This week’s reading: Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day. It tells the story of how a bunch of hippies and hustlers convinced the Stones to hire the Hell’s Angels to provide security for a free concert in the middle of nowhere.
For further consideration: Albert and David Maysles’ documentary Gimme Shelter, which begins with their Madison Square Garden show and ends with footage shot from the stage and in the crowd.
I’m currently reading Here Comes Everybody, written by James Fearnley, the accordionist of the Pogues. It starts out with a little of his background before the band formed, how he met Shane MacGowan, and how the band went from tiny gigs in run-down London pubs to breaking out and being an international hit. Fun fact: Before the Pogues broke, Fearnley was asked to play guitar in Culture Club. (previously, previously)
Oh, fucking hell. In a world of screeching guitars and screechier vocalists, Soundgarden was heavier, with more of a Sabbath-influenced sound, and they eschewed guitar shredding for emotion and momentum. They were my first baby steps out of the classic and hair metal rock genres, which dominated my high school years, and pointed the way towards my future tastes. Seasons was one of the key songs of my later college years, and still remains one of my favorite all-time songs. I’m sad to see him gone.
I read an article last week ranking the best entries in a book series about seminal albums in music history, and I got curious. The series is called 33 1/3 (RPM for LP vinyl, you whippersnappers) and it covers everything from the Rolling Stones to Public Enemy. The authors are different for each volume, and there are (as of this writing) 120 books in total. Intrigued, I looked through Amazon’s listings, found that Paul’s Boutique was rated highly, and bought a used copy.
The books themselves are small, but there’s a pleasing amount of information per page. Dan Le Roy, the author, starts out at the launch party for the album and then resets the clock to the end of the Licensed to Ill tour, explaining where the band was creatively, why they moved to L.A., how they eventually met the Dust Brothers and a man named Matt Dike (the unsung third producer of the album), smoked a mountain of weed, somehow recorded the album, and details the aftermath of the release (which bombed). The end of the book is a track-by-track runthrough of the album which goes into short detail about the stories, samples, and background of each.
I was not a fan of Licensed to Ill when it was released; all the proto-bros in my high school loved it, which didn’t compute (these were the same casual racists who hated rap and loved Slayer) and I couldn’t stand the nasal whine of their delivery.
Paul’s Boutique is a touchstone from my college years, after I’d been exposed to De La Soul, Tribe, and Jungle Brothers, and found that I did, in fact, like hip hop. The first time I heard it I was blown away by how different it was from what had come before. It was the soundtrack of most of the parties I was at in the latter half of college. It stands as a monument in my life for a time of optimism, poverty, boundless creative energy, and a sudden discovery of who I was and what I was good at for the first time in my life.