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THE STAR IS BORN SONGS: WHO WROTE WHAT
It takes a village. (10/17a)
T.J. MARTELL HONORS UMG'S HARLESTON
Industry bigwigs gather for a cause and hope not to see their pics on our site. (10/17a)
IMPALA CHARTS A SONY-EMI PROTEST
Oh, it's ON. (10/17a)
T.J. MARTELL HONORS UMG'S HARLESTON
Mary J. sings. (10/17a)
"GIRLS" POWER
Maroon 5's sequel. (10/16a)
RAINMAKERS
The ones making history now.
WHO'S NEXT?
Who will be the next big pub and label players?
THOUGHTS ON LUNCH?
Like, will it ever get here?
THE KIDS
They're leaning on the button.
Critics' Choice
VU'S HISTORY: PEEL SLOWLY AND SEE
10/11/18

By Phil Gallo

After a night of looking at pictures of Lou Reed, John Cale and their co-horts from the 1960s, one can surmise The Velvet Underground never took a bad picture.

Those black turtlenecks and the slim shades—the epitome of mid-60s lower Manhattan cool—was their uniform of choice, obviously, and with Andy Warhol as a guide, they tuned into the power of image as readily as the power of the drone.

Perhaps you already had the VU at the top of your list of cool, but a new multi-media art and music exhibition in New York drives home the central role of photographic iconography that defined the act as much as its experimental twist on rock & roll. Short on memorabilia, artifacts and rare recordings, The Velvet Underground Experience is a banquet of photos that starts with each member’s childhood and moves through the band’s eventual breakup in 1970. Visited during the opening night party, with “I’m Waiting for the Man” seemingly on an endless loop, the exhibit is rich in detailed information; a second visit is needed to fully take in the voluminous amount of material.

It’s very much the Lou and John show, and A film on the lives of Reed and Cale prior to their forming the VU is one of the exhibit’s must see stations. Still, ample space is allotted to Maureen Tucker, Sterling Morrison, Nico and Doug Yule along with the visual artists associated with the VU.

The exhibit, set up at 718 Broadway through 12/30, starts with historic photos of Greenwich Village, Allen Ginsberg, folk musicians and protests, suggesting that these events and individuals were key to the VU’s origins. What we don’t see is much of are the places where the band made its name, chiefly Warhol’s Factory, the Chelsea neighborhood and the Lower East Side where Cale worked with La Monte Young and others in the modern classical world.

Opening week events include a Q&A with Cale tonight in the new Bandsintown Studio in the building, and a concert by The Feelies on Saturday at White Eagle Hall in Newark, N.J.  

PETTY TREASURE TROVE OPENED UP
10/2/18

By Bud Scoppa

I had the honor of writing the track-by-track notes for the box set Tom Petty: An American Treasure (Reprise, 9/28), a collection of previously unreleased songs, alternate takes, deep cuts and live performances that cements the beloved artist’s range and brilliance as a songwriter. The first excerpt from the notes is the entry for “Here Comes My Girl” from the Heartbreakers’ 1979 breakthrough, Damn the Torpedoes extended by box set producer/engineer Ryan Ulyate so that we’re now able to hear what happened after the fadeout. The second is “Gainesville,” recorded in 1998 during the sessions for Echo but unheard until now.

Here Comes My Girl,” extended version of the track from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979

“That album was a whole rediscovery of the studio for me,” Petty said of the artistic and commercial landmark Damn the Torpedoes, “because we’d had our own way of doing it, which was pretty amateur. Then [engineer] Shelley Yakus came in from New York, and these guys were really serious about this stuff. They’d be getting a drum sound for a week. And I’d be pullin’ my hair out, going, ‘What is going on? We’ve never spent more than an hour with the drums, I don’t understand.’ So it was a real educational experience, and probably one of our better albums.”

The music for “Here Comes My Girl” was written by Mike Campbell, who gave it to Petty on the same cassette that contained the demo for “Refugee.” Petty played both for Jimmy Iovine during their first meeting, and that was all the producer needed to hear. “I always wait for someone to come into my office and play me songs as good as those,” Iovine marveled in Rolling Stone. “Damn the Torpedoes is the best album I ever made, sonically. I’d say, ‘Tom, this record should feel like [John Lennon’s] Walls and Bridges, but with that punk thing you have.’ His albums before had great songs. This was a tour de force.”

Here again, this extended full-performance mix reveals what happened in the studio after the fade, as Benmont Tench and Campbell started playing off each other in a heady, spirited musical conversation. “There’s a thing that happens in your mind when you’re playing a track and you get to the ending,” Campbell explains. “You know it will be faded out before it gets to this part, so you just start to jam. On this one, me and Ben figured, ‘Okay, we’re in the free zone now; we can just play whatever we want.’ So we started just noodling together, and that’s what you’re hearing.”

“Gainesville,” outtake from Echo, 1998

Campbell had completely forgotten about the autobiographical “Gainesville” until Ulyate pulled it out of the vault. “That was a dark period for us in a lot of ways, so that song just slipped under the carpet somehow, but I think it’s valid,” he says.

“That line about Sandy loading up the van—Sandy was my friend from junior high school who helped them carry gear around,” Tench adds. “He said, ‘You’ve got to hear this band Mudcrutch,’ and took me to see them for the first time.”

Petty portrait by Mark Seliger

GILES MARTIN ON REMIXING THE WHITE ALBUM: “IT’S ABOUT THE FEEL”
9/28/18

By Phil Gallo

When Giles Martin started to ruminate over the direction of an expanded edition of The Beatles’ “White Album,” he knew he needed a story. The history books have positioned the album as the result of Fab Four fracturing and working as soloists, controlling their destinies by sidestepping the structure and demands of Giles’ father, the producer George Martin, and, at times, suggesting the band’s days were numbered.

To arrive at an answer required tasks such as listening to all 107 takes of “Sexy Sadie,” the band’s earliest demos for the album and countless tapes from the vaults. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Cub Band, the first Beatles album to be remixed and amended with bonus tracks, “had a different motivation,” Gilles says, specifically to bring the stereo version more in line with the Beatles-approved mono mix. “With the ‘White Album,’ it was where do we start?”

The answer, per Giles, hardly a Beatles expert, was initially discovered within demos of 27 songs assembled at George Harrison’s house in Esher, Surrey, in the spring of 1968.

His decision? “Tell the story of how it was made,” Martin said during a listening session at New York’s Power Station studio. “The Esher demos are a record in their own right. To me, it’s Beatles Unplugged.”

And putting aside reports that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were at odds with one another throughout the recording, Martin says the demos and outtakes reveal “the two of them are definitely in cahoots on this album. We looked for the arguments [on the tapes], looked for the stress and there wasn’t any.”

During the listening session, Martin played five tracks from the Esher sessions, five of the newly remixed tracks and five outttakes from the Abbey Road sessions, one of which is an absolutely stunning exercise in harmony on “Good Night.”

The Esher tracks included raw, acoustic guitar versions of “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Sexy Sadie” and “Ob-la-Di, Ob-la-Da,” Harrison’s original take on “Not Guilty” and Lennon’s “Child of Nature,” the melody of which he would use for “Jealous Guy” on his Imagine album.

From the demos, Martin offered a rendition of “Cry Baby Cry” far bluesier than the album version, two different approaches to the acoustic guitar on “Julia,” and a Lennon-less “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Eric Clapton that abruptly ends with Harrison saying “I tried to do a Smokey [Robinson] and I just weren’t Smokey.”

“There’s a trigger point where you say ‘can we make something people want to listen to?’ Even if you haven’t heard The Beatles, it has to be easy to listen to,” Martin said. The goal “was to get as close to what I experienced at Abbey Road” when they first went over the tapes.

The result is a Super Deluxe version of The Beatles—that’s its official title, non-Beatles fans—with the 27 Esher demos, 50 studio outtakes and a Blu-ray that incudes a 5.1 mix. “The best surround sound mix I’ve ever done is ‘Revolution 9’,” Martin avers. “It’s really disturbing, which is how it should be.”

“Paul and Ringo said something separates it [from other albums]. Yes, it’s a band album. There’s a beauty in it and warmth. [Music] had become a young man’s game and dad was wise in getting Chris Thomas involved, saying ‘you take over for awhile.’ And [engineer] Ken Scott was 21.

“They changed their hours in the studio, working later, and discovered tracks in the studio” rather than showing up with all ideas formalized. “[My dad] liked things to be organized and this wasn’t.”

To provide a taste of the new remixes, among Martin’s choices were “Mother Nature’s Son,” which boasts a brighter and more focused brass section, “Long, Long, Long,” with a starker intro, fatter bass and denser middle section, and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” with its fuzz guitar gloriously rendered.

“You work on instinct,” he said, singling out “Dear Prudence,” which seemed to have a broader field than earlier editions. “It’s not about making things sound perfect. It’s about how the songs feel.”