Friday, March 30, 2012

Weekend Listomania: Special You Can Call Me Ray Edition

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental Zous Bisou Bisou, the lovely Fah Lo Suee, and I are off to downtown Dakota Dunes, South Dakota to do a little consulting work for Beef Products, Inc., the good folks who make that pink slime beef additive you've been hearing about lately.

Our mission: To get pink slime into the American heartstream!

Which means that, barring the unforseen, things will probably be a little quiet around here for a couple of days.

That being the case, here's a fun little project that should help us wile away the idle hours until the premiere of that new Three Stooges movie (which actually looks pretty damned funny).

Best/Worst Extant Cover of a Kinks Song and/or One That Hasn't Actually Been Done Yet But That You'd Really Like to Hear!!!

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

5. Mott the Hoople -- You Really Got Me

Re-imagined as an instrumental, for heaven's sake, which still strikes me as a hilarious and brilliant masterstroke. Of course these guys had a genius for oddball covers, as the same album's deadpan reading of Sonny Bono's "Laugh at Me" as an outtake from Blonde on Blonde made abundantly clear.

4. Herman's Hermits -- Dandy

Peter Noone and company may have been lightweights, but on record they did total justice to this gem from Face to Face, aka the Kinks first great album. This non lip-synched TV version doesn't make a case for them as a great live band, however.

3. Van Halen -- You Really Got Me

Bloated, smarmy and (for me) unlistenable, and don't give me that Edward Van Halen shit, because I don't want to know. Really, it makes me physically ill that an entire generation grew up thinking these putzes wrote the song.

2. Mark Lanegan -- Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me Worryin' About That Girl

The Screaming Trees frontman's sepulchral take on the great nervous bohemian blues tune (originally from the Kinks third album in 1965) as heard on that 2006 MOJO tribute sampler I remarked on yesterday. Incidentally, I'd forgotten how much I loved this song until I saw Ray do it in concert earlier this year, but of course that show is a story unto itself.

And the all time Dedicated-Follower-of-Fashion recording ever simply has to be...

1. The Pretenders -- Stop Your Sobbing

C'mon, it's not even close. Seriously -- there are times I think the way Chrissie sings "Each little tear/that falls from your eye" is the single most spine-tingling moment in the history of rock 'n' roll.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special Adam Schlesinger is a Fricking Genius! Edition

This may be old news to you guys, but I just chanced across it over at Willard's Wormholes and have been wondering where it's been all my life.

From the 2006 MOJO sampler The Modern Genius of Ray Davies, please enjoy World's Greatest Living Power Pop Band Fountains of Wayne and their absolutely astonishing cover of The Kinks' deliberately retro 1981 single "Better Things."

Apparently, FOW recorded this for a 2002 Ray Davies tribute album, which I also missed somehow. In any case, as much as I love the Kinks original, I have to concede this improves on it, if only in terms of the energy level.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sometimes I Feel So Uninspired

Well, actually, real-life responsibilities have reared their ugly head, and I'm also sort of stumped for anything surprising to natter on about. So I thought I'd just post the B-side of that remarkable Summer of Love single by Brit rockers One in a Million I put up the other day.

So please enjoy "Fredereek Hernando" -- once again featuring the 14 year old(!) Jimmy McCulloch on guitar.

I forget which commenter brought it up, but it's true -- these guys actually sounded more like The Jam than The Who.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hope I Die Before I Get Old. Not.

From their 1972 album Teenage Heaven, please enjoy awesome antipodean rockers Daddy Cool and a song which is the unsuspected missing link between Eddie Cochran and Alice Cooper -- the epochal "Teenage Blues."

I posted about these guys a couple of years back, but for those of you who missed it, here's the short version:

I used to have this album on vinyl -- a consequence of being on the Warner Bros. Records freebie list as my old college paper's in-house rock crit -- and although I vaguely recalled enjoying it (or at least some of the songs) I lost my copy ages ago and more or less forgot about it. So when it turned up on a now shuttered download site, I auditioned it under the headphones mostly from idle curiosity.

And flipped my geriatric lid.

I have since been informed by estimable PowerPop commenter Peter Scott, who blogs about Down Under bands over at Peter's Power Pop, that these guys are about as iconic as you can get in Australia; their biggest hit -- "Eagle Rock" -- was Number 1 on the Ozzie charts for ten(!) weeks back in 1971. Peter also informed me that said hit is so utterly ubiquitous in his homeland that it took him years before he could get over being sick of it and actually appreciate how great a band they were.

In any case, this stoner sort-of haiku from "Teenage Blues" -- "I've been thinking a lot/About getting a job but/I'm paranoid about my hair" -- has got to be one of the greatest opening lines not just in pop music but in the entire history of literary endeavor going back to the Greeks.

And this later bit -- "Don't wanna get a job/Don't wanna go to school/Just wanna hang around/street corners like a fool" -- is actually even better.

I should further add that I was moved to write about all this after having discovered this 2009 live performance -- with the song's composer, the obviously years past teenage Ross Wilson belting it out with undiminished aplomb -- on YouTube the other day.

The album does not seem to be available legitimately over at Amazon, BTW; if I can find another site where you can download it, I'll let you know.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Life During Wartime

In case you missed it over at love of my life Charles Pierce's place the other day, here's the best Etch-A-Sketch related story that has nothing to do with that Mormon game show host who's running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Via Pierce, and I quote:
"When David Byrne, eventual leader of Talking Heads, was applying to the Rhode Island School of Design, his application project reportedly consisted of a collection of Xerox copies of Etch-A-Sketch maps of each of the 50 states.

How he did Michigan and Hawaii, I will never know."
I have no idea if this is true, but it really sounds like something Byrne would have done.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Weekend Listomania (Special Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. But given that you can now legally commit gun murder in Florida, I'm not about to tell you guys where I'm going or who I'm going to see until I get there, if you know what I mean. And that includes my charming Oriental Annie Oakley impersonator Fah Lo Suee, who happens to have a condo in Boca.

That being the case, and since things will be mostly quiet around here for the time being, here's a fun little project to help us all through the hours when you're out of ammo and there's nobody you hate in the immediate vicinity:

Best or Worst Pop or Rock Song or Album About Starting the Show or Just Shows In General!!!.

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

5. Nick Lowe -- Rollers Show

This seemed pertinent after our discussion of the other day, obviously.

4. Emerson Lake and Palmer -- Welcome Back My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends

I dislike this crap so profoundly I refuse to post any audio or video from it. And may I simply say that the title of this bloated live double album always sounded kind of like a threat to me.

3. Wings -- Rock Show

You know, these Wings guys were pretty good. I wonder if any of them ever did anything else?

2. Grand Funk -- We're an American Band

This may count simultaneously as best AND worst, but that's just me, probably.

And the number one Hello-Cleveland!!!! song of them all simply has to be....

1. Warren Zevon -- When Johnny Strikes Up the Band

Nothing else even comes close, IMHO. Seriously -- if I ever find myself performing live rock-and-roll again, this is the song I want to open with.*

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

*Don't worry -- not gonna happen.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Unsolicited Song of the Week (An Occasional Series): Special Early Clue to the New Direction Edition

And because we like to have something recorded in this century from time to time, please enjoy power pop comers One Like Son --the pride of Montgomery, AL. -- and "Start the Show," the appropriately monikered and utterly infectious, title track to their debut album.

I hear a hint of The Undertones in there, unless I completely miss my guess, and maybe a little Cheap Trick. In any case, I just dug this one, right off the bat, strictly on the aural level; however, when I got around to listening to the lyrics, I related like crazy (for obvious reasons) and dug it even more.

I should add that OLS member Stephen Poff, who kindly let me hear this in the first place, assures me that the album was recorded on an iPhone. Speaking as somebody who's only just gotten used to recording my own garage band on a laptop, I must admit to being somewhat astonished by this.

I should also add that you can -- and obviously should -- order the whole album over here.

And of course, as usual, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who gleans the song's connection to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Hope I Die Before I Get Old

I must confess I had forgotten about this very sad story until I chanced across this first song the other day.

From 1967, please enjoy 14-year-old(!) guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, doing time as as a member of One in a Million, with perhaps the most amazing obscure pop-psych Brit single of the Summer of Love ever, the sublimely early Who-ish "Double Sight".

Let me repeat: McCulloch -- that's him, center front in the group photo -- was 14 years old when that was recorded.

And then, from 1970 -- when he was a grizzled 17 year old -- here he is with the song that guaranteed him a degree of genuine pop immortality.

The utterly transplendent "Something in the Air."

Produced by Pete Townshend, just to add to the various levels of irony.

Thunderclap Newman - Something In The Air .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

After Thunderclap Newman? A very impressive list of credits that includes work with John Mayall, Harry Nillson, Stone the Crows and eventually a stint as a member of Paul McCartney's Wings (he occasionally played bass on stage when Macca switched to piano or guitar).

And then this (via Wiki):

"McCulloch died of heart failure caused by a heroin overdose on 27 September 1979 in his flat in Maida Vale, North West London. He was 26."

Jeebus, what a fucking waste.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special Just Kill Me Now Edition

A recent photo of power pop deity Nick Lowe.

You know, he's kinda cute in a Sir Alec Guiness/C. Aubrey Smith kind of way; if he had been born a few decades earlier, he could have had a career in some of those 1930s British-in-India movies.

Nonetheless, there's something about that photo that I find...disturbing.

[h/t Trademark Dave]

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special My Son the Folksinger Edition

From 1972 and the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village (then as now a hole in the wall dive), please enjoy a very young Bruce Springsteen in a wide belt and work shirt telling it like it was.

Have I mentioned that words fail me?

[h/t Laura G.]

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Post-Christmas DVD/Blu-ray Consumer Guide: Special Sci-Fi From All Over Edition

Okay, just by way of a little change of pace, herewith some musings on a batch of interesting and/or alarming movies on disc that have crossed my desk recently. As you can see, what they all have in common -- apart from the fact that I shnorred them -- is a certain out of this world quality. I should also add that I auditioned most of them, save for the Blu-ray of the Chris Marker flick and the Kino Metropolis, on DVD.

And now -- to infinity and beyond! Or something.

1. World on a Wire (Criterion)

A recently re-discovered knockout, this 1973 German TV mini-series by Rainer Werner Fassbinder is based on Daniel Galouye's 1962 s-f novel Simulacron 3, and if that sounds familiar it's because the book was also the basis of The Thirteenth Floor, a fabulous what-is-(virtual)-reality? thriller that had the bad luck to come out in the same year (1999) as the similar but frankly inferior The Matrix.

The whole thing is a little languid by contemporary standards, and some of the futuristic early 70s fashions are a hoot, but mostly this is mind-bending stuff, with enough twists and turns to keep you hanging on for dear life. Criterion's transfer, supervised by cinematographer Michael Balhaus, looks great (given the original's low budget origins) and the set comes with a fascinating making-of documentary.

2. Metropolis (Kino)

This is Giorgio Moroder's MTV version from 1984; it was state of the art at the time of its release, and Moroder deserves tremendous credit for reviving interest in Fritz Lang's butchered silent masterpiece. Still, the fact remains that this is pretty much a curio now, given the crappy 80s soundtrack by the likes of Bonnie Tyler and Queen, et al, not to mention that the film has since been restored -- more or less complete -- to its original 1927 splendor. (That version is also on Kino, BTW).

That said, whatever you think of Moroder's version, this new disc is NOT a restoration of same; it's mastered from a decent theatrical print from the 80s and it looks just okay. An even bigger problem is that an obsessed Moroder fan in Australia took it upon himself to do his own reboot of Giorgio's film (incorporating footage from the earlier Kino version from 2002) and his technically quite amazing edition looks and sounds vastly better than this one. I don't know what the legal status of Metropolis Redux is, but you can talk to the aforementioned crazy SOB directly about it (and last I looked, order a copy) over here. In the meantime, the Kino can be found over at Amazon.

3. The Magnetic Monster (MGM Limited Edition Collection)

Surprisingly good low-budget atom-age sci-fi from producer Ivan Tors, of TV's Science Fiction Theater fame, and done in much the same semi-vérité style as the show. What really makes it work, however, is some spectacular FX footage -- you can see it at the end of the trailer -- lifted from a big-budget 1934 German UFA production called Gold, which director Curt Siodmak manages to integrate seamlessly into the action (alas, you can't see Brigitte Helm, the robot lady from Metropolis who was in it somewhere). MGM's Limited Edition discs can be hit or miss, quality-wise, but this one looks sharp as a tack.

4. Gog (MGM Limited Edition Collection)

More Ivan Tors sci-fi mishegass, only this time in eye-popping color and widescreen, rendered here in a flawless remaster (although not, alas, in the 3D in which it was originally shot and released). The futuristic shenanigans of the plot are much less dated than you'd think -- mysterious forces are sabotaging a supercomputer at a top secret underground lab where they're building a space station -- and it's always fun to watch rugged leading man Richard Egan pit the dimple in his chin against the forces of evil.

5. The Sacrifice (Kino)

Andrei Tarkovsky, for me, has always been one of those "lord knows, I've tried" directors; I respect the intelligence behind the films, and the visuals are frequently stunning, but I mostly find them a real chore to get through, and that includes his biggest hit, Solaris, an occasionally profound sci-fi epic whose themes were nonetheless, as Brit critic David Thomson observed, better and more concisely served in several episodes of the original Star Trek series. The Sacrifice, filmed in Sweden just before the director's death in 1986, has something to do with the end of the world and nuclear holocaust, and it features, to paraphrase MST3K's Tom Servo, "more pauses than a Pinter play." If that's your cup of tea, pounce, and Kino's video transfer is quite spectacular.

6. La Jetée (Criterion)

Chris Marker's 1963 sci-masterpiece is a 27 minute post-nuke apocalypse time travel story told in a succession of black-and-white still photos. It's the kind of thing that, once seen, will haunt you like the dream at its center; just ask Terry Gilliam, who used it as the basis for 12 Monkeys in 1995.

Criterion's new high-def transfer looks great and offers the options of narration in English and French, and the set also features Marker's Sans Soleil, a free form travelogue (to Africa and Japan) that's pretty amazing in its own right, although perhaps not quite as weirdly poetic as La Jetee's vistas of Paris after World War III.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Flogging a Deceased Equine (An Occasional Series)

And speaking as we were yesterday of NYC punk rock wiseacres Iron Prostate -- and yes, they're best known for being the band Rolling Stone critic The Rev. Charles M. Young toiled in as bass player -- here's a 1992 track that may be their magnum opus.

He can't fingerpick because his hand's incomplete
He needs two drummers just to find the beat
His words are as solid as a cloud of smoke
If that guy is deep, then I'm the pope!
The picture sleeve above notwithstanding, I'm not completely sure if this was ever released as a vinyl 45; if memory serves, I had it on a cassette of various Iron Prostate demos. In any case, I thought it was screamingly funny back in the day, although of course that was before Jerry ascended. It's still good for a chuckle, though, particularly the chimes.

I should also add that it was produced by Jim Steinman. Yes, THAT Jim Steinman.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Great Moments in Minimalism

From 1991, please enjoy NYC punk-rock wiseacres Iron Prostate and "Gilligan," their ode to exactly what you think it's their ode to.

The lyrics in full:
I wear a white hat
I wear a red shirt
They all think I'm stupid
One day I'll kill them
I am Gilligan
I should add that, apart from having one of all time greatest album titles and cover, the above CD is consistently droll; it's out of print, alas, but if you chance across a used copy, do not fail to pounce.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Lion in Winter

You know, with all the milestones around here of late -- Mark Lindsay's birthday, the sad passing of Davy Jones, the Move at the Fillmore live album -- it occurred to me that we missed a big one.

To wit -- Lou Reed turned 70 last week.

I can think of two factors in our defense, of course.

1) Who the hell ever expected Lou would live that long?

2) Given the reviews of his recent collaboration with Metallica, one could be forgiven for assuming he was already dead. (Disclaimer: I actually haven't heard it, so who knows -- it could be a misunderstood masterpiece.)

But I kid the former Dostoyevsky of the New York demi-monde.

In any case, belated birthday good wishes to everybody's favorite nice Jewish boy turned bi-sexual junkie turned lucky bastard who's married to Laurie Anderson:

Gefilte Joe and the Fish and "Walk on the Kosher Side."

I should add that I have a pretty amusing story involving the STEREO REVIEW awards banquet/press party at which we attempted to fete Lou and his first solo album. But the weather is so enervating at the moment I think I should save it for another occasion.

Oy, it's so humid.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Million Miles Away

Power pop gods The Plimsouls, featuring the great Peter Case, and a blistering live cover of Moby Grape's classic "Fall on You." From the just released Beach Town Confidential.

Hey, I always knew there was a reason I liked Case, and not just, as I've mentioned before, because he's turned himself into one of the most spell-binding folk/blues singer-songwriters around of late.

Still -- a Moby Grape cover? Nice call, guy.

Seriously, order Beach Town Confidential here immediately. I mean, like right away. It's already the best live rock album of 2012, and if it had been released back when it was actually recorded, in 1983, it would have been the best live rock album of that year too.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Beat the Reaper

Aw shit.

Peter Bergman, founding member of The Firesign Theatre and all around cool guy, died of leukemia this morning. He was 72 years old.

Rock on, Nasi Goring. You big gorilla.

POSTSCRIPT: You can remember Peter in the memorial page at the Firesign Theatre website over here.

Happy Birthday: Mark Lindsay!

We at Power Pop wish a very happy birthday to Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders, who turns 70 today.

Thanks for the great stuff!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Studio Fooling Around of the Gods (An Occasional Series)

John and Paul work on "Blackbird" at Abbey Road Studios on June 11, 1968.

As you can hear, Paul is channeling his inner Elvis at this point, which I find particularly droll for some reason

Incidentally, there are a bunch more clips on YouTube from these sessions, but be warned -- in some of them, you can actually hear She Who Must Not Be Named at her most gnomic.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

I Don't Know If I Believe in God, But I Saw Bruce Springsteen at Max's Kansas City Once

Sometimes I think perhaps somebody up there likes me.

Case in point: I've been yelling for years about how a certain early 1973 Bruce Springsteen show I attended was a) life-changing and b) demonstrably glorious, if only there were tapes of it somewhere to play for non-believers.

Springsteen completists are doubtless aware that a version of "Wild Billy's Circus Song," from the same Max's shows, turned up on the Bruce four CD box a while back, but other than that -- nada.

But now, via the intertubes, suddenly there's more.

Here's how I described the experience in a poorly compensated memoir for the Barnes and Noble website in the late 90s.
As it happened, Bruce was making his semiofficial New York debut that week, on a double bill with the similarly debuting original (Bob Marley and the) Wailers. (To put this in perspective: This was at Max's Kansas City, a club that sat fewer than 200 people. I don't want to say, "Those were the days," but frankly, they were.) Every rock critic in New York showed up for what would be their first exposure to live reggae, and yes, the Wailers' opening set was rapturously received by all (few bands have ever had two front men as charismatic as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh). After intermission, however, I realized that the aforementioned highly jaded press contingent, having already had their tiny minds blown by a bunch of Rastas turning the beat around, were not about to fall for any "New Dylan" hype and had beaten a hasty exit. This left me in the odd position of being alone in the back of Max's with 30 or 40 of Bruce's buddies from the Jersey Shore. I was, literally, the only stranger there.

And the show was everything I'd hoped for, and more. Bruce and his E Street Band opened with a version of "Spirit in the Night" that made the album take sound anemic. He went on to preview the far richer material he had already written for what became his sophomore masterpiece, The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, going so far as to use a mellotron on a gorgeous "New York City Serenade" that sounded like a Phil Spector record made flesh...
Ladies and germs -- from 7/23/73, please enjoy Bruce -- along with, among others, the late Danny Federici on the aforementioned mellotron, plus the criminally underrated David Sancious on piano -- at Max's Kansas City, with that aforementioned version of "New York City Serenade."

You can read the rest of the Springsteen piece, including the amusing (at least to me) bit about how he played "Route 66" after I yelled a request for it, over here.

In the meantime, lovely as the above is, it's obviously an audience recording; will whoever has the rest of the actual board tapes from those shows please post them on-line somewhere?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

That Was Steve's Promise, Not Mine

Because I just noticed--probably the last person on earth to do so--that the "acid scenes in Julie Taymor's surprisingly watchable Across the Universe:

Are actually a pretty direct homage to the Monkees' Head:

Weird, huh?

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Last Monkees Post... least for this go-round.

In any case, I just wanted to add that if you haven't seen the Criterion Collection DVD or Blu-ray of the Pre-fab Four's Head (1968), which after The Complete Metropolis is easily the coolest film restoration of the decade, you really need to.

Now in widescreen for the first time on video, and featuring the 5.1. surround soundtrack it always deserved (ditto), the newly spruced up Head is a hilarious piece of Hellzapoppin' style surrealism, a priceless snapshot of the late 60s American cultural landscape, and -- perhaps best of all -- the most gleeful career suicide note ever filmed.

It also features some truly memorable dialog, courtesy of director Bob Rafelson and co-writer Jack Nicholson (who has a brief cameo that you'll miss if you blink). My favorite scene, for any number of reasons, is the birthday bash the other Monkees -- Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and the late Davy Jones -- throw for a thoroughly pissed off Mike Nesmith.

MIKE: Ask me how does it feel.

MICKY: How does it feel?

MIKE: I'll tell you how does it feel -- I don't like it, that's how it feels. I don't like surprises. I don't like these people jumping out and saying that -- I don't want to hear what you're saying. Because you know what you're saying to me? You're saying happy birthday and you're jumping out of the wall and it's scaring me to death and it's some kind of a big joke and I'm supposed to be happy about that. Aw, come on, Mike -- be a good sport. Well, who needs it?! Who needs surprises, and pajamas? You want me to come to a party? You don't kidnap me, you send me an invitation. Besides, I've had it with happy birthdays.

MIKE: And I'll tell you something else -- the same thing goes for Christmas.


MIKE: Well. How 'bout them apples?

Oh, and of course, Nesmith's "Circle Sky" figures prominently in a concert scene.

Which proves, as I've said before, that at least for a couple of minutes these guys were a great live rock band.

Alas, Head is only available as part of a larger Criterion box -- America Lost and Found: The BBS Story -- but since the set includes similarly excellent restorations of Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Drive He Said and The Last Picture Show, it's well worth the investment.

Which is to say you can, and should, order it at Amazon over here.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Remember Those Fabulous '80s?

And speaking of The Monkees, as we were for sad and obvious reasons yesterday, here's their 1986 comeback MTV-era single "That Was Then, This is Now."

I'd forgotten what a cute record this was. The production is a little too decade-specific for my taste, but the song itself -- by power pop cult figure Vance Brescia of The Mosquitos -- is put together like a charm, and I defy anybody to listen to the track without smiling at some point.