Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Girl Power: 80's Style

My dark secret: I freakin' loved this record and wore it to shreds.

So sue me.

Fun With Downloads: Pigtails and Power Chords

From 1979, on Stiff Records (motto: The World's Most Flexible Label), here's Angie (with Pete Townshend, for heaven's sake) and the quite amazing "Peppermint Lump."

You can download it HERE.

This single totally baffled me at the time, but thanks to the miracle of the Google, here's a little background info from Angie's management updating the story to 1998.

Artist: Angie (real name: Angela Porter)
Formerly a pupil at the Corona stage school who appeared on numerous British TV programs, Angie Porter is no stranger to the singing game. As a child she worked with legendary producer Trevor Horn, providing backing vocals for The Buggles number one hit, ''Video Killed The Radio Star." Aged eleven, she teamed up with The Who's Pete Townshend and released a single, ''Peppermint Lump'', on the seminal Stiff label. It was Radio One''s Record Of The Week. Stiff's press release at the time read: " A blatant attempt to corner the market of pre-teen and post-punk singles buyers".

Another Google search revealed she's still at it -- here's her My Space page. Her voice hasn't changed all that much.

Anyway, it's still not completely clear who who wrote the record, but it's amazing, and Townshend's arrangement is pretty much my favorite thing he did in his solo career up to that point.

Two postscripts: As always, if the clip authorization has expired by the time you get there, e-mail me and I'll shoot you the mp3.

Also, ixnay on the pedophilia jokes about this one. For what it's worth, I think Townshend probably got a bad rap about that.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Movie Monday: Repo!

This weekend, the teen made me sit down to watch Repo!: The Genetic Opera, a fascinating and sometimes gruesome blend of music, mayhem, comic-book violence, and family melodrama.

Repo! is the story of a future world where organ transplants are everyday matters, but if you can't pay, then a representative from Geneco (that's 2 syllables, not 3), will come and reclaim the unpaid merchandise, killing the recipient in a bloody mess. The whole thing is framed around a seventeen-year-old love triangle, in which a young woman walks away from her wealthy lover to marry a young doctor...oh, this is too complicated. Here's the blurb:
A half-century from now, humanity has been decimated by a plague and gone surgery-mad, with desperate survivors buying replacement internal organs from the GeneCo on credit and scalpel-wielding repo men chasing down deadbeats to reclaim the company’s transplants. Two interlocking family dramas are played out amid the murky clutter of exploitable bodies. A brooding Sweeney Todd type (Anthony Stewart Head) does GeneCo’s bloody business in order to provide medicine for his sickly goth-girl daughter. Meanwhile, the unscrupulous plutocratic head of GeneCo (Paul Sorvino) attempts to rule his spiritually or physically degenerate offspring—among them Paris Hilton.

Sorvino (Goodfellas) and Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) leave more chewed scenery in their wake than the Tasmanian Devil, but despite the over-the-top gruesomeness of the film, it's good fun.

A scant six months old, it's apparently already a cult classic, complete with the requisite becostumed midnight showings, most recently in Seattle (where the teen's partner traveled this weekend to attend).

Oh, I see it's now available on DVD. Guess I know what someone's getting from the Easter Bunny.

Fun With Downloads: Rednecks on Acid

From 1970, please enjoy Terry Manning's kind-of-heavy take on Johnny Cash's 1959 rockabilly yet proto-power pop "Guess Things Happen That Way." From his splendid solo album Home Sweet Home.

You can, and definitely should, download it HERE.

Manning is an interesting guy who's produced or engineered everybody from Led Zeppelin to Shakira, but he started out as partners with Bobby Fuller, and more power pop than that you do not get, obviously. And I should add that the second guitarist on the song is none other than Chris Bell, of Big Star fame.

Anyway, a nice track, I think. And for purposes of comparison, here's Cash with the original. Note the teen screams from the audience.

Oh, and BTW, as always, if the clip has expired by the time you get to it, just e-mail me and I'll send you the mp3.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special That's So Five Minutes Ago Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental testicular maintenance engineer Gal Friday Fah Lo Suee and I will be travelling to a volcano monitoring station in snowbound Alaska for the annual Krakatoa -- East or West of Java? festival. Governor's Jindal and Palin will be hosting the proceeding, which I'm told will feature some of the finest Creole moose hors d'ouevres you can possibly imagine.

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:

Post-Beatles Album or Single That You Used to Really Like But Now Think Has Dated Particularly Badly!!!!

Self-explanatory, obviously, so no arbitrary rules this time. Except it has to be something you actually listened to and dug once upon a time -- NOT some record that you thought sucked then and hate even more today.

Thank you.

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

5. Journey to the Center of Your Mind -- The Amboy Dukes

Obviously, there's a ton of psychedelia that hasn't aged well, but this one just cracks me up. I think it's the particularly portentous way (with echo) they intone the line "Come along...IF YOU DARE!!!!" that particularly sinks it, as much fun as the record was when it was new. What was it that Lester Bangs said about 60s garage rock -- a bunch of virgins desperately trying to sing about fucking without giving away their total lack of experience?

4. Pickin' Up the Pieces -- Poco

The Buffalo Springfield pedigree notwithstanding, I can barely tolerate anything these guys did anymore, although I actually used to listen to this song and a few others of theirs a lot. The grinning optimism just seems totally divorced from reality now. For me, anyway.

3. Remain in Light-- Talking Heads

You know, there was a part of me that thought David Byrne was kind of full of shit even back in the day, as much as I enjoyed this album at any number of oh-so-80s hepster parties. Then again, otherwise sensible people were proclaiming him one of the most significant composers of the 20th century...

2. Making Movies -- Dire Straits

Boy, did I love this record back in 1980. Now? Knopfler's still a great guitar player, but this kind of overheated Springsteen-on-steroids-under-the-boardwalk romantic stuff strikes me as faintly embarassing.

And the number one record that just doesn't get me off the way it used to, and I suspect we're in agreement about this for a change, is obviously --

1. Graceland -- Paul Simon

I include this one with genuine regret, but the album is pretty much unlistenable for me now and for a really stupid reason. To wit -- despite the great songs, that gated 80s drum sound just drives me up a fricking wall.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: blue collar movies -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, I'd really appreciate if you could see your way to going over there and posting a comment, thus convincing management I'm worthy of the AIG-style salary they're paying me.]

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh For Heaven's Sake, It's Yet Another Fershluginner Early Clue to the New Direction!

From 1968, and his quite delightful solo album, we offer a late great hero of mine -- Lovin' Spoonful guitarist and all around fun guy Zal Yanovsky -- and his wonderful version of Floyd Cramer's piano instrumental "Last Date."

You can download it HERE.

As usual, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded the first reader who gleans its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania, but I'm not holding my breath.

Oh, and if the link to the clip has expired by the time you get there, e-mail me blah blah blah.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I was able to download the entire Zal album over at one of the most amazing websites around. I refer, of course, to the way cool redtelephone66.blogspot.com. The proprietor, the redoubtable Leonard Los, puts up audio from equally obscure and wonderful 60s and early 70s pop and psych albums -- all derived, apparently, from the world's most incredible vinyl collection -- at least once a day, and I guarantee you'll find something over there that will absolutely blow your mind. Go give the guy some love, for heaven's sake.

Fun With Downloads: Cambridge is Lovely This Time of Year

From his 2000 album, please enjoy genius Soft Boys/Katrina and the Waves guitarist and songwriter Kimberly Rew's quite exquisite "Simple Pleasures."

Seriously, this is as perfect a pop/rock record as you can imagine -- killer riff, wordly wise lyric, wonderful real guy vocals, and a chorus for the ages. You can download it HERE. As always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get to it, just e-mail me and blah blah blah.

And since we're worrying about the ethical implications of my posting some of this stuff, if you like the song (and frankly, if you don't you're either dead or don't much like smiling) you should order the album (which is great) over here pronto.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Le Rapportant Tout à La Maison

God, I love the Intertubes.

Reason I mention it is -- the other day, I flashed on something I seemed to vaguely recall from the dim dark past: An article in the New York Times, circa 1965 or '66, about French pop/rock which mentioned that there was some Frog protest singer who was kind of like a French Bob Dylan. And that he had an acolyte -- a Gallic Donovan? -- that had taken the whole thing into another dimension.

What I mostly recalled was that the latter guy -- and there was a photo in the article -- looked almost exactly like Cousin Itt from The Addams Family.

Anyway, thanks to the miracle of the Google, I just discovered I wasn't hallucinating any of this. At least not exactly.

Ladies and germs -- I give you the majesty that was and is Édouard!

Édouard was the alter ego of Jean-Michel Rivat, a pop songwriter who wrote French hits for the gorgeous Sylvie Vartan among others. Rivat took his parody of long-haired singers way over the top, as you can see from the above album cover, but the music was actually not terrible, as you'll hear downstairs.

What I also learned in the course of researching this was that the main butt of Rivat's joke was a French pop star named Antoine, who remains world famous in France. Édouard's hit "Les Hallucinations D'Édouard" is a straight-up cover of Antoine's signature song "Les Élucubrations D'Antoine" (which was itself a semi-rewrite of Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues").

Anyway, here's the original Antoine song. Pretty good video, actually.

And here's Édouard's response.

In any case, one thing is certain -- Édouard...

...and Cousin Itt before him...

...were clearly the major fashion influence on one of the most iconic rockers and guitar heros of the late 80s.

Come to think of it -- have any of these people ever been in the same room together?

In any case, I am pleased to note that you can get a CD of that Antoine song (plus his other blows against the empire) at Amazon France over here.

Of the longer-tressed Édouard, alas, I can find no disc anywhere. Anybody know any French torrent sites?

[h/t Marcellina]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fun With Downloads: Meet the Spongetones

Given that reader Linda had this to say at the comments section over at Friday's Best Love Songs Listomania --

"Future Perfect" by The Spongetones.
I'm prejudiced,though; it's about me and my husband, who co-wrote the song.

-- I would be seriously remiss if I didn't add something in praise of those long-running powerpop gods.

In that case, from their 2000 album Odd Fellows, please enjoy The Spongetone's spectacular cover of Sir Paul McCartney's "On the Wings of a Nightingale" which can be downloaded here.

The song itself -- and I've never been able to determine exactly when Paul wrote it -- was a minor hit for the Everly Brothers on their wonderful 80s comeback album EB 84. The track was produced by Dave Edmunds and was very much in his vein, with lots of massed acoustic guitars. The Spongetones, however, redid the song a la vintage Merseybeat guitar rock, sounding as it might have if the Fab Four had had a go at it back in the day. As you'll hear, they did an absolutely brilliant job-- the basic track recalls the Fabs circa '64 or '65, but with a lovely recreation of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass lead guitar stylings on top. I think it's a knockout.

Oh, and you can download Sir Paul's quite lovely stripped down original solo demo of the song here.

As always, if the clips have expired by the time you get to them, e-mail and I'll send you the mp3s.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Remnants of Dignity

A slightly melancholy postscript to the Searchers album item downstairs:

My 80s skinny tie band absolutely adored those guys; when we first got together in '79, the basic template for what we were doing was "It's Too Late," the glorious single from that comeback album, and we covered both it and the other classic track, The Records-penned "Hearts in Her Eyes," which we used to open our sets with for years. People on the Village club circuit we frequented basically thought we wrote it; we were "That band who does 'Hearts in Her Eyes'."

Both of those songs, incidentally, and lots of other gorgeous ones including what I think is the best-ever version of John Fogerty's "Almost Saturday Night," can be found on on the CD below, which includes the first LP and the 1980 followup Love's Melodies.

Anyway, the Searchers finally showed up at a club on Bleecker Street in '83 or 84; it was their first American performances since the early 70s (I think they had done a British Invasion nostalgia show at the Garden) and it was our first chance to see our heros in person. We were stoked, obviously, and we crammed into the place along with lots of other musician friends (including members of the Smithereens), anticipation running high.

Short version: They had become what the Brits call a cabaret act; they did shortened medleys of their hits, covered some then-current lame Top 40 crap, told a lot of dumb family friendly jokes, and generally carried on like they were the opening band at Tommy's Holiday Camp. We got more and more depressed as the evening wore on, and finally I called out for "It's Too Late" and "Hearts in Her Eyes" at which point lead singer Mike Pender stopped for a second, had a mumbled conversation with the rest of the group, and then looked at me with a sad expression and said "Sorry mate. We've never actually played either of those live."

I was crushed.

Anyway, you can download their gorgeous version of "Hearts in Her Eyes" here. As always, if the authorization expires before you get to it, just e-mail me and I'll pass the mp3 along to you.

Fun With Downloads: Great Bands Steal, Mediocre Bands Borrow

Please enjoy the gorgeous "It's Too Late," a true powerpop classic you might not have heard from The Searchers' fabulous eponymous 1979 comeback album. You can download it here.

And when you're done, take a moment to check out "If I Ever Get Another Chance," from the 1995 album illustrated below (featuring a bass player whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels), which you can download here.

Sounds like the same song to me -- can't imagine how that happened.

Oh, and BTW, if the authorization for either of the clips has expired by the time you get to them, e-mail me and I'll send you the mp3s, blah blah blah.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Night Glam Blogging

I keep coming back to Mud because to me they encapsulate everything that was cool and fun about 70s glam rock. They rocked most righteously and they had a catalog of great songs that burrow into your head and stay there. Mud also gets extra points for the glam teddy boy threads in colors that Liberace would no doubt reject as too garish. Cheers and have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special L'Amour, Toots Shor L'Amour Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental groinal manipulator nutritional advisor Fah Lo Suee and I will be travelling to the fabulous off-shore resort L'île des Bonifications de Conservation (or Island of Retention Bonuses) for the first annual AIG "Eat It, Suckers" retreat and pig roast.

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:

Best Post-Elvis Love Song and/or Record!!!

Self-explanatory, obviously, so no arbitrary rules this time -- the song can be rapturous, bitter, horny, whatever. Just nothing about animals, please.

Oh, and don't give me any of that Stephen Merritt/Magnetic Fields bullshit, cause I don't want to hear about it.

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

6. You Belong to Me Now -- Candy Butchers

I actually think this is the single most beautiful song written in the English language in the first decade of the 21st century. And if Mike Viola isn't on anybody's short list of the most emotionally compelling rock singers ever, I don't know who should be.

5. Here Without You -- The Byrds

Gene Clark at his most gorgeous, with the possible exception of "The World Turns All Around Her," for which I couldn't find a video. Why this one isn't a more often-covered standard is beyond me, although I seem to recall Richard Thompson did a nice version on a Byrds tribute album in the 80s.

4. Frederick -- Patti Smith

Frederick, as in her husband, the late Fred "Sonic" Smith, of MC5 fame. This song has killed me since vinyl days -- you can't help but wish that someday somebody would write as obviously felt and eloquent a love song about you. The chances are slim, of course.

3. Don't Worry Baby -- The Beach Boys

Heartfelt and heartbreaking, and one of those personal, confessional songs where Brian Wilson more or less invented the whole personal, confessional LA singer/songwriter genre that everybody thought was such a big deal when people like Joni and Jackson did it years later.

2. Andalucia -- John Cale

From one of my absolute favorite albums of all time, and ineffably touching, I think. No video, alas, but you can download the mp3 here. BTW -- the guy doing all the gorgeous guitar stuff is a pre-Little Feat Lowell George, whose name was left off the credits until the most recent CD reissue.

And the number one not necessarily silly love song, I think for a change we're all going to agree on this, obviously is --

1. Here, There and Everywhere -- The Beatles

One of the two most perfect pop records Paul McCartney ever made with his first band (the other, obviously, is "For No One") and all the justification for his knighthood anybody could possibly need.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: Nazis: I Hate Those Guys! flicks -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could be kind enough to go over there and leave a comment, it would ensure my continuing post-AIG bonuses. Thanks!]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Oh Just Bite Me Already, It's Another Goddamn Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1966, here's the incomparable Monks and their years ahead of its time Blank Generation punk ode to relationship dysfunction "I Hate You."

As always, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who twigs its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Fun With Downloads: Special Modern Stoneage Family Edition

From 1982, it's pretty much my favorite novelty record ever!

This is the work of a bunch of Baltimore musicians who did it as a goof and wound up selling close to 35,000 copies back in the vinyl days, which was pretty amazing for an indie single. What I didn't know, and only just discovered while Googling, is that one of them is powerpop god Tommy Keene, here doing the serious Boss riffage on lead guitar.

In any case, it pretty much gets Springsteen to a tee, I think, and you can download it here. As always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get to it, e-mail me and I'll be happy to send you the mp3.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Death May Be Your Santa Claus

In case you didn't see it, there was an interesting obscure-rock-band-finally-getting-its-due story in the New York Times on Sunday; the kicker is that they were an African-American hardrock/protopunk trio in Detroit about a decade before such a thing would be fashionable.

[Winooski, Vt.]

ON an evening in late February at a club here called the Monkey House, there was a family reunion of sorts. As the band Rough Francis roared through a set of anthemic punk rock, Bobby Hackney leaned against the bar and beamed. Three of his sons — Bobby Jr., Julian and Urian — are in Rough Francis, but his smile wasn’t just about parental pride. It was about authorship too. Most of the songs Rough Francis played were written by Bobby Sr. and his brothers David and Dannis during their days in the mid-1970s as a Detroit power trio called Death.

The group’s music has been almost completely unheard since the band stopped performing more than three decades ago. But after all the years of silence, Death’s moment has finally arrived. It comes, however, nearly a decade too late for its founder and leader, David Hackney, who died of lung cancer in 2000. “David was convinced more than any of us that we were doing something totally revolutionary,” said Bobby Sr., 52.

Forgotten except by the most fervent punk rock record collectors — the band’s self-released 1976 single recently traded hands for the equivalent of $800 — Death would likely have remained lost in obscurity if not for the discovery last year of a 1974 demo tape in Bobby Sr.’s attic. Released last month by Drag City Records as “... For the Whole World to See,” Death’s newly unearthed recordings reveal a remarkable missing link between the high-energy hard rock of Detroit bands like the Stooges and MC5 from the late 1960s and early ’70s and the high-velocity assault of punk from its breakthrough years of 1976 and ’77...

This is a terrific story, the more so because it has a happy (if somewhat bittersweet) ending, and you can read the rest of it here.

And in case you were wondering, you can download the A-side of that 800 buck single here. I'm haven't quite made my mind up what I think of it, but as per usual, if the authorization expires before you get to it, e-mail me and I'll be happy to send you the mp3.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Magically Delicious!

In honor of the day, here's Derry's finest The Undertones on Top of the Pops in 1980.


Fun With Downloads: Special Tales From the Crypt Edition

Ladies and gentlemen...from the genuinely psychedelic 1967 album The Parable of Arable Land by legendary Texas rockers The Red Crayola, we give you the epochal anti-war classic "Hurricane Fighter Plane."

Take a moment to download it here, won't you?

And now, from the November 1992 issue of The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, here's the backstory.


"EVERYBODY'S in a band/They can't get enough of it," Pere Ubu once sang, and our more politically astute readers are no doubt aware that recent proof of this proposition has emerged during the current election campaign. I refer, of course, to the startling news that Tipper Gore, wife of the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee but better known for getting record companies to slap Parental Advisory labels on naughty rock and rap albums, played the drums in an all-girl garage band in the mid-Sixties. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

Or maybe not. Actually, it's occurred to me that wanting to be a rock star is pretty much the universal fantasy of our age. In fact, when I researched the subject back in 1989, I was able to locate lots of nonmusical celebrities with rock bands in their closets. Some were willing to speak to me about it, among them Chevy Chase (a godawful group called the Chameleon Church, with a 1968 album on MGM) and Saturday Night Live's Kevin Nealon (several mid-Sixties garage bands with names like the Hallucinations and the Atomic Bombs). Others were less forthcoming, like Diane Keaton (who sang with a New York City band called the Roadrunners circa 1966) and the former Bush Administration drug czar William J. Bennett (who played guitar and sang with an Animal House-style frat-rock outfit at Williams College back in 1961).

My favorite celeb with a past rock life, however, is unquestionably Frederick Barthelme. These days Barthelme is a highly regarded member of the so-called minimalist school of fiction, and his work appears in tony outlets like The New Yorker. But few readers of his story collections Moon Deluxe and Chroma know that back in the acid-drenched Sixties he pounded the drums as a member of a band called the Red Crayola, or that he co-wrote such unforgettable songs as "Pink Stainless Tail" and "War Sucks."

The Red Crayola backstage at the Berkeley Folk Festival, 1967: From left, Steve Cunningham, Mayo Thompson, and Rick Bartheleme

"What happened," Barthelme told me in a not-at-all minimalist manner, "was [that] I had already been booted from architecture school [University of Houston, 1966] for a kind of too-wicked treatment of an architectural problem. So I was making pictures, and Mayo Thompson was a friend who had been in Europe for a year. And when he came back he decided we ought to have a rock-and-roll band.

"He and I and a guy named Steve Cunningham, who was a year or two younger, got together and started playing 'Hey Joe' and all that. And we sort of developed at the same time the psychedelic stuff was going on, and we used to play for hours and hours."

Once christened the Red Crayola, Barthelme and his fellow arty hippies began to garner a local reputation. Eventually, they got to do an album "because we won some kind of idiotic mall Battle of the Bands. It doesn't occur to me now that we won, actually, but we played in it and were heard by Lelan Rogers, who was a small-time producer and Kenny Rogers's brother-in-law."

The album, The Parable of Arable Land, on the Texas-based International Artists label [home to the better known LSD pioneers the 13th Floor Elevators], sold fitfully at best, perhaps because "the guy who did the recording recorded it in mono," Barthelme recalled. "We thought it was a good idea at the time."

Undaunted, the Crayolas went out to California in the summer of 1967, where one performance, at the Berkeley Folk Festival, has become almost legendary. "That's where Cunningham played the famous block of ice," Bartheleme explained. "He brought a block of ice on stage, put it on a stand with some aluminium foil under it, and miked the foil. It was an outdoor concert, and it melted attractively."

After their California trip, the Crayolas went back to Texas and "just broke up after that season." Mayo continued with another album called God Bless the Red Crayola, and later reappeared in Europe in the Eighties with, of all people, members of Pere Ubu.

Today, from his teaching post at the University of Southern Mississippi, Barthelme looks back at his brush with rock stardom. "It was pretty interesting," he recalled. "Of course, the idea that I was a rock star -- or even a qualified performer -- is, I think, a stretch. You understand I was the world's worst drummer...very far ahead of my time, but the world's worst drummer."

Still, history plays odd tricks, and after the first Red Crayola album was reissued in the late Seventies, some rock theoreticians actually hailed the band as unsung Godfathers of Punk.

"Mayo said something about that when he was in Europe," Barthelme told me, "that in England we were a proto-punk band, and people had heard of us and had the record." He reflected for a moment.

"I don't know if that's true," he said finally. "But wouldn't it be lovely to think so?" -- Steve Simels

A couple of brief notes by way of a postscript:

I originally wrote the above for Rolling Stone as part of a larger piece about celebrities with rock bands in the woodwork; I interviewed a bunch of interesting people for the story, including pre-rehab Insider host Pat O'Brien and the late Republican strategist/devil incarnate Lee Atwater, but the piece ultimately never ran because Jann Wenner thought the premise was somehow insulting. I got paid five grand up front, though, so I didn't really care what Wenner thought, and I was able later to recycle several of the interviews at outlets including Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times, so the whole thing ended up being both quite wonderfully lucrative and marginally rep enhancing.

Also, since I wrote the piece, Arable Land has emerged on CD in stereo (despite Barthelme's mono-only claim); improved sonics notwithstanding, I hasten to add that it retains its period charm, and you can order it at Amazon if the downloadable song above piqued your curiosity. I really like it, myself.

Finally, some time in the 90s, somebody put out an actual, quite well-recorded, live album of the Crayola's 1967 appearance at the Berkeley Folk Festival, featuring the aforementioned melting block of ice. I had a copy briefly and seem to recall it's actually a double CD; you can order it here if you have a little disposable income and a fondness for acid-infused Dada-ish art gestures.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Movie Monday: Control

Hi, and welcome to a new feature here at PowerPop: Movie Monday. I'm going to try and post every Monday on a different music movie and hopefully we can chat about it some.

This week, I'd like to start with a movie Thers and I watched a few weeks ago which has been, for lack of a better phrase, haunting me. It's a British indie film from 2007 called Control, which tells the story of the tragically brief life of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, who committed suicide at 23 in 1980.

The film features Sam Riley, a musician himself, who strikes many perfect notes as this troubled young man. Riley is almost as beautiful and intense-looking as Curtis was, if more classically handsome. (Riley was a model for Burberry.) But it's in his performance, haunted and haunting, that he really shines. Curtis's vision, his rise, his illness, his infidelity, even his death, are presented so sympathetically--though not romantically--that they make perfect, if depressing, sense. The film is based primarily on Deborah Curtis's book Touching From a Distance, a filter worth remembering.

The film obviously covers a lot of the same ground as 2002's 24-Hour Party People, in which Riley was also supposed to appear (as The Fall's Mark E. Smith), but was left on the cutting-room floor. Wilson seems much more obviously calculating here, the bands much more his puppets, though I guess that's no surprise. Still, it recreates that same 1976 Sex Pistols Manchester show where so much of what would become Madchester germinated. And Joe Anderson, the crazy brother from Across the Universe, is Peter Hook, so there's that.

It's a good film, even though you already know how it ends. Highly recommended, but expect to think about it a lot afterward.

Great Forgotten Glam Rockers of the 70s

Ladies and gentlemen, shed a tear for the unforgivable STOOP SOLO

Truly the glammiest of all the glam rockers, Stoop was discovered by Rutles empresario Leggy Mountbatten, who also handled a stable of unnatural acts including Arthur Hodgeson and the Kneecaps, Les Garçons de la Plage (the French Beach Boys) and the Machismo Brothers. But his contribution to contemporary music has been cruelly lost in the mists of time (he died in a tragic gardening accident in 1977). Fortunately, you can watch a vintage TV performance here.

And as a public service, you can download "Star Time," a classic song from the sole solo Solo album How Could You?, here.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special A Rose is a Rose is a Rose Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental She Who Could Bop On My Shmeckel Pretty Good account manager Fah Lo Suee and I will be travelling to...well, I can't tell you, but it involves Ann Coulter, a highly skilled surgeon, and an endicronologist to be named later. Other than that, my lip is unfortunately zipped.

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:

Stupidest Post-Beatles Band Name Ever!!!

Self-explanatory, obviously, so no arbitrary rules this time, except it has to be a real band that actually charted. Some guys you knew in college named Rubella and the Dead Little Girl who played one gig at a frat party in 1988 don't count. Okay? Oh, and by stupid, I basically mean that the people who thought it up thought it was cool at the time, but they were sadly mistaken.

Thank you. And apologies if I've done this category before -- I'm old, I'm overstressed, and I'm totally out of gingko biloba.

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

5. Spandau Ballet

These guys were the lamest ever, but the name was the last straw. Seriously -- why not Auschwitz Mambo? Or Treblinka Gavotte?


4. Shadowfax

Trust me, I thought this was a stupid name before I saw Lord of the Rings. And man, was that disconcerting -- "Why is there a horse in this movie named after a crappy 90s New Age band?"

3. Anthrax

Oh yeah, real cool -- name yourself after one of the all time loathsome diseases. Although, I must admit that after the post-9/11 anthrax attacks, I thought the new name they gave themselves -- Basket Full of Puppies -- was pretty funny.

2. Tool

I was going to go with Limp Bizkit, for obvious reasons, but on reflection I think this is even dumber. Dudes, why not just call yourself pud, for crying out loud.

And the number one dopey rock band name, c'mon, you're thinking exactly the same thing, obviously is --

1. Whitesnake

Racist, sexist and sublimely stupid. It's like the Trifecta of Embarassing Crap.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: most memorable adaptations of a literary classic -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to going over there and leaving a comment, it would help convince management that I'm worth the exorbitant freelance rate I'm charging them. Thanks!]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's Another Early Clue to the New Direction -- Just Shoot Me, Already!

From 1978, here's The Who, featuring the late Keith Moon and the more recently late John Entwistle, and their perhaps overexposed classic "Who Are You."

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

And BTW, no, the theme is not "Rock Songs That Have Been Used as TV Theme Songs."

Just Keep Walking

Alert readers may recall that back in January of last year, we sang the praises of the obviously babelonian Linda Laurie, auteur of the novelty hit "Ambrose Pt. 5." "Ambrose," of course, is a haunting tale of the tender love between a boy, a girl and a subway that permanently warped my childhood.

At the time, we chatted with the elusive chanteuse, who assured us that she would have an official website up at any moment. Alas, as of this writing, it has not materialized, but in any case, proving once again that YouTube is the single greatest development in the history of Western Civilization if not the universe, here she is as a contestant on the long-running TV game show To Tell the Truth, from February 10, 1959. She's the one on the left -- pretty cute, no?

If you've never actually heard "Ambrose Pt. 5," you can download it here. As always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get to it, just e-mail me and I'll send you the mp3. Be warned, however, that once you experience the song you may be changed in unfathomable ways.

Incidentally, the Peter Tripp panelist Marge Champion asks the contestants about in the clip was a then-famous DJ for WMGM-AM in New York City, who had recently stayed awake on the air, as a stunt for the March of Dimes, for an astounding 201 consecutive hours. I vividly remember listening to Tripp's broadcasts during that period on a crystal set I had in my bedroom (I don't think transistor portables had come into wide use at the time) and I also remember, with much fondness, that toward the end the poor SOB was obviously hallucinating. Actually, to this day, I think it's the coolest thing I ever heard on the radio.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Let Us Now Praise (Should Be More) Famous Men

Okay -- to quote Ian Hunter, I've wanted to do this for years and years:

Ladies and gentlemen, Willie Nile has a new album out and it's really fricking great.

Seriously, I've been promising myself that I'd say something nice and at length about Willie practically since the day I started posting here; it is to my everlasting shame that it's taken so long, but hey, better late and all that crap. So let me get the gushing out of the way up front and stipulate for the record that the man is a bruised romantic with the soul of a poet and the sly heart of a standup comedian, a brilliant songwriter, a riveting performer, and as natural a rock 'n' roller as has ever worn shoe leather. The fact that he is not, at the moment, a household word while James Blunt walks the streets a free man is not just a cultural crime but rather convincing proof of the non-existence of God. IMHO.

Okay, all that said, if you don't know Willie's work here's the short version. He first got discovered as part of the late70s/early 80s Greenwich Village Revival scene -- classmates included Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, and (a little later) The Smithereens -- and for a variety of (mostly dumb) reasons (only one of which is the fact that he's quite the wordsmith), got tagged as yet another New Dylan. His eponymous first album, for Arista, came out in 1980, and was (and is) an instant and genuine classic; upon its release he hit the ground running with a great band featuring a terrific stripped down three guitar folk-rock attack and a killer rhythm section including Fred Smith (from Television) and JayDee Daugherty (from the Patti Smith Group). If you never saw those guys in person your life remains the poorer for it, but if you go to Amazon, you can still find copies of a (sadly out of print) live album from an early 80s show in Central Park. Another Arista album followed in 1984, which had some good songs sabotaged by overblown production, and then (after recording an album for Geffen, I believe, that was never issued), he made an absolutely brilliant 1991 record for Columbia (guests included Roger McGuinn and Richard Thompson) that the label uncermoniously dumped the week it came out (the usual corporate bullshit was the culprit). "Heaven Help the Lonely," a killer video for one of the best songs, is still up over at YouTube, but since there's no embed code (more corporate bullshit) I'll just give you the link.

The rest of the 90s were a fairly fallow period, although there was a nice indie EP the next year, and Willie never stopped writing and performing. Cut to (I'm skipping a big chunk of the story, but only to get to the good stuff) 2006, when he put out the justly critically acclaimed Streets of New York, perhaps his best ever album; it featured the utterly chilling "Cell Phones Ringing in the Pockets of the Dead" (not a response to 9/11, although it got taken for one) and a gorgeous cover of The Clash version of "Police on My Back." Here's the vid for "Game of Fools," another cool one from the album.

A live album and DVD followed, and that brings us to the amazing new House of A Thousand Guitars, which drops (as the kids say) on April 14. I'm still digesting it, but on first listening it strikes me as being an utter embarassment of riches. The title song, over a pounding "I Fought the Law" beat and riff, references Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, The Stones, John Lennon, and John Lee Hooker (who's "gonna kick your ass"), and it manages the incredible feat of living up to the best of every one of them. It's also one of the most outrageous productions ever staged by a rock band, but you can listen to it and marvel for yourself (see below).

Okay, you can -- and most definitely should -- get the first three Arista/Columbia records on one two disc set here.

And as a public service, you can download "Vagabond Moon," the opening track from the 1980 debut album that turned me into an instant, raving fan back in the day, here...

...plus you can get the aforementioned leadoff title track from his latest here. [Author's note: As always, if the links have expired by the time you get to them, e-mail me and I'll send you the mp3s.]

What am I forgetting?....Oh yeah -- go preorder the new CD over at the official Willie website.

Uh...what are you knuckleheads waiting for?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Son of Irksome

Nice to know the New York Times has replaced the departed Kelefa Sanneh with another writer out of the "Everything's Great, Even the Obvious Shit" school of rock criticism.

I refer, of course, to the irrepressible Jon Caramanica.

In yesteray's Times, for example, Caramanica opened an essay taking a certain American Idol winner seriously with one of the all-time great Leads to Reviews So Unpromising No Sentient Being Could Conceive Of Reading the Rest of It:

Are we asking too much of Kelly Clarkson?

Trust me -- it gets worse, so don't say I didn't warn you.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's official -- Jon Caramanica is now, indisputably, the World's Most Irksome Rock Critic.

Kudos and huzzahs, Jon!

Update: Our good friend Sal Nunziato over at Burning Wood alerts us to this guy's review of Clarkson over at The Huffington Post. Words fail me, frankly.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Another Christmas Gift For You (In March -- I Know, I Know)

So after that Buddy Holly clip I posted last week, I found my thoughts turning -- not altogether inexplicably -- to another revelatory 50s track by another seminal artist.

I'm a huge Bobby Darin fan; I don't have the time today to really get into the reasons, but it is, I think, a goddamn shame that Kevin Spacey 's Darin bio-pic of a few years ago sucked so badly. Let's just say that Bobby was among other things a terrific songwriter, a wonderfully expressive singer, and as a performer the missing link between Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley and leave it at that.

In any case, here's something that just jumped off the grooves of Aces Back to Back!, an otherwise spotty collection of Darin obscurities released in 2004: The original, stripped down and unadorned demo, from 1959, of the man's classic ballad "Dream Lover." Totally devoid of the gloopy strings and annoying yeh-yeh girls on the familiar hit version -- just two minutes or so of sheer romantic longing, heartbreakingly sung. Essentially, it's a 50s version of MTV Unplugged.

In living stereo, I might add.

Anyway, you can download it here. As before, if the authorization has expired by the time you get to it, e-mail me and I'll send you the mp3.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Warmest Wishes: Peter Tork

We at PowerPop wish to send good vibes to Peter Tork, who underwent surgery for a rare form of cancer this week.
Tork, 67, said he has a slow-growing form of head and neck cancer, Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. Although it is most frequently found in the salivary glands, Tork's cancer was discovered on the lower region of the tongue.

"It's a bad news, good news situation," Tork says on the website. "It's so rare a combination (on the tongue) that there isn't a lot of experience among the medical community about this particular combination. On the other hand, the type of cancer it is, never mind the location, is somewhat well known, and the prognosis, I'm told, is good."

Let's all send some warm and healing wishes to him.

Weekend Listomania (Special Beat the Reaper! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental personal groinal area manipulator Gal Friday Fah Lo Suee and I will be travelling to the Florida compound of Republican party head Rush Limbaugh. Yes, it's March and apparently the Oxycontin harvest is in full swing. We'll also be modelling Rush's new line of Eastern European Casino Bouncer fashions -- could be a hot one!

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:

Most Memorable Post-Beatles Song Either About Death or With the Words Death or Dead In The Title!!!

Self-explanatory, obviously, so no arbitrary rules this time.

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

7. Dead Flowers -- The Rolling Stones

This has nothing to do with anything, but when Charlie Watts hits the bell of his cymbal twice on the last line of the last chorus, I just go all gooey.

6. About to Die -- Procol Harum

They had a million of 'em, actually. In fact, I seem to recall they scrapped an entire album around this time until lyricist Keith Reid agreed to come up with something not so obviously sicklied over with a graveyard cast, if you know what I mean.

5. Death of Caroline -- Nelson Bragg

Bragg is a member of Brian Wilson's touring band, and this song, appropriately enough, puts a somewhat depressing spin on Wilson's classic "Caroline No." (In the clip above, it's the eighth song in, BTW). Included because I wanted something recorded in this century and because it's a gorgeous song from an album that deserves a wider audience. [I reviewed it here in 2007.]

4. I Walked With a Zombie -- Roky Erickson

Cheating on my part perhaps, but you have to agree the song is a sublime and perfect realization of the titular narrative.

3. Run For Your Life -- The Beatles

"I'd rather see you dead, little girl." I'm sure John regretted the sentiment later in life, but it's still a great song.

2. Life'll Kill Ya -- Warren Zevon

A haunting Aaron Copland-ish American plain song melody mated to one of its auteur's funniest and most mordant lyrics adds up to one of my favorite songs of the decade; ironically, it was NOT written when Zevon knew he was dying. "From the President of the United States to the lowliest rock n roll star...the doctor is in and he'll see ya now -- he don't care who you are."

And the number one song about biting the big one, there's really no argument about this remotely possible, obviously is --

1. Wall of Death -- Richard and Linda Thompson

Thompson's another one who's got a million of 'em, and actually I was going for "When I Get to the Border," which is a much subtler metaphor, but there was no video, alas. WOD, of course, is an equally killer (you should pardon the expression) song, and this unreleased version is quite gorgeous in a poppy folk-rock kind of way, no? Not sure where it's from...possibly from the legendary Gerry Rafferty sessions that produced the definitive "Shoot Out the Lights." Any Thompson afficianados out there have any idea?

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: most erotic movie star pairings -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see it clear to go over there and leave a comment, it would help convince management I'm worth the vast sums of money they're paying me. Thanks.]

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Enough Already With the Early Clues to the New Direction!

From 1998, here's grunge rock avatars Pearl Jam and their utterly inexplicable live version of J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers' greaseball car crash classic "Last Kiss."

You know, the whole earnestness thing notwithstanding, I have no particular problem with Pearl Jam or Eddie Vedder. In fact, I think they're a pretty cool band and he's an interesting guy.

But as remakes go, this one just flummoxes me. Forget that nobody in PJ was familiar with this song or its cultural context; Eddie actually found a vinyl copy of it in a flea market, had an epiphany and then turned the rest of the band on to it, which to me is just...well, hilarious.

But there's no question that this is on every level the most clueless contemporary cover of a crappy old song in rock history; the only thing that comes close is Tesla's unplugged version of "Signs." The fact that both of them were the hugest hits in their respective band's careers, of course, just being the cream of the jest.

In any case, as always, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded the first reader who groks its relevance to tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Rotsa ruck, though.

A Christmas Gift For You (In March -- So Sue Me!)

Okay, I've finally got the chance to share one of my all-time favorite songs with you guys -- one that I've been looking for with a total lack of success for years.

But first, the backstory.

In 1958, first generation rock god Buddy Holly and his young bride Maria Elena left the provincial climes of Lubbock, TX and moved to sinful Greenwich Village in New York City. They promptly set up a hepster pad at the brand new luxury high rise The Brevoort, on the corner of 9th street and Fifth Avenue (the building's still there, by the way, and looks, now as then, like this).

Buddy had a professional Ampex tape machine in the apartment (a gift, I believe, from his music publisher, for whom Maria Elena had worked as a secretary before they met) and throughout '58, with just an acoustic guitar, he taped a number of songs, some as publishing demos, some just for his own amusement, all in mono. One of them was a stripped down version of Little Richard's fiery rocker "Slippin' and Slidin'", to which Buddy appended the cool guitar riff from the Everly Brothers' "Bird Dog."

Anyway, about five years after Buddy's death, his producer Norman Petty overdubbed new stereo backing tracks by studio musicians on a bunch of the apartment tapes at his studio back in Lubbock. Some of the resulting tracks are fun (a very nice "Peggy Sue Got Married") and some are less so, and most of them have appeared on various LPs and CDs over the years (I first heard them on a two-disc Holly Greatest Hits collection in the early 70s). But "Slippin' and Slidin'" has never been on CD, which I consider a cultural crime. Greil Marcus rightly described it as sounding like Buddy if he'd been been backed by The Band in their days as The Hawks; I think that's exactly right, and all the more surprising in that the musicians are actually The Fireballs, the guys behind the (I've always thought) rather lame hit "Sugar Shack." In any case, Buddy's vocal is a marvel -- sly, sexy and oozing fun and youthful excitement -- and I'm beside myself to finally have a digital version. [A Tip of the Hatlo Hat to our pal Sal Nunziato, who found it -- transferred from vinyl, apparently -- on some clandestine internet site and passed it along.]

Anyway, I think it's one of the coolest rock tracks ever, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. You can download it here. If the authorization has expired by the time you click on it, e-mail me and I'll send you the mp3.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Future Now

My review of a very cool new rock film -- Scott Walker: 30 Century Man -- is finally up over at Box Office.

A fascinating meditation on the nexus of art and celebrity with a deeply charismatic figure at its center, director Stephen Kijak's profile of reclusive pop icon Scott Walker is one of the most remarkable music documentaries in ages, and certainly the absolute best ever made about a guy who went into a studio to record the sound of a man punching a side of pork (it's in the film, trust me)...

You can read the rest of it here. As always, if you could see your way to go over there and leave a comment, it would reassure management that I'm worth the insane amounts of money they're paying me.

Incidentally, the doc should be playing somewhere in your vicinity in the next month or two (it's in L.A., currently) so keep your eyes open; I don't have an exact date, but there should be a DVD in the stores sometime fairly soon as well. In either case -- not to be missed.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hey, It was the 70s -- We Were All a Little Over the Top

So in comments downstairs, with Monday's post about Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr's band before The Cars (the hippie outfit Milkwood), constant reader MBowen writes:

I wish I could get a better look at the cover shot...I'd love to get a real look at what they looked like back in the sensitive singer-songwriter era.

Ask and you shall receive, my friend.

Aren't they just the cutest little things?

Fun With Downloads: Special You Gotta Have Friends Edition

Wow -- here's one I've been looking for a CD version of since forever. Or at least since 1968, when I first saw the LP cover staring out at me from a bin at the Sam Goody in Paramus, N.J. and decided -- you know, I think I'll buy the new Creedence album instead.

If some of those guys in the cover photo look familiar, that's because they're three fifths of the original hit-making Paul Revere & the Raiders, specifically (l to r) drummer Mike "Smitty" Smith, guitarist Drake Levin, and bassist Phil "Fang" Volk (the unfamiliar blonde guy is keyboardist Ron Collins, of whom history has left no mention that I can find). As the Brotherhood, they put out two albums for RCA, neither of which sold; conventional wisdom -- which I have not been able to verify -- is that there were some unresolved legal issues around their leaving their previous band which did not sit well with Columbia Records, and that RCA essentially sat on the Brotherhood albums out of professional courtesy.

In any case, I'm a huge Raiders fan, so I am delighted to announce that this one is a very nice example of late Sixties pop psych and that you can rescue it from obscurity by downloading it here.

Also, and in the interest of full disclosure, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I found the link to it -- and to the Wilderness Road and Milkwood albums I've posted in the last week or two -- over at the fabulous website Redtelephone66, whose proprieter, record collector Leonard Los, is apparently devoting his life to posting audio links to obscure late 60s and early 70s rock albums that have fallen through the cracks. Mostly from vinyl, I believe, but I've yet to download one that doesn't sound really really good.

In any case, he puts two or three new ones up every week and you really should go over there and give him some love.