Glyn Johns Sound Man

December 10th, 2014

You have a music fan on your Christmas list, 60’s and 70’s rock mostly, and you’re looking for a book. Perhaps another crappy Brian Jones biography is what he needs. Or not. In reality, the only book you want to get your music lover this Christmas is Glyn Johns’ great autobiography, Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Eric Clapton, The Faces . . .. I myself have purchased copies for two music fans on my list.

Johns’ started out as an Engineer in the very early days of rock and roll, engineering the earliest Stones and Who singles in London’s IBC studio, “which was without a doubt the finest independent recording studio in Europe at that time.” He got his first job at IBC out of school, strictly because his sister knew someone who worked there and he loved music. He started as a man Friday, setting up microphones, running cable and brewing tea. His first engineering job came as a result of a weekend session in 1964 by Georgie Fame, “Rhythm and Blues at the Flamingo,” and nobody else wanting to do it. It’s success, and his age, meant that he was well placed for the rock and roll revolution that was just about to sweep London.

Sound Man isn’t a great book, though, just because Johns’ is the Forrest Gump of the British Invasion: he first heard Jimmy Page at a boys club talent show when they were both about 12, saw Jeff Beck in the Tridents, his pre-Yardbirds band, and lived with original Rolling Stone Ian Stewart (in fact, he and Stewart’s rented house was a gathering point for the very early Stones). Sound Man is also a book that sticks to the music. There is no chapter, no story in Sound Man that is not directly related to Johns’ career in music. There’s no grandpa Gus took me across the river for fish and chips stories here. Childhood stories are either of the church choir, a budding singing career or summers on a uncles farm, the uncle of whom was a guitar player and American folk music fan.

Similarly, Johns, who claims to have never done any drugs, never smoked a joint, keeps the stories of the musicians he worked with to musical ones. If he has various tales of debauchery, he keeps them to himself. But what a list of musicians he did work with:

The Kinks (All Day and All of the Night/I Gotta Move, and You Really Got Me/It’s All Right)
The Rolling Stones ( from 1965’s December’s Children (And Everybody’s) to 1975’s Black and Blue)
The Pretty Things
Davy Jones
The Small Faces and The Faces
Led Zeppelin (the first album)
Manfred Mann
Marianne Faithfull
Spooky Tooth
Procol Harum
The Steve Miller Band
The Beatles
Joe Cocker
Humble Pie
The Eagles
The Who

That’s the partial list.

When I had to choose a Christmas present for music fans on my list, I chose Sound Man by Glyn Johns. It’s the best music book I’ve read in a long time.

Brian Gardiner Uncategorized , , , , , ,

The Ethics of Infanticide

December 10th, 2014

inferno_illustrations_doreBeing an atheist, I don’t believe in concepts such as heaven and hell. But if I’m wrong and these places do exist, I trust Satan has a special place for people who use the phrase “postnatal abortion.”

Brian Gardiner Uncategorized

Mark Steyn’s Abomination of Modernity

December 6th, 2014

Here’s a question. Why has Mark Steyn never recorded Baby, It’s Cold Outside?* In two Christmas themed albums with Jessica Martin, Steyn has covered everything from Sweet Gingerbread Man, to It’s a Marshmallow World, from Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas to Santa Clause is Coming to Town and Jingle Bells. Now with his latest CD, Goldfinger, Steyn adds Can’t Take My Eyes off You, the Very Thought of You and, implausibly, a slow jazz standard of Cat Scratch Fever (he think’s he’s got it some more, yea).

71gj5aokgl_sx355_And can it be a coincidence that this CD shows up in my mailbox the same day they announce the latest Bond movie, Spectre?** His rendition of Goldfinger leads to an obvious choice to do the theme song for Spectre, and it’s not to let Madonna ruin another Bond intro. No, never mind the Mark Steyn for Senate petition that was floating around a year or so back, it’s time for a Mark Steyn for the Bond theme song movement.***

But still, Goldfinger, the seven-song CD, comes in at around 30-minutes so it seems like you could shoehorn one more in. And Jessica Martin, his favourite female foil, makes an appearance anyway, so why not drop Baby, It’s Cold Outside on to the CD? It is, after all, according to Steyn himself, the root of all Jihad. This from Lights Out: Islam, Free Speech And The Twilight Of The West, one of Steyn’s must own books:

What was so awful about Sayyid Qutb’s experience in America that led him to regard modernity as an abomination? Well, he went to a dance in Greeley, Colorado:

The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips…

In 1949, Greeley, Colorado was dry. The dance was a church social. The feverish music was Frank Loesser’s charm song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”… It’s a useful reminder how much we could give up and still be found decadent and disgusting by the Islamists. A world without “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” will be very cold indeed.

Wow, just think how bad the war on terror would be going if Sayyid Qutb had heard Cat Scratch Fever Mark Steyn style. So the jihadists would hate Baby, It’s Cold Outside and Steyn could add his name to what is probably the only list in the world to include Rod Stewart, Buddy the Elf and Hot Lips Page.

Fortunately we have Goldfinger to enjoy, which has plenty of it’s own abomination’s of modernity.

Update: Dec 15

Hello to readers of Mark Steyn, who has linked here for the second time. Glad to have you stop by. A couple of notes that Steyn himself has raised.

* Last week, Mr. Steyn noted he had answered that question in his song of the week: “I gave a kind of an answer a week ago, but evidently Mr Gardiner is not satisfied.” Actually, it was not a matter of satisfied or no, it was a matter of I hadn’t read that particular article yet.

** Originally I referred to the title of the movie as Smersh. Steyn is, of course, correct, the movie is “Spectre”, not Smersh. At the time of writing the post, I was reading Ian Fleming’s From Russia With Love, in which SMERSH is heavily involved in a plot to kill James Bond. Apparently I had SMERSH on the mind. It is now corrected in the text, but noted here.

*** Let the record state, I agree with Mark Steyn (and Don Black) “that Shirley Bassey should sing them all”. However, far too often it is not Shirley Bassey, but Madonna or Duran Duran who does the theme, and a poor job they make of it too. I am merely submitting Steyn to get the gig in lieu of Ms. Bassey should she be unavailable.


Track List

  1. Cat Scratch Fever
  2. On a Slow Boat to China
  3. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
  4. De Quoi A-T-Elle L’Air Ce Soir
  5. Roses of Picardy
  6. Goldfinger
  7. The Very Thought Of You

Brian Gardiner Mark Steyn , , , , ,

Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome

December 4th, 2014

Yes has always been a bit of a favourite band of mine. Not a front line, must see, must have every record band like Led Zeppelin or The Who or the Stones. Oh sure, they changed the lineup too often to be one of the greats. New keyboard players and singers especially dotted the Yes-scape, although there was that abomination 80’s lineup that featured no Steve Howe.yes_like-it-is-cover

I approached the new live Yes CD, Like It Is - YES At The Bristol Hippodrome, due out December 9th, with some trepidation. Seeing as it featured only three classic line up members, drummer Alan White, bassist Chris Squire and the aforementioned Steve Howe. The lineup is filled out with 80’s era keyboardist Geoff Downes and new singer Jon Davison who sounds scarily like original Yes singer Jon Anderson.

Working a setlist of classic Yes, Like It Is is a great collection of songs played to perfection. The energy is high, no 40-year band going through the motions here. Starting with a surprisingly rockin’ version of Going for the One, the set runs through such greats as Yours is no Disgrace, Steve Howe’s The Clap, Starship Trooper and I’ve Seen All Good People, before finishing up on Perpetual Change.

It’s not perfect, not by a long shot. Released in CD/DVD combo and digital formats, Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome is badly missing a vinyl release, an almost fatal flaw. If one can’t put the LP under the Christmas tree, then what’s the point of going to the trouble of cutting down a tree and propping it up in your living room? But besides format complaints, Like It Is - YES At The Bristol Hippodrome is one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve come across this Christmas release season.


  1. Going for the One
  2. Turn of the Century
  3. Parallels
  4. Wonderous Stories
  5. Awaken
  6. Yours is no Disgrace
  7. Clap
  8. Starship Trooper
  9. I’ve Seen All Good People
  10. A Venture
  11. Perpetual Change

Brian Gardiner Album release, Record Release, Review , , ,

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered

December 1st, 2014

How big was Bing Crosby? In the 40’s and 50’s he was the number one radio, movie and recording star. Fifty-million people turned into his radio show every week. He performed duets or performed with, among many, many others, Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and David Bowie.

His style of singing is not so popular these days, to our loss. But he changed the way people sang. With the invention of the microphone, you no longer needed to belt, and Bing caressed the microphone, singing in a folksy, homespun style. He influenced everybody who came after him.

During World War II, he came home from touring Europe interested in tape recording. In 1947, he invested in Ampex recorders. He wanted to pre-record his radio shows. However, NBC balked, and he refused to work. The ensuing court case found his contract to be essentially “indentured servitude.” Crosby took his magnetic tape device to ABC and changed how radio was done. Later, he gave one of his Ampex recorders to his pal Les Paul, who would develop multi-tracking using it.

Crosby was so big, to answer the question, that he fundamentally changed everything he touched: movies, radio and recording.

All this and more is covered in exquisite detail in PBS’ American Master Series show, Bing Crosby - Rediscovered. The show covers Crosby’s career in about as much detail as you can cover such a diverse, lengthy career in 90 minutes. It features clips ranging from Bing in Mac Sennet movies to Johnny Carson.

Narrated by Stanley Tucci, and featuring interviews with all surviving members of Crosby’s immediate family, wife Kathryn, daughter Mary and sons Harry and Nathaniel, Crosby’s estate granted American Masters access to his archives, including never-before-seen home movies, Dictabelt recordings, photos and more.

American Masters: Bing Crosby - Rediscovered airs on PBS beginning tomorrow, and can also be ordered on DVD. American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered - The Soundtrack features songs heard in the documentary, including 16 previously unreleased recordings.

Brian Gardiner Uncategorized , ,

Art by James Dylan

November 25th, 2014

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience singer James Dylan is, by day, an artist. Last year at this time, James offered a pencil drawing of Robert Plant. This year, he turned his hand to John Bonham

These pencil drawing look incredibly like photographs, and lend credence to the idea that James is as good an artist, if not better, than singer. No small praise that.

Cost of the pictures is $95 for a 9 x 13 print signed by Dylan or $65 for a 6.5 x 10 signed print (plus shipping) and can be ordered from There appears to be Robert Plant prints still available too.

Last year the original pencil drawing was also made available for $2,000 (plus S & H). No word on whether the original is available this time.

via Ramble On Radio, the only Led Zeppelin Podcast.

Brian Gardiner The Mighty Zep , , , ,

Here in Hespeler, We Don’t Separate the Boys from the Men

November 24th, 2014

… the boys are men. But hey, don’t ask me, ask USA today:

While we here in the United States have taken the rather sane approach of postponing high school events scheduled for days in which massive snow arrived, our Canadian counterparts are significantly more brave about playing on through the snow.

In fact, they’re playing as if the snow isn’t even a big deal. The tweet you see above comes from a Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association football semifinal competed between the Lourdes Crusaders (of Guelph, Ontario) and Hespeler Hawks on Tuesday night… See you if you can spot any yard lines on that field. We sure can’t.

Even more notable than the snow were the overall weather conditions for the semifinal. This is from the Guelph Mercury, which bravely covered a game that was bravely being played in completely absurd cold conditions…

Below minus-10? That’s absurd, skin freezing on contact cold.

Now, agreed, the writer gets a “Moral and intellectual superior” award for not realizing it was -10 Celsius, not Fahrenheit, about 14F. But still, as someone who was there, brutal game, brutal conditions.

The Hespeler Hawks had a 10-1 season, and won the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletics Association championship.

Here’s a few pictures from the game, and a few more below.

Brian Gardiner Sports , ,

Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page

November 14th, 2014

I came home from New York with my Jimmy Page pictorial autobiography,Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page, and my wife picked it up. It’s a big book, and heavy, but beautifully laid out with high quality paper and exquisite pictures throughout. She started nosing through the book, and next thing she is asking questions about Page, looking him up in Wikipedia to see his marital history and does he have kids. You need to understand, she usually rolls her eyes at my Led Zeppelin habit, and has never shown any interest in anything Led Zeppelin related. But here she was keeping me from my Jimmy Page book.

It’s not a cheap book, retailing for $70+ up here in Canada, I bought it for $50 at Jimmy Page’s Q&A in New York last week. But it’s not a book you’ll ever look at and think, “why did spend so much on this?” It’s a beautiful book, it really is. It weighs about as much as a Datsun, the lettering on the cover is gold inlay and the paper photographic quality. It may be a bit steep for a book, but it’s good value for the money.

But the real magic happens when you open it up. Page one, 10 or 12-year old Jimmy Page as a choir boy, and the caption “it might get loud.” It did. The last page is a now famous shot of Page by his friend Ross Halfin, grey haired and holding his guitar in front of him. “It might get louder.”

In between choir boy and mature gentleman, between loud and louder, is more than 500 pages of pictures, telling the story of the musical life of Jimmy Page. Playing his guitar outside his school, his earliest bands, his session days. And look at the pose on his schoolboy picture, or on his knees playing for Neil Christian and the Crusaders. He had those Jimmy Page moves long before anyone called him “Jimmy F-in Page.” Onward to the Yardbirds, then Led Zeppelin. Onstage, backstage, leaping through the air and tuning his guitars behind and amp, massive crowd in the background. All minimally captioned, walking you through the story, but letting the pictures do the yeoman’s work, the captioned merely filling in the details.

Open Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page to any page, and you’ll find a picture to enjoy. And if you don’t happen to like any of the pictures on that page, try the next one, it’s sure to have something. So many of the pictures are excellent, so many interesting. There’s very few you won’t study a bit, absorb the story it tells. Page reportedly spent a lot of time tracking down pictures and it shows. If you’re a Led Zeppelin fan, you’ll have seen many of them, but never in this detail, not in this quality. And there are plenty others that you’ve never seen, won’t see outside of this book.

If there’s one thing missing, considering he does refer to it as an autobiography, it’s any pictures of Page when he’s not, in one way or another, at work. There’s no pictures of any of his children (or his granddaughter for that matter) and only one of any of his wives, a fairly well known shot of he and Charlotte Martin exiting a helicopter backstage at Knebworth in 1979. This book is strictly about Jimmy Page, musician.

Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page, the pictorial autobiography of the Led Zeppelin guitarist is, simply put, an excellent book.


Brian Gardiner Book Review, The Mighty Zep ,

Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair

November 13th, 2014

Being a rock guy in the 80’s was hard. All these keyboards, all the pop was being done by primarily synthesizer bands. Even the guitar players in rock bands had tone that sounded like it was coming from a little girl guitarist instead of big hairy guys: Maybe it was the make-up. But still, you found you liked a Poison or a Def Leppard or a Cinderella, mostly I suspect because you can’t hate everybody. But those electronic bands, pushing out pop songs on Casio keyboards and Roland drum machines. Those guys you could hate, every one of them.tears-for-fears-v

Except, occasionally one snuck through. It was songwriting mostly that did it, and Tears for Fears where one of those bands. Listening again after all these years to their big album Songs From The Big Chair, remastered and available in a Deluxe Edition, I’m reminded of how good the songs were. The hits especially, Shout, Everybody Wants to Rule the World and Head Over Heels.

The sound on this remastering is excellent. From the opening percussion intro of the mega-hit Shout, to the gentle sway of the sax of I Believe you hear the crystal clear quality of this remastering. This is a fun album to listen to after all these years, and a should get for any fan of 80’s music.

The Super Deluxe Edition is a 4-CD 2-DVD set that comes with a 32 page booklet and a replica tour programme. The Cd’s are loaded with bonus tracks, some of which are for the strictly hardcore fan, but a lot of other, specifically the disc full of singles versions and live recordings, are worth the listen for more casual fans. The DVD’s consist of an audio-DVD and a video DVD

Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair (Super Deluxe Edition) [4CD + 2DVD]
Super Deluxe Edition

1 Shout
2 The Working Hour
3 Everybody Wants To Rule The World
4 Mothers Talk
5 I Believe
6 Broken
7 Head Over Heels
8 Listen
9 The Big Chair (B-Side Shout)
10 Empire Building (B-Side Mothers Talk)
11 The Marauders (B-Side The Way You Are)
12 Broken Revisited (Ltd Cassette Version)
13 The Conflict (B-Side Change)
14 The Working Hour - Piano Version ( Ltd Cassette Version)
15 Pharoahs (B-Side Everybody)
16 When In Love With A Blind Man (B-Side Head Over Heels)
17 Sea Song (B-Side I Believe)

DISC TWO: Edited Songs - 7″ Versions
1 The Way You Are (7″ Version)
2 Mothers Talk (7″ Version)
3 Shout (7″ Version)
4 Everybody Wants To Rule The World (7″ Version)
5 Head Over Heels (7″ Version)
6 I Believe (A Soulful Re- Recording)
7 Everybody Wants To Run The World (7″ Version)
8 The Way You Are (Short Version)
9 Mothers Talk (US Remix)
10 Shout (US Single Version)
11 Everybody Wants To Run The World (Running Version)
12 Head Over Heels Radio Version)
13 Mothers Talk (Video Version)
14 Shout (Short Version)
15 Listen (Clean intro)
16 Interview With Curt and Roland

DISC THREE: Remixes From The Big Chair
1 The Way You Are (Extended Version)
2 Mothers Talk (Extended Mix)
3 Shout (Extended Remix Version)
4 Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Extended Version)
5 Broken / Head Over Heels / Broken (Preacher Mix)
6 Mothers Talk (Beat Of The Drum Mix)
7 Shout (US Remix)
8 Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Urban Mix)
9 Mothers Talk (US Remix Alternate)
10 Shout (Dub)
11 Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Instrumental)
12 Shout (Acappella)

DISC FOUR: Unreleased Songs From The Big Chair
1 Head Over Heels (Richard Skinner Session)
2 The Working Hour (Richard Skinner Session)
3 Broken (Richard Skinner Session)
4 Mother’s Talk (Live At Massey Hall)
5 Broken/Head Over Heels (Live At Massey Hall)
6 Memories Fade (Live At Massey Hall)
7 The Working Hour (Live At Massey Hall)
8 Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Live At Massey Hall)
9 Shout (Live At Massey Hall)
10 Mothers Talk (Early Mix / Instrumental)
11 The Way You Are (Early Mix)
12 Broken (Early Mix)
13 Shout (Early Mix)
14 Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Alternate Single Version)

DISC 5 - 5.1 Mix and Stereo Mix
1 Shout
2 The Working Hour
3 Everybody Wants To Rule The World
4 Mothers Talk
5 I Believe
6 Broken
7 Head Over Heels
8 Listen

1 Scenes From The Big Chair - Documentary
2 Interview with producer Chris Hughes
3 The Way You Are (Music Video)
4 Mothers Talk (Alternative UK Video)
5 Mothers Talk (Music Video)
6 Shout (Music Video)
7 Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Music Video)
8 Head Over Heels (Music Video)
9 I Believe (Music Video)
10 Mothers Talk (US Mix – Music Video)
11 Everybody Wants To Run The World (Music Video)
12 The Way You Are (Top Of The Pops)
13 Mothers Talk (Top Of The Pops)
14 Mothers Talk (Top Of The Pops)
15 Shout (Top Of The Pops)
16 Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Wogan)
17 Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Top Of The Pops)
18 Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Top Of The Pops)
19 The Working Hour (Wogan)

2CD Deluxe Edition
1 Shout
2 The Working Hour
3 Everybody Wants To Rule The World
4 Mothers Talk
5 I Believe
6 Broken
7 Head Over Heels
8 Listen
9 The Big Chair (B-Side Shout)
10 Empire Building (B-Side Mothers Talk)
11 The Marauders (B-Side The Way You Are)
12 Broken Revisited (Ltd Cassette Version)
13 The Conflict (B-Side Change)
14 The Working Hour - Piano Version ( Ltd Cassette Version)
15 Pharoahs (B-Side Everybody)
16 When In Love With A Blind Man (B-Side Head Over Heels)
17 Sea Song (B-Side I Believe)

DISC TWO: Edited Songs - 7″ Versions
1 The Way You Are (7″ Version)
2 Mothers Talk (7″ Version)
3 Shout (7″ Version)
4 Everybody Wants To Rule The World (7″ Version)
5 Head Over Heels (7″ Version)
6 I Believe (A Soulful Re- Recording)
7 Everybody Wants To Run The World (7″ Version)
8 The Way You Are (Short Version)
9 Mothers Talk (US Remix)
10 Shout (US Single Version)
11 Everybody Wants To Run The World (Running Version)
12 Head Over Heels Radio Version)
13 Mothers Talk (Video Version)
14 Shout (Short Version)
15 Listen (Clean intro)
16 Interview With Curt and Roland

1CD, Blu Ray Audio and 1LP formats
1 Shout
2 The Working Hour
3 Everybody Wants To Rule The World
4 Mothers Talk
5 I Believe
6 Broken
7 Head Over Heels
8 Listen

Brian Gardiner Record Release, Review , ,

Book Review: The Neon Lawyer

November 11th, 2014

Brigham Theodore is a newly minted lawyer, looking for a job the day after passing the bar. He finds one, run by a Russian mobster, and almost immediately finds himself trying a capital murder case. Drama ensues as a sympathetic defendant gets her hotshot young lawyer up against the ambitious district attorney and a system aligned against them.

I love a good legal thriller, and Victor Methos The Neon Lawyer is a good one. All the right elements are there, the little guy lawyer, young and southern, up against the best. The evidence is against him, but the emotional weight of the case is on his side. Fighting the ambition of his opponent, the small time lawyer with his team consisting of one young woman has to convince the jury to ignore the legalities and do the right thing.

If The Neon Lawyer was a John Grisham book, it would have been much longer. Jury selection would take 60 pages, the trial another 150. But Methos keeps things tight, not bogging it down in legal details. This makes for a quick easy read, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.

Brian Gardiner Book Review, Books , , ,

Album Review: Rated X

November 10th, 2014

“Oh God, another supergroup.” I thought as I downloaded Rated X’s self titled debut album. While Rated X are designed as a vehicle for singer Joe Lynn Turner, it was the rhythm section that jumped out at me: drummer Carmine Appice and bassist Tony Franklin. Appice has been around forever, showing Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham the ropes to being a professional touring drummer back in ‘69 when Zeppelin opened for Appice’s band, Vanilla Fudge. Appice has since drummed for Rod Stewart and Ozzy Osbourne. Franklin, meanwhile, has his own Zeppelin connection, having played bass in Jimmy Page’s post-Zeppelin band The Firm. He has also slapped da fretless bass in Whitesnake and with Appice in his pre-Firm band, Blue Murder. Filled out by Ace Frehley guitarist Karl Cochran, Rated X is a band with a hard rock pedigree.


They are guilty of sounding too 80’s at a time when the older sounds fresher, too much Whitesnake in the sound. Songs like Fire and Ice, and Get Back My Crown cut a little close to the 80’s bone for taste. However, you soon realize that the songwriting is better than most 80’s bands and Turner, who has sung with Rainbow, Deep Purple and Yngwie Malmsteen, has a more soulful voice than anybody who ever sang for Whitesnake. If You Are the Music or Maybe Tonight were 80’s songs, they would be among the best. Our Love Is Not Over is excellent and the Kashmiresque Lhasa could only be pulled off by a band with a rhythm section this good.

Despite my misgivings, Rated X turned out to be an excellent album. A must have for any hard rock fan.

Track listing

  1. Get Back My Crown
  2. This Is Who I Am
  3. Fire And Ice
  4. I Don’t Cry No More
  5. Lhasa
  6. Devil In Disguise
  7. You Are The Music
  8. Peace Of Mind
  9. Maybe Tonight
  10. On The Way To Paradise
  11. Our Love Is Not Over
  12. Stranger In Us All.

Brian Gardiner Book Review

Review: Robert Plant The Voice That Sailed the Zeppelin by Dave Thompson

November 9th, 2014

It came up last Christmas, one of my guests asked the question that comes up too often: “What the hell is wrong with Robert Plant? Why won’t he do a Led Zeppelin reunion?” It seems so easy, just sing the old songs, make a big pile of money and everybody gets to go away happy. So why won’t he do it? It doesn’t help that Plant tends to answer the question with a series of non-sequiturs: I don’t want to be singing cabaret; I want to move forward with new material - even as he spreads the old liberally through his set lists &tc.

In his new book, Robert Plant: The Voice That Sailed the Zeppelinby Dave Thompson looks at Plant and examines the man through the lens of his history, and the effect it has on Plant today. There are two major events in the Plant narrative, the death of his son Karac in 1977 and the death of his best friend from youth, whom he brought into Led Zeppelin, John Bonham.

On Karac Thompson writes:

His (Plant’s) lifestyle, he knew, had already placed his marriage under incredible strain—the months he spent away touring, leaving Maureen to raise two children on her own. Now there was just one, and Plant could not help but wonder whether things might have been different if he had been at home.

and on John Bonham:

It was John Bonham who sat next to him on the hastily arranged flight back to London, and then for the drive up to the farm. There the boy was buried, at a funeral where Bonham was the only one of the singer’s bandmates or management to even bother attending… Now, the very person who had stood alongside him throughout that terrible night, providing much of the glue with which he repaired his shattered psyche, had himself been taken away.

Those two quotes represent, as much as anything does, the thesis of The Voice That Sailed the Zeppelin. Those two events, presented as they are above, explain so much about Plant’s decisions, including the one not to re-unite Led Zeppelin in any long-term way. Thompson delves into what makes Plant tick far more deeply than into what Plant does or says, using the former to explain the latter. It’s a good thing that he does such a good job of examining Plant the person, because he gets far too many of his facts wrong.

Details like what year Page and Plant played Glastonbury, what they played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction or the heretofore unheard claim that Yardbirds bassist Chris Dreja actually rehearsed with Plant, Page and John Bonham before turning down the job of bassist in Led Zeppelin and John Paul Jones was brought on board. Furthermore some of his opinion statements, such as the tone of Zeppelin’s songs come from Plant’s lyrics or that the last five albums in Plant’s career - Dreamland to lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar - are the best set of five he has done, including say Led Zeppelin II through Physical Graffiti, are laughable.

But Thompson isn’t after the facts of the case, so much as explaining Plant through the lens of those facts. The fact he got a date wrong here, a song wrong there doesn’t do unrepairable damage to the book. Neither does the obvious fact that Thompson’s trying, for reasons unknown, to tear down the mythology of Led Zeppelin and raise the myth of Robert Plant in it’s place.

In fact, Thompson’s conversational writing style, of which I have been a fan for a long time, makes The Voice that Sailed the Zeppelin a thoroughly enjoyable read. I did not always agree with Thompson, and he gets some of the basics wrong, but Robert Plant: The Voice That Sailed the Zeppelin by Dave Thompson is one of my favourite of the Led Zeppelin books out there. It’s well worth the read.

Brian Gardiner Book Review, The Mighty Zep , , , , ,

Saturday Fluffernutter: The Consummating Like a Dugger Edition

November 8th, 2014

All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorJust when Spotify makes it to Canada, Taylor Swift pulls her music from the streaming service. On the eve of releasing her new album, 1987, Swift refused to release the album to the streaming music service and pulled her previous material. The result: 1984 is the first Platinum album of 2014, selling 1,287,000 copies, 22% of all albums sold in the US.39010007_lg

So much for that whole pick a fight with Spotify strategy.

fluffincolorThe women of the English speaking world are, I am reliably told, suffering a mass heartbreak this week Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch has announced his engagement to to actress Sophie Hunter. Cumberbatch being, I am led to understand, somewhat handsome, this caused much gnashing of teeth and tweeting of Cumber-bitch jokes.

A quick survey of my own home led to tears and weeping, which I’m not sure what exactly that means, However, it seems some of womanhood is upset over this whole Sophie Hunter episode.

Tears or no, here at the Fluffernutter World Headquarters we wish the Cumberbatches every happiness.

fluffincolorIn one of the weirdest, non-fluffy but definitely nutty, stories I have ever covered, AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd’s arrest this week for trying to hire a hitman is among the top.

The story has yet to unfold in court, presumptions of innocence must be maintained and all statements here are alleged, however, it appears the “Hugh Hefner of Tauranga,” which is in New Zealand, likes the hired ladies. He does not like, however, to pay these ladies once they have offered their services, causing friends of the ladies to come looking for the money.

You’ll have to connect your own dots between the above and “attempting to procure the murder of two men,” a charge that was laid, and withdrawn within 48 hours.

Rudd still faces some less serious charges, but nothing that should stop him from touring with AC/DC next year.

fluffincolorThe Duggers are, apparently, a reality TV family of some religious bent. There are 20 or so of them, and the ones of marriageable age do not do any marriagy things. That is to say, kissing is out.

Daughter Dugger Jessa married herself off to one Ben Seewald last weekend. Once married, like most young couples, consummation was on the virginal young minds. As a Dugger, their responsibility is to “wait until the evening to pray and then consummate God’s marriage.” The Seewald’s however, had a peppier timeline than that. They, it seems, were seen to be consummating like bunnies in the church cloakroom immediately after the ceremony.

Hey, when the family tradition is twenty or something kids, there really is no time to spare.

Brian Gardiner Uncategorized

Led Zeppelin: Remasters Round Two

October 28th, 2014

Today see’s the release of the Led Zeppelin IVand Houses Of The Holyremasters, complete with bonus material, here in North America. The remastered albums have been available as Mastered for iTunes for some time now, so I will reserve comment on their quality besides saying, the iTunes versions are excellent. Otherwise, if you have a chance to hear the CD or LP versions, there’s no reason to believe they won’t also be top notch (and certainly I felt Led Zeppelin, II and III all were).

The bonus material, available on the Deluxe Editions, however, gives us fodder for real discussion. Unlike the third album, which had Keys to the Highway/Trouble in Mind, there is nothing new in the bonus material, nor is there any live material like we saw on the first album. Both IV and Houses of the Holy’s bonus discs are presented as the complete album, with alternate versions, alternate mixes and instrumental versions of the songs.

In February 1971, Jimmy Page and engineer Andy Johns travelled to Los Angeles, master tapes for the fourth album handcuffed to Page (note: kidding), to master the album that would become what many consider Led Zeppelin’s most astonishing moment. He took the tapes to Sunset Sound Studios, where the state of the art studio was booked for mastering of the tapes. Job done, he returned to London and settled into Island Studios with his bandmates to play the new album: the sound was a disappointing mess. No one seems sure what happened, but it appears the equipment at Island couldn’t handle the more sophisticated mastering done at Sunset Sound, and Page returned to the Island Studio to re-master the songs yet again. Of the eight songs on the final album, seven of them were from the London mixes. Only When The Levee Breaks survived from the California mixes.

Of the bonus material on Led Zeppelin IV,the alternate mix of Stairway to Heaven from the Sunset Sound Studios session, and When the Levee Breaks from the London remixing appear. Other alternate mixes from unknown sources are Four Sticks, Rock and Roll and Misty Mountain Hop. Misty Mountain Hop shines the most, with a John Bonham count-in and a much more live sound, the song comes alive in a way it never really did before. When the Levee Breaks is also noticeably different, although not for the better. While Four Sticks sounds more live, wetter in audio geek parlance, Levee is much drier, that famed drum sound somewhat diminished in the mixing. They made the right choice going with the Sunset Sound Studio mix on this song. If we were hearing that mix, that drum sound for the first time here, now, it would be all that anyone would be talking about.

Rock and Roll and Stairway to Heaven on the other hand, have barely noticeable differences. The guitar is a little down in the mix here, the voice up there. Yes, the recorders are definitely louder, but not so much that most people would notice if they didn’t know. On the other hand, Black Dog (Basic Track with Guitar Overdubs) is an alternate take, and while the differences are subtle, at least until the ah-ha’s when a Plant adds a harmony vocal. It doesn’t work actually, sounds too much like that guy beside you at the concert singing along with the band, but you can hear them trying something. Besides, Plant’s ad-lib on the outro is outstanding.

Instrumental mixes of Going to California and Battle of Evermore are interesting, but the repetitive nature of those songs means it’s not something you would listen to more than a few times. While not something you might throw on in the car on your way home from work, throwing the LP on the turntable with a good whiskeywould make for an enjoyable hour on a Friday night.

On Houses Of The HolyLed Zeppelin’s songwriting really grew. Instead of writing pop songs, they were composing music in a rock vein. This becomes evident on the instrumental versions on the Deluxe Edition on this release. The Song Remains the Same is an interesting song unto itself without vocals. And while Over The Hills and Far Away still has it’s repetition, the “guitar mix backing track” is enjoyable. The guitar solo being a little higher in the mix is an added bonus. No Quarter is, again, a complete composition sans vocals, working perfectly as an instrumental composition. What you quickly hear is that Robert Plant was not necessary to either No Quarter or The Song Remains the Same, but manages to put together a performance that adds to the whole of the piece (although a reasonable argument could be made that The Song Remains the Same is a better song as an instrumental than with his speeded up chipmunk vocal added as on the album).

The Rain Song (mix minus piano) baffles me slightly, but only because I can’t detect the difference between the original and this one. The Crunge (rough mix - keys up), Dancing Days (Rough Mix with Vocal) and The Ocean (Working Mix) are the same. Detecting what may be different (no count in on The Ocean for example) could be a game unto itself. So while there’s nothing exciting in the remaining bonus tracks (and no D’Yer Mak’er at all), added in with the three instrumentals you get an idea of what this album could have been like. And in fact, Jimmy Page’s original idea was to start it off with The Song Remains the Same as an instrumental (in fact, it was originally called Overture) that connected to The Rain Song.

What you get from the Houses Of The Holy bonus disk is that it could have been a better album. So far, of all the bonus disks, this may be the only one I play on a regular basis instead of the original album.

Brian Gardiner Album release, Review , , , , ,

The Who Hits 50!

October 27th, 2014

No band has made more hay out of their catalogue than The Who. In their first 40-years, between 1965’s My Generation and 2006’s Endless Wire, they produced 11 studio albums and 20 compilation albums - plus another 5 compilations since. With this years Quadrophenia: Live in London, they have as many live albums as studio albums.

PrintSo if you’re Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey, the last remnants of The Who, what better way to celebrate the bands 50th anniversary than with a greatest hits album, The Who Hits 50!?

Stretching from their pre-Who days with The High Numbers Zoot Suit and their first singles as The Who, I Can’t Explain, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere and My Generation to the post-Y2K collection of hits, 2004’s Real Good Looking Boy, 2006’s It’s Not Enough from the last Who studio album Endless Wire and Be Lucky, recorded earlier this year.

As always when you get a collection from a band has been around as long as, and have had as many hits as the Who, the 42 song set is loaded with great material and almost anyone is sure to find a number of songs they like, and one or two they are less keen on. But every significant era of The Who, the early singles, Tommy, Quadrophenia, the 70’s rock, the Kenny Jones era, is well represented here. Personal favourites that I don’t get to hear often enough, Postcard and Who Are You’s Trick of the Light are on the album, compensating for what I consider too many of the early pop singles. Those early singles, however, have never sounded better. The sound on this collection is excellent, with everything sounding clear and clean.

imagesOverall The Who Hits 50! is a solid collection that sounds great and has enough material for everyone to enjoy. If you happened to have bought the last three Who collections, I’m not sure you really need this one. But if your looking for some Who, this is a great set.


  1. Zoot Suit (as the High Numbers)
  2. I Can’t Explain
  3. Anyway Anyhow Anywhere
  4. My Generation
  5. Substitute
  6. The Kids Are Alright
  7. I’m a Boy
  8. Happy Jack
  9. Boris the Spider
  10. Pictures of Lily
  11. The Last Time
  12. I Can See For Miles
  13. Call Me Lightning
  14. Dogs
  15. Magic Bus
  16. Pinball Wizard
  17. I’m Free
  18. The Seeker
  19. Summertime Blues
  20. See Me, Feel Me
  21. Won’t Get Fooled Again
  22. Let’s See Action
  23. Bargain
  24. Behind Blue Eyes
  25. baba O’Riley
  26. Join Together
  27. Relay
  28. 5: 15
  29. Love Right O’er Me
  30. Postcard
  31. Squeeze Box
  32. Slip Kid
  33. Who Are You
  34. Trick of The Light
  35. You Better You Bet
  36. Don’t Let Go The Coat
  37. Athena
  38. Eminence Front
  39. It’s Hard
  40. Real Good Looking Boy
  41. It’s Not Enough
  42. Be Lucky

Brian Gardiner Album release, Review , , , , , , , ,