Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You Can't Make This Shit Up (An Occasional Series)

So the other day, I was chatting with my Facebook chum Tommy Stewart (who, BTW, is a vastly better bass player than I will ever dream of being, so the hell with him) when for some reason I was reminiscing about the time I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to kill Barry Manilow.

And, sadly, did not avail myself of the opportunity.

(It's a long story -- get me drunk some time and I'll tell you about it.)

In any case, Tommy immediately one-upped me thusly (and I'm paraphrasing, so forgive me):

"Steve -- sometime in the early 90s I was in a Texas music store when a locally notorious asshole named Vernon Howell came into the store. And proceeded to plug his guitar into a Marshall stack turned to 11, and play loudly and badly. REALLY badly; he emptied the store. I considered killing him on the spot, but didn't. Which I have regretted ever since, since I probably would have gotten off in a couple of years."

That was better than my story, but in any case, I hadn't heard of the aforementioned Vernon Howell. A Google search turned up this, however..

...and I think we can all agree that the guy's music is heinous enough to have made it worthwhile for somebody to off him before his career took off.

But when I mentioned this to Tommy I got the following quite mind-blowing reply (again, I paraphrase):

"Wrong Vernon Howell. The one I saw later changed his name to David Koresh. And like I said, had I killed him, I probably would have gotten off in a few years, but all those people would still be alive."

Words, as they often do, fail me, but in this case big time.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Now is the Summer of Our Discontent Extremely Pissed Off-Ness

Okay, Blogger just ate the extremely droll post I had scheduled for this morning (hint: it involved the sad true story of how I failed to kill a certain irksome pop singer when I had the chance).

Which I am too tired and too irked to recreate at this late juncture. Although I'll do so for posting on the morrow.

In the meantime, and as an indication of how I feel, I would like to invite you all to the chic bistro that I will be opening in Paris later this year.

You're welcome.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I Never Thought I'd Say This, But....

Boys Don't Lie: A History of Shoes, is finally going to press.

It's been over four years since I swallowed my heart in my throat and proposed to the band that they tell their story, and it hasn't always been easy. I learned a lot about long-forgotten aspects of the record industry, I poked in corners people wanted to leave dark, I researched and provided context for otherwise inexplicable situations, I tried to suss out the long arc of this band that just won't quit. I wrote. I rewrote. I rewrote again.  I spent hours on the phone parsing the fine points of memory. I rewrote again. I waited for comments. I rewrote again. I sat with Moira McCormick, side-by-side, as we typed and reread and blacksmithed the language into shape.

When I started this project, I was cursed by Gary Klebe, who said, "This book is going to be like a Shoes record.  It's going to take longer than you think. It's going to be a longer book than you think. It's going to be better than you think." He was right.

It's a pretty good book, I think. I hope others will also think so.

I can't exactly describe the experience of getting to know and understand these idols of my youth, of having them become friends and colleagues.  I never lost the thrill at seeing their names in my inbox or on my phone--even now. (I suspect they cringe at mine.)

Back at the beginning, Kid Charlemagne said to me, "Don't you ruin them for me!" And even then, I knew that was not possible. They are exactly who you think they are: thoughtful and sweet, sometimes shy, always gracious. What might not be clear from their music is that they're funny, funny guys, they laugh a lot and genuinely like each other, and are genuinely touched by the fact that people still listen to them, still respect them, still remember them.

And then there's Ignition, last year's triumphant return. I don't claim credit for that, of course: rumors were rife that they were writing all the time. But I do think that reflecting on their legacy encouraged them to return to the studio, and for that, we can all be grateful. Last year's new record was accompanied by a spate of vinyl reissues, and this year's string of concerts (even *I* finally got to see them live!) have shown them in fine form.

And if I bear even a small part of the responsibility for them shaking off the cobwebs, that's honor enough.

I'll be posting some excerpts over the next few days: if there are any episodes of Shoes history you've always wondered about, ask in the comments and we'll put them up!

You can pre-order books at the PurePopPress site: street date should be the middle of August.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday Literary Masterpieces That Are Unsurpassed and Will Probably Make My Name Live Beyond Eternity (An Occasional Series)

And speaking as we were the other day of the great Firesign Theatre, here are my liner notes for Sony's 1993 box set THE FIRESIGN THEATRE: SHOES FOR INDUSTRY!.

For those of you who may have missed the gazillion other times I've posted them.


A self-contained four-man comedy troupe of writers/actors whose medium was the audio record, they created brilliant, multi-layered surrealist satire out of science-fiction, TV, old movies, avant-garde drama and literature, outrageous punning, the political turmoil of the Sixties, the great shows of the Golden Age of Radio, the detritus of high and low culture (James Joyce meets the found poetry of used-car pitch men) and their own intuitive understanding of the technological possibilities of multi-track recording. Their thirteen albums for CBS, recorded in various group permutations between 1967 and 1975, reveal them to have been at once the Beatles of comedy, the counter-cultural Lewis Carroll, and the slightly cracked step-children of Kafka, Bob and Ray, Jorge Luis Borges, Philip K. Dick, Stan Freberg, Samuel Beckett and the Goon Show.

And as you'll hear when you play the album you now hold in your hands, they were also far ahead of their time, not just of it. In fact, while most self-consciously "hip" comedy from the late Sixties or early Seventies is as dated now as love beads and black-light posters (listened to Cheech and Chong lately?) The Firesign Theatre's satire - which dealt from the beginning with such unexpected subjects as the implication of cable network narrow-casting ("UTV! For You, the Viewer!") or New Age pseudo-philosophy (one of their albums was called Everything You Know Is Wrong) - today seems eerily prophetic. In particular, the futuristic vision of Los Angeles - sprawling, fragmented, fear-ridden, multi-cultural, both low rent and high tech - that threads throughout their "oeuvre" (in particular their 1970 masterpiece, Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers) is not only as poetically detailed as anything in Raymond Chandler, but chillingly on the money in 1993.

Of course, the really important thing about The Firesign Theatre - the reason you've bought this compilation of some of their best stuff - is that they were (and are) hilariously funny.

So where did these guys come from (or, as they put it in another context, "Who am us, anyway?").

You can read the rest of it over HERE.

A pretty good job, if I do say so myself, and it was a genuine thrill interviewing all four of the guys (albeit only by phone, although I got to meet them briefly when they played the Beacon Theater in NYC a few months later).

Also: R.I.P. Peter Bergman (November 29, 1939 – March 9, 2012)

Friday, July 26, 2013

(Mostly) Instrumental Backing Tracks of the Gods (An Occasional Series): Special Paging Lash Larue! Edition

From Pathe Marconi studios in Dayton Ohio Paris, France in 1978, please enjoy The Rolling Stones (featuring a mostly off-microphone Mick Jagger on barely discernible vocals) rehearsing and swaggering through the Some Girls classic "When the Whip Comes Down."

Words mostly fail me on this one, which is beyond great, but allow me two observations.

1. Anybody who claims the Stones didn't still have it at this point in their career is probably selling something.

2. Robert Christgau, who I don't agree with particularly often, was nonetheless on the money when he observed that "If you don't like the Rolling Stones, you don't like rock 'n' roll as a form."

I should add that you can download two CDs worth of similar rehearsal Stones stuff from the same period over here.

You're welcome.

[h/t Willard's Wormholes]

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Annals of Late Capitalism (An Occasional Series)

The ultimate compilation album.

Actually, that's Robert Klein, of course. From his 1974 comedy LP Mind Over Matter.

You're welcome.

[h/t BG]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thank You, Flying Spaghetti Monster

Well, it came down to the wire, but the movie is a go.

I'd like to think it was my fifty bucks that put it over the top, but probably not.

On the Beach

Brand new Fastball video -- "Love Comes in Waves."

I've always liked these guys -- their 1998 hit "The Way"... a perennial iPod shuffle fave. I mean, anybody who can get a record on the alternative charts by cribbing the verse melody from "Besame Mucho" is okay by fricking me.

But I am embarrassed to admit that I was hitherto unaware that they were still plying their trade.

In any case, although the video may not wear well, both it and the song get better as they go along, and on balance I find the whole thing quite infectious.

[h/t Tyler Esposito]

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Log Rolling In Our Time (An Occasional Series)

From an undisclosed location deep in the heart of Jersey, please enjoy "Move!".

Or as I like to call it -- The Autobiography of Mr. Charles Edward Anderson Berry of St. Louis, Missouri.

Written, and sung, by my old bandmate and chum Tony Forte. Circa the late 80s.

That is he on the lead guitar as well, BTW.

A really terrific song, I think -- lyrically, it gets Chuck's voice to absolute perfection. The Great Man could well have written it himself.

I should add that while I usually refer to Tony as Mr. Rickenbacker 12-String, he really plays the old Gibson here just like a ringin' a bell

Monday, July 22, 2013

Faye Hunter 1954-2013

Sad news on my doorstep.

Faye Hunter, the founding bass player with ‘80s jangle-pop band Let’s Active, died Saturday night of an apparent suicide, according to various reports. She was 59.

A friend of Hunter’s told the News & Observer newspaper, "I'm not shocked, but I am surprised about the timing,” adding, "She'd been talking about this for quite some time. The past three or so years were really bad."

Jeebus, that was one great band.

To paraphrase Nick Tosches -- this wonderful woman and musician dies and yet Justin Bieber walks the streets a free man?

I don't get it.

Backing Tracks of the Gods (An Occasional Series)

And this just in -- I'm no longer in DivShare Hell.

That being the case, please enjoy -- from 1967 -- the instrumental bed for The Yardbirds "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor." From the Little Games Sessions CD compilation.


Sounds like the Who without the vocals, no? In any case, pretty fricking fantastic.

In the meantime, feel free to sing along, won't you?

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor,
Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief,
Doctor, baker, fine shoe-maker,
Wise man, madman, taxman, please,
How can I know just what to be?
Please stop and give advice to me.
Tell me,
Tell me,
How many people do I help...

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor,
Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief,
Doctor, baker, fine shoe-maker,
Wise man, madman, taxman, please,
How can I know just what to be?
Please stop and give advice to me.
Tell me,
Tell me,
How many people do I help,
Just by sitting on the shelf,
Tell me,
Tell me,
I don't want a trade at all,
[It's for to?] living off the road.

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor,
Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief,
Doctor, baker, fine shoe-maker,
Wise man, madman, taxman, please.
Who's gonna tell me what to do?
Then they will say that I am true.
Perhaps I'll come to a great success,
Or possible a dreadful mess.
[Having buys its?] fortune, fame,
Living's just a little game.

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor,
Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief,
Doctor, baker, fine shoe-maker,
Wise man, madman, taxman, please.
How can I know just what to be,
Please stop and give advice to me,
Tell me,
Tell me,
How many people do I help,
Just by sitting on a shelf,
Tell me,
Tell me,
I don't want a trade at all,
[It's for to?] living off the road,

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor,
Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief,
Doctor, baker, fine shoe-maker,
Wise man, madman, taxman, please.

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor....
Boy, they don't write 'em like that any more.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I'd Rather Go Blind. Not.

Still recuperating from Wednesday's minor, uh, medical procedure, so yet another meh post in its honor.

Once again, please enjoy authentic Who wannabes The Eyes, but this time with their aquatically themed "I'm Rowed Out."

Still having Divshare problems -- despite having just ponied up forty bucks to the greedy bastards -- but you can download the damned song over HERE.

Regular crappy non-medical posting resumes on Monday.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On a Clear Day You Can See a Couple of Feet If I'm Lucky

Recovering from yesterday's minor medical, uh, procedure, so as I said posting will be meh for the rest of the week.

Once again, though, in honor of -- and as a clue to - said procedure, here's authentic Who wannabes The Eyes and their minor mod/freakbeat classic "When the Night Falls."

I should add, however, that although the, uh, procedure went fine, there was a brief moment of panic on my part when I heard my surgeon utter the word "oops!".

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Can See For Miles a Couple of Feet If I'm Lucky

Going into the city today for a wee medical, uh, procedure, so posting will be pretty meh for the rest of the week.

In any case, in honor of -- and as a clue to -- said procedure, please enjoy authentic Who wannabes The Eyes and their minor freakbeat/mod classic "My Degeneration."

You're welcome.

Also: If something should go wrong, I would like to be cremated and have my ashes spread over Barry Manilow.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Masses are Clamoring for More Music By the Weasels, Comrades!!!

From approximately 1974, and Endless Bummer -- the frankly heinous low-fi home-made CD by my old garage band chums The Weasels -- please enjoy (if that is even remotely possible) the winsomely nautical "Pretty Sally."

Written by keyboard guy Glenn Leeds (who also provides flute stylings and quite hideously sea dog-ish vocals on the "Barnacle Bill" section of the song). With rhythm guitar and lead vocals by Dave Hawxwell, watery bass guitar and backing vocals by Alan Weissman, less wayward than usual drums by Mike ("The Drummer") Sorrentino, and lead guitar by some asshole whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels.

As you will hear, I run out of ideas for my solos approximately five minutes before the track ends -- a source of some pride for me, as you can imagine.

I bring this up because the aforementioned Senor Weissman, despite fervid entreaties to the contrary by an otherwise uncaring world, is in the process of putting together a Weasels best(?)-of album and a website to promote it. Both of which will be called Let There Be Weasels. (And the above song may or may not be included.)

In any case, against my better judgement, I've been enabling Al in this endeavor, and here are two prospective covers I've had mocked up for the project.

Not that anybody asked me, but I've decided that the final version should be chosen by the theoretically objective readers over here at PowerPop. So - please vote for your favorite, early and often.

Should it be this one --

-- or this one?

Our phone lines are open. Our operators are standing by. This is a free call.

[h/t BG]

Monday, July 15, 2013

I Hear Post-Racial America Singing

Who could have predicted?

From yesterday's S.F. EXAMINER:

Classic Rock Musician Lester Chambers Assaulted on Stage at Blues Festival

Dylan Chambers, son of music icon Lester Chambers [of the Chambers Brothers], has just posted (6 pm PST) on Facebook, Saturday, July 13, 2013:

“Dylan Here.... Lester was just assaulted on stage at The Russell City Hayward Blues Festival by a crazed woman after dad dedicated ‘People Get Ready’ to Trayvon Martin. He is on the way to the hospital now.”

UPDATE: A Florida jury has just pre-emptively convicted Chambers, 73, of assaulting the woman's fist with his face.

Okay, obviously I made up that last bit. But the rest of it is appallingly real. The good news is that Chambers is recovering.

Look, as I have said here on many previous occasions, I am well aware that the title of this blog is PowerPop, not Pissed Off Old Bolshie. So I'm not going to pontificate at any length about what I think about the events of last weekend in Florida. Or the SCOTUS decision on the Civil Rights Act. Or those insane gun laws in Florida and elsewhere.

Okay, actually, on the gun laws I'll let Steve Earle speak for me.

I will, however, recall the words of the great Charles Pierce, who has been saying the following since the day Trayvon Martin was murdered:

Nothing good will come of this whole affair. Nothing.

[h/t The Kenosha Kid]

Friday, July 12, 2013

Songs for the New Depression

From the December 1982 issue of the Magazine Formerly Known as STEREO REVIEW, please enjoy -- if that's the word -- my review of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska.

Slightly edited for style (don't ask) but otherwise exactly as it appeared at the time.

When times get tough, someone once observed, entertainment gets sloppy, but in the case of Bruce Springsteen, the once and future Bard of Asbury Park, New Jersey, we may have to amend that; when times get tough, entertainment gets grim. At least that's one implication to be derived from Nebraska, Springsteen's new all-acoustic -- dare I say it? -- folk music album. Another is that the record business is in even worse shape than I thought. Since the production costs of what sounds like the bleakest record of the year must have been next to nothing (Springsteen recorded it at home on a four-track Teac cassette deck), you might think Columbia would give us a break and sell it at a really reduced price -- like about two bucks. No such luck.

That's a pretty cynical thing to say about a Bruce Springsteen album, Springsteen being the one mainstream rock star who maintains a genuine give-and-take relationship with his audience, but I'm afraid Nebraska inspires cynicism. It sounds like it was written for critics rather than people. I'm not suggesting a sellout; in a lot of ways a release like this is a very gutsy career move, and I don't doubt that the ten songs on it are as sincerely, deeply felt as anything Springsteen has ever done. In some ways, actually, it's weirdly appropriate that he should mutate, however briefly, into a latter-day Woody Guthrie. CBS originally signed him as a folk singer, things are pretty depressing out there, and somebody's got to do it, I suppose. It's just that most of Nebraska is, well, boring.

I can't fault the stories Springsteen tells here. He seems to have aimed for a sort of contemporary working-class, factory-town equivalent of The Grapes of Wrath, and mostly he's succeeded. As vignettes they're wonderful; one in particular -- "Highway Patrolman" -- is going to make a heck of a movie someday. But God. The tunes are less than minimalist, the tempos are uniformly dirgelike, and hardly a ray of sunlight breaks through the overpowering miasma of fatalism and gloom. The effect is to trivialize the stories. It's impossible to care about the lives of the people being chronicled when the music is so resolutely leaden.

I suspect that this is not due so much to a lack of inspiration as it is to deliberate calculation. Springsteen has been headed in this direction for some time now. A lot of Darkness on the Edge of Town was all but unlistenable for the same reasons, and in places The River was even worse, the stark dramas inflated to operatic pretentious and unintentional self-parody. Nebraska, with its self-conscious underproduction, achieves the same sad result from the opposite direction. Springsteen must know better -- just listen to the material he gives away to other artists. Heck, his "Out of Work," on the recent Gary U.S. Bonds album, says far more about blue-collar aspirations than anything on Nebraska, and it's also tuneful, danceable and fun.

But Springsteen seems to think that fun is beneath him now. As much as it pains me to say it, I think what we have here is a classic case of a "primitive" artist corrupted by "intellectuals" (well, ex-rock writers, like his producer Jon Landau and official biographer Dave Marsh). How else to explain Springsteen's apparent compulsion to make the Big Statement every time out, the references to film directors -- here it's Terence Malick (Badlands) in the title song -- and the hectoring preachiness of so much of his recent output? Nebraska, its offhand simplicity notwithstanding, is an ambitious work, and, given the thoroughly decadent state of contemporary pop music, it merits respect if only because it aims high. But the fact is, it misses -- by a big margin -- and the reasons suggest that its author has worked himself into what may be an artistic cul-de-sac. Let's hope I'm wrong. -- Steve Simels

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Nebraska. Bruce Springsteen (vocals, guitar, harmonica).

A review that holds up pretty well, I think.

Although I've mellowed a bit on Darkness since then. I'm still not crazy about it, but the obviously anthemic songs (plus "Candy's Room," which I've always thought of as Bruce channeling The Yardbirds) are great enough that I can sort of ignore the (IMHO) lame West Coast-style production.

I'm also tickled by my prediction about "Highway Patrolman," which of course Sean Penn filmed as The Indian Runner in 1991.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

À la Recherche du Disques Perdu

Jeebus, these days EVERYBODY has a documentary.

I must admit, I have a sentimental fondness for this guy. If only because his store stocked the indie 45 by my crappy 70s band.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Memphis in the Meantime

Still in Divshare hell, but while we're waiting, please enjoy (from sometime in the early 70s) the late great Chris Bell (with the equally late and great Alex Chilton on harmony vocals) and "You and Your Sister."

As heard (in a slightly different mix) in that incredible Big Star documentary I've been bugging you about for the last couple of days.

This one absolutely kills me. Seriously -- this could induce tears in a fricking rock.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Great Moments in Labor Movement History: Special Rock Writers Convene, Find Each Other Absurd Edition

Courtesy of the estimable Mike Mettler, editor-in-chief of The Magazine Formerly Known as STEREO REVIEW Sound and Vision, here's my report on the 1973 rock critics convention that appears on-screen in that Big Star documentary I raved about yesterday.

You'll notice that there's no mention of Big Star's performance at said event. You can draw your own conclusions, but here's a clue: Free drinks.

A lot of people really have no use for rock critics. In fact, some cynics have even suggested that The Day the Music Died was the day an undergraduate named Paul Williams first conceived the idea for the original Crawdaddy. But by now it hardly matters what one thinks about the rock press; for better or for worse, like rock-and-roll itself, it's seemingly here to stay. True, no rock critic can make or break an album the way Clive Barnes can make or break a Broadway show (or even the way Downbeat in its heyday could affect a jazzman's career). But still, given a flourishing fanzine underground acting as a sort of farm-team system, and the continuing viability of a number of national magazines preoccupied in the main with rock-and-roll in all its permutations (notably Creem, Fusion, Rock, Crawdaddy, Phonograph Record and that great grey eminence Rollling Stone) it's clear that the rock critic has become, if not an institution, then at least a fact of life.

If that sounds far-fetched to you, clearly you weren't in Memphis this May, when in a classic example of music biz freebie-ism, approximately one hundred rock critics and fellow travelers were flown, all expenses paid, to the first and last annual convention of the National Association of Rock Writers. Last, because early in the convention there was a lengthy debate over a more appropriate moniker for the group. National Association of Rock Critics, or NARC, had a few supporters (for obvious reasons), but it was ultimately rejected as too provincial--there were, after all, several representatives from such British magazines as Sounds and Let It Rock. Also voted down were the International Rockwriters Association (IRA) and my own favorite, Arthur Levy's Love (ALL), in favor of the big winner, the grandiose sounding Rock Writers of the World, or RWW. The Wobblies live, I suppose. At any rate, convention organizer John King was left with a truckload of useless NARW stationery.

The purpose of the gathering, according to the official invitation, was to "provide improved communications with and increased cooperation among writers and all other segments of the music industry, as well as to enhance the profession standing of the rock journalist." Laudable sentiments, certainly, but of doubtful practical value; the rock press is by no means a closed shop, but it is a small one, and most of the critics who attended, if not old friends, were at least old professional colleagues. The convention was the brainchild of Jon Tiven, who, at age eighteen, may be said to typify the second generation of rock critics, having gone the route from fanzine editor (the excellent New Haven Rock Press) to the big time and Rolling Stone. Tiven wrote a rave review in last summer's Fusion of Big Star's Number One Record, which delighted the people at Stax subsidiary Ardent Records (it was their premier release). As a token of their appreciation, they invited Jon to Memphis, where they wined him and dined him, as well as giving him a red carpet tour of their studios.

Jon managed to have a fine time, and suggested that it would be nice of the rest of his critical confreres would be similarly entertained, from which suggestion grew the idea for organizing the far-flung members of the the up till now loosely structured rock press. Intrigued, the people at Ardent convinced their parent company to foot the bill and voila. (There was, apparently, some financial support from outside the Stax Group, Atlantic Records in particular, but most of the other major labels were relatively cool to the idea. Organizer King's comment: "Wait till next year.") Frankly speaking, not a hell of a lot went on; the organizational meetings were interesting on a number of levels, but not terribly productive. However, an executive board was elected, there was some serious discussion about boycotting publications that don't pay their writers, and some of the more affluent delegates even (you should pardon the expression) paid their dues as a means of financing a proposed newsletter. By and large, though, the weekend was an excuse for everybody finally to meet everybody else and get very drunk.

The festivities were kicked off with a mammoth cocktail party at which we did just that. Between gin and tonics, I spent my time in a long debate with Phonograph Record's Ron Ross over the merits of David Bowie while modelling a rock critic T-shirt thoughtfully provided by Creem's ' Lester Bangs and Jaan Uhelszki. Later, after everyone was sufficiently imbued with the holiday spirit, we were treated to a surprise screening of the 1965 rock film classic, The TAMI Show, during which noted punk Mike Saunders boogalooed in the aisles. Other activites included a tour of a nearby Schlitz brewery, a private showing of Peckinpah's Pat Garett and Billy the Kid, a pilgrimage to the estate of Elvis Presley (called Graceland, as the local joke goes, because he couldn't spell grease ) a moonlight riverboat ride with music provided by legendary blues mummy Furry Lewis, and a party at the Stax studios where the fortunate got to sit in Isaac Hayes' chair.

The whole thing was rather like a Shriners' convention or perhaps my senior class trip to Washington; we were billeted at the quintessentially American Holiday Inn (which we shared with a Bible convention, of all things) and a great deal of the weekend seemed to be taken up with running from room to room looking for parties, some of which were provided by record companies that had considerately bothered to set up hospitality suites. Oddly, for a group of people for such a reputation for craziness, very little in the way of outrage actually took place. (The repressible Richard Meltzer was even thanked publically by John King for "cooling it for the whole damn thing.) The high point for me was reached in the disco in the hotel lobby, where, after the final bash, I returned to perform various suggestive dances a la Mick Jagger with some endemic flowers of Southern womanhood while their boyfriends looked on threateningly. A transcendent moment.

Whether the whole affair will ultimately yield anything more concrete than another convention is as yet unclear. Despite some of the muttering about unionization, it seems unlikely. There is, after all, something of a symbiotic relationship between the critics and the record companies, and, sometimes, of course, we're talking about the same people. However, the executive board is made up of some extremely clever writers -- Gary Kenton, Vince Aletti, Meltzer, Cameron Crowe, Dave Laing, Todd Everett, Arthur Levy, John Ingham, The Mad Peck, and I.C. Lotz -- and at the very least they should be able to maintain the illusion of a working organization.. Whether Time or Newsweek will immediately set out to hire official rock journalists, or whether we will now see Lester Bangs doing concert reviews for CBS News is another matter entirely. But I for one won't be surprised.

That last bit, obviously, I got wrong. Hey, I was young.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Conclusive Proof That the English Language is Inadequte

From Halloween, 1967, please enjoy a classic clip from Zacherle's Disco-Teen. Live yet lip-synched at the studios of Channel 21 in Newark, N.J.

"The Letter," featuring the teen-aged Alex Chilton.

I should add that approximately five seconds of this clip appear in that new Big Star documentary I've been bugging you about.

(Monday) Advertisements for Myself: Special Against Unbelievable Odds Edition

So I saw the new documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me over the weekend.

Twice, as a matter of fact; it was that wonderful. (And the second show I attended featured a Q&A with two of the filmmakers, including co-director Olivia Mori, whose hand I got to shake).

In any case, this is the best music doc I've seen since Searching for Sugar Man, and in some ways it's even more moving.

I won't bore you with too many details -- if you love Big Star's music (and if you don't, why the hell are you hanging out here?) you already know you need to see this -- but I will make a couple of random observations.

Number one: Big Star drummer Jody Stephens (now 60, and the sole surviving original band member) still is one handsome rock star looking dude, and he comes across in the film as a complete mensch. One of nature's real noblemen.

Secondly, my favorite scene in the film was the very last one, right before the end credits. You see John Fry, the band's friend and original producer, remixing "September Gurls" at Ardent Studios for the movie soundtrack. And the look of sheer joy on his face when the vocals finally appear in the mix is just astoundingly poignant.

And speaking of those remixes, the music in the film is often so beautiful it hurts. When Chris Bell's "You and Your Sister" (with Alex Chilton doing harmony vocals) comes on the soundtrack, for example, it feels like the whole world simply stops in its tracks; I suggest you get the movie CD (everything on it is previously unreleased) over at Amazon here and be changed. Trust me: it's worth it for the sonically refurbished new version of Bell's "I am the Cosmos" alone.

Bottom line: This is a great film; if it's playing near you, walk don't run.

Meanwhile, on a more mundane note, I am pleased to report that in one of the early scenes you can see a photo of my Stereo Review piece (complete with large as life by-line) about the 1973 rock critics convention in Memphis, at which Big Star performed, an occasion which figures prominently in the flick. This is, to my knowledge, my first ever appearance on the big screen. Heh.

Alas, I couldn't find a copy of the piece in my archives, but the Intertubes being the wondrous thing that they are, I did find an oral history of the event, with reminiscences from numerous attendees.

Including moi, who (amusingly enough) gets the first and last words.


The Legendary, First-and-Last Rock Writer's Convention

By Barney Hoskyns

(This piece was originally published in Rock's Backpages.)

On Memorial Day weekend in May 1973, over a hundred of the leading rock writers of the day flew into Memphis, Tennessee, for 72 hours of music, discussion, and drunken disorderliness.

The First Annual National Association of Rock Writers Convention, as ‘twas billed, was a hair-brained $40,000 scheme dreamed up by record company publicist John King and neophyte scribe Jon Tiven, who helped assemble a list of attendees that included Lester Bangs, Lenny Kaye, Cameron Crowe, Stanley Booth, Richard Meltzer, Nick Tosches and other illustrious/notorious contributors to the pages of Rolling Stone, Creem, Fusion, etc. From the UK, meanwhile, flew a posse that included future rock-prof Simon Frith and Pete “Family Trees” Frame. Allegedly there was even a critic from Mexico present.

Here, in the reminiscences of many survivors of the RWC, is the true story of that never-to-be-repeated weekend--a story of beer, call girls, Elvis, and a thrilling performance by rock-critic darlings Big Star.

Steve Simels (writing in Stereo Review, 1973): A lot of people really have no use for rock critics. In fact, some cynics have suggested that The Day The Music Died was the day an undergraduate named Paul Williams first conceived the idea for the original Crawdaddy! But by now it hardly matters what one thinks about the rock press. For better of worse, like rock and roll itself, it’s seemingly here to stay.

Andrew Tyler (Disc): 1973 was a time in which the big record companies sucked up to rock writers and staged ever more gaudily expensive stunts to arrest their attention and grab some editorial. The Rock Writers convention was an example, posing as rock anthropology.

John King (Ardent Records publicist and convention organizer): I’d always loved music publications and I’d always appreciated writers. They had passion and they knew so much more than me.

Steve Simels (1973): The convention was the brainchild of the New Haven Rock Press' Jon Tiven, who at eighteen may be said to typify the second generation of rock critics. Tiven wrote a rave review in Fusion of Big Star’s #1 Record, which delighted the people at Stax subsidiary Ardent Records.

John King: Tiven was almost as hyper as I was. He was somewhat assertive, some might say aggressive. It was strictly Stax money that we used to pay for the convention. Black artists weren’t represented all that well in the white press, so I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for writers to see Stax and other things. I just came up with the idea, and I legitimized it with the name "The National Association of Rock Writers." I wanted Big Star showcased, but I wanted it to be as level a playing field as I could. John Fry of Ardent thought I was nuts.

Ed Ward (Rolling Stone/Fusion et al): The idea of the convention was that Stax Records was taking a huge leap forward out of the funky soul biz and signing rock acts in conjunction with their new studio, Ardent, which also had a label. Ardent had signed Big Star and Stax had signed British band Skin Alley. They then took a buttload of money and flew loads of writers to Memphis to promote all of this under the aegis of helping rock writers get together and form a union, something some actual writer may have suggested at some point.

Pete Tomlinson (from liner notes to 1978 release of Big Star Third): A couple hundred of rock’s tastemaker elite waltzed their outsized egos through three days of mostly pointless discussion and light tourism.

Cameron Crowe (Creem, Circus): The mood was fun, with rock writers allowed to act like rock stars in an all-expenses-paid sanctuary. It was an opportunity for many of them to live out their own version of the stories we'd been writing--out of control rock stars on the road. It was a noble effort, revelatory in the level of comraderie that developed between people who'd only been bylines to each other.

Ken Barnes (Phonograph Record): I was most pleased to get the invitation to the convention, seeing it as a chance to maybe meet some of the people I'd been reading in Phonograph Record, Creem, Rolling Stone, Fusion, etc., and see an exotic, fabled city.

Nick Tosches (Creem et al.): I remember that the plane from New York made a stop in Kentucky, and Richard Meltzer and I got off the plane to have a mint julep at the airport lounge and the plane almost left without us.

Ed Ward: The hotel was the Rivermont Holiday Inn. Not just any old Holiday Inn, but the Holiday Inn, the first one ever built, a high-rise on the Mississippi. It even had a revolving rack of Holiday Inn label 45s in the lobby, easy listening stuff. The first night there, we were given a reception and dinner, and that's where I met and shook hands with B.B. King, to whom I conveyed Michael Bloomfield's best wishes, to Mr. King's delight. "You know Michael?" he said. "He can sure play the guitar, can't he?"

Harold Bronson (Rolling Stone/Phonograph Record et al.): At the opening night reception I hung mostly with Lester Bangs, who I always enjoyed chatting with, but didn't see much in Los Angeles. Back in those days, when you hung with Lester, that usually meant drinking.

Steve Simels (writing in 1973): I spent my time in a long debate with Phonograph Record’s Ron Ross over the merits of David Bowie while modeling a rock-critic T-shirt thoughtfully provided by Creem’s Lester Bangs and Jaan Uhelszki.

John King: I loved the Creem people because they were anarchists, and that was just exciting and fascinating.

'Metal Mike' Saunders (Rolling Stone/Phonograph Record/assorted fanzines): On the opening night there was a nice-print screening of "The T.A.M.I. Show" (1965), which, back in 1973 was still something you never ever saw on TV.

Gene Sculatti (Phonograph Record et al.): I remember sitting on the floor of the hotel ballroom with hundreds of other rock geeks the first night watching a bootleg version of "The T.A.M.I Show." It was the video grail then, since it'd been [and remains] officially unreleased.

Stanley Booth (author, The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones): I wore a Levi's jacket with a Confederate battle flag on it and scared the shit out of some teabags and Yankees who thought the Civil War was about to break out again. By the next day they understood that we black and white Southerners were in league against them. I made Stax give me a suite and then, having a Memphis house of my own, took an overtitted groupie there and did far too many drugs and fucked her silly, which she already was.

Ken Barnes (Phonograph Record/Who Put the Bomp): There were a few civilian women who seemed strangely interested in the rather abstruse musical conversations taking place. Gosh, what nice girls, I thought to myself. When they left en masse after realizing their commercial prospects were somewhat less rosy than those at, say, a Shriners' convention, it dawned on me that they were tragically ill-advised hookers working the wrong crowd.

Billy Altman (Punk, Creem): I remember one night when native Memphian Robot Hull and I were drunk on the couch of some ‘hospitality suite’ when several hookers walked in and sat on our laps. It was lots of fun until they found out we had no money and got up and left. This was the starving rock writers’ convention. I recall a big pile of shrimp on a bed of ice, around which everyone was hanging and hogging.

'Metal Mike' Saunders: The key thing to that is that the list was entirely, and without any censorship/changes, compiled by [New Haven Rock Press editor] Jon Tiven and [Phonograph Record editor] Greg Shaw. That meant that every existing fanzine in all of America got an invite, even ones who’d only put out two issues, like Andy Shernoff’s Teenage Wasteland Gazette and Crescenzo Capece’s Cretinous Cententions. I hung exclusively with Crescenzo, Hot Scott Fischer and Billy Altman. Billy was still at University of New York at Buffalo or whatever state college he got to fund the original two issues of Punk way before any NYC fanzine called Punk.

Billy Altman: In the spring of 1973 I was still attending the University of Buffalo in upstate New York. I had just published the first issue of my fanzine Punk, with the Seeds on the cover. My recollection is that I sent Greg Shaw a copy of Punk and that really led to my getting invited to the convention. I got the invite in the mail and was totally floored, especially since it was a free trip. There was no way I could have afforded to go on my own dime. I brought a batch of Punks with me and put a pile down in the room where they were having the opening night cocktail party, and that broke the ice for me with a lot of people, some of whom I'd been corresponding with already but hadn't met face to face--most notably Lester Bangs, who became one of my best friends. Lester, Meltzer and Saunders all asked if they could write something for the next issue of Punk. I had no money to offer them, but they all contributed pieces anyway.

Richard Meltzer (Creem/Zoo World et al., quoted in Paul Gorman’s In Their Own Write): Cameron Crowe was, for damn sure--in more ways than one--the youngest such being in attendance: 16, maybe only 15, a goony-goofy gosh-oh-gee kid, blowing on a goddam kazoo. Or maybe an ocarina.

John King: Cameron Crowe bugged the shit out of me to get him down here. He was persistent and bright.

Ross Johnson aka Chester the Conger Eel (Creem et al., to Big Star biographer Rob Jovanovic):: I remember poor John King being hounded for more booze, more everything at the event. Later, he told me he hid from everybody for a brief spell because he just didn’t want to be hustled for anything else. Bangs seemed like he was alternately on speed or downs and Meltzer was drunk, drunk, drunk and later attempted to take off his pants while Big Star was playing. I hung out with the fanzine doofus crowd and watched the big boys from a distance.

Billy Altman: Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer, Sandy Pearlman, Nick Tosches and Lenny Kaye were all heroes to me--the pioneering first generation rock critics. I was truly humbled to be so readily accepted by them as a peer. Lenny Kaye had the longest hair at the convention, male or female. Other ‘elders’ I recall meeting/getting to know a bit: Bud Scoppa, Chet Flippo, Vince Aletti, Ben Edmonds and Ed Ward.

Simon Frith (Let It Rock et al): I can remember the unholy drunken trio of Nick Tosches, Lester Bangs, and Richard Meltzer, and by contrast the oddly well-scrubbed and earnest atmosphere of the mass meeting which tried to set up the statutes.

Cameron Crowe: I think an election was held, and a few rock writers were voted in as part of a ‘council.' Lester Bangs and Jon Tiven were two of the big wigs of the ‘council.’ It was the first time any of us were probably ever voted into anything, ever.

Pete Frame (ZigZag): There was a move afoot to change the name of the National Association of Rock Writers to the National Association of Rock Critics, so that the acronym would be NARC, giving it ironic drug allusion status. In the end, it was changed to Rock Writers of the World. Ha!

Gene Sculatti: I remember Gary Kenton speechifying about how if we all banded together as a union we could demand the rock mags pay us a decent rate, say $50 per review.

Gary Kenton (Fusion): It was a naive and doomed effort, but of all my time in and around the music biz as an editor, writer and P.R. guy, it's one of the things I'm most proud of.

Ed Ward: As anyone who's tried to organize writers can attest, it was like trying to herd cats. I do remember that Vince Aletti bravely assumed the mantle of leader of this doomed operation, which died almost immediately afterwards.

Steven Rosen (Circus et al.): It was really more of a parade of journalists preening and sticking out their chests. There were some discussion groups and some seminars but I don't think anyone took it seriously. Looking back on it, it really could have been something special. There were some pretty heavy writers there and if they'd decided to combine their talents/strengths and confront the magazines and various outlets concerning pay and stuff, it would have had some big consequences. As it was, I think the moment everyone left to head back home, all this discussion was forgotten. It was basically just a fun couple of days, drinking and lying and trying to bag women.

Gene Sculatti: I recall going up into someone's room with a bunch of guys as Lester Bangs repeatedly placed calls to writer Patrick Snyder-Scumpy simply in order to make fun of his name.

Harold Bronson (writing in Phonograph Record, 1973): A jolly good time was to be had if you went to the parties hosted by Dorene Lauer of A&M or Bud Scoppa of Mercury, who wouldn’t stop playing his New York Dolls and Blue Ash tapes.

'Metal Mike' Saunders: Me and Hot Scott Fischer were sick to death of the crappy-sounding Dolls demo tape being played in non stop rotation by Paul Nelson and Bud Scoppa, so we put on a reel-to-reel w/kitchen table recordings of 19720-73 Metal Mike tunes, but without identifying what it was. I'm sure [Paul and Bud] thought they must have imagined the whole brief odd incident with those two fanzine/prozine teenage dirtbags.

Ed Ward: There was the trip to the Schlitz brewery, which you can imagine we all enjoyed. Not that we associated ‘The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous’ with Memphis, but hey, free beer. And lots of it.

Nick Tosches: It was the best beer I had ever tasted. That's when I learned that bottles were for wine and not for beer.

Harold Bronson: On the Friday night there was a riverboat ride on the Mississippi. It was an old boat, like what you'd find at Disneyland. I enjoyed meeting and talking with Jon Tiven--whom I remember wearing an admirable if unsuitable English-styled coat--and a leather-clad Jann Uhelszki.

Jaan Uhelszki (Creem): I was there, hanging over the railing of the Mississippi Queen with Lester Bangs, Lenny Kaye and Richard Robinson. I was not the one throwing up, I'd like to add. Other revellers were Robot Hull, Gary Kenton and Gerritt Graham, who went on to play The Phantom of the Paradise with Paul Williams.

Billy Altman: The Mad Peck and I.C. Lotz came to the cruise all dressed up as if it was their yacht.

Gary Kenton: No matter what anyone says, the star of the convention was I.C. Lotz, a writer for Fusion and a colleague of The Mad Peck.

Ed Ward: On one of the days we went to Select-O-Hits, the record distributor who had all the original Sun stuff. Unfortunately, although most of us didn't know it, it was way too late in the day to find anything worthwhile: Canned Heat’s Bob Hite and others had been there, and we found some of the destroyed records they'd left behind. John Morthland, though, was way more resourceful than the rest of us, and spent our time there pawing through boxes of papers, from which he extracted a cancelled check to one Chester Burnett, a $50 advance for ‘Moanin' in the Moonlight’.

Ken Barnes: The place was strewn with 45s and 78s, there for the inexpensive purchase or to be inadvertently crushed underfoot. A treasure trove; I bought dozens of singles and, had I known then what I know now about Southern soul, I probably would have bought hundreds more.

I.C. Lotz/The Mad Peck (writing in Fusion): The Sun seekers raced for the one remaining copy of ‘Ubangi Stomp’ by Warren Smith, on 78, with Nick Tosches emerging victorious.

Ed Ward: Other daytime events naturally included a tour of the Stax studios on McLemore Avenue, where I remember chatting with a couple of the guys from the Soul Children, one of whom had a baby with him and wasn't quite sure why he was supposed to be talking to these weird white kids. And then there was a trip to Graceland, which wasn't the museum/shrine it is today but a house with a living Elvis in it. And no, we weren't allowed inside.

Ken Barnes: We didn't really get a lot out of a bus visit to Graceland, since we didn't actually go in. Chiefly I recall a bunch of writers--Richard Meltzer, most likely--waxing obnoxious about Elvis.

Billy Altman: We got there and they said Elvis wasn't home. We were milling around, ready to get back on the bus, and Lester and Meltzer very ceremoniously went over and pissed through the gate. It was almost like they were marking their territory--and why not?

Ed Ward: Several adventurous types, Pete Frame among them, walked up along one of the walls on the side of the property to see what they could see and answer the call of nature. I followed, and noticed that the entire wall was a solid mass of poison ivy. I saw Frame just as he was about to finish and noticed he had stepped into the foliage. "Hey, Pete, that's all poison ivy," I said. "Well," he replied, "I'm bloody well not eating any, am I?" I'll leave you to consider how he spent the next week until the stuff wore off.

Jonh Ingham (Creem/Phonograph Record et al.): What sticks in my mind is an amazing amount of alcohol, standing on the street, the Mississippi in flood, and some of the best sex I've ever enjoyed. And watching Charlie Feathers in a redneck bar is seared into the retina.

Greg Shaw (writing in Phonograph Record): First morning there I was awakened by a phone call, "Hey, Charlie Feathers is playin' tonight!" Out of the hundred or more ‘rock critics’ present, no more than a handful knew enough to be properly excited. Two carloads set off with vague directions for a small roadhouse some 40 miles outside of town, which in those parts is pretty remote. The place was set back off the road, trees all around, with about twenty cars and pickups pulled up in the dirt out front. I don't think we ever did get over the timewarp shock of being in a sweaty southern roadhouse listening to the kind of hardass rockabilly that was supposed to have died when Elvis joined the Army.

Gene Sculatti: A bunch of us California guys got into a rental car and drove out into the country. Inside a one-story basalt-block club, the rockabilly cat was holding forth, seated on a chair on the linoleum floor. We all drank beer, even danced, as I recall, with some locals. We left ecstatic, pinching ourselves in the parking lot outside. But then a couple redneck ‘friends’ ambled over and made it clear they weren't too happy with us. We promptly got in the car and shot back to Memphis.

'Metal Mike' Saunders: While all the record-collector dorks were out seeing Charlie Feathers at some rockabilly roadhouse, Richard Meltzer was making up intentionally retarded (hence funny) dance steps/moves on the floor during Big Star's set.

Richard Meltzer (introducing Big Star onstage): "Well, puke on ya momma’s pussy! Here’s Big Star!"

Jody Stephens (Big Star drummer): The big push was behind this English band called Skin Alley. But as John King was making these calls, and as the writers were our audience, [they] would ask if Big Star was going to play. So John came to us and said, ‘Hey, would you mind playing?’ So we did.

Pete Tomlinson (from liner notes to PVC release of Big Star Third): The drudgery of the convention was completely forgotten on the closing-night party when Big Star took the stage for one of the most electrifying rock’n’roll performances ever. They were down to a trio due to Chris Bell’s departure, but the Chilton-led group turned a crowd of drunken freeloaders into drooling disciples with a taut, explosive set comprising the best of the first album, covers like the Kinks’ ‘Come On Now’, T. Rex’s ‘Baby Strange’, and Loudon Wainwright’s ‘Motel Blues’, and even an impromptu ‘The Letter’, taught to Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens on the spot.

Richard Rosebrough (sound engineer at show): It was a scene of great disabandon and damage, drunken girlfriends--a typical Memphis party, in other words.

Bud Scoppa (writer for Rolling Stone, A&R man for Mercury Records): Everybody was there. I remember Cameron Crowe walking around barefoot. We just all loved Big Star. They played the set as a three-piece and we thought they were the godhead.

Cameron Crowe: That was the big event of the weekend for most of us. There were more big name rock critics in one place at one time than ever before or since. Alex Chilton encored with a surprisingly passionate version of ‘The Letter’ that sent everyone into spasms. This was the embodiment of every band's greatest dream or fear--the whole audience was rock writers!

Andy Hummel (Big Star bassist): I have very fond memories of the gig. That was the only time I felt like we could really become a viable band outside the studio. We weren't great but we were pretty good and had a lot of energy. With some more experience I think we could have improved into a decent road act. I would say we did pretty much come out of that experience as a cohesive trio able to move on to finishing up the next LP.

Jon Tiven (New Haven Rock Press et al): Alex Chilton was so enthused at the reception that he decided to convert his solo record into the second Big Star album, Radio City.

John King: Alex loved it. To this day he calls me one of the great promotion men.

Jody Stephens (to Rob Jovanovic): I don’t know how good we were. The great thing about it was that we were the underdog and there wasn’t any pressure for us to perform well or make a good impression.

John King: My favourite report on the convention was in Rock magazine, where the headline was simply "Rock Writers Convene, Find Each Other Absurd."

Cameron Crowe: I know there were many promises to make the convention a yearly thing, but everybody knew at the time that this would probably be it. It was too expensive, and I could never figure out how John King was going to be able to pay for all of it. I remember a lot of "Sorry buddy, i know this is gonna cost you" sympathy for John by the end of the event.

Steve Simels (writing in Stereo Review, 1973):: Whether Time or Newsweek will immediately set out to hire ‘official’ rock journalists, or whether we will now see Lester Bangs doing concert reviews for CBS News is another matter entirely. But I won’t be surprised.

Hey it was the 70s -- we were all a little over the top.

POSTSCRIPT: Over at Facebook, there has been some quite spirited disagreement by many of the conventioneers over who exactly the folks in that photo above are. I can stipulate the guy third from the left is Gary Kenton, the FUSION editor responsible for the first professional sale of my career (God bless him). And all seem agreed that the surfer-looking dude second from the right is the late great Greg Shaw, of Who Put the Bomp magazine and Bomp Records, and one of the great early champions of the whole Power Pop idea.

Friday, July 05, 2013

(Friday) Advertisements for Myself

Hey -- remember that Procol Harum biography I raved about a few weeks ago?

Well, somehow, in the first read, I missed the fact that I am, in fact, quoted in it, by name. (From a review of Procol's Exotic Birds and Fruits album, which I hadn't listened to in a long while, and which holds up, to my delight, quite splendidly).

On page 150, for those of you playing the home game.

For some reason, however, my moniker does not appear in the index.

This is an injustice that should not stand, and I plan to send a sternly worded message to its author, my Facebook chum Henry Scott-Irvine.

I mean, really. Honkies, please.

In any case, coincidentally, I just discovered this amazing Procol clip on YouTube.

"Power Failure," live on German TV in 1976. With an astounding drum solo by the late great B.J. Wilson.

Wilson was the only rock drummer who ever did a solo in concert that didn't reduce me to scowling fidgets; this one goes on a little longer than usual for the guy, but it's still more or less, as Brooker says in his intro, inimitable. The octopus in the bathtub, indeed.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

From 1975, please enjoy The Hollies and their forever gorgeous cover of Bruce Springsteen's "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).'

I should add that I have an amusing story about how seeing the Hollies perform this at the lamented Bottom Line nightclub led to my NOT meeting the Boss, but I'm too lazy to recount it today. Buy me a drink next time you see me and maybe I'll tell the tale.

In the meantime, enjoy the holiday.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Return to Beyond the Valley of the Canyons of My Mind: Special Drugs Have Done Good Things! Edition

[I originally posted this back in December of 2010; I'm reposting today for three reasons. 1) The song in question popped up on my iPod's shuffle the other day and I was impressed anew; 2) I'm still in Divshare hell, so no player widgets till the middle of the July; and 3) It appears that new friend of PowerPop Vickie Rock actually got to see this lot perform back in the day, to which I can only add -- I'm not worthy. In any case, this is still a pretty amazing story. -- S.S.]

You know, it's still quite remarkable to me what you can find on the Intertubes just by looking around.

From 1966, and (deservedly) on the top of the charts in some parallel universe somewhere, please enjoy The Misunderstood and their rather mind-boggling pop psychedelic debut single "I Can Take You to the Sun."

I had never heard of these guys until a few weeks ago, actually. The short version: Brit Invasion-inspired California garage band with all the usual influences. Then they added a steel guitar player(!), got discovered by the guy who would later become John Peel, moved to England, got signed, and impressed people as being innovators in a league with The Yardbirds and Pink Floyd despite the fact that none of their singles sold. Eventually, one of them got drafted and the whole thing kind of fell apart by early '67.

Most of the rest of their recorded output from that period is equally if not more impressive, IMHO. On the other hand, I'm not sure their failure to break through commercially was simply a matter of bad luck -- their original songs (to my ears) lack that certain something, despite the performances being tremendously imaginative and accomplished. Still, they seem to be one of the more tantalizing Might Have Been stories from the period, and as I said, it's kind of wondrous that you can still stumble across stuff like this unawares.

POSTSCRIPT: I should add that there's a really terrific compilation of the Misunderstood's studio work available over at Amazon here. Plus, you can read a very entertaining band history by Ritchie Unterberger over here.

Also: Pedal steel monster Glen Ross Campbell went on to play with a UK blues-bashers Juicy Luicy for a while and did a stint in Joe Cocker's backup band. He's since moved to New Zealand where he is still active in music.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

They Also Serve Who Stand and Play

And speaking, as we were (often) of Waddy Wachtel for the last couple of weeks -- here's a film project that should be really interesting. If it gets off the proverbial ground, of course.

I should add that there's a Kickstarter page for the project, and if you want to be a patron of the arts, you could do worse than go over there and lay some disposable coin on them.

I'll be checking in on this till the cut-off date (July 24), so I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Yellow Pills Keep You Regular!!!

[Maintenance Note: Divshare is currently in one of its occasional "fuck you and this freebie shit -- either sign up or you can't embed stuff for another two weeks" phases. So player widgets are currently unavailable. And that includes all the player widgets on every post I've put up here for the last several years.

Fear not, though; they will magically reappear on July 14, and I will still be posting easily accessible download links until business as usual resumes.

We now return to our regular posting already in progress.]

And speaking as we were last week of the invaluable (and, alas, now out of print) Yellow Pills series of power pop compilations, from Volume III, in 1995, please enjoy my chums The Rock Club and their definitively winsome/chimey "Time Will Tell on You."

Authored by lead singer Ronnie D'Addario, and a snappy little number which drummer Glen Bob Allen rightly refers to as "quite possibly the greatest song ever written."

And he should know.

Download it HERE.

I should add that Glen Bob is also the percussive force behind the fabulous Floor Models, the twelve-string jangle gods with whom I toiled for many years, and whose 2012 album is being reissued by the incredibly perceptive Australian folks at Zero Hour Records later this year.

You're welcome.