[Weekend Listomania remains on hiatus but will return, as promised, next Friday. -- Ed.]
Seriously -- Happy fricking New Year. And I say that secure in the knowledge that 2011 will without a chinchilla of doubt be the suckiest year any of us has experienced in memory. Suckier than 1968, even, unless we're very lucky. Which I doubt we will be.
In that spirit then, please enjoy -- from sometime in the early 80s -- the irrepressible Andy Breckman and his ode to feeling reasonably okay despite everything -- "I Had a Good Day."
I didn't throw up I didn't throw up About a quarter to four I almost threw up But I didn't throw up I had a real good day
M brother didn't die My mother didn't die My father didn't die My sister didn't die Mr. Greenblatt died I had a real good day
Incidentally, I remain convinced that The Rolling Stones are singing "Mr. Greenblatt died" rather than "You make a grown man cry" in "Start Me Up."
So for reasons that are unclear to me, I'm suddenly on the mailing list of a publisher -- I won't mention the name -- of distinctly shlocky books about music and film. The ones I've seen so far are rather frightening testaments to the progress of what Nick Tosches famously called sub-literacy in America, and rather than pee on anybody's dreams -- hey, I wrote a rock-n-roll quickie back in the day myself -- I'm not going mention any of the authors by name either.
In any case, I was browsing one of the books, about This is Spinal Tap, the other day when I was mildly surprised to learn that before both Tap and The Barbusters (the group in Paul Shrader's actually pretty good Light of Day), the great Michael McKean had already played, on record, in another fake rock band. I refer of course, to Lenny and the Squigtones, the stars of a 1980 LP released to cash in on Mckean's (and co-star David Lander's) Laverne and Shirley TV fame.
What made this even more intriguing was that it seemed Christopher Guest had made his first recorded appearance as future Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel on said LP.
So naturally, I simply had to find a download of the damn thing somewhere on the intertubes.
I've since located the album credits, and sure enough -- the guitars on that track (and the rest of them) are by McKean and Guest/Tufnel. And to be fair, the songs aren't bad in a sort of upscale Sha-Na-Na way.
That said, I think it's not necessarily a cultural tragedy that the album's never appeared on CD.
Well, obviously it can. But let's move on, shall we?
Seriously, I've been looking for this song for ages -- from 1977, it's irrepressible Brit pub rocker turned punk fellow traveler Johnny G and his sneakily subversive affront to the concept of good taste "Call Me Bwana."
In the interests of accuracy, I've actually only been looking for this since June of 2009, when I chanced upon -- and posted about -- Johnny's equally wonderful second single "The Hippys Graveyard." The original 7-inch vinyl versions of both of which I had lost in the Great Girlfriend Crisis of 1980.
In any event, a fun song, and of course the picture sleeve just cracks me up on a number of levels.
And since the DivShare link to "Hippys Graveyard" seems to have expired over at the earlier post, here's a new one.
...is, obviously, a live original cast recording of a mime show.
This is not a joke, by the way; this album was actually released in 1978, while Mummenschanz was wowing them on Broadway.
Here's the track listing.
BLOB, CREEPY CRAWLY, WORM, GREEN MOUTH, SIX HEADS, SLINKY, FROG, INSECT, RABBIT, CAT, APE TO MAN
TOILET PAPER, GERRY CANS, NOTE PADS, CLAY MASKS
Uncredited bonus tracks include COUGHING, RUSTLING IN SEATS, and JEWISH WOMAN IN ROW C COMPLAINING ABOUT HER HAIRDRESSER BEFORE THE CURTAIN RISES.
I bring all this up because I have just learned that a certain person near and dear to me almost sprung for a copy of this on eBay, intended as a Christmas present, but at the last minute thought better of it.
If any of our faithful readers, however, should be so moved as to acquire it for me, you can find the LP -- apparantly still shrink-wrapped and unplayed -- over here.
I, of course, will immediately have the album transferred into the digital domain and then post mp3s of the best moments when appropriate.
Thank you in advance for your diligence in this regard.
[Weekend Listomania remains on hiatus until the New Year. -Ed.]
Hey, we invented everything else in Show Business. Including rock 'n' roll.
But seriously, people often say to me "Steve -- you're incredibly old and you've seen everything. Who do you think, pound for pound, is the greatest singer in the history of popular music? Sinatra? Vanilla Ice? That Lady Gaga kid?"
And to those people I always answer the same thing.
This guy. Obviously.
Show me a rose, And I'll show you a girl named Sam. Show me a rose, Or leave me alone
Yeah, yeah, I know it's not a Christmas song, but -- for the reasons implied above -- what the hell does that have to do with the price of beans?
Oh, and by the way, I also think he's the greatest dancer who ever lived. And don't give me any of that Michael Jackson shit, 'cause I don't want to hear it.
From 1987, it's the great Richard Thompson and his avant-garde friends Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser and John French with their version of...The Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA"?
This is from a really interesting album, incidentally, but the track itself has always left me scratching my head. Which is to say I've never been sure whether they're being a little snobbishly superior to the song (and surf music generally) or just having a bit of silly fun.
Those who know me know that Yuletunes is my favorite pop Christmas compilation, though there are excellent others out there. This week, I'll post a song a day from various sources to feed that holiday jones.
With this one, I'll throw in an excerpt from the almost-done-I-swear Boys Don't Lie, explaining how it came to be.
And the backstory:
MIDWAY THROUGH 1991, JEFF had a brainstorm: several years earlier, before his marriage, he had snuck his then-girlfriend’s sons into the studio to record a Christmas song for their mother as The Puddles. “Christmas List” had become a family favorite, never failing to bring a tear to his wife’s eye, and he wanted to release it more broadly. As fall set in that year, he had an idea: they were part of a respectable alternative pop community, so why not ask the people they knew to contribute songs to a pop Christmas album?
Yuletunes brings together a Who’s Who of the alt-pop scene in 1990—Matthew Sweet, Material Issue, Don Dixon & Marti Jones, Kelley Ryan, Spooner, Bill Lloyd, the Critics, 92 Degrees, The Spongetones—as artists and producers these acts had determined the shape of much of independent music for the previous several years. Sweet was riding the crest of his breakthrough record Girlfriend. Dixon had produced REM and a laundry list of other great acts from the North Carolina scene and elsewhere, along with his own work, and was showing no signs of slowing down. Spooner’s Butch Vig was poised to become the name in alternative pop production once Nirvana’s Nevermind hit the streets that September. Even the lesser-known artists on the record were full of luminaries-to-be, such as Big People’s Bill Kelly, an old friend of the band who went on to become a noted screenwriter.
Some of the contributors had Christmas songs already: Bill Lloyd had already written and recorded “Underneath the Christmas Tree,” for example, when he was approached by Jamie Hoover of the Spongetones for a song: this seemed like a perfect outlet. Kelley Ryan had a song she’d written with Steve Toland—”It’s Not Christmas”—ready to record: her contribution would cement her relationship, not only with Toland, with whom she would work semi-regularly for the next decade in astroPuppees, but also with Don Dixon and Marti Jones, still her regular collaborators.
I had met Shoes before…but this was such a great personal step musically because their acceptance of me as a ‘songwriter’ as well as a friend, really kicked me into gear and started me a serious path of recording.
Nearly half the Yuletunes tracks were recorded at Black Vinyl with Jeff behind the board. And it went fast. Jeff recalls: “It was conceived in August of 1991 and put together in September”: a remarkably quick production.
From beginning to end, Yuletunes was Jeff’s project. They sent out feelers to a lot of people, and basically every song submitted made it to the record. In fact, they were a little concerned that their band contribution, John’s “This Christmas” was not going to make the deadline, but as usual, John slid it in under the wire. Still, the late beginning meant that the sales season was nearly over before its release in 1991: the mastering date is December 5, barely leaving time for distribution before Christmas.
There's some recentish underground bands (the Raveonettes, the Contrast, Locksley), some perennial underground faves (Superchunk, the Grip Weeds), some not-so-underground names (Ringo Starr, Peter Wolf, Cheap Trick, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, The Rolling Stones) and some which feature vintage players in new bands (Keith Richards and the X-pensive Winos, the Doughboys, with Richard X. Heyman reprising his long-ago childhood band, and the Deadbeat Poets with Blue Ash's Frank Secich). There are covers and originals and all manner of nifty stuff at the link.
So, enjoy the options, choose your poison, and cast your vote!
(I should note that I was hipped to this contest by Secich of the Deadbeat Poets, so if you want to cast a vote for the person who pointed me, and then you, to this list of bitchin' songs, that's where it should go. Just so you know.)
So as you might have heard, Sir Paul McCartney played the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem last Monday night. My friend Laura the Rock 'n' Roll Travel Agent™ was in the audience, and when Sir Paul started up a thoroughly unexpected cover of Marvin Gaye's "Hitchhike," she called me from her cell.
All I could hear at the time was her screaming like a twelve-year-old Beatles fan in 1964, but as you will note from the above mp3 (from the live radio broadcast that night), it turns out it was a pretty terrific performance. In fact, I would venture to say that it was, as the kids say, the shit.
A confession: one of our favorite uses for the Wii (which was supposed to be for exercise, ya lameass) is going to the internet and watching youtube videos together. I know, I know: the intertubes are isolating and alienating and we're not supposed to share them, so I'm doing it all wrong. Oh, well. One more strike on my Worst Parent Ever scorecard.
Yesterday, we ended up watching this video, a perennial fave of both myself and my three youngsters, now 11, 6, and 4. When the eldest first heard this song, the idea of it stuck with him, and he asked for an alien the way Lisa Simpson asks for a pony: every year for a while. He seems to have figured out th
at can't happen now, just in time for his younger brother to pick up the mantle.
Look, we're not deluded here. We know Power Pop is, err, a specialized taste: I think that's partly why we have such a soft spot for underdogs like the adorable Jay Banerjee of Jay Banerjee and the Hearthrobs.
Jay is, of course, the brains behind the floating NYC powerpop concert series known as Hipster Demolition Night. He's got a great blend of pop sensibility and self-deprecating humor, and he's starting to get some attention for it.
I'm on his mailing list, and this arrived yesterday.
This is one of those special-announcement-that-comes-along-every-few-months-or-so-that-I-need-to-harass-everyone-in-my-address-book-about-but-why-am-I-using-so-many-hyphens?-type things.
For once, not using a stage name actually helped my "career":
Yup, that's the website of MTV Desi, an MTV sister channel. I'm on their front page right now, too. I don't know about you, but that's enough to get me to call my cable or satellite provider.
("Desi"--pronounced "DAY-see"--means "of Indian Subcontinental extraction", cracker.) ........
Now, I know you're thinking, "Boy, Jay, you really must be desperate if you're playing up your South Asian heritage to get a write-up from MTV."
First of all, the name is SANJAY, thanks.
Second of all, that's not how it happened. I have no idea how it happened. They found me somehow. I didn't realize they knew I existed until I saw the write-up. It's not like I sent them a whole bunch of e-mails going, "Hi, I'm Jay Banerjee. I'm half-Bengali but look vaguely Italian. My least favorite song on Sgt. Pepper's is 'Within You, Without You'. Take a listen to my ultra-white rock'n'roll."
Well, I'll take it, even if they call the album Kissing Booth when it's actually called (oh, the irony) ("Ban-er-jee." Just Like It's Spelled.) You can buy it from Itunes, y'know, if you haven't gotten the vinyl or the CD already. You can also buy it again to support a young and hungry SOUTH ASIAN artist.
Dang right. Now that I know it works, I'm gonna beat that angle to death from here on in.
In the link itself, the bemused reviewer gives the finest reader-response definition of the genre I've seen in a long time.
There’s no way of describing Jay Banerjee and making it sound worth checking out because it’s so inherently uncool, but I assure you, you’ll either find it hilarious or heartfelt and engaging. The style is a little pop punk and a little garage accompanied by Jay’s endearing, boy-like voice going on and on like he’s reading pages from his diary. If you watch the video for “Long Way Home” and don’t want to give him a hug, then you’re not human. Go on, watch it. Test your humanity with Jay Banerjee.
Plug in the name of any power pop band you can name, and that actually kind of works. Uncool, but heartfelt. I can live with that.
[Weekend Listomania remains on hiatus until the new year. -- Ed.]
From the most recent MOJO sampler CD -- theme: some holiday in December -- here's perennially fresh as a daisy alt-rock funsters Superchunk and a thoroughly charming version of John Cale's great "Child's Christmas in Wales."
Cale's Paris 1919, from whence that song derives, is one of my favorite albums of all time, but I must confess until I heard the Superchunk cover it had never occurred to me that "Child's Christmas" could be done as a straight-ahead pop rocker with jangly guitars. Trust me, if I'd had that insight back in my 80s skinny-tie band days, I would now be annoying you with a poorly recorded live mp3 of yours truly singing the damn thing at some low dive somewhere.
And speaking as we were yesterday of unsung garage/psychedelic heroes The Misunderstood, from 1966 here's their rather astoundingly Yardbirds-ish "I Unseen"...
...a very powerful anti-war song whose lyrics you may be more familiar with from The Byrds (also from 1966) "I Come and Stand at Every Door."
The Byrds track, as some of you may be aware, is one of my favorite things ever (David Crosby's out-of-the-blue harmony line on the last verse is devastating, I think), but their version (courtesy of Pete Seeger) appropriates the melody of an old Celtic folk song called "The Silkie." The lyrics to both versions, however, are based on a translation of a poem by Turkish writer Nazim Hikmet; you can find out more about the provenance of the song at that link.
In any case, The Misunderstood's radical re-imagining of it really does suggest that these guys could have been a major band if the fates -- including the Vietnam War era draft, ironically enough -- hadn't intervened.
You know, it's still pretty amazing to me what you can find on the Intertubes just by looking around.
From 1966, and (deservedly) on the top of the charts in some parallel universe somewhere, please enjoy The Misunderstood and their rather mind-boggling pop psychedelic debut single "I Can Take You to the Sun."
I had never heard of these guys until a few weeks ago, actually. The short version: Brit Invasion-inspired California garage band with all the usual influences. Then they added a steel guitar player(!), got discovered by the guy who would later become John Peel, moved to England, got signed, and impressed people as being innovators in a league with The Yardbirds and Pink Floyd despite the fact that none of their singles sold. Eventually, one of them got drafted and the whole thing kind of fell apart by early '67.
Most of the rest of their recorded output from that period is equally if not more impressive, IMHO. On the other hand, I'm not sure their failure to break through commercially was simply a matter of bad luck -- their original songs (to my ears) lack that certain something, despite the performances being tremendously imaginative and accomplished. Still, they seem to be one of the more tantalizing Might Have Been stories from the period, and as I said, it's kind of amazing that you can still stumble across stuff like this unawares.
Our pals King Hell! have cracked the real-life Da Vinci Code. From their most recent Facebook entry:
Art historians have just uncovered hidden letters in the eyes of the Mona Lisa. One of them, an “L”, is believed to indicate the identity of the painting’s mysterious model, which investigation by our own King Hell Institute For Artistic Misrepresentation has revealed to be none other than…
From the soundtrack to Head (Bob Rafelson, 1968), here's the Pre-Fab Four, i.e. The Monkees, with a version of Mike Nesmith's very cool "Circle Sky."
Recorded absolutely live, with the guys playing all the instruments.
Obviously, The Monkees were not one of the great live bands, but for at least the duration of this song, they were clearly capable of delivering some convincing garage rock goods. In any case, I bring the whole thing up because the Criterion Collection has just released a fantastic new restored version of the film in question -- in widescreen and with a stunning new 5:1 Surround soundtrack, with the music remixed directly from the original 8-track masters. Suffice it to say that this is the first home video version of Head to do it justice; deliberately Fellini-esque and screamingly funny career suicides don't come any better. Plus, Carole King's "Porpoise Song," the movie's theme music, is the single best Monkees track ever.
I should add that the new Head comes in a box set -- DVD or Blu-ray -- featuring similarly restored versions of (among others) Easy Rider (in stereo! woohoo!), The Last Picture Show and Five Easy Pieces, all seminal works from that now vanished Golden Age of risk-taking American commercial cinema. The whole thing will set you back about 70 bucks over at Amazon, which is pretty reasonable, actually; if you haven't asked for an Xmas present from someone you love yet, I'd go for it.
[Weekend Listomania remains on hiatus until the new year. -- Ed.]
So the other night -- i.e., the sad 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon -- I was chatting via the intertubes with a certain frequent commenter about the relative merits of John's Beatles stuff versus the solo work, a subject we needn't get into here for a number of reasons. In any event, I did allow that "Real Love," the John tune from his Dakota house husband period that the surviving Beatles finished for Anthology in 1995, was one of my favorites among the later stuff, and that the Beatles version is something I genuinely cherish. Seriously -- I think it stands up very nicely against anything that they did as a group back in the day.
Anyway, by chance, later that evening I stumbled across this radically different acoustic guitar version John did of the song -- from the sound of it, quite a bit earlier than the piano demo the Fabs overdubbed. Which I hadn't heard before.
Not epochal by any means -- in fact, pretty ragged, actually -- but by the time John started whistling I must confess to kind of losing it.
....if you're gonna be in the Chicago area next Wednesday, you definitely should check this out.
On 12/15, Schubas Tavern in Chicago presents:
You Get What You Deserve -- A Tribute to Big Star
Featuring: Steve Frisbie (Frisbie) John San Juan (The Hushdrops) Tom Szidon (The Joypoppers) Mike Zelenko (Material Issue)
It’s been a rough year for Big Star fans. Alex Chilton’s untimely death was a shocking loss felt deeply by many. The subsequent death of Andy Hummel only further drove it home – the band so many of us loved was gone. (Long live Jody Stephens!) United by a sense of loss and a desire to celebrate their beloved Big Star, Steve Frisbie, John San Juan, Tom Szidon and Mike Zelenko will take the stage and pour their hearts into some of the best songs you ever heard.
Energetic poplords Village will perform first. DJ poseur will spin before and between the bands. $8 adv/$10 door 21 and over
Sounds like a pretty cool tribute, especially if Mike Zelenko's involved; if you stop by, tell 'em PowerPop sent you.
Meanwhile, here's an utterly fab Big Star performance -- from the Leno show in '94, it's Alex and Jody (along with Jon and Ken from The Posies) and "In the Street."
One presumes there will be a version of this to be heard on the 15th as well.
...semi-regular visitor to these pages Tom Littlefield and his partner in crime Jonathan Bright have alerted me to their latest project -- which is, if you can believe it, an all-ukulele tribute album in honor of The Replacements.
...from his 1993 DIY album Swimming Lesson, please enjoy power pop should-be-a-legend Rob Laufer and the original version of his spine-tinglingly beautiful "This is Our Life."
Incidentally, this was recorded on a home eight-track, which still amazes me. Laufer redid it, pretty much note for note, for his bigger-budgeted 1995 major label album Wonderwood (one of the truly great records of its decade, incidentally) but this one just has a certain extra little something the otherwise estimable remake lacks. IMHO.
From 1958, please enjoy The Playmates (of "Beep Beep" fame) and the suurealist greaseball deathrock that is "(I Dreamed the Jukebox Played) The Day I Died."
I'd neither heard this record nor even suspected its existence until last Friday, if truth be told. But it's an amazing piece of work, I think; when people talk about the poetry of rock --
There was a-stompin' and a-strollin' There was a-goin' on All the cats were wailing "The Gonest is gone!"
-- that's gotta be what they're referring to.
I should add that I discovered its wonders after a query from my old bandmate and high school chum Allan Weissman, for whom it has apparently been an obsession looming large in his legend for lo these many years. Thanks, Al!!!
Just saw this ad for what looks like an intriguing show next week: Big Star's Third, (a/k/a "Sister Lovers")done live with an orchestra, and Who's Who of Southern Pop Royalty. Check this out:
We (at this rehearsal, “we” includes Mitch Easter, Jeff Crawford, Charles Cleaver, and Matt McMichaels) are listening to and learning “Big Black Car.” On the second prechorus, the acoustic guitar (presumably played by Alex) gets ahead of the progression by a bar, and lands on the D minor while the rest of the instruments are on the D major–then the acoustic seemingly rectifies this “mistake” by glancing off the side of an F# note and joining everyone on the next bar on the D minor. Now, this was before cut-and-paste computer flub-fixing, but Ardent, a top-notch facility, had ways and means to correct things like this, yet it stayed that way. Now, a “major/minor” (aug. 9) chord wasn’t unheard of in the jazz vocabulary of Alex’s childhood home. And the vocal melody also adapts to this major-minor mishmash.
Yet the first prechorus stays on track: A, A7, D maj, D min. And the demo (from the boxed set) has two matched prechoruses.
But the flavor of this “nothing can hurt me” moment has always seemed right, somehow; I’d never questioned it before.
So I think we are going to play the “mistake” (acoustic on Dm and piano and electric guitar on D major). Or maybe we’ll mix it up, alternating nights. Not sure yet. Better yet, maybe we’ll make our own mistakes, in just the right–or wrong–places.
Only the first blog post is credited, to Chris Stamey of The dB's, but I think he's writing all of them, and it's fascinating (if you are, umm, a geek like me) to get a look at this coming together.
We're looking here at Mike Mills, Mitch Easter, Jody Stephens, Stamey (natch), and a slew of other rock and orchestral musicians working to bring this thing to light. I think it looks amazing, but impossible for me. Someone want to go & report?
Gylne Tider (Golden Times), a kitschy Norwegian show which chases faded celebrities, recently released a video--a promo for their fourth series--which has gone kind of viral, according to the Paper of Record:
And what better way to bring to life the concept of such a show than by bringing together dozens of these celebrities to sing and/or lip-sync “Let It Be”?
You’ll surely recognize some of the faces that turn up in the course of this video (including, sadly, Leslie Nielsen – R.I.P.) and even if you don’t read a lick of Norwegian, you should have no trouble discerning the meaning of identifying captions...
I honestly have no idea what I think of this whole thing: what do you think?
(Tonya Harding next to Glenn Close? Really? And they said postmodernism was dead!)
As noted yesterday, Weekend Listomania is on hiatus for December.
So...in its stead, from the should-be-way-better-known 1966 album Two Yanks in London here's The Everly Brothers and the proto-powerpop "Don't Run and Hide."
And from the same year, and the B-side to their immortal "Bus Stop," here's the song's composers The Hollies and a sort of Who-ish version, featuring spectacular drumming by their great Bobby Elliott.
The Hollies' Clark-Hicks-Nash songwriting team contributed eight tunes to the Everlys album, including the gorgeous "Signs That Will Never Change," their version of which eventually surfaced a year later as the B-side to "Carrie-Anne." Supposedly, the Hollies provide the most of the instrumental backing for the album as well, although to my ears that's dubious -- this sounds like the usual bunch of Brit session pros (including Jimmy Page, who's supposed to be in there somewhere) to me, especially compared to the kick-ass Hollies track above.
Don and Phil, of course, acquit themselves as if they'd been genetically bred to cover Hollies tunes. Or maybe the Hollies sound as if they'd been genetically bred to sing like the Everly Brothers. Whatever. In either case, this is a criminally underrated album.
That's right, no early clue to the new direction today. The reason: Weekend Listomania is on hiatus until the new year.
Sorry to be such a slacker about this, but my mom is under the weather, and she needs kind of full time attention from me for a couple of weeks. And one of the easiest ways to free myself up is to not deal with Friday's de rigueur big project.
Not to worry -- business around here will otherwise be as per usual and, as noted, I expect the List to make its return in January, all tanned rested and ready, as they used to say of Richard Nixon.
More specifically, from the 1987 album by Adrian Belew's pop band of the (more or less) same name, here are The Bears. Channeling the spirit of the Revolver-era Beatles better than anybody this side of XTC with the utterly delightful psychedelic pop ditty "Raining."
That song just makes me grin from ear to ear. Jeebus, what a chorus.
Incidentally, the album cover is by the great Mad (magazine) artist Mort Drucker. I went to college with his lovely daughter, and Mort once did a very Mort-esque poster for a college theater production of the musical version of Canterbury Tales she and I were involved in. I don't remember much about the show at this point, although I seem to recall that I played King Arthur as Groucho. Hey, it was the 70s.
The poster was really cool in any case, but of course I lacked the foresight to keep a copy.
Believe it or not, this is the very first pop record I ever owned and played on my own little record player.
From 1950 -- although I probably didn't actually encounter it until maybe four or five years later -- here's weepy old Bolshie folksinger Sam Hinton and his hit version of the Ban the Bomb talking blues classic "Old Man Atom."
In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that the 78rpm version of this I owned was on Columbia Records, which licensed the original master for national distribution after legendary New York disc jockey Martin Block played the edition pictured above on his influential Make Believe Ballroom program.
Jeebus, sometimes I can't stand the fact that I'm actually old enough to remember all this crap.
In any case, I think this is actually a terrific -- and obviously still relevant -- song, and a heck of a performance. Also, whoever produced the track obviously knew what they were doing; the little hint of reverb that sneaks in on the "Hiroshima, Nagasaki..." choruses is really effective, and that explosion at the end is an especially nice touch; totally creeped me out when I was a kid, in point of fact.
"So listen folks...here is my thesis: Peace in the world -- or the world in pieces."
Apologies for the Bandstand reference, but here's a brand new song and accompanying video that conjures up a couple of Proustian madeleines, as it were.
"Chandeliers," by Summer Fiction.
I'm informed that Summer Fiction is the bandname for Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter Bill Ricchini, and that his/their influences include The Beach Boys, The Smiths, The Zombies, Nilsson, Ronnie Spector, the third Velvet Underground album, plus " bad girl crushes and Catholic School blues." Sounds about right, actually.
This sort of thing can often verge on the oppressively twee, even for somebody like myself who shares a fondness for (most of) the above, but "Chandeliers" got under my skin almost immediately.
It helps that the video looks like every party the awkward high-school aged me ever attended in a suburban finished basement, of course.
I'm also informed that the band will be performing at The Living Room in Manhattan on Saturday, Dec.4th. I'm gonna be in Brooklyn seeing my pals King Hell, alas, but if you're in the neighborhood check out Summer Fiction and tell 'em PowerPop sent you.
From 1956, it's Chuck Berry with a little intrumental called, in an example of the dazzling wordplay he was so famous for, "Chuck's Boogie."
And from 1964, here's Brit r&b/garage punks The Downliner's Sect and a cover version that replicates Chuck's original to a tee, albeit with the charming lack of swing that made them the poor man's Pretty Things rather than international superstars still packing stadiums today. If you know what I mean.
And finally, from 1966 and the great Roger the Engineer album, here's The Yardbirds featuring Mr. Jeff Beck, and a version of the tune -- fittingly retitled "Jeff's Boogie" -- that sends it rocketing past the Van Allen Belt and out into the vast reaches of intergalactic space.
No Listomania today -- sorry. I'm using the long holiday weekend as an excuse for some well-deserved slacking off, but we will return to traditional business next week.
In the List's place, however, I offer a meditation on (among other things) rock-and-roll, prompted both by my ranting about Lady Gaga over the last day or two and the fact that I had occasion this week to re-read Jules Feiffer's superb 1965 The Great Comic Book Heroes, still one of the best books ever written about pop culture. Feiffer concludes it with the following paragraph; he's talking specifically about comics, but I think the point he's really making is somewhat broader.
Comic books, which had few public (as opposed to professional) defenders in the days when Dr. Wertham was attacking them, are now looked back on by an increasing number of my generation as samples of our youthful innocence instead of our youthful corruption. A sign, perhaps, of the potency of that corruption. A corruption -- a lie, really -- that put us in charge, however, temporarily, of the world in which we lived and gave us the means, however arbitrary, of defining right from wrong, good from bad, hero from villain. It is something for which old fans can understandably pine -- almost as if having become overly conscious of the imposition of junk on our adult values: on our architecture, our highways, our advertising, our mass media, our politics -- and even in the air we breathe, flying black chunks of it -- we have staged a retreat to a better remembered brand of junk. A junk that knew its place was underground where it had no power and thus only titillated, rather than above ground where it truly has power -- and thus, only depresses.
As I said, Feiffer was talking specifically about comics, but he might just as well have been talking about rock, no?
[Shamless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or worst holiday-themed films -- is now up as usual over at Box Office. Hey -- no slacking over there, it pays the bills. In any case, I'd take it as a particular favor this week if you could find a minute and maybe go over there and leave a comment. Thanks.]
From last October's Buffalo Springfield reunion show(!) here's Stephen Stills, Ritchie Furay, and Neil Young and the still delightful "Go and Say Goodbye."
Okay, it's an audience tape, the guys are all playing acoustics, and the performance is a little ragged. Who cares? It's the Buffalo Springfield, for heaven's sake.
And as a chutzpah-defining bonus, here's an audience recording of the fabulous Floor Models -- featuring some guy whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on bass -- covering the song at the Other End Cafe in 1982.
Our version has a lot of pep, I'll give it that at least.
We here at Power Pop wish a very happy birthday to John Murphy of Shoes.
In the last year and a half, I have logged probably a couple hundred hours talking with John, who is a charming guy: funny and warm, generous with his time (though admittedly a little meandering in his conversation), and has a memory so detailed that his nickname has become "Johnny Gingko." I can't tell you the number of times he's filled in a missing plot point or mentioned in passing something which opened up a whole new episode (which is why I have to declare this thing done: it will never really be finished).
In any case, today is his natal day, and we wish him a good one.
You know, I was pretty much a lapsed Springsteen fan for the longest time. Since...oh, I dunno, The River, actually. And I didn't really come around till recently, i.e. Magic, which I think is some of his best work ever.
But even now -- there are times when I think, "yeah, yeah, Bruce is great, but it's old and I've seen it all before" and like that.
And then, he goes and does something like this -- on the Jimmy Fallon show Tuesday night -- and once again I'm, you should pardon the expression, a believer.
This guy is 60 and rocking out like that? Sweet mother of fuck, as Dexter's sister might say.
Seriously -- if that performance doesn't give you chills down to the cellular level, then you just don't like the form, if you know what I mean.
Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental foreclosure dominatrix Fah Lo Suee and I will be heading to an undisclosed airport to have somebody at the TSA handle our junk.
It's a couple of old analog TVs we finally got around to replacing -- normally, we'd just leave 'em on the curb in front of our condo, but for some reason the garbage guys in Hackensack aren't allowed to pick 'em up anymore. Go figure.
That being the case, and because things will thus be somewhat low key around here until our return, here's a perhaps educational AND entertaining little project to help us wile away those idle hours:
Cult Figure(s) Who By All Rights Should Have Had at Least One Fricking Top Ten Hit Over the Course of Their Career, But By Now It's Looking Extremely Unlikely They Ever Will!!!
And my totally top of my head Top Five is:
5. Rob Laufer
Laufer is another alumnus of Beatlemania (see my number one choice, below) who turned out to have genuine talent above and beyond doing imitations of the Fabs. And as I've probably said here on several occasions, his 1995 Wonderwood album is one of the greatest power pop records ever made, with at least three songs -- including the Robin Zander-covered "Reactionary Girl," heard here in the composer's version -- that in any sane world would have been ubiquitous on every radio in the land.
4. R. Stevie Moore
Bloomfield, New Jersey's king of D.I.Y, and still either too smart, too weird, or both, for the room.
3. The Rutles
Okay, granted, their legend was never going to last more than a lunchtime, but I was convinced that at least one of the songs -- like the ominously Lennon-esque "Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik" -- from their 1996 pretend vault exhumation set would finally get Rutland's finest to the toppermost of the poppermost
2. Peter Blegvad
Singer/songwriter/guitarist/cartoonist Blegvad's "Daughter" got a lot of exposure via Loudon Wainwright's very nice cover on the 2007 soundtrack of Knocked Up, and justifiably so, but what a pleasure it would have been to hear the composer's original 1995 version on the radio. And he's got boatloads of songs this good, in case you were wondering.
And the Numero Uno it's-lonely-being-a-genius pop/rock act of them all simply has to be...
1. Marshall Crenshaw
Technically Crenshaw did co-write the Gin Blossoms' "Till I Here I Hear It From You," which cracked the Top Ten in 1995, but please -- at least one of the countless gorgeous songs he's recorded under his own name since his 1982 debut album should have been a bona fide smash. I mean, come on.
Alrighty, then -- who would your choices be?
[Shamless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: feature film that for good or ill would be unthinkable without its iconic musical score or theme song -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, it would be a mitzvah if you could take a moment to go over there and drop a comment. Thanks!]