NEWS & UPDATES
Make sure to enter the new contest! Enter by no later than August 18th.
On this day back in 2006, The Karl Rove played a gig in a strange commune called Zendik. The following account of that farcical experience comes from THE BALLAD OF JIM SHELLEY.:
"Some time in May, I’d gotten an email from a young guy who lived in a commune called Zendik (after its founder’s last name) in Marlinton, West Virginia. This fellow had somehow come across the Book Of Kills web page and listened to some of the music I’d posted and apparently liked what he heard; he asked me in the email if Book Of Kills would take part in the festival the commune put on each summer to raise funds for itself. I told him BOK was no longer together but that I was now part of a group called The Karl Rove if he was interested in having us play instead. He quickly emailed back that he’d love for us to be a part of the festival's line-up and that we would be a "featured" act. I ran the idea by the guys at the next practice. I think we were all a little reticent for one reason or another, particularly Johnny and Billy, but everyone agreed that, if nothing else, it would be an adventure and we decided to accept a slot at the show.
"It took us hours to get to Marlinton the day of the gig. Johnny carted along his whole family, as did Billy. (Both of them had just recently added a baby to their families and taking them on a long trip to anywhere, much less a multi-hour trek deep into the heart of West Virginia, was no small undertaking.) Aaron rode with me and we had a great time listening to music and talking non-stop all the way there.
"Things began to deteriorate almost from the moment we arrived. Very few cars seemed to be arriving, just hours before the festival was scheduled to start, whereas I’d been told that we could expect to play for upwards of 800-1000 people, the only reason we’d decided to make this very long trek in the first place. From what I could see, the festival organizers were going to be lucky if 100 folks showed up. We weren’t even allowed a chance to do a sound check, and not two hours after we’d parked our cars, someone came up to Johnny and told him we were going to be going on earlier than we'd been scheduled, around 5 or 6—a crappy time when most people were just getting settled in and eating dinner. Right before we climbed onto the stage to play, the sound man accosted me. 'Uh, what do you guys need as far as mikes?' he drawled.
"What the hell? I thought. You’re asking us what sort of equipment set up we need five minutes before we play? 'Well…three vocals, three guitars and you have to plug Billy’s drums into the P.A. 'cause they’re electronic.' That little tidbit seemed to blow his mind. 'Oh wow, dude! Electronic drums? Like we’ve never had a band use them before,' he stammered. I went to get another beer. I didn’t want to deal with what I could tell was going to turn into a total fiasco.
"The sound man managed to get Billy’s drums working, but not long after that, someone sauntered up to Johnny and me and said, 'Oh, by the way, guys, we’re going to have to cut your set down to about forty-five minutes.'
"From that point onward, I don’t have a very clear memory of what went down. I know for our first number we launched into Johnny’s 'Righteous American Dream War', a short blast of pure, abrasive punk energy. The dumbfounded looks on the various stoned faces in the tiny collection of hippies who’d gathered in front of the stage to gawk at us was priceless. I think we did 'God Bless' next, another song by Johnny (one of his greatest and no less in your face than Righteous American.') Not too many more songs after that, the sound man sidled up to me and whispered, 'Hey, we’re going to have to ask you guys to finish your set after the next song.' I was only too happy to oblige. By then I had totally lost my cool and was even playing bum chords just to piss people off.
"We’d also been assured prior to committing to playing at the festival that we’d get gas money and be provided with a good hot meal. We didn’t get any gas money. And after we had loaded our equipment into our cars and headed down to the main house of the commune, we found a pot of cold beans (really) awaiting us for dinner. I think Johnny and his family spent the night in a motel outside of Marlinton while Billy and his family headed for a friend’s house in Harrisonburg. Aaron and I decided to hightail it home. I wanted to get as far away from Zendik as fast as I possibly could. Aaron and I had a fun drive home full of great conversation, but I couldn’t help feeling that this disastrous gig was an ominous foretaste of big problems to come for the band."
[Zendik was a truly bizarre place. You can find quite a bit of information about it (it imploded in 2013) on various sites around the internet.]
Working on your song list of 33 for the Best of Book of Kills album?
"A greatest hits collection in some weird way marks the end of something." -- Sheryl Crow
"But to put out a greatest hits on one CD was totally impossible, I just couldn't do it. The best compromise was to put out two CDs - Early Days - which is what it is - and Latter Days." -- Jimmy Page
"I don't want The Cure to fizzle out doing 45-minute shows of greatest hits. That would be awful for our legacy." -- Robert Smith
" I'm not trying to hide from my past. I want to roll in it. Like a dog, rolling in feces, I'm rolling in the feces of my greatest hits - that's a bit of a wild way of looking at it, but I am a man, and we do like rolling in our own feces at times." -- Billy Idol
"The audience wants to hear 'Rock n' Me,' 'Space Cowboy,' 'Living in the U.S.A.' When you start to play something else, you can feel the interest and enthusiasm go; the steam goes out of room. They are really 'Greatest Hits' fans and that's what they want to hear. It's disappointing that it's this way in the U.S." -- Steve Miller
My wife did a considerable amount of cleaning in the big bedroom where I record these days and I ended up coming across lots of video and audio tapes of Book of Kills, Fear + Whiskey, and The Karl Rove that I'd forgotten existed. I've already begun work on restoring the entire 2001 WXJM Book of Kills performance (minus the in-between song stuff) and I'll be putting that up on the website whenever I get it all remixed and remastered. It's a good show with reasonably good sound. If you purchased the Archive Flash Drive, you were able to listen to two of the songs from that show, by the way. Another item of interest, among many, is a video of an entire The Karl Rove show. Now the audio is horrendous...completely unlistenable...but I do have a better (if still lo-fi) audio recording of the show that I could sync up to the video. It would take a lot of work, but The Karl Rove deserve it. There's lots of other stuff (including a video tape labeled "BOK Acoustic 12/31/02" that I simply cannot remember) that I hope I'm able to bring to light in the coming months.
"Jim Shelley and Johnny St. Ours in the same band? How great was that?" -- Terry Turtle
I'm slowly adding content. I started a poster/flier page that I'll gradually fill out with a couple dozen of the best BOK posters from the past twenty years. And I'll keep adding the occasional audio file for free streaming/download.
I was remiss in not noting Ringo Starr's 80th birthday yesterday. He looks amazing. I had the pleasure of seeing what could possibly be one of his last ever live shows last summer at Wolf Trap.
"I've never been able to sit round on my own and play drums, practice in the back room, never been able to. I've always played with other musicians. It's how I play, there's no joy for me in playing on my own, bashing away. I need a bass, a piano, guitar, whatever, and then I can play."
"I never studied anything, really. I didn't study the drums. I joined bands and made all the mistakes onstage."
"So this is America. They must be out of their minds."
-- Ringo Starr
It always seems to spur a small flurry of disbelief when I post one of these ten all-time "most popular" BOK/F+W/Karl Rove/Plague Dogs albums, according to CDBaby. And usually I'm always surprised myself at what album is where. Anyway, as of today, this is the list (keep in mind each album was uploaded at a different time...sometimes months, or years, apart). "Most popular" refers, by the way, to most streamed/downloaded on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc., all time:
1. Songs for a Played Out Generation (a 2004 sampler)
2. WASP 51! (2003)
3. The Haunted Life (1992)
4. In My Room – The Best of Book of Kills, Volume One (1994)
5. Big Business Monkey, Volume Six (2018)
6. The Fear + Whiskey Anthology (2013)
7. Different (2007)
8. All About You (2002)
9. Saint Judas (1995)
10. The Strange One (Outtakes & Demos) (2010)
"The best albums take five or six listens. At first you go, 'Oh, I don't know. This is just fucking whacky.' And then you listen to it again and it gets better and keeps growing on you. Those are the long-lasting records." -- Robert Pollard
Okay...here's the very first contest for the “new” bookofkills.com:
It has been 16 years since the last Book of Kills “best of” collection, SONGS FOR A PLAYED OUT GENERATION and it is time for a new one. You're in charge of compiling a brand new two disc album surveying the history of BOK from 1983 through 2020. You're “limited” to 33 tracks. (That's no small task considering Book of Kills has released over 520 songs since 1983.) You choose the songs. You choose the sequencing, constructing a cohesive whole. You come up with a title. I will pick what I consider to be the two best compilations.
What do you win? You'll get one of only three compact disc PHYSICAL versions of the album that will ever exist! I'll keep one. The first and second place finishers will get the other two. Each of the two will feature a unique FOLD-OUT two panel collage cover, numbered, dated and signed. The album will also feature an all-new track yet to be written and recorded.
This compilation should only feature Book of Kills tracks, either studio or live versions. I know that Fear + Whiskey, Plague Dogs and The Karl Rove released a lot of good stuff, but this contest is meant to be Book of Kills-centric. You can find the majority of Jim Shelley & Book of Kills songs on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, etc.
Please note that I do reserve the right to issue the final track listing for the actual streaming version of the compilation.
When you come up with a list, send it to email@example.com (note the one "l").
The winners will be announced August 18, so you've got a while to come up with something.
On this day 20 years ago, the Book of Kills line-up featuring Casey Firkin, Jane Firkin, Jason Hevener and Jim Shelley played its second gig together, again at the Little Grill in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I don't remember a thing about this show. Oddly, I don't remember a thing about this show. It was the very first time ever that the group played BOK classics "Simple World", "Caroline" and "Accidentally Naked". The set list: Beat on the Brat, Don't Stop the Scream, I Hang Heavy-->Down in Flames, If I Asked You, Simple World, Rain, I Was Wrong, Accidentally Naked, Killing Time Again, Caroline, Because Because, Stanley the Steamer, Fade, Little Bit of Soul, Just an Average Day.
Are rock and roll musicians always defined by the music they made in their youth when the fires raged hardest? Even if you still possess that youthful energy and can apply it to the work you create later in life? That's just the way popular music works. Ain't nothin' I can do about it. To paraphrase Chrissie Hynde, I suppose I'm too old to know better and too young for my age.
I've been really distracted with other things the past week. I hope that I will have a couple days later this coming week to devote to music and the website in particular.
I'm getting very close to convincing myself that I want to be in one last band before I hang up the live side of my music. Heck, I've written and recorded 55 songs since the last time I played in 2017. Again, the odds on whether or not I'll find 3-4 others who'll commit a couple years to a band or not, are probably not the greatest.
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” ― Albert Einstein
“The only truth is music.” ― Jack Kerouac
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ― Maya Angelou
This was sort of a big day in BOK history. We played for the second time at Main Street Bar & Grill in Harrisonburg, Virginia on this day in 2001. At the time, Main Street was probably the premier live venue in the central Shenandoah Valley. It held probably 4-500 people and regularly brought in regional and national acts, as well as popular tribute bands. They didn't care much for local bands, though if you pushed them, they'd give you a slot on a weekday if you could bring in a couple other groups with you in order to insure a decent draw. Oftentimes, the only way you'd get a show was through a so-called "pay to play" arrangement, where you'd guarantee the sale of a certain number of tickets to your show and if you didn't sell them all, you were on the hook for them yourself. Anyway, we'd played a show at Main Street as a guest of the Plague Dogs (George Nipe III's band) and things had gone pretty well, so the venue was open to us playing a second show as a test of sorts to see how well we could draw on a Tuesday night, traditionally a very slow night. Turns out we drew a LOT of people and played a great show. That led to four more gigs in quick succession, though the fourth of those gigs would end up being a laughable disaster. The set list: If You Want It, Take It!, Why Won't You?, Running, Money, I Was Wrong, To Dream a New Dream, Fat Woman Lying in the Street, Cave In, Paper Dolls, Sweet, Just an Average Day, Gemini, Killing Time Again, I Hang Heavy-->Up in Flames-->Can't Stant It, Don't Stop the Scream
There's a new BOK video on the video page..."Sunday On Fire" from the new album EVERY DREAM HAS ITS GHOSTS! Click here.
I'm still working on possible contests. One idea would be to have people create a homemade video for a particular song. They could use vintage found footage from, say, archive.org or they could create their own footage. The winner would get maybe some vintage BOK material and perhaps something new as well. I've got lots of other ideas. Still kinda mulling it all over while I rebuild bookofkills.com all over again.
Sixteen years ago today, I made a valiant attempt to put every Book of Kills song ever recorded, by album appearance, on bookofkills.com available for free download. I encouraged fans of BOK music to download the songs, burn them to compact discs and share them with friends. (Remember, it was 2004! Most people still listened to music on CDs, though by 2005 things would be shifting radically to free mp3 downloads.)
As I noted at the time, the distribution of music was quickly changing, though BOK had always championed freely sharing music. Besides, no one bought physical BOK albums anymore anyway. And certainly almost no one paid for downloads. It was either post the songs for free distribution on the web and hope a few people downloaded and listened to them and perhaps shared them with a friend or two, or over sixteen years of writing and recording became a sad, almost absurd, lesson in futility. I couldn't bear the thought that hundreds of my songs born of my strange, inexplicable passion to create music would more or less pass into virtual oblivion. But, most likely, that'll be the case one day regardless of my best attempts.
Anyway, I eventually ended up posting probably 90% of everything I've ever recorded by album, about 340 songs at the time. I even included artwork and copies of the insert information. But it was costing me over $250 a year to keep the mp3's available and the expense, in face of various recent financial responsibilities, eventually no longer seemed justifiable. I know a number of people (the page received 2312 hits in ten months--good for an unknown band) visited the page and downloaded songs. Several folks later told me they'd downloaded every single song of every single album.
Musical genius Brian Wilson is 78 today. Bless you, Mr. Wilson. You've made so many people so very happy over the course of your career.
Yes, I am aware that there is a political rally for Donald Trump at Tulsa's BOK Center this evening. I wish I could say that I was receiving royalties, but sadly I am not.
I'd like to reiterate something I alluded to perhaps five or six weeks ago: If you're a big fan of The Beatles, particularly their post-HELP! output, you owe it to yourself to check out the Analogues on YouTube. The Analogues are from the Netherlands and, of course, Dutch is their native language but they sing in English with virtually no trace of a Dutch accent. They are all marvelous musicians. They've dedicated their musical lives to performing the music of The Beatles using the same instruments that the boys themselves used in the studio. They are not, I want to point out, a tribute band like say 1964, Rain or The Fab Four. They view the music of The Beatles as being on the same level as that of any of the very greatest classical artists in musical history, no less accomplished in their trade than Mozart or Bach. So The Analogues somehow go beyond imitation, though I guess you have to watch them play live to understand what I mean. Check out this performance. Or this one. Or this one! And make sure to listen with good headphones or earbuds.
HAPPY 78th BIRTHDAY PAUL McCARTNEY!
If you're surprised at the amount of material I've added to this new version of the website, don't be. Bandzoogle is 1,000% easier to use than my old host site Wix. It took me a week to learn how to use just the rudimentary tools in Wix. It took me half an hour to learn how to use 90% of every tool in Bandzoogle. I've already added quite a lot of content, including audio, video, and, of course, lots of text. I'll continue to put up new stuff fairly regularly.
I got a surprising number of responses after the June 16 post. Several folks wrote to me to reminisce about going to BOK shows back in the '90s and early 2000s and how BOK music helped form the "soundtrack" of their youths. It was good to hear from people I hadn't been in touch with for years.
I just went back over the last entry and realized I'd made a few stylistic/grammatical errors and in correcting them the thought hit me that in the past five years I might've been more productive than at any other similar span of time in my musical "career". Turns out it wasn't even close. I took a quick look at my most prolific years just for a lark. In 1996, I wrote and recorded at least 34 new songs. The next nearest total to that year was 1992, with 26. However, during the five year period from 1992-1996, I wrote and recorded at least 151 new songs. Good lord. During the five year period from 2015-2020, I wrote and recorded at least 100 new songs. So far in 2020, I've managed 34 new ones (a couple unreleased). So if I can find the wherewithal to write and record, say, 10-12 more tracks in 2020, I'll set a new record! Of course, there will be many (if not all) long-time listeners who will remind me that my output in past years produced far more "keepers" than what I've managed in the 2010s. Yeah...blah blah whatever.
Although I haven't been updating the news daily, I have been adding other stuff each day since I switched bookofkills.com over to Bandzoogle. I hope to add another new "live" solo performance very soon. I'll continue, in the meantime, to add old content such as long-absent articles and interviews. I also intend to begin a (at least) weekly short podcast, but I'm not exactly sure what form it will take.
Late last week, a couple of long-time listeners both poised the exact same question via email: Is there going to be a third BOK album this year? Well, hmmm. I guess I do have almost six months to put one more together. I'm not sure whether or not I can conjure the creative energy to accomplish that, though it would be something, wouldn't it? Three all-new albums in one year? I don't know if I've ever managed that in the past. I released DON'T STOP THE SCREAM, 8 FROM THE ATTIC, and THE HAUNTED LIFE in 1992. In 1995, I put out BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME TWO, SAINT JUDAS and RE(=JECT). And in 2015, I managed to string together BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME FIVE, HUMAN AGAIN and four other "Singles Series" CDs. But in none of those years did I actually release three all-new records. Maybe I can. Maybe not. It's not out of the question.
June 16 is a momentous day in the history of Book of Kills. On this day in 2000, the new line-up of Jim Shelley, Casey Firkin, Jane Firkin and Jason Hevener played an opening slot for George Nipe's Plague Dogs at the Little Grill in Harrisonburg, Virginia, after only three weeks together as a band. I recall driving over to Page County where Jane and Casey lived together at the time, probably 15 or more times in those three weeks to practice., We weren't all that good but we had a great time at that show and the place was packed with appreciative fans. The set list: Don't Stop the Scream, Because Because, I Hang Heavy-->Down in Flames, If I Asked You, Rain, I Was Wrong, Fade, Stanley the Steamer, Killing Time Again, Little Bit of Soul, and Beat on the Brat.
I'm going to be very busy this weekend, so I won't have much, if any, time to work on the website. I will, however, be able to put some more attention into it early next week. Hope you checked out the new video of an acoustic version of the BOK classic, "Caroline" on the video page! That's just a tiny sampling of where I want to take bookofkills.com!
"Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." -- Marilyn Monroe
I've made some progress in learning how to use Bandzoogle's tools, but as I noted in the last update it'll be a while before understand how to do everything. You'll see the site undergo changes all summer long. I've even added a few BOK videos (something I couldn't do on Wix.)
Poor EVERY DREAM HAS ITS GHOSTS. It really is a good album. Maybe not as gaudy as I KNOW WE CAN SAVE OUR WORLD, but there are lots of really good little songs on it. But, with the help of CDBaby (who took three freaking weeks to "approve" it) and Wix (which wouldn't let me connect my new website to my domain name for two weeks after I shut it down), I completely and disastrously bungled its debut. It is available now on several streaming sites. I don't have the means to check them all, but according to CDBaby the album has been delivered to almost all of them. I'm trying to come up with an interesting way to promote the album. I think I have a plan in the form of a special contest. More about that very soon.
Welcome to the new BOOKOFKILLS.COM! After two weeks of wandering lonely in the netherworld of one of the internet's darkest alleys, we've found the light again!
It's going to take a while for me to get used to the various features of the new servers. Initially, you might find each page looks slightly different from the next. Some features might not even work properly. But eventually I'll get my act together, don't worry! I might even end up changing styles more than once and some things will come and others will go until I've got a handle on how the new site's tools work. Once I do get settled in, I'm going to be adding all kinds of new content, including specially recorded live videos, rare audio, free special content, and cool contests!
It's great to be "back"! I hope you'll join me for the ride! Tell a friend! And thanks for listening!