Friday, December 06, 2019

To Paraphrase R. Crumb -- If You Don't Know What Doo Wah Diddy Means By Now, Don't Mess With It

From 1945, and the movie I Love a Bandleader, please enjoy original rapper Phil Harris and his signature -- and frighteningly proto-rock-and-roll -- song "That's What I Like About the South."

I bring this up because, as I mentioned yesterday, I've been listening to a lot of old Jack Benny radio shows of late, and Harris -- who was a regular on the show for years -- happened to do this on an episode I heard last night.

I should add that while these days, Harris is mostly remembered as the voice of Baloo in Disney's Jungle Book... me he will always be the guy who had the greatest novelty hit single of all time.

In any case, I hereby solemnly promise that every post next week will feature new music by currently living people. You're welcome.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Go East, Young Man!

As attentive readers will recall, I have been falling asleep of late to old episodes of the great Jack Benny's radio show, which among other things are about as interesting a pop-cultural time capsule as you can imagine.

In any case, listening to a Benny show from the '40s the other night, I had sort of a lightbulb-over-my-head moment. To wit: This long running gag (it was featured in countless episodes over the years), with the great Mel Blanc announcing a train leaving on track five (from L.A.'s Union station) for Anaheim, Azuza and Cucamonga...

...was clearly the inspiration for the greatest masterpiece of the surf-rock genre of the '60s.

Take it away, Jan and Dean!!!

I'm not kidding about that being a masterpiece, BTW; in fact, the classical and baroque touches in the song's arrangement (from 1964, I should add) pretty much show-up all later prog-rock as the pretentious swill it is.

I should also add that the first time I heard that song in stereo (rather than in mono, on the jukebox at my college cafeteria) was the closest thing I've had to a religious experience in my entire life.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

I Lost It at the Theatre

So I'm taking a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance to see Hamilton on Broadway today. As a birthday present.

We've seen the show before, on our trip to London last year, but we are reliably informed that the Broadway version is superior. We shall see.

A little backstory:

I was skeptical about the whole Hamilton hype, despite the fact that I had been impressed with the show's auteur Lin-Manuel Miranda (after seeing the documentary on the making of his In the Heights)...

...for the obvious reason that hip-hop isn't particularly my thing.

In any event, when we saw the show in London, I sat through the first act with an open mind, and at intermission said Shady Dame asked me what I thought. I allowed how it was undeniably impressive, if a little monochromatic musically, but that I hadn't decided what I thought.

And then act II started, and immediately the music was a lot more stylistically varied and I was digging it. And then this song happened...

...and I turned to the Shady Dame with tears streaming down my face and said "They got me."

Seriously, if you don't find that moving, you really need to have it looked at.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Maltese Mallard

From 1966, please enjoy -- if possible -- the late great Phil Austin (of Firesign Theatre fame), doing business with The Buddies, and the not as hilarious as intended "Duckman Parts 1 and 2."

Back in the early 90s, I wrote the liner notes for Sony's Firesign Theatre box set, and I got to interview all four Firesign guys, which was a genuine thrill, as you can imagine. Talking about his pre-Firesign work, Austin mentioned "Duckman" in passing --

Originally monikered the Oz Firesign Theatre (by Bergman) the group later had to shorten the name when lawyers for Disney and MGM - who owned the Oz copyright - threatened legal action. Whatever they were called, however, the group and their freewheeling, sounded-stoned-but-wasn't brand of improvisational comedy were an immediate hit with the nascent underground audience. And as the Summer of Love loomed, they inevitably came to the attention of a record company, in the person of Gary Usher, trend-savvy producer for CBS and veteran of the L.A. surf music scene who had earlier done a comedy single - "Duckman, Parts I and II" - with Austin ["Because I could do this duck voice," Austin says. "It was just stupid."].

-- which is the only reason I knew of its existence.

YouTube being the equivalent of the Library at Alexandria, it did not surprise me to finally run across it a few weeks ago.

Nor did it surprise me to find myself in complete agreement with Austin's assessment.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Singles Going Steady

So as unlikely as it may seem, I have just released the metaphorical equivalent of one of those old seven inch vinyl records with the big hole in it. Under my own name, no less.

Because the masses have been clamoring for solo work by Steve Simels, comrades!

Here's the a-side, which is a remake of The Byrds' anti-war classic from Fifth Dimension.

And here's the b-side, which is a cover of a great song by friend of PowerPop Peter Spencer, done as a cross between the early Byrds and "Street Fighting Man."

I should add that both of those are now available for streaming/purchase at Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music and various other digital platforms to be announced.

I should also add that the picture sleeve photo was taken by friend of PowerPop Capt. Al, and the art direction is by a certain Shady Dame (who's working too cheap, I'll tell you that for free.)

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the musical credits are:

Track 1:
Me -- lead vocals and bass
Joe Benoit -- harmony vocals and all other instruments

Track 2:
Me -- lead vocals, guitars, keyboards
Joe Benoit -- guitars
Allan Weissman -- bass
David Hawxwell -- harmony vocals, 12-string guitar, Nashville guitar
Glenn Leeds -- outro keyboards
Glen Robert Allen -- drums

And a big tip of the Simels chapeau to one and all who supported me in this folly.