Friday, April 29, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special The Pen is Quieter Than the Guitar Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental Boswell sister Fah Lo Suee and I will be be heading to a mysterious mountain retreat to judge the third annual Susan Sarandon Movie Haiku Invitational Pro-Am.

In case you're unfamiliar with the SSMHIPA, it's a yearly conclave where Zen Masters from all over stop clapping with one hand long enough to craft the greatest three line poems inspired by Sarandon's filmography they possibly can.

The previous winners (from 2008 and '09,respectively):
"Thelma and Louse"
Great ad for Southwest road trip.
Except that last part.

Sequel idea
The pitch: "Harold and Kumar
Go to White Palace."
Obviously, I'll post the winner as soon as there is one. Or isn't, if you know what I mean.

In any event, and because things will probably be fairly quiet around here until our return, here's a fun little project to help us wile away the hours:

Best or Worst Rock Biography, Autobiography or Memoir!!!

No arbitrary rules at all, you're welcome very much, and I'm willing to give you a lot of leeway about the definition of memoir. Also -- band bios are totally kosher in this context.

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. I Slept With Joey Ramone (Mickey Leigh, with Legs McNeil, 2009)

Been meaning to write about this one -- specifically, the 2010 paperback edition, with updates on the legal wrangling that followed Joey Ramone's death -- for a couple of months, but I kind of got sidetracked by the Keith Richards book. In any event, Mickey Leigh is Joey's kid brother and (as you may have gleaned from the song I posted yesterday) a genuine musical talent on his own. I figured I already knew everything I needed to know about The Ramones, but as it turns out I was wrong, and then some. Which is to say that Leigh's book is both a fascinating account of the birth of punk rock and a funny and ultimately very touching account of one the great sibling rivalries of our time. Highly recommended, even if you never went to CBGBs.

4. Wouldn't It Be Nice (Brian Wilson, with Todd Gold, 1988)

Not really bad, as these things go, i.e. it sounds like Brian's voice. But the pernicious influence of the head Beach Boys' probably evil shrink/adviser/claimer of songwriting credits Eugene Landy is all over it, and after a while you just want to find the guy and smack him.

3. Papa John (John Phillips, 1986)

A very creepy book by an apparently very creepy guy. I read this when it first came out, i.e. years before the really disquieting stuff alleged by daughter McKenzie became public, and even then there were long stretches of the thing where I felt like I needed to take a shower after finishing them.

2. Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n Roll (Nick Tosches, 1985)

Maybe not the best book ever written about rock, but certainly the funniest; Tosches deserves secular sainthood for the chapter on Jimmy "Rocket in His Pocket" Logsdon alone. I should also add that if you haven't read Dino -- his absolutely astounding portrait of the black hole of nullity that was Dean Martin -- you need to get over to Amazon pronto.

And the Numero Uno piece of revisionist crap -- we're talking so bad that its author should be rotting in hell for having written it -- clearly is...

1. The Lives of John Lennon (Albert Goldman, 1988).

Having deliberately and inaccurately attributed a racist remark to Sam Phillips in his earlier Elvis biography, thus inserting a bogus element of bigotry into the very moment of the birth of rock 'n' roll, the now mercifully forgotten Goldman was moved to pen a life of the martyred Beatle whose theme -- reiterated endlessly -- is that its author has a larger penis than the subject of his research. Truly, one of the most loathsome misuses of dead tree products in the history of publishing.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Earlier Than Usual (And Also, Frankly, Better Than Usual) Clue to the New Direction

From 1995, please enjoy Stop -- featuring Joey Ramone's younger brother Mickey Leigh on guitar and vocals (he wrote the song, too) -- and one of the great lost singles of its decade.

The succinctly titled "Jerk."

From the album Never, as you can plainly see.

As I seem to recall saying in a review at the time, this is essentially what the Ramones would have sounded like with a more interesting guitarist. For example, that Keith Richards-ish "Before They Make Run" slide solo (introduced with "Let's give it to them!" no less) that materializes, unexpectedly, in the last third of the song is just so cool.

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Compare and Contrast: Tales From Paul Nelson's Record Collection

Well, I just finished that biography of legendary rock critic Paul Nelson [1936 -- 2006] that I raved about in medias res yesterday and it's actually an even better book than I let on. Unfortunately, it's also the most depressing thing I've read in ages, which is to say the downward arc of the last two decades of Nelson's life has scared the shit out of me. Or at the very least made me wonder about certain career choices I've made over the years.

In any case, as I also mentioned yesterday, one of the reasons Nelson deserves a hoisted glass from anybody who's ever hung out here is that during his stint as an A&R guy, he was responsible for signing power pop legends Blue Ash to Mercury Records.

From Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson: by Kevin Avery:
The four weeks of recording sessions lasted from mid-February through mid-March of 1973, Paul flying over to Youngstown [Ohio] on Monday and returning home [to Manhattan] on Friday. In addition to cautioning the band never to sequence two songs in the same key next to each other on an album, he gave them a bootlegged tape of an obscure Dylan number called "Dusty Old Fairgrounds" and encouraged them to cover it. Mercury tried to obtain the necessary release from Dylan's publishing company, but they didn't recognize the song and had to forward a copy to Dylan, who confirmed that he had indeed written it.
Here's the Dylan version -- from a 1963 Town Hall concert -- that Paul gave to the band.

And from the Blue Ash album No More, No Less (1973), here's the cover.

I love both of them, but if truth be told, I'm still unsure what Nelson heard in the Dylan version that made him figure -- correctly, as it turned out -- that it would make a great Who-esque rock track, let alone a good fit for Blue Ash.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Literary Notes From All Over (An Occasional Series)

In case I've given anybody the impression (over the last few months) that Keith Richard's vastly entertaining autobiography is the only good rock book that's crossed my desk of late, let me state now (simply and for the record) that Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson by Kevin Avery -- due out this November from Fantagraphic Books -- is an absolutely riveting and (I think) important read. And I say that not just because I knew the guy at the center of the bio a smidge better than casually (if not well) or because I'm quoted in the book itself (although both of those are true facts).

From the jacket copy:
What happened to Paul Nelson? In the '60s, he pioneered rock & roll criticism with a first-person style of writing that would later be popularized by the likes of Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer as “New Journalism.” As co-founding editor of The Little Sandy Review and managing editor of Sing Out!, he’d already established himself, to use his friend Bob Dylan’s words, as “a folk-music scholar”; but when Dylan went electric in 1965, Nelson went with him.

During a five-year detour at Mercury Records in the early 1970s, Nelson signed the New York Dolls to their first recording contract, then settled back down to writing criticism at Rolling Stone as the last in a great tradition of record-review editors that included Jon Landau, Dave Marsh, and Greil Marcus. Famously championing the early careers of artists like Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, and Warren Zevon, Nelson not only wrote about them but often befriended them. Never one to be pigeonholed, he was also one of punk rock’s first stateside mainstream proponents, embracing the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.

But in 1982, he walked away from it all — Rolling Stone, his friends, and rock & roll. By the time he died in his New York City apartment in 2006 at the age of seventy — a week passing before anybody discovered his body — almost everything he’d written had been relegated to back issues of old music magazines.

That sums up both the reach of the book and its central mystery pretty well, I think, although I should add that it omits Paul's particular relevance to the subject of the blog you're reading, which is that during his tenure at Mercury Records he also signed power pop legends Blue Ash to the label.

In any case, I'm only halfway through the book at the moment, but I can tell you that Avery has done an absolutely smashing job of research and that there's a lot to chew on here about all sorts of issues, the least of which (as it turns out) have to do with the cultural upheavals of the 60s/70s/80s, or the rise of sub-literacy in American journalism, rock and otherwise. I'll have more to say about it later in the year, when it's actually in print, but rest assured that this would be an important book if Avery had done nothing more than get some of Nelson's brilliant essays and reviews between hardcovers, where they clearly belong, at last.

Here are two little tastes for you. The first is, I think, the most deadpan funny footnote I've ever read about a writer's stylistic OCD.
26. Later in his career, Paul grew to despise the semicolon. Saying that he'd rewrite an entire paragraph to circumvent its use, he admitted to Suzanne Vega, "It's totally illogical. The semicolon is used by all the best writers. I just won't." He was, however, an ardent believer in the emdash.

And the second is a one sentence album review -- of the 1979 live turkey Bob Dylan at Budokan -- that I would have killed to have written:
"What, besides God, has happened to this man?"

Meanwhile, Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson is available for pre-order over at Amazon here.

Hie thee hence, is what I'm saying.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Apocalypse Nu?

I don't know if it's a national thing or not, but for the last several months, signs like the one below...

...have been appearing on buses running between my home in the Paris of the Tri-State Metropolitan Area and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. All, apparently, paid for for via the religious organization run by televangelist mummy Harold Camping.

I bring this up not because of any personal religious convictions, of course, but because October 21st, the date that life on earth as we know it is scheduled to come to its fiery conclusion, is (coincidentally) my birthday.

That being the case, I'd be remiss if I didn't use the opportunity this blog affords me to ask everybody I know to get my presents to me early.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this regard.

Great Lost LPs of the '80s?

To be honest, I have no idea, having never heard it, but I recall seeing The MBAs' 1982 Born to Run Things album cover in the window of a record store in the Village and laughing out loud.

Never bought it, of course, and to my knowledge its never been on CD. I've been telling people of its existence for years now, but they usually assume that I'm kidding. The vinyl is up for sale at Amazon, though, which is where I snagged the cover jpeg.

Is it any good? Like I said, I never actually heard it, although according to the Trouser Press website it's a funny idea whose execution is a little weak. And a protracted search of the intertubes has turned up exactly no mp3s derived from it, so I can't say one way or the other.

In any case, I still think the cover is a riot. Anybody have any firsthand experience of the album they could share?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special Oh How I Wish Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental Objectivist Tart Fah Lo Suee and I are off to a Hell Singleplex (seriously -- it really is in Hell) to attend a screening of the blockbuster movie adaptation of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Under normal circumstances this would take no more than a few hours of my time, but apparently we have to show an IQ card before we're allowed in, and I'm not sure where mine is.

Incidentally, this is apparently the first time theaters have required such a card for admission since the legendary Steve Reeves version of Hercules played across America in 1959.

In any case, here's a possibly fun little project to occupy your time while you await my return.

Post-Beatles Band or Solo Artist You Could Have Seen Perform On-Stage In Person Somewhere Sometime, But to Your Regret You Never Did!!!

No arbitrary rules this week; the post-Beatles proviso is simply an acknowledgement of the fact that nobody reading or commenting at this blog is old enough to have caught Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran or any of the other first generation rock icons in their prime.

In other words, the band or solo artist has to be somebody whose show you could have, plausibly, attended if you had put your mind to it.

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

6. The Gin Blossoms

I absolutely adored the New Miserable Experience album when it emerged in 1992, for obvious jangly reasons, and I was stoked to see the band responsible for it. Unfortunately, the one chance I had, they were scheduled to play CBGB's around 11pm, and I rightly figured that meant 2am in real time. At my (even then) advanced age, that was obviously a no-no on a school night.

5. The Shadows of Knight

These guys played a proto-hepster club in NYC -- probably Trudy Hellers -- around the same time the above footage was filmed in 1966, and I remember that I really, REALLY wanted to go. Alas, I didn't work up the courage to head into Manhattan for that kind of thing until the next year.

4. Daddy Cool

These guys are genuine legends in Australia, and I'm a humongous fan -- their Teenage Heaven is one of the great hard rock albums of the early 70s. According to Wiki, they must have done some American gigs circa '72, but they never played in the New York area, at least as far as I can determine. And as much as I'd like to see 'em -- they're still at it Down Under, apparently -- I really can't afford the ticket.

3. Buffalo Springfield

No explanation necessary, obviously.

2. The Flamin' Groovies

I actually caught a later edition of the Groovies, when they had turned into a purist 60s cover band. They were a lot of fun, but still -- what I wouldn't have given to see the Teenage Head or "Slow Death" lineup; as you can see from the clip, they were as devastating a hard rock band as has ever worn shoe leather.

And the Numero Uno Band-That-Got-Away of them all quite obviously is....

1. The MC5

Dave Marsh, who of course is from Detroit, famously said that if the Rolling Stones at their peak were playing at a club down the street from where the 5 (also at their peak) were playing, he would have opted to see the latter every time. Unfortunately, I never did, although I actually had tickets for a New York show in '68. Got the flu, alas.

I should also add, just for the historical record, that the 5 were the only American band with the, uh, stones to play in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Party convention; they can be glimpsed here in government surveillance footage paid for by your tax dollars.

This is disturbingly relevant to our contemporary politics, is the point I'm making.

Alrighty then -- who would YOUR choices be?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Early, And Frankly Rather More Frightening Than Usual, Clue to the New Direction

From French TV in 1966, please enjoy Les Them(!), featuring the angry young Van Morrison, and a very strange promo video of their garage-rock classic "Gloria."

Seriously -- what's up with the shots of the horse's head or donkey or whatever it is when Gloria's name is being spelled out? All I can think of is somebody involved with this was trying to remake Luis Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou. Or something.

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.

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Compare and Contrast: Things That Kind of Squick Me Out

From 1967 (but not officially released until 1987), please enjoy (if that is the word) The Byrds, featuring the song's composer David Crosby on vocals, and "Triad," the musically memorable but lyrically (er) troubling ode to...well, you know to what.

And from 1968, and the (in retrospect, far more uneven than I remembered) Crown of Creation album, here's Jefferson Airplane's better-known version, featuring the irrepressible Grace Slick.

My Jefferson Airplane wanna-be college band used to do a really nice cover of the JA arrangement (those guitar parts were really fun to play live) but to be honest I never really thought much about the song's thematic content back in the day, and until I discovered the Byrds' original in '87 I had pretty much forgotten the whole thing.

Upon encountering it again with the wisdom of years, however, I distinctly recall thinking that it sounded like the kind of song that Dan Aykroyd's SNL character E. Buzz Miller would have really, really dug. Seriously -- you could practically smell the corned-beef sandwich stains on his polyester shirt.

Okay, that's a little unfair to Crosby, and given that the most avant-garde sexual fantasy I've ever had involved two women (in the same year), I may be the wrong person to weigh in on this sort of thing. On the other hand, I do think that, despite my current uneasiness with "Triad," it was always going to be more palatable coming from somebody who looks like this...

...rather than like this.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Goys of Summer (Part II) : Even a Stopped Clock...

And speaking as we were yesterday of the most odious of The Beach Boys, and notwithstanding the ineluctable fact that Mike Love is a humongous dick, please enjoy a thoroughly charming outtake (in stereo!) from Beach Boys' Party!, the 1965 album where Brian Wilson essentially invented the Unplugged™ format two decades before MTV.

Lead vocal, declaimed with just the right air of on-the-nod nonchalance, by the aforementioned humongous dick. And a terrific job, I think, despite his humongous dickishness.

I refer, of course, to a very cool, albeit perhaps overly under-rehearsed, cover of Leiber and Stoller's immortal "Riot in Cell Block Number 9."

Hey, I can't help it, that one just cracks me up despite the presence of you-know-who. And don't worry -- I have no intention of trying to make some larger point about it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Goys of Summer

From 1965 (and in stereo) please enjoy the unfinished, unedited and unmixed first vocal take of The Beach Boys' (couldn't be more Beatles influenced if it tried) knockout "Girl Don't Tell Me."

A few thoughts:

1) This was, if memory serves, the first Beach Boys song without backup harmonies. Also, Carl Wilson was all of 17 years old when he sang that thrillingly soulful lead vocal.

2) The above is solely the work of the brothers Wilson; Brian wrote both words and music, and all the instruments were performed by him (including the charming Buddy Holly-ish celesta), the aforementioned Carl on guitars and Dennis (although the latter's drums apparently were not yet overdubbed at this point). As a result, this may just be my all-time favorite Beach Boys track unsullied by The Genius of Mike Love™.

3) What a great fucking song -- teenage romantic angst expressed realistically yet poetically against an irresistible musical backdrop. How these guys ever got a reputation for being soulless and white-bread continues to baffle me.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Epilogue: Boys Don't Lie

Our regular readers will be shocked to learn that, after nearly two years, I'm close to finishing the final edit on my book Boys Don't Lie: A History of Shoes. Life has interfered, as it tends to do, and the book has grown since its inception, but I feel really good about the text and the project: I hope it will accomplish my goal, which is just to answer the question "whatever happened to those guys?" and maybe, just maybe, restore to them the prestige I think they deserve.

In that spirit, I present the opening of the closing of the book. Enjoy!

It’s April 5, 2010, and I’m sitting in an emergency room somewhere in the Midwest with John Murphy—muddy from the same fall that sent me here—and Gary Klebe, grimly studying my x-rays and predicting surgery or worse. John and I have gotten caught in a freak hailstorm—large, round, prairie hail, like marbles—with predictable slapstick results, and now my arm is broken. Gary, responding to my text, has joined us here.

The doctor comes in, making chipper small talk while he wraps my wounded left wing in a stabilizer for the night. You know this conversation: you've had this conversation. "Where are you from?" "What do you do for a living?" It’s a measured dance of civil protocol, and we’re all playing our parts. The inevitable question comes. “So, what are you doing in the Midwest?” he asks, downright perky.

“I’m working on a book,” I reply.

“About what?” he asks, not really listening.

“About these guys.” I gesture with my good right arm toward my companions. That gets his attention. He stops what he’s doing, looks at them—John disheveled and muddy from our ass-over-teacup tumble, Gary rumpled from a day at work.

The doctor delivers what he clearly considers to be a real knee-slapper. “What are you guys? Rock stars?”

We’re all briefly frozen by this question. The three of us exchange a look, wondering who’s going to field it. “Kinda,” Gary says almost sheepishly.

The ER doctor is as taken aback by the answer as we were by the question, but in small-town Midwestern style, everyone politely soldiers on with the small talk the situation demands, at least until my arm is set.

It’s a stark lesson for me. The members of Shoes have told me repeatedly that, around here, they’re nothing special, and I admit, I wonder at a world in which the idols of my youth are merely ordinary. What kind of Greek city-state of exceptional people must this place be where a Jeff Murphy just, you know, goes to the grocery store? Or a John Murphy worries about mud on his pants? Or Gary Klebe shovels snow?
We know what rock stars look like, right? We’d certainly know if they were in the room. But in a small town, no one expects rock stars in their midst. The fact that they’re here means they can’t be anything special: if they were, they wouldn’t be here. QED.

For over three decades, Shoes have hovered (not always comfortably) between the rarified world of rock respectability and the everyday exigencies of life in the provincial Midwest. Except for one brief period in the summer of 1980, they never considered trading the string of smallish towns straddling the Illinois/Wisconsin border, strung along Sheridan Road for the bright lights of L.A., or even Chicago. “Hindsight is 20/20,” Jeff muses, “but it would appear that we made the wise decision, even though you never know what might have happened if we had made the move [to L.A.].” It’s a fascinating what if: what if what they gained in exposure and opportunity they lost in a certain purity of vision and, well, innocence?

It’s an answer I’m glad I don’t have.

I can't believe this thing is finally wrapping up. Whew!

Record-Store Day

Break out your turntables, youngsters! It's Record Store Day!

In my town, the participating store is a located in strip-mall hell, not next to Wal-Mart, but you have to traverse the traffic of Wal-Mart and Target and a home-improvement store to get there. It's in a smaller strip mall, next to a dry-cleaner and a mattress store.

Like a lot of record stores, mine is also a music store more generally: much of the back is given over to equipment, guitars hang from the ceilings, and even the media section has DVDs and cassettes scattered among the CDs and vinyl. Hell, they probably sell paraphenalia back there someplace. The counter is littered with stickers and patches and guitar strings and picks. Someone is always conversing with the guy at the counter, Hi-Fidelity-style.

It's a gritty, righteous place, is what I'm saying.

I rarely go: it's hard to get in & out of, parking is annoying, and much of the stuff seems aimed at young men in their late 20s for whom Korn represented the pinnacle of their musical experience. I can find what I want more easily online.


I miss that aura. I admit it. I remember the joy of finding something completely unexpected in a bin, often a work by a band I liked. I remember buying records from clerks who gave you the fish-eye for your choices. (I once had to dress down a clerk for splitting up XTC's Waxworks and Beeswax and trying to sell them as separate records. I bought them, but I paid the double-album price, not the two singles like the guy wanted.) I remember happening across The Vapors' Magnets and nearly dropping dead: hell, I could barely find New Clear Days, and that had a hit! I remember the magical moment when I first laid eyes on Black Vinyl Shoes. (God bless you, Marty Scott: you must have had that record in every store in America if I found it in the mall in my shithole town.) I remember surreptitiously looking over the shoulders of good-looking strangers to see if they were worth talking to based on what they were looking at, and sometimes deciding that they were.

I miss it. I'm gonna hit my place today, maybe with my older kids, to show them what I call my butter-churning skills. You never know when you're gonna need them.

Dig Alex's expert flip!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekend Cinema Listomania (Special But a Good Cigar is a Smoke Edition)

Video Event of the Week: Might Shanachie's DVD box of Car 54, Where Are You? The Complete First Season (with special guests including Jake LaMotta(!)) conceivably be what we're talking about? Could the Criterion Collection's Blu-ray version of White Material, with Isabelle Huppert as a neo-colonialist in an unnamed African country possibly make the cut? Or --and I think you know where I stand on this -- might Warner Home Video's respective disc versions of Harry Potter and The Onset of Puberty The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 actually be The One(s)?

All sort of worthy, to be sure, but for my money they pale into utter insignificance in the face of Shout!Factory's quite fabulous new six-DVD box set devoted to perhaps the only real genius ever to have a show on prime time network TV -- The Ernie Kovacs Collection.

Actually, Kovacs was all over all four networks (including Dumont) in the 50s and 60s, in lots of different time slots -- starting with a local Philadelphia morning show in 1951 -- and in a lot of different formats, including game shows and even a stint hosting old silent movies. But the bulk of the work his reputation rests on -- the increasingly sophisticated and surrealist blackout sight gag sketches and what we would now call music videos (hilarious, groundbreaking and avant-garde even today) were mostly aired in prime time, which is an achievement that, shall we say, seems unlikely to be repeated by anyone else in the forseeable future.

Some of the stuff in the set has been available on video for a while -- most of it deriving from a PBS series in the late '80s -- but Shout!Factory's new anthology, straight from the Kovacs archives that his widow Edie Adams lovingly and presciently preserved, features a genuine treasure trove of material that will be new to even long-time fans. Which means, of course, that there are examples of both what we might call higher and lower Kovacs. Among the latter is the stuff on disc one (The Early Years), which features surviving kinescopes of the aforementioned morning show ("It's Time For Ernie," broadcast live in 1951), or disc four (The Late 1950s), including "Take a Good Look," the surprisingly bland quiz program, and "Silents Please," which are simply little intros of Ernie describing the 20s films he was about to show. Among the former, however, are things like the "Kovacs on Music" special (also disc 4), which features the famous all-gorilla ballet version of Swan Lake, and of course the five full ABC specials from '61 and '62 (the last of which, taped just before the tragic car accident that took Ernie's life at the age of 43, was first broadcast posthumously). CBS's Harry Reasoner (of all people) wrote and read a gorgeous obituary tribute to Kovacs on the network news called "A Shiver in the Sunlight"; it's included, along with all sorts of photos and memorabilia, in the very well done and informative booklet which is part of the set.

Here's Shout! Factory's DVD trailer to give you a better idea...

...and here are some representative clips.

Sorry that last omits The Nairobi Trio, or -- my particular favorite -- Ernie as Percy Dovetonsils (Poet Laureate) reciting his "Ode to Stanley's Pussycat." You'll have to get the set to see those, but of course you really should get it anyway for all sorts of reasons. In fact, if you don't immediately hie thee over to Amazon and pre-order it here, I probably don't want to know you.

Three final notes: As I said earlier, the set is a treasure trove, but there's actually a seventh disc of even more cool stuff -- including two complete episodes of The Tonight Show Ernie hosted in the summer of 1956 -- which you can snare for free from Shout! Factory if you're one of the first people to order the collection. Also, it is perhaps worth mentioning that at the time Kovacs was doing the sort of things in that clip compilation above, video had to be edited using an X-acto knife and Scotch Tape. And finally, the announcer seated with Ernie in the bit at the top of the trailer is, of course, the splendidly-voiced Bill Wendell, who went on to serve the same function for Kovacs devotee David Letterman for the entirety of Late Night's run on NBC.

Okay, and with that out of the way, and because things will most likely be a little quiet around here for a couple of days, here's an obviously relevant little project to help us wile away the idle hours till next week:

Best or Worst Screen Mustache!!!

Fiction films only, which is to say no documentaries allowed. So if you wanted to vote for Adolf Hitler in Triumph of the Will you're out of luck.

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin, 1940)

That's Adenoid Hynkel, not Adolf Hitler.

4. Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton, 1988)

Kline's Oscar-winning turn as the palindromically monikered Otto. Fun fact: The Kevin Kline Facial Hair Law -- which is that Kline must have a mustache in a comedy and be clean-shaven in a drama -- was first established here.

3. Henry Brandon in The Drums of Fu Manchu (William Witney and John English, 1940)

The greatest serial ever made, IMHO, and one that was considered lost for several decades (the only video versions up till now have been from inferior 16mm dupes). A near pristine copy has surfaced recently, however, and a restored DVD/Blu-ray is imminent; you can read more about it over here. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the most exciting film preservation news since the discovery of the complete Metropolis in '09.

2. Groucho AND Harpo Marx in Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)

For obvious reasons.

And the Numero Uno hair twixt nose and gullet in movie history simply HAS to be...

1. Ben Turpin in Million Dollar Legs (Edward F. Cline, 1932)

Billed as "The Mysterious Man," in case you've never seen it. One of the great surrealist comedies of the 30s, and all the funnier for Turpin being a walking sight gag.

Alrighty, then -- who would your choices be?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Absolut Vodka Corrupts Absolutly

But not Hangar One. Fortunately.

Orville Davis, the very cool country singer who stars in that commercial, will be playing Mexicali Blues on Friday. A club in beautiful downtown Teaneck, New Jersey. Located, literally, across the street from where I spent the first seventeen years of my life.

I bring all this up for two reasons. First, the great Glen "Bob" Allen [that's him on the right, below], my musical director and bandmate since the late 70s... filling in on drums for the evening. If you're in the Jersey area, get over there and give him some love.

But I've also just discovered that in a previous life, Davis was the bass player for the quintessential late 70s hair-metal band Starz. That's him on the right in the photo.

There's a larger meaning in this, I suspect, but I'll be darned if I'm exactly sure what it is.

In any case, you can get Orville's two excellent country albums over here. And should, I think.

As for the vodka, I haven't tasted it yet, but I'm told that people who appreciate such things value it highly.

Update: I just learned, via Wiki, that three of the guys in Starz were previously in Looking Glass, of "Brandy, You're a Fine Girl" fame.

Words fail me, except to reiterate that YouTube remains the greatest research tool since the Library at Alexandria.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Moving On the West Side

And speaking as we were yesterday of The Move, please enjoy said band (Mark II) at the Fillmore West in 1969 with a quite impressive live cover of the greatest hard rock single of said year, "Open My Eyes" by The Nazz.

These bastards never played on the East Coast, to my eternal regret. This lineup, from this show, is of course what inspired John Mendelssohn to rave about the band ("the most exciting British live act to debut in 1969") and their subsequent Shazam album in the pages of Rolling Stone, which is where just about everybody of my vintage first heard about Roy Wood and company.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Attack of the Human Sub-Woofer

From 1966, and their eponymous debut album, please enjoy The Move -- featuring the incomparable basso profundo of drummer Bev Bevan [pictured center] -- and his/their sepulchral rendition of the usually jaunty 1934 pop standard "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart."

This, of course, is a cover of a cover -- derived from the similarly amusing 1958 r&b version by The Coasters -- and my affection for it is not, apparently, shared by many of my fellow Move afficionados, at least in the rock-critical fraternity. In any case, The Move frequently used that freak voice of Bevan's to good effect -- the hilarious fake country song "Ben Crawley Steel Company" comes to mind -- but I think this is his and their finest moment, on several levels. In fact, it's always struck me as what Rondo Hatton would have sounded like as a pop balladeer

Monday, April 11, 2011

What If Your Favorite Album...

...was a book?

Hmm. Perhaps it would look like one of these.


I don't know what wisenheimer(s) is/are responsible for these, but you can see more of their work over here, and I've got to say -- this is perhaps the cleverest and best executed idea of its kind since Guy Peellaert painted his first Rock Dreams.

[h/t watertiger]

Friday, April 08, 2011

Fingers Don't Fail Me Now!

[No Listomania -- Cinema or otherwise -- this week, due to a combination of scheduling problems and burnout. However, have no fear, the List WILL return next Friday, tanned rested and ready. -- S.S.]

So on Wednesday, over at a certain political blog at which I rant present eminently reasonable arguments from time to time, we were exulting (prematurely, it seems) over the results of the Supreme Court election in Wisconsin when somebody broke the news that Rupert Murdoch [R-Locus of Evil in the Modern World] had broken up with the astoundingly odious Glenn Beck.

At which point I observed that if liberal pressure groups had indeed forced the Beckster off the airwaves, than this was the most stunning political victory since rock critics caused Emerson Lake and Palmer to break up after Love Beach.

This wasn't as silly as it sounds; as I mentioned over there later, I once actually got an angry four page hand-written Letter to the Editor at Stereo Review in which a reader went on at some length about how rock critics -- presumably including me -- had conspired to drive ELP to dissolve their artistic partnership, (also) presumably at their artistic peak, and that this was a genuine tragedy or something. The guy wasn't kidding, either.

In any case, it occurred to me that there was in fact one artifact from the ELP axis that I genuinely liked and in fact had owned on vinyl.

And here it is -- from 1976, please enjoy Emerson's spirited remake of the wonderful "Honky Tonk Train Blues" by the incomparable Meade Lux Lewis.

Light years away from the usual ELP pomp and bombast, obviously, and I'm a sucker for both Lewis and honky-tonk piano in general. Say what you will about Emerson, though -- he certainly knows how to move those digits of his.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Annals of the Oddly Dressed

The original 1965 promo clip for The Yardbirds "For Your Love."

A record that changed my life. This video, on the other hand, would probably have just confounded me, had I seen it at the time. Although it's definitely worthwhile if only to note how embarrassed Jeff Beck looks in that ridiculous hat; we can only hope he wasn't wearing it on American Idol last night.

[h/t ROTP]

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Wednesday Shameless Blogwhore

Uh, a certain '80s band, featuring a certain bass player whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels, can now be heard covering a song from the comeback album by the best Liverpool band that WASN'T managed by Brian Epstein.

Over at Floor Your Love, as it turns out.

Annals of Probably Undeserved Good Karma

Sometimes it really pays to have a blog. For example, after I bitched about wasting 25 bucks on a noisy rip of an obscure Maxine Nightingale B-side last week, a kind reader sent me a superior version, strictly out of the goodness of his heart.

Obviously, I have to share.

I should add that said reader, the estimable Nate Cimmino, does a radio show over at the extremely interesting Dangerous Minds website. Here's a link to the latest episode.

Give it a listen; I think you'll find it entertaining AND informative.

And thanks, Nate!!!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

From the Department of "I Wonder Why I've Never Wondered This Before..."

a question: Does Big Star rise to the level of Christian Rock?

I tend to think no, mostly for two reasons: (1.) It's not ALL they wrote about, and (2.) the message is subordinate to the music.

Having said that, there was a weird little hippie religious thing as the sixties segued into the seventies: Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, Spirit in the Sky. I've written about that before: I do find it interesting.

So, do we think Alex Chilton = Amy Grant?

Monday, April 04, 2011

And Speaking of Possibly Ironic Cover Versions... we were on the previous post, here's perhaps the ultimate medley record. From 1983, please enjoy sophomoric and/or sublime punk wiseacres The Circle Jerks and their classic "Golden Shower of Hits (Jerks on 45)."

I'm particularly fond of the "You're Having My Baby" segment, but I'm sure we all have our favorites.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special Don't Play That Song For Me Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental huge-tracts-of-land developer Fah Lo Suee and I will be heading to scenic Polk County, Wisconsin to host a telethon endeavoring to raise money for a noble public servant on the brink of undeserved financial ruin.
At a town hall meeting in Polk County, Wisconsin earlier this year, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) was asked whether he'd vote to cut his $174,000 annual salary. Duffy sort of hedged, and went on to talk about how $174,000 really isn't that much for his family of seven to live on. Then he went on to say he supports cutting compensation for all public employees, along the lines of what Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has proposed for the Badger State
Oh, the humanity -- forced to subsist on $174,000. In any case, Fah Lo Suee and I will be hosting the 48 hour event -- which we're calling Duffy Aid -- and we hope for your support. Pledge whatever dollars you can spare at 1-800-SCHMUCK; operators are standing by.

And with that noted, here's a fun little project to help us wile away the idle hours until regularly scheduled PowerPop activities return:

Most Disappointing, Wrong-Headed or Just Plain Silliest Post-Elvis Cover Version of a Pop/Rock/Soul Song!!!

No arbitrary rules, you're welcome very much, and yes, I'm sure we've done something similar to this before, but I know for a fact that my selections this time out are brand spanking new. So sue me.

And said totally top of my head Top Five selections are:

5. Kiss -- 2000 Man

Apart from the fact that nobody in this band has what could charitably be described as an interesting voice, I can't imagine a version of the song that misses the point more. The intro alone warrants a poke up the nose with a burnt stick.

4. Material Issue -- Bus Stop

From the mostly exellent Sing Hollies in Reverse tribute album, and a surprising misfire. I love Material Issue, and on paper they were a great choice to cover the song, but the result is about as generic bar band as can be.

3. The Hollies -- Purple Rain

And speaking of the Hollies, let's just say that the Prince classic doesn't really play to their strengths, no matter how much Allan Clarke may have wanted to sing it.

2. Lady Gaga -- Stand by Me

More proof, as if it was needed, that power corrupts mediocre session singers as thoroughly as anybody else. I should also add that, assuming she's playing the piano here, she manages to get a chord wrong during the first verse. Which is usually considered really hard to do on a four chord song.

And the Numero Uno was-this-trip-really-necessary? cover of them all simply has to be....

1. Tom Jones -- Kiss

"Think I better dance now." Uh, Tom -- please don't put yourself out on my account.

Alrighty, then -- what would YOUR choices be?