From: Tom Rush
Subject: Re: More Covid Attendance

I just played Jorma  Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch in Pomeroy, OH. It was the only one of my 5-in-a-row Midwest shows that was sold out, and I think it had to do with a very smart policy: you buy a ticket, you have a seat, but if you opt not to come to the theater they will live-stream it to your home. Not posted anywhere for any length of time — live only. AND they were requiring proof of vaccination and masks while indoors. It worked!!

Tom Rush


From: David Fishof
Subject: Dennis Arfa podcast

Dear Bob ,
I just finished listening to the Dennis Arfa podcast. Knowing Dennis for over 40 years we partnered the Dirty Dancing Live Tour in 88. 
What was missing from the podcast is in addition to to being one of the top agents in the music agency business is his creative ideas and marketing knowledge that he brings to an artist. 
As he said in the podcast we sold out 8 Radio City shows in 24 hours based on one NY Times ad he negotiated with Radio City. I’ve seen his creative brilliance starting with Billy Joel and all his other clients. He’s been very modest over the years of his ideas which have been winners. 
I also have to say many of the lessons he taught me are part of my daily thoughts.
My favorite is before I make any business decision I ask myself…..What’s the Win!

David Fishof 


Subject: Re: Brandi Carlile Sings Madman Across The Water On Howard Stern

These are musicians playing real instruments very well – and more important, playing a song that caught their attention enough to give it this beautiful treatment. Brandi’s rendition is so great. When we play this song in concert it’s a work of art – a performance – and yes of course Elton is just incredible.

It never fails to grab and hold you. It’s not a song you will doze off on no matter how many times it’s played. You have to be in it all the way. Dynamics. It’s a joy and an honor to play – wish we did it more often (-:

I love Brandi’s choice and I tell all the “youngsters” getting into music don’t be afraid to listen and play what you like – even if it’s not in the Top 40, hip hop tip etc… Follow your bliss – not someone else’s just to be cool.

Thanks for that Bob.
John Mahon – The Elton John Band.


From: Marty Simon
Subject: Spedding on the original Madman Across The Water

That Brandi Carlile version is worthy, not only honouring the Song, but the Record (sound of that track). 
My friend Chris Spedding was called into Elton’s session and played that rich strat low note riff.. I sent Chris your piece yesterday and he wrote back.

“I was only on that one track on that album. The rest was Elton’s regular guys. I think the reason was that Paul Buckmaster had booked a live orchestra and he needed someone who could read a chart! Moi.”

Back when Chris and had a band, I once asked him about Madman and for him it was just a regular morning London recording  session…. But what a great legacy to be a part of. 

Marty Simon


Subject: Re: Brandi Carlile Sings Madman Across The Water On Howard Stern

I was in college, assisting my roommate in booking shows into C.W. Post, when we were sent an early pressing of the Elton John album containing “Your Song.” Suffice it to say that the album that followed with his live album “11/17/70” amounted to a one-two punch of emotional reaction. It had such a visceral impact that I left school to pursue a music industry career. My trajectory wouldn’t have happened without Elton’s befriending me. I wrote a freelance article comparing him to Leon Russell (little did I know that Leon was EJ’s idol) that led to a backstage introduction a few months later in Glassboro, New Jersey. It was Elton’s introduction of me to his music publisher that began a path that would soon lead to my becoming the first American publisher of ATV Music (later the Worldwide EVP), which owned the Lennon-McCartney catalogue.

So, I was intent on meeting Gus Dudgeon and Paul Buckmaster, who were so important to those first few albums. The collaboration with EJ was magical and created music that touched to the core! Years later, when I was working with Barry Mann (of Mann & Weil songwriting fame), I made a deal for him with Lenny Waronker at Warner Bros. Records and brought in Gus to produce.

Bob, you are so right about the Brandi Carlile cover of “Madman Across The Water.” Her creativity and those strings replicate the original with distinction. The music reminded me of an emotional quotient that rarely occurs with today’s music. Your point about authenticity is so important in an age of fabricated tracks, beats and twenty “writers” on yet another unremarkable recording.

To this day, Elton’s genius  continues to be a primary motivation to my aspirations as a music executive with a mission to develop creators of new, powerful, socially poignant music.

Stephen Love


Subject: Re: Brandi Carlile Sings Madman Across The Water On Howard Stern

Bob –

Sorry for the long email first of all. Like millions around the world I’m an absurd Elton John fan and, as a musician and engineer, was obsessed by the incredible sound of these early albums. Not that I cracked the code but it is interesting to see how things magically aligned for him:

Elton – Listen to the demos. The songwriting is so good that all the riffs, hooks, melodies, intonations, phrases, etc are already there. No need to bring a “topline” writer here… 😉 I don’t think we need to say anything else. The catalog, the music, the mind blowing piano playing – it all speaks for itself. You mentioned his voice. I know that Elton likes to say that he prefers his post 1987 baritone voice following his operation after the ragged Australian orchestral tour. I’m definitely not with him on this one.

The EJ band – They are incredible and underrated. These albums are beautifully played and the musicians were literally hardwired to Elton’s brain, voice, hands, etc.

Gus – Brilliant producer who knew when to step in and when to let the band self-arrange. Elton kept him for most of his career and when it did not, the difference was pretty clear (not a stab at Chris Thomas who is equally brilliant but did not get the best version of Elton in the late 70s to mid 80s.

Robin Cable – Completely lost to history. It was before everyone and their mother was asking for credits on albums, movies, etc. Robin worked at Trident, one of the great British recording studio (more about that below) and worked for EVERYBODY: Carly Simon, T Rex, Queen, Genesis, Harry Nilsson, Leonard Cohen, and on and on.

Paul Buckmaster – Gorgeous arrangements and always very creative. “Come Down In Time” (which you mention) is stunning in its simplicity and creativity. Mainly a double bass played in pizzicato and a harp to support this song, then waves of strings. Buckmaster was able to find the right balance between restraint when needed and a very cinematic or theatrical approach to his arrangement (listen to the first EJ album for the latter part).

Trident Studio – Now we get to the most important part. Trident was an oddity and announced a gigantic shift in sound. Olympic Studios, Abbey Road, Decca and the classic studios were all big orchestral rooms. They were built for film scoring, classic music, opera, etc. Trident was totally different. It was the first room with barely any reverberation. It prefigured the classic mid 70s sound that The Record Plant (Sausalito and NY), Producer’s Workshop and my former home Sound City all shared. The sound is not dead but very controlled. It does not breathe as much. Trident was basically announcing this. Listen to Elton’s early albums recorded at Trident. It’s open, it’s clean, it’s precise but it’s not Who’s Next. It does not have as much “air” but it works beautifully. The band is there, Elton’s voice is very present. The engineering was perfect as mentioned above but that should not surprise anyone who is familiar with the rigorous military training that engineers received at that time. Think that Robin’s colleague was no one else than the genius Ken Scott who recorded Bowie (Hunky, Ziggy, etc), Supertramp (Crime of the Century), Lou Reed, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and yes many of Elton’s album including mixing Madman even though he never got credited.

The Equipment – Trident had the best. The Bechstein piano is now famous for having served many masters (Queen, Supertramp, The Stones, etc). I was so obsessed with the sound of that piano that I ended up buying a string of Bechstein until I got close enough that I outfitted one in the main room at Sound City (I still have the piano). All the gear used to record was top notch obviously from Neumann mics down to the legendary Sound Techniques console (I bought the last one in existence and also installed it at Sound City but was sadly too big for studio B at Sound City).

The Label – I know that Elton had his fights and disputes with Dick James but let’s not forget him. Maybe he was lucky but Dick signed The Beatles (for publishing on the recommendation of George Martin) and then signed Elton to who he also give a record deal. Elton may have been resentful in his later years but DJM took a chance when no one else would and they left him alone for the most. You can listen to Captain Fantastic and learn the whole story of the early years through Bernie’s lyrics. It’s all there. If you’re lazy, buy one of the vinyl with the cartoon which tells you the story – it’s fabulous.

Bernie Taupin – 50% of the publishing and 50% of the magic. Yes Elton has incredible talent but Bernie provided the outlet, the excuse, the reason, the path to channel all this boundless talent. It legitimized the songwriting. Let’s never forget that Elton John’s catalog is primarily about Bernie, his life, his emotions, his dreams.

Now, I started my note by saying that things magically aligned themselves for Elton but the truth is that exceptional talent tends to be like an unstoppable vortex. It attracts, sucks and keeps equally talented persons in its orbit until it either exhausts them or exhausts itself. In the case of Elton, it moved in ebbs and flows but, God, when he hits, it just floors you. As he sung: “Harmony and me, we’re pretty good company” Pretty fucking true in EJ’s case.

Olivier Chastan


Subject: Re: Credibility

Hey Bob-
Great piece. You’re right.   

These days, it’s hard to find artists who stand for something or who will stand up for their beliefs despite what anyone thinks.

However, there are a few left.

One such artist—still—is Patti Smith.  If you read about or attend her current performances, she continues to speak her mind and pay tribute to other artists who share her artistic values.

And she has always been like this.

I have a couple of good stories that will give some insight about her—she is totally for real—no pretense.

I had the pleasure of being her marketing person at Columbia Records when she released “Trampin.”

We had been offered some opportunity for exposure on MTV—I think maybe Patti was to be interviewed—I forget the exact promo details.

Patti had no manager, so I had to speak directly to her about everything.  

Record execs typically hate when an artist has no manager, but for me it was amazing.  

After all, Patti is a treasure—having that time with her was a fantastic experience that I will never forget.

Anyway, back to the story.

I spoke to Patti about this offer from MTV and she turned it down immediately.

“Why?” I asked.

Patti replied, “Because I don’t like the way women are portrayed on MTV; they’re objectified.”

She went on to tell me that she didn’t let her daughter Jesse watch MTV, so therefore how could she justify going on the channel to promote her record?

She didn’t like what MTV stood for.

Another example was when Patti got mad at me for ordering a car service to take us to a radio interview.  
“I don’t need a limo. Let’s take the subway.”

And that’s what we did. We walked to the West 4th Street subway station and rode the subway up to Q104.

Me and Patti Smith, riding the subway together; what a trip.  I’ll never forget it.

Anyway—the point is—there are still some good ones left…

Mark Feldman


From: drmrsdad
Subject: Re: Covid Attendance

Went to my first Live Concert since the March 10th 2020, Celebrating 50 Years of The Allman Brothers Band, 2 weeks ago in Nashville at The Ryman. 
 At 60 years old, this is the only band since my Deadhead Days that I will travel to go see. I’ve seen them 14 times since 2016. Travelled to Nashville twice, before this recent show, Kentucky, Detroit, LA, PA and locally in NYC.  The VIP Offer which I paid extra for was cancelled right before the show due to COVID protocols which I had no problem with, and they refunded the difference between the cost of my seated ticket and the VIP package. Proof of vax or Positive Test 48 hours before the show were required. I’ve been fully vaxxed since April. I have another ticket to see them in NYC next week. I have been diligent with my approach to life in COVID times. I have no problem wearing my mask when required and even wear my mask at a concert that has all the requirements above. I do this for all the “moral” reasons, but I do this because, God Damn it I want the concert industry to come back, because more than listening to my LP’s I fuckin love the live experience! The rush of preparing to head out to a show, I get to see my friends from all over the country who I haven’t seen in over two years, feeling the pulse of the crowd when the music is searing through our bodies, and reeling after the show with friends, mulling around before we say our goodbyes and return to our “normal” lives.   

After the Ryman show a member of the band tested positive. I saw him before the show heading to the Gift Shop, No Mask. I was with a friend who asked to take a pic, he said, “I can’t be next to you, you know COVID and all”. Now I can’t be 100% sure, but based on some social postings by he and his family members I think this band member wasn’t vaxxed. He’s posted videos of himself saying he’s feeling better, 8 days later, various symptoms each day, blah blah blah… During his “quarantine” he was replaced by his tech for the next couple of shows. Now two other members have tested positive and the rest of the Tour is in jeopardy. Like WTF!  I didn’t pay to see your tech play. How jipped must those fans who attended those shows have felt? You want us to be loyal, you want us back at the show, giving you our hard earned cash for tickets, travel expenses/lodging  and  swag… and you can’t even keep yourself safe! This is your livelihood and you risked it for some fool idea that you’re not going to get vaxxed!!! It baffles my mind how stupid and idiotic people can be. 


Subject: Re: The Kacey Musgraves Kerfuffle

A few years back, before I stepped aside from assisting the process after 8 years, I once whole-heartedly suggested, in a core-room meeting, that there could be Bronze, Silver & Gold Grammy awards (3rd, 2nd & 1st like the Olympics) given in every category to be more INCLUSIVE and encourage more artist participation to the entire program – but was instantly laughed at. Then one year we found that a major record company’s British CEO had planted a ringer in our process room to ‘ensure’ one of ‘his’ artists got pushed forward (they didn’t, they got rooted out) and then the next year our ‘room’ was taken over by a member who had been trying to get one of his artists a Grammy by lobbying other members in the room, was misguidedly given adjudicating control (and yes his artist did then get ‘his’ Grammy and cake too) plus so many other shenanigans that are too long to go on about. At the end of the day the ‘Chief’s real vision is that all the Tribes are paying the Chief’s mortgage, pension and expenses plus the serious overhead of the offices on Olympic Boulevard, Santa Monica. The real artistic and music process is secondary or even third to the self glorifying. Shame, as the core idea of the Grammy’s in its real principle is a good one, just poorly fulfilled. 

Eddie Gordon


Subject: Re: The Twitch Leak

Hi Bob,

I’m a long-time fan of your letter and as a fellow member of the tribe, I appreciate your perspective on life, tech, politics & the music industry.
I run a music production school in San Francisco and have been actively producing music & sound for video games for many years now.
Many who come to us to study music production know full well the state of our industry. It’s for that very reason that I pushed us into video games over twenty years ago and we provide a comprehensive training program for sound for games. As a result, we have seen many of our graduates who originally came to us for their passion for music go on to pursue very successful careers in game audio for companies like Sony, Microsoft, Facebook, Blizzard Entertainment, and many more. We’ve even had a long-standing association with The Game Audio Network Guild with whom we have created a scholarship program. 

There’s no doubt that making a living as a recording artist can be challenging at best but, those who have the bug, know that making music is not an option, it’s who you are. It’s a driving force and a raison d’etre that you can’t escape so ultimately your passion drives you. Fortunately between the tech world and video games a massive industry has been born that creates tons of opportunity for those brave enough (and smart enough) to venture forward. It’s definitely not a cakewalk and requires a deep understanding of a multitude of sound design and software skills that most musicians and artists are completely unaware of, but for those brave enough to take the plunge the rewards can be great and very fulfilling. 

Stay well and keep doing what you do!

Greg Gordon


Subject: Re: Easy On Me


Will be interesting to see the 30 album presale figures. I expected the 1st pressing black vinyl, the “limited edition” cassette single, the limited edition retail white and clear vinyl, to sell out. Like me, I expect many fans bought one of each. Going into fourth day, no sellouts. They must have a massive number of pressings. Or people are waiting to hear more of the album. Those who keep close watch know an artist may add signed copies to their store. It has become industry standard for artists to push sales with signed items. But, Adele having to do this? 

John Kauchick

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