Friday, August 31, 2012
To wit, premiering at the festival will be a restored director's cut of Michael Cimino's controversial 80s mega-flop Heaven's Gate, a film that I have been insisting -- for years, to anyone who would listen -- is a misunderstood masterpiece.
What is NOT controversial about the film, of course, is that it features an absolutely gorgeous Americana score by former Bob Dylan collaborator David Mansfield (seen below as the fiddler).
Also premiering at the festival (which begins Septmember 29th) is the director’s cut of Frank Oz’s adaptation of the off-Broadway rock musical hit Little Shop of Horrors, including the original, apocalyptic, talking-plants-eat-the-world ending (plant voice courtesy of Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs). To which I can only say -- woo hoo!
And, most intriguingly, look for the world premiere of a restored version of Charlie Is My Darling, Peter Whitehead’s documentary of the Rolling Stones’ two-day tour of Ireland in 1965.
Really crappy video prints of that one have been circulating for years, but apparently the restoration -- supervised by the same folks who did the Stones' Rock and Roll Circus film -- is pretty impressive, and includes previously unseen footage.
Tickets for all of the above go on sale (on-line, obviously) on September 9th; we are informed that the Stones themselves may attend the opening night screening of Charlie.
I should also add, for those of you outside the New York City area, that both the restored Heaven's Gate and the Stones documentary will make their DVD and Blu-ray debuts in early November, the former via Criterion and the latter courtesy of ABKCO.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Our hearts are broken, obviously, but it's something of a consolation to remember that he had a really great life and that he enriched ours immeasurably. Really, when all is said and done, you can't ask for much more than that.
Monday, August 27, 2012
That's Ollie being an absolute champ at the vet, in November of 2010, in preparation for the radiation therapy that gave him almost two extra years of a rich full life.
I should add that during the week he stayed at the clinic, he was live on a webcam for eight hours every day, and he became something of an internet video cult figure. I would get early morning e-mails from people all over the country saying "He's up! SHOWTIME!!!"
In any case, regular music posting by me won't resume around here until my heart starts to break a little less than it's breaking at the moment.
But I just want you guys to know that both Wendy and I really appreciate all the good thoughts you've been sending Ollie's way since last week.
Friday, August 24, 2012
Steve tells me he did it for a covers EP that was included with an album release on Kool Kat some years ago, mostly as an exercise to see if he could reproduce certain 60s production styles; I'd say he came up with something a bit better than that mission statement suggests. His album pictured above is of more recent vintage and you can find out more about it, and check out more of Steve's music, over at his MySpace page here.
Have I mentioned that we have some really talented readers?
Thursday, August 23, 2012
But first a little backstory, as in when I wrote about them two years ago.
Okay, as anybody who's read the poor scribblings here for any length of time knows, I am, essentially, older than dirt. In many ways, I remind myself of that geriatric wreck in Stephen King's Salem's Lot who tells a younger character "Rock-and-roll? Wonderful stuff. At my age, it's the only music I can actually hear."
Anyway, as a result, my forays into the stygian underground clubs and low dives where (presumably) real rock-and-roll continues to gestate have of late been few and far between. In fact, I now mostly, necessarily, depend on World's Most Irksome Rock Critic Jon Caramanica of the NY Times to keep me up to date on what is hep and happening. Or as a character in The Big Sleep says, "it's a nice state of affairs when a man has to indulge his vices by proxy."
But I digress.
All the above notwithstanding, however, a couple of weeks ago I found myself in attendance at an old fashioned local Battle of the Bands, hosted by some NYC radio station. This was at the Highline Ballroom, a newish Manhattan club that is actually clean and comfortable, with great sound, unobstructed sight-lines no matter where you sit or stand, and very good and reasonably priced food; I strongly recommend the Kobe burgers.
But I digress again.
I actually forget what group some friends had dragged me there to see (I do recall that they made little impression on me, whoever they were) but my eyes and ears definitely pricked up at the group that followed.
A drummer dressed as a Chinese coolie. A bass player who looked like a member of Love had he been abducted by George Clinton's Mothership. A guitarist (quite a purveyor of hot licks, incidentally) wearing Mel Gibson's old costume from The Road Warrior. And two singers. The first wearing a three piece suit, smoking a stogie, and basically doing Ron Perlman in Hellboy. The second in traditional leather-pantsed metal drag, with a slight gut but otherwise so alarmingly thin that one presumed a stiff breeze could break him in two; imagine your high school guidance counselor living out a fantasy of being Rob Halford from Judas Priest, and you pretty much have the idea.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Brooklyn's Finest -- King Hell.
As a rule, King Hell's brand of metal/funk hybrid isn't my cup of tea, but their show that night was just so smart, kinetic and funny that I was totally won over (although it's at least possible that the flashing-light red plastic devil horns they passed out to the crowd clouded my judgement). In any case, they had lots of original songs as cool as the one in the above video, and near the end of their set, they did to Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" what I have always hoped somebody would do to Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf." And when the show was over, I knew for a fact that the band had completely rocked my socks off (or would have, had not my garter belts been tightly affixed).
All in all, then, I can only paraphrase what Jack Nicholson once said of Bob Dylan: These guys are a riot.
And a final word for anybody out there who toils at a major record label: Sign these guys right now. They're practically a license to print money.
Well, no record company took my advice since I wrote the above, but I stand by every word. Meanwhile, I received the following missive from King Hell's estimable frontman Sam Walters (a/k/a Samael):
This Thursday, DRIVEN MAD (successor to King Hell) will unleash the first two tracks from their upcoming EP Disorder! The tracks will be streamable on the DRIVEN MAD Facebook page, also launching Thursday. This has been a loooooong time comin’, and we appreciate your support and patience while we got this shit together. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed… well, except those of you who were hoping we’d go in a lighter, kinder direction. You people are fucked.
The last two tracks from the EP will be released the following week--and we plan on consistently pummeling you with new music from here on!
I'd take him up on that if I were you. Satan only knows what he might do to you if you don't.
Oh, and if you e-mail me nicely, I'll be happy to send you an mp3 of that King Hell version of "Hungry Like the Wolf," which is, frankly, a work of genius.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Floor Your Love, the album my early 80s skinny tie band The Floor Models would have made had somebody been nuts enough to sign us back in the day, is now available for digital download at Amazon. And iTunes (momentarily).
Compiling this project has been a labor of love on my part going back for almost two years and swear to god, I can barely breathe now that it's come to fruition.
A couple of points before I pass out.
The songs on the album were recorded between 1982-88 under various and sundry circumstances (studio, live, primitive home demos, etc) and there are two covers amongst them -- a blistering club version of The Records' power pop classic "Hearts in Her Eyes" and a semi-live take on ABBA's "S.O.S" that we did at WBAI-FM. I'm prejudiced, obviously, but I think all the stuff holds up rather well.
We're also in the process of pressing 100 actual CD copies of the album (with a back cover, detailed credits and a disc graphic pushing the retro 60s LP shtick even a little further)...
...and they'll be available, gratis, for friends and press ASAP. Assuming there are more than 100 people crazy enough to want a copy, we'll run off another batch as soon as we can.
Also, you'll note that you can purchase each of the 19 tracks individually. This makes little economic sense, of course, so I suggest you buy the whole thing as a package. Especially given that we're selling it for a lousy $8.99.
Or to paraphrase Chico Marx in A Day at the Races, don't be a crunger for nine bucks.
I would also like to say to my bandmates Gerry Devine, Andy "Folk-Rock" Pasternack and Glen "Bob" Allen: You guys were and are the best, and I look back on our time playing music together as the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on. Plus -- a big shout-out to the beautiful and brilliant Wendy Cohen (for the album art and title concept) and to the irrepressible and debonair Steve Schwartz (for an amazing job of audio restoration on some very dicey old tapes); it is probably worth noting that both of them worked extremely cheap.
Finally, I should add that when I say this is the album we would have made back in the day had somebody been nuts enough to sign us, that's actually an interesting story. Let's just stipulate that I still haven't forgiven Paul Simon for poaching producer/engineer Roy Halee for some crappy project called Graceland at the last minute; get me drunk sometime and I'll tell you the whole sad tale.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
From his second (1970) album -- and the soundtrack to the astounding 2012 documentary Searching for Sugar Man -- here's recently rediscovered singer/songwriter Rodriguez and his hilarious and poetic "A Most Disgusting Song."
Unlike the first Rodgriguez LP, which was produced in his home town of Detroit by Dennis Coffey, of Motown's legendary Funk Brothers fame, this one was recorded in London with some amazing Brit session guys. Including -- on this cut -- the remarkable Chris Spedding on guitar.
As in Chris Spedding who played on records by everybody from Donovan to the Sex Pistols.
In any case, I'm still trying to figure out why Rodriguez never got airplay on FM rock stations back in the day.
Seriously -- in New York City at least, can anybody tell me why Rosko or Alison Steele (The Nightbird) didn't play this stuff?
Monday, August 20, 2012
Making his American network television debut on the Letterman show last week, it's 70 year old(!) singer/songwriter Rodriguez -- star of that Searching for Sugar Man documentary I bugged you about recently -- with the quite amazing "Crucify Your Mind."
Has a real Forever Changes vibe, now that I think of it.
In any event, if Searching for Sugar Man is playing anywhere remotely near your neighborhood, run, do not walk, to see it; it's very rare that a music film also doubles as a brilliant real life mystery story AND an affirmation of the human spirit.
Friday, August 17, 2012
Have a great weekend, and light a metaphorical candle for Ollie, if you can.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
But in the mean time, please enjoy -- if that's precisely the word -- Marianne Faithfull covering Dylan's "Visions of Johanna."
From Rich Kid Blues. Which may be the best covers album ever made, BTW, but that's a story for another day.
Click here to listen.
And I should add that if you've read Marianne's autobiography, you'll particularly enjoy the ironies.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
And one of the high points was a mini-reunion of my college rock band...
...who hadn't been together in the same room for over 40 years.
This was what we sounded like the last time we got together in a recording studio (in 1969 -- covering Marvin Gaye's "One More Heartache.")
And the best part of the story is that after we broke up, the singer and the drummer (the tall guy in the recent picture) fell in love, married, and now have two great adult kids, including a daughter who's a serious Leftie lawyer.
In any case, as I said -- Sunday was as lovely a summer's afternoon as I have ever spent. I hope everybody reading my poor scribblings here over the years has one at least as nice someday.
Monday, August 13, 2012
That being the case, let me begin by offering you all a good cheap laugh at my expense with this photo of me (wearing a really stupid Bruce Springsteen cap) backstage at My Father's Place in Roslyn, NY. With Lucy [sister of Carly] Simon (seated on the floor) and a bunch of other folks who comprised the Lucy Simon Band at the time (Thanksgiving, 1975).
I was playing highly inadequate lead guitar in said ensemble...
...the other folks included a couple of my old high school garage band chums and Jerry Marrotta, a very nice guy and thorough-going pro who went on to be the drummer for Orleans. I won't bring up that album cover in which he and the rest of Orleans are posed shirtless, but I'm sure you remember it.
Okay, yes I will bring it up.
Good lord, that's hideous.
In any case, for this particular four day engagement, we were the opening act for Aztec
I knew Aztec
Seriously, the mere thought of that song made me want to smack them on sight on numerous occasions, although cooler heads prevailed. In any case, as far as I was concerned these guys made Zager and Evans sound like Marx and Engels.
Anyway, on the first night of the billing, said Aztec
I was standing in the wings, smoking a cigarette, and (unbeknownst to them) I overheard their manager talking to them in words to this effect: "Hey -- Rex, Neal; that guitarist with Lucy is a rock critic. Be as nice to him as possible and maybe he'll say nice things about the album."
And for the next three days, they kissed my ass with passionate intensity. Although to me, of course, it felt like transparent smarmy insincerity.
Also, of course, they never realized that I was smirking inside every time they waxed obsequious.
And needless to say, I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. A lot.
And no, I didn't go on to say something nice about the album, although I did write about the experience (sans reference to Aztec
Friday, August 10, 2012
And the blah blah thing just means that I'm tired and I have no joke this week. Seriously, I'm pooped. (Although I'm actually pleased that I finally figured out how to use the new Blogger so that I don't have to manually insert paragraph breaks. Seriously, what a drag that was.)
Ih any event, that being the case, here's a fun and hopefully relevant little project with an amusing subtext that we can all get behind while I take a long and well deserved nap:
TOP TEN MOST IMPORTANT AMERICAN ROCK BANDS OF THE SIXTIES!!!
No arbitrary rules, except that no solo artists or folk duos need apply -- sorry Bob, sorry Paul, sorry Artie etc.
And no singing/vocal groups either. Which means that if you nominate any of the Motown acts other than Jr. Walker and the All-Stars I am going to taunt you mercilessly. We're talking bands here -- with people who, like, play guitars and drums and stuff. Okay? Okay.
And yes, we may have done this one a couple of years ago, but if Hollywood can remake Total Recall then for heaven's sake I'm entitled to recycle as well.
And my totally top of my head Top Ten, in no particular order except for Number One, is/are:
10: The Rascals
Blue-eyed soul. Nobody did it better and with more rock attitude.
9: The MC5
"The American Ruse" indeed, and it's really quite horrific that this song hasn't dated a whit. Although Jon Landau's production still (characteristically) sucks.
8: The Velvet Underground
Nelson Algren meets the Rolling Stones. If you think that anybody at the moment is doing something as innovative, gutsy and avant-garde, please e-mail me at Just Blow Me.Com. Thank you.
7: The Blues Project
"I Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometimes" [remastered, from Blues Project Anthology]
Maybe you had to be there, but these guys were among the most exciting live acts I've ever seen. And they sounded EXACTLY like this in person.
6: Jefferson Airplane
"She Has Funny Cars" [Live at the Cafe Au Go Go 4/3/67 bootleg]
America's loudest band. I was actually at this show, so I know what I'm talking about.
5: Moby Grape
"Omaha" [unedited version without fadeout]
The greatest debut album in all of American rock. And the two that followed were pretty damned good, too.
4: Buffalo Springfield
"Baby Don't Scold Me" [currently unavailable stereo version from Buffalo Springfield -- vinyl rip]
Don't even get me started on the fact that the reunion tour is probably over and didn't make it to the East Coast. I may take a hostage.
3: Paul Revere and the Raiders
"Him or Me (What's It Gonna Be)" [stereo remix from The Essential Ride 1963-67]
Seriously, that's it.
2/1 (IT'S A TIE): The Beach Boys and The Byrds
"Please Let Me Wonder" [unreleased stereo mix from Beach Boys Today]
"Mr. Tambourine Man" [Jim Dickson stereo mix from Never Before]
The short version? Apart from everything else, both the Beach Boys and Byrds invented a sound. Hell, a genre. Very few people in music history can make that claim.
And before somebody goes "What -- Paul Revere and not The Band?", let me just say the The Band would have been my number 11, and that -- heretical as the judgement may be -- they have never really rocked hard enough for me. Sorry.
And also, before somebody brings up The Grateful Dead, let me just say that while it's hardly a secret that I am not now and have never been a fan, I would nonetheless submit that the albums on which their reputation mostly rests -- American Beauty and Workingman's Dead -- were both released in the 70s. And that their work prior to that was mostly along the lines of a fairly meh white blues band with a mildly irritating experimental bent.
Alrighty, then -- what would YOUR choices be?
Thursday, August 09, 2012
Okay, if you've been hanging around here for any length of time, you are doubtless aware of my fondness for the work of The (Young) Rascals.
However, even a crazed fan like myself would be hard put to characterize their music as the sort of thing that is normally our purview, i.e. power pop. That said, I happened to hear the Rascals' "See" (which may have been their last major chart hit, if memory serves) on the radio somewhere the other day and I thought -- hey, that sounds kind of like the stuff that Todd Rundgren did later with Nazz.
Which is to say that, yeah, "See" is of course your basic piece of AM radio psychedelia, but given the riffage and stuff, it almost verges on power pop territory; in fact, you could do a pretty seamless segue out of the song and into "Open My Eyes." Or vice versa, come to think of it.
In any case, a coveter PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who gleans the song's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Okay, I have no further reason to remain living.
By which I mean, I have found an illegal download link for the first two albums by early 70s soft-rock schmuck icons Batdorf and Rodney.
John Batdorf & Mark Rodney were signed by Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records, the same day as The Rolling Stones, in the next room. Ahmet took a personal interest in the Batdorf & Rodney sound, and guided their career.
Download the albums Ahmet felt so strongly about here. If you dare.
And now -- I'm done.
Okay, I'm mostly kdding, but this really frightens me.
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Okay, so I understand I'm incredibly old and not remotely hep any more, but I gotta tell you -- I simply do not understand how I hadn't even heard of Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem (whose fourth album/major label debut is kind of a big deal all of a sudden) until a profile in The New York Times' magazine two Sundays ago.
This despite the fact that -- as I discovered from this clip of the band performing on the David Letterman show recently -- their music is clearly designed with my mind in mind.
From the Times piece:
Brian Fallon, the scruffy frontman for The Gaslight Anthem, keeps a notebook in which he writes down major events in the band’s history. “It’s one sentence — like, this happened here,” he says. For example, an entry from June 2009: Bruce Springsteen joins the band onstage at the Glastonbury Festival in England. Fallon was walking up the ramp to the stage when Springsteen grabbed his shoulder and asked if he could play with them on “that ‘ ’59 Sound’ song,” the title track from the band’s breakthrough album. “I think I know the chords!” he told Fallon. It was the Jersey-rock version of being knighted. “We got offstage, ” Fallon remembers, “and I said to myself, ‘I don’t think people will view us the same after this.’ ”
The next night, Springsteen was playing an outdoor concert in Hyde Park, and he invited Fallon onstage to sing with him. “I’ve never seen Bruce with a bigger smile on his face singing with a young man,” says the rock historian Matt Pinfield, a fellow Jersey boy and Gaslight fan. “Because even Bruce knows Brian’s the heir apparent.”
Seriously -- I hear some Replacements and Clash as well as The Boss in there, but whatever. These guys seem to be the real fricking deal.
And again -- WHY WASN'T I INFORMED OF THIS??????
Monday, August 06, 2012
From our Department of A Picture Really is Worth 1000 Words, But I'll Keep It Somewhat Briefer:
From sometime in the 1930s, here's a truly amazing photo of none other than James Cagney playing -- and I'd say with a pretty fair degree of skill from the look of it -- a gorgeous Martin C-2 guitar.
What I wouldn't give to know what kind of music he was essaying here. Country music a la Jimmie Rogers? Some of kind of blues or folk, in a Woody Guthrie-esque vein?
And before you scoff, that kind of cultural assimilationism isn't particularly far-fetched. In fact, in one of his early pre-Code films (where he was playing a cab driver, if memory serves) Cagney -- who grew up on New York's Lower East Side -- can be heard speaking highly credible and fluent Yiddish. Go figure.
[h/t Buddy Zech]
Friday, August 03, 2012
So a certain shady dame and I checked out director Malik Bendjelloul's astounding new documentary Searching for Sugar Man the other day, and I have three words.
See. It. Immediately.
Of course, since it's currently only playing in theaters in New York and L.A., this may prove difficult, but even so, I'm not letting you guys off the hook.
I repeat -- See. It. Immediately.
In any case, as you may have gleaned from the trailer, Searching for Sugar Man is a music flick, a real-life detective story, a meditation on class and the transience of celebrity, and about a zillion other wonderful things. Plus it's very funny, it'll bring a tear or two to your eye, and it'll make you an instant fan of the music and the man at the heart of it.
Seriously -- it's like Anvil! The Story of Anvil if Anvil had turned out to be absolutely brilliant, charismatic and an inspiration to literally millions of people in the fight against oppression, rather than just a bunch of endearing doofuses.
I can't say much more about the film without giving away a lot of its secrets, which would ruin the fun, but this bit from the review in the N.Y. Times gets it just right:
Mr. Bendjelloul doesn’t dig deeply into why Rodriguez, a dark-skinned Mexican-American who sounds like (for starters) Bob Dylan, James Taylor and Nick Drake, was embraced so passionately by white South Africans under Apartheid. Rather he accepts the declarations of love and fan explanations that it was the right music for a country in lockdown. That scarcely seems like the whole story, especially for such a complex country, and while occasionally the movie teeters close to embracing bromides about the universal healing power of pop culture, there’s too much sincerity in “Searching for Sugar Man,” too much love and enduring human mystery for cynicism to take hold. In the end Mr. Bendjelloul went looking for a man and found something much greater.
Oh, and also -- See. It. Immediately.
Thursday, August 02, 2012
The Genius (No Kidding!!!) of Dave Davies: Special "Perhaps the Whole Genius Thing May Be Slightly Overstated" Edition
From some time in the late 60s -- and, more specifically, that wonderful Dave Davies comp I mentioned yesterday -- please enjoy (if that is the right word) the titular auteur and his rather unusual ode to "Creeping Jean." Whoever she might be.
I haven't a clue why this song has always tickled me so much, but there you have it.
I should add that there was an interview with Terry Gross of NPR in the Times last week, and she mentioned how excited she was that Dave Davies had just come on board as her part-time guest host. Imagine my disappointment when a Google search revealed that the Dave Davies in question was some reporter from Boston.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
From 1970 (and the B-side of the American version of "Lola") please enjoy The Kinks with the absolutely astounding Dave Davies written-and-sung rocker "Mindless Child of Motherhood."
Younger readers will have to take this on faith, but in the late 60s and early 70s, songs like this one generated a great deal of "Dave Davies is a genius who should make a solo album" talk in rock hipster circles. Said talk rather precipitously declined after 1980, when Dave finally did make a solo album (which in retrospect, I actually rather like, but never mind).
In any case, this is an absolutely freaking killer track, and this is by far the best sounding version of it I've ever heard. It derives, BTW, from the splendid Dave Davies Hidden Treasures album that Universal put out in 2011 as part of their fabulous series of Kinks reissues; it collects just about everything Dave wrote or recorded in the 60s, both with the Kinks or for solo singles under his own name (all with superior sonics) and it's well worth your attention.