Five More Epic '80s Tours That Deserve The Wall Treatment

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Photo by Jim Bricker
Roger Waters at Toyota Center, 2012
Ex-Pink Floyd bandleader Roger Waters celebrated his 71st birthday in typically dramatic fashion last Saturday: he premiered a new movie at the Toronto International Film Festival. Roger Waters: The Wall is a documentary chronicling the songwriter's massive, three-year world tour, "The Wall Live," featuring the famous tunes from one of rock and roll's greatest concept double-albums.

The new film is hardly the first time Waters has revisited The Wall, of course. The 1979 release spawned a cult-classic film version, a live album and even a home video of Waters and some famous pals performing it at the site of the Berlin Wall. But the most recent tour, which wrapped up just last year, was an unusual undertaking worthy of its own study. With two legs encompassing 219 shows, The Wall Live was the highest-grossing tour of all time by a solo artist, raking in nearly half a billion dollars.

And you'd better believe it cost money to make that money, too. An audiovisual extravaganza, the ultra-elaborate show required an estimated $60 million to stage and featured all of the inflatable puppets, projected animation, flying pigs and political demagoguery that one could ever want. Hell, it even featured a mega-super-rare guest appearance by Waters' estranged Pink Floyd ex-bandmates David Gilmour and Nick Mason at one London performance. If you don't want to hear the backstory on that little collab, you aren't a Pink Floyd fan.

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Pop's History In 624 Pages, Plus One Very Loud Who Book

Photos via Wikipedia (Boston)/Daniel Kramer (Madonna)/Wikipedia (Wizzard)/Robin Harper-Parkwood Entertainment (Beyonce)
Clockwise from top left: Boston, Madonna, Marvin Gaye, Wizzard and Beyonce all figure -- briefly -- in Bob Stanley's The Story of Pop.
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé
By Bob Stanley
W.W. Norton, 624 pp. $29.95

Well, that's not an ambitious title or anything, now is it? Especially when music journo Stanley (also the co-founder and keyboardist of Saint Etienne) has such a broad definition of "pop" music. This means that the doorstop-sized tome covers everyone from rockabilly to doo-wop to Merseybeat to folk rock. From Motown and psychedelia to soft rock and country and western, punk and New Wave to metal and electropop. From hip-hop and indie to grunge, acid house and R&B. Bill to Beyoncé indeed.

And you know what? Stanley seems to make this roller-coaster ride through pop history work, cramming hundreds of performers and songs into the narrative's whirlwind journey.

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Southern Rock Gets a New Bible in Southbound

Capricorn Records
Kings of the Hill -- the original lineup of the Allman Brothers Band: Jaimoe Johanson, Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Berry Oakley, Dickey Betts, and Butch Trucks.
While there are plenty of musicians, record collectors and journos who will argue (as only musicians, record collectors and journos can) that all rock is "Southern rock" due to its geographical origins, Southern rock is nonetheless a well-defined genre.

And that genre finally gets its comprehensive Bible in Scott B. Bomar's Southbound: The Illustrated History of Southern Rock (Backbeat Books, 304 pp., $29.99). Insanely detailed with band bios, rare live and publicity photos, and chapters giving the context of Southern rock in both the greater world of music and its '70s heyday, Southbound covers the genre's giants (Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top), mid-level players (Marshall Tucker Band, Atlanta Rhythm Section) and more obscure groups (Cowboy, Grinderswitch).

Recently Rocks Off spoke with Bomar, a researcher and music-industry pro who specializes in reissues, about the book, the bands, and how Southern Rock helped elect a U.S. President.

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Confessions of Bob Dylan's Ex-Joint Roller

St. Martin's/Photo by Edward Chavez
Victor Maymudes and Bob Dylan, 1964
Another Side of Bob Dylan: A Personal History on the Road and Off the Tracks
By Victor Maymudes, co-written and edited by Jacob Maymudes
St. Martin's Press, 304 pp., $26.99

From 1961 to 1966, Victor Maymudes filled a lot of roles -- both official and not -- for Bob Dylan: friend, confidante, gofer, driver, road manager, interference runner, party buddy, chess and conversation partner, and procurer/carrier of marijuana. And joint roller.

It's that last role even Maymudes' son Jacob says will likely be his lasting legacy, at least in rock history. For on that fateful night of August 28, 1964 at the Delmonico Hotel in New York, it was Maymudes who made the famous Smoke Summit/First Meeting between Dylan and the Beatles possible, after nearly getting sucked away by the teeming crowd of screaming girls and cops around the band.

The New Yorkers, mistakenly thinking that the repetitive chorus "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" went "I get high" instead of the actual "I can't hide," figured the Fabs were already experienced smokers.

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Houston in the '60s Was a Happening Place

Photos courtesy of Vicki Welch Ayo
The Larry Kane Show
One day, in the distant future, hopefully there will be a Vicki Welch Ayo to document Houston's present-day music scene. If so, that person must now be a dedicated and adventurous showgoer, someone who is enthusiastic about the current acts and venues, and who cares about local music enough to one day look back at it with unabashed love and respect.

That's what Ayo did for the 1960s Houston rock scene in her book, Boys From Houston. Released just over a year ago and weighing in at more than 400 pages, it's a glance back at the players who sowed the seeds for today's Houston music landscape.

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The Supertramp Mystique Extends to Instrumental Records, Too

Photos courtesy of Glass Onyon PR
Carl Verheyen rocks out!
Singer/guitarist Carl Verheyen probably hasn't ever needed to file for unemployment with the musicians union. After a couple of decades as a sought-after studio axeman, he launched a solo career more than ten albums deep, teaches music at the university level, and has authored instructional books and DVDs.

Oh, and he also has been a permanent member of Supertramp ("The Logical Song," "Goodbye Stranger," "Give a Little Bit") since 1996. But for his most recent effort, last year's Mustang Run (Cranktone), he offered up an almost all-instrumental guitar record, which attracts a much different audience than a standard rock one with vocals.

"I believe that the state of the art of the so-called guitar record is not about shredding and blazing down the fingerboard," he offers while on a studio break from producing (yet another gig of his). "It's more about texture and sonic tapestries that you put together with different sounds. That's where I was coming from with this. I didn't want a 'chops' record. I wanted a melodic record."

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Super Duper Alice Cooper More Than Just Snakes and Golf

Would you buy a used car -- or hatchet -- from this man?

Super Duper Alice Cooper
Directed by Reginald Harkema, Scot McFadyen, and Sam Dunn
Eagle Rock, 127 mins, $14.98 DVD/$19.98 Blu-Ray

Vincent Furnier was a shy, churchgoing, high-school track star and the son and grandson of preachers who had never even touched alcohol, much less illegal drugs.

Alice Cooper is a depraved sicko who likes to whip women, chop off the limbs of baby dolls, inadvertently kills chickens, sneers at the people who pay to see him, and ultimately ends up getting guillotined for his behavior. And he liked to imbibe massive amounts of Budweiser and cocaine. Massive.

That they two men are the same person has long been one of rock history's more fascinating stories, a real-life Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde -- albeit one dressed in leather and wearing snakes. In fact, footage from an old silent-film adaptation of the R.L. Stevenson story is strewn throughout Super Duper Alice Cooper to constantly drive the point home, as does the constant third-person discussion by Alice of Alice.

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Aerosmith at The Woodlands, 8/25/2014

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Aerosmith, Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 25, 2014

More than 40 years into a career that's seen more ups and down than the S&P 500, Aerosmith no longer has any use for another comeback. Thanks to an extensive catalogue of hits and sheer, stubborn longevity, the group even detractors have been forced to acknowledge as perhaps America's greatest rock band has nothing much left to prove (or say) at this point.

The Bad Boys from Boston didn't play anything approaching new music on Monday night, nor did anyone ask for any. All that's needed to send a huge Woodlands Pavilion crowd home happy is for Aerosmith to do what it does best: roll out the classics and continue on being Aerosmith, forever and ever and ever.

Steven Tyler can still screech out the high notes and Joe Perry can still play the hell of that axe, and they still look pretty damn good doing it -- even if Tyler's unfortunate mustache-and-beardlet combo looks like something purchased in a pop-up costume shop. The 66-year-old singer's stage shimmy may be slower and more subtle these days, and his voice has certainly acquired a bit of a patina over the decades. But he and his bandmates can still reliably bring the rock and roll thunder that has made them icons.

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Crosby, Stills & Nash at Bayou Music Center, 8/25/2014

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Photos by Jack Gorman
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Bayou Music Center
August 25, 2014

"I don't know how people got this idea that we are a political band," David Crosby -- trademark flowing grey hair and walrus mustache intact -- said Monday night. "It might be from just those one or two songs. Or 18."

And indeed, while it seems incongruous that anyone buying a ticket to see Crosby, Stills & Nash is utterly unaware of their strongly left-leaning views, those who came strictly for the warm buzz of a hippie-fest nostalgia trip sure got a rude awakening.

Oh yeah, they got the sweet, comfy love songs like "Guinnevere," "Helplessly Hoping," and a nicely done "Our House." And the bong-fest barn burners like "Wooden Ships," "Long Time Gone," and "Almost Cut My Hair."

But smack dab in the middle of that set, CSN shook it up with a number of new songs all about some pretty contemporary issues, and one decades-old that could have been written yesterday. Remember, this is three-fourths of the group that recorded and released the protest anthem "Ohio" in about a week after the 1970 Kent State shootings that it was about.

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Inside CSNY's Groundbreaking 1974 Tour

Photos by Joel Bernstein/Rhino Records
CSNY (actually in order, Stills, Crosby, Young and Nash) onstage during the 1974 tour.
"We knew it was something special," Graham Nash says on the phone from New York City. "No one had done a tour like that, in that many big venues. But I felt we were up to the task. We could all play and sing, and there were four of us. With four intense egos!"

Today, massive football stadium tours by rock's major acts are taken for granted. But many years ago, 40 to be precise, it hadn't even been attempted. While the Beatles and Stones had done the massive gigs as one-offs, it was a reunited Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young who took the plunge first.

Their fabled 1974 tour encompassed 31 shows in 24 cities in three countries from July through September, with the group presenting nearly 80 songs played in various personnel combinations -- a quarter of which hadn't even been released at that point but would find their way onto later group, solo, and duo records.

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