Snakes Unwrapped

by admin  18th Apr 2018 Comments [0]

By Hunter Bennett


The article below is an online-only sidebar to “SNAKE WRAP: The Definitive (and, Thus Far, Only) Account of Washington, DC’s Funniest HarDCore Band,” which appears in Ugly Things #47. The introduction to “SNAKE WRAP” reads:

Like John Cheever’s idea of a punk band, the Snakes were a pair of whip-smart, clean cut, well-heeled teenagers who amused themselves by writing snarky songs about summering in the Greek Isles, lusting after Russian royalty, and, most of all, the quirks and foibles of those around them. But they were also the quintessential Washington, D.C. punk insiders. Championed by Henry Rollins, produced by Ian MacKaye, and closely affiliated with Rites of Spring, the Snakes released a charmingly ragged Lp of silly, melodic punk tunes on the venerable Dischord Records — smack dab in the midst of that label’s remarkable 1980s run of harDCore punk classics, including Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, and Fugazi. The Snakes’ story spans nearly 50 years and is inextricably entwined with the histories of both harDCore and Dischord. It also offers a glimpse into the world of Washington WASPs.

If you think the sidebar is entertaining, you should buy the magazine and read the article.


We asked the Snakes (i.e., Michael Hampton and Simon Jacobsen) to tell us what their songs were about. They did the best they could:



She’s Got It Now – An uncharacteristically earnest rocker with an infectious four-note riff.

MICHAEL: Not sure. It’s a pretty early song. Definitely a Simon riff. I think that’s a Simon song.

SIMON: I wrote that when I was a sophomore in high school. I had a very bad prom date that stood me up. The thing that makes that song is that little riff. Ian [MacKaye] picked up on it, too. He said “This song is nothing without that thing.” And so he just kept having me play it [throughout the song].


I Won’t Love You ‘Til You’re More Like Me – A narcissist’s kiss-off to his significant other featuring the immortal line “You say, ‘I love you.’ I say, ‘I do, too.’”

MICHAEL: That’s self-explanatory. [Laughs].

SIMON: That [line] cracked us up. We didn’t drink. We didn’t smoke. We didn’t do anything cool. We just sat on the edge of the bed and in a chair and played these very loud, amplified instruments and we would just laugh and laugh and laugh.


Ted Newman Jones III: The Legend & Legacy of a Crazed Cowboy Guitar Genius

by admin  3rd Nov 2017 Comments [0]

By Greg Prevost


Ted Newman Jones is an unsung hero to anyone who is a fan of the Rolling Stones or for that matter, to anyone who plays a guitar. When I started writing Rolling Stones Gear in the early 2000s, he was on my list of key personnel to track down and interview. Unfortunately, over the course of the near nine years it took to write the book, I was never able to locate him. What was written concerning him and his work was accurate in that it was based upon fact, but the final word from the man was not present or available at the time of press.

To my surprise, a few months ago I connected with Jones’ assistant Jeff Smith, who merged talents with Ted in in order to keep the production of Newman Guitars alive and well, now and into the future. In turn, I put in a request to do an interview with Ted, but was saddened by the news that he was terminally ill. Ever the trooper, he did however, grant an interview through special arrangement with Jeff. What is to follow is more or less the story of not only Ted Newman Jones III, but Newman Guitars as well. For those of you who have Rolling Stones Gear, use the information here as an addition, and note that what was not apparent to me at the time the book was written is the fact that Ted’s guitars were not just random creations that improved over the years, but a methodical sequence that ultimately led up to a definitive end product. This article is dedicated to Ted, who at the age of 67, passed on July 1, 2016, within weeks after the interview was conducted.

Guitar luthier Ted Newman Jones III was born on October 8, 1949 in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Like most guys who were born between the late ‘40s and the late ‘50s, he was hung up on music and became somewhat obsessed with the Stones upon their arrival in 1964. In his late teens, though he took an interest in playing the guitar, he came to realize he had more of a talent for fixing them than playing them. He came onto the scene in 1970 when he refurbished and reconstructed a number of guitars for Eric Clapton including Clapton’s famous ‘Blackie’ Stratocaster. He would however, not be introduced to the music world until 1971 when he became associated with Keith Richards. It’s been said that Clapton referred Jones to Richards, but technically, what really placed him in the middle of the Exile On Main Street sessions at Villa Nellcôte in the summer of ’71 was the attitude of a free spirit with a strong work ethic and sheer determination.

Once referred to as “Keith’s Right Hand Man,” he would serve as both a guitar tech and guitar builder for Keith throughout the ‘70s and into the early ‘80s. As a result of his position with the Stones back in the early ‘70s, many articles were written about him at the time, one in which he was described as “an 18-year-old crazed Arkansas cowboy guitar genius luthier…” In response to this description, Jones related, “No, I was a 22 year old West Tennessee guitar—I wouldn’t say ‘genius,’ the appropriate word would be, uhhh—let’s just say everything I touched just came out that way. I wasn’t a genius, but what I did was all unique.”

Although he officially started working with Keith (and the Stones) in 1971, his first encounter with him was actually two years earlier. “My initial meeting with Keith was in 1969 at a Stones concert in Georgia where the wings on their DC3 iced over and their plane came in late then finally landed. The show went on late. I met him backstage with Stanley Booth. I lit his cigarette, and he introduced me to BB King and Chuck Berry—so that was a triple threat right there! I remember that Keith was real nice.” As for his connection with Stanley Booth, he revealed to David Dalton in 1981, “While going to college, I’d read an article in Eye magazine on the Stones written by someone called Stanley Booth. Later on, I ended up in Memphis, selling clothes, and cashed a check for a man who turned out to be Stanley Booth. Told him I thought his article was great, etc. This eventually led to my meeting the Stones in ’69 on tour and spurred me to ultimately go to Europe in ‘71.”


One Dozen Picked Berries: 12 Great Chuck Berry Covers

by admin  23rd Mar 2017 Comments [0]

By Doug Sheppard


The musical, cultural and societal waves that Chuck Berry made by pioneering rock ’n’ roll could fill a book. And of course, there are so many great songs—brilliantly executed, simple yet evocative vignettes that in turn provided inspiration and cover fodder for countless bands down the road. As we mark his passing, the time is right to revisit the best Berry covers.

Lists like this tend to be a few obvious choices coupled with an avant-garde rendition and/or an unexpected version by an artist (usually a pop crooner) to prove how great the song is. I’m sure there’s a stunning Chinese Sanskrit version of “Johnny B Goode” played on exotic instruments and probably even a reggae remake of “Jo Jo Gunne,” but I don’t care. To me, it’s all about the rock ’n’ roll. Rather than researching, I listed the first 12 that popped into my head; after all, if a song isn’t memorable, then how good is it?

As the list emerged, so did a theme: The greatest Berry covers tend to be spontaneous, or at least remade in the spirit of fun—much like Chuck’s originals. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I didn’t. Is this list definitive? At least in your mind if you want it to be.





1) THE MC5: “Back in the USA” (1970)

The trebly highs, lack of bass and neutered guitars of Jon Landau’s botch-job production nearly ruined Back in the USA, but it’s a great album nonetheless—and the Berry cover seems to make the perfect title track. With the Five having fought the law, the record company, Hudson’s and society in general, one can’t help but note the irony when Rob Tyner sings “I’m so glad I’m living in the USA” followed by the more emphatic “I’m so glad I’m living in the USA.” Sarcastic or not, the insistent background vocals, wind-chime piano and ripping guitar solos imply a good time. “Detroit, Chicago, Chattanooga, Baton Rouge” indeed.




The Chocolate Watchband had a way with covers, besting the Tongues of Truth on “Let’s Talk About Girls” and the Brogues with “I Ain’t No Miracle Worker,” possibly even the Kinks with “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” Another fine moment was “Come On,” likely inspired by the Rolling Stones’ version from four years earlier. But whereas the Stones’ take moves like an English sports car, buzzing adroitly like an Aston Martin, the Watchband remake ups the tempo and speeds smoothly like a ’66 Corvette, pulsed by Gary Andrijasevich’s drumming and the deadly harp/vocal whammy of Dave Aguilar.



3) LONNIE MACK: “Memphis” (1963)

From Cincinnati by way of rural Indiana, Lonnie Mack turned “Memphis, Tennessee” into a melodic marvel on this instrumental remake that landed him his first hit in 1963. Mack’s fluidity on the Flying V is infectious and, even more remarkably, this was recorded as an afterthought when he had 20 minutes of studio time remaining from a session he’d played on.



4) JOHNNY WINTER: “Thirty Days” (alternate version) (1974)

Don’t you hate it when lists have some obscure demo version of a song available only on an obscure album? So do I, but there’s no way around it in this case. The Johnny Winter version of “Thirty Days” that ended up on Saints & Sinners is good, but it can’t compare to this alternate. This version, which appeared on Legacy’s A Rock ’n’ Roll Collection in 1994, rips with Johnny’s badass vocals, trademark white-lightning guitar solos and a rough rhythm section. Sounds like an on-the-spot first take, which may be why it initially didn’t come out.



5) DAVE EDMUNDS: “Promised Land” (1971)

Dave Edmunds took one look at the emergent studio sophistication of the ’70s and responded with Rockpile, an album flaunting simplicity in sound and production—including this killer Berry cover drenched in reverb and Dave’s verve for primal rock ’n’ roll.



6) THE ROLLING STONES: “Around and Around” (1964)

The Stones’ love of Berry is well-known, from the faithful remake of “You Can’t Catch Me” on Now! to the Altamont-era live renderings of “Carol” and “Little Queenie.” But the pinnacle of their Chuck fetish was this killer romp from Five By Five and 12X5. In hindsight, one can hear how they were on the verge of parlaying their Berry and Chess blues fandom into something entirely their own.



7) THE YARDBIRDS: “Jeff’s Boogie” (1966)

Credited to Jeff Beck as an “original,” but we all know that this was “Guitar Boogie” retitled, right? Jeff’s licks are at the forefront, but don’t underestimate drummer Jim McCarty’s swinging beat, which makes the engine purr.




8) MOUNTAIN: “Roll Over Beethoven” (Flowers of Evil live version) (1971)

Sidelong tracks rarely work, but “Dream Sequence”—side two of 1971’s Flowers of Evil—is one of them, mainly because it’s several songs strung together rather than a long jam. As Corky Laing and Felix Pappalardi drive harder than a Mack truck on the Long Island Expressway, Leslie West piles up guitar riffage and fireworks, including a heavier than heavy “Roll Over Beethoven” that shreds ELO’s version like a lawnmower over grass. (Legacy later isolated “Roll Over Beethoven” as a single track for 1995’s Over the Top double-CD compilation.)



9) THE BEATLES: “I’m Talking About You” (1963)

While some are partial to studio creations like “Rock and Roll Music” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” to me the Fab Four’s best stab at Berry was a 1963 BBC Saturday Club rendition of “I’m Talking About You.” With one foot in their raw Hamburg past and the other in their British invading future, this R&B-soaked stomper (found on On Air — Live at the BBC Volume 2) should put to rest any notions that the Beatles were tame.



10) THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES: “Carol” (1970)

The flame of rock ’n’ roll may have flickered and dimmed in the early 1970s, but its spirit lived in the Flamin’ Groovies, who did a bang-up job on Berry with this Matrix rehearsal. “Carol” represents everything that made the early Groovies great: Roy Loney’s rockabilly-esque vocals, piston-popping rapid-fire guitars by Cyril Jordan and Tim Lynch and the tribal pound of Danny Mihm and George Alexander.



11) THE WALKING FLOUR: “I Want to Be Your Driver” (1967)

Hundreds if not thousands of American teens covered Chuck in the garage band era, but none were as forthright as this short-lived Sacramento, California quintet. “I Want to Be Your Driver” stands out not only because it’s a lesser-known Berry side, but with red-on-the meter fuzz, organ and spasmodic Ringo-like drumming by a guy who would later play with Les Dudek. Initially unreleased but unearthed on Ace/Big Beat’s The Sound of Young Sacramento in 2000.



12) PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS: “Maybellene” (1964)

Also initially unreleased but far from obscure, this live rendition illustrates the flair that so many early ’60s Northwest bands (the Sonics’ version of “Roll Over Beethoven” also comes to mind) had for cover material. After an irreverent joke about Chuck’s brushes with the law, the Raiders kick in to a rearranged version of “Maybellene” that sets it to a “Memphis”-like swinging beat in lieu of the original’s two-step rhythm.