Monday, July 31, 2023

Your Monday Gynormous Ego Trip

Okay -- last week, I threatened I was gonna post this, and true to my word, here 'tis.

From Crimes Against Humanity, the aptly named greatest hits (hah hah) compilation by my old garage band chums (from Teaneck NJ) The Weasels, please enjoy your humble scribe playing both acoustic guitars (left and right channel) on the all-instrumental "Steve's Song." A title I cribbed, obviously, from The Blues Project, but given that I also composed the music, I think I can be forgiven for my youthful lack of literary originality.

Whew. I'm glad we got THAT over with.

The backstory (you knew there'd be one):

I originally wrote that in my bedroom in Roslyn, Long Island, while attending C.W.Post College in 1969-70; as you can plainly hear, I had been overdosing on various then current Stephen Stills records. (I was also particularly fond of the sound of a guitar with the bottom E-string tuned down to D, this two decades before Pearl Jam thought it was such a big idea). It was at the time the only song I had ever written, and (mercifully) it remains so.

The recording here was done in 1973 on a home portable reel-to-reel stereo 2-track tape machine with detatchable speakers (one of which was used for the playback of the first guitar track while I essayed the second part of the duet). Nobody involved seems to remember exactly what brand of machine it was -- let's just say it was distinctly mid-fi, although pretty good for a home deck of the day in its pre-Dolby way -- but this is probably pretty close.

I should add that the recording was done using the microphones (not pictured, which weren't pro quality either) that came with the machine.

I should also add that the version in the clip above was transferred from the original reel-to-reel to cassette sometime in the 80s, and then re-transferred to digital (at a well-equipped studio) sometime in the 'teens (the cassette had been stashed in the back of a poorly ventilated clothes closet all that time). All things considered it's kinda amazing how almost pro and unravaged the whole thing sounds.

Coming tomorrow: actual music by real musicians I don't know personally.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Weekend Listomania: Special "The Happy (Mouth) Organ" Edition

[I first posted a version of this one in 2008(!), back when the world and this blog were barely removed from diaper-wearing. As is my wont, I've done some rewriting and added/switched a couple of entries, just so you don't find me unduly indolent. Enjoy. -- S.S.]

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Asian ambulance chaser Hop-Sing and I are off to beautiful Mar-a-Lago, Florida, where we're going to have a sleep-away party with Arizona Governor-in-Her-Own-Mind Kari Lake while we attempt to find the Israeli antiquities the Former Guy seems to have misplaced.

In any case, posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days as a result.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:


By "best," we mean either in a blues or non-blues idiom, just to keep it totally wide open. And by "solo" we mean anything of any length, even if it's just a riff.

Totally arbitrary rule: Don't even try to nominate something by that fat guy from Blues Traveller. The Hendrix of the Blues Harp my ass....

Okay, that said, here's my totally top of my head Top Fifteen:

15. The Prostitutes -- Down Below

A great New York City rock band in the tradition of the Velvets and the Heartbreakers, and some of the most fabulously blues-wailing harp (courtesy of NYC fixture Jon Paris) on a sort of Doors-Meet-the- Smithereens song you'll ever hear.

14. The Pretenders -- Middle of the Road

Chrissie Hynde -- first she growls, then she makes her harp sound like a stray cat in heat. Can we just admit she's the greatest female rocker who ever was or will be and be done with it already?

13. The Weasels -- Coral Reef

My old garage band chum Glenn Leeds waxes mournful on the opening harp intro. (I'm doing the attempted Robin Trower guitar later in the song, but that's a story for another time).

12. Jimmy Reed -- Honest I Do

The very definition of sly concision. (Hey -- I made a couplet!!!!)

11. The Broadcasters -- Down in the Trenches

One of the great lost singles of the 80s (produced by Wayne Kramer of the MC5, incidentally). These guys should have been superstars, no question about it. BTW, I have a video of me singing "Route 66" and "Gloria" at a party with three of them; get me hammered some time and I might even show it to you.

10. Procol Harum -- Your Own Choice

That solo at the end is about as gorgeously lyrical as can be, and it's played (uncredited) by the great Larry Adler. And if you don't know who he is, hang your head in shame and then go read his bio.

9. Bruce Chanel -- Hey Baby

That's Delbert McClinton playing the harmonica stuff. I seem to recall it was a huge influence on a certain four-piece band from the UK.

8. The Beatles -- I Should Have Known Better

Uh...a case in point.

7. J. Geils Band -- Whammer Jammer

The aptly named Magic Dick. 'Nuff said.

6. Stevie Wonder -- For Once In My Life

As brilliantly structured and performed a solo as you'll ever hear on any instrument.

5. A tie --

The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger) -- Stop Breaking Down

-- and --

The Rolling Stones (Brian Jones) -- Good Times Bad Times

Amplified Chicago blues harp in the former, acoustic country blues harp in the latter, both brilliant.

4. Bob Dylan -- I Want You

Short, melodic, and it frames the song perfectly, front and back. Anybody who says Dylan's a crappy harp player really isn't listening....

3. XTC -- Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead

Blues harp on a revisionist folk rock song. Andy Partridge is god, obviously.

2. Creedence Clearwater Revival -- Run Through the Jungle

John Fogerty channels Howlin Wolf. It doesn't get any spookier, song OR harp part.

And the number one, no question about it, all time coolest harmonica solo on a hit record is --

1. Slim Harpo -- Baby Scratch My Back

Hands down, the down and dirtiest blues performance ever to crack Top 40 radio.

Alrighty now -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Would You Let Your Daughter Marry a Chipmunk?

From 1980, and the album Chipmunk Punk, please enjoy -- and I use the word loosely (heh heh, he said loosely) -- Alvin, Simon and Theodore doing The Knack's classic ode to teen hormones "Good Girls Don't."

Okay, that's pretty freaking hilarious -- particularly with the lyrics superimposed -- but I bring it up because of, as regular readers will recall, last Friday's essay question, which had to do with beloved songs that in retrospect might reasonably be considered offensive by contemporary standards. That discussion continued last Monday over at Friend of PowerPop Sal Nunziato's invaluable Burning Wood blog, where it was mentioned that although the Knack original had, perhaps, not aged felicitously in terms of its subject matter, but that nonetheless nobody could recall any objections by anyone to the Chipmunk version at the time of its release.

I have nothing further to add, except I'd forgotten how funny Chipmunk Punk was and is, and I am delighted to report that it is still in print and available over at Amazon, on CD or vinyl, HERE.

Oh, and have I mentioned that back in the day some smug reviewer at Rolling Stone with a stick up his ass panned the album as an example of -- dig this -- corporate greed? Words fail me.

Coming tomorrow: The triumphant return of Weekend Listomania©!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Excuse Me, My Good Man, But Can You Inform Me What Exactly That Aural Excitement Is?

From 2016, please enjoy everybody's favorite sister act, The Mona Lisa Twins, live at the legendary Cavern Club in Liverpool, with a kick-ass version of the Buffalo Springfield's counter-cultural anthem "For What It's Worth."

Hey, what can I say -- I love those gals. Anybody have any idea why they don't tour? I mean, I think they'd do very well if they came to NYC, but obviously I'm prejudiced.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Songs I'd Forgotten Existed, Let Alone Loved: Special "This Blog is Going to the Dogs Yet Again!!!" Edition

From 1971, please enjoy the final edition of The Byrds with their haunting boy-and-his-departed-pooch weepie "Bugler." Sublime lead vocal and guitar by the great Clarence White.

No cheap irony intended, but it's worth pointing out that the dog in the song (the last that White recorded with the group) is killed in a road accident. White himself, of course, was killed two years later by a drunk driver while he was loading his guitar and amp into the trunk of his car behind a California club where he'd been performing. I'm not a supporter of the death penalty, but I would cheerfully make an exception in the case of the guy who ran White down.

In any case, I hadn't thought about "Bugler" in a million years, but it popped into my head unbidden last weekend after hearing "Old Blue" in that episode of Shakespeare and Hathaway I mentioned yesterday. Needless to say, I was happy to discover that it was as moving as my imperfect memory had suggested.

I mean, seriously -- if it doesn't choke you up, frankly I don't wanna know you.

New music in a more upbeat vein and more suited to the mission statement of this here blog resumes on the morrow.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Songs I'd Forgotten Existed, Let Alone Loved: Special "This Blog is Going to the Dogs" Edition

From 1969, and their uneven but wonderful Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde album, please enjoy the aforementioned Byrds and their irresistible country rock charmer "Old Blue."

The song itself is a folk-blues standard, which dates back at least to late 19th century minstrel shows. In any case, the Byrds version is for me definitive; it is one of the great regrets of my adult life that the Floor Models never got around to covering it.

I bring it up, however, because it (the song) figured prominently in an episode I saw last week of Shakespeare and Hathaway, the hilarious British detective show currently airing on Ovation on Saturdays. The plot involves a rich guy's spoiled dog who gets kidnapped, and...well, it's too complicated to get into in these precincts, but here are the titular characters doing a slightly less polished version.

I should add that Jo Joyner, the adorable blonde who plays Luella Shakespeare, is my new big-time media crush. Let's just say she can sing that song to me any old time.

Friday, July 21, 2023

La Fin De La Semaine Essay Question: Special "We Are Approaching the Arena of the Icky" Edition

From 2016, please enjoy mordantly monikered Uncle Daddy and the Family Secret and their amusingly creepy (or creepily amusing, I can't decide which) ode to a dude who wants a "Woman in a Cage."

I was not previously familiar with these guys (until friend of PowerPop Phil Cheese sent me the link to "Woman" last week), but apparently they're from the Cincinnati area and they pretty much rule in Ohio. They have scads of songs up on YouTube, and the ones I've heard so far have the same (to me) nifty mix of skewed Americana/folk/country and wiseguy pushing-the-envelope almost bad taste subject matter.

In any event, the above song gets me on a musical level -- I swoon when that 12-string makes an appearance -- and obviously the lyrics are, uh, interesting. Your mileage may vary, to be sure.

But now to business. To wit:

...and your favorite (or least favorite) song whose lyric might strike some philistine folks (or you) as somewhat unsettling or in bad taste or actually offensive is...?

I should add that the topic occured to me when I learned that The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" had recently (2020) caused some intestinal distress in certain Weepy Old Bolshie leftist circles, and fuck those people.


And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special "Bad Taste is Timeless" Edition

From sometime deep in the dark heart of the Aughts, and their epochal Crimes Against Humanity greatest hits collection, please enjoy my old garage band chums The Weasels and their possibly offensive ode to being an "Alpha Dog."

Written and sung by my old hometown (Teaneck NJ) chum Allan Weissman, who's one day my senior and has never let me forget it.

I should also add that I am not, alas, playing on that track, so next week I'm gonna post another song from the album where I'm the ONLY Weasel performing. So there.

Meanwhile, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded the first reader who gleans AD's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Essay Question.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Gabba Gabba Hey There!

Okay, I couldn't resist.

That is, of course, your humble scribe, in this case waiting out a thunderstorm yesterday at my local (Forest Hills) watering hole, the incomparable Keuka Kafe.

But, and more to the point, attentive readers will recognize the t-shirt I'm wearing as a shout-out to the Hormones, the fabulous all-girl Ramones tribute band I alerted you to a few weeks ago.

In any case, that shirt is now my favorite fashion accessory of all time; you can (and should) order one like it, along with all sorts of other cool merch, over at the band's website here.

Meanwhile, the next time you're on Queens Boulevard, make sure to stop in at Keuka, for a superb glass of wine and a fab meal; ask for the proprietor (Hi, Ollie!) and tell him PowerPop sent you!

Regular music posting -- in this case a clue to the theme of Friday's Weekend Essay Question -- resumes on the morrow.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Tuesday Art For Art's Sake

From 1972, here's a record-biz trade magazine ad for Lou Reed's then just released eponymous debut album.

Wow. I think we can safely agree that the above is stunning, a fabulous poetic evocation of what New York City felt like at that precise moment in time, and a perfect visual equivalent to the music on the album in question. I should add that I have never been able to find out who's the photagrapher/art director responsible for it, but whoever they are, my hat's off to them.

The lingering nagging question, of course, is why wasn't that used for the album cover? And I say that as somebody who's a big fan of Brit artist Tom Adams, who did the painting...

...that actually was used on the cover.

Incidentally, if Adams' style looks familiar, that's because he had just done all the book jackets for Ballantine's then-contemporary series of paperback reissues of the complete works of Raymond Chandler...

...and apparently Lou was quite taken with them; in fact, if I remember correctly, it was actually Lou's idea to secure Adams' services for the album art.

Personally, I really dug the cover at the time, and I still think it has a certain surrealist/art-nouveau decadent vibe that's on the money in terms of Lou's aesthetic. That said, having stumbled on that black-and-white ad above for the first time in decades, it now strikes me it would have been a much better choice for the LP.

What do you guys think?

Monday, July 17, 2023

Mr. 75 Years Meets Mr. 1975: An Open Letter to Matty Healy

If anybody reading this has music biz connections, please forward it to the guy in question. Thank you.

Dear Matty:

First of all, let me say up front that I think you and your band are terrific. You write great songs and make great records and you are the most charismatic front man I've seen in years -- funny, sexy, and original. Frankly, if I was your age and I had just seen the video of you guys below ...

...I'd be spending countless hours in front of my bedroom mirror trying to reproduce your stage moves.

Seriously -- when I saw that for the first time I wanted to BE you. I haven't had that reaction to a pop star in eons.

But then I read the essentially sympathetic New Yorker profile of you and your band in the May 29, 2023 issue...

Still, Healy remains caught between the heartfelt and the arch. On the second night at the O2, after calling the right wing’s appeal to men “dangerous,” he seemed suddenly self-conscious about his righteous pose. “I also really don’t care that much, to be honest,” he said. On the roof of the Electric, he launched into a passionate rant about the banjo player Winston Marshall, who’d left the band Mumford & Sons after praising the alt-right Twitter figure Andy Ngo and prompting an online furor. Marshall, as Healy saw it, had been radicalized not so much by right-wing ideas as by the praise and attention he’d got from right-wing circles—this, Healy said, is the situation for all sorts of young men whose world views are getting distorted by online feedback loops. Then he said, again, that he didn’t really care that much.

...and my immediate reaction was dude -- what the fuck?

I mean, when I finished the piece, all I could think of was the old Saturday Night Live exchange between Phil Hartman's Frank Sinatra and Jan Hooks' Sinéad O'Connor...

...which is the perfect advice to any pop star who feels the weight of the world on their shoulders:

"Swing, baby! You're Platinum!"

Honest to God, Matty -- you don't owe me or anybody out there anything. I mean, I totally sympathize with you and the rest of your generation who have to navigate through life in a cocoon bounded on all sides by social media. And I can't even imagine the pressure and the nagging psychological tzuris you face on a daily basis from your omnipresent on-line fans.

Also, let's face it -- if I had to worry about Taylor Swift writing a song about our breakup I'd be huffing huge quantities of drugs, too.

But take my advice, pal -- you don't need this pop star shit anymore. You're young, with your whole life ahead of you, and you have squillions in the bank. Just walk away, and do something else -- hell, anything else -- you want to do before it's too late. A career in dentistry might be something you could look into, but you get the idea.

Your amigo,

Steve Simels

Friday, July 14, 2023

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special "Moody Black and White Art Direction" Edition

From 2023 (and her forthcoming album Gold Control), please enjoy charmingly monikered singer/songwriter/rocker JEEN and her poetically probing examination of (as she so aptly explains) "trying to get out from under it so we don’t just become casualties of our shittiest days."

Appropriately titled "Just Shadows."

This one crossed my desk unbidden the other day (I was not previously familiar with its young auteuress) and it grabbed me right away, despite a certain chaotic over-production and a vocal that under normal circumstances might have struck me as mannered. But by the time the chorus came roaring out of my newly acquired Klipsch computer speakers, I was convinced; this is a record that really sounds like what it means, which is what you want (and these days don't so often get) from your rock-and-roll.

In any case, you can (and should) find out more about JEEN (inluding where to get her previous releases) over here at her official website.

But now to business: To wit:

...and your favorite or least favorite song referencing light and/or dark (literal or emotional) in its title or lyric is...?


Meanwhile, have a great weekend, everybody!

And try to stay as cool as possible, given the Chinese-hoaxed heat we're currently experiencing!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2023

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Special "Suburban Confidential" Edition

From 1955, please enjoy The Ames Brothers -- featuring Teaneck, N.J (my hometown) resident Ed Ames (top right), who used to bring his dog to my veterinarian father back in the day -- and their still amusing tribute to "The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane."

An archtypal scandalous homewrecker who was, hopefully, NOT from Teaneck.

In either case, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who gleans the song's relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Essay Question.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Tracks I'd Forgotten Existed, Let Alone Loved (An Occasional Series): Special "Con Le Mie Lacrime” Edition

From 1979, and one of the few listenable non-Springsteen performances from the otherwise terminally soporific No Nukes album, please enjoy Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with a magisterial live take on Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me."

As you are doubtless aware, the 1962 Burke original (written, like so many great r&b/pop songs of its day, by the amazing Bert Berns) is very upbeat cheerful/jaunty; Petty's slow and mournful remake, particularly the wonderful piano/organ gospel stylings of Benmont Tench, seems to use the 1965 Out of Our Heads version by The Rolling Stones as its template instead.

But that, of course, is a subject for another post.

BTW, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to the first reader who guesses what's my other favorite non-Bruce track on the album.

You guys get this one, and you're good.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Fun City After Dark!

Found this column from December 1979 (which I had completely forgotten) in the SR archive the other day, and it cracked me right up. I'm too lazy to transcribe it, however, but fear not -- just click on the image and it will instantly enlarge into full readibility.

I should add that the hairdo I'm sporting in the accompanying photograph is perhaps my worst ever, so mea culpa. And it's fairly obvious, from my outfit and my expression, that I had been, er, up rather late the night before it was taken, which seems fitting given the column's subject.

I should also add that the names of the bands discussed in the last paragraph will bring back memories (fond or otherwise) to anybody who was a downtown Manhattanite at the time the column appeared. The reason being that, in those days, it was obligatory for crudely lettered xeroxed fliers for each of them to be festooned on telephone poles and street lamps from the Bowery to 23rd street.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Songs I'd Forgotten Existed, Let Alone Loved (An Occasional Series): Special "Sing, O Muse! A Little Louder, Please" Edition

From 1989, and their Steel Wheels album, please enjoy The Rolling Stones and their drop-dead-gorgeous neo-soul ballad "Almost Hear You Sigh."

Uh, hello? Everything about that track is spine-tingling, starting with Charlie's sublimely simple backbeat, and I played it obsessively when it first came out. Hell, I reviewed the album for SR at the time, but until somebody mentioned it in the discussion section of last weekend's essay question (Thanks VR!) it hadn't ventured anywhere near my cerebellum's receptors in at least three decades.

What can I say -- I just don't get it. How can anything so beautiful just whiffle past the canyons of my mind?

Prevagen, with an ingredient originally found in jellyfish. That's gotta be the answer.


Anyway, coming Wednesday -- another song which the memory engrams it generated had long ago dribbled out of my frontal cortex.

BTW, and all kidding aside, if I can work up the requisite energy, despite my obvious ancient infirmity, I'm gonna transcribe and post that Steel Wheels review sometime in the next day or two. I hadn't read it since forever, and I was pleased to find that it mostly holds up and is actually quite droll.

Friday, July 07, 2023

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special "Is That Thing Turned to Eleven?" Edition

From their forthcoming (July 13th) EP Simply, please enjoy The Ape-ettes and their highly pertinent punk-rock public service announcement for "Hearing Protection."

Who are those youngsters? Let's hear what they have to say on that subject!

Emerging from the depths of Sudbury, Ontario, the Ape-ettes came to be, like a tiny musical gem unearthed from a mining town, nestled within a massive crater. This garage-pop trio is comprised of long-time friends, Andrée on bass, Melanie on drums and Julie on guitar and vocals. Formed in the cozy confines of Andrée’s basement, these girls have the gift of pumping out infectious tunes with their spirited less-is-more approach. Their live performances inspire a contagious sense of fun and neighborliness, the kind where when you look around, everyone is smiling and dancing. Their first self-titled album came out in 2017 and charted for a long while on Canadian college radio. Now releasing a four song EP for the first time on vinyl, with Reta Records and Snappy Little Numbers, the Ape-ettes are beyond excited for what is to come!

And god bless them for the wonderful work they're doing.

Meanwhile, you can (and should) find out more about them, including how to get their new (and earlier) releases over HERE.

But now to business. To wit:

...and your favorite (or least favorite) song referencing hearing (or just loud noises) in the title or lyrics is...?


Have a great weekend, everybody! And don't forget to wear your earplugs!!!

Thursday, July 06, 2023

Closed for Monkey Business

Too freaking hot to write.

Coming tomorrow -- a fab gear Weekend Essay Question, featuring new music by an all-girl punk band. See ya then!

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Boogie Woogie: The Left Hand of God

From 1954, and the syndicated teevee show Showtime at the Apollo, please enjoy Amos Milburn, one of the greatest of the original rock piano men, and a to-die-for live version of "Down the Road Apiece."

And in case you were wondering where Mick and the rest of the Stones got it from, look no further. God, what I wouldn't give to be able to play piano like that.

I should add that Milburn is the subject of one of the best chapters in Nick Tosches' Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll, still the funniest overview of the earliest years of the music ever penned; you can (and should) order a copy over at Amazon HERE. Trust me.

I should also add that I haven't been able to determine the identity of the show host bantering with Milburn in the clip. Whoever he is, however, he's pretty freaking cool himself.

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

It's Independence Day in the Time of Twice-Indicted Ex-Presidents!!!

And in its honor -- a PowerPop tradition since 2018 -- please enjoy Bill Pullman, the greatest president of the United States who was never president of the United States (or, to our knowledge, ever indicted for anything.).

And then enjoy the late great Ben E. King and his gorgeous cover of Bruce Springsteen's "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)."

That simply slays me. And can you imagine how cool it must have been for Bruce to learn that one of the singers he idolized back in his youth had beautifully interpreted a Springsteen song?

I think the word is wow.

In any event, have a great holiday, everybody!

Monday, July 03, 2023

Is It Warm in Here or Is It Just Me?

An all-girl Ramones tribute band?

To quote Christina Applegate in Married With Children -- "The mind wobbles."

Ladies and germs, I gabba-gabba-hey! you -- The Hormones!!!

Or as they describe themselves at their OFFICIAL WEBSITE:

The Hormones are an all girl tribute to legendary rock and roll hall of famers’, the Ramones. Emulating the power, turbulence, rebellion and humor of Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy, these hard hitting, ass kicking ladies burn through over twenty songs in under forty-five minutes!

Charged with infectious energy, the Hormones deliver a true Ramones experience...but with curves! [emphasis mine]

I stumbled across these kids online by accident last week, and it was [censored] at first sight; I mean, forgetting the band name, which is genius, I love, nay lurve, everything about them, and if I was anywhere near the vicinity of where they were playing some night, I guarantee I'd be headbanging in the front row like a man two thirds my age. Hey Hormones -- get your adorable behinds over to NYC for a show and pronto!

I should add that long time readers will doubtless be able to guess which band member I have the biggest crush on, so I'm not going to announce it publically. Sorry.

I should also add that I have ordered a Hormones t-shirt, and when it arrives, I plan to post a photo of me wearing it proudly. If you want one for your own wardrobe, e-mail the band at their address over at the website. And tell 'em PowerPop sent you.

But remember -- I saw them first.