Well, due to the recent atmospheric disturbance on the East Coast it looks like a certain Shady Dame and I are trapped here in Paris Dayton, Ohio, until Sunday.
I know, I know. Boo fucking hoo, right? In any case, curse you Al Gore, for your pernicious influence.
Of course, for a variety of reasons, regular posting will be fitful for the next few days, depending on my mood.
But in the meantime, here's something you might enjoy.
On our day trip to London earlier this week, we went looking for Number Six's apartment (from the opening credits of The Prisoner) at 1 Buckingham Place, and it turns out it was just blocks from our Belgravia hotel.
So of course, I had to pose myself in front of it.
Optional soundtrack for the above: The Times' 1982 hit "I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape."
From 1965, and the sessions for what would become the Summer Days and Summer Nights album, please enjoy The Beach Boys, despite the dickishness of Mike Love, as they rehearse a song expressing my sentiments about the recent atmospheric unpleasantness in my beloved Hackensack, New Jersey (the Paris of the Tri-State Metropolitan Area) and elsewhere on the East Coast.
Here in the actual Paris, it's seasonably lovely at the moment, and our plan is still to return home sometime on the morrow, weather permitting (obviously). Our flight still hasn't been cancelled as of this writing, so we shall see.
But in the meantime, fuck every single Republican in Congress who voted to slash the FEMA budget.
Seriously -- fuck every one of them with a rusty chainsaw.
[Still languishing in the land of the Ignoble Frog, and given the Frankenstorm about to strike the Northeast and my beloved Hackensack NJ -- Paris of the Tri-State Metropolitan Area -- I have no idea when I may get home. So it seems like a good time to pontificate on a subject near and dear to my heart. Thanks for indulging me. -- S.S.]
As Dr. Livingstone should have said to Stanley: What took you so fucking long?
Seriously, it's not exactly a secret around here that I'm a fan of those guys; in fact, the first post of mine that ever went up here was a revisit to my retrospective gush about them that originally appeared in (and served as my audition to) STEREO REVIEW, back in 1972.
That said, when the subject of the nomination came up last week over at Sal's place, there was a lot of the usual pooh-poohing. Because, you know, they're just One Hit Wonders. You know -- like The Singing Dogs, Whispering Jack Smith, and whoever sang the theme from Dawson's Creek.
Which always gets up my nose because a) The (admittedly inferior to the studio version) live orchestral "Conquistador" was almost as big a world-wide hit as the ubiquitous "A Whiter Shade of Pale"; b) "A Salty Dog" has been an FM staple for decades; and c) at least three of Procol's albums are transplendent masterpieces, and another three or four are way better than just good.
So -- submitted for your approval, five Procol Harum songs that aren't "A Whiter Shade of Pale" or "Conquistador" or "A Salty Dog." Any or all of which should be grounds for inducting the band into the Hall several years ago.
5. The Devil Came From Kansas
Drummer B.J. Wilson -- the band's secret weapon -- gets to strut his amazing stuff here with (starting at the 2:46 mark) an over-before-you-know-it drum break (with hand claps) that's quite breathtaking in its concision. And the rest of the song and performance is pretty world class as well.
4. Salad Days (Are Here Again)
From their brilliant debut album -- then, as now, a perfect synthesis of Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and J.S. Bach. The interplay between Matthew Fischer's Hammond organ and Gary Brooker's piano -- especially on the solo section -- is the very definition of glorious.
3. Your Own Choice
A particularly droll Keith Reid lyric -- the hippie broads at my old college used to rewrite it as "There's too many Stevens and not enough smoke" -- mated to the catchiest tune imaginable, and an exquisitely melodic harmonica solo on the lengthy outro by the great jazz and classical mouth organ exponent Larry Adler (uncredited).
2. Quite Rightly So
Goose bumps from start to finish. That's all I'm gonna say about this one.
1. Ramblin' On
And have I mentioned that these guys had the most magnificent live sound imaginable? If I haven't, or if you can't imagine it, a listen to the above -- recorded by the original, classic five piece Procol lineup at the Fillmore West in 1969 -- should help to convince you.
BTW, I should add, and for the record, that I expect nothing I've said here is going to garner PH enough votes to get into the Hall this year.
So I'm blaming Jann Wenner in advance, even if he has nothing to do with it.
Our flight into Paris yesterday was one of the most enervating and unpleasant experiences of my recent dotage, so I don't really have it together to post anything new until next week (and trust me -- Monday's entry will be a doozy).
But to tide us all over through the weekend, I thought it might be amusing to repost this entry from last year's sojourn to the land of the Ignoble Frog.
So from 1963, please enjoy Roger and his Son by remarkable Polish-French modernist Balthus.
And then tell me the son in the painting doesn't look disturbingly like this MTV icon.
Seriously, I have no idea if Mike Judge had this painting in mind when he created Beavis and Butthead, but the resemblance strikes me as too close to be an accident.
I should also add that there actually is another rock-and-roll connection with this painting -- Bono (yes him) sang at Balthus' funeral. Go figure.
Well, we arrived, safe and sound, this morning in beautiful Paris, France Dayton, Ohio.
New posting resumes tomorrow, dieu willing, but in the meantime here's a photo my beautiful and brilliant girlfriend took from our hotel window (we're staying at the same place as we do every year) back in 2010. At 8:00am, local time. Just before breakfast.
To our surprise, we could still see that old Parisien moon.
Why that old Parisien was mooning us, of course, we'll probably never know.
Posting will thus, necessarily, be sporadic for a couple of days, but please cut me some slack, as I'll no doubt be over-dosing on heavy sauces.
In any case, as is my wont on these occasions, may I invite you to enjoy the pre-cosmic Moody Blues, featuring original frontman Denny Laine, and the oh-so-sad-and-beautiful lover's lament "Boulevard de la Madeleine."
That's me, four years ago, at the very spot that inspired the song, BTW. I'm older now, but I like to think my inner Groucho, as seen in the photo, remains undiminished.
From their 2012 album in progress Blah Blah Love and War, please enjoy Los Angeles indie pop-rockers The Rescues and their charmingly melodic, and charmingly sort of low-fi, ode to unwarranted optimism, "Everything's Gonna Be Better Next Year."
Wow. That's just cute as the proverbial bugs ear, IMHO.
I should confess that these kids were heretofore unknown to me -- hey, what can I tell you, I don't watch Grey's Anatomy (on which their music has been frequently showcased) -- but apparently they released a previous album on a major label. The relationship with said major label, however, seems to have been less than felicitous; I'm not saying the phrase "record company weasels" is necessarily pertinent, but I'm not saying it isn't, either.
In any case, after parting company with said major label, the Rescues have regrouped and are now doing it, as was said about sisters, for themselves.
As -- I suspect -- nature intended all along, and good for them.
If you want to help them, go over to their pledge page and give 'em some love.
Uh, you may have heard that a certain power pop ensemble from Zion, Illinois has a new album out (their first in 19 years, amazingly).
You may also have wondered why neither Mary or myself has weighed in on it to date.
Well, the answer is that Mary has been toiling on the definitive biography of said band for over two years -- it will be available over here any nanosecond now -- and I was fortunate enough to pen the intro to said tome. And as a result we both feel a little too close to the album and band to be even remotely objective about their latest.
That said, friend of PowerPop Sal Nunziato, proprietor of the inestimable Burning Wood, has kindly consented to let us reprint the review he posted over there earlier this summer.
SHOES: SHINY, NEW & YET, VERY COMFORTABLE
I have a memory of a Creem magazine ad, 1977 maybe, for a record called Black Vinyl Shoes, by a band called Shoes. Usually, my mind traps this kind of trivia. But all I can recollect, aside from the ad, is a rave review by the mag and great disappointment upon hearing the album.
I don't blame the band. I blame myself, my still backward listening habits, and my inability to effectively think about something other than the new Bad Company record.
Jump to 1979, and a record called Present Tense by this same band called Shoes spins relentlessly on my Technics turntable for weeks and weeks and weeks. It was that record, for me at least, that set a standard for what we now call Power Pop. Black Vinyl Shoes may not have officially been the first power pop record, but for me, Shoes were the first power pop band.
More records followed, each screaming with mellifluous harmonies and those damned melodies to die for. I am a Shoes fan.
"Too Late," "Burned Out Love," "Tomorrow Night," "The Summer Rain," "Karen." "The Things You Do."
These songs, among others, were hook-filled miracles. Much needed fresh air from MTV's overload during the early part of the 80s.
And now...the boys of Zion, Illinois are back with Ignition.
It's a killer.
And yes, just maybe... 35 years later...their best record yet.
Every song on Ignition offers something...that one special riff, or background vocal hook...that made me say, "This is the one." By the end of the record, I had a dozen favorite songs.
From the opener, "Head Vs. Heart," with the subtle yet always effective bass drop-out on the refrain, a trick that gets me every time, to the call and answer chorus on "Diminishing Returns," to the beautiful melancholy of "Where Will It End," this new entry in a very special Shoes catalogue delivers. It's big, and if you're a fan of perfectly crafted pop tunes, or a sucker for three-part harmony, you will be hard-pressed to take Ignition off.
Brothers Jeff & John Murphy and Gary Klebe have done something few bands have achieved. They've created a sound and they own it. I will go on record by saying, no band sounds like Shoes.
I've gushed enough, but it is that good.
In short -- what Sal said.
To which I will add that Robert Christgau once famously observed that if you don't like the Rolling Stones, you simply don't like rock-and-roll as a form. Pretty much the same thing can be said about Shoes and Power Pop.
Have I mentioned that this is the album of the year?
I first posted the following here back in 2008 (yipes!) but given my mostly tongue-in-cheek diatribe about Cream yesterday, I thought it was appropriate to recycle it.
So...from 1968, please enjoy the aforesaid Cream and their thoroughly atypical pop masterpiece "Anyone for Tennis."
I think this is an all but perfect record and, heretical as it may be, by far Cream's finest accomplishment in the studio.
Those sighing strings (producer Felix Pappalardi on viola), that chiming dive bomb guitar, the lovely mix of bemusement and regret in Clapton's uncharacteristically delicate vocal...and of course, the lyrics.
Twice upon a time in the valley of the tears
The auctioneer is bidding for a box of fading years
And the elephants are dancing on the graves of squealing mice.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn't that be nice?
And the ice creams are all melting on the streets of bloody beer
While the beggars stain the pavements with flourescent Christmas cheer
And the Bentley driving guru is putting up his price.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn't that be nice?
And the prophets in the boutiques give out messages of hope
With jingle bells and fairy tales and blind colliding scopes
And you can tell they're all the same underneath the pretty lies.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn't that be nice?
The yellow Buddhist monk is burning brightly at the zoo
You can bring a bowl of rice and then a glass of water too
And fate is setting up the chessboard while death rolls out the dice.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn't that be nice?
I can't think of a song that so brilliantly evokes the whole post-Summer of Love, what do we do now with the bastards pointing guns at us? vibe of 1968; you can practically hear the Hells Angels revving up their motorcycles for the apocalypse at Altamont to come. Which makes the song's origin -- they wrote it for the soundtrack to a mediocre biker flick -- just that much more ironic.
I should add, by way of a contemporary postscript, that the 45 pictured above was -- along with the Buffalo Springfield's "Bluebird," which came out on ATCO at more or less the same time -- the first non-LP stereo record I ever heard.
From 1968, please enjoy Cream -- yes, Cream -- with their hopefully lucratively compensated for paean to the joys of getting absolutely shitfaced on some crappy beer.
There are lots of amusing commercials for various products by 60s bands -- my personal favorite is the psychedelically weird one Jefferson Airplane did for Levis jeans -- but this is the only one I am convinced is going to consign the musicians who did it to eternal damnation, and deservedly,
On the other hand, I've always had a sort of love/hate relationship with this band; mostly, I think it's because Jack Bruce's singing sounds exactly the Cantor who officiated at my Bar Mitzvah.
And just because I think it's hilarious, from that same brilliant (but alas out of print) 1991 album by Iron Prostate I mentioned yesterday, please enjoy their incomparable ode to the titular castaway of Gilligan's Island.
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.
Jeeebus, and people thought those Barthelme boys were hotshit minimalists.
Somebody forwarded me this picture on Friday; don't know the provenance of it, but it certainly does predict, amusingly, the rock 'n' roll nursing home of many of our futures.
And then I remembered that the hilarious Iron Prostate had anticipated all this on their epochal (but alas out of print) 1991 album Loud, Fast and Aging Rapidly.
On a song called ('natch) "Rock 'n' Roll Nursing Home."
The opening lyrics:
I wander the halls under fluorescent light
Don't even know if it's day or night
And it don't matter because I don't care
Got my Ramones albums and my blue-gray hair
In a rock rock rock rock rock 'n' roll nursing home
There's no place else I'd rather be
Than in a rock rock rock rock rock 'n' roll nursing home
It's laxatives and Geritol for me
And it just keeps getting better, actually. In fact, "Baby, let me take you for a ride on my Craftmatic Bed/Don't take much longer to decide because tonight you may be dead" may be the greatest couplet in the history of the world.
And since we're discussing lyrics to songs we don't normally assume have then, please enjoy -- via Albert Brooks -- the long supressed text to one of the great classical war horses, Maurice Ravel's Bolero.
I should add that when Bolero made it's concert premier, at the Paris Opéra on November 22, 1928, the level of arousal (for reasons that should be obvious) was so high that the woodwind section had to be roped off from the rest of the orchestra.
I'm pretty sure I've posted this before, but I'm so busy this week I can't think straight.
Serious new posting resumes next week, cross my heart.
From 1989, please enjoy Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams -- the band I was toiling with at the time -- and an absolutely hilariously inept rehearsal version of our cover of Herb Alpert's 1962 instrumental classic "The Lonely Bull."
Unfortunately, no live version of this featuring the lyrics we wrote to the tune have survived, but I swear to god we actually used to sing them.
See that bull
He's a lonely bull
What a lonely bull
Oh that bull
He's a lonely bull
Such a lonely
That bull's such a lonely bull
He's by himself
That's why he's a lonely bull
He ain't got nobody else
I'm really cracking myself up today, obviously.
I suspect everybody else reading this, however, is backing away from the computer very, very slowly.
Okay, I don't know who photo-shopped this, but it's just wonderfully sweet. And I hope my posting it makes up for the fact that I missed John Lennon's birthday yesterday.
By the way, the funny thing is that, circa 1966-67, the Fabs were actually trying to come up with an idea for a non-musical film project. Given what A Hard Days Night and Help! diretor Richard Lester later did with his Musketeers movies -- two of the best swashbucklers ever made -- it's really too bad nobody thought of this at the time.
From Sunday's New York Times The Ethicist column by ex-Spin editor Chuck Klosterman:
My fiancée and I attended a Death Cab for Cutie concert at the Beacon Theater. We had first-row seats in the balcony section. We typically stand at concerts to dance and sing along, but we didn’t because no one else in our section was interested in that sort of thing. However, during the encore, we decided to stand for the last five songs. We were immediately chastised by several people behind us and told to sit down. Were we wrong to stand? Does the type of music or venue dictate whether it’s all right to stand? -- BOBBY CALISE, NEW YORK
Were they playing “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”? If so, it’s acceptable to stand. Otherwise, totally unethical. You are a monster.
See -- this is the kind of crap that happens when you let people like me pontificate about morality.
From 1982, please enjoy one of my top five living Christians who totally rock, the great T-Bone Burnett, and his sardonic ode to a massive lack of self-awareness, the infectious "A Ridiculous Man."
This appeared, with several other splendid tracks -- including the greatest cover of "Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend" ever (eat your heart out, Carol Channing) -- on T-Bone's Trap Door EP, also from 1982; I had no idea it had ever been released as a single.
In any case, a killer tune, hilarious lyrics, great jangly guitars and a monster groove. Damn you, T-Bone, for your pernicious talent!!!
You can find a free download link for Trap Door (or at least you could a year or two ago) at various places on the web if you're of a mind; it's also available (legally) over at Amazon here.
Okay, maybe not "great," but not as bad as I expected either.
From 1968, please enjoy The Boston Tea Party -- who were NOT in fact a part of the failed MGM Records Bosstown Sound hype (they were actually from Burbank California) -- and the opening track of their eponymous debut album, the "we hope you will enjoy the show"-starting garage psych anthem "I'm Telling You."
Interesting guitar solo, no? If interesting is precisely the right word.
In any case, I'm rather taken with the song's lyrics, which are as vintage a slice of "We're the young generation and we've got something to say" post-Monkees it's-what's-happening-baby rhetoric as has ever been heard by sentient mammalian ears. And a good thing, too, because as the late great Lester Bangs observed (in a review of early 70s glam rockers White Witch) the other default stance of the garage psychedelia moment was to give pimply male virgins the opportunity to sing about sex without (overtly) revealing their rank inexperience in that regard.
I should also add that the Tea Party can observed plying their trade in the 1969 trash biker flick classic The Cycle Savages with Bruce Dern, which behooves beholding.
Simels -- Got this e-mail from a friend earlier today: A short but great, amazing-but-true tale.
Sent: Monday, October 1, 2012 3:39 PM
Subject: The Who
So my brother Don played in the house band at the Tamarack Hotel in the Catskills in 1968 and '69.
He always "claimed" that he shared the stage with The Who when their tour came thru the area. I wanted to believe him but I don't think I ever did..... until this weekend when my 84 yr old cousin showed me what was hanging in his garage in Ellenville.
If you ever went to a resort in the Catskills, you pretty much know how bizarre and hilarious this is.
My only hope is that the warm-up act for the show was some guy leading the crowd in a game of Simon Says.
First the good news: I got quoted -- accurately -- in the New York Post's article on Monday's closing night show at Kenny's Castaways.
Village Club is Cast-away
By CHRISTINE PARKER
Last Updated: 3:06 AM, October 2, 2012
Posted: 1:23 AM, October 2, 2012
The show’s over.
The sound system forever went silent Monday night at a famed Greenwich Village club that had provided a stage to struggling artists and superstar musicians over a storied 36 years.
Adoring fans had packed Kenny’s Castaways on Bleecker Street to hear singer-songwriter Willie Nile and garage rockers The Smithereens blister through a pair of last sets inside the closing music Mecca.
“We started playing here in July of 1980. We were just starting out,” said Jim Babjak, lead guitarist for The Smithereens. “A lot of people wanted you to play cover songs. This was one of the few places that let us play our own stuff.”
Former neighborhood resident Steve Simels was in awe seeing his idols play one last time at the club.
“I used to live across the street and this was my clubhouse. Willie Nile and The Smithereens were like gods to us,” said Simels.
Club owner Maria Kenny, whose father, Pat, started the club and moved it to its current location in 1976, said that high rent and the area’s gentrification had forced her out. A gastro-pub is slated to take over the space.
“It’s too expensive for this kind of business,” she said. “When you’re a small guy, it’s really difficult.”
Her fondest memories, she recalled, were of young musicians coming to the club to seek the approval of regular and famed singer-songwriter Doc Pomus, who penned the immortal hit, “Save The Last Dance For Me.”
“People like Joni Mitchell would just come down and want to know what he thought of their stuff,” she said.
Both patrons and performers remembered the club for having a huge “heart” in the otherwise cut-throat nightlife industry.
“This was one of the last rooms where the people really cared about the music you played, not the number of heads you brought in,” said Bill Popp, whose own band had played there numerous times.
Famous acts that had performed at Kenny’s included Bruce Springsteen, The New York Dolls, The Fugees and Patti Smith.
“It was the first time I ever performed in NYC. It was my first gig ever,” said Jessica Gleason, 31, of the band Lady J. “But the energy was so warm, it was really special.”
And now the bad news: Given my politics, I had no business talking to a reporter for the New York Post.
In any case, it was an amazing, emotionally charged, evening, and as you can make out from the following crude cellphone videos, both Willie Nile...
And speaking as we were of legendary Bleecker Street rock club Kenny's Castaways, which closed last night after a 45 year run (and where I had, in the 80s, some of the best times of my life, both on and off the stage)...
[and the show was fantastic, and I'll be posting more about it on Wednesday]
...we ponder now the estimable Bridget St. John.
When I was hanging at the club, Bridget was working there almost all the time in some sort of managerial capacity. She was, er, involved, if that is the word, with club owner Pat Kenny, of course, but people were always telling me that she had been a fairly big deal singer/songwriter in England in the 60s, with a couple of albums out. She never performed at the joint, that I saw anyway, but she was (and still is, I'm sure) a very nice lady and, if the album cover above is any indication, had a rather strikingly attractive profile..
Anyway, a few years ago, I was surprised to learn that she'd resumed her musical career and by now become something of a highly regarded cult figure in neo-folkie circles. So last night, for obvious reasons, I downloaded one of her recently reissued albums, specifically the one pictured above (produced in 1969 by legendary DJ John Peel.)
Here's a representative track, the intriguingly titled "Lizard Long Tongue Boy."
And I gotta admit -- I don't really get the fuss. Maybe you had to be there at the time, but for my taste it all seems rather twee and crumpets.
Legendary Bleecker Street rock club Kenny's Castaways -- where (back in the early to mid 80s) I had some of the best times of my life, both on and offstage -- is closing for good tonight.
The last two acts to play there are scheduled to be The Smithereens and Willie Nile.
Both of whom my own band was fortunate enough to open for at Kenny's on numerous occasions, and both both of whom were hugely inspirational to us. Particularly this little masterpiece from Willie's first album...
...which was in many ways the template we attempted for our own music (with what success I will will not speculate).
In any case, if you're in the vicinity of Manhattan tonight, you could do a lot worse than to stop by. I'll be there of course, and probably scads of people -- musicians, ex-waitresses and bartenders -- I haven't seen in years.
I think the word "bittersweet" is appropriate here.