Monthly Archives: April 2022

“Wicked Game” at The Beat Museum: Michael Goldberg on Guitarist Jimmy Wilsey + Cool New Reviews

On Saturday June 18, 2022, starting at 7 pm, I’ll be celebrating the publication of my book on Jimmy Wilsey, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey,” reading excerpts from the book and answering questions, at The Beat Museum, 540 Broadway at Columbus Avenue in San Francisco. Before the reading, beginning at 6 pm, recordings that Jimmy played on, some quite rare, will be playing. The Beat Museum is across the street and down the block from where the Mabuhay Gardens was located (where Jimmy played many shows in the Avengers, and in Silvertone with Chris Isaak as well.)

“Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey” tells the story of the brilliant but troubled guitarist who was the “heart and soul” of one of America’s greatest punk bands, the Avengers, and who wrote and played the haunting intro and other guitar parts for the Chris Isaak hit “Wicked Game.” As even Isaak has acknowledged, Wilsey was key to that song becoming a top 10 hit that has been streamed over 350 million times.

Jimmy’s story is tragic. At one point he had a movie star girlfriend, was appearing on ‘The Tonight Show,’ and touring the world with “Wicked Game” a hit in 10 countries, but he became a heroin addict and died homeless nearly three and a half years ago.

I’m donating 25 percent of my royalties to Jimmy’s teenage son Waylon. The publisher is also donating a percentage to Waylon.

Marc Zegans, a superb poet with many books of poetry published, writes: “In addition to telling a complex life story [about Jimmy Wilsey], Michael’s book offers a wonderful inside view of early days of the San Francisco Punk scene and of the internal mechanics of the music industry. It’s also a conceptually grounded exploration of the nature, psychology and ravages of addiction.”

At the cool Australian music site i94 Bar, a reviewer who calls himself JD Stayfree wrote “The World Is Only Going To Break Your Heart,” a heartfelt gonzo exploration into how certain recordings, including those made by Jimmy Wilsey and Chris Isaak, have had an impact on his life. “I will be listening to those Chris Issak/James Calvin Wilsey records for the rest of my life, and I know many of my old garage band hombres will always be listening to the Avengers. I am ever so grateful that this sharp writer, Michael Goldberg, put so much passion and dedication into telling Wilsey’s story—about 400 pages of highs and lows and winning and losing and heartbreak and the whole human drama. Only the lonely love Chris Isaak and James Calvin Wilsey like I do. Greatness to behold. Get the book, you’ll be glad you did.” 

“Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey” is based on new and extensive interviews—with over 60 of Jimmy’s friends, family, musicians he played with and other acquaintances—conducted during the past three and a half years. Additionally, Goldberg had four hours of interviews he did with Jimmy himself in 1987 and 1991, access to a three hour interview Jimmy did in 2018, and over ten hours of interviews he did with Chris Isaak from 1982 into 1995. The 414 page book contains over 150 photos and other images—photographers (some of SF’s best rock photographers) include the great avant-garde artist Bruce Conner, Blondie co-founder Chris Stein, Ruby Ray, Chester Simpson, Sue Brisk, Hugh Brown, Marcus Leatherdale, Michael Zagaris, James Stark and others. Flyers are by Avengers singer-songwriter Penelope Houston and Wilsey and others.

Join Michael Goldberg at The Beat Museum for an unforgettable evening.

Check Out the Cover of Michael Goldberg’s Upcoming Book: “Addicted To Noise: The Music Writings of Michael Goldberg”

“Addicted To Noise: The Music Writings of Michael Goldberg” collects the best of my music journalism from the past 45+ years. The book includes interviews with Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, Sleater-Kinney, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Flipper, John Fogerty, Neil Young and Rick James, and stories about Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, John Lee Hooker, James Brown, the Clash, Prince, Michael Jackson, the Flamin’ Groovies, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Laurie Anderson, Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, Devo, San Francisco punks Crime, the Sex Pistols, Sly Stone, Chris Isaak and more. Plus short takes on Muddy Waters, Townes Van Zandt, Talking Heads, Captain Beefheart, Professor Longhair and others. And lots more! Foreword by Greil Marcus.

“Throughout these interviews and essays, Goldberg shows us how consequential music can be. His stance is both as passionate fan and learned critic as he grapples with these artists on their own terms, capturing them at crucial moments, challenging their personas and making the case for their work. He has written a captivating, essential, and personal history of the complications and revelations contained in the ideal of rock & roll authenticity.” – Dana Spiotta, author of Eat the Document, Stone Arabia, and Innocents and Others

Simon Warner wrote about how the cover of the book is based on the original 1953 cover of William Burroughs’ “Junkie” at his “Rock and the Beat Generation” Substack blog. Both covers are reproduced there.

The book will be published in November by Backbeat Books. You can pre-order it right now if you’d like. Michael’s latest book, “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey,” can be pre-ordered here.

Pre-Order “Wicked Game: The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey”

My new book, which is on the great guitarist James Calvin Wilsey, will be published on June 1, 2022, and is now available for pre-order. Jimmy was the “heart and soul” of the amazing San Francisco punk band, the Avengers. He wrote and played the guitar parts for the Chris Isaak hit “Wicked Game” and, as even Isaak has acknowledged, Wilsey was key to that song becoming a top 10 hit in 1991 in 10 countries including the U.S

I’m giving 25% of every $1 I am paid starting with the first sale to Jimmy’s teenage son Waylon. The publisher is also donating a percentage.

That song has been streamed over 300 million times on Spotify. Just in the three years that I spent writing the book, it was streamed about 200 million times – 30 years after it was a hit.

Here’s one of the back cover blurbs:

“A riveting biography of a brilliant but doomed guitarist who helped usher in San Francisco punk, played haunted guitar for Chris Isaak, then remade himself as a Downtown LA loftista musician and IT guy before self destructing as a homeless junky. This reads like a classic noir spiral and is hard to put down. Goldberg describes the twisted path of addiction and life’s dark side but also wild joy, inspired creation and for a time, unlimited possibility in the life of James Wilsey. Filled with local color, music history, and eyewitness interviews.” – Denise Hamilton, author of the Eve Diamond crime novels and editor of the “Los Angeles Noir” collections

More info here: