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.

GOOGLE + HANGOUT ON AIR

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

robertrandolph

southsidejohnny

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!!

Albert Maysles: The 50 Licks Interview

maysles

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.

Gimme_Shelter_poster

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.

Eddie Kramer Interview

When it comes to rock and roll engineers, Eddie Kramer is at the top of the mountain. His work is legendary, including sessions with Jimi Hendrix, Traffic, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, on the Woodstock soundtrack, and with many others. Any editor reading this should immediately reach out to him to sign up his memoir (I know a decent, NYT bestselling co-writer who might be interested). Bernie had a chance to talk with him for 50 Licks and as usual he came up with some great stuff.

Photo of Eddie Kramer by H.W. Worthington

Photo of Eddie Kramer by H.W. Worthington

When was the first time you had contact with the Stones?

I’m not sure if my memory serves me correctly, but there were quite a few albums done by the Stones in around ’67. One of them was the Between the Buttons album. The other one was an album called Flowers. The other one was Satanic Majesty’s and the fourth one was Beggar’s Banquet which I started cutting the basic tracks for. I was assistant engineer on all of those.

What’s your assessment of the tracks they put down for Satanic Majesties?

It was done for a reason. The Stones don’t make an album without a reason. It was a response to Sgt.Pepper. It was a response to the busts. An artist is affected by his or her surroundings. If you want to express that angst, you express it through your music and that’s exactly what they did. It was the height of psychodelia; it falls hard on the heels of the Beatles. Sgt. Pepper was a major influence. In some ways people thought it was their answer. I’ve always loved them because they tool a lot of chances. It’s not sophisticated music and they tried to make it sophisticated. I think that’s why a lot of people look on it today as it was the Stones experimenting.

I think they’d had enough at that point — thank God they found Jimmy Miller. Certainly Mick and Keith and the boys had heard what we’d done with Traffic. And it was amazing. When you put Dear Mr. Fantasy up against Satanic Majesties it completely blows that away. So the Stones probably think, “Who is this guy Jimmy Miller?”

You took on a more advanced role with the Stones on Beggar’s working under Jimmy.

Yes, that’s when I became senior engineer. I had big success with Traffic and Jimmy Miller. Jimmy was then asked to produce the Stones, which I think yielded, in my mind, the best albums that the Stones have done. My feeling about it is, had he not done that, I don’t think the Stones would be in the place they are today. Because what he did is that he went to the heart and soul of where they came from. And he was so adept at milking the inner psyche of the band. And he was so clever at production. And he’s the guy I’ve always modeled myself after in terms of how to get a session going. How to make the artists really get excited about what they’re playing. Even to the point where Charlie couldn’t play the drum part the way he was hearing it, he would go and sit on the drums and play the drum part. [ed note: Jimmy Miller plays the drums on You Can’t Always Get What You Want]

In my mind, all the sessions I did with the Stones assisting on Satanic Majesties and the Flowers album and Between the Buttons – I was just an assistant there witnessing all of the crazy stuff that went on. So when it became time for me to step up to the plate and be the senior engineer with Mr. Jimmy Miller, who, in my mind, like I said, he was really so much a member of the band and so well respected with his musical ability. And the other thing that one has to remember is that Jimmy was a funny guy. He would keep the session light in spite all the crazy bullshit that was going on in the Stones life.

Talk a bit more about what Jimmy Miller was like as a musician.

He was so animated and so excited in the studio. He would get the band revved up about their songs and he understood the mechanics of how to make a song really come alive. He knew the inner workings of a song, because he was a musician. He got to the heart of the matter. He just understood the musician’s perspective. Working with the Stones was like herding a bag of cats. He extracted the most intense performances from the Stones and the music that was the closest to their core essence.

You worked on the recording of Jumpin’ Jack Flash. How did you achieve that sound?

The way it was recorded was we used Jimmy Miller’s wollensak -– a cassette machine with a microphone it -– we put it on the floor of the studio and we recorded Keith’s guitar and I believe Charlie was just using a brush or a stick on the snare for the back beat. After we cut the track on the cassette machine, we played it back on a little speaker, then rerecorded that on one track of a fourtrack machine. That was the guide track, then everybody overdubbed to that. When you hear the beginning of the song you can hear the amount of wow – on a cassette machine when you play the straight chord you hear “bo-wow-wow-wow” because the movement of the tape against the pinch wheel was never very steady. It wasn’t a professional machine. You hear the movement of the pitch, which is the reason that it has this funky sound which everyone dug at that time. It was a cool idea. Jimmy said, “Hey let’s just record it on this.” I said fine and I figured out how to get it to play back in a reasonable fashion and put a nice microphone in front of the speaker and that became the basic track.

What was Brian Jones like at that time?

The drug problems only exacerbated the health problems he had. Poor guy. I loved Brian. I thought he was cool. He was nice to me. He adored Jimi. He and Jimi were big buddies. Brian used to come over to Jimi’s sessions. You could hear him on the tape. I have a multi-track of when we’re cutting “All Along the Watchtower”. You can actually hear him as he stumbles into the control room and he stumbles out to the studio. He’s trying to play the piano and Jimi says, “no.no.no.” Jimi would wink at me, “See if you can get him out of here.” Because he was out of his mind…He would come into the control room and collapse in a heap. He had a mischievous side to him-a genius musician. He would try any goddamned instrument you could think of just to get a different sound. I think it was very helpful to the Stones that he added these tone colors that they hadn’t thought of.

How would the Stones have fit in at Woodstock?

I think the Stones would have done enormously well. The competition would have been so fierce. Having Jimi Hendrix, The Who and the Stones. It doesn’t get much better than that. The Stones were an awesome frickin’ band and they still are to this day. Thank God.

You also worked with the Stones on “Love You Live” in Canada. Tell me about that experience working with this big rock band in a small club.

I’m sure Mick and Keith probably figured that this would be a cool thing to do and I loved the concept. I had the 16-track mobile bus there. We rehearsed and it sounded great. That evening it was wow! It was amazing. Keith was a little out of it, but he was still able to play. Then we went into the studio-It was a lot of fun. There was a lot of political bullshit going on-as you can imagine-with Margaret Trudeau and Mick Jagger-whether or not that actually happened I don’t know. Certainly she was there that night. She introduced herself to me in the club. “I’m Margaret Trudeau. Who are you?”

What do you think about the Stones going out on tour to celebrate their 50th anniversary?

The Stones march to their own drummer – and I mean Charlie Watts. Mick and Keith are so diametrically opposed. They are so different in make-up and character which is what I think makes the Stones so great – the fact that these two characters are always at each other…they love each other, but they’re like brothers. They like to scrap. And if you don’t have that tension, you don’t have a great band. I would say that these guys have the music in the blood. Without this, they are not whole. God bless them if they can still do it. Keith is indestructible for crying out loud.