When Robbie Robertson met Jimi Hendrix in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1966, Hendrix (then going by the name of Jimmy James) was intent on learning about a subject crucial to his future as an artist. “He only wanted to talk about songwriting,” revealed Robertson. “Because I was playing with Bob Dylan then, he thought I might know something about those secrets.” What was the best advice Robertson shared with Jimi? “If everybody is writing about one particular thing, then I would not go in that particular direction, because it’s crowded over there.
Steve Wynn was right there at the forefront when the alternative music scene exploded in the '80s. As a member of The Dream Syndicate, Wynn helped usher in the movement known as The Paisley Underground.
In honor of today’s release of A Different Kind of Truth, the first album from Van Halen with David Lee Roth as lead vocalist since 1984, we’re proud to present an interview I did with the inimitable Mr. Roth back in 2003. Our chat was ostensibly centered around his covers-oriented solo album Diamond Dave, but we quickly went into, well, a different universe. “As far as learning the alphabet of music goes,” opined the ever-quotable Dave, “I always tell young musicians, ‘Last I looked, the Bible was written in the exact same alphabet as my favorite pornography. So I guess the choice is yours, son.’” As the song says, might as well jump. . .
Duke Ellington knew how to swing. Ellington (1899–1974) was one of the most prolific and influential songwriters of the 20th Century, a purveyor of what he liked to call American Music (he eschewed being labeled as “just” a jazz artist). You know him, even if you don’t think you know him: “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Mood Indigo,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” are but slivers of his deep (and deep-felt) compositional and performing catalog.
One particular set of highly attuned ears that were influenced by Ellington’s magic happen to belong to Joe Jackson. Yes, that Joe Jackson, he of the skinny-tie New Wave scene of the late ’70s who began reinventing himself at the dawn of the ’80s and never looked back. “I was always ready to move on,” Jackson, 58, said matter-of-factly over lunch in midtown Manhattan this past spring. (Well, to clarify, I had lunch; Jackson was content with “just water.”) “It never occurred to me that listeners may not have been ready to hear it. I thought the whole idea of being an artist was to do something different than everyone else.”