“I could live a million,” sang R.E.M. on one of their earliest tracks, though few had a clue what Michael Stipe was banging on about. Well, sometime last night someone somewhere in the world became the 1,000,000th person to read a post on Just Backdated, and I’ve decided to bang on about it. Materially, having 1,000,000 hits at last won’t affect me in the slightest as Just Backdated is a hobby and not monetised in any way, but psychologically it vindicates my decision, prompted by my daughter, to launch this blog at the end of 2013 and continue with it now for almost eight years, just for the fun of it. 
    Few organisations or individuals pay me to write about music these days but, then again, I’ve always thought that writing about music wasn’t really a job in the ‘work’ sense anyway. It’s not like making or building or repairing or selling things, or even creating music in the first place. I was just lucky that 50 years ago I was able to slip into a situation where the publishers of Melody Maker paid me to listen to music and interview musicians, then set down my thoughts on paper, which was something I liked doing, so in a way it wasn't that different from being a painter or musician or professional sportsman or woman, or anyone else who’s been lucky enough to get paid for doing what they want to do. 
    I was able to enable those seven years on MM into a few other jobs that were more like work in the traditional sense, especially the 33 years as editor at Omnibus Press, but the truth of the matter is that it all really boils down to MM, as can be seen from the posts on Just Backdated. Well over half of them relate back to that period of my life and the statistics reveal that those who visit the blog prefer to read my reminiscences or reports from that era than whatever I write about newer music. 
    Frank Zappa said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, and defined rock journalism as ‘people who can’t write, doing interviews with people who can’t think, in order to prepare articles for people who can’t read.’ Of course, he was trying to be contentious so that some writer who didn’t much like him might rise to the bait and I agreed with him to a certain extent but carried on happily doing what I did anyway. As a matter of fact, Frank almost always got good press so I could understand his attitude better if it came from an act disliked by critics, like Queen or Rush or Neil Diamond.  
    It's not as if I have a million readers, of course. The blog tells me I have 16 ‘followers’ which is a bit disappointing but whoever you are thanks. What obviously happens is that people go back again and again to read stuff. I should add that the total isn’t skewed by my own visits, which aren’t registered, so when I go onto the blog to edit my posts slightly this doesn’t count as a hit. When I first danced about architecture – thanks Frank – Melody Maker was increasing its circulation to around 200,000 copies a week, a figure that never ceases to astound me in the light of the tragic demise of the UK’s weekly music press, so a million hits in eight years is tiny in the grand scheme of things. 
    Now for some other statistics. This is the 828th post on Just Backdated, so that averages out at 1,207 hits per post but as I’ve noted before that statistic is flawed because posts about The Who and, to a lesser extent, Led Zeppelin, especially those linked on their own fan sites or FB pages, usually outnumber almost the other posts by a tenfold margin. But just for the record here’s my top 20:

1) The Who Live At Fillmore East CD review – 47.7k hits
2) John, Paul & Keith Moon at Santa Monica – 14k
3) Jimmy Page’s residences – 12.1k
4) Jimmy Page meeting Robert Plant – 6.59k
5) Mandy Moon book treatment – 6.07k
6) Palazzo Dario, Kit Lambert’s Venice Palace – 5.59k
7) News of Who UK tour (2014) – 5.17k
8) Launching Dear Boy – 4.15k
9) Keith Moon & The Pythons – 4.1k
10) The Who, My Hidden Gems CD – 3.73k
11) The Who in Hyde Park, 2015 – 3.59k
12) John Entwistle Tribute – 3.22k
13) Keith Moon’s residences – 3.01k
14) The Ox (John Entwistle) book review – 2.91k
15) The North of England Beer Drinking Contest – 2.85k
16) Pretend You’re In A War (Who) book review 2.83k
17) ‘Underture’, Keith’s Great Triumph – 2.82k 
18) Deep Purple in Jakarta – 2.77k
19) Pete Townshend Interview (1974) – 2.75k
20) The Who at Stafford in 1975 – 2.7k

    Quite why the number one post, my review of The Who’s live CD from their show at the Fillmore East in April 1968, has received well over three times more hits than the post at number two is inexplicable really. I know it was shared on The Who’s official site but so have many other Who related posts. Hopefully, it’s a reflection of what a fine recording it is. If it’s sold as many copies as I’ve had hits, Pete’n’Rog will be well pleased. 
    The odd one out in the list, of course, is The North of England Beer Drinking Contest, my account of an event that several friends and I attended in Hull in 1968. This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with music and quite why it has attracted as many hits as it has is a mystery. I was delighted when a message was left for me by the winner’s grandson two years after it was originally posted (in 2016). “Lionel Tutt was my grandad!” he wrote. “My mother told me this story as a child.” (Anyone interested can read the post here: https://justbackdated.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-north-of-england-beer-drinking.html) 
    Aside from The Who and Led Zeppelin, other acts that attracted more than 2,000 hits include Abba, The Beach Boys, Jeff Beck, David Cassidy, Rory Gallagher, Jimi Hendrix, Little Feat and Slade, with David Bowie almost there. Oddly, posts about The Beatles, collectively or individually, don’t seem that popular. I guess everyone’s read enough about them elsewhere. Same with Bruce Springsteen whose new album, Letter To You, I'll be reviewing here soon. 
    As to where all my hits come from, the US tops the league with 401k followed by the UK (221k), Russia (71.6k), Canada (30k) and Germany (26.3k). Weirdly, I have had 8.27k hits from Turkmenistan, which I think might be suspect, and 191k from ‘other regions’. 
    Anyway, thanks once again to all who visit Just Backdated and I’ll try to keep it up for as long as I can. 


WILD THING – The Short, Spellbinding Life Of Jimi Hendrix by Philip Norman

The first book about Jimi Hendrix I read was written by my Melody Maker colleague Chris Welch and published in 1972, long before rock books became a spin-off industry to records and concerts. It was the first ever Hendrix book and something of a coup for Chris. I remember him bringing it into the office where we passed it around, admiring not just the book but Chris’ initiative in writing it and getting it published. It was a fairly slim volume, illustrated throughout, and benefitted from Chris having interviewed and seen Jimi perform many times. Most subsequent biographers – and there have been many – had no such personal connections.
The most recent is Wild Thing by Philip Norman but I don’t hold this against him for many of the best rock books have been written by authors without social or professional connections to their subject. Norman has been writing about music for most of his life and is eminently qualified to write about Hendrix or anyone else for that matter. Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Hendrix’s death, Wild Thing this week became the eleventh Hendrix book I‘ve read, and that includes five I commissioned as editor at Omnibus Press, ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky by David Henderson, whose UK rights I bought for Omnibus from its US publishers, and Charles Shaar Murray’s Crosstown Traffic, a virtuoso study of Jimi’s music that goes easy on a private life that long ago became public. 
Wild Thing observes no such scruples. Indeed, Jimi’s boundless promiscuity is a running theme as mind-blowing as the music he made, a Satyricon-like odyssey of endless shagging that puts even Led Zeppelin to shame. There can be no question that women adored Jimi Hendrix – and he them. In the end, of course, he was brought down by one who showed extreme disregard for his welfare, or so the evidence indicates. 
All of which makes it a breezy read, skipping lightly but entertainingly through Hendrix's childhood and lean years until our hero reaches London in the autumn of 1966 and his life explodes. The next four years are covered meticulously to say the least, with plenty of pages given over to the mystery surrounding Jimi’s death in a downmarket private lodge in London’s Notting Hill on September 18, 1970. That conundrum will forever remain largely unresolved but this book investigates it forensically, determinedly putting to the sword conspiracy theories suggesting Jimi was murdered by persons who might have had reason to benefit from his passing.
The leading contender in the list of suspects is the nefarious Mike Jeffrey, Jimi’s co-manager whose Club A-Go-Go in Newcastle was the launch-pad for The Animals whom he managed prior to Hendrix, a joint partnership with their industrious and far more upright bass player Chas Chandler. Jeffrey’s resemblance to characters in the great Tyneside-based gangster movie Get Carter is not lost on Norman but while his stewardship of Hendrix was certainly unprincipled, his only accuser is a roadie who made the allegation when he had a book to sell. Another contender, believe it or not, is a branch of the American secret service. 
A more likely culprit, albeit a far more benign one, is the infamous Monika Danneman who shared Hendrix’s bed on the night before he died. Interviewed many times in the years between 1970 and her death by suicide in 1996, she changed her story over and over again but whatever version you care to believe there seems little doubt that it was her negligence on that fateful morning that robbed Hendrix of his life.
The hours leading up to the calamity, the death itself and its immediate and longer-term aftermath occupy three carefully researched chapters at the end of Wild Thing, and though some of the information was previously published in Tony Brown’s book The Final Days Of Jimi Hendrix*, Norman has gone a step or two further in talking to those involved, which makes this the definitive account of what must, in the end, be regarded simply as a tragic accident, albeit one waiting to happen.  
One person at the scene who wouldn’t talk about it was Eric Burdon who, reports Norman, is ‘working on his own Jimi Hendrix story’. I’ll believe that when I see it, but at least Eric is alive, unlike almost all the dramatis personae in this tale – Hendrix himself, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell from the Experience and co-managers Chandler and Jeffrey – which severely limits Norman’s research sources but at the same time enables him to write without fear of contention. 
        Fortunately, Hendrix’s ne’er-do-well younger brother Leon is still around to be interviewed as are many of the women who came within Jimi’s orbit. These include his principal London-based partner Cathy Etchingham, now a grandmother living in Australia, Jeffrey’s long-suffering PA Trixi Sullivan and model Linda Keith, girlfriend of Keith Richards in 1966, who introduced Hendrix to Chandler and remained his friend throughout his life. All have talked at length to Norman with Etchingham, the most down-to-earth witness, offering convincing evidence of Jimi’s domesticity, warmth and carefree personality. Sullivan, on the other hand, tells us far more about her boss’ shady business affairs than I’ve read elsewhere. 
        In this regard, it’s almost heartbreaking to read how unsympathetic Jeffrey was to his client’s needs. Like ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker with Elvis, he seemed utterly oblivious to Hendrix’s art, viewing him solely as a cash-cow to be kept on a treadmill of gigs that enriched him considerably. Jeffrey’s death in a plane crash in 1973 further muddied the waters with regard to what happened to all that money, another bone of contention in the aftermath of the events of September 1970. In fact, the estate, now estimated to be worth $80 million, is in the hands of Janie Hendrix, the step-daughter of Jimi’s father Al who died in 2002. Jimi didn’t see much of it when he was alive, though like many a musician who lived only to create he didn’t much care so long as he had somewhere to sleep, food on his plate and enough to spend in boutiques that sold the flamboyant clothes, often tailored for girls, that he liked to wear. 
        Few interviewees have a bad word to say about Hendrix. He liked the recreational drugs that were prevalent among the circles in which he mixed but was terrified of needles, which meant heroin wasn’t on the menu. He turned nasty only when he drank whisky and this occasionally affected his ability to play well. He had a hippie outlook on life, often speaking ambiguously in airy-fairy ways, loved science fiction and the mothers of his friends invariably recognised a waif that needed mothering. He was shy in company, eternally unsure about his singing voice and virtually ego free. 
        Wild Thing didn’t tell me a great deal I didn’t already know about the life and death of Jimi Hendrix but a few small details fascinated me. I didn’t know he liked to watch Coronation Street and could ice skate, nor that he had a fling with Bridget Bardot, and I’m kicking myself that I wasn’t at the Troutbeck Hotel in Ilkley on March 12, 1967 – less than 10 miles from Skipton where I lived at the time – when an Experience gig was brought to a premature conclusion by Police Sergeant Thomas Chapman on account of overcrowding. I’m dubious about Jimi earning ‘$14,000 a minute’ for a gig at the Garden in New York – which would surely make the cost of tickets prohibitive – and Chas Chandler certainly wasn’t ‘riding high with his new discovery Slade’ in the summer of 1970, which was 12 months before their first hit. 
        More importantly, Norman is rightly effusive about the guitar skills that brought Eric Clapton and other top-flight British players to their knees in awe, so much so that for the past 48 hours I’ve listened to nothing but Hendrix, irrefutable testimony to the book’s merits. Furthermore, Norman traces the climactic gathering storm surrounding Jimi in a way that is genuinely page-turning. OK, we know what’s going to happen and there’s much about the sequence of events in this telling that makes the tragedy almost inevitable but at the same time there are so many ‘if onlys’ that, even now, 50 years later, you can’t help but shake your head in dismay at the downright agony of it all.  
        Finally, the cover of the hardback edition that I read is simply beautiful, an understated design featuring a photograph of Jimi’s face by David Magnus that is tinted orange and green with minimal titling. What a change from book covers that scream too loud but offer too little. Wild Thing doesn’t scream at all but offers a lot. 

* Published by Omnibus Press in 1997, I commissioned and edited this book.



Regular visitors to Just Backdated will perhaps have noted that certain big rock acts are conspicuous by their absence. Among them is Queen, who’ve been staring at me reproachfully for the past two weeks from the front cover of the latest Mojo magazine that sits on the coffee table in our front room. It’s my old pal Mick Rock’s famous picture of their four heads in a diamond configuration, the opening sequence of the video for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. They don’t look that happy, as they probably weren’t after Mick asked for an outrageous sum of money when they tried to buy the copyright of this shot from him several years ago.                           I was never a Queen fan. Furthermore, I had a series of encounters with them or their support staff between 1974 and 1986 that did not go well, and the appearance this week on Rock’s Back Pages of an uncomplimentary Melody Maker review of them I wrote in 1975, coupled with that Mojo cover, has prompted me to set down for posterity the details of the ill-fated relationship between Queen and I.                                    Queen emerged in the UK while I was working as Melody Maker’s man in America so I wasn’t around to see them in their infancy. Indeed, my first exposure to them was in New York when they supported – yes, supported – Mott The Hoople at the Uris Theatre on Broadway, for a run of shows in May of 1974.                                                                                It was an occasion that brought out all of New York’s glammed up boys and girls, loads of fun and glitter everywhere, and Queen dressed for it – their US debut – in garments not unlike those worn by Olympic ice skaters on the rink, all shiny satin with pleats and billowing sleeves. This was how they habitually dressed at that time, very ostentatious, as was their music, which struck me as a premeditated blend of Led Zeppelin and David Bowie with a sprinkling of Yes on the vocal harmonies, efficiently delivered certainly but very calculated and somehow bereft of that magical ingredient that conveys to an audience an act’s sense of spiritual purpose, that they really believe in what they are doing. In contrast, Mott turned in their usual high-spirited if disorderly set and seemed to me to have ten times more integrity about them. 

I next saw Queen at the Avery Fisher Hall in NY on 1 March, 1975, and I am indebted to Rock’s Back Pages for republishing on line this week my MM review of that show. Here it is, word for word: “As an ardent supporter of British rock amid a race of people weaned on hamburgers and Coca Cola, it grieves me to report how disappointed I was with Queen’s important ‘prestige’ performance at the Avery Fisher Hall on Sunday evening. I'd read good things about the band and expected much – but I came away with a sour taste.                                                            “It was perhaps unfortunate that Queen were the first heavy metal act I witnessed after attending three performances by Led Zeppelin in recent weeks.                                                                                             “Queen's music, to me, was tedious, and their on-stage presence (an essential quality if you choose to run the heavy-rock-with-glitter-overtones race) was an almost laughably bizarre mish-mash of every other more successful band of their genre.                                                    “Freddie Mercury came over as a pompous, arrogant duplication of all those who have gone before; his stage movements seemed forced and stereotyped instead of smooth and flowing with the rhythms his band were creating.                                                                                             “Brian May is a competent, but far from spectacular guitar player. His long solo relied entirely on the tape loop of an echo chamber which, I suspected, had the sustain control switched up to the fullest level.                 “I had no complaint with the rhythm section and the drummer, in fact, came to the rescue with some nifty infills time and time again. His two floor tom-toms appeared to be covered with some kind of white powder, so that every time he pounded away to his right, an interesting effect was created.                                                                                      “Queen’s lighting was excellent, and their one-hour fifteen minute show concluded on the usual smoke filled note. This, in itself, was rather curious: most bands who utilise this over-used ploy use dry ice which, as it is heavier than air, sinks to the ground and rarely rises above the musicians’ knees. Queen appeared to be using steam which has the opposite effect and floats everywhere. On this occasion the clouds of steam completely blocked out the view of the group — and the first few rows of the audience.                                                                                  “Lastly, it is only fair to point out that my view of the concert appeared to be that of the minority and the majority went home satisfied.”                                                                                                    Within a week both the New York Times and Rolling Stone published similarly unflattering reviews. 

The next time I saw Queen was at the Beacon Theatre on New York’s West Side in February 1976. I was sat in the stalls and when some idiot in the circle lobbed a firecracker over the balcony that missed my head by inches and landed at my feet, I and several others had to hastily vacate our seats midway through their performance. It was one of many fireworks chucked during the show.                                                                 While I realise it wasn’t Queen’s fault that I narrowly escaped being blinded, it didn’t endear me to them or their fans. It left a nasty taste in my mouth that somehow never went away. For this reason I didn’t review that show beyond a cursory mention in my New York news column that drew attention to the behaviour of their fans.                                                   As you can probably guess, by now I had detected what I felt was an element of cynicism surrounding Queen, as if their modus operandi had been plotted in a business meeting where all the required ingredients for success were debated and thereafter skilfully blended through earnest planning and market research. It was a view shared by many of my fellow critics in America, and probably in the UK too.                                                          Perhaps sensing that Melody Maker’s NY correspondent wasn’t in their camp, the next time they appeared in NY – at Madison Square Garden no less, in February 1977 – they invited a sympathetic London-based MM writer along for their ride, no doubt to ensure positive coverage. I was on the cusp of leaving MM then anyway, and wasn’t even offered tickets to the show. I couldn’t care less. 

Thereafter my encounters with Queen did not involve the group’s music or performances and, as such, it’s quite likely the boys in the band were unaware of them. In early 1986 Omnibus Press, of which I was then editor, published a book entitled Queen: A Visual Documentary by Ken Dean (a pseudonym). The book’s cover featured the same photograph that appears on this month’s Mojo and I have no doubt Mick Rock long ago banked his check.                                                                                     No sooner had our book hit the shops than Queen’s lawyers wrote me an indignant letter. They claimed it was a blatant breach of their rights and demanded it be removed from sale, all copies destroyed and all revenues forwarded to them, pronto, plus damages to be negotiated and legal costs, under pain of god knows what.                                                   It was, of course, horseshit. Within certain parameters, the law permits anyone to publish a book about anyone else so long as you do not libel them or breach their copyright. The actual book, one in a series of similar books that didn’t trouble anyone else, was a straightforward chronology of their career, just dates, events, quotes and lots of pictures, without comment, and therefore did not libel them. The text was commissioned by me and paid for by Omnibus Press, which therefore owned the copyright, and all the photographs were cleared with the various agencies or individual photographers that owned the rights to them. Any first year law student would have known Queen’s lawyers were bullshitting.                                                                                                     So I wrote back to Queen’s lawyers informing them of our position, a letter that left no doubt I knew the law as well as they did. At this point someone at their law office must have been assigned to scan the book with a fine tooth comb to check whether we had inadvertently breached their copyright in some small way. A week or two went by before we received a reply, this one stating that on one page (out of 96), in the bottom left hand corner, there was a photograph in which someone was sporting a backstage pass that incorporated Queen’s copyrighted logo, so tiny in fact that it was barely visible to the naked eye. Still, legally, it breached their copyright. Gotcha, or so they thought.                         Without admitting anything – the first rule in legal disputes – I wrote back and offered them £50 for what anyone in their right minds would consider the most minor of infringements. Realising that if they pursued this miniscule breach through legal channels they would be laughed out of court, they wrote back demanding a 15% royalty, “Our normal royalty rate on merchandise,” they said. I wrote back along the lines of, “Since you have seen fit to decline our generous offer of £50, that offer is now reduced to £25.” We never heard back.

Perhaps I had asked for it by being cheeky but my final experience of Queen, that same year, was also unpleasant. I was at their Knebworth show in August which just happened to be Freddie Mercury’s last performance with the group.                                                                          I wasn't there to see Queen - heaven forbid - but because Omnibus Press had published a book on the Knebworth Festivals by Chrissie Lytton-Cobbold, the wife of the owner of the estate, and as a result we were granted permission to set up a stall on site to sell rock books, including hers of course, and also one on Big Country, one of the day’s support acts, a book that was approved by them.                                     This did not sit well with Queen’s merchandising company who objected to our stall, pointing out that they had the exclusive right to sell merchandise on the site, which meant everything bar food and drink. The upshot of a rather nasty exchange of views backstage was that we were permitted to sell only Chrissie’s book and had to remove the rest of our stock from display. They offered to sell the Big Country book, as they were already selling that group’s merchandise alongside Queen’s.                     As the day went on I couldn’t help but notice the massive business Queen’s merchandising stands were doing, raking in heaps of cash hand over fist, mostly for Queen-branded clothing. At the end of the day they returned almost all the Big Country books to us and handed over a tiny sum of money, about £30 as I recall, which represented 15% of their revenues from those they did sell. They retained 85% which was what they retained on Queen merchandise. I didn’t argue. It was me against five big blokes.                                                                                              Would it really have harmed their vast takings if we’d been allowed to sell our books? Of course not. It was greed. That nasty taste that somehow never went away just got nastier. 

In one respect we had the last word. After poor old Freddie left us in 1991 an updated edition of our Visual Documentary book went on to sell over 50,000 copies in six months. Then again maybe not. A few years ago Roger Taylor, who struck me as a reasonable sort of bloke when I happened to spend an evening drinking with him and my pal Don Powell, bought Puttenham Priory, not that far from where I now live in Surrey. Grade II listed, it is set in 48 acres and has nine bedrooms, six bathrooms and a garage for eight cars and god only knows what else. Someone told he paid £8 million for it. That’s about 22 times more than I paid for my modest gaff.                                                                                                  And I thought was I lucky. 


READY STEADY GO! by Andy Neill, Slight Return

In a departure from my usual habit I am posting on my blog today an e-mail I received about Andy Neill’s recent Ready Steady Go! book. The writer is our mutual friend Ed Hanel, a fellow Who archivist and collector with whom I have been friendly since we first met in 1981. At that time Ed and his family lived in north London where he and his wife Lynne worked for the US military. Now retired and living in Hawaii, Ed worked all his life as an attorney for the US Navy which just goes to show that Who fans come from all walks of life.                    
    About 25 years ago he and Lynne were stationed in San Francisco Bay, occupying a large house on Yerba Buena Island which during WW2 was used by the Navy top brass overseeing operations in the Pacific. We – myself, Mrs C & two kids – visited the Hanels there in 1996 and you can imagine how delighted I was to note that the room in which the admirals deliberated over how best to neutralise the Japanese war offensive was now a Who museum, housing Ed’s vast collection of Who memorabilia. I even told Pete T who was also delighted.
    Anyway, because Americans never got to see RSG! I found Ed’s pronouncements particularly noteworthy. Here they are: 

“Anything published by Andy Neill will be thoroughly researched, carefully organized, and extremely well written. Ready Steady Go! (RSG!) is his latest effort and the result is, as expected, brilliant. He describes the book as a “labour of love”, and probably that is the most accurate description. But that alone wouldn’t merit a five-star review. Already out in the UK, comments there wax poetic about the detail and scope of Andy’s history of a TV show that few Americans ever saw. 
“Why should the book merit high regard here in the states? Come and gone by the end of 1966, the RSG! TV show assumed a shadowy status for American teenagers. We were told that it was a show where The Who became stars. It had a glamorous emcee named Cathy McGowan. It was filled with English bands who started the British invasion in early 1964. (The two terms, British and English, meant the same thing, right?) That was about all we knew. Those of us listening to teenage music on American AM stations at the time were puzzled by British band references to Radio Luxembourg. Surely British radio stations and TV played British rock and roll all day long. Why would anyone in London have to listen to a foreign radio station?
      “Andy’s book goes a long way toward explaining the entire cultural background in the UK that took American music, tried to copy it, created a “new” exciting sound, and shoved it down deep into our American hearts and minds. All of this done in a nation still locked into the after-shock of World War II and a class system not quite ready to give up its hold on the general population. This is a book for anyone interested in sixties music and culture, and who wants a good broad overview of what was happening in London ’63-’66. 
“It is not a quick read. Physically, the size and nearly six-pound weight of the book call for a table or counter-top where the book can be left open so that the reader can tackle it at leisure. RSG! deserves a careful and thoughtful read. Treat it like a good Scottish malt whiskey – neat and in small doses. As is always the case when reading Andy Neill’s books, I am looking forward to wherever he takes us next.”

Thanks Ed.