Thursday, September 30, 2010

Oh My Gosh, It's Yet Another Way Earlier Than Usual Clue to the New Direction!

From 1977, please enjoy former Guess Who frontman Burton Cummings and a great sounding live version (from a show at New York's much missed Bottom Line) of his old band's classic slice of psychedelic folk-pop-rock "No Time."

Incidentally, the drummer on this is none other than Jim ("Other Voices, Other Rooms") Gordon, currently a guest of the state of California due to accidentally killing his mother with a butcher knife.

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Department of Old News Department

From 1967 and his eponymous debut album, please enjoy bluesguy and folkie Tim Rose and the version of "Hey Joe" that may or may not have inspired Jimi Hendrix to glom the arrangement and thus garner his first English chart hit.

I am embarrassed to admit that although I had heard of this, I had never actually heard it until yesterday. In any case, it's pretty good, I think, and if this is in fact the record that inspired Jimi, you can certainly hear why. On the other hand, he may have poached his version from The Creation, who were reportedly playing an almost identical arrangement in Brit clubs for months before the Experience single.

As you can hear, The Creation's album version is indeed the Hendrix record almost note for note, but it wasn't actually released until much later.

Jeebus, I'm exhausted just thinking about this stuff. And don't even get me started on the song's tangled authorship....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Compare and Contrast: The Blues Came Down From Nutley, N.J.

Now it can be told: We -- by which I mean my old pal from my college rock band Tony Forte and moi -- taught legendary bluesman Slim Harpo ("Scratch My Back," "Hip Shake," "I'm a King Bee," etc) everything he knew.

From late 1968, here's our unplugged publishing demo version of Tony's "Big Black Car." I'm on bass; Tony's on everything else.

And from sometime in early 1969, here's the aforementioned legendary bluesman with the version he glommed from ours. This is from a recently transferred acetate (the only known surviving copy); please pardon the scratches and other anomalies but (incredibly enough) this is a genuine piece of history which has never been heard before, even by hardcore blues collectors. Slim's on vocals and harp (obviously); the backup guys are the then pit band for the Broadway production of Hair.

And finally, from 1974, here's "Big Black Car" again in the version The Hounds, my aforementioned college rock band, used to open our sets with for years. For those keeping score, I'm the electric guitar on the left channel; Tony's on the right.

The folk process at work, ladies and gentleman.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Today California -- Tomorrow the World!!!

From 1963, you WILL enjoy Die Jungen des Strandes and their classic ode to teen angst -- "Ganz Allein."

It really is such a beautiful language.

[h/t Gummo]

Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Vive Le Roi Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental hand held device technician Fah Lo Suee and I will be heading off with Senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell [Insane Person-DE] for a tour of the Human/Mouse Brain Transplant project now underway at the super-secret laboratories of Sargento Foods Inc.

That being the case, posting will necessarily be slow for the next days, so here's a fun project to help you wile away the hours in our absence:

Best (or Worst) Elvis Presley Cover or Obviously El-Inspired Pop/Rock/Soul Song!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, and no arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much. That last to be said in an Elvis voice, of course.

And my totally top of my head Top Six is:

6. Val Kilmer -- How Silly Can You Get/Spend This Night With Me

"Spend This Night" (great as it is) is an Elvis parody, of course, but "How Silly" -- which was written by Phil Pickett, the guy who co-authored "Karma Chameleon" -- is a terrific song that works just fine as a straight ahead pop rocker; if somebody like, say, Dave Edmunds had done it, I suspect it could have been a legit hit.

5. Nanci Griffith -- Wooden Heart

From the 1991 N.M.E. benefit compilation album The Last Temptation of Elvis. The original of this is one of Presley's most horrific movie songs, but when I heard Griffith's cover back in the day, I thought she managed to make something unexpectedly touching out of it. Listening to it again for the first time in ages, however, her trademark little girl vocal stylings now seem kind of annoying. Whether that says something about me or her, however, I wouldn't venture to guess.

4. Terry Stafford -- Suspicion

Still the greatest Elvis record Elvis never made. Kind of out-Els El in the neurotic paranoia department, in fact.

3. The Jeff Beck Group -- All Shook Up

I love this version, although the heavyosity of it does kind of miss the point of the original. In any case, Beck's guitars are just ridiculously cool.

2. John Cale -- Heartbreak Hotel a tie with...

Stan Freberg -- Heartbreak Hotel

Both of the above speak for themselves, as it were. Although Cale's may actually be funnier, in a perverse sort of way.

And the Numero Uno if-you're-looking-for-unpleasantness-you've-come-to-the-correct-address record of them all simply HAS to be....

1. Viv Stanshall -- There's No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car

Another track from Last Temptation, and obviously the song Stanshall was born to sing. "I eat Big Macs till I climax...." Wow.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or worst film adaptations of serious, well-regarded contemporary novels -- is now up over at Box Office. Leave a comment if you have a spare moment -- it would help me shnorr a bonus check from management so as to finance my upcoming trip to DaytonOhio, France.]

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Much Earlier Than Usual Clue to the New Direction: She's Suffered For Her Art -- Now It's Your Turn!

From 2002, please enjoy nice Jewish girl archly artsy singer/songwriter Regina Spektor and her ode to everybody's favorite mofo, the only slightly annoyingly mannered "Oedipus."

Say what you will about Spektor -- and I like some of her stuff, in small doses -- but at least she's not as skull-crushingly obnoxious as that Joanna Newsom kid.

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Garageland Revisited

Long time readers may recall me carrying on about an unpublished Rolling Stone piece I wrote in 1989 about non-musical celebrities with rock bands in their closets. The short version is that I interviewed a bunch of interesting people for the story, including the late Republican strategist/devil incarnate Lee Atwater and writer Fredric Barthelme, but the piece ultimately never ran because Jann Wenner decided at the last minute that the premise was somehow insulting. I got paid five grand up front, though, so I didn't really care what Wenner thought, and I was later able to recycle several sections of the piece -- for more money -- to Entertainment Weekly; the Tipper Gore interview actually got picked up by the NY Times, who mentioned me by name. So the whole thing ended up being both quite wonderfully lucrative and marginally rep enhancing.

Anyway, some of the people I talked to actually made (mostly obscure) records of one kind of another, and the other day I chanced across perhaps my favorite one. From 1966, it's Dale Gregory and the Shouters' Number One Hit -- in the greater Sioux Falls, South Dakota area -- "Did Ya Need to Know?"

Featuring keyboard flourishes by Shouter Pat O'Brien (not in the picture -- he would have been on the riser out of frame on the left). The very same Pat O'Brien who when I wrote the piece was familiar to TV sports fans as the host of The NFL Today on CBS.

That's one of the most wonderfully demented garage rockers ever, I think; I love the way it manages to combine the de rigeur Paul Revere and the Raiders "Just Like Me" vibe with what sounds like a nod to "Stranded in the Jungle." And those guitar solos sound like they were played on rubber bands by Jerry Lewis. Just great.

As for O'Brien, he got more famous in the current decade for hosting the Entertainment Tonight spin-off The Insider as well as for some other less pleasant stuff that we needn't rehash here. When I talked to him in 1989, however, he struck me as a very gracious and funny guy, and he looked back on his rock band past with a great deal of bemusement. As you can see from the poster up top, the Shouters actually headlined with The Hollies in '66; O'Brien told me he had just run into Graham Nash at a Lakers game, and that Nash remembered the gig and hanging out with the Shouters at their bass player's dad's pool afterwards.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stop Me If I've Told You This One...

But seriously, folks, this may be old news to some of you, but I only discovered the existence of this record yesterday.

Little Roger and the Goosebumps' version of Elmer Fudd singing "Fool on the Hill."

Not a bad idea, but the execution isn't anywhere near as funny as it could have been.

Frankly, I expected better from the wiseguys behind the immortal "Stairway to Gilligan."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Killer (Low Budget) Queen

From 1976, and a dank basement in Teaneck, NJ, please enjoy unsung DIY pioneers The Weasels (featuring some guitarist whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels doing a passable Brian May impression) and "Coral Reef," a recorded-on-four-track (perhaps unintentional) homage to you know know who.

From their second homemade album, the aquatically-themed Endless Bummer.

Written by keyboardist Glenn Leeds (I think the toy piano at the end is an especially nice touch), sung (with some falsetto flourishes that he's been unable to duplicate since) by David "Heavy D" Hawxwell, and with McCartney-esque bass fretwork by Allan Weissman. Oh -- and with the participation of Mike "The Drummer" Sorrentino, who despite his deeply held conviction that "rhythm is an outmoded Western concept" nonetheless graciously consented to keep something approximating the beat for the occasion.

What can I tell you -- despite the evidence of the above, we all had rich inner lives. I should also add, once again, that we were doing this kind of low-fi stuff before Robert Pollard had his first beer hangover, so Guided By Voices can frankly bite me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekend Not a Listomania: The Remnants of Dignity

Okay, I cheated; there is no Listomania this week, because I had a freelance assignment that promises to pay actual money and and working on it necessarily took precedence. I'm sure you'll understand. In any case, WL will be back next, cross my heart.

In its place today, however, I offer -- essentially without comment -- what is probably the cruelest and funniest pop culture deconstruction since the Literal Video version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy, if that is the word, The Rolling Stones and what used to be "Start Me Up."


[Shameless Blogwhore: Okay, I found the time to get my parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: most interesting big screen misfires, well intentioned or otherwise -- up over at Box Office, but hey -- they pay the bills. Anyway, if you could find a moment to go over there and leave something snarky in the comments section, I'd be eternally in your debt.]

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Early (And Surprisingly Posh) Clue to the New Direction

From 1975, please enjoy Godfather of the British Blues Scene Alexis Korner and a very sophisticated, even actorly take on the Rolling Stones' "Get Off of My Cloud." With endearingly nasal background vocals and guitar by some guy named Keith something or other.

Obviously, this isn't quite as epochal as the original, but there's something very charming and deadpan droll about it, I think, and I've been meaning to post it since forever.

In any case, 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.

One Winter, Near Water...

A friend writes (via e-mail):
I would pay money (well, Monopoly money) for you to have any reason whatsoever some time any time to post Willie Nile’s monumentally great "It’s All Over" from his first (1980) Arista disc, simply because it’s just plain the greatest thing ever and should have been a "Born to Run" caliber hit. "Vagabond Moon" is pretty damn good. But "It’s All Over" is monumental. It should get an award for sheer greatness. There should be a Nobel prize category for that kind of song.
To which I can only say -- indeed.

Oh, and enjoy.

That song completely slays me, actually, and come to think of it, the whole of that album is an apotheosis of jangly folk-rock brilliance.

And while I've got your attention, by way of an encore, here's Willie and his fabulous band live in 1981 (just back from a European tour with The Who) with a fun cover of Ricky Nelson's "Stood Up." The rhythm section is Fred Smith and Jay Dee Daugherty (Television and the Patti Smith Group) BTW.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Compare and Contrast: The Only Way to Travel

From 1966 (but unreleased until 1989) here's The (at the height of their powers) Byrds and a very cool studio version of the venerable "I Know You Rider."

And from a year later, here's land-locked Boulder, Colorado surf band The Astronauts with another perspective on the song.

[Audio Note: This is one of those really weird early stereo mixes -- it sounds horrible on headphones, but just fine on real speakers. Act accordingly.]

And finally, from the Avalon Ballroom in late September 1966, here's the Grateful Dead with their take.

The song itself is as old as the proverbial hills, although its first modern appearance dates back to a 1934 John and Alan Lomax folklore anthology; by the 60s, it was pretty much a blues and folkie standard. The Byrds opened their live shows with it for much of 1966-67, but that version was in majestic open-D tuning; the studio track above is in G, the better to emulate (as Roger McGuinn has noted on several occasions) the Beatles then current "Paperback Rider." The Dead also used to play it a lot back in the day; it's no secret I'm not particularly a fan, but I must admit that discovering this version was a bit of an eye-opener. It noodles a little too much for my taste (so what else is new?) but it works up a pretty effective head of steam by the time it sort of collides to a halt.

Actually, on balance I think I kind of prefer the Astronauts' cover. The whole surf thing was of course pretty much passé at this point, and their albums found them trying on whatever current rock styles they thought they could credibly get away with, with often cringeworthy results. But this one has a genuinely authentic folk-rock vibe and the rhythm section really kicks; if the San Francisco hippies in the psychedelic ballrooms the year this was released had actually heard it, I suspect they might even have approved.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

There'll Always Be an England

To be honest, I still don't quite know what to make of this. Seriously -- when I chanced upon the following All-Music blurb about a 60s band called Dead Sea Fruit -- not to mention that album cover, with the faux Hebrew lettering -- I thought, nah; this has to be some kind of parody or hoax.
Combining the deadpan wit of the Bonzo Dog Band and the social-conscious lyricism of the Kinks, Dead Sea Fruit helped to bring the British Invasion of the 1960s to France. Formed in 1966, the group spent three years based in Paris thrilling French audiences with their hook-laden songs. Although all but two members relocated to Dakar, Senegal, electric bassist/guitarist/vocalist Arthur Marsh, who had replaced founding member Christopher Hall in early 1967, returned to England after three months when club owners demanded that they stick to cover tunes. Dead Sea Fruit reached their apex in 1967, when their tongue-in-jowl single, "Lulu, Put Another Record On," reached the top position on the British music charts. Their self-titled album was released the same year.

Of course, I said the same thing when I chanced across the All-Music blurb for The Monks back in the early 90s. Heh. In any case, I just can't figure how I never heard of an actual Brit band that actually had a Number One record during the actual Summer of Love, but it turns out the DSF really were for real. Here's the aforementioned hit "Lulu," a borderline annoying old-timey vaudeville pastiche which has nevertheless been burrowing its way into my cerebellum since I first downloaded it on Friday.

In case you're wondering from whence the band name derives, it's from The Fire Worshippers, a fairly obscure poem by Thomas Moore, a 19th century Irish writer who is apparently best remembered as a pal of Lord Byron; the complete quote is "Like Dead Sea fruit that tempt the eye, but turn to ashes on the lips." I learned this, and you can learn a bit more, from the band's official website (and frankly, I'm amazed that there is, in fact, an official Dead Sea Fruit website).

And here's another album cut (also the b-side of "Lulu") that I rather like -- the charmingly period monikered "Kensington High Street."

Hey -- I'm a sucker for any record with an instrumental quote from "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." Not to mention the "hey!"'s from "Five O'Clock World."

And two postscripts: Apparently, the British indie Camp Records, which was home to the Fruit, had nothing to do with the explicitly gay-themed American underground label of the same era. A little Googling also revealed that although the Fruit's album was never released in the states, the "Lulu" single was actually available here on Atco. It thus has something in common with the Who's epochal "Substitute." also released in the states on Atco during that rather remarkable summer of 1967.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jump Into the Fire

Had a chance to review the new documentary Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him?), which is now in theaters, as they say, and highly recommended.
The most memorable sequence, and the one guaranteed to win over anybody unfamiliar or unmoved by Harry's work, is from a 1971 BBC-TV special, where (through the miracle of video-tape editing) a trio of Harrys sits behind a piano and sings a spell-binding three-part harmony version of the New Orleans classic "Let the Good Times Roll." The most jaw-dropping is an excerpt from an uncompleted documentary on the making of the Son of Schmillson album from 1972, in which Harry, dressed in a ridiculous suit and cardboard hat, gets a bunch of seriously old British geezers straight from a rest home to sing along on a tune whose endlessly repeated chorus goes "I'd rather be dead than wet my bed." It's an act of wanton cruelty and by the end really painful to watch, but I still laughed harder at it than at almost anything else I've seen in a movie this year.
Both of those scenes, as it turns out, are on YouTube (albeit in not so great quality prints); in the meantime, you can read the rest of my review over at Box Office here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Peace in the Middle East Audio/Video Edition)

Well, its Friday and you know what that means. In this case, my lovely Oriental hide-the-kosher-salami consultant Fah Lo Suee and I will be recovering from an epic Manischewitz binge occasioned by our observance of the Jewish High Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah. Which means that posting by moi will be at best fitful until next week.

But in the meantime, consider if you will this excerpt from Nick Tosches' Unsung Heroes Of Rock 'n' Roll, still the only rock book that knows what it's talking about (or so said the late great Samuel Beckett in the Foreword, despite the fact that he was dead at the time):
The history of rock 'n' roll has been obscured by a great deal of misknowing and ignorance, and by a great many lies. There are those who believe that rock 'n' roll was a sudden, magical effusion; that a young man named Elvis Presley one day rose, dipped his comb in water, swept his hair into a duck's-ass, bopped out into the world, and created -- thank God, Alan Freed was there to give it a name -- rock 'n' roll. This is perhaps the most popular and abiding myth. It is merely another lesson learnt from that cherished American history book that taught us that Peary went to the North Pole alone.

At the other extreme, there are those who believe that rock 'n' roll was created by black people, than seized and commercialized by whites. This is merely a lesson from a revised edition of that same cherished history book. One could make just as strong a case for Jews being the central ethnic group in rock n roll's early history [my emphasis]; for it was they who produced many of the most important records, wrote some of the best songs, cultivated much of the greatest talent, and operated the majority of the pioneering record companies.
I happen to think Tosches is right about this, in the main, which is to say that rock-and-roll, more than any other form of American music, has always been a mutt. Of course, you may disagree; if so, feel free to do so in the comment section. In any case, in the spirit of the above, here's an obviously relevant and yet inclusively diverse little project to wile away the hours until I return:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Pop Record/Song Either Written By, Performed By, or About Our Jewish and Arab Brothers and Sisters!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Six is:

7. 10cc -- Wall Street Shuffle

Featuring the great Grahame Gouldman (a nice Yiddish kid from England) on bass. And a song about money -- who'd have thunk it?

6. Desmond Dekker -- Israelites

I have no idea what this song actually means, by the way; I've been told it reflects rather unflatteringly on my fellow Red Sea pedestrians, but given its Jamaican patois I've never really been sure.

5. Ray Stevens -- Ahab the Arab

From 1961, when you could apparently get away with stuff like this. Although in the current climate -- who knows?

4. Two Live Jews -- Oy It's So Humid

When we say these guys are def, we really MEAN....etc.

3. The Regents -- Barbara Ann

Regents singer Chuck Fassert, like his brother Fred (who wrote the song) were of Iranian descent, so you can imagine the irony when that asshat John McCain sang this one as "Bomb Iran" during the 2008 campaign. And yes, I know that Iranians -- or Persians, as they're called in that horrible Disney flick from earlier this year -- are not technically considered Arabs. So sue me.

2. Fountains of Wayne -- Strapped for Cash

Another song about money sung by a Jew -- what are the odds?

And the Numero Uno "Iceceberg, Goldberg, what difference does it make to the Titanic?" hit of them all simply has to be --

1. The Blues Project -- No Time Like the Right Time

Left to right: Mssrs (Al) Kooper, (Danny) Kalb, (Steve) Katz, (Roy) Blumenfeld, and (Andy) Kulberg. Not for nothing did they call these guys the Jewish Beatles.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: most interesting romantic actor and actress pairing in a feature film -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way to going over there and snarking a bit, it would help convince management that my freelance rate needs to be upped. Thanks!]

Thursday, September 09, 2010

An Early (And Highly Automated) Clue to the New Direction

From 1966, please enjoy Manfred Mann -- one of the two notable 60s rock stars who shares a birthday with yours truly -- and the rest of the gang with the original (and I think on balance inferior) version of "Machines," the prescient Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman song done two years later (as perhaps the first genuine synth-pop record) by Lothar and the Hand People.

A lot of the sort-of space age effects on this are similar to those on the Lothar version, but it sounds to me like they were done with conventional electronic keyboards of the day, rather than the primitive Moogs the Hand People used.

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 Listomania.

Compare and Contrast: Tales From the Sad Vale of Tears

From 1928, here's the great blues/gospel singer/guitarist Blind Willie Johnson and his seminal "Lord, I Just Can't Keep From Cryin'."

And from 1966, and the influential Elektra Records compilation What's Shakin'?, here's Al Kooper (backed by the rhythm section of the then Kooper-less Blues Project) with a slightly re-titled and extremely cool sort of soul/jazz version.

And finally, from 1967, here's the then at the height of their powers full blown Blues Project and the thoroughly psychedelicized version of the song from Projections.

All three of these are memorable, of course, but I should mention that I've spent countless hours over the years attempting to reproduce Kooper's piano part from the '66 version, with fair results; get me drunk in the vicinity of an upright sometime and I'll have a go at it for you. As for the Blues Project remake, I saw those guys for the first time in mid '66 at the legendary Cafe au Go-Go, at a time when they used to open with "I Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometime," as it was now called. And swear to god, it sounded EXACTLY like it does in the clip, except much, much louder; when they hit that rave-up section in the middle, it was without question the most astounding thing my teenage ears had ever beheard.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

In Everyone's Life, There's a Summer of '42...

...or so said the tag line in the ads for the movie of the same name. But in my case (self-indulgence alert!) such a summer lasted for almost two years, circa 1982-83 (metaphorically, of course). When The Floor Models, the 12-string pop band I played bass for, had a more or less uninterrupted weekend residency at the Other End Cafe on Bleecker Street in fabled Greenwich Village.

The short version is that pretty much every Friday and Saturday night during that period we would arrive at said hole-in-the-wall venue and bash out three hour-long sets (shows at 10pm, midnight and 2am). Essentially, it was our equivalent of The Cavern, and though the schedule was grueling, it never once felt like work, this due to the fact that a) the four of us enjoyed each other's company almost as much as the music we were playing; b) we were rather handsomely paid, if you can believe it; and c) thanks to the weekend traffic on Bleecker Street we almost always wound up performing for an elbow-jostling and appreciative crowd (around 200 well lubricated NYU kids and tourists crammed wall to wall on an average lively night) even when our friends were otherwise engaged. It was a ridiculously ideal environment for a young band getting its stuff together, and as I said, it never felt like work; I look back on the whole experience these days as pretty much the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on.

I should probably also mention that I lived across the street from the club, which meant that moving equipment was a breeze. And that between-set, uh, refreshments and after-hours carousing were rather ridiculously hassle-free as a result.

In any case, here's what we looked like on one of those weekends; as you can see, calling the stage cramped would be seriously gilding the lily. The sound system wasn't exactly state of the art, either.

As I noted earlier, we used to do three hour-long sets an evening, which meant we necessarily had to do a fair number of covers; given that our idea had always been to do the songs that had inspired to us play in the first place (especially ones we'd never had a chance to essay in other bands) this was hardly an odious task, and so we'd bang out everything from The Monkees to Television. (Doing The Hollies "Bus Stop" -- and well, I think -- was something of a dream come true for me.) We also had a lot of musician friends from the neighborhood who'd help us out by dropping in for the late sets; we'd work up little guest spots for them and some of those occasioned among my absolute favorite moments during our run.

Here's one of them: the lovely and talented Jan Melchior (then otherwise mostly toiling in The Roommates, a sort of folkie girl group a la The Roches) as heard with us on Saturday October 9, 1982, sometime (I think) in the third set, in a jangly version of Lulu's "To Sir With Love." The sound is a tad primitive -- like I said, the PA sucked, and this was taped on a cheap cassette player -- but I think the atmosphere and Jan's remarkably authentic vocal come through loud and clear.

I suspect you'll believe me when I say this performance engendered a lot of serious dropped jaws; you really didn't hear a lot of Lulu covers in 1982.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Younger Than Yesterday

This is, obviously, apropos of nothing at all, but I just heard this record for the first time last Friday and I am a) absolutely bowled over and b) pissed that nobody ever told me about it before.

From 1965, please enjoy oddly underrated singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon, backed by the original Byrds(!), and her "Splendor in the Grass."

Okay, the band performance is a little sloppy, but the song itself is ineffably touching, and the minute David Crosby comes in with that unmistakable low harmony I just lose it. DeShannon eventually released another much slicker version of the song, and there were a couple of covers by other artists -- there's one on YouTube by an L.A. band called The Boys that gives it the full Mamas and Papas treatment -- but the understatement of this one is moving and sweet in a way that the others just don't get near.

[h/t Andy "Folk-Rock" Pasternack]

Monday, September 06, 2010

Is this Tragic? Or Funny? Or Both?

One of my FB friends posted the story of the death of former ELO cellist Mike Edwards, killed in Devon by a rogue bale of hay.

The cylindrical bale had rolled down a hill before hurtling over a 15ft hedge. It is believed a tractor had been at work.

Mike, 62, was travelling alone on the A381 near Kingsbridge, South Devon.

After being struck, his white Transit hit a smaller van but that driver escaped unhurt.

What a bemusing way to go.

Rest in peace.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

In the Future Everyone Will Be Famous for Fifteen Minutes. Or in My Case, Less.

Okay, as promised (threatened?) a few weeks back, here's my epochal appearance on The Joe Franklin Show. As you may recall, I was hyping my book Gender Chameleons: Androgyny in Rock 'n' Roll, a literary masterpiece that is unsurpassed and will probably make my name live beyond eternity.

The panel includes some guy with an insane porn mustache, a lovely soap opera actress, and two members of the cast of the then huge Off-Broadway hit Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.

It's kind of hard to explain to non-New Yorkers just what a cultural touchstone the Franklin show used to be. Suffice it to say that its format -- Z-list celebrities and a totally clueless host -- made it extremely popular amongst hepsters with a fondness for alcohol or controlled substances. Also, in the days before everybody had cable, it was pretty much the only thing on late at night that wasn't a rerun.

There's also a very sad postscript to this, I'm afraid. As you may have noticed in the clip, I was trying very hard to flirt with the actress from Vampire Lesbians, this despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I couldn't quite decide if she was, in fact, a biological female. I ultimately concluded that she was, but she proved immune to my charms and after we finished taping the show, I pretty much forgot about her.

Until five years later, when I saw this obit in the NY Times:

Needless to say, an upper middle-class white woman dying of AIDS was pretty much an anomaly back then (as it still is now, actually). In any case, it was just a heartbreakingly awful thing to read; she was so young and so talented.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Yo, Frankie! Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday (and a holiday weekend) and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental Courtesan Action Figure Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to my local Hell Megaplex, where we plan to wait out Hurricane Earl with endless viewings of Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables, or as we call it around Casa Simels, the Greatest Movie of All Time.

That being the case, and because things will doubtless be a little quiet around here for a couple of days, here's a fun little project for us to wile away the hours:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Pop/Rock/Soul Song or Record By or About the Sons (or Daughters) of Italy!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules of any kind, you're welcome very much. Basically, if it's about something Italian, or if an Italian wrote, sang or produced it, you can include it.

And my totally top of my head Top Six is:

6. Bananarama -- Robert DeNiro's Waiting

You know, all that cheezy Big 80s stuff notwithstanding, I really miss these babes.

5. David Bowie -- Slip Away

Bowie's tribute to the great kids TV celeb "Uncle" Floyd Vivino, and I have to give the pretentious little poser credit -- this was a very cool thing to do. Incidentally, I was hoping to include Floyd's "Oogie's Song," perhaps my favorite single of the '70s, but I couldn't find it anywhere online.

4. Foreigner -- Hot Blooded

That would be Lou Gramm(atico) on the hot blooded vocals, of course. When Dean of American Rock Critics Robert Christgau referred to Foreigner as "the world's most useless band," this may have been what he was thinking about.

3. Carl Perkins -- Put Your Cat Clothes On

"I slicked up myself till I looked like a Guinea." Actually, Perkins didn't really sing that, although Greil Marcus, in his otherwise authoritative Mystery Train, quotes the lyric thusly.

2. Hall and Oates -- Italian Girls

My favorite H&O song, if truth be told. And "I see the greatest works of art in Western Civilization" is probably the coolest second line in rock history.

And the Numero Uno faccia bella serenade just has to be, you wanna make something of it?, the incomparable...

1. Holly and the Italians -- Tell That Girl to Shut Up

For many obvious reasons.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: the heroic struggle of the oppressed workers against their Capitalist Pig overlords!!! -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could find it in your heart to leave a comment over there, despite the annoying new commenting system, it would make it easier for me to stick it to The Man. Thanks!]