Friday, January 31, 2020

Greetings From the Class of '69

A certain very famous rock star on his prom night.

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who correctly identifies said star. Hint: If he was still alive, said star would conceivably have been a neighbor of mine.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

À la Recherche du Oldies Perdu

So on our first night in London, a certain Shady Dame and I made our way to the West End and took in a show called THE COMEDY ABOUT A BANK ROBBERY

We figured it might be a hoot given that it was from the same people responsible for THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, which we had seen twice and laughed ourselves silly both times.

Alas, the new one was pretty lame, and we left at intermission. But the evening was not a total waste -- the music played before the first act was a well chosen selection of 50s and early 60s rock and r&B -- mostly familiar, but still fun.

And there were two songs that made my ears stand up all Batman -- one I knew I had heard before but couldn't recall the artist, and one I had never heard at all and which became an instant earworm.

The intertubes being the wondrous thing they are, a little investigating turned them up, and please enjoy.

The one I knew.

And the one I didn't.

I had always assumed that Nappy Brown was a one hit wonder ("Don't Be Angry") so his song was a revelation. As for the Ruth Brown track, it goes to show you that not every Leiber and Stoller song stands the test of tine, although I think it's catchy as all get out and Ruth sings the very pants off of it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Closed For (Got Out of London Just in Time to Miss Brexit) Monkey Business

Back from our excellent European adventure, but kinda jet-lagged.

Regular postings -- dressed, peppy and featuring actual music -- resume tomorrow.

PS: Note omission of Oxford comma above. If you know what I mean.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Steve and BG's Excellent European Adventure: Special "Feline Felicitations" Edition

Had a great time on the continent, but there's a certain oversized pussycat we need to see back at home.

Regular music posting resumes on the morrow.

Monday, January 27, 2020

London Calling: Special "Steve and BG's Excellent British Adventure" Edition

Yours truly yesterday at the entrance to the Museum of London.

And here's something that totally cracked me up -- a (one assumes) music biz magazine trade ad for one of the greatest albums of all time.

Which yours truly was unaware of it until it stopped me and a certain Shady Dame in our tracks at The Clash exhibit at the aforementioned museum.

And if you don't get why it's so brilliant and funny I can't imagine why you'd actually be reading this here blog in the first place. If you know what I mean.

In any case, we're spending one more day in London -- shopping, mostly -- and then its back to the USA on Tuesday.

Friday, January 24, 2020

“Cyrus, My Friend. What Has Happened to Your Nose?” “I’ve Just Returned From Rome.”

This is actually true -- I have just returned from Rome.

Also Pompeii and Herculaneum. And Herculaneum was unbelievable -- if you ever have a chance to go, I can't recommend it too highly.

And now off to a weekend in London...

...where, among other things, we're going to take in The Clash exhibit at the Museum of London before returning home on Tuesday.

Oh, and a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© to the first reader who identifies the source of the title of today's post.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

No, I'm Not Putting Up Something from Pink Floyd at Pompeii and You Can't Make Me!!!

So I've just spent two days in Pompeii, and am heading off to Herculaneum today (have I mentioned I'm on vacation in Italy?)

And it occurred to me that THIS is the only rock song I can think of, top of my head, that features the word "volcano" in the lyric.

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to any reader who thinks of another example before I do.

Closed for (Italian) Monkey Business

So a certain Shady Dame and I finished an absolutely amazing, but ultimately exhausting, exploration of Pompeii yesterday (have I mentioned I'm on vacation in Italy?)

Interesting place, but as you can see, kind of annoyingly Americanized.

I mean, they have the Elks and Kiwanis too.

Music postings resume on the morrow.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Greetings From Rome: Special "Un Cane Salato" Edition

So I was having breakfast at our hotel in Rome yesterday morning -- have I mentioned I'm on vacation in Italy? -- and over the dining room sound system, they were playing nothing but Italian pop and rock. Which normally leaves me cold, but I was starting to have fun trying to figure which Brit and American pop/stars the various Italians were emulating.

And then the studio version of this (which I have not been able to find for free) came on, and -- to quote Cristina Applegate from Married With Children -- you could have knocked me over with the weather.

I'd vaguely heard of this Zucchero fella, who is considered "the father of Italian blues" in his homeland, however amusing a concept that may be. But in any case, I gotta say, he does a largely credible version of the Procol Harum classic.

Now if I could only figure out who was doing the sort of Italian knock-off of David Bowie's "Heroes" that played right before this while I was having my scrambled eggs.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Scenes From My Vacation: Ottorino Respighi to the White Courtesy Phone!

Yours truly yesterday. In front of some weird species of evergreen trees. In a certain unnamed Italian city.

Regular pop music posting resumes on the morrow. But gimme a break -- I'm on holiday.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Arrivederci, Baby!

From 1983, and their H20 album, please enjoy Daryl Hall and John Oates live, as they ask the musical question on everybody's lips -- where are the "Italian Girls"?

I bring all this up because a certain Shady Dame and I are off on a European vacation later today.

First stop -- Rome!!! Woo hoo!!!

Assuming my laptop doesn't give me problems, I'll be doing regular musical postings as well as vacation dispatches until our return at the end of the month.

In the meantime, have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Have I mentioned we're going to freaking Rome?

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Got Live If You Want It: Special "When Everything Gets Hazy" Edition

From JPs -- a low drug den/music dive on the upper East Side, on the evening of May 27, 1982 -- please enjoy the fabulous Floor Models and their totally rocking ode to urban paranoia "What's Wrong With This Picture?"

Written and sung by our late great 12-string ace Andrew Pasternack.

That's from our soon to be released live album, obviously, and kudos to brilliant engineer Brent McLachlan, at 30 Below Studio, for making the now decades old cassette recording of this stuff sound absolutely transplendent.

And a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who identifies the '60s quote at the end of the instrumental section.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Tales From the Edge of Wetness

From 1965 and Shindig, television's greatest pop music show ever, please enjoy the mysteriously obscure Donna Loren and an appropriately gorgeous performance of "With the Wind and the Rain in Your Hair."

That song was unknown to me until a couple of weeks ago, when I heard Dennis Day sing it on a 1940 episode of The Jack Benny Show (it was a hit for a bunch of singers that year). Don't worry, I won't inflict Day's version on you, but I was immediately taken with it; apparently, its writer -- Clara Edwards -- was a slumming composer of classical art songs.

Donna Loren -- who was a regular on Shindig, although I don't remember her at all -- was obviously a pretty fabulously soulful singer, and but for the vagaries of fortune might well have been a major 60s pop figure on the level of Dusty Springfield or Jackie DeShannon; she had to settle for merely being in a lot of AIP beach movies, episodes of Batman and Dr. Kildare, and a five year stint as the "Dr. Pepper Girl." I am pleased to add that she's still with us (like yours truly she was born in 1947) and you can find out more about her over at her official website HERE.

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Closed for Monkey Business

Had a long late night in the studio.

Regular posting resumes on the morrow.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Music By People I Actually Know (An Occasional Series): Special "There's a Dirty Joke In Here Somewhere" Edition

From last month, please enjoy The John Sally Ride -- featuring friend of PowerPop and proprietor of the fabulous music blog BURNING WOOD Sal Nunziato on drums -- and their suggestively monikered and completely rocking new single "Far From Eaten Out."

And who are these guys? Well, attentive readers will doubtless recall my enthusing about them in the recent past, but here's how the press release for their 2017 debut CD explained it.

The John Sally Ride was inevitable. Long time friends, with thousands of combined hours listening to and talking about music, the trio of musicians that comprise this exciting new band had been making music separately for years. The time had finally come to make a record together. It wasn't just their mutual love of The Kinks, David Bowie and Todd Rundgren. And it wasn't just that special knack of finishing each other's musical sentences. It was all of that, for sure. But, like any great band/record, it all starts with the songs and the magic that suddenly took hold of these gents when they finally hit the studio.

To make a short story long, this record is so wonderful I hate the people who made it, even though as I said up top, I consider Sal a friend.

No kidding -- how dare these guys release a better single than mine in the same season!!! I mean seriously -- not only is "Eaten" a knockout of a song in a sort of hybrid power pop/hard rock vein, but the guitar work by Joe Pampel is ridiculously cool.

As are the lyrics by the song's auteur John Dunbar.

I wish I lead the life you think I lead
I stay at home each night and mostly read
My weekends end so weak and don't start strong
You'd guess they're all booked up and you'd be wrong

You say I'm out and all about
But I'm inside with a can of stout

You think I'm living where it's hip to be
The neighborhood I'm in it takes a trip to see

Life's now one long defeating bout
No drum rolls will be beaten out
And your heart will be far from eaten out
Your heart will be far from eaten out

I hope you never learn of what I do
I'd say it's nothing like the life I knew
The tears will never fear a drought
I'm at the laundry using Shout
And your heart will be far from eaten out
Your heart will be far from eaten out

Just shoot me now. In a good way, of course.

Meanwhile, you can (and should) purchase "Far From Eaten Out" over at Bandcamp HERE. It's also available at Amazon and Spotify.

And, of course, at YouTube.

I should add that a second single by these guys is due next month, and a full-length album by summer.

Hey -- what are you waiting for? Go download or stream "Far From Eaten Out" right now!!!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Only in New York

So the other day, I was in a really crappy mood, not helped by the condition in the illustration below...

...or by being on the E-train on the way in to Manhattan, sitting on what felt like the most uncomfortable bench in the history of Western Civilization.

Anyway, somewhere around 50th street, five middle-aged African-American guys walked into the car and began singing, brilliantly, perhaps my favorite doo-wop song of all time -- The Capris' 1982 comeback record "The Morse Code of Love." Which totally improved my mood, and moved me to extract a fin from my wallet and give it to them with a huge smile on my face.

Alas, I didn't have the chance to record or take a picture of them before they got off at the next stop. But if you don't know the song, here's the original. Try listening to this without grinning -- I dare you.

Anyway, I bring all this up because it reminded me one of the reasons you pay the big bucks to live in New York City is because we have the best street musicians on earth. And therein lies a tale I told here some years ago, but which behooves repeating.

Three words: The Iranian Beatles.

They weren't actually Iranian, of course, although that's how everybody I knew referred to them at the time, but in the late 70s and early 80s they were a Manhattan fixture, particularly in the area around Greenwich Village -- three vaguely swarthy guys playing acoustic guitars, another one simulating drums with a couple of cardboard boxes, and all of them singing covers of Beatles songs in the most astoundingly pretty harmonies you could possibly imagine.

Here they are on a corner somewhere back then doing "I Saw Her Standing There," which will give you an idea of how utterly charming they were.

Eventually I found out they were actually Latino ex-gang members from the South Bronx, and that they were called Street the Beat. They used to absolutely make my day whenever I would run across them in performance (you never knew where they were going to show up, which was, of course, part of the fun). To my knowledge, they never went into a recording studio, but they did do the occasional club show at Folk City, where (I can tell you from personal experience) they were no less amazing than they were al fresco.

And they had a couple of original songs in a Merseybeat vein that would, or should, have been hits in the context of the early New Wave, when such things were being re-appreciated. Here's one of them -- "Falling in Love," as seen on an episode of the old Joe Franklin Show on NYC's Channel 9 in 1983.

I have no idea what happened to the band, although apparently the drummer has a Facebook page. In any case, if "Falling in Love" doesn't make you swoon, or weep for what might have been, there's no hope for you.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, January 09, 2020

It Came From Somewhere

So I was going through my archives the other day, and found two reviews I had done back when I was toiling for the Box Office website and getting free videos up the wazoo. I had forgotten both of these, which are genuine oddities, and since they've gotten no less odd than they were when I originally wrote about them in 2014, I thought I would repost them.

And yes, regular music stuff resumes tomorrow.

Panic Button (1954, Warner Archive)

A business group in deep financial doo-doo decides to solve their money problems by creating an expensive and deliberately flop television pilot and using it as a tax write-off. Yes, you guessed it -- this is essentially The Producers a decade ahead of its time, only with Maurice Chevalier and Jayne Mansfield's breasts instead of Hitler jokes. Pretty bad overall -- George Sherman directs with all the subtle comic timing of a Visigoth -- and some of the dubbing (it's one of those American-Italian co-productions) is particularly egregious. But as historical curiosities go it's relatively interesting (Warner Archive's print isn't so hot, however).

The Bubble (1966, Kino Classics)

Writer/director/producer Arch Oboler is all but forgotten now, but in his day -- which began in radio, with the anthology series Lights Out -- he was highly regarded as a sort of low-budget Rod Serling (he directed Bwana Devil, the film that kicked off the early 50s 3D craze, as well as the wonderful Five, one of the first serious meditations on a post-nuke apocalypse). The Bubble, filmed in Space Vision 3D, essentially anticipates the plot of Stephen King's Under the Dome, but with a more oddball cast, including 50s heartthrob crooner Johnny Desmond and Michael Cole, later of TVs Mod Squad; it was obviously made on a shoe-string, and it's way too long -- a half hour Twilight Zone episode blown up inappropriately to feature film length. But the story, however padded, is compelling and the 3D effects, while a little subtle by today's IMAX standards, mostly keep you hooked. This new version -- the film last played theatrically back in shortened form back in 1976 -- has been meticulously restored by The 3D Film Archive (the trailer above was not, BTW) and looks far better than it has any right to. Kino's Blu-ray version requires a 3D TV or disc player to get the full effect, but if you watch it on a normal video system, it looks just fine in 2D.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Aaargggghhh, Matey!!!

The late great Neil Innes and some guy who was big in the 60s anticipate International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Eric Idle and Billy Bremner are in there somewhere, too.

[h/t Matt Mitchell}

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Dick Jokes Say So Much

And speaking, as we were yesterday, of the great John Hiatt...

I saw him do this in a club in the late 80s, but I'd forgotten how funny it (and he) is.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Obscure Demos of the Gods (An Occasional Series)

Attentive readers will recall that last week I posted about the Nick Lowe and Desert Rose Band versions of a wonderful John Hiatt song called "She Don't Love Nobody".

And that I was surprised to find that a web-search did not turn up a copy of a version by the song's auteur.

Well, guess what.

That's from the early 80s, and apparently from whence Lowe and the DRB found the song.

And not bad at all. Although I think the officially released cover versions are much much better.

[h/t neal t and Bill Spencer]

Friday, January 03, 2020

Got Live If You Want It

A Floor Models live album is about to become an actual thing.

Here's the cover (designed by my brilliant art director girlfriend, who as usual is working cheap)...

...and a representative track. That's the late great Andrew Pasternack on 12-string, of course.

The album was recorded off the soundboard at a typical club show of ours of the period. JPs itself was a small but comfortable industry dive/drug den in the East 70s off First Avenue. I was apparently the only person on earth who didn't know that Scarface-sized quantities of cocaine were being vended in the back room; in any case, we used to think of our gigs there as playing out of town.

It's now called American Trash. I'm told it still has live music, and from the look of it... hasn't changed much.

In any event, I'll be editing the live tape sometime next month, and then the thing will be released for streaming or download on every digital format -- iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc. -- extant. I'll keep you posted.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Technology Has Finally Caught Up With Our Artistic Vision!!!

Okay, here's a long story.

Attentive readers will recall that back in the 70s, I toiled in a garage band called The Hounds...

...who in 1976 released a D.I.Y. indie single on our own label, the b-side of which was a sort of Stones pastiche called "On the Road."

Only 1000 copies of which were ever pressed, and only 800 of which were ever actually sold. Years later, of course, we discovered it was going for fifty bucks on eBay, which we found hilariously funny.

In any case, speaking as the sort of producer of the thing, I was never really happy with the sound on it, or the mix, and more recently -- in 2017, when I compiled a Hounds CD (still available over at iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc) -- the version of the song we used on the album was a scratchy, kind of inadequate, rip from the original 45 rpm vinyl.

Bottom line: A few months ago, a friend of the band provided me with the 4-track master of the song (which had been originally recorded, under highly primitive conditions, at a radio station at Bergen Community College)...

...and at great personal expense I had it digitized. And then, last week, I remixed it at 30 Below, the Manhattan studio where, with brilliant engineer Brent McLachlan, I have been working on my musical projects for the last couple of years.

And here it is. Finally -- as nature intended.

I think it sounds pretty spectacular considering, although obviously I'm biased.

Hey -- I said it was a long story. I never guaranteed it would be an interesting one.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

New Year's Day's Greatest Hits

[I first posted this one on January 1, 2013, and, while I'm not trying to turn it in into some kind of internet tradition, I do find it amusing enough to give it the old "One More Time!". Especially after posting that piece of shit Train cover yesterday. --S.S.]

This is, as I have been wont to say here on many previous occasions, a very sad story, so please try not to laugh.

It also has a certain relevance to today's festivities, which will be revealed later in the narrative. Please be patient.

Anyway, so the other day I was in a cab heading down the West Side Highway in a snowstorm, and the driver had the radio tuned to whatever soft-rock Lite FM station they inevitably have on when they don't have WINS News Radio blasting or some guy from Queens yelling about sports.

I wasn't particularly paying attention, but suddenly some soft-rock Lite FM staple song came on, and immediately I knew three things.

1. I had definitely heard it before.

2. It was probably from the 70s or the 80s, although I couldn't rule out the possibility that it might have been more recent, and it had that whole California soft-rock vibe, which I usually detest, in spades.

3. I had no idea who the guy or the group singing it was, although I was painfully aware that when and if I found out I was gonna kick myself. Because pretty much everybody in the world, at least of a certain age, would have been able to recognize it instantly.

The truly insidious part was that there was something about the damn thing that grabbed me. Yes, the vocals had that laid-back L.A. Mr. Sensitive shtick that usually makes my gorge rise. But the tune was charming, the voicings of the harmony parts in the chorus were really quite lovely, and -- try as I might to deny it -- it was getting under my skin.

Fortunately, because of the roar of traffic, I couldn't really hear the lyrics, although one word -- "architect" -- jumped out. "Hmm," I thought. "There's a word you don't hear in a pop song everyday."

Anyway, I then went about the rest of my weekend, but I knew with an absolutely dread certainty that I was gonna break down sooner or later and look the song up on the Intertubes.

So, late on Monday, I googled "Soft Rock song with the word architect in it" and up it popped.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...and my fingers are shaking as I type these words....Dan Fogelberg (the horror, the horror!) and his 1980 smash (which I had apparently put out of my mind, probably deliberately, ever since its original vogue) "Same Old Lang Syne."

Well. In case you're wondering, no -- I have no interest in revisiting the rest of Fogelberg's body of work, and yes, I still basically can't stand the whole genre he represents, but goddamn it -- this damn song works and it gets to me. Like I said, it's melodically quite charming, and now that I've actually deciphered the lyrics, it turns out that -- despite a certain smugness that kind of rankles -- they actually make a pretty good little short story.

And the record's not even a new guilty pleasure, to be honest, because I don't feel particularly guilty about liking it.

Sticks in my craw a bit, though.

As I said, this is a very sad story, so please try not to laugh.

Happy New Year, everybody.

And fuck you, Dan Fogelberg, for your pernicious influence. Wherever you are.

Thank you.