Wednesday, November 30, 2016

2016 Continues to Suck on Ice

Just heard that Michael Wackford -- drummer for Starry Eyed and Laughing, the greatest Byrds influenced band ever -- has passed away.

I saw SE&L a couple of times -- interviewed frontman and Rickenbacker ace Tony Poole, hung out with them after a gig on Long Island -- and they were a) absolutely great and b) thoroughly lovely unpretentious guys.

The band was preparing a collection of unreleased stuff when Wackford died in October; you can -- and should -- order it over at their official website HERE.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Your Tuesday Moment of Words Not Only Fail Me But I Have Completely Lost the Power of Articulate Speech

Please enjoy -- courtesy of my old friend Gregory Fleeman -- the astounding John Daker and a performance for the ages.

What can I say about Greg?

Well, for starters -- his mainstream claim to fame is that he wrote the vastly entertaining 1986 action thriller F/X, which starred Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy and spawned a sequel and TV series.

But back in the day, he fronted without question the most hilarious rock act I ever witnessed, the genius-monikered Gregory Fleeman and the Fleewomen. I encountered them, initially, while researching a piece on the neo-folk scene that was briefly resurgent in Greenwich Village in the early 80s; here's what I wrote at the time (in The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review).

...Fleeman is a young ex-actor with one of the most warped sensibilities likely to be sprung on an unsuspecting public. His band is a motley collection of aging hippies, refugees from underground S-&-M clubs and punk/jazz fusion players, and his songs are about the funniest I've heard since...oh, since Tonio K. Take "Touching Myself But Thinking of You," which asks the musical slash cosmic question "If we're all one, who needs you?" Or his children's lullabye about the little men who come out when you're asleep ("They massage your heart/and your private parts/and throw parties in your mouth"); his impassioned love song about the Tappan Zee Bridge; a 40s swing tune called "Wisconsin Moon" ("There's too much!"); not to mention his soon-to-be-immortal production number, "the song, nay metaphor" he calls simply "Showbiz" (although it's better known to his fans as "Sucking My Way to the Top").

"I'm gonna swim that mountain...I'm gonna climb that sea."

It doesn't get any better folks.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Seven Characters in Search of a Drummer

Pop quiz: What do these two bands...

The Tearaways and "Bash"...

and The Empty Hearts and "I Don't Want Your Love"...

...have in common, other than being a) just great and b) having fantastic new songs/videos out?

Discuss. [Here's a hint -- Clem fricking Burke!]

Okay -- let's get down to cases. The Empty Hearts are sort of what we used to call a supergroup, featuring members of The Cars (guitarist Elliot Easton, for heavens sake), The Romantics, garage legends The Chesterfield Kings and Blondie (some drummer whose name I can't recall but whose initials are Clem Burke). The Tearaways, who hail from Santa Barbara, are also veterans, just not as individually famous; suffice it to say they've been kicking out the garage-rock and British Invasion influenced jams since the early 80s and number such folks as Tom Hanks as fans.

Oh, and they also have some drummer whose name escapes me but whose initials are etc...

You can read more about The Empty Hearts -- as well as ordering their music -- at their official website here. You can do the same for The Tearaways -- and should -- over here.

As for Clem Burke, he is now officially The Hardest Working Man in Show Biz.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Your Friday Moment of Why Didn't I Get the Memo? (An Occasional Series)

From 2000, and their Smile album, please enjoy The Jayhawks...

...and their utterly gorgeous piece of folk-rock/pop/neo-psychedelia "Baby, Baby, Baby."

Friend of PowerPop Capt. Al played this on his intertube radio show last Tuesday, and I nearly fell out of my chair; what a great fricking song. And the fact I had never heard it previously is now a source of some shame to me.

I should add that every time I start to get a little big-headed about some of the musical endeavors I've been involved in over the years, it's good to be confronted with something as awesome as this and develop a little humility.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

It's Turkey Day! (An Annual Series)

From 1969, here's the original classic lineup of Procol Harum...

...and their utterly gorgeous "Pilgrim's Progress."

Pilgrim -- get it? It's not rocket science, kids.

Actually, if memory serves (and if it does, I hope it washes its hands) this is something of a Thanksgiving tradition around here by now. Although I'll grant you that given we're now in the era of President Engelbert Trumperdinck it's not quite the same anymore.

In any case, enjoy the cranberry sauce and stuffing, everybody.

Also -- Matthew Fisher is God©.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fifty Years of Bad Behavior. Oh Wait -- That's Vanessa Del Rio's Retrospective!

It's no secret that I'm not as rabid a Rolling Stones fan as I once was. Although I will say that I'm planning to enjoy their forthcoming album of sort-of obscure blues covers when it comes out next month.

In any case, got to see EXHIBITIONISM, the Stones' gallery historical multi-media 50th anniversary retrospective show yesterday....

...and it's pretty fricking amazing. I mean, it has the electric dulcimer Brian Jones used on "Lady Jane." My just dropped when I saw it, and that's hardly the only mind-boggling artifact on display.

The show runs through mid-March, and if you're in the vicinity of Greenwich Village any time soon I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

There Are Some Songs It's Just Impossible to Ruin (But This Is Not One of Them): An Occasional Series

From their 1993 covers album Acid Eaters...

...please enjoy -- actually, I don't think that's possible -- the otherwise estimable Ramones and their take on the Jefferson Airplane classic "Somebody to Love."

Seriously -- this is fucking appallingly bad on every level. I bring it up only because I was thinking not so fondly of right-wing asshat Johnny Ramone the other day, and I was wondering why Joey ever put up with his shit.

Okay, apart from the touring money.

Monday, November 21, 2016

There Are Some Songs It's Just Impossible to Ruin (An Occasional Series)

From 1990, and their sort of covers album Fakebook, please enjoy cult favorites Yo La Tengo...

...and a sprightly remake of that Cat Stevens song -- "Here Comes My Baby" -- we were discussing a few weeks ago.

Ira Kaplan, who's the auteur of this band, was originally a New York rock critic who came up professionally more or less the same time as me; a very good writer and a lovely guy (I can't recall specifically which press junkets we were on together, but I think one was The Who on the Quadrophenia tour).

That said (and I know some people whose opinions I respect absolutely LURVE Yo La Tengo) but at my age I have to be honest -- I've always found them a little bit twee, as the Brits say.

That said, this particular interpretation is really quite nice. There was a killer version of John Cale's "Andalucia" on the album too, if memory serves.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Drop of Rain

Okay, I'm gonna get more than usually self-indulgent today, but please bear with me. I think it'll be worth it.

So -- some of you may know that my 90s band -- Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams, who were essentially the Floor Models Mark II (we liked to describe our stuff as Merseybeat Cowboy music) -- released an album in 1995 on Gadfly Records, a small but interesting indie label out of Vermont. (They had the entire Tonio K. catalogue, which delighted me).

The album's out of print, and the label seems to be defunct -- in fact, we've been trying to get in touch with Mitch Kantor, the guy who ran it, for a while now with no success. Mitch -- if you're out there....

Anyway, it's a really good record, IMHO, but it was abominably mastered -- in fact, back in the day we were all kind of heartsick about what had been done to our magnum opus. So, having a lot of time on my hands recently after finishing the Flo Mos Letter From Liverpool project, I thought to myself -- let's reissue it and do it right this time.

To which end ace drummer Glen "Bob" Allen, original Hi-Beams guitarist J.D. Goldberg and myself spent the summer re-mastering the record from the original tapes and spiffing up some bonus tracks (live and studio). And the whole thing now sounds insanely good; we'll be releasing it both online (Amazon, Spotify, iTunes etc) and in physical CD form in December.

So why am I bringing this up? Because while listening to the final master in the studio the other night, I was absolutely gobsmacked when I heard this song on big speakers for the first time in a while.

I've always thought it was an absolute masterpiece, and way better than we actually were, frankly. But in the aftermath of the election it now struck me as sadly relevant in a way it hadn't when we recorded it.

It's called "A Drop of Rain." It was written by Gerry Devine (rhythm guitar and vocals) who came up with it after watching Ken Burns' Civil War documentary. I'm on bass and keyboards; Glen and J.D. are on everything else.

On the long road back from Gettysburg
The dust burned in their eyes
And by the time they got through Maryland
There were no more tears to cry
Ghosts out on the Interstate
The cursed and the blessed
The dream that died that hot July
Was never laid to rest

A drop of rain falls on the highway
A tear stain on the stone
There's a long parade of headlights
Trying to find their way back home
All the promises were broken
But the memories still remain
As the cars go flashing by
Like drops of rain

A thousand crosses burned at night
Across this holy ground
And we kept on hearing the same lies
Untill we came around
We're all in this together now
The union is preserved
All these years and waiting still
For justice to be served

A drop of rain falls on the river
Floating down to New Orleans
The melting snows of Canada
Come wash this country clean
All the way from Tupelo
We watched that mystery train
Fade off into the night
Through drops of rain

I hear the Sunday church bells
As the morning lights the sky
And all that I can do
Is throw this thing in gear and drive
Trail smoke down the blacktop
Through the endless miles of corn
These wheels were set in motion
Before I was ever born

A drop of rain falls on my windshield
The wind is in my ears
You can smell the storm that's coming
It won't be long until it's here
I wish I had the words to tell you
But there's no way to to explain
About this wind that drives me
Like a drop of rain

I get chills listening to it, and I think it's amazing simply as a poem.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted on the reissue as we get near to the actual release date.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

All I Want For Christmas is No More Fucking Hipsters

The first new recording in 30 years by The Washington Squares is a cover of...The Chipmunks.

You know, back in the day. I found those guys is-it-ironic-or-is-it-sincere take on Peter, Paul and Mary as too fucking cute by half. This new song hasn't changed my mind.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mose Allison 1927 -- 2016

This year just continues to suck on ice.

I'm not much of a jazzbo, but Mose was really something else, including a gigantic influence on the British Invasion via songs like these.

He was also drop dead funny.

Saw him in a hole in the wall club in Greenwich Village in the early 80s. One of the best live music experiences I've ever had.

Have I mentioned that this year continues to suck on ice?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Closed for Monkey Business

Regular -- and premaaturely early Christmas-themed -- posting resumes tomorrow.

Monday, November 14, 2016

"Yet this claw could only belong to an arboreal creature -- like some impossible tree sloth."

Before we start this post, let me link to the most relevant thingy GARAGE HANGOVER.

Okay, here we go.

Hi Steve,
I ran across your Floor Models website while trying to find info on an old 45 by a band called Arboreal (I'm guessing from the late 1970s). I am wondering if the songwriter Glen Allen is the same Glen Allen from your band? If you could provide any insight, it'd be great. (The songwriters on the Arboreal 45 are Glen and Greg Allen.) I collect records and (a) am curious as to where and when this 45 was released, and (b) would love to get one for my own collection.

Any info would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!
--Jason (Providence, RI)

I gotta admit, this was news to me. In all the years I've known and worked with Glen, this is the first I'd heard of this stuff.



But as it turned out, yup, it was him.

Here's the whole saga, as Glen communicated it to me last week.
My brother Greg and I were raised in a musical household. We lived in Nutley NJ, home of Robert Blake, Martha Stewart, and, once upon a time, Annie Oakley!

Neither of our parents pursued an instrument beyond their grade school years, but as newlyweds they hosted an Upstate NY radio show pithily titled Ad-Libbing With The Allens.

They interviewed (and featured music by) the likes of Stan Kenton and other Jazz and Pop acts. Greg, before I was born, would sit quietly in the studio as the show was being broadcast live. He tells me how he still vividly recalls the lights on the console, and the excitement of knowing his Mom and Dad were "on the air".

Our folks would play Broadway and film scores. Our Aunt Beverly worked for MGM Records, she sent new releases our way. Greg would play LPs by Duane Eddy, Howlin' Wolf, The Ventures, Johnny Cash and more in our room.

Greg and I both started playing the drums in '64. We'd play along to the records we'd spin on our family's massive (15" mono speaker!) Hi-Fi.

Circa '65, Greg played drums in The Revengers. They had quite the cool repertoire, covering The Pretty Things, The Yardbirds, and other British Invasion acts. They even appeared on Zacherle's UHF show "Disc-O-Teen," along with The Cyrkle of "Red Rubber Ball" fame.

My hometown band went through a few names over it's 3 year span -- The Great Unknown, The Unknown Six,and, I kid you not, Admiral Allen & The Permanent Wave.

By the time I was 12, we were performing at teenagers parties and actually making money.

Note of scandal: At one rehearsal in my family's basement, our newly added Go-Go Girls -- 3 of our sixth grade classmates -- tied their blouses up to create a bare-midriff look.

This was well received by five of us in the band. However when our lead guitarist Steve Ucci's Dad showed up, Steve exclaimed, "Dad, the girls were bare!"

A sad farewell was said to the Go-Go girls.

We performed for 3000 people at The Nutley Oval on July 4th in '66. Another, older, band let us use their gear. A third band got stuck in transit, so we had a double set that night of about 90 minutes. We had 'em dancing on the infield to "Good Lovin", and because we had horns, "Batman," "Downtown," and,of course, "Tequila".

That night sealed my fate -- drums forever!

Greg and I had a clunky but good sounding Telefunken tape recorder and, later, a Sony that had sound-on-sound,as it was called back then. We could overdub ourselves. Many Dada-esque tunes were recorded, and some attempts at "real" music as well.

But in '68 I took up guitar, and we wrote and recorded more in earnest. By then our family had been in NYC for about a year. Greg and I decided to record in an actual studio.

An older classmate of mine, Jon Fausty, was working in a studio that specialized in Latin music. The first day in the studio the equipment went south, wouldn't work. I was actually relieved, for although Greg and I had performed in public and had recorded at home, this was A STUDIO! Where RECORDS WERE MADE!

The next day the gear was in working order, and I had shaken off the nerves. After all, I did have long wavy hair, a cool turquoise ring, a Superman-logo'd tee shirt, tie-dyed jeans, and, most of all, my '68 Gold-Top Les Paul Standard on which I had mastered the three essential chords.

I also loved the name we'd devised: Arboreal. We always had a thing for chimps, and we both probably would've proposed to Jane Goodall.

Greg was a metronomic drummer, a better time-keeper than me ('though I keep good time!). But who knew at the time that left handed drummers set up their drums differently than righties? Not us -- we'd only seen righties ever play.

Nontheless, with Greg keeping time and me on guitar, bass and vocals(!), we cut "Our Souls Would See Us Through," which Greg wrote the lyric for, and "Sixteen Years Old," which I wrote.

The chorus on "Sixteen..." was originally "Things are pretty shitty when you're sixteen years old.." But for the sake of mass appeal and radio play, I cleverly changed "shitty" to "sickening". A move of rare genius, though I missed the sheer beauty of the "pretty/shitty" rhyme scheme.

Greg, in true mystical metaphoric mode, came up with "we gazed into each other's eyestreams, until we met each other's dreams." And to think -- "eyestreams"was hardly ever used back then!

We printed 100 45's, sent them out to several record companies, and waited for the offers to roll in. Some of the rejection letters came on very nice stationery. Some with encouraging comments and actual signatures!

As I recall, Pickwick, a budget label, made an offer, but we held out for the big fish. That fish is still swimming merrily out there somewhere....

Greg would eventually quit playing the drums and moved on to a long career as a record reviewer and live performance critic for The Atlantic City Press, The Christian Science Monitor, Cashbox, Trouser Press and other newspapers and magazines. (He and I co-wrote songs for Ronnie Spector in '80 for a band I played in with Rafael Fuentes and that Greg managed -- Diamond Dupree.) He then went into talk radio (he hosted two nationally syndicated shows: "Him & Her w/ Greg And Fran," and "The Right Balance") and now regularly walks the malls and writes poetry (in retirement) on Florida's Gulf Coast.

As for me: Baby Moon (CBGB regulars), Diamond Dupree ( Lone Star Café regulars), The Floor Models (Darlings of the Village Scene), Lucy Kaplansky (ditto, the Village), The Human Condition ("World Beat" before the term even existed), Gerry Devine & The Hi-Beams (Flo-Mo's bastard son) and, for the last 22 years, French Cookin', Doc French's ensemble (B.B. King's Club regulars/Inductee NY Blues Hall Of Fame). I also perform with The Rock Club (featuring Ron D'Addario, proud father of The Lemon Twigs).

Jon Fausty is a Grammy Award winning Engineer/Producer in the Latin music field. He appeared on my wife's Cable TV show "Eddy Coston's Metro Music Scene" years ago to promote the David Byrne LP "Rei Momo," which he engineered.

Of course I've had the pleasure and privilege of being Steve Simels' personal musical conductor/arranger since '82. He promises my fee is forthcoming.......

A final note: I was astonished to discover that somebody stumbled upon Arboreal's one and only record.

More so that they posted it on a cool garage rock site.

Most amazing of all, I didn't cringe nearly as much as I thought I would after hearing this for the first time in 35-40 years.

I hope you don't either. -- Glen Allen

To paraphrase Thelma Ritter in All About Eve: What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at his rear end.

But seriously, folks -- I love everything about that essay, and a big tip of the PowerPop hat to Glen Bob for sharing it.

I should also add that a special PowerPop No-Prize™ will be awarded to the first reader who -- without googling -- identifies the source of today's title.

Friday, November 11, 2016

I Am A Whatever For The County....

From their just released CD Close the Place Down, please enjoy The Linemen and their transplendent "Unconditional".

That's written and sung by singer/songwriter/guitarist Jonathan Gregg: I got to know Jonathan back in the late 90s, when he was fronting a band called The Lonesome Debonaires...

...who made three absolutely riveting indie albums that I can only describe, however inexactly, as sounding like country-rock meets Television. Jonathan himself was a great frontman, and he was also perhaps the most amazing not world-famous guitarist I have ever seen; think a slightly more idiosyncratic Richard Thompson, at least in the sense of technical mastery and every note is there for a reason concision.

In any case, The Linemen -- whose other principal singer/songwriter Kevin Johnson is no slouch either -- are absolutely great in a similar vein, and you can and should order the album over at Amazon HERE.

I should add that if you're in the area on Sunday night, you should hie thee over to their album release party show at The Bowery Electric.

Which is located at 327 Bowery (duh), in fabulous New York City. Showtime is 7pm. And tell 'em PowerPop sent you.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The United States of America 1776 -- 2016

I'm numb. That's all I can say.

Regular posting will resume when some semblance of feeling has returned.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

It's Election Day. Oh Joy.

From their 1972 masterpiece (really, no kidding) The Night is Still Young -- produced by the great Jeff Barry -- please enjoy Sha Na Na and a song that sort of sums up my feelings as we try to save what's left of our noble democracy.

As the lyrics make plain, this song was written and recorded while Richard Nixon was still in the White House. And we survived him. Whether we'll be lucky enough to survive Trump is of course another thing altogether, and frankly, I don't see any good songs coming out of it,

Monday, November 07, 2016

Put On Your Party Dress (Part Deux)

I wrote about fabulous singer/songwriter Cait Brennan on the occasion of the release of her debut album back in February.

But until this past Saturday, I hadn't had a chance to meet her.

This was at a cool club in Brooklyn called Bar Matchless (they have a great brunch on weekends, which I highly recommend). The occasion was Cait doing a blistering (if too brief) live solo set as part of the most recent International Pop Overthrow Festival.

In any event, she was as delightful in person as I had hoped, and she also did an absolutely killer version of this song from the album.

Basically, a splendid time was had by all.

But next time you're in New York, Cait -- bring a backup band!!!

Friday, November 04, 2016

It Came From Upstate New York!

From 2016, and his about to be released (on election day!) album Cherry Springs, please enjoy terrific singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mike Brunacini...

...and the ridiculously melodic and propulsive "White Noise" (a song that, as you'll hear, is anything but).

Mike informs me that he's based in Jamestown, NY, a little burg south of Buffalo, but I will resist making any shuffle-off-to jokes because that's the kind of guy I am.

In the meantime, you can -- and definitely should -- preorder the album over at iTunes or Amazon.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, November 03, 2016

It Came From Jersey!

From 2016, please enjoy Cinema Star...

...aka the pride of Boonton, NJ, and their fiendishly catchy new single"Attractive."

These guys have been rocking out along those lines since 2000, but I have to confess they had gone under my radar until the other day, so I'm making up for lost time. You can -- and should -- download or stream more of their stuff at iTunes, Spotify and all the rest of the usual suspects.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Programming Notes From All Over

Friend of PowerPop and my long time chum and occasional bandmate Ronnie D'Addario -- father of The Lemon Twigs and singer of the gorgeous harmonies on The Floor Models' sublime "Letter From Liverpool" -- has a song that can be heard tonight on the latest episode of New Girl.

Ronnie informs me that it can be heard, playing at low volume, in a scene set in a bar. He also informs me that it was recorded in 1976, and that the album it derives from can be downloaded from CD Baby over HERE.

Well, I know I'll be watching. Although I have a small problem with star Zooey Deschanel dating back to her performance in M. Night Shamalamadingdong's execrable 2008 The Happening.