Monday, April 30, 2012

Child is Father to the Man

From perhaps the rarest of all surf music/pop culture documentaries (One Man's Challenge, 1962) here are the aforementioned Beach Boys and the aforementioned "Surfin' Safari." You'll note that's David Marks on guitar, toiling then as he is now on the reunion tour. Now there's a guy with an interesting and largely unheralded life story.

For Starters, At Least Their Lawyers Aren't On-Stage With Them

Well, the first reviews are in and it looks like that Beach Boys reunion tour isn't quite the pathetic spectacle I'd feared.

From the Arizona Republic:

Beach Boys tour with Brian Wilson: Strong Tucson launch

by Ed Masley - Apr. 25, 2012 03:31 AM
A 50th Anniversary tour could be seen as a fairly historic occasion. In the Beach Boys' case, the anniversary feels more like a footnote to the real news.
The great Brian Wilson is back on the road with his long-estranged bandmates for a full-scale tour that launched on Tuesday, April 24, in Tucson. This year's Grammys marked his first performance with the group since 1996. And he'd made very few appearances with them since 1989.
But there he was, Tuesday night, sharing the AVA Amphitheater stage at Casino Del Sol with Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and guitarist David Marks, whose original stint in the Beach Boys was less than two years but included the recording of the first four albums.
And it wasn't just historic. It was great, with 10 additional musicians fleshing out the Wall of Sound, some drawn from Brian Wilson's touring band, the others drawn from Mike Love's latest version of the Beach Boys, with John Cowsill -- of the Cowsills! -- pounding out the beat with the enthusiasm beats like that deserve.
Some would argue that those other guys were propping up the principals, especially Jeff Foskett, who handled almost all the key falsetto parts, including what would have been Wilson's entire lead vocal on "Don't Worry Baby."
But that would be missing the point.
This was a fully integrated ensemble performance of the Beach Boys' music that managed to capture the magic of those classic songs while allowing the principal members of the group to shine thanks to the musical direction of sax man Paul Von Mertens and guitarist Scott Totten. With all those extra people singing, they could duplicate the stacks of vocals and the individual components of that Wall of Sound, from flute and sax to jingle bells, harmonica and that weird little whistle on "Heroes and Villains."
After setting the tone with a recording of "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" by Wilson's heroes, the Four Freshmen, Cowsill kicked things off with the unmistakable intro of "Do It Again" as the other members of the Beach Boys took the stage. It was the perfect way to start the show: "Well, I've been thinkin' 'bout all the places we've surfed and danced and all the faces we've missed so let's get back together and do it again."
They played 43 songs in two sets with a brief intermission and a three-song encore. After following "Do It Again" with "Catch a Wave," they threw the first of many curve balls, "Don't Back Down." And then it was back to the crowd-pleasing staples with "Surfin' Safari," their breakthrough single, and "Surfer Girl," which featured Brian Wilson's first lead vocal of the night, with Foskett taking the falsetto parts.
There were plenty of hits (and songs that felt like hits because of their inclusion on that "Endless Summer" album ) in the first set, from "The Little Girl I Once Knew" and "Wendy" to "When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)" and a set-closing medley of car songs ("Little Deuce Coupe," "409," "Shut Down" and "I Get Around"). That left plenty of time for such lesser-known gems as Wilson's wistful "This Whole World," Johnston's bittersweet "Disney Girls," which gets better with age, and a breathtaking "Please Let Me Wonder" with a gorgeous wall of harmonies supporting Wilson's aching lead.
Jardine took his turn on lead vocals for "Then I Kissed Her" and "Cottonfields," the second of which earned a standing ovation.
Marks didn't sing any lead but his scrappy guitar work stole the show on more than one occasion, perfectly recapturing the post-Chuck Berry essence of those early Beach Boys solos.
Wilson seemed uncomfortable at times behind his white piano but he tended to rise to the challenge on his few turns in the vocal spotlight. "This Whole World" and "You're So Good To Me" weren't flawless but they were distinctly Brian Wilson.
As for Love, his lead vocals were just what they needed to be, relying more on personality to put a song across, which is exactly what those parts require. And he still works the crowd more than his bandmates. Introducing "Be True to Your School," he said the song they were about to do was "probably the most patriotic song ever written and recorded," going on to explain that "the song in question is about people in uniform and, in particular women in uniform."
Cheerleading uniforms, of course.
And then before the song began, he added, "We should have our heads examined trying to do some of these songs after 50 years."
If Brian seemed withdrawn at times in the first set, he came back from intermission looser, snapping his fingers while singing the opening verse of "Sloop John B" and then gesturing like he was shoveling food into his mouth when he got to the verse about the cook who got the fits and threw away all his grits.
Another nicely executed "Pet Sounds" classic, "Wouldn't It Be Nice," was followed by a touching tribute to the late great Dennis Wilson, Brian's brother, who died in 1983. They rolled video footage of Dennis singing one of his originals, "Forever," while the Beach Boys sang and played along. It struck just the right tone and may have been the emotional highlight of the show.
Before the second set was through, they did the same from Brian's other brother, Carl, who died in 1998, accompanying footage of him singing lead on yet another "Pet Sounds" song, "God Only Knows."
Other highlights of the second set included "Sail On Sailor," the "SMiLE" arrangement of "Heroes and Villains," a gorgeous "In My Room," which featured one of Brian's most effective vocals of the night, and the truly obscure "All This is That."
They gave fans a taste of an upcoming single called "That's Why God Made the Radio," hopefully singing about a new generation of radio listeners. And they finished big with a steady succession of crowd-pleasers, starting with "California Girls" and making their way through such obvious highlights as "Dance, Dance, Dance," "All Summer Long," "Help Me, Rhonda," "Barbara Ann" and "Surfin' U.S.A."
That still left three huge songs to fill the encore -- '80s comeback single "Kokomo," a rousing "Good Vibrations" and "Fun, Fun, Fun," which featured Cowsill and percussionist Nelson Bragg going nuts on the ending, effectively bringing the night to a celebratory finish.
After the show, Love said he thought it was a spectacular start to the 50th anniversary tour.
"It was special," he said of being back on stage with his old bandmates, "especially with Dennis and Carl being represented."
For Marks, who left the band in 1963, it was a very special night.
"When we get together, we revert back to the old days," he said after the show. "It's like the '60s again. We're all in disbelief. We're just so grateful that it came about and we're able to play like this after such a long period of time. I think the Beach Boys are truly blessed to be able to do this."
And although it can be hard to tell at times, that spirit seemed to carry over to their enigmatic leader. As Von Mertens said after the show, "I think vocally, Brian sounded really, really strong. And I think being with his childhood pals really kind of sparked him and inspired him to sing harder and really nail it. He was belting."

Set List:

"Do It Again" "Catch a Wave" "Don't Back Down" "Surfin' Safari" "Surfer Girl" "The Little Girl I Once Knew" "Wendy" "Then I Kissed Her" "This Whole World" "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" "You're So Good To Me" "Cottonfields" "Be True To Your School" "Disney Girls" "Please Let Me Wonder" "Don't Worry Baby" "Little Honda" "Little Deuce Coupe" "409" "Shut Down" "I Get Around" Intermission "Sloop John B" "Wouldn't It Be Nice" "Forever" "Sail On Sailor" "Heroes and Villains" "In My Room" "All This Is That" "God Only Knows" "That's Why God Made the Radio" "California Dreamin'" "California Girls" "Dance, Dance, Dance" "All Summer Long" "Help Me, Rhonda" "Rock and Roll Music" "Do You Wanna Dance?" "Barbara Ann" "Surfin' U.S.A." Encore "Kokomo" "Good Vibrations" "Fun, Fun, Fun"

Well. Let me stipulate that set list is giving me chills just looking at it. And I'll bet there isn't a dry eye in the house when those Carl and Dennis videos play, and justifiably.

On the other hand, I'm not completely sorry I ultimately decided against getting a ticket for the upcoming show in New York City. After all, Mike Love remains a dick.

[h/t Gummo, who provided that "Surfin' Safari clip, from a show in Texas a few days after Tuscon]

Friday, April 27, 2012

Casual Fridays Slacker Pop Quiz

Question: Has there ever been a snazzier dressed and generally just cool-looking rock band than The Byrds, circa 1965-66?

If for no other reason than Mike Clarke's suede jean jacket. And that tie. And that haircut.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Let's Get Small!!!!

Hadn't perused MOJO (the magazine) in quite a while, but the current (May) issue is pretty interesting, starting with an excellent cover story/profile of the late great Steve Marriott. Beginning with this cool-beyond-belief 1966 group photo (hitherto unknown to me) of Marriott with The Small Faces.

Let's just say that THAT is what a rock band is supposed to look like, in my humble opinion. Also: I would kill for that shirt (or sweater?) that Marriott's wearing. Not to mention those white sneakers.

As is their wont, MOJO includes a bonus CD with the issue; those things are invariably uneven, and this one is no exception, but it does feature this minor mind-blower: Marriott's pre-Small Faces band The Moments (from 1964) with "Money, Money."

Jeebus Christ -- Marriott was sixteen when he sang that.

And I would be remiss if I didn't share two other items in the issue that caught my eye and made me laugh out loud:

From a review of Hype & Soul: Behind the Scenes at Motown, a memoir by wunderkind promo director Al Abrams (a teenage Jewish kid who apparently got the gig almost by accident):
Hype and Soul is Abrams' story, which tells how he was banned from quality control meetings after suggesting that Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar" was grammatically incorrect and should be retitled "Isn't That Peculiar."

There's also a preview of a recently rediscovered, previously unreleased comedy album, from 1975, featuring Who drummer Keith Moon and John Peel's radio show producer John Walter (who wrote the sketches). Among the bits are an interview with a soul singer named Otis X. Watermelon (heh) and an interview in which a Brit music journalist fires off inane questions to delusional rock star Harry Krishna (!), lead singer of The Starving Millions (!!).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Compare and Contrast: Portrait of the Artist as The Luckiest SOB on the Planet

From 1992, please enjoy Ric Ocasek (pictured here with his ridiculously gorgeous internationally famous model wife Paulina, who he clearly does not deserve)...

...and an absolutely wonderful unplugged solo acoustic version of his Cars hit "Just What I Needed."

But first his spoken introduction.

Okay -- and NOW the song.

And from 1972, here's Ocasek (with future Cars-mate Ben Orr and some other guy with really awful hair)...

...doing business as Milkwood (an acoustic guitars and harmony outfit so wimpy they make America sound like Rammstein) with With You With Me, the lead track from their absolutely awful album How's the Weather.

Boy, after hearing that last, I really wish I could do Dan Akroyd's Leonard Pinth-Garnell voice.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Blues Came Down From Belmont Avenue

And speaking as we were the other day of the ridiculously great Dion DiMucci...

From 1965, during the period when his hits had dried up, please enjoy his (not released until the 90s) utterly astounding and atmospheric white boy take on Willie Dixon's about-to-be-a-blues-classic "Spoonful."

Let's just say that nobody else comparable -- not The Stones, not Paul Butterfield, not The Yardbirds, not anybody except perhaps the equally unheralded Rising Sons, with Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal -- was doing stuff this authentic at the time.

I should also add that just two years earlier, Dion was recording the most gorgeous doo-wop street corner r&b -- as in "Can't We Be Sweethearts" -- ever heard by sentient mammalian ears.

Words fail me, frankly.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Annals of Pop Culture Illiteracy

So the other day I was luxuriating, as is my wont from time to time, in the great comforting warm bath that is the New York Times Arts and Leisure section, when I chanced upon the following, by World's Most Irksome Rock Critic™ Jon Caramanica:
Pick your poison: the simp or the cad. Being held through the night or getting a high five on the way out the door. Warm and fuzzy or cold and brusque. Pretty lies or ugly truth.
Jason Mraz, well, he would never hurt you. That’s been clear for years, but never more so than on his 2008 hit “I’m Yours,” a live show trifle that ended up becoming one of the most indelible pop songs of the last decade [emphasis mine]...[a song that] indicated the continuing vitality — if not originality — of soft rock, a genre maligned to the bones but stubborn.

Here's the song in question, BTW.

In any case, I bring this up for a couple of reasons. Number One: I was sort of vaguely aware that Jason Mraz is some kind of a pop star, but I was of course deeply relieved to learn that he's also the kind of sensitive Alan Alda-ish guy who would never hurt you. Kudos, Jason; obviously you're a credit to your generation, especially compared to that cad John Mayer.

Number Two: Swear to god, I had never heard that particular song before just now. Thus proving that not only am I completely out of it in terms of current popular music, but that I'm completely out of it in terms of current popular music that isn't even remotely cutting edge. Heh.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Everything You Know is Wrong

Ladies and germs, post-folk/rock-grunge weisenheimer Todd Snider explains it all to you -- by which I mean every stupid zombie lie that you've had to endure since you were a kid, plus the actual Meaning of Life (and Rock 'N' Roll) itself -- with his incomparable "Ballad of the Kingsmen."

And yes, that's The Kingsmen as in "Louie Louie."

I'm serious -- if there was ever a song that exemplified the great Bruce Springsteen line -- "I swear I found the key to the universe/in the engine of an old parked car" -- this is it.
It's the feel good hit of this endless summer
It gets these kids out of control
Singin' along to that star spangled bummer
Hail, hail rock and roll
Except without the optimism.

[h/t Eric C. Boardman]

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Let Us Now Praise Famous Arkansans

From Esquire's incomparable politics blog, here's Charles Pierce on Levon Helm, and why he matters.
It was a hot summer night very long ago, when my career in this racket was brand-new and distinctly alternative. I was in a beneath-the-sidewalk joint in Harvard Square called Jonathan Swift's, and I was listening to Levon Helm play with the Cate Brothers, who were formidable players in their own right, and old friends of Levon's from Arkansas. We were all deep into the howl of the evening when it occurred to my friend and I that we were enjoying the show so much that we really ought to buy Levon a beer. So we ordered one up, and the waitress brought it out to the stage and Levon took a long pull, looked down at the two of us, touched his drumstick to his forehead and said, "Thank you, neighbor."

It was what they were all about, Levon and the rest of The Band, in 1968, when the country was coming apart at the seams. Nothing was holding, least of all Mr. Yeats's center. There were tanks in Prague and there was blood on a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. The traditional American values of home and family and neighborhood were being fashioned into cheap weapons to use against the people who saw the death and gore as the deepest kind of betrayal of the ideals that made those values worth a damn in the first place. The music was disparate and fragmented; the Beatles were producing masterpieces that they couldn't or wouldn't take on the road. Brian Wilson was long gone, spelunking through the canyons of what was left of his mind. Jim Morrison, that tinpot fraud, was mixing bullshit politics with kindergarten Freudian mumbo-jumbo and his band didn't even have a damn bass player. Elsewhere, there was torpid, silly psychedelia. The British were sort of holding it together, but, in America, even soul was coming apart. Nothing seemed rooted. Nothing abided. Nothing seemed to come from anything else. The whole country was bleeding from wounds nobody could find...
Oh hell, just go read the rest of it here.

And in case you've never heard it, here's Levon (with the 1996 incarnation of The Band) with a hilariously sly and lascivious take on En Vogue's "Free Your Mind." A cover version choice that I can pretty much guarantee wouldn't have occurred to many other musicians of his generation.

I should also add that in the otherwise preposterous and forgettable 2007 Mark Wahlberg action thriller Shooter, Levon can be seen in a small but crucial scene -- looking like death warmed over but clearly having the time of his life -- as a renegade intelligence agent who knows where all the bodies are buried.

It is perhaps also worth noting, since Charles Pierce didn't, that there was and is a certain irony in the fact that the true voice of America came to our attention in a band in which he was surrounded by a gaggle of Canadians.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dick Clark 1929 -- 2012

If truth be told, I'm just slightly too young to really have had Clark as one of my childhood icons -- although I have an aunt who actually was a genuine Philadelphia Bandstand girl -- but I will always be grateful to the guy for this.

Seriously -- that's the first time I saw The Bangles. And it changed my life.

Thanks, Dick.

Cahiers du (Bronx) Cinema

And speaking as we were yesterday of the incomparable Dion DiMucci, whose music I have been listening to (in awe) a lot lately, please enjoy -- from sometime in the early 90s -- an absolutely wonderful unplugged performance (from an equally wonderful series of shows staged by DJ and all around swell guy Vin Scelsa at the much-mourned Bottom Line) of Dion's epochal "King of the New York Streets."

The Vin Scelsa intro.

The Man himself.

I wrote about the studio version of this -- from Dion's Dave Edmunds-produced 1989 album Yo Frankie -- a while back, and I'll say now what I said then: I can not imagine a more cinematic song.

It boggles my mind, in fact, that some smart filmmaker hasn't already appropriated this for the credit sequence to a gritty New York crime drama.

Jeebus, you can practically visualize the thing playing out as you listen to it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Compare and Contrast (An Occasional Series): Special "Apples and Oranges?" Edition

The world's shortest great dirty joke.
A guy and his date pull up in front of her house.
HIM: How about a goodnight f**k?
HER: Okay, goodnight f**k.
The world's shortest (a mere 1:16 seconds long) great rock-and-roll record.

That's Mott the Hoople's 1971 "Wheel of the Quivering Meat Conception" for those of you playing at home.

I bring all this up -- insert Beavis and Butt-Head joke here -- for two reasons.

Number one, I genuinely do think that Mott track -- which is from the last album they did before the arrival of David Bowie and Glam-Rock generally, (i.e., for me, anyway, their real Golden Age) -- is the greatest brief rock record ever.

And number two, I've been listening to a lot of stuff by Dion DiMucci lately and I'd forgotten that one of the many interesting oddball covers Mott was doing in that pre-Bowie era was a version of Dion's 1970 confessional anti-drug song "My Own Back Yard." From the same above Brain Capers album.

More on all these subjects later.

Oh, and incidentally -- the title of the Mott song is from Beat Generation icon Jack Kerouac. A writer whose ultimate literary merit may be debatable, but someone who I think we can all agree knew a great deal about single entendre.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Say What You Will About Wanking, But At Least You Don't Have to Look Your Best

From the Roxy in Los Angeles in 1979, please enjoy power pop minor deity Bram Tchaikovsky and a way cool (with qualification below) live assault on his incomparable "Girl of My Dreams."

Or as we refer to it around Casa Simels "Pictures of Lily Meets Born to Run and Then Both of Them Go to Spago For Dinner."

The original studio version of "Girl of My Dreams" is one of my favorite records of all time, and I think we can all agree that it ranks among the Top Five Wanking-Themed Songs ever committed to magnetic tape. But of this live version, I must say -- as somebody who's tried to cover it with a considerable lack of success in at least two bands over the years -- that I was gratified to discover Bram and company couldn't quite duplicate it on-stage. I should also add that (to my ears, at least) there are two different bass guitar parts at work in the studio version, but unless I'm very much mistaken, I'm hearing the same thing here, which seems unlikely; not sure whether this is the trio or four-piece incarnation of Bram's touring band when this was recorded, but either way, clearly, there weren't two bass players. If anybody has any idea why I'm hearing what I think I'm hearing, I'd be grateful for their input.

[h/t ASH on the Beat.]

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Your Saturday Night Moment of Retro-Techno

Why did I not know this song existed?

(Oh, also, too: Boys Don't Lie is done. If that's not a reason to indulge in some 80s divas, I don't know what is!)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Weekend Listomania: Special "Beauty May Be Skin Deep, But Ugly is to the Bone" Edition

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental blah blah blah Fah Lo Suee and I are off to somewhere to do something with somebody sometime, which is to say I have no joke this week, political or otherwise.


But since things will, as per usual, doubtless be a little quiet around here for a couple of days, herewith a hopefully amusing little project to help us fill, at least for a few idle hours, the voids that comprise the hellish emptiness of our lives:

Least Attractive Post-Elvis Male Pop/Rock Solo Artist or Group -- And By Least Attractive We Mean "How the Hell Did He/They Ever Achieve Success, Even Briefly?"

No arbitrary rules, since this is all in the eye of the beholder, obviously. But I would like to state for the record that I am not -- repeat: NOT -- ever going to do the distaff version of this particular Listomania. And 'why is that?" you might ask.

Because I'm not fucking stupid, that's why.

Okay, and moving right along, my totally top of my head Top Five is/are:

5. Gino Vanelli

Somebody thought this guy was hot, apparently, but he just gave me the creeps. It must be a Canadian thing.

4. Carl Perkins

A great musician and songwriter, but let's be honest -- there's a reason he wasn't as big as Presley. I should add that the toupee of Carl's later years was perhaps even sillier than whatever the hell is currently sitting on Donald Trump's head.

3. Metallica

Okay, Lars had a certain teen appeal back in the day, but the rest of them? Yipes.

2. Fucked Up (Damian Abraham)

Saw this guy interviewed on TV somewhere and he's really smart, funny and politically savvy. But sweet Jeebus -- I once endured a cell-phone club show video of the band featuring a shirtless Abraham, and frankly there's a part of me that's never coming back; there's a part of me that's gone forever.

And the Numero Uno these-guys-were-definitely-wupped-with-the-ugly-stick act of them all simply has to be...

1. Uriah Heep

The world's longest running, least photogenic and most clueless heavy metal band -- the real Spinal Tap, in other words, and what a fabulous comedy of errors their bio pic would be. How ugly were they? There is a story -- perhaps apocryphal, but I believe it -- that when the above video debuted on (the then fledgling) MTV, the album from which it was the single literally stopped selling overnight; in fact, it was such a disaster that the band's management had to beg the network to stop airing the thing.

Alrighty then -- who would your choices be?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Early Clue to New Direction: Special "The horror...the horror..." Edition

So the other day I was browsing through various back issues of the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review (which are currently residing in the back of my bedroom closet) and I chanced across this little piece I'd written on the eponymous debut album by Satanic Hell Beast multiple Grammy winner Christopher Cross from May 1981. Which I had pretty much forgotten about.

Hard to believe that this guy was, if only for about five minutes, the biggest rock star in the universe.

In the wake of Christopher Cross' surprising (to some of us) five-way sweep of this year's Grammys there will no doubt be a spate of mournful pronouncements from the critical left that if this kind of aural Valium is State of the Art for 1980, then the art is bankrupt and why even bother to give awards? This is understandable, perhaps even true. In fact, if you got me alone I'd probably say the same thing.

Which misses the point, even if I'm not sure just what the point is. The fact is that it's not Cross' fault that he and his group dominated the Grammys, and, what's more (to paraphrase the truism), people get the pop music they deserve. There are, after all, a lot of acclaimed geniuses making music that is far more pernicious, and they are selling it in larger quantities. Bantam-weight a talent though Cross may be, he is decently accomplished at what he does, which is to make brainless, catchy, quintessentially California pop records -- no more, no less. If critics can bend over backwards justifying the Doobie Brothers (whose head honcho, Michael McDonald, is all over Cross' album) then it's the height of hypocrisy to mourn about Cross' fluffy appropriation of their sound.

Yes, there are people who make music in a similar vein that is both better crafted and addressed to somewhat weightier subjects (if Cross could rhyme June and moon, I'm sure he would) but that too is irrelevant. People like THIS stuff, so they buy it. Who, then, is the villain of the piece? Somebody once asked H.L. Mencken why he didn't leave America if he hated it so much, to which he replied, "Why do people go to zoos?" Why have more copies of Christopher Cross already been sold than of the last four Clash albums combined? Probably for the same reason that people ride in elevators. -- Steve Simels

To be honest, I'm not quite sure what the hell I was going on about in that second graf; clearly I was pissed off over something or somebody -- it may have been then Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh's rhapsodies to the aforementioned Michael McDonald, although I have mellowed on McDonald since then, and in any case what was bugging me has been lost in the mists of memory.

That said, the "aural Valium" crack is pretty good, and I have to admit that the Mencken/elevator joke at the end made me chortle mordantly.

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Classical Gas

So over the weekend, my local PBS affiliate (Channel 13 in NYC) showed Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1983), which is one of the most magical movies ever made, IMHO, and they showed it cropped.

Which is to say, from what must have been an ancient made-for-VHS video master, and how dare PBS foist that kind of crap on their audience while trying to raise money?

That said -- and don't get me started -- I had forgotten about the sheer level of gorgeousness of Mark Knopfler's score.

Seriously -- f**k Dire Straits. If for nothing else than the closing credit music -- "Going Home: The Song of the Local Hero" -- Knopfler deserves to be be an immortal.

Please -- take five minutes and listen to it, in case you've never heard it before.

Okay, here's my two cents.

That happens to be classical music, and it deserves to be treated as such, i.e. it should be played at Philharmonic concerts just like any other great opera overture/prelude/intermezzo you could mention.

In fact, as far as I'm concerned, what Knopfler did there is akin to what George Gershwin (yes him) did some decades earlier, which is to say, he took pop/folk/vernacular music -- in this case, Celtic airs and the rock/r&b urban street-corner romanticism of Phil Spector and Bruce Springsteen records -- and made something utterly sui generis and grand and universal from them.

I have one cavil, however; the drum and synth sounds on the Local Hero soundtrack album are a little dated; if there's a brilliant young orchestral composer out there, please score this for traditional symphonic ensemble (plus guitar) and soon.

Arthur Fiedler really should have lived to conduct this, is what I'm saying.


Amd just to illustrate my point, here are two five minute classical pieces (and by five minutes, I'm talking about the length of all sorts of great pop records) that I think are in the same ballpark melodically and harmonically.

From 1597(!) and arranged by Leopold Stokowski, who knew something about pop stardom, here's Renaissance proto-rocker Giovanni Gabrielli's all horn "Sonata Pian e Forte." You may notice that Gabrielli is doing the whole soft/loud thing that people thought was totally innovative when Kurt Cobain did it several centuries later.

And closer to the idiom that Knopfler was working in, here's unjustly obscure Austrian late Romantic Franz Schmidt's 1914 intermezzo from his opera Notre Dame.

As in The Hunchback of...).

Both of those are gorgeous, but no less so than the Local Hero music, I think. In any case, you get my meaning.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Compare and Contrast: Special Tuesday Total Self-Indulgence Edition

From 1982, please enjoy Greenwich Village's finest, the fabulous Floor Models, with their peppy Nuevo Wavo/folk rock ode to the green-eyed monster of jealousy, the insinuating "Slow Poison."

Written and sung by its composer Gerry Devine, and with Andy Pasternack on Rickenbacker 12-string, Glen "Bob" Allen on drums, and some guy whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on bass.

And from their 1995 indie album, here's Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams with a moody ballad remake of the song.

With the same personnel as above, except that Doug Goldberg (stepping in for Andy) is providing the exemplary Mark Knopfler-esque guitar stuff, and that Nimels guy is doubling on keyboards. Including those sampled castanets, if memory serves.

I like both of them pretty much equally, if truth be told. And in case you're wondering, I'm bringing the whole thing up because the first track, in significantly improved remastered form, will figure on that Floor Models Album-We-Never-Made compilation I've been hocking you about for ages.

Which is now almost finished, and which will -- swear to god -- be available on Amazon and iTunes by the summer of this year.

You have been warned, obviously.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Mr. President, I'm Beginning to Smell a Big, Fat Commie Rat!!!

Okay, I wouldn't have believed this one if I hadn't heard it myself. Or even then, actually.

From WeWillBuryYou.Com:
Here is the rarest 45's release from special vaults!

Who can believe that unknown musicians from Soviet Union, behind the "iron curtain" -- Vladimir Zuev & The Four Beatmen -- back in 1966 (!!!) released on label Fontana this unique for its time recording!

Probably this single did not make a breakthrough in the charts at that time only because it remained in the promo version, and almost all pressed copies were destroyed...

Why? Who knows! In those old days the music is often interfered with politics - this may be the cause...

Now it is the rarest collector's release with a price in e-Bay auction slot above 7000$.

About this group and artist of almost nothing is known except that they lived and performed in Moscow in the mid-Sixties, and this rare recording was made on a radio-studio...
Obviously, the author of the above was not entirely comfortable with English, but in any case please enjoy the aforementioned Vladimir Zuev and The Four Beatmen with their remarkably Slavic cover of "Fujiyama Mama," the double entendre rockabilly classic best known from the 1956 version by Wanda Jackson.

Truly -- music IS the universal language.

Friday, April 06, 2012

It's Pesach-- Let's Party Like It's 5772!!!

Just wanted to wish a big Good Yontiff to all our Red Sea Pedestrian readers and friends this Passover weekend.

And in honor of the holiday, from 1981, please enjoy Gefilte Joe and the Fish and their seasonal classic "Matzo Man."

Okay, off to watch the new deluxe restored DVD version of The Ten Commandments. Talk to you all again next week.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Slacker Thursday

Oy gevalt. I had planned to put up a clue to an unusually droll Weekend Listomania today, but between the usual pre-Holidays hoo-hah, some time consuming errands for my maternal unit and just general disorganization I have realized that there's no way I can get it all together by tomorrow.

As a mea culpa, then, and speaking as we were yesterday of Jim Henson's Beatles Babies the possible supergroup consisting of Sean Lennon, James McCartney, Dhani Harrison and Zak Starkey, here's a tantalizing glimpse of what such an ensemble might sound like.

From a John Lennon tribute concert of a few years back, it's Sean -- with Rufus Wainwright and Moby (of all people) with a truly spine-tingling live version of Dad's "This Boy.

And a tip of the Hatlo Hat to our bud Sal Nunziato, who had this in his archive.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Wednesday Moment of "I Don't Know What the Fuck I Think About This"

Interesting and/or alarming news via The International Business Times.
The Beatles 2: McCartney Jr. Hints At 2nd Generation Reunion
By Jacob Kleinman | Apr 03, 2012 11:17 AM EDT

McCartney, Lennon and Harrison may be getting back together again, according to Sir Paul McCartney's son. James McCartney, son of the Beatles bass-playing leader, recently told the BCC that he has spoken with John Lennon's son, Sean, and George Harrison's son, Dhani, and the three of them were "up for it."

"Sean seemed to be into it," James added. "Dhani seemed to be into it. I'd be happy to do it."

The only hold out appears to be Ringo Starr's son, Zak Starkey.

"I don't think it's something that Zak wants to do," said James McCartney. "Maybe Jason [another of Starr's sons and also a drummer] would want to do it."

Asked if "The Beatles 2" was really a possibility, James McCartney responded with vague optimism.

"Yeah, hopefully, naturally," he said. "I don't know, you'd have to wait and see. The will of God, nature's support, I guess. So yeah, maybe."

James McCartney is an accomplished singer-songwriter. in his own right and has played guitar on two of his father's albums (Flaming Pie and Driving Rain). He is planning to follow in the Beatles footsteps by playing a show at the famous Liverpool venue, The Cavern Club, where the Beatles performed before getting famous.

He told BBC that as a schoolboy his dream was to be even "better than The Beatles," adding, "I'm not sure if I can do that. If anything, I would love to be equal to The Beatles -- but even that's quite tough."

Actually, all I'm gonna say is -- if this happens, Julian's gonna be REALLY pissed.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

(I Can't Get No) Snap Crackle Pop

You know, at this point, I should know better than to challenge the historical accuracy of the 60s pop culture references on Mad Men.

The story so far: If you were around for last week's premiere episode, set in the spring of 1966, you may recall that it opened with a scene of a bunch of asshole copywriters at real life advertising agency Young & Rubicam dropping water balloons on Civil Rights protesters on the street below their Madison Avenue office.

Granted I was a kid at the time the episode was supposed to happen, but I didn't remember anything like it ever occurring in real life, and I lived in the New York City area in 1966.

But sure enough -- turns out the scene was written almost verbatim from a front-page New York Times story from the spring of that year.

More to the PowerPop point (i.e the mission statement of this blog), in last Sunday's episode, our anti-hero Don Draper goes to a 1966 Rolling Stones concert at Forest Hills Stadium, hoping to talk to Stones management (the late Allen Klein) about getting the band to do a TV spot for Heinz Baked Beans.

Draper (the great Jon Hamm, who directed the episode) finds himself in his first encounter with the youth culture, i.e., backstage with some teenaged Stones (proto-groupie) fans, and he tries to pick their brains. He also tells one of them --

-- that the Stones had done a cereal commercial in England three years earlier.

Now, I certainly remember a lot of '60s bands doing radio and TV spots -- for canned milkshakes, or Yardley makeup, etc. -- but the idea of the Stones doing something like that in 1963, before they broke in America, didn't sound right to me.

Goes to show what I know.

PowerPop to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner: I will never second guess you again.

Amusing Postscript: In the aforementioned episode, the Stones blow Draper and his agency off; as Don leaves Forest Hills, somebody mentions that he wound up signing The Tradewinds for a commercial instead.

That would be these guys.


Monday, April 02, 2012

You Can Call Me Ray (Part Deux)

And speaking as we were on Friday of Ray Davies covers, our good friend Sal Nunziato nominated one that I had not previously heard, but once I did I absolutely had to share.

From 1999, please enjoy Leigh Harris and a heartbreakingg rendition of "Oklahoma U.S.A.," perhaps my favorite song from The Kinks' forever fabulous Muswell Hillbillies album (1971).

Harris, who has been a New Orleans fixture for ages (although she re-located to North Carolina after Katrina) most famously fronted a band called Little Queenie and the Percolators in the late 70s; I actually saw them at Kenny's Castaways back in the day, and a Google search reminded me that I actually wrote a rave review of their live act for the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review at the time, although I don't remember the piece (and don't have a copy of the 1980 issue it appeared in). In any case, Harris struck me mostly as a soul/r&b belter, and never in a million years would she have struck me as a good fit for this song. Shows what I know, because as you can hear, it's simply stunning.

Haven't heard the rest of the album it's from, but I notice that she also covers the Stones' "Backstreet Girl" on it, which sounds promising.