Friday, June 29, 2012

Unsolicited Track of the Week: Today's Schmutz is Tomorrow's Hepster Artifact Edition

From the just released indie album gem Speed Queen Mystery Date, please enjoy Minneapolis power popster Dave Birk and the monstrously hooky and utterly addicting "All Things Retro."

I should add that I'm particularly jazzed by this song because it confirms an insight that I've probably posted about here earlier. To wit -- that Devo were right when they posited the theory that things are devolving, i.e. winding down.

And the evidence that I have always marshaled to support this theory has always come down to this:

1. Sixties kids rediscovered The Marx Brothers.

2. Seventies kids rediscovered The Three Stooges.

3. Eighties kids rediscovered...The Brady Bunch.

Obviously, the fact that a Gen Y popster has come around to my way of thinking (as you'll note from the song's chorus) is...gratifying.

I should add that you can procure the album at both Amazon and iTunes. Dave informs me that you can also find it at Bandcamp and Kool Kat Music, but I have no idea what those are.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday Shameless Filler: Special Double Entrendre Playhouse Edition

[I don't know if I've mentioned it previously, but believe it or not there are plans afoot -- by putatively reasonable people -- to anthologize some of my poor scribblings over the years (mostly about music, but on other subjects as well) in book form. Essentially this would be a sort of "Greatest Hits of a Z-List Critic" kind of deal, and I'm sure the masses have been clamoring for it.

In any case, as a result, I've been plowing through a lot of my previously published ephemera and this piece, from my years at the website of Box Office magazine, kinda cracked me up on re-reading. Assuming you missed it back in the day (October 27, 2009), it is my fervent hope that you might find it amusing this time around. I should add that it originally appeared under the title SCENES FROM AN UNWRITTEN SCREENPLAY: THE MYSTERY OF VICTOR NOIR -- S.S.]

Here in Paris -- have I mentioned that I've been vacationing in the land of the Ignoble Frog for the last several days? -- it seems a movie-worthy story is where you find it. Case in point: This weekend I spent the better part of a rainy Saturday wandering around the historic Pere-LaChaise cemetery, final resting place to (among others) Fredric Chopin, Gertrude Stein, Abelard and Heloise and bozoid Doors lead singer Jim Morrison. An interesting afternoon, to say the least, especially when I chanced across the utterly modest and unassuming joint grave of French film icons Yves Montand and Simone Signoret.

Anyway, I was getting ready to leave when I practically tripped over a gravestone of a personage previously unknown to me. It was a lifesize bronze relief of a nattily dressed young man, of the mid-19th century by the look of his clothes, lying dead on his back, with top hat in hand and the top button of his trousers unfastened. There were fresh flowers stuffed into the hat, but what was particularly odd was that the area of his crotch was totally discolored, apparently from excessive wear. It was as if over the years -- according to the gravestone, the date of his death was 1870 -- somebody had been rubbing it obsessively. This struck me, as you can imagine, as just the damndest thing. As did his name...Victor Noir. Wow, I thought -- a dead Frenchy with an entire film genre named after him. Who was this guy? And why were people rubbing his bronze genital area?

The answer to the first question was easily found via Le Google. Turns out that Noir wasn't his real name (no surprise there); born Yvan Salmon in 1848, the son of a Jewish cobbler who converted to Catholicism, he adopted the nom de plume (after his mother's maiden name) when he set off for Paris to become a muckraking journalist for La Marseillaise. Once there, the circumstances of his death turned out to be uniquely cinematic. Seems there was a political feud between the editor of a rival Corsican newspaper and Pierre Bonaparte, great-nephew of the famous Emperor. Noir and a bud were sent to Bonaparte's house as seconds, to arrange the details of a duel, but the latter was so insulted to have been approached by mere "menials" (his phrase, apparently) that he slapped the hapless 22-year-old in the face, pulled out a pistol and shot him on the spot. Charged with murder, Bonaparte insisted he'd been slapped first and had fired in self-defense, and was ultimately acquitted. A public outcry followed, and 100,000 Parisiens turned out for Noir's funeral procession.

The answer to the second question is more problematic. Also according to Le Google, the reason why Noir's bronze crotch is well worn is that over the years a legend has developed, specifically that if a woman puts flowers in the statue's hat, kisses Noir's figure on the lips and finally rubs the groinal area then this will, er, enhance fertility, ensure a blissful sex life, or, in some versions, guarantee a husband within the year. Why this story developed, however, is ultimately mysterious, given that there is absolutely no record I can find suggesting that Noir was particularly a ladies man or endowed in any out of the ordinary way in that particular area. It may be that the story started for no other reason than that sculptor Jules Dalou, who did the gravestone likeness, thought it might be kind of funny to cast Noir with a suggestive bulge in his pantaloons.

Whatever the reasons, the legend persists to this day; as recently as 2000, the Pere-LaChaise powers-that-be put a fence around the grave to keep sex-crazed filles from further defiling it, but another public outcry convinced them to take it down in 2004. As of this writing, the deterioration of Noir's statue continues unimpeded.

Like I said, a movie-worthy story, sans doute. I'm thinking Todd Haynes to direct, Leo DiCaprio as Victor, and Megan Fox, in a dual role, as the Countess who put the original lump in Noir's shorts and (in a framing story) as a contemporary babe whose fingers linger on the bronze. If anybody at a studio is reading this, please contact my rep Morty Lachman at the Gonif Agency and we'll talk.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Surf's Up 2012

Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Nelson Bragg is -- apart from being the long-time percussionist in Brian Wilson's touring band and currently providing the same service on the surprisingly wonderful Beach Boys reunion tour -- one of the first people I reviewed here after NYMary gave me the metaphorical keys to the car back in 2007.

Bragg's first album -- Day Into Night -- absolutely knocked me out at the time...

The basic musical template of the record is airy-sounding massed acoustic guitars overlaid with jangly twelve-string, choirboy harmonies, and the occasional strings, horns, recorders, discreet keyboards, and pedal steel; if you're thinking early America or George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, you wouldn't be off the mark. (The album's only cover is a lovely version of "Dark Sweet Lady," from Harrison's eponymous 1979 solo album, which on the basis of Bragg's take I'd say must be better than I remember). There are also little nods (perhaps unconscious, perhaps not) to Paul McCartney, the Zombies, the Millenium, and Todd Rundgren, but the album has its own personality in spades.

...and my opinion of it hasn't changed since then. What HAS changed, however, is that Nelson has now been kind enough to allow me to post a song from it. So please enjoy the absolutely gloriously melodic opening track "Forever Days."

I bring all this up because Nelson's got a new album out and, in many ways, it's even better than Day Into Night. In the sense that the songs are equally fab, but the overall approach is slightly harder rocking and power pop guitar oriented -- think The Hollies circa "You Need Love" and some of Bill Lloyd's stuff.

Here's the opening, and quite kick-ass, "You Could Believe," to give you an idea of We Get What We Want's world-class smarts and melodic charm.

Bottom line: If Shoes' Ignition wasn't about to drop momentarily, this would be my early candidate for record of the year.

In any case, you can -- and definitely should -- order We Get What We Want either over at Amazon or directly from Nelson's website.

You're welcome very much, BTW.


Brian, Al Jardine and Nelson at the sound check for today's Beach Boys show. From Brian's Facebook page.

Warms the cockles of this old fan's heart.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Apples Falling Close to Trees

From 1968, please enjoy Los Angeles heavy rock popsters People! and the album version of their cover of The Zombies' great "I Love You."

Sans all that sub-Vanilla Fudge crap at the beginning, an AM-radio-friendly edit of the above was a major hit back in the day, and deservedly so.

More importantly, the guy in the photo second from the right on the top row -- the keyboard player of the band -- is the dad of a terrific movie actor who, amongst his other credits, played a drummer in the best rock-and-roll/power pop movie of the '90s.

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who guesses said actor's identity without Googling.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wails From the Crypt (An Occasional Series): Special Vintage Cheap Shot Edition

So I was browsing some back issues the other day, and I chanced across this review from the June '78 issue of The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review.

I'm not sure whether I think it holds up or not -- and for that matter, I'm not even sure I agree with it at this point -- but the subject matter seemed relevant. I've changed a word or two and some punctuation that I found irksome, but mostly it's the piece exactly as it ran.

I have before me two remarkable recorded artifacts, originally conceived for media other than the LP, that suggest Lester Bangs was right on the money when he observed in these pages..."it's time to let go of the Beatles once and for all."
Some of us aging Sixties types have stubbornly resisted that suggestion even against our own better judgement, but it's time to face it squarely. Fact is, most of the musical and technological grammar the Beatles created has been appropriated whole by those who have achieved mass-market success in the Seventies, from Barry Manilow to Fleetwood Mac. As a result, if anybody is to blame for the Mush Rock that dominates today's airwaves, it's our erstwhile heroes. And while that's hardly their fault, it does, or should, force a reassessment of sorts. What's particularly curious about these two new albums -- the original-cast recording of the Broadway hit Beatlemania and the souvenir of Eric Idle and Neil Innes' March NBC-TV "Rutles" special All You Need is Cash -- is that they vindicate Bangs in totally different ways.
What Beatlemania proves, depressingly enough, is that there are people who are so desperate for what the Fab Four symbolized that they have lost touch with the realities of contemporary life. Either that or there are still suckers being born every minute, people who will pay outrageous ticket prices to see a Broadway show that reduces their most cherished memories to the level of a a drag queen doing Judy Garland impressions. Clearly, those who have made the show the box office hit it is feel the myth of the Beatles hasn't dated, but that's ostrich-ism of the first order. Their music hasn't, perhaps, but the attitudes and styles that surrounded its creation have, and it is an imitation of those attitudes and styles that, at heart, the show is selling, a kind of reassuring retreat into the great rock-and-roll womb that is my generation's equivalent of an earlier generation's nostalgic passion for Busby Berkeley films. In short, it hardly matters whether some of the performances in Beatlemania have an eerie K-Tel authenticity about them (most of them don't, actually); real Beatles music survives only in its original context, and that, as we stand here on the shore of the Eighties, is long gone.
"The Rutles" demolishes the memory of the Fab Four in a more civilized, more affectionate, more fun-filled way, but with just as devastating a thoroughness. What Idle and Innes have created is no less than a warped retelling of the band's entire history, most of the details intact but just enough askew to make you view the whole as slightly less than the sacred high drama we all know it was. The fourteen songs do the job by combining every half-remembered riff, lyric fragment, and banal tune in the Lennon-McCartney catalog into brand new songs that still sound like the genuine article; you can predict every lick, every piece of instrumentation, every studio trick a good verse before it happens. Everything we loved about the Beatles we loved is leveled -- except their humor; I don't think it was an accident that George Harrison himself was involved in the project. While those who have lapped the Broadway ersatz will undoubtedly be offended, for the ex-Beatles themselves and the rest of us in the real world "The Rutles" is liberating as only the most reverential irreverence can be. And of of course it's no more a putdown of the Beatles than this review is, so save your stamps. -- Steve Simels
BEATLEMANIA ARISTA AL 8501 two discs $11.98

Like I said, I'm not sure I particularly even agree with it anymore. I mean, the point about the Beatles being responsible for most of the crap that was then polluting Top 20 radio is at least arguable, but it's also a little unfair and self-righteous. Of course, I wrote the piece in a momentary mood of punk-inspired anti-Beatles icon smashing, and unfair and self-righteous was sort of the game that was being played in 1978.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Weekend Listomania (Special That Voodoo You Do Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental French tickler Fah Lo Suee and I are off to blah blah blah to blah blah blah blah.

And I say blah blah blah blah blah etc., because if you were here yesterday, you may recall that Blogger ate about two days worth of work I had meant to post, and frankly I'm not gonna waste a good joke on the chance that Its Satanic Blogesty decides to do something similar today.

So -- that being the case, and because things will almost certainly be a little quiet around here for a few days, here's a fun and hopefully rib-tickling little project to help us all beat the heat.

Best (or Worst) Post-Elvis Pop/Rock/Soul Song Referencing the Supernatural (But NOT Including God or the Devil)!!!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, and no arbitrary rules whatsoever apart from the God and Devil thing.

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

5. "Jumpin'" Gene Simmons -- Haunted House

One of the all time great cheesy rockabilly hits. How this topped the charts in 1964, at the height of the British Invasion, remains one of history's most baffling mysteries.

4. Gwil Owen -- Haunted House

Nashville rocker Owen was responsible -- as a member of The Thieves -- for one of the great overlooked albums of the 80s (produced by no less a luminary than Marshall Crenshaw). This one -- an Owen original, not a cover of the Gene Simmons hit above -- was from their cassette-only indie follow-up record, and it just (you should pardon the expression) slays me.

3. John Cale -- Ghost Story

Because I just discovered this clip on YouTube, and realized I was at the show where it was recorded.

2. Warren Zevon -- Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner

Because his "Werewolves of London" would have been just too fricking obvious.

And the Numero Uno "I do believe in spooks!" song of them all simply has to be...

1. Zacherle -- Dinner with Drac

Because Bobby Pickett's "Monster Mash" would have been just too fricking obvious. And also because Zachacherle is my all-time hero.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Things About Blogger That Make Me Want to Guzzle Anti-Freeze (Part I)

Okay, I just finished up a lengthy and I thought quite brilliant review of the new Criterion Collection DVD box set of four restored David Lean/Noel Coward films. Which I was using to a) keep myself in the good graces of the fine folks at Criterion and b) serve as the clue to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

And then the new and supposedly improved Blogger ate the whole damn thing.

Have I mentioned that that new and supposedly improved Blogger is worse than certain creaky old DOS programs I endured in the early 90s?

God, it sucks.

Anyway, the Listomania will go up tomorrow, assuming Blogger doesn't eat it too, and the clue has something to do with Kay Hammond in Blithe Spirit.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shoes Song of the Day: Out of Round

Shoes continue to release a sample song every day, leading up to the July 3 "Extreme Fan" release of Ignition.

Today's selection: Jeff's "Out of Round."

From Boys Don't Lie: A History of Shoes:

Jeff demoed a new song and handed it off to John and Gary, just to see what they thought of it. A ballad addressed to a friend who had died suddenly, “Out of Round” began as a measured acoustic-guitar-and-piano-based reverie dealing with grief. “Brian was a big bear of a guy, so full of life,” says Jeff of his buddy. “Then he contracted Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the degenerative brain disorder: it’s the human form of Mad Cow Disease.” He declined rapidly, and in talking to Brian’s wife after his death, Jeff was struck by the many little things she now did to fill the empty space her husband had left. “The coworker who inherited his phone at work hadn’t changed the voicemail message,” Jeff recalls, “so she could call it to hear his voice. She would stuff a sleeve of his coat with a towel and throw it over herself in their bed. Stuff like that.”  Deeply touched, Jeff composed the ballad and brought it to his bandmates.
Jeff had played songs for John and Gary before, including tracks from Cantilever he’d shared with them during that album’s composition and recording. Initially, they thought Jeff didn’t necessarily want them to intervene in “Out of Round.” Ultimately, however, according to John, the two “‘Your Imagination’-ed it.”
(Then there's a whole lotta stuff about Gary Klebe's home studio.....)
And so, in this sophisticated surprise of a studio space, John and Gary took on Jeff’s “Out of Round.”
John says the first time he listened to the ballad, “I kept envisioning it picking up in the middle, maybe adding more drums, changing the mood.” John told Jeff what he was thinking: his fraternal bandmate gave him carte blanche to mess with the song. And when John voiced his suggestions to Gary, the floodgates opened, as both the other Shoes began reconfiguring Jeff’s track.
The three of them hadn’t worked like this in literally decades, getting in each other’s heads, making changes to each other’s music. At first, John and Gary were worried about Jeff’s reaction “We did an awful lot to it,” Gary admits. “‘Out of Round’ went from being a relatively short ballad to becoming a much longer, fuller rock track.” And the first time they played it for him in the basement, Jeff found it “initially a bit jarring.  But I liked it.”  He goes on:
What they did was to use a double-time drum pattern in the chorus and add an extended guitar break. … Gary’s guitar work reminded me of Lindsey Buckingham, and John had done two different bass lines. We used a hybrid version of them both, and extended the instrumental section even more. … The song’s length went from 2:30 to 3:45. [The final mix is 3:58.] And most of the basic demo instrumentation—which was done at my house—remains in the track.
But since all this doctoring had been done on Jeff’s original demo, an extra keyboard scrap remained on the track. Initially, Jeff had tried the song in a different key, but then decided to change the key and just record over the original piano part. “When I finished recording,” Jeff says, “a little bit at the end popped on, because the song had ended. I liked the reprise feel, so I grabbed a vocal line and flipped it over backwards, and also grabbed a military-style snare drum part that I had tried in the body of the song and reversed that too.” 

You can preorder Ignition here.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Mourning the loss of Victor Spinetti, whose comic turn in Beatles' movies still cracks me up.

The good-natured Mr. Spinetti embraced his role as an eyewitness to Beatles history, appearing at fan conventions around the world in later years to tell stories about making the films and about his friendship with John Lennon.
His most often-told tale was about how the Beatles had drafted him for their first film project. They were popular in Britain but still months away from their first trip to the United States and their debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Mr. Spinetti, a British television veteran by then and fresh from a starring role in a hit British movie, “The Wild Affair,”was appearing in the London musical satire “Oh What a Lovely War” when Mr. Lennon and George Harrison visited him one night backstage.
“Victor, you’ve got to be in our film,” Mr. Harrison said, by Mr. Spinetti’s account. “You’ve got to be in all our films.”
“Why?” Mr. Spinetti replied.
“Because if you’re not in them, me mum won’t come and see them,” Mr. Harrison replied. “She fancies you.”

UPDATE (from Simels, so don't blame Mary for this): Spinetti's funniest non-Beatles related performance.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

As you may know, if you can fog a mirror and ever wander by here, I have been finishing up the final edits on Boys Don't Lie: A History of Shoes, which should be available by mid-summer, more or less the same time as the new Shoes album, Ignition, drops.

But the band is rewarding long-term fans: head on over to Shoeswire, starting today, register there, and you can stream a new Shoes song a day, every day, for the next 15. At that point, the album will be available for download from the site. You can preorder now and get it then, or wait for the official street date of August 4.

I premiered two tracks when I did my History of Shoes show on WHRW: "Say It Like You Mean It" and "Head vs. Heart": simels premiered the goofy rocker "Hot Mess" last week. (link here)

Today's song is a contribution by Gary Klebe called "Only We Remain." It's a song which--like many Shoes songs, reaches in two directions. Partly, it's about the band, having come down a hard road, but sticking it out together. Partly, it's the tale of a relationship: "At the end of the day, any couple really only has each other," Gary says. But it's one of my favorites on the record.

They'll be streaming them all, in reverse order, starting today. Set your bookmarks and enjoy!

The Boys From Syracuse

From some time in the early 1980s , please enjoy pride of the Syracuse, New York music scene popsters The Tearjerkers and their delightful Beach Boys-ish ode to the (what I assume are relatively brief) summers of their home town, the aptly titled indie single "Syracuse Summer."

I bring this up at all -- other than for the fact that obscure regional hits are a semi-obsession around here sometimes -- because the gentleman singing lead on this one has gone on to significantly greater fame in the intervening years.

He is, of course, comedian Tom Kenny, better known as the voice and mind behind Spongebob SquarePants. I am also reliably informed that a Terjerkers roadie has also gone on to greater fame; that would be the irrepressible Bobcat Goldthwait.

I should add that when I interviewed Goldthwait in 1988 about his rock-and-roll past (for a Rolling Stone piece that ultimately never ran but for which I was nevertheless paid 5000 bucks) he did not mention these guys. He did, however tell me, that he had once been the lead singer for a Ramones-ish outfit called The Dead Ducks, and that his delivery was similar to the angsty style he later employed in his standup act.

P.S.: If you missed my turn on intertube radio last week, the show is now archived at the vault over at area24radio; scroll down to Lost at Sea and click on the link for the show for 6/12/12. I crack myself up a lot, but hopefully you'll find it amusing too. Also -- we world premier a song from the eagerly awaited new album by Shoes.

[h/t the anonymous DB]

Thursday, June 14, 2012

No Milk Today

Real world concerns (nothing serious -- just irksome) are preventing me from posting promised stuff today and tomorrow. Until I return on Monday, please enjoy Herman's Hermits and the great Graham Gouldman's ode to bittersweet vacations.

I thank you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Odds and Sods

Well, yesterday's appearance on the intertube radio show, including the world premiere of a track from the forthcoming Shoes album (thanks, Mary!) was a lot of fun; I'm informed it will be archived by this weekend, so if you missed it -- and consequently feel an aching void in your life -- you'll be able to hear it over at the Lost at Sea website.

I should add that we also played some stuff from the forthcoming CD by my 80s skinny tie band, and I thought I'd share some of the (almost completed) art work, courtesy of a certain shady dame.

I have to admit, I'm totally jazzed by the above, although I should also add that Lost at Sea proprietor Allan Rosenberg has suggested -- and I concur -- that the phrase "Prepared for release in U.S.A. by Manny Kellem" be appended to the bottom of the CD label.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Programming Notes From All Over

Hey -- I'm gonna be on the intertube radio thingie again.

The show is Allan Rosenberg's LOST AT SEA, which you can catch on your computer or hand-held device today between 5-7pm at Area24Radio!!!!

But enough of my yakking--here's what our host has to say about it!

Returning for another visit will be Steve Simels music and film critic, author, blogger and musician.

Steve will be featuring music from two upcoming projects, the first new release in many years by The Weasels and first release ever of the classic recordings by 1980's NYC new wave rockers The Floor Models.

We will discuss his very popular blog POWERPOP. He always has some great musical surprises for us. Steve and I will also debate the musical merits of various songs he has posted on the blog in the last few months. "Roots Rocker" vs. "Power Popper", may the best ears prevail!

So join us June 12th, 2012 at 5PM here at If you have any questions for Steve during the live broadcast leave your comments right here and I will convey them to Steve live on the show.

I should also add that I'll be indulging in a little plugola for Mary's upcoming Shoes band bio Boys Don't Lie, and debuting yet another song from the band's forthcoming CD Ignition. So in the immortal words of Edith Prickley on SCTV -- could be a hot one!!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hell Freezes Over!

PBS has auto-tuned Mr. Rogers -- and I actually kind of like it!

True story -- the first time I ever saw Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, I was in my late twenties, when I stumbled into my living room on a Saturday morning, somewhat bleary eyed from a, shall we say, active night before. I remember staring at the TV screen watching this guy in a sweater talking really slowly, and wondering if he was on drugs or if mine hadn't worn off yet.

Seriously -- it took me half an hour before I finally realized it was a kids show.

[h/t Geor3ge]

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Saturday MEA CULPA Blogging

Sorry kids, I had a rough night and apparently I was a little over-sensitive.

Normal less thin-skinned posting resumes on Monday.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Somehow I Don't Think This is What They Mean By Kraut-Rock

From 1969, please enjoy (hitherto unheard by me) Teutonic popsters The Petards and their perhaps unfortunately monikered German hit "On the Road With My Bag."

The best description of the song itself I can muster at the moment is "inoffensive," but the video has inspired a couple of questions. First of all -- and if we have any readers conversant with the German language, this is for you -- does the band's name sound better auf Deutsch than it does in English? Secondly, and more important, was that woman with the baby carriage a paid extra, or was she merely out for a walk when the thing was being shot?

Thursday, June 07, 2012

My Favorite New York Times Thing Ever

From last Sunday's Times Magazine letters page:

CORRECTION: An article on May 20 about the musician Regina Spektor referred imprecisely to a scale she played on the piano during one of her recording sessions. It was D-sharp major, not D-sharp.

Words fail me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Let Us Now Praise Famous (Unsigned) Men

Okay, I mentioned this guy and this CD a couple of weeks ago, but I've finally got a copy and...words fail me.

In any case, here's a representative track -- the quite astonishing "Precious Love." Sounding pretty much exactly like it would have if, like moi, you'd been lucky enough to catch a late 70s/early 80s live performance by genuine power pop underground legend Mark Johnson (doing business with The Wild Alligators) at Kenny's Castaways (which is where and approximately when the album cover was photographed, BTW).

A postcript: These guys were -- and remain -- the single most exciting never-signed band I ever saw. Drummer Don Costagno was a monster groove player, guitarist Drew Zing was good enough to later join Steely Dan, Johnson himself was a riveting front man, and the bass guy (on the right in the photo) -- well, I thought he sucked, but that was mostly because I was desperately trying to figure out how to weasel my way into the band, which never happened. I've forgiven Mark for that lapse in judgement, obviously, if for no other reason than I wouldn't have been motivated to join The Floor Models -- whose decades in the making retrospective album will drop sometime before the end of the summer -- otherwise.

I should also add that I caught MJ & TWA countless times back in the day, and they never failed to induce goose bumps; you can't imagine how many great songs they had, and most of them are on the CD. So get over to Mark's website and order a copy now.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Hums of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce

From 1966 -- and more relevantly, from Sunday night's penultimate installment of the current season of Mad Men, the one where Don more or less causes Lane to commit suicide...

...please enjoy The Lovin Spoonful (featuring drummer Joe Butler on vocals and the astounding Zal Yanovsky doing guitar versions of pianist Floyd Cramer's coolest licks) --

-- with the gorgeous "Butchie's Tune."

As heard in the closing montage and credits of the episode.

NYMary rightly flagged The Beatles "Tomorrow Never Knows" in an earlier episode as a seriously profound cultural signifier -- and one which cost series writer/creator Matthew Weiner a major part of his budget.

But this Spoonful song (which I assume he got for cheaper) was actually a bigger deal for me. We needn't get into the details at this point, but if you've been around here a while you already know that I've always felt the Spoonful got something of a raw deal when the history of the 60s was written (i.e., they weren't a bubblegum band, not even close).

Which is to say I feel vaguely vindicated that this song underscores perhaps the most appallingly tragic and sad plot point of the show so far.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Logrolling in Our Time (An Occasional Series)

A musician friend, Dave Achelis, writes:

I recently did a little rock video for one of my home demos. You can find it on my website under Music. Let's make it viral so I can finally retire!

Okay, Dave -- here we go!!!

I should add that Dave is playing and singing every one of the parts on that song, as well as serving as engineer on the sessions, a feat that I happen to know involved weeks of work.

I should also add, if you are ever fortunate enough to jam with Dave (as I have been, over the years), that he happens to know all the lyrics to the four minute and thirty-eight second Marty Robbins version of "El Paso," so ask him to sing it. And if that doesn't brighten your day, seek medical attention.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Friday Shameless Self-Indulgence: Special Compare and Contrast Liberal Bias Fine Arts Edition

The official portrait of Laura Bush, as unveiled at the White House by President Obama yesterday.

As opposed to one of Cindy Sherman's recent "society" photos, as seen at her MOMA retrospective of the last few months. I never noticed it before, but apparently among many other splendid things, Cindy is the Hogarth of our age.

Okay, I'm being unfair to Laura Bush here -- for whom I actually have a chinchilla of sympathy -- and if truth be told, I'm only posting this because I knew Cindy Sherman socially back in the day, and I'm frankly insufferably pleased with myself for having hung out, however briefly, with a major 20th Century American artist before she got famous.

In any case, have a nice weekend, and I promise that less strident and strictly apolitical musical postings will resume next Monday.