Friday, September 30, 2011

Rolling Stone exclusive: Why R.E.M. broke up

By David Fricke, Rolling Stone

"There is a great deal of sadness, but it's really celebratory," R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills says, describing his conflicting emotions the day after he, guitarist Peter Buck and singer Michael Stipe announced they were disbanding after 31 years together. "There is sadness because I will never play on the same stage as Peter and Michael again." Yet, Mills insists, "We're doing this for good reasons, and we end up looking back at all the fun, the joy and the incredible opportunities we had."

So why is America's biggest alternative-rock band breaking up now? "It's not because we have to or we can't stand each other or we suck," Mills contends. "We're happy. But we're done."

Mills, Buck and Stipe issued the news of their split without warning on Sept. 21, in a statement posted on R.E.M.'s website. "A wise man once said, 'The skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave,' " Stipe wrote. "We built something extraordinary together ... Now we're going to walk away from it."

"It was very unexpected," says Rob Cavallo, the chairman of Warner Bros. Records, the band's label. He found out "the same morning that the press release went on their website," in a phone call from R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs. "I can't believe they're breaking up, but I understand," Cavallo says. "They're too pure, too respectful of their own thing."

R.E.M. actually made their decision a few months ago, before they met in Athens, Ga., this summer to record three new songs for a two-CD greatest-hits package, "R.E.M., Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982- 2011," out Nov. 15. The band delayed the announcement because "a lot of people are affected by this decision in a serious way," Mills says, referring to R.E.M.'s staff and crew. "We wanted everything set up the way it should be."

And we were excited to find three really good songs to put out as a farewell," he adds. Two of the new tracks, "Hallelujah" and "A Month of Saturdays," came from demos for R.E.M.'s last studio album, "Collapse Into Now," released in March. The third song, a '60s-flavored treat with sunshine-pop brass, is called, aptly, "We All Go Back to Where We Belong." It comes out as a single Oct. 18.

Mills can't remember when he, Buck and Stipe began seriously talking about the end of the band. "But it was discussed on the 2008 tour," he says, and during the sessions for "Collapse Into Now." The group was coming to the end of its Warner Bros. deal and chose not to tour behind that record. There are "indications" on the album, Mills notes, citing Stipe's "lyrical content" in "All the Best." "There are some straightforward see-you-laters on that one.

"It might have been talked about in more general terms before that," Mills suggests. "We'd say things like, 'We have X number of records in the contract. By the time we finish, we'll be X number of years old. Do we still want to be out there flogging it?'" Ironically, R.E.M.'s disappointing 2004 album, "Around the Sun," made Mills, Stipe and Buck determined to stick around long enough to redeem themselves.

"We needed to prove, not only to our fans and critics but to ourselves, that we could still make great records," Mills says, "and we made two" — "Accelerate," released in 2008, and "Collapse Into Now." "We thought, 'We've done it. Now let's do something no other band has done: Shake hands and walk away as friends.'"

R.E.M. formed in Athens in 1980 with drummer Bill Berry and issued their debut single, "Radio Free Europe," in July 1981. Through heavy touring, growing airplay and a stunning creative evolution — from the jangling enigma of 1983's "Murmur" to the complex and commercial dynamics of 1987's "Document" and 1991's "Out of Time" — R.E.M. became American rock's biggest grass-roots-success story. The day after R.E.M. broke up, Cavallo was on the phone with Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong: "Billie said R.E.M. were the first underground band he saw that conquered the mainstream. He was 13 years old, and it changed his perception of what rock could be."

Berry quit in 1997, after suffering a brain aneurysm on tour two years earlier. The others continued while doing side projects, which they will now pursue full-time. Stipe is a film producer and active in visual arts. Buck has a long discography as a sideman for cult heroes such as Robyn Hitchcock and the Decemberists. R.E.M.'s 15 studio albums have sold more than 85 million copies worldwide, and the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. But Mills says R.E.M.'s greatest accomplishment was that "we conducted ourselves with as much integrity as possible. We showed people you can conduct your operation on your own terms and be successful.

"In fact," he adds, "you'll have a much better time and sleep better at night."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bust It Big: Widespread Panic TN Theatre Night 3 Recap

“Almost 23, I took a trip to the sea.  Went out for a swim and the waves came crashing down on me.  Turned to head back in. That's when I saw the fin.  As panic grabbed my legs, you know it, pulled me in.” –‘Vacation' 

This morning as I reminisce about last evening’s third and final show of Widespread Panic’s run at the Tennessee Theatre, in Knoxville, I can say that show # 53 was a special one and undoubtedly one of the greatest experiences I have had seeing this band that I love so much.  From my freshman year at Auburn University in 1993 to now, married with children, a career-working man, Widespread Panic has provided the soundtrack of my life for more than 18 years. 

Each and every Widespread show is a unique experience, with different venues, varying set lists, and the fans-‘goodpeople’ from all walks of life, who travel from all over creation to enjoy this incredible band’s music.   

Widespread Panic is certainly on top of their game right now, 25 years after they formed as a band, and I simply cannot name another active touring band that lays it down every night like the Panic does when they hit the stage.  

In retrospect, I feel guilty for being so critical of the set list from the Monday night’s show, because, regardless, it was still a wonderful experience and their shows always seem to provide an escape from reality over the course of three hours.   The beauty of Widespread Panic’s music is that each song is capable of invoking different emotions in different people at different times.  I am sure there are some fans that weren’t as enamored with the last night’s show as I was, but as they say, 'different strokes for different folks.'

Last night was my final show before the Panic’s indefinite hiatus begins next year.  The hiatus will provide a much needed break for a band that toured relentlessly over the past 25 years and I know that when they finally return they will be a better band for taking some time off.

There’s really no point in dissecting the set list, which was stellar, many songs that I hoped to hear in Knoxville were flawlessly jammed from the opening chords of ‘Glory’ to the final notes of ‘Travelin’ Light,’ as they closed another incredible three-night stand…things got funky, Widespread Panic ‘busted it big’ and they blew the roof off of the TN Theatre last night!   

All I can offer is a sincere and grateful “THANK YOU!!!”  Until we meet again, fellas….

09/28/11 Tennessee Theater, Knoxville, TN (Setlist courtesy of Everyday Companion)
1: Glory, Makes Sense To Me, Pleas > Conrad, Visiting Day, Diner, Angels on High > Help Me Somebody > Rebirtha > Wondering
2: Solid Rock > Imitation Leather Shoes > Contentment Blues > Blackout Blues, Vacation, You Should Be Glad, Pigeons > Saint Ex, Bust It Big > Love Tractor
E: Dirty Side Down, Let's Get The Show On The Road, Travelin' Light

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Widespread Panic @ TN Theatre 09/26/11 Recap

Widespread Panic played their first of three sold-out shows in Knoxville’s historic Tennessee Theatre Monday evening.  This show was my 52nd Widespread show since 1992, and while I would rather see Widespread Panic over any other touring band on any given night, the set list was a little uneven at times, despite the solid and stellar jamming. 

“Ain’t No Use” is easily one of my favorite Panic covers, but I was surprised to see them open the show with this and not play it as a smooth transitional song later in the second set.  “Ain’t No Use” segued nicely into a relaxed rendition of “C. Brown” which essentially set a mellow and subdued tone for early part of the evening. “True To My Nature” followed “C. Brown” and was akin to the Rolling Stones playing a newer song, post Steel Wheels-era, thus the mass exodus by a much of the crowd as people headed for the bathroom and bar within the venue. 

The next couple of songs were stellar, but I was left puzzled by the placement of songs which in which the band kept bringing things down to a simmer in between some visceral jamming throughout set one.  I couldn’t help but be reminiscent of some previous shows I have witnessed where the band pulled out of the station like a freight train and proceeded to drive the train off the tracks before intermission.  This was a good night, but not one of the nights I guess that I had selfishly hoped for.  The remainder of the first set: “Stop-Go” > “1 x1,” “Tortured Artist”>”Me and The Devil Blues”, “Last Straw” > “Goodpeople” > “Dark Bar” > “Goodpeople”, “Give.” 

The band certainly made up for an unbalanced first set by rolling out some crowd favorites during set two such as: “Who Do You Belong To?,” “One Arm Steve,” “Blight,” “Driving Song” and “Tall Boy” before closing out the evening with “Down” and a rollicking “Chainsaw City.”

At the expense of sounding like a jaded fan, I suppose I was slightly disappointed in the total song selection and song placement, which gave the night an unbalanced feeling for me, overall. 

Regardless, this is Widespread Panic, my favorite band, playing in my backyard for three nights, and possibly the last shows I will see for some time as the band nears an indefinite hiatus; while a little let down, I will take an unbalanced show from Widespread Panic any night of the week. 

Here's to looking forward to Panic blowing the roof off of the Historic Tennessee Theatre on Wednesday night!   

-Will Fisher, The Showbiz Kids

09/26/11 Tennessee Theater, Knoxville, TN (Setlist Courtesy of Everyday Companion)
1: It Ain't No Use > C. Brown, True To My Nature > Stop-Go > 1 x 1, Tortured Artist > Me And The Devil Blues, The Last Straw > Goodpeople > Dark Bar > Goodpeople, Give
2: Hope In A Hopeless World > Weight Of The World, One Arm Steve > Jam > Who Do You Belong To? > This Part Of Town > Flicker > Jam > Driving Song > St. Louis > Blight > Driving Song > Tall Boy
E: Down, Chainsaw City

New Music Tuesdays...Wilco's new album The Whole Love

I can't decide if I'm more excited about their new album coming out today or the fact that I get to see them in concert this coming Sunday at The Ryman.  Either way this is a good week for me and Wilco. 

On their previous tour in 2007 for Sky Blue Sky I had bought a ticket to see them at the Ryman.  Sadly I didn't get to go so my ticket was demoted down to being a bookmark in a book I was reading.  I vowed that I wouldn't miss their next concert at the here we come Sunday.

If you like to read some reviews of the album prior to the release here are a few.


Mike Smith, The Showbiz Kids

Monday, September 26, 2011

Knoxville Welcomes Widespread Panic

Widespread Panic is back in Knoxville tonight kicking off the first of a three-show run at the Tennessee Theatre.  The band is touring to celebrate their 25th Anniversary and will wrap up their Fall Tour on October 31st in Chicago.

Last year's three-night run in Knoxville provided some of the best sets of Panic I have heard in years, so I am definitely looking forward to this evening.  Be sure to bring your boogie shoes and some canned goods as each night at the Tennessee Theatre is a Food Drive Event.

-Will Fisher, The Showbiz Kids

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On the turntable...Life's Rich Pageant

Lifes Rich Pageant is the fourth album by the American band R.E.M., released in 1986. Intended as an upbeat reaction to the sobering and historical Fables of the Reconstruction, R.E.M. chose Don Gehman to produce the album, which was recorded at John Mellencamp's Belmont Mall Studios in Belmont, Indiana.
The source for the title of the album is based on an English idiom. Its use is very old, but R.E.M.'s use is, according to Peter Buck, from the 1964 film A Shot in the Dark, minus the apostrophe:

Inspector Clouseau opens car door and falls into a fountain.
Maria: "You should get out of these clothes immediately. You'll catch your death of pneumonia, you will."
Clouseau: "Yes, I probably will. But it's all part of life's rich pageant, you know?"
The missing apostrophe in the title is deliberate. Nearly all contractions used by R.E.M. lack apostrophes, though "life's" in this case is a possessive.
The cover of the album depicts drummer Bill Berry on the upper part of the cover and a pair of bison, signifying an environmental theme, on the lower part. It also alludes to Buffalo Bill.
With R.E.M.'s fan base beginning to grow beyond its college rock boundaries, Lifes Rich Pageant proved to be at the time the band's most commercially successful album in the U.S., peaking at #21 on the Billboard charts and scoring them their first gold record. In the UK, the album managed a #43 peak.
The ecologically-conscious "Fall on Me" (a personal favorite of frontman Michael Stipe) and a cover of The Clique's "Superman", sung by bassist Mike Mills, were the only singles released from the album (the single version of the latter removed the sample from one of theGodzilla movies that began the album version).
Another ecologically-minded song, "Cuyahoga", refers to the once heavily polluted Cuyahoga River that flows into Lake Erie at Cleveland,Ohio. The song includes the lyric we burned the river down, which refers to the several occasions (most famously in 1969) when the river actually caught fire.
At the end of "Just a touch" Michael Stipe can be heard screaming the line "I'm so young, I'm so goddamn young", quoting longtime influence Patti Smith's live cover version of The Who's "My Generation" as recorded as the B-side of her 1976 single "Gloria" and more recent as a bonus track on some CD re-issues of her album Horses.
All songs written by Bill BerryPeter BuckMike Mills and Michael Stipe, except where noted.

Side one – "Dinner side"
  1. "Begin the Begin" – 3:28
  2. "These Days" – 3:24
  3. "Fall on Me" – 2:50
  4. "Cuyahoga" – 4:19
  5. "Hyena" – 2:50
  6. "Underneath the Bunker" – 1:25
Side two – "Supper side"
  1. "The Flowers of Guatemala" – 3:55
  2. "I Believe" – 3:49
  3. "What If We Give It Away?" – 3:33
  4. "Just a Touch" – 3:00
  5. "Swan Swan H" – 2:42
  6. "Superman" (Mike Bottler and Gary Zekley) – 2:52
1993 I.R.S. Vintage Years reissue bonus tracks
  1. "Tired of Singing Trouble" – 0:59
    • Previously unreleased
  2. "Rotary Ten" – 1:58
  3. "Toys in the Attic" (Steve TylerJoe Perry) – 2:26
  4. "Just a Touch" (Live in studio) – 2:38
    • Previously unreleased version, recorded live to 2-track during Reckoning sessions, 1984
  5. "Dream (All I Have to Do)" (Felice and Boudleaux Bryant) – 2:38
  6. "Swan Swan H" (Acoustic version) – 2:41
    • Originally released on the soundtrack to the film Athens, GA: Inside Out, 1987
  • Note: "Rotary Ten" and "Toys in the Attic" can be found on Dead Letter Office.
  • Note: Although sometimes referred to as such, the first release of this edition does not have the original tracks remastered. They follow the first print of the album and only add the extra tracks.
2011 25th Anniversary Edition reissue bonus tracks (The Athens Demos)
  1. "Fall On Me" (Demo)
  2. "Hyena" (Demo)
  3. "March Song (King of Birds)" (Demo)
  4. "These Days" (Demo)
  5. "Bad Day" (Demo)
  6. "Salsa (Underneath the Bunker)" (Demo)
  7. "Swan Swan H" (Demo)
  8. "Flowers of Guatemala" (Demo)
  9. "Begin the Begin" (Demo)
  10. "Cuyahoga" (Demo)
  11. "I Believe" (Demo)
  12. "Out of Tune" (Demo)
  13. "Rotary Ten" (Demo)
  14. "Two Steps Onward" (Demo)
  15. "Just a Touch" (Demo)
  16. "Mystery to Me" (Demo)
  17. "Wait" (Demo)
  18. "All the Right Friends" (Demo)
  19. "Get On Their Way (What If We Give It Away?)" (Demo)
Track listing notes:
  • "Superman" was listed on some early copies as "Superwoman."
  • The track listing on the back of the album is incorrect. It has never been corrected. The order is given as 1-5-10-8-2-7-4-9-3-11, which leaves out "Superman" and "Underneath the Bunker." The track listing is correct on the actual vinyl, cassette, and some CD versions.
  • Early pressings of the CD have the track number for "Cuyahoga" as "0R" instead of "04" printed on the CD itself.
  • On the vinyl and cassette releases, R.E.M. labeled side one (tracks 1-6) as the "Dinner side" and side two (tracks 7-12) as the "Supper side."
  • The UK 1993 release for 'IRS Years Vintage 1986' preserves the uncorrected album cover, but lists the unreleased tracks.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy 81st Birthday Ray Charles

I am from Atlanta Georgia and the sound,sight and name Ray Charles can send me right back home.  The vision of seeing PBS sign off its nightly broadcast to the sounds of him singing "Georgia on My Mind" while the gentle lapping of coastal Georgia seashore picture fades to static on the TV set. 
I don't care how much bad stuff Ray Charles ever did...I just know that he warms my heart and memories whenever I hear his music.  Any of his shortcoming are for outweighed by the comfort and peace that his voice and piano brings to me.  After seeing Jamie Fox lay out Ray's life on the big screen how can you not at least respect and applaud the man for all his successes and the simple fact that he,a black and blind man, made it out of the south in one piece to thrive and contribute to our culture.

Imagine how scared as a boy he must have been to be six in 1936 and  lose his sight after being able to see and all the while dealing with being black in rural south.  Many with more opportunity have done far less.

Most would not consider blindness a blessing,but for a black child in 1936 at the age of six it may have been the best thing to happen to Ray.  He had the opportunity to go to Florida School For The Deaf And The Blind where he received a comprehensive education, was taught Braille and learned piano.  Who knows what kind of regular public education he would have received if not blind.  There are thousand of details about Ray Charles' life including all his numerous philanthropic actions that can be read about here at his website. 

As far as the music...well...a must have record of Ray Charles is his Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.  One of my favorites on the album is "It Makes No Difference Now."  It was one of those concepts for an album like Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison or The Who's Tommy that at the time the vision could only be seen by the artist as genius.

Not only is "What I'd Say" the #10 song spot on Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of All Time but it is one of only 300 songs catalogued in the United States Recording Registry because of its cultural significance.

"Still in peaceful dreams I see, the road leads back to you." Happy Birthday, Ray.

photo credit: Jim Marshall

Mike Smith,The Showbiz Kids

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Trey Anastasio Band adds benefit show in Vermont

The Trey Anastasio Band have added a benefit show at South Burlington, VT’s Higher Ground on October 1st.   
All ticket proceeds from the show will be given to The Waterwheel Foundation and The Vermont Community Foundation to aid in the recovery of the Green Mountain State. 
The South Burlington show will kick off the start of the band's fall tour.... 
Trey Anastasio Band Fall Tour 2011:

10/1 Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT

10/6 Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Asheville, NC 

10/7 House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC

10/8 Ram’s Head Live, Baltimore, MD 

10/12 Wellmont Theatre, Montclair, NJ

10/13 Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD

10/14 Fillmore, Charlotte, NC

10/15 nTelos Wireless Pavilion, Charlottesville,VA

11/11 The Tabernacle, Atlanta, GA 

11/12 Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival, Live Oak, FL

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

R.E.M. Call It Quits

"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening." R.E.M. 

In their own words: The guys share their thoughts on why now. 


"During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, 'what next'? Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.

"We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this--there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart. The time just feels right." 


"A wise man once said--'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave.' We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it. 

"I hope our fans realize this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way. 

"We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing." 


"One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you. 

"Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it's only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world."

Neil Young to Release Autobiography Next Year

neil young journeys toronto tiff memoirs
Neil Young attends the premiere of 'Neil Young Journeys' in Toronto.
Peter Bregg/Getty Images
Neil Young is the latest A-list rock star to decide to write a memoir: His bookWaging Heavy Peace will hit shelves in the fall of 2012. "I felt like writing books fit me like a glove," Young said in a statement. "I started and I just kept going. That's the way my Daddy used to do it on his old Underwood up in the attic.  He said, 'Just keep writing, you never know what will turn up.'" The book is being published by Blue Rider Press, a new imprint of Penguin.
"This promises to be a revealing, intimate book that will provide the window into Neil's life and career that fans and admirers have always wanted," said Blue Rider President David Rosenthal. 
Young's father Scott Young was as prominent sports journalist in Canada. In 1984 he published Neil And Me, which chronicled his sometimes turbulent relationship with his son. In 2003, Jimmy McDonough released Shakey: Neil Young's Biography, based around extensive interviews the writer conducted with Young, his family, friends and numerous bandmates. Despite the access that Young provided, he later sued McDonough in an attempt to stop the book's publication. Legal wrangling held up publication of the book for three years. 
Young joins a long list of rock stars – including Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Steven Tyler – who have released memoirs in recent years. 

By Andy Greene
Originally Published in Rolling Stone