Upcoming Google + Hangout On Air and other publicity stuff

Things on the book publicity front have really heated up. The main purpose of this post is to show you what’s been going on.


One thing I’m really excited about is this upcoming Google + Hangout on Air we’re doing on Wednesday night at 7:30pm eastern time. The great Ken Dashow will be moderating a panel that includes me, Bernie and noted Stones historian (and author) Bill German. And if you miss it live, it will be archived on my blog as well.

For more information — and to sign up to join us — you can click here.

What else have we been up to?

We have done some thoughtful interviews with cool folks in the music blogosphere:

Check us out on the LA Music Blog

And on the Radio BDC blog

And over on Speak Into My Good Eye

We have received some cool Facebook love from a couple of music legends Robert Randolph and Southside Johnny



And you can check out this radio appearance on Tom Cunningham’s BRUCE BRUNCH radio show on 105.7 THE HAWK.

More links to come!!

Muddy Waters, The Painter

muddywaterspaintingWelcome to the blog for my book 50 Licks: Myths and Stories From Half A Century of The Rolling Stones. A couple of weeks ago on here, we talked about rock and roll urban legends. Last week we talked about Muddy Waters. Today we merge the two topics. Because, of course, there is a Rolling Stones rock and roll urban legend about none other than Muddy Waters.

On their first tour of America, the Stones got their chance to visit Chess Studios. They were in need of a boost. Their tour wasn’t going exceptionally well (the whole story is in the book on page 28). They recorded fourteen tracks in two days, including “It’s All Over Now.” Famously, Keith Richards insists he saw none other than Muddy Waters himself up on a ladder painting the ceiling! The implication being that the Chess brothers were such cheapskates that they put the talent to work in other ways as well.

Marshall Chess: I’ve laughed in his face many times as he’s insisted he saw Muddy up a ladder with a paint brush in hand. I guess people want to believe that it’s true.

Keith Richards: Marshall was a boy then; he was working in the basement. And also Bill Wyman told me he actually remembers Muddy Waters taking our amplifiers from the car into the studio. . .I know what the Chess brothers were bloody well like – if you want to stay on the payroll, get to work.

[Chess Producer] Norman Dayron: Marshall is right, Keith is wrong. And if Muddy Waters was helping carry anybody’s amplifiers – which isn’t likely – he was doing it out of courtesy.

Buddy Guy: I was the new guy. If anybody would have been painting the ceiling, it would have been me.

OK, so that’s Keith on one side, Marshall, Norman and Buddy on the other. Sorry, Keith, you lose. We’re going to put this one in the MYTH column. But there’s no doubt it’s a funny story/image and there’s a reason it’s persisted, even if mostly in Keith’s imagination

Marshall Chess: It says something about how unfashionable the blues had become at that time. By ’64 nobody really wanted to know. White people had never bought blues records. The audience had always been black. A new generation of black people looked down on the blues. They saw it as slavery music. Instead they were listening to Motown and Stax. It was bands like The Stones and The Yardbirds who introduced the blues to a white market.

Keith Richards: The most bizarre part of the whole story is we turned American people back on to their own music. And that’s probably our greatest contribution.


Albert Maysles: The 50 Licks Interview


For today’s blog I’m going to run an excerpt of Bernie Corbett’s interview with Albert Maysles who directed the legendary Stones documentary Gimme Shelter. Naturally, we used snippets of this interview throughout 50 Licks, which you can buy by clicking here.


Tell me the story of how Gimme Shelter came about?
I got a call from Haskell [Wexler] one day, who was an old friend of ours, and he said he’d just been talking with the Stones and they were about to begin their tour and they were going to be at the Plaza hotel the next day and we might want to look them up. So we went to the Plaza, knocked on their door. We didn’t really know their music but we went to their concert the next day, which was in Baltimore and we said, “These guys are good.” We wanted to make something that was not just a concert film. We spent a lot of the next two years filming them and ended up making two movies, Gimme Shelter and Get Yer Ya Ya’s out, though that was more of the Madison Square Garden concert.

So you weren’t a fan beforehand?

My brother was into all that kind of music.

Did you know what kind of movie you wanted to make? Anything you were patterning yourself after?

We didn’t establish any ground rules, it was just, “We’ll tag along.” We didn’t draw upon any of the rock n roll movies that had come before, we were just focused on what was happening in those moments. We had developed a film making philosophy which was totally observational. We never asked questions, no interviews, no host, just what’s happening.

What was your impression of Mick and Keith?

I didn’t get to know Mick much as he was very quiet. Not so with Keith, He was much more conversational. When I was filming Keith in ‘69, I don’t know whether it was drugs or what, but his face looked so ragged, lined, and he looked so much older. He looks much younger now than he did then. I’ve seen Keith and Mick over the years. When Martin Scorsese did Shine A Light I got a call from Martin the day before and he said “I’ve got 18 35 millimeter cameras and I’d love to have you come with your video camera. Besides, both Mick and Keith have asked you to come.”

Of course I have to ask you about what happened at Altamont.

The events at Altamont really turned out to be a characterization of that era. It’s interesting to speculate what would have happened if drugs had been legalized, as they should have been, then and now. I think there would have been a proper security force and none of that ruckus from the Hell’s Angels.

I got to understand the problem was that the guy who would normally be in control of the Hell’s Angels somehow or other he wasn’t there. And instead they got this younger guy who was totally inexperienced and things fell apart

What did you think of the way Altamont was covered in the mainstream press?

The press got it wrong when they called it a murder. To this day, we don’t know what the motive may have been. It really should be called a killing. The New York Times piece by Vincent Canby was titled “Making Murder Pay.” [obviously offfended]. Did you read Pauline Kael’s review of Gimme Shelter? It was totally, totally wrong. The basic premise of her article was that we staged everything. We didn’t stage anything. I still get so angry when I see the journalists from that time who accused the Stones of being responsible for the tragedy because of the titles of the songs and so forth. It’s terrible. It’s unfortunate and unfair.

In many cases, they didn’t even get the basic facts straight.

So many newspapers had Sympathy for the Devil as the song listed that they were playing during the killing but really it was Under My Thumb.

Do you think of Gimme Shelter as a film about the end of the 60s?

People have described Gimme Shelter as portending the demise of the 60s. When you look at it, and you know how things turned out even worse in the next two years, you look at it like a prediction of the future. And people have said that when we filmed the Beatles in 64 and then the Stones in 69, that the films are sort of like the bookends of the 60s.

I had read somewhere that Mick told you he didn’t want to do any acting. Is that right?

He didn’t know that that’s never a requirement of ours. It might seem that we were staging things by having Mick take a look at the killing on the moviola, but what happened was during the filming, Mick had said, “Once you start filming, I want to take a look.” So he’s the one who asked for it.

Where does Gimme Shelter rate in your body of work as a filmmaker?
I’ve made at least 30 films and it usually comes down to three that are especially great, Gimme Shelter, Salesman, and Gray Gardens.

Thinking back on it, what do you remember most about making Gimme Shelter?

We were lucky in so many ways. Pennebaker’s film on Dylan is a very good film but I think he was unlucky in that, due to no fault of Pennebaker’s, Dylan is not that easy to film, very distant. Not so with the Stones, we were right in close with them all the time.

And the winner is. . . PLUS: Another Book Contest

Mick and Brian in Manchester, 1965, photo by Leslie Woodhead

Mick and Brian in Manchester, 1965, photo by Leslie Woodhead

I know I said I was going to announce a winner Friday for the FREE BOOK contest, but I got an idea for a new blog feature that HAS to debut on Friday (you’ll see why in time, dear readers). I received six correct responses, but I know three of the contestants personally so I’m booting them out (Hey, if you can’t bug your friends to actually buy the books you write, who can you bug?). And then there were three.

So without further ado, I’m going to have Perrin pick a winner here out of a pint glass. . .


AND THE WINNER IS. . .John Hendrickson.

He correctly identified that. . .wait, I’ll let him tell it:

JOHN HENDRICKSON: The steps of the Physical Graffiti building on St. Mark’s Place where Mick & his band of merry rastas met up with Keith in the “Waiting On A Friend” video.

BINGO! The actual address is 96-98 St. Mark’s Place. And in the book’s acknowledgments I should have said a nice thank you to the folks who live there whose door we darkened on the day of the photo shoot last June. It was about a million degrees and John Ferguson (our photog) took hundreds of shots looking for one where all of our eyes were open and neither of us was sweating like Nixon in the first debate.

As for this week’s contest. . .there were two main pseudonyms associated with the Rolling Stones, one as writers, one as producers. This week’s book goes to the person who can tell me what they were. Once again, I’ll do a drawing with all the correct responses at some unspecified time next week. Check back for updates. Responses should be emailed to 50lickscontest[at]gmail[dot]com