Friday, June 30, 2023

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special "Glug! Glug! Glug!" Edition

From 2023, and his forthcoming (as yet untitled) new EP, please enjoy former Spongetones auteur/power pop legend Jamie Hoover and his hilarious alt-country booze ballad "Bourbon Understands."

Attentive readers will doubtless remember my enthusiasm for Hoover, particularly for his absolutely transplendent mid-90s cover (with the Spongetones) of Paul McCartney's "On the Wings of a Nightingale"...

...which I wrote about back in 2019 over HERE. But, as you can tell from the new one, he's sort of branching out these evenings, genre-wise, and good for him. At least as long as his liver holds out.

But now to business. To wit:

...and your favorite or least favorite country song by a solo artist or group that is NOT specifically a full-time country act is...?


BTW, my choice would be Steve Goodman's "You Never Even Call Me By My Name."

Which begins with the line "I was drunk the day that mom got out of prison." Heh.

Anyway...Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

BTW: You can, and should, find out more about Hoover's music and his future (hopefully sober) plans over at his OFFICIAL WEBSITE.

You're welcome.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Okay, I Really Really Like the Beatles Just Like Everybody Else. Happy Now?

By way of a mea culpa for Monday's Rarities post -- here's the Fabs with the 2009 remaster of the early Lennon/McCartney classic "Misery."

That one's just killed me since forever. Especially the piano part, which if memory serves I played live with an old high school band of mine.

Hey -- those four youngsters from Liverpool may have a future in the popular music field, doncha think?

Coming tomorrow -- a particularly down home weekend essay question!!! Dont miss it, y'all!!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Songs I'd Forgotten Existed, Let Alone Loved (An Occasional Series): Special "Great Lost B-Sides of the '70s" Edition

[I originally posted a slightly different version of the below back in 2009, when the world and this blog were young. I'm re-upping it now because I recently stumbled across the song in question and wondered anew if it had finally made it to CD. The answer, alas, is still no.]

Okay, here's a very sad and, frankly, very pathetic story that proves I really need to get more of a life. So please try not to laugh.

But first, from 1975, please enjoy the B-side blues/gospel/pop ballad confection "Believe in What You Do" by the shoulda been bigger Maxine Nightingale.

As I said, the song is from 1975; more specifically, it was the flip side of Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From," a world-wide multi-million selling smash that still gets played on oldies radio.

Said B-side has never appeared on any subsequent vinyl album or CD by the artist who recorded it, as I mentioned up top; the video here is a rip from a vintage 45.

The only reason I ever heard this one in the first place is because, at Stereo Review, I was on the United Artists promo singles list, and for some perverse reason I always played the flips of records that were on the radio, on the off chance that there might be some buried treasure, as it were. To my ears, at the time, it sounded pleasantly like the kind of song Rod Stewart might have done before his artistic decline; it also sounded to me like a decent Eric Clapton tune, albeit sans guitar. In any event, I always liked it, especially the minimalist Floyd Cramer-esque piano solo, and in fact at one point I may have tried to con my 70s band (we had a girl singer) into covering it.

In any case, I lost both my copy of the 45 and a low-fi cassette I duped from it during a house moving episode in the late 70s, and over the last several years I've developed a jones to hear it again. More recently, I've tried without success to find a downloadable version anywhere on the intertubes. So at some point (I can't recall exactly when) I finally broke down and paid ten bucks to get a used vinyl copy from Amazon. Another fifteen bucks at a studio got me a decent cleaned up mp3 transfer, which alas I can't share with you for lack of the software needed to insert it into Blogger-friendly HTML.

Bottom line: To my surprise, the song still sounds as insinuating to me as it did in 1975. On the other hand, I think there's an obvious reason why it's never been on any vinyl or CD compilation by the artist in question, and that's because -- wait for it -- it's not really all that interesting to anybody but me. I mean, given the (putting it charitably) sparseness of the production, I'd be very very surprised if the thing wasn't just some publishing demo that was rushed onto the flip when the producer/writer team behind both tracks sold the record company on the eventual A-side smash. Which doesn't sound remotely like "Believe," by the way.

So -- just to recap. For some reason, I became obsessed with a song that nobody else, including the artist, the producers or the songwriters, felt strongly enough about to ever even acknowledge its existence. And I then forked out 25 bucks that would have more profitably been spent on hookers and blow to hear it again, through a patina of crackle and turntable rumble.

Hey -- I said this was a sad and pathetic story. I didn't say it would be interesting.

BTW, since I originally wrote the above, I have been semi-reliably informed that the keyboard player on the track is the sadly forgotten Dave Rowberry, the guy who came in for Alan Price when he departed The Animals. If anybody out there can confirm this, I'd be your best friend.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Your Tuesday Moment of Words Fail Me

From 2015, live on Sirius XM, please behold Chris Cornell and a jaw-dropping unplugged version of his "Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart."

I was never particularly a grunge fan back in the day, and to be honest, the whole Chris-Cornell-is-the-Greatest-Rock-Singer-Ever meme occasioned numerous arch-raised eyebrows from me over the years. Sure, objectively, he had a really powerful instrument and his own sound, but the style/tradition he came out of was just not my thing. Still, when a friend turned me on to the studio version of "Nearly" a while ago I became an instant convert. And when I stumbled across that live video last week I was genuinely gobsmacked again at how great both song and singer were.

BTW, I have not been able to determine who that cello guy on the left is, but Yo-Yo fucking Ma's got nothing on him. I mean -- wow!

[h/t Joe Benoit]

Monday, June 26, 2023

Wails From the Crypt (An Occasional Series): Special "The 'Feh!' Four" Edition

I discovered the following in the SR archives a few days ago, while doing research for my forthcoming greatest hits book. I'm not sure how I feel on the subject all these years later; frankly, not only had I completely forgotten I'd written the piece, I had completely forgotten that the album that occasioned it even existed. In any case, it's not going into the book, but I'm kinda curious what you guys think. (I should add, for a little historical context, that it was written several months before John's murder, which of course changed everything.)

THE BEATLES: RARITIES (Stereo Review, July 1980)

Let's talk about rock and roll heroes. Still have any? I didn't think so. No wonder, really, when you consider what buffoons, by and large, our Sixties heroes have managed to become. Critic Simon Frith observed that the reason English punks hate hippies so much is that they are secretly afraid they'll turn out the same. They probably will, and though it does conjure up some interesting prospects, it's going to be pretty grim if our Sixties heroes are any example.

Consider, say, Grace Slick, now doing the talk-show circuit as a reformed alcoholic and carrying on like a Young Republican version of Lillian Roth. Or, better still, consider Bob Dylan, who appeared during the most recent Grammy Awards, after being introduced by Kenny Rogers as "the voice of a generation," (which immediately moved those at my house to apply for membership in some other generation) wearing a tux and looking like a rather more jowly Richard Nixon. He proceeded to sing a Sunday School ditty that wouldn't have been out of place at a Billy Graham crusade, and finished by thanking the Lord and his producer in that order. Now I ask you -- in 1967, as you sat long into the night listening to Blonde on Blonde, could you have imagined, even in your wildest hemp-induced reveries, a de-greening of that magnitude?

The punks actually seem to have found ways of accelerating this depressing recidivism. By the time you read this, Debbie Harry of Blondie will be all over the tube hawking jeans bearing the name of Gloria Vanderbilt, which would have been unthinkable as recently as three years ago. And there will certainly be others in her wake; if Slick and Dylan can make shambles of our collective dreams, than I would counsel young idealists not to count too heavily on Bruce Springsteen or the Clash remaining long unsullied either. The point is that hero worship is just as dangerous in rock-and-roll as it is in any other area of life, politics included. Because, finally, all your heroes have feet of clay; every one of them will let you down if you give them the chance.

Which leads us to the Beatles and their "new" album. The Beatles were the biggest heroes rock-and-roll ever produced, and if Rarities is nothing else, it is an artifact that takes their continued hero status as a given. I don't that's terribly healthy, though I will concede it may be justifiable. Though their individual stocks have dropped considerably in the years since their break-up (with rare exceptions -- a few of Paul's singles, most of Band on the Run, and John's angry brilliant first solo album) they have had the wit or integrity to resist being reformed. And that is why they still qualify as heroes.

But, no matter how you try to rationalize it, the Beatles-as-Heroes line is counterproductive, even though there are hordes of people out there who would like nothing better than for the Mop Tops to shake their aging booties on-stage one more time. To tell the truth, I might have enjoyed the spectacle once myself. No more, and what finally wised me up were a couple of unpleasant realizations. One: It dawned on me that everything I detest on the radio today can be traced back to the Fab Four, from Barry Manilow to Foreigner. (I'm sure that when the Beatles were writing "Yesterday" or "Penny Lane" it was not their intention to provide inspiration for those who in better times would have been writing jingles for chewing gum, but the mush-rock sound that defines our own is basically a bastardization of once-exciting Beatles innovations.) Two: I realized that I simply don't listen to them much any more. That can be chalked up simply to overexposure (hell, if I had heard the B Minor Mass as many times as I've heard Sgt. Pepper, I'd probably never listen to it again either), but I think it goes deeper than that. While I still believe that their talent and vision were the most all encompassing of any rock band, past or present, they no longer speak to me. And there are lots of people around who do.

It isn't a question of their music having dated; most of it hasn't and probably won't. The point is that life goes on, but the Beatles-worshipping mass audience seems not to care, preferring instead to crawl back into the womb of nostalgia. If you don't believe me, then please explain why nothing on AM radio these days, with the exception of the occasional disco record, would have sounded at all out of place back when the Beatles were at their peak. I'm not suggesting that everybody go out and buy the new Public Image album; Johnny Rotten hasn't got a fraction of John Lennon's genius. But if people won't even take the time to listen to what he (or any of his contemporaries) have to say, preferring instead to dream of some vanished Golden Age that never existed anyway, then we are all of us -- hippies and punks alike -- in serious trouble.

What disturbs me most about Rarities is that it seems aimed directly at people who still buy the Beatles myth whole, those who think of the group as a permanent standard against which the rest of rock-and- roll (and maybe everything else) must be judged forever. But even at a discount price, it's such a slight package that had a similar reconstruction job been undertaken for a lesser group, Raph Nader would be bringing class-action suits for consumer fraud. These aren't rarities -- they're footnotes, and from the lunatic fringe of Beatlemania at that. What you get are occasional lengthened intros ("I Am the Walrus") and endings ("And I Love Her"), B-sides you already own, and bad mono mixes of a lot of ephemera. Who, other than the kind of people who can't throw out back issues of National Geographic, even cares anymore?

Yes, I'm being unfair. It is sort of nice, finally, to have the un-Spectored version of "Across the Universe," one of Lennon's loveliest studio essays. And there's nothing intrinsically evil about an album for collectors; if this had been released in, say, 1970, it would have been an appropriately thoughtful coda to a distinguished career. But this is 1980, dammit, and we live in a world where things change. Rarities, it seems to me, attempts to deny that, and ostrichism is the very last thing we need right now. That being the case, I can find only one redeeming feature in all of this; in an age when rock stars fall all over themselves to hustle for establishment status symbols, its a consolation to know that the Beatles themselves had absolutely nothing to do with the decision to market this dispiriting package. -- Steve Simels

I dunno. There's part of me that still sort of agrees with all that, but obviously it was a different world when I wrote it and I had a higher youthful self-righteous quotient.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Weekend Listomania: Special "I Coulda Been a Contender" Edition

[I originally posted versions of this back in 2008 and 2014, and frankly I can't remember anything else I did either year; I assume I was having fun and being reasonably productive, but I can't prove it. In any case, as is my wont, I've changed a couple of entries and done some cosmetic re-writing, just so you don't confuse me with Marlene Dietrich singing this.

Enjoy, if possible. -- S.S.]

And now to business.

Best Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Band or Solo Act That Should Have Had a Mega-Career But For Whatever Reason Didn't!!!

Okay, we're talking one-hit wonders, groups or acts who had a couple of records that may have been critically acclaimed but sold negligibly, or just people that nobody ever really heard of but were fricking fantastic anyway. This is, admittedly, even more subjective than usual. Do the MC5 count? Everybody knows they were great, but they never sold that many records and broke up after three albums. How about Nick Drake? Until that car commercial made him a sort of household word, he'd been basically an obscure dead guy for decades.

Like I said, it's subjective. For me, then, I think the pornography standard applies -- i.e., I know a beautiful loser when I see one.

And that said, my top of my head Top Ten would be:

10. The Monks

These guys only made one studio album, which wasn't even released in their home country until 25 years after the fact. But as the above clip demonstrates, they invented Blank Generation punk rock when Richard Hell was still in junior high.

9. Brinsley Schwarz

The Band, but with pop songs, and, as you can see, one hell of a live act. IMHO, of course, they should be considered gods for no other reason than giving the world the original version of "What's So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding".

8. The Records

It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that if it wasn't for these guys, and the debut album "Up All Night" is from, the blog you're reading now wouldn't exist.

7. Kevin Salem

My favorite hard-rocking guitar-wielding singer/songwriter of the 90s. Why he remains obscure when, say, a nit like John Mayer walks the streets a free man is, frankly, beyond me.

6. The Wonders

Let's be honest -- if these guys had been an actual band rather than a fictional construct for a movie, they would have made the Hall of Fame years ago.

5. Marc Jonson

He's a genuine pop genius. He absolutely ruled the Greenwich Village rock scene in the late 70s and early 80s, his songs have been recorded by the likes of Dave Edmunds, Robert Gordon and The Roches, and he's one of the most riveting live acts I've ever been personally jealous of. So why ain't he a superstar? You got me.

4. The Rising Sons

Featuring the rather awesome talents of Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal before they got famous. The fact that this track languished unreleased in the vaults of Columbia Records for nearly three decades before it was finally unleashed on the world is pretty convincing proof of the non-existence of God, IMHO.

3. Marah

Their template was The Replacements doing Bruce Springsteen covering the entirety of Exile on Main Street. It is not an exaggeration when I say that I would cheerfully cut off both of my testicles for the chance to have played on a song as great as the above.

2. Moby Grape

They all sang (gloriously), they all wrote (brilliantly), their lead guitarist was one of the most innovative American players of the decade, and their debut album is a timeless masterpiece that deftly mixes rock, country, blues, gospel, and psychedelia. Meanwhile, lots of otherwise intelligent folks still think they were the punchline to a dumb Sixties joke.

And the number uno band or pop auteur that should be currently relaxing on the Riviera inhaling cocaine and Cristal absolutely is....

1. Willie Nile

He made one of the great debuts in rock history, and he's still making albums almost or as good as that one even as we speak.

Alrighty, then -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special "Quick, Henry -- The Flit!" Edition

From 1970, and their eponymous debut album, please enjoy the original four-man lineup of Brinsley Schwarz performing Nick Lowe's uncharacteristically non-ironic "Mayfly."

This, of course, verges on the dreaded prog-rock territory (specifically early Yes) but what saves it is the fact that the song itself is quite pretty (in a folkish sort of way) and, more important, the lyrical organ playing of Bob Andrews; if you ever saw the band I toiled in on keyboards (after the demise of The Floor Models), you would have noticed that I pretty much stole everything I ever played from Andrews' work on this one song. Just gorgeous.

In any case, 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, June 21, 2023

Closed for Monkey Business

A crazy week.

Regular -- and extremely gorgeous -- music posting resumes on the morrow.

Also a clue to the theme of Friday's Weekend Listomania.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Your Tuesday Moment of Let's Hope Peaches and Herb Aren't Republicans

From 2023, please enjoy on-the-side-of-the-angels wiseacres Emma's Revolution and their late Trump Era re-think of "Reunited."

As, y'know, "Re-Indicted."

Long-time readers will recall that I wrote about those guys back in early 2020, when they did a pandemic-themed remake of the Julie Gold classic as "From a (Social) Distance".

This new one, however, is -- as befits the malevolent subject of its satire -- considerably snarkier, and I think anybody who listens to/watches the song/video (which was written and produced, amazingly enough, in a matter of days after the news broke) will react as I did, by laughing yer ass off.

Hey, it's cathartic, and lord knows we need it. Or as I said in 2020 (and have repeated several times recently) one of the few silver linings of our current crisis is that, when it's over, we're going to look back on it as a vintage time for black comedy and gallows humor.

Anyway, you can and should find out more about Emma's Revolution (including a link to their website) over HERE. And god bless 'em for the wonderful work they're doing.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Your Monday Essay Question: Special "Not the Beatles, But an Incredible Simulation!" Edition

"Real Love" is not only a completely valid Beatles record but as good as many of the ones they made together before John's death.


My answer to the question, BTW, is a resounding "you bet!" That song gives me chills on every level (could Ringo's drums or George's guitar solos or the overdubbed Beatles harmony vocals on the chorus be any more gorgeous? Uh no.)

In any event, I bring this up mostly because when the news broke a few days ago that McCartney (and one presumes Ringo) are finishing the last of the three John songs that Yoko gave to them when they were working on Anthology, this time using Artificial Intelligence (although other than trendiness I can't see how that's relevant to the discussion one way or another), I got into a bit of a brouhaha with an old friend and bandmate who thought my opinion of "Real Love" was close to sacreligious.

Bottom line: What do yu guys think? And should we be dreading the new one?

Meanwhile, in related news...

Dirk McQuickly of The Rutles...

...has announced that the final Rutles record will be completed using A.S., or Artificial Stupidity.

[h/t Frank De Stefano]

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Weekend Programming Notes

Two lovely bits of news today: As promised, In My Own Good Time, the new EP by my longtime bandmate (and singer of The Floor Models) Gerry Devine, is now available for stremaing and/or purchase at multiple online outlets, including biggies like Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, iTunes, Bandcamp, and the rest of the usual digital suspects.

(I'm informed we're on TikTok as well, but don't go over there if you're privy to sensitive American defense secrets. Thank you.).

Also -- drum roll please -- a song from the EP (along with a fabulous mix of music old and new sure to please the readers of this here blog) will be featured tomorrow on my fave internet radio show...

...hosted by the great deejay (and friend of PowerPop) Wayne Lundqvist Ford!

Air time is 1pm EST, and you can -- and very definitely should -- tune in over at Could be a hot one!!!

I should add that the whole EP is now up at YouTube; I don't know which track Wayne's gonna be playing, but I am assured it will either be the title tune or this fabulous cover of the Byrds psych-folk-rock classic "5D".

In any event, enjoy!!!

POSTSCRIPT; Actual physical CDs (you know -- with a back cover and credits and all that stuff) will be available soon (hopefully by months end); I'll keep you guys posted.

And may I note, once again, that kudos are due to a certain Shady Dame/art director of my acquaintance, who came up with the cover concept and executed it brilliantly, despite working cheap. Heh.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Return of the Son of Weekend Listomania: Special "Pluck Your Magic Twanger, White Boy " Edition

[I originally posted this back in 2008(!), when the world and this blog were young. As is my wont in these cases, I've done a bit of re-writing, and swapped in a song that wasn't in the original list, just so you don't think of me as the sad slacker I quite obviously am. Enjoy.]

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Saudi Arabian PGA/LIV-certified caddy/ball-retriever Salman bin Blowme and I will be heading to beautiful Bedminster, New Jerey to attend the tee-off of Donad Trump's Make America Golf Again promotional tour.

Consequently, posting by moi will be sporadic for the next few days.

But in the meantime, here's a fun project to tide us over --

Best Slide Guitar Work On a Pop, Rock or Soul Record Under 10 Minutes Long!!!

Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Eight.

8. Canned Heat -- Let's Work Together

The great Alan Wilson. Not to be confused with ---

7. Al Wilson -- Lodi

The John Fogerty song, of course, and as I have mentioned on numerous occasions, one of the great lost singles of the 60s. I should add that to this day there has been no definitive accreditation of who exactly is playing those amazing guitars, although given the year (1969) and town (LA) when and where it was recorded, the betting is on either Ry Cooder or Jesse Ed Davis.

6. The Beatles -- For You Blue

George Harrison: "Elmore James' got nothin on this baby."

5. John Hiatt -- Riding With the King

The unbelievably amazing Sonny Landreth on slide. Seriously -- I've seen those guys do this live, and it was the closest thing to a psychedelic experience I've ever had without drugs. Those notes seemed to literally hang suspended in time and space.

4. Leo Kottke -- Louise

The definitive version of this oft-covered folkie classic, I think. Actually, If Kottke's slide solos don't make you cry, I don't want to know you.

3. Mick Jagger -- Memo from Turner

The aforementioned Ry Cooder on guitar, absolutely dripping menace and mystery. Incidentally, I recently discovered who the rhythm section is (courtesy of Rhino's 2007 Jagger solo best-of): turns out it's Stevie Winwood and Jim Capaldi. Pretty cool, no?

2. Joe Walsh -- Rocky Mountain Way

Walsh may be, in Don Henley's famous phrase, "an interesting couple of guys," but one of them is clearly an absolutely monster slide player.

And the numero uno most concise slide guitar work ever committed to magnetic tape, hands down it's so totally obvious if you try to argue with me I swear to god I'll harm you so just don't, is ---

1. The Rolling Stones -- I Wanna Be Your Man

There's tons of slide all over the Stones catalogue, obviously, but this cover of the Fabs song was the first use (1964) of slide on a pop hit ever, so I think it deserves the top slot. Brian Jones, ladies and germs, let's really hear it for him!

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Songs I'd Forgotten Existed, Let Alone Loved (An Occasional Series): Special "Tattoos and Multiple Piercings" Edition

From 2000, please enjoy way too damn talented and good looking siblings The Corrs and their fab contemporary power-pop-meets-Celtic-folk-rock hit "Breathless."

That came on the sound system at my watering hole the other day, and not only had I forgotten how much I dug it, I had forgotten who actually did it. In any case, it's really great; I can imagine The Hollies doing a version, and higher praise than that I can not give.

I should add that back in 2013, a certain Shady Dame and I found ourselves in Bruges -- which is on balance NOT, as Colin Farrell observed in the magisterial In Bruges, a fuckin' hellhole, but is in fact a deeply weird place -- and we encountered a poster for an upcoming solo concert by front gal Andrea Corr plastered on a telephone pole next to this.

Because, you know, nothing says 15th century Cathedral town like a nose ring festival and an Irish sex kitten.

Coming tomorrow: the triumphant return of Weekend Listomania!!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

And in Conclusion, Gov. DeSantis -- Blow Me

From 2016, please enjoy world's largest rock band That's Live and their jaw-droppingy wonderful stadium version of David Bowie's classic "Rebel Rebel."

And may I just say, and for the record, that if that doesn't bring a tear of the very purest joy to your eye, then you need to check your proverbial meds immediately.

Long-time readers are aware that I have never really been a Bowie fan. In his heyday, I actively disliked most of his songs (with one or two exceptions), thought all that Flash Gordon and the Gay Guys From Outer Space theatrical shtick was too dumb for words, and couldn't stand his voice, which struck me (and still does) as annoyingly affected in a pompous, Anthony Newley-sings-opera sort of way. Over the years, however, I've mellowed on Dave, largely because he came off as so funny and charming in his later appearances on teevee, and by all accounts that's the guy he was off-stage as well, so I've made my peace with him. To the point where, to my surprise, some of the early hits -- the stuff from Ziggy, principally -- no longer get up my nose the way they used to.

And then, of course, there's "Rebel Rebel," which is fantastic on numerous levels.

Anyway, I bring all this up because it has occured to me that the song -- which is, of course, on one of those levels, a plea for love, understanding and tolerance, as couldn't be plainer if you've watched 1000 people of myriad ages, ethnicities and gender performing it -- is actually far more subversive than it was when it was first released in 1973. In fact, given the current neo-fascist political climate we live in, there's a very real possibility that a public school teacher in Gov. Pudding Fingers' state who played it for their students could wind up in serious legal jeopardy. Hell, if they're objecting to To Kill a Mockingbird, one can only guess how pissed off the Klanned Karens in Moms for Liberty would be if they got a load of That's Live doing Bowie.

Bottom line: The title of today's post sums up my feelings on the whole issue. And a big posthumous hat tip to David Bowie for having written a song that makes the point with such sneaky eloquence and a fabulous guitar riff.

Oh, and as a special bonus, because I love you all more than food, here's another way cool "Rebel" cover, which I only became aware of last Monday. By the charmingly monikered Smitt E. Smitty and The Fezztones.

Damn. On top of everything else, I'm beginning to think it might be impossible to do a bad version of that song. Although let's not test the theory in Florida.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Boy, Do I Not Miss the '70s (An Occasional Series)

The Eagles. "The Disco Strangler," from The Long Run (1979).

Gevalt. In the immortal words of Danny Akroyd as Leonard Pinth-Garnell -- "Thoroughly bad."

BTW, I bring this up because while digging up stuff for my forthcoming greatest hits book, I chanced across this pan I did of the album in question for SR.

I really don't believe this record. Yes, against all expectations (for this they labored three years?), here is still more monied angst, lame social commentary, and overproduction from the Eagles, who apparently are convinced that what the world needs now is a tuneless, turtle-tempoed essay on the human condition from the perspective of five very rich, very bored Angelenos.

Here, for example is a potentially good idea for a song about a mass murderer at Studio 54 ("The Disco Strangler") that makes the most obvious points imagineable about loneliness and alientation. Here's an unbearably smug attempted dissection of the casting couch mentality ("King of Hollywood") rendered in a manner so laid-back it approaches the catatonic. Here's a song about the good old days of hanging out at the Troubador Bar ("Sad Cafe") that is guaranteed to be of absolutely no interest to anyone outside the Eagles immediate circle of friends. Here's a watery love song pasted together from snippets of old George Benson records ("I Can't Tell You Why") and the most tired-sounding bit of blues-based rock ("Heartache Tonight") they have yet essayed. Here's a vaguely funny evocation of mid-Sixties frat-house partying ("The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks") that is supposed to be a throwaway yet ironically has more life than anything else in the package. Here are tedium, a total waste of the not inconsiderable talents of Joe Walsh, and the sound of a band with nothing to say, but saying it at incredible length ("King of Hollywood" runs more than six minutes).

In sum, the Eagles' The Long Run is the most pointless vinyl extrusion of 1979, with the possible exception of The Georgie Jessel Disco Album, which I understand A&M is readying in the wake of their success with a similar venture by Ethel Merman. Like I said, I really don't believe this record. -- S.S.

To which I can only add -- heh.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Your Monday Moment of You're Blowing My Tiny Mind

From June 1967, i.e the fabled Summer of Love, please enjoy Jefferson Airplane performing their signature hits "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love" on -- egad -- American Bandstand with Dick Clark.

I can't fathom how come I've never seen that clip before, but frankly I don't even know where to start with how amazing it is. I mean, they're being interviewed by Ameria's Oldest Teenager, fer crissakes.

Anyway, it's no secret that I'm a huge fan of these guys (and please -- don't mention their successor Starship, who were IMHO the most unconscionable sell-outs in rock history) in part because, unlike most of the rest of the smelly hippie acts that dominated the SF scene (conspicuous exception: Moby Grape) they had, as you can see in the clip, genuine charisma. They were real rock stars, is what I'm saying, and consequntly it's kind of wonderfully funny that neither of the records they're lip-synching has any contribution from their founder/co-lead singer Marty Balin, here reduced to pretending to play a (what looks like a Farfisa) keyboard he rarely touched in concert (and the "you gotta be kidding" look on his face when the camera closes in on him during "Love" is hilarious). I also enjoyed Paul Kantner's answer to Clark's question about the generation gap, which has that wonderful look-out-old-farts-we're gonna-change-the-world smugness that was an essential part of the game that was being played in those days.

Also -- I don't know exactly how to characterize the outfit Grace Slick is wearing (Goth Nun a-Go Go, perhaps?), but let's just say that if she had worn it on a visit to my house she could have had me if she'd played her cards right.

Coming tomorrow: From the sublime (the above) to the ridiculous (you'll have to wait and see).

Friday, June 09, 2023

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special "I Worry That Drugs Have Made Us More Creative Than We Really Are" Edition

From his utterly brilliant 1970 album Bad Rice, please enjoy multi-talented San Francisco eminence grise Ron Nagle and his droll and hard rocking cautionary tale of one man's descent into "Marijuana Hell."

Nagle is, as I hinted up top, a really interesting guy, and certainly the closest thing to a Renaissance Dude to have emerged from the San Francisco rock scene. He's had a long and way interesting career as a sculptor -- here's a piece of his that's part of the collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum --

-- and as musician, after a 60s stint in Fillmore faves The Mystery Trend and the aforementioned solo album, he enjoyed a few minor hits as a songwriter with his New Wave band The Durocs. He also worked on the sound effects for The Exorcist, which is pretty cool, obviously.

I should add that while readying this post I was delighted to discover that Bad Rice was given a deluxe (two CDs with bonus tracks) reissue by the good folks at Omnivore Recordings, and you can (and should) order it at their website HERE.

But now to business. To wit:

...and your favorite or least favorite post-Elvis rock, pop, folk or soul record whose title or lyrics clearly reference drugs of some kind is...?


And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

POSTSCRIPT: The joke in today's title was originally uttered by Lily Tomlin in her 1985 The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. You're welcome.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Literary Notes From All Over

As a rule, rock-and-roll themed novels deserving of your time are a bit of a rarity, historically speaking. Top of my head, I can only think of Lewis Shiner's Glimpses (a haunting time travel fantasy involving the making of Brian Wilson's Smile) and Mark Shipper's Paperback Writer, a laugh out loud alternate universe history of the Beatles, both of which are decades old. More recently, I've slogged through Taylor Jenkins Reid's Daisy Jones & the Six, a cheesy roman a clef about Fleetwood Mac (which spawned the similarly titled TV miniseries), and Sam Lipsyte’s No One Left to Come Looking for You, a sour and not terribly believable attenpt at a 90s downtown NYC underground band version of La Boheme, neither of which did much for me. There may be others worth noting, but they're not immediately springing to mind.

But, I am happy to report, now there's Keith Lives!.

By friend of PowerPop Bodie Plecas.

What's it about? Briefly, it's a blackly comedic tale of a struggling, largely clueless rock musician -- the titular Keith -- whose (apparent) sudden tragic suicide turns him into a gigantic posthumous international success. Hilarity, as they say, ensues, and Plecas doesn't miss an opportunity to puncture the pretensions of the various industry figures, media types and denizens of the rock demi-monde who are either grieving for or cashing in on the hapless hero.

Attentive readers will recall Plecas as the auteur behind the band Picnic Tool, whose "Einstein"...

...I accurately described as The Greatest Video of All Time when it was released in 2019.

As for his new book, well, it's smart, funny (it makes particularly droll use of some real-life small-time celebs), perceptive, and -- surprisingly -- way less cynical about its subject and the general times we live in than you're set up to expect. Without giving anything away, let's just say that I, for one, did not remotely see the ending coming.

In any case, as you will observe, I got a paperback copy...

...and you can (and should) get your own (or the Kindle version) over at Amazon HERE.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Tails From the B-List

From 1970, and their eponymous debut album, please enjoy Fanny and their cover of Cream's classic "Badge."

Look, I recognize that these folks are historically important, and there's no gainsaying their obvious musicianship. And I'm happy for them that -- vis a vis the recent Fanny: The Right to Rock documentary that's been showing on a PBS channel near you, and is well worth watching --

...they're finally getting what might be justly described as their due.

And I always -- really always -- wanted to like them, I really did, honest.

But the fact is that -- well, listen to the "Badge" cover and tell me you feel the need to ever hear it again. Like the rest of Fanny's recorded output, it's just not terribly memorable; if you'd seen a male bar band doing something similar back in the day, you'd probably have had a moderately good time, but not much more.

Or as I said in 1973 in the pages of CREEM...

Incidentally, having now seen the documentary, I just wanna say that I stand by the review's comments on drummer Alice de Buhr.

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Long time readers may recall that in the mid-70s I was a member of an enterprising New York City underground band, who released a highly regarded (by us) D.I.Y single. And that we were called The Hounds.

A name, I should add, that we agonized over and ultimately decided on thanks to the suggestion of a friend (hi, Kerri!) who thought the phrase "the hounds of spring," from "Atalanta in Calydon" (1865) by Victorian era English poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, kinda had a ring to it.

Anyway, I bring this up because, over the weekend, friend of PowerPop Steve Schwartz sent me this ad (probably from the old Village Voice) which he'd just found at somebody's Facebook page, and wondered if The Hounds being sold was us.

And so did I, at first glance. Yes, we played CBGBs on a couple of occasions, and we were still gigging -- if memory serves -- in 1977. And for some reason the Lawrence Talbot Band rang a bell (although perhaps just because their name was a reference to Lon Chaney Jr.'s character in The Wolfman).

The reason I wasn't completely sure, however, is a little more complicated than merely the failing faculties of an aging rock-and-roll wannabe.

The fact is, we broke up a year or two after the single above was released, and almost immediately we learned that a Chicago glam-rock bunch had not only stolen our name but actually gotten signed to a deal with Columbia Records. Even more infuriating, we heard third hand from somebody at CBS that the pretender Hounds had gotten their contract on the basis of somebody in A&R thinking that our song was the work of those other guys.

I have no idea if that's true or not, but I can guarantee that we all stewed about it at various low dives while consuming adult beverages at three in the morning on numerous occasions. In any event, here's THEIR single, which failed to set the world on fire to any significant degree more than ours.

Meanwhile, after having wracked what's left of my brain for a while, I have reluctantly concluded that the Hounds in the ad are the other guys. Although, given the other luminaries being hyped -- The Feelies? Alex Chilton? Wow! -- wouldn't it be pretty to think it was us?

A couple of postscripts:

Although I was unaware of it until this century, before either of the previously mentioned Hounds, there were...The Hounds. From Sweden, and apparently world famous in their homeland between 1966-68.

And speaking of obscure rock history, here's my fellow NYC canines -- featuring yours truly on inadequate rhythm guitar -- at Max's Kansas City around the time in question.

And finally, if you're extremely tolerant and have a little discretionary coin available, I should point out that the Hounds album pictured at the top of this lengthy exercise in self-indulgence --- which is actually quite good, if I may pretend to be objective for a moment -- can be streamed or purchased over at Amazon HERE. Also, I have a box of CDs of the thing lying around somewhere, and if you want a physical copy I could probably be successfuly importuned to send you one.

You're welcome.

Monday, June 05, 2023

Why Didn't I Get the Memo on This? (An Occasional Series): Special "Bobby Fuller Lives!" Edition

From their 2005 album Heard It On the X, please enjoy (heretofore unknown to me) occasional studio supergroup Los Super Seven and a cover/remodel of Bobby Fuller's classic "Let Her Dance" that has totally blown my tiny mind.

That's the great Joe Ely singing lead on the track (other vocalists on the album include John Hiatt, Rodney Crowell, Freddy Fender, Raul Malo, and Lyle Lovett), and I'm not 100 percent crazy about the liberties he takes with the melody line, but my god -- the band is just to die for. That big instrumental build-up leading into the finale is like The Who if they'd gone Tex-Mex.

Words, as I often say, fail me.

BTW, I have long been (and still am) a big fan of Phil Seymour's rather more traditional 1981 version, but I had not been aware of the video that went with it until the other day.

Phil busting a move is quite charming, n'est-ce pas?

[h/t Sal Nunziato]

Friday, June 02, 2023

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special "I'd Be Equally as Willing for a Dentist to be Drilling" Edition

From 1976. and his inexplicably gazillion selling double disc concert album Frampton Comes Alive!, please try to endure moderately talented power pop cult figure turned insufferable MOR annoyance Peter Frampton and his hear-it-once-and-you-can't-unhear-it-no-matter-how-fervently-you-try mega-smash "Do You Feel Like We Do."


I mean seriously. YUCK!

At this point, I feel obligated to point out that some more substantive rock star of the period -- I'm pretty sure it was Tom Petty -- was asked, as the 80s dawned, what he thought had been worthwhile about the music of the 70s. His terse and accurate response: "Punk, Springsteen, Steely Dan."

And who can argue with that? But noooo -- we had to suffer please-shove-ice-picks-in-my-ears albums like that Frampton shit.

The noxious vinyl extrusion of which Mike Myers so aptly obsserved in Wayne's World: "Everybody in the world has Frampton Comes Alive. If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide."

Okay, perhaps I exaggerate.

No, I don't, actually.

In any case, now to business. To wit:

...and the most annoying 70s record or performer(s) that became gynormous cultural artifacts is/are...?


And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Instant Lemongello Sells itself!

And speaking as we were on Monday of ubiquitous/archtypal late night New York City teevee ads from the '70s, please enjoy entrepreneurial crooner Peter Lemongello hyping his self-marketed double(!) LP Love '76.

As you would have seen him on WPIX channel 11 some average evening, after midnight, as you were taking a last sip of wine to mellow your cocaine buzz before bedtime.

In the meantime, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded the first reader who gleans the clip's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's weekend essay question.