German Rocks at Beggars Banquet

One of the benefits of having one’s own column is being able to tout one’s talented friends, as long as I make disclosure. And after more than 35 years in and around the national contemporary entertainment scene, I have collected many quite gifted friends. Here’s recent works by three I am especially impressed by, and would be even if I didn’t know them.

Book: Under Their Thumb by Bill German: I met German in New York City when he was a young guy in his early twenties writing a Rolling Stones fanzine, Beggars Banquet, which eventually became the band’s official fan publication. An earnest fellow who pursued his love of the band with journalistic standards, he faced increasing conflict of interest as he came to know Keith Richards and Ron Wood as friends, and even co-wrote a book with Wood, and also had professional ties to the rest of the band and their organization.

I can safely say without any hesitation that this 2009 book is one of the best and most true of the number of tomes I have read on the band, and a fascinating tale of how a fanboy from Brooklyn wound up hanging in the rarified air around the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band backstage, in the studio, at exclusive parties, and at their homes (critics who don’t know German as well as I do, if at all, largely agreed).

I can attest to its accuracy from the brief time I was hired to do PR for Wood, and knowing some of the behind the scenes figures, as well as German, made this an especially fascinating read. But anyone with an interest in the Stones and what it’s like to be admitted to the highest levels of the rock’n’roll inner sanctums will find this honest, quite well-written account both compelling and revealing, and enjoy German’s unique personal journey.

Book: Rockin’ In The New World by Bob Tulipan: Another friend from my time in and around the music business in New York City, Tulipan is an industry veteran with broad experience in how the music game works. And he lays out the realistic across-the-board full details of “taking your band from the basement to the big time,” as the book’s subtitle reads, in a clear and comprehensive manner.

He wisely relies on experts in each area he covers to fill in the details in interview segments, and gets it all right other than a bit of confusion when it comes to song performance rights organizations. The rapidly changing structure of the music business requires a career guide that’s up to date with the latest, especially the new digital market. Tulipan delivers the guidance and goods that anyone with musical ambitions small or large will find useful if not valuable as they drop down the rabbit hole into the strange wonderland that is the popular music industry.

CD: A Single Drop Of Rain by Walter Tragert – I’ve known Tragert almost as long as I’ve lived in Austin, Texas, and from first listen was duly impressed with his gifts. I’ve since watched his talents as a rock singer-songwriter grow and recently blossom. Not too many years ago in one of my few appearances onstage singing and playing guitar had to follow him and was thinking as I watched him command the stage, “Oh Lord, if I have to follow this, I’m in trouble now.”

(I was thankfully able to acquit myself decently if not even gracefully with my one song, at least for an amateur.)

In the past I’ve likened his sound and songwriting to Elvis Costello and Graham Parker at their best, but here he comes into his own voice and vision, making music that draws from across the popular music stylistic spectrum to create recordings that would fit snugly onto the AM Top 40 and album radio playlists of the past while still sounding right on time for 2012.

Some numbers here can stand head and shoulders with such rock stalwarts as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, and there’s a strong soul music influence also at work. If you like smart lyricism, engaging melodies well produced, choruses that you can sing along with that resonate after the album is done and music that is real, this disc should be enjoyable listening indeed.

From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2012


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