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. 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

VJ Sale!

vjbookNo, you can’t actually purchase Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, or Martha Quinn. But you can buy the New York Times bestselling book we wrote together, VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave, described by Rolling Stone as “a highly entertaining snapshot of a wild-frontier moment in pop culture.”

In celebration of the 34th anniversary of MTV, Atria has temporarily reduced the price of VJ to just $1.99 for the e-book: click and enjoy!

posted 3 August 2015 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

Live Aid-a-versary

Thirty years ago today, lots of bands played in an epic concert in both London and Philadelphia, seeking to do something about famine in Africa (with mixed results).

Two years ago, I wrote up a list of the some of the Live Aid highlights that might jog memories (or send you down the YouTube rabbit hole).

Last year, I did a blow-by-blow writeup of U2’s performance of “Bad.”

Nothing new this year (moving across the country will do that), but I have a special project planned for next year. Now go watch Bowie’s set!

posted 13 July 2015 in Links. 2 comments

Parenthetical Rock Quiz

parenthesesCan you recognize song titles just from the sections that are in parentheses? If I throw “(She’s So Heavy)” at you, do you know the artist is the Beatles and the complete title is “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”? Given “(Into the Black),” can you come back with Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)? Then it’s time to test your PPQ (Parenthetical Power Quotient).

Below you will find a list of 25 songs–or more precisely, their parenthetical sections. Some of them are screamingly obvious; some of them will likely be stumpers. But none of the songs are particularly obscure: they are mostly well-known singles (including a bunch of chart-toppers). There’s a few album tracks sprinkled in, drawn from famous discs (the type that end up on greatest-albums-ever lists). The list skews in a rockish direction, but also includes pop, R&B, and hip-hop.

Give yourself a point for each song title that you can complete, and another point if you can name the artist. (There’s 25 songs, so you can score a maximum PPQ of 50 points.) I’ll put the answer key up in the comments section later in the day. Have (lots of) fun!

1. “(But I Won’t Do That)”
2. “(Can’t Live Without Your)”
3. “(Do It Right)”
4. “(Don’t Don’t Do It)”
5. “(The Ecology)”
6. “(For a Film)”
7. “(For Massenet)”
8. “(For Me)”
9. “(From the Shell)”
10. “(Gonna Be Alright)”
11. “(I’m A…)”
12. “(Nothing But)”
13. “(People It’s Bad)”
14. “(Pure Energy)”
15. “(Rock the Catskills)”
16. “(Roy)”
17. “(She’s)”
18. “(Sittin’ On)”
19. “(Three Different Ones)”
20. “(Tunnels)”
21. “(We Salute You)”
22. “(We’re Gonna)”
23. “(White Man)”
24. “(Who Loves Me)”
25. “(Wish I Could Fly Like)”

posted 10 July 2015 in Tasty Bits. 3 comments

Rolling in the Deep: 1/16/15

1035x1408-R1227CoverStevieNicksI’ve been busy lately–busy enough that I haven’t been telling you what I’ve been working on. But if you’d like to catch up on my recent writing for Rolling Stone, then I have links galore. For the print magazine, I wrote about Bill Murray (!), interviewed the Duplass Brothers (again), met Meghan Trainor (print version not online, but this Q&A is) and profiled Selma director Ava DuVernay (with some additional conversation with her found here).

Online, I conducted Q&As with Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, Terry Crews, Michael Schur, and Tunde Adebimpe and Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio. I attended a screening of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, hosted by the RZA; the all-star “We Can Survive” benefit, featuring Taylor Swift; a live interview of Jimmy Page by Chris Cornell; a retro hipster boxing match; and the American Music Awards. I broke down some live clips of the Rolling Stones, the Foo Fighters, the Beastie Boys, and Motley Crue. I reviewed a couple of books: one by George Clinton, one about Prince. Also, I interviewed the surviving Doors and listed 20 album covers that notoriously got censored.

Did I mention I wrote about Bill Murray? More Bill Murray here. (Have you ever had an encounter with Bill Murray? The comments section beckons!)

posted 16 January 2015 in Outside. no comments yet

Self-Descriptive Song Titles

I totally enjoyed the recent essay by Chris Molanphy (a friend of Rule Forty-Two) about Taylor Swift’s “Blank Spaces,” part of his excellent ongoing series for Slate on the songs that top the pop charts. This sentence jumped out at me:

It’s rare that a chart-topping hit’s title actually alludes to what the song itself sounds like—imagine if “When Doves Cry” were titled “Bass-less Confessional” or “Faith” called “Stuttering Rockabilly.”

This is more fun than imagining a world with no possessions! Restricting myself to #1 singles from the ’80s, I suggest Peter Gabriel’s “Recycled Otis Redding Riff” (originally “Sledgehammer”),  Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Bloopy Synthesizer” (formerly “Wishing Well”) and UB40’s “Leaden Reggae” (né “Red Red Wine”). (In a perfect world, I would be a Photoshop wizard who could remake the single sleeves with their new titles. But I am not.)

So how would you rename other singles?

posted 4 December 2014 in Links. 3 comments

Last Night at the Viper Room: Now in Paperback!

lastnightsmallI am delighted to announce that my book Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind is out in paperback today. So if you’ve been waiting for a bathtub-friendly copy, your time has come. I haven’t posted much about it lately, so may I remind you of a few favorite reviews? The Associated Press said “Edwards’ sensitive biography builds just the right tone for looking back at Phoenix’s life 20 years after his death: respect for his talents, admiration for his individuality and a subtle indignation for the tragedy to come.” USA Today described it as “insightful,” while the LA Weekly called it “enormously compelling.” The Vulture website said “it beautifully captures the weird Zeitgeist of the eighties and early nineties in a way that will remind those of us who were growing up at the time of not only River Phoenix, but also of ourselves at a younger age.”

Buy a copy for yourself, buy a copy for a friend! You can get it at Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Amazon, or your local bookstore.

posted 21 October 2014 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

R42 Mailbag: Meiert Avis

onestepupNow and then, this website attracts correspondence or comments from the people that I write about: the cowriter of Bryan Adams’ “Summer of 69,” the bassist from Information Society, the actor who starred in Poison’s video for “Nothin’ But a Good Time.” I was delighted the other day to get email from Meiert Avis, who has directed dozens of videos, including U2’s “With or Without You”–and the #55 entry on our 1988 countdown, Bruce Springsteen’s “One Step Up.”

Meiert sent a gracious note, which I reprint here with his permission:


I ran across your kind words about my Springsteen “One Step Up” video, and though I could fill in on some missing sequences that might make more sense of the video.

“Back to the bar, where Springsteen is now wearing a tan leather jacket. I assume this is meant to underscore that he’s been coming to this bar too often, not to dazzle us with costume changes.”

If you look closely you may see that, as well as the wardrobe changes, Springsteen is slightly more mature each time we cut back to him in the bar. In fact we used prosthetics to age him well into his sixties (where he is now). It was a long sweaty process, and, as far as I remember, pretty well executed. So the video narrative should read as him going to the same bar and thinking about the same shit for many years in some psycho-geographic loop. (One step up two steps back)

When marketing saw Bruce as an old man they decided it wasn’t quite the “look” that they were after and so we had to cut twenty or thirty years of aging work out of the video.

It had more humanity before.

It might be cool to remaster it with the original aging sequences today and see how it plays against the real Bruce.

As for “Brilliant Disguise”, which you found “remarkably dull”, I have written some blog-blather about the context and process, minimalist as it was.

Hey, at least it was “remarkable” for something, right? And I imagine the video has aged much better than you or I. I am actually very proud of it, but I do appreciate it’s not for everyone.

Anyway, thanks for the attention and all the best to you and yours.

Meiert Avis

Meiert also informed me that the redheaded bartender, who I thought might be Patti Scialfa making a cameo appearance, was not actually Scialfa–but that the resemblance was intentional. I thank him for the good-humored look behind the scenes, and strongly suggest you go check out his tale of making “Brilliant Disguise,” which is a very entertaining story of video production.

posted 15 October 2014 in 1988. no comments yet

Friday Foto: Ceci n’est pas une pipe

IMG_3053 - Version 2

Photographed in September in Runyon Canyon.

posted 10 October 2014 in Photos. no comments yet