Friday, August 31, 2007

Squeezing Out Sparks!

Today is the birthday of Glenn Tilbrook, born this day in 1957 in South East London.

I fell in love with Glenn's band Squeeze when I saw them open for their A&M labelmates The Tubes in 1979 at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, PA. The band had recently released their second LP Cool for Cats, but the audience was there to see the main act and they were having nothing of this group of new wave Brits. Each song they performed ended with a Rowan and Martin-style smattering of applause. They were dying out there.

Finally, at the end of their set, Glenn announced that this would be their last song which prompted the hardiest cheer of the evening. As the group began the song he tried valiantly to get the crowd clapping, but it was no go. Then, he hit upon a brilliant idea. He said something like "I know you don't like us, so those of you in the audience who don't, stand up and punch your fist like this!" He proceeded to demonstrate, punching his fist above his head into his other hand. Soon, he had the entire audience on their feet following his lead. By the end of the song, he had won over the crowd and the band left the stage to a nice ovation. It remains to this day one of the funniest stage moves I have ever seen.

Besides Glenn's stage antics, it goes without saying that the music was pretty great too. Here's the band performing the wonderful Another Nail For My Heart on Top of the Pops in 1980. Geez, has it been that long?

Happy Birthday Glenn! Cheers Mate!

Weekend Listomania (Like a Virgin Edition)

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental valet Hop-Sing and I are off to some airport in Minnesota, where we will be checking out the facilities at one of the popular public restrooms. It's some kind of trendy tourist spot, apparently -- can't imagine why. In any case, posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic until our return.

Meantime, here's a fun project for you all:

Your First Rock Show/Concert Ever!!!!!

Be it horribly uncool, be it sublime, be it whatever -- as long it's the first one you ever personally experienced.

Okay, mine would be -- and no "he's so old that" jokes, please --

The Beach Boys. Asbury Park Convention Center, June or July 1965.
(If there's a Beach Boys scholar out there, I'd love to know the exact date)

An amazing day. My friend Ritchie Brenner and I drove from Teaneck to Asbury Park with the top down on his MG convertible on a glorious summer afternoon with history's best ever Top 40 blasting from the AM radio. When we got to the Boardwalk, we made it over to the Convention Center to see where the show was going to be, and suddenly up on the roof there were the Beach Boys themselves, turning the letters over on their name on the marquee. The fan in me went absolutely mental, especially at seeing Carl Wilson, who was 17 like me, and thus my favorite guy in the band.

As for the show itself, it was pretty amazing. I didn't know it at the time, but the guy subbing for Brian Wilson was Glenn Campbell, and they played a great hour or so set pretty much like the one on the "Beach Boys Concert" album, but with more hits. They were really loud, but the vocals were crystal clear, and Carl and Dennis played brilliantly.The big surprise was a song we hadn't heard before -- the premier of "California Girls," which would be released to radio as a single a week later. Blew us away (I recall Carl switched to a Rickenbacker twelve-string for it, which was the first time I had ever heard one live).

Incidentally, the girls in the audience were already going bonkers an hour before the show even started. Total raving Beatlemania style hysterics when the band hit the stage, of course. It was the only Teen Scream concert I ever actually attended, and it was a weird marvel to behold.

On the ride back, I think I felt high for the first time in my life. Unforgettable.

Okay -- enough of my yakking. What's your story?

[h/t Gummo!]

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Present Day Hodad Refuses to Die

The classic Beach Boys line up, from a closed-circuit concert circa late 1964.

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded the first astute reader to divine the clip's relevance to the subject of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

And no, it's not Top Ten Reasons Mike Love is a Dick.

BTW -- congratulate me. This is the first time I've actually posted a YouTube video without having to make Kid Charlemagne or NYMary do it for me.

[h/t watertiger]

Rodger Dodger!

Here's a fave tune of mine by Artful Dodger. They were a staple on the live music scene in Northeastern Ohio in the mid to late 70's and they had a pretty large following in cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh at the time. I remember them being a perennial opening act for bigger groups and for this reason I must have seen them live at least 6 or 7 times during the era. Unfortunately, at the time I was a punk rocker and they really didn't leave that much of an impression on me.

Later, when I caught the powerpop bug, I kept seeing their name mentioned as prime practitioners of the genre and I was curious to check them out again because I honestly couldn't remember anything about them. It turns out they released three records on Columbia and a fourth on Ariola between 1975-1980. It also appears that the CD reish of their second LP, Honor Among Thieves , is now out of print and changing hands for a princely sum. Wayside is the song that is most frequently anthologized on comps and here they are performing that tune, appropriately enough, at a reunion gig at the Cleveland Agora in 2006. In Cleveland, Wayside still makes the song rotation of classic rock stations. BTW, there are better vids of this tune and other Artful Dodger songs on YouTube, but unfortunately they don't allow embedding.

All in all, the band's records can be a bit uneven, but each has at least four or five stellar tracks that make them keepers in my collection. It's not surprising that they were big in Clevo because they remind me a lot of the Raspberries, although they generally tended to take a more straight-ahead rock and roll approach. They certainly are prime candidates for a thoughtful career anthology that I am certain would be a must-have for fans of 70's era powerpop. Rave On!

They Say It's Your Birthday

Those who know me best -- by which I mean several contributors to Eschaton who I have never met personally -- are aware that I have been known to opine that the most beautiful sound on God's green earth is that of a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar well played . My old friend Tony Forte is the proud owner of one that's just turned forty (sort of). And he plays it like a master.

"The Rick I bought in spring '67 from a penthouse atop a luxury high rise in
Fort Lee. It was made in April '66.

Originally a 360 deluxe, I sent it to the plant in the early 70's for factory
modification -- pickup #3 and new guts, including master volume.

Roger McGuinn personally advised me on the transition, which included
changing machine heads to Grovers and Schaller mini's.

Remember when i asked him what made him pick the one with 3 pickups (ie, the SOUND!!!)and he said- "i dunno, it looked cool."

Tony's a brilliant musician and songwriter and if there's anybody alive who can do the whole jingle-jangle guitar thing better than him I've never encountered them (full disclosure: I played in a succession of bands with him back in the day).

He also rants very entertainingly; check out his podcasts at Oh, Don't Get Me Started.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hilly Kristal, RIP

From the NYTimes today:

Hilly Kristal, a Rock Midwife, Is Dead at 75

Hilly Kristal, who founded CBGB, the Bowery bar that became the cradle of punk and art-rock in New York in the 1970s and served as the inspiration for musician-friendly rock dives throughout the world, died in Manhattan on Tuesday. He was 75.

His son, Mark Dana Kristal, told The Associated Press that the cause was complications from lung cancer.

From its opening in late 1973, when Mr. Kristal, a lover of acoustic music, gave the club its name, an abbreviation of the kinds of music he originally intended to feature there — country, bluegrass and blues — until a dispute with its landlord forced the club to close last October, CBGB presented thousands of bands within its eternally crumbling, flyer-encrusted walls.

Most famously, it served as the incubator for the diverse underground scene of New York in the 1970s and early ’80s, with acts like the Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, Talking Heads and Sonic Youth playing some of their earliest and most important concerts there, at a time when there were few outlets in the city for innovative rock music.

“There was no real venue in 1973 for people like us,” Ms. Smith said today. “We didn’t fit into the cabarets or the folk clubs. Hilly wanted the people that nobody else wanted. He wanted us.”

Besides his son, Mr. Kristal is survived by a daughter, Lisa Kristal Burgman, and two grandchildren.

This is very sad news indeed.

Hilly was a genuinely great guy. Hell, he'd have to be to have let my lame-ass band play there on multiple occasions in the 70s.

Boy, do I feel old today....

Owner of a Lonely Heart

First generation rocker and all around mensch Bo Diddley suffered a heart attack yesterday while undergoing a medical check-up at a Florida hospital. The 78-year-old is now reported to be in a stable condition after undergoing surgery to help the flow of blood to his heart.

My thoughts are with him and his family, but actually I'm not too worried -- as the above video (from the great 1966 film The Big T.N.T. Show) clearly demonstrates, Bo is a force of nature and will probably live forever.

BTW -- that's the Duchess, usually billed as "Bo's gorgeous sister," on the the second guitar. And no, the damn movie has never been on DVD, a cultural crime of monstrous proportions -- check out the original trailer here.

Midweek Funny

Figwit gets some of his own back....

We on Liberal Mountain were not at all surprised to learn that Mel spoke Elvish.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Downloads Killed the Video Star

"Radio Nowhere," the new single from Bruce Springsteen's forthcoming album Magic, is available for free this week at ITunes.

On a slightly lower esthetic level, we're told the entire Apple Ringo Starr catalog is now available as well. Gotta pay for it, of course.

Journey to the Center of the Stupid

Pathetic has-been never-that-good-to-begin-with rocker Ted Nugent, via Media Matters:

On the August 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity aired video footage of musician and right-wing activist Ted Nugent at an August 21 concert calling Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) a "piece of shit" and referring to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) as a "worthless bitch." In the video clip, Nugent holds up what appear to be two assault rifles and says he told Obama "to suck on my machine gun" and says he told Clinton "you might want to ride one of these into the sunset."

The Nuge will attempt to justify this crap on Glen Beck's show on Headline News tonight at 7pm. Two idiots for the price of one, in other words.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Present Day Hepster Refuses to Die

Oh, wait. He actually is dead.

The amazing Lord Buckley in a 1949(!) TV appearance, chanelling his Inner Satchmo.

Buckley, in case you're unfamiliar with him, was a huge influence on the Beat Boom of the 60s on both sides of the pond; the Yardbirds named a song -- "The Nazz are Blue" -- after his hilarious hepster reworking of the Christmas story, and it was of course no accident that a certain band from Philadelphia featuring the young Todd Rundgren did something similar.

Somebody Kill Me Please

You know, sometimes I think this is the most profound song ever written about the whole thing between men and women.

Of course, he was listening to the Cure a lot when he wrote it.

Some years ago, after the acrimonious demise of my last serious relationship to date, I actually conned a guy I knew who ran a small but viable indie record label into agreeing to release a solo album (by me) that I planned to call More Songs About Anger and Embittered Self-Pity (a title that should give you a clue to my emotional state at the time). It was going to be a Ramones-ish pop/punk record of cover versions of little known songs about girlfriends from hell, hideous breakups, and bad relationships generally. The Sandler thing was going to be the lead track, and I seem to recall that I was also going to do an obscure Willie Nile tune called "Sorry," Harry Nilsson's "You're Breaking My Heart," comedian Henry Phillips' "The Bitch Song" (an MP3 of which can be found here -- it's on the right of the page) and Tonio K.'s "H.A.T.R.E.D," which features the immortal line "Well I wish I was as mellow/as for instance Jackson Browne/But 'fountain of sorrow' my ass, motherfucker/I hope you wind up in the ground."

I actually had committments from a bunch of semi-famous musicians to play on it, and we rehearsed a couple of times, but ultimately I had a personal crisis and the ten grand I had stashed to cover the recording costs had to be diverted to less frivolous purposes, so it never got made.

Which I'm kind of glad about, karmically, since I walked around for years referring to the woman who inspired the project as "my ex-girlfriend, may she rest in peace as soon as possible." Then out of the blue she got leukemia and died. And on an irrational level, I still feel like maybe it was my fault. Guilt, people.

She was barely 40...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

This Has Nothing to Do With J.G. Ballard

Matt Willis and "Crash".

A fiendishly catchy song which features prominently in the new Rowan Atkinson Mr. Bean movie. Which I highly recommend, actually; it's sweet, smart and very funny. And I say this as somebody who hated the first one. Jacques Tati would have approved.

Could somebody tell me who Matt Willis is, BTW? When I heard the song in the theater, I was guessing it was some lost brilliant early New Wave single from the early 80s a la Wreckless Eric, but apparently the kid's some current teen idol. Or something....

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weekend Listomania (Lucky You Edition)

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental valet Hop-Sing and I are off to the Rove beach house, where we plan to watch Karl's old 8mm college films of George Bush dressed in a cowboy outfit, his tight, neatly pressed jeans revealing little but promising much. Posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days while I attempt to recover from exposure to that much raw charisma.

Meantime, here's a fun project for you all:

The Most Historic, Legendary and/or Infamous Rock Show You Actually Got to Witness Firsthand!

You know, the kind of one of a kind event that makes people so want to smack you every time you gloat about having been there.

My carefully considered top choice (and also the single greatest double bill I ever experienced):

The original Wailers (with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh) plus Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band -- Max's Kansas City, early 1973.

The more or less official New York debuts for both acts, BTW.

I've already posted about this show couple of times so I won't bore you further with the details. But trust me -- it was a mindblower at the time, and in retrospect it seems about as likely as my actually seeing the flying saucer land on the baseball field at the beginning of "The Day the Earth Stood Still."

My second choice: Iggy and the Stooges, also at Max's, same year, touring Raw Power. The show where Iggy broke a bottle, cut his chest open with it, crawled over the audience (actually bleeding on yours truly) and then took off to the hospital for stiches. (And was back the next night for two more shows, BTW. What a trouper.)

Anyway -- enough of my yakking. What's your pick?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Would You Please Just Catch a Fire Already, Okay?

And then give it up for Bob Marley and the Wailers performing "Get Up, Stand Up".

This is supposed to be the original lineup of the band with Peter Tosh, but I'm not sure.

Anyway -- pretend that it is. A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the alert reader who can divine the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania as a result.

Paging Dr. Drake!

A PowerPop happy birthday goes out to soap opera heartthrob and 70/80s powerpopper Rick Springfield, born this day in 1949 in Merrylands, Sydney Australia.

Here's a vid of Rick's 60s/70s Aussie group Zoot performing an uber heavy version of the Fab's Eleanor Rigby which scored them an Australian hit in 1971!

Happy Birthday Rick!

Come And Get It

My old friend Steve Schwartz has been hocking me to post something by Badfinger. Makes sense to me, so here's a nice live clip of "Baby Blue".

I was gonna go with "No Matter What," but I think on balance "Blue" is their best loud guitar song.

Of course "We're For the Dark" is their overall prettiest.....

Interesting that a band that had such a brief shelf life is so crucial to establishing the whole power pop template. And such a sad story. Two suicides? That's got to be some kind of record, even for a business where having a manager who's "a soulless bastard" is par for the course.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Midweek Funny

The Conchords channel The Move.

Heh. I love psychedelia, even though I've never done acid.

Songs That Make You Go Oy Gevalt!

For instance, how about otherwise irksome hair band Mr. Big and their (depending on your point of view either gloriously or hellishly catchy) 1992 smash "To Be With You"?

The video itself, of course, is a zeitgeist-defining artifact of pre-grunge corporate pop, from the vanished Golden Age when such titans as Milli Vanilli, Richard Marx and Wilson Phillips walked the earth.

I bring the song up because, years earlier, I was actually in a band with David Grahame, the guy who co-wrote this particular ear worm. Dave is a massively talented, albeit sometimes hard to work with, dude who got his start as an understudy Paul in "Beatlemania" on Broadway (if memory serves he was there at the same time as Marshall Crenshaw), and then later recorded an album for EMI (featuring backing by lots of famous folks out of the Rockpile axis) that at the last minute the label declined to release. After that I lost track of him for a while until I heard "TBWY" on MTV. My immediate reaction was, god, that thing's got a chorus like a David Grahame song. A few days later, a mutual friend called me and said "Hey, didja hear? Dave finally got a radio hit."

Haven't talked to him in a couple of years, but you can check out his new stuff at If this guy is to be believed (and I have no reason to think that he shouldn't be) you could do a lot worse.

Update: My old buddy Steve Schwartz, who has known David a lot longer than me, e-mailed me to say I haven't got it exactly right.

David Grahame before Badfinger? I don't get it.

I have my own version of the TBWY tale, though...I think I told you about that song before you saw it on MTV. (As cruel fate had it, I woke up to it each and every morning for about 2 months--and finally got to the point where I smashed my clock radio on the floor). I remember asking you about it, and telling you it sounded like a really bad Grahame song. A few months later you called up and said, "Dude! Remember
that song you said was like a bad Grahame song? You were right; it was."

I stand corrected. Also shamed -- tomorrow, Badfinger for sure!!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Babyblogging: The Triumphant Return

These are pics from our far more skilled Uncle Dennis of the young'uns at the lake. Enjoy!

My girl. No idea how she got so cute: a freak of genetics, apparently. She turns 3 today.

SP more or less adopted this tugboat/sandbox as his very own. Note the semipermanent bruise on his forehead: as soon as one starts to clear up, he takes a header into something else. But he's generally pretty cheerful about it.

This weird sort of log cabin playhouse/climbing toy was a great favorite with the roughly 7000 children at the cabins that week.

The boy on the dock. Apparently, fishing with Dad was "the most fun thing I've ever done ever! We even almost caught a fish!"

From the top of one of the lesser mountains, but one climbable without equipment.

Thanks, Uncle D!

Dealing With Crushing Disappontment via Teh Google

...I see that there are a few reports here and there on the much-lamented missed show in Chicago.

Here's one, with great pics.

And some terrific articles in the run-up, which I missed because I was traveling....

Home-recording pioneers Shoes step out for a rare show

Shoes to play Friday in Millennium Park

Power Pop Legends The Shoes Play Millennium Park

Low-key attitude keeps Shoes grounded

Fifty 'Great Performers' come to Millennium Park

Not seeing too many concert reviews, however.

I think I'll go cry myself to sleep.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Gentlemen, start your TiVos!

Musical guest on Letterman tonight: our good neighbors to the north, the New Pornographers. Doing, presumably, a song from Challengers (their new album, out tomorrow). Apparently, it's a bit of a departure in that its heavy on the un-ironic lovesongs. Everybody's already heard it but me, of course.

In the meantime, check out this very interesting interview with head Pornographer A.C. Newman in the current New York Magazine. Poor bastard lives in Brooklyn now; somebody really should telll him that Althouse just crashed the neighborhood.


Just got assigned to review the forthcoming Springsteen album
for The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review.

La vie est belle.

Actually, the last time I got to write about the Boss was back in '99, at the time that huge coffee table book of his lyrics and the retrospective box set were released. Not a bad little piece, if I do say so myself.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Weekend Listomania (Video-enhanced Edition)

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental houseboy Hop-Sing and I are off to Branson, where we'll be competing in the finals of the big Mitzi Gaynor Impersonators Contest. Posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days while I attempt to wash the inscrutable little yellow devil out of my hair.

Meantime, here's a fun project for you all:

The Historic, Legendary and/or Infamous Rock Show You Most Regret NOT Having Witnessed!

I emphasize the NOT part here. If you were, say, lucky enough to have caught the young Nirvana rehearsing in Cobain's garage in 1988, gloat all you want in private, but save the one-upsmanship for a future list.

Okay. Here's my top choice --

The MC5 at Lincoln Park -- August 25, 1968, as part of the street protests during the Chicago Democratic Convention.

This video of the 5 doing their signature tune "Kick Out the Jams" is from two years later, but it does give an inkling of just what an incendiary outfit they were.

It is an interesting irony that the 5 were the only rock band with the cojones to actually show up in Chicago during that terrifying and violent moment in American history; better known groups of the day -- even the ones with revolutionary/political vibes, like Country Joe or the Airplane -- had other, ahem, priorities, it seems. And it is another interesting irony that Norman Mailer, and not some first generation rock crit like Robert Cristgau or Jon Landau, got to write the definitive review of the show.

Speaking of critics, Detroit native Dave Marsh has famously said that if the Stones and the MC5 -- at their performing peaks -- had ever been playing at bars on opposite ends of a street near his house on the same evening, he would unquestionably have opted to see his homeboys over the Brits. Unlike Marsh, I didn't grow up in Detroit, and I never saw the 5 in person (alas), but having caught last year's MC5 documentary A True Testimonial (if you can find a bootleg DVD of it, pounce) I think Marsh just may be on to something.

Anyway -- what's your pick?

[h/t the divine Brooklyn Girl, who's been around and seen a lot]

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Burn, Baby, Burn!

Jimi Hendrix sets his guitar on fire at The Monterey Pop Festival, Summer of Love, 1967.

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the alert reader who can divine this clip's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

BTW -- I could be wrong, but I believe we've just set the record for the most posts here in a single day.

FOW Takes On the Stock Market

PowerPop fave Fountains of Wayne answers the musical question "What happens when margin debt as a percentage of the S&P market cap climbs to 2.4%, an all-time high?"

Hat tip to Watertiger!

Elvis Hasn't Left the Building...

We at PowerPop would be remiss if we did not note the 30 year anniversary of the passing of Elvis Presley on this day in 1977.

This morning, American Public Media's Markeplace reported that CKX, the company who handles licensing for the Elvis Presley estate earns over 40 million dollars annually for merchandising the Elvis brand.

In the future, look for an Elvis themed hotel and casino on Las Vegas Blvd., an Elvis Cirque Du Soleil show and a one quarter billion dollar facelift for Graceland. The company predicts that within a decade, Elvis merchandising revenue will reach 150 million dollars a year, so there is probably an Elvis related consumer good made in China and painted with toxic lead paint coming your way soon!

Anyway, in commemoration of the passing of the King, here's the best musical thing Elvis has done since his death.

Thursday Funny

Because I can't help myself..... and I know you need a little sumpin'-sumpin'.

Be back from vacation on the weekend, but then I know you're in capable hands here.

A Better Class of Celebrity Trash

I'm sorry, but for some reason I find the Amy Winehouse in rehab saga far more interesting than the misdventures of Paris, Lindsay or Nicole.

In the latest installment, everybody's favorite Brit R&B strumpet has come clean to her mother-in-law.

I guess it's the irony that I find titillating. I mean, Amy Winehouse in rehab -- shouldn't she have seen that coming? It's like Lou Gehrig getting Lou Gehrig's disease....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Life Imitates Art.

Everybody's favorite British R&B trollop Amy Winehouse has apparently checked into -- you guessed it -- rehab.

The NME has all the scandalous details here

Personally, I dig her the most. As my dad used to tell me, never trust a woman who doesn't have a past.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Scooter Lives!

I can't tell you how much I detest Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf, but didn't anybody else think it was weird that not a single TV obit of Yankee great Phil Rizzuto -- not even Keith Olberman's -- mentioned Phil's crucial participation in the multi-platinum hit recording "Paradise by the Dashboard Light"?

Get serious, folks. If Phil's immortal, that's why.

Tuesday Glam Blogging

Ah, yes -- it's the original Leather Bar Keebler Elf.

And a nice Jewish boy, to boot.

I think, on balance, this is my favorite T.Rex song.

Are You Experienced?

Oh dear lord.

Here's the second place finisher in Saturday's Iowa Caucus, Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, performing 60s metal classic Born to Be Wild with his band Capitol Offense.

Apparently, this is why he came in second to Mitt Romney.

To be fair, he's probably better on bass than Clinton was on sax or Nixon on piano.

The singer is heinous, though.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Birdie Num Nums

Evening All,

It has regretably been quite a while since my last post. A giant moving van barreled down my street two weeks ago ripping down my phone line as it passed. Not surprisingly, it took Verizon five days to get out to my house to restore my phone and internet service. Couple that disaster with a really excellent Maine vacation consisting of a blur of microbrew and lobster rolls and you can understand my low profile over the last few weeks.

Nonetheless, last night I was most grateful to be back in the D.C. Metro area where I ventured south to Falls Church, VA to the State Theatre to see the legendary Yardbirds in concert. Normally, these reunion things can be dreary affairs, but not so with this most blueswailing reincarnation of the group. Original members Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar, backing vocals) and Jim McCarty (drums, backing vocals) were joined by a hot band consisting of Detroit-reared frontman/bassist John (looks like Beck, sings like Relf!) Idan on bass and lead vocals, onetime Nine Below Zero member Alan Glen on harp, and fiery guitarist Ben King on lead.

From their opening number, Train Kept a Rollin' to the encore Smokestack Lightning, the band literally tore threw the Yardbirds back catalog with a vengeance. Brilliant versions of Shapes of Things, Lost Woman, and Heart Full of Soul were coupled with set surprises such as Dazed and Confused, Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, and Turn into Earth. Sprinkle in a few songs from the band's 2003 comeback LP Birdland, and you had yourself a most compelling evening of music. Newcomer Ben King is a cracking guitarist, recalling Jeff Beck's muscular yet always tuneful playing style. Alan Glen's harp work improves on Keith Relf's energetic blowing and John Idan proved to be a fine frontman and skilled bassist. Really, founding members Dreja and McCarty turned in the most understated musical contributions of the evening, and I was surprised to see that Dreja did not take a solo the entire evening despite the fact that he was grinning like a fool throughout the entire set.

All in all, a great show and a worthy contribution to the Yardbirds legacy. The band is working their way across the U.S. as we speak (Steve, they will be in N.Y.C. on 8/28 at B.B. King's Blues Club!). Check 'em out if you get the chance!


Overnight Sensation

I think I can speak for both NYMary and Kid Charlemagne when I suggest that this is the best news this blog is gonna get this year. From Amazon:

When a long-disbanded group of aging rockers reunites for a note-perfect set of their 30-year-old catalog, the casual observer might think "I wonder which one needs to pay off some back taxes?" However, when the band in question is the Raspberries, it's cause for celebration. Little-heard and criminally under-appreciated by the masses since their mid-70s demise (who's running those classic rock radio stations, anyway?), the Raspberries in their heyday produced a string of jangly tunes and dense harmonies as sweet and sticky as a tootsie-pop, influencing later power poppers like Matthew Sweet and Teenage Fanclub, and endearing themselves to fans and fellow musicians--Bruce Springsteen contributes reverent liner notes to this release, and John Lennon is pictured in the CD booklet in his Raspberries sweatshirt. Live on Sunset Strip documents a 2005 set by the original band members, covering hummable hits like "I Wanna Be with You" and "Go All the Way", and down-and-dirty crunchers "I'm a Rocker" and "Party's Over." The band sounds great, and lead singer Eric Carmen belts his vocals as if not a day has passed. A bonus DVD contains live footage of five songs from the show, including the ironically titled mini-rock opera (and final Raspberries hit) "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)."

The Raspberries: Live on Sunset Strip
was released by Ryko last week (although you'd never know that if you read the New York Times). Order it here and prepare to have your mind blown.

In the meantime, here's a remarkable live-in-the-studio video of the band back in the day.

As you can easily hear, they rocked a lot harder in concert than on record. As of 2005, they still did, apparently.

If We're All One -- Who Needs You?

Well, this is very cool. The ultimate on-line rock family tree resource. So far.

Essentially, it's a musical version of the official Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon site.

See if you can stump it....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday Programming Notes

My dearest chum Kerrin L. Griffith -- who will be a contestant on ABC greedfest Who Wants to be a Millionaire this Tuesday -- gave me DVD copies of the recent PBS specials on the history of Atlantic and Stax Records.

So my afternoon is taken care of....

Friday, August 10, 2007

You Know What I Hate?

US Airways.

That is all.

Weekend Listomania (Video-enhanced Flaunting Your Ignorance Edition)

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. My Oriental houseboy Hop-Sing and I are heading to Paris to check up on subprime loans in the land of the Ignoble Frog. That done, we will be attending a celebrity auction where I hope to bid for Catherine Deneuve's bicycle seat. So posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days.

Meantime, here's a fun project for you all:

Famous Rock Group or Solo Performer Whose Music You've Somehow Never Heard A Note Of!!!

You know -- musicians who huge numbers of people love and/or consider extremely important, and yet for whatever reason you've managed to live your life without ever hearing them.

And I don't mean you've seen them on TV once or twice but they made no impression. Or that you accidentally heard a song they did in the end credits of a bad movie. No, I mean that you literally have never -- to your knowledge -- been exposed to them at all. Probably by choice.

My totally top of my head Top Seven:

1. The Cocteau Twins -- Ethereally lovely, right? They could be the Olsen Twins, for all I know.

2. The Fall -- Totally uncompromising post-punk everything, n'est-ce pas? Beats me; wouldn't recognize 'em if I fell over 'em.

3. Butthole Surfers -- I suspect they're fun, but I have no idea what they sound like.

4. Pavement -- They're like low-fi Lou Reed, right?

5. Creed -- They suck, right? Maybe I'm lucky I never heard them.

6. Spoon -- They're good, right? Maybe I should go look at YouTube.

7. Young Jeezy -- I believe he declaims stuff. Somebody likes him, I'm told.

Let the jeering at other peoples blind spots begin!!!!!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

L'amour, Toots Shor L'amour!

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the alert reader who can divine the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania from this video for the Cocteau Twins' "Heaven or Las Vegas".

Hint: it's NOT Top Musicians Who Named Themselves After French Surrealists.

Money Makes the World Go Round

My long time chum Kerrin L. Griffith is a contestant on ABC greedfest Who Wants To Be a Milllionaire? today, and I am one of her phone-a-friends.

Pray for us both.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ten F&%$*ing Years!

That is, it was ten years ago today that Thers and I wed in the upstairs room of an Irish bar in Queens. Happy Anniversary, my friend.

Fierce Creatures

I wrote the album review below in early '97 for the critically acclaimed but hit-deficient TV GUIDE music website. There's a backstory, so read the piece and then bear with me afterward while I update it.


Something Fierce -- the best pop band you've probably never heard of unless you're from Minneapolis -- began the '90s as local indierock heroes poised on the brink of something bigger, with two terrific albums full of tuneful, verbally dazzling stuff worthy of Elvis Costello or XTC behind them and a small but devoted national cult following that cherished their every melodic quirk or play on words. Then in late 1991, Fierce's bassist (and one of their two principal songwriters) Jeff Carpenter had a near fatal auto accident that left him with only partial mobility and impaired speech. Stunned and depressed, his bandmates -- guitarist Jerry Lefkowitz and drummer David Russ -- moved on to other projects, but fans (including this critic) lived in hope that the group wasn't over.

Which turned out to be the case: Witness their new "A Sound for Sore Ears," begun before the crash but finished over the past six years as Carpenter began a slow recovery. Surprisingly, this is the most stylistically wide-ranging record they've ever done, with everything from lounge jazz ("The Big Idea") to accordion-laced metal ("Insignificant Other") to spooky psychedelia ("Heart Murmur") tossed in with their trademark sunny Beatles-esque pop. And the wordplay is sharper than ever. In "Watergate," for example, Carpenter posits -- over a hilariously overdramatic instrumental bed -- that A Girlfriend From Hell is the metaphorical equivalent of the Nixon scandals and sustains the conceit for more than five minutes. (If nothing else, this must be the first song in history to contemplate rhyming "spill the beans" with "Haldeman, Mitchell and Dean.")

Elsewhere, there's the gorgeous "Oscillating Fan," with a swirling Revolver-ish instrumental section that doubles back on the lyrical conceit; the demonically catchy "Vegetable Guy," which has to do with shyness and the Elephant Man (you'll have to hear it); and "Feel Like Professor," in which the band suggests the American experience may not be much more edifying than that of Gilligan's Island. And the rest, including "Stormsong," Lefkowitz's leftfield McCartney-esque closer, suggests that there might yet be more where this came from.

Bottom line: a really terrific CD, and all the more unlikely given the circumstances of its creation. Order it by mail ($14 postpaid) from Kattywampus Records, 2220 Springwood Rd., Wayzata, MN 55391. -- Steve Simels

Obviously, after ten years, that mailing address is defunct, but otherwise I wouldn't change a word of the above. So here's the rest of the tale (and there's a new address at the end).

What happened was that in 1989 a fan of the group sent me their then current album (the wonderful Franklin Pierce) with a note saying, basically, it's designed with your mind in mind. The guy was right, I went gaga over the record and proceeded to write a tremendously adulatory column (including bits of an interview with Jeff Carpenter) for the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review. The piece ended with the above address and me urging readers to order the CD, and a few months later Jeff called to tell me that, amazingly enough, they had gotten almost a thousand requests as a result. Even more amazing, not one check had bounced. (Apparently Stereo Review readers were as upscale as the sales staff always claimed to advertisers). At twelve bucks a pop, that meant the band had made enough money to finance the recording and production costs of their next CD, and needless to say, both band and myself were mightily pleased at the entire turn of events.

Anyway, Jeff and I became phone friends -- he was a huge movie fan and we talked a lot about films and flicks -- and then in '91 I heard the awful news: on the way home from a friend's wedding, Jeff and his own bride-of-two-weeks were involved in a horrific traffic accident in which he was seriously injured -- in fact, unlikely to really ever come back. I was pretty shook, frankly, and to my eternal shame I didn't keep in touch after that; the whole thing was just too heavy to deal with and I was going through some serious emotional problems of my own. Then in late '96 I got the word that Jeff had in fact recovered enough for the band to finish the album they'd been working on prior to the accident. Hence the review, which I wrote with a certain mix of pleasure -- I genuinely loved the record -- and something like survivor guilt. A bit later, just after the release of the album, there was a benefit concert -- called, if memory serves, "We Miss You Something Fierce" -- staged by the band's fans and friends and the kid who had first turned me on to them actually sent me a round trip ticket to Minneapolis so I could attend the show. I couldn't face it, and returned the ticket.

After that I lost touch -- again -- with the guys, which kind of gnawed at me from time to time over the years, although I didn't do anything about it. So a couple of weeks ago when a Google search turned up the fact that you could still order the album(s) online -- from the Carleton College Bookstore no less (the guys all met at CC) -- I thought, okay, now's the time to give them another public plug and let them know how much their music had meant to me.

I couldn't locate Jeff, but I did manage to track down Jerry and Dave, both of whom were still active in music-related fields, and told them I wanted to write about them again. They couldn't have been nicer, but I sensed a certain ambivalence on their part -- Something Fierce was a major part of a time in their lives that they've since moved on from -- and I also sensed that Jeff's accident had been a trauma for them in ways I (or anybody who wasn't in the band) couldn't really understand (for some reason, neither of them would tell me exactly what kind of shape Jeff is in these days). But in the end, although I explicitly offered not to write anything if they didn't want me to, they didn't say no. For which I'm grateful.

Okay -- I'm getting a little verklempt now, so that's the end of the story. All you really need to know is that these guys were a great little rock band who deserved to be household words, and that their albums hold up wonderfully. Order them here immediately and you won't regret it -- I promise. (BTW, the Satan Claus EP is an absolute pisser. Forget the title song, which just may be the coolest rock Christmas number of all time -- you haven't lived until you've heard "Poetic Justice Thurgood," a big Elton John-esque piano ballad in honor of the architect of Roe Vs Wade.)

And on a final and very heartfelt note, let me just say to Jeff, Dave, and Jerry -- hey, you did some damn fine work back in the day. Be very well and I hope this little tribute makes you smile, at the least.

[h/t John McPartlin]

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Flight of the Conchords Now on CD

If you've been following my summerlong obsession with Flight of the Conchords, you'll be delighted to learn that they released an EP, The Distant Future, today.

Three songs straight from the show--"Business Time," "If You're Into It," and "Not Crying" (though "Business Time" has some different lyrics)--and two live numbers--"The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room" and "The Humans Are Dead." I just downloaded them from iTunes at 99 cents a pop.

Here's the riotously funny and catchy "If You're Into It."

That's Broadway star Sutton Foster, btw, and the lovely Flushing Meadows. We were there with Eli this winter, but we must have missed them.

I assume they're saving "Bowie's in Space" and "Hiphopopotamus and Rhymenocerous"for the full-length record, due in November.

Something There Is That Does Not Love Der Stingle

Our good friend Sal Nunziato (formerly of NYCD, now of the Huffington Post) was at the same Squeeze show the PowerPop contingent attended last Friday and files this report:

I asked 100 people who they hated more, Ted Bundy or Sting. An overwhelming 94 people said they hated Sting more. (OK, I really didn't do that.) But after seeing Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, more commonly known as Squeeze, put on one of the greatest shows of the year on Friday night at NYC's Beacon Theatre, the same night Mr. "Stick-Up-His-Butt" was doing his "thing" with "his" band a few blocks south for more than twice the price with less than half the joy at NYC's Madison Square Garden, I couldn't help but think, "It really is very easy to dislike Sting."

I also can't help but think as I write this, "You didn't even go to The Police concert. How do you know it was less than half as good as the Squeeze show?" Well, I asked 100 people if they thought I would know that the Police concert was less than half as good as the Squeeze show even if I didn't attend the show, and an overwhelming 97 said, yes I would. (OK, also not true.)

It gets better from there, so get thee over to Arianna's place and read the rest of it.

At the very least, I think we've found a potential soulmate for a certain Canadian radio personality we know...

Sex Sells...But Who's Buying?

[As I promised last week, here's my anti-Madonna rant (it originally ran in the April 1991 issue of Stereo Review) from which Michael Medved pulled a quote in his piece of crap anti-Liberal screed Hollywood vs. America: Popular Culture and the War Against Traditional Values.]


By now, apparently everybody in the world has seen Madonna's
Justify My Love video and formed some passionate opinion about it.

That this has happened is, to be sure, no small testament to the business smarts of the former Madonna Louise Ciccone. In fact, given that the clip is verboten on MTV, it's ubiquity bespeaks a media and marketing savvy demanding serious respect from mere mortals like you and me. And frankly, all the attendant brouhaha (Censorship! The Decline of the West! Bad Haircuts!) really is sort of neat: It means that what passes for art these days can still stir up controversy.

Of course, the irony here is that the artifact in question is hardly worth all the fuss, especially by the standards of Madonna's earlier work. Face it, kids: The song itself is just a functional piece of disco erotica, and the now-notorious video simply sells it efficiently, nothing more, nothing less. Granted, Justify's evocation of polymorphous perversity might be hot stuff if you've never seen a Visconti movie or Duran Duran's Girls on Film. But otherwise it's notable solely as an indication of Ms. Ciccone's alternately pretentious and pedestrian sexual preferences (translation: she has a thing, as they used to say, for Eurosleaze). In short, no big deal.

And yet, and yet...I've been thinking a lot about Madonna of late, a chore occasioned by the release of "The Immaculate Collection," her nearly complete (that is, without Justify) video retrospective on Warner/Reprise. And the conclusion I keep reaching has kind of brought me up short, especially since it seems to be a minority view, barring Tipper Gore and a religious nut or two. The conclusion, of course, is that Madonna's most hysterical detractors actually have it right, that this woman and the messages she sends are mostly indefensible on a (gasp!) moral level.

I am, I realize, verging on Cranky Old Man territory here. Obviously, there's no law saying pop music should be spiritually uplifting. Equally obviously, much of it -- including stuff I like a lot -- isn't. That's part of pop's appeal. If singles and videos were nothing but humanist pieties with a good beat, nobody in his or her right mind would ever bother with them.

All that allowed, however, "The Immaculate Collection" still makes me want to take a shower when it's over, and I think I know why -- it's so nakedly, so honestly scummy. Yes, clip after clip vibrates with subtexts ranging from the distasteful to the nearly evil: porn-palace peepshows as harmless rites of passage (Open Your Heart), the Sixties civil-rights struggle as just another pop image to be plundered (Like a Prayer), heartfelt odes to unwanted pregnancy (Papa Don't Preach), narcissism posing as liberation (Vogue), untrammeled greed (Material Girl) and on an on. And yes, individually they can be (and have been) justified with the sort of arguments (Postmodern Irony! Subversive Ambiguity! She's Only Kidding!) you'd expect to hear in This is Spinal Tap. Unfortunately, when you watch the clips back to back their cumulative impact is anything but ambiguous or ironic. You realize that this stuff is an accurate representation of one woman's sensibility (her soul, if you will), like some ghastly disco version of Advertisements for Myself.

None of this is to knock the music. It's true that if Madonna had been run over by a truck in 1985 the subsequent direction of pop would not have been altered one whit, and it's hard to imagine a young musician somewhere listening to her albums and thinking "Wow, what a cool riff. I oughtta steal it." Still, the best of her singles are, unquestionably, well crafted and damnably catchy, which is why a lot of folks -- particularly feminists and gays desperate for something politically correct to dance to -- seem so ready to overlook or reinterpret what's actually being peddled.

Well, I can sympathize with that. Lord knows there are enough records in my collection that are (at best) guilty pleasures, and I'm hardly advocating some sort of ethical litmus test for pop music. But we shouldn't pretend that this stuff is value-neutral, either. What I guess I'm really saying is, okay, sure, go home and dance all you want to "The Immaculate Collection": some nights I might even do the same thing. But when we do, let's at least have the grace to hate ourselves for it in the morning.

[So -- what do you think? Does the above come across as a rightwing critique? It doesn't seem so to me, but I must admit that at the time I wrote it I had a feeling it might be misunderstood. As for Medved's appropriation of it, I doubt he read the whole thing -- I'm sure he had some research assistant pulling quotes off of Lexis/Nexis -- but I still think he's a disingenuous dickhead.]

Monday, August 06, 2007

Patti Speaks

No, not that Patti. Patti Boyd.
We met secretly at a flat in South Kensington. Eric Clapton had asked me to come because he wanted me to listen to a new number he had written.

He switched on the tape machine, turned up the volume and played me the most powerful, moving song I had ever heard. It was Layla, about a man who falls hopelessly in love with a woman who loves him but is unavailable.

He played it to me two or three times, all the while watching my face intently for my reaction. My first thought was: 'Oh God, everyone's going to know this is about me.'

It's a great story.

Lee Hazlewood 1929 - 2007

The great man himself departed this sad vale of tears on Saturday.

His boots, alas, are no longer walkin'.

Hey Julie

Heard said song at a Fountains of Wayne show on Friday and found myself getting all misty. I don't know what it is, but something about it kills me every time.

Apparently, I'm not the only one. Over at YouTube, some pseudonymous poster notes:

"It's so funny!!! my favorite bands are Ozzy, Lamb of God, Kataklysm, Amon Amarth, and Black Label Society and yet I LOVE THIS SONG!!!!!!!"

Bottom line: Adam Schlesinger is a frickin genius.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

We Get Press Releases...

...and this one makes me really wish I was in Madison tonight.

Patti Smith's August 5th Gig will Benefit the Center for Media and Democracy

Beat poet, writer, punk rock legend and Rock And Roll Hall of Fame member Patti Smith and her band will crank it up this Sunday, August 5, 7:30pm, in Madison, at the Barrymore Theater. Their appearance will benefit the work of the Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) .

Hundreds of Smith fans packing the theater will have an opportunity to bid on items in a silent auction, with auction proceeds fully supporting the work of CMD.

"Smith and the Center are a great fit," said Madison promoter Tag Evers of True Endeavors who arranged the pairing. “Patti is an artist with a powerful commitment to the truth, peace and human rights activism. CMD’s main mission is exposing corporate and government propaganda as in their books Weapons of Mass Deception, Trust Us We're Experts and Toxic Sludge Is Good for You.

The guitar Patti Smith will sign that will be auctioned to benefit CMD.Smith is donating a number of signed items to the auction but the premier auction offering is a 1958 Gibson LG-1, #T6122 5 acoustic guitar with a written appraisal of $700. It will be signed by her at the event. A fifty-year old Gibson guitar is a fitting auction item since Smith's very first guitar was an L-00 Gibson acoustic made in the 1930s. Of her own Gibson she has said, "I bought it in 1971 and I still have it. It's the guitar I write most of my songs on. It's my most precious guitar."

Bidding on the Patti Smith autographed Gibson guitar will begin at $750, with a reserve price of $1,000. If bidding does not reach $1,000 at the concert it will be opened up to a larger audience over the Internet.

Think Althouse is there? If so -- will she get drunk and video herself rocking out?

[h/t Ripley]

Saturday, August 04, 2007

We Get Press Releases...

...and this is, in fact, the best news I've heard all year.


Moby Grape, the three-guitar/five-man vocal-harmony rock 'n' roll juggernaut
who epitomized the "Summer of Love" San Francisco scene, will have its
classic Columbia Records catalog restored to print by Sundazed Music on
October 9. The critically-lauded five albums that Bob Mosley, Skip Spence,
Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis and Don Stevenson cut for Columbia from 1967-69
will get the deluxe treatment from Sundazed. Moby Grape's self-titled debut, Wow, Grape Jam, Moby Grape '69 and Truly Fine Citizen will be made available as remastered, first-time-ever compact disc reissues, complete with bonus tracks, rare photos and informative liner notes. Sundazed will also release exact replicas of the original 12-inch vinyl versions of Moby Grape, Wow, Grape Jam and Moby Grape '69.

Seriously, folks, three of those albums are quintessential American music, and just about as good as pop/rock gets. Plus if they're on Sundazed, I guarantee the reissues will be done right. Get over to the Sundazed website and have a look while we're waiting.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Weekend Listomania (Death, Where Is Thy Ring-a-Ding-Ding? Edition)

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. My Oriental houseboy Hop-Sing and I...

Actually, I'm gonna break character here and get serious for a minute, so bear with me.


As Capt. Picard said in Star Trek: Generations, I have of late become acutely aware that there are fewer years in front of me than behind. Thus, perhaps predictably, I've started to have all sorts of dire thoughts about my iminent departure from this sad vale of tears. And one of the direst is that when I snuff it, my friends (assuming they've outlived me), will feel compelled to have a memorial service in my honor.

So at this juncture let me go on record as saying, loudly and publically, that


Really -- I hate them. I think they're sadistic and serve no purpose other than to depress people who are already depressed. Yes, I know there are well meaning folks who think they're a good idea, but look -- speaking in my capacity as the (soon to be) Recently Deceased Guy, here's what I'd like you all to do if you feel you absolutely must do something to remember me by.


Thank you in advance for your diligence in that regard.

But since this is, after all, Weekend Listomania, here's a little competition that seems appropriate:

Rock/Pop Song You'd Most Want Played At A Memorial Service for You!!!

I've been agonizing about this, so let me stipulate that if after I've become worm fodder you still decide -- despite everything you've just read above -- to have a fricking memorial for me, under no circumstances -- repeat, under NO circumstances -- play any music featured on the soundtrack to The Big Chill. I'm serious about this; if you should play such music, I will come back from the dead and do a poltergeist number on your ass.

So what's my song? Oddly enough, it's "Maybe in a Dream," the alternately elegaic and peppy pseudo baroque (mostly instrumental) Sopwith Camel track of which an almost complete mono sound clip can be heard here. If you listen, I'm sure you'll agree that the mood of the thing just seems right. It's kind of like Pachelbel's Canon, except with really cool guitars and a backbeat.

FYI: The complete song in all its stereophonic glory can be found on the Camel's wonderful debut album. Said album, which is usually (and erroneously) referred to as "Hello, Hello" (after the group's hit single of the same name), is (as you can see from that Amazon link) now available in an expanded and improved import version that if somebody decides to buy for my birthday I'd be happy as a clam. Hint hint.

Anyway, that's my choice (although it just dawned on me that I also would't mind Warren Zevon's Life'll Kill Ya).

What's yours?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

RIP: Tommy Makem (November 4, 1932 - August 1, 2007)

As in The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.

A sweet, talented and generous guy. He will be missed.

Update: My good friend and former bandmate Glenn Robert Allen, who worked with Makem for many years, will be sharing his reminiscences
on the radio today starting at 11:50 EST.

Can Blue Men Sing the Whites?

Wow -- check out the guy warbling backup on this 1965 live clip of Steampacket featuring Brian Auger and the late Long John Baldry .

Yup, that's a pre-stardom Rod "The Mod" Stewart, as he was known back then. Wotta cutie.

Incidentally, Baldry started out as the r&b/blues purist you see above but by 1967 he had turned into a chart-topping MOR balladeer a la Englebert Humperdinck. Essentially, he played out the entire decades long arc of Stewart's career as one of rock's most reprehensible sell-outs in a breathless two years.

I met him briefly in the early 70s, when he did a show at my old school while touring behind an abortive comeback album with sides produced by Stewart and Elton John. A very nice guy and a pretty good blues-rock record, as I recall.

[h/t Brooklyn Girl]

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My Michael Medved Problem (And Ours)

I'm gonna post the actual Madonna essay I wrote for The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review in a day or two (once I find a copy of the dead trees version), but in the meantime here's the quote disingenuous dickhead Michael Medved used in his wingnut screed Hollywood Vs America:

The sweaty and slimy single-mindedness of so much contemporary pop has begun to trouble even some veteran observers inside the industry. Rock critic Steve Simels of Stereo Review writes of Madonna’s retrospective assemblage of music videos: “'The Immaculate Collection' still makes me want to shower when it’s over, and I think I know why—it’s so nakedly, so honestly scummy…. I’m hardly advocating some sort of ethical litmus test for pop music. But we shouldn’t pretend this stuff is value-neutral, either.”

Yeah, I actually wrote that, but it's what he left out that really pisses me off. Short version: I specifically criticized Madonna for being anti-abortion ("Papa Don't Preach") and appropriating the iconography of the Civil Rights movement ("Like a Prayer") in a way that reduced it to just another pop culture image/signifier of cool.

In other words, my Madonna critique was FROM THE FUCKING LEFT.

Medved can bite me.

Here's my review of the Madonna videos for Entertainment Weekly. As I recall it was having to sit through the damn thing that inspired me to write the column that Medved deliberately misrepresented.

MADONNA: THE IMMACULATE COLLECTION (1990, Warner Reprise, $19.98)
Here's a new video anthology that provokes an interesting question: Why Madonna? Why did a woman whose singing style is Early Munchkin, whose dancing is generally mechanical, whose sex appeal recalls that of a dominatrix, and whose only other notable asset is a David Bowie-style mastery of image-mongering, become a pop-culture icon? The answer, as this tape shows, is that we seem to get the pop stars we deserve. "The Immaculate Collection" -- 13 video clips ranging from 1984's ''Lucky Star'' to 1990's ''Vogue'' -- is a depressingly revelatory artifact, a sort of time- capsule peek into the pop unconscious of the Reagan years. Clip after clip vibrates with themes ranging from the appalling to the nearly evil -- porn palace peep shows as harmless rite of passage (''Open Your Heart''), heartfelt paeans to unwanted pregnancy (''Papa Don't Preach''), narcissism as liberation (''Vogue''), and on and on. Although the clips could be defended as intentionally ambiguous examples of postmodern irony, watching them back to back makes it clear that Madonna has not one ambiguous or ironic bone in her well-displayed body. D+

Midweek Funny

Because you knew I would. For The Kenosha Kid.

Two Jews Blues

Well well well.

Okay -- just found the passage in Michael Medved's
piece of shit anti-Hollywood wingnut screed where he quotes me out of fucking context.

Updates coming, with links of course.

But I'm extremely irked.

And if anybody can get me his e-mail addy I'd be profoundly grateful.

UPDATE from NYM: Here's what Medved said.

The sweaty and slimy single-mindedness of so much contemporary pop has begun to trouble even some veteran observers inside the industry. Rock critic Steve Simels of Stereo Review writes of Madonna’s retrospective assemblage of music videos: “The Immaculate Collection still makes me want to shower when it’s over, and I think I know why—it’s so nakedly, so honestly scummy…. I’m hardly advocating some sort of ethical litmus test for pop music. But we shouldn’t pretend this stuff is value-neutral, either.”

Apparently, thinking Madonna's kind of icky puts you in the camp of the wingnuts. What will I do with my Moonbat t-shirt?