Friday, September 28, 2018

Songs of Innocence and Experience

Going to see the wonderful Nils Lofgren on Sunday night. At a small club in NYC.

Works for me.

In the meantime, here's my favorite song from his fabulous 1975 debut solo album.

Written, brilliantly, from the perspective (it seems to me) of a much younger guy than Lofgren was at the time.

In any event, I always wanted to cover that song live; maybe I'll get a chance if there's ever a Floor Models reunion.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

When We Paint Our Masterpiece

Please enjoy "Getting Back Into My Life." The lead-off track from the forthcoming Floor Models album, written by power pop legend Marc Jonson, who also contributes the stunning background vocals. That's some asshole whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on bass and sampled strings, BTW.

Marc says he wrote the song for us, which is quite a compliment; we used to play it live back in the day, and it was an unbelievable thrill to finally record it this year, especially given how unexpectedly gorgeous it turned out. In any event -- thanks, pal.

As for the album, we're in the process of recording one more tune -- one of our own originals -- and we hope to have the album ready for release by the end of the year, although these things always take longer than you plan. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Other Than That, Ms. Ono, How Did You Enjoy the Recording Session?

Two ex-Beatles working on a song about a third one.

An interesting historical curio, to be sure, but I was alarmed to learn that it was released in anticipation of a 6 disc (CD or vinyl) box set devoted to Lennon's Imagine album, which is coming out the first week in October. I'm not particularly a fan of that record, but even if I were, that box set sounds like way too much of a good thing for my taste.

In any case, you can learn more about it over HERE.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

There Were Giants in the Earth in Those Days

From 1979, please enjoy The Pretenders and a rare early video demo of their cover of The Kinks' classic "Stop Your Sobbing."

You know, there are days I think that, pound for pound, Chrissie Hynde is the greatest woman in rock history. And the rest of that band were no slouches either.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheaert

Off to see Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and Marty Stuart do Sweetheart of the Rodeo in its entirety (and lots more Byrds songs) tonight in NYC.

In the immortal words of Edith Prickley -- could be a hot one!!!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Sometimes Life is Good

Why, you ask?

Because I just scored tickets to see Procol Harum at a New York City club (the show is in February).

Procol has been one of my favorite bands since forever; they were the first band I wrote about for money (at the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review in 1972), and a revised version of that piece was the first thing I ever posted at this here blog back in 2007.

I've seen them a bunch of times over the years, but never in an intimate setting, so this is a real bucket list thing. And yes, I'm aware that only lead singer Gary Brooker is an original member, and no I don't care that it really isn't Procol Harum; hearing Brooker sing those songs in a small room is something I never thought I'd live to experience, and I have no doubt they'll sound terrific. So there.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Your Thursday Moment of Steve Destroying What's Left of His Street Cred Forever

Okay, this is a very weird story, so please bear with me.

Of late, I've been going to sleep while listening to old radio episodes of The Jack Benny Program over at the invaluable INTERNET ARCHIVE. I've been a Benny fan since I was a kid, but totally because of his television work; the radio stuff, which I hadn't heard until recently, turns out (for my money) to be even smarter and funnier.

One of the best things about the show is the ensemble cast, and that includes crooner Dennis Day, who is absolutely hilarious in the comedy sketches. That said, however, when I was a sprout I absolutely detested Day's musical numbers. All that Irish tenor crap just made me cringe; I considered it the worst kind of cornball kitsch sentimental ickiness on God's green earth. And don't get me wrong, I love and appreciate lots of pre-rock pop -- c'mon, early Sinatra? You'd have to be a complete moron not to dig that. But Day, and all that in Dublin's fair city shit? Beyond the pale as far as I was concerned.

But a funny thing happened in the last few months -- listening to the Benny shows, I began to really really look forward to Day's non-comedic performances. And it's starting to freak me out.

Exhibit A: From 1951 (and an episode of the show I listened to for the first time last Tuesday), here he is singing a song (that was apparently a hit for him) entitled "Mary Rose."

Okay, call me a doddering old fluff, but that really gets to me. For starters, the song is genuinely sweet, and the orchestral arrangement -- especially the Irish flutes and strings on the instrumental break -- is lovely. And for another thing, Day's voice is objectively beautiful and he's geniunely musical; his phrasing is great.

I think what I'm saying is -- I'm getting really ridiculous in my old age and somebody please shoot me now. I mean, if you had told my twenty-something self that I would be grooving to this record in my declining years I would have assumed you were huffing drugs too potent for me to have even imagined.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

From a press release I got yesterday.


The Iconic Rock Band’s Four Same-Day-Released Solo Albums Come Together
To Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary In A Limited-Edition 4LP Vinyl Box Set
Via Casablanca/UMe On October 19

Los Angeles – September 18, 2018– Forty years ago today, each one the four founding members of KISS — Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss — released their respective solo albums all on the same day to much fanfare, chart success, and platinum sales. And now, four decades later, all four of these pioneering albums are celebrated in KISS: The Solo Albums - 40th Anniversary Collection, a limited-edition 180-gram 4LP box set by Casablanca/UMe that’s earmarked for release on October 19.

Hey, I like vinyl as much as the next guy -- which is to say, hardly at all -- but I reviewed these records forty years ago, and it's one of my favorite things I ever wrote. [A brief note on the dramatis personae: Paulette Weiss was my editor at the mag at the time; (Noel) Coppage and (Joel) Vance were two of our other reviewers.]

And now, without further adieu, here it is as it appeared in SR in the Feburary 1979 issue.


It was about four o'clock when she walked into my office, dressed in a mourning suit that made her look like a road-show Ligeia.

"Are you Marlowe?" She wriggled slightly as she sat down, which either meant she liked me or she'd noticed that my furniture is upholstered in mohair.

I looked up. "That's me, like the sign says. Chris Marlowe, Aesthetic Investigator. What can I do for you, Miss -- ?" For some reason, she looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place her under the widow's weeds.

"The name's unimportant, but call me Ms."

"Frankly, I don't care if you want to be called late for dinner. You have a job you want done, spill it."

"Oh, a tough guy, huh?" She tossed four black record jackets onto my desk.

"The results of your Wasserman test?" I asked.

"No, shamus. Albums by Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss and Paul Stanley, members of a rock band called Kiss. You'll notice they're all wearing disguises on the cover."

"Nowadays who doesn't?"

"Never mind. My employer wants you to find out why. What have these guys got to hide? You've got twenty-four hours to run down the answers."

"And if I don't?"

"Front-row seats for the Al Martino farewell tour. Get the picture?"

"I'm trembling in my Capezios."

"Don't crack wise with me, turkey. Remember, you've got twenty-four hours."

With that she was out the door. I reached for the bottle of Scotch in my desk. Mysterious liberated women, rock-and-roll...suddenly, I felt very tired.

I spent the evening listening to the four records and staring at the covers. After I polished off the Scotch I had most of the scam doped out; the rest I glommed after a few phone calls to some friends of mine in the low-life end of the music business. Rack jobbers. AM jocks. The scum of the underground. Nice people you know, Marlowe. What a world.

True to her word, she was back the next day at four.

"You look beat," she said cooly. "A rough night?"

"Rough enough," I said. "But I found out what you wanted to know. These Kiss guys have never appeared out of makeup. The records are their first solo efforts, and the idea is that they're supposed to give the poor slobs who buy this stuff a chance to find out what kind of music these guys might make if they weren't limited by the group concept. It's a symbolic dropping of the mask."

"That's pretty good, Marlowe."

"I'm not finished. The thing is, it doesn't add up; these records could be by anybody. Frehley does a bad punk imitation; Simmons has pop tendencies; Criss is a closet MOR wimp, and Stanley tries to be a guitar hero. In other words, it all still sounds like Kiss -- slick, dumb, and inconsequential."

"Good job, Marlowe," she said nervously. "Write it up and send it to this address; your check will be in the mail." She started to get up, but I beat her to the door.

"Not so fast, sister. Like I said, it doesn't add up. So I began to think. Who in her right mind would be so interested in all this that she'd hire a broken-down private dick to figure it out? And why the time limit?"

I ripped the veil and sunglasses off her face.

"I knew it. You're Paulette Weiss of STEREO REVIEW."

"I had to do it, Marlowe," she sobbed. "None of my regular reviewers would touch the stuff, and I had a deadline. It was the only way."

"You're good, sweetheart," I said, putting on my coat. "But not that good."

"You mean...?"

"That's right. I won't write the review for you. Understand?"

"But, Marlowe..."

"I won't do it, do you hear? Get Simels, or Vance, or Coppage; they'll write anything for free albums. But not me."

I started out the door. "Where are you going?" she asked in a voice as quiet as the grave.

"I don't know," I said. "Computer school, maybe. Anywhere I don't have to intellectualize over loud noises."

"You can't run out on me like this."

I shook my head. "You should have thought about it before you got into the editing racket. See you around, sister."

I walked slowly down the five flights of stairs to the street and thought about her. She wasn't the first good girl to miss a deadline, and she wouldn't be the last. Still, somehow I knew I'd never hear from her again. Like I said, what a world. -- Steve Simels

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Who is That Mysterious Man, Anyway?

From their new album Contra Mundum, which drops -- as the youngs say -- today, please enjoy Nashville pop-rock band Tall Dark Stranger and their insinuating "Was What It Was."

I'll be posting some more of their music as soon as they say it's kosher; let's just stipulate that some of their other songs I've heard so far are sort of 70s retro, a la Jackson Browne. And completely gorgeous, in a sort of "Somebody's Baby" kind of way. In any case, you can find out more about them and buy their stuff at their website HERE.

I should also add that this is the kind of great locally based band -- and I know from my experience here that they're all over the place -- that the people who book the music on Saturday Night Live should be showcasing, rather than the Migos/Cardi B/Nicki Minaj utter commercial crap they mostly foist on us.

Monday, September 17, 2018

76 Trombones Led the Big Parade

Actually, 28 trombones perform "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.

Words fail me.

[h/t Matt Mitchell]

Friday, September 14, 2018

How Do You Say Rock Star in French?

From 2018, and his album Stupefaction, please enjoy the pride of Biarritz, the incomparable Tommy Lorente, and his infernally infectious "Arthur."

Damn this kid is good -- not only is that a brilliant slice of the music that provides the mission statement of this here blog, but he's doing it with the handicap of having to sing in French, which I heretofore had thought impossible.

You can find out more about Tommy -- who has a new album ready to drop momentarily -- and purchase his other stuff over at his website HERE.

Hey -- what are you waiting for? Go buy something! And when you do, tell him PowerPop sent you!

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

God Save the Queen

Okay, so as I mentioned yesterday, I am not a Queen fan (for reasons that I'll get into in depth at a later date).

That said, I would like to go on record as agreeing with Dave Grohl, who famously observed that "Brian May is an awesome guitarist."

And I would like to offer, as proof, this little snippet of Mr. May's work. He comes in at the 1:24 point in the video below.

Like the man said -- an awesome guitarist.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

As John Lennon Said in A HARD DAYS NIGHT: Queen -- It's an In-Joke

Well, this looks interesting.

I should add that I am not now and have never been a Queen fan. The reasons why are probably a subject for another longer and more thoughtful post, but I will note that I saw them in a small venue when they were touring their debut album and they were appallingly awful.

That said, if the movie is as good as the trailer, which I suspect it is, I might actually change my mind.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Two Jews' Blues

And speaking as we were yesterday of the great Gerry Goffin and Carole King -- and in honor of Rosh Hashanah -- please enjoy, from 1964, the great Maxine Brown and the original version of Goffin and King's exquisite "Oh No, Not My Baby."

For some reason -- incipient senility, perhaps -- I was convinced King herself had a version of this on the radio in the pre-Tapestry Sixties.

Wrong! She didn't release her own performance of the song until 1980.

In any case, Good Yontiff, everybody!

POSTCRIPT: Here's Rod Stewart (with Faces) covering it in 1973.

Believe it or not, kids, there actually was a time that Rod Stewart wasn't an embarrassing asshole.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Magic of the Theatre

So as I may have mentioned, a few weeks ago a certain Shady Dame and I bit the bullet and went to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

As a rule, I'm not a big fan of jukebox shows (although I will confess to rather enjoying Clint's film version of Jersey Boys). On the other hand, like all right-thinking Americans, I'm a huge fan of Goffin-King's songwriting; I mean, if they had been responsible for nothing more than "Porpoise Song" for The Monkees, they would deserve immortality. Plus, I was pleased to discover that the show is as much the Barry Mann/Cynthia Weill story as it is Goffin and King's, and I was kinda curious about seeing Maria Benoist, aka TV's Supergirl, as Carole.

Unfortunately, turned out she had left the show a week before the performance we saw. Aaaarrrggghhhh.

In any case, Beautiful was at best...wildly uneven. Forget the book, which was shall we say historically dubious (the words Phil and Spector were never uttered) although on balance I could live with that. And on the plus side, the musical performances that are supposed to be King solo, primarily from the Tapestry-era (in the case of the show we saw, performed by Broadway singer/actress Abby Mueller) were right on the money.

On the other hand, the performances that channeled other acts that had 60s hits with Goffin-King songs (The Shirelles, The Chiffons, The Cookies, et al) were uniformly ghastly -- pure Vegas bullshit, soullessly sung and with some of the worst choreography I've ever seen.

Okay, all that said -- there are two Goffin-King songs I dearly love that weren't in the show, and I thought I'd share them now.

So, please enjoy -- from 1963 -- the ineffable Skeeter Davis and the cute as a bug's ear "I Can't Stay Mad at You." Perhaps the greatest teen-pop/sort of doo-wop hit by a stone country singer ever.

And from 1964, please enjoy The Tokens and "He's in Town." Perhaps the greatest proto-Bruce Springsteen slice of urban romanticism ever recorded by a sort of teen doo-wop group.

I'm not saying the inclusion of those two songs in Beautiful would have made it a better show, but on the other hand -- could be, could be.

Friday, September 07, 2018

I Bet You Really Miss the Reagan Years. John Hughes Movies and Tears For Fears (Part Deux)

From 1993, and their self-titled album on John Prine's Oh Boy label, please enjoy incredible alt-rockers The Bis-Quits and their brilliant ode to Those Fabulous 80s.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!!

Thursday, September 06, 2018

I Bet You Really Miss Those Reagan Years. John Hughes Movies and Tears for Fears.

From 1991, please enjoy pride of New Jersey alt-rockers Dramarama and an absolutely sensational cover of the Not Really a Stones Song Even Though Mick and Keith Wrote it "Memo From Turner."

I bring all this up because we had brunch over the weekend with some friends who had just attended a Those Fabulous 80s nostalgia concert, and it sounded like fun.

Here's the line-up.

I will confess at this point that most of those groups never did it for me, although I have a sneaking affection for A Flock of Seagulls; I have been saying for years that some smart country band could have a huge hit covering their "Wishing," which is a ravishingly beautiful song that, when stripped of the New Wave synths and guitars, could pass for Buddy Holly. And I loved Dramamara, and always regretted not seeing them live back in the day.

I should add that you should rent this obscure but very funny 1999 Will Ferrell film...

...about a fictional 80s one hit wonder band that gets back together and winds up opening for -- you guessed it -- a reunited A Flock of Seagulls (playing themselves).

Also: a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who identifies the song the title of today's post derives from.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Where's Marcel Carné When You Need Him?

From his terrific new album Children of Paradise, about which I will have more to say later in the week, please enjoy the great Willie Nile and the official video for "Earth Blues."

Have I mentioned that the new album is flat out terrific?

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Tuesday Encounter With Greatness: Special "Letter From Liverpool" Edition

So I've told part of this story before, but hang on -- there's a new epilogue that justifies my recycling it.

Okay, the short version. Back in March of 1981, a think piece I had written about John and Yoko's Double Fantasy album appeared in The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review. This was the most difficult thing I ever wrote, for obvious reasons, so I was actually rather pleased to find upon re-reading it a few years ago that the only thing that embarrassed me about it were some dire predictions that (mercifully) didn't come true.

In any case, a few weeks after the piece originally appeared, I got a very nice hand-written 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, mine was the one that most resonated for her. That meant a lot to me, also for obvious reasons, but because I'm an idiot, I didn't save her letter.

Cut to earlier this year, when a certain Shady Dame and I were about to go to Liverpool and take a Beatles tour (which we did, and I highly recommend it. You can find more info about it over HERE). And we were in touch with a woman who runs another of those Fabs tours, the special guest of which was the aforementioned Freda, who you could meet. As it turned out, we couldn't work it out logistically, but we asked the tour lady if she could give Freda a printed copy of the Double Fantasy review and have her autograph it. When we got to town, she (the tour lady) e-mailed me and said for whatever reason she wasn't able to get Freda the print-out, but she had told her the story and said that she (Freda) would leave something personal for me behind the desk at The Hard Days Night Hotel (yes, there is such an establishment).

Anyhowever, on the afternoon we were leaving town, we stopped at said hotel to pick up the package.

Which turned out to be a photo of the Fabs back in the day...

...with a little handwritten note from Freda on the back.

If you can't read it, it says "Sorry. Cannot remember. Long time ago."

Words fail me.



...but I just had to.

Monday, September 03, 2018

It's Labor Day!!!

And as you know...

...starting tomorrow, you can't wear white again until after Memorial Day.