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Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Jules Shear Unplugged with Sebastian, Molly, and Pep

No better way to start off the new year than with new Jules Shear...a fanboy myself I must admit...Funky Kings...yep...great record...Clive slept on that one for sure...Johnny Rivers pulled a hit out of one of Jack Tempchin's songs on there, "Slow Dancing"...Clive didn't do much with Jules/Polar Bears either though they did make more than one record...

As for Jules and his left-handed playing of the right handed guitar, that is a bit unnerving...subversive almost...he plays it ins ome kind of open tuning...there are a few other lefties who play right handed guitars...Babyface being one (he plays standard tuning chords upside down, which I believe he learned to do because he only had a right handed guitar), Doyle Bramhall does too (lots of people thought Hendrix did but his was actually a right handed guitar strung for a left hander standard...Hendrix did lots of his effects with the volume controls and those are closer to a lefty if he's playing a right handed guitar)...it creeped me out ther first time I saw Jules do that which was the night he hosted MTV unplugged and a pretty ill looking under the influence Joe Walsh and Jules played "Cinnamon Girl" with Dr. John...The "History of the Eagles" documentary drug that footage out when they talked about Joe agreeing to go to rehab...I guess they thought he looked about as bad then as at any point, and he did...

I watched "Unplugged" for a while after Jules left but it wasn't the same...

 

 

I believe he told me his brother was a guitar player and since Jules was a lefty, he’d just borrow it and play it upside down not really knowing any different. He does two unique things though: he uses an open G tuning with the top string kept at E, which really makes it an Em7th, and he uses only his left thumb as a bar rather than creating chords with his fingers. It really creates some strange overtones and plays into most of his song structures, which makes his music so distinctive. Back when the Funky Kings album came out I was a rep for the label’s Philadelphia distributor. The album was given zero promotion...a problem for most of Jules’ career. Thankfully, at least prior to streaming, I’m guessing his publisher did right by him and he’s been able to have his royalties for those hit singles help pay the bills. While he doesn’t often play live, he recently did a gig in LA and I think the next one is in April. He’ll usually play somewhere in NYC after the winter, Brick Township in Jersey and an occasional house concert for a friend. If you’re around Woodstock in the warmer months he’ll pop up at any number of local fund raising benefits.  

Yeah...the thumb thing is what got me...I've seen lefties play righty but he's the only one I've ever seen do it that way, with the thumb (so I realized he was tuned different than standard), and as you noted, he's happened on to something that makes his songs sound unique...a little off center, but still very catchy...that Funky Kings record...I didn't like it the first time I listened to it except for "Slow Dancing"...but after I played it a few times I was really impressed  with it. Jules in particular...a few years later I was working with a guy that ended up being my Supervisor for a while, and he was as into music as I was...He asked me if I had ever heard of Jules Shear one day probably late 1980's...that was a long conversation...I haven't worked with him for 25 years now but we still go to concerts together...between the two of us we have all the releases...we converted a couple of other folks along the way, but most people I have played his stuff for don't hear it somehow...

I'm glad to hear his publisher did him right, or at least right by music business standards (which means the publisher still likely kept more than half)...he's clearly a quirky intereting guy who defintely is not in it for the money...one of the best songwriters out there...ordered the new one today...

I went to junior high and high school with a black kid ("Duck" Alexander, and his idol was "Duck" Dunn) who was a great bass player...he played a right handed bass left handed...I was switching back and forth between bass and guitar in the band I was playing in, and I saw "Duck" playing and lost my mind, he was playing all these complex bass patterns upside down, stretching his little finger way up the neck...he was self taught...I said something to the effect of "I can't believe you learned to play bass upside down"...he said, "If I wanted to play music it was the only choice I had...the bass at church was right handed...

So there you go...born out of necessity...

 

One More Crooked Dance is on Spotify so I'll have to give it a listen but I was awash in nostalgia when I saw the name Slow Children.    Wow – that takes me back to the early 80’s!   I know my wife and I have their first two albums somewhere in the basement but I just looked and they are both on Spotify as well.  I know what I’m listening to this weekend.   

Slow Children occasionally still play gigs and if I recall, they have a solid fan base in Scandanavia. 

I don't know if you were living in CA at the time but I had a friend who lived in LA in the 80's that used to tell me about all the great bands he heard on KROQ.  They were always a leader in breaking new music and a lot more adventurous than the East Coast stations, even WLIR/WDVE on Long Island.    One of the bands was Slow Children.   Then I would tell my other friends about them.   For the first and only time in my life I was a trendsetter!     

Of course this was way before streaming so I could never listen to the station.   Music discovery wasn't as easy back then.           

When I got to LA in 1980 KROQ was just breaking out in a huge way, creaming the old album oriented rock giants like KLOS. The music they played was driven by both the English post-punk acts and the local scene...X, Blasters, Wall of Voodoo, Oingo Boingo, Suburban Lawns, Germs, Black Flag and on and on. There were clubs that supported many different genres and and you had a couple of strong public radio stations as well. It was a good decade to be there to experience, and of course there was also a concurrent hair band  thing going on as well. 

Interesting that you think music discovery is easier now. On one hand news travels faster and there are more options for instant gratification, but what’s missing is that local community hub...an axis that included clubs, record stores and gatherings of people who shared new music by playing it for their friends rather than today’s solitary earbud generation. It’s a yin yang thing. 

I'm also a Jules fan. Are you familiar with the Raisins in the Sun CD he made a while back with Chuck Prophet, Jim Dickinson, Harvey Brooks and others? Pretty interesting stuff, no commercial potential...

I haven't heard about it but I have to check it out.   I don't see it on Spotify so I may have to buy a CD again.      

I think Jules' occasional brush with commerciality is accidental/inadvertent...he didn't ever seem to be trying to have "hits" or be following anything other than his own muse...this latest release is more of that...a piano player who is following some chord chart but basically told to "just play", a background singer, and harmonica...who's going top be digging to find that record?  Not many I'd guess...

I'm not sure what is "hit" material at this point, but it seems to involve being involved in one or two genres specifically, being Taylor Swift, or having won one of the televised talent competitons...other than that, not sure how you do that anymore...but I am pretty sure Jules wasn't trying to be a "hit" even when the music business existed...

Oh, I agree!

He has written some "commercial" songs, but not on purpose.  

Jules to Puremusic in 2006 or so:                                                                                                                                                                              PM: When you wrote, say, "All Through the Night," did you have any inkling at the time that, "Hey, this could be my biggest song ever"?
JS: No. I had no inkling at all. I wrote that song just because I hadn't written any songs for a while, and I was with a bunch of people, and they had stuff to do that day, like press or something, and I was by myself. And I just sat down and thought, "I'm going to write a song today, I'm going to give it a try." So I just wrote a song, stuck it on a tape like everything else. That was just another song.
PM: It was no big deal, just a song.
JS: Yeah, that's right. It was a song. And not that I don't give thanks for that song and everything, I do, all the time. But I didn't really think of it when I wrote it. I tend to think of them all as being--I give them all kind of equal rights. And that's the way it goes. On this record, for instance, I let the producer, Stuart Lehrman, and my manager, Peter Lubin, choose the songs.
PM: Really? That's very interesting.
JS: I had these twenty-five or thirty songs, when all was said and done. And they decided, "Let's do these." And I said, "Okay." So I went and recorded them. I was glad somebody was going to do that. And sequencing the record, I left that to them, also.
PM: That's amazing. I mean, many or most artists would not dream of doing that. I like that.
JS: You just got to figure that these guys are really into doing this stuff. I'm not into doing this stuff.
PM: You're into writing songs.
JS: That's right. [laughs] Exactly. So why do it just because I can? That's kind of crazy, if somebody really wants to do it.
Interview here:  http://www.puremusic.com/64jules1.html

That's sort of how I figured he looked at it...interesting way to go through life...sort of just letting things happen...thanks for the link to the interview...hadn't seen that...he keeps a pretty low profile...

Took me a long time to track down Raisins in The Sun and I finanlly found it on a Japanese blog. Here’s another one for you...did you know Jules was briefly in The Band? 

By the way, for what it’s worth, my all-time favorite Jules album is Between Us...a duets project that I don’t believe is available digitally and is out of print. You can find it on You Tube. 

I did not know that...is this one of the more recent iterations, or with the original members?  I remember when they were touring with the Cate Brothers (loved those guys)...

Not until you told us!

This band called Crowmatics recently released their own versions of those songs: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Tracks-Professor-Louie-Crowmatix/dp/B0766X9NHS

Here's a story about it: http://ventsmagazine.com/2017/09/12/lost-band-tracks-written-jules-shear...

Thanks for the fascinating info, Ed.

Thanks TLNJ...well researched...and available for purchase!  That's cool...Jules with the Band...would indicate that those way inside the music business believe Jules is a fine songwriter too...

 

 

I've been a Jules Shear fan since Jules and the Polar Bears but have found his solo albums hit and miss affairs. One I really like is "The Third Party" (1989) which is very stripped down with just him singing and Marty Wilson-Piper playing guitar. I also like the album he made under the band name of Reckless Sleepers called "Big Boss Sounds" (1988) that has a great song called "If We Never Meet Again" and features the great guitarist Jimmy Vivino in the band. My favorite Jules Shear album is "The Great Puzzle" (1992) and that title track is one fantastic song as interesting and complicated as anything Dylan has written. Larry Campbell plays fiddle & cittern (a Renaissance era mandolin) on it.

"Raisins in the Sun" is a very good album--a sort of alternative supergroup--but for me Chuck Prophet's songs are the best on it.

I suspect some would find Jules' vocals less-than-impressive. It doesn't have a lot of range but I find it just fine for his great lyrics.

Nice article EasyEd and I enjoyed reading the  running commentary from the peanut gallery.   I sensed a sense of community smoldering in the ND online ashes. Fan the flames fanboys! And remember as Donovan famously sang at Woodstock, "Come on baby, light my fire"!

Mr. Mutt...thanks for the enthusiasm for the peanut gallery of which you are certainly a part...I believe that neither the Doors nor Donovan appeared at the original Woodstock, although I am quite certain Donovan, who along with his kids is in the film/tv business has been at the Woodstock film festival, so I add that as clarification to your comment and there is actually footage of Donovan singing (in the rain yet) at the Woodstock Film Festival...<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8skj09duxME" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Donovan singing "Singing in The Rain"?!   Thanks for that rare track certain to make any Donovan completist's day.  Yes, I stand corrected Woodstock Film Festival. Or maybe not, didn't it rain at Woodstock '69?

for most of the festival yes...practically all 3 days...it was not quite as Idyllic as Joni made it out to be...there's a great comedian (now decesased) named Dennis Wolfburg...he went to Woodstock (as a very unenlightened music fan whose favorite act that was on the bill was the "Guess Who", whom he found out wasn't actually on the bill after he'd spent two days in the mud and rain, when the Who came on stage and didn't play the song "These Eyes")...one of the funniest comedy bits I've ever heard, this guy hated Woodstock so much...will try to find it and post it...

 

Well...that made my day Jim, especially since it's been raining all fricking day here in Seattle.

Glad to be of service Dennis, it actually rained here yesterday too, a week ago it was 8 below, yesterday it was 58 degrees and rain, and today it's 28 degrees and some sort of precipitation that is sort of rain and sort of snow is falling and I'm hoping the power lines don't ice up...

No video of the Dennis Wolfberg Woodstock bit...he's out there, but not that bit...I actually heard it on the radio...he passed away at a pretty young age...shame...he was a terrifically funny guy...