Thursday, May 31, 2007

the rest of the poster...

in which tony answers trey's challenge.

the day of a hundred dances...

that's what today was.
home alone with e-mails phone calls e-store errands and a trip to make passport photos for tokyo. a whirlwind of a day.
including several conversations with the man who has taken up where axel* left off with my parker signature model guitars. since he needs his privacy for now, I'll call him D.
despite D's full workload (a real job and more) he has managed to take axel's design another step into the future. the new AB model will be simpler to work on and will come with schematics and a manual D is writing.
it's not that complicated to play but should you have to repair something and you don't have joe glazer in your trunk...
now I feel confident that axel's genius (as well as ken parker's) will be carried on by yet another. thanks D.

in the afternoon the AB parker beguiled me for a few hours by myself in the studio.
man, that was fun!

tonight was like another day.
after a trip to my favorite downtown spot J. Alexander's where I doused myself in lemons and guacamole I went home inspired. for the first time in a long time I finished a painting! I'm so happy.
the painting had languished unfinished in a hallway downstairs. it's the one I wanted to use for the cover of side 4. but I knew it wasn't yet right, so I went to work.
using the fripp suite as my painter's studio I added and subtracted layers of things until poof! it was done.

tomorrow I'll take it downtown to have it properly scanned along with the back cover painting.
a good day.

* for the story on axel see The Odyssey parts 1 and 2

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Triple Duo

here's a comic poster of the triple duo.
sorry, but I couldn't fit the whole thing in my scanner.
I like the bit of bill bruford singing "my funny valentine" to himself
in the middle of the crimson chaos.

now that's funny.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Anecdote # 737

Jimmy Page Recoils In Horror.

two night before playing ProjeKct Two's last show
to an enthused canadian audience in montreal
I received a very different reaction from an audience of two.

on july 6, 1998 P2 was scheduled to play a show in toronto.
an hour before the show I came down to the lobby.
I always drove the van robert, trey, and I toured in
so I came down to the lobby a few minutes early to allow
the valet parking to bring the van around.
it was a huge open atrium type lobby with couches and plants.
standing there waiting for the vehicle I noticed
some people across the lobby by the concierge stand.
there was a large man weighed down with packages
and what looked to be a painting perhaps.
standing next to him was a tall man in a white suit.
it was Jimmy Page!
I kept looking at him and he at me,
just like with jeff beck 15 years before (see anecdote # 282).

in the late sixties there were 4 Guitar Gods. I've already spoken of two of them Hendrix and Beck, both subjects I could probably write books about. of course Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page hold the same rank. amazing to think, 3 of the 4 came from the same band, The Yardbirds. even before the yardbirds I had heard eric play on record with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, a phenomenal english blues band. then came Cream, a huge influence. eric's sound was unbelievable for the time. juicy and full with a smidge of tube distortion that would cause notes to zing. all around london the walls had the graffiti "Clapton Is God" and not without good reason. he had the touch.
Jimmy Page of course struck gold by putting white man's blues together with heavy rock creating a model for heavy metal that has never been rivaled: Led Zeppelin. his guitar playing was sensational and unique. odd tunings. singable solos. killer riffs. I was thrilled and informed by all 4 guitar gods, needless to say, and learned as much as I could from them.

in my young teen life (before the days of led zeppelin) there were two songs which rocked my world. both were by The Kinks and both featured similar raucous guitar solos. those songs remain burned in my mind as the epitome of english rock. you really got me was my favorite of the two but the solo sound in all day and all of the night just floored me. I love those two songs. there was always a rumor the guitar solos were played by a "session" player named Jimmy Page, not by the very capable Kinks guitarist Dave Davies.

so Jimmy was looking at me as though he recognized me. maybe he saw me on a guitar magazine cover or something. I don't like to bother "stars" but I had to ask about the Kinks songs. just one question.

english rock stars often have a babysitter/body guard called a "minder". the large man weighed down with packages was Jimmy's minder. I walked towards Jimmy. I was wearing a suit. I'm not an intimidating looking fellow. Jimmy's minder stepped in front of me and snarled, "no you don't, mate, back off!"
"I just want to ask Jimmy a question," I said.
"I told you fuck off!!"
Jimmy Page was recoiling in horror at the supposed threat I posed.
I felt lower than gravel.

I wanted to shout,
"I've got one word for you:
Jeff Beck."
instead I left.
now I know what it feels like to be on
the other side of the Sharpie.

photo note: for my purposes here I have used the 7-inch Jimmy Page Action Figure (with the cigarette dangling from the lips)
Made by Neca.

Monday, May 28, 2007

On The Beach Goes The Crimson King

since this week's first selection is short, only one minute long,
we are adding a second selection of a completely different type.

the beach goes on

volume 4 number 11 day. time off.. a sunny beach...a pitcher of sunkist orange juice.
how's that for six degrees of separation?
if you remember the may 14th post for spies which dealt with the music biz and how one must DO and TRY blah blah blah...
you may appreciate this 1992 effort to woo the madison avenue boys.
if this sounds a bit, well, commercial
that's because it's a demo for an orange juice ad.

I am a little foggy on this one.
someone had a friend who knew someone who had a friend
who worked in the jingle industry at a large "jingle factory" in chicago.
I was asked to help write and perform an idea for Sunkist.
the lyric was already written.
I spent the afternoon in chicago working with an official jingle writer
whose name I'm sorry to admit I cannot remember.
then came the fun part:
the ad agency allowed me to spend an afternoon in the studio
singing and performing the Sunkist jingle for them to pitch.

and that was the last I ever heard about it.
but here it is; the opportunity to hear yours truly in a failing effort
to prostrate myself before the Gods of TV.

bass, drums, guitar, piano, and vocals: adrian
engineer: rich denhart
assistant: dan harjung
recorded at Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wis.

in the court of the crimson king (live)
volume 1 number 13

the very last ProjeKct Two show took place in montreal
to a large packed venue called the Metropolis.
there was an audience of 1,200 canadians.
the show reached an excited peak and we left the stage.
I remember wandering around for a minute downstairs
beneath the stage in the over sized dressing room area
listening to the shouting and stomping of the ecstatic audience
while I donned my red Taylor acoustic guitar.
it was time for the encores.
as the drummer in a band which improvised
different music each night,
it was the only time in the show
where I played guitar and sang a song.
usually I performed three of a perfect pair by myself,
then robert and trey joined me
(back on drums)
for one more improvised bashing.

this was the last night of the tour
and as it turned out, perhaps the last night ever of ProjeKct Two.
as I stepped in front of the loud animated room
I suddenly remembered:
these are devoted king crimson fans,
many of them older king crimson fans.
without really thinking about it
I started playing a song from 1969 I had never played
for anyone in my life.
in the court of the crimson king
caught up in the moment, I wasn't sure I even
knew the song!
it didn't matter, I had sussed the mood correctly;
the audience took over and ended it beautifully.

guitar, vocal: adrian
extra vocals: metropolis audience
engineer: ken latchney
recorded live in montreal, quebec on july 8, 1998
length: 1:23

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I'm not really a booking agent, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night...

when disco music exploded in the seventies, it wiped out most live venues. club owners realized they could simply play anything which had "ump pa ump pa ump pa ump pa" as its loudest part and dispense with human beings altogether. this greatly affected my livelihood which was based on playing in those venues for a pittance. I was starving in fact.
one afternoon I happened to walk into a lounge where an acoustic guitar duo was rehearsing. Barry Howell and Dave Rumpke played the Holiday Inn circuit. barry was the singer/frontman while dave added a second guitar. they were looking to expand so they could move into larger lounges. barry didn't know I played guitar but remembered me as the drummer for the denims. he offered me a job playing drums with them. the pay was a remarkable $350 a week!
trouble was I had no drum kit. so I sold my first guitar, a Gibson Firebird, to Dave Martin who was a local guitar collector*. the price was $300, just enough to buy a small used Ludwig drum kit, which I did. for the next two and a half years I avoided the "disco drought" by playing 5 sets a night in Holiday Inn lounges.

one of the first orders of business was to go downtown to the biggest Cincinnati Holiday Inn to meet with the all powerful booking agent. I'll call him Don Sheik. his office sat on the top floor with a nice view of the Ohio River. don was indeed powerful and in control of Holiday Inn lounges across the country. he decided who worked and who didn't.
in a suit and cigar with a broken looking nose, he looked like a pudgy boxer who had fought one too many rounds. he talked coarsely about "broads".
don read us the law (shoes must be shined, etc.) and presented us with a list of names to choose from. the name selected was the sound assembly, an ironic choice for a trio with no bass. as his first blessing don assured us a two-month stay at one of his best rooms, the Crow's Nest in Corpus Christi, Texas. located on the gulf coast and only a half-hour drive from the beautiful white-sanded Padre Islands, it was a sought after gig.
don was famous for showing up unannounced at the finer Inns around the country to check on his bands. he would yell at band members whose shoes weren't shined enough, give his pronouncements on what songs you should "drop", fluff up his feathers and leave.

the sound assembly settled into to the Crow's Nest lounge and life got better. in the lounge circuit you got your own room free. you played from 7:00 to 1 a.m. every night, but you had all day to yourself. those two months in corpus christi I spent nearly every day alone on the beautiful white beaches.
eventually barry came to appreciate my guitar playing. I would help him work out new songs. barry figured I should stop drumming long enough to come out front to play one song on dave's guitar. it was a new ballad from Kenny Loggins . I used a volume pedal to swell notes, nothing special really but it was a nice change of pace.
one of the very first times we included this bit I looked out at the scant audience and there he was: Don Sheik! what a surprise. he looked like he had just swallowed his cigar. what a scowl he had on his mug. after our set we dutifully went over to don's table. he was not pleased. he wasted no time in telling barry a plethora of things he disapproved of.
don ended with, "and don't ever let that guy play guitar again. never!"

my favorite Don Sheik story:
one of the large Holiday Inn bands (the kind with horns and girl singers) had just moved to a different Holiday Inn, which was customary after a month or so. on their first night the Inn manager frantically called don to complain.
"the drummer is too loud," the manager said.
"have you got his drums miked up?" asked don.
"well, mic them up and turn him down!".

*incredibly Dave still has my first guitar. I'm afraid to ask what he would sell it for.

Fish Head

some days I spent fishing off the pier.
I always threw the fish back but when I landed this small hammerhead shark up onto the pier
a surly old seaman came over and quickly sliced it's head off!
the even smaller hammerhead was given to me.
I gave both fish to a local chinese restaurant for shark fin's soup.

Friday, May 25, 2007

and the real thing...

Mr. Music Head

here is the original sketch for the cover of mr. music head.
sometimes I do a preliminary sketch like this before I do the real thing,
but usually not as detailed as this one.
you can see the japanese fans used as tom toms
being the eyeballs of Howard the piano's head.
the back of the Dobro I played in 1967 is the nose.
a vintage 1955 Ludwig snare drum is the right eye
while a hi-hat cymbal is the left.
drum sticks and mallets make the eyebrows.
the african slit drum used in pygmies is the mouth.
on top of that is a set of paraffin lips like you wear at halloween.

in the case of mr. music head it was my first foray
into computer art. once we got into the computer
the idea evolved into the image you see on the cover.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Anecdote #646 part 2

Uneasy Meetings With Gods
part two.

twelve years after our first world tour I was touring again with david, this time on the Sound and Vision Tour. we played two nights in paris, april 2 and 3, 1990. after the second night's show david, the band, the crew, and most of our entourage of fifty people went to a chic parisian nightclub to celebrate. the place was packed with excited euros dancing and looking around for david.
mick jagger was there.
I first spotted mick standing at the crowded bar.
"I've always loved your music," I said.
mick gave me the look of Death and moved on.
'gee,' I thought, 'it worked so well with david.'

to one side of the club there was a VIP room which looked out into rest of the club. you had to step down two steps to get inside but more importantly you had to be asked. it was guarded. I walked aimlessly around listening to the music and watching the dancers of paris. all of a sudden I heard david shouting towards me and waving me over to the VIP room.
the velour rope parted and I was in!
david motioned me over to a couch where he was sitting. he placed me right between himself and mick. which is where i spent the evening. david and mick laughed loudly and talked back and forth over me like I was a coffee table. they were obviously happy to see each other.
david was trying to hit on a girl whom he kept dancing with. I tried to strike up a conversation with mick but what do you say? "how do you like your Ferrari?", I asked ever so lamely. "got 3 of them," mick said. "never drive them. they're investments."
mick was far more interested in david's girl.
david is not a "drinker". in fact the few times I've seen him drink I'm always amazed. he gets drunk faster than anyone I've ever known! two beers and he's blasted.
on this night david was happy and amorous and soon a little drunk. while he was dancing with the girl, mick started warming to me. he needed an audience. he began hitting on david's girl. he would get up and dance beside her flirtatiously. then he'd come back to the couch and say to me, "watch me steal his girl". then he'd watch david dancing with the girl some more and he'd laugh and say, "look at that old queen".

this banter went on for the rest of the evening. it was all done jokingly, mick was hysterical. he and david had a great time out-doing each other.
two masters.

it was one marvelous night.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


visiting david backstage on the Glass Spider Tour of 1987.
three years later we would be working together again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Anecdote #646 part 1

Uneasy Meetings with Gods
part one.

place: a Frank Zappa concert in
Cologne, Germany 2/14/1978
my first tour of europe ever and
as a member the frank zappa band.
although I wasn't aware, this night
brian eno is in the audience.
next day eno calls david bowie
knowing david
is looking for a new guitarist.

Berlin, Germany 2/15/1978
the following night david comes
to the show ostensibly to see me play.
there is a break in the show where I
normally leave the stage while frank
plays an extended guitar solo.
as I'm leaving I glance over
to the monitor board. I'm shocked to see david bowie and iggy pop!
I walk over, shaking david's hand I say, "I've always loved your music".
"great", he says, "how'd you like to join my band?!"
"well, I'm playing with this guy right now..." I stammer, pointing to frank.
"yes, I know, but your tour ends in two weeks and mine begins two weeks later."
we agree to meet back at the hotel after the show.

what followed was like something out of a spy film. david and his assistant coco tried to rendezvous with me without letting anyone in on our little "secret". I suppose the idea was to avoid letting frank know I was being wooed away from his band. I was too dumb to notice. at one point, david, coco, and I stepped into the hotel elevator when no one was around. whispering, coco said, "we have a car out front. we'll meet you there in ten minutes."
david wanted to take me to one of his favorite restaurants to discuss my future. he had lived in berlin for several years. so his driver set off with the three of us in the back madly chatting about songs we'd play and places we'd go. we pulled up to a nice looking restaurant and walked in.
at the table right in front of us sat frank and some of the band!
the jig was up as they say.
can you imagine? how many restaurants are there in berlin?
so we invited ourselves to join them at their table.
feeling slightly uncomfortable david tried to engage frank in friendly discourse.
david said, "really enjoyed the show".
frank shot back, "fuck you captain tom".
"c'mon frank, we can be adults about this, can't we?" david replied.
"fuck you captain tom."
"no, really I'd like to talk."
no matter what david tried, frank kept saying, "fuck you captain tom."
so we left the restaurant.
outside david said,
"that went down rather well, didn't it?"
david, coco, and I spent the rest of the evening at an authentic 1920's private cabaret. david knew the owner and we had a wonderful time. some kind of girls gave us a show. the marlena dietrich owner of the club awarded me a lifetime membership card.

a few days later as frank sat at the back of a bus we were riding I approached him. I knew frank was planning on editing his movie baby snakes after the tour which would take perhaps 3 or 4 months. I explained it might make more sense for me to tour with david during that time rather than languish on frank's payroll. in his customarily frank fashion he reached out, shook my hand, and wished me luck.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hawaiian Cowboys

hawaiian cowboys volume 3 number 22
recorded new year's day, 1990.
one of my favorite collaborations came around the time of the making of young lions, just previous to joining david for the Sound and Vision world tour. Goran Andersson, manager of a percussion ensemble from holland called slagerij van kampen had given me a copy of their record a long walk on a short pier which I loved.
slagerij van kampen specializes in field recordings of a variety of world percussion instruments as well as avante garde pieces written for pitched percussion and very smart usage of all kinds of things percussive. their sound is awesome and actually popular in holland.
to check out their vast world of music go

I met with the band while in holland and they graciously offered to let me utilize some of their percussion tracks as the basis for new songs. the idea was for me to write a song over top of their tracks. our first such collaboration was the song young lions. if you listen to that track you can hear their shouts while they play a strongly african flavored drum pattern in a field somewhere in holland.
it worked so beautifully I was excited to do more. so willem, the band's leader sent some tuned percussion tracks. rich denhart and I edited the tuned percussion together in a different way as a prelude to me writing a new song over top of them. I added my own parts including some decidedly african-style guitar and that's as far as I got. for some reason the result was too reminiscent to me of graceland. not wanting to draw comparisons I stopped short of writing a lyric and a vocal melody and shelved the idea.
besides, the Sound and Vision tour was moments away and I had no time left to explore.

drums, bass, guitars: adrian
tuned percussion: willem van kruysdijk, mies wilbrink, dree van beeck, and ellen gieles
engineer: rich denhart
assistant: dan harjung
recorded at Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wis. on January 1, 1990
length: 3:51

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Moby Grape

recently I learned from
wood and steel

the taylor guitar magazine
that one of my favorite bands ever
may be working again.
moby grape, what a fabulous band,
easily in my top 5 bands of all time.
if you have never heard their music
I suggest you find their first album
pictured here titled moby grape.

the original cover shown here
has drummer/writer don stevenson
flipping the bird. of course it was
airbrushed out later.

much has been written about how
they should have "made it big"
but in my musical mind they are

Friday, May 18, 2007

Adrian Bellow and his Guitar

here's an interesting thing.
this comic was drawn by Johane Matte, an artist from quebec.
drawn in 1992, it's obviously from the bowie Sound and Vision era.
you can see david poking his head into the sixth frame of page one.
if you have trouble reading it just click once on each cartoon.
thanks johane.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Anecdote # 555 part two

The Audition For A Hand Shake.
my first phone conversation with frank went something like this:
frank: "do you read music?"
adrian: "no, I don't, but I can learn from records pretty well."
frank: "alright, here's a list of 12 songs. try to figure out how to sing
and play as much of them as you can. I'll see you here next week".

I borrowed the records I needed to learn from
(I couldn't afford to buy them) and went into high gear.
every day for the next week I was consumed from morning till night
with learning frank zappa music.
man, it was hard.
the day came to fly to his house. it was the first time in my life I had been past the Missisippi. one of frank's crew members met me at the airport in a white cargo van. it was hot in california. the windows were down. he was shouting questions as he drove like a madman up the canyon's winding hills. I was deposited at frank's house. me, my strat, and my little pignose amp.
there was the beginnings of a studio in frank's basement. he sat behind a console chain smoking. I stood in the middle of the room with my little amp and sang into a microphone.
frank would say, "okay, try wind up workin' in a gas station". I would play and sing for a minute or two, he would stop me. "that's enough".
"now try andy".
I would play and sing for a bit and he would stop me.
and that's how it went.
the problem was the commotion. there were roadies rolling equipment around the room and people busy doing things to prepare for rehearsals. it seemed like there was an army in that small basement.
I knew I hadn't done well. I had nowhere to go until my flight back home so I stayed around all day watching other torturous auditions. I watched tommy mars' piano audition. it was frightening. but tommy was fabulous. I was told later frank had auditioned 50 guitar players!
as the day was ending and things quieted down I had a moment to say something to frank. I told him I knew I hadn't done well but it was not what I'd expected. I thought it would be the two of us somewhere quiet. he said, "well fine. let's go upstairs".
we sat on the purple couch in his living room.
I put my pignose amp face down on a pillow so it wouldn't be too loud.
and frank gave me a second audition.
at the end of it he reached over and shook my hand.
he told me I had the job for one year
and went on to explain his pay arrangements
(i.e. so much for rehearsal, so much for shows, etc.)

with that hand shake my life was changed forever.

ps: the Stratocaster I'm playing in the photo above was owned by Jimi Hendrix.
he burnt it up at the miami pop festival in 1967.
somehow frank inherited the guitar which was in 3 pieces,
had it put back together, and set up for slide playing.
I played it in the song
jones crusher.
recently dweezil zappa auctioned off the guitar at Sotheby's in London.
it sold for 350 thousand pounds or a whopping $500,000!
I should have carved my name and number on the back.


hey, I found this photo. a bit late, but if you go back to the download for pygmies and read it through you'll see the elements mentioned (except the pig). to the right of me I'm playing the music stand. closer in is the piece of plywood attached to a delay unit, and then the african slit drum. in the background is the result of a "toss down cymbal" attempt.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

my mission statement...

before you read this blog, you might want to go to:
that URL should take you to a six-page article in the New York Times. "it is an exceedingly interesting snapshot of today's online music industry, and how it is being access, utilized, and manipulated, by the fan base" according to wendy, the fan who sent it. in other words it's about the current status of the music business for artists like yours truly. it was sent to me by belewbloggfan (thanks wendy) who asked for my perspective so here it is:

there are monumental glaring differences in the article between the main characters and myself. especially in terms of their internet success stories. jonathan coulter for example cites his last year's download sales at 500,000 and his hits per day at 3,000. those are phenomenal numbers. to give you an example: this week's AB download kiss it goodbye has been downloaded 59 times so far. our biggest download ever was less than 100 (for the song dust). according to our "site meter" 482 people visit per day on the average. so in pure volume the article is not so relevant to my situation.
but in other ways it's very relevant. what I am trying to do here on elephantblog is to draw in more and more interested people who might then become "patrons" of my work by downloading, buying CD's from our site, coming to our shows, and hopefully turning as many new fans on as possible. I'm doing it by telling the story of my life, which has not been uneventful. I'm not a new artist, but being in the "B-list" category places me right along side the energetic 20-something new artists who spend their whole days promoting themselves via the internet. this is the way the business works today. radio? forget it. MTV? hopeless.
fortunately, I don't mind one bit answering questions put forth by people who enjoy my work. I have always been a "fan-friendly" artist. but then I don't get a hundred questions a day.
I do wonder how to make time for the internet requirements, a family, and a creative music-making career. used to be I spent most days in the studio. now I'm clacking away at an iMac keyboard instead. the long term effect of this is yet to be measured. but there's no need to worry about the "negative effects" just yet, wendy.
I realize my true hope to grow a thriving future is to get to a point like a jonathan coulter. which is why it is all important for you guys to spread the word. and I greatly appreciate that.
I'll blog on as long as there's someone out there. I'll perform shows until nobody shows up.
and if that day ever arrives:
well, I'll have to get a real job.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Anecdote #555 part one

Stormy Weather.
one night in 1976 I was playing in a dark dank biker's bar in nashville. it was called "fanny's". the inside was painted black. the way the club was laid out, when you were onstage you could see the people entering down a long hallway. imagine my surprise to see frank zappa walking toward the stage with a small group of strange-looking rock musicians and his huge body guard john smothers.
frank had played a show in nashville earlier that night and was looking for somewhere to go afterwards. he asked his chauffeur for a recommendation. terry pugh was the chauffeur. he was also a big fan of the band I was in.

was known regionally not just for our killer covers of songs by steely dan and stevie wonder, but also for our radical appearance. to be in sweetheart you had to cut your hair 40's style and wear authentic 1940's vintage clothing. all the time! even in the daytime if you were going grocery shopping, the rule stood: you dress like a gangster. three-piece suit, tie, tie pin, fedora hat; the works. it was actually a lot of fun, especially finding and buying the clothes. we scoured warehouses and old jewish tailor shops across the midwest and south and found some remarkable deals on clothing that had been in storage since WWII. the look was way ahead of its time, before the vintage craze that caused gabardine pants to soar in price on melrose avenue.

anyway, there was frank zappa unmistakably seated in front of me. to me he was the only person in the place. I played and sang with a fervor. I was excited to play for a legend. after 40 minutes the zappa entourage were leaving. we were playing give me shelter when frank came up to the stage and reached out to shake my hand! I bent down and he said, "I'll get your name and number from the chauffeur. I would like to audition you". wow. that was a thrill.

despite the cool threads and great band, life was not easy. I lived alone in a small two-room apartment on 21st avenue south. the rent was $300. I drove a used beat up VW. sweetheart was considered a top band on the cover band circuit which included mostly small clubs and frat gigs. on a very good week with sweetheart I might earn $125. but many weeks were not very good. some weeks I earned nothing.
funny the little moments you remember indelibly. I was driving up 21st avenue south one day when a new song by david bowie came on the radio. it was heroes. the guitarist on the song was robert fripp. the producer was brian eno. I loved that song. the vocal was so emotional, the guitar playing searing. within 2 years I would be playing that song in david's band.

that seemed impossible in 1976. things got worse in a hurry when just six months after shaking the hand of mr. zappa, sweetheart decided to call it quits. I knew very few people in nashville and had to scrounge fast to find work. weeks went by before I ended up in a disco band called 11o in the shade. nice people but a dreadful band. we had a keyboard player named "stormy". every night somewhere during the third set I would hear a loud rumbling. stormy would be face down drunk asleep on his organ. it was a "weekend warrior" band. the first time we went out of town to play a show I was in shock. with sweetheart we at least afforded cheap motel rooms to share. 110 in the shade slept in stormy's van. before I knew what hit me, I was 3 months behind in my rent, in a band with no future, and going nowhere fast.

that's when frank zappa called.

Birthday Week

eric slick may 15
robert fripp may 16
bill bruford may 17

happy birthday boys.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Anecdote #464 scene one

this story might be best served as a play with 3 scenes.

it begins in late 1977 in the basement of frank zappa's hollywood home. it's a saturday and as usual I'm learning the material for next week's rehearsals. being the only "non-reader" in the band this was a common way for me to prepare. today's lesson is a brand new song frank has just written called flakes.
frank did not play guitar and sing at the same time. if you watch footage of his concerts he's either playing the guitar or singing, never both. I found out why. he quietly played and sang the middle section of the song for me. it sounded terrible. like a bad folk song. I started making fun of him by singing it in a bob dylan voice; "I asked as nice as I coouuld".
"that's it," said frank, "that's in the show."
and that is how I ended up doing a bob dylan imitation on a frank zappa record.
I always wondered what bob dylan might think of it.

Anecdote #464 scene two

in 1985 a very unexpected call came from paul simon asking me to come to new york for four days to work on a new record he was making called graceland. the first morning in the studio paul's engineer roy halee (one of the world's best engineer/producers) surprised me by playing some of the tracks. they had no vocals, only the instrumental parts which were recorded in africa and played by african musicians. it was stunning music but I didn't know what to make of it. didn't sound anything like paul simon.
I was the first non-african to play on the songs and without paul's voice it sounded like nothing I'd heard before. paul arrived, we chatted, and I expressed my puzzlement.
"well, here let me help you," paul said. "play the track quietly," he said to roy. they began playing one track at a time. while the music played, paul would sing quietly right in my ear. he'd be singing "a man walks down the street", whispering it in my ear. "angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity", singing it in my ear. it gave me chills.
he had yet to finish the lyrics to many of the songs so he sang what bits and pieces he had while he gestured with his hands. hearing his voice singing sure made them paul simon songs. then I understood. it was a chilling thrill I will never forget.
a year or so later graceland had taken the world by storm selling what? 10 million records? paul was so nice to me. he was the first artist I'd worked with to send me a gold record (even though I'd played on a few by then).
I was leaving my house one evening just as a UPS truck delivered a strangely shaped package. looked like a painting or something. I ran back into the house to open it. it was a gold record for graceland! I didn't think I would be effected by such a thing but I was so happy I walked around for the next few days with such a huge smile on my face I had to keep picking bugs out of my teeth.

Anecdote #464 scene three

Lonnie Mack was a legendary figure in the cincinnati music scene when I was still a teenager. he lived in indiana not far from cincinnati and as far back as the late 50's people talked about his edgy style. one of the first true roadhouse blues-rock guitarists, he influenced generations of players like johnny winter, keith richards, and a young kid named stevie ray. his searing exaggerated tremelo could slice off the top of your head if you didn't duck in time. lonnie played (and still plays) a Gibson Flying V, the same one he's played since 1958. it has the serial number 7!
one night after working on graceland all day, paul simon and I decided to see lonnie playing at the Lone Star Cafe. it was his "comeback" tour of 1985 and new york city was buzzing about lonnie mack.
the show was exciting. the small tight balcony above the bar where paul and I sat was crowded with luminaries. at the table next to ours sat mick jagger and keith richards. looking around you could make out the faces of actors: matt dillon, sarah bernhardt, and other people who at least looked famous.
backstage after the show lonnie was surrounded, incongruously talking with mick and keith about his real love: fishing. lonnie is a big man with a deep drawl like toby keith. I really like him. he smiled when he saw me and said, " hey adrin, still playin' with that king chris-min?" "yes, lonnie".
I left him to bask with the "big fish" in the pond. it was lonnie's moment.
but earlier during the show I had my own moment. at one point paul left our table for a while. when he returned he asked me to say hi to someone. we worked our way across the balcony, past the bar to a doorway in the back corner. "I want to introduce you to someone," paul said. he opened the door and standing alone in the stairwell was bob dylan. "this is adrian belew, bob," paul said. "yeah, I heard about you, " bob said slowly in that bob dylan voice I had imitated nearly 20 years earlier. and that was all he said.
leaving me to wonder ever since: what had he heard?


volume 1 number 19
here's a question
no one asked:
how does a mid-level artist
(i.e. someone who's not well-known but also not unknown who sells a medium to small amount of records and has the corresponding amount of airplay and/or media exposure)
earn a decent living in today's shrinking music market rife with CD burning (i.e. theft of intellectual property) and sharing of downloads which pay the artist a pittance or nothing?
phew...that's a question?

well, in my case I do two basic things:
a. I do as much of the work myself as I possibly can. I write, produce, sing, and play all the parts as often as I can. I own and pay for my own studio. I create my own artwork and packaging. I run my own eStore* (one of two of the best ways I know to actually receive the money, the other being live performances). I own my own publishing company (robert steven's music) and record label (adrian belew presents), both of which exist only to service my music. I manage myself. I even sell my old musical gear on eBay.
b. I try to work in as many areas of music as possible. I produce records for other artists. I play on other artist's records. I make solo records but play in four bands as well. I perform as many shows per year as the market will allow. I do "guest appearances" and as many interviews as are available. I sell downloads. in fact, I am always looking for new income streams available for the kind of work I do: music. and that is the point of this "I-filled" diatribe: a mid-level artist must DO and TRY a myriad of things in order for them to add up to a decent living.

and so it was with the help of my friend Scott Weinberger** (who works in television) I made my first attempt to break into the business of music for TV. unsuccessfully I might add, but I haven't given up just yet.
spies was a track I did last year for a TV pilot called Spying On Myself which barely got into the airwaves before crashing in the dumpster like so many new programs do. the track was not used. I was hoping spies might become the theme song for a weekly series. that would be called passive income or money you receive over and over for something you did once. passive income is the "gift that keeps on giving" which is why it's so heavily guarded by those in the industry who have it. imagine, for example, how much money accrued for mr. bob seger for his (in my opinion) lame-ass "like a rock" theme which was played over and over and over every commercial break on every channel during every 3-hour football game for what seemed like a thousand years. you can bet bob doesn't sell things on eBay.

stop: before you start thinking I'm ungrateful, unsatisfied with my lot in life, bitter, or complaining let me stop you mid-sentence. I'm none of those things. I love what I'm paid to do and would do spies again for nothing any day.

which is what I earned the first time.

*with a huge dose of help from rob murphree, of course.
**scott also had a hand in the making of the "life in a nutshell" video we feature.

guitar, bass, and v-drums: adrian
engineer: ken latchney
recorded at studiobelew sometime in 2006
length: 4:00

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day, Jimmy Carl Black.

and all of you beautiful mothers out there
(especially my martha and my mother louise).
I greatly respect the amount of constant
sometimes thankless work you do
on behalf of the future of our world.
cheers to mother's everywhere!

now let the 20 questions begin...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Her Eminence Is Eminent!

This Sunday May 13 starting promptly at 10:00 A.M. PST (no cheating)
The All-Seeing All-Knowing Madame Mecca shall return!
The first 20 questions, yes,
20 questions will be answered!
only 5 bucks per question (just kidding)

Chose your thoughts Wisely
and Prepare to be Enthralled!
for Madame Mecca knows all and sees all!*

*brought to you by Ain't JerMama's Pancake Mix
now available in stores everywhere.

the rules of engagement:
in order to play fair, please do not post a question
until 10 A.M. PST.
I will answer the first 20 questions only.
one question per person, please.
no further questions about underwear.

Madame Mecca Shall Return...

after this short astral pause.
20 questions was fun for me too.
sorry if you didn't get in on this round
but we'll do it again sometime soon with proper warning.
thanks everybody...
now, I've got to get back to work.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

20 Questions

one of my favorite biographical subjects is groucho. I have read so much about the lives of the marx brothers. in one of groucho's books called memoirs of a mangy lover he recounts his first wife's fascination with the occult. against his will she dragged poor groucho to an affair at "Mystic Hall" where for a mere $3 ( and another 5 bucks once you were inside the hall) a spiritualist named Madame Mecca was purported to "answer any question, no matter what the subject...The Queen sees all and knows all." upon seeing her, groucho wrote, "the madame may have been from Arabia, as advertised, but to a man who traveled extensively for many years through the South, she bore a striking resemblance to Aunt Jemima."

following much fanfare, incense, and explanation her "barker" (a man in a Russian uniform and top hat) announced the madame was ready. "Madame Mecca has never failed to answer any question," he assured the audience.
groucho's hand shot up.
he asked, "what's the capital of North Dakota?"

with the same good humor I suggest we play a game of 20 questions.
so...anyone who has ever wanted to ask me something please do so now.
the rules are simple:
one question per person
I pick the questions I want to answer
and we stop at twenty.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

to be candid...

I don't usually care for live rock records. even though I've been part of a few good ones. live jazz? absolutely. live classical? a must. but many live "rock" recordings have a hollowness like something is missing from the sound. most live rock records leave me wishing for the well-produced studio version. that's just my opinion. which explains why I have not made a live solo record until now. maybe it's because I've lived my life in a recording studio where things are never out of tune (at least not for long) and the sound is rich and full. maybe that's why I was so dumbfounded upon hearing the first 7 side four mixes.
I loved it! it gave me chills.
I felt that rare thing: passion.

the one component so favorable to a live record is the energy.
many live records today (in the "Idol Era") are heavily processed to iron out the imperfections. you're not going to have a "star" allow their voice to be out of tune. many records have added parts to enhance what could not actually be "performed". in a time when nearly everyone has ProTools it would be rare to hear something that wasn't doctored to death. those records are more hydrid studio/live than an actual "record" of the event and they somehow drain the synergy from the performance.
the passion and energy of side four makes it impossible for me to want to "doctor" anything. it sounds and feels like people voraciously enjoying playing music. eric and julie shine.
it sounds like a hot ass trio breathing together (pardon my french.)
I can't wait for you to hear it.

sleep is nice but..

saturday morning, the day after the bears last show I drove home 5 hours in time to make a surprise birthday party for Mark Volman (from Flo and Eddie and Zappa fame.) sunday I went to work with saul zonana who is mixing side four with me (and house-hunting in the nashville area.) we worked on the first 7 mixes of the live power trio. I'm a little dumbfounded (or maybe just a little dumb.) I had no idea what to expect. there is only one word I can say...

pardon the absence of blogness...

but now I'm home again, home again, jiggity jig.

so there you have it: two weeks of great music to sold out audiences.
it was an honor and a pleasure to be Bears again even though shortlived.
we played out hearts out and you responded in kind.
so what did you think?
I would love to read your comments.

the highlight of the tour was the music of course.
(second place going to the food in chicago at our favorite establishment the capital grill where our waiter from 5 years ago mr. ron amazed us by sending our favorite appetizer, calamari with hot peppers, to our table before we asked. how did he remember 5 years later?)
but for me personally it's always the people.
without you, we would just be rehearsing.

anyway it's great to be back and I've got an abundance of things to write about.
so stay tuned...

Monday, May 7, 2007

Kiss It Goodbye

kiss it goodbye volume 3 number 4
here's a true rarity, a song written by all four of The Bears at the very beginning of the band in 1985 which for some reason was never released.
this version begins with the demo made quietly in my bedroom,
then continues to the full studio version.
a cool song with a good social message in keeping with the band's conscience.
so why did it get left behind?
none of us seem to know.
like opening a lost family photo album here it is,
a snapshot of an excited band who had yet to play a concert or make a record.

bass: bob nyswonger
drums: chris arduser
guitar and vocals: rob fetters
guitar and vocals: adrian
"bedroom demo" recorded on april 9, 1985 at home in Urbana, Illinois
track recorded on december 27, 1985 at QCA Studio in Cincinnati, Ohio
engineer: gary platt