Friday, August 31, 2018

Peter Holsapple is Always a Good Idea

My Facebook pal Peter Holsapple has a terrific new album out...

...which I'll be writing about next week.

In the meantime, I thought I'd end this one with one of my favorite Holsapple songs, The dBs 1984 "Love is for Lovers."

It doesn't get much janglier than that, I'll tell you that for free.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Loud Noises Say So Much (Part Deux)

And speaking as we were yesterday of godfathers of punk The Sonics, from 1985 please enjoy The Fuzztones and their brilliant cover of perhaps my all-time favorite Sonics song.

That harp solo, which is the main point of difference between the FTs cover and the original, just slays me; the track effectively picks itself up and flies once whoever is playing it starts wailing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Loud Noises Say So Much

Finally -- a documentary about the only rock band that matters.

The film premieres September 30th 2018, in London at the Raindance Film Festival. No word on when it will be released on home video, but obviously we'll keep you posted.

Oh, and BTW, if you don't know why The Sonics are beyond awesome...

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Closed for Monkey Business

Hassles, hassles, and more hassles.

Regular posting -- including extraordinarily interesting news -- resumes on the morrow.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Encounters With Greatness (An Occasional Series): Special A Guy Walks Into a Bar... Edition

So a week or so ago, I was at the Keuka Kafe, my local watering hole down the street (Queens Boulevard, or what the locals call Le Boulevard de la Mort) from a certain Shady Dame's home in Forest Hills. BTW, if you're ever in the neighborhood stop by, say hi, and order something refreshing from their spectacular wine list.

But I digress. In any case, for some reason it seems to attract people directly or indirectly working in the popular music field.

For example, in 2017, I struck up a bar conversation with a neighborhood guy named Gabe Mera, who plays in what turned out to be a really good sort of classic rock band, and also is a terrific guitar tech who specializes in instrument set-ups and repairs. You can read more about Gabe, and the great work he did on a trash-can bass discovered by my chums The Weasels, at the link HERE.

And then in 2018, I got to chatting with a young kid named Joe Benoit (also a neighborhood guy), who turned out to be an insanely talented singer/songwriter/guitarist who (doing business with his band The Regulars) made an album that I played obsessively for months after meeting him, and who more recently was kind enough to contribute angelic backup harmonies on a new Floor Models track.

You can learn more about Joe, and listen to one of The Regulars utterly gorgeous songs, over HERE. You'll thank me, frankly.

In any case, the other week there was a sort of youngish hipster guy at the bar. I engage in this perhaps unfair cultural stereotyping because there were few such folks in the neighborhood when we moved in four years ago, but their numbers are increasing, and this usually presages the opening of better restaurants, which would be a good thing. I gleaned from his overheard conversation that he was in Forest Hills killing time because a connecting flight (from La Guardia to Bumfuck Somewhere) had been cancelled and a Google search turned up the fact that the Keuka Kafe might be an agreeable place to wile away several hours while waiting for the next plane out.

We got to talking; I asked him whether he was traveling for business or pleasure, and he let it drop that he was a rock musician in the midst of a brief tour. I allowed how isn't stardom wonderful, and eventually, after I got over my surprise at the encounter -- I mean, statistically, this was getting weird -- I asked him if I had heard of his band.

I hadn't, but I have now. Ladies and germs, let's give it up for my new pal Clinton Clegg...

...lead singer of the fabulous Pittsburgh-based neo-soul revival band The Commonheart.

And here they are, tearing it up at a recent live appearance.

You can, and should, find out more about them over at their official website HERE. It features tour dates, videos, merch, and links to all that sort of jazz. And here's a really good piece on them from their hometown paper.

And if you bump into Clinton at a bar near you, tell him PowerPop sent you!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

John McCain -- Bigoted Asshole, Lousy Rock Critic

[reposted from April 22, 2007, for obvious reasons. Fuck him. -- S.S.]

By now, you all know about Republican presidential candidate John McCain's most recent contribution to our national discourse.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The liberal group is launching an ad against Republican John McCain and his joke about bombing Iran, arguing that the nation "can't afford another reckless president."

The group plans to spend about $100,000 to air a commercial on network and some cable television stations in Iowa and New Hampshire, states that hold early contests in the presidential nomination process, spokesman Alex Howe said Friday.

McCain, campaigning Wednesday in South Carolina, answered a question about military action against Iran with the chorus of the surf-rocker classic "Barbara Ann."

"That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran," he said. "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah ..."

McCain defended the joke during a campaign stop in Nevada on Thursday.

"Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends," he told reporters in Las Vegas. "My response is, Lighten up and get a life."

Asked if his joke was insensitive, McCain said: "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"

Apart from its stunning assholishness, there are several ironies attendant to McCain's comment.

For starters, "Barbara Ann" is not a Beach Boys song. Brian Wilson and company's version was a cover of a 1961 doo-wop hit by The Regents.

And the "Bomb Iran" parody that he thought so funny was actually by Vince Vance and the Valiants, a still active oldies revue that originally released the loathsome song on -- get this -- Towel Records.

Towel. As in Towelheads.

And here's the kicker: Both Fred Fassert -- who wrote the original "Barbara Ann" -- and his brother Chuck -- who sang on it -- were of Iranian descent.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Those Fabulous Sixties. Not.

From 1979, please enjoy my somewhat jaundiced review of a certain movie musical as it appeared in The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review.

Sorry I was too lazy to transcribe it, but all you have to do is click on it to enlarge it to readability.

In retrospect, I'm not sure I still agree with all the views expressed, but I like it nonetheless. If truth be told, however, I'm mostly reprinting it here because a certain Idiot from Maine© has been dissing me for being overly nostalgic for Woodstock Nation.

As if.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Annals of the Magazine Business (An Occasional Series): Special My Editor is a Putz Edition

So if you were here last Monday, you will recall that I was enthusing about the forthcoming deluxe reissue of Love Junk, the masterpiece debut album by The Pursuit of Happiness. And, as promised, therein lies a tale.

I didn't review Love Junk when it came out; I was then toiling at a video magazine, and probably would have missed the album entirely had not two of my colleagues -- Glenn Kenny, (now a film critic for the New York Times), and Doug Brod (who went on to be editor in chief of Spin) -- turned me on to it. In any event, by 1990, when the band's second album arrived, I was back running the pop section at Stereo Review, and I jumped at the chance to write about it.


Performance: Somber
Recording: Very good

The last time they checked in, with their 1988 album Love Junk, the Pursuit of Happiness revealed themselves to be a splendid anomaly of a band, virtually the creators of their own genre: Wiseguy Pop/Metal with great tunes and honest lyrics about sex. Led by Moe Berg (whom I once referred to as the first important guy named Moe in rock history), they dispensed music that was at once witty and serious, tuneful and hard-edged, playful and almost profound, all in the context of an examination of the sorry state of relations between the sexes here in the declining days of the century Isaac Bashevis Singer called "on balance, a complete flop." Clearly, this was a significant bunch of musicians.

Well, here they are again at the dawn of the Nineties, and their latest record, One Sided Story, proves that their debut was by no means a fluke. The music is as tough and mature (in the best sense) as one could hope, and again Todd Rundgren's production fits the band like the proverbial you-know-what. Nevertheless, and at the risk of sounding churlish, I have to say that some of the fun has gone out of the enterprise. Serious as Love Junk may have been, it was also one of the best dance-around-the-house albums since the first Pretenders record, and One Sided Story is a far more somber affair. In fact, if there's a unifying emotional theme to Berg's new songs, it's a sort of rueful desperation. And while most of us will recognize the feeling, even identify on some level, the songs don't exactly make you want to do the boogaloo. The most wrenching emotionally is "Shave Your Legs," in which Berg sets you up for a sort of collegiate sexist joke and then shifts gears into an absolutely heartbreaking lover's plea to save a disintegrating relationship. It's an astonishing performance.

Of course, not everything is slash-your-wrists depressing. "Food," for example, has one of the funniest openings ever penned for a rock song, and the eminently hummable "Runs In the Family" notes that beauty is "as easy as DNA," an insight unlikely to occur to, say, Jon Bon Jovi. But even though the band's execution of Berg's tunes retains an admirably ferocious (but not overbearing) crunch-guitar attack, and even though Berg's singing is taking on an endearingly Lou Reedian cast, there's no getting around the fact that - perhaps deliberately - One Sided Story is something of a bummer. That's a relative judgment, of course - on an off day these kids make smarter music than 99 percent of the metal bands in the Western World. But what the album ultimately sounds like is the soundtrack for Moe Berg's evolution from undergraduate smartaleck into confident adult, which is to say that it's a little strained and a little awkward. That doesn't mean you shouldn't buy this record for your own personal collection. In fact, you should. It just means that growing up is a bitch and I for one wish Berg and Company all the luck in the world while they do it. -- S.S.

I worked very hard on the piece, which I was and still am quite proud of, and so you can imagine my surprise and delight when -- a few weeks after it hit the newstands -- I got a handwritten note from Moe Berg himself. The gist of it, which I am paraphrasing from memory, was that the band had gotten a lot of adulatory -- I think the word he used was "gushing" -- press, but that as far as he was concerned I was the one critic who had really gotten what the band was about.

I was quite insufferably pleased with myself over this, but I had barely time to pat myself on the back when I was summoned to the office of the magazine's editor in chief, and told to close the door. The following conversation ensued.

EDITOR (pointing to my TPOH review): What the hell were you thinking when you wrote this?

ME (stammering): I thought it was a perceptive, funny piece, and I just got a letter from the band's lead guy who thought so too.

EDITOR: You will never again waste that much space in the magazine on a review that isn't completely enthusiastic.

That's a true story. And if you're wondering why I didn't quit on the spot, so am I, even after all these years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Great Faces for Radio

Me, yesterday, in the palatial penthouse studio of Area 24 Radio (in Garnerville N.Y., the Paris of the lower Hudson Valley) doing Capt. Al's intertube broadcast Lost at Sea.

Consequently, too tuckered out to post that TPOH story I was planning; it'll be up tomorrow, so help me.

UPDATE: Me and Karina.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tuesday Programming Notes From All Over

First of all, sorry about postponing The Pursuit of Happiness story -- it will go up on Wednesday. Cross my heart and hope to...well, you know.

Meanwhile, just wanted to alert you folks.

Yours truly will be guest deejaying on our friend Capt. Al's intertube radio show LOST AT SEA, starting at 1:30pm, EST.

You can listen to it HERE.

I should add that it's gonna be a theme show, and here's the clue I'm giving Capt. Al as to what the theme is.

Please enjoy. And BTW, we'll be taking requests/death threats/whatever at my e-mail address during the show.

Monday, August 20, 2018

There Were Giants in the Earth in Those Days (An Occasional Series)

Love Junk, by The Pursuit of Happiness, and one of the greatest rock albums of the 80s, is getting the deluxe treatment it deserves. And about freaking time.

This was the big hit from the album, but the rest of it was equally classic, trust me.

You'll have to order it as an import, of course, but it's worth it.

BTW, I have a TPOH story (involving the wonderful Moe Berg, who fronts the band) which I have told here before, but being the slacker schmuck that I am, I'll put it up again tomorrow and pretend it's brand new.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Aretha Franklin 1942 -- 2018

My all-time favorite of hers.

A work of genius for her piano playing alone.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- this death shit is really starting to piss me off.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Your Thursday Moment of Why Didn't I Get the Memo?

From 2007, and the soundtrack to the Adam Sandler movie of almost the same name, please enjoy The Who classic "Love Reign O'er Me," as performed by Pearl Jam.

Oh, I know why I hadn't heard this before -- it's because it's from a goddamned Adam Sandler movie. Pretty great despite that,

[h/t Dan Fridman]

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Your Tuesday Moment of Sleaze-o-Rama

From 1958, please enjoy Kip Tyler (doing business with his usual band The Flips, uncredited) and the self-explanatory rocker "She's My Witch."

I have to admit that I had never heard this record until yesterday. But had my 11 year old self encountered it back in the day, I would have enjoyed it immensely, I'll tell you that for free.

[h/t Roy Edroso/Alicublog]

Monday, August 13, 2018

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special These Geezers Still Got It Edition

The incomparable Cheap Trick and their brand new single "The Summer Looks Good On You."

Inspirational verse:
"Thought I'd seen it all/From mankind to tan lines/I ain't seen nothing like you"

Seriously -- that just blows me away. As my colleague Brett Milano, who turned me on to it, observed -- it may be the power pop song of the year.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Family That Sings Together...

Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys, in the studio, circa 1964.

I have a theory -- and, to quote Monty Python, it is mine and I have it -- that if Dennis had been born 30 years later, he would have been the drummer of Foo Fighters. And if you think that's far-fetched, let me remind you that the actual Foo drummer, Taylor Hawkins, sings on a bonus track on the reissue of Wilson's 1977 solo album masterpiece Pacific Ocean Blue.

Here's Hawkins with the story, which is actually rather moving in its own right, via a piece in MOJO from 2015:

My ex-girlfriend's dad is [original Pacific Ocean Blue co-producer] Gregg Jakobson. About seven or eight years ago, Gregg was saying "You know, you should check out this album I worked on with Dennis Wilson." And I fell in love with it; I loved the honesty in it, the aching beauty of his songs and his voice...

Gregg mentioned that there was a bunch of unfinished tracks. With "Holy Man," Dennis had done a vocal and hated it, and made the the engineer erase it. What they had was a scat guide vocal that Carl [Wilson] had done with a rough melody. Gregg gave me a CD of the song and said "Do what you think you can with it."

I didn't listen to it for a while. I just felt really weird about it -- like, I can't fuck with this...But I tried to channel how Dennis would have done it.

Some people may say "What the fuck is the guy from the Foo Fighters doing on this record?" People hold Dennis very dear to their hearts. But there's a lineage; I'm a beach kid, a drummer, and I've been living with Dennis's music for a long time. I meant what I did genuinely."

He did a hell of a job with it, too.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Girls! Girls! Girls!

From 2012, please enjoy Elvis Costello and a blistering performance of Nick Lowe's ironic hippie anthem...

...but pay special attention to the world's coolest go-go dancers.

Yes, it's who you think they are. Amazingly enough.

[h/t Matt Mitchell]

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

And Speaking of Richard Nixon... we were yesterday, from their surprisingly terrific 1972 album The Night is Still Young, please enjoy Sha Na Na and their doo-wop ode to participatory democracy, "The Vote Song."

As I mentioned the other week, TNISY is basically the only really worthwhile album Sha Na Na ever made; lots of really sharp originals, like the above, and a cover of "In the Still of the Night" that shreds the original, the whole thing produced to a faretheewell by the great Jeff Barry.

I should add that I got a mordant chuckle out of the Nixon reference when the album originally came out, but two years later I was playing it again and laughing my fucking ass off, for obvious reasons.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Obviously, the Great Trump Song has Yet to Be Written (Or Unearthed)!

From 1974, please enjoy the Vic Caesar Orchestra and Chorus and their self-explanatory ode to an earlier era of evil -- "Nixon's the One."

That was originally recorded and privately released in the run up to the Nixon/McGovern election in 1972; one presumes that bandleader and arranger Caesar was a Nixon enthusiast. Two years later, however, as Watergate heated up, Capitol Records -- to their eternal credit -- licensed it and released it as a novelty 45. I well remember the day it arrived at Stereo Review and I got to listen to it for the first time. I also used to play it for various of my commie/hippie friends, who to a person responded with slack-jawed disbelief.

I should add that it later resurfaced on the soundtrack CD to the 2006 Richard Gere film (about Clifford Irving) The Hoax . Where it remains commercially available to this day.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Weekend Listomania: Special We Can Dream, Can't We? Edition

[I originally posted this back in 2007, when this blog and the world were young. But after hearing that Smithereens cover album I talked about yesterday, I thought it was newly relevant. I've done a little re-writing and changed one song. Enjoy. -- S.S.]
So -- here's a fun project for us all to contemplate.


You know -- some really fabulous song you'd really like to hear some favorite artiste -- solo or group -- perform or record, but so far they haven't gotten around to it (the bastards!!!).

Okay, my totally off the top of my head Top Nine is:

9. The Hold Steady -- The Boys Are Back in Town [Thin Lizzy]

They've probably jammed on it a million times -- go public, guys!

8. The Posies -- Carrie-Ann [The Hollies]

They already proved they were genetically bred to do Hollies songs with their version of "King Midas in Reverse" -- just think what they would bring to the sunniest of the Clarke-Hicks-Nash classics.

7. The Pretenders -- Every Little Bit Hurts (Brenda Holloway)

My fave 60s soul ballad/torch song would be a natural for Chrissie Hynde, I suspect.

6. Foo Fighters -- Peter Gunn [Henry Mancini/Johnny Kidd and the Pirates]

Oh come on -- you have to ask?

5. Steve Earle -- Street Fighting Man [The Rolling Stones]

Please-- this is the job he was born for.

4. Bob Mould -- Calvary Cross [Richard Thompson]

On the 1994 Thompson tribute album Beat the Retreat, Mould turned the rockabilly tinged "Turning of the Tide" into a killer piece of buzz-saw punk. I swoon to imagine what he could do with Thompson's most intensely doom-haunted song....

3. Emmylou Harris -- Withered and Died [Richard and Linda Thompson]

This song is so heartbreaking that if Emmy covered it I don't know if we'd survive the hearing.

2. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- 19th Nervous Breakdown [The Rolling Stones]

Jagger's snarl would morph into Petty's sly drawl pretty good, doncha think? Okay, Petty's death has put the kibosh on this, but still -- I'll bet there's a live tape of it somewhere.

And the number one cover I'd love to hear is....

1. Led Zeppelin -- Bits and Pieces [Dave Clark Five]

For obvious reasons.....

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, August 02, 2018

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special It's the Smithereens Edition

From their 1980 DIY release "Girls About Town," please enjoy the greatest thing from Jersey whose name isn't Bruce, i.e. The Smithereens, and their splendid cover of the Beach Boys gem "Girl Don't Tell Me."

Incidentally, that's also from a just released CD that collects all the cover songs -- four previously unreleased -- the 'Reens have done over the years, usually tucked away on movie soundtracks or single B-sides. It's an absolutely killer album; you can -- and should -- order it over at Amazon HERE.

I should add that a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who gleans its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Closed for Monkey Business: Special Real Estate Edition

Had to deal with the crooks and schmucks who run the building where my late mon's apartment is yesterday. Consequently, I'm too angry to wax amusing about music at the moment.

Here's a hint, though: power corrupts people on as ridiculous a level as a co-op board as much as it corrupts anybody else.

Regular, less billious, postings resume on the morrow.