Aug 102012

"What's your problem now?"

The inclusion of the original web source of this article that recently appeared in the print edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer does not do this piece justice. Imagine, if you will, coming home from a long day at the office, being the Elvis Costello fanatic that I am, and seeing Elvis’ face peeking out above the Entertainment section that was loosely buried in the middle of the pile of the day’s newspaper.

“Hmm,” I said to my wife, as she put the finishing touches on dinner, “this looks cool.”

“Yeah, I meant to show you that,” she said, somehow knowing which article I was turning to as she stirred the zucchini and tomatoes from her garden in the saucepan.

The title of the piece was something like, Everyday I Write the Book: Elvis Costello’s Memoirs Are Among the Best by Any Rock Star. There was nothing specifically in the headline about this piece being picked up from Slate. That detail was only listed after the author’s byline, which I did not notice until I had read two thirds through the article and was, regrettably, fairly annoyed.

But good luck finding them. After the Rhino reissue series, Universal Music bought the rights to Costello’s first decade of recordings and reissued them yet again, essay-free, under their Hip-O Select label. Rhino has since stopped releasing even the other ’80s and ’90s records that included Costello’s writings; if you want to own them now, you’ll have to find used copies or pay anywhere from $30 to $80 for new ones on Amazon.

I read the first column of the piece, which ran through the “Books by Eric Clapton, Gil Scott-Heron, Jay-Z and Bob Mould …” paragraph that appears online.

“This thing’s taking a while to develop,” I mumbled across the kitchen as I waited for the piece’s surely buried lead to emerge.

Halfway through the second column I asked, “What is the purpose of this article? What’s the newsworthiness? What’s the commercial angle?”

“I thought it was pretty good,” my wife said, still not realizing the antisocial zone I was entering. “You can buy it now on Amazon.”

“No,” I said as nicely as possible, knowing exactly what antisocial zone I had entered, “the article says you can buy the out-of-print reissues with the liner notes on Amazon.”

I had entered the Rock Nerd Zone, that place where not even sane lovers of music like my wife want to enter.

Feb 192008

No dogder, this Roger!

May I begin by sharing with our Townspeople what a thrill it was for me to chat with producer/engineer Roger Bechirian! As a teenager, while intently studying the liner notes of the records that first made me feel as if I’d finally hit on “my” music, music made for me and my bandmate friends, his name kept cropping up. My friends and I never saw a picture of him, and we still don’t know exactly how his surname is pronounced, but this Roger Bechirian fellow was held in very high regard among our band of nobodies.

If I may, I’ll continue in the first person plural, because that’s how strong my love is over this guy’s work – and beside, my old friends and fellow Townsmen, Andyr and Chickenfrank, contributed to this interview. Our introduction to Bechirian was as the engineer on all those great Nick Lowe productions for Elvis Costello and The Attractions. Shortly thereafter, we saw he had his own thing going as producer of The Undertones, the band in our wildest, humble dreams we thought we could emulate.

With Costello, Bechirian produced the one Squeeze album we all agreed sounded great and steered clear of the stiff, awkward moments on their earlier albums. Then we noted his name on the credits for what we thought was The dBs‘ last great single, “Judy”. This guy not only engineered my all-time favorite album, Costello’s Get Happy!!, but he produced one of my favorite overlooked gems for listening to in my bedroom with the shades drawn, The Undertones’ Positive Touch. As Elvis would eventually have an album produced by George Martin engineer Geoff Emerick, we fantasized having an album produced by Nick’s right-hand man. Considering the likely disappointment (for him!) resulting from this fantasized collaboration, his taking the time to answer the tough questions from Rock Town Hall is more than enough wish fulfillment for anyone to bear… But enough of this ass-kissing, no matter how sincere it is! Let’s get on with the questions.

RTH: I’ve read that you were born in India and moved to England when you were a boy. When did you get into music and how did you get into recording?

RB: There was always music on in the house. My father was a big Jazz fan, and my sister would get all the latest hits from the UK and the States. I also played piano, and would spend hours making up my own tunes. We had a tape recorder at home, and I soon started making up my own sound montages by editing various recordings… I did the same thing as you, scouring album credits, looking for the engineering and studio credits. I got my first job training as a mastering engineer, cutting vinyl!

I was so opinionated, and couldn’t stop myself from telling people what I thought they should be doing!


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