Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Patience Wearing Thin audio/video edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means -- after a brief slacker interlude, Weekend Listomania is back, baby!!! Yeah!!!!

More to the point, my Oriental fruit smoothie taster (heh!) Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to beautiful downtown Kiron, Iowa where, in the interests of fair play, we will be crashing a small plane into the top floor of the house of Rep. Steve King (R-Amoral Asshat). You know -- just to see how he likes it when it happens to him.

That being the case, 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:

Pet Peeves -- The Trend, Person, Thing, Group, Song or Whatever in Post-Elvis Pop/Rock That You Find or Have Found Thoroughly Irksome!!!

No arbitrary rules this time out; go nuts, frankly. And yes, we've probably done something fairly similar in the past, but it's so much damn fun, I really don't care. In any case, I'm pretty sure most of my candidates are new.

And totally top of my head Top Six is:

6. Brian Eno

Okay, I'll concede that the pretentious Brit baldie has done some estimable work as a producer over the years, and I've always really liked "Here Come the Warm Jets" and some of his other early stuff. But the real reason he completely gets up my nose is the goddamn New York Times crossword puzzle. In which he's appeared as the answer to a clue more times than "Asta" and "Toto" combined.

5. Post-Vanilla Fudge Heavy Rock Bands From Long Island

Trust me, there were thousands of such bands, each featuring a classically trained Hammond organ bore and a sub-Jeff Beck guitarist, in the Fudge's elephantine wake, and most of them played dances and frat parties at my old school between 1967-69, including the most famous of them -- The Hassles, featuring fricking Billy Joel. The Illusion -- whose "How Does It Feel?" can be heard above -- was probably the only one of them worth a damn, mostly because they had a bit more of a pop sensibility than the rest.

4. Songs Inspired, If That is the Word, By Michael McDonald's "What a Fool Believes"

Examples too numerous too mention, I think. In fact, a comedian/musical satirist I knew used to do a very funny medley of some of the worst of them back in the day; if memory serves, in his club act, DuPree's "Steal Away" was the principal offender.

3. Unaccountably Popular Yet Thoroughly Lame Twenty-Something Folk/Country Rock Bands

Fleet Foxes? Is this some kind of ironic Generation Gap joke that I'm missing? Because these guys are just freaking awful. Seriously, they sound like America without the cojones.

2. Bands With People Who Perform Shirtless

I don't know who exactly started this trend or when -- perhaps Jeff Beck, who famously used to wear denim jackets over a bare chest, thus earning Rolling Stone's prescient "Erect Left Nipple Award" back in 1968. But since then, it's just gotten completely out of control, and in the case of contemporary fashion plates like the singer of Fucked Up above, I think it's fricking gotta stop.

And the numero uno pop/rock pet peeve (and lord knows, they're hard to housetrain) absolutely has gotta be --

1. Bands Without Bass Players

You know, I like the White Stripes. I liked Sleater/Kinney (see above). Back in the day I even sort of liked the Cramps. But I'm sorry -- rock and roll is supposed to have a bottom end. And as far as I'm concerned, any more recent bass-deficient band at this point is either being pretentiously reductive or just goddamn lazy.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- Theme: French Film Actress Who Best Exemplifies the Whole "Vive Le Difference" Thing -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could find it in your heart to go over there and post something snarky, it would help solidify my tenuous position with management. Thanks!]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy Birthday: Emitt Rhodes

While we're stewing over steve's latest conundrum, let's all pause a minute and wish a happy 60th birthday to the DIY king Emitt Rhodes. After some success in bands like The Merry-Go-Round, Rhodes got signed to a solo contract, but his label refused to release his first record. So he withdrew, built himself a studio in his parents' garage, and proceeded to make two just-about-perfect albums of early 70's pop. He was the keeper of the flame when the flame appeared to be gone, and he turns 60 today. Happy birthday, Mr. Rhodes!

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special Duh! Edition

From 1967, please enjoy England's Sweetheart Petula Clark and her winsomely melodic ode to sensible self-preservation "Don't Sleep in the Subway."

I would just like to say for the record that this song, attractive as it is in a "Penny Lane" Goes Tin Pan Alley-ish sort of way, has always baffled me. "Don't sleep in the subway, darling, don't stand in the pouring rain"?

Seriously, lady, if the guy you're boinking is so stupid he needs to be reminded not to do that stuff, you probably need to set your sights higher, if you know what I mean.

In any case, 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.

Safety in Numbers

Excellent video news from the Windy City: Ace pop/punk rockers, Friends of PowerPop© and all around cool guys The Safes just made their national television debut!

Here they are on January 29th on WGN-Chicago (hey -- it's a SuperStation!!!) with the ultra kinetic and infectious "Fairy Tale Tomorrow" (from their debut album Well, Well, Well.)

As you can see, these guys are a terrific little outfit with charisma to burn, and they have boatloads of great songs. At the moment, they're world famous only in their home town, but if ever a band deserved to impinge on the national consciousness, it's them.

Incidentally, at this point I should note something I also noted the last time I wrote about them -- that they're the subjects of what's easily the cleverest and most artful group photo of the 21st century so far. (Note Brian Jones and company in the background. Heh heh.)

For in our friends in Austin, Texas I should also add that the band is doing a bunch of club shows at SXSW next month. Here's the schedule; if you stop in to see 'em, make sure you say hello.

Trophys 2008 South Congress Ave
The Liberty 1618 1/2 E 6th St
Lew's House 2610 Rio Grande St
The Liberty 1618 1/2 E 6th St
The T: Merrifield Records party

For more about these guys -- including links to where you can either download more of their music (from iTunes et al) or buy the actual CDs, go here ASAP.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Compare and Contrast: The Ants Are My Friends

From 1963, and his legendary (and unreleased) Live at Carnegie Hall album, please enjoy voice of a generation Bob Dylan and his classic protest against an unfeeling world and an unjust society, "Who Killed Davey Moore?"

And from 1967, here's the butler from Family Affair doing his version.

Okay, having had a bit of cheap snark at the expense of both performers, I just want to go on record as saying that I was a huge Sebastian Cabot fan, and still am. But not because of Family Affair. Actually, Cabot forever won my heart in an earlier TV role -- as the larger than life Porthos in the wonderful syndicated 50s version of The Three Musketeers. A show, I should add, for which I can find absolutely no pictorial evidence, either via the Google or the YouTube, but which also starred Domenico Modugno as Athos. Modugno, of course, had the original Italian language international hit version of the classic "Volare."

And how I got from Bob Dylan singing about a dead boxer to a cheesy Italian crooner singing about I don't know what, I have no idea.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New New Pornographers

via The Weekly Feed, please enjoy "Your Hands" from TNP's forthcoming "Together," due out May 4th.

UPDATE: Neko apparently has a cartoon pilot for Adult Swim. Let's just hope it's better than My Dad the Rock Star!

Songs I've Just Realized I Can't Live Without: More Total Destruction to Your Mind

So sometime last week we were discussing Chicago indie-rock eminence grise Steve Albini (probably over at Eschaton, although it might have been here) and I was allowing how I thought he was a talented guy if something of a large asshole, in part because he thought it was funny to name one of his side project bands Rapeman. (Yeah, I'm aware he got if from a Japanese manga and thus it's like, you know, cool and ironic. Fuck him.)

Anyway, it occurred to me that the most important reason I think Albini's an asshole is because of what he did, wearing his "I am not a record producer" hat, to The Fleshtones' "Let's Go," the should have been a huge hit first track from what should have been that band's commercial breakthrough album Laboratory of Sound from 1995.

Seriously, this is one of the absolutely greatest rock songs and performances ever -- the right three chords, those strategically placed yelps of the title acting as a terrific hook throughout, the atomic energy level (that "The hell with radiation!" movie sample at the beginning is doubly appropriate) and perhaps the funniest and most bordering on genius lyrics about the appeal of cheap thrills/transcendence in the history of the music.

Let's get gone
Get completely fucked
Let's go crazy on angel dust
Let's go -- let's get out of here!
Let's get drunk
Let's get in a fight
Let's get into something really wrong -- that's right!
And let's get out of here!
Doesn't get better than that, frankly. And yet you listen to the version that Albini "produced" and it sounds like every crappy teenage garage band that ever taped itself on an old Wollensak in their parents finished basement in 1965. Seriously -- I weep when I hear this; it's still thrilling, obviously, but when I think of how good it could have been if somebody not Albini (or an asshole) had been in charge of the recording it's enough to make you want to go to Chicago and smack the little twit upside the head.

Oh well, Could have would have yada yada.

In the meantime, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that you can -- and definitely should -- stream/download the fabulous Fleshtones career documentary Pardon Us For Living But the Graveyard is Full (2009) over here. $10 -- Cheap! as they used to say at Mad Magazine.

I should also add that in the early 80s, the Fleshtones rehearsed in a studio two floors up from the one my skinny tie band used. One night, we took a break between songs, and all of a sudden the ceiling started to shake, violently, to the point where we were covered in plaster and going "What the fuck is that?" And then we realized -- it was the Fleshtones doing the loudest and most brilliant cover of the Yardbirds' "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" any of us had ever heard.

Needless to say, I was a fan from that moment on.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Karaoke: Sing Along With Sam Shepard

Okay, here's another obviously self-indulgent installment of the on-going Project to Digitize Every Loud Noise I Ever Made in the Time Remaining Before My Death.

And this is the short version, BTW.

In June of 1970 I was getting some extra credits toward my B.A. in a summer theater program at what I usually refer to as An Unidentified College on Long Island. One of the pieces we were doing that month was a tragically avant-garde 1967 one-act called Melodrama Play by the then not-a-household-word Sam Shepard. The work itself, which I barely remember at this point (many drugs were being consumed that summer) concerned a Jaggeresque rock star, his twin brother, an unscrupulous manager and (I think) a murder of some sort. I got cast as the rock star, which is funny on any number of levels, especially considering that I looked like this; Jaggeresque really isn't the word that comes to mind.

Anyway, a song by the show's fictional rock star, entitled "Prisoners Get Out of Your Homemade Beds," figured prominently in the script; Shepard had provided shall we say idiosyncratic lyrics, but the music was apparently up to whoever decided to mount a production. The day we started rehearsals, the director (one of my profs) took me aside and said "Come up with a tune for for this. I've got two hours booked in the college radio station on Thursday, and you'll record it then." Considering I had never written a song in my life (nor have I since) this was rather a daunting challenge, as you can well imagine.

Fortunately, The Who's Live at Leeds album had come out a few weeks earlier, and I had been listening to it obsessively; using that as a template, it turned out to be surprisingly easy to come up with a stupid riff and a moronic three chord instrumental track that sort of fit Shepard's somewhat wayward words. Two of my musician friends from my garage band at home -- including my old pal Allan Weissman, who you may recall from this installment -- happened to be available, and so, with me doing a woefully inadequate imitation of Pete Townshend on guitar, we eventually found ourselves at the recording facilities of WCWP-FM, bashing out the tune in about as much time as it took to rehearse it once. As I recall, the engineer simply hung a single microphone in the vicinity of the band; there was no overdubbing, obviously. The finished product, however, met with the director's approval, and I wound up yowling to it on stage when we did the show a week or two later.

Cut to: sometime last January. I was reminiscing about all this with another old pal, and he let it drop that years back I had entrusted the original reel-to-reel tape of the song (the only one that ever existed) to him, and that against all the odds he still had it. And still playable, apparently.

So -- at great personal expense (actually, fifty bucks to a good engineer I know), here it is these four decades later, in mp3 form for all to hear. I also found Shepard's lyrics, which I have appended; feel free to sing them in the privacy of your own home, preferably while playing air guitar. You'll notice three strategically placed screams throughout the clip -- those are your cues for the beginning of each verse.

I should add that a version of this track with a vocal by yours truly has survived as well, but it will be available for public audition at approximately the same time that frozen yogurt goes on sale in Hell.

"Prisoners, Get Out of Your Homemade Beds"

Well early one day you got out of bed
And then you decided to go to sleep instead
So early one day you got back in the sack
And you fell fast asleep in your homemade rack
You don't know how you decided this
And all that you know is there's something you missed
But you don't know what and you don't know where
So you just stay put and go nowhere

Oh prisoners get out of your homemade beds
Oh prisoners get out of your homemade beds

Well early one night you got so very uptight
And you said this sleeping it just ain't right
But you couldn't at all decide what to do
But your eyes stayed shut with their homemade glue
But you couldn't hear your own voice speak
And you couldn't walk 'cause your legs were too weak
So you lay in bed crying to yourself
And your life's just out there hanging on the shelf

Oh prisoners get out of your homemade beds
Oh prisoners get out of your homemade beds

And now the night and the day are just the same
And now the light and the dark have no name
And you just lay in bed without no game
You just lay there sleeping without no fame
But when you awaken from your deep deep sleep
That bed will disappear and you won't even weep
You'll walk right outside without no name
You'll walk right outside from where you came

Oh prisoners get of your homemade beds
Oh prisoners get out of your homemade...heads

I must confess, cheesy as the track is, I still kind of dig the blatant steal from The Kinks at the end.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Weekend Listomania That Actually Wasn't

Okay, it pains me to say it but, despite the work ethic I have unaccountably developed in my Golden Years, I am just too busy (and feeling a little burned out) to get a Listomania together this week.


In its stead, however, I thought we might simply do the first-ever PowerPop Weekend Pop Poll©.

This week's topic: "Lady Gaga -- Symptom or Disease?"

Those of you who've already checked out my comments at the 2009 Village Voice critics hoo-hah know where I stand on the subject.

But now it's your turn to weigh in. As the kids say -- go for it!!!

And rest assured, a traditional Weekend Listomania will return next Friday.

[Shameless Blogwhore: I may have slacked off over here, but over at Box Office, which pays the bills, my Cinema Listomania is now up as usual. I realize this may be pushing my luck, but if you could see your way to going over there and leaving a comment, that would be swell. This week's theme -- Best or Worst Films About Revenge!!!]

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blah Blah, Early Clue, New Direction, Etc.

From 1965, please enjoy The Rolling Stones -- well, Mick Jagger and a bunch of studio musicians -- and the big production version of "Out of Time."

Some people prefer the actual, stripped down Stones version from Aftermath, but this big ersatz Spector-pop rendition(first released on the 70s outtake collection Metamorphosis) has always been the one for me. Even if the instrumental track is the same one that can be heard on Chris Farlowe's English Top 10 hit.

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.

A Dingo Ate My...Oh, Sorry.

You know, every now and then I remember what the name of this blog is, and it occurs to me I probably should post a song that's got some more than tangential connection to the genre.

Also, something recorded in the last couple of years would be nice.

In that spirit, then, please enjoy utterly adorable Antipodeans The Wellingtons and "If We Feel OK," from their second (2007) album, For Friends In Faraway Places

This is an all but perfect pop confection, I think -- winsome vocals, killer chorus, great guitars, blah blah blah, the whole thing sounding kind of familiar (I think I hear Todd Rundgren hovering above it) but not exactly like any other song that immediately comes to mind.

I should add that I discovered it -- and much else, of late -- over at
Peter's Power Pop
, a charmingly Australio-centric blog hosted by occasional commenter (and Sugarbombs fan) Peter Scott. There's a boatload of great music over there for your perusal; if you stop by, make sure to say hello.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Compare and Contrast: Doggy Style

Okay, I've wanted to post this one for months now, and finally (see below) I have an excuse.

So, from 1970, please enjoy the amazing Jerry Williams a/k/a Swamp Dogg and one of those rare rock or r&b workouts that actually lives up to its outrageous title -- "Total Destruction to Your Mind."

And from 1988 and the first of only two solo albums, check out this cool roots-rock cover by former Del Lords guitarist Eric Ambel.

I don't know which if these I prefer, if truth be told; in fact, both of them completely crack me up. That said, however, I think we can all agree that the Swamp Dog LP art is perhaps the most heinous in the history of recorded music.

I should also add that Ambel's Roscoe's Gang is a vastly entertaining straight-ahead no-frill rock record; if you like the "Destruction" cover, you should probably get over to Never Get Out of the Boat and download the entire thing here (gratis). Including a fun cover of Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Compare and Contrast: The Pope Smokes Dope

I'd like to say that the following story was reported by Father Guido Sarducci, but it's not, although it is in fact for real, as silly as it sounds. From yesterday's New York Times Arts & Leisure section:

So many records, so little time. But the Vatican can help. The official newspaper of the Holy See, L’Osservatore Romano, has published what it called a “semi-serious” guide to the Top 10 pop albums of all time. In first place was The Beatles’ Revolver. The next was If I Could Only Remember My Name, David Crosby's first solo album, followed by Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The newspaper published its list on Saturday, before the start of the San Remo festival, an over-the-top Italian competition of pop music that is widely watched on television. The rest of the list: Rumors by Fleetwood Mac; The Nightfly by Donald Fagen of Steely Dan; Thriller by Michael Jackson; Paul Simon’s Graceland; Achtung Baby by U2; (What’s the Story) Morning Glory by Oasis; and Carlos Santana's Supernatural.

Okay, questions of papal infallibity aside, the above list is no better or worse than any other example of the genre I could think of, but there is one kind of ringer in there -- to wit, that 1972 Crosby solo album. Which I'm aware has a certain cult following, probably as a result of the woozy cannabis haze that hovers around it like an aromatic psychotropic shroud. But for my money (and I'm a Crosby fan) it's kind of a mess.

Case in point, the song that's usually considered the album's masterpiece -- "Laughing." Recorded with the help of just about every stoned hippie San Francisco musician at the time.

Consider by comparison this remake. I refer of course to the standout track (IMHO) from The Byrds' (with Crosby, obviously) otherwise patchy 1973 reunion LP. (Incidentally, Crosby says he wrote the tune for them in the first place.)

I think you're hearing the difference between a zonked indulgence without dynamics or drama and a totally focused real band firing on all cylinders. But as I said, the solo album has its fans.

That they're in the Vatican, of course, kind of blows my mind.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Shorthand of Beauty

From punk poetess and mother of us all Patti Smith's Just Kids, a new memoir of her early days with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, as quoted by Tom Carson in his New York Times review last week:

Valhalla for them both was the back room at Max’s Kansas City, where Andy Warhol, Mapplethorpe’s idol, once held court. By the time they reached the sanctum, though, Warhol was in seclusion after his shooting by Valerie Solanas in 1968, leaving would-be courtiers and Factory hopefuls “auditioning for a phantom.” Smith also wasn’t as smitten as Mapple­thorpe with Warhol’s sensibility: “I hated the soup and felt little for the can,” she says flatly, leaving us not only chortling at her terseness but marveling at the distinction.

Smith, as Carson later notes (perceptively I think), "has always been both tough and funny, two real saving graces in an artist this prone to excess." I'm reminded of something she said when I asked her about Elvis Costello in an interview for the old Stereo Review back in 1978.

"I don't like Elvis Costello. I don't hate him, but...I mean, as a politician I'm into solidarity, but as a fan I'm relentless, a real Nazi. You ask the fan in me and you're gonna get a pretty narrow view. Basically, if there isn't somebody I want to fuck in a band, I couldn't care less. Unless it's such great abstract music it carries me away. Otherwise, if it's a rock-and-roll band, there better be somebody fuckable or forget it."

Have I mentioned I've been a fan of this woman since forever?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

RIP: Doug Fieger

We at PowerPop are sad to hear of the death of Doug Fieger, the man who, for better or worse, largely defined the power pop genre in that summer of 1979. Be at peace.

from Boys Don't Lie:

Much ink has been spilled excoriating The Knack for their role in what is often seen as the too-fast rise of power pop, and its attendant precipitous decline. Many critics noted the band’s attitude, all smirking and sneering, their refusal to grant interviews, and the sheer ballsy arrogance of Doug Fieger. In the documentary Getting the Knack, critic David Wild notes, “Something about this band exploding that big and seeming to take it only half-seriously rubbed people the wrong way.” Fieger has since insisted that “if The Knack hadn’t hit big, if Get the Knack had sold only as many units as, say, [Big Star’s] Radio City, they would have been revered today as a visionary cult act.” Possibly, but that isn’t what happened, and by the end of the summer of 79, critics and listeners alike were wearying of the Knack Attack. Wild says, “The Knack went from zero to ninety and basically became a car wreck very, very quickly. And I think it was mostly because of the media. We went from ‘gotta hear the Knack!’ to ‘Get the fuck outta here, Knack!’” San Francisco artist David Hughes launched a “Knuke the Knack” campaign which amused the band (until they sued), but the backlash (or, in the overwhelmingly pun-laden jargon of the day, the Knacklash) was much larger than that.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Baby With the Bathwater Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental erectile funfest consultant Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to the basement of the Washington Post, where along with Dean of the Washington Press Corps David Broder we'll be watching home movies of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin [R-Morals-Free Harriadan] writing excerpts from The Story of O on her right palm.

That being the case, 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/Rock Band Featuring an Artist Who Became Better Known in a Subsequent Band!!!

One arbitrary rule: Nobody who was a member of Crosby, Still, Nash and Young is eligible, with the exception of the sidemen. Also: Those who nominate folkie acts will be mercilessly mocked by me on a case by case basis.

And my totally top of my head Top Six is:

6. The Great Society (Grace Slick)

Every couple of years, I pull out Grace's pre-Airplane records and see if they sound any better to me than they did back in the day, but they never do. Seriously -- an A/B comparison of this and the Airplane hit does not, shall we say, do the Great Society's original any favors.

5. The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver (Bruce Thomas)

This is actually a very nice record, and the Sutherlands also made one absolutely classic single, "I Don't Want to Love You." But jeebus, what a bunch of dorks. Hard to believe that the geeky bass player on the left went on to be Mr. Cool as a member of Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

4. Trip Shakespeare (Dan Wilson)

Wilson, of course, went on to the far more commercially successful Semisonic and the Grammy-winning hit annoyance "Closing Time." This earlier outfit was much better, I think, and the song above, "Bachelorette," from their 1991 Lulu album, is a long time fave. A monster groove, and my gosh -- the drummer was a girl!!!!

3. The Bloodless Pharaohs (Brian Setzer)

Listening to this crap in retrospect, it's obvious that Setzer was a cool guitarist even before the Stray Cats. But this lot was hands down the dullest of the 80s post-punk downtown NYC art-rock bands. Lousy name, too.

2. The Paramounts (Gary Brooker, Robin Trower, B.J. Wilson)

The Paramounts were apparently a great live club act -- The Rolling Stones publically proclaimed them their favorite r&b band on a least one occasion -- but their records, including the above cover of Allen Toussaint's classic "A Certain Girl," don't quite seem to capture whatever it was they had onstage. In any case, a couple of years after this stuff was recorded, three of them found deserved fame and fortune as part of the classic lineup of Procol Harum.

And the numero uno pre-celebrity band featuring somebody who is much better known for a much bigger group is, quite obviously...

1. The Move (Jeff Lynne)

The Move weren't even Lynne's first band, of course. But the fact that they were all but unknown in the US and that their version of this song was not only not a hit but in fact necessitated the almost identical ELO remake, is probably proof of the non-existence of God. Or something.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: the movie (good, bad or embarrassing) that always makes you cry! -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, I'd take it as a personal favorite if you could go over there and leave a comment, thus reassuring management that my exorbitant freelance fee wouldn't be better spent on hookers and blow for the staff. Thanks!]

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Yeah, It's Another Early Clue to the New Direction: Special The Child is Father to the...Whatever Edition

From 1967, please enjoy nice Jewish boy Neil Diamond and his poignant Brill Building classic of inappropriate urges, "Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon."

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

Rage Before Beauty

Good news for anybody in the South Jersey area -- The Doughboys, featuring power pop god Richard X. Heyman on drums, are playing the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park tomorrow night. Showtime: 9pm. Be there or be square, as the kids say.

I've written about Heyman as a solo artist here on several occasions; in fact, his 2006 Actual Sighs is, not to put too fine a point on it, the proverbial heartbreaking work of staggering genius, and it remains pretty much my favorite American album of the decade just past. But the Doughboys were his first band, and their return as an active and creative concern in the last couple of years has been one of the nicest (if unexpected) pop pleasures in memory. Incidentally, "I'm Not Your Man," the nifty rocker in the above clip, is one of the standout tracks on the band's great new sophomore effort Act Your Rage (which along with some equally strong originals also includes a revelatory garage-punk reimagining of the Moody Blues' "Tuesday Afternoon").

I'd post an mp3 from the album, but I'm told that might not be strictly kosher. So by way of compensation here's the B-side of their 1966 single, "Rhoda Mendelbaum." Inspired by a real person, apparently.

Killer stuff in any case, I think, and if you're at the show on Friday, feel free to ask them to play it; they still do it live if the moment is right. Meanwhile, you can order or download Rage either over here at Amazon or, along with lots of other cool stuff, over at the band's official website.

And continuing with our Jersey theme, I should add that the Doughboys will be at Maxwell's in Hoboken on Saturday night, along with Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken's new side project Bell Sound, who also behoove behearing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Key Changes of the Gods

From 1959, please enjoy the great Charlie Rich -- one of the most unjustly underrated figures of American popular music in the second half of the 20th century -- with his infectious minor regional hit "Whirlwind."

I first heard this record in 1994, on the soundtrack to one of the films in Showtime's Rebel Highway series (a bunch of American-Internation 50s drive-in B-flicks remade with a contemporary edge) and it knocked me out immediately. Apart from Rich's delivery, which is just the epitome of rockabilly cool, those up and down modulations, seemingly at random, don't really remind me of any other pop song I can recall at the moment.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Torch Has Been Passed to a New Generation of Americans

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I though I'd share this lovely moment from a story in the January issue of MOJO I just chanced upon.

November 2007: The Foo Fighters are in Canada, supporting Bob Dylan on the latter's Modern Times tour. [Head Foo and former Nirvana drummer] Dave Grohl is in his dressing room when he gets a message that Mr. Dylan wants to see him.

"So I walk out," says Grohl, "and he's standing like a silhouette in a dark corner -- black leather boots, black leather pants, black leather jacket. He said 'What's that song you got, the one that says "The only thing I ever ask of you is you gotta promise not to stop when I say when"?' I said, oh yeah, 'Everlong.' He said, 'Man, that's a great song, I should learn that song."

Grohl laughs loudly. "So I don't give a fuck what anybody else thinks. Bob Dylan likes one of my songs. That right there is enough for me."

Well, obviously, Bob's right -- "Everlong" is a great song. But I gotta say, that story is just so cool on so many levels...

Monday, February 08, 2010

Great Lost Singles of the 60s (Special Rich Little Edition)

Okay, this has basically nothing to do with the theme of this here blog, but I've always liked it so I thought I'd share.

So, from the summer of '67, please enjoy Spyder Turner's version of Ben E. King's oft-covered "Stand By Me." Complete with vocal impressions of Sam Cooke, Eddie Kendricks, James Brown and several other greats of soul and r&b.

This is the uncut album version, BTW; the single is actually two minutes shorter.

Incidentally, despite the fact that it was a Top 10 hit back in the day, the single itself has more or less disappeared down the memory hole. Entertaining as the thing is, I suspect most purists consider it essentially a novelty record, thus explaining the fact that Spyder Turner's name seldom comes up when people discuss classic soul. I think it's great, myself, but then again, in Gong Show creator Chuck Barris' immortal phrase -- what do I know, I like cold toilet seats.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Beyond Zager and Evans! Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental hand/groin coordination consultant Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to lovely Indianapolis, Indiana and the palatial home of Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Theoretically), where we will be beating the little SOB within an inch of his life. No particular reason, actually, just on general principles.

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-Beatles Pop/Rock Song -- Hit or Non-Hit -- That Really
Should Be a Hit in a New Cover Version By Somebody Smart!!!

No arbitrary rules here whatsoever, you're welcome very much. And yeah, I'm pretty sure I've done something similar in the dim dark past, but I came up with a couple of interesting new choices so what the hell.

And my totally top of my head Top Six is:

6. Brenda Holloway -- Every Little Bit Hurts

From 1964, a serious contender for the most gorgeous R&B ballad of all time. It's actually been covered fairly often -- the Small Faces with Steve Marriott did a killer version -- but I guarantee even a decent remake by a current diva would be Top Ten so fast your head would spin. Incidentally, this was written and produced by Ed Cobb, who also wrote and produced -- hold onto your hats -- The Standells' proto-punk classic "Dirty Water." Obviously, this is a gentleman whose career deserves further research and possible reassessment.

5. Knots and Crosses -- Creatures of Habit

A local indie-rock hit in Boston in the early 90s. and one of the most absolutely heartbreaking songs ever written. And a genre straddler too, I think.

4. Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams -- Excuses, Excuses

THE great tear-jerking neurotic Jewish country song (admittedly, a narrow genre) via my pal Andy "Folk Rock" Pasternak. Okay, I'm playing bass and keys on it, but I swear to god this could be a smash for somebody.

3. Warren Zevon -- Tenderness on the Block

An oddly overlooked track from Zevon's biggest hit album. In fact, it's one of the most overtly Brill Building pop things he recorded, sort of in the same ballpark as its producer Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby," which did pretty well, as I recall.

2. The Tokens -- He's in Town

An absolutely glorious near epic slice of 60s urban romanticism, and hands down my favorite sort of obscure Carole King-penned song. This was a minor hit in '65, but I guarantee if you give it the the full Springsteen/Spector treatment today it would be a license to print money.

And the numero uno pop or rock ditty that should go to the toppermost of the poppermost in a brand new version undoubtedly, please don't argue this because I'm sensitive, is ---

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

I've said this a hundred times, and I'll say it again -- a country band with a little imagination could emphasize the obvious Buddy Holly-esque roots of this and have a hit in the proverbial New York minute.

Alrighty, then -- what would YOUR choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or worst films inspired by somebody's real life -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to leaving a comment over there, it would cement an era of good feeling I'm having with management and maybe get me a much deserved raise. Thanks!]

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Oh, Just What the World Needs -- An Early Clue to the New Direction That Looks Like Kiddie Porn!

From 1998 and the Mean Streets of The Mickey Mouse Club -- please enjoy(?) the irrepressible Britney Spears and her frankly in questionable taste on a zillion levels hit "...Baby One More Time."

You probably should take a shower afterwards, but in any case 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.

Songs the Beatles Covered (An Occasional Series)

From 1962, please enjoy suave r&b/pop balladeer Lenny Welch and the original hit version of a movie song that loomed large in the Beatles' legend -- "A Taste of Honey."

The Beatles version (which as you can hear cops all sorts of stuff from the Welch arrangement) is on the 1963 Please Please Me album, of course, and if truth be told I hadn't known that it was a rather faithful cover of a specific earlier record. In fact, I'd never even heard of Welch's until a few days ago; as far as I knew, he was a one hit -- "Since I Fell For You" -- wonder. Live and learn.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Great Lost Singles of the 70s: The Road to Ruin

From the very first year of that lamentable decade, and the solo album that sold five or six copies in his hometown alone, please enjoy the amazing Ron Nagle and his kick-ass ironic (or is it?) anti-drug anthem "Marijuana Hell."

Although not, alas, a household word, Nagle's nonetheless a really interesting guy. A member of terrific first generation San Francisco band The Mystery Trend (click here and scroll down to hear one of their songs) he went on to a serious career as a producer and songwriter (for John Hiatt and Barbra Streisand, among a horde of others) while at the same time pursuing a totally separate life as one of the most important abstract expressionist ceramic sculptors in the country.

This little piece of his is actually in the Smithsonian.

In any case, "Marijuana Hell" is just a great rock-and-roll record, and the rest of Bad Rice, which I had on vinyl back in the day (thanks to being on the Warner Bros. mailing list when I was rock crit for my college paper), is almost as good; it's an album that clearly deserves its cult reputation. BTW, the great Jack Nitzche produced, and Ry Cooder is all over it on slide guitar (although I'm not sure if that's him on "Marijuana Hell" itself). Rather amazingly, it's never been rereleased on CD, but you can download a very clean rip from the LP over at redtelephone66, perhaps the most amazing and indispensable site of its kind on the web. If you do, make sure you say hello to proprietor Leonard Los, and tell him PowerPop sent ya!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Who Dunnit? (An Occasional Series): The Jersey Shore

Okay -- IMHO, this is one of the best (and least pretentious) straight ahead unhyphenated rock songs of the last fifteen years. Just two guitars, bass and drums, and the best damn singer you ever heard.

The band was a short lived supergroup of sorts (with the lead singer unbilled), and if you had been really lucky you might have stumbled into a dive bar around Asbury Park in the late 90s and heard them playing.

No Googling -- but a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who correctly identifies the vocalist without having previously heard the story.

Monday, February 01, 2010

As Noel Coward Said, There's Something Extraordinarily Potent About Cheap Music

Here's a hopefully amusing postscript to my Weekend Listomania rant about "that clown from Spandau Ballet."

Edward Norton doing to "True" what should always have been done to "True."

Seriously, Spandau Ballet always used to strike me as being a frat party band from 1963 that was too dumb to know it. Those fricking suits...that utterly unironic lounge lizard crooning.

In any case, I haven't seen Modern Family, but if the rest of it is this funny, I probably need to.