Saturday, February 11, 2023

Fretted and Moaning (Ultimate Edition, 2021), by Andy Summers

If you’re an Andy Summers super fan like I’ve been since 1983, then don’t hesitate one moment longer! Be one of the 100 people in the known universe to own a copy of The Ultimate Edition of Andy’s latest tome, Fretted and Moaning, his first collection of short story fiction.

The Ultimate Edition is a true collector’s item and a real pleasure to have in your possession. It is packaged in a beautiful blue bespoke box with a foil etching of Andy’s famed Police telecaster on the front. The book is numbered and signed by Andy himself, as is a black-and-white GiclĂ©e photographic print taken by Andy of a stagehand holding Andy’s iconic telecaster just before a Police show.

Let me tell you, when I gingerly held the high-quality print in my own hands and beheld it with my own eyes, I was entranced in a hypnotic gaze of surreal subjugation that I could not extricate myself from for quite some time. Certain works of art need to be experienced up close and personal in order to fully appreciate them, and this is absolutely one of them.

The bottom line is, if you haven’t already, get yourself a copy of The Ultimate Edition of Fretted and Moaning by Andy Summers and be one of the lucky 100 to own this rare artifact of beauty.

And if you do miss out on it, don’t fret and moan. The next time Rocket 88 Books offers a similar Ultimate Edition by or about your favorite artist, whether Andy Summers or anyone else, just get it!

--Raj Manoharan

Friday, December 30, 2022

Happy Birthday, Andy Summers!

On New Year's Eve, Saturday, December 31, 2022, Andy Summers – my favorite guitarist and musician of all time – turns 80 years old.

I first became acquainted with the music of Summers in 1983 at the age of 10 in a Catholic elementary school classroom when I heard a hypnotic and futuristic-sounding pop/rock song emanating from the radio of Candy, my substitute teacher. When I asked what the song was and who recorded it, I was promptly informed that it was “Spirits in the Material World” by The Police. I was instantly hooked, so much so that that Christmas, my parents got me a vinyl copy of Synchronicity, The Police’s fifth and final studio album and one of the biggest hits of the year. The Police have since remained my favorite rock band of all time.

Summers was the guitarist for the mega-popular group, who were active in the late 1970s and early 1980s and reunited for a 30th anniversary tour in 2007 and 2008. Being a good decade older than his bandmates Sting and Stewart Copeland, Summers began his professional recording career in the early 1960s, playing for Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band (which later became the psychedelic but short-lived Dantalian’s Chariot), Eric Burdon’s New Animals, and Soft Machine. After formally studying guitar at Northridge University in California from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, Summers returned to England and plied his trade as a session guitarist for Joan Armatrading, Neil Sedaka, Kevin Coyne, and Deep Purple’s Jon Lord before achieving monumental success and international stardom with The Police.

After the dissolution of The Police in the early 1980s, Summers scored some Hollywood films (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Weekend at Bernie’s) and recorded one rock vocal album before establishing himself as an acclaimed and accomplished contemporary instrumental guitarist across a variety of styles, including jazz, fusion, new age, and world music.

I was privileged to interview Summers by telephone in Fall 2000 for the January 2001 issue of DirecTV: The Guide. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Summers posted a notice of the interview in the news section of his Web site. Later, I met Summers in person during his book tour in Fall 2006, just a few months before The Police reunited for a 30th anniversary reunion tour, which I was fortunate to attend twice, first at Giants Stadium in August 2007 and then at PNC Bank Arts Center in August 2008.

For a good overview of Summers’ solo work, I highly recommend the following albums: Mysterious Barricades, A Windham Hill Retrospective, Synaesthesia, and The X Tracks. My personal favorite Summers albums are XYZ, Mysterious Barricades, The Golden Wire, Charming Snakes, World Gone Strange, Synaesthesia, Earth + Sky, Fundamental (with Fernanda Takai), Circus Hero (with his rock band Circa Zero), and Harmonics of the Night.

--Raj Manoharan

Michael Nesmith (December 30, 1942 - December 10, 2021)

Friday, December 30, 2022, would have been Michael Nesmith's 80th birthday. The Texas-born Monkees singer and guitarist (the one with the green wool hat) passed away on December 10, 2021, in California at the age of 78 .

Of all of The Monkees, Nesmith had the most prolific and successful solo career. He pioneered the country-rock music format in the early to mid-1970s, founded the music and video label Pacific Arts, and basically created the concept of MTV. In addition to producing films and music videos, Nesmith also won the very first Grammy Award for Best Home Video for Elephant Parts, which later led to NBC’s short-lived Television Parts. Before Nesmith became famous, his mother invented liquid paper and sold it to Gillette for a substantial fortune, which Nesmith inherited.

For a good overview of Nesmith’s music, I recommend The Older Stuff, The Newer Stuff, Tropical Campfire’s, Live at the Britt Festival, Rays, Movies of the Mind, Infinite Tuesday: Autobiographical Riffs -- The Music, and Live at the Troubadour.

More information about Nesmith is available on his Web site at

--Raj Manoharan

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Happy Birthday, Eric Johnson!

On Wednesday, August 17, 2022, one of my favorite guitarists, Eric Johnson, will turn 68 years old.

I was first introduced to the music of Johnson in 1990 by an employee at a local cable television station I interned at during my senior year of high school. That was the year Johnson, then 35/36 years old, released his breakthrough second album, Ah Via Musicom, which achieved the distinction of having three instrumental songs reach the American Top Ten.

Every one of Johnson's albums showcases his incredible electric guitar wizardry and his soft-spoken heartfelt vocals. His latest albums are The Book of Making and Yesterday Meets Today.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Allan Holdsworth (August 6, 1946 - April 15, 2017)

Today would have been Allan Holdsworth's 76th birthday.

The late, great guitar master was born on August 6, 1946, in England and passed away at the age of 70 on April 15, 2017, in Southern California, where he had lived for over three decades.

I first heard of Holdsworth in the early 1990s when I read some reviews that described the instrumental albums of my favorite musician, Police guitarist Andy Summers, as partly Holdsworthian.

I began to read more about the legendary Holdsworth, finally buying my first album of his, Hard Hat Area, upon its release in 1994. I still remember eagerly and excitedly purchasing the CD at a record store in Greenwich Village.

I continued to buy Holdsworth's albums throughout the 1990s, culminating with the 2000 release of The Sixteen Men of Tain. Holdsworth put out one more solo album, Flat Tire: Music for a Non-Existent Movie, in 2001, which I never got around to getting back then. After that, Holdsworth went silent, save for the occasional guest appearance on other musicians' albums, as well as live performances and collaborative recordings.

I also lost touch with Holdsworth's happenings for nearly two decades, until April 15, 2017, when I read on Yahoo! News to my shock, disbelief, and dismay that Holdsworth had died at 70 years of age. Heartbroken at both his loss and my obliviousness to his life for the previous 16 years, I immediately purchased his 12-CD box set, The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever! The Allan Holdsworth Album Collection, and his 2-CD compilation, Eidolon: The Allan Holdsworth Collection, both released a week prior to his passing, and spent much of the next year immersed in the guitar and synthaxe brilliance of Allan Holdsworth.

I highly recommend the following original albums as my top five picks, reviews of which can be found both on this site and on Amazon: Atavachron (1986), With a Heart in My Song (with pianist Gordon Beck, 1988), Hard Hat Area (1994), The Sixteen Men of Tain (2000), and Then! (2003).

In addition to his critically acclaimed solo work, which is also sampled on The Best of Allan Holdsworth: Against the Clock (2005), his unequaled and unparalleled guitar playing is featured on drummer Chad Wackerman’s solo albums Forty Reasons (1991), The View (1993), and Dreams, Nightmares, and Improvisations (2012), which is the last recording of original material by Holdsworth released before his passing.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Nichelle Nichols (1932-2022)

 A true woman of the future, in more ways than one, both onscreen and off.

A real icon, inspiration, and role model for women, minorities, and all those who dared to dream.

May her legacy live long and prosper, to the final frontier and beyond.

--Raj Manoharan