Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Our phone lines are open. Operators are standing by. This is a free call.

As promised, a sneak peek track from In My Own Good Time, the fab new EP by personal friend of mine (and long-time frontman of The Floor Models) the incomparable Gerry Devine.

The rest of the EP (which features occasional bass and keyboards by some dweeb whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels) is also up at Bandcamp, but the official release everywhere else -- Spotify, Anazon, iTunes, YouTube, and the rest of their ilk -- happens on Tuesday June 12th.

Needless to say, I'll keep you posted on that, as well as where and when actual physical CDs can be procured.

Oh -- and have I mentioned how hilarious the album cover is? The work of my beautiful and brilliant art director girlfriend who, as always, is working cheap.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Songs I'd Forgotten Existed, Let Alone Loved (An Occasional Series): Special "And So You See -- Ennui!" Edition

From 1998 and the Conan O'Brien Show, please enjoy power pop nebbishes Barenaked Ladies and their sneakily catchy ode to cosmic futility "It's All Been Done."

I could bop and sing along with that till the proverbial cows come home, frankly. And if "I met you/before the fall of Rome" isn't one of the all-time great opening lines, I don't know what is.

Monday, May 29, 2023

The Golden Age of Television: Special "I Loved It! It Was Better Than Cats!" Edition

From 1982 approximately, live at The Speakeasy in fabled Greenwich Village, please enjoy the incomparable Erik Frandsen and his hilarious "I Shot Jack LaLanne."

Erik was a fixture on the Village music scene, deservedly, and is, as they say, a multi-tacular guy; apart from being a great guitarist and terrific singer/sonwriter he's also a wonderful comic actor, and some of you non-Village types will doubtless remember him from his recurring stint on The Colbert Report, where he played the existentially depressed German ambassador to the UN Hans Beinholt.

In any event, for you non-New Yorkers who don't immediately get the joke, the various people Erik celebrates offing in the song were vastly over-exposed celebrities then hawking their wares -- seemingly endlessly -- on late night NYC teevee. My personal favorite (namechecked in the song) was Luba Potamkin, of the local Cadillac dealership that bore her family name.

Hey -- there wasn't a lot else to watch after midnight in the days before everybody had cable.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Holiday Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special "I'm So Old I Remember When Metrocards Didn't Have Senior Photo IDs" Edition

From 2023, please enjoy archetypal contemporary New York rockers Pan Arcadia -- their motto: "Making tracks in a Brooklyn shack since ‘21" -- and their uncharacteristically jaunty romp through the outer boro transit system "Sorry I Was Late."

A very cool song, no? And they have lots more. In short, I really like these guys -- I hear hints of The Strokes and Television in their style, which is obviously a good thing -- and if you're curious and are going to be in the Brooklyn vicinity on Saturday, they're performing at a club charmingly monikered Baby's Alright (which is at 146 Broadway) beginning at 8pm. If you attend, tell 'em PowerPop sent you.

In any case, I'll have more to say about Pan Arcadia next week, in part because as it turns out I have a sort of six-degrees-of-separation backstory with them I should share with you.

In the meantime, you can and should find out more about the band and their music over at their website HERE.

But now on to business. To wit:

...and your all time favorite (or least favorite) Big Apple rock band or solo performer is...?

Discuss.

BTW, I don't usually weigh in on these Friday issues, but this week I just have to.

My favorite underground NYC band ever? These guys, hands (heh heh) down.

And I should add that not only were they transplendently great (live -- yeah, I actually saw them in a club in 1966), but one of them also engineered the Live at CBGBs album ten years later and cooler than that it does not get.

Meanwhile -- have a great Memorial Day weekend, everybody!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Your Thursday Edition of "Well, Well -- What Have We Here"?

In fact, from 2023, it's Kelsie Kimberlin and "Road Trip."

In theory, I shouldn't like the above (which crossed my desk unsolicited the other day) for a number of reasons, starting with its violation of Simels Rule # 1: NO AUTO-TUNING!. But to my surprise, it got under my skin right away anyway.

Could be the car, which is way, I mean WAY, cool. Mostly, though, I suspect it's the song's we-gotta-get-outta-this-place sentiment, which -- given how fucking horrible everything going on in the USA is at the moment -- is obviously resonant. And I bet I'm not the only one who'll watch that video and relate.

Neat guitar solo, too, which helps.

In any event, Kimberline -- who is Ukranian-American and has something impassioned to say about what is happening to her homeland -- obviously has quite a lot on the ball; you can hear more of her music and find out more about her over at her website HERE.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

EP or Not to Be

The cover to the forthcoming solo effort by my longtime Floor Models bandmate Gerry Devine. Art direction by my beautiful and brilliant girlfriend Wendy Cohen (who, as usual, is working cheap).

Just to whet your appetite. More details coming soon.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Days of Booze and Whoopie Cushions

So the other day I was browsing back issues of The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review -- excuse: looking for stuff for possible inclusion in my forthcoming greatest hits book -- when I chanced upon this review and album I had totally lost in the mists of memory.

To wit: Here's Johnny, Casablanca's 1974 double LP set devoted to great moments from the Tonight Show during Johnny Carson's tenure as host.

Here's the review in question. Click on it to enlarge, obviously.

Wow. Apparently I was a ittle bit cranky when I wrote that. Although I basically still agree with most of its critical judgements, especially the bit about how Johnny should have quit the show years earlier and transitioned into the movie career he so richly deserved as (IMHO) the potential Cary Grant or William Powell of his generation.

Anyway, the Tonight Show take-off I mention in the review appeared on this 1973 album...

...which was written and performed by (among others) the great Harry Shearer and Micheal McKean, of Spinal Tap fame. And which in fact is an absolute comic masterpiece that's even funnier than I remembered.

And so, because I love you all more than food, you can listen to the entire original two disc Carson set over at YouTube HERE.

And then you can listen to the Credibility Gap's devastating parody over at the Internet Archive HERE.

You're welcome. And look at the clothes the Doctor is wearing!!!

Monday, May 22, 2023

Del Shannon: I Don’t Care If I Ever Get Home

From the absolutely great Del Shannon and his 1991 swansong Rock On, please enjoy the album's concluding -- in more than one sense -- track "Let's Dance." Produced by Jeff Lynne and Mike Campbell, with a little help from Tom Petty.

Yours truly, from The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, September of that year. (Click to enlarge, obviously).



I stand by every word of the above (although in the second graf I meant to say "idiosyncratic" rather than "interesting") and especially the bit about "Let's Dance." The first time I heard that, in fact, I almost fell out of my plush office chair at TMFKASR.

A Zydeco party song? Sounding dark, haunted and desperate, as if its creator had a hellhound on his trail?

To quote Richard Dean Anderson in Stargate SG-1 -- "Well, THIS is new."

In any event, if you don't know the album you need to acquaint yourself with it toot sweet. Especially since i just learned that the 2007 reissue has a half dozen very interesting bonus tracks.

Act now; you can thank me later.

[h/t Allan Weissman]

Friday, May 19, 2023

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special “The Family That Plays Together” Edition

From 2023, please enjoy Colt Clark and the Quarantine Band and their wise beyond its years rendition of The James Gang's 1971 hit "Walk Away."

Oh god, those kids are great; I could watch the one on the right nail the Joe Walsh guitar solo forever. I should add that they have several other equally priceless videos up; I'm particularly fond of their take on "We Got the Beat," which behooves beholding as well.

But now to business. To wit:

...and your favorite (or least favorite) post-Elvis pop, rock or soul group with members related by blood is...?

Arbitrary rule: No such groups with members related by marriage need apply.

Discuss.

And have a great weekend, everybody!

[h/t David Hawxwell]

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Tales From the Vaults: Special "Jackie? OHHHHH!!!" Edition

From 1965, please enjoy criminally underrated singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon and the original solo demo of her folk-rock classic "Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe."

The song, of course, is better known from the inspired re-imagining by The Byrds on their debut album (released that same year)...

,,,but the DeShannon version -- which I was alas unaware of until two days ago -- has really gotten under my skin. Yes, as a friend observed, I kinda miss the Bo Diddley beat. guitar tremelo and "oh-oh" vocals the Byrds decorated the song with, but there's something quite haunting, in a minimalist way, going on with that demo.

I should add it occurred to me I've never heard anybody else do the Byrds' take, which seems a bit weird. In any case, if there's a jangly young band out there reading these words I can only say -- get off your tushies and work up a cover of the damn thing already.

Thank you.

[h/t Bill Lloyd]

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Surf’s Up

[I originally wrote the following for the comments section back in 2006, before NY Mary had given me the metaphorical keys to the car around here. It was occasioned, specifically, by Mary's surprise that I rated the Beach Boys as high as I did in the American 60s pantheon; she didn't agree, obviously, and I thought it might be fun to try to make some kind of cogent statement on the subject. In any case, I stand by the resuts, and I am reliably informed that Mary has mellowed on the lads from Hawthorne over the years. As I also thought it might make an interesting entry in my forthcoming greatest hits book, I've taken the liberty of reposting it in advance here while changing a minor thing or three to more accurately represent my current, er, thinking. Enjoy!]

NYMary:

I must confess I find it a little odd to be writing this -- the Beach Boys music is pretty much my lingua franca, and the idea that they need defending feels weird to me given how much I love them (although I understand your skepticism, at least in the abstract. After all, Mike Love sucks).

In any event, here's why I think they deserve respect from mere mortals like you and me.

TEN REASONS THE BEACH BOYS ARE SELF-EVIDENTLY ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT AMERICAN BANDS OF THE SIXTIES.

IF NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT.

1. They invented an instantly recognizable sound of their own, one that practically defines a genre. Very few rock artists can make that claim. (Chuck Berry with "Johnny B Goode", The Byrds with "Tambourine Man," the Ramones, and maybe U2). That alone should guarantee the Beach Boys immortality.

2. What Raymond Chandler did for California in prose the Beach Boys did in music. They reflected a place and a time and made a kind of poetry out of it. They were not fake.

3. Five part harmonies, astoundingly gorgeous. And Brian's conception -- mating progressive jazz voicings a la the Four Freshman with classic doo-wop -- was totally unique. Here's a 1965 live clip that proves the point -- and if this a capella version of the Freshman's "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring"doesn't put a lump in your throat, you need to check your meds.

4. From their inception in the early 60s, they were pretty much the only self-contained rock band in America. Wrote all their own songs, produced their own records. Who else was doing that?

5. Kick-ass live act. If you doubt it, listen to "Beach Boys Concert," get a video of their closed-circuit show from '64, or find "The TAMI Show" video, in which -- performing on the same bill with the Stones, James Brown and most of the Motown acts, they tear the audience to shreds. Carl Wilson was a killer surf guitarist, and the rhythm section was as good as anybody in rock at the time.

Here's their British TV debut on Top of the Pops -- from 1964, totally live versions of "I Get Around" and "When I Grow Up."

6. Contrary to myth, they were not white bread at all. Carl and Dennis Wilson were as soulful singers in the r&b sense as anybody else working in the mid-Sixties. And that includes Stevie Winwood or Felix Cavaliere.

7. The car and surf songs are actually quite brilliant. Who else ever conceived of writing love songs to a carburetor? And has any rock song ever conveyed as much sheer teenage elan as "Fun Fun Fun" or "I Get Around"?

8. Brian's best songs from the early period anticipate the confessional singer/songwriter LA genre. "Don't Worry Baby" may be as nakedly emotional and self-revealing as anything Joni Mitchell ever wrote. Ditto "Warmth of the Sun" or "In My Room" or "When I Grow Up."

9. The albums that preceed the sainted Pet Sounds and Smile are masterpeices. The Beach Boys Today, Brian's first real studio concept album, is masterly; "When I Grow Up" isn't even the best song on it (try "Don't Hurt My Little Sister" or the astounding Sinatra goes r&b of "The Back of My Mind" sung by Dennis). It's every bit as good as Rubber Soul in terms of consistency and melodic invention. The follow-up -- Summer Days and Summer Nights, of which "California Girls" is simply the icing on the cake, is even better -- it's every bit Brian's Revolver. He never used the studio more impressively than "Let Him Run Wild" or emulated the Beatles with the riffy brilliance of "Girl Don't Tell Me."

10. The album that follows the sainted Pet Sounds and Smile is another masterpiece. Wild Honey is one of the handful of great white r&b albums of the period, and if you doubt it check out the title song or Carl's gorgeous reading of Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her." And in it's back to basics way, it's very much of a piece with the Beatles White Album.

I could go on about the Beach Boys early 70s output -- you could make a fabulous comp album with songs like "Marcella" (one of their best ever rockers), "This Whole World" (Brian's canniest pocket symphony), "All I Wanna Do"(the most glorious use of reverb in history), "Bluebirds Over the Mountain" (progressive rockabilly, if you can believe it), "Do It Again" and any number of others up through "Trader" on Holland.

The decline after that was appalling, to be sure, but you get my point....the Beach Boys have a huge body of really transcendent work, and Brian wasn't the only big talent in the band.

Have I mentioned that Mike Love sucks?

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Colossus: The Forbin Best 1,000 Albums Ever Project

No, really. Somebody is actually putting together a Best One Thousand Albums Ever project.

Says a guy with way too much time on his hands:

It’s NOT a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. I’m not qualified to do that. I’m not sure that anyone is.

This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective take on what my best 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style.

Okay, pal, you had me from that reference to the Nick Hornby novel and film. But thanks for clearing that up.

Anyway, there's a lot more about the project -- which seems an inadequate word to describe it, actually -- over at its combination statement of purpose and manifesto, which you can read over HERE. But in case you were wondering, the short version is that it's the brainchild of the estimable Eric Berlin, who has this to say about himself:

In addition to being a digital product manager by trade, I’ve written, edited, and published thousands of pop culture articles over the years, many of which focused on music and television. I helped run pop culture-centric blogging community Blogcritics back in the day, and more recently have written about pop culture, politics, and post-pandemic life in my newsletter, The Berlin Files.

In other words, you know -- a heroic world class geek as obsessed with that kind of stuff as me or you or anybody who has ever read this here blog more than once.

If that rings a bell -- and if it doesn't, what the hell are you doing here? -- and you want to get involved in such a sublimely Quixote-ish quest, feel free to jump in over at the OFFICIAL WEBSITE and suggest a candidate of your own. And be ready to provide a cogent justification for your choice.

And, of course, tell 'em PowerPop sent you!

Oh, also -- if YOU'VE got a little extra time on your hands, please see if you can convince Eric to sneak this one in.

As we say in the rock critic biz -- heh.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Great Lost Singles of the Girl Group Era: An Occasional Series

From 1964, please enjoy The Cinderellas and their instantly addictive shoulda-been-a-bigger-hit "Baby, Baby (I Still Love You)".

I must confess I had never heard this -- or heard of it, for that matter -- untill our pal Sal name-checked it over at Burning Wood last week. The writing and production credits, are of course, familiar -- it's a collaboration between the great hitmaking team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill with Russ Titelman, who is perhaps (unfairly) better known for having been an exec at Warner Brothers Records for a few decades rather than his cooler credits, like having been a member of the Shindig TV show house band. Who the girls are, however, i have no idea.

In any event, this one knocked me out before the vocals even came in; clearly, it's an A-minus artifact of Brill Building songcraft and performance.

Thanks, Sal!

Friday, May 12, 2023

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special “Selling Out or Compromise?” Edition

From 1967, please try to enjoy barely second tier Summer of Love San Francisco band The Sons of Champlin and their, er, interestingly over the top version of Brill Building auteurs Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill's wise and haunting "Shades of Grey."

The song is, deservedly, better known from the beautifully arranged chamber-rock take on The Monkees' Headquarters album the same year,,,

...but the Champlins' everything but the folk-rock kitchen sink production has a certain goofy period feel that charmed me when I first discovered it last week. As for SOC in general, their titular front-man Bill Champlin went on to play with Chicago, so the less said about him and them the better.

But now, on to business. To wit:

...and your favorite post-Elvis song in which the words black or white figure prominently in the title or lyrics is...?

Discuss.

And have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Anybody Know How to Say “Dirty Dancing” in Yiddish?

Hey -- i actually got paid to watch the films these two trailers are from.

From Entertainment Weekly:

Two ''lambada'' movies dance onto home video -- A quick guide to the schlockiest moments of this embarrassment of kitsch riches

By Steve Simels Updated June 08, 1990 at 04:00 AM EDT

Years from now, when scholars reflect on the 1990s, they’ll probably find much of humanity’s behavior inexplicable. Why, for example, did we allow nuclear weapons? Racial bigotry? The destruction of the environment? And why did we stand for two simultaneous lambada movies?

For connoisseurs of schlock such questions are irrelevant. What matters is that Lambada and The Forbidden Dance are now in video stores and viewers who avoided their brief runs in movie theaters can check them out, remote control in hand. Which of the flicks is the biggest hoot? Which really delivers the exploitation goods? Does either give the real lowdown on this lambada business?

Nobody should have to watch both, so here’s a handy guide comparing these state-of-the-art examples of Le Bad Cinema.

Best Attempt at Redeeming Social Value: Both Lambada and The Forbidden Dance are message pictures of a sort. In the former, schoolteacher J. Eddie Peck flashes the slickest lambada moves in town in hopes of motivating inner-city kids to study math. In the latter, Brazilian princess Laura Herring uses her dance skills to agitate against the destruction of the Amazon jungle. The winner: Forbidden Dance, for its hilariously cynical end credit reading ”This picture is dedicated to the preservation of the rain forests.”

Most Gratuitous Tush Shots: Lambada director Joel Silberg, apparently an aging ’70s disco kid, often aims his camera at his dancers’ behinds. Forbidden Dance auteur Greydon Clark, perhaps cognizant of the lambada’s erotic origins, concentrates instead on other areas of the body. The winner (no contest): Lambada.

Most Soft-Core Sex Scenes: Notwithstanding Melora Hardin’s constant attempts to seduce her math teacher, Lambada is remarkably chaste for an exploitation picture. The Forbidden Dance, however, serves up attempted rape, lots of implied lesbianism, and a subplot set in a Sunset Strip brothel. The winner: The Forbidden Dance.

Most Lambada Per Minute: Neither picture bothers with more than 10 minutes of anything resembling authentic Brazilian dancing. But Lambada choreographer Shabba-Doo, who recycles the moves from the various Lionel Richie videos he also choreographed, at least offers a bit more motion. The winner: Lambada.

Most Ridiculous Ending: In The Forbidden Dance, the heroine spreads her message via a national TV show starring Kid Creole and the Coconuts.(Kid Creole fans can save time by fast-forwarding directly to this short scene.) In Lambada, rival gangs rumble in what may be the screen’s first trigonometry contest. The winner: The Forbidden Dance, for the scene in which a Latino housemaid runs off with a giant, bald voodoo priest.

The grade for each picture: D-

Like I said, I got paid. Is this a great country or what?

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Songs I Was Genetically Bred to Love: Special “Les Brindilles de Citron” Edition

From their just released Everything Harmony, please enjoy The Lemon Twigs and their jangle-fest for the ages "Ghost Run Free."

That's my favorite from the album at the moment, but frankly that choice changes every fifteen minutes or so; the whole thing is just so damn great that you can't go wrong with any of it. That said, "Ghosts" (which is kind of an outlier, sylistically, among the album's 13 tracks) was clearly designed with my mind in mind, as the Firesign Theatre put it, and I frankly swoon the minute I hear those guitars and vocals echoing the Byrds, Big Star, Hollies, and about a zillion other archtypal power pop auteurs. Oh hell, if you're reading this here blog I don't have to tell you.

I should add that the other day, over at Sal's Burning Wood, I suggested -- in what I meant as a tongue-in-cheek way -- that an apt alternate title for the record might be The Great Lost Nazz Album.

On sober reflection, however, I'm not so sure I was kidding. In any event, go get the album immediately, lest your life be the poorer for it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Cinema Notes From All Over: Special “England Swings Through a Glass Darkly” Edition

It is, shall we say, hardly a state secret that I am a passionate fan of Procol Harum (or, as we refer to them around Casa Simels, The Only Prog Band That Matters).

Hell, I quite literally owe what I laughingly refer to as my career to Procol, which is a story that will open my forthcoming book of literary greatest hits...

...and which you can read over at the link HERE in advance. You're welcome.

In any case, if you're a Procol fan too, you are probably aware that the credits to their debut album make the perhaps intriguing assertion that side two's "Salad Days (Are Here Again)"...

...is "From the film 'Separation.'"

Exsqueeze me? The film Separation? What in the wide, wide world of sports is the film Separation?

In point of fact, said film did not to our knowledge screen in the USA back in the day (it was released in the UK in '68), and most of us fledgling Procol fans probably assumed (after listening to "Salad Days," which is one of my favorite things on the record, and the one I can actually still play the piano part to) that it was one of those angsty, dark side of Swinging London existential art house flicks in the model of Antonioni's Blow-Up.

This impression was re-inforced in 1973, when Procol's Matthew Fisher included his all-intrumental "Theme From Separation"...

...on his splendid debut solo album; the song was as moody and dark as we all assumed the film to be, but as there was as yet no home video of it (or any film) to be had, we PH fans on this side of the pond simply figured it was a mystery that would never be solved.

Anyway, to make a long story etc., unbeknownst to me, a couple of DVD and Blu-ray versions of Separation were in fact finally released in the States early this century. Here's a clip from one of them, which features "Salad Days" and looks exactly like I had pictured the film in my head for lo these many years...

...down to the obligatory in-color-psychedelic nude scene.

And to my futher delight, it turns out my brother Drew had actually seen one of them recently.

The main character, Jane, has separated from her husband and is trying to figure out what to do with her life. She seems to be using a drug, judging by the way she expresses herself.

There may have been an outline of a script that the director used in shooting the movie. Many of the scenes look improvised.

Fisher's Separation theme is used many times throughout the movie. The song "Salad Days" is used sparingly, and it sounds like another version, i.e. not the one on the album.

The movie drags way too long. You're not missing anything by not watching this.

Thanks, Drew. In any case, there's an inexpensive Blu-ray of Separation at Amazon -- only one copy left, as of today -- and I may snag it just to satisfy a lingering curiosity. You should get the Fisher solo album over there in any case.

And in the meantime, if you're of a mind, you can watch, for free, an absolutely terrific widescreen print of Separation over at the invaluable Internet Archive HERE.

Have I mentioned I'm a huge Procol Harum fan?

Monday, May 08, 2023

Closed for Monkey Business: Special “Who Was That Masked Man?” Edition

Real life concerns intruded over the weekend, so rather than inflict my poor scribblings on you guys today, you can laugh your ass off over the clip below instead while I regroup.

You're welcome. Regular music posting resumes on the morrow.

Friday, May 05, 2023

Weekend Listomania: Special "Golden Throats" Audio/Video Edition

[I first wrote and posted this back in 2010, when the blog and the world were young. I was gonna add at least one new artist to the list, just to prove that I'm not the slacker that everybody (with justification) thinks I am, but for the life of me, I couldn't think of a single recent act who I thought was either innovative or annoying enough to make the cut. That's probably a function of my current extreme old age more than anything esthetic, but what the hell. Obviously, I'll be curious to hear what your feelings are on the subject. -- S.S.]

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental nocturnal emissions specialist Fah Lo Suee and I will be taking an exploratory meeting with Harlan Crow, billionaire Hitler merch collector and real estate partner of SCOTUS justice Clarence Thomas, who has promised to cut me a deal on rent for the back room of his mom's house.

In any event, further posting by moi will have to be sporadic for a day or two.

In the meantime, then, here's a hopefully fun little project for us all:

Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Singer or Group Who Most Influenced (For Good or Ill) the Art of Pop/Rock Singing!!!

No arbitrary rules here whatsoever. I should also add that my song selections do not necessarily represent the singer or group's most influential work. They're just things I like, or that perhaps immediately sprung to mind.

And my totally top of my head Top Seven is:

7. Bob Dylan -- Percy's Song

Believe it or not, there are still people who think Dylan couldn't sing. Heh heh. In any case, Dylan's phrasing and charmingly nasal tones have influenced countless singer/songwriters over the years, few of whom would have likely been granted artistic license without his example.

6. The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger)-- Good Times, Bad Times

Snotty white boy sings the blues and quite convincingly -- this despite the fact that he doesn't really sound all that black, although everybody thinks he does at the time. An amazing accomplishment, when you think of it, and the template for decades of snotty white boy vocalists who probably never even heard of Muddy Waters.

5. Vanilla Fudge -- You Keep Me Hanging On

If truth be told, it wasn't the faux classical instrumental overkill that made The Fudge influential (that stuff is as dead as the papal penis, actually). No, it was their vocal approach. The notion, in rock, that you can simulate soul with pompous Italianate pseudo-operatic yoweling begins here, and legions of bad bands and singers -- mostly from Long Island, for some reason -- have made that appalling innovation part of their gestalt.

4. David Bowie -- Young Americans

The aforementioned pompous Italianate pseudo-operatic yoweling overlaid with an affectless Anthony Newley impression. Influential? Essentially, every unbearable singer out of England between 1971 and the late 80s -- Bryan Ferry, Martin Fry of ABC, The Thompson Twins, that clown in Spandau Ballet -- copped their vocal shtick from Bowie. Hey, thanks for nothing, Dave.

3. Patti LaBelle -- Over the Rainbow

Over-souling: A vocal style in which the singer throws some poor song onto the floor, writhing in pain and gasping for breath, and then wrestles it into submission until it simply expires. The late great Jerry Wexler, of Atlantic Records, named it, but it was Patti LaBelle who brought it to the mainstream, and just about every successful r&b singer since -- black or white, male or female -- has emulated it at some point. I should add, of course, that Patti's 1985 "Over the Rainbow," as heard above, would be considered a laughable model of subtlety and restraint by most contemporary artistes of the American Idol/The Voice school.

2. The Doobie Brothers (Michael McDonald) -- What a Fool Believes

Okay, there's no real name for what McDonald does, but it's a style in which the singer's beard does all the work, and for a period in the 80s, it was the dominant male vocal sound of pop music worldwide.

And the numero uno most influential post-Elvis vocalist actually turns out to be...

1. Cher -- Believe

Well, Cher via the dreaded AutoTune, that is. I'm guessing the list of irredeemably crappy hit records featuring robo-vocals in the wake of 100-percent-recycled-plastic-based-life-form Cher's "Believe" now numbers in the thousands. In any case, the single most insufferable pop music trend of the last several decades, unless as I suggested in the intro, I've somehow missed one.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Songs I’d Forgotten Existed, Let Alone Loved: Special “Quick Henry, the Flit!” Edition

From 1986, and their MTV-generated comeback tour, please enjoy Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork (doing business as The Monkees) and their deseved hit single "That was Then, This is Now."

I bring this up for two reasons. A) Because it's a terrific power pop tune by any standard, written by Vance Brescia, of 80s NYC club faves The Mosquitos...

...who just about everybody who is anybody (me too) avers should have been commercially huge but who-knows-why-they-weren't.

And more important, and B) coincidentally enough, because indie record mogul and friend of PowerPop Ray Gianchetti at Kool Kat Musik is now offering a new 2 CD Mosquitos anthology...

...that includes just about every original song they ever played, plus a handful of covers, both live and in the studio, with absolutely fabulous remastered sound.

Obviously, you can, and should, order This Then Are the Mosquitos over at Kool Kat HERE.

And tell 'em PowerPop sent you!

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Chansons de la Rive Gauche: Special "It Came From Bleecker Street" Edition

From some time in the late 80s or early 90s, please enjoy The Souvenirs -- with some schmuck whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on keyboards -- and their spirited live version of "She May Call You Up Tonight," my other 3rd or 4th favorite song from The Left Banke debut album that I didn't post yesterday in a live clip from The Lemon Twigs. And how's THAT for a mouthful?

The Souvenirs were essentially the five-piece latter day version of The Floor Models, and that clip was shot at the late lamented Kenny's Castaways in Greenwich Village, which was essentially our home base over the years. I particularly enjoyed playing that Left Banke cover, not of the least of reasons being that we used to go directly into Paul Revere and the Raiders' "Him or Me" at its conclusion. Ah, those were the days.

Less self-indulgent posting, featuring music by people I don't know personally, resumes on the morrow.

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

The Lemon Twigs: Chansons de la Rive Gauche

From just the other week, please enjoy friends of powerpop The Lemon Twigs -- recorded live at the Troubadour in L.A. -- and an absolutely splendid cover of The Left Banke's lovely "I've Got Something On My Mind."

Man, those kids have really got it.

I should add that the above song is my third or fourth favorite from the Banke's classic 1967 debut album. My first and second favorites, of course, are "Walk Away Renee" and "Pretty Ballerina."

Coming tomorrow: A live performance of my other third or fourth favorite from the Banke LP, as rendered by another band whose members I know personally.

Monday, May 01, 2023

Classical Gas: Special “If It’s Not Scottish, It’s Crap!” Edition

So over the weekend, Turner Classic Movies (god bless 'em) happened to show Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1983), which is one of the most magical movies ever made, IMHO, and one which I hadn't seen since I last wrote about it (for reasons that will become clear shortly) in these precincts back in 2012.

I bring it up now (as I had back in the day) because -- aside from being blown away by the film as a whole once again -- I had forgotten about the sheer level of gorgeousness of Mark Knopfler's score.

Seriously -- f**k Dire Straits. If for nothing else than the closing credit music below -- "Going Home: The Song of the Local Hero" -- Knopfler deserves to be be an immortal.

Please -- take five minutes and listen to it, in case you've never heard it before.

Okay, here's my two cents.

That happens to be classical music, and it deserves to be treated as such, i.e. it should be played at Philharmonic concerts just like any great opera overture/prelude/curtain raiser you could mention.

In fact, as far as I'm concerned, what Knopfler did there is akin to what George Gershwin (yes him) did some decades earlier, which is to say, he took pop/folk/vernacular music -- in this case, Celtic airs and the rock/r&b urban street-corner romanticism of Phil Spector and Bruce Springsteen records -- and made something utterly sui generis and grand and universal from them.

I have one cavil, however; the drum and synth sounds on the Local Hero soundtrack album are a little dated; if there's a brilliant young orchestral composer out there, please score this for traditional symphonic ensemble (plus guitar) and soon.

Arthur Fiedler really should have lived to conduct this, is what I'm saying.

POSTSCRIPT:

And to further illustrate my point, here are two five minute classical pieces (and by five minutes, I'm talking about the length of all sorts of great pop records) that I think are in the same ballpark melodically and harmonically.

From 1597(!) and arranged by Leopold Stokowski, who knew something about pop stardom, here's Renaissance proto-rocker Giovanni Gabrielli's all horn "Sonata Pian e Forte." You may notice that Gabrielli is doing the whole soft/loud thing that people thought was totally innovative when Kurt Cobain did it several centuries later.

And, a little closer to the idiom that Knopfler was working in, here's unjustly obscure (outside of his home country) Austrian late Romantic Franz Schmidt's 1914 intermezzo from his opera Notre Dame.

As in The Hunchback of...

Both of those are gorgeous, but no less so than the Local Hero music, I think. In any case, you get my meaning.