Pretty big day for rock and roll births. 

On this day in 1946, the great Linda Ronstadt was born.

On this day in 1947, Roky Erickson was born. 

On this day in 1952, Johnny Thunders was born. I always wanted to do a couple of his songs, particularly the classic “You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Dream”.

And on this day in 1956, Ian Curtis was born. 

"The constant fear of a performer is to become what is reflected back at you."

“Songwriting wasn't my gift. I think you have to cultivate a gift; you have to practice and develop craft around your gift so that you can execute it in more convenient, efficient ways.”

“The whole thing with recording is you have to know when to turn off the tape machine and just stop recording because you want to keep fixing, fixing, fixing, you know?”

– Linda Ronstadt

I'll be uploading another album to Bandcamp soon. 


Just back from a much-needed vacation. It was good to get out of Dodge for a few days.

The latest album from Book of Kills, ACCIDENTAL SKIN, is now available on Bandcamp. Of course, the album has been on streaming sites worldwide for a good while now, but (again) Bandcamp lets you actually own your music, and most albums feature bonus items such as lyric sheets, cover art and so forth.


BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME ONE is now available on Bandcamp. Way back in early 1993, this album introduced the long-running series featuring rare BOK tracks, including live performances, outtakes, alternate mixes and demos. Not an earth-shattering release, but an important part of BOK history.


1991's FOR THE GOOD OF THE CAUSE is now available on Bandcamp. Again, most of these albums on Bandcamp are “deluxe” editions with numerous outtakes and downloadable inserts, lyric sheets and artwork.


If you've been faithfully reading these brief pieces on my musical influences here on the News page over the last month or so, you'll recall I've already mentioned musicians such as George Harrison, Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Roger McGuinn as having a profound effect on my own writing, performing and producing. I thought I'd mention a few bass players from whom I've learned over the decades. I don't consider myself a “real” bassist, but out of necessity, I have played the bass parts for probably 90% of the songs I've recorded. 

Paul McCartney has been my primary “teacher” when it comes to bass playing. Though Paul is not a great technician like say Jaco Pastorius, I can't think of another bassist who played with such a sense of melody and joy. He created interesting, often unique, parts that simply made the song better. I know some think his later playing is often too “busy”, but generally that criticisim comes from people who think a good bassist just plays the root notes of a song. 

Paul refuses to play patterns that simply move in lockstep with the chordal progression. Listen to the bass lines he created for the tracks on Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band or Abbey Road. In some instances, he doesn’t even play the root note, adding harmonic complexity to the piece. And on some occasions he doesn’t play on the first beat of the measure, adding rhythmic complexity. In short, he’s moved beyond the traditional role of the bassist. Almost no one was writing and playing that sort of stuff back in the late '60s. 

Certainly I guess there were other players who had some sort of impact on my own bass playing, most notably Motown great James Jamerson, The Who's John Entwhistle, the Stones's Bill Wyman and brilliant session musician Carol Kaye, but their influence on me can't hold a candle to Paul's.

I've said it before and I'll say it again now: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's, and the White Album essentially served as my school of rock.

"I thought about how everything I've seen, Beatles-related, is either about the songwriting or Beatlemania. Paul McCartney the bass player, or Paul McCartney the musician, because he plays everything – that's a little told story – you just think of him as Beatle Paul. Yet in my opinion, he is the best of all bass players, he’s number one.” 

– Rick Rubin

“Paul was one of the most innovative bass players ever. And half the stuff that is going on now is directly ripped off from his Beatles period. He is an egomaniac about everything else about himself, but his bass playing he was always a bit coy about. He is a great musician who plays the bass like few other people could play it.”

– John Lennon


SAINT JUDAS is now available on Bandcamp. 


Good practice last night. My throat didn't last long because it had been 3-4 weeks since we'd last jammed and my voice simply hadn't built up any strength. But it was fun to play again.

2005's I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE is now available on Bandcamp.


2008's THIS IS YOUR BOOK OF KILLS has been uploaded to Bandcamp. 2005's I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE will follow soon.

I think I'm getting the first faint creative itches that will eventually lead (I hope) to a new album. I have both an album of all original material and another one of covers in mind.


The band will practice Sunday.

CDBaby is in the yearly process of conducting maintenance on their website this week, June 18-21, so for the time being I can't upload any albums to Bandcamp since CDBaby has information on most of BOK's recorded music that I need for adding a new album to the site.

Brian Wilson was born on this day in 1942. The word “genius” is tossed around far too frequently these days, but if there was ever someone who without question deserved that title it's Brian.

“I'm not a genius. I'm just a hard-working guy.” – Brian Wilson


If you're interested in checking out the BOK/Fear + Whiskey/Karl Rove albums (which as I've already noted below, contain extra songs as well as lyric sheets, inserts and artwork that you won't, of course, find on streaming sites), keep in mind that over the next few weeks I'll steadily add more each week. I uploaded 2007's DIFFERENT late yesterday and I'm almost finished with 2002's ALL ABOUT YOU. Again, they take a long time to set up, so if you're really into checking everything out, please be patient. I think I'll upload 2008's THIS IS YOUR BOOK OF KILLS.


I have uploaded a third album to Bandcamp, this time 1992"s THE HAUNTED LIFE, another seminal BOK release and to this day one of the three or four most streamed records by BOK. 

Why am I uploading BOK albums to Bandcamp? It's a place where you can buy (quite cheaply) and download Book of Kills albums that you can keep as long as you want, unlike streaming services where you don't really own any music you listen to. Also, many album downloads feature bonus tracks, liner notes, lyric sheets, and album cover art from the original compact disc releases.

Yesterday marked twenty-four years ago that Book of Kills (featuring an all new line-up, except of course for Jim) returned to performing live after an almost two year absence. The new line-up consisted of bassist Jason Heavener, guitarist/vocalist Jane Firkin, drummer/vocalist Casey Firkin and Jim. The group had only three weeks to put together a twelve song set but the show turned out to be a triumphant standing room only sell-out. 


Happy Father's Day. I lost my dad many years ago and still miss him greatly.

I have uploaded a second album to Bandcamp, this time 1992's DON'T STOP THE SCREAM, one of BOK's seminal releases, and still one of the band's most popular records.


As sort of an addendum to the previous “influences” post ("part one" is below), I need to add that a very big influence on how I have used guitar in the intros and breaks of many of my song's arrangements (think “She's Got No Time For Love”, “Bad Person”, “New James Shelley Blues”, “Free Assembly”, “To Dream a New Dream”, “Strange Heart Beating”, and a number of others) was the surf guitar sound pioneered by the great Dick Dale and Duane Eddy in the ‘50s and ’60s. That twangy lower string sound, largely created with a Fender and lots of reverb, has always resonated with me. You can hear slightly more modern interpretations of the surf guitar in songs such as Springsteen's “Born to Run” (in the intro) and Glen Campbell's “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” (in the brilliant solos). 

“Whatever you do, don't take shortcuts. It's great advice to take and live by.”

“I don't play pyrotechnic scales. I play about frustration, patience, anger. Music is an extension of my soul.”

"Every time I went into the studio some engineer tried to impress me with how they're going to capture my sound with all kinds of tricks. But they limited the sound and never allowed me to play how I felt."

– Dick Dale


I just learned that the wonderful Deanne Good died earlier this week. Deanne was a supremely talented photographer, a fervent supporter of Book of Kills and The Karl Rove and simply a great friend. Many of the photos on this site were taken by her and she was kind enough to allow us to use some of her work in our compact disc albums. We will miss her so much. 

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” – C.S. Lewis


I am in the (very slow) process of uploading a number of Jim Shelley, Book of Kills and Fear + Whiskey albums to Bandcamp. Adding an album is a rather laborious, if not tedious, process since so much information of one sort or another has to be part of the listing. It took a couple hours today just to add WASP 51!, which is the only BOK album right now available on that site. Bandcamp is a good site for fans since you can download an entire album by the artist usually for around $7 and YOU own the album once you pay for it, unlike streaming services.


Book of Kills will not play the June 22 show in Staunton. Sorry.


It looks as though BOK will be playing a live show in Staunton, Virginia, June 22. More information when the date is confirmed. George and I, by the way, will be hitting one or two venues in  Harrisonburg Sunday to see if we can scrounge up another show or two or three.


"Find people who think like you and stick with them. Make only music you are passionate about. Work only with people you like and trust. Don't sign anything."

“I think paying a royalty to a producer or engineer is ethically indefensible. I would like to be paid like a plumber: I do the job and you pay me what it’s worth. There’s no way I would ever take that much money. I wouldn’t be able to sleep.” 

“I don't think anyone has exhausted the range of sound possible in a conventional rock band, but people do become slaves to their own easiest techniques.” 

“I feel like bands should be growing, living, functioning entities and to crystallize a band into a single album, and for that to be a touchstone - I understand it from a fan's perspective but I also feel like it's a little bit misleading in terms of the way bands actually function.”

“The bands that have been the most important to me, and the records that have been the most important to me as a fan, have been records that surprised me for one reason or another.”

– Steve Albini


You've probably already heard that Steve Albini died Tuesday of a heart attack. Albini was, of course, hugely influential on indie music in the ‘80s and ’90s and his band Big Black had a significant influence on my own music in the late '80s.

We had a good practice Sunday. Afterwards, George suggested he and I go to Restless Moons and see if we can set up a multi-band show.


A couple weeks ago, I noted that someone had recently asked me who my influences were as far as my own music. It took me a little while to sort out those musicians and/or bands that helped make me who I became musically, and I'm sure there's name or two I'll forget but briefly…

I'm going to do this in parts. First up--vocal and guitar influences:

Okay, let me say that I do NOT like my voice. Never have. Never will. But whatever vocal stylings I'm capable of by and large come from listening to Bob Dylan, John Lennon, George Harrison and Roger McGuinn. None of them had a huge voice, though Lennon's could obviously be quite powerful when a song called for power, but they all learned to make the most of what they had. Bob Dylan is a far better singer than most people give him credit for. From almost the beginning of his career he actually created a new way of singing--a rock and roll way--that involved a new, unique method of phrasing, an innovative use of vocal dynamics, and an understanding of the importance of rhythm while delivering a song's lyrics. His effect on singers (from Lennon and Harrison to Lou Reed to Roger McGuinn to Tom Petty to Neil Young to Kurt Cobain) who followed him is incalculable.

As far as my obviously limited guitar playing goes, I think I learned most of what I understand about rhythm guitar from George Harrison and John Lennon. Lennon in particular was a truly good rhythm player. Listen to his precise, propulsive work on “All My Loving” and “This Boy”. Listen to his arpeggios on “Because” and “I Want You (She's So Heavy)”. Listen to his finger-picking on “Julia” or “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”. Just brilliant.

George wrote solos that often seemed simple and restrained but were perfectly suited for the song of which they were a crucial part. His sense of taste, tonality, melody and rhythm were nearly unparalleled. I began absorbing his style from the very first moments I began listening to Beatles records. I've recorded hundreds of solos in my time. Most of them I didn't “write” but rather just let happen. Regardless, all of them were influenced in some way or another by George Harrison's work.

Harrison was hardly the only influence on my own playing, however; I learned a great deal from Jerry Garcia about how to make notes flow melodically from one to another. He was never a brilliant technician, but his tastefulness, his improvisational skill, and his ability to reach so many people emotionally were close to untouchable. I also found his tone, particularly from the 1969-1971 era, quite inviting.

I suppose I should also include Neil Young here. No one will ever mistake him for Yngwie Malmsteen, but few rock guitarists are more expressive, emotive and powerful than Neil. His approach is all about feel, not technique. His playing on his great second solo album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, taught me how to build a solo that sits perfectly within a song with not a single wasted note.

(More soon...)