Thoughts & Updates
November 14, 2019
Wrapped up #8. A slower, acoustic guitar based thing that evolves into lots of drums, keyboards and electric guitars by the end of the track. I'm trying to bring a variety of sounds to the table this time around, though this is, of course, a straight out rock and roll album, if a bit of a restrained rock and roll album. (My screaming days are long over, you know.) There's definitely more piano this time...even though I don't actually know how to play the piano. It's fun to work out keyboard parts, however, and force myself to learn how to play them.
It looks as though I'll have some unexpected free time to begin work on another song tomorrow. I've got a vague idea what I want to do already.
"People just want you to keep doing the same kinds of thing, and that's a box I cannot accept. They want to box you in and departmentalize, and that's torturous for anybody that is a free-thinking individual...I never found it easy to fit into any group. Because there's always that pull in me to stretch it beyond their imagination. It's been the story of my life, really." -- John Lydon
November 9, 2019
Another track is in the can. I think that's #7. Seven more to go? I think I can do it.
It's funny...when you're working on an album, you listen to the song you're currently putting together over and over as you lay down each track. Then, the song is done and you file it away and begin work on the next one and you pretty much forget what the previous one, and all the other ones you've completed, even sound like. So it's almost a shock (though usually not an unpleasant one) when you finally finish the whole thing and go back and listen to every song you've created over the course of however long a time it took you to do them all.
By the way, I spent a little time listening to the multi-tracks of the four new songs I wrote and recorded early in the year ostensibly for possible inclusion in our set list back when I was still part of a sort-of band with Jane, Randy, George and Garfield. I did more than a little bit of tweaking to the mixes and, since they're all good tracks, I think I might make them all (or some of them) part of the new album. I'm not entirely sure about that. I know they've already shown up on BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME 7, but let's face it...bands have a long tradition of putting a song or three on one record and then later making them a part of another (usually better) record. Think, for instance The Beatles's MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR or Nirvana's HORMOANING, or any number of Pavement CD singles.
On this day way back in 2002, Book of Kills played a strange (at least to me) show at Alston's in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It was, if I remember correctly, a strange Saturday afternoon gig that Randy Simpson couldn't make due to some college things he needed to attend to. So it was just BOK as a foursome consisting of Jane and Casey Firkin, Bill Bird and me. I think we played a pretty good set, but I didn't enjoy not having Randy there. The set list: Accidentally Naked, Cave In, Caroline, Bikini Radio, Gemini, Then I Kissed Her, Face, To Dream A New Dream, Running, Simple World, Clever, Jesco White, Money.
November 3, 2019
Early this morning I was just messing around on my acoustic when I thought about all the little "voice" recordings on my iPhone. See, when I get an idea (usually just out of the blue when I'm not really even thinking specifically about music) for a song or a riff, I know from experience that I won't remember the idea if I don't immediately record it. That's why the "Voice Memos" app on my phone is such a great thing. I can "turn it on" and make a little memo of the idea, by either just humming it or playing it on a guitar if one's near by, and not have to worry about losing the thought. And believe me...I have lost dozens and dozens of ideas over the years that I kidded myself into thinking I'd remember later. Anyway, the second old recording I checked out (probably from 3-4 years ago) really struck me as a great riff to work a song around. So I think I'm going with it for song #7 when I get a chance to work on it next week.
October 31, 2019
Boy, was Halloween ever a bust this year. We had a warm front mash up against a cold front and...voila! Non-stop rain, high winds and a little lightning. We saw one trick or treater the entire night. This is the first time since I was a kid that I remember Halloween being washed out.
I wrapped up number 6 this afternoon. As usual, my ambitions were grander than my actual abilities to write and record more than one song over the course of three days. That said, I do have the next song pretty much sketched out in my head. I'm going to try for a rock and roll anthem.
October 28, 2019
Number 5 is done...for the time being. It looks as though I'm going to have three days (or parts of three days) to work on writing and recording this week. I'm hoping that by the end of the week I'll have 7 songs completed. Who knows though. But here's hoping!
Another momentous date in BOK history. On this day in 2000, Book of Kills played their First Annual BOK Halloween Extravaganza. Johnny St. Ours's band the Proles, shared the gig with us. The set list: Don't Stop the Scream, Why Won't You, Inconvenient Space, Rain, I Hang Heavy-->Up in Flames-->I Can't Stand It, If I Asked You, Because Because, Caroline, So Wicked, Fade, If You Want It Take It, Little Bit O' Soul. This was the first live performance by the new line-up of Jane Firkin, Lisa Van Fossen, Casey Firkin, and Jim! It was a pretty wild show. I remember Lisa and I playing on our backs on the floor and laughing like maniacs. The crowd was great. I know there's a video of this show but I've never seen it unfortunately.
October 22, 2019
I spent a good bit of time yesterday (Tuesday) working on the fifth song of the new record. It's largely a piano-based composition and it took me at least a couple hours to get through the whole track without a major mistake. Then I added a couple of guitar parts. I was gone most of the day today, but when I got back home and listened to what I'd done yesterday, I completely wiped the guitar parts. They just didn't work. So I've got a drum/piano track and it's back to square one with everything else.
Fifteen years ago today, Book of Kills played a pretty momentous gig. It marked the ten year reunion of pretty much the original line-up with Brian Temples, Dustin Bugg, Mike Chiarello and I played a great long set of BOK classics. The set-list: Because Because, Lost, To Dream A New Dream, Fat Woman Lying In The Street, 26 Heavyweight Bleeders On Parade, Idiot Planet-->Wet Dog Shakes #3, You Go To You And I By Me, Killing Time Again, Who Dares Defy, Stanley The Steamer, Bad Person, Jesus Was An Alien, Waiting On A Friend, Jailbreak, I Hang Heavy, Fade, Ah Ahh Ahhh!, I Start To Fall, Scrapezoid, Abandoned, Don't Stop The Scream.
October 18, 2019
Number 4's about done. I mainly worked on it late at night the last two days (something I used to do quite frequently back in the early to mid '90s on albums such as THE HAUNTED LIFE, DON'T STOP THE SCREAM and WEE JIM'S BLACKEYE.) As is true with the other tracks I've written and recorded the past week or so, I'll now let this one simmer in its own juices for a while and come back to it with fresh ears in a few weeks to see what other touches I can add (or subtract) from the final mix. Now for #5. I'm thinking 14 songs.
Speaking of albums, it seems as if the concept of the album from the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s as a sum of its separate parts is making a bit of a comeback. I'm noticing more and more young rock bands are quite intent on having their records looked at as artistic entities and not a collection of a couple good songs and lots of filler. I suppose it's part of that emulation of the '60s record buying culture that includes the current fascination of 20 and 30-something's with vinyl records and their vastly superior sound. Who knows? Maybe CDs will be making a comeback before you know it.
George III texted me last evening to let me know Bob Dylan had just announced a show at The Anthem in D.C. in early December. I snagged tickets this morning!
October 16, 2019
Pretty much finished song #3 today. I had time, so I wrote song #4 and did a demo of it. I'll work on it a little late tonight and maybe a little tomorrow. I might have a bit of time on and off over the next few days to add to it, though it'll be Tuesday before I can really finish it off. Then it's on to #5!
October 15, 2019
Today, I had a lot of time to focus purely on re-imagining and re-working song #3. It was definitely a good call to discard the first take and try again. The song is tons better the second time around. I got most of the vocals done along with drums, bass, a couple rhythm guitar parts and a few lead runs. I'll work on it some more late tonight and then finish it up tomorrow. Of course, when everything's done, I'll go back to every single song and do a remix of each and think about what I might add to each song to make it just a little bit better.
By the way, I went to a James Madison University football game (it was a great one) with George Nipe III (as well as my wife Mary Lou, sister-in-law Linda and my brother, George) and we spent a lot of time catching up. He's playing guitar with Randy and Garfield and a bassist (whose name I can't recall) who played with George's band the Plague Dogs a long time ago. They'll be doing some recording in the months to come. I'll keep you updated on what they're doing.
October 13, 2019
Well, I've already got the first outtake from these sessions. After finishing the third song, I listened to it a couple times and realized it just isn't good enough, plain and simple. Making it easier to discard it was the fact that I'd already come up with a superior arrangement. I'll keep most of the lyrics since I like them, but it's on to a different key and a pretty different song. I'm going to have (potentially, of course) a fair amount of free time for a couple days this week. I'm really hoping to have four songs in the can by next Friday.
October 11, 2019
I enjoyed a pretty efficient couple of hours working on the third song today in between a number of house chores and working on eBay stuff (I sell old books and various other stuff on occasion, if you didn't know) and ended up writing the thing and getting about 75% of it recorded! It's substantially simpler in form than the first two songs but it's still a good one. It has been a long time since I had this much focus on producing a new album. I think this one's going to be the best all-new BOK album since 2007's DIFFERENT.
"Songwriting's a weird game. I never intended to become one - I fell into this by mistake, and I can't get out of it. It fascinates me. I like to point out the rawer points of life." -- Keith Richards
October 10, 2019
I can't say really that I'm done with either of the first two songs I've recorded for the new album, but they're "finished" enough right now that I think I need to move on to the next thing and let the first two percolate a little on their own before I go back to them and add a few last touches. I know what I want to add to each, but I think I should let things be for a while so that I can go back to them later if a little clearer picture in my mind of what else they need.
I was thinking early this morning how strange it is to write songs. Every time I start the process of coming up with something new, I can "feel" the song out in the ether just waiting to be brought into the world, almost like a child anticipating its birth. It's hard to explain, but I know that the songs in a way have already been written and recorded; they just exist in a different place and have to be made real in "this place" by whomever wants to accomplish that task.
Anyway...on to #3!
“For a songwriter, you don't really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes. And you try to understand them and take them apart and see what they're made of and wonder if you can make one, too.” -- Tom Waits
“Each song has its own secret that's different from another song, and each has its own life. Sometimes it has to be teased out, whereas other times it might come fast. There are no laws about songwriting or producing.” -- Mark Knopfler
"Songwriting is about getting the demon out of me. It's like being possessed. You try to go to sleep, but the song won't let you. So you have to get up and make it into something, and then you're allowed to sleep. It's always in the middle of the night, or you're half-awake or tired, when your critical faculties are switched off. So letting go is what the whole game is. Every time you try to put your finger on it, it slips away. You turn on the lights and the cockroaches run away. You can never grasp them." -- John Lennon
October 7, 2019
On this day in 2006, The Karl Rove (Billy Hunt, Johnny St. Ours, Aaron Farrington and me) played on of our last ever shows together at Main Street Bar and Grill in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We'd only have three more gigs left as a band. Too bad...the world still needs The Karl Rove (now probably more than ever) but some things just aren't meant to be, folks. The set list: So Tired, Different, Righteous American, Little Metal Toys, Empire In Decline, River Of Blood, JROTC, God Bless, Windowless Facade, Another Shitty Day In Funtown, and Caspian Sea. A video of that show exists, but the sound is atrocious.
I'll finish the second song tomorrow and begin work on the third one.
October 3, 2019
One the occasions when someone asks me either in person or by email about my music, more often than not they pose one of the following four questions: (1) Why do you write about The Beatles so much? (2) Why do you change your "styles" so often? (3) When is your next album coming out? (4) Do you have a band?
The answers: (1) Because, without question, they are the greatest rock band of all time. To this day, I am in awe of how original, rich, innovative and diverse their music was. I don't think any other group (or individual) ever came close to the rapid and profound evolution of their music over the course of just seven years. Who would ever believe that the same band recorded "Love Me Do" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" just four years apart? The Beatles were together for less than a fourth of the time of bands such as Metallica, the Rolling Stones, Tool, and Pearl Jam, which, despite their overall excellence, have continuously produced music only within very narrow, well-defined styles without much sense of progression. (2) I change styles (thanks to...though to a much lesser degree than...The Beatles) because I like to experiment. Playing the same old stuff over and over bores me. (3) I don't know, but probably sooner than later. (4) No.
October 2, 2019
Man, how could it already be October?
Had several hours to work on the second track today. I got a lot done. I think I'll be able to finish it off tomorrow. I'm hoping this is going to be a good album. I think it will be, God willin' and the creeks don't rise! It'll be the sort of rock and roll album that you can listen to on headphones and hear new stuff each time.
I listened to the second side of the newly remixed Abbey Road last night and was pretty surprised at how dynamic and "modern" it sounded. Pretty impressive. As I've noted many times before, I learned how to write and record songs by listening to Beatles albums. They still give me inspiration in ways that few other records can.
"Maybe when I get the album finished and in the sleeve, then I'll get some sort of expression of it. When I did Pepper and the White Album I got an overall image of the album, but whereas with this one, I'm kind of lost. People have said, 'It's great! It's a bit more like Revolver. Well, maybe it is, but it still feels very abstract to me. I can't see it as a whole. It all fits together, but it's a bit like it's something else. It doesn't feel like it's us. We spent hours doing it, but I still don't see it like us. It's more like somebody else. It's a very good album." -- George Harrison
September 28, 2019
As you might know, The Beatles have just released a "Super Deluxe" version of Abbey Road. The Beatles discussed radically shifting their approach on a potential follow-up to Abbey Road. While Abbey Road is not nearly my favorite Beatles album, it's still a great record, of course. That said, I haven't rushed out and bought this one yet, as I did for the Sgt. Pepper's and White Album box sets, though I will buy it. I do feel this one's a bit over-priced considering what you get with it as opposed to what you got with the other two.
"John Lennon suggested the proposed recording more fairly showcase each from the group's principal composers, giving George Harrison equal footing for the first time. He would have the opportunity to contribute four songs, the same as Lennon and Paul McCartney. (Ringo Starr, Lennon added, could have two – 'If he wants them.')
"The news comes courtesy of Beatles expert Mark Lewisohn, who unearthed a tape from a meeting the Beatles held on Sept. 8, 1969, at Apple headquarters on London's Savile Row. The recording was made while Starr was hospitalized with stomach problems. 'Ringo – you can't be here, but this is so you can hear what we're discussing,' Lennon says at the beginning of the tape.
"'It's a revelation,' Lewisohn told The Guardian. 'The books have always told us that they knew Abbey Road was their last album, and they wanted to go out on an artistic high. But no – they're discussing the next album. And you think that John is the one who wanted to break them up but, when you hear this, he isn’t. Doesn't that rewrite pretty much everything we thought we knew?'
"McCartney still seems taken aback by Harrison's recent songwriting successes, which included the chart-topping 'Something' and 'Here Comes the Sun,' a key album track. 'I thought until this album that George's songs weren't that good,' McCartney said on the tape, despite the fact that Harrison's 'Taxman' opened the Beatles's 1966 masterpiece Revolver.
"The responses to this swipe, however, showed that some tensions remained.
'That's a matter of taste,' Harrison fires back on the recording. 'All down the line, people have liked my songs.' Lennon then openly complains about 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer,' a McCartney contribution from the soon-to-be-released Abbey Road that began with 21 grueling takes.
"Lennon suggested that McCartney give things like that to other artists, including Mary Hopkin – who had just scored a No. 2 U.K. hit with a discarded McCartney tune. He stands firm: 'I recorded it,' McCartney says of 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer,' 'because I liked it.'"
"An expanded 50th-anniversary reissue of Abbey Road is due on Sept. 27. Lewisohn will also debut a stage production focusing on this era later in September at the Royal and Derngate in Northhampton, then begin a U.K. tour that lasts through December. Hornsey Road features rare recordings like this one, along with film, photographs, remastered and remixed audio, memorabilia and Lewisohn's personal anecdotes." -- UCR
If George Harrison was always your favorite Beatle, as he was mine, you'll want to take the time to read this nice, relatively brief article from last year that I just came across.
September 26, 2019
Ken A. won the latest "secret" Bookofkills.com contest by finding the hidden three question quiz and answering all three questions correctly. The questions with their answers:
(a) What's Jim's favorite Beatles album? (The WHITE ALBUM)
(b) What's Jim's favorite guitar brand and model? (Fender Telecaster)
(c) Who has collaborated on the most songs with Jim? (Choose one): Jane Firkin, Amy Bugg, George Nipe III, Aaron Farrington (George Nipe III)
Ken wins an exclusive seven-track compact disc of rare live performances by various Book of Kills line-ups. I'll continue to plant secret quizzes somewhere on the website on an irregular basis, so if you're into winning free stuff from Book of Kills, be forewarned!
September 25, 2019
Got some work done on the second song today...mainly drums and piano. It's a two part song and I have not even begun work on the second part, but I am hoping that I'll have it all in the can by the end of tomorrow afternoon.
On this day in 1990, Dave Grohl joined Nirvana. The rest, as they say...
On this day in 1980, John Bonham was found dead in his bed after a reportedly monumental drinking binge.
"From one generation to the next, The Beatles will remain the most important rock band of all time." -- Dave Grohl
"I've always been obsessed with drums. They fascinate me. Any other instrument--nothing. I play acoustic guitar a bit. But it's always been drums first and foremost. I don't reckon on this Jack-of-all-trades thing. I think that feeling is a lot more important than technique. It's all very well doing a triple paradiddle, but who's going to know you've done it? If you play technically you sound like everybody else. It's being original that counts." -- John Bonham
September 21, 2019
I didn't do much musically this week. I'll try to do better next week. My wife had a very big two day yard sale this week and it took up a lot of my time helping out. She did, it should be noted, make a pretty hefty profit. I made a little pocket change, too. Every little bit helps, eh?
On this day six years ago (Good Lord, where does the time go?), a make-shift version of Book of Kills featuring Casey Firkin, Jane Firkin, George Nipe III, Pablo Olivieri and yours truly played the fourth Blow Up the Moon Festival in Page County, Virginia. The set list: Accidentally Naked, Cave In, Different Story, Running, Blue Man, Sweet, To Dream a New Dream, Gemini, Bad Person, Pineapple Dog. It was a fun, if rain-drenched, show...the first of three that particular band would play.
"If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living." -- Gail Sheehy
"Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than you are to your comfort zone." -- Billy Cox
"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death." -- Anais Nin
September 17, 2019
Just haven't had any time to even think about making the switch to a new server. I guess I've paid for the use of this one for a year; I shouldn't be in any great hurry to migrate everything yet again to another company.
I hope that somehow tomorrow I'l be able to find the time to get a good deal of song #2 done. Once again, I've got very little free time to do anything. I'll try to do my best with what time I do have.
"The rock'n'roll spirit is not survival. Of course, the people who play rock'n'roll should survive. But the essence of the rock'n'roll spirit to me is that it’s better to burn out really bright than to sort of decay off into infinity. Even though if you look at it in a mature way, you’ll think, ‘Well, yes…you should decay off into infinity, and keep going along.’ Rock'n'roll doesn’t look that far ahead. Rock'n'roll is right now. What’s happening right this second. Is it bright? Or is it dim because it’s waiting for tomorrow—that’s what people want to know. And that’s why I say that."
-- Neil Young
September 15, 2019
Finished with track number one! Yeh! Two and a half minutes of raging pop noise! I think it's a good start. Now I'm ready to start song #2. As I said previously, I have the arrangement already in mind and that's half the battle when I write a song. I can tell you now that I will release a limited edition of the album with unique collage covers and inserts.
September 11, 2019
I put in a few hours work on new material today. Nothing's done. But I have about 75% of the first track completed and I pretty much have the arrangement of the second track down (in my mind, that is), though I haven't done any real work on it.
Nothing to report about switching servers. Of course, switching servers makes little difference to anyone who visits bookofkills.com other than me. I guess the only thing anyone'll notice will be a different design and significantly more material.
Rather big day in Beatles history. On this day in 1962, The Beatles recorded their first single, "Love Me Do", with session man Andy White sitting in on drums for Ringo Starr, whom producer George Martin (mistakenly of course) believed wasn't capable enough to play on the recording. Shortly after, Ringo did indeed lay down drums on another version of "Love Me Do" which was released as a single on October 5. The Andy White version found its way onto the band's first album.
September 4, 2019 (Addendum)
I began work on an all-new album today, though I can't say I got a lot done. I did, however, lay down a drum track and do a bit of guitar work for the first song. Absolutely no idea when this one will drop, though I'd like to get it out before the new year.
I'm really looking forward to the release of the Super Deluxe version of ABBEY ROAD. I enjoyed the heck out of the previous SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND and THE WHITE ALBUM from the past two years. I wonder if Apple will release a gargantuan (there's so much material) Super Deluxe version of LET IT BE next year for its 50th anniversary? I always like that album a lot more than most people seem to. But then, MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR is probably one of my very favorite Beatles records, as well and I'm sure that opinion isn't widely shared.
September 4, 2019
Can't wait to leave Wix.com.
Top 20 streaming songs by Jim Shelley & Book of Kills for the month of August, according to Apple Music:
1. If I Should Fall (IF I SHOULD FALL - EXPANDED EDITION)
2. This Time Maybe (SO FAR IN EVERY DIRECTION)
3. If I Should Fall (SO FAR IN EVERY DIRECTION)
4. Can I Come Over Tonight? (ALL ABOUT YOU)
5. Your World Will Shape My Bones (SALUTED & DEFIED)
6. Overture 2019 (SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET)
7. Wait A Minute #2 (SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET)
8. Heart's Wisdom Has The Power (SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET)
9. Jesco White - Practice Room Performance (SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET)
10. It Starts Here With Us (THE PLEASURE OF SAYING GOODBYE
11. Dink's Song (BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME SIX
12. Until The Day I Meet You (FILLING IN HOLES)
13. 26 Heavyweight Bleeders On Parade (SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET)
14. I Roam The World Between Your Thighs (FILLING IN HOLES)
15. To See You Smile (SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET)
16. Remember To Forget (SO FAR IN EVERY DIRECTION)
17. Free Assembly (IF I SHOULD FALL)
18. The Last Dumb Show (RIDING THE ECHO DOWN)
19. Then I Kissed Her (ALL ABOUT YOU)
20. Your Jets (SALUTED & DEFIED)
Top 20 streaming songs by Jim Shelley & Book of Kills for the month of August, according to Spotify:
1. Dink's Song
2. We Are Here Because We're Here (THIS IS YOUR BOOK OF KILLS)
3. I Can't Stand It Anymore (HOGGETT HEADS)
4. I Was Born With A Razor In My Hand (DON'T STOP THE SCREAM
5. Man In The Long Black Coat (JIM SHELLEY LIVE!)
6. Then I Kissed Her - Live (ROCKING THE CHEETAH'S ASS)
7. Haunted Road Blues (THE HAUNTED LIFE)
8. She Cracked (DON'T STOP THE SCREAM)
9. I Just Wanna Be Normal (ADVENTURES OF AN INSPIRED AMATEUR, VOL. ONE)
10. Caroline - 2000 Outtake (BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOL. SIX)
11. Overture 2019
12. Wait A Minute #2
13. 26 Heavyweight Bleeders On Parade
14. Heart's Wisdom Has The Power
15. Jesco White - Practice Room Performance
16. Live Your Life Like You're Alive - Remix (SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET)
17. My Own Planet (SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET
18. Something Deeper (SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET)
19. I'm Not Where You Are (SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET)
20. The Shape Of Your Eyes Goes 'Round My Heart (SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET)
Interesting, the differences, eh? Haven't heard one of these songs? Take a listen! And don't forget to tell a friend about Jim Shelley & Book of Kills!
Support homemade music!
September 3, 2019
I've had enough of Wix and its terrible tools. I can't begin to tell you how much time I've spent working with that web site only to have everything I've constructed malfunction or disappear. I'm going to be moving everything elsewhere soon. I'll keep you updated.
September 2, 2019
I'm adding articles and interviews pretty rapidly (at least one a day...that's "rapid" as far as I'm concerned.) I'm trying to create an "anchored" menu at the top of the page so that you can simply click on the title of the article/interview and you'll go right to it, but Wix.com is such a wacky, convoluted mess of a website host that I can't even figure out how to do it...something that was as easy as pie with the other hosts I've used. ("Well, then Jim why don't you go back to one of those easier hosts, eh?" I can hear you thinking at your computer/phone screen. "Well, I am going to do just that one day after I've used my paid for hosting time on Wix.com," you can hear me thinking at my MacBook Pro's screen as I type my response.
Happy Labor Day. Hope you don't have to labor today, but it looks like just about everyone is other than government workers, school teachers and school kids. Wasn't the point of Labor Day to give workers a day off in their honor?
Wasn't on this site yesterday or I would've noted this then, but TWENTY-FIVE years ago (that would be September 1, 1994), Book of Kills played its first ever show EVER! Of course, the gig took place at The Little Grill in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I remember that one like it was yesterday. The set list: Don't Stop the Scream, I Hang Heavy, 1000 Voices, All Along the Watchtower, Heaven, Abandoned, Get My Gun Allison, Heart of Gold, Lost, Don't Stop the Scream
Here's an excerpt from The Ballad Of Jim Shelley detailing the night of that performance:
The day of the show seemed interminably slow. I could barely focus on teaching, did my best zombie imitation for Back to School Night, then ran out to my car and hightailed it to the Grill. When I got there—still wearing my jacket from work—I was astonished to see a line of people waiting to get in snaking out the door and running a hundred feet down the sidewalk! What the hell? I wondered, did Ron schedule another band to play with us, or something? I parked the car, snagged my guitar and amp out of the back seat and made my way down the street. As I hurried past the folks waiting in line, some of them applauded while others shouted out encouragement.
“Yeah, Jim! You gonna rock this place tonight?”
“Right on, dude! Can't wait to see Book Of Kills!”
“Jim! I've been waiting weeks for this night!”
I honestly didn't know how to respond. It was a strange aw shucks moment that I wasn't prepared to deal with, though I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't thrilling and exhilarating. Still, for some reason I've never been comfortable accepting praise, especially as a musician. I looked down at the pavement and made it to the door.
“Excuse me...sorry...excuse me...comin' through...”
I could barely squeeze inside. The place was packed and buzzing with excitement. A smattering of applause rippled through the room. I set my guitar and amp down at the front of the room where we were going to play, then headed back outside and quickly carried in the P.A. equipment. I was so nervous setting everything up that my hands were shaking. Soon Brian and Dusty arrived, all smiles.
“This is a-awesome!” I stammered.
“Yeah, I definitely didn’t expect this many people to be here!” Brian exclaimed. Moments later, Mike pulled up. I went outside to greet him and help carry in his stuff. I noticed right away that he seemed unusually reserved.
“Hey, man, isn't this unbelievable? I mean, who thought so many people would come out to see us?” I gushed.
“Yeah. I hope I do okay,” he said.
“Oh...you'll be great! We'll have a blast!”
Mike wandered off to the front of the room and quietly set up his gear. Something about his demeanor worried me. We all went over to the bar (actually a small counter top barely big enough for three or four people) and ordered beers. Ron told us they were on the house, which just made me feel even more stoked to play. A few minutes later, as I drained the last of my beer I turned to the guys and motioned towards the stage.
“Well, I guess it's show time. Let's do it.”
I pressed my way through the crowd and turned on the P.A. It squealed sharply and the crowd recoiled.
“Whoa, dude! You tryin' to bust some eardrums or somethin'?” someone yelled good- naturedly.
“Just wait!” I yelled and everyone laughed.
“You guys ready?” I asked. Brian, Dusty and Mike shook their heads in assent. Ron walked up to my microphone, tapped it and introduced us to raucous applause and I launched into the opening chords of “Don't Stop The Scream” to a loud roar of approval. My nerves vanished almost instantly. It had been a long time since I'd played in front of anyone, but this felt good and natural.
“Another dawn!/The room is red!/The day's a blank!/Like a TV screen gone dead!” I screamed. I could hardly contain my emotions.
When we got to the chorus, the whole room sang along. Brian and Dusty were cooking! I couldn't believe how good they sounded. I knew they were both great musicians, but they’d turned their performance levels up a whole ‘nother notch for the show.
“Don't stop the scream!/That feeds your pain!/Don't! Stop! The scre-e-am!”
I turned to Mike in anticipation of a scorching lead but he wasn’t even playing. I smiled and shook my head excitedly. “Go ahead, man!” I yelled. He managed a strangely subdued run of disjointed notes just before I started into the second verse.
After the song roared to a close, the crowed erupted. I turned to Mike and whispered, “Are you okay?”
“No, Jim, I can't remember how the songs go.”
“What? Mike, just play! They're easy. You know them!”
“No, man, I can't remember how to play them!”
Somehow we managed to pull off a good show anyway, mainly riding the high energy emanating from the crowd. When we finished the last song, “Lost”—which was sure turning out to be an apt way to end the show—the crowd would not let us go without an encore. Trouble is we hadn't planned for one! I turned to Brian and Dusty and said, “Hell, man, let's just play 'Don't Stop The Scream' again!” We blasted through “Scream” once more, the band and the crowd on the verge of total chaos. When we finished, I was drunk with delight...
August 29, 2019
Seems like a few long-time BOK followers still long for the old BOOKOFKILLS.COM. It's been (strongly) requested that I re-upload all of the articles and interviews that I used to have on the site back when it was hosted by CDBaby. Okay. But it'll take a while to find them, if I even can find them. It's sort of like the multi-tracks of most of my recordings...they either don't exist anymore or I can't find them. I'll do my best.
August 27, 2019
Okay...the COMPACT DISC version of SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET (BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME SEVEN) is now available! Please note that it will feature a slightly different set of songs: For the CD version, the matrix re-mix of the live performance of "Stanley the Steamer" from 2003 has been replaced with a "live in the studio" version of "Idiot Planet-->This World Is Gonna Let You Down"-->Coda" from 2016 featuring Garfield Banks, George Nipe III and me. The CD will also contain a two-sided insert with notes for each song. (If you ordered the Bandcamp version and you'd like to have a physical copy of the album you can do so for $5 less than the regular price.) You can go here to order it!
Thanks for supporting bookofkills.com.
August 26, 2019
I don't think I'm going to create unique collage covers for SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET. I'll wait to do that for the next "all-new" album. This one's a good one, but I think an actual new song release calls for numbered and signed collage covers. That said, I am going to release a CD version of SONGS. It will feature an expanded insert with notes on each track as well as an extra track not available on the Bandcamp version. I know there aren't many folks anymore who care about CDs (a shame, if you ask me), but there are a few. I should have something ready to ship by mid-week, next week. I'll have it listed on the Shop page. I hope you've checked out the Bandcamp.com page for SONGS! And if you've ordered an online album, thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting Book of Kills music.
August 23, 2019
SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET (BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME SEVEN) is now available on Bandcamp.com! It will also be available on all streaming services in the near future. Of course, since CDBaby is doing the uploading, who knows how soon "soon" will be. You can download the entire album (and support my music making) for just $7 or download single tracks for just 50 cents! Thanks! I'll let you know, of course, when the album is available for streaming.
August 22, 2019
I am in the process of uploading the songs, cover art and insert to Bandcamp.com. Writing. Recording. Producing. Mixing. Mastering. Uploading. Man, I tell you this: It takes a heck of a lot of time when you do it all yourself. This is a very good entry in the BIG BUSINESS MONKEY series. I think the album will be available by late tonight. It's down to nineteen tracks. That's all I could get on the compact disc. Yeah...I am also going to be creating a limited run of collage cover compact disc albums! But more on that later.
Check back soon!
August 15, 2019
I'm pretty much done with the latest edition of BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME SEVEN. I've got the cover finished and have largely completed the mixing and mastering of the twenty-one (yes, that's right...twenty-one!) tracks. I'm still working on the insert, though it's not as though it's going to be anything elaborate. I've been pretty preoccupied with keeping my two grandchildren company for the better part of the last four days, so I haven't had much time to devote to music.
Wow. I've played three live shows in the last five years.
Yes, I have deleted the "Reviews" and "Articles" pages. No, they won't be back.
August 11, 2019
Mary Lou (my wife) and I and a couple of friends saw Ringo Starr & His All-Star Band last night at Wolf Trap Theater last night. All four of us thought it was a very good show, though curiously we also all thought that Ringo's turns at the microphone might have been the lesser portions of the show, though I can't honestly say there was ever a moment in the show where I was bored or disappointed. Particularly good were Gregg Rolie (a founding member of Santana and Journey), Colin Hay (of Men at Work), Warren Ham, and Steve Lukather (of Toto). I'm glad I can say that I have seen both Paul and Ringo. Never got a chance to see The Beatles, of course, and sadly never saw either John or George solo, largely because neither one did much live work after leaving The Beatles.
Top Ten Jim Shelley & Book of Kills songs for July 2019:
1. A Blue Bird Will Do (Remixed Version)
2. Dink's Song
3. Your World Will Shape My Bones
4. I Roam The World Between Your Thighs
5. It Starts Here With Us
6. Until The Day I Meet You
7. Don't Give Yourself Away (To Just Anyone)
8. Then I Kissed Her
9. Your Jets
10. Filling In Holes (Remixed Version)
"...the business has changed so drastically because of the internet. There’s a million bands out there. There’s a lot of music out there and selling CD’s is a thing of the past. It’s really about playing live and we still do and a lot of younger musicians really don’t play live. So, where are ya gonna go? I think that it limits what can happen because if you can’t do it live, you’re not going to sell anything because it just doesn’t sell like it used to. If you sell two hundred and fifty thousand units nowadays, you’re doing really well. Back when I was doing that, you were fired. The real place to make money is to play live, which is what’s happening. Younger bands, they’ve got their own little tribe of people and they go all over the place. They can do quite well. I think that the days of the enormity of it have gone by the wayside. That’s about all I know." -- Gregg Rolie
August 9, 2019
I'll be releasing a "new" record within the next 5-6 days. It'll be the seventh album in the long-running BIG BUSINESS MONKEY compilation series that began all the way back in 1993! I've always had a special affection for the BBM records; they've collected dozens of the best Book of Kills stray tracks recorded over the last thirty years. This one will round up a bunch of numbers that have never been released in any shape or form before. There'll also be some rare alternate takes, some new remixes and some extended versions of recent songs that I think are probably equal, if not superior, to the original edited versions. I'll probably put it out initially on BandCamp, since I don't have to go through all the rigamarole required by CDBaby, but I will eventually make it available on all the regular streaming services. I'm seriously considering creating a very limited compact disc version with unique signed and numbered collage covers a la WASP 51! and DIFFERENT. I've finished mixing everything. It's mainly a matter of wrapping up the mastering and creating an album "cover" and "insert".
August 2, 2019
I recorded the first track (a 33 second instrumental called "Intro"...catchy title, eh?) for what I'm hoping is going to be my first album of all new material since...well...I guess 2015's HUMAN AGAIN. I'm hoping to have a couple of days to do more recording next week. It'll be a diverse little record. I'll be trying out all kinds of styles.
I found another fairly recent track that I thought I'd lost the multi-tracks to, something from early this year when I was trying to come up with something that Jane Firkin could add some lyrics to. It was an expansion of a song I'd recorded in 2016 called "Your Jets" off the twelfth single in the 2015-16 Single of the Month series. I'd been unable to find it since March and had assumed it was lost for good! It'll go on BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME SEVEN.
August 1, 2019
I've decided to upload a 15-16 track album to BandCamp in lieu of waiting for what could be months to go the (very expense) CDBaby route, though I'll most likely go down that path eventually just to get the songs on Apple Music, Spotify and so on. These songs will comprise BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME SEVEN. I'm still in the process of mastering several tracks, so I can't say for certain when the album will be available, though it should be no later than mid-week next week.
Today would've been Jerry Garcia's 77th birthday.
"If you assume you haven't learned anything yet, there's no reason your playing can't stay dynamic all your life."
"You need music, I don't know why. It's probably one of those Joe Campbell questions, why we need ritual. We need magic, and bliss, and power, myth, and celebration and religion in our lives, and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it."
"All I know is, if you listen to society, you'll never get anywhere!"
-- Jerry Garcia
July 31, 2019
Where in the heck do the days go? How could July already be over? My wife and I were just lamenting how June had flown past in a blur and now it's August?
I suppose it's fairly apparent that since late April George Nipe III, Randy Simpson, Garfield Banks and I have rarely gotten together for practice. I've already mentioned previously on this page that Jane's departure early this year was a blow to the band and what I hoped it would be that I found it hard to recover from. I saw George last weekend and I think it became fairly obvious to us both that for various reasons I just couldn't find the desire to continue on.
Does this mean I'm done with bands? I honestly don't know. I don't really have much passion for doing the hard rock thing anymore, though I certainly don't mean to imply that I've suddenly abandoned rock and roll. I do feel as though I've let myself fall into a bit of a rut over the past 9-10 years, though. On the rare occasions when the guys and I'd manage to show up to jam, I found myself running through songs like "Killing Time Again", "Stanley the Steamer" or "Bad Person" on automatic with no real investment in the performance. Yeah, they're "classic" BOK, but I've done that stuff so many freaking times. I don't know how artists like The Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan or The Who put any passion into performing songs they've done 1000 times over the years. That's one of the reasons I always admired the Grateful Dead and Neil Young and their gigantic repertoires as well as their ability to keep things relatively fresh through improvisation and reinvention.
"I’ve sung 'Zombie' so many times that I actually feel like a zombie. We've been doing our old hits for so long, you feel like you're stuck in a loop or something, so with new material you feel very much alive."
-- Dolores O’Riordan
"It does have to do with the expectation that your hits are going to be in a show and that people are buying their tickets expecting to have those songs included. And if you don't include them, there's dissatisfaction, so there's pressure around it. And that's what creates the distaste for playing the hits."
-- Bruce Cockburn
"I'm not sure I can sing 'Holiday' or 'Like A Virgin' ever again. I just can't, unless somebody paid me like $30 million or something."
""Yes, I do still feel a bit silly up there on stage singing these Sixties songs but I do it for the fans. I do it for the buzz I get from their enthusiasm. I would love to sing songs from my many solo albums recorded over the last couple of decades but the truth is that the fans only want the old songs.""
-- Art Miller
"I'd break out in hives if I had to sing 'Stairway to Heaven' in every show."
-- Robert Plant
"Randy, there's thousands of people waiting to hear you sing that song. You can't just say f 'em, I don’t feel like it. You think I like singing 'Take It Easy' or 'Peaceful Easy Feeling' every night? I’m tired of those songs. But there are people in the audience who have been waiting years for us to do those songs."
-- Glenn Frey (In response to bandmate Randy Meisner's desire to scratch "Peaceful Easy Feeling" from the set list.)
July 26, 2019
The first volume of ADVENTURES OF AN INSPIRED AMATEUR is now available on most, if not all, streaming services.
Think I'll begin sessions for a new album next week. I'm thinking 10-12 songs with the running time coming in at less than twenty minutes. Sorry...I just don't have the same attention span I once had. I love listening to a good short song that gets in and gets out with everything intact that you need in a great song...good instrumental intro, solid verse or two, catchy chorus, the occasional bridge, the occasional solo and a good outro. All in a minute and a half, maybe 2:00-2:05 if you're going for an epic.
I'm not sure when I'll release BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME SEVEN. I have fifteen solid tracks already but I'd like to have eighteen.
July 25, 2019
After over a month of haggling with CDBaby, I'm happy to announce that (finally) ADVENTURES OF AN INSPIRED AMATEUR, Volume One (The Early Years) and ADVENTURES OF AN INSPIRED AMATEUR, Volume Two (Becoming Book of Kills) are available on most streaming services (eventually, they'll be on all streaming services, but some take longer than others to upload material). Actually, Volume Two is up now while Volume One probably won't be available until tomorrow. Don't ask.
Volume One runs from very early recordings made in 1975 through 1992 releases, including The Haunted Life and Don't Stop the Scream. Volume Two continues the story, running from 1993's Wee Jim's Blackeye through 1996's Splendid Trigger. Many of you, of course, will have heard all of this material previously, but many of you will have not. As I explained in the previous post, these releases are mainly a way for me to remaster dozens of old recordings and after many years a way for me to claim publishing rights for my own songs as well as present a detailed account, from the mid-'70s to the present day, of how my music progressed over the course of several decades.
July 18, 2019
Finally! The issue with CDBaby has been resolved after almost a month of back and forth emails! I'm in the process of uploading everything all over again (a long and laborious process) and should have the first album in the ADVENTURES OF AN INSPIRED AMATEUR series readied for CDBaby to okay it and seed it to Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon and so forth. Of course, some of you have all of these tracks already if you own the original (long since deleted) CD version of AOAIA, but the majority of folks who listen to BOK these days probably have at best half the tracks that appear on the first album. I don't know how long it'll take to upload every 50 track album in this series. The first two (which will cover BOK material through around 1996) albums, however, should be available for streaming in less than two weeks.
Of course, most of these tracks have already been released for streaming. I'm re-releasing them (as I've noted earlier on this page) in order to claim my publishing rights to the songs I've written, something that I've never had for my own songs, believe it or not. Too, every one of these tracks will have been re-mastered and several of them will feature new edits.
July 15, 2019
As you probably know, this week marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's mission to the Moon. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16 and returned to Earth on July 24. At the time, I was a sixteen year old kid who'd been spectacularly lucky enough to travel to London for a six week stay with a couple dozen college girls, and my (Stratford College President) Uncle Hugh and his family. It was a magical trip. We arrived in London, after a week touring Europe, on July 5, and drove past Hyde Park where the Rolling Stones were playing a short concert in honor of recently deceased former member (the eternally under-appreciated) Brian Jones. Here's an excerpt from the diary I kept at the time:
“Tonight we're going to see another play in the West End. August Strindberg's The Dance of Death, Part I. Tonight around 10 or 11, I think, Apollo 11 will land on the moon. And we're going to be sitting in a theater and will miss it all on the TV! But I
don't want to skip out on the play either, so I guess I'll go.
“Dinner stunk. I don't even know exactly what it was I was eating. They said it was fish but I don't trust them. I wish I had enough money that I could eat out every night.
“Okay...the play was weird. Intense but weird. I didn't really understand it all that well. The highlight of the night though, was about an hour into the performance, the actors left the stage and the lights came up and a man came out and told the crowd, 'Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to announce to you that the Americans just landed on the moon!' There was the briefest silence and then the audience erupted in the most rapturous applause I've ever heard. We all stood up and clapped and cheered and everyone seemed to know that we were Americans and the applause and cheering grew even louder. I got tears in my eyes. It took fifteen minutes for the crowd to calm down so that the play could get underway again. Men on the moon! Man, I bet we'll have colonies on Mars by 1990!"
July 14, 2019
I'm back! Where'd I go? Mary Lou and I have been in Norfolk, Virginia for the past few days at a Little League All-Star state championship tournament.
Nothing much to report music-wise. Believe it or not, CDBaby still hasn't rectified the problem with my two albums that I've alluded to previously. In fact, they haven't even bothered to reply to my numerous inquiries.
As far as band news goes, there is no news. I don't think I'm going to be able to consistently align my busy schedule with the other guys' equally demanding time constraints. Currently I just seem to be going off to one event or another without let-up.
July 8, 2019
Just got back from a four day stay at our niece's place at the Outer Banks. Hot fun in the summertime!
It looks as though I'm going to be very very busy for pretty much the remainder of the summer. I simply won't have a lot of time to do much in the way of recording. That said, I did write a new song last week, though I haven't recorded it yet. I'm still trying to figure out the arrangement. It would fit right in (at least in its current state) with the songs from THE HAUNTED LIFE.
On this day in 2006 (has it really been 13 years?) The Karl Rove played a show at the now defunct Atomic Burrito. That was a tiny venue (probably smaller than Harrisonburg, Virginia's famous Little Grill) but I always had a blast playing there. The set list: God Bless, Righteous American, Little Metal Toys, Bucketful of Sickness, Different, Heaven, Another Shitty Day in Fun Town, Empire, Winds Of Dying, River Of Blood, Caspian Sea. Looks like a great set of songs but honestly I don't remember a thing about this show.
Johnny St. Ours, Aaron Farrington, Billy Hunt and Jim Shelley, eh? That band should've been so much bigger and better than it was. Talk about a lost opportunity. As you probably know, a 2-3 years back, we the four of us tried to get back together and jam but on the way home I had to ask myself if I felt like driving seventy minutes one way to practice each week (over the notorious Afton Mountain to boot). I didn't.
July 3, 2019
I'm thinking of starting a Patreon account, or whatever it's called. I could make it a thing where depending on what you might donate monthly (I would guess $1 a month is the norm?) you would receive musical/artistic creations from me in return. I'm not sure how it works and I'm afraid I might start an account and no one would "join"! But much as the Single of the Month Club from a couple years ago spurred me to create a lot of new material, I'm thinking if Patreon did turn out to be a viable thing, that it would once again get me back to writing and recording on a more regular and serious basis.
CDBaby is still dicking me around. No, I have not uploaded anything yet.
"Being an artist means you have to work harder than everybody else. It’s a responsibility, 24 hours a day. I think about it all day long. If you don’t already have that inside you, like it’s uncontrollable, I don’t know what to tell you."
-- Jack White