In Conversation With The Reverend Billy G – From The Coachmen and Moving Sidewalks to ZZ Top

The cover stars of Shindig! issue #85 are none other than those titans of Texan rock, ZZ Top. In London to celebrate the release of his latest solo album The Big Bad Blues, ZZ Top’s main man BILLY F. GIBBONS met up with our Contributing Editor THOMAS PATTERSON to chew the fat and share memories about the band’s early years. It’s a wild tale, one that’s recounted in full in the new issue (in UK stores November 1st).

A loquacious, erudite and fascinating interviewee, Billy’s a chap who can spin fantastic yarns about blues greats, psychedelic pioneers, famous studios and legendary LPs – so much so, it’s almost a shame we had to edit his thoughts down for the magazine. So, as an added treat, here’s the unedited transcript of Billy and Thomas’s conversation, full of byways and highways, digressions and laughs. Strap yourselves in and get ready to boogie…


Shindig!: Billy, thanks for sitting down with Shindig!, and congratulations on The Big Bad Blues. It’s such a fun album.
Billy Gibbons: Yes, I must say, it had its inauspicious beginnings in that we had booked some studio time and coincidentally the day we opened the door, our dear friend and drummer from days gone by, Greg Morrow, was passing through Texas. He was on tour with somebody and he had a three-day holiday. And I said, “Well come on in, come on in.” Joe Hardy, the engineer along with our other engineer GL ‘G-Mane’ Moon – it’s a long one – anyway, they got things organised and Joe picked up the bass, Mr Greg Morrow started tapping it out, and I said, “Well, you know, let’s warm up with some of the favourites, the usual Jimmy Reed, BB King, whatnot.” The third day, we wrapped up and Greg said, “You know, reluctantly I have to bow out to get back on the road.” Well Joe said, “Shall we listen to what we’ve been doing for three days?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Oh, I taped over the red light because the recording was on-going.” That is a bonus. We were just ploughing through it. Caution was to the wind. And that’s how the cover tunes were selected to appear on the record. Two Muddy Waters numbers, ‘Rollin’ And Tumblin’’, which goes back to the ’30s, and then two Bo Diddley numbers, ‘Bring It To Jerome’, a tribute to the maraca player Jerome Green and ‘Crackin’ Up’. ‘Crackin’ Up’ has an interesting background. The guitar figure that opens the song in the original Bo Diddley recording from 1957 is inside and out, upside down and backwards. I had talked about this particular track with Keith Richards. And he and I had joined the legions of curious listeners trying to figure out that opening figure. And he gave up. He said “Oh no, it’s only done once, it’s on the record.” It took days to try and figure it out. I came close. And I think if Bo Diddley were sitting here now he’d probably say, “Yeah, OK, close enough, now let’s do another one.” (Laughs) I’d say, “One’s too many and a hundred ain’t enough!”

SD! You came from a musical family, right? You picked up the guitar aged 13.
BG: Exactly. 13. Xmas day. I turned 13 December 16th and nine days later my dad reached behind the tree and I said, “Wow a guitar, yeah!” And then he pulled out a little table top Fender amp and I said, “Wow an electric guitar!” (laughs).

SD!But before that, is it true you studied percussion with Tito Puente?
BG: When I was 12, my sister and I, we spent a little over a year down in Mexico City with our next-door neighbours. The dad of that family was some big shot with Standard Oil, which was partners with the Mexican government, they’d nationalised their oil, P-Mex. And they had some problem down in Mexico. So my buddy who lived next door he said, “Oh yeah, we’ve got to go down to Mexico, there’s some problem, my Dad’s going to put that fire out, we’ll be back in a couple of weeks.” Well, a couple of months later he called up and said, “Dude, we’re never getting out of here! Can you come down?” And I said, “Well it’s summer, summer’s next week, we get out of school.” So my folks willingly sent us on our way. Read more In Conversation With The Reverend Billy G – From The Coachmen and Moving Sidewalks to ZZ Top


David Crosby on Here If You Listen

Poet. Survivor. Living legend. The mighty DAVID CROSBY (Croz) talks to MARTIN RUDDOCK about his excellent new collaborative album Here If You Listen, mortality, singing along with yourself and that “asshole” in The White House…

Shindig!: Your latest album Here If You Listen is your second with The Lighthouse Band (Snarky Puppy’s Michael League, guitarist Becca Stevens, and keyboardist Michelle Willis). Its a collaborative effort.

David Crosby: Yes it is in fact… The first one went down so well. I was so knocked out with what great musicians, great singers, great writers they are. The first one was sort of a “me” album with Michael producing and the girls sang on it and contributed to it. It went so well that I went to all three of them and said “I want to make a group record, I don’t want to make a David Crosby record I want to make a Lighthouse record. I want you to sing lead too, I want us all to write the whole thing together.” And that’s what we did. We went into the studio in Brooklyn and we had two songs… we had Michelle’s ‘Janet’ and we had the one I wrote with (Snarky Puppy pianist) Bill Laurance, that I wrote to my son ‘Your Own Ride’. We wrote the entire rest of the record in eight days together, right there.



SD!: Throughout your career, you’ve always had a love of making music through jamming and collaboration. Is that how you prefer to work these days?

DC: I’ll work any kind of way. Anything that produces a good song, produces decent music that makes people feel something… I’ll go anywhere, any way. I’ll do it stark naked in the middle of a snowstorm. Anything that will make good art, I’m willing to go through to do.


SD!: You’re one of the great songwriters of the last century, but on Here If You Listen you’ve thrown open the writing process to the rest of the band.

DC: Well, they’re such talented people man. Michael League is one of the best writers I know, and Becca Stevens is the same, Michelle the same…

They are unbelievably good writers. The result is this record and the proof is in the pudding. The quality of the songs is really high.


SD!: The song ‘Your Own Ride’ is lovely, and features a very poignant lyric addressed to your son, Django.

DC: Yeah, I wrote it about my son and to my son about 10 years ago when he was like 12 years old. And I showed the words to Bill Laurance last year and he thought they were one of my best sets. He asked me if he could work with those words, and he gave me an unbelievably good song back. It’s funny you should ask about him, I’m meeting him here for lunch today in Boston.

SD!: You’ve been making music in so many different ways over the years, you’ve done the band format with The Byrds and CSNY where you’re trying to accommodate other people’s songs or find a space in there. Would it be fair to say you’re more like a jazz bandleader these days?

DC: There’s something in that…. I don’t really feel like a band leader so much. I guess I am in the Sky Trails band more probably than The Lighthouse Band. When I’m with them I tend to feel more like Michael is the leader. He’s a firm and natural bandleader, and he’s a much more knowledgeable musician than I am – so when we work in The Lighthouse Band generally I’m the lead singer but I’m not in charge (laughs). The two girls make damn sure I’m not in charge ‘cause they’re very strong women, both of them.


SD!: It seems a very harmonious set-up you’ve got there.

 DC: It is yeah, we’re very very good friends and we really do care about each other. We do respect each other’s work tremendously so there’s a really good work ethic there. If any one of the three of them says something to me man, I’m really listening.


 SD!: Two of the songs on the new album ‘1967’ and ‘1974’ have been worked up by you and the band from old demos, how did those come about?

DC: Yes. One of them (‘1967’) is a really magical thing because you can actually hear me writing the song. We actually had the tape machine going while I was thinking up the song. It’s the only time I know of that that exists. You can hear me find the melody, right there on the tape. And then what we did was Michael said “There’s no rules, we can be a time machine, and take them right up to now and complete them.” And I said “Jeez, could we? It would be fun, there’s no law saying we can’t.” Michael and the girls said “Aw c’mon, let us at it!” and the result is what you heard. We wrote words to one of them and we completed the other. I think it’s fantastic that there’s a tape of a thing all the way from the first moment that you think the melody up. And it’s all there, the whole thing on tape.

SD!: Were you still in The Byrds when you recorded that demo or was it just after?

DC: I think it was right after, yeah.

Read more David Crosby on Here If You Listen


Let Me Whisper In Your Ear – Big Star’s advocates

CAMILLA AISA surveys, and compiles a playlist of, the ladies and gentlemen who made it all so probable for us to rediscover Chris Bell, Alex Chilton and Big Star









I Am the Cosmos (live) (Chilton, Stephens, Posies)
Recorded live in a Chicago Summer night, back in 1994 when second-era Big Star was made of Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens and Posies Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow. A rousing cover of Chris Bell’s only solo single, with Chilton paying homage to the McCartney to his Lennon (or viceversa, depends on where you’re standing). Consider this, and you’ll find that there’s something intensely moving about hearing him sing “I’d really like to see you again”.









Talking about emotional situations triggered by great songs, for us proud fan(atic)s it rarely gets more gripping than this: cult heroes of reclaimed powerpop glory honouring one another. Here the late Tommy Keene reaches into the Third material and finds ‘Nighttime’. As he proceeds with his earnest cover, he’s gently reminding us all why, deep down, we’ll always stubbornly think of guitar strumming as the most poetic act a human being is capable of.









September Gurls 
The Radio City gem is not only a fan favourite but a peer favourite, too. The Searchers recorded ‘September Gurls’ for the second of their acclaimed comeback albums, 1981’s Love’s Melodies, while five years later The Bangles would welcome the Big Star classic into a world of indebted jangle pop and eager new wave (and the song would also prove irresistible to fellow nostalgics Absolute Grey). Meanwhile, in the UK mod revivalists Squire released it as a single in 1984. Listening back to all these tales of December boys and desired girls a pattern is made clear: all covers are inescapably reverent. And yes, it almost makes you want to complain about lack of imagination. But then think about the original for a moment…who would change a thing of perfection?









Free Again 
This is not the clever rework some might expect. This is, quite simply, what it sounds like to pick up some instruments and play an Alex Chilton song: a blast. Back in 1992, the Teenage Fanclub guys already knew it better than anybody else. Norman Blake would later explain: “I think Alex saw something of himself in us, in our attitude and approach to making music. I think he passed it on to us and we’ve passed it on to another group of musicians. Alex was definitely a kindred spirit of ours.” So much so that Free Again could easily pass for a Fannies original. Read more Let Me Whisper In Your Ear – Big Star’s advocates


Hélène De Joie

PAUL OSBORNE speaks to Burlesque dancer, model and club promoter Helene De Joie and finds out about her forthcoming night to celebrate MOOF magazine’s first birthday

Emma Aylett Photography –


“I was definitely born with a love of music and rock ’n’ roll and the desire to express myself through dance and fashion,” explains club promoter, model and burlesque dancer extraordinaire Helene De Joie.  “I went on to study dance and take classes in various disciplines. When I moved to London in 2010, I started a course in burlesque (with Burlesque Baby) and then started performing a year later.”

Helene has been wowing audiences over the last seven years with her unique take on the Burlesque art form, and it’s an approach which means she’s able to combine all of her influences. “My performances are heavily influenced by roc k’n’ roll and come from the soul, rather than being over-choreographed.”

It’s this connection with her rock ’n’ roll roots which has seen her collaborate with several musicians, most notably when she joined the recently reformed Thee Hypnotics on stage at their London show.  “That was a FUN night and an amazing opportunity! It actually came about when I had mentioned to a mutual friend of Ray’s that I was looking for a ticket to the show, and the next thing I knew, she had told him about me dancing etc. and he got in touch asking me if I wanted to dance with them. I obviously didn’t need to think twice!”

Emma Aylett Photography –

Helene added further strings to her boa when she decided to bridge the gap between her performances and musical influences and promote her own events, and following her initial foray into promotion with an evening dedicated to Nick Cave, she eventually set up Factory de Joie, her very own night of live music, burlesque and hedonism. “I wanted to bring together the music scene and the burlesque/cabaret scene (both of these are passions of mine and I felt there were not enough nights combining the two) and create a night that was immersive, hedonistic and visually stimulating. I was inspired by Warhol’s Factory and the sounds and aesthetics of the ’60s/70s, and so Factory de Joie was born on the 28thJuly 2016!”

Saturday, 4thAugust will see Helene collaborate with Melanie Xulu, founder of the excellent MOOF magazine, to celebrate the magazine’s first anniversary under the name A Playground Of Psychedelia.  What can people expect from this exciting meeting of minds? “You can expect the usual Factory de Joie hedonism and rock ‘n’ roll psychedelia with added folky obscurity and tripped-out occult vibes” explains Helene.  “And because it’s our BIRTHDAY PARTY we have gone all out and booked Twink (The Pretty Things), who is playing with The Lysergics, to headline! We also have Velvet Candy coming down (or rather up from Portsmouth!) to put on a full-on psychedelic liquid lightshow!”

Sound good readers? Well there’s MORE! “We also have Factory’s resident garage band, The Pacers, Wax Machine (from Brighton), The Mason Dixon Brothers, a sitar set by Rod from Flare Voyant and spoken word and a rare acoustic set from Tim Briffa of My Drug Hell. PLUS burlesque and Go-Go dancers, three DJs playing ’60s/70s vinyl, tarot readings and a few more birthday treats thrown in for good measure!”

Laura Kensington

Tickets for Factory De Joie and Moof Mag Present: A Playground Of Psychedeliacost £8 in advance or £10 on the night and are available here
For more information visit the Factory de Joie and Helene’s Facebook pages. The night also celebrates the Factory’s second birthday