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Thursday, 17 September 2009

Return of the Space Man

After the release of Chinese Democracy, giving an album the build up of “Twenty Years In The Making” is no longer something to get excited about. After all, it is also a good twenty plus years since the likes of Aerosmith and Motley Crue have made a note of music worth listening too, whilst Kiss are coming up on the 30th Anniversary of their last credible album. So when news arrived that Ace Frehely, the world’s coolest living guitarist (OK, joint coolest with Joe Perry) was about to release an album, I must admit to being a little concerned. Despite being on the payroll of the $immon$tanley empire for so many years, Ace never stuck me as being in it for the money (in it for the sex, drugs and booze, but not the cash) so it was safe to assume it was not going to be a cliché laden cash-in on the hype for the forthcoming Kiss release, but since his last outing and given Ace’s gloriously eccentric persona I must confess to expecting something either seriously weird or self indulgent. And what did we get? Thankfully neither. What we got was “Anomaly”, a great, honest classic rock album.

The fact that on ‘Anomaly’ Ace delivers more than just a few moments of classic era Kiss only ever stands as a huge fun filled testament to Ace’s importance to the likes of Rock & Roll Over and Destroyer than any stale attempt to rehash the past. But make an effort get past the inevitable comparisons with his own history and after a couple of listens you are rewarded when Ace’s real influences start to emerge – not least in his frequent trips to the sounds of his native New York. Ace comes on like a smiling incarnation of Lou Reed on a number of occasions, not least on “Change The World” which sounds like Reed on the Prozac jamming with XTC. The ghost of Johnny Thunders drifts around “A Little Below the Angels”, a song about Ace’s rocky past, that in the hands of just about any other 12 Stepping rock star would have been unbearably cloying, yet Ace delivers it with a charm and sense of humour that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy rather than nauseous and preached at.

Had the riff and chorus of “Too Many Faces” appeared on a Foo Fighters album the world’s music press would be proclaiming is as a master at work. The opening bars to “Pain In The Neck” sound like something Billy Duffy could have stolen from Alice Cooper, but far from sounding dated or overtly influenced, emanating from Ace’s smoking Les Paul, it all sounds real, fresh and like a true pioneer reminding the world that rather than being inspired by, he has done more than his fair share of inspiring.

“Fox on the Run” though is nothing short of a classic. Covers are always a tricky thing to pull off, but Ace does it by evoking his Space Ace past, gives it the 3 minute pop edge that could just have easily been delivered by Cheap Trick, before throwing in that sing along chorus that if you didn’t know any better you’d swear was The Sweet themselves and the result is a truly glorious radio friendly smasher that in a perfect world would signal a full scale 70s glam revival.

OK, so there is a little weirdness (“Return of the Space Bear”) but nothing remotely self-indulgent. It is as if for the last 20 years Ace has been happy to leave the music to the kids to do for themselves, but having seen them try and fail as well as watching many of his contemporaries embarrass themselves, he has said “enough is enough” and decided to step back onto the stage to show them just how it should be done –

20 years is a long time to wait, but for once such a wait was well worth it, just please don’t leave it so long next time Ace.

As a side note, given that the super deluxe space pyramid CD case version of Anomaly is only going to be available over here in the UK on import for £25 ($40) it is either a trip to iTunes or a call to any friend you might have in the States for them to pop along to Best Buy (apparently their version is better than the Wall*Mart one)

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Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The legacy of Les Paul

The legacy of Les Paul
The world of rock n roll is not the most natural for giving plaudits and platitudes out to the deserving yet unsung characters but with the passing of one of the most influential heroes you could ever come across. The name of Lester William Polsfuss may not sound like the type of name that will have a stadium audience rocking and rolling but when you shorten it to Les Paul you will probably start to grasp why the world of music is a quieter place this week. Although a musician in his own right, the solid body guitar is what the man was most famously known for and you can guarantee that some of your heroes have rocked the stage using his instrument. Quite simply, the Les Paul guitar is one of the most important weapons a rock and roll act can have in their arsenal. Don’t get us wrong, the Stratocaster, the Telecaster and even the Flying V Guitar have the right to be cherished but the Les Paul is so iconic that it stands out from the rest.
A large part of the reason for its enduring popularity is the number of famous guitar players who regularly play the instrument. This creates a massive demand in their fan base to pick up the instrument as all the inspirational fans pick up the same guitar as their hero. This has seen the Les Paul be the instrument of choice for a whole army of budding musicians and local bands.
One of the most famous players of the Les Paul has been Slash and in the past few days the legendary guitarist has been paying tribute to the man behind his machine. Its hard to think of so many of the great Guns N Roses or Velvet Revolver songs without picturing the Les Paul guitar playing its part. Axl Rose may believe that he was the only focal point for the crowd but with Slash’s guitar playing and Duff McKagan keeping the bottom end together, the music was top notch throughout. And that’s what the Les Paul offered, quality and constancy in an electric guitar and if you were to examine even a partial list of guitarists who used it, it would read like a who’s who of rock n roll.
Classic guitarists like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Mick Ronson, Joe Perry and Zakk Wylde have all been spotted playing the Les Paul. Given the influence of these musicians, it is easy to see why so many future generations have chosen to use the instrument and it has played its part throughout the years.
Punk rock may have stood itself apart from the generations that went before but Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols and Mick Jones from The Clash were more than happy to be play the Les Paul and the legacy doesn’t stop there. Modern guitarists like Noel Gallagher have ensured that a new generation of budding musicians and music fans have been introduced to the Les Paul and you can guarantee that the musical legacy and influence of Lester William Polsfuss will live on for many generations to come.

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Thursday, 3 September 2009

New Rock Star APPROVED Rock Star Academy T-shirts

New T-shirts are up on the site:
First up we have Tommy & Pamela's Honeymoon Home Movies. Then we have a new AC/DC design with "Welcome To Rosie's Place". Then we have one of my new favourite T-shirts... inspired by and in tribute to my favourite guitarist (along with Johnny Thunders, Marco Peroni and Izzy Stradlin).... the one and only Kiss Spaceman, Ace Frehley. No doubt you have noticed that when Ace wore one of our Dr Keith's Rock N' Roll Pharmacy T-shirts I shat my spleen with sheer delight and uncontrollable pride and joy. Anyway, this tribute is Ace's Space Academy. I just hope you lot love it as much as I do.

Finally though.... how could I possibly top an Ace Frehley T-shirt? Only by Ginger from my favourite band, the Wildhearts seeing AND LIKING our new T-shirt of him. The story goes that we have been the T-shirt supplier of choice for bass superstar and friend to the stars Michael Butler of Rock & Roll Geek fame for some time. Well, Michael was asked to be Ginger's bass player for his recent batch of shows in LA at the El Ray and more importantly at the Viper Room (where DJ, fixer and resident rock chick supreme Chelsea is our now officially the finest of all LA residents). As Michael usually does (because he is an obvious man of taste) he was wearing one of our shirts each time Ginger saw him at rehearsals and at the gig itself. Ginger liked them and asked if he could have one to wear to the Kerrang! Awards (where the Wildhearts went on to collect the Spirit of Independence Award). When we sent him a stack of T-shirts he took a look at the site, said some nice things before wanting to know why we didn't have a Wildhearts one. Obviously the Greetings From Shitsville lyric one was not enough and he wanted an image one. So when your favourite frontman says that, you kinda have to act. The T-shirt went up and I waited for the response.... then it came... GINGER APPROVED

Chuffed? you bet your life I am.

PS - oh yeah, talking of Marco Peroni and Izzy Stradlin, both will be available on our T-shirts VERY SOON.

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Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Reading and Leeds don’t rock like they used to!

Reading and Leeds don’t rock like they used to!
It used to be that the Reading festival (and latterly the Leeds festival) was a good hard rocking festival where you would get a great number of bands who would fill the moshpit. Even a quick look at this year’s line-up would indicate that this is not going to be the case in 2009. That’s not to say that there is a lack of great bands on the bill but there is just not the same if you wanted to headbang your little heart out. There is also a feel of familiarity with some of the other big festivals this summer although they have managed to keep one or two exclusives up their sleeve with the headliners.
Radiohead are still a band that thrill and bore many people and the thought of Thom Yorke singing splits a crowd like very few others. There is no doubt that songs like “Paranoid Android”, “Just” and “Creep” are bona fide festival classics but the band has lost their way commercially in their last few records. Artistic expression is one but thing but heading down a prog rock route is not for everyone. Radiohead are the band that Muse would like to be but it is fair to say that Muse are further down the prog-rock like the sons of Queen , Rush and Pink Floyd.
The other headliner Arctic Monkeys have changed their sound with third album ‘Humbug’ and the influence of producer Josh Homme looms large. The Queens of the Stone Age front-man has worked with the band in hardening up their sound and broadened the musical output of the band. The change in the bands sound can also be seen in the clothes with press photos showing band members to be wearing Black Sabbath t-shirts. Alex Turner has a better lyrical turn of phrase than Ozzy Osbourne but whether he will be as famous for as long as the Prince of Darkness remains to be seen.
It can only be hoped that this weekends headliners have better luck than Oasis who were the listed headliners at V festival. The simmering tension between Noel Gallagher and his little brother Liam Gallagher appears to be peaking again and many believe that the singers drop-out to laryngitis was a cover for another explosive bust-up between the brothers. What must really gall the Gallaghers is that old sparring partners Blur have managed to rebound and wowed festival audiences earlier this summer. At this moment in time, there is no doubt that Blur appear to be the better bet for having a long-term future than Oasis, which may have sounded out of place over a year ago. The biggest downside is that any fan who was singing “where were you while we were getting high?” would have been directing their lyrics to the band as opposed to joyfully singing ‘Champagne Supernova’ in front of the stage. It may well be the final chapter in the turbulent history of the boys from Manchester.
There probably wont be a classic Reading moment like the time Kurt Cobain was wheeled onstage for Nirvana’s seminal set but it must be hoped that the fans who attend get some memorable moments to enjoy.

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Friday, 7 August 2009

Could we finally have a cool supergroup again?

It sounds as though it cant be a bad thing but how many times have you heard the word supergroup only to be let down by what was eventually offered to the fans? It seems simple enough to take a bunch of talented musicians and have them make some music that everyone will love but somewhere along the way, supergroups stopped becoming fun. Back in the 1960s, Neil Young would be popping up everywhere and the tapes of John Lennon jamming with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Mitch Mitchell as Dirty Mac are still revered today. At the time, that band pulled members from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience but the era of the supergroup hasn’t been as exciting since then but that may be changing sometime soon.
Even jaded rock fans would have raised an eyebrow at the news that Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones are going to work together in a group called Them Crooked Vultures. There hasn’t been much music working its way from the band yet but there has been a promise to not suck and if they achieve that, then they will probably be a bigger success than many peoples previous attempts to pull together a supergroup.
Dave Grohl certainly needs no introduction having been in two of the biggest bands of the last two decades. When Kurt Cobain took his own life and ended the career of Nirvana, you would not have put too much money on the drummer going off to become the biggest success of all the group. That is exactly what has transpired with Grohl dropping the drum sticks and picking up guitar and forming the Foo Fighters. The first Foo Fighters record was practically a solo lp in all but name but since then they have evolved into stadium rockers extraordinaire. That has kept Grohl rather busy but he has found time to hook up with some other bands with one of the most popular being with the Queens of The Stone Age.
Grohl joined with Homme and Nick Oliveri, and Mark Lanegan on a few numbers, for the phenomenal ‘Songs For The Deaf’ record so there is a previous working relationship between the two as well. Grohl also provides the link to the other member of the new group as rumours persisted that he would be the man to complete a reunion of another well revered rock n roll band.
When the Led Zeppelin reunion tour rumours were starting to build, the talk was about who would replace John Bonham on drums and Dave Grohl was heavily tipped to take on the mammoth role. We all know that Bonhams son eventually took the chair but perhaps something stuck with John Paul Jones. Grohl may not be playing with Robert Plant or Jimmy Page but he will get the chance to play behind their bass player, which is much more than most rock n roll fans will ever get to do.
Who knows if Them Crooked Vultures will be a success but it can only be hoped they do because with the talent at their disposal, they could be just what the genre needs.

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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Wildhearts win Kerrang Spirit of Independence Award wearing BathroomWall

Wildhearts win Spirit of Independence Kerrang! Award and Ginger collects the gong whilst wearing a Rock & Roll Geek "Who The Fuck Is Michael Butler?" T-shirt from BathroomWall

Respect to Michael for getting his name splashed across one of his musical idols and of course a HUGE thanks to Chelsea at The Viper Room / High Voltage Magazine for making it happen

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Monday, 3 August 2009

Ace Frehely wears BathroomWall - a better picture

A better picture of Ace Frehley wearing his Dr Keith T-shirt

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Ace Frehley... Yes, THE Ace Frehley wears BathroomWall

ACE FUCKING FREHLEY is wearing a BathroomWall T-shirt. One of the guys that made me fall in love with rock n' roll is standing centre stage as guest of all-star rock n' roll jam band, Camp Freddy and he, the man that gave Kiss a heart and soul; the man that set an entirely new standard for stage craft and performance; the guitarist 100% responsible for all of Kiss' finest moments (Love It Loud excepted); the space man that influenced a whole generation of guitarists is WEARING a Keith Richards Dr Keith's Rock N' Roll Pharmacy T-shirt that I designed. Rock N' Roll All Nite. Do You Love Me? Too right I do Ace.... YOU RULE.

On stage with Ace are Camp Freddy, which tonight are Matt Sorum (Velvet Revolver, The Cult & Guns N' Roses), Steve Stevens (loads of people, but most famous as Billy Idol's guitarist), Chris Chaney (Jane's Addiction), Billy Morrisson (The Cult, Ginger Wildheart's solo band).

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Sunday, 2 August 2009

Rock stars wear BathroomWall T-shirts

Last night (Saturday 1st August) former Darkness front man and current Hot Leg mainman, Justin Hawkins took to the stage for a secret private show at an un-named Californian venue wearing T-shirts from This photo shows Justin in his Sleazy Guitars T-shirt.

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Friday, 31 July 2009

Ian Brown, Stone Roses, Madchester and some monkeys

Ian Brown is the Mancunian King of the Monkeys
There was a lot of talk before the summer that the latest band to jump on the reunion bandwagon was going to be The Stone Roses but to the disappointment of many of their fans was the rebuttal from guitarist John Squire. Squire was quick off the mark with his announcement but to be honest, it has been bassist Mani and lead singer Ian Brown who have been the more creative in recent years.
Fans of the band have at least been pleased by the news that Ian Brown has announced that his next album will be released in September and is entitled ‘My Way’. The singer has managed to split opinion throughout his career with many considering him to be a poor singer but his influence stretched far and wide.
It is very easy to the influence that Ian Brown has had on Oasis frontman, Liam Gallagher. Everything from the swagger to the nasal-led delivery of the ‘Champagne Supernova’ singer can be linked back to the man who brought ‘Fools Gold’ to the world. There is no doubt that The Stone Roses were a massive influence on so many of the indie bands who have came since but they weren’t the only major act to have come from the Madchester era.
Some people considered The Stone Roses to be a bit too serious and much preferred the more humorous output of Happy Monday. With lyrics along the lines of “Son, I’m thirty, I only went with your mother cos shes dirty” from ‘Kinky Afro’, it’s hard to argue that Shaun Ryder, Bez and the rest of the boys knew how to party. The early 1990s were a great time to be alive for Manchester music but there have been many fantastic generations for music in one of England’s major cities.
A prior boom period for Manchester music came in the late 1970s when the punk scene was sweeping the United Kingdom with Joy Division forging their own musical path and laying the building blocks for future generations. The lyrics of front man Ian Curtis are remembered to this day with the bands most successful track ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ still being loved and covered to this day. Tragedy struck the band when on the eve of an American tour, Curtis committed suicide, derailing the band and devastating music fans all over the world. Curtis may have joined the club of music stars dying before their time but much like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones and Bon Scott, his music lives on and continues to inspire musicians and music lovers everywhere.
The next popular wave of Mancunian music came in the early to mid 1980s when The Smiths were the band that all the indie kids loved, with focus falling on the bands dynamic duo. Guitarist Johnny Marr unleashed classic line after line but much of the focus fell on ‘The Charming Man’, Morrissey who was the poster boy for flower waving intellectualists everywhere. Morrissey may have appealed to a completely different market that Ian Brown managed to win over a few years later but both of these singers have captivated audiences everywhere.

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