Sunday, May 29, 2016


The Glands - Double Thriller (July 15, 1997)
"Every micro-generation demands one overweight middle-aged man-child spokesperson (Frank Black, Bob Mould, Buster Bloodvessel, Mama Cass, etc.) and now we have ours: Ross (the Boss?) Shapiro!” wrote Bob Gaulke in The Rocket, on the release by Bar/None of the Glands' magnum opus, Double Thriller.  Sadly, Ross Shapiro passed away in March, 2016, but he's remembered fondly by everyone in the Bar/None family. One of those who knew Ross best was fellow Athens, GA native and producer/musician Dave Barbe (Sugar, Mercyland, Drive By Truckers,) who mastered Double Thriller.

Dave Barbe:  Ross and I were both from Atlanta and we both wound up in Athens for college.  He played in a band called the Pretty Flowers that I remember the existence of, but I really don't have a cognizant memory of ever seeing the band. Ross at the time was really into the Dead, so I have a feeling that Pretty Flowers was probably pretty much your standard Grateful Dead jam band. Ross worked at Gyro Wrap, which is this gyro joint that's been in downtown Athens forever, and my college roommate and the guy who drummed in my band worked there too, so I'd always be going down there to hang out. And so I knew Ross from way before the emergence of the Glands.

Ross would always talk about this record he was making, which was Double Thriller. But Ross, with his dry, sarcastic sense of humor, I just had no idea if first, if he was serious about making an album at all, and secondly, if he'd really call it Double Thriller. And I don't know what I thought it would sound like, but at the time, in Athens, all these guys we were friends with and all the guys at the Gyro were in bands that played this super-heavy noisy rock, just inside of metal. Great stuff but just super heavy. So I just assumed that's what Ross' record would sound like. 

Well, Double Thriller came out the first time (self-released) in '96, maybe '95, and Ross brought me a copy of all the mixes and asked me to master it at a local studio, where I used to work before I had Chase Park. And I popped in the DAT tape to listen to it, and the first thing I heard was "Double Zero," and the second thing I heard was "Pretty Marina."
And I was just blown away by how GREAT it was. And also equally blown away by what it was, that it was this incredible record with all these 60's and 70's pop influences but with this weird twist on it.  You know, as long as I'd known him, he would have been a great poker player because he always kept his cards pretty close to his vest. I had NO idea this is what the Glands would sound like. I remember that day well and being completely blown away by how great this thing was, and I felt like it came completely out of left field.

After I listened to it a bunch, I thought about all these influences.  He and I were born one day apart, and he had a picture of Thurman Munson hanging up in his apartment.  We grew up loving the same music, and listened to the same Top 40 radio stations.  And the more I thought about it, the more Double Thriller made sense, given what we had grown up with. But what he did was not what was going on here in Athens at all at that time.  That record was a lifetime of listening to 60's and 70's pop and just keeping an open mind.  He probably would have fit much better in Hoboken, so it made perfect sense when Bar/None came along and wanted to re-release the record.
The Glands (Ross is second from right)

One of Ross' great strengths as a person is that he was always his own man. I think there are a lot of people around the college-rock scene that really want to fit in, and will do things that fit into the existing sound and structure of your local scene. But I don't think Ross ever thought like that. He was always pretty happy to be his own man.

The other thing people should know is that Ross was a really cool visual artist.  There was a memorial in Athens for him recently and in addition to a slide show of pictures of Ross and the Glands and his life in Athens, there was also a lot of his artwork on display. And his paintings ranged from several paintings of a local homeless guy to a touching portrait of Lou Gehrig.  Ross was a big baseball fan. His artwork is like him, no two images exactly correlate.  He was a pretty interesting guy, just a very unique human being.

LINKS: has a free recording of Ross fronting the Glands in 2014.

The Glands on Bar/


Sunday, May 22, 2016


Edwyn Collins - Gorgeous George (June 20, 1995)

This video for "A Girl Like You" was directed by John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants

Fashionable, cynical, and always bluntly outspoken, Edwyn Collins had already been a working musician for 15 years (including his stint in Scottish neo-pop revolutionaries Orange Juice) when he scored his first major hit single in 1994 with "A Girl Like You."  Despite a ho-hum review from the esteemed Guardian (the critic advised Collins to give up music,) Gorgeous George unexpectedly soared up the European pop charts and then conquered America when Bar/None released the album in June, 1995.   At the time, Ken Beck was a young Bar/None employee who found himself tasked with accompanying the fussy, demanding Collins on a U.S. tour.

Ken Beck:
Bar/None had its third (or fourth?) bona fide radio hit on its hands with Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You” and it was time to get that Scotsman out on the US highways to promote the heck out of it.  I had been working for the label for almost two years at that point and I guess Glenn and Tom could sense I needed a change of scenery as I was being a pain in the ass at the office.  Things had gone alright with my prior road manager/driver gig for Epic Soundtracks on his Midwest tour promoting his masterwork Rise Above so they thought it would be good to have someone on board the bus to make sure Edwyn got to all of his interviews and those dreadful morning drive time radio performances.  A&M Records were also behind the single as it was featured on the soundtrack to Empire Records, so they had lots of things for him to do too.

The "crap" tour bus, 1995

Each city along the tour had its share of highs and lows but the stop in Minneapolis was a particularly memorable one for me.  The tour bus that had been rented for this outing was a real piece of work (by that I mean crap).  It was apparently the cheapest one available and boy did it perform as such.  The coffee and beef jerky fueled driver, Shorty, didn’t care for me particularly as I was repeatedly questioning all of the delays in getting to the next tour stops, missing in-person interviews, etc.   

Paisley Park at dawn, 1995
By the time we got to Minneapolis, Shorty evidently had had enough of this East Coast twerp and threatened to slit my throat or something similarly gruesome.   In a panic I raced to the side of the tour manager Gary Knighton who talked me off the ledge.  The show at First Avenue was a huge success and afterwards Edwyn and I were somehow coerced into a jaunt through the cornfields of Minnesota to look for Paisley Park with some random guy we met backstage who claimed to know where it was and that there would be a magical late night recording session going on when we arrived.  So Edwyn and I piled into this fella’s beat-up Honda and for the next 2-3 hours drove aimlessly around and around cornfields looking in vain for the great purple one’s magical lair.  After much yelling and begging to turn back to head back to the hotel, lo and behold the building appeared and sure enough it was glowing purple.  The parking lot however was completely empty and the building was manned by one security guard who plainly told us there was no activity going at Paisley Park that very early morning.  A complete bust.

As an aside, Shorty was later fired from the tour but somehow managed to find us and the tour bus in St. Louis and absconded with the TV set from the back lounge area.

Some Edwyn Collins Favorites:


Saturday, May 14, 2016


Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey - Here and Now (June 9, 2009)
The  dB’s – Falling Off the Sky  (June 12, 2012)

Greg "Skeggy" Kendall, Peter Holsapple, and Water Music's James McMillan at the mixing board during
the recording of the lost Bar/None project, the Kendall Brothers album.

Peter Holsapple:  I had actually done a project for Glenn and Bar/None many years prior to Here And Now.  I produced an album at Water Music by a band called The Brothers Kendall. We did a great record and it was a lot of fun, but it never got released. I don’t remember Glenn’s rationale at the time, but he gave it a thumb’s down.  So that was the first thing I did for Bar/None. And despite that…  We were actually very grateful that Glenn was interested in putting out Here And Now.  It seemed like a really good, natural place for it.  As did the dB’s record.  We had known Glenn since New York Rocker days and early Maxwell’s days. In fact, at New York Rocker, I think it was Glenn who assigned me to interview the Soft Boys when they first came to town, which resulted in a great and very long-lasting friendship with Robyn Hitchcock, so I’m very grateful for that too.   But anyway, Chris and I had finished Here And Now and were wondering where to go it with it, and we were thrilled when Glenn offered to put it out. His label has always been a paragon of good taste, I think, so much good stuff has come out on Bar/None.  And the connection of years and years of friendship make it a pretty natural place to let that record land. And he was very willing to take the chance to put it out.

Peter and Chris performing "My Friend The Sun" from Here & Now 

 NEWS:  The four original dB's reunited on May 15, 2016 at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw NC as participantsin Stand Against HB2 - North Carolina Musicians United for EqualityNC and QORDS. Here's a report on that performance.


Recommended Tunes:

"Widescreen World:"

"Tape Op Blues:"

"Song For Johnny Cash:"

"That Time Is Gone:"

"Write Back:"

"She Won't Drive In The Rain Anymore:"

Sunday, May 8, 2016


The Sharp Things - Foxes And Hounds (May 10, 2005)
The Sharp Things - A Moveable Feast (June 26, 2007)

The Sharp Things stand out even on the eclectic Bar/None roster - a 10-piece orchestral pop ensemble showcasing pianist Perry Serpa's impressive musicianship and refreshingly adult songwriting.  Serpa called it his "anti-rock band" when Bar/None released the Sharp Things' second album, Foxes and Hounds.  Its followup, A Moveable Feast, was recorded over four months, traversing three of the five boroughs of NYC by piecing together sound bites on a laptop. Considering indie economics, The Sharp Things could have limited themselves. Instead, they went for broke. The result is an undeniably big pop record. In addition to tracking the 10 members of The Sharp Things in their rehearsal spaces, living rooms and basements, the band recorded their friends- Broadway luminary, Michael Cerveris (Sweeney Todd, Love Musik, Tommy), in his living room; Franz Nicolay, the curiously mustachioed accordionist/keyboardist of the Hold Steady in his kitchen (you can hear the clicks of his nails on the keys;) and a 40 piece orchestra in its concert hall. The Sharp Things continue to record and perform in their native New York City.

Perry Serpa:
The Sharp Things are honored to have been a part of Bar/None's rich history. Perhaps we were not as illustrious as Freedy or Architecture In Helsinki, but I'm fairly certain that we were among one of the larger bands (member-wise) on their roster. 

ironically, one of the things that stands out most was our participation in the 20th anniversary of the label. We were asked at the last minute to play a show at some Brooklyn venue that has ceased to exist along with other B/N artists. We rolled up and found out that we were placed back-to-back with one of our collective favorites (I mean, of all time), They Might Be Giants. Our set was pretty good, as I remember, but the Johns were AMAZING. They were already vets, so we were there to stand happily in the wake of a perfect run through of their best stuff with Glenn and the rest of the crew. A great night!

Our 3rd album, A Moveable Feast, was our 2nd release on Bar/None. The album included a cameo from Broadway luminary Michael Cerveris (singing the kick-off tune, "The Jumpers") and a 40-piece orchestra that we were able to secure for less than 2K.

AMF's songs were, for the most part, dancing around the big band, Bachrach/Beatles mashup aspect of the TST vibe, but within a week of mastering the material, I shat out a song called "Cruel Thing." It was, admittedly, riding the crest of the new soul upsurge, but definitely good as far that stuff was concerned. Excited about the song, I called Glenn Morrow and sent him a demo, essentially saying "Stop the presses! we need add this one!" Glenn may not have flipped over it, but he was enthusiastic enough not only to not give me a hard time about it, but also to haul ass out to Brooklyn from Hoboken for the recording, which turned out great. The song took the clean-up spot on AMF's track listing, and enjoyed many kind words from friends, fans and music press. I'll always be grateful to Glenn for that support.

The Sharp Things:

 Sharp Things Recommended Tracks
 "Cruel Thing" =

"There Will Be Violins" -

"Through With Love" -

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Mary Lee's Corvette - Blood On The Tracks (August 13, 2002)
Mary Lee's Corvette - 700 Miles (April 8, 2003)

Mary Lee's Corvette had already released two albums when Mary Lee Kortes, the band's singer/songwriter/guitarist and  core member, decided to record a live recreation of Dylan's Blood On The Tracks.  The album, subsequently released on Bar/None, impressed critics, fans... and even Mr. Dylan himself, who asked Mary Lee's Corvette to open for him.  The band went on to record 2003's 700 Miles for Bar/None, produced by Mary Lee's husband (and Americana icon Eric "Roscoe" Ambel.) PopMatters called it "a modest little record that niggles its way into your head, and charms the hell out of you, just like the last album did."

Mary Lee's Corvette will perform Dylan's Blood On The Tracks as part of a 75th Birthday Celebration for Bob Dylan at Mexical Live (1409 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck) on Tuesday, May 24. For more information, visit

Mary Lee's Corvette performing "More Stupider" from 700 Miles in 2007

Mary Lee Kortes:
I have these patchwork memories of how it all got started. And I’m not sure I have the sequence right. But around the time I had self-released the Mary Lee’s Corvette version of Blood on the Tracks, I began running into Glenn everywhere. I saw him at local gigs, a music conference, a show at Town Hall. We kept remarking on it to each other, a bit incredulous. I don’t usually believe in signs, but it felt like it was indicative of something.

Maybe I should believe in signs, or something like that, because the recording of “Blood” came about through a string of very happy accidents. I hadn’t even  planned on recording it, but the night before the show I ran into a friend and Dylan fan, Dennis Urenik, who said, “You’re recording it, right?” I said, “No way, I’ll probably suck.” “You gotta record it, ML. It’s DYLAN!” His words stayed with me and as I was leaving the house I decided to grab a DAT, but there weren’t any blanks. However, there was a trusty blank cassette tape.  

A truly amazing night ensued, and all the details are on the liner notes of the CD, but a couple things stand out.  I thought that “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” would be a good place to break up the show a bit and have a guest singer from the audience join us. Plus I wasn’t sure I could sustain the crowd’s interest for all 16 verses. Of course,  who would volunteer for something like that but a random amateur Dylan impersonator.  (Ran into the guy some months later; turns out he was a lawyer who almost got fired by his firm for this brazen act.) The sound man was recording the show on that precious, lone cassette tape, and as side one was closed to getting used up by the end of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” he flipped it over. But he wasn’t able to get the recording started before we began “Meet Me In The Morning.” So when I was first thinking of releasing it, being in between records and all, my hopes were dashed when I discovered that the beginning of “Meet Me” wasn’t there at all. I was bemoaning this to my band when the drummer, Diego Voglino, lightly chirped, “Oh I had my disc man going the whole time, so I’ve got it!” So we took the beginning from there, and the rest…well if you listen closely you will notice a difference in balance that shifts gradually from the beginning to the middle of the song.    

Around that time, I started writing the songs for 700 Miles. Jill Richmond had heard them and told Glenn that he should start paying attention to me. Jill was the publicist on my first record and achieved things I never thought I’d see, including a feature story in Billboard. I was so certain that no one would ever hear my music that I even put a song about a closeted relative on that CD. Oops! As our Blood on the Tracks started to get some attention, it got Glenn’s. I was horribly excited. Another label wanted it, but Bar None’s history and cred made it an easy choice. And I quite simply loved Glenn and Mark. So we signed on to each other’s journeys and it was a thrilling one for me.

That record led to so many things, including playing with the original Blood band in Minneapolis and even opening for Bob himself at the Hammerstein Ballroom. He actually came on stage during my sound check. I turned around at one point and saw Tony Garnier standing by a keyboard and wondered who the little guy in the cowboy hat was standing next to him. Then I saw those eyes. We even got four stars in Rolling Stone. That’s like three with one to spare. I remember when I got the news from the publicist. My first call wasn’t to my Mom or even my band mates, but to Glenn. “Look what we did!” I squealed. I bet his ears are still ringing.

Dylan's "Buckets of Rain" and Mary Lee's "One More Sun,"  recorded at Rodeo Bar, NYC, in 2007, at the  10-year anniversary of the release of the 1st Mary Lee’s Corvette album.