Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday Rate-the-Record!!!

Apologies for the Bandstand reference, but here's a brand new song and accompanying video that conjures up a couple of Proustian madeleines, as it were.

"Chandeliers," by Summer Fiction.

I'm informed that Summer Fiction is the bandname for Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter Bill Ricchini, and that his/their influences include The Beach Boys, The Smiths, The Zombies, Nilsson, Ronnie Spector, the third Velvet Underground album, plus " bad girl crushes and Catholic School blues." Sounds about right, actually.

This sort of thing can often verge on the oppressively twee, even for somebody like myself who shares a fondness for (most of) the above, but "Chandeliers" got under my skin almost immediately.

It helps that the video looks like every party the awkward high-school aged me ever attended in a suburban finished basement, of course.

In any case, you can hear more from Summer Fiction over at summerfiction.bandcamp.com

I'm also informed that the band will be performing at The Living Room in Manhattan on Saturday, Dec.4th. I'm gonna be in Brooklyn seeing my pals King Hell, alas, but if you're in the neighborhood check out Summer Fiction and tell 'em PowerPop sent you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Compare and Contrast: The Guitars That (Sort of) Conquered the World!

From 1956, it's Chuck Berry with a little intrumental called, in an example of the dazzling wordplay he was so famous for, "Chuck's Boogie."

And from 1964, here's Brit r&b/garage punks The Downliner's Sect and a cover version that replicates Chuck's original to a tee, albeit with the charming lack of swing that made them the poor man's Pretty Things rather than international superstars still packing stadiums today. If you know what I mean.

And finally, from 1966 and the great Roger the Engineer album, here's The Yardbirds featuring Mr. Jeff Beck, and a version of the tune -- fittingly retitled "Jeff's Boogie" -- that sends it rocketing past the Van Allen Belt and out into the vast reaches of intergalactic space.

The folk process at work, ladies and germs.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Essay Question

No Listomania today -- sorry. I'm using the long holiday weekend as an excuse for some well-deserved slacking off, but we will return to traditional business next week.

In the List's place, however, I offer a meditation on (among other things) rock-and-roll, prompted both by my ranting about Lady Gaga over the last day or two and the fact that I had occasion this week to re-read Jules Feiffer's superb 1965 The Great Comic Book Heroes, still one of the best books ever written about pop culture. Feiffer concludes it with the following paragraph; he's talking specifically about comics, but I think the point he's really making is somewhat broader.
Comic books, which had few public (as opposed to professional) defenders in the days when Dr. Wertham was attacking them, are now looked back on by an increasing number of my generation as samples of our youthful innocence instead of our youthful corruption. A sign, perhaps, of the potency of that corruption. A corruption -- a lie, really -- that put us in charge, however, temporarily, of the world in which we lived and gave us the means, however arbitrary, of defining right from wrong, good from bad, hero from villain. It is something for which old fans can understandably pine -- almost as if having become overly conscious of the imposition of junk on our adult values: on our architecture, our highways, our advertising, our mass media, our politics -- and even in the air we breathe, flying black chunks of it -- we have staged a retreat to a better remembered brand of junk. A junk that knew its place was underground where it had no power and thus only titillated, rather than above ground where it truly has power -- and thus, only depresses.
As I said, Feiffer was talking specifically about comics, but he might just as well have been talking about rock, no?


[Shamless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or worst holiday-themed films -- is now up as usual over at Box Office. Hey -- no slacking over there, it pays the bills. In any case, I'd take it as a particular favor this week if you could find a minute and maybe go over there and leave a comment. Thanks.]

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's Turkey Day!!!

The Beatles, recorded live at the Karlaplansstudion, Stockholm, Sweden. October 24, 1963. With a ragged but ultimately miraculous version of "Twist and Shout."

Because, of course, nothing says Happy Thanksgiving like John, Paul, George and Ringo.

This is an outtake from the same broadcast that showed up on volume one of The Beatles' Anthology back in 1995, by the way.

I don't know about you guys, but it never fails to amaze me that -- after all these years -- there are still Beatles performances left to amaze me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Compare and Contrast: The Decline of the West

Dana Carvey sings "Broccoli." 1986.

Lady Gaga's acoustic [sic] version of "Poker Face." 2010.

Put a fork in us -- we're done.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

From last October's Buffalo Springfield reunion show(!) here's Stephen Stills, Ritchie Furay, and Neil Young and the still delightful "Go and Say Goodbye."

Okay, it's an audience tape, the guys are all playing acoustics, and the performance is a little ragged. Who cares? It's the Buffalo Springfield, for heaven's sake.

And as a chutzpah-defining bonus, here's an audience recording of the fabulous Floor Models -- featuring some guy whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on bass -- covering the song at the Other End Cafe in 1982.

Our version has a lot of pep, I'll give it that at least.

[h/t Gummo and Steve Schwartz]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And This Just In At The PowerPop News Desk -- Water Wet!

Okay, this is getting kind of ridiculous.

Compare and contrast: Iconic Rudy Gernreich model/muse Peggy Moffitt -- she of the famous topless bathing suit -- in a photo from 1965 I just chanced upon...

...and increasingly annoying prosciutto dress wearer Lady Gaga, just the other day.

Seriously -- if this woman ever had an original thought it would die of fricking loneliness.

Happy Birthday: John Murphy

We here at Power Pop wish a very happy birthday to John Murphy of Shoes.

In the last year and a half, I have logged probably a couple hundred hours talking with John, who is a charming guy: funny and warm, generous with his time (though admittedly a little meandering in his conversation), and has a memory so detailed that his nickname has become "Johnny Gingko." I can't tell you the number of times he's filled in a missing plot point or mentioned in passing something which opened up a whole new episode (which is why I have to declare this thing done: it will never really be finished).

In any case, today is his natal day, and we wish him a good one.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Warning: This Clip May Contain the Key to the Universe

You know, I was pretty much a lapsed Springsteen fan for the longest time. Since...oh, I dunno, The River, actually. And I didn't really come around till recently, i.e. Magic, which I think is some of his best work ever.

But even now -- there are times when I think, "yeah, yeah, Bruce is great, but it's old and I've seen it all before" and like that.

And then, he goes and does something like this -- on the Jimmy Fallon show Tuesday night -- and once again I'm, you should pardon the expression, a believer.

This guy is 60 and rocking out like that? Sweet mother of fuck, as Dexter's sister might say.

Seriously -- if that performance doesn't give you chills down to the cellular level, then you just don't like the form, if you know what I mean.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Kitty With the Atom Brain!!!

Just wanted to let everyone who watched the Ollie Cam last week know that the world's sweetest pussycat is home from the hospital and happy as the proverbial bi-valve.

Also, thank you all for the kind wishes for the little guy. He came through the radiation therapy with flying colors.

Still, there's something about him that seems....different. I think it's those eyes.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special And Yet Justin Bieber Walks the Streets, A Free Whatever the Hell He Is Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental foreclosure dominatrix Fah Lo Suee and I will be heading to an undisclosed airport to have somebody at the TSA handle our junk.

It's a couple of old analog TVs we finally got around to replacing -- normally, we'd just leave 'em on the curb in front of our condo, but for some reason the garbage guys in Hackensack aren't allowed to pick 'em up anymore. Go figure.

That being the case, and because things will thus be somewhat low key around here until our return, here's a perhaps educational AND entertaining little project to help us wile away those idle hours:

Cult Figure(s) Who By All Rights Should Have Had at Least One Fricking Top Ten Hit Over the Course of Their Career, But By Now It's Looking Extremely Unlikely They Ever Will!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. Rob Laufer

Laufer is another alumnus of Beatlemania (see my number one choice, below) who turned out to have genuine talent above and beyond doing imitations of the Fabs. And as I've probably said here on several occasions, his 1995 Wonderwood album is one of the greatest power pop records ever made, with at least three songs -- including the Robin Zander-covered "Reactionary Girl," heard here in the composer's version -- that in any sane world would have been ubiquitous on every radio in the land.

4. R. Stevie Moore

Bloomfield, New Jersey's king of D.I.Y, and still either too smart, too weird, or both, for the room.

3. The Rutles

Okay, granted, their legend was never going to last more than a lunchtime, but I was convinced that at least one of the songs -- like the ominously Lennon-esque "Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik" -- from their 1996 pretend vault exhumation set would finally get Rutland's finest to the toppermost of the poppermost

2. Peter Blegvad

Singer/songwriter/guitarist/cartoonist Blegvad's "Daughter" got a lot of exposure via Loudon Wainwright's very nice cover on the 2007 soundtrack of Knocked Up, and justifiably so, but what a pleasure it would have been to hear the composer's original 1995 version on the radio. And he's got boatloads of songs this good, in case you were wondering.

And the Numero Uno it's-lonely-being-a-genius pop/rock act of them all simply has to be...

1. Marshall Crenshaw

Technically Crenshaw did co-write the Gin Blossoms' "Till I Here I Hear It From You," which cracked the Top Ten in 1995, but please -- at least one of the countless gorgeous songs he's recorded under his own name since his 1982 debut album should have been a bona fide smash. I mean, come on.

Alrighty, then -- who would your choices be?

[Shamless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: feature film that for good or ill would be unthinkable without its iconic musical score or theme song -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, it would be a mitzvah if you could take a moment to go over there and drop a comment. Thanks!]

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oh Lord, It's Another Weepie Old Bolshie-Style Early Clue to the New Direction

From his self-titled 1993 solo album, here's Cheap Trick heartthrob lead singer Robin Zander, and a killer cover of unsung powerpop hero Rob Laufer's "Reactionary Girl."

Or as we at Casa Simels call it "The Christine O'Donnell Story." Heh.

Already dated political cheap shots aside, I have to say that "Baby, have a bitchen summer, see you next fall" is definitely in my Top Ten list of Great Rock 'n' Roll Kiss-Off lines.

And as per usual, 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.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

From 1970 and their Todd Rundgren produced debut album, it's the (one assumes ironically monikered) Philadelphia band The American Dream and the quite strikingly Moby Grape-esque "Raspberries."

The LP this is from is not bad, overall -- love that three guitar attack -- and it's obviously historically interesting as Todd's first full-length production for somebody other than himself. Actually, you can hear a bit of a Nazz influence in the above song, now that I think of it.

More interestingly, the blond guy standing at the top of the picture -- bass player Nick Jameson -- went on to join, and produce several albums for, Foghat. Even more interestingly, he's also had a very successful career as an actor; you could have knocked me over with a feather when I learned that the treacherous Russian premier on the 2010 season of 24 (that's him on the right, next to President Cherry Jones) was the same guy who played bass on "Fool for the City."

I mean, talk about rockin' in the Free World.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Live From New York -- It's Ollie, the World's Most Radioactive Cat!

In case you haven't heard, a certain sweetest-feline-on-the-planet, belonging to a certain Shady Dame, is in the hospital recovering from radiation therapy for a thyroid problem.

Until he comes home, you can watch the little guy on the fabulous Ollie Cam! from approximately 8am to 8pm every day.

If you get a chance, go over there and send him some love.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Like Chomsky With Dick Jokes

Bill Hicks, the last American comic/social critic conceivably possessed by genius, died of pancreatic cancer in 1994 at the age of 32. I was a late convert; when an indie publicist sent me his then new CD Relentless in 1991, I had never even heard of the guy. But then I listened to it for the first time and it was barely two minutes in before I had one of those genuine Oh My God moments. Like the first time I read Catch-22, or heard The Replacements Let It Be. Here was somebody telling me the unvarnished truth, in other words, and I was an instant fan for life.

Okay, obviously Hicks was funnier than Paul Westerberg, but now that I think of it, it's not that ridiculous a comparison. In any case, I'm sure you take my larger point.

Hicks' reputation has actually continued to grow in the years since his death, mostly (I suspect) because his work not only holds up but still seems kind of prescient. Although it may be a generational thing, too; he's St. Lenny (Bruce) for the Gen-Xers, except Hicks had the good fortune not to live long enough to sell out or get hounded to death by the powers-that-be he skewered so hilariously. Actually, as horrible as this is to say, I've always considered it a bit of a blessing that Hicks died before a second President Bush lied us into war with a country that hadn't attacked us; I think it (not to mention what's happened to America in the years since) would have absolutely broken the guy's heart.

Anyway, I bring all this up because the good folks at Ryko were kind enough to send me the latest Hicks compilation in time for the holidays, and I can't recommend it highly enough, especially if you've always wondered what the fuss was about. The Essential Collection (pictured above, obviously) is a 2 CD/2 DVD set with a nice mix of previously released stuff and recent exhumations from the vaults, i.e. choices bits from his albums along with heretofore unheard standup performances and a bonus (downloadable) disc of his original song demos (like "She's a Woman")...

...which, while often charming, mostly prove that as a musician Hicks was a great comedian. Also included is Hicks' early cult short Ninja Bachelor Party, some interesting interview footage, and liner notes by (among others) Henry Rollins.

This is probably the point where I should mention that the main reason you need to check this stuff out is because Hicks was absolutely drop-dead, laugh out loud hilarious. In case you hadn't already guessed. But let the man speak for himself, from one of my favorite bits on the set.
"By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising...kill yourself. Thank you. Just planting seeds, planting seeds is all I'm doing. No joke here, really. Seriously, kill yourself, you have no rationalization for what you do, you are Satan's little helpers. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show. Seriously, I know the marketing people: 'There's gonna be a joke comin' up.' There's no fuckin' joke. Suck a tail pipe, hang yourself...borrow a pistol from an NRA buddy, do something...rid the world of your evil fuckin' presence."
You can order Bill Hicks: The Essential Collection over at Amazon here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Compare and Contrast: An Acuff-Rose is a Rose is a Rose

From 1955, it's Queen of Country Kitty Wells and the original hit version of the sublime "Making Believe."

From 1977, it's the preternaturally beautiful Emmylou Harris and her heartbreakingly pure remake of same.

And finally from 1993, here's former hardcore SoCal punks Social Distortion with a slightly less rarefied but no less heartfelt recreation.

I've been mildly obsessed with "Making Believe" for the last few days, and I'm not sure why. I do know, however, that said obsession ultimately dates back to an afternoon (sometime in the mid 90s) when I wandered into NYCD, the lamented worlds-greatest-indie-record-store hosted by our pal (and current proprietor of Burning Wood) Sal Nunziato at a moment when the Social Distortion version was blasting on the store stereo. I half-remembered the song from my childhood, of course, but having never heard SD (and singer Mike Ness's surprisingly expressive adenoidal vocal stylings) before, nor even imagined that the song could be played in such a bracing and unexpected way, I had something of an epiphany on the spot.

Anyway, it's as great a country song as has ever been written (in this case, by the amusingly monikered Jimmy Work); I suspect that it's all but impossible to perform it badly.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Apocalypse Now

This is just so wrong on so many levels I don't know where to begin.

Really -- just kill me now. And fuck you, Jimmy Kimmel.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Excerpt: Boys Don't Lie: A History of Shoes

I'm kind of getting antsy to show you guys what I've been up to. For those of you playing along at home, I've spent the better part of the last eighteen months working on this book, an authorized band bio of pop idols Shoes: hours and hours of interviews with everyone I could find, context reading, writing, rewriting, rewriting again. As with any creative project, I'm probably never going to be truly happy with it, but I'll toss up a few pages here and there to get your feedback.

OF COURSE, IN THE SPRING of 1964, a lot of other things were changing for these boys on the brink of adolescence. The British Invasion was well underway, and the radio was the portal to this unexplored world.

Even though Zion itself was straitlaced and pretty isolated, Jeff remembers, “[it] was within radio reception of Chicago. And Chicago’s AM radio in the early and mid-sixties was a phenomenal influence on every red-blooded adolescent that imagined [himself] to be a pop star. It was a type of schooling that ingrained itself into your subconscious and fed your imagination.” Significantly, as Jeff has noted elsewhere, “New Beatles songs [were] coming every few weeks and two new Beatles albums a year groomed us on pop music.”

John recalls that it took him some time to warm to The Beatles: the night they were on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, he was torn over whether to watch them, since he was caught up in a multi-part Disney series—Dr. Syn, The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh—which conflicted with the program. In the end, he skipped everything except The Beatles’ performance, watching Disney until his mother called him in, then returning to the basement for his own show.

Despite his own childhood conflicts, John remembers the before-and-after effect of The Beatles clearly: Before the Beatles, “I thought the radio was, more or less, a source for oddball novelty songs, where the singer was either obsessed with sinking the Bismark, pleading with General Custer for mercy or bragging about a Neanderthal named Alley Oop.” But afterward,

It was like a five-alarm brushfire when ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand,’ ‘She Loves You,’ and ‘Please Please Me’ were unleashed in America… All at once, the floodgates opened and every song from every band on the radio resonated with feverishly-sung melodies and lapel-grabbing guitar licks…. Talk about an embarrassment of riches─the AM airwaves were just dripping with tingly, jangly treasures and I’m fairly certain this is where we subconsciously learned about song structure and the mystifying appeal of aching, heart-twisting lyrics.

Gary, always an iconoclast, has less idealized recollections than the Murphy brothers’: “Any music fan who grew up in the ’60s will tell tall tales of a utopian period where all was good. ‘Imagine randomly pressing the buttons of your car radio and hearing nothing but glorious pop music 24 hours a day!’… [But] I guess we all tend to have selective memories. All that great music still had to share radio airspace with the same kind of junk that we’ve always had to endure.”

But even he admits that it was clear there was something special going on: “When it started, it was truly magic.” In his new neighborhood north of town, Gary recalls, he was the oldest kid around: “I had no one to learn from,” he explains, “no one to play me records.” But he had befriended a kid in his class who did have older brothers, and that’s where he began to hear The Beatles and the other bands of the British Invasion.

That’s the age where it imprints you. I was still kind of forming my tastes, and I was impressionable, not mapped musically. The Beatles began the blueprint that became the standard of what was important to me.

The first Beatles song Gary remembers really connecting with was “I Feel Fine,” which was released in November 1964, a full year after some of the songs John identifies as being influential for him. But Gary moved more quickly than John into the desire to make music himself, requesting and receiving both a guitar and lessons for his twelfth birthday in January, 1965. It was a short-lived adolescent whim, however: the lessons didn’t last long and the guitar was soon put in a corner to gather dust. For the next several years, reports friend Ed Erickson, “He didn’t play anything more complicated than a record player.”

He fed it with the Beatles, of course, and a stack of unusual records his father had acquired from a friend who stocked jukeboxes. “It was like the radio, only not as popular,” he notes. The stack of singles, maybe a foot high, included some adult standards, like Perry Como and Andy Williams, but also songs from the British Invasion, like the Nashville Teens’ “Tobacco Road.” There were also some genuinely obscure records, such as “Stop! –Get a Ticket” by The Clefs of Lavender Hill. “Years later, when I mentioned that I knew some of these weird little songs that had been cycled out of jukeboxes in the mid-sixties, [Bomp! founder] Greg Shaw was wowed. But it’s just what I had available.”

BY THE FALL OF 1964, THE MURPHYS were acquiring records at a steady clip as well, usually in pairs. “You could never buy either one of us a gift without buying one for the other as well,” John notes, “so we always got them two at a time.” Christmas 1963 had brought John “The Little Drummer Boy” and Jeff “Jingle Bell Rock,” for example. John had seen Johnny Cash on television, and begged for the “Ring of Fire” single; Jeff got the New Christy Minstrels’ “Green Green” to be fair.

But their grandfather took them, that fall, to Goldblatt’s, a local department store, where they gazed so longingly at a rack of Halloween novelty records, 99 cents apiece, that he instructed them to choose one each. The two immediately put their heads together. If Grandpa was willing to spend two bucks on them, they reasoned, they might be able to coax him to three, and then they could get a Beatles’ LP!

He bought their argument, and the record, the Beatles’ Second Album. Jeff recalls that the first track, “Roll Over Beethoven” skipped, “which drive us crazy. But the cover had this cool plastic ‘moving picture’ glued on the front, with pictures of the Beatles hidden in the flowers on the bottom.” Though he’s not completely sure how he came into sole possession of it—“but we traded records with each other a lot,” he recalls—Jeff still has the record.

Book available for preorder here: street date first quarter 2011.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special Two Tons of Fun! Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what the heck that means. Yes, my Oriental Hanes Underwear engineering consultant Fah Lo Suee and I are off to lovely Collinsville, Illinois, where we plan to ring the doorbell of Rep. John Shimkus [R-Out of His Fucking Gourd], the congressman currently poised to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and run. Afterwards, we...

Okay, look, I'm sorry folks, but I really can't summon the energy to do another obligatory lame joke here. That's because Shimkus is the guy, as you may have heard, who claims that global climate change isn't a problem due to God having promised Noah he wouldn't destroy the Earth again.

Let me simply say it here, then, and for the record: There is no fricking excuse imaginable for allowing a patently insane ignoramus any input into the serious life and death business of America's energy policy. None whatsoever. And while I don't, as George Harrison said in Help, want to knock anybody's religion, I gotta also say -- if the Republicans let this theocratic nutcase within a mile of that committee chairmanship, which would be an act of breathtaking cynicism and irresponsibility, then I frankly hope they burn, over a slow spit, in the hell I personally don't believe in.

Okay, rant over. Now on to more pleasant topics, and I will try to refrain from any similar outbursts in the future.

Sooo...because things will probably be quiet around here for a few days, as per usual, here's a fun little project to help us wile away the idle hours:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Single or Album Made By a Fat Person or Persons!!!

And before you say anything, I'm aware that this week's theme might be considered unkind or offensive -- that my attempts at humor here might easily cross over the line from snark into genuine bad taste, or even gratuitous cruelty. So let me assure you -- having had weight issues of my own from time to time, the remarks that follow will be both sensitive and un-judgemental.

[Note: If you believed any of the preceding paragraph, even for a nanosecond, please e-mail me at ssimels@nopigsinthesummer.com. I have some bridgefront property in Brooklyn I'd like to discuss with you.]

Oh -- and please. No Meatloaf. There's really no need for that. Really.

And my totally top of my head Top Six includes:

6. The Fat Boys -- Jailhouse Rap

Hey, what can I tell you -- these guys always cracked me up.

5. Heart -- These Dreams

Heart - These Dreams .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine
I actually love this song, and to be fair, when it was recorded, Ann Wilson was still drop dead sexy in a bodice-ripping, serving wench in a Hammer vampire movie sort of way. In 2010, of course, her significant other (whoever that might be) probably has to feel her up with a catcher's mitt.

4. The Notorious B.I.G. -- Juicy

Yeah, yeah, a lot of people thought the whole East Coast/West Coast hip-hop feud of the 90s was a big deal. Puhleeze. Like it could hold a candle to the Big Band war of the 40s, when musicians from the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Woody Herman's Thundering Herd were popping caps on each others asses on an almost daily basis.

3. Solomon Burke -- Cry to Me

Solomon Burke - Cry to Me .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine
The late great Burke was always a rather large guy, but let's be honest -- by the beginning of the current century he'd become (in Nick Tosches' immortal phrse) such a big fat fuck he mostly couldn't be bothered to get out of his chair even when in front of an audience.

2. Bachman-Turner Overdrive -- You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

Yeah, right. Bachman-Turner overweight was more like it.

And the Numero Uno big-boned song of them all most likely has to be....

1. Mountain -- Flowers of Evil

Ah, Leslie West -- the obese Eric Clapton. I actually think Mountain are a tad underrated (the Nantucket Sleighride album is a lovely piece of work, IMHO, as is the LP from whence the above derives) but West himself deserves respect for having inspired perhaps the coolest of all album titles -- The Great Fatsby.

Alrighty then -- and what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best or worst horror film whose story involves a backstage show-biz milieu -- is now up over at Box Office here. As always, I'd be in your debt, eternally, if you could pop over there and say something obnoxious. Or perceptive. Or just hello, if you're of a mind -- I'm not picky. Thanks!]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

To Paraphrase Casey Kasem: It's an Early Clue to the New Direction and Who Gives a S**t

From 1983, please enjoy (hasn't really been funny since "Another One Rides the Bus") musical parodist "Weird" Al Yankovic and his version of you-know-who's "Beat It."

"Eat It."

Jeebus, what a masterstroke. What a fricking coup. Seriously -- compared to this, S. J. Perelman's Farewell, My Lovely Appetizer is a back issue of CRACKED. Compared to this, Jane Austen's Northranger Abbey is...well, you get the idea.

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.

Happy Birthday: Andy Partridge

Big week for birthdays here at the PP: mine was Saturday, too.

Today, we wish a very happy birthday to Andy Partridge of XTC.

Partridge is one of a handful of performers who Changed Everything for me: the first time I heard "Senses Working Overtime" on MTV, I immediately did what any sane person would do: I went out and bought everything they had ever recorded. At that point, that was about five records (White Music and Go 2 from 1978, Drums and Wires from 1979, Black Sea from 1980, and the record on which "Senses" appeared, 1982's English Settlement.) I kept up, got quirky with the records, trippy with the Dukes of the Stratosphear, and was, as per usual, the only person I knew who thought they were worth a damn.

It was a few days before my 20th birthday that a friend who was earning a pittance as the record critic for the local paper glanced at a weird little record with a sort of faux-marble cover and handed off to me with a shrug: "You like these guys, right?": that was Skylarking. I didn't know anything about the album's production or stresses between Partridge and Todd Rundgren: all I could hear was a shimmering, thrilling ride through a life, from the dreamy endless day of "Summer's Cauldron" through the complexities of adolescence and mating--through a rainstorm of a broken heart--and then, after the flip (oh, how I miss the flip), the adult world: marriage and money and temptation and death. I was awestruck.

The version I had--have--was a promo copy, and so did not have this song:

It's the song that launched a thousand atheists.

(Some time later--88? 89? 90?--a kid at a local high school took the office staff of the school hostage at knifepoint and made them play this song over the public address system before he peacefully gave himself up. That's all he wanted.)

I gobbled up Oranges and Lemons and Nonsuch, fascinated with Partridge's fascination with his own history. When my first daughter was born, "Love on a Farmboy's Wages" was her favorite lullaby.

When they took their hiatus or went on strike or whatever you call it, it happened to exactly correspond with my graduate work. When I came back to the world, it was to an Apple Venus world, and it seemed to me as lush and gorgeous and packed with profundity as anything on Skylarking. (I have been known to dance around the house to "Greenman," but you didn't hear that from me.)

The point here, of course, is that Partridge, my almost-birthday buddy, has been profoundly important to me, and, I hope, to all of us. Thank you so much for all you've done to make my life better and more hummable, Mr. Partridge. Many happy returns of the day to you.

Quick -- Somebody Play This For David Broder!!!

Well, it shouldn't be a surprise, but it turns out there was a garage/psych rock scene in Iran back in the 60s, just like there was just about everywhere else. And a lot of those Iranian bands made actual records.

Case in point: Persian Farfisa kings Moha Jamin and their Au Go-Go to the max "Raks Raks Raks"!

Man, that drummer's really expressing himself!

Anyway, as you can see, the song is the lead track from an actual comp of Iranian bands of the period I stumbled upon recently. And by the late 70s, the Khomeini regime was doing its best to make this sort of music (and the musicians that made it) disappear down the memory hole; in fact, the vaguely Monkees-ish noises Moha Jamin (those silhouettes on the cover are them, BTW) made are still not exactly kosher (heh) in their homeland. Although there's apparently a reasonably flourishing indie-rock scene in Tehran at the moment, at least if this movie I reviewed earlier in the year is to be believed.

Of course, if the current crowd of congressional Republicans gets their way we'll probably be bombing the swarthy little wogs back to the Stone Age before too long. So it's probably academic anyway.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shoes on Internet Radio Tonight

Gentlemen, start your computers.

Oh, wait. If you're here, that means you already did.

Just wanted to give you all a heads-up that tonight at 9 CST, Shoe John Murphy (and possibly his bandmates, though I don't have confirmation on that) will be appearing on the blogtalkradio show Dirty Dan and Mongo Man.

Oh, I see in the notes here they mention a certain tome which is poised to be launched into the world. Ulp!

Dirty Dan is the former lead singer for the quintessential Chicago party band The Boyzz from Illinois (Illinoizz?), and it looks like this will be a good talk. Looks like their shows are generally available as free iTunes downloads, too.

Feel free to call with your questions: 347-945-5105.

(h/t to friend of PowerPop and longtime Shoes supporter Chuck Fieldman)

(Comic notes from blogland: I thought, "I need a picture of John Murphy" and started surfing the internet. Did that for maybe five minutes before I realized that I, personally, probably have the largest, most organized set of Shoes pictures/graphics in existence. Oops.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Happy Birthday: Ted Ansani

We here at PowerPop wish a very happy birthday to Ted Ansani, late of Material Issue.

I spoke with Ted in doing research for my book, and he's a terrific guy: warm and gracious and funny and smart. He's currently playing with the Chicago-area Legendary Rock Stars as Teddy Cougar. Check them out!

And have a very happy birthday, Ted!

Fuck 'em -- They're Butterflies.

Here's another one I've always wondered about but, thanks to the wonders of the Intertubes, finally got a chance to hear just the other day.

A soundboard tape of The Rolling Stones 1969 free concert in Hyde Park, the one that turned into a memorial for the suddenly deceased Brian Jones.

The song is "Mercy, Mercy," the 1965 Don Covay cover that was a highlight of Out of Our Heads, the best of the group's early albums.

I'd always read that the band's performance that day was shall we say slapdash, and this excerpt kind of proves it; not exactly over-rehearsed, obviously. Although the familiar dirty sound of the Stones is still kind of overwhelming live here, at least in flashes.

Of course, the (they weren't supposed to be dead) butterflies they threw into the crowd -- which you can see in the photo -- were probably a metaphor. Not to mention the inspiration for perhaps the greatest of all WKRP in Cincinnati episodes a few years later.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Compare and Contrast: Got Live If You, Uh, Want It

From 1958, it's the great Eddie Cochran NOT lip-syncing his immortal teenage anthem "Summertime Blues."

And from 1968, it's five guys from Long Island, a/k/a The Vanilla Fudge, and their psychedelic revamp of The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hanging On," also performed as nature intended.

BTW, this is not meant to imply some esthetic equivalence between Cochran's (to my ears) proto-powerpop and the Fudge's portentous turtle-tempoed classical/metal pastiche.

I do think, however, that it's beyond remarkable that a mere ten years(!) -- and frankly not all that much difference in the technology -- separates these two examples of (for their respective days) state of the art absolutely live rock 'n' roll.

Oh, and for the record, I'm aware that the Fudge did not all actually hail from Long Island. I meant the description more in the spiritual sense.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special In Everyone's Life There's a Bummer of 2010 Edition)

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental secondary stimulus soubrette Fah Lo Suee and I are so upset about the election results that we're heading to beautiful downtown Monclova Township, Ohio, home of recently failed Congressional Republican candidate Rich Iott. Rich is a little down in the dumps right now, as you can imagine, so we're going to take his S.S. uniform to the dry cleaners for him while he gets over it. Seems like the right thing to do.

But seriously folks, I remember having a relevant discussion two years ago with a regular commenter here whose politics are way to the right of mine but who is a lovely, humane guy despite that grievous failing (heh). Anyway, he was extremely depressed after election day in '08, and I told him that I knew the feeling -- when the Republicans took over Congress in '94, I couldn't even leave the house for two weeks, and I was convinced there was going to be blood in the streets, blah blah blah.

In other words, take a deep breath, get some perspective, and get on with your life because it's not as bad as you think. It never is. Or at least it hasn't been so far.

My point being that after the results the other night I was surprised to discover that I wasn't actually all that upset. For a number of reasons that I won't bore you with (the name of this blog being, as I point out from time to time, PowerPop rather than PissedOffLeftie).

But I thought -- what if I had been?

Which of course leads us to the theme of today's Listomania.

Post-Elvis Song or Album That Either Reliably Helps You Get Over a Depression or If You Are Depressed Then You Absolutely Under No Circumstances Should Even Consider Listening to It Lest You Just Go Ahead and Slash Your Fricking Wrists!!!

Yes, I know we've probably done something similar in the past. I call statute of limitations, however.

And no arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much.

And my totally Top of My Head Top Five is:

5. The Nairobi Trio -- Solfeggio

I'm sorry -- if you're still mopey after watching this, seek medical help.

4. Lou Reed -- Metal Machine Music

The one and only. Thankfully.

3. Phil Seymour -- Let Her Dance

I was re-reading Philip Norman's Buddy Holly bio (Rave On!, 1996) recently and he makes the point -- an accurate one, I think -- that when you mention Buddy Holly to anybody, inevitably their reaction is a smile. This is a particularly Holly-esque record, obviously (the song, of course, was originally recorded by Buddy acolyte Bobby Fuller) and I've blogged about it before, but the fact is I've never been so depressed that it didn't occasion the same reaction.

2. Bobby McFerrin -- Don't Worry, Be Happy

Go fuck yourself, McFerrin. Seriously. If for no other reason than that line about how you shouldn't worry if you're homeless. Now excuse me, while I kill myself.

And the Numero Uno song that's a must to avoid if you're in one of those moods quite self-evidently is...

1. Anything by Swans.

Back in the 80s I had a friend who used to listen to these guys obsessively. One night his girlfriend came home to find him sitting between the speakers with this stuff on, and she just looked at him and said "Why?"

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: Best or worst use of voiceover or flashback in a live action feature -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could spare a moment to go leave a snark-filled comment over there, it would solidify my bargaining position with the evil bastards who pay me. (I kid, I kid!). Thanks!]

Thursday, November 04, 2010

An Early And Extremely Anxious Clue to the New Direction

From 1991, and possibly the greatest album ever made -- Monty Python Sings! -- please enjoy the suave and insouciant Terry Jones and his haunting ode to what my people call tsuris..."I'm So Worried."

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.

The Present Day Headbanger Refuses to Die

Okay, here's one I've been hearing about for years but never actually bothered to listen to until yesterday.

From 1971, here's vaguely unsung godfathers of heavy metal Sir Lord Baltimore -- who were actually from Brooklyn, BTW -- and what, on balance, is probably the most ridiculously overwrought track from their epically silly debut album Kingdom Come -- the unfortunately monikered "Pumped Up."

People who like this sort of stuff rate these guys very highly, apparently, despite their larger obscurity, and it is an interesting historical bit of tid that a Rolling Stone review of the album may or may not have been the first documented use of the term "heavy metal" to describe the genre. In any case, the LP has an interesting pedigree, in that the band was discovered and managed by none other than Mike Appell, who took their commercial failure seriously enough to plot Bruce Springsteen as his revenge on the music business.

I think the record is absolutely butt-ugly, myself, but on the other hand I can imagine that it might have sounded exciting and out there compared to the wimpy singer/songwriter mush that was mostly going on in rock at the time. At least if you were 15.