Friday, June 28, 2019

Son of Covers Week (Part IV): Special "Angel of Mersey" Edition

From some time in the mid=90s, please enjoy The Spongetones and their sheer genius remake of Paul McCartney's "On the Wings of a Nightingale."

Paul originally wrote that in 1984 for The Everly Brothers comeback album (produced by Dave Edmunds); the EBs version was glorious, and deservedly a hit, but the Spongetones take on it --which is pure early Beatles with a dollop of lead guitar in emulation of George Harrison's solo stuff is, as I said, sheer genius. I could listen to this till the cows come home.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Closed for Monkey Business

Hey, I need a day off -- so sue me.

Son of Covers Week resumes on the morrow, however. Fer sher.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Son of Covers Week (Part Le Troisième): Special "Mary -- You've Got Spunk. I Hate Spunk." Edition

From Late Night With David Letterman in (approximately) 1996, please enjoy the irrepressible Joan Jett and her beyond endearing cover of "Love is All Around" (a/k/a the theme song from The Mary Tyler Moore Show).

I should add that the author of said song, Sonny Curtis, is not only still with us but should definitely be a household word; his other credits include being a member of Buddy Holly's Crickets as well as writing The Everly Brothers' classic "Walk Right Back" and Bobby Fuller's "I Fought the Law." Cooler than that it does not get.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Son of Covers Week (Part 2): Special "Who's That Annoying Kid Upstairs?" Edition

From 1989, please enjoy The Lemonheads (featuring Evan Dando) and an utterly fabulous guitar-driven punk remake of Suzanne Vega's breakthrough hit "Luka."

I want to make it clear here that I think the Suzanne Vega original of this is as perfect a pop record as has ever been made. An absolute classic that's moving on every level.

That said, from the minute I first heard it, I always wanted somebody to do a loud snot-nosed version that sounded like the above.

And I can't believe I didn't know about this one till last week.

[h/t Tom Perkins]

Monday, June 24, 2019

Son of Covers Week (Part 1): Special "If Only I Could Remember My Name" Edition

From 2019, and the soundtrack to the just-released documentary film Echo in the Canyon, please enjoy Jakob Dylan and a stunning rendition of one of my favorite songs from The Byrds' Fifth Dimension album -- David Crosby's "What's Happening."

Saw the film last night, and with one or two cavils thought it was surprisingly terrific. I should add, however, that it struck me as amusing that although Jakob Dylan is the guy interviewing the various 60s figures reminiscing in the film the subject of his father comes up exactly once.

I should also add that when the above song first appeared on the aforementioned Byrds album its title was rendered far more interestingly as "What's Happening?!?!"

Friday, June 21, 2019

Weekend Listomania: Special "And In Conclusion, National Rifle Association -- Bite Me!" Edition

[I originally posted a version of this about ten years ago, but obviously it's even more relevant now, alas. In any case, I've rewritten it and swapped out a couple of the original entries to avoid accusations of being a total slacker. Please enjoy. -- S.S]

Okay kids, here we go. What are...


Self-explanatory, so no arbitrary rules, but by firearms I mean the obvious, i.e. handguns, rifles, etc. In other words, if you try to sneak in something like Bruce Cockburns' otherwise quite splendid "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" I'll make merciless fun of you.

And my totally top of my head Top Nine are:

9. Terry Reid -- Bang Bang

Written by Sonny fricking Bono, and covered here to within an inch of its "my baby shot me down" life. Reid, of course, is the man who passed on Robert Plant's gig in Led Zeppelin, thus altering history in unfathomable ways. A certain Shady Dame and I were privileged to see Reid in a tiny club a few years ago, BTW, and it was in a word transplendent.

8. The Connells -- Get a Gun

From 1990 and a long-time fave of mine. Utterly gorgeous on every level, I think, but to this day I haven't the slightest idea what it's about. These guys are apparently still a going concern, however, and if I ever run into them maybe I'll ask.

7. Warren Zevon -- Jeannie Needs a Shooter

I know, I know -- you thought I was gonna say "Lawyers Guns and Money."

6. Mission of Burmaa -- That's When I Reach for My Revolver

Yeah, it's a great song. Still, and I forgot who said it, but there comes a time in everybody's life when they look at their CD collection and realize that those three Mission of Burma albums are basically just taking up space.

5. Hackamore Brick -- Zip Gun Woman

From the 1971 cult album. These guys are supposed to be some kind of proto-something -- punk, powerpop, I don't know what -- and people I know whose opinions I respect actually like the record. All I know is, I pull it out once every year or two to see if it makes sense to me yet, and it never does.

4. Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul -- Under the Gun

That's Dino Danelli, of Young Rascals fame, on drums, BTW. In any case, the best nasal homage to the ouevre of Keith Richards ever waxed.

3. The Clash -- Tommy Gun

I know, I know -- you thought I was gonna say "The Guns of Brixton."

2. The Sevens -- Seven

Apocalyptic garage rock from the Rolling Stones of Switzerland. Actual gun shots -- a starter pistol, actually -- fired in real time in the studio, courtesy of producer Giorgio Moroder (in his pre-disco days, obviously).

And the Numero Uno ode to the joys of blowing stuff up real good simply has to be...

1. The Guess Who -- Guns, Guns, Guns

This is one of the Guess Who tracks I usually pull out when people make fun of my obsession with the band. I'd actually forgotten it was a single; I mostly think of it as one of the best cuts from Rockin', the 1972 LP that's not only their masterpiece but one of the most unjustly overlooked albums of its decade. The song itself is sui generis; slash-and-burn guitars, a chorus for the ages, and a lyric -- at a historical moment when corporate greedheads are trying to convince us that fracking is good for you and the NRA and their Supreme Court enablers won't rest until every American can walk into a bar carrying a Stinger missile -- that's obviously depressingly prescient.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

It's Covers Week Part IV: An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1986, please enjoy the great Webb Wilder and his blistering live version of Steve Earle's more relevant than ever "The Devil's Right Hand."

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who gleans the clip's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

It's Covers Week III: Special Something Fierce Meets Spinal Tap and Then They All Go to Bobby Flay's House For Dinner Edition

From (approximately) 1989 please enjoy the pride of Wayzata, Minnesota -- Something Fierce...

...and their appropriately droll live cover of the faux Merseybeat classic "Gimme Some Money."

The echo on the guitar solo is a particularly nice touch, I think.

BTW, I know I promised a definitively revisionist take on a Carole King song for today, but I'm holding that off for next week and a differently themed series of posts. I thank you for your patience.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

It's Covers Week (Part Deux): Al Green Explains It All to You

From 1969, please enjoy the Reverend Al Green and his thoroughly kick-ass cover of The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand."

The first time I heard that was in 1998, upon the release of a great Green box set, while I was toiling at the critically acclaimed but alas hit-deficient music site over at It was one of the best jobs I ever had nonetheless, of course; not only was I taking Rupert Murdoch's money, but my colleagues were among the most talented and fun-to-work-with folks ever, plus I was getting exposed to all sorts of pop/rock/country stuff that was at the time unknown to me. Ah, those were the days.

Tomorrow: Perhaps the, shall we say, most revisionist version of a Goffin-King song ever heard by sentient mammalian ears.

Monday, June 17, 2019

It's Covers Week (Part I): Special Will the Wolf Survive? Edition

From 2010, please enjoy the pride of Brooklyn, King Hell...

...doing to Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" what always should have been done to Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf."

BTW, those guys were an absolute panic; you can read more about them (from my first encounter) over HERE, and you can -- and should -- order the album that it's from...

...over at Amazon HERE.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Mister We Could Use a Man Like Thurgood Marshall Again

From (if memory serves) 1990, please enjoy this week's heroes Something Fierce and their more relevant than ever ode (to one of the greatest members of the Supreme Court ever) "Poetic Justice Thurgood."

Incidentally, that was a bonus track on a hilarious Christmas EP the guys did; I'll will post that as soon as it's seasonably appropriate,

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Something Fierce This Way Comes

From 1989, please enjoy proud Carleton College alumni Something Fierce...

...and their hilarious and Beatles-esque ode to the profundity of strangers "Deep and Meaningful."

I wrote about those guys earlier this week, and I was delighted to learn that one reader actually went over to Amazon and bought a copy of one their albums. Alas, all the rest of them -- there were six all told, if memory serves, plus a retrospective box set that came out about ten years ago -- seem to be long out of print. I'm in touch with Fierce guitarist Jerry Lefkowitz, however, and if there's somewhere from whence they can still be ordered, I'll let you. Trust me -- they're all absolutely great.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

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

From 1985, please enjoy The Replacements and their fantastic cover of The Grass Roots classic "Temptation Eyes."

That's an outtake, which I didn't know existed until last week, from Let It Be; apparently it was in contention for a slot on the album, but ultimately they went with another cover, "Black Diamond" by Kiss.

In any case, there are some other Grass Roots songs I wouldn't have minded hearing the Mats tackle -- this one, for example.

Oh well, a boy can dream, can't he.

[h/t Tommy Perkins]

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Webslingers Rule!!!

From his forthcoming album, please enjoy Shaun Johnson & the Big Band Experience...

...and perhaps the coolest ever version of the "Spiderman Theme."

Yeah, I know it's a little on the wink-wink side, as is much of the rest of the album, which includes similarly ironic covers of tunes by The Mavericks and Elvis Presley. But as you can hear, Johnson -- who first came to public attention with the multi-million selling a cappella group, Tonic Sol-fa -- has enough serious vocal chops that the album successfully skirts the edge of camp and works on its own swinging terms.

Capitol will drop, as the kids say, on June 21. In the meantime, you can -- and should -- pre-order it over at Amazon HERE.

Monday, June 10, 2019

What Did President Mediocre Columbo Villain Know and When Did He Know It?

So apparently John Dean(!) is testifying before congress today. Talk about deja vu.

Meanwhile, in his honor, here's a fantastic song that, audaciously, rhymes "You'll spill the beans" with "Haldeman, Mitchell and Dean."

In any case, Something Fierce -- who should be household words -- and I go back a long way; you can read the whole story over HERE.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Places Bruce Springsteen Fooled Around With Your Daughter

This is by Amanda Hale, and it originally appeared at McSweeney's on May 20th of this year.

On the boardwalk way past dark

Behind the walls where heat lightning falls

Beneath the waves at twenty-thousand leagues

Where the distant oceans sing, and rise to the plain

From the coastline to the city

A pretty little place in Southern California, down San Diego way

A place where the dancing’s free

Way down beneath the neon lights

Laying in a field on a summer’s day

Out where the river runs

High in the green hills on the outskirts of town

Over mountains draped in stars

Hiding on the backstreets

In the darkness on the edge of town

Where the caravan camels roam

On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert

Out by the gas fires of the refinery

Past the salvage yard ‘cross the train tracks

On a deserted stretch of a county two-lane

That dusty road from Monroe to Angeline

In her pink Cadillac

Words fail me.

Also: hide that girl away, if you know what I mean. For her own good. Seriously, I wouldn't trust that Springsteen guy as far as you could throw him.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Total Victory is Ours, Comrades!

It's true -- The Floor Models are getting so famous that we were name-checked in last Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle!

And it was drug-themed to boot! Seriously, I couldn't be more proud.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

As My Mom Used to Say -- What Are You Hollering?

So the other day, over at Mr. Zuckerberg's Home for Doctored Nancy Pelosi Videos, several people I know and like and respect were flogging the years ago discredited canard that Bob Dylan is a lousy singer.

To which I would like to say, and for the record (in the immortal words of Nick Tosches), that said canard is merely another lesson learnt from that cherished American history book that taught us that Peary went to the North Pole alone.

In other words -- bullshit.

I mean seriously -- we're having this argument in 2019? Cheese Louise.

So let me introduce into evidence the astounding 1965 studio version Mr. Zimmerman did with The Hawks (i.e., The Band without Levon Helm) of "Visions of Johanna"...

...and then (another outtake), Bob's 1963 solo version of "Percy's Song" (one of his most brilliant early songwriting efforts)...

...and then please tell me the guy can't sing.

Let's get real here -- his phrasing on both of those can only be described as magisterial. Not to mention that ghost-haunted moan Dylan unleashes at the end of "Johanna," which may be one of the most stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks moments ever. And as far as folk or rock vocals go, it doesn't get any freaking better than these two.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Bringing It All Back Home: A Journal of the Plague Year

[I originally posted this back in 2009, if you can believe it; I'm reposting it now because a) it's a pretty amazing story and you may have missed its earlier incarnation, and b) because the music clips, which are the best part of the story, were on Divshare and those links have long since expired. In any case, enjoy. -- S.S.]

So as I've mentioned on a previous occasion or two, I was one of the gazillion kids back in the mid-Sixties who took a gawk at The Beatles on TV and thought, hey, that looks like fun. Unlike most of them, however, I was lucky enough to be in a garage band (we were called The Plagues) whose guitar player had an uncle who ran a major New York City recording facility.

The place was called Associated Studios and it was located at Broadway and 48th, up the street from the legendary Brill Building, down from what's now the Ed Sullivan Theater (home of the Stephen Colbert Show) and next door to what was then called the Metropole, which was the only topless joint in Manhattan at the time.

I knew the place was a big deal, of course, but at look at its Wiki entry has kind of floored me. Dig this partial(!) list of people who recorded there over the years.
Al Hirt, Al Martino, Albert Einstein(?!), Andy Williams, Art Garfunkel, Arthur Godfrey, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, Barry Mann, Bette Midler, Blood Sweat & Tears, Bo Diddley, Bobby "Boris" Pickett, Bobby Darin, Bobby Goldsboro, Brian Hyland, Bryan Adams, Burl Ives, Burt Bacharach, Buster Poindexter, Carole King, Cat Stevens, Connie Francis, Cy Coleman, Danny Kaye, Dee Dee Warwick, Dick Van Dyke, Dionne Warwick, Doc Pomus, Donnie Hathaway, Edye Gorme, Eleanor Steber, Ellie Greenwich, Elvis Costello, Ethel Merman, Fats Domino, Frank Sinatra, Gene Autry, Gerry Mulligan, Ginger Rogers, Gwen Verdon, Hal David, Hank Williams Jr., Henry Mancini, Herb Alpert, Herbie Hancock, Hoagy Carmicheal, Ike & Tina Turner, Jake LaMotta(??!!), Janis Ian, John Sebastian, John Wayne, Jonathan Winters, Julie Styne, Kay Starr, Kenny Rogers, King Curtis, Leslie Gore, Lieber & Stoller, Liza Minelli, Louis Jordan, Mary Ford, Mary Martin, Melba Moore, Mickey & Sylvia, Miles Davis, Mitch Miller, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Ornette Coleman, Oscar Brand, Oscar Peterson, Otis Blackwell, Pat Boone, Patti Duke, Patti Page, Paul Robeson, Paul Simon, Peggy Lee, Perry Como, Pete Fountain, Pete Seeger/The Weavers, Peter Criss, Peter Duchin, Peter Nero, Peter, Paul and Mary, Petula Clark, Pink Floyd, Polly Bergen, Pure Prairie League, Roberta Flack, Rocky Graziano, Rod McKuen, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Sheb Wooley, Shel Silverstein, Steely Dan, Steve Allen, Steve Lawrence, Teresa Brewer, Terry Bradshaw, The Belmonts, The Chipmunks, The Delfonics, The Four Lads, The Four Seasons, The Kalin Twins, The Ronettes, The Shirelles, Thelonious Monk, Tiny Tim, Tito Puente, Tom Glazer, Tommy Edwards, Vic Damone, Walter Carlos and Woody Guthrie.

Anyway, because (as I mentioned) the Plagues guitarist's uncle owned the joint, we used to go into the studio every couple of weeks and make demos of our own (obviously derivative) songs, which we got to take home on low-fi, scratchy and prone to breakage, 45rpm acetate discs (reel-to-reel tape was expensive, so they rarely gave us tape copies. And of course there were no cassettes yet).

The engineer on some of our sessions was a classic New York music biz type named Warren Schatz. A schlubby little guy a few years older than us, he was convinced he was going to be a star someday, and perhaps as a result of that certainty he was also relentlessly trendy; I vividly recall the time he showed up wearing a ridiculous Bob Dylan cap, which we all had a mordant chuckle over. He'd also actually released a bunch of singles -- under the nom du disque Ritchie Dean -- on Tower Records, a Capitol subsidiary (Freddie and the Dreamers and The Standells were technically his labelmates), and we were sort of in awe of him despite everything.

Cutting to the chase: Some time in the late spring of 1965 we recorded one of our originals at Associated -- a Beau Brummels -inspired ditty called "The Loss is Mine" -- that Warren/Ritchie liked enough to rewrite the lyrics and demo himself (with us providing backup) a few weeks later. Shortly thereafter, our sessions at Associated basically ended as some of us went off to college, and I've always wondered whether the song was ever released or what happened to Warren/Ritchie.

Well, thanks to the Google now I know -- turns out he enjoyed some considerable success as a producer and arranger in the disco era (producing Vickie Sue Robinson, no less). I also found a discography of the 60s singles released on Tower; although they include the complete ouevre of Ritchie Dean, "The Loss is Mine" is not among them.

I was also stunned to find this clip of him on YouTube, from a soft-core porn flick from 1966. At least he's not wearing the cap, thank god.

Okay, like I said, I've told this story before, but here are the promised kickers.

I long ago lost my copy of "The Loss is Mine," and at the time I started working on this piece I hadn't talked to bandmate Allan Weissman (a fellow Teaneck kid who wrote the tune) since our 20th high school reunion in '85. But thanks to Facebook, I eventually hooked up with Al, and to my amazement he still had his. Even more amazing, it was still playable -- barely, and with hideous scratches, pops and clicks, but as it turned out ultimately salvageable by a brilliant engineer of my acquaintance who restored it to something very close to its original pristine state.

So here it is -- from probably the last surviving acetate (there were only five ever made, come to think of it).

Allan also had the improved backing track we did for the proposed Ritchie Deane version. I don't think I'd ever heard it, except on the long-ago day we actually cut the thing, but here it is as well. A pretty dramatic re-arrangement, and despite our tender years we almost sound like studio pros, I think. Note, in particular, that the one-fingered lick at the end of my piano solo on the first take has been replaced by a more effective moving bass riff.

Two final postscripts, just for the (er) record, as it were.

I'm prejudiced, of course, but as somebody who's listened to countless garage tracks from the period -- and lord knows, there are enough CDs of mediocre Kinks/Stones/Raiders/Byrds knockoffs by 60s teens currently available -- I've got to say that I think "The Loss is Mine" is as good as any I've ever heard. And better than a lot of them, including some that were actually released. Maybe it's simply a question of us ripping off a not so usual suspect, but despite the shall we say naive lyrics, the song is genuinely hooky, the harmonies are damned slick, and that shift from minor to major at the end is undeniably effective. I also love my piano solo, even the one-fingered bit, but like I said I'm prejudiced.

And to give credit where credit is due, the lineup on both tracks is me (keyboards), Peter Frankel (guitar), Allan Weissman (bass) and Alan Silvestri (drums). (Silvestri, incidentally, is today the Oscar-nominated composer of the scores to every Robert Zemeckis film of the last gazillion years.) Vocals are by Allan, Pete and Larry Diehl (I lost track of Pete and Larry decades ago, so if anybody knows what happened to them....)

I should also add that Alan, Pete and Larry were all of 15 when we did the tracks; Allan and I were grizzled 17-year-olds.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Your Monday Moment of Somebody Doing to Kate Bush What Somebody Should Have Done to Kate Bush Years Ago


Incidentally, the guy doing that is actor/comedian Noel Fielding, who is the co-star of The Mighty Boosh...

...the funniest British TV show of all time; think a cross between Monty Python and Ernie Kovacs. It's available on Hulu, where a certain Shady Dame and I have been watching it of late, but you can also stream it (or buy a DVD box set) over at Amazon.