Friday, February 29, 2008

Not So Glad All Over

RIP, Mike Smith, 1944-2008.

A wonderfully soulful singer, and like his band, vastly underrated.

Weekend Listomania (Special Bang on a Can! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental amanuensis Hop-Sing and I are off to a Japanese tuna boat somewhere in the South Pacific, where we'll be catching up with National Review's first annual William F. Buckley Memorial Fuck the Dolphins Cruise. Which means, of course, that posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:


Totally arbitrary rule: No prog-rock or fusion need apply, unless I decide otherwise. Which means, I'm sorry to say, that Bill Bruford and Tony Williams can, uh, you know, blow me.

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

8. Devo -- Satisfaction (1976)

That's the unheralded Alan Myers playing that brilliantly spazz mutation of the Stones' original straight four. Sound simple? Let's see YOU do it, bub!

7. Al Green -- Let's Stay Together (1972)

The late great Al Jackson pretty much invented the particularly sinuous Memphis groove that the Reverend Green rides here. Sheer bliss.

6. Faces -- Stay With Me (1972)

This live clip is a real find I think, but it ends before the recorded version did and thus misses some of Kenny Jones' most wonderful drum fills. Go get the album, pronto.

5. Elvis Costello and the Attractions -- Pump It Up (1978)

Pete Thomas
makes that tiny little drum kit sound like an apocalypse on this one, which remains one of the all-time great rock n roll dance songs largely because of his primordial pounding.

4. Rolling Stones --

(a tie) Tumbling Dice (1971)

and Rip This Joint (1971)

Charlie Watts, natch. When Mick Jagger noted (on "Get Yer Ya-Yas Out") that "Charlie's good tonight, isn't he?" he really meant "Charlie's good every night." On the studio versions (no less than here) of these two Stones classics, Charlie absolutely lays 'em in the aisles.

3. Bruce Springsteen -- Rosalita (1973)

That's the studio version, featuring Vinnie "Mad Dog" Lopez, the guy manager/producer Jon Landau kicked out of the band because he played too imaginatively. Not so oddly, the wonderful out of control almost jazz feel that informed Springsteen's music at the time immediately vanished with him. Yes, now it can be told: I think Max Weinberg is a great drummer with his own band on Conan O'Brien -- with Springsteen, not so much.

2. The Raspberries -- Tonight (1973)

The ultimate Beatles Meet The Who synthesis, and drummer Jim Bonfanti covers himself in glory as both Ringo and Keith Moon.

2. Led Zeppelin -- Fool in the Rain (1979)

A truly monster groove from the late John Bonham, and as my dear friend and drummer extraordinaire Glen Bob Allen puts it, "Bonzo's feel on the tune and the roll he does coming out of the Latin break back into the refrain is just beee-uuuu-tiful."

And the number one, nobody even comes close, coolest drum performance on a 70s song is ---

1. The Who -- Won't Get Fooled Again (1971)

Four guys playing and singing at their absolute peak, but guess who steals it? Once again, as Greil Marcus famously remarked: "Keith Moon playing lead drums -- after all these years, the audacity of it still takes your breath away."

Alrighty now -- what would your choices be?

[h/t the aforementioned Glen Bob Allen -- if you're in the vicinity of Manhattan, go see him tomorrow with the French Cookin Blues Band at B.B. King's!!!!]

Thursday, February 28, 2008

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1972, here's Gary Glitter and band miming to their charming ode to child pornography glam classic "Rock n Roll Part 2." You'll note that it takes two drummers to simulate the part played on the actual recording by producer/writer Mike Leander.

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

The Present Day Sixties Soul Chick Refuses to Die

Well, this isn't a big surprise, but it seems that in the wake of troubled pop diva my fiancee Amy Winehouse the Brit music industry has coughed up another really good ultra-retro white girl soul singer.

Ladies and germs, we give you Duffy and her quite gorgeous "Rockferry."

I know next to nothing about this woman (aside from the fact that she's Welsh) but from the evidence of this clip somebody seems to be marketing her as a sort of Dusty Springfield/Lulu good girl alternative to Winehouse's Ronnie Spector bad girl. On the other hand, maybe she already has a substance abuse problem and a husband in the slammer.

In any case, this is a really good record -- it sounds like nothing so much as Dusty/Lulu backed by the Rolling Stones in 1965.

[h/t John McPartlin]

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and How People Like James Dolan Are Ruining New York City

My old pal Sal Nunziato, formerly of NYCD (the world's greatest indie record store) and now of the Huffington Post, was at a certain Big Concert Event last night and can't quite let the music do the talking.

I wanted to write about how seeing Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood perform one of my favorite songs of all time, "Can't Find My Way Home," last night at Madison Square Garden has made it into my top ten live performances.

But I can't. I can't write about any of that. I am too distracted. Not by the fact that at last night's concert at MSG, a cup of room temperature Stella Artois beer cost $8.25, the same as a cold six pack. (No one was under any obligation to purchase any.) Or that a foot long, undercooked phallus of encased baloney in a damp roll that MSG loosely referred to as a hot dog was $6.75. (I didn't want one, but someone did.)

I was distracted by James Dolan, that lovable philanthropist and CEO of Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and the once beloved Beacon Theatre, and how he has not only turned the New York Knicks into the laughing stock of the NBA, but has also turned some of New York City's best concert venues into the worst. (especially on those nights when his band, J.D. & The Straight Shot, a third rate bar band of wealthy businessmen who sinfully play "A Change Is Gonna Come" in their set, opens the show. There is NOTHING more offensive)

As Bob Dylan famously observed, money doesn't talk -- it swears. Read the rest here.

The Point Is Probably Moot

For those of you who (for good reason) don't watch a lot of daytime teebee, here's seriously underrated rocker/soap star Rick Springfield blowtorching his way through "Jesse's Girl" (for my money one of the most memorable hits of the 80s) on Oprah yesterday. Somebody once called the tune "Othello With Guitars" and I actually don't think that's too far off the mark.

BTW -- earlier in the show Springfield let on that he was never in fact introduced to the real Jesse's girl (a woman who was going out with a guy he was taking a ceramics class with, if you can believe it) and that to his knowledge she never had any idea that she was the inspiration for the song. The mind boggles....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuesday Maureen Dowd Bashing

You know, for whatever reason, when I read one of Dowd's
blithering idiot misogynist columns
about Hillary Clinton, I usually find myself thinking that Mick Jagger wrote this song about her -- Dowd, that is.

Prescient inspirational verse:

"Who would believe you were a beauty indeed
When the days get shorter and the nights get long
Lie awake when the rain comes
Nobody will know, when you're old
When you're old, nobody will know
that you was a beauty, a sweet sweet beauty
A sweet sweet booty, but stone stone cold"

Hey Maureen -- the come-hither looks, the breathy vocal stylings and the casual hair flipping aren't working like they used to, are they?

Great Lost Singles of the Sixties

From 1967, it's Alan Price (who had just quit The Animals for a solo career) and the hilarious "Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear."

Incidentally, the song was written by the then little-known Randy Newman; I believe it was his first significant chart hit.

"Now who'd believe a boy and bear/could be well accepted everywhere?/It's just amazing how fair people can be......"

Hello, Sailor!!!!

Lots of interesting stories in the new issue of MOJO this month -- as always, none of them really available online, alas -- including a list of the Top 50 greatest UK indie records of all time.

Guess what comes in at Number One? (Hint: Have I mentioned that I cried?)

I must admit to a certain ambivalence about The Smiths, although "This Charming Man" (1983) has always struck me as a splendid example of what can be done with some chiming guitars and the beat from The Supremes "You Can't Hurry Love." In any case, the MOJO piece has lots of fascinating backstory bits about how the song and record came together; I had no idea, for example, that said chiming guitars involved 15 overdubbed acoustic and electric tracks -- the latter played on a 1954 Fender Telecaster, NOT the Rickenbacker Johnny Marr is picking in the above video.

Monday, February 25, 2008

They Say It's Your Birthday, Part Deux

Here's should-have-been-65-year-old birthday boy George Harrison -- with future Rutles Eric Idle and Neil Innes -- and "The Pirate Song."

Who's my favorite Beatle? Sorry -- not telling...

They Say It's Your Birthday

George Harrison makes a surprise visit to the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968.

George would have been 65 today. I would like to just go on record as saying that it completely sucks that there are currently only two living Beatles.

Congrats to Glen Hansard!

For his Oscar win for "Falling Slowly."

You've come a long way since The Commitments, baby!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday Night Glam Blogging!

Here's Roy Wood with Wizzard in full fright wig mode channeling Phil Spector with their fantastic 1973 single See My Baby Jive which was a #1 hit for the band in 1973. It begs the question, is there nothing that Roy Wood cannot do musically? Cheers!

A cappella, bitches!!!

Steeleye Span's greatest hit.

Astounding to think that these guys were pop stars at the height of glam.

And Maddy Prior could have had me if she'd played her cards right...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Guided by Voices Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental amanuensis Hop-Sing and I are off to the Austin Alps for a ski weekend and more with a certain Swiss fashion model/nuclear physicist whose name I won't mention but whose initials are mimi. (I'm bringing her a year's supply of dipilatory, but let's try not to actually think about that).

In any case, as a result posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

Best a cappella Pop/Rock Song (either totally a cappella, or with a cool a cappella section of whatever length!!!)

And I don't just mean doo-wop. Group harmony is group harmony, okay?

That said, here's my totally top of my head top seven:

7. Petra Haden -- I Can See For Miles

The Who's power pop classic done solely with mouths turned to eleven. Utterly mind-boggling....

6. Fairport Convention -- Percy's Song

Fairport's 1969 studio version of the great Dylan song starts with an absolutely stunning a cappella verse; on this live version, alas, it's just Sandy Denny solo, but when the rest of the group comes in with the harmonies you get the idea.

5. The Beatles -- Nowhere Man

One of my all-time fave Beatles moments: The Fabs start this one off with absolutely thrilling unaccompanied three-part vocals -- and they still sound great when the band kicks in.

4. Big Daddy -- Eye of the Tiger

There is, alas, no video of this startling re-imagining of the Rocky soundtrack classic, but you can find some fun info about the band (and some links to hilarious audio clips) here.

3. Crosby Stills and Nash -- Find the Cost of Freedom

The a cappella at the end is pretty spine-tingling, I think. One of their better songs, although the a-side -- "Ohio" -- sent the same message somewhat more forcefully with loud guitars.

2. The Beach Boys -- Their Hearts Were Full of Spring

A straight cover of the Four Freshmen's original, but if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye, I probably don't want to know you.

And the number one all-time top acapella pop/rock madrigal is ----

1. Imogen Heap -- Hide and Seek

I first heard this in late 2006 when it was used in a montage at the end of an episode of the short-lived Ray Liotta TV crime show Smith, although I'm told it had also figured earlier on The O.C. In any case, I remember practically falling off the couch at the time and thinking it's the most bizarrely haunting thing I'd ever encountered. It's almost a whole new genre -- Android Doo-Wop, anybody?

Alrighty now -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1988, here's Tuvan throat singer Panglossian putz Bobby McFerrin and his reprehensible ode to the joys of homelessness "Don't Worry Be Happy."

God, I hate this song.

As always, though, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who divines the clip's relevance to Friday's Weekend Listomania.

Thursday Morning Remedial Glam Blogging

Due to extremely irksome tech problems, posting by moi has been uncharecteristically sporadic since Monday. A big mea culpa to all who care, and I promise to make it up to you next week. Seriously -- I'll be putting up stuff like a drunken sailor. Five or six items a day -- seven, if Kelefa Sanneh writes something stupid in the Times.

In the meantime, here's a really cool live New York Dolls clip from The Old Grey Whistle Test you may not have seen before.

I mean, forget what a good song this is -- just check out the amazing guitars Johnny Thunders and Syl Sylvain are mauling here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wednesday Fab Four Blogging

Just because we can, here's a very nice live Beatles clip you may not have seen before.

"If I Fell" -- live at the 1964 Indiana State Fair. I wasn't even born yet, of course.

[h/t Steve Schwartz]

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Some Velvet Morning When I'm Dead

It's a beautiful morning here in the New Age, so we feel obligated to bring you Iceland's Finest, aka Amiina, in a collaboration with the late Lee Hazlewood.

Incidentally, Lee recorded his vocals at the end of 2007, just prior to when his boots were no longer made for walking.

Monday, February 18, 2008

If You Don't Like It, Lump It

Okay, in honor of the holiday, here's The Presidents of the United States
live on the Letterman Show in 1996, i.e. back in the days when there was honor and dignity in the White House.

And speaking of politics, have I mentioned that these guys also did a killer version of "Kick Out the Jams"? No video, alas.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

More Than A Soundtrack for the Rapture

Submitted without comment:
The chief songwriter and founder of the band Boston has more than a feeling that he's being ripped off by Mike Huckabee.

In a letter to the Republican presidential hopeful, Tom Scholz complains that Huckabee is using his 1970s smash hit song "More Than a Feeling" without his permission. A former member of the band, Barry Goudreau, has appeared with Huckabee at campaign events, and they have played the song with Huckabee's band, Capitol Offense.

Scholz, who said Goudreau left the band more than 25 years ago after a three-year stint, objects to the implication that the band and one of its members has endorsed Huckabee's candidacy.

"Boston has never endorsed a political candidate, and with all due respect, would not start by endorsing a candidate who is the polar opposite of most everything Boston stands for," wrote Scholz, adding that he is supporting Democratic Sen. Barack Obama. "By using my song, and my band's name Boston, you have taken something of mine and used it to promote ideas to which I am opposed. In other words, I think I've been ripped off, dude!"

Oh, and McCain's not faring much better, although of course he's not actually playing the bass: "Last week, McCain's campaign agreed to stop playing John Mellencamp's songs 'Our Country' and 'Pink Houses' at his rallies after the liberal rocker complained."

On the other hand: "Celine Dion said she was 'thrilled' that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton used her song, 'You and I' as her official campaign anthem. Obama frequently blares U2's 'City of Blinding Lights' at his events."

What, no one wants Bad Religion?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special They Could Have Been Contenders! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental manservant Hop-Sing and I are off to the Arkansas Governor's Mansion, for the first annual Chuck Norris Film Festival. (The highlight is going to be a restored director's cut of The Octagon, which, obviously, could be a hot one). In any case, in the face of such cinematic brilliance, 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 chart smash that is just utterly wonderful, but for whatever reason the person or persons behind it could never quite manage another one with a comparable level of commercial success.

[Totally arbitrary rule: The competition is based on artist rankings on the American charts only. A couple of the people whose songs I've chosen had multiple hits in the UK, but not here.]

Okay, that said -- here's my hastily tossed together Top Ten.

10. Shocking Blue -- Venus (1970)

Longtime readers know of my fondness for these guys, and yes, they had scads of other songs equally as good. Of course, the fact that few of them ever got released in this country due to the collapse of their record company was obviously problematic. If you're curious, you might order this definitive greatest hits collection.

9. Brenda Holloway -- Every Little Bit Hurts (1964)

The most gorgeous soul ballad of the 60s and one of the most perfect female vocal performances ever. Perhaps it's not so amazing that she couldn't follow it up.

8. The Outsiders -- Time Won't Let Me (1966)

The Greaseball Motown Pastiche to end them all. Interestingly, Sonny Geraci, the guy who sang it, was later in a one-hit wonder band of the 70s -- Climax, of "Precious and Few" infamy.

7. Count Five -- Psychotic Reaction (1966)

The greatest Yardbirds rip-off homage ever, unless you count the Shadows of Knight's "Oh, Yeah."

6. The Jaynetts -- Sally Go Round the Roses (1963)

The most mysterious of girl group hits. What does it mean? What did Sally do? What the hell are the roses? For that matter, who exactly wrote and recorded the damn song? At last, we have some of the answers! And yes -- apparently the drummer really was Buddy Miles.

5. Tommy Tutone -- 867-5309(Jenny) (1982)

Pretty much the definitive skinny-tie band song, n'est-ce pas?

4. Des'ree -- You Gotta Be (1994)

I thought she was a goddess back in the day, frankly, and hearing the song again after more than a decade hasn't changed my mind. Why didn't this woman have Beyonce's career?

3. Desmond Dekker -- Israelites (1968)

This was basically the first exposure to Jamaican music that us kids in the Top 40 audience ever had, and it's hard to overstate just how otherworldly and unique it sounded at the time. Still does, actually. Maybe that's why Dekker never had another American hit -- this one felt too much like a novelty record.

2. The Knickerbockers -- Lies (1966)

Greatest Beatles knock-off ever. The guitar sound alone is worth the price of admission.

And the absolute best, and certainly most profound, one-hit wonder of all time is -----

1. Joan Osborne -- One of Us (1995)

I can't help it -- everything about this record kills me. The guitars, the groove, the longing in Osborne's voice, and just the whole conceit -- God as a stranger on the bus, trying to find his way home -- strike me as ineffably touching. Osborne has had, and continues to have, an estimable career but I don't see how she's ever going to have another moment like this one.

Alrighty, now -- and your choices would be?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

An (Unusually) Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1966, here's San Jose's finest, the Count Five, serenading Dick Clark with "Peace of Mind," the rarely heard follow-up to their brilliant Yardbirds pastiche "Psychotic Reaction." (Mercifully, they're not wearing the Dracula capes that were their attempted contribution to 60s fashion).

In any case, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who divines the clip's relevance to Friday's Weekend Listomania.

My Funny Valentine

Sentimental old fluff that I am, I can think of no better love song to celebrate today's holiday than this tender madrigal written and sung by the late Harry Nilsson.

Hello, young lovers...this one's for you!

You're breakin' my heart
You're tearin' it apart
So fuck you.....

Harry was such a romantic....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tales From the Crypt

Well, this is nice -- French pop tart Vanessa Paradis and a cover of "This Will Be Our Year," from the Zombies' sublime Odessey and Oracle album.

Hmm...a search reveals that it's also been covered by the Beautiful South, and particularly well by OK Go.

I bring all this up because news has just reached me that the four surviving Zombies are reuniting, for the first time since the 60s, for a 40th anniversary performance of the album -- one of the genuine pop masterpieces of its era -- in early March. Three shows in London. With a live string section and horns. I think the phrase "Oh. My. God." would be applicable here.

Of course, chances are I won't be going, given that my bank account is trying to crawl under a duck these days, but those of you with deep pockets can find out more details here.

Update: Our friend Sal Nunziato informs us there's more, at least in New York City.

There was a planned Carnegie Hall date in April, but now it looks like Irving Plaza on 7/11. Tix on sale Friday. I can't imagine Irving (Plaza, not Metzman) will include the strings, etc.. But it's something.

Hmm. If they're playing New York, I'll bet there are LA dates as well....

Checking Out the Women on Spanish Television

It is, I think, a major cultural crime that to date there isn't much video documentation of seminal 70s punk band Television available on YouTube. That said, until something better shows up, here's a fabulous 1984 clip of TV auteur Tom Verlaine and a killer version of Television's "Glory."

Of course, you have to put up with a two minute intro by that interesting looking Latina hostess, but that seems a small price to pay.

Incidentally, the guy filling in for Television's great Richard Lloyd on second guitar is the estimable Jimmy Ripp, a journeyman musician who's played with all sorts of people (including Mick Jagger) over the years. I realize that isn't a particularly interesting factoid, but I thought you'd like to know anyway.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Self-Indulgent

Some alert readers may have noticed the following exchange of comments during Friday's Weekend Listomania and thought to themselves "What the hell is that all about?"

Anonymous said...

"my,my,oh my
do you know what you've done to me
saying goodbye
well i know i'm a poor boy
and my hair is too long
but i'll love you forever
don't you tell me i'm wrong"

now that's a lyric!!!

steve simels said...

Anonymous -- I hate you.

Seriously -- I fucking hate you.

Anonymous said...

Steve, sorry you seemed to have an allergic reaction to the classic lyrics I posted. Anyhoo, I'm shocked and dismembered that there's been no mention of my all time favorite single...Mr Wayne Newton's insufferable "Daddy Don't You Walk So Queer"

If the aforementioned Anonymous will e-mail me at, and if, in fact, he turns out to be one of the two people I suspect he is, I promise to share the backstory of all this with the rest of you folks -- guaranteed, hands down, to be among the most embarassing moments of my adult life.

Clean Cut Kids

Hey gang -- from 1967, it's native New Yorkers Every Mother's Son and their quite wonderful pop/rock classic "Come On Down to My Boat."

A cool song, to be sure, but you have to wonder what management Einsteins told the band it would be a smart idea not to look like DFH's at the height of the Summer of Love. In any case, their career was not a long one (perhaps as a result) and the group scattered by '69. Guitarist Dennis Larden went on to play with Rick Nelson 's Stone Canyon Band in the 70s, while keyboardist Bruce Milner became a very successful dentist with a ritzy upper East-Side practice [scroll down]; until last year he occasionally frequented my lamented watering hole, the All-State Cafe, where he acted with becoming patience once when I tried to pry the gory details of his rock star past out of him.

Incidentally, you can get a nice reissue of the band's first album, with an interesting couple of bonus tracks (including the vaguely psychedelic almost hit "Pony With a Golden Mane") here, and I highly recommend it. Milner's wonderfully riffy "Didn't She Lie," in fact, just may be the best Monkees record the Monkees never made.

Monday, February 11, 2008

An Acuff-Rose is a Rose is a Rose

Aging lemon squeezer Robert Plant and bluegrass goddess Alison Krauss can be glimpsed tonight in concert on cable TV channel CMT, starting at 8pm EST. They'll be doing songs from their justifiably acclaimed duet album "Raising Sand" in front of a small audience in Nashville, in the company (from time to time) of their producer T-Bone Burnett.

Needless to say, as you can see from the above clip -- a sinuous take on an old Everly Brothers song -- it could be a hot one!

Monday Kelefa Sanneh Bashing

The world's most irksome pop music critic ponders We Got It for Cheap: The Mixtape, Volume 3, a new CD by the hip-hop duo Clipse in a review in today's New York Times.

Now, as before, [Clipse members] Malice and Pusha-T specialize in punch lines that can be grim or goofy or both at once. Barely a minute into the first song, Pusha-T lights into Lil Wayne. “I don’t respect who you applauding,” he snarls, scoffing at Lil Wayne’s newfound status as a kingpin, adding, “His metaphors boring/Don’t make me turn daddy’s little girl to orphan/That would mean I’d have to kill Baby, like abortion.” ...

Still, over beats pilfered from Jay-Z (“Roc Boys”), Kanye West (“Good Morning”), Raekwon (“Rainy Dayz”) and others, Malice and Pusha-T deliver almost nothing but witty, well-made stanzas. And when they get carried away with wordplay — “Rotate them chickens like a weather vane/The wind blow, it come and go, I’m a hurricane/Listen again: I hurry ’caine” — the only sensible reaction is to get carried away with them.

I think the ever-Panglossian Sanneh has grossly overstated that last bit. In fact, after reading the aforementioned witty, well-made stanza, the reaction I actually had was to do a Van Gogh and cut off one of my ears.

Voices of the Beehive

Apparently, troubled pop diva my girlfriend Amy Winehouse won a bunch of Grammy's last night. Good for you, babe!

For those of you who have yet to figure out what the fuss is all about, here's Amy (with Modfather Paul Weller) doing a splendid job of chanelling Gladys Knight in a recent live version of the Motown classic "Heard It Through the Grapevine. Go ahead, tell me this woman isn't the real deal. Go ahead -- I dare you.

Incidentally, I just received a $15 check from the Village Voice for a Winehouse joke I contributed to this year's Voice Critic's Poll [scroll down]. I couldn't be more proud, frankly.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Throbbing Monster

Dear Messrs. Collingwood & Schlesinger,
Please accept my most sincere apologies for the gross display of age-inappropriate enthusiasm displayed at last night's show. The two clearly mature, educated professional women who were hopping around like bunnies, screaming the words to every song (up to and including the relatively obscure "Maureen") were the divine watertiger and myself, and yes, we are both clearly old enough to know better. I realize that we were not, in fact, the only ones behaving in such an appalling manner: we met a delightful couple who were no less enthusiastic, and a surprising number of people brought their children, so you know they weren't kids either. Mine was far from the only silver head in the house; my delightful neighbor's far from the only thinning one. Thers was distracted all evening by a woman he was almost convinced was Ann Althouse. Nevertheless, I realize that our behavior was unseemly at best, and if it's any comfort, we will both be paying for it today with our calf and neck muscles.

Yours Sincerely,

AAAAAUUUUUUUGGGHHHH! Whatta show! The openers were a local Brooklyn band, April Smith and the Great Picture Show. Picture a cross between Chrissie Hynde and Katrina Leskanich, with just a soupcon of Jane Weidlin. This girl has a fabulous set of pipes, and her backup band is shit-hot. AND they're being produced by Schlesinger, so I think that bodes well. (Myspace here, though it lacks the one me & wt loved best: "Drop Dead Gorgeous.")

As to FOW themselves, they were exactly as funny, acerbic, and sharp as you'd think. The show was v. tight, and while they didn't actually play the promised "Dude Looks Like a Lady," Jody did manage the guitar solo from "My Sharona."

Setlist (and I checked this against a geek who got a stage one, so I'm pretty sure): Please Don't Rock Me Tonight; Denise; Mexican Wine; Someone to Love; No Better Place; Fire in the Canyon; Hackensack; Hey, Julie; Strapped for Cash (along with a funny story about a radio interviewer who was asking them for songs about the Mafia, but preferred "I Fought the Law" to theirs); Yolanda Hayes; a delightfully psychedelic version of Sick Day; It Must Be Summer; Stacy's Mom; Radiation Vibe; and Survival Car. Two Encores: the first was I-95; Valley Winter Song and Troubld Times (if possible, even more winsome live); the second Traffic & Weather, Maureen, and Sink to the Bottom.

A fabulous night. Thanks, guys. (I will figure out how to get these pics off my new phone: in the meantime, watertiger has a nice shot.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Ultra Suede Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental manservant Hop-Sing and I are off to Arkansas. The sad yellow bastard has been putting on weight at an alarming rate of late -- when he says "around the world" now he really means around the world -- and so we've got him booked for a stomach stapling at the Huckabee Clinic. 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:

Yes, it's time to have a good laugh at the expense of that most questionable of decades. The era that brought us the music which moved Paul Westerberg to say -- "Ah, the 70s. When dogshit really was dogshit."

And, yes, I know this is not exactly the most original topic I've ever come up with and that it's almost too easy, given the boundlessly awful stuff you have to choose from.

I don't care. It''s fun. So there.

That said, here's my totally top of my head Top Ten.

10. Chuck Berry -- My Ding-a-Ling

The guy pretty much invented the poetry of rock-and-roll and yet this infantile little sex ditty was his only number one pop hit. Boy, does that suck.

9. Harry Chapin -- W.O.L.D.

"So I drifted on down to Tulsa, Oklahoma to do me a late night talk show
Now I worked my way down home again, here to Boise, Idaho
That's how this business goes."

Uh, Harry...actual radio stations in Boise, Idaho have the letter prefix K -- not W. Way to do the research, dude. Hope it didn't cut into your Idaho airplay....

8. Mac Davis -- Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me

It's worth noting that Davis followed up this smarmy slab of preening macho self-regard with a song called (without irony) "It's Hard to Be Humble," and yet God did not smite him dead. In fact, she allowed him to star in The Sting II.

7. Neil Diamond -- I Am, I Said

"I am, I said
To no one there
And no one heard at all
Not even the chair"

As Dave Barry famously observed: "Mr. Diamond -- your Barcalounger's on line 4!"

6. Helen Reddy -- I Am Woman

It's amazing feminism actually survived this song. Interesting bit of trivia: To her very great credit, Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul and) turned down the chance to record it first because she couldn't get through the line "I am strong, I am invincible" without cracking up.

5. The Poppy Family -- Which Way You Going Billy?

I actually have a soft spot for this piece of ersatz folkie sludge, partly because the chorus is kind of catchy (compared to the verse, at least), and partly because Susan Jacks is a pretty good singer. Then I remember she and hubby Terry are Canadian and I get over it.

4. Terry Jacks -- Seasons in the Sun

This one, however, just flat out sucks. No wonder the aforementioned Susan Jacks divorced his sorry hippie ass.

3. Morris Alpert -- Feelings

Whoa whoa whoa. A song that makes Zager and Evans sound like Metallica. I'm not actually sure what that means, but where Morris Alpert is concerned, words generally fail me.

2. Styx -- Lady

Countless parodies notwithstanding, this actually would have been more tolerable if it had been sung by Jerry Lewis in flat-out l'idiot stupide mode.

And the absolutely positively lamest song of the 70s is unquestionably....

1. America -- A Horse With No Name

"The heat was hot."

Jeebus fricking Christ. All in all, a lyric that justifies Randy Newman's remark that the song sounds like it was written by two kids who thought they were on acid.

Alrighty, now -- and your choices would be?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1975, here's the original lineup of Bad Company with their touching tribute to Roberta Flack, "Feel Like Makin' Love."

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

Sisterhood is Powerful! Well, Sort of....

Just chanced across this lovely 1966 live clip of a pre-American stardom Joni Mitchell (the guest appearances by David Geffen and Elliot Roberts are admittedly irksome, but Joni's really radiant so never mind).

By an odd coincidence (hah!) I also came across an interesting interview with Mitchell in the February issue of MOJO. Among other revelations, she lets it drop that she has not always been universally beloved by her contemporaries of the female persuasion.

She [Janis Joplin] was very competitive with me, very insecure," Mitchell tells interviewer Robert Hilburn. She was the queen of rock 'n' roll one year and then Rolling Stone made me the queen of rock 'n' roll and she hated me after that. I always thought the women of song don't get along, and I don't know why that is. I had a hard time with Laura Nyro also, and Joan Baez would have broken my left leg if she could, or at least that's the way it felt as a person coming out. I never felt that same sense of competition from men.

There's lots more, much of it equally revealing, but alas MOJO doesn't post their articles online so I can't link. If you can find a copy, the issue also comes with a bonus CD of past and present electronica bands; if you're a Gary Numan completist, it could be a hot one!!!!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

RIP: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

(Sorry for the long silence, folks--I'll be back on my game in the next couple of weeks. But I've made some time-consuming resolutions, and I have this conference to run....)

So the Maharishi is gone.

The Maharishi was both an entrepreneur and a monk, a spiritual man who sought a world stage from which to espouse the joys of inner happiness. His critics called his organization a cult business enterprise. And in the press, in the 1960s and ’70s, he was often dismissed as a hippie mystic, the “Giggling Guru,” recognizable in the familiar image of him laughing, sitting cross-legged in a lotus position on a deerskin, wearing a white silk dhoti with a garland of flowers around his neck beneath an oily, scraggly beard.


The visibility and popularity of the organization can largely be attributed to the Beatles. In 1968, the band, with great publicity, began studying with the Maharishi at his Himalayan retreat, or ashram, in Rishikesh, in northern India. They went with their wives, the folk singer Donovan, the singer Mike Love, of the Beach Boys, the actress Mia Farrow and Ms. Farrow’s sister Prudence.

They left in the wake of rumors of sexual improprieties by the Maharishi, an avowed celibate, though no sexual-misconduct suits were filed and some of the participants later denied that anything untoward had occurred.

Nevertheless, public interest in the movement had been aroused in the West, and it continued to grow in the 1970s as the Maharishi took his movement around the world and as its techniques gained respectability in the medical world.

I have to admit, I never knew what to think of the the whole celebrity TM movement: I guess I can see that people in empty worlds reach for meaning, but then it also seems like dabbling in someone else's mysticism, which strikes me as potentially pretty cynical. But then I'm feeling pretty cynical these days. Still, I hear it's 1968 all over again, so who's to say?

Anyway, an important person and a valuable inspiration.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Tales From the Broad Brush

In honorary of Super Tuesday, here's the irrepressible Nick Lowe and his brutally honest "All Men Are Liars."

I haven't officially endorsed a Democratic candidate but you may make of this song what you will.

Uptown Top Ranking

We're number 43!!!!!!!

Via e-mail, yesterday:

Hello steve simels,

Wikio, an aggregator of online news and blogs, has recently kicked off our own blog ranking. Mashable has already positively acclaimed our new service ( and blogs like The New York Times’ Freakonomics are rapidly adding badges featuring their Wikio ranking (

Our Top Blogs ranking features a bunch of different categories; for instance, the "Music" category where your blog "PowerPop" stands at number 43.

On Wikio Blogs, it’s also possible to review our Top Discussions (some of the most currently popular discussions of the blogosphere) about business, technology... and Music:

So how does our Top Blogs ranking work?

The position of blogs in their Wikio ranking depends on the number and value of links that other blogs point toward them. The value of these links depends on the ranking of the blog publishing them. So in our algorithm, the value of a link published on a highly ranked blog is more important than a posted link on a blog with a lower ranking. This way, we hope to produce a ranking more representative of blogs’ influence.

If you’ve got any questions, please let us know! Check out our ranking by clicking directly on this link:


Who knew?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Everything's Great, Including the Obvious Crap

Extremely irksome New York Times pop critic Kelefa Sanneh weighs in on the CD/marketing tie-in to the forthcoming Step Up 2: The Streets.

The song is called “Low,” and it’s a smash: the No. 1 song in the country for six weeks running. But listen closely, and you might notice that it has a split personality. In the verses the rising rapper Flo Rida delivers an agile ode to an agile woman who dances for a living: “So sexual/She was flexible/Professional.” But in the chorus, T-Pain seems to be singing the praises of an amateur. The woman of his dreams is wearing “baggy sweat pants and the Reeboks with the straps,” an ensemble that hardly seems calculated to maximize gratuities...

Thanks, Kelefa. Clearly, SU2 will be the Citizen Kane of movie sequels about street dancing at the Maryland School of the Arts.

BTW: You can read the rest of the review here, but trust me -- it doesn't get any more convincing.

The Sky is Crying

Last week's performance by The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, while quite wonderful, at least verged on camp. This performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" does not.

I had not previously encountered its auteur, the amazing Jake Shimabukoro, but he is (as you can see why) something of a god among contemporary uke players. He's going to be on Conan O'Brien on February 19th, so gentlemen -- start your TiVos.

[h/t Stu Daye]

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Saturday Night Glam Blogging

Here's glam riffmeisters Slade with their 1972 #1 smash in England Mama Weer All Crazee Now. The band was huge across the pond, scoring an amazing 11 Top Five hits in a four-year span between 1971 to 1974. Cheers!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Pagan Skins Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental manservant Hop-Sing and I are off to Paris, France, home of the ignoble frog, for the annual Marguerite Duras Film Festival. Sounds very existential, so just in case I'm having my beret re-blocked. 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:


[Apologies if I've done a similar theme before, but it's been a very long week. Plus, I'm aging rapidly.]

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

5. The Four Seasons -- Dawn

New York studio great Buddy Salzman makes this dawn come up like thunder, if you'll pardon the overheated metaphor/literary reference.

4. The Rolling Stones -- 19th Nervous Breakdown

Charlie Watts, with only his tiny little jazzman's kit, generates a rumble worthy of Krakatoa on this one. Incidentally -- the Stones are lip-synching here, but I think it's nonetheless pretty much the most exciting early clip of them ever. Charisma isn't even the word....

3. The Beatles -- Ticket to Ride

Ringo Starr's first genuine breakthrough -- nobody, at this point, had ever done a recorded drum part that sounded so huge and yet was actually so musically minimalist. (BTW -- anybody ever see this clip before? It's a new one on me...)

2. (a tie)

The Detroit Wheels -- Devil With a Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss

The legendary Johnny B. Badanjek kicks ass...

and The Young Rascals -- Good Lovin'

...while the unbelievable Dino Danelli takes names and leads with his chin.

And the absolutely no question about it most explosive percussion work on a 45 pm vinyl record of the decade is -----

1. The Who -- My Generation

Keith Moon playing lead drums. As Greil Marcus famously said, after all these years the sheer audacity of that still takes ones breath away.

Alrighty, now -- and your choices would be?