Tuesday, September 25, 2018

There Were Giants in the Earth in Those Days

From 1979, please enjoy The Pretenders and a rare early video demo of their cover of The Kinks' classic "Stop Your Sobbing."

You know, there are days I think that, pound for pound, Chrissie Hynde is the greatest woman in rock history. And the rest of that band were no slouches either.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheaert

Off to see Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and Marty Stuart do Sweetheart of the Rodeo in its entirety (and lots more Byrds songs) tonight in NYC.

In the immortal words of Edith Prickley -- could be a hot one!!!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Sometimes Life is Good

Why, you ask?

Because I just scored tickets to see Procol Harum at a New York City club (the show is in February).

Procol has been one of my favorite bands since forever; they were the first band I wrote about for money (at the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review in 1972), and a revised version of that piece was the first thing I ever posted at this here blog back in 2007.

I've seen them a bunch of times over the years, but never in an intimate setting, so this is a real bucket list thing. And yes, I'm aware that only lead singer Gary Brooker is an original member, and no I don't care that it really isn't Procol Harum; hearing Brooker sing those songs in a small room is something I never thought I'd live to experience, and I have no doubt they'll sound terrific. So there.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Your Thursday Moment of Steve Destroying What's Left of His Street Cred Forever

Okay, this is a very weird story, so please bear with me.

Of late, I've been going to sleep while listening to old radio episodes of The Jack Benny Program over at the invaluable INTERNET ARCHIVE. I've been a Benny fan since I was a kid, but totally because of his television work; the radio stuff, which I hadn't heard until recently, turns out (for my money) to be even smarter and funnier.

One of the best things about the show is the ensemble cast, and that includes crooner Dennis Day, who is absolutely hilarious in the comedy sketches. That said, however, when I was a sprout I absolutely detested Day's musical numbers. All that Irish tenor crap just made me cringe; I considered it the worst kind of cornball kitsch sentimental ickiness on God's green earth. And don't get me wrong, I love and appreciate lots of pre-rock pop -- c'mon, early Sinatra? You'd have to be a complete moron not to dig that. But Day, and all that in Dublin's fair city shit? Beyond the pale as far as I was concerned.

But a funny thing happened in the last few months -- listening to the Benny shows, I began to really really look forward to Day's non-comedic performances. And it's starting to freak me out.

Exhibit A: From 1951 (and an episode of the show I listened to for the first time last Tuesday), here he is singing a song (that was apparently a hit for him) entitled "Mary Rose."

Okay, call me a doddering old fluff, but that really gets to me. For starters, the song is genuinely sweet, and the orchestral arrangement -- especially the Irish flutes and strings on the instrumental break -- is lovely. And for another thing, Day's voice is objectively beautiful and he's geniunely musical; his phrasing is great.

I think what I'm saying is -- I'm getting really ridiculous in my old age and somebody please shoot me now. I mean, if you had told my twenty-something self that I would be grooving to this record in my declining years I would have assumed you were huffing drugs too potent for me to have even imagined.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

From a press release I got yesterday.


The Iconic Rock Band’s Four Same-Day-Released Solo Albums Come Together
To Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary In A Limited-Edition 4LP Vinyl Box Set
Via Casablanca/UMe On October 19

Los Angeles – September 18, 2018– Forty years ago today, each one the four founding members of KISS — Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss — released their respective solo albums all on the same day to much fanfare, chart success, and platinum sales. And now, four decades later, all four of these pioneering albums are celebrated in KISS: The Solo Albums - 40th Anniversary Collection, a limited-edition 180-gram 4LP box set by Casablanca/UMe that’s earmarked for release on October 19.

Hey, I like vinyl as much as the next guy -- which is to say, hardly at all -- but I reviewed these records forty years ago, and it's one of my favorite things I ever wrote. [A brief note on the dramatis personae: Paulette Weiss was my editor at the mag at the time; (Noel) Coppage and (Joel) Vance were two of our other reviewers.]

And now, without further adieu, here it is as it appeared in SR in the Feburary 1979 issue.


It was about four o'clock when she walked into my office, dressed in a mourning suit that made her look like a road-show Ligeia.

"Are you Marlowe?" She wriggled slightly as she sat down, which either meant she liked me or she'd noticed that my furniture is upholstered in mohair.

I looked up. "That's me, like the sign says. Chris Marlowe, Aesthetic Investigator. What can I do for you, Miss -- ?" For some reason, she looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place her under the widow's weeds.

"The name's unimportant, but call me Ms."

"Frankly, I don't care if you want to be called late for dinner. You have a job you want done, spill it."

"Oh, a tough guy, huh?" She tossed four black record jackets onto my desk.

"The results of your Wasserman test?" I asked.

"No, shamus. Albums by Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss and Paul Stanley, members of a rock band called Kiss. You'll notice they're all wearing disguises on the cover."

"Nowadays who doesn't?"

"Never mind. My employer wants you to find out why. What have these guys got to hide? You've got twenty-four hours to run down the answers."

"And if I don't?"

"Front-row seats for the Al Martino farewell tour. Get the picture?"

"I'm trembling in my Capezios."

"Don't crack wise with me, turkey. Remember, you've got twenty-four hours."

With that she was out the door. I reached for the bottle of Scotch in my desk. Mysterious liberated women, rock-and-roll...suddenly, I felt very tired.

I spent the evening listening to the four records and staring at the covers. After I polished off the Scotch I had most of the scam doped out; the rest I glommed after a few phone calls to some friends of mine in the low-life end of the music business. Rack jobbers. AM jocks. The scum of the underground. Nice people you know, Marlowe. What a world.

True to her word, she was back the next day at four.

"You look beat," she said cooly. "A rough night?"

"Rough enough," I said. "But I found out what you wanted to know. These Kiss guys have never appeared out of makeup. The records are their first solo efforts, and the idea is that they're supposed to give the poor slobs who buy this stuff a chance to find out what kind of music these guys might make if they weren't limited by the group concept. It's a symbolic dropping of the mask."

"That's pretty good, Marlowe."

"I'm not finished. The thing is, it doesn't add up; these records could be by anybody. Frehley does a bad punk imitation; Simmons has pop tendencies; Criss is a closet MOR wimp, and Stanley tries to be a guitar hero. In other words, it all still sounds like Kiss -- slick, dumb, and inconsequential."

"Good job, Marlowe," she said nervously. "Write it up and send it to this address; your check will be in the mail." She started to get up, but I beat her to the door.

"Not so fast, sister. Like I said, it doesn't add up. So I began to think. Who in her right mind would be so interested in all this that she'd hire a broken-down private dick to figure it out? And why the time limit?"

I ripped the veil and sunglasses off her face.

"I knew it. You're Paulette Weiss of STEREO REVIEW."

"I had to do it, Marlowe," she sobbed. "None of my regular reviewers would touch the stuff, and I had a deadline. It was the only way."

"You're good, sweetheart," I said, putting on my coat. "But not that good."

"You mean...?"

"That's right. I won't write the review for you. Understand?"

"But, Marlowe..."

"I won't do it, do you hear? Get Simels, or Vance, or Coppage; they'll write anything for free albums. But not me."

I started out the door. "Where are you going?" she asked in a voice as quiet as the grave.

"I don't know," I said. "Computer school, maybe. Anywhere I don't have to intellectualize over loud noises."

"You can't run out on me like this."

I shook my head. "You should have thought about it before you got into the editing racket. See you around, sister."

I walked slowly down the five flights of stairs to the street and thought about her. She wasn't the first good girl to miss a deadline, and she wouldn't be the last. Still, somehow I knew I'd never hear from her again. Like I said, what a world. -- Steve Simels

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Who is That Mysterious Man, Anyway?

From their new album Contra Mundum, which drops -- as the youngs say -- today, please enjoy Nashville pop-rock band Tall Dark Stranger and their insinuating "Was What It Was."

I'll be posting some more of their music as soon as they say it's kosher; let's just stipulate that some of their other songs I've heard so far are sort of 70s retro, a la Jackson Browne. And completely gorgeous, in a sort of "Somebody's Baby" kind of way. In any case, you can find out more about them and buy their stuff at their website HERE.

I should also add that this is the kind of great locally based band -- and I know from my experience here that they're all over the place -- that the people who book the music on Saturday Night Live should be showcasing, rather than the Migos/Cardi B/Nicki Minaj utter commercial crap they mostly foist on us.

Monday, September 17, 2018

76 Trombones Led the Big Parade

Actually, 28 trombones perform "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.

Words fail me.

[h/t Matt Mitchell]

Friday, September 14, 2018

How Do You Say Rock Star in French?

From 2018, and his album Stupefaction, please enjoy the pride of Biarritz, the incomparable Tommy Lorente, and his infernally infectious "Arthur."

Damn this kid is good -- not only is that a brilliant slice of the music that provides the mission statement of this here blog, but he's doing it with the handicap of having to sing in French, which I heretofore had thought impossible.

You can find out more about Tommy -- who has a new album ready to drop momentarily -- and purchase his other stuff over at his website HERE.

Hey -- what are you waiting for? Go buy something! And when you do, tell him PowerPop sent you!

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

God Save the Queen

Okay, so as I mentioned yesterday, I am not a Queen fan (for reasons that I'll get into in depth at a later date).

That said, I would like to go on record as agreeing with Dave Grohl, who famously observed that "Brian May is an awesome guitarist."

And I would like to offer, as proof, this little snippet of Mr. May's work. He comes in at the 1:24 point in the video below.

Like the man said -- an awesome guitarist.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

As John Lennon Said in A HARD DAYS NIGHT: Queen -- It's an In-Joke

Well, this looks interesting.

I should add that I am not now and have never been a Queen fan. The reasons why are probably a subject for another longer and more thoughtful post, but I will note that I saw them in a small venue when they were touring their debut album and they were appallingly awful.

That said, if the movie is as good as the trailer, which I suspect it is, I might actually change my mind.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Two Jews' Blues

And speaking as we were yesterday of the great Gerry Goffin and Carole King -- and in honor of Rosh Hashanah -- please enjoy, from 1964, the great Maxine Brown and the original version of Goffin and King's exquisite "Oh No, Not My Baby."

For some reason -- incipient senility, perhaps -- I was convinced King herself had a version of this on the radio in the pre-Tapestry Sixties.

Wrong! She didn't release her own performance of the song until 1980.

In any case, Good Yontiff, everybody!

POSTCRIPT: Here's Rod Stewart (with Faces) covering it in 1973.

Believe it or not, kids, there actually was a time that Rod Stewart wasn't an embarrassing asshole.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Magic of the Theatre

So as I may have mentioned, a few weeks ago a certain Shady Dame and I bit the bullet and went to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

As a rule, I'm not a big fan of jukebox shows (although I will confess to rather enjoying Clint's film version of Jersey Boys). On the other hand, like all right-thinking Americans, I'm a huge fan of Goffin-King's songwriting; I mean, if they had been responsible for nothing more than "Porpoise Song" for The Monkees, they would deserve immortality. Plus, I was pleased to discover that the show is as much the Barry Mann/Cynthia Weill story as it is Goffin and King's, and I was kinda curious about seeing Maria Benoist, aka TV's Supergirl, as Carole.

Unfortunately, turned out she had left the show a week before the performance we saw. Aaaarrrggghhhh.

In any case, Beautiful was at best...wildly uneven. Forget the book, which was shall we say historically dubious (the words Phil and Spector were never uttered) although on balance I could live with that. And on the plus side, the musical performances that are supposed to be King solo, primarily from the Tapestry-era (in the case of the show we saw, performed by Broadway singer/actress Abby Mueller) were right on the money.

On the other hand, the performances that channeled other acts that had 60s hits with Goffin-King songs (The Shirelles, The Chiffons, The Cookies, et al) were uniformly ghastly -- pure Vegas bullshit, soullessly sung and with some of the worst choreography I've ever seen.

Okay, all that said -- there are two Goffin-King songs I dearly love that weren't in the show, and I thought I'd share them now.

So, please enjoy -- from 1963 -- the ineffable Skeeter Davis and the cute as a bug's ear "I Can't Stay Mad at You." Perhaps the greatest teen-pop/sort of doo-wop hit by a stone country singer ever.

And from 1964, please enjoy The Tokens and "He's in Town." Perhaps the greatest proto-Bruce Springsteen slice of urban romanticism ever recorded by a sort of teen doo-wop group.

I'm not saying the inclusion of those two songs in Beautiful would have made it a better show, but on the other hand -- could be, could be.

Friday, September 07, 2018

I Bet You Really Miss the Reagan Years. John Hughes Movies and Tears For Fears (Part Deux)

From 1993, and their self-titled album on John Prine's Oh Boy label, please enjoy incredible alt-rockers The Bis-Quits and their brilliant ode to Those Fabulous 80s.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!!

Thursday, September 06, 2018

I Bet You Really Miss Those Reagan Years. John Hughes Movies and Tears for Fears.

From 1991, please enjoy pride of New Jersey alt-rockers Dramarama and an absolutely sensational cover of the Not Really a Stones Song Even Though Mick and Keith Wrote it "Memo From Turner."

I bring all this up because we had brunch over the weekend with some friends who had just attended a Those Fabulous 80s nostalgia concert, and it sounded like fun.

Here's the line-up.

I will confess at this point that most of those groups never did it for me, although I have a sneaking affection for A Flock of Seagulls; I have been saying for years that some smart country band could have a huge hit covering their "Wishing," which is a ravishingly beautiful song that, when stripped of the New Wave synths and guitars, could pass for Buddy Holly. And I loved Dramamara, and always regretted not seeing them live back in the day.

I should add that you should rent this obscure but very funny 1999 Will Ferrell film...

...about a fictional 80s one hit wonder band that gets back together and winds up opening for -- you guessed it -- a reunited A Flock of Seagulls (playing themselves).

Also: a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who identifies the song the title of today's post derives from.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Where's Marcel Carné When You Need Him?

From his terrific new album Children of Paradise, about which I will have more to say later in the week, please enjoy the great Willie Nile and the official video for "Earth Blues."

Have I mentioned that the new album is flat out terrific?

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Tuesday Encounter With Greatness: Special "Letter From Liverpool" Edition

So I've told part of this story before, but hang on -- there's a new epilogue that justifies my recycling it.

Okay, the short version. Back in March of 1981, a think piece I had written about John and Yoko's Double Fantasy album appeared in The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review. This was the most difficult thing I ever wrote, for obvious reasons, so I was actually rather pleased to find upon re-reading it a few years ago that the only thing that embarrassed me about it were some dire predictions that (mercifully) didn't come true.

In any case, a few weeks after the piece originally appeared, I got a very nice hand-written note from a woman (the now famous Freda Kelly) who had worked as a personal assistant to Brian Epstein at the height of Beatlemania. She told me that of all the reviews of the album she had seen, mine was the one that most resonated for her. That meant a lot to me, also for obvious reasons, but because I'm an idiot, I didn't save her letter.

Cut to earlier this year, when a certain Shady Dame and I were about to go to Liverpool and take a Beatles tour (which we did, and I highly recommend it. You can find more info about it over HERE). And we were in touch with a woman who runs another of those Fabs tours, the special guest of which was the aforementioned Freda, who you could meet. As it turned out, we couldn't work it out logistically, but we asked the tour lady if she could give Freda a printed copy of the Double Fantasy review and have her autograph it. When we got to town, she (the tour lady) e-mailed me and said for whatever reason she wasn't able to get Freda the print-out, but she had told her the story and said that she (Freda) would leave something personal for me behind the desk at The Hard Days Night Hotel (yes, there is such an establishment).

Anyhowever, on the afternoon we were leaving town, we stopped at said hotel to pick up the package.

Which turned out to be a photo of the Fabs back in the day...

...with a little handwritten note from Freda on the back.

If you can't read it, it says "Sorry. Cannot remember. Long time ago."

Words fail me.



...but I just had to.

Monday, September 03, 2018

It's Labor Day!!!

And as you know...

...starting tomorrow, you can't wear white again until after Memorial Day.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Peter Holsapple is Always a Good Idea

My Facebook pal Peter Holsapple has a terrific new album out...

...which I'll be writing about next week.

In the meantime, I thought I'd end this one with one of my favorite Holsapple songs, The dBs 1984 "Love is for Lovers."

It doesn't get much janglier than that, I'll tell you that for free.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Loud Noises Say So Much (Part Deux)

And speaking as we were yesterday of godfathers of punk The Sonics, from 1985 please enjoy The Fuzztones and their brilliant cover of perhaps my all-time favorite Sonics song.

That harp solo, which is the main point of difference between the FTs cover and the original, just slays me; the track effectively picks itself up and flies once whoever is playing it starts wailing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Loud Noises Say So Much

Finally -- a documentary about the only rock band that matters.

The film premieres September 30th 2018, in London at the Raindance Film Festival. No word on when it will be released on home video, but obviously we'll keep you posted.

Oh, and BTW, if you don't know why The Sonics are beyond awesome...

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Closed for Monkey Business

Hassles, hassles, and more hassles.

Regular posting -- including extraordinarily interesting news -- resumes on the morrow.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Encounters With Greatness (An Occasional Series): Special A Guy Walks Into a Bar... Edition

So a week or so ago, I was at the Keuka Kafe, my local watering hole down the street (Queens Boulevard, or what the locals call Le Boulevard de la Mort) from a certain Shady Dame's home in Forest Hills. BTW, if you're ever in the neighborhood stop by, say hi, and order something refreshing from their spectacular wine list.

But I digress. In any case, for some reason it seems to attract people directly or indirectly working in the popular music field.

For example, in 2017, I struck up a bar conversation with a neighborhood guy named Gabe Mera, who plays in what turned out to be a really good sort of classic rock band, and also is a terrific guitar tech who specializes in instrument set-ups and repairs. You can read more about Gabe, and the great work he did on a trash-can bass discovered by my chums The Weasels, at the link HERE.

And then in 2018, I got to chatting with a young kid named Joe Benoit (also a neighborhood guy), who turned out to be an insanely talented singer/songwriter/guitarist who (doing business with his band The Regulars) made an album that I played obsessively for months after meeting him, and who more recently was kind enough to contribute angelic backup harmonies on a new Floor Models track.

You can learn more about Joe, and listen to one of The Regulars utterly gorgeous songs, over HERE. You'll thank me, frankly.

In any case, the other week there was a sort of youngish hipster guy at the bar. I engage in this perhaps unfair cultural stereotyping because there were few such folks in the neighborhood when we moved in four years ago, but their numbers are increasing, and this usually presages the opening of better restaurants, which would be a good thing. I gleaned from his overheard conversation that he was in Forest Hills killing time because a connecting flight (from La Guardia to Bumfuck Somewhere) had been cancelled and a Google search turned up the fact that the Keuka Kafe might be an agreeable place to wile away several hours while waiting for the next plane out.

We got to talking; I asked him whether he was traveling for business or pleasure, and he let it drop that he was a rock musician in the midst of a brief tour. I allowed how isn't stardom wonderful, and eventually, after I got over my surprise at the encounter -- I mean, statistically, this was getting weird -- I asked him if I had heard of his band.

I hadn't, but I have now. Ladies and germs, let's give it up for my new pal Clinton Clegg...

...lead singer of the fabulous Pittsburgh-based neo-soul revival band The Commonheart.

And here they are, tearing it up at a recent live appearance.

You can, and should, find out more about them over at their official website HERE. It features tour dates, videos, merch, and links to all that sort of jazz. And here's a really good piece on them from their hometown paper.

And if you bump into Clinton at a bar near you, tell him PowerPop sent you!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

John McCain -- Bigoted Asshole, Lousy Rock Critic

[reposted from April 22, 2007, for obvious reasons. Fuck him. -- S.S.]

By now, you all know about Republican presidential candidate John McCain's most recent contribution to our national discourse.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The liberal group MoveOn.org is launching an ad against Republican John McCain and his joke about bombing Iran, arguing that the nation "can't afford another reckless president."

The group plans to spend about $100,000 to air a commercial on network and some cable television stations in Iowa and New Hampshire, states that hold early contests in the presidential nomination process, spokesman Alex Howe said Friday.

McCain, campaigning Wednesday in South Carolina, answered a question about military action against Iran with the chorus of the surf-rocker classic "Barbara Ann."

"That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran," he said. "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah ..."

McCain defended the joke during a campaign stop in Nevada on Thursday.

"Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends," he told reporters in Las Vegas. "My response is, Lighten up and get a life."

Asked if his joke was insensitive, McCain said: "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"

Apart from its stunning assholishness, there are several ironies attendant to McCain's comment.

For starters, "Barbara Ann" is not a Beach Boys song. Brian Wilson and company's version was a cover of a 1961 doo-wop hit by The Regents.

And the "Bomb Iran" parody that he thought so funny was actually by Vince Vance and the Valiants, a still active oldies revue that originally released the loathsome song on -- get this -- Towel Records.

Towel. As in Towelheads.

And here's the kicker: Both Fred Fassert -- who wrote the original "Barbara Ann" -- and his brother Chuck -- who sang on it -- were of Iranian descent.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Those Fabulous Sixties. Not.

From 1979, please enjoy my somewhat jaundiced review of a certain movie musical as it appeared in The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review.

Sorry I was too lazy to transcribe it, but all you have to do is click on it to enlarge it to readability.

In retrospect, I'm not sure I still agree with all the views expressed, but I like it nonetheless. If truth be told, however, I'm mostly reprinting it here because a certain Idiot from Maine© has been dissing me for being overly nostalgic for Woodstock Nation.

As if.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Annals of the Magazine Business (An Occasional Series): Special My Editor is a Putz Edition

So if you were here last Monday, you will recall that I was enthusing about the forthcoming deluxe reissue of Love Junk, the masterpiece debut album by The Pursuit of Happiness. And, as promised, therein lies a tale.

I didn't review Love Junk when it came out; I was then toiling at a video magazine, and probably would have missed the album entirely had not two of my colleagues -- Glenn Kenny, (now a film critic for the New York Times), and Doug Brod (who went on to be editor in chief of Spin) -- turned me on to it. In any event, by 1990, when the band's second album arrived, I was back running the pop section at Stereo Review, and I jumped at the chance to write about it.


Performance: Somber
Recording: Very good

The last time they checked in, with their 1988 album Love Junk, the Pursuit of Happiness revealed themselves to be a splendid anomaly of a band, virtually the creators of their own genre: Wiseguy Pop/Metal with great tunes and honest lyrics about sex. Led by Moe Berg (whom I once referred to as the first important guy named Moe in rock history), they dispensed music that was at once witty and serious, tuneful and hard-edged, playful and almost profound, all in the context of an examination of the sorry state of relations between the sexes here in the declining days of the century Isaac Bashevis Singer called "on balance, a complete flop." Clearly, this was a significant bunch of musicians.

Well, here they are again at the dawn of the Nineties, and their latest record, One Sided Story, proves that their debut was by no means a fluke. The music is as tough and mature (in the best sense) as one could hope, and again Todd Rundgren's production fits the band like the proverbial you-know-what. Nevertheless, and at the risk of sounding churlish, I have to say that some of the fun has gone out of the enterprise. Serious as Love Junk may have been, it was also one of the best dance-around-the-house albums since the first Pretenders record, and One Sided Story is a far more somber affair. In fact, if there's a unifying emotional theme to Berg's new songs, it's a sort of rueful desperation. And while most of us will recognize the feeling, even identify on some level, the songs don't exactly make you want to do the boogaloo. The most wrenching emotionally is "Shave Your Legs," in which Berg sets you up for a sort of collegiate sexist joke and then shifts gears into an absolutely heartbreaking lover's plea to save a disintegrating relationship. It's an astonishing performance.

Of course, not everything is slash-your-wrists depressing. "Food," for example, has one of the funniest openings ever penned for a rock song, and the eminently hummable "Runs In the Family" notes that beauty is "as easy as DNA," an insight unlikely to occur to, say, Jon Bon Jovi. But even though the band's execution of Berg's tunes retains an admirably ferocious (but not overbearing) crunch-guitar attack, and even though Berg's singing is taking on an endearingly Lou Reedian cast, there's no getting around the fact that - perhaps deliberately - One Sided Story is something of a bummer. That's a relative judgment, of course - on an off day these kids make smarter music than 99 percent of the metal bands in the Western World. But what the album ultimately sounds like is the soundtrack for Moe Berg's evolution from undergraduate smartaleck into confident adult, which is to say that it's a little strained and a little awkward. That doesn't mean you shouldn't buy this record for your own personal collection. In fact, you should. It just means that growing up is a bitch and I for one wish Berg and Company all the luck in the world while they do it. -- S.S.

I worked very hard on the piece, which I was and still am quite proud of, and so you can imagine my surprise and delight when -- a few weeks after it hit the newstands -- I got a handwritten note from Moe Berg himself. The gist of it, which I am paraphrasing from memory, was that the band had gotten a lot of adulatory -- I think the word he used was "gushing" -- press, but that as far as he was concerned I was the one critic who had really gotten what the band was about.

I was quite insufferably pleased with myself over this, but I had barely time to pat myself on the back when I was summoned to the office of the magazine's editor in chief, and told to close the door. The following conversation ensued.

EDITOR (pointing to my TPOH review): What the hell were you thinking when you wrote this?

ME (stammering): I thought it was a perceptive, funny piece, and I just got a letter from the band's lead guy who thought so too.

EDITOR: You will never again waste that much space in the magazine on a review that isn't completely enthusiastic.

That's a true story. And if you're wondering why I didn't quit on the spot, so am I, even after all these years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Great Faces for Radio

Me, yesterday, in the palatial penthouse studio of Area 24 Radio (in Garnerville N.Y., the Paris of the lower Hudson Valley) doing Capt. Al's intertube broadcast Lost at Sea.

Consequently, too tuckered out to post that TPOH story I was planning; it'll be up tomorrow, so help me.

UPDATE: Me and Karina.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tuesday Programming Notes From All Over

First of all, sorry about postponing The Pursuit of Happiness story -- it will go up on Wednesday. Cross my heart and hope to...well, you know.

Meanwhile, just wanted to alert you folks.

Yours truly will be guest deejaying on our friend Capt. Al's intertube radio show LOST AT SEA, starting at 1:30pm, EST.

You can listen to it HERE.

I should add that it's gonna be a theme show, and here's the clue I'm giving Capt. Al as to what the theme is.

Please enjoy. And BTW, we'll be taking requests/death threats/whatever at my e-mail address during the show.

Monday, August 20, 2018

There Were Giants in the Earth in Those Days (An Occasional Series)

Love Junk, by The Pursuit of Happiness, and one of the greatest rock albums of the 80s, is getting the deluxe treatment it deserves. And about freaking time.

This was the big hit from the album, but the rest of it was equally classic, trust me.

You'll have to order it as an import, of course, but it's worth it.

BTW, I have a TPOH story (involving the wonderful Moe Berg, who fronts the band) which I have told here before, but being the slacker schmuck that I am, I'll put it up again tomorrow and pretend it's brand new.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Aretha Franklin 1942 -- 2018

My all-time favorite of hers.

A work of genius for her piano playing alone.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- this death shit is really starting to piss me off.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Your Thursday Moment of Why Didn't I Get the Memo?

From 2007, and the soundtrack to the Adam Sandler movie of almost the same name, please enjoy The Who classic "Love Reign O'er Me," as performed by Pearl Jam.

Oh, I know why I hadn't heard this before -- it's because it's from a goddamned Adam Sandler movie. Pretty great despite that,

[h/t Dan Fridman]

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Your Tuesday Moment of Sleaze-o-Rama

From 1958, please enjoy Kip Tyler (doing business with his usual band The Flips, uncredited) and the self-explanatory rocker "She's My Witch."

I have to admit that I had never heard this record until yesterday. But had my 11 year old self encountered it back in the day, I would have enjoyed it immensely, I'll tell you that for free.

[h/t Roy Edroso/Alicublog]

Monday, August 13, 2018

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special These Geezers Still Got It Edition

The incomparable Cheap Trick and their brand new single "The Summer Looks Good On You."

Inspirational verse:
"Thought I'd seen it all/From mankind to tan lines/I ain't seen nothing like you"

Seriously -- that just blows me away. As my colleague Brett Milano, who turned me on to it, observed -- it may be the power pop song of the year.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Family That Sings Together...

Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys, in the studio, circa 1964.

I have a theory -- and, to quote Monty Python, it is mine and I have it -- that if Dennis had been born 30 years later, he would have been the drummer of Foo Fighters. And if you think that's far-fetched, let me remind you that the actual Foo drummer, Taylor Hawkins, sings on a bonus track on the reissue of Wilson's 1977 solo album masterpiece Pacific Ocean Blue.

Here's Hawkins with the story, which is actually rather moving in its own right, via a piece in MOJO from 2015:

My ex-girlfriend's dad is [original Pacific Ocean Blue co-producer] Gregg Jakobson. About seven or eight years ago, Gregg was saying "You know, you should check out this album I worked on with Dennis Wilson." And I fell in love with it; I loved the honesty in it, the aching beauty of his songs and his voice...

Gregg mentioned that there was a bunch of unfinished tracks. With "Holy Man," Dennis had done a vocal and hated it, and made the the engineer erase it. What they had was a scat guide vocal that Carl [Wilson] had done with a rough melody. Gregg gave me a CD of the song and said "Do what you think you can with it."

I didn't listen to it for a while. I just felt really weird about it -- like, I can't fuck with this...But I tried to channel how Dennis would have done it.

Some people may say "What the fuck is the guy from the Foo Fighters doing on this record?" People hold Dennis very dear to their hearts. But there's a lineage; I'm a beach kid, a drummer, and I've been living with Dennis's music for a long time. I meant what I did genuinely."

He did a hell of a job with it, too.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Girls! Girls! Girls!

From 2012, please enjoy Elvis Costello and a blistering performance of Nick Lowe's ironic hippie anthem...

...but pay special attention to the world's coolest go-go dancers.

Yes, it's who you think they are. Amazingly enough.

[h/t Matt Mitchell]

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

And Speaking of Richard Nixon...

...as we were yesterday, from their surprisingly terrific 1972 album The Night is Still Young, please enjoy Sha Na Na and their doo-wop ode to participatory democracy, "The Vote Song."

As I mentioned the other week, TNISY is basically the only really worthwhile album Sha Na Na ever made; lots of really sharp originals, like the above, and a cover of "In the Still of the Night" that shreds the original, the whole thing produced to a faretheewell by the great Jeff Barry.

I should add that I got a mordant chuckle out of the Nixon reference when the album originally came out, but two years later I was playing it again and laughing my fucking ass off, for obvious reasons.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Obviously, the Great Trump Song has Yet to Be Written (Or Unearthed)!

From 1974, please enjoy the Vic Caesar Orchestra and Chorus and their self-explanatory ode to an earlier era of evil -- "Nixon's the One."

That was originally recorded and privately released in the run up to the Nixon/McGovern election in 1972; one presumes that bandleader and arranger Caesar was a Nixon enthusiast. Two years later, however, as Watergate heated up, Capitol Records -- to their eternal credit -- licensed it and released it as a novelty 45. I well remember the day it arrived at Stereo Review and I got to listen to it for the first time. I also used to play it for various of my commie/hippie friends, who to a person responded with slack-jawed disbelief.

I should add that it later resurfaced on the soundtrack CD to the 2006 Richard Gere film (about Clifford Irving) The Hoax . Where it remains commercially available to this day.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Weekend Listomania: Special We Can Dream, Can't We? Edition

[I originally posted this back in 2007, when this blog and the world were young. But after hearing that Smithereens cover album I talked about yesterday, I thought it was newly relevant. I've done a little re-writing and changed one song. Enjoy. -- S.S.]
So -- here's a fun project for us all to contemplate.


You know -- some really fabulous song you'd really like to hear some favorite artiste -- solo or group -- perform or record, but so far they haven't gotten around to it (the bastards!!!).

Okay, my totally off the top of my head Top Nine is:

9. The Hold Steady -- The Boys Are Back in Town [Thin Lizzy]

They've probably jammed on it a million times -- go public, guys!

8. The Posies -- Carrie-Ann [The Hollies]

They already proved they were genetically bred to do Hollies songs with their version of "King Midas in Reverse" -- just think what they would bring to the sunniest of the Clarke-Hicks-Nash classics.

7. The Pretenders -- Every Little Bit Hurts (Brenda Holloway)

My fave 60s soul ballad/torch song would be a natural for Chrissie Hynde, I suspect.

6. Foo Fighters -- Peter Gunn [Henry Mancini/Johnny Kidd and the Pirates]

Oh come on -- you have to ask?

5. Steve Earle -- Street Fighting Man [The Rolling Stones]

Please-- this is the job he was born for.

4. Bob Mould -- Calvary Cross [Richard Thompson]

On the 1994 Thompson tribute album Beat the Retreat, Mould turned the rockabilly tinged "Turning of the Tide" into a killer piece of buzz-saw punk. I swoon to imagine what he could do with Thompson's most intensely doom-haunted song....

3. Emmylou Harris -- Withered and Died [Richard and Linda Thompson]

This song is so heartbreaking that if Emmy covered it I don't know if we'd survive the hearing.

2. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- 19th Nervous Breakdown [The Rolling Stones]

Jagger's snarl would morph into Petty's sly drawl pretty good, doncha think? Okay, Petty's death has put the kibosh on this, but still -- I'll bet there's a live tape of it somewhere.

And the number one cover I'd love to hear is....

1. Led Zeppelin -- Bits and Pieces [Dave Clark Five]

For obvious reasons.....

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, August 02, 2018

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special It's the Smithereens Edition

From their 1980 DIY release "Girls About Town," please enjoy the greatest thing from Jersey whose name isn't Bruce, i.e. The Smithereens, and their splendid cover of the Beach Boys gem "Girl Don't Tell Me."

Incidentally, that's also from a just released CD that collects all the cover songs -- four previously unreleased -- the 'Reens have done over the years, usually tucked away on movie soundtracks or single B-sides. It's an absolutely killer album; you can -- and should -- order it over at Amazon HERE.

I should add that a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who gleans its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Closed for Monkey Business: Special Real Estate Edition

Had to deal with the crooks and schmucks who run the building where my late mon's apartment is yesterday. Consequently, I'm too angry to wax amusing about music at the moment.

Here's a hint, though: power corrupts people on as ridiculous a level as a co-op board as much as it corrupts anybody else.

Regular, less billious, postings resume on the morrow.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bigfoot Porn Rules

Apparently, this is now a thing.

Of course, Chevy Chase, Christopher Guest and National Lampoon's "Lemmings" saw all this coming years ago.

"And the morning of the avalanche
The Yeti kidnapped Blanche..."

Monday, July 30, 2018

Compilations of the Gods: An Occasional Series

Long time readers may recall our pal ex-pat Brit DJ WAYNE LUNDQVIST FORD, who has a very cool radio show (Ice Cream Man Power Pop and More), that is heard on a terrestrial station in Sweden (also streamed world wide, obviously) and who plays the sort of music that informs the mission statement of this here blog.

Said readers may also recall that, a few times a year, Wayne puts together compilations of that sort of music that he then offers on-line.

Which brings us to the most recent one -- released this past Friday -- which is charmingly monikered SONGS WE LEARNT AT SUNDAE SCHOOL.

Which features 163 -- count 'em, 163 -- tracks by that many bands and solo artists from around the world. All available, for free (cheap), for download and streaming at the link above.

Among them -- holy kazoosis!!! -- songs by The Hounds...

...and The Floor Models...

...both of which include work by some asshole whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels.

You should also check out tracks by Friends of PowerPop Mike Daly and the Planets....

...Nick Piunti...

...and Dave Sheinin.

But everything on the comp I've listened to so far has been well worth hearing, and god bless Wayne for getting this (and his earlier albums) together. Patrons of the arts get points in heaven, as far as I'm concerned.

Meanwhile, you can hear more of these songs...

...on Tuesday over at another radio show -- "Angel's Indie Lounge" -- at BELTER-RADIO, (out of the UK) at 5pm (EST).

Friday, July 27, 2018

Great Lost Singles of the '70s -- An Occasional Series

From 1976, please enjoy Piper -- featuring a then largely unheralded Billy Squier -- and their insanely insinuating ode to watching the clock, romantically speaking, "Can't Wait."

I had completely forgotten about that song until the other day when I was cleaning out my iTunes library. It's pretty terrific, although if memory serves the rest of the album it derives from is undistinguished. I should add, strictly as a historical note, that Piper were not the only commercially unsuccessful band featuring the pre-stardom Squier; he was also a member of THE SIDEWINDERS who made an interesting sort of glam-rock album produced by Lenny Kaye a few years earlier.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Playing Over Our Heads

The latest Floor Models meisterwork is 95 percent complete.

The song's composer -- power pop legend Marc Jonson (who claims he wrote it for us) will be adding background vocals soon, but even in this form it sounds amazing, IMHO. Kudos for the stellar work by my long time bandmates -- Gerry Devine (long-distance vocals), J.D. Goldberg on guitars, and Glen "Bob" Allen on drums. (That's me on the bass and fake strings, BTW).

I should also add that seeing the aforementioned Marc Jonson live at Kenny's Castaways in the late 70s was a literally life-changing event; the aforementioned Floor Models would never have gotten together if we hadn't seen Marc tearing it up on that cramped Kenny's stage back in the day. But that's another story (also involving The Smithereens) and I'll save that for next week.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Eyesight to the Blind

Went to my oculist yesterday, and had my pupils dilated in preparation for a new prescription.

Which brought this fabulous song to mind.

How did people see
In the 14th century
When no one had invented glasses?

Walking all around
Were they more tuned into sound?
Did everything they set their eyes on
Seem to merge with the horizon?

In a wild orgasmic frenzy
Blending into All is Oneness

Or did they just squint
To read the finer print?
Scores on scores of squinting people
Kneeling at the groping steeple

Please, oh God -- give me glasses.


I should add that said song derives from the fabulous 1972 The Night is Still Young, which is pretty much the only Sha Na Na album worth owning. Most of the songs are very sharp originals, plus there's a drop dead gorgeous cover of "In the Still of the Night" that beats the original, and the whole thing is produced to a fare-thee-well by the great Jeff Barry. You can -- and very definitely should -- order the reissue CD over at Amazon HERE.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Closed for Monkey Business

It's Tuesday. I don't like Tuesdays.

Regular, less dyspeptic, posting resumes mañana.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Time Flies Like an Arrow. Fruit Flies Like Bananas.


Depeche Mode: You have drawn Tintin or the Little Prince in the margin of a math test.

Erasure: You have been caught kissing a copy of The Little Prince.

Thompson Twins: You have been spanked with a copy of The Little Prince.

Human League: You have been spanked with a VHS copy of The Neverending Story.

The Clash: Your safety word is “Nicaragua.”

Grace Jones: Your safety word is forty-seven syllables long.

Brian Eno: Your safety word is “10011101.”

Duran Duran: Your safety word is “Kim Wilde.”

Kim Wilde: You have forgotten your safety word.

You can read the rest of it -- some of which is so hilarious that it made me expel an adult beverage onto my computer monitor -- over at the McSweeney's website HERE. Incidentally, it's a two-parter, so don't miss the link to the second half.

Friday, July 20, 2018

(A Tale of) Four Cities Confidential: A Photo Essay

So as you may have heard, a certain Shady Dame and I recently spent some time across the pond. Herewith, selected highlights of our whirlwind sojourn in the British Isles and France.

To paraphrase Paul Simon, it's all a blur to me now, so it's a good thing I had the foresight to take a bunch of pictures. Incidentally, the following photos are best viewed by clicking on them to increase their size. Thank you.

Anyway, after a long, unconscionably delayed flight, we arrived, somewhat exhausted, in the ancestral home of the Fab Four and had this as our introduction to Liverpool -- as seen in the lobby of our hotel. He seemed like a nice young man, but the high heels struck us as a tad odd.

Turns out there was a good reason for the shoes, and kudos to receptionist Chris!

On the Liverpool docks, and yes -- that cat sculpture is made from discarded styrofoam coffee cups.

Incidentally, as you can see from these two street signs....

...although Liverpudlians nominally speak English, it's obviously not the same version that we Yanks do.

In any case, we found Liverpool utterly charming, but after two days of soaking up the atmosphere it was off to Oxford and the Pitt-Rivers Museum (of art and archaeology), where we encountered a stuffed stork that seems to have been art-directed by Chuck Jones and Friz Freling.

This sign, which made me laugh out loud, was glimpsed outside a seafood store at Oxford's famed Covered Market.

Later, we went in search of the Inspector Morse tv series, and found a charming pub that had been used as a location in the show. Imagine our surprise, then...

...when the bartender turned out to be Manuel, from Fawlty Towers.

Meanwhile, over at another museum -- the charmingly monikered Ashmolean -- we discovered this outfit. Which is NOT a costume from a movie...

...but is, in fact, something once worn by the actual Lawrence of Arabia.


While walking down the street nearby our hotel, we chanced across this darling little hat store...

...where BG tried on this remarkable hat.

Which, although tempted, we did not buy.

Then we took in a James Bond exhibit at the London Film Museum.

Jet packs! We were promised jet packs!

Hmm...this car looks strangely familiar.

And we found this in the museum gift shop.

Obviously, we had to buy one, and it now graces the entrance to BG's apartment in the Q-Boro.

Q-Boro. Seems appropriate, now that I think of it.

Later, after a splendid meal in the West End, we attended a performance of the hilarious farce The Play That Goes Wrong.

It was screamingly funny, but this really pissed us off.

I mean -- do you know how much those tickets cost???!!!!

The next day, still annoyed but at least well-rested, we spent several hours at the National Portrait Gallery, which has many treasures well worth the trip. For example, The Dream of Saint Helena, by Paolo Veronese (1570).

Or as it's better known -- Stop Sufferin, Take Bufferin.

Another stop you in your tracks moment was provided by this masterpiece from 1620. Say what you will about the unknown Flemish artist who painted it, but he was really showing off.

I was also much taken with Philosophy, by Salvator Rosa, circa 1645.

The Latin inscription held by the figure in the painting (widely assumed to be the artist himself) translates as "If you don't have anything interesting to say, then keep your freaking mouth shut." Seriously.

And what can I say about this amazing self-portrait by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, from 1742...

...except -- wotta dish.

But my favorite, hands down, is this fabulous family portrait by William Hogarth.

I must admit, I did not know that Hogarth had done anything but black-and-white caricatures. But I was even more surprised when I looked carefully at the top right portion of the painting...

...and discovered that somehow it featured The Incomparable Eddie©!

The next day, it was off to Paris -- where we've been so many times now that it seems like a second home -- by the Chunnel Train...

...where we decamped at our beloved Duquesne Eiffel hotel.

With this view out of our room window. (It's less impressive than it looks -- as they say in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it's only a model.)

BTW, for some reason, the Frenchies seem to like this sparkling lemon beverage...

...but I thought it tasted like Pschitt.

Okay, posting all these photos has been exhausting.

Have a great weekend, everybody! See you on Monday with more traditional power pop related stuff!!!