Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Annals of Late Capitalism

Taking the day off due to a last minute writing assignment (for money, albeit very little) in the real world.

Back tomorrow.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Non Sequitur Blogging

And having absolutely no thematic relationship to today's holiday whatsoever, from 1988, please enjoy the incomparable Leo Kottke -- speaking as we have been for the last week or two of the whole one-guy-singing-with-just-a-guitar thing -- and a stunning live performance of his 1971 classic "Hear the Wind Howl."

The song originally appeared on Mudlark, Kottke's major label studio album debut, in a version about twice as fast. This one's still viscerally exciting, though.

[h/t Matt Mitchell]

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron 1949--2011

The original rapper -- well, one of them, anyway -- has passed.

An interesting guy. I can't say I was a huge fan -- although I saw him live once, at a concert for Arista Records, in which he shared the stage with Patti Smith and Barry Manilow (I am not making this up) -- but his 1977 anti-nuke "We Almost Lost Detroit" is obviously even more relevant than ever.

And I really rather like his cover of that Bill Callahan song we argued about last week (from his most recent album)

Like I said, an interesting guy. Although after seeing that video and learning that Scott-Heron was two years younger than me, I have to admit I'm rather pleased at how I'm holding up.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special Safety in Numbers? Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental erotic storm chaser Fah Lo Suee and I are off to beautiful downtown Richmond, Virginia, home of House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor [R-Soulless Automaton].
Eric Cantor responded to the almost unimaginable destruction visited on Joplin, Missouri by recent extreme weather by saying on Monday that if Congress passes an emergency spending bill to help Missouri’s tornado victims, the extra money will have to be cut from somewhere else.

“If there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental,” Mr. Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters at the Capitol. The term “pay-fors” is used by lawmakers to signal cuts or tax increases used to pay for new spending.
Damn, that's inspirational, don't you think? In any case, Fah Lo Suee and I plan to show our appreciation and solidarity with the empathy-challenged little putz by ringing his doorbell and running.

That being the case, here's a theoretically amusing little project to help you wile away the desperate hours in our absence:

Supergroup Collaborations Between Musicians That Either Should Be, Should Have Been, or Were But Shouldn't Have!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. KGB

As in singer Ray Kennedy (co-author of "Sail On, Sailor"), blues keyboardist Barry Goldberg, and original American guitar hero Mike Bloomfield on guitar. With Ric Grech and Carmine Appice as the rhythm section, circa 1975. And mostly as mediocre as you might have feared.

4. American Flyer

Craig Fuller from Pure Prairie League, Eric Kaz (morose songwriter of "Love Has No Pride") Steve Katz of Blues Project fame, and Doug Yule from the Velvet Underground. Debut album produced by George Martin, for heaven's sake. And it still didn't work, a minor hit or two notwithstanding.

3. The Unraveling Wilburys

A high-concept supergroup -- specifically, everybody in the band had to be certifiably nuts -- I dreamed up in the early 90s. My candidates were the late Syd Barrett, the late Skip Spence, Brian Wilson, Roky Erickson, Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green and Derek and the Dominoes' Jim Gordon (voices told him to kill his mom with an axe). I don't know if the music would have been any good, but I guarantee the rehearsals would have been a trip.

2. Golden Smog

A shifting line-up of 80s and 90s alt and indie stalwarts on a sort of roots-rock busman's holiday, with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Big Star drummer Jody Stephens among the most frequent participants. None of their albums has ever really knocked me out, but I'll concede that this Tweedy-sung cover of the Kinks' tune has the real gone spirit.

And the Numero Uno match that should be made in heaven and what the hell are they waiting for, simply has to be....

1. Jeff Beck...



Seriously, this is so fricking obvious I can only assume it's actually been attempted on the sly and didn't pan out for some reason, alas.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

[h/t Gwen DeMarco]

Thursday, May 26, 2011

An Early Clue to the New Direction That Also Depresses the Hell Out of Me. The Things I Go Through For You Guys....

From 1985, please enjoy -- yeah right, who am I kidding? -- short-lived stitched-together-like-Frankenstein's-monster GTR and their unforgettable and unforgiveable "When the Heart Rules the Mind."

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, May 25, 2011

"He Seems Sort of Unpleasant and Uncomfortable"

Little Bobby Zimmerman turned 70 yesterday.

Here's some noise he made (with The Hawks) in the studio on November 30, 1965.

And in conclusion, Bill Callahan -- bite me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Up on the Roof

Funnily enough, I've been listening to a lot of vintage Jefferson Airplane of late -- now that I think of it, perhaps inspired by the upcoming premiere of the 1970 student movie featuring my college Airplane wannabe band -- and I just discovered this remarkable artifact.

Shot by Jean-Luc Godard on top of a Manhattan office building on November 11, 1968, for the froggy auteur's ultimately never finished One A.M. (One American Movie).

And yes, that's actually quite a while earlier than the iconic band performance atop the Apple Building it seems to emulate; in fact, The Beatles rooftop swansong didn't happen till January 30, 1969.

In any case, great minds thought alike. Or something.

[h/t Steve Schwartz]

Monday, May 23, 2011

Artistic License and Registration, Please.

So speaking as we were last week about the whole one-guy-singing-with-just-a-guitar-for-backup thing, I just finished reading a recent adulatory New Yorker profile -- by Sasha Frere-Jones, a very sharp younger rock critic who I have never found irksome, even when I disagreed with him -- about a 44-year-old indie singer/songwriter (a folkie, in earlier parlance) named Bill Callahan. Who is apparently highly regarded by contemporary hepsters, but who I have somehow managed to have avoided hearing previously.

Curiosity piqued, I made a bee-line for a song Frere-Jones rated particularly highly, "I'm New Here" (recorded when Callahan was doing business under the stage name Smog.)

And the answer to your question is -- I don't know about this guy. Which is to say, I haven't quite decided whether he has a genuinely interesting and quirky sensibility or whether he's just a sort of post-modern Gen Y version of a lot of full-of-themselves 60s and 70s poet types I didn't care for back in the day.

Although I gotta admit that this paragraph from the New Yorker piece --

There are other antecedents for Callahan, some of which he rejects. Though he has expressed admiration for Fred Neil, the deep-voiced folkie known for writing “Everybody’s Talkin’,” from “Midnight Cowboy,” and for Merle Haggard, another songwriter who is fond of the comic deadpan, Bob Dylan, the albatross for many songwriters, is irrelevant to Callahan. “I never liked him,” he told me. “He seems sort of unpleasant and uncomfortable.”

-- may have gotten my hackles up to the point where I'm incapable of giving the guy a totally objective listen. At least for now.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Slacker Friday

No Listomania this weekend -- musical or cinematic.

Hey...I'm really old and I'm taking care of an ailing mom. Also, NBC just cancelled The Event without filming a final episode, and I can barely deal with the crushing disappointment, frankly.

Never fear, though. The List will return next week -- tanned, rested and ready. That's just the way I roll.

But in the meantime, I discovered this online the other day, and it's so confounding I simply have to share. From 1968, here's Sissy Spacek -- yes, her -- doing business under the nom du disque Rainbo, and the quite remarkable "John, You Went Too Far This Time."

A song occasioned by the full frontal nude photo of John and Yoko on the Two Virgins album that year. I am not making this up.

I think we can all agree that this is even worse than Welcome Back Kotter star Marcia Strassman's Summer of Love hit "The Flower Children", but to quote Nick Tosches again -- even though it was a bad record, it failed to sell. In any case, Spacek went on to acquit herself vocally in a far more credible manner on the soundtrack to Coal Miner's Daughter in 1980.

I should add that, as you can see, the single was released on Roulette Records, whose president was the legendary Morris Levy, the Jewish Mafia guy with whom John Lennon had some serious legal problems a few years after Spacek's record was released to an uncaring world.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cahiers du Cowabunga!!!

From July 28, 1962, and the soundtrack to the documentary film One Man's Challenge, please enjoy The Beach Boys at a teen club in Azusa, CA and an absolutely live version of their epochal "Surfin' Safari."

A cinema vérité look at genuine early '60s SoCal beach and teen culture, One Man's Challenge is one of the rarest '60s rock films, and also (apparently) one of the most interesting. In any case, when Marshall Crenshaw got to see it (a 16mm print) for his 1994 book Hollywood Rock, he remarked that the Beach Boys "look like gods on this scene." Dale Smallin, who wrote and directed the flick, was a minor surf music deity in his own right as a songwriter and producer; that's his laugh that's heard at the beginning of "Wipe Out."

I should add that I don't do the whole torrent download thing, but if anybody can find me a copy of this one, needless to say I'd be your best friend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Impossible Years

The video below has absolutely nothing to do with the purview of this blog, but in case you haven't already seen it, this is without question the funniest thing evah.

I should add that I just saw the original When Harry Met Sally all the way through for the first time a week ago. AFTER this appeared on the intertubes.

I know, I know. Believe it or not, I've never seen Jaws all the way through, either.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

(Possibly) Jewish Guilt Rears Its Head Again

So a few weeks ago I was over at the invaluable Never Get Out of the Boat -- which has resumed business under the charming moniker Willard's Wormholes -- and somehow we got on the subject of obscure or little known bands that we'd hung out with back in the day. I mentioned how I'd killed time in a crappy motel in Roslyn, Long Island after a show with Starry Eyed & Laughing -- a Brit group who made two very nice albums of Byrds-derived folk-rock jangle in the mid-70s -- and then added "Of course, I'm not bringing this up so you'll post their albums." Which of course I was, since I lost my vinyl copies ages ago and I didn't feel like springing for the recent CD reissue.

A few days later, though, I got an e-mail from an old chum who said he'd found the following missive recently at another download site that actually had posted the aforementioned albums (but then pulled them, for obvious reasons):
"This is Tony Poole from Starry Eyed & Laughing here: We never made any money from these recordings originally, and to have them available to steal here feels like being kicked again while on the floor. I hope you will take them down -- my thanks in advance ..."
Oy gevalt. I actually interviewed Poole (for STEREO REVIEW) back in the day, and he was an absolutely lovely guy (which is why I shlepped out to Roslyn to see his band in the first place). So you can imagine how lousy I felt about having even suggested Willard put up the albums. So lousy, in fact, that I bit the bullet and -- despite my current Dickensian poverty -- ordered the aforementioned CD reissue over at Amazon.

That said, there's a previously unreleased bonus track I don't feel too guilty to share. From 1974, please enjoy Starry Eyed & Laughing's absolutely splendid cover of The Byrds' cover of Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom" (a song whose lyrics provided the band with their name)...

...and then get over to Amazon and order the CD for yourself.

And Tony -- if you're out there, please forgive me.

[h/t Eric C. Boardman]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pure Pop for Then People

In case you hadn't heard, there's a new Hollies box set just out. It's called (accurately if not imagintively) the Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years, and it's apparently got every note they recorded between 1963 and the end of 1968, when Graham Nash departed to join you know who.

Hollies purists can debate whether the right mixes (stereo vs. mono) of various individual tracks were used (according to what I've read on the intertubes, some of the decisions have struck fans as arbitrary). But given that the consensus also seems to be that the remastering is really good, and given the bargain price -- six discs for 35 bucks -- I think the set is probably worth an investment, even if, like me, you've already shelled out for previous Hollies boxes.

Oh -- and have I mentioned it includes a heretofore unreleased live show from May 24, 1968? In stereo? With Graham?

Well, it does. And from it, here's the still fresh as paint "Carrie Anne..."

...sounding about as glorious as you could hope. Paul McCartney and Mickey Dolenz were in the audience, by the way.

[h/t Sal Nunziato]

Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special A Man and His Mucous Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what the means. Despite having been bloggered by Blogger for lo these many hours, my Oriental Callista Flockhartist Fah Lo Suee and I are off to the lovely campus of the University of West Georgia. Seems the University Players are staging a production of The First Wive's Club in honor of the just announced presidential bid by former UWG professor Newt Gingrich [R-Enormous Gasbag]. It is also rumored that after the performance, Gingrich himself will be on hand for a ceremony at University Stadium, during which he will donate his ego to the alumni fund.

That being the case, and because things will most likely be somewhat quiet around here until our return, here's yet another fun little project to help us wile away the hours and give some meaning to our otherwise shriekingly empty lives:

Best Post-Beatles (Live or Studio) Vocal Performance By a Guy or Gal With Just Their Own Guitar for Accompaniment!!!

No arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much. The guitar in question can be either an electric or an acoustic, and I'm willing to stretch the premise to include performances in which the artiste occasionally makes noise with a harmonica.

Also -- post-Beatles in this context means after their initial appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.

And my totally top of my head Top Seven is:

7. Leo Kottke -- Louise

Kottke is, plausibly, the best non-classical acoustic guitar player of the last several decades, and despite the fact that he's famously compared his singing to "geese farts on a muggy day," I also like what comes out of his mouth, as a rule. This 1972 studio version of the Paul Seibel folkie classic illustrates both my points; let's just say that when that mournful 12-string slide solo comes in after the "Good night, Louise, good night" at the song's finale, I usually lose it big time.

6. Peter Case -- Ain't Gonna Worry No More

Just a guy and his guitar walking around Los Angeles in 2007. I stumbled across this clip a year or two ago and it still floors me. Pardon the cliche, but if this doesn't give you chills seek medical atention.

5. Billy Bragg -- She Smiled Sweetly

I'm not sure exactly when this was done -- I first heard it on a MOJO sampler of Stones covers -- but it's an utterly charming version of one of Mick and Keith's overlooked gems.

4 Joni Mitchell -- Marcie

From her first (1968) album; gloriously melodic, rapturously sung, and a great example of how she managed to make non-traditional guitar tunings sound utterly natural and graceful. If you want to be pedantic, she's actually playing two guitars here, via discrete overdubbing, but essentially she's just doubling the part to fill out the sound a bit, so I'm going to let it go. When she did it live, it sounded just as gorgeous, frankly.

3. Robyn Hitchcock -- Broken Heart

The Skip Spence song, from the Oar covers album, and if memory serves actually recorded in Hitchcock's backyard garden. In any case, it's one of the two or three standout moments from that (worth looking for) tribute collection; Hitchcock totally gets the song's quite remarkable mix of droll wordplay, regret and madness.

2. Bob Dylan -- Visions of Johanna

Live, Down Under, in 1966, and I first heard it in the early 70s via the fabulous bootleg LP pictured above. Dylan's speeding his brains out (or so it sounds to me) in the tuning-up and intro part of the track, but once he lights into the song it's magesterial and mesmerizing; for my money it's the most genuinely haunted vocal performance of his entire career.

And the Numero Uno wandering minstrel performance of them all clearly has to be....

1. Paul Westerberg -- Answering Machine

A Replacements track, technically, but it's really just Westerberg, an electric guitar and the titular tape recorder. In any case, the most wrenchingly lonesome song in rock history, with the possible exception of about a zillion other Westerberg tunes.

Alrighty, then -- what would YOUR choices be?

In Search of Weekend Listomania

As you may have noticed, Weekend Listomania isn't up today. As you may have also noticed, yesterday's clue posting is gone, as are all but one of the comments on Wednesday's post.

The short answer: Blogger has been massively screwed up since sometime yesterday; if the draft of WL reappears in the next few hours, I'll post it. If not, I'm going to chalk it up to experience and get on with life.

Pity, though -- it was one of the best ever.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

If It's Thursday, It Must Be an Early Clue to the New Direction. Seriously -- It's a Law, or Something.

A performance note for the upcoming weekend: If you're in the vicinity of the Tri-State area, my old Greenwich Village-in-the-'80s pal Peter Spencer -- a swell singer/songwriter/guitarist and all around fine fellow -- will be doing a couple of rare East Coast gigs. He'll be at Kline's Gallery in Lambertville, NJ Friday night, and at Downright Music in Collinsville, CT on Saturday night. You can get more details at the links.

Equally important, Pete has a remarkable new live album out, titled 1896, after both the vintage Washburn Parlor guitar all 12 songs are performed on, and the 1896 Bainbridge Island WA school building where the album was recorded.

Here's one of my favorite tracks from the album, and one of my favorites amongst Pete's oeuvre generally, the quite wonderfully poignant and melodic "Everybody Danced." It is one of my regrets in life that Pete wrote it AFTER I had stopped performing in a band; I would have loved to have covered the thing with really loud guitars.

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.

Oh, and you can order the album over at CD Baby here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Answer Records I'm Not Sure We Really Needed...

...or whose existence I hadn't heretofore even suspected, if truth be told.

In any case, from 1962, please enjoy The Dukays -- featuring a pre-"Duke of Earl" Gene Chandler -- and their response to The Tokens immortal "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

"Please Help."

As in "Please help, the lion isn't actually asleep and in fact he's trying to eat my foot."

Wow. Pretty dire stuff. To paraphrase Nick Tosches, even though this was a bad record, it's not much of a surprise that it also failed to sell.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Cat's Pajamas (Part II)

From 1977, and their inexplicably underrated eponymous debut album masterpiece, please enjoy The Boomtown Rats (perpetually just fallen out of bed keyboardist Johnnie Fingers pictured below) and the intensely Stones-ish "Close As You'll Ever Be."

I've been looking for an excuse to post this track -- which, had it been released as such, would doubtless have been on my Great Lost Singles of the 70s list -- for ages. So kudos to reader The Phantom Creep for pointing out Fingers' fashion debt to Stevie Winwood in The Ghost Goes Gear yesterday.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Cat's Pajamas

And speaking as we were last week of the 16-year old Stevie Winwood, here's a rather astonishing performance by Stevie and the rest of The Spencer Davis Group from the 1966 Brit haunted house comedy The Ghost Goes Gear.

With the possible exception of seeing Ray Charles sing in his underwear, this is quite the damndest thing I've ever. I should add that that Stevie quit the band shortly after this was filmed; his teddibly understated British comment on the movie as a career move was that it was "a mistake."

Friday, May 06, 2011

Weekend Cinema Listomania (Special Pardon Me, But Your Teeth are in My Neck! Edition)

Video Event of the Week: Might Anchor Bay's Blu-ray of El Topo, the Sergio Leone-on-acid cult western by Alejandro Jodorowsky be what we're talking about? Is it remotely plausible that the DVD edition of Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood, the recent documentary from Turner Classic Movies, is in contention for the title? Or -- and lord knows stranger things have happened -- is it just a teensy bit conceivable that the respective disc versions of Human Planet, the BBC nature documentary from BBC/Warner are, in fact. actually The One(s)?

All worthy, to be sure, but for my money it's a tie between two entries in MGM's new Limited Edition Collection -- Richard Lester's quintessentially 60s artifact How I Won the War (with Michael Crawford and John Lennon), and Curtis Harrington's Queen of Blood, with Basil Rathbone, Dennis Hopper and Florence Marly as the titular villainess.

MGM's Limited Edition Collection is similar to what WHV has been doing with their Warner Archive series -- manufactured on demand versions of previously unavailable on video vault movies that don't (strictly for bottom line reasons) make sense to mass produce, but which can turn a tidy profit when reasonably priced to the marginal number of film buffs who want them. These are bare bones releases, obviously, not restored, but taken from the best available previous video masters; in the case of the two under discussion here, they're both in widescreen and they both look much better than serviceable.

The Lennon movie (which I hadn't seen since it played theaters back in 1967) is obviously closer to the purview of the blog you're reading than Queen of Blood, although there's no Beatle music in it. More to the point, although John holds the screen, let's just say that he probably made the right decision when he decided to rejoin his old bandmates after the filming was completed (if memory serves, he wrote "Strawberry Fields" while in Spain shooting the picture). The film itself -- a surrealist black comedy piece in the vein of M.A.S.H. or Catch-22 -- is probably best described as Middle Lester; there are lot of the sort of inspired inspired comic touches he managed in A Hard Day's Night and Help, not to mention the two Musketeer films in the '70s (his real masterpieces, I think), but overall the absurdist anti-war stuff has dated rather more than I had hoped.

On the other hand, Harrington's 1966 effort never had any aspirations to being more than grand guignol exploitation fodder, and on that level it succeeds admirably. Harrington (one of the rare auteurs who moved with ease from underground avant-garde cinema to studio work and finally to prime-time television -- he did several episodes of Dynasty, for heaven's sake) was given a couple of hours of stylish FX footage from two Russian films Roger Corman had acquired for American International, and he wrote a sci-fi vampire framing story that he could intercut with the Russian spaceships. The stuff Harrington directed mostly betrays its low-budget, and co-star Rathbone (near the end of his career) is clearly phoning it in. But the film works, finally, because of the casting of Marly as the bloodsucker. A Czech-born actress who fled the Nazis in the 40s, Marly had a brief run in major studio pictures (most notably opposite Humphrey Bogart in the 1949 Tokyo Joe) but she was blacklisted in the early 50s and all but forgotten by the time QOB was made. In any case, Harrington makes particularly skillful use of her exotic good looks; without saying a word she easily steals the film.

Here's the trailer for QOB; as you can see, Marly is one hell of a sexy demoness.

You can order Queen of Blood here; How I Won the War is similarly available over here.

And with that out of the way, and because as per usual, things will probably be a little quiet around here for a bit, here's a fun and obviously relevant little project to help give at least a modicum of meaning to our sad little lives:

Best, Worst or Simply Favorite Drive-In Horror or Sci-Fi Flick Ever!!!

No arbitrary rules, you're welcome very much, and it doesn't even have to be a movie that played in an actual drive-in. Just so long as it has that slightly disreputable drive-in spirit.

And totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. The Manster (George Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane, 1959)

Utterly ridiculous Japanese-American horror collaboration, but a pioneer in the Incredible Two-Headed Transplant genre, and somehow its creepy black-and-white mise-en-scene stays with you.

4. Castle of the Living Dead (Luciano Ricci/ Lorenzo Sabatini/Michael Reeves, 1964)

Mishegass, obviously, but with a reasonably effective ersatz Universal 30s gothic vibe, and worth enduring the bad dubbing if only for the pleasure of seeing a very young Donald Sutherland in a wicked witch schmatte and wig.

3. The Mask (Julian Rothman, 1961)

Pretty good supernatural horror that's also a slightly ahead of its time cautionary parable about mind-expanding drugs. With a particularly memorable psychedelic 3D scene set in Hell courtesy of Slavko Vorkapich, the great cinematic theorist and montage specialist whose name was converted into a verb by Grouch Marx, who famously described some film he'd just seen as having a moment where "the camera vorkapiches around."

2. Macumba Love (Douglas Fowley, 1960)

A writer who specializes in exposing fake witchcraft journeys to Brazil to investigate a voodoo cult. Haven't seen it since I was a kid, but it scared the living bejeezus out of me in the months just prior to my Bar Mitzvah (although looking at that trailer just now, it occurs to me the film may have engendered other reactions besides terror in the teenaged me). Director Fowley, incidentally, is the father of Kim Fowley, the svengali who gave the world Joan Jett, among other splendid contributions to our culture.

And the Numero Uno most delightful or reprehensible piece of cinematic Cheez Whiz in the outdoor theatre genre without question just happens to be.....

1. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)

Big budget sci-fi shudders, and almost all of it (save for that iconic shot of Sigourney Weaver in her underwear) shamelessly lifted from two great no-budget drive-in classics of the '60s -- It! The Terror From Beyond Space and Planet of the Vampires.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

They Had Sweaters Then

From January of 1966, please enjoy The Spencer Davis Group's quite authoritative version of Ray Charles' recording of Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia on My Mind."

I'm bringing this up because the album -- which I'd never heard all the way through -- was posted over at the invaluable Never Get Out of the Boat last week, and when I went to download it yesterday I found to my dismay that the Intertube Police had taken the site down. I'll keep you informed as to future developments.

I should add that Steve Winwood -- on vocals and piano -- was all of 17 years old at the time of the performance being committed to magnetic tape.

I should also add that I just love -- nay, lurve -- that photo and the cover art direction generally. Which, incredibly enough, by the standards of the 60s, is just an averagely good piece of work.

I dunno...there must have been something in the water back then.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Problem Fixed

And I have no idea how or why.

Normal blogging to resume on the morrow, barring anything else freakish happening.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Annals of Undervelopment

Having major and bizarre computer problems. For some reason, no matter what I do I can't copy and paste.

Anything. In any way shape or form.

Back as soon as this is resolved.

If We're All One, Who Needs You?

[The following column originally appeared in the March '74 issue of STEREO REVIEW. I reprint it here because I think it's an amusing snapshot of a particular kind of early Seventies craziness, and also because on the flight to Texas to cover said mishegass I happened to be seated next to the late Richard Elman. Elman, a novelist and left-wing activist of some repute, told me in long and sardonic detail how he had written every word of the brilliant first chapter of Albert Goldman's otherwise execrable Lenny Bruce bio and then been denied all credit for its authorship (a story I alluded to last week). Let's just say that nothing I have subsequently learned about the loathsome Goldman over the years has convinced me that Elman's account was in any way incorrect. -- S.S.]


SOMEONE, I'm not sure who (and if any of our literate readers would care to enlighten me, I'd be most grateful), once said that it's the easiest thing in the world to start a new religion -- all you have to do is be crucified and rise on the third day. Easy or no, there have been throughout history a number of aspiring divinities who have not taken this simple advice to heart, and it appears to have been similarly wasted on Teenage America's latest Heavyweight Spiritual Contender, the sixteen-year-old self-billed Perfect Master, Guru Maharaj Ji. In the long run, I think his credibility is going to suffer for it. As a matter of fact, I caught his act recently and frankly I can't see him as serious competition for either Billy Graham or David Bowie, the two performers he most closely resembles. However, the circumstances attendant on this confrontation between the reputed Wisdom of the East and the sensorium of this reporter deserve some explanation, at least insofar as this is a music magazine.

For several weeks during last fall, New York City (and, I assume, other parts of the country) was plastered with posters featuring the Guru's smiling puss and an invitation to attend "Millennium '73," a three-day extravaganza at the Houston Astrodome at which he promised to announce solutions for all the world's problems. (Rennie Davis, the former Chicago 7 radical who had gotten religion and become the Festival's organizer, had earlier declared it would be "the most significant event in the history of mankind.") Call me a sucker if you will, but with a hype like that I just knew I had to attend. My own particular problem (namely, how to justify a Popular Music Editor's interest in such spiritual matters to my more pragmatic associates at STEREO REVIEW) was soon solved, and I took it as a Good Omen. It seemed that Eric Mercury, Stax Records' latest entry in the Let's Fill the Void Left by the Passing of Otis Redding sweepstakes, had been invited to perform during the Millennium's first day. The guru's people were predicting a massive turnout of preemies (devotees) from all over the world, and although Eric himself was not a follower (apparently the only reason he was approached in the first place was his recording of a highly secular soul number entitled "Love is Taking Over") the Stax organization was obviously receptive to the idea of presenting him to the hordes expected to pack the Astrodome to overflowing. So, being generally curious about outbreaks of mass psychosis, I allowed myself to be the guest of Stax, and, along with some other journalistic types, made the trek down to Houston.

My immediate impression upon arriving was that the seemingly unlikely alliance between Stax's Memphis Funk and the guru's Himalayan Homilies was not as farfetched as I had anticipated; it turned out that both the Stax executives and the Holy Stripling were inordinately fond of expensive limousines (the guru's was a spiffy green Mercedes, which I encountered in the hotel parking lot). But a vague air of uneasiness surrounded the whole undertaking; the record company people were promoting an artist, trying to sell records, while the gurunoids were jabbering about saving the world and offering "a thousand years of peace for those who want it." Strange bedfellows, to say the least,

Nonetheless, after a breakfast press conference at which both Rennie and Eric (a very likeable and engaging young fellow, as it turned out) hyped their respective things, we were off to the Astrodome to see at first hand What It Was All About. Oddly, it was a total bust; the biggest excitement (for me, anyway) was provided by occasional harassment by the assorted competing sects (Krishnists, fundamentalists, etc.) who were picketing at the gate. After all the publicity, the multitudes inconsiderately neglected to appear (official crowd estimates ranged from ten to twenty thousand, which struck me as excessive), and in any event those that did couldn't have cared less about the entertainment provided for them; the kids I talked to were full of excited rumors about scheduled UFO landings and the like and, understandably, traditional show biz must have struck them as pretty irrelevant to the grander scheme of things. So poor Eric, backed by the full-scale Stax production -- big band and gospel singers -- was left on stage to parade his wares before a crowd at best only vaguely aware of his presence. It was a shame, actually -- Eric isn't Otis, but he's a reasonably commanding performer. But he is not Divine, and was therefore beneath the notice of the audience (perhaps they should have booked Bette Midler). At any rate, I'd probably enjoy hearing him again under more reasonable conditions.

For those of you who may be wondering, I did indeed stay for the Guru's opening appearance and, although the faithful responded to him with worshipful enthusiasm, I didn't find him all that hot.

For starters, he couldn't dance. Even worse, his material was lousy; he retold the same parable at least four times with different characters (owl and goose, fox and crow, etc.) and he was given to saying things like "I don't have to tell you...you know." Somehow, one expects more from a Living God.
A couple of postcripts.

1. Elman's quite brilliant, albeit somewhat grimmer, account of the event, as it appeared the same month as the above in CREEM, can be read in its entirety over here.

2. When I encountered the Guru's green Mercedes, it was in the company of a large contingent of East Coast rock writers with whom I had just shared a pleasant afternoon sipping various alcoholic beverages at the Holiday Inn across from the Astrodome. Now it can be told: We broke the car's antenna, and generally defaced the vehicle in various juvenile ways. Yes -- I helped trash God's limousine.

3. The Guru himself, a year or so after I caught his act, was discovered boinking one of his secretaries, a (significantly older) American woman who he subsequently married. At which point, his mother revoked his God license and assumed the position of Divine One herself. According to Wiki, however, the Guru, now a middle-aged con artist, has since returned to his job as spiritual figurehead of the Divine Light Mission's successor organizations.

4. As I was getting ready to fly back to NYC, I ran into a West Coast rock scribe of my acquaintance whom I hadn't seen previously during the festivities. When I asked him if he was in town to attend the show, he said not quite. Turns out his younger brother had gone off to join the Guru's cult a year earlier, and the kid had been completely out of touch with his parents and family ever since. My writer friend was, of course, hoping to find his brother somewhere on the festival grounds, with the aim of enticing him back home. I never found out how this particular sad story played out, alas.

5. A decade later, with Ronald Reagan in the White House, Millennium '73 organizer Rennie Davis stayed in touch with the zeitgeist as a Yuppie venture capitalist pitching well-publicized networking seminars at New York City nightclubs like Limelight. I think the word I'm looking for is "putz."

Monday, May 02, 2011

God and Man at C.W. Post

If you were here a few weeks ago, you may recall a long and self-indulgent story about a recently discovered 1970 film -- Party -- with a live performance by my Jefferson Airplane wanna-be be college rock band. (We were called God. Don't ask me why).

Rather than rehash the story, here's the link. Let's just say that Party features mucho sex, drugs and undergraduate angst. A typical 16mm black-and-white student film of the period, in other words.

In any case, the film's director Jeff Alan -- at my urging -- has finally transferred it to the digital domain. Nobody involved with the project save him, of course (myself included), has seen the film in decades, and a DVD premiere party is scheduled for June. Which means that many now extremely elderly people, including the film's co-stars (who appeared briefly starkers), should be in attendance.

Until then, Jeff has forwarded me these screen caps from the concert sequence, and frankly, words fail me...

...except to say, I think we look pretty cool, and wouldn't it be amusing if everybody who made this thing, including us, actually turned out to know what they were doing? Heh.

I should also add that I sold the beautiful 1959 Les Paul guitar I'm playing in those shots for a few hundred dollars (to pay back rent) in 1977. If I was to tell you how much it would fetch on the collector's market today, I'd have to slash my wrists immediately afterwards.

Oh -- and if you want to hear the song we're actually performing in the scene from whence those shots derive, there's an mp3 over at the link.