Hello. I’m Gavin Edwards, contributing editor at Rolling Stone and the author of Last Night at the Viper Room, the ’Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy series, and (with the original MTV VJs) the New York Times bestseller VJ. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I like caffeine, boardgames, and lists with three items.

R.I.P. Allen Toussaint 1938-2015

I never had the good fortune of meeting Allen Toussaint, the great New Orleans musician who died on Monday, but I want to share two stories about him with you.

1. This was about 10 years ago, when I lived in lower Manhattan. I was taking my dog, Mojo, on a long walk in and around Battery Park–and then I stumbled into a free concert in the park, where Toussaint was performing. I arrived just as he started “Yes We Can Can.” It remains one of my favorite moments of New York City serendipity ever.

2. Four years ago, I wrote an article about Hugh Laurie for The New York Times Magazine. Toussaint did the horn arrangements for Laurie’s debut album Let Them Talk, so I asked Laurie to tell me a Toussaint story. The anecdote didn’t reveal much about Laurie, so it didn’t make it into the article, but I treasure it nevertheless:

“He was making a record with Elvis Costello, half of it in Los Angeles and half in New Orleans. A friend of mine knew Elvis and said, ‘Do you want to come along to the studio and listen to them play?’ They had a 13- or 14-piece band with a big horn section. Elvis sang, is it ‘Freedom of the Stallion’ or ‘Freedom for the Stallion’? [The latter–GE] Whatever, it’s a beautiful ballad. They’d done a couple of takes, and they both came into the control room to listen. Elvis said to Allen, ‘What did you think?’ Allen, who’s very gentle and professorial, said, ‘I think that at the end of the song, it should feel as if the voice has been lifted to heaven on the wings of the organ. The voice should be born aloft on just the organ.’ Elvis said to the engineer, ‘Allen thinks the organ should be louder.’”

posted 10 November 2015 in News. no comments yet


If you are a fan of Blur–is it okay to start digging them now if you never connected with them in the past quarter-century? Sure, why not?–you might want to check out my recent article about the band in the pages of The New York Times. It ran on the front page of the Weekend Arts II section the Friday before last, between the band’s gig at the Hollywood Bowl and their show at Madison Square Garden–but now it lives on forever on the Internet.

And if you haven’t seen it, check out this clip from MSG where fan Anaiah steps up to do the verse of “Parklife” and nails it.

posted 3 November 2015 in Outside. no comments yet

1988 Missing Persons File

When I’m writing posts about the videos of 1988, I do what I can to find out who directed the clip, or who did an interesting bit of background business, or where there’s a love interest (almost invariably played by a model), the name of the beauty. But Google has sometimes failed me, so I often end up saying “the director,” “the dancer,” or “the girl.”

As it happens, people have given me some of this information in recent weeks, so this is where I combine the information into one action-packed post and pass on the information (and the savings) to you!

According to commenter “tj thomas,” the model in video #58, Paul Carrack’s “Don’t Shed a Tear,” is one Kendall Conrad, now a designer of jewelry, bags, and other fashion accessories. (“Use the Kendall Conrad accessories wall thoughtfully!”)

Another brunette model, the female star of video #83, Icehouse’s “Electric Blue,” is apparently the Australian actress Cassandra Delaney, briefly married to John Denver.

And the bartender in video #39 (Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”) who stole the show with his dance moves, prompting me to write, “Man, I hope whoever played the bartender parlayed this video into a West End show or an Olympics medal or something”? Turns out he was Clive Clarke, an alumnus of the Top of the Pops dance troupe called Zoo (which also featured a young “Downtown” Julie Brown).

Kendall Conrad, Cassandra Delaney, and Clive Clarke, I salute you all for your services on the frontlines of 1988 video.

posted 2 November 2015 in 1988. no comments yet

Can I Say Roundup

canisay2Can I Say, the autobiography of Travis Barker, drummer extraordinaire–cowritten by yours truly–has been on sale for a week now, so in case you’d like to know more about the book before plunking down your hard-earned cash, I am here to provide you with coverage beyond the gossip websites: some of the best links to people who have actually read it and/or spoken with Travis about it. (Some of the coverage, in US and People, isn’t online–get to a newsstand!)

The New York Post had a big feature on Travis and the book, focused on his near-fatal plane crash in 2008: “The accident killed four, set another on a path to fatal self-destruction, and nearly ruined Barker’s own life. It’s recalled in horrifying detail in Barker’s new memoir.”

“With so many stranger-than-fiction tales and juicy celebrity gossip, Can I Say is a guaranteed page-turner,” said the Complex website, which ran a Travis interview. Talking about our process of working on the book, he said, “Gavin would be like, ‘How do you feel? How does that make you feel? Or how can you describe that?’ So there was times I was just bawling. He would just sit there and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and we’d try to work it out. Then there were times Gavin would laugh like a hyena and we’d just crack up.” (It’s true–I do laugh like a hyena.)

As mentioned previously, Billboard ran a great interview with Travis: “The California native recounts it all in his riveting, brutally honest memoir Can I Say, co-authored with Gavin Edwards. Barker touches on his two divorces, flings with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, substance abuse and that fateful day that changed everything.”

Travis has also done a lot of TV and radio appearances for the book, perhaps most notably on Good Morning America. But if you don’t live in L.A., you might have missed his appearance on KROQ, talking about Can I Say with Kevin & Bean.

Can I Say is on sale just about anywhere that sells books, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore.

posted 28 October 2015 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

On Sale Now: Can I Say

canisay2I am pleased and proud to announce that Can I Say: Living Large, Cheating Death, and Drums Drums Drums is on sale today. It’s by Travis Barker and Gavin Edwards (hey, that’s me!): it tells the story of Travis’s crazy life, which includes playing drums for Blink-182 and the Transplants, having his mother die the day before he started high school, having Suge Knight perform a “marriage ceremony” for himself and Paris Hilton, building a multimillion dollar apparel company, watching his children bond on tour with Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj–and much much more, including the details of the horrific plane crash that killed four people and left Travis in burn centers for months. It also includes dozens of interviews with associates and bandmates (and ex-wives and ex-bandmates!), sharing their side of the story. Travis was always the quiet member of Blink-182, but here he tells everything about his own life, like never before–it’s essential reading if you’re a fan (and maybe even if you’re not). You may have already seen Travis discussing it on Good Morning America or in the pages of US Weekly; Billboard ran a great interview with him and called the book “riveting, brutally honest.”

You can buy the book right now from just about anywhere that sells books, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and your local bookstore (tell them I say hi!). Travis doesn’t fly anymore (for obvious reasons), but he’ll be doing a bunch of signings in California this week, kicking off with the Barnes & Noble at the Grove in L.A. tonight. Check out his website for details. And enjoy the book!

posted 20 October 2015 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

Friday Foto: X Marks the Sun

sunxPhotographed in June of this year at one of the cradles of American music: Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. The X marks the spot on the floor where singers (including Elvis Presley) were directed to stand to get the best sound.

posted 16 October 2015 in Photos. no comments yet

Album Initials Quiz

Can you identify famous albums just from the initials of their titles? For example, presented with H. O. T. H., can you puzzle out that we’re talking about Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy? (I leave it to you to decide whether the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back is a subtle Zep tribute from George Lucas.) Does M. O. M. M. lead you to Stevie Wonder and the great album Music of My Mind? Then you’re ready to play the Album Initials Quiz.

Below you will find a list of 20 albums, reduced just to the initial letters of their titles. I have not included any punctuation: if there are any commas, apostrophes, or parentheses in the original title, they’ve been ignored. And I’ve made no distinctions between words that were upper-case or lower-case in the original title: every single word has been reduced to a single letter.

The albums’ release dates range from 1965 to 2015. I can’t guarantee you’ll know every single record, but none of them are particularly obscure. These are mostly very famous albums, in genres including rock, pop, hip-hop, and R&B. Most of them were major chart hits and/or the sort of album you’ll find on greatest-records-ever-made lists; even the lesser-known entries are well-regarded albums by major artists. I’m not trying to stump you with import-only collections of B-sides.

Give yourself one point for each time you identify the artist behind the album. I’ll put the answer key up in the comments section later today. Have fun!

1. A. T. W. I. A. D.

2. A. T. Y. C. L. B.

3. B. I. A. B. H.

4. C. W. O. A. G. R.

5. D. O. T. E. O. T.

6. E. K. T. I. N.

7. I. D. N. W. W. I. H. G.

8. I. T. A. N. O. M. T. H. U. B.

9. I. T. H. A. T. T. T. D.

10. I. Y. R. T. I. T. L.

11. M. B. D. T. F.

12. M. S. A. B. A. F.

13. M. S. K. Y. O.

14. N. M. T. B. H. T. S. P.

15. N. S. F. T. O. C.

16. T. B. Y. M. L.

17. T. K. A. T. V. G. P. S.

18. T. M. O. L. H.

19. T. R. A. F. O. Z. S. A. T. S. F. M.

20. W. T. P. H. T. C. H. T. L. A. K. W. H. K. T. T. B. W. H. G. T. T. F. A. H. W. T. W. T. F. H. E. T. R. T. N. B. T. B. W. Y. M. I. Y. M. S. W. Y. G. S. Y. H. Y. O. H. A. R. T. D. I. T. G. O. H. A. I. Y. K. W. Y. S. T. Y. K. W. T. L. A. I. Y. F. I. W. M. C. Y. K. T. Y. R.

posted 14 October 2015 in Tasty Bits. 4 comments

Spaghetti Incident Report

spaghetti incidentWhen I interviewed Velvet Revolver a decade ago, I got to clear up some of the Guns N’ Roses mysteries I had long wondered about. For example: was the worst job in rock ‘n’ roll the guy who had to keep on returning Axl Rose’s microphone stand to an upright position when he knocked it over dozens of times per concert? (Yeah, pretty much.)

I even got a lucid explanation as to the meaning of the title of the band’s cover album, “The Spaghetti Incident?”–and in context, the quotation marks make sense. But the one thing the former Gunners couldn’t explain was a tiny coded message on the bottom of the front cover. Duff McKagan said he had never even noticed it; Slash said that he had once known what it meant, but had forgotten (dude was a nice guy, but let’s face it, he killed a lot of brain cells).

A couple of years later, however, some fans on a Guns N’ Roses message board figured it out. (I apologize for being seven years late with this news–and I thank John Darnielle, the genius behind the band The Mountain Goats and the novel Wolf in White Van, for pointing me in the right direction.) Axl was using the substitution cipher invented by the Zodiac Killer, who claimed a bunch of victims in northern California in the late 60s and early 70s, and then disappeared into the annals of true-crime fame, revived only by the 2007 David Fincher movie Zodiac.) This totally fits Axl’s personality, or the nihilistic-asshole side of it that thought it’d be kicky to cover a Charles Manson song. You can read the message-board conversation starting here if you’re curious, but here’s the bottom line: the hidden message was “FUCK EM ALL.” Words of wisdom from W. Axl Rose.

posted 13 October 2015 in Archives. no comments yet

R.I.P. Gail Zappa 1945-2015

Gail Zappa, best known as Frank Zappa’s widow, was reported yesterday to have died, possibly from lung cancer. My sympathies to her family and all who knew and loved her.

A few years ago, when researching Last Night at the Viper Room, I discovered that River Phoenix, at age sixteen, spent many nights hanging out at the Zappa house, which was a special place to be, in no small part because of Gail Zappa. “It was a really wild, eclectic mix of actors that would hang out at the Zappa family house,” musician and TV journalist Frank Meyer told me. “Some famous TV star would walk in and go off with Moon. Dweezil would be waiting for Warren DeMartini of Ratt to waltz in so they could go jam. And then Frank would just wander in, in his robe, and he’d make peanut butter toast, smoke cigarettes, and chit chat with the kids. He was actually very friendly, in his mysterious rock-star kind of way. There was a no-holds barred vibe at the Zappa compound, but it was weird, because Dweezil’s parents were around constantly. They just chose to give a shit about different things than your parents did. You could curse with the Zappas, openly curse. You could tell Gail to fuck off. She might come down unbelievably hard on you, but she wouldn’t come down on you for the cursing part. She’d come down on you for maybe being disrespectful or for having an immature, uninformed opinion, but you could curse around them as long as what you were saying was informed and made sense. Gail and Frank, they took you seriously. If you were there, hanging out with their kids, you were a real person to them and your opinion mattered. It was a very creative and intellectual place to be, especially for a young person when a lot of adults didn’t take you seriously.”

posted 8 October 2015 in News. 2 comments

Buried Treasure

fannyhillI got this crazy idea some months back: I would read every record review printed by Rolling Stone in the 1970s and compile a list of the albums that had gotten rave reviews but were now obscure or forgotten. (It was inspired by a similar feature they did last year for the 60s–but the magazine wasn’t around for most of that decade.) It turned out to be a lot of fun, but much more time-consuming than expected, even skimming most of the reviews. By the end of it, I had a list of 100 albums that most people, even music fans, wouldn’t know. (I listened to most of them, but I was basing my decisions off what Rolling Stone‘s reviewers had said at the time, not my own personal taste.)

We divided them up by genre: rock, blues, R&B, folk, country, singer-songwriter, jazz, weird stuff. Go check them out and then go do some listening! (My personal favorite: Fanny.)

posted 13 August 2015 in Outside. no comments yet