FEVER IN THE FUNK HOUSE: THE BIOGRAPHY OF JIMMY MILLER
- a separate introductory section of a literary or musical work.
Has there ever been a book on a major record producer that became a best seller?
Jimmy Miller is the Alfred Hitchcock of record production, the Jean-Luc Godard, a world-class talent that slipped through the cracks despite creating some of the greatest rock and roll of all time.
Let It Bleed, Honky Tonk Women, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Beggar’s Banquet, Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main Street. These multi-platinum recordings – the multi-platinum albums, have an obsessed audience. It is a good starting point for a book about the man who directed those vinyl “movies.”
I am in the dungeon of 30 Dragon Court, Woburn, Massachusetts at the Vox Continental playing the Rolling Stones “Shine a Light” from Exile On Main St. The man behind the drums is Jimmy Miller, the fellow who played the same on the record. It is 1983 and we are embarking on the production of my third French album, The Intuition Element.
Being the first album artist that Patrick Mathe’ signed to Flamingo/Carrere, the eventual New Rose/RCA – New Rose/Musidisc label, I was now the A & R man as well. Just the year before Ahmet Ertegun himself set up and appointment for me with the A & R Department at Atlantic, 1982. “The Troggs? Wild Thing” Ahmet said to me on the phone, impressed with our ever-growing catalog of name acts. Albums by the Saints, The Troggs and many others were with me.
While in New York I phoned up Marcy Drexler at Arista. “Waddya want” she said sarcastically into the phone, I don’t have the time.” Fine, I said, I’m meeting with Dick Steinberg at 10 AM at Atlantic, he’ll get the first shot.” Marcy immediately made an appointment and was very friendly, actually, when we got to the office. Handsome Eric Brown (deceased in November of 2023, sad to say, brilliant on the axe) was 17 and was my guitarist, and Marcy took to us both right away. Especially Eric. Her phone then rings, “Waddya want.” We laughed. It was all an act to get rid of the riff raff.
As A & R for New Rose I signed Willie “Loco” Alexander to New Rose/RCA after his two album stint on MCA worldwide. The band was, unfortunately, sedated by the production on their two discs, a shame as they were so powerful and wonderful. And Loco was in the last remnants of the Velvet Underground with Doug Yule and Maureen Tucker. In fact, I produced the recording of the Velvets second to final ever gig which came out on a Japanese label as Final V.U., without my authorization.
Willie had total freedom to produce himself on New Rose (yes, I have the final MCA demos when Willie and his band did competing tapes to try to salvage the promised third album.) Lisa Burns kinda sorta got to release it with Willie’s Boom Boom Band backing her up. I was the “roadie” for a day, picking up the equipment at Suntreader in Vermont where Craig Leon was producing.
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Yes, this is Jimmy Miller’s story, but the set up is important as my gig at New Rose – and my being a recording artist on the label, is how I got to meet and manage Jimmy Miller almost immediately.
Jim Nestor was manager of the band The Daughters, and they were back-up band for Johnny Thunders of the NY Dolls. They were also signed to my label, Varulven, and we had become part of the Boston Rock and Roll family together, more so because of the label ties.
Nestor came to me with the Thunders’ tapes produced by Jimmy Miller. They were very good. Indeed, “In Cold Blood,” the title track of the E.P. was extraordinary. I signed Thunders, whom Nestor said couldn’t get a deal anywhere “spitting in the eye of an A & R man.” That’ll do it. Just a side note, along with my guitarist friend Eric, Marcy Drexler, Ahmet Ertegun, Jim Nestor, Johnny Thunders, label president Patrick Mathe’, Jimmy Miller, his wife and his son, are all deceased as I write this. Rather sobering, and sad.
I already knew we would sign Thunders and the Miller produced album in a heartbeat, but I had to call Mathe’ to get the final ok. Before I did I made a request that was more of a demand: “I’ll do it, but I must meet Jimmy Miller.”
Miller was producing the Daughters, of course, and their friends in Tea in China over at Euphoria Sound in Revere, Ma. I was in the hallway. Suddenly this tall man enters the room, one of my favorite record producers of all time, whose name was printed on many of my favorite Stones’ recordings. “The Count, they tell me I must meet The Count.” And that is where and how I met Jimmy Miller. Within three weeks we would sign an Agreement, the first of three, and Miller was still legally signed to me by the time that he passed on October 22, 1994.
Fast forward to 1986 or so. Jimmy’s in my kitchen at 30 Dragon Court, and I’m at the typewriter, as usual. “Miller, phone Claudia Stanton at Capitol, set up an appointment, let’s go to New York.” So Jimmy Calls Capitol and secretary Amber Hines answers the phone. “Jimmy Miller for Claudia.” Amber responded “Oh, Joe Viglione’s friend, I’ll get her.” Jimmy puts his hand on the phone, “All those records for the Stones and I need your name to get into A & R?” My reply was quick “Times change, Miller.” I knew Claudia from being a promo guy with college radio and she was at Rockpool conventions before EMI. Just as humorous, we went to visit Bud Prager – manager of Foreigner – and I’m with Jimmy approaching the secretary. “Jimmy Miller for Bud.” “Oh, Deena Miller’s dad. Go right in.” Jimmy turned to me and gave me the same look as with the Amber/Claudia phone call.
But – of course – Bud and Claudia knew who Jimmy Miller was. It was just amusing how he was plugged in to the record label presidents, and I was friendly with A & R. It made us a powerful team.
Deena Miller was singer on the first Meatloaf tour for Bat Out of Hell. I met her in the 2000’s singing for Maxine Nightingale in Springfield MA., but her big regret is that her father would not produce her. To this day I have offered for her to sing on Miller-produced recordings…even though, I realize, that’s not the same. Jimmy, I know, was simply nervous about working with his own daughter. Understandable. Deena was dating the drummer of The Fine Malibus and Jimmy did her the favor of flying them to Compass Point Studio to do a demo for Chris Blackwell. The demo went nowhere, but the guitarist was Steve Stevens, famous for later playing with Billy Idol. Stevens credits Miller for discovering him in an article I read years ago, just as Jimmy discovered my late friend Doug Fieger of the Knack, via Dave Mason of Traffic.
So that’s our prologue. Rather than deeply address the elephant in the room which Robert Greenfield describes as Miller and Mick Taylor first tasting heroin in the South of France for the Exile Sessions – Greenfield spends the entire book on all the heroin addictions, we will put it into context without letting it distract from what Jimmy was about as a genius producer.
It’s a balancing act. As much as the Faithfull book by Marianne Faithfull and David Dalton, and Exile on Main St. by Greenfield are saturated in the drugs fully, the authors are all skilled at keeping your attention. In my angriest moments, and believe me, going to a Christian Science Church and avoiding drugs (I and my late life partner were never Christian Scientists, as my Jeff put it, “we are students of Christian Science”) the paradox of a non-drug person managing one of the Crème de la crème of junkies (not going there, just for context) was something that Miller absolutely adored. “My agent Joe doesn’t even take an aspirin” Miller would declare proudly, with its obvious overtones, conflict and contradiction. Well, I do take aspirin, Tylenol being my limit when it comes to “hard drugs,” but hardly ever.
Thirty years after his passing, and with twenty-six pages in Jimmy’s own handwriting, and interviews and my time with Miller, and the introduction to Keith Richards who introduced me to Rob Fraboni at a session in 1988, well, I think we have the makings of a best-seller here. It’s not just an ordinary book on the Rolling Stones. It is a book about the finest producer of the greatest rock and roll band in the world. In the studio and on the road with the man who made “Gimme Shelter.” Fasten your safety belts.
12, Midnight, exactly, January 3, 2024
Jan 3 2024 article on YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT by Jason Potter: Joe V Letter to the Editor of Far Out Magazine
Far Out Magazinefaroutmagazine.co.uk
Dear Far Out:
All due respect to Jordan Potter, but I managed Jimmy Miller beginning in 1983 and what he told me about”You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is much different than Jordan’s story. Indeed, we were jamming inmy basement on tunes Jimmy played drums on, I on keys, Miller on drums.
See my website: http://joeviglione.com/?page_id=164
60 children in the London Bach Choir? Where is the reference to this? Just go to YouTube to see the actual choir: https://youtu.be/lYckOoEtU14 The little old men and little old ladiesMiller told me about, and the cross fade into the band on record that Miller told me he made, well, it’s not 60children.
It’s revisionist history, Jordan, with information available on YouTube. You can’t just make it up and not show your references. To this long-time rock writer”Hutmaker and many local fans” are not real sources. Who are these “many local fans” ?At the very least, Potter’s story is poorly written and confusing.
Robert Greenfield’s book, EXILE ON MAIN ST., is very clear that standing in line withMick Jagger at the drug store is Producer Jimmy Miller. Potter writes “credence to the theory”when I actually worked with the guy, co-produced, managed and promoted him.
Regards,Joe ViglioneAuthor, FEVER IN THE FUNKHOUSE: THE JIMMY MILLER BIOGRAPHY(currently being written.)
This article seems off-base… Jimmy Miller told me there were “little old ladies” singing on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” the line with the drug reference “I knew she would meet her connection” https://thebachchoir.org.uk/ Here is what the article states “At the time, the London Bach Choir consisted of 60 children. Although the singers and their respective guardians were unaware of the bloodshed and violence elsewhere on the record,” … Well, I wasn’t there “at the time,” but the website sure indicates what Mr. Miller said about elder people being in the choir, and it sure sounds like it. The story in Far Out is written by Jordan Potter
Wed 3 January 2024 4:00, UK Probably born in the mid-1990s, the Linked In has a picture of a young guy https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordan-potter-9a2051159/ while Far Out calls the writer “Jordan Potter is Far Out Magazine’s staff writer based in Brighton. His passion for post-punk and pop culture is only outweighed by a shelf-crippling vinyl addiction.” The article is confusing and doesn’t quote references.
Here’s Jordan Potter’s claims:
“Luckily for the Bach Choir, the story contains no Tarantinian bloodbaths. Instead, legend has it that the character “Mr. Jimmy” was Jimmy Hutmaker, a famous street drifter from Excelsior, Minnesota. Hutmaker was mentally disabled and liked to walk several miles every day through the Excelsior business district. He was cared for by local shop owners until he died in 2007.
The Stones visited Excelsior during their first US tour in 1964. According to Hutmaker and many local fans, Jagger entered a drugstore in the city to buy a Cherry Coke from a soda fountain. Allegedly, the store didn’t have any Cherry Coke at the time, and Hutmaker, standing behind Jagger in the queue, said, “Well, you can’t always get what you want”. The legend dictates that Mr Jimmy attended the Stones’ next concert in Minneapolis in a private limousine arranged by Jagger himself.
This brief exposure supposedly inspired the song’s leading refrain and the verse lines, “I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy/ And man, did he look pretty ill”. Earlier in the lyrics, however, Jagger notes that he was at the “Chelsea Drugstore”, a pub on King’s Road in London. This bestows more credence to the theory that Jagger’s Mr Jimmy was, in fact, Jimmy Miller, the Stones’ producer from Let It Bleed to Goats Head Soup. Incidentally, he also performed drums on ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’. https://faroutmagazine.co.uk/who-mr-jimmy-the-rolling-stones-lyrics/
Listen to The Rolling Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ below.
Reporter Eugene Sylvester (Editor newspapers outside of Boston) interviews Jimmy Miller in the CCI Industry Report.
When the late Jimmy Miller was on the top of the world with the Rolling Stones, he was given a ten-album deal with ABC Records resulting in various releases, including a B.B. King album produced by the late Joe Zagarino, material by Bobby Whitlock, and this extraordinary record by the lead singer of Ten Wheel Drive, Genya Ravan. Jim Price and Joe Zagarino produced the album for Jimmy Miller Productions, with Miller producing only two of the 12 titles, the Stones-ish “Southern Celebration” and Eric Clapton/Bobby Whitlock‘s “Keep on Growing.” This is a great setting for Ravan, her impeccable vocals a perfect fit for an album rife with pop and Southern rock. Jimmy Miller produced Delaney & Bonnie & Friends on Tour With Eric Clapton (and George Harrison incognito), and the legendary status garnered by that classic and the Blind Faith album should’ve insured this disc a better fate. Ravan was disappointed that Miller did not produce the entire project, and she has a valid point. Jimmy Miller certainly had supreme intuition, but as with many artists, he lost sight of the business end of things. In retrospect, Zagarino, one of Miller‘s engineers with the Rolling Stones, and Jim Price do a phenomenal job — the Pat & Lolly Vegas tune “When You Got Trouble” is a standout, coming in between the Vegas brothers’ hits with their band Redbone. Van McCoy‘s “Gotta Tell Somebody (‘Bout My Baby,” Richard Carpenter and King Pleasure‘s “Swan Blues,” and two Genya Ravan co-writes with Jim Price, “Don’t Press Me” and “I’ll Be With You,” all present a side of Ravan that is far removed from the jazz/rock of Ten Wheel Drive, except for two tracks. “Under Control” is exhilarating, with Jim Horn‘s flutes actually throwing a little tease of the Ten Wheel Drive sound into the mix; the tune starts funky and slips into stunning pop. “I’ll Be With You” is like a ballad from Ten Wheel Drive, and it is nice that her past is addressed. The majority of this album, though, is a testament to Ravan‘s vocal genius. She would reunite with Jimmy Miller 13 years later in 1986 for the Buddy Guy project, the unreleased album before his breakthrough Damn Right I Got the Blues. The album cover is a trip, with Ravan decked out as a Southern belle, with mimes surrounding her. The inside cover photo and lyric spread is familiar, looking very much like the cover of her And I Mean It album for 20th Century. This is brilliant work from a woman who deserves a bigger piece of the rock & roll pie.