Friday, January 29, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Golden Throats Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental nocturnal emissions specialist Fah Lo Suee and I will be taking an exploratory meeting with George Swine, CEO of EnormoCorp Industries [R-Manchuria]. Something to do with a forthcoming senatorial campaign I may be contemplating now that the Supreme Court has decided that money talks (I would be the bullshit walks part, obviously).

In any event, further posting by moi will have to be sporadic for a day or two.

In the meantime, then, here's a hopefully fun little project for us all:

Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Singer or Group Who Most Influenced (For Good or Ill) the Art of Pop/Rock Singing!!!

No arbitrary rules here whatsoever. (I should also add that my song selections do not necessarily represent the singer or group's most influential work. They're just things I like, or that perhaps immediately sprung to mind.)

And my totally top of my head Top Seven is:

7. Bob Dylan -- Percy's Song

Believe it or not, there are still people who think Dylan couldn't sing. Heh heh. I usually play the studio version of this for those folks, but for some reason I can't find it on my computer at the moment, so this very nice live version will have to suffice. In any case, Dylan's phrasing and charmingly nasal tones have influenced countless singer/songwriters over the years, few of whom would have likely been granted artistic license without his example.

6. The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger)-- Good Times, Bad Times

Snotty white boy sings the blues and quite convincingly -- this despite the fact that he doesn't really sound all that black, although everybody thinks he does at the time. An amazing accomplishment, when you think of it, and the template for decades of snotty white boy vocalists who probably never even heard of Muddy Waters.

5. Vanilla Fudge -- You Keep Me Hanging On

If truth be told, it wasn't the faux classical instrumental overkill that made The Fudge influential (that stuff is as dead as the papal penis, actually). No, it was their vocal approach. The notion, in rock, that you can simulate soul with pompous Italianate pseudo-operatic yoweling begins here, and legions of bad bands and singers -- mostly from Long Island, for some reason -- have made that appalling innovation part of their gestalt.

4. David Bowie -- Young Americans

The aforementioned pompous Italianate pseudo-operatic yoweling overlaid with an affectless Anthony Newley impression. Influential? Essentially, every unbearable singer out of England between 1971 and the late 80s -- Bryan Ferry, Martin Fry of ABC, The Thompson Twins, that clown in Spandau Ballet -- copped their vocal shtick from Bowie. Hey, thanks for nothing, Dave.

3. Patti LaBelle -- Over the Rainbow

Over-souling: A vocal style in which the singer throws throws some poor song onto the floor, writhing in pain and gasping for breath, and then wrestles it into submission until it simply expires. The late great Jerry Wexler, of Atlantic Records, named it, but it was Patti LaBelle who brought it to the mainstream, and just about every successful r&b singer, male or female, emulates it at the moment. I should add, of course, that Patti's 1985 "Over the Rainbow," as heard above, would be considered a laughable model of subtlety and restraint by most contemporary artistes of the American Idol school.

2. The Doobie Brothers (Michael McDonald) -- What a Fool Believes

Okay, there's no real name for what McDonald does, but it's a style in which the singer's beard does all the work, and for a period in the 80s, it was the dominant male vocal sound of pop music worldwide.

And the numero uno most influential post-Elvis vocalist actually turns out to be...

1. Cher -- Believe

Well, Cher via the dreaded AutoTune. I'm guessing the list of irredeemably crappy hit records featuring robo-vocals in the wake of 100-percent-recycled-plastic-life-form Cher's "Believe" now numbers in the thousands. In any case, the single most insufferable pop music trend of the last decade plus.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or worst movie adaptation of a stage play, drama or musical -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could find it in your heart to go over there and post a comment, I might be able to con management into upping my already wildly overgenerous freelance fee. Thanks!!!]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

An Another Fekakteh! Early Clue to the New Direction: Special Utter of Lack of Personality Edition

From 1984, please enjoy -- if that is the word, which I don't think it really is -- World's Most Generic Rock Singer Bryan Adams and his hit (in which he waxes nostalgic for a year he was way too young in real life to have experienced in the manner the song suggests) "Summer of '69."

I think I've told this joke before, but a few years later, when I heard that Adams was writing the theme song for Kevin Costner's Robin Hood movie, I suggested that he might want to title it "Summer of 1269."

In any case, as always, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded the first reader sufficiently courageous of ears to glean the clip's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

And given that this is really one of the most unfairly opaque clues I've ever posted, I probably need to add early on that the World's Most Generic Rock Singer tag is the salient thing here.

Block That Metaphor!

Been meaning to post this for a while -- it's another track from that Live at CBGBs double LP from 1976 we mentioned last week.

So -- please enjoy Bowery faves The Miamis and their simultaneously funny, sweet and rousing ode to service(!) with a smile, the anthemic "We Deliver."

I know very little about these guys beyond the fact that they were from NYC and played at CBGBs a lot. It's a fabulous song, though, and as with the Laughing Dogs (see link above) it's all but impossible to imagine how it or the band ever got tagged as punk or underground.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Idylls of the King

There's rock criticism, and then there's rock criticism.

From 1982, and the simultaneously funniest and most appalling bootleg of all time, please enjoy the late Elvis Presley and the dance sensation that fortunately did not sweep the nation -- "Do the Clam."

In case you were wondering, EGS was a collection of 22 of the most egregiously awful tracks on some of the crappiest of Elvis' almost literally countless albums -- most, but not all, from the movie soundtracks he ground out by the yard (some come from the blatant throwaway live records issued in his name as well). The idea, of course, was to make fun of even the possibility that Presley was some kind of an artist, let alone a major one, and in 1982, in the wake of the rampant over-commercialization of Presley's death, that wasn't as offensive a thing to do as it might sound, at least depending on your perspective. In fact, if the people who put the bootleg together weren't themselves Presley fans, I'd be very surprised.

I actually had this on vinyl back in the day, mostly for the cover art, although the reproduction of an actual prescription written by Dr. Nick was a really nice touch as well.

I should add that "Do the Clam" (which was written, I kid you not, by Ed Wood Jr.'s girlfriend and Glen or Glenda? co-star Dolores Fuller) is not, strictly speaking, the worst song of the compilation. That honor may belong to "Queenie Wahine's Papaya" or "There's No Room to Rumble Rhumba in a Rumble Seat," but obviously we're splitting very obnoxious hairs here.

Also, I am reliably informed that there's a CD resissue of this with bonus tracks. If you own it, I would like to meet you, if not (as I am wont to say) perhaps to shake your hand.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Songs I've Just Realized I Can't Live Without: The Note He Wrote

Jim Ellison, frontman of power pop faves Material Issue, killed himself (carbon monoxide poisoning) in his Chicago garage on June 20, 1996. I didn't hear about it till a couple of weeks later -- a passing mention in (I seem to recall) an otherwise unrelated item in Billboard -- but I remember being genuinely (and somewhat unexpectedly) saddened, certainly more than I'd been over Kurt Cobain's suicide. No surprise there, really; it's not exactly a news flash that an old fart like me wasn't, shall we say, Cobain's demographic, and in any case, just about every sentient being on the planet had probably seen his exit coming. Ellison's death, however, took me aback -- there had always been an undercurrent of regret in MI's music, but the guy who wrote and sang "What Girls Want" had nonetheless struck me as somebody with a generally positive outlook on life. Besides, he was only 32, and it just seemed so sad and pointless.

Nobody ever really knows what drives another person to such extremes, of course, and family and friends have been mostly tight-lipped about the circumstances, but apparently a busted romance had something to do with it. So when Telecommando Americano, the posthumous Material Issue CD the band had been working on before Ellison's suicide, came out in 1997 I had a bit of trouble reviewing it. For obvious reasons, I could barely get past the opening track.

"What If I Killed Your Boyfriend."

A great snotty and blackly comic take on the classic rock kiss-off song, I think, which would have been enjoyed as amusingly ironic if Ellison had lived to see it released, but which resonates on all sorts of other levels in the here and now. I mean, there's really no other way to hear it except as a window into his doubtless desperate emotional state at the time.

I should add that a version of this was going to be the lead-off track on an actual solo album of cover songs I was working on in 1998. The concept had to do with awful girlfriends and tragic relationships. The working title: More Songs About Anger and Embittered Self Pity.

Fortunately, for a number of reasons, cooler heads prevailed.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Those Fabulous 80s!

A brief and belated postscript to the "favorite drum stuff" Listomania from the other week:

In good conscience, I must add a song that occurred to me about five seconds after I posted. So, from 1986, please enjoy entertainingly lachrymose synth-popster Howard Jones and the vastly superior remake of "No One is to Blame" featuring some balding guy on those pagan skins.

Like most sensible folks, I ODd on Phil Collins back in the day (jeebus -- how many annoying power ballads did he have on the soundtracks of 80s films?) and to be honest I never much cared for Genesis in either their prog or pop incarnations. Nonetheless -- the man is an absolutely brilliant drummer, with a groove and a sound that behooves respect from mere mortals, and he owns this song. Which I think is lovely, actually, but what Collins does with it simply kicks it into another dimension of gorgeous.

Indeed, I maintain that his live drum entrance in the tune's second verse is as perfect a moment as any in all of Western art.

Okay, I'm obviously kidding about that. But not as much as you might think.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special HCR Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental flourish of strumpets avatar Fah Lo Suee and I will be taking an emergency meeting with former nude model turned Massachusetts senator Scott Brown [R-pimped his daughters].

Actually, that's not strictly accurate. In real life, I'll be in New Jersey helping my mom celebrate her 90th birthday (Hi, mom!) but I figured it was worth saying simply to get up the nose of a sensitive reader who took offense to my making fun of a certain well-known theocratic nutcase in last week's Listomania. And if that sounds meanspirited -- hey, it's been a very irksome week.

In any event, further posting by moi will have to be sporadic for a day or two.

In the meantime, then, here's a hopefully fun little project for us all:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Pop or Rock Song Referencing Doctors, Medicine or Just Your Health in General!!!

Yeah, yeah, I think I might have done this one before, but I'm senile, and as it turns out, there was news last week -- seriously -- that gingko biloba actually doesn't help memory at all. So this subject has obvious personal resonance.

I'm sorry...have we been introduced?

Anyway, no arbitrary rules of any kind. Go nuts.

Hey -- there are pears in my Jell-O!!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Seven are:

7. The Velvet Underground -- Lady Godiva's Operation

Lou Reed and John Cale's pathetic commercial sell-out attempt at a Top 40 hit single.

6. Madness -- Cardiac Arrest

I'd actually forgotten how much fun these guys were. Love that xylophone solo!

5. Frank Black -- Headache

Great song, but when I watch the video I think -- for a fat guy, he doesn't sweat much.

4. Joe Jackson -- Cancer

As in "everything gives you..." And this was from Joe's big mainstream commercial breakthrough album, ironically.

3. The Beatles -- Dr. Robert

If memory serves, the real life meth-dispensing Park Avenue doc the Beatles are referencing here is the same one who used to peddle speed to the Warhol crowd, thus lending credence to the rumor that Brian Epstein was a big fan of the Velvets first album. Come to think of it, I seem to recall reading somewhere that Lou Reed actually took a meeting with Epstein in '67 to discuss management, but for whatever reasons -- including Epstein's sudden death, obviously -- it never came to anything. History sure would have been changed in unfathomable ways if it had, of course.

2. James Brown --I Feel Good

And who can argue with that?

And the numero uno song brought to you by the Aetna Insurance Group quite self-evidently is ---

1. Humble Pie -- I Don't Need No Doctor

I would just like to go on record as saying that I have never been able to listen to this track without laughing. Seriously. I inevitably visualize it being sung by four screaming gay midgets. I have no idea why that is, but it's true.

Alrighty, then -- and what would YOUR choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or worst big screen debut by an actor or actress -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, I would be your BFF if you could see your way to going over and leaving a comment, even though there's not a single gratuitous Avatar joke. Thanks!]

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oh Great, Yet Another Deliberately Obscurantist Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1976, please enjoy Bowery faves The Laughing Dogs and their winningly winsome powerpop confection "It Feels Alright Tonight."

This is from the "Live at CBGBS" double album, and it has been a source of wonderment to me for all the years since it came out that the Laughing Dogs ever got tagged as punk or underground. Jeebus, this could pass for Todd Rundgren or maybe Supertramp for heaven's sake, and that organ solo in the middle wouldn't be mistaken for amateurish or avant-garde by anybody with functioning ears.

The group went on to make two studio albums for Columbia; they're apparently very nice, although I've never heard them (neither has ever been on CD, but I seem to recall they're available on a free download site somewhere). Incidentally, the second one -- The Laughing Dogs Meet Their Makers-- has one of the great album covers of all time. A photo of the band being pummelled by their actual moms. Heh heh.

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

Hey -- I Got a Check For Fifteen Dollars For This Joke!

My comment at the Village Voice's annual Pazz and Jop Critics Poll, on newstands now.

Not a particularly good year for music or much else, I think, but it did at least provide a vindication for Devo's theory of things evolving backwards. I for one clearly remember contemplating diva du jour Amy Winehouse back in 2007 and hoping she wouldn't kill herself. And yet here I am now, a mere two years later, contemplating diva du jour Lady Gaga and hoping I won't kill myself.

Steve Simels
Hackensack, NJ

My best albums of the year list is over there somewhere as well.

In Everyone's Life, There's a Bummer of '67

You know, as a rule, I try to post mp3s here of stuff with some -- uh what's the phrase I'm groping for? -- genuine musical interest.

Okay, okay, except for that Beatle Barkers stuff.

Not today, however.

Seriously, this is just heinous, although I think it's worth posting for extra-musical reasons. So, from the depths of the Summer of Love, please enjoy(?) Marcia Strassman and her deeply inauthentic ode to the inner DFH in all of us -- "The Flower Children."

Yes, as we mentioned last week, that is indeed the same Marcia Strassman who later found fame and fortune as Gabe Kaplan's wife Julie on Welcome Back, Kotter. And who better to deliever the immortal lyrics "The flower children/really know what's right/And they're just trying to tell this world/that there's no need to fight"?

Really -- who?

And here's the dirty little secret: To me, and (this has been scientifically proven) to every other straight Jewish guy of my generation, Julie Kotter was, how you say, fantasy fodder.

C'mon -- you don't think we were watching that stupid show for Ron Palillo, do you?

In any case, I'm sure you'll forgive me for including this example of Strassman's early, funny work.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Annals of Low Self-Esteem

Just for the record: The only pop star I have really resembled over the course of my life is the dork seated below.

Seriously -- that could be my fricking high school graduation picture.

And people wonder why I have issues.

Oh well, to give the little geek his due, at least his "She's Just My Style" is a really good Brian Wilson pastiche.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Compare and Contrast: This Way Madness Lies

You know, I'm beginning to kind of frighten myself.

So -- from 1968, here's the original version of "The Tra-La-La Song" by the world's greatest rock band, The Banana Splits. Okay, the world's greatest rock band featuring guys in idiotic costumes (screw you, GWAR).

While from 1979, here's a nifty first generation punk cover by the incomparable Dickies.

And finally, from 1995, here's perhaps the definitive version -- a fabulous alt-pop remake (from the Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits album) by Liz Phair and the late lamented Material Issue.

So, to recap -- I just posted three different versions of the deliberately silly theme song to a crappy kids show from the late 60s. Wow.

The funny thing is, I'm sure there are other worthy renditions out there, and I'd be happy to have them brought to my attention. On the other hand, I think I should probably give the whole subject a rest at this point.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Songs I've Just Realized I Can't Live Without: Return to Sender?

From 1966, please enjoy first generation San Francisco band The Sopwith Camel and "Postcard From Jamaica," their (for want of a better word) adorable follow-up to the smash "Hello, Hello."

This actually got a fair amount of airplay, at least in my NYC neck of the woods, so technically these guys aren't the one-hit wonders that everybody thinks they are. In any case, it's a beautifully written song/record, with pop smarts galore and a pretty impressive level of musicianship, and I've always been vastly taken with singer Peter Kraemer's breathy adult choirboy delivery; he's kind of an ironic folk rock equivalent of Colin Blunstone (of The Zombies), if that makes any sense at all.

Incidentally, the album this is from -- released at the height of the Summer of Love, long after the group had broken up -- is a little gem, deftly mixing the group's obvious good time music influences with some psychedelic touches more characteristic of San Francisco back in the day, and its well worth searching out. I should also add that it's produced (brilliantly) by the now largely forgotten Erik Jacobsen. Jacobsen, who does not seem to have been active in the biz in recent years, was also behind the board for the first three Lovin' Spoonful albums, Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky," and the first couple of Chris Isaak LPs, and I think he's ripe for some kind of critical reappraisal.

Oh, and it occurs to me I may have posted this one in a Listomania at some point, but I'm senile, so cut me some slack.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday Glam Blogging..

Ok, I gotta admit, I am a fan of "Nederglam." That is, glam rock from the low countries and this is a wonderful example of the genre. This is Bonnie St.Claire and Unit Gloria with their single from 1972 called Clap Your Hands and Stamp Your Feet. This rocks my world and I hope you dig it too!


Friday, January 15, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Rhythm is an Outmoded Western Conception* Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental arm candy and stress management expert Fah Lo Suee and I will be taking an emergency meeting with the Prince of Darkness, Satan himself. The subject: What the fuck can we do to keep Pat Robertson [R-Insufferable Lunatic] from talking utter shit on his stupid TV show about how the Haitian people made a deal with the Devil?

That being the case, further posting by moi will be sporadic for a day or two.

In the meantime, then, here's a hopefully fun little project for us all:

Most Memorable Drums, Drumming or Drum Simulation on a Post-Elvis Pop or Rock Record!!!

No arbitrary rules here, except no prog-rock or fusion. Seriously, I couldn't care less if Bill Bruford can play in 12/8 or whatever, and if you try to sneak any of that crap onto the list I will come to your house and rip your lungs out with a set of fireplace tongs.

Other than that, though, pretty much anything goes. My own choices here, as you can see, have more to do with sound or vibe or sheer novelty than with great drumming or any musical expertise per se, on the theory that I'm pretty sure we've already done a list featuring more traditional and technically impressive stuff. But like I said -- no arbitrary rules.

And my totally top of my head Top Eight is:

8. Esquerita -- Esquerita and the Voola

An utterly confounding record, beginning with the idea that somebody at Capitol in 1958 actually thought that this howling weirdness could be a hit. That said, although the track's mise-en-scene clearly belongs to its crazed auteur, I think we can all agree that Esquerita would have been nowhere without the credited-on-the-label drumming of Riccardo Young. Kudos and huzzahs to both of them, obviously.

7. Cozy Cole -- Topsy Parts 1 & 2

This was a double sided smash in 1958, although (as you'll note) I've always been partial to the more popular B-side, if only for the spoken introduction, delivered by Cole (one assumes) with just the right note of on-the-nod aplomb. In any case, few who've ever heard this have been able to resist the temptation to drum along with whatever utensils were immediately at hand.

6. The Beatles -- Long Tall Sally

Ringo, making the dawn come up like thunder. The fact that there are still people out there who think he couldn't play just blows my tiny mind.

5. Outkast -- Hey Ya!

Apparently, the video notwithstanding, there is no actual drummer on this, i.e. it's all programmed or computerized or whatever. Frankly, I don't care -- this is one of the most kick-ass tracks of the decade.

4. The Wonders -- Dance With Me Tonight

From That Thing You Do -- Tom Hanks simulacrum Tom Everett Scott as Guy Patterson, my favorite fictional drummer of all time.

3. The Legendary Stardust Cowboy-- Paralyzed

A perennial candidate for worst rock record ever made, obviously, but producer T. Bone Burnett's contribution, as the song's trash-can drum soloist, can't be over-emphasized. Titular star The Ledge (as he is known to his friends) has never had backing as sympathetic.

2. The Rolling Stones -- Honest I Do

A Jimmy Reed cover, and as laid back as that entails, but seriously -- Charlie Watts plays the entire song using only one hand. I'm not making this up -- just listen to it. And if you still don't believe me, get me drunk sometimes and I'll mime to the track and prove the point.

And the numero uno assault on those pagan skins (perhaps only metaphorically) clearly is...

1. The Residents -- The Booker Tease

The least convincing drum machine track ever (assuming it's even that technologically advanced -- it could be the percussion preset from a cheesy Casio keyboard for all I know) and yet there's a pretty cool groove here. In any case, I think I already posted the Flying Lizards' "Money" (which is even more cheesy sounding) in a similar context on another Listomania.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[*h/t Michael Sorrentino, who actually said it and meant it.]

[Shamless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or worst flicks about insects OR a character named after an insect -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, I'd really appreciate it if you could go over there and leave a comment, thus getting me in good with management. Thanks.]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It's a DFH Early Clue to the New Direction, People!!!

From 1967, please enjoy L.A. summer of love hoodlums Clear Light and the surprisingly pop-ish opening track from their eponymous (and only) album -- "Black Roses."

These guys were classic also-rans. Produced by Paul Rothschild (of Doors fame or infamy, depending how you look at it), they had a big radio hit with a hilariously over the top rendition of Tom Paxton's paranoid classic "Mr. Blue" and they appeared in the greatest 60s political and counter-cultural satire of them all, Theodore J. Flicker's The President's Analyst. Drummer Dallas Taylor (the band had two drummers) went on to CSN&Y, while lead singer Cliff DeYoung (not heard on this track, but he's the sensitive looking one on the bottom right corner of the album cover) became a very successful actor (the made for TV Sunshine movies, among others).

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

This Sporting Life

And speaking of Australian popsters The Sports, as we were below -- where the hell have these guys been all my life?

From 1978, here they are with a slightly earlier and interestingly different version of their classic "Who Listens to the Radio."

And from the same year, here they are with The Searchers' classic Jackie DeShannon penned "When You Walk In the Room."

Seriously, I've never seen either of these clips before today, and jeebus, these guys were good. Now excuse me, while I see if I can find some illegal downloads of the albums these two came from.

Songs I've Just Realized I Can't Live Without: No Static At All

Well, actually, I've been looking for a download of this one for what seems like ages, and now that I've finally found it I'd be remiss if I didn't share.

From 1979, please enjoy Antipodean power popsters The Sports and their classic post-modern meditation on mass media, "Who Listens to the Radio?"

A terrific song, I think, and one that proves that Van Morrison was a bigger influence on a lot of New Wave acts (or at least the ones with pub-rock roots) than heretofore suspected. In any case, a natural single with a killer chorus, and the Beethoven quote at the end never fails to make me smile.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sad News

Knack Frontman Doug Fieger Fighting Lung and Brain Cancer

Doug Fieger, frontman for the Knack, is reportedly dying. According to the Detroit News, the man behind 1979's classic 'My Sharona' and its parent album 'Get the Knack' has lung and brain cancer.

Still, Fieger, 57, has a pretty positive outlook on his mortality, considering the three craniotomies and whole-brain radiation he has endured. "Everybody is in the same spot," the Southern California-based rocker told the paper. "I just know there is something that will potentially end my time here."

We here at Power Pop wish him the best during this difficult time.

(WTF is with the commenters at that site? Way to stay classy!)

Compare and Contrast: Can Blue Men Sing the Whites?

You know, as a general rule, I've always found the meme (sorry) that rock-and-roll is about white kids ripping off black music blah blah blah at best a little simplistic. And in the case of The Rolling Stones, in particular, more than a little silly. There's no question, IMHO, that some of the Stones' blues and r&b covers are at least as good as the originals, and in some cases improvements or genuinely inspired reimaginings.

In this case, however, uh, no.

From September of 1964, here's the Stones' big hit single version of "Time is On My Side."

And from a month earlier, here's the not such a big hit version by r&b belter Irma Thomas. (Actually, it was the B-side to Thomas' "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is.")

I love the Stones version and always have, but having just discovered the Thomas -- the production of which alone qualifies it as a work of genius (those kettle drums, for heavens sake) -- I gotta say that Mick and company really sound like the whey-faced Brit kids that they were by comparison.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In Search of Eddie Riff: Memoirs of an Amnesiac

So my old pals and power pop gods The Smithereens are playing B.B.King's in NYC on Saturday, and it occurred to me I haven't posted anything about them in ages.

Here's one of my top five fave 'Reens songs, from 1988 (and Green Thoughts, their fabulous sophomore album) -- "Only a Memory."

This was a big radio hit, at least in NYC, and at the time it was getting a lot of airplay, I was toiling at the late lamented Video Review, a rag where it only seemed that all my colleagues were rock critics. "OAM" itself was a big staff fave, but I distinctly remember that after it first got played on the office radio, it took us all at least a day or two to specifically identify what earlier song the opening guitar figure was stolen from inspired by.

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize, of course, will be awarded to the first reader who nails the identity of said song in comments.

A postscript: A year or two before this came out, head Smithereen Pat DiNizio asked another musician friend of mine (who shall remain nameless for the purposes of the story) if he wanted to try writing a song together. My friend jumped at the chance, and a bit later the two of them were in Pat's living room, guitars in hand, doing what songwriters do when trying to collaborate. Finally, at some point, Pat hit upon a riff that made his eyes light up.

"Hey," he said. "Listen to this -- isn't it great? It's like 'Ticket to Ride'."

My friend absorbed it for a moment.

"Uh, Pat," he replied, "it IS 'Ticket to Ride'."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Songs I've Just Realized I Can't Live Without: The Young Mod's Forgotten Story

From 2003 and their debut album A New Devotion, please enjoy Canadian neo-psychedelic 60s-influenced garage-pop rockers The High Dials and their quite breathtaking "Diamonds in the Dark."

This is just about a perfect rock record, for me, anyway. Hypnotic but not boring, tough as nails but with the sweetest harmonies, amazing guitars, a monster modified Bo Diddley groove (those hand claps! those maracas and tambourine!), and that fabulous Kinks/Yardbirds rave-up at the end. Goosebump time from stem to stern.

If I was still in a band somewhere (don't worry, not a chance) this is the sort of song I'd want to open a gig with, is what I'm saying.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Happy Birthday!

We at PowerPop wish a very happy birthday to our regular commenter Libby: it's always good to see you, sister.

And for your present, some New Shoes! (Well, kinda.... I found this by accident the other day. Oh, the miracles of the internets!)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Dada-Dah! Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental fille de hoo-hah Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to Television City in Los Angeles, where we'll be taping the pilot episode of our new talk show -- Let's Hunt Down and Kill Joe Leiberman!

Okay, I'm just kidding here, but a boy can dream, can't he?

In any case, for whatever reason, further posting by moi will be sporadic for a day or two.

In the meantime, then, here's a hopefully fun little project for us al

Best Use of Power Chords in a Post-Elvis Pop or Rock Record!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Seven is:

7. The Rubinoos -- I Want to Be Your Boyfriend

Is it possible to do wimpy power chords? If so, these guys rule, unquestionably.

6. Piper -- Can't Wait

That's the young Billy Squier singing, but don't hold that against it, him or me. In any case, those guitar parts on the verse are essentially a slowed down version of The Rubinoos above. What the hell -- I love 'em both.

5. The Yardbirds -- Stroll On

Mentioned this yesterday, but the progression of this from the three previous versions -- Tiny Bradshaw in '51, the Rock and Roll Trio in '56, and the Yardbirds first take in '66 -- is one of the most astounding avant-garde examples of what we call the Folk Process at work I can think of.

4. Myrakle Brah -- I'd Rather Be

A fabulous song, to be sure, but included in large measure because I like to have something recorded in this century and I couldn't find a more than usually mediocre Killers song that qualified.

3. Big Star -- September Gurls

Power chords on an electric twelve-string guitar. Is there a more beautiful sound occurring in all of nature?

2. The Who -- I Can See For Miles

I'm aware some people can make a convincing case for Robert Johnson and a few other Delta bluesmen as the originators of the power chord, but let's face it -- Pete Townshend more or less owns them (the chords, not the bluesmen), at least in the second half of the 20th century. This may be his masterpiece in that regard, although I'm rather partial to the solo on "The Kids Are Alright."

And the numero uno vroom!vroom!! song of them all, not that surprisingly, happens to be...

1. The Raspberries -- Tonight

Best. Who. Rip-off. Ever.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

[Shameless blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: films featuring archetypal bad boy characters -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could be moved to go over there and leave a comment, it would help get me in good with management. Thanks!]

Thursday, January 07, 2010

An Early And Extremely Self-Indulgent Clue to the New Direction

From 1983, please enjoy Greenwich Village's finest, the fabulous Floor Models (featuring some guy whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on bass) with their dark psychedelic tune in e minor shameless rip-off of "Eight Miles High" -- the showstopping "Fade into Grey."

This was recorded more or less live at WBAI-FM under fairly hectic circumstances, and I don't think it really does justice to our stage version; the lead guitar, by my personal hero Andy "Folk Rock" Pasternack (who I firmly believe is the greatest Rickenbacker twelve-string guy who ever lived, and that includes Roger McGuinn) is kind of buried in the mix. But hey -- we got the studio time for free. I should also add that it's sung, authoritatively, by the song's composer, the irrepressible Gerry Devine.

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

Jewels and Binoculars Down Under

Attentive readers may recall a story I told earlier this year about a mysterious (no return address) and life-changing package of bootleg LPs that arrived at my old Stereo Review offices in 1973 or early '74. The short version is they were all on the legendary Trademark of Quality label, and many of them featured cover art by a then little known comic book artist named William Stout (who has since gone to well-deserved fame both as a graphic designer and art director for film, most recently on Pan's Labyrinth).

Anyway, as I mentioned in the earlier post, perhaps my favorite and the most mindboggling of the boots in the package was a live acoustic Dylan set -- in perfect sound! -- from an April 20, 1966 show in Melbourne, Australia. I was web-surfing the other day, and finally found Stout's cover for the LP, so it seemed like time to share.

So, from the marsupial album (as I used to call it), here's Bob -- obviously cruising on any number of chemicals -- with an absolutely spellbinding solo version of "Visions of Johanna." Once you get past the stoned stage patter and the tuning up, obviously.

When pressed, I've always said the song itself is Dylan's masterpiece, and on balance I think this is the best version of it ever. Listening to it again for the first time in years, however, I now kind of think it's also one of the handful of greatest live performances of anything by anybody.

[h/t Steve Schwartz]

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Compare and Contrast: The Midnight Train is Whinin' Low

Here's a great example of what we used to call the Folk Process at work. With, frankly, quite astounding avant-garde results.

We begin, from 1951, with bandleader Tiny Bradshaw's original version of "The Train Kept A-Rollin."

To be honest, I had never heard Bradshaw's take until I downloaded it over the weekend, but I was rather amazed to find (as you have doubtless noted by now) that it's an entertaining but utterly conventional jump blues. Party music, in other words, and no different really from countless other r&b hits of the period by the likes of Louis Jordan, Joe Turner or Wynonie Harris.

Which is why this next version from 1956 -- by the legendary Rock and Roll Trio, featuring the great Paul Burlison on perhaps history's earliest known example of fuzz guitar -- is so jaw-dropping. The Trio's take positively drips menace and madness by comparison, I think; lord only knows how it sounded to average ears at the height of the Eisenhower Era.

And then we have, from 1966, The Yardbirds with their further reimagining. Jeff Beck's simulated train whistle at the top was the clue that this one -- all metal and snarl -- was heading down a totally different track than any rock band had ever travelled.

Of course, a year later the Yardbirds (with Beck dueling with Jimmy Page) would transform it again (as "Stroll On," for Antonioni's Blow Up) and send the song hurtling into what might as well be another galaxy. But we'll get to that during Friday's Listomania.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Songs I've Just Realized I Can't Live Without: If We're All One, Buster, Who Needs You?

From 1995, and their fabulous comeback album 4 Day Tornado, please enjoy PowerPop faves 20/20 and the kinetic and haunting "Song of the Universe."

Everything about this song gets me -- the monster guitar riffage, the catch in the singer's wonderfully nasal voice when he hits the title line in the chorus, the updated 60s garage feel, the transcendent but somehow down-to-earth sentiment...everything.

I actually heard this one on volume 1 of the great Yellow Pills series back in 1993; if memory serves, it was one of the first (non-Shoes) songs NYMary and I bonded over back when this blog and the world were young.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Present Day Child Ballad Scholar Refuses to Die

Sad news and I'm genuinely bummed

Tim Hart, co-founder of the great English folk-rock band Steeleye Span has passed at the age of 61.

Did I say great? From 1973 and the classic album Parcel of Rogues, please enjoy their unprecedented take on the who-knows-how-old? Brit folk song "One Misty Moisty Morning."

Which sounded to my ears, back in the day, as if it had been beamed in from the astral plane by aliens using technology we still haven't mastered. And yet it's also as recognizably human and joyous as if it was sung by a bunch of buskers at the Waterloo Station this very morning.

Okay, I may have seriously mixed my metaphors there. In any case, that extra passing chord they throw in the last of the "how d'you do" choruses is sheer genius.

If you can listen to this one without being moved and astounded, you really need to have it looked at, is what I'm saying.