Page 7

Jim Berkenstadt – Music Historian,Archivist, Consultant,Author, and The Rock And Roll Detective BW: So Jim, How did you get started as a researcher for Music,TV, and Film? Your client list is pretty impressive. JB:It started in the late 60’s.I had collected records prior to that and I was one of those people that would study the album front to back. Because I wanted to know who’s playing that instrument. We got more of that information as the decade went on. I wanted to know who produced it. I wanted to understand what it means when it says this guy produced it.What does it mean when it says someone’s the engineer? What are some of these weird percussion instruments? I was just into that. I played some instruments as a kid, but my real interest in music was in listening to it, and then documenting it. I thought let’s leave the playing to the good players, and there has to be someone to keep track of it all. So besides collecting music and studying it I was reading Crawdaddy, Cream, and Rolling Stone. I also started sneaking around to these head shops, but not for the usual material but because they were selling bootleg records. I was fascinated by that concept.Where it was something the artist did not necessarily intend you to hear.Whether it was someone who had recorded a TV show, or a radio show, it gave you a chance to hear people you had only heard on a record, and now you could hear them “Live”.That was a cool thing.Then I came across a double album of the Beatles rehearsing in the studio and I was just blown away.The Beatles had just broken up or were on the verge of breaking up.That was 1970, just when Let It Be was coming out.The performances were them rehearsing, talking about songs, stopping and starting,playing old cover songs from the fifties,chatting,arguing,tuning,and it was just like I got to be in the studio with them. So it was a real find, and to me it was a real adrenaline rush. I became fascinated by the artist in the “creative mode.” Not just the final product we’d buy at the record store, but the whole “work in progress”. I really liked that so I started to keep track of all these un-released recordings as well as ones that would come out and I tended to specialize in the Beatles because they were one of my favorite bands. So besides continuing to collect their solo recordings, which I guess I’ll have to do until I’m 90, I also collected any sort of rare recordings by the Beatles as a group, and even bootlegs of solo Beatles started to leak out over time.That really started more in the 80’s and 90’s.Whether it was a solo tour, or some engineer had made a copy of alternate takes or out takes from one of their solo sessions. For example there are five or six hours of Imagine demos, alternate, and out takes from John Lennon’s album that are out there in pristine quality.That was pre- computer days so I used index cards to keep them all in order.And I started to think in terms of this is when this was recorded and this was when this was released.Then I hopped on the computer in the 90’s and started using a spread sheet program so everything was findable and in chronological order. By then it had gotten a little more complex collecting because people were trading cassettes of rare shows around the world.And then came CD’s, and vhs videos and the DVD’s. So the computer really helped with that because later on when I did get to work for some clients in the “Beatle World” it was quick and easy to locate and retrieve what they were looking for. BW: Can you talk about some of the things you’ve done with the Beatles, George Harrison, and the Travelling Wilburys? JB: Sure, the first thing I did was that I heard George Harrison was going to digitally remaster All Things Must Pass and I thought well, he might want to consider putting out some rare tracks with the box set. So I found someone who knew his personal assistant and started talking with her and explained to her that I had a lot of material from those sessions that George might find of interest and I believe he did ultimately put on a couple of those rare tracks. I worked on The Travelling Wilburys box set basically gathering every single interview in the world that was done with any of the members talking about them. I also tracked down video interviews with the members which were made into a video that is called The History of the Travelling Wilburys, which is included in the re-mastered box set.That was fun! I was also the historical consultant to Martin Scorsese and Olivia Harrison for the film George Harrison - Living in the Material World, which debuted last October on HBO. w w w. a m e r i c a n a g a z e t t e . n e t

BW: Jim, you’ve also written some critically acclaimed books, how much fun was that? JB: It was pretty fun I have to say.The first book was Black Market Beatles which basically summed up all those years of collecting all the rare un-released recordings.It talks about how some of those leaked out over the years. It’s got the opinions of the Beatles and what they thought of bootlegs.There was a chapter that summed up what the most important or significant Beatles bootlegs were.Which, if you compare to the final release of the “Beatles Anthology” box set, you’ll see that they may have perhaps used it as a model in some ways to figure which recordings should come out.The next book was Nevermind Nirvana which I wrote with Charles Cross who is a Seattle music journalist. He was an editor of a music paper out there called The Rocket. He’s also a contributor to Rolling Stone. So it turns out that he had heard I was writing this book and I liked the idea of writing a book about how an album was made from start to finish. I was fascinated by going behind the scenes. I know Butch Vig and he produced this Nirvana album,which was the most important Rock album of the Nineties.So I thought I could just get help from Butch, and the guys that engineered it and worked there and get the local Madison angle because that’s where the album started, and then get the rest of the story out in L.A.In the meantime Charles Cross contacted me and said we’re both writing the exact same book. BW: How did he know that? JB:You know there’s something in the music world amongst writers, historians, and researchers that they all tend to know what other people are doing. I don’t know how that works. I don’t know what other people are doing. So I said let’s merge and work on this thing together.Which I think made it a better book. It also goes into the sociology of the time and why the fans of that era took to this album so incredibly and how it changed radio at the time and just why it had such a big impact on a generation. So I think each decade has one or two albums that have a big impact on society. BW: I understand you have a new book coming out called The Beatle Who Vanished. JB:Yes, this lead up to a book about Jimmie Nicol who was a Beatle for ten days. Most people felt that he came out of nowhere and was suddenly plunged into this job for 10 days in the eye of the hurricane of Beatlemania.They were getting ready to go on their first ever world wide tour. All the concert tickets were sold, all the promotion had been done, and all this money would be owed to these promoters all over the world if the show did not go on.There was no “out clause” in the contracts in that day and age to let them out based on an illness. On June 3, 1964 they were doing a photo shoot and Ringo just collapsed on the floor and passed out. So they put him in the hospital and they said he had tonsillitis and he’s going to have to stay there awhile.Well the tour was supposed to start on June 4, in Holland. So I was fascinated by how did they find this guy in an 8 hour day, and find the right guy that could know Ringo’s drum parts? So, the book explores his time with The Beatles, but also, what Nicol accomplished as a band leader, drummer, session man, arranger, producer and composer, before and after the Beatles. BW:That sounds really interesting. Jim I know you have a lot more interesting projects you are working on and for those interested in what you are doing,or who want to hire you they can go to your website. www.rockandrolldetective.com Thanks for talking with me. Sounds like really fun stuff that you do. JB:You’re Welcome.And you are right, this research is a blast! Story by Bobby Westfall

7

Profile for Americana Gazette / Sugar River Productions

Americana Gazette April - May 2012  

The Americana Gazette is a print and online interactive FREE music and arts publication. Each bi-monthly issue features Americana, Blue Gras...

Americana Gazette April - May 2012  

The Americana Gazette is a print and online interactive FREE music and arts publication. Each bi-monthly issue features Americana, Blue Gras...

Advertisement