Friday, May 29, 2009

In Which NYMary Makes an Announcement

As many of you know, I am currently involved in writing a book, tentatively entitled Boys Don’t Lie: A History of Shoes. The book will attempt to contextualize the story of this band—respected and influential all out of proportion to their modest commercial success—within the context of larger changes in the music industry, including: the crash of ’79, the rise of MTV, the burgeoning independent movement of the mid-to-late 1980’s, the collapse of independent music distribution in the wake of the “alternative” revolution, and the effect of digital technology on small analog production houses.

And so I spent the last week in the Midwest, meeting with the band (and a few other people), going through clippings, scanning and building a digital archive for my own research, but also for them. It was fascinating, enlightening. Sometimes you think you know a story, and it’s not at all, or not only, what you thought. When I began, I didn’t see all the internal and external forces shaping this narrative: even now, I’m not sure I have a handle on everything, but I’m sorting it through.

Right now, my ears roaring from the road and my head spinning with ideas and threads, a completed manuscript seems very far away. Nevertheless, that is my summer project.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting snippets and pics and various things that my research unearths. I don’t expect to do much blogging beyond that, for obvious reasons. But six or seven weeks from now, Boys Don’t Lie should be a 200-plus page narrative tying the dynamics of this fascinating band to the shifting structures in which they have sought to share their music with the rest of us.

Just to keep you posted. All comments welcome, as always.

Weekend Listomania (Special There's Gonna Be a Storm Video Edition)

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

Yes, my Oriental fille de nuit manual catharsis manager Fah Lo Suee and I will be travelling to...well, at this point, I was going to insert the traditional sort of lame topical political gag, in this case about the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, but to be honest the naked racism and misogyny being spewed by the Limbaugh wing of the Republican party in the last few days has been so utterly loathsome that my heart's just not in it. Sorry.

In any case, posting by moi will be sporadic for a few days.

So on a hopefully much lighter note, in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

Most Memorable Post Elvis Song or Record Referencing Atmospheric Phenomena, i.e. Weather -- In the Title or Otherwise!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules this time.

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

7. The Beatles -- Rain

Depending on my mood, either this or "And Your Bird Can Sing" is my favorite of the bunch of guitar-driven, vaguely metallic pop gems that the Beatles recorded around this time in late 65-early 66. This one has Ringo's most inventive drum performance, of course.

6. Lou Christie -- Rhapsody in the Rain

"In this car, our love much too far..."

The followup to the equally apt "Lightning Strikes," this one got banned by most 1966 radio stations, for obvious reasons. Good thing nobody knew Lou was gay at the time.

5. Smashing Pumpkins -- Raindrops and Sunshowers

The representative from Billy Corgan's pretentious cueball noggin, reporting for duty.

4. The Cowsills -- The Rain, The Park and Other Things

More for the title, which is one of the greatest things of its kind coughed up in the 60s, than the record itself. Points added for Susan Cowsill, the ex-Mrs. Peter Holsapple, becoming genuinely cool in recent years (see: Continental Drifters).

3. Steeleye Span -- One Misty Moisty Morning

Probably the oldest song ever featured on a Weekend Listomania, i.e., this probably dates back to Shakespeare's day. The 1973 Span studio version of this is one of the most adorable things you'll ever hear, BTW; the word goddess is overused in some circles, but I think Maddy Prior's vocal on this live version qualifies her for consideration as one.

2. Chi Coltrane -- Thunder and Lightning

A huge hit in its day (1973) and as convincing a piece of white girl r&b as could be heard at the time. Odd that she could never really follow it up.

And the number one ill wind that blows nobody good song, it's so ridiculously apparent that I can't believe we're even having a discussion, obviously is ---

1. Terry Anderson -- Weather or Not

If truth be told, this entire Listomania proceeded from the fact that I have wanted to post the audio clip of this song -- to my mind, the absolute best Rolling Stones/Keith Richards-style guitar rocker that the Stones or Keith never did -- for what seems like ages, so please press the play button above and enjoy. In case you're wondering, Anderson comes out of the Georgia Satellites axis (he co-wrote that group's semi-hit "Battleship Chains") and this derives from the early 90s solo album seen above the link. Catchiest goddamn chorus in the world, n'est-ce pas?

Anyway, you can download it HERE; as always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get there, just e-mail me. I think you can download it from the divShare link above as well, and their authorizations don't expire, or so I'm told.

Awrighty then -- what would your faves be?

[Shameless blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: most egregious miscasting of an actor in a starring or supporting role -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to going over there and leaving a comment, thus making me look good in the eyes of management, I'd be your best friend.]

Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special Mediocre Controlled Substances Edition

From 1990, please enjoy The Orb, insufferably pretentious Brit masters of ambient house Crappy Electronic Dance Music and their light years beyond annoying "Little Fluffy Clouds."

Seriously, kids, this is why you should never, under any circumstances, do Ecstasy -- it makes you listen to really horrible records.

In any case, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first listener who gleans the clip's relation to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

...a Bad Sign?

From Born Under, his splendid 1994 solo debut, please enjoy Martin Zellar and his strangely uplifiting ode to depressing romantic fatalism "Lie to Me."

You know what to do -- just click on the play button below.

I knew nothing about Zellar when I first heard this, but my reaction at the time was almost chemical. Seriously, it was like hearing, oh, Buddy Holly or Lee Mavers of The La's for the first time -- just a spine-tingling voice that didn't really sound like anybody else you could put your finger on.

Later, of course, I found out that Zellar had been in a very entertaining kind of wiseass roots rock band, the Gear Daddies, whose Lets Go Scare Al was probably the most amusingly titled album of the 80s. There's a very nice YouTube of them on Letterman in 1991 that behooves beholding.

In any case, a great song, I think; you can download it HERE. If the authorization's expired by the time you arrive, e-mail me blah blah. Apparently, the divShare link has a download thingie too, and their stuff doesn't expire, so take your pick.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cheap Whores on Parade!

So the other day, I was talking with a friend about The Rolling Stones -- something that seems to happen less frequently than it used to, now that I think of it -- and the subject of some of their, shall we say, problematic songs came up. By which I mean the, you know, kinda of sexist stuff like "Under My Thumb" et al, and as often happens, we drifted off into the larger issue of morality in art, i.e., is it still art if it's also morally reprehensible? Or, frankly, does art have a responsibility to be moral?

Yeah, right, yada yada yada. I should add, BTW, that in terms of music, at least, it's not just pop that has these kinds of problems. I have friends who absolutely will not listen to Wagner and (to a lesser, perhaps less fair, extent) Bruckner because the sound of jackboots intrudes for them. And what about my personal favorite guy, Carlo Gesualdo, the 16th century aristocrat and composer who wrote some absolutely sublime madrigals at the same time he was murdering and mutilating people and getting away with it because of his social status?

Anyway, at some point in our discussion the subject of Richard Thompson came up, and my friend allowed how it was becoming difficult to overlook the fact that Thompson -- genius songwriter that he most certainly is -- was responsible for what might possibly be considered an inordinate number of songs that demonstrate a, shall we say, problem with the ladies. I countered that this was more misanthropy than misogyny, but I was probably just being difficult; in any case, it got me thinking.

It also gave me an excuse to post clips of two not as different as you might think versions of a Thompson song that could be exhibit A for what my friend was talking about -- "Turning of the Tide."

How many lips, how many hands, have held you
Like I'm holding you tonight
Too many nights, staying up late,
Too much powder and too much paint
No you can't hide from the turning of the tide

Did they run their fingers up and down your shabby dress
Did they find some tender moment there in your caress

The boys all say "You look so fine"
They don't come back for a second time
Oh you can't hide from the turning of the tide

Poor little sailor boy, never set eyes on a woman before
Did he tell you that he'd love you, darling, for evermore?

Pretty little shoes, cheap perfume,
Creaking bed in a hotel room
Oh you can't hide from the turning of the tide

Okay, so first here's Richard's version, from his 1988 album Amnesia. As you'll hear, it's kind of a jaunty rockabilly song despite the downbeat lyrics. Amazingly lyrical guitar, too; the overall effect is strangely poignant.

And now here's the revved up punk rock version by Bob Mould, from the 1994 Thompson tribute album Beat the Retreat. Apart from the dangerous speed level, you'll note that Mould sounds far more disgusted with the trollop in question than the composer; I'm reminded of Jules Pfeiffer's famous line that "In this culture, it's not just homosexuals who hate women -- it's everybody."

In any case, a great song, if arguably troubling, and both versions are keepers, I think. Speaking of which, you can download them from the divShare links; if for some reason, that doesn't work, e-mail me and I'll shoot you the mp3s.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Video Pick!

Wrote about this over at Box Office a few weeks ago, but I thought it behooved repeating.

Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave (1981)
An absolutely amazing film (a made for Canadian TV version of a London stage play), this stars charmingly monikered actor/singer Sneezy Waters as the country music legend right before the end. The premise: On the final night of his life (New Years eve, 1952) Williams (drunk and alone in the back of his long black limousine) imagines himself giving an impromptu two hour performance of his greatest hits in a small back country bar, with his comments to the audience reflecting on his rapidly unravelling life. If you've never seen this, it's hard to convey just how emotionally devastating it is; Waters is utterly convincing as the doomed Hank, and the whole thing really feels like you're watching an actual event via some kind of supernatural time machine. It's a masterpiece, really, and why it isn't better known is beyond me. In any case, you can order it -- and goddamn should, immediately -- HERE.

Seriously -- when I posted that, I hadn't seen the thing in years, but I viewed it (via Netflix) over the weekend and it's as good as I remembered.

Pounce on this one, folks.

Only the Lonely

As I've probably mentioned before, there are perfect pop records, and then there are Perfect Pop Records.

From 1996 and his fabulous solo album Times Like This, please enjoy ex-replacement Replacement and genuine Northwest rock legend Slim Dunlap and his grunge-pop reimagining of Todd Rundgren's "We Gotta Get You a Woman." The incomparable "Girlfriend," which for my money is one of those aforementioned Perfect Pop Records.

You know what to do -- just press the play button below.

Seriously, this one has it all -- a chorus/riff worthy of Buddy Holly, a vocal performance that's like a guileless version of the sly cackle animating Levon Helm's best work with The Band, an overlay of noise guitar on a three chord pop tune that somehow works even though it shouldn't, and a lyric with a heart as big as all outdoors.

Oh, and the whole thing clocks in at a breathless, miraculous one minute and fifty-nine seconds.

You can download it HERE; as always, if the authorization has expired blah blah blah e-mail me. Conversely, I am informed it's possible to download it from the divShare link up top, and their authorizations apparently do not expire, so take your pick.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Big 80s!

From 1986, please enjoy future Rembrandts honcho Danny Wilde in his pre-Friends days, and a big guilty pleasure of mine, "Isn't It Enough."

You know what to do -- just click on the play button below.

This was a big MTV hit back in the day (the video is available for viewing over at YouTube) but for some reason the album it's from has never been on CD. I actually got the song from the old Napster back in 2000; I'm guessing it's a rip from vinyl.

That said, despite the occasional overheated 80s lyric (that crap about "your fire" makes me cringe) I still think this is a terrific record, with very cool guitar riffage and a hauntingly impassioned vocal. Plus the titular chorus strikes, for want of a better word, a chord in me, but that probably has more to do with the state of my pathetic love life in the late 80s than perhaps I need get into. Let's just say that I can identify with what the poor sad bastard in the song is going through.

In any case, you can download it HERE; as always if the authorization has expired before you get there, just e-mail me for the mp3. I think you can also download it from the divShare link, and apparently their authorizations don't expire, so take your pick.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Holiday Weekend Listomania (Special Schvitzing in my Shorts Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental testicular chaperone energy policy consultant Fah Lo Suee and I will be spending a quiet Memorial Day weekend at home, engaged in nothing more than quiet self-contemplation and a few light snacks. So there will be no sniggering jokes at the expense of Sarah Palin or Michael Steele for at least another week.

In any case, posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a while.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Summer Song -- Which is To Say Either a Song About Summer or One With the Word Summer in the Title!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, and in the interest of holiday comity, I'm imposing absolutely no arbitrary rules of any kind.

And my totally top of my head Top Nine would be...

9. Two Live Jews -- Oy, It's So Humid!

"Doesn't Myrtle have air conditioning?" "What -- you mean Octagenarian Mutant Ninja Myrtle?..."

8. The Hollies -- Bus Stop

"Bus Stop, wet day, she's there, I say, please share my umbrella...All that summer we enjoyed it, wind and rain and shine..."

And don't tell me about that Rihanna "Umbrella" shit, because I don't want to hear about it. Deep thought: It occurs to me that this song has made even more appearances in these precincts than the Smashing Pumpkins.

7. The Smashing Pumpkins -- Summer

And speaking of which, it occurs to me that Billy Corgan's pretentious dyed-hair noggin has been absent from these precincts for far too long. Actually, a pretty nice song; no video, alas, but you can listen (and download) the thing by clicking the link above. Apparently, unlike with RapidShare, the authorization will never expire, which is a kind of frightening prospect.

6. The Jamies -- Summertime, Summertime

An arifact that has irked me since the late 50s. It's like a Chimpmunks record, but done straight. Or something. In any case, words can not express how annoying I think those harmonies are.

5. The Zombies -- Summertime

The Gershwin song, of course, and between Colin Blunstone's gorgeously breathy vocal and a brilliant Rod Argent piano solo pretty much my favorite take on the tune in the whole wide world. Honorable mention: Billy Stewart's r&b glossolalia version from a year later.

4. The Beach Boys -- Girl Don't Tell Me

"Hi, little girl, it's me -- don't you know who I am? I met you last summer when I came out to stay with my gran...."

From their 1965 pre-Pet Sounds masterpiece, and oddly, the most Beatle-esque record they ever made.

3. Chad and Jeremy -- A Summer Song

I only found out recently that they actually played all the beautiful guitar stuff on this one themselves; you'll see them do it in the performance at the end of the interview. Just as sweet and lovely a pop song as there is, so naturally, my crappy high school rock band used to sing it as "Planes, crashing into mountain sides, with the loss of many lives...."

2. Bananarama -- Cruel Summer

Because, frankly, you just can't have too much Bananarama, even with crappy synth drums.

And the most memorable summer song -- summer being defined as hot, sweaty and fly-infested -- obviously is....

1. Mick Farren -- Let's Loot the Supermarket Again (Like We Did Last Summer)

Typical first generation 70s Brit-punk snarl, although Farren himself had been through one or two too many youth cultures by the time he conned Stiff Records into releasing this. Not in itself a particularly fabulous record, but you gotta admit -- the title's brilliant.

Awrighty then -- what are your faves?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best holiday flicks -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could find it in your heart to head over there and leave some sort of desultory comment or other, it would help convince management that I'm worth the exorbitant freelance rate that has made me the envy of the film-crit business. Thank you.]

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I Don't Care What Holiday Is Coming Up, This Early Clue to the New Direction Stuff is Getting On My Nerves!

From 1966, please enjoy the fabulous Standells (featuring Larry Tamblyn -- brother of Russ and Uncle of Amber on organ and vocals) and their snarling garage punk revisionist take on the the legend of the Lone Ranger, "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White."

As always, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded the first reader savvy enough to glean its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Holiday Weekend Listomania.

The Present-Day Folk Rocker Refuses to Die!

From their sole (eponymous) 1968 album, please enjoy Autosalvage and their light years beyond remarkable "Parahighway."

Seriously, this is one of my forever faves, a haunting and stunningly abstract piece of jangly folk rock that seems utterly out of time. For years, before it finally got reissued on CD in the late 90s, I used to play it for people and ask them to guess when and where it was recorded. Invariably, the answer would come "Athens, Georgia, early 80s?"

Incidentally, I don't know if you can read it on the album cover, but the Skip Boone in the picture, the bass player, is the brother of Steve Boone of the Lovin' Spoonful. The Spoonful were apparently mentors to these guys.

I interviewed the lead player, Rick Turner, a few years ago. A nice guy and a very interesting character who went on to a successful career as a luthier on the West Coast. Used to write a column for GUITAR PLAYER magazine, and has made and maintained all of Lindsey Buckingham's custom instruments for ages. You can read more about him here.

In any case, you can download "Parahighway" HERE. As always, if the authorization has expired by the time you arrive, just e-mail me for the mp3.

And if you're wondering why I didn't put up a DivShare permalink like I did for the last couple of days, it's because I feel guilty about leaving a free download for this one in perpetuity. The album's still in print, and there's a part of me that sympathizes with musicians who think filesharing is ripping them off.

Hey -- I'm being inconsistent about this, I know. So sue me.

Actually, please don't.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Beast in Me

From 1996, please enjoy Australia's finest band, You Am I, and their hilarious B-side cover of The Mummies' classic ode to inter-species conflict "(You Must Fight to Live) On the Planet of the Apes."

Incidentally, the ape in the above picture -- a chimpanzee, obviously -- is J. Fred Muggs, who served as the Willard Scott to host Dave Garroway on the original Today show between 1953 and 1957. I met J. Fred at the New Jersey State Fair in 1957, when I was ten years old. I vividly remember that he was sitting on a tire swing, and that a bunch of us kids were on line to get our pictures taken; in my case, however, when I got to the front, the little bastard bit me.

Hey, I was fricking ten, and it was traumatic.

Anyway, I was gratified to read the little bastard's Wiki entry and discover that he was fired from Today for biting Martha Raye on the arm. I was less gratified, however, when I learned that the little bastard is actually still living in Florida with his girlfriend, a lady chimp named Phoebe B. Phoebe.

Okay, after that monumentally pointless digression, let me simply add that you can download the You Am I song HERE; as always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get there, just e-mail me and blah blah blah.

Or if I've got the hang of this new file-sharing service, you can simply listen to it by clicking on this.

Actually, I think there's a way to download it from the above as well, and I'm not sure but I think their links don't expire. Somebody let me know if this works, when you get a chance.

[h/t Peter Scott]

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pictures From Life's Other Side

Some of you guys may recall that last September I discovered my 70s band's DIY single was going for twenty-five bucks on eBay, a turn of events that I for one am still convinced was a clear sign of the End Times.

After I first posted about it, a couple of obviously morbidly curious folks asked me what the record sounded like, and at the time, I didn't have a digital copy at the ready, so I couldn't embarass myself by sharing.

Well, I no longer have that excuse. So here it is -- The Hounds and the a-side of their 1976 single, the hopefully entertaining pop-Stones pastiche "Call Me." Professionally remastered on vintage analog equipment for the exorbitant fee of fifty bucks, which spells quality in my book.

You can listen to it by clicking the link below.

If I understand the new file sharing service I'm using, you can also actually download it from there as well, and apparently their authorizations don't expire. If I'm wrong on either count, just e-mail me and I'll send you the mp3.

The guitar on the right channel doing the lame little Chuck Berry riff thingy between verses is me, BTW. The guy doing the amazing Nicky Hopkins piano impression throughout is an old friend named Alfred Marcelli. The song was written by the guitar player on the left channel, my pal Tony Forte, whose legendary Rickenbacker twelve-string I blogged about when it turned 40.'s the deal. Out of obviously collossal preening vanity, I thought it might be a good idea to do a sort of limited edition CD reissue of the record, mostly to give to the other band members (now scattered to the winds) and to some old friends who suffered through countless bad gigs back in the day.

Well, mirabile dictu, I've actually done it -- with extensive production credits and four bonus tracks from the original master tapes, including a brand new digital mix of the b-side and our stellar white girl cover of Smokey Robinson's "You Beat Me to the Punch." All the stuff that didn't get us signed to a major label, in other words.

Anyway, the reissue comes in a spiffy new package that looks for all the world like a real commercial CD, complete with hitherto unsuspected group pix and a disc that reproduces the look of the original 45. So -- if you liked the clip and are so perverse of ears as to want to hear more, I'll be happy to send you a copy if you send me the postage.

Or, barring that, simply beg me. Within reason, I'm easy.

And don't hold any of this stuff against us -- we were kids.

Monday, May 18, 2009

All Come to Meet Her Now

From 1968, and their near-masterpiece Wow, please enjoy Moby Grape's brilliant and hilarious ode to the ultimate biker chick "Motorcycle Irene."

There she sits a-smokin'
Reefer in her mouth
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' in a splat
'tis Irene, her sheen I seen
In pieces crumpled flat
Her feet were in the bushes
Her toes were in her hat
Stark-raven, un-shaven
Motorcycle Irene

The Hunchback, The Cripple
The Horseman and The Fool
Prayer books and candles and
Carpet, cloaks and jewels
Knowing all the answers
But breakin' all the rules
Stark-naked, un-sacred
Motorcycle Irene
That's genuine poetry, I think, as well as a brilliantly subversive gender-fuck of all those 60s car crash/hoodlum songs, the Shangri-Las "Leader of the Pack" most notably. It's written by the Grapes' tragic genius, Skip Spence, of course, and if you don't know from him -- and his astounding solo album Oar -- your life is the poorer for the lack.

In any case, you can download the song HERE; as always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get there, just e-mail me blah blah blah.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special The Right Tool For the Job Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental Low T Consultant Amway Buddy Fah Lo Suee and I will be travelling to...oh hell, I just don't have the energy to make another joke involving Sarah Palin, Carrie Prejean and gay marriage. So I'm not gonna tell you where we'll be, but it could be a hot one, if you don't mind the literary equivalent of an 80s sitcom catchphrase.

Cue laugh track.

In any case, posting by moi will be sporadic for a few days blah blah blah.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

Best or Worst Post-Beatles Collaboration Between Artists That Don't Normally Work Together!!!

No arbitrary rules; obviously there's enough leeway here to include cameo guest appearances (example: Brian Jones playing sax on the Beatles "You Know My Name") along with more substantial aesthetic partnerships.

And my top of my head Top Six is:

6. Queen and David Bowie -- Under Pressure

It's not exactly a secret that I'm a fan of neither Bowie or Queen -- I can probably count the number of songs by either of them I genuinely enjoy on the fingers of two hands -- but this one is inarguable. Put together like a charm and both Freddie and Dave checked the camp affectations at the studio door for a change. Great stuff.

5. Mick Jagger and David Bowie -- Dancing in the Streets

God, this sucks. It's like they're trying to actively out-awful each other, although I'm afraid Mick wins. Which is going some.

4. John Hiatt -- Liptstick Sunset

From his breakthrough Bring the Family album. Essentially recorded live in the studio with Nick Lowe on bass, Ry Cooder on guitar, and Jim Keltner on drums. A great band, obviously -- too bad their other album remains an interesting curio at best.

3. The Bunch -- When Will I Be Loved

The late great Sandy Denny and the future Linda Thompson as the Everly Sisters. As you my have heard, perhaps my single fave female duet vocal of all time.

2. Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson -- Say Say Say

Words fail me. And this is hardly the worst thing Paul did in the 80s.

And the coolest and most thoroughly satisfying collaboration between musical oddfellows (especially since I just totally dissed Paul McCartney in the previous listing) obviously is --

1. Elvis Costello -- Veronica

An absolutely perfect pop song and record, written with Paul McCartney, of course, and perhaps the best thing Paul ever came up with in the company of a partner other than John. Interestingly, Paul contributed a lot to the lyrics and Elvis to the music, which is kind of the opposite of what people expected. Paul's also playing bass on the record, if memory serves, along with Roger McGuinn on twelve-string, which makes it kind of a three-fer.

Oh, and thanks to some corporate weasels somewhere, the official "Veronica" vid -- and most of the other memorable Elvis clips -- are no longer on YouTube, so please accept my apologies for the inadequate replacement above.

And feel free to download the song itself HERE; as always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get there, just e-mail me and I'll shoot you the mp3.

Awrighty then -- and what would your choices be?

[Shameless blogwhore: My parallel cinema listomania -- theme: best or worst kids flicks -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if I could con you into going over there and leaving a comment, it would be good for my bottom line if you know what I mean.]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Proving That Nothing Ever Goes Away No Matter How Devoutly You Might Wish It To, Here's Yet Another Early Clue to the New Direction!

From 1985, please enjoy a child molester and a bunch of guys and gals with truly heinous haircuts with their surprisingly effective after all these years ode to ending world hunger "We Are the World."

Two random observations.

1) I can't find the exact quote, but critic "Holy" Greil Marcus reviewed this at the time, and if memory serves, he really, and I mean REALLY, didn't like it. I believe his final sentence was something along the lines of "and the celebrities get to eat the Africans."

2) I can't find the exact quote for this either, but in the otherwise awful 1987 Dragnet, with Tom Hanks and Dan Akroyd, the latter's straight arrow Joe Friday cop character looks around a den of iniquity modelled after the Playboy Mansion and says "And to think a moral cesspool like this exists in the heart of the city where they recorded 'We Are the World.' "

In any case, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded the first reader who gleans the clip's relevance to tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

The iPod Shuffle (An Occasional Series)

So I've never turned on my iPod's shuffle function before -- swear to god -- but when I did it today this is the first thing that came up.

From 1993, and their 30th Anniversary Collection, please enjoy The Hollies and "The Woman I Love."

This is pretty much the last memorable record they made with something resembling their classic lineup, and if truth be told I resisted it when it first came out -- the lyric is a little sniggering, I think, and the production is awfully late 80s, in the Richard Marx sense. Nonetheless, it's got a chorus to die for and the group harmonies are as stellar as ever, so the damn thing gets to me against my better judgement; in fact, by the time the last "me-yeah-e-yeah" thing happens on the fadeout, I'm pretty much a goner.

Hey, I'm a Hollies fan down to my DNA, what can I tell you?

BTW, it's written by 80s New Wave teen idol Nik Kershaw, who was briefly a comer.

You can download it HERE; as always, if you get to it after the authorization has expired, just e-mail me blah blah blah.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It Came From Beantown!

From 1992, please enjoy Boston underground sensations Knots and Crosses and their absolutely heart-wrenching alt-rock breakup ballad "Creatures of Habit."

You can download it HERE; as always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get there, just e-mail me and blah blah blah.

Seriously, if you can hear "Creatures" without getting all verklempt, you probably need to have it looked at; it is without doubt the closest thing to an American version of Richard and Linda Thompson any of us is likely to encounter in our lifetimes.

It can also be found on this really terrific CD --

(along with several other splendid songs including an ace cover of Richard and Linda's "Walking on a Wire") -- which is still available over at Amazon; the album is a sort of greatest-hits-that-should-have-been package, complete with fascinating liner notes by singer/guitarist Alan Williams.

Since the band's breakup, K&C lead singer Carol Noonan (the former Mrs. Williams) has gone on to a fascinating solo career as a sort of roots/rock folkie; I particularly recommend her most recent album As Tears Go By, a beautiful mostly acoustic set of smartly chosen 60s covers.

For more information about it, K&C, and Noonan's work with the Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine, check out her estimable wesbsite. She's a very interesting story, actually.

Fire and Ice

I was browsing Google Images the other day, and found these two shots of you know who from you know when.

Worth a thousand words each, as the cliche has it, but still. The word "wow!" seems somehow insufficiently Proustian....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tattoed Love Boys

From 2000, please enjoy the kids next door slightly dangerous pop metal ensemble Marvelous 3 and their massive ear worm ode to self-loathing and self-help, the anthemic "I Could Change."

Seriously, this is in my humble opinion the most kick-ass rock-and-roll song of the 21st century so far -- a genius riff, a chorus for the ages, funny and passionately self-deprecating lyrics, and a vocal by frontman Butch Walker that epitomizes bravado and cool.

In any case, you can download it HERE. As always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get there, just e-mail me and I'll be delighted to shoot you the mp3.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special You Can't Judge a Book, But... Non-Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental on-call strumpet Gal Friday Fah Lo Suee and I will be joining Bristol Palin on her whistlestop Abstinence Now (Except For Levi) media tour. We'll be stopping in to see pretty much every mid-market drive-time AM shock jock in the South, so we should be really getting the message across.

In any case, posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

Best Post-Elvis Album Cover(s)!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules, except go easy on the Blue Notes, okay? Also, I do think it's interesting that only one of my picks was done after the end of the LP era, and that one happens to be an homage. Just saying.

Anyway, here's my totally top of my head Top Seven.

7. The Yardbirds -- For Your Love

Greatest band logo ever, and every one of those band photos is iconic. As is Jeff Beck's striped shirt.

6. Sleater-Kinney -- Dig Me Out

Not a fan, but the fact that this is based on the brilliant design of an old Kinks album cover never issued in the States back in the day just knocks me out.

5. Talking Heads -- Remain in Light

A very cool graphic, I think you'll admit, and the fact it's the work of my then girlfriend has absolutely nothing to do with why it's on my list.

Incidentally, she preferred the back cover design, originally intended for the front...

...but nixed by Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz because they thought it "glorified war." Who knew those two were DFHs?

4. The Beatles -- Beatles For Sale

Photo by the great Robert Freeman, and pretty much my single favorite shot of any rock band's Morning After ever. Look at those faces -- so young, and yet they've already seen so much...

3. Led Zeppelin -- Presence

Design by the famous graphic arts collective Hipgnosis, and just a wonderful piece of pop surrealism. Who said Zep didn't have a sense of humor?

2. The Rolling Stones -- The Rolling Stones

Photo by the great David Bailey, who had a front row seat at the 60s party, and an absolutely perfect pop portrait -- 45 years later the look is still utterly outside of time, and it will be equally evocative and otherworldly 45 years hence. Incidentally, in England, that WAS the cover -- no title, no record company logo, no lettering of any kind, just that incredible picture of the band staring destiny in the face. And yes, it was a conceptual masterstroke on the part of manager Andrew Loog Oldham that was without precendent in 1964.

And the number one coolest album cover, and it's not even a gatefold so you couldn't clean your dope on it, nonetheless obviously is ----

1. The Mothers of Invention -- Weasels Ripped My Flesh

Painting by artist Neon Park, based on a lurid 50s men's magazine cover that Zappa had filed for future use years earlier. Again, not a fan of the band, but the first time I saw that cover in 1970 I laughed my fricking ass off.

Awrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best film's with characters from real life -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could take a moment to go over there and say something pithy, that would keep me in good with management. Thanks!]

Thursday, May 07, 2009

You Know, I'm Really Beginning to Get Annoyed With This Early Clue to the New Direction Crap!!!

From 1966, please enjoy the late great Mrs. (Elva) Miller and her epochal cover of Petula Clark's ode to slum clearance, "Downtown." From her equally epochal debut album, immodestly titled Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits .

As always, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded the first sick bastard alert reader who gleans the clip's relevance to tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

If It Ain't Stiff, It Ain't Worth a F**k

From 1979 and the Stiff Records label, please enjoy the most blues-wailing and infectiously catchy "Win or Lose" by the Lew Lewis Reformer.

Featuring the greatest echoed handclap in the history of recorded music, and I include the one in the Zombies' "Tell Her No," which pales by comparison.

Seriously, I fricking love this song. If I wasn't in a wheelchair, I'd be fronting a rock band that used it as a set opener right this very minute.

In any case, you can download it HERE. As always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get there, I'll be happy to send you the mp3.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Green Day/Kaiser Chiefs: Could Be a Hot One!

via my new toy, Google Reader, I see that this band with whom I have a full-tilt obsession these days is opening for the always surprising Green Day.

I was a moderate fan of Green Day's bubble-gum punk back in the early 90's: tell me "Longview" isn't the anthem of a generation (not mine, thank christ). "When masturbation's lost its fun, you're fucking breaking." Poetry. So sue me: I've always been a sucker for the percussion and percussive guitars that drive the verses here (See: "I Don't Miss You"). But they were kind of goofy and silly, and they tried to buy weed from a friend of mine once, so I'm afraid I didn't take them too seriously.

Then they had that shocking, enlightening flash of relevance about five years ago: American Idiot was a scream into the dark of those days, articulating for all of us who'd been told to STFU about the war and Gitmo and the sociopaths running the nation that it was not just us. It was rock and roll as genuine outsider protest, the way it was meant to be, and it was Good. (Plus, they gave the cute Evan Rachel Wood a gig before that fascinatingly weird Across the Universe.)

They've got a new record coming out, 21st Century Breakdown, next week, and they're touring this summer.

And the Kaiser Chiefs are opening for some dates. I love these guys: though as a pedagogue I can't support the essential message of "Never Miss a Beat," but I note here that, like "Longview," the verses are essentially driven by percussion. And who knows whether the Kaiser Chiefs may not create the essential and necessary records of resistance in 2020?

Weirder things have happened.

I Also Knew George M. Cohan, But That's a Story For Another Time

Regular readers have unquestionably already gleaned this, but back in the dim dark middle 60s, I was one of those kids who took a gawk at The Beatles on TV and thought -- hey, that looks like fun. What said readers may not know is that unlike the other gazillions of untalented dorks who thought the same thing, I was lucky enough to know a guy whose father ran a major New York recording facility.

The place was called Associated Studios, and it was located on Broadway, across from what's now the Ed Sullivan Theater and next door to what was then called the Metropole, which was the only topless joint in Manhattan at the time.

Anyway, because the guitarist in my crappy teenage band's dad owned the joint, we used to go into the studio every couple of weeks and make really bad demos of our own really bad songs, which we got to take home on scratchy, prone to breakage, 45rpm acetate disks. (Have I mentioned that our drummer was Alan Silvestri, now the Oscar-winning composer of the scores to every Robert Zemeckis movie of the last twenty years?)

The guy who used to engineer most of our sessions was a classic New York music biz hustler named Warren Schatz. A schlubby little Jew a few years older than us, he was convinced he was going to be a star someday, and perhaps as a result of that certainty he was also relentlessly trendy; I vividly recall the time he showed up wearing a ridiculous Bob Dylan cap, which we all had a mordant chuckle over. He'd also actually released a bunch of flop singles -- under the preposterous nom du disque Ritchie Dean -- on Tower Records, a Capitol subsidiary (Freddie and the Dreamers and The Standells were technically his labelmates), and we were sort of in awe of him despite everything.

We cut one song with him -- a not as bad as usual Beau Brummels knockoff called "The Loss is Mine" -- that he liked enough to later rewrite the lyrics and demo it himself. Shortly thereafter, our sessions at Associated basically ended as we all went off to college, and I've always wondered whether the song was ever released or what happened to Warren/Ritchie.

Well, thanks to the Google now I know -- turns out he enjoyed some considerable success as a producer and arranger in the Disco Era, although his Wiki entry is pretty skimpy. Where he is now, of course, is anybody's guess.

However, I was absolutely stunned to find this clip of him on YouTube the other day, in which he looks every bit as shlubby as I remembered. At least he's not wearing the cap, thank god.

I'm guessing that song is from 1966, but I have no idea what drive-in rock movie it's in. If anybody can help me on that, I'd be in your debt.

Oh, and I found a discography of the 60s singles released on Tower here. As you can see, although they include the complete ouevre of Ritchie Dean, our song is not among them. Just as well -- my high school bud Alan Weisman, who wrote it, would have been insufferable.

Incidentally, another staff engineer at Associated was the guy who recorded "They're Coming to Take Me Away (Ha-Ha)" as Napoleon XIV. But that's also a story for another time....

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Talk to the Hand!

From 1968, from their underrated debut album, please enjoy the quite astonishing Manfred Mann cover "Machines" by the absolutely fricking great Lothar and the Hand People.

These guys were THE underground band in NYC in 1966; I actually saw them in October of that year, when they opened for The Byrds' legendary two-week stint at the Village Gate (a show that's pretty much agreed to be the first big stirring of the counter-cultural/rock scene on the East Coast). They were utterly amazing; funny, fantastic musicianship, the theremin gimmick, and the snazziest dressers of any rock group I'd ever seen at that point. Hands down, and all these years later, they remain the most impressive act I ever saw cold, i.e., without knowing anything about them beforehand; good as the Byrds were, they totally stole the show.

Although they never made it as big as they should have, the various Lothars have all done well in the years since their almost heyday; lead singer John Emelin is active in local Denver politics, and guitarist Kim King went on to be a big deal recording engineer (he did the Live at CBGBs album among others). More pertinently, one of their songs was sampled by The Chemical Brothers in the late 90s, which led to a resurgence of interest in their music; you can read the band's fascinating story, and glom lots more cool stuff, over at their very fine official website.

Oh, and incidentally, as you'll hear, these guys were also indisputably the first genuine synth-pop band. And maybe the best.

You can download "Machines" HERE; as always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get there, just e-mail blah blah.

Monday, May 04, 2009

More Scenes from Racine

That is, the Shoes' Warmup show on March 28. The site says:
Amidst one of the biggest snowstorms of the spring season, SHOES treked out to JJ McAuliffe's Pub on March 28, 2009 to play their first show in over a year. Despite getting over 9 inches of snow dumped on the region that night, SHOES fans gathered from miles around (some traveling from as far as Minneapolis, MN)! Club owner and host, JJ McAuliffe warmly welcomed the band and gave a heart-felt introduction to start the show. The band opted to forego the customary road crew and do this gig "old school" with minimal gear and no stagehands (in preparation
for the unknown that may lie ahead at the Tokyo venues). Despite the intermittant failure of one of Jeff's Hiwatt guitar amps and his broken guitar string on "I Don't Miss You", the guys played for over 90 minutes in a set that not only included longtime SHOES' favorites like "Too Late", "Tomorrow Night" and "Feel The Way That I Do", but also included a brand new song called "Rugged Terrain" (a demo of this appears on the "As-Is" CD) and some rarely played songs like "Get My Message" and "Don't Do This To Me". All-in-all, it was a hot night, despite the cold outside!

Check the "Burned Out Love" wmv!

Their Aim Was True

From 1973, please enjoy Brit singer/songwriters slumming as pub rockers The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver and their quite remarkable hit "(I Don't Wanna Love You But) You Got Me Anyway."

Apart from being a terrific song and an interesting example of the American/Californian influence on a lot of the pub rock that essentially paved the way for the punk and New Wave to come (another one would be "How Long" by Ace) "I Don't Wanna Love You" is notable in that it gave the world its first glimpse of bassist Bruce Thomas, who'd become a rather more angry young man a few years later as a member of Elvis Costello's stellar backup band The Attractions. Interestingly, Thomas was himself six years older than Costello, a generation gap which may or may not have contributed to their estrangement since the late 90s.

In any case, you can download it HERE; as always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get to it, just e-mail me blah blah blah.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Hanson Is As Hanson Does

Just a little postcript to that delightful Tinted Windows clip Mary posted downstairs -- in case anybody thinks I was kidding about the fact that Hanson might have been a little more talented than we assumed back in the day, here's their quite astonishing 2000 single "This Time Around."

As you will have noticed, it's a song about mortality, fer crissakes, and coming from a bunch of kids whose testicles had barely descended I think you'd have to admit it's pretty damn audacious and wise beyond their years. Maybe that's why it flopped.

In any case, that the singer is now in the coolest supergroup of our time doesn't seem like a reach to me.

Oh, and if you want the mp3 of "This Time Around," just e-mail me.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Weekend Listomania Special It Ain't No Sin to Be Glad You're Alive Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental on-call trollop etiquette consultant Fah Lo Suee and I will be travelling to Hollywood, where we'll be attending a screening of I am Tiny Tim, a new documentary about crippled children, in the company of rightwing political commentator and film critic Debbie Schlussel. Debbie assures me the kids in the film are not really handicapped, just pathetic losers trying to make a fast buck, so I'm sure we'll all have a good laugh at their expense.

In any case, posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

The Post-Elvis Album(s) That Changed Your Life!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules for a change. And yes, this time you're allowed to nominate something by the Beatles, for all sorts of obvious reasons.

Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Eight, in no particular order:

8. The Loud Family -- Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things

When this came out in 1991, I thought it was the closest thing to the second coming of The White Album I'd ever heard, except it also took the collage/medley structure of side two of Abbey Road to a whole other level. The last genuinely psychedelic experience I've had under a pair of headphones, in any case, and for my money the best album of the 90s hands down. Best album title, too.

7. The Beatles -- Rubber Soul

A sort of concept album before Pepper -- the sort of concept being that it had a cohesive, almost chamber music/small band sonic signature and astoundingly grownup and creative songs. I thought it was the most breathtakingly beautiful music I'd ever heard at the time; that it was made by the same guys who'd been singing about holding your hand barely two years earlier was simply mind-boggling.

6. The Byrds -- Fifth Dimension

I'm not claiming this is the best of the Byrds five albums with their mostly original lineup, but it has a steely edge that I think was unprecedented in rock at the time; at their best, the songs here have the same riffy metallic brilliance as the similar things -- "She Said, She Said," "Dr. Robert," et al -- the Beatles were doing around the same time on Revolver. Plus: David Crosby's minimalist harmony vocals on the title song and "I Come and Stand at Every Door" are heartbreaking works of staggering genius, and I'm not kidding about that.

5. The Beach Boys -- Today

Actually, this one pre-dates Rubber Soul as far as being a sort of concept album -- the sort of concept being, again, that it had a cohesive, almost chamber music/small band sonic signature and astoundingly grownup and creative songs. But for sheer stem to stern imagination and inventiveness it's every bit as good. Actually, in some ways, it's even more audacious; the concluding Dennis Wilson sung ballad (above) is like Sinatra channeling Otis Redding or vice versa. Regardless of the fact that Mike Love is a dick, anybody who can listen to this stuff and conclude that the Beach Boys were white bread and/or fakes is seriously perverse of ears.

4. The Harder They Come (original soundtrack)

Apart from the fact that there isn't a weak track on the album (which was quite an accomplishment in 1973, believe me) this was your basic life changer because it was at once so utterly familiar (a mix of r&b, gospel, and rock) and alien (as heard and mutated by a culture that might as well have been on Mars as the Caribbean) at the same time. God knows how many people listened to it as obsessively as I did; fortunately, a lot of them went on to make music as a result.

3. Bruce Springsteen -- The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

Okay, "Rosalita" has the open-hearted spirit and even some of the riffs of most of the great rock songs ever written up to that point. So how come I still can't pick out a specific influence or posit another band that sounds remotely like the E-Streeters here? Seriously -- if that song isn't a fricking miracle, I've never heard one. And don't even get me started on "Sandy."

2. The Who -- Sell Out

C'mon -- "I Can See For My Miles" isn't even the best track. That's how good this is.

1. The Replacements -- Let It Be

I really don't have the words to explain just how hard this album first hit me. Believe it or not, I had never even heard of these guys when I read a late 1984 piece about them in the Village Voice (by my old colleague and friend Glenn Kenny, currently doing business over at the sublime film blog Some Came Running). What he described sounded like the rock band of my dreams -- a bunch of smart, wise-ass funny, heartbreakingly honest bruised romantics with loud guitars, pop instincts and a touch of the poet -- and frankly I thought they sounded too good to be true. But I bought the album anyway, and from the minute I heard the low-fi twelve-string guitar/mandolin and Paul Westerberg's wounded ferret rasp of a voice on the opening "I Will Dare" I was moved to the bottom of my soul. By the time I got to "Unsatisfied," still the most gut-wrenching evocation of being precisely that in the history of popular music, I was warm Jell-O, and the concluding "Answering Machine" pretty much killed me. The rest of the album? Just moderately great, but overall the whole thing made everything else I was hearing on the radio sound like the work of artistic pygmies, and the fact that it was written and sung by guys who were a couple of generations younger than me struck me as both chastening and somehow inspirational. To this day I gotta say (in the words of Cameron Crowe) -- you still can't buy a better record.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: All-Time Coolest Aliens From Outer Space in a Feature Film -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, I'd take it as a personal and cushy job-protecting favor if you could see your way to going over there and leaving a comment.]