Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jimi Hendrix Live at the Fillmore East

Live at the Fillmore East, the latest in a never-ending series of reissued Jimi Hendrix material, is essentially an elaborate repackaging of Band of Gypsys, the final album released prior to the inventive guitarist's death in September 1970.

To settle a lawsuit from an old contract still in force, Hendrix had to come up with a new album -- and fast -- so he enlisted army buddy bassist Billy Cox and former Wilson Pickett/ Electric Flag drummer Buddy Miles. The trio, dubbed Band of Gypsys, played four Fillmore gigs plus another at Madison Square Garden before Miles departed and incumbent Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell returned.

The resulting album, issued in April 1970, consisted of six selections from those shows. In 1986 Capitol released Band of Gypsys 2, which offered another six tunes from the same sessions. But when it was discovered that only two tracks came from the Fillmore shows, the album was quickly pulled from the shelves.

Fast-forward a few years: After a series of legal battles, Hendrix's family assumed the rights to his recordings. Though a bunch of reissues were already under way, Janie Hendrix, Jimi's half sister, took command and reissued the records with some new material.

Unfortunately instead of expanding the original Band of Gypsys (like the Who did with Live at Leeds, for example), the producers reconfigured and resequenced enough of the original material to fill two discs. The result, Live at the Fillmore East, is fine, though it ain't exactly Band of Gypsys. But the music is still transcendent, and the sound -- remixed and remastered -- is more vibrant and warmer than in earlier incarnations.

On the series of jams, oldies, and unfinished songs, Hendrix is at the height of his powers. Billy Cox is a far better bass player than the Experience's Noel Redding, a guitarist who learned bass only after he became Experienced. Buddy Miles was the odd man out. It's puzzling that Hendrix selected him as a percussionist in the first place; the man simply didn't swing and barely keeps up with the rock-solid and mellifluous Cox.

But the material maintains its power and transcends Miles' limitations. "Stone Free" is pretty hot, as are the two takes of "Machine Gun" and "new" live versions of "Stepping Stone," "Izabella," and "Earth Blues," all of which were posthumously issued in studio form. "Power to Love" is retitled "Power of Soul" here, "Message to Love" from the original collection is absent, and the take of "Who Knows" differs from the one on Band of Gypsys.

Live at the Fillmore East could ultimately have been pared down to one great disc, but for fans it's a good collection, with solid annotation and wonderful sound. And it's a potent reminder that there will never be another Jimi Hendrix.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Beatles Remixers Group

"For anyone who likes remixes, enhancements or otherwise altered Beatles recordings. Uploads encouraged."

There are several volumes of remixes out there, under the name "Tuned to a Natural E." They are not for everyone, but for me, I couldn't get the smile off my puss, listening to Vol. 1 on the way home, driving through crappy traffic the other night.

It's also always nice to know that there are people who are crazier than you!

Monday, February 18, 2008

The return of Was (Not Was)

New album due in April!

This fan site has info, video, downloads and more. Nice folks, too.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

For authors, marketing is mightier than the pen

(above, novelist Joseph Finder)

It's not enough to write a great book. Authors are now expected to play an active role in book marketing and promotion. In this brave new world of always-on media, scribes are expected to either pursue or make themselves available to every potential reader.

Though there have always been opportunities for interviews, reviews, in-store signings, book fairs, seminars and broadcast appearances, now publishers want to make sure no avenue for multimedia exposure is overlooked as a book competes with every other form of entertainment.

Most book companies have full-time staff devoted to pursuing publicity for their books and authors, but nothing is guaranteed.

"Publicity departments are too small and stretched too thin," author Joseph Finder (pictured above), author of "High Crimes," "Company Man" and "Paranoia," said in a telephone interview from his Boston office. "They do their best, but there’s always another book coming out and I want to make sure that mine gets the attention it deserves before they move on to the next one."
But he notes his publisher, St. Martin’s Press, "was extremely cooperative when I came up with the idea of including an audio CD” to promote his current book, “Killer Instinct.” “From the CEO on down, they’re totally behind my books. In fact, the marketing director is a fan," he said.

Still, Finder felt the need to do more.
“I paid for my Web site, hired someone to design it and someone else to run it. It’s impossible to gauge, but I see more and more response from reviewers, journalists and booksellers, and readers communicate with me, too,” he said. “Everyone likes to get inside information and have a connection.”

Making that connection also includes putting up special Web sites in countries where his books sell especially well, such as the Netherlands.

Edna Buchanan, a Miami Beach novelist and one-time Pulitzer Prize-winning crime reporter for The Miami Herald, said she works closely with her publisher’s publicity department and will do book tours and almost anything else they suggest to sell her books.

"But I hate to leave Miami," said Buchanan. "I’m basically a shy person but also I don’t want to miss anything if I’m out on the road. Plus I don’t like to go anyplace where they only speak one language and don’t have Cuban coffee."
But with her new book, "Love Kills," which brings her recurring character Britt Montero together with the Cold Case Squad, due out in June, she expects to hit the road again if that’s what her publisher wants.

Lissa Warren, senior director of publicity for Da Capo Books, which is based in Cambridge, Mass., said authors should first try to figure out how much of a priority their book is to the publisher. "Is it in their catalog, and if so, how does it compare to other books? Is there a two-page spread? Is there a large print run? A big advance? A tour? Have they sent out galleys to reviewers?" are the questions that should be asked, she said.

"They should at least be able to secure reviews from the Big Four trade publications — Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist and Library Journal — too,” said Warren, a poet herself and author of "The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Publicity: A Comprehensive Resource: From Building the Buzz to Pitching the Press.”"

"Some authors may initiate their own campaigns, often with the knowledge and blessings of their publisher, but sometimes without," Warren said, adding that independent public relations firms may also be hired to work on a project.

"It’s big bucks," said Les Standiford, author of the series of novels featuring South Florida-based sleuth John Deal, as well as several historical works, including “Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America."
"The plain fact is that in an industry where $25,000 is a substantial advance, after your agent’s commission, taxes and a little money to live on, how much is left? My publishers have always been collaborative and like to see me tour and do signings, but do you know how many books you usually sell at a signing?" he asked. “Six to eight."
"So if you do a 10-city tour with average expense of a thousand dollars a day, how much does that work out to be, per copy?"
Standiford, who heads the creative writing program at Florida International University, chuckled and added, "But the publisher thinks it’s worth it and that it helps with word of mouth, which is how most books sell anyway. I’m fine with that, because it’s the most valuable and effective thing I can do to help sell my books."
Does Standiford teach his FIU students how to promote their work? "No," he said. "That would be more of a business course, I’d imagine, but we do cover how to present material to an agent, which is an important step in the process."
Investigative author Edwin Black, who wrote “IBM and the Holocaust,” “War on the Weak” and “Banking on Baghdad,” is a skilled and tireless promoter for his books.

After conducting the substantial research behind his current book, "Internal Combustion" — which chronicles the history of the energy industry and the suppression of alternate technologies, Black became a road warrior.

"Publishers know that in addition to getting a book, they’re getting me," he said several weeks ago while in Broward County to launch the campaign for “Internal Combustion." "I’m out there, meeting with people at schools, organizations and other places that make sense."
Black, who lives in Washington, wrote and helped produce a video trailer for his book that was completed with the assistance of volunteers, packaged on DVD and distributed online through YouTube. He also works with his publisher to secure reviews in print publications, as many authors do.

Major online booksellers such as and also get into the act by inviting customers to contribute reviews and some have become quite prolific, with devoted followings.

But there are no editors or gatekeepers to ensure the authenticity of the reviews and the legitimacy of the reviewers. Political books, for example, are often critiqued on the basis of the author’s personality or party affiliation rather than the content of the work in question.

By far the most influential television venue for books is Oprah Winfrey’s syndicated weekday show. Her mere mention of a title sends thousands to bookstores.

"When that happens, publishers have to make sure that there are books in shops to capitalize on it," said Da Capo’s Warren.

Some authors are particularly savvy about using the electronic media to promote their work.

Prolific British fantasy writer Warren Ellis ("Planetary," "Transmetropolitan," "Fell"), sends short email messages several times a week, under the heading “Bad Signal,” to fans and others who sign up to receive them. He comments on life, asks questions that come up as he writes his stories and scripts, and announces upcoming projects as well as on-sale dates of books. He even mentions quantities of distributor stock since a number of retailers and other professionals are also on his list.

Ellis rarely makes personal appearances, but his postings to his own website and on other online venues project a presence well beyond his British home base.

Writer and marketing guru Seth Godin’s books are often accompanied with clever marketing campaigns. A colorful cereal box, boldly announcing, Free Prize Inside, contained not a decoder ring or tiny plastic soldier, but a copy of Godin’s book of the same name.

Each of his books is foreshadowed and accompanied by a flurry of online promotions, special offers, podcasts, and blog postings from myriad Web sites. Godin, who lives outside New York City, is also a frequent speaker at seminars and conferences and has deftly managed to keep his message consistent while offering fresh nuances and new insights to cultivate and retain a devoted following.

In response to an e-mail asking about how he markets his books, Godin wrote: "The unspoken truth is that except for perhaps 250 giant books every year out of 75,000 published, the publisher is expecting the author to do 100 percent of the sales and promotion. Because authors don’t understand that, they end up bitter, angry and perhaps destitute.
"The most successful authors drive from store to store in a sort of perma-tour, selling books out of the back of their car or just working with individual stores to make their titles stand out," he wrote. "Oliver North made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling his remaindered autobiography at speeches to right-wing groups. This approach is antediluvian and time-consuming, but it works."

Godin said he works closely with his publisher, Portfolio, to create and market his books. "Once we hammer out a plan, they do a terrific job in supporting it. There are other publishers who are far more conservative, far more certain that the tried and true is the only path. The problem with that approach is that it is wrong," he wrote.

Godin said he doesn’t have a blog to sell books — but rather to spread ideas. "I don’t flog the blog that hard, which certainly costs me short-term book sales. But that’s OK, because the point is to keep the ideas moving around. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the investment in the blog has certainly paid off in increased book sales over time," he wrote.

His advice to authors is to get out and really work for their books: "You need a platform to make a published book work. If you don’t have a platform yet, you should self-publish your first book and give away enough copies to get a platform, and then use that platform to engage your readers so that you can sell the second one to a publisher and quit your day job."
Originally published in The Miami Herald, November 2006

© 2006, 2008 The Pachter Family Trust

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Steve Gerber

To the general public, "Howard The Duck" is, if anything, a punchline to a joke, a universally-reviled bad movie. A flop.

But to comics fans, Howard The Duck was an anarchic, game-changing character, and a symbol of the fight for creators' rights.

Howard's creator, Steve Gerber, died this weekend.

Here's a link to an excellent overview of Steve's career by Tom Spurgeon (which is where I grabbed the above image, though I have mine in a drawer somewhere, I'm sure.)

Wednesday update
Just discovered this image and the story behind it. Yow! Links to follow, later.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Actual prophets are rare. The ones depicted in the bible come across as madmen. And if you think about it, they disrupt the staus quo with provocative and wild-sounding statements. They know the truth and aren't afraid to proclaim it, even if reality (or the status quo) contradicts them. They're probably wrong a lot, too. It's always easy to try to discredit someone by claiming they're crazy or "mad." It doesn't always work, but it's worth a shot. Ask Howard Dean. Or Al Gore. Or anyone who thinks JFK may not have been killed by Lee Harvey Oswald.

I've never met Bob Lefsetz, though I've exchanged e-mail with him over the years, and sent him a few books and CDs, as well. He writes about music, the music biz, popular culture, sex, love, commerce and more. He's a non-practicing attorney and I have no idea how he makes a living, but I'll have to ask him sometime.

He sends his Lefsetz Letter by e-mail several times a week. You can subscribe here.

I don't agree with everything he says, to be sure. But I don't agree with everything I've ever said, either. I've called Lefsetz a prophet on a number of occasions. He may not be plugged into any supernatural truth, but on this plane, right or wrong, he seems to be pretty locked-in. At the very worst, his ideas are well worth considering.

Marketing that's unattached to emotion is pretty lame.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

This is great marketing.

Image Courtesy The Topps Company, Inc.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Michael Clayton

Back in theaters, apparently for a limited release prior to the DVD.

It's always interesting to see what kind of choices George Clooney makes. I was initially afraid that it was another one of those bad-corporation-and-corrupt-lawyer flicks, but the corporate stuff here is almost a MacGuffin for a terrific character study.

And what a cast! Clooney is rock-solid, of course, but Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton are also terrific, and all three were nominated for Academy Awards.

Very entertaining, too, and suspenseful. Not overly intellectual or artsy-fartsy, either, but certainly not light fluff or mindless pap. Check it out!