Friday, June 28, 2013

Baby That is Rock 'n' Roll: Special Those Amazing Antipodeans Edition!!!!

The Easybeats, 1968. "Good Times." The great Aussie band and the Vanda and Young songwriting team at their all-time peak.

Okay, you knew we were going to finish this little series with this one, right?

This is, of course, as perfect a rock 'n' roll record as has ever been heard by sentient mammalian ears.

There is a story -- perhaps apocryphal, but I suspect not -- that no less a worthy than Sir Paul McCartney, upon hearing this come over his car radio at the time of its original release, was so moved by it that he pulled his car to the side of the road till the tune's finale and then called the radio station demanding that it be played again.

Other fun facts: That's the great Steve Marriott assisting with the chorus vocals. Also, despite its awesomeness, the song has never really been a hit. That hasn't stopped it from being covered countless times -- top of my head, there are pretty good versions by The Move, Shocking Blue and INXS.

And with that, we bid a fond adieu to our Baby That is Rock n' Roll series. Regular whatever occurs to me at the time posting will resume on Monday.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Baby That is Rock 'n' Roll: Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!!!

Okay, and getting quite a bit closer to the mission statement of this here blog than we have in the last couple of days, here's power pop god Adam Schmitt and, from 1993, the catchy as all get out and equally kinetic confection that is "Speed Kills."

NOT a drug song, obviously.

I said something similar earlier in this series, but if this one doesn't make you want to run around in your room jumping up and down like a fool then there is, quite frankly, no hope for you. Just an amazingly wonderful track.

I should add that it first saw the light of day on the now (sadly) out-of-print compilation Yellow Pills Vol. 1, which also features music by some band called Shoes. I'm not sure why that name is ringing a bell.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness: A Postscript

As I mentioned in the comments today, I got a very nice note from TPOH frontman Moe Berg after I reviewed their second major label album in October of 1990 at the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review. The intertubes being the wondrous thing that they are, I was pleasantly surprised to find the review was actually on-line, and I append it here.


Performance: Somber
Recording: Very good

The last time they checked in, with their 1988 album Love Junk, the Pursuit of Happiness revealed themselves to be a splendid anomaly of a band, virtually the creators of their own genre: Wiseguy Pop/Metal with great tunes and honest lyrics about sex. Led by Moe Berg (whom I referred to at the time as the first important guy named Moe in rock history), they dispensed music that was at once witty and serious, tuneful and hard-edged, playful and almost profound, all in the context of an examination of the sorry state of relations between the sexes here in the declining days of the century Isaac Bashevis Singer called "on balance, a complete flop." Clearly, this was a significant bunch of musicians.

Well, here they are again at the dawn of the Nineties, and their latest record, One Sided Story, proves that their debut was by no means a fluke. The music is as tough and mature (in the best sense) as one could hope, and again Todd Rundgren's production fits the band like the proverbial you-know-what. Nevertheless, and at the risk of sounding churlish, I have to say that some of the fun has gone out of the enterprise. Serious as Love Junk may have been, it was also one of the best dance-around-the-house albums since the first Pretenders album, and One Sided Story is a far more somber affair. In fact, if there's a unifying emotional theme to Berg's new songs, it's a sort of rueful desperation. And while most of us will recognize the feeling, even identify on some level, the songs don't exactly make you want to do the boogaloo. The most wrenching emotionally is "Shave Your Legs," in which Berg sets you up for a sort of collegiate sexist joke and then shifts gears into an absolutely heartbreaking lover's plea to save a disintegrating relationship. It's an astonishing performance.

Of course, not everything is slash-your-wrists depressing. "Food," for example, has one of the funniest openings ever penned for a rock song, and the eminently hummable "Runs In the Family" notes that beauty is "as easy as DNA," an insight unlikely to occur to, say, Jon Bon Jovi. But even though the band's execution of Berg's tunes retains an admirably ferocious (but not overbearing) crunch-guitar attack, and even though Berg's singing is taking on an endearingly Lou Reedian cast, there's no getting around the fact that - perhaps deliberately - One Sided Story is something of a bummer. That's a relative judgment, of course - on an off day these kids make smarter music than 99 percent of the metal bands in the Western World. But what the album ultimately sounds like is the soundtrack for Moe Berg's evolution from undergraduate smartaleck into confident adult, which is to say that it's a little strained and a little awkward. That doesn't mean you shouldn't buy this record for your own personal collection. In fact, you should. It just means that growing up is a bitch and I for one wish Berg and Company all the luck in the world while they do it. -- S.S.

I should add that after this ran, my then editor chewed me out for wasting so much space on a review that wasn't an out and out rave.

Why I didn't quit on the spot is a very long story, and if you get me drunk some time I may tell it to you.

Baby That is Rock 'n' Roll: Special When I Grow Up to Be a Man Edition

Fron 1986, please enjoy Toronto-based funsters The Pursuit of Happiness and their Big Beat salute to a future in AARP, the incomparable "I'm an Adult Now."

This record -- brilliantly produced by Todd Rundgren -- kicks some serious ass (what a drum sound!) and it still makes me laugh, although these days I kinda feel like crying when it's over. Then again, one of the best definitions of rock I ever heard was "Fun songs about sad stuff."

In any case, I have no idea of what TPOH frontman/songwriting genius Moe Berg is up to of late, but I suspect he's at least as crotchety as I am. Heh.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Baby That is Rock 'n' Roll: Because Nothing Says "A Wop Bop a Loo Bop A Lop Bam Boom" Like a Flannel Shirt

From 1968, please enjoy Creedence Clearwater Revival and perhaps my favorite version of a Little Richard song -- "Good Golly Miss Molly" -- ever.

Most of Little Richard's hits -- and the vast majority of the White Boy covers of same (cf: The Beatles doing "Long Tall Sally") -- have a gloriously over the top, absurdist abandon. Not so this one, which -- to my ears at least -- practically drips dark menacing atmosphere.

Seriously, you could segue from this directly into "Run Through the Jungle" without anybody thinking that the mood had changed.

In any case, there are few things in the entire history of rock-and-roll more exciting than the way John Fogerty's screams lead into the last guitar solo on this.

Also: hand claps.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Baby That is Rock 'n' Roll: Memo to KFC -- This Was the Last Time Fried Chicken Was Hip!!!

From 1956, please enjoy certified rock Unsung Hero Amos Milburn and his unsafe at any speed re-recording of his 1948 hit "Chicken Shack Boogie."

The original version, which I love, is one of the founding documents of what came to be called rock 'n' roll, but it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi/Big Beat element. The remake -- cut in New Orleans, with Little Richard's studio band, at a breakneck almost Ramones-ish tempo -- makes up for that lack in splendid fashion, and it remains one of my all-time favorite records in just about any genre.

The original version -- and much, much more that behooves behearing -- can be found (for free download) on a fabulous 3D box set of Amos' Alladin recordings over here.

You're welcome.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Baby That is Rock 'n' Roll: Eddie Cochran Was God, But These Guys Aren't Bad Either

From 1969, and their eponymous debut album, please enjoy the incomparable NRBQ and their high octane revival of Eddie Cochran's 1958 classic "C'mon Everybody."

That song is so simple, infectious and beautifully put together that it can almost make you giddy, which I guess is what a lot of great rock-and-roll does (or should). But what I particularly like about this version -- which, obviously, ups the energy level considerably from Cochran's original -- is the way it seems to be falling apart (but ultimately doesn't) in the long intro section. It's a trick the Q did a lot, come to think of it.

In any event, just a great, actually kind of perfect record.

And hey, you know -- this is fun. I think we'll do the whole Rock 'n' Roll thing for all of next week.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Baby That is Rock 'n' Roll: Part Deux

As they did with many things, the great songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (fellow Red Sea pedestrians, if you catch my meaning) pretty much nailed it back in 1959.

For The Coasters, and no artist or group of artists ever had a better Svengali:

Did you ever hear a tenor sax
Swinging like a rusty axe
Walking like a dog
Down in a hollow log
Baby that is rock 'n' roll

Did you ever hear a guitar twang
Chingy chingy chingy chang
Ever hear the strings
Doing crazy things
Baby that is rock 'n' roll

That ain't no freight train that you'll hear
Running like a railroad track
Its just a country boy, piano man
Playing in between the cracks

You say that music sounds absurd
You can't understand the words
Well honey if you did
You'd really blow your lid
'Cause baby that is rock 'n' roll
 That, my friends, is the purest poetry.

As is this record.

The McCoys' brilliant 1966 cover of Ritchie Valens' "Come On Let's Go."

Has there ever been anything that lasted less than three minutes that was better than this?

I think not.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Baby That is Rock 'n' Roll

Okay, here we go.

Tom Petty.

"You Wreck Me."

It doesn't get any better, Seriously.

Rock 'n' Roll, I mean.

And we'll be posting other examples for the next couple of days.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

News from the Crypt

So, like everyone else, I was jazzed at the news that the Replacements will be touring this summer
The Replacements, one of the biggest punk rock bands of the 1980s, is planning to reunite this summer at Riot Fest 2013, a multi-band tour heading to Toronto, Denver and Chicago.

An active band from 1979 to 1991, the members of The Replacements have not performed as a single live band since July 4, 1991. That last show, performed in Grant Park, Chicago, has become legendary -- roadies gradually replaced band members on stage until all were gone, leading to the nickname "It Ain't Over 'Til the Fat Roadie Plays."

Technically, The Replacements never broke up. The band members just stopped playing.
But what I didn't really expect was that my professional and musical lives would collide quite so directly. This is a column by Matt Reed, the recently-outed longtime author of one of the most realistic columns in academia, Confessions of a Community College Dean from Inside Higher Education.  It's not a place I'd usually go for music writing, but Reed is a few years ahead of me professionally, and obviously inhabits a comparable generation and field. I read him like an acolyte: he's the mentor I've never met. 

So imagine my surprise when I saw this terrific piece:
My affection for Westerberg/Mats music is based partly on the music, and partly on the persona. Westerberg (fun fact: in the movie Heathers, the high school is named after him) is a distinct type: he’s a talented screwup who succeeds despite himself and fails despite his talent. (One writer described the Replacements as “the little band that could, and didn’t.” That’s about right.) The Mats’ sound, when they were sober enough to play, conveyed both an ambition for greatness and an indifference to practice. Their aesthetic dictated that an album with such undeniable classics as “Satisfied” [we know it's Unsatisfied: he gets that right later in the column.  --Ed.] and “Answering Machine” also had to have “Gary’s Got a Boner,” which sounds pretty much like you’d think it would.

I discovered the Replacements in my twenties, and still think of them as capturing something about that age. They veered uncertainly from eloquent longing (“Skyway,” “Left of the Dial,” “Answering Machine”), to narcissistic drama (“The Ledge,” “Talent Show”), moping (“Someone Take the Wheel,” “Here Comes a Regular”), and stupid restless energy (“I Don’t Know,” “Alex Chilton”). Unburdened by musical competence but with a telling weakness for catchy hooks, they hid vulnerable self-awareness under bluster and jokes. Contradictory as hell, but accurately so, and full of good lines (“you’ve got a voice like the last day of Catholic school,” “how do you say good night to an answering machine?”). They made the best anti-video ever (“Bastards of Young”), and their concerts were famously feast-or-famine, sometimes both. (At a show I caught in ‘91, they delivered a show-stopping version of “Alex Chilton,” and followed it with about thirty seconds of a cover of “All Right Now,” before stopping because Paul forgot the words. It was an exemplary ‘Mats moment.)
I'v been fearing for a while that my move to academic administration--which kicked in about a year and a half ago and has put the kibosh on all kinds of things--meant that I wasn't exactly ME anymore, if that makes sense. But I find Reed's reminiscences strangely comforting.  

Three Chords and a Cloud of (Space) Dust!!!

From 1962, and an episode of The Jetsons, please enjoy Judy Jetson's favorite rock star -- Jet Screamer -- and the greatest rock song in the history of the galaxy.

 "Eep Opp Ork! Ah! Ah!"

Okay, maybe it isn't really the greatest rock song in history, but I think we can all concede that Jet Screamer -- (voiced by the late great Howie Morris) -- is the greatest rock star NAME in history.

Oh, and in case anybody's wondering -- the second greatest rock star name in history belonged to a character on one of those Gerry and Sylvia Anderson sci-fi British puppet shows of the same vintage (probably Fireball XL-5).

To wit: Johnny Swoonerama.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Father's Day Weekend Video Roundup: Attack of the Killer Criterions (And Two Others)!

Well, it's coming up on Dad's holiday, and what better excuse could I have for reviewing some of the more interesting and/or alarming DVD and Blu-ray releases that certain good folks (inexplicably, perhaps, but god bless 'em for the wonderful work they're doing) continue to favor me with?

Hell -- one of these movies even has a tenuous connection to the mission statement of this very blog.

In any case, if you haven't already gotten the old man something nice, I suspect any one of the following might bring a smile to his face. Tech note: Unless otherwise specified, I viewed all of these on DVD.

1. Things to Come (Criterion)

The first great science-fiction film of the sound era, and largely due to the art direction of the incomparable William Cameron Menzies (who also designed Gone With the Wind and Invaders From Mars, which may be about the two most dissimilar films ever made) it still holds up as a spectacle. H.G. Wells' script -- about which the word didactic seems somewhat inadequate to describe it -- is another thing altogether, but between Ralph Richardson chewing the scenery as a futuristic warlord and a really gorgeous orchestral score by Sir Arthur Bliss, there's more than enough to hold your interest even when the picture threatens to get a little preachy. Criterion's Blu-ray version is by far the best looking video representation of the thing I've ever seen, and there's some very interesting bonus stuff, including a perceptive essay on the Bliss score by my old Video Review colleague Bruce Eder.

2. Two Lane Blacktop (Criterion)

Director Monte Hellman's existential road picture -- starring the then young and hairy James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson in the roles that more or less ended their film careers before they'd even begun -- was practically born a cult movie (seriously -- Esquire magazine ran the screenplay, complete, a month before the flick was even released).  And I vaguely recall vaguely liking it at the time (1971), although I'm pretty sure there were drugs involved on my part. (I'm pretty sure there were drugs involved on Taylor and Wilson's part too, although that's another story, obviously). Having just seen it for the first time since then, in a typically gorgeous looking Criterion Blu-ray remaster, I can safely state that it's a great movie if you have a high tolerance for films in which nothing really happens. That said, the always entertainingly twitchy Warren Oates is in it, so that's good, and like I noted previously , this new version looks fantastic (sounds fantastic, too -- the soundtrack has been goosed up from the original mono into 5.1 Surround, with Hellman's approval.)

3. George Gently Collection: Series 1-4 (Acorn)

In case you haven't seen it -- and I must confess to coming to the party rather late -- George Gently is an absolutely fantastic period (the early to middle '60s) British cop show, featuring the amazingly rumpled and world weary Martin Shaw as the titular Inspector Gently, and Lee Ingleby, who looks and dresses just like a member of some 2nd tier Brit invasion band like the Searchers, as his young and somewhat callow partner. The show's subtext is,  to a large extent, the social upheavals then roiling the UK, with Gently, who's pretty much seen it all, functioning as a sort of moral compass for his impulsive and occasionally bigoted co-worker. The period detail, with the sole exception of an episode in Series 3 that gets the hippie stuff about as embarrassingly wrong as some crappy old American TV shows from the early 70s, is smashingly rendered, and the mise en scene of the thing is gritty, occasionally creepy, and often really depressing. Fortunately, the acting is brilliant across the board, and Shaw is one of the most charismatic leads in a police procedural ever. Acorn's transfers -- the feature-length episodes are shot widescreen in High-Def video -- look pristine; if you get as hooked as I have on the show, you'll be pleased to hear that the company has Series 5 readied for release as well, and that the BBC has Series 6 in production. Highly recommended.

You can watch the box set trailer here for a real taste of the thing.

5. Monsieur Verdoux (Criterion)

Chaplin's 1947 comedy of murders -- Verdoux is, literally, a ladykiller, but he only does it to get his victim's insurance money to pay for his own crippled wife's medical bills -- is obviously even more pertinent than it was back in the day (death panels, anybody?) and no less hilarious than I recalled; if your only memories of the late Martha Raye are from those embarrassing TV denture commercials, her performance in this will be a revelation (in any case, you'll never look at a rowboat the same way again). Revisiting Verdoux  -- in Criterion's stunning new digital restoration -- I was also surprised to find I was rather taken with Chaplin's final speech about the morality of murder, which I had, in years past, always found to be a little too Author's Message-y for my taste; for whatever reason, it seems to work for me now. In any case, the film's a masterpiece, and its done full justice by this package (which includes a whole bunch of cool bonus stuff, including a 2003 making-of documentary featuring director Claude Chabrol and actor Norman Lloyd).

6. Ministry of Fear (Criterion)

Has there ever been a director who made such brilliant use of obviously artificial studio sets as Fritz Lang? Okay, that's a rhetorical question which I don't have a definitive answer to, but allow me nonetheless to state, for the record, that the look of this absolutely brilliant spy thriller is riveting; in fact, Ministry of Fear -- from a Grahame Greene novel just dripping with paranoia and menace -- would probably work due to its visual style even if the script wasn't as good as it is. Like Criterion's earlier version of Lang's Man Hunt, this new version features a black-and-white transfer from a print that doesn't look a day older than a day old; bonus features include a new video essay by Lang scholar Joe McElhaney, and a characteristically perceptive appreciation -- "Ministry of Fear: Paranoid Style" -- by my former Stereo Review colleague Glenn Kenny. (Hmm. This seems to be my day to plug old professional chums. Heh.)

7. Naked Lunch (Criterion)

Perhaps the best movie ever made from a theoretically unfilmable book, this one now strikes me as the masterpiece of director David Cronenberg's horror period; certainly it's the most ghoulishly funny artifact of his earlier -- pre-Viggo Mortensen -- work. It's also one of the greatest pieces of contemporary surrealism this side of that TV commercial where the chuck wagon goes under the sink, and in Peter Weller Cronenberg found precisely the right actor to embody the drily drugged/bemused voice of author William Burroughs;  in fact, Weller actually makes the old Bill character likeable, which may have been the film's most audacious trick (although the giant talking bugs are pretty cool too). Criterion's Cronenberg-approved high def transfer is gorgeous (really); bonuses include very droll audio commentary by Cronenberg and Weller, as well as a recording of Burroughs reading excerpts from the original novel in his unforgettably sepulchral tones.

8. Mel Brooks: Make a Noise (Shout! Factory)

Okay, I love this man and have for nearly fifty years now. No, seriously -- I really love this man and I would have his children if at all possible. That said -- this new career retrospective (originally aired as part of the PBS American Masters series a few weeks ago), and featuring all new interviews with Mel and some of the folks (Carl Reiner, Andrew Bergman, etc) who've worked with him over the years, manages to be not only (and expectedly) a fricking laugh riot but also features a bunch of stories which even the rabid Mel-aholic that is I had not previously heard (the one about Gig Young, who was supposed to play the Gene Wilder role in Blazing Saddles was something of an eye opener, and Mel's account of the comic routine he used to do on the diving board by the pool of whatever Catskills resort he toiled at had me absolutely bust a gut).

Have I mentioned that I love this man? Act now, obviously.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tommy Can You Hear Me?

From -- fairly recently, I think, although I'm not sure -- please enjoy my Facebook friend, ace bassist/vocalist/producer Tommy Stewart and a killer version of the Nazz classic "Under the Ice."

Which is pretty much my favorite thing in the entire Todd Rundgren catalogue, BTW.

In any case, Tommy does business on a regular basis over at First Draft, which is one of niftiest left-wing political blogs EVAH.

More to the point, Tommy risks his health and sanity every week at First Draft by checking out the nutbars over at Free Republic, and he thus deserves respect and applause from all who walk upright. Make sure you get over there sometime and give him some love.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

And My Soul's Been Psychedelicized!!!

From 1967, please enjoy Atlanta, GA psych-garage rockers The Fly-Bi-Nites and their totally obscure until two weeks ago non-smash hit "Found Love."

In case you're wondering why I bring this up, it was the song playing on the soundtrack to the recent Mad Men episode where Don freaks out at an L.A. hippie pool party after smoking some particularly potent hashish.

As you can hear, it sounds like The Seeds instrumentally, but the vocals are rather more like The Association. I'm guessing this particular stylistic mash-up accounts for it not having been a chart-topper.

In any case, god only knows who connected with the show discovered it or how.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mediocre Composers Borrow, Great Composers Steal. Led Zeppelin Just Doesn't Give a Shit.

Okay, so obviously it's no secret that Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin ripped off countless old blues guys -- and yeah, a lot of British bands from back in the day did -- as well as a whole bunch of British folkies who they knew personally, not to mention American singer/songwriter Jake Holmes, whose "I'm Confused" was...

Oh well, don't get me started. In any case, for a complete record of Page's preposterous plaigarism, just click here.

But this one I was not previously aware of, and it's really pissing me off.

From 1968, and the throwaway Grape Jam album, please enjoy the astoundingly great Moby Grape and bassist Bob Mosley's "Never."

And from 1970, and Led Zeppelin III, behold in breathless wonder "Since I've Been Lovin' You." Credited, disgustingly, to Page/Plant/Jones.

I particularly like the way Zep changed the lyrics so completely.

Working from eleven to seven every night
Ought to make life a drag yeah now I know that ain't right.

Working from seven to eleven every night,
It really makes life a drag I don't think that's right.

Eleven to seven versus seven to eleven. Get it?

This is reminiscent of a classic Carl Reiner/Mel Brooks comedy routine from the '60s. Mel plays a British Angry Young Man film director named Tippy Skittles, who's just directed a film called Sunday Night and Saturday Morning. When Carl's interviewer reminds him that there has already been a hit British film called Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Mel/Tippy responds angrily.

"Our film is completely different. It's a week different!"

[h/t Willard's Wormholes]

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's a Wonderful Life. Really.

You know, now that I'm officially older than dirt, I have to admit that I have moments -- I would call them dark nights of the soul if I actually HAD a soul; in truth, they're more like when you have to change a light bulb -- where I think, well, maybe I SHOULD have gone to law school like my parents wanted. Rather than spending the bulk of my adult life writing about something as frivolous and unimportant as rock 'n' roll (let alone trying to play it).

I mean, I probably would have made a few more bucks than I currently have stashed. And when I was at parties, and people asked what I did for a living, they might not have laughed quite so hard when I wasn't looking.

Ah well. As Crow T. Robot said when he saw a swamp bird on MST3K's version of Revenge of the Creature -- "Egrets. I've had a few."

But then -- a couple of weeks ago, CD Baby alerted me to the fact that a total stranger had purchased a physical copy of the Floor Models album I compiled last year. So I waited a few days, so as not to give the guy the impression that I was stalking him, and then e-mailed him to ask how he had heard about the CD.

And I received this quite astonishing reply, which its sender has graciously given me permission to reprint.

Dear Steve,

Short answer: I read about the Floor Models on your blog, listened on CD Baby, and bought.

Long, potentially heartwarming answer (and I say that as a warning, not as a selling point):

The story begins in the mid-70s, when I was about 8 or 9 years old, and dad decided I was responsible enough to operate his stereo system (old Gerrard 30-pound turntable and Harmon Kardon tube amp which, circa midway-side-B, had heated up to egg-frying temperatures). He had about a dozen albums, bought in the early 60s, the usual light fare: Herb Alpert, Trini Lopez, Mantovanni. Every so often a kind-hearted neighbor would loan us an album, or I would get one for my birthday, or cut a single off of the back of a cereal box. I loved (and still love) them all, and wore them out listening.

Fast forward a couple of years, and my brother had introduced me to a few more-recent bands: AC/DC, Kiss, Black Sabbath. I liked them, too, but one day while listening to a left-of-the-dial radio station, I heard a song that sounded completely different: alive and ragged and beautiful. It made me want to stand up and do something. I could barely remember anything about it except that I wanted to hear more, and that the chorus said something about "death" and "glory". It became my quest to figure out who that was; my brother had no idea.

Then, one day, we went to the library and I wandered into a previously-ignored part of the building, a walled-in-glass area that turned out to contain a selection of albums. They had records at the library! I picked out a few, based solely on whether I had heard of the artist, and/or whether it had an interesting cover. I struck out with that first batch: some generic 70s Poco-esque junk and Christian-era Dylan. On my next visit, I asked the librarian if she could recommend some albums. She briefly discussed my interests, helped me pick out a few, and then directed me to the magazine rack: Stereo Review, she said, might give me some ideas.

I remember sitting there for two hours that seemed like five minutes. People actually wrote about rock music? Intelligently? I read literally dozens (hundreds?) of yours and Noel Coppage's brief reviews, and found a few artists you liked in the library. One the next trip to Tower Records, I picked up London Calling, to the astonishment of my bland-metal-monogamizing friends. How dare I opt for punk over Aerosmith? That album was not what I expected: I thought it would all be "Death or Glory", and "Clampdown" but there was a lot of "Lost In The Supermarket" and "Spanish Bombs". And the bleeping hilarious "Koka Kola", which won me over for good.

Later record store excursions got me some Tonio K (for which purchase I received a rare you-don't-completely-suck compliment from the greasy/awesome Record Store Guy), some good Dylan (Infidels, I think), later on some Smithereens, and the list could go on (and on). I loved just about everything you liked. As I listened more, and scrounged some back issues from a larger district library, I grew to understand, deeply in my soul, that when it comes to music, the Unwritten Laws of Simels are indeed true:

1) Energy always trumps style.
2) Short is almost always better than long.
3) Guitar + bass + drum + singer = win; anything extra is at least as likely to detract as to improve any given rock song.

So this is far too long already, but let me sum it up thusly: I submit that you, Steve Simels, have contributed more to my general happiness than anyone outside of my family members and a few teachers/mentors. My enjoyment of music has made the good times better: one of my happiest memories is coming home after making a successful attempt to "get down" with the long-coveted C*******a, and finding a box of Columbia House records sitting on my bed (thanks, mom!) and listening all night while mentally revisiting that lovely evening. Even more importantly, music has sustained me through terrible times (divorce, deployment, family health problems). And it has provided a foundation for a great relationship with my three high-school/college-age girls, all of whom live with me full time. And I, very honestly, owe much of that to you.

So, yes, when I found out Steve Simels played in an actual band that played actual music, and had released an actual CD, I bought that sucker. And (bonus!) I really like it.

So, thank you, Mr. Simels.

Your humble student/servant,

Erik Rupard

I'd be lying if I told you I didn't choke up a little bit by the end there. Other than that, all I can say is if I had known, back in the day, that I was going to actually impact somebody's life in any way, I would have tried to write a little better.

In any case, Erik -- I thank you. Truly, madly, deeply.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Procol Harum, Bitches!!!: Part Le Deuxieme

From 1970, please enjoy the incomparable Procol Harum and their defiantly un-Kosher masterpiece "Piggy Pig Pig."

I'd never seen this clip till yesterday; it derives from Procol's quite fab Home album, which remains my favorite artifact of PH Mark II. Which is to say from the period after the departure of genius Hammond B-3 maestro Matthew Fisher, but before guitarist Robin Trower flew the coop to pursue his rather pointless dream of becoming the blonde Jimi Hendrix.

In any case, a pretty astounding song; pay special attention to drummer B.J. Wilson, who remains the single most unaccountably underrated skin pounder in rock history.

Food for thought: Why the hell are there so many videos -- especially from the early days -- with bands playing outdoors in obviously inclement weather?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Procol Harum, Bitches!!!

Ahem. Long time or merely obsessive readers may recall that the very first entry (in 2007) at this here blog to have my by-line on it was a reprint of the very first piece of mine that ran (in 1972) in the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, and that the subject of both was Procol Harum.

The blog post, of course, featured my drolly amusing after-the-fact thoughts on the original piece, and n case you missed it -- tsk tsk -- you can peruse it in its entirety over here.

In any case, I bring the whole thing up because I've taken all sorts of (one hopes) good-natured ribbing over the years about my enthusiasm for PH, including from time to time even some from the redoubtable NY Mary.

Who has indulged me in this regard with a certain, er, bemusement.

But now, gosh darnit, I'm feeling vindicated, thanks to the appearance of Procol Harum: The Ghosts of a Whiter Shade of Pale. The clearly definitive biography of the band by my Facebook chum and all around swell guy Henry Scott-Irvine.

But let's let Henry explain why he wrote the book and why you need to read it, okay?

Seriously, this is one of the best rock bios I've read in a while; Henry's done yeoman research (talking to just about everybody who interacted with the band at all stages of their career) and he's as strong on what the music means as he is on the personal dramas behind its making.

Bottom line: You can, and should, order the book over at Amazon here.

And while I'm on the subject, let me conclude with a true Procol story I think I've told here before, but which behooves repeating, so never mind:

So. My college buds and I were kind of obsessed with Procol's song "All This and More" (from their masterpiece A Salty Dog, and with lyrics by Keith Reed, 'natch)...

...which has a line we never could parse. To wit: "Like Maddox in the days of old/We'll feast and drink until we fold."

Who the fuck is Maddox?, we puzzled long into several stoned dorm room nights. Got to be an obscure English lit reference, right? Trips to the college library and entreaties to various profs proved unavailing, so you can imagine our excitement when Procol Harum arrived, in the flesh, to play a show at our old school, and I conned my way backstage to confront the Great Lyricist himself.

Anyway, I finally cornered the guy -- who was basically sitting all by himself in the hospitality suite, playing with the roast beef -- and asked him breathlessly "Hey Keith -- to who were your referring with that Maddox line? What 16th century sonnet is that a metaphor from?"

He looked at me with some alarm and, before turning on his heels and fleeing, he said "Well, first of all, it's not Maddox. It's mad ox."

Like I said, true story. To this day, I don't know what the significance of a mad ox in the days of old is.

Oh, and just because I love all you guys -- please enjoy this thoroughly swell eight minute teaser trailer for an in-the-works Procol documentary.

Tons of great performances, and if you can contemplate drummer B.J. Wilson without going "whew," you're in need of medical attention.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Present Day Nurk Twins Refuse(s) to Die!!!

From 2012, please enjoy power pop cult figure Mikal Cronin and friends (amongst whom I'm particularly fond of the drummer, for reasons I'm sure you've guessed) and an infectious unplugged version of Cronin's infectious-at-birth "Get Along."

I have to admit I was not previously familiar with this guy -- you can learn all about him here -- but "Get Along" just kills me. Especially those you-hoo-hoo's on the choruses.

By the by, I am not suggesting that the level of talent is comparable, but I nonetheless think it is not entirely far-fetched to suggest that this might sound a bit like Lennon and McCartney back in their skiffle days.

[h/t rurritable]

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The. Best. Beatles. Cover. Ever.

This has gone viral pretty quickly, but still, I'd be remiss if I didn't post it along with everybody else.

Words fail me, obviously.

[h/t Watertiger]

Monday, June 03, 2013

Scenes From a Career

There's a nice little interview/retrospective with Greatest Living Welshman Dave Edmunds -- whose been everywhere and done everything, musically speaking -- in the current issue of UNCUT.

Among the more amusing revelations:

Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant was a dick

"I'd signed a deal with Led Zep's Swansong [Records]. Nick Lowe and I met up at the Nashville Rooms and said "Let's get a band together." But when we made an album as Rockpile, I signed something with Jake Riviera whereby I gave away my recording rights. Hell broke loose over that and I couldn't work with Nick again. The two managers weren't a problem, though. Peter Grant wouldn't have even recognized Jake. He'd be like a bug to be stamped on."

Paul McCartney was a bit of a dick

"I've worked with Paul a few times. He was OK. All right. You've gotta be careful. Filming Give My Regards to Broad Street, a horrible film with horrible songs, we'd always be jamming something -- Ringo, Paul, me and Chris Spedding. And Chris started trying to play something when it was down tools. And someone came across to him and said 'Only play songs that Paul plays.' [laughs] We can only have fun if Paul starts it."

George Harrison was a bit of a dick

"Carl Perkins wanted me to put this TV show together and George said, 'Well, if you do that, I'll get Ringo and Eric.' I knew George pretty well. I was hanging out a lot with him at Friar Park. But we didn't talk about music. Unless it was George Formby. With people like The Beatles, you don't want to be pushing into 'Let's write a song,' or you'll be shut out forever. So I'd watch the racing with him on TV."

And Chuck Berry was a dick.

"I've played a few times with Chuck Berry. Once was on his 60th birthday. I put a band together to play with him, with John Entwistle on bass. Midway through the gig, John started getting a bit over confident and busy. Chuck walked over right into his face and said 'Don't do that!' In the dressing room, I said, 'Do you have a set list?' 'No, each song starts like this. Da-da-da-dad-da...' 'No kidding. How about ending?' 'I stamp my foot.'"

That last bit is perhaps less surprising than the others, of course.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Saturday Moment of Words Fail Me.

Just for a giggle.

I should add that on our last trip to Paris, a certain Shady Dame and I almost got run over by a horde of people riding those things. None of them looked as cool as the Fabs while doing it, obviously.