Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Logrolling in Our Time

A little Tuesday Plugola, if I may.

Bottom line: I was pleased as punch recently to be asked to contribute to the smart-as-a-whip new music blog Mixtured pictured below.

Its mission statement:
A website that offers streaming mixes created by diverse groupings of music fanatics. Mixtured is music nerds making mixes for music nerds.
Obviously, those mixes will be assembled thematically; the theme of the debut mix, as you can see, is somewhat relevant to the mission statement of the blog you are currently reading.

And how does Mixtured work?

Funny you should ask.
Here’s how this process works: Each [of the 20] participant[s] was asked to choose one song that fit their definition of power pop. The participants selected songs one after another in a pre-determined, random order, with the only stipulation being no repeats (of songs or artists)...
There's lots more, including some interesting and perceptive mini-essays by the folks who made the selections [there's a couple of names you may recognize besides my own] plus clips of all the songs, over here. Feel free to weigh in at the comment section -- and when you do, tell 'em PowerPop sent you.

Oh, and a coveted PowerPop No-Prize to the first reader who guesses which group or artist performed the song I chose.

No peeking, obviously....

Monday, August 30, 2010

Previously Unheard Stereo Mixes of the Gods (An Occasional Series)

Okay, if you recall our last entry in the ongoing saga (from July) -- in which we posted a to my ears astonishingly gorgeous remix/remaster of "So Sad About Us," from the Japanese deluxe box set of The Who's A Quick One -- you may also recall that not everybody was convinced that the audio restoration was worth the effort.

Specifically, faithful reader Gummo, who said in comments:
Beautiful clarity and separation, but I have the same problem with it as I have with some of the Beatles 2009 stereo remixes -- so clean & so separated that you lose some of the original sense of the whole (if that makes any sense), and therefore some of the original cacophonous excitement.
Well, I disagreed, obviously, but this one, I think, is inarguable.

From the Japanese deluxe box set of The Who's My Generation -- here's an absolutely astounding (and as far as I can tell first time ever) stereo mix of the epochal "Can't Explain."

There's a piano on this track? Who knew?

Seriously -- this is the way I always hoped "Can't Explain" sounded. And if anybody out there thinks this is in any way inferior to the (admittedly great) familiar mono version, all I can say is they're just being difficult.

This is perfection improved. IMHO.

Friday, August 27, 2010

(Not Really a) Weekend Listomania: Let Me Be Frank About Frank

[Real world obligations made a genuine Listomania impractical this week; my apologies for slacking, but have no fear, the List will return next Friday -- tanned, rested and ready. Meanwhile, in its place (as threatened a few weeks ago) herewith my interview with the prickly auteur behind The Mothers of Invention, as it originally appeared in the April 1979 issue of The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review. And no, this really isn't just a cheap ploy to see how many comments we can get.]

PARANOIA can be a lot of fun, especially if it turns out to be justified (or as A. J. Weberman, the guy who used to poke around in Bob Dylan's garbage, observed, "Just because you don't think they're out to get you doesn't mean they're not"). That, it seems to me, is why the children of the Sixties, who responded to their parents' paranoia (There's a Commie Under Every Bed) by growing one of their own (There's a C.I.A. Agent in Every Woodpile), have become so blasé about the sensational revelations of the Seventies – from Watergate to Chile to the Bullet from the Grassy Knoll – that they shrug off each fresh outrage with a bored yawn and a dip in a hot tub. After all, what could possibly, at this point, surprise a generation that has endured persecutions worthy of Jean Valjean in an attempt to make the world safe for cannabis sativa, only to discover that red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy was not only a morphine addict (!) but got the stuff personally from Harry J. Anslinger (!!), the Federal Narcotics Bureau chief responsible for the whole "Assassin of Youth" PR campaign? I may have a limited imagination, but I can't see how even the most lurid hallucinatory vision could top that one for paranoid surrealism.

Not only is paranoia fun, but in its lesser manifestations it's also an eminently useful commodity, producing some great comedy of both the intentional and unintentional varieties. Jackie Mason, for example, once remarked that he didn't like to go to football games because when the players huddled he was positive they were talking about him; Woody Allen has practically based his entire career on the idea that the Universe is rigged; and New Yorkers in particular have gotten mucho yucks out of a variety of paranoid graffiti artists, from the anonymous wacko who spray-paints warnings about leprosy in Times Square to the great William H. Depperman, the ex-Yippie who plasters the subways with hand-lettered posters linking the Rockefellers and Hong Kong film mogul Run Run Shaw as prime movers behind both the Kennedy assassinations and the death of kung-fu star Bruce Lee.

In other words, not only is paranoia my generation's own brand of slapstick, it's our birthright. We're paranoid, by God, and proud of it. But what has any of this got to do with Frank Zappa, whom I interviewed (for want of a better word) recently? Quite a bit, probably; the politics of paranoia go a long way, I think, toward explaining both his work over the last fifteen years and the special relationship he has with his extraordinarily loyal audience. Zappa is both a child of the times, obsessed with technology and with the elimination of the distinctions between pop and serious culture, and a fascinating throwback to the nineteenth-century stereotype of the eccentric genius. In fact, if there is anyone, upon sober reflection, he reminds me of, it's not his beloved Edgard Varèse, or even a charming weirdo like Erik Satie, but rather the ever unpopular Max Reger, who was brilliant, iron-willed, and convinced that he was beset from all sides by enemies and fools. Like Reger, Zappa is capable of being pointedly amusing and abrasive (his favorite word for other people's work is "swill"), but he seems constitutionally incapable of redirecting the mockery back toward himself; he gets off lots of good lines, to be sure, but never at the expense of Frank Zappa.

The following excerpts from our conversation, alternately witty, scathing, scatological, and thoughtful, should give you an idea of what I mean. I should add, by the way, that although we did not get along particularly well – at one point he called me a pinhead and I'm sure he meant it – I still respect the man as much as I respect anyone in pop music. After all, he plays a mean guitar.

On just having hosted Saturday Night Live:

"It's a very difficult thing to do; they never make it easy on anyone who hosts the show. All the direction and attention goes to the sketches. They're not called skits – they become incensed if you call them skits – and it's all designed to accommodate the people who are regulars on the show, so anybody who goes on there to host is at a severe disadvantage. Because they never tell you what camera is on, and you're not supposed to memorize your script because they're rewriting right up to air time. And so you're looking at the cue cards, and unless you're used to acting live on TV, you haven't got a prayer, you'll be looking at the wrong camera. It was really hard.

"And the other thing that happened was – and I didn't find out about it until the day after the show – that the first day I went there for the meetings with them they didn't like me and wanted to get rid of me. But no one said anything to my face while I was working on the thing. So they had written dialogue for me to say that I wouldn't normally say; they wouldn't let me write any of my own stuff.

"I think I'd be a fantastic television personality. I think I'd be a real good interviewer if I had a talk show, or a variety show. I'd be really good at it. But just to get up there and be the dumbbell in A Night on Freak Mountain . . . . I mean, sure, I'll do that for a laugh, but I'm not gonna build a life on it."

On starting his own label, distributed by Phonogram:

"There's a certain amount of advantage to it because then I don't have to take any responsibility by identification for the other normal stuff they release. If they do something that's in bad taste in my eyes, then I don't have to be identified with it.

"One of the reasons for going with Phonogram is that they have a huge catalog of contemporary music and it needs to be repackaged. I've already had discussions with them; if they'll let me take all that stuff and release it on my label, I think I could help make the stuff sell.

"Last year, when I first had the discussion with the president of the company, he thought it would probably be a good idea, but after making so much money on 'Saturday Night Fever' it sort of slipped his mind. When I brought it up again after the deal was actually signed, he said, 'Did I say that? Well, if I said it we should probably do it.' There's really not much interest there.

"It's from all their European branches, and old Mercury stuff; there's some Penderecki, some Roger Sessions, all that kind of stuff. And I think that the audience that buys my records would probably give it a whirl. Whether they'd like it or not is another question, but they'd give it a try if it was brought to their attention in the proper way. What I was gonna suggest was packaging the stuff in covers that look a little more intriguing to that particular market. Maybe racking the stuff in a special section of the store, so that maybe twelve selections that were gonna be released all at once in repackaged covers could be identified in one part of the store, and tie that in with ads that show all twelve items. And spend some money to advertise it as contemporary music. Because they never do."

On the English music press and rock criticism generally:

"If I were to be a bigoted individual, I would probably select the English as the target of my bigotry. The English press happen to be the most loathsome group of people I've ever had to deal with in show business. It's not just trendiness; they're so fucking twofaced and snotty. The concept behind what they write, the motivations for writing, and the whole attitude they have toward the people they write about – I really could live without it. They make me sick.

"People who write about me don't know anything about me. And to make matters worse, they don't know anything about writing either; people should be licensed to operate a typewriter. And so the image of me that goes out is all through the eyes of these nerds who have only one thing in mind: how to make themselves look good.

"They could [sic] care less for the people who make the music, or do the actual work of touring. And there's always this attempt to make it look like, ` Oh well, this is all shit really, and since I'm dealing with a really pure art form, then fuck all these guys who play rock and roll. Like, I'm an intellectual, and of course you're an intellectual too; you read. You're not just sitting in a hockey rink listening to rock-and-roll, you're a reading person. So we'll just communicate with each other and bypass all this musical swill that's going on because the printed word is Where It's At.'

"This kind of subliminal attitude that permeates all of rock journalism is one of the things that makes me sick. Because these guys aren't even competent to do it; the people that write that stuff aren't competent to pull that gag off. When was the last time you read anything in any of those [rock] publications that dealt with the music? It's all peripheral.

"I am a multidimensional person. I have a great respect and admiration for r-&-b, and dumbbell music, and electronic music, and symphonic music, and all that stuff. It appeals to me. I like to function in all those media. I feel comfortable in each and every one of them, and I'm just going to go ahead and write the music to suit me, and it is what it is. If it's "Louie Louie" one day, and something else the next, what's the difference? It's there for me to enjoy it, and after I enjoy it, if there's anybody else that happens to like it, that's a bonus."

On charges of thinly veiled condescension toward his public, especially in his early albums:

"Nothing that I've ever done is planned to be misinterpreted. And I always know before I do anything, including this interview, that it's subject to misinterpretation, erroneous transcription, and editorial tweezage. The final ultimate blow is when the guy reads it and doesn't know what the fuck I'm talking about.

"Now let's take it point by point. `Freak Out' [his 1966 debut effort with the Mothers of Invention] was never an instruction manual for anyone to go out and behave in a weird way. If you take all the lyrics on the album and see what they say, as opposed to what the liner notes say, then you find that you don't have anything to talk about. Because what you're referring to as the contents of the album is really a reference to a definition of the term 'Freak Out' as included on the jacket cover.

"Now in terms of the third album [' We're Only in It for the Money,' with the infamous 'Sgt. Pepper' cover parody] biting the hand that feeds, and 'oh! the ingratitude' – here's the way it goes. Anybody who turns into a hippie instead of a freak is not doing anything suggested by the 'Freak Out' album. By 1967 the hippie movement had been so mediated and tweezed that ... I mean, Flower Power was a sham, it was a merchandising thing by then, with poster shops and bimbos walking around with acid-glazed eyes and fistfuls of any kind of green object with a flower on the end of it they could get hold of waving it at a policeman, and they thought they were the Brave New World. Now I thought that was stupid, and I would be the first person to tell them it was stupid, and when I did that, I lost a large segment of the audience we had accumulated from the first two albums.

"If you stop and think about it, putting out an album like that would be a very courageous thing in the middle of hippie hysteria. I did two things that were definitely a no-no then. One, making fun of the Beatles, and you couldn't do that; and two, I made fun of hippies, and you couldn't do that either. All the other satirical comments in the first two albums had been directed toward their parents, and none of those kids wanted to hear anything about themselves. Looking at it now, maybe it was an easy target. But you try it in 1967."

On orchestral writing:

"I started writing orchestra music before I started collecting r-&-b, when I was fourteen. I've still got all that stuff. But the problem with writing orchestra music is the people that play it. There's never enough money to have proper rehearsals, so that a new piece can get as good a performance as an old piece the orchestra already knows. I mean, there's plenty of good versions of Beethoven's Fifth, because the fuckers have been playing it for hundreds of years. But there aren't that many good performances of new pieces because usually the rhythmic difficulties exceed what was required by the older repertoire, and if there's one thing that musicians are always bad at, it's rhythm. I swear to God, they can't count. If you can find an orchestra that plays together, it's a miracle.

"I still like to hear orchestra music, and I still write it; in fact, I have two copyists on yearly salary who are copying my stuff, and I go around delivering scores to orchestras. I'm available. But let me give an idea of what that entails. They attempted to commission me in L.A. one time like this: 'If you will buy two concert grand pianos and donate them to UCLA, then we will commission you to write some music for these instruments, and we will condescend to play it.' Real crass, when you stop and think how much two concert grands cost, and how they figure `Well, we'll give it two rehearsals and get this shit out of the way, and get the pianos and run with it.' That pisses me right off.

"And always, if I present a score to somebody, they always want to know if there's a possibility that the group is available to make an appearance at the concert, y'know, just to put a little extra grease on it and sell a few more tickets. And then, still, all they talk about is two or three rehearsals. Like when we did 200 Motels with the L.A. Philharmonic, 14,000 people came to that concert, which was the largest audience they had that year. They were all very impressed. Well, I had to pay the copying bills. Which were ten thousand dollars. Why should I have to pay for it? I really write good.

"I'm in a peculiar position because a composer who wasn't working in the world of rock-and-roll who might not have access to the kinds of facilities that I do would never be approached by these business people. Like I doubt that they'd go up to Elliott Carter and say 'If you will buy . . . .' They don't do that."

On his future:

"Generally, I will continue to operate in the areas that I operate in, except that some of them may become more important. I can't see myself in a garret; I can see myself in a basement.

"I'm elder, that's for sure, but I'm not much of a statesman. I just do my work."

[Shameless Blogwhore: Jeez, if you've just slogged through the above, I almost hate to do this to you, but my traditional Friday Cinema Listomania -- theme: best, worst or simply interesting use of color in a feature film -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to leaving a comment over there, it would help keep me in management's good graces. And thanks.]

Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Early (And Non-Nutritious) Clue to the New Direction

From 1974, please enjoy one of the late great Frank Zappa's most puckish satires of contemporary mores -- "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow."

( )Frank Zappa - ( )Don't Eat The Yellow Snow .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

But I kid the famously prickly Mothers of Invention auteur.

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

Great Lost Singles of the 60s: No, Seriously, I Mean It -- This One's Great

From 1967, and one of the unfairly unheralded LP masterworks of its day, please enjoy the multi-talented Stephen Friedland, AKA Brute Force, and his intestinal classic "Tapeworm of Love."

"That's mighty fine sitar playing, Mahatma..."

I should add that Mr. Force (as the New York Times would have it) was the songwriter of perhaps my favorite girl group record ever, The Chiffons' 1966 hit "Nobody Knows What's Going On in My Mind But Me," perhaps the last (and only psychedelic) flowering of the genre, and thus deserving of respect from mere mortals like you and I.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And in Conclusion, Jon Landau -- Bite Me!

Interesting Boss-related news from last week's NY Times Arts & Leisure section, which also provides a convenient excuse to post a revelatory (to me, anyway) musical find:
HBO has announced plans to show The Promise: The Making of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town, a documentary that follows the making of Bruce Springsteen’s fourth album, Variety reported. Directed by Thom Zimney, The Promise chronicles Mr. Springsteen’s work on Darkness from 1975, after the release of his pivotal album Born to Run, until 1978, a time when he was prohibited from recording any music because of a pending lawsuit with Mike Appel, his former manager. The film mixes footage from rehearsals during that time with recent commentary from Mr. Springsteen and the band. “The fact that this footage has been sitting in a vault, and no one has seen it for more than 30 years is just extraordinary,” said HBO exec Richard L. Plepler. The documentary will be shown on the network in October, after a premiere on Sept. 14, as the opening film of the Toronto Film Festival.
I happened to see a couple of stops on Bruce's 76 tour, during the period he was fighting that lawsuit (and apparently working in the studio -- in secret -- on the album that became Darkness). He opened those shows with the song that, for me anyway, is his greatest claim to relevance to the theme of the blog you are currently reading.

I refer, of course, to the sublime "Rendezvous," and here it is -- via a bootleg that became legendary amongst Bruce fans -- from one of those shows I attended.

I should add that the song, of course, was at the time unknown to Bruce's audience, and it became, literally, an instant classic; Springsteen devotees talked about it in hushed tones for years. It was covered by other artists later (Gary US Bonds, Greg Kihn) but an official Bruce version wasn't released until the Tracks box set in '98; typically, it was a live rendition from the same stand of shows in '76 but a different, less exciting one (and doctored after the fact, I think).

Now, of course, I've discovered that there was indeed a studio version all along, and here it is in rough but otherwise transplendent condition. Yes, it's not really mixed, and yes, Bruce's voice doesn't come in until the middle of the first verse, but jeebus -- this is gorgeous (and you can easily imagine how great it might have sounded had it ever been finished). And of course, it got left off the Darkness album, most likely because that asshole Jon Landau didn't think it was thematic enough.

In case anybody's wondering, BTW, I fricking hate Jon Landau, whose influence on Bruce has been by and large pernicious, I think, and whose "production" on the Darkness album has irked me for years. Seriously -- after the sonic boom that was Born to Run, what did the little creep opt for? A sterile sounding LA singer/songwriter record, with most of the rock-and-roll spirit leeched out of it. I mean, thank god the songs are strong by and large, because otherwise the damn thing would be an unlistenable period relic. IMHO.

Of course, I haven't forgiven Jon Landau since he dissed Roy Blumenfeld's drumming in a Crawdaddy review of the Blues Project's Projections. And don't even get me started on the way he neutered the MC5's Back in the USA.

Have I mentioned that I hate Jon Landau?

[h/t Gummo]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Breaking News: This Woman Could Have Had Me If She'd Played Her Cards Right!

From 1965, please enjoy Brit r&b belter Billie Davis and a song I'll bet dollars to donuts that one Aimée Ann Duffy studied religiously -- "Whatcha Gonna Do?"

Davis, who apparently was a sort of less lucky version of Lulu or Cilla Black, was previously unknown to me, and to be honest, after discovering this clip the other day, I'm still not sure I'm ready to download her complete mid-60s ouevre (if you're so inclined, of course, there's a link over here).

That said, however (and those who know me well have probably already guessed this) but sweet Jeebus, was she ever my type.

Seriously -- wotta cutie!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

When the Walls Came Down

Michael Been of The Call -- writer and singer of the best goddamned political protest record in rock history -- died on Thursday at the Pukkelpop Music Festival in Kiewit, Belgium. Been collapsed from a heart attack while running sound for his son's band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. He was 60 years old.

I don't think there are any Russians
And there ain't no Yanks
Only corporate criminals
Playing with tanks!
I should add that I have long felt the above video of "When the Walls Came Down" should be on just about anybody's short list of Most Exciting Rock Videos Ever Made. And yes, that's really Garth Hudson off to the side doing his inimitable Mad Professor act on various keyboards; his brilliant instrumental flourishes actually lift the song to a whole other level.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Simels Regrets...

...that he forgot to blogwhore yesterday.

And indeed, as always, my parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or worst parody of a film or film genre -- is currently up over at Box Office. I should add that if you could see your way to going over there and leaving a comment -- despite the clunkiness of the current commenting system -- it would help me make the case to management that I need a big bonus before I leave for my annual trip to DaytonOhio, France.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Batshit Nuts Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental groinal claims adjuster Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to...well, it's a damn secret, but let's just say that it involves us dressing up in burqas and ringing Pam "Atlas Juggs" Geller's doorbell and running.

That being the case, here's a fun little project to help us wile away the hours:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Song or Album That References Derangement of Some Sort in Either the Title or Lyrics!!!

No arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much. And yes, it seems likely to me that we've done this dance before, although a stroll through the world famous PowerPop search engine proved fruitless when I tried to find a previous Listomania with the same theme. In any case, I figure if I can't remember it, you probably can't either. So let's simply proceed.

Incidentally, if I did put a list like this up at some earlier point, I'm pretty sure I would have nominated Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming to Take Me..." and The Vapors' "Turning Japanese." Which is why I'm not doing so now.

Of course, if YOU feel like doing so, go ahead; it's not like the blog police will come and arrest you.

And my top of my head Top Six is (are):

6. Alice Cooper -- The Ballad of Dwight Fry

His Nibs ode to the most consistently nutty B-actor in screen history.

5. Screaming Lord Sutch -- Jack the Ripper

Alice Cooper taught this guy everything he knew. Not.

4. Quicksilver Messenger Service -- Edward (The Mad Shirt Grinder)

It's an instrumental, so we have to take the song's title on faith, as far as our theme goes. Nevertheless, this is pretty much the best example of greatest rock piano man of them all Nicky Hopkins' prowess as a leader and composer; the track is his all the way, and I think its terrific even if it does get a tad too close to prog for comfort every now and then.

3. The Sonics -- Psycho

That opening scream says it all. Of course, just about everything frontman Jerry Roslie sang with these guys sounded demented.

2. Sonic Youth -- I'm Insane

You know what's insane? The idea that these guys are still avant-garde after thirty years. But I kid famed Woman in Rock Kim Gordon!!!

And the Numero Uno You So Crazy! ditty of then all, it would be bonkers of you to disagree, simply has to be...

1. H.P. Lovecraft -- At the Mountains of Madness

Not a terribly good song, although these guys were supposedly a pretty good live act if you'd imbibed the right chemicals. Bassist Jerry McGeorge was a founding member of garage rock gods The Shadows of Knight, however, so I'm willing to cut them some slack.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

An Early (And Somewhat Unsightly) Clue to the New Direction

From 1962, and the classic parody album Mad "Twists" Rock 'N' Roll, please enjoy the haunting (and sounds like the real thing, despite the lyrics) "Somebody Else's Dandruff."

An exhaustive Google search has turned up the name (but nothing else) of the singer on this -- Jeanne Hayes -- and I've got to tell you, I'd pay good money to find out more about her. Seriously -- she's beyond authentic, and I'll just bet she was in some genuine street corner girl group and NOT a session pro.

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.

Thursday Desperate Cry For Help

Yes, that screen grab is really me on the legendary (in the New York City area) Joe Franklin Show. January or early February of 1985.

I was, of course, trying to hype my at the time just published book Gender Chameleons: Androgyny in Rock 'N' Roll [Arbor House], a literary masterpiece that is unsurpassed and will probably make my name live beyond eternity.

Anyway, here's the deal: I just had the recently rediscovered video master of the show transferred to DVD, and I would dearly like to put my segment up on YouTube. Yet, irony of ironies, I lack even the most rudimentary computer skills necessary to do so.

That being the case -- a coveted PowerPop No-Prize, or perhaps an actual rare and collectible musical artifact from my vast vault, will awarded be the first reader who can put the damn thing up for me.

Oh hell, I'll buy you dinner.

E-mail me, is what I'm saying.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

But the Original is Still the Greatest. NOT!!!!

From 1965, please enjoy (if that is the precise word) the perhaps inaptly monikered The Wild Ones and the very first commercially released version of the since often covered rock classic "Wild Thing."

As you can hear, the Wild Ones version is pretty much standard mid-65 folk rock in the style that was all the rage immediately post-"Like a Rolling Stone," and in the immortal words of Nick Tosches, even though it was a bad record it failed to sell. By comparison, of course, The Troggs' eventual 1966 hit reading, which seemed borderline moronic in its primitive minimalism back in the day, now seems a veritable work of genius.

The Wild Ones, for those who missed the decade, were a reasonably successful NYC club band fronted by extremely good looking former hair dresser Jordan Christopher, a guy who made headlines when he married much older actress turned discotheque impresario Sybil Burton, the ex-wife of Richard Burton. Although not particularly gifted in either the musical or thespic areas, Christopher nonetheless managed to parlay said looks and notoriety into a reasonable two decade career as a film and TV performer.

I should also add that "Wild Thing" composer Chip Taylor's original demo (Taylor wrote the song as a favor to the Wild Ones management) provided the basis for the Troggs' version as well. Apparently -- I haven't heard it, although it's probably on the intertubes somewhere -- it's similarly basic and unadorned, which perhaps proves, again, that the Troggs weren't quite as dumb as their reputation suggests.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Words Fail Me (A Recurring Series)

Cutting immediately to the chase, please enjoy the wonderful and wonderfully surprising 1981 album track "Why Does My Mother Phone Me?" by the never again to be referred to as a One Hit Wonder Bram ("Girl of My Dreams") Tchaikovsky.

Why does my mother phone me
Just to tell me that she doesn't like me?
Why does my mother phone me --
Why doesn't she just disown me?

Why when I run away
Do they send the police to get me?
Why when I run away
Do they pretend that they just can't catch me?

If life is just a game
Why isn't anyone smiling?
And if life is just a game
There shouldn't be rules and there shouldn't be blame

Ooh la la la la la la la la
Ooh la la la la la la la la

Why am I always happy
When everybody else is scowling?
Why am I always pleased
When everybody else is down on their knees?

Ooh la la la la la la la la
Ooh la la la la la

When I sound like some kind of fool
Do I sound like I'm the only one sane?
Do I sound like I'm a fool
Because I've nothing to lose and nothing to gain?

Ooh la la la la la la la la
Ooh la la la la la

Why does my mother phone me
Just to tell me that she doesn't like me?
Why does my mother phone me --
Why doesn't she just disown me?

Ooh la la la la la la la la
Ooh la la la la la....
This is one of those where-has-it-been-all-my-life? songs; NYMary actually burned me a CD of the Funland album three years ago, and I know I listened to it, but somehow it just never registered at the time. And then a couple of weeks ago another friend played it for me and I felt like I'd been smacked upside the head with a 2X4.

It's about madness, rather obviously, but from a very writerly perspective; you don't get the feeling, as you do with, say, certain Syd Barrett songs, that you're hearing a cry from a genuinely troubled psyche, although it's still completely believable. In any case, the way the lyrics proceed from basically mundane, albeit funny, observational head-scratchers to existentially scary and rather profound non sequiturs is quite brilliantly managed, I think, and the production and arrangement, as the vocal layering piles up while the track moves along, reinforces the general feeling of dislocated wigginess as well, up to and including the almost surreal Spanish bullfight music finale (those castanets and trumpet just fricking slay me -- you can practically see the guys in mariachi outfits materializing out of nowhere.)

In sum, a fabulous and inexplicably moving record, IMHO. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but the whole thing -- and particularly that ending -- makes me sorry, for a change, that this is one 80s song that never occasioned a music video, although I can't for the life of me think of a director back then who could have done the record justice.

[h/t to Greg and Glen "Bob" Allen]

Monday, August 16, 2010

Unsolicited Song of the Week: The Full Retard*

Got the mp3 below via e-mail the other day, along with this understated note:
"Came across your blog while looking for info on Pete Townshend's tune "Peppermint Lump" and thought you might enjoy this."
As you might imagine, the reference to my all-time fave Townshend single completely got my attention.

The song is "Sam I Am," by Chicago popsters Squeegee, and Squeegee auteur Sam Barker, who sent it to me, is right -- I dig it the most. In fact, it reminds me, favorably, of something the aforementioned Pete Townshend might have done for Stiff Records. In any case, you can find more about the band (and check out a few more songs) over at their myspace page.

I should add that Sam posed an intriguing question to me in a subsequent e-mail: "For ten points and the game -- from where/what did I steal "Sam I Am'?" And to be honest, although the damn thing rings a more than vague bell, I can't for the life of me place it.

That being the case, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who can. Help me out here, people!

[*It's a joke from Tropic Thunder; direct any complaints to Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr.]

Friday, August 13, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Does This Dress Make Me Look... Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my lovely Oriental manual elevation specialist Fah Lo Suee and I will be applying for jobs with the Professional Left Corporation, an enormously powerful, albeit drug-addled, outfit which, if presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs [D-Would Have Defended Herbert Hoover] is to be believed, has several lucrative management positions available for a chap like me.

But in the meantime, here's a fun little project for us all to help wile away the hours:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Song Referencing a Body Type in the Title or Lyrics!!!

No arbitrary rules this time out, you're welcome very much, but when I say body type I mean exactly that, which means that songs referencing a specific body PART are disqualified. In other words, we're talking short, fat, tall, skinny, etc. So don't try to sneak in any of that "Bette Davis Eyes" crap, okay?

And my totally top of my head Top Six are:

6. The Easybeats -- Good Time

"Boney Maronie's gonna be with Jim/Long Tall Sally's gonna be with Slim/Short Fat Fannie's gonna be there too..."

You know, sometimes I think this record contains the secret of the Universe.

5. The Kingsmen -- The Jolly Green Giant

It really was all downhill for this bunch once they kicked out the guy who actually sang lead on "Louie Louie." And as for this rather appalling song, I suspect it was the inspiration for that famous Johnny Carson ad-lib: "I'd like to see somebody run up to the Jolly Green Giant and say, 'Ho Ho Ho yourself, you big queer!'"

4. Sir Mix-a-Lot -- Baby Got Back

I can't help it, this song still cracks me up. And I would like to say that I was delighted to live in a world where Sir Mix-a-Lot was a celebrity, however briefly.

3. The Cure -- Siamese Twins

Ah, the ever sunny-dispositioned Robert Smith. Upbeat as always.

2. Stewie Griffin -- My Fat Baby Loves to Eat

Have I mentioned lately that Seth McFarlane is a goddamn genius?

And the Numero Uno musical paean to physical diversity simply has to be and I will brook no dissension in that regard...

1. The Rainmakers -- Big Fat Blonde

He's talking "six-foot Swede/40-30-40/Amazon bombshell/Tall damp and dirty." Not to mention "hubba-hubba. HUBBA."

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: black and white movies you really, really hope nobody ever colorizes -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to leaving a comment over there despite the clunkiness of the new commenting system, it would make it easier for me to hit management up for a bonus and thus facilitate my upcoming return trip to Dayton Ohio, France. Thanks!]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

An Early (And Somewhat Narcissistic) Clue to the New Direction

From 1967, and the epochal The Velvet Underground and Nico album, please enjoy one of Lou Reed's best early songs, the quite lovely "I'll Be Your Mirror."

The Velvet Underground - I'll Be Your Mirror .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine
You know, I love that album AND that song, but I must admit -- with a degree of embarrassment, for sure -- that there are days when I hear Nico's atonal croaking and I want to use Harvey Korman's great line from Blazing Saddles -- "Shut up, you Teutonic twat."

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

Not So Great Barely Released Singles of the '60s

And now, as part of our apparently on-going attempt to post every crappy noise Lou Reed made in his pre-Velvet Underground career, here's the old reprobate in 1965 -- doing business under the moniker of The Beachnuts -- and one of the worst cash-ins on the surfing/car songs trend of the Top 40 era, the quite execrable "Cycle Annie."

As you can hear, it's really him. I haven't quite figured whether it's better or worse than the last early Lou I posted or not, but it's unquestionably awful.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Words Fail Me

I first posted the clip below -- the original Small Faces doing their seminal hit "Tin Soldier" on Belgian TV in 1968 -- back in 2007, shortly after I first arrived in these precincts. And frankly, I'd forgotten about it until yesterday, when an occasional commenter and I got to discussing the relative merits of Faces mod frontman Steve Marriott vis a vis his later stint in Humble Pie.

May I just say -- and for the record -- that I pretty much now consider this among the top 10 (or so) most exciting performances by a rock band ever captured on video tape? (And yes -- I know they're lip-synching.)

In case you're wondering, the black gal singing with them is P.P. Arnold, the band's Immediate Records labelmate best known for the original hit version of the oft-covered "First Cut is the Deepest."

And as I wrote back in '07, can you think of any other rock stars of the period who would have cheerfully let themselves be upstaged on TV by a good looking woman of color providing barely audible backup vocals? I mean, the Stones let Merry Clayton steal the show on "Gimme Shelter," but only on the record.

Jeebus christ, but these guys were great.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Present Day Pachuco Refuses to Die

Just a little followup to yesterday's item about Eddie James (Olmos) and Pacific Ocean -- from their sole (1968) album, here's the Olmos original "My Shrink."

It's a pretty good song, actually, but I think ultimately it (and the rest of the album) sounds just like every Hollywood hippie band you saw/heard in the club/party scene of any youth-oriented movie/TV show made in America between 1966-69.

Incidentally, I love that photo of the band if for no other reason than the fact that the two guys on either side of Olmos look rather eerily like members of Shoes.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Singer Not the Song

From 1968, please enjoy Los Angeles rock-and-soul band Pacific Ocean and a very much of its time cover of Tennessee Ernie Ford's clasic "16 Tons."

Actually, even though the album is kind of interesting and the band probably deserved to be better known on its own merits, the reason I bring them up at all is because I was stunned to discover that their frontman is now a VERY famous actor; I had no idea at all he'd had a prior career as a credible rocker. And as is usually the case at times like this, I'll be awarding a coveted PowerPop No-Prize to the first reader who guesses who it is without Googling.

Two hints:

The band was interracial (from LA, remember).

The band was initially billed as Eddie James and Pacific Ocean.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Sign o' the Times Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my charming Oriental quivering liver adjuster Fah Lo Suee and I are off to the San Diego, California home of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney [R-Genetically Bred to be a Game Show Host]. Along with the Gov, we'll be hosting a rally in protest against this week's overturning of the state's anti-gay marriage Prop 8. Incidentally, an advance copy of Romney's speech reveals that he will be making the point that marriage hasn't changed in 2000 years (except, you know, for that whole Mormon thing). So right on Mitt!! as the kids say.

That being the case, and because posting around here will doubtless be fitful for the next few days, here's a fun little project to help us wile away the hours:

Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Song or Album That Best Embodies Our Current Cultural/Political Moment!!!

No arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much. And although I suspect the theme is going to function as a sort of ink blot, ideologically speaking, let me stipulate that we appreciate hearing from all ends of the political spectrum. Although if you come across as a total dick I'll delete your comment so fast your head will spin. So there.

And my totally top of my head Top Six is...

6. Warren Zevon -- Mohammed's Radio

I was going to pick "Lawyers, Guns and Money" at first, but it struck me as a little too predictable.

5. Slade -- Mama Weer All Crazee Now

Or as I like to refer to it -- "The Official Teabagger Fight Song."

4. a-ha -- Scoundrel Days

Mostly for the title. Alas, to my knowledge nobody's actually written a song inspired by Lillian Hellman's "Scoundrel Time," which is really what I was looking for.

3. Joni Mitchell -- Slouching Towards Bethelehem

A more or less straight musical setting of Yeats' "The Second Coming," in case you hadn't noticed. "The best lack all conviction, the worst are full of passionate intensity yada yada yada," and rather depressingly apropos in 2010.

2. Mick Farren -- Vampires Stole My Lunch Money

Too bad Farren didn't get around to writing a title song for this one. I mean, really -- the album came out in 1978 and it's like he knew AIG was going to happen.

And the Numero Uno state-of-our-current-union toe tapper (c'mon, it's not even close, so just roll with it) undoubtedly is --

1. Gary US Bonds -- Out of Work

Song written by a guy who goes by the name of The Boss, BTW, which only adds to the irony.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or most evocative film titles, exploitation flick or otherwise -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to going over there and leaving a comment, it would convince management to foot the bill for my upcoming (third annual) trip to Dayton Ohio, France. Thanks!]

Thursday, August 05, 2010

An Early (And Possibly Confused) Clue to the New Direction

From 2007 and the generally engrossing soundtrack album for writer/director Todd Haynes' I'm Not There (the IMHO brilliant meditation on all things Bob Dylan) please enjoy Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus and a really cool cover of Dylan's counter-cultural classic "Ballad of a Thin Man."

If memory serves, that's Tom Verlaine on one of the guitars, BTW.

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