Archive for rick rubin

25 years of ‘King King’

Posted in red devils with tags , , on July 28, 2017 by J.J.

On this day in 1992, The Red Devils’ debut album, “King King,” was released on Def American Records.

The party will be on tonight as the reunited Red Devils open for ZZ Top at 3 Arena, Dublin, Ireland.

Classic Rock: Finding the real story in the grooves

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , on April 9, 2014 by J.J.

Photo Apr 07, 8 56 57 PM

With Classic Rock 195 now out in the U.S. — the U.K. Queen cover replaced by Slash — The Red Devils’ story is being read by more people than ever before.

Seeing high praise from Billy Gibbons and Rick Rubin, not to mention the Mick Jagger and Johnny Cash connections, it is hard to fathom the band won’t belatedly pick up a few new fans.

Photo Apr 07, 1 10 56 PM

Reaction to the magazine last month, where it was first released in Europe, was strong. Seeing the band’s young faces, so vivid on glossy paper, tucked among rock royalty through the pages, was a treat.

Described on the U.S. cover as “cult heroes,” The Red Devils’ story is so much more than that. “King King” was just a moment in time; the lifespan of the “famous” Red Devils — Butler, Bateman, Bartel, Bartel and Size — was only about two years, the length of “The Kid’s” stay in the band.

The Red Devils’ legacy is built on woulda-coulda-shoulda: How many bands are featured in a book called “The Greatest Music Never Sold” and a magazine article subtitled “The greatest bands you’ve never heard”?

Unfortunately the band’s bullet points — a little neighborhood blues band gets discovered, finds fame, tours the world, breaks up, the singer eventually dying much too young — are almost too easy to tell. It doesn’t play as well for the real lives found in between the grooves. And a four-page article, or one chapter of a book, cannot contain the whole story.

I still believe the real story lies somewhere on those nights, playing for a barroom full of friends and fans, creating music and memories that would still be as vivid nearly a quarter century later.

Classic Rock: Fear and loathing in The Red Devils

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2014 by J.J.

The Red Devils in Classic Rock #195

Classic Rock #195

From their amazing music to the devastating effects of drugs, The Red Devils’ story is told this month in a compelling piece by writer Paul Rees in the new issue of Classic Rock Magazine.

Issue #195, with Queen on the cover, is out in the UK and in digital editions now.

Rees has done a stellar job on the Devils’ tale. The article, part of an in-issue series on “the greatest cult bands of all time,” is a worthy companion to Dan Leroy’s chapter on the band in “The Greatest Music Never Sold.”

Driving the Classic Rock story (titled “Fear and Loathing in Hollywood”) are fresh interviews with Jonny Ray Bartel, Bill Bateman, Alex Schultz, Billy Gibbons, Rick Rubin and Lester Butler’s sister, Ginny Tura.

And new facts and side items are unearthed. Never before have the band members talked so openly about the troubles that destroyed the band, and led to Butler’s horrible — if inevitable — death.

The story is well worth picking up. Here are some impressions:

  • Rees traces The Red Devils beginnings to earlier than the Blue Shadows in 1988. He says that band was initially called The Stumblebums in 1986.
  • Rubin’s two edicts for signing the band: Change the name, and hire a guitarist. Enter Paul Size.
  • Though “King King” sounds like the best set of blues ever, it was recorded over three successive Mondays at the club.
  • “That session is incredible. You’d have to ask Mick why he never chose to release it.” Even Rick Rubin can’t get the Jagger sessions released. If they were, they would likely lead, even at this late date, to recognition for the Devils, and new critical and commercial assessments of Jagger’s solo career.
  • Bateman claims Butler “had actually clinically died four times in previous years.” His account of Butler waking up in the morgue under a sheet is almost impossible to believe.
  • Dave Lee Bartel dropped out of the band in Dallas in a dispute over pay. Meanwhile, Butler was trying to hire all new band members. This all happened before their legendary European tour in early 1993.
  • The details of the night of Butler’s death, Bateman’s role in the night and the aftermath, are harrowing.

Rees included a comment by me in the article, giving some perspective from a fan. I made that reference to Brian Eno’s Velvet Underground comment before. To me, it fits here.

When I talk with people about “King King” — granted, the results are biased because I often meet them through this blog — they agree that it is essential and, for some, life-changing (or, at least, blues-changing).

Even all these years later, that passion continues to speak to the chemistry and abilities of five guys at a Monday night blues show in an old Chinese restaurant.

‘King King’: There’s only one

Posted in red devils with tags , , , , , , on January 2, 2014 by J.J.

reddevils_kingking_sleeve2

I’ve been thinking a lot about “King King” the last few weeks, what makes it special in a way other albums — of any genre — rarely are.

The success of The Red Devils and the “King King” album come down to three things, very simple but so elusive.

It’s those five guys (plus one on the record), playing those 12 songs in that club with that producer.

kingking_vinylThat’s it.

There is no substitute. There is no sequel. All the magic is captured on that disc, starting with the blurry cover with the hipsters outside, to the steam and smoke on that piece of plastic in the player.

At this point, “King King” is old enough to buy a drink, but still sounds as fresh and powerful as it did 21 years ago. And it would have played 21 years earlier, too, in 1971, a muscular rival for the broader explorations of Butterfield and Canned Heat.

It’s easy on paper to peg The Red Devils as a harmonica band. But in reality, it’s a rhythm band. Built on Bill “Buster” Bateman’s impeccable timing and dynamics. Jonny Ray Bartel’s thick bass swagger, so evident on the groovier cuts like “I Wish You Would” and “Devil Woman.” Dave Lee Bartel’s essential rhythm, so unselfish, so signature (listen to recordings of the band with other rhythm guitarists … just not the same).
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1992: Red Devils find the Size that fits

Posted in paul size, red devils with tags , , , , , on February 24, 2013 by J.J.

Very nice article from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the early days of Paul Size in the band.

RED DEVILS FIND THE SIZE THAT FITS
by Dave Ferman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Sept. 11, 1992

Texas-born blues guitarist Paul Size readily will admit that he’s been real lucky so far in his musical career.

Born in Dallas and raised in Denton, Size, 21 just weeks ago, was happy playing blues and R&B in Denton bars backing legendary singer Pops Carter; he was playing the music he loved with good buddy Jon Moeller (now guitarist for Texas Heat) and just having fun.

Then a friend told him the Red Devils — Los Angeles’ hottest blues band — was looking for a new guitarist. Size packed, journeyed to California, auditioned, got the gig, and less than a year later the Devils (having gained a rep as the favorite El Lay band of Mick Jagger, the Black Crowes, Bruce Willis and other slumming celebs) have a CD, “King King,” out on Def American, have cut 13 tracks with Jagger and spent the summer touring with the Allman Brothers, Little Feat, Bob Dylan and Los Lobos.

“Yeah, I was walking into something pretty big without knowing it,” says Size by phone from South Carolina on the eve of the band’s final date with the Allmans (the Red Devils headline Dallas’ Trees on Thursday). “We just kind of clicked together — the band needed a guitar player and they decided to keep me.”
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The death of Def, 1993

Posted in red devils with tags , , , on November 9, 2011 by J.J.

A couple of articles in the Los Angeles Times give a little detail of the “Ciao Def” party Aug. 27, 1993, which featured The Red Devils as entertainment at the “funeral.” And with the funeral, Rubin’s Def American became American Recordings . (“King King” was issued as Def American 9 26795-2 and American 65660.) [EDIT: Updated 12/4/11 with mention from Sept. 1, 1993 Long Beach Press-Telegram]

DEF’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE DIES
By Bill Higgins, Los Angeles Times
Aug. 30, 1993

The Scene: “The Death of Def,” Friday’s publicity stunt/funeral service for the first word in Def American Recordings’ name. The company will now be known as American Recordings.

The “ceremony of honored entombment” was held at Hollywood Memorial Park’s Chapel of the Psalms. The after-party was at Shatto 39 Lanes bowling alley. In a rock ‘n’ roll way, it made complete sense: First you go to a funeral, then you go bowling.

The Cause of Death: Def began its brief life as rap-culture street slang. The deceased adjective once meant “excellent.” But, in an all-too-common story, the word started hanging around with the wrong element-suburban kids and record company executives. This led to inclusion in Webster’s dictionary. Nothing kills a hip word like mainstream respectability.

New York’s Rev. Al Sharpton, who gave the eulogy, said def meant, “more than excellent. Like, defiantly excellent with a bang. Now the bang is out of def. It lost its exclusivity to the in, defiant crowd. It died of terminal acceptance.”

An invite to the "Ciao Def" party, from nofightin.com reader Rackauskas

The Buzz: It’s not like Elvis. Def is dead. Surviving relatives include fresh, fly and dope.

The Last Rites: In an open casket were relics from friends of the deceased: hats, press releases, albums and harmonicas. Alongside were floral tributes. Beret-wearing Black Panthers stood guard with prop shotguns and AK-47s. After Sharpton’s eulogy, in a rare funeral appearance, the Amazing Kreskin did his mind-reading routine using Tom Petty and Rosanna Arquette. He also sent four mourners into spontaneous hypnotic trances.

Overheard: “Are you guys cremating or burying?” asked a male guest. That question was soon answered. Mourners followed a 19th Century-style horse-drawn hearse and a six-piece brass band playing “Amazing Grace” past the mausoleum that holds Rudolph Valentino’s remains to a freshly dug grave with a simple black granite slab inscribed DEF.

Who Was There: About 500 mourners at the cemetery, plus 2,000 more at the bowling alley. Guests at the chapel were older, the ones at Shatto Lanes more the Tattoo Generation. They included Petty, Arquette, Bushwick Bill, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Swell’s Monte Vallier, Warner Bros. Records chairman (and pallbearer) Mo Ostin, Mike Bone and Depeche Mode’s David Gahan.

The After-Party: Let’s just say the mourners bury better than they bowl.

Dress Mode: Was there ever a record-company party where black was more appropriate? For women, a typical outfit was an all-black combo of veil, miniskirt, lace stockings and cowboy boots. American Recordings’ bereaved founder, Rick Rubin, wore a floor-length black cassock, Ray-Ban sunglasses, a white Sikh turban, strands of red Hindu rudraksha beads and left a thick wake of incense aroma as he entered the chapel.

Most Persistent Afterthought: What kind of people are running this cemetery that they let rock ‘n’ rollers run loose in it?

And then, from Sept. 5, 1993:

ROCK ‘N’ BOWL WILL NEVER DIE: The L.A. rock community is collectively nursing bowlers’ elbows after two major bowling parties last weekend. First, there was Rick Rubin’s combination wake for the term Def and birth of the new name for his company, American Recordings. With the mob scene at the Shatto 39 lanes-including Rosanna Arquette, the band Raging Slab and even Heidi Fleiss (at least those were the rampant rumors)-the actual sport quickly degenerated into inebriated stunt bowling, with people sending two or three balls down lanes at a time as the label’s Red Devils played rockin’ blues numbers.

Finally, from the Sept. 1, 1993, Long Beach Press-Telegram:

Besides (Heidi) Fleiss, the party, which was held in L.A.’s Shatto 39 Lanes bowling alley, featured appearances by American Recordings founder Rick Rubin, Tom Petty, Rosanna Arquette, Warner Bros. Records chairman Mo Ostin and R.E.M. and Nirvana producer Scott Litt, and about 2,000 other people, which, as it turns out, is a lot of people for a bowling alley. Entertainment was provided by the blues demons, the Red Devils and the ’70s-style rockers Raging Slab, who instantly entered the What’s Hot! Hall of Fame with a version of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen.”

“If they’re buying drinks, then you’re making money”

Posted in red devils with tags , , , on May 22, 2011 by J.J.

Thanks to Paul Brown of the UK for this clip from the May 1993 edition of Rock Compact Disc Magazine. Interesting for Lester Butler’s pulling back on the Mick Jagger stories by this point and laughing off the image of Jagger being “whisked away” from the Devils after the session.

Note also the alternate publicity shot: In color, with Bill Bateman obscured by Jonny Ray Bartel. (Click on the image to read the article.)

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