Saturday, March 31, 2007

Break On Through

We note in sadness that the great rock photographer Joel Brodsky, best known for his portraits of a topless Jim Morrison, has died at age 67.

In a cosmic coincidence, the Merry Mailman just delivered us the expanded/remastered versions of the first six Doors albums.

Breaking news: according to original album engineer Bruce Botnick, all prior versions of the Doors eponymous debut were mastered at an incorrect slow speed. On the new, corrected CD, Morrison sounds less like your father singing in the shower and more like Leo Sayer.

Just kidding.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Videoblogging: Paul Collins' Beat

Thanks, Kid C!

Weekend Listomania

Well, I see my oxycontin stash is running a little low, which means that my posting will be sporadic around here for a bit until I contact Rush Limbaugh's ex-houseboy.

In the meantime, a project -- guaranteed, a splendid time for all:

Best Beatles Covers.

Which is harder than it sounds, since most Beatles covers suck.

My top seven (in no particular order)

1. "Blackbird" -- Dionne Farris

2. "Eight Days a Week" -- Procol Harum

3. "Across the Universe" -- Rufus Wainwright

4. "I'm Looking Through You" -- Jakob Dylan/The Wallflowers

5. "If I Needed Someone" --The Hollies

6. "And Your Bird Can Sing" -- Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs

7. "On the Wings of a Nightingale" -- The Spongetones (I know, I know)

Jump in, won't you?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Pain in the Angst

Extremely irksome NYTimes pop music critic Kelefa Sanneh has nice things to say about Snow Patrol and their even more irksome hit "Chasing Cars".

Oh well, at least for a change he wasn't obsessing about Billboard Chart positions.

Rubinoos Box Set!

Courtesy of dave™, we here at PowerPop note that the Rubinoos have a new box set!

This definitive collection includes:

Disc 1: The first 2 Beserkley LPs including bonus tracks

Disc 2: Select cuts from all other releases to date

Disc 3: A recently discovered and previously unreleased "Live At Hammersmith Odeon" show from 1978


Meaningless Songs In Very High Voices

From yesterday's New York Times:

Fans of the Tony Award-winning hit Broadway musical “Jersey Boys” will get plenty of its source material on June 5, when Rhino Records releases the boxed set “Jersey Beat — The Music of Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons.” The three CDs, featuring the lead singer Frankie Valli, the guitarist Tommy DeVito, the bassist Nick Massi and the keyboardist Bob Gaudio, include 76 tracks of the band’s biggest hits and will be accompanied by a DVD of rare live performances, an 86-page booklet and other material.

Nothing has caused those who know me best -- by which I mean several ex-girlfriends and various posters at Eschaton who I've never actually met -- to doubt my sanity more than my frequent assertions that the music of the 4 Seasons (from their early hits till about 1968) is some of the most original and purest pop ever made.

Looks like I'm gonna have to address the dreaded 4 Seasons Question in some detail come this summer.

We're the Young Generation And We've Got Something to Say

More in sorrow than in anger, we give you a video clip of Dogstar.

That's Keanu Reeves on bass, in case you were wondering.

These guys have irked me big time ever since they recorded the worst cover of Badfinger's "No Matter What" ever heard by sentient mammalian ears.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007



Heather Mills stunned judges in the US version of Strictly Come Dancing with an audacious routine which included a daring back-flip.

Wearing a green sequinned catsuit, Ms Mills left the panel of choreographers temporarily speechless by completing the tricky move despite wearing a prosthesis after losing part of one leg in a 1993 traffic accident.


Doctor My Eyes

Here's a fantastic 1975 clip of Dr. Feelgood doing "Roxette" on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

Dr. Feelgood, of course, were one of the two most important bands -- the other being Eddie and the Hot Rods -- who were the link between the Pub Rock past and the punk movement to come.

A tip of the Power Pop hat to any reader who can identify the two guys making like Statler and Waldorf in the intro.

Rock Critic of the Week

The clinically insane and breast-obsessed law blogger Ann Althouse weighs in on Tuesday's episode of American Idol.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Wednesday Morning Glam Rock

From Top of the Pops in 1974 -- it's a video clip of:

Mott the Hoople's The Golden Age of Rock n Roll.

I'd forgotten that Ian Hunter was doing Cousin It from The Addams Family some years before Joey Ramone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Groove Goes On Forever

Further proof that YouTube is the greatest thing to happen in the entire history of human endeavor:

Video footage of power pop gods the Flamin Groovies. Here's what may or may not be a lip-synch job (from 1972) of "Slow Death" -- covered by countless alt-rockers since -- and a genuine live version of "Roll Over Beethoven" (a la the Beatles version, also from '72). Both just drip cool and fun.

I actually got to see these guys in a slightly later incarnation, circa '77, when they were trying a little too hard to be the world's greatest 60s pop/rock cover band. (Which they actually were, but not quite what I'd expected) Here, however, we glimpse them in their look-at-us-we're-the-rock-stars-of-your-dreams phase, and they're damn near irresistible.

And here's all the Groovies you'll ever really need on one well-chosen best-of CD.

Update: On sober reflection that "all the Groovies you'll ever really need" crack was overstated. Their "Teenage Head" -- especially in this remastered/expanded version -- is a classic that belongs in every collection. And their 1968 "Supersnazz" (effectively, the first genuine indie-rock album) is also a lot of fun.

I regret the error.

Incidentally, there are people who consider "Teenage Head" to be superior to its better known contemporary, the Stones "Sticky Fingers," to which it bears a passing resemblance. I myself am not one of them.

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

Another reason to thank Al Gore for inventing the internet:

This guy has an official website.

Teenage Virgins Sing About Getting Laid

Courtesy of the good folks at Sundazed Records I just glommed a copy of "Ain't It Hard! Garage & Psych From Viva Records." I'm not a total geek for this sort of 60s vault plundering, but this particular comp has a lot more going for it than the usual fuzztoned mishegass. Viva Records, whose existence I must admit I was unaware of, was the short lived imprint of Snuff Garrett, one of the major indie producers of the period; he brought the world Gary Lewis and the Playboys, among many others, and his house band/staff included such future notables as Leon Russell and J.J. Cale, both of whose instrumental and production skills are in prominent display. Lots of fun stuff here, but the Second Helping's "Let Me In" -- featuring 19-year-old Kenny Loggins snarling like a cross between Van Morrison in his Them days and wingnut radio host Mark Levin -- is pretty much worth the price of admission in itself.

Incidentally, if you don't know Sundazed Records, you should -- they do definitive reissues of all sorts of worthy stuff, not just Sixties teen punk. Lots of soul, surf, folk, country and beyond, all with great sound and terrific liner notes.

Monday, March 26, 2007

It goes to 11

And speaking of pioneering rock critic Richard Meltzer:

He invented the heavy metal umlaut thing.

I had no idea.....

You Bastid Kid Get Off My Lawn

You know, as a rule, I try not to say anything bad about my rock critical colleagues, all of whom I consider to be splendid fellas and gals with impeccable manners and grooming (and I say this as somebody who once saw Richard Meltzer take a pee on the centerpiece at a fancy press dinner. Hey, we were all young once).

Nevertheless, I must admit I find this guy largely insufferable, and not just because he seems incapable of writing anything about an artist without at least one mention of his or her most recent Billboard chart position.

Then again, the pop/rock criticism over at the New York Times has always been a little disappointing, especially when compared to their film criticism. Say what you will about the otherwise estimable Jon Pareles, but he's nowhere near as entertaining as A. O. Scott.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Very Loud Noises

Oh. My. God.

For over twenty years, I've been dreaming of a live album by the Sonics without ever knowing that such a thing might in fact exist.

And now it does. God bless you, Norton Records.


One of my strange corners of musical interest is the musical, which horrifies Thers, but which connects me to a whole part of my life which I'm unwilling to give up. Recently, an old friend handed me a DVD of a play we did together in 1981 or so--Godspell. I had never actually seen the film, for various reasons, and was anxious to reconnect with the music. There was a road show in 2001, but they changed much of the instrumentation and some of the lyrics--obviously, useful for updating, but useless for nostalgia. They particularly fucked with my song, the torchy "Turn Back, O Man."

So the film was a treat, despite its obvious flaws. Victor Garber's Jew-fro is truly impressive, and the Chief from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? pops up as well. But it's dated--hoo boy! is it dated!--and I confess, it made me feel a little old (even though my Godspell was close to a decade later).

Around the same time, I encountered a film I'd heard a lot about, Jesus Camp. It's a genuinely disturbing film about "Kids on Fire," an evangelical camp for children in Nebraska. Ted Haggard makes a creepily prescient appearance--"I know what you did last night. Pay me five thousand dollars and I won't tell your wife."--but even creepier is when he slams this twelve year old preacher to the wall. "Do you think people listen to you because of your content, or because you're a kid? Maybe by the time you're thirty, you'll have good content." What a dick. I don't even think he realized what he said. And it's not disturbing to me because I fear the passion of these youngsters (as the lady preacher implies); it's disturbing because emotionally abusing children is disturbing. Making them weep and convincing them that they're going to hell because they read Harry Potter is no way to raise an informed populace.

A confession: I was one of these kids, for a while. In the late 1970's, Catholicism had a brief, uncomfortable marriage with evangelism. It was called the Charismatic Movement, and both Thers's folks and mine were involved in it. He doesn't discuss it much, but I know that I saw plenty of people speaking in tongues and "slain in the spirit" in those days. I've heard prophecies and seen them come true. Every Saturday night we went for about four hours of Mass and Fellowship and I got to see my cousins and run around and act stupid. I wore "Praise the Lord" t-shirts and performed liturgical dance.I went to a national conference at Notre Dame at which a guy named Larry Tomczak asked us (all kids) to give up our secular music for Jesus. He shuddered as he spoke to us about the dark days of his life, when he played in a British Invasion-style band and bought Jimi Hendrix records! I think that was about when they lost me.

Most Catholics involved in the Charismatic Movement either returned to the fold or went Protestant--we did the first, our cousins the second. My parents later became Catholic Workers and dropped out of society to build housing for the poor--they still encountered evangelicals, but they themselves were more interested in reforming the church.

But it got me thinking: do evangelicals like Godspell? I'll bet they don't. The Christ of the Counterculture is pretty different from the Lion of Judah. Compare:

Dig the WTC starting @ 3:48!

I tried to find a clip of the kids in desert camouflage singing for Jesus, but no one put that up.

Anyway, my point here is that there are all kinds of indoctrinations we can put our kids through, some more malignant than others. This Becky Fischer woman is clear that Christians need to do this, not because it's the right thing, but because Muslims do. It's a sick kind of one-downsman-ship. But Godspell, as goofy as it undoubtedly is, strikes me as pretty benign.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

In the Beginning

So what is the very first power pop record?

There really isn't one, in the sense that there isn't really, say, a first Romantic novel.

But if there was....

For riffiness, attitude, and incredibly cool guitar sound, I'd guess it would have to be this.

Eddie Cochran rules.

Just ask the Who or the Move.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Weekend Listomania

My meth stash is pretty much exhausted, so posting by moi will probably be light this weekend while I try to find Rev. Ted's dealer.

In the meantime, here's a fun game for you:

Best Fictional Rock Star or Band. By which I mean film or TV.

My Top Ten candidates:

1. The Wonders (the garage band in "That Thing You Do").

2. Jet Screamer (Judy Jetson's favorite rock star, singer of "Eep Op Ork.")

3. Conrad Byrdie (from "Bye Bye Byrdie," of couse. Hey, Marshall Crenshaw covered one of his songs).

4. The Rutles

5. A tie: Spinal Tap and The Monkees (I'm stretching here, but both groups were essentially fake bands that actually got their name on great records and even toured live).

6. The Barbusters (Joan Jett, Michael J. Fox, and Michael McKean's prole-rock band in "Light of Day").

7. The Carrie Nations (the girl group in "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls")
8. Chris Gaines (Garth Brooks' alter-ego alt/rocker).

9. The Bedbugs (Lowell George's British Invasion band on "F-Troop").

10. Bryan Adams (I refuse to believe he's a real person).

Jump in, won't you?

For steve:

But for me, this is hands-down the best (two) fake act(s) ever!


Thursday, March 22, 2007


Ladies and gentlemen, if ever a video clip defined the mission statement of this very blog, this is it.

Live at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood, here's John Wicks of the Records blasting his way through his genre-defining anthem Starry Eyes. With Clem Burke of Blondie on drums.

NYMary may have to refresh my memory, but I think the first time we bonded was when we discovered that we both loved -- nay, lurved -- the Records.

It was either that or your recognition of a really obscure 20/20 song. Sometimes, you just know you've found a fellow traveller. --NYM

The Mother of Us All

It's not, historically, the very first power pop song (a subject for future discussion) but as crack researcher NYMary discovered, it did inspire the first known use of the term in print (one of the English music papers) in 1967.

It is, of course, the Who's I Can See For Miles, seen here in glorious black-and-white on some obscure Brit TV show of the period.

And yes, that's really the seriously important English composer Sir William Walton nattering on at the beginning.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Roll Over Ian Anderson

I've tried to avoid trafficking in shrill liberal snark since NYMary invited me over here, but given recent events I can't resist.

Let's just say you haven't lived until you've seen this clip of former Faux news yutz/current White House Press Secretary Tony Snow playing blues flute with Mountain guitarist Leslie West.

My co-religionists said it best:

Oy gevalt.

Handle With Care

More interesting reissue news: On June 11, Rhino will release deluxe editions of both Traveling Wilbury's albums -- which have, rather unbelievably, been out of print for a decade. The reissues will be available on both CD and vinyl,and both albums come with the obligatory bonus tracks -- all of which have been widely bootlegged, of course. The really good news is that the TW's brilliant re-make of Del Shannon's "Runaway," featuring the man himself in glorious form, will finally be commercially available.

I happen to really love both those albums, but I'm cognizant of the fact that there is a sizable subspecies of humanity for whom the words "Jeff Lynne" are basically interchangeable with "loathsome disease."

Zevon Reissues

As per the comment by Dave Lifton, below, he has a podcast interview of Jordan Zevon about reissues of some of his dad's work.
hursday afternoon, as I was trying to think of a topic for this episode, the version of Poor Poor Pitiful Me from Learning To Flinch came up on Shuffle Play. " I thought, “Hey, those reissues are coming out soon. Maybe I should try to get Jordan Zevon on.” That night, I came up with a handful of questions and e-mailed Jordan the next morning. He quickly responded with, paraphrased, “Sure. I’d be happy to.” I called him an hour later and, as you’ll hear, he had a lot of great stories, and he also couldn’t have been cooler.

(I tried to cope Dave's player here, but it doesn't seem to have worked. You can listen at his site.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Love Me Do

Well, well, well. It's seem that these youngsters from England may be a fruitful topic for future research.

Here's their Wiki entry as a starter for the scholarly inclined.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

Normally, if given a choice between watching American Idol and having a burnt stick shoved up my nose, I'd opt for the latter. Tonight, however, an exception may have to be made -- Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits is going to be a guest judge. Or coach. Or whatever they do on that stupid show.

And before you start sneering, go here and download an mp3 of the Hermits "No Milk Today." Written by the great Grahame Gouldman, natch, and pure pop heaven.

Monday, March 19, 2007

His Hair Was Perfect

The Merry Mailman just delivered me a nice package from the good folks at Rhino Records -- expanded reissues of Warren Zevon's "Exciteable Boy," "The Envoy" and "Stand in the Fire" from 1980. This last is a genuine cause for celebration in that it's a) never been on CD before and b) one of the great live rock albums ever.

From Carl Hiassen's new liner notes:

One of the most heinous crimes in rock 'n' roll was the supression, intended or otherwise, of Warren Zevon's mind-blowing "Stand in the Fire," recorded live at the Roxy in Los Angeles. It tragically disappeared many years ago from the bins of music stores and could be found only by the intrepidly obsessed, and then strictly in the inferior format of the cassette. Now, at long last, this vanquished treasure is avilable to decent, law-abiding citizens on compact disc.

One of the reasons it's so good is that when it came time to tour, Warren didn't drag along any of the (often overly genteel) L.A. session guys who played on his studio albums. Instead, he hit the road with a highly unphotogenic bar band that he found one night who specialized in Zevon covers. This was their shot at the bigs, and as you can hear on the record they played as if their life depended on it.

It should be noted that there is, fortuately, no accompanying DVD version. I say fortunately because during this period Zevon -- apparently laboring under the misapprehension that he was auditioning for the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- frequently appeared on stage shirtless.

Here's an excellent live TV clip of one the best songs on the expanded CD -- When Johnny Strikes Up the Band -- from a slightly later vintage (1982). Zevon wears a nice suit; the band are the same guys he found in the bar.

Update: I'd totally forgotten he does "Mohammad's Radio" on the album. It's taken on a new layer of meaning, obviously.

Your Own Personal Jesus of Cool

Well, this is just beyond remarkable: from Brit TV in 1973, and featuring a young, pre-snark power pop god Nick Lowe, it's Brinsley Schwarz doing "Surrender to the Rhythm."

For a band that never sold a lot of records, these guys were hugely influential (they mutated, as you doubtless recall, into Graham Parker's back-up band and made the epochal "Squeezing Out Sparks") and I've been a fan since forever. So it's a genuine thrill to finally see what they looked and sounded like in their natural habitat -- apart from a legendarily disastrous 1969 press gig at one of the Fillmores, they never played the States. In any case, I think we can all now agree that the presence of this clip on YouTube is conclusive proof that YouTube is the most important thing that's ever happened in the entire history of humanity,

Incidentally, there's a lovely story about Bob Andrews, the Brinsley's organist (seen here grinning insanely and covering himself in glory with some of the most lyrical keyboard work imaginable). Seems he was a huge fan of the Band's Garth Hudson and was constantly updating his gear in emulation of the Great Man Himself; if there was an effects pedal or amp Hudson used, Andrews would immediately add it to his arsenal, trying to get that elusive Hudson sound. Only problem was, no matter what he did he couldn't quite achieve total Garth-ness and it drove him nuts.

Anyway, sometime in the early 70s the Band toured the UK and at one point wound up rehearsing at the Brinsley's studio and using their equipment. Garth turned everything on, put fingers to the keys, and immediately sounded just like himself.

Andrews, who was lurking in a corner too awed to say hello to his idol, literally wept.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Present Day Hepster Refuses to Die

Found an interview I did with Tom Verlaine of Televison on the occasion of one of his, sadly, infrequent solo albums in 1992.

THE only time I ever met Tom Verlaine was back in 1973, thanks to a classified ad in the Village Voice: "Narcissistic rhythm guitarist wanted--minimal talent okay."

At that point in history, the twenty-four-year-old, New Jersey-born Verlaine was living in Manhattan's then highly unfashionable East Village under his real last name (Miller) and hanging around with Richard Myers, a pal since their late-Sixties days at a Delaware boarding school and in a short-lived band called the Neon Boys. As for me, I figured I was as narcissistic and minimally talented as the next guy, so I decided to call him.

Consequently, one afternoon I showed up at Verlaine's roach-infested apartment and jammed briefly with the duo. Both guys were laconic in the extreme and had a certain (shall we say) attitude, but as I was leaving they said they were auditioning an old friend over the weekend, and if he didn't work out they'd get back to me.

They never did, of course. The friend was the great guitarist Richard Lloyd, and after that Verlaine, Myers (who soon changed his name to Hell and became notorious for inventing the punk look), Lloyd, and drummer Billy Ficca (another school chum) started performing around the Bowery as Television. By the time they released their debut (independent) single, Little Johnny Jewel, in 1975, they had essentially created the entire CBGB scene, and they went on--with Fred Smith replacing Hell on bass-to become one of the most popular and influential of the first generation of New Wave bands, along with Blondie, the Ramones, Talking Heads, and Patti Smith.

Television folded in 1978 after two brilliant but only modestly successful albums on Elektra. Verlaine then embarked on a solo career, became a guitar hero to countless alternative and college-radio bands, and generally refined his image as the moody poet laureate of Eternally Disaffected Bohemians, Downtown Division.

So when I chatted with him by phone this spring - to discuss his latest solo album (his seventh) as well as the eagerly awaited Television reunion on Capitol - I was flattered and relieved that the first words out of his mouth were, "We met years ago, didn't we? You answered our ad?" Reputation notwithstanding, he seemed like a thoroughly regular Joe, an unpretentious working musician rather than a tortured, mystical artiste.

"Warm and Cool," Verlaine's new solo album on Rykodisc, is all instrumental and thus something of a departure for a guy celebrated as much for his symbolist-influenced lyrics as for his guitar prowess. But Verlaine said he would have done it a long time ago, except that "no record label I was on was ever interested.

"It was like, `It's a nice idea, but it's not really worth it for us to issue it even if you pay for it yourself,'" he recalled. "So when I got off Phonogram, I figured, here's a chance to do it for the fun of it and then sell it."

Recorded with Ficca, Smith, and old CBGB chum Jay Dee Daugherty, "Warm and Coo!" has a kind of Beatnik Jazz Meets Duane Eddy ambience. It's moody rather than intense, and short on guitar pyrotechnics.

"I knew somebody would point that out," Verlaine laughed. "But it's not really a rock record. It's kind of bluesy. There's also something Fifties about it, and something -not in terms of sound but concept - sort of Oriental, in the sense of keeping it incredibly simple and leaving lots of space."

Keeping it simple, apparently, involved having few rigid structures in place prior to making it. "The thing was recorded in two nights, and then we spent about five days editing," Verlaine said. "Basically a lot of it - maybe half, actually - is edited bits out of much longer things. They were all sort of `Oh, let's try something' [sessions]. It was strictly luck that everybody got the idea."

Recording the new Television album, on the other hand, was a less improvisatory affair. It is, after all, the punk/New Wave equivalent of a Buffalo Springfield reunion, and consequently a lot of people have high expectations. Verlaine, however, professes not to be intimidated.

"I don't have any image of the band," he said. "To me it's two guitars, bass, and drums; that's always what it was. The second record was different from the first record, stylistically, and this will be different from both of them. Luckily we still have the same guitars."

The album, due out in July but still untitled when we spoke, seems to have been motivated in part by a certain frustration with the industry. "I had piles of unrecorded stuff," Verlaine noted, "because I had such trouble with Phonogram. I signed with them in England around 1985, and I did one record, and they didn't put it out. Then I did another one, and it came out two years later, and I did another one that came out three years after it was recorded. In the meantime I wound up with this enormous pile of material, and I just thought it might be fun to do this again. Plus, I had played with Billy now and then, and Fred's worked with me for the last ten years or so, so it's not really such a big move even though a lot of people think it is. We were never estranged."

Interestingly, given prevailing industry practice, the band members are producing the recording themselves. "Capitol seems really great to me," Verlaine said about the label that also markets Garth Brooks. "They seem like the last record company that leaves you alone, whereas the new breed, all the new companies, seem to have remix mania."

One of the reasons so many people still love Television is that it conjured up the excitement of New York City at a moment of great artistic ferment. Verlaine, however, seemed unaffected by such Big Apple nostalgia.

"I lived in Europe off and on from 1984 to 1988, and I didn't miss New York at that point, not at all," he said, "although when I came back I noticed that a lot of places I used to go had disappeared. It's funny how [that period] is perceived. I suppose it's a part of history for many people. But I never look back at it, and I always do the same sort of things."

One of those things is dabbling in prose, as witness the "extract from Forty Monologues" on the inner sleeve of his 1984 solo album "Cover." And there's a long-rumored Verlaine book in the works.

"Somebody approached me on it in 1985, and I still haven't finished it," he laughed. "Basically, it's a box full of notebooks. I think it's going to take having six months off and having a nice place to live. It seems like I never get enough time in a block away from doing music. I'm always thinking I can, but it's hard because you're working in the studio or you're rehearsing. It's different from sitting down and just writing."

Given Television's schedule for the foreseeable future ("This is not a one-shot reunion," Verlaine said emphatically), we probably won't see his book any time soon. The band plans to tour extensively, both in the States and overseas, where it had significant chart success in the early days. There may even be a video or two in the works, however odd that may seem considering the group's old image as the Ice Kings of Rock.

The big question that remains is whether the general pop audience will finally connect with Television's visionary brand of guitar-driven music. Post-Nirvana, of course, perhaps the time is fight, but Verlaine dismisses the idea that he and his colleagues may have been the most influential guitar ensemble since the Yardbirds.

"The whole reputation of being a rock guitar player, I could really care less about it," he said. "Still, when I hear new groups today I do occasionally hear something where I think... ahh, I've heard that lick before."

Courtesy of the fine folks at The Wonder, your one-stop resource for all things Verlaine. Very nice.

The Young and the Feckless

Ladies and gentlemen, one of the the most underrated bands in rock history.

For a bunch of reasons I'd rather not get into they're usually dismissed as a tiresome bunch of Woodstock hippies.

Uh-uh. As demonstrated on their first three albums, these guys had the same Brill Building pop smarts as their contemporaries the Lovin Spoonful. And they were snazzier dressers.

Here's a song that makes the point. From 1966, the Youngbloods and the ineffingly poignant Tears Are Falling.

Update: I'm delighted to learn that those above mentioned three albums have just been remastered and reissued as a two-disc set.

BTW -- the first two were produced by Mountain bassist Felix Pappalardi, a guy you may recall was killed (gunshot) by his jealous wife in the early 80s.

Guess who the Other Woman was.

A very young Courtney Love.

For some reason, that's not on her resume.

Update part deux: Alert reader Lee Shafer (who quoted stuff to me from a review of something I wrote in the 70s, and thus deserves respect from all who walk upright) says I may be wrong about Love and Pappalardi.. I knew people who worked with both of them back then, and that's what they've always told me. But I'll look into it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Oh dear.

Sorry, Bono

And in honor of St. Patrick's Day, we give you Belfast's finest.

Totally live in 1965 it's the savage young Them featuring Van Morrison.

100 Years of Wimpitude

The people that know me best -- by which I mean a couple of ex-girlfriends and several regulars over at Eschaton who I've never actually met -- will all tell you that beneath my cynical critical exterior I'm a total sentimental wuss who cries at supermarket openings.

Well, it's true. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. So I have a confession to make, on the theory that you can't deal with a problem until you acknowledge it.


I love this song.

There was a man back in '95
Whose heart ran out of summers
But before he died, I asked him

Wait, what's the sense in life
Come over me, Come over me

He said,

"Son why you got to sing that tune
Catch a Dylan song or some eclipse of the moon
Let an angel swing and make you swoon
Then you will see... You will see."

Then he said,

"Here's a riddle for you
Find the Answer
There's a reason for the world
You and I..."

Picked up my kid from school today
Did you learn anything cause in the world today
You can't live in a castle far away
Now talk to me, come talk to me

He said,

"Dad I'm big but we're smaller than small
In the scheme of things, well we're nothing at all
Still every mother's child sings a lonely song
So play with me, come play with me"

And Hey Dad
Here's a riddle for you
Find the Answer
There's a reason for the world
You and I...

I said,

"Son for all I've told you
When you get right down to the
Reason for the world...
Who am I?"

There are secrets that we still have left to find
There have been mysteries from the beginning of time
There are answers we're not wise enough to see

He said... You looking for a clue I Love You free...

The batter swings and the summer flies
As I look into my angel's eyes
A song plays on while the moon is hiding over me
Something comes over me

I guess we're big and I guess we're small
If you think about it man you know we got it all
Cause we're all we got on this bouncing ball
And I love you free
I love you freely

Here's a riddle for you
Find the Answer
There's a reason for the world
You and I...

That's "The Riddle" by Five For Fighting, BTW, and you can hear it in all its inexplicably moving glory here.

Sorry, it just kills me, especially when the band comes in after the first verse --
Elton John only wishes he'd gotten his name on something as melodically graceful and lyrically wise. And you know what? I don't even care that the singer is reputedly a wingnut. Hey -- Richard Wagner was a shit and he wrote transcendent music too.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday Babyblogging.

It's freaking chaos around here, what with visits from NTodd and watertiger and 10-20" of snow and SP's long awaited first birthday TOMORROW!

But watertiger has a good camera and has captured some of the excitement.

Arrrrgh! Where's me spinach?

I envy you your anonymity.

Lookit those eyelashes!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beyond the Valley of the Irksome

I have just discovered that the Left Banke's There's Gonna Be a Storm, the 1994 best-of that collected every note they ever recorded on one exquisite CD, is not only out of print, but that used copies are fetching in the neighborhood of 200 bucks on Amazon.

There's something deeply depraved about a culture in which the Pussycat Dolls have a TV show but the Left Banke's music is unavailable.

I'm consoling myself by cranking the fabulous cover of the Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight" on the recent album by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, but only barely.

Tomorrow Never Knows

Joe Boyd, who's been around, has written what sounds like a very interesting book.

From today's New York Times:

"The 1960s had a single, precise climax, Joe Boyd says, and he was there.

In a new memoir, “White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s,” Mr. Boyd, a veteran record producer whose résumé includes Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention and R.E.M., ignores the conventional high points of the decade — Woodstock, the moon landing — and instead asserts that a set by the psychedelic rock band Tomorrow at the UFO Club in London shortly before dawn on July 1, 1967, was the big moment, when drugs, political activism and far-out music had their purest convergence.
“On one level, obviously, that’s a self-satirizing statement; it’s ridiculous,” Mr. Boyd said on a recent visit to New York, where he was beginning work on a new record by a Cuban pianist, Adonis Gonzalez. “But then behind that there’s another level in which I’m secretly thinking: ‘Well, yeah, actually, that is when and where it all peaked, that’s where it all changed. That’s about the time that the wind shifted.’ ”

Boyd began his career in music by stage-managing the 1965 Newport Folk Festival -- yes, that one, when Dylan went electric. He later produced the Floyd's first hit single "Arnold Layne" (rock's first ode to transvestism) and lots of other gems, including Richard and Linda Thompson's "Shoot Out the Lights," widely considered one of the top 100 rock albums of all time.

The book is out next month, and is obviously a must read. Boyd told the Times there's a reason it's so full of lucid memories of an obviously heady era: "I cheated," he says. "I never got too stoned."

He's a terrific guy, by the way. Met him briefly when a then-girlfriend was doing art direction for albums by the Rumour and Joe "King" Carrasco on his Hannibal Records label (I wound up doing snarky jacket copy for both, which is another story altogether).

Update: I neglected to mention that Tomorrow's "My White Bicycle," along with scads of other fabulous English and European psychedelic pop hits, can be found on Rhino's indispensable four disc set NUGGETS II.

Review: Cantilever

As regular readers know, I'm not really a reviewer, having far too much love for our form to really critique it as such. So I should preface this by noting that I'm far more of a fan than a critic, but when something becomes pretty much the only thing I listen to for a period of time stretching into days and weeks, I notice.

February and early March were largely given over to Jeff Murphy's Cantilever, the first ever solo project by a member of Shoes.

It's a delightful CD, recognizable not just because of Murphy's patented velvety growl and layered production, but also because of the kind of lyrical cleverness and innuendo, often buried, that one always expected from Shoes. I know I'm a lowbrow, but I like a man who offers to be his lover's vibrator, as Murphy does in the kickoff track "I'm a Tool for You."

It's logical to expect that Cantilever would be more Nerk-era Murphy than Shoes-era Murphy, but that's only partly true. "A Couple of Words" definitely evokes the Nerks' "Eyes on the Prize,"--though the Stevie Wonder keyboard does give it a different flavor. But "Never Let You Go," the soaring love song that stands out here, is very much in the mode of his earlier work--all dense vocals, hooks, and romance.

Some of the record is pretty stripped down as well: the terse, depressive anthem "Havin' a Bad Day," for example, is basically a rhythm track and a voice. It works, however, in this context, the form following the lyric (or vice versa). Murphy's always been one to play with the feel of pop songs (think of Shoes' "I Wanna Give It To You" or The Nerk Twins' "Two Women"). I would say that most of Murphy's major modes are represented here: the dreamy ("Someday Soon," "Unconditional Love") and the quirky ("She Don't Drive").

The only thing missing, as far as I can tell, is a real balls-out rocker in the mode of "Silence is Deadly"--its closest approximation here is in the political "Won't Take Yes for an Answer," which takes the current administration to task for its power-grubbing ways--"It's total control that you're after"--but even that is leavened with a softer acoustic section. (I posted the full lyrics here.) I don't think he's been this pissed since "Mayday."

Cantilever was recorded, like Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything or McCartney's first record, all on his own. At the beginning of the recording process, Short Order Recorder was still a going concern (it was sold in 04), so some of this was done in a full studio and the rest in Murphy's home studio. In terms of quality, it's hard to tell which is which, one benefit of the digital age. He puts his long and venerable production career to use for his own work here, and the effect is terrific. I highly recommend Cantilever for anyone familiar with Murphy's oeuvre, or for powerpop fans the world around.

You can order Cantilever here.

Sooooo... I heard a rumor someplace that Gary Klebe has a home studio too.

Thank You Girl

Uh....have I mentioned how insanely grateful I am that NYMary has given me a metaphorical extra set of keys to the car here?

Fortunately, the Beatles had already written a song for the occasion......

As our readers have already noted, it's a Good Thing all around. You're welcome, of course, but it's hardly selfless on my part. Thanks to you too for being willing to do it! --NYM

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Voices of the Beehive

So did anybody catch Amy Winehouse on Letterman the other night?

I tuned in to find out what all the fuss was about, despite the fact that when I hear a phrase like "the latest young Brit neo-soul diva" my eyes tend to glaze over. Turned out she was way interesting, although not exactly in the way I expected.

First of all, yeah, she can sing. And she has It, if you know what I mean. And her 21st century Ronettes shtick is quite smart -- in her tattoed, beehived glory, she's everything that the real Ronnie Spector implied but couldn't quite come out and say.

What took me aback, however, is that she's actually a throwback to a different tradition -- the whole Brit putting-on-the-style thing. In fact, when all is said and done, she reminded me less of a Sixties girl group babe and more of an early 70s glam rock star -- specifically, the pre-moonlight and roses Bryan Ferry, circa "These Foolish Things."

Which is to say she's trying to have her camp and eat it too.

P.S. Found a fun YouTube clip of her and Paul Weller dueting on "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." Someday when I've mastered the tech stuff here I'll post it, as it sort of proves the point.

For, you, baby. --NYM

I didn't realize I could edit steve's posts, but now I can help him plug in all kinds of stuff.

Legend of the Lost

Fun fact: There actually are some people who believe the unbelievably obscure 1970 album "One Kiss Leads to Another," by a bunch of New York City hippies called Hackamore Brick, is one of the great lost power pop classics.

Dean of American Rock Critics Robert Christgau gave it a B at the time (back when he was still a Deadhead) and early punk theoretician Richard Melzer raved about it in Rolling Stone. Since then, it's become a hepster touchstone of sorts, and it recently got reissued on a limited edition CD., which presumably has not yet sold out.

Me, I'm agnostic. But there are some MP3s over at the Not Lame Records site and you can make up your own mind. (Sorry about the lack of link -- I'm still figuring out the tech stuff here).

Incidentally, if any of the guys in the band are out there -- we'd love to talk to you, if not necessarily to shake your hand.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Give Her a Great Big Kiss

My old college chum Eric C. Boardman alerts me to the following:

"Late Night with Conan O'Brien" -- Blast from the girl groups past. Get your hands together for former Shangri-Las lead singer Mary Weiss (yep the cosmic voice wailing on "Leader of the Pack") as she belts out a song from the CD "Dangerous Game," Weiss' first new music in 40 years. Awright."

Haven't heard the album yet, but obviously, this could be a hot one.

simelsblogging: Patti Smith

Portrait of the Critic as a Young Patti Smith fan. Note "Back to Mono" button.

BTW -- I bet Patti was thrilled to get into the Hall of Fame on the same night as the Ronnie Spector. How many times do you think she sang Ronnettes songs in the back of a school bus when she was a kid?

(NYM notes: simels is much better looking than this now. He's aged very well.)

Simelsblogging: Procol Harum

Until he gets his feet under him technologically, allow me to post an article steve sent me a couple of weeks ago.

Ladies and gents -- the first lengthy piece of mine to be published in a national magazine. Who amongst us cannot recall where we were the first time we read it?

Okay,'s how it happened.

In the summer of 1972 I was looking for work, and more to the point, to find a way to keep getting free albums in the quantities I had become accustomed to during my run as rock critic at my college paper. I had just begun writing freelance reviews for a NYC freebie rag of the day, which was fun, but unfortunately they took their freebie status seriously enough that they never actually paid me (although I was grateful to them for expanding my clip archive and making me look like I was a bigger shot than I really was. Plus, they let me review not just rock albums but comic books as well, which nobody else to my knowledge was doing anywhere except in fanzines).

I'd also just had a review accepted by Fusion (their motto: "We pay our writers a pittance, but at least we really do pay, unlike that stupid freebie rag you're scribbling comic book reviews for, jerk.") Fusionbbbbb was a wonderful Boston-based (mostly) rock oriented mag which was giving Creem a run for its money at the time and which I particularly loved for having serialized the fabulous Raymond Chandler homage "The Big Kiss-Off of 1944," a novel that was the first sign of incipient genius from future Hollywood hotshot Andrew Bergman (auteur of "The In-Laws," among other terrific movies). Imagine my chagrin, then, when I ran to the newsstand at the appointed time, opened up the new issue to the review section and found my magnum opus -- a pan of a band and album now lost in the mists of memory -- printed with a byline not my own. Oh the indignity -- my first professional sale credited to somebody else!!!

Desperate (for money, as I plainly recall), I then sent off a couple of my (least awful) pieces and a really snotty note to Stereo Review (a magazine I'd read avidly, off and on, since the early 60s) advertising my services as potential in-house rock critic guy (I believe I suggested that they were horribly out of touch and desperately needed me). To my surprise, I was soon summoned to the old One Park Avenue offices of Ziff-Davis Publications, where I found myself, totally intimidated, in the presence of two actual SR editors. Fortunately, since I didn't obviously drool, they were nice enough to offer me a spec assignment before I left. "Write an appreciation of some band you think is important," Music Editor Jim Goodfriend told me, "and if we like it we'll pay you five hundred bucks" (a lot of money back in those days, and an unimaginably huge sum to my young and empty wallet). Somewhat shell-shocked by the experience, I staggered home, spent a week or so toiling obsessively on the essay below, mailed it in, and parked myself by the phone. The call arrived in a few days; not only did the editors like the piece, they invited me to have another similar go at a retrospective on another band. I didn't realize it at the time, but these were essentially audition pieces; immediately after I finished the second one (on the Kinks), I was invited back to the office and offered the job of Pop Music Editor, and the rest is history blah blah blah.

Incidentally, after a few months on staff I found some inter-office memos (pre-dating my hire) between Goodfriend and Editor in Chief Bill Anderson; turns out the reason I got the gig was not so much because they thought I was a particularly great writer, but because the word had come from the corporate honchos upstairs that SR needed to hire some young snot to give the mag a patina of hep. Also, they knew they could get me, as opposed to an established name, for dirt cheap. A blow to my ego, to be sure, but since at that point I was once again getting all the free albums I could possibly want, I let it go.

In any event, enjoy the following, written in the naive, unskilled fullness of my youth. Re-visiting it now, my basic reaction is "I've read worse," but on the other hand, it's kind of inspirational; if I could sneak this thin gruel into a national magazine and get paid for it, pretty much anything is possible. The footnotes, obviously, represent my current thoughts on specific idiocies I haven't bothered to edit out or revise. -- S.S

(From: Stereo Review December 1972)
PROCOL HARUM: A Retrospective Look at the Finest Band in Christendom

One of the (for some reason) rarely discussed perks of being a rock-and-roll obsessive (as opposed to casual fan) is that you get to root for the underdog. The story is familiar: you get knocked out by an unknown or unpopular group, so you buy their infrequent albums with an almost religious fervor and make a nuisance of yourself by playing the B side of one of their flop singles for all your friends who really only want to hear Neil Young (1) for the 800th time. If you're a real zealot, you also put out a fanzine devoted to your idol's career (or lack of one) and write nasty letters to Rolling Stone. When the group finally clicks, you smile your best I-told-you-so smile. If, instead, they fade unheralded, you wipe your nose, mutter "ahead of their time" under your breath, and feel sensitive. A wonderful game because you can't lose.

Just about every real rock fan of my acquaintance has at least one such mania to his credit. Myself, I used to conduct lonely vigils at record stores for Kinks albums, this in the days when their sales were so uninspiring that Reprise was seriously considering dropping them altogether. Now, to the delight of RCA, their cult following has expanded to the point where they've become a viable commercial entity, and I figure my taste is an idea whose time as come.

More recently much the same has begun to happen to Procol Harum, another cult band that many of my critical confreres have been pulling for since 1967, but with a notable lack of success. Yet, as of this writing, the group's sixth album (seventh, if you count their released-only-in-England greatest hits collection), Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony, is in Billboard's Top Ten (2), the first such achievement in their history, and "Conquistador," the single excerpted from it, is doing similarly boffo biz. This radical reversal of the band's fortunes is especially ironic in the face of larger current pop culture trends toward anti-intellectualism (see much recent rock criticism) and extravagant camp theatricality (as perpetrated onstage by the likes of Alice Cooper, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones).

The Procols, image-wise, have always tended toward invisibility. Their act, such as it is, is limited to an occasional one-liner from singer/pianist Gary Brooker, and what little mystique surrounds them stems from the compulsive morbidity of lyricist Keith Reid, about whom fans play a little guessing game: is he as screwed up in real life as the songs suggest or what? I once did an interview with the group during which Reid spent the whole time huddled in a corner muttering to himself, and this kind of behavior, while interesting in itself on a number of levels, is nevertheless not quite the stuff of which pop legends are made. (3) And though, being British, they do possess a sort of built-in flash, by and large there's really nothing terribly impressive about them except their music. But despite an occasional zinger from people who should know better (I think of Nik Cohn's brief dismissal of them as one-hit [the gazillion selling "A Whiter Shade of Pale --you may have heard it] wonders in his Rock from the Beginning, or the remark by Robbie Robertson of the Band - with whom they're often and superficially compared - to the effect that everything they do "sounds vaguely like that Percy Sledge thing"), that music is as significant a body of work, in terms of emotional depth and all-around smarts, as can be found in contemporary pop/rock. For those of us who've been convinced of this all along, their metamorphosis into genuine headliners is, in many ways, a vindication. The question then becomes, where have they been all your life?

Procol Harum's recorded output is still relatively small (they've confined themselves pretty much to one album a year) (4), and it divides itself handily, as a by-product of some personnel juggling, into three distinct periods. For their first three LPs, the band was a five-piece starring the organ and piano of Matthew Fisher and Gary Brooker, the bass of David Knights, the guitar of Robin Trower, and the drums of the ubiquitous B.J. Wilson (not to be confused with B.J. Thomas)(5). This line-up set the basic template for their work, with the compositional chores divided between Fisher, Brooker, and Trower. (It is interesting to note, parenthetically, that a good deal of the material from this early period remains a part of their performing repertoire.)

In 1969, David and Matthew departed, to be replaced by one Chris Copping, a clever lad who could play Matthew's organ lines with one hand while negotiating a keyboard bass with the other. As a quartet, the band recorded Home and Broken Barricades, and it became apparent that a lot of the weight had fallen on Robin. Whereas previously he had functioned almost exclusively as a solo voice, he now unleashed a scathing Hendrix-style attack that more than compensated for the reduction in manpower and began to gain him a measure of notoriety. We can, with some justification, label this the band's Blue Period. (It is also interesting to note parenthetically that this version of PH was a de facto reunion of cult R&B Brit faves the Paramounts, under which moniker all four of the Procols had previously played . The Paramounts never sold many records, but no less authorities than the Rolling Stones famously pronounced them their favorite R&B band) (6). Finally, last year, the inevitable happened: Robin, visions of superstardom dancing in his head, trotted off to form his own combo, and was promptly replaced by David Ball (full-time bassist Alan Cartwright came in at the same time). Full circle, with their original instrumentation intact, it was this band that moved out to cut the live effort which has so unexpectedly propelled them into the public eye.

The convoluted game of musical chairs might well suggest we have several Procol Harums to deal with, but remarkably, the sense of continuity from record to record is very strong. This is not to say that they haven't experimented or grown (their most recent stuff, such as the forthcoming Grand Hotel, is increasingly full of conscious attempts at non-mould material), but rather that a particular vision has guided the band since its inception. That vision, not surprisingly, is most formally exemplified by the music of their eponymous debut album. Procol was not the first to attempt the elusive fusion of rock and classical techniques, but they are still the only ones to have pulled it off, and never quite so effortlessly as they did in that seamless merger of Bach and Ray Charles. One recalls similar attempts at fusing "serious" music with jazz - the so-called Third Stream of Gunther Schuller and others - and more recently the work of such rock bands as the Nice and King Crimson. It's generally agreed that what resulted in all these cases was a basically sterile music in which the styles never really meshed, but merely alternated with each other. Procol Harum never fell into this trap - largely, I think, because first and foremost they're rock-and-rollers, and they consequently adopted only those elements of classical music that are most compatible with those of rock, the harmonic language and the tight structure in particular. With this in mind, the quintessential Procol Harum track would have to be "Repent, Walpurgis," a shattering instrumental from that first album in which, against a melancholy Bachian organ-and-piano background, Robin Trower's solo guitar screams out in the purest kind of rock-and-roll language. The juxtaposition is moving in the extreme.

The man who provides the words for Procol is the previously mentioned Keith Reid, who can, at his best, achieve as cunning a synthesis with seemingly divergent verbal traditions as the band can with its musical ones. His work is terribly literary in the academic sense (in some ways it's even more self-consciously poetic than that of, say, Paul Simon), owing to a fondness for classical imagery and the sort of modernist anxieties you might associate with T.S. Eliot. And yet he's also extremely funky, a rock poet demonstrably in the line that runs all the way back to Chuck Berry. He has often been compared to Dylan, and indeed there are times when his surrealistic narrative style recalls the Dylan of the early electric albums (as in "Ramblin' On"). But more often than not he's simply his own man. "Still There'll Be More," one of the niftiest cuts from Home, provides a good example of his approach. The song centers around a prototypical macho fantasy that has been common in rock since Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," and it has roots in blues that are considerable older. But Reid's kind of skinny, and he's been to college, so it comes out like this:

I'll bathe my eyes in a river of salt
I'll grow myself right up to the sky
I'll sing in the forest and tear down the trees
Foul all the fountains and trample the leaves.
I'll blacken your Christmas
And piss on your door
You'll cry out for mercy
Still there'll be more...
Point taken, Keith.

Overall, his viewpoint is unrelievedly pessimistic; in fact, his lyrics of late have been sicklied over with such an alarmingly graveyard cast that the band (which considers him an equal member, incidentally) reportedly postponed an album until he could turn out something a little more upbeat. Practically speaking, this may have been a good idea: Broken Barricades, after all, was about nothing less than the decline of Western civilization, an awfully tough act to follow. But I think they needn't have worried. Even at his gloomiest, he seems unable to avoid flashes or mordant wit and healthy self-mockery. And if his vision is a dark one, it is never trivial; if he has not been quite the Compleat and Perfect Songwriter (7), he has rarely been anything less than a very good one:
There's too many women, and not enough wine,
Too many poets, and not enough rhyme,
Too many glasses and not enough time.
Draw your own conclusions.

The next few steps for the band are obviously going to be crucial. Procol is now in the enviable position of coming off a hit album just as their record contract expires. They are, I'm sure, well aware of the power this gives them; a strongly supportive label (which is something they've never really had at their disposal) can be an important factor in their continuing to reach the mass audience that suddenly seems to have discovered them. And they are probably equally aware that the next album had better be damn good or there goes the ball game. Odds are, or course, that it will be; let us not forget that Procol boasts, in Gary and BJ, a vocalist and a drummer who are arguably among the most powerful in the business.

Meanwhile, the new band has had more than a year to get its chops in shape, and the evidence of the last tour is that they're playing, if possible, even better than ever. (A measure of this can perhaps be gleaned from the most recent concert of theirs I attended, at which the Staten Island audience sat in stunned silence for a full ten seconds after an encore of "Repent.") Nonetheless, Keith Reid is likely at this very moment to be off somewhere reading a lamb's entrails for confirmation.

Jerry Garcia is fond of quoting the "I Ching" to the effect that perseverance pays, and though personally I find both book and guitarist unreliable, there's still a little grain of truth in there somewhere. God knows Procol Harum has persevered, and it looks like it just might begin to pay. For an old cultist like me, that's got to be a cause for a couple of loud huzzas at the very least.
Postcript: All that was written a couple of weeks ago and, as the alert reader may know, a great deal has gone down since then. God knows what may happen before this finally sees print, but as we go to press (in early November) this is the scoop: the band is now on the WB/Chrysalis label, A & M is reissuing the first album and - most important - they've shuffled lead guitarists again. Ball has apparently pulled an Eric Clapton, quitting the now successful group to play the blues, and his replacement is Mick Grabham, formerly of the English country-rock band Cochise. How the personnel change will affect Grand Hotel is at this point anybody's guess, but I can report that in concert, at least, things are working out just fine. Stay tuned.(8)

1. I love (and loved at the time) Neil Young, but I was sort of sick of Harvest when I wrote the piece. Sorry.

2. Ouch. Since I have of late poked considerable fun (to my mind, well deserved) at NY Times critic Kelefa Sanneh for his inexplicable quest to work a reference to the Billboard charts into seemingly every piece he's ever written or will write, this is -- how you say -- embarrassing. Mea culpa. Although I still think Sanneh's got some kind of a problem.

3. I know, I know, what was I thinking. In my defense, at the time I worked on this, Brian Wilson was not yet widely known to be bonkers; neither was Syd Barrett. And c'mon -- if somebody had come to me while I was writing it and said "Just wait -- thirty years from now, Michael Jackson will be more famous for dangling a baby out of a window than for his music" I would hardly have believed them.

4. "One album a year". Sheesh. Remember when major-label bands had a work ethic?

5. This joke totally embarrasses me, as it should you.

6. Full disclosure: this aside does not appear in the original article, for the simple reason that I was unaware of the Procol's Paramount past at the time I wrote it. Incidentally, the Paramounts complete recorded output (i.e., their single A and B sides) is currently available on a Brit import CD; I wish I could say that your life is the poorer without it, but alas, like the work of most obscure 60s rock bands that you haven't heard, it's not particularly memorable. Another one of those great club acts whose live show didn't really transfer to tape, apparently.

7. Too cute for words. I would have changed it to something, er, less cute for words, but I decided to leave it in as a memo to myself: things too silly to be said can only be sung.

8. It just dawned on me while revising this that nowhere in the piece do I make even a glancing mention of A Salty Dog, Procol's third album and generally agreed both then and now to be their magnum opus. For what it's worth, I haven't a clue as to the why of the omission. Maybe I was still smoking pot at the time (heh heh). In any event: let me finally say it now -- it's an all but perfect album, one of the best of its era for sure.

Steve Simels regrets the error.

See, this is what happens when you're a real writer....

Monday, March 12, 2007


We at PowerPop welcome my new co-blogger, the venerable pop critic steve simels!

Make him feel welcome, all!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Beatles that Never Were

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A group of New York musicians is planning to do what the Beatles never did -- perform the songs the Fab Four might have recorded as their final album had they stayed together just a little longer.

The Beatles tribute band The Fab Faux -- made up of some of the New York's leading professional musicians -- will perform the songs they think would have been on that album on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The performance at New York's Webster Hall consists of material from the original Fab Four's early solo careers.
Reuters Pictures

Editors Choice: Best pictures
from the last 24 hours.
View Slideshow

All of the tracks will be performed with distinctive Beatles-type arrangements, rather than the spartan feel of Lennon's early recordings and McCartney's first solo effort, recorded at his home almost as a demo tape.

"It's totally on a lark because it didn't happen. It wouldn't have happened," keyboardist and guitarist Jack Petruzzelli said.

The Fab Faux's set will include the John Lennon songs "Jealous Guy," "Instant Karma," "Mother," "Remember" and "Gimme Some Truth." From Paul McCartney comes "Maybe I'm Amazed," "Every Night," "Another Day," "Hot as Sun/Glasses" and "Oo You." They'll also perform George Harrison's tunes "All Things Must Pass" and his solo hit "My Sweet Lord" and "What is Life."

h/t simels (who sends me great links all the time and should become my coblogger--IMHO).


If I get one more 40 page screed from an Afrikaner about how those damned Blacks ruined our country and we deserve to Be Proud, I'll puke. Find a nice Skynryd blog to frequent. No one makes you read my opinion. Let it rest, guys.

And yeah, all guys. I'm pretty confident about that.

Friday, March 09, 2007

On the Horizon: New FOW

In my inbox:
will be released in the US on April 3 by Virgin Records. HITS
Magazine has already called it one of 2007's "records that raise the
bar for everyone else."

Listen to clips and pre-order TRAFFIC AND WEATHER:

The album's first single, "Someone To Love" (featuring backing vocals
by Melissa Auf Der Maur) is available for download on iTunes, and is
at radio stations nationwide. Please call and request!

Tour dates are being added weekly. Current shows on sale now include:

APRIL 21 Pearl Street, Northampton MA
APRIL 22 Paradise, Boston, MA
APRIL 24 Webster Hall, NYC
APRIL 25 Trocadero, Philadephia, PA
APRIL 28 Coachella Music And Arts Festival, Indio CA
APRIL 30 Great American Music Hall, SF, CA

Check for ticket purchasing info, as well as tour
updates, news on upcoming TV appearances and more.

Thanks for your support.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Monday, March 05, 2007

Noted: Three Movies

1. If you haven't yet seen Music & Lyrics, get a date and do so. Music by Adam Schlesinger (who won an Oscar for That Thing You Do). Yes, it's a dopey romantic comedy. Your point?

2. Thers notes that there's a Paradise Lost movie in the works. I'm speechless, myself.
As with any Hollywood development project, things are changing along the way. The original script hewed a bit too closely to Milton for the producer’s taste, for instance. Mr. Newman, by his own account, told the writers he wanted “less Adam and Eve and more about what’s happening with the archangels,” the battle in Heaven between God’s and Satan’s armies.

“In Eden there’s the nudity problem,” he pointed out, “which would be a big problem for a big studio movie.”

Gotta love those Puritan forefathers! They sure had long shadows!

Personally, I'm looking forward to the angels shooting each other out of cannons from Book VI.

3. And one for my new trolls: I saw a film yesterday called CSA: The Confederate States of America, a mock documentary based on the premise that the South won the Civil War. It was a bit uneven, as such films often are, but a fascinating exercise in what happens when a nation embraces inequality rather than striving for equality. Winners write the history books indeed.


Told you so. In the context of the film, these ads look like comic overstatement, but the axle grease, the chicken restaurant, and the toothpaste are all real products from the early 20th century. (They actually still sell the toothpaste in SEAsia.)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Saturday Babyblogging: The Triumphal Return

Sorry for the long delay in Babyblogging--this working for a living crap really sucks. Enjoy!

SP climbs the stairs. Ignore the dirty laundry.

Is that a hug or a headlock?

As They Say in Chicago, Da Boers, Mach 2.

So aside from being "skooled" by the Boers (no, I am not obligated to post every comment: thus "comment moderation"), it's been a quiet week here. But as we who follow the wingnut blogosphere know, once you start seeing those talking points repeated, you're no longer dealing with principled individuals, however confused, but ideologues.

Exhibit A:

Maybe your scholarship could travel into whether the Brits would ever have got as imperious as they did had they not been genetically enhanced by French, Roman, Norse and other conquests?

Exhibit B:

If you want a break from your music thinking, it might be fun for a primary expert to establish notionally whether the British would ever have reached the forcefulness they did at Empire peak had they not in turn been colonized by groups from France, Rome, Norseland, etc etc.

Okay then. I'll take that under advisement, Matthew Freaking Arnold.


NB: I am done dealing with the weird pro-Boer contingent. They really seem unable to perceive where the issues are with this piece, and I leave them to their self-comforting analyses. j


Where oh where has my little turdblossom gone?