Friday, December 03, 2021

New Music By People I Know Personally (An Occasional Feature)

From August of this year, please enjoy friend of Power Pop (and moi) Jonnie Miles and his hauntingly insinuating "Girl in the Picture."

I've known and admired Jonnie for ages (as well as a great songwriter and drummer, he's also a hell of a photographer) and attentive readers will recall that I've written about him on a couple of occasions over the years, most recently back in 2018 HERE.

For those of you too lazy to click the link, the short version of his story is that back in the 90s, I used to see him in his abolutely killer outfit The Prostitutes, a classic New York City somewhat underground rock band whose I've described (accurately, as you'll hear) as a cross between The Doors and The Smithereens.

I should also add that in the 70s, before I knew him, Jonnie actually was in a UK band -- the charmingly monikered Albania -- with an album on Chiswick Records, the pioneering British pre-Stiff 70s indie label (they also had The Count Bishops, and cooler than that it does not get).

Here's their single -- a smash in Italy, I'm informed.

I should also also add that Jonnie informs me his new song was inspired by memories of when he lived in a basement flat in London in 1969, and that you can read more about him and his work over at his website HERE.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, December 02, 2021

It's Official -- the Greatest Songwriter in the English Language of the Last Sixty Years Is....

[I originally posted this in 2013, but I'm putting it up again for reasons that will become obvious down below. -- S.S.]

... and fuck you Lennon and McCartney, fuck you Bob Dylan, fuck you Townes Van Zandt, fuck you Jay-Z (and BTW, extremely fuck you Jay-Z, and this is a subject for a future posting but Jeebus fuck, the idea that anybody takes that hack seriously as a writer or anything else is simply mind-boggling), fuck you Stephen Merritt, fuck you Leonard Cohen, fuck you Holland-Dozier-Holland, and basically fuck everybody else because the winner is...

Mel Brooks.

That's right, Mel fucking Brooks.

Exhibit A, from the soundtrack to The Twelve Chairs -- "Hope For the Best, Expect the Worst."

Hope for the best, expect the worst

Some drink champagne, some die of thirst. No way of knowing which way it's going, Hope for the best, expect the worst.

Hope for the best, expect the worst, The world's a stage, we're unrehearsed. Some reach the top, friends, while others flop, friends, Hope for the best, expect the worst.

I knew a man who saved a fortune that was splendid Then he died the day he planned to go and spend it Shouting, Live while you're alive! No one will survive! Life is sorrow, here today and gone tomorrow Live while you're alive No one will survive There's no guarantee.

Hope for the best, expect the worst, You could be Tolstoy, or Fanny Hurst So take your chances, there are no answers, Hope for the best, expect the worst.

I knew a man who saved a fortune that was splendid Then he died the day he planned to go and spend it Shouting, Live while you're alive! No one will survive! Life is funny, drink your wine and spend your money Live while you're alive No one will survive There's no guarantee.

Hope for the best, expect the worst, The rich are blessed, the poor are cursed. That is a fact, friends. The deck is stacked, friends. Hope for the best, expect the...

Even with a good beginning It's not certain that you're winning Even with the best of chances Fate can kick you in the pantses

Look out for the... Watch out for the... WORST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wordplay, laughs, profundity -- it doesn't get any better than that. Seriously.

I should add that the above song can be found on the CD version of the fabulous late 70s elpee Elektra released of songs from Mel's movies through High Anxiety (which can be ordered over at Amazon HERE), and no finer anthology of popular music can be found anywhere at any price.

But I bring this up because of (and he's 95 years old) his new video "At the Automat"...

...and because you can now order his new literary memoir at Amazon HERE.

Buy both those artifacts and be changed. You're welcome very much.

Oh -- and have I mentioned he's working on History of the World Part II?

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Tales From RCA's Studio B in Manhattan (An Occasional Series): Part I -- I Think We All Know the Feeling

From 1967 (but actually recorded in late 1966) please enjoy the original iteration of The Youngbloods and their utterly exquisite folk/rock/Brill Building confection "All Over the World (La-La)".

A little bit of history here:

In the mid 1950's, RCA Victor had two studios in New York City for recording music -- studio A and B (sometimes also referred to as Studios 1 and 2). The studios were located on the ground floor of the building at 155 E. 24th Street, on the block between 3rd and Lexington Avenue; A, which was the bigger of the two rooms, was mostly used for orchestral recording (classical stuff, film scores and the like).

By the mid-60s, Studio B had become the first 8-track recording facility in town (CBS Los Angeles had one slightly earlier) which made it a mecca for rock bands, which is why the Youngloods made their debut album there (which still sounds absolutely great, BTW).

My memory betrayed me, however; I thought I had cut a demo in Studio B sometime in the early 70s, but alas no; in 1969, RCA Victor moved to 1133 6th Avenue at 44th St. In the 1980's the building and surrounding properties were acquired by the CUNY (City University of New York) and used by them until the late 1990s.

In any case, I bring this up because, the other day, I got the sort of box set of the first three YBs releases, listened to them for the first time in ages, and flipped.

I should add that on Monday I'll be posting a song by a slightly later New York City folk rock band who also recorded in Studio B, and despite their stylistic differences with the Youngbloods, it's obvious it was done in the same room.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Songs I'd Forgotten I Loved from Albums I'd Forgotten Existed (An Occasional Feature)

From his 1994 album Live...My Truck is My Home, please enjoy power pop god Marshall Crenshaw and a to die for version of his (justifiably) oft covered "You're My Favorite Waste of Time."

Due to the tragic passing of Pat DiNizio, Marshall has been touring with The Smithereens as a stand-in for the group's departed front man in recent years; I saw him with the guys just pre-pandemic (if memory serves) and to be honest, I didn't think he was a good fit.

The above, however, is flat out great, and enjoy!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Your Monday Moment of "Why Didn't I Get the Fucking Memo About This Fucking Album?"

From his 2010 album See My Friends, please enjoy head Kink Ray Davies -- with special guest Jackson Browne -- and the most gorgeous cover of "Waterloo Sunset" imaginable.

Long time attentive readers may recall that I sometimes consider that song the most beautiful written in the English language in the second half of the 20th century, and that I wrote an essay about another memorable performance of it back in 2007 that I remain extremely proud of.

In any case, somehow I missed that See My Friends album at the time of its original release, and nothing I've heard this year has given me more pleasue. I recommend it unreservedly and you should download or purchase it immediately.

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Triumphant Return of WEEKEND LISTOMANIA: Special "Loud Interjection" Edition!!!

Well, it's the day after Thanksgiving, and you know what that means.

Yes, my Asian turkey-basting specialist Fah Lo Suee and I will be heading off to somewhere and I don't even have a joke to go with it, although perhaps something about brining might be appropriate.

That said, here's a little brain-teaser for all of us to enjoy in the meantime:

Best or Worst Use of the Word "Hey!" in the Lyrics or Title to A Post-Elvis Pop/Soul/Rock Record!

And my top five candidates are --

5. Bruce Channel -- Hey Baby!

A great platter in its own right, but in case you didn't know, it's the inspiration for John Lennon's harmonica on "Love Me Do."

4. The Buckinghams -- Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)

Sixties regional (Chicago) pop shlock, but -- to be fair -- good Sixties regional pop shlock.

3. David Bowie -- Suffragette City

It's no secret that I'm not a Bowie fan, but the "hey man" on this one works, no question about it.

2. Little Richard -- Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey!

Bye bye baby so long. In perpetuity.

And the number one sung use of a three letter word in the history of music is...

1. The Beatles -- You've Got to Hide Your Love Away

...John Lennon's "hey!" on the choruses of this utterly gorgeous folk-rock ballad.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR favorites be?

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

[h/t Wendy Cohen]

Thursday, November 25, 2021

It's Complete Utter Shit Week: Part IV -- Special Pigeon Droppings Edition

MELISSA MANCHESTER: If My Heart Had Wings

ATLANTIC 82444 (52 min)

And if my grandma had wheels she'd be a wagon, but this would still be irredeemable schlock. S.S.

From a Short Take section of a 1993 issue of the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review.

God, that woman sucked. And not in a good way.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

It's Complete Utter Shit Week: Part III -- Maybe She's a Good Mom

From 1994 -- found this yesterday while researching stuff from back issues of the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review for my forthcoming Greatest Hits book

YOKO ONO

New York Rock

CAPITOL 29843 (68 min)

Ms. Ono, I worked with Courtney Love. Courtney Love was a friend of mine. Ms. Ono, you're no Courtney Love. S.S.

Heh.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

It's Complete Utter Shit Week: Part II -- Duets From Hell Edition

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been going through back issues of the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review. And I found this from a sort of Short Takes feature we ran in the early 90s

PATTY SMYTH

MCA 10633 (45 min).

Smyth's sorry-babe-I-gotta-dump-ya duet with Don Henley, "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough," has been a big hit for a simple reason: Everybody knows the feeling. Nevertheless, the album is mainstream corporate rock at its most routine and faceless -- well produced (by Springsteen asso- ciate Roy Bittan) but still overflowing with canned emotion and as spontaneous as a Swiss watch. S.S.

I actually kinda liked Smyth (who used to hang at a watering hole in the Village I frequented back in the day) but sorry -- that song totally sucks.

Monday, November 22, 2021

It's Complete Utter Shit Week: Part I -- Mrs. Pigface Sings Brooker/Reid Really, Really Badly

From 1993, please endure the insufferable Sarah Brightman butchering Procol Harum's classic "A Salty Dog."

The reason I bring this up is because the other day I was researching back issues of the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review to find stuff for the forthcoming book of my critical greatest hits, and I stumbled on a sort of short takes feature we used to run (called Quick Fixes. Heh). And here this was, and it cracked me right up.

SARAH BRIGHTMAN

Dive

A&M 31454 0083 (52 min)

Enya on helium? New Age electro-pop from hell? Whatever it is, it's courtesy of the Phantom of the Opera ingenue formerly married to the equally annoying Andrew Lloyd Webber, and I say get it outta here. Docked numerous points for a horrendous cover of Procol Harum's "A Salty Dog," which the without-a-clue chanteuse strips of all melodic interest or drama. S.S.

In any event, more of this stuff from now till Friday.