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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Recently there has been some nice gear chat at both And Billions, and Mother Goldstein. It's been a while since I discussed guitar stuff. I thought I'd chime in......some more.

I guess the question is; what is the optimum live set up?

Let's start with amps.

Years of gigging shitty little Manhattan clubs has taught me a lot, most of which I'm going to disregard for this post, as I'm talking 'optimum', which means 'roadie included', along with assorted other things. When your at the bottom of the musical food chain, you tent to think 'smaller amp', which translates to 'lighter amp', and let's face it, nobody needs a JCM 900 in a shitty little Manhattan club, and let's also face the fact that you gotta get everything into a cab - twice.

Ideally, I'd like two amps. A Marshall Plexi 50 watt from, say '74 or there abouts, and my '65 Fender Bandmaster, both pushing 4x12 cabs. As far as the cabs go, I have no preference of brand, but I'd like some well seasoned Celestions in there.

I need a few guitars, at least three. I need back-ups in case of string breakage, or malfunction - this I learned early on, it's worth it to carry the extra gig bags.

I'd bring Ruby Red Slippers, my '85 re-issue of a '62 cherry red Telecaster, my Epiphone Firebird, which looks damn cool, and sounds a lot like a Tele, my 5-string Epiphone Les Paul Jr., and my wine red Epiphone Les Paul Jr.

You might ask; what happened to 'optimum'? Certainly in dream-land I can have vintage Gibsons instead of cheap bolt-on neck Epiphone versions.

That's true, but I want to play well in my dream, and these guitars are comfortable, I know them, they know me, we're a happy family. I have never felt wanting playing these guitars.

So, what goes in between?

I don't use a lot of pedals. They get in my way. I always step on them early, or late, or not at all, or the wrong one, or one is set wrong, endless........

I'd need dirt, so I can go from clean (Bandmaster) to dirty without switching amps mid-tune. I like the Big Muff. It has a big button that's hard to miss, and big knobs you can actually operate with Chuck Taylors. It has a big sound too, which is sometimes not appropriate, so I'd put a Rat on line as well. The Rat gives you less overtones, and a more classic distortion.

Toss in a Cry-Baby and we're in business. Your standard Cry Baby is most likely a piece of crap, and it will break before too long, but Dunlop makes a high end one, with variable sweep settings, gain boost, and it seems to be much more durable. We've had ours for five years without any issue.

I'd not opt for wireless. I'm a cable guy, all the way. Too many viewings of Spinal Tap? Maybe, but I also think you lose some output from the Guitar, and I'm absolutely not going for any active electronics; can you say 'hum', I knew you could.

I would put a nice chromatic tuner in-line. I'm comfy with the Boss model, but I'm open to suggestion. The Fender one's blow.

Of course I'd need an A/B box to switch amps at the end of the line.

That's about it except for the cold Heineken's and the bat box.


Apparently Bill Murray had a run in with the Swedish Police, a DUI - in a golf cart......in downtown Stockholm.

You go Bill.

It's comforting to know that Bill is still not above such antics. It gives me hope.


My Scorpions tickets arrived in the mail. It's all very exciting.

The last time I saw them was in 1982, at Madison Square Garden, where they opened for Rainbow, and summarily kicked so much ass that they made Rainbow look silly, which, of course, they were, at least by that point. It was a great show, and a memorable night, specially for Tony Alva's brother and his 'Crunch-Mobile'.

At any rate, they aren't playing the Garden this time. They are at the much better sounding, and more intimate Beacon Theater.

Drummer Herman 'the German' Rarebell and bassist Francis Bucholtz are no longer in the band, but as Long as Rudy, Klaus, and Matthias are still around, I'm in.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


So I finally made it back to Eat Records.Coffee, a used vinyl store in Greenpoint near Smoke and Mirrors. The first time I tried to buy some records there, I was put off by the fact that the guy who sells the records wasn't there to do so. I wasn't there for coffee, so I left empty handed. Yesterday, I made a second attempt, and though I was successful, I didn't enjoy it much.

These people are sitting on a cache of vinyl, a rich vein for me to mine, but they suffer from Hipster-itis. They can't be bothered to get off the cell phone long enough to ring up my purchase. It took forever. Sure they'll serve the other hipsters coming in for coffee and scones, but god forbid somebody actually wants to buy any of the vinyl.

This is what's happening to Brooklyn, or North Brooklyn at least. The Far East Village as I call it. The hipsters invade, up go the coffee shops, and up goes the rent. If you don't have a tattoo or a piercing, you don't count, and you're going to wait for your coffee, your beer, or your vinyl.

Anyway, enough of my griping, here's what I got:

CCR - Cosmo's Factory

What is certainly one of the worst record jackets in Rockdom hides one of the greatest LPs ever made.
This one is hit central: Travelin' Band, Lookin' Out My Backdoor, Run Through the Jungle, Up Around the Bend, Who'll Stop the Rain, Heard It Through the Grapevine.

Zappa's 'Mothers' - Just Another Band From L.A.

Billy the Mountain, Call Any Vegetable, Eddie Are You Kidding - The height of the Zappa/Kalen/Volman era.

Be-Bop Deluxe - Sunburst Finish

Again, I have this one already. I was pretty sure I did, but I got it just in case. The jacket is in better shape than the one I already had, so, again, Tony, you have a copy of this fantastic LP waiting for you - I'm keeping the nicer one.

The Beatles - Rock n Roll Music

A mid-seventies compilation, I bought it for the nostalgia. My brother Rod had this one, and couldn't resist, besides it has 'Hey Bulldog' on it, which I don't have.

Before I went to Eat Records.coffee, I went to Ear Wax in Williamsburg. I had parked the car in front of the store, and on my return I figured I'd go in to check out the Funk.
Ear Wax is good if you are looking for specific items, like the Dusty Springfield (In Memphis) I picked up there.
They had what I wanted.
Funkadelic - One Nation Under a Groove

Okay, Robbie, have at it...........

Sunday, August 26, 2007


When I first started buying records, in 1976, your average LP went for about five bucks, at least at the PX they did, and my weekly allowance was also five bucks. It was a tidy arrangement.

As my lust for vinyl grew, as it very quickly did, I found employment to cover the cost of my habit.

In the early eighties Fred introduced me to the institution known as the used record store via Nuggets in Boston.

Nuggets was heaven for me, but it was in Boston, and I didn't live there, so nearly all of the records I bought until I went to college in 1984 were purchased new at records stores, most of which were located in malls.

For all the wrong reasons I chose to attend the University of Maryland at College Park. It's fairly accurate to say that my affiliation with U of M was disastrous, but there was one definite positive thing about the time I spent there, a used record store on Route 1 in College Park.

I bought most of my Stones collection there as well as hundreds of other LPs.

From that point until this day, the used record store has been my main source of recorded music.

A few years after that the Compact Disc arrived on the scene, and a great many of you sold off your vinyl.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

By 1990 retail record stores no longer stocked vinyl, it's value dropped - with the exception of 'original copies' and rarities.

I never put too much stock into the 'original copy' line of collector thought. I don't care when it was made, I want the music first and foremost, and as long as the jacket has all the original artwork and such, then shit man, what's the big deal. My copy of 'Revolver' was bought new in 1976, and it's fine with me, the record is still mindblowing.

At any rate the CD revolution ushered in the boon years of used vinyl. The past seventeen years has been great, and my collection has soared to over 1,200 volumes.

For a good while I could go into a used record store and haul in a big score of twenty or so LPs for under a hundred bucks.

After a while, as I mentioned in my recent related post, it got more difficult to land the big score. As far as Metal goes, I have it all - with the exception of the elusive Angelwitch record. I have all the Nazareth, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, and Blue Oyster Cult. I have all the Sabbath, Alice Cooper, and Nugent.

I diversified. Eagles, Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, U2, Ramones......

I've got toe holds in Country (Willie, Johnny, Glenn Campbell), R&B/Soul (Marvin, Diana, Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes), Gospel (Staples Singers), Jazz (Miles, Charlie Parker), Classical (the big names), Reggae (Bob, Peter, Jimmy), and all those categories need further exploration along with early Hip Hop and, of course, Funk.

To that end, I'm happy to report that there are plenty of used vinyl stores for me to visit, and deplete, not only here in NYC, but in Albany, Rockville, Atlanta, and Austin.

Another sea change in the story of vinyl is currently under way.

There are a number of small companies who are licensing and re-releasing classic records on 180 gram vinyl, with all the original artwork. Often, these records are actually better than the 'original'.

So the used record bins are now sharing their space with an increasing amount of new vinyl.

The days of finding the big score, or the great deal may be ending, but the interest in vinyl has survived drought, and is on the rise.

Good thing I got my 'Blond on Blond' when it was going for six bucks.

So, my friends, I have this to say to you all:

Get rid of your vinyl. You don't need it, and I do. You don't use it, and I will. Your significant other wants you to dispose of it, so haul it all down to the used record store cash it in, and buy the new iPod.

It's the best thing, really.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Around the corner from the Skirball theater where Slammer! is currently running is one of my oldest NYC haunts, Generation Records (Thompson, between Bleeker and 3rd).

I must have bought hundreds of records there, and I bought five more last Friday.

Most of my collection is based in the seventies and early eighties. Sure I've got all the Beatles, and Stones sixties records. I have 'Are You Experienced', 'Axis Bold as Love', and 'Electric Ladyland', and I've got a copies of 'Surrealistic Pillow', and 'Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy', but I never tread too deep into the sixties beyond the obvious.

I am being forced to explore the sixties because it seems I've bought up all the seventies and early eighties records. It's getting more difficult to find something to buy at Generation Records, and thusly I need to do two things. I need to expand both what I'm looking for, and where I look for it.

There is a vinyl shop near Smoke and Mirrors, a sort of internet cafe record store called 'Eat Records.Coffee' which I plan to invade soon. The problem there is that the guy who owns the records isn't always there, and only he can sell them.

Anyway, on Friday I bought the following five LPs, three of which are late sixties classics that I should have in my collection.

The Pretty Things - 'Real Pretty' (1976); two record set featuring their 1968 release 'S.F. Sorrow', and their 1970 follow-up 'Parachute'. This LP is so rare that the only image I could find on the web was this eBay photo of somebodies 8 Track copy of it.

Love - 'Revisited' - I can't find a listing for this record, but it's an Elektra released compilation.

CCR - 'CCR' (1968) - the first record featuring 'Suzy Q' and 'I Put a Spell On You'.

The J. Geils Band - 'Bloodshot' (1973). I'm really looking forward to spinning this one, I may have found a watershed band whose records I can happily spend some time purchasing.

Outlaws - 'Hurry Sundown' (1977). Sadly I already own this one, which I suspected, but the 99 cent price tag sold me anyway. Tony, looks like you have an Outlaws record waiting for you in Brooklyn.

So, interestingly, the fist three share a time frame (68 ish), and the second two share a producer, Bill Szymczyk.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


In the Slammer!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Flipping through the channels last night, I came across a pre-season NFL game. It was San Fran and the Vikings. I didn't watch because those teams bore me, but it was a comforting thing to see.

Go Jets.

Monday, August 13, 2007


That's the Smoke and Mirrors motto.

It's been the thru-line of my adult life.

I've been involved in making a lot of records, as an artist, engineer, producer, musician, writer, and composer, and, not to devalue those records, I've never had the sense of accomplishment I felt when George handed me my copy of the House of Blondes record - the VINYL pressing of the new House of Blondes record.

In the words of George Vitray; "This is why we do it".

Certainly this is why I've been doing it.

To hold in my hands a gatefold 180 gram vinyl pressing of a record with my name on the credits, and then to pull out the LP and place it on my turntable and listen to the music I helped make fill the room as God intended.

I'm proud to be associated with this album. It's very good.

I'm proud of John, Mike, and Paul. I'm proud of George, and I'm proud to have a partner as talented as Chris.

Yep, I'm a proud guy.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Like my brother and Tony Alva before me, I have become a contributer at Newcritics. Here's my debut post about last night's Beastie Boys show at Summer Stage.


We had a flood at S&M.

That sucked.

New York was fucked by the rain.

It sucked.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Uriah Heep put out a hefty load of shit in their day, that much is certain, but when they were good, they were great.

Mostly I blame former vocalist David Byron for the horrible stuff, but he left the band in 76, and the crap not only kept flowing, but took over completely. Then Ken Hensley left in 1980 and they got good, completely different, but good.

What was good about the classic Heep, the early seventies stuff, was the sound. If you can ignore the singer long enough, you'll hear some amazing stuff. I developed this skill listening to Zeppelin, and it serves me well.

Drummer Lee Kerslake and bassist Gary Thain created a dense steady thunder flavored with Thain's amazing sense of melody. His style was unorthodox without being distracting, certainly one of a kind. Lee is your classic solid skin pounder, a pocket guy who can really bash with the best.

On top of that you had this great blend of organ (Hensley) and guitar (Mick Box - great name), both put through huge amp stacks creating a super distorted fog, sometimes broken by Box's Wah, but mostly pumping along with the fore mentioned thunder.

David Byron was just bloody awful - half the time. When they reeled him in and settled him down he could do the job, but he had this tendency to turn on the stupid like nobody's business. Stupidity is the real issue. Stupid lyrics, and really stupid vocal........uh........ideas?

Certainly 'Best of Uriah Heep' and 'Uriah Heep Live' cover this period of the band very well, the rest is interesting at times, laughable at others.

The second half of the decade saw The Heep releasing utter crap - really, really worthless records. I know, I own them.

1982 saw a rebirth of Uriah Heep. After Ken Hensley called it quits in 1980, so did everybody else, except Mick Box, who at that point was the only other original member.

Mick drafted a new band featuring Lee Kerslake, freshly fired from Ozzy's band, and bassist Bob Daisley, who quit Ozzy's band after Lee was sacked.

Mick replaced Ken with John Sinclair, who bailed on Spinal Tap just before the movie to join Heep. He's on the Spinal Tap record, and in the 30 minute 'treatment' filmed to shop a deal.
I guess Mick was tired of being a party to crap. It's apparent in the fact that he hired a singer, Peter Goalby, who not only was a very good singer, but he seemed to actually listen to the band and sing stuff that worked well with what they were doing.

A refreshing move, and a marked improvement.

Getting Bob Daisley was a score as well because Bob was a good songwriter, having written the bulk of the lyrics for the first five Ozzy records. Even after Bob left Ozzy's band in 82, he would be hired by Sharon and Ozzy at some point during the recording process of the next three Ozzy records.

The first record the newly refurbished Uriah Heep put out featured the most unrepresentative album cover ever made.

Now, you have to imagine you are me, it's 1982, you're a sixteen year old Metal fan. You go to the record store and you see this:

Of course you're gonna buy it. I mean Uriah Heep has a new record with half of Ozzy's band on it, and this is the cover?

I bought it, brought it home, put it on, and...........what the fuck? What is this crap? Sounds like fucking Pink Floyd!

Now, another important thing happened in 1982; I started smoking pot, and soon, because it's mandate, I started enjoying Pink Floyd.

'Abominog' got another chance, and by gosh, it was actually very good.

The standout track is 'The Way That It Is', penned by then unknown outside of Canada singer songwriter Brian Adams.

The Heep had changed, gone was the foggy sound, in it's place was crisp dynamic power pop.
By the time they released 'Head First' - boring cover art - in 1983, I was more than willing to buy in.

I was not disappointed.

'Head First' is a great record. Certainly the best record any line-up of Heep made.

I guess they had a good head of steam, and they really delivered the goods. 'Head First' is more progressive than 'Abominog', but still very crisp and accessible. The songs, however, are the yard stick, and finally, after very many years, Uriah Heep - Mick Box at least - had a consistently good record, instead of consistently bad.

Uriah Heep has been working fairly steady since, albeit with more line-up changes. I can't speak to the quality of the successive records, they might be good.

It's likely they aren't.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


It's only fair, and I guess traditional, that I publicly 'out' friends of mine who have recently embarked on the blog bus.

Welcome Bill. Yeah, I know I'm a little tardy.

Anyway, the last time Tony Alva and Milkyum followed my lead we ended up with a combined GPA of, like two.

I love tradition.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Yep. I'm on about Records again.

I guess it was The Beatles and Brian Wilson (among others) who made the LP format something more than a collection of songs. For whatever reason, by the late sixties, the LP had become the music industry instead of one of a number of marketing tools used to promote an act.

The LP became the act. Ask Donald Fagen.

Visionary genius brilliant types like Brian Wilson and The Beatles (and when I say The Beatles, I'm including the likes of George Martin and Geoff Emerick) saw a canvass in the LP format, and in their wake they set a standard.

It's hard to make a great record. It's nearly impossible to compete with 'Pet Sounds' or 'Revolver', but that doesn't stops folks from trying. Thank God.

My tenuous faith in God has endured due the fact that I'm convinced he had a hand in the making of certain records.

It has to be the case. It's the only explanation.

Why is 'Paul's Boutique' such an amazing record? God. He did something.

Had to be.

There are three things that make a great record.

1) The convergence of the right people in the right place at the right time.

2) Great performances of great songs.

3) God.

God visited Peter Gabriel when he made his 3rd solo record.

He must have had a hand in Motorhead's 'Ace Of Spades'

He was working the board for the recording of 'Strangers In the Night'.

There are bands that have done it without God. God never dropped by when The Stones were recording. I think he preferred to let them get on with it. The Stones are God's favorite band. It's just that it's the same for this guy.

God was with Van Morrison while he was recording the first side of 'Moondance', then he left.

He does love the Irish though, which explains 'The Joshua Tree', and 'Jailbreak'. I think Van just pissed him off.

God even makes his own records.

Friday, August 03, 2007


I'm sorry, but 'Hotel California' is a great record. It's irrefutable. Just a simple fact. Those who hate it can't be actually listening.

The title track aside, it's an incredible record.

Even the fact that the Joe Walsh tune, 'Pretty Maids All In A Row', is sub-par by Joe Walsh standards doesn't take away from the album's greatness. Besides, in retrospect it's obvious Joe was holding onto his choice tunes for his 'But Seriously Now Folks' record.

'The Last Resort' - mind blowing.

'New Kid In Town' - Just listen to the backing vocal arrangement. Glenn's a dick, but he's got skills.

'Life In the Fast Lane' - C'mon, you know you love it.

'Wasted Time' - Brilliant.

'Victim of Love' is ok, and 'Try and Love Again' is forgettable, but all in all, at the end of the day, the bottom line is; could you do better?


It's not all black and white here at Savage Distortion. In fact, it's hardly ever that simple. Sometimes there are people who I hate, but I love their work, and then there's the converse - folks who I like, but their shit is shit.

Don Henley and Glenn Frey.

Hate 'em. I think they are jerks. Arrogant uncool dickheads.

But I love the Eagles. 'New Kid In Town', 'Take It To the Limit', hell I even love 'Lyin' Eyes' which is such a powerful song, it is capable of making the Gotham Gal walk out of a restaurant if she hears it.

Chrispy hates the Eagles too. I can't hate the product, it's just too good. I hate the men instead.

CC DeVille.

I love the guy. He's so entertaining. I can't help but enjoy watching him in the shitty Poison videos.

I hate Poison. I think they are crap, and largely responsible for killing Rock. What's with the drummer? Have you ever noticed that they do the slow motion sweat dripping off the long hair thing in every video? Just a horrible band, and by the way, not every rose has a thorn. There are thornless varieties of roses Brett. And while we're at it Brett, 'Rock of Love'? Listen, Brett, Flavor Flav is an entertaining guy, like your much abused band mate CC. Flavor was able to carry his show on the strength of his ability to entertain. Your looks alone don't cut it Brett, and what's more, if you actually let us see your bald head instead of doing the bandanna/cowboy hat thing all the time - all the time, you'd get more respect.

So, you see, these are very murky waters here at Savage Distortion.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I don't buy a lot of 'Greatest Hits' albums. Not because I disagree with the concept of consolidating the highlights, but because so often the track selection has glaring omissions. When it comes to picking the tunes, well, I'll be the judge of that. I'd rather make my own, as I often do.

We all know how I feel about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. His two CD set 'Anthology' goes to great lengths to include deep cuts, and while 'Wild One, Forever' is a perfect example of a great forgotten track; where's 'Something Big'?

I would never make any TP & the HBs mix without 'Something Big'.

Prince too. His three CD set 'Hits' does not include one of his best tunes - 'Money Doesn't Matter'

It's clear that these people need me as a consultant.

Sometimes I can't complain though.

This past Christmas I was given 'Up From the Catacombs', the Jane's Addiction compilation.

'Whores', and more importantly 'I Would For You' from their independent self titled debut made the cut.

There is justice.

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