Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy 1931 - 2015

From the Star Trek episode "Requiem for Methuselah" (1969)

Dr. McCoy: He's dying....He'll live the remainder of a normal life span, then die.

Mr. Spock: On that day, I shall grieve.

Today, I am grieving.

Rest easy, old Spock.

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special Ain't It a Fwicking Shame Edition

[I first posted this one back in 2010, apparently at a time I was extremely depressed about something or other. The irony, of course, is that I now look back at that period in my life as a sort of Golden Age that will never come again. Heh. In any case, as is my wont, I have done a little re-writing and added a new entry. I should also add that yes, I am aware that there is a well-known George Harrison song that most normal people would probably have included. So sue me. -- S.S.]

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Pop/Rock/Soul Record or Song With the Word(s) Sorrow or Pity (or Variants Thereof) in the Title or Lyrics!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, and no arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much.

And my totally top of my head Top Eight are:

8. Richard and Linda Thompson -- Calvary Cross

"A black cat crossed your path
And why don't you follow?
My claw's in you and my light's in you
This is your first day of sorrow"

Absolutely spine-chilling on every level; frankly, there are some days when I think that's the most magnificent song/record ever made. And the whole fricking album is that great.

I should add that an intertube asshole I have had words with over the years is fond of saying that rock is what you get when white boys take out everything interesting from the blues. That is, of course, a spectacularly ignorant claim in and of itself, but obviously he never heard the above. As I said -- he's an asshole.

7. Otis Redding -- Mr. Pitiful

One of my favorite Otis records, and whenever I hear it I want to say to him -- I know the feeling.

5. Gene Pitney -- Town Without Pity

Here rendered as "Bleib Bei Mir," because frankly this one could only sound more over the top melodramatic in the original German.

4. Faith No More -- Last Cup of Sorrow

To be honest, I thought these guys were kind of overrated back in the day, and I don't much care for the song. But the homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo in this video has always kind of tickled me.

3. The Lovin' Spoonful -- Only Pretty What a Pity

An uncharacteristically nasty song from the group that practically invented the concept of Good Time Music. Written and sung by Spoonful drummer Joe Butler, who when I interviewed him about the tune allowed it was inspired by a real woman of the band's acquaintance. "Everyone except a baby/answers for the face they wear" has always struck me as one of the most chillingly poetic lines in rock history.

2. The Merseys -- Sorrow

The sadly better known David Bowie cover of this is one of the only things on Pin-Ups I can tolerate, but the original is still the greatest.

2. Weezer -- This is Such a Pity

Because, as you know, we like to have something recorded in this century. A pretty cool song in any case.

And the Numero Uno miserabilist song of them all, please let's not quibble about this, is --

1. Warren Zevon -- Poor Poor Pitiful Me

The live version from the fabulous Stand in the Fire, which, although spirited, omits the great line about the girl at the Rainbow Bar who asks Zevon to beat her -- "I don't want to talk about it." On the other hand, it compensates with the bit where he yells at his road manager to get up and dance.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR favorites be?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Darkness at Noon

And just to show that I actually like music recorded in the current century, from this very year in fact, please enjoy L.A.'s The Rebel Light and their interestingly ominous yet infectious "Strangers."

Recorded and produced in their "humble little shack of a studio" and sounding, as somebody at the NME observed like "the Beach Boys colliding with the Doors." I'm not sure that's exactly apt; there's definitely a revisionist sunshine pop thing going on here, but if I pressed I'd say it's closer to the Mamas and the Papas going out to dinner with Echo and the Bunnymen.

In any case, a very cool song -- you can find out much more about the band over at their website HERE.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Return of the Son of Closed For Monkey Business

Trying to avoid matricide today. Assuming I'm successful, regular posting -- scout's honor -- resumes tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Closed For Old Age

Specifically, my 95 year old mom who has decided to drive me into an early grave today.

Regular, less geriatric, posting resumes tomorrow. J'espere.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Our Talented Readers: An Occasional Series

Constant commenter/friend of PowerPop Buzz Baby Jesus, along with his band The Smoove Sailors, just contributed a new soundtrack (including music and effects) to one of the great cinematic masterpieces of our time.

A tribute to What's Up Tiger Lily? If so, nobody's saying. I will add, however, and for the record, that the Python-esque horses hoofs sounds are a particularly droll touch.

Friday, February 20, 2015

No Pier Pressure

The single from Brian Wilson's new album. With Al Jardine.

Yes. This guy IS my generation's Gershwin. If the rest of the album is this good, I'm going to be -- in the immortal words of Robert Downey Sr. -- a happy chappie.

[h/t Capt. Al]

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Annals of Modern Medicine

Fron 1971, please enjoy, if possible, Humble Pie's (I have always suspected unintentionally) over the top hilarious live cover of Ray Charles' "I Don't Need No Doctor."

In any case, unlike those guys, I actually DO need a doctor; in fact, all I seem to do of late is get prodded and poked (don't worry, nothing life threatening looms that I'm aware of).

But given the time constraints I make no promises about getting tomorrow's Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits up.

I thank you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Closed for Monkey Business

Didn't get much sleep last night, due to the buzz induced by my first foray into a pro recording studio in decades yesterday -- it's Floor Models related, but I won't bore you with the details at this point.

Regular, better rested, posting resumes tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lesley Gore 1946 - 2015

Bottom line: She was the greatest suburban white girl voice ever. Not to mention the singer of "You Don't Own Me," the primo proto-feminist anthem of the 60s.

This one, however, is IMHO her best record -- a genuine kick-ass pop/rocker. You can behold her performing it, and much else, in the T.A.M.I. Show video (which she comes close to stealing from the better-remembered James Brown and The Rolling Stones) and which I'm gonna watch right now.

Meanwhile -- Lesley dies and Kanye West walks the streets a free man? I don't get it.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me: Just Think -- If I'd Had a More Highly Developed Appetite for Careerist Hustling, I Could Have Been as Rich as Jon Landau

A friend found this at a flea market in Raleigh, North Carolina last weekend and graciously shared it with me. Click on the photo and behold the quote at the bottom right.

It's a framed 2'X3' poster, which leads me to believe it must have been provided to stores by Columbia Records back in the day; I may have seen a smaller version of it in Billboard, but my memory is vague at this point. The quote itself is from my review of The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, which ran in The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review some time in early 1974.

In any event, I had more or less forgotten about the thing, and when the photo showed up in my e-mail you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather.

[h/t Dennis Lockard]

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Video Roundup

[It is perhaps a wonderful testament to the essential goodness of human nature that there are still publicists at various video companies who continue to send new product to an undeserving scribbler at an obscure blog. Herewith, then, in an attempt to justify this largesse, are my thoughts on a a couple of the more interesting cinematic artifacts to have crossed my desk of late; unless otherwise noted, I viewed them all on DVD. I should also add that Matango -- guest reviewed by my little brother Drew, who turned me on to it -- has actually been on disc for a couple of years, but as it was screening at the Japan Society a couple of weeks ago, I thought it appropriate to include it here. -- S.S.]

1. Panic Button (1954, Warner Archive)

A business group in deep financial doo-doo decides to solve their money problems by creating an expensive and deliberately flop television pilot and using it as a tax write-off. Yes, you guessed it -- this is essentially The Producers a decade ahead of its time, only with Maurice Chevalier and Jayne Mansfield's breasts instead of Hitler jokes. Pretty bad overall -- George Sherman directs with all the subtle comic timing of a Visigoth -- and some of the dubbing (it's one of those American-Italian co-productions) is particularly egregious. But as historical curiosities go it's relatively interesting (Warner Archive's print isn't so hot, however).

2. Murdoch Mysteries Season 7 (2014, Acorn)

If you've never seen this show -- which is world famous in its native Canada -- essentially it's CSI: Toronto, set at the tail end of the Victorian Era. Which is to say it's a lot of fun -- the period detail and history stuff are a hoot (the titular Murdoch, a brilliant police constable with a penchant for inventing all sorts of forensic gizmos, is constantly running into real life folks, from Winston Churchill to Thomas Edison)-- and its tongue is, quite often, set quite firmly in its cheek. It's currently running on American cable (Ovation -- check your local listings) under the odd title The Artful Detective, but Acorn Video's DVD version looks significantly better. Trust me -- watch any episode from this most recent set and you'll want to go back and watch all six previous seasons, which are also available from the good folks at Acorn.

2. Godzilla (2014, Warner Home Video)

How do I love this one? Let me count etc. For starters, it totally erases any memories of the appalling Roland Emmerich version from the late 90s, which featured an obviously embarrassed Matthew Broderick, a monster that looked nothing like Godzilla, and more offensively stereotypical ethnic characters than any American film since The Birth of a Nation. For another thing, director Gareth Edwards -- whose earlier no-budget Monsters is definitely worth seeking out -- is a genuine visual poet with a great eye for light and shadow, and as a result this is the first CGI flick in recent memory with sequences that actually take your breath away. Godzilla-wise, of course, it hits all the right notes from the Japanese originals; my only criticism -- spoiler alert -- is that they kill off Bryan Cranston a little too early, thus causing the human characters to be considerably less interesting than the big beasts. Other than that, this is non-stop terrific; make sure you watch it on the largest TV monitor you can find

3. My Winnipeg (2008, The Criterion Collection)

A fabulous hallucinatory phantasmagoria on his home town from visionary filmmaker Guy Maddin, a/k/a the David Lynch of Canada, My Winnipeg would be worth checking out for its black-and-white cinematography alone, but it also boasts one of the all time great casting coups in Ann Savage...

...the ultimate, deeply terrifying film noir femme fatale from Detour, the 1945 Edqar G. Ulmer quickie that just may be the most noirish film noir of them all. Savage had apparently mostly retired from the business years ago -- a Wiki search reveals that she had appeared a few times on Saved By the Bell, if you can believe it (the idea of her and Elizabeth Berkley going head to head is almost too much to contemplate), but one can only assume that Maddin knew exactly what he was doing by using such an iconic cult figure and in any case, it's all but impossible to take your eyes off of her when she's on-screen. Criterion's version, which does full justice to the film's surrealist look, comes with all the bonus feature bells and whistles you'd expect, but, frankly, compared to Savage herself they're pretty thin gruel.

4. Matango aka Attack of the Mushroom People (1963, Media Masters)

Any musicians out there reading this? Are you looking for a new tune to play around with? Try the one that starts up in an early sequence of this movie. The character Mami abruptly takes up a ukulele, strums a few bars, and starts singing a wordless song, and it's one of a number of unexpected pleasures in this genuine genre oddity. In fact, Matango is an effective and disturbing contemporary horror thriller -- contemporary for 1963, that is -- set mainly on an unspecified island off the coast of Japan. Director Ishiro Honda and his scriptwriters critique the city-based society that has arisen after the conclusion of World War II; no way that you will forget this movie. Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock's DVD features a nice widescreen transfer (you can watch it dubbed or subtitled) and some bonus extras that are worth checking out. -- Drew Simels

5. The Bubble (1966, Kino Classics)

Writer/director/producer Arch Oboler is all but forgotten now, but in his day -- which began in radio, with the anthology series Lights Out -- he was highly regarded as a sort of low-budget Rod Serling (he directed Bwana Devil, the film that kicked off the early 50s 3D craze, as well as the wonderful Five, one of the first serious meditations on a post-nuke apocalypse). The Bubble, filmed in Space Vision 3D, essentially anticipates the plot of Stephen King's Under the Dome, but with a more oddball cast, including 50s heartthrob crooner Johnny Desmond and Michael Cole, later of TVs Mod Squad; it was obviously made on a shoe-string, and it's way too long -- a half hour Twilight Zone episode blown up inappropriately to feature film length. But the story, however padded, is compelling and the 3D effects, while a little subtle by today's IMAX standards, mostly keep you hooked. This new version -- the film last played theatrically back in shortened form back in 1976 -- has been meticulously restored by The 3D Film Archive (the trailer above was not, BTW) and looks far better than it has any right to. Kino's Blu-ray version requires a 3D TV or disc player to get the full effect, but if you watch it on a normal video system, it looks just fine in 2D.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

As an Old Friend Observed -- This Guy Mainly Gets It

From yesterday's GUARDIAN:

Powerpop: 10 0f the Best

In the 1970s, US powerpop musicians turned away from jamming and noodling in favour of concise, 60s-inspired songcraft – here are 10 classics

By Paul Lester

1 Todd Rundgren - Couldn’t I Just Tell You

Powerpop, some say, began with Emitt Rhodes’s 1970 debut album or Badfinger’s Magic Christian Music (also 1970), but really those were more like late Beatles works. Powerpop may have drawn on the 60s – in fact, there is a school of thought that has the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Who and the Small Faces as original powerpoppers – but powerpop is really a 70s invention. It’s about young musicians missing the 60s but taking its sound in new directions. In its insistence on brevity, energy and melody, powerpop was not just an alternative to prog and the hippy troubadours, but a cousin to glam. And like glam, it has a claim to being one of the first postmodern genres.

This is largely a 70s list because powerpop is era-specific. You can re-create it outside the time from which it came, but it becomes something different. So you’ll read arguments in favour of 90s musicians such as the Rooks, Brad Jones and more, but they lack powerpop’s edge, which arises from the tension between the music and the audience’s expectations. They just weren’t meant to make music like this in the early 70s. That created problems for powerpop’s main players, as their commercial, catchy material failed to catch on, resulting in a preponderance of tortured artists and casualties.

Talking of glam, Todd Rundgren could easily feature in a 10 of the best list on glitter rock, just as he could be on a list of piano ballads, blue-eyed soul, proto-electronica, even prog. But he staked his claim to powerpop immortality with this track, which set the whole ball rolling (look out for 1972-73 and 1977-78, because they’re key periods within the overall powerpop time frame). If Something/Anything?, its parent double album, featured multiple styles, then Couldn’t I Just Tell You was a masterclass in compression, from the deceptively sweet acoustic intro and opening salvo – “Keep your head and everything will be cool/ You didn’t have to make me feel like a fool” – to the incandescent 15-second guitar solo, the breathtaking “drop” at 2min 36sec and the climactic eruption of guitars, bass and drums, of which Rundgren played and produced every last note.

You can read the rest at the link; I don't agree with all of his choices -- I would have picked "Surrender" instead of "I Want You to Want Me", for example -- but I think the piece is consistently well argued.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Band So Good You Could Plotz!

The Amazing Rabbis...

and "The Sound of Silence."


Would it kill you to listen to this, already?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Your Tuesday Moment of Words Fail Me (Special 2015 Grammy Edition)

You know, I thought Annie Lennox pretty much stole Sunday's awards show with her performance of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell On You"...

...but let's face it: The original, as Dobie Gray famously sang, is still the greatest.

Seriously, Annie -- when you've got the stones to sing the song with a bone in your nose, get back to me.

Also, re: the Grammy show, I have one other observation. To wit:

Miranda Lambert? How is she even a thing?

Jeebus H. Christ in a chicken basket -- that isn't even up to the level of a decent bar band. I mean, we're talking epically, irredeemably talentless.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Annals of Devolution (An Occasional Series)

So the other day my fellow toiler in geriatric garage band The Weasels constant reader and friend of PowerPop Jai "Guru" Dave e-mailed me the following query:

"Steve -- have you ever heard the German Bonds?"

Now, my immediate reaction was "Why is Dave quoting a line from a famous scene in The Producers?" But as it turns out, he wasn't. Seems he had been watching that Pretty Things clip I posted the other day, and over at YouTube there was a link to another clip -- from German TV -- which was a live 1966 performance by a Kraut group called, you guessed it , The German Bonds.

Whom neither Dave nor I had ever previously heard of, but whom we both agreed -- at least on the basis of the aforementioned clip -- were pretty awesome in that mid-60s Nuggets/garage band sort of way.

In fact, they were actually quite a bit better than most bands of that ilk -- with very strong musicianship (particularly the organ guy) and above average performance and songwriting chops (although the trousers the bass player are wearing in the video are shall we say ill-advised). Anyway, one could only assume that the reason the GBs never became even a minor footnote to rock history is because (like so many of their contemporaries) their records weren't as good as their live performances.

I was curious about what happened to them, however, and after a little Google research, I learned that in 1970 -- with the addition of an expatriate Brit -- the band reinvented itself as Lucifer's Friend --

-- who were precisely the sort of doomy/prog-metal annoyances -- think Uriah Heep without the warmth -- who essentially ruined the early and mid-70s for me.

Thus proving that Devo was right, of course.

Oh well, at least they eventually achieved some small-scale commercial success both on the Continent and (occasionally) here in the States. In fact, with most of the original members on board, they're still at it. I hope Satan appreciates the effort.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Friday Optometric Blogging

From 1968, please enjoy The Nazz with Todd Rundgren and their quite astonishing"Open My Eyes."

One of the greatest fricking rock singles ever made. And without question THE greatest to adapt the template of The Who's "Can't Explain." (I'm talking to YOU, "Do Ya" by The Move; you can bite me.)

I bring the song up, however, because I'm off this morning to have cataract surgery. If I survive, normal blogging -- including that Video Roundup I couldn't quite get together for today -- resumes next week.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

It's International Rutles Day!

Seriously, it really is.

And in honor of the World's Greatest Band, here's yet another piece of shameless Floor Models plug-ola -- our extremely lame live cover of the Rutles' "I Must Be in Love," as heard at the Other End Cafe some Friday evening in 1982.

I like to think that our guitar solo is worse than the one on the actual record. I know for a fact that our harmonies suck, however.

Thursday Floor Models News

So I got a royalty check from CD Baby yesterday, which means Floor Your Love is still, inexplicably, selling, and ain't that a kick in the pants.

More to the point, when I looked at our account over there, I discovered that a physical copy of the CD had been purchased by somebody on the Continent just the other week. So I e-mailed to ask a) who they were; b) how did they hear about the record; and c) if they liked it, would they be interested in a free copy of the improved re-release version on Australia's ZERO HOUR RECORDS?

Here's the quite wonderful reply I got.

Hi Steve:

So great to hear about you.

Well, my name is Joaquin Lopez and I live in Madrid (Spain).

By pure chance I got to your GREAT music via CD BabY distribution. I checked the samples and I take notice about your great power pop and topnotch Rickenbacker sound. As well, the cover design and album title were a gimmick/ homage to The Yardbirds' "For your love" album.

The band's attitude were very close to legendary names like early Byrds, Searchers, Flamin' Groovies or The Records. And the tracks "Let her go" and "Are you here or are you gone" are classic stuff. But the whole album is terrific.

Thanks for your kind offer.
Sincerely from a Spanish fan and friend

Needless to say, this made me completely verklempt, and I dispatched him a copy of Floor Your Love Mark II pronto.

BTW, I found a bunch of really great Flo Mos tracks in the vaults recently, and I am currently compiling an EP -- titled "Letter From Liverpool," after the last song that Andy and Gerry wrote together (it was completed in 2013, although it was conceived during the early '80s), which we'll be putting out on our own label sometime before the summer. Here's a rough of the cover (courtesy of my beautiful and brilliant art director girlfriend)....

...and a teaser track (note the sitar samples from The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows.")

And, of course -- thank you, Joaquin. You made my week. Hell, so far you've made my year.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Closed For Monkey Business

Getting my affairs in order in anticipation of an upcoming life-threatening extremely minor surgical procedure, so I got nothin' today.

Regular germ-free blogging resumes tomorrow, including the first Friday Video Roundup in quite a while.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Tuesday Guitar Tutorial

Eric Clapton's guitar part on the original White Album version of "My Guitar Gently Weeps." Without the rest of the backing track.

This may be old news to you guys, but I hadn't chanced across this until just last weekend.

Pretty damned amazing, and I must admit I'd never previously noted the subtle little descending crying thing God Eric is doing at the 2:06 - 2:08 mark.

Monday, February 02, 2015

What Were They Thinking? (An Occasional Series): Special Completely Fucked Up Art Direction Edition

A friend writes:

Dear Steve:

Here's one for you.

Cleopatra Records (in LA, I think) recently (sometime this month) issued an album, Stoned: A Psych Tribute to the Rolling Stones. Below is the album cover, I kid you not.

A nice group of younger and young-ish bands doing covers. OK. Cleopatra in 2014 issued a collection of Doors covers, which I possess, and which is pretty good, and whose front artwork is below.

Apparently, the marketing folks at Cleopatra associate the Doors with the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, while the Stones mean Girls Use Heroin.

If this were not so laughably bad, it would be Onion-like funny.

So I took the time to EMail the following to Cleopatra.
Dear C Folks:

Please let the Cleopatra marketing person (or group) who designed the cover for the Rolling Stones tribute collection know that the cover ... ahem ... art is just about the stupidest image I have ever seen on any album. Whereas your Psych Tribute to the Doors collection reflects (not mine, but) a general psych feeling associated with ... ahem ... something, the Stones cover pretty much says Stones = Junk. Of course this is preposterous, and only a 14 year-old would make such a primary visual association.

If it turns out that your marketing person IS 14 years old, please pass along my comments. Also, if the person IS 14, then please stop employing underage staffers. Furthermore, if your marketing person is OLDER than 14, then what the fuck's WRONG with him or her?

And here's an update:

Since I received an auto-reply from Cleopatra ("Thank you for contacting Cleopatra Records. A representative will respond to your message within 24-72 hours (Business Days). Thank you.") that thanked me not once but twice, I may have a response from Cleopatra before Monday, which I'll forward to you.

And Cleopatra IS based out of Los Angeles.

Frankly, I can't wait.

[h/t Mark R]