Posts Tagged ‘Roxy Theatre’

Stand In The Fire: Warren Zevon’s Incendiary Live Album

Warren Zevon (1947-2003) – 1970s – The excitable boy, Mr. bad Example himself, Warren Zevon, a songwriter with few equals who is best remembered for his 1978 hit “Werewolves of London,” But Zevon was so much more than his signature song. Beginning in 1976 with his debut album on Asylum Records, “Warren Zevon”, He captured the attention of Linda Ronstadt who recorded “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” a Zevon penned tune which she turned into a Top 30 hit in 1978. Songs like “Mohammed’s Radio,” “Frank and Jesse James,” “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” and “Hasten Down the Wind,” (also covered by Ronstadt), all on his debut album displayed Zevon’s penchant for history and a soft, sweet side. It was his second Asylum album “Excitable Boy,” (1978) that established Zevon as a writer of great wit, skill, and whimsy.

The disc was filled with Zevon gems: “Johnny Strikes Up the Band” “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” and “Accidentally Like a Martyr” and had the added cachet of being produced by Zevon’s pal Jackson Browne. Although Zevon’s career didn’t have the upward trajectory of Browne’s, He was a cult favourite, knocking out crowd pleasers at his often unrestrained lives shows. With titles like “If You Won’t Leave Me I’ll Find Somebody Who Will” “Gorilla You’re a Desperado” and “Detox Mansion,” he endeared himself to his legion of followers. In the early 2000s, he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, which cut his life and art short. But he began work on his final album “The Wind,” in early 2003, completing it in time to see it rise high into the Top 10 with songs like his cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” and the heartbreaking “Keep Me in Your Heart,” Zevon was buoyed on the album by help from his friends including Bruce Springsteen on the barnburner “Disorder in the Court.” Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, David Lindley, and Dwight Yoakam all lent their talents to the album as well. Zevon made appearances on the David Letterman show right up until the end when the talk show host and his friend turned over the entire hour to him. It was during this final appearance on Letterman on October 30th, 2002, that Zevon repeated his oft-quoted advice on dying: “Enjoy every sandwich,” Zevon’s acerbic wit, great sensitivity, and writing prowess will keep him in the hearts of those who loved his style for a long time to come.

Warren Zevon’s  “Stand In The Fire”, recorded over a five-night period at the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood in August 1980, is not only one of Zevon’s best albums, it is also one of the most affecting live albums of the decade.

After more than ten years of drink and drugs excesses, the newly-sober Zevon, then 33, was in a better place when it came to this run of summer gigs. He was in jocular form, joking that the concerts should be called “The Dog Ate The Part We Didn’t Like Tour”, and said he was happy to be back performing in Los Angeles, the city where he had grown up. Asked by Rolling Stone magazine how it felt to be on stage in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, Zevon replied, “Let’s just say that it was like rescuing the little boy who’d fallen through the ice. Rescuing him while the whole world was watching.”

Stand In The Fire, which was released by Asylum Records on 26th December 1980, carried the dedication “For Marty”, in tribute to Zevon’s friend, the film director Martin Scorsese. The album opened with the previously unreleased title track, which was immediately followed by “Jenny Needs A Shooter”, a song co-written with Zevon’s friend Bruce Springsteen.

Though Zevon was taking prescription painkillers and steroids for a strained nerve in his back, the singer-songwriter was remarkably full of energy for the gigs, in which he displayed his usual mordant wit. For the live version of On “Mohammed’s Radio”, Zevon altered the original lyrics from “You know the sheriff’s got his problems, too/He will surely take them out on you” to “Ayatollah’s got his problems, too/Even Jimmy Carter’s got the highway blues”, in a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Iran hostage crisis that was dominating the news at the time.

Despite being harvested from multiple performances, “Stand In The Fire” feels cohesive, which is partly down to the excellence and consistency of the terrific backing musicians, who were largely unknown at the time. The band, who called themselves Boulder, comprised Zevon on vocals, piano and 12-string guitar, Roberto Piñón on bass and backing vocals, Marty Stinger on drums, Zeke Zirngiebel on rhythm, lead, and slide guitar, Bob Harris on synthesiser and piano, and David Landau on lead guitar.

The shows were produced by Zevon and Greg Ladanyi. During the rocking performance of “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”, one of the stand-out songs from Zevon’s self-titled debut album, Zevon halts midway through the track and drags George Gruel, his then “road manager and best friend”, on stage to fire up the crowd. Gruel grabbed the microphone and gleefully announced, “Get up and dance, or I’ll kill ya. And I’ve got the means!”

Zevon’s version of his perennially popular “Werewolves Of London” is peppered with witty ad libs about the musicians Jackson Browne and James Taylor, and director Brian De Palma, whose violent film Dressed To Kill had been one of the most talked about releases that summer. Zevon also performed a slowed down version of “Lawyers, Guns And Money” along with high-energy versions of “Excitable Boy” and “The Sin”. He also growled his way through the autobiographical song “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”, before the album ended with a cover of Bo Diddley’s “A Gunslinger”, which had been a R&B hit in 1960 for an artist that Zevon admired deeply.

There were ten tracks on the original 1980 release of Stand In The Fire, but when Asylum/Rhino remastered the album in 2007, they added four additional songs: “Johnny Strikes Up The Band, Play It All Night Long, Frank And Jesse James” and “Hasten Down The Wind”.

On the final two tracks, Zevon played piano and first delivered a poignant, reflective version of a song about two cowboy legends before launching into one of his most affecting compositions about love, “Hasten Down The Wind”. Zevon first recorded the song in 1976.

Zevon’s version at the Roxy was preceded with a moving speech, in which he explained the song’s meaning to the audience. “This is a song that I’d like to play for you that I wrote a decade ago, just about. This is the song that came along and intervened between myself and starvation, thanks to Miss Ronstadt. In those days, you know, when I wrote this song, I was not a very happy fellow. I was poor and strung out and screwed up… and now I’m just screwed up. No, I’m very happy, thank you, thank you very much. Because everybody gotta change sometimes. Speaking as one who has abused privilege for a long time, I tell you, it’s great to be alive. Thank you.”

It was a fitting way to close a splendid live album that captures all that is great about Warren Zevon, who died at the age of 56 in 2003.

On February 2, 2018, Zappa Records/UMe will release

43 years ago in December 1973Frank Zappa played a series of legendary concerts at the famed Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Considered a high-water mark of his career, owing to the incredible, virtuosic performances of himself and his stellar band The Mothers, the five shows – across three nights – included a private invite-only performance/soundcheck/film shoot followed by back-to-back doubleheaders. A few days later, continuing this incredibly prolific week, Frank Zappa brought his band and camera crew to Ike Turner’s Bolic Sound in Inglewood for a filmed recording session. In typical Zappa fashion, he recorded it all.

Zappa Records presents The Roxy Performances. A 7-Disc Box Set that contains the MOTHERLODE of all things Roxy. All 4 public shows from December 9th & 10th 1973, remixed in 2016 and presented in their entirety for the first time. Also included is the sound check from December 8th and bonus content that features rehearsal nuggets and unreleased tracks along with highlights from the recording session at Bolic Studios that took place in conjunction with the filming dates.  The box set that collects all four public shows from December 9th-10th, 1973, and the December 8th film shoot/soundcheck, each presented in their entirety for the first time, along with bonus content featuring rarities from a rehearsal, unreleased tracks and highlights from the Bolic Studios recording session. This complete collection, totaling nearly eight hours, documents the Roxy shows as they happened and presents brand new 2016 mixes by Craig Parker Adams from new 96K 24 Bit transfers of the multi-track masters. The set is rounded out with a 48-page booklet that includes photos from the performances, extensive liner notes by Vaultmeister Joe Travers, essays from Zappa family friend, Australian writer Jen Jewel Brown,and American singer/songwriter Dave Alvin, who give their firsthand recollections about the shows, and a selection of archival press reviews.

This is one of my favorite Frank Zappa line-ups ever. This box contains some of the best nights of music Los Angeles has ever seen with their ears at an historic venue,” says Ahmet Zappa, who co-produced the collection along with Travers, “Hold on to your hotdogs people. This box is the be-all-end-all. This is it. This is all of it. It’s time to get your rocks off for the Roxy.”

While portions of these concerts have been released in various formats over the years – first in 1974 on the album Roxy and Elsewhere, which mixed material from the shows with performances recorded in different locations months later, followed by 2014’s Roxy By Proxy, which featured Zappa’s 1987 digital mixes of tracks from various shows, and most recently the 2015 film Roxy The Movie and its accompanying soundtrack – the shows have never been released in their entirety until now.

The Roxy Performances capture Zappa and The Mothers in peak condition as they play to rowdy sold-out crowds in the intimate, just-opened venue in their hometown Los Angeles following the release of Over-Nite Sensation. The extraordinary band was one of Zappa’s best with keyboardist George Duke, bassist Tom Fowler, trombonist Bruce Fowler, tenor saxophonist and vocalist Napoleon Murphy Brock, percussionist Ruth Underwood and drummers Ralph Humphrey and Chester Thompson all flawlessly in lockstep as Zappa led them through his musically adventurous compositions filled with complicated time signatures and sudden tempo changes. As the Los Angeles Times remarked in their review, “The content of any show starring Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention is unpredictable. But the quality of the show is predictable. I have seen this satirical rock group many times and every show has been excellent. True to form, the group performed sensationally at the Roxy on Sunday night.” The (long-defunct) Los Angeles Herald-Examiner was equally impressed: “This time around Zappa, the counter-culture’s John Cage, has assembled a remarkable group of musicians. Tim Fowler on bass, his brother Bruce on trombone, Ralph Humphrey on drums, and George Duke, whose keyboard skills almost upstaged the leader himself. Percussionist Ruth Underwood kept up with the band’s frenetic pace without missing a single swat of the gong, and she was incredible.”

The material expertly performed across the five shows consisted mostly of songs from 1969 and beyond and included a dizzying array of stylistic diverse tracks from Uncle Meat, Hot Rats, Waka/Jawaka and Over-Nite Sensation. The shows also include a number of live favorites like “Village Of The Sun,” “Pygmy Twylyte,” “Cheepnis,” “Penguin In Bondage,” “Echidna’s Arf (Of You),” and “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing.” Many of these ended up on Roxy & Elsewhere.

Jen Jewel Brown and Dave Alvin give a glimpse at what it was like to be at these historic shows in their richly detailed essays in the liner notes that accompany the recordings. Alvin reflects about meeting Zappa on the Isle of Capri in 1982 while on tour with his band The Blasters and how Zappa’s eyes lit up when he told him he saw him at the Roxy. “You were at a Roxy show?,” he beamed. He goes on to write, “The Roxy Mothers were a grand combination of high art, low art, masterful technique and razor sharp humor with a touch of wild abandon.” In Brown’s reflection, “This is a cultural record and there’s some prime Zappanalia here. Frank had put the crippling disasters of December ’71 behind him and was plunged headlong into some of the most beautiful music and zestful, open-hearted engagement with life imaginable.”

Previously unreleased 1976 Radio broadcast. Broadcast live in early 1976 from L.A.’s legendary Roxy Theatre by that city’s KMET FM Radio, this dynamic set captures the former Velvet Underground front-man, Lou Reed, working through an eight song selection of some of his finest work he had released up to that juncture. Featuring a sublime ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ dating back to the first VU album, ‘Lisa Says’, a song written at a similar time and indeed demoed by the Velvets but not released until it’s inclusion on Lou’s first, eponymous solo LP in 1972, and two cuts apiece from October ’75’s ‘Coney Island Baby’ (‘Kicks’ and the title track) and his then yet to be released ‘Rock and Roll Heart’ (I Believe In Love and You Wear It So Well) – a record not issued until October ’76. He was never going to get out alive however without performing …‘Wild Side’, thus a 10 minute rendition of this classic tune provides the penultimate number of this energetic performance.

bruce roxy

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band performing live July 7th, 1978 at The Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood, California. The remarkable setlist includes no less than six premieres: “Rave On,” “Point Blank,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Independence Day,” “Raise Your Hand,” and “Twist And Shout.” This show and others on the Darkness tour in 1978 are considered some of the best shows Bruce will ever do. The new song “Independence Day” is performed for the first time and on the piano by Bruce. This is the only known time Bruce did this on the tour. “Point Blank” features different lyrics to later versions and the arrangement is slightly different. Also includes the first known tour performances of both “Raise Your Hand” and “Twist And Shout.” All this and he skipped “Jungleland?” Very few tickets to this concert ever made it into public, and right before the show Bruce learned that over half of the 500 seats in the Theatre were filled with people from the press and CBS, he asked half of them to leave as politely as he could, and give their tickets to fans waiting outside. This show was also one of the main sources for the official Live 1975-85 box set, which includes eight songs from this show – “Spirit In The Night,” “Paradise By The ”C,”” “Adam Raised A Cain,” “Growin’ Up” (with a few cuts during the story), “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City,” a heavily edited “Backstreets” with the “Sad Eyes” sequence removed and part of the third verse switched with a different performance, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” and “Raise Your Hand.” They sure picked the right show to do it, but they edited “Backstreets!” Originally broadcast on KMET FM Radio, this show unfortunately circulates as recordings from the radio broadcast unlike the other radio broadcasts from the 1978 which have pre-FM sources available. Recordings of this show have circulated on many unofficial LPs and on CDs since about 1980. In the U.K., a legal loophole provides companies to release unofficial bootlegs (surprising that Bruce has not sued them yet?). Recently, a first generation 7-1/2 IPS (inches per second) reel was found and transferred. The result is a substantial upgrade from all previous releases, with a more clearer sound and no pitch issues. But a new recording was given to a U.K. company from someone who recorded the broadcast on a perfectly new stereo equipment set. The result is here, clear with the quality it should have had in the first place. But still, since the theatre was small, you can still hear the audience yelling and shouting even though it is right from the board.

The Classic live FM broadcast of the legendary Roxy Theatre show, often regarded as one of the best shows ever. 3 cd set. available via Amazon.co.uk

07-Jul-1978 Los Angeles,CA The Roxy,USA
FIRST SET:
Rave On
Badlands
Spirit In The Night
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Candy’s Room
For You
Point Blank
The Promised Land
Prove It All Night
Racing In The Street
Thunder Road
SECOND SET:
Paradise By The C
Fire
Adam Raised A Cain
Mona
She’s The One
Growin’ Up
It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City
Backstreets (w/ Sad Eyes)
Heartbreak Hotel
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
ENCORES:
Independence Day (solo piano)
Born To Run
Because The Night
Raise Your Hand
Twist And Shout
FM broadcast – Premiere of Point Blank, Rave On and Independence Day is performed solo on piano for only time on the tour. Point Blank features different lyrics to later versions and is played slightly differently. Originally broadcast on FM Radio.