Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: ‘Mornings with Papa Tom Chapin and the Chapin Sisters’ music show streaming daily

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Three-time Grammy winner Tom Chapin and his daughters Abigail and Lily, aka the Chapin Sisters, offer 30 minutes’ worth of kid-friendly music with Mornings with Papa Tom Chapin and the Chapin Sisters. The show streams daily weekday mornings at 11:00AM EDST on Facebook and Instagram. All episodes are archived on YouTube

Quarantined together in the elder Chapin’s Hudson Valley home, the three Chapins stream live from his living room, performing songs from Tom’s thirteen classic albums of Children’s Music as well as classics from the American Folk Music canon. The show provides lighthearted but intelligent entertainment for all generations, a perfect opportunity for families to gather and enjoy each other’s company.

Abigail and Lily both have four-year old daughters, home from pre-school and too young to be occupied by Zoom School, Google Classroom and so on and they have many friends in the same boat. “We saw a need for some entertainment for kids their age and older, engaging kids along with their parents. At first we thought this would be for a week or two, but we are kept motivated by the daily responses and requests. We’ve been asking people to share the names of loved ones who are Essential Workers, and we thank them live by name every day.”

“I wanted to keep busy,” adds Tom, “and share these songs that I’ve written with my amazing collaborators over the last 30 years. I’ve been a working touring musician for more than half a century, and being stuck at home is uncharted territory, but as always the music and a chance to sing with my daughters keeps me sane, healthy and happy.”

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TVD Radar: Guided By Voices, Alien Lanes 25th anniversary edition in stores 8/21

VIA PRESS RELEASE | “A brilliant collection of songs whose importance feels predestined.”Rolling Stone

Matador Records has announced a 25th Anniversary vinyl edition of Guided By Voices’ 1995 album Alien Lanes. Inspired by the multicolored drumhead featured on the album’s artwork, this new edition is pressed on blue, green and red multicolored vinyl making it the first non-exclusive color vinyl edition of this release. A limited edition Guided By Voices keyring / bottle opener, based on an original 1995 design, will be available to bundle with copies of the Alien Lanes 25th Anniversary LP exclusively through the Matador webstores while stocks last. Limited to a one time press of 2,500 copies, pre-sale for this exclusive edition is available via the Matador store.

Originally released on April 4, 1995, Alien Lanes served as the first Guided by Voices album to be released on Matador Records. With 28 tracks spanning the course of 41 minutes, the album would fundamentally alter the concept of what a rock and roll record could be.

Bursting at the seams with classic rock bravado (“Game of Pricks,” “Closer You Are”), anthemic power pop (“My Valuable Hunting Knife,” “Motor Away”), punk (“Pimple Zoo,” “My Son Cool”), psychedelic experimentalism (“Ex-Supermodel,” “Alright”), and tape-warped ballads ( “King And Caroline,” “Blimps Go 90,” “Chicken Blows”) Alien Lanes dips and dives between genres and moods with breakneck efficiency and a remarkable amount of intellect and emotion bolstered by the abstract poetry of songwriter and front-man Bob Pollard.

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Colin Newman:
The Lost Interview

The global pandemic has claimed a number of things, including stopping my favorite band in the entire world from completing their North American tour, as Wire had to pull up stakes half way through and return home. We take it for granted that every Wire album will be phenomenal now, but it really is staggering that they can produce something as incredible and current as Mind Hive well over 40 years into their career.

While we have been robbed of the joys of seeing Wire live, being in lockdown has finally allowed me to go back and save an interview that I did with Colin Newman back in 2017 around the reissue of his incredible early solo records. A-Z, Provisionally Entitled The Singing Fish, and Not To remain some of my favorite albums of all-time. I could talk about them for days. Colin tells me he doesn’t have much to say about them, and then we chat for hours…

Colin Newman: I don’t have a huge amount to say. I don’t know if you’ve read any of the interviews I’ve done for my solo records. I tend to run out of things to say very quickly. I did it because I felt I had an opportunity I couldn’t not take. There’s too many negatives in that sentence, but you understand what I mean. I heard from a friend who works for Beggars that they were allowing some of their artists to have their back catalogue on vinyl. And I thought, “Well, that will be nice, but it would be good to do CDs because I’ve got extra tracks in the archives I could make doubles of and that will make a more interesting release for fans.” And so I negotiated with them to get a CD and they were fine with that, and they just basically gave them to me to release. They retained the title; they owned them. But they’re not keeping the things in print anymore.

I think Beggars are in a position to do this but they do take quite seriously the kind of, as it were, the unwritten pact between a record company and an artist — especially an independent label. If you have someone’s records and you’re not making them available, then you don’t really have the right to continue to — you’re not exploiting it on behalf of the artist, so you could be legally challenged if you weren’t. But I don’t think they look at it like that; it’s more like, “Well, if the artist can do something with it, then why not get them to do it?” So that was where I came into it. It took me forever to get anything together. I’ve known about this since 2012.

John Foster: You and I have talked about it even further back, as far as a speculative thing that could happen.

Yeah. So it’s one of those things. I don’t feel particularly close to the material, but at the same time I’m very happy that I’ve made quite a lot of people happy with rereleasing it, so that’s ultimately a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

It’s interesting too. In setting that up, I guess one of the things I was curious about was why not reissue them on Pink Flag or Swim, setting up a separate —

Pink Flag doesn’t release anything other than Wire records. It’s very specific in that regard. I think it would have been a more commercial option to release them on Pink Flag but then you open up all kinds of potential problems within the band if you say, “Oh, well I’m using this vehicle for my own use.” That seems to me a bit unethical, really. The only way I can maintain a position of being in the band and running the label is to be beyond reproach. I can’t ever be seen to be doing anything to my personal advantage. It all has to be about Wire. It’s very specific, that Pink Flag only releases Wire records. Swim, on the other hand, only releases new records. That was the idea of it, to have a sub-label. Of course Sentient Sonics is a sub-label of Swim. And the name came from Graham Duff, the writer. Ages ago I thought, “We need to have a name for this label,” and he came up with it. He always comes up with names of groups. A lot of his writing is about music, or has been in the past, so band names is one of his specialties. There’s always an element of humor in them.

Right, he’s got a list of things waiting for the right opportunity to launch them?

Not really, it’s just something that he came up with that kind of stuck. If there will be more things, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that there would be another set, which would be Commercial Suicide, It Seems, and Bastard, all done in the same way. They will be released on vinyl. There’s definitely material for second discs for all of those three. So there will be a commercial market for them.

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Graded on a Curve: Lynyrd Skynyrd,
Nuthin’ Fancy

It is my unreconstituted thunk that Lynyrd Skynyrd is America’s second greatest rock’n’roll band, right behind the Velvet Underground. Hyperbole? Mebbe. But during the four short years before fate shot their airship down, the Southern rockers produced a veritable shitload of immortal (and yes smart) tunes that I, for one, have been listening to with pleasure for decades.

1975’s appropriately titled Nuthin’ Fancy isn’t the best Skynyrd LP out there. It may even be the worst of the five albums the original Lynyrd Skynyrd—which is the only Lynyrd Skynyrd that matters—recorded between 1973 and 1977. It lacks the sublime touches that make Skynyrd’s first and second albums rock landmarks, and the assortment of to-die-for songs (“That Smell,” “One More Time,” “All I Can Do Is Write About It”) scattered throughout the two LPs that came after it. The way I see it, Nuthin’ Fancy only boasts two songs—I’m talking about “Saturday Night Special” and “Am I Losin’”—that are truly indispensible.

The biggest problem lies in the songs, natch, and the problem with the songs is that they were written in a rush, in the studio between tours. I’ll stand Ronnie Van Zant up against any American songwriter (exceptin’ B. Dylan) ever, but when it came to Nuthin’ Fancy he simply didn’t have the same amount of time he’d had to write such immortal tunes as “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Tuesday’s Gone,” or “Simple Man” from 1973’s (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) and 1974’s Second Helping. (Indeed, he’d never again have the time to sit down and do some leisurely songwriting during his lifetime, which is why Lynyrd Skynyrd was never able to top the transcendental brilliance of its first two LPs.)

Another problem is that Van Zant, whose idea of a great band was Bad Company, opted for the ‘eavy touch rather than the light one on such songs as “I’m a Country Boy” (anti-NYC rant), “On the Hunt” (misogynistic rant in which Ronnie at least has the decency to concede he’s a slut too), “Cheatin’ Woman” (typical anti-woman rant distinguished only by cool organ and Van Zant’s wonderfully lazy but knowing vocals), and “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller” (self-explanatory). He may have believed that driving it right down the audience’s throat constituted the basis of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s success, but he was wrong.

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TVD Radar: Rush, Permanent Waves
40th anniversary 3LP
in stores 5/29

VIA PRESS RELEASE | On 29 May, UMe/Mercury/Anthem label group continues its extensive Rush 40th anniversary album series with a new, imagination-capturing expanded edition of all the music that comprises the band’s remarkable 1980 release, Permanent Waves.

Permanent Waves, Rush’s seventh studio album, was originally released in January 1980, and its forward-thinking music signaled a new direction for the Canadian band as it entered a new decade. The six songs encompassing the album encapsulated the breadth of Rush’s formidable progressive chops meshed with its knack for creating radio-friendly arrangements, all elements that were embedded within the grooves of their previous album, 1978’s widely acclaimed Hemispheres. Permanent Waves also signified Rush’s first of many recording sessions at Le Studio in Morin-Heights, Quebec, which was at one point nicknamed the trio’s own personal Abbey Road recording studio.

The album’s explosive lead-off track, ‘The Spirit Of Radio,’ roared out of the gate with a fine appreciation for the joy of experiencing great music on the airwaves, itself becoming a favorite FM staple for the ensuing decades in the process. Next came the time-signature-challenging ‘Freewill,’ a manifesto for embracing the independence of making one’s own life choices, while ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ chronicled an aurally cinematic interpretation of the lyrics’ palpably invoked religious imagery.

Side 2 commenced with ‘Entre Nous,’ a deeply introspective examination of how to bridge interpersonal differences, followed by the moving balladry of ‘Different Strings,’ and ultimately concluded with the formidable sonic cosmic vortex of the longtime concert favorite, ‘Natural Science.’

Permanent Waves’ 40th Anniversary will be available to fans in four distinct configurations, including the (1) Super Deluxe Edition, (2) two-CD Deluxe Edition, (3) three-LP Deluxe Edition, and (4) Deluxe Digital Edition.

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TVD Radar: Morrison Hotel Gallery celebrates Elton John in exclusive online exhibition

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Before being knighted by Queen Elizabeth III, he was a plucky kid from Middlesex with a prodigious musical talent. However, it was those in-between years that gave rise to glittering rock royalty. From “young man in the twenty-second row” to a breakout pop troubadour to global phenomenon, the long and winding path of Sir Elton John has lent itself to some rather spectacular places (and ensembles) over the past half-century.

Presented in celebration of Sir Elton John’s three-year swan song Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, Morrison Hotel Gallery is pleased to announce SIR: A Retrospective of Rock Royalty, a month long online photographic exhibition on view exclusively via the Morrison Hotel Gallery website starting April 2, 2020. Despite a portion of John’s farewell tour being postponed, this digital exhibition will offer fans around the world the opportunity to dive headlong into the unforgettable music, glitz, and radiant superstardom of the multiple Grammy-winning artist, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and one of the most decorated singer-songwriters of an era.

Beginning with the 1970 release of his self-titled debut album, the Rocketman’s stratospheric rise is punctuated by a time and genre-transcendent catalogue of hits which span the gamut from favorites like “Crocodile Rock” and “Bennie And The Jets” to classic ballads such as “Tiny Dancer” and “Candle in the Wind.” SIR: A Retrospective of Rock Royalty is a testament to a time-honored spectacle that neither begins nor ends with jukebox anthems alone.

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Fiona Harte,
The TVD First Date

“I asked for a record player for Christmas when I was about 18 years old. My parents laughed at the idea of buying one because they, along with a lot of my older relatives, had owned one but to my disbelief, threw them out thinking they would never use them again what with it being the digital age. My mother kindly bought me one and I forgave them for their sins.”

“The first record I bought was a classic—Joni Mitchell Blue. Even the cover excited me. I just loved the idea of listening to an album that I adored so much but in a different way. I listened to it in my Dublin apartment, so often that I woke from my sleep singing different tracks from it. I then started to search for more records to add to my collection. The next purchase was The Best Of Joan Baez which I picked up at George’s Market in Belfast.

To be honest, I haven’t ventured too far away from the folk world of vinyl—I got a bit addicted to listening to that genre of music in that way. My favourite album to date is Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison. The audience to me adds so much to that recording and hearing it on vinyl is a really special experience, it captures the mood of the show so effortlessly.

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Graded on a Curve:
Baby Huey,
The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend

If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of James Ramsey (aka Baby Huey), the giant (350-400 lbs, and more!) and short-lived Chicago funk, psychedelic soul, and R&B singer who never quite escaped the confines of his adopted city of Chicago, and who only managed to release one LP, and that one posthumously. Heroin tragically truncated his life; Melvyn Jones, organist and trumpet player for Baby Huey’s backing band the Babysitters, once recounted an incident in which Baby Huey’s works fell out of a cereal box while he pouring himself a bowl. (The cereal was later determined to be Kellogg’s ODs.)

But a listen to Baby Huey and the Babysitters’ LP The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend (an odd title for a man who was functionally deceased at the time of the LP’s release; some fact checker somewhere was hitting the ODs too) will make you bemoan his early death at age 26 in a Chicago motel room, because the goddamned album, so frustrating in places, in others shows Baby Huey to be one badass funk and soul man. Produced by Curtis Mayfield, who most likely used pre-existing tracks and session men after Baby Huey’s demise to fill in the backgrounds because he was no fan of the Babysitters, The Baby Huey Story is all over the place: from a fantastically weird cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” to a take of Mayfield’s own “Mighty, Mighty” that was recorded live to one very jazz-centric take on “California Dreamin’,” Baby Huey covered all the bases and then some.

Take his version of Mayfield’s “Running.” Big horns, a funky backbeat, some hardcore drum thump, and one psychedelic guitar provide Baby Huey with the backdrop, and he sounds bad. As in mean. Great, right? But it’s followed by the easy listening and flute-heavy instrumental “One Dragon Two Dragon,” which just bums me the fuck out. Ditto “California Dreamin’,” which is the horrible sound of a flute running loose. Kinda reminds me of the Will Ferrell flute scene in Anchorman. Except this one ends up sounding like a bad 1970’s TV theme song, one starring Jean Paul Sartre as a crime-solving detective suffering from existential nausea and frog eyes.

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TVD Radar: “All In It Together” from Mavis Staples ft. Jeff Tweedy, proceeds to fight COVID-19 in Chicago 

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Soul legend Mavis Staples has released the hopeful new song “All In It Together.” Produced by Jeff Tweedy and featuring Tweedy on backing vocals and guitar, “All In It Together” is available on all streaming services and Bandcamp. All proceeds from the song will be donated to My Block, My Hood, My City—a Chicago organization ensuring seniors have access to the essentials needed to fight COVID-19. 

“The song speaks to what we’re going through now—everyone is in this together, whether you like it or not,” Staples explains. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what race or sex you are, where you live…it can still touch you. It’s hit so many people in our country and around the world in such a horrible way and I just hope this song can bring a little light to the darkness. We will get through this but we’re going to have to do it together. If this song is able to bring any happiness or relief to anyone out there in even the smallest way, I wanted to make sure that I helped to do that.”

Hailed by NPR as “one of America’s defining voices of freedom and peace,” Staples is the kind of once-in-a-generation artist whose impact on music and culture would be difficult to overstate. She’s both a Blues and a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer; a civil rights icon; a GRAMMY Award-winner; a chart-topping soul/gospel/R&B pioneer; a National Arts Awards Lifetime Achievement recipient; and a Kennedy Center honoree. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., performed at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, and sang in Barack Obama’s White House. In 2019 Staples released her 12th studio album We Get By, written and produced by Ben Harper. | PHOTO: MYRIAM SANTOS

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TVD Radar: Light In
The Attic presents live charity concert to support MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund

VIA PRESS RELEASE | In hopes of bringing some much-needed joy to the planet, acclaimed archival/reissue label and distribution company Light in the Attic will be presenting a free charity concert this Friday (4/3), streaming live on their Twitch and YouTube channels beginning at 4:00 pm PST.

Light In The Attic & Friends at Home will feature new performances from legendary artists whose music LITA has re-released over the past 20 years, along with a handful of talented friends from the around the globe, each covering songs from the label’s renowned catalog. 100% of all donations will go towards MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund, assisting those in the music community affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. While quarantined at home—from Rio to Tokyo; Cardiff to Austin; Barbados to Italy—each musician will be doing what they do best, sharing the gift of song, maybe in their pajamas and maybe with their kids, and wherever feels comfy and cozy in the privacy of their home.

The artist lineup for Light In The Attic & Friends at Home includes: Texas soul queen Barbara Lynn / Fred Armisen / British folk legend Michael Chapman / Jarvis Cocker / Italian composer Gigi Masin / Devendra Banhart / Brazilian great Marcos Valle / Jim James (My Morning Jacket) / Sandy Dedrick of sixties soft-psych outfit The Free Design / Japanese ambient pioneers Inoyama Land (Kankyō Ongaku) / Alex Maas (The Black Angels) / Money Mark / Singer-songwriter Lynn Castle / Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals) / Leonard Sanders of modern soul-gospel group the Supreme Jubilees / Jazz giant Azar Lawrence / Grant & Frankie Olsen (Gold Leaves / Arthur & Yu) / Beach Boys poet and lyricist Stephen John Kalinich / Mark Lightcap (Acetone) / Sessa / Ben Gibbard

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TVD Radar: Neal Preston ‘Behind The Lens’ Instagram livestream tonight, 4/2

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Iconic rock star photographer Neal Preston is doing a Behind The Lens Instagram Livestream on Morrison Hotel Gallery’s Instagram story tonight, April 2nd, at 5:00 PM EDT.

Offering fans unprecedented access inside the daily lives and legendary archives of the music industry’s most captivating personalities, Morrison Hotel Gallery’s Behind The Lens format expands its reach with the unveiling of a new Instagram Live/IGTV video series. Streaming directly from a featured photographer’s home or studio, each episode merges elements of storytelling, conversational Q&A and the cultivation of a global music culture in accordance with the evolving brand identity of Morrison Hotel Gallery, the international leader in fine art music photography.

Neal Preston is one of the most highly respected photographers in the history of the music business. His career in photography, which started in high school and continues to the present, has spanned well over 4 decades. Through his body of work Preston has made a significant contribution to the pop culture history’s of multiple generations. His archive stands as one of the music industry’s single most elite (and extensive) photographic collections. He has worked closely with rock royalty such as Led Zeppelin, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Sly Stone, Queen, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Madonna, and countless other luminaries.

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Grace Gillespie,
The TVD First Date

“A collection of vinyl is particularly interesting because as much as you will have supplied the bulk of the records, there are always additions that have been left behind by a sibling, an old boyfriend, a friend who came round to listen to the new Hendrix and then got so high he forgot to take it home.”

“I grew up with my Dad’s collection. But, in that collection there were records belonging to his sister, old friends, and of course my mum… and her friend or ex or even her dad. A digital library is so personal, perhaps too personal, it has lost the social aspect that vinyl demands. You don’t accidentally leave an album in someone’s Spotify library. You only add exactly what you want to hear. And if, by some horrible twist of fate you find your boyfriend has managed to save a load of music onto your downloads and then leaves you for your colleague—you can just quickly un-save it and never have to think about them or their questionable taste every again.

But, you wouldn’t chuck out someone’s vinyl. You might listen to it with your new boyfriend and laugh at it (and them) but you wouldn’t bin it—unless it’s the Surfing Bird record and then you must smash it with a sledgehammer in the garden and hide the evidence from Peter. Generally an album you hate or mildly dislike or just simply don’t remember buying just goes to the back of the pile. As time passes you collect more and you keep the past. In my digital library I delete the past with disgust quite regularly. And it’s a shame.

Back to my dad’s collection. I grew up in the middle of nowhere and thankfully managed to not get too affected by some of my primary school friends listening to The Spice Girls or Britney, genius as they arguably are. I listened to what my parents listened to for a really long time, and to be honest I listen to those same artists still. I remember the covers of the records that I really liked as a child: Hot Rats by Zappa is particularly vivid I think because the cover is somewhat scary. The Sgt. Pepper’s cover is of course iconic but I liked it because I saw it as a kind of Where’s Wally?. Dylan’s Desire is also very clear still—it’s a beautiful image and a magical album and I liked it as a child because it had lots of references to children and family and also had a song on it that was (nearly) my mum’s name.

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TVD Radar: Bob Marley: Legacy documentary series continues: Women Rising streaming now

VIA PRESS RELEASE | In honor of Women’s History Month, the Bob Marley: Legacy mini-documentary series continues with episode two: Women Rising.

The moving and empowering short premiered today on Bob Marley’s official YouTube channel and features interviews with Rita Marley, also known as Bob Marley’s wife and the matriarch of the Marley Family, whose strength and character is an inspiration for people around the world. Rita was an integral part of the Wailers musical development, as well as a constant presence and influence in Bob Marley’s life, guardian of his legacy, and a member of the Iconic Reggae Group I-Threes. Mrs. Marley is also the founder of the Rita Marley Foundation, which works to eradicate poverty and hunger while empowering communities in Ghana and Jamaica. Her life’s work epitomizes integrity and grace.

Bob Marley: Legacy Episode 2 – Women Rising also features Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt of the I-Threes, Mystic Marley, Donisha Prendergast, academic and writer Isis Semaj-Hall, former activist, campaigner and former councilor Seyi Akiwowo and Stella Dadzie, writer & historian, Kim Walker, photographer, and more championing women and the messages in Bob Marley’s music.

Last month’s episode, Bob Marley: Legacy Episode 1 – 75 Years A Legend, a refreshing and cinematic journey through the life, legacy and relevance that Bob Marley still holds in this present day is also available now on Bob Marley’s official YouTube channel. The documentary follows the EP release of “Keep On Moving,” which features an extended and radio mix and an exclusive mix from Sly & Robbie.

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TVD Radar: 13th Floor Elevators: A Visual History, in stores 4/21
via Anthology Editions

VIA PRESS RELEASE | “Their journey still occasions wonder and awe. For so many years, it was hardly told. Here it is, in pictures and words. This is the way, step inside.”Jon Savage

13th Floor Elevators: A Visual History, written and curated by Paul Drummond and published by Anthology Editions, will be released April 21st, and is available for preorder now. Direct orders of the book through the Anthology website will be shipped immediately. 13th Floor Elevators: A Visual History tells the complete and unvarnished story of a band, which, until now, has been thought of as tragically underdocumented. Drummond has spent years amassing an unprecedented archive of primary materials, including scores of previously-unseen band photographs, rare and iconic psychedelic artworks, and more.

Born out of a union of club bands on the burgeoning Austin bohemian scene and a pronounced taste for hallucinogens, the 13th Floor Elevators formed in late 1965 when lyricist Tommy Hall asked a local singer named Roky Erickson to join up with his new rock outfit. Four years, three official albums, and countless acid trips later, it was over: the Elevators’ pioneering first run ended in a dizzying jumble of professional mismanagement, internal arguments, drug busts, and forced psychiatric imprisonments.

In their short existence, however, the group succeeded in blowing the lid off the budding musical underground, logging early salvos in the countercultural struggle against state authorities, and turning their deeply hallucinatory take on jug-band garage rock into a new American institution called psychedelic music. Before the hippies, before the punks, there were the 13th Floor Elevators: an unlikely crew of outcast weirdo geniuses who changed culture. 13th Floor Elevators: A Visual History places the band finally and undeniably in the pantheon of innovators of American rock music to which they have always belonged.

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Graded on a Curve:
John Prine, John Prine

True story: I recently made a date with a woman, and on the day of the date she casually informed me we’d be going to an S&M party, then also casually let drop she’d be bringing a fellow named Lunchbox who just happened to be her boyfriend, and at the S&M party there were naked fat guys walking around in Viking helmets eating blue frosted cupcakes like at an elementary school affair, who watched while I watched Lunchbox whip my date and his girlfriend, after which she produced a trio of very lethal-looking stainless steel knives and proceeded to carve interesting patterns on my torso.

It was easily the weirdest date I’ve ever gone on, and quite possibly the weirdest date anyone’s ever gone on, and I can hear you asking: What in God’s name does any of this have to do with country-folk songwriting genius John Prine? Well I’ll tell you. I’ve given it some thought, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Prine, who has a voice like a stoned rodeo and a big old homely heart that pumps pure compassion, is the only person in the whole wide world who could somehow manage to capture both the absurdity and yes, the humanity and even the dignity of those naked guys in Viking helmets as they stood around eating blue frosted cupcakes watching other naked people get whipped.

The late Lou Reed, whom you’d think would be the man for the job, would have only made the whole scene seem decadent, which it most certainly wasn’t. Whereas someone with an eye for the absurd, say the late Vivian Stanshall of the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, would have turned the whole thing into a Monty Python skit, which it most certainly wasn’t either. No, Prine is the only songwriter I can think of who could write a song poking fun at those naked Vikings while empathizing with them as well.

Over the course of his 42-year recording career—during which he’s released 22 albums, including “best of” and live LPs—Prine has written some of the saddest, funniest, and most empathetic songs you’ll ever hear, including such timeless standards as “Angel From Montgomery,” “In Spite of Ourselves,” “Paradise,” “Far From Me,” and “Hello in There.” All of ‘em great, so great in fact that Kris Kristofferson, who “discovered” Prine in the country capitol of the world, Chicago, Illinois, said in jest, “We’ll have to break his thumbs.” Or at least I think Kris was speaking in jest. Prine’s songwriting was certainly brilliant enough to cause a lesser songwriter to take desperate measures.

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