Rock Television 2.0

More Reality Dross: The Next Great American Band

frustration.jpgI rarely give an opinion on something that I have never heard or seen but with news that a new American Idol-like reality show called The Next Great American Band scheduled to debut in October, I am not quite sure how to react.

Following the same format as American Idol (indeed it is put together by the team responsible for that show), bands will audition before a panel of judges (with Sheila E. and the Goo Goo Doll’s John Rzeznik as part of the panel. Jeez!) for a “lucrative” recording contract with 19 Records (Amy Winehouse’s label).

I must admit to having checked out Rockstar INXS and Supernova from time to time in the past as a sort of guilty pleasure but I have a feeling that this show won’t even have Rockstar’s arguably limited “rock cred.” Of course when we talk about a “band” I tend to envision rock and roll although the organizers are stating that they are looking for “musical groups of all ages, styles, and genres and we’re ready to give away a record contract that could be worth millions” but the reason that I just cannot stand these competitions is that the cater to the lowest public denominator. We all know that anything a little dangerous, a little raunchy, a little well you know rock and roll stands about as much a chance at getting by Sheila E. and the network censors as Keith Richards being on the judging panel. Shows like this just tend to breed more white bread mediocrity in the mainstream media as we are forced to listen to yet another band that wants to sound like someone else, preferably someone who sells a shit-load of records since I assume this is what the organizers mean when they say they are looking for somebody to “conquer America.”.

I of course will check out the debut episode on October 19th to see if I will have to eat my words but I am not holding my breath that the winner of this “competition” will be anything to write home about. Perhaps if they put Little Steven, Keith Richards, Peter Buck, Joan Jett, Jack White (I would even accept Jack Black!) or Noel Gallagher on the panel of judges I would hold out some hope but as it stands now, I will hold the remote firmly in one hand with my thumb hovering over the “off” button and my trusty iPod at my side ready for an emergency rock and roll jolt of energy if required. This could get ugly fast.



Rock History

Cover Story – Queen – “Queen II”, art direction and photography by Mick Rock


Subject – Queen II – a 1974 release by Queen on EMI/Elektra Records, with Art Direction, Cover Design and Photography by Mick Rock.

Mick Rock’s cover photo for Queen’s 1974 recording has the distinction of being an image that both served to establish the band’s unique “class act” image and, later on, provided the setting and inspiration for the video production that convinced record labels and music fans that “the music video” could be much more than simply “promotional”.

Queen II was the second album by the band and featured two different themes – their “white”/emotional side (side A) and their “black”/fantasy side (side B) – as well as their individual and collaborative songwriting and performing abilities. And while not a commercial success when compared to later releases (while it was their first Top 5 album in the U.K., it only reached #49 on the U.S. album charts and did not “go gold” until many years later), it showed the band maturing and a new confidence in their abilities to produce over-the-top glam/prog songs and still rock with the best of them. They certainly were not trying to be a “pop” band – only one song (“Seven Seas of Rhye”) even attempted to serve as a “pop single” – but it set the basic formula and dramatic tone for the next records, starting with Sheer Heart Attack later in 1974 and then A Night At The Opera (which featured the aforementioned music video – for the epic “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

q2brin1.jpgImage Copyright 1974, 2007 Mick Rock

Photographer Mick Rock had a feeling about this young band and their approach towards their music, their image, and how the two could be artfully combined to show just how special they were. They knew that, based on Rock’s success with Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and others, they’d found someone with the creative chops to establish their “look” from that point forward. How did he do it? Let’s let him tell you in this edition of Cover Stories…

In the words of the photographer, Mick Rock (interviewed August 2007) –

“One day in the late summer of 1973, while recording ‘Pinups’ with Bowie, David’s co-producer/engineer, Ken Scott, told me that there was a new band who was very interested in working with me. They were signed to a production company, Trident Audio Productions, who also owned Trident Studios in London where Ziggy Stardust and Transformer, among many other classic albums, were recorded. Ken Scott, was also managed by Trident. They were virtually unknown at the time (I didn’t know anyone who’d heard of them). They told me that they were especially impressed with the work I had done with Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, and so I agreed to meet with them.

Later that year (in October 1973), we met in the board room at Trident Studios. Their first album Queen had been released and had garnered little interest. They wanted to grab some of the ‘glam’ allure that was the hot image at the time. It was almost certainly Freddie’s idea. And of course I had all the right credentials!! They were very articulate and confident and when they played me the Queen II acetate I understood why – it was a unique and powerful sound. ‘Like Ziggy Stardust meets Led Zeppelin,’ was my immediate response. And that was what they wanted to hear from my mouth – I’d ‘gotten it’ immediately – it was ‘the sound of success’! So the game was afoot. They needed two things from me – a publicity session to try to help their first album get some attention, and then a package for their new album. The publicity photo session took place in December of ’73, and then it was on to the cover for Queen II. As was often the case in those days, I served as both the art director and the photographer for the Queen II cover (no one got paid very muck for either job back then, so it made sense to do both if I could!). The band’s brief to me was: it had to be a gatefold cover (those were the days!!), it had to have a black and white theme and it had to feature the band. After that I was on my own.

From the power of the music and the palpable ambition of the band I knew that the image had to have a ‘grand’ quality. I really only came up with one basic idea. I had recently come across a photo of Marlene Dietrich on the set of Shanghai Express with her arms crossed, fingers spread. I showed it to Freddie and he got it immediately and corralled the rest of the band. This would be the ‘black’ image. Of course there was also the ‘white’ image, and we shot both on the same day (there was no budget to shoot a second day!).

It was just the band and me. No one else was needed. They were very strong-minded, and even though they hadn’t sold many records, they were masters of their own destiny and insisted on doing it their way from the start. I had to make sure I had clean black and white seamless paper. I had an assistant and a makeup artist and the band bought or brought their own black and white clothes. Everything else was about lighting and composition.

It did take a few Polaroids and a lot of adjusting to get the angle and the band’s heads lined up in the right way to achieve the required effect and Queen were a very lively (if inexperienced) band. This was only their second ever studio session (after the publicity shoot I had done in December so they did have some experience of working with me ); they already knew that I was a fan of their music. I took a lot of frames in both black and white and color film, though of course it was the color ones that ended up on the cover.

q2br2.jpgImage Copyright 1974, 2007 Mick Rock

The tricky part was the politics of deciding which image would go on the outside of the cover and which would go on the inside. This was left open when we actually did the session. For a while afterwards Brian, John and Roger were leaning towards the ‘white’ one. They were somewhat concerned that the obvious power of the ‘black’ one would leave them open to criticism that it was ‘pretentious’ since they were a virtually untested band. As I recall this was a word that one of the few critics who had bothered to review their first album had applied to their music and it bothered the three of them somewhat. But not Freddie. He and I were firmly and unshakably in the ‘black’ camp from the start! And as seemed to be the case for most things visual about the band in those early days, Freddie could always armtwist the others in the final analysis. ‘Pretentious’ was not a word that could scare Freddie!

The management and record company had no involvement at all in the process, and we didn’t show them anything or even describe it to anyone. There were no comps or sketches. They were going to have to use what we came up with. The band was not at all interested in their comments. They trusted me and their own instincts. It was entirely their decision to work with me. Because of my own rising star at the time I don’t think anyone had any objection, but the band wouldn’t have cared if they did!!

As Brian May says in the introduction to our beautiful photobook Killer Queen, ‘We were full of ideas and precocious enough to want to control everything. But in Mick Rock we had found our match, our foil, stocked with his own ideas and his own matching stubbornness.'”

About the photographer, Mick Rock –

Often referred to as “The Man Who Shot the Seventies”, legendary rock and roll photographer Mick Rock first met David Bowie in early 1972. Most of the memorable images of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust were shot by Mick Rock in his capacity as Bowie’s official photographer.

Rock was instrumental in creating many other key rock ‘n roll images such as album covers for Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs, Lou Reed’s Transformer and Coney Island Baby, Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Power, Queen’s Queen II (recreated for their classic music video ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’) and Sheer Heart Attack, the Ramones’ End of the Century and Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N Roll. He was the chief photographer on the films The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus. He also produced and directed the seminal music videos for Bowie to be found on Bowie’s Sound and Vision DVD collection: ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’, ‘Jean Genie’, ‘Space Oddity’, and ‘Life On Mars’.

Mick’s massive (186 prints) 2003 retrospective exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography was dubbed ‘one of the finest collections of pop art to ever reach these shores’ in the local press. Mick Rock’s enthusiasm for his art has remained undimmed and he has continues to capture the musical spirit of succeeding eras through his work with musicians of the 1980’s and 1990’s and the new millennium.

His 150 print exhibition at Manchester, England’s Urbis Cultural Centre (which ran from Sept 2005 to Jan 2006) was voted Manchester’s # 1 exhibition for 2005, and after reviewing it the London Times dubbed him ‘ the music world’s top snapper’. In the feature Mick, talking about how he shoots, is quoted – “I’ve never felt like a voyeur, although I’ve certainly done plenty of looking! I work from the inside out. Like a cook, I gather all the ingredients and keep mixing and stirring and tasting until this kind of effluvia starts to rise, then I’m off to the races. It’s an addictive kind of a feeling that I need a regular shot of otherwise I don’t feel right…”

He has had major exhibitions in London, Liverpool, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oslo, Stockholm and Rotterdam, with upcoming ones for 2008 in Milan, Paris, Adelaide and Helsinki.

His recent subjects include Michael Stipe of REM, Kate Moss, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Chemical Brothers, The Rapture, The Killers, Razorlight, The Libertines, Queens of the Stone Age, New Order, The Editors, the Magic Numbers, The Flaming Lips, Kasabian, The Scissor Sisters, Snow Patrol, The Fratellis, The Horrors, Mika, The Klaxons, Peaches, Franz Ferdinand, Fat Joe and old friends Bowie, Lou Reed and Debbie Harry.

In recent years, he has published a series of books, many based on his classic images, including: A Photographic Record 1969-1980 (Century 22 Books 1995), Glam: An Eyewitness Account with foreword by David Bowie (Omnibus Books, Spring 2006)), Psychedelic Renegades / Syd Barrett (Genesis Publications 2002), Moonage Daydream / Ziggy Stardust (with David Bowie)(Genesis Publications), Rock ‘n Roll Eye (Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography 2003), Killer Queen (with Brian May and Roger Taylor) (Genesis Publications 2003), Picture This – Debbie Harry & Blondie with foreword by Debbie Harry (Omnibus Books 2004), Raw Power – Iggy & The Stooges with foreword by Iggy Pop (Omnibus Books 2005), Rocky Horror with foreword by Richard O’Brien (Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Autumn 2006) and Classic Queen (Palazzo Editions 2007)

Upcoming publication: Exposures – a 35 year retrospective (Palazzo Editions, Autumn 2008)

To see and buy the beautiful co-signed and slipcased limited-edition Killer Queen photobook featuring the photos of Mick Rock , please visit the Genesis Publications web site at

As mentioned above, Mick has a new book coming out in the U.S. at the end of September called Classic Queen. For more information on this item, please visit the Sterling Publications web site at

To see more Queen-related items in the RockPoP Gallery collection, please follow this link –

About “Cover Stories” – Our weekly series will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.

Every Friday and syndicated on The Rock and Roll Report the following week, we’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.

We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.

All images Copyright Mick Rock 1974, 2007

All text Copyright 2007 – Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery – All rights reserved.

Rock Radio 2.0

The Rock and Roll Report Cool Podcast of the Week: Bands Under The Radar

160×120_butr_logo.jpgIf you are looking for something new to listen to that you just know you won’t hear on the radio then I urge you to check out the Bands Under The Radar podcast.

Hosted by Kami Knake, Bands Under the Radar focuses on unsigned bands and indie artists and I have already been turned on to a ton of new bands in just the short time that I have been listening. BUTR is just another example of a growing number of passionate music fans who, fed up with the total lack of mainstream attention that their favourite artists are getting are taking matters into their own hands.

You can check out Kami’s MySpace page at and don’t forget to sign up for her mailing list to receive the podcast playlists and iMix’s that she has produced for each podcast. Cool stuff.



Rock and Roll Report TV

Rock and Roll Report TV: The Shazam – “Getting Higher”

I love The Shazam and this song is great. Performed at the Basement in Nashville, Tennessee on August 12, 2006.

Wanna Be a Rock Star?


(Via Music Connection) Little Steven Van Zandt, best known for his years with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street band as well as his role in Emmy-winning The Sopranos, is busy these days with several projects, including his Wicked Cool Record Co. label, which is busy signing and putting out CDs (and vinyl) by bands that Van Zandt considers too great to be overlooked.

Check out for all the details.



Wanna Be a Rock Star?

Virgin Megastores Are Looking For The Next Big Band

(Press Release) Do you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next “Matchbox Twenty”, ‘Black-Eyed Peas” or “Daughtry”?? Now’s your chance to prove that you’ve got the best band in the country, in Virgin Megastore’s first annual Battle of the Bands. Starting August 20, Virgin Megastores will start scouring the country looking for the next big band. ??The contest is open to any high-school or college-age band. Submitting your band is easy. Just drop off a copy of original music along with the band’s bio for a chance to perform live at a Virgin Megastore. The grand prize winner will win travel and accommodations to meet with A&R representatives from Immergent Records, an evening with Virgin executives and a Virgin Megastore consignment deal.??

“Virgin has always been passionate about introducing new artists to our customers, now we’re taking it to the next level by opening up a nationwide audition to be the next big band,” explains Dee Mc Laughlin, VP of Marketing, Virgin Entertainment Group, North America. “How many opportunities do high-school and college-bands have to be seen and heard by thousands of music fans as well as A&R executives?? We think this is a great opportunity for aspiring musicians.”

Submissions will be open at all 11 Virgin Megastores, however the actual Battle of the Band live performances will be held in 7 Virgin Megastore locations including: New York City, Orlando, Dallas, Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Customers and fans will be asked to vote for their favorite band, and be entered for a chance to win select prizes. Submissions will be collected during a two week period starting August 20th to August 31st. Chosen bands will begin battling it out live inside the seven selected Virgin Megastores September 10 – 21st. Then starting the week of September 24th fans will be able to vote in stores and online at The grand prize winner will be announced October 1st.

Rock History

Cover Story – Elvis Presley – “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong”, artwork by Bob Jones


Subject 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume 2 – a 1959 recording by Elvis Presley, released on RCA Records and featuring design and art direction by Bob Jones.

With the marking this week of the 30th anniversary of the untimely death of Elvis Presley, this week’s Cover Story will be presented in a slightly different format, with the details behind the making of this iconic record cover coming from a variety of different sources, most notably the descriptive literature produced along with a series of lithographs produced in the early 1990s by a now-defunct publisher called “Record Art”.

Released just prior to Elvis’ return from his stint in the Army, this record was the first “Greatest Hits, Volume 2” rock & roll compilation (with his first Greatest Hits album coming out in early 1958, just before he entered into his military service) and consisted of all five of his Top 5 singles released in ’58-’59 (both “A” and “B” sides). His records sold so well that even the “B” sides charted in the Top 40!

Included in the compilation were a number of songs that showed just how mature a performer he had become while still being able to rock the socks off his competition. All the more impressive was the fact that these songs were recorded while Elvis was in the Army (when the set was re-released in the late 1990’s, the re-mastered recordings improved the sound dramatically), so you’d think that he’d have been slightly distracted, but cuts such as “I Need Your Love Tonight” and “A Big Hunk of Love” proved that he’d be even more formidable once he was out of the Army and back in the studio.

According to Bob Jones, who served as art director for RCA Records for this (and many other) recordings – “To the best of my knowledge, Elvis was indifferent to his image and to the graphics on his covers…the overwhelming number of Elvis Presley’s album covers were produced according to a formula – a large color photo of his head; a bold, horsey hand-lettered ELVIS, a title and the repertoire. During my brief and infrequent visits with him, the subject of covers never came up. It was just another matter of business that The Colonel (Tom Parker) took care of.

For several years during his career, the sales of Presley product accounted for well over 20% of all of RCA Victor Records’ gross income. At the time, RCA had at least one hundred contract recording artists on the label, and my department was producing over 400 LP and 45EP covers each year. The ‘man behind the man’ was Colonel Thomas A. Parker, and he was a far more interesting and complex character than his artist. As the music and motion picture industry knew, he was an aggressively shrewd and calculating man. He sensed from the beginning that Elvis was “product”. The Colonel was a master of promotion, merchandising and exploitation.

Of the more than 70 combined LP and 45EP covers I was responsible for, the only departure from the Parker formula was the 50,000,000 Elvis Fans cover. My final stab at trying to bring a fresh look to Presley’s covers came when I took samples of some big name illustrators to the Colonel in L.A. I took portraits by Bob Fawcett, Austin Briggs, Al Parker, Victor Kalin and even young Andy Warhol. I had hardly started my pitch when it was brought to a screeching halt. ‘Damn it, I’ve told you I don’t want any of your artistic stuff!’ However, The Colonel had been unable to come up with a single gimmick to promote the album. He then gave me a picture of Elvis in a gold lame suit and told me to come up with something.

While Tom and Harry Jenkins – the RCA V.P. – started discussing merchandising schemes, I started making a few thumbnail sketches for a cover. The Colonel looked over to me and asked to look at what I had been doing. With barely a glance at the sketches, he chose the one with the full figure surrounded by the six or eight smaller ones. He said ‘That’s it, but I want at least a couple of dozen of the little pictures in there’. I later sent him a mechanical and he approved the image with less than two dozen figures (ed. note – there are 16 pictures of Elvis on the record cover).

The album sold well over $1,000,000 worth of product. The Colonel loved that gold lame suit. He kept it in one of his closets in his home for years. Elvis Presley hated the damned suit from the first time he put it on…”

The now-famous cover photo montage of multiple Elvises (or would that be Elvi?) dressed in his gold lame’ “Nudie Suit” – as well as the record’s title – has inspired many knock-offs record packages, including (in descending order) Bon Jovi’s 100 Million Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong, 1,000,000 People Can’t Be Wrong by Blues Traveler, 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong by The Fall, and Phil Och’s 50 Phil Ochs Fans Can’t Be Wrong!.

About the artist – Bob Jones

Bob Jones – Art Director, RCA Records – won a Grammy Award in 1965 for “Best Album Cover, Photography” for Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts, an RCA recording featuring a shot by photographer Ken Whitmore. Other credits include covers for Hall & Oates (Rock ‘n Soul: Part 1 – Greatest Hits) and many other RCA artists. He is considered one of the early pioneers of LP/45 cover design, working at various points with other classic cover artists such as Jim Flora and Alex Steinweiss.

To see more of the Bob Jones lithograph that is available for sale at the RockPoP Gallery, please follow this link.

About “Cover Stories” – Our weekly series will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.

Every Friday, we’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.

We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.

Interview tex Copyright 1991 – Record Art

All other text Copyright 2007 – Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery – All rights reserved.

“Elvis” and “Elvis Presley” are Registered Trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Rock Radio 2.0

2 Weeks worth of Drastic Plastic Program playlists


Well since I was on vacation last week I didn’t get a chance to post what turned out to be a marathon 3 hour Armitage Shanks show on the Drastic Plastic Program on CKUT FM here in Montreal on August 13th as he ended up covering for two DJs that were due on after him. After a glance at his playlist it looks like the madman from Manchester performed admirably.

I am also posting the 3 Amigos playlist from last Monday, August 20th.

Thanks for listening!

Armitage Shanks Playlist for August 13, 2007

Artist – Album – Song

1 Happy Mondays – Greatest Hits – 24 Hour Party People
2 Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures – She’s Lost Control
3 Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare – Balaclava
4 Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare – Florescent Adolescent
5 Amy Winehouse – Back to Black – Tears Dry on Their Own
6 Amy Winehouse – Mark Ronson Version – Valerie
7 Jamie T – Panic Prevention – Sheila
8 Jamie T – Panic Prevention – Calm Down Dearest
9 The View – Hats Off to the Buskers – Superstar Tradesman
10 The View – Hats Off to the Buskers – Same Jeans
11 New Young Pony Club – Fantastic Playground – Ice Cream
12 The Young Knives – Voices of Animals and Men – The Decision
13 The Young Knives – Voices of Animals and Men – Weekends & Bleak Days (Hot Summer)
14 Klaxons – Myths of the Near Future – Golden Skans
15 Klaxons – Myths of the Near Future – Its Not Over Yet
16 Klaxons – Xan Valley – The Bouncer
17 The Coral – Roots & Echos – Who’s Gonna Find Me
18 Ash – Twilight of the Innocents – End of the World
19 The Cribs – Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever – Men’s Needs
20 Kelly Jones – Only the Names Have Been Changed – Suzy
21 The Thrills – Teenager – Nothing Changes Around Here
22 The Thrills – Teenager – Restaurant
23 Gogol Bordello – Super Taranta! – American Wedding
24 The Thrills – Teenager – The Midnight Choir
25 The Fratellis – Costello Music – Chelsea Dagger
26 Happy Mondays – Greatest Hits – Hallelujah
27 Jamie T – Panic Prevention – Salvador
28 Lily Allen – Mark Ronson Version – Oh My God
29 Maccabees – NME Essential Bands – X-Ray
30 Klaxons – Myths of the Near Future – Gravity’s Rainbow
31 Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare – Brianstorm
32 Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare – Teddy Picker
33 The View – Hats Off to the Buskers – Wasted Little DJ’sT

The 3 Amigos Playlist for August 2o, 2007

  1. Bang Sugar Bang – Greatest Hits – Punk Rock Holiday
  2. The Catholic Girls – Meet the Catholic Girls – Rock’n America
  3. The Sleepers – Push it Nationwide – Bad for Me
  4. The Blessings – BareBones – The Way it Has to Be
  5. Primal Scream – Unbelievable – Loaded
  6. Client – The Football Factory – Rock ‘n Roll Machine
  7. The Stranglers – Greatest Hits – No More Herds
  8. Mansun – Attack of the Grey Lanterns – Wide Open Space
  9. The Jayhawks – Tomorrow the Green Grass – Blue
  10. Poplord – s/t – Uncover Each Other
Rock History

Essential Hair Metal Fashion

I saw this over at Rolling Stone.Com and I am still debating whether it is cool or sad. Check out Hair Metal Fashion 101 and you decide!



Rock and Roll Report TV

Rock and Roll Report TV: Brimstone Howl – “One Quick Minute”

The band is on the road now supporting their new record “Guts of Steel.”

22 Aug – Carabar Columbus, Ohio
23 Aug – Downtown Records W. Lafayette, Indiana
24 Aug – Ronnys Chicago, Illinois
25 Aug – Turf Club St. Paul, Minnesota