Tuesday, January 31, 2012

GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! Week -- Episode Two: Hope I Die Before I Meet That Asshole Charles Bukowski

You know, to be honest, I was never particularly impressed with Suzi Quatro back in her early 70s glam-rock stardom period. Although in retrospect a lot of her records -- which were hits pretty much everywhere in the civilized world except the USA -- were actually pretty good, as our pal and colleague Kid Charlemagne has testified here over the years.

To me, though -- and I say this despite the fact that my early 70s girlfriend was a refugee from the Detroit rock scene and had lots of stories about Suzi and the rest of her Motor City colleagues -- the only reason I ever particularly took notice was because a) her name actually was Suzi Q (c'mon -- how cool is that?) b) she played Leather Tuscadero, the sister of Fonzie's girlfriend Pinky, on Happy Days and c) there was a credible rumor going around that she (Suzi) and Rick Derringer were in fact the same person.

Seriously -- did YOU ever see the two of them in the same room at the same time?

I think not.

In any case, I knew that Suzi -- and pretty much the rest of her immediate family -- had been in an all-girl 60s Detroit garage band called The Pleasure Seekers in those pre-stardom days...

...but what I am embarrassed to admit I didn't know until last week is that the Pleasure Seekers had released a 45 in 1966 that may in fact be the single most astounding piece of garage rock ever waxed.

Ladies and germs -- behold in breathless wonder "What a Way to Die."

In case you can't quite make out the lyrics through the low-fi mono murk, Suzi is sending the following tender blandishments toward a potential lover (and Iggy, eat your heart out).

Well I love you baby
I’m telling you right here
But please don’t make me decide baby
Between you and a bottle of beer.

Baby come on over,
Come on over to my side
Well I may not live past twenty-one
but WOO!
What a way to die!

Your lovin' fluctuates baby
And everybody knows
But the temperature always stays the same
On an ice cold bottle of Strohs

When I start my drinking
My baby throws a fit
So I just blitz him outta my mind
With seventeen bottles of Schlitz

You’ve got the kind of body
That makes me come alive
But I’d rather have my hands around
A bottle of Colt 45

Baby come on over,
Come on over to my side
Well I may not live past twenty-one
but WOO!
What a way to die

In a word -- wow.

Yes, obviously, the song and the record are kind of a joke. As anybody who ever went to a high school dance back then knows, the Pleasure Seekers probably didn't really want to die before they got old, i,e, before they got laid a lot.

But still...that kind of gonzo nihilism, even if it was a pose they barely understood, was not only unprecedented for a bunch of suburban adolescent gals, but also, clearly, a huge influence in all sorts of unexpected ways on the rest of rock history.

Speaking of which, I think we need to research whether the song's lyrical mention of Strohs, Schlitz and Colt 45 was some kind of innovative product placement or just alcoholic bravado.

Monday, January 30, 2012

GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! Week -- Episode One: Mr. Tambourine Lady

But before we get to the gals in question, the following paragraphs -- from a review in the New York Times, of a book by a scientist researching creativity, specifically musical talent -- grabbed my attention on Thursday, for obvious reasons.
At 13, an age when most boys want to learn the guitar, Gary Marcus, decided he wanted to be a scientist. Twenty-five years later he had become one of the country’s best known cognitive psychologists, with major papers and three general-interest books on the workings of the human mind and a position running New York University’s Center for Language and Music.

And he wanted to play the guitar.

For any adult learning an instrument or a new language is terrifying. For a cognitive scientist, it can also be downright depressing. Humans have an early childhood window to acquire such skills easily, according to a long-held tenet in his profession, and it’s a window that closes quickly. Then there is the issue of innate ability. While no single gene can explain Beethoven, Yo-Yo Ma or “Waterloo Sunset,” Dr. Marcus does believe in natural talent, he said, or at least in the certainty he doesn’t have any.
Heh. It appears somebody at the Times may have read my earlier scribblings about the sublimity of a certain Kinks song.

Moving along, however, we're supposed to be talking about the ever popular subject of Dames in Rock. In that regard, today we consider -- Goldie and the Gingerbreads.

Who, if not as claimed (usually by them) history's very first all girl self-contained rock band (i.e., who played their own instruments), were unquestionably the first such outfit to score a hit single in England, hang out with the likes of The Rolling Stones, and tour with all sorts of other big deal Brit invasion types.

GATGs, of course, were fronted by Genya Ravan, who (as lead singer of a not completely horrible post Blood Sweat and Tears horn band called Ten Wheel Drive) was much beloved of legendary WNEW-FM disc jockey Allison Steele, and who later, in the CBGBs era, produced the classic first album by The Dead Boys and ran one of the first indie New Wave record labels.

Anyway, I had never actually heard any music by Goldie and the Gingerbreads, so recently, when somebody I know who had worked with Ravan back in the day happened to mention her to me in passing, I finally did a little Googling, and sure enough -- there was a live (lip-synched) clip of the band on YouTube. Turns out it was their UK top 40 hit "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat," a version of the same pleasant bubble-gum soul song that was later a much bigger record in the US for Herman's Hermits. That's Ravan on the right with the tambourine, obviously.

I also found this blurb, which sort of speaks for itself.
Goldie and the Gingerbreads' first engagement was at New York City's notorious Peppermint Lounge, During a stint at the Wagon Wheel on 45th Street, Eric Burdon, The Animals, and their manager, Mike Jeffries, dropped in after having been lured by the music they heard coming from the club, "There was so much feeling in Goldie's voice that I was stunned to find such a "black" sound could be produced by a group of white girls," said Eric Burdon. Alan Price, the Animals keyboard player who would go on to produce "Can't you Hear My Heartbeat?" for the girls in 1965, agreed: "When I heard Margo play the organ, I felt like going out and getting drunk."

Heh. It's a cute record, to be sure, and maybe GATGs sounded tougher in person than they did in the studio, but on the aural evidence I'd say producer Price might have been drunk BEFORE he heard them. In any case, there's a part of me that thinks he made the record as a way to, for want of a better phrase, get to know them better.

If so, I can only add (and boy, do I wish a could insert a smiley-face emoticon here) -- poor bastard.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I Resent That Remark!!!

Ed Kilgore, at the Washington Monthly, describing Newt Gingrich's performance at the Florida debate the other day:
“He sounded bad, he looked bad, and generally came across like a weasel who had finally been cornered by Animal Control.”
This is deeply offensive. For obvious reasons, if you were around on Friday.

Still -- Heh.

Your Sunday Moment of Words Fail Me

Seriously -- I cannot express just how absolutely great this is.

Venerable punk band Bad Religion's cover of Bobby D.'s "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."

As I mentioned, I lack the words, so I'll let the estimable Sal Nunziato (from whom I learned about it) speak for me:
"You need to hear this one to believe it. The energy is insane. It's a thrasher and still, it doesn't disrespect Bob or The Byrds."
Oh, and in case you were wondering, it's from Chimes of Freedom, a brand new 4 CD set of mostly previously unreleased Dylan covers celebrating 50 years of Amnesty International.

You can -- and apparently should -- order it over here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Great Minds Think Alike. What Explains the Following, However, Remains a Mystery.

Long-time or attentive readers are no doubt aware that I've been an on again/off again member (currently on again) of a recording/performance rock-and-roll collective/band called The Weasels since the early 70s.

Here, to refresh your memory, is the cover of our very first recorded project (circa '73 or '74), entitled The White Album, for reasons way to embarrassing to get into.

Anyway, like I said, we've been at it for quite some time now, so imagine our surprise a few weeks ago when we learned, accidentally via the intertubes, that there was another recording/performance rock-and-roll collective/band called The Weasels, who've been active around Albany, New York since the mid-'80s.

We reacted to this news, as you might expect, with the maturity and grace that has always been our hallmark, i.e. we looked at each other and said "Hey, we're gonna sue those bastards so fast their heads will spin."

Fortunately, when we took a moment to actually check out their work, we noticed that the theoretically faux Weasels were actually really smart and really funny. So we've -- or in this case, more accurately I've -- decided to forego the lawsuit and just give 'em a little free publicity and a tip of the Hatlo Hat instead.

Some history, from their Wiki article:

Inspired by the response to their Ear Jam performance, the expanded band polished their basement tapes and released Meat the Weasels: Volume 1, Fondue Cabaret in 1993. In addition to [members] Doctor Fun, Roy Weasell and Chris Graf, this record featured Jonathan Cohen (bass guitar and slide whistle, sometimes billed as Jonny Weasel), Rocky Petrocelli (drums) and David Maynard (guitar). Maynard had once been a member of the New York Rubber Rock Band, whose 1975 single "Disco Lucy" was named "Worst Single of the Year" by Billboard Magazine.

The Weasels continued to perform live in support of their early material, though with continued instability in the drummer’s seat, which was occupied at various times in their early years by Petrocelli, Jordan Cohen (later of Powerman 5000 and Blue Man Group), Dave King, Doug Klein, Dan Roberts, Steve Scoons, Dave Berger and Steve Candlen, with the latter two emerging as drummers of choice for their middle recording period. The album’s opening cut, “Let the Killing Begin,” is the first in a series of Weasels songs about notorious killers, in this case Henry Lee Lucas. It incorporates a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the soliloquy from the Doors’ “The End”.

I should add that some of these guys' song titles are particularly droll. My favorites, at the moment, include "Klaus Barbie and Ken," "Paging Larry Storch" (a heartfelt tribute to the F-Troop star, and apparently part of a Larry Trilogy), "Officer Gerbils" and "Bitch is All Business," described at the official website as "an ode to feminism." I am also fond of an album of theirs entitled Uranus or Bust.

Here's the cover to their latest masterwork, the trenchantly monikered Axis of Weasel...

...which the band informs us "was released in the sense that the CDs were manufactured and we have several hundred copies out in the garage if anyone wants one."

And here's a video, for the recent "Do the Teabag." A title that has a certain relevance to last Tuesday's rant, for what it's worth.

So, in conclusion -- get over to The Weasels website and give 'em some love.

And tell 'em The Weasels sent you, obviously.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Shouting Comes Across the Sky

As promised last week -- another previously unheard song from the 1981 CBS demo by genuine underground power pop legend/cult figure David Grahame.

This one's called "True Believers."

As before, David is playing all the guitars and singing all the vocals. Your humble scribe contributes bass and a very simple piano part intended to be all George Martin/Beatles VI-ish; the incomparable Glen "Bob" Allen is on drums.

As I'm fond of saying -- and speaking of gorgeous...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday Programming Note

Barring a last minute disaster of some sort, I've decided that next week -- for reasons that I won't get into at the moment -- is going to be GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!-themed.


I should also add -- in a typically shameless piece of self-promotion -- that you can listen to an mp3 of the latest noises I made on guitar with my now geriatric garage band high school buddies over here.

Pretty slick, I think, but YMMV.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

If It's Tuesday, It's an Apology and a Rant!

In case you missed it, long time commenter Anonymous posted this the other day.
It's an election year, hard to ignore politics but have enjoyed your postings more without the weekly reference to your most-hated at the moment politician, er...Republican.

Just remember they're all phonies and crooks (you might even stumble upon Charlie Rangel's homage to Adam Clayton Powell when you're down there along with the Clinton's holdings....er...hidings in the DR).
To which I can only reply...actually, you've got a point.

Seriously -- I've said here on numerous occasions that I'm aware the name of this blog is PowerPop, not PissedOffLeftie. And for any number of reasons (including the courtesy I believe is owed to our valued readers who do not, perhaps, share our political perspective) I strive (to the best of my ability) to resist the urge to use the forum NY Mary has given me to wax all doctrinaire Dirty Fucking Hippie.

That said, it's not a secret that the traditional first paragraph Weekend Listomania joke has mostly always been (as they said at Warner Bros. in the '30s) ripped from the headlines, which is to say topical. To which I can only add, uh yeah, I'm lazy and lacking in a certain level of comic inspiration, so what do you expect?

That being the case, I think you'll agree that there's really not much interesting or appalling happening on the Democratic side of the spectrum of late. Certainly, nothing that compares to the on-going Carnival of Crazy we call the Republican primary race. And I think it's also fair to say that said televised train wreck has struck even a lot folks on the right, who would dearly love to retire President Obama in November, as troubling. In particular, the in your face homophobia, blood lust, and racism exhibited by the audiences at the debates.

All of which is a long-winded way of leading up to the following:

For at least the forseeable future, I'm gonna strive to be as bi-partisan in the snark department as I can. Unless I can't, of course.

Oh -- and no Listomania this week, due to a killer schedule.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Previously Unreleased Stereo Mixes of the Gods (An Occasional Series)

Uh, excuse me -- but did I somehow miss the memo on this one?

From the 2002 Abkco reissue of the Rolling Stones first greatest hits collection of the '60s, please enjoy "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" in glorious totally real stereo.

Seriously -- how did this get past me? Does everybody already know about it?

In any case, this is NOT a bootleg of an alternate take or weird mix featuring extra instruments; this is the same version as the single we've known in mono for all these years, only in very effective multi-channel.

For what it's worth, and as glad as I am to finally hear this, I think on balance the familiar mono version is just a tad punchier, but jeebus, this sounds great.

Of course, I'm still irked that none of you guys ever mentioned it to me before.

A Spy in the House of Love

As promised, that parody Bond poster from the February 1977 National Lampoon.

Incidentally, if you left-click on this two or three times, it enlarges significantly.

Hey -- I meant in case you wanted to print it out.

Jeebus, what's wrong with you people.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Weekend Listomania (Special The Spy With the Biggest Penis You Ever Saw in Your Life!* Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental lotus blossom for hire Fah Lo Suee and I are off to the lovely Cayman Islands, where we're going to try to find the off-shore tax haven/blind trust where presidential hopeful Willard "Mitt" Romney is reported to have stashed his manhood.

That being the case, and because it will be preternaturally quiet around here for a couple of days (unless I miss my guess) here's a fun little project to help us fill the aching void in what passes for our shriveled souls:

Best or Worst Use of a Pop/Rock/Soul Song in Either a Credit Sequence or Non-Musical Scene in a Film Drama or Comedy!!!

No arbitrary rules, except -- of course -- no concert films, documentaries, or features starring The Beatles need apply.

And my totally top of my head Top Five is...

5. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross -- "The Immigrant Song" (as heard in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)

I didn't care for the opening montage that accompanies it, but Mr. Nine Inch Nails' remake of the Led Zep song, which sets up the tone of the subsequent film perfectly, is just one of many reasons that David Fincher's Hollywood adaptation of TGWTDT is light years better than the Swedish, hippo-root sucking, original.

4. Van Morrison -- "Into the Mystic" (as heard in Panic in Needle Park)

I dunno if Van was thinking "heroin" when he wrote it, but the scene with Al Pacino and Kitty Winn (whatever the hell happened to her, BTW?) shooting up to to its slightly melancholy strains is one of the most indelible images in American films of the 70s. IMHO.

3. Herman's Hermits -- "I'm Into Something Good" (as heard in The Naked Gun)

Okay, it's a remake, but it is Peter Noone singing. I should add that the scene from the montage where Nielsen and Presley come out of Platoon laughing hysterically never fails to crack me up.

2. Gary Glitter -- "Rock and Roll" (as heard in Moolight Mile)

I was gonna nominate the film's Rolling Stones title tune, which is beautifully used, but it dawned on me that the Glitter track, from earlier in the same scene, is actually surprisingly effective despite being about as massively over-familiar as anything can be. Fun fact: After Robert Plant saw the film, he called up Mick Jagger to tell him how much he had liked "Moonlight Mile" (the song) and asked him what album it was on and when it had originally been released. I am not making this up.

And the Numero Uno not so hot they're-gonna-put-me-in-the-movies tune of all time simply has to be...

1. Alica Keys and Jack White -- "Another Way to Die" (as heard in Quantum of Solace)

I have no problem with either Keys or White, but I think we can all agree that this one is pretty unmemorable as James Bond theme songs go. Or maybe it just seems that way knowing that it was supposed to be Amy Winehouse.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?


*[Hey, don't blame me -- "The Spy With the Biggest Penis You Ever Saw in Your Life" was an actual parody poster in the February 1977 issue of the National Lampoon. If you ask me nicely, I'll scan it and put it up one of these days....]

Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special "We're in the Money!" Edition

Hey -- I got quoted in this year's Village Voice Critics Poll yesterday!

You realize, of course, what this means. It means that a) I'm still culturally relevant, even at my advanced age, and b) I will be receiving a check momentarily, and thus will have earned at the very least a stunning fifteen dollars!!! for freelance writing in 2012!

Here's what I wrote...
Not a very good year for pop music, again, but even worse -- not a very good year for jokes about pop music, although I still await the (theoretically feasible) Goo Goo Dolls/Lady Gaga Tour (which, for sheer glorious marquee value would surpass even the fabled Madonna/Supertramp excursion of yesteryear) for obvious reasons. Still, in that regard, I'm now really kind of embarrassed over the just-how-fucked-up-is-Amy-Winehouse? joke I made in the 2009 Pazz & Jop; that sort of thing really stopped being remotely funny after Winehouse proved incapable of showing up in the studio to record the opening credit music for Quantum of Solace. I mean, this was a woman who for all intents had been genetically bred to sing the theme to a James Bond movie, and when she blew the opportunity we shouldn't have been laughing...
As you can see if you already clicked the link, the Voice editors only ran the second half of the above, but what the hey -- in this economy, fifteen dollars is fifteen dollars. Seriously -- if you know you're getting a check for that amount every January, you can plan around it.

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Apparently Mojo Nixon Was Right -- Elvis IS Everywhere!!!

Okay, I know that this is a one-joke bit extended a little longer than it should have been, but it just cracks me up anyway.

From 1979, and the wiseguys at Rhino Records, please enjoy The International Elvis Impersonators Convention.

My personal fave: "The Leaping Loincloth of Gunga Maharesley!!!"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It Came From the Vaults (An Occasional Series)

Okay kids, prepare to have your tiny minds blown. And this is not hyperbole.

From 1981 and a frighteningly brief demo session at CBS studios in New York City, please enjoy genuine underground power pop legend David Grahame and the remarkable on countless levels gem that is "If You Think You Need Me."

A little biographical data: David was one of the original McCartneys in the first Broadway production of Beatlemania (Marshall Crenshaw was one of the Lennons); a few years later he was a member of The Mix, a Small Faces-ish combo who made one great under-distributed album which should have been huge. In 1991, he co-wrote the infernal Mr. Big hit "To Be With You," which has presumably been paying his rent ever since.

"If You Think You Need Me" itself is, in my humble opinion, one of the most flawless Brit Invasion/power pop/Beatles/Hollies/Big Star/Shoes/Rundgren-inspired concoctions every heard by sentient mammalian ears, for a number of reasons beyond the obvious hookiness and cool guitars. For starters, you'll note that it has two (count 'em -- two!) different bridge sections, which is structurally brilliant (and when the second one comes in, at approximately the 1:40 second mark, the effect is almost chemical.) For another thing, the first verse lyric "Simple words cannot express/my delight when you undress" just might be the funniest and most profound line in the history of Western Literature, let alone pop music.

Credit where credit is due: David is singing and playing everything on the track save for almost inaudible rhythm guitar (by me) and the fabulous drums (my old chum Glen "Bob" Allen.)

I should also add that the CBS A&R guy who authorized the session was the late Paul Atkinson, guitarist for The Zombies. In fact, while we were working on the song he showed up briefly at the studio (tennis racket in hand, on the way to a weekend in the Hamptons) and I will not mince words -- I almost lost it, in a fanboy "I'm not worthy" sense. Meeting him was actually one of the great thrills of my adult life.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Just a Little Bit Excited...

Those of you who are my FB friends know that I am in Chicago, wrapping up the final edit of Boys Don't Lie: A History of Shoes. It was supposed to be done a year ago, but what's a year among friends?

Seriously,the rewrite has been totally worth the time.The text is more textured and thoughtful, supported by more data and even more interviews (you wouldn't believe the people I dug up!) and,on a strictly journalistic level, really, really solid. Much of that credit goes to my friend Moira McCormick, who's been writing about Shoes and music for lo, these thirty-odd years, in the Illinois Entertainer and Goldmine and Trouser Press, in Rolling Stone and Billboard. She's been so much more than an editor, and her credit on the book will reflect that. Once you've sat side-by-side with someone, Woodstein-style, there's a whole 'nother dynamic at work.

We've been doing intensive editing for several days, but last night took a night off to hear the other big Shoes news of 2012: their new record, as yet unnamed. We heard the whole thing in rough demo mixes, and though some songs are more complete than others, the whole thing is a gorgeous tapestry, more Stolen Wishes than Propeller. I won't get into specifics here, but if you're a Shoes fan, you're going to be very, very happy quite soon. I know I'm still flying, hours later. (What is it about those harmonies?)

In preparation for launching their new record, Shoes have developed a new website and gotten a Youtube channel (blackvinylshoes), and have an official FB group where news is posted regularly. (if that doesn't work, because it's the link I follow, just go to Facebook and search "Shoes: Official Fan Page")

The book should be out in relatively short order (I kill me!), and the record not long afterward.

2012 looks to be a great year for this long-dormant-but-still-got-it crew: don't miss it!

Rockin' the Van Allen Belt!!!

Okay, this one has the virtue of being both drolly amusing and musically stupendous.

From 1983, please enjoy the late great Steve Ferguson -- original guitarist of NRBQ -- doing business as Brother Steven and the Humanitarians, with a beyond smoking rendition of "Outer Space Boogie."

I am reliably informed, incidentally, that the performance was originally aired on WTZA (from Tappan Zee to Albany!) Channel 62, Kingston, New York, i.e.; the kind of local UHF station that probably doesn't exist anymore.

The lovely hostess, Tudi Wiggins, was a former soap opera star who reinvented herself as a talk show impresario with "Hudson Valley Today." She died in 2006, age 70.

Ferguson, alas, went to the great jam session in the sky in 2009, where more recently (last week, actually) he was joined by NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino.

[h/t Matt Wright]

Friday, January 13, 2012

Who Could Have Predicted?????

The things your can learn via the intertubes -- in this case, via a commenter over at love of my life Charles Pierce's superb political blog on the Esquire magazine site:
Brisbane is, and always has been, a massive twatwaffle. We here in Kansas City had to put up with him at the Star twice. During his first run, when he reviewed Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps album, Brisbane went on a long rant about how terrible it was that Young was glorifying a punk rocker who did heroin and killed his girlfriend. Because, of course, Brisbane didn't know the difference between Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten. This level of knowledge has been fastidiously maintained throughout his career.
The Brisbane in question, of course, is Arthur S. Brisbane, the current public editor of the New York Times, who -- after a little kerfuffle this last Thursday -- is now widely conceded to be the stupidest man in American journalism.

Alas, the archives at the Kansas City Star don't go back to the '70s, so I wasn't able to find that Neil Young review. Nonetheless, it's kind of interesting to learn that before Brisbane became a clueless press watchdog he'd had an earlier career as a clueless rock critic.

Friday Moment of Horribly Self-Congratulatory Self-Indulgence

[Okay, this is the last Terry Reid entry for the forseeable future, guaranteed.

I originally ran this in October of 2007, and I have to say -- of all the stuff I've posted here since NYMary gave me the metaphorical keys to the car, it's pretty much the one I'm happiest to have written. I should also add that the video that occasioned it still strikes me as just as ineffably wonderful as it did at the time. -- S.S.]

Here's the deal: I stumbled across this clip yesterday and I'm finding it difficult to describe just how moving I think it is. A caveat before you watch: The video quality is just barely adequate, but the audio is mostly fine. Listen to it with headphones -- you'll miss the bass, otherwise.

Okay, the backstory: The song of course, is The Kinks' gorgeous "Waterloo Sunset," and the guy singing it is Brit cult figure Terry Reid. If you don't know him, suffice it to say that he's a brilliant songwriter and vocalist (think a more soulful Steve Marriott) who made a couple of wonderful albums in the late 60s and early 70s (you can buy them here) but alas his career never really took off for all the usual reasons. What makes him slightly more than a fondly remembered footnote to history is that Jimmy Page actually offered him the frontman slot in Led Zeppelin; considering that he's also a terrific guitarist, the fact that he punted on the gig probably changed the world in unfathomable ways. Seriously -- can you imagine what Zep might have been like with a better singer and a twin-guitar attack? Wow. In any case, the clip derives from a series of club shows Reid did in L.A. in 2002; the band is led by longtime scenester Waddy Wachtel, and apparently all sorts of 70s and 80s B-list rockers did guest shots at one point or another.

So -- why do I find the vid so emotionally shattering? Well, the song itself has something to do with it, of course. Longtime readers are aware that I am occasionally of the opinion that it's the most beautiful song written in English in the second half of the 20th century. To my ears, it's about somebody who, for whatever reason, has concluded that they will never themselves find love, but who can watch other people -- total strangers, actually -- who have, and has decided that the solace they get from that is ultimately enough. It's a perfectly observed little vignette that manages to be both heartbreaking and strangely uplifting in its generosity of spirit; it's also, probably, the most revealing thing Ray Davies has ever written (and frankly, I can't think of another songwriter who could have pulled it off).

Reid gets all that of course, but he adds a lot more. It's a wonderfully theatrical performance, and at the heart of it is the not so dirty little secret of so much 60s Brit rock, i.e, that as much as the English pop boom owed to blues and r&b, it also owed to that now vanished English institution -- the music hall. The examples are almost endless -- see Sgt. Pepper or the Small Faces "Lazy Sunday" -- and one of the first things that struck me watching the clip is that Reid, singing his heart out up on that cramped little stage, could almost be a tragi-comic version of Archie Rice, the title character from John Osborne's The Entertainer. To really understand that you have to remember that back when Reid was an almost star, he was one of those skinny pretty boy rock god types. Here, of course, he looks like nothing less than one of those slightly puffy second tier expatriate Brit actors at Warner Brothers in the 30s. And he's not posturing like the pop idol he briefly was; instead he's swanning around in that ridiculous ice cream suit like Herbert Marshall in The Letter. It's laughably hokey but it's also quite brave; he's playing the fool and yet it's as if his relationship to the song and the audience and to the whole idea of being a rock star parallels the relationship of the song's narrator to the starcrossed lovers. There's something just enormously compassionate about it, and it just chokes me up.

And don't even get me started on Wachtel's solo or that gorgeous riff he introduces at the end to ride the song out (neither are on the actual Kinks record), or how Reid trails off into wordless falsetto, thus finding an unsuspected link between Davies' teddibly Bitish original and the American street corner romanticism of old Doo Wop and Goffin-King songs.

Alright, I''ve gone on about this for a little too long, and yes, perhaps I'm reading too much into it. In any case, I'm gonna go watch it again, and thanks for stopping by.

PS: I forwarded this to my old pal Eric Boardman (who's a fan and lives in LA), wondering if perhaps he'd been in the audience when it was shot. Just got his reply.

I was not (SIGH) at that show, but have been to Waddy's Monday night jam at The Joint quite often. A great scene as who's-who in rock drop by. Check the concert & club listings as to which bands are in town for the week-end and gamble. For instance, I saw Keith play for an hour, including a few Chuck Berry numbers and a torn-up version of "Down The Road Apiece."

Terry Reid's album with "Horses in a Rain Storm" kept me company summer of '70 along with "After The Gold Rush" and Donovan's "Open Road."

By the way, I sing it, "Eric meets Julie."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Terry! Terri! Terré!

Okay, I swear to god that I a) really had planned to do a Weekend Listomania tomorrow and b) I was only kidding yesterday about this being Terry Reid Week. Honest.

But it looks like, uh, it is.

By which I mean -- from his 1979 album Rogue Waves, please enjoy old Superlungs and his absolutely astounding cover version of The Ronettes classic "Baby I Love You."

And if that doesn't give you goosebumps, please consult your physician.

I should add, BTW, that I was gonna wonder why this wasn't the hit that finally put Reid on the map until I saw the Rogue Waves album cover.

Seriously -- I was gonna link to it, but it's so fricking hideous I won't inflict it on you; Google it if you're stout of heart. Talk about art direction career

[h/t FD13NYC]

UPDATE: The Rogue Waves cover.

Yeah, yeah...I know, I said I wouldn't. But I lied.

Jeebus fuck, is that the ugliest and most clueless piece of sub-Spinal Tap shlock you've ever seen in your life?

I should also add that it was issued in 1979. When let's just say that there, uh, were other sorts of things taking place in rock.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Okay, It Turns Out Sonny Bono Wrote More Than One Great Song....

The other one is "Needles and Pins," obviously.

In any event, this seems to be turning in to Terry Reid week, so here's Reid's quite brilliant 1968 cover of the ahead of its time (Gogol Bordello would have killed to have written it) Cher ironic gypsy/punk single "Bang Bang."

Food for thought: Reid was offered the frontman gig in Led Zeppelin and turned it down, thus altering history in unfathomable -- and in my opinion, unfortunate -- ways.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Speak Now or Forever Keep Your Fricking Trap Shut

The Terry Reid original of that cult fave song we were discussing yesterday, from his second album (1969)

I still say Reid's version is a) better than the Cheap Trick cover, which I think is bloated and misguided, but b) not as good as the Christopher Milk remake, which has much cooler guitar stuff and much more of a power pop sensibility in terms of the production.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Give The Drummer Some

Aw hell.

Tom Ardolino, who pounded the pagan skins for NRBQ -- a band that encompassed power pop and just about every other kind of popular and semi-popular music worth listening to -- passed away on Friday at age 56, after a long battle with an unidentified illness. .

He and the rest of the Q's were practically teen idols in Japan, amusingly enough. Here's a live version of their "I Want You" -- recorded in Tokyo in 1996 -- that shows exactly why.

Fuck you, Death. Seriously -- you're beginning to piss me off.

Those Who Can Rock, Do. Those Who Can't, Become Rock Critics.

Okay, here's some stuff I've been trying to locate for going on four years now, and which I finally stumbled across on the Net yesterday -- thus proving that a) I need a life and b) the Intertubes remain a wondrous thing.

From 1973, then, please enjoy L.A. glam-rock almost contenders Christopher Milk and their surprisingly credible cover version of Terry Reid's cult-favorite "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace."

I say "surprisingly credible" for reasons that will become obvious in a few moments, but in any case, Christopher Milk were the brainchild of the irrepressible John Mendelssohn [the tall guy with the bad hair second from right in the photo]. He and a few of the other Milks had previously been in an early version of Sparks with the Mael Brothers, but John was mostly known at the time -- late 60s and early 70s -- as one of the most influential (and certainly the funniest) of the reviewers at Rolling Stone; he famously wrote a pan of Led Zeppelin II in which he opined that Jimmy Page was "the absolute number-one heaviest white blues guitarist between 5'4" and 5'8" in the world."

On a more personal note, I should add that John won my heart as an early champion of The Kinks (he compiled and annotated the vastly influential The Kink Kronikles double LP for Reprise) and that his rave RS review of The Move's Shazam quite literally changed my life. I also was privileged to assign him a couple of pieces during my early tenure at The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review; at some point, there was some kind of a problem (as there often was) with my editor-in-chief, and John -- like Paul Nelson, later -- become persona non grata at the rag. But to my knowledge there were no lasting hard feelings, and I've talked to him, quite civilly although occasionally, over the years since.

But I digress.

In any event, the Milk began their career with a 7-inch EP available as a promo-only on United Artists, which I remember as being sort of vaguely sub-Zappa whimsy/mishegass, but they soon got signed to a major label -- Warner/Reprise (where John had connections thanks to his promo work for the Kinks) -- and in 1972 they unleashed their one and only album, the amusingly monikered Some People Will Drink Anything, to a largely uncaring world. The album should have been better than it was, in part due to first-rate production by former Beatles engineer Chris Thomas (who of course went on to make truly great records with everybody from Procol Harum to the Sex Pistols and The Pretenders), but alas it was hampered, perhaps fatally, by wayward songwriting and the fact that Mendelssohn was probably not as memorable a frontman as he most likely saw himself. I actually listened to the LP several times back in the day -- Mendelssohn, after all, was the first rock critic to secure a big time recording contract, and if he could, anything seemed possible (if you catch my drift). But try as I might, I was never able to remember a single song on the album (save for a less amusing than it should have been heavy metal cover/parody of "Locomotion" which may or may not have influenced Grand Funk and Todd Rundgren) after I was done.

Which brings us to "Speak Now," recorded for a 45 in a last ditch attempt (unsuccessful, obviously) to get a hit and prevent Reprise from dropping the band from its roster. Like I said, given everything it's surprisingly credible. In fact, it's one of the Great Lost Singles of the '70s -- perhaps not quite as well sung as Reid's version, but in all other ways, to my surprise, superior both to the original and to the later and more celebrated Cheap Trick cover; clearly it's also the highpoint of the Milk's career in the studio.

Of course, the b-side, a version of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand' done as a send-up of Bob Dylan and Leon Russell, is shall we say less impressive.

I mean, I know it's supposed to be a piss-take, but I find it mostly unlistenable rather than risible. Your mileage may vary, however.

Anyway, if you're curious, you can download -- gratis -- both the United Artists EP and Some People in their entirety over here, although I offer no assurances that you'll thank me if you do.

[h/t The Pipe]

Friday, January 06, 2012

Compare and Contrast

The incomparable Wondermints -- taking a break from their day job as part of Brian Wilson's touring band -- with a 1999 live in Japan club version of "Open My Eyes."

Not as slick as The Bangles version discussed downstairs...

...but then again, what do you expect? It's fricking live...

Friday Moment of "And Speaking of Gorgeous"....

Still recovering from the holidays, so no Weekend Listomania today. Have no fear, blah blah blah, the List will be back next week, tanned rested and blah blah blah.

Have I mentioned blah blah blah?

Anyway, in its stead, please enjoy (and you'll thank me, I warrant) once and future power pop goddesses The Bangles and the concluding track from their absolutely wonderful 2010 album Sweetheart of the Sun -- a transplendent remake of the Todd Rundgren/Nazz classic "Open My Eyes."

If memory serves, this hasn't been covered as often as you might expect -- I seem to recall a pretty good live version by The Wondermints on some compilation or other, but that's about it. Back in my feckless youth, I always wanted to play it onstage with somebody, but it was not to be, alas; closest I ever got was a thrown-together club version (with my '80s skinny tie band) of Todd's other genre-defining tune, "Couldn't I Just Tell You."

In any case, I think this update is actually better than the original, thanks to the gals still spine-tingling harmonies and a characteristically flawless production by the great Matthew Sweet. I must confess, however, that I miss original bassist Michael Steele (not the former RNC chairman); I always thought she was the cutest Bangle. Something to do with that aubergine hair, I suspect.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Literary Notes From All Over

Okay, I'm not gonna make a totally big deal about this -- the book speaks for itself -- but the review the New York Times ran of Kevin Avery's splendid new bio of the late rock critic Paul Nelson two Sunday's ago is really the most reprehensible hatchet job in memory, and I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention it.

The author is David Hajdu, who once wrote a very good biography of Billy Strayhorn, but has apparently gone mental since then.

Here's the opening paragraph.
Paul Nelson, a propagandist committed to some dubious values, had a gift for imbuing disreputable, even dangerous ideas with discomforting grace. You might almost say he was the Leni Riefenstahl of rock criticism. One of the first writers of the post-Elvis era to take the popular music of his time seriously, he never liked black music and thought the blues were overrated, negligible in comparison with the work of overtly cerebral and conspicuously poetic artists of the ’60s and early ’70s like Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne. Nelson revered Browne. He subscribed, both in his writing and in his life, to the macho outcast myths of noir movies and pulp fiction, and he seemed blind to the importance of the great female artists nearly absent in his writing, like Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin.
Wow. If you don't write about Joni Mitchell you're as bad as one of Hitler's PR people.

Words fail me on that one, Dave.

This one bothers me too.
Nelson made fans, chief among them other writers and musicians who shared his devotion to the ideology of the white American bad boy. Nick Tosches, in the book’s foreword, calls Nelson “one of the most singularly subtle, eloquent voices of his time.” Bruce Springsteen, about whom Nelson wrote with acuity as well as fervor, tells Avery: “Paul’s writing meant a lot to me emotionally. . . . When you went onstage that night you remembered: Hey, you’re working on a promise to keep, not to just yourself but to him. He put his ass on the line for you in that last story, so you better be good. . . . You felt like: This guy needs this thing as much as I do, needs this music or whatever that spirit is you’re trying to manifest or need to feel manifested.”
Let's just say that anybody who can describe Springsteen as as an ideologue of "the white American bad boy" has not exactly been paying attention.

Look -- I know David Hajdu, and in fact I owe a lot of what I laughingly describe as "my career" to myriad professional kindnesses he's showed me over the years. So I'm loathe to say this, but frankly that review is just shameful. I don't know if David or somebody at the Times had some kind of personal animus against Paul Nelson, but the rest of the essay simply reeks of score-settling, and the Times did itself absolutely no credit by publishing it.

End of rant.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Don't Look Now, But I Think There's a Bustle in Your Hedgerow

The Doors -- yes, them -- do to "Stairway to Heaven" what perhaps always should have been to done to "Stairway to Heaven."

Okay, it's actually some smartass doing a parody of the Doors doing "Stairway," but it's no more obnoxious than the Frank Zappa version.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Slacker Tuesday

Apparently I have a bad case of Jimmy Carter-style malaise, or else I'm just a little burned out from the holidays.

Taking a 24-hour break, in other words; posting resumes tomorrow.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Everybody's a Critic

Troubling news from Friday's edition of The Indiana Star:
INDIANAPOLIS — Oh, say can you . . . sing?

And, more importantly, can you sing it the "right" way -- the way one Indiana lawmaker thinks the national anthem should be sung?

Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, has introduced a bill that would set specific "performance standards" for singing and playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at any event sponsored by public schools and state universities.

The law also would cover private schools receiving state or local scholarship funds, including vouchers.

Performers would have to sign a contract agreeing to follow the guidelines. Musicians -- whether amateur or professional -- would be fined $25 if it were deemed they failed to meet the appropriate standards.
Fortunately for Jose Feliciano and Roseanne, this can't be enforced retroactively.

Nonetheless, I think somewhere in Hell, this guy...

...is getting really pissed off.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Post-Mortem & Playlist

Well, that was fun.

A three-hour playlist ended up running 5 hours and change, partly because we worked in some requests and questions from listeners, partly because we got talking about weird corners of things, partly because, well, that list was pretty long to begin with, and it was never going to have fit in three hours even if I had been silent as the tomb. I had included some "maybe" songs: we were having so much fun, we ended up playing them all. And people really seemed to like it!

But because we were between semesters (the only reason there was that kind of empty time to fill), the wireless was dodgy and I wasn't able to record what we were doing, which was a shame.

Anyway, here's the playlist.

Hour 1 (1964-73)
Opening: Fountains of Wayne, “Red Dragon Tattoo

British Invasion & American Effects

1. The Kinks (Aug 1964): “You Really Got Me
2. The Who: (Dec 64) “I Can’t Explain
3. The Beatles: (1966) “And Your Bird Can Sing

4. Byrds: (1965) “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better
5. The Cyrkle: (1966): “Red Rubber Ball
6. Paul Revere & the Raiders: (1967) “Him or Me
7. The Beach Boys: (1967) “Heroes & Villains


8. The Move: (1968): “Fire Brigade
9. Emitt Rhodes: (1970): “Fresh as a Daisy
10. Badfinger: (1970): “No Matter What

11. Big Star: (1972): “When My Baby’s Beside Me” &
12. “September Gurls
13. Blue Ash: (1973) “Abracadabra (Have You Seen Her?)
14. Raspberries: (1972): “Go All the Way

Hour 2: Keeping the thread alive/ High Power Pop (1973-1980)

The magazines: Ira Robbins (Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press)/ Greg Shaw (Bomp!)

15. Dwight Twilley: (1976) “I’m on Fire” (but I played the single version!)
16. The Nerves: (1976) “Hangin’ On the Telephone
17. Flashcubes: (1978) “Christi Girl
18. Cheap Trick: (1978) “Surrender
19. The Jam (1978): “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight
20. The Undertones: (1978) “Teenage Kicks

The Class of 79-80
21. Blondie: (1978-9) “One Way or Another
22. The Knack: (1979) “My Sharona” &
23. “Good Girls Don’t
24. 20/20: (1979) “Backyard Guys
25. Shoes: (1979) “Tomorrow Night” &
26. “Too Late"
27. Paul Collins Beat: (1979) “Rock and Roll Girl” &
28. “I Don’t Fit In
29. The Records: (1979) “Starry Eyes

30. The Kings: (1980): “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide
31. The Vapors: (1980) “News at Ten
32. Martha and the Muffins: (1980) “Echo Beach
33. XTC: (1980) “Respectable Street
34. Split Enz (1980): “I Got You

Hour 3
The Critics: Jordan Oakes (Yellow Pills), John Borack (Goldmine), Steve Simels (Stereo Review)

35. Ail Symudiad: (1981) “Garej Paradwys
36. The dBs: (1981) “Bad Reputation
37. The Plimsouls: (1983) “A Million Miles Away
38. Replacements: (1984) “Unsatisfied
39. Redd Kross: (1987) “McKenzie
40. Replacements: (1987) “Alex Chilton"
41. The Bangles: (1984) “Hero Takes a Fall

Alternative Pop
42. Material Issue: (1991) “Diane” &
43. “International Pop Overthrow
44. Teenage Fanclub: “Star Sign
45. Matthew Sweet (1991) “Girlfriend
46. Red Kross: (1993): “Jimmy’s Fantasy
47. Pixies: (1991) “Head On

48. Sugar: (1994) “Your Favorite Thing
49. Matthew Sweet: (1995) "Sick of Myself"
50. Smashing Pumpkins: (1993) “Today
51. Weezer: (1994) “In the Garage
52. Guided by Voices: (1995) “Game of Pricks” &
53. “My Valuable Hunting Knife

54. Old 97s: (1999) “Murder (or a Heart Attack)”
55. Rooney: (2007) “I Should’ve Been After You
56. Rifles: (2008) “Darling Girl
57. Tinted Windows: (2009) “Kind of a Girl
58. Fountains of Wayne (2011): “Richie & Ruben

Some of you were listening: thanks so much! I hope you enjoyed it!