Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Timely, Yet Oddly Still Early, Clue to the New Direction

From 2008, please enjoy the former Madonna Louise Ciccone and former boy band bimbo Justin Timberlake and their re-write of "The Song of the Volga Boatmen" extremely annoying hit single "4 Minutes."

Two quick thoughts on this one. First of all, if I was to be making a list of the three most butt-ugly records of recent years (admittedly, an odd way to spend one's time), this one would be on it, along with Rihanna's "Umbrella" and that "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" Beyoncé crap.

Also, as I think I've said here before, I find it really difficult to credit the recent Gen-Y embrace of Timberlake as some kind of cool all-around entertainer as anything other than a post-ironic joke that I'm not getting. Kind of like the earlier slacker crowd vogue for Tony Bennett .

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

Wanking in Our Time

Interesting and alarming news from the Sceptered Isle: Over at yesterday's Telegraph, Brit writer Neil McCormick has listed what he considers the top ten guitar solos in rock history.

His choices:

1. Moonage Daydream - Mick Ronson
A sci-fi blowout: Ronson picks the song up and sends it spinning into outer space.

2. Voodoo Child - Jimi Hendrix
Evil blues from the greatest rock guitarist ever.

3. Since I’ve Been Loving You - Jimmy Page
Passionate, desperate lyricism.

4. Shine On You Crazy Diamond - David Gilmour
Moving, meditational, un-showy expression of melody and tone.

5. Like A Hurricane - Neil Young
Not technically adept, Young can play one note like a primal force.

6. Hotel California - Joe Walsh and Don Felder
Soaring, uplifting twin lead takes off into the ether.

7. Purple Rain - Prince
Wild, fluid and free as his soulful vocals.

8. While My Guitar Gently Weeps - Eric Clapton
Seamlessly integrated, Clapton weeps and wails all over George Harrison’s mournful melody.

9. Love Spreads - John Squire
Bluesy slide work out to a funky beat gives Britpop wings.

10. Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers - Jeff Beck
Heartfelt emotion on a Stevie Wonder cover from the most technically dazzling guitarist since Jimi.

I'm not going to argue the individual choices (most of which strike me as somewhere between obvious and banal) but the fact that McCormick didn't include the Neil Innes solo that slices this song in half...

...or the Innes solo that serves the same function on this track...

...means I probably won't need to worry about any of his opinions on anything else in the future.

C'mon, dude -- these two were scientifically proven to be the heaviest fretboard workouts of all time fricking AGES ago.

[h/t Kerrin L. Griffith]

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Compare and Contrast: Anyone Who Ever Had a Heart

From 1970 and Loaded (perhaps on balance their best album, although we can argue that another time) please enjoy the latter day Velvet Underground and the suave vocal stylings of Lou Reed on their unlikely but ubiquitous rock anthem "Sweet Jane."

And from 1988, and their equally unlikely indie-rock left field smash hit The Trinity Session, please enjoy Cowboy Junkies, featuring the languid vocal stylings of the lovely Margo Timmins, and an ineffably laid back cover of same.

BTW, the Velvet's track above is the uncut version, with the "heavenly wine and roses" bridge that was excised -- to Lou's ire -- from the original album version and as a result from just about everybody else's subsequent covers. I myself am of the opinion that the song plays stronger without it, and Lou has gone back and forth on that when he performs it himself. I forget whether he sang it on the Velvet's live reunion album from 1993, but I'm pretty sure he did at the concert for the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in '95 (backed by Soul Asylum no less).

As for the Cowboy Junkies version, all I can say is that it makes me very, very sleepy, like most of their stuff. In their defense, however, it's a cover of the equally languid version on 1969: Velvet Underground Live, an album that I've always thought of as The Velvets in a Mellow Mood For Lovers Only. In any case, I've had a huge thing for Margo Timmins for the longest time, so my critical objectivity is by definition suspect.

As for the song itself, it's funny to think of it, but by now, "Sweet Jane" has probably been covered more times by more different people than "Johnny B. Goode."

Okay, maybe not more times, but close.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Songs I've Just Realized I Can't Live Without (An Occasional Series)

From 1965 (and the only-in-America compilation album Kinkdom), please enjoy The Kinks, featuring Dave Davies on lead vocals, and the oh-so-sad-and-beautiful folk-rock ballad "Wait Till the Summer Comes Along."

I've adored that song (Dave's first writers credit on a Kinks record, if memory serves) since buying the LP above in a crappy reprocessed stereo version at Sam Goody in Paramus, New Jersey. But I hadn't listened to it in a while, and on revisiting it (and still finding it deeply touching, I hasten to add) I was immediately struck by a) how slapdash the Shel Talmy production is and b) what a wonderfully pretentious Sorrows of Young Werther kid's blues it is.

"I've been crying all the winter," Dave all but sobs in the song's opening line, and the clear implication is that his life has been nothing but endless heartache, self-lacerating guilt and tragedy, and frankly what's the point of going on?

Just to put things in perspective, its popstar composer was all of 17 when he wrote and recorded it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

In Search Of Eddie Riff: Bubblegum Edition

First, let's begin with bubblegum kings the 1910 Fruitgum Company's 1968 hit Goody, Goody Gumdrops which reached #37 on the U.S. charts in that year. The song contains perhaps one of the corniest couplets ever to grace an American rock song: "Look into her baby blue eyes, right down to her dainty shoe size." Cringeworthy stuff indeed.

Next, let's take a listen to Redd Kross's The Faith Healer which appeared on their 1990 LP Third Eye. When I first heard this, it bugged the hell out of me for weeks that I couldn't place the chorus. A few months later I was spinning a bubblegum comp and then it hit me: they copped it from Goody, Goody! I guess I should have known given the record had another tune on it called Bubblegum Factory. Extra points also for the cool Pet Sounds middle section.

Songs the Beatles Gave Away: An Occasional Series

From September, 1968 -- and one of the initial four single releases on the then fledgling Apple Records -- please enjoy Jackie Lomax and his rendition of the swell George Harrison tune "Sour Milk Sea."

Lomax was the very soulful frontman for Liverpool beat group The Undertakers, a bunch that never made much of an impression over here, but who as you can see dressed kind of interestingly. In any case, this is an absolutely kick-ass track, which is not particularly surprising when you consider who's in the superstar backing band. That's Paul McCartney on bass, Ringo Starr on drums, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and on guitars -- trading solos, no less -- both Eric Clapton and the song's composer. Frankly, I've never understood why this wasn't a hit.

Oh, and for the record, the other initial Apple singles were the Fabs' "Hey Jude/Revolution," Mary Hopkin's "Those Were the Days." and "Thingumybob" by The Black Dyke Mills Band.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Saturday Glam Blogging...

Here's Roy Wood and Wizzard going all Phil Spector on our asses with their single I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day which reached #4 in the UK charts in 1973.

Cheers, and Happy Boxing Day!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Weekend Listomania (Special How Odd of God to Choose the Jews! Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental Delta of Venus coiffeur Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to Wasilla, Alaska, for a Christmas party with former Gov. Sarah Palin and brood. I understand that former First Dude Todd Palin (Secessionist-Hell) will be carving the traditional Xmas moose while dressed as the beloved cartoon character Bullwinkle, which I think shows an interesting sense of irony on his part.

But in any case, further posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a day or two.

In the meantime, then, here's a hopefully fun little holiday project for us all:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Song or Album That's Written or Performed By (or Simply References) My Fellow Red Sea Pedestrians!!!

That's "Red Sea Pedestrians" as in Jews, in case you didn't catch the reference.

In other words, if it's by or sung by a Jew, or vaguely alludes to the whole Jewish thing, it's good to go.

And no arbitrary rules whatsoever that I can think of, except you can't eat dairy with meat. And shellfish is right out.

Oh, and nothing from Jesus Christ Superstar or Godspell. Seriously -- you try to slip some of that crap into the list and I will come to your house and rip your heart out of its chest cavity with a pair of pinking shears.

Okay, my top of my head Top Nine is:

9. The Blues Project -- I Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometimes

Messrs Kooper, Kulberg, Blumenfeld, Kalb and Katz; not for nothing did people call them "The Jewish Beatles." I saw them at one of their reunion shows in the early 90s, and they actually came onstage to a recording of the theme from Exodus. Heh.

8. Brandon Walker -- Chinese Food on Christmas

I eat Chinese food on Christmas
Go to the movie theater too
Cause there just ain't much else to do on Christmas
If you're a Jew.

This is actually true, by the way.

7. Procol Harum -- Strong as Samson

Psychiatrists and Lawyers destroying mankind
Drivin' 'em crazy...and stealing 'em blind
Bankers and Brokers ruling the world
Storing the silver and hoarding the gold

'Nuff said. And that's even before the verse specifically referencing the Chosen People.

6. Cream -- Disraeli Gears

Named after the 19th century Brit novelist, prime minister and (feh) Conservative. Few things, then as now, annoy me more than a right-wing Jew. Benjy, Benjy, Benjy, remember where you came from, boychik.

5. Tom Lehrer -- I'm Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica

A previously unreleased track from Rhino's terrific box-set retrospective The Remains of Tom Lehrer from 2000. It boggles my mind, but until I read the biographical essay with the set, it had never occurred to me that Lehrer was, in fact, Jewish. And with a punim like that...

4 The Beatles -- Rabbi Saul

From their brief and little known Orthodox Jewish period. Unreleased songs rumoured to exist in the EMI vaults include "Sexy Seder," "Mocky Raccoon," "P.S. I Owe You," "The Shul on the Hill," and "Your Mother Should Only Know."

3. Matisyahau -- King Without a Crown

Matisyahu: Oy gevalt, what will the goyim think? Seriously -- a Hasidic Jewish reggae musician has got, for want of a better word, issues. That said, I couldn't find a Killers song that fits this week's theme, and as you know I always like to include a tune recorded in the current century.

2. Marc Cohn -- Walking in Memphis

Now Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood.
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might.
She said "Tell me, are you a Christian, child?"
And I said "Ma'am I am tonight"

Okay, so a nice Jewish boy temporarily recants his faith. I still think the song is a masterpiece.

And the numero uno Jewbie Doobie Doo ditty of all time obviously, I can't believe you're even hocking me about this, has to be --

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

Yeah, Smokey Robinson wrote it (for The Contours, of "Do You Love Me?" fame), but it took five scrawny jewboys from Boston to do the definitive version of the definitively crass song about looking out for number one.

"A woman can be
As fine as can be.
With kisses sweet as honey.
But that don't mean a thing to me...
If she ain't got no money."

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

[Shamless Blogwhore: My parallel Xmas Cinemania -- featuring a certain rodent trio remaking their signature in the company of a band that played at Woodstock -- is now up over at Box Office, courtesy of our bud Dave™©. It being the holiday and all, it would really get me in good with management if you could see your way to going over there and leaving some sort of snarky little seasonal comment. Thanks!]

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's a Holly Jolly Xmas Early Clue to the New Direction!

From 1969, and their underrated Ballad of Easy Rider album -- featuring the late great Clarence White on lead guitar -- please enjoy the latter day Byrds and the original version of "Jesus is Just All Right."

Which is to say, before the Doobie Brothers got their greasy lank-haired mitts on the song and turned it into a sub-kitsch AM radio annoyance and bar band staple.

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

A Kinks Khristmas!

I wanted to celebrate the season by posting a holiday track from the Leopards' rare 1997 LP Kansas City Slickers. As is obvious, the Leopards were to the Kinks what the Spongetones were to the Beatles. This is one of many high points of the record, and I especially love the nice touch of the barrel house piano which neatly encapsulates the Kinks' music hall-inspired pop that we know and love.

Merry Crimbo to each and every one!

Worst. Richard. Thompson. Cover. Ever.

Okay, it's no secret that I have a highly inappropriate crush on Zooey Deschanel. And yes, I like some M. Ward stuff, which includes his work with Deschanel as She and Him.

But their version of Richard and Linda Thompson's brilliant "When I Get to the Border" just flat out sucks.

Not to mention it's all too much of a piece with most of the amateur hour vaguely psychedelic folk-rock crap that's currently fashionable with today's hepsters (I'm talking to you, Fleet Foxes!)

As for Ward's recent take on Buddy Holly's "Rave On," I haven't made up my mind yet.

The whole thing is a little deliberately sub-aquatic for my taste, and it seems to miss the fricking point of the song.

But sweet jeebus, at least it's more listenable than that Thompson cover...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wild Girls of the Road

So the other day, over at Box Office, I was musing about the forthcoming bio-pic on pioneering all-girl punk/glam rockers The Runaways, featuring Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie and the great Michael Shannon (from Revolutionary Road) as the group's creepy manager/Svengali Kim Fowley.

My basic take, based solely on the trailer and the fact that Jett exec-produced, is that this could be a very interesting flick, on a number of levels. But it dawned on me that I'm not sure if I ever saw the actual band live (maybe at CBGBs, although I'm not certain). And I couldn't remember if there was any decent video footage of them, either.

Turns out there is. This official video for the "Cherry Bomb" single, for starters.

They're not terribly good, are they? Although jeebus knows you can't take your eyes off of them.

In any case, I pulled out my old Stereo Review write-up of the the album, from 1976, and let's just say that there are things about it that haven't stood the test of time. Although I think dismissing the group as "Three Lavernes and two Shirleys" was kind of funny, if not necessarily to the point. In any case, no way I'm reprinting it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Okay, Perhaps Not One of My Most Popular Theories

From 1968: Here's singer/songwriter Joey Levine -- with uncredited studio musicians, their identities lost in the mists of time and history, doing business as The Ohio Express -- and the breakthrough bubblegum hit "Yummy Yummy Yummy."

And now perhaps you're wondering -- why did I post that?

Well, as you may have noticed, the above is a mono version, re-jiggered (at great personal expense) by my friend Steve Schwartz from the commercially available stereo album cut. With as much of the information on the right stereo channel removed as is technologically feasible.

Which is to say that most of the vocals are gone. So you that can hear, pretty much anyway, just the band. Whoever they were.

And as I've been telling people for decades now, to my ears, without the goofy singing, what's left is as tough a rock instrumental track as anybody has ever made. I'm talking Rolling Stones or Velvet Underground tough here.

Needless to say...turn it up?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bringing It All Back Home: A Journal of the Plague Year

Okay, this is yet another self-indulgent childhood story, but I hope you'll stick with me even though I've told a version of it before. Trust me -- there's a couple of audio kickers at the end that will make it worth your while.

So, as I've mentioned on a previous occasion or two, I was one of the gazillion kids back in the mid-Sixties who took a gawk at The Beatles on TV and thought, hey, that looks like fun. Unlike most of them, however, I was lucky enough to be in a garage band (we were called The Plagues ) whose guitar player had an uncle who ran a major New York City recording facility.

The place was called Associated Studios and it was located at Broadway and 48th, up the street from the legendary Brill Building, down from what's now the Ed Sullivan Theater (home of the David Letterman Show) and next door to what was then called the Metropole, which was the only topless joint in Manhattan at the time.

I knew the place was a big deal, of course, but at look at its Wiki entry has kind of floored me. Dig this partial(!) list of people who recorded there over the years.

Al Hirt, Al Martino, Albert Einstein(?!), Andy Williams, Art Garfunkel, Arthur Godfrey, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, Barry Mann, Bette Midler, Blood Sweat & Tears, Bo Diddley, Bobby "Boris" Pickett, Bobby Darin, Bobby Goldsboro, Brian Hyland, Bryan Adams, Burl Ives, Burt Bacharach, Buster Poindexter, Carole King, Cat Stevens, Connie Francis, Cy Coleman, Danny Kaye, Dee Dee Warwick, Dick Van Dyke, Dionne Warwick, Doc Pomus, Donnie Hathaway, Edye Gorme, Eleanor Steber, Ellie Greenwich, Elvis Costello, Ethel Merman, Fats Domino, Frank Sinatra, Gene Autry, Gerry Mulligan, Ginger Rogers, Gwen Verdon, Hal David, Hank Williams Jr., Henry Mancini, Herb Alpert, Herbie Hancock, Hoagy Carmicheal, Ike & Tina Turner, Jake LaMotta(??!!), Janis Ian, John Sebastian, John Wayne, Jonathan Winters, Julie Styne, Kay Starr, Kenny Rogers, King Curtis, Leslie Gore, Lieber & Stoller, Liza Minelli, Louis Jordan, Mary Ford, Mary Martin, Melba Moore, Mickey & Sylvia, Miles Davis, Mitch Miller, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Ornette Coleman, Oscar Brand, Oscar Peterson, Otis Blackwell, Pat Boone, Patti Duke, Patti Page, Paul Robeson, Paul Simon, Peggy Lee, Perry Como, Pete Fountain, Pete Seeger/The Weavers, Peter Criss, Peter Duchin, Peter Nero, Peter, Paul and Mary, Petula Clark, Pink Floyd, Polly Bergen, Pure Prairie League, Roberta Flack, Rocky Graziano, Rod McKuen, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Sheb Wooley, Shel Silverstein, Steely Dan, Steve Allen, Steve Lawrence, Teresa Brewer, Terry Bradshaw, The Belmonts, The Chipmunks, The Delfonics, The Four Lads, The Four Seasons, The Kalin Twins, The Ronettes, The Shirelles, Thelonious Monk, Tiny Tim, Tito Puente, Tom Glazer, Tommy Edwards, Vic Damone, Walter Carlos and Woody Guthrie.

Anyway, because (as I mentioned) the Plagues guitarist's uncle owned the joint, we used to go into the studio every couple of weeks and make demos of our own (obviously derivative) songs, which we got to take home on low-fi, scratchy and prone to breakage, 45rpm acetate discs (reel-to-reel tape was expensive, so they rarely gave us tape copies. And of course there were no cassettes yet).

The engineer on some of our sessions was a classic New York music biz type named Warren Schatz. A schlubby little guy 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 singles -- under the 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.

Cutting to the chase: Some time in the late spring of 1965 we recorded one of our originals at Associated -- a Beau Brummels -inspired ditty called "The Loss is Mine" -- that Warren/Ritchie liked enough to rewrite the lyrics to and demo himself (with us providing backup) a few weeks later. Shortly thereafter, our sessions at Associated basically ended as some of us 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. I also found a discography of the 60s singles released on Tower here; as you can see, although they include the complete ouevre of Ritchie Dean, "The Loss is Mine" is not among them.

Just found Warren/Ritchie via Facebook, and I'm happy to report he's alive and thriving. I was also stunned, a few weeks ago, to find this clip of him on YouTube, from a soft-core porn flick from 1966. At least he's not wearing the cap, thank god.

Okay, like I said, I've told this story before, but here are the promised kickers.

I long ago lost my copy of "The Loss is Mine," and I hadn't talked to bandmate Allan Weissman (a fellow Teaneck kid who wrote the tune) since our 20th high school reunion in '85. But thanks to Facebook, I recently re-hooked up with Al, and to my amazement he still had his. Even more amazing, it was still playable -- barely, and with hideous scratches, pops and clicks, but as it turned out ultimately salvageable by a brilliant engineer of my acquaintance who restored it to something very close to its original pristine state.

So here it is -- from probably the last surviving acetate (there were only five ever made, come to think of it).

Allan also had the improved backing track we did for the proposed Ritchie Deane version. I don't think I'd ever heard it, except on the long-ago day we actually cut the thing, but here it is as well. A pretty dramatic re-arrangement, and despite our tender years we almost sound like studio pros, I think. Note, in particular, that the one-fingered lick at the end of my piano solo on the first take has been replaced by a more effective moving bass riff.

Two final postscripts, just for the (er) record, as it were.

I'm prejudiced, of course, but as somebody who's listened to countless garage tracks from the period -- and lord knows, there are enough CDs of mediocre Kinks/Stones/Raiders/Byrds knockoffs by 60s teens currently available -- I've got to say that I think "The Loss is Mine" is as good as any I've ever heard. And better than a lot of them, including some that were actually released. Maybe it's simply a question of us ripping off a not so usual suspect, but despite the shall we say naive lyrics, the song is genuinely hooky, the harmonies are damned slick, and that shift from minor to major at the end is undeniably effective. I also love my piano solo, even the one-fingered bit, but like I said I'm prejudiced.

And to give credit where credit is due, the lineup on both tracks is me (keyboards), Peter Frankel (guitar), Allan Weissman (bass) and Alan Silvestri (drums). (Silvestri, incidentally, is today the Oscar-nominated composer of the scores to every Robert Zemeckis film of the last twenty years.) Vocals are by Allan, Pete and Larry Diehl (I lost track of Pete and Larry decades ago, but I just found Pete on and I've dropped him a line about this -- no answer, yet).

I should also add that Alan, Pete and Larry were all of 15 when we did the tracks; Allan and I were grizzled 17-year-olds.

Oh, and I should further add that the aforementioned brilliant engineer is named Steve Dworkin. Before he saved the Plagues acetates, Steve was working with the late Ellie Greenwich on digitizing her extensive archives of acetates and tapes dating back to the late 50s, which is to say he really knows his business. If you have a recorded artifact of your own that needs restoring, you can get in touch with him at

Friday, December 18, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special Les Syllables de Sinatra Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental danse de recouvrement consultant Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to....well, I'm not at liberty to say, but it involves Sen. Joe Lieberman (Ferengi-Conn.), several Great Danes, the chairman and board of Aetna Insurance, Vanessa del Rio and an IMAX film crew.

So posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a day or two.

But in the meantime, here's a hopefully fun little project for us all:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Song or Album with the Words "Do" or "Don't" in the Title!!!

No arbitrary rules of any kind, except it's got to be, uh, the words "do" or "don't." Not "does." And not "doesn't." Sorry -- I realize that disqualifies a bunch of good songs, but that way lies anarchy.

And my totally top of my head Top Eight is:

8. The Police -- De Do Do Do De Da Da Da

Hey, what can I tell you -- I just don't think that Sting is the devil. Sorry.

7. Liquorice John Death -- Everything I Do is Wrong

Yup, that's Procol Harum in 1970; producer Chris Thomas got them drunk and then took them into the studio one evening to cut an informal bunch of the rock and r&b songs they had played in sleazy early 60s dives when they were billed as The Paramounts. The droll song itself is by Charlie Rich, from his Sun Records rockabilly period, BTW.

6. Marshall Crenshaw -- What Do You Dream Of?

An overlooked pop gem from an equally overlooked gem of a 90s album. I defy you not to sing along with the chorus.

5. Dionne Warwick -- Don't Make Me Over

Along with "You Don't Own Me," I suspect this is the way every teenage girl in the 60s really wanted to talk to her boyfriend. And probably should have. In any case, yet another brilliant Bacharach/David song.

4. The Animals -- Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

A Nina Simone cover and, dare I say it, an improvement on the genius original. I actually do a pretty decent solo piano and vocal version of this, although I'd have to have a couple of drinks in me before I'd dare to do it for anybody.

3. The Rolling Stones -- Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)

Goats Heads Soup is pretty weak beer compared to the three Stones albums that preceded it, but this track from it holds up pretty well, I think, and I bet some smart modern band could get a hit out of a remake. Send the royalties to me care of our PayPal account. And I don't want to hear any crap about the extra "o"'s.

2. The Killers -- Don't Shoot Me Santa

As I've said for the last few weeks, I think these guys are basically mediocre, but this way I get to post something recorded in this century, which I think is a good idea. Plus, it does seem there isn't a Listomania theme so obscure that we can't find one of their songs to exemplify it. Hey -- better them than Billy Corgan's pretentious cueball noggin again, right?

And the numero uno doobie doobie do(o) song of them all, it's blatantly fricking obvious, has got to be...

1. The Move -- Do Ya

The original, of course, and none of that ELO shit. Seriously, I'm glad Jeff Lynne ultimately had a hit with this, but it's criminal that the Move didn't get it first.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: next disreputable genre film Quentin Tarantino should remake -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, it will really help me out with management if you could go over there and leave a comment, snarky or otherwise. Thanks!]

Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Early and Somewhat Hirsute Clue to the New Direction

From 1974, please enjoy former biker band The Doobie Brothers and their then ubiquitous and today (to my ears) annoying "China Grove."

As always, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded the first listener who gleans the clip's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

And Years Later, People Actually Thought Bryan Ferry's "Dance Away" Was a Big Deal

True fact: Whenever I'm particularly depressed and blue, there are two things that never fail to cheer me up.

The first is watching Woody Allen's Love and Death. "A puckish satire of contemporary mores" indeed.

The second is listening to the late Phil Seymour's cover of Bobby Fuller's 60s classic "Let Her Dance."

I was actually going to post the Fuller original with this for a compare and contrast, but on reflection it seemed superfluous; Phil's version manages to be both a note for note recreation of the original and yet sound even better. Funny that.

In any case, I can't think of a record that more reliably raises my spirits. Something about that perfect guitar riff and just the right three chords, I imagine. And also because the protagonist of the song sounds so almost heroically resigned to the fact of his seriously broken heart.

What can I tell you? -- I'm a romantic.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nude Descending a Blogpost

Kind of OT, and apologies for the plugola, but if you're on the West Side of Manhattan tomorrow and feel like being a patron of the arts, you should check out the opening of my bud Rick Poston's new photo show.

Seriously, Rick's earlier work is exquisite, and this new stuff is supposed to be much larger-scaled, which bodes well. In any case, Jadite Gallery is a very comfortable space, there'll be drinkable wine galore, and some very cool people in attendance. Plus me.

Compare and Contrast: Gone to My Baby's Head

From 1961, please enjoy the wonderfully mush-mouthed, laid-back and squeaky stylings of Jimmy Reed and his immortal ode to a downhome girlfriend going uptown for a walk on the wild side, "Bright Lights, Big City."

And then from 1963 and their quite amazing IBC demo sessions (pre-the first album, produced and engineered by the great Glyn Johns), ponder The Rolling Stones apotheosis of the Chicago Blues-style cover version.

And, finally, from 1965, here's The Animals, featuring the tremendous organ phrases of Alan Price, and their sort-of jazzy revamp of the tune.

I love all three of these, but I've mostly had a soft spot for the Stones version, which I heard for the first time on the bootleg pictured above in 1973; I was stunned then, and still am, that a bunch of pimply Brit kids had that Chess Records vibe down so absolutely cold.

That said, on revisiting the Animals take, I'm unexpectedly impressed. It verges on, dare I say it, pop, doesn't it? And those rhythmic shifts are really clever...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Screw Health Care Reform, At Least There's Some Good News Today!

The 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were just announced. Jimmy Cliff, The Stooges, ABBA, and Genesis all made the cut, and deservedly so.

And so did The Hollies. Finally.

You know -- the guys who recorded "Look Through Any Window."

One of the most perfect powerpop records ever made. And they had lots more just as good.

Here's the Rolling Stone story; Graham Nash is going to appear with the Hollies for the first time since 1983, and it looks like Peter Gabriel will be onstage as well.

In Search Of Eddie Riff: Part XXVII (Approx.)

From 1968, here's one of Paul McCartney's most winsome conributions to The Beatles' White Album -- "I Will."

And from a decade later, here's Boston's finest (give or take a few) The Cars and their breakthrough hit "My Best Friend's Girl," from their eponymous debut album.

This isn't exactly a secret, but the cool little guitar figures at the end of the chorus/title lines of both these songs are pretty much identical, and yes, I think it's a deliberate homage on Cars guitarist Eliot Easton's part.

Anyway, like I said, not exactly a secret, but I really really like both of 'em, so what the hell.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Screaming Comes Across the Sky...

From 1952, please enjoy Spike Jones and the City Slickers and their, er, remarkable version of "Deep Purple."

That's a fairly obscure Jones track, and I first heard it on the compilation above, from 1994; believe it or not, it was released on Catalyst, RCA's now defunct (I think) avant-garde classical subsidiary. Tim Page (a former NYTimes classical crit who ran the label) tried to package Jones as a sort of post-modernist before the term existed, which is not as far-fetched as it might initially sound, and in any case there was a lot of that kind of stuff going around at the time, if you'll recall things like Warner's The Carl Stalling Project and the concurrent Raymond Scott revival.

In any case, they got none other than Thomas Pynchon to write the liner notes for the collection, and while on balance it was a swell essay, I'm not sure I agreed with every point.

From the notes:
Jones's music "will require the sort of listener who either wants to wince in embarassment or can find in vintage bigotry quaint refuge from the more virulent forms encountered in our own era...'Deep Purple,' featuring Paul Frees's impression of Billy Eckstine, will offend Afro-Americans because the singer keeps nodding off, implying narcolepsy not in the public interest."

Maybe this is one of those rare occasions when I'm actually too young to get something, but I really don't hear the above as racially offensive, and in any case, most people listening to it today will probably have no idea that it's a parody of a once famous black crooner. To me, it's just an incredibly relaxed singer trying to sing a sleepy ballad without nodding off, which is kind of intrinsically funny, and I suspect it was back in '52 as well.

On the other hand, Pynchon's a genius, so who am I to argue?

I should also add that Paul Frees, who sings the above, was of course the absolutely brilliant comic impressionist and actor today most famous for having provided the voice of Boris Badenov on Rocky and Bullwinkle, but who worked with Spike Jones a lot. That's him below doing the Peter Lorre parody on my personal favorite Jones track, "My Old Flame."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special If We're All One, Who Needs You? Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental Unendurable-Pleasure-Indefinitely-Prolonged consultant Fah Lo Suee and I will be heading to ...oh, screw it. I can't bring myself to do another Tiger Woods joke. Let's just say I'm off to somewhere to do something and let it go at that.

In any case, posting by moi will be sporadic for a couple of days at least.

But in the meantime, here's a fun little project for us all:

Best Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Song or Album With the Word "You" in the Title!!!

No arbitrary rules this time, except that it's got to be a song or album title with, uh, you know -- the word "you."

Not "your". Not "you'll." Not "You've." I could go on, but "you" get the point. Hah hah.

Okay, that said, my totally top of my head Top Eight is:

8. Candy Butchers -- You Belong to Me Now

There is a small sub-species of humanity, to which I occasionally claim membership, which believes this to be the single most beautiful song written in the English lanuage in the first nine years of the 21st century. Just saying.

7. The Lovin' Spoonful -- You Baby

A Ronettes cover of all things, and one of several tracks from their first album that served notice that the Spoonful weren't just a revivalist blues and jug band.

5. Bobby Fuller Four -- Love's Made a Fool of You

The Buddy Holly classic, of course, and an all but perfect mix of winsome melodicism and what we used to call The Big Beat. Proto (approaching full-bore) power pop, obviously.

5. The Dickies -- You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla)

Ah -- a twofer. Actually, there are some days I think these guys were the greatest punk band ever; no question they were the funniest. Now excuse me -- I gotta go listen to "Gigantor" and their cover of "Nights in White Satin" right this minute.

4. U2 -- All Because of You

Okay, Bono can be a bit much, and U2 will never be my favorite band, but let's be honest -- when these guys are good they're great. Case in point: This "love song to the Who."

3. The Turtles -- You Showed Me

A really wonderful pre-first Byrds album Gene Clark/Jim McGuinn song, given a sumptuous pop sheen by the once and future Flo and Eddie and company. Those sighing strings are just gorgeous.

2. The Killers -- Smile Like You Mean It

As I'm sure I've noted previously, I'm not crazy about this band in general, and jeebus, this song in particular is about as derivative as it gets (embarrassingly so, if truth be told). Nevertheless, it gives me a second entry actually recorded in the current decade, which I think is always a good idea. Especially since The Killers seem to have replaced Billy Corgan's pretentious cueball noggin as my running gag of choice.

And the numero uno song featuring the "y" pronoun, make no mistake about it this is the one, absolutely, is --

1. Los Shakers -- Always You

Said it before and I'll say it again -- this is the most perfect Beatles record the Beatles never made. Swoonerama, from stem to stern.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: Best or Worst Big or Small-Screen Action Babe Heroine of All Time! -- is now up over at Box Office. During this holiday season, it would definitely help if you could go over there and post a comment, thus convincing my employer that I'm worth the exorbitant and lavish lifestyle-sustaining freenlance fee I'm pulling down. Thanks!!!]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

If It's Thursday, It Must Be a Whimsical Early Clue to the New Direction

Okay, here's a brief but hilarious snippet from The Firesign Theatre's 1970 masterpiece Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.

From You-TV, for You The Viewer, please enjoy the intro to a late-night airing of the Paranoid Pictures classic High School Madness! Starring Dave Casman as Porgy and Joe Berkman as Mudhead.

Seriously, if you've never heard this album it not only lives up to its hype as the Sgt. Pepper of comedy, but it's also one of the few counter-cultural artifacts of its day that's still fresh as paint. And laugh out loud funny, obviously.

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

When the World is Running Down...

Apparently Devo was right -- we really are devolving.

I mean, back in 2007 I was contemplating diva du jour Amy Winehouse and hoping she didn't kill herself...

...and now here I am, a mere two years, later contemplating diva du jour Lady Gaga...

...and hoping I don't kill myself.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

About Fucking Time. Now When Are They Going to Knight Ray Davies?

From the NME: Finally -- a bio-pic on The Kinks.

A movie about British band The Kinks is set to go into production. Tentatively titled You Really Got Me, the film is set to explore the rocky relationship between bandmates and brothers Ray and Dave Davies. Directed by the film and music video director Julien Temple, who has previously directed documentaries about The Sex Pistols and Glastonbury, Ray Davies will be involved in the project.

"At the heart of it is the extraordinary love-hate relationship between these two brothers: love/hate, sibling rivalry is at the core," Temple told Screen Daily. "I think it's a very rich social, cultural nexus around The Kinks. Their story is the untold story of all those big bands of the 1960s."

The cast for the film or a potential release date is yet to be announced.

In related, and sad, Kinks news -- session drummer Bobby Graham, who played on "You Really Got Me" and scads of other Brit classics, including Dusty Springfield's "I Only Wanna Be With You," and Them's "Gloria"(!) has died at age 69.

Compare and Contrast (An Occasional Series): Q You!

Okay, we may be reaching a point where the differences are of such a rarefied nature that only dogs can hear them, but indulge me on this one because I really love the song.

From 1978, and their fabulous At Yankee Stadium, please enjoy the great NRBQ and their prescient and infectious sort-of stab at a New Wave pop record, "I Want You Bad." Written and sung by genius keyboard player Terry Adams.

And here, from their wonderful 1996 concert album Tokyo, it's the Q again with an amazingly ragged but right live version.

And finally, from 2001, here's exceptionally smart almost-alt-country-guy-passing-for-mainstream Charlie Robison and a terrific modern studio re-make. With the tune's Nuevo Wavo powerpop roots made a wee bit more explicit.

If pressed, I think my favorite is the live version; I just love the way the band sounds like they're falling apart at the beginning before settling into their customary monster groove. But all three are great, I think.

Incidentally, Robison's a really interesting guy -- one of these days I'm going to have to put up his "Desperate Times," from the same 2001 album. Not only is it one of the best and most mordant story songs of recent years, it's also a full-on killer Stratocaster epic, as close to Television as it is to the country-rock you'd expect.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Garage Bands of the Gods

Our younger readers will have to take this on faith, but unlikely as it now seems, it is ineluctable fact that in the immediate wake of The Beatles and the original British Invasion, every town, village or municipality in this great land of ours also boasted at least one garage band formed in emulation of the English and American acts we were seeing on TV. Some of these teen combos -- which seemed to spring up almost literally overnight -- were pretty good (and some of their members would go on to real musical careers), some of them were mediocre, but most important, some of them -- if they had affluent parents -- were able to sport the same clothing and equipment that the bands on The Ed Sullivan Show were wearing and using.

Oh, and (of course) many of these groups also recorded one-shot singles, featuring their own songs, for local labels, which is why there are now something like five zillion CD compilations with titles like Wails From the Crypt: Fulton County Garage and Punk 1964-67.

Anyway, like I said, almost every town in the country had a band like I've just described, but for me the one that best exemplified the ethos (or the movement, or what have you) is the one that ruled the area around Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois, when I was a college freshman. To wit: The Bryds. As in The Byrds, but with the letters cleverly reversed so that it was pronounced The Brides. Heh heh.

Not to mince words, but these guys were pretty much considered gods in the neighborhood, and when I finally went to see them -- at a dance at Waukegan High School (Waukegan being Jack Benny's old home town, BTW) sometime in late '65 I was pretty much blown away. The Bryds had the hair, the musicianship, the attitude, the Vox amplifiers, and -- have I mentioned? -- the attitude; they may not have been The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, but as far as the several hundred kids crowded into that high school gym that night were concerned, they might as well have been. Like I said, I was blown away -- and yes, jealous as hell, given my own participation in a bunch of rather not so great bands at the time.

In between sets, I also bought a copy of the band's indie 45 (see below), which I believe was getting airplay on AM radio powerhouse WLS at the time, although I may have dreamed that. Alas, I lost my copy sometime in the late 70s; I have since learned that it's fetched between five and eight hundred bucks on eBay.

As you can hear, the song makes all the right obeisances to The Kinks and Paul Revere and the Raiders, which is the game that was being played at the time; in any case, I remember that a live version of it went down a storm at the show I attended. I also remember that half way through the band's set, a circle of kids suddenly formed and in the center were two angry teenage girls going at it on the floor tooth and nail. This was the first time I ever saw what they used to call a cat fight, actually, and to say I was somewhat taken aback by the experience would be an understatement.

Incidentally, I had always assumed The Bryds were, in fact, from the extremely well-to-do suburb of Lake Forest, but Jim Stanley, brother and sometimes bandmate of Bryds frontman Bob Stanley, has informed me that this was the not exactly the case.

"So far, everything I've read about the Bryds has had wrong information. But NO, they weren't from Lake Forest. The original 5 piece group had two guys from North Chicago, one from Waukegan, one from Deerfield, and one from either Libertyville or Lake Forest."

I stand corrected.

Okay, for more information on The Byrds and their various off-shoots over the years (and it turns out that there were lots of them, and some pretty interesting ones at that), check out the official homepage over here.

Jim has also asked me to mention that you can listen to a few tracks from Bob's new CD Roadman's Hammer -- and order the whole thing, of course -- over at his myspace page.

Done. And thanks for the memories, guys. You totally rocked.

Monday, December 07, 2009

If it Weren't For These Guys, Obama Wouldn't Be President

It's official -- the greatest rock song of the decade is, without question, by The Dirtbombs.

From their 2004 album, Dangerous Magical Noise, please enjoy the obviously sublime on so many levels "I'm Through With White Girls."

Seriously, these guys are what Arthur Lee and Love probably would have sounded like if they'd been born twenty years later and in Detroit instead of LA. Come to think of it, between them and their contemporaries/pals The Detroit Cobras, I'd be hard pressed to think of a better rock band anywhere.