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!]


NYMary said...

I don't actually have to answer this one, do I? Because the ongoing crime of Shoes underappreciation stalks our streets every day. (Don't ask me about the video. It clearly should be less Fantasia, more R. Kelly.)

You probably heard about that Other Band whose catalog was released on iTunes the other day, but just about the same time, the Evil Empire also posted Shoes' shimmering cover of Cheap Trick's "If You Want My Love" and their bouncy holiday fave "This Christmas." At 99 cents a pop, you can't go wrong!

(True story: John Murphy was in a store holiday shopping a couple of years ago and found himself humming along to something while he waited in line. When he got to the counter, he asked, "I'm sorry, what are you listening to?" The girl replied, "I dunno. Corporate makes us play it." He said "That's my group! That's me singing!" She didn't believe him.)

But I will also put in a plug for one of my favorite underdogs, the delightful Bill Lloyd. He knows everybody, has played with everybody, and his Set to Pop is just a wonderful record.

TMink said...

I am also a big Bill Lloyd fan. Feeling The Elephant does not suck either!

And I am horrible at this because I am so egocentric as to think that if I love a band then everyone else does and they are a monster success! Sadly, I am completely lacking in any reality based perspective concerning music.


David said...

I drew a blank at first, but then it occurred to me that Robyn Hitchcock--a certified cult hero--has never had a hit and, well, probably won't at this point. It would have made perfect sense for him to launch one slice of perfectly crafted Beatles/Byrds-y whimsy up the pop charts--sort of like XTC did with "Dear God." But for Robyn, the success of "Balloon Man"' on college radio will probably be the zenith of his commerciality...(sometimes I wish I was a pretty girl.."

steve simels said...

I'm pretty sure Hitchcock's "So You Think You're in Love" was at least Top 40.

Let's go look.

steve simels said...

From Wiki:

""So You Think You're in Love" peaked #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the U.S" in 1991.

Close, Robyn, but not cigar.

Edward said...

Without digging through charts, this can be tough...

Tom Waits should have one on his own just to blot out Rod the Mod's horrible version of Downtown Train.

Though Nick Lowe did have a hit with Cruel To Be Kind, he should be the king of the charts for so much of what he has done since then.

Did Richard Thompson ever chart in the US?

John Wesley Harding had some wonderful pop that never caught on here.

Sam Phillips, the female version.

and her ex-husband T-Bone Burnett

¡barangus!™ said...

Mitch Easter

Billboard says Every Dog Has It's Day made it to 17 on the alternative charts.

cthulhu said...

Well, Tonio K. obviously.

And the late lamented Chris Whitley - he actually got some MTV airplay in 1991 with "Big Sky Country", but that doesn't really qualify as a hit.

Agree with Edward aboutRichard Thompson, T-Bone Burnett, and Sam Phillips.

Tom Verlaine.

The Fabulous Poodles (you can occasionally hear "Vampire Rock" on Halloween, but that's about it).

Shriner said...

Alphabetically through my iTunes for solo artists still making music that didn't have solo hits, but did with a band (I'm looking at you Aimee Mann...)

Brendan Benson (though I'm not sure being in the Racounteurs counts -- and which top 40 charts count...)

Butch Walker

Chris Von Sneidern

Jason Falkner (!!!) I don't care how big he is in Japan -- it's criminal that he's not a star.

Juliana Hatfield (though there were a couple "modern rock" charting hits)

I could name lots of bands...

And why "Rebecca" wasn't a monster hit for Flo & Eddie (not technically a "solo" artist) back in the day -- I never understood!

steve simels said...

Did Richard Thompson ever chart in the US?

At the height of their Richard Perry produced hitmaking celebrity, the Pointer Sisters covered Thompson's "Don't Let a Thief Steal Into Your Heart."

RT got a huge mordant chuckle when it was their least selling record ever. Seriously.

Michael said...

I second Edwards pick of Sam Phillips.
The lady has a way with melodies, I think she was born with Lennon/McCartney in her DNA. Every song on her first LP "The Indescribable Wow" could have been a hit.

David said...

Feeling chastened about the HItchcock smackdown :)
Re: Tom Verlaine, T.Bone Burnett, Bill Lloyd, and Mitch Easter--as much as I like them, and as much as they are true cult heroes, I think their character-actor vocals--as opposed to leading man vocals--would make them pretty unlikely to score a real honest-to-goodness hit. For better or worse, the listening public tends to be pretty fickle with singers. Even Peter Holsapple pretty much said his vocals precluded "Love is For Lovers" from being the breaking out he hoped it would be.

steve simels said...

Even Peter Holsapple pretty much said his vocals precluded "Love is For Lovers" from being the breaking out he hoped it would be.

I did not know that. Not sure I agree, in any case.

That song is ripe for a cover, come to mention it.

Michael said...

Peter might be right about his voice on Love is for Lovers in terms of being a hit. For me it makes the song. Great rock n roll voice. And my God, if Cobain made it with his wonderfully broken voice, why not Holsapple.

I forget did Marti Jones cover the song? She should have, and she's yet another artist who should have had hit singles. New Wave's Dusty Springfield.

Wendy said...

Patti Smith never charted in the top ten in the US.

steve simels said...

Because the Night wasn't top 10?

Wow -- I just looked, and you're right. Only got to #13.

David said...

Speaking of smart adenoidal pop, what about Scott Miller/Game Theory/Loud Family, etc? surely he qualifies!

Michael said...

re: Patti Smith never charted in the top ten in the US.

But she just won the National Book Award.

steve simels said...

Uh, Guided By Voices anyone?

If this song couldn't get played on the radio, the radio should just died already.

Wendy said...

Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" only made it to #16 on the US charts.

steve simels said...

Yes, but that's the highest chart listing ever for a record with an umabiguous use of the term "giving head" in the lyrics.

Anonymous said...

didn't open your GBV link but when I heard "Surgical Focus" for the first time it sure sounded like a smash to me.

In the late 7o's, out here in tall corn country, our powerhouse AOR station started playing Fabulous Poodles (Mirror Star), Nick Lowe (Big Kick Plain Scrap) and Tim Curry (I Do the Rock) betwixt the ELP, Tull, REO, Charlie Daniels Band, Outlaws etc. Didn't last long...

How 'bout "Yellow Pills" by 20/20?

David said...

Steve, here's a link to the Peter Holsapple-penned piece for the Times blog about "Love is For Lovers," titled "Anatomy of a Flop." Well, Peter is not alone in being his own worst critic.

DJWildBill said...

My top five that SHOULD HAVE BEEN HITS but weren't are:

1. The Clarks

A. Shimmy Low
B. Cigarette
C. Born Too Late
D. True Believer

Each song above is incredible and while huge hits in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, few outside those markets have heard of this authentic American rock band. Think of them as a distilled and improved Mellencamp with a little Petty balancing out the mix. Genius rock and they should have rolled huge.

2. Sparks

A. Tryouts For The Human Race
B. This Town Ain't Big Enough
C. Dick Around
D. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
E. As I Sit Down To Play The Organ At The Notre Dame Cathedral
F. Achoo

Where does one begin with a band that sings about abortion in a song called "Achoo" or upstaging the Pope sexually and otherwise at the keyboards, the ultimate "green" song about nature, jealousy and rage in a lover's triangle, or (my favorite) a song from the vantage point of a spermatazoa? They are brothers who have played together commercially since 1971 and they've just released their 22'nd album. Should have been as huge in the States as they are in Europe. Americans just don't appreciate falsetto.

3. The Ark

A. Absolutely No Decorum
B. One Of Us Is Gonna Die Young
C. This Piece Of Poetry Is Meant To Do Harm
D. It Takes A Fool To Remain Sane

The Ark hails from Sweden and while they won the Eurovision contest they still couldn't break into the American market. Ole has an amazing rock voice and he's over the top and unrepentant!

4. The Booze

A. No Big Thing
B. There Goes My Girl
C. Lonely Lowdown Blues

The Booze are a new band from Atlanta and their sound harkens to the formative days of Brian Jones' Rolling Stones from 1965 and 1966. The only difference is that they are sober, the lead singer can actually sing the blues in key, and the drummer is in time to the bass guitar. In short, they perfected the Rolling Stones. Give them time.

5. Everclean

A. The entire soundtrack!

Everclean is a Mormon inspired version of Spinal Tap and it pays homage to the boy band era, teen angst songs, and the ideals of the Mormon church's tenants without insulting the audience's intelligence. The music stands on its own merit and reminds you of Weird Al at his wittiest while not ripping him off. It also pokes a few jabs to a formulaic boy band sound by completely ripping off n'Synch, BoyZone, and Backstreet Boys without robbing a single line of their respective works. That is no mean feat as the effort could have fallen flat. Lastly, they jab at church rituals without making fun of the church or religious beliefs. A song like "Love Me But Don't Show Me" which is about the importance of wearing a white wedding gown twists keeping up appearances with monitoring one's genital integrity and following Biblical teachings all within a bouncy beat that Justin Timberlake would so readily sample. (Oh yes you would!)

Almost all are on youtube! Go see the Clarks and see the best band with over 20 years of history and American rock that you have never heard of!

Thanks for the challenge. This was fun and very easy to compile.

Anonymous said...

Comrade Simels, in recognition of your long years of glorious toil for the more-than-deserving but unheralded, after the revolution, you'll be named head of the Ministry of Radio Programming.

Seems like cult figures can be defined to include groups if we like them, yes? So:

Richard Lloyd's first solo outing Alchemy, was/is a ragged pop paradise of hooks and tunes. The track Blue and Grey would have been a hit for someone in 1966, if he could have gone back in time to release it. Or 1992 if he could have gone forward. Just not 1979.

Cody Cody by the Flying Burrito Brothers.

The Records' Starry Eyes -- c'mon, how did that not rise higher than 41 (source is wiki)?


Elroy said...

Nice to see Marshall at #1 - I've been a big fan of his from the beginning, and thought his latest record Jaggedland was very good. It must be very hard to be this talented and never hit it really big.

I'm surprised he doesn't get mentioned on PowerPop much - maybe his site could be added to the "Artists We Like"?

Besides him I would mention Lloyd Cole. Talk about melodic, intelligent music...

Also a big fan of many of the others mentioned above and it's good to hear their names again - The Clarks, Bill Lloyd, Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson, Tonio K. (Steve, I assume Life in the Foodchain is still the second greatest album of all time after James Brown Live at the Apollo?)

Anonymous said...

Was the first time I ever heard of Bill Lloyd due to some dude's "starred" review in Stereo Review? If it was . . . thanks (and for all the other great reviews).

DB said...

Mike Viola, with and without Candy Butchers:

Too Much Goin' On
Doing It The Wrong Way
Fall Back Down
My Monkey Made A Man Out Of Me

Catchy, inventive and criminally overlooked.

Viola sang lead on the title song from the movie "That Thing You Do", but not under his own name.

I second the Crenshaw nomination.

Rob Laufer's "I'm Open" is a great rocker and has this wonderful line:

I'm up for the ride/I'm up for the hit/I'm up for someone to take all my shit/Cuz I'm open....

Brendan Benson, Butch Walker, Pete Yorn, Phantom Planet, Phil Seymour -- these guys are all in heavy rotation on the mythical Top 40 station of my dreams.

Marsupial said...

These have all already been said, but I'm late to the party and freezing on one of my favorite topics of all time. People have already said:

Game Theory / Loud Family
Lloyd Cole (with or without the Commotions)
Nick Lowe

...and others.

I have to go with the idea that people just don't like that many words in their songs.

And don't tell me that something went to "#10 on the Modern Rock charts." That's Queen-of-the-Trailer-Park stuff there.

Dave said...

Indubitably, indisputably, Marshall Crenshaw is #1 on my list. For all the others, I can understand reasons for lack of the commercial success. But he came out fully formed with his first album. In what universe is this not a top ten song?

When "Today I Met the Boy I'm Goin' Marry" didn't crack the Top 10, I worried that Darlene Love in 1963, I worried that not only she'd never replicate her success as a solo, but that somehow this meant the decline of Spector's commercial success. It's a shame that one of the great voices in rock history hasn't had the commercial success to match.

I'd like to live in a world where Jonathan Richman could be in the top 10:

And finally my obligatory Dan Bryk reference. The sound isn't great but the performance is. One of my favorite songs from my favorite album of his: "Spadina Expressway" from Lovers Leap:

side3 said...

How about Squeeze? You'd think "Tempted" was a hit, but it only reached #49. Their highest charting single was "Hourglass", which hit #15.

David said...

This is a a great discussion, but the emphasis on not ranking high on the charts seems to me to miss the point. Steve's original choices--especially Rob Laufer, R. Stevie Moore, and Peter Blegvad--these folks have zero name recognition among all but committed/obsessed music aficionados, and thus the term cult hero really applies. Even though Patti Smith and Squeeze, Nick Lowe, GBV, etc., might not have charted very high, no one would ever confuse them with the aforementioned people. They are very high-profile acts regardless.

drkrick said...

Crenshaw's "Someday, Someway" made the Top 40 (barely, #36), but he deserved far better.

When I saw Patti Smith in the summer of '79 (one of the great shows of my life), she was threatening to retitle "Because the Night" to "13 is Not Enough."

Anonymous said...

Late to the thread again, but this weekend I have been Jonesing on Paul Kelly and the Messengers, specifically the "Under the Sun" album, and very specifically the opening cut "Dumb Things". This has to be one of the best rockin' tunes of the 80's, or ever, really. Kelly and co. play it like they're literally on fire. Not a wasted note, every little lick and sting matters.


NYMary said...

Richard X. Heyman deserves a lot more credit than he gets.

Yes, but that's the highest chart listing ever for a record with an umabiguous use of the term "giving head" in the lyrics.

Maybe, but Alainis Morrisette talked about it in "You Oughta Know," and that was a monster song.