Tribute to John Lennon by Paul McCartney

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. Here’s a video of Paul McCartney offering a tribute to John Lennon.

How Squeeze’s “Play” saved my life

RIYL: Watching people bare their souls for all the world to see, risking abject humiliation in the process

I have not done many interviews in my time as senior editor for Bullz-Eye.com – certainly not in comparison to my good friend and colleague Will Harris, who does roughly six million interviews a year – and yet, there aren’t that many people left that I am dying to talk to. I interviewed boyhood idol John Taylor in 2005 (big story behind that one, which you can find here), and have picked off members of Blur, the Kaiser Chiefs, Hard-Fi and Depeche Mode along the way. The only three big ones left on my list were Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, and Bryan Ferry.

I scratched one of them off the list yesterday. Glenn Tilbrook was doing press to promote Squeeze’s new album Spot the Difference – which the band readily admits was made for licensing purposes so they can rake in a little extra cash from soundtrack supervisors and advertisers – which meant I had the opportunity to tell him something I’ve wanted to tell him for a long time: that Squeeze’s 1991 album Play saved my life.

Here’s the back story: I was involved in a tempestuous relationship with a girl who was under tremendous pressure from her parents to stop seeing me. And, wanting to please her parents and therefore make life easier, she started to listen to them, even after I had moved cross-country to be with her. Finally, I gave up, and made plans to move to Boston with my brother. I was working at a record store before I left, and they had a promo copy of Play. Since the people who frequented the suburban mall that housed the record store had no interest in Squeeze, the manager let me take it home. Home at the time was a flea-infested apartment I shared with some older guy. It was not where the heart is, which is why this album proved to be a massive source of comfort.

There seemed to be a song on the album for each emotion I was feeling at any given moment, with a lyric to match. “Each day’s a hope, each day’s a prayer, that I’ll rebuild and I’ll repair,” from “There Is a Voice,” or the opening lines to “Crying in My Sleep,” which I would sing to myself while busing tables, one of my three jobs after landing in Boston: “Breaking up is breaking my heart and showing me the door / But if I get it open, I’ll discover that there’s much more to life than this.” Even for the songs that weren’t an exact match to my situation, there was a vibe to it that resonated with me. I needed to feel better about myself. Play helped me do that.

Flash-forward 19 years, and I’m having a Skype chat with Tilbrook, who’s vacationing in the south of England after finishing what he calls the best tour of the States he’s ever done. And I lay it all on the line.

BE: On a personal note, you should know that Play basically saved my life.

GT: (Stunned) Wow.

BE: I was going through a hellacious breakup, and that album was extremely comforting to me. I know it didn’t sell a lot of records, but I’m so glad you guys made it.

GT: You know, a man who’s subsequently become my best friend said exactly the same thing to me! He was going through a divorce at that same time, and said, “Play, it just got me through.” Wow, that is really weird. What a weird coincidence. ‘Cause not that many people heard the record anyway, and that’s one of our best records, I think.

Here’s the thing I wanted to mention, but obviously don’t have the data to back up: I find it highly unlikely that Glenn’s friend and I are the only ones who were saved by this album. Is there anyone else out there who found solace, and ultimately rebirth, in these songs? It can’t be only me and this other guy…can it?

Back me up here, people. Does anyone else have the emotional connection to Play that I have? Let’s hear your stories in the comment section.

Lastly, thank you Glenn (and Chris) for writing such moving songs, and for being a great interview. Can’t wait to hear the new material you’re working on. Oh, and as a post-script, I ended up getting back together with the girl in question and dating her for another few years, and in following her to Chicago, I met the woman who would become my wife. It took a little longer than I hoped, but I got that door open after all.

Squeeze MySpace page
Click to buy Play from Amazon
Click to buy Spot the Difference from Amazon

Wolfmother serves up a tasty “Cosmic Egg”

It’s never easy for any artist to take a successful debut and translate that success to a second album, but the road to Wolfmother’s sophomore release was particularly troubled — in fact, vocalist Andrew Stockdale is the only member of the band that managed to survive the journey from 2005′s Wolfmother to the just-released Cosmic Egg.

All that upheaval must have been more than a little traumatic, so it’s hard to blame Stockdale for brushing off questions about it during his Bullz-Eye interview with Jim Washington — in his words, “it’s a bit exhausting to talk about” — and in any event, the band’s heavy sound has survived the transition pretty much intact, so why dwell on the past? Better to just crack open Cosmic Egg and revel in its aural assault, which expands upon the band’s notably Zeppelin and Sabbath-influenced attack. As Stockdale tells Washington, “Certain things inspire you, but then it becomes your own thing. I think the new record is a bit heavier at times and a bit lighter at the same time. There’s a real energy in it, a lot of expression.”

To read the full interview, click on the image above or follow this link!

Marshall Crenshaw talks about Jerry Boys, working for Disney, and his love for the lost art of making records

Talking with Marshall Crenshaw is like being invited to the rock ‘n roll grown-up table. After minding your manners at the kid’s table for years, you finally get the chance to show your elders how much you’ve learned about music…only to realize just how little you know. The man is an encyclopedia of rock, which makes sense when you consider that he played John Lennon on the stage, Buddy Holly in the movies, and wrote the instructions for fictional rocker Dewey Cox on how to walk hard. On the eve of a series of shows on both sides of the pond in support of his new album Jaggedland, Crenshaw spoke with Bullz-Eye about how he never wanted to be an arena guy, and offers his two cents on some of the cover versions of his songs. He also explained why he inadvertently terrified his interviewer at a concert six years ago, but that story is off the record.

BE: I would just like to state that there should be a law that forbids you from taking six years between albums.

MC: I know, it’s funny, isn’t it? But that’s how long it took, I guess. My friend Don Dixon said everybody should do a record every four years, and no sooner than that. I don’t know where he got that from, but I guess that’s just what his body clock tells him. Anyway, yeah, I know, six years is a long time. But it was worth it, you know? It was worth taking the extra time and the extra care, I think.

BE: I read that it was Jerry Boys’ work on the Ry Cooder album that attracted you, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt that he also recorded the Beatles.

MC: You know what? I found that out fast, because I have that book, there is a book called “The Beatles Recording Sessions.” When it came out I just read it and read it and read it, like it was the Bible. So I had seen his name in there but I didn’t make the connection when I bought Mambo Sinuendo, and just proceeded to fall in love with it. Then I went on to his website and I went, “Oh yeah, right.” But that’s only just the beginning of the story with him. I mean, God, you’ve got to really give it up for guys who are…you know, just have that deep of a well of experience and have done that much really high-quality work.

BE: Did you ever have designs of making an Imperial Bedroom-type record with a Geoff Emerick or an Alan Parsons?

MC: No, none of those guys ever crossed my mind. I mean, with all due respect, and so on and so forth. And again, the record that really made me think of Jerry Boys is a record where everybody just sat in the room and played at the same time, you know, Mambo Sinuendo. There are some tracks that are really heavily crafted and edited and stuff like that, but mostly it’s just guys in a room, and the sound of the room. That was what I dug about that record.

BE: Have you ever reached a point where you thought to yourself, “Screw the solo career, I’m going to write songs for Disney artists,” or “I’m going to write songs for up and coming country singers”?

MC: Yeah, I have. Sure, of course. I mean, I have even done the first one. I did a project for Disney Television Animation. I worked on it for about half a year, wrote about a half-dozen songs for an animated sequel to “101 Dalmatians.” It’s been sort of an oddball, patchwork sort of a résumé with me, really. The main thing is my records and my songs, that’s really what it’s about. But I’ve taken lots of side trips. I was in “La Bamba.” One of my songs right now, “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time,” is in a breakfast cereal commercial in Europe.

BE: That makes sense, since it was a big hit for Owen Paul in the UK.

MC: Yeah, you know about that.

BE: Yes. And I just recently heard Bette Midler’s cover of the song, which I can’t say I share the same enthusiasm for.

MC: I was delighted when she recorded it…anyway, what was I saying? Oh, the Nashville thing. Yeah, I had a publisher and a good friend who used to constantly encourage me to go to Nashville. And I did try it, I went there and dabbled in it a little bit, I just could never get that motivated, you know? For better or for worse, the thing I really love is record-making. I just think it’s a great art form. When it comes to the idea of making a record and creating a body of songs for a record, that’s when I really get motivated, you know? But the Nashville thing just sort of never felt like the right direction for me.

To read the rest of Bullz-Eye’s interview with Marshall Crenshaw, click here.

Twenty years later, producer John Leckie looks back on “Stone Roses”

Producer John Leckie may not be a household name, but thanks to his work behind the boards for a long list of diverse, well-respected acts (including Pink Floyd, Radiohead, all four Beatles, and Public Image Limited), his talents are well known to most rock fans — whether or not they’re aware of it. One of his past projects, the Stone Roses’ self-titled debut, celebrates its 20th birthday this year, and thanks to the good people at Sony Legacy, it’s getting scrubbed and primped for a deluxe reissue — one which Leckie is now out making the promotional rounds to support. Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker, an unabashed Stone Roses fan, naturally jumped at the opportunity to interview Mr. Leckie — and the transcript of their chat is now live at Bullz-Eye.

One of the first questions, naturally, is just how far the reissue’s sound has come from the original CD — and Leckie has an interesting response:

We would make the vinyl master that would then be a CD master, and then it would be copied again for overseas. By the time it’s pressed in America or Australia, it’s a copy, of a copy, of a copy, of a copy.

In other words, if you own an original U.S. pressing of Stone Roses, the fidelity is even dodgier than you might have imagined. But is the new CD remaster the be-all, end-all version, or does Leckie recommend trendier audiophile measures, like listening to a new vinyl pressing? Leckie is vinyl-friendly, as you might imagine, but he’s surprisingly pragmatic, as it turns out:

It’s like, well, what are you playing it on? Most people listen to music on iPods or even little speakers on their laptop. Or in the car, with the windows open. Vinyl is an experience. You don’t do anything else. You just sit and listen to it.

To read more of David Medsker’s wide-ranging interview with John Leckie — including his thoughts on the punk bands of the ’70s, some of his favorite lesser-known projects, and his 20-years-removed perspective on Stone Roses, click on the above image or follow this link!

Colin Hay basks in the “American Sunshine”

If you remember Colin Hay, it’s probably for one of two things: his days as frontman for ’80s superstars Men At Work, or his multiple appearances on the soundtracks of Zach Braff’s “Garden State” and “Scrubs.” The reality, of course, is that Hay’s career is deeper than either of those things might suggest; since rising from the ashes of Men At Work in the ’80s, he’s released a series of solo recordings that, while not as commercially successful as he might have hoped, have earned him consistently solid reviews — and the ongoing devotion of a small but dependable following. Hay’s latest album, American Sunshine, is out this week — and Bullz-Eye’s Mike Farley (who also reviewed the album) sat down for a chat to discuss Hay’s outlook on the new material, his years as a solo artist, and the prospects for a Men At Work reunion.

You’ll notice Mr. Hay is smiling in the above photo, and for good reason — not only did Braff’s fanhood expose him to a new (and presumably rather lucrative) avenue of exposure for his music, it helped keep the audiences at his gigs from turning into the depressing “give us the hits” crowds many “heritage” artists have to deal with. As he tells it:

Maybe there are some people that want to hear Men at Work songs, and that’s cool. There’s nothing wrong with that. But for the last decade or so, the people that come to see me tend to not mind the Men at Work songs, but they tend to want to hear new things.

Also undoubtedly helping Hay’s mood — and inspiring the title of his latest album — is his longtime residency in southern California, which he recounts in the interview:

I came here (Los Angeles) in 1988, because they suggested that I meet the record company and say hello and hang out and stuff like that. So I came over here, and I ended up making the record here. And then things were pointing away from Australia at that particular time, so I just stayed. And I’m still here, really. I like it. I like Los Angeles.

To read the rest of Mike Farley’s interview with Colin Hay, click on the image above, or just follow this link!

The Trashcan Sinatras’ Paul Livingston gets “Into the Music”

Most other bands would long have since wilted in the face of the many different types of adversity faced by the Trashcan Sinatras, but — much to the joy of discerning pop fans all over the world — they’re still kicking. In fact, they’ve completed a new album, the soon-to-be-released In the Music, and are embarking on their first American tour in five years. To celebrate the occasion, guitarist Paul Livingston sat down for a chat with Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker, who just so happens to be a fan from way back. As you can imagine, the interview was a rather informal affair, touching on everything from the heartbreak of dealing with labels going out of business to tour preparations to what it was like to have Carly Simon appear on the new album. Sadly, it turns out the meeting wasn’t, well, a meeting at all:

After we recorded the backing tracks in New York, the producer, Andy Chase, was going to set up a studio at his house in Martha’s Vineyard. And he said, “Come on, Carly Simon lives here.” And we were floored, and thought, “That would be great if we could meet her.” And so he asked her to sing on a song, and we got her a lot of the songs we were working on. But the disappointing thing was, when we were in Martha’s Vineyard, she was in New York. So we didn’t meet her, which is kind of a bummer.

Also kind of a bummer? The label behind the Sinatras’ last album, Weightlifting, imploding before it had a chance to make the band any money. Mr. Livingston is pretty genteel about the whole affair, however, saying:

It was a kick in the teeth, but at that point, we didn’t get down about it. We just smiled and moved on. That sort of shit happens all the time. And it’s nothing personal, you know? You just gotta laugh and shake your head.

For more of the interview — including how the band is adjusting to Livingston’s Southern California move, rumors of their back catalog getting the reissue treatment, and who will buy whom a drink when Livingston and Medsker meet up in Chicago — follow this link!

Pete Yorn talks “Back & Fourth,” singing with Scarlett

The hype surrounding his music has died down considerably since he made his Sony debut in 2001 with musicforthemorningafter, but even as the choruses of “next big thing” have subsided, Pete Yorn has set about building a career out of one solidly crafted, well-reviewed album after another — and he’s looking to add two more to the catalog this year: the recently released solo set Back & Fourth, and an upcoming duets set with Scarlett Johansson, Break Up. Having just completed a string of dates opening for Coldplay, Yorn is ready to hit the road in support of Fourth, and was nice enough to set aside some time on a day off for a chat with Bullz-Eye’s Neil Carver. Their talk touched on the new albums (of course), his newfound love for New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” what inspired him to work with Scarlett, and how his songwriting process has changed over the years:

“In the old days, I wouldn’t really write much on tour. I’d come home and everything would come to a grinding halt, and then I would start to get really restless and freaked out. That’s when I’d start writing the songs.”

To read more of what Pete Yorn had to say in his Bullz-Eye interview, follow this link!

A Chat with John Oates

It’s more than a little unfair that John Oates has spent so many years serving as the butt of jokes, but, c’mon, you know you chuckled at least a little when “The Simpsons” offered a scene where Lisa, feeling low after not making first chair in the school band, imagined herself as a member of Garfunkel, Messina, Oates, and Lisa. Fortunately, Mr. Oates has a sense of humor, one which he’s getting to show off in the new animated web series, “J Stache,” which reunites him with his long-lost mustache to fight the forces of evil. Yes, seriously. Bullz-Eye talked to Oates about his new online endeavor, his work with Daryl Hall, some of his other musical appearances (he co-wrote Icehouse’s “Electric Blue,” you know), and how bizarre it is to be talking about a bit of facial hair that he hasn’t sported in almost two decades.

* On “J Stache”: “I haven’t had a mustache for 20 years and people actually still talk about it! But I kind of understand it on the level that the mustache is back in vogue, you know. It’s back in style, and there is a lot of talk about it. My mustache took on this iconic kind of symbol of the era, of those decades in a way. Of course, I didn’t carry the ‘stache torch singlehandedly…”

* “Even though Daryl is outstanding as a singer, his trademark personality and his trademark voice have become the stamp of Hall & Oates, and I don’t think people recognize the contribution I made on the writing side, with the amount of songs I have written and contributed to.”

* On going indie: “We realized that we knew how to make records. We knew pretty much everything we needed to know, and we had everything in place. We had a vision that the future of the music business was changing, and that in order for us to continue to be creatively happy and do what we wanted to do, we really couldn’t just listen to the dictates of some businessman in an office in a traditional record company. It just wasn’t working.”

Is your interest piqued? If so, click right here or on the big ol’ graphic below:

Are you there, America? It’s me, Moby

Moby, you can get stomped by Obie — you 36-year-old bald-headed fag, blow me
You don’t know me, you’re too old
Let go, it’s over, nobody listens to techno
–Eminem, “Without Me”

Those words may have seemed somewhat clever in 2002, but seven years later, Moby’s still here, and arguably as relevant as ever. Matter of fact, he’s just about to release his ninth album, titled Wait for Me, and to celebrate, he sat down for a chat with Bullz-Eye’s James B. Eldred in which he discussed the recording and creative process, his waning popularity in America, and what he thinks the future of the record industry holds.

“As sad as this might sound, I sell more records in Belgium than I do in America. Even though I was born in the United States and I live in the United States, in terms of status or in terms of my record sales, it’s quite a small country.”

Remarkably candid about everything from his creative process to his cost of living, Moby comes across as thoughtful and contemplative — just like Wait for Me, which is being described as a somber and meditative departure from his last album, the more upbeat Last Night. And, much as you might expect for an artist who runs a site full of free tracks from his vaults, he’s pretty pragmatic about this whole Internet filesharing thing:

“Honestly, I’m flattered if anyone makes an effort to listen to my music. If they want to pay for it, that’s great, but I’d certainly rather someone steal my music than not listen to it.”

To read more of Moby’s Bullz-Eye interview — and learn about his gear setup, what went into the making of Wait for Me, and what he’d do if given the chance to produce a Britney Spears record, click here!

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