Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Davy Jones 1945 -- 2012

The cutest Monkee seems to have died of a heart attack today.

Here's his big number (with Toni Basil) from Head, the most underrated rock movie of all time.

Damn, I feel really old, suddenly.

The Greatest Thing Ever Recorded

Seriously. I'm not kidding about this.

This is better than Bruno Walter's Mahler 4th, Trout Mask Replica, The Sun Sessions, Birth of the Cool and Bidu Sayao's Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 combined.

Also all the Hot Five stuff. And whatever else undeniably classic shit that's just slipped my mind or that you like.

Seriously -- here's the shortest track from the album, posted in the hopes that the copyright police won't shut us down.

A live version of "Don't Make My Baby Blue," written by the great Mann-Weill team and more familiar from the studio take on Shazam. And let's be frank -- if these guys had ever played New York City, they would have been (justifiably) bigger than a certain band featuring that Jimmy Page or whatever his name was.

Seriously -- stop reading now and just go over to Amazon and order a copy here.

Have I mentioned that this album is the greatest thing ever recorded? Seriously?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited

Taking Tuesday off for what we used to call a Mental Health day, but we will return tomorrow.

The wait will be worth it, incidentally, and the above title is a clue as to why.

Monday, February 27, 2012

These Foolish Things Remind Me Of...

From a reunion show in 2007, please enjoy pop punksters Cheap Perfume, at some wonderful low dive in New York City, doing to "Boys" what neither The Shirelles or even The Beatles ever quite got around to doing.

The short version: These dames originally got together in 1979 and quickly became a fixture on the NYC rock scene centered around C.B.G.B.'s and Max's Kansas City, although somehow I completely managed to miss them back in the day. Which of course is actually a good thing, because I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever...

...that I would have made a massive ass of myself over every one of them had I chanced across them in a club. If you know what I mean.

In any case, they broke up a few years later, but finally got back together for the reunion show seen above. They've been at it off and on since, and now they've just released their first recordings ever -- an E.P. on Turn-Up Records (home to power pop god Richard X. Heyman) featuring a blistering studio version of "Boys" and three new originals mixed by the incomparable Ed Stasium, who's made superior guitar-rock records with the likes of The Stones, the Ramones and Living Color.

You can -- and very definitely should -- order the disc over at CD Baby here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Weekend Listomania: Special I'd Prefer a New Edition of the Spanish Inquistion Edition

Well, it's Friday and you know what means.

Actually, I am not even going to attempt a topical joke this week, having read the following in yesterday's New York Times. It seems that Ron Paul is running a new TV ad...
...directed at the youth of America, which begins with a picture of Rick Santorum. “Is this dude serious?” the announcer demands. “Fiscal conservative? Really?”

The ad then goes on to say that Santorum’s votes to raise the debt ceiling were “not groovy.”
"Not groovy."

Words, as they often do, fail me.

So without further ado, and because things will be characteristically quiet around here for a couple of days, here's a little project sure to give us all endless hours of harmless diversion:

Least Groovy Most Annoying Single, Video or Album Track of the New Wave Era

No arbitrary rules, you're welcome very much, and yes, we've probably done something like this before. I guarantee at least the number one pick is new, however.

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

5. Missing Persons -- Destination Unknown

Yes, I am aware that Terry Bozzio was a technically accomplished drummer. I will also stipulate that Dale Bozzio was, as they used to say of certain WWII pinups, really built. They still sucked.

4. Toronto -- Your Daddy Don't Know

This is actually a cool song -- and I'm a huge fan of the New Pornographer's note for note cover -- but this particular video is so generically Eighties (and the band so utterly sexless) that it gives me the creeps.

3. The Thompson Twins -- Hold Me Now

It's like David Bowie trying to cover the Four Seasons, and it sucks even worse than that makes it sound. It's official, folks -- the Thompson Twins were the Most Useless Band of the 80s.

2. Spandau Ballet -- True

These guys were too dumb to know that they looked and sounded just like the band that played The Enchantment Under the Sea prom in Back to the Future, except without the soul. Or maybe they weren't. Either way, you would need a heart of stone not to laugh at them.

And the Numero Uno blah blah blah simply has to be...

1. Total Coelo -- I Eat Cannibals

Okay, I can't get this damn record out of my head. Will somebody please just shoot me?

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Yet Another Early Clue to the New Direction: Special "But at least I have a husband" Edition)

Meant to post about this the other day during our discussion of my old colleague and chum David Klein's splendid new book If 6 Was 9, but here's a number song Dave unearthed that a) I'm embarrassed I hadn't been aware of before (given that it's on Rhino's invaluable girl group box set) and b) is just fricking incredible.

From 1966, please enjoy Toni Basil (yes her, the MTV-era irritant) and the astounding B-side that is "I'm 28."

Toni Basil - I'm 28 .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

I'm 28, it's getting late
What have I got to do?
My time is going, my fears are growing,
My chances now are few
Lacquers, lotions, sprays and potions
Scented, unguent, mild and pungent
Lipstick, pancake, shadow for the eyes...
It's all been advertised
But... it's getting me nowhere

I'm 28, it's getting late
What have I got to do?
My time is going, my fears are growing
My chances now are few
Dress revealing, sex appealing
Fur and feather, suede and leather,
Naughty, haughty, sure to glamorize...
It's all been advertised
But... it's getting me nowhere

It's nice to be respectable,
Saintly, sweet and fair
But I don't want to finish off alone...
In a rocking chair

I'm 28, it's getting late
What have I got to do?
I should add, and for the record, that the man(!) who wrote this remarkable post-Lesley Gore proto-feminist classic was the absolutely incredible Graham Gouldman, author of more great songs than I can enumerate, beginning with "Look Through Any Window" and "Bus Stop."

And as Dave puts it in the book, "In a kinder and wiser alternate universe, Toni Basil would be more famous for 'I'm 28' than the rah-rah, mutton-dressed-as-lamb paean to anal that is 'Mickey.' What a pity."

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Unsolicited Track of the Day: (An Occasional Series)

Got this via e-mail and laughed out loud.
Dear Steve,

Firstly, we write to you from chilly London, mind and limbs gripped by the late evening freeze. We apologise if our coherence staggers somewhat.

And now; belated greetings from The Shamefaced Sparrows. The story so far;

Having recently fled our bone-‘n’-carcass-made nest in Shithole, East Midlands, we have fluttered and soared through increasingly glum and greying skylines. With ascending eagerness and hope, we scoured the grim landscape, determined to espy a never-fading, ever-blooming Eden.

We found Hackney.

Still, what can you do?

So, wing-clipped and bound in the bowels of Dalston we find ourselves. And it is here two gutter-sparrows combine the savage sonics of Link Wray with the melodic guile of the French Ye-Ye girls. If that sounds like a fanciful notion; consider the dynamics of both: Youthful, Exuberant, Joyous, Dangerous, Daring and Sexy.

You know, the good stuff.
We only ask of you a few minutes of ear-cocked concentration. Thank you, and enjoy.
Fortunately, I actually dug the music they enclosed with it.

Link Wray meets Ye-Ye indeed. And it made me laugh even harder than the e-mail.

There's more over here if the above tickled you as much as it did me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My Absolutely Last Swear-to-God-I-Really-Mean-It Post About "Waterloo Sunset"

Fast forward through the brief interview footage and go directly to the performance.

Words fail me.

Seriously -- why haven't the Brits knighted Ray Davies already? Screw that, why haven't they nationalized him?

[h/t Laura G.]

Monday, February 20, 2012

I am Not a Number, I'm a Free...Oh, Wait a Minute, I am a Number. Sorry.

IT was conceived, like so many other things, over a beer. I had recently moved my family from the East Village to the Lower East Side (a tiny distance geographically, but a world away in New York City). Whenever time allowed, I'd swing around the block to Lotus, a no-frills corner bar on Clinton Street with big windows and an eclectic mix of locals. Some were on the way up, like Stef, an unremarkable girl from the neighborhood who would stop by to drop off her gig fliers and smoke a cigarette with Ivan the bartender (apparently, she was signed to Interscope and performed around town under the name Lady Gaga). Some were on the way down, like a cohort of regulars known as Rafael the Failed Poet, Full-of-Shit Ken, and Bad Ronald.
That splendid paragraph opens the introduction to If 6 Was 9 And Other Assorted Number Songs -- Vol 1: The No. 1 Song in Heaven to Peng! 33, by my old colleague and chum David Klein. And the "it" being described (in, as it were, utero) is both the book itself and its rationale -- the discovery of a whole new phylum of trivia, i.e. songs with numbers in their titles.

The book had its origins in a column -- aptly titled Numerology -- that Dave wrote for the estimable Merry Swankster music site. The original entries have been cleaned up and expanded for the dead-trees version, but now as then, there are rules for this sort of thing.

Herewith a couple (although not all) of them, as established by Dave, for those playing at home.
The definitive song must have a number in its title somewhere.

The number has to stand alone (so "1999" would not be eligible for 19 or 99; "In the Year 2525" is only eligible for top honors in the #2,525 category. Sorry Zager and Evans fans).

Ordinals are OK ("19th Nervous Breakdown;" "32nd Floor").

Classical music compositions (Mozart's Sympony No. 27 i G Major, K. 199) are not eligible. It would be idiotic to try to compare the relative merits of Haydn's Symphony No. 96 with "'96 Tears."
As you can tell from the title, volume I expounds upon the relative merit of songs featuring the numbers 1 to 33; a second volume, due later in the year, will take the list into the mid-70s. The third (for which the entries have not yet been written) will appear some time in 2013, barring an invasion from space, a la Independence Day.

I should admit, by the by, to a certain relief when I talked to Dave in an expensive long-distance telephone call last week. Which is to say that I didn't recognize scads of the bands and songs he discusses in the book, but fortunately for my critical self-esteem, it turned out that many of them had been unfamiliar to him as well before he embarked on the project. To paraphrase Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich -- "It's called research, Ed."

Interestingly, while two songs that tied for the number 21 honors were by artists who might be described as overly familiar -- Chuck Berry and The Shirelles -- the songs themselves were obscure in the extreme. To wit...

Chuck Berry's "21" comes from his period of greatest innovation but oly came to light fairly recently, on a release of Berry's complete 1950s Chess recordings...While the music is giddy enough, with a rhythmic scheme similar to "Maybelline," the sentiment is rather tame for a Chuck Berry song. The singer is a practical guy who can tamp down his lust and wait patiently for his sweetheart to turn 21 so he can marry her.

The Shirelles - Twenty-One .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine
The young woman belting out the Shirelles' "Twenty-One" has no time for delayed gratification. The song's caffeinated clip and string heavy arrangement give it a touch of camp and, true to it's era, the final verse tries to rein in the singer's ardor...[The song], a B-side written by Luther Dixon, who also penned "16 Candles," "Mama Said" and "Soldier Boy," is a credible slice of teenage life circa 1961.
I should also add that when I asked Dave what was his favorite of all the songs he'd discovered while doing the research, it was this charmingly salacious early 60s doozy by The Showmen (of "It Will Stand" fame....

...which will appear, for obvious reasons as the number 39 entry in Vol. 2.

I should further add that, for my money, this song from the current volume, which shows up in the discussion for the number 28 top slot, is just too cool for words.

In any case, the bottom line is that If 6 Was 9 is simultaneously a really staggering piece of pop/rock historical scholarship as well as perhaps the most entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny bathroom read, in any genre, so far in the 21st (heh) Century.

Dave has advised me that there'll be an official website for the book on-line in a couple of weeks, where you'll be able to listen to audio clips of many of the songs he unearthed along with other neat stuff; I'll remind you all about this when the site goes up.

In the meantime, you can -- and clearly should -- order If 6 Was 9 either as a Kindle-ready e-book over here or in old-fashioned paperback form over here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Instrumental Backing Tracks of the Gods: Saturday Moment of "Mea Culpa" For the Last Couple of Crappy Posts

From 1969, please enjoy the once and future Fab Four and a reconstruction of the unedited backing track of George's "I Me Mine."

Let's be honest -- fond as I am the tune, it's not remotely one of the Beatles best. And at the time they were working on this, they were barely speaking to each other and in fact in the process of breaking up.

And yet...the level of whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts creativity and inter-group chemistry here is pretty much beyond anything that you or I or other mere mortals will ever accomplish even in our best moments. And Paul's bass playing is downright supernatural, IMHO.

Wow. Just wow.

[h/t Gummo]

Friday, February 17, 2012

And in Happier, Non-Newt Gingrich or Grammy News...

...this Sharon Van Etten person seems interesting.

And not just because she grew up in suburban Jersey but now lives in Brooklyn (heh). Rather, because, as somebody last week at the New York Times magazine said about her -- plausibly I think -- her music somehow combines the venom of P J Harvey with a choir loft full of Emmylou Harrises singing harmony.

Not sure if I'm completely convinced yet, but as Keith Richards famously said to a Rolling Stone interviewer in 1988 when asked about Richard Marx: "Why do I think that maybe, just maybe, there might be something there?"

Okay granted -- that's a really unfortunate comparison. But you get my point.

In any case, you can check out the Times Van Etten profile over here, BTW.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In for a Penny, In for a Pound

Ah, fuck it.

Let's just make Thursday Newtday in perpetuity.

Incidentally, I'm working on making Monday Liza!day! for next week.

Adele Explains It All To You

An outtake from Sunday's Grammy show. Apparently Brit neo-soul goddess Adele isn't a fan of Newt Gingrich.

"Not an ethical shred in his oversize head."

Trust me -- this is real, even if it isn't.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Six Degrees of Bruce Springsteen

I don't know if you were watching the Grammy show on Sunday -- I wasn't, out of (among several reasons) fear that the Beach Boys reunion performance would be horribly painful (it wasn't, as I have since learned, but whatever).

But Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band did themselves really proud.

That said, you may notice that there was no attempt to fill the humongous hole left by the departure from this sad vale of tears of the late great Clarence Clemons.

Via the intertubes, however, I have since learned that on the upcoming Springsteen tour, said hole will be filled -- as far as it is humanly possible -- by a gent named Ed Manion. Who already deserves to be immortal due to his sax stuff on the first three utterly classic Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes albums.

And therein lies an (admittedly) self-indulgent tale.

The short version: Sometime in the late 70s, as I was in the process of trying to become a bass player (having decided that my guitar skills were hopelessly inadequate if I wanted to continue performing the kind of music I loved), I found myself at a session with my old bandmate Tony Forte.

The song (one of Tony's, natch) was called "Improbable Mating," and the studio where we recorded it, which was located somewhere in the swamps of New Jersey, was run by its chief engineer, a lovely guy named Steve Becker. Who was at the time gainfully employed as the drummer of the aforementioned Asbury Jukes.

In any case, after we finished the track, Steve remarked that a sax solo might well fit into the song and that he had just the guy for the job if we were interested. We were, obviously, and Ed Manion showed up soon thereafter.

He asked us "What do you have in mind?" We replied "Something that sounds like King Curtis." And we were off to the races.

Here's the finished product. I'm on bass, the redoubtable Artie Scarano is on drums, and Tony's doing just about everything else (except for Ed's sax solo, obviously).

Bottom line is -- Ed deserves his new gig with Springsteen. And not, solely, because he didn't charge us for the session or ask for royalties after Tony issued the track on an indie single in 1981.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Surf's Up

The surviving Beach Boys reunited, via their individual lawyers, at the Grammys on Sunday.

212212211147 by YardieGoals

I miss Carl and Dennis something fierce, but it was much less horrible than I expected.

Actually, it was pretty good, even despite the enormous dickitude that is Mike Love.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dodgers to Return to Brooklyn! Oil Discovered Under Gracie Mansion! Pope Issues New Encyclical -- Says "Sex Lots of Fun!"

And in other headlines I thought I'd never live to see, here's one that I just got in an e-mail from a publicist:

The La's to Headline New York Sound City on 3/12/2012
New York Sound City’s highly anticipated evening performance session will take place at Webster Hall with a feature headline performance from The La’s, marking their monumental return to the New York stage with their first show in the Big Apple in 20 years.
You know, I'm pretty sure I saw that last La's performance in NYC, which if memory serves was at some small venue as part of the New Music Seminar.

Apparently, frontman Lee Mavers has had a change of heart since poo-pooing the whole reunion idea in 2009.

Here they are on Letterman back in the day, promoting the best first album by a Liverpool pop-rock band since you know who's you know what. Just in case you don't understand what all the fuss is about.

In any case, word's fail me. Except -- I literally can die happy now, even if I can't con my way into the show.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Instrumental Backing Tracks of the Gods (An Occasional Series): Nah, Brian Wilson Isn't a Genius Edition

From April 2, 1964 -- The Beach Boys' "I Get Around."

Sans vocals, as it was heard from behind the console where Brian Wilson was producing it.

How the f**k did he know how the vocals -- which weren't recorded till quite a few days later -- were going to line up with the instrumental track?

Words fail me.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Instrumental Backing Tracks of the Gods (An Occasional Series): You've Got to Be Fricking Kidding Me Edition

The Fabs, 1966. Pretty much my favorite track from Revolver -- "And Your Bird Can Sing."

Just the guitars, bass and drums.


Seriously, I'm well aware that there is no Greatest Rock Band of All Time any more than there is a Greatest Novel or Greatest Painting of All Time.

That said, any bunch that could make a noise that brilliant before the vocals were even appended has got to be in serious contention for the title.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Tuesday Moment of "I'm So Tired"...

...due to a very long day of dealing with medical problems involving my maternal parental unit (she's fine now, but still). In any case, while I'm recharging my batteries, I thought you might get a couple of laughs out of this video of Mittens and the Newt possessed by the ghosts of Abbott and Costello.

Hey, as a friend said, it's not any more incoherent than the real debates.

I should also add that Mittens and the Newt really does sound, alarmingly, like the title of a '70s comedy starring Alan Arkin and Sally Kellerman.

In any case, regular power pop-themed posting resumes tomorrow.

Thank you.

Monday, February 06, 2012

GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! Week -- Postscript: Like Sleater-Kinney With Better Legs and a Bass Player!

And just because we like to have something recorded in the current century once in a while, from 2011, please enjoy Sub Pop Records sirens the Dum Dum Girls and the irresistible ear (and eye, come to think of it) candy that is "Bedroom Eyes."

To paraphrase Katherine Hepburn on star quality, it`s either some kind of electricity or some kind of energy, but whatever it is, these dames have got it.

[h/t to reader TigerSoul]

Friday, February 03, 2012

GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! Week -- Episode Five: She's Just Gone Solo

[I originally posted the following in these precincts back in early 2007, but if you missed it -- heh -- or even if you didn't, it seems like the perfect way to end an interesting week. In any case, I stand by the sentiments, and it's safe to say that, since this first ran, no voice has yet moved me quite as much as Sandy's.]

All kidding aside, there are times when I find myself thinking that the late Sandy Denny was the greatest girl singer in history. Certainly, nobody else has ever been able to go from heartbreakingly vulnerable to pin-you-against-the-wall regal within the space of a single line like her.

I have a regrettable tendency to throw the word "goddess" around promiscuously, but Denny was the real deal. The sad thing is that had she been a teeny bit more conventionally attractive -- by which I mean skinny -- she would have been a superstar on the order of Linda Ronstadt.

These dark musings were inspired by stumbling across the following video on YouTube the other night. It's pretty much her signature song (of the autobiographical variety) and it's a document from a 1974 small club tour she did with a particularly nice incarnation of Fairport Convention; the lineup is the three Daves (Pegg, Swarbrick and Mattacks), plus her hubby Trevor Lucas and the brilliant guitarist Jerry Donahue.

I saw a show on theat tour from pretty much the same audience perspective as whoever shot this clip, and I must say that seeing this after all the years was a moment beyond Proustian.

BTW, if you have the disposable income, there's a 3 CD Denny box set you really need to get, if only for the spine-tingling duet version of the Everly's "When Will I Be Loved" with Linda Thompson. As Cameron Crowe famously said of something else, you still can't buy a better album.

Update: One of the saddest things about Denny's way-too-early death in 1977 was that she had a barely seven month old daughter. Hubby Lucas died of a heart attack in 1989, and I'd always wondered what happened to the kid. I'm happy to report that a Google search just turned up the fact that Georgia Lucas gave birth to Sandy's grandchildren -- two beautiful twins, apparently -- in 2001.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Oh Fucking Hell

And once again. Oh fucking hell.

Phil Brown, bassist and founding member of The Records -- and if you don't know who they are and love them to distraction I'm surprised you're reading this particular blog -- has passed away after a long illness.

Very sad news indeed; that's all I'm gonna say.

Except, obviously -- play this loud in his honor. It doesn't get any better.

GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! Week -- Episode Four: What, You Thought I Was Gonna Post Something About Katy Perry?

Oh c'mon -- you knew it was gonna come to this sooner or later.

"Talk of the Town." 1981. By the original Pretenders lineup.

By which I mean -- Chrissie Hynde. Pound for pound, still the coolest, sexiest woman ever to wear shoe leather.

Seriously -- even Louise Brooks wasn't this cool, if for no other reason than she couldn't sing.

True story: I actually had that white Gibson guitar Chrissie is playing in the video in my possession for about a year; in fact, you can hear me playing it on the fitfully audible rhythm part of that David Grahame demo I linked to a couple of weeks ago.

What happened was, the neck had somehow developed a hairline fracture, so Chrissie took it to one of the guitar stores on West 48th street in Manhattan and traded it in for something else. The guy who managed the store at the time was a bud, and he called me up immediately after and said "Dude, you know that video for "Talk of the Town" you're so crazy about? I have the guitar she played on it, and you need to take it on semi-permanent loan."

So I did. Wasn't the best guitar I ever played, but I thought it was still pretty much the coolest thing anybody had ever given to me.

Interestingly, every time I strummed it -- whether it was plugged into an amp or not -- it seemed to play that gorgeous opening riff from "Talk of the Town."

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! Week -- Episode Three: I'm an Adult Now

You know, for reasons that I don't want to get into -- mostly because the subject deserves a thoughtful in-depth essay that I really haven't got the time to do at the moment -- the whole concept of "adult" rock kind of gets up my nose. And I don't just mean "adult" in the sense of seeing geezers who should otherwise be retired in a condo in Boca trying to rock out; I also mean in the whole "songs about grown-up concerns" sense.

But like I said, let's not get into that right now, when we could be considering "While I Look at You," a rather remarkable song from deservedly legendary '60s chick singer Evie ("Any Way That You Want Me," et al) Sands' 1999 comeback album Women in Prison instead.

I think we can all agree that what we're hearing there is clearly a grown-up singing about, er, grown-up concerns. And I don't know about you guys, but I get weak in the knees listening to that by about halfway into the first verse; no disrespect intended, but lordy -- as somebody said of Chrissie Hynde at the time of the first Pretenders album, that is one f**kable voice.

Okay, now that I've totally embarrassed myself, let me simply add, and for the record, that there is no pop performer who came up in the 60s that I would more enjoy getting to meet over an adult beverage than Ms. Sands.

I should also add that the cool guitar stuff on that track is played by legendary New York session musician Al Gorgoni. You may not have heard of him, but you've heard his work on countless occasions -- he's the guy who did the unforgettable 6-string riffage on Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," just for starters.