Mojo Uprising.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers




By Richard Skanse

Well, here’s a mixed bag for ya: an absolute, stone-cold killer of a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers album, hitched to arguably the laziest batch of songs Petty has ever committed to disc. Ultimately, it all balances out in Mojo’s favor, with the visceral thrill of the performances outweighing any disappointment over the half-baked melodies — though the latter may still keep casual fans at bay and challenge even seasoned Petty devotees. Take it from this unabashed, err, Petty-phile, who’s been known to swear by the merits of such underrated, late-period gems as 1996’s She’s the One soundtrack, 1999’s epic Echo and even 2002’s cantankerous The Last DJ: learning to outright love Mojo can take some serious patience. And even after a month of intense listening, I’m still not quite there yet. But slowly but surely, I’ve grown to like it a lot.

Coming eight years after Petty’s last studio record with the Hearbreakers (The Last DJ) and just six months after the sprawling Live Anthology, Mojo delivers on the primal promise of its name in spades. Described by Petty as “more like a Polaroid than a painting,” it is very much a candid snapshot of a great American rock band flat out having a blast by itself and for itself in the no-pressure environment of a home studio. Had nobody been around to punch record, well, bummer — but it’s doubtful any of the players would have lost any sleep over the matter. When musicians of this caliber click together this naturally after playing together this long, one day’s jam is probably going to be just good as the next, and that sense of ultra confidence imbues the performances here with a swagger and groove that feels disarmingly casual and oftentimes downright relaxed. Curiously, Mojo rarely outright rocks; like a grizzly in its own element, it rather lopes about at a lazy, unhurried pace — sometimes playful (“Candy,” “Let Yourself Go”), other times in what feels like a sleepwalking stupor (the interminably long “First Flash of Freedom”). But there’s always a promise of power there, and when it finally rears its head and lashes out with teeth and claws — most prominently on the commanding lead single, a ferocious stomper called “I Should Have Known It” — well, look out.

Mojo’s bearish heft and gait is a team effort, but those teeth and claws belong almost exclusively to guitarist Mike Campbell. Much has already been made of Campbell’s heightened presence on the album, almost to the extent of suggesting that he’s been locked in a pumpkin and hasn’t been heard from much since nailing “Breakdown” back in ’76. The aforementioned Live Anthology certainly proves otherwise, as does Echo and, more recently, 2008’s eponymous Mudcrutch album, which found Campbell, Petty and Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench reconnecting with two old Florida pals (guitarist Tom Leadon and drummer Randall Marsh) just for kicks. No, Campbell’s chops have never been any kind of secret. For as long as Petty’s been making records, Campbell’s been his go-to guitar man and co-writer, even on his three solo albums when the rest of the Heartbreakers were used sparingly or not at all, and he’s always left a significant mark. All that said, though, there’s no denying the MVP ballast of his fat, fearsome Les Paul from one end of Mojo to the other. A little more of the Jimmy Page-unleashed fury displayed on “I Should Have Known It” would have been welcome, but there’s nearly as much explosive power packed into much more economical bursts throughout the lurching “Takin’ My Time,” and his swirling, soaring soloing throughout the closing “Good Enough” is, in a woefully insufficient word, magnificent.

Campbell’s performance sets a high bar on Mojo, and the rest of the Heartbreakers — Tench, bassist Ron Blair, harmonica player/guitarist Scott Thurston and drummer Steve Ferrone — all rise to the occasion. So too does Petty — at least as a bandmember. Cast here as singer and nominal leader of the Heartbreakers, he plays his part with conviction but is mostly just along for the ride, as carefree as a golden Lab wagging his tongue and tail in the wind from the back of a pickup barreling down a country road. Vocally, he matches Campbell’s guitar snarl for snarl on “I Should Have Known It,” and his droll delivery of “Candy” drips with wry Southern charisma. But with only one very noteworthy exception, Petty the songwriter seems to have happily — and quite willfully — phoned this one in. Admittedly, there are instances here where the tossed-off nature of his writing (both lyrically and melodically speaking) serves the spirit of the moment, as on the loose and limber “Let Yourself Go” and the album-opening “Jefferson Jericho Blues,” which wiffs it on the history-lesson front but is too damn fun to nitpick. Not so, though, the following “First Flash of Freedom,” a turgid tar pit of Grateful Deadish noodling that rivals Springsteen’s eight-minute “Outlaw Pete” as the most offensive waste of prime rock-record real estate in recent memory. It’s the only song here where even the band, Campbell included, sounds bored stiff.

Fortunately, the gang quickly recovers after that early stumble, with “Running Man’s Bible” and even the hazy “The Trip to Pirate’s Cove” relighting Mojo’s pilot. But even when things get back on track, Petty still stubbornly withholds the album’s one truly transcendent hook until nearly the very end. Aptly titled “Something Good Coming,” the song comes next to last in the 15-track, hour-long cue, but the payoff is exquisite — as devastatingly, wistfully beautiful and wise as anything Petty has ever written. Or his peers, for that matter. A lifetime ago, Petty’s observation about the waiting being the hardest part was delivered with the giddy impatience of excitable young love. Three decades later, the dream’s still worth dreaming, but the spring of hope has slowed to a precious, desperate trickle: “There’s something good comin’/For you and me,” Petty sings with weary but dogged determination, drowning in the album’s most haunting melody, “Somethin’ good comin’/There has to be.”

It’s a hell of a denouement, as much for life as for some rock ’n’ roll record. Sometimes, as with Mojo, you get more passion and perspiration than pure inspiration and satisfaction. But as Petty puts in so succinctly in the final line of the album, that’s “gonna have to be good enough.”


West Texas native Richard Skanse made his bones working at Rolling Stone in the 90's. He spent most of the last decade as Editor of Texas Music magazine, and more recently as Editor of  LoneStarMusic magazine. He's written for many of the usual suspects, and under duress, will admit to a major man-crush on Tom Petty. Or is it Norm?



Genius Is As Genius Does - Another Terrifying Tale From The 70's by Brian Cullman


TV Talk Show star Dick Cavett hosted Little Richard, author Erich Segal and critic John Simon all together one night. Little Richard was in the midst of one of his many splendid come-backs, and he sang "FREEDOM BLUES" from his newly released album, ' THE RILL THING'. Which was an..."almost". As in, I kept wanting it to be better - but it was something. 


Then author Erich Segal came out. The movie of his best-seller, "LOVE STORY" was in the theaters. It was a huge hit, and he started to talk about "the classics." He went on about the roots of “LOVE STORY” being in Greek tragedy. He was folksy and charming and awkward - and it looked like the slightest breeze would blow him away. Critic John Simon came out with the sole purpose of being that breeze. 


Simon was not in a good mood, and he tore into Segal with total abandon . "What I want to know," he sneered, "is whether you're a fool or a knave? Whether you're an idiot who got lucky writing popular claptrap or simply a very clever and cynical man who makes money off of dead puppies? That, of course, is all LOVE STORY is...dead puppies."


Segal fumbled a bit, acted both weary and humiliated, and yet somehow above the fray. He came across as hapless and silly. "People like it," he stammered. "They like it. That's all there is to it. It touched a popular nerve. I'm not saying I'm a genius..."


At which point Little Richard, the evening's forgotten man,  jumped back into the fray. "Shut up," he cried. "Just shut up! I'm the only genius here. Who's talkin' bout genius? Me, I'm a genius - the Georgia peach - prettiest man in this room! Don't you know it?"


And still proclaiming his genius, Little Richard, God bless him, jumped right into John Simon's lap, and cuddled him with wild menace and contempt.


The shock, surprise, and sheer terror on John Simon's face was a thing of rare beauty. And all I remember hearing before they cut to a commercial was Little Richard howling once again, "The prettiest man in this room. And a genius...a genius!"


--Brian Cullman


Elvis in the Meantime.


"Have you ever met some of those people at the lower rungs of the music industry?"

Jimmy Iovine, President, Interscope Records


Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away - before schools were besieged by cute vampires, icky werewolves and synthetic derivatives, there was this really scary thing called…the music biz. Brian Cullman was there.  VG. Ed. Lava


By Brian Cullman


I wonder whatever happened to Elliot Romboid. He called me up once and invited me to Graceland.

"Good news," he said. "I played Elvis some of your tunes. He loved them. Especially, Safety. He's going to record it. And he wants to meet you. We have a flight out of Newark at 10 tonight..."

At which point I hung up on him.

A few years later, I was looking through a photo book called THE UNKNOWN ELVIS and there was a picture of Elvis with his arm around Romboid. They'd been in the army together. Who knew? But at the time, the only logical thing to do was hang up.

I can't remember who I met him through, but I remember that he came to see me play 3-4 times up at JPs on 77th & 1st Ave. This was early 1976. I didn't have my own place yet, I had just moved back to NYC and was camping out at my mother's apartment on the upper east side. Romboid was managing The Nite Caps, doing some work with Jerry Wexler, who knows what else. He called me at my mother's one night around midnight. I grabbed for the phone so it wouldn't wake her. It didn't.

Romboid was whispering, being very secretive, very dramatic. "This may sound weird," he kept saying. "This may sound weird...but YOU'LL understand. Yes, I think, YOU'LL understand." He wanted me to come to The Record Plant. Immediately. With an acoustic guitar. Not an electric? "Absolutely not! No! Has to be acoustic! This may sound weird but...YOU'LL UNDERSTAND."

I showed up with an old Martin. The room was filled with Japanese fusion players. A few were famous, I think. Fast metal guitarists, et al. Ryu Kawasaki was one. They all had long dark hair worn in bangs and tight leather pants. They were bashing out Mahavishnu type sounds, all speed and wacky time changes and taka-taka-tak. I hate that shit. Hated it then, hate it now. But I was younger then.

Romboid never introduced me, just had me set up in the middle of the room, got me to start playing a song in a drop D tuning I'd picked up from Nick Drake. It was a song called SPARE WING, very delicately finger-picked, very quiet.

Show me the sins

That are right for you

Show me the way they break...

Show me the pins

That they stick into you

With each & every mistake...

"Talk to them. These are great players, give them a little background," Romboid encouraged me over the headphones.

"Er....this is in D?" I said, hesitating. No response. "You can just pedal D through most of the changes…"

No one was listening.

They were just bashing away. Relentlessly.

"Just start right in. They'll follow. It'll be great!" Romboid enthused.

I wasn't so sure. I started, stopped, started, finally just gave up having any of this make sense and began singing and playing. It was completely dissonant, atonal. I played it through 2-3 times. Waited. Finally spoke into the mic...

"What do you think?"

There was no answer.

"Hey. Elliott? What do you think?"


I put the guitar down, wandered into the control room. There was no one there. But from a back office I could hear somebody crying…

I walked down a small, badly lit hallway and peered in. Romboid was shaking his head reproachfully at three large black men, who were cringing before him. One of them was sobbing, the others had their heads down, staring at the carpet like schoolboys in the headmaster’s office. It made no sense. The black guys could have eaten Romboid for breakfast and had plenty of room left over for a Happy Meal. But they just hung their heads.

“You can’t say we didn’t try! Did I hear you say that? Speak up! Do you think we’ve just been wasting our time, wasting our money? The best studios! The best engineers! The best producers! And nothing! No hits, no radio play, no NOTHING! So this is it. One more chance. One more try. If it doesn’t work, you can all go back to Georgia and shovel shit. Sit in the sun, think about what might have been. The cars. The women. The applause. The money. All of it. Think about it. Think really hard. Cause this is your last big break. That’s why I’ve gathered you here tonight with the only man who can save you. The best R&B arranger in America. Boys,” he turned to where I was peering through the doorway, “meet Brian Cullman!” He patted me on the shoulder and walked back into the control room.

This was a sick joke. But they looked at me with desperate eyes. I tried to buy myself some time by asking their story. They were called The Atlanta Champs, and they were signed to a deal with Willie "Cha Cha" James. They did all his back-up vocals live and on record, they backed all the artists he produced. For this they got $225 a week. Each. But part of their deal was that they got to cut two singles a year. They had cut five singles so far, and none had entered the charts. Small wonder as the songs they’d done were all standards recorded a cappella. What Now My Love. Fly Me To The Fucking Moon.

“You write songs?” I asked.

They shook their heads.

“You ever try any…original songs?”

“No, no, our manager, he said not to. know. We…could.”

I only had one card to play. If they’d heard the songs I mostly played, meandering folk melodies with tricky, Arabic tunings and lyrics I’d cribbed from Cesar Vallejo and Garcia Lorca, they’d have ripped my arms out of their sockets. But lately I’d been re-thinking my strategy vis-à-vis performing. Too often, people, even people who WANTED to hear me, and Lord knows there weren’t all that many of them, couldn’t hear the songs over the sound of people eating or ordering drinks. I needed to at least attempt a groove. I’d learned the hard way that if you tried to get a crowd’s attention by playing a familiar song, you were sunk. Once they knew that you could sing Motown or Rolling Stones songs, there’d be some asshole shouting “Brown Sugar” every 30 seconds. The trick was to play something that seemed familiar, that made them think they’d heard it before, without actually turning into a human jukebox.

I’d started work on a song I was hoping to play the next night at JPs, something that felt like Mel & Tim’s Backfield In Motion or something Tony Joe White might sing, something with a Southern, rolling groove. When I sang it, it almost worked, though the key word there is “almost.” I had (still have) a thin, slightly reedy voice that conveys yearning and wonder and mystery, but none of the raw power or menace or sexual threat that comes with the territory of swampy soul. I sounded like a puppy pretending he was a guard dog.

When I finished, I opened my eyes and saw that they’d been paying attention. In fact, they were probably the best audience I’d ever had. I wrote out the words. “Play it again,” they urged. “Only…don’t sing it this time.” The last was said with far more kindness than I deserved.

I started playing it and HOLY SHIT, when they came in, they sounded like The Four Tops, or at least 3 out of 4, and the song sounded authentic, it sounded like afternoon radio in Philadelphia, WIBG, something Joe Niagra would play, it was a fucking hit!

We tried it a second time, and it was better, they were trading off lead vocals, and the whole thing was seamless and wild and thoroughly convincing. I threw in a couple of Curtis Mayfield licks, and the group looked on admiringly.

“You want to put one down?” I asked.

“Baby!” They said.

The engineer was drinking coffee. Romboid was nowhere to be seen. Most of the Japanese players had stumbled off, there was no drummer, Ryu Kawasaki had taken his five guitars and all his effects pedals and left, there were no keyboards to be seen, but the bass player was still packing up, and the percussionist was in a daze, just staring at his congas.

“You want to lay down a track,” I asked. They shrugged. I took that as maybe.

We ran through the song, the bass player naturally falling into a groove, the percussionist turning the beat a little Latin, almost a bugalu, and I could tell they were impressed with the Champs, could see them digging in deeper and harder in response to the vocals. I had the singers gather around one mic, it felt edgier and rougher. We were going for feel, so what the hell. The engineer gave in, set up a couple of baffles around the congas, and we were off.

New York, what you trying to sell me

What are you trying to buy?

Don’t you think I’ve seen the change

You’ve put in my lover’s eyes?

I can’t tell what she’s thinking

When she turns her heart away

But she treats my love like a bill

That she can’t pay…

When I sang it, it sounded corny, second hand. But when they sang, it was heart-rending.

We started a take, and the studio door opened. There was a wild eyed black pimp, at least he looked like a pimp or a coke dealer, or both, in red pants and disco boots and an open white shirt, gold chains around his neck, and he's standing there, apoplectic.


“He’s got this song, this guy, and Elliott, you know, Mr Romboid, he said…”

“Who gives a flying fuck what Romboid said? He your man? And this nasty little cracker…” he gave me a look like I was not even worth discussing. “You boys are going home.”

“But man, we got this thing goin’…”

“What’s it say in the contract? No original material. You want to pay publishing? You boys out of your minds? You in charge here? I didn’t think so," He smirked. He shook his head, gave me a look like, NICE TRY, BOZO, and pushed the singers out the door.

He was, I discovered, a two bit thug named Reno. As advertised, he was a coke dealer who ran a place in the East Village called The Back Seat and promoted some events at The Garage.

The engineer seemed used to all this.

“You staying?” he asked. “Your boy Romboid seemed pretty wired. But he’ll be back. You want to wait?” I shrugged. The Japanese players were packing up, they’d stopped making eye contact with me. And then the Champs ducked back in.

“Did we get a take of that?”

“Not a whole one,” the engineer admitted. “But most of one.”

”Can we hear it?”

It sounded pretty good. Okay, THEY sounded terrific, I sounded sloppy, but it didn’t hurt the track, only my pride. My timing was off, what I’d taken as a natural groove was more of a rhythmic stutter, but the bass held it together and their vocals soared.

“We could kill this one.”

“Murder it!”


The gunshot threw us all into a panic.

Reno was back, and this time he’d brought a pistol. He’d fired into the ceiling. He fired again and waved the gun around. And then he stuffed it back into his pants.

“Maybe you boys didn’t hear me. Party’s over.”

They slunk away, defeated.

“Mr. Engineer?” Reno said quietly. “I think you’re going to erase that track. Aren’t you.” The engineer nodded. He seemed more tired than upset. The night was over.

The Atlanta Champs left. I never saw them again. I read about Reno in the New York Post. He opened a disco somewhere in Jersey. It burned down. There was talk that it might not have been an accident. I never saw him again either. But I did see Romboid a few minutes later, just as I was packing up my guitar.

“Man,” he said. “That was a great ride. I didn’t know if you could go the distance. But man, you were just…you just went. With. It.”

“What exactly was it I was going with?”

“Fuck if I know. When I’m on acid, I never know where I’m going,” he admitted. “I just like to check out the view.”

So, it’s understandable that when he called and invited me down to Graceland, I hung up.


c 2010, Brian Cullman



Brian Cullman grew up in New York City with a radio glued to his ear and a passport tight in his fist. Over the years, that radio has gotten larger as the world has grown smaller. He still lives in New York City, where he produces CDs, writes when necessary and hosts a weekly radio show (Songs On Toast, Fridays 10pm to midnight eastern time at His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, Creem, Spin, The Village Voice, The New York Times and Vogue. He has produced such artists as Lucinda Williams, Ghazal, and Glenn Patscha, and is currently helping Ollabelle complete their third album.

 Some of Brian’s non-Champs recordings are available on iTunes.



Charles M. Young's Last List of the O-Os.

By Charles M. Young friend Vic asked me to write a “Best of the 0-0s” list a couple months ago, and I said, “I hate lists.”

And he said, “They’re easy. Just write your favorite songs from the past decade.”

And I said, “I hate everything in the past decade.”

And he said, “Just write everything you’ve been listening to.”

And I said, “I don’t listen to music from this decade.”

And he said, “It doesn’t matter. Just say what you’ve been listening to. It can be recorded at any time. It doesn’t even have to be music. It could be a movie. A book. A TV show. Anything you liked in the past decade, whenever it was produced.” 

And I said, “I have 0-0 anhedonia, a complete inability to experience pleasure for the past decade.”

And he said, “Just write something. Didn’t I send you on the road with Van Halen in 1984 when they were the number one party band in the world? You didn’t have anhedonia on that one, did you? You owe me.”

So...uh...I thought about that for a couple months, and this is my attempt at a list of stuff would have given me pleasure if I was still capable of experiencing it. 


1. ERNIE HAWKINS:  Rags and Bones - Solo acoustic guitar, mostly steel string, has become a thriving subculture among middle aged guys who love to hack out old blues and ragtime tunes. If you dig around on Youtube, you can find them playing songs by Leadbelly or Skip James or John Fahey. They are all self-consciously inauthentic, and they almost always wear hats to hide their receding hairlines, but they obviously love the music and that’s the next best thing if you’re not authentic. I know, because I love hacking out old blues and ragtime tunes and I’m completely inauthentic. One of the best DVD teachers of this music is Ernie Hawkins, who fell in love with the blues as a teenager in Pittsburgh and moved to New York after graduating from high school to study with the Reverend Gary Davis, one of America’s underappreciated musical geniuses. Hawkins plays Davis’ intricate compositions about as well as any mortal can (often better than Davis himself) and in the past decade has demonstrated a gift for teaching the guitar on DVD. For those who listen but don’t play, check out his album Rags & Bones. If you do play, go to Stephan’s Grossman’s Guitar Workshop online and investigate his many DVDs on the music of Davis, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb. Also recommended is his 3-DVD set on the “C-A-G-E-D” system of figuring out the guitar neck, available at Homespun.



2. LEFT LANE CRUISER: "Wash it" - Bring Yo Ass To The Table - I was on tour with Richard Lloyd last spring when I heard an incredibly raucous, invigorating slide guitar song come on the juke box in a little club in South Carolina. “Who is that?” I asked. “Left Lane Cruiser” said the proprietor, and I immediately dialed them up on iTunes and Youtube. The song was “Wash It” and I’ve been playing it ever since whenever I want a blast of energy. The guitarist, Freddy J IV, sits down, and the drummer/washboardist Brenn “Sausage Paw” Beck, stands up, which should tell you that they’re obtuse, don’t give a shit what anyone else is doing, and will explode someday, so appreciate them now while you can. I have no idea what Freddy J is singing about on their three albums (All You Can Eat!, Bring Yo’ Ass to the Table, Gettin’ Down On It) but I suspect he has strong opinions about his lower chakras. I know he’s got killer guitar tone, and a great drummer, without which your band isn’t great.


3. CRUSHED BUTLER: "It's My Life" - Uncrushed - Post-hippie and pre-punk, they recorded six tracks preserved on Uncrushed (issued or reissued in 1998, I’m not sure which). Record companies could not understand them while they were ripping up clubs in London from 1969-71, and they finally gave up. The Genius program on iTunes sent their name my way one afternoon while I was on a hunting and gathering expedition, and I was blown away, especially by the song “It’s My Life,” which has nothing to do with the Animals’ song of the same name. Crushed Butler’s “It’s My LIfe” is one of the those garage band miracles of concision and testosterone in search of freedom, perfectly blending Bo Diddly and the Stooges.



4. AVATAR: A fairy tale movie that could have been written by Noam Chomsky, if he decided to immerse himself in Tolkien, the first two Alien movies and Dances With Wolves. Once in a great while, Hollywood gets something right, and this is one of those onces. I saw it twice, not for the special effects but to listen to the audience cheer when the American imperialist army is defeated and sent home in chains. When was the last time you saw that in a Hollywood movie?



5. ALELA DIANE: "White As Diamonds" - To Be Still - Another discovery while I was roaming iTunes. She lives in a cave someplace and writes dreamy, hypnotic, weird tunes for other introverts who live in a cave and suffer from anhedonia of the O-Os. If you are not moved by “White As Diamonds,” skip everything else. Me, I like everything else on The Pirate’s Gospel and To Be Still. They call this “psych folk,” short for psychedelic folk, which I suppose is a declaration of transcendent possibility for cave dwelling introverts. Is that what art is supposed to do or something?



6. BLIND BLAKE, BLIND BOY FULLER, BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON, BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON, BLIND WILLIE MCTELL: On my iPod I’ve got 212 songs by guys who are officially Blind. And that’s not counting 116 by the Rev. Gary Davis, who was only.... blind.



 7. VASHTI BUNYAN: "Train Song" - Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind - She recorded two commercially unsuccessful albums in the 60s, drifted off into complete obscurity until the O-Os when she got reissued (Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind, Just Another Diamond Day) and discovered she had a fan base among cave dwelling introverts. “Train Song,” whether her original or the cover by Ben Gibbard and Feist, has been my favorite song by someone who isn’t Blind for awhile. Her breathy, gossamer voice and unique sense of melody remain intact on 2005’s Lookaftering.


8. MY IPOD: When I travel, my bag overfloweth with gadgets and all the crap I need to sustain the gadgets. Forget socks and underwear. Couldn’t we just toss all the gadgets in a hole somewhere? Especially cellphones. But not my iPod. Everything thing else that’s digital, into the hole. I’m keeping my iPod, because when I put it on shuffle, it makes juxtapositions so spectacularly weird that I forget I have anhedonia.





9. THE CANCER STAGE OF CAPITALISM BY JOHN MCMURTRY: Canadian philosopher makes the case that cancer and capitalism grow until they kill the host. It must be pleasant to be proved right by history, even as the tumor relentlessly metastasizes.




 10. JACK ROSE: "Sunflower River Blues" - Kensington Blues - Jack died of heart attack on December 5, 2009, at the age of 38--one final tragedy in a decade of unrelieved political and ecological horror. Of all the guitarists who have said they were influenced by the late great John Fahey, my favorite guitarist of all time, Rose was one of a tiny number who shared Fahey's sense of tone, drone and bone chilling melody. Start with the album Kensington Blues. His version of "Sunflower River Blues" covers Fahey as well as he can be covered, and his original stuff sounds just as good.


A Baker's Dozen: Artists muse on their favorite Beatles Tracks.

NOTE: This article first appeared in December, 2009, when we didn't know what the hell we were doing.



Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana)


If I could write just one song as beautiful as "Julia”, I would achieve my life’s goal. This song has such a soothing and healing quality to it. I could hear it a thousand times in a row and it would draw me in every time. The guitar and vocals are so delicate and right – almost celestial. And when I found out it was about his mother, who abandoned him, returned, and then died - it just made it all the more amazing.



Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day)

"In My Life”

There are Beatles songs that are way more punk rock than anything the Circle Jerks or Bad Religion ever put out. That guitar figure at the beginning introduces the song perfectly. Plus the harmonies and backup playing are terrific .John Lennon is analyzing his past, all the people that came in and out of his life. He’s sort of bitter, but he’s trying to be levelheaded about it. I can imagine him singing it and having a very sly smile on his face. It’s almost like he’s sincerely bidding someone farewell - but telling them to f*** off at the same time.



Lemmy (Motorhead)

“I Saw Her Standing There”

It was the first track on their first album. Paul counted them in with 1,2,3,4, - a great introduction to the greatest rock band of all time. Nobody even comes into the same planetary system in terms of songwriting and presentation, They never repeated themselves, they kept going from strength to strength. Liverpool was only 60 miles from where I grew up in Wales, and lots of girls would come down from there for holidays - and we would try and shag them (laughs). This one girl wrote ‘Beatles’ all over my wall, and I asked who they were. She said they were this incredible new band in Liverpool. So I hitch-hiked up there - this was late 1961- and saw them play a number of times at the Cavern. And I can tell you the intensity and excitement everybody felt a couple of years later was already happening...A magic time.


Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac)

“I Saw Her Standing There”

When you think about the Beatles, it’s usually about the sophisticated way they used pop elements and whatever they were being turned on to by George Martin to do things that hadn’t been done before. This is just a standard three chord song, but it’s a rock and roll classic. It still explodes at you when you hear it today. There’s even a terrific live version on the first Beatle’s Anthology album that made me go , “My God, these guys could really play." It represents in its earliest and most naïve incarnation all the buoyancy the Beatles had to offer.


Gene Simmons  (Kiss) 

“Across The Universe”

The Beatles were a big slice of our lives, and this is one of the most hauntingly lilting songs I’ve ever heard. I don’t know what it means to this day, but I don’t care. The song works as word imagery. Lennon sings this half-tone movement back and forth repeatedly; it’s like the two-note theme from Jaws.Lennon did that in a lot in his songs, including “I Am The Walrus".  It’s very unusual, but effective.


Joe Satriani (Chickenfoot) 

"Across The Universe"  

It’s such a beautiful song, and it captures the naiveté of the time. Lennon was so talented in that he could be the funniest, the snidest, and yet ultimately the most poignant guy in the band. Often you find that when the joker in the crowd finally says something serious, it’s far more profound than what the so-called "serious" guys come up with.


Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains)

"A Day In The Life"

I always considered John Lennon the "dark" Beatle, and I guess I always dig the dark horse guys. But there was always a lot of heart in his songs. This is a really magical one about how there are beautiful things in life, though it’s a journey through some heavy stuff. 



Angus Young (AC/DC)

"I Want You (She’s So Heavy)"  

Even a great band like the Beatles goes off on a detour and does a bit of cabaret for awhile. But you’ll find that the truly great ones always come back to playing real rock and roll, I thought this whole album got a bit glossed over at the time it was released. But those bluesy fills and huge riffs showed they were still terrific rockers right to the end.


Joni Mitchell 

“Norwegian Wood”

Rubber Soul was the Beatle album I played over and over. I think they were discovering Dylan, and the songs often had an acoustic feel, I used to sing this one in my coffeehouse days in Detroit before I started writing for myself. The whole scenario has this whimsical, charmingly wry quality with a bit of a dark undertone. I’d sing it to put some levity in my set. I got a kick out of throwing it in there amongst all these tragic English folk ballads. Besides, I have Norwegian blood!



Richard Thompson


My favorite Beatles track – I just love the sounds on it. You could strive forever to get that fantastic guitar tone, which is probably some crappy old Epiphone Casino run through who knows what. But what a fabulous sound and performance.  The economy and tightness of it is amazing. The bass line is brilliant, and McCartney also does the guitar solo, which is like Hendrix crossed with a bit of Indian raga. He found something really unique there.


Andy Summers (The Police)

"Strawberry Fields Forever"

I was drawn to this one in particular because it’s dark and a bit twisted. Plus they had that fascinating backwards thing going around in it. And the Lennon vocal gets me every time. McCartney wrote the up, ingratiating melodies while Lennon usually wrote f***ed up and down. So even though this is sort of an avant-garde pop piece, Lennon brings an aspect of the blues to it.


Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen) 

“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)"

That whole album takes you for a ride. And this song takes you for a ride within that ride. Those monster riffs seem to go on forever and then suddenly drop you off a cliff. Lennon’s vocals are just so passionate. He hated his voice, as Hendrix hated his. I think the fact that they weren’t typical singers made them even more expressive. A lot of trained singers have less impact than someone who’s just flying by the seat of his or her pants.


Ozzy Osbourne  (Black Sabbath, Self-Proclaimed Beatlemaniac)

Be afraid, metal heads. Be very afraid. The Prince of Fookin’ Darkness may be the most rabid Beatles fan of all. “What I do professionally and what I like are sometimes two different things.” explains Ozzie. Here’s Mr Osbourne on his three top Beatles tracks. (We had to stop himsomewhere).

“Strawberry Fields Forever”

What an amazing song. They’re the only band that went from bubble gum to psychedelia - and then on into heavy metal, country, even reggae on “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”. They did every form of music and made it their own. I owe my career to the Beatles. I wanted that excitement - they gave me a reason to carry on with my life.

“I Am The Walrus”

John Lennon was my God. When I heard, “You’ve been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down”, I knew we’d moved beyond the era of silly love songs that didn’t mean anything. Lennon could deliver the heaviest message with a terrific melody. And all the while he’d be painting this Salvador Dali image in your head.

“The Long And Winding Road”

Okay, everybody knows what an incredible Beatles fan I am by now (Laughs). But they influenced everybody, in one way or another. I loved Nirvana, and people say they took a lot from Sabbath. But when Kurt sings "hello, hello, hello" in Teen Spirit - that comes from John Lennon. But this was the saddest song I’d ever heard, because I knew it was the end for the Beatles: they were breaking up, and my bubble burst. If I ever get some terminal disease, just give me my medication, put on any Beatles album, and just let me die like a bloody Viking. That’s my last request.


-Vic Garbarini