Friday, December 31, 2021

It's New Year's Rockin' Eve, Baby!!!

And from 1964, and the Beach Boys' epochal Xmas album, here's the ringer of the bunch -- a fabulous version of that Scottish song that's appropriate to tonight's holiday.

That was the closing track on the album, BTW.

In the meantime, have a great weekend everybody, and may 2022 be a significant improvement on the year just past.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Your Thursday Moment of "The Worst Thing in the World"!

Hey -- this is bad.

From his also atrocious 1981 album Breaking All the Rules, please forgive me for posting Peter Frampton's rancid cover of The Easybeats classic "Friday on My Mind," a song I heretofore (incorrectly) assumed was impervious to sounding like shit regardless of who did it.

I had (mercifully) forgotten the existence of the above until yesterday, when I stumbled across a review I'd written of the aforementioned album while doing some research for the forthcoming book of my literary greatest hits (which will be coming some time in the new year, but that's an issue for another posting).

In any case, said album was Frampton's unsuccessful attempt at restoring his squandered rock credibility in the wake of the appalling commercial success of the indefensible Frampton Comes Alive juggernaut. Way to (not) go, Pete,

In any event -- boy, does that suck.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Guaranteed to Blow Yo-Yo Mind

So the other day, purely by chance, I came across a certain TV ad -- previously unviewed by your humble scribe -- that a world famous classical celebrity had done a few years ago....

...and it reminded me of a certain album track I had forgotten, and which I thought I should share.

And so, from their eponymous 1993 album, please enjoy Nashville's The Bis-Quits and their hilarious and rockin' tribute to the Man Himself. Think "Johnny B. Goode" rewritten about a cello player.

In a word -- heh.

I should add that said Bis-Quits album is one of the great lost artifacts of the '90s; do yourself a favor and hie thee over to YouTube and listen to their "Tennessee Valley Girl." Inspirational verse: "I bet you really miss those Reagan years/John Hughes movies and Tears for Fears."

Heh again, obviously.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Closed for Monkey Business

Regular posting -- starting with a hilarious true story about an actual pop star of my acquaintance -- begins tomorrow.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Hey -- It's the Day After Boxing Day!!!

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes doing to "The Boxer" what always needed to be done to "The Boxer."

I must admit, I was totally unaware of these guys until yesterday, but the above is probably the most kickass Paul Simon cover I've ever heard or even contemplated.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Santa Baby: Eartha Kitt Should Only Have Known About His Yule Log

From just the other day, please enjoy friend of PowerPop (and moi) Steve Notis and his fabulous performance of "Glad Tidings." I.e., what is now my favorite holiday season song of all time.

Which Steve wrote, in case you hadn't guessed.

Enjoy the rest of your Xmas, everybody!!!

Friday, December 24, 2021

It's Christmas Eve, Baby!!!

From their fabulous Below the Salt album, please enjoy the greatest Elizabethan rock band of all time -- Steeleye Span -- and a stunning version of the venerable nativity song "Gaudete."

The album came out in 1972, but the carol itself is unquestionably the oldest song ever to make the British pop charts. Nobody knows exactly when it was written, but it was originally published in 1582(!). To put that in perspective, William Shakespeare was 18 years of age at the time.

Have a great holiday weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Those Fabulous Sixties!

From their brand new album of garage-rock covers DiG, please enjoy New Jersey's The Grip Weeds and their astounding remake of "No Time Like the Right Time" by The Blues Project.

That song is one of my favorite Nuggets-era singles, and I must confess I hadn't thought about it in ages. This is a great version, in any case. And fittingly, original Nuggets compiler Lenny Kaye wrote the liner notes for the album.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

It Takes Two, Baby!

From their 2007 duet album, please enjoy the incomparable Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (with a little help from T-Bone Burnett), and their absolutely killer version of the Everly Brothers' classic "Gone Gone Gone."

Allow me to add.

1. The record that's from is flat-out fantastic across the board, BTW, and I'm awaiting the arrival of their new Raise the Roof with breathless anticipation.

2. Robert Plant has aged better than any man in history, let alone any 70s pop star. God, I hate him.

3. Alison Krauss, beyond being a great singer, is such a cutie-pie I can't stand it.

I thank you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Closed for Monkey Business

Had a long weekend.

Regular -- and actually interesting -- posting resumes on the morrow.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me

So the other day I was talking about Camille Saint-Saens with my chum Tim Page (Pulitzer-prize winning former music critic for the NY Times) over at Facebook (pardon me -- Meta). And I let it drop that, when I was a kid, one of my favorite classical records was an early mono LP version of Carnival of the Animals, featuring Noel Coward declaiming the verses Ogden Nash wrote to accompany the piece.

And then another commenter said that he'd also had the same LP as a kid, and loved it as much as I did. Which didn't surprise me particularly, except that the guy turned out to be none other than...Tim Moore.

Yes. The same gentleman who wrote and recorded one of the greatest power pop songs of all time.

As Cristina Applegate said on Married With Children -- the mind wobbles.

Friday, December 17, 2021

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words (Part Deux)

The Lovin' Spoonful, circa late 1966.

I had never seen that photo before yesterday, and I don't know for a fact who took it, although I'd bet good money that it was long time Spoonful friend Henry Diltz. In any case, I love that Edwardian look, and as far as I'm concerned that is now my all time favorite posed-in-costume rock band photo.

I should also add that I'm a very lucky guy, in that I got to meet three of the four people in that portrait (not Zal Yanovksy, bottom right, alas) and get to chat with them at various times over the years.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2021

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

And specifically, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who correctly identifies the artist who painted the stunning thingie below.

Let's just say -- we knew the cat was a genius, but this is getting ridiculous already.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Mike Nesmith Explains It All To You

And speaking as we were recently of the late great Monkees auteur, here he is on an LA teen rock show -- just immediately before joining the band that made him famous, and doing business under the nom du disque Michael Blessing -- with an astoundingly good cover of Buffy St. Marie's "Until It's Time For You To Go."

And here -- from some time in the early 80s (around when I met him at the press party I described downstairs) -- here he is being typically deadpan funny on the Letterman show.

Fuck you, Morrissey -- THAT was a charming man.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

WEST SIDE STORY: There's a Place for Us. Alas, They Don't Tell Me Where, and Frankly I Don't Have the Room

So as I mentioned, I saw the Spielberg remake of WSS over the weekend, and I was gonna write at some length about it.

However, apart from saying that it's grittier and more realistic than the 1961 version, there's really no point for me to explicate how all the esthetic decisions Spielberg's creative team have made are improvements. For the simple reason that if I did, they would be spoilers.

Just go see it -- its great, you'll love it, the cast is fantastic, and it's the best movie I've sat through in ages.

I should add that I saw the original Broadway version back in 1959... I know what I'm talking about.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Closed for West Side Story Business

Saw the Steven Spielberg remake yesterday -- short version: It's pretty great, but I'm too exhausted to write about it till later today. My think piece thumbsucker will appear on Tuesday, and I promise -- no spoilers, although there's a big one I'm dying to share with you guys at some point.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Goodbye Wool Hat: Part II -- The Floor Models Play Mike Nesmith

From a low dive in Greenwich Village (the Other End Cafe), sometime in late 1981 or early 1982, please enjoy the fabulous Floor Models (featuring a bass player whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels)...

...and their convincingly energetic garage band take on The Monkees' "You Just May Be the One." A song written by the late great Michael Nesmith.

In case you couldn't tell, that was recorded on a drunken night by somebody using a boom box directly in front of the stage. Obviously, it's something we wouldn't put out on a record, but the spirit clearly was willing at the time we did it. And in any case, I absolutely adore the song, and I always looked forward to the slot in the set when it was time to perform it.

And therein lies a story.

Sometime around when that clip was recorded, I was fortunate enough to attend a press party celebrating the release of Nesmith's innovative and Grammy-winning long form music video ELEPHANT PARTS... some posh hotel off Central Park (as I recall).

The short version: Nez was there, working the room as they say, and after enjoying some complimentary food and adult beverages, as was the custom back then, I screwed up my courage.

I confronted him -- and I could tell he figured me, rightly, as some kind of obnoxious fan boy -- and I said "Hi, Mike, I think your music is absolutely great."

He gave me The Look, by which I mean he was obviously thinking -- oh god, another one of these pathetic schmucks who haven't gotten over the Monkees TV show. And then I said "I just wanna tell you I'm in a band that plays your "You Just May Be the One" all the time."

And then his eyes lit up, he smiled from ear to ear, and he shook my hand and said "Hey man, that's way cool -- I thank you."

Needless to say, it was one of the great thrills of my adult life.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Goodbye Wool Hat: Mike Nesmith 1942--2021

From his way ahead of its time 1972 album And the Hits Just Keep on Comin', please enjoy the late great Mike Nesmith (along with pedal steel ace Red Rhodes) and a brilliantly minimalist version of Mike's most famous song -- "Different Drum."

This death shit is really starting to bug the hell out of me, I'll tell you that for free.

I Like To Be In America (Although At This Historical Point In Time I Couldn't Tell You Why)

So BG and I are going to see Stephen Spielberg's new film of West Side Story on Sunday. Let me just announce in advance that I'm planning to thoroughly dig it, and I'll have much more to say on the subject on Monday.

That said, please enjoy The Nice, featuring knife-crazy Keith Emerson on keyboards, and their, er, idiosyncratic late 60s take on the musical's anthemic song "America." A version I strongly doubt its authors Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim could have contemplated.

You know, it's not exactly a secret that I more or less loathe everything remotely prog rock, but I gotta say -- that's actually kind of a hoot.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Closed for Monkey Business

Regular posting -- specifically about the Spielberg remake of West Side Story -- resumes on the morrow.

It Was 41 Years Ago Today

[For obvious reasons, here's my review of John and Yoko's DOUBLE FANTASY, from the March 1981 issue of the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review (AKA Sound and Vision). This was the most difficult thing I ever wrote, so I was actually rather pleased to find upon re-reading it a few years ago that the only thing that embarrassed me were some dire predictions that (mercifully) didn't come true.

Two historical notes: At the time of the Smithereens reference, they were strictly a local NYC band; they wouldn't get a record deal or a hit for another four or five years. And that terribly sad photo of John and Yoko outside the Dakota is the same one that originally ran with the review.

I should also add that a few weeks after the piece appeared I got a very nice note from a woman (the now famous Freda Kelly) who had worked as a personal assistant to Brian Epstein at the height of Beatlemania. She told me that of all the reviews of the album she had seen, it was the one that most resonated for her. That meant a lot to me.]


A few days after the murder of John Lennon, I was at a Village club listening to a wonderful Sixties-influenced power-pop band called the Smithereens. After the second set, the group came back for an encore and suddenly got very serious. "When I was a kid," the drummer announced to the crowd, "there were certain things that were cool. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was cool. Robert Culp and Bill Cosby were cool. But Johnny Lennon...he was very cool."

As I write, it has been a week since Lennon was killed; by the time you read this, chances are that, unless we're really lucky, there will have been a commercial-cash-in rock circus on a scale that will make the Elvis Boom look like a P.T.A. bake sale. As a media event, his death has been unprecedented. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the upheaval in Poland and Iran, inflation, Reagan's election...who cares? They all pale into insignificance. 1980 will be remembered as the year a "wacko" (the word the police used) pulled off the first rock-and-roll assassination. And the tributes will continue. Endlessly. They will range from the genuinely moving to the merely fatuous and self-serving to the downright disgusting, but the end result will be the same: canonization. No matter how many sensationalist details emerge, no matter how many of John's old drug connections sell their memoirs to the newspapers, the last fall-out of Beatlemania will ensure that he's elevated to secular sainthood.

Well, John was a lot of things, but a saint he was not. By his own admission he was a bit of a bastard, and he well may have been; nobody gets to be one of the biggest phenomena in the history of show biz by being Mister Rogers. But I liked what the Smithereens drummer said about him because it's a perception that separates those of us who were there at the time (when he was, in Murray the K.'s immortal phrase, "what's happening, baby") from the younger fans who now haunt Beatles conventions and patronize Beatlemania touring companies. Those kids can't possibly understand that John Lennon was the coolest guy in the universe. Cooler than Elvis (dumb greaser!), cooler than Brando or James Dean or Lord Byron or Willie Sutton or Muhammad Ali or Cary Grant or Robert DeNiro or Bruce Springsteen. Cooler than Elvis Costello, even. Not to mention Travolta and the Fonz.

Understandably, this is an aspect of the man that has gotten lost in the shuffle. Right now, in the face of the pointless loss many of us feel, he's being painted as the most wonderful, warm, caring human being who ever wore shoe leather. But cool is closer to what he was. He had wit, style and songwriting genius. He invented the world's most exclusive men's club and made millions of dollars thumbing his nose at the Establishment. He gave countless people joy and in the process changed the world a couple of times, substantial achievements whatever your background might be. I can't think of a neater role model for a teenager and I can't think of my own adolescence except in terms that he defined.

HIS musical accomplishments will probably be debated endlessly. The lingering, mindless fan clamor of the last ten years has done a great deal to cheapen his reputation, and there has been the inevitable critical backlash (ironic when you consider that all us rock critics owe our very jobs to him, for there wasn't any such occupation to speak of before the Beatles). The punks, by and large, have no use for him, though I was delighted to find out that John, for his part, got off on the Pretenders and the B-52s. My guess is that in the long run it's his early stuff -- through, say, Beatles VI -- that will hold up best; in fact, my personal tribute, in response to the gentle homilies of "Imagine" that saturated the airwaves in the wake of the tragedy, was to blast the teenage lust of "Anytime At All" and "You Can't Do That" as loud as I could, and to hell with the neighbors. But his finest work, I think, which includes the first two solo albums and the 1975 Rock and Roll set, constitutes an achievement as personal and innovative and moving as can be found in the history of the music he helped shape. If it takes a senseless crime to make people remember what John accomplished, well, that's unfortunate, but it's also the way of the world.

As for Double Fantasy, the comeback record that now becomes his artistic farewell: in honesty, I hated it before he died, and now that he's gone I find listening to it all but unbearable. The simplistic celebrations of the the love that he and Yoko felt for each other and for their son seem, in retrospect, too painfully sincere to take: the cruelty of his ending intrudes too much. Musically, it shows that he hadn't completely lost his touch. The voice was still thrillingly intact; it's worth mentioning that John Lennon had perhaps the most hauntingly expressive voice in all of rock-and-roll. At least two of the songs -- "Watching the Wheels" and "Woman" -- are, on a melodic level, as fetching as some of his lesser Beatles efforts. Yoko's stuff strikes me as precious. The vaguely trendy "Kiss, Kiss, Kiss" could pass for a minor British New Wave pop hit, and whether time has vindicated her earlier avant-gardisms (as John was convinced it would) I will not venture to guess. The kindest thing to say about Double Fantasy, all in all, is that it wasn't designed as a rock record and shouldn't be judged as one. Its music is what the industry calls Adult Contemporary; I don't think it's successful even within the confines of that bland genre, but I can see that some kind of case could be made for it.

ROCK-AND-ROLL deaths tend to turn quickly into shopworn metaphors of one kind or another -- think of Altamont or Janis Joplin -- and there will doubtless be attempts to grasp some "larger" meaning behind the sad events of December 8. There has already been a spate of "The Sixties are finally over" pronouncements; John, of course, tried to point that out to people ten years ago, but then artists are always ahead of the crowd. Beyond that, what can one say? That we should boyott those who would turn his death into a commercial venture? We're all of us ghouls to some degree; being fans, how could we be otherwise? The Lennon Industry will continute to alternately fascinate and repel us; there will be dignified historical retrospectives and shameless mawkish reminiscences, scholarly rummaging through the tape vaults and flagrant rip-off repackagings. The well-meaning and the jackals will together compete for our attention as long as people remember. There's not much that can be done about that. As for the pain we feel right now...well, Pete Townshend once said that rock won't help you forget your problems, but it will let you dance all over them. That advice seems worth remembering. — Steve Simels

JOHN LENNON/YOKO ONO: Double Fantasy. GEFFEN GHS 2001 $7.98.

Stop the Spiel!

From 2019, please enjoy my old high-school garage band buddies The Weasels (with me on bass and a little noodling around on 12-string) and a song from our most recent album Elder Abuse...

...and its suddenly newly relevant (post January 6) drain the swamp opus "Co-Conspirator."


Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Where Has This Song Been All of My LIfe?

From 1965, please enjoy Robb Storme and the Whispers and their minor Northern Soul hit "Where is My Girl".

I hadn't heard this until our friend Sal Nunziato posted it over at his invaluable BURNING WOOD blog last week, but as you can clearly discern some gentleman named Pete Townshend had, and obviously liked it enough to nick it for his classic "Substitute." (Incidentally, I am informed that Pete actually copped to the homage in an early 70s interview with Rolling Stone.)

In any case, the above is not as good as the song it inspired, but it's a pretty cool record nonetheless, you're welcome very much.

Monday, December 06, 2021

Tales From RCA's Studio B in Manhattan (An Occasional Feature): Part II - Beyond the Canyons of Your Mind

From 1968, please enjoy under-appreciated NYC folk/rock/psych band Autosalvage and their beyond haunting single that should have been a hit "Parahighway."

As I suggested LAST WEEK, these guys -- although only vaguely similar (stylistically) to The Youngbloods -- recorded (with the same engineer) in the same famous RCA studio that the Youngbloods used, and if you listen to the song I posted last Wednesday and then compare it to the above, it's quite obvious that the two productions were done in the same room. The drum sound alone is a giveaway.

I should add that the Autosalvage album is great across the board, and it's kind of a mystery why they're not better known. It's been suggested, and I think reasonably, that those guys should have moved to San Francisco; they probably would have been huge at Left Coast ballrooms.

I should also add that Autosalvage bassist Skip Boone is the brother of Lovin' Spoonful bassist Steve Boone, and that the band's rhythm guitarist Darius Davenport, is the son of one of the founders of The New York Pro Musica, one of the first and best original instrument groups performing medieval and early baroque classical stuff.

Friday, December 03, 2021

New Music By People I Know Personally (An Occasional Feature)

From August of this year, please enjoy friend of Power Pop (and moi) Jonnie Miles and his hauntingly insinuating "Girl in the Picture."

I've known and admired Jonnie for ages (as well as a great songwriter and drummer, he's also a hell of a photographer) and attentive readers will recall that I've written about him on a couple of occasions over the years, most recently back in 2018 HERE.

For those of you too lazy to click the link, the short version of his story is that back in the 90s, I used to see him in his abolutely killer outfit The Prostitutes, a classic New York City somewhat underground rock band whose I've described (accurately, as you'll hear) as a cross between The Doors and The Smithereens.

I should also add that in the 70s, before I knew him, Jonnie actually was in a UK band -- the charmingly monikered Albania -- with an album on Chiswick Records, the pioneering British pre-Stiff 70s indie label (they also had The Count Bishops, and cooler than that it does not get).

Here's their single -- a smash in Italy, I'm informed.

I should also also add that Jonnie informs me his new song was inspired by memories of when he lived in a basement flat in London in 1969, and that you can read more about him and his work over at his website HERE.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, December 02, 2021

It's Official -- the Greatest Songwriter in the English Language of the Last Sixty Years Is....

[I originally posted this in 2013, but I'm putting it up again for reasons that will become obvious down below. -- S.S.]

... and fuck you Lennon and McCartney, fuck you Bob Dylan, fuck you Townes Van Zandt, fuck you Jay-Z (and BTW, extremely fuck you Jay-Z, and this is a subject for a future posting but Jeebus fuck, the idea that anybody takes that hack seriously as a writer or anything else is simply mind-boggling), fuck you Stephen Merritt, fuck you Leonard Cohen, fuck you Holland-Dozier-Holland, and basically fuck everybody else because the winner is...

Mel Brooks.

That's right, Mel fucking Brooks.

Exhibit A, from the soundtrack to The Twelve Chairs -- "Hope For the Best, Expect the Worst."

Hope for the best, expect the worst

Some drink champagne, some die of thirst. No way of knowing which way it's going, Hope for the best, expect the worst.

Hope for the best, expect the worst, The world's a stage, we're unrehearsed. Some reach the top, friends, while others flop, friends, Hope for the best, expect the worst.

I knew a man who saved a fortune that was splendid Then he died the day he planned to go and spend it Shouting, Live while you're alive! No one will survive! Life is sorrow, here today and gone tomorrow Live while you're alive No one will survive There's no guarantee.

Hope for the best, expect the worst, You could be Tolstoy, or Fanny Hurst So take your chances, there are no answers, Hope for the best, expect the worst.

I knew a man who saved a fortune that was splendid Then he died the day he planned to go and spend it Shouting, Live while you're alive! No one will survive! Life is funny, drink your wine and spend your money Live while you're alive No one will survive There's no guarantee.

Hope for the best, expect the worst, The rich are blessed, the poor are cursed. That is a fact, friends. The deck is stacked, friends. Hope for the best, expect the...

Even with a good beginning It's not certain that you're winning Even with the best of chances Fate can kick you in the pantses

Look out for the... Watch out for the... WORST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wordplay, laughs, profundity -- it doesn't get any better than that. Seriously.

I should add that the above song can be found on the CD version of the fabulous late 70s elpee Elektra released of songs from Mel's movies through High Anxiety (which can be ordered over at Amazon HERE), and no finer anthology of popular music can be found anywhere at any price.

But I bring this up because of (and he's 95 years old) his new video "At the Automat"...

...and because you can now order his new literary memoir at Amazon HERE.

Buy both those artifacts and be changed. You're welcome very much.

Oh -- and have I mentioned he's working on History of the World Part II?

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Tales From RCA's Studio B in Manhattan (An Occasional Feature ): Part I -- I Think We All Know the Feeling

From 1967 (but actually recorded in late 1966) please enjoy the original iteration of The Youngbloods and their utterly exquisite folk/rock/Brill Building confection "All Over the World (La-La)".

A little bit of history here:

In the mid 1950's, RCA Victor had two studios in New York City for recording music -- studio A and B (sometimes also referred to as Studios 1 and 2). The studios were located on the ground floor of the building at 155 E. 24th Street, on the block between 3rd and Lexington Avenue; A, which was the bigger of the two rooms, was mostly used for orchestral recording (classical stuff, film scores and the like).

By the mid-60s, Studio B had become the first 8-track recording facility in town (CBS Los Angeles had one slightly earlier) which made it a mecca for rock bands, which is why the Youngloods made their debut album there (which still sounds absolutely great, BTW).

My memory betrayed me, however; I thought I had cut a demo in Studio B sometime in the early 70s, but alas no; in 1969, RCA Victor moved to 1133 6th Avenue at 44th St. In the 1980's the building and surrounding properties were acquired by the CUNY (City University of New York) and used by them until the late 1990s.

In any case, I bring this up because, the other day, I got the sort of box set of the first three YBs releases, listened to them for the first time in ages, and flipped.

I should add that on Monday I'll be posting a song by a slightly later New York City folk rock band who also recorded in Studio B, and despite their stylistic differences with the Youngbloods, it's obvious it was done in the same room.