Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Who Listens to the Radio? (An Occasional Series)

So I'm gonna be on friend of PowerPop Capt. Al's intertube show Lost at Sea today at Area 24 Radio...

...starting at 12pm EST.

And you can listen to it by clicking on the link HERE and then clicking on the Tune In button.

I should add that -- depending on how shy he is -- we may or may not be joined by another friend of PowerPop, constant reader Mark...

...and in any case, it's going to be a sort of theme show.

And here's the musical clue to the theme. (Capt. Al is in the dark as well). See if you can guess what it is!

Anyway, it could be a hot one -- join us, won't you?

P.S.: I'll be watching my e-mail -- ssimels@gmail.com -- during the show, so if you want to make comments/requests/death threats we'll acknowledge them on air.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Electrical Banana

From 1967, and the wonderful (but not released until 1969) Elephant Mountain album by The Youngbloods, please enjoy the fabulous (and surprisingly classically influenced instrumental) "On Sir Francis Drake."

I bring this up because a) I was a huge fan of the original incarnation of those guys, but more specifically because b) as attentive readers will recall, I attended a show by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul last week and you could have knocked me over with a feather to learn that the white-haired second keyboardist in the the band was none other than the above song's composer/performer, the wonderful Lowell Levinger. AKA Banana.

Who's the guy in the loud jacket center in this vintage photo of the Youngbloods.

BTW, Levinger, who turns out to be a really nice cool guy (I'll spare you that story) has a terrific new website which you can and should access over HERE.

And let me just say, and for the record, that Little Steven obviously has really good taste in sidemen.

Friday, November 08, 2019

It's a Helluva Town

From 1987, please enjoy the irrepressible Peter Wolf as he hops his way into your heart with "Come as You Are."

I bring this up because a certain Shady Dame and I were in Manhattan Wednesday night to see Little Steven and the current incarnation of his Disciples of Soul at the Beacon Theater, and Wolf opened, which was an unexpected and delightful surprise. Let's just say he's as skinny, energetic and funny as ever, and by comparison Little Steven was a a tad pedestrian.

In any case, it was a memorable evening for other reasons. To begin with, during the intermission, the guy sitting across the aisle from us came over to say hello. Turned out he's a long time reader, and he had introduced himself to me at the Sweethearts of the Rodeo/Mcguinn/Hillman/Marty Stuart show earlier this year. Small world, and all that.

Hi, Roger!!!

Anyway, after about five Little Steven songs, the Shady Dame and I decided we'd seen enough, and we went outside and hailed a cab. At which point a wiry guy who looked familiar also hailed the same cab. And it was none other than all around great musician/friend of this here blog Willie Nile, who I've been a fan of since forever. We said hello and, naturally, told him to take the cab.

But the best was yet to come. The cab we finally got took us through Central Park and then turned down Fifth Avenue. We were stopped at a light in front of The Pierre Hotel, and we saw a stooped old man with a shock of white hair, leaning on two canes, being helped into a limo.

Who was this aged little troll?

Henry Fucking Kissinger.

In the immortal words of Cindy Adams -- only in NY, kids, only in NY.

P.S. And speaking of Willie Nile, I would be seriously remiss if I didn't take notice of this milestone.

River House Record is very proud to announce Beautiful Wreck Of The World 20th Anniversary Edition to be released November 22nd. Pre-Order: https://lnk.to/zx0jj8ID. It will be remastered and include a never before heard demo called "Help Me Say I Love You". The album holds a pivotal place in the Nile canon for a number of reasons. It was the first studio album released on his own label River House Records. It kicked off his second comeback and he has never looked back. Since “going indie” and taking the reigns to release albums to the public on his own terms it has allowed Nile to amass an unparalleled body of work one masterpiece after another and he shows no signs of slowing down. As No Depression said years later “Willie Nile's artistic renaissance continues unabated.” At the end of the day it’s about the songs and Beautiful Wreck has them in spades! You Gotta Be A Buddha (In A Place Like This), Black Magic And White Lies, Bread Alone, Every Time The World Turns Around, History 101, The Man Who Used To Be, Beautiful Wreck Of The World, Brain Damage, The Black Parade, Oatmeal Box, Somewhere It's Raining, On The Road To Calvary (for Jeff Buckley), Tiorunda Surprise. It was chosen as one of the Top Ten Albums of the Year by numerous publications including Billboard Magazine and The Village Voice! Lucinda Williams called "On the Road to Calvary," Nile's song for Jeff Buckley, "One of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard." Beautiful Wreck Of The World is back fully in all its remastered sonic glory on November 22nd. Pre-Order Today!

Damn, I love that song (which is the leadoff track, BTW). And yes -- pre-order the album at the link. Like immediately.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Lifestyles of the Vapid and Creepy

[I originally posted this back in 2008 at the website of Box Office Magazine, where I happily toiled for two years. I'm posting it here, despite the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with the music that is the raison d'etre of this here blog, because the Box Office archive site is kind of a pain in the ass to access, and I just love this enough to want it more readily accessible. Regular posting resumes on the morrow. -- S.S.]

My final thoughts on the Sex and the City movie: It's longer than Parsifal and with fewer laughs.

Okay, not really, but in all seriousness, about halfway through the thing it finally dawned on me exactly what has always bothered me about the whole SATC phenomenon. The movie itself, of course, is just a garden variety shoddily made romantic comedy. I mean, forget the fact that Sara Jessica Parker looks like she was lit by Stevie Wonder, or that the men are all unlikeable weenies, or that the funniest joke in the whole interminable two hours twenty two minutes is about diarrhea, or that what little sex is actually on screen is utterly joyless. What you're left with is still no better or no worse than another recent by the numbers flick like, say, What Happens in Vegas.

No, the real problem is that the film (and, looking back, the show) is, essentially an obnoxious 80s Reagan Era yuppie consumerist glitz fantasy run amok, and then dropped down, inappropriately, into the 21st century, where it pretends (against reason) to be hep and now and cutting edge.

In other words, Carrie and her designer shoe and Cosmo obsessed pals are essentially the pathetic, slightly over the hill trendoids of Absolutely Fabulous. Only without that show's knowing irony.

Or to put it somewhat unkindly, the fact is that these women....

...want to be these people...

...whereas they're actually...

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Vocals By a Nasal Lead Singer Say So Much

From 1982, please enjoy Little Steven and (the original incarnation) of The Disciples of Soul and a killer live version of (the greatest song in open G-tuning that has never been played by Keith Richards) "Under the Gun."

And yes, in case you were wondering that's the great Dino Danelli of Rascals fame on the weird drum kit.

I bring all this up because I'm going to see the current version of these guys tonight at the Beacon, which is sort of a bucket list thing for me.

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

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Common My Ass. These Guys Are Totally UNCommon!

So as some of you may recall, back in 2018, 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.

In any event, here's the short version of the story as I posted it at the time.

So 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 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 to facilitate that giving it up, here are three performances they did over the weekend on the CBS morning show.

Jeebus, those guys are good. More important, can somebody please explain to me why with non-major label music this memorable available on your teevee, why is it that whoever books the acts on Saturday Night Live continues to foist the worst crap imaginable on us?

Oh well. Meanwhile you can find out more about Clinton and the band over at their website HERE, including a way to order their fabulous new CD Pressure.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Time is Money, Dave!

Circa 1978-9, the great Dave Edmunds tries to nail the vocal to the Rockpile recording of "Born Fighter" with a certain amusing lack of success.

And then when Nick Lowe and the rest of the band show up, it gets even cooler.

Seriously — this is one of the best rock promo documentaries ever, and I had no idea it existed until last week.

[h/t Matt Mitchell]

Friday, November 01, 2019

I Lost It At the Movies

Okay, this is pretty much the coolest thing ever.

The guest programmer on my favorite historic film channel tomorrow is...get ready...Bruce Springsteen.

Via Rolling Stone:

Bruce Springsteen will appear on Turner Classic Movies November 2nd to “guest program” the network by picking two of his favorite movies and discussing them with host Ben Mankiewicz. First up is the 1956 John Ford/John Wayne classic Western The Searchers. It will air at 3:30 pm EST. It will be followed by Elia Kazan’s 1957’s masterpiece A Face in the Crowd at 5:45 pm EST.

The interview segments were shot at Springsteen’s home studio in New Jersey... In the first one, Springsteen talks about how his songs are similar to movies. “I write in character,” he says. “And to write like that you need to gather so much cinematic detail, constantly filling the songs with images, images, images, geography, little character traits, things very similar to script writing, really.”

In the second one, he explains how the 1973 Terrence Malick movie Badlands and the 1955 thriller The Night of the Hunter influenced his songwriting on Nebraska. “The thing they have in common is they’re both twisted fairytales,” he says. “Even the score in Badlands had, I believe, glockenspiel — was very fairytale-ish. I took that sound picture and made a record to of it.”

And, needless to say, picking A Face in the Crowd is totally relevant to our current historical moment. I mean, wouldn't it be fabulous if President Mediocre Columbo Villain had his own personal Lonesome Rhodes moment before Bruce's TCM segment?

Hey -- a boy can dream.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

In honor of Halloween, please enjoy the criminally underrated Gwil Owen...

...and his fabulous ode to the proverbial "Haunted House."

I first encountered Owen when he was the lead singer (circa 1988) of alt-rockers The Thieves, who made an absolutely sensational album -- Seduced by Money -- that was produced by none other than Marshall Crenshaw. If you can find a copy, grab it immediately; it's a classic. The song above, if I recall, was from the follow up album Phoenix, which I believe Gwil self-released.

In any case, I lost track of the guy over the years, but I rediscovered him in 2017, and he's done really well for himself since the Thieves, including an Oscar nomination for a song he wrote for the soundtrack of The Horse Whisperer.

You can find out more about him over HERE.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Ever Since the World Ended

Mose Allison -- the greatest hepster songwriter/piano player of all time -- is finally getting a tribute album.

Hey world -- what took you so long?

Here are two cuts from the CD, which drops, as the kids say, on Nov. 29 on Fat Possum Records.

And here's the complete track listing.

1. Taj Mahal - Your Mind Is On Vacation

2. Robbie Fulks - My Brain

3. Jackson Browne - If You Live

4. The Tippo Allstars featuring Fiona Apple - Your Molecular Structure

5. Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite - Nightclub

6. Chrissie Hynde - Stop This World

7. Iggy Pop - If You're Going to the City

8. Bonnie Raitt - Everybody's Crying Mercy

9. Loudon Wainwright III - Ever Since the World Ended

10. Richard Thompson - Parchman Farm

11. Peter Case - I Don't Worry About A Thing

12. Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin - Wild Man On the Loose

13. Anything Mose! - The Way of the World

14. Frank Black - Numbers On Paper

15. Amy Allison with Elvis Costello - Monsters of the Id

I was lucky enough to see Mose, who passed away in 2016 at the ripe old age of 89, at some hole in the wall jazz club in Greenwich Village sometime in the early 80s; the word that most comes to mind to describe the man and the music he made that night is "droll."

In any event, I am planning to enjoy the hell out of this CD when it arrives.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Your Tuesday Moment of Words Fail Me

From their 2011 album Kids Sing Bob Dylan, please enjoy The Starbugs and the damndest version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" you'll ever hear.

Spoiler alert: The girl in the middle behind the microphone is standing on a wooden box.

Seriously, that brought tears to my eyes. And it occurred to me that those children were only slightly younger than I was the first time I heard The Byrds do the song, an event which literally changed my life forever.

In any case, I think the great Lothar and the Hand People said it best. Kids ARE little people.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Folk Process at Work

[I first posted the following in 2010, when this blog and the world were young; I had forgotten two of the three versions of the song featured since then, so for a variety of reasons -- including the fact that I've recently gotten interested in the live tapes of the Grateful Dead recorded before they got their record deal -- I thought it might be worth revisiting. In any case, enjoy if possible. -- S.S.]

From 1966 (but unreleased until 1989) here's The Byrds (at the height of their powers) and a very cool studio version of the venerable "I Know You Rider."

And from a year later, here's land-locked Boulder, Colorado surf band The Astronauts with another perspective on the song.

[Audio Note: This is one of those really weird early stereo mixes -- it sounds horrible on headphones, but just fine on real speakers. Act accordingly.]

And finally, from the Avalon Ballroom in late September 1966, here's the Dead with their take.

The song itself is as old as the proverbial hills, although its first modern appearance dates back to a 1934 John and Alan Lomax folklore anthology; by the 60s, it was pretty much a blues and folkie standard. The Byrds opened their live shows with it for much of 1966-67, but that version was in majestic open-D tuning; the studio track above is in G, the better to emulate (as Roger McGuinn has noted on several occasions) The Beatles then current "Paperback Rider." The Dead also used to play it a lot back in the day; it's no secret I'm not particularly a fan, but I must admit that discovering this version was a bit of an eye-opener. It noodles a little too much for my taste (so what else is new?) but it works up a pretty effective head of steam by the time it sort of collides to a halt.

Actually, on balance I think I kind of prefer the Astronauts' cover. The whole surf thing was of course pretty much passé at this point, and their albums found them trying on whatever current rock styles they thought they could credibly get away with, with often cringeworthy results. But this one has a genuinely authentic folk-rock vibe and the rhythm section really kicks; if the San Francisco hippies in the psychedelic ballrooms the year this was released had actually heard it, I suspect they might even have approved.

Friday, October 25, 2019

It's About Time. Now Lets Get Them Into the One in Cleveland.

TRENTION, NJ -- Governor Phil Murphy has announced that The Smithereens will be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in the Performing Arts Category in the fall.

The Smithereens -- Jim Babjak, Dennis Diken, Mike Mesaros, and the late Scotch Plains native Pat DiNizio -- will be inducted at the 11th annual ceremony to be held on Sunday, October 27, 2019, at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. The band had a string of hits in the 1980s, including Only a Memory, Blood and Roses, and A Girl Like You.

DiNizio, who was proud of his Scotch Plains roots, has been celebrated locally as an inductee into the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Hall of Fame. In 2018, shortly after his death, the Township honored him by naming a street after him. Mayor Al Smith and Township Manager Al Mirabella unveiled the sign marking Pat DiNizio Way at the intersection of Montague Avenue and Westfield Avenue in front of the musician's family home across from St. Bartholomew's Church.

"This is terrific news for The Smithereens, Pat DiNizio, and his beloved hometown of Scotch Plains," Al Mirabella said. "Pat was a true personal friend of mine and I always enjoyed his stories and the way he shared his love of New Jersey."

"Wherever in the world he was performing, he always talked about New Jersey," Mirabella added. "I miss him, but I’m happy to know that he’ll be inducted into the NJ Hall of Fame. I’m sure his mother, Antoinette Dinizio will be very proud of this prestigious honor."

Apparently, Jon Bon Jovi is going to actually induct them. Fellow Jersey native (and one of my personal heroes) Southside Johnny Lyon will also be honored at the ceremony.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Hairway to Steven

For some odd reason, this resonated with me.

And yeah, it wasn't a hit, but god bless Ben Folds for writing this and spelling my name with a "v".

[h/t NYMary]

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Nick Tosches 1949 - 2019

Okay, it isn't just rock stars who are dropping like flies. Now it's rock critics.

In this case, one of the handful of that breed who might conceivably have been inhabited by genius.

I didn't know Nick Tosches personally, but for years he was a fixture at a watering hole we shared in the Village, where I used to see him at the bar all the time. I found him an incredibly intimidating figure, for a variety of reasons, and frankly, if anybody had ever introduced me to him I would probably have gone into full humiliating "I'm not worthy" mode.

Which is to say he was sort of an idol of mine, and with good reason, I think.

For starters, this book...

...which began its life as an early 70s series in CREEM magazine, turned me on to scads of great music I hadn't known about. It's also one of the two or three funniest tomes ever written about rock-and-roll.

And this one...

...which is also pretty hilarious, is not only the greatest celebrity biography ever, but quite possibly the most profound, perceptive and eloquent meditation on existential nullity and the nature of fame in the English language.

Seriously, it rises to the level of, dare I say, literature, and if you haven't read it, your life is the poorer for it.

Bottom line: RIP, Nick. You were an irreplaceable original.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Hiroshima Mon Amour

So as attentive readers may recall, I'm in the process of readying a solo single -- yeah, right, I know; the masses have been clamoring for that -- the a-side of which is a remake of this amazing Byrds' anti-war folk-rock classic from 1966.

But what I myself didn't recall is that a very interesting but obscure American band of the 60s had already done a cover of it in -- dig this -- the style of The Yardbirds. And that I had posted about it here a decade ago.

The Byrds track is one of my favorite things ever (David Crosby's out-of-the-blue harmony line on the last verse is devastating, I think), but their version (courtesy of Pete Seeger) appropriates the melody of an old Celtic folk song called "The Silkie." The lyrics to both versions, however, are based on a translation of a poem by Turkish writer Nazim Hikmet.

In any case, The Misunderstood's radical re-imagining of it -- as you can hear, it sounds almost Middle Eastern -- really does suggest that these guys could have been a major band if the fates (including the Vietnam War era draft, ironically enough) hadn't intervened.

The short version: The Misunderstood were a Brit Invasion-inspired California garage band with all the usual influences. Then they added a steel guitar player(!), got discovered by the guy who would become British deejay John Peel, moved to England, got signed, and impressed people as being innovators in a league with the aforementioned Yardbirds and Pink Floyd despite the fact that none of their singles sold. Eventually, one of them got called up by Uncle Sam and the whole thing kind of fell apart by early '67.

Most of the rest of their recorded output from that period is equally if not more impressive, IMHO. On the other hand, I'm not sure their failure to break through commercially was simply a matter of bad luck -- their original songs (to my ears) lack that certain something, despite the performances being tremendously imaginative and accomplished.

Still, they seem to be one of the more tantalizing Might Have Been stories from the period, and it's kind of wondrous that you can still stumble across stuff like this unawares.

POSTSCRIPT: I should add that there's a really terrific compilation of their studio work available over at Amazon HERE.

Plus, you can read a very entertaining band history by Ritchie Unterberger over HERE.

Also: Misunderstood pedal steel monster Glen Ross Campbell went on to play with UK blues-bashers Juicy Lucy for a while and also did a stint in Joe Cocker's backup band. He later moved to New Zealand where he is still active in music.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Closed for Birthday Monkey Business

They say it's my birthday, and by golly it is!

So I'm taking the day off.

Regular posting -- including reviews of some new albums -- resume on the morrow.

Friday, October 18, 2019

From their 1994 album While You're Down There, please enjoy The Interesting Guys and the most sinister sounding cover version of The Carpenters' "Close to You" you're ever likely to hear.

The specific interesting guy singing that, BTW, is Athens GA. legend the Reverend Connor Tribble, who I knew before he was ordained.

You can find out more about him over HERE.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

World's Coolest Living Human Tells All

From 2004, please enjoy the incredibly great Ian Hunter and his rendition of the venerable "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square."

A song I'm beginning to think it may be impossible to do a bad version of.

Oh, and BTW, the reason I'm bringing all this up is because I heard Dennis Day sing it on an episode of the old Jack Benny radio show the other night.

Yeah, yeah. I know.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Boy Needs a Hobby

Mine, as you may be aware, is spending vast sums of money I don't have on various musical projects in an expensive New York City recording studio.

Including, ridiculously enough -- given my lack of anything resembling a passable singing voice -- a forthcoming solo single.

Right. The masses have been clamoring for that, comrades.

In any case, Monday night I did an almost final mix -- a few tweaks will be forthcoming later in the month -- for the B-side of the aforementioned single.

The song, BTW, is by friend of PowerPop Peter Spencer, who I have written about here on several previous occasions.

I should add that Pete heard an earlier version of the above track and graciously refrained from hitting me. I think he mostly liked the handclaps near the end.

Oh -- the people responsible for this colossal folly include myself (vocals and keyboards), Glen Robert Allen of the Floor Models (drums), Joe Benoit (guitars), and my pals from The Weasels Allan Weissman (bass), David Hawxwell (guitars and harmonies), and Glenn Leeds (more keyboards). Please don't hold any of that against them.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Closed for Monkey Business

Had a productive, but long and exhausting, night in the studio yesterday.

Regular postings -- including the result of that session -- resume on the morrow.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me

From 2015, please enjoy the still criminally underrated Tom Jones and his mind-boggling version of "Elvis Presley Blues."

Oh, and once you've absorbed that -- here's the song's author, Gillian Welch, with more or less the original version of the song in 2001.

I was thinking that night about Elvis
Day that he died, day that he died
I was thinking that night about Elvis
Day that he died, day that he died

Just a country boy that combed his hair
And put on a shirt his mother made and went on the air
And he shook it like a chorus girl
And he shook it like a Harlem Queen
He shook it like a midnight rambler, baby
Like you never seen, you never seen

I was thinking that night about Elvis
Day that he died, day that he died
I was thinking that night about Elvis
Day that he died, day that he died

How he took it all out of black and white
Grabbed his wand in the other hand and he held on tight
And he shook it like a hurricane
He shook it like to make it break
And he shook it like a holy roller, baby
With his soul at stake, his soul at stake

I was thinking that night about Elvis
Day that he died, day that he died
I was thinking that night about Elvis
Day that he died, day that he died

He was all alone in a long decline
Thinking how happy John Henry was that he fell down and died
When he shook it and he rang like silver
He shook it and he shine like gold
He shook it and he beat that steam drill, baby
Well bless my soul, bless my soul

He shook it and he beat that steam drill, baby
Well bless my soul, what's wrong with me?

They're both great, obviously, but the Jones version? Good lord.

That couldn't be any further from "It's Not Unusual" if you put a gun to its head.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Let Us Now Praise (Should Have Been) Famous Women

From 2013, please enjoy the inexplicably obscure Foxes and Fossils, at what appears to be a parking lot outside a suburban Applebees, with an incredibly swell live cover of "I Can't Let Go."

And if I may digress for a moment, I should add that I'm kind of baffled by the sudden Linda Ronstadt nostalgia that's afflicted a surprising number of my critical colleagues of late.

I mean, yeah, her medical problems are very sad and I wouldn't wish them on anybody, but she is and was vastly overrated, and her albums -- with the exception of the trio stuff with Dolly and Emmylou, or the Mexican things -- are mostly sterile and over-produced LA crap. IMHO.

Basically, she was The Eagles' Women's Auxiliary. And I say it's spinach and the hell with it.

Okay, I'm exaggerating to make a point, but let's be clear here: Despite the credit on that video, this is not a cover of a Linda Ronstadt song.

It's a cover of a song written by the great Chip ("Wild Thing") Taylor and originally made famous by Evie Sands (who is far more deserving of household word status than Ronstadt)...

...and then popularized by The Hollies.

As for Foxes and Fossils, apparently they broke up a few years ago without ever achieving the success they clearly deserved.

Here's their gopher website if you want to know more about them.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

[h/t Jai Guru Dave]

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Your Thursday Moment of This Way Madness Lies

Attentive -- and perhaps unusually forgiving -- readers may recall that of late, for reasons we needn't get into, I've been using old episodes of the Jack Benny radio show as a sleeping aid.

And that I have unaccountably developed a huge fondness for the Irish tenor song stylings of Dennis Day as a result.

Okay, I know I said I wouldn't inflict another Day song on you again, but I heard this one -- from a 1942 show -- last night and found myself thinking it was really sweet and really funny.

I hope you agree.

And okay, this time I PROMISE YOU I WON'T DO IT AGAIN.

I'm not kidding, honest.

I should add, BTW, that the song was co-written by the great Jule Styne, who had more substantial success writing "People" and the entire score of Funny Girl. Just saying.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Ginger Baker 1939 - 2019

I was never particularly a Cream fan, and Baker's drum style left me cold more or less from day one.

That said, these two Cream songs are on my Great Jukebox in the Sky in perpetuity. I would have cheerfully covered these in any band that deigned to have me as a member.

I should add that "Tennis," which I had as a single...

...was actually the theme song for The Savage Seven, a really cheesy 1968 B-movie biker flick.

And the lyrics, by Clapton collaborator Martin Sharp, are absolutely fabulous.

Twice upon a time
In the valley of the tears
The auctioneer is bidding
For a box of fading years
And the elephants are dancing
On the graves of squealing mice
Anyone for tennis?
Wouldn't that be nice?

And the ice creams are all melting
On the streets of bloody beer
While the beggars stain the pavements
With fluorescent Christmas cheer
And the Bentley-driving guru
Is putting up his price
Anyone for tennis?
Wouldn't that be nice?

And the prophets in the boutiques
Give out messages of hope
With jingle bells and fairy tales
And blind providing scopes
And you can tell that all they're saying
Underneath the pretty lights
Anyone for tennis?
Wouldn't that be nice?

Yellow Buddhist monk is
Burning brightly at the zoo
You can bring a bowl of rice
And then a glass of water, too
And Fate is setting up the chessboard
While Death rolls out the dice
Anyone for tennis?
Wouldn't that be nice?

I should also add that in the rock-and-roll circles I liked to think I ran in, the whole idea of Ginger Baker was something of an insult at some point in the 70s.

As you can see by this actual Village Voice musicians classified ad for Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band.

Finally, I should mention that word is that Baker was too obnoxious for Satan, to the point where he was just thrown out of Hell, and is now actually making an unholy racket in Heaven.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Who Listens to the Radio?

Hopefully you guys, as I'm gonna be on friend of PowerPop Capt. Al's show Lost at Sea this morning on fabulous Area 24 Radio.

True to my word, I'm gonna be playing music by somebody other than me -- specifically another friend of PowerPop, Joe Benoit, who had a record release party and gig over the weekend that I attended and dug the hell out of.

(Yes, I'm really tired -- rocking out two days in a row really takes it out of me.)

In any case, the show should be a lot of fun; it starts circa 11am EST (I'll be making my appearance around 11:30) and you can listen to it over HERE by clicking on the link that says Tune In.

Oh -- and you can (and should) download Joe's gorgeous new album Too Old to Be a Rock Star over HERE.

Monday, October 07, 2019

The Floor Models: A Night to Remember

The short version: The Floor Models reunion show was, to quote Shelley Duvall in Annie Hall, "transplendent."

And thank you to everybody who attended or was involved in it in any way.

Yeah, yeah; I know that performance is raggedy, but it's great anyway and if those four guys aren't having fun, I'm no judge of horseflesh.

Also: My dear friend Laura Giantonio -- who in an earlier life was a big time rock photographer -- took these. Words fail me.

In case you were wondering, it really felt like the old days. Just a fabulous time.

And here's hoping Andy was watching it from rock-and-roll heaven and giving it a big thumbs up.

Okay, starting tomorrow -- posts about music I am not personally involved in. I promise.

Friday, October 04, 2019

It's Floor Models Week: Part V -- Rehearsals for Retirement

In preparation for tonight's sure to he historic reunion of the Floor Models Mark II (aka Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams), we got together last night in the same room at the same time for the first time in 33 years.

As you can see, the room in question was, shall we say, somewhat cramped, but hey -- we've always been a low budget operation.

In any case, the big show is tonight at SESSION 73, on the corner of 73rd street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan. The band hits the stage at 8pm.

Pray for us, everybody, and we're looking forward to seeing you there.

Also: a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who identifies the source of this item's title.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

It's Floor Models Week: Part IV -- A Clear Sign of the End Times

Well, they said it would never happen, but alas they were wrong.

This Friday evening -- 33 years since we last played together in the same room -- the members of The Floor Models Mark II (aka Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams) will be performing live in concert.

At SESSION 73, on the corner of 73rd street and 1st Avenue in New York City. A proverbial low dive with continuous entertainment.

Those of you lucky enough not to be members of the group's inner circle may not be aware that this sure to be historic event was preceded two weeks ago by a hugely successful soiree -- at the KEUKA KAFE in Forest hills -- in celebration of our recently released CD Esprit de Floor (available at Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and the rest of the usual suspects).

That's us watching our younger selves on the Keuka's video monitor, BTW.

In any case, tomorrow's show is sure to attract the curious and the kooky, and a splendid time is guaranteed for all. Doors open during the day, the band hits the stage at 8pm, and the drinks will be discounted while we're on.

Be there or be square. For more details, check out the Session 73 website at the link above.

You're welcome, and pray for us.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

It's Floor Models Week: Part III - Closed for Monkey Business

Had close to a full-fledged anxiety attack thinking about Friday's upcoming reunion gig yesterday.

Regular posting, assuming I can get a Xanax scrip later today, resumes on the morrow.

Have I mentioned we're doing a reunion gig on Friday?

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

It's Floor Models Week: Part II -- Alas, There Will Never Be a Deluxe Criterion Blu-ray Edition of Our 1965 Movie Musical Masterpiece

It was our A Hard Day's Night, but it bombed at the box-office.

And the negative and all surviving prints were recently lost in a fire at Universal.

Fortunately, you can still hear the title song...

...and buy the soundtrack CD over at Amazon HERE.

Monday, September 30, 2019

It's Floor Models Week: Part I -- Outtakes of the Gods

So here's a track that we considered using to close the new album (Esprit De Floor, available at Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, CDBaby et al in both digital and CD form)...

...written and performed by our late great singer/songwriter/12-string ace Andrew Pasternack.

Live on WBAI-FM sometime in the early 80s.

The song, I think, is a real hoot; in the early days of the band, we did a sort of Talking Heads/Devo version of it on-stage, but we ultimately dropped it because it was, stylistically, just too jarringly different from all the other stuff we were doing.

Tomorrow: Cahiers du Cinema.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Bruce Springsteen Birthday Week -- Part Le Troisième

Here's another one I'd forgotten about -- his encore performance at the No Nukes show.

I actually didn't have the heart to look up who the poor bastard that had to follow this was.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

My Back Pages -- And His

So after posting "You'll Be Comin' Down" yesterday, in honor of Bruce Springsteen's birthday, I realized I hadn't listened to Magic lately, and remembered how much I liked it when it was first released in 2007.

Which led me to look up the review of it I'd written for the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, which I recalled being quite proud of at the time.

A long time ago - May of 1968, to be precise - first-generation rock critic Jon Landau reviewed Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding in Crawdaddy (which, by the way, has recently been revived - online), and he summed it up with this particularly felicitous and insightful phrase: "Dylan has felt the War."

It is, to say the least, a tad ironic that lo these many years later, a similar phrase could be tagged to Bruce Springsteen's Magic - and not just because Landau has been Springsteen's manager for longer than some people who will buy this album have been alive. But yes, the specter of Iraq does haunt some of the songs here - and not just the explicitly antiwar "Last to Die," a fairly heartbreaking piece of work, it should be noted, albeit more in resignation than in anger.

For example, the opening track (and the album's first single), "Radio Nowhere," evokes the war obliquely. Its resemblance to Blue Oyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) the Reaper" notwithstanding, I think it's an (almost) instant classic, partly because it's such a break from the occasionally overheated street romanticism of Springsteen's 1970s stuff (compared with, say, "Badlands," this is a haiku) and partly because it's got a kind of a sci-fi feel, an eerie depiction of a post-Bush apocalyptic landscape via the metaphor of a late-night DJ wondering if anybody's listening.

"Long Walk Home," another of Springsteen's small-town sketches, comes at the war from a different angle, with the singer's father reminding him that "Certain things are set in stone / Who we are, what we'll do, and what we won't." And then there's "Gypsy Biker," which can be read as a warrior's goodbye to a fallen friend (killed for the same mistake mourned in "Last to Die"), as well as "Devil's Arcade," which might be about a shattered soldier in a V.A. hospital. Or not. (The lyric is, shall we say, ambiguous.)

Meanwhile, the sound of Magic is really, in the abstract, quite wonderful. Brendan O'Brien's production isn't exactly a Spectorian Wall of Sound, but it's a big, dense, imposing construct on its own terms. And you'll be pulling interesting instrumental and vocal moments out of the mix throughout, my own favorite being the church bells and wordless Beach Boys harmonies that sneak up at the end of "Your Own Worst Enemy" - and Bruce's singing right before that, which ranks with the prettiest he's ever done.

The rest of the songs are a fairly mixed bag stylistically. "You'll Be Comin' Down" is a stately bit of folk rock with one of his most appealing melodies, but lyrically it's addressed to a girl whose pretty face is going to hell sooner rather than later, and it's as bleak and depressing as anything that Richard Thompson has ever imagined. "Livin' in the Future" is a throwback to Springsteen's '60s R&B roots; it has a bit of a "Hungry Heart" party groove, but the story it tells might be about some desperate, not-so-distant time when the singer's "ship Liberty sailed away on a bloody red horizon."

But the killer - or at least, the song I keep coming back to - is "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," a Brill Building love song of the kind that Bruce used to toss off effortlessly, and an absolute stunner. It could be the 40-years-in-the-making sequel to Manfred Mann's "Pretty Flamingo" (which Bruce used to cover live), with the singer now older, wiser, but still optimistic against the odds. Which means that the lines "Down here on magic street / Love's a fool's dance / And I ain't got much sense, but I still got my feet" may be simultaneously the silliest and most profound lyrics that Bruce Springsteen has ever written.

--- Steve Simels

Turns out I still am, actually. The stuff about the war in particular.

But in any case, I re-listened to the record, and I had completely forgotten this song, which absolutely blows me away.

You're welcome very much.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Just Shoot Me Now

In case you missed it, Bruce Springsteen -- a man who has changed my life in unfathomable ways -- turned 70 last Monday.

Upon hearing the news, a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance remarked "And since he's a manic-depressive, I'm sure he's handling it really well."

Obviously, we're both going to hell for that joke.

In any case, Happy Birthday, boss.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Closed for Monkey Business

Had a productive, but long and late, night in the studio.

Regular postings, all tanned rested and peppy, resume on the morrow.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Good Things Come to Those Who Hang Around....

From his just released album Better Late Than Never, please enjoy the ridiculously talented singer/songwriter Tim Jackson...

...and the title song to said album, which I am currently relating to like crazy.

Seriously, forgetting that this song speaks to me on a deeply personal level (for obvious reasons), this simply sounds, for my money, like pop heaven.

Even though, for the life of me, I can't quite put my finger on who it specifically reminds me of -- some Brit New Wave guy, perhaps. Your thoughts?

In any case, you can read more about Tim over OVER HERE.

And you can -- and should -- stream his album over at Spotify HERE.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Live From Some Weekend in 1982

More proof, if any was needed, that the best rock-and-roll is made at two in the morning by people playing at a dive bar -- in this case, the old Other End on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village -- in front of a bunch of drunken louts.

More specifically -- The Floor Models covering "19th Nervous Breakdown." Shall we say enthusiastically.

Recorded with a boom box in front of the stage; the singer's girlfriend can be heard arguing about the check.

As you can see (and hear, at the end, if you click the link) I was doing my Bill Wyman impression at the time.

We had a more or less two year weekend residency at the aforementioned Other End, and if memory serves I believe I have mentioned on previous occasions that I look back now on the experience as the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Eddie Money 1949 - 2019

On the Letterman show in 1986, with Ronnie Spector. He knows he's being upstaged big time, and he's totally cool with it, which says a lot for him.

He looked almost as good in a suit as Robert Palmer, too.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Closed for Monkey Business

YouTube isn't sharing the embed code of something I wanted to post today. Regular stuff resumes after I get the problem resolved.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Ric Ocasek 1945 - 2019

I had forgotten how funny Ocasek was in this. Strange what pops into your head when you least expect it.

I heard the news of his passing last night and was genuinely saddened. Obviously, like any right-thinking rock fan, I thought The Cars were totally awesome, but as a New Yorker -- well, let's just say that when I lived in the Village, Ocasek was about as approachable a star as you could imagine; you were constantly bumping into him (sometimes with his charming wife) while grocery shopping or at the video store. He was just a neighborhood guy, albeit one who kind of looked like some kind of weird stick insect.

I should add that I have long insisted that someday some very hep country band is gonna cover "My Best Friend's Girl" and have a huge hit with it.

I should also add that "You Might Think" is one of my Top Ten favorite records of all time.

And that this bluegrass cover of "Just What I Needed" is one of the greatest things in the history of things.

Have I mentioned that this death shit is really starting to piss me off?

Friday, September 13, 2019

Insert Dental Joke Here!

From 2019, please enjoy The New Pornographers and their utterly delightful "Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile."

Yeah, it starts -- both musically and visually -- too close to "Billie Jean" for comfort, but it almost immediately develops into its own thing, and I gotta say -- this is now my favorite song of the year that I wasn't personally involved in.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

[h/t Peter Scott]

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Your Thursday Moment of Words Fail Me

Okay, this has nothing to do with music, but it is my new favorite thing ever and I just had to share.

Regular music postings resume on the morrow, assuming I've stopped laughing.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Annals of the Meaning of Life

This is without a doubt the cutest and/or coolest thing I have ever seen.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Monday, September 09, 2019

Esprit De Floor: Andrew Pasternack 1955-2013

Well, the new Floor Models album has finally arrived, and I am beyond stoked that this project, two years in the making, has finally resulted in a disc.

It's especially gratifying because the project originally began as a sort of tribute to our late great 12-string ace Andy Pasternack, who founded the band, came up with the album title, and wrote more great songs than you can shake a stick at.

Here's the one we recorded two years ago to get the album rolling; it was a live favorite of ours back in the day, but for some reason we never even demoed it at the time.

In any event, the physical CDs are wending their way off to our distributor on the morrow, but the album itself can be listened to (for free) over at YouTube.

Or if you wanna be a patron of the arts, you can download/stream it at CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and the rest of the usual suspects.

And I should add that Andy himself gets the last word on the album, via a live solo recording he did on WBAI-FM on a night in the early 80s. It's utterly charming; I like to think of it as our equivalent of "Her Majesty" on Abbey Road.

[cross-posted at FLOOR YOUR LOVE.]

Friday, September 06, 2019

My Back Pages

So me and the Floor Models have been casting about for another project now that our album is done (out on CD tomorrow, if you can believe it -- more details after the weekend).

And we decided that an EP of covers of songs by The Byrds -- particularly ones we never got around to playing live but always wanted to -- might be a lot of fun. Especially since Gerry already had a version of "5D" in the works.

And then coincidentally, I stumbled across this online, which I had never heard before, and it blew my tiny mind.

The instrumental track for Chris Hillman's first great song, which originally appeared on the Younger Than Yesterday album. (Okay, David Crosby's harmony vocal is there on the choruses, but this is 90 percent just instrumental.)

That is, of course, the great Clarence White on lead guitar (uncredited); unless I am very much mistaken, this was his first recording with the band.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Great Lost Singles of the 70s: An Occasional Series

From 1973, please enjoy the unjustly tarred as one-hit wonder Stealers Wheel and two pop-rock masterpieces that should be even more well known than "Stuck in the Middle With You"; the gorgeously McCartney-esque "Star"...

...and the haunting psychedelically revisionist "Everyone Agrees That Everything Will Turn Out Fine."

Those two actually were hits, of course, although primarily in England, but I wore out my 45rpm copies of both of them back in the day; in any case, I think each is a better record than "Stuck." I should add that the single version of "Everyone" differs significantly from the album version, which is a grossly inferior remake, and as far as I know the hit heard above is not available on any Stealers Wheel compilation. Why? No man can say.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

It's a Smalls World After All

Well, this is the best press release to have crossed my desk in many a moon.

September 3, 2019 - Derek Smalls, the bottom force of the fabled heavy metal band formerly known as Spinal Tap, is premiering the video for his song "Gimme Some (More) Money" ahead of his eagerly anticipated solo tour of West Coast cities this fall. The track, which features in Smalls recent debut solo album Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing), has Paul Shaffer on piano and organ, Waddy Wachtel on guitar and David Crosby on backing vocals. Using a cunning mix of animation and live action, the new video illustrates the noble quest for fair remuneration (cash) pursued by every musician alive. It receives its premiere exclusively through People Magazine.

"I wanted this video to show all the different things musos have to do to get some (more) money, but we couldn't afford to shoot that, so they drew them instead. And it's black and white, except for me, because colors cost more, too," says Smalls

I should add that the "Smalls Change" project was made possible by a major grant from the recently-launched British Fund for Ageing Rockers...

...and that the album...

...is available on CD, vinyl and streaming.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

The Dog Days of Summer

Their political system is falling apart, their economy is about to crash, and they're being ruled by an ignorant fascist clown who makes our ignorant fascist clown look like Marcus Aurelius [note position of hand on the guitar neck vis a vis the capo]...

...but the biggest news story at the moment in the (soon to be called) Country Formerly Known as the United Kingdom is that...Boris Johnson has a dog!

And Bingo is NOT his name-o.

From Buzzfeed:

With the country lurching from one political and constitutional crisis to another, you'll be happy to know that the start of Downing Street's daily media briefing on Monday, was dominated by one thing: Boris Johnson's new dog!

The Jack Russell rescue pup has been the centre of attention since he entered Downing Street this morning, even as the country is bracing for another general election. The BBC Politics Twitter account has also been taking a huge amount of heat for tweeting about the dog and asking for name suggestions.
Words fail me.

That said, this does present me with the opportunity to post my all time favorite song about a pooch.

Say goodbye, Sugar. Say goodbye.

Monday, September 02, 2019

It's Labor Day!!!

From 1982, please enjoy the irrepressible Gary U.S. Bonds and his ironically upbeat ode to unemployment "Out of Work."

Always loved that record, and it remains, to this day, pretty much my favorite of all the songs Bruce Springsteen gave away to other artists.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Eleanor Rigby Picks Up the Mice

From sometime in (I assume) the late 60s, please enjoy the hilarious Spike Jones alumnus Doodles Weaver and his -- shall we say -- idiosyncratic take on The Beatles' classic.

Pretty funny, I think. And I was gobsmacked to learn yesterday that Doodles was Sigourney Weaver's uncle.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

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

From 2010, please enjoy power pop deity Paul Collins and his beyond fab gear "C'Mon Let's Go."

I've always liked Collins, and a few years ago I saw him, live, almost steal the show from Shoes, which was quite an accomplishment. But for some reason I had never encountered this particular song until yesterday.

And my life was clearly the poorer for it.

[h/t FD13NYC]

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Sibling Rivalry Never Goes Out of Style

Courtesy of friend of PowerPop Peter Spencer, here's an interesting documentary about the making of the Everly Brothers' 1984 reunion album that I, for one, had never previously seen.

Or as Pete says --

Attn singers. I mean it. ALL singers should watch this. Music starts at 5:45, the occasional cheesy '80s video interspersed with breathtaking (in more ways than one) footage of them singing together in the studio.

I loved that album at the time, but after watching this, I'm less enthused; the production seems dated to me, which kinda caught me by surprise. The Paul McCartney-penned "On the Wings of a Nightingale," however, remains transplendent.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

I Just Read a Book About Anti-Gravity -- I Couldn't Put It Down!!!

From his just released album The Floating World...

...please enjoy (should be a power pop legend) Rob Laufer and his transplendent ode to (stuff I'm way too young to know about first hand, haha) "Hippie Love."

The back story: in 1993, while toiling at the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, the indie DIY album pictured below crossed my desk...

...and it unexpectedly blew me away. In particular this utterly gorgeous piece of guitar driven power pop...

...which I later learned, after talking to its auteur, had been recorded (like the rest of the album) in a home eight-track studio (which, as far as I was concerned, made its sonic sheen even more remarkable).

Anyway, I gave Swimming Lesson a rave review, and then in 1996 Laufer got signed to a major label and released Wonderwood, another absolutely astounding (essentially) one-man band CD that made a lot of people's Top Ten lists for the year (mine included, as I recall) and which featured these two amazing songs.

Historical note: "Reactionary Girl" was soon after covered, brilliantly, by Robin Zander of Cheap Trick.

Since then, Laufer's become a fixture on the L.A. music scene, most notably with The Wild Honey Orchestra, and The Floating World, which is his first album in nine years, is every bit as good -- in terms of stylistic assurance and overall pop smarts -- as his earlier work. And I must say that being reminded just how great Laufer is turns out to be one of the most invigorating musical experiences of 2019 so far.

Bottom line: You can (and should) order either a physical CD or a digital download of The Floating World over at bandcamp HERE.