Friday, August 07, 2020

Hiroshima Mon Amour

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the first use of a nuclear weapon. I should have posted my 2019 cover of The Byrds' 1966 version of the deeply moving song about that horrific act, but given everything else that's going on at the moment, I think I can be excused for forgetting.

So here it is -- a day late, and I guess a dollar short.

In any event, I think I did a pretty good job with the song, despite the fact that I can't sing remotely as well as Roger McGuinn.

Have a great weekend everybody -- or at least as great as possible under the circumstances.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Your Thursday Moment of the Coolest Thing Ever

In the immortal words of Cristina Applegate on Married With Children, you could have knocked me over with the weather when I recently learned that 60th Mayor of Atlanta and all around good person Keisha Lance Bottoms... the daughter of the incomparable Major Lance....

...who was the auteur of one of my favorite early 60s r&b/soul songs....

...which BTW happens to be a hugely unacknowledged influence on the music of Bruce Springsteen.

I mean c'mon -- compare "Monkey Time" to this...

...and tell me I'm making this up.

PS: Mayor Bottoms, alas, has the Trump Virus, but when last we heard, she's gonna be alright.

[h/t Mark R]

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Hepster Cinematic Notes From All Over

Sometimes, as I have taken to saying of late, despite the horrendous crisis we are currently all coping with, La Vie est Belle.

Case in point: the good folks at Kino Lorber are about to unleash a gorgeously restored version of pretty much the first great concert movie/music documentary -- photographer Bert Stern's groundbreaking cinematic study of the 1958 Newport Festival Jazz on a Summer's Day.

If you've never seen this, prepare to have your mind blown, if only for the Chuck Berry sequence which, as the story goes, the teenaged Keith Richards saw at his local cinema five days straight for obvious reasons. The film also features intimate performances by an all-star line-up of musical legends including Louis Armstrong, Thelonius Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Anita O'Day, Dinah Washington, and closes with a beautiful rendition of "The Lord's Prayer" by Mahalia Jackson.

This has previously been available on video elsewhere -- I saw it on my PBS station at some point if memory serves -- but this new Kino version is a 4K restoration by the preservationists at IndieCollect and looks and sounds fabulous.

Even better, it will be available in virtual cinemas through Kino Marquee starting August 12.

Seriously -- apart from the great music, the film is an absolutely jaw-dropping time capsule of American life in the years just prior to the tumult of the 60s. Don't miss it.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Give the Drummer Some!

The Tearaways...

...featuring the great Clem Burke (of Blondie, and much more) on those pagan skins, and their brand new single.

Which is an ode to "Charlie, Keith and Ringo."

I'm sensing a theme here, kids.

I've written about The Tearaways on previous occasions (I'm on the record as saying that they may be the best traditional -- i.e. non-hyphenated -- rock band currently working).

In any case that new song (produced just before the pandemic by Ed Stasium, of Ramones and Talking Heads fame) is pretty freaking great; the EP it''s from (Four From Four) will be released momentarily and I'll keep you posted as soon as it drops.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Yes, It's True -- Music is the Universal Language

Attentive readers with long memories may recall that way back in July -- hey, that's several years in Pandemic Time -- I posted an absolutely fabulous and adorable clip of two teenage (I think) aspiring hip-hop kids listening to Dolly Parton's "Jolene" for the first time. And digging the hell out of it.

Which kind of blew my tiny mind for a number of reasons, but I just encountered another similar clip -- featuring one of the two youths -- watching a great live 1981 performance by Queen of their ragingly beautiful "Somebody to Love." A song with which he was previously unfamiliar.

An by the time it's over, the kid is reduced to tears, as was I from watching his reaction.


Oh, and BTW -- I don't really believe today's title, i.e. that music IS a universal language. Let's just say that you would be disabused of that notion very quickly if you attempted to play a Chinese classical piece on a country radio station in Nashville.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Weekend Listomania: Special "Nobody's Perfect" Edition

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental Pandemic Princess Fah Lo Suee and I are off to the president's Mar-a-Lagofuckyourself resort to shoot several holes of golf while unmasked. Could be a hot one!

That being the case here's a fun project to help us all wile away the idle hours until our return -- assuming we're not hospitalized -- on Monday:


No arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much, but if you nominate Rod Stewart, who went Full Bullshit in the mid-70s and never came back, I will come to your house and smack you silly.

And my totally Top of My Head Top Five is:

5. The Ramones

Yes, they're the greatest, but not to put too fine a point on it, literally everything on that psychedelic covers album they made... utterly awful. Both conceptually and in execution. And they made several other dog albums.

4. Billy Joel

I became a sort of Born Again Billy Joel fan after seeing one of his Madison Square Garden shows a few years ago. That said...

...if you didn't want to hunt him down and kill him after the first time you heard this song, there's no hope for you.

3. Stevie Nicks

Great with Fleetwood Mac, considerably less so on her own.

Just like a white winged dove my aunt Fanny, babe.

2. Patti Smith

I have loved this woman since before she made her first indie single back in 1973, but boy can she be pretentious sometimes. And in the case of this little ditty from her second major label album --

--- in need of somebody to say to her, uh Patti -- what the hell are you thinking?

And the number one great artist with an unfortunately high percentage of bovine fecal matter is:

1. Joni Mitchell

Let's just say that Joni's good stuff is out of this world, but that a lot of the self-important humorless crap she's been responsible for over the years is frankly impossible to ignore.

Seriously, you would need a heart of stone not to laugh at the unintentional silliness of the above.

Alrighty then -- who would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1971, please enjoy Neil Diamond and the classic(?) shout to the world HEY NOTICE ME! that is his "I Am I Said."

Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, that video is actually from 1988. The song, however, dates as I said to to 1971.

In any event, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader to glean its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Your Wednesday Moment of Amazing True Fact: Special "Up Up and Away!" Edition

The opening and closing theme from the Adventures of Superman TV series.

As iconic music as Rossini's William Tell Overture as used on The Lone Ranger, right?

Well, yes and no. And here's why.


I'm not kidding about this.

Apparently, and most of this is guesswork, the people who made the Superman show relied exclusively for their background music on a company called Mutel, that licensed stuff from 40s B-movie soundtracks that had originally been generated by vastly underpaid folks toiling mostly uncredited at what studios that were then called Poverty Row -- Republic, Monogram, etc.

In any event, the Superman music is officially credited to a guy named Leon Klatzkin, who was an arranger, not a composer.

According to Gary Grossman's fabulous history of the show -- Superman: Serial to Cereal, there is a rumor that the theme was written, uncredited, by the great Miklós Rózsa.

But the bottom line remains: Nobody fucking knows who composed a total fucking masterpiece.

Words fail me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Your Tuesday Moment of Why Isn't This Guy a Freaking Household World?

From 1990, please enjoy the genius that is Peter Blegvad and the greatest story song ever written by anybody "King Strut."  
I'm not kidding about this -- if there's a better song of its ilk than this, I haven't heard it. And I've been around. 

 I should add that apart from being a brilliant songsmith, Blegvad is a hot guitarist -- that's him playing lead on the above, which should give you an idea -- and he's had a separate career as...wait for it...a cartoonist. 

 Nobody should be allowed to be that talented,is what I'm getting at.

Monday, July 27, 2020

And Then I Wrote...

Chanced across this pan I did of an Eagles album for the Magazine Formerly Known as STEREO REVIEW the other day, and it completely cracked me up.

THE EAGLES: The Long Run.

Performance: They gotta be kidding

Recording: Expensive

I really don't believe this record. Yes, against all expectations (for this they labored three years?), here is still more monied angst, lame social commentary, and overproduction from the Eagles, who apparently are convinced that what the world needs now is a tuneless, turtle-tempoed essay on the human condition from the perspective of five very rich, very bored Angelenos.

Here, for example is a potentially good idea for a song about a mass murderer at Studio 54 ("The Disco Strangler") that makes the most obvious points imagineable about loneliness and alientation. Here's an unbearably smug attempted dissection of the casting couch mentality ("King of Hollywood") rendered in a manner so laid-back it approaches the catatonic. Here's a song about the good old days of hanging out at the Troubador Bar ("Sad Cafe") that is guaranteed to be of absolutely no interest to anyone outside the Eagles immediate circle of friends. Here's a watery love song pasted together from snippets of old George Benson records ("I Can't Tell You Why") and the most tired-sounding bit of blues-based rock ("Heartache Tonight") they have yet essayed. Here's a vaguely funny evocation of mid-Sixties frat-house partying ("The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks") that is supposed to be a throwaway yet ironically has more life than anything else in the package. Here are tedium, a total waste of the not inconsiderable talents of Joe Walsh, and the sound of a band with nothing to say, but saying it at incredible length ("King of Hollywood" runs more than six minutes).

In sum, the Eagles' The Long Run is the most pointless vinyl extrusion of 1979, with the possible exception of The Georgie Jessel Disco Album, which I understand A&M is readying in the wake of their success with a similar venture by Ethel Merman. Like I said, I really don't believe this record. -- S.S.

Wow, Steve -- don't mince words, tell us what you really think.

And yes, in case you were wondering, that's gonna be in my forthcoming greatest hits book, which -- pandemic permitting -- will be available in some format early next year.

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Miraculous Hump Returns From the Moon

And speaking as we were Wednesday of the fabulous Sopwith Camel and their brilliant 1967 hit "Hello Hello," from 2020, please enjoy indie band Hat Without Men and our (by which I mean my) cover of the piano introduction to that song.

As performed on our recently acquired electronic keyboard here at Casa Simels.

BTW, visually I think I'm doing a pretty good impression of Glenn Gould in that clip.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Your Thursday Moment of The Greatest Thing Ever

Mrs. Peel meets The Kinks.

I don't know who's specifically responsible for that montage, but wow -- is that fantastic or what?

[h/t Steven D. Garner]

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Stereo Mixes of the Gods (An Occasional Series): Special "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" Edition

From January of 1967, and the b-side of their fabulous hit "Hello Hello," please enjoy criminally overlooked/underrated first generation underground San Francisco band the Sopwith Camel and their utterly brilliant folk-rock b-side "Treadin'."

I bring this up for a number of reasons, but the main one is that said song has never appeared in stereo anywhere to my knowledge, including every previous CD reissue of the Camel's original album., of which there have been several, both domestic and imported. I don't know the provenance of that, but as Cristina Applegate famously said on Married With Children, you could have knocked me over with the weather when I discovered it on YouTube quite by accident over last weekend. I have literally been waiting 53 years to hear it, and I'd say I can finally die happy except that I have no intention of shuffling off this mortal coil any time soon, or at least till I hear some other heretofore unknown to me stereo versions of records I fetishize (a subject for another posting).

A brief historical note: As you can hear, "Treadin'" is quite a little masterpiece of its era -- those classically influenced guitars on the instrumental break just blow me away -- but the Camel, as I said up top, is one of the most criminally overlooked bands ever, important both historically and musically. Short version: They were the first underground San Francisco band (they were huge on the ballroom circuit, right up there with the Airplane, the Dead, et al) to score a Top 40 hit (the aforementioned "Hello Hello").

I should add that the aforementioned "Hello Hello"...

...was also the first Top 40 rock hit featuring a bass solo, let alone a great one.

I should also add that their follow up single -- which actually was a minor radio hit -- is another folk-rock masterpiece. Seriously, if this doesn't make you swoon check your meds.

Okay, I'm obviously a little obsessive on this subject, so I will simply close with this live version of "Hello Hello,' from 2011, featuring the Camel's great lead singer Peter Kraemer (or as I like to refer to him, the sardonic sounding American version of Colin Blunstone).

Damn, I would kill to be as cool as that guy at his age.

More hump related stuff tomorrow. Hey, like I said -- I'm getting obsessive on this subject.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Closed for (Dental) Monkey Business

Sorry to be slacking, but hey -- gotta keep my chompers choogling.

The good news is that I'm posting some shit tomorrow that will blow your collective minds.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Emitt Rhodes 1950 - 2020

Has there ever been a better double-sided single that wasn't by The Beatles or Creedence Clearwater Revival?

I should add that I was lucky enough to see Emitt in person back in the day; he played my old college in support of his masterpiece debut solo album.

I should also add that this death shit is really starting to piss me off. As is 2020 as a year.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Songs That Are Impossible to Ruin (An Occasional Series): Special Australian Edition

For some reason, I had completely forgotten that INXS had covered The Easybeats' classic rocker. And well.

BTW, there's a great story about the original Easys version of this.

Apparently, Paul McCartney was driving somewhere in England in 1968, when this was new, and when it came on his radio he got so jazzed by it he pulled his car off to the side of the road until it was over to find out who it was.

I should add that yes, that's the late great Steve Marriott screaming along with the band on the choruses.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Your Thursday Moment of Yes, Steve is a Schmuck

From 19981, please enjoy -- from Tattoo You -- the official video for The Rolling Stones' "Waiting on a Friend."

Okay, this is a very sad story so please try not to laugh.

Short version: Back in July of '81, I was toiling at The Magazine Formerly Known as STEREO REVIEW, and somebody from the Stones PR firm -- I should remember their name, but I don't; hopefully one of my Facebook ex-publicist friends will -- called me up on a Thursday and invited me to be an observer at a video shoot for a Stones song that was going to be done in the East Village on the following Friday in the late afternoon after work.

Bottom line: It was the beginning of a summer weekend, and I figured, big deal -- so I'll be hanging out in the street watching the filming. Which is basically an incredibly boring process, and it's not like I had never seen the Stones up close before. Hell, I was actually outside for this one in 1975, so I was pretty jaded.

So instead I went home and watched TV, had a few drinks, and went to bed.

In any event, when I got back to work on Monday I was informed that, had I bothered to show up, I would have been one of the extras sitting at the bar (the St. Marks Bar and Grill, specifically), and that the Stones actually did a song or two live when the shoot was over. (BTW, the place was at the corner of St. Marks and First Avenue, and yes, it's long gone.)

As I said, this was a very sad story, and thank you for not laughing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Living in the Past

And speaking as we were yesterday -- from medieval England in 1174, please enjoy Hildegard von Blingin'...

...and the original version of her masterpiece of sacred monophony "Jolene."

Truly, it has been said -- they don't write 'em like that anymore.

[h/t Rebecca Littman]

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Your Tuesday Moment of the Coolest Thing Ever

From 2020 -- two aspiring hip-hop/rap youngsters listen to Dolly Parton's "Jolene" for the first time and totally get it.

I'm not sure who those kids are, or the provenance of the video; I discovered it over at Digby's Hullabaloo, (which, if you're not familiar with it, is primarily a lefty political blog that does occasional arts coverage), but the clip is absolutely inspirational and I just love those dudes.

In any case, this is proof, as one of the YouTube commenters notes, of what Quincy Jones famously observed -- there are just two kinds of music.

Good and bad.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Annals of Interior Redecorating

I love the title of this album. Wallpaper of Sound indeed.

The music, as you can hear from this representative track, is another story, alas.

Not The Searchers finest moment obviously, but if it came on my car radio, I wouldn't turn it off.

Here's the complete track listing -- I must admit, I'm kind of curious about the Long John Baldry thing.

1. To know her is to love her / Robb Storme & The whisperers
2. Spanish harlem / Jimmy Justice
3. First Teast Of love / Migil 5
4. Some Kinda Wonderful/ Johnny Sandon
5. I’m Counting on you / Petula Clark
6. Bless You / Peter London
7. I love How you love me / Marie Gordon price
8. Twist And Shout / Searchers
9. he Knows I Love him Too Much / Glo Marcari
10. Ecstasy / Oliver reed
11. He’ a rebel / Breakaways
12. Up on The roof / Jimmy Justice
13. Chapel of love / Cadets
14. Da Doo Ron Ron / Searchers
15. Here She Comes/ Breakaways
16. Be My Baby / Searchers
17. Goodnight Baby / Searchers
18. You baby / Jackie Trent
19. You’re lost that loving feeling / Barbra Ann
20. The coldest night of the year / Twice as much & vashti
21. Born to be together/ P.P Arnold
22. Is this what I get for loving you baby/ Twice as much
23. Home of the Brave / peanut
24. I’ll take you where the musics playing / Pat Lynch
25. Hungry / 5 A.M. Event
26. Goin Back / Jackie Trent
27. River deep Mountain High/ Long John Baldry

You should be able to download the album for free over HERE; if it doesn't work, you can get it at AMAZON for a reasonable twenty bucks or so.

Friday, July 10, 2020


From 1988, please behold in breathless wonder the great Material Issue (featuring the sadly departed too young Jim Ellison) and an absolutely transplendent cover of The Sweet's bubble-gum/verging on power pop/70s classic "Little Willy."

Moah cowbell!!!

As you can guess, I'm a big Material Issue fan, and for the life of me I don't understand how I missed this one until yesterday. Oh well, such is life.

In any case -- have a great weekend everybody!!!

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Bring Me the Head of Arthur Godfrey

From 1952, please enjoy(?) Godfrey show regular Janette Davis and her crime against nature novelty hit from hell "Hold the Phone."

I have to say that -- and I find this terrifying -- I'm old enough to have listened to Godfrey on the radio in his heyday (I think tomorrow I'll post his 1967 appearance with Moby Grape -- I'm not making this up). But until yesterday, I'd never heard the song above.

BTW -- this was Davis' other big hit.

Ain't life grand?

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Completely Freaking Fail Me

The Japanese ambassador to the United States straps on a Fender Stratocaster and performs a credible version of the Jimi Hendrix arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner."

I know rock-and-roll is a universal language, but this really takes the cake.

[h/t Peter Spencer]

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Who Listens to the Radio?

A quick programming note: Friend of PowerPop Capt. Al makes his triumphant return to the intertube airwaves beginning at 11am EST over at AREA 24 Radio today.

I believe this is his first Lost at Sea broadcast since the beginning of our current medical crisis, and all I can say is -- welcome back, big guy. Play some Floor Models if you get a chance.

To check it out, simply click on the link above and then the LISTEN HERE icon.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Girls! Girls! Girls!

A documentary on The Go-Gos?

Hey, this could be interesting.

Premieres on Showtime end of the month.

For what it's worth, as self-contained 80s girl groups go, I'm way more of a Bangles fan. But these gals were undeniably great and the film looks terrific.

Apparently they're gonna have a new single drop right before the movie as well -- I'll keep you posted.

Friday, July 03, 2020

It's Independence Day in the Time of Corona!!!

And in its honor -- a PowerPop tradition since 2018 -- please enjoy Bill Pullman, the greatest president of the United States who was never president of the United States..., wait, in the era of President Syphilitic Dementia that's not even a particularly good joke anymore.


What I meant to say was please enjoy the late great Ben E. King and his gorgeous cover of Bruce Springsteen's "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)."

I should add that the existence of that clip -- in the immortal words of Cristina Applegate on Married With Children -- makes my mind wobble.

I mean -- can you imagine how cool for Bruce it must have been to learn that one of the singers you idolized back in your youth had actually beautifully interpreted a song you had written?

I think the word is wow.

Have a great socially distanced weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Your Thursday Moment of Speaking of Gorgeous

[I originally posted this back in 2017, but I had forgotten how great the song in question is until I stumbled across it in my iTunes library the other day, so I thought I'd repost. Thanks for indulging me. -- S.S.]

This is an oh so tragic story, so please try not to laugh.

A long time ago (no Spanish American War jokes, thank you) I was going through a really painful breakup, by which I mean I was at the beginning of a three year depression that made me all but impossible to hang out with because of my annoying habit of saying things like "What's there to live for?" in response to questions like "Would you like fries with that?"

As you can imagine, my emotional state was impacting my listening habits, and at one point the then new 1991 album Anything Can Happen, by Nashville alt-pop rockers The Questionnaires, happened to cross my desk.

One song from the album in particular -- the (I decided) ragingly beautiful breakup ballad "In the Back of My Mind" --

-- hit me pretty hard and I began listening to it obsessively, to the point where I think I basically ignored everything else on the record, the rest of which could have been Lithuanian grindcore for all I knew.

Anyway, one day a critical colleague of mine -- toiling at Entertainment Weekly, as I recall -- happened to ask me what I was listening to of late, and I recommended said Questionnaires album, rather heartily, as I also recall. A few weeks later he called me up about a review assignment, and he finally said "Uh...Steve? You know that Questionnaires thing you made me listen to? It...really sucks."

To be honest, I didn't see the point in arguing, and I'm sure I figured that my own judgement probably wasn't all that reliable anymore, for obvious reasons. So I put the CD away out of earshot, and eventually mislaid it somewhere, probably while moving to a new apartment a year or two later.

Cut to the present and, for whatever reason the song popped into my head unbidden. So out of curiosity, I went through my iTunes library and checked out "In the Back of My Mind" for the first time in at least two decades. And guess what -- I still think that it's ragingly beautiful in a sort of Brian Wilson/early Association/lotsa harmonies kind of way.

Okay, no larger point, but you can listen to it above and make up your own mind about whether or not I'm the biggest pathetic wimp who ever lived.

Incidentally, the guy who wrote the song is big band jazz great Woody Herman's grandson. What Woody would have thought about any of this, of course, is anybody's guess.

POSTSCRIPT: You can get a brand new copy of the Questionnaires CD -- which I just listened to for the first time in years, and which is really really good -- at Amazon, for a lousy six bucks, over HERE.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me

Apparently, this is an official video for George Harrison's gorgeous "What Is Life."

I have no idea who is responsible for this, or when it's from, but I must confess I completely lost it yesterday when I stumbled across it at YouTube.

Seriously -- if this doesn't reduce you to a puddle of tears, I don't want to know you.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

These Guys Speak For Me

From several moments ago, please enjoy Rick Estrin & the Nightcats and a sentiment I think we can all agree with -- "Dump That Trump."

Say what you will about our current historical moment, but it's turned out to be a vintage time for musical satire of fascist political shitheads.

I mean, don't even get me started on the brilliant RANDY RAINBOW. Who should probably get a Pulitzer before this is over.

Monday, June 29, 2020

It's a Helluva Town. Of Course, I Don't Get Out Much In It Lately.

From friend of PowerPop Willie Nile's new album New York at Night --

-- here's the official video for "New York is Rockin'."

A celebration of the town we live in as it was and -- hopefully -- will be again soon. Thanks, Willie.

You can -- and should -- order the album over at Amazon HERE.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Letters, We Get Letters, We Get Sacks and Sacks of Letters....

So some days I really love my phony baloney job.

Case in point: When I got the following e-mail recently.

Hi Steve, Hope you are safe & sound.

I'm writing about a June 1st release from my 15 year old daughter, Juniper.

It’s quite an unusual album, both in its sound and creation.

Most of the songs are by me (or her & me), but we asked some friends to write for us and got songs from:

Tommy Dunbar (Rubinoos) & Kyle Vincent
Kim Shattuck (the Muffs) & Lisa Marr
Francis Macdonald (Teenage Fanclub).

And we got a lot of our friends to play on the recordings, including:

Marshall Crenshaw
Dennis Diken (Smithereens)
Chris Geddes (Belle & Sebastian)
Jay Gonzalez (Drive By Truckers)
Steve Goulding (Mekons, Nick Lowe, etc)
Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo)
Chris Collingwood (Fountains of Wayne)
Mark Spencer (Son Volt)
Greg Townson (Los Straitjackets)

So, the record has a story.

And it really sounds unusual, because of her voice and the unique mix of punky/poppy songs, and the basement/kitchen sink production style – which is reverent of ‘60s & ‘70s pop, but not anachronistically so.

Okay, as you may imagine, that got my attention.

And then I listened to a single from the album, which had been released previously...

...and decided that heck yeah -- it was absolutely delightful.

And then I listened to another one -- "Everybody's Got a Crush on Chad"...

...and realized, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this kid is a freaking star who's just made one of the albums of the year. Seriously, there isn't a less than fabulous track on the whole thing.

So go to Bandcamp HERE or Spotify and be a patron of the arts, you bastids. This kind of creativity deserves your support.

POSTSCRIPT: If the title to this post doesn't ring a bell, it's from a request segment on the old Perry Como show that was one of my favorite things when I was a pre-teenager.

Yes, I'm incredibly old.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Literary Notes From All Over

Been devouring Sympathy for the Drummer: Why Charlie Watts Matters by Mike Edison...

...which is very funny and a smashing read; author Edison, a drummer himself, really knows the music and the Stones history inside out and it's nice that Charlie is finally getting this level of recognition.

I will say this, however; it's a cliche that members of my generation had an existential choice to make -- Beatles or Stones. And boy, did Edison choose the Stones. I mean, he really fucking hates The Beatles, with the exception of Ringo, and the animus is occasionally a little disconcerting.

In any case, you can and should order the book over at Amazon HERE.

And now, because I love you all more than food, here's one of Charlie's earliest masterpieces (Edison rates it very highly, as well he should).

Jeebus, that's great. I mean, the whole band is, but Charlie makes it sound so damned easy.

[h/t Robert Albiston]

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

So over lunch yesterday it dawned on me that I didn't know who wrote "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring" -- the gorgeous song from The Beach Boys' clip I posted Tuesday.

And when I looked it up -- in the immortal words of Cristina Applegate on Married With Children -- you could have knocked me over with the weather to learn it was none other than...Bobby Troup.

Whose other credits include having been married to Julie London, AKA the hottest woman of the 20th Century (he co-starred with her on the 70s TV show Emergency).

And who was responsible for London's stunning hit recording of "Cry Me a River."

He also wrote this Little Richard classic...

...and finally, and most importantly, wrote the song that The Rolling Stones turned into the greatest live performance in the history of both rock AND roll.

Jeebus H. Christ on a piece of burnt challah toast -- what a freaking resume.

Clearly, this guy would be a fruitful subject for future research.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Behind Schedule

Actual music posting -- of a fabulous song that will blow your mind -- resumes in the afternoon.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Cue Barenaked Ladies and "Brian Wilson"

Friend of PowerPop Bill Lloyd -- a fabulous pop/rock/country artist who I've been a fan of since forever (including the Stereo Review days -- has shared an amazing reminiscence in honor of Brian Wilson's 78th birthday (which was this past Saturday).

Quick story; when Foster & Lloyd opened for The Beach Boys in San Carlos CA in 1990, there were four shows, an afternoon and evening show on a Saturday and Sunday. Rad Foster and I just played acoustic sets but it went over just fine. This was during the time Brian was somewhat estranged from the band and still under Landy's rule to my knowledge. He showed up on the Sunday show as a surprise and in a last-minute rehearsal, they commandeered our dressing room to warm up. It was THIS song they did together. So please just imagine us outside with our ears pressed to the door hearing them run this down like it was effortless.

Here's the song in question, live from The Andy Williams show in 1966.

I can't even imagine what it must have been like for Bill to hear that under the circumstances he describes. Hell, I wept openly today while watching the video.

BTW, I should add that my old band The Hi-Beams -- AKA The Floor Models Mark II -- were lucky enough to open for Foster and Lloyd sometime in the late 80s, which was one of the great thrills of my adult life.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Your Friday Moment of Teenage Glossolalia

From 1972, and their fabulous live reunion album...

...please enjoy Dion and the Belmonts and the opening track "I Wonder Why."

This is one of the greatest rock songs of all time, not just one of the greatest doo-wop songs, and that whole album is just stellar. I hadn't thought about it in years, but attentive readers are aware that I've been listening to Dion's new one of late, and thus was moved to grab a CD copy of the live album a few days ago; I was pleased to discover that it's as good as I remembered. I should add that it didn't get as much critical acclaim as it deserved back in '72, when it was unfairly dismissed as a sort of rock revival piece of nostalgia, which it most assuredly isn't.

Incidentally, and in the interest of full disclosure, the term "teenage glossolalia" was first applied to "I Wonder Why" by the great Greil Marcus in in his indispensable rock history tome Mystery Train.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The One That Got Away

This photo popped up on my Facebook Memories thingie this morning.

For the record, that's me and my 1959 Les Paul goldtop rocking out live for a performance by a band called God (hey, we were young) being shot for a student film at CW Post in 1969.

I bought the guitar for 125 bucks two years earlier -- if I were to think how much it would fetch today, I would have a stroke and die.

Oh, and you can see the film -- which is pretty good, and a great time capsule of what it felt like to be a 20-something at a liberal arts college just prior to Woodstock -- over here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Closed for Slacker Monkey Business

Regular posting -- I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- resumes on the morrow.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Holy Crap -- in 2020, Bob Dylan is the New Bob Dylan

In case you missed it, there was an absolutely fascinating interview by historian Douglas Brinkley with the Hibbing Minstrel in the New York Times over the weekend.


A few years ago, sitting beneath shade trees in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., I had a two-hour discussion with Bob Dylan that touched on Malcolm X, the French Revolution, Franklin Roosevelt and World War II. At one juncture, he asked me what I knew about the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. When I answered, “Not enough,” he got up from his folding chair, climbed into his tour bus, and came back five minutes later with photocopies describing how U.S. troops had butchered hundreds of peaceful Cheyenne and Arapahoe in southeastern Colorado.

Given the nature of our relationship, I felt comfortable reaching out to him in April after, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, he unexpectedly released his epic, 17-minute song “Murder Most Foul,” about the Kennedy assassination. Even though he hadn’t done a major interview outside of his own website since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016, he agreed to a phone chat from his Malibu home, which turned out to be his only interview before next Friday’s release of “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” his first album of original songs since “Tempest” in 2012...

You can, and should, read the rest of it over at the Times HERE.

I should add that, based on the two songs from the album that have already been released, this is going to be a major event. I highly recommend pre-ordering it over at Amazon HERE.

To paraphrase the old MAD Magazine -- $13.98 cheap.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Frankie Goes to Hollywood

From 1945, please enjoy the Academy Award winning short film The House I Live In.

I hadn't seen that since elementary school, and I had forgotten just how cool it is on a number of levels.

I should add, in a proof of the contention that no good deed goes unpunished, that Albert Maltz, the screenwriter of that eloquent plea for tolerance, was sent to prison and later blacklisted for the crime of refusing to testify in front of the odious House Un-American Activities Committee.

Oh well, at least Sinatra's great in it.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Hollies Days Are Here Again

From 1965, and the amazing live compilation Radio Fun...

...please enjoy The Hollies -- possibly my second favorite Brit Invasion band of all time -- and a live at the BBC version of one of the most stunning power pop songs ever.

Written, I should add, by the immortal Graham Gouldman.

And you can download the compilation that's from over at this link HERE.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Closed for Monkey Business

Yes, I'm slacking today. Sorry -- real world concerns have impinged on my work ethic.

I swear on my parents grave that there will be great posts on a daily basis beginning tomorrow and continuing all next week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me

From his just released new album Downtime, please enjoy the incredibly great Nick Piunti -- doing business with his fabulous band The Complicated Men -- and the power pop work of genius that is "Upper Hand."

Seriously, I've written glowingly about Piunti on previous occasions, beginning in 2016, and as I said back then the guy is so good I hate him.

But this new song -- and the whole album, as well -- is sheer perfection; everything about it -- including the guitar solos -- is genre defining.

You can order the thing over at Amazon HERE or over at Nick's website HERE

And a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who posits who Piunti's vocals remind me of, because for the life of me I can't put my finger on it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Closed For Monkey Business Out of "Marathon Man"

Okay, my dentist isn't actually a Nazi and looks nothing like Sir Larry Olivier, but I'm having a tooth pulled today and I can't bring myself to actually write something.

Assuming I live, regular posting -- beginning with an absolutely incredible new song by NICK PIUNTI -- resumes tomorrow.

Monday, June 08, 2020

On an American Street

Genius singer/songwriter Marc Jonson -- a friend since my Floor Models days in Greenwich Village, and probably the most talented of all the people I knew back then -- reacts with righteous fury to the recent events in Minneapolis.

Words fail me.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Posted for Obviously Relevant Reasons

From his just released Blues With Friends album, please enjoy Dion (and Paul Simon) and "Song for Sam Cooke (Here In America)."

The album in question, BTW, is a stone masterpiece and belongs in everybody's music library. Order it over at Amazon HERE or earn my eternal emnity.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Gimme Shelter

A very droll piece from the current New Yorker about what musician David Mansfield found in his front yard in suburban New Jersey.

You can read the whole thing over at the link HERE.

Friday, June 05, 2020

It's New Music By Veteran Artists Week (The Sequel to the Epilogue): Special "Losing My Balance" Edition

From just the other day, please enjoy the quite terrific Tommy Roe and his obviously relevant remake of his 1969 classic "Dizzy."

Pretty funny obviously, and if I do say so, the modulations in that are one of the coolest gimmicks in the history of both rock AND roll. Roe is actually a way underrated figure; he was one of those guys who really wanted to be Buddy Holly and didn't do a bad job at becoming him.

In any case -- next week, nothing but new music.

And have a great weekend, everybody!!

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Your Thursday Moment of I Can't Come Up With an Adequate Title

From their 1991 reunion album The Prodigal Stranger, please enjoy Procol Harum and the incredibly great lead-off track "The Truth Won't Fade Away."

I hadn't thought about that song since forever, but it popped into my head unbidden this morning, probably for two reasons. Number one, it came out in roughly the same time period as that Del Shannon album I referenced yesterday -- apparently, 1991 was a really good year for rock-and-roll, and I need to research that.

And also because the lyrics...

We were young, we were brave, we were true, we were strong
Far away the bombs and the buildings exploding
There was no way out
It was black, it was white, we had so much to say
Right or wrong... The truth won't fade away

We had our hopes, we had our dreams, we were young, we were old
We saw our future self-destructing: there were roles that we played
Some were good, some were bad: there was so much to say
Right or wrong... The truth won't fade away

...seem eerily prescient given the completely disgusting lies coming from (what a friend referred to as) the Trump Batshit House.

Okay, I know the title of this blog isn't PISSED OFF LEFTY; regular music posting -- a thoroughly cool new song, BTW -- goes up tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

So for a variety of reasons, I have been listening -- obsessively of late -- to one of the great unheralded albums of our lifetime.

Del Shannon's posthumous -- produced by Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, and Jeff Lynne -- 1991 masterpiece Rock On.

Here's my critique of it from the Magazine Formerly Known as STEREO REVIEW.

In any event, I posted that on Facebook the other day and a friend sent me the link to this clip of Shannon on the Letterman show in 1987.

I think any objective person would have to concede that's one of the greatest rock-and-roll performances in the history of the music.

I mean seriously -- when Shannon did that, he had already performed "Runaway" more times than Judy Garland had done "Over the Rainbow," and yet he's absolutely not phoning it in.

Words fail me.

[h/t Trademark Dave]

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Closed for Dental Monkey Business

Okay, it's not bad enough that we're in the middle of a plague, the worst economy since the Great Depression, and cities on fire like it's 1968 -- but I'm probably gonna have to have a tooth removed and I'm in horrible pain until then.

Assuming I get some relief, regular musical posting will resume on the morrow.

Monday, June 01, 2020

It's New Music By Veteran Artists Week (The Epilogue): Special "Dress Warmly" Edition

From their about to be released reunion double-disc live album Last Call (Live at the Music Box), please enjoy pride of Cleveland The Choir and their quite lovely and sort of Procol Harum-ish reworking of their 1966 power pop/garage rock regional hit "It's Cold Outside."

Three of the Choir boys (okay, I'm sorry) achieved greater fame as original members of The Raspberries (with Eric Carmen), although only drummer Jim Bonfanti is in the incarnation documented on Last Call. I should add that the Procol Harum reference is not gratuitous; there are a lot of covers on the record, and five -- count 'em, five -- are by Procol (along with songs by The Easybeats(!), Bob Seger, and The Kinks, among others).

In any case, a very nice coda to an interesting career; you can -- and should -- order it over at Amazon HERE.

Friday, May 29, 2020

It's New Music By Veteran Artists Week (Part III): Special "Subways Are For Sleeping" Edition

From his totally rocking just released album New York At Night...

...please enjoy incomparable singer/songwriter/keeper of the rock flame Willie Nile and his absolutely gorgeous "Under This Roof."

I absolutely love that album cover, BTW. And boy -- does it summon up a whole world that now, because of our current crisis, seems as remote as the Pleistocene.

In any event, you can -- and should -- order the album over at Amazon or Willie's official website..

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

PowerPop's Greatest Hits: Special "This Seems Oddly Relevant Given Our Current Crisis" Edition

[I first posted this back in 2011, but for obvious corona virus reasons, I thought it might be amusing to re-up it. --S.S.]

Attentive and/or long time readers may perhaps recall the story of my first high school rock band, The Plagues, and our 1965 adventures in the recording studio. Or not.

In any case, about two years after those epochal sessions -- during the fabled Summer of Love, if memory serves -- Allan Weissman, my old chum from The Plagues, and I were hanging out in his basement in sylvan Teaneck, New Jersey, when he informed me that he had just written a song in a style that might be considered Dylanesque. After he played it for me -- it was called "Cassandra," as in the Greek babe from the ancient legends -- I concurred, and we soon worked out a rudimentary arrangement; Allan was on bass and vocals, while I flailed around on a crappy Japanese guitar of some sort (I hadn't scored my fabled 1959 Les Paul goldtop at this point).

I decided that the song needed some kind of opening figure, a la the stuff Roger McGuinn did for The Byrds, and I finally came up with one. Unfortunately, given my limited guitar skills, what I came up was not merely lame, but in fact The Lamest Riff in History©. Which is to say a simple ascending and then descending single note sequence that was essentially...uh, just a G-major scale. And even that description overstates its level of inspiration.

Undeterred, Allan and I recorded a version of the tune, in mono, on one of those Wollensak reel-to-reel tape machines that everybody, including your high school AV department, had in those days, and I seem to recall thinking even then that my contribution to the track was vaguely cringe-inducing. What I would think now, I have no idea, because the tape itself has long since disappeared. And hopefully will remain so.

Anyway, cut to 2010. I had just reconnected with Allan and the rest of the high school chums with whom, as those same attentive and/or long-time readers mentioned above doubtless know, I had toiled for years in a subsequent garage/basement band called The Weasels. And Allan had given me a CD of (Weasel) The Other White Meat -- a home-made album the guys had recorded (without me, obviously) in 2004.

And suddenly, after I put the CD into my computer -- THERE WAS THE RIFF!!!!

Yes, nearly four decades after it was first committed to magnetic tape, the guys had done a remake, if that is the word, of "Cassandra." A song which is actually pretty cool, despite my...well, you know.

And here it is, exactly as my astonished ears first beheard it again.

The feeble contemplation that is going on inside
The mutilated warnings that they won't let you confide
Oh, ring the trumpets on their ears
The new Titanics come with years
Cassandra, turn your head to other people.

Hold your banner high until it stretches to the ground.
Shake the dead; the old, the buried recognize the sound.
Put yourself in ages hence
Glance, the foundlings never sense,
Cassandra, turn your head to other people.

Shout the call; the air is dead;
They'll never understand.
It echoes off the tired feet that walk upon their hands.
Deny the cradles, rob the graves,
The sirens drone, the prophet raves;
Cassandra, turn your head to other people.

I thought at the time, and still do, that "the tired feet that walk upon their hands" is one of the most, shall we say, remarkable lines ever.

I should also add that it is a mark of what a mensch I am that, despite the centrality of my riff to the entire "Cassandra" experience, I have never asked Allan for a co-writer credit.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

It's New Music By Veteran Artists Week (Part II): Special "Why Can't She Be Like Other Girls?" Edition

From her just released album Songs I Can't Live Without...

...please enjoy jaded virgin Marshall Chapman and her haunting cover of the Goffin/King/Shirelles classic "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow".

I've loved this woman's work since forever -- here's an interview/profile I did with her at Stereo Review on the occasion of her second album in 1978.

Scroll down to page 86 when you get to the link HERE.

And you can (and should) order the new one -- which includes way cool covers of songs by everybody from Leonard Cohen to Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn -- over at Amazon HERE.

Actually, a better place to order it -- for considerably less money -- is over at Marshall's website HERE. And as a bonus, each order will include a signed essay Marshall wrote about the recording of the album -- why she chose each song, what each song has meant to her over the years, and so on.

POSTSCRIPT: If you're unlucky enough to have never seen Marshall perform, this clip should give you an idea of what you've missed.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

It's New Music By Veteran Artists Week (Part I): Special "So Beautiful It Hurts" Edition

Please enjoy Dion and Jeff Beck with the transplendently heartbreaking — and a song which splits the difference between blues and country in an astounding way -- "Can't Start Over Again."

Beck, of course, has been the greatest living rock guitarist since his Sixties tenure with The Yardbirds (yeah, yeah, we can argue -- but name somebody better or shut up).

And Dion -- who has been a star since the mid-50s -- has also been, IMHO, pound for pound the greatest rock singer who ever lived since his doo-wop days with The Belmonts.

Nice to know that both of them are still working with their powers undimmed.

BTW, the about to be released album that's from -- Blues With Friends -- can (and should be) pre-ordered over at Amazon here.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Your Friday Moment of Life Remains Worth Living

From the soon to be released (June) 2020 expanded reissue of "Orange Crate Art," the 1994 collaboration by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, please enjoy a thoroughly charming version of the venerable "Wonderful World."

I haven't listened to that album in years, but I remember it as, if not Smile great, pretty damn great in its own right, and I can't wait to sit down under the headphones with the new version.

You can (and should) order the album from the good folks at Omnivore Records over at Amazon HERE.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Greatest Record Ever Recorded (An Occasional Series): Special "Vanda and Young are Literally Gods" Edition

[This is an old post, but I'm re-upping it because our antipodean chum (and friend of PowerPop) Peter Scott just sent me the mp3 on the off chance that I didn't have it. -- S.S.]

Okay, this is a really long story, and I've told some of it before on a couple of occasions, but there's a new kicker at the end, so please indulge me.

First, the set-up.

One of the greatest (and most obscure) lost singles of the 70s -- indeed, in rock history -- is a little number called "Natural Man" by The Marcus Hook Roll Band.

The MHRB were actually Harry Vanda and George Young of The Easybeats, then toiling under various aliases in the period before they roared back as the production team behind the first couple of AC/DC albums (AC/DC's Malcolm and Angus, of course, are George's younger brothers).In any case, the record itself is one of the landmarks of the Glam Era -- a perfect three chord "Sweet Jane" derivative with hilarious topical lyrics, gorgeous layered electric and acoustic guitars, and absolutely brilliant production, including a bass guitar and cowbell breakdown (a la the bit in Free's "Alright Now," but hookier) that sets up a massive series of final choruses that once heard are etched into your auditory canal forever. An absolute masterpiece, is what I'm saying.

Unfortunately, it was not a hit when released here on Capitol Records in 1973. I had a promo copy like the one pictured below at the time, but I misplaced it later in the decade.

Note the misspelling of Harry Vanda's name, which may give you some clue to the record's importance to the braniacs at Capitol. In any case, the only LP it ever appeared on back in the day was an Australia-only release that apparently self-destructed, Mission Impossible-style, approximately two days after it was issued. As for CD, starting in the late 90s you could get a copy of the song on an import MHRB compilation, but unfortunately it was an inferior demo version that lacked all the magic of the single.

You can read a contemporary account of the single -- from the now defunct house organ of United Artists Records -- online, although I'm having trouble getting the link. Incidentally, the author of said piece, Martin Cerf, was one of the hipper record company guys at the time, and a friend to numerous rock journalists of the period including the late great Greg Shaw; he may, in fact, have been a partner in Greg's BOMP Records, although I'm hazy on that.

Anyway, as the years flew by down the echoing corridors of time, I pretty much decided that the single version never actually existed and that I'd more or less hallucinated the whole business. But two or three years ago I finally got a pretty good vinyl rip of the 45 (with some surface noise and turntable rumble, but otherwise listenable) and musically it was indeed as great as I recalled.

And that, I figured, was that.

Well, not quite.

Cut to: last month. From Rhino's just released reissue -- which I had no idea was in the works -- of the original MHRB album, please behold in breathless wonder the newly remastered (from the original tapes) version of "Natural Man." Sans pops and clicks and sounding as glorious as it must have been when first played back over the monitor speakers at EMI's Abbey Road studios in June of 1972.

And you will hear no better rock-and-roll song or record any time this year, trust me.

You're welcome very much.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Shoot Me Now

Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos turns 62 today.

I have never felt so old in my life.

BTW, I have always assumed she was a nice Jewish girl. Boy, I hope I'm right.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Songcraft in the Time of the Virus

So my friend from the neighborhood (and an absolutely brilliant singer/songwriter/guitarist) Joe Benoit...

...has just written and recorded a song that, I strongly believe, will go down in history as the greatest work of art to have been inspired by our current trying times.

Okay, maybe not the greatest work of art, but certainly the best fucking pop-rock song.

You can, and should, order it over HERE. And share it with everybody.

Seriously, this damn thing is so brilliant I want to kill the kid.

Hey what’s your hurry?
You don’t have to worry
There’s nowhere to go anyway
I think the clock still ticks
As I’m watching Netflix
But I’m losing track of the days

There’s nothing left out there for me

Welcome to the longest weekend that you’ve ever known
It’s getting kind of strange to be alone
At least we’re still breathing
We’re living in the longest weekend
You’d think it would be fun
I never thought I’d say that I want Monday to come

The shelves are all empty
As far as we can see
New York has become a ghost town
Too much hesitation
And no preparation
Has led us to where we are now

Will there be something left for me?

Welcome to the longest weekend that you’ve ever known
Now every waking moment’s in your home
Just try not to lose it
We’re living in the longest weekend that we’ve ever known
It’s getting kind of strange to be alone…

With our thoughts
And our fears
And our hands that stay sanitized
It feels like a dream
But did we ever wake and realize

We were heading for the longest weekend that we’ve ever known
It’s getting kind of strange to be alone
At least we’re still breathing
We’re living in the longest weekend
You’d think it would be fun
I never thought I’d say that I want Monday to come
I never thought I’d say but I want Monday to come
I never thought I’d say that I want Monday to come

I have been blessed during my life to have known lots of incredibly talented people, but this is just ridiculously cool.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me and I'm Freaking Crying

A music teacher and friends and colleagues from East Meadow, Long Island -- and I have relatives there -- reminds us all of what matters in these trying times.

I should add that yeah, this is better conceptually than it is in the execution, but I don't give a crap. This is so moving I can't stand it.

I should also add that the cello player with the mouse ears is a living saint.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Phil May 1944-2020

The lead singer of The Pretty Things -- the greatest British bad boys except for The Rolling Stones -- has passed.

And not from the virus, I'm happy to say.

The Prettys never made much of an impression in The US of A, for whatever reason, but they were a very big deal in the UK. And I'm pleased to say that I saw them live -- touring the above album they made for Led Zeppelin's record label.

Can't remember who they were opening for, but they were very impressive.

And I love that song.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Weekend Listomania: Special "Only the Good Die Young" Guest Blogger Edition

So it's Friday, and you know what that means.

Yes, my Oriental Amanuensis of Awesomeness Fah Lo Suee and I will be social distancing at an undisclosed location that I won't be sharing with you freaking peons, thank you very much.

But in the meantime, courtesy of friend of PowerPop Captain Al, who graciously did the work for this when I decided to be a total slacker, here's a fun project for all of us:

Greatest Pop/Rock/Soul/Country Artists of the 20th Century Whose Early Deaths Probably Deprived Us Of Terrific Music They Would Otherwise Have Made!!!

In other words, these people had to have died before their artistic decline began. Got it? Good.

And our (one of these is mine) totally top of our head Top Eleven is ----

11. Jim Ellison [Material Issue]

Okay, so Ellison wasn't Kurt Cobain, but his death hit me a lot harder. For starters, unlike Cobain, he seemed to actually enjoy being a rock star. -- S.S.

10. Robert Johnson

Reason for inclusion: He was a mentor directly and indirectly to an entire generations of blues and rock musicians. The legend of his life and musicianship is the breakfast of champions for these musicians and fans.

What if he had lived: What direction would his music have taken had he lived. Would he have moved to Chicago and eventually gone electric? Jazz? Jump Blues or even more pop based? He easily could have done any single or combination of those directions. It would have been fascinating to see.

From Greil Marcus, in Mystery Train:

Shortly before his death Johnson reportedly formed a band with piano and drums ("ROBERT JOHNSON" emblazoned on the bass drum); there are even claims that he was using an electric pickup on his guitar. These developments by themselves would not have been unknown (Howlin' Wolf may have been playing an electric guitar in Mississippi at the same time...) But the rhythmic structures of Johnson's songs suggest that any band of his might have been making music recognizable as rock 'n' roll, full-blown not protean rock 'n' least by 1938, the year of his death.

9. Hank Williams

Reason for inclusion: He was a huge star, all-time great songwriter & extremely popular live performer. Like Robert Johnson his self destructive behavior became a symbol for future generations of country and rockabilly artists. Everyone loves a self destructive bad boy.

What if he had lived: Maybe country music would have been recognized as a serious genre much sooner.
He might have become an international superstar.

8. Buddy Holly

Reason: Come on now it's Buddy!

What if: This is my imaginary history if Buddy had lived. This could/should have happened!

In the early 60's Buddy concentrated on songwriting, producing other artists and even becoming a record company executive. He occasionally created his own new recordings and possibly (maybe probably) moved in a more pop mainstream direction. He cuts back on live performing. The British Invasion pulls him back into being a more active recording artist and live performer. By the second half of the sixties he starts playing places like the Fillmores' and the college circuit. Even a few hits follow after he shares stages with The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane and The Dead. I envision him standing between Grace and Kantner while on stage with the Airplane while directly in front of the stage I and 5000 other hippies dance to him playing at The Tripping Fields at SUNY New Paltz in May 1970! In an alternate universe this really happened. Of course after that he is influenced by James Taylor and gets old, fat and boring. He ends up an executive at Asylum Records and is caught in bed with Carly Simon. Oh, the humanity!!!

7. Eddie Cochran

Reason: Just like Buddy Holly: Great live performer, producer and songwriter.

What if: Possibly even more successful than Buddy! He had it all! He's almost a man of mystery because it feel like very little of his musical future had happened yet. His possibilities for greatness seemed endless. He was a true ass shaking rocker! He might have changed the history of rock & roll, he had that much potential.

6. Elmore James

Reason: One of our greatest blues songwriters. Possibly the most influential slide guitar player ever.

What if: He could have joined Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and BB King in receiving the success and recognition those three gained in the sixties and beyond. He just didn't receive the medical attention he needed. Many of the bluesmen died way too early due to health issues. Freddie King is another one who had his future in front of him and lost it due to a bad heart. The lifestyle of bluesmen was extremely tough and it caught up with Elmore.

5. Otis Redding

Reason: He was possibly the best vocalist and showman of the rock and roll/soul era. Successful record producer. He was just getting better and better as a songwriter.

What if: He was a potential record company executive if there ever was one, maybe creating his own record label someday. He would have achieved success on the level of a superstar. The sky was the limit on his talents with unlimited potential. (He is my favorite vocalist ever!) What a loss.

4. Jimi Hendrix

Reason: Considered by many the premier rock & roll guitarist. Great showman and wrote some classic songs. Jimi was a master at using the recording studio as a musical instrument. Then he pissed it all away by dying.

What if: What if he had lived is such a good question and one I have a great bit of difficulty contemplating. Had he hit a wall (as some feel) and he would of stalled creatively taking his music no further creatively with him and us looking at the promised land but unable to enter it the way The Beatles showed us a psychedelic music ("Strawberry Fields", "I am The Walrus" and "A Day in the Life") but could take it no further, or would Jimi have freed up the music and taken it in directions we still can't contemplate. Damned if I know!

3. Janis Joplin

Reason: Unlike the others Janis was mainly a song interpreter but she was one of the best. Janis found great songs that fit her to a 'T" as a performer. She commanded the stage with a passion few could equal. Steve saw her perform with Big Brother back in the day and says it might be the best performance he ever attended! Ask him sometime.

What if: Another tough one to nail down. Some fans and critics said she had burnt her voice out and was on a downhill trajectory as a singer. I don't hear that as her singing on "Pearl" was superb. Her live performances from the same era were in general very, very good. She went out on top. With the right band and material she could have sustained a long wonderful career if only she could have gotten her life under control.

2. Sandy Denny

Reason: That voice, that songwriting and when she was right she could command a stage like few other singer/songwriters.

What if: Surprisingly "Little Miss Demure" was as self destructive as anyone on this list. Drinking, drugging and self destructive physical behavior doomed her. She was ill equipped to deal with a music business in an era before artists could build their careers much more independently of the major labels and unresponsive management. She never got to transition into successful niche careers like Richard Thompson, John Prine, Lucinda Williams or Rosanne Cash, who lowered their expectations of mass stardom and gained longterm control and success with their careers. Sandy could have had that long term success and made good money if she could have lasted long enough to make that transition. Filling mid size halls, selling her own recordings and merchandise and having many more artists covering her wonderful song catalog the way the above named artists have had done to their song catalogs. Another real loss.

And the Numero Uno he died way too freaking young artiste clearly is....

1. Pete Ham

Reason: He was a great rock/pop songwriter and a passionate singer.

What if: Peter had little stage presence or charisma (see the video), but even with Badfinger's limitations as a live act, in the studio they often shined! Even with those limitations I see Peter as a major player as a hit songwriter and producer. Maybe he even could have grown as a live performer. Many of the greatest often do. (Think Richard Thompson)

As with all of the performers on this list Peter Ham's death was very tragic. But unlike the others he committed suicide which was a precursor to the new chic way to die among big time rock stars. His death broke my heart as it was so unnecessary. It broke my heart in a way that was different from the other nine deaths on this list in that he was directly the master of his own fate. For another later generation Kurt Cobain had the same effect on them. Now this way of dying by suicide is all too common and even accepted.

There we are, what do you guys think? Who do you miss because of their early death?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!