Friday, January 30, 2015

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special A Mighty Wind Edition

[I first posted this one back in 2009, and what strikes me most upon revisiting it is that I was hard pressed to nominate somebody new for the list -- i.e., somebody who arrived on the pop scene too late to make it in the first go round. Whether that speaks to the general blandness of most contemporary pop rather than to my general age-influenced indifference and ignorance of it I would not venture to guess. In any case, as you well know, I have deigned to do some rewriting and I even added a couple of nominees just to keep you all on your toes. -- S.S.]

Post-Beatles Pop Star Who is (or Was), Indisputably, a Huge Asshole!!!

Self-explanatory, obviously, but I've decided not to nominate anybody based solely on their politics. My feeling is that the name of this blog is PowerPop, not Pissed-Off Lefty or National Review Groupie, so out of a decent respect for the opinions of our diverse readership, I myself won't be dissing...oops, almost gave the game away there.

That said, if the rest of you guys feel the need to trash our Pop Star betters for no other reason than their ideological proclivities, feel free. My hands are clean.

And my totally top of my head Top Six is:

6. Sting

Not that I have any particular animus toward the guy, but I figured I'd just beat the rest of you to the punch.

5. Leo Sayer

Never buy an album from a man who looks like he should be singing the lead in Pagliacci.

4. Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins)

C'mon, you knew I was going to do this. Billy Corgan, ladies and germs: His pretentious cueball noggin, his orchestra and his chorus.

3. Nicki Minaj

I carried on about this talentless lump of suet the other week, but at the risk of flogging a deceased equine, let me simply say, and for the record, that if she thought it necessary to set her hair on fire for attention she unquestionably would do it.

2. Mike Love (The Beach Boys)

For a zillion obvious reasons, not the least of which is that it gives me yet another opportunity to post the most awesome photo in rock history. Honorable mention: Occasional Beach Boy John Stamos, who's so big a putz he actually cheated on Rebecca Romijn.

And the numero uno living braying jackass in pop music indisputably is...

1. Neil Tennant (The Pet Shop Boys)

An entire career based on his seething resentment of the fact that nobody took his favorite disco records as seriously as he did. What a jerk.

Awrighty then -- who would YOUR choice(s) be?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thursday Essay Question

The Pretty Things, 1966: The poor man's Rolling Stones or the first great garage band?


I actually saw these guys back in 1974, when they were signed to Led Zep's label and were touring Silk Torpedo (which despite the sub-Spinal Tap title is actually a very nice record). Of course in those days, the music they were making was glam-rock verging on prog, not the, shall we say, rough hewn stuff in the clip above.

As for their early stuff, I still haven't made up my mind; hence the theme of today's post.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Slacker Wednesday

Taking another day off for mental health reasons.

Also, because of that blizzard.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Closed for...

...well, you know.

Hey, it wasn't as bad as they predicted. At least my lights didn't go out.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me

Hole. E. Shit.

Pride of the Pacific Northwest garage rock pioneers The Sonics ...

...are set to release their first album of new material in almost 50 years.

From The Guardian:

This Is the Sonics is due to be released in March and arrives eight years after the Washington state band reformed in 2007. It will be their first album of fresh material since 1967’s Introducing The Sonics, although the group did release Sinderella, an album of reinterpreted old songs, in 1980 during a previous reformation.

Along with the news, the band have also posted a new track, "Bad Betty," online. True to form, it’s a furious garage rocker backed with demonic horns and thundering drums. A different version of the track had previously appeared on a single with Mudhoney as part of Record Store Day in 2014.

And may I say again -- Hole. E. Shit. I just listened to the new track, and the phrase "furious garage rocker" doesn't really do it justice.

Let's just say that these guys, in their prime, came across as intensely demented and made their contemporaries, like Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Kingsmen, sound like The Budapest String Quartet. And that "Bad Betty" sounds just like they did in their prime. Truly amazing and inspirational.

I'll keep you posted about the album....

Friday, January 23, 2015

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special We Are All Of Us in the Gutter Edition

[I originally posted this one back in 2009, or as we here at Casa Simels refer to it, Year Two of the Justin Bieber Era. As is my wont, I have done some re-writing and added an entry, just to keep my hand in. And also, of course, so as not to be accused of one of the entry's myriad bad things. -- S.S.]

Most Memorable Post-Elvis Pop/Rock/Soul Record Referencing One of the Deadly Sins in Either Its Title or Lyrics!!!

Okay, just so you don't have to look them up -- said sins are Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed and Sloth.

I think I've probably mentioned this somewhere down the line, but one of my great regrets in life is that I never had seven kids so that I could name one after each of them. I think "Sloth Simels" really has a ring to it, don't you?

In any case, my totally top of my head Top Six (I know -- how ironic) is:

6. X-Ray Spex -- Junk Food Junkie

Gluttony, obviously. And NOT, I hasten to add a cover of that stupid Larry Groce novelty hit from the 70s. I think this is hilarious, BTW, but I basically think everything this band did was hilarious.

5. MC5 -- Teenage Lust

One of my favorite songs from what is, despite horrific production by that idiot Jon Landau, on balance the 5's best album.

4. Billy Bremner -- Green With Envy

From the Rockpile guitarist's 1999 solo album, which deserves to be better known. Bremner, of course, deserves immortality for his playing on The Pretenders' "Back on the Chain Gang," but I did not know (until I looked him up today) that he began his career in the 60s as a member of Lulu's back-up band.

3. The Bonzo Dog Band -- Suspicion

Anger + envy + lust = jealousy, which of course is what the song is about. The Bonzos version is the definitive one, of course, and included mostly for that priceless monologue in the middle. "If you have been deceiving me...well, it's a neat bit of jiggery-pokery."

2. Elvis Costello -- I'm Not Angry

Uh...yes, he was, actually. Pissed as hell, if truth be told.

And the numero uno ode to les septs classical no-nos quite obviously is...

1. Fairport Convention -- Sloth

For fairly obvious reasons, I think.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

As Long as I Gaze on Waterloo Sunset I am in Paradise....

The great Terry Reid, with the Waddy Wachtel band, and a fabulous cover of what may be the most beautiful song written in the English language in the second half of the 20th century.

This is from a memorial show for late bassist Rick Rosas two weekends ago. And no, it is not as transplendent as the earlier version of the song by the same crew that changed my life and which I wrote about, rather passionately back in 2007; Terry's rather obviously hamming it, and his voice is way too low in the mix.

Still, it's worth beholding, and I think by the end of the clip you'll get choked up despite the flaws.

I should add that the guitar player in me is delighted you can see Waddy's hands so clearly; I plan to learn every note of this arrangement toot sweet.

POSTSCRIPT: Courtesy of a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance, a few years ago I actually got to see an actual Waterloo Sunset.

Just call us Terry and Julie -- I won't mind.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Closed for Monkey Business

Got back fairly late from a Weasels recording session -- on which I laid down my first recorded bass guitar part since 1995(!) -- and couldn't sleep due to the attendant creative buzz.

Regular, less manic posting resumes on the morrow, including on Friday -- weather permitting -- another installment of Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Annals of Art Direction (An Occasional Series)

Attentive readers will recall that during last week's Weasel Week, I posted a song -- the work of friend of PowerPop Jai "Guru" Dave Hawxwell -- from The Weasels 2013 masterwork crime against nature Vin Weasel.

And noted that the cover art was unavailable.

Well, here, at last, it is.

And I gotta say -- that just cracks my shit up.

I should add that like all the great Weasels album covers, it is the work of a certain beautiful and brilliant Shady Dame of my acquaintance. I think she's outdone herself with this one, however.

And don't worry -- I'm not gonna post any more songs from the album; I wouldn't inflict of THAT stuff on you at this late date.

You're welcome.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's Only January, But This is Already the Reissue of the Year!

From the very first year of the lamentable 1970s, and the solo album that sold five or six copies in his hometown alone, please enjoy the amazing Ron Nagle and his kick-ass ironic (or is it?) anti-drug anthem "Marijuana Hell."

Although not, alas, a household word, Nagle's nonetheless a really interesting guy. A member of terrific first generation San Francisco band The Mystery Trend (click over HERE to hear one of their songs)...

...he went on to a serious career as a producer and songwriter (for John Hiatt and Barbra Streisand, among a horde of others) while at the same time pursuing a totally separate life as one of the most important abstract expressionist ceramic sculptors in the country.

This little piece of his is actually in the Smithsonian.

In any case, "Marijuana Hell" is just a great rock-and-roll record, and the rest of Bad Rice, which I had on LP back in the day (thanks to being on the Warner Bros. mailing list when I was rock crit for my college paper), is almost as good; it's an album that clearly deserves its cult reputation. BTW, the great Jack Nitzsche produced, and Ry Cooder is all over it on slide guitar (including on "Marijuana Hell" itself).

I first wrote most of the above in 2010, when I found a clean copy of Bad Rice ripped from the original vinyl (which was long out of print at the time) over at some download site I was frequenting. However, I am delighted to announce that the good folks at Ominvore Recordings will be releasing a remastered and expanded two-disc CD version of the album on January 27; the sound -- which was always good -- is noticeably improved, and the set comes with all sorts of interesting outtakes and other Nagle rarities, as well as a fantastic set of liner notes by first generation Rolling Stone critic Gene Sculatti. In short, a great album just got better.

Needless to say, this behooves behearing; pre-order it at Amazon over HERE. You'll thank me.

Friday, January 16, 2015

In Local News

Hey there, youngsters.  I have a report from the frozen hinterlands which just begs for your sympathy, but will probably only inspire giggles.  At least, that has been its effect on me. 
Emotional Day in Court for Rick Springfield in Butt-Injury Lawsuit
 SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Rick Springfield yelled and cried while on the witness stand this afternoon for the retrial of an injury lawsuit against him.
Vicki Calcagno, 45, of Liverpool, said Springfield, a 1980s pop icon and actor, struck her with his buttocks while performing in the crowd during a 2004 Chevrolet Court concert at the State Fair. She said she was knocked unconscious.
That's right, boys and girls: a woman attempting to grab Rick Springfield's ass in concert is suing him because he hit her with his ass. .

It's a little more complicated than that.  It always is. He was doing his "out in the crowd" schtick, and people were crowding around him, and he fell. It looks like that's about all that happened. But there was a surprise witness!
Nolin, who was not allowed to be photographed by the media in the courtroom, testified this afternoon. Nolin said she was at the show and when Springfield entered the crowd she left her seat to get closer to take photos. She ended up directly behind Springfield as he played his guitar and sang.

Nolin testified that Springfield had one foot on the back of a metal bench and the other foot on a white fence. Nolin said Springfield fell backwards and his butt hit her forehead and she was knocked to her knees.Rick Springfield 3.jpgThis image of Rick Springfield was reportedly taken by Liverpool resident Vicki Calcagno moments before she claimed Springfield fell and struck her with his rear end.
"I did not see anyone else get knocked down," she said.

Nolin said she didn't see Calcagno get knocked down or laying on the ground and she had never met Calcagno before. She also testified that she didn't know how Springfield fell and she wasn't hurt.

"I was helped up by a woman standing next to me," she said. When Nolin stood up, Springfield was making his way back to the stage, she testified.
This obviously damages the prosecution's case. (That is a real nes phot and a real news caption, BTW.) If someone else in the same place and time got hit the same way, and was (a) not injured (suggesting the force of the whisper-thin pop star was not that great), and (b) didn't see anyone else get hit (suggesting his ass is not that big), then it seems unlikely that this was genuinely an injury-causing incident. At the most, it was an unfortunate accident.

In fact, Springfield might have grounds to counter-sue, if the women knocked him down. Apparently it was raining, and things were slippery, and he went into the crowd multiple times during the show, though he claims he does not recall falling. (The surprise witness thinks this lack of memory is bullshit, BTW.)

The case was brought in 2007, but dithered around for ages until it was dismissed as a mistrial in 2013. The mistrial mostly seems to be based on the several surprise witnesses who popped up in a Central New York message board during the first trial, many claiming to have been there, some claiming to have also been struck (though according to one blogger who read through the postings, they ran heavily in favor of Springfield). The case was ready to go to jury, but this flurry of new evidence cause the mistrial and the case is finally being adjudicated now.

So, wise and worldly readers, what do we think?  Is parading your ass in public,in the rain,  a safety hazard? If you are trying to grab someone's butt, can you sue them for hitting you with it?  Only Miss Tickle knows for sure.

It's Weasels Week: Part V -- Saving the Best For Last. Or Something.

From 2015 -- and a cramped attic studio somewhere in the wilds of upstate New Jersey -- please enjoy my old high school garage band The Weasels...

...and "Nothing is Right," the lead-off track -- and perhaps the one with the most potential commercial potential -- from their forthcoming indie EP crime against nature, the aptly titled Let There Be Weasels.

This one is a genuine Weasels collaboration; the song's composer -- Jai "Guru" Dave Hawxwell -- sings lead and plays rhythm guitar; bassist Allan "Al" Weissman contributes the bass guitar, and I'm responsible for most of the rest of the louder electric guitar stuff. The gorgeous solo, however, is what the French refer to as the resisting piece; it's a seamless edit of passes by both moi and our genius producer Glenn Leeds; see if you can guess which phrases are whose.

I should add that Jai "Guru" Dave is the one with the great hair and mustache in the bottom left photo in the album cover. Sorry girls -- he's married.

I should also add that Jai "Guru" Dave has for many years manifested a -- frankly well deserved -- inferiority complex about his songwriting prowess, considering himself a sad third place writer compared to Al and Glenn. However, on this basis of this most recent effort -- not to mention "Mercy," his contribution to our previous album....

...the brilliantly monikered Vin Weasel (album art not available), we may have to get the poor guy out of therapy.

Seriously -- those two are among the best damn things we've ever done. Kudos and huzzahs, my goyische friend!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It's Weasels Week: Part IV -- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

From 2015 -- and a cramped attic studio somewhere in the wilds of upstate New Jersey -- please enjoy my old high school garage band The Weasels...

...and the lyrically droll and (musically) charmingly Rockpile-esque confection that is "Hard to Understand," the second track from their forthcoming indie EP crime against nature -- the aptly titled Let There Be Weasels.

This one is written, sung and produced by our multi-instrumentalist secret weapon Glenn Leeds; Glenn's on vocals, keyboards, harmonica and most of the guitars, while our chum Allan Weissman is on bass, and I contribute the twangy recurring riff, and both the 12-string and Buddy Holly-style halves of the solo. I absolutely love this song, and not solely because the central conceit is the kind of thing Vincent Van Gogh might have come up with had he been from suburban Paramus.

I should add that Glenn is widely celebrated (although without any legal unpleasantness) as the purveyor of the best studio handclaps in the business. Seriously. This is he, from 1970, clapping his brains out on Bobby Bloom's delightful hit recording of "Monetego Bay." This is not a joke, BTW -- that's actually Glenn.

I should also add that I'd had no idea of his contribution to this musical milestone until last month. So belatedly, let me simply say, and for the record (as it were) to Glenn -- I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

It's Weasels Week: Part III -- Everybody's a Critic

Well, well, well. Look what made the top of my album list in this 2014 Village Voice Critics poll!


I wonder how that happened?

Incindentally, one of my comments made the cut; you can read it here.

Unfortunately, the bastards editors declined to include my accompanying joke:

the quote of the year clearly belonged to Nicki Minaj, who when people objected, for some reason, to the totalitarian imagery in her "Only" video replied ""I'd never condone Nazism in my art." Mighty white of you, Nicki. Incidentally I liked that fascist stuff a lot better in 1991 when Janet Jackson did it as "Rhythm Nation."

Oh well, maybe next year.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's Weasels Week: Part II -- A Journal of the Plague Year

From 2015 -- and a cramped attic studio somewhere in the wilds of upstate New Jersey -- please enjoy my old high school garage band The Weasels...

...and "Trying to Be Good (So Bad)," the third of four songs from their forthcoming indie EP crime against nature -- the aptly titled Let There Be Weasels.

That's written and sung by my musical director for the last fifty years, fellow Teaneck High School alumnus Allan Weissman; Al sings lead and plays acoustic guitar and bass on the track, and everything else is courtesy of our producer and fellow Weasel Glenn Leeds. I think it's a great song, but to put it in historical perspective, here's Al's first foray -- from 1965 -- into a professional recording studio with "The Loss is Mine," a song that he also wrote and sings on (we were doing business at the time as The Plagues.)

You can read the amazing story behind that song over HERE. And I should add that I'm on keyboards, and that the drummer is Oscar-winning film composer Alan Silvestri.

In any case, despite the five decades that separate the two songs, I think it's obvious -- Al is without question the master of the moody, minor-key, mid-tempo melodic pop/rock song.

Coming tomorrow: Another LTBW track, but one with a far greater level of self-confidence.

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's Weasels Week: Part I -- "The Horror, the Horror!"

From 2015 -- and a cramped attic studio somewhere in the wilds of upstate New Jersey -- please enjoy my old high school garage band The Weasels...

... and "Everybody Danced," the concluding song, featuring a vocalist whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels, from their forthcoming indie EP crime against nature -- the aptly titled Let There Be Weasels.

The concept for the EP -- developed retroactively, but developed none the less -- was that there would be four songs, with each member of the band fronting one of them. Since I couldn't write a song if you held a gun to my head, however, I decided to cover a tune by an old friend of mine from my Greenwich Village band days named Peter Spencer. I've always loved the song, but I also always heard it as a little bit more of an aggressive rocker than Peter did; the arrangement idea here was to mate the 1965 Byrds with the Rolling Stones circa "Street Fighting Man" (with what success I leave it for you to judge). In any case, I'm doing the aforementioned inadequate lead vocal, the two open-G tuning Keith Richards-style electric guitars, and the descending 12-string line at the end of the breakdown; everything else is by the guys in the Weasels -- bassist Allan Weissman, rhythm guitar and vocalist Jai "Guru" Dave Hawxwell (it is he doing the rest of the McGuinn-esque 12-string riffs), and our producer Glenn Leeds (who programmed the drums and does the great imitation of Nicky Hopkins on the fadeout), who graciously supported me in this folly.

I've appended Pete's folkie version as a bonus, because it really slays me...

...and also because I love the CD it derives from. The title -- 1896 -- refers to the fact that Pete recorded it, solo acoustic, in a church and on a guitar that both date from that long ago year.

You can find out more about Pete -- who, when he heard my cover of his song, declined (out of the goodness of his heart) to throw a drink in my face -- at the link above; you can order 1896 and his other splendid CDs over there as well.

Coming tomorrow: Another track from LTBW -- this one written by a band member who is fully a day older than me and has never let me forget it.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special Gross Me Out of My Condo Edition

[I first posted this one back in early 2008, i.e. the ass end of the Bush Era, and if you had told me at the time that things would be even more screwed up in this country in 2015 -- at the beginning of what Charles Pierce accurately refers to as The Reign of the Morons -- I would have suspected you of huffing drugs more potent than I had ever imagined. In any case, I've done some rewriting and added a new entry, although all that proves is, in the immortal words of my old chum Erik Frandsen (doing business as existentially depressed German UN ambassador Hans Beinholtz), that the sad farce continues. -- S.S.]


You know -- one that's in ridiculously bad taste, politically obnoxious, or just annoying on some level not necessarily related to aesthetics.

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

11. The Buoys -- Timothy

I don't know what's creepier -- the fact that it's a bubblegum song about cannibalism, or that it was written by Rupert Holmes.

10. Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler -- Ballad of the Green Berets

Next stop is Vietnam!! Whoopee, we're all gonna die! BTW, Sadler went on to be a noted collector of Hitler memorabilia.

9. Dickie Lee -- Laurie (Strange Things Happen)

The ultimate teenage death song, with the added sick twist that she's a ghost. Think "The Sixth Sense" for morons.

8. Frank and Nancy Sinatra -- Something Stupid

Or as we used to call it back in the day, "The Incest Song." 'Nuff said.

7. G.G. Allin -- Needle Up My Cock

This guy had so many tender love madrigals it's hard to pick one. Of course, he did have the good grace to actually die for our sins....

6. Napoleon XIV -- They're Coming to Take Me Away (HaHa)

Me, I think this one's funny, but actual crazy people disagreed and got it banned in some markets. Interesting....

5. Madonna -- Open Your Heart

42nd Street peep show jerkoff palaces as a cute rite of passage for adolescent boys? Yuk. This is the video I show people when they tell me how smart Madonna is....and yes, I know it sold.

4. The Crystals -- He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)

Let's hear it for spousal abuse!!! Seriously, Carole King wrote this as a sort of protest song, but producer Phil Spector kind of missed the point (in retrospect, not much of a shock).

3. Buju Banton -- Boom Bye Bye

Granted, there's a large selection of offensive hip-hop and rap records out there, but this one, which suggests it might be a good idea to off gay men, kind of screamed for inclusion. Of course, in its defense, it is largely unintelligble, even with a lyric sheet.

2. Nicki Minaj -- Only

Let's forget, for a moment, the fact that this song sucks hippo root, that this woman has no fucking talent whatsoever and that she would, if she thought it would gain her some attention, quite literally set her hair on fire.

That said, I will leave you with the joke I wrote for the forthcoming Village Voice critics poll (which, with any luck, will garner me a check for fifteen dollars). To wit:

"The quote of the year clearly belonged to Nicki Minaj, who when people objected, for some reason, to the totalitarian imagery in her "Only" video replied ""I'd never condone Nazism in my art." Mighty white of you, Nicki. Incidentally I liked that fascist stuff a lot better in 1991 when Janet Jackson did it as "Rhythm Nation."

But the hands down, most twisted sick record of all time is without question ---

1. Bobby McFerrin -- Don't Worry, Be Happy

"Ain't got no place to lay your head/Somebody came and took your bed/Don't worry, be happy..."

Tell that to a real homeless person, asshole. Seriously -- as my old colleague Glenn Kenny famously wrote about this song in the Village Voice, there's only one possible response to it:

Fuck. You.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Closed for Monkey Business

Dealing with Mom issues, hopefully in a way that doesn't involve firearms.

Regular, more upbeat posting resumes tomorrow with an installment of Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

I Am SOOOOOOOO Covering This Song Before I Die

From 1998, please enjoy the incomparable Roots Rock Action Figures and the utterly fucking genius rocker that is "No Great Shakes."

In case you don't know who these guys are, they're led by the amazing R.S. Field, who is the genius songwriter and producer behind the classic Webb Wilder alt-country albums (which you really need to check out) from back in the day.

Webb's version of this one is a little slicker, but this fucking kills me in a Keith Richards Goes PowerPop sort of way.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Somewhere in Heaven, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach Are Smiling

From some time in the mid-Nineties, please enjoy -- in breathless wonder -- the incomparable Laika and the Cosmonauts and their twangy neo-Ventures take on the be-bop classic "A Night in Tunisia."

Incidentally, if you're not familiar with Laika and company, they are clearly Finland's greatest contribution to music since Jean Sibelius.

Seriously -- if you don't have the album pictured above, your life is the poorer for it.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Words Fail Me

The following is real. Swear to God.

Hi, Axl,

Just got your manuscript and demo for the song “Sweet Child O’ (sic) Mine.” I think we need to talk. As your editor, I am responsible for making your songs as cogent as possible, for helping them reach the high editorial standards your public has come to expect. With this one, I am certainly earning my keep. After several attempts to reach you by phone, I am sending along my notes. Please make appropriate fixes as soon as possible, at which point I can send them to copy editing and proofreading in time for your upcoming studio session.

She’s got a smile that, it seems to me—Why equivocate? You weaken your point by framing this as a mere personal observation instead of a fact.

Reminds me of childhood memories—Redundant. You either have a memory or you’re reminded of something. You’re not reminded of a memory. Heavy-metal fans won’t stand for such writing, my friend.

Where everything was as fresh as a bright blue sky—I asked around the office and no one is sure a blue sky is “fresh.” You could have a blue sky at the end of a long, sweaty day and there would be nothing fresh about it. And she reminds you of a time when things were fresh? Fond reminiscences of freshness are no foundation for love. Fix.

Now and then when I see her face it takes me away to that special place—Again, you’re weakening your own argument. Why does the sight of her face transport you only periodically? And is it just her smile or her entire face that does this to you? Because you’ve already said both. Consistency, Axl!

And if I stared too long, I’d probably break down and cry—Why would you do that? Because you miss the freshness you described earlier? I think the whole “fresh” thing is really tripping you up. Also, crying? Wimpy.
OK, on to the second verse.

She’s got eyes of the bluest skies—See, this is just getting worse. Now her eyes are made of sky? Nice imagery, but you just got done saying her smile reminded you of memories of sky. Is this verse actually supposed to be a second draft of the first verse? Am I just confused on formatting? Help!

As if they thought of rain—Axl, eyes can’t think of rain. And even if they could, which they can’t, why would bluest skies think of rain? Perhaps less imagery of thinking eyes made of sky and more direct exploration of your feelings?

I hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain—Well, hell. I guess in your special Axl World anything is possible. Eyes can be made of sky, ponder the weather, and exhibit pain in amounts that can be weighed.

Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place where as a child I’d hide—Delete. Fix. Do something. You’d hide in a place that reminded you of hair? Never show me such phrases again.

And pray for the thunder and the rain to quietly pass me by—Whew. OK, listen to me now: Thunder can’t quietly do anything. It’s thunder. And, more importantly, do you really want to come across as a wuss who’s constantly on the verge of weeping and skittering into hair caves to escape from rain? Is this a song about love or climatic anxiety? You need to work these things out.

Finally, Axl, I think we might have had a misunderstanding regarding my previous notes. When I wrote in colored pencil “Where do we go now?” I wasn’t offering that as a lyric. I was simply observing that, in narrative terms, the song needed to progress in some way. You love the girl, she’s helping you work through some issues, whatever. So where do we go now? But instead of providing a satisfactory conclusion, you simply took my note and repeated it over and over again before ultimately just stating the title of the song. This is unacceptable. Don’t ask us, the listeners, where we go. That’s up to you as the writer! Tell us where we go now!

Again, let’s try to fix these things soon and get “Sweet Child of Mine” (“My Sweet Child”?) into your fans’ hands as quickly as possible. Because, frankly, if it should ever hit the street in its current form, the song would be a colossal failure.

Talk soon!

Your Editor

[h/t Steve Schwartz]

Friday, January 02, 2015

Weekend Listomania's Greatest hits: (Special Solipsism is Great, Everybody Should Try It! Edition)

[I originally posted this one in early 2009, which is so long ago that nobody outside of Jamaica (Queens) had even SUSPECTED the existence of Nicki Minaj, let alone had to endure the fascist imagery in that stupid "Only" video of hers (and let's just say that my comments about that one will hopefully earn me a check for fifteen dollars when the Village Voice critics poll results are released at the end of January). In any case, I've done some rewriting as is my wont, and I've added a new entry, mostly to keep my hand in, but also to some extent because I don't want a certain putz I call Sparky to have an excuse to accuse me of artistic laziness. In any case, enjoy if possible. -- S.S.]


Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules this time. Except that we're specifically talking here about singles or album cuts, NOT whole albums (a topic for another time). Also, I'm disqualifying anything by The Beatles on the grounds that there are just too damned many tunes by the Fabs to choose from and that they're a little too obvious choices in any case.

Okay, and my totally top of my head Top Nine, in chronological order, would be:

9. The Rolling Stones -- It's All Over Now

The Valentinos original of this (featuring Bobby Womack) is superficially similar -- two guitars, bass and drums, and a singer up front -- but if you've ever heard it, you know that it's actually kind of jolly. The Stones rethink keeps the basic arrangement model intact, but the guitars are stripped down to ominous Travis-picking meets scrubbed metal Chuck Berry, and the whole thing is invested with a palpable sense of menace completely unprecedented in pop music at the time. Plus: the concluding fade-out, with those circular guitar riffs altered just slightly each time as the echo creeps in, marks (no doubt about it) the birth of the style and esthetic we'd later call Minimalism. Alas, in the 70s, that moron Phillip Glass went on to adopt it for four-hour operas, thus totally missing the point, but this is what it's supposed to sound like.

Bottom line: Hearing this under a pillow via transistor radio over WMCA-AM is when I decided that Andrew Oldham's liner note claim -- that the Stones weren't just a band, they were a way of life -- wasn't as asinine as it seemed at first.

8. The Byrds -- The Bells of Rhymney

If there's a more beautiful sound in all of nature than that of a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar well played, I have yet to hear it. In any case, this song -- even more than "Mr. Tambourine Man" -- is where the Church of the Rickenbacker opened. Four decades later, I'm still dropping by for services, if you'll pardon the perhaps inelegant metaphor.

7. The Beach Boys -- When I Grow Up

Obviously, it's melodically gorgeous and the harmonies exquisite. But it's also the first rock song (for me anyway) that combines adolescent angst and something like mature wisdom; when people say that Brian Wilson invented the whole confessional California songwriting school that people usually associate with Joni Mitchell or Jackson Browne, this is the song they have in mind, I think. Although "In My Room" or "Don't Worry Baby" are contenders as well.

6. The Miracles -- The Tracks of My Tears

This wasn't the first r&b record I loved, but it's the first one I bought and played as obsessively as I did any Beatles 45. Everything about it just killed me; the oddly sinister yet lovely sound of the guitars at the beginning, the way the rhythm section falls effortlessly into place, the sensual longing in Smokey's voice contrasted with the almost churchy background vocals...I still can't listen to it without thinking there's some detail I've missed, one that if I could only hear at last then some tremendous secret would be revealed. I suspect I'm not the only person who feels that way, BTW.

5. Jimmy Cliff -- The Harder They Come

A great song and a great voice, to be sure, and recognizably rock-and-roll, but at the same time it was indisputably...well, something else. If Sly Stone hadn't already titled an album A Whole New Thing, the movie soundtrack this astounding song derives from could easily have copped it.

4. Bruce Springsteen -- Spirit in the Night

The first time I heard this, the snare drum and near-mythic sax wail that open it hit me so hard that I thought I'd been wacked upside the head with a 2X4. Then I noticed the lyrics and had the absolutely eerie sensation that Springsteen had been reading my mail. Want to know what it felt like to be a a 20-something with no direction home in the early 70s? All you have to do is listen....

3. R.E.M. -- Radio Free Europe

Some records just have a vibe about them. Here's one (and the same can be said of Murmur as a whole) that has it in spades, a certain indefinable something that simply grabs you (or at least me) and won't let go. First time I heard it, I remember thinking it sounded simultaneously space age modern and as old as the hills. Still an apt description, actually.

2. The La's -- There She Goes

Like "Tracks of My Tears" years before, when this first came out I played it over and over and over again in the hope of finally being able to hear into the sheer sonic density of it. I still do, from time to time, and to this day I haven't quite figured out what that twelve-string riff means. Or why Lee Mavers' voice sounds so simultaneously familiar and eerie. Or, finally, who she is and where the hell she's going.

And the number one life-changer here at Casa Simels, and if you've been following this here blog for any length of time you may already have guessed, has simply got to be...

1. Terry Reid -- Waterloo Sunset (live at The Joint)

Okay, okay, I know I'm cheating with this one -- hey, it's my freaking blog and I can do whatever I want, amirite -- and I have written about this particular performance and how utterly transplendent it is at some length on a previous occasion. Let's just say that I stand by every word; seven years after I accidentally chanced across it on YouTube it still seems like one of the most brave and emotionally devastating things I've ever heard and witnessed. Do yourself a favor and play it loud -- otherwise the bass will kind of disappear.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

New Year's Day's Greatest Hits!!!

[I first posted this one on New Years Day 2013, and, while I'm not trying to turn it in into some kind of internet tradition, I do find it amusing enough to give it the old "One More Time!".

In any case, have a great day nursing your hangovers -- I recommend hair of the dog -- and here's hoping 2015 is better than 2014. Or 2013, which let's face it sucked on ice with the exception of the Zero Hour release of Floor Your Love. Which it wouldn't kill you to order, BTW. -- S.S.]

This is, as I have been wont to say here on many previous occasions, a very sad story, so please try not to laugh.

It also has a certain relevance to today's festivities, which will be revealed later in the narrative. Please be patient.

Anyway, so the other day I was in a cab heading down the West Side Highway in a snowstorm, and the driver had the radio tuned to whatever soft-rock Lite FM station they inevitably have on when they don't have WINS News Radio blasting or some guy from Queens yelling about sports.

I wasn't particularly paying attention, but suddenly some soft-rock Lite FM staple song came on, and immediately I knew three things.

1. I had definitely heard it before.

2. It was probably from the 70s or the 80s, although I couldn't rule out the possibility that it might have been more recent, and it had that whole California soft-rock vibe, which I usually detest, in spades.

3. I had no idea who the guy or the group singing it was, although I was painfully aware that when and if I found out I was gonna kick myself. Because pretty much everybody in the world, at least of a certain age, would have been able to recognize it instantly.

The truly insidious part was that there was something about the damn thing that grabbed me. Yes, the vocals had that laid-back L.A. Mr. Sensitive shtick that usually makes my gorge rise. But the tune was charming, the voicings of the harmony parts in the chorus were really quite lovely, and -- try as I might to deny it -- it was getting under my skin.

Fortunately, because of the roar of traffic, I couldn't really hear the lyrics, although one word -- "architect" -- jumped out. "Hmm," I thought. "There's a word you don't hear in a pop song everyday."

Anyway, I then went about the rest of my weekend, but I knew with an absolutely dread certainty that I was gonna break down sooner or later and look the song up on the Intertubes.

So, late on Monday, I googled "Soft Rock song with the word architect in it" and up it popped.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...and my fingers are shaking as I type these words....Dan Fogelberg (the horror, the horror!) and his 1980 smash (which I had apparently put out of my mind, probably deliberately, ever since its original vogue) "Same Old Lang Syne."

Well. In case you're wondering, no -- I have no interest in revisiting the rest of Fogelberg's body of work, and yes, I still basically can't stand the whole genre he represents, but goddamn it -- this damn song works and it gets to me. Like I said, it's melodically quite charming, and now that I've actually deciphered the lyrics, it turns out that -- despite a certain smugness that kind of rankles -- they actually make a pretty good little short story.

And the record's not even a new guilty pleasure, to be honest, because I don't feel particularly guilty about liking it.

Sticks in my craw a bit, though.

As I said, this is a very sad story, so please try not to laugh.

Happy New Year, everybody.

And fuck you, Dan Fogelberg, for your pernicious influence. Wherever you are.

Thank you.