Thursday, December 31, 2015

You Know, Until I Watched This Clip I Had No Idea It Was Possible to Sing Without Auto-tuning!

You've probably seen this Aretha Franklin performance from this week's Kennedy Center Honors show (for Carole King) by now...

...but in case you haven't...

...this is the bomb, as they say.

Wow. Just wow.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

To Paraphrase the Supremes, Love is Like an Itching My Crotch. Or Something.

From 2001, please enjoy country star (with the soul of a rocker) Charlie Robison...

...and his kick-ass cover of NRBQ's great "I Want You Bad."

I have no idea why this one popped into my head unbidden today, but it did -- maybe because I've been thinking about songs to cover the next time I get together with my garage band chums The Weasels. I should add that the Q's version is considerably more shambolic -- in a good way -- than Robison's relatively straightforward take on the song, and it definitely behooves behearing.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Closed for Monkey Business

Have I mentioned I hate the holidays? Not to mention this weird fricking weather.

In any case, regular and less angst-ridden posting resumes on the morrow.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Stevie Wright 1947-2015

The lead singer of The Easybeats has gone down under permanently.

Okay, I'm going to hell for that joke.

One of the saddest rock stories ever, alas -- it's amazing he lived as long as he did. The bottom line, however -- as I've said here on numerous happier occasions -- is that the Easybeats deserve to be thought of as right up there with the whole Stones/Who/Kinks pantheon, which is to say along with any great Sixties band who wasn't The Beatles.

Seriously -- they were that good.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Nora's Freezing on the Trolley....

From the 1991 alt-rock Christmas compilation A Lump of Coal...

...please enjoy (from Canada) The Odds and perhaps my favorite Christmas rock track of all time -- their Crazy Horse-ish take on "Kings of Orient (We Three Kings)."

Jeebus (sorry) but that's great, and the rest of the album is almost as good (in particular the Hoodoo Gurus doing to "Little Drummer Boy" what always should have been done -- it's on YouTube if you're curious). In any case, Lump can be obtained (cheap) over at Amazon HERE. You're welcome.

And Happy Holidays, everybody -- have a great weekend too!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Deck Us All With Boston Charlie...

From 2015, please enjoy "A Brand New Christmas."

Written and performed by my old pal (and more recently honorary Floor Model) Ronnie D'Addario.

As you can hear, Ronnie's paying tribute here to the Three B's -- The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Badfinger -- and for my money it's one of the best Christmas rock songs ever; I absolutely lurve the fadeout, in particular.

I should add that Ronnie's teenage son Brian is playing the hot guitar solo; apparently, having kids is a great way to get a backup band.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special And Schroeder on Piano Edition

Buddy Holly's "Fools Paradise." In true stereo at last, as nature intended.

This is actually my favorite sort of obscure Holly song -- I hope to cover it some day before I die. Not to get morbid, or anything.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Your Tuesday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special Can Blue Men Sing the Whites? Edition

From approximately 2011, and the praise Jeebus just renewed for another season cable music show Live at Daryl's House, please enjoy Daryl Hall and the incomparable Smokey Robinson and a mind-blowing live version of Smokey's classic "Tears of a Clown."

You know, I've made a lot of Hall and Oates jokes over the years, but the fact is I love most of their hits, and one of the greatest videos ever -- now sadly out of print, last time I looked -- was of the live show they did at the Apollo with Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin. In any case, the performances on Hall's tv show have been almost without exception spectacularly wonderful, and the one above is particularly goose-bump inducing. Seeing Smokey in a relaxed, intimate setting like that is my idea of heaven; I can only imagine what it must have felt like for Hall and the guys in the band.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Oh Well, At Least He's Better Than Heino

From Italian television, sometime in the late '50s or early '60s, please enjoy -- if possible -- the literally incredible Adriano Celantano...

...and his, shall we say, overly enthusiastic take on "Jailhouse Rock."

This guy has been a superstar in his native land and elsewhere for decades now, but I must confess I had never heard of him until last week, when a Ukranian émigré friend let it drop that Celentano's records were practically the only pop music you could hear in the old Soviet Union when he was a kid in the '80s. Poor guy.

In any case, you can hear Celentano cover some other early rock classics elsewhere on YouTube, including a performance of "Blueberry Hill" that makes Fats Domino sound like Metallica. You can also, occasionally, hear his music on the sound system at the fabulous Keuka Kafe Wine Bar on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, NY.

You're welcome.

[h/t Ollie Sakhno]

Friday, December 18, 2015

Once Upon a Time in the Weinsteins

The main title music (the soundtrack album drops, as they say, on December 18) from Ennio Morricone's score for the new Quentin Tarantino flick The Hateful Eight.

From what I can gather, the film -- a tribute to the spaghetti westerns whose music Morricone pretty much defined -- is not, like Tarantino's last two, some kind of wonderfully demented revenge fantasy (although that remains to be seen, as it were). In any case, the overture (also as it were) is, as you can hear, atmospherically creepy and easily recognizable as the work of its composer.

I should add that a quick visit to Wiki has led me to learn that this is the five zillionth score of Morricone's long and distinguished career.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Well, Maybe One More Time

From 1987, and their brilliant The Sound of Music album, please enjoy The dBs -- with the incomparable Syd Straw on guest vocals -- and the (should have been a massive hit) Peter Holsapple-penned (and sung) "Never Before and Never Again."

God, what a great song, and their voices fit together like Gram and Emmylou.

I should add that there are people who are of the opinion that the dBs never really recovered artistically from the departure of estimable co-founder Chris Stamey. Those people are -- what's the word I'm groping for? -- wrong.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Let's Talk About Girls!

From the Letterman show in 1989, please enjoy the incomparable Syd Straw and a smokin' rendition of my favorite song from her debut album (Surprise)...

...the Peter Holsapple-penned "Think Too Hard."

And yes, that's Dave Alvin on guitar.

I had never seen this clip before, and isn't she just as cute as a bugs ear? A great singer too, but that's a given. I should add that Surprise is a fricking tremendous album that belongs in every home.

More Holsapple and Syd tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

We Are All Eagles of Death Metal Today (Part Deux)

With U2 in Paris last week.

You know, it's easy to make fun of Bono and Co. for their earnestness -- guys, you're a rock band, not a goddamned turtle with the weight of the world on its back --

-- but God bless 'em for doing this anyway.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Keep Watching the Skies! (Part Deux)

And speaking as we were yesterday of everybody's favorite refugee (from the planet Melmac, and fuck you, Donald Trump) please enjoy -- from the 1996 telemovie Project: ALF...

...the greatest pop culture gag in the history of pop culture gags. Starting at approximately the 8 minute mark

ALF (at a pay phone): Murph, is that you?

Murph (on the other end): ALF...where are you?

ALF (looking around): I'm standing on a corner somewhere in Arizona -- not a fine sight to see. Hold it, there's someone slowing down to take a look at me.

Murph: Yeah, right -- a girl in a flatbed Ford, huh?

ALF (amazed): How did you know?

Words fail me. But in any case, have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Keep Watching the Skies!

Everybody's favorite refugee from the planet Melmac sings Weezer.

Hey, I love that guy, even if he does eat cats.

And of course, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who knows what ALF's real Melmac-ian name is (no Googling!!!!)

[h/t KLG]

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Paul McCartney was one of the most competitive people I've ever met. Lennon wasn't. He just thought everyone else was shit." -- Ray Davies

Ah, Ray -- a British national treasure. Why haven't they knighted the guy already?

[h/t Pat Thomas]

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

It Was Thirty-Five Years Ago Today.

[For obvious reasons, here's my review of John and Yoko's DOUBLE FANTASY, from the March 1981 issue of the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review (AKA Sound and Vision). This was the most difficult thing I ever wrote, so I was actually rather pleased to find upon re-reading it a few years ago that the only thing that embarrassed me were some dire predictions that (mercifully) didn't come true.

Two historical notes: At the time of the Smithereens reference, they were strictly a local NYC band; they wouldn't get a record deal or a hit for another four or five years. And that terribly sad photo of John and Yoko outside the Dakota is the same one that originally ran with the review.

I should also add that a few weeks after the piece appeared I got a very nice note from a woman (the now famous Freda Kelly) 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.]


A few days after the murder of John Lennon, I was at a Village club listening to a wonderful Sixties-influenced power-pop band called the Smithereens. After the second set, the group came back for an encore and suddenly got very serious. "When I was a kid," the drummer announced to the crowd, "there were certain things that were cool. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was cool. Robert Culp and Bill Cosby were cool. But Johnny Lennon...he was very cool."

As I write, it has been a week since Lennon was killed; by the time you read this, chances are that, unless we're really lucky, there will have been a commercial-cash-in rock circus on a scale that will make the Elvis Boom look like a P.T.A. bake sale. As a media event, his death has been unprecedented. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the upheaval in Poland and Iran, inflation, Reagan's election...who cares? They all pale into insignificance. 1980 will be remembered as the year a "wacko" (the word the police used) pulled off the first rock-and-roll assassination. And the tributes will continue. Endlessly. They will range from the genuinely moving to the merely fatuous and self-serving to the downright disgusting, but the end result will be the same: canonization. No matter how many sensationalist details emerge, no matter how many of John's old drug connections sell their memoirs to the newspapers, the last fall-out of Beatlemania will ensure that he's elevated to secular sainthood.

Well, John was a lot of things, but a saint he was not. By his own admission he was a bit of a bastard, and he well may have been; nobody gets to be one of the biggest phenomena in the history of show biz by being Mister Rogers. But I liked what the Smithereens drummer said about him because it's a perception that separates those of us who were there at the time (when he was, in Murray the K.'s immortal phrase, "what's happening, baby") from the younger fans who now haunt Beatles conventions and patronize Beatlemania touring companies. Those kids can't possibly understand that John Lennon was the coolest guy in the universe. Cooler than Elvis (dumb greaser!), cooler than Brando or James Dean or Lord Byron or Willie Sutton or Muhammad Ali or Cary Grant or Robert DeNiro or Bruce Springsteen. Cooler than Elvis Costello, even. Not to mention Travolta and the Fonz.

Understandably, this is an aspect of the man that has gotten lost in the shuffle. Right now, in the face of the pointless loss many of us feel, he's being painted as the most wonderful, warm, caring human being who ever wore shoe leather. But cool is closer to what he was. He had wit, style and songwriting genius. He invented the world's most exclusive men's club and made millions of dollars thumbing his nose at the Establishment. He gave countless people joy and in the process changed the world a couple of times, substantial achievements whatever your background might be. I can't think of a neater role model for a teenager and I can't think of my own adolescence except in terms that he defined.

HIS musical accomplishments will probably be debated endlessly. The lingering, mindless fan clamor of the last ten years has done a great deal to cheapen his reputation, and there has been the inevitable critical backlash (ironic when you consider that all us rock critics owe our very jobs to him, for there wasn't any such occupation to speak of before the Beatles). The punks, by and large, have no use for him, though I was delighted to find out that John, for his part, got off on the Pretenders and the B-52s. My guess is that in the long run it's his early stuff -- through, say, Beatles VI -- that will hold up best; in fact, my personal tribute, in response to the gentle homilies of "Imagine" that saturated the airwaves in the wake of the tragedy, was to blast the teenage lust of "Anytime At All" and "You Can't Do That" as loud as I could, and to hell with the neighbors. But his finest work, I think, which includes the first two solo albums and the 1975 Rock and Roll set, constitutes an achievement as personal and innovative and moving as can be found in the history of the music he helped shape. If it takes a senseless crime to make people remember what John accomplished, well, that's unfortunate, but it's also the way of the world.

As for Double Fantasy, the comeback record that now becomes his artistic farewell: in honesty, I hated it before he died, and now that he's gone I find listening to it all but unbearable. The simplistic celebrations of the the love that he and Yoko felt for each other and for their son seem, in retrospect, too painfully sincere to take: the cruelty of his ending intrudes too much. Musically, it shows that he hadn't completely lost his touch. The voice was still thrillingly intact; it's worth mentioning that John Lennon had perhaps the most hauntingly expressive voice in all of rock-and-roll. At least two of the songs -- "Watching the Wheels" and "Woman" -- are, on a melodic level, as fetching as some of his lesser Beatles efforts. Yoko's stuff strikes me as precious. The vaguely trendy "Kiss, Kiss, Kiss" could pass for a minor British New Wave pop hit, and whether time has vindicated her earlier avant-gardisms (as John was convinced it would) I will not venture to guess. The kindest thing to say about Double Fantasy, all in all, is that it wasn't designed as a rock record and shouldn't be judged as one. Its music is what the industry calls Adult Contemporary; I don't think it's successful even within the confines of that bland genre, but I can see that some kind of case could be made for it.

ROCK-AND-ROLL deaths tend to turn quickly into shopworn metaphors of one kind or another -- think of Altamont or Janis Joplin -- and there will doubtless be attempts to grasp some "larger" meaning behind the sad events of December 8. There has already been a spate of "The Sixties are finally over" pronouncements; John, of course, tried to point that out to people ten years ago, but then artists are always ahead of the crowd. Beyond that, what can one say? That we should boyott those who would turn his death into a commercial venture? We're all of us ghouls to some degree; being fans, how could we be otherwise? The Lennon Industry will continute to alternately fascinate and repel us; there will be dignified historical retrospectives and shameless mawkish reminiscences, scholarly rummaging through the tape vaults and flagrant rip-off repackagings. The well-meaning and the jackals will together compete for our attention as long as people remember. There's not much that can be done about that. As for the pain we feel right now...well, Pete Townshend once said that rock won't help you forget your problems, but it will let you dance all over them. That advice seems worth remembering. — Steve Simels

GEFFEN GHS 2001 $7.98.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Sharp Dressed Men

Long-time commenter from Down Under/fellow fan of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries/and all around nice guy Peter Power Pop posted a link to the great song below the other day in our discussion of Aussie rock gods You Am I.

But I overlooked it at the time and it's too good not to feature here a little more prominently.

So -- please enjoy "Get Up". From their drolly titled 2001 album Dress Me Slowly.

As I said the other day, I've been a fan of these guys since the early 90s, when I first heard their "Mr. Milk" blasting over the stereo at world's coolest record store NYCD (the proprietor, our chum Sal Nunziato, now does business over at BURNING WOOD of course, but in any case, and way too belatedly -- thanks Sal!!!)

And as we also mentioned the other day, You Am I have a splendid new CD out (recorded in Bushwick, which cracks me up). And it occurred to me that the cover art had a certain ring of familiarity.

And today I finally remembered why.

That was the cover for the Spanish LP of the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers'; if memory serves the then still not dead Generalissimo Francisco Franco objected to the more familiar Warhol zipper cover on the grounds that it might tend to corrupt the otherwise virtuous teenage inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula. In any case, there's no doubt in my mind that the new You Am I cover is a deliberate homage/pastiche, and I say -- good for them!

Friday, December 04, 2015

Better Living Through Chemistry

Well -- it turns out there IS hope for the Adele-impaired, and just in time, too.

As satire goes, I actually think this (admittedly very funny) example isn't nearly nasty enough, given the subject matter (i.e., in Frank Zappa's immortal phrase, a sensitive singer/songwriter who's making millions of dollars out of her deep personal hurt). But that's just me.

In any case, have a great weekend, everybody.

[h/t Dave™]

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Drums Along the Mohawk

From this week's Muppet show: Living saint Dave Grohl and Animal finally face off... the epic drum duel they were always destined to have.

They both win, obviously.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Closed for Monkey Business

In the immortal words of Steve Winwood -- sometimes I feel so uninspired.

Regular and more enthusiastic posting resumes on the morrow.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Tuesday Self Indulgence: Special Get Your Kicks, Albeit Perhaps Not Here Edition

From 1991, please enjoy a bunch of guys -- (whose identities I won't disclose out of respect for their other accomplishments) featuring a vocalist and bass player whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels -- in a live take on the venerable classic "Route 66."

I think you'll agree that the singing here is, at best, serviceable (you may insert other less flattering but more appropriate descriptions) but I'm rather insufferably pleased with my attempted emulation of Bill Wyman. And yes, that's my beloved 1961 Fender Bassman amp in the photo and on the track itself.