Monday, September 30, 2013

Songs I Wish I'd Played Live With a Band (A Mini-Series): Part One -- A Salute to Our Neighbors From the North!!!

From 1970, please enjoy incomparable Canucklehead rockers The Guess Who, who ask the musical question "Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?"

No wait, that was Chicago. This is "No Time."

I regret the error.

This is a nearly perfect record in my book -- that great psychedelic guitar riff as a hook, gorgeous harmonies, and the lovely folk rock guitars on the verse (somebody, presumably Randy Bachmann, is doing a pretty cool Zal Yanovsky impression).

In any event, the Floor Models talked about covering this at some point, but for whatever reason we never got around to it. Pity; I bet it would have been a gas on-stage.

Friday, September 27, 2013

When the Time Comes

My Australian record mogul informs me that the ZERO HOUR RECORDS brilliantly re-mastered reissue of Floor Your Love, by the fabulous Floor Models (featuring a bass player whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels), will be available by no later than late October.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that he still hasn't shown me the rejiggered and (assuredly) way cool new album graphics. AAARRRGGGHHH!

In either case, I am beyond stoked at the prospect of the album finally coming out.

So, while we wait, here's some live stuff that won't be on the album (for obvious low-fi reasons) but which is still pretty damned exciting anyway (IMHO).

From the Other End in Greenwich Village, on October 9, 1982, here we are with rather blistering renditions of our own "Excuses Excuses," Tom Petty's titular classic, Lulu's "To Sir With Love" (guest vocal by the lovely and talented Jan Melchior) and The Monkees "Last Train to Clarksville."

Like I said, it's low-fi, but boy, does the atmosphere and the vibe and the energy come through undimmed nonetheless.

Also: The brilliant Rickenbacker 12-string stuff -- on the left channel -- is, of course, the work of our deeply missed pal Andy "Folk-Rock" Pasternack. Damn, Andy, you were the best.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Who Listens to the Radio? That's What I'd Like to Know.

Yep, I'm at it again, chattering away this time with Alan Haber on Pure Pop Radio.

8pm tonight.

It's a wide-ranging interview, where we talk about the book, but also the benefits and risks of basing your understanding of the world on pop music, the Steve Miller Band, how to talk to musicians, the effect of the internet and a ton more things.

Listen in!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Genuis at Work!!!

Well, okay, just me.

Seriously, off to my old garage band chums' The Weasels sumptiously appointed attic studio to make Geezer Rock.

I will be recording with my new bass guitar...

...which I love more than food, for the first time ever. And I guarantee it'll take me at least a day to decompress.

Regular posting will resume on Friday.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Oh Well, At Least It Isn't Auto-Tuned

So the other day I was comfortably ensconced, popcorn in hand, in the dark vastness of my local Hell Octaplex. When the pre-trailer music-radio played a new recording by Placebo called "Loud Like Love."

Now, Placebo is a band the very existence of whom I had managed to fail to notice until last week. But the radio announcer/dee-jay was kind enough to inform me that they've been around since the early 90s, are big in the UK, and in fact have sold 12 million albums worldwide (none of them to me, obviously).

In any case here's the track in question.

Three thoughts immediately occur upon contemplating it.

1. The song seems to be a pleasant enough, if ultimately mediocre, piece of 21st century folk-rock.

2. Is it just me, or does the singer sound unpleasantly like Neil Diamond in his "Coming to America" phase?

3. What kind of dumb fucking name is Placebo? I mean, what the hell -- some other band had already used Ersatz or Phony?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Encounters With Greatness (An Occasional Series): Special Beatlemania! Edition

Long-time or attentive readers may recall that, a few years ago, I exhumed one of my dead-trees efforts from The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, in this case -- to be specific -- my review of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy album, written shortly after John's murder in 1980.

In the new intro to said piece, however, I noted that...

"A few weeks after the piece appeared I got a very nice note from a woman who had worked as a personal assistant to Brian Epstein at the height of Beatlemania. She told me that of all the reviews of the album she had seen, it was the one that most resonated for her. That meant a lot to me."

...and over the intervening years it has increasingly irked me that I had never saved the letter and thus had forgotten the name of the woman who wrote it.

So you could have knocked me over with a feather when I read the following in a piece by Dennis Hartley over at DIGBY'S HULLABALOO on Saturday:

I have to say I've never seen a Beatles doc as touching, unpretentious and utterly charming as Ryan White's interestingly titled Good Ol' Freda.

The unlikely star of this breezy study is an unassuming, affable sixty-something Liverpudlian woman named Freda Kelly. At the tender age of 17, she was hired by manager Brian Epstein to do odd jobs around the office while he focused on the then-fledgling career of his young proteges. A year or so later, she became the chief overseer for the band's fast-growing fan club, embarking on what was to turn into an amazing 11 year career as (for wont of a better job description) the Beatles' “personal secretary”, from Cavern Club days to the dissolution of the band.

What makes Freda unique amongst the members of the Beatles' exclusive inner circle (aside from the fact that she remains a virtual unknown to the public at large) is her stalwart loyalty to this day, vis a vis protecting the privacy of her employers; she's never written a “tell-all” book, nor cashed in on her association with the most famous musical act of all time in any shape or form.

Granted, after appearing in this film, she won't be so unknown, but she makes it abundantly clear this represents her finally caving in and appearing on camera to say her piece (since we're all so damn nosy and insistent), then she'll be done. And she does tell some tales; although none of them are “out of school”, as they say. But that's okay, because she is so effervescent and down-to-earth that its like having her over for tea to peruse her scrapbooks and enjoy a pleasant chat...

...and realized that Freda was, without question, the long-ago note writer. Nice to learn she's still alive and well and, apparently, delightful.

Note: Good Ol' Freda is in limited theatrical release and on PPV (check local listings!).

UPDATE: Here's the official trailer.

I'm informed that you can stream it from Amazon if it isn't playing at a Hell Octaplex near you.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Great Composers Steal, Mediocre Composers Borrow!

Compare and contrast:

1. Erich Wolfgang Korngold and the theme from Kings Row (1942), aka The Only Good Ronald Reagan Movie.

2. John Williams and the theme from Star Wars (1977)

3. John Williams and the theme from Superman (1978)

Basically, if you had put Star Wars and Superman into a trash compactor. you'd get Kings Row.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Power Pop Sightings in the Wild

I am very much enjoying the new Netflix series Orange is the New Black--though less impressed with the binge-watching these all-in-one-place Netflix series inspire. (Hell, even with DVDs you had to get up and change the disc after a few episodes. Not anymore!) And my daughter, 9, frequently falls down rabbit holes made of improbably attractive and auto-tuned teen stars whose future twerking and inevitable rehabs are destined to fill my declining years. I do not really ever want to see Good Luck Charlie's mug shot.


 Despite the dangers off binge-watching, OITNB is a terrific show (and relatively bite-sized, at only one season), made even better by the surprise inclusion of pop-punkster Annie Golden as Norma. She doesn't have a lot of lines--Norma's distinguishing characteristic is her strict rule of omerta--but she's a constant presence at the side of the steely kitchen manager Red (played by an almost unrecognizable Kate Mulgrew).

Golden (here shown on Mulgrew's left), in case you've forgotten, was the adorable lead singer of the Shirts.

 It was she, Jane Weidlin, Clare Grogan, Josie Cotton, and the late Patty Donahue (of the Waitresses) who got me through adolescence with the brief shreds of self-confidence I managed to salvage. Little weird girls were okay, or at least had a niche to fill, and that gave me something to hang onto.

So good to see Golden again


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Letter From Liverpool

Courtesy of our friend Allan Rosenberg, some absolutely fabulous Flo Mos photos we'd all forgotten about.

And courtesy of Gerry Devine, here's the last song Andy and Gerry wrote together. (They started it back in the day, but it wound up on the shelf until Gerry finished it in 2012. Andy approved of the result, BTW.)

"Letter From Liverpool." And how perfect is that?

Seriously -- I cried like a baby when I heard this for the first time on Monday. It's so obviously about us...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Essay Question

My late Stereo Review colleague Noel Coppage famously said -- and I paraphrase -- "The music of Yes is Exhibit A for the pernicious influence that becoming one with the cosmos has on syntax."


Monday, September 16, 2013

The Way We Were

The Floor Models, live at JPs in Manhattan, on October 15, 1982.

Featuring Andy "Folk Rock" Pasternack (1955-2013) on Rickenbacker 12-string.

His guitar work on this set is absolutely gorgeous throughout, as it always was. I frankly consider myself blessed to have been able to hear that huge sound emanating from the other side of a cramped stage on so many occasions.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Andrew Pasternack 1955-2013

I just learned that my dear chum and bandmate from the Floor Models passed away earlier this week. My deepest condolences go out to his wife and kids.

I have joked here, on several occasions, that a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar, well played, was the most beautiful sound occurring in nature. Thanks to Andy's genius, I got to stand stage right from that sound on more occasions than I can count.

Here's a track he wrote and played the Rick on. "Excuses Excuses." If there is a better ballad written in the last three decades, I have yet to hear it.

As a certain metallic gentleman famously said -- now I know I have a heart because its breaking.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Unsolicited Track of the Week: Special Zero Dark Thirty (Forty) Edition

So on the theory that occasionally this here blog should feature music actually recorded in this decade (hell, this century) please enjoy a brand spanking new track from the brand spanking new indie EP by New York City based pop/rock quartet Jasko -- the insinuating (i.e., it grows on you) "The Memo."

I hear some interesting echoes here of the sort of metallic minimalism of the first two Joe Jackson records, but that may just be me. In any case, a swell song and sentiment, and the rest of the EP also behooves behearing.

You can -- and indeed should -- find out more about these guys and download the rest of the EP over HERE

I should add, however, that the last two tracks -- the self-explanatory "Blackout Drunk" and "Hungover -- have a certain ambience and lyrical resemblance to certain early 70s Kinks songs that, depending on your mood, you'll either find amusing or perhaps just desperate cries for help.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tales From the Mystic East!

Facebook chum and Friend of PowerPop Nelson Bragg -- who has played percussion in Brian Wilson's touring band for lo these many years -- alerted us to this video yesterday.

.....The best Beach Boys 2012 concert video in the world right now. I was shocked when I discovered it. Watch it on a big screen and through a good stereo and see what happens!

In a word...word. Absolutely fantastic, and Nelson's right about running it on a big TV with the sound cranked.

Consumer Alert: Mike Love remains a dick.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

And That Foot is Me!

No posting today, due to taking my 93 year old mom to the doctor.

She'll be fine, but I'll probably start drinking as soon as we get back.

Actual new music tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Slacker Tuesday: Special Yes, The Beatles Really Were That Fricking Good Edition

Our good pal Sal Nunziato, over at BURNING WOOD, put this up last week, and it has gone viral since.

But in case you missed it -- behold in breathless wonder.

The Abbey Road Medley, with (mostly) just the vocals.

Words, as I am wont to say, utterly fail me.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Tales From the Crypt: The Entertainment Weekly Years

I had a very nice run contributing to Entertainment Weekly (a little over a decade beginning with either issue #1 or #2, if memory serves); the money was great, my editors were unfailingly helpful, and I could say pretty much whatever I wanted (space permitting). Of course, given the magazine's format -- which, as you may know, reduces every aspect of human experience to letter grades -- I can't say I'm particularly proud of anything I wrote for them, but I don't think I ever phoned anything in, and every now and then I chance across something I did for EW that makes me laugh a little.

Here's one of those things which seems relevant to our mission statement.

Actually, it's not from the magazine itself, but rather from the 1994 anthology pictured above, which was the work of all the usual EW suspects, myself included. In any case, enjoy if possible.

Elvis Imitators on Film

Cliff Richard in Expresso Bongo (1959)

The most successful of several British Elvis clones (among them Billy Fury and Dave Berry), Richard had his first starring role in this generally amusing satire in which he becomes an overnight sensation after being spotted by a small-time talent agent (Laurence Harvey). Pleasant surprise: Richard is genuinely charismatic and can almost act. B-

John Ashley in How to Make a Monster (1957)

Teen near-star Ashley (Frankenstein's Daughter) was low-budget studio American International Pictures in-house Elvis for several years, even though he had no discernible music or acting ability. Here he croaks his way through "You've Got to Have Ee-ooo" -- though whatever ee-ooo was, Ashley didn't have it. C-

Dick Contino in Daddy-O (1959)

Contino. an aging crooner trying to cash in on the rock & roll boom, sported a bad rug and affected a sort of Jack La Lanne-on-a-bender look for this teen-flick nonsense about drag racing and drug smuggling. Fortunately, Contino sings several ersatz rock numbers -- music by none other than John (Star Wars) Williams -- that are memorably awful, and costar Sandra Giles looks swell in a succession of pointy bras. C+

Jimmy Clanton in Go, Johnny, Go! (1959)

Despite his status as a footnote to rock history (actually, he had two nice hit singles -- "Just a Dream" and "Venus in Blue Jeans"), Clanton was one of the few faux Presleys with any talent. He was also goofy looking, which may explain why this fictionalized account of his discovery by legendary deejay Alan Freed devotes more time to great musical numbers by Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, Eddie Cochran and Jackie Wilson than to its nominal star. B+

Arch Hall Jr. in Wild Guitar (1962)

A hick rock hopeful comes to Hollywood with a guitar on his back and secures a record deal in about four hours, which sums up the realism quotient of this no-budget exposé of the music business. Adding insult to injury, star Hall (imagine Glen Campbell run through a trash compactor) sings several self-penned ditties that make "You've Got to Have Ee-ooo" sound like "A Day in the Life." D -- Steve Simels

Noted without comment: At least one friend and reader of this here blog is a huge Arch Hall fan and the proud owner of a CD of his complete recorded oeuvre.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Sunday (Hopefully Amusing) Self-Indulgence

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the mission statement of this here blog, but I'm posting it for no other reason than it tickles me.

Separated at Birth:

A certain iconic Golden Age of Comics superhero...

...and the star of Double Indemnity and TVs My Three Sons.

And no, this isn't a coincidence -- artist C.C. Beck, who created Captain Marvel, admitted that the Captain was designed to look as much like Fred MacMurray as he possibly could, short of lawsuit.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Teenage Kicks?

Help me out here: I don't know what I think of this.

Okay, so it's the latest declension of the Menudo/N'Sync/Backstreet Boys corporate monster. I get that.

But I'll bet even Feargal Sharkey never had an arena full of teenage girls screaming like this at that song.


UPDATE: If you're anything like me, you might need a palate-cleanser.

Friday, September 06, 2013

And Speaking of Gorgeous...

..and at the risk of tooting my own horn, you could have knocked me over with a feather Wednesday when ace drummer Glen "Bob" Allen, my musical director for the last 40 years, forwarded this track to me -- a late 80s remake of "You Won't Have to Tell Me Twice," one of the songs on that Floor Models CD I may have mentioned here recently.

I say you could have knocked me over with a feather partly because I had pretty much forgotten this existed, and partly because I think it's absolutely exquisite.

Anyway, that's the song's composer, Gerry Devine on vocals and rhythm guitar; Glen is pounding those pagan skins, and I'm on bass and keyboards (I was trying very hard to sound like Bob Andrews of Brinsley Schwarz, which what success you can judge for yourself.) The astoundingly melodic lead guitar work is by the incomparable Doug Goldberg, who took over six-string duties after ace Rickenbacker guy Andy "Folk Rock" Pasternack, who played on the original, departed. And if we ever have a Floor Models reunion, I really hope Doug's on board (playing in a band with a three guitar line-up is a long cherished dream of mine).

I should add that an alternate version of this -- with rewritten lyrics and a botched mastering job -- appears on our 1995 indie album as The Hi-Beams...

...but this one, for me at least, really is the bomb.

Seriously -- the jangle level here goes all the way to 11.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Goys of Summer

My ailing computer is currently being deloused, or whatever the kids call it, at my local mom and pop computer store.

So posting will be unexceptional for the next couple of days, until it returns to me. Hopefully after the weekend.

But while we wait -- from 1967, please enjoy the sole recorded artifact of Brit psych-pop purveyors The Pyramid, the astoundingly gorgeous "Summer of Last Year."

Or as we like to call it here at Casa Simels -- the greatest Zombies single the Zombies never made.

Incidentally, said Pyramid included a guy called Iain Matthews, who later made a pretty fair name for himself as a founding member of Fairport Convention, among other things.

In any case, it astounds me that I hadn't even suspected the existence of the record until a couple of days ago.

[h/t FD13NYC]

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Not Even Remotely OK Computer (Part Deux)

My machine's in the shop.

See you again as soon as its deloused, or whatever they're doing to it.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Not Even Remotely OK Computer

Still having unbelievably irksome problems with my home laptop, so only cursory posting until they're resolved.

In the meantime, please enjoy "Without True Love" (from Actual Sighs, a masterpiece by certified power pop deity Richard X. Heyman), which I have been saying is the most gorgeous Peter and Gordon record P&G never made for quite some time now.

Actual Sighs, incidentally, was the first or second new album I reviewed here, in 2007, after NYMary had given me the metaphorical spare set of keys to the car.

In any case, I bring all this up because Heyman has a brand new album out, and I'm hoping to declaim about it as soon as these pesky computer problems are a thing of the past.

Pray for me until then.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Happy Labor Day (Special Occupy Less Than Zero Edition)

And in honor of the occasion, from 1973 please enjoy veteran Brit folk-rockers The Strawbs and their militant classic "Part of the Union." Still probably the most radical pro-labor anthem ever to crack the Top 10 anywhere in the world.

I would have loved to dedicate the song to a certain 2008 presidential candidate who vowed to "walk the picket lines" in solidarity with workers around the country, but I haven't seen much of that guy lately.

I wonder what ever happened to him?

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Boys Don't Lie (At Least on the Radio): Special Never on Sunday Edition

Our esteemed blog hostess NYMary will be talking about her killer new Shoes biography on This is Rock and Roll Radio with Carl and Dana at Westcott Radio tonight.

Beginning at 9pm EST.

Hey -- get over HERE and give the show a listen, you knuckleheads.

The phone lines will be open. Operators will be standing by. This will be a free call.