give DeCarlo a shot -- as their new lead singer.
"I was like, 'Wow!'" DeCarlo told "Good Morning America." "I remember calling my wife and kids in the bedroom and I said, 'Look at this e-mail!' I couldn't believe it."
"I was like, 'Oh my goodness, I can't believe this is happening," said Talia DeCarlo. "It was crazy."
DeCarlo made his debut onstage at a tribute concert to Brad Delp last August. It was the first time he sang with a band in his entire life.
"Even at the tribute, I heard a few people say it was a little eerie to hear Tommy sing, because it sounded like Brad up there," Scholz said.
"My hope is to carry on what Brad meant," DeCarlo said.
DeCarlo and the rest of Boston will begin their summer tour on June 6, 2008, in Thunber Bay, Ontario, Canada.
And the keyboard that DeCarlo sold two years ago, trying to make ends meet? Yamaha is endorcing DeCarlo and shipping him a brand-new synthesizer. He is scheduled to receive it the day before he and the band leave for their tour.
Boston got lucky finding "somebody who is good at something, who loved it and all of a sudden, all the connections got made," Boston founder Scholz said. He added: "Thank God!" For DeCarlo, his ultimate "dream job" has become an unbelievable reality. "A lot of folks have said, 'Wow! You're living a dream.'"
DeCarlo laughed, "I've never dreamed this big. ... Never in a million years I thought this could happen."
The backstory: In the early Seventies, Paul Nelson accepted a publicity job at Mercury Records. One of the artists with whom he worked closely, and with whom he became good friends, was Rod Stewart. During Paul's five-year tenure at Mercury (he eventually was promoted to A&R, in which capacity he would sign the New York Dolls to their first recording contract), Stewart produced some of his best albums, including Gasoline Alley
, Never a Dull Moment
, and one of the best rock & roll albums of all time, Every Picture Tells a Story
In 1975, the same year Paul resigned from Mercury and returned to writing full-time, Stewart switched labels and landed at Warner Bros. where his first album was Atlantic Crossing
. Writing in Rolling Stone
, Paul gave the album a rave review
, concluding: "If Atlantic Crossing
isn't Rod Stewart's best record—and it isn't—it at least comes within hailing distance of earlier masterpieces."
In 1978, Paul wrote one of his best articles, a lengthy, praising piece that sympathetically depicted Rod at odds with his ex-lover, actress Britt Ekland, who was suing him for $12 million, at odds with the burgeoning punks, who had singled him out as their anti-poster boy, and at odds with the critical mass in general, who were of the opinion that he'd sold out and gone Hollywood (which he literally had, having relocated from England).
In 1981, Paul co-wrote a book with Lester Bangs that pilloried Stewart and his music, with Paul recanting much of his earlier praise. He wrote: "As a young man in his twenties, Rod Stewart seemed to possess an age-old wisdom: some of the things he told us we could've learned from our grandfathers. In his thirties, however, he suddenly metamorphosed into Jayne Mansfield."
Fast-forward to Thursday afternoon when I received a phone call that asked: "Can you meet Rod Stewart for drinks tonight?" I'd been trying to secure an interview with him for almost a year and a half. Four hours later, I found myself at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, across the table from a very dashing and dapper-looking Rod Stewart. (Due to a miscommunication between his manager and publicist, he'd been waiting for me for twenty minutes there in the sedate Astor Court—while I'd been waiting for him for twenty minutes around the corner in the rowdy King Cole Bar and Lounge.) Looking still very much the young rogue on which he'd made his reputation, the 63-year-old Stewart was charming and funny and, of course, occasionally bawdy. My scheduled fifteen- to twenty-minute interview ended up lasting almost forty-five minutes.
Stewart fondly remembered Paul Nelson as I did my best to stir up his memories and remind him of incidents that had occurred more than three-and-a-half decades ago. As I sipped on my Bloody Mary (which, according to legend, had been invented by King Cole bartender Fernand Petiot, circa 1939) and he on his martini, we traded stories: his about the Paul he knew, me about what had happened to Paul in the many years since Stewart had seen him last.
I even quoted Paul's contention that Stewart had "metamorphosed into Jayne Mansfield" and asked him how it had felt having his friend savage him in book form. I asked him if there had been any validity to what Paul had written. And he answered every question honestly and to the best of his ability.
What he had to say will appear, of course, in the Rod Stewart chapter of Everything Is an Afterthought
When Stewart's twenty-seven-year-old wife Penny Lancaster arrived, he announced that the interview was over and rose to greet her. When he introduced us, he told her, "We've been talking about a dear old friend of mine." And before we parted, he wished me luck with the book and added, "Thank you for just doing it."Copyright 2008 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.
From the ad I just saw on my local PBS station, Marvin Gaye is to be the subject of a two-hour "American Masters" episode.
On my station, which is part of SCETV, it will be on this next Wednesday evening at 9:00.
PLEASE I NEED SOME HELP! Could some Janis fan please help me out, I'm dying to see this but I don't get the channel here... can someone please record this for me on DVD and mail it to me??
If you'd be able to do this please let me know!! Thank you so much!
Van Morrison has a new album coming out - I believe in a couple of weeks.
It is called "Keep It Simple."
Apparently it features a ukulele?