Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm All Out of Joke Lead-Ins, So Let's Just Cut to the Early Clue to the New Direction!

From the groundbreaking Rhino 1988 LP Golden Throats: The Great Celebrity Sing-Off, please enjoy the pneumatic Mae West and her avant-garde to the max version of "Twist and Shout."

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

As Tears Go By

From 1973, please enjoy "Wake Up," my second favorite track from Move maven Roy Wood's sublime solo album (he plays every note!) Boulders.

For years, I believed the story -- which I think the late Greg Shaw first recounted in his review of the album in my old stomping ground at the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review -- that the percussion on this song, which is as poignant a post-Beatles love madrigal as has ever been heard by sentient mammalian ears, was achieved by its auteur dripping his own tears into a bucket. Alas, courtesy of the most recent issue of MOJO, I've learned that's your basic urban myth; Wood simply splashed water from a faucet. Like a normal person.

Curse you, MOJO, for your pernicious anti-Romantic influence!

In any case, it's still a gorgeous piece of music, and you can download it HERE; as always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get to it, just e-mail me.

Tales From the Crypt

As many of you know, I'm up to my elbows in a book project. I'm pretty excited about this one, and have gotten props and offers of help from a number of surprising corners (like the online conversation I had the other night with a pseudonymous facebook friend who turned out to be none other than Ira Robbins himself: still shaking my head over that one).

Most of the research so far has involved paging through old magazines--both dead tree and online--and clippings that I've been keeping for 30 years. It is a little sobering when you realize that you are, to a great extent, your own archive. But I've also got lots and lots of interviews, and promises of interviews, and I think this is going to be pretty cool all around.

Nevertheless, last night I found myself watching a pentacostalist history of John Alexander Dowie. For those of you unfamiliar with Dowie (and I'll bet that's almost everybody) he was a faith healer and evangelical leader of Scots derivation who believed that all illness was the work of Satan. Once you were saved, illnesses would simply disappear. Beginning in Australia, he then moved to California and then to Chicago, where he was denied church status at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. No matter: he tossed up a building across the street and started preaching there, eventually ministering to the relatives of the rich and famous.

Harassed by the Chicago authorities--primarily on postal and medical grounds--Dowie decided to establish his own city north of Chicago. The town he founded, Zion, IL, looms large in pop music history, for obvious reasons.

The odd thing about this particular documentary was its slant: Dowie's story is told my a minister who believes wholeheartedly in the process of Diving Healing, attributing Dowie's later meltdown to "doctrinal error." Somehow, I thought I was getting a PBS-style thing, but no, this film exhorts and expects faith from its viewers while it tells the story of this disappointed visionary.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

All the Young PMs

From 1970 and their undervalued album Mad Shadows, please enjoy the incomparable Mott the Hoople and "Thunderbuck Ram."

I've loved these guys for years, and by that I mean since way before David Bowie got his grubby little mitts on them; if you've never listened to their pre-Dudes stuff, particularly the eponymous debut album or Brain Capers, your life is really the poorer for it. And speaking of life, it is one of the great regrets of mine that I will not be able to attend any of the reunion shows -- with the original lineup! -- they'll be doing in October at the fabled Hammersmith Odeon.

As for "Thunderbuck Ram," you can download it HERE; as always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get there just e-mail me, blah blah. Incidentally, there's a great story about the song; seems that when organist Verden Allen heard an early test pressing of it and found his opening solo totally buried in the mix, he actually drove to producer Guy Stevens' house, knocked on the door and punched him in the nose.

There's another cool Mott story in the current issue of MOJO. The raconteur is Kris Needs, the president of Seadivers, the Mott Fan Club back in the day.

ONE AFTERNOON in early 1974 there was a knock on the door. "There's someone here to see you," said my long-suffering mum, already tired of dealing with bulging post-bags and strange phone calls, as the family home doubled as Mott's Fan Club HQ.

A very pleasant Asian girl said she was Seadiver 262 attending Oxford's Lady Margaret College. Driving through Aylesbury, she recognized the road name from LP sleeves and wanted to meet the man she'd been corresponding with these past months. Her name was Benazir Bhutto, the future Pakistan prime minister who was assassinated on December 27, 2007. He favorite Mott song was "All the Way From Memphis."
Words fail me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday Twee

Now, this video is just disturbing.

But damn, I like this song.

Scenes from the Facebook Revolution

Yesterday, as I sat down to grade some of the hundreds of papers forming a wall between me, life, the end of the semester, and the project I really want to be working on, I popped open Facebook, as is my custom.

My new Facebook buddy Dwight Twilley announced that he was in the studio, recording "I Will," but that he needed the lyrics. In less than five minutes, I'd sent him a link, others had sent him things to his inbox, and presumably he had the words he needed to record.

I love Facebook.

Today's Worst Person in the World!

You know, Watergate whistle blower and all around hero for our time John Dean wrote a book about the Bush administration and its defenders recently called Conservatives Without Conscience.

Well, I just read a review of a music movie that's gonna be the source material for the first chapter of the sequel I am about to write -- Conservatives Without Hearts, Souls or the Brains God Gave the Common Ice Cube.

But first, the film's trailer, for a little context.

And the now the piece in question, as posted the other day at the truly appalling website of slatternly and batshit insane rightwing blogger Debbie Schlussel:

Not knowing that there actually was a metal band from the '80s called "Anvil," when I saw this movie, I thought it had to be a parody in the vein of "This is Spinal Tap." But, sadly, it isn't. It's a documentary about losers who won't wake up and won't grow up, to the total disregard of their families.

These guys are losers. The members of the '80s band are still--in their mid-fifties--unable to face the fact that they didn't make it. And they're still pursuing their dream, even though their style of music long ago became passe. And even though their long lush locks of hair are now scraggly fragments hanging from scalps that are covered with doo-rags, apparently to hide baldness.

I hated these people, and I wanted them to fail. Robb Reiner and Steve "Lips" Kudlow are the original members of Anvil, the rock group that had one hit in the '80s, "Metal on Metal." And they just can't let go of the fact that it didn't go beyond that. At the beginning, we see disgusting shots of them from their better years: Kudlow playing a guitar with a vibrator (wow, this guy has taste) and another shot of him in complete hairy, gross frontal nudity. Yuck.During the course of this movie, we watch these idiots trudge through Europe on a tour, where they are treated like dirt and, in many cases, no-one (or barely anyone) shows up to their gigs. Still, they don't get it. They leave their families for months on end and later beg and borrow to get funding for a 13th album, which they must sell on-line and out of their cars.

The best scene in the movie is when "Lips" Kudlow, in a bid to earn money to fund the album, works at the telemarketing firm of one of his superfans. We watch him fail miserably to telemarket sunglasses, as he unconvincingly tells someone on the phone that the sunglasses are the ones worn by Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix." Yes, even "Anvil" superfan geeks have grown up and succeeded in the real world. But not "Anvil" band members, who just can't get it together.

Most annoying part of this movie--and there are many such parts--when both Kudlow and Reiner tell us how their parents were Holocaust survivors.

They survived the camps and escaped the Nazi ovens so their kids could do this?! Hilarious. And ultimately, very sad.

While I hated these people, the documentary is a great case study in narcissistic losers who don't grow up, even at age 56. And you gotta watch it that way to enjoy it. Memo to Anvil: Get a haircut. That is, the few hairs you have left.

Okay, for just a little more context -- over at his brilliant Some Came Running blog, my old friend and colleague Glenn Kenny had this to say about the film:

Yes, band co-founders and lifelong buds Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner are a little rough around the edges and have their goofy moments, but they sure aren't dumb, and they've got tremendous integrity. They're genuinely heroic, albeit on a level that most moviegoers don't get to see a lot.

I hated these people, and I wanted them to fail.

God, what a wretched, emotionally stunted, totally lacking in anything resembling empathy for another human being piece of offal that woman must be. No wonder she's a wingnut....

Oh, and BTW -- that snarky crack about the Anvil guys being the kids of Holocaust survivors? I guarantee, there's a special circle in Hell guaranteed for Schlussel for that one alone. Although in her case, it'll be more like a reunion with Dad, if you know what I mean.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Charlie's Good Tonight, Isn't He?

From 1971, please enjoy pretty much my all-time favorite Rolling Stones cover of a Chuck Berry song -- a fabulous live version of "Let It Rock."

This was the b-side of the Brit EP version of "Brown Sugar"; it also appeared on the Spanish LP version (pictured above) of Sticky Fingers, where it replaced "Sister Morphine" because the still dead Francisco Franco didn't like drug songs. The irony, obviously, is that he had problems with the ambiguously gay zipper cover (as seen in the rest of the world) as well. And yet none with the truly icky severed members graphic that replaced it.

As Mick famously observed in an earlier Rolling Stone interview -- censorship is weird.

In any case, you can download it HERE. As always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get to it, just e-mail me blah blah blah.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special Solipsism is Great, Everybody Should Try It! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental fille de nuit nutritional consultant Fah Lo Suee and I will be travelling to San Diego, California, home of lovely Miss USA runner-up Carrie Prejean. Miss Prejean is apparently so depressed about her treatment at the hands of Paris Hilton's brother that she has asked me to have relentlessly heterosexual relations with her to get over it, and by heterosexual I mean that nothing untoward will be allowed near either her hoohah or her woohoo, if you catch my drift.

That being the case, it will obviously take me at least a day and a half to warm her up, so posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for the forseeable future.

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

Post Elvis Songs or Records That Changed Your Life!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules this time. Except that we're specifically talking here about singles or album cuts, NOT whole albums (a topic for another time). Also, I'm disqualifying anything by the Beatles on the grounds that there are just too damned many tunes by the Fabs to choose from and that they're a little too obvious choices in any case.

Okay, and my totally top of my head Top Seven, in chronological order, would be:

7. The Rolling Stones -- It's All Over Now

The Valentinos original of this (featuring Bobby Womack) is superficially similar -- two guitars, bass and drums, and a singer up front -- but if you've ever heard it, you know that it's actually kind of jolly. The Stones rethink keeps the basic arrangement model intact, but the guitars are stripped down to ominous Travis-picking meets scrubbed metal Chuck Berry, and the whole thing is invested with a palpable sense of menace completely unprecedented in pop music at the time. Plus: the concluding fade-out, with those circular guitar riffs altered just slightly each time as the echo creeps in, marks (no doubt about it) the birth of the style and esthetic we'd later call Minimalism. Alas, in the 70s, that moron Phillip Glass went on to adopt it for four-hour operas, thus totally missing the point, but this is what it's supposed to sound like.

Bottom line: Hearing this under a pillow via transistor radio over WMCA-AM is when I decided that Andrew Oldham's liner note claim -- that the Stones weren't just a band, they were a way of life -- wasn't as asinine as it seemed at first.

6. The Byrds -- The Bells of Rhymney

If there's a more beautiful sound in all of nature than that of a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar well played, I have yet to hear it. In any case, this song -- even more than "Mr. Tambourine Man" -- is where the Church of the Rickenbacker opened. Four decades later, I'm still dropping by for services, if you'll pardon the perhaps inelegant metaphor.

5. The Beach Boys -- When I Grow Up

Obviously, it's melodically gorgeous and the harmonies exquisite. But it's also the first rock song (for me anyway) that combines adolescent angst and something like mature wisdom; when people say that Brian Wilson invented the whole confessional California songwriting school that people usually associate with Joni Mitchell or Jackson Browne, this is the song they have in mind, I think. Although "In My Room" or "Don't Worry Baby" are contenders as well.

5. The Miracles -- The Tracks of My Tears

This wasn't the first r&b record I loved, but it's the first one I bought and played as obsessively as I did any Beatles 45. Everything about it just killed me; the oddly sinister yet lovely sound of the guitars at the beginning, the way the rhythm section falls effortlessly into place, the sensual longing in Smokey's voice contrasted with the almost churchy background vocals...I still can't listen to it without thinking there's some detail I've missed, one that if I could only hear at last then some tremendous secret would be revealed. I suspect I'm not the only person who feels that way, BTW.

6. Jimmy Cliff -- The Harder They Come

A great song and a great voice, to be sure, and recognizably rock-and-roll, but at the same time it was indisputably...well, something else. If Sly Stone hadn't already titled an album A Whole New Thing, the movie soundtrack this astounding song derives from could easily have copped it.

3. Bruce Springsteen -- Spirit in the Night

The first time I heard this, the snare drum and near-mythic sax wail that open it hit me so hard that I thought I'd been wacked upside the head with a 2X4. Then I noticed the lyrics and had the absolutely eerie sensation that Springsteen had been reading my mail. Want to know what it felt like to be a a 20-something with no direction home in the early 70s? All you have to do is listen....

2. R.E.M. -- Radio Free Europe

Some records just have a vibe about them. Here's one (and the same can be said of Murmur as a whole) that has it in spades, a certain indefinable something that simply grabs you (or at least me) and won't let go. First time I heard it, I remember thinking it sounded simultaneously space age modern and as old as the hills. Still an apt description, actually.

1. The La's -- There She Goes

Like "Tracks of My Tears" years before, when this first came out I played it over and over and over again in the hope of finally being able to hear into the sheer sonic density of it. I still do, from time to time, and to this day I haven't quite figured out what that twelve-string riff means. Or why Lee Mavers' voice sounds so simultaneously familiar and eerie, Or, finally, who she is and where the hell she's going.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: Great Cinematic Ghost Stories, Horror or Comedy -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to go over there and leave a comment, it would reassure management that like the woman in that hair color commercial, I'm worth it. Thanks!]

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Okay, I'm Really Running Out of Patience With This Crap, But Here's Yet Another Early Clue to the New Direction!

From sometime in the 60s -- and apparently shot as a promotional thing for the Village Voice -- here's more interesting than the legend suggests singer/songwriter/politico/doomed asshole Phil Ochs and a brief video version of his quite lovely folkie chestnut "Changes."

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

Odds are pretty stiff, however.

Slight tech update: I'm hearing that some folks are having trouble seeing the vid. Dunno why that should be -- it's showing up on my browser -- but in any case, trust me, it's not that hot.

In any case, the song is the clue.

Imagination, Like a Muscle, Will Increase With Exercise....

From 1990, please enjoy singer/songwriter/guitarist/all-around Renaissance Man Peter Blegvad's truly remarkable short story masquerading as a pop song "King Strut."

If you're not really familiar with Blegvad, you've probably nonetheless heard his thoroughly charming song "Daughter" in the version by Loudon Wainwright III on the soundtrack to Knocked Up. A super talented guy, in any case; as for "King Strut," let's just say that not only is it pretty much the best Bob Dylan record Bob never made, it's also -- to put it politely -- an unjustly unacknowledged influence on XTC's subsequent and better known "Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead."

Not that Andy Partridge would actually rip anybody off, of course.

Oh well. In the meantime, you can -- and absolutely should -- download it HERE. As always, if the authorization has expired before you get to it, just e-mail me and blah blah blah.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fun With Downloads: Oh Lord, Stuck In...

Okay -- this one's a masterpiece. Seriously.

From 1969, please enjoy the late great Al Wilson and his absolutely astonishing version of "Lodi." You can -- and should -- download it HERE post-haste.

That's the Creedence/John Fogerty song, of course. For this remake, Wilson and producer Johnny Rivers replaced the original's rueful melancholy with something approaching desperation, with an appropriately kickass blues/soul backing track to match. It's a great performance all around, but what really sells it are the blistering dual lead/slide guitars, which seemed to literally jump out of my car radio speakers the first time I heard the record on the old WMCA-AM in New York City.

The track has never appeared in stereo, and it was never even on an album until the expanded reissue of an earlier Wilson LP pictured above (from 2008). I've been trying to find out who played the aforementioned guitars for years -- e-mails to Rivers' website have been totally unavailing -- and to my chagrin the CD has no musician credits for the damn thing.

Given that it was recorded in L.A., my guess is that one of the players is either Ry Cooder or Canned Heat's Alan Wilson (no relation to the singer), who were to my knowledge the only hotshit slide guys doing session work in those days. It's also conceivable that it was Jackson Browne collaborator Jesse Ed Davis (of "Doctor My Eyes" fame), who I believe may have been working in town around then, and I'm also told that the late Jerry Cole (who played rhythm on the original "Mr. Tambourine Man") played slide on sessions from time to time.

As I've said before, this is a mystery I promise to solve before I die. In the meantime, enjoy a truly fabulous record -- as always, if the authorization has expired before you get to it, just e-mail me and I'll shoot you the mp3.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Well That's Not Very....Hey!

Gateways to Geekery!?!

I will have you know I was well into geekery before I even spun this record.


Great Lost Singles of the 70s: Just Like Ronnie Sang...

From 1977, please enjoy the brilliant Little Steven-helmed version of Ronnie Spector and the E-Street Band's take on Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood."

You can download it HERE. As always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get to it, just e-mail me blah blah blah.

Incidentally, as great as this is, I have to admit the production is heinous; for some reason the records Van Zandt produced around this time -- including the otherwise brilliant second Southside Johnny album -- all sound like they were mastered with a cactus needle on a piece of cardboard that came with a shirt he'd just got back from the drycleaners.

That said, a brilliant version of a great song; when people suggest that Billy Joel might, you know, completely suck, I usually play them this

Monday, April 20, 2009

Movie Monday: Tommy

I have a confession to make. I love the film version of Tommy. I know, I know, I know. Ken Russell is a nut and Pete Townsend hated it and it was the most egregious example of over-the-top decadent 70's filmmaking until Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club Band came out. (Both films featured Paul Nicholas, but I'm sure that's just a coincidence.) None of this is news to me, and yet I retain a warm fuzzy spot for the first movie I ever saw that dealt directly with issues of child sexual abuse, drugs, and of course, uh, chocolate and beans.

It's not that I wasn't raised right. My beloved oldest brother, the one who's single-handedly responsible for introducing me to most of the music I love in the world, played me the real version, the stage version. I knew it before I ever saw the film. I knew the story and the music pretty much by heart.

And so I was supposed to hate the film, I know that. I admit, catching it by accident on TV is a little like tripping into a swimming pool full of vanilla pudding, or possibly taking a big swig out of a glass you think is water which turns out to be peach schnapps. It's more than any one person could or should process at one time, no matter what chemicals are involved.

And yet....

There's something so gloriously over-the-top about it, so gleefully who-the-fuck-cares, that I admit, I like it. So there.

Fun With Downloads: On the Bowery

From 1976, please enjoy the standout track (for my money) on the Live at CBGBs album -- Mink DeVille's mildly astonishing "Let Me Dream if I Want To."

This is early Mink -- with Willy and the band doing their best imitation of Lou Reed fronting The Stones, rather than the sort of Springsteen En Espanol bombast they got famous for later. Great stuff, in any case.

You can download it HERE. As always, if the authorization has expired before you get to it, just e-mail me and I'll shoot you the mp3.

And get me drunk sometime and I'll tell you a truly harrowing Willy DeVille story which I can't print here for fear of lawyers. Suffice it to say that when I was a baby rock critic I saw some stuff that should have motivated me to seek employment in another less colorful field.

[h/t Laura]

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Holy Sheet!

I've been remiss in not pimping heavily Shoes' trip to Japan this month. Partly, it's a deep psychic wound generated from missing this show (showed up at the airport for a closely-timed flight that ended up not existing), (another clip here--I may never recover) and partly I've just been out of the habit of blogging. But the guys did indeed hit Japan earlier this month for a couple of shows at Shinjuku Jam. (The link is broken for me too: I'm seeing what I can find out, though.)

But, oh man. Look what happened in the prep show a couple of weeks ago: a live version of the As/Is cut "Rugged Terrain," one of the many undiscovered nuggets on that collection. (And the bonus "Your Imagination," another fave o' mine.)

Looking good, guys: spread some love to the rest of us!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special Remake/Remodel Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental testicular adjustment engineer scheduling czarina Fah Lo Suee and I will be attending the Weekend Ice Tea Bagging Protests in Fairbanks, Alaska (they get everything late up there) along with the suddenly single Levi Johnson, formerly of the comedy team of Olsen and Johnson the comedy team of Palin and Johnson.

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:

Post-Elvis Pop or Rock Song or Record You'd Most Like to See Covered!!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules this time. You're welcome.

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. My Best Friend's Girl -- The Cars

Strip away the po-mo irony and the icy synthesizer veneer from this and what you're left with is a fantastic Buddy Holly-ish pop gem. I've been saying for years that some smart alt-country or Americana band should do a remake of this one pronto, and I see no reason to change that opinion.

4. Here Comes My Baby -- The Tremeloes

The Cat Stevens song, of course, and like the Cars above, chanelling Buddy Holly as well. The Trems version is vastly superior to its composer's gentle version, but lordy, this one just cries out for a high energy run through with loud contemporary guitars. My 80s skinny tie band did a killer version, with 12-string, but alas no recorded artifact of it survives.

3. Bits and Pieces -- The Dave Clark Five

My word...can't you just imagine Led Zeppelin stomping through this one?

2. It's Love, Come What May -- Bobby Fuller Four

Cool guitar riffage, winsome vocals, a bridge so good you could plotz...just a perfect pop confection, and vastly overlooked. I think Marshall Crenshaw could do this one justice, don't you?

And the number one song you'd most want to hear transmogrified to a fare-the-well, and who can argue with this, is obviously --

1. Theme From Perry Mason -- Fred Steiner

While Googling this, I discovered to my surprise that Steiner wrote it before the show as a stand alone piece, and that its original title was "Park Avenue Beat." In any case, it's a great sleazy rock-and-roll song, right up there with "Harlem Nocturne" or Mancini's "Peter Gunn." The Blues Brothers mangled it, and the Pixies did an homage, but can you imagine, say, Jeff Beck getting his noisy little mitts on it? Wow!!!!!

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: Best work by a victim of the Hollywood Blacklist -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to going over there and posting a comment, thus justifying my humongous freelance fee to management, I'd be your best friend. Thanks!]

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oh I Give Up, It's Another Goddamn Early Clue to the New Direction Already!

From 1965, here's The Beatles and their exquisite version of Buddy Holly's "Words of Love."

I am aware that some people are not as excited as I am about the forthcoming remastered CD versions of the original Brit Beatles albums, the first several of which will contain both the mono and the previously unreleased stereo mixes. For me, anyway, this is a major cultural event because it returns Beatles For Sale -- pound for pound, still the most beautiful rock album ever made, and the one from whence this song derives -- to its original multi-channel gorgeousness.

No larger point, just saying.

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

Vambo Rools, OK?

From 1972, please enjoy the aptly named Sensational Alex Harvey Band and their spirited ode to...well, I'm not exactly sure what, but it's called "Midnight Moses."

You can download it HERE. As always, if the authorization expires before you get there, just e-mail me and I'll shoot you the mp3.

Seriously -- this is a mix of genius and stupid at the very highest aesthetic level. Featuring what I sometimes think is the greatest single line in rock history...

I wish I was a forest ranger...

Danger, danger, danger, danger...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fun With Downloads: Dustbowl Days

Just a reminder: Willie Nile's brilliant new CD House of A Thousand Guitars -- for my money, the first great album of 2009 -- is now available at better music retailers everywhere (if you can find one). Do yourself a favor: Get over to the official Willie website and order it here toot sweet.

But in the meantime, from 1992, please enjoy the title track from Willie's splendid EP Hard Times in America. 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.

Saw Willie opening for the Jimmy Vivino farewell party at the Bowery Ballroom last week, and he did a great version of the tune, which as he said by way of intro is still unfortunately relevant to life here in the USA.

I cannot find a job
I cannot get a loan
I could not pay the bill
so they took back my telephone
My girlfriend Josephine
she gave me back my ring
Said "Baby, 'til you get some dough
You can forget about the wild thing!"

They say it's getting better
we're closing the gap
But you know as well as I do
that's just a load of crap
The rich are getting richer
the poor are staying poor
I do believe the grim reaper
is knocking at the door

Singing...hard times in America..

Nuff said.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday Twee

A little behind on my movie-watching, but enjoy this goofy-ass bit of twee from The Housemartins.

Is there any finer practitioner of the form than Paul Heaton? I'd be hard-pressed to think of one.

Fun With Downloads: Once Were Hippies

From Spring of 1970, please enjoy the putatively cynical Nick Lowe, with the rest of Brinsley Schwarz, and (from their eponymous debut album) the quite seraphically lovely prog-meets-powerpop ditty "Mayfly."

You can download it HERE. As usual, if the authorization has expired by the time you get to it, just e-mail me and I'll shoot you the mp3.

Very few people in the States were aware of this record at the time. Me, I was on the Capitol Records mailing list in college, so when it arrived (along with I believe ten other albums, none of which I can recall at the moment) I listened out of idle curiosity -- with a name like that, was this a Jewish band? -- and was immediately taken with it. To me it sounded, musically, like a really smart amalgam of the better American hippie groups of the period (CSN, the Dead, the Band) only with vastly superior production gloss, and I wound up listening to it obsessively for quite a while. I had, however, absolutely no inkling that it was a much-maligned (in England) artifact of one of the greatest press hype disasters in the history of pop music (Wiki the band if you don't know the story) and given its overall pastoral tone I was frankly amazed, years later, when Lowe turned up as the Pure Pop for Now People wiseguy we all know and love to this day.

In any case, I really dig just about everything about this track, but as usual it's the Brinsleys keyboard player, the great Bob Andrews, who really puts it over the top for me. No kidding -- if there's more lyrically lovely Hammond organ work on record anywhere, I for one haven't heard it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fun With Downloads: The Skinny Tie Years

From 1982, and their legendary unreleased live album, please enjoy Bleecker Street's finest band, The Floor Models -- featuring a bassist whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels -- and their version of The Records/Searchers exquisite "Hearts in Her Eyes."

Our version is a little peppier than the original, but otherwise quite respectable I think.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special If We're All One, Who Needs You? Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental on-call groinologist gentleman's gentleman Fah Lo Suee and I will be travelling to Minnesota to sit shiva for former Senator Norm Coleman's political career. It also being Passover, I'm sure large quanties of Manischewitz (2009 is a very good vintage, I'm told) will be consumed, if not necessarily with gusto.

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:

Best Post-Elvis Song or Album Referencing God(s), Religion or Spirituality Generally

Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules this time. Except none of that Creed crap, obviously.

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

5. One of Us -- Joan Osborne

I happen to think this song is just ineffably touching, but I'm aware that some of our more cynical commenters disagree.

4. Rough God Goes Riding -- Van Morrison

Because I couldn't find a video of "Into the Mystic." Just be glad I didn't nominate "Veedon Fleece."

3. Dear God -- XTC

Sacrilege! And they made some poor little kid sing the thing, the bastards!

2. Jesus -- The Velvet Underground

I don't know about you, but I always thought -- given their various backgrounds -- that they were being ironic. Damn thing certainly sounds sincere, though.

And the number one ode to something bigger than all of us, c'mon, you're thinking exactly the same thing, obviously is --

1. Fire -- The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

"I am the God of Hellfire...and I bring you -- FIRE!!!" Because nothing says communing with the infinite more than a singer with a bunsen burner on his head.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: Worst Film Titles Ever!!! -- is now up over at Box Office. As always if you could leave a comment over there, I'd be your best friend.]

[h/t Laura]

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Oh For Crap's Sake, Not Another Early Clue to the New Direction!

From 1970 and the album Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, here's Spirit, featuring their splendidly monikered lead guitarist Randy California, and the exquisite ecologically-themed ballad "Nature's Way."

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

Fun With Downloads: B-Sides of the Gods

From the deluxe CD reissue of their 1967 masterpiece Younger Than Yesterday (and the B-side of their epochal flop single "Lady Friend"), please enjoy The Byrds' "Old John Robertson."

Ah, those guitars, those harmonies, that genuinely poignant lyric, and that phase-shifted string quartet in the all adds up to absolutely gorgeous pop perfection. And brought in at just under two minutes, which makes it even more remarkable.

You can download it HERE. As always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get there, just e-mail me blah blah blah.

And incidentally, after the song ends keep listening for another ten seconds or so until the hidden bonus track begins. It's a three-guitar instrumental -- Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and David Crosby, 'natch -- with all concerned apparently jamming away on a lovely, somewhat contemplative folkie riff, not quite raga-ish but vaguely mid-Eastern sounding.

The first time I noticed it on the CD, I remember thinking "Nice, but what's the point?" A few months later, I bumped into Bob Irwin, who produced the reissue, and asked him about it. Turns out that it was played backwards for the guitar effects track on "Mind Gardens," the David Crosby song that everybody but Crosby has since conceded is the one bummer on Younger Than Yesterday.

In any event, when you hear it, you'll realize that the Byrds didn't just invent folk rock, jazz rock and country rock: They also invented New Age.

Don't hold it against them, obviously.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wednesday Album Review Blogging

Courtesy of our good friends at Sundazed Records, here's a just-released new CD I can't recommend highly enough. By Moby Grape, natch, which means it's essential.

The Place and the Time collects pretty much all the outtakes and rarities heretofore scattered around that hard to find early 90s Grape box set and the current expanded versions of the four Columbia Grape studio albums. Plus a couple of new ones, including a revelatory alternate version of their Skip Spence-penned masterpiece "Seeing" -- still the most profoundly moving and terrifying cry for help from a disintegrating personality at the mountains of madness in the history of popular music, if not Western Civilization.

A great record, in short, and God, I love that cover. Younger readers may not believe it, but back in the old Fillmore days, that's what a rock-and-roll band looked like before they started their first song.

In any case, please enjoy "Big," a not particularily representative track (by Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson, the lead guitarist and drummer respectively -- everybody in the band wrote, brilliantly) in that it's a folkie goof. I find it endlessly amusing, however, so humor me.

So tell me how does it feel
When your best friend is all veal...
And you're hungry?

You can download it HERE. As always, if the link has expired by the time you get there, e-mail me blah blah blah.

And if you'd like to hear the rest of the album, get thee over to Amazon and order the damn thing here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fun With Downloads: Fab Faux

From 1971, please enjoy a truly astounding cover of John Lennon's exquisite Imagine track "Oh My Love" by The Wackers.

You can download it HERE.

As you'll soon note, the Wackers' cover sounds eerily like how the song might have gone had not history intervened. "Okay, we're doing this as though the Beatles were," Wackers leader Bob Segarini said in 2005. "This is an exercise in fun. How would Lennon have recorded this song if the Beatles hadn't broken up? That was the premise."

I think the band succeeded splendidly, myself. In any case, here's the original for purposes of comparison.

As always, of course, if the file has expired by the time you get to it, just e-mail me blah blah blah.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Wretched Excess: A Postscript

If you were around Thursday, you might recall that while setting up a video clue, from King Kong no less, for the following day's Listomania I happened to reminisce about an over-the-top concert I'd attended -- by future Chariots of Fire composer Vangelis at the Royal Albert Hall in 1975 -- that reminded me, unflatteringly, of said video.

Anyway, just to show I wasn't making this up, I did a little Googling; turns out the show was actually in February of '76, but my memory was otherwise right on the money. Here's the relevant section of the column I wrote about it at the time (for the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review), complete with the original photo.
...All of which is by way of leading up to telling you the reason for my presence in the British Isles: I was being hyped. RCA, you see, has just signed Greek keyboard wizard Vangelis (that's his first name, by the way, in the grand tradition of such stars as Sabu, Hildegarde and Tonto) in an attempt to get a piece of the market now dominated by Rick Wakeman and ELP. He was making his debut at London's Royal Albert Hall, and so off we (myself, some RCA folks, and two other writers) went.

Vangelis is something of an oddball. He's been a pop star in Europe for a while as a member of a group called Aphrodite's Child. He now dismisses their work as bubblegum (and, indeed, their former lead singer Demis Roussos has gone to become a sort of farm-club Englebert Humperdinck), but he obviously has quite a fair amount of musical smarts. When I met him at his home, he sat down at the piano and ripped off a ten-minute impromptu performance that ran the gamut from Hoagy Carmichael to Meade Lux Lewis to Chopin.

His concert...well, I have to say that I've never heard or seen anything quite like it. It began with Vangelis seated at the Albert Hall pipe organ, which is immense, playing a brief and rather lovely late-Romantic style solo piece which I assumed to be by Louis Vierne or Charles-Marie Widor, but which he later assured me was strictly off the top of his head. After that he proceeded to dash around a staggering number of electronic keyboard instruments, beginning by performing a quiet duet for grand piano and Arp string synthesizer that could easily have been from an unpublished Prokofiev concerto.

...While all this was going on, I suddenly realized, the stage was filling up with the white-robed English Chamber Choir brandishing long red wooden sticks, twenty -- count 'em -- twenty female kettle drummers, a like number of young ladies in red skirts running circles around and banging vigorously at a collection of congas, and even, way off in back, two black guys in loincloths carrying spears and serving no musical function I could discover. By the time the piece had reached its climactic section -- a longish chant sort of thing with all involved pounding away as if possessed -- I had decided that none of Vangelis' major influences were musical at all. Obviously, the man had seen Maria Montez and Jon Hall in Cobra Woman and it had changed his life forever. I emerged from all this, as you can imagine, utterly confused. What is this guy up to, anyway?

I have nothing to add to that description, but in case you're wondering just how big a schmuck I am generally, on the Friday after the show I was outside my London hotel, hailing a cab to the airport in preparation for my return to the States, when I was accosted by a publicist I knew from another record company who asked me if I wanted an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris for the weekend to see Charles Aznavour in concert.

I said "No, thanks -- I'm homesick."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Blogrolling in Our Time

Our good friend Sal Nunziato, doing business over at the forever fabulous blog Burning Wood, has just given us an effusive, and barely deserved shout out.

So If you'd care to download a spectacular powerpop mix of the following songs --
Love Lovely Love - Jonny Polonsky
Since I Found You - Michael Carpenter
Summer Can't Come Too Soon - A.J. Croce
Louise - Swag
Reactionary Girl -Robin Zander
My Before And After - Cotton Mather
Call My Name - Starclub
When Our Vows Break - Tommy Keene & Jules Shear
The Perfect Size - Jon Auer
Kathy Fong Is The Bomb - Tsar
Lysistrata - Utopia
Not Where It's At- Del Amitri

-- I suggest you get over there as soon as possible. Trust me -- it's worth it for the Robin Zander song alone.

And say hello while you're on the site -- it's the polite thing to do!!!!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special More is Less Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental nutsac restoration expert eye candy with benefits Fah Lo Suee and I will be attending the big Spandau Ballet reunion tour, making its debut at an IHOP parking lot somewhere in the mid-West. Could be a hot one, and since we'll be following the band for the next few days, this means that posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic, or at least until we've recovered our composure after hearing the first several live versions of "True."

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

Post-Beatles Album, Song or Video That Best Exemplifies the Phrase 'Wretched Excess'!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules of any kind this time. Except whatever you pick has to appear on a commercially released CD or video. A bootleg of Phish playing Wagner's complete Ring Cycle might be over the top, but it's not something that was deliberately inflicted on a mass audience.

In any case, my top of my head Top Seven would be...

7. Smashing Pumpkins -- Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Ah, the triumphant return to these pages of Billy Corgan and his pretentious cueball noggin. Hey -- what can you say about this album except that although it's shorter than Sandinista! it has fewer laughs.

6. Bonnie Tyler -- Total Eclipse of the Heart

Actually, you could just print out the entire Jim Steinman song catalog and stick a pin in it at random to find an equally worthy candidate. This one's pretty hard to top, however.

5. Led Zeppelin -- Moby Dick

The most painful drum solo in history, for my money, and depending on how Bonzo was feeling, among the longest (a version I saw at Madison Square Garden in the early 70s clocked in at 17 minutes, if I recall correctly.)

4. Iron Butterfly -- In a Gadda da Vida

A painfully obvious choice, I know, but everything about this song just screams ridiculous-on-steroids. And this is the short version.

3. Coldplay -- Viva La Vida

Okay, shooting ducks in a barrel, but between the preening self-importance and the big bogus dramatic moment when the kettle drum enters, you would need (per Oscar Wilde) a heart of stone not to laugh.

2. Gwen Stefani -- Wind It Up

This one still makes my jaw drop, frankly. Honorable mention: The Janet Jackson "Rhythm Nation," video, which in terms of costumed Nazi extras, at least, is almost as ridiculous.

And the numero uno most excessively wretched pop music artifact in the history of the universe, I think we'll all be on the same page with this one, obviously is --

1. Richard Harris -- MacArthur Park


As a friend said after hearing this wafting from a car radio one summer afternoon..."Oh no --- NOT THE CAKE!!!!!"

Awrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best use of outdoor locations in a non-documentary film -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, I'd be profoundly grateful if you could go over there and leave a comment, thus allaying management's fears that my gargantuan post-AIG freelance rate is unjustified. Thanks!]

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Oh Gross Me Out of My Condo, It's Yet Another Damn Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1933 -- colorized, to my chagrin -- here's the big native dance scene from King Kong. Score by the incomparable Max Steiner, which led Oscar Levant to observe, famously and almost accurately, that Kong should have been advertised as "a concert of Steiner's music with accompanying pictures."

Okay, I know it's not a rock song per se, but I mention it because the whole thing reminds me of something I saw in 1975 -- a concert by future Chariots of Fire soundtrack composer Vangelis, then hyping his solo album Heaven and Hell with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall (in case you're wondering, I was there on the record company's dime, and yes, those were indeed the days).

Anyway, the finale of the show featured, inexplicably, what seemed like a couple of hundred extras in African garb banging sticks on the stage floor, and at the time I remember thinking of the above scene. A real WTF moment, to be sure.

Bottom line: As always, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded the first reader who gleans its relatively oblique connection to the theme of tomorrow's Listomania.

Great Lost Singles of the 80s: An Occasional Series

From the brilliant but sadly out of print 1982 album Shake and Push, please enjoy The Morells, featuring roots rockers extraordinaire Lou Whitney and D. Clinton Thompson, and their fabulously entertaining "Gettin' in Shape."

Basically, this is what you would have gotten if Gary U.S. Bonds had responded to the 80s fitness craze, and just imagine if it had been a hit instead of that Olivia Newton-John "Physical" crap.

Anyway, you can download it HERE. As always, if the authorization has expired before you get to it, e-mail me.

I should also add that Whitney and Thompson have been making equally smart and infectious music for a couple of decades now, mostly as The Skeletons, and if you're really nice to me I'll post some of their other stuff as well down the road. Seriously -- if I was a rich man and I could afford any band in the world to play a birthday party for me, these are the first guys I'd try to hire.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Fun With Downloads: Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

From his fabulous 1997 album, please enjoy Nashville alt-rocker Tommy Womack's "Whatever Happened to Cheetah Chrome?", perhaps the most profound -- and certainly the funniest -- meditation on the transient nature of fame ever in what Casey Kasem refers to as the field of rock-and-roll.

You can download it HERE. And as always, if the authorization has expired by the time you get to the clip, just e-mail me blah blah blah.

Uh, and just in case Tommy reads this and gets pissed that I'm essentially giving away his stuff, I should mention that he has a way entertaining website that behooves beholding -- And that you can, and should, order his albums -- including the aforementioned Positively Na Na -- over there posthaste.