Monday, August 31, 2009

ZZ Top Doubles Down With New Live Set

ZZ Top will feature performances from 1980 and 2008 on its next concert DVD, Double Down Live, which is due out October 20 on Eagle Rock.

The "Definitely Then" half of the two-disc set features a 22-song performance from the 1980 Deguello tour that was filmed at the Gurgahalle in Essen, Germany, for the TV series Rockpalast. The second disc, sub-titled "Almost Now" features footage shot at a variety of dates last year, including shows in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, California, and other locales, guitarist Billy Gibbons says.

"(The DVD) shows that one thing's for sure -- we've maintained our propensity not only to play loud but have a good time kind of bouncing around the deck," Gibbons says of the set. "With only three guys in the band there's plenty of room to create havoc and raise a little sand. That's what we've kind of always done."

ZZ Top is, in fact, doing that now, even after its tour with Aerosmith was scrubbed following Steven Tyler's stage fall on August 6 in Sturgis, South Dakota. Gibbons says that his band, which was not in Sturgis with Aerosmith, started receiving offers to play its own headlining dates "within 72 hours" of Aerosmith pulling the plug, and he says ZZ Top's itinerary -- which is booked into late October with dates in North America, Singapore, the Netherlands and the U.K. -- is designed "to at least attempt to return to the previously booked markets and add a few along the way so we can make a well-rounding outing of this thing."

Once it comes off the road, Gibbons says ZZ Top plans to return to the studio with producer Rick Rubin and possibly the Black Keys to continue working on the Texas trio's follow-up to 2003's Mescalero.

"The first crack out of the box will start off with something somewhat predictable, making taking a blues direction, and then we'll see," Gibbons notes. "Rick Rubin is a guy with a lot of good, original ideas, so I'm sure he'll have a fresh vision for things to do with ZZ Top, and we can't wait."

Brian Jones' Death To Be Re-Examined By British Police

British police say they will review the 1969 death of Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones. Sussex police said in a statement that they have received documents from an investigative journalist that relate to Jones' death. They say the papers "will be examined by the force, but it's too early to comment at this time as to what the outcome might be."

Jones died in July 1969 at age 27. His body was found in the pool at his 11-acre (4.5-hectare) Sussex estate. A coroner said Jones drowned while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. But there has long been speculation about the death. It was reported that Scott Jones - who is not related to the musician - handed over 600 documents to Sussex police.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pearl Jam Launches San Francisco's Outside Lands Festival

Hairs stood on end Friday, August 28, in Golden Gate Park when tens of thousands of Pearl Jam fans took over vocal duties on “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” singing “hearts and thoughts they fade, faaaaade away,” so loud it echoed throughout western San Francisco.

Recent touring has shredded Eddie Vedder’s vocal chords, so the ebullient, tanned crowd handled significant chunks of “Even Flow” and “Daughter,” creating just a few of the many postcard-perfect moments at the second annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival.

Almost 100 bands are drawing more than 100,000 people to the three-day music series, sprawled out across 20 city blocks inside the verdant, enormous city park. With Dave Matthews Band playing Saturday and Sunday’s M.I.A. and Tenacious D, Friday’s eight-hour proceedings occurred under near-idyllic, sunny, mid-70-degree weather with a touch of ocean humidity.

The day was dominated by anticipation for live show mammoths Pearl Jam, who have been touring material from their upcoming album Backspacer, though Built To Spill, the National, Silversun Pickups and Incubus fielded devout factions as well.

Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam emerged at 7:50 p.m. on the minute in front of a backdrop of stylized waves inspired by Japanese print artists like Utagawa Hiroshige. Wearing trademark brown flannel, jean shorts, sneakers and beard, Vedder laconically grumbled “Let’s get it on,” sending drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Jeff Ament into the overdriven rhythms of “Why Go.” Lead guitarist Mike McCready entered like a chainsaw massacre and asserted a dominance he would maintain all night. “Animal” drove the crowd into a frenzy unseen all day.

“Is everybody good out there? Everybody staying safe? I hope so because there’s a whoooole hell of a lot of you out there so keep track of each other, help each other up,” said Vedder. “And don’t eat the brown acid. The mushrooms are fine.”

It wasn’t the first time the San Francisco landmark event drew comparisons to Woodstock, which is celebrating its 40-year anniversary. In terms of logistics, Outside Lands ran like atomic clockwork. “Corduroy” roared forth as Vedder donned his guitar and sang, “can’t buy what I want because it’s free,” catapulting McCready into another minutes-long, virtuosic solo.

Though Pearl Jam proved tight to the microsecond, Vedder apologized for having a cold. “The tour kicked our fucking ass and I’m pissed off my throat is not what it is.” His hoarseness went unnoticed or forgiven by the die-hards and the merely drunk laid low by smuggled-in hard liquor and $7 Heineken chasers.

“Even Flow” sent crowd surfers skyward and McCready played the song’s solo behind his head, the entire spectacle magnified by twin, hi-definition stadium video monitors fed by at least six fixed and mounted cameras. Even the shortest fans felt like front row watchers, and McCready made it look easy.

“We’re about to take three weeks off,” said Vedder. “I don’t know what the fuck [Mike]’s going to do when he can’t do that.”

The two-hour set included two encores and featured new album Backspacer’s “Got Some” and “The Fixer,” Yield’s “Low Light,” plus “Black,” “Do the Evolution” and Ament on upright bass for “Daughter,” before Pearl Jam closed with Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Supergroup Them Crooked Vultures Making The Rounds

Them Crooked Vultures – the supergroup consisting of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, and Queen of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme – have been making the rounds in England this week, playing a series of surprise shows.

On Wednesday, August 26, they opened for the Arctic Monkeys at London’s Brixton Academy. The Vultures were greeted with ecstatic cheers before launching into a set laden with new hard-rock material. It was just the fifth gig for the Vultures, whose sole U.S. appearance thus far took place in Chicago earlier this month.

The group also made a surprise appearance at the Leeds Festival on Friday, August 28, playing an unannounced set on the NME/Radio 1 Stage.

An album from the Vultures is said to be coming later this year, with a full-fledged U.S. tour to follow.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sony Partners With Experience Hendrix To Reissue Deluxe Jimi Hendrix Classics

Sony Music Entertainment and Experience Hendrix L.L.C. have agreed to a monumental catalog licensing deal to set the stage for a worldwide campaign to make all of Jimi's extraordinary music, including classics, never before heard archive recordings, and filmed concerts available through every type of media.

Legacy Recordings, Sony's catalog music division, will issue definitive deluxe editions of the classics released during Jimi's all too brief career including Grammy® Hall Of Fame Inductees Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love, Electric Ladyland and (outside the U.S.) Band of Gypsys. In addition, Legacy will also release those posthumous compilations produced by Experience Hendrix during its stewardship. Each title will also be available through major Digital Service Providers.

Dagger Records, Experience Hendrix's "official bootleg" division, now in its 11th year, offers recordings that are of great historical significance. The company has also sponsored numerous Experience Hendrix tours that have showcased contemporary artists performing the music of Jimi Hendrix in concert to underscore the never ending vitality and inspiration of Hendrix's music.

Participating artists on these tours have included Robert Randolph, Carlos Santana, Paul Rodgers, Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Eric Johnson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, members of Pearl Jam, Aerosmith, the Doors, Los Lobos and many others. Details about the 2010 Experience Hendrix Tour will soon be revealed. This partnership will include Legacy's participation in Dagger Records, the Experience Hendrix tours and other Hendrix-related businesses.

"Jimi's legacy and vision were unique and there will never be another that reaches his unparalleled genius. He was the greatest guitarist ever," said Janie Hendrix, President and CEO of Experience Hendrix. "We are confident that our new relationship with Sony Music will honor my beloved brother's legacy and will deliver Jimi's special 'Message Of Love' across the globe. We look forward to the creative partnership and ground breaking releases that this new relationship will engender to bring Jimi's music to successive generations of fans."

"No artist has ever transformed the pop music landscape as profoundly or as permanently as Jimi Hendrix," said Adam Block, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Legacy Recordings. "We are proud to be partnering with Experience Hendrix, keeping the sound and spirit of Jimi's music alive for future generations around the world."

Beatles Manager Brought Back To 'Life'

Producer David Permut has acquired A Life in the Day, a Tony Gittelson script about the life of Brian Epstein, who discovered and managed the Beatles from 1961 through 1967, when he died of a drug overdose at 32. Permut will produce and Steve Longi and Chris Mangano will be co-producers.

Deal comes at a time when the popularity of the Beatles is soaring with album reissues due next month as well as the launch of "The Beatles: Rock Band" video game. Disney and Robert Zemeckis are negotiating to remake Yellow Submarine in 3-D performance capture animation.

Permut said he will try to secure certain Beatles songs, but the movie really is about the formation of the band. Epstein, who sold records from his father's appliance store in Liverpool, heard the Beatles on his lunch break at the Cavern Club and became relentless in his pursuit of a record deal for the quartet.

"Everybody turned down the band, even though Brian promised they would become bigger than Elvis, and he finally got George Martin at EMI to change his mind and give them an audition," said Permut.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Paul McCartney Talks 'Rock Band,' Beatles

"The kids of AD 2000 will understand what it was all about and draw from the music much the same sense of well being and warmth as we do today," Beatles publicist Derek Taylor wrote in 1964, in the liner notes to Beatles For Sale. "For the magic of the Beatles is timeless and ageless."

There were times in the last four decades when some of the Beatles themselves disagreed with him. John Lennon sometimes disparaged the band and famously sang that, "I don't believe in Beatles." But Paul McCartney never stopped valuing the music of his former group, and he's guarded its legacy carefully. He plays his Beatles hits live, looks at projects involving the band's music and, most recently, helped the team of videogame designers that made "The Beatles: Rock Band" make the title as accurate as possible, down to the color of the walls in Liverpool's famous Cavern Club.

McCartney spent the summer of 2009 playing a tour that was light on dates and heavy on crowds -- he performed strings of shows at select stadiums, with time in between. "It's summer, and we're getting to do the thing we love best, which is play, and the thing we love second best, which is to have time off in the summer," he said in an interview before his show in Tulsa, Okla. "That makes us very enthusiastic." The crowds have felt the same, cheering loudly for a set that mixes new material, Wings hits and Beatles songs.

Those songs will find another life on Sept. 9, when Harmonix releases the Beatles "Rock Band" game and EMI puts out remastered versions of the band's studio albums. Although the Beatles have not made their songs available digitally, their music sells well anyway, and the new releases are expected to give record stores a much-needed pre-holiday boost. All of this looking back has also given McCartney cause to reevaluate his old songs, which he says have never sounded better than they do on the reissues. "It sounds," he says, "like we were in the room."

It looks like you're having the time of your life onstage. Do you still get the same charge out of performing that you used to?

It's been feeling very good at the moment. We haven't been out for a little while, so that's always cool. Because we're not flogging away on a great big tour --we're picking and choosing certain dates, some of which are events like the opening of Citi Field -- they're special events. We've got plenty of time between them to hang, so we're almost combining it with a holiday. And the band has playing great. Also, the audiences are super-fab. They're going bananas. We haven't been around too much, so they're not fed up with us yet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pete Townshend’s ‘Floss’ Agenda

Saying he wants “to take on aging and mortality,” The Who’s Pete Townshend promises a new musical called Floss.

Writing on his blog, Townshend described the musical as “in the style of Tommy and Quadrophenia,” and the songs “are interspersed with surround-sound ‘soundscapes’ featuring complex sound effects and musical montages.” Townshend says the piece is intended for “outdoor performances, or arenas” and that the musical will make its stage debut in 2011.

What’s “Floss” about? Life, aging and relationships are among the themes – subjects Townshend has explored many times through his illustrious career. The story is about Walter, whom Townshend says is a “straight-cut pub rock musician” who hits a big payday when amn automobile company uses one of his songs for commercials, enabling him to retire to the life of a house husband while his wife, Floss, immerses herself in “riding stables and stud (sic).”

“When he tries to return to music after a 15-year hiatus, he finds that what he hears and what he composes evoke the ecologically rooted, apocalyptic mindset of his generation,” wrote Townshend. “Shaken by this and torn by personal difficulties, he and Floss become estranged. A series of dramatic events in a hospital emergency ward bring them both to their senses.”

Townshend says he’s already talking to New York producers about bringing “Floss” to the stage in 2011 – a la Tommy – and the “more conventional songs” will end up on a Who album scheduled for a 2010 release, thereby confirming band plans as well as his own Floss agenda.

“As a 19 year old – with 'My Generation' – I wrote the most explicitly ageist song in rock. At 64, I now want to take on aging and mortality, using the powerfully angry context of rock 'n' roll.”

Dylan Christmas Album To Be Released October 13

Bob Dylan will release a brand new album of holiday songs, Christmas In The Heart, on Tuesday, October 13, according to his label Columbia Records. All of the artist’s U.S. royalties from sales of these recordings will be donated to Feeding America, guaranteeing that more than four million meals will be provided to more than 1.4 million people in need in this country during this year’s holiday season. Bob Dylan is also donating all of his future U.S. royalties from this album to Feeding America in perpetuity.

Additionally, the artist is partnering with two international charities to provide meals during the holidays for millions in need in the United Kingdom and the developing world, and will be donating all of his future international royalties from Christmas In The Heart to those organizations in perpetuity. Details regarding the international partnerships are forthcoming.

“When we reached out to Bob Dylan about becoming involved with our organization, we could never have anticipated that he would so generously donate all royalties from his forthcoming album to our cause,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America. “This major initiative from such a world renowned artist and cultural icon will directly benefit so many people and have a major impact on spreading awareness of the epidemic of hunger in this country and around the world.”

Bob Dylan commented, “It’s a tragedy that more than 35 million people in this country alone - 12 million of those children – often go to bed hungry and wake up each morning unsure of where their next meal is coming from. I join the good people of Feeding America in the hope that our efforts can bring some food security to people in need during this holiday season.”

Christmas In The Heart will be the 47th album from Bob Dylan, and follows his worldwide chart-topping Together Through Life, released earlier this year. Songs on this new album include “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “Must Be Santa.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Joan Jett Hopes New Film Is Runaway Success

Joan Jett and her creative and business partner Kenny Laguna are expressing optimism for The Runaways, the film based on the maligned but influential all-female rock band Jett co-founded and led from 1975-79.

The film, partly based on Runaways singer Cherie Currie's 1989 memoir Neon Angel, features Twilight star Kristen Stewart as Jett, Dakota Fanning as Currie and Michael Shannon as original producer Kim Fowley. It was directed by Floria Sigismondi and is currently in post-production, with a release planned for 2010.

"It was very surreal and hard to put a word on," Jett, who executive produced the film and was on hand for the filming, says. "If anything, it definitely made me smile. It reinforces my love for the band and the fact I think it was an extremely important band, regardless of our level of success in America. It just reinforces my love of the whole time and of the band and what we did and how it was implausible and improbable at the same time."

And Jett hastens to explain that The Runaways is "absolutely not a biopic. It's not fact-for-fact. What they did was basically take elements from the Runaways story and created a parallel narrative."

Laguna adds that, "We're hoping it will be great. They exceeded our expectations with the casting...Even if it's not a huge movie, it's going to have a colossal effect on young girls playing rock 'n' roll, for sure."

Jett and Currie each coached their cinematic counterparts during the filming, and Jett was particularly impressed by Stewart, who came to the set almost immediately after wrapping the second Twilight film, New Moon.

"Kristen was so into it, into the whole vibe of doing this," Jett reports. "I think she felt a weight and a responsibility to interpret it correctly. She was really serious about it and was watching me and asking me all sorts of question, from speech aspects to watching my body language, watching where I stood, watching my guitar playing. She really worked hard to get it right."

The Runaways were previously the subject of a 2004 documentary "Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways."

Soundtrack details are currently being worked out for The Runaways. Jett, meanwhile, is considering releasing a new greatest hits album in 2010 that may include some of the new material she's been working on.

Monday, August 24, 2009

U2 Explain Spider-Man 'Opera'

Bono and The Edge have described their forthcoming Spider-Man musical as "dizzy" and "not a straight take on the myth." Turn Off The Dark, the production the Dublin band has written music and lyrics for, is set to open on Broadway in New York in 2010.They also confirmed American actress Evan Rachel Wood would play the part of MJ and revealed more about the other characters.

Bono said: "We've got a new villain, it's a girl. It's a very extraordinary role. We've taken it to a much more dizzy place than you'd expect. We've got big tunes. We're very proud of it."

Bono explained the characters won't be the same which appeared in comic or the film adaptations of the original Marvel comic series. "Our Peter Parker is much more…not Kurt Cobain, but a kind of slacker, a more kind of shy sort of guy."

"It touches on opera, it touches on rock 'n' roll. There are some real character driven songs as well, very unusual song types for us," explained guitarist The Edge.
The guitarist was keen not to describe the production, directed by Julie Taymor, as a musical, but rather an "opera."

"It is a new challenge. The thing is we don't really like musicals. Most musicals are really pants. They're really not very cool," said The Edge. "It is much more like opera than a straight musical. We're actually not calling it a musical for that reason because we don't want to put people off. We just thought, 'Well if we're going to do this we should do something that knocks it out of the park and hits on every level with great tunes'."

Evan Rachel Wood, previously star of films like Thirteen and The Wrestler, will play the role of MJ.

"She's the greatest actor of her generation, she's the one to watch," said Bono. "She happens to sing like a bird, it's like a true voice. She's a very pure spirit and a very bright mind and she brings the part of MJ to life really."

Despite their involvement in the writing the band said they will not appear themselves.

"We made one rule for ourselves though that we would never have Spider-Man singing. A guy singing in tights can't happen," joked The Edge.

U2, who recently performed two nights at London's Wembley Stadium, are currently touring the UK with their 360° tour.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Aerosmith Strike Over Tyler's Drinking

Aerosmith have pulled a strike on singer Steven Tyler after he fell off the wagon and went back to heavy drinking – resulting in the fall off stage which led to the band’s U.S. tour being cancelled.

Sources close to the Boston band have revealed Tyler was “partying hard” before he lost his footing and wound up with a broken shoulder. Since then, his band mates haven’t heard directly from him, and are instead receiving daily email updates from his management – a separate entity from Aerosmith’s management.

One band employee told a reporter: “Truthfully, he’s a liability for the band. He’s uninsurable because of all the accidents and cancelled dates.”

Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Brad Whitford and Joey Kramer are understood to have suspended work on their upcoming album after video and photos of Tyler appeared on the web, showing a gaunt, wasted figure buying alcohol in a liquor.

The source continues: “All of this didn’t happen overnight. The fall was just the final straw. Everyone is very worried about him.”

Rumours within the extended Aerosmith family suggest that Tyler is surrounded by people who “think they’re going to cash in on the guy.”

He signed a personal management deal with UEG who now control communications between the 61-year-old frontman and the band’s own management, Howard Kaufman and Trudy Green. He’s believed to have been persuaded to sell his publishing company recently for an amount considerably less than its long-term value.

It also seems that Perry – who was once a half of the hard-living ‘Toxic Twins’ duo with Tyler before sobering up – isn’t waiting for evidence of his band mate’s recovery. That’s why he continued working on his solo album while the Aerosmith one was postponed.

Now promoting that solo release, Perry has been asked for details of Tyler’s injuries by several media outlets since the tour cancellation. But he’s only been able to make vague statements including: “We’re being told anything from four weeks to two months” and “We don’t really know what’s happening with Steven.”

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stephen Stills Mines Archives For New Releases

As he continues to work on his own boxed set retrospective, Stephen Stills has mined past recordings for a pair of fall archival releases.

On September 22, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist will release Manassas — Pieces, a 15-song collection of outtakes and rarities -- "The bits and pieces we were silly enough to leave off," Stills writes in the liner notes. Manassas, the country rock band he formed in 1971 with Chris Hillman, of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, released two albums: a self-titled two-disc set in 1972 and Down The Road in 1973.

Pieces includes alternate versions of two Down The Road songs, "Do You Remember the Americans" and "Lies," the latter featuring Joe Walsh on guitar. It also features Manassas versions of "Word Game" and "Sugar Babe," which first appeared on Stephen Stills 2 in 1971, as well as "Like a Fox," which features a then-fledgling Bonnie Raitt on backing vocals.

In the new record's liner notes, Stills writes fondly of Manassas as "the first steel-guitar-driven country/rock band that any of us can remember ... Whatever else has been said about this time of immense creativity, what Manassas turned out was a collection of material that remains the precursor of virtually all of the Nashville country rock productions that followed during the next decade. The energy is unrepentant, the creativity irrepressible, and the value of these recordings irrefutable."

Stills will follow Pieces with the October 27 release of Live At Shepherd's Bush, a CD/DVD set recorded and filmed last fall at a Stills solo show in England. The collection features both solo acoustic and full-band sets, as well as songs from Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young), Manassas, the Stills-Young Band and Stills' solo recordings, along with covers of Bob Dylan's "Girl From The North Country" and Tom Petty's "Wrong Thing To Do."

There's no word on when Stills' boxed set will be released or of plans for a recording of him jamming with Jimi Hendrix in 1968. Stills' last studio album, Man Alive!, came out in 2005. He, David Crosby and Graham Nash are also recording a covers album with producer Rick Rubin.

Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine' Remake In The Works

Director Robert Zemeckis is in negotiations to direct a remake of Yellow Submarine for Disney. Originally a 1968 animated feature based on music by the Beatles, Yellow Submarine was produced by United Artists and King Features Syndicate.

Disney had no comment on the dealmaking, which is in the thick of trying to acquire the rights to the music to the film. Songs include the title track as well as classics such as "Eleanor Rigby," "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," "When I'm Sixty-Four" and "With a Little Help From My Friends."

Like all Zemeckis productions, Yellow Submarine would be done in performance capture and would also be a digital 3D endeavor.

The movie, a hit when it was released, is about a soldier called Old Fred who meets up with the Beatles and travels in a yellow submersible to Pepperland. Among the group's encounters are the Blue Meanies, music-hating creatures.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Natural Gas Album Featuring Badfinger, Humble Pie and Uriah Heep Members Coming To CD

Music collectors will rejoice with the CD release of the legendary Natural Gas album featuring Badfinger, Humble Pie and Uriah Heep alumni. The Natural Gas album has been given the CD treatment by reissue label Renaissance Records in conjunction with ItsAboutMusic.com, who has an impressive back catalog of releases. Originally released in 1975 on the Private Stock label, the eponymous debut by Natural Gas featured Joey Molland of Badfinger, Jerry Shirley of Humble Pie and Mark Clarke of Uriah Heep and Colosseum.

"I went to this place called Blakes in London, which was a hangout for rockers," recalls Joey Molland. "It was a cool little place. One night I saw a friend of mine there named Mark Clarke, a bass player from Liverpool who’d played with Uriah Heep and Colosseum. We were just talking and having a laugh and I asked him, 'What are you doing?' He said, 'I’m going up to Jerry Shirley’s this weekend. I’m going to stay there and we’ll probably have a jam – why don’t you come with us.' I didn’t really know Jerry, but I thought it would be cool. So Mark calls him and Jerry says. 'Come on up.'

"We go on up to Jerry Shirley’s house – he had a lovely little farmhouse outside of London. We found out that day that he had just left Humble Pie. Later on that night we had a jam; I think it was Clem Clemson, Jerry, Mark, myself and there may have been one or two others. We had a lot of fun, just playing rock ‘n’ roll songs and blues songs.

"The next morning Mark, Jerry and myself decided to put a band together. We thought, 'Why not. But do we have any songs?' I had a couple of songs, which I played to them. One was called 'Once Again A Love Song' and the other was called 'Dark Cloud'. Likewise, Mike had a couple songs. We also got a keyboardist, a guy named Dave Kafinetti from the band Rare Bird. He went on to be the keyboard player in Spinal Tap. What a knockout guy!"

Kafinetti was replaced before the recording of the album by Peter Wood who co-wrote "Year of the Cat" with Al Stewart.

The Natural Gas album was recorded at Crystal Studios in Los Angeles and produced by producer Felix Papalardi (Cream, Mountain).

"Felix was really nice," says Joey, "a real sociable guy and talented fellow. As far as a producer went, we really wanted Mal Evans to do it. But the label wanted Felix Papalardi, the bass player from Mountain who’d done Cream and all that – the label wanted him to do it. Apparently Felix wanted to do the project as well, so that was that. I think Mal was pretty disappointed actually."

And what about a name for the new super group?

"I think Jerry Shirley came up with the name ‘Natural Gas’ – he was very into it. I never really suggested names for bands – I’m not really good at it. At the time in 1975, natural gas was very much in favor; it was the new clean burning fuel being more and more used. So it seemed like a good idea, and I guess it’s a cool name. It did suggest energy, which was what we were all about. The philosophy of the band was to rock out, you know what I mean…just have a really good time doing it."

The LP was released to critical praise from the music press worldwide. Natural Gas would support the album release with a major tour opening for Peter Frampton on his Frampton Comes Alive world tour.

"Jerry Shirley had played with Peter Frampton in Humble Pie and so they were obviously close," Joey recalls. "I’d known Peter myself kind of at arms length since he was with the Herd all those years before. So on and off, we’d cross each other’s paths. I think Jerry had been working with an agent who’d worked with Humble Pie – Frank Barcelona of Premier talent. He got in touch with them to see if they’d be interested in booking Natural Gas. They were at that time putting the Frampton Comes Alive tour together. They were able to get us opening slots on a lot of the shows – they did us that great favor!"

Unfortunately, Natural Gas's debut album would became the band's only release. Joey Molland would soon return to the Badfinger fold, while Jerry Shirley would go on to work with Fastway and eventually return to Humble Pie. Mark Clarke would find work with Rainbow, Billy Squier and Leslie West, while Peter Wood, who passed away in 1993, would later work with Roger Waters and Bob Dylan.

The Natural Gas album sadly drifted into obscurity and eventually would become a much sought-after collector's item. Now fans of Natural Gas can rejoice with the new remastered version of the album, which features the original album artwork and photos. Along with the pristine sound of the new CD is the addition of three unreleased bonus tracks. Never before issued in any form, two rare demos of "Little Darlin' " and "Christmas Song," along with a rocking rehearsal of "Christmas Song," is included on the CD, creating the ultimate Natural Gas collectors edition.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Velvet Underground, Neil Diamond And Queen Books Coming This Fall

Voyageur Press is set to publish three eye-popping illustrated history packages from three music top journalists: Jim DeRogatis (Chicago Sun-Times) with The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side; Jon Bream (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) with Neil Diamond Is Forever: The Illustrated Story of the Man and His Music; and London-based Phil Sutcliffe (Mojo, Q) with Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock. All three books are scheduled for shipping, starting Sept 15, 2009.

All three volumes are beautifully packaged, and jam-packed with photos, artifacts, and comprehensive histories of each artist. Undoubtedly, these “Illustrated History” books capture the heart and soul of the Velvet Underground, Neil Diamond, and Queen.

“As big rock ’n’ roll fans and musicians ourselves,” says Michael Dregni, publisher of Voyageur Press, “we’re thrilled to be publishing these illustrated histories of some of our favorite bands.”

In each of their respective genres, all three artists continue to be giants. The Velvet Underground almost single-handedly created what is now commonly referred to as “punk rock” and “alternative rock,” thanks in large part to Lou Reed’s poetic-yet-streetwise lyrics, and music that alternated between white noise and gentle beauty. Neil Diamond, on the other hand, remains one of pop’s top vocalists, having scored dozens of hits over five decades by this point. You just have to look at the wide variety of artists that have covered his songs (The Monkees, Deep Purple, UB40, Urge Overkill, Johnny Cash, etc.) to see Diamond’s long-lasting and far-reaching influence. And Queen is quite simply one of rock’s all-time great acts. Name a style related to popular music, and the group perfected it, with countless worldwide massive hits. Led by the late, great over-the-top frontman Freddie Mercury, Queen trail-blazed what is now widely considered “arena rock.”

For more information on these and other Voyageur titles, go to www.voyageurpress.com.

Kiss To Release New Album At Wal-Mart, Sam's Club

Kiss joins a growing list of classic acts putting out new music through the world's largest retailer. Their new album, Sonic Boom, is due to be released only at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores on October 6. The three-disc package will include a CD of the band's first new music in 11 years, re-recorded versions of famous Kiss hits and a live DVD.

Paul Stanley - one of the quartet's two original members, along with Gene Simmons - said the band chose to release the album at Wal-Mart because the store allowed them to make it memorable.

"They offered us an opportunity to do something that's very much in line with what we used to do with our classic albums, and that's to give people more than just an album of music," Stanley said in an interview last week. "We've always believed in trying to make an album a special event."

Large store chains have become a favorite venue for classic acts to reintroduce themselves with new material. Wal-Mart has sold millions with releases by the Eagles, AC/DC and other key acts. It also has a Foreigner three-disc package due out in September. Target released a three-disc set from Prince earlier this year. Best Buy had the exclusive release of Guns 'N Roses first album in years.

Wal-Mart executives said Kiss, like other music acts they've worked with, has a special appeal to their customers.

"We see Kiss as an iconic band ... that resonates with the Wal-Mart customer not just with their music but in a lot of different areas," said Tom Welch, Wal-Mart's music buyer.

Sonic Boom, which also features Kiss members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, was produced entirely by Stanley. The guitarist said he made that a condition before he would agree to do the album.

"The recent past, or the last decade or two, has not produced the kind of albums that I would have hoped, and that's due to a lot of factors - lack of input or lack of focus by all the band members," he said. "(There's been a) lack of a lineup where people were working toward the goal of making a great Kiss album as opposed to trying to showcase themselves."

But he called the new album "bar none our best album in 30 years, if not our best album period."

"Everybody worked their tails off to contribute 100 percent of their effort and their ability to make this the great Kiss that not only do the fans deserve, but we deserve," Stanley said.

The band is giving a special concert in Detroit on September 25 to celebrate the album.

When asked if Kiss was doing anything differently to appeal to a new audience, Stanley said: "We've never geared ourselves towards anybody. When we're at our best is when we gear ourselves toward us.

"Classic Kiss isn't about an album this year or 10 albums ago. It's about a state of mind ... We are about entertainment with a capital 'E,' and we don't apologize for it."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gov't Mule's 'By A Thread' Coming In October

Gov't Mule has announced that their latest record By A Thread is set for release on October 27 through Evil Teen Records. Their first studio album in three years, By A Thread finds the Mule -- lead guitarist and frontman Warren Haynes, drummer Matt Abts, keyboardist Danny Louis, and bassist Jorgen Carlsson -- adding a newfound shot of soul to their classic power-band sound. The band is currently on short break between legs of a massive worldwide tour, which will resume September 9 in Salt Lake City. A full list of dates is below.

By A Thread was recorded largely in the Texas Hill Country at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio in 2009, the album's origins are apparent from the first track, "Broke Down On The Brazos," named after the nearby river, with a deep Texas stomp for the backbeat and featuring what Rolling Stone recently called "an incendiary duel with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons." Perhaps less descriptively named, "Steppin' Lightly" is another burner, set off by the soulful vocals and mind-bending guitar work of Haynes, who proves anew why Rolling Stone named him one of the Top 25 guitarists of all time, and why he was voted Best Rock Guitarist in Guitar Player Magazine's 2009 Reader's Poll.

Gov't Mule has had over 2 million paid song downloads through their site MuleTracks and released nearly a dozen acclaimed and bestselling albums while emerging as a major touring force, routinely headlining pavilions, theaters, and festivals.

GOV'T MULE FALL 2009 TOUR DATES

Sep 9 2009 The Depot Salt Lake City, Utah
Sep 10 2009 Gallatin County Fairgrounds Bozeman, Montana
Sep 11 2009 The Showbox SoDo Seattle, Washington
Sep 12 2009 Britt Pavilion Jacksonville, Oregon
Sep 13 2009 Crystal Ballroom Portland, Oregon
Sep 14 2009 Van Duzer Theatre Arcata, California
Sep 17 2009 Hawkins Amphitheatre Reno, Nevada
Sep 18 2009 House of Blues San Diego, California
Sep 19 2009 Fox Theatre Bakersfield, California
Sep 20 2009 House of Blues Anaheim, California
Sep 23 2009 Club Nokia Los Angeles, California
Sep 24 2009 Majestic Ventura Theatre Ventura, California
Sep 25 2009 The Warfield San Francisco, California
Sep 26 2009 The Warfield San Francisco, California
Oct 31 2009 Tower Theatre Philadelphia, PA

Sunday, August 16, 2009

40 Years Later, Woodstock A Thriving Business

Back in 1969, Woodstock organizers billed their three-day festival as "An Aquarian Exposition." But although the concert became free when an expected crowd of 200,000 grew "half a million strong," it was conceived as a business proposition.

And the business has endured. Woodstock Ventures, the firm that oversees the licensing and intellectual property related to the Woodstock festival, is still run by the original producers of the event. And for several decades now, that once ragtag group of hippies has evolved into -- if they weren't already -- good businessmen with savvy instincts.

For Woodstock's 40th anniversary -- officially August 15-18 -- the breadth of projects and merchandise is staggering. Rhino and Sony will deliver albums of performances, Warner Bros. will release the original film and the Ang Lee-directed narrative feature "Taking Woodstock," VH1 and the History Channel will air a documentary by Barbara Koppel, several publishers will release books, Target will sell anniversary-themed merchandise, and Sony is launching a social networking/e-commerce site, Woodstock.com.

"We're not perfect. There are some small decisions we would have changed here and there, but for the most part, if we weren't happy with the way something felt, then we didn't go ahead," says Joel Rosenman, one of the original organizers and now a partner in Woodstock Ventures. "And that's because what happened in 1969 and how it feels to us is more important than pretty much any commercial consideration."

'Couldn't Get Arrested'

What happened in 1969 is now rock 'n' roll history. Conceived by entrepreneurs Rosenman, Michael Lang, John Roberts and Artie Kornfeld amid a backdrop of social upheaval, the three-day concert had an impact that resonated far beyond the confines of Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, N.Y. With the formation of Woodstock Ventures before the festival, the producers also had the foresight to realize that the event was worth documenting in what ended up as the now-renowned Warner Bros. film and soundtrack album.

"We couldn't get arrested when we were putting Woodstock together," Rosenman says. "We had no production credits among the four of us that would get anybody to take our phone call. The only way we booked bands was to pay them much more than they'd ever been paid before. And the only way we got a film deal was, two days before the event, Artie Kornfeld managed to talk Warner into it. (Director) Mike Wadleigh had to reach into his own pocket to buy film stock."

The weekend of the event, Rosenman had a sound truck and a 12-track recording facility on-site and camera crews ready. The resulting film has captured the imagination of music fans ever since, creating a resource that instills interest in the event in one generation of music fans after another.

Many of the products related to the 40th anniversary are endorsed by Woodstock Ventures and some are independent, such as unofficial memoirs and photographs. "Some of them are cool and some are pushing the margins a bit," Lang says. "But it's great that there's that interest, and the essence of what's important is really what it means to people in their hearts. The products are just people trying to capitalize on the interest, and that's OK. We're a capitalist society and all. But it points to the fact that Woodstock has maintained its place in our culture and our history."

Woodstock the ideal has long interfaced with Woodstock the cash cow. Woodstock Ventures -- owned primarily by Rosenman's family and the Roberts family, with Lang retaining a minority ownership -- owns the Woodstock trademarks, including the iconic dove-on-guitar logo.

And while Woodstock-related projects have tapped into consumer interest for decades, the brand has not been exploited or over-saturated, at least by its owners. "We haven't monetized it much, to be honest," says Lang, who recently published his memoir, "The Road to Woodstock," co-written with Holly George-Warren. "You can't describe Woodstock as a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," Rosenman says. "It's much more the rainbow itself."

So how has Woodstock maintained its profile in popular culture? Rosenman's answer is properly philosophical. "We had an event that challenged people's concept of community, and they responded to that challenge over that weekend by essentially re-creating a society that was in danger of falling apart," he says. "That's a pretty strong beacon, and I guess that beacon continues to shine on some of the darker moments in subsequent years."

Woodstocking Up

While it's easy to be skeptical of the producers' idealism in the context of the cash flow at stake, Woodstock Ventures does retain a guiding hand on the use of the brand.

"There are a number of different issues involved in merchandising, and many of them have to do with practical issues such as costs versus selling price, things you just can't get away from," Rosenman says. "There have been moments in Woodstock's past where we feel that it may have gotten away from us a little bit, but for the most part we're pretty strict about reviewing every bit of merchandise or every activity that might come out with Woodstock's logo or service mark on it."

Perhaps the most important angle, according to Rosenman: Does the opportunity feel like Woodstock? "That may sound a little fuzzy, but in fact there's no more definitive way of telling whether it's the right product for us or not than that instant visceral reaction," he says. "We trust ourselves on that because we've been doing it for so long."

A second consideration, which surely jibes with the original Woodstock ideals, is environmental friendliness and social impact. "Is this a green product? Does it leave a big carbon footprint? Would we be embarrassed to say we spent money developing and selling things like this back in 2009?" Rosenman asks. "We want our products to be positive, to give a boost to civilization and the community."

The most compelling Woodstock products relate to the initial audio and video recording from the 1969 event. "The record has endured because it's great bands and great music. It's as simple as that, and they have stood the test of time," Rosenman says.

This year, Warner and Sony are making a wealth of music available. In June, Rhino released remastered editions of the Music From the Original Soundtrack and More: Woodstock and Woodstock Two albums and is working closely with Warner Home Video, which released Lang's The Road to Woodstock in July.

From Warner Home Video, Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music, Director's Cut expands on the content of the original documentary.

On Tuesday (August 18), Rhino tees up Woodstock -- 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm, a six-CD collection featuring the Grateful Dead, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe & the Fish and many others. Painstakingly assembled from Woodstock's 33 sets, the 77 tracks on the albums are peppered with illuminating stage patter and ambient sound, creating a trippy aural Woodstock experience like none before, according to co-producer Andy Zax.

Rhino also will release on August 25 the soundtrack to the new Ang Lee feature film, Taking Woodstock. Finally, Rhino put together a two-hour radio special hosted by entertainer/activist Wavy Gravy that will promote the boxed set and other projects and which will be broadcast around the anniversary dates.

Sony Legacy took a different tack with its The Woodstock Experience collection in releasing CDs from five Woodstock acts that recorded albums in 1969 for Columbia, Epic and RCA, now all divisions of Sony Music. The project pairs 1969 albums from Santana (Santana), Jefferson Airplane (Volunteers), Johnny Winter (Johnny Winter), Sly & the Family Stone (Stand) and Janis Joplin (I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!) with the artists' Woodstock performances in eco-friendly two-disc packages at $19.98 each.

"The whole idea was to try and share what that year was like for that artist," says Jim Parham, vice president of marketing at Sony Legacy. "For someone like Santana, 1969 was an incredible year because that was the first album."

Among the highest-profile deals is a retail licensing pact with Target for merchandise including T-shirts, apparel, beach towels, posters, calendars, caps and tote bags. The deal was brokered by Live Nation Merchandise (formerly Signatures Network), the industry-leading merchandising firm headed by CEO Dell Furano.

Furano says he expects retail sales of Woodstock-related products to reach between $50 million and $100 million this year, about five times the sales of previous years.

Live Nation Merchandise has handled Woodstock merch for about three years under a worldwide deal with Woodstock Ventures. "I told Michael and Joel when I made the deal that there is no brand that has better captured the spirit of rock 'n' roll and communities -- the positive side of the '60s," Furano says. "They're very involved in every approval; they have a great team. It took us a year to do the Target deal. We all understand this is part of our legacy."

Target's exclusivity expires at the end of September, and Furano says more retail sales and products will roll out this month at retailers like Macy's, JCPenney and Kohl's and specialty stores like Hot Topic, the Gap, Spencer's and Urban Outfitters. Asked if the Woodstock merchandise would retain commercial clout after the anniversary, Furano replies, "We expect a merry Woodstock holiday season."

Lang recently appeared on QVC promoting Woodstock merchandise in a "very successful show," Furano says.

Online Community

The potential of expanding the sense of community that permeated the original Woodstock increases exponentially with the power of the Web. Sony Legacy's Parham supervised the relaunch of Woodstock.com, a site dedicated to community as well as commerce. Lang and Rosenman oversee Woodstock Licensing, a sister company of Woodstock Ventures; Sony Music has a joint venture with Woodstock Licensing to run Woodstock.com.

"Part of what was attractive about relaunching the (site) around the 40th anniversary was there was an opportunity to rebuild the original Woodstock community online, and part of what we've been doing over the last few weeks is creating opportunities for people to come and share their experiences at the various festivals with anyone, particularly the people who have been there," Parham says. "It's sort of a one-stop place to go for anything that pertains to Woodstock."

The value of the brand is obvious but, as always, with the people behind Woodstock Ventures, it's not all about the money. "We would only form some kind of partnership with someone who was willing to explore the potential of Woodstock for its effect on civilization that goes beyond a financial profit," Rosenman says. "It would have to be somebody who got it, and that's a tall order."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

You’re Bob Dylan? Police Want To See Some ID

Rock legend Bob Dylan was treated like a complete unknown by police in a New Jersey shore community when a resident called to report someone wandering around the neighborhood.

Dylan was in Long Branch, about a two-hour drive south of New York City, on July 23 as part of a tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp that was to play at a baseball stadium in nearby Lakewood.

A 24-year-old police officer apparently was unaware of who Dylan is and asked him for identification, Long Branch business administrator Howard Woolley said.

“I don’t think she was familiar with his entire body of work,” Woolley said.

The incident began at 5 p.m. when a resident said a man was wandering around a low-income, predominantly minority neighborhood several blocks from the oceanfront looking at houses.

The police officer drove up to Dylan, who was wearing a blue jacket, and asked him his name. According to Woolley, the following exchange ensued:

“What is your name, sir?” the officer asked.

“Bob Dylan,” Dylan said.

“OK, what are you doing here?” the officer asked.

“I’m on tour,” the singer replied.

A second officer, also in his 20s, responded to assist the first officer. He, too, apparently was unfamiliar with Dylan, Woolley said.

The officers asked Dylan for identification. The singer of such classics as “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” said that he didn’t have any ID with him, that he was just walking around looking at houses to pass some time before that night’s show.

The officers asked Dylan, 68, to accompany them back to the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, where the performers were staying. Once there, tour staff vouched for Dylan. The officers thanked him for his cooperation.

“He couldn’t have been any nicer to them,” Woolley added.

How did it feel? A Dylan publicist did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Jimmy Page Unveils New Songs In 'Loud' Doc

When he gathered with U2's The Edge and Jack White to play together for the new film It Might Get Loud, Jimmy Page wanted to have more than just his old favorites to jam on. So he produced "a couple of sort of sketches," titled "Embryo No. 1" and "Embryo No.2" that the Led Zeppelin founder says represent the first step for some new music in the not-too-distant future.

"They just go to show I didn't go in there thinking, 'Let's see what we can get away with from the past?'" Page says. "It was quite important, I felt, to actually have something that shows I'm still working on the guitar relative to just doing 'Whole Lotta Love' or something like that. It was more 'Let's show a complete picture,' so you've got that kid (a young Page on British TV) playing at 14 and you've got me playing on some things which are really pretty current for me."

Page says the two pieces remain in a, well, embryonic state, but he acknowledges that he's "played them with other musicians relatively recently, in the last year or so" and that he envisions getting into the studio soon to continue working on those and other new songs.

"This year I've had quite a lot of things going on," Page explains, "sort of things relative to preparing for projects. There's a lot of groundwork that's been going into that so that I can be getting on with things next year. I really intend to be doing some playing and...be seen, if you like. If you've got ambitious projects, they take time to put together if you're going to do them properly."

Meanwhile, Page is looking forward to the roll-out of It Might Get Loud, which was on the film festival circuit earlier this year and opens on Friday, August 14, in New York and Los Angeles. The movie, directed by Davis Guggenheim, focuses on the three guitarists individually and also brings them together for a summit of discussion and playing that Page says "was quite a good time" -- and, not surprisingly, included more music than could be fit into the documentary.

"It's inevitable there'll be a DVD on the horizon," Page says. "There'll be some extra stuff from the summit, that's obvious. I know there's another number I did. There was a lot that was played at the summit, that Edge did, I'm sure, and Jack. I'm sure there'll be a DVD, and I can tell you with a certain confidence there'll be extras because that's the way things work these days."

Aerosmith Cancels Summer Tour

Aerosmith has canceled the remainder of its summer tour. In a statement issued late Thursday (August 13), the band's publicist MSO said "it is with great regret" that the band is canceling the rest of its tour because of injuries that frontman Steven Tyler suffered when he fell off the stage during an Aug. 5 performance in South Dakota.

Tyler broke his left shoulder and needed 20 stitches in his head.

The statement said doctors have advised Tyler to take the time to properly recuperate from his injuries.

"Words can't express the sadness I feel for having to cancel this tour," guitarist Joe Perry said in the statement. Perry said he wanted to thank the band's loyal fans for sticking by them, adding that the band hopes "we can get the Aerosmith machine up and running again as soon as possible."

The statement said ticket refunds for the remaining tour dates will be available at the place of purchase.

Tyler released a lengthy statement thanking the Sturgis, S.D., police department and others who helped him after the fall. The 61-year-old also thanked the band's crew, the helicopter that evacuated him "for getting me outta there before I bled to death" and the doctors and nurses who treated him.

Tyler said thunderstorms delayed the band's set by an hour, then fuses blew and the audio systems failed shortly after the concert began.

"Well, I wasn't gonna go hide under the big top and play 'ROCK STAR' and wait for everything to be fixed," Tyler said. "I wanted to go out to the crowd to continue the show."

He said he was doing "the Tyler shuffle" when he slipped and fell off the edge of the stage.

"I just want to say that I'm plain grateful that I didn't break my neck," he said. "In truth, after thousands of live shows, falling off the edge four times ain't too bad."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Guitar Legend Les Paul Dies At Age 94

Les Paul, who invented the solid-body electric guitar later wielded by a legion of rock 'n' roll greats, died Thursday (August 13) of complications from pneumonia. He was 94.

According to Gibson Guitar, Paul died at White Plains Hospital. His family and friends were by his side. As an inventor, Paul also helped bring about the rise of rock 'n' roll with multitrack recording, which enables artists to record different instruments at different times, sing harmony with themselves, and then carefully balance the tracks in the finished recording.

The use of electric guitar gained popularity in the mid-to-late 1940s, and then exploded with the advent of rock in the mid-'50s.

"Suddenly, it was recognized that power was a very important part of music," Paul once said. "To have the dynamics, to have the way of expressing yourself beyond the normal limits of an unamplified instrument, was incredible. Today a guy wouldn't think of singing a song on a stage without a microphone and a sound system."

A tinkerer and musician since childhood, he experimented with guitar amplification for years before coming up in 1941 with what he called "The Log," a four-by-four piece of wood strung with steel strings.

"I went into a nightclub and played it. Of course, everybody had me labeled as a nut." He later put the wooden wings onto the body to give it a tradition guitar shape.

In 1952, Gibson Guitars began production on the Les Paul guitar.

Pete Townsend of the Who, Steve Howe of Yes, jazz great Al DiMeola and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page all made the Gibson Les Paul their trademark six-string.

Over the years, the Les Paul series has become one of the most widely used guitars in the music industry. In 2005, Christie's auction house sold a 1955 Gibson Les Paul for $45,600.

In the late 1960s, Paul retired from music to concentrate on his inventions. His interest in country music was rekindled in the mid-'70s and he teamed up with Chet Atkins for two albums. The duo were awarded a Grammy for best country instrumental performance of 1976 for their "Chester and Lester" album.

With Mary Ford, his wife from 1949 to 1962, he earned 36 gold records for hits including "Vaya Con Dios" and "How High the Moon," which both hit No. 1. Many of their songs used overdubbing techniques that Paul had helped develop.

"I could take my Mary and make her three, six, nine, 12, as many voices as I wished," he recalled. "This is quite an asset." The overdubbing technique was highly influential on later recording artists such as the Carpenters.

Released in 2005, "Les Paul & Friends: American Made, World Played" was his first album of new material since those 1970s recordings. Among those playing with him: Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Richie Sambora.

"They're not only my friends, but they're great players," Paul told The Associated Press. "I never stop being amazed by all the different ways of playing the guitar and making it deliver a message."

Two cuts from the album won Grammys, "Caravan" for best pop instrumental performance and "69 Freedom Special" for best rock instrumental performance. (He had also been awarded a technical Grammy in 2001.)

Paul was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005.

Paul was born Lester William Polfus, in Waukseha, Wis., on June 9, 1915. He began his career as a musician, billing himself as Red Hot Red or Rhubarb Red. He toured with the popular Chicago band Rube Tronson and His Texas Cowboys and led the house band on WJJD radio in Chicago.

In the mid-1930s he joined Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians and soon moved to New York to form the Les Paul Trio, with Jim Atkins and bassist Ernie Newton.

Meanwhile, he had made his first attempt at audio amplification at age 13. Unhappy with the amount of volume produced by his acoustic guitar, Paul tried placing a telephone receiver under the strings. Although this worked to some extent, only two strings were amplified and the volume level was still too low.

By placing a phonograph needle in the guitar, all six strings were amplified, which proved to be much louder. Paul was playing a working prototype of the electric guitar in 1929.

His work on taping techniques began in the years after World War II, when Bing Crosby gave him a tape recorder. Drawing on his earlier experimentation with his homemade record-cutting machines, Paul added an additional playback head to the recorder. The result was a delayed effect that became known as tape echo.

Tape echo gave the recording a more "live" feel and enabled the user to simulate different playing environments.

Paul's next "crazy idea" was to stack together eight mono tape machines and send their outputs to one piece of tape, stacking the recording heads on top of each other. The resulting machine served as the forerunner to today's multitrack recorders.

In 1954, Paul commissioned Ampex to build the first eight-track tape recorder, later known as "Sel-Sync," in which a recording head could simultaneously record a new track and play back previous ones.

He had met Ford, then known as Colleen Summers, in the 1940s while working as a studio musician in Los Angeles. For seven years in the 1950s, Paul and Ford broadcast a TV show from their home in Mahwah, N.J. Ford died in 1977, 15 years after they divorced.

In recent years, even after his illness in early 2006, Paul played Monday nights at New York night spots. Such stars as Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Van Halen came to pay tribute and sit in with him.

"It's where we were the happiest, in a `joint,'" he said in a 2000 interview. "It was not being on top. The fun was getting there, not staying there — that's hard work."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Phish Album Coming In September

Reunited jam band Phish will release Joy, its eleventh studio album and first in five years, on September 8, the band announced on its website Tuesday.

On Joy, recorded earlier this year at Chung King Studios in New York, the group joins forces with producer Steve Lillywhite for 10 new songs, many of which were debuted live during the band's return to the stage this spring and summer.

Fans who had the opportunity to catch Phish during their first proper comeback tour got a taste of nine new tunes, when they showcased swinging blues riffs on "Kill Devil Hills," interplays between guitarist Trey Anastasio and pianist Page McConnell during "Ocelot" and the long, winding, jam-friendly "Light." Only "I've Been Around" has yet to make its live debut.

In addition to a CD release, Phish is selling a limited-edition Joy Box, a deluxe package available exclusively on the band's own e-commerce website, Phish Dry Goods. Besides the "Joy" CD, the box will include a CD of a complete second album, "Party Time"; a hardcover book; 10 posters, each representing one of the main album's songs; and a DVD full of live performances from the summer tour, including tracks from the group's appearances at the Bonnaroo Festival in June and Fenway Park in Boston.

The box will not ship to fans until October -- nearly a month after the official CD release date -- but purchasers will get a free MP3 download of the album on September 8. Phish is also pressing vinyl copies of Joy.

"I think when we were in the studio I had the best time that I could," Anastasio said. "Things have gone beyond my wildest expectations and dreams, and I feel like I've been given so many blessings in my life, between my friendship with the guys in the band, our wonderful audience, being able to play this music, and then my family. I just want to stay in that state of gratitude and try to hope that the music that we play is of value to the audience."

Phish is in the midst of planning Festival 8, a three-day, eight-set concert event that will take place at the Coachella Festival site in Indio, California, over Halloween weekend.

Beatles Copyrights In McCartney's Sights

In nine short years, Paul McCartney will hit the jackpot again. The 67-year-old former Beatle -- already worth about 440 million pounds ($737 million), according to a report by Britain's Sunday Times in April -- will be able to start reclaiming the copyrights to the lucrative Beatles catalog.

He and John Lennon, the Fab Four's primary songwriters, lost control of pop's most coveted catalog as the band was falling apart. They continued to receive songwriting royalties, but have lost out on a massive windfall over the years from licensing deals.

All but a handful of Beatles copyrights eventually ended up with Michael Jackson, and these 250-or-so songs form the crown jewel of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a 50-50 joint venture between the late singer and Sony Corp.

The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 gave songwriters the ability to recapture the publishing share of the copyright on pre-1978 works after two consecutive 28-year terms or 56 years. That means Beatles compositions registered in 1962 will be eligible for reversion in the United States in 2018, while songs written in 1970 will be eligible in 2026.

Under a clause in the Copyright Act, heirs of songwriters who die during the first 28-year term can recapture the publisher's portion of copyrighted works at the end of that term. In the case of Lennon, who died in 1980, the publisher's portion of his share of the Lennon-McCartney catalog for songs written in 1962 became eligible for reversion in 1990, while songs written in 1970 were eligible in 1998.

Sources say that Sony/ATV cut a deal with Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, prior to the reversion dates to retain its publisher's share for the life of the copyright.

In the internecine history of the Beatles' publishing, Lennon and McCartney effectively lost control of the group's song rights even while the group was still a recording entity, in 1969.

That was when Northern Songs, the company established six years earlier solely to publish their joint compositions by English publisher Dick James and Beatles manager Brian Epstein, was sold to British media tycoon Lew Grade's ATV Music. Ownership of ATV subsequently passed to Australian billionaire Robert Holmes a Court and then, in 1985, to Jackson, who paid $47.5 million for the company.

In 1995, Sony came into the picture, forming a joint venture with trusts formed by Jackson, creating a new entity: Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Under the deal, Sony paid Jackson $110 million and gave him a 50% stake in the merged company, which at the time was valued at about $500 million, according to the 2007 book Northern Songs: The True Story of the Beatles Song Publishing Empire by Brian Southall with Rupert Perry. Sources estimate that Sony/ATV is now valued at about $1.7 billion.

Sony/ATV's Beatle holdings essentially represent everything recorded under the Beatles name by Lennon and McCartney, except for five songs: the A- and B-sides of their first U.K. singles, "Love Me Do"/"P.S. I Love You" (owned by McCartney); "Please Please Me"/"Ask Me Why" (administered by Universal Music); and "Penny Lane," owned by Catherine Holmes a Court, the daughter of the late magnate.

In the meantime, Sony/ATV is aggressively exploiting its Beatles copyrights. The deal with MTV Networks to develop the forthcoming The Beatles: Rock Band videogame is one indication of that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Neil Young Announced As 2010 MusiCares Person of the year

Neil Young will be honored as the 2010 MusiCares® Person of the Year at its 20th anniversary gala, it was announced today by Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the MusiCares Foundation and The Recording Academy, and Paul Caine, Chair of the MusiCares Foundation Board.

Young will be honored for "his exceptional and influential artistic accomplishments as well as his philanthropic work, which has included many generous charitable activities over the years," an announcement issued today said.

A dinner and concert honoring Young will be held in Los Angeles on January 29, 2010, two days before the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards. Proceeds from the event will provide support for MusiCares, which ensures that music people have a place to turn to in times of financial, medical and personal need.

"It is an honor to celebrate the extraordinary legacy of Neil Young at our 20th Annual MusiCares Person of the Year tribute," said Portnow. "Neil has set a standard of artistic integrity and iconoclastic creativity for more than four decades, and his achievements have been matched by his unwavering humanitarianism. He is a shining example of how music people offer their creative gifts to the world, and how they also give back through their commitments to charitable endeavors."

"Throughout his career, Neil has stood out as an exceptionally talented performer, and he has stood for causes that are both noble and close to his heart." said Caine. "We look forward to paying tribute to him at this signature Grammy Week gala."

Young's career began with his earliest recordings as a member of the Squires in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1963. He rose to prominence with classic albums such as 1970's After The Gold Rush and 1972's Harvest, and through work with bands such as Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Neil Young With Crazy Horse.

He has also directed films, including Rust Never Sleeps and the documentary CSNY/Déjà Vu. Young recently released Neil Young Archives Vol. 1 1963–1972, allowing fans to continue to receive new Neil Young archival content as it becomes available.

Young has received numerous awards and accolades throughout his career including an Oscar nomination in 1993 for his song "Philadelphia" from the film of the same name. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1982, and has twice been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — in 1995 for his solo work, and in 1997as a member of Buffalo Springfield.

He was one of the original founders of Farm Aid in 1985, continues to be an active member on the organization's board of directors, and will be one of the performers at this year's event on Oct. 4. And each October, he and his wife Pegi organize and host the Bridge School Concerts, a benefit for the Bridge School that he and Pegi helped found. The school helps children with severe speech and physical impairments achieve full participation in their lives.

For more information on Musicares, visit www.musicares.com.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rock N' Roll Hall Of Fame Honors Austin City Limits

Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello — they're among the legions of music legends who have graced the stage of the famed Austin City Limits television music show. That storied history and the show's lengthy run of 35 years propelled the program to a new honor as an official historic site designated by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

"It just seemed natural that we try to do something down here in Austin around the longest-running musical series in the history of television. What this program has done in trying to create this incredible archive of material of both iconic and emerging, cutting-edge artists is remarkable," said Terry Stewart, president and chief executive of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

The Texas-based music show studio will join nine other designated rock and roll landmarks across the country. Among them are the Whisky a-Go-Go in Los Angeles where the Doors were regulars; Brooklyn High School in the Cleveland area, where Elvis Presley played his first concert north of the Mason-Dixon line; and WJW Radio also in Cleveland, where disc jockey Alan Freed is credited with popularizing the term "rock and roll."

Austin City Limits, which is broadcast nationally on PBS, has hosted more than 800 performances on its stage from assorted musical genres, said executive producer Terry Lickona. It was inspired by the Austin live music scene, but its musical performers artists have hailed from around the world. Lickona noted that the show will tape its first hip-hop program this season with Mos Def and K'naan.

The television show is embarking on its 35th season beginning Oct. 3 with the Dave Matthews Band.

"That studio ... has seen a lot of history over the last thirty-five years. It's more than just a television studio or a big black box," Lickona said.

The upcoming season will feature a joint performance by Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel. Nelson was on the original pilot episode for the show recorded in October 1974, and Asleep at the Wheel performed on the first official season show.

The program is recorded in a studio at the University of Texas that seats 300 people and is well known for its nighttime images of the university tower and Texas capitol in the background. There are plans to start broadcasting in 2011 from a new downtown studio that's under construction and will accommodate about 2,500 people.

Lickona said producers are trying to "capture the same unique vibe and atmosphere" of the campus studio.

A plaque marking the historic designation from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be placed at both studios, Stewart said.

A ceremony for the historic designation is set for October 1, the day before the annual Austin City Limits music festival starts. Music panel discussions are planned for that weekend featuring artists who have a history with the television show and veteran show staff members.

Abbey Road Mobbed On Famous Photo's 40th Anniversary

Beatles fans jammed London's Abbey Road on the 40th anniversary of the snapping of the photo that turned the ordinary London street into a musical pilgrimage site.
Hundreds swarmed the site Saturday morning (Auguast 8), bringing traffic to a standstill.

Abbey Road cuts through the swanky north London neighborhood of St. John's Wood, where the Fab Four recorded much of their work. It became a part of music history after the Beatles were featured on the cover of the famous album of the same name walking on the street's crosswalk. Tourists flock to the site every day, much to the annoyance of locals.

"I came to the legendary Abbey Road to walk in the foot steps of the Beatles," one fan remarked.

One reporter said traffic was "unbelievable" at the site. "When Beatles stand-ins showed up this morning in their trademark Rolls Royce to restage the iconic walk, you couldn't even see the world's most famous crosswalk because of stalled traffic and a crash of cameras," one reporter said.

Palmer points out that on August 8, 1969, the Beatles were putting the finishing touches to what would be their final studio album at the EMI Studios on Abbey Road when they came out of the studio, crossed the street and made history. Photographer Iain Macmillan's shot is still a favorite with fans.

Richard Porter, who runs the nearby Beatles Cafe, told Palmer, "He took six pics, pictures in all, three going one way across the street, three the other. The whole thing took ten minutes to do."

The photo has inspired countless imitators, from sincere flattery to affectionate spoofs, Palmer notes. It's also created a tourist magnet - or, depending on your point of view, "a traffic hazard as lasting as the Beatles legend itself."

Despite the crush of cars and people, Palmer says, "remarkably, everyone was in good humor, even the police, which only goes to show that the Beatles, 40 years later, can still generate peace and love!"

Debunking Woodstock: What Really Happened?

Drugs and nudity were rampant, food was scarce and traffic was hell. Oh, and there were several deaths and births. Those are some of the myths that have been passed down over the years about the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, which happened 40 years ago this weekend, Aug. 15-18, 1969.

Assessing the music of Woodstock is easy, since you can see and hear it any time on the DVD. But separating myth from reality is less simple. Back when Woodstock happened, no one expected that half a million rock fans would gather in the upstate town of Bethel, N.Y., on short notice. So rumors about what went on started to fly, and the media was first in line to start them says Howard Loberfeld, who attended at age 15.

“I went with a sleep-away camp,” explains the New York native. “And the dichotomy between what was really happening and the news reports sent our parents into a tailspin. Every one of them called the camp and said ‘Get my kid out of there! We heard there’s deaths, we heard there’s no bathrooms, we heard there’s no food and we heard there’s drugs!’”

That’s not quite what Loberfeld and his fellow campers had experienced. Rather, he says, he and his buddies “just noticed a lot of music, a lot of fun and a lot of community.” OK, so there were drugs, as Loberfeld found out when some long-haired dude walked by him yelling “Reds! Reds!” But he was so young and naïve, he thought the dealer was talking baseball: “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Gee, I like the Mets. I don’t know why he’s a Cincinnati fan.’”

When Loberfeld and company were forced to cut their festival stay short because of parental concerns, they read the riot act to their parents over the telephone. “We were quite angry and we told our parents that we don’t know what the New York media was saying, but we didn’t notice any of that stuff,” he says.

Joey Reynolds, however, noticed lots of those things. Reynolds was a 22-year-old Top 40 DJ at the time, and as a veteran of the music scene (he broke into radio very young) had a keen eye for excess. “There was a lot of drug stuff — overdoses, acting out, puking and drinking,” explains Reynolds, who still reminiscences about Woodstock on his overnight talk show on New York’s WOR-AM.

Roc Ahrensdorf, who was 16 at the time, also noticed that drugs “were pretty open” but his experience was that “people were pretty cool about it all.

“I was camped out in the woods at the top of the field and there were all these paths with names like Far Out Path and Groovy Way. At the intersection there were people selling pot, acid and hash. But I didn’t see any heroin or cocaine or anything like that.”

Loberfeld and Ahrensdorf also say they didn’t see any nudity. Neither did Bonnie Geffen, yet she says that’s the first thing people want to know about when they learn she went to the festival. She didn’t disrobe, she says.

“With everyone who I’ve told that I went, they inevitably ask me if I was naked,” explains Geffen who was 16 at the time. “There were so few people who were naked in a crowd of half a million. There wasn’t a large presence of naked people.”

Brother, can you spare a burger?

How scarce food was depends on who you talk to, whether they thought to bring rations or whether they were lucky enough to be near someone who did. Ida-Meri de Blanc didn’t plan ahead and got separated from the friend she drove to Woodstock with, but she was lucky to run into “this whole gang of people I knew who went really, really prepared.

“They had like vans and tents of food,” says de Blanc, who was 19 then. “As soon as I ran into them I just hung out with them.”

Michael Colella wasn’t as lucky. Although he and his traveling buddies had brought some food for their drive from Maryland, hunger pangs set in almost immediately after he got there. “There was a definitive shortage of food,” he recalls. “I saw at one point where there were some concessions set up where you could buy burgers and stuff, but by Saturday there was no more food.”

At one point, though, Colella “somehow acquired a watermelon” and shared it with nearby concert goers after it started raining. Later on when he was walking toward the stage to get a better look at sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, he lucked onto some oranges after helping a young boy who was struggling to carry a crate of the fruit to the stage.

“I said, ‘If I help you carry the case, can you let me have an orange?’ He said ‘All right.’ So I carried the case for half the trip and he gave me a couple of oranges. I didn’t share those — I ate them because I was hungry.”

All involved say the worst part of the festival was the traffic on Route 17 on the way there. Remembers Reynolds: “There were all these roads leading to one road that had thousands of cars. At first, we thought there was a little weekend traffic that was going to stop somewhere — and it didn’t. It just got worse and worse and bigger and bigger and there were more and more people.”

Geffen remembers she and her friend “drove in as far as we could and stopped. The car in front of us stopped and we stopped when we realized neither one of us could go any further.”

Tragedy and mystery

The crush of traffic indirectly led to one of the deaths at the festival, says Essra Mohawk, a singer-songwriter who attended but did not get to perform. According to Mohawk, who was 21 at the time, after the rainfall, festival-goers had set up their sleeping bags in a muddy parking lot next to some cars.

“I said, ‘You know, someone is gonna get run right over,’ because with the mud everything was the same color,” she remembers. “And that’s what happened. Someone who slept in the muddy parking lot got run over and killed.”

That someone was 17-year-old Raymond R. Mizzak, who was run over by a tractor, according to an account in the Times Herald record of Middletown (as reproduced in the book “Woodstock: Peace, Music and Memories,” which collects festival stories and photos. One more death is referenced in the article, and although a name is not given the cause of death is listed as an overdose. Overall, there were three deaths, Woodstock historian Michael Lang told the Denver Post last month.

According to Bob Matthews, the longtime sound engineer for the Grateful Dead, one of the overlooked aspects of the festival is the fact that the rain could easily have caused more deaths — among the musicians, who were playing electrified instruments that may or may not have been properly grounded.

“The electrical grounding hadn’t been thought through to the point of ‘What happens if it rains and we have all this mud?’” Matthews recalls. “I remember Bob Weir jumping back five feet from electrical shock when he went up to touch the microphone the first time.”

The alleged births at Woodstock have been the source of such speculation that the Associated Press recently devoted an entire article to the subject, calling it “an unsolved and enduring mystery.” The story that at least one person was born started when the Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian prefaced his solo performance of “Younger Generation” by saying that “there’s a cat and I really don’t know his name, but I remember that (Woodstock announcer) Chip (Monck) said his old lady just had a baby.”

Monck, who now lives in Australia, says by e-mail “two were born,” but also notes that he “was a bit busy to observe.” He also related that while some people have claimed over the years that they were “Woodstock babies,” eventually their stories “never pan out,” as evidenced by their birth records: “They later cop to the fact that they thought it would be fun to have that on their list of credits.”

Several attendees claim to have witnessed births, according to AP, yet no birth records could be located. AP even put out the call that anyone who is a “Woodstock baby” or “Woodstock mother” should contact them at: woodstockbaby@ap.org.

Putting the myths about births and deaths aside, Geffen and Loberfeld say one enduring myth about Woodstock is true. That’s the one about the festival being mellow and harmonious. Says Geffen: “I didn’t even witness a harsh word or a raised voice.”

“I was raised not to trust people and to be wary of strangers,” Loberfeld adds. “And here were 500,000 of them who were being so nice and so happy and just listening to the music and sitting in the mud. It really gave me a different perspective of humanity.”

Sunday, August 9, 2009

U2 Remains Atop Hot Tours List

U2 has already topped the $100 million mark in tour grosses from the "360° Tour" based on the box office totals reported from the first thirteen shows on the schedule. $41.4 million of that sum comes from the two markets reported during the latest reporting week, Amsterdam and Dublin. Three sellouts at Dublin's Croke Park (July 24-25, 27) totaled $28.8 million, the fourth-highest single gross on record. Heading that list is Bruce Springsteen's $38.6 million at Giants Stadium in 2003, The Spice Girls at O2 Arena in London last year with $33.8 million and the 1999 Woodstock festival which tops U2's Dublin shows by only a few thousand dollars.

Although U2 has jumped up to No. 2 on the overall Top Tour rankings year-to-date, Madonna retains the top spot with five more European stadiums reporting totals this week from her "Sticky & Sweet Tour." One of the stadiums, Stadio Friuli in Udine, Italy had a busy two weeks hosting Madonna on July 16th and Bruce Springsteen just one week later. Both tours played to sellout crowds of more than 28,000. In addition to Stadio Friuli, Springsteen also hit five Spanish markets to close out the European leg of his "Working on a Dream Tour". He joins Madonna and U2 as the only touring artists surpassing $100 million in ticket sales so far for the year.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Punk Pioneer Mink DeVille Dead At 58

Willy DeVille, who founded the punk group Mink DeVille and was known for his blend of R&B, blues, Dixieland and traditional French Cajun ballads, has died, his publicist announced. He was 58.

The Oscar-nominated songwriter died at New York's Cabrini Hospital on Thursday (August 6) of pancreatic cancer, said Carol Kaye at Kayos Productions. "The rock world has lost another one of its influential pioneers," she said.

Mink DeVille, for which DeVille was the principal songwriter, was billed as one of the most original groups on the New York punk scene after an appearance at the legendary CBGB club in Greenwich Village in the 1970s.

In 1977, the band recorded Cabretta, a rock and roll/rhythm and blues album with renowned producer Jack Nitzsche. Its featured song, "Spanish Stroll," was a Top 20 hit in Britain. It was followed by the album Return to Magenta.

Better known in Europe than in the United States, DeVille went solo in 1980 with Le Chat Bleu. Recorded in Paris and influenced by his admiration for siren Edith Piaf, the album featured "This Must Be the Night" and "Just to Walk That Little Girl Home."

His "Storybook Love," featured in the 1987 movie The Princess Bride, was nominated for an Academy Award.

"Throughout his career, his musical gumbo was always layered with his deliciously gravelly soul-drenched vocals," Kaye said.

DeVille also spent time in New Orleans and recorded his Victory Mixture album with Dr. John, Eddie Bo, Allen Toussaint and others.

His other albums include the soulful Coupe de Grace and Where Angels Fear to Tread. In 1985, Sportin' Life featured the European hit song "Italian Shoes."

He was born in Stamford, Conn., and survivors include his wife, Nina, and a son, Sean Borsey.

Steely Dan Had To Do Some Homework For Tour

To prepare for their current tour, Steely Dan had to relearn their own music. The band will perform one of three albums — Aja, Gaucho or The Royal Scam — in its entirety on select dates of their Rent Party tour. On other dates, they will play requests that fans submit through their Web site. That means Steely Dan had to do some homework.

"We had to learn a whole bunch of stuff we haven't been doing, just trying to guess what people might vote for," singer Donald Fagen said.

Guitarist Walter Becker found the idea intriguing because some of the songs they had never performed live. "We had stopped performing in the '70s when we recorded these three albums, so we never really went out to perform the tunes from these three albums," he said.

Fans can choose from several Steely Dan tracks, but it's no time to play stump-the-band.

"They're only able to request Steely Dan songs from a menu of choices that has maybe 50 tunes on it," Becker said. "Not knowing in advance what would be the most popular, what we'd end up playing, we couldn't prepare all of the songs from all of the albums."

The band expects fans will want the hits, such as "Hey Nineteen," "Josie" and "Do It Again." That's where they try to make things interesting.

"With songs that we feel have dated, and stuff like that, we often change the arrangements to keep ourselves fresh," Fagen said. "We have a new arrangement this year of 'Reelin' in the Years' that so far the audience seems to really like."

The fans show their appreciation in return, and not just with applause.

"I've met many parents of Ajas and Josies over the years. It's very flattering," Fagen said.

Forty Fascinating Facts About Woodstock

Woodstock, the most famous music festival in rock 'n' roll history, took place 40 years ago on August 15-18, 1969. To celebrate, here are 40 things you didn't know about it...

1. Beatniks, hippies, flower children and rock legends gathered together not in Woodstock, but in the little town of Bethel, rural New York State.

2. The idea for the festival came from band manager Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld, a songwriter turned record company executive. They wanted to raise money to build a recording studio in Woodstock, upstate New York, a haven for artists including Bob Dylan, The Band and Van Morrison.

3. There was no suitable site in Woodstock, so organisers opted for Wallkill, 40 miles away. But residents blocked their plans, so dairy farmer Max Yasgur stepped in to offer his alfalfa field, in the neighbouring hamlet of Bethel. A deal was struck for $75,000.

4. Melanie Safka (remember 'I've got a brand new pair of rollerskates'?) failed to get a performer's pass and had to sing her song, Beautiful People, to the security guards to get backstage.

5. Joni Mitchell wrote the festival's eponymous song, with the lyrics 'We are stardust we are golden', from what she heard of the event from then-boyfriend Graham Nash, ex-Hollies and one quarter of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. But she never made it to Woodstock. Taking the advice of her manager, she chose to guest on the Dick Cavett Show and then watched the festival unfold on TV, tears streaming down her face.

6. Any decent flower child worth their name was there to protest against the Vietnam war abroad and racial tension at home.

7. With storm clouds approaching, the crowd was urged: 'Let's think hard to get rid of the rain.' A chant went up: 'No rain, no rain, no rain.' But it didn't stop the deluge and in three hours, five inches of rain fell and the festival became a mudfest. Joan Baez famously sang 'We shall overcome' during a full-on thunderstorm.

8. During the downpour there were fears some artists would get electrocuted. Alvin Lee, of Ten Years After, was warned of the risk as it was still raining when his turn came to go on. 'Oh come on, if I get electrocuted at Woodstock we'll sell lots of records,' he said.

9. The performance of The Star-Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix that closed Woodstock was described by the rock critic from the New York Post as 'the single greatest moment of the Sixties'. Yet it was witnessed by just a fraction of the crowd. Most had gone home by the time Hendrix came on stage, at 9am on a Monday morning.

10. British artists were represented by Ten Years After, The Who, The Incredible String Band, the Keef Hartley Band, Graham Nash and Mitch Mitchell, drummer in Jimi Hendrix's band.

11. The British artist who really made his mark was Joe Cocker, whose soulful rendition of The Beatles song With A Little Help From My Friends was one of the greatest performances.

12. Thirty-two bands were listed to play, but Iron Butterfly got stuck at the airport and didn't make it because the helicopter booked to ferry them to the site didn't arrive. Organisers were, in fact, worried their hippy heavy-metal music would incite violence.

13. The Jeff Beck Group, featuring Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, were booked to play, but they split acrimoniously on the eve of their Woodstock appearance.

14. John Lennon told organisers he had wanted to be a part of Woodstock, but he was in Canada and the U.S. government had refused him an entry visa.

15. There were ten million yards of blue jeans and striped T-shirt material at Woodstock.

16. The dove perched on a guitar neck in the famous poster announcing 'Three Days of Peace and Music' is really a catbird, an American perching bird known for its catlike calls.

17. Though Bob Dylan was one of the original inspirations for the festival, and his backing group, The Band, played to the massive audience, the great man never made it, as one of his children was hospitalised over that weekend.

18. Scottish folk quartet The Incredible String Band told writer Mark Ellen about appearing on the Woodstock stage. 'It was incredibly high and three out of the four of us had vertigo. Little flimsy dresses on the girls, acoustic guitars out of tune, the drums damp from the tent, it was like playing off the Forth Bridge to this sea of people cooking beans in the mud.'

19. Eight women suffered miscarriages, while there are varying reports of babies born. John Sebastian, lead singer with Lovin' Spoonful, announced from the stage: 'Some cat's old lady just had a baby, a kid destined to be far out!' Reports suggest a birth at a local hospital to a mother flown from the event by helicopter and another involving a woman in a car in the nine-mile traffic jam.

20. 'Hippy' is derived from 'hipster' and was used to describe beatniks who moved to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district for the Summer of Love in 1967. Yippies (the left-wing Youth International Party led by Abbie Hoffman) were sufficiently motivated by money to demand $10,000 from Woodstock's organisers to avoid any unpleasant disruption of proceedings.

21. The organizers played down the numbers they anticipated, telling the authorities they expected 50,000, while selling 186,000 tickets in advance (costing six dollars for each day) and planning for 200,000. In the end 500,000 attended. Another million had to turn back because of traffic. It was originally advertised as 'A Weekend in the Country.'

22. As an unknown and unproven business concern, the organisers, Woodstock Ventures, had to pay inflated sums to get the top rockers to sign up. Jefferson Airplane were the first, paid $12,000, double their usual fee. Even hippy band The Grateful Dead demanded cash in hand before they would play, as did Janis Joplin and The Who.

23. Off-duty police officers were banned from providing security, so a New Mexico commune known as the Hog Farm were hired to form a 'Please Force.' The Hog Farmers were led by Wavy Gravy, a toothless former beatnik comic, who put on a Smokey-the-Bear suit and warned troublemakers they would be doused in fizzy water or hit with custard pies.

24. About two dozen ticket booths should have been in place to charge $24 admission, but they were never installed because of the crush of festival-goers. Attempts to get people to pay were abandoned on day one, the fences were torn down and Woodstock was declared a free event.

25. As well as forming the Please Force, The Hog Farm were in charge of catering, ordering in bushels of brown rice, buying 160,000 paper plates, forks, knives and spoons and 30,000 paper cups. They fed between 160,000-190,000 people at the Hog Farm Free Kitchen, 5,000 at a time.

26. The Food For Love concession was running low on burgers so it raised prices from 25 cents to $1. Festival-goers saw it as capitalist exploitation, against the spirit of the festival, so burnt the stand down.

27. Hearing there was a shortage of food, a Jewish community centre made sandwiches with 200 loaves of bread, 40 pounds of meat cuts and two gallons of pickles, which were distributed by nuns.

28. Sweetwater, a psychedelic rock band scheduled to open the festival, were stuck in traffic. Instead, the crowd was entertained by one of the Hog Farmers, who led them through a series of yoga exercises. Sweetwater were on fifth.

29. With the festival start-time running over an hour late, there was panic to find a performer ready. Tim Hardin, (who later died of a heroin overdose), was too stoned, so Richie Havens went on. When Havens finished his set he kept trying to leave but was told to do more encores as the next band was not ready. His song Freedom was improvised and became a worldwide hit.

30. Though the festival mood was anti-war, ironically the festival would most likely have turned to tragedy without the U.S. Army, who airlifted in food, medical teams and performers. The hippy crowd was told: 'They are with us man, they are not against us. Forty five doctors or more are here without pay because they dig what this is into.'

31. John Sebastian's performance was unexpected. Spotted visiting backstage, he was urged to appear. He admitted he had smoked a joint and taken LSD, which could explain his shambolic performance, shouting: 'Far out! Far up! Far down! Far around! You're really amazing, you're a whole city.'

32. The revolving stage was designed to minimise wait-times, turning when one act finished with the equipment in place for the next one. But it could not support the weight of so many people on the side of the stage watching the performances, and the wheels fell off. 'Grace Slick and Janis Joplin and everybody were standing on it and you can't just sweep them off with a broom,' explained one of the crew.

33. For those lost and confused there were two wooden signposts nailed to a tree. Chalked on one was 'Groovy Way' with arrows in opposite directions. On the other was 'Gentle Path' and underneath 'High Way' pointing to the left.

34. Nine out of ten festival-goers smoked marijuana on site and 33 were arrested on drugs charges.

35. Two people died at Woodstock - one man from a heroin overdose and a teenager in a sleeping bag who was killed when a tractor ran over him. The driver was never traced.

36. For the weekend of the festival it had become the third largest city in New York State. But due to lack of basic amenities, Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared it a disaster area. The health department documented 5,162 medical cases, including 797 instances of drug abuse. But Time magazine called it 'The greatest peaceful event in history.'

37. While most acts revelled in having appeared there, sitar player Ravi Shankar found it a 'terrifying experience' and said the crowd in the mud reminded him of the water buffaloes at home in India.

38. Actor and country singer Roy Rogers - billed as King of the Cowboys for his western movies - was asked to close the show, singing his trademark song, Happy Trails To You. But Rogers' manager vetoed it, and years later Rogers admitted: 'I would have been booed off stage by all those goddam hippies.'

39. There have been four attempts to recreate the festival on different sites: in 1979, 1989, 1994, and the disastrous 1999 festival, which was shut down amid riots and violence. Commemorative events are taking place across America and Europe.

40. Organizers at Woodstock Ventures were at least $1.3m in debt afterwards. It took more than a decade for backers to recoup money, through audio and recording rights.