Thoughts & Updates

March 27, 2020


On this day TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, Brian Temples, Dustin Bugg, George Finch and I played The Little Grill in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I recall almost nothing about this show, though I vaguely recall hanging out a bit with the band who opened for us, The Necromantics. That group consisted of Travis Hunter, Critter Fuqua (their drummer and a founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show) and Melissa Livaudais (their bassist/vocalist and co-founder of Telepathe). BOK's setlist that evening: Because Because, A Story That Could Be True, Create, I Hang Heavy, Abandoned, Noiz, Don't Stop the Scream, Face, Jesco White, Lost, Heaven, Idiot Planet, Fat Woman Lying in the Road, Killing Time Again, Negative Creep.


March 26, 2020


I finished most of song #8 yesterday. This is turning into a weird little album.

On this day in 2005, Casey Firkin, Aaron Farrington, Johnny St. Ours and I played our second and final show as Book of Proles (as we moved forward, we changed our name to The Karl Rove) at a strange venue called Captain Tee's, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. This would also be the last show Casey played with us. Billy Hunt would thereafter take over the drumming duties.


The set list: L.A. Song, Bucketful of Sickness, Righteous USA, I Wish I Was You, Long Arm of the Law, Who Dares Defy the Hand of God to War, Windowless Facade, Winds of Dying, God Bless, My World Turned to Black, Don't Stop the Scream.


March 23, 2020


Another song (number seven) in the bag! I'm projecting a 16 track album. When it's done (if I don't get the virus and...let's just say respond to it poorly) I'll probably just post it on Bandcamp so anyone can download it free if they want to hear it.


Stay well!


March 20, 2020


The positive response to I KNOW WE CAN SAVE OUR WORLD has been more gratifying than you guys can imagine. I can only compare it to perhaps the reaction WASP 51! received.

“Been loving the record! So many awesome songs. The guitars are fabulous on there. It's obvious you were feeling them. Stunned by the tribute song ['You Couldn't Give Any More (Turtle's Song)'] and you know tt would be, too. Incredible piece; thank you so much. Thanks for making this record, I needed it right now.”

“All the songs are good. I have enjoyed [the album] over and over.”

“Excellent! Great job, Jim Shelley & Book of Kills!”

“I just realized that most of the BoK catalog can be found on Spotify. I know what I’ll be listening to for the foreseeable future.”

“Just listened to the new album for the fourth time and I have to say this is a damn good one. I'm not a guitar player but I know what I like and the guitar sound on this album is really to my taste. On the way home in the truck just now I listened to 'Heart's Wisdom Has The Power' 4 times in a row. I love it - my favorite track at this moment. In my humble opinion this is the best album since TIYBOK. Please keep them coming.”

"This is my first Book Of Kills album. Love it. I can't wait to experience them all."

"Not the bestest Book Of Kills record of all time but really really close. The wait was worth it, Mr. Shelley."

"This is everything great rock should be. Congratulations!"

“Have listened to 'IKWCSOW' at least a dozen times since you sent it to me. All I can say is WOW!”

“The songs on this album are made to order classics. You could list it as any year from 1978 and on and no one would argue. At the risk of an unintended insult, should it be one, I'll say this is the best David Bowie record since David Bowie died.”

“You are definitely the one artist I have collected the most. Love your music! Let me know if you will be performing live locally. Oh, and this most recent CD is permanently in my van’s CD player.”


March 19, 2020


I wrote and recorded song #6 yesterday and got started on #7 today. Seems a little weird blogging about writing and recording songs when things are so crazy all over the world, but I can't simply give in and give up to this virus. I know you won't either. I'll keep writing and recording and I want you to make sure you take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Would you love to have had the chance to see The Beatles play THE WHITE ALBUM live? Of course, you would have. And of course neither you nor I ever will have that chance. But you can watch an exceptionally good rock band from the Netherlands play THE WHITE ALBUM (and numerous other latter day Beatles albums) live on YouTube! I only discovered The Analogues last week, but I've already watched them perform a couple albums in full as well as some stray classic tracks such as "The Ballad of John and Yoko" and "I Am The Walrus".


They're not one of those cheesy tribute bands who try to look and sound exactly The Beatles. According to Wikipedia "...the Analogues' ambition has been to perform The Beatles' music from their later studio years live, using analogue and period-correct instrumentation. From the start the Analogues have distinguished themselves by performing songs and whole albums live, which The Beatles themselves never played live; supported by brass and strings. Appearance-wise the band makes no effort to look like The Beatles, but they are called masters at recreating and reproducing the original sound. Worth checking out.


March 17, 2020


Genesis P Orridge, as you might know, died this past Saturday at the age of 70. He was one of the founding parents of industrial music particularly through the work he did as part of Throbbing Gristle. TG and P Orridge's later band, Psychic TV, were integral in my development as a musician back in the late '70s through the late '80s. Without them, so much of modern music from industrial to acid house would be very different or not even exist in the first place. If there were no Genesis P Orridge, certainly there'd be no SONGS FOR A GONE WORLD or NOIZ.

"When in doubt, be extreme." -- Genesis P Orridge

Oh...I forgot to mention that last Friday the 13th was the ten year anniversary of the final show of the George Nipe III, Mike Hicks and Jim Shelley version of BOK! Here's an account of the show from THE BALLAD OF JIM SHELLEY:

"March 13 was a pretty typical concert day for me. As always, I could focus on little else besides thinking about the songs I would play that night and fretting over whether or not anyone would even care enough to show up. (If no one did, I had only myself to blame. I hadn't even posted any fliers around the city advertising the event. The only promotion I had done was to mention the event a couple times on my Facebook page and I spent most of the afternoon sequestered in my bedroom, running over riffs on my acoustic guitar and repeating lyrics in my head over and over again, all the while deluding myself (as always) into thinking that four or five hours of hard work can substitute for months of studious practice.

"A little before 7 P.M., I loaded my amp and guitar into the back of my old RAV4, and my wife and I drove to the Grill. I was probably more nervous than I had ever been before in my life, save perhaps the morning I gave the HHS commencement address. But I needn't have fretted. Saturday night was, simply put, magical. My entire family was there, including my older son, Daniel and his wife Amy who took some excellent photos, and my younger son Christian who had never seen a BOK show. Many of the folks I had played with over the years, including Garfield Banks, Gary Bugg, Randy Simpson, Jane Firkin, Mike Chiarello, Jeff Lown, and, of course, Casey, were also in attendance. Two of the best BOK photographers ever, Deanne Good and Jana Burtner, were both there, as were my brother and his lovely wife, Linda. Somehow I even felt as though the spirits of my mom and dad had graciously decided to make a one-time special appearance, too. All told, over seventy-five folks had wedged themselves into the Grill. Buck Gooter and Sleepfeeder both played short, high-energy sets and then the moment arrived.

"We set up our equipment quickly. I didn't speak more than a sentence or two to George or Mike. I was consumed by my thoughts and emotions as I started to introduce the band, when suddenly Casey Firkin emerged from the crowd and presented me with a plaque. 'The Shenandoah Valley Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame would like to present Jim with its first-ever lifetime achievement award,' he said into the microphone. 'To a true rock 'n' roll pioneer who has influenced and touched more lives with his creative musical contributions than he will ever know. Thanks for the music and for never giving up or giving in. Your fans, friends and family.'

I was close to tears.

"What could I say in reply? Over the years since I'd released Bloom Or Die? I had met so many wonderful friends and acquaintances through music. I could never even begin to thank them all for giving me far more than I ever gave back. I hugged Casey tightly and then hammered out the opening riff of River Of Blood and proceeded to butcher the song beyond recognition, even though Mike and George tried to hold it together in spite of my fumbling. My fingers were like clumsy dancers stumbling across the fretboard of my guitar. It didn't really seem to matter, though. From the start, folks were dancing and moshing and singing along in George's or my microphone. Bodies constantly pounded against me and I found it difficult to even keep my hands on my guitar. A couple of times the microphone slammed so hard into my mouth I thought I'd broken some teeth. I ended up with a fat lip when someone's elbow smashed into my face.

"It was great.

"We careened our way through Killing Time Again, Marzipan Day, Fat Woman Lying In The Street, Blue Man, Never Be Like You, Placebo, Fade, To Dream A New Dream, Stanley The Steamer, Little Metal Toys, Lost, Nirvana's School, and finally Don't Stop The Scream, with Mike Chiarello, Billy Brett, and Casey Firkin often joining me or George on the choruses. But the crowd wasn't about to let us go yet, even though crazily we hadn't considered working out a couple of encore songs. 'How about So Tired?' I suggested to George and Mike. I couldn't remember the last time we'd played it, but what the hell. When that one slammed to its conclusion, the crowd continued to chant for more, 'Book Of Kills! Book Of Kills!'

"Someone yelled out, 'I Hang Heavy!' and the crowd roared its approval. It had been months since we'd jammed that song. But why not? And that's how it all ended...

“'I hang heavy in this universe! The coming is bad, but the going is worse!'

"Was it the greatest BOK show ever? Who knows? It's definitely up there in my pantheon of legendary gigs. I will say it was some of the best fun I've ever had playing live music. And to be able to share the evening with Casey, Ike and Greg of Sleepfeeder and Billy and Terry of Buck Gooter, as well as many other close friends and family members, made it an even bigger honor and pleasure for me. To say you had to be there is no doubt one of the hoariest of all clichés, but in this case it is certainly true. The next day Mike Hicks told me that it was the first time in his life he'd felt like a real rock star."


March 16, 2020


We'll get through this, guys. I hope one day not too long from now we can all look back at this experience and know it has made us stronger and more thankful for our precious lives. I hope you are staying safe and practicing sensible habits.


I'll be writing and recording Wednesday and Thursday. Of course, I have a long way to go to finish up the new album. This makes me think back to 1992 when I wrote and recorded DON'T STOP THE SCREAM in late winter and early spring, released it in April, did some remixing and recording soon after and released 8 FROM THE ATTIC in May, and began sessions for another, completely different, collection, THE HAUNTED LIFE, that summer, releasing it on Halloween. 

On this day in 2002, Book of Kills (featuring Randy SImpson, Jane Firkin, Casey Firkin, Bill Bird, and Jim) played a rather strange gig at a venue called T & C's in Waynesboro, Virginia. Here's an account of the gig from THE BALLAD OF JIM SHELLEY:

"In the meantime, I somehow managed to get us a show in Waynesboro, Virginia, in March at what was sort of pseudo biker's bar called T & C's. I'd heard that the sound there was great, they had a good stage, and it was a fun place to play. However, someone told me that T & C's owner would stand behind every new band as it launched into its set and if he didn't like you after the first song, he'd literally pull the plug on you and tell you to scram, so we were all a little apprehensive to say the least.

"We began the show with a slamming version of 'Accidentally Naked' (a great way to start our set since it consisted of one chord!). I remember looking behind me about halfway through the song to see if the owner was really scrutinizing us and there he was, just off stage along with a middle-aged woman who I assumed was a waitress or bartender. He was smiling and she was dancing!


 "By the end of the evening, I knew we'd passed the test with flying colors, no small accomplishment for an arty little rock and roll band that insisted on performing almost all original material. We played one of our best shows that evening and the owner even asked us to come back in the summer, but I ended up never calling him back." 


March 12, 2020

The Beatles and Walt Disney Studios have announced the pending release of Peter Jackson's "The Beatles: Get Back" on September 4, 2020. 


"I’m really looking forward to this film. Peter is great and it was so cool looking at all this footage. There was hours and hours of us just laughing and playing music, not at all like the version that came out. There was a lot of joy and I think Peter will show that. I think this version will be a lot more peace and loving, like we really were." -- Ringo Starr

March 11, 2020


Hope you're okay in these strange times.

I wrote and recorded another song today. Still have to put the organ on it, though. Yeah, every song so far has organ on it. Probably every song on this album will. That's quite unusual considering I have no idea how to play the organ.

I doubt you care too much right now about how the latest BOK album is progressing. Stay well.


March 7, 2020

For those of you (like me) waiting on a Beatles LET IT BE box set, here's some news. Let's just hope we all live to November! Speaking of living until something Beatles is released, I'm hoping I live to see (and read) the final two installments of Mark Lewisohn's TUNE IN trilogy. Apparently it's taking him a decade to research and write the second volume. 

March 5, 2020


I wrote and recorded another song yesterday. I might try to do the same today though I'll be pretty busy. 

The entire matrix remixed/remastered Alston's 2/1/2003, concert has been posted to the music page. You can stream or download the entire show free!


March 3, 2020

A curious thing happened to me while I was in the middle of the I KNOW WE CAN SAVE OUR WORLD recording sessions. I began to listen to CDs again. Some time, I think, in December, my wife and I were looking around at the world's greatest thrift store, Harrisonburg, Virginia's own Gift and Thrift, when I came across a 17 year old Sony portable disc player (From the last year the Casey, Jane, Bill, Randy and Jim version of BOK existed!) 


I'd bought old portable disc players in the recent past a couple of times and been assured that they were in working condition only to discover they were anything but, so I was a little reluctant to plunk down $3 for what I was fairly sure would be yet another dud device, but one of the volunteer workers told me the Sony had been tested and did work. Lo and behold, when I got home and put a disc from the Beatles's super deluxe White Album box set in it and pushed the little play played!


Now I find myself playing compact discs regularly. Streaming is cool and opens up your listening world to any number of albums you might not ever otherwise hear, but CDs sound so much better, so much clearer and more dynamic, and somehow, it's oddly assuring and just more fun to put that little plastic disc into your little plastic player and peruse that little insert listen to something REAL and to hold something REAL in your hands.

March 2, 2020


I'm always intrigued by how the most played JS/BOK songs on Apple Music differs so much from JS/BOK songs on Spotify. For instance, compare the top ten most played songs on Spotify for this past February with the top ten on Apple Music (listed just below):

2. Killing Time Again (JIM SHELLEY & BOOK OF KILLS LIVE)
3. We Are Here Because We're Here (I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE)
4. We Left Our God Deaf & Blind (I KNOW WE CAN SAVE OUR WORLD)
6. Love Is Such A Big Word (IKWCSOW)
7. I Know We Can Save Our World (IKWCSOW)
8. Heart's Wisdom Has The Power (IKWCSOW)
9. Rain Keeps Falling (IKWCSOW)
10. Take Me All The Way (IKWCSOW)


I have never had anyone stop me in a Walmart or a grocery store to tell me how much they like my album and that the CD is on their disc player in their car right now, let alone three people in one weekend, but that's what happened this past Saturday and Sunday. Now, you might say to yourself, Two people saw you somewhere and told you they liked your album is that big of a deal to you? The answer would be an emphatic YES! Oh my dear friend, remember that I'm an old amateur musician who lives in a small town not so far away from the West Virginia state line who has labored in complete obscurity for as long as he has been writing and recording music. Someone telling me they enjoy my music is one of the biggest thrills you could imagine for me!

Ten years ago at this time I was mourning the end of my BOK partner-ship with Mike and George III as we prepared for our last gig together, but I was also ready to begin a new era for me in music-making with Amy Bugg and Jeff Lown as Fear + Whiskey (though we hadn't come up with a name for the band at that point).