I'm going to really make a push over the next couple days to wrap up the Best-Of. Honestly, it has taken too much time. Then again, lots of people who come to Book of Kills music new, (naturally) head straight to "greatest hits" collections such as the 1994 IN MY ROOM: THE BEST OF BOOK OF KILLS, VOLUME ONE and 2004's SONGS FOR A PLAYED OUT GENERATION, first. So they are worthwhile endeavors. Considering the last such album dropped in 2006 (ADVENTURES OF AN INSPIRED AMATEUR...not really a greatest hits collection, but sort of) and that BOK has released over two hundred new tracks in the years since, it was clearly time for a new collection. Pitchfork has long argued that with the arrival of digital streaming greatest hits albums are redundant, but that's simply not the case. If you were coming to Book of Kills for the first time and had no idea where to begin, which record would you choose to listen to first? Which tracks would you check out right off the bat? Best-of collections serve as a guidepost to an artist's work, a pool of goodness that the curious can dip their toes into. They're valuable for the artist because they, to use a cliché, help them put their best foot forward. Although WASP 51! and THE HAUNTED LIFE are creeping ever closer, SONGS FOR A PLAYED OUT GENERATION remains by far the most "digitally popular" album in the BOK oeuvre. 


Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 22) is National Voter Registration Day. PLEASE take the time to visit the official NVRD website and register if you haven't done so already.

The Best-Of CD set is progressing slowly, but it is progressing.


There are never enough hours in the day to get everything done that I want to get done. Whatever. I spent several hours today mastering some of the older BOK material (such as the 1997 version of "Placebo" featuring Dave and Brian Buracker, Brock Beatty and Jim or the 2001 version of "Why Won't You featuring Lisa Van Fossen, Jane Firkin, Casey Firkin and Jim) that isn't quite up to snuff sonically in comparison to the 2000-2020 era material. I think folks who listen to this new anthology will be quite surprised at how dynamic some of the older songs sound. I have access now to the mastering tools provided by Apple's Logic Pro and, believe me, they make a profound difference! I might well re-master every single track!


I think I've finally come up with the tracks for the two cd Best-of. Laughably, the album will consist of 44 songs, 22 to a disc. I'll move on to mastering tomorrow. I doubt, however, that this thing will drop before early October. There's just too much to do on it yet. I haven't even begun work on the inserts, let alone the two winners' collage special editions!

On this day in 2006, The Karl Rove played a short but spirited set at Gallery 5 in Richmond, Virginia. Although, Halloween was six weeks away, I seem to remember people dressing up in costumes for some reason. It was a weird show. But it was fun and we played pretty well. The set list: Righteous American-->Little Metal Toys, God Bless, Winds Of Dying, Empire In Decline, Different, River Of Blood, Caspian Sea.


I've been away for a good while. My wife and I left town and headed up north for a few days of fun and relaxation.

Today presented me with a few hours (this morning at least) to work on the so-called 33 Best-Of compilation. I don't know how much work I really got done, to be honest. It's just so hard for me to narrow down the track listing to just 33 songs. Maybe the solution will be to simply expand the number of songs to whatever will fit on two CD's. I'm modeling the whole project (other than the special collage covers, of course) after Sony Music's well-known "Essential" series featuring the likes of The Clash, Bob Dylan, AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, The Byrds, The Stooges, Elvis Presley, Leonard Cohen, Sly and the Family Stone, and dozens of others. Most of those collections run from 30 to 40 or so songs. Though streaming music has largely made such collections (as well as the one I'm working on) rather superfluous, there are, obviously, a number of (mainly older) music-lovers who made the Essential series quite successful. They still sell steadily. Many of the entries in the series were revered for their exceptional sound quality and usually included an interesting essay with notes. I'll include an insert of some sort with brief song notes in the BOK compilation as well. 

Another dilemma facing me is how to construct the running order. One train of thought concerning best-of collections is that the songs are best served by putting them in an order that serves to give the records a true album feel, regardless of when the songs might have been released. The other train of thought is that best-of albums should follow a linear order from the very earliest recordings to the very latest. That's probably the philosophy I'll follow. 


I'll be notifying the two winners of the 33 Best-Of contest Wednesday! As far as putting together the special collage albums, that might take a while. I still have not been able to come up with a satisfactory 33 song set. I'll most likely be uploading this album, since people who are not eminently familiar with BOK tend to gravitate towards compilation albums like 2004's SONGS FOR A PLAYED OUT GENERATION (still the most listened to BOK album over the past fifteen years). I'm still trying to get a focus for a third new album this year. I want to do it. Like Melanie Martinez says, "I want to put out as many albums as I can before I die."

"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

"I do remember my first purchase: the Partridge Family's 'Greatest Hits.' I got it for $3.99 at a failed chain of pre-Wal-Mart-type stores called Jamesway. God, I'm old." - Trent Reznor

'It's a trip to have a greatest hits record. It's a trip!" - Lenny Kravitz


It's not looking so good as far as the band thing goes. I think it's a combination of the pandemic, being rather not young, rock and roll kind of not being that big a deal anymore, and [probably] that others with whom I've played in the past have simply had enough of Jim Shelley & Book of Kills. Maybe I'm being told in no uncertain terms that it's time to simply fade into the woodwork? I do feel another album coming on, though, as I've sort of alluded to previously (sorry, the news updates from the past year were almost all deleted inadvertently). It'll soon be time to start looking for new songs in the ether.

“Songs are out there all the time, but they can’t be made without people. You have to do your job and help songs come into existence.” -  Brian Wilson

"Songwriting is my way of channeling my feelings and my thoughts. Not just mine, but the things I see, the people I care about. My head would explode if I didn't get some of that stuff out." - Dolly Parton

"Each song has its own secret that's different from another song, and each has its own life. Sometimes it has to be teased out, whereas other times it might come fast. There are no laws about songwriting or producing. It depends on what you're doing, not just who you're doing." - Mark Knopfler

"I don't really premeditate what I write my songs about; you know, they just kind of happen, and I can't start writing songs to please a certain group of people or propagate a certain message all the time. That's just not how my songwriting works. It just sort of comes out, and the songs are what they are." - Conor Oberst

"I ended up writing songs and growing up in public with my songwriting. And it's a good thing for me that back then in the early '70s, there was a thing called artist development, where an artist could find his feet, find himself, find his voice. I think I made five or six albums before I sold five or six albums." - John Mellencamp


I think it's safe to say now that (as usual) this 33 Best-Of thing is going to take me a LOT longer than I initially thought it would. And over the next week or so, I'll be very busy with one thing or another. I'm not even going to bother to predict when I'll make an announcement concerning the two winners of the contest (though I'm already pretty certain I know who they are) or when the special collage cover compact disc albums will be ready. Nor am I certain when (or even if) I'l be creating a streaming version of the album. That's a big heapin' helpin' of negative news, eh? It's not really negative...I'm just, as usual, a little more optimistic about my ability to turn out albums in a timely fashion than I'm actually able to accommodate. But I always get things done in the end.

“A lot of people feel the Sex Pistols were just negative. I agree, and what the fuck is wrong with that? Sometimes the absolute most positive thing you can be in a boring society is completely negative.” -- John Lydon 


Thanks to those of you who entered the 33 Best-of contest. It's going to take me several days to sort this out and figure out two winners. I can't predict exactly when I'll choose them and send out the 2 compact disc albums, but most likely I'll make the announcement and send out the albums a week from today (that would be Tuesday, September 8.) It's going to be very difficult to choose winners and even more difficult to choose 33 songs to comprise the best-of.

On this day in 1994, Book of Kills played its first-ever show. The original line-up featured Mike Johnson on guitar, Brian Temples on bass and vocals, Dustin Bugg on drums and vocals and Jim on vocals and guitar. This was Mike's first and only show with the band. The set list: Don't Stop the Scream, I Hang Heavy, 1000 Voices, All Along the Watchtower, Heaven, Abandoned, Get My Gun Allison, Heart of Gold, Lost, Don't Stop the Scream. We only knew 9 songs and were scheduled to only play a half an hour, but we ended up doing "Don't Stop the Scream" again as an encore of sorts when the crowd that had jammed themselves inside the Little Grill demanded "one more song". It was a fun (and supremely odd) night.


Episode #2 of the Book of Kills podcast ADVENTURES OF AN INSPIRED AMATEUR is now available on the podcast page. This one runs about a half an hour and provides a detailed look at BLOOM OR DIE?, the very first BOK album originally released in 1989. Unbelievably (no totally believably), I inadvertently deleted about half the podcast after I finished recording it yesterday and I had to go back and re-record the last 15 minutes all over again. That is no small task. It takes me several hours to put a 20-30 minute podcast together. I hope you enjoy it! These things are real labors of love.


I wrote another page or more of additional material for the podcast yesterday, then recorded about 3/4's of it. I think I can get it finished this morning. If so, I'll publish it on the podcast page today as well. I've been asked why I haven't uploaded the first podcast to the usual podcast sites. I thought I'd said something about this previously, but I guess not. Honestly, I don't think a podcast about an unknown musician has a lot of appeal to anyone beyond those few lost souls who listen to that unknown musician. And I'm not the most dynamic speaker...I can see a Book of Kills podcast getting ripped on the ratings and dealing with that emotionally isn't something I crave.


I wrote the second podcast today. It'll run about 20 minutes, approximately the same as the first one. As I reported previously, this one will take a look at the very first Book of Kills album (BLOOM OR DIE?) from all the way back in the Cretaceous Period (1989). Though I find it difficult to understand, there are some long-time listeners who insist that BLOOM OR DIE? is still the best BOK album. Nah. But everybody's got a right to their least through November 3, I guess. I will record podcast #2 tomorrow, I hope.


Randy and I haven't had much positive response to our ads for a drummer and bassist. That isn't to say we haven't had a response...a lot of local musicians have contacted me but all of them are essentially interested in forming a cover band that plays wineries, breweries and restaurants. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but playing a bunch of boring covers for people who just plain don't much care about the music as anything more than background noise isn't my thing. I'd rather play four or five shows in a year in front of an appreciative, even adoring, crowd than 50-60 shows in front of people who want to hear "Brown-Eyed Girl" for the ten thousandth time.

Still kinda formulating a new album in my mind. I'd love to involve friends this time, if only to add a backing vocal, a bass line or a hot guitar solo.

DON'T FORGET TO ENTER THE "33 BEST-OF" contest which ends September 1! Send your list of what you think are the 33 best Book of Kills songs of all time. The two best lists will win a double compact disc album with a unique double panel collage cover!


It is proving much more difficult than in the past, I guess for various obvious reasons, to find a drummer.

I spend most of the limited free time I had this past week working on various things related to the upcoming double CD best-of. I'm still thinking I might add a new song to the end of the album. I might even record a couple of new versions of old songs...but only ones where I felt the original version could be radically improved upon.

On this day back in 2003, Casey and Jane Firkin, Bill Bird, Randy Simpson and I were on our way to the SoundQuilt Festival in Gore, Virginia. I think I went up with Gary Bugg and I do believe we spent the night before BOK played. This would prove to be this line-up's last ever show. Unfortunately, I do not have the complete recording of this show, though a few performances have made it onto one BOK album or another. The set list: Wooly Bully, Cave In, Style-->Bad Person, Caroline, Nelson-->Then I Kissed Her, Sweet William, AntiMan, Clever, Jesco White, Sweet, Why Won't You-->Can't Stand It Anymore, Don't Stop The Scream.


I think I announced this contest before I carefully considered just how difficult it was going to be to pick 33 songs. I can't do it by choosing the songs that were picked most by those people who've entered because honestly there just aren't enough entries to do it that way, though that would certainly be the easy way out. I guess in the end it comes down to my own picks, and I've tried to come up with a list, but I don't know if I trust myself to choose the 33 very best songs. I know there are some tracks that are essentially automatic...for instance, "Stanley the Steamer" and "To Dream a New Dream" simply have to be on the album. But I've had submissions that included many songs I would never have thought to include. The contest has actually made it harder for me to create a compilation!

Here's something I didn't know, and I'll best most of you didn't either: The first-ever greatest hits record was Johnny Mathis's Johnny's Greatest Hits from 1958. According to Wikipedia, "The album collected eight of Mathis's charting singles, as well as three non-charting B-sides and an altogether new track. The album spent three weeks at the number one spot..."


On this day in 1962, Ringo Starr played his first show, at Hulme Hall in Birkenhead, with The Beatles as the permanent drummer for the band. 

"To me it was apparent. Pete kept being sick and not showing up for gigs so we would get Ringo to sit in with the band instead, and every time Ringo sat in, it seemed like, 'this is it.' Eventually we realized, 'We should get Ringo in the band full time.'" -- George Harrison

"We really started to think we needed 'the greatest drummer in Liverpool, And the greatest drummer in our eyes was a guy, Ringo Starr, who had changed his name before any of us, who had a beard and was grown up and was known to have a Zephyr Zodiac." -- Paul McCartney

More songs from the latest entries to consider for the "Best-Of" contest (I might repeat one or three from below): The Handcuff King, The Sound of a Door Closing, The Lapse That Tides Us Over, We've Got Our Boy Back!, Grievous Wolves Enter, Everybody Knows That Joke, Susie's on the Rag, Sometimes I Get Happy, Heart's Wisdom Has the Power, The Danger That Can Drive You Home, Dark Side of Tomorrow, Blue Heart Drumming, Thin Moon and Sky, The Idiot Theory, A Space Where You Can't Go, Another Shitty Day in Funtown, I'm Glad I'm Not a Rock Star, If You Want It Take It!, And Then I Kissed Her, My World Turned to Black, Angels on the Lam, Walking Backwards, Do the Wipeout.

That's 93 different songs people have put on their entries so far. I suppose I should be honored that so many tracks have been considered worthy of being a "best-of" song. That will not make my choosing of the final 33 any easier.

Send your suggestions to!


If you're overwhelmed by the number of songs you'd have to consider to be a part of the BEST OF contest, perhaps this will help. What follows is a list of every song thus far mentioned--as of Sunday, August 16--by the (now) seven people who've submitted an entry in the addition to my own list of 33 songs. I've tried to group them from the earliest to the most recent. There was no way, however, that I was going to put the album each song comes from. Send your list to and you might win a two compact disc copy of the BOK best of featuring a two panel collage cover:  

The Night John Lennon Died, (I Just Wanna Be) Normal, Wild Hog in the Woods, Abandoned, Don't Stop the Scream, Religion is that I Love You, Cara Anne, Heaven, Blue Man, New James Shelley Blues, Bad Person, Killing Time Again, If I Went Crazy, 3 Chrs. 4-Ever She's Beautiful, This World Is Gonna Let You Down, I Hang Heavy, Fade, Fat Woman Lying in the Street, Lost, Jesco White, I Start to Fall, La La La La La La (She's a Punk Rock Grrrl), That's What She Said, Accidentally Naked, I Leave Her There Till She Rings 3 Times, Fucked Up World, I Fell Inside, Never Be Like You, The Alien Girl, She's the Kind of Girl, I Start to Fall, If I Should Fall, Stanley the Steamer, Free Assembly, Caroline, Because Because, Any Other Way, The Strange One, Why Won't You?, Sweet, Running, To Dream a New Dream, What Never Was, See You Again, The AntiMan Song, Jesus Was An Alien, You Go to You and I By Me, Not Like a Mirror Image, Scrapezoid, Ah Ahh Ahhh!, This Is the Way of the World, Waiting on a Busted Cloud, Marzipan Day, So Tired, Little Metal Toys, Placebo, River of Blood. Different, Simple World, The Pleasures of Saying Goodbye , Smoke in the Wind, Painted Bird, You Don't Owe Me Anything, Marking Time, I Roam the World Between, Filling in Holes, Don't Give Yourself Away (To Just Anyone), Your World Will Shape My Bones, Strange Heart Beating, I Know We Can Save Our World, There Is No Power Can Crack the Rock of Time, You Couldn't Give Any More (Turtle's Song), Sunday on Fire, The Minds of Fools 

Ha! Seventy+ songs! I'll bet this really helped you narrow your choice down, eh?


You might have noticed that all of the past news entries I'd posted since returning to my old CDBaby server (now called Bandzoogle) disappeared a couple days ago. I inadvertently deleted them and they ain't comin' back. Story of my musical life. 

I'm extending the Best-of Contest till the end of August. (I think I'm extending it. Since I deleted all of the entries I'm not sure exactly what the final day was, or is, supposed to be. I hope if you've submitted an entry and you know the original end date that you might take a moment to enlighten me.) I've only got six submissions and I'm hoping that I'll get a few more. Remember, if you want to enter, just send in your list of a two CD BOK best-of consisting of 33 tracks. Please make sure all 33 tracks are by Book of Kills, and not The Karl Rove or Fear + Whiskey! You could win a two-of-a-kind double compact disc album with a fold-out collage cover! 

The second podcast will center on the making of BLOOM OR DIE?, the very first BOK album from 1989. I expect to begin production on it next week. I'm hoping to start work on "I Leave Her There Till She Rings 3 Times" as well. I might do the third podcast on the making of the song.


On this day in 2011 (how could it already be nine years ago?) Fear + Whiskey played Casey Firkin's Blow Up The Moon festival for the first time. I think it was BUTM #2. I remember the performance was shaky (especially the misguided--on my part--attempt at covering "Not Fade Away"). But I think we all had fun. There's a recording of the show somewhere. Maybe I'll see if I can dig it out and post some of it. Seems like there's a LOT of stuff I need to get done as far as music transfers, new songs, podcasts, videos, find a drummer, etc. etc. etc. Anyway, here's the set list for the BUTM gig: Cold Rain And Snow, Shake My Tree, To Dream A New Dream, Running, Hold The Wind, Thin Moon And Sky, Bona Fide, Carry Me, Man In The Long Black Coat, Marzipan Day, For What It's Worth, Stanley The Steamer, Not Fade Away, Jesco White.


Big day in rock and roll history...

On this day in 1929, the great Buck Owens was born. 

On this day in 1960, Pete Best was invited to join the Silver Beatles for their extended set of dates in Hamburg, Germany. Before the band left England, they shortened their name to simply The Beatles.

 On this day in 1964, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT OPENED in 500 theaters across America. It received largely rave reviews and is now recognized as one of the greatest films of all time. TIME magazine recently rated it one of the 100 greatest films ever. 

On this day in 1968, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Robert Plant played together for the first time ever when they rehearsed in a studio in London. They would play their first few dates as The Yardbirds before changing their name to Led Zeppelin a month or so later.

"Why not? It's the truth! Why can't I say I'm a Beatles fan? I used to get criticized for that."

"I found a sound that people really liked - I found this basic concept and all I did was change the lyrics and the melody a little bit. My songs, if you listen to them, they're quite a lot alike, like Chuck Berry."

"Lady Limelight is a jealous lady. She wants all of your attention. You don't have any time to think of anything else but Lady Limelight, because pretty soon that light will be shinning on somebody else. So you better do it while you can." 

"I'd like just to be remembered as a guy that came along and did his music, did his best and showed up on time, clean and ready to do the job, wrote a few songs, and had a hell of a time."

 "I got to realizing that I wanted to record, I wanted to experiment. And doing those same old songs the same old way - I said, 'I think it's time for me to have some fun.'"

-- Buck Owens


Today I sold and mailed off my old PreSonus Firestudio Project computer interface. I used it to record and/or master THE MONKEYCLAUS SESSIONS (The Karl Rove), DIFFERENT, THE PLAGUE DOGS, THIS IS YOUR BOOK OF KILLS, TOWARD THE ESCAPE, THE STRANGE ONE, THE AIN'T RECORDS SINGLES OF THE MONTH CLUB tracks, BONA FIDE (Fear + Whiskey), THE FEAR + WHISKEY ANTHOLOGY, THE PLEASURES OF SAYING GOODBYE, PSYCHIC DIVING, RIDING THE ECHO DOWN, BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME FIVE, HUMAN AGAIN and the other eleven singles/e.p.'s in the BOOK OF KILLS SINGLES CLUB Series! That's surely one of the more (if not the most) productive runs of creativity from the minds and hands of Jim, and the various great musicians he worked with during that time, in the past 30+ years of BOK-related recordings. You can see a picture of it on the first page of photos. (It's the gray box with all the knobs and inputs on the left of the MacBook Pro on the table.) I'll miss it. It never missed a beat during all the hundreds of hours I used it.