Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Worst Cover Versions of All Time (An Occasional Series): Special Train Wreck Edition

From 2017 and a shall we say ill-advised Dan Fogelberg tribute album, here's Train committing the most hideous version of "Same Old Lang Syne" ever heard by sentient mammalian ears.

Seriously, if I were the type of guy who made New Year's resolutions, mine would be to hunt down and kill the A&R guy responsible for this.

More on the song tomorrow, but in the meantime, have fun tonight, everybody!!!

[h/t Matt Mitchell]

Monday, December 30, 2019

Real Estate Notes From All Over

Friend of PowerPop (and Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic for the New York Times) Tim Page took this picture in the Los Angeles area in 1984.

And no, it's not the house where Bela Lugosi lived in Plan 9 From Outer Space.

However, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who correctly identifies its significance to the history of rock-and-roll.

Friday, December 27, 2019

You Learn Something New Every Day

So earlier this week, as a Christmas present to myself, I splurged on some Desert Rose Band CDs (I'm going through a sort of Chris Hillman phase at the moment) and I rediscovered their 1989 hit version of one of my favorite songs -- John Hiatt's "She Don't Love Nobody."

Which I had originally heard in Nick Lowe's quite different version four years earlier.

In any event, it occurred to me that I'd never heard it done by its composer, so I did a little research and guess what?

There is no extant version of it that I can find. Apparently, it was just a songwriting demo that Lowe and DRB came across. Or something.

No larger point to the story, but I must admit it surprised me.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Last Christmas Song Until Next Year -- I Promise!!!

From 1991, and the fantastic Xmas compilation album A Lump of Coal, please enjoy The Odds and their gloriously Crazy Horse-esque version of "Kings of Orient."

In retrospect, still my favorite holiday record ever. Incidentally, these guys, who may be best known for serving as Warren Zevon's touring band for a while, are still plying their trade up in Canada, and good for them.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

It's Christmas Time

[I've posted a slightly different version of this on several previous Christmases; consider it one of those internet traditions you've heard so much about. -- S.S.]

Ahem. So. Way back in December of 2007 -- when the world, myself and this here blog were young -- I found myself, quite improbably, falling in love. And the Christmas song I kept hearing in at least two TV commercials at the time was the ineffably touching "All That I Want" by The Weepies.

Which, as it turned out, was, improbably, about the improbability of somehow finding the right person to fall in love with.

Above the rooftops
The full moon dips its golden spoon
I wait on clip clops
Deer might fly. Why not? I met you

All these years later, I still can't hear the thing without getting a little misty, sentimental old fluff that I am. So I thought I'd share it again as sort of a Christmas card to you all.

And to a certain Shady Dame let me just say, and for the record -- I love you.

Anyway, Happy Holidays -- and here's hoping that what the new year brings you makes you as happy I've been since I first heard that song. However improbably.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

My Son the Christmas Singer

The great Allan Sherman does to a beloved holiday classic what should always have been done to it.

Proving, once again, that Kinky Friedman was right -- they ain't making Jews like Jesus any more.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Porky Sings Elvis

My favorite Christmas record of all time. And certainly the best non-Kosher one.

Man -- can you imagine if these guys had taken on "My Generation"?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Pre-Christmas Weekend Listomania: Special "Why Didn't I Get the Memo?" Edition

[The original version of this went up back in 2008, which totally floors me for any number of reasons. However, I have mostly rewritten it, and changed a couple of the entries, to keep you guys from thinking I'm the lazy old coot I obviously am. Please enjoy. -- S.S.]
Okay, kids -- it's Weekend Listomania Time. Today's theme:

Post-Elvis Album/Album Track/Song/Single You Discovered Long After the Fact and Immediately Wondered How You had Lived Without It!!!

No arbitrary rules of any kind, you're welcome very much.

And my totally top of my head Top Nine is...

9. The Replacements -- Temptation Eyes

The Grass Roots song, obviously, and an outtake from an album that changed my life. A tip of the Simels chapeau to hep bartender Tommy Perkins, who knows from this stuff and turned me on to it last summer.

8. Little Isidore and the Inquisitors -- Christmas of Love

This was from the soundtrack to the Grinch movie, which I have never seen, and it is not a genuine oldie; rather it's an r&b/50s pastiche by THIS GUY, who may be some kind of genius. In any case, I heard it for the first time earlier this week at my local watering hole, and it blew me away.

7. Bunker Hill -- The Girl Can't Dance

There's not a lot of biographical info available on Hill, except that his real name was David Walker and that he was an on again/off again member of the great gospel group The Mighty Clouds of Joy when he wasn't singing the Devil's music under a pseudonym. He apparently died, way too young, in Houston in the early 80s, and hadn't been involved in the music business for quite some time.

In any case, the record features Link Wray on guitar (it was recorded at Link's home studio) and as somebody said in the YouTube comments, it makes Little Richard sound like Pat Boone. Had it been a hit, history might well have been changed in unfathomable ways. I mean seriously -- I think it's pretty obvious this is the missing link between the wilder strain of 50s r&b and proto-punk like The Sonics.

I should add that I also heard this one for the first time at my local watering hole. Another one I owe Tommy Perkins for.

6. The Grateful Dead -- Box of Rain

It's no secret that I'm not remotely a Deadhead; they were my least favorite San Francisco band back in the day, and I have never much liked any of their albums with the exception of Working Man's Dead and American Beauty, neither of which I ever owned. (Caveat: I love Garcia's bluegrass stuff; if you haven't seen Grateful Dawg you're really missing something.) That said, a year or so ago, for whatever reason, I sat down under the headphones with this song and pretty much lost it. How fricking gorgeous.

5. Sonic's Rendezvous Band -- City Slang

SRB, of course, being a sort of Detroit supergroup featuring ex-MC5 guitarist Fred Smith and several other worthies. I'd heard of the single, which came out in 1978, for years, but didn't get around to listening to it until when I first wrote this post. Needless to say, the damn thing is pretty much hard rock at its most intense, and god only knows what I was waiting for.

4. Los Shakers -- Always You

The Beatles of Uruguay, and every bit as good as anything by their role models, IMHO. I got hipped to this one courtesy of a long time reader, and I have to say -- of all the great songs I've discovered since NYMary gave me the spare set of keys to this place, this is the one that means the most to me.

3. You Am I -- Mr. Milk

First heard this one (which dates from 1996) sometime around 2003, over the sound system at NYCD, the late lamented (and still the coolest in history) indie record store on Manhattan's upper West Side run by our pal Sal Nunziato. How the best Australian band since The Easybeats had previously gotten by me remains a mystery that may never be solved.

2. Sam Cooke -- Lost and Lookin'

From Cooke's Night Beat album. It sounds, deliberately, like a late night blues/soul/gospel jam session at a small smoke-filled club, and it's probably the greatest pop music album of the last sixty years that most people still don't know about. Cooke cut it for his own label in 1963 and it went out of print pretty much immediately; the American CD reissue from 2001 (which is when I first heard it) got pulled due to legal wrangling (love that Allen Klein) almost as quickly. But you can still find copies on Amazon; thank you Jeff Bezos.

And the Number One great song I can't live without that I hadn't heard until some time shortly before I originally wrote this piece -- it's not even remotely a contest -- absolutely has to be...

1. The Weepies -- Gotta Have You

So approximately twelve years ago, I found myself falling in love with a certain Shady Dame, and it was happening to the soundtrack of a Weepies song, which was running in a TV commercial at the time, called "All That I Want." I was later hipped to another Weepies song that I dearly love, called "Nobody Knows Me at All." But for some reason, I was never moved to research more of their stuff. And then somebody sent me a link to "Gotta Have You," which is about the most gorgeous and ineffably touching thing I've ever heard in my life. Seriously -- these guys are now The Beatles, as far as I'm concerned. And Deb Talan is the single greatest girl singer in the history of pop music.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Better Late Than Never. Mea Culpa. Sorry for the Delay. I Could Go On, But You Get the Idea.

Attentive readers will recall my raving, recently, about a California band -- the charmingly monikered Picnic Tool -- and their song (and hilarious video) in praise of noted punk rocker Albert Einstein.

Since then, they were kind enough to send me their new EP, which happens to have my all-time favorite photo of Al on the cover...

...and I thought I would share the second video derived from it with you. Another very cool song, beautifully visualized.

And in case you missed it last time, here's "Einstein" again. Still completely cracks me up.

You can learn more about these guys -- plus find links to buy more of their music -- over HERE

POSTSCRIPT: Also recently I had a very nice phone conversation with Picnic Tool auteur Bodie Plecas -- a charming and funny guy who had previously won my heart by allowing how he had read my old SR stuff, including the legendary review of the first Tonio K. album -- and he let it drop that he was also a filmmaker. Here's his very first effort in that regard, which he advised me not to judge too harshly.

Don't worry pal -- it's very cool, albeit deliberately disturbing. An impressive debut.

Meanwhile, have I mentioned that you should get over to their website and buy something? Sheesh, do I have to do everything for you?

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Closed Due to Monkey Business

Still under the weather.

New posting resumes on the morrow, even if on the proverbial deathbed.

POSTSCRIPT: Note to my incredibly patient friends in PICNIC TOOL -- the plugola I promised you is 95% complete; It goes up rain or shine on Wednesday.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Under the Weather

Closed due to a really nasty stomach bug...

...which is really kicking my ass.

Regular posting resumes tomorrow, the good lord willing etc.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Reason Number 1 Why Incels Are Not a Thing

From 1992, and his classic album Relentless, please enjoy the late Bill Hicks and "Chicks Dig Jerks."

Yeah, I know, I promised that I was only going to feature living contemporary artists this week, but I had forgotten how great this is.

Have a terrific weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Your Thursday Moment of "And Speaking of Gorgeous"

From October of this year, and his new album Too Old to Be a Rock Star, please enjoy friend of PowerPop (and moi) Joe Benoit and the drop-dead beautiful "Can You Hear the Song."

Seriously, I get chills just thinking about that track, especially at the end where Joe goes all Beach Boys/CSN harmonies and Brian May guitar. But oh hell -- the whole album is fantastic.

You can find out more about Joe (although attentive readers know I've been bending your ears about him for a couple of years now) over at his official website HERE. And you can (and obviously should) stream the new album (or buy it on vinyl, 'natch) over there as well.

Excuse me -- what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Oh To Be In Los Angeles When the Heather is in Bloom

Well, if I ever needed an excuse for a cross-country trip, this is it.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Benefit-concert producers the Wild Honey Foundation will present the music of the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame members the Lovin’ Spoonful as a fundraiser for the Autism Think Tank. The event will take place Saturday, February 29, 2020 at 8 p.m., at the historic Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., in downtown Glendale, Calif.

Led by acclaimed musical director Rob Laufer (whose credits include George Martin’s Hollywood Bowl tribute to Sgt. Pepper), Wild Honey Orchestra and Friends (guest singers TBA) will explore the groundbreaking catalog of one of the 1960s’ most influential if underrated bands in the folk-rock-country (Americana) world. In the tradition of Wild Honey’s benefit events (which have saluted the Kinks, Buffalo Springfield, the Band, Beach Boys ’67-’77, Big Star, and the Beatles, among others), the musicians will passionately celebrate every nuance of more than 30 of the Lovin’ Spoonful brilliant songs: “Do You Believe in Magic,” “Summer in the City,” “Six O’clock,” “Coconut Grove,” “You Didn't Have to Be So Nice,” “Darling Be Home Soon,” “She's Still a Mystery,” “Full Measure,” and so many more. Beloved by their peers — Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks, and many others — the Spoonful created a rich and varied catalog of hits and hidden treasures that’s a perfect fit for the Wild Honey Orchestra and their merry band of guest performers.

Current members of the Orchestra include a who’s who of respected L.A. recording artists: Laufer, guitar, vocals; Elliot Easton of the Cars, Dennis Diken (Smithereens), guitar; Jim Laspesa (Brian Wilson/Dave Davies), drums; Derrick Anderson (the Bangles); David Goodstein, drums, vocals; Chris Price (Emitt Rhodes); Willie Aron, keyboards, vocals; Jordan Summers (Jakob Dylan) and Danny McGough (Tom Waits and more), keyboards; Kaitlin Wolfberg and Lyn Bertles, strings; Nick Vincent (vocals, drums); and Tara Austin and Nick Guzman (vocals).

As in previous years, the concert will benefit the Autism Think Tank, a non-profit that brings together a team of top autism specialists, via an Internet medical conference, to tackle the medical/psychological issues faced by kids like Wild Honey co-founder Paul Rock’s 15-year-old son Jake, a non-verbal autistic boy with extreme digestive distress and self-injury issues. Thanks to medical advice from a member of the Think Tank medical team, Jake’s often debilitating self-injury has been reduced by 95%. By giving families access to cutting-edge treatments, the Autism Think Tank provides welcome relief from the suffering that comes with severe autism. Since 2013, the Wild Honey Foundation has raised over $100,000 for the organization, which now operates under the wing of the newly formed Autism Healthcare Collaborative. Here’s a wonderful short video on how the Autism Think Tank works: https://youtu.be/cDszQ9BpKw8

Dating back to 1994, the 501(3)(c), non-profit Wild Honey’s numerous grassroots benefit events have featured appearances by Brian Wilson, Dave Davies (the Kinks), Richie Furay, Garth Hudson, Jackson Browne, Carlene Carter, Alex Chilton, the Bangles, Beach Boy Al Jardine, Micky Dolenz, Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Al Stewart, Denny Laine, Tony Asher, Dave Gregory of XTC, Danny Hutton, Terry Reid, Chuck Negron, Matthew Sweet, Colin Hay, Dan Wilson, Jody Stephens (Big Star), the Continental Drifters, P.F. Sloan, Jon Brion, Peter Case, the Plimsouls, Victoria Williams, the Williams Brothers, Dave Alvin, the Blue Shadows, Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, Scott Miller (the Loud Family), Ann Magnuson, and many others. The shows have been produced at the Alex and various other Los Angeles-area locations including the Morgan-Wixson Theater, the Roxy, the Knitting Factory (Hollywood), and the El Rey Theatre.

I should add that tickets go on sale for this sure to be transplendent event this Friday at the theatre box office.

Incidentally, if you don't know from the Wild Honey Orchestra and musical director Rob Laufer -- who I wrote about most recently in August here -- here's a sample of their work.

Words fail me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Your Tuesday Moment of Words Completely Fail me

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever, please enjoy Chris Hillman and friends and the ultimate remake of The Byrds' "Feel A Whole Lot Better."

Chris Hillman was an automatic choice since Tom was a huge Byrds fan and produced Hillman’s solo album Bidin’ My Time in 2017. Herb Pedersen was in the Desert Rose Band with Hillman and toured with Petty and Mudcrutch in 2016. As for The Shelters, Tom Petty got involved with the band very early on, and he ended up co-producing their debut album in 2016. But it was producer/engineer Ryan Ulyate (TPHB’s/Mudcrutch/Chris Hillman/The Shelters) who suggested to Hillman and Pedersen that they do a new version of “Feel A Whole Lot Better” (Hillman played on The Byrds original, and it was the last song recorded for Full Moon Fever) with The Shelters.

In all seriousness, that's about the most gorgeous thing I've ever heard in my life.

[h/t Glenn E. Most]

Monday, December 09, 2019

Show Biz Notes From All Over (An Occasional Series)

So ace singer/songwriter/guitarist/rocker and friend of PowerPop David Achelis...

...is part of an absolutely killer double bill tonight at one of the coolest clubs in New York City. I think the phrase is -- for me, anyway -- be there or be square.

Here's a track from Dave's latest CD that should give you an idea what's in store for you if you attend.

You can -- and should -- find out more about all things Achelis (including a link to stream more of his music) over at his website HERE.

I should also add that Dave is opening for Binky Phillips, one of the genuine legends of the early NYC punk scene, and a guy who channels his inner Pete Townshend better than anybody alive.

So -- what are you waiting for? Get down to Arlene's this very minute, grab a seat, and get ready to rock!

POSTSCRIPT: One of the greatest experiences of my adult life was participating in a jam session with David in which he sang the complete four and a half minute version of Marty Robbins' "El Paso," a feat few who walk upright can duplicate. I can't guarantee that Dave will do the song tonight, but it certainly wouldn't hurt you to request it.

Friday, December 06, 2019

To Paraphrase R. Crumb -- If You Don't Know What Doo Wah Diddy Means By Now, Don't Mess With It

From 1945, and the movie I Love a Bandleader, please enjoy original rapper Phil Harris and his signature -- and frighteningly proto-rock-and-roll -- song "That's What I Like About the South."

I bring this up because, as I mentioned yesterday, I've been listening to a lot of old Jack Benny radio shows of late, and Harris -- who was a regular on the show for years -- happened to do this on an episode I heard last night.

I should add that while these days, Harris is mostly remembered as the voice of Baloo in Disney's Jungle Book...

...to me he will always be the guy who had the greatest novelty hit single of all time.

In any case, I hereby solemnly promise that every post next week will feature new music by currently living people. You're welcome.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Go East, Young Man!

As attentive readers will recall, I have been falling asleep of late to old episodes of the great Jack Benny's radio show, which among other things are about as interesting a pop-cultural time capsule as you can imagine.

In any case, listening to a Benny show from the '40s the other night, I had sort of a lightbulb-over-my-head moment. To wit: This long running gag (it was featured in countless episodes over the years), with the great Mel Blanc announcing a train leaving on track five (from L.A.'s Union station) for Anaheim, Azuza and Cucamonga...

...was clearly the inspiration for the greatest masterpiece of the surf-rock genre of the '60s.

Take it away, Jan and Dean!!!

I'm not kidding about that being a masterpiece, BTW; in fact, the classical and baroque touches in the song's arrangement (from 1964, I should add) pretty much show-up all later prog-rock as the pretentious swill it is.

I should also add that the first time I heard that song in stereo (rather than in mono, on the jukebox at my college cafeteria) was the closest thing I've had to a religious experience in my entire life.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

I Lost It at the Theatre

So I'm taking a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance to see Hamilton on Broadway today. As a birthday present.

We've seen the show before, on our trip to London last year, but we are reliably informed that the Broadway version is superior. We shall see.

A little backstory:

I was skeptical about the whole Hamilton hype, despite the fact that I had been impressed with the show's auteur Lin-Manuel Miranda (after seeing the documentary on the making of his In the Heights)...

...for the obvious reason that hip-hop isn't particularly my thing.

In any event, when we saw the show in London, I sat through the first act with an open mind, and at intermission said Shady Dame asked me what I thought. I allowed how it was undeniably impressive, if a little monochromatic musically, but that I hadn't decided what I thought.

And then act II started, and immediately the music was a lot more stylistically varied and I was digging it. And then this song happened...

...and I turned to the Shady Dame with tears streaming down my face and said "They got me."

Seriously, if you don't find that moving, you really need to have it looked at.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Maltese Mallard

From 1966, please enjoy -- if possible -- the late great Phil Austin (of Firesign Theatre fame), doing business with The Buddies, and the not as hilarious as intended "Duckman Parts 1 and 2."

Back in the early 90s, I wrote the liner notes for Sony's Firesign Theatre box set, and I got to interview all four Firesign guys, which was a genuine thrill, as you can imagine. Talking about his pre-Firesign work, Austin mentioned "Duckman" in passing --

Originally monikered the Oz Firesign Theatre (by Bergman) the group later had to shorten the name when lawyers for Disney and MGM - who owned the Oz copyright - threatened legal action. Whatever they were called, however, the group and their freewheeling, sounded-stoned-but-wasn't brand of improvisational comedy were an immediate hit with the nascent underground audience. And as the Summer of Love loomed, they inevitably came to the attention of a record company, in the person of Gary Usher, trend-savvy producer for CBS and veteran of the L.A. surf music scene who had earlier done a comedy single - "Duckman, Parts I and II" - with Austin ["Because I could do this duck voice," Austin says. "It was just stupid."].

-- which is the only reason I knew of its existence.

YouTube being the equivalent of the Library at Alexandria, it did not surprise me to finally run across it a few weeks ago.

Nor did it surprise me to find myself in complete agreement with Austin's assessment.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Singles Going Steady

So as unlikely as it may seem, I have just released the metaphorical equivalent of one of those old seven inch vinyl records with the big hole in it. Under my own name, no less.

Because the masses have been clamoring for solo work by Steve Simels, comrades!

Here's the a-side, which is a remake of The Byrds' anti-war classic from Fifth Dimension.

And here's the b-side, which is a cover of a great song by friend of PowerPop Peter Spencer, done as a cross between the early Byrds and "Street Fighting Man."

I should add that both of those are now available for streaming/purchase at Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music and various other digital platforms to be announced.

I should also add that the picture sleeve photo was taken by friend of PowerPop Capt. Al, and the art direction is by a certain Shady Dame (who's working too cheap, I'll tell you that for free.)

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the musical credits are:

Track 1:
Me -- lead vocals and bass
Joe Benoit -- harmony vocals and all other instruments

Track 2:
Me -- lead vocals, guitars, keyboards
Joe Benoit -- guitars
Allan Weissman -- bass
David Hawxwell -- harmony vocals, 12-string guitar, Nashville guitar
Glenn Leeds -- outro keyboards
Glen Robert Allen -- drums

And a big tip of the Simels chapeau to one and all who supported me in this folly.