Ed Kowalczyk Remembers Live’s Road To Mental Jewelry 25 Years Later


Live will be reissuing their album Mental Jewelry on August 11th with a 25th Anniversary deluxe package. Ed Kowalczyk wrote the liner notes for this reissue which goes into the history of the band. Read an excerpt below that Live shared exclusively with Alternative Nation.

–Ed Kowalczyk, May 5, 2017

As the eighties turned into the nineties, we were fresh out of high school and looking for a record deal. We’d become regulars at New York’s legendary CBGB, playing showcases about once a month. The club’s owner, Hilly Kristal, loved Live, and he didn’t like anything. He said we reminded him of Television. Hilly typically didn’t pay bands for showcase-type gigs, but he would give us $100 for gas for the three-hours-plus commute from old York.

Unfortunately, the labels didn’t love us as much as Hilly did. Our managers had been hitting the pavement with our demo, but there was zero interest. Then Gary Kurfirst came in at the last minute. The founder of Radioactive Records, a late-eighties joint venture with MCA, he’d earned his stripes as a manager extraordinaire who’d steered the careers of Talking Heads, The Ramones, Debbie Harry, Jane’s Addiction and the Eurythmics.

When Gary saw us at CBGB’s, there were 25 people in the room. Still, he came backstage and declared, “We’re going to do great things together!” Then we went back home and waited impatiently for somebody to call and tell us Radioactive wanted us. For two years, I had been deferring college scholarships, but now I had to make a decision: Either we make this band happen, or its going to have to wait until after college. We all wondered, “What will happen to LIVE in the meantime? Will we still be a band?”… We all felt this incredible pressure. On the day before my college-decision deadline, Gary’s call finally came, and I was washing dishes at my restaurant job in York when it did. He had one question: “Do you guys want to go make a record?”

Within a few weeks, we were driving from York to Milwaukee to make Mental Jewelry with Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads. (It wasn’t lost on us that they also got their start at CBGB.) Though they wouldn’t officially announce their split until December 1991 — the same month as Mental Jewelry’s release — Talking Heads had been inactive for some time. In the interim, Jerry had put out a solo album and had warmed to the idea of producing new artists. Live was one of the first he worked with, and he became our mentor. I appreciated the way he looked at music from an intellectual point of view. He had been a mega-protestor hippie at Harvard and possessed this art-rock, punk ethos. I recall our deep conversations about spirituality, religion and philosophy, as well as our songs and lyrics. He’d produce two more albums with Live, but that initial spark came from the Mental Jewelry days.

Tour dates for +LIVE+:




Friday, August 4

Park West (Lollapalooza Aftershow)

Chicago, IL

Saturday, August 5

Lollapalooza 2017

Chicago, IL

Monday, August 7

Musikfest 2017

Bethlehem, PA

Friday, August 11

BB&T Field (GnR)

Winston-Salem, NC

Sunday, August 13

Hersheypark Stadium (GnR)

Hershey, PA

Wednesday, August 16

New Era Field (GnR)

Orchard Park, NY

Friday, September 8

Revolution Rock 2017

Mashantucket, CT

Sunday, September 17

Kaaboo Festival 2017

Del Mar, CA

Saturday, October 7

Austin City Limits 2017

Austin, TX

Saturday, October 14

Austin City Limits 2017

Austin, TX

Friday, Oct.27 – Sunday, Oct. 29

Voodoo Music & Arts

New Orleans, LA

Tuesday, November 7

Grand Arena, GrandWest Casino

Cape Town, South Africa

Friday, November 10

Sun Arena, Time Square Casino

Pretoria, South Africa

Saturday, November 11

Sun Arena, Time Square Casino

Pretoria, South Africa

Wednesday, November 15


Brisbane, Australia

Friday, November 17

Sidney Myer Music Bowl

Melbourne, Australia

Saturday, November 18

Roche Estate

Pokolbin, Australia