Oh boy! My favorite holiday is just around the cobwebbed corner!
Love Classic Rock? Got a few minutes?
I think you’ll be amused by this conversation I have with the great Eric Boardman. Two geezers talkin’ about old rock concerts we were at, plus a few album cover and bootleg memories. The conversation takes place in my Monrovia studio. Vocal intro by the legendary Gary Owens. It’s fun — you’ll love it!
Here’s the link:
Official Legacy Recordings Press Release:
On Monday, November 24, Legacy Recordings will release a special vinyl LP version of Tell ‘Em I’m Gone, the highly anticipated new album from iconic singer-songwriter and 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Yusuf / Cat Stevens. The 180-gram LP will be packaged in a beautiful, gatefold jacket and will include an MP3 download card of the full album. Additionally, the first pressings of the LP will include unique, hand-drawn artwork from renowned illustrator, William Stout.
Tell ‘Em I’m Gone, Yusuf’s first new studio album in five years, will be released on October 27. Recorded across the globe, including Los Angeles, Dubai, Brussels, and London, the album features 10 brand-new studio recordings, including five original tracks and five carefully-chosen cover songs. Tell ‘Em I’m Gone features musical contributions from Richard Thompson, blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite, singer-songwriter Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Tuareg group Tinariwen, and guitarist Matt Sweeney. The album was produced by Yusuf and Rick Rubin and was mixed by Yusuf and Paul Samwell-Smith.
The full album stream of Tell ‘Em I’m Gone is available now through October 26 at NPR.org: http://smarturl.it/yusuf_npr and Amazon.com: http://smarturl.it/yusuf_stream
“The album harks back to the great days of R&B and black wax records,” says Yusuf. “The message continues to be relevant in as much as it is a call for Freedom from the bondage we all tend to get caught up in.”
Yusuf/ Cat Stevens also announced that he will embark on his first North American tour in over 35 years, giving fans in select cities the opportunity to hear his beloved classics and superb new songs live, many for the first time. The Peace Train…Late Again tour will kick off December 1 at Massey Hall in Toronto and conclude on December 14 at Nokia Theatre LA LIVE in Los Angeles, CA. For complete ticket on sale information visit www.YusufCatStevens.com.
The Tell ‘Em I’m Gone vinyl LP may be pre-ordered now at Amazon: http://smarturl.it/YCS_TEIG_amznLP
(End of Press Release)
(Bill speaking): I am very excited about this release. It is a terrific LP that captures Cat/Yusuf in his prime. His voice is still fantastic. The music is like classic Cat Stevens — but with bluesy overtones. Much to Yusuf’s (and my) disappointment, however, Sony decided not to use my cover for the standard CD release. I can’t fault their logic: Yusuf had just been very publicly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (watch the incredible videos on youtube!), so the world became aware of Yusuf’s current look and image. Why not, then, use a photo of Yusuf to exploit that? Yusuf told me he’d try to get Sony to use my cover (“our” cover, actually; it was truly a collaborative effort on our part) on either the 12″ release or as part of the CD booklet. I did not have high hopes but it appears he was successful in convincing the Sony Powers-That-Be to use it on the 12″ version. Yay!
One of the first shows I sought out on the October Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise was Taj Mahal. Well, Taj brought an entire revue with him.
Their show began with a set by Taj’s daughter’s (Deva Fredericks) group, Fredericks Brown. Soaring, soulful vocals filled the theater.
Following Fredericks Brown was the talented ngoni playing musician from Mali, Africa, Bassekou Kouyaté. His first set, honestly, did nothing for me. It seemed like endless noodling. I give every musician a second chance, however. I’m glad I did with Bassekou Kouyaté, because days later he delivered a blistering set that was a wonder to behold.
The venerable Taj Mahal headlined this revue’s set. I first bumped into Taj (literally) on the dance floor of Hollywood’s Whisky A-Go-Go back in 1967. I kept dancing without apology until a very cute blonde hippy chick said, “Don’t you know who this is? It’s Taj Mahal!”
I saw Taj in concert several times after that. Once he opened for Spirit right after returning from Africa. Taj was embracing what is now called World Music long before most of us. He delighted in bringing back to his audiences what he had learned on his musical and physical journeys.
My other Taj connection is my pal, paleontologist (and senior vice president and provost of science at the American Museum of Natural History) Michael Novacek. I met Mike on my first trip to Patagonia and Antarctica. He was one of the lecture scientists on board our AMNH trip. Little known fact: prior to Mike’s paleontological career, he was Taj’s lead guitarist!
I love musical discoveries and surprises. One of the biggest on our cruise was the amazing Carolyn Wonderland.
I had heard a good buzz about her on the ship, so I caught a set of hers on the Observation Deck stage, one of the smaller stages on the ship. The room was jam-packed. All I could see of Carolyn was the top of her head. She played the entire set looking down at the floor. I figured that she felt her incredible vocals and terrific guitar work were enough — that she didn’t fill compelled to deliver a personal or visual show.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Carolyn was deathly seasick. She’d play a siong, then vomit in the bucket at her feet, Play, vomit; play, vomit. I don’t know how she did it.
I decided to see Carolyn Wonderland again when she played the Stardust Lounge, the largest theater venue on board ship.
What a difference!
No longer seasick, Carolyn put on an amazing show. I think she won the hearts of each and every member of the audience. She was warm, she was funny — she was completely charming. And that voice and guitar! WOW! This Houston/Austin native really delivered on all fronts. And, on top of that, she reached down and then played a searing trumpet solo in the middle of one of her songs!
Catch Carolyn Wonderland if you can — you won’t be disappointed.
Not much time right now; I’ve been engulfed by some huge projects along with the fun of battling movie studio attorneys.
Nevertheless, I would be remiss if I didn’t relate the abundant pleasures of my recent Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. So much happened and there was so much great music, this will have to come to you in pieces.
Along with seeing some of my favorite musicians (Taj Mahal, Eric Burdon, Los Lobos, Elvin Bishop, etc.), I always look forward to being turned on to talents of whom I had not previously been aware.
One of these was grandmaster blues singer-songwriter Doug MacCleod (pronounced “Mak-CLOUD”). I don’t know how I’ve missed this guy. Doug primarily performs with an acoustic National Steel guitar. He is a superb songwriter; there is depth in each subject that he chooses to sing about. His song introductions are as enjoyable as the songs themselves. His sets are loaded with humor and pathos, laughter and tears.
I met Doug when we were both assigned to work the ship’s CD shop (where my book Legends of the Blues was being sold). Part of the deal was that if we worked two 2-hour shifts in the shop, we got a higher percentage of the sales monies.
Doug, his beautifully elegant and kind wife Patti and I hit it off pretty quickly. I promised to catch his act.
Boy, am I glad I did. My wife said it was the highlight of the cruise for her. Here’s a little sample of Doug introducing and performing my favorite song of his:
“The Entitled Few” comes from the above CD. The whole CD is well worth picking up, especially if you could use a little extra laughter and wisdom in your life. If you ever get a chance to see Doug live, don’t miss it!
Here’s his official website (which has Appearances listings):
For all of you who contributed to Kid Ramos‘ health & medical fund when I made a plea on this site to help out Kid — Thank you! I’m happy to report that his cancer is in remission. How do I know? He was on board ship, playing his blistering lead guitar with The 44s, Los Lobos and The Mannish Boys. I finally got to personally meet Kid and gave him a well-deserved copy of Legends of The Blues. He was extremely grateful. We briefly swapped cancer stories and I finally got to tell him face-to-face how much his music means to me.
I had met Elvin Bishop at my first Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Music Festival. He’s a very funny guy, both on stage and off. When I had him sign a CD of his I mentioned that I saw him open for Led Zeppelin.
“A guy’s gotta make a living,” was his response.
Here’s one of the photos I shot at that event:
…and one from the following year:
On the Blues Cruise I finally had a chance to talk privately with Elvin. I gave him a copy of Legends of the Blues (he’ll be in Volume Three: Modern Legends of the Blues). He loved it and told me he began reading the bios of all the musicians he personally knew.
“You found out stuff about them I didn’t even know!”
Elvin has a new CD out with some great new songs:
I highly recommend the title track, plus “Old School” and “Everybody’s in the Same Boat”.
Elvin and Mike Bloomfield were the original lead guitarists for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Elvin was on their first four LPs. He went solo after that and scored a gigantic hit with “Fooled Around and Fell in Love”, sung by Mickey Thomas.
In addition to being a legendary blues guitarist, Elvin famously grows his own vegetables in northern California. And he likes fishin’.
I never saw Elvin jam more than on this trip. He played with nearly EVERYbody! What a kind, generous, sweet and funny guy.
I’m back from my latest Legendary Blues Cruise. It was phenomenal (as usual)! I’ll tell you about it in the upcoming posts.
Meanwhile, I wanted to alert you music fans to a pretty spectacular star-studded BBC music video for “God Only Knows”. You can find it at:
In the past year or two I’ve become friends with one of the talents I respect most in the music business: Van Dyke Parks. I’m happy to report that he is as kind and thoughtful as he is brilliant.
For those not in the know or familiar with the L. A. music scene, Van Dyke Parks is a kind of creative Zelig of the pop music scene. Here are just a few of this man’s phenomenal list of credits:
Van Dyke produced Harry Nilsson‘s music for the film Popeye, Ry Cooder‘s first LP, Randy Newman‘s first LP, and Arlo Guthrie‘s best LP (on which Van Dyke played synthesizer, a fairly new instrument at the time)
He composed the score for (and appeared in) Jack Nicholson‘s Goin’ South. He wrote the lyrics to Brian Wilson‘s (and The Beach Boys‘) Smile (including the classics “Heroes and Villains” and “Surf’s Up”) and collaborated again with Brian on the Orange Crate Art CD as well as other Wilson songs and projects.
He has played with Harper’s Bizarre, Phil Ochs, The Byrds (David Crosby asked Van Dyke to join both The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, Tim Buckley, Little Feat, Loudon Wainwright III, Rufus Wainwright, Joanna Newsom, Grizzly Bear and Ringo Starr.
He introduced Western culture to the music of the Caribbean islands and produced the outstanding LP of steel drum music by the Esso Trinidad Steel Drum Band.
He had a hit as one of the Mojo Men with “Sit Down I Think I Love You”, which is better arranged than the original version by Buffalo Springfield. He wrote “High Coin” and “Come to the Sunshine”, two fantastic and very California musical expressions.
This all brings me to his latest collaboration. He recently produced Inara George‘s An Invitation CD. Inara is the daughter of Van Dyke’s late friend Lowell George (founder of Little Feat). She also works in the duo The Bird and the Bee.
Live presentations of An Invitation will take place October 8 & 9 up in San Francisco with Inara backed by the amazing musicians known as The Awesöme Orchestra (conducted by David Möschler) Van Dyke will appear with Inara as well. Van Dyke asked me to create the poster for the event, hence this Journal post.
I thought you might like to see a very brief (I didn’t have much time to conceive and execute this piece) step-by-step on its creation. As you can see, there were a lot of elements that needed to be included in the poster, including a listing and representation of Lexi Pearl‘s aerial dancers.
The pencil rough is above. Here’s the final inked version:
After it was inked I had it professionally shot in digital form by the kind and talented (and very patient) folks at Artworks so that I could color it in PhotoShop. Here’s how that turned out:
There will be some beautiful versions of this poster that will be offered in limited signed editions on heavy paper stock to help raise the funds necessary to pay for the lavish concerts and their participants. I’ll keep you updated as to their availability.
My thanks to my dear friend Van Dyke for this collaborative opportunity and his enthusiasm for my work.
Today (Saturday, August 16) there will be a signing at Meltdown Comics of the Stan Sakai Usagi Yojimbo benefit book between 4:00 – 6:00 PM.
The 21 signers will include Yours Truly, Stan Sakai, Sergio Aragonés, Mark Evanier, Bill Morrison, Dean Yeagle, Tom Luth, Rubén Procopio, Jeff Keane, Aidan Casserly, Ricardo Delgado, Tone Rodriguez, Anson Jew, Benton Jew, Patrick Scullin, Robert Stanley, Chad Frye, Mark Dos Santos, Steven Gordon, Brad Rader and MORE!
In addition, my Usagi image has been made into a gorgeous limited edition giclee print which I will be signing at the event. All sales will go to help pay Stan’s rapidly mounting medical bills for the care of his wife Sharon.
Meltdown Comics is at 7522 Sunset Boulevard (not far from Gardner) in the West Hollywood area. See you there!
Jim Morrison said it best: “No one gets out alive.”
My old friend Harlan Ellison said that the bad thing about getting old is losing your pals.
I just lost an acquaintance and a pal.
ROBIN WILLIAMS 1951–2014
The acquaintance was the talented Robin Williams, whom I’m sure needs no introduction here. I met Robin during the period he was on Mork & Mindy. I was visiting the set of The Blues Brothers while working with that film’s producer on a movie adaptation of Roger Zelazny‘s Chronicles of Amber books.
Robin was incredibly kind and sweet to me — yet I caught a haunted quality in his eyes when he thought no one was looking.
I chalked that up to the way I saw him being treated by the Blues Brothers people. Those nasty bastards shunned him and attempted to block him from visiting the set or associating with anyone on the film. They considered him to be a lesser talent and not worthy of acknowledgment. Why? Because he was doing TV and they were making a MOVIE. “Fucking Mork,” I heard one of them say, knowing they said it just loud enough for Robin to hear.
It made me feel very bad for Williams. I immediately began to detest the snotty (and lesser-talented) assholes associated with The Blues Brothers.
Knowing what we know now, did I catch more from Robin’s haunted glance? I don’t know. I never got to know Robin personally but from the moment I met him and from what he did and accomplished during his illustrious career, I got the feeling that he was a pretty decent but sad (yet brilliantly funny) guy.
RIP, amigo. You took the permanent solution to a temporary problem but now your personal demons are at long last silent.
JOHN FASANO 1961–2014
John Fasano was a friend of mine who was a real breath of fresh air in the movie business: he was honest.
I can’t recall where we first met but our friendship really began to solidify at one of Taylor White‘s events (Taylor owns the amazing Creature Features monster shop in Burbank). We shared mutual friends and colleagues, most notably John Milius, to whom Fasano was heartbreakingly loyal. John Fasano’s writing credits include Another 48 Hours, Universal Soldier: The Return and Mandy Patinkin‘s The Hunchback, as well as the first Jesse Stone TV movie. John loved horror movies and directed three: Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, The Jitters and Black Roses. Oh, and he produced one of my favorite westerns of all time (and I suspect he doctored that film’s script): Tombstone.
John asked me if I would ever consider production designing one of his films. My enthusiastic “Yes!” seemed to catch him by surprise and delight him. When I last saw him a few months ago, he told me he had begun writing a film for us to make together. We both were thrilled at the prospect. We were determined to bring fun back to making movies.
John and I exhibited our art at Taylor’s themed shows. He loved that we were in art shows together. John was a very visual writer and director; he appreciated good picture-making. He was also one of the most loyal persons I ever met in Hollywood. I sensed that when John became your friend it was something deep and meaningful — the opposite of many of the shallow relationships one acquires in the film biz.
John was just 52 when his big heart gave out on July 19. I didn’t find out about it until this morning. I had my wife keep all of the issues of the Los Angeles Times that came out while I was down at Comic-Con. While reading some of them this morning, I was shocked to discover his obituary.
I love you, Big Guy. And I’ll miss you forever.