Monday, May 31, 2021

Samuel E. Wright 1946-2021

Okay, I've said this before, but this death shit is really starting to piss me off.

I was fortunate enough to attend theater school -- at CW Post, of all places -- with Sammy. I can only say this; I have been lucky in my life to have known and worked with many brilliantly talented people in various areas of the arts, but Sammy was without question the most talented of them all. Right out of college, he was the original Judas in the Broadway version of Jesus Christ Superstar (he got me into the opening night cast party at Tavern on the Green, which is a story I'll tell you some day if you get me drunk).

After that, he went through a phase of his career where -- and this was practically a running gag among people who knew him -- he was either understudying or replacing Ben Vereen in various hit shows, including Pippin (that was actually the only one). And after that he did a season on television as co-star of The Dukes of Hazzard spin-off Enos.

And then, of course he was the voice of Sebastian the Crab in The Little Mermaid, (so if you have kids, they probably love him) and most recently he originated the title role of The Lion King on Broadway.

I mean -- give me a fucking break.

You can read more about Sammy over HERE, but here's the short version as told by the man himself.

I should add that most of the Yiddish I know is stuff he taught me, and he grew up in South Carolina.

Have I mentioned that this death shit is really starting to piss me off?

Friday, May 28, 2021

Has There Ever Been a Better Rock Band?

The Easybeats. "Friday on My Mind."

And the answer to the title question is -- no. There hasn't.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Your Thursday Moment of "How Totally Alternative!"

And speaking as we were yesterday of the incomparable Todd Snider, please enjoy -- from 1994 and a hidden track on his debut album -- the utterly hilarious "Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues."

That was apparently a radio hit back in the day; I don't remember how I tumbled to it, but I do recall that every time somebody came into my cramped office at The Magazine Formerly Known as STEREO REVIEW, I would inflict it on them, with mostly positive results. Holds up nicely, I should add.

I should also add that it's somewhat less sardonic than Snider's "Reality Television Talking Blues," which I posted previously in the recent vesion by Sir Tom Jones.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Records That Were Way Better Than Their More Famous Hit Remakes (An Occasional Series)

 From 1979,  please enjoy New Wave faves Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club and the original version of "Video Killed the Radio Star."

And the word is -- wow.

I should add two things.

First: The Buggles more familiar cover is perfectly okay, if not as cool as the above, and I'm not saying that because its producer, Trevor Horn, went on to do Yes records, and is thus a piece of shit because of his involvement with the dreaded Prog Rock. (I kid, I kid!!!!)

I should also also add that one can only assume that Mr. Woolley, the song's composer, has been living very comfortably for all these years on the royalties of said Buggles version, and good for him.

Your Tuesday True Confession (And This May Surprise Some of the People Who Know Me Best)

[Posted this elsewhere yesterday, but I thought I'd share it. Forgive the self indulgence.]

As much as I've enjoyed and been proud of the music I've played and performed over the years since my first foray into a professional recording facility in 1964 -- long story, but the guitar player in my high school band had an uncle who owned one of the most well-equipped and prestigious studios in NYC -- I thank God on a daily fucking basis for the fact that I never became a rock star.
Why is that you ask?
Very simple.
1. I'd have been dead decades ago.
2. Touring? Oh how fabulous -- a plane, a crappy motel room, another plane, another crappy motel room ad infinitum.
3. Having to spend countless hours glad-handing industry assholes, and if you don't understand what that entails you utterly lack a soul.
4. I should also add that I have enormous respect for musicians, but I have no intention of ever becoming one. Fooling around in the studio? Tons of fun. Doing that shit for a living? Gross me out of my condo. 
Regular posting -- with, like, you know, music -- resumes on the morrow.


Monday, May 24, 2021

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me

From his brand new album, please enjoy Sir Tom Jones (and I love typing those words) and his devastatingly topical new single "Talking Reality Television Blues." A cover of a Todd Snider song, and if you don't know him, well, we'll deal with him later in the week.

In the meantime, however -- gee, I wonder who that song could be ultimately about?

Seriously, that is just beyond awesome; in fact it's as good and exciting a record as any I've heard yet in this young year.

I should also add that the cat who sings it is 80 fucking years old.

Friday, May 21, 2021

RETURN OF THE SON OF GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! WEEK -- Episode Five: As Bill Hicks Famously Said, Some Drugs Have Done Good Things

From 2014, Miley Cyrus covers The Arctic Monkeys, who asked the musical question "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?"

Have I mentioned that this kid can really sing?

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

RETURN OF THE SON OF GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! WEEK -- Episode Four: Practice Makes Perfect, Sweetheart!

From 1965, please enjoy should-be-better known British singer/songwriter/babe Barbara Ruskin...

...and her charmingly Sandi Shaw/Petula Clark-ish "You Can't Blame a Girl For Trying."

Ruskin never had a major hit, either here or in her homeland, but as you can hear, she should have; comparisons to Jackie DeShannon would not be far-fetched, IMHO.

BTW, I've mentioned this before, but you can download a fabulous free compilation of Ruskin's work...


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

RETURN OF THE SON OF GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! WEEK -- Episode Three: The Song is Not About S&M. Get Your Minds Out of the Gutter!

From 1999 and the motion picture 10 Things I Hate About You please enjoy Letters to Cleo -- featuring lead singer of the female variety Kay Hanley...

...and their winsome cover of Nick Lowe's classic "Cruel to Be Kind."

That's just cute as a button. I suspect it's impossible to do a bad version of that song, and this isn't one, obviously.

BTW, never saw the flick, but given that Julia Stiles is in it, I probably should.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

RETURN OF THE SON OF GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! WEEK -- Episode Two: Mom Spelled Upside Down is Wow

From 1993, please enjoy former Lone Justice chanteuse Maria McKee and her exquisite cover of Mott the Hoople/Ian Hunter's "I Wish I Was Your Mother."

I've loved this song since forever, and I still find it hard to believe that it works in the context of the otherwise glam-rock 1973 Mott album, where it first appeared. Lordy knows, it threw me for a loop at the time.

Monday, May 17, 2021

RETURN OF THE SON OF GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! WEEK -- Episode One: From the Mean Streets of the Disney Channel

Why didn't I get the memo on this one sooner?

Seriously, this was from just last year. How did I miss it?

In any case, wow -- this kid can sing.

Friday, May 14, 2021

The Genius of P.F. Sloan (Part II)

From 1967, please enjoy The Grass Roots and Sloan's exquisite "Things I Should Have Said."

God, that riff. God, those harmonies. And oh my god -- those drum fills.

I have wanted to do a cover of that song since the first minute I heard it on WMCA-AM on the car radio in my Buick Skylark. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to do it some day before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Genius of P.F. Sloan (Part I)

It has come to my attention that certain people really loathe "Eve of Destruction," a protest song Sloan wrote that was a big hit in 1965 for the otherwise forgettable Barry McGuire.

Truth to tell, I rather detested it at the time as well.

That said, when I heard this cover version in 1984 I completely changed my mind.

And I still think that's one of the coolest things ever.

I should add that The Floor Models, inspired by that version, used to do the song live; Andy, our 12-string guy, used to sing it as "You may leave here for four days in space/But when you come back you can't get a parking place."

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Les Byrds: La Femme Amie

This post is for Hardcore Byrds Fans (HBFs), a small subset of humanity that -- unless I'm very much mistaken -- includes a fair number of the people who hang out at this here blog.

Okay, to make a short story long: Back in June of the storied 1967 Summer of Love, the aforementioned Byrds released a single called "Lady Friend."

Apart from the fact that it was an absolute masterpiece -- and this is something that's been confirmed by the judgement of history -- it was also the only Byrds single written solely by David Crosby.

In any case, the teenaged me bought the damn thing, and played it endlessly, to the point that by August it was more or less worn out. And I recall, vividly, waiting in breathless anticipation for the release of the next Byrds album, so as to be able to enjoy the song in stereo, as nature intended.

Imagine my chagrin, then, when said album, which came out in January of 1968 and turned out to be the otherwise fabulous The Notorious Byrd Brothers...

...did not feature said song in either mono OR stereo, and that Crosby had been fired from the band and replaced on the album cover by a horse. Which presumably Crosby is still pissed off about, although who knows?

Cut to the present, where attentive readers are aware that my old band The Floor Models has been working for over a year -- pandemic very much? -- on a Byrds tribute album.

But what said attentive readers do not know is that just last week we finished -- 95 percent -- the last track on the album, which by an odd coincidence turns out be "Lady Friend."

And because I love you all more than food, here is said version. Enjoy!!! Oh -- and I should add that the track features our good friends and musical colleagues Swifty and Dupree's Amplified Heat, a crew that I will tell you more about when the album arrives (we have all sorts of interesting guest artists on it.)

BTW, to my knowledge, despite the splenditude of the song, the only cover version by a band anybody's ever heard of is by the usually estimable Flamin' Groovies. Alas, IMHO, it sucks. There's another one by The Posies, which is nice, but it's unplugged (i.e. all acoustic without a rhythm section), so I don't think it counts.

I should add that when our Byrds tribute album is commercially available -- which should be by late June -- I will be alerting you folks quite loudly.

I should also add that the guy playing the glockenspiel part on the intro and outro of the song is some asshole whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Sound of a Golden Age (An Occasional Series)

This song had been totally under my radar until yesterday -- which astounds me -- but my god, this is great.

Ladies and germs, from 1965, please enjoy the obviously transplendently wonderful The Searchers and...

...their cover of P.F. Sloan's "Take Me for What I'm Worth."

Or as the friend who just hipped me to it remarked, what life would be about if Phil Spector had produced Bob Dylan.


[h/t Mark Keresman]

Monday, May 10, 2021

If I Wrote This Today, I Would Be Boiled in Oil By Women Everywhere and Justifiably So (An Occasional Series)

[I did this review, for legendary rock rag CREEM, of pioneering all-gal rock band Fanny in what seems like centuries ago, but which was actually only July of 1973. Hadn't revisited it since, untill...well, it's a long story. In any case, two things strike me in retrospect. 1) Although I still think the piece is funny and that my larger point about those kids musical value remains valid, with hindsight I probably shouldn't have expressed it in quite the way I did back in the day. Also 2) I still think drummer Alice de Buhr looked great with her new haircut. Enjoy. -- S.S.]


Mother's Pride

Germaine Greer once observed that what the Women's Lib movement needed most was a distaff band that "could lay down a really heavy riff." Now regardless of whether or not you agree with that statement (about which more later) I am saddened to report that only the most cant-ridden Female Chauvinist could make such claims for Fanny and her All Girl Orchestra, at least on the basis of this latest collection of hot numbers. Saddened because there were moments on some of their other albums when they came reasonably close; stuff like "Charity Ball" and "Ain't That Peculiar" may not have had the capacity to destroy minds, but they were at least solid, enjoyable rock and roll, played with real spunk. But Mother's Pride is pretty much of a dud, despite (or maybe because of) producer Todd Rundgren's feverish attempt at making the whole thing sound as much like Abbey Road as possible. Somebody (I forget who) once said that if Fanny were men they'd be playing in bars, and this is the album that definitively proves the truth of that. Of course, there are plenty of musical macho types that have achieved vinyl immortality these days who should be playing in bars also, but that ain't much of a consolation.

Anyway, given that the vast bulk of the record buying public is comprised of women (you don't think adolescent boys are shelling out dough for Donny Osmond, do ya?) it seems almost fultile for a group like Fanny to try to achieve stardom merely by competing with men at their own game; what they should be doing is inventing a whole new one, and I don't mean pursuing a Really Heavy Riff. Rock and roll is as much an attitude as a music (which, at the risk of offending some of my more right on sisters, is a fact that precious few women understand) and what we really need is a female band that projects an attitude, a lifestyle, a militant man-eating sexiness. American men being the masochists that they are, I bet four dazzlingy glamorous tough chicks playing aggressive high energy rock could absolutely clean up. Certainly they would do more for the Lib movement than Fanny's wistfully depressing obsession with proving they're good musicians. Imagine, if you will, a female MC5 or Rolling Stones. I mean, guys would be creaming in the aisles.

Meanwhile, I have decided that, regardless of all this, I think that since Alice de Buhr cut her hair, she became one of the all-time cuties. My number is Beechwood 4-5789, Alice. You can call me up for a date any old time.

-- Steve Simels


[h/t Rebecca Littman]

Friday, May 07, 2021

It's Mike Nesmith Week: Part V -- Propinquity Isn't What It Used to Be, But What Is?

From 1971, and his terrific Nevada Fighter album (with The First National Band), please enjoy the wool hat guy and his lovely and often-covered, if relatively conventional, Los Angeles country rock ballad "Propinquity (I've Just Begun to Care)."

Pretty nice, no? But by way of comparison, from the about to be released Dolenz Sings Nesmith album, here's Micky's remake -- re-imagined by producer/arranger Christian Nesmith (Mike's kid, natch) as a flat-out rocker that wouldn't have been out of place on Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever.

Damn, that's good, and I can't wait for that CD to arrive at Casa Simels so I can hear the rest of it.

Oh, and BTW -- in case the cover art to Micky's album looks familiar, that's because it's a sly homage to this...

...i.e., Nilsson Sings Newman, one of those indisputable pop masterpieces that belongs in everybody's collection.

Oh, and have I mentioned that Jann Wenner can go fuck himself with a rusty chainsaw?

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 06, 2021

It's Mike Nesmith Week: Part IV -- The Short Guy Takes a Powder

From 1972, and his wonderful Tantamount to Treason album, please enjoy The Smart Monkee (along with his Second National Band) and their surprisingly psychedelic take on Pee Wee King's country classic "Bonaparte's Retreat."

This may be my favorite of all of Mike's post-Monkees recordings; I felt at the time it came out -- and still do -- that it really sounded like the kind of thing you would have heard a San Francisco band doing at a sound check at the Fillmore West circa the late 60s. Plus it's a great freaking song (I heartily recommend going to YouTube and searching out the Pee Wee King original.)

Oh, and BTW -- have I mentioned that Jann Wenner can go fuck himself for not allowing the Monkees into his jive ass rock Hall of Fame? Thank you.

Tomorrow: Haven't decided on the song yet, but trust me -- as always we'll be saving the best for last.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

It's Mike Nesmith Week: Part III -- You Could Possibly Qualify as Numero Uno

From their great 1967 album Headquarters -- on which they played and sang more or less every note, except some of the cello parts -- please enjoy The Monkees and their glorious version of Mike Nesmith's folk-rock classic "You Just May Be the One."

Monkees afficianados are doubtless aware that this song first appeared in an episode of the TV show, a version featuring The Wrecking Crew as the backup musicians; I love that one, and have since the first time I heard it, but I prefer this. In any case, you can go to YouTube and find the original.

Oh, and as I said yesterday, I have a story.

As I mentioned, in 1981 I went to a press party celebrating the release of Nesmith's Grammy-winning long form video ELEPHANT PARTS.

I don't specifically remember where it took place, but I seem to recall it was at some posh dive like the Plaza Hotel. Hey -- it was the early 80s; the music biz was still completely over the top.

In any case, I went up to Nez and introduced myself -- "Hi, I'm Mr. Stereo Review, blah blah blah, I'm a huge fan blah blah." He was very nice, but the word I think most precisely describes how he dealt with me is "guarded." Anyway, we shook hands, and as I turned away to head toward the free hors d'ouevres bar, I summoned the courage to say "By the way, Mr. Nesmith, I just wanted to tell you that I'm currently in a band that's doing a cover of your song "You Just May Be the One."

And he grinned from ear to ear and pumped my hand again. It was one of the major thrills of my adult life.

I should add that I can't seem to find an audio clip of The Floor Models doing the song live, but as soon as I do, I will post it.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

It's Mike Nesmith Week: Part II - The Paws That Refreshes

From 1981 -- and the first Grammy-winning long-form music and comedy video -- please enjoy the opening segment of Mike's brilliant Elephant Parts. Which, I should add, is about as hilariously self-effacing as it gets.

And as I said yesterday, I have a personal story about this, which you'll hear tomorrow. Along with a really great song.

PS: Have I mentioned that Jann Wenner can go fuck himself with a rusty chainsaw for refusing to let The Monkees into the Rock Hall of Fame? Thank you.

Monday, May 03, 2021

It's Mike Nesmith Week: Part I -- Linda Freaking Who?

From the about to be released album Dolenz Sings Nesmith -- which drops, as today's kids say, on May 20th -- please enjoy former Circus Boy Micky Dolenz and the greatest cover of his bandmate's big hit "Different Drum" ever committed to the digital domain.

I don't know who produced and arranged that -- and I can guarantee I'm gonna buy the album to find out -- but it's brilliant; I'm talking Tom Petty/Full Moon Fever brilliant, which is to say the song has never sounded more gorgeous by anybody, including the song's composer. You know -- kind of like Petty's cover of "Feel a Whole Lot Better." (I don't know who the harp player is, but it would't surprise me if it turned out to be the guy from Blues Traveller.)

Tomorrow: Not only a great Nesmith song, but a great Nesmith story from my personal collection.

PS: Have I mentioned that Jann Wenner can go fuck himself for not allowing The Monkees to inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame? Thank you.