FROM HARD ROCK TO ROCK OF AGES: A Chat With Former Hit Parader Writer, Father Charley Crespo
By Steven Ward
Back in the '70s and '80s, Charley Crespo frequented the rock clubs of New York and New Jersey gathering info for his fan-obsessed dispatches for metal rag Hit Parader, as well as some other papers in the New York/New Jersey area.
Today, Crespo's "flock" is as far away from the world of hard rock and heavy metal as one could get. The man once known as "Everynight" Charley Crespo is now a Roman Catholic priest.
This recent e-mail interview tells the strange and wonderful story of how Charley Crespo stopped following Ted Nugent and Aerosmith and wound up hearing confession from his parishioners in the Virgin Islands...
Seriously, I don't think there was a record company show I attended between 1972 and 82 where Crespo wasn't also on the press line waiting to get in. "Is Charley here?" was almost a running gag, like "Hilda is here!" with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Crespo also wrote for The Aquarian, a freebie paper from New Jersey that was a sort of running gag as well. Although I just noticed, to my surprise, that it's still an ongoing concern.
In any case, I gotta say -- going from rock critic to Catholic priest is almost as big a deal as converting from VHS to Betamax.
Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means, Yes, my Oriental drive-shaft adjuster (that's a metaphor) Fah Lo Suee and I will be heading off to an undisclosed location for a little Memorial Day weekend R&R.
And they better have plugged the damn hole (that's not a metaphor) before the weekend's over.
In any case, since things will be a little quiet around here for the forseeable future, here's a fun little project for us all:
Best or Worst Post-Elvis Pop/Rock/Soul Record or Song With the Word(s) Sorrow or Pity (or Variants Thereof) in the Title or Lyrics!!!
Self-explanatory, I think, and no arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much.
One of my favorite Otis records, and whenever I hear it I want to say to him -- I know the feeling.
5. Gene Pitney -- Town Without Pity
Here rendered as "Bleib Bei Mir," because frankly this one could only sound more over the top melodramatic in the original German.
4. Faith No More -- Last Cup of Sorrow
To be honest, I thought these guys were kind of overrated back in the day, and I don't even much care for the song. But the homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo in this video has always kind of tickled me.
3. The Lovin' Spoonful -- Only Pretty What a Pity
An uncharacteristically nasty song from the group that practically invented the concept of Good Time Music. Written and sung by Spoonful drummer Joe Butler, presumably about a real woman of his acquaintance. "Everyone except a baby/answers for the face they wear" has always struck me as one of the most chillingly poetic lines in rock history.
2. The Merseys -- Sorrow
The sadly better known David Bowie cover of this is one of the only things on Pin-Ups I can tolerate, but the original is still the greatest.
2. Weezer -- This is Such a Pity
Because, as you know, we like to have something recorded in this century. A pretty cool song in any case.
And the Numero Uno miserabilist song of them all, please let's not quibble about this, is --
1. Warren Zevon -- Poor Poor Pitiful Me
The live version, which, although spirited, omits the great line about the girl at the Rainbow Bar who asks Zevon to beat her -- "I don't want to talk about it." Although the bit about Jesse James is now relevant in a way Zevon couldn't have predicted but I suspect would have appreciated.
Alrighty then -- what would YOUR favorites be?
[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or worst WWII-themed movie -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, it would help get me in good with management if you could kindly see your way to going over there and leaving a comment. Thanks!]
And speaking as we were the other day of "Why Don't You Smile," the first songwriting collaboration between Lou Reed and John Cale, it turns out its appearance was not confined to the super obscure b-side of that All Night Workers record.
From 1966, here it is as covered by the somewhat more famous -- at least in certain parts of England and Europe -- Downliners Sect.
I don't think this is as good as the original, if truth be told, but it certainly makes the song's "Louie Louie/Hang on Sloopy" roots seem obvious.
Incidentally, if you don't know the Downliners Sect, they were perhaps the rawest of all the Brit r&b groups that emerged in the wake of the Stones. Their early stuff, in particular, makes the The Pretty Things sound like The Budapest String Quartet.
From Melbourne, Australia and his on-going A Single Per Month project, please enjoy antipodean singer/songwriter Stuart Smith and his May 2010 entry, the uplifting earworm of a pop confection "Better Off in Front."
I'm not sure who or what exactly this one reminds me of, stylistically -- Lloyd Cole maybe? -- but I love the air around the instruments, the way the arrangement is layered, Smith's breathy vocal, and just the whole thing, actually, including what's been called the Right Three Chords. Cool guitar stuff, too.
For more on Smith, including downloads for some other songs from the album in progress, here's a link to his estimable website.
he choice made literal what was implicit throughout this often impressive festival: The pop ethic, survivor of many iterations, is mutable and agnostic and unembarrassed.
The fourth annual NYC Popfest, which ran from Thursday through Sunday, consisted of five showcases featuring more than 30 bands, mostly those that adhered to a few key tenets: summery, lo-fi, melodic, twee, nonconfrontational. This was indie-pop in the vein of the late 1980s through the mid-’90s, a mode that has been creeping back into fashion as part of a broader full-scale pop revivalism in indie rock.
Here's one I hadn't heard of, and a rather pleasant surprise.
From 1965, please enjoy The All Night Workers and "Why Don't You Smile."
From an interview with John Cale in the April issue of Uncut.
It's all "Louie Louie" changes and the first song that Lou and I wrote, one drunken evening. It was the b-side of a single by friends of Lou's. It was my first rock 'n' roll session and the guys were all popping pills.
I really like this one; to my ears it sounds like the Velvets crossed with The Righteous Brothers, and quite attractively. As it happens, the All Night Workers seem to have been a better than average frat party band; here's the genuinely rocking a-side of the single -- "Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket."
The ANW's were Syracuse buddies from Lou's college days; keyboardist Lloyd Baskin went on to play with Seatrain, a Blues Project spinoff featuring Andy Kulberg and virtuoso fiddle player Richard Greene.
In any case, Reed and Cale didn't have a hand in the a-side, but it's really quite good -- good enough to have been a minor hit, IMHO.
First of all, shame on the Brooklyn Paper for publishing this bullshit, and shame on Southpaw for booking it. 27-year-old musician Jay Banerjee has organized an event called Hipster Demolition Night, taking place next Thursday and featuring a bunch of no-name garage-rock/power-pop revivalists. "It's a miniature revolution," he says, "a revolt against what’s been dominating the scene for far too long." And what's that? "Hipster noodling," obviously. ...... here's the saddest part of all this: They're not actually battling hipsters for anything. They lost. Those guys always lose. The ones who pride themselves on being rock and roll lifers, the ones who wear shorts on stage and send out press kits with 8x10 glossy photos, the ones who complain about the cool kids simply because they're not among them, the ones who make lame, outdated generalizations to lame, outdated media outlets in hopes of getting a little bit of attention. Well, here it is. It won't lead to anything, though. It never does.
Most people I know who listen to this genre are pretty self-deprecating about it: we've learned to be, since we're so accustomed to being told that it's just not as cool as whatever the person lecturing us is listening to. Whatever. But this is a genre with a long history and serious fan base, one which does not necessarily change direction every four months. You don't really hurt us by calling us geeks: we already know that. But denying us the right to exist and peaceably to assemble is downright unamerican, dude.
The comments calling him out for not knowing a thing about any of the bands he's trashing (as well as Banerjee's gracious offer to buy him a beer) make my job surprisingly easy here: he doesn't know the music, never heard of Paul Collins, and seems to think Collins looks 27. (I met Collins last year: a handsome man, but not 27.) And he seems to be the music editor of this paper, and he's completely unashamed of his ignorance.
I do not know what the bug up Conklin's butt is, but he seems awfully earnest about making sure that we know that he doesn't think we're cool enough to share Brooklyn sidewalk space with people like him. Where's his unconcerned, ironic detachment? In any case, he's roundly spanked here, and justly so. I'm dragging my geeky ass to Southpaw on Thursday in any case.
Maybe Astoria will host the wretched refuse of our tuneful shores next time.
Betcha the BOC show is also irony-free.
PS: Dunno what your sidebar shows, but mine proudly contains a teaser for an article called "Hipsters in History." Ha!
PPS: Just ruminating: do we think Conklin knows what Disco Demolition Night was, either? Probably not, or he wouldn't be giving Collins a hard time about his beret, one which resembles the kicky chapeau worn by my beloved blogmate. Steve Dahl's hat is much worse.
"He's a drag. Cat gets thrown out of a restaurant, and he writes a song about it."
That was Bob Dylan's verdict on Sonny Bono, whose 1965 solo single "Laugh at Me" was, in fact, inspired by Bono having been ejected from a trendy LA eatery due to the then scandalous length of his hair.
This is a sublimely ridiculous record, at least I think so, and I must confess to having become somewhat obsessed with Bono's oeuvre of late. I think re-hearing that Terry Reid cover of "Bang Bang" that I posted the other day had something to do with it. In any case, I'm devoting way too much time to thinking about Sonny.
Which of course leads us to this -- a seemingly dead serious and irony free Blonde on Blonde style cover of "Laugh at Me" by Mott the Hoople, from their 1969 debut album.
And from their 1988 LP, here's world's most entertaining roots-rock band The Skeletons with their rather more obviously parodic cover version. Note that bassist/vocalist Lou Witney recasts Sonny's original opening rap as a tribute to a bunch of guys who don't often get their deserved props -- all the bald-headed rockers everywhere.
Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means, Yes, my Oriental glandular manipulation therapist and spiritual advisor Fah Lo Suee and I will be heading to beautiful downtown Bowling Green, Kentucky, home of libertarian/Teabagger senatorial candidate Rand Paul. Mr. Paul is planning on attending a Bar Mitzvah at Bowling Green synagogue Congregation Am Shalom, but we will be joining the venerated Rabbi Chaim LeChaim in barring the door and informing Mr. Paul that "We reserve the right to refuse services to you."
The being the case, and since things will be a little quiet around here for the forseeable future, here's a fun little project for us all:
Best or Worst Post-Beatles Pop/Rock/Soul Song or Record That References Firearms in Either the Title or the Lyric!!!
Self-explanatory, so no arbitrary rules, but by firearms I mean the obvious, i.e. handguns, rifles, etc. In other words, if you try to sneak in something like Bruce Cockburns' otherwise quite splendid "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" I'll make merciless fun of you.
And my totally top of my head Top Ten is:
10. Terry Reid -- Bang Bang
Written by Sonny fricking Bono, and covered here to within an inch of its "my baby shot me down" life. Reid, of course, is the man who passed on Robert Plant's gig in Led Zeppelin, thus altering history in unfathomable ways.
9. The Connells -- Get a Gun
From 1990 and a long-time fave of mine. Utterly gorgeous on every level, I think, but to this day I haven't the slightest idea what it's about. These guys are apparently still a going concern, however, and if I ever run into them maybe I'll ask.
8. Warren Zevon -- Jeannie Needs a Shooter
Thought I was gonna say "Lawyers, Guns and Money," didn't you?
7. Mission of Burma -- That's When I Reach for My Revolver
Mission of Burma - Thats When I Reach for My Revolver .mp3
Yeah, it's a great song. Still, and I forgot who said it, but there comes a time in everybody's life when they look at their CD collection and realize that those three Mission of Burma albums are basically just taking up space.
5. Hackamore Brick -- Zip Gun Woman
From the 1971 cult album. These guys are supposed to be some kind of proto-something -- punk, powerpop, I don't know what -- and people I know whose opinions I respect actually like the record. All I know is, I pull it out once every year or two to see if it makes sense to me yet, and it never does.
5. Webb Wilder -- The Devil's Right Hand
Written by Steve Earle, natch, and still the best anti-gun song ever. From Wilder's brilliant 1986 debut album, and recorded live obviously.
4. Bruce Springsteen -- Held Up Without a Gun
The Boss Goes Punk, and (at a breathless 1:22 seconds) just a total pleasure. This is the studio version from The River sessions, which has never been on legit CD to my knowledge.
3. The Goo Goo Dolls -- Naked
"The shots in the dark from empty guns/Are never heard by anyone." I don't really care that these guys ripped off everything they ever did from Paul Westerberg -- I like 'em anyway. Sorry.
2. The Killers -- Under the Gun
Because we like to have something recorded in the current century, obviously, but god knows if anybody deserves to have a song with "gun" in the title, it's these guys. Honorable mention: Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, for their superior song of the same title.
And the Numero Uno ode to the joys of blowing stuff up real good simply has to be...
1. The Guess Who -- Guns, Guns, Guns
This is one of the Guess Who tracks I usually pull out when people make fun of my obsession with the band. I'd actually forgotten it was a single; I mostly think of it as one of the best cuts from Rockin', the 1972 LP that's not only their masterpiece but one of the most unjustly overlooked albums of its decade. The song itself is sui generis; slash-and-burn guitars, a chorus for the ages, and a lyric -- at a historical moment when corporate greedheads may have befouled the Gulf of Mexico beyond repair and the NRA and their Supreme Court enablers won't rest until every American can walk into a bar carrying a Stinger missile -- that's obviously depressingly prescient.
Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?
[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema listomania -- theme: best or worst films about alienated teens -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, I'd take it as a personal favor if you could go over there and leave a comment or two.]
From 1965, please enjoy quintessential frat-house rockers The Swingin' Medallions and their still enjoyably woozy morning after classic "Double Shot of My Baby's Love."
I should add, to my utter amazement, that these guys are still at it. And that none other than Bruce Springsteen, who knows from this stuff, actually asked them onstage to perform the tune with him just last year. (Here's the link -- the video's not great, but you'll get the idea).
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.
From 1665 -- I'm sorry, 1965 -- please enjoy future Scott Joplin popularizer Joshua Rifkin and the boys in The Baroque Ensemble of the Merseyside Kammermusickgesellschaft with their groovy version of the Fab Four's "L'Amour S'en Cachant" (a/k/a "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away.")
The standard critical take on this (which, let's face it, is essentially a novelty record) is that it's one of the few instances of a classical guy actually getting the whole rock thing that was happening at the time. That's true, up to a point, but actually there's very little of the actual Beatles in most of Rifkin's arrangements, which tend to meander off in non-Lennon/McCartney directions. "Hide Your Love," for some reason, is the sole exception, at least for me; something about that descending riff before the chorus seems to work in the faux Baroque context.
From his 1994 Let Go, please enjoy unclassifiable American guitarist John Fahey and his breathtaking overdubbed solo version of "Layla."
Fahey died, one assumes of a surfeit of the blues, in 2001. I only saw him play once, at some point in the mid-80s, when I lived around the corner from Folk City; he was a little drunk, I think, but very funny between songs. Frankly, I didn't think he was that hot musically, though; I remember thinking "That's what people have been raving about for all these years?" In retrospect, of course, I suspect he was just having an off night, at least if this "Layla" is any indication.
One of the things I really like about this blog is its relative freedom--when compared to other music blogs--from hipster consciousness. We may bemusedly post things we think are kind of woeful, but we see them as part of a larger artistic field, and I don't think we ever put up anything we don't at least think of as interesting.
In my (professional) field, criticism isn't, yanno, critical, as such. It's revelatory, explanatory. We compare not to place things on a suck-doesn't suck continuum, but to think about how and why things are different.
And so I present a song I have long loved in two incarnations. The original, written by the incomparable, deeply mourned Kirsty MacColl, came out in that banner pop year: 1979 (which I will cheerfully place against 1965 or 1991 as one of those years in which pop hit critical mass and almost got *gasp!* popular). At the time, there was some difficulty with her distributor in England, and so the song, though it received a lot of airplay, did not sell well. The charts were based on sales, not airplay, and so it was not a "hit," officially.
From 1979, then, MacColl's "They Don't Know."
Fast forward a couple of years. Pop flourished and crashed: it's all about asymmetrical haircuts and synths by 1983. MTV is still leveling the rural-urban cool factor, in that it gave hix in the stix (like yours truly) access to music easily as cool as that available to our City Mouse cousins. And into this comes comedienne Tracey Ullmann (who has pretty much always been cool), translating MacColl's gem for the MTV generation. The video is charming (and features the first self-consciously ironic use of 70's fashion I recall--eat your heart out Urge Overkill!), the cameo by Macca a stunning surprise at the time (Ullmann has a cameo in his Give My Regards to Broad Street), and even paid homage to its original: that's MacColl singing the plaintive "Baybee!" in the middle.
No great point here, just two terrific versions of a terrific song.
Okay, not really so savage, but definitely Bleecker Street's finest.
The Floor Models. Live at the Other End Cafe. Greenwich Village, NYC. Sometime in 1982-83.
The song in the clip is called "Free Advice," and it was written by the great Andy "Folk Rock" Pasternack (front row, left). It's sung by the bass player (front row, right), some guy whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should also add that this was actually recorded at JPs, a club across town from The Other End we played at a lot around the same time. We sounded the same in both rooms, however.
Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental gastroenterologist/social affairs director Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to waterlogged Nashville, Tennessee where she'll be hooking up (as the kids say) with country singer Chely Wright. Ms. Wright recently made a big splash in the news when she revealed that she was a thespian, and Fah Lo Suee assures me she'll be spending a couple of days at Wright's apartment for some private acting lessons.
I'm sure I'll find something to do in town while she's occupied, but in any case, as a result, posting by moi will be sporadic for a while.
But in the meantime, here's a fun little project for us all:
Best or Worst Post-Beatles Pop/Rock Song or Record With the Words "Change" or "Changes" in the Title or Lyrics!!!
Self-explanatory, I think, and as a result no arbitrary rules of any kind here, you're welcome very much.
That said, you'll notice that conspicuously absent from the list is the song that would probably be most folk's most obvious choice. You know, that stuttering number from that album...damn, what's that thing called?
Oh yeah -- Zally McMuffin and the Gay Guys From Outer Space, or whatever.
In any case, feel free to choose Bowie's "Changes" as a Best nominee if you must, but be warned I will make merciless fun of you if you choose to do so.
And that said, my totally top of my head Top Ten is:
10. The Zombies -- Changes
From the gorgeous Odessey and Oracle album, obviously. One of my favorite tracks from said album, not so obviously.
9. John Mayer -- Waiting On the World to Change
Rory Gallagher dies, yet this embarrassing poser gets to play his crappy song in a party scene on CSI. I don't get it.
8. The Hollies -- Signs That Will Never Change
The B-side of Carrie Anne, and its own poignant way, almost as good. The Clarke-Hicks-Nash songwriting cartel was really at the peak of its game at this point.
7. Sugar -- If I Can't Change Your Mind
Husker Du's great Bob Mould, at his most ecstatically Byrdsian.
6. The Poor -- She's Got the Time (She's Got the Changes)
Randy Meisner's pre-Eagles psych garage band; the song is by either Brewer or Shipley (of "One Toke Over the Line" fame). This was actually a minor hit, at least in NYC.
5. Jim and Jean -- Changes
The Phil Ochs song, obviously, which was cloying enough on its own, but here given one of the lamest folk-rock arrangements of the 60s. Any similarity between this duo and Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara, as Mitch and Mickey, in A Mighty Wind is purely coincidental, I'm sure.
4. Spider -- Change
God, this is awful. That too-cheesy-to-be-cute organ, the over-stated drumming, the abysmal mannered vocals -- you can hardly tell there's an actually pretty good song lurking in there somewhere.
3. John Waite -- Change
And here's the song done the way it always needed to be done. Have I mentioned that Waite's version of the Spider track is one of my top five New Wave guilty pleasures?
And the Numero Uno track delineating how life differs from the rocks is, no question about it, the one and only....
1. Godfrey Daniel -- Them Changes
The often-covered Buddy Miles annoyance of the early 70s, performed (rather drolly) here in the manner of some late 40s blues shouter or...well, actually I'm no quite sure who this is a pastiche of. Cab Calloway, maybe. In any case, clearly the definitive reading of the song.
Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?
[Shamless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: breakthrough performances by an actor or actress -- is now up over at here. As always, if you could see your way to going over there and posting a comment, it would get me in good with the capitalist bastards who run the place.]
From 1970 and the deservedly obscure Be a Brother album, please enjoy(?) the post-Janis Joplin edition of Big Brother and the Holding Company and their well-intentioned (but frankly rather lame) ode to cross-generation gap solidarity and country music, "I'll Change Your Flat Tire, Merle."
Written and sung by bluesman Nick Gravenites, who let's simply say did better things at other times in his career. Although the idea of a hippie anthem to then scary redneck guy Merle Haggard was kind of funny, as is the line "You're a honkie, I know/But Merle, you've got soul."
In any case, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will, as always, be awarded to the first reader who gleans the clip's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.
From 1969, here's legendary (by which we mean bogus) supergroup The Masked Marauders and their self-explanatory almost smash-hit "I Can't Get No Nookie."
For those of you too young to remember, the Masked Marauders album was the very feeble pay-off to a joke/hoax review (the brainchild of critic Greil Marcus) that ran in Rolling Stone. Unsurprisingly, the credulous counter-culture audience believed the super-secret recording session featuring Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon et al (recorded in Hudson's Bay no less) Marcus raved about was for real, and the good capitalists at Warner/Reprise records rushed out this piece of crap to cash in.
I actually had the vinyl back in the day, and even knowing it was a joke I still found it mostly unlistenable, with the exception of the above mildly amusing Stones pastiche. Rhino did a deluxe limited CD reissue a few years ago; you can download the whole thing over here, but unless you're extremely perverse of ears, you really needn't bother.
The (then Young) Rascals. From 1966. "What is the Reason."
Sweet jeebus, what a great song; I can't believe it was a B-side (of the admittedly epochal "Come On Up," in fact). And I'd totally forgotten about it until thoughtful reader Lawrence Dunn mentioned that the Rascals, at the urging of no less than Little Steven, had performed it at the recent Rascals reunion show.
Oh...have I mentioned that there was a Rascals reunion show? Yeah, there was, three weeks ago, also at the urging of Little Steven, who is a living saint if there is one. The Rascals hadn't played together, with one brief exception, for 40 years, and had no intention of ever doing so again, but Steve convinced them to do it for a worthy charity.
The short version is -- they totally killed. And it was recorded.
Click on the link here and then scroll down for the zip file of the show. Trust me, it's transcendent stuff.
From 1972 and their sole, eponymous album, please enjoy (if that's the word) New York Dolls wannabes Five Dollar Shoes and their plaintive ode to groupiedom, the imaginatively titled "Love Song."
These guys suck, obviously, but I can't help feeling somebody in Guns N' Roses had a copy of the LP version. I myself have been looking for a copy (it's never been on CD, for pretty obvious reasons) for ages, partly because I'd never heard it, but mostly because it came out on Neighborhood Records, and at the time I was sort of seeing a woman who worked at Neighborhood.
The punchline to all this needs to be understood in terms of the then vogue for rock stars running their own custom record labels. The Beatles, obviously, kicked all that off with Apple, and of course by 1972, the Rolling Stones had Rolling Stones records, the Beach Boys had Brother, Led Zeppelin had Swan Song, and even the fricking Youngbloods(!) had Raccoon. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few.
Anyway, so a trash-rock platform heels and spandex bunch like Five Dollar Shoes got signed to Neighborhood.
The custom label of...
...wait for it...
...hippie songstress Melanie.
I don't what's sillier -- the idea of Melanie signing these posers or the idea of the auteur behind "Brand New Chastity Belt" actually having her own record company.
If you were with us for the weekend's celebration of post 1970 songs that should have been hits but weren't, you may recall that our pal Sal Nunziato, proprietor of the invaluable Burning Wood, nominated the previously unknown to me "New Romance (It's a Mystery)" by Spider. Since said song turned out to be a pretty good piece of Nuevo Wavo 80s pop, and at least one other reader seconded the nomination, I thought I'd post it.
I don't know how I missed these guys at the time, but in any case drummer Anton Fig has gone on to considerably more success as a member of David Letterman's house band. Spider vocalist Holly Knight has gone on to even greater success as a mega-commercial songwriter, but since most of her successes in that regard have annoyed the hell out of me over the years, the less said about them the better.
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...oh hell, the ongoing oil gusher in the Gulf has left me too depressed to even try to make a joke at the expense of one of those Republican idiots who are still advocating drilling.
In any case, during the next few days I'll be trying to lower my blood pressure over this whole business, so further posting by moi will be sporadic as a result.
But in the meantime, here's a fun little project for us all:
Best Post-Breakup-of-the-Beatles Pop/Rock Single That Should Have Been a Huge Fricking Hit But Wasn't!!!
Self-explanatory, I think -- records that should have been chart toppers in a sane world -- and no arbitrary rules, except that we're not talking album cuts; they have to be tracks that were actually released to radio as singles in the United States of America AFTER early 1970. Of course, given that they haven't made any of those little seven inch records with the big holes in the center for quite some time now, I realize this puts some of our younger readers at a disadvantage. So if you care to nominate, say, some piece of crap by Creed that was actually sent out to deejays in some format or another, I'm not going to object.
And yes, I'm absolutely positive we've done this category (or something nearly identical) before, but I for one am certifying that all my choices are first-timers.
And that said, my totally top of my head Top Eight is:
8. The Subdudes -- All the Time in the World
This got so much play on New York rock radio in 1996 that I always assumed it was a worldwide smash, but apparently no, it wasn't. A great Rolling Stones by way of New Orleans slice of blues-rock, in any case; the guy on slide guitar is a mofo, as the kids say.
The last great doo-wop record? Well, maybe; it was recorded in 1982 when somebody at CBS(!) decided it might be fun to do a series of albums featuring some of the surviving first-generation vocal groups. The Capris (of "There's a Moon Out Tonight" fame) actually wrote the tune themselves, and it took awhile for it to impinge on the public consciousness; Manhattan Transfer did a cover that got a fair amount of airplay in the 90s and most people still think it's an actual oldie from the Golden Age. Whatever -- a perfect song and performance, I think.
6. Billy Bremner -- Laughter Turns to Tears
From 1984, one of those terrific Stiff singles that, er, deserved not to stiff. Written and produced by the great Rockpile guitarist along with Will Birch of The Records; I recently discovered that the Hollies did a more or less note for note cover in 1985, but that wasn't a hit either. Pity.
5. Stevie Wright -- Hard Road
From the former Easybeats lead singer's solo debut album, and as infectious a piece of guitar-driven rock-and-roll as could be heard anywhere in 1974. Produced and written by the great Vanda-Young team, obviously, and frankly I can think of like fifty Vanda-Young records that could have made the list; Rod Stewart covered this one, unmemorably, on one of his last decent solo albums.
4. New York Dolls -- Dance Like a Monkey
From their 2006 comeback album, and for my money maybe their best song ever. Great guitars, a Bo Diddley beat, and a hilarious skewering of Creationism -- what the hell more could you want?
3. Pere Ubu -- I Hear They Smoke the Barbecue
On balance, my favorite song from their two late 80s "commercial" albums, although I almost nominated "Breath" instead. David Thomas' voice may be an acquired taste, but this track is a complete natural under any circumstances.
2. Shocking Blue -- Serenade
These guys had broken up by the time (1974) this European album cut got released as a Stateside single by Buddah -- I actually owned a promo copy, a treasured possession for many years -- and it remains one of my all time obscure faves. The lyrics are gorgeous, despite the fact (or perhaps because) English is composer Robbie van Leeuwen's second language, and the interplay between the dry, scratchy electric guitar strums and the acoustic finger-picking is just great. And then, of course, there's that lead vocal by actual gypsy front woman Mariska Veres...it is, as I am wont to say, to swoon.
And the Numero Uno after-the-dream-was-over single that should have done it but clearly didn't is...
1. Dion -- And the Night Stood Still
Anybody who knows me knows that I consider Diane Warren, who wrote this, not just the worst songwriter in the history of music, but quite literally the spawn of Satan. That said, this goddamn song works like gangbusters, and between Dave Edmunds' production (those tremolo guitars, or whatever the hell they are) and Dion's utterly convincing vocals I lose any vestige of critical objectivity whenever I listen to it. An absolute apotheosis of New York City street corner romanticism.
Alrighty, then -- and what would your choices be?
[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best performance by a reptilian performer (animal or otherwise) -- is now up over at the new and weird Box Office site here. As always, if you could see your way to going over there and leaving a comment I'd be your best friend; you have to sign up to be able to do that, but it seems a small inconvenience.]