miles autobiographyMiles Davis’ 1990 autobiography, written with Quincy Troupe, is hardly the book one turns to for inspiration in troubled times, but we were struck by some of the similarities between his account of John Coltrane’s death, and the recent passing of Prince here in Minnesota. When drawing excerpts from Miles: The Autobiography, one must edit snark with ellipses (he cannot even describe the death of a friend without sniping), but will also find a moving description of the unifying influence of a musical icon.

For those of you reading along at home, we found this passage in chapter thirteen, which began, “Things were changing in this country, and they seemed to be changing real fast…


In July, Coltrane died and fucked up everyone. Coltrane’s death shocked everyone, took everyone by surprise. I knew he hadn’t looked too good and had gained a lot of weight the last time I saw him, not too long before he died. I also knew he hadn’t been playing much in public. But I didn’t know that he was sick — or even sick at all. I think only a few people really knew that he was sick, if they really knew. I don’t know if Harold Lovett — who was our lawyer at the time — even knew. Trane kept everything close to his vest and I wasn’t really seeing too much of him because he had been busy with his own thing, and I had with mine. Plus I had been sick, too, and I think the last time I saw him I talked about what a drag it was to be sick. But he didn’t say nothing about himself not feeling too well. Trane was real secretive like that and he only went to the hospital I think one day before he died on July 17, 1967. He had cirrhosis of the liver and it was hurting him so bad he couldn’t take it no more.

Trane’s music and what he was playing during those last two or three years of his life represented, for many blacks, the fire and passion and rage and anger and rebellion and love that they felt, especially among the young black intellectuals and revolutionaries of that time. He was expressing through music what H. Rap Brown and Stokeley Carmichael and the Black Panthers and Huey Newton were saying with their words, what the Last Poets and Amiri Baraka were saying in poetry…

It was this way for many intellectuals and revolutionary whites and Asians as well. Even his change to a more spiritual music in the music on A Love Supreme — which was like a prayer — reached adn influenced those people who were into peace, hippies and people like that. I heard he played a lot of love-ins, which were becoming the rage all over California for a lot of whites. So he was reaching different groups of people, too. His music was embraced by a lot of different kind of people, and that was beautiful and I was proud of him…

…Around that time, everything was in flux again in this country — everything. Music, politics, race relations, everything. Nobody seemed to know where things were going; everybody seemed confused — even a lot of the artists and musicians who all of a sudden seemed to have more freedom that we ever had to do our own thing. Trane’s death seemed to put a lot of confusion in a lot of people. Even Duke Ellington seemed to be going in a spiritual direction, as Trane had done in A Love Supreme, when Duke wrote a score called “In the Beginning God” in 1965 and then played it in churches all over the United States and Europe.

love supreme

Incidentally, Impulse Records, now owned by Universal, released the complete A Love Supreme sessions earlier this year, adding tracks not found on the earlier Classic Quartet box set. We can’t resist saying something about this, because the alternate sextet take of Coltrane’s masterpiece, which adds Archie Shepp on second tenor and Art Davis on second bass, has been a subject of fascination to Coltrane fans since his death. It was known he considered performing A Love Supreme with a sextet, but the recordings were unheard until this year. His son Ravi Coltrane pulled them from the archives. The practice runs of “Acknowledgement” with the additional musicians are of great interest to Coltrane fans, but probably not worth the expense of buying the album for a second, third of fourth time.

We can only hope that in the coming years the unissued archival recordings Prince has stored at Paisley Park are handled with more reverence than were Coltrane’s.

There’s so much bad news in the paper these days, sometimes we just leave it on the kitchen table and take the dogs for a longer walk instead. This election cycle has been particularly disenfranchising, but then again maybe not much more than any other year.

We thought of this after hearing this Lou Rawls album from 1972. A Man of Value was his first record for a new label after the series of hits which made him a star at Capitol, all produced by David Axelrod. His MGM albums are a bridge between those jazzy albums and the Philadelphia soul sides he’d record with producers like Gamble & Huff at the end of the decade. This one didn’t sell as well, so you don’t come across copies as often these days, which is a shame.

lou rawls a man of value

The title track was a minor hit, and it mirrors Rawl’s earlier cover of John D. Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road” in its message of empowerment through self-reliance. Its sets the stage for an encouraging, positive cycle of songs. But 1972 was an election year, and Rawls remarks on the times in “The Politician,” a song which isn’t so irrelevant today.

“The Politician” was written by Mac Davis, then on his own streak of hit albums as a country singer (Davis had earlier written “In the Ghetto” for Elvis, which has a similar theme). The song doesn’t really offer any solutions, but just expresses why so many are feel frustrated with the political process.

So as to not make today’s post a big bummer, here’s that first song on the album, “A Man of Value.”

Some years ago we met the Devil at a crossroads. In exchange for making our record shop beloved unto the masses, we agreed to share with our followers the holy doctrine of the almighty Jim Backus at least once a year.

Yea, wretched sinners — behold the Truth of Truths

You have now heard “Overture” and “Creation” from Truth of Truths, a rock opera based on the Bible, produced by Ray Ruff in 1971. Not just spiritually enlightening, Truth of Truths boasts occasional kick-ass prog-y rock passages a la Iron Butterfly and soul-pop in the 5th Dimension vein.

And yes, the voice of God — creator of Heaven and Earth, is none other than Jim Backus. Mr. Magoo is your Lord. Thurston Howell III your almighty Creator.

You were created in His image.

Soma records will always be synonymous with 60s Minneapolis, but the legendary local label also put out a lot of weird stuff.

Here’s a great example: this 45 by Royce Swain with Orchestra and Chorus. He was also Dr. Royce C. Swain, a dentist who wrote songs recorded by the Mills Brothers and Rosemary Clooney, and also this gem about his home state.


We teamed up with Sioux Falls’ Different Folk Records to co-release Jack Klatt’s new album, Shadows in the Sunset. It’s in stores today, but Jack’s release show for the album will be May 7th at the Icehouse (details here).

Shadows in the Sunset was recorded live to 2” tape in just three days at a beautiful reclaimed church in Viroqua, WI, that dates to the early 1900s. Produced and engineered by Tom Herbers (who also recorded Ben Weaver’s I Would Rather Be A Buffalo for our label) Klatt says the album “holds in its grooves ten thousand miles of asphalt, about eight pairs of good shoes, and the generosity of a thousand strangers. It’s a collection of stories about the beauty of blazing sunsets, the art of saying goodbye, and letting endings turn into new beginnings.”

ronnie the robot

You can’t possibly imagine how disappointed we were when this turned out to be an instrumental.

lovin spoonful money

One subject to appear in much of what has been written about Prince since his unexpected and tragic passing last week is his frequent legal battles with Warner Brothers Records. During his conflict with the label over the pace of releasing his recordings, leading up to The Gold Experience in the mid 90s, Prince made his famous appearances with the word “SLAVE” written on his cheek. He also said at times that the reason he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol was because he felt the label owned his name.

Pop records have made reference to the underside of the music industry and artist/label relations since at least around the time Prince was born. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Money” and the Byrds’ “So You Wanna be a Rock and Roll Star?” are both examples of successful sixties singles which reference the industry this way.

Billy Joel has never had a warm relationship with his label, Columbia Records. He presented a particularly sardonic view of the industry in “The Entertainer,” a song of his third album. Describing the decision to shorten his break-through hit for its release as a single, he sings

It was a beautiful song but it ran to long
If you’re gonna have a hit you gotta make it fit
So they cut it down to 3:05

streetlife serenade

Streetlife Serenade is hardly remembered as one of Joel’s best albums. He complains that he was under such pressure to tour he didn’t have time to write enough songs. Columbia had him opening for big name acts like the Beach Boys at the time — this is probably why the album has two instrumental tracks as filler.

Another band with a high-pressure opening gig at the time was Lynyrd Synyrd, who joined the Who on the Quadrophenia tour in 1973 after the release of their first album. The first side of Second Helping, recorded after the tour, ends with “Workin’ for MCA,” a song about the label which ended the band’s “seven years of bad luck.” The song sounds mostly positive about their experience, but the last line is a warning to the label which Prince would probably have endorsed:

I’ll sign my contract baby, and I want you people to know
That every penny that I make, I’m gonna see where my money goes

lynyrd skynyrd second helping

This next artist/label conflict carried over to the cover of the album itself. After their fourth album was rejected and delayed by Apple Records, Badfinger commissioned Peter Corriston to paint the cover (Corriston also made covers for Carole King, The Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull, Tom Waits, and many more). His painting portrays a donkey being led off into the desert by a gigantic, but unreachable carrot — presumably representing the way the band felt they had been misled by Apple Records.

The album also became part of a music publishing conflict between the group and the label, so the songs were not credited on original pressings. That’s too bad, because Pete Ham deserves credit for his hilarious break-up song intended for the label, “Apple of my Eye.”

Ass was also an album dumped in the cutout bins quickly, so actually copies like the one pictured (with an intact jacket) are probably harder to find. Its release delayed Badfinger’s debut for Warner Brothers, which the band wanted to title For the Love of Money, a decision rejected by their new label.

badfinger ass

The only time the commentary on the record label was released on another label that we’ve found is “EMI,” the last song on Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols. The band had signed a contact with EMI, but were dropped after an incident on television in which Johnny Rotten repeatedly cursed at the host, causing a national uproar.

“EMI” ends with the band saying “Hullo A&M,” but this relationship also didn’t last, owing to equally outlandish behavior. A&M actually pressed 25,000 copies of their second single, “God Save the Queen,” but after dropping the band they were summarily destroyed. It is believed about a dozen exist today, making them among the world’s rarest and most valuable 45s.

Virgin Records signed the band, and manager Malcolm McLaren negotiated a deal for the album to be distributed in the United States by none other than Warner Brothers.

nevermind the bollocks

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