Martin Birch’s finest moments with Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Blue Öyster Cult

By Steve Newton If you're fan of hard rock and metal you've no doubt already heard that Martin Birch, the preeminent producer of loud rock, passed away recently at the age of 71. I've interviewed my fair share of hard-rock producers, including the formerly Vancouver-based triumvirate of Bruce Fairbairn, Bob Rock, and Mike Fraser, but … Continue reading Martin Birch’s finest moments with Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Blue Öyster Cult

Martin Birch, producer of unforgettable hard-rock/metal albums, dies at 71

By Steve Newton It's a sad day for fans of '70s and '80s hard-rock and heavy-metal. Martin Birch, who produced and/or engineered more popular metal albums than most anyone, died earlier today at the age of 71. Birch produced such monumental loud-rock albums as Rainbow's Rising, Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell, Blue Oyster Cult's Fire … Continue reading Martin Birch, producer of unforgettable hard-rock/metal albums, dies at 71

That time I asked Buck Dharma how he came up with the classic riff for Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”

By Steve Newton "(Don't Fear) the Reaper" might be my favourite song of all time. Or maybe it's tied with John Lennon's "Imagine". Either way, I freakin' love that song. Several times over the years I've felt a tweak of pleasure along the top of my skull when I hear that song, coinciding with the … Continue reading That time I asked Buck Dharma how he came up with the classic riff for Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”

God bless Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser’s guitar solo on Blue Öyster Cult’s “Burnin’ For You”

  By Steve Newton Back in June of 1981 Blue Öyster Cult released it's eight studio album, Fire of Unknown Origin, and I immediately snapped it up, just like I'd done with their previous nine discs (including the two live albums). I'd been absolutely crazy about B.O.C. ever since I'd bought Tyranny and Mutation because of … Continue reading God bless Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser’s guitar solo on Blue Öyster Cult’s “Burnin’ For You”

The 70 greatest opening tracks of the ’70s

By Steve Newton Remember how you'd set the needle down on the opening track of a new rock album and the first tune would just blow you the funk away? Me too. "(Ain't Nothin' But a) House Party" (Bloodshot, J. Geils Band, 1973) "All the Way From Memphis" (Mott, Mott the Hoople, 1973) "Already Gone" … Continue reading The 70 greatest opening tracks of the ’70s

Album review: Blue Öyster Cult, Imaginos (1988)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 9, 1988 By Steve Newton Few rock 'n' roll bands can fuse raunchy guitars and menacing vocals and still come up with really beautiful music. But New York's Blue Öyster Cult has done that on more than a dozen albums since 1972. The latest boasts the same hard-hitting, … Continue reading Album review: Blue Öyster Cult, Imaginos (1988)

Album review: Various Artists, Axe Masters–Legends of Rock Guitar

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 19, 1985 By Steve Newton Now this is more like it--heavy metal with class. But then any album that features the playing of metal martyr Randy Rhoads can't lose. Rhoads is included via Ozzy Osbourne's first solo hit "Crazy Train". And he's in good company. "Axe masters" K.K Downing … Continue reading Album review: Various Artists, Axe Masters–Legends of Rock Guitar

Album review: Blue Oyster Cult, Extraterrestrial Live (1982)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 11, 1982 By Steve Newton Extraterrestrial Live is Blue Oyster Cult's third, and best, live album. The weak production and muddled performances on 1975's On Your Feet Or on Your Knees and the rush job "this will keep them going till our next studio album" impression of 1978's Some … Continue reading Album review: Blue Oyster Cult, Extraterrestrial Live (1982)

Album review: Blue Oyster Cult, Heaven Forbid (1998)

  ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 9, 1998 By Steve Newton Don’t let the cheapjack horror-movie cover fool ya, ’cause Heaven Forbid—Blue Oyster Cult’s first new recording since 1988’s substandard Imaginos—is one classy slab of hard rock. It’s not a masterwork in the league of Tyranny and Mutation or Agents of Fortune, but … Continue reading Album review: Blue Oyster Cult, Heaven Forbid (1998)

The incredible story behind the Ear of Newt autographed guitar

By Steve Newton Back in January of 2013 when I started planning the Ear of Newt website--which I launched on Halloween night that year--I knew I had to get my autographed plexiglass guitar into the picture. I'd been dragging it around to concerts to get it signed by my fave pickers--folks like Link Wray, Ronnie … Continue reading The incredible story behind the Ear of Newt autographed guitar

HIM’s Ville Valo discovered the dark side of rock through Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, DEC. 7, 2007 By Steve Newton According to Ville Valo, lead vocalist for Finnish rockers HIM, "It's very hard to sing about sunshine and ice cream and birds in fast cars." So he doesn't even try. Instead, song titles like "Cyanide Sun", "Dead Lovers' Lane", and "Song or Suicide" … Continue reading HIM’s Ville Valo discovered the dark side of rock through Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”

Rock Hall boneheads once again choose Chic over Johnny Winter, Rory Gallagher, and Link Wray

By Steve Newton The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame apparently believes that Depeche Mode outrocks Johnny Winter, that Chic blows Rory Gallagher away, and that Joan Baez is more rock than Link Wray. Whatta buncha boneheads. Yep, Jann Wenner and his gaggle of dimwits at the Rock Hall have done it again, blindly ignoring three … Continue reading Rock Hall boneheads once again choose Chic over Johnny Winter, Rory Gallagher, and Link Wray

Vancouver metal in ’86: plugging Kradle, Nite Vigil, Assault, and Harlots Webb

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 15, 1986 By Steve Newton Vancouver hard-rock fans who's been thirsting for a taste of homegrown metal should consider visiting the New York Theatre this Saturday (August 16). That's when Burnaby's Kradle will be doing their best to prove that raunchy and original sounds are still alive and … Continue reading Vancouver metal in ’86: plugging Kradle, Nite Vigil, Assault, and Harlots Webb

Newt’s Rock Hall inducts UFO, Robin Trower, Blue Oyster Cult, Mott the Hoople, and Ten Years After

By Steve Newton Tonight the much-maligned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame officially inducts Deep Purple, Cheap Trick, Steve Miller, Chicago, and, unbelievably, legendary rock 'n' rollers N.W.A. Now, this is better work than you commonly expect from the RRHOF, which, back in 2013, had the audacity to induct Cat Stevens instead of fellow nominee Link … Continue reading Newt’s Rock Hall inducts UFO, Robin Trower, Blue Oyster Cult, Mott the Hoople, and Ten Years After

Bruce Dickinson in ’83: “It would be unthinkable to make an Iron Maiden album without Martin Birch”

By Steve Newton Back in June of 1983 I did a phone interview with Bruce Dickinson in advance of Iron Maiden's show in Vancouver on the Piece of Mind tour. During the course of our conversation Dickinson claimed that it would be "unthinkable" for Iron Maiden to make an album without producer Martin Birch, who … Continue reading Bruce Dickinson in ’83: “It would be unthinkable to make an Iron Maiden album without Martin Birch”

Blue Oyster Cult’s “Transmaniacon MC” an apt soundtrack for the mayhem of Altamont

By Steve Newton The infamous concert at Altamont Speedway in northern California, which took place December 6, 1969, is often viewed as "the anti-Woodstock", its violence signalling the end of the peace-and-love era. A YouTube video that blends footage of the event from the 1970 Rolling Stones documentary Gimme Shelter with the 1972 Blue Oyster Cult song … Continue reading Blue Oyster Cult’s “Transmaniacon MC” an apt soundtrack for the mayhem of Altamont

The best hit single Bob Seger never had

By Steve Newton In case you weren't aware, American rock legend Bob Seger is playing Vancouver tomorrow night. He turns 70 in two months, so who knows how long he's gonna keep touring. If you haven't seen him yet, now might be the time. The first time I saw him was at the PNE Gardens … Continue reading The best hit single Bob Seger never had

Patterson Hood on the Drive-By Truckers’ Southern Rock Opera and the true meaning of Skynyrd

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JAN. 30, 2003 By Steve Newton It doesn’t seem likely in today’s musical climate that any band would record a 90-minute concept album about 1970s rock and southern U.S. culture, focusing on the legend of doomed Dixie rock act Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s even more unlikely that such a CD … Continue reading Patterson Hood on the Drive-By Truckers’ Southern Rock Opera and the true meaning of Skynyrd