Friday, April 30, 2010

A Little Help for a Good Cause

I happened across this kind of accidentally:
THE STORY: Nothing Can Hurt Me: The Big Star Story is a feature-length documentary about the massive acclaim, dismal commercial failure and enduring legacy of pop music’s greatest cult band, Big Star.

These two filmmakers are raising money for the documentary, and they're almost there! Minimum donation is $5, but even at a moderate $35, you start getting public television-style rewards, and some of them are very, very cool!

We're a community: let's help these kids out. I'm in on payday, I promise faithfully.

Weekend Listomania (Special Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental amanuensis-with-benefits Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to beautiful Sedona, Arizona, and the ranch of Sen. John McCain (R-Manhood in a Blind Trust). Once there, I'll spend as many hours as possible out on the street in front of the main house, haranguing potential undocumented aliens while dressed as the beloved 60s/70s cartoon commercial pitchman The Frito Bandito.

You know, just to be a prick about it.

That said, further posting by moi will be sporadic for a few days as a result.

But in the meantime, here's a fun little project for us all:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Novelty or (Obvious Goof) Record!!!

No arbitrary rules of any kind this time, you're welcome very much. And yes, I'm pretty sure we've done this topic before, but I'm equally sure my nominees are mostly different this time. In any case, I doubt the Listomania Police will be after me.

And my totally top of my head Top Seven is:

7. Bob McFadden and Dor -- I'm a Mummy

Bob McFadden & Dor - The Mummy .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine
That's Rod McKuen -- yes him -- playing the part of the beatnik at the end, by the way. Even as a kid, I knew this record was lame.

6. Mel Brooks -- The Hitler Rap

It's Mel Brooks. It's a rap. It's about Hitler. Jeebus, what more do you want?

5. The Beatles -- You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)

The Beatles - You Know My Name .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine
"Good evening and welcome to Slaggers." A throwaway joke by the Fabs, but all involved cover themselves in glory -- in particular, Paul McCartney as the unctuous crooner and special guest Rolling Stone Brian Jones on lounge saxophone.

4. Buchanan and Goodman -- Flying Saucer Pt. 2

The second entry in the long-running series and on balance, I think, the funniest.

3. Albert Brooks -- Party in Outer Space

And years later, Buchanan and Goodman fan Brooks did his own Flying Saucer record, only instead of using snippets of actual hit records, he made up fake ones. "And whatever royalties this thing does earn, at least the checks are going to be coming to a Mr. A. Brooks and not some schmuck I don't even know." A work of genius.

2. The Police/Henry Mancini's Orchestra -- Peter Gunn/Every Breath You Take

One of those mashup records the kids seem to like so much, and committed for The Sopranos soundtrack album for no logical reason I can determine other than both songs are in the key of E. Or maybe there's some kind of irony I'm missing. In any case, it's obviously supposed to make you go "How clever!" but unfortunately it's just annoying.

And the Numero Uno you-can't-be-serious record of our time simply has to be...

1. "Weird Al" Yankovic -- Dare to Be Stupid

Most of Weird Al's parodies over the years have struck me as barely even sophomoric, but I remembered this Devo pastiche as being not just clever but actually a better Devo record than Devo themselves ever made. Having now listened to it for this first time in at least a decade, let me simply say -- uh, I was very wrong.

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

[Shameless blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: Best or worst art direction in a sci-fi movie -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to going over there and being contentious, it would be, as my people say, a mitzvah. Thanks!]

Thursday, April 29, 2010

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special Radical Chic Edition

From 1972, a better and nobler time to be sure, here's Her Nibs, Ms. Joan Baez, and the haunting revolutionary call-to-action anthem "Pull the Triggers, N***ers."

Okay, I don't think that was really Joan Baez. But I say, "right on sister!" to whoever it was. The people united will never be defeated!!!

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

Let's Face It -- Everything Below the Waist is Kaput!

From 1958, here's Ann Cole and her remarkable answer to Muddy Waters, the rueful yet optimistic ode to female self-empowerment "I've Got Nothing Working."

To be honest, I'd never heard of Cole, or heard this record, until I chanced across it while websurfing yesterday morning, but according to my old colleague Bruce Eder over at All-Music Guide, Cole was a big deal in her day (voted Most Promising Female R&b Vocalist of 1956, actually). Not only that, this isn't even technically an answer to Muddy's record; it turns out Cole herself recorded "Got My Mojo Working" the same year as that award, and Muddy learned the song after seeing her perform it onstage.

Had Cole's version been a hit, of course, history might have been changed in unfathomable ways. Of Cole herself, alas, I can find no mention after the '50s.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tales From the Under the Counter Culture

From 1964, please enjoy once and future Little Miss Dynamite Brenda Lee and her reading of Ray Charles' "What I'd Say." Recorded in England, and featuring some guy named Jimmy Page on guitar.

As you can hear, that's transferred from vinyl; apparently, it's never been on CD. In any case, I'd never encountered it before last week and talk about a revelation; Lee sounds -- in Nick Tosches' immortal phrase -- like she could fry eggs on her G-Spot.

[h/t Eric C. Boardman]

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Who Wants to Buy Me a Plane Ticket?

Never been to Vegas, though I have a nephew there. But I might go for this.

C'mon. You know you wanna....

It Came From the Basement (Part II)

Attentive readers will perhaps recall Part I of this series, but if not, the short version is that I recently got back together with some old high school garage band pals I hadn't seen for ages. These are guys with whom I spent an inordinate amount of time in the 70s making defiantly low-fi DIY powerpop albums in a dank Jersey basement, which is to say about a decade before Guided By Voices honcho Robert Pollard did something similar in the late 80s/early 90s and thought he was so cool.

And we called ourselves The Weasels, which is a better fricking name, too.

But I kid the great Robert Pollard and his epic beer hangovers.

Anyway, I've been rummaging through our tape archives, and I was pleased to find the original reel-to-reel master of our very first effort together, circa 1970-71. We called it The White Album (for a variety of reasons, none of which need to be dredged up all these years later) and to my surprise, it's not as embarrassing as it might be.

Here's my sole contribution to it as a composer/performer -- actually, my sole contribution of that nature to our entire oeuvre, as under most circumstances I couldn't write a song if you put a gun to my head. It's a brief folkie instrumental-- that's me on both the left and right channel acoustic guitars -- titled succinctly, and with the boundless imagination that I've long been known for, "Steve's Song." Heh.

As you've probably noticed, the piece stems from a period I spent (perhaps overspent, actually) listening to certain Stephen Stills records. I should also add that the guitar on the right channel originally sounded as crisp and trebly as the one on the left, but a certain degradation of the original tape over the years proved impossible to repair. I still think the whole thing is kind of cute, in any case.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Compare and Contrast: Babylon is Burning

Remember the Great Folk Scare of the 60s? As a friend of mine once said, "that shit almost caught on."

Okay, I've used that joke before, but in any case, from 1965, please enjoy singer/actor Hamilton Camp's impassioned eschatological folkie classic "Pride of Man."

And from 1967 and their debut album masterpiece, take a listen to first generation San Francisco band Quicksilver Messenger Service's spectacular folk-rock cover version.

Snark aside, I think this is a pretty cool song, and the lines about worshipping a god of gold and the towers falling into flame obviously have more resonance in a post-9/11 world than its composer probably anticipated. Camp was an interesting guy, actually; you may remember him as the vertically challenged person who goes on a disastrous blind date with Mary Richards, with lots of inappropriate short people jokes, in a classic episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

The Quicksilver remake has been a particular favorite of mine for years, especially the absoutely perfect not-a-wasted-note solo delivered by genius guitarist John Cippolina (that crying whammy-bar sound gets me every time). Quicksilver, at least in this early incarnation, has always struck as a criminally underrated band; Television were often described as the Grateful Dead of punk, but in fact I hear a lot more of Quicksilver's chiming two-guitar attack in the 70s work of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Contempt For the Audience -- That's What Killed Dennis Day! Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental...

Okay, I can't go on with this charade any longer. There IS no Weekend Listomania this week, and yesterday's clue was completely bogus.

The truth of the matter is that something pressing in the real world [hint: music was nvolved] came up, and I simply didn't have the time to do a traditional Friday offering.

So in the meantime...please enjoy (from 1967) New York City wimp-rockers Every Mother's Son and the greatest Monkees song the Monkees never recorded -- "Didn't She Lie"...

...which has absolutely nothing to do with anything except that I happened to be humming it this morning. Plus, I have a theory that if these guys had been born forty years later, they would have been Vampire Weekend, but that's a subject for another post.

In any case (and I really mean this) a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who guesses just what, exactly, I was otherwise engaged in when I should have been posting video clips of the worst kazoo solo of all time or some such.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Early Clue to the New Direction: I'll Hate Myself in the Morning Edition

From 1965, please enjoy unlikeliest teen idol of his era Soupy Sales and the b-side to his smash hit "Do the Mouse," the venerable ode to the mysterious Levant, "Pachalafaka."

I'd been searching for a free download of this for like ages, so it's a genuine pleasure to finally be able to share the wonder that is "Pachalafaka" with all of you. And as always, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who gleans the song's relevance to the theme of the upcoming Weekend Listomania, but for reasons that will be come apparent tomorrow, I think such an eventuality highly unlikely.

Unsolicited Song of the Week (An Occasional Series)

From Lake Charles, Louisiana and their eponymous 2009 debut album, please enjoy self-proclaimed America's Newest Hitmakers Research Turtles and their plaintive 21st century power ballad (for want of a better term) "Kiss Her Goodbye."

I must admit that these guys hat tip to the Rolling Stones album title hooked me instantly, as did this claim from their bio -- "they’re a band that knows where they come from but don’t give a damn." In any case, the Turtles music, which draws from Brit Invasion pop, their own Southern roots, and several different strains of punk, might as well have been designed with my mind in mind, and "Kiss Her Goodbye" has lodged itself in my cerebellum for a couple of days now, to positive effect.

For more on the band, including a link where you can download the entirety of the aforementioned (and very fine) album (for free!), make sure you check out their droll and user friendly website.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Moving Finger Writes. Or in This Case, Maybe Not...

So yesterday I was working on a piece for Box Office that had something vaguely to do with Zager and Evans' still laughable mega-hit "In the Year 2525," and I had occasion to check out the Z&E entry at Wiki.

When this little tidbit caught my eye.
The band signed with RCA Records, who claimed they were "The Next Big Thing," but follow-up singles, such as "Mr. Turnkey" (a song about a rapist who nails his own wrist to the jail wall as punishment for his crime) achieved only minor success.
And I thought -- well, obviously I need to hear that one.

Mr. Turnkey, it's 10pm in Wichita Falls
August 16, 1969 and I'm in some bar
Mr. Turnkey, I need a woman and I'm ain't getting far
I never was the kind of man a woman looked for

But Mr Turnkey, she looked at me with flirting eyes
Mr. Turnkey, she was lovelier than oil lights
Mr. Turnkey, she led me on, she led me on,
She knew she wasn't going to let me love her

Mr. Turnkey, there's been a rape in Wichita Falls
Mr. Turnkey, I'm sitting here crying in my coveralls
Mr. Turnkey, I don't want to be the man I am
Mr. Turnkey, I'm calling from block number four
Mr. Turnkey, you ain't never seen nothing like this before
Mr. Turnkey, I nailed my left wrist to your wall, I'm going home

Mr. Turnkey, I'm calling from block number four
Mr. Turnkey, I ain't got the strength to call once more
Mr. Turnkey, I'm crying, hanging here dying
Tell her I'm sorry

I'm speechless, frankly.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Compare and Contrast: Speaking of Gorgeous

From 1965, and what remains one of the most perfect debut albums in rock history, please enjoy The Byrds and the hauntingly lovely "Here Without You."

And from the 1989 Byrds tribute album Time Between, here's the incomparable Richard Thompson, with his then touring band partners Clive Gregson and Christine Collister, and their more or less unplugged cover version.

The song, of course, is by the Byrds' rather tragic Gene Clark, and I think on balance it's the most beautiful thing he ever wrote. I say this knowing full well, of course, that his more celebrated "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" is also on the same album. In any case, Thompson and company's version suffers in comparison with the angelic choirboy harmonies on the Byrds original, but I think it does the song justice nonetheless.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ars Crapola, Vita Brevis

Okay, per some discussions we've been having here recently, for purposes of clarification let me simply say that yes, I'm well aware that most obscure pop and rock stuff from the 60s and 70s is obscure for a reason -- i.e., those records just weren't as good as the ones that actually sold because people liked them.

Sure, there are exceptions -- genuinely worthy bands or artists or albums that slipped through the cracks due to the vagaries of fate. But by and large, most of the stuff you and I have never heard (or heard of) from that period-- and for obvious reasons I specifically include the majority of the LPs that were being archived until recently over at the late lamented Redtelephone66 wesbsite -- is second rate and unmemorable. Which perhaps explains why I have never really had the urge to download a CD entitled Sixties Punk From Dayton, Ohio: Volume III -- Bands Beginning With F-L.

Life's too short, is what I'm saying.

That stipulated, however, from 1968 and their sole (eponymous) album, take a listen to The Travel Agency and "What's a Man."

And before you do, I should warn you -- the song proper doesn't begin until about 2 minutes in; before that there's an instrumental section, on various electronic keyboards, that's kind of impressive in the abstract but can probably be skipped for purposes of our discussion.

Anyway, once it gets going I think it's quite remarkable; these guys obviously had a very high level of musicianship, and whoever produced the thing really knew what they were doing. Actually, both the singer and the production remind me quite a bit of Dave Edmunds and his early Rockpile/"I Hear You Knocking" period (pleasantly nasal, lots of compression, guitars that sound like they were recorded directly into the board, etc). I think the song, lyrically, is equally remarkable; it's sung from the POV of a father talking to his hawkish draft-age son (this is 1968, remember) and the discussion seems eerily familiar in a post-9/11 world: "You can't imagine what I'm thinking," the kid says to dad. "We've got to fight them while they're small/Or their disease will soon be spreading/And then we'll never kill them all."

About the album and the people who made it, we know practically nothing, except that the group was from Houston and that member Frank Davis was involved with the Texas band Fever Tree, whose minor 1969 hit "San Francisco Girls" was much beloved of the late WNEW-FM deejay Alison Steele (a/k/a "The Nightbird").

Here's "Old Man," the album's closing track, which adapts the Buddy Holly/"Peggy Sue" guitar riff to some interesting ends; this, I think, is power pop before its time, plowing the same field as Bobby Fuller, at least to my ears.

In any case, like I said -- most obscure 60s pop and rock albums deserve their obscurity. The Travel Agency may be one of the exceptions.

If you'd like to hear the rest of it, you can download it here -- -- assuming the same copyright police that shut down Redtelephone haven't gotten there first.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ringo Sez: "No Thanks, Benny."

We've all been following the bemusing and "hey-look-at-that-big-distracting-thing!" news that the Vatican has forgiven the Beatles for that "bigger-than-Jesus" hub-bub.

Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor in chief of L’Osservatore Romano, told The A.P. that he is a fan of the Beatles, and he minimized John Lennon’s notorious 1966 remark that the band at that time was “more popular than Jesus.” “In reality it wasn’t that scandalous,” Mr. Vian said, “because the fascination with Jesus was so great that it attracted these new heroes of the time.”

Umm, sure. What he meant to say is that Jesus was as popular as the Beatles.

Now, Ringo responds:
"Didn't the Vatican say we were satanic or possibly satanic? And they've still forgiven us?" the 69-year-old said.

In an apparent reference to the scandal over pedophile priests that has shaken the Catholic Church worldwide, he added: "I think the Vatican, they've got more to talk about than the Beatles."

I'm about as impressed as Ringo, myself.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Weekend Listomania: Special I'm in With The In Crowd Audio/Video Edition

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental Crème de la Boinkoise! Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to a shopping mall somewhere for a Teabagger protest against the Communist takeover of Hooters, or whatever it is they're cheesed off about. In any case, we'll be packing heat, just in case anybody gives us any crap.

That said, further posting by moi will be sporadic for a few days as a result, especially if we can't make bail.

But in the meantime, here's a fun little project for us all:

Best, Worst or Least Appreciated/Understood Representative of a Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Musical School or Regional/Local Musical Scene!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Seven are:

7. Interpol

A twofer: These guys, who emerged to much fanfare in 2007, came from the same NYC scene as The Strokes and clearly wanted to be them. But on the basis of this song, which is, shall we say, derivative of Joy Division (only without the warmth), they just as clearly seemed to think they had come up in Manchester in 1978. To my knowledge, however, Interpol's singer has not yet hung himself in emulation of Ian Curtis. Alas.

6. Pylon

After R.E.M., the most beloved band out of the whole post-punk Athens, Georgia scene. Personally, I never got them on any level.

5. The Frut

During the late 60s/early 70s heyday of Detroit rock -- MC5, Stooges, et al -- these guys were widely considered to be the absolute worst band in town, but apparently that was their point. In any case, I never heard either of their two LPs, which I'm told are highly prized by people who like that sort of thing. I believe there's also a Detroit legend about The Frut getting the shit kicked out of them in a parking lot by members of Brownsville Station, although I may have that backwards.

5. The Turtles

If there was ever a School of a Particular Band, it was the original folk-rock Byrds, who influenced just about everybody in their wake from the Beatles to the Velvet Underground (and that's just in the 60s). In any case, of all the bands who emerged immediately after "Mr. Tambourine Man," nobody did it better than The Turtles, a fact that's been mostly forgotten as a result of the efficient hitmaking pop machine they became in their latter-day incarnation. "Glitter and Gold," a Mann-Weill song from their very first album, has always seemed to me to be particularly representative; I actually saw them do the tune, and much else, at a teen club in Waukegan, Illinois in the fall of 1965. They were great, in case you were wondering.

4. Esquerita

Lots of people have wanted to sing like Little Richard over the years -- Otis Redding and Paul McCartney spring to mind -- but to our knowledge, nobody but the howling weirdo christened Eskew Reeder, Jr. ever actually tried to be him. To be strictly accurate, there's some disagreement among historians as to who actually influenced who, but it's clear that executives at Capitol Records, who signed Esquerita and issued his rather astonishing eponymous album in 1959, were trying to cash on the success of the "Long Tall Sally" auteur. Although if you've ever heard the record --including "Esquerita and the Voola" (in the clip above), which sounds like an unholy shtup between Martin Denny and Sun Ra -- you really have to wonder what they were thinking.

3. The Eyes

There were a lot of Brit bands, circa 1965-66 who did the early Who almost as well as the Who -- The Creation, and The Birds (featuring a young Ron Wood) among them -- but The Eyes, who are perhaps best known for their classic freakbeat workout "When the Night Falls," may have been on balance the best of them. In any case, "My Degeneration," which can be heard at the link above, probably earns them the nod simply for the chutzpah of the title.

2. The Harlots of 42nd Street

New York Dolls wannabes and perennial also-rans on the early 70s New York trash glam-rock scene that coalesced around the Mercer Arts Center. David Johansen: "We used to compete with the Harlots of 42nd Street which was a group of guys who looked like truck drivers but dressed like the Dolls and wore, like, fishnet stockings over these big muscular hairy legs. They were my favourite band." Incidentally, I've included both sides of their only single here, mostly because the A-side is so utterly awful I felt the slightly less appalling B-side deserved a hearing out of simple fairness.

And the Numero Uno misunderstood avatars of a thriving and fertile rock scene clearly were...

1. The Big Three

Musician's musicians, and apparently the loudest band in Liverpool, these guys were briefly managed by Brian Epstein and seemed poised for big things. It didn't happen, of course, for all the usual reasons, but bassist John Gustafson has been a major figure as a sideman ever since; that's him on Roxy Music's "Love is the Drug," among other interesting credits through 2007, and as far as I can tell he's still active.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: most memorable score for a non-musical film or TV show -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, it would put a song in my heart if you could take a moment to go over there and post something pithy. Thanks!]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ohmigod, it's the Most Hideously Awful Early Clue to the New Direction Ever!

From 1986, and the very depths of Hell itself, please enjoy the unfortunately monikered Blow Monkeys and their ludicrously soul-free hit "Digging Your Scene."

Seriously -- these guys make Spandau Ballet look like the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

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.

The Last Skip Spence Song I'll Ever Post. Seriously -- I Mean It This Time.

This one's from Moby Grape's disastrous 1971 "comeback" album on Warner Brothers. I say disastrous because (although there are actually a couple of fun songs) the sole contribution from the group's best songwriter, i.e., Skippy, and thus pretty much everybody's reason for listening at this point, turned out to instrumental.

Titled "Chinese Song."

Which is five minutes or so of exactly what you're afraid it might be from the title.

If I'm in the right mood, this actually strikes me as kind of funny, and for what it's worth, it's at least listenable. Still, and I can't recall what my take on it was when it first came out, it probably should have been a clue to fans that its auteur had pretty much lost his marbles.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Unsolicited Song of the Week (An Occasional Series)

From Glasgow, Scotland and their just released EP 2010, please enjoy the previously unknown to me Annie Stevenson and their infectious and obviously thought-provoking plaint "TV Took My Soul."

I don't usually have time to check out the unsigned bands who send us stuff, which is a source of some continuing guilt for me, but for what it's worth the e-mail that came with this, from the charmingly monikered Nick Scroggie, hooked me right away with his (accurate, as it turned out) description of his group's music: "Grunge Meets Punk Meets Power Pop." It helped that the song was so neatly put together, of course, as did a quote decorating their myspace page: "Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein."

In any case, you can find out more about these guys (including info about upcoming gigs, assuming we have any other readers in the vicinity of Scotland) at the aforementioned myspace page.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Compare and Contrast: The Genius of Skip Spence (Part II)

Once again, from Oar (his 1969 folie à une solo album), please enjoy Moby Grape's great and tragic Skip Spence and the plaintive mumblecore country waltz "Broken Heart."

If anybody in pop music in the last 50 years had the mark of the poet on him, it was Skippy.

An Olympic super swimmer
Whose belly doesn't flop
A super race car driver
Whose pit it can't be stopped

A honey dripping hipster
Whose bee cannot be bopped
It's better to be rolled in oats
Than from the roll be dropped

Broken heart would satisfy
Broken in a mess
A severed eye would gratify
My soul, I must confess

I'd rather have no eyes at all
Be blind upon the floor
Than to stand upon the receivin' end
Of the right hand of the Lord

He wrote that during a six month stay in Bellevue. Shot full of thorazine, I might add. (Jeebus -- I could go my entire life without ever coming up with a line as good as that honey dripping hipster deal.)

In any case, from 1999, here's the equally great and blessedly not at all tragic Robyn Hitchcock, with his rather more intense back porch solo cover version (from the More Oar tribute album).

I'm not sure which version I prefer, but I do know that the first time I heard Hitchcock's I felt like I'd been poleaxed. He totally gets the song's deadpan surrealist japery, obviously, but also quite a bit more.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Compare and Contrast: The Genius of Skip Spence

And speaking as we were on Thursday of Moby Grape's great, tragic Syd Barrett-figure, from 1969 and his beautiful, funny, and occasionally terrifying solo album Oar, please enjoy Skip Spence and the shambolic but haunting "All Come to Meet Her Now."

And from 1999 and the superb Spence tribute album More Oar, here's criminally underrated Brit folk-rockers Diesel Park West and their glittering cover version.

Obviously, the DPW track is far more focused than Skippy's original, but it's essentially the same song and arrangement. In fact, what's really cool about it is that it sounds (to my ears, at least) exactly like how it would have sounded had his old band mates in the Grape ever gotten a chance to bash it out along with him.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special What the Hell is That Thing Below Your Nose? Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental F.O.T.W. [Friend of Tiger Woods] Fah Lo Suee and I are off to the Executive Mansion in beautiful Richmond, Virginia, where we'll be joining Governor Robert F. McDonnell [R-Slave Owner] in a ceremony celebrating his proclamation of Nazi Appreciation Month, a tribute to the Third Reich's invaluable contributions to the aerospace industry in the Commonwealth.

In any case, further posting by moi will be sporadic for a few days as a result.

But in the meantime, here's a fun little project for us all:

Best or Worst Mustache on a Post-Elvis Pop or Rock Musician!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Seven is:

7. Bob Dylan

The latter day Bob, of course, and his riverboat gambler look, which is about as cool in an age-appropriate way as you can get. What a character.

6. Sonny Bono

Hey, not for nothing is his most heartfelt record called "Laugh at Me." (And I don't care if he wrote also "Needles and Pins" -- his various mustaches over the years were heinous.)

5. John Oates

A porn 'stash, to be sure, but with so much more going on, subtextually. Let's just say it didn't surprise me when he made an actually very cool record called "Where are the Italian Girls."

4. Bryan Ferry

For somebody with as lounge lizard-ish a personna as Ferry it's kind of surprising that he's been clean-shaven for most of his career, but here he is, circa 1976, during his brief Clark Gable period.

3. Derek Smalls (Spinal Tap)

People thought it was something about their trousers, but I've always considered that magnificent growth on bassist Smalls' lip to be the true secret weapon of Spinal Tap.

2. That wimpy asshole in Fleet Foxes

Have I mentioned how much I hate this band? Seriously -- I hate just about everything about them, including their friends and relatives I've never met.

And the Numero Uno wispy or otherwise facial hair statement by a musician, I'll brook no dissension on this, absolutely is...

1. Ron Mael(Sparks)

Come on -- like it was even a contest? The guy got on Top of the Pops doing Hitler, fercrissakes.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: Best or worst performance by a post-Beatles female pop star in a fiction film -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could find it in the goodness of your heart to go over there and leave a pithy bon mot, I'd probably think nice thoughts about you. Thanks!]

Thursday, April 08, 2010

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special Friedman Unit Edition

From 2003, please enjoy, if that's the word, the still doesn't know he's a bad joke Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and his infamous "Suck on This!" video.

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.

But trust me -- if you get this one, you're good.

Purple Rain

More reasons to be cheerful: The archivists over at Sundazed Records are unleashing the first ever over-the-counter official collection of live recordings by the incredibly great Moby Grape. The album drops, as the kids say, on April 20th.

Hardcore fans will have heard some of this before, mostly on inferior bootlegs, but the Sundazed upgrades -- including the Grape's complete (at last) set from Monterey Pop (in significantly improved sound), and the astounding, improvised on the spot 17-minute acid rock masterpiece "Dark Magic," recorded at San Francisco's Avalon Ballroom on December 31, 1966 -- are genuinely overwhelming. I have insisted on numerous occasions here that the Grape were not only by far the best of the Bay Area bands back then, but one of the greatest American bands period, and I think there are moments on Moby Grape Live when those judgements are inarguable.

You can -- and definitely should -- pre-order the album here.

Normally I would post an mp3 from the album at this point, but I think in this case it might be a little tacky. (In any event, you can listen to samples from all 19 tracks at the Amazon link above.)

In lieu of that, however, here's a little tribute to the genius of the Grape's great Skip Spence. From 1985, enjoy downtown supergroup The Golden Palmoninos -- featuring Michael Stipe on lead vocals -- with their, for want of a better word, interesting re-imagining of Skippy's Grape classic "Omaha."

I haven't listened to that in ages, actually; is it just me or is that 80s drum sound really obnoxious?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Annals of Anti-Climax

And now, if you'll permit me, a cautionary tale. Draw what ever moral you may.

On the lovely winter night of October 25, 1978, I happened to find myself at New York's much-missed Bottom Line nightclub for a show by Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams, who of course were doing business as Rockpile, still the best traditional non-hyphenated rock 'n' roll band that ever trod a stage. There was a more than usually anticipatory buzz in the room, or so it seemed to me, and at some point a friend (the late Ruth Polsky, who went on to book Hurrahs and Danceteria and generally become a player in the New Wave scene in the city) came over to my table and, rather breathlessly, informed me that Keith Richards -- who the day before had beaten the Canadian heroin rap that was perhaps his most publicized drug bust ever -- was in the club somewhere and might be taking the stage. Sounded like fun to me.

Anyway, Rockpile hit the aforementioned stage a few minutes later, and after a couple of songs, Edmunds introduced a special guest, none other than Keef himself. At which point they tore into one of my alltime favorite Chuck Berry numbers -- "Let It Rock" -- which seemed an exciting choice, given that both Edmunds (with Brinsley Schwarz) and Richards (with the Rolling Stones) had recorded definitive live versions of it in the early 70s.

Here's the performance as it went down that night. And let's just say that whatever excitement I felt at the beginning didn't exactly last through the song's raggedy close.

The show was broadcast rather soon thereafter, probably on the old WNEW-FM, and I taped it at the time, hoping it would sound better under the headphones at home than it did in the club that night. It didn't. And ever since then, every couple of years, I've pulled out the cassette, or of late the mp3, and given it a listen, hoping against hope that it would finally seem less of a mess than I remembered.

Didn't work today, either.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Compare and Contrast: Songs Nirvana Covered (Part Deux)

And speaking as we were yesterday of what must have been Kurt Cobain's interestingly eclectic record collection, please enjoy Nirvana's 1988 Sub Pop debut single -- their kick-ass reimagining of Shocking Blue's 1969 European hit "Love Buzz."

And here's the Shocking Blue original, which I've always figured Cobain learned from a cut-out bin vinyl version of SBs sole American album.

Shocking Blue - Love Buzz .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

I've enthused about Shocking Blue around here on numerous occasions, and in fact I grabbed a copy of that album back in 1970 after reading Greil Marcus' surprising rave review in Rolling Stone. But "Love Buzz" has always struck me as being one of their kitschier efforts. Maybe that's what attracted Cobain to it in the first place -- there's a story I heard somewhere that he actually had the album on eight-track, although I have no idea if that's true. In any case, the Nirvana version is a flat-out killer, I think, and I'm guessing it stuck out from the rest of the Seattle proto-grunge sludge Sub Pop was pushing at the time like a tarantula on a piece of angel food cake. Seriously -- one listen and you know you're in the presence of a world-class band, if not necessarily a world-class band whose frontman would turn out to be the voice of a generation.