Friday, April 29, 2022

Weekend Listomania: Special "Up Up and Away!" Edition

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Asian girl wonder amanuensis Fah Lo Suee and I are off to the West Coast for a long overdue vacation. And I mean LONG overdue. Shit, it's been three years since this damn pandemic first reared its appalling head and the furthest I've been away from home in all that time is down the street a few blocks.

But in the meantime, here's a fun litle project for us all to participate in.


And my totally Top of My Head Top Five Is:

5. Theme from Superman (feature film 1978)

John Williams, obviously. Or as he was referred to back in the 50s, Johnny Williams.

4. Batman

The work of the splendidly monikered hepster jazz guy Neal Hefti. He probably was able to retire on the royalties from the TV version alone.

3. The Green Hornet

Rimsky-Korsakov and "The Flight of the Bumblebee." Classical composers could have made a fucking fortune back in the day if they'd had better management.

2. The Shadow

Camille Saint-Saens was wracked with pain, when people pronounced it as Saint-Sains. (That's an Ogden Nash joke). I should add that the music in question is Camille's "Omphale's Spinning Wheel."

And the Numero Uno toe-tapper for a caped or maked crusader is....

Theme from Superman (TV Show 1951)

The best superhero theme of them all, and believe it of not, nobody has a clue who wrote it. It's officially credited to a dude name Leon Klatzkin, but apparently he wasn't a composer -- he was an editor who helped license obscure b-movie scores to early TV. There's been some informed speculation that it was the work of the great Miklós Rózsa, of Ben-Hur fame, but it's never been reliably confirmed.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

An Early Clue to the New Direction

Los Angeles City Hall.

A coveted PowerPop© No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who gleans its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Closed for Monkey Business

Gotta kill a day preparing for a long overdue vacation.

An early clue to Friday's new Weekend Listomania will be up on Thursday.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Honesty is the Best Policy (Except When It Isn't)

So speaking as we were yesterday of Greenwich Village (and briefly Top 40) faves Every Mother's Son, please enjoy their minor 1967 hit single "Pony With the Golden Mane."

I think we can all agree that's a truly lovely piece of folk rock. I remember liking it a lot when it was originally released, but to be honest I hadn't listened to it in a gazillion years. Or more specifically, until the weekend just past.

But when I did, you could have knocked me over with the weather. Because that instrmental intro section is indistinguishable in any meaningful way from the instro intro to a song from another 1967 sophomore album by a group from Greenwich Village.

I refer, of course to "Steve's Song" by The Blues Project."

Yeah, yeah, I know -- in the immortal words of Igor Stravinsky, mediocre composers borrow, great composers steal. But still -- I can't believe I never noticed it before. And hell, I can't believe nobody else in the rock crit racket or music bizness never noticed it before either.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Honesty is the Best Policy

From their vastly underrated eponymous 1967 debut album, please enjoy local NYC faves Every Mother's Son (of "Come On Down to My Boat" fame) and the best Monkees song the Monkees never recorded.

Apart from the above being a great piece of garage pop, I should add that it was actually written by two of the guys from the band, unlike "Boat," which was the work of the same Brill Building pros who earlier penned "Hang On Sloopy."

I should also add that Bruce Milner, the band's keyboard player (that is he far left in the cover photo), went on to be an extremely successful dentist with a practice on the upper West Side, and that his patient roster had a high percentage of mid-level rock stars. A very nice guy -- he hung out at one of my old watering holes, and apparently he is still plying his toothy trade to this day.

Coming tomorrow: A song from the band's second album that is the most blatant piece of plagiarism to ever achive minor hit single status.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Weekend Listomania: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Says "Math is SOOOOO Gay!" Edition

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Asian multiplication table Tsarina Fah Lo Suee and I are heading off to beautiful (and not at all heterosexually challenged) Key West, where we'll be buying up bootleg copies of trigonometry textbooks so that we can sell them later to trans kids in schoolyards in downtown Palm Beach.

But in the meantime, and ripped from the headlines, here's an obviously pertinent fun little project for all of us:

Best or Worst Post-Elvis Pop, Rock or Soul Songs Referencing Arabic Numerals in Their Titles or Lyrics

And my totally top of my head Top Ten (heh) are:

10. The Byrds -- 100 Years From Now

My favorite song on Sweetheart of the Rodeo, and possibly my favorite song written by Gram Parsons period.

9. Wilson Pickett -- 99&1/2 Won't Do

This guy had soul. I think we can all agree on that.

8. The Beatles -- Eight Days a Week

Have I mentioned that I'm a huge fan of the Procol Harum cover of this?

7. Love -- Seven and Seven Is

Proto-LA punk rock, and it was one of the great thrills of my life that I got to see the latter day version of the band covering it live some time (90s) at a NYC reunion show.

6. The Lovin' Spoonful -- Six O'Clock

You know, the older I get the more I think these guys were the best NYC band ever.

5. The Vogues -- Five O'Clock World

A bunch of greasers from Pittsburgh, of all places, and a glorious slice of Brill Building pop despite their home town.

4. The Youngbloods -- Four in the Morning

A late night blues classic from one of the all time great folk-rock albums. God bless Jesse Colin Young.

3. Jefferson Airplane -- Triad

A great song, musically, and really icky when it's sung by its composer David Crosby. So thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that this version is sung by Grace Slick.

2. The Beatles -- Two of Us

Say no more (I can say no more).

And the number one song featuring what might be a Roman Numeral in its soubriquet is -- A TIE!!!

1. Harry Nilsson -- One


U2 -- One

I think you can guess which of the two songs is my favorite.

Alrighty -- what would YOUR choices be?

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

An Early Clue to the New Direction

From 1966, please enjoy the (then Young) Rascals and their glorious breakthrough hit "Good Lovin'".

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who gleans its significance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Hey -- These Guys is Good!

The Fabs in their prime.

Not exactly sure where or when this was shot -- looks like 1964, and it's obviously from some place where English is the national language -- but in any event, baby this is rock 'n' roll.

[h/t that Al the Captain]

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Two Characters in Search of an Author

Groucho Marx and Alice Cooper. A couple of icons chewing the fat.

Sometime in the early 70s, is my guess, and probably in Los Angeles at some press party somewhere.

Damn -- it's like looking at me talking to me.

PS: I should add that the fact Groucho is wearing a Groucho t-shirt is about the coolest thing ever.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Springsteen: "Songs" (Barnes &, November 1998)

[Yet another entry from the Springsteen chapter of my forthcoming book of literary greatest hits. I originally wrote this for Barnes and Noble on the occasion of the release of that humongous coffee table book...

...of Springsteen's lyrics; the book seems to be out of print, and B&N has scrubbed the essay from their website, but because I love you all more than food, here it is as it originally appeared back in the day. Enjoy!]


That Bruce Springsteen changed a lot of lives is both a truism and a cliché, although at this moment, if one is feeling uncharitable, it may be a rather naive and adolescent cliché. After all, 25 years after his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, Bruce is an institution (he's now eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, if you can believe it), and his music has changed in ways few of us expected (although we probably shouldn't be surprised about it). Springsteen now resembles a plainspoken populist like Merle Haggard far more than a generational spokesperson/poster boy like, say, Kurt Cobain. And the people whose lives Bruce most radically affected are, of course, now comfortably middle-aged, with more on their minds, understandably, than rock dreams. Face it: To paraphrase an early Springsteen song, it's hard to be a saint in the city when you're worried about making your mortgage payments or finding a good preschool.

Still, cliché or not, Bruce did impact more than a few lives, and if you want to know why, at least part of the reason can be found in the just-published Bruce Springsteen: Songs, a massive tome featuring the complete lyrics to every song found on every one of his albums (save the simultaneously released Tracks—more about that later) as well as Bruce's reflections on what he was thinking at the time. What's most surprising about Songs -— for me, at least -— is just how well the stuff holds up on the page. It's a given, of course, that Springsteen is a great storyteller. Back in 1981, I noted, in a review of his Nebraska album, that the song "Highway Patrolman" would probably make an interesting film someday, so I was not exactly shocked when Sean Penn adapted it as The Indian Runner a decade later. Still, given Springsteen's penchant for overheated, fuel-injected romanticism, I was pleasantly struck, seeing these lyrics in cold type after all this time, by how even the least of them are redeemed by flashes of humor and wordplay. I was particularly taken reading "Thunder Road" (from Born to Run): Bruce has gotten a fair bit of feminist flak over the years for the line, "You ain't a beauty but hey, you're alright," but such complaints seem misguided in light of the line that immediately follows: "Oh," he adds, in what strikes me as an ineffably funny, apologetic attempt to deflect that very criticism, "and that's alright with me." What a gentleman.

But we were speaking of life changes. My own Springsteen moment was in early 1973. At the time, I was a baby rock critic at the old Stereo Review, and Greetings from Asbury Park had just come out, accompanied by reams of Columbia hype, the gist of which was that Bruce was (what were they thinking?) the latest New Dylan. Little did I know, of course, that for the rest of the more jaded rock press, this tag had the sort of negative connotations associated with phrases like "serial killer" or "record company weasel." In any case, in my naïveté I gave the disc a spin, and sure enough Bruce was spewing the sort of freely associative lyrics that could most charitably be described as Dylanesque (if not, more accurately, verbose and in need of a good editor), and I recall being mildly unimpressed. And then suddenly: Boom! A drum beat and Clarence Clemons's near-mystic sax wail announced "Spirit in the Night," and I was a goner.

The music was perfect, like much of Bruce's stuff to come: a sort of Proustian mix of half-remembered licks from rock and R&B oldies that may or may not have actually ever existed, the whole thing sounding simultaneously sublime and absurd, like Van Morrison at his most uplifting, jamming at a South Jersey pizzeria. And the song's lyrics were—and are—the most dead-on evocation ever of what it felt like to be a post-Woodstock 20-something with no direction home. I personally had the eerie feeling that Bruce had been reading my mail, and I later found I was far from alone in that perception.

As it happened, Bruce was making his semi-official New York City debut that week, on a double bill with the similarly debuting original Wailers. (To put this in perspective: This was at Max's Kansas City, a club that sat fewer than 200 people. (I don't want to say, "Those were the days," but frankly, they were.) Every rock critic in town showed up for what would be their first exposure to live reggae, and yes, the Wailers' opening set was rapturously received by all (few bands have ever had two front men as charismatic as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh). After intermission, however, I realized that the aforementioned highly jaded press contingent, having already had their tiny minds blown by a bunch of Rastas turning the beat around, were not about to fall for any "New Dylan" hype and had beaten a hasty exit. This left me in the odd position of being alone in the back of Max's with 30 or 40 of Bruce's buddies from the Jersey Shore. I was, literally, the only stranger there.

And the show was everything I'd hoped for, and more. Bruce and his E Street Band opened with a version of "Spirit..." that made the album take sound anemic. He went on to preview the far richer material he had already written for what became his sophomore masterpiece, The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, going so far as to use a mellotron on a gorgeous "New York City Serenade" that sounded like a Phil Spector record made flesh. Most memorably, though, I got to witness an early incarnation of the sort of interactive, fan-friendly stagecraft that would soon establish the Cult of Bruce. "Any requests?" Springsteen asked at one point. "It don't have to be one of ours." I blurted out "Route 66," having been listening to a lot of early Stones that week, and to my amazement, Bruce and band immediately launched into the best rendition of that chestnut I had ever heard. Who'd have thunk it: On top of everything, these guys were the bar band of my dreams.

You know the rest of the story, of course. Bruce's live show became legendary, his fans became famous for their missionary zeal (the sort of people who bought tickets for unbelieving friends), and eventually the kid from Asbury Park made Born to Run and wound up, simultaneously, on the covers of Time and Newsweek. Around this time, Bruce also became the second most widely bootlegged solo artist in the history of recorded music; most of those fan favorites are now, finally, officially available on the four-CD Tracks box set, with the conspicuous and peculiar omission of "The Fever," perhaps the most mesmerizing performance Bruce ever committed to tape. So what's the bottom line? Even if you're a lapsed fan like me (mortgage payments and all that), Songs is going to remind you that, yeah, you weren't crazy. Maybe the guy didn't literally change your life, but he sure as hell enriched it. Thanks, Boss.

As career retrospectives go, that's not a bad one, if I say so myself.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Springsteen: "Nebraska" (Stereo Review, December 1982)

And speaking as we were yesterday about another piece from my forthcoming -- end of the year -- book of my collected greatest literary hits...

...please enjoy my review of Bruce Springsteen's follow-up to The River, i.e. Nebraska. Originally released in those long ago far away days of the late 20th century when a mediocre network TV star could actually be elected president.

When times get tough, someone once observed, entertainment gets sloppy, but in the case of Bruce Springsteen, the once and future Bard of Asbury Park, New Jersey, we may have to amend that; when times get tough, entertainment gets grim. At least that's one implication to be derived from Nebraska, Springsteen's new all-acoustic -- dare I say it? -- folk music album. Another is that the record business is in even worse shape than I thought. Since the production costs of what sounds like the bleakest record of the year must have been next to nothing (Springsteen recorded it at home on a four-track Teac cassette deck), you might think Columbia would give us a break and sell it at a really reduced price -- like about two bucks. No such luck.

That's a pretty cynical thing to say about a Bruce Springsteen album, Springsteen being the one mainstream rock star who maintains a genuine give-and-take relationship with his audience, but I'm afraid Nebraska inspires cynicism. It sounds like it was written for critics rather than people. I'm not suggesting a sellout; in a lot of ways a release like this is a very gutsy career move, and I don't doubt that the ten songs on it are as sincerely, deeply felt as anything Springsteen has ever done. In some ways, actually, it's weirdly appropriate that he should mutate, however briefly, into a latter-day Woody Guthrie. CBS originally signed him as a folk singer, things are pretty depressing out there, and somebody's got to do it, I suppose. It's just that most of Nebraska is, well, boring.

I can't fault the stories Springsteen tells here. He seems to have aimed for a sort of contemporary working-class, factory-town equivalent of The Grapes of Wrath, and mostly he's succeeded. As vignettes they're wonderful; one in particular -- "Highway Patrolman" -- is going to make a heck of a movie someday. But God. The tunes are less than minimalist, the tempos are uniformly dirgelike, and hardly a ray of sunlight breaks through the overpowering miasma of fatalism and gloom. The effect is to trivialize the stories. It's impossible to care about the lives of the people being chronicled when the music is so resolutely leaden.

I suspect that this is not due so much to a lack of inspiration as it is to deliberate calculation. Springsteen has been headed in this direction for some time now. A lot of Darkness on the Edge of Town was all but unlistenable for the same reasons, and in places The River was even worse, the stark dramas inflated to operatic pretentious and unintentional self-parody. Nebraska, with its self-conscious underproduction, achieves the same sad result from the opposite direction. Springsteen must know better -- just listen to the material he gives away to other artists. Heck, his "Out of Work," on the recent Gary U.S. Bonds album, says far more about blue-collar aspirations than anything on Nebraska, and it's also tuneful, danceable and fun.

But Springsteen seems to think that fun is beneath him now. As much as it pains me to say it, I think what we have here is a classic case of a "primitive" artist corrupted by "intellectuals" (well, ex-rock writers, like his producer Jon Landau and official biographer Dave Marsh). How else to explain Springsteen's apparent compulsion to make the Big Statement every time out, the references to film directors -- here it's Terence Malick (Badlands) in the title song -- and the hectoring preachiness of so much of his recent output? Nebraska, its offhand simplicity notwithstanding, is an ambitious work, and, given the thoroughly decadent state of contemporary pop music, it merits respect if only because it aims high. But the fact is, it misses -- by a big margin -- and the reasons suggest that its author has worked himself into what may be an artistic cul-de-sac. Let's hope I'm wrong.

Have I mentioned how tickled I was and am that I predicted, correctly, that somebody -- in this case Sean Penn -- would make a movie out of "Highway Patrolman"?

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Springsteen: "The River" (Stereo Review, January 1981)

From my forthcoming -- end of the year -- book of my collected greatest literary hits...

...(specifically the Springsteen chapter), please enjoy my review of Bruce's first multi-lp set "The River."

The River comes at a crucial juncture in Bruce Springsteen's career. Now indisputably -- in terms of both public perception and critical acclaim -- the pre-eminent American rocker of his generation, Springsteen carries the weight of twenty-five years of dreams and history on his skinny shoulders, and the question is, will he stumble? And so The River is an Event, in the media sense, and the pressure for it to be a masterwork is heightened almost beyond any reasonable possibility. On the one hand, it has to be a significant stylistic breakthrough or its author trivializes all he's accomplished up to now; on the other, it has to be nothing less than the summation of everything vital and important rock itself has ever meant or represented.

This is clearly an impossible task, and it therefore takes nothing away from Springsteen's considerable accomplishment to say that The River falls short in some areas. In its claustrophobic, obsessive way, it is a remarkable album, light years beyond the reach of all but a handful of mainstream rockers. But it is certainly not the definitive statement it sets out to be, and it is not, overall, even its creator's best work, although its finest moments, at least, are worthy of comparison with his earlier peaks.

In a purely technical sense the album can hardly be faulted. While the basic instrumental approach remains recognizable (over-familiar or not), the sound of the E Street Band, with its echoes of middle Dylan, Van Morrison, and urban r-&-b, is still one of the most compelling noises in rock-and-roll, but there is a pronounced Sixties English flavor to the arrangements and production here, and the combination works. "The Ties That Bind," for example, is a great trebly roar of jangly guitars, and the hard rockers in particular have a metallic punch that none of Springsteen's earlier efforts have really approached. What does it is not the Spectorish Wall of Sound of the guitar songs on "Born to Run" but something a bit more down to earth: gloriously raucous frat-party music out of a roadhouse Texas Farfisa band. Overall, the instrumental layering and the extremely compressed dynamic range here remind me more than a little of Nick Lowe's revisionist work on Elvis Costello's Armed Forces. There's an edgy drive to the sound of the album that serves the tunes and the performances well and also gives the proceedings an ambiance that is both timeless and modern.

Of course, as my colleague Noel Coppage is rightly fond of pointing out, production is not music, and when we get to the songs on The River there are some inescapable, unpleasant conclusions to be drawn. The biggest should have been obvious after Darkness on the Edge of Town; on records, at least, the element of surprise has gone out of Springsteen's music. Onstage this has yet to happen (it's one of the reasons his live show remains the most electrifying in rock history), but in his records he's now dealing strictly in secondhand goods. One can't explain this any more by saying that he's a genre writer; fact is, there's not a melody here that isn't in some way recycled, and the stories, for the most part, are not so much overfamiliar as uninteresting. It's a question of focus; Springsteen has narrowed his vision to the point that all the larger-than-life quality has gone out of his work. The song "Jungleland," from Born to Run, for example, dealt with a particular urban landscape, but the treatment had an idealized, generalized romanticism that was cinematic, literary, or operatic, depending on how you wanted to look at it. The new songs on The River, with their detailed depictions of coming of age on the street, are more like journalism, and Springsteen is simply not a good enough reporter to give us the fresh insight that might make the songs and characters come alive, that would make us care about them.

There has been a similar decline musically. What made Springsteen's early songs hit so hard was his flair for melody and structural surprise, his uncanny ear for the sound and spirit of our collective jukebox past. His tunes were wildly unpredictable, crammed to overflowing with glorious hooks and half-remembered fragments of sublime old songs, a dazzling patchwork of rock, soul, folk, jazz, and honky tonk that was tender, vulgar, majestic, and sleazy all at once. A Springsteen album used to be a daring tight rope act. For The River, however, he used a net: many of the songs are deliberately monochromatic and predictable; two verses into them and you've heard all you need to hear. There's no sense of urgency -- they don't go anywhere.

With all that said, the odd thing is that The River still packs quite a wallop. There are, of course, some unfettered delights strewn among the twenty songs in the package; Springsteen may be playing down his pop gifts, but he hasn't deserted them altogether. The single, "Hungry Heart," for example, is an addictive, affectionate tribute to Jackson Browne (if you can imitate me, Bruce seems to be saying, I can return the favor), and several of the rockers, which don't aspire to be more than funny, good-natured swaggerers, are simply wonderful. It's hard to resist the energy and humor in "Sherry Darling," "Cadillac Ranch," "Two Hearts," and, especially, "I'm a Rocker." Then there are a few songs with grander ambitions that rise above the various weaknesses I've detailed. "Independence Day" is as moving an account of a father-son relationship as you're ever likely to encounter, and "Point Blank" and the title song are both, in their rather different ways, top-drawer Springsteen: taut, insinuating, compassionate. But the best things here, the album's centerpieces, together have a cumulative effect all out of proportion to their merits as individual songs, and the reason is that, whatever his failures of imagination in writing them, Springsteen still believes every single word he sings. In the end, the sincerity and heart he projects disarm criticism. In anyone else's hands a song like "Drive All Night" would be a disaster: mawkish, bloated, even faintly ridiculous. Here, however, it gets the kind of performance that makes one forgive Springsteen almost anything, such a tour de force of passion and drama and love that it seems superhuman. When people who've seen him perform talk about his being a "soul singer" in the old sense, this is the kind of thing they mean, and it's good finally to have it on record. If for nothing more than this one transcendent moment, "The River" has to be judged at least a qualified success.

The question, of course, is how long Springsteen can continue his Poet of the Lower Classes act without degenerating into overripe self-parody. If his working habits remain constant, the answer should be forthcoming sometime around September 1982. I, for one, am willing to wait.

Pretty good review, I think, and it holds up.

I should add that the thing that tickles me about it the most is that I got the release date for Springsteen's next album -- Nebraska -- pretty much right.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes (Special Early 21st Century Edition)

From the beginning of this week, please enjoy Julian Lennon -- who, astoundingly enough, is 59 years old --singing his dad's anthem "Imagine," for the first time (at least in public) in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

You know, I've never been particularly fond of that song on any level, but that's freaking great and good for Julian for doing it. And fuck that sadistic barbarian Vladimir Putin.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Hello -- My Name is Pwince

In case you haven't seen this recently discovered TV footage of a certain Purple popstar as a pre-teen, this is the greatest archaeological find of the third decade of the 21st century.

Words fail me.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Your Monday Moment of "How Do You Say 'Where Has This Song Been All My Life' in Spanish?"

From 1997, please enjoy Maná -- aka the pride of Guadalajara, Mexico -- and their world class infectiously catchy hit single "Clavado En Un Bar."

The backstory: So here in Forest Hills -- or as we locals refer to it, the town where all your shit is within walking distance -- a new watering hole, of the Mexican variety (called MAS TORTILLA) -- has just opened up two blocks from our apartment on Queens Boulevard. Apart from the best spicy cheesy corn on the cob I've ever had, and wonderful service, they also play some very nice music on the bar sound system, specifically a mix of traditional latin stuff and el rock en español, which I must admit I know less about than my criticial responsibilities call for. In any event, the above song came up in a playlist a few days ago, and it blew my tiny anglo mind. I am informed that the band itsef has been around since the late 80s, and that they are apparently absolutely hugely popular -- 40 million albums sold -- in the Spanish speaking market, and as you can hear they're freaking fabulous. I mean, is that a great record or what?

The answer, of course, is yes, and you're welcome very much from me for turning you on to it.

I should add that the only words I recognized in the lyric were "corazon" and "tequila," and that the title of the song apparently translates loosely as "Stuck in a Bar."

Friday, April 08, 2022

Weekend Listomania: Special Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" Has Been Retitled "Your Call is Important to Us" Edition

Well, it's yet another year in paradise (not counting some weird disease, an insane ex-president, and WW III in Europe), and you know what that means.

That's rignt -- we're gonna argue the Best or Worst Post-Elvis Pop, Rock, or Soul Songs Referencing the Time(s) of the Season!

And my totally top of my head Top Eight are:

8. Pete Hamill -- The Fall of the House of Usher

Fall. Get it?

7. The Jamies -- Summertime, Summertime

Posssibly the weirdest yet most innocent hit song of my formative years. Who were those people and how did they come up with that sound?

6. Simon and Garfunkel -- A Hazy Shade of Winter

Pretty much the closest they ever came to rocking out, which is probably why The Bangles covered it so well.

5. The Beach Boys -- Fall Breaks and Back to Winter

Nah, Brian Wilson's not a genius. No way, Jose.

4. Eddie Cochran -- Summertime Blues

Without question, the greatest song ever written about every teenager's favorite time of the year.

3. Blue Cheer -- Summertime Blues

Without question, the worst version ever performed of said great song. I saw these assholes do this live from a 7th row seat at the old Fillmore, and it was all I could do not to barf on the poor putz in the row in front of me. And I wasn't drunk or on drugs, alas.

2. The Producers -- Springtime For Hitler

Even after all this time, there are still no words for how sublimely offensive this is.

And the unquestionable greatest tribute to a particular few months of the year remains...

1. The Kinks -- Autumn Almanac

Sublime. On every level.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, April 07, 2022

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special All-Tempa-Cheer Edition

From 1995, please enjoy fabulous Southern rocker Terry Anderson and his fiercely Stones-Meet-Power-Pop-Should-Have-Been-a-Hit-Single "Weather or Not."

And a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who gleans its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's brand new Weekend Listomania.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

The Sophomore Jinx: Inevitably Less Successful Singles That I Vastly Prefer to the World-Wide Smash Hits They Followed Up (An Occasional Feature)

From 1969, and Apple Records, please enjoy the lovely and talented Mary Hopkin and her fabulous "Goodbye." Written and produced by Paul McCartney.

This hit #13 on the Billboard charts, which is more than respectable, but let's face it -- it was not the blockbuster that was "Those Were the Days." (Which Paul produced but did not write).

And I think if you said "Mary Hopkin" to the average pop fan of a certain age, this wouldn't be the first thing they mentioned in reply.

The acoustic guitar riff absolutely slays me, BTW.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Your Tuesday Moment of Words Fail Me

Readers my age or close to it have at some point probably seen an (honorary) Academy Award-winng 1946 short film starring the young Frank Sinatra at the height of his teen idol-ness. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, it features Frankie, looking about as cool as it gets, singing a heartfelt plea for religious tolerance occasioned by a bunch of anti-semitic kids hanging outside a recording studio.

I bring this up for two reasons.

1): Until a few weeks ago, I was blissfully unaware that the lyrics were written (under a pseudonym) by Abel Meerepol, who later adopted the orphaned sons of the unjustly executed atomic spies The Rosenbergs, and who obviously knew whereof he spoke about anti-Semitism.

And 2): As you may have noticed, I have of late been saying enthusiastic things about a recent (end of last year) solo album by friend of PowerPop Ronnie D'Addario, which among other splendid qualities has some very interesting cover songs, including great versions of "Walk Away Renee" and Billy Preston's "That's the Way God Planned It." But what I forgot to mention heretofore, and would be totally remiss if I didn't, is a remake of the above "The House I Live In."

Top of my head I can't think of another song I would have less likely predicted would be successfuly included on a rock record, but damn if Ronnie's version doesn't work like gangbusters.

Hey, you schweens -- what are you waiting for? Hie thee over to Amazon and buy a CD or download it for streaming.

PS: I should add that Sinatra sang the song for decades after this, including at the 1985 Ronald Reagan inaugural(!). It was also covered by Paul Robeson (no surprise there) and Sam Cooke(!).

Monday, April 04, 2022

Now Voyagers

From their superb (unbeknownst to me before last week) 2019 two-CD import greatest hits/farewell album, please enjoy British Invasion power pop deities The Searchers...

...and their minor (but gorgeous) 1965 single "Goodbye My Love."

And from their transplendent 1979 comeback LP....

...please dig as stunning a power pop single as has ever been committed to magnetic tape, "It's Too Late."

BTW, the farewell album is still in print and available at a very reasonable price on Amazon. The Rockfield compilation (which is only one CD, but includes both of the band's Sire LPs and is on the Australian Raven label) is out of print, but Amazon has a couple of used copies for under twenty dollars.

A couple of addenda, if I may use that word.

To begin with -- and I can't prove this -- but I suspect that everybody more or less my age, for whom the British Invasion of 1964 was a seminal event, would consider The Searchers their second favorite band (after The Beatles, obviously). And don't give me any of that Rolling Stones crap -- The Searchers run of ridiculously great hits pre-dated the Stones initial creative flowering.

Secondly, when those Sire comeback albums came out, there was a concurrent very sad story involving -- you guessed it -- The Floor Models.

The short version: Sometime after the Sire albums were released, to a fair amount of media attention (approximately 1982), the Searchers deigned to perform in America for the first time since an oldies tour in the early 70s (when they had co-headlined Madison Square Garden at the same show Rick Nelson immortalized in "Garden Party.")

In any event, the Floor Models had been doing two songs from those Sire albums since day one, to the point that everybody we knew in Greenwich Village was convinced we had written them (in particular, the cover of The Records' "Heart in Her Eyes.")

Needless to say, we were totally excited by the chance to see our idols in the flesh, and all the more so given that they were going to be gigging at The Bitter End, the charmingly intimate club next door to The Other End, the sister room that was more or less the Flo Mos headquarters, where we had a residency for about two years.

So we showed up early -- to get seats in front of the stage -- and then finally there they were. The fucking Searchers. They plugged into their Marshall amplifiers, hit a gigantic 12-string D chord and...they weren't a rock band any more.

The shorter version: They were what the Brits call a cabaret act. There's no real American equivalent, but the deal is that in England, if you're a mid-level rock group and your hits have dried up, there's a whole support cicuit of small clubs (including some at summer beach resorts) where you can make a decent living playing short sets to an audience of moms, dads, and grandparents, where you do medleys of your hits (and those of other bands) and do a lot of waving to the audience and going "Hello, luv, how are you?"

I can't tell you how depressed we were, but that's what they were doing and bless their hearts.

Anyway, finally, I should mention that this single, which (a) got airplay in the states (I actually bought a copy at Sam Goody at the time, which was either 1966 or '67) is (b) fucking great and I am at a loss why it's not included on the farewell anthology.

The Searchers, ladies and germs. Let's really hear it for them.

Friday, April 01, 2022

Stevie Says Relax

It's been a rough week or two on numerous levels. Hopefully, starting on Monday, things will be back to relative normality. Beginning with a post about my second favorite British Invasion band.

Have a great weekend, everybody!!!