Okay, I usually don't hold a grudge forever. That said, (A) I can't believe that I remember this and (B) am still pissed off about it.
From Barry Gifford's Rolling Stone review (1968) of the eponymous debut album by Creedence Clearwater Revival:
“I’d rather hear an old man coughing than listen to their (CCR’s) rhythm section.”
I just looked up Gifford, and he's apparently a well-regarded novelist and writer, although his website and his Wiki entry make no mention of his stint as a music journalist; frankly, if I were him, I'd want people to forget about that too. In any case, and I've been meaning to say this for decades -- Barry Gifford, blow it out your ass.
And you know who else? That moron Jon Landau, who before taking the reins of Bruce Springsteen's career, in 1967 famously wrote (in his Crawdaddy review of Projections) that the Andy Kulberg/Roy Blumenfeld rhythm section of the Blues Project was inadequate to the excitement level required of their music.
Hey Jon, have I mentioned you're a moron? Also -- blow it out of Barry Gifford's ass.
From just a few weeks ago, please enjoy the incomparable Steven "Muddy" Roues and without question the best contmporary song I've heard so far in this young year "I Went to the Mountain."
The short back story: Muddy was a member of an absolutely great roots rock/punk band called The Broadcasters whose 1987 album Thirteen Ghosts is one of the great lost classics of that decade. Exhibit A: Their single "Down in the Trenches."
You're welcome very much. More recent stuff by people I know personally tomorrow.
So as attentive readers are aware, my big project for 2020 (and part of 2021) was putting together an homage to the Byrds by my old band the Floor Models. Which was a lot of work, but also one of the most gratifying creative chores of my life. Plus, as you can imagine, it helped get me thourgh the first year of the pandemic.
What you may not know, and which I had forgotten until fairly recently, was that back in 1989, a Brit indie label released a similar project -- albeit with performers more famous than the Flo Mos, and a largely disimilar song list -- that I in retrospect thought was quite enjoyable.
So here's one of the songs on both albums (and one of my favorites written by the Byrds great Gene Clark) -- us doing the gorgeous "Here Without You," with the help of friend of powerpop Peter Spencer, his son Caleb, and some guy whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on bass.
And here's the Brit version of the same tune, reimagined by Richard Thompson, Clive Gregson and Christine Collister.
If truth be told, I like both of them pretty much in equal measure, but obviously I'm not objective. In any case, enjoy!
Three more stories about my genius friend Gregory Fleeman, who passed away annoyingly too young earlier this week.
1. After his music career, he became fabulously successful as a screenewriter. Hollywood types will remember him for having written F/X, the terrific 1986 action comedy...
...starring Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy, and then the subsequent spin-off TV series of the same name.
2. Sometime in the 80s, Greg did a show at the legendary Bottom Line -- still the greatest music club in Manhattan history -- and got a very nice review from The New York Times (I don't recall who wrote it, and I can't seem to find it at the Times archive, which sucks). In any case, the money quote came at the end: "Mr. Fleeman bears watching."
Some weeks later, Greg had an upcoming gig at some other Village club, and he posted a leaflet on lamposts and walls all over the neighborhood. A cartoon of a guy, circled by grizzlies, with the date of the show and the caption "Gregory Fleeman: Bears Watching" -- NY Times."
3. And this one's my favorite. Also true.
The night John Lennon was murdered (12/08/80) I -- like countless other New Yorkers -- wandered around trying to deal with the tragedy and how we felt about it. In any event, I shlepped downt Sixth Avenue from my 13th street apartment and made my way to Folk City, a Village watering hole of mine and sat down at the bar, which was deserted.
Greg drifted in a few minutes later and sat down next to me.
We looked at each other and did not speak.
Then, after a little whil a beat and said "So, Ms. Ono -- other than that, how did you enjoy the recording session?"
Rest in peace, Greg. And have a great weekend, everybody.
As I mentioned yesterday, a genuine genius that I was fortunate enough to know (and occasionally work with) has passed.
I'm reposting something I wrote about him at the Magazine Formerly Known as STEREO REVIEW back in the day, as well as putting up a video clip of his masterpiece, without question the single most brilliantly funny song in the history of recorded music.
And then I'm going home and having a drink and a good cry.
...Fleeman is a young ex-actor with one of the most warped sensibilities likely to be sprung on an unsuspecting public any time soon. His band is a motley collection of aging hippies, refugees from underground S-&-M clubs and punk/jazz fusion players, and his songs are about the funniest I've heard since...oh, since Tonio K. Take "Touching Myself But Thinking of You," which asks the musical slash cosmic question "If we're all one, who needs you?" Or his children's lullabye about the little men who come out when you're asleep ("They massage your heart/and your private parts/and throw parties in your mouth"); his impassioned love song about the Tappan Zee Bridge; a 40s swing tune called "Wisconsin Moon" ("There's too much beer...here!"); not to mention his soon-to-be-immortal production number, "the song, nay metaphor" he calls simply "ShowBiz" (although it's better known to his fans as "Sucking My Way to the Top").
"I'm gonna swim that mountain...I'm gonna climb that sea."
Gregory Fleeman -- an old pal of mine from our Greenwich Village days in the late 70s/early 80s, who was the most brilliantly funny satirical singer/songwriter it was my privilege to know -- has passed.
I will have more (and hopefully more eloquent things to say about him) tomorrow. In the meantime, this song...about Elvis Presley and Liberace...
So anyway, good friend of PowerPop (and moi) Sal Nunziato ran something like this over at his invaluable Burning Wood blog the other day, and I thought I would steal the concept with some slight tweaking.
And here it is.
BEST OR WORST COVER VERSIONS OF POST-ELVIS POP/ROCK/COUNTRY SONGS YOU REALLY REALLY LOVE!!!
And my totally Top of My Head Top 10 is...
10. Loudon Wainwright III -- Daughter
I first heard this on the soundtrack to Knocked Up, a film I don't dislike as much as a lot of people. In any event, I was instantly taken with it, despite the fact I had no idea that it was written and first recorded by the estimable Peter Blegvad.
9. Any Trouble -- Dimming of the Day
An utterly gorgeous Richard Thompson song, and one of the rare covers of his stuff that -- IMHO -- surpasses the original.
8. The Floor Models -- 5D
Our Celtic remake of the great psychedelic Byrds original, and I'm not ashamed to claim that it just might be an improvement over the hit version.
7. The Beatles -- Words of Love
Buddy Holly's original 50s track is, of course, a meisterpiece, but The Beatles remake -- and I think a lot of it is down to George Martin's amazing production -- is clearly an improvement.
6. Linda Ronstadt -- Tumbling Dice
Oh yeah right, Linda. Jeebus H. Christ on a piece of burnt challah toast, but that's awful. Especially considering you're supposed to be a great interpretive artiste.
5. Sandy Denny and Linda Thompson -- When Will I Be Loved
Quite possibly the greatest female pop vocal duet of all time.
4. Mick Jagger and David Bowie -- Dancing in the Street
Quite possibly the worst male pop vocal duet of all time.
3. The Smithereens -- Girl Don't Tell Me
The Beach Boys classic of course, and the 'Reens do it better. Heard it live at a 'Reens gig in the late 70s, and have been forever jealous
2. Miley Cyrus -- Heart of Glass
I generally like Cyrus -- her cover of "Jolene" is absolutely transplendent I think -- but god, the above is just awful.
And the number one cover that improves upon a great song is without question...
1. Ronnie Spector -- Say Goodbye to Hollywood
Posted that yesterday on the sad occasion of her death, but I think it's even more relevant now.
As I've said here on mumerous occasions, this death shit is really starting to piss me off.
BTW, I've got a really cute personal story about Ronnie -- from back in the late 70s, when she was doing guest appearances on Bruce Springsteen's lawsuit tour -- but unlike that Shawn Colvin anecdote I recounted the other day, you'll really have to get me drunk in person before I share it with you.
[I originally posted this back in 2008 at the website of Box Office Magazine, where I happily toiled for two years. I'm posting it here, despite the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with the music that is the raison d'etre of this here blog, because the Box Office archive site is kind of a pain in the ass to access, and I just love this enough to want it more readily available. Also a) it's going to be in the forthcoming book version of my literary greatest hits and b) for some reason known only to Satan himself, they've actually rebooted the TV show. I mean, sheesh. -- S.S.]
My thoughts on the Sex and the City movie: It's longer than Parsifal and with fewer laughs.
Okay, not really, but in all seriousness, about halfway through the thing it finally dawned on me exactly what has always bothered me about the whole SATC phenomenon. The movie itself, of course, is just a garden variety shoddily made romantic comedy. I mean, forget the fact that Sara Jessica Parker looks like she was lit by Stevie Wonder, or that the men are all unlikeable weenies, or that the funniest joke in the whole interminable two hours twenty two minutes is about diarrhea, or that what little sex is actually on screen is utterly joyless. What you're left with is still no better or no worse than another recent by the numbers flick like, say, What Happens in Vegas.
No, the real problem is that the film (and, looking back, the show) is, essentially an obnoxious 80s Reagan Era yuppie consumerist glitz fantasy run amok, and then dropped down, inappropriately, into the 21st century, where it pretends (against reason) to be hep and now and cutting edge.
In other words, Carrie and her designer shoe and Cosmo obsessed pals are essentially the pathetic, slightly over the hill trendoids of Absolutely Fabulous. Only without that show's knowing irony.
Or to put it somewhat unkindly, the fact is that these women....
Okay kids, as I have said on numerous other occasions, this is a very sad story, so try not to laugh.
Back around 1980, when I was hanging out in Greenwich Village and performing with The Floor Models, the lovely and talented Shawn Colvin blew into town (from a gig in Berkeley, if memory serves) and quickly became a fixture at both Folk City and the Speakeasy, a club around the corner that was also a haven for acoustic singer/songwriters. Shawn had an amazing voice, was modelly good looking and already had the requisite star attitude, and it was obvious from jump that she was going to get famous at some point, but it wasn't happening fast enough for her, and one night I found myself sitting next to her at the Folk City bar, where she was quite literally crying in her beer over her then lack of a career.
Shawn knew I was a rock critic, and thus on the periphery of the record business, so she asked me if I had any professional and/or musical advice. If truth be told, I thought a big part of her problem was lousy, i.e. predictable and boring, choice in material -- really, what the world needed was yet another cover of "Angel From Montgomery"? (not). And then, being no less full of myself than now, I tried to make that point to her, albeit as gently as possible.
So it suddenly dawned on me that Shawn's voice was not that far afield from a certain British gal singer I loved, and I asked her if she was familiar with the work of Richard and Linda Thompson. And she responded, to my complete lack of surprise, that no, she wasn't. So I explained who they were, and how great they were, and how some of their stuff would be right up her (Shawn's) alley. She seemed interested, and I told her that I would go home and make her a mixtape of R&L stuff that I thought might be appropriate for her pipes and style.
Cut to a few days later, and I gave her a 12 selection cassette with the songs I thought she'd dig and would sound great singing.
Anyway, the brief version of the finale: Fairly soon thereafter, Shawn got a gig singing backup for Suzanne Vega, ultimately wound up warbling on Vega's "Luka" (both the single and the album it was from, if memory serves), got her own record deal, had a hit or two, and ultimately the music biz success she'd been aiming at. I lost touch with her personally at that point, but I followed her career from afar with some pleasure thereafter and was happy for her.
And then, sometime in the 90s, I discovered through the intertubes that she was suddenly singing live onstage with -- you guessed it -- Richard fucking Thompson.(!)
Now look -- I'm not one of those people who carries a grudge forever if I do you a kindness and then you don't respond with what I think is sufficient gratitude. I mean -- honkies, please.
That said -- I don't think it would have been asking too much at some point for Shawn to send me an e-mail or drop me a postcard saying "Dude -- I owe you a solid."
Which she's never fucking done. Heh.
I should add that this song, seen here in a performance from 2015...
...was one of the ones I included on the aforementioned mixtape. As you can hear, it suits her.
Like I said -- this is a very sad story, so try not to laugh.
As attentive readers may be aware, back in September I took a bad spill on the most dangerous and steep escalator in New York City, and to my chagrin I actually fractured my spine. Of course, many of those same readers probably don't even believe I have one, but let me tell you -- don't talk until you've walked a mile in my shoes with a back brace on for several months!
In any case, I had the problem surgically resolved Wednesday, and I am now pain free and movin' and groovin' with my normal geriatric joie de vivre.
But in honor of my recovery, and because I like to give you folks something to do to wile away the idle winter hours for the next couple of days, here's a fun little project for us all:
BEST OR WORST POST-ELVIS POP, ROCK, SOUL OR COUNTRY SONGS OR RECORDS REFERENCING DOCTORS, MEDICINE, BODY PARTS OR HEALTH IN GENERAL IN THE TITLE OR LYRICS!!!
No arbitrary rules of any kind, you're welcome very much. And here we go, in no particular order, with my totally top of my head Top Eight.
8. The Rascals: Good Lovin'
You know the drill -- "Doctor doctor/Mr. MD."
7. Aretha Franklin: Dr. Feelgood
Honorable mention: Dr. Feelgood (the band) and their fabulous "Down at the Doctor's."
6. Major Lance: Monkey Time
"Let your backbone slip." Yeah, tell me about it, Major.
5. Warren Zevon: Life'll Kill Ya
I know the feeling, Warren. I know the feeling.
4. The Rolling Stones: Dear Doctor
From what, on balance, may still be their best studio album, but that's an argument for another Listomania.
3. The Beatles: Dr. Robert
That may be my favorite song on the album, BTW. Go figure.
2. Emerson Lake and Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery
You know, objectively that still sucks, but it is a sign of how much I've mellowed about those guys and 70s prog in general that I now think it's also kind of genuinely funny.
And the number one, it's not even open for discussion, rock song about our beleaguered care givers simply has to be...
You'll note that there are a number of entries by people I actually know personally here, which is par for the course with these things, now that I think of it. So sue me.
10. Micky Dolenz: Dolenz Sings Nesmith
The album the above is from is terrific from stem to stern, but if pressed about that "Different Drum"? My single favorite track of the last 12 months.
9. Willie Nile: The Day the Earth Stood Still
Willie, of course, is the among the most still-vital rockers of his generation, with a work ethic second to none. The album the above is from is absolutely the knock-out of the year, and if pressed about that title song? My second favorite track of the past 12 months -- it's as cinematically brilliant as imaginable.
8. Joe Benoit: What Kind of World
The power pop masterpiece of the year. And the above song is without a shadow of a doubt the most relevant artistic reponse anybody in any medium has come up with to the pandemic.
7. Brian Wilson: At My Piano
Just Brian tickling the ivories -- no band, no vocals, and not even particularly well recorded; the album shouldn't work, but it does. It kind of feels like some impossible bootleg of Chopin noodling around in his living room in Mallorca.
6. Starry Eyed and Laughing: Bells of Lightning
The second greatest Byrds influenced band of all time (see below for the first) and without question the comeback record of the new millenium.
5. Doug Hoekstra: The Day Deserved
I first encountered Doug sometime in the mid-90s, when his first (or I think) second album of brilliant somewhat minimalist New Wave folkie singer/songwriter stuff (think Leonard Cohen produced by John Cale) crossed my desk at the Magazine Formerly Known as STEREO REVIEW to my delighted surprise. This new one is a) his first in nearly a decade and b) absolutely insinuating. I.e., the kid's still got it.
4. Robert Plant/Alison Krauss: Raise the Roof
Wow. I mean, REALLY wow. Seriously, is there a better vocal blend in contemporary pop music than these two? Answer: No.
3. Nelson Bragg: Gratitude Blues
If you don't know Nelson, he's the percussionist in Brian Wilson's touring band, and I've been a fan of his since his debut record back in
2007. This new one is transplendent, and yes, it sounds a lot like his boss.
2. The John Sally Ride: Now is Not a Great Time
Melodic guitar-driven power pop a la Cheap Trick doesn't get any better.
And the album of the year is -- no question about it, HAHA HAH...
1. The Floor Models: In-Flyte Entertainment (A Tribute to the Byrds)
I'm prejudiced about these guys for obvious reasons.