Gilli Smyth, a co-founding member of the influential psychedelic and space-rock ensemble Gong, died Monday. Her son, Orlando Allen, reported the news on Facebook, saying she’d been battling pulmonary pneumonia. She was 83.
Smyth is credited with helping pioneer Gong’s unusual, atonal approach to vocals, which they described in the liner notes to their albums as “spacewhisper,” or as her website describes the singing style, “musical landscaping.” She developed this with another singer, Zizka Baum, in late 1967 and 1968 around when the group formed in Paris.
Smyth was born on June 1st, 1933 and grew up in a musical household. She received three degrees from London University’s Kings College, where she wrote political articles, edited the school magazine and participated in readings and musical and theatrical performances. She moved to Paris in the late Sixties and met Daevid Allen, with whom she formed the first Gong lineup; the couple would later have two children, including Orlando, according to Ultimate Classic Rock.
After a hiccup in 1968, when Smyth and Allen had to leave France because of a student revolution and subsequently performed with the Banana Moon Band, Gong re-formed in 1969. She remained in the group – sometimes performing under the name Shakti Yoni – through July 1974, after recording the group’s celebrated space-rock excursion You album.
She released a solo album, Mother, in 1978, after which she co-founded a new ensemble known as Mother Gong. The group played the main stage at Great Britain’s Glastonbury festival in 1979 and in 1981. She relocated to Australia in 1982 and assembled another Mother Gong lineup; at one point, the group opened up for Bob Dylan.
She reunited with the original Gong in 1994 and embarked on many tours with the group in subsequent years. Smyth also embraced techno music after learning that her voice had been sampled by some artists who failed to credit her, leading her to form her own projects, Goddess Trance and Goddess T. She simultaneously continued to tour with Gong, having made her last appearance with the group in 2012. Gong’s other co-founding member, Daevid Allen, died of cancer at age 77 in 2015.
“Her unique stage presence and vocals manifested and determinedly represented a vital, deeply fundamental feminine principle within the Gong universe,” the band wrote in a statement. “We will miss her. Love to the Good Witch and all who feel her loss.”
Prince‘s famed Paisley Park in Chanhassen, MN, will be made into a museum and open for public tours beginning this fall, as Minneapolis NBC affiliate KARE 11 reports.
“Opening Paisley Park is something that Prince always wanted to do and was actively working on,” Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson said in a statement issued by Bremer Trust, the current managers of the late legendary artist’s estate, which remains unresolved. “Only a few hundred people have had the rare opportunity to tour the estate during his lifetime.
“Now fans from around the world will be able to experience Prince’s world for the first time as we open the doors to this incredible place,” Nelson added.
Guests can traverse the main floor of Paisley Park, which houses the late singer’s recording and mixing studios. Visitors will also view his video editing suites, rehearsal spaces and private NPG Music Club. The tour includes a look at the soundstage and concert hall where he held many storied private events and rehearsed before hitting the road.
Thousands of items from Prince’s personal archives will also be on display, including clothing, awards, instruments and motorcycles.
“The new Paisley Park museum will offer fans a unique experience, an exhibition like no other, as Prince would have wanted it,” according to the official statement by Prince’s siblings. “Most important, the museum will display Prince’s genius, honor his legacy, and carry forward his strong sense of family and community.”
Museum tickets go on sale on Friday at 3 p.m. ET for tours beginning on October 6th via the official Paisley Park website.
In the initial ruling, a Los Angeles jury determined that “Blurred Lines” essentially ripped off Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.”
“This outcome created international press coverage and widespread expressions of concern by members of the music community that, if left to stand, the ‘Blurred Lines’ verdict would chill musical creativity and inhibit the process by which later artists draw inspiration from earlier artists to create new popular music,” the brief states.
At issue, according to the new brief, is that sound recordings were not originally covered under federal law. The original Copyright Act of 1909 based copyrights on sheet music alone. The 1976 Copyright Act expanded to include sound recordings. However, Gaye’s hit was penned after the latter Copyright Act modification.
The “Blurred Lines” writers assert that when the judge examined the two songs before the trial, he should have determined that the songs were different if he went by the sheet music, i.e. Gaye’s “deposit copy” submitted to the Copyright Office, per the law established when Gaye’s song was created and what musicologists explained before trial. However, the judge ruled that the case was worthy of trial.
Subtract the non-copyrighted recorded percussion, keyboard parts, backup vocals and bass lines, and the appellants assert that the case should not have been tried.
“What happened instead was a cascade of legal errors warranting this Court’s reversal or vacatur for new trial,” the opening appellate brief states. “At summary judgment, the district court entertained expert testimony by musicologists for the Gayes who based their opinions entirely on the sound recording, not the deposit copy. The court correctly filtered out non-deposit-copy and generic musical features from their testimony, but then erroneously failed to compare what remained to ‘Blurred Lines.’
“At trial, the district court made things worse. While correctly excluding the ‘Got to Give It Up’ sound recording itself, the court erroneously allowed the Gayes’ experts to testify about the sound recording anyway, including by playing their own musical excerpts based on the sound recording,” it continues. “The court then instructed the jury that it could consider all this testimony in its substantial-similarity analysis, failing to instruct them to consider only the protectable elements of the copyrighted work and indeed pointing them explicitly to elements omitted from the deposit copy.”
Los Angeles experimental producer the Gaslamp Killer has unveiled a gritty, psychedelic new track, “Warm Wind (Frimpong),” off his upcoming LP, Instrumentalepathy.
With an effervescent bass and shuffling drums, Gaslamp Killer maintains a steady, spacey groove, leaving plenty of room for guest guitarist Amir Yaghmai to unravel an increasingly kaleidoscopic solo that lures the cut right up to the edge of the surreal.
“‘Warm Wind’ is one of the most uplifting songs on Instrumentalepathy, blending music from Ghana and Mali with one of the deepest one-take guitar solos in GLK history by Amir Yaghmai that turns into a runaway African freight train of a song!” Gaslamp Killer tells Rolling Stone.
The Gaslamp Killer will release Instrumentalepathy on September 16th via his own Cuss Records imprint. Along with Yaghmai, the album boasts an array of guests including Gonjasufi, Miguel Atwood Ferguson, Kid Moxie, Mophono and more.
Instrumentalepathy follows the Gaslamp Killer’s 2012 debut LP, Breakthrough, and his 2015 live album, The Gaslamp Killer Experience: Live in Los Angeles. The LP also marks the experimental producer’s first studio effort since suffering a near-fatal accident while riding his scooter.
Steve Aoki knows exactly what will happen when he dies. His corpse will come under the care of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, an organization with a fleet of cryonic cylinders in Arizona. Alcor promises to preserve Aoki’s earthly form at a sufficiently low temperature so that – should technology ever advance to the point that Aoki hopes it will – he can be reanimated and/or his consciousness can be uploaded to a computer, granting him something like digital immortality. Aoki, who’s 38, set this plan into motion after reading the work of famed futurist Ray Kurzweil, who speculates on the imminence of such scenarios becoming scientific fact. Under his contract with Alcor, Aoki will pay roughly $220,000. This price tag could have been much less if he’d opted to freeze his head alone – “The CEO of the company is only doing his head,” he says. But Steve Aoki is ready to take his chances on coming back head to toe, “maybe 200 years from now,” because Steve Aoki is nothing if not one seriously optimistic dude.
His optimism is there in the titles of his most recent albums, Neon Future I and II, which weave Kurzweilian motifs through brightly hued, intensely throbbing EDM. It’s on display at the gigs that have made him one of the highest-paid DJs alive, earning more than $23 million annually. He plays as many as 300 shows in a given year, mixing everything from Calvin Harris to Jimi Hendrix to Daft Punk to the Backstreet Boys to Future to, no joke, Celine Dion. His is a relentlessly upbeat, urgently inclusive, there-is-no-such-thing-as-bad-taste brand of dance-floor euphoria epitomized by his trademark onstage move: hurling a heavily frosted cake into one lucky fan’s face.
Aoki’s positivity – and his preposterously crammed calendar – are also at the center of I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, a new Netflix documentary that charts his transformation from a straight-edge kid who played in hardcore bands in his hometown Newport Beach, California, to twentysomething hipster-whisperer, running an indie label, spinning records and helping introduce American kids to acts like Bloc Party and Justice, to CDJ-twirling Ibiza demigod.
Aoki just landed in Las Vegas from a gig in Croatia, and is making his way to the 11,000-square-foot home he owns in the high-end suburb of MacDonald Heights. A notary has been waiting an hour and a half so that she can fingerprint him at his kitchen island, a hunk of creamy white marble. “What’s this for?” Aoki asks his assistant, Eliza, as the notary inks up his digits. Eliza isn’t certain; something to the effect of renewing the liquor license for a restaurant he co-owns in Manhattan. “Be careful with the ink,” he instructs the notary. “This marble is expensive.” Expensive stuff abounds: Over his shoulder is an enormous Banksy sculpture of a snake that appears to have swallowed Mickey Mouse. Off on the horizon is the Vegas Strip, where Aoki DJs so often that getting a house here made sense.
He paid $2.5 million for this place and spent at least $3 million more gutting and remodeling it. Highlights include a Chinese tea bar (“I collect teas when I’m overseas – I’ll spend hours just, like, trying different teas”); a wardrobe room where every surface is covered in mirrors, in tribute to the climactic fight in Enter the Dragon (“I fucking love Bruce Lee”); a two-story gym where he can leap from a treadmill into a pit of foam cubes after a workout; and a home studio where everything from the ceiling to the mixing desk to the swivel chairs is gleaming white or shrieking blue (“It’s the exact same blue as the Audi I8, one of my favorite cars”). Aoki has recorded a bunch of music here likely destined for his next album, Neon Future III, where his aim is to meet an array of unlikely collaborators halfway, rather than wedge them into EDM formulas intended for easy use in DJ sets. He’s working on one song with Blink-182 and another with, hard as it is to imagine, Grammy-winning country stars Lady Antebellum. “They sent me a vocal, and it’s great,” he says. “It’s gonna be a bridge between their world and my world.”
Aoki calls himself “a frugal person,” but it’s clear he inherited a penchant toward ostentation from his father: Benihana founder Rocky Aoki, who cultivated an outsize image as a speedboat-racing playboy in the Seventies and Eighties. Rocky died of cancer in 2008, and Steve’s interest in life-extension technologies stems directly from his death. It revealed “that he was human,” he says, despite having been a larger-than-life character who once boasted to an interviewer, “I’m gonna live forever!” Steve recalls, of his father’s illness, “He had tubes all in him, but he’d grip my hand tight. He was still there, fighting. His brain was not ready to die.”
Rocky’s shadow looms large over Steve in other ways, as I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead explores in detail. He was never the most present dad and was skeptical of Steve’s devotion to music – “He was like, ‘I don’t want you to be a bartender and be in a band for the rest of your life.’ ” Aside from some help with college tuition, Aoki says, “my dad never gave me a dime.” Rather than feeling resentment or anger toward Rocky, Steve vowed to make him proud. As a kid, Aoki tried to fit in with football players and other members of the in-crowd. “I wanted to be cool, and it wasn’t easy,” he says. A self-described “small Asian kid trying to hang out,” he was the target of racism. Kids pulled at the corners of their eyes mockingly, others threw rocks. Things improved when he fell in with skaters and punks, who introduced him to all-ages hardcore shows. “I shaved my head, had straight-edge X’s on my hand, learned how to play guitar. I found purpose.” At college, he took women’s-studies courses and became an activist, living in a vegan co-op, staging sit-ins against the administration and protesting on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
But he also nursed a burning ambitiousness and business savvy that can be traced, in large part, to his desire to prove his worth to his dad. With Benihana, Rocky Aoki made millions by turning Japanese cuisine into theater and by carrying himself as a front-and-center showman, his flashy lifestyle inextricable from the brand. Steve approaches electronic music in a similar way, crowd-surfing and head-banging in the booth with rock-star swagger. Whereas his idols in Daft Punk are literally faceless, Aoki turned his goateed visage into a logo that adorns T-shirts, posters and a quadricopter drone fans can buy. In his house, I count six different enormous paintings of his face rendered in nouveau-pop-art styles.
A few hours after the liquor-license fingerprinting session, Aoki is onstage at Hakkasan, one of the Strip’s premier clubs, leading the packed crowd in a chant of “Steve Aoki!” His logo, rendered in something like shiny fiberglass, hangs from the rafters in duplicate. He plays some Nirvana, some Drake, some Daft Punk. Soon enough, he straps two smoke-machine cannons to his wrists and climbs on top of the DJ booth to let them rip – an EDM cyborg priest, opening his arms to his congregation. I ask if it feels strange, as a onetime outcast, to hold court in such tony environments, populated with such alphas, the sorts of football-player types who once scorned him. “Maybe in the beginning,” he says. “But what I learned was, music is not exclusive. That type of guy might have been racist to me when I was a kid, but I don’t even wanna exclude him. The more you can bring positive energy to all people? That’s the goal.”
Nearly 30 years ago, a gangly 21-year-old Rick Astley, his magnificent pompadour and his lovably geeky dance moves arrived on these shores from his native England armed with such hits as “Together Forever,” “It Would Take a Strong Strong Man” and, of course, the tsunami-strength “Never Gonna Give You Up,” which reached Number One in 25 countries. His hair game is still impressive and remarkably unchanged since the Eighties. “I get it imported from China,” the youthful Astley jokes, tugging on his dark-brown tufts. “My whole family have got pretty strong hair. I’m really lucky in that respect.”
Astley, 50, is sitting in the restaurant at the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood the day after a triumphant sold-out at the Troubadour. The previous night’s smart suit has been replaced with blue shorts, a T-shirt and a jacket. He orders an espresso, announcing that he’s still suffering from jet lag after flying from his home outside of London for an August 10th show in New York and then on to Los Angeles. The two gigs – his first in the U.S. since 1989 – are “to let everyone know I’m alive, really,” Astley jokes.
The first true sign of life occurred in June when 50, a soulful, often revealing, collection of pop songs written, produced and played entirely by Astley, debuted on top of the British albums chart, landing the singer his first Number One album in the U.K. since his 1987 debut, Whenever You Need Somebody. As 50, out in the U.S. on October 7th, and the Troubadour concert make clear, age has given Astley’s still-mighty baritone an added richness and depth that at times recalls a younger, less predatory Tom Jones. “I know I’ve got a biggish voice, but for me, he’s on a different plane,” Astley demurs reverentially. “The physicality in his voice is ridiculous.”
Astley’s name most recently surfaced stateside in July after Melania Trump seemingly quoted lyrics from “Never Gonna Give You Up” during her RNC speech, resulting in streams of the song increasing by 19 percent, according to Spotify, as memes of Trump and Astley side by side emerged. “It was a bit weird,” Astley says of the similarities, but he remains unconvinced that she intentionally referenced the song: “There’s still a part of me that’s not 100 percent sure that’s what she was doing,” he says.
Astley has stayed at the Sunset Marquis since 1988 and while he’s tucked away out of public view today, celebrity encounters were common during his Eighties heyday. One day Robert Plant approached him by the pool. “I remember thinking, ‘Have I sat on his towel?’” Astley says with a laugh. It turns out the Led Zeppelin singer wanted a photo with Astley for his nephew. Then there was the time Ozzy Osbourne recognized him in the bar and kindly offered recommendations on top touring musicians before Sharon Osbourne bleated, “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing? Do you really think he wants to work with the long-haired guys that you do?” “It was just a bizarre moment,” Astley says with typical British understatement.
Though the August concerts were his first U.S. dates in years – he plans to do more after the album’s release – Astley returned to touring in the rest of the world a decade ago, often accompanied by his wife, Lene Bausager, an Academy Award–nominated producer, who now manages him. Affable and softspoken, Astley amiably and candidly spoke to Rolling Stone about why he walked away from his career the first time, making the new album in his home studio, taking a cue from Adele, and, for the first time, scars left from his childhood.
At 27, you said, “I’m done” and stopped. Why? I’d been doing the same thing for so many years. Now it doesn’t seem like any amount of years, but then it was a quarter of my life. I was a young guy and I was like, “I don’t want to be doing that every single day of my life. I want to hang out with my friends. I’ve made a lot of money. I want to spend some of it. I want to do the things I want to do.”
By then, it sounds like you were exhausted from endless promotional duties, and you’d developed a pretty strong aversion to flying as well, which certainly didn’t help matters. The flying thing was a way of me saying “If I don’t fly anymore, I don’t have to do all of this anymore.” I didn’t make the connection when I was young when it happened. I just thought it was a fear of flying, but I think it [was] about control. I was on my way to New York [in 1993]. I was on the motorway on my way to Heathrow and I just said “I can’t do this. I’m not getting on that plane because if I get on it, I don’t think we’re going to make it.” It wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m a bit nervous,” it was “We’re not going to get there.”
At the Troubadour, before you launched into “Never Gonna Give You Up,” you noted that you were ‘very proud and happy’ to sing it. How do you look back on those hits now? I’ve learned to appreciate my old songs. I quit for about 15 years, didn’t sing any of them ever, and I’ve learned to realize how lucky I was to have them. I know that sounds a bit corny. If I see [an artist] and they’re being a bit shitty, I’m kind of like, “Just remember, we were the lucky ones. We may have a bit more about us than someone else, and more drive, definitely, but we were all extremely lucky.”
You wrote, produced and played all the instruments on 50. Did you feel you had something to prove after British production trio Stock Aitken Waterman produced and wrote your Eighties hits? No, [but] I think there’s a satisfaction in it, definitely. I’m very proud that I played every single thing on it.
There’s an emotional resonance in your voice on the album missing from the earlier hits. What’s different? Mike Stock used to produce the vocals. He knew exactly every syllable he wanted and the way he wanted it, so, basically, you’d just do take after take after take and he’d be giving you pointers along the way. [Then] he’d chop it all together. … It’s hard to get emotion into that because of the way we recorded it. … Now, I think it’s just being comfortable enough to let the odd thing go go and say, “That’s just expression, that’s just me enjoying myself.” Comparing to the hits I had in the Eighties, there wasn’t a lot of room for that.
The album opener, “Keep Singing,” starts with the line, “When I was a boy, I saw my daddy crying at the steering wheel and, oh, it made me feel so scared.” That’s more than we ever learned about you from your Eighties songs. What made you decide to open up? I just went in my [home studio] and I didn’t have an AR man, I didn’t have a record label, I didn’t have any of that. I hadn’t actually said, “I’m making the record, everybody” – as if everybody would listen [laughs]. I was just doing what I was doing. I don’t know if cathartic is the right word, but it was just a bit like … [exhales]. That was one I finished early on and it was like putting my flag in the ground and saying, “OK, I’m actually going to say some things on some of these songs. I’m going to be 50 next year. I want to mark that for myself.”
You go even farther with “Angels on My Side” with the line, “My heart is close to breaking/It reminds me of my youth.” To what are you referring? My youth was not exactly the happiest time in my life, that’s for sure. My mum and dad got divorced when I was probably four or five. They’d had a son who had died before I was born. There’s my sister, two brothers and myself, and he would have been [in the middle]. I haven’t spoken in interviews about this a lot – at all, really – but growing up, there was definitely an element of “There’s something very wrong in this family.” I can’t even say I’ve got these exact memories of it, I just know it was a bit odd. And then the fact that we were raised by my dad, but in the same very small town where my mom lived because she went to live with my gran. I saw my mum every day, sometimes twice a day. My dad was really, really pissed off a lot of the time. He was great as well, he was really loving, but there was just times when he’d completely lose it and, as a small child, you’ve got no reference to deal with any of that.
With titles like “Angels on My Side” and “Pray With Me” on 50, fans might wonder if you’ve found religion since they last heard from you. Have you? I haven’t, no, but I do have more faith in human beings as I’m getting older. I don’t have faith in our leaders, but I have a faith in people, whether it’s my immediate friends and family or [when] you hear that people go out of their way. I genuinely have felt [faith] at gigs. It’s a bit like a congregation and I might be on the stage and I know that they’ve come to see me, [but] I do generally feel that it’s a 50-50 two-way street. No, it’s not, it’s probably a 70-30 two-way street [laughs]. I’ve felt waves of emotion. I think a lot of it is to do with age as well.
Is the album title a nod to Adele’s method of naming albums after her age? I quite like that and I thought it would be quite funny. Truth to be told, I was not expecting [to have] the Number One album in the U.K., so I thought, “It’s not like anyone’s even going to necessarily notice it.” … To me it was also the fact that the year building up to being 50 – I think for men, possibly more than women – is a bit of a thing. It’s like if you’re not a man by then, you get in trouble. It does feel like one chapter starts, one finishes.
You know your time here on earth is likely more than halfway done. Absolutely. Also our daughter’s 24. She might not have kids, but some of my friends are granddads and I’m thinking, “That’s where we’re headed.” My wife and I [have] a fun dream: We want to have a little restaurant in Italy on the beach and I’m going to croon at night and drink really good red wine and she’s going to be the maitre d’. I want to get [my memories] in order now and the only way you get them is by doing them, so that’s kind of what I viewed the record as. It’s sort of a birthday present, but also a milestone.
Rickrolling, the practice of surprising someone with the “Never Gonna Give You Up” video clip, started around 2007. How do you feel about it? I have no problem with it. It’s done me a lot of good, probably. The thing is it’s not personal to me, even though I know it is me and it’s my name in the title of Rickrolling. It’s that video that I’m in, it’s that song that’s mine, but it could have been anybody.
It helped introduce you to a new generation. Totally! And reminded another generation [about me]. So I don’t see it as negative. If someone had messed around with it and cut it all up and made me look stupid – I mean I look pretty stupid anyway in that video – if it was nasty, then I’d be probably a bit pissed off, but it’s not. It’s like, “We’re choosing that video because it’s a full-on Eighties, cheesy video.” There’s no getting away from it now and I’ve got to own it because if I don’t, it’s like being petty.
What do you remember about making the video for “Never Gonna Give You Up?” We made it the week we went to Number One in the U.K. No one sat me down and said, “We’re thinking of you wearing this.” I literally just turned up with my clothes. I hadn’t even made any money. It wasn’t like I was [shopping] in the coolest shops in London. … Me doing whatever I was doing in the “Never Gonna Give You Up” video and “Together Forever” was just pure fear.
Do you still have the long white raincoat from the “Never Gonna Give You Up” video? No. Somebody stole it off me in Northern Ireland. We [played] a radio broadcast outside and it got swamped. There were a couple of policemen, but it all went just a bit mad. Everyone was grabbing hold of me and before I knew it, it just went off of me.
What would the 50-year-old you tell the 21-year-old you? “I’m going to manage you. I’ll look after you.” Not saying I wasn’t looked after well because I really was. I wasn’t ripped off; I did really well financially. … My main thing about looking back [on] that period was it didn’t actually make me happy. I think there was definitely from my childhood a part of me that was [still] unhappy. … I did enjoy myself for a lot of it, but at some point you’re looking in the mirror and going, “Is this it, then?” And I think, clichéd as this sounds, [success is] never going to mend a broken home. You just have to worked that out for yourself. I’m not even saying consciously that I said, “I’ll do music and I’ll get thousands of people telling me how great I am and that will make me feel better.” I just think something was a bit broken in me and I think it is with almost everybody who gets on the stage.
Now you seem so relaxed, happy and confident on stage. You ended the Los Angeles concert singing and drumming on AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” How fun is it for you to confound people’s expectations they may have from 30 years ago? I do like doing that. Age has made me think I have to stop giving a shit what anybody else thinks and do exactly what I want to do, so one day I’m going to do a gig in Manchester where I’m going to sing [all] Smiths songs because I absolutely love the Smiths. I’ll probably get lynched for it, but I just want to do it. Why not?
Dylan’s guitar Hero Michael Bloomfield’s last major public performance almost didn’t happen. According to Ed Ward’s pioneering biography, Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American guitar Hero, the Chicago-born blues guitarist was a decade past his late-Sixties fame, living in a drug-and-TV haze outside San Francisco, when his former employer Bob Dylan turned up at his home in November 1980. Dylan wanted Bloomfield to sit in during the singer’s local shows that month. Bloomfield’s response: “Oh, I don’t know. I’m not playing much these days.” But Bloomfield showed up one night, in a leather jacket and slippers, and unleashed the same searing-treble guitar he contributed to Dylan’s 1965 single “Like a Rolling Stone.” Three months later, he died of an overdose. He was 37.
Bloomfield was rock’s first modern guitar hero, a ferociously gifted improviser whose incandescent playing in the mid-Sixties with Dylan and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band transformed the future of the blues he loved, paving the way forward for peers and fans such as Eric Clapton. But Bloomfield repeatedly turned away from that renown and the commercial rewards that came with it. After a five-year run of masterful recordings, including Super Session, the 1968 jamming classic on which he was joined by Al Kooper and Stephen Stills, among others, Bloomfield spent the Seventies veering between halfhearted comebacks and career-suicide seclusion, battling chronic insomnia with drug use and playing most of his gigs far from the limelight.
Propelled by eyewitness testimony from those closest to Bloomfield and his music, Ward’s account, first published in 1983 and now revised and expanded, is a riveting tale of a restless spirit – born to privilege, in the Jewish faith – who reinvented himself through the blues’ fire and poetry, but then struggled to reconcile his purist devotion with a success that his idols never enjoyed.
The book also doubles as a locomotive primer through the scenes and adventures that formed Bloomfield as an artist and legend: Chicago’s South Side in the Fifties and Sixties; Dylan’s landmark 1965 set at the Newport Folk Festival; psychedelic San Francisco. A key addition to this edition is the full text of Bloomfield’s exuberant, opinionated 1968 interview with Rolling Stone founder-editor Jann S. Wenner. There is also a thorough discography – the real canon of reasons why Bloomfield remains an American hero.
The Lawyer Who Kept John and Yoko in America In early 1972, a 39-year-old attorney named Leon Wildes told his wife about two high-profile clients he’d just met who were facing deportation. “Let’s see,” he said when asked for their names. “I think it was Jack Lemmon and Yoko Moto.” His wife stared incredulously: “Do you mean John Lennon and Yoko Ono?” Wildes may have known nothing about pop music, but he was an expert on immigration cases, and he’d just stumbled into one of the biggest ever. President Nixon was looking for an excuse to kick the most famous war protester out of the U.S., and Lennon’s previous drug arrest made that easier. In his new book, John Lennon vs. the USA, Wildes tells the story of the four-year battle to secure permanent residence for Lennon. He fills the gaps left by Lennon biographers, like the parade of witnesses at the deportation trial that included Geraldo Rivera and silent-film actress Gloria Swanson. Ultimately, Wildes was so successful that he set new legal precedent. “Thanks to [Lennon's] willingness to fight…” he writes, “we managed to discover and helped create a remedy for impossible cases.”
Inside the Darkest Days of a Pioneering Rapper By 2003, two decades after he changed hip-hop forever with Run-DMC, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels was desperate. He was battling alcoholism, near-crippling depression (fueled in part by learning, at 36, that he was adopted) and a vocal-cord disorder. Worst of all, bandmate Jam Master Jay had just been murdered. “I contemplated killing myself almost daily,” McDaniels writes in his candid new memoir, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide. Thankfully, McDaniels recovered after a successful stint in rehab. But just as gripping as his struggle is the story of the internal politics of Run-DMC. According to McDaniels, Joseph “Run” Simmons (whose brother Russell managed the group) treated DMC like an employee. “I felt like I was isolated in an artistic jail,” McDaniels writes. It’s a rare peek behind the curtain at a group that made an indelible mark, then faded away.
Stranger Things composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein will embark on a fall U.S. tour with their Austin synth outfit, Survive, who have also released a pulsating new track, “Wardenclyffe.”
The instrumental song is rife with the same eerie, spacey vibes that made Dixon and Stein’s Stranger Things soundtrack a smash, but as an album cut, “Wardenclyffe” moves and mutates in ways mood-setting scores often can’t. Survive anchor “Wardenclyffe” with grungy, thudding percussion and unleash a dynamic array of synths that play off each other while building to a head-spinning apex.
“Wardenclyffe” marks the second single from Survive’s upcoming album, RR7349, out September 30th via new label Relapse. The previously released, “A.H.B.” can be heard on the group’s Bandcamp, where the LP is also available to pre-order.
Survive will also kick off their North American tour September 30th with a hometown show at the Barracuda in Austin. The trek ends in early November, though the group is scheduled to play a New Year’s Eve gig at It’ll Do in Dallas. A complete list of dates is below.
September 30 — Austin, TX @ Barracuda October 4 — Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress October 5 — San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar October 6 — Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex October 7 — San Francisco, CA @ Elbo Room October 8 — Sacramento, CA @ Harlow’s October 11 — Portland, OR @ Holoscene October 12 — Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile October 14 — Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst Atrium October 16 — Joshua Tree, CA @ Desert Daze Festival October 26 — Atlanta, GA @ The Earl October 27 — Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle October 28 — Washington D.C. @ U Street Music Hall October 29 — Philadelphia, PA @ 714 (Making Time) October 31 — Brooklyn, NY @ Good Room November 1 — Jersey City, NJ @ Monty Hall November 2 — Allston, MA @ Great Scott November 3 — Buffalo, NY @ Studio at Waiting Room November 4 — Pittsburgh, PA @ Spirit Lodge November 5 — Detroit, MI @ El Club November 6 — Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle December 31 — Dallas, TX @ It’ll Do
Thundercat has released a clever new song “Bus in These Streets,” in which the bassist portrays the blandness of the tech-consumed existence with a cheerful melody.
The track finds Thundercat putting a peppy spin on his dusty, funked-out tunes. He juxtaposes playful chimes and vocal harmonies reminiscent of children’s music with his signature dug-from-the-crates strangeness. Thundercat’s soothing falsetto is the song’s fitting capstone, especially when he puts a jovial bent on lines like: “Thank God for technology cause where would we be if we couldn’t tweet our thoughts?”
Thundercat has a handful of upcoming live dates, including a set at the Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn August 27th, and three concerts in California hosted by Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. The gigs will feature both Thundercat and FlyLo, as well as George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Shabazz Palaces and the Gaslamp Killer. The first two gigs will take place at the Fox Theatre in Oakland September 15th and 16th (the latter is sold out), followed by a show at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on the 17th.
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