Category Archives: Music

Kirkus Reviews “Wicked Game”: “… a Gritty Look at the Guitarist’s Success and Ultimate Downfall”

Kirkus review

Kirkus Reviews just ran an excellent review of my book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey.”

“James Calvin Wilsey may not be a household name, but he’s certainly well known in some circles,” begins the review. “As a guitarist for Chris Isaak, he created a riff that not only helped make the song “Wicked Game” a hit, but also has gone down in history as one of the best rock song openings of all time. Yet Wilsey was a complicated man, and behind the scenes, he was dealing with a drug addiction that would ultimately lead him away from music and into a downward spiral. Music journalist Goldberg captures it all in this book, a gritty look at the guitarist’s success and ultimate downfall. Meticulously reported via hours of interviews with childhood friends, family members, fellow musicians, and the rocker himself, the volume paints a vivid portrait of all sides of Wilsey, a tormented soul who was revered by other performers. Though the author acknowledges a friendship with Wilsey, who died of organ failure at the age of 61 in 2018, Goldberg pulls no punches in his searing biography. And the author knows his subject matter. Consider his description of Silvertone, Isaak’s group that included Wilsey, as “a band that combined ’50s rockabilly with ’60s pop and ’80s punk nihilism—Elvis fronting the Beatles, only with the anxiety of Joy Division.” The book is filled with nuggets like that that show Goldberg’s knowledge of music history and Wilsey’s place in it. …”

You can read the rest of the review at Kirkus Reviews.

If you want to purchase “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey,” you can get a copy from Book Passage or order from HoZac Books. Also, you might be able to get a copy here. 

And I’ll be doing an online reading/interview at Book Passage starting at 5:30 pm on Thursday, July 21, 2022. It’s free. Former Creem managing editor Robert Duncan, a rock critic and novelist, will interview me after I read briefly from my book.

Twisted Pulp Magazine Runs Michael Goldberg/ Wicked Game Feature

Twisted Pulp cover

The new issue (#19) of Twisted Pulp magazine includes an eight page interview with me (Michael Goldberg) about my new book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey,” and my career as a writer. The feature includes cover art from my three novels, “True Love Scars,” “The Flowers Lied,” and “Untitled” (all available from Amazon), as well as the cover of “Wicked Game,” and my upcoming collection of music journalism, “Addicted To Noise: The Music Writing of Michael Goldberg” (to be published by Backbeat Books on November 1, 2022).

Twisted Pulp with ATN cover

You can get the Kindle version of Twisted Pulp here. Soon you will be able to get the print version here.

Goldberg interview

As for my latest book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey,” you can get a copy from Book Passage or order from HoZac Books. Also, you might be able to get a copy here. Photo of Goldberg by Roni Hoffman.

And I’ll be doing an online reading/interview at Book Passage starting at 5:30 pm on Thursday, July 21, 2022. It’s free. Former Creem managing editor Robert Duncan, a rock critic and novelist, will interview me after I read briefly from my book.

Hit Producer Erik Jacobsen, 49ers Photog Michael Zagaris & Others Attend Goldberg Reading of Wilsey Book + Video

Former Rolling Stone Senior Writer/ Addicted To Noise founder Michael Goldberg (above, photo by Leslie Goldberg) — that’s me — read from his new book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey,” at The Beat Museum in North Beach, San Francisco, on the evening of Saturday, June 18, 2022. A crowd of over 40 people attended the reading, mingling beforehand among historic Beat era artifacts including a painting by Gregory Corso and a 1949 Hudson Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady used to drive across the US and into Mexico, a journey fictionalized in “On the Road.”

A lot of great folks showed up for the reading including novelist Charlie Haas, 49ers photographer Michael Zagaris (below), former John Lee Hooker manager Mike Kapus and record producer Erik Jacobsen (above, photo by Leslie Goldberg), who produced 7 top ten hits for the Lovin’ Spoonful in the mid-60s, discovered and produced Tim Hardin and produced the Chris Isaak international top 10 hit “Wicked Game,” with Jimmy Wilsey’s haunting guitar intro.

Although I had planned to read for about 40 minutes, the audience indicated that they wanted to hear more, so I read for over an hour. You can watch a video by Michael Engle of me reading here.

Top photo of rockin’ audience by Leslie Goldberg; bottom photo by Michael Zagaris

I will be doing an online event at Book Passage on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Former Creem managing editor and music critic Robert Duncan will be questioning me about my Jimmy Wilsey book. More info here. My book on Jimmy Wilsey will be available for purchase at Book Passage online and at the Corte Madera store beginning July 4, 2022.

You can also get my book, which Bill Bentley wrote “is the rock & roll book to read this year,” at the HoZac Books website.

KPFA’s “The Hear and Now” To Feature Michael Goldberg Talking About Jimmy Wilsey

The Hear and Now

Derk Richardson will be interviewing me on his Thursday, June 16, 2022 show, which starts at 10 pm pt. He’ll be asking me about my new book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey.” The show airs Thursday night but it will be archived so if you miss the original broadcast, you can listen after the fact here. It will take a few days before the show is added to the archive. During the show Richardson will be playing recordings that Jimmy played on, including at least one previously unheard recording. Be sure to check it out.

The San Francisco Chronicle published a great feature on me this week written by James Sullivan. Titled “Writer had a ringside seat at S.F. music scene through Chris Isaak’s guitarist, who died homeless,” Sullivan captures what the book is about and why I wrote it.

“’I didn’t want Jimmy to be forgotten,’ he [Goldberg] says. ‘That’s kind of what happened when he was alive.’

“Goldberg’s new book, ‘Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey,’ traces the sound innovator from his childhood, growing up in suburban St. Louis listening to his parents’ country music records, to his arrival in San Francisco to study painting at the Academy of Art College (now the Academy of Art University), just as the punk scene around the Mabuhay Gardens was sprouting. It ends tragically, with homelessness and an underreported death.

“’He was a brilliant creative person,’ Goldberg says. ‘The tone he got, the atmosphere he created was unique.'”

Read the rest of the story here.

You can get my book, which Bill Bentley wrote “is the rock & roll book to read this year,” at the HoZac Books website.

I will be doing a reading/book signing and answering questions about the book at The Beat Museum in San Francisco at 7pm on Saturday, June 18, 2022. More info here.

I will also be doing an online event at Book Passage on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Former Creem managing editor and music critic Robert Duncan will be questioning me about my Jimmy Wilsey book. More info here. My book on Jimmy Wilsey will be available for purchase at Book Passage online and at the Corte Madera store beginning July 4, 2022.

Jimmy Wilsey’s Story “Expertly Told,” Writes Bill Kopp + Guitar Radio Show Podcast + Magnet Mag Interview + 8 Questions Podcast

lmusoscribe

In his review of my book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey,” music journalist and author Bill Kopp writes, “… Wilsey’s life story – one filled with soaring highs (of the good and bad kind) and plummeting lows (albeit only of the bad variety) forms a chilling narrative. And that story is expertly told by longtime music journalist and first-hand observer/participant in the Bay Area’s music scene, Michael Goldberg. Across 400-plus pages, Goldberg’s Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey charts the musician’s life, an ultimately doomed story line that runs from his troubled childhood to his punk years to his time with Isaak and beyond.”

You can read the entire review here at Kopp’s Musoscribe website.

Plus a great podcast conversation with me at Guitar Radio Show.

Also, I’m interviewed at Patrick Michael’s cool “8 Questions” Youtube podcast.

And you’ll want to check out this interview with me by Hobart Rowland at Magnet magazine.

You can get my book at the HoZac Books website.

I will be doing a reading/book signing and answering questions about the book at The Beat Museum in San Francisco at 7pm on Saturday, June 18, 2022. More info here.

I will also be doing an online event at Book Passage on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Former Creem managing editor and music critic Robert Duncan will be questioning me about my Jimmy Wilsey book. More info here. My book on Jimmy Wilsey will be available for purchase at Book Passage online and at the Corte Madera store beginning July 4, 2022.

Podcasts: Only Three Lads & Sketched Sounds on “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey”

Two podcasts

The Only Three Lads podcast and the Sketched Sounds podcast were nice enough to interview me. If you check them both out, you’ll find in-depth conversations about the great guitarist James Calvin Wilsey, the San Francisco punk scene of the late Seventies, the legendary punk band, the Avengers, Jimmy’s days in Silvertone and working with Chris Isaak and much more. And, of course, we talk about my new book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of James Calvin Wilsey,” and how I came to write it and how I got to know Jimmy Wilsey during the ’80s and early ’90s.

You can get my book at the HoZac Books website.

I will be doing a reading/book signing and answering questions about the book at The Beat Museum in San Francisco at 7pm on Saturday, June 18, 2022. More info here.

I will also be doing an online event at Book Passage on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Former Creem managing editor and music critic Robert Duncan will be questioning me about my Jimmy Wilsey book. More info here. My book on Jimmy Wilsey will be available for purchase at Book Passage online and at the Corte Madera store beginning July 4, 2022.

“Wicked Game”: “This is the rock & roll book to read this year.”

In a wonderful review of my new book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey,” in the June 2022 “Bentley’s Bandstand” column at his Americana Highways website, Bill Bentley writes: “This is the rock & roll book to read this year. It is a thrilling, heart-breaking, mind-blowing, cautionary and in the end passionate tale of how a guitarist of infinite ability and absolutely addictive tendencies attains the highest success on the rock & roll merry-go-round, only to flame out in a desperate tale of heroin, homelessness and, in the end, suicidal escapades that killed him. Rock & roll can be the scariest game there is if the person isn’t wired for success. Failure is survivable, but for those not ready for it, success is the killer. …”

You can read the rest of the review here.

You can get my book at the HoZac Books website.

The Sketched Sounds podcast just went live (June 6, 2022). Justin Bieggar interviews me about the Wilsey book, the San Francisco punk scene of the late ’70s and much more. Listen to it here at Spotify if you have Spotify, or listen here.

Last week Howie Klein published an essay that I wrote about how Jimmy Wilsey became a punk musician at his excellent “Down With Tyranny” blog. “My new book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey” (HoZac Books), tells Jimmy’s story, but it also details the San Francisco punk scene that began in December 1976, three months after 19-year-old Jimmy moved to San Francisco. During the summer of 1977 Jimmy became bass player for one of San Francisco’s greatest punk bands, the Avengers, and quickly became one of the stars of the small SF scene.

“Punk was initially not a particular sound, it was a concept, and the concept was this: anyone who wanted to could be in a band and play rock & roll, you didn’t have to know how to play your instrument, you only had to have something to say, and many times not even that was necessary.

“When the established record companies decided punk wasn’t commercial, punk fans like Howie Klein formed their own record companies. The first singles by The Mutants, The Nuns and The Offs were released as singles by Howie’s 415 label, and in the early ’80s, when Jimmy was in Silvertone, Howie told me, he wanted to release Silvertone’s “Blue Hotel” but that didn’t work out. …”

You can read all of “How The Patti Smith Group Inspired James Calvin Wilsey” here.

I will be doing a reading/book signing and answering questions about the book at The Beat Museum in San Francisco at 7pm on Saturday, June 18, 2022. More info here.

I will also be doing an online event at Book Passage on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Former Creem managing editor and music critic Robert Duncan will be questioning me about my Jimmy Wilsey book. More info here. My book on Jimmy Wilsey will be available for purchase at Book Passage online and at the Corte Madera store beginning July 4, 2022.

Pop Matters Reviews “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey —They Love It!

Above image from the Pop Matters website, May 24, 2022.

Poet Marc Zegans’s beautifully written review of my new book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey,” was published today at the cool Pop Matters website/online magazine. Writes Zegans, “Goldberg’s meticulously researched biography delivers a deep-hearted and poignant account of the rare and extraordinary creative talent who—following his legendary entry into the music scene as bass player for San Francisco’s primeval punk band, the Avengers—crafted the incomparable yearning two-note opening to Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game.'”

Later in the review: “Worthy of prominent mention in Goldberg’s portrayal of Wilsey’s elusive life between the notes is the book’s method of exposition. Rather than pursuing a single sustained narrative line, Wicked Game operates as a biography by bricolage. Goldberg, Wilsey’s long-time friend with whom his son took guitar lessons, and photographer of the punk scene in which Wilsey came of age, layers intimate reflection and historical inquiry. Chapter titles are drawn from rock lyrics — ‘He Was a Friend of Mine’ (from Jim Carroll’s song ‘People that Died’), ‘Walk on the Wildside’ (following Lou Reed’s genderqueer classic). Goldberg takes a journalistic perspective and assembles richly quoted voices into a remarkable salade composée of this outsider musician’s life.  The author’s method of massing the voices of Wilsey’s contemporaries.”

Meanwhile, a PlanetLP podcast conversation with me went live this morning and it sounds great. It’s “Episode 50: James Wilsey’s Wicked Game.” Just short of 40 minutes of back and forth about Jimmy Wilsey.

And yesterday the important “Down With Tyranny” blog, where Howie Klein for many years has been making astute political observations and providing the facts about the dire straits this country is in, took a brief detour from politics to run an essay I wrote about why I spent three-plus years writing a book about Jimmy Wilsey. There is a contest and two winners will each get a copy of the book. The winners are the two people who donate the most to one of the political campaigns listed on a page that you can link to from the bottom of my essay.

And finally: I’ll be reading from the book and answering questions at The Beat Museum at 7pm on Saturday, June 18, 2022. Facebook event page here.

Michael Goldberg is the Featured Writer at Rock’s Backpages

tRock's Backpages cover

This week the very cool music journalism website, Rock’s Backpages, has me on the “cover” as the weeks “Featured Writer.” They highlight some of my articles, which are archived there, including an excerpt from my new book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey” (HoZac Books), titled: “Watching the Avengers Absolutely Crush the Pistols.” There’s also a profile of Chris Isaak, a feature on the San Francisco music scene circa 1983 and, if you click on my name, dozens of my stories on these artists and others: Bob Dylan, American Music Club, the Bangles, Robbie Robertson, John Fogerty…

Plus I’m interviewed about the book at the podcast “Frets with DJ Fey.” And I’m interviewed on the “ImmaLetYouFinish” podcast.

I’ll be reading from the book and answering questions at The Beat Museum in SF at 7pm on Saturday June 18, 2022.

You can buy “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey” (HoZac Books) here.

Rolling Stone Online Publishes Goldberg Book Excerpt on How Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” Became a Hit

Jimmy Wilsey Rolling Stone

Today, Thursday, May 19, 2022, Rolling Stone Online published an extensive excerpt from my new book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey” (HoZac Books). The 4000-word excerpt details how Chris Isaak said he wrote the song, how guitarist Jimmy Wilsey came up with the intro riff and other electric guitar parts and how David Lynch and manager/producer Erik Jacobsen contributed to getting the song into the top 10.

The book is based on over seven hours of interviews with the late guitarist, over ten hours of interviews with Isaak (done from 1985 into 1995) and extensive interviews with over 60 of Wilsey’s friends, family members, and music business acquaintances. It includes over 150 images–photos, flyers and record covers.

It can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher, HoZac Books.

I’m donating 25% of my royalties to Jimmy’s song, Waylon Wilsey.