Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Big TNT Show

I think we can agree: this is the greatest trailer ever made for the greatest live rock movie ever made.

Joan Baez singing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" backed by Phil Spector?!? Plus the Byrds, the Lovin' Spoonful, Ray Charles, Ike and Tina (at their peak), Bo Diddley (with the Duchess, his gorgeous sister), and the Ronettes?


BTW: Don't miss the shot of Frank Zappa in the audience, grooving unironically.

Did I mention this is the greatest live rock movie ever made?

Never been on video, I might add.

Postscript: Oops, I mispoke. Actually, back in the 80s it was available on a tape called (if I recall) "That Was Rock," which was a badly edited mishmash of some of the footage from the above along with selected sections of the earlier "T.A.M.I Show," a '65 concert film produced by the same people. Chuck Berry did the pointless narration.

It's been out of print for years, however. And both films really need to be available on DVD in their original form.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Funny

Courtesy of my teen.

Weekend Listomania (Special Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental houseboy Kato and I are off to California for a tour of the upper crust Palm Springs locations used in the steamy yet highly realistic hit summer teen melodrama miniseries Hidden Palms (Wednesday nights on the CW!!!!).

A gay old time is guaranteed for all, if you know what I mean. But as a result, posting by moi will necessarily be a bit sporadic for a day or two.

In the meantime, here's another little project for you fine folks:

Best Ever (Non-Prog) Rock Instrumental!
[arbitrary rule: Joe Satriani, who I otherwise have no problem with, is prog, so don't nominate him]

My reasonably well-considered Top Ten:

1. Rumble -- Link Wray

2. The Man From HUAC -- Laika and the Cosmonauts

3. Beck's Bolero -- Jeff Beck

4. Apricot Brandy -- Rhinosceros

5. The Carlsberg Special -- Wizzard

6. Perfidia -- The Ventures

7. Sabre Dance -- Love Sculpture with Dave Edmunds

8. Theme from Star Wars -- Big Daddy (guitar instrumental a la the Ventures)

9. Like Long Hair -- Paul Revere and the Raiders

10. Cobwebs and Strange -- The Who

Join in, won't you?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Big Tease

A coveted PowerPop No Prize will be awarded to any reader who can guess how this video of the Who's hilarious "Cobwebs and Strange" provides a clue to tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Diamonds in the Rough

This is installment 1,276,101 in the series "Wow! Is THAT on YouTube??"

Here's a clip of the legendary 60s Aussie punk/freakbeat group The Black Diamonds performing their psych gem (pun intended) I Want, Need, Love You. 60s garage simply does not get much better than this.

I was about to recommend that you to pick up a copy of the indispensable comp of Aussie garage/punk/psych Ugly Things, but sadly, it appears to be out of print at the moment. Those of you with money to burn can pick up a copy here.

Freak Out Mates!!

Thursday Quick Fixes

[the latest in a continuing series of short takes on interesting or alarming new CDs that have crossed our desk recently]

BRYAN FERRY: Dylanesque

Speaking as somebody who has never forgiven Bryan Ferry for a ludicrously low camp version of "A Hard Rain" (on his absurdly foppish 1973 solo debut), I came to Ferry's new album of Dylan covers with, shall we say, rather limited expectations. Well, surprise, surprise: it's pretty damn fantastic. There's barely a hint of Ferry's signature lounge-lizard suavity here; either through the ravages of age or design his vocals sound -- who'd have thunk it? -- haunted and human, and the backings -- including turns by old collaborators Chris Spedding on guitar and (on a rampage through "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" that rivals the master's "Albert Hall" version) Brian Eno on electronics -- drip atmosphere and (when appropriate) menace, in particular on a take on "All Along the Watchtower" that channels its composer channeling Jimi Hendrix. Damn near revelatory stuff and one of the absolute best things Ferry's ever done.

THE SMITHEREENS: Meet the Smithereens

Well, as tribute CDs go, this one at least has a certain novelty, it being not just a collections of Beatles covers but rather a recreation of the Beatles American debut LP in its entirety. The question before the court, of course, is whether it adds up to anything more substantial than what you'd hear from a good Beatles tribute band on an average night at a bar near you; speaking as a Smithereens fan from way back I'm glad to say that the answer is not much more but just enough to make it worth your time. The 'Reens, 60s revivalists non pareil that they are, have also always owed as much to the guitar crunch of AC/DC as they do to the Fabs, and as a result, there's an interestingly dark edge to their otherwise note-perfect recreations of the performances and production touches on these 12 slices of early Beatlemania. It raises some interesting possibilities, though; in fact, what I'd really like to hear now is Pat DiNizio and company blowtorching their way through the less innocent strains of "Revolver."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fluff & Falafel

Moving off of Steve's note in his last post.

Then imagine if I had written an equivalent sentence in, let's say, 1966. To wit -- "The Monkees biggest hit, I'm a Believer, has become one of this decade’s defining pop songs: a glorious blast of bubblegum exuberance."

Apparently, Bill O'Reilly, noted rock critic, has taken the torch from Steve and is lobbying for the inclusion of The Monkees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

First of all, Davy Jones wasn't the lead singer, or only a small proportion of the time.

Second, they toured with Jimi Hendrix, but he left the tour because the Monkees' adolescent fans didn't get him.

And third, "legitimate," in a post-Beatles environment, meant writing your own songs and playing your own instruments, Davy.

Fourth, O'Reilly says he didn't even like them.

I like The Monkees, I do. And since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is basically a marketing and tourist device, I don't see why they should be kept out. But O'Reilly's chief reasoning, which seems to be record sales, should not be the deciding factor. It's not all about money.

Waiting Game

I play this game with my teen: "when I was your age, boys looked like this."

Or, you know, Gary Numan or Adam Ant or any of a hundred other lipsticked and blow-dried fellows from that era--there was certainly no shortage. It never fails to get the requisite "Ewwwww!" or "Mom!" Like shooting fish in a barrel.

But when she asks me what girls looked like, I don't think about the garbage-bagged souls who populated your Flock of Seagulls and Total Coelo videos. I think of The Waitresses.

On the whole, it was better to be a girl.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tell That Boy to Shut Up

Extremely irksome NY Times pop music critic Kelefa Sanneh went out of his way to really steam my beans yesterday.

Sanneh's basic problem is that he's an overeducated lightweight who can't come to grips with the fact that most of the stuff he likes -- regardless of genre -- is soulless disposable corporate shlock that (in a sane world) should be considered, at best, as guilty pleasures. This leads him to embrace -- usually in lovesick fanboy prose unbecoming of the dignity of a major metropolitan newspaper -- what we in the crit biz refer to as the Murray the K Fallacy, also known as It's What's Happening, Baby! Which is to say that Sanneh believes if something is superficially hep, au courant and selling well that it is also by definition fabulous, emphasis on the first syllable. In other words, pop music is (and should be) nothing more than pink shoes and good looking guys and gals with great haircuts.

Fine. Lord knows there's a place for that, and lord knows I, for one, believe that, say, the Monkees made great records and deserve a slot in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

Still the review Sanneh just wrote about the new Kelly Clarkson album was really a bit much.

Money quote: "Her biggest hit, Since U Been Gone, has become one of this decade’s defining pop songs: a glorious blast of bubblegum emo."

To comprehend how truly silly that statement is, first watch the video for said decade defining song, easily the finest thing of its kind since Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield".

Then imagine if I had written an equivalent sentence in, let's say, 1966. To wit -- "The Monkees biggest hit, I'm a Believer, has become one of this decade’s defining pop songs: a glorious blast of bubblegum exuberance."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Speaking of Lily (or Guilding it, if you prefer...)

Could this be the greatest song about wanking ever???

Not to mention the greatest french horn solo ever committed to vinyl (apologies to Julius Watkins!).

Fun fact: Pictures of Lily (released on 4/22/67) was the 2nd single released on the new Track Records label which Polydor had set up for manager Kit Lambert to run. Anyone know what was the first??

Wish I'd Been There

And in further Glastonbury news, a friend writes:

"Lily Allen brought Terry Hall on stage to sing The Specials' "Gangsters" this weekend. Specials guitarist Lynval Golding was already playing in her band.

You can see Billy Bragg dancing on the side of the stage.

She also did a nice version of their Blank Expression earlier in the set and a cover of Blondie's Heart of Glass."

Personally, I find Allen somewhere between a crashing bore and actively annoying, but that sounds like fun nonetheless.

[h/t John McPartlin]

The Friendly Stranger in the Black Sedan

Just back from a long and rather irksome weekend in Gomorrah on the Hudson; very tired, so my definitive post on the thousand sensitive beauties of The Wombles versus The Pipkins will have to wait until tomorrow.

While you wait, however, here's a video clip of perhaps the most satanically horrible horn band epic in the history of satanically horrible horn band epics (NYMary is really gonna hate me when she has to do the YouTube embed of this one).

Yes, it's the Ides of March and the worst Blood Sweat and Tears song BS&T never did -- "Vehicle".

I feel constrained to add at this point that I originally intended to post BS&T's almost as annoying "Lucretia McEvil" but, mercifully, no video of that song seems to have survived. Count your blessings.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Courtesy of the Atriots, I find this link to a BBC site broadcasting performances at this year's Glastonbury Music Festival.

It's a great list of bands, and there's no need to take risky drugs or slide around in the mud to hear it!

h/t Tom & Moon

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Powerpop Noir

Speaking of great bands that deserved far better fates, a few live videos of the criminally-neglected Fingerprintz have finally turned up on YouTube. I've worn out several copies of their 1980 LP Distinguishing Marks which sadly, has fallen out of print for many years and has yet to see a CD release. I bought my first copy of this disc without ever hearing a note of the band; indeed, it was the cover that sold me-- a series of post cards with illustrations that could easily have graced the cover of Black Mask. Luckily, the music was as cool as the art.

Produced by ex-Motor Nick Garvey, Distinguising Marks is a completely unconventional powerpop classic. The 'Printz had a musical approach that was not unlike Drums and Wires era XTC-- an angular guitar sound melded to sticky-sweet melodies and ear-worm choruses. But imagine XTC if Raymond Chandler had penned the lyrics. The tunes burst with a palpable sense of fear and paranoia as song characters navigate the mean streets of a faceless urban jungle. Powerpop Noir.

Here's some sample lyrics from Bulletproof Heart:

Some say this is a dangerous place
Dangerous women lipstick mace
Men disappear without a trace
Stay anonymous hide your face
In this town you`d need a Bulletproof,
Shatterproof heart

Other songs such as Houdini Love, Remorse Code, and Amnesia echo the film noir theme and make Distinguishing Marks an LP worth seeking out at your local used vinyl store.

Leader Jimmie O'Neill and 'Printz Guitarist Cha Burnz later went on to form The Silencers, which had considerably more success with their 1987 LP A Letter from St. Paul which included a couple of minor British hits such as Painted Moon and Scottish Rain. I remember they had vids on MTV when MTV used to actually show music videos. They also re-recorded an inferior version of Bulletproof Heart on their Dance to the Holy Man LP in 1991.

Anyway, here's the band on the Old Gray Whistle Test doing the original version of Bulletproof Heart (sorry, embedding was disabled on the video!)


Dog Days of Summer

The mere fact that they got Peter Cook to do their intro proves that these guys deserve better than a footnote in rock history.

That's the Fabulous Poodles, of course. What a great song. And they had lots of them.

Back in the day, my first ex-wife, a very talented graphic designer, was working with some Brit photographers who were pals with Fab Poos singer Tony De Meur (get it?). He actually once came to our apartment for drinks dressed like he is in the video. That was his street outfit, apparently.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Weekend Listomania

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, in honor of the first days of summer, my Oriental houseboy Kato and I are joining a gaggle of Druids at an upstate New York Stonehenge for a weekend of introspective contemplation of our oneness with the Earth (and a little oral sex). Could be a hot one!!!

In the meantime, here's another little project for you all:

Best Cover of a Bruce Springsteen Song NOT By Somebody Who Lived In Bruce's General Neighborhood!

My totally off the top of my head Top Five:

1. Robert Gordon with Link Wray -- Fire (the single version is slightly different from the album cut -- don't remember which one is better. Anyway, either one is way better than the Pointer Sisters version)

2. Greg Kihn -- Rendezvous

3. Any Trouble -- Growin' Up

4. Patti Smith -- Because the Night (yes, I know she's from Jersey, but the Pine Barrens is not Asbury Park, okay?)

5. Johnny Cash -- Highway Patrolman

Join in, won't you?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wish I'd Said That

Over at the Premiere Magazine website my old friend and colleague Glen Kenny -- doing business on his characteristically brilliant blog -- has had a real aha! moment over a certain highly anticipated new album.

If Joe Meek had produced the first Led Zeppelin LP...that's the sound I'm hearing as I listen to the new White Stripes collection "Icky Thump."

Wow. That's the most perceptive short album review in memory, surpassed only by J.D. Considine's legendary blurb on the (mercifully) first and last album by bogus supergroup GTR:


For a little background on visionary and deeply weird Telstar auteur Joe Meek look no further than here.

Birthday Greetings to Ray Davies!

Today is the first day of summer and also the birthday of Raymond Douglas Davies, born June 21, 1944 in Fortis Green, London.

It's difficult for me to articulate my love for this man and his music, but suffice to say that it burns with the fury of a thousand suns. A few years back, I caught his one-man The Storyteller show and by its conclusion, when he finished with Days I was blubbering like a baby.

Cheers mate! The pints are on me!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bongos Fury!!

When I'm not buying discs from pre-teen television idols, I dig trolling Billboard's list of new releases for interesting stuff. Something that caught my eye was the "special edition" reissue of The Bongos' Drums Along the Hudson released by Cooking Vinyl last week. The Bongos were one of the shining lights of the talent-laden Hoboken pop scene of the early 1980s and their 1982 LP arguably represents one of the high water marks of the era. Criminally, it has also fallen out of print for some time but thankfully, Cooking Vinyl has remedied this situation.

I just ordered my copy and haven't had a chance to give this new edition a spin yet, but looking at the track listing and description this will clearly be the definitive CD release. Completely remastered from the original source tapes, this special edition includes 15 cuts from the original release supplemented with 12 bonus tracks. The extra material includes the Bongos first live show in 1980 plus a new version of The Bulrushes featuring Moby.

I've not spun this disc in years, so I pulled out my vinyl copy for a fresh listen. After 25 years, the music holds up quite nicely, carried along by janglelicious guitars, super-catchy choruses and just a touch of the edgy sound of fellow scenesters like the Feelies and the dB's. On top of that, include one of the most brilliant covers of a T-Rex song put to vinyl and you have yourself a powerpop classic! As always, you can get your own copy of Drums Along the Hudson from Not Lame or other fine purveyors of music. O.K. Cooking Vinyl, now let's get going on a new reissue of Numbers With Wings and Beat Hotel!

Here's a clip of the band at a recent reunion show doing one of my favorite tracks from the LP, Zebra Club.

Whey-faced Brits at Their Worst

Last week UK paper The Guardian asked a bunch of pop musicians and fellow travellers to nominate the allegedly classic album that most struck them as overrated tripe. The results were mostly unsurprising -- the usual swipes at Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds -- although there were some digs, including one at the Strokes ("the new Duran Duran"), that kind of tickled me.

The following, however, really steamed my beans.

What kind of heathen dislikes the Velvet Underground and Nico?
Novelist and music lover Ian Rankin gives his reasons

This is a sacred cow but that doesn't mean it can't be turned into hamburger. You can start before you even listen to the music. The front of the album bears the name Andy Warhol and a yellow banana - there's no mention of the band whatsoever. The back of the album says it was produced by Andy Warhol alongside the Velvets, so straight away I'm annoyed. It's one of the worst-produced albums of all time - put it on a modern hi-fi and you'll think: this sounds like shit. It's muddy, the volume comes and goes, the guitars are all out of tune, as is the viola. John Cale is one of the great Welshmen, but the viola on Venus In Furs sounds like a Tom and Jerry sound effect. And Nico's voice is flat throughout - she sings English the way I sing German. Talk about looks being everything: she was a supermodel trying to sing in a rock band, but she couldn't sing - she gave good dirge.

It all flags up that the Velvet Underground were just part of Warhol's circus, his Factory; just another product. Once you start thinking about the Velvets being part of that, the notion of them waiting around for the man is ludicrous. As far as introducing the idea of nihilism to rock, the first Doors album, which came out the same year, was far better produced, far darker, and more nihilistic. Ditto the first Mothers of Invention album. Those two were from the west coast; the Velvets were from New York. And this was New York trying too hard. There's a line in Venus in Furs about "ermine furs adorn imperious". Those are four words that should never appear in a rock song and here they are put together. And the last two tracks are completely unlistenable: The Black Angel's Death Song and European Son, which constitute 11 minutes and one fifth of the album.

Jeebus. Rankin's a really good writer, but man -- talk about totally missing the point.

Oh, and by the way -- that idiot from Franz Ferdinand who dissed Television's Marquee Moon can just blow me.

[h/t John McPartlin]

The Drugs Aren't Working Anymore

Proving that the 60s were, among other things, The Golden Age of Fatuous Pronouncements, we offer The Association and their immortal really silly "Requiem for the Masses".

Embarrassing confession: At the time this was first broadcast, I actually took both song and group seriously.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another Review of the Records

from the newly-blogrolled Powerpopaholic!

Tuesday Quick Fixes

[the first in a continuing series of short takes on interesting or alarming new CDs that have crossed our desk recently]

THE KRINKLES: 3 The Mordorlorff Collection
(Mordorlorff Music)
An invigorating powerpop/punk/metal/glam confection from a Chicago quartet heretofore unknown to me. It's thoroughly modern sounding -- humongous guitars, pile-driver drums -- but it nods to the classic verities in a reassuringly knowing way; apart from the usual post Green Day riffage, I hear bits of the Fabs, the Who, Cheap Trick, Badfinger, AC/DC, the Smithereens, and the Raspberries. Nary a dud in the sixteen-song bunch, including a nifty cover of Rick Springfield's "Love is Alright Tonight," rendered here with just the right note of ironic insouciance, although these guys had me from the chiming guitar riff that kicks off their opening "Dirty Girl." Order it from Amazon or from CDBaby immediately. [Info at]

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE: Sweeping Up the Spotlight - Live at the Fillmore East 1969

In a word, wow. This is the Airplane's classic lineup at its peak, culled from four NYC shows on the cusp of the 70s (immediately post Woodstock and post Volunteers). Excellent sonics (although the technology of the time really couldn't capture the sheer size and volume of the sound the Airplane put out) and the band is obviously stoked. The album doesn't supplant "Bless It's Pointed Little Head," their earlier live classic, but it's got a more interesting set list -- lengthy, atmospheric workouts on the infrequently stage-tested "Good Shepherd" and "Uncle Sam Blues" -- and the more familiar material sounds thoroughly fresh; a spookier than usual take on "White Rabbit" is by itself worth the price of admission.

Monday, June 18, 2007

And He's Cuter Than Mary Hart

My old high school chum Leonard Maltin is celebrating 25 years with Entertainment Tonight...

...having even gotten mega-stars like George Clooney, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo Di Caprio and Dustin Hoffman to offer him on-camera tributes.

And to think it all started because of a Teaneck teacher's terrific hunch.

"I was about to graduate from Teaneck High when an English teacher there said, 'I really want you to meet this old friend of mine who's an editor at Signet Books. I just think the two of you would hit it off," Maltin recalls, on the phone from Newark Airport, where he was about to board a flight back to Los Angeles after a trip East to promote this month's 25th anniversary.

"And we did hit it off. He asked me if I was interested in doing a rival to an existing [movie reference] book, [then] the only one of its kind. ... I was 17 when I was signed to do it. It's unbelievable, like the script of a B movie."

Four decades later, the noted film critic and historian is still going strong. So is his annual guide. The 2008 edition will be out in late August.

You can read the rest of the article (from the Record in Hackensack, NJ -- still the Paris of the Tri-State Metropolitan area) here

Lenny was editing a self-published movie magazine back when he was in Junior High, actually, and he was probably the only kid in America with a row of theater seats in his basement. Many's the evening my brother and I spent down there watching 16 millimeter versions of Warner Bros. cartoons and Roger Corman films. "Bucket of Blood" is still my favorite B-movie ever as a result.

Thanks, Lenny!!!!

Noted Without Comment

From today's inbox:

LAS VEGAS - On June 26, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon, Olivia Harrison and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté will all take part in a special dedication ceremony in honor of John Lennon and George Harrison.

In May 2006 during rehearsals for LOVE, Paul McCartney and Guy Laliberté discussed how best to recognize John Lennon's and George Harrison's contributions to the show. Subsequently, Cirque du Soleil designers created two plaques that will be unveiled on June 26 and then permanently displayed in the LOVE Theatre lobby at The Mirage.

This event celebrates the one-year anniversary of LOVE and coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Following the ceremony, Larry King will interview Paul, Ringo, Yoko, Olivia and Guy for his one hour broadcast from The Beatles REVOLUTION Lounge at The Mirage in Las Vegas. Larry King Live airs on CNN at 9pm ET, 6pm PT. The distinguished guests will then attend a special one year anniversary performance of LOVE.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Knocked Up: The Blog Post

Over at the Premiere Magazine website I see that my old friend and colleague Glen Kenny -- doing business on his characteristically brilliant blog -- has some very interesting things to say about singer/songwriter Peter Blegvad, whose song "Daughter," as covered by Loudon Wainwright III, figures prominently in the end credits for the current comedy smash Knocked Up.

Glenn turned me on to (the-should-be-a-household word) Blegvad when we were working together at The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, and Blegvad's "King Strut" (a song that, to put it charitably, was a big influence on XTC's classic "Peter Pumpkinhead") has been on my MP3 player since forever.

Go read the post, and then as Glenn suggests (paraphrasing John Belushi) buy as many Peter Blegvad albums as possible.

The Last Temptation of VH-1

I'm always the last to know, obviously, but I was moderately surprised to find out that the guy who sang one of the most seraphically lovely pop ballads of the 80s had gone over to the dark side of the force.

Yes, Brent Bourgeois, then of Bourgeois Tagg, is a serious Christian guy now. Which doesn't make the aforementioned "I Don't Mind at All" any less gorgeous, of course. Gloriously emotive singing, shimmering guitars, those Beatles cello flourishes...all to die for. A phenomenal Todd Rundgren production, as well -- probably his best of the 80s, with the possible exception of XTC's Skylarking. And now that YouTube's Beta version is in place you can hear it in stereo, as nature intended.

Too bad about the whole Jesus thing, though.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

News from Shoes

From my sporadic correspondent Jeff Murphy, I get a whole boatload of excellent Shoes news.
Lots going on on the frontlines for SHOES. We've actually been quite busy lately. We just finished a new track for a Cheap Trick benefit/tribute CD due out on Fastlane Records later this summer. It's the first new SHOES recording in over 12 years! We've also got a couple of tunes coming out on an Australian Power Pop compilation due in November on Shock Records (the Too Late demo and If You'd Stay from BVS).

I've also been busy working on the press for Cantilever as well as the newly released, Double Exposure. Lots to do, so little time. There's a review of Cantilever in the new (June) issue of HARP magazine. You can read it (complete with typo) here. Also, Electronic Musician is doing a piece in the August issue. I also did an interview for Goldmine and they're scheduled to run a review and the interview but I don't know when.

I'm working on a budget-priced instrumental version of the album, just for something different. Some of the songs have a "jingle" feel to them.

SHOES has also been asked to play our first gig in over 4 years at Millenium Park in downtown Chicago, Illinois. We're still hammering out the details, but it would be Friday, Aug. 10th at 4:30pm. We'll see how that develops.

So, do any sugar daddies out there want to spot me the price of a round-trip ticket from Burlington, VT to Chicago?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hope You Have a Couple of Hours

because trademark dave has hipped me to Wolfgang's Concert Vault, where you can listen for free and pay to download some truly amazing concerts. Just off the top of my head, I'm curious about:
Nils Lofgren
Record Plant - 10/31/1975

Electric Light Orchestra
Winterland - 02/14/1976

Bruce Springsteen
Berkeley Community Theater - 03/02/73

The Who
Fillmore East - 04/06/1968

Elvis Costello & the Attractions
Winterland - 06/07/1978

Damn, I love the Internets.

Extra plus: Wolfgang says, "Based upon all the information that is available to us, we believe that performers can earn between four and six times more from Wolfgang’s Vault per download than they currently receive from their record companies. In a well publicized dispute between performers and major record labels, the performers state that they typically earn only $.045 per downloaded song – less than 5% of the total per song download price.

The Wolfgang’s Vault agreement pays the performer significantly more, remits the money much faster and gives the performer the tools to review download sales activity in real-time."

Good on you!

Weekend Listomania (Special Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, in honor of the new Massachusetts mandatory gayness laws, my Oriental houseboy Kato and I will be donning our smoking jackets, firing up a couple of cubans, and relaxing with that Mitzi Gaynor reissue Mitt Romney sent us. So posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a day or two.

In the meantime, here's another little project for you all:

Best Whitegirl Covers of a Motown Song!!!!!

[utterly arbitrary rules: You are not allowed to nominate anything by Linda Ronstadt, especially her crappy version of "Heatwave." If you do nominate her, I swear to god I'll take a hostage. Also -- some of my choices may be intended ironically. Yours can't be. So there.]

My totally off the top of my head Top Six:

1. Money -- The Flying Lizards

2. Ain't That Peculiar -- Fanny (no video, alas)

3. What Becomes of the Brokenhearted -- Joan Osborne

4. Please Mr. Postman -- The Carpenters

5. Nathan Jones -- Bananarama

6. You Keep Me Hanging On -- Kim Wilde

Join in, won't you?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

And Here's Another Clue For You All

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be dispatched to any reader who guesses how this video clip of The Flying Lizards going all Mr. Roboto on Barrett Strong's venerable ode to avarice "Money" provides a hint to the subject of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

And remember: No wagering!!!

Germ Free Adolescents

No larger point here, but aren't these guys just the cutest things you've ever seen?

Seriously -- in retrospect, so many of the first generation British punk bands were so adorable it's hard to understand why people thought they were threatening. C'mon, what's not to love about a band called X-Ray Spex?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Another Opening Sentence That Didn't Make Me Want to Read Further

My old critical colleage John McPartlin alerts me to the fact that legendary Dean of American Rock Critics Robert Christgau just awarded Dud of the Month status to Midlake's "The Trials of Van Occupanther" in an online review that begins with the following gnomic pronouncement:

The prestige of this conjunction of pomo prog, alt-country, fantasy fiction and video-game narrativity is the silliest proof yet of how jaded indie's tastebuds have become, with candied cannabis and lark's wings in aspic impending.

Hmm. Apparently the old boy has been gumming a few shrooms along with his Metamucil.

The Kids Are Alright!

O.K., let me be the first to say that my knowledge of teen pop culture is tenuous at best, (perhaps NYMary can help!) but Drake Bell is apparently the star of the Nickelodeon series Drake & Josh. He showed up on my radar when I recently plucked his latest disc It's Only Time from the budget bin at my local disc emporium the other day. Alright, I know what you are thinking! No, I normally don't buy discs by television teen idols but the pic of Drake on the cover reminded me of a young Brian Wilson so I'd thought I'd take a chance and give it a spin.

Wow! This disc is chock-filled with tunes that fans of Jellyfish and the Wondermints will really dig! I don't know if the 20 year old musician worked with other writers on this (Andy Sturmer maybe?) but it's comforting to think that kids are being exposed to classic pop songcraft such as this rather than the dreck they are being fed now.

Anyway, here's the video for the single I Know to give you a little taste! Cheers!

Video Killed Etc.

These guys -- late 70s Aussie band The Sports -- should have been contenders. At least that's the conclusion I've drawn after seeing this clip for "Who Listens to the Radio?".

I've always loved the song -- one of the best examples of that wonderful pop moment when first generation punk and nascent New Wave overlapped -- but until just now I'd never seen the video and consequently didn't have a face (or faces) to go with its wonderfully post-modern homage to Van Morrison channeling Major Lance. Adding to the irony, I never actually heard the damn thing on the radio, although I guess that's the point.

In any case, the band just strikes me as to die for -- charismatic (the singer obviously had no problem with being a rock star), funny (the guitar player gives great feet) and passionately into what they're doing. Classic stuff, in other words.

Damn, sometimes I hate discovering a fabulous group that's been out of business for nearly thirty years.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest

Said it before, and I'll say it again: If anything defines the mission statement of this blog, it's Starry Eyes by the Records.

And here it is in a 1979 clip that just popped up on YouTube.

I can't speak for fellow Records obsessive NYMary, but I certainly had never seen this before. According to John Wicks, the song's auteur (and the guy singing the damn thing) "It's taken from The Midnight Special we played as guests of The Cars back in 1979. The keyboard player is Mike Taylor. He used to play with my good friend Paul Roberts' band, Sniff 'n' the Tears. (Mike replaced Ian Gibbons who'd gone on to join The Kinks)."


That Cars' special really needs to be exhumed, BTW. If memory serves, it features the only appearance confrontational avant-garde duo Suicide ever made on network television.

Could Be a Hot One

[Okay, this guy hasn't written a decent song since the early 70s. Nonetheless, this news makes me very happy.]


Collection Features 12 Previously Unreleased Demos from Historic 1968
Session Including First Recordings of Classics "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," and
"Wooden Ships" Plus a Bonus Demo of "Treetop Flyer"

Available July 10 from Eyewall/Rhino Records

LOS ANGELES -- In April 1968, after Stephen Stills left Buffalo Springfield
but before he joined CSN, the singer-songwriter found himself in New York
at a recording session with then-girlfriend Judy Collins. When she
finished, Stills wandered down the hall with an engineer and an acoustic
guitar. Peeling off a couple of hundred-dollar bills, Stills told the
engineer, "Just roll tape." What he captured at that historic session were
the first-ever versions of classics he would later record solo and with
CSN, CSNY, and Manassas. Lost for decades, Eyewall/Rhino unearths this
extraordinary moment in rock 'n' roll history for a collection of
unreleased music. JUST ROLL TAPE ­ APRIL 26th 1968 will be available July
10 at regular retail outlets and for a suggested price of

"Some you'll know; some you might not," Stills says of songs included in
this collection. "[T]he tape has been lost to the wind for almost 40 years
until Graham Nash discovered it's existence and urged me to release it.
Somehow, it's found its way back, and these songs now feel like great
friends when they were really young."

After recording these now-historic demos, Stills left the masters in the
studio, and they were almost discarded when the facility closed in 1978.
Musician Joe Colasurdo, who was rehearsing there at the time, was told by
the owner that he could cart off any tapes he wanted to before they cleared
the place out. After seeing Stills' names on several of the boxes,
Colasurdo kept them safe until he could find a reel-to-reel machine to play
them on.

Realizing the treasure he had, Joe began attempting to get the masters
safely back into Stills hands, an undertaking that took much determination,
and -- amazingly -- 25 years. In 2003, he was connected to Graham Nash
after happening to meet a close friend of his. Nash received the tapes,
passed them on to Stephen, encouraging him to release them. The rest is
music history, as made by Stephen Stills on JUST ROLL TAPE.

JUST ROLL TAPE presents remastered versions of the 12 songs Stills recorded
with engineer John Haney at Elektra Studios in New York City. An amazing
glimpse into Stills' songwriting genius, the recordings spotlight Stills'
instantly recognizable voice accompanied only by his acoustic guitar. The
album includes the first recordings of future CSN hits "Suite: Judy Blue
Eyes," "Helplessly Hoping," and "Wooden Ships."

Also included are early versions of songs that would emerge on Stills' solo
albums such as "Black Queen" from his 1970 self-titled debut along with
"Change Partners" and "Know You're Got To Run" from his 1971 follow-up. "So
Begins The Task" appears here almost four years before it was recorded by
Manassas, the legendary group Stills formed in 1972. As a bonus, the
collection is bolstered by a track not recorded during the April 26 session
-- the first demo of fan favorite "Treetop Flyer," which showcases Stills
singing and playing dobro.

Recently voted by Rolling Stone as one of the top guitarists of all time
(#28), Stills will launch a month-long solo tour this June in Toronto at
the Music Hall Theatre.

[Seriously, as bloated and empty as his music has been for longer than I care to think about, Stills' early stuff -- Buffalo Springfield through the first solo album -- is out of this world, overflowing with soul and pop smarts. Revisionism, anybody?]

Monday, June 11, 2007

Now, Where'd I Leave That Credit Card with the $10K Limit? must be around here someplace.

From my inbox, I learn that Sonic Youth, as part of the re-release of Daydream Nation, is doing four concerts in which they play this masterwork in its entirety. July 13 at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, July 19, at the Berkeley Community Theater, July 20, at the Greek Theater in LA, and July 28, at McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. At the LA show, their openers will be none other than Redd Kross, playing their own seminal record, Born Innocent.

Oh to have Paris Hilton's bank account and lack her substance abuse issues!

Another Headline That Didn't Make Me Want to Read Further

Extremely irksome NYTimes pop music reviewer Kelefa Sanneh
strikes again. From today's paper:

Take Me Out to the Bling Blineo (I Don’t Care if I Ever Get Back)

You can read the review in its entirety here, but trust me, it's all down hill after the lede.

The Way We Were

Nice to see that The Connells are still doing business.

Back in the late 80s, these guys were pretty much my favorite mopey, vaguely melodic, jangly guitar college rock band. I actually dug them even more than (the objectively superior) R.E.M.

Alas, there's no video for my favorite Connells tune -- the enigmatic and haunting "Get a Gun" from their sublime 1990 album One Simple Word -- so I've deputized a clip for their elegaic whatever-became-of lament "74-75" in its absence.

Mopey, vaguely melodic, jangly guitar college rock really doesn't get much better.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Grace: The Prequel

As I've pointed out on numerous occasions, one of the really nice perks of writing here is that people send me all sorts of great music I otherwise wouldn't have been exposed to. The latest example -- Tim Buckley: My Fleeting House -- comes courtesy of occasional Eschaton poster Emma Peel , who apparently either knows or is related to someone who worked on it.

What it is, of course, is a revelatory collection of all of Buckley's extant TV performances, from his first appearance singing "Song to the Siren" on a 1967 episode of The Monkees to a gorgeous reading of Fred Neil's "The Dolphins" on the BBC a few months before his death in 1975. Almost all the performances are uncut, video and sound quality is really good (this is NOT a bootleg, BTW -- it was done with the full cooperation of Buckley's family) and there are also interesting contemporary commentaries by members of his band and noted critic David Browne (who went to high school with my good buddy Steve Schwartz -- hey, this is my soapbox and I'll work in a gratuitous reference to myself if I damn well feel like it!).

Oh, and have I mentioned there are guest appearances by Leonard Bernstein and Steve Allen?

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that this is a really terrific package by an artist -- revealed here as a mesmeric live presence -- whose hard-to-pigeonhole work is at long last getting the wider recognition it deserves. Here's a five minute teaser trailer that gives you a good idea of what to expect.

You can order it -- and you should -- right here.

Incidentally, Jeff's name never comes up in the commentaries, but the similarities between father and son are really kind of hard to ignore.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Remains of their Day

Somehow I missed this, but the good folks at Legacy Recordings, as part of their Summer of Love reissue program (tip o' the hat to Steve who reviewed the Moby Grape disc here) finally re-released The Remains' indispensable 1966 eponymous LP last month. This is exciting news for fans of primo 60s American beat/garage as Legacy's previous collection had unfairly gone out of print for several years.

The Remains, lead by lead vocalist/lead guitarist Barry Tashian were the band on the Boston music scene from'64-'66. House band at the storied Ratskeller club, their scorching live act was legendary among rock's cognoscenti. They appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and were the opening act for the Beatles on their 1966 summer tour. Tragically, the band disintegrated just prior to the release of The Remains and the band faded into obscurity. I lived in Boston for several years back in the 1980s and every single person I had ever spoken to who were lucky enough to see the Remains at the height of their powers said, without hesitation, that they were the greatest live act ever. Indeed, after giving The Remains a fresh listen it's not difficult to understand why.

My introduction to the group came from the inclusion of the cut Don't Look Back on Lenny Kaye's seminal compilation Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968. Don't Look Back showcases everything that made the Remains great: a loose but assertive rough and tumble R&B sound tied together with a thrilling gospel call and response middle eight that gives the listener a good glimpse of what a raucous affair their live shows must have been. Later, when I finally got my mitts on their long player I realized that this knockout track was just one of many stellar cuts in the Remains' small but uniformly excellent back catalog.

Getting back to the reissue at hand, sure, I already have the 1991 Barry & the Remains disc as well as Sundazed's great A Session with the Remains , so did I really need to shell out for this music again? The answer is a resounding yes! The new edition restores the original LP cover art, liner notes and running order and also includes 10 bonus tracks which pick up important non-LP singles and outtakes. Unfortunately for completists, the new version omits an alternate take of Say You're Sorry and an extended version of All Good Things that appeared on the previous CD release.

Listening to the music again, I am struck by how versatile a band they really were. Unlike many of the American bands of the era, the Remains didn't traffic in simple British invasion mimicry, but rather, they took their contemporaries' inspiration and created an unique and exciting American amalgam. The Remains were clearly more I Wanna Be Your Man than I Want to Hold Your Hand on the Richter scale of Beatles songcraft and their stock in trade were tough R&B ravers like You Got a Hard Time Comin', the aforementioned Don't Look Back, and Say You're Sorry. Nonetheless, they could also pen pretty Merseyesque tunes like When I Want to Know, Ain't That Her and Once Before. Their taste in covers was also impeccable and a version of Charlie Rich's Lonely Weekend is a musical highpoint that nicely showcases Barry Tashian's soulful voice. Another standout track, LP opener Heart, is a cover of a Pet Clark tune that features a slow burn opening that morphs into an intense Yardbirds raveup by song's end. Finally, solid readings of Diddy Wah Diddy, My Babe, and Don Covay's Mercy, Mercy, Mercy round out their classic electric blues repetoire.

As a true aficionado and collector of 60s garage and psych, I cannot more highly recommend this disc. The Remains were one of the giants of the genre and one of the finest American bands of the era. To give you a little taste of their God-like power, here's the band's appearance on Ed Sullivan performing Let Me Through. This gives you a really nice taste of what a Remains "rave up" sounds like! Freak Out!

[Steve Simels adds: Kid C nails this exactly; and he's so right about everybody in the Boston area who ever saw them. To this day, I run into people who were there at the time and to a person they get more excited reminiscing about it than Springsteen fans who caught the perfect gig at the shore.

We should also mention that Barry Tashian went on to a long and fruitful career, including a several year stint as lead guitarist/musical director for the divine Emmylou Harris.

Bottom line: these guys were great. Go to Amazon and buy the record already.]

Talk to the Hand

The best obscure band of the 60s you never heard of but should have?

Some mornings I think it's Lothar and the Hand People.

Saw them open for the Byrds at the Village Gate in '68. Brilliant musicians, and they were by far the snazziest dressed underground/alternative band in New York City history. The Strokes can blow me, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, they never made a video, but here's an interesting montage somebody made to one of the best tracks from their debut album. It's a cover of a Manfred Mann song originally written by the great Doc Pomus, and it's pretty definitely the first synth-pop song ever. Have I mentioned that these guys were a decade ahead of their time?

Their stuff is still in print, thank god, so get thee to Amazon and start ordering.

[h/t gummo]

Friday, June 08, 2007

Weekend Listomania (Special Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means.

Yes, my Oriental houseboy Kato and I, inspired by the late Jacques Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso, are off to explore the colorful waterfront bars and nightclubs of Marseilles (we call it our "Allo, Sailor!" tour, for obvious reasons).

So posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a couple of days.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you.

Best Whiteboy Covers of a Motown Song!!!!!

[utterly arbitrary rule: Nobody is allowed to nominate Soft Cell's Tainted Love, which sucks beyond measure. If anybody does nominate it, I swear to god I'm gonna take a hostage.]

Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Ten.

1. First I Look at the Purse -- J.Geils Band

2. Where Did Our Love Go (studio version) -- J.Geils Band

3. Come See About Me -- Afghan Whigs

4. Money -- The Beatles

5. You Really Got a Hold on Me -- The Beatles

6. I 'm Losing You -- The Faces

7. Baby Don't You Do It -- The Who

8. Every Little Bit Hurts -- Small Faces

9. Do You Love Me -- Dave Clark Five

10. I Was Made to Love Her -- Beach Boys

Join in, won't you?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Daydream Nation, Deluxe Edition

In my inbox, this news:


Hailed by Rolling Stone as one of 'The 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time' and honored as one of the first 200 albums chosen by the Library of Congress to be included in the National Recording Registry for their historic, cultural or aesthetic importance, Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation will be issued by Geffen Records in a two-disc Deluxe Edition with bonus tracks, new liner notes, and unseen band photos on June 12, 2007 and on a super-special 4-disc vinyl set issued by the band's own Goofin' Records soon after. The CD version is available in Europe June 18 (Germany June 15, UK July 2). More Information and the complete tracklist is here.

I know what someone's getting for Father's Day!

The Gauntlet: Thrown

I'll see you the Mosquitoes, Kid C, and raise you a similarly wireless Serena from Bewitched.

Redd Kross covered this song.

The Mosquitoes Little Buddy!!!

After the cute duckies of Spring are gone, those pesky Mosquitoes arrive!

The Mosquitoes appeared on Gilligan's Island in episode 48 Don't Bug the Mosquitoes which first aired on December 9, 1965. According to, "three of the Mosquitoes (Bango, Bongo, and Irving) were played by the three singers known as the Wellingtons, the group that sang the Gilligan's Island theme song in the first season!"

Anyway, the Mosquitoes must have left behind the incredible technology that allowed them to play wireless without amps, microphones, or even electricity when they fled the island. I couldn't find any info about who actually wrote the tunes, so if any Gilliganophiles have any info, please spill!

OT: News from Liberal Mountain


We now return you to your regularly scheduled music blogging.

The Sound of Young America

So speaking of Rhino reissues, as I was yesterday:

I also got -- in the same package the merry mailman delivered those Pretenders albums -- an ominous looking black-jacketed copy of
Unbreakable (A Retrospective 1990-2006)
by the Afghan Whigs. A band, I'm embarassed to admit, I've heretofore taken pretty much no notice of whatsoever.

Silly me. Behold (from said album) this clip of the Whigs' minor key wails-from-the-crypt version of the Supremes' "Come See About Me" -- it shouldn't work, but boy does it ever anyway. And color me extremely impressed.

Dang, these guys are good -- obviously, I'll have to check out the rest of the CD.

Postscript: A coveted PowerPop No Prize to the first reader who guesses how this post provides a clue to tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Talk of the Town

The sages tell us that in life there are but three great truths. The first: all things may be reduced to moisture, from whence they came. The second: Nothing is forever. And the third: If you have a chance to blog about the Pretenders, take it, dummy.

So luckily for me, the merry mailman just brought me Rhino's new deluxe reissues of the Pretenders' third and fourth albums.

I really don't need to go into detail about the music here, especially on Learning to Crawl; songs like "Back on the Chain Gang" "Middle of the Road" "My City Was Gone" and "2000 Miles" are classics all, and the bonus tracks -- including the sly and funny "Fast or Slow (The Law's the Law)" and the often-bootlegged live version of "Money" (the Motown blast of noise, not the Pink Floyd bummer) are icing on the cake. Get Close isn't quite as good, as its Big 80s production hasn't aged as well as you might hope, but there are still great songs galore here, including the ineffably poignant "Hymn to Her," and again the bonus tracks are tons of fun.

Besides, you've probably already figured out that the real reason I'm talking about this stuff is as an excuse to post the video for "Don't Get Me Wrong". In which Chrissie Hynde, still the coolest woman to ever strap on an electric guitar, gets to fulfill the glorious fantasy that she's in an episode of The Avengers.

For my money, the most transcendent moment in rock video history remains the clip's next to final shot -- Chrissie, through the miracle of seamless editing, actually stepping into Patrick Macnee-as-John-Steed's apartment from the series and flashing him that knowingly sexy Mrs. Peel look. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if Chrissie goes to her grave thinking that was the high point of her life.

Eeeek! He's Famous!

Twiddling around with the Sitemeter, I came across this thread. We're in the presence of greatness, folks. (Not that we didn't know that already, but it's nice to have it confirmed.)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Music Therapy

So I fight, on and off, with depression, as do most people of any worth in the world, I've found. (It's a much saner response than the sunny optimism of The Deciderer.) In 2003, I literally wrestled my way back from the precipice with power pop--something about listening to the music which connected me when I was connected helped to reconnect me, as weird as that sounds.

But of course the opposite is also true. Of course, the wrong song heard at the wrong time can be as dangerous as the right song heard at the right time can be healing. And so I give you The Shins, "Young Pilgrims."

And since this is only a partial youtube, and the sound sucks, I'll include the lyrics.

"Young Pilgrims"

A cold and wet November dawn
And there are no barking sparrows
Just emptiness to dwell upon.

I fell into a winter slide
And ended up the kind of kid who goes down chutes too narrow
Just eking out my measly pies.

But I learned fast how to keep my head up 'cause I
Know there is this side of me that
Wants to grab the yoke from the pilot and just
Fly the whole mess into the sea.

Another slow train to the coast
Some brand new gory art from way on high
I sink and then I swim all night.

I watch the ice melt on the glass
While the eloquent young pilgrims pass
And leave behind their trail
Imploring us not to fail.

Of course I was raised to gather courage from those
Lofty tales so tried and true and
If you're able I'd suggest it 'cause this
Modern thought can get the best of you.

This rather simple epitaph can save your hide, your falling mind
Fate isn't what we're up against, there's no design, no flaws to find
There's no design, no flaws to find.

But I learned fast how to keep my head up 'cause I
Know I got this side of me that
Wants to grab the yoke from the pilot and just
Fly the whole mess into the sea.

I'll be okay, BTW--just having a down patch.

Genius At Work

A brief followup to my Moby Grape post downstairs.

The new CD contains one of my absolute favorite songs of all time -- "Motorcycle Irene" -- by the group's sort-of frontman/genius, the (sadly late) Skip Spence.

It's an absolutely brilliant mashup of folkie ballad and hepster update of the sort of car crash teenage badass songs exemplified by the Shangri-Las "Leader of the Pack."

It's simultaneously poetic, strangely poignant, hysterically funny, and quite mad.

Herewith, the lyrics in full.

MOTORCYCLE IRENE (Alexander "Skip" Spence)

There she sits a-smokin'
Reefer in her mouth
Her hair hanging northward
As she travels south
Dirty, on her Harley
(But her nails are clean)
Super-powered, de-flowered
Over-eighteen Irene

I've seen her in the bare
Where her tattoos and her chains
Wrap around her body
Where written are the names
Of prisons she's been in
And lovers she has seen
Curve-winding, bump 'n' grindin'
Motorcycle Irene

Ground around like hamburger
Layin' an a splat
'tis Irene, her sheen I seen
In pieces crumpled flat
Oh, the feet were in the bushes
Her toes were in her hat
Stark-raven, un-shaven
Motorcycle Irene

The Hunchback, the cripple
Horseman and the Fool
Prayer books and candles and
Carpet, cloaks and jewels
Knowing all the answers
But breakin' all the rules
The stark-naked, un-sacred
Motorcycle Irene

As a friend of mine once said about a girl in a Yeats poem, Irene must have been one rockin' package.

Update: Can't find the link, but apparently the surviving members of Moby Grape are playing the 40th anniversary of the Monterey Pop concert sometime in the next week or so. Skippy's son Omar, who apparently looks just like his old man, will be subbing for his dad. I saw them in '96 (sans the kid), and they were brilliant, so this might yet be a hot one.

Scooter's Song

UPDATE: According to Atrios, 30 months, plus a quarter million in fines, plus another two years probation. Wonder if that's enough to make him squeal?

The West is the Best

Two notable repackages -- from California bands who boasted five-part harmonies -- have crossed my desk in the last week or two, and they're both worth your attention.

The surprise here is that the Beach Boys'
"The Warmth of the Sun" is not just another throwaway comp featuring the same old same old. Instead, it's a very well chosen (apparently by whoever is still in the band) anthology of summer-themed songs, with very few of the usual suspects -- okay, "409" is here -- and seven revelatory new stereo mixes of wonderful songs from The Beach Boys Today and Summer Days and Summer Nights, the albums that are Brian Wilson's Rubber Soul and Revolver respectively. There are also some songs from the band's early 70s albums I hadn't listened to in years, and they're all almost serpahically lovely -- in particular Dennis Wilson's lovelorn ballad "Forever" and Brian's still astonishing "Till I Die."

The new Moby Grape best-of "Listen My Friends" is no less welcome, but problematic. The Grape, of course, belong on anybody's list of the Top Ten American bands of the 60s, a staggeringly talented bunch who leapfrogged genres (blues, psychedelia, pop, country), sang like angels and whose best songs, as Greil Marcus famously observed, sounded more like gang fights. They were also famously unlucky, with a notoriously sleazy manager they've been litigating with since forever; thanks to him, Sony's previous two-disc Grape best-of, 1993's Vintage, had been out of print for several years. In fact, before "Listen," none of the Grape's 60s material had been legally available for quite a while.

The problem with the new album is that in its attempt to be comprehensive it gives a somewhat distorted picture of the group's career, which goes like this: Classic first album (every song a gem), ambitious second album (some sublime moments, some filler), overlooked third album (return to form, almost as good as the first) and a contractual obligation turkey (the sound of a band pretty much in collapse). The good news here: the great album jacket Vintage should have had, the first CD appearance of the wonderfully winsome "If You Can't Learn From My Mistakes" (chiming guitar heaven), plus six songs from the first album including the Beatles-on-Meth killer single "Omaha," plus the epochal "Seeing," the Skip Spence masterpiece that Robert Plant covered brilliantly a few years ago. The bad news: A not terribly good song the Grape did for the soundtrack of a justifiably obscure 60s movie pot-boiler and two (at best) forgettable tunes from the aforementioned forgettable fourth album.

The final verdict? It's a mixed bag, but until the first three albums get proper reissues this is an indispensable purchase for anyone not highly perverse of ears.

Meanwhile, to give you a taste, here's a very good live clip of the band playing two songs from the first album at the height of the Summer of Love.

Incidentally, Peter Lewis, the good looking guy on the right singing the ballad, is the son of Loretta Young, one of the great screen beauties of the 30s and 40s. How a Hollywood brat like Lewis wound up in a San Francisco rock band is, like the rest of the Grape's odyssey, an amazing story deserving of a major film biography some day.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ars Gratia Artis

So I am pleased to learn that Marshall Crenshaw's wonderful 1983 second album "Field Day" is in fact available on CD.

In a just world, of course, it would have topped the charts instead of getting no higher than #53 in Billboard. But in a just world ALL of Marshall's albums would have topped the charts. You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I bring it up because my first ex-wife, a very talented graphic designer, did the cover (she also did Talking Heads "Remain in Light"). Okay, she was actually just a live-in girlfriend, but she DID do the cover.

Of which Marshall has told numerous reporters over the years (most recently in a NYTimes profile) that said cover was so Satanically awful that radio stations refused to play the album at all. In fact, Marshall has gone as far as to say that the cover was directly responsible for the premature stall of his career. Hah!

I have no idea if that's true or not (if there's a problem with the album it's more likely the occasionally muddy production by Steve Lillywhite) but in the mid-90s I met a very nice (and very young) PR guy from a major record label and the subject of Marshall and the album came up. He told me that as a kid he had seen the album in a record store and didn't buy it because the cover looked "too damn Republican."

Monday Guest Album Review Blogging

Courtesy of our good friends Sal and Tony at NYCD:

About 1972, people began to realize that the Beatles, who made some of the greatest music of all time when together, also had the ability to make some of the worst records since the invention of the cylinder as solo artists. So for every Band On The Run or All Things Must Pass, we got stuck with a Wild Life or Dark Horse. We dealt with it -- tried to ignore the lesser records, loved the good ones, and hoped against hope that they'd come to their senses and get back together.

Beginning in the early '80s, when we all found out the hard way that Beatles can get older and even die, and that a reunion was no longer possible, there arose a curious breed of music fan called Beatle Apologists. Their job was to find the minutes of brilliance or even competence amidst the forty minutes of dreck that made up most Beatle solo albums, and use them to justify the whole sorry mess.

It seems like a large percentage of Beatle apologists have become record reviewers over the years. That's why records like Off The Ground, Gone Troppo, and Stop And Smell The Roses (by Paul, George and Ringo, respectively) received respectful, even mildly encouraging reviews upon their release. The bar was set so low that all a Beatle had to do was put any sort of garbage on a piece of plastic to prove he hadn't joined John Lennon in the great beyond, and by golly, that was good enough for the apologists.

Along with Beatle apologists emerged a somewhat more cynical group, the Beatle realists. They loved the Beatles too, and dutifully bought all the solo records out of some strange sense of loyalty. The difference between the realists and the apologists was that the realists were able to hear just how bad most of these records were. Conversations between realists and apologists usually go something like this:

APOLOGIST: You know, there are a couple of really good songs on this new Ringo Starr CD.
REALIST: No. There aren't.

Just to clarify, we love Sir Paul. So much so that we are still listening to Memory Almost Full, looking for that hidden gem in this mess of an album. As of listen # 6, it's still dreck.

There's more over at their blog, so get the heck over there and give them some love.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Aimee Mann Reflects on Sgt. Pepper

in today's NYTimes.

Is it a testament to the quality, or purity, or beauty, or timelessness of that record (released 40 years ago this weekend) that it appealed so thoroughly to an 8-year-old, one who had virtually no contact with pop culture? I could not have been more out of tune with the zeitgeist — it would be two more years before I discovered radio, and even then I would have only the vaguest notion of what was out there. I bought my first LP solely on the basis of the cover (one of the reasons today I try to take extra care with the packaging of my CDs). It was pure dumb luck that it turned out to be Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water,” still one of my favorite albums of all time.

But the favorite is, and was, and must remain “Sgt. Pepper’s.” I had a love affair like no other with that record. My brother had bought it, of course, and when I heard it, I braved his wrath and smuggled it out to my friend’s house so I could play it over and over. You’d have had to know my brother back then to fully understand how daring that was.

In a way, that record seemed made for children: the fun false mustaches that came with the package, the bright shiny outfits, the cheery melodies, the jaunty horns. The band itself seemed almost irrelevant — scruffy mustachioed men in costumes, lost in a sea of collaged faces. I ignored them.


I can’t listen to “Sgt. Pepper’s” anymore. As a musician, I’m burnt out on it — its influence has been so vast and profound. As a lyricist, I find that my ear has become more attuned to the likes of Fiona Apple and Elliot Smith, and though the words of “Sgt. Pepper’s” are full of vivid images — Rita’s bag slung over her shoulder, Mr. Kite sailing through a hogshead of fire, the runaway girl with her handkerchief — there’s an emotional depth that’s missing. I’m ashamed to say it, but sometimes John Lennon’s melodies feel a bit underwritten, while Paul McCartney’s relentless cheerfulness is depressing. The very jauntiness I used to love as a girl feels as if it’s covering up a sadder subtext. And what’s bleaker than a brave face?

The whole experience is uncomfortable, like realizing you can beat your own father at chess or arm-wrestling. I don’t want to go back and find that the carcass has been picked clean. Because I know without a doubt that “Sgt. Pepper’s” changed the course of my life. If the magic is gone, it’s only because first loves can’t be repeated. When I was 8, I’d never heard anything like it, and I can honestly say that if I live to be 100, I’ll never hear anything like it again.

h/t res ipsa loquitur

Sunday Babyblogging:Summer Edition

We've had a busy weekend of parks and street festivals and whatnot: today, we're just going to sit around the house and garden and clean. (I'm not really good at the whole "relaxing" thing--not when there's work to be done.) Enjoy!

When we went back for a second run at the bounce house, the line was prohibitive, so these yahoos bounced against the outside instead. My kids are weird.

Rosie was crushed when she was turned away from a huge blowup slide because she was too small. (Admittedly, she doesn't hear that too often, and taking no for an answer isn't her strong suit.) Some ice cream assuaged the situation temporarily.


SP loves the swing. LOVES it! But we're going through sunscreen like water.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

RIP: Steve Gilliard

It's with great sadness that we note the passing of blogger Steve Gilliard. He's been sick for a while, and a week or so ago, the family declared a news blackout, so we figured it wasn't good. Gilliard was a smart guy, particularly on issues of military history and strategy (and, err, macaroni and cheese), and his blog was the first "other" place I checked often.

Peace, Steve. We'll keep fighting in your stead.

Looking to Your Left....

you'll see that the blogroll has been cleaned, corrected, sorted, and tidied. If any errors remain, note them in the comments and I'll fix them.

(I *told* you I'd do it once I was on vacation!)

A Splendid Time is Guaranteed For All

As you may have heard, it was 40 years ago yesterday that the Beatles unleashed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on an unsuspecting world.

And yes, I think it's a great record, and yes, I remember exactly where I was the first time I encountered it.

That's all I'm gonna say.

Over to you, kids.

As said kid, I'm almost blushing to tell you how old I was when this record came out: less than one. So I never really lived in a world without Sgt. Pepper. Despite the fact that it, in many ways, was the end of the Beatles' power pop period, it's just a mighty record.

And a short documentary.

Best line (from Ringo, natch): "It's a fine album, but I did learn to play chess on it."