Monday, October 23, 2017

George Young 1946-2017

Goddamnit all to hell.


He's probably best known in this country for having produced the first five AC/DC albums (starring his kid brothers), but his real claim to fame is the stuff he did with The Easybeats in the 60s.

And if there's a better rock-n-roll record than this one...



...I for one have never heard it.

This death shit is really starting to piss me off.

Happy Birthday to Me

So as some of you may have heard, a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance took me to see Bruce Springsteen's new and highly acclaimed one person show on my birthday over the weekend...


...and boy, was it disappointing.

Bruce was drunk and all he did was KISS covers.

Okay, obviously I'm kidding.

In point of fact, despite a certain level of solemnity, Springsteen on Broadway was moving, funny, poetic and brilliant. With nothing more than a guitar and piano (here's what the set, and the word set is something of an overstatement, looked like)...


...Bruce did what felt (somewhat) like a stage adaptation of his recent autobiography, and managed to be about as riveting a performer as I have ever seen.

The setlist:

1. Growin' Up
2. My Hometown
3. My Father's House
4. The Wish
5. Thunder Road
6. Promised Land
7. Born in the USA
8. 10th Avenue Freezeout
9. Tougher Than the Rest
10.Brilliant Disquise
11.The Rising
12. Long Walk Home
13. Dancing in the Dark
14. Land of Hope and Dreams
15. Born to Run

Highlights, for me, were "Land of Hope and Dreams," a song which I had largely ignored in any of its recorded versions, and "Thunder Road," during which I totally lost it. But the entire thing was great theater, and let's just say it was the best birthday present ever.

BTW, I am reliably informed that a high quality recording of the show from Saturday night is now available on the intertubes. For a variety of reasons I'm not going to post anything from said recording, but if our old friend Capt. Al could find it, so can you.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Blue Ash Fan...

...if you happen to see this post, e-mail me. I have something for you to hear that I think you might like.

Hint: It involves Mark Johnson.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Weekend Listomania: Special Broadway is Not in Asbury Park Edition

Well, it's Friday, and as you may have heard, tomorrow is a) a major milestone birthday and b) the day a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance is consequently taking me to see Springsteen on Broadway.


From the NY Times review of opening night:

There came a moment the other night, near the end of Bruce Springsteen’s overwhelming and uncategorizable Broadway show, when it seemed possible to see straight through his many masks to some core truth of his being.

This was when the audience, which had mostly restrained itself through the first 13 songs of the 15-song set, could no longer sit on its hands as if in church. The show had been, to that point, quite solemn — and would continue to be.

But now, entire swaths of the Walter Kerr Theater, apparently unmindful of downbeat lyrics like “I ain’t nothing but tired,” started clapping along to “Dancing in the Dark,” Mr. Springsteen’s biggest hit, from 1984.

He stopped cold. “I’ll handle it myself,” he said, shutting them down with a small, sharky glint of a smile.

Would he ever! Make no mistake, “Springsteen on Broadway,” which opened on Thursday evening, is a solo act by a solo artist with an artist’s steel. Even though Patti Scialfa, his wife, shows up to harmonize on two numbers, this is not a singalong arena show or a roadhouse rouser. Even less does it try to be a feel-good Broadway book musical or a slick, whitewashed jukebox like “Jersey Boys.”

In other words, this is not an "And Then I Wrote" retrospective.

That being the case, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who -- to my satisfaction -- comes up with a list of the following:

Best or Worst Springsteen Songs He Probably Won't (Or Shouldn't) Do in His Acclaimed New One Man Show!

And my totally top of my head Top Five is/are:

5. You'll Be Coming Down



From Magic, which was precisely the moment when I stopped being a lapsed Bruce fan. Sort of cynical folk rock, and the band performance and production are chilling.

4. The Girls in Their Summer Clothes



Also from Magic, and one of Bruce's best Brill Building homages ever.

3. Candy's Room



This has always struck me as one of Bruce's most under-appreciated British Invasion pastiches; I mean -- does anybody else think it sounds kinda like The Yardbirds? In any case, thematically I just don't see it working in the show.

2. Prove It All Night



I'm sorry, I have never warmed to this one for any number of reasons I won't get into. Although I will admit that part of it is that I hate Jon Landau's production on Darkness with a white hot hatred and always have.

And the number one Springsteen song that should be a rock standard that I won't get to hear tomorrow unquestionably is....

1. Rendezvous



His big power pop move. He used to open with it on the Darkness tour back in the late 70s, which was a pretty ballsy thing to do given that he wouldn't release the song officially for another couple of decades.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

PS: I love you, BG.

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Closed for Monkey Business

Had a long, but extremely productive, night in the studio last night.


The results of which I will share with you guys tomorrow, but in the meantime I'm taking it easy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Your Tuesday Moment of Self-Indulgence: Special Four Strings Good! Edition

Okay, the short version.

A few months ago, two significant others of my old garage band chums The Weasels were coming back from picking up a pizza when they noticed a bass guitar -- specifically, a Fender Precision Lyte (a model I used to own back in the 90s, in fact) -- in a trash can in their neighborhood. It was a mess, but they were intrigued enough to bring it back to the Weasels home studio and try it out. Turned out it was, however unsightly, totally playable and its electronics intact.

I heard the story, and a few weeks later I was at the Keuka Kafe, my local watering hole down the street from a certain Shady Dame's home in Forest Hills. BTW, if you're in the neighborhood stop by and tell 'em I sent you.


But I digress.

Anyway, this particular afternoon, I struck up a conversation with a young guy having lunch at the bar who, as it turned out, was a guitar tech who specialized in restoring instruments like the aforementioned Fender Precision Lyte, so it seemed serendipity dictated I give him the job of bringing new life to our trash can bass.

Cut to last week, when said job was finished. Here's how it went.


And here's me, looking frighteningly like Groucho Marx, checking it out.


Bottom line: The bass now looks great and plays great.

And a big PowerPop No-Prize to Gabe Mera, who did the restoration. I can't recommend his work highly enough; if you have a similar job for him, contact him here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

My Subconscious at Work

True story: In the last two weeks I have had bizarre dreams involving pop music.

In the first, I dreamt that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were hosting a show on ESPN.


Titled The Rolling Stones Sports Desk.

Hey -- to quote Judy Tenuta, it could happen!

In the second, and more disturbing, I attended a concert by an underground rock band.


Called The Papoose of Pop.

I am not making any of this up.

In any case, I think it's getting increasingly obvious that my decades of obsessing over rock-and-roll have gotten me into a weird area here in my Golden Years.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Sad Songs Mean So Much: An Occasional Series


This is an oh so tragic story, so please try not to laugh.

A long time ago (no Spanish American War jokes, thank you) I was going through a really painful breakup, by which I mean I was at the beginning of a three year depression that made me all but impossible to hang out with because of my annoying habit of saying things like "What's there to live for?" in response to questions like "Would you like fries with that?"

As you can imagine, my emotional state was impacting my listening habits, and at one point the then new 1991 album Anything Can Happen, by Nashville alt-pop rockers The Questionnaires, happened to cross my desk.


One song from the album in particular -- the (I thought) ragingly beautiful breakup ballad "In the Back of My Mind" -- hit me pretty hard and I began listening to it obsessively, to the point where I think I basically ignored everything else on the record, the rest of which could have been Lithuanian grindcore for all I knew.

Anyway, one day a critical colleague of mine -- toiling at Entertainment Weekly, as I recall -- happened to ask me what I was listening to, and I recommended said Questionnaires album, rather heartily, as I also recall. A few weeks later he called me up about a review assignment, and he finally said "Uh...Steve? You know that Questionnaires thing you made me listen to? It...really sucks."

To be honest, I didn't really see the point in arguing, and I'm sure I figured that my own judgement probably wasn't all that reliable anymore, for obvious reasons. So I put the CD away out of earshot, and eventually mislaid it somewhere, probably while moving to a new apartment a year or two later.

Cut to the present and, for whatever reason the song popped into my head unbidden yesterday. So out of curiosity, I went through my iTunes library and checked out "In the Back of My Mind" for the first time in at least two decades. And guess what -- I still think that it's ragingly beautiful in a sort of Brian Wilson/early Association/lotsa harmonies kind of way.

Okay, no larger point, but you can listen to it here and make up your own mind about whether or not I'm the biggest pathetic wimp who ever lived.



Incidentally, the guy who wrote the song is big band jazz great Woody Herman's grandson. What Woody would have thought about any of this, of course, is anybody's guess.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Closed for Monkey Business


Dealing with doctors today.

Nothing serious, but still annoying and time consuming.

Regular incredibly posting -- including, possibly, the triumphant return of Weekend Listomania -- resumes on the morrow.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Great Composers Steal, Mediocre Composers Borrow

So as I noted yesterday, the single from The Searchers' fabulous 1979 comeback album...



...was the first cover song my 80s band The Floor Models learned as we were getting our act together.

Compare and Contrast: This song by my 90s band Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams (aka The Flo Mos Mark II).



Doesn't sound remotely similar.

Nah. Not at all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Best News I've Heard All Year

They're doing a deluxe reissue (with bonus tracks) of the two great comeback albums made by Brit Invasion legends The Searchers between 1979-81.



From Omnivore's press release:

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — During the British Invasion, there was another Liverpool band topping the charts worldwide. The Searchers had 11 Top 40 hits between 1963 and 1966 in the U.K., including three #1s with “Needles and Pins,” “Sweets for My Sweet,” and “Don’t Throw Our Love Away.” There were eight hits in the U.S. including a #3 cover of “Love Potion No. 9.” By the end of the decade, the group’s chart presence may have slowed down, but the Searchers didn’t. They continued to hone their sound on the live circuit, adding a modern musical crunch to their incredible harmonies. After seeing the band perform, Sire Records head Seymour Stein offered them a home on his new wave flagship label (home of the Ramones, Talking Heads, Dead Boys, and soon, Pretenders).

The Searchers returned in 1979 with a self-titled release, featuring originals and covers of tracks from Tom Petty, The Records, Bob Dylan, and the Mickey Jupp-penned “Switchboard Susan”—a concurrent hit for Nick Lowe. Produced by Pat Moran (Be Bop Deluxe, Dr. Feelgood, and Rush —yes, that Rush), it was a sonic powerhouse. That album was followed the next year by Love’s Melodies (titled Play for Today in the U.K.), with Ed Stasium (Ramones, Talking Heads, Smithereens) joining Moran as co-producer. More originals, and more covers (Big Star, John Fogerty, and others), and another great album.

These are two of my favorite records ever, both for the originals (the first cover song The Floor Models learned was "It's Too Late," the single from the 1979 album)...



...and the covers (the version of "Almost Saturday Night" is IMHO the best one ever by anybody).



Have I mentioned that this is the best news I've heard all year?

Monday, October 09, 2017

In Case You Missed It...

...this was the cold open of Saturday's episode of SNL.



His intro was a little apolitical/boilerplate -- a mention of gun control would have been nice -- and Jason Aldean isn't much of a singer, really. His band absolutely nailed the song, however, and I have to admit I was moved. Good on Aldean for doing it; I can only imagine how horrific last Tuesday must have been for him.

Host Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) was pretty great, too.

Friday, October 06, 2017

From 1977, live as you want them, please enjoy Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and "I Need to Know."




Basically, my second favorite of their early songs.

I should add that I saw them in a small club around the time this was recorded, opening for Roger McGuinn, whose cover of "American Girl," which he inadvisedly performed at the same show, was shall we say disappointing.

Petty and company were dressed all in black, played extremely loud, and were pretty much the coolest band I've ever seen, before or since.

BTW, did you know this Taylor Swift cover of "American Girl" was actually a thing?



I didn't, and Jeebus H. Christ on a piece of challah toast it's fucking awful.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Get Your Kicks...

...with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, live in 1977...


...on "Route 66."



I once got into a big internet brawl with a more celebrated rock critic than moi over this track. He thought it was the worst ever cover of the song, and I thought it was phenomenal, dripping with a sinister quality of menace barely hinted at in the song itself. Kinda like the Stones transformed Bobby Womack's jaunty original of "It's All Over Now" into something way darker. In retrospect, I think I may have overstated my case, but since then said critic has blocked me on Facebook forever. Oh well.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me

I had no idea this was actually a thing.




Hopkins is a mensch, obviously.

As was Petty for doing this for his old band.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Into the Great Wide Open

From 1991, the Tom Petty song I always wanted to cover



I don't wanna end up
In a room all alone
Don't want to end up someone
That I don't even know

I think it's the most personal thing he ever wrote. And those lines have been haunting me since I heard the news of his passing yesterday.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Tom Petty 1950 - 2017

I have been weeping non-stop since I heard the news. Obviously, that's partly because I'm sensing my own mortality, but goddamnit I loved his music and he was too fucking young to go. Just saw him in concert last August and he was spectacular.

Aw, fuck.

it's the Last Gasp of Chris Hillman Week!!!

From his incredibly terrific new Tom Petty-produced album...


...please enjoy founding member of The Byrds (and the biggest influence on my own, inadequate by comparison, bass playing) Chris Hillman and "Here She Comes Again."



This was apparently originally written back in the late 70s for a McGuinn, Clark and Hillman studio LP (although I'm told it only ever appeared on an Australian live album) but it's obviously a pretty cool song despite its previous obscurity. And yes, Roger McGuinn himself is doing the great Rickenbacker 12-string stuff; Hillman plays bass on the record (his first appearance on the instrument he essayed in the Byrds in 30 years).

Bottom line: The performance is gorgeous, and for the two minutes and thirty-two seconds it's blasting from my stereo, I can't help but feel that God's in his heaven and all's right with the world.