Monday, June 30, 2008

Canadians Behaving Badly

Okay, they are Canadian, but this is a great song anyway. From 1972, it's The Wackers and "I Hardly Know Her Name," the lead off track from their Gary Usher-produced power pop masterpiece Hot Wacks.

Seriously, this is one of the great founding artifacts of the genre. The best cut is an astounding and quite gorgeous version of John Lennon's post-Beatles "Oh My Love," done up so much like an Abbey Road track that it's been bootlegged for years as a genuine Fab four outtake. But almost everything else on the album is that good. Get yourself over to Amazon and order it now, for heaven's sake.

Think Visual!

Kermit the Frog gets a lesson in metaphysics from Harry the Hipster (a sock wearing glasses).

Dunno where this comes from, but according to MOJO magazine, it's from 1959(!). Very funny, obviously, and sneakily subversive, but also a jaw-dropping technical accomplishment given the TV technology of the day.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Seattle Power Pop!

We here at PowerPop have great respect for people who, not to put too fine a point on it, know where they came from. That's why we love this band, with the charming and wonderful name of Shake Some Action.

Nice, tune, guys!

Friday, June 27, 2008


Wow. I'm old.

Beware, DFH's! You could end up with an entourage like this in *your* house!

(Our teen is in the blue dress.)

Weekend Listomania (Special More Songs About Buildings and Food -- No, Just Food! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental flunky Hop-Sing and I are off to the picturesque Milford Shopping Center, where I'll be participating in Week Two of an open-ended pub crawl of the service bars (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Hooters, Applebees) in the company of Brian "Lubyanka" Hardig, a/k/a The Ohio Douche a/k/a The Author of the Greatest Letter to the Editor Ever.

In any case, as a result, posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:


That's right, songs (and band names) referencing food and drink (nutritional value not important). Sorry about the post-Beatles thing, but otherwise there would be old songs too hideous to mention (so I won't mention any).

Another totally arbitrary rule: If anybody even mentions the band Bread, swear to god I'll take a hostage. First of all, they mostly suck. Second of all, I am convinced they were named in honor of money, not the staff of life.

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

10. The Newbeats -- Bread and Butter

From 1964. I always liked this song, but until I found the video on YouTube I don't think I had ever seen these guys, who are, let's face it, three of the biggest dorks ever. Interestingly (or tragically), the blonde guy in the middle went on to co-write Bette Midler's ever irksome "Wind Beneath My Wings."

9. The Beach Boys -- Vegetables

From the abortive Smile project. Tell me Brian Wilson isn't a genius.

8. Smashing Pumpkins -- Mayonaise

Jeezus, Billy Corgan again? What's he been in -- like the last five Listomanias?

7. ZZ Top -- TV Dinners

I was always parcel to the Hungry Man Fried Chicken, myself. Nice mashed potatoes and a cherry cobbler.

6. The Beatles -- Savoy Truffle

Not George Harrison's best song, perhaps, but the horns are a nice touch.

5. UB40 -- Red Red Wine

From the songbook of the great Neil Diamond, of course.

4. King Curtis -- Memphis Soul Stew

From Wiki: "On Friday August 13, 1971, at the height of a New York heat wave, King Curtis was carrying an air conditioner unit into his apartment at 50 W.86th St. He found his access blocked by two men administering drugs to themselves. He asked them to move. There was a scuffle, and one of the men, later identified as Juan Montanez, stabbed King Curtis in the heart with a knife. Curtis was hurried to Roosevelt Hospital, but was dead on arrival. The funeral was held four days later. As the mourners filed in, Curtis' Kingpins played an hour long version of "Soul Serenade" and a number of musicians got up to play. Jesse Jackson preached the service, and Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Cissy Houston, Brook Benton and Duane Allman were among those attending. Aretha sang the closing spiritual, 'Never Grow Old'. The Atlantic Records office closed for the day."

3. Hot Tuna -- Hesitation Blues

One of the things I loved about these guys was that they actually wanted to call the band Hot Shit.

2. Blondie -- Eat to the Beat

I'll grant you drummer extraordinaire Clem Burke steals this one, but my god -- will you check out the cheekbones on the singer?

And the number one song about commestibles, it's so yummy that it's not even a contest so why are we talking is --

1. Led Zeppelin -- The Lemon Song

What -- you mean it's not about citrus fruit?

Awrighty then -- what or who would your choices be?

[Shamelesss Blogwhore: My new movie Listomania (pretty funny, I might add) is up over at Box Office. As always, if you can see your way to leaving a comment over there, an angel gets its wings.]

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Two Minor Points

(1) I defy anyone to find a better segue in classic powerpop that Josie Cotton's "Johnny, Are You Queer?" to Paul Collins' Beat's "Let Me Into Your Life." It's more or less perfect.

(2)Thers told me today he fully expects me to buy the Dewey Cox soundtrack in the next week. I expect he is correct. (I dunno, though; it doesn't seem to have his midget power Dylan parody--that's an issue. Let me hold you, little man.)

An Earlier Than Usual Clue to the New Direction

Off to Gomorrah on the Hudson for a mysterious assignation.

In the meantime, from 1969 at Woodstock, here's dirty fucking hippies serious Left-wing dialecticists Country Joe and the Fish and their perhaps ironic "Rock and Soul Music."

As is customary, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who divines the clip's relevance to Friday's Weekend Listomania.

Hint: it has nothing to do with the band's politics.

[Shameless blogwhore: My amusing, if I do say so, take on one of the late great George Carlin's lesser accomplishments is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to leaving a comment, I'll be your best friend!]

Great Lost Singles of the 80s!!!

From 1984, it's The dBs and the ineffably fab "Amplifier."

That's The dBs Mark II, of course, after the departure of the insufferable snob Chris Stamey, i.e., when they got really good.

Incidentally, that's from the band's indispensable classic album Like This. If you don't already own it, get over here and order it this minute.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A True Testimonial

A friend writes:

Somebody forwarded this clip of Paul McCartney performing "A Day in the Life"/"Give Peace a Chance" in a tribute to John Lennon at the recent Live at Liverpool 2008 festival, which was attended by both Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison. He pulls it off pretty well, too, but there's an awkward moment when Paul flubs a line (which really isn't surprising seeing that he probably hasn't performed the song in more than 40 years).

What is ironic, however, is that McCartney's mistake comes in the part of the song *he* wrote. What's more, this bit has apparently always given Paul trouble. In a well-known outtake from Sgt. Pepper, he can be heard tripping up in the same place and adding "Oh, shit!"

Words fail me.

The Present Day Clash Wanna-be Refuses to Die (AKA Steve Mixes Up the Offspring With Rancid And Does Not Die of Shame)

Got the new album by The Offspring in the mail last week. This is the single.

Good song, as usual, but it does give one pause that their "Smash," still the best-selling independent label rock album ever, was released back in 1994. Heck, I though the Stones were old...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ain't Ms Behavin'

A friend writes:

Attached is the very English Lily Allen's new song "Fuck You Very Much George W. Bush."

Is it the best tune ever written? No, but you gotta admit the sentiment is spot on.

Club kids will be singing along through inauguration.

Me? I'm putting the speakers in my dorm window and cranking it for the Frisbee players down below.

I'll go further -- this is the greatest protest song since CSNY's "Ohio."

Okay, maybe not the greatest. But definitely the cutest!!!

Gobsmacked: Pulp

steve's been known to mourn over the bands he dismissed or missed unintentionally: well, count me in. This band appears to have had its heyday--such as it was--while I was working on my doctorate, and activity not generally compatible with discovering new bands or eating or sleeping or keeping up on the laundry. So sue me.

But this is a fab song. I gather Pulp were the compatriots of your Blurs and Oases and Lushes.... at least that's what I hear here. And they seem to be the older brothers of Franz Ferdinand and The Killers, but it's not really fair to hold that against them. Jeebus, my younger brother is a fundie living in rural Pennsylvania. So we'll judge them on their own merits.

Make sure to listen to the lyrics, which are v. funny.


Time For His Bootheels to Be Wanderin'

Got Seeing Things, the first (barebones) solo album by Bobby's talented son Jakob Dylan in the mail last week. Based on this rather haunting track, I guess I better put it on top of the pile and listen to it.

Sounds a bit like Springsteen, don't you think? The ironies abound....

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sharp Dressed Man

From 1965, the great Domingo Samudio, aka Sam the Sham (with The Pharaohs) and "Wooly Bully."

Seriously -- has there ever been a band with cooler stage clothes?

The Best Band in America?

The Hold Steady and a great live version of "Chips Ahoy."

These guys have a new album due out July 14 (actually, I believe it's been leaked to the intertubes already), and if it's half as good as this song from the last one, then all signs point to yes.

"She's hard on the heart but soft to the touch..."

As John McCain might say, that's poetry, my friends. Those Thin Lizzy power chords in the middle are pretty snazzy, too.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

He's Not Like Everybody Else

A truly great man turns 64 today.

Seriously -- if he had written nothing else but this song, he would deserve to live forever.

Happy Birthday, Ray Davies!!!!

(BTW, he stops by my favorite watering hole from time to time. Perhaps I can buy him an elitist chardonnay this evening....)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Keep Watching the Skies! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental flunky Hop-Sing and I are off to The Milford Mall, where I'll be participating in an open-ended pub crawl of the service bars (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Hooters) in the company of Brian "Lubyanka" Hardig, a/k/a The Ohio Douche a/k/a The Author of the Greatest Letter to the Editor Ever.

Consequently, posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:


Sorry about the arbitrary post-Beatles thing, but otherwise we'd have to include Billy Lee Riley's "Flyin' Saucers Rock and Roll," "Purple People Eater," "Telstar," et al, and this blog already skews way too old. And speaking of arbitrary, I was going to explicitly ban the nomination of either David Bowie's "Space Oddity" or Elton John's "Rocket Man," but I figure one of you SOBs will nominate them no matter what I say, so go ahead. I will, however, taunt you mercilessly for your bad taste when you do.

Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Seven:

7. Bjork -- Pluto

Let's be honest -- this broad has been in space since day one.

6. Marilyn Manson -- Mechanical Animals

Apparently, this song is about mechanical animals. Kind of Philip K. Dick-ish, I guess.

5. The Byrds -- Mr. Spaceman

A way too obvious choice, I know, but I wanted an excuse to post this video, which documents a brief period where Gene Clark rejoined the band after the ouster of David Crosby

4. Roky Erikson -- Creature With the Atom Brain

The one and only.

3. They Might Be Giants -- Particle Man

Well, it's sorta sci-fi. He's a particle, get it?

2. King Crimson -- 21st Century Schizoid Man

This is one of those prog songs that just strike me as hilariously funny, albeit unintentionally. Fripp really was a pretentious bastard even back in the day, wasn't he?

And the number one sci-fi song, gimme a break it's not even a fricking contest so don't bug me, is

1. The Rolling Stones -- 2000 Man

A song so good even Kiss covered it.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel movie Listomania is up over at Box Office. As always, if you can find your way to leave a comment, an angel gets his wings.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

An Earlier Than Usual Clue to the New Direction

Off to NYC for a mysterious assignation. Meanwhile, from 1969, here's Zager and Evans with their worst song of all time space-age classic "In the Year 2525."

It is perhaps worth noting that Dean of American Rock Critics Robert Christgau famously said of this that "Zager and Evans make Simon and Garfunkel sound like Marx and Engels."

In any case, as is customary, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who divines the clip's relevance to Friday's Weekend Listomania.

More Generic Considerations: The Vapors

Building off last week's kick-around of the Tom Petty ball (okay, that was a weird metaphor), I've been thinking over the last few days how, exactly, I define power pop. Clearly, it has something to do with form, with particular chord progressions and distillations of influence (if Petty's not power pop, we noted, it would be because of the Southern rock blues influence), especially those inheritances of the British Invasion. But there are also pretty specific thematic concerns in power pop, which can mostly be classified in one of two categories: Sex and Rebellion.

I recently spent a week in the brains of over a thousand teenagers ruminating on the nature of the sonnet, and many of them assured me that one Keats sonnet had to have been about love, because sonnets just are, regardless of the words on the page. I was, shall we say, skeptical of this assertion, because I tend to be a theme person more than a form person (I also tend to be a prose person, but they didn't bother to ask me that). But I'm rethinking that now. Could William Carlos Williams have written "This Is Just To Say" as a sonnet? Possibly, and the form would dictate, to some extent, how we read that poem, less stripped down admission of guilt, more poetry of domesticity, say.

I've also been looking into my old scholarship, trying to gauge whether any of it is any good, or if I'm still as annoyed at it as I was when I put it down. My topic, throughout my academic career, has basically been adolescence and empire: how identity formation in colonial systems works out in literature, often through channeling, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, Sex and Rebellion. So you see how this fits together.

And so I give you two illustrative examples of that most Keatsian of bands, The Vapors. The Vapors were, like Keats, just kids when they hit, but they had famous admirers and rose fast (The Jam). Of course, they flamed out pretty fast, after one brilliant power pop record (1980's New Clear Days, of the ubiquitous "Turning Japanese" fame), and one grimmer but more interesting record (1981's Magnets, a consideration of violence, assassination, mass suicide, and other light topics). Musically, the records aren't so different, though the song "Magnets" itself definitely has a darker feel. But music speaks louder than words, and so consider:

First, we have a fan video bleeding two of the greatest tracks from New Clear Days: Trains and News at Ten. "Trains" is a love song, "News at Ten" is a song about adolescent rebellion. Duh.

(I thought there was a real "News at Ten" video, but I guess not.)

(Jeebus, was there ever a more British-looking band than the Vapors?)

Compare to the much-less-generically-clear paean to the Jonestown Massacre, "Jimmie Jones":

(What a bass line! I forget, sometimes, how much I love this stuff.)

So a question: the first video is definitely and definitively power pop, but what about the second? (And if you're fascinated by the Jonestown Massacre, as I was in my adolescence, you might enjoy this video by my blogbud Spike Priggen, which uses one of those weird early 80's movies about the tragedy as its visual text.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Scenes From a Funeral

Amidst the bizarre grief porn genuine outpouring of sentiment attendant to the press coverage of the death of Tim Russert, the news that Bruce Springsteen had weighed in with condolences struck me, immediately at least, as a tad puzzling. I undertood that Russert was a fan, which of course proves nothing. Hell, an unabashed rightwing asswipe like Brent Bozell (who famously told Eric Alterman that "all my favorite entertainers are Communists") is a Springsteen fan, so the idea that a corporate lackey like Russert might have had the Boss on his iPod isn't all that surprising. Still, I couldn't quite figure why he and Springsteen might have bonded on some personal level.

Turns out the answer is simple, if still puzzling: I'd forgotten that Russert's wife, celebrity journalist Maureen Orth, was the author of the famous Newsweek Springsteen cover story that shared the stands with a Time cover story in October 1975.

From Dave Marsh's 135th Springsteen bio Two Hearts:

Newsweek's real intent was to discredit Springsteen and hopefully the rock business, for which the publication does not conceal its disdain. Maureen Orth, a glamour sniper recently returned from a European vacation, was assigned to research and write the story. Orth had occasionally written about rock performers before, although her style is about as compatible with rock as cannibalism is with missionary work...Orth's thesis was that Springsteen was the creation of CBS -- although she never got around to explaining how CBS had done the job, despite the "Making of a Rock Star" cover headline. According to Newsweek, Springsteen was an unlettered dummy, and [his managers] Landau and Appel were shadowy subcriminal [emphasis mine] figures manipulating gullible press people who in turn twisted a captious public around their typing figures.

Hey -- you know, if somebody had written that shit about me, I might have held a grudge. At the least. So maybe Bruce really is the living saint people like Marsh have painted him as for all these years. Or maybe he just made a few deals with the devil like any other mega-successful superstar.

Update: Just watched Bruce singing "Thunder Road" at the service on MSNBC. Let's just say I have seriously mixed feelings about this.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sing Along With Macca

A friend writes:

I was never a big fan of the song "She's Leaving Home." Like the proverbial dumb blonde, it's pretty enough, but far too silly to take seriously (which sadly applies to many of Paul McCartney's later songs--and, it may be argued, his earlier ones--as well).

Suffice it to say, I've always considered it to be Sgt. Pepper's weakest link.

But now, I've been forced to reconsider that opinion. Although I still dislike the song intensely, this instrumental version has opened my ears to the absolute gorgeousness of the track. Interestingly, the genius behind this magnificent arrangement is not George Martin, but Mike Leander, the only arranger other than Martin to work with the group (Phil Spector doesn't count IMHO since he was basically hired as a clean-up crew, not an arranger).

Also, I guess I knew it at one time, but I had forgotten that SLH is one of the few tracks in the Beatle canon on which no Beatle plays an instrument.

download the track here.

I actually think SLH is a better song than he does, but that's pretty darned beautiful any way you slice it. Incidentally, if memory serves Mike Leander also arranged for the Stones, most famously the string quartet on "As Tears Go By."

RIP: Robert Stamps

A survivor of the Kent State Massacre. From the Columbus Dispatch.
AKRON -- Robert Stamps, one of nine Kent State students wounded in the Ohio National Guard shootings that killed four other students 38 years ago, died in Tallahassee, Fla., of complications from pneumonia, his wife said.

Stamps, an observer who was sympathetic with anti-war demonstrators, was struck in the lower back on May 4, 1970, while fleeing tear gas and gunfire during a protest against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. He rode in the same ambulance as Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller, both of whom died of their wounds.

And of course we have the obligatory musical tie-in.

How can you run when you know?


Monday, June 16, 2008

Your Favorite Band Sucks

From the Independent (UK), last week.

ANDY GILL: Why I Hate Coldplay

Pompous, mawkish, and unbearably smug, Coldplay have conquered the charts with the sonic equivalent of wilted spinach, argues Andy Gill. And in the process, they've poisoned an entire generation of British rock music

Without wanting for a moment to give the impression that it's anything other than a wonderful way to earn a living, there are times in a rock critic's life when the soul sighs, and one faces the blank screen with heavy heart and empty head. Last week was one such time.

A new Coldplay album.

When, all too frequently, people say how great it must be to earn one's corn writing about music, it's hard to disabuse them of that opinion. Of course it's great! But I tend to offer one small caveat: it's not just writing about music that you enjoy – often, duty makes demands beyond one's personal tastes. And while experience, or low cunning, might spare one unnecessary exposure to the reviewer's less vital duties – hip-hop album tracks entitled "Intro", "Interlude" or "Telephone Skit", triple-albums by Prince, or the solo projects of sundry Rolling Stones – sometimes an act is so huge, so current, that it's impossible to ignore their enervating new release.

A new Coldplay album.

Heh heh heh.

Read the rest here.

Meanwhile -- does anybody know if this is the Andy Gill, i.e., the brilliant guitarist and founding member of Gang of Four? If so, he's definitely one deeply bitter guy....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunny Sunday Blogging

Just because.

And a happy Father's Day to all you fathers and stepfathers and grandfathers and uncles and decent men out there. Kisses to the lot of you.

(BTW, Got Thers Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and the Flight of the Conchords CD for the big day. He also got a large number of cards and school sponsored and created gifts from the 137 urchins of Liberal Mountain. Have a happy one!)

Oh, what the hell. Here's a song from their last CD. You know I loves me some FOTC.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Father's Day -- The Kids Are Alright? Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental flunky Hop-Sing and I are off to that polygamous compound in Texas for an old fashioned Red State Father's Day weekend. As a result, posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days, nor will any marriages be consummated.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:


And by "kids" we mean "hellspawn" who have followed in the footsteps of their rock star parents and embarked on a career, however brief or appalling, of their own.

Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Nine:

9/8/7. Wilson Phillips [worst]

Along with Milli Vanillia and Richard Marx, these three represented the full flowering of the soulless corporate pop that dominated the early 90s, thus making grunge a historical imperative.

6. Jakob Dylan [best]

Not his dad, obviously, but a nice looking kid. Heh. Incidentally, I put this clip -- a cover of "Lawyers Guns and Money" with Warren Zevon's son Jordan -- up the other day, but I just had to post it again because it's so fricking good.

5/4. Nelson [worst]

Who was your favorite Nelson -- Matthew or Gunnar? Seriously, these kids sucked, but they nonetheless had the wit to hire William Wegman to photograph two of his weimeraners in blonde wigs for one of their album covers.

3. Zak Starkey [best]

With the Who at the Concert For New York City. I've watched this clip a zillion times, and Ringo's kid blows me away every time -- channelling Keith Moon and yet adding his own thing. Fabulous.

2. Kim Wilde ([best AND worst]

She couldn't sing much, but god, she was a dish. Incidentally, if you're wondering who her dad was, it was minor pre-Beatles Brit teen idol Marty Wilde.

And the number one rock star offspring, it's so obvious it's not even a fricking contest, is --

1. Jeff Buckley [best]

His father's son, obviously, and every bit as mesmerizing.

Awrighty then -- who would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Father's Day movie listomania is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to leaving a comment, an angel gets his wings.]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Earlier Than Usual Clue to the New Direction

From 1991, here's Brit pop star/actor Chesney Hawkes and "The One and Only," the theme from the fitfully amusing Michael J. Fox comedy Doc Hollywood.

This song -- written by 80s pop phenom Nik Kershaw, who I think is underrated -- is kind of a guilty pleasure for me, and I had assumed that Hawkes was basically a lame-o until I found out recently he'd collaborated with Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne. Which makes him more than okay in my book.

In any case, as is customary, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who divines the clip's relevance to Friday's Weekend Listomania.

[Shameless Blogwhore: Today's piece over at Box Office is a rather droll examination of the relationship between Mel Gibson and the La Choy Dragon. Remember -- if you leave a comment, an angel gets its wings.]

Great Dilemmas of Our Age

Hey, kids! It's been ages since I've been around, I know, but when a semester ends with a conference and a week outta town hot on its heels, these things happen.

But I have an ethical generic dilemma to posit to my wise readers.

Is Tom Petty power pop?

I got in a discussion the other night with a new friend who objected strongly to this classification. I would argue, I think, that historically that's the wave in which he came to prominence, but that he transcended that category, or at least outlived it.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit B. (Embedding disabled by request. Feh.)

I admit, I'm puzzled. Discuss.

I'm Not Feeling Too Good Myself

It has come to our attention that today's kids just love the Disturbed, whose new album, Indestructible, is now number one on the Billboard charts. Here's the single.

Is it just me or is that bit on the intro where the singer laughs satanically in rhythm with the drum fills just the funniest thing ever? The question, of course, is whether it's supposed to be.

I have nothing snarky to add except that as always Devo said it best: "Today's noise is tomorrow's hootenanny."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rockin' Round the Gene Pool

Holy Christ -- from 2004, it's the Wallflowers (with Jakob Dylan) and Jordan Zevon doing his dad's fricking great "Lawyers, Guns and Money."

Wow. Rather spectacular evidence that talent, if not necessarily genius, can be inherited, wouldn't you say?

Chuck Berry to John McCain: Drop Dead

From The Independent, yesterday:

The McCain camp is having trouble settling on a suitable campaign anthem. After searching for months, it finally picked "Johnny B Goode" – Chuck Berry's rock 'n' roll classic from 1958. The high-power guitar licks and "Go, Johnny, go" chorus put a spring in Mr McCain's step. When asked why he chose it, he quipped: "It might be because it is the only one [the artist] hasn't complained about us using."

Berry, 81, may not have complained about his song being appropriated by Mr McCain, but he has made it clear he would prefer Barack Obama in the White House. "America has finally come to this point where you can pick a man of colour and that not be a drawback," Berry said. "It's no question, myself being a man of colour. I mean, you have to feel good about it."

The anointment of Mr Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate was, he added, "definitely a proud and successful moment for all the people of this country – not just black people, but Americans in general".

Berry, known as the "father of rock 'n' roll", recounted: "In the Fifties there were certain places we couldn't ride on the bus, and now there is a possibility of a black man being in White House. "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last."

Hey John -- when you've lost Chuck Berry, you've lost the country. Gone like a cool breeze indeed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

About to brave the heat and head into NYC for a party celebrating the release of Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth by my close personal friend David Browne.

It's a really good book, but trust me -- there's no way I'd be going in this weather if I hadn't promised to get a copy autographed for Thers.

The Greatest Website In History

No kidding -- where else can you find out about these dorks? Why at For Those Who Tried to Rock, that's where!

The Explosions, Cherry Hill, NJ 1980:

From David Israel, now of Los Angeles: "We were your basic sloppy cover band until high school, when we started writing original stuff. Our stuff was inspired by Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Our specialty was a rock version of "Night on Bald Mountain. " The photo below was from a particular triumph when we forced the band hired to play my bar mitzvah off the stage and did our version of "Brown Sugar." But check out this live track of us in concert, senior year in high school, playing our version of "Los Endos" by Genesis.

Wow. And here's the mission statement:

This is a sonic history of the American pop band. Our goal is to capture data about every band to have been formed by teens with that perfect mixture of big dreams and questionable talent in suburban garages, high school music rooms, and college dorms across America. And to preserve them cryogenically with the very dry ice they once merited, for future generations. Email us here or Send us your story...

Okay, folks, we know you've got similar skeletons in your closets. Get those pictures and old cassette tapes out and send them to these guys NOW!!!

[h/t Maitland McDonagh]

Monday, June 09, 2008

Father of the Year

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I just downloaded this wonderful track from the Knocked Up soundtrack.

Loudon Wainwright III sings Peter Blegvad. A great, and sadly underrated, singer/songwriter/guitarist.

If you can find a copy of the above album act immediately.

Hell is Other People

And speaking, as we were over the weekend, of truly annoying singers, I can't believe I forgot to mention these two.

Granted, it's nice that the late Ruby Starr (nee Constance Henrietta Mierzwiak) wasn't wearing underwear when this was shot, but really -- the noises coming out of her mouth are decidedly non-U. And don't even get me started on Mr. James "Dandy" Mangrum.

BTW, I don't recall the exact circumstances but I actually saw Black Oak Arkansas back in the day. They were about as hideous as this clip suggests, but with a twist: When it came time for the obligatory ten minute drum solo the drummer got off the chair, went around to the front of his kit and played it with his hands.

As Paul Westerberg famously put it -- ah, the 70s. When dogshit really was dogshit.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Fingernails on the Blackboard Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental flunky Hop-Sing and I are off to a screening of the Michelle Obama "Kill Whitey" video sponsored by the Republican National Committee and some guy named Larry Johnson. As said screening will necessarily have to take place in a mystical clime like the Bermuda Triangle (apparently Narnia is all booked up) my return date is uncertain. And as a result, posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:


No arbitrary rules here, and obviously this is way subjective so there's going to be a few disagreements about the following. But I want to emphasize that we're talking vocal quality here, NOT stage demeanor or general personna. For example it doesn't matter how affectedly Patti LaBelle flutters her hands, annoying an affectation as that may be. Rather, it's her relentless oversinging of even the simplest song that makes me want to take a hostage every time I hear her.

Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Eleven:

11. Russell Mael

I know Sparks are innovative and brilliant blah blah blah, and I've always loved the concept of a pretty-boy frontman with Hitler on keys. The voice, on the other hand, is...well, annoying is an inadequate word some times.

10. James Blunt

I'm sorry, whenever I hear that smug falsetto I think "somewhere an electric chair is waiting." Really -- this kid makes John Mayer sound like Howlin' Wolf.

9. Bjork

As my dear friend Laura put it the other night, "she sounds like two cats copulating."

8. Paul Williams

Williams is one of those guys, like Michael McDonald, who seems to sing from his jaw, rather than his throat, and he was one of the leading vocal annoyances of the early 70s. Fortunately for all of us, word has reached me that the man himself was in the wings at a some sort of industry function yesterday and was eaten by the backstage cat before anyone could intervene.

7. Morrissey

Frankly, without Johnny Marr's jangly guitar, the Smiths would have been unbearable, which is the word I associate with Morrissey's solo career. "Have I mentioned that I cried?"

6. David Bowie

Boy, does this guy have a lot to answer for. We can argue about his songwriting, but the singing? Yuk. I can't count the awful frontmen in his wake (mostly, but not exclusively, Brits), from Spandau Ballet to that putz in Coldplay, who basically recycle Bowie's emotion-free, affectless, pretentious quasi-operatic crooning.

5. A tie --

Axl Rose


Sebastian Bach

I can't think of a genre that's spawned so many unlistenable yowlers as 80s hair metal. Actually, these two aren't even the worst, now that I think of it.

4. David Clayton Thomas

It boggles my mind that this guy was ever even considered a rock singer. It boggles me even more that apparently he was singing in a blues(!) band when BS&T plucked him from obscurity.

3. Madonna

Joan Armatrading famously allowed how she actually liked Madonna's "little Munchkin voice," but I think she was being ironic.

2. Cristina Aguilera

Ah yes, growing up on the mean streets of The Mickey Mouse Club is precisely the sort of experience that gives a singer depth and soul. Seriously -- I doubt there's a song extant that this horribly amusical belter couldn't flog into submission, leaving it gasping, exhausted, and flopping about the stage floor like a porpoise out of water.

And the number one incredibly irksome, it's so obvious it's not even a fricking contest, singer is --

1. Geddy Lee

This song is a guilty pleasure for me (yes, there's actually a Rush song I like) but sometimes when I'm really depressed, I fantasize about somebody with a better voice singing it and I immediately feel better. In any case, I can't think of another rock vocalist who more consistently makes me want to rip my ears off.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel movie Listomania, complete with choice MST3K clip, is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you can see your way to leaving a comment I can up my freelance rate, thus financing that romantic week in Paris I've been invited to share by a certain shady dame.]

Thursday, June 05, 2008

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1978, here's dance diva/softball team captain Alicia Bridges and her impossible to forget (no matter how much you might want to) disco anthem "I Love the Nightlife."

As is customary, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who divines the clip's relevance to Friday's Weekend Listomania.

Shameless Blogwhore: My thoughts on the connection between the Fiendish Dr. Fu Manchu and Osama Bin Laden, not to mention Anna May Wong's legs, are now up over at Box Office. If you could see your way to leaving a comment, as always an angel will get its wings.

[h/t Laura, who knows why...]

The Best Band in America?

If the video from their new album is any indication, I'd say all signs point to yes.

At the very least, it proves just how great the White Stripes could be if Jack would only hire a goddamn bass player.

[h/t Zap Rowsdower]

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

It's the End of the Record Business As We Know It and I Feel Fine

From today's New York Times:

The singer-songwriter Tori Amos has left Epic Records after six years to become independent and urged her fellow artists to “stop being dependent, dependent on any system that has become undependable,” Reuters reported. In a statement on her Web site (, Ms. Amos, 44, said she looked forward to crossing into the new uncharted music frontier. She released three albums on Epic, most recently “American Doll Posse” in 2007, which hit No. 5 on the Billboard 500. Before that she was with Atlantic from 1992 to 2001, when she, along with Rod Stewart, Poe, Collective Soul and other artists, left that label.

Hey, good for her, but face it -- she's been wacky at least since that vegetable necklace.

Anybody Got a Good Recipe For Crow?

What did I say about Smashing Pumpkins last week? "I think it's time we all faced facts -- these guys may well have been the most pompous, pretentious gasbags in rock history."

Then I heard this song, which could have been on the White Album, fer crissakes.

I owe that pompous, pretentious gasbag Billy Corgan an adult beverage.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Krauts Behaving Badly

Our good friend and fellow Eschatonian Mister X has hipped us to a song we might otherwise have missed.

Are these guys Germans? If so, I'm reminded of what Dennis Miller (back when he was funny) said about German reunification: "It's like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis getting back together. I wasn't a huge fan of their early work, and I'm not sure I need to see what they're up to now."

Hey, what do you want -- it's a slow day.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ellas McDaniel (December 30, 1928 – June 2, 2008)

The man himself, Bo Diddley, died today at his home in Archer, Florida. He had been in ill health since a stroke and a heart attack late last year.

His death is a great loss to both rock AND roll.

Block That Metaphor!

Guess who has a new album out?

From the review: "The band seems to have taken rock vitamins; it feels alive..."

Anybody else find that as vaguely creepy a phrase as I do?