Monday, March 27, 2006

Hynde Photos

Chrissie Hynde let Entertainment Weekly into her photo albums.

Chrissie Hynde Posted by Picasa

These are apparently included in the new Pretenders box set.

And a bonus anecdote from my man simels:
True, great story:
She was at some industry wank-fest
and Mark Goodman -- the first gen
MTV vee-jay introduced himself.

Chrissie went:

"Hey, man." And shook his hand.


"It is man, right?"
steve simels

Friday, March 24, 2006

OT: Teh Funny

From Feministing:

Ten Reasons Why Liberal Men Are Better In Bed


Watertiger's Sharp Eyes

I finally get to babyblog, and watertiger asks a PowerPop-related question which must be answered:

Why must VH-1 Classics play "99 Luftballons" for an hour straight?

Unfortunately, I have no answer.

Friday Babyblogging: New Arrival!

Meet Sean Patrick, the newest addition to the powerpop family.

Sean Patrick in his handmade quilt lady quilt. Posted by Picasa

He also came home with a mild case of jaundice, necesitating many frustrating hours in the bilibelt.

The little glowworm. Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 20, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day Redux!

So after all the agita, Sean Patrick arrived on St. Patrick's Day like a speed-metal show: fast, uncomfortable, a bit comic, leaving us both kinda dazed.

Pics to come, as soon as I figure out what Thers did with the freaking camera cable.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick's Day Blogging

Well, today's the day we hope Sean Patrick makes his appearance.

In honor of the day, some lyric blogging: Black 47's take on an old standard.


Danny came over to old New York
From Bandon town in the county Cork
He got a room on the avenue in Woodside Queens
And a job off the books doin' demolition

He was kind of different than everyone else
Oh he liked to hang out all by himself
Didn't hit those bars in Sunnyside Queens
Went straight into the Village to check out the scene

One day on the job the foreman said
"Hey Danny Boy we think you're a fag
With your ponytail and that ring in your ear
Hey, we don't need no homos foulin' up the air"

Danny just smiled and picked up a 2 by 4
And he split that jerk from his jaw to his ear
Said "you can stick your job where the sun don't shine
But you're never gonna stop me bein' what I am, boy!"

Then he met a man down in Sheridan Square
They moved in together for a couple of years
Said it was the happiest he'd ever been
Doin' what he wanted and livin' his dream

We used to drink together down on Avenue B
One gray dawn he confessed to me
"Love's the only thing that makes the world go round
And I'm never gonna see another sunset over sweet Bandon town"

Last time I saw Dan he was in a hospital bed
Two tubes hangin' out the nose of his head
But he smiled at me with them stone blue eyes
And he said, "hey, how you doin', guy?

I'm history 'round here in a couple of weeks
But I did what I wanted - I got no regrets
So, when you think of me crack a beer and smile
Hey, life's a bitch and then you die"

Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are callin'
From glen to glen, and down the mountainside
The summer's gone and all the flowers are dyin'
'Tis you, 'tis you, must go and I must bide

But come you back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be there in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny Boy, Oh Danny Boy, I love you so I love you so,
Danny Boy, I love you so

There's a version of this song on Black 47's new CD, Sweet Sixteen. (Many, many thanks to simels for passing it along!) In the liner notes, Laryy Kirwan says that whenever the weather changes, there's still a homophobe out there with a sore jaw. It's hard to feel too badly about that.

I once got kissed on the cheek (no, not that one) by Kirwan, who called me "Mary, The Chaste." Heh.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Guest Babyblogging

These two funny little guys are my nephew's kids, Tristan and Noah, born January 8, 2006. We can't really tell if they're identical yet.

The twins. Posted by Picasa

(My own posting is likely to be slow for a week or so with Sean Patrick's imminent arrival.)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

OK, Try These....

Not live, for obvious reasons, but some nifty videos off Skylarking.

"Respectable Street"



I always thought "Season Cycle" would make a great video, though my favorite song off Skylarking is "Another Satellite."

(Many thanks to Phila, who linked something else here on a late-night thread on which I was lurking.)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Super-Rare XTC Video

This is from Georgetown University in 1980.

Life Begins at the Hop.

(I panicked, too, but you don't need to. Download it onto your desktop or whatever, and you can play it in itunes or Quicktime, even though it *says* it's a text file. It's lying. And it gets better, so don't let the galucoma-inducing first few seconds bum you out.)

XTC is maybe the most famous non-performing band in the world. The blog linked here notes that Andy Partidge collapsed on tour in 82, but there's more to it than that: he also developed a killer case of stage fright, to the point that a therapist, asking him about performing, managed to cause serious physical effects just sitting in the office. But Partidge can perform every so often, as long as he doesn't think about it. I recall reading once that he was pulled up onstage by Aimee Mann for a performance of the Dukes of the Stratosphear's "Collideascope."


Revisiting History, Rethinking Genre

Take some time and read this excellent, enlightening article on The Beau Brummels, one of the great not-quite-success stories of the first phase of powerpop, the bridge from the British Invasion to psychedelia.

The immediate occasion of the article is the release of two records by former Brummels frontman Sal Valentino: "Dreamin' Man (a collaboration with former Stoneground guitarist John Blakeley) and Come Out Tonight. Each title is a polished assortment of classic-sounding pop-rock, slow-burn meditations on love, and sturdy roots-rock. It's not groundbreaking music, but both discs are solid evidence that Valentino is a serious talent who still wants to write and perform new music." Valentino will be going to the uber-hip SXSW this year, and it's about time, too.

But Farrar makes me rethink that whole era, the way in which that first wave of power pop got swept away, its innovations and experimentations ignored in favor of... something else. And The Brummels, from the Bay Area, were positioned both to benefit from the shifts of the mid-60's, and to get kicked in the ass by them because of their relatively modest commercial success.

Possessing a dramatic vibrato, Valentino's croon is one of the most individual instruments to emerge from the '60s. Faint traces of Dylan, Elvis, Roger Miller, and even Dean Martin can be detected, but it has no concrete precedent. However, as is true of all these singers, Valentino (an authentic North Beach-bred Italian-American, born Salvatore Willard Spaminato) is a master stylist, curling his emotions around each little note and negotiating every turn of phrase with a cultivated flair. "At one point," Valentino continues, "Lenny wanted to put a band together of me, Lenny{Waronker {father of Anna Waronker, late of that dog, Mrs. Steve McDonald, and founder, with her sister-in-law Charlotte Caffey, of Five Foot Two Records. --NYM}], Randy [Newman], [Ron] Elliott, and Van Dyke. Hal Blaine was the drummer. Randy's suggestion for the name of the band was the White Boys' Blues Band, which is very funny because I am now surrounded by white-boy blues bands." Valentino chuckles at an irony only he can fully appreciate.

"Friends and Lovers" -- the stunning pop tune wafting out of Valentino's speakers -- went nowhere. Recorded in 1970, not too long after the demise of the Brummels, the Valentino solo single was released by Warner Bros., and what should have been a monster hit (it's that great) plunged into obscurity. Valentino was all too familiar with such a demoralizing outcome. From 1966 to '68, after scoring two Top 20 hits in 1965 (the aforementioned "Laugh Laugh" and the Top 10 smash "Just a Little"), the Beau Brummels moved to Warner Bros. and released some seriously beautiful and innovative pop music, but every last one of the group's records for the label died a swift, quiet death, including Triangle, a pastoral psych-pop epic, and the band's swan song, Bradley's Barn, a collection of what feels like rural-flavored Broadway show tunes that's considered a pioneering exploration into country-rock.

But this is what really caught my attention, a story which could be repeated for many, many power pop bands:

You see, the Brummels were in a precarious position in 1967 and '68 (similar to but on a much smaller scale than the Beach Boys' situation after the release of Pet Sounds). Their music was advanced, complex pop that had become way too weird for the mainstream AM-pop audience that originally made "Laugh Laugh" and "Just a Little" national hits. As one L.A. fan from back in the day recently said to me, "With Triangle and Bradley's Barn, the Beau Brummels got total artistic control, and they kind of went off the deep end," which means the only listeners open enough to really get what the Brummels were up to were the freaky hippies of Haight-Ashbury and beyond. But those guys were not nearly as freethinking and free from superficial labels as history has led us to believe: Remember, the Brummels were considered Top 40 "Beatles clones." And to be an American act branded Top 40 during what old Joel Selvin zealously describes in the book It Happened in Monterey as "a transformation in music as the 45 rpm format was broken and pop music became a rock revolution ... when Top 40 died and underground (FM) radio was born" was to be consigned to the losing side of a larger cultural battle. As that quintessential hippie chick Michelle Phillips once stated, summing up the attitude that pervaded the underground, "If you didn't get invited to the Festival, there was something wrong."

When I was a teenager falling in love with Pet Sounds, my mother told me this funny story. In 1967, she was a tall, gorgeous model, actress, and authentic "Copa Girl" living in New York. She had good taste in music and couldn't get enough of the Beach Boys' new single, "Good Vibrations." So she headed over to some hip West Village record store and bought a copy. When the ultrahip record store clerk manning the cash register eyeballed that photograph of the Beach Boys on the picture sleeve, he decided to have a little fun. With outstretched arms like teetering airplane wings, he feigned imbalance like a surfer riding a massive wave as he said to my mom in a faux-surfer dude accent, "Whooooaaaa, the Beach Boys. Far out. Surf music is cool. Hang 10." Well, in 2006, the reputations of "Good Vibrations" and Pet Sounds far eclipse that of the once cutting-edge music of Selvin's "rock revolution." (Who the hell still listens to Country Joe & the Fish?) So maybe modern San Francisco should make up for all those Haight-Ashbury heads who, during their heyday, behaved like that elitist, deluded record store clerk and finally invite the Beau Brummels to the Festival, because they are, without question, one of this city's greatest and most forgotten musical treasures.

Thanks to dave (tm) and steve s. for the heads-up!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


My recent post on Shoes' Stolen Wishes raised an interpretive question. Susan in coments notes that she, like me, has always believed that "Please Please Me" is about oral sex, and that she thinks it works better as a song by a girl band (since that's generally where reciprocity in such matters has to be coaxed).

She's brilliant.

And "Feel the Way That I Do" is as close as I've heard a male band come to addressing the issue.

But here's another one. I've asked NTodd to host the streaming song, because this record is all but impossible to lay hands on these days. But I fully encourage acquiring it if at all possible.

Strange Arrangement, the Steven McDonald group.

Steven McDonald, better known as Steve McDonald, is the younger of the two brothers making up the band Redd Kross. This EP, "This Is Not a Rebellion, This Is a Mass Awakening," came out in 2002, at which point it was compared to a whole slew of power pop masters, including my beloved Shoes. (Go to the review page off the SMG site to see this gem: "'Strange Arrangement' reduces the sugary sound of popsmiths Shoes to its carmelized essence.")

Anyway, "Strange Arrangement" is another one of those songs arguing for sexual reciprocity, at least as I hear it. ("I'll do it for you, but you got to come and get me up too....") Enjoy!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Albums You Need: Magnets

UPDATED AND COMPLETED 3/8. (Sorry about that.)

Magnets. Posted by Picasa
The Vapors, 1981.

The Vapors were only an active band for about 18 months, and none of them, as far as I can tell, continued in music after the band. (I recall seeing on a VH-1 special a number of years ago that David Fenton, the whisper-thin, bug-eyed lead singer, became a barrister.)

Look, you think you know this band. You don't, almost certainly. By far their dumbest, lamest, admittedly catchy, but annoying song is the one you know. And yes, it's about masturbation, and yes, I have it on vinyl(twice. And CD, at least three times I can think of off the top of my head). (But the rest of New Clear Days is better by far--"Trains," "News at Ten," "Spring Collection," "Letter from Hiro," "Waiting for the Weekend.")

But this one is different. Look, the dominant mode of power pop is effervescent. The idea of a dark power pop record is a little weird, to say the least. And yet I've always dug this one. But what can you say about a record that references cult mass killing, assasination, and hired guns?

Some highlights:
Silver Machines - This song, probably the strongest musically on the record, is about the invasions of technology. It's extremely catchy, much more melodic than, say, "Turning Japanese." Fun power pop observation: the melody line for the chorus ("We've lived on lines across the world, we've lived off words that no one's heard....") was lifted wholesale by 20/20 for the riff in their excellent political tune "Nothing At All" from 4-Day Tornado. (Or maybe they both lifted it from someplace else, but in any case, it's the same riff.) And there's a great bass line in this tune.
Jimmie Jones - Yes, this is indeed a song about the People's Temple cult leader. For what it's worth, it was the album's single, which might explain a few things. I have the video around someplace, with The Vapors singing in traditional British rustic garb in a cave-cum-barn with inspirational sayings painted on the walls. A Deliverance-esque teen closes them in the cave at the end of the song, and who can disagree with him?
Magnets - The title song here, about a motorcade and the Kennedys, in some way prefigures XTC's "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead." Generals, assassins, witnesses, all have eyes like little, cold black magnets. And the Kennedys draw such people like magnets, to their own destruction. It's pretty carefully constructed, and disturbing. "There's a man with a message and it's writen on lead/ There's a man who was God, but God is dead."
Johnny's in Love (Again) - I'm not entirely sure what to say about this song, focused as it is on a psychopathic killer. "My friend Johnny's got a lot to enjoy/ He don't hang around with the rest of the boys/ He sits with his sandwiches, gun in hand/ singing 'loves me, loves me not,' popping off God's toys." Creepy. Again, a lot of the melodic work here is done by the bass line, often a great choice.
Spiders - I don't usually do quirky for quirky's sake, but this song is too weird and fun not to note. "She's got spiders inside her head/ she's an angel, she's easily lead/ she's on missions from morning til night/ she takes pictures with infrared light." No damn idea what it's about, though. Robots? Drug addiction? Spies? (If anyone has a theory, please do enlighten me.)

Which is not to leave out other faves: "Daylight Titans;" "Live at the Marquee;" "Isolated Case." There are just a lot of really terrific songs here.

The cover, by the not-yet-famous Martin Handford (of Where's Waldo? fame) features a bloody auto accident or murder scene in Handford's trademark style, surrounded by police, surrounded by ambulances, surrounded by a crowd, forming a huge human eye. (You can kind of see this in the graphic above, but not the amount of detail on the cover itself, which, like a Where's Waldo, is filled with tiny figures, each of which is distinct and doing something different.) And the album itself is similarly creepy.

Friday, March 03, 2006

I'm Frankly Shocked!

My buddy Eli--blogmaster of Multi Medium, excellent photographer, storehouse of pop culture knowledge, X-treem punster--has weighed in on an early practioner of Power Pop, the Dave Clark Five.

The offending record. Posted by Picasa

I just realized that the entire plot of the song, "Over And Over Again" by The Dave Clark Five can be summed up as, "I went to a really crowded dance. I saw this really cute girl and asked her out, but she said she was waiting for her boyfriend."

Granted, this aspect of the plot had always registered on me, but for some reason I had always assumed that the song kept going after that. It doesn't.

My defense of pop music lies in a pretty modest assertion of its essential silliness, and although I like it when it wanders out of those corners, I have no illusions about what it's supposed to do. But Eli's critique has left me in pieces, bits and pieces.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Just Because Babyblogging

The divine watertiger, the snarkiest chick on the internets, took this when she visited last weekend. It's beyond cute, if I do say so myself.

auntie watertiger makes me smile! Posted by Picasa