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Monday 30 March 2015
Danny Ferrington One of the Few Truly Original Luthiers
Master Guitar Maker That Built Ken Pinkstaff's Acoustic Guitars
Fretboard Guitar Journal held and event on January 22 for guitar maker Danny Ferrington in Los Angeles.
Watch this impromptu performance of Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita,” performed by Jackson Browne, writer/musician
Adam Levy and Danny Ferrington himself.
Fretboard Journal - Danny Ferrington (Luthier) from Linas Phillips on Vimeo.
“Musicians, not guitar makers, are who I've paid attention to. I've known how to make them for a long time but I continue to learn from musicians, that's what has guided me in my craft.
I have lived in Los Angeles since 1980. I've accomplished so much with this craft in my life. It will never get better than my dear friend George Harrison when we first met tell me he had played a guitar I had done for Jeff Lynne, he said, “I knew when I played that guitar that you did for Jeff, that you knew something.”
Follow Danny on
Here is a man that has crafted guitars, mandolins, violins and more for elite of the entertainment world and remains an incredibly humble individual.
Danny’s instruments are known for quality and unusual design and this book showcases his exceptional craftsmanship and amazing detail.
Danny Ferrington one of the few truly original luthiers out there.
Sunday 11 January 2015
The RESPECT Act
The RESPECT Act will be reintroduced in Congress early 2015
Currently, pre-1972 audio recordings are not covered under federal copyright law and, therefore, are not subject to receiving royalty payments.
The RESPECT Act would mend this issue and enable all digital performances of songs – regardless of the year they were recorded – to become eligible for royalties. While Sirius and Pandora have both opposed the RESPECT Act,
I wonder what Diana Ross, Robert Plant and Paul McCartney think about receiving compensation they’ve been due for quite some time
Friday 02 January 2015
ITS ABOUT TIME !
U.S. Department of Transportation Issues Final Rule Regarding Air Travel with Musical Instruments
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today issued a final rule to implement section 403 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which requires that U.S. airlines accept musical instruments as carry-on or checked baggage on commercial passenger flights, provided that certain conditions are met.
“At DOT, we know how important instruments are to musicians and are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that they are not damaged while being transported on airlines,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This final rule implements the statute, and it will go a long way towards keeping instruments safe when they fly – from allowing them in the cabin if there’s space for safe stowage, to letting passengers buy a seat for certain large instruments.”
The rule requires that each U.S. carrier subject to this regulation allow a passenger to carry into the cabin and stow a small musical instrument, such as a violin or a guitar, in a suitable baggage compartment, such as the overhead bin or a closet, or under the seats, in accordance with FAA safety regulations and the carrier’s FAA-approved carry-on baggage program.
Carriers must allow passengers to stow their small musical instruments in an approved stowage area in the cabin if at the time the passenger boards the aircraft such stowage space is available. Under the rule, musical instruments as carry-on items are treated no differently from other carry-on items and the stowage space should be made available for all carry-on items on a “first come, first served” basis. Carriers are not required to give musical instruments priority over other carry-on baggage, therefore passengers traveling with musical instruments may want to buy the pre-boarding option offered by many carriers to ensure that space will be available for them to safely stow their instruments in the cabin.
For some musical instruments that are too large to fit in the cabin stowage areas described in the carrier’s FAA-approved carry-on baggage program (e.g., an overhead bin or under a seat), it is sometimes possible to secure them to a seat as “seat baggage” or “cargo in passenger cabin.” Carriers are required to carry large musical instruments in the cabin if the passenger wishing to carry the instrument in the aircraft cabin has purchased an additional seat to accommodate the instrument and the instrument is contained in a case or cover to avoid injury to other passengers, the weight of the instrument does not exceed 165 pounds or applicable weight restrictions for the aircraft, and the instrument can be stowed in accordance with the requirements for carriage of carry-on baggage or cargo established by the FAA. Carriers are not required to provide for this process in their carry-on baggage programs; however the Department encourages carriers that do not currently allow such stowage to amend their programs to allow it, provided that all safety requirements are met.
Carriers are required to accept musical instruments in the cargo compartment as checked baggage if those instruments comply with the size and weight limitations provided in Section 403 and the FAA’s safety regulations.
The final rule applies to scheduled and charter flights in domestic or international transportation operated by U.S. carriers, regardless of the size of the aircraft they operate. The rule also applies to persons not directly involved in the operation of an aircraft who sell air transportation services to the general public other than as an authorized agent of a carrier.
This final rule is issued without notice and comment from the public as it simply implements the statutory requirements. The rule will take effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register. The final rule is available on the Internet at , docket DOT-OST-2014-0231.
In addition to issuing this rule, the Department has also created a webpage (http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/air-travel-musical-instruments) that provides useful tips and information for consumers on how to prepare for air travel with musical instruments. The Department also sponsored meetings to provide representatives of musicians and airlines an opportunity to discuss the difficulties musicians face when traveling by air. DOT may conduct additional such meetings to further explore ways to better assist musicians and airline personnel ensure the safe carriage of musical instruments.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Thursday 04 December 2014
Sony Music Entertainment
AC/DC's new album "Rock Or Bust" is now available! You can get your copy here: iTunes: Amazon:
MORE RIP OFF FOR ARTISTS !!!!!
Songs on iTunes are so cheap — 99p! (or 99 cents!) — that you probably don't spend much time wondering why the price of them rarely changes. Different songs' prices are all the same. Yet supply and demand for them changes all the time. Why don't song prices ever get cheaper or more expensive, like stocks?
In a court case that opened in California yesterday a group of lawyers and iTunes customers are arguing that Apple has essentially conducted a price-fixing operation within iTunes that has stymied competition in the music business that might have led to the price of songs dropping, or at least responding properly to supply and demand. Generally, iTunes prices are in three bands: 79p, 99p and £1.29, with equivalents in dollars.
The case asks a fanciful question: If iTunes is so great, why was it the case that, for years after the launch of the iPod, Apple's software prevented other companies from selling cheaper music for your iPod? Competing companies tried to sell Apple customers songs for 49 cents, the suit claims, but Apple kept the price high.
If their class action antitrust lawsuit succeeds it could lead to an award that refunds iTunes customers a portion of the money they spent over an eight-year period in the 2000s. We are, of course, a long way from that.
But as a legal argument, the case is fascinating. It's also worth bearing in mind that Apple has lost two antitrust cases recently: one about price fixing in the e-book market and one about the suppression of wages for tech workers. So it is not inconceivable that Apple may lose a third time.
Apple, naturally, regards the case as garbage. It has also successfully persuaded the court to seal from public view many of the documents and evidence in the case.
Eddy Cue wants 'FairPlay' kept secret
Eddy Cue, Apple's VP/internet services, is one of many execs who has filed declarations in the case. Cue argued — in a statement written in 2010 that was refiled in court on Nov 30 this year — that details of FairPlay, Apple's technology for restricting where MP3 music files are played, should not be discussed in open court.
Phil Schiller is also listed as a witness.
Other companies already offer music players and download services, so competition is not restricted. (We contacted Apple for comment and didn't hear back.) Apple does not have a monopoly over music, its lawyers have argued in a Northern California federal district court, and the suit should therefore be rejected by the court. The case is a class action on behalf of iPod and iTunes customers, who presumably want a cash payout for perceived overcharges that stemmed from Apple's alleged 99p song monopoly.
Steve Jobs' old emails
The case has so far made headlines because it has exposed yet more of Steve Jobs old emails — messages in which he was, as usual, highly disparaging of anyone who disagreed with him. He called Real Networks, a competing music service, "hackers" when they figured out how to sell songs for the iPod back in July 2004. "'We are stunned that Real is adopting the tactics and ethics of a hacker and breaking into the iPod,'" he suggested as a line for a press release attacking Real Networks.
That Jobs email is, arguably, key to the case. It demonstrates Jobs' intent. To understand that, you need to know the background: Apple had designed iTunes and the iPod so that songs within it contained a digital rights management scheme (DRM) that both protected artists' copyright, by preventing songs from being copied and pirated and prevented iTunes songs from being played on non-Apple devices. (Apple later abandoned DRM in 2009.)
The lawsuit argues that the DRM format prevented other companies like Real Networks from selling songs that could be imported onto the iPod. In fact, Real Networks actually developed a product that let users do exactly this, and it offered songs for 49 cents each — and Jobs stamped it out by banning Real's music from the iPod/iTunes system. He said in that email he regarded Real's attempt to offer Apple customers some choices beyond iTunes made them "hackers".
Here is how the lawsuit describes the effect of Apple's DRM system.
It wasn't so much about copyright as it was about making sure that only iPods could play the songs, the case alleges:
US Fed. Ct.
In 2004, Real Networks launched a product that let people buy cheap songs they could play on their iPods:
US Fed. Ct.
Apple immediately moved to make sure Real Network's software wouldn't work:
US Fed. Ct.
Apple's argument here is obvious: These are Apple devices and Apple software, why should the company let Real offer services on them? There are plenty of other companies that sell music players, and they offer price competition. (For instance, readers might want to check out Google Music Manager in the Play store — it offers a lot of music cheaper than iTunes does.)
That brings in the other interesting legal aspect of the case: Whether Apple unlawfully engaged in "tying" or "bundling" its products in a way that violates antitrust law. In general, companies are allowed to develop monopolies over markets if that dominance occurs simply because their products are superior. iPod became the dominant music player because of that. But companies are not allowed to use their dominance in one market to distort competition in another market.
The suit argues that Apple's strength in the music business through iTunes let it force customers to buy only one device to play that music on — the iPod. (The suit mostly covers the period from 2001 through 2009.) The music market and the device market ought to be separate, and leveraging your dominance in one to distort the other is a violation of antitrust law, the suit claims.
If the suit succeeds, Apple customers could be in for a huge refund. But don't hold your breath.
LEARN TO CODE AND CHANGE THE WORLD !!!!!
Apple is participating in this year’s Hour of Code, the second annual worldwide event designed
to help spark interest in and provide access to coding education among youth and students. Apple’s participation will involve offering free one-hour workshops at its Apple Store retail locations, during which they’ll provide attendees with an introduction to basic computer science concepts.
Code.org is the non-profit behind the Hour of Code movement, and is working with a number of corporations to organize this year’s movement. The group has funding from Microsoft and others, and has a goal of reaching 100 million students through its program by year-end.
Apple’s workshops will run on December 11th, and will occur in international retail stores as well as domestic, whereas last year they were only available in U.S. locations. Apple is also going to be rolling out a full week’s worth of accompanying speakers and other events, to support Computer Science Education Week, and pointing would-be coders to resources on both the App Store and its developer portal via a new microsite created to mark the occasion
Why Is Quincy Jones Worried About Music’s Future?
INTERVIEW: Why Is Quincy Jones Worried About Music’s Future And The Distortion Of Sound?
When you’re discussing Quincy Jones, there is no such thing as hyperbole. Just ask his 27 Grammys. The 81-year-old has played a vital role in the development of jazz, funk, and hip hop, holds more records than a jukebox, logged more firsts than Adam and Eve, and collaborated with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Grandmaster Melle Mel. It is no exaggeration to say he’s the chief architect of popular music in the 20th Century. But as we venture further into the new millennium, he’s getting pissed.
The cultural titan recently appeared in the The Distortion Of Sound, a documentary produced by cutting edge audio outfit Harman Kardon. The fascinating film explores the complex pros and cons of music in the digital age. Although companies like iTunes and Spotify have made music more accessible, portable, and cheaper than ever before, mp3s have become so compressed that the vast majority of the sound quality -sometimes up to 90 percent- is lost. With the omnipresence of iPods and ear buds, the documentary contends that a generation of music lovers are being raised on low-grade sonic sludge. As the final piece of his formidable legacy, Jones is working with Harman to ensure that his art, and the art of so many others, can be enjoyed the way it was meant to be heard.
Among his many musical milestones, Quincy Jones’ name will forever be linked with Thriller, the worldwide smash he produced with Michael Jackson in 1982. The work has been held up as a near-perfect piece of pop artistry, blending genres, boasting an unprecedented seven Top 10 hits, and earning sales records that remain unbroken to this day. So how does the man behind the biggest album of all time feel about today’s singles-oriented iTunes culture, where one can pick and choose tracks a la carte based on an incomplete sample? Does he feel that album making is a lost art?
The answer is a strongly worded yes. “It’s like they don’t think about albums anymore!” he laments. “Sequencing an album is one of the joys in being a producer because it’s like making a movie. That’s why I had ‘Human Nature’ right after ‘Billie Jean’ on Thriller. Because ‘Billie Jean’ was in three parts, like a mantra. The other one is like a kaleidoscopic harmonic collage, with all the harmonies running around the place. The ear loves that—it loves to feel that growth and change and movement.”
The abandonment of the album is an ironic bookend to a recording career spanning seven decades. He first entered the studio in 1956, another time when full length LPs were marginalized in favor of singles. The technological limitations were many, severely limiting his artistic canvas. “It couldn’t be over three minutes because [the disc] didn’t hold it,” he laughs now. And the turnaround time wasn’t exactly luxurious. “You had to do four 3-minute songs every four hours as an arranger or you didn’t work again!”
Obviously he’s come a long way since then, helping elevate the album to an art form along with the likes of The Beatles‘ producer George Martin, whom he considers a friend. While he admits that software has made it easier to realize creative ideas, he warns against using technology as a crutch. “If you don’t know anything about music and you use Pro-Tools, you will be working for the machine. But if you know music, the machine works for you. That’s what it’s designed for.”
If there’s anyone who knows music, it’s Jones. A child prodigy, he honed his skills at the age of 13 playing trumpet with jazz and swing bands around the Seattle area. Within a year he met a young pianist from Georgia named Ray Charles and the two formed a close bond. To this day he cites Charles as a major influence in his formative musical ambitions. After just a year at what is now Boston’s Berklee School Of Music, he was invited to tour with Lionel Hampton‘s band, and soon he was commissioned to arrange songs for heavy hitting stars like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Dinah Washington.
But show business is filled with hopefuls who have music pumping through their veins. Many fail, while a few succeed for a short time before inevitably falling out of fashion. It takes a special talent to remain relevant (let alone revolutionary) in an industry that is constantly evolving. How has Jones navigated the changing styles and technological upheavals that have made the recording studio unrecognizable from the world where he started?
In an age when repetitive hooks, cheap speakers, and splashy gossip headlines risk making music a disposable commodity, he follows a deceptively simple rule–put the song first. “Our entire industry is all about a song and a story… A song can make a terrible singer a star. If you’ve got a good singer, you’re in good shape. A bad song? The three best singers in the business cannot save it. And that’s a fact.” Even when literally working with the best singers in the business, he still labors tirelessly to make sure the tunes fit. “We went through 800 songs to get nine for Thriller,” he tells us -and the intense quality control doesn’t end there. “After you get nine of them on their feet- you’ve got vocal backgrounds and counter lines and all that- you look at the nine you have and very honestly say, ‘What are the four weakest songs in the company of these nine?’ And you take those out and try to make those your four strongest on the album.”
And that’s how you make the most successful record in history.
When most of us would walk away feeling nothing but supreme satisfaction, Jones consistently strives for more. The diligence shown on projects like Thriller has marked his career since the very start. At the age of 24, Jones put his lucrative career as a session arranger on hold and moved to Paris, where he studied music theory with the legendary composer Nadia Boulanger. “She said to me, ‘There are only 12 notes, until God gives us 13. And Quincy, I want you to know what everybody did with those twelve.’ Bach, Beethoven everybody- it’s the same 12 notes. Isn’t that amazing? All we have are twelve notes and you have to find your own sound through rhythm, harmony and melody. You have to find a way to make that your personal sound.”
Jones knows that music is a continuum, built on the shoulders of those who have come before. But after a lifetime of learning, he is now ready to do a little teaching himself. He’s currently working with engineers at Harman Kardon, helping to implement artist-driven solutions that combat the low quality recordings and inferior sound systems infecting the market. He is also mentoring an international youth orchestra that he calls The Global Gumbo All Stars. “It’s really about a case of passing it on. And it’s a pleasure, too.”
For Quincy Jones, working with young talented people is the only way to roll. They’re energetic, passionate, curious, fearless, unrelenting, and always testing limits-just like him. He mentions a recent conversation with Johnny Mandel, writer of standards like “The Shadow Of Your Smile” and “Emily,” among others. “We’ve been friends since we were in our teens, you know? He’s 88 now and I’m 81. He called me up and he said, ‘Q! We’re the only two guys who are going to go from infancy to Alzheimer’s and bypass growing up!’ We don’t want to get grown up. He’s a funny cat, man. He’s right, too—I don’t ever want to grow up.”
Before writer-director Philip Kaufman brought Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff to the big screen in 1983, onscreen astronauts were little more than alien quarry or asteroid bait. In Kaufman's hands, however, spaceflight became a far more human pursuit—a story not of external threats but inner resolve. With its three-hour-plus run time and unconventional structure, the film—which tells the story of test pilots like Chuck Yeager and Gordon Cooper as they break the sound barrier and launch toward the exosphere—was almost as daring as its subject. (Kaufman calls it “the longest movie ever made without a plot.”) But it introduced an entire cinematic genre, what Quentin Tarantino has called the “hip epic,” inspiring everyone from Michael Bay to James Cameron, who hired its cinematographer for Titanic. Its dialog has become a go-to signifier of human accomplishment; director Rian Johnson celebrated landing his Star Wars gig by tweeting a clip from the movie. “Phil really pulled it off,” George Lucas says. None other than Christopher Nolan has called it “an almost perfect movie.”
Making it was an epic in itself. Its locations were hard-earned; its special-effects plan was largely reconceived during production; one man lost part of an ear on the set, another lost his life. But more than three decades later, The Right Stuff still resonates, a testament to the incredible feats of bravery, sacrifice, and intelligence of which humans are capable—and to the inherent absurdity of climbing into tin cans mounted on ballistic missiles and blasting into space.
“We Wanted to Make A Serious Film.”
Ed Harris looked so much like astronaut John Glenn that producer Robert Chartoff said, “Please, don’t let this guy get hit by a car … until after the picture is made.”
In 1979, Hollywood producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff (Rocky, Raging Bull) paid $350,000 to purchase the film rights to The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe's runaway best seller about the space race.
CHUCK YEAGER (RETIRED GENERAL, U.S. AIR FORCE): Tom Wolfe started writing a book about the astronauts' early days. Through that, he discovered the Air Force test pilots who were doing the nitty-gritty work. We weren't getting free houses or notoriety. We were working our tails off for $250 a month. Many of us were dying in the process.
IRWIN WINKLER (PRODUCER): There was a competition with Universal to buy Tom Wolfe's book. They wanted it for John Belushi as a comedy.
ROBERT CHARTOFF (PRODUCER): Like the Airplane series.
WINKLER: We wanted to make a serious film.
CHARTOFF: We bought the book for $350,000, which was a lot at the time.
WINKLER: We hired Bill Goldman to write the screenplay.
CHARTOFF: Probably the hottest writer in Hollywood.
1 Yeager was the first pilot to break the sound barrier, on October 14, 1947.
WINKLER: But Bill's script didn't include the Chuck Yeager character, the epitome of “the right stuff.” 1 So we started looking for other writers.
GEORGE LUCAS: I was born and raised in the Bay Area, so when I got out of film school at USC I wanted to come back. Francis Coppola wanted to get out of Hollywood, so the two of us, we decided we'd move to San Francisco. There was a cadre of people here who were making movies, but more with a San Franciscan sensibility than a Hollywood sensibility. Phil Kaufman was living here. He worked on Raiders for about a week. [Laughs.] He came up with the idea for the ark.
PHILIP KAUFMAN (WRITER, DIRECTOR): When I read The Right Stuff I was just amazed. What I loved about it was not only getting to the truer stories but really beginning where he did, with a quality called “the right stuff” as personified by Chuck Yeager. I envisioned a movie that could be based around that central character or quality.
WINKLER: Originally we wanted Phil to direct and we couldn’t find another writer that we could agree on.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: Tom Wolfe didn’t want to write the screenplay. He just didn’t feel that was his métier. I wound up outlining the script, and when Chartoff and Winkler asked me to write it, I turned around the first draft in about eight weeks. I really wanted to go back to Tom Wolfe’s attitude, atmosphere, and humor. I really wanted to find that Tom Wolfe quality, the craziness of the American circus—how the astronauts would be defined publicly by a Life magazine story while the truth was far more interesting, important, and heroic.
WINKLER: We gave Phil’s script to the Ladd Company, ensconced at Warner Bros.
PETER KAUFMAN (PRODUCTION ASSISTANT): Phil and Walter Murch made a great trailer to show Alan Ladd Jr. that making the movie was possible. This was back when Francis Coppola had American Zoetrope, and we rented some offices up off of Little Fox Theater. We had a little editing room. We’d find Walter asleep in there in the morning after working all night.
GARY GUTIERREZ (SUPERVISOR, SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS): Phil Kaufman was looking to storyboard the movie for a presentation to Ladd in LA. It was an enormous job; we created around 1,800 panels. Phil wanted to represent the whole movie. We laid out the storyboards on eight or 10 tables in a conference room and then Phil told the story, walking Ladd around the room. Whenever he’d finish a couple of tables, we’d lay out more. It took several trips around the room.
ALAN LADD JR. (PRESIDENT, THE LADD COMPANY): I said, OK, let's make the movie!
GUTIERREZ: Chuck Yeager became a technical consultant. He was very helpful.
YEAGER: Hollywood is in the business of make-believe. I didn't just walk out and fly the X-1 supersonic. It took unpowered flights and then nine powered flights.
GUTIERREZ: He would look at stuff and say, “Well, that's not exactly how it happened, but I know you fellas have to flower it up.”
“I Felt Like It Was Ridiculous to Play a Living Person.”
“Our characters had no written lines,” Harry Shearer says of the recruiters he and Jeff Goldblum played in the movie. “Phil said, ‘You and Jeff improvised. Hopefully it will be funny.”
Ladd gave Kaufman a modest budget to make the film, which meant it would have to be made without any bankable stars and with salary caps.
ED HARRIS (JOHN GLENN): I read for Phil Kaufman and wasn't very happy about how it went. Walking out, I hit the wall pretty hard. Phil saw me do that and said, “Oh, the guy's got spunk.”
CHARTOFF: Ed Harris walked into the office, and we looked at him and couldn’t believe that such a person existed. He was not only a wonderful actor but looked so much like John Glenn. And of course we looked at each other and said, “Oh my God, this is the guy we want.” I said to Phil, “Please, don’t let this guy get hit by a car. At least, not until after the picture is made.”
HARRY SHEARER (RECRUITER): I don’t believe there was an audition, because Jeff Goldblum’s and my characters had no lines written for them. Phil Kaufman conceived them, they were not representative of anybody that was in the book, but they were a plot device to move things forward. Phil basically just said, “You and Jeff improvise. Hopefully it’ll be a little funny.”
JEFF GOLDBLUM (RECRUITER): Mr. Philip Kaufman had me in Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1978. I'd do anything with him.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: There were 134 speaking parts. Every day somebody new would show up on the set. I had my mission of what I wanted to do, but I also wanted to be entertained. I had Harry Shearer and Jeff Goldblum; life could not have been better.
CALEB DESCHANEL (CINEMATOGRAPHER): Phil and I had mutual friends in San Francisco. I’d gone to school with George Lucas. I knew Walter Murch. They were all part of the same small group of San Francisco filmmakers, with Francis Ford Coppola. Phil sent me the script. I loved it, it’s the kind of thing I grew up loving. My father was an engineer for Martin, who built Titan rockets. When I was a kid I’d build rockets. My dad helped me until I tried to build a liquid fuel rocket using nitric acid and alcohol. He was afraid I was going to blow myself up.
MARY JO DESCHANEL (ANNIE GLENN): Annie Glenn was already cast, and I just had an appointment to meet the casting director and read. I hadn’t been acting because I was having kids. I felt out of practice. Overnight, the actress who had the part asked for more money and fell out. So I didn’t know it when I went in, but they were looking for someone. The casting director said, “Do you know how to stutter?” And I said, “No, but I can try.”
“Mr. Philip Kaufman had me in Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” Jeff Goldblum says. “I’d do anything with him.”
PHILIP KAUFMAN: Dennis had done some movies, but his brother Randy was better known. I was alone when Dennis came in. I was doing the camera work as well as reading off camera, but I didn’t really know how the camera worked. Dennis said, “I know that camera. I’ve got exactly this kind of camera.” I pressed the button. “It’s red and flashing, does that mean it’s on?” He said, “Yeah, that’s it.” So then Dennis did a reading that was phenomenal. A couple hours later Chartoff and Winkler came in and I said, “Let’s check it out.” Of course Dennis was wrong. The camera was off, and lost to history was one of the greatest auditions I’d ever seen.
TOM WOLFE (AUTHOR): Having Dennis Quaid play Gordon Cooper was a good stroke. Cooper, as a pilot, didn’t have much of a background. He was an OK military pilot. They chose him because he was so cool. He fell asleep on the launchpad. These holds would go on for hours. He also fell asleep during a spaceflight. He was an absolutely cool human being.
FRED WARD (GUS GRISSOM): I was asked to play another astronaut at first. But then Phil asked me to read for Gus Grissom. That was exciting because I really liked the character. What he had to go through, his so-called blowing a hatch. I’d been in the Air Force when I was young, not as a pilot, but as an airborne radar technician in Goose Bay, Labrador, during the cold war. We were one of the first lines of defense. We’d work on the ground, meet with the aircraft, speak to the pilots, see what was going on with the equipment, pull it into the shop. Then we’d have these alerts; we’d have to go out at night and load missiles. These astronauts were big people at the time.
YEAGER: Some of my friends played extras, such as Korky Kevorkian, a pilot and fruit farmer from Reedley, California. I played a bartender.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: We started looking around for someone who could play Yeager. Then my wife, Rose, and I went to a poetry reading in San Francisco and Sam Shepard was reading. Rose poked me and said, “There's your guy.” I said, “For what?” She said, “Yeager.” Sam had a cowboy quality to him. He was Gary Cooper.
SAM SHEPARD (CHUCK YEAGER): Phil offered the part to me a few times, and I refused. I felt like it was ridiculous to play a living person. I knew Chuck and I didn't feel like I was him at all.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: I tracked Sam down at the Chateau Marmont in LA and slid the script under his door.
SHEPARD: He kept hounding me about it. And I did like Phil a lot, and I liked a lot of the actors I'd known through theater and stuff, like Ed Harris and Freddie Ward. So I thought, well, maybe it wouldn't hurt to do it.
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Dennis Quaid as Gordon Cooper Everett Collection
“Make It Like They Did in the Old Days.”
Kaufman wanted his audience to feel the adrenaline rush that early test pilots experienced as they chased the sound barrier, as well as the violence inherent in breaking free from, and reentering, Earth's atmosphere.
GEOFFREY KIRKLAND (PRODUCTION DESIGNER): Phil got this amazing collection of research from NASA and the Navy. He set up a library in his trailer.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: Research went on in every area, all through the movie. When the actors showed up, each of them got a book that we had prepared with 30 to 40 pages on each character—every damn thing we could find.
PETER KAUFMAN: I'd go to the Soviet embassy in San Francisco with a copy of the book, and they would give me footage of Star City. They were really helpful, the Russians. And we got footage from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Air Force that hadn't been widely seen.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: We combined the great NASA footage with pieces that were built on the set. We were pioneering in that kind of insertion of actors into historical events. For example, we combined footage of the real Alan Shepard being loaded into the capsule with Scott Glenn doing it on the stage. We had Scott Glenn shaking hands with Kennedy; they did the same thing in Forrest Gump and made a big thing out of spending a million dollars to do it. We did that in one afternoon.
KIRKLAND: One day we went to the model shops to see the first shots of the supersonic jet. We had a production team out there, a whole unit unto themselves. They’d been working for six months, making these amazing models. Every little rivet had a little bit of grime. They’d built a shop, gotten a motion control camera.
GUTIERREZ: We called our motion control system the Cruciflex, because that’s sort of how we felt about it. It controlled camera movements with a computer so that a camera could precisely repeat movements. It featured a Fries Mitchell 35-mm camera mounted on a boom arm, placed at right angles to a vertical shaft. The mechanical system moved a camera along the x, y, and z axes. It allowed it to move in multiple directions. The cross-shaped configuration was in turn positioned on a moving turntable, which enabled the whole apparatus to swing around as it traveled down the track. The Cruciflex allowed the camera to pan 360 degrees, roll 360 degrees three times, and pitch approximately 200 degrees. You could shoot one element—say, the X-1—in front of a blue screen and the camera would travel toward the model, giving the impression that the X-1 was moving toward the camera.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: We discovered that the motion control effects George was doing on Star Wars didn't create the grittier effect we wanted.
CALEB DESCHANEL: Getting to outer space can be violent.
GUTIERREZ: “Make it like they did in the old days” became our marching orders. So I opened the window and had my director of photography go stand downstairs with his back to the wall and a handheld camera looking up toward the sky. On the street, crew people were holding a large parachute to catch the plane that I was going to throw out the window. Our model of the X-1 was 4 and a half feet long and cost $6,000. The model makers were holding their breath. The next day we showed Phil the footage and he loved it.
CALEB DESCHANEL: We used rear projection on the scenes where Yeager was trying to break the sound barrier. Phil used footage from an experimental filmmaker, Jordan Belson, who created images of moving lights that streak by you to give a representation of what it was like to get to that point just beyond something that anybody had ever done before.
PETER KAUFMAN: Belson worked in a little apartment in San Francisco. I don’t think anyone from the production went in. He did all of his effects in a little light box with smoke. He’d bring his footage in. We’d all be amazed.
GUTIERREZ: We did various kinds of shaky-cam movement to give it a sense of urgency. We attached a vibrator to the lens or a power drill to the camera mount to make it all move like crazy.
CALEB DESCHANEL: At one point I shook the camera so hard, I gave my operator a black eye.
RANDY THOM (SOUND RERECORDING MIXER): I went to Twentynine Palms Marine base to record the sound of a bomb detonating for the plane crashes. There was a test range where planes would drop bombs. Occasionally one of them wouldn’t explode. So there was this ordnance team that would defuse the bomb or explode it. I had to sign several reams of paper saying my family wouldn’t sue if I got hurt.
SHEPARD: We had a model of the X-1 in the hangar. We had these rigs that shook the hell out of us. It wasn't a simulator. It was much more primitive. It was like a milk shake apparatus.
CALEB DESCHANEL: When Yeager goes up to break the sound barrier, you look down and you see the desert beneath; we had giant sheets of butcher paper with desert scenes painted on them and somebody was pulling the paper very slowly underneath the model so it would feel like you were at 20,000 feet with the Earth moving below.
GUTIERREZ: There were some pyrotechnicians creating clouds on the ground. They had a PT boat camouflage fogger on the back of a truck. We used vaporized mineral oil to create 150-foot-high clouds on the ground. You could shut a freeway with those.
CHARTOFF: Today it would be CGI.
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CALEB DESCHANEL: There were these wonderful guys who built these models that were really beautifully detailed. These guys loved their planes. At one point when the guy was flying the X-1, he landed it too hard. It burst into pieces. He was a burly guy who had built this thing. He went over to it and picked it up. He was in tears.
KIRKLAND: The B-29 we had was the only one left in the country. It belonged to the Confederate Air Force.
THOM: I was driven out in the middle of a desert. The jeep stopped at a certain point and I stood there on a little knoll, and a hundred yards away this guy was working on something. I walked 50 yards closer, nervous. I didn’t want to surprise the guy—he was sitting on a bomb like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove. He yelled to me, “Son, if I was you, I’d either come over here where I am, or I’d get another 100 yards away. Because this thing might go off. And if it does go off, it could kill ya. But if it doesn’t kill ya, you’d probably wish it had.” We marched about 100 yards away and got down behind a hill. He detonated and I recorded.
GUTIERREZ: Some of the reentry shots of the Mercury capsule, the close-ups, were shot on a stage with a 4-foot-tall model.
HARRIS: I knew that capsule inside and out. I knew what all the gauges were and everything. You’re just using your imagination. Like a kid, you know, climbing under a bunch of blankets pretending you’re going to the moon.
KIRKLAND: We shot the sequence where Gus Grissom bails from his capsule in Half Moon Bay, within sight of Mavericks.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: The question was, and is, did Grissom blow the hatch and screw the pooch, putting himself in danger, or did it go off like he claimed? I would like to believe it went off accidentally.
KIRKLAND: You think of the Pacific as being calm, but it can be ugly. We had barges anchored 15 times to Christmas, but they still moved. We needed to be able to submerge the capsule and bring it back up to do another shot. We couldn’t put it on a crane because you’d see the crane. We installed pipes underneath—you’d take the air out and it would sink, and then you’d put the air in and it would resurface.
WARD: I had a wet suit on under my flight suit, in pretty cold water. And then they picked me up, dangling by a rescue noose. It’s a tragic scene. You see Gus Grissom hanging there: almost totally defeated, like a dead fish on the end of a line, and then coming up toward the whirling helicopter blades, being pulled in.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: It was very dangerous. What a testament to Fred. Fred almost died in the water.
WARD: Grissom actually died in a prelaunch test. I heard the recording of the incident.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: Gus was a fucking hero.
“We Really Had the Run of the Place.”
Fred Ward played Gus Grissom, who would later die in the launchpad fire of Apollo 1. “Gus was a fucking hero,” Kaufman says. Dan Winters
Kaufman and his crew resisted cutting-edge special effects, preferring to make the film as realistic as possible. But that quest for authenticity led to some setbacks.
WINKLER: We had trouble getting permission from the Pentagon and NASA to use their facilities. John Glenn was a senior senator and didn’t like the way he was depicted. They were talking about him running for president. He tried to stop the government from giving us cooperation. He went to the Pentagon and told them not to give us permission.
CHARTOFF: A month before we began, NASA withdrew their permission for us to shoot at their facilities. It was a disaster. I flew to Washington and met with the head of NASA. I called John Glenn’s office and arranged a meeting with them, as well. At NASA, I went in and argued that pulling our access wasn’t fair—we’re American citizens and should have the right to use the facility, and no one individual should be able to stop us. That was the only argument I could think of. The guy said, “Call me back tomorrow morning, 10 o’clock, I’ll give you an answer.” I had an appointment at noon the next day with John Glenn. The next morning I called NASA. They said, “We have no right to deprive you of use of our facilities, you’ve got them.” Then I called John Glenn’s office and canceled my appointment.
CALEB DESCHANEL: When we were at Edwards Air Force Base, we really had the run of the place. We'd be right along the runways. Some pilots would get ticked off because we were too close. But Yeager was with us a lot of the time. One pilot landed and was like, “Who the hell are you?! What's going on?! Who's in charge?!” Finally Chuck Yeager turns around, and the guy's face suddenly fell. He said, “Oh, General, I'm really sorry, I didn't realize that you were with these guys.” You could do anything you wanted at Edwards as long as Yeager was around.
SHEARER: Late in the process we were called up to the Bay Area for the shoot on the aircraft carrier.
2 The USS Coral Sea, a 45,000 ton aircraft carrier, was decommissioned in 1990.
WARD: The USS Coral Sea.2
CALEB DESCHANEL: They gave us two lectures. Both of them had to do with not getting killed. These huge cables catch the planes when they land. Every once in a while they go snap. If you're there when they snap, they just cut you in half.
GOLDBLUM: Of course, I feel at home at sea because I was a whaler before I became an actor. No, that's not true. I'd hardly been at sea. I'm not really seafaring.
SHEARER: We were going to be going out through the Golden Gate and spending the night. Jeff and I are taken down to where we're going to be bunking. It's cramped. There's water on the floor. We looked at each other and said, “Gee, I don't know about this.”
PHILIP KAUFMAN: Harry and Jeff were a little grumpy. So Peter and I took them back to my apartment. The Jeff Goldblum version of The Headless Horseman was on TV. Harry started doing riffs on Jeff. Then they were doing riffs on each other. In the early morning Harry was doing yoga in my living room. And then we got back to the set.
SHEARER: The script had me throwing up on the aircraft carrier. I had real qualms about it. I thought, man, it's going to look so fake. I didn't want to be busted with that: Yeah, the movie was great, but man, Shearer throwing up, ooh.
CALEB DESCHANEL: We sent Dennis Quaid up with a test pilot. He had a Nagra recorder in the cockpit. Phil leans over to the pilot and says, “Give him an exciting ride.” So they go up and come back down 20 minutes later, and Dennis is green. The sound guy goes in to get his Nagra, and Dennis had thrown up all over it. In the dailies, you see Dennis smiling, and then the pilot starts doing barrel rolls, and Dennis disappears from the frame. We asked Dennis about it and he said, “Oh, I had my script on the floor and I was just checking my lines.” It was total bullshit.
“We Didn’t Fly Those Planes, We Wore Them.”
Yeager's spirit of daredevilry infected the film and the cast. That, combined with shooting on active military bases, occasionally made for dangerous shooting conditions.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: Chuck Yeager’s voice is the voice of “the right stuff.” Levon Helm had that voice that Tom Wolfe ascribed to Chuck Yeager, that sort of West Virginia drawl that Sam didn’t have. That’s why I had Levon as the narrator of the movie.
Space. Time. Dimension.
By Christopher Nolan
9 Easter Eggs From The Bookshelf in Interstellar
By Jon J. Eilenberg
Letter From The Editor: What it’s Like To Collaborate with Christopher Nolan
By Scott Dadich
SHEPARD: I’m not a Method actor. I just go for it. I could have cared less about the sound barrier. I was trying to capture something about the man. Something about his independence, something about his arrogance, something about his humility and his courage.
CALEB DESCHANEL: Sam Shepard doesn't fly; he drives everywhere he goes.
SHEPARD: I grew up in the country. A lot of country people don't like to fly, they don't like leaving the ground, but I went up with Yeager in a Piper Cub. I figured if I died while flying with the greatest pilot in the world, it would be OK.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: Yeager was like the unseen father that Sam is always looking for in his plays.
SHEPARD: When I first met Chuck, he had an old Ford pickup. Out there by Edwards it's very flat, and all the streets are perpendicular to each other; he would get up to about 85 miles an hour with his cruise control, and he would hit these intersections without touching the brake. Every once in a while you'd see a car coming from a distance and it was heading right where you were heading, but Chuck would not put the brake on. He would just keep going.
BARBARA HERSHEY (GLENNIS YEAGER): Chuck was so warm and incredibly generous. He even started calling me Glennis, which really meant a lot to me. One of the terrible things about the poor wives of the test pilots was that, when they said good-bye to their husbands in the morning, they didn't know if they'd see them again that night. I would look at photos of these women and they all looked like they'd been snowed in for the winter.
YEAGER: Barbara Hershey was the spittin' image of Glennis.
HERSHEY: I asked Chuck, “Is Glennis going to come to shooting?” And he said, “Oh no, no, no, she is never going to come to Edwards again.” And I asked him, “Did it ever get to her, this terrible waiting?” And he said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, did she ever get emotional?” And he said, “Oh no, no, no, not emotional. She’d throw things, but she wouldn’t get emotional.”
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SHEPARD: I asked Chuck what it was like to be an ace pilot, and he said, “Well, by the time I was 12 years old, I'd already killed 26 black bears.” He had no fear.
HERSHEY: He said, “We didn't fly those planes, we wore them.”
WOLFE: Yeager is the same wherever you put him: at a card table, at the edge of space, or at a podium. He's just Chuck Yeager. He's a totally confident man.
CALEB DESCHANEL: I went up in an F-100, an old two-seater jet, with a test pilot for Lockheed. There were times we would pull out of a dive and I'd actually lose my vision. Everything became sort of a dark reddish brown and then I'd go blind.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: We were shooting at Van Nuys and somehow Caleb and I found ourselves sitting with Dennis in a little airplane. Suddenly we noticed Dennis was talking to the control tower and the plane was moving! We said, “What the [censored]'s going on here!?” Dennis had learned how to fly during the shoot, and suddenly he takes off. Caleb and I were terrified.
KIRKLAND: I think it's the single most dangerous filming environment I've ever been in.
CALEB DESCHANEL: We put a camera in a wingtip gas tank on an F-104 to get some shots. And then other shots we did with a guy named Art Scholl, a really wonderful pilot who could do incredible maneuvers. Unfortunately, he died doing footage on Top Gun.
SHEPARD: We didn't have many accidents. One guy unfortunately got killed doing the parachute drop. The chute just didn't open.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: We didn't use any of those shots. We were all stunned. It was so connected with the theme of the movie, how dangerous all of this stuff was.
“You Can’t Get That Many Great Guys Together and Not Have a Little Bit of Fun.”
As shooting rolled on, the actors inherited the astronauts' spirit of swaggering camaraderie.
HARRIS: Tosca Café, a bar in North Beach, was the main hangout. We made some history there.
MARY JO DESCHANEL: The owner, Jeanette, was a friend of Phil's. He wanted it to be kind of like Pancho's, the bar in the movie where the test pilots hang out.
SHEPARD: After shooting all day out in the desert, I'd play pool with Yeager at Tosca.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: Scott Glenn looked like Alan Shepard; he had that flinty, tough-as-nails, competitive attitude. All the actors carried that attitude with them off camera, all through the movie. They lived in character for a long time.
SHEPARD: Eddie and me were big buddies and we liked liquor a little bit more than we should have. And yeah, we got into some fights in that bar. There was somebody sitting between us who was bad-mouthing Jeanette. And we pushed him and pulled him off the stool. And eventually you know, I don’t know, we fought.
HARRIS: Lance Henriksen and I were at the Holiday Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf. I had a couple beers and I got on a luggage cart. I was skateboarding on it or scootering it out through the front doors. It went off a curb and I went flying, smacked my face on the ground. I had a major black eye—and had to do a scene where I was in my room at night. And so Caleb had to do a thing where the moon’s coming through a window lighting up one side of my face and the other side of my face is totally in the darkness, because I was really banged up.
CALEB DESCHANEL: Ed shows up, and I'm like, what am I going to do? The set was built, and I actually had to have them reverse it so I could have the light coming in from another side so you couldn't see his black eye.
HARRIS: Phil suggested maybe I was drinking too much. I think he was probably right.
SHEPARD: You can't get that many great guys together and not have a little bit of fun.
“Can a Movie Help Make a President?”
Director Philip Kaufman: “I really wanted the film to be sold as about ‘the right stuff’: men in leather jackets, the cowboy thing.” Dan Winters
The film's October 1983 release happened to coincide with the presidential candidacy of John Glenn, which presented both an opportunity and a challenge.
CHARTOFF: I was in New York and called Tom Wolfe and said I wanted to meet. And he said, “Come on over to the house for breakfast.” At 8:30 in the morning Tom was dressed in his whites. We were eating grapefruits. He managed to get the slices out without soiling himself. And I said, “Tom, we think we’re going to change the ending a little bit. Yours felt a little bit rushed.” I couldn’t have said that to any writer but I could to him, because we had this long relationship. He said, “Well, after working on the book for years, my wife said to me that if I didn’t finish the book in a month she was going to divorce me.”
WOLFE: The Right Stuff was going to be a book that went from the Mercury program in the early ’60s to the Apollo space mission in 1975. I had just finished the Mercury section and I was starting on Gemini, and my wife came in and said, “I’ve got great news for you.” I said, “What’s that?” She said, “You finished the book!” I had to write three books to finance this reporting stint.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: I was very fussy about nobody seeing the movie before it premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. There were one or two prints of it. We were setting up for the screening and some friends went on a White House tour. As they were passing through, they saw some film cans with The Right Stuff stenciled on. Reagan had gotten a copy, secretly.
HARRIS: There was a big picture of me on the cover of Newsweek: “Can a Movie Help Make a President?” It gave a much different impression of what the movie was about.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: The movie suffered from that approach. I really wanted the film to be sold as about “the right stuff”: men in leather jackets, their connection to the cowboy thing. But somebody somewhere at the studio wanted to go back to that magazine-story approach. The movie should have been marketed as tougher and more mysterious than that magazine cover.
PETER KAUFMAN: With the help of Dolby technicians, we helped create new standards for the use of Dolby sound.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: When the rockets took off, the theater would rumble. I looked down the row at the premier and Kissinger was sitting there and I said, “I want to see those chins vibrating.” When the rockets launched, I went up in the projection room and I said, “Louder.” I went back down and the whole fucking theater was shaking. The chins were vibrating.
CALEB DESCHANEL: Phil wanted the movie to be really visceral. He always said that he wanted to pass out vomit bags at the screenings. He really wanted people to have the experience of what it was like in the X-1 cockpit or the Friendship capsule.
LADD: The film is a classic, but I think of it as a box office flop at the same time.
3 Best film editing, best sound, best sound effects editing, and best music (original score).
WINKLER: We won four Oscars.3 But we thought it would be a really, really big moneymaker. It wasn't.
LUCAS: The pivotal movie before The Right Stuff was 2001; that was like floating down a river. The Right Stuff had more of a documentary edge. It's seamless—the standard until Gravity.
SHEARER: It's a stunning piece of work.
MARK KELLY (ASTRONAUT): I read the book in eighth or ninth grade and saw the movie as a sophomore in college. I’ve seen it a dozen times. It got me excited about the space program. I ended up flying four times on the space shuttle over a period of 10 years. And I certainly remember the first time, at about Mach 15, as we rolled heads up I looked over my right shoulder, and that’s when I saw Earth as a whole planet for the first time. That’s a pretty amazing thing to see.
PHILIP KAUFMAN: The last line an actor says is Dennis Quaid's. He's going up after he's launched, total grace under pressure. “The sun is coming through the window now,” he says. “Oh Lord, what a heavenly light.”
Wednesday 03 December 2014
James Blunt's Record Label Tells Him to Stop Tweeting
James Blunt may have apologized for his most famous hit, but his never back down attitude on Twitter made his record label nervous enough to ask him to stop tweeting.
The "You're Beautiful" singer revealed to the Radio Times that he only went on Twitter in the first place at the behest of Atlantic Records who felt he needed to raise his profile.
“My record label signed me up to Twitter. It’s not something I would choose to be on because I think it's remarkable that in this day and age we allow people to voice their opinions as if they were fact, and the fact that people take it seriously is remarkable,” he said.
Blunt says Atlantic wanted him to promote himself, his albums and his tours but he was struck by the level of vitriol he found on Twitter and the level of importance society now attaches to Tweeted opinions.
"I went on there I saw how people could be quite abusive -- not just to me but to everyone online -- and I was amazed that I even considered taking it seriously. What happens on Twitter makes the news, you see articles about what people say on Twitter and that is a madness. And [that is] someone’s opinion voiced in their bedroom, feeling confident in their bedroom, probably with their trousers round their ankles while they write five nasty words to someone and yet we give that person the time of day."
Blunt was the brunt of particular abuse, but the ex-soldier took it in his stride, preferring instead to make fun of the abusers, poke fun of himself and reveal how ridiculous the whole thing was. “I thought 'I am not going to take that seriously; I am going to laugh at them and I am going to laugh at myself.'"
Blunt's Twitter comebacks have drawn praise from unexpected places, including comedian Ricky Gervais, but Atlantic weren't so keen on his frank rebuttals. "So as soon as I was on Twitter I started doing that. My record label immediately asked me to stop as it opened Pandora’s box."
Despite Atlantic's pleas, Blunt is continuing to take on the Twitter trolls and continuing to win grudging admiration from the unlikeliest of people.
CIA Admits Role In 1985 Coup To Oust David Lee Roth
CIA agents reportedly seeded false information in Rolling Stone and other media outlets to convince the public that Roth was toppled solely by his bandmates in a bloodless revolt.
LANGLEY, VA—Shedding new light on a tumultuous period of upheaval that dominated international headlines nearly 30 years ago, the U.S. government declassified hundreds of documents Tuesday that confirm the CIA covertly organized and executed the coup that ousted lead singer David Lee Roth from Van Halen.
According to a preliminary analysis, the newly released information includes more than 1,600 pages of formerly top-secret material detailing the CIA’s clandestine plot to infiltrate the platinum-selling rock group and unseat the magnetic, impulsive musician from his leadership position in the spring of 1985. The documents reveal that the agency worked behind the scenes for years, beginning after the release of the disco-inflected “Push Comes To Shove” single in 1981, to foment the internal turmoil and unrest needed to destabilize the band and ultimately force Roth to step down from the American heavy metal act.
“As Van Halen’s creative direction became uncertain in the early 1980s, it became increasingly apparent that we would have to take the steps necessary to remove Roth from power,” said former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John N. McMahon, describing the covert process by which he and his colleagues quietly forced a schism between the vocalist and members of the band’s inner circle in order to disrupt the dangerous cult of personality that had taken hold around the hard-rock frontman. “Well before the commencement of the Hide Your Sheep Tour, Roth had become too unpredictable, too brazen, and he was preventing the band’s sound from moving toward synthesizer-driven, radio-friendly rock. So, we felt we needed to act, and quickly.”
“Quite simply, our office determined that Roth was no longer fit to exercise control over Van Halen, and that his aspirations for the band were not aligned with the best interests of the American people,” he continued.
Dubbed Operation Diamond Cutter by the select top-ranking CIA administrators who orchestrated the plot, the confidential initiative reportedly sought to quietly undermine Roth’s influence within Van Halen and replace him with Sammy Hagar, a charismatic but largely inert puppet leader who agency officials were confident would be easily manipulated once installed atop the iconic rock group.
The CIA confirmed that it was able to exploit preexisting strains in the band by capitalizing on internal concerns over Roth’s long-term musical ambitions following the release of his solo EP, as well as pent-up tensions that had simmered for years after the lukewarm commercial and critical reception of Van Halen’s Fair Warning album. Additionally, American intelligence operatives succeeded in enlisting Roth’s manager and utilizing the double agent to convince his client that relinquishing his position would allow him to pursue what was portrayed as a budding and potentially prosperous film career.
“Based on the things we heard coming out of Van Halen’s studio at the time, we were given authorization from the highest levels of government to seek every possible avenue to subvert Roth’s command,” said one CIA operative speaking on condition of anonymity, claiming that the agency recruited and trained numerous groupies and entourage members to ply longtime Roth ally Alex Van Halen with alcohol in order to ensure that he was in no state to oppose the takeover. “Had we not moved when we did, there’s no telling what kind of detrimental effect Roth would have had on the band’s move into more mainstream pop territory and the state of rock music as a whole. We saw the opportunity to remove this uncontrollable megalomaniac from power while safeguarding the American people from his potent influence, and we seized it.”
“The last thing we wanted was to have another ‘Panama’ on our hands,” he added.
As revealed by the CIA, prior to Roth’s successful ouster from the group, the agency also funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in untraceable funds through intermediaries to bankroll the production and distribution of such incendiary works as VOA and the “I Can’t Drive 55” single in order to bolster Hagar’s profile in the eyes of the band’s supporters.
Despite the prevalence of critics who question the legitimacy of the post-Roth Van Halen regime, McMahon said that he has “no regrets whatsoever” about the agency’s false flag mission.
“Overthrowing Roth was a risky, highly controversial maneuver, but I believe that history will justify our actions,” McMahon said, acknowledging that the coup ultimately proved ineffectual, as the vocalist’s departure merely ushered in a series of decreasingly competent replacements, culminating in Roth reclaiming his seat of power long after the band had ceased to have an impact in the international community. “This was a self-aggrandizing degenerate who needed to be toppled in order to bring stability to the band’s direction. We did what needed to be done.”
“That being said, none of us could possibly have foreseen that For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge would indirectly result from our actions,” he added, solemnly shaking his head.
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