Thursday, January 31, 2008

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1967, here's The Hollies (featuring seriously underrated drummer Bobby Elliott) and a killer live version of "Bus Stop," their absolutely glorious ode to summer romance. Full disclosure: There are some days that I think this is, without question, the song that best defines the mission statement of the blog you're currently reading.

In any case -- and don't even get me started on its recent satanic offspring, Rihanna's "Umbrella" -- a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who divines its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

PS: This is not in the nature of an additional clue, but I would like to mention that there's a really wonderful Beatles video in the WL tomorrow that I, for one, had never seen before. You'll kvell, I think.

Tales From the Mystic East

Smoke on the Koi Pond.

Somewhere, Ritchie Blackmore is scratching his head and going "Huh?"

[h/t Bill Ferns]

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Play That Funky Music, White Boy

From last year's Cambridge Folk Festival, here's The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and the theme from Shaft.

Words fail me.

[h/t Kid Java]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Great Lost Singles of the 70s

As the latest in our continuing series, we now offer first generation Australian punks Radio Birdman and their immortal paean to Jack Lord and James MacArthur -- "Aloha Steve and Danno!"

The guitar solo makes me swoon, by the way.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

I'm horribly behind deadline for three reviews for The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review -- new CDs by Marah, the Fleshtones, and the North Mississippi Allstars -- which will actually pay some bills, unlike the fun I have here at PowerPop. So my posting will be sporadic till Wednesday, and I'm afraid part two of the great Velvet Underground dustup will have to be postponed till next week (if anybody is still interested).

Meanwhile, if you've never seen this before, it's probably the funniest short film of the last several years.

Ladies and Gentlemen -- George Lucas in Love.

All For the Love of Rock and Roll

Sorry to hear that Jeff Salen, lead guitarist and lynchpin of first generation CBGB's band Tuff Darts died Saturday, just a week shy of his 55th birthday. Here's a clip of the earliest incarnation of the band with then singer Robert Gordon (before he went rockabilly), and their quite wonderful "Head Over Heels." That's Salen on guitar to Gordon's left.

I'm pretty sure my 70s band did at least one gig with these guys (possibly at Great Guildersleeves on the Bowery, up the block from CB's) although I may have hallucinated that. In any case the Darts brand of pop/rock with attitude was the real deal; you can check out their 1978 studio album here, and they also have three tracks with Gordon -- including "Head Over Heels" and the original version of their anthem "All For the Love of Rock and Roll" -- on the essential Live at CBGBs compilation.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday Night Glam Blogging

Here's Mud (which spells "dum" backwards, btw) with another rockin' wig lifter from 1974. Penned by glam's greatest songwriting team Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, Rocket climbed to number 8 on the U.K. charts that year. During the sessions lead singer Les Gray had spent hours working on the vocal track for the song when a junior tape operator accidently wiped it. The next day, as a goof, Mike Chapman suggested that Les sing it with an Elvis Presley voice that he had been fooling around with. That take was ultimately released and we now have a pretty good idea what the King might have sounded like if he had recorded a single with the Sweet. I really love these guys. Cheers!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Fashion Victim Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental manservant Hop-Sing and I are off to Florida, where we'll be doing door to door campaigning for America's Mayor -- hoping, of course, to drum up support for Rudy in the crucial Sunshine State Paranoid Old Jew demographic. As a result (and also because it's Shabbos) posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

You know -- a song in a style or genre that was supposed to be hopelessly old hat but managed to tear up the charts anyway.

Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Eight:

8. Cher -- Believe

The biggest hit of 1999 was a disco song? Sung through the digital equivalent of a megaphone?

7. Billy Swan -- I Can Help

One of the biggest hits of 1974 was a 50s-style rockabilly song? Excuse me -- didn't anybody tell Swan that the Stray Cats wouldn't become the darlings of MTV for another seven years?

6. Tommy James and the Shondells -- Hanky Panky

A crappy 1963 frat-rock B-side, which makes "Louie Louie" sound like Bach's B-Minor Mass, gets re-released in the heady psychedelic days of "Good Vibrations" and "Eight Miles High" and still sells gazillions. I didn't get it then and I still don't....

5. Beach Boys -- Do It Again

With the world in flames, nothing could have been more unfashionable in 1968 either musically or lyrically than this ode to the halcyon days of pre-Beatles sun and surf. Or so you might have thought....

4. Slim Harpo -- Scratch My Back

A straight ahead swampy blues on the pop charts in 1966? Want to buy some Brooklyn beachfront property?

3. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles -- Tears of a Clown

The instrumental track for the Miracles only number one song was originally done in 1966 (Smokey added the lyrics and vocals in '67) and then the whole thing (just another album cut) was more or less forgotten until 1970, when Motown execs exhumed it even though its sound had practically nothing in common with anything the label had out at the time. I remembering hearing it on the radio and thinking, wow, this has got to be an older song, but boy does it sound great....

2. Tracy Chapman -- Give Me One Reason

A straight ahead Memphis blues on the pop charts in 1996? Yeah, right, and trained sheep will someday pilot the space shuttle.

And the number one song in a supposedly obsolete style is.....

1. Fountains of Wayne -- Stacy's Mom

Adam Schlesinger channels Buddy Holly (the 50s) via the Cars (the 80s) and gets a hit in 2003? It can't be said too often -- Adam Schlesinger is a fricking genius.

Okay -- what similar accomplishment jazzes you guys the most?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1988, here's earnestly angsty folk chanteuse Tracy Chapman with her unlikely pop hit "Fast Car."

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who divines its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Texas Flashbacks

Texas was a pretty conservative place back in the 60s, so it's doubly ironic that it produced some of the finest garage/psych bands of the era. Giants like the 13th Floor Elevators, the Moving Sidewalks, and the Bubble Puppy were all from the state, and if you've ever bought any 60s garage/psych comps, you are no doubt aware that there were countless other lesser-known TX bands who recorded killer singles during that magic era as well.

Here's one such gem by the Bad Seeds, who hailed from Corpus Christi, TX. They were the kings of the teen dance circuit in the area during the mid-60s and they recorded three singles for the legendary J-Beck label, including this self-penned 1966 nugget, A Taste of the Same which is the best Stones tune that Mick and the boys never recorded.

The Big Sleep

You know, some days I really do think that the Kinks' Ray Davies was the greatest songwriter of the second half of the 20th Century.

It is absolutely amazing to me that a song as musically and lyrically sophisticated as the above "Dead End Street" was written a mere two years after "You Really Got Me," the primal stomper that first made Ray's reputation; in fact, I can barely believe that they were the work of the same composer.

Incidentally, back in the day, that thoroughly charming video was banned by the BBC, on the grounds of bad taste or something.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Great Lost Singles of The 90s

As the latest in our continuing series, we now offer Urge Overkill's "Sister Havana."

An utterly fab song, to be sure, but it does kind of make you wonder just what was in the water that caused this estimable but thoroughly conventional hard rock band to be classified at any time as "alternative."

L'Amour, Toots Shor L'Amour

And speaking as we were yesterday of the Velvet Underground, here's an interesting video (that at least I'd never seen before) of early Roxy Music, a band that unquestionably learned a great deal from the Velvets, unfortunately almost all of it bad.

As you may have gathered, I vastly prefer Roxy frontman Bryan Ferry's later solo career, especially in its Moonlight and Roses bruised romantic period, circa "Avalon" and "Slave to Love." Frankly, there's something almost inspirational about a guy who's developed an entire esthetic from the fact that he can't get it up.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Velvet Underground Dialogues, Part One: Sweet Jane, You Ignorant Slut

[My old friend Peter Spencer put up a slightly different version of the rant below over at his estimable website/blog a few weeks ago, and I disagreed with it so much I thought it might be fun to bat it around over here. Herewith the first installment; I'll respond to Pete next Tuesday, and then we'll see how it goes from there. If you're not familiar with Pete, he's a hell of singer/songwriter and a snazzy commenter on all sorts of roots music: His book "World Beat: A Listener's Guide to Contemporary World Music on CD" was published in 1992 by Chicago Review Press, and I highly recommend it. He has recorded the albums "Paradise Loft" (1982), "New Hope and Wise Virgins" (2000), "Nobody's Daddy" (2004), "Handsignal" (2005), "Gathering Light: Christmas Music for Solo Guitar" (2006), and "The Blues Concert" (2007). His latest album "From the Island" is scheduled for release in the spring of this year.

Okay -- go get 'em, tiger!]

Dear Steve:

Anyone of a certain age is going to come up against the phenomenon of a band that ruled his teen years but is now pretty much unlistenable. I can think of several in my own case. But I don't think I've ever had such a "what was I thinking?" moment as when I recently came across the Velvet Underground on YouTube after thirty years or so.

I know the group's incompetence (or its more avant-garde members' studied cultivation of it) is usually cited by their boosters as evidence of their importance. But even leaving that aside, the whole scene seems deeply bogus.

Watching the old, grainy Andy Warhol footage of socialites dancing with pretty boys at various parties and happenings what's most apparent is the essential falseness of it all. At a time when rock musicians and audiences were defining themselves in comparison to the emotional truth (and political oppression) of R&B, you didn't see ANY black people at these parties. What person of any race who had ever danced to Sam and Dave could dance to this static, unswinging, painfully self-conscious pastiche of borrowed riffs and snobbish attitudinizing?

But this scene was not about music. It was a about creating a version of rock and roll for people who were uncomfortable with the real thing and its Afro-American, hillbilly, or Liverpudlian creators; people whom, if you told them their scene was emotionally dead and artistically bankrupt would say, like Pee Wee Herman, "I meant to do that."

I have to say there were great bands that claimed the Velvets as influences - Television, for one. But Television had in spades two things the Velvet Underground utterly lacked: real musical ability and real emotional commitment. So there was some kind of true musical communication going on between performers and audience.

Of course, there were and are plenty of other scenes that weren't/aren't about music, among them bluegrass and the post-Grateful Dead nouveau-hippie thing. But at least the bands in these scenes, for all the brainlessness of some of their fans, are trying to play the blues. And this attempt, however clumsy, means that they're dealing in good faith with the audience's emotions. That's worth a lot, isn't it? I mean, that's what we want.

Make me understand, Steve.

All the best,

Pastaman Vibration

I'm sorry -- these guys still crack me up.

And the fact that Robert Plant gets the joke (sort of) is even more endearing.

Monday, January 21, 2008

M.L.K. Day, 2008

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Saturday Glam Blogging...

Due to my self-imposed ban on posting the work of convicted pedophiles, you will never see a Gary Glitter video here. It's a shame too, cause he was a master of the genre. Nevertheless, I think it's legit to post a vid of his backup group, the Glitter Band, who were the real secret to Gary's success anyway.

Here's their biggest solo hit Angel Face, which made it to number 4 on the UK charts in 1974. Penned by bassist John Rossall and guitarist Gerry Shephard, it was subsequently a world wide hit, the first of their six Top Ten singles. The tune has all the hallmarks of the Glitter sound: a huge stomping beat courtesy of twin drummers, a Rock and Roll, Part 2 football cheer, and that spiffy angular guitar motif. A true highpoint of the era methinks. Plus, don't even get me started on their sartorial splendor!


Record Revolution...

Thanks to Steve for holding down the Good Ship PowerPop almost solo for the past few weeks.

Cool undated article here at about the demise of the independent record store. The money quote comes from Jim Otto at the expense of the Iggles, my favorite bloated rock-and-roll punching bag. Jim owns the Laguna Beach music store Sound Spectrum:

“Record companies have never respected the role independent record stores played in their success, but the bands always did. Now, it seems they’re forgetting us, too.” Lately, Otto is getting a warm, stabbed-in-the-back feeling from the reformed Eagles, who have evidently shifted their allegiance from Walden Pond to Wal-Mart. The band has made its first studio album in 28 years available exclusively through the retail giant.

This article prompted a Proustian moment for me, sending me back to the mid-80s when I lived in Boston. I would spend an entire Saturday afternoon prowling record stores in Cambridge and Kenmore Square and it was always a blast. It all came back: that smell of musty cardboard, the grumpy clerks, not to mention the ever-present dust and grime that made you look like a coal miner exiting a mine shaft when you finally extricated yourself from the store.

Online buying has never been a satisfactory replacement for me as it lacks the same tactile and sensory stimulation that comes from spending hours browsing a well-stocked record store. Luckily, here in the D.C. metro area we still have Joe's Record Paradise, so I can get my vinyl fix whenever I want, but I wonder how long they will hold on.

So, what cool record stores are still around where you live?

For a musical interlude while you are thinking, here's the aptly-named Records with a clip I'd not seen before:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special When Bad Records Happen to Good Bands Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental manservant Hop-Sing and I are ............ Whatever. In any case, posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:


You know -- the one that just makes you cringe or, frankly, question the artists' sanity for having committed it to tape, let alone approved it for release.

Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Six.

6. Rod Stewart -- Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?

You young 'uns won't believe it, but there actually was a time you could use the words "Rod Stewart" and "artist" in the same sentence without eliciting gales of laughter. That historical moment had begun to slip away by 1979, but this song -- Rod's disco move, natch -- pretty much sealed his fate forever. To this day, I can't hear it without thinking of armpits....

5. The Byrds -- Mind Gardens

No YouTube for this one, which is just as well. Better known as "Crosby's Folly," it's the absolute epitome of wooly-headed oh wow, man! hippie psychedelic drivel; the fact that it's on Younger Than Yesterday, an otherwise brilliant album (with some of Crosby's best songs, actually) makes it stand out as a clinker even more. Poor Dave's been justifiably defensive about it for nearly 40 years now....

4. The Beach Boys -- Never Learn Not to Love

Originally written by flower power troubador crazed killer Charles Manson as "Cease to Resist" before he and Dennis Wilson had a falling out. Can you imagine if it had been a hit?

3. Bob Dylan -- The Boxer

Bob sings the Simon & Garfunkel classic, through the miracle of overdubbing, as a duet between his protest and Nashville Skyline voices. Maybe he meant it as a joke. In any case, it's beyond ghastly.

2. U2 -- Helter Skelter

"Here's a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles...we're stealing it back."

Wrong on both counts, Bono. Cripes -- this is even worse than the song the Beach Boys actually did steal from Charles Manson.

1. The Rolling Stones -- Dancing with Mr. D

Why the Stones felt that this thoroughly contrived piece of comic book satanism was the first thing the world needed to hear from them after the great Exile on Main Street remains a mystery likely never to be solved.

Okay -- what track embarasses you guys the most?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1988, here's Cheap Trick and their depressingly unironic power ballad hit "The Flame."

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who divines its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Crazy Rhythm

Here's another great 80s song I'd never seen the video for -- The Bush Tetras and "Too Many Creeps."

A definitive downtown anthem, "Creeps" never made the Billboard charts, but it was all but ubiquitous in certain provinces of hep in 1982 and its mix of dance meters and abrasive guitar has been wildly influential. As somebody says in the YouTube comments, there's more rhythmic ideas in its four minutes than most bands can muster in their whole career.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hoodoo You Love

One of my favorite songs of the mid-80s has a video I'd never seen before.

"Bittersweet," by The Hoodoo Gurus. To paraphrase Phil Spector, I love it when somebody gets a hit record by recycling the chords to "Sweet Jane."

Can Blue Men Sing the Whites?

A friend writes (over at Eschaton:)

Steve -- I have to share my unexpected meeting with a legendary rocker today. I found out that my daughter's 4th grade teacher is married to Spencer Davis. Who knew? The kids were doing some kind of class lunch excursion at Burger King -- and then Spencer himself showed up. We sat at the same table. This aging DFH was thrilled.

For the record: Spencer's the tall one with the great hair to the left of the drummer (and he has a very cool web site -- who knew?) The guy in the middle on bass is Muff, the other Winwood brother.

The kid on the right with the astounding white soul voice is...well, you know.

[h/t Toonscribe: Cartoon Liberal ]

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wee Tam and the Big Awesome

Just got the MGMT album Oracular Spectacular in the mail. Apparently, the kids love 'em. Here they are on Letterman last week doing the leadoff track, "Time to Pretend." Nice capes, for sure.

The album's produced by the guy from the Flaming Lips and (no surprise) it's all self-consciously trash-psych-electro-glam, if you will. I haven't decided whether I like it or not; I guess it comes down to whether the world really needs The Incredible String Band with an attitude.

Never Mind the Bollocks...'s The Hee Bee Gee Bees!

That is, of course, "Meaningless Songs in Very High Voices," one of the most dead-on and deadly pop parodies ever recorded. Inspirational verse: "The world is very, very large...and butter is better than marge."

Incidentally, the LP it's from -- the cover of which is a gorgeous pink knock-off of the Sex Pistols debut -- has never been available on CD, a cultural crime of heinous proportions.

[h/t Kerrin L. Griffith]

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fab One

Jon Pareles considers Ringo Starr's just released new album Liverpool 8 in today's New York Times.

Now that the surviving Beatles are in their 60s, they’re turning nostalgic and avuncular, with occasional thoughts of mortality: first Paul McCartney, with his 2007 album, “Memory Almost Full,” and now Ringo Starr. He brings his own kindly perspective to an album of songs he wrote with various collaborators — notably the producer Dave Stewart from Eurythmics.

Mr. Starr always presented himself as the guileless, good-natured Beatle, and he isn’t stopping now. He wants his old band to be remembered for declaring “All You Need Is Love.” For most of the album he sings — in a suspiciously on-key voice — about the power and virtue of love. “If you open your heart/I’ll give you love, love, love,” he insists in the cheerfully chugging “If It’s Love That You Want.”

He treats the past with nothing but fondness. The title song of “Liverpool 8” is his chronicle of joining the Beatles and leaving their hometown behind....

You can read the rest here.

What can I say about this except hey, at least they didn't give the album to the always irksome Kelefa Sanneh. But on the basis of the (to my ears, ickily sentimental) title song --

-- this review still reads to me like more of the Everything's Great Even the Obvious Shit approach that has typified the Times pop music coverage for way too long. Seriously -- I know it's Ringo, and we all love him and everything, but if that's what the rest of album sounds like, I think I'll go listen to Goodnight Vienna. Or maybe just open a vein.

Your thoughts?


And speaking as we were downstairs of P.F. Sloan (author of "Secret Agent Man" and many other splendid 60s tunes) here's a 1990 clip of the man himself performing a fragment of his genuine folk-rock classic "Where Were You When I Needed You."

Back in the day, Bob Dylan was rumoured to find Sloan an even more amusingly egregious Dylan wannabe than Donovan, but I must say, that song is really good (The Bangles did a killer cover of it, if memory serves) and at least Sloan (to our knowledge) didn't go on to find Jesus.

The Eastern World, It is Exploding

Alert readers will recall that in the run-up to the most recent Weekend Listomania I made fun of Barry McGuire's 1965 folk-rock protest smash "Eve of Destruction," a P.F. Sloan song that, back in the day, always struck me as low-grade kitsch at best. Apparently, I had forgotten this remake.

That's San Francisco Clash fans Red Rockers from 1984, and I've got to admit, it's a pretty great version; instead of the the whining suburban petulance of McGuire's original, there's actual righteous anger and dread here, not to mention big Byrdsian guitar grandeur. A shame about the Nuevo Wavo fashions, though.

I should also mention that in the early 80s, my skinny tie band used to do a, shall we say, slightly less than reverent version of the song. If memory serves, we actually sang it as "You may leave here for 4 days in space/But when you return, you can't find a parking space."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special That's Not Funny, That's Sick!!! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental manservant Hop-Sing and I are off to the Japan Monkey Center where between swills of hot rice wine we'll also be air-lifting space heaters to freezing Madagascar lemurs. As a result, posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

You know -- one that's in ridiculously bad taste, politically obnoxious, or just annoying on some level other than aesthetics.

Okay, here's my top of my head Top Ten:

10. The Bouoys -- Timothy

I don't know what's creepier -- the fact that it's a bubblegum song about cannibalism, or that it was written by Rupert Holmes.

9. Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler -- Ballad of the Green Berets

Next stop is Vietnam!! Whoopee, we're all gonna die! BTW, Sadler went on to be a noted collector of Hitler memoribilia.

8. Dickie Lee -- Laurie (Strange Things Happen)

The ultimate teenage death song, with the added sick twist that she's a ghost. Think "The Sixth Sense" for morons.

7. Frank and Nancy Sinatra -- Something Stupid

Or as we used to call it back in the day, "The Incest Song." 'Nuff said.

6. G.G. Allin -- Needle Up My Cock

This guy had so many tender love madrigals it's hard to pick one. Of course, he did have the good grace to actually die for our sins....

5. Napoleon XIV -- They're Coming to Take Me Away (HaHa)

Me, I think this one's funny, but actual crazy people disagreed and got it banned in some markets. Interesting....

4. Madonna -- Open Your Heart

42nd Street peep show jerkoff palaces as a cute rite of passage for adolescent boys? Yuk. This is the video I show people when they tell me how smart Madonna is....and yes, I know it sold.

3. The Crystals -- He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)

Let's hear it for spousal abuse!!! Seriously, Carole King wrote this as a sort of protest song, but producer Phil Spector kind of missed the point (in retrospect, not much of a shock).

2. Buju Banton -- Boom Bye Bye

Granted, there's a large selection of offensive hip-hop and rap records out there, but this one, which suggests it might be a good idea to off gay men, kind of screamed for inclusion. Of course, in its defense, it is largely unintelligble, even with a lyric sheet.

But the hands down, most twisted sick record of all time is without question ---

1. Bobby McFerrin -- Don't Worry, Be Happy

"Ain't got no place to lay your head/Somebody came and took your bed/Don't worry, be happy..."

Tell that to a real homeless person, asshole. Seriously -- as my old colleague Glenn Kenny famously wrote about this song in the Village Voice, there's only one possible response to it:

Fuck. You.

Okay -- what are your faves?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1965, here's one-hit wonders The Spokesmen and "Dawn of Correction," an avowedly reactionary answer record to Barry McGuire's admittedly risible left-wing protest classic "Eve of Destruction." (Interesting bit of trivia: the guy to the right of the singer is Dave White, formerly of 50s doo-woppers Danny and the Juniors).

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the reader who first divines the clip's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Listomania.

Calling the ASPCA!

d. has some 'splainin' to do!

It probably says volumes about me as a person that this cracked me up. Great soundtrack, though.

Arrivederci Roma!

A certain presidential candidate wants to bring us together, or so I've heard. That being the case, I think there's one thing that we as a nation can all get behind -- that these guys are a really crappy band.

That's The Rokes, circa 1967, running roughshod through the Grass Roots' folk-rock classic "Let's Live For Today" on Italian TV. According to their Wiki entry they were Brits who went off to seek fame and fortune in a land where their Britishness made it easier for people to overlook how utterly lame they were. (It's the same strategy that briefly made American stars out of Freddie and the Dreamers).

Anyway, on the video evidence here, these guys really sucked. If anyone knows what kind of amps they're using, however, please let me know; for some reason just about every band on European TV back then used the same gear, but I can't for the life of me identify the brand.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

England's Newest Hitmakers

More proof that YouTube is the greatest cultural event in the history of Western Man: A Rolling Stones clip I've never seen or heard of before. It is, in fact, apparently their second-ever appearance on American television, from (I'm guessing) sometime in the fall of 1964.

Talk about fresh faced youngsters. Hell, that clip is so old even Mike Douglas looks like a fresh faced youngster.

I would also like to mention for the record that I am the proud owner of the very same vintage pre-CBS model Fender Bassman amp that Bill Wyman is using to such fine effect here. With the original tubes, I might add.

The Sky Above, The Mud Below

My review of Levon Helm's first solo album in 25 years is up at the website of The Magazine Formerly Known As Stereo Review.

A word of warning: It's the rag's 50th anniversary year, and in the next issue they're going to run three of the most spectacularly unflattering (old) photos of me ever taken. The shame, the shame.....

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

In Search of the Kenosha Kid

Okay, it's also David Bowie's birthday. Born David Robert Jones this day in 1947 in Brixton, London.

You know, some days I really miss Dinah Shore....

Red-Letter Dates in Music History

It was seventy-three years ago today, in Tupelo, Mississippi, that Gladys Love Presley succesfully delivered one of the twins she was carrying, the other being stillborn. And it was sixty-two years ago today that she took that boy to a pawnshop to buy a rifle for his birthday, and he came out with a guitar instead.

We're all quite grateful here.

Powerpop would not exist without rock and roll, and rock and roll would not exist without Elvis--or at the very least, it would look very, very different.

So, uh, thanks, man. Happy Birthday.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Genius is Pain

This got linked to in Friday's Weekend Listomania comments, but it's so mindboggling I thought I'd post it where more folks might see it. From the 1972 National Lampoon album Radio Dinner, the late still not dead Tony Hendra sticks it to John Lennon's primal scream period.

In case you're wondering, every word of the above rant is lifted directly from Lennon's post-Beatles breakup interview in Rolling Stone. Kudos to Rick Moore -- whoever he is -- for having the wit to finally make a video for it.

[h/t realist]

Memories of Undervelopment

Thanks to the miracle of Google, we have unearthed another recorded artifact by Linda Laurie -- the mysterious auteuress behind our all-time favorite novelty song, "Ambrose, Part 5" (which can be heard, along with much else, downstairs at Friday's Weekend Listomania). That's her to the right, in a classic early 60s show-biz pose.

In any case, the song is titled "Jose He Say," (an attempted cash-in on Bill Dana's now mostly forgotten Jose Jiminez character, we're guessing) and whoever did the voice of Ambrose seems to be doing the honors as the titular hero.

Listen to it here.

And here's a link to the picture sleeve for the French release version (on Atlantic Records, no less).

Postscript: Another Google search has turned up what is, apparently, Ms. Laurie's current phone number. I'm thinking an interview may be in order....

Postscript part deux: Ohmigod -- just got off the phone with her, and she's a delight, with lots of great stories to tell (did you know she's got a writer credit on Puff Daddy's "All About the Benjamins"? I certainly didn't). Plus, she did the Ambrose voice for me -- a surreal and wonderful moment; I haven't been so excited since I did a phoner with June Foray, the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel, and she actually said "And now here's something we hope you really like!"

Anyway -- Ms. Laurie will have her own website up in a month or so; stay tuned here for more details and that interview. Could definitely be a hot one.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Hell is Other People

Alert readers may recall that earlier in the week I was nattering on about the transcendent awfulness of Rihannna's "Umbrella," until commenter TJWood reminded me that, against the odds, 2007 had disgorged an even worse song -- Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly."

Jeebus, that's fricking bad. Seriously -- it sounds like the kind of confessional singer/songwriter stuff Joni Mitchell would have written if she was a moron.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Saturday Night Glam Blogging...

Here's The Arrows at the tail end of the glam era with their 1975 single I Love Rock and Roll, which ex-Runaway Joan Jett turned into a #1 stateside hit a few years later in 1982. Joan was smart enough to tap into the virtually inexhaustible catalog of Brit glam tunes that were A-1 on the jukebox in the UK and virtually unknown in the States.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Alvin!!!!! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental manservant Hop-Sing and I are off to Iowa for a post-Caucus seminar on "The Role of the Bloodthirsty Sadist in the Contemporary Republican Party." I dunno, it's got something to do with some Mormon guy not executing enough rapists or something. Whatever. In any case, posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

You know -- the funniest, the silliest, the one that best punctures somebody's pomposity, or however you define it.

[Author's Note: It occurs to me that I may have posted a similar list in the dim, dank past, i.e, early last year when I was just a baby blogger. If so, in my defense I'm sure I didn't include video clips then, and I'm also willing to bet the choices were at least somewhat different. In any case, it's been a long holiday season and I'm still recovering, so cut me some slack already.]

Okay, here's my top of my head Top Ten:

10. Klaus Nomi -- Lightning Strikes

Words fail me.

9. Little Roger and the Goosebumps -- Stairway to Gilligan

Led Zep's management got this record banned back in the day, but in 2000 Robert Plant decided it was funny, so it's now on CD.

8. Bob and Doug McKenzie -- Take Off

Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas meet Geddy Lee, and then they all go out for a Molson.

7. Steve Martin -- King Tut

It's rarely said, but nonetheless true -- Steve Martin is a great dancer.

6. Weird Al Yankovic -- Dare to Be Stupid

A Devo parody that's actually better than the real Devo. "Mashed potatoes can be your friend." Indeed.

5. Napoleon XIV -- They're Coming to Take Me Away (Ha-Ha!)

An obvious choice, I know, but hey -- me and some friends can be heard yelling in the background on this one. True story -- buy me a drink sometime, and I'll tell it to you....

4. The Diamonds -- Little Darlin'

These guys were actually a bunch of jazzbo snobs who thought the song (previously a minor doowop hit written by Maurice Williams, of "Stay" fame) was moronic crap and were goofing all over it. It is one of the great ironies of our time that the result is simultaneously one of the most exciting rock records ever AND an outsiders parody of the genre.

3. Buchanan and Goodman -- The Flying Saucer

The original break-in record, and an amazing technological feat in the days before sampling.

2. King Missile -- Detatchable Penis

90s alt-rock hepster irony, but I think it holds up.

And my all-time fave novelty song is.....

1. Linda Laurie -- Ambrose (Part 5)

This record haunted my childhood and at the time I assumed it was a monster national hit. Later, of course, I discovered it was probably only a local phenom -- I've never run into anybody who remembers it who wasn't also from the Tri-State Metropolitan Area. Perhaps not such a surprise, given Ms. Laurie's proto Jewish American Princess delivery and the single's subterranean subway milieu.....

Okay -- so what are your faves?

[Postscript: How the hell did I forget this one?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

An (Unusually) Early Clue to the New Direction

From SNL producer Lorne Michael's short-lived The New Show in 1982, here's Steve Martin (and SCTV's Dave Thomas) with a truly hilarious take on "Billie Jean."

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the reader who first divines the clip's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Listomania.

Besame Mucho

From 1973, here's The New York Dolls live on the Old Grey Whistle Test with "Looking for a Kiss." Legend has it that this is, in fact, the clip that inspired Morrisey to take his mopery public.

It's amusing to think about how radical and threatening these guys seemed at the time, especially to the leftover rock royalty of the 60s. I believe it was Stephen Stills who came away from a Dolls performance and famously remarked "How the hell can you dance in those damned platform shoes"?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Macca: Heart to Heart

So Sir Paul has had a helluva year, what with the very nastily public divorce, the starlets, and the custody battle. But it turns out it was even more eventful than that.
Sir Paul McCartney has had a secret heart operation, it was revealed last night.

The 65-year-old had a coronary angioplasty, which opens up arteries and allows greater flow of blood.

It was performed in a private hospital in the autumn after he saw a Harley Street specialist at the London Clinic. The former Beatle is said to have recovered well.

Fuck it. He's been a vegetarian for 25 years. If he needs an angioplasty, I may as well pack it in and live on doughnuts and beer.

I mean, more so.

Political Science

Rolling Stone just picked Randy Newman's "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" as the number two song of 2007.

Alas, I'm of two minds about this. Granted, it's a great song, and obviously relevant to our historical moment, but really -- what the fuck does Rollng Stone know? Their choice for number three is that fricking "Umbrella" piece of crap by Rihanna. Memo to Rolling Stone: Did the world really need a remake of the Hollies' "Bus Stop," only without the seductive melody, the gorgeous harmonies, or the cool guitar break? Not to mention stretching the titular accessory into a four syllable word? I don't think so...

Okay, so she's a babe, but sorry -- the song is still butt ugly....

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Music on Both Sides

Long-time readers of PowerPop know that we are all huge Records fanatics, and any new product from the group or its former members is always greeted with great fanfare. So, when the long overdue reissue of the third and final Records LP, Music on Both Sides fell into my hands, I felt as if I had located a long lost friend. MOBS, originally released in March of 1982, has never seen a legitimate CD release until now and only two of its tracks have ever found their way to the digital medium (on the Records' greatest hits comp Smashes, Crashes, and Near Misses). But thanks to Will Birch and On the Beach Records, it is now available again in a deluxe edition replete with 9 bonus tracks. I've had this disc for several months, but I've been holding off on my review until it was widely available here in the States. You can get it from the good folks at Not Lame here or directly from the label here.

The lineup for MOBS was a decidedly different band from the Records that recorded their previous disc, the classic Crashes. Pop wunderkind Jude Cole had recently left the group and core members John Wicks, Will Birch, and Phil Brown decided to soldier on by recruiting a new frontman. Enter lead vocalist Chris Gent who had previously been in the London powerpop combo The Autographs. They also added Chris Gent on second guitar and the new quintet was complete.

Music on Both Sides takes a little getting used to for fans familiar with their earlier LPs as it revamps the Records signature powerpop sound. The SuperBadfingerisms of The Records and the hyper-Beatlesque flourishes of Crashes are muted in favor of more stripped-down production by Will Birch. The fragile, expressive voice of John Wicks gives way to the stadium-rock dynamics of new lead vocalist Chris Gent. For me, it was kinda like taking a '66 Jaguar XKE and painting flames on the hood. Ira A. Robbins, in his review in the New Trouser Press Record Guide (1989) said that MOBS "sounded like Rubber Soul with a crappy rock singer" but that's a bit harsh. The clever songwriting and wordplay of Birch and Wicks still shines through and there are a number of gems on the disc making it a worthwhile purchase for the fan of classic powerpop.

The disc opens with the smashing Your Own Soundtrack which was originally left off the LP but was initially issued as the B side to the single Imitation Jewellery. This reissue restores it to its originally intended position as the leadoff track and it kicks the disc off with a bang. The lyrical subject matter of MOBS takes a decidely darker and more cynical approach than the band's previous efforts. As with their signature tune Starry Eyes, record biz shady dealings continued to provide fodder for the songwriting. Clown Around Town, Not So Much the Time, and Third Hand Information all take aim at former managers and assorted shady characters advising the band. In the liner notes to the disc, Will Birch said "I should have shown the record company more gratitude, but bile-driven songwriting was hard to beat." The bile continued to flow with other tunes on the LP such as the sardonic Selfish Love and Keeping Up With Jones. Admittedly, there are a few weak tracks on the disc. I've never been a fan of the synth-laden single Imitation Jewellery, which was a misguided attempt by the band to mimic the au courant synth-pop sound prevalent in the early 80s. The instrumental Cheap Detective Music also seems a bit out of place on the disc, and actually sounds more like an outtake by Virgin labelmates Fingerprintz.

In keeping with On the Beach's habit of including a wealth of bonus material, the new edition of MOBS includes 9 additional songs. For fans who have always wondered what the LP would have sounded like if John Wicks had handled lead vocals, 3 demos are included to give you a taste (I prefer John!). Also, three live tracks salvaged from the 1978 Stiff tour give you a glimpse of the band at the height of their powers. The disc closes with an excellent cover of the Michael Pagliaro powerpop classic Lovin'You Ain't Easy with the lovely Jane Aire on lead vocals.

Music on Both Sides is not the Records finest work, but it holds up nicely 25 years after its initial release and it remains an enjoyable listen. A Birch/Wicks song is always something to be savored and it is reassuring that the final piece of the Records musical puzzle is again back in print. Remember that you can still get a copy of John Wicks and the Records' great 2007 CD Rotate here. My earlier review of it can be found here.

My New Years Resolutions

1. More album reviews. I have a stack of CDs -- both major label and indie -- that I have promised all sorts of fine folks that I will get to eventually. Attention must be paid!!!!

2. Having learned, after many months, how to post YouTube videos, I will now learn how to post photos and cover art (thus enabling me to do the above with alacrity). Seriously -- how hard could it be for a senior citizen with a low IQ and ADD to master such a skill?

3. I will not blogwhore pathetically when one of my posts -- the one below, for example -- does not, inexplicably, move anyone to drop by and leave a pithy comment.

Oh, and by the way -- Happy New Year to all of you, whom I love more than food.

Pure Pop For Now People

A New Years's gift for you...Bette Midler sings one of power pop god Marshall Crenshaw's most winsome confections.

You know, after hearing this, I'm almost of a mind to forgive her for that "Wind Beneath My Wings" crap. Even though she looks like my Aunt Tessie.

I said almost...

BTW, I'm willing to bet good money that Marshall is gonna win (deservedly) an Oscar for writing the title song to the fitfully amusing music bio-pic sendup Walk Hard...

Who knew that John C. Reilly could do a credible Roy Orbison impression?