Loading...

West Coast Sound

Archives | RSS

Cover Story

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ADRIAN BOOT/ISLAND RECORDS
  • Adrian Boot/Island Records
While reporting my recent L.A. Weekly cover story on Bob Marley's Legend, I spent a fair amount of time chatting with Dave Robinson, the founder of Stiff Records and the Island Records exec who put the compilation together. One of the many interesting things Robinson told me was that he thinks that it's possible that “Legend” wouldn't have been made under Marley's watch.

"Greatest-hits projects, the ones that really work, unfortunately work mainly because the people are dead," he said. "These kinds of artists, left to their own devices, would have a different greatest hits. A living artist will tell you that the greatest song he's ever written is the one he's last written."

Objectivity, he told me, is extremely important when putting together a hits compilation. No doubt. But, certainly, not just for hits compilations. And who's less objective than the artist?

Robinson's comments reminded me of a chat I had years ago with the head of a major independent record label (you all love the records they've released). A year prior, his label had released what I still believe to be one of the greatest album's in the label's catalog. But it didn't sell. At all. I mean that almost literally. So I asked him: what happened?

This label head was equally enthralled with the record and was incredibly disappointed in its abysmal sales numbers. He credited the commercial failure of the album to the opening track, selected by the band, the saddest of sad bastard music ever cut to tape – not indicative of the rest of the album, and at more than four minutes, a burden to suffer through. He thinks using the track to introduce listeners and critics to the band's sound (this was their debut) derailed the LP. I think he has a point.

More »

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cover Story

Legend in the Making: How Bob Marley Was Sold to the Suburbs

Comments (3)

By

Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 6:00 AM
Bob Marley - ADRIAN BOOT/ISLAND RECORDS
  • Adrian Boot/Island Records
  • Bob Marley
At the time of his death in May 1981, Bob Marley was 36 years old, the biggest star in reggae and the father of at least 11 children. He was not, however, a big seller.

For Dave Robinson, this presented an opportunity.

Two years after Marley's passing, Chris Blackwell, the founder of Marley's label, Island Records, brought Robinson in to run his U.K. operation. Robinson's first assignment was to put out a compilation of Bob Marley's hits. He took one look at the artist's sales figures and was shocked.

Marley's best-selling album, 1977's Exodus, had moved only about 650,000 units in the United States and fewer than 200,000 in the United Kingdom. Those were not shabby numbers, but they weren't in line with the artist's profile.

"Marley was a labor of love for employees of Island Records," says Charly Prevost, who ran Island in the United States for a time in the 1980s. "U2 and Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Robert Palmer is what paid your salary."

Blackwell handed Robinson - the co-founder of Stiff Records, famous for rock acts like Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello - an outline of his vision for the compilation, which Blackwell says presented Marley as somewhat "militant." "I always saw Bob as someone who had a strong kind of political feeling," Blackwell says, "somebody who was representing the dispossessed of the world."

Robinson balked. He'd seen the way Island had marketed Marley in the past and believed it was precisely this type of portrayal that was responsible for the mediocre numbers.

More »

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Locals Only

Los Angeles Is the Best City For Music. Period

Comments (5)

By

Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 4:00 AM
ILLUSTRATION BY ANDREW ROBERTS
  • Illustration by Andrew Roberts
During the first week of December in Los Angeles, you could have seen, among dozens of other shows, rapper Murs on the Sunset Strip, O.C. surf-rock outfit The Growlers in Echo Park, Israeli dubstep hellion Borgore in Hollywood, Latin jazz legend Sergio Mendes at Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown, local psych rockers The Entrance Band in Silver Lake or nu-jazz experimentalist Shafiq Husayn in Highland Park.

L.A. is a mecca for pop-music fans, and it's a mecca for musicians. A 2012 study by The Atlantic senior editor Richard Florida determined our city has more musical acts than any other - both on an absolute and on a per-capita basis.

More »

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cover Story

For Photojournalist Andrew Youssef, Life Was Music. Then Came Cancer

Comments (0)

By

Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 7:24 AM

andrewpic4.jpg
Courtesy of Andrew Youssef
Andrew Youssef (right) with Trent Reznor
[Editor's Note: The story, about Last Shot columnist Andrew Youssef, is on the cover of this week's OC Weekly.]

Sneakers squeaking on white tiles, Andrew Youssef roams Long Beach Memorial Hospital. It's 5:30 p.m., and for the bespectacled, well-mannered pharmacist, that means quitting time. He isn't heading home to a sloshy TV dinner, a plush couch and HBO. Instead, he can't wait to ditch his scrubs and pursue his true calling--his night job.

Youssef dips into the locker room and rips off his turquoise jump suit. As a freelance concert photographer over the past seven years, he has shot everyone from Black Sabbath to Cold War Kids. The rush to change and get back into the action has hardly lost its thrill. Switching into his usual all-black uniform of jeans, a T-shirt and a windbreaker, he fetches his trusty Nikon D4 and his blue bag of pills and is off into the neon night.

Nearly three years ago, Youssef was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. Since then, he has held fast in a heroic battle against the illness. His survival rate past five years was less than 6 percent. Today, as the cancer in his body advances, the 38-year-old finds himself nearing the end of his fight; recently, doctors gave him weeks to months to live.

More »

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cover Story

Becoming Riff Raff: How a White Suburban Kid Morphed Into Today's Most Enigmatic Rapper

Comments (26)

By

Tue, Sep 10, 2013 at 9:56 AM
Riff Raff - AMANDA LOPEZ
  • Amanda Lopez
  • Riff Raff

As a prepubescent boy in the early '90s, Horst Simco was enamored of Vanilla Ice. Like millions of other kids, Horst fell for the white rapper's slick dance moves and outrageous style - Evel Knievel-style jumpsuits, blow-dried, gravity-defying hair, slits cut into his eyebrows.

But before long Ice fell out of favor, amid questions of his authenticity. Though the man born Robert Van Winkle claimed to be a poor kid who'd attended high school in Miami, he'd actually grown up in a middle-class Dallas suburb. It wasn't exactly the streetwise image he was trying to convey.

See also: Our Riff Raff slideshow

More »

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cover Story

The Making of The Chronic

Comments (0)

By

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 3:45 AM
featureChronic1_1_web.jpg

Dr. Dre's seminal 1992 album, The Chronic, turns 20 next month. Though a sensation upon its release, the raw-but-melodic work's legend has only grown in the ensuing decades, and today seemingly every MC-producer duo fancies itself the next Dre and Snoop Dogg. It has become the most influential rap work ever made, and perhaps even the greatest, as Jeff Weiss argues.

But it almost never happened. Despite the success Dre had experienced with N.W.A, he was entangled in contractual problems with his former crewmate Eazy-E's label. For that reason, as well as Death Row's dodgy reputation, The Chronic had a hard time finding release. It took the shepherding of renegade upstart Interscope Records, the financing of convicted drug kingpin Michael Harris and the steady hand of Suge Knight, an intimidating former defensive end, to give it life.

More »

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets