Hello. I’m Gavin Edwards, the public speaker and the New York Times-bestselling author of The Tao of Bill Murray, the ’Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy series, and Last Night at the Viper Room. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I like caffeine, boardgames, and lists with three items.

R.I.P. Kim Shattuck

I was very sad to hear of the death of the mighty Kim Shattuck, the creative force behind the Muffs–the band never achieved the commercial success of some of their pop-punk peers in the early 1990s, but they made some excellent albums and Shattuck had one of the all-time great rock screams, right up there with Roger Daltrey and John Lennon.

I wrote an obituary of Shattuck for The New York Times last week. I also corresponded briefly with her bandmates in the Muffs, double-checking a few biographical details, and so I share with you now this note on her employment history from drummer Roy McDonald:

I only remember Kim working as a morning receptionist at a gym and that she used to arrive at work in her pajamas. She also worked briefly as a file clerk at my wife’s employer in 2006… very briefly. I think it was the 2 1/2 hour lunches. She also briefly worked in “bird management.” I have no idea what that was. Ronnie might know. The three of us always cracked up over Kim’s employment history.

Kim Shattuck, rock star and bird manager, I salute you for a life well-lived.

posted 7 October 2019 in Links, News, Outside. no comments yet

Early Praise for Kindness and Wonder

Hello neighbors! I’m very excited to share Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever with you. I am forced, however, to wait until the end of the month; it goes on sale on October 29th, exactly four weeks from today. (Click here for information on places where you can buy it and preorder it.) Until that happy day comes, can I direct your attention to a couple of early press notices?

USA Today included Kindness and Wonder in their recent preview of “This autumn’s must=read books,” alongside heavy hitters such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, John Le Carré, and Elton John. They write, “This book pays tribute to the man who helped raise so many of us, and argues the case that his wisdom is more essential than ever.”

And Publishers Weekly gave the book its first official review, a glowing notice: “Edwards (The Tao of Bill Murray) affectionately captures the spirit of Fred Rogers (1928–2003) in a crisply told biography that focuses on the enduring lessons Rogers shared with his viewers…. Edwards’s enthusiastic prose vibrantly captures Rogers’s spirit and wisdom.”

More news soon!

posted 1 October 2019 in Buy My Stuff, News. no comments yet

1988 Countdown #35: INXS, “Devil Inside”

(New to the countdown? Catch up here.)

Adam Curry hypes the “Big Bang ’89” party coming up later that night on MTV: “This is the only place to be on New Year’s Eve,” he says. Which was empirically not true, but it is the place where I ended up on the last day of 1988, so I guess he was right enough.

Curry cues up the next song: “Right now, a little secret–well, it’s not a big secret. INXS has four videos on the top 100 countdown of the past year. This is the second video off of the Kick album and the second video on the chart.” (The first was “Never Tear Us Apart,” which placed at #52.) I don’t think any of that qualifies as being a secret of any size; perhaps realizing that he’s overpromised, Curry quickly segues to the clip itself.

We see a lurid devil’s mask against a backdrop of red smoke. The devil turns, and we see that the mask is actually on the back of the head of INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence, who is illuminated with a sickly green light but is still ridiculously good looking.

We then get a flurry of quick cuts, as if somebody turned on a snowblower in the editing bay. In the space of three seconds: neon lights, a crowd in a bar featuring a dude wearing sunglasses at night, a blond-haired person of indeterminate gender working a David Johansen vibe, a movie marquee touting  “DEVIL INSIDE,” the silhouettes of some shapely feminine legs, and then an electric guitar playing the song’s opening chord.

I’m not going to log every single cut—let’s just agree that the action is moving quickly, the song has a great sinuous groove, and we’re visiting some seedy club. More hyperactive edits introduce some guys in tuxedos, the Converse-clad ankles of a skateboarder, a female mannequin, a black dude in a doo-rag, and a blonde girl in a leather bra. The production is grimy and the editing style is Adderall-based, but at heart this is a classic MTV party video, where diverse people from every walk of life get down together, united by music. (Key examples of the genre include Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and Huey Lewis’s “Heart and Soul.”)

We also see Hutchence shooting pool and fronting his band in a crowded bar, turning up his rock-star swagger as high as it will go. The other five members of INXS are all dressed in black and appear intermittently: Hutchence is wearing an expensive gray jacket with a red pocket square and lip-synching lyrics like “Words as weapons / sharper than knives / makes you wonder how the other half die.” (Side note: INXS had much better lyrics than I gave them credit for at the time. Hutchence was a master of the art of crafting lyrics that fully worked in pop songs but had a twisted, decadent integrity.)

Also starring in this video is a dark-haired woman, who vaguely looks like Cher’s kid sister, apparently cast as the woman “with the look in her eye / raised on leather / with flesh on her mind.” She struts through the club with as much confidence as Hutchence, running her hands through her hair, working that vampire charisma, walking on the bar in high heels. Co-songwriter Andrew Farriss, playing keyboards behind the bar, looks up her skirt. She gets on the dance floor and pretends to head-butt the guy she’s with; Hutchence responds with a credible karate kick as he sings “look at them kick.” (On the nose, but since it’s the album title, the lyric does deserve a little extra impact.) That MTV party staple, a bellboy in a red uniform with brass buttons, looks at the action with a leer, as if he’s working the catering at an orgy.

The chorus showcases Hutchence in a variety of locations, including up close with a brass pole. Unexpectedly, it appears to be not a stripper’s pole, but part of a merry-go-round.

This video was actually filmed at Balboa Pier in Newport Beach, California, which is squarely in Orange County—if you’re heading south from LA, turn right just after you get to Anaheim and you can’t miss it. The director was Joel Schumacher, whose haphazard directorial CV at this point included The Incredible Shrinking Woman (starring Lily Tomlin), D.C. Cab (Mr. T), and St. Elmo’s Fire (the Brat Pack). (His Batman movies and John Grisham adaptations would come in the 1990s.) He owed INXS a favor because they had anchored the soundtrack to The Lost Boys (his 1987 vampire movie starring Jason Patrick, Kiefer Sutherland, and the Coreys)—this video was where the band called in their marker.

On the set, the 48-year-old Schumacher complained, “When this is over, will somebody buy me a T-shirt that says ‘Too Old for Video’?” (That detail courtesy of Gina Arnold, who wrote about the shoot for the Los Angeles Times.) Other salient on-set intelligence: the fog in the video was actually produced by a mosquito fogger without any insecticide in it. Also, the second night of the video shoot conflicted with a U2 concert in L.A., but the INXS fans in attendance seemed unconcerned: “Are you kidding? INXS beat out U2 any day! That U2 is just a bunch of sloppy dudes. Bono needs a bath.”

Back to the video, which has come to a new section: same setting, same cast of characters, same short-attention-span editing style, but lots of backlighting and people in the crowd standing still, paralyzed by the power of INXS, or waiting for a plot development. And improbably, they get the plot development! A motorcycle gang rolls up to the club. The bikers face off in a line against a bunch of surfer dudes, many of them shirtless, apparently ready to rumble over whether the best single from Listen Like Thieves was “What You Need” or “Kiss the Dirt.”

Hutchence leads INXS in a single file between the two glaring camps, which apparently is a powerful enough gesture to defuse tensions. He clearly missed his calling in the Australian diplomatic corps. Instead, we get to see him dancing, which Michael Jackson taught us is the traditional celebration when you stop two rival gangs from carving each other up. I am reminded that when the MTV dance show Club MTV, popular at the time of this countdown, wanted to audition new people to be on-camera dancers, they would use INXS songs, because the band’s music bridged the gap between rock and R&B; anyone who wasn’t comfortable dancing to INXS wouldn’t do well with the Club MTV playlist.

Guitar solo! It’s a lovely chiming interlude by the spectacled Tim Farriss, looking intense as he delivers something more melodic than flashy. Intercut with his guitar: bewildered spectators looking through a window, Andrew Farriss with a popeyed expression, Hutchence flirting with a drag queen.

“Here comes a woman,” Hutchence sings again, and Schumacher introduces a new character, a woman in white standing up in a limo, gesturing dramatically through the sunroof and showing off her elbow-length gloves. She emerges and faces off with the woman in black. It looks like there’s going to be a confrontation—but then the woman in black just gets into the limo, replacing the woman in white as the companion of a corpulent man in a tuxedo. He’s wearing sunglasses, he has a predatory vibe, and he feels like the devil inside the limo.

Hutchence chants “the devil inside” but the woman in white doesn’t stick around to hear it—she gets on the back of a motorcycle and rides away into the night. The tinted glass rolls up on the limo and as it drives away, we can see that the chauffeur is wearing the grotesque devil’s mask that was featured in the first image of this video.

The pace of the cutting gets even faster as we head for the fade: tight skirts, gypsy women, Hutchence gyrating and stomping, a bunch of skateboarders, musclemen twins in skin-tight zebra-print overalls (the ominous lighting doesn’t make them any less ridiculous).

The video concludes with a bookend of the opening image: Hutchence turning away from the camera to show off the mask on the back of his head, implying (or perhaps just hoping) that in his case, maybe the devil is outside.

“Devil Inside” peaked at #2 on the pop charts (blocked from the top by Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” and Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.”) You can watch it here.

posted 19 September 2019 in 1988. no comments yet

Recording vs. Note Taking

I spoke last night as the guest of the Charlotte Writers’ Club about my career as a nonfiction writer (and the strange places it’s taken me sometimes), and fielded some excellent questions about the craft of the job. (It was a lively crew of people–if you’re an aspiring writer in Charlotte, you should check it out.) I got a bonus question via email this morning, asking about when I take notes while reporting a story and when I record events. I’m putting my answer here in case it’s helpful to anyone else:

My rule of thumb is that if I’m doing a formal interview–we’re sitting at a table having a Q&A–I tape it. (On a little digital Olympus recorder.) That lets me concentrate on being part of the conversation, not trying to record it. If I’m just following somebody around–let’s say I’m backstage at a rock club while a band is killing time for a couple of hours before a show–then I take notes. There’s inevitably periods of downtime, and I use them to make notes about whatever seems interesting about the environment (the graffiti on the wall, the cut of the guitarist’s trousers, what have you). That’s mostly a practical move–I don’t usually have time to wade through hours of dead air after the fact looking for that one nugget–but it has the advantage of making me pay attention to where I am, writing down whatever seems most salient. (Lots of writers make a point of scribbling in their notebook when nothing much is going on so that everyone gets used to the writing and it doesn’t call attention to their presence later on if somebody says something newsworthy and they start writing it all down.)

posted 18 September 2019 in Tasty Bits. no comments yet

Public Speaking!

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot more public speaking. I actually have years of experience when it comes to speaking in public–everything from readings at bookstores to broadcasts on the Today show–but these days I’m letting people know I’m available, particularly if you’re interested in a funny-yet-trenchant speech on awakening creativity via the philosophy of Bill Murray. If you’ve ever wondered, “Is it possible to get Gavin Edwards to deliver the keynote address at my corporate conference or to entertain the crowds at my clambake?”–well, the answer is yes. Click here for more information.

posted 10 September 2019 in Uncategorized. no comments yet

Brief Blunt Blows

The mix CD is a dying art, if not dead. (Not quite as buried as the classic 90-minute cassette tape mix, I suppose.) I was surprised to discover that it had been over a decade since I compiled Short Sharp Shocks, a collection of 42 songs on a single disc, all of them under two minutes and thirty seconds—but I had been thinking for a while about which tracks would make the cut for a sequel, so after I handed in the manuscript for Kindness and Wonder, I got busy with iTunes and audio-editing software.

The result: Brief Blunt Blows! Which has already been mentioned in Michael Solender’s article about yours truly in South Park magazine, “Beyond the Rules,” so I thought it’d be a good idea to memorialize the track listing here.

1. Hüsker Dü, “Monday Will Never Be the Same” (0:52)

2. Guided by Voices, “Teenage FBI” (1:37)

3. Pavement, “Debris Slide” (1:53)

4. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Crosstown Traffic” (2:26)

5. The Ramones, “I Don’t Care” (1:38)

6. EMA, “Coda” (1:00)

7. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” (2:24)

8. The Zombies, “She’s Not There” (2:21)

9. Radiohead, “Faust Arp” (2:06)

10. Tomoyasu Hotei, “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” (2:26)

11. Best Coast, “Bratty B” (1:42)

12. David Bowie, “Holy Holy” (2:19)

13. Green Day, “Pulling Teeth” (2:29)

14. Otis Redding, “Pain in My Heart” (2:21)

15. Hank Williams, “When the Fire Comes Down” (2:19)

16. Buddy Holly, “Midnight Shift” (2:09)

17. The Housemartins, “We’re Not Deep” (2:12)

18. Little Willie John, “Leave My Kitten Alone” (2:29)

19. Talking Heads, “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” (2:11)

20. James Brown, “(Do the) Mashed Potatoes, Pt. 1” (1:39)

21. The Raincoats, “Adventures Close to Home” (1:52)

22. Minutemen, “My Heart and the Real World” (1:06)

23. The White Stripes, “Little Room” (0:50)

24. The Go-Go’s, “We Got the Beat” (2:30)

25. The Clash, “The Leader” (1:39)

26. Elastica, “In the City” (1:28)

27. Sleigh Bells, “Straight A’s” (1:32)

28. Beastie Boys, “Funky Boss” (1:35)

29. Lou Reed, “Underneath the Bottle” (2:25)

30. Willie Nelson, “Denver” (0:53)

31. Bob Dylan, “Hero Blues” (1:32)

32. PJ Harvey, “Snake (Peel Sessions)” (1:50)

33. Led Zeppelin, “Immigrant Song” (2:24)

34. Stevie Wonder, “1-2-3 Sesame Street” (2:12)

35. The Primitives, “I’ll Stick With You” (2:29)

36. Wire, “Start to Move” (1:12)

37. Everclear, “Nehalem” (1:54)

38. Hall & Oates, “Rich Girl” (2:24)

39. Miles Davis, “The Theme (Take 2)” (1:04)

40. George Michael, “Waiting (Reprise)” (2:25)

Any questions about the provenance of any of these forty tracks, just ask in the comments!

posted 4 September 2019 in Tasty Bits. no comments yet

Kindness and Wonder: On Sale October 29th!

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, because we are getting ever closer to the publication of my next book, Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever. The good people at Dey St. slightly revised the cover, which means I have an excellent excuse to share the updated version with you.

Kindness and Wonder will go on sale on October 29th; you can preorder it from almost any place that sells books (I particularly suggest your neighborhood bookstore). It studies the life and the philosophy of Fred Rogers; the first half of the book, “Let’s Make the Most of This Beautiful Day,” is a biography of that remarkable man, while the second half, “Ten Ways to Live More Like Mister Rogers Right Now,” offers guidelines on how you can incorporate the lessons of his life into your own daily existence. My hope is that you will find that the book makes for many snappy new days.

posted 19 August 2019 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

Back to the Garden

Fifty years ago today was the beginning of “an antiquarian exhibition: 3 days of peace & music”–better known to you and me as the Woodstock festival. I wasn’t there, but I feel like I’ve been soaking in it my whole life anyway.

I had the privilege of contributing to a special New York Times section commemorating the concert’s anniversary. If you have the newsprint version from Sunday, fish it out of the recycling pile and savor it–the design department did some extraordinary work. But if you just want a quick taste of what the show was like, check out my debunking of five popular Woodstock myths (featuring Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, and Charles Schulz) and my interview with the legendary photographer Burk Uzzle, who got trapped at the festival and ended up taking the concert’s most iconic picture (the one used on the cover of the soundtrack album to the documentary film, above). He told me, “It was hard, and it was fun, and it was extraordinary.”

posted 15 August 2019 in Articles. no comments yet

Final Draught

Do you live in Charlotte, North Carolina? If you don’t live in Charlotte, can you get to Charlotte? Because on Tuesday, August 13th (that’s tomorrow night as I write this), I will be speaking at Final Draught, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation’s quarterly series of fundraisers featuring “local thought leaders, beer, and books.”

(I believe this is my first time being described as a “local thought leader.” I’m just going to try it on for a while and see how it feels.)

Anyway, admission is $25 and that will get you snacks, a signed copy of my bestselling book The Tao of Bill Murray, and a super-fun evening out. I’ll be providing a multimedia extravaganza on, yes, the tao of Bill Murray. (That means I will have not only a microphone, but also a slide show. Honestly, the slide show slaps.)

Details: 6 pm on Tuesday, August 13th, at Town Brewing Company, 800 Grandin Rd., Charlotte NC, 28208. (Same parking lot as the Charlotte Fencing Academy and a Rhino.) I am told that they’ve sold enough tickets that they are already at 80% of capacity, so if you’re planning on coming, I suggest buying an advance ticket.

(Local thought leader update: my leading thought is that libraries are awesome and we should do everything we can to support them. I hope to see you there!)

posted 12 August 2019 in News, Uncategorized. no comments yet

Signs of the Times

Catching up on a couple of recent articles in The New York Times (in the subcategory of articles that are written by me):

I wrote about the Universal Music Group giving a facelift to a huge chunk of their music-video catalog, upgrading both the audio and the visual. I got on the phone with Billy Idol to talk about “White Wedding”–and why would you want to talk to Billy Idol about anything else? You can read it here.

I also spoke with multiple friends and family members of the late great Donny Hathaway, an R&B legend you may not be familiar with (because of his tragic death in 1979, when he was just 33). The most surprising thing I learned: he played keyboards on Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady.” (And his baby sister was at the studio watching the session!) You can read it here.

posted 5 August 2019 in Articles. no comments yet