Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Video/Movie Roundup: Special Attack of the Killer Criterions (And a Few Other Things) Edition

Well, it's Labor Day weekend, and to celebrate I thought I'd clear my desk of some of the freebies various video companies are still foolish enough to lavish upon me from time to time. Incidentally, unless otherwise noted, I partook of these on DVD.

I should also add that my little brother kindly contributed to the following, so be nice to him.

And without further ado....

1. RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 [Criterion DVD and Blu-Ray]

Don Siegel's groundbreaking and tough-as-nails 1954 prison flick, shot on location at Folsom with real inmates and guards as extras. Ripped from the headlines B-movie making at its best, and (coincidentally) the inspiration for a certain early rock-and-roll classic by the proto-Coasters. Criterion's transfer looks like a million bucks; cool extras include a 1974 tribute to Siegel by his pal Sam Peckinpah.


Here's the deal: Essie Davis, as the titular lady sleuth, is not just an Australian Jazz Age version of The Avengers' Mrs. Peel with even better clothes (plus she fools arouund) -- she is the greatest thing in the history of the world. Seriously. Whereas I used to be on record as saying that all women -- past present and future -- paled before the magnificence that was Lucy Lawless as Xena, Warrior Princes, I believe the torch has now been passed to a new generation of distaff kick-ass.

Okay, as you may have gathered, I'm sort of obsessed with this show, which is basically a racy version of Agatha Christie, but this second season -- which isn't quite as dark and depressing as season one, but if possible even better plotted -- is the most fun you'll have in front of your Orthicon tube anytime in the foreseeable future. I should add that a) ACORN's transfers are impeccable and b) the show has just been renewed for a third season. In short: Life is good.

3. JUDEX [Criterion DVD and Blu-ray]

The great George Franju's wonderfully stylish 1963 homage to Louis Feuillade's 1916 masked superhero serial of the same name (with nods to Feuillade's Fantomas and Les Vampires as well). Dramatically speaking it makes very little sense -- which may have been deliberate on Franju's part, given Feuillade's huge influence on the Surrealists -- but its black-and-white cinematography is ravishing, as is the musical score by Maurice Jarre and damsel in distress leading lady Edith Scob. Criterion's impeccable transfer also comes with some nifty bonus features, including a lovely 15-minute short film Franju made to celebrate cinematic pioneer George Melies.

4. IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD [Criterion DVD and Blu-ray]

The Gone With the Wind of comedy. And stolen, as you can see in the clip, by beatnik chick Barrie Chase as the girlfriend of world class mama's boy Dick Shawn. Criterion's new version, a spectacular high-def transfer from a newly restored print, features over 30 minutes of material that has been unseen since the film's initial theatrical release (and never before on home video). The second half still drags by comparison with part I (another reason it's the GWTW of comedy), but you'll laugh your tush off at large swaths of it. And as I'm fond of saying -- two cheers for director Stanley Kramer, who, as a rule, doesn't get anywhere near the props he deserves from the critics.

5. SECONDS [Criterion Blu-ray]

John Frankenheimer's despairing black comedy sort of sci-fi flick about the worst mid-life crisis of all time may just be my favorite 60s flick in any genre. Certainly, it's the best thing Rock Hudson ever did, and it's pretty much brilliant from the opening Saul Bass title credits set to Jerry Goldsmith's chilling modernist score to the final fade-out. Criterion's new transfer, which does full justice to James Wong Howe's black-ad-white cinematography comes with an audio commentary track by director Frankenheimer, as well as a making-of featurette with interviews with Frankenheimer's widow and co-star Salome Jens

6. SALVO [ -- available for streaming or on DVD beginning January 15]

An unusual and memorable movie that starts as a crime drama and then changes into a study of a relationship between two characters, with thriller and psychological elements. The plot plays out over eight consecutive summer days in contemporary Palermo, Sicily. There are three main characters, well portrayed by Saleh Bakri, Sara Serraiocco and Mario Pupello. A fourth important characters dies out of frame. This is an impressive debut for co-writer/directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazzi. -- Drew Simels

7. BARBARY COAST (The Complete Series)[ACORN]

William Shatner, in his first TV role after Star Trek, is a master of disquise secret agent who partners with honest-but-you-got-to-watch-him saloon keeper Doug McClure (a charmless Dennis Cole in the opening pilot episode). The show didn't last long, but as tongue in cheek Western knock-offs of Mission Impossible go, it's actually a lot of fun, and Shatner and McClure have real chemistry. ACORN's source material looks amazingly good for its age, and Animal House Dean Wormer John Vernon is a great guest villain in the pilot.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I'm So Old, I Remember When Joe Piscopo Was Actually Funny

From his 1985 classic -- seriously -- album New Jersey...

...please enjoy "The Nightclub" (featuring June Foray and Bill Scott as Rocky and Bullwinkle)...

...and "Good Morning," with June and Bill and Piscopo as David Hartman.

Or is he?

Seriously, this is great stuff -- as is the HBO special some of it derives from. My theory is the steroids destroyed his sense of humor.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Something Else About The Kinks

So my chum Allan Rosenberg has heard -- as have you, probably, if you're a regular reader of this here blog -- the rumors about a possible reunion by the Battling Davies Brothers, aka The Kinks. The other day, (8/20/14, on his intertube radio show) he read the following manifesto in response, which I thought should get a wider airing, and hence I reproduce it here.

What's a hardcore Kinks fan to do with all this talk of a Kinks reunion. With the Davies Brothers making demands of each other before they will agree to a reunion, it's time that this Kinks fan lays down his own set of demands before he will get on board with the reunion. Here they are:

1- There must be an album of quality new material to prove The Kinks are a living, breathing, working band.

2- Mick Avory should participate in all recording sessions and follow up touring. He was a great drummer and a great Kink.

3-All disagreements, arguments and fights should take place in public (preferably) on stage for all the fans and press to see just like in the old days.

4-With Pete Quaffe gone Ray and Dave should try to secure John Dalton and John Gosling if possible.

5- Ray and Dave should be in the studio at the same time helping each other so there is a true Kinks album not two parallel solo albums hiding as a band album.

6- The album should be recorded as live as possible to avoid the sound of the lifeless over rendered later day albums.

7- Finally the band should play in theaters of varying sizes to avoid the their lifeless arena rock performances of the 1980's and 90's.

I hope these suggestions will serve as guidelines to a viable Kinks' reunion compared to the nothingless void or travesty we will most likely get.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Your Tuesday Moment of Indolence.

Just not movin' and groovin' with my usual alacrity today.

Regular, and peppier, posting resumes tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Your Monday Moment of Holy Crap, The Modern Rock Band as We Know It Begins Here

From the 1972 British LP On Air -- although the songs themselves were recorded, almost certainly, in 1960 -- please behold in breathless wonder actual pretty good quality live recordings of the incredibly great Eddie Cochran performing in front of a live teen scream audience.

With the immortal "Summertime Blues"....

...and (the to my ears, sometimes, even better)"C'Mon Everybody."

Those were recorded in England, of course (where Cochran was a much bigger star than he was in the States) and presumably on that last 1960 tour just before his tragic death in the same car crash that crippled Gene Vincent. I should add that just about every subsequently famous aspiring British guitar player followed Cochran around on that tour, including a teenaged George Harrison.

I really think Cochran was potentially the greatest and most innovative of them all, and that includes Buddy Holly (who was, admittedly, more prolific). In any case, I hadn't heard those two tracks until last week when my chum Allan Rosenberg played them on his intertube radio show and blew my tiny mind. I mean, this stuff achieves heavyosity, and this is in 1960, fercrissakes.

Incidentally, all four hours of said show are now archived and available for streaming over here at HERE; scroll down and click on the link for Lost at Sea episodes 8/19/14 and 8/19/20.

A real cool time is guaranteed for all.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Your Friday Moment of Words Fail Me

From 1958, please enjoy in breathless wonder a STEREO version of Ritchie Valens' classic "La Bamba." A record that Greil Marcus rightly called one of the most exciting in 50s rock, and in this incarnation is even more exciting.

I must confess that I did not know that this existed until I heard it Tuesday as a guest on my chum Allan Rosenberg's intertube radio show (I'll put the archive link to the show up as soon as the station posts it).

In any case, a mindblower -- you're conditioned to think of 50s rock in mono, in sort of the same way you're conditioned to think of World War II in black-and-white, so when you discover something like this the effect is almost psychedelic.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Reverend Charles M. Young 1951-2014

A hell of a nice guy and probably the last amusing prose stylist at Rolling Stone.

He also played bass in the hilarious punk band Iron Prostate, whose CD can still be found over at Amazon HERE

Here, however, is their masterpiece -- the single "Bring Me the Head of Jerry Garcia."

Produced by Jim Steinman, of all people.

You can read more about Chuck's life and work over here at ROCKCRITICS.COM

And may I just add, and for the record, that this death shit is really starting to piss me off.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me

From 2014 and her most recent album, please enjoy in breathless wonder farm-girl turned punkette prodigy Lydia Loveless -- or, as I like to think of her, the Anti-Taylor Swift -- and the best damn version of Kirsty MacColl's sublime "They Don't Know" ever.

To my considerable embarrassment, I was unaware of Ms. Loveless until last night's appearance on my pal Allan's internet radio show (which was a lot of fun, BTW -- I'll post a link to it as soon as it's archived, which should be by Monday). In any case, when Al played the above it blew my tiny mind -- let's just say that this gal is the genuine article.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Who Listens to the Radio?

A reminder -- I'll be on my pal Alan Rosenberg's intertube radio show (Lost at Sea) today between 3-7pm (East Coast time).

You can listen to it simply by clicking over HERE and then clicking on the LISTEN NOW button.

Hey, it's not rocket science.

And yes, this song IS a clue to the theme of the second two hours of the show.

I would also be remiss if I didn't add that at 6pm we will be visited by the incomparable Long Distance Comedian...

...and that hilarity will doubtless ensue.

I should also add that we will be taking your comments and/or requests via the e-mail.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Programming Notes From All Over

Just thought I'd alert you guys that I'm going to be appearing on my chum Allan Rosenberg's intertube radio show tomorrow, over at fabulous AREA 24 RADIO, between 3-7pm East Coast time.

To tune in, just click on the link for
Lost at Sea; you'll see a button saying Listen Now! and you can take it from there.

For the first two hours of the show, Allan's going to be playing all sorts of esoteric stuff that he likes but that I've never heard before, and we'll just bat it around and insult each other's presumed lack of musical taste. During the second two hours, I will begin sipping elitist chardonnay, and cueing up all sorts of stuff that I like and/or have currently been obsessing about. Could be a hot one!

The final hour of this affront to decency will also feature a presumably hilarious appearance by The Long Distance Comedian...

...who will be sharing his revered wisdom with us starting at 6pm. Here's a clip of him at an earlier stage of his career, in 1990, just to give you an idea.

I'll harangue you guys more about this on Tuesday, just so you don't forget. And yes -- we will be taking your requests and comments via the intertubes during the show.

I thank you.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special Just Put Your Lips Together and Blow Edition

[I first posted this one in 2008(!), back when the world and this blog were barely removed from diaper-wearing, but with the sad passing this week of Lauren Bacall (nee Betty Perske -- she was a nice Jewish girl, 'natch) it seemed at least tangentially relevant, so here it is again. As is my wont, I've done some rewriting and added two new entries, just so you don't find me unduly indolent. Enjoy. -- S.S.]


By "best," we mean either in a blues or non-blues idiom, just to keep it totally wide open. And by "solo" we mean anything of any length, even if it's just a riff.

Totally arbitrary rule: Don't even try to nominate something by that fat guy from Blues Traveller. The Hendrix of the Blues Harp my ass....

Okay, that said, here's my totally top of my head Top Thirteen:

13. The White Stripes -- Hello Operator

Just because we needed something actually recorded in the 21st century.

12. Jimmy Reed -- Honest I Do

The very definition of sly concision. (Hey -- I made a couplet!!!!)

11. The Pretenders -- Middle of the Road

Chrissie Hynde -- first she growls, then she makes her harp sound like a stray cat in heat. Can we just admit she's the greatest female rocker who ever was or will be and be done with it already?

10. The Prostitutes -- Down Below

A great New York City rock band in the tradition of the Velvets and the Heartbreakers, and some of the most fabulously blues-wailing harp (courtesy of NYC fixture Jon Paris) on a sort of Doors-Meet-the- Smithereens song you'll ever hear.

Incidentally, Prostitutes bass player Steve Early, the guy on the left in the picture, is also my favorite bartender of all time; stop in at the Broome Street Bar (363 West Broadway in fabulous downtown SoHo) before it shuts down (yes, it's closing after 42 years, alas) on a Wednesday or a Thursday and he'll be happy to pour you a drink, even if you mention my name.

9. Bruce Channel -- Hey Baby

That's Delbert McClinton playing the harmonica stuff. I seem to recall it was a huge influence on a certain four-piece band from the UK.

8. The Broadcasters -- Down in the Trenches

One of the great lost singles of the 80s (produced by Wayne Kramer of the MC5, incidentally). These guys should have been superstars. I have a video of me singing "Route 66" and "Gloria" at a party with three of them; get me hammered some time and I might even show it to you.

7. J. Geils Band -- Whammer Jammer

The aptly named Magic Dick. 'Nuff said.

6. Stevie Wonder -- For Once In My Life

As brilliantly structured and performed a solo as you'll ever hear on any instrument.

5. A tie --

The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger) -- Stop Breaking Down


The Rolling Stones (Brian Jones) -- Good Times Bad Times

Amplified Chicago blues harp in the former, acoustic country blues harp in the latter, both brilliant.

4. Bob Dylan -- I Want You

Short, melodic, and it frames the song perfectly, front and back. Anybody who says Dylan's a crappy harp player really isn't listening....

3. XTC -- Ballad of Peter Pumpkin Head

Blues harp on a revisionist folk rock song. Andy Partridge is god, obviously.

2. Creedence Clearwater Revival -- Run Through the Jungle

John Fogerty channels Howlin Wolf. It doesn't get any spookier, song OR harp part.

And the number one, no question about it, all time coolest harmonica solo on a hit record is --

1. Slim Harpo -- Scratch My Back

Hands down, the down and dirtiest blues performance ever to crack Top 40 radio.

Alrighty now -- what would your choices be?

[h/ts to Brooklyn Girl and John McPartlin]

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Slacker Thursday

My new favorite thing.

Coming tomorrow: The triumphant return of Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Tears of a Clown

The late great Robin Williams, from his first appearance on HBO, back in 1977.

Hadn't seen that segment in decades, but I remembered it as if it were yesterday. God, he was brilliant.

And please -- if you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

More Cowbell! Seriously -- Lots More Cowbell!!!!

An actual street sign for an actual place in Greenwich Village. Apparently there is a patron saint of aspiring recording artists.

And speaking of which, here's the demo of The Marcus Hook Roll Band's "Natural Man" I mentioned yesterday.

If we can agree on anything, I suspect it's that said demo is inferior to the official single release version I posted previously. Despite the participation of Malcolm and Angus from AC/DC.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Good Things Come to Him Who Waits. Well, At Least Sometimes.

Okay, this is a really long story, and I've told some of it before on a couple of occasions, but there's a new kicker at the end, so please indulge me.

First, the set-up.

One of the greatest (and most obscure) lost singles of the 70s -- indeed, in rock history -- is a little number called "Natural Man" by The Marcus Hook Roll Band. The MHRB were actually Harry Vanda and George Young of The Easybeats, then toiling under various aliases in the period before they roared back as the production team behind the first couple of AC/DC albums (AC/DC's Malcolm and Angus, of course, are George's younger brothers).

In any case, the record itself is one of the landmarks of the Glam Era -- a perfect three chord "Sweet Jane" derivative with hilarious topical lyrics, gorgeous layered electric and acoustic guitars, and absolutely brilliant production, including a bass guitar and cowbell breakdown (a la the bit in Free's "Alright Now," but hookier) that sets up a massive series of final choruses that once heard are etched into your auditory canal forever. An absolute masterpiece, is what I'm saying.

Unfortunately, it was not a hit when released here on Capitol Records in 1973. I had a promo copy like the one pictured below at the time, but I misplaced it later in the decade.

Note the misspelling of Harry Vanda's name, which may give you some clue to the record's importance to the braniacs at Capitol. In any case, the only LP it ever appeared on back in the day was an Australia-only release that apparently self-destructed, Mission Impossible-style, approximately two days after it was issued. As for CD, starting in the late 90s you could get a copy of the song on an import MHRB compilation, but unfortunately it was an inferior demo version that lacked all the magic of the single.

You can read a contemporary account of the single -- from the now defunct house organ of United Artists Records -- over HERE. Incidentally, the author of said piece, Martin Cerf, was one of the hipper record company guys at the time, and a friend to numerous rock journalists of the period including the late great Greg Shaw; he may, in fact, have been a partner in Greg's BOMP Records, although I'm hazy on that.

Anyway, as the years flew by down the echoing corridors of time, I pretty much decided that the single version never actually existed and that I'd more or less hallucinated the whole business. But two or three years ago I finally got a pretty good vinyl rip of the 45 (with some surface noise and turntable rumble, but otherwise listenable) and musically it was indeed as great as I recalled.

And that, I figured, was that.

Well, not quite.

Cut to: last month. From Rhino's just released reissue -- which I had no idea was in the works -- of the original MHRB album, please behold in breathless wonder the newly remastered (from the original tapes) version of "Natural Man." Sans pops and clicks and sounding as glorious as it must have been when first played back over the monitor speakers at EMI's Abbey Road studios in June of 1972.

And you will hear no better rock-and-roll song or record any time this year, trust me.

Rhino's reissue comes with several single bonus tracks (both A and B sides) as well as terrific and informative liner notes by original producer Wally Allen (of Pretty Things fame); you can order it over at Amazon HERE. If you're a fanatical Vanda and Young completist, Amazon also has the Japanese import CD version which has two extra bonus tracks.

You're welcome.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Your Friday Moment of Transplendence

The classic lineup of Television, live in Brazil in 2005, with "Venus de Milo." Good lord, this is magnificent.


And yes, I'm pretty sure I've posted this before, but as you'll see shortly it is newly relevant, so cut me some slack.

Seriously, there are days when I think these guys were the greatest band ever, and it is one of the great regrets of my life that I never got to witness them live (saw 'em when Richard Hell was in the band, and he was barely serviceable, so that didn't really count).

That said, I just got tickets to see the current incarnation at NYU in late October-- with the excellent Jimmy Ripp understudying Richard Lloyd...

...and I am planning to enjoy the show thoroughly.

I'll report, of course.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Things Go Better With...Oh, Wrong Cola

The Turtles sell out for Pepsi, 1967. What the hell -- at least back then it wasn't made with high fructose corn syrup.

Actually, I've been wracking my brain trying to recall if this made me cringe at the time or whether I thought it was kind of cool they got a rock band to do it. My guess is the reason I can't remember is that I was really fricking stoned that year.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Your Wednesday Moment of "Why Didn't I Get the Memo?": Special Whoops, Apocalypse! Edition

From 1986, the Angry Samoans go all nuclear on the Chambers Brothers classic "Time Has Come Today."

Yet another terrific band I was aware existed, but never actually heard any of their music until recently. I am depressed.

Seriously -- this is just a great fricking rock-and-roll record. Where has it been all my life?

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that my favorite thing in the clip is the poster for The Brain From Planet Arous, a John Agar vehicle which is one of the most delightfully cheesy sci-fi flicks of all time. It also has a hilarious connection to -- of all things -- the 1964 Democratic convention, and you can read my account of that history over HERE.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Fun With Video Editing Software

If Pharrell Williams' "Happy" had been played on Soul Train.

Words fail me.

Seriously, though -- if this doesn't make you smile, seek medical attention.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Your Monday Moment of "Why Didn't I Get the Memo?": Special Call Any Vegetable Edition

From Hoboken, NJ in 1983, please enjoy indie-rockers The Cucumbers and their delightfully infectious college radio hit "My Boyfriend."

Or as Dean of American Rock Critics Robert Cristgau said in the Village Voice at the time -- "a girl-group masterstroke for a feminist age."

I don't know if I'd go quite that far in the fulsome praise department, but I do think "Boyfriend" is as cute as the proverbial bug's ear. Although -- as I confessed with some embarrassment last week to Cucumbers singer Deena Shoshkes (who had graciously sent me some of her more recent work, and see below) -- I somehow managed to miss the song back in the day. I mean I had heard of the Cucumbers -- hell, I lived in Hoboken for much of the 80s -- but for whatever reason, the record never impinged on my consciousness. I hope posting it now will make some small amends for that.

I should add that Deena's thoroughly charming new CD Rock River -- which is very Cucumberish (although it takes some interesting pop and country stylistic detours) and behooves, as they say behearing -- can (and should) be sampled over HERE.

You can also buy a physical copy of the CD...

...over at CD Baby HERE.

You're welcome

Friday, August 01, 2014

Adventures in Freelancing

Holy crap -- I got a liner notes gig!

The short back story: The good folks at Light in the Attic Records -- the indie label that, among other splendid services to music, reissued the Rodriguez albums -- has just acquired the entire Vanguard Records catalog. Vanguard, of course, was a major player in the 60s and early 70s, both in folk and rock (their artists included Joan Baez and Country Joe and the Fish) and classical. My chum Pat Thomas, who is doing the research into the Vanguard tape archives, chanced across the album above and flipped over it; when I told him that I knew Mark very well from a later stage in his career, he volunteered me to do the annotation, and I cheerfully accepted.

It's a how you say really unique album -- in a folk-psych style quite different from the power pop and jangly folk-rock genres Mark was working in back in the early 80s, which was when I hung around with him -- but it definitely deserved a reissue (from the original master tapes, unlike an earlier semi-legal CD version). I don't know if I rate it as highly as THIS GUY, but you should definitely check it out; it should be available by the end of the year.

In the meantime, here are two live versions of songs Mark wrote in those aforementioned later styles, performed -- live on the radio on WDST in Woodstock -- in 1995 by Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams, a snappy teen combo featuring a bass player whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels.

The first one is called "Getting Back Into My Life," and Mark insists he wrote it for us...

...and the second is called "That's What I Want," and everybody who played music in Greenwich Village between 1979 and 1982 was legally required to cover it during club performances.

Interesting historical note: Mark's Vanguard LP was actually released in a quadraphonic version, it being 1972 and all. I really should find out if Light in the Attic is going to make the CD reissue available in surround sound.