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16 May 2010

The Finish Line

You know what it feels like? It feels as if I'm almost finished running a marathon—the marathon in this case being the three years I spent researching and writing Everything Is an Afterthought, interviewing a hundred or so of Paul Nelson's friends, family, associates, and several of the artists about whose work he wrote (including Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Elliott Murphy, Rod Stewart, Suzanne Vega, Freedy Johnston, and Bruce Hornsby)—and just when that symbolic satin ribbon comes into sight, it suddenly moves farther away.

The finish line becomes a moving target.

No sooner had I announced the publication date of the book than I received word that the publisher has rescheduled its release to Spring 2011 in order to give us a few more months to solicit advance blurbs.

Sure, I'm disappointed; but if this strategy results in more people buying and/or reading the book, then I'm all for it. My goal for this project remains the same as when I began: to not only collect Paul Nelson's best writing into book form so that it can be rediscovered by his original audience, but to introduce his work to a new generation of readers and establish him as one of our finest writers.

In the meantime, I'll continue posting updates here, as well as material that didn't make its way into the book. And maybe some interview transcripts. And next spring will be here before we know it.

Copyright 2010 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.

25 March 2010

Rod Stewart

Back in November, Minneapolis, Minnesota's own Bill Tuomala posted a review of Paul Nelson and Lester Bangs's 1981 book Rod Stewart (which I've written about previously here). Writing at Rocks Off: The Exiled on Main Street Weblog, Tuomala ranked Rod Stewart as number fourteen in "The Top 30 Rock Books I Own." 


And if you click on the little black-and-white image of Paul and Lester that Bill has provided, it will lead you to a larger (albeit blurry) version of the photo.

Copyright 2010 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.

 

30 September 2009

Stepping into People's Lives

I'm late in posting this, but Bruce Springsteen turned sixty one week ago today. Over at Mental Floss, Matt Soniak posted the very entertaining "60 Springsteen Facts for Bruce's 60th Birthday." 

Regarding Number 17 on his list—

Springsteen lore has it that Bruce was once spotted in a movie theater watching Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (which comments on artist/fan relations). The fan who saw him challenged Bruce to prove he didn’t regard his own fans with the contempt as the Allen stand-in in the movie by coming to meet his mom and have dinner. Bruce did so and supposedly still visits the fan’s mother every time he’s in St Louis.
 
—I was reminded of a passage from the "Two Jewish Mothers Pose as Rock Critics" chapter of Paul Nelson and Lester Bangs's Rod Stewart book wherein, during a give-and-take between the two critics about the nature of fame and what it can do to an artist, this same story about Springsteen came up. Paul said: 

I've been backstage at Springsteen shows where Bruce'll open the doors and let thirty kids hanging around outside come in and talk to him. Hope Antman [of CBS Records] told me a story that when Bruce was in Minneapolis and had a night off he went to a movie by himself, and this kid recognized him as he was buying a ticket and said, "Hey, you wanna sit with me?" And he sat with him, and the kid said, "Hey, you wanna come home and talk and my mother’ll fix us some things?" And Bruce went home with the kid and spent the whole night with the kid. And that ain't ever going to happen with Rod Stewart.”

I asked Bruce if any of this were true when I interviewed him in 2007.

"Oh yeah," he said, "oh yeah. I think it was St. Louis, though, or St. Paul. I forget where. I was by myself. I sort of enjoyed the license that that strange part of my job, where people recognize you, allowed me to kind of step into people’s lives, and it was just a night where I wasn’t doing anything and it just sounded like a good idea. The kid ran into his room and came out with an album cover and held it up next to me [laughs] after we came in the door.”

Springsteen volunteered that he does still see the kid's mother occasionally when he's in town (whichever town it may be), though it sounded as if such meetings were in the nature of a before- or after-concert encounters, not a visit on his own part.

Copyright 2009 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.

06 October 2008

1972

A few weeks ago, Paul Nelson's good friend and fellow critic Bud Scoppa, who worked with him at Mercury Records in the early Seventies, was going through a trunk in his garage when he came across a photocopy of Paul's list of the top ten albums of 1972. Scoppa posted the list yesterday on his blog.

At the risk of sounding like everybody's father, the ten LPs (as they were called back then) in question prove that, while we still continue to live in interesting times, the music was definitely better back then:

The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street
Jackson Browne, Jackson Browne
Rod Stewart, Never a Dull Moment
Mott The Hoople, All the Young Dudes
Randy Newman, Sail Away
Steve Young, Seven Bridges Road
John Fahey, Of Rivers and Religion
David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
The Kinks, Everybody’s in Showbiz
Wilderness Road, Wilderness Road

Paul, an inveterate list-maker on his own, compiled his list for Fusion, a Boston-based rock magazine. It's interesting to note that, because Paul's critical output was minimized during his Mercury years, he only wrote a full-fledged review for one of these albums: Wilderness Road. Paul loved the band and more than once flew from New York to Chicago, where they were based, on his own dime. His Rolling Stone review of the album reveals Paul at his most ardent and least trendy.

Copyright 2008 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.
 

10 May 2008

Rod Stewart

The backstory: In the early Seventies, Paul Nelson accepted a publicity job at Mercury Records. One of the artists with whom he worked closely, and with whom he became good friends, was Rod Stewart. During Paul's five-year tenure at Mercury (he eventually was promoted to A&R, in which capacity he would sign the New York Dolls to their first recording contract), Stewart produced some of his best albums, including Gasoline Alley, Never a Dull Moment, and one of the best rock & roll albums of all time, Every Picture Tells a Story.

In 1975, the same year Paul resigned from Mercury and returned to writing full-time, Stewart switched labels and landed at Warner Bros. where his first album was Atlantic Crossing. Writing in Rolling Stone, Paul gave the album a rave review, concluding: "If Atlantic Crossing isn't Rod Stewart's best record—and it isn't—it at least comes within hailing distance of earlier masterpieces."

In 1978, Paul wrote one of his best articles, a lengthy, praising piece that sympathetically depicted Rod at odds with his ex-lover, actress Britt Ekland, who was suing him for $12 million, at odds with the burgeoning punks, who had singled him out as their anti-poster boy, and at odds with the critical mass in general, who were of the opinion that he'd sold out and gone Hollywood (which he literally had, having relocated from England).

In 1981, Paul co-wrote a book with Lester Bangs that pilloried Stewart and his music, with Paul recanting much of his earlier praise. He wrote: "As a young man in his twenties, Rod Stewart seemed to possess an age-old wisdom: some of the things he told us we could've learned from our grandfathers. In his thirties, however, he suddenly metamorphosed into Jayne Mansfield."



Fast-forward to Thursday afternoon when I received a phone call that asked: "Can you meet Rod Stewart for drinks tonight?" I'd been trying to secure an interview with him for almost a year and a half. Four hours later, I found myself at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, across the table from a very dashing and dapper-looking Rod Stewart. (Due to a miscommunication between his manager and publicist, he'd been waiting for me for twenty minutes there in the sedate Astor Court—while I'd been waiting for him for twenty minutes around the corner in the rowdy King Cole Bar and Lounge.) Looking still very much the young rogue on which he'd made his reputation, the 63-year-old Stewart was charming and funny and, of course, occasionally bawdy. My scheduled fifteen- to twenty-minute interview ended up lasting almost forty-five minutes.

Stewart fondly remembered Paul Nelson as I did my best to stir up his memories and remind him of incidents that had occurred more than three-and-a-half decades ago. As I sipped on my Bloody Mary (which, according to legend, had been invented by King Cole bartender Fernand Petiot, circa 1939) and he on his martini, we traded stories: his about the Paul he knew, me about what had happened to Paul in the many years since Stewart had seen him last.

I even quoted Paul's contention that Stewart had "metamorphosed into Jayne Mansfield" and asked him how it had felt having his friend savage him in book form. I asked him if there had been any validity to what Paul had written. And he answered every question honestly and to the best of his ability.

What he had to say will appear, of course, in the Rod Stewart chapter of Everything Is an Afterthought.

When Stewart's twenty-seven-year-old wife Penny Lancaster arrived, he announced that the interview was over and rose to greet her. When he introduced us, he told her, "We've been talking about a dear old friend of mine." And before we parted, he wished me luck with the book and added, "Thank you for just doing it."

Copyright 2008 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.

May 2011

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© 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 by Kevin Avery

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