Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Happy New Year's Theater of the Mind!!!

Well, I'm off to Gomorrah-on-the-Hudson, where later this evening I'll be quaffing elitist chardonnay with several satanic socialist Kenyan Muslim pals from Eschaton.

So here's hoping -- and I think I can speak for Kid Charlemagne and NY Mary (who kicked major ass on the radio earlier today, BTW) -- that the New Year brings you nothing but the best. And here's hoping as well that no matter where you end up tonight, you have as much fun as the folks at the New Year's party heard below, adapted for radio (hmm, I'm sensing a theme) from the wonderful 1936 comedy/mystery film After the Thin Man.

Of course, it omits the my favorite line from the movie.

Nora (Myrna Loy) to Nick (William Powell): "Oh Nick, I love you because you know such interesting people."

Power Pop: On the Radio

So I've become buddies with this terrific guy, Chris Kocher: he writes for the local paper, knows everything about the Kinks, has a radio show on the college station where he plays whatever the heck he feels like.

Over Thanksgiving, a remarkable confluence of bad luck (on his side) and good luck (on mine) threw us together in a car for an extended period, and we had a long talk about the neverending manuscript (I'm promised two solid weeks to finish, starting Monday!), the genre of power pop, and other important matters.

Long story short: this morning, Saturday, Dec 31, I'm going to appear on his radio show doing a three-hour history of power pop. UPDATE: The show is supposed to run 10am-1pm, but we might run a little over.

Stream it here.

He asked me, if I was going to introduce the genre with one song, what I would begin with, so we'll start here:

(Fun fact: I spent the last week not a stone's throw from Utopia Parkway, a real street in real Queens.)

Then it's onto the history: the precursors(Kinks! Beatles! Who! Paul Revere & the Raiders! More!), the lonely souls who kept the thread alive in the early 70's (Emitt Rhodes! Big Star! Blue Ash! Dwight Twilley! More!), the brief flash of commercial success (Nerves! Knack! Jam! 20/20! More!), and the inevitable shift into Alternative (Replacements! Matthew Sweet! Weezer! More!). And finally, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to the current scene and environs (Fountains of Wayne!)

As my blogmate is given to say, should be a hot one!

Listen streaming here.

Word is still out on possible podcast/download-ibility. Will let you know.

From the Crypt!

The great, lost Shoes video, from 1990's Stolen Wishes. It's intended ironically.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Days of Future Passed

This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the mission statement of the blog you're currently reading, but if you haven't seen it before, it's just so fricking amazing I have to share.

From yesterday, December 29, in 1964: Craftsmen Richard Datin, Vern Sion, Mel Keys, and Volmer Jensen pose outside of Jensen's Los Angeles model shop with the just-completed original 11-foot version of the starship Enterprise.

It's obviously been a long and exhausting project for these guys, but I think -- if you look closely (by which I mean double click on the photo to enlarge it) -- you can sort of tell that they knew EXACTLY what they had wrought.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Great Lost Christmas Records of the '80s (An Occasional Series)

From 1988, please enjoy the aptly monikered Rudolf's Nightmare and their fast and furious (and furiouser) take on the venerable holiday standard "Silent Night."

This was an indie single and (IMHO) a should-have-been seasonal novelty smash. I seem to recall that Dr. Demento has played it on occasion, but in any case it certainly deserves to be more widely known.

I should add that it was produced by my old chum Lars Hanson, who plays the fabulous Jeff-Beck-on-illegal-stimulants guitar stuff; my bandmate of several thousand years Glen "Bob" Allen can be heard pounding those pagan skins.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday "I Hate the Holidays" Total Self-Indulgence

Experiencing massive holiday fatigue at the moment, so please excuse a certain shocking laziness on my part until next week.

And in that spirit, enjoy some band called The Hi-Beams live on the radio in Woodstock in 1995. Featuring some guy whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on bass and vocals.

Those are my chums Gerry Devine (guitar and vocals), Doug Goldberg (way cool James Burton-ish lead guitar and vocals) and Glen "Bob" Allen (drums); the song is by Gerry. It was the opening track from our indie CD of the same year, but this version just kicks its ass. I also think it's my finest moment as a bass player.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Instrumental Backing Tracks of the Gods: Yet Another Beatles Song Edition

From the (as it's called) White Album -- of which Cameron Crowe, who makes movies or something, famously said "you still can't buy a better record" -- please enjoy the once and future Fab Four and the instrumental track to George Harrison's astounding "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

Let's be honest -- there's no way Bernard "Pretty" Purdie played on this one.

[h/t ROTP(Plumber)]

Monday, December 26, 2011

Instrumental Backing Tracks of the Gods: "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" Edition

From 1964, please enjoy the once and future Fab Four and their classic "I Feel Fine" -- the first example of feedback on a pop record? No man can say! -- sans vocals.

Sing along, won't you?

Two things in particular need to be said about this track. For starters, as you can hear below, it was inspired by a song we know to have been in John Lennon's record collection at the time -- Bobby Parker's wonderful 1961 r&b hit "Watch Your Step."

This has several layers of irony, given that Parker's record is pretty obviously inspired by Ray Charles "What I'd Say." The folk process in action, ladies and germs.

Secondly, in E-Street Band/Conan O'Brien musical director Max Weinberg's wonderful 1984 book The Big Beat -- a collection of interviews with some of the greatest rock drummers of all time -- r&b session guy extraordinaire Bernard "Pretty" Purdy claims that he overdubbed and replaced the original drum tracks on several Beatles records, including "I Feel Fine." When pressed by an incredulous Weinberg, Purdy insists that Brian Epstein brought Beatles master tapes to New York City where the overdubs were done, and that Epstein hushed the whole thing up, thus explaining why Purdie never got the credit he felt he deserved.

This is, to put it charitably, a rather dubious claim for all sorts of reasons, including the fact that the recording technology of the time would have made it extremely difficult to have achieved the substitution with the requisite level of seamlessness.

That said -- if anybody can listen to the mp3 above without concluding that the drum performance is the work of one Richard Starkey M.B.E., I have some bridgefront property in Brooklyn I'd like to discuss with you.

[h/t ROTP(lumber)]

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Day Blah Blah Blah

I first posted this last year, but it's still my favorite rock Christmas record.

So please enjoy -- from the otherwise forgettable early 90s alt-rock Xmas album A Lump of Coal -- The Odds and a wonderfully Crazy Horse-ish take on "We Three Kings."

Happy Holidays, everybody.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Comes But Once a Year (For at Least a Week)

No Listomania this weekend, due to holiday overload, but in its stead, enjoy the greatest Christmas music performance since the actual birth of Jeebus.

And Happy Holidays of whatever persuasion to each and every one of you. Seriously.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we've passed the audition"

Rock-and-roll, a very wise person once said, is primarily about moving large black boxes in the back of your car from one side of town to another. That being the case, I have rarely regretted the fact that I have not had an occasion to appear on a stage, playing rock-and-roll, for any reason whatsoever since the mid-90s.

I mean, sheesh -- I'm incredibly old, and my back is fricking killing me.

That said, if I were to feel the need to shlep equipment at any time in the future, it would be for the opportunity to play a song like this one again.

Ladies and germs, please enjoy Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams -- from the sessions for a live radio broadcast on WDST in Woodstock on August 17th 1995 emanating from the fabulous Tinker Street Cafe -- and their spirited rendition of the fiendishly catchy "That's What I Want."

Featuring some guy whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on bass (apologies for the flubs) and occasional harmony vocals.

The song itself is by a guy named Mark Johnson, who was a fixture in the Village in the late 70s and early 80s, and who I thought at the time, of all the folks who featured in the Bleecker Street revival of the day -- which included Shawn Colvin, The Smithereens, Chris Whitley, Willie Nile, The Roches and Suzanne Vega -- was by far the most abundantly talented. A natural born songwriter -- Dave Edmunds and Robert Gordon recorded some of his tunes -- and a riveting singer and stage presence, he really should have been a contender; why he wasn't comes down to the usual demons and/or bad luck blah blah blah, but he's still active and pretty much one of the genuine underground legends of power pop. You can find out more about him here; he's also got an official website, which behooves beholding.

As for the above performance, it dawned on me as I was listening to the just made mp3 transfer today that it marked the very last notes the Hi-Beams played together as a band. Thank god it sounds like we were still having fun, to which I can attest -- emphatically -- that we were.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wails From the Crypt (An Occasional Series)

Said it before and I'll say it again -- it continually boggles my tiny little mind that there remain very cool albums from the '60s by really cool bands that somehow I've managed to miss for all these years.

Case in point: the LP below by The Nightcaps, who are a primo example -- in Nick Tosches' immortal phrase -- of a bunch of young white punks getting down to the heart of hep.

From the All-Music Guide (courtesy of my old colleague Bruce Eder):
The Nightcaps were one of those great overlooked bands of the late '50s and early '60s. By rights, they deserved the kind of recognition accorded outfits like their Texas compatriots the Bobby Fuller Four, or even Buddy Holly, but somehow they never made it to a national following. Lead singer Billy Joe Shine, rhythm guitarist Gene Haufler, lead guitarist David Swartz, bassist Mario Daboud, and drummer Jack Allday were all high school students in Dallas who started playing record hops and school dances in 1958, and also began writing songs as well. It turned out that they were good in both departments and got a lot of gigs locally. They were also noticed by a local entrepreneur named Tom Brown, who tried and failed to get them signed to RCA Victor and then put the Nightcaps out on his own local Vandan label (it sometimes seems like a quarter of the businessmen in Texas had record labels at one time or another). The Nightcaps' debut single, "Wine Wine Wine" b/w "Nightcap Rock" (the latter owing more than a little bit to "Night Train"), became a hit in Dallas and was heard enough in other parts of the country to get the band offers from locales they'd never played or even visited. When their second single, "Thunderbird" b/w "Ole Jose," released in 1960, was also a hit in Dallas, the group was prevailed upon to record a complete LP, Wine, Wine, Wine.

The Wine, Wine, Wine album was one of the best rock & roll LPs of its era, a solid mix of rockabilly, blues ("I Got My Mojo Working," "Sweet Little Angel," "Mojo Man"), and instrumental rock that still sounds good more than 40 years later. Apart from the excellence of Shine's singing and the band's musicianship -- David Swartz was a first-rate blues player, his virtuosity and feeling for the music showcased on the instrumental "Tough That's All" -- was the one major addition to their lineup, jazz saxman John Hardee, who had returned to his native Texas by then and was teaching at around the time that the Nightcaps needed a reed man. Their album never got anywhere near charting, but it was good enough to be pirated around the country and was a sufficiently impressive showcase for the Nightcaps that they were soon getting bookings across the south. The British Invasion should have doomed them, but it proved little more than a slight interruption of momentum and broke their string of steady local radio play for a short time -- the Nightcaps proved enough of a going enterprise to last right through the 1960s, past the British Invasion and through numerous lineup changes. At one point, Gary Mears of the Dallas-based Original Casuals passed through the ranks of the group.

During this period, they became a major influence on such future luminaries as Jimmie Vaughan -- who apparently learned every song off the Nightcaps' LP -- and his younger brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan, who thought "Wine, Wine, Wine" was just a great record, and ZZ Top. Vaughan would later record "Thunderbird," and ZZ Top used it to open their Fandango album. Ultimately, advancing maturity (as much a killer to a rock & roll career as drugs, alcohol, etc.), marriage, and weariness led the members into regular jobs and professions, but by all account, Billy Joe Shine was still fronting a version of the Nightcaps on weekends in the 1990s and is still a well-known musical figure in and around Dallas.
Here's their version of "Got My Mojo Working" from the aforementioned LP.

Remember -- this was three years before the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Butterfield Blues Band, et al, made this sort of thing fashionable.

In any case, you can download the entire album here. It's a rip from vinyl, alas, but more than serviceable.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Great Lost Singles of the '90s (An Occasional Series)

From 1996 and their self-titled indie CD, please enjoy The Prostitutes and their demonically catchy ode to la vie enfer, the astounding "Down Below."

As you can hear, these guys perfected a pretty much flawless admixture of the amusingly portentous side of The Doors and the power pop smarts of The Smithereens, which is something that wouldn't have struck me as remotely feasible before I heard them. It shouldn't work, but goshdarnit it does, and brilliantly.

I should also add that they were a classic downtown New York City rock band in the great tradition of The Velvet Underground and The Heartbreakers, and speaking as somebody lucky enough to have seen them perform at several low dives over the years, I can tell you that they had charisma to burn, the hearts of bruised romantics (if you listened carefully), great songwriting chops, and -- unlike later posers like The Strokes -- an air of genuine danger about them.

Know what I'm saying, girls?

In any case, I love just about everything about "Down Below" -- the snap of Jonnie Miles' drums, the cool Kinks-ish guitars, the sly Morrison-esque leer of the vocals by Frank Newberry, and the totally blueswailing harmonica that snakes its way into the mix towards the end (courtesy of guest artiste Jon Paris). The damn thing should have should have been a huge fricking hit, IMHO, and frankly, I think if it was re-released today it still could be.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Secrets of the Universe (An Occasional Series)

The opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night," deconstructed...

...via Randy Bachman and Giles (Son of George) Martin.

According to at least one reference book I checked, there's a George Martin piano chord on the original recording somewhere, too.

But in any case, as Bachman says -- isn't that fantastic? I mean, seriously -- after the opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth, is there a more instantly and universally recognizable intro to a piece of music anywhere? I think not.

[h/t jac, satyrical]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special Familiarity Breeds Contempt Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental Michelle-ma-belle Fah Lo Suee and I are off to (insert joke here).

[Seriously, I'm drawing a blank on the traditional gag this week, so consider this an audience participation sort of thing. Thank you in advance for your diligence in this regard. -- Ed.].

That being the case, and because -- if all goes well -- things will be a little quiet around here until Monday, here's a fun and hopefully thought provoking little project to help you wile away the idle hours:

Beatles Song You Wouldn't Totally Hate to Hear in a New Cover Version By Somebody!!!

No arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much, but I should mention that this theme was inspired by a conversation I had online last week with somebody who said, and I'm paraphrasing, "You know, I like the Beatles and their music, but frankly I've heard every one of those songs so often I really have no interest in hearing any of them again ever."

To which I can only add that, although I disagree, I know the feeling. In fact, I've been saying publically, since the late 70s at least, that if I'd been exposed to Bach's Mass in B-Minor as often as I've heard Sgt. Pepper, I probably wouldn't want to encounter that sublime masterpiece again either.

And my totally top of my head Top Five is/are:

5.Long Long Long

Arguably the most obscure/unloved song on the White Album, and I find it utterly haunting nonetheless. Come to think of it, it's one of my top five George songs.

4. Misery

"It's gonna be a drag..." Words fail me, except to say that this one remains my favorite of their early Brill Building emulations.

3. Sexy Sadie

John's falsetto at the end of this is possibly the all-time greatest use of that vocal device on a pop record, and I say that knowing full well that both Smokey Robinson and Brian Wilson remain alive.

2. I Saw Her Standing There

Teenage lust, perfectly expressed and embodied, and thus timeless.

And the Numero Uno recycled fab-fourness of all time would simply have to be somebody or other's cover of...

1. Every Little Thing

John at his simultaneously pop-iest and most soulful, plus that great guitar riff. Seriously, I think it would be all but impossible to do a bad remake of this, although I don't want to encourage Justin Bieber to actually try.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be? [Bonus points if you posit the artist(s) who could plausibly do the song's justice.]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Early (and Totally Drummer-Driven) Clue to the New Direction!

From sometime in the late 80s, please enjoy Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos live with John and Paul's "I Wanna Be Your Man."

Words fail me, except that this one kicks astoundingly major ass (and kudos to the great Steve Jordan on those pagan skins, where he is -- IMHO -- primarily responsible for the level of the astoundingly major kick-assedness). You will, of course, note the interesting irony that Keith and the boys are NOT playing the arrangement of the song that provided the embryonic Rolling Stones with their first hit single, but instead the poppier Beatles arrangement.

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

[h/t Sal Nunziato]

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Literary Notes From the Hood

So last night I had the great pleasure of hearing Kevin Avery, author of Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, do a reading/discussion from/of the book at a local indie book store. I raved about Everything in these precincts a few months ago, but it's finally out officially -- you can order it from Amazon over here -- and again, I can't recommend it highly enough. And no, it's not because I knew its subject professionally and am quoted, briefly, in the bio section of the book about said professional relationship.

The fact is that Paul Nelson was one of the handful of people who have scribbled about rock-and-roll over the years who might be described as a genuinely important writer, regardless of the (some would say) transience of much of his subject matter. In that regard, while re-reading Everything I was struck by how little any of it has dated; the various reviews and think pieces Avery has anthologized are as passionate, perceptive and hilarious as they seemed back in the day, and given that most of them have been out of print since forever (in fact, almost all the work collected here has never been between hardcovers) this is a major piece of cultural exhumation at the very least. I should add that some of the previously unpublished pieces are themselves worth the price of admission; my favorite is Paul's account of his tenure as a publicist and then an A&R guy at Mercury Records in the early 70s which is, perhaps, the most scabrously funny and dead-on accurate account of the inner workings of the music business as you will ever be appalled to read.

So why am I quoted in the book? Therein lies, as you might have guessed, a tale, the short version of which goes like this.

In early 1976, while toiling at the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, I was looking for somebody cool to write about Patti Smith's debut masterpiece (IMHO) Horses. I would have written it myself, but I had been contributing adulatory fanboy gush about Smith to SR for some months previously, and it occurred to me that Paul, who had done a couple of reviews for the mag over the years, would be the perfect guy for the assignment, not least of which because he was known for having been one of the earliest and most eloquent supporters of Patti's muse Bob Dylan at the time he went electric. Paul readily consented to do the piece for me; he also surprised me by saying that he really hated the record, but from my perspective that made him an even more interesting choice. In any case, the review came in a few weeks later, and it was -- not to my surprise -- absolutely brilliant (although I disagreed with almost everything in it).

Here's how it appeared in the April issue of the mag; click on it a couple of times and it should enlarge enough to be readable...

....and this final paragraph not only sums it up, but is so fricking gorgeous that it (still) makes me furious that I'll never write anything as good.
Poetry, I suppose, is the part which defies translation. Patti Smith is a good poet, but the best of her work seems -- I've struggled hard to characterize it -- pointlessly pregnant. Horses is too pregnant to be taken seriously, yet it is surely not funny nor meant to be. It is pregnant past the point of aesthetic return, so heavy at times that it cannot make the simplest movements with grace. And when those huge coils of self-important surrealism unwind aggressively toward me, I find it urgent to look for a way out of this place. I've been here before, and it hasn't aged well. Razorblade Alley and Eyeball Lane still look the same, and over there on Arcane Avenue at the Dying Swan Motel and Piano Shop, where only the upper cases hang out, they still measure a man by the width of his donkey and the height of the A in his Art. And you never could get a good meal there anyway. In the early Sixties, I had a friend on Philosopher's Row; he used to play all his "serious" records in a dark room lighted only by black and purple light bulbs and iridescent art. Incense burned. Nonsense reigned. He would have loved Horses.
The sad postscript here -- and the reason I'm quoted in the bio -- is that a few weeks after this appeared, my boss called me into his office to inform me (angrily) that he'd learned that the review had appeared, a month earlier, in Boston's Real Paper in all but identical form; apparently Paul had no ethical problems about selling the same piece twice. Needless to say, I was embarrassed and personally disappointed. I got over it, of course, and my relations with Paul remained cordial when I would subsequently bump into him at clubs and such, but I wasn't able to use him as a reviewer after that, which I regretted a lot.

Ah well. I should add that Avery has a companion book out, a collection of previously unpublished early 80s interviews Nelson did with Clint Eastwood, which you can also order from Amazon and which is a smashing read in its own right.

I should also add that the aforementioned indie book store -- The BookCourt -- is around the corner from the Brooklyn home of a certain shady dame of my acquaintance, in what I consider, on careful reflection after lo these many years, to be the greatest neighborhood in urban America ever.

Or as I like to call it -- Cobble Hill: Where All Your Shit's in Walking Distance©.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"All they do is give awards in this town...Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler."

Just got finished submitting my Top Ten Albums of the Year list to the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, along with the rest of the reviewers on the masthead. The issue with the results won't be out till next year, but here's a hint at what album made the top of my list.

Well, it's more than a hint, obviously. And also not much of a surprise...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Annals of Career Suicide (An Occasional Series)

Ever watch something and go "You gotta be fucking kidding me"?

Seriously -- forget the ripped t-shirt/crawling across the floor Flashdance stuff. But the skipping/aerobics?/wrist-waving moves Squier does here are SOOO sexy I can't imagine why guys all over the country aren't trying to do them in front of their bedroom mirrors to this very day.

Okay, actually I can. Two words: Ed Grimley.

And this, from Squier's Wiki entry, is particularly delicious:
"Rock Me Tonite" was Squier's biggest Pop hit. It reached #15 on Billboard's Hot 100, as well as #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart in late 1984. However, the video for the track (directed by Kenny Ortega), which shows Squier dancing around a bedroom in a pink tank top, was named by Video GaGa as one of "The worst videos of all time". On the VH1 show Ultimate Albums (Def Leppard's "Pyromania" episode), Squier blamed the end of his career as a chart-topping rocker on the release of the "Rock Me Tonite" video.


[h/t Laura G.]

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Your Weekend Moment of Zen

Apparently, and against my better judgement, I'm gonna have to see the Ferrelly Brothers' forthcoming The Three Stooges movie.

I should add that this is largely because the nun -- played by Larry David(!) -- is named Sister Mary Mengele.

I also have a theory of Devo-lution about this. To wit:

1. 60s kids rediscovered The Marx Brothers.

2. 70s kids rediscovered The Three Stooges.

3. 80s kids rediscovered The Brady Bunch.

I rest my case.

Friday, December 09, 2011

I Got Nothing...

Seriously. I'm completely at a loss today after a fairly busy and stressful week.

Oh, except for this video clip -- which actually seems to be a 15-year-old Mick Jagger doing rock climbing or something.

Talk amongst yourselves or something.

[h/t Steve Schwartz]

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Instrumental Backing Tracks of the Gods (An Occasional Series): Folk You!

No Listomania clue today, for the simple reason that it's been a crazy week and I didn't have time to get a Listomania together. Rest assured, however, that the List will return next week, in fighting trim.

Also, that intertube radio show appearance I made on Tuesday is now archived over at Area24; when you get there, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on Lost at Sea for December 6th. Pretty funny stuff, I think, and some interesting music gets played as well.

And finally, just because I'm that kind of guy, here's something quite gorgeous -- the almost final take of the instrumental track to The Byrds' epochal recording of "Mr. Tambourine Man" from 1965. After this was released, the world became a seriously different place, and that's actually not hyperbole.

Said it before and I'll say it again -- a Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitar, well-played, is the most beautiful sound occurring in nature.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

It Came From Nashville!!!

You know, as much as I loved Jason and the Scorchers, my favorite pioneering indie-rock band from Music City U.S.A. was....The White Animals.

And here they are, on their hometown local TV in 1982 -- a clip I did not know existed until yesterday -- with a great song about "Girls."

The White Animals are the great lost American rock band of the 80s -- a ferocious live act (any band that shared a stage with them did so at their peril) and true musical visionaries whose ahead of its time mix of 60s garage-punk energy, British Invasion song structures, and dub reggae soundscapes by way of Lee Perry still sounds utterly fresh and contemporary. Perhaps the world wasn't ready for the Animals back when, but with the release of their long overdue career retrospective, "3000 Nights in Babylon," we've been granted a second chance. Don't blow it, world
I wrote that blurb back in 2000, but I first met these guys -- who basically ruled the college alt-rock/frat party scene down South in their heyday -- in the late 70s while interviewing the redoubtable Marshall Chapman.

Years later, my skinny tie band had the great pleasure of opening for them on one of their infrequent trips to NYC.

I should add -- as I suggested in the blurb -- that they blew my band off the stage. In the nicest and most supportive way possible.

[h/t Ray Crabtree]

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Video Gave the Radio Star a Wedgie

Shameless self-promotion: I'm gonna be on an intertube radio show this evening. Hosted by my old chum Allan Rosenberg.

You can can hear it over at Once you get there, click on Lost at Sea.

Today's show streams live between 5-7pm, and I'm informed that if you miss it -- and frankly, what kind of a schween would you be if you did? -- that it will be archived at the site no later than Thursday.

In any case, we'll be playing whatever the hell tickles my fancy -- this is free-form radio, as you remember it in your nightmares dreams -- and I hope I don't make a complete buffoon of myself.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Way They Weren't

So I was going through some of my old clippings the other day when I chanced across this (I think) amusing little interview with a bunch of sci-fi novelists, from the cyberpunk school, that I did in 1987 (on the occasion of the publication of an anthology called Mirrorshades).

If you click on the image above you can enlarge it to the point where you can actually read the piece, but the reason I'm bringing it up is because Bruce Sterling -- one of the cyberpunks in question -- went on to write a really remarkable short story a few years later, one of whose protagonists was World's Greatest Rock Critic© and star of last week's Some Girls marathon Lester Bangs.

In case you're wondering, the other protagonist of the story was a real-life underground cartoonist named Dori Seda...

...who also died young (and around the same time as Lester). And I can say, pretty much unequivocably, that even if you know nothing of Bangs or Seda (and I must admit I hadn't heard of her at the time I first read the story) you'll find Sterling's alternate universe recounting of the shared history they actually never had both very funny, very savvy about the workings of pop culture, and ultimately very moving.

You can download a PDF of Dori Bangs at the link here, and I think you'll be glad you did.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special Some Girls Week Finale Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental Taco Belle of the Ball Fah Lo Suee and I are off to beautiful London, England where we'll be participating in the very first protest of the Occupy Joanna Lumley's Knickers! movement. Hopefully, Joanna will be home at the time.

That being the case, and because things are doubtless going to be traditionally quiet around here for a bit, here's a hopefully fun and definitely relevant little project for us all to contemplate:

Best or Worst Rolling Stones Track -- Cover Version or Original Song -- That was NEVER Released as a Single!

No arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much.

And my totally top of my head Top Five is/are:

5. She Said Yeah (from December's Children)

An r&b cover (originally recorded by Larry Williams as the b-side of "Dizzy Miss Lizzie") rendered at a breathless 1:40 in length. And with Keith's fabulous speed-of-light guitar solo.

4. New Faces (from Voodoo Lounge)

An embarrassingly self-conscious attempt to invoke a "Lady Jane" vibe, and one of the more cringe-worthy songs from perhaps the Stones most best forgotten album.

3. Downtown Suzie (from Metamorphosis)

Bill Wyman, it should be noted, is the only Rolling Stone who ever had a single ("In Another Land") released under his own name during the band's 60s heyday. In any case, this quasi-music hall charmer -- which first showed up on a mid-70s outtakes collection -- proves he should have written more.

2. Miss Amanda Jones (from Between the Buttons)

Said it before and I'll say it again -- one of their best ever guitar rockers, and still fresh as paint. And twice as infectious.

And the Numero Uno wasn't-ever-a-45-(what's a 45?) of them all simply has to be...

1. Dancing With Mr. D (from Goat's Head Soup)

This one actually makes my best and worst simultaneously. On the one hand, as Lester Bangs famously said at the time, it's about exactly what you hope it isn't about. On the other, that fricking riff is to die for.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Some Girls Week: A Quite Remarkably Out of Tune Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1966, and the December's Children LP, please enjoy the Rolling Stones and the Jagger-Richard 12-string pop beauty "The Singer Not the Song."

I love this song with a white-hot passion, fully cognizant that it is quite as ridiculous on some levels as Greil Marcus observed in that review of Some Girls I referenced yesterday. In fact, I actually used to sing this with a couple of my old bands back in the 70s. Okay, to be scrupulously honest it might be more accurate to say that I used to yowl this, although that's a subject for another occasion.

That said, until I found this clip on YouTube recently, I had no idea whatsoever it had ever been released as a single.

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Some Girls Week: If You Can't Say Something Nice....

Okay, it's now considered a classic by most folks, but the other day, as I was researching the original reception to Some Girls, I recalled that that I had given an assignment to write about the album to Lester Bangs (i.e. Greatest Rock Critic of All Time©).

Figuring he would dig it.

Boy, was I wrong.

From the August 1978 issue of (The Magazine Formerly Known as) Stereo Review:
After the collage of fluff that was Black and Blue, I thought that nothing could get me interested in the Stones again, but I just had to review Some Girls. Hearing "Miss You" and "Far Away Eyes" on the radio, I marveled at how these guys could actually manage to fit so much contempt for so many -- Stones fans, disco fans, Latin women, country audiences -- onto one little single. The album cover of this one, with its take-off on Frederick's of Hollywood drag-queen sleaze, shows quite explicitly not only what the Stones think of women, but also what they think of themselves; they consider both to be cheap, tawdry trash, good only for a quick transient kick. It's fitting that they should end this way (and though it's protracted beyond belief, the end is certainly coming) because anyone who heaps as much contempt on as many people as the Stones have these past few years must inevitably come to an even greater contempt for themselves. Some Girls is supremely indicative of what "decadence" is really about; passivity and boredom.

Almost all the songs here are supposedly about women or the Stones' feelings towards them, yet not one depicts a real relationship or any genuine emotion other than greed. What, for instance, is "Miss You" about? Where is the expression of true longing, the lineaments of true love? Mick seems to be singing from some indifferent twilight, occasionally emerging just long enough to embarrass himself with a limp display of heavy vocal calisthenics: "People think I'm craaaaazzzzzy...."

The title track is perhaps the most disgusting song of all in its attitude towards women -- or perhaps toward other humans in general. If empathy is too much to expect, one might at least ask for some insight, and "Some girls take the shirt off my back/And leave me with a lethal dose" just doesn't quite fill the bill. What it really comes down to is a matter of what portion of humanity can be bought and sold.

Money is a crucial factor in "Beast of Burden," which may be why what might have been a worthwhile song about the difficulties of love degenerates so quickly into cliché: "You can put me out on the street/Put me out with no shoes upon my feet." And are those imitation Bee Gees falsetto chirpings that we hear in the bridge? The Stones have always followed the trends of the day, but once they took them up as a challenge. Now they just tag along after them meekly, melding them with those Same Old Stones Riffs and occasional bits looted from other (usually black) sources. "Respectable," for instance, is "All Down the Line"/"Silver Train" stapled to an old Isley Brothers cop. It's almost fun, except that you've heard it all before. Meanwhile, Keith Richards and Ron Wood play guitar solos. They play a lot of guitar solos on this album, on all kinds of guitars. I'm told that between the two of them, they own hundreds, and I think that's very nice for them. But why do they play with such faraway hands?

"Just My Imagination" is just inferior, though comparing it with the Temptations original does remind you of what, besides true gut-bucket kick, has been missing from the Stones music for a long time; heart. Even those who would say that the Stones never had much heart in the first place (which I don't believe) would have to give the band that used to stand inside these shells credit for honesty. And there are two songs here that sound like they might be about halfway honest. Keith's "Before They Make Me Run" suggests that he might have a future in drugged out country-rock. This is the only song on the album that's about an instantly recognizable real-life situation -- Keith's recent Canadian drug bust. There's a similar sort of tentative tiptoe towards self-recognition, on Mick's part this time, in "Shattered," but any real soul-searching is averted through pretentious quasi-sociological jottings: "Rats on the West Side, bedbugs uptown...." Like "When the Whip Comes Down," "Shattered" could be in part about a male hustler, but seen without compassion (something even male hustlers, perhaps especially male hustlers, deserve) or even understanding.

Supposedly the Stones selected the ten tracks here from about eighty recorded in Paris at the same time. A guitarist friend remarked cynically the other day that now they can just sit back and keep releasing the rest for the next five years. If these are really the best of the bunch, I would invite you to join me in responding to such a gesture of contempt in kind; by sitting back and not buying any more of this drivel, for who has really bought it this time is the Stones themselves.-- Lester Bangs
I should add that I totally disagreed with Lester's take on the album at the time -- and still do -- but that I was tickled pink to run such a scabrous review in the pages of SR, for all sorts of reasons.

I should also add that it almost didn't run at all, because my bosses thought it was just too negative. Also actionable -- one of the lines I was forced to cut (over my strenuous objection) was Lester's description of Jagger as "a jaded old catamite."


In any case, I much preferred the review by living secular saint Greil Marcus in the Village Voice. Particularly these paragraphs.
When one returns to 12 X 5, or December's Children or The Rolling Stones Now, the flaws are obvious; guitars are out of tune, Mick is flat, the lyrics are often corny, tempos are blown. By any sensible standard, "The Singer Not the Song" is a ludicrous performance; a cliched and clumsy guitar line, hopelessly strained singing on the choruses. And yet, it can still move a listener deeply -- maybe even more deeply -- than it ever did. That, after all, is why you can't turn rock-and-roll into sheet music. It may be that some years from now, when the novelty has worn off, the Stones' "Just My Imagination" will seem as shoddy as some people already think it is; it may be that it will still be breaking hearts.

As for the concept of Some Girls -- what it all means, how it makes culture out of music or history out of those who hear it -- the concept of Some Girls is the idea of the Rolling Stones, fifteen years after they came to our attention with hot new versions of songs by Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly, making an album as surprising as any they have put their name on.

Seriously -- the Stones version of "Imagination" has been breaking my tiny heart for more than three decades now. And I think Lester would have come around to it eventually.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Some Girls Week: Remixes of the Gods

Okay, ladies and germs, please enjoy one of the rarest -- and certainly one of the most exciting -- Rolling Stones rarities of them all.

From 1978, it's the Bob Clearmountain remix of the great Some Girls track "Before They Make Me Run." Which kicks the album version's ass bigtime.

How rare is this? Pretty damned rare; it was released as a limited edition 45 for critics and press only (with that fabulous Annie Leibovitz photo of Keith as the picture sleeve) and over the years it's pretty much disappeared down the memory hole. I'd been trying to find a copy since the old Napster days, with no success, until I stumbled across it at a torrent site in 2009.

In any case, I think it's absolutely unconscionable that nobody in the Stones camp figured that this should have been the very first thing on that otherwise fabulous disc of bonus stuff on the Some Girls deluxe edition. I mean, we're talking a much better edit and an overall level of sonic sheen that's quite revelatory.

True story: A few months before I found the thing online, I e-mailed Bob Clearmountain himself (he has a website, obviously) and asked if there was any chance he could spare an mp3 of this magnum opus. I assured him that I wasn't going to bootleg it or anything, but that I simply wanted to have a copy for my personal listening pleasure.

He got back to me right away -- nice guy -- but his answer was "Sorry, Steve -- to be honest, I have absolutely no recollection of ever having done the record."

[h/t Gummo]

Monday, November 28, 2011

Some Girls Week: Monday Battle of the Bands

[Yes, this is the beginning of five days of Rolling Stones-related stuff, inspired by the fact that I shnorred a promo copy of the quite excellent -- with cavils, which I will note as the week progresses -- new deluxe edition of the band's last classic of the 70s. You're welcome. -- Ed.]

Beatles or Stones -- that was the existential dilemma my generation faced. (Bill Clinton chose Elvis Presley, BTW, which is why I never trusted that rat bastard from day one. But I digress.)

So -- let's have it out on a level playing field.

From 1964, and a session with the BBC, here's the Fab Four -- John singing lead -- with a smokin' version of Chuck Berry's venerable "Carol.

And from just about the same time, here are the other guys on The Mike Douglas Show with a got-live-if-you-want-it version of the very same song.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: Vegas with Randolph, Above the Blue

As the weather cools and I realize that holy-crap-fall-is-over-and-I-haven't-accomplished-a-thing, I'm looking back on what I've been listening to over the fall and see that, overwhelmingly, it's centered on 2 CDs: the breathtaking Sky Full of Holes, and Vegas with Randloph's Above the Blue.

I've obsessed about VWR here before, and all the songs mentioned here are indeed on the CD, which was released at the end of the summer.

But Above the Blue is a lot more than that: the title itself references a conscious decision to turn away from the traditional melancholy of power pop (see: Shoes, no The), and the title track is a soaring anthem, or as much of an anthem as power pop can have:

The CD is, somewhat ironically, set up like an old-school vinyl album, with a clear side 1 and side 2. Side one consists of, say, the first ten songs: "The Better Part;" "Above the Blue" (above); "Some Time to Live;" the catchy commuter love song "Supergirl;" a duet with Liverpool songstress Maxi Dunn, "The Lesser Fool;" "She Does it for Me" (the only one of these without a YouTube accompaniment; more on that below); "Summertime," which makes me want to drive around in a convertible in a beach town (something, I hasten to add, I have never done, but I imagine it feels just like this song); the totally understandable chronicle of obsession, "Marisa" (that's Marisa Tomei, for those of you playing along at home); the seasonally-appropriate, take-the-guesswork-out-of-it "Lagavulin for Christmas" (below); and the ethereal, beautiful "Tree Song," which reminds me uncannily of "India Song," and if someone could explain why, I'd be grateful. (Title? Feel? Unusual instrumentation (orchestrated by Win Oudijk)? All of the above?)

If we define the parameters of power pop as being, roughly, Big Star on one end and the Ramones on the other (and I'd claim both of them, though there's obviously a ton of debate to have on the relative positioning) then VWR really runs the gamut, with "Tree Song" on one end and "Some Time to Live" on the other. But they're not just adhering to the formula, there are some genuinely clever lyrical moves in some of these songs--the kind of "minutiae of life" Gummo mentioned last time we talked about this band--and some terrific, understated stylistic flourishes as well. (For example, you know that moment in Fountains of Wayne's "Mexican Wine," at the end of the first verse, where Chris Collingwood says, almost under his breath, "Yep"? Well, in VWR's "Supergirl," there's a similar moment when, blown away by the hot girl in the next car, left behind at a stoplight, John Ratts whispers a single, awed "Damn." I love that kind of thing.)

What I take to be side two of the CD aspires to an almost operatic scope, in the mode of--okay, I'll go there--side two of Abbey Road. They call it "Double Play," the six songs vary in length from :30 ("Alone") to 3:09 ("Even Though"), and all together tell the story of a far-from-perfect relationship and its aftermath. (One particularly vivid moment occurs in "End of the Party," where the obviously ambivalent, but stoically-trying-to-talk-himself-into-it protagonist, says "you've got something I can't deny/ you get the quarter in the cup every single time." I've been at that party; have you?) It's kind of unusual in power pop, unless you're say, Guided by Voices, in which case you just let the fragments fly. This is a little more cohesive than GBV tends to be. And though "Double Play" is not completely successful, it's ambitious and interesting, and worth a bunch of listenings.

I saw and met VWR at the beginning of this month, when they played IPO in New York. They were really tight, pulling off harmonies completely without monitors and playing a taut, intense set. Live, Brock Harris's guitar rips even more than it does on the recordings, and his liberal use of the pick-slide touches my geeky little heart. Nice guys, too.

A completely nuts-and-bolts observation: VWR seems to have really mastered the idea of using the tools of the web for marketing purposes. Note that pretty much all of the songs on Above the Blue have YouTube videos: that's what you need now, to make sure that people can link you easily. In addition, VWR have come up with an online press kit: the same set of interviews that used to be sent out with record albums in a three- or four-page flyer. Pretty nifty. Are these common? I've only seen a couple of them.

And to inaugurate the holiday season, I'll close by mentioning VWR's Christmas song, "Lagavulin for Christmas," which answers the perennial conundrum with the simplest answer possible: single-malt Scotch.

In short, Above the Blue is highly recommended. Enjoy it with your Langavulin!

Something There Is That Doesn't Love a Weekend Listomania

Hey -- it's the Thanksgiving weekend, and I pretty much had my hands full the last day or two getting a holiday dinner together for my Maternal Unit. So no Listomania today, but have no fear -- the List will return next week, all tanned, rested and ready.

But it in its stead, and given some of the current events of the last couple of weeks, please enjoy -- along with your leftover turkey and stuff -- The Call and "When the Walls Came Down."

Still the best political/protest rock record ever made, IMHO. Certainly the catchiest and the most sadly prescient, in the sense that's it's as depressingly relevant in 2011 as it was when it was recorded in 1983. And certainly the one that occasioned the most exciting video.

Well they blew the horns
And the walls came down
They'd all been warned
And the walls came down

They stood there laughing
They're not laughing anymore
The walls came down

Sanctuary fades, congregation splits
Nightly military raids, the congregation splits
It's a song of assassins, ringin' in your ears
We got terrorists thinking, playing on fears

Well they blew the horns
And the walls came down
They'd all been warned
But the walls came down

I don't think there are any Russians
And there ain't no Yanks
Just corporate criminals
Playin' with tanks
Okay, the reference to the Russians dates it a bit, but other than that....

And yes, the mad professor on keyboards is Garth Hudson.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Many Happy Returns!

We at Power Pop would like to wish a very happy birthday to John Murphy of Shoes!

Murphy was a scrawny, quiet kid with killer art skills and a massive record collection (which he shared with his younger brother) when the guy sitting next to him in sophomore English, a tall jock he didn't know named Gary Klebe, looked over his shoulder and saw the caricature he was absent-mindedly drawing of the teacher. Gary asked him if he wanted to draw pictures for a satirical high-school magazine he and some of his friends were putting together, and John agreed. Nothing came of it immediately, but when junior year began, Gary walked up to John and handed him a copy of the magazine, Lime.

The friendship between the two blossomed, and by the time they were headed to college, they'd decided to have an imaginary band. They had a name, Shoes, and they drew comics to each other fantasizing about how famous they'd be, though they didn't have instruments, let alone any idea how to play them. An idea it stayed, until Jeff, John's younger brother, bought himself a TEAC-3340S four-track recorder. He needed a band to learn how to use it, and so John and Gary buckled down and actually tried to figure out how to play for Jeff, and with him, and the three moved forward together.

Now, John and his bandmates are finishing up an
as-yet-untitled record
(link goes to their new website), due sometime next year, probably about the same time I finally get my book, Boys Don't Lie, a History of Shoes, out into the world. It's the first new Shoes music in 17 years, and they're giddy as hell about it, I can tell you that much. (No, I haven't heard anything, in case you're wondering, but I heard plenty about it.)

Over the last two years, I've logged a lot of time with John Murphy, and he's a warm, funny guy I like a lot. Warmest greetings from all of us here to him.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

And Speaking of Unsettling....

Saw Ray Davies in concert over the weekend -- a lovely show, including the stuff with the Dessoff Choir, which worked far better than I had frankly expected it to. And of course, the "and then I wrote..." format isn't really hard to take when the person who's singing the songs has the sort of back catalog that Ray has.

But here's a song of his -- from the early 80s -- that he didn't do on Sunday, and I'm kind of glad. "Art Lover."

Which is not to say that it isn't a great song -- it is. But it's either about a pedophile or a divorced dad who's being prevented from seeing the young daughter he adores by a horrid ex-wife, which is to say that it's kind of heartbreaking and kind of creepy at the same time. In fact, its deliberately calibrated ambiguity is probably even more fine-tuned than Henry James' The Turn of the Screw and Ray's own "Lola" combined.

It's also infernally catchy, with -- given the aforementioned thematic ambiguity -- an emphasis on the infernally.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

And Speaking of Gorgeous....

From 1968 and German television, please enjoy Procol Harum's original classic lineup with the quite astonishing "Quite Rightly So."

This is by far the best video clip I've ever seen of the original 5-piece PH, and I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say they're actually playing live, given the differences between Gary Brooker's vocals and Robin Trower's guitar from the album track (although if memory serves, the single version was a little different, and perhaps they're lip-synching to that). In any case, this is exactly what PH sounded like in concert.

I've taken a fair amount of ribbing over the years in these precincts due to my enthusiasm for these guys, but I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I have never heard a more magnificent sound emanating from human beings on a stage than the one I encountered at various shows performed by Procol Harum (Mark 1) during their approximately three year run. I will further add that the group's seamless fusion of J.S. Bach and Ray Charles made them the only progressive rock band that ever mattered. So there.

Incidentally this was the first single from the group's sophomore LP (Shine on Brightly), as well as -- in its 45 incarnation -- the first music in stereo anybody heard by PH.

[h/t Laura G]

Monday, November 21, 2011

The History of White People in America (An Occasional Series)

Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders on The Jackie Gleason Show, sometime in the late 60s. Words fail me.

The thing is, as ridiculous as the idea of a Caucasian James Brown might seem in the abstract, Cochran actually was kind of the real deal. He wrote "Last Kiss," too, which means he deserves respect from mere mortals like you and me and Eddie Vedder.

Apparently he's found Jeebus in his old age, which of course isn't all that big of a shock.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special The Dogs Breakfast Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental biohazard Fah Lo Suee and I are off to lovely Zuccoti Park in downtown New York City, where we are hoping to pick up a case of scabies. Hey -- Mayor Bloomberg promised us we could get one, and he NEVER lies.

That being the case, and because as you might expect things are going to be fairly quiet around here until Monday, here's a fun and morally uncompromised little project to help us wile away the empty hours until our return:

Best or Worst Post-Beatles White-Boy Blues Performance!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Seven is:

7. Pussy Galore -- Stop Breaking Down

Jon Spencer's low budget, low-fi cover of the Stones' Robert Johnson cover, recorded in a hallway somewhere before there was a Blues Explosion in his pants. I've heard worse, but then again I've been around an awfully long time.

6. John Mayall -- Room to Move

I'm sorry, I know it's not supposed to be funny, but I can't listen to this without cracking up.

5. Wilderness Road -- The Authentic British Blues

"I've got just the thing
To liberate your mind
Some asshole on a sitar
Playing 'My Darling Clementine'"
"Now wait a minute!!!"


4. The J. Geils Band -- Serves You Right to Suffer

From their great debut album, and this track has been giving me chills for over forty years now. Well, not continuously, of course; that would be rather debilitating, now that I think of it. But a great performance any way you slice it.

3. The Rolling Stones -- Good Times, Bad Times

Astoundingly authoritative -- Keith's acoustic 12-string work almost beggars belief -- and even more remarkable when you consider they were, not to put too fine a point on it, a bunch of pimply post-adolescents when they recorded it.

2. Steppenwolf -- Disappointment Number (Unknown)

From their 1968 sophomore LP, which is one of the most underrated hard rock records of the decade, here's a sort of history of the blues in a concise four minutes.

And the Numero Uno "They've Suffered for Their Art -- Now It's Your Turn" bluesola of them all simply has to be...

1. West Bruce and Laing -- Slow Blues

A performance as emotionally compelling as its title is imaginative.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?