Sunday, November 27, 2005

Packing It In

Blessed Mary of Prankster Posted by Picasa

No, no, not me. But Mary Prankster, one of my favorite live shows, is apparently "retiring" the Mary Prankster character and getting ready to write a book about her ten years of nonstop touring. Here's what she said:
"This year I decided to take a hiatus from the road after playing 80-200 shows a year, every year, since 1995. When I tallied up the numbers, I realized I'd played over a thousand shows as Mary Prankster. Artistically, 'Mary Prankster' did more than I ever dreamed possible. Creatively, I'm ready to try something new."

Final show Monday the 28th at the Knitting Factory in NYC, where she's apparently relocated (the city, not the club).

DeepToej and I ruminated on the meaning of this retirement the other day at brunch, and I have some theories. One of them is that Mary had apparently reached for a bit of something different with her last record--less bawd, more pop--and I don't think it connected as well as one might have hoped. There are reasons for it: she was working with a high-powered power pop producer with an impressive pedigree (Mitch Easter), but he may not have seen the same value in her raw edges that we the fan base did. Plus, the personal and band implosion happened mid-recording. This complicated the recording process, of course, and apparently Easter himself stepped in and did rather more playing than one usually expects of a producer, making his thumbprint even more distinct. But it also made touring as anything other than a solo acoustic act impractical. And I'll bet that gets wearying fast, even for the wiry, energetic Ms. Prankster.

The crucial comparison, I thought, was Liz Phair, who also risked alienating her fan base by going with hot-shot production, but Phair was starting from a stronger position and shooting for the mainstream, which she mostly hit. Prankster was shooting for a different level of indie cred, but she didn't have the same strength (by this I mean name recognition, label support, and presumably finances) to risk, and so the payoff didn't work quite the same way.

I met Mary once, in a bathroom at a club in Ithaca, NY. We were wearing the same shirt, a red baseball jersey with the words "Rock & Roll" emblazoned across the tits. I'm a buxom sort, and Ms. Prankster is, well, not, so we looked at each other and laughed and she asked "Why doesn't that shirt look like that on me?"

Mary as I met her. Posted by Picasa

Anyway, in honor of Ms. Prankster, I present one of my favorite songs.

The World Is Full of Bastards

He said, “Mary is the rarest gem
And she’s the wildest flower.
I’ll make my Mary merrier
With every passing hour.”

So I made a certain sacrifice
As soon as we were through
I said, “Your Mary loves you, lad.”
And he said, “‘Mary’ who?”

You don’t know if an apple’s rotten
’Til you take a bite
You don’t know if there’s breakfast comin’
’Til you spend the night

And I’m sure I’ll kiss my share of frogs
Before my time is done
The world is full of bastards
And I’ve dated every one

Eh, the lad was oh-so-generous
Much more than you would think
He didn’t have a license
But he still drove me to drink

And I had no insecurities
So he gave me some of his
But I didn’t need his sorrow, man
I’m Irish as it is

You don’t know if the beer is bitter
’Til you buy a glass
You don't know if your peace of mind
Is just a piece of ass

And I’m sure I’ll kiss my share of frogs
Before my time is done
The world is full of bastards
And I’ve dated every one

RIP: Link Wray

Didn't get a chance to blog this when it happened, but better late than never:

"Rumble," Mr. Wray' s signature song, was released in 1958, and its snarling two-chord pattern remains a symbol of the stylized menace of rockabilly. According to legend, the song got its title when someone said it reminded her of the fight scenes in "West Side Story."

To record it, Mr. Wray punctured his amp with a pencil, damaging the speaker just enough to give the sound a thorny fuzz. Though an instrumental, the song was considered an incentive to violence and was banned from the radio in some cities.

In other songs, like "Raw-Hide" "Jack the Ripper" and "The Swag," Mr. Wray expanded on the vocabulary of "Rumble" and experimented with rougher and more aggressive guitar sounds. To record "Jack the Ripper," Mr. Wray placed his amp in a hotel staircase, creating an eerie and enticing reverb.

Though he was imitated by other rockabilly guitarists, his wider influence was first felt in early British rock bands like the Kinks and the Who, who borrowed his sharp guitar sound, as well as some of his amp-damaging tricks. Others, especially later heavy metal and punk players, also made abundant use of the deep, chunky power chord.

We always need to remember where we came from.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Babyblogging: The Triumphant Return!

It's Fall Cleaning Season here at Chez Thers, and I've been taking the opportunity to pull apart the house and clean under things, move furniture, et cetera. Besides annoying Thers (I have never yet met a man who can stand having the furniture rearranged), the process fascinated Rosie, who thought the idea of strolling around inside the empty bedframe was too cool for words.

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Damn. What a difference five years and two flights from prosecution make!

Gary Glitter in 2000. Posted by Picasa

Gary Glitter this week. Posted by Picasa

Whatever he was doing with those young Southeast Asian girls, it wasn't keeping him young.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bruuuuuce! (Part Deux)

So I was going to blog this, but it was too stupid and embarrassing, I thought. But the Good General has an alternative to that Commie anyway.

Just last year, you honored a Republican rocker, whose commitment to the Second Amendment, traditional values, and the Eternal Struggle to Resubjugate Brown People is without equal. Of course, I'm referring to the Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent.

His paen to traditional female roles, Wang Dang Sweet Poontang, will have its own 30 year anniversary soon. What better way to put the French-minded Springsteen in his place than by honoring Mr. Nugent and Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.

Been a great week for the House Republicans, though. Rob some food and health care from poor kids, snub The Boss, and attempt a transparent political ploy stating "we know it was lies and we don't care!" Good thing they put off making Paris Hilton's tax cut permanant until closer to Christmas.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Do You Want to Touch?

I'm guessing "no."

Police Search for Gary Glitter in Vietnam
Authorities said Thursday they are searching for former British rock star
Gary Glitter over his alleged relationship with a Vietnamese teenager.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said officials have confirmed that Glitter, 61, whose real name is Paul Francis Gadd, was residing in a home in southern Vung Tau city and had applied for permanent resident status in Vietnam.

Glitter rose to fame with glam-rock songs in the 1970s, most notably his only U.S. hit, "Rock and Roll Part 2," a largely instrumental song that has been a staple at stadium sporting events for years. Among his other songs hits were "I'm the Leader of the Gang (I Am)" and "Do You Wanna Touch."

Glitter fell from grace in 1999 when he was convicted in Britain of possessing child pornography. He served half of a four-month jail sentence before being released. He later went to Cambodia and was permanently expelled in 2002, though Cambodian officials did not specify his crime or file charges.

Dung said that Glitter had left the house on Nov. 12, and police are seeking his whereabouts.

You'd think a guy would learn, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Look, I know he's not power pop, but I heard something today which was, at best, concerning.

Go here, hit "Listen," and fast forward to about two minutes in.

I'll wait here.

Okay, so what you heard is an alternative mix of Springsteen's "Born to Run," with a choir, orchestral instruments, and a glockenspeil.

I think, in general, that orchestral instruments are a mistake in pop. (Though, inexplicably, I like things like banjos and bagpipes. Go figure.)

In other Bruce news, I quite like this rumor. He's smart and principled and articulate, and the worst thing you can say about the guy is that he married a supermodel by mistake. It could have happened to anyone.

The Thinker

Because Eli is a brilliant photographer, and not everyone reads metacommentsPosted by Picasa

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Debate: That Thing You Do

I'm always willing to reconsider my deeply held opinions in the face of others, and so I open this debate:

That Thing You Do Posted by Picasa

Here's a recent off-site discussion with noted rock critic Steve Simels on the film.


If you're still here -- I saw your
post on Schlesinger at Power Pop.

For what it's worth, I like
THAT THING YOU DO -- both the movie
and the album -- a lot more than
you do.

I think the movie is pretty much the
best rock movie about the period
ever (with the possible exceptions
and I think the soundtrack is classic.
Just about every song is a gem,
even the deliberately crappy one that
leads it off.


steve simels | Email | 11.08.05 - 11:11 pm | #
I really have issues with the two-dimensionality of a lot of the characters and the pseudo-hipness of the central guy, who was obviously cast because he looks like a young Tom Hanks.

But I do like the music a lot.
NYMary | Email | Homepage | 11.08.05 - 11:14 pm | #

I know what you mean about the
script, but trust me -- the period
detail is a hundred percent dead

Best movie about 1965 ever made.

steve simels | Email | 11.08.05 - 11:20 pm | #

So, what do you think?

Friday, November 11, 2005

New Finds of Old Stuff

Courtesy of Kid Charlemagne, I'm currently obsessed with Ail Symudiad, a Welsh power pop group of the early 80's.

Follow the link: it's one of the few on the band in English. But I did post a song (or rather, someone did it for me as a favor).

Garej Paradwys (Paradise Garage)

Lots more to discover on the discs he sent me, but that must wait for another day.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Serendipity and Ubiquitousness

So I've been working these crazy hours, but I had one of those weird, serendipitous experiences last night that left me contemplative on my long commute.

I was in the car, approaching a gas station, humming along to the goofy FOW Christmas song "I Want an Alien for Christmas" and thinking that, man, I like this band. They're catchy and sharp and don't take themselves too seriously. You'd have to look hard to find a song more good-humored and cutting than "Bright Future in Sales," for example, and that's a pretty hard line to straddle. I saw them in 2003, at Metro in Chicago, just before "Stacey's Mom" broke huge, and they were tight and just a bit uptight. But an amazing band. (True: a friend of mine went to college (Williams, in Massachutsetts) with Collingworth and Schlesinger, but he said they existed "on a completely different level of cool" than he did--alas, I believe it.)

So I cruise into the pump, which is one of those informational pumps, where the screen tells you that beer is on sale and there's a radio making announcements over the music. But the music, which I was also humming along with without quite realizing it, turned out to be "That Thing You Do"--a middling bad film, but with a decent power pop soundtrack. Ruminating in empty brain space, I grinned a bit thinking that "power pop" and "Oscar" don't generally go in the same sentence. But in this case, I'm glad they did.

So I get back in the car, realizing that I've left the ipod playing this whole time. Oops. It's dreamy, contemplative, a girl's voice. Ivy.

Not until that song is over do I realize that I've just been treated to a 1-2-3 punch from Adam Schlesinger, one of the most gifted people working in music right now, and a solid power pop guy. I run into him in the weirdest places: for example, the documentary "Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns"--shot partly at a 2001 recording session--scanned the room and across Schlesinger's face: he was producing them.

So Schlesinger is everywhere, or at least some days it seems that way. And you know what? I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Great Lost Bands of the PowerPop Era: Martha and the Muffins

Blast from the Past: Over at Perfect Sound Forever, we see a recent interview with Martha and the Muffins!
PSF: When you wrote "Echo Beach," did you think that people would still be listening to it years later?

MG: The song has legs and we could have never anticipated that. If somebody had said then that song is going to be as popular 25 years on, I wouldn't have believed it. But I can see in retrospect how it has appealed to people. My father always said one reason he thought it was a hit is because it's nostalgic, and any song that has nostalgia in it hits a chord with people. And I think to some extent he's right. We're also the only Canadian band or artist to make Mojo magazine's list of "100 Singles You Must Own" ("Echo Beach" was #67). (In Canada) we have an award called the Juno, and we won two of them, one for the song "Echo Beach" – I think it got single of the year in 1980.

PSF: How popular was "Echo Beach" when it was released?

MJ: It did really well (in England). We just sat at home in Canada and got phone calls every week saying "It's at number 22!" "It's at number 18!" It made the top ten. It didn't actually make number one, but it was very popular and sold like 500,000 copies of the single. It was quite a whirlwind. But there was no followup (hit). The followup was chosen by the head of the record company, which was DinDisc at that time. And the band really didn't agree with her but she went ahead anyway with a song called "Saigon." I think (the single) probably should have been "Paint By Number Heart" or "Indecision." After the success in England, Canada followed suit and throughout Europe and in Australia, everywhere it was released the song went top ten as well.