Monday, June 24, 2024

And Speaking of Gorgeous (An Occasional Series)

From 2020, please enjoy the great Carla Olson, assisted by Peter Noone -- yes, the guy from Herman's Hermits -- and a killer and heretofore unknown to me remake of The Searchers' 1965 English hit "Goodbye My Love."

I think we can agree that's quite fabulous, but since I love you all more than food, here's the original in a new stereo mix.

Well. That was pretty fabulous also, you're welcome very much.

BTW, the song was co-written by legendary Searchers drummer Chris Curtis and Petula Clark's auteur Tony Hatch. Both of which/whom are interesting stories I'll get to one of these days.

[h/t Jonathan Lea, who plays the cool 12-string on the Olson track]

Friday, June 21, 2024

La Fin de La Semaine Essay Question: Special "A La Recherche du Bands Perdu" Edition

And speaking as we were the other day about wonderful but unjustly forgotten Sixties NYC psych-folk rockers Autosalvage...my friend and Boston-based rock crit Brett Milano turned me onto this quite astonishing footage yesterday.

The aforementioned Autosalvage -- including all four original members -- rehearsing for a reunion gig they did at SXSW in 2012.

Way cool on a lot of levels, and what I wouldn't have given to attend the actual show.

Which leads us, as I'm sure you've guessed, to the business at hand (and apologies if I've done something like this before). To wit:

...and your favorite post-Elvis band (or solo artist) in any genre that you never got to see and it has bugged you ever since is...???

Oh, and in case you're wondering -- my choice is a tie. Between these guys...

I actually had tickets for a Springfield show in, if memory serves, 1968, but at the last minute I got sick and couldn't go.

Boy, was I pissed. Although I was more pissed in 2011 when that rat bastard Neil Young pulled the plug on the Springfield reunion tour before it got to NYC. Fuck you, Neil, and your highly overrated work ethic.

...and these younger guys.

I totally flipped over the GBs when their breakthrough album (the classic New Miserable Experience) came out in 1992 -- I might as well have been genetically programmed to dig their combination of wistful romanticism, punk and jangle -- and courtesy of A&M Records I was on the guest list for a weeknight show they were doing at CBGBs in support of it. But I figured -- rightly, as it turned out -- that they wouldn't hit the stage until the witching hour (when it would be fashionable), and at the point I was already too old for such an exertion and stayed home.

Which I have regretted ever since.

Okay, what would YOUR choice(s) be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, June 20, 2024

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words. However, They Don't Tell You WHICH Words...

Heh.

Okay, sorry -- I got lazy today. A fun Weekend Essay question will appear on the morrow by way of atonement.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Great Lost Singles of the Sixties (An Occasional Series): Special "I'd Be Very Surprised if Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd Didn't Have a Copy of This Album" Edition

From their eponymous 1968 waxing, please enjoy shoulda-been-contenders NYC folk/rock/psychedelic/proto-New Wave band Autosalvage and their astoundingly prescient and fabulously jangly "Land of Their Dreams."

Attentive readers will recall me singing (heh) the praises of these guys several times over the years, but never specifically this song, whose aural mismash of symphonic strings, bluegrass influenced guitars, Dylanesque vocals and kick-ass rhythm section has confounded me (in a good way) ever since I stole a vinyl copy of it from my college radio station shortly after its original release.

Seriously, it's one of my forever faves, a haunting and stunningly abstract piece of jangle-rock that has always seemed (to me) to be utterly outside of time. I mean, for years, before and after it finally got reissued on CD in the late 90s, I used to play it for people and ask them to guess when and where it was recorded.

Invariably, the answer would come "Athens, Georgia, mid-to-late 80s?"

Heh.

Anyway, the short background version: Despite Autosalvage being a big deal on the local NYC scene back in the day, their sole LP never sold much, and the concensus has always been that they missed out by not moving to San Francisco in time for the Summer of Love, when their mix of psychedelic jam stuff and tight concise song structures would probably have gone down a storm.

They were also an interesting couple of guys. Guitarist Rick Turner, who I interviewed once, was a charming dude who went on to a hugely successful career as a luthier on the West Coast; he used to write a column for Guitar Player magazine, and he made and maintained all of Lindsey Buckingham's custom instruments for ages. Bassist Skip Boone was the brother of Lovin' Spoonful bassist Steve Boone, and went on to be a seminal figure, as a producer and recording engineer, in the Baltimore alt-rock music scene. And the band's rhythm guitarist Darius Davenport was the son of one of the founders of The New York Pro Musica, among the first and best original instrument groups performing medieval and early baroque classical stuff. (His dad is on the album somewhere, actually.)

But I mean seriously -- what I wouldn't have given to have heard these guys cover a Wilson Pickett song with backing by a crumhorn section.

Anyway, the even shorter version: If the song above doesn't remind you of Television (the band) you're just not paying attention. Which is the larger point this post is about, duh.

I thank you.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

And Speaking as We Were Last Week of Moby Grape...

...I discovered this over the weekend and it just blew my tiny mind.

That's the Grape's classic "Sittin' By the Window," written by Peter Lewis, and performed by -- hole. e. shit -- his daughter Arwen.

The short version: that's from an entire album of Grape covers Ms. Lewis did in 2015, which apparently none of you bastards ever bothered to tell me about; I have been listening to it obsessively since Sunday, and I just can't get over how wonderful it is, both in execution and conceptually.

I should add that I love that her name on the guitar case is in the same typeface as the old Grape logo. Oh, and John Sebastian (yes, him) is on another track from the record; remind me and I'll post it later in the week.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Annals of Art Direction (An Occasional Series): Special "Hey, It's Actually Not So Bad!" Edition

[The following is a true story. I first posted it here in 2008(!), but I've just tweaked it for inclusion in my forthcoming Greatest Hits book, and in case you missed it back in the day, I hope you get a kick out of it. --S.S.]

So...Back in the dim dark past (by which I mean the Hyborian Age, when Conan the Barbarian actually walked the earth) I got a gig (life-changing, as it turned out) as the rock critic at my college (C.W.Post) newspaper. I got it not out of any special qualifications, of which I had none; in fact, if truth be told, the reason I got it was that nobody else had bothered to ask for the job. I, on the other hand, had correctly reasoned that the major record labels were then in the process of dispensing vast largesse on anybody with a byline anywhere, and thus -- dreams of free LPs dancing in my head -- I petitioned the paper's powers that be (who were doing massive quantities of drugs, if memory serves) and was given a weekly column to do with as I pleased.

Anyway, sometime in the spring of 1970 I received a large package from Warner Bros./Reprise Records. I don't recall everything that was in it -- I'm thinking an early T-Rex album, although I can't be sure -- but one LP in particular stood out -- No BS, by a then obscure Detroit band called Brownsville Station. And by stood out, I mean it REALLY stood out.

Like, it sported perhaps The Worst Album Cover of All Time.

I mean, really, embarrassingly, horrendously bad. So bad, in fact, that I didn't bother to sell it for beer-and-cigs change, as was my wont with most of the free promo LPs I knew I was never going to listen to, but rather kept it around, still shrink-wrapped, as a cautionary exemplar of esthetic hideousness. (I later learned that before Warners picked up No BS for distribution, it had been a D.I.Y. effort self-released on the band's own label, mostly to sell at gigs, which in some ways excused the cover's awful amateurism. But still, I thought -- dudes, you're on a major label now; hire somebody who can actually draw.)

Anyway, like I said, the album -- which I showed, with much guffawing, to everybody I knew for a few weeks -- eventually went into my collection in the milk crate with the rest of the B's (I was one of those geeks who alphabetized his albums) and I got on with my life.

Cut to: a party in early 1973. I found myself chatting with an absolutely adorable young woman (long dark hair and bangs, and I was a goner) who, as it turned out, had grown up in Detroit and knew everybody in the rock music community there. She told me some amazing stories -- at 13, she had painted Bob Seger's psychedelic van -- and she thought I was fairly cool because I knew who (local Detroit faves) The Rationals were. After many drinks, we adjourned to a local Greenwich Village watering hole (it was run by legendary Max's Kansas City restauranteur Mickey Ruskin, who said hello to her when we walked in, impressing me mightily) and I proceeded to fall completely head over heels. And then -- around midnight, I recall -- she mentioned that she really wanted to do album covers when she got out of art school. I asked if she'd ever done one, and, somewhat ruefully, she mentioned Brownsville Station.

Yup -- the object of my affections was the woman behind The Worst Album Cover of All Time. And in in case you're wondering if I told her I knew it, let alone that I thought it was TWACOAT, I'm going to assume you know absolutely nothing about guys.

Anyway, the story has a sort of happy ending. The woman in question and I proceeded to have a long and mostly delightful run as the Nick and Nora Charles of 70s Manhattan, and we're still friends to this day. Carol Bokuniewicz (that's her name) went on to do some much better album covers -- you might remember this one --

-- and eventually achieved, deservedly, lasting fame when she co-founded the hugely influential design firm M&Co. You can find out more about her...

...and her most recent work over at her official website HERE.

Incidentally, a few years after Carol and I became an item, I interviewed the guys in Brownsville Station, who were then riding high on their hit "Smoking in the Boys Room." All went well until I mentioned that I was living with the woman who had done their first album cover, at which point I was nearly ejected from their hotel room.

When I asked what was wrong, band leader Cub Koda would only say "Shit, man...that's the worst album cover of all time."

Friday, June 14, 2024

La Fin de La Semaine Essay Question: Special "There is Nothing Like a Dame" Edition

So I was saddened to hear that Gallic chantoosie/major babe Francoise Hardy passed away last Tuesday at age 80.

Attentive readers are aware that I have a particular fondness for all those existential French popstar gals of the late Fifties and Sixties (where have you gone, Juliette Greco?)...

...and Hardy was one of my particular favorites. For obvious reasons.

I mean, if you had to be as good looking as Brian Jones to even have a chance with her...

That said, in all honesty, Hardy's music...

...was no better or worse than the rest of the commercial French pop purveyed by her ye-ye contemporaries, which is to say there's a reason none of that stuff ever made it to the Anglo charts (with the exception of Jane Birkin and the overtly smutty "Je T'Aime," which was essentially a novelty record). But I loved her anyway.

Which brings us, as you may have suspected, to the weekend's business. To wit:

...and your favorite (or least favorite) post-Beatles English-language rock/pop/country/soul/folk gal singer is...???

No arbitrary rules, but by post-Beatles we mean, obviously, someone who came to public prominence AFTER the release of the hit recording "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and the invention of the blow dryer.

Discuss.

Oh, and my choices (one of which I suspect may surprise you -- hell, it surprised me!) for favorite are...a tie!!!

Beginning wth...

Chrissie Hynde, of The Pretenders!!!

Who, as you can hear in the above clip, has the uncanny ability to call to mind ALL the greatest diverse Sixties girl singers who preceded her -- from the wistfully teenage Claudine Clark lamenting that she can't go see the "Party Lights" to the imperiously regal Sandy Denny as she bemoans the fate of the murdered adulterous "Matty Groves" -- in just about about every rock/pop genre imaginable.

And then, of course...there's the late Rachel Nagy of The Detroit Cobras!!!

And why?

Silly mortals...because SHE HAS THE MOST F**KABLE VOICE IN ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY!!!

Seriously, as I said when I first posted that video in 2007, "is there another woman on the planet who can make the three syllable phrase 'cha-cha-cha' absolutely drip with lust?"

I think not.

Anyway, those are my nominees. What would YOURS be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Holy Cow -- Simels Just Posted an Actual Power Pop Song For a Change!!!

And a great one, to boot!

From his accurately titled new album Let 'Er Rip, (which drops, as the kids say, tomorrow) please enjoy Mark Ward and his absolutely killer first single "I've Been Around."

Which, as it turns out, is also accurately titled.

MARK WARD is an Alaska-raised singer-songwriter/guitarist and former member of bands Last Train and Ryebender, whose albums have garnered national airplay and critical acclaim. As a multi genre artist, Mark writes about what moves him, giving voice to his passions through heartfelt lyrics set to power pop, rock, Americana and roots-based music.

Anyway, the whole album is terrific -- you can (and should) listen, stream and download it over at Bandcamp HERE.

I am also informed that actual physical CDs will be available soon via our friends at KOOL KAT MUSIK -- I'll keep you posted as things develop over there.

I should add, and for the record (as it were), that "I've Been Around" is one of my absolute favorite things so far this year. I love everything about it -- the wise-ass snotty vocal, the classic chiming lead guitar riff/hook, and just the whole sound. Man, what I wouldn't give to have a chance to cover it live with a band, and higher praise than that I can not bestow.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

It's True -- Clothes Make the Man!

Hey -- if you had told me back in the day that some time in the future I'd be walking around in a promo shirt (decorated front and back with album covers) for a band I was once in, let's just say I would have chortled in your general direction. 😎

The short version: Floor Models fan, long-time Friend of PowerPop© and all around swell guy Phil Cheesebrough had some of those gorgeous tees made up out of the immense goodness of his heart recently. (Gerry got one too, as did a certain Shady Dame and our late drummer Glen Bob's widow Eddie.)

I should add that Phil gifted similar shirts to both Brian and Michael D'Addario, better known these days as The Lemon Twigs (who actually got onstage with the Flo Mos during our 2019 reunion gig), and I am informed they too have been known to be seen in them in public.

Wear 'em in good health, everybody, and bless you Phil -- you're a real mensch.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Closed for Monkey Business

Too much stuff on my proverbial plate today.

Serious new music you'll enjoy will be here on the morrow.

Monday, June 10, 2024

And Speaking of Nothing in Particular...

...for reasons I won't bother you with, I had the occasion to print out this old piece of mine (from the May 1993 issue of The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review) over the weekend...

...and I must say I thought -- hey, that's pretty darn good writing there, pardner. And more important, right on the money, in terms of the band in question. (You can click on it to enlarge and read, if you're of a mind to.)

Anyway, as a result, I suddenly recalled the video below, which just blew me away, as I think it will you.

A latter day version of the Grape, doing business as The Moby Grape Guys, with their signature tune "Omaha" at SXSW in Austin back in 2010.

That's genius original Grape guitarist Jerry Miller stage right, and original frontman Skip Spence's son Omar channeling his dad on lead vocals and guitar on the left. If memory serves, that's also original drummer Don Stevenson (a super nice guy, BTW, who's been known to peruse our work at PowerPop on occasion) on percussion and vocals stage center.

Bottom line: if the performance above doesn't put you in seriously good spirits, it's time to check in with your physician.

I mean -- really. That's like one of the greatest rock-and-roll songs of all time, done to absolute perfection.

Make America Grape Again!!!

Friday, June 07, 2024

La Fin de La Semaine Essay Question: Special "In Search of Leo Gorcey” Edition

Okay -- this is just too cool for words.

The short version: Cherry Red Records -- pretty much the hippest rock reissue label on the planet -- is assembling a three CD box set whose theme is Stuff and Records Having to Do With People Who Played at CBGBs in NYC in the Mid to Late 70s.

And somehow, the people putting this project together had not only heard of the 1976 indie single my old band The Hounds -- who did in fact play at CBs a couple of times, including opening for a pre-stardom Blondie -- put out back in the day...

...but they figured it was catchy/historically important enough to include in said forthcoming package.

They're using the A-side, thankfully...

...which was recorded at Electric Lady Studios circa 1975. Attentive readers will recall that story, which involves a cameo by Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones.

In any event, said CBGBs box set is apparrently scheduled for release sometime late this year, and I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, that leads to the business at hand. To wit:

...and your favorite (or least favorite) Bowery band (or album track/single by an artist associated however tenuously with the CBGBs New York downtown scene of the '70s) is...?

In case you're wondering, my favorite folks from out of that gestalt is/are, hands down, the great Mink DeVille. If you don't know from them, I'm not going to get into their history right now, but there's a new documentary about them that should be available for streaming momentarily. (Also, get me drunk and I'll tell you an amazing story about my encounter with frontman and auteur Willy DeVille at the offices of Atlantic Records in 1981. It's hilarious and creepily terrifying.)

But my favorite single track, however, (and yeah, yeah, I know about Talking Heads, Ramones, etc etc) has got to be this power pop gem -- from the unjustly critically pooh-poohed Live at CBGBs album -- by the unjustly forgotten Laughing Dogs.

God, I love that song. It's like the Brill Building meets the Lovin' Spoonful and Steely Dan and then they all go to Schrafts for lunch.

I should add that the Dogs also get points for having had the funniest album cover of all time.

Discuss.

I.e., rant away while I'm gone.

And have a fantastic weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Your Thursday Moment of Why Didn't I Get the Memo? (An Occasional Series)

From 1966, please enjoy (arguably the inventors of Power Pop) The Who and their astonishing cover of The Everly Brothers(!)' 1964 "The Man With the Money."

Dunno how I'd missed that previously; it appeared for the first time on the super expanded version of the A Quick One album in 1995, and I was alive back then. In any event, I must confess that I was totally unaware of it until I stumbled across it by chance yesterday.

Wow.

Meanwhile, here's the Everly's (slightly differently titled) original which I just looked up. Don and Phil wrote the song, BTW.

I dunno how I missed that one either.

Have I mentioned wow?

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Hope I Die Before I Get Old -- Hey, Wait a Minute! No I Don't!!!!

So Suzi Quatro turned 74(!) last Monday. I was gonna make note of it here at the appropriate time, but I'm older than she is and it slipped my senile mind. Mea culpa.

That said, and I originally posted about this here several years ago, I bring the whole thing up because in honesty I was never particularly impressed with Quatro back in her early 70s glam-rock stardom period. Although in retrospect a lot of her records -- which were hits pretty much everywhere in the civilized world except the USA -- were actually pretty good.

To me, though -- and I say this despite the fact that my first ex-wife was a refugee from the Detroit rock scene and had lots of funny true stories about Suzi and the rest of her Motor City colleagues -- the only reasons I ever particularly took notice of her at all was because a) her name actually was Suzi Q (c'mon -- how cool is that?); b) she played Leather Tuscadero, the sister of Fonzie's girlfriend Pinky, on Happy Days ; and c) there was a credible rumor going around that she (Suzi) and Rick Derringer were in fact the same person.

Seriously -- did YOU ever see the two of them in the same room at the same time?

I think not.

In any case, I knew that Suzi -- and pretty much the rest of her immediate family -- had been in an all-girl 60s Detroit garage band called The Pleasure Seekers in those pre-stardom days...

...but I'd totally forgotten that the Pleasure Seekers had released a single (in either 1965 or 1966) that may in fact be the most astounding piece of garage rock ever waxed.

Ladies and germs -- behold in breathless wonder "What a Way to Die."

In case you can't quite make out the lyrics through the low-fi mono murk, Suzi is sending the following tender blandishments toward a potential lover (and Iggy, eat your heart out).

Well I love you baby
I’m telling you right here
But please don’t make me decide baby
Between you and a bottle of beer.

Baby come on over
Come on over to my side
Well I may not live past twenty-one
but WOO!
What a way to die!

Your lovin' fluctuates baby
And everybody knows
But the temperature always stays the same
On an ice cold bottle of Strohs

When I start my drinking
My baby throws a fit
So I just blitz him outta my mind
With seventeen bottles of Schlitz

You’ve got the kind of body
That makes me come alive
But I’d rather have my hands around
A bottle of Colt 45

Baby come on over
Come on over to my side
Well I may not live past twenty-one
but WOO!
What a way to die!

WOO?

In a word -- wow.

Yes, obviously, on some level the song and the record are kind of a joke. As anybody who ever went to a high school dance back then knows, the Pleasure Seekers probably didn't really want to die before they got old, i,e, before they got laid a lot.

But still...that kind of gonzo nihilism, even if it was a pose they barely understood, was not only unprecedented for a bunch of suburban adolescent gals, but also, clearly, a huge influence in all sorts of unexpected ways on the rest of rock history.

Speaking of which, I think we need to research whether the song's lyrical mention of Strohs, Schlitz and Colt 45 was some kind of innovative product placement or just alcoholic bravado.

Tomorrow: that cool new power pop song I promised you guys yesterday. Sorry for the delay.

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Is It a Good Day for Byrds News? Part Deux: The Folk Process at Work

Okay, for starters -- my apologies; I know I was supposed to put up a zip file link with all the music from the Byrds-ish CD that accompanies this months' MOJO today --

-- but for the life of me I can't figure out how to do it. Sorry to be a tease, but I promise -- I'm gonna make it my project for the next couple of days. I mean, there's a shitload of music I've always wanted to be able to post here for you fine folks, and I really should get on the ball.

That taken care of, here's a fun sort of Byrds-themed mini-playlist you might enjoy.

We begin with -- and this version, which appears on the aforementioned MOJO CD, was heretofore unheard by me-- a performance of "Kız Çocuğu" ("The Girl Child"), the classic anti-war poem by Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet originally written sometime in the early post-War era.

Hikmet was an interesting guy, BTW -- very political in a lefty sort of way, and frequently in trouble with the right-wing Turkish dictatorships of his day. He's apparently now considered quite the hero in his home country; you can find out more about him over HERE. In case you don't speak Turkish (cue The Firesign Theater) the poem itself conveys a plea for peace from a seven-year-old girl who perished in the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

We then move to 1952, when Pete Seeger set an English translation of the poem to the melody of an old Scottish Child ballad (first anthologized circa 1860), and called it "I Come and Stand at Every Door."

Here's the original folk song, courtesy of Joan Baez...

...and here's Seeger's adaptation of it and the Hikmet poem.

Are we getting exhausted yet?

Anyway, in 1966, The Byrds -- remember them? -- covered it on (my personal fave of their albums) Fifth Dimension. I still remember the first time I heard it; suffice it to say the original folk song had been a huge influence on me (I actually wrote a solo piano semi-classical adaptation of it in 8th grade) and hearing it with those metallic folk-rock guitars and that brilliant David Crosby harmony on the last verse just completely blew me away.

Have I mentioned the song was a complete and total cultural touchstone for me? To the point where, in 2019, when I got a chance to make my first solo single, I decided to cover it as the A-side?

Man -- what a great idea. A deeply depressing song about a kid burned to a crisp in a nuclear attack. Talk about No Commercial Potential.

Anyway, I'll spare you most of the other extant versions, although I will say that the 1997 take by vastly overrated Brit punk poseurs The Fall...

...is not merely awful, but a crime against humanity in its own right.

Coming tomorrow: Actual upbeat melodic new music more appropriate to the theme of the blog you're reading.

Monday, June 03, 2024

Is It a Good Day for Byrds News? It's ALWAYS a Good Day for Byrds News!

[Acknowledgements to the great Charles Pierce for the title of today's post. -- S.S.]

So there's a really nice cover story about my all-time fave band just out in the July issue of MOJO. Complete with a smartly programmed accompanying CD as a bonus.

I don't see MOJO as often as I used to, alas, for the simple and infuriating reason that I haven't been able to find an actual magazine stand that features it in NYC for what seems like years now. Anybody else having a similar problem where they are?

In any case, from that aforementioned CD, here's the irrepressible Dinosaur Jr. with their balls-to-the-wall yet still very effective cover of the feathered ones classic "Feel a Whole Lot Better."

From the CD liner notes (which are actually in the magazine, not on the CD sleeve):

A bratty 1989 tear through Gene Clark's beautiful song; J. Mascis later admitted he found The Byrds "too wimpy" and was not a fan at the time of recording. Nevertheless, Dinosaur jr.'s full-throttle version shows how robustly Byrds songs can not just withstand irreverent treatment, but also showcase much noisier guitar innovators.

Mascis found The Byrds "too wimpy"? Really?

I knew there was a reason I never particularly cared for that pretentious punk-snob putz when his band was fashionable. (I keed, I keed!)

Anyway, the MOJO story is well-worth reading for Byrds fans of any age or musico-ideological stripe, and the CD -- which has a lot of interesting oddities, including one in Turkish (about which I will have more to say tomorrow) -- is definitely worth a listen. If I can figure out the tech issues, I'll see if I can post a link to a zip file of the disc as well.

Friday, May 31, 2024

The Greatest Weekend Listomania of All Times: Special "I've Wanted to Do This For Years and Years" Edition

Okay, as you may have heard, Apple Music has just posted a list of what are supposed to be the Best Albums Ever Made.

To predictable outrage from the sort of people that take this kind of online shit seriously and should know better. Myself included.

In the Apple Top Ten?

Six words. Lauryn. Hill. Frank. Ocean. Kendrick. Lamar.

I mean, gimme a fucking break.

Seriously, look I know, these lists are nothing but clickbait, and this one is no more ridiculous than any other one. And yeah, it's a generation gap thing, and there's no accounting for taste, and fuck you boomers, and blah blah blah.

That said, there actually are, objectively, records that should be on a list like the above, and I happen to be an expert in this regard.

So here they are, in this blog's traditional Weekend Listomania form, and after you've perused them you can nominate your own, which I will doubtless have nothing but justified scorn for, you morons.

To wit:

All-Time Best Post-WWII Records Ever Recorded -- In Any Genre!!!

As you can see, there are no arbitrary rules. Oh wait -- fuck that laissez-faire shit.

Sorry...no hiphop/indie rock/Phillip Glass or Steve Reich-ian Minimalist shit/Taylor Swift albums -- or anything from the 21st century -- need apply. Because obviously all of that sucks*.

On the other hand: If you want to nominate a dopey novelty single, go for it. What the hell do I care?

Okay -- and my totally top of my head Top Ten is...

[*The following list is only partially meant tongue-in-cheek. Just so we're clear. -- S.S.]

10. Miles Davis/Gil Evans -- Sketches of Spain (Columbia, 1960)

Ahh, Miles. If ever a dude bopped in from an alternate universe, it was him.

9. The Firesign Theater -- Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers (Columbia, 1970)

The Beatles of comedy? Uh, yeah. This album is that good.

8. Alex North -- Spartacus (The Sound Track Album) (Decca, 1960)

Have I mentioned that Alex North may have been one of the greatest American composers of the second half of the 20th Century? And if you don't believe it, dig the Spartacus main title above.

7. Nervous Norvus -- Transfusion (Dot, 1956)

Rockabilly meets the Age of Anxiety and then they all go to Golden Corral for lunch.

6. Marty Robbins -- Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs (Columbia, 1959)

For the proto-leather bar album cover alone, although the uncut version of "El Paso" is also great when you want to signal your party guests to go home.

5. Bidu Sayao and Heitor Villa-Lobos -- Bachianas Brasileira No. 5/Cantilena (Columbia, 1952)

A chick singer, a small string section and a haunting melody. This is the hit that every bad prog band has been chasing since forever. And please -- don't give me any of that Joan Baez shit because I don't want to hear about it.

I should add that I actually had the original LP version. Love that album sleeve.

And if memory serves it was a ten-inch, if you'll pardon the expression. Heh.

4. Dennis Brain and the Philharmonia Orchestra with Herbert Von Karajan -- Mozart Horn Concertos (EMI, 1953)

Hey -- apart from the fact that his playing (and not just of Mozart) was virtuosic and meltingly gorgeous, his last name was actually freaking Brain. Sheesh. There isn't a rock star ever who wouldn't have killed to be able to pull that off.

3. The Singing Dogs -- Jingle Bells (RCA, 1955)

Inter-species music making. Obviously, it doesn't get any better.

2. B. B. King -- Live at the Regal (ABC, 1964)

Everybody, by which I mean rock critics, agrees this is the greatest blues album ever made, and yet none of them (including me) has ever bothered to listen to it. How cool is that?

And the most significant thing ever recorded down through the echoing corridors of time and even into the far distant future (if any) unmistakably is...

1. Tonio K. -- Life in the Foodchain (Columbia, 1978)

C'mon -- like you (and especially long-time readers) didn't see that coming FROM A MILE AWAY DOWN BROADWAY?

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be? (Don't worry -- they can't possibly be sillier than the some of the ones on the Apple list).

And have the most transplendent weekend in world history, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Closed for Transplendently Brilliant Monkey Business

Hard at work on Friday's Weekend Listomania, which will be beyond the pale of human experience great and I am not exaggerating. In fact, that's a hint to the theme of the thing.

See you tomorrow!!!!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

If It's Wednesday, There Must Be a Stairway to Heaven

From 1989 or '90, and the Australian comedy talk show show The Money or the Gun, please enjoy highly fetching Sydney-based New Wave/power popsters The Whipper Snappers and their adorable take on that insufferable Led Zeppelin classic.

The show must have been a lot of fun, BTW.

Each week a guest would perform their own version of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven". Versions would occasionally tie in with the theme of the episode ("Guns - the Musical" had a Broadway-style version by Jodie Gilles as the conclusion, while the episode on Australian Comedy had the Doug Anthony All Stars performing it with the assistance of Barry Crocker) but the most surprising of all was the version by Rolf Harris which eventually reached number 7 on the UK singles chart. Generally the performance of "Stairway" would be a break in the program and the artists would have no other part in the program. The CD release won an Aria Award in Australia in 1993 and was subsequently released on the Atlantic Label in the USA though truncated.

I'm told there was also a commercially available video with 27 of the STH performances, but alas, it only made it to VHS.

[h/t Peter Scott]

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

In the Immortal Words of Bobby Darin -- How Was I to Know There Was a Party Going On?

From just last week, and her album When Therapy Fails (heh!), please enjoy Texas-based roots-rocker Pam Ross and her latest (and aptly named) single "Fire in the Hole."

That song kicks some serious ass, I think you'll agree, but the video -- which looks like the live-band-in-a-bar performance I have been searching for what seems like my entire adult life -- just absolutely slays me.

Man -- what I wouldn't give to have been an attendee at the party/show that was shot at.

Oh well. In the meantime, you can (and should) find out more about Pam -- including where to hear and download more of her music -- over at her official website HERE.

BTW, have I mentioned I would have killed to dance with the punk gal with the is-it-a-mohawk-or-isn't it? hairdo cavorting in front of the band? Thank you.

Monday, May 27, 2024

It’s Memorial Day at the Shore: How Proustian!!!

So as attentive readers are aware, a certain Shady Dame and I saw the 2024 edition of the redoubtable Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes last Thursday.

Short version: They were as much fun as always, but to my delighted surprise, they did a wonderful version of this Stones' classic...

...which I was previously unaware they had recorded, but which, it now occurs to me, they must have perfomed numerous times back in their early 70s pre-record deal days as the premier bar band in south Joisey.

Okay -- that's all I have to say about that, except...enjoy the holiday, everybody!

Also: New music -- filmed at what looks like the most fun party in rock-and-roll history -- resumes on the morrow.

Friday, May 24, 2024

La Fin de La Semaine Essay Question: Special "I Don't Think This Relationship Can Be Saved" Edition

Still recovering from last night's live show by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes -- a bunch of real heroes of mine, and yet I hadn't seen them since well before the pandemic -- so today's intro will be necessarily brief.

In other words, let's get immediately to the weekend's business. To wit:

...and your favorite (or least favorite) post-Elvis pop/rock/country/soul song about a boy/girlfriend from hell, the one that got away, a fucked up romance or a sad break-up is...???

No arbitrary rules, although I was sorely tempted to exclude anything by Joni Mitchell or Taylor Swift, just because I don't give a rodent's behind about either of their romantic problems.

Heh.

Anyway, my nominee is this amazingly catchy yelp by brilliant Chicago power popsters Material Issue.

A song I find hysterically funny, until I remember that MI auteur Jim Ellison offed himself in his garage (carbon monoxide poisoning) shortly after committing it to tape in 1996.

Which is to say it's a lot more autobiographical than anybody knew prior to his sad passing.

In any case, now that I've thoroughly depressed you -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Encounters With Greatness (An Occasional Series)

Okay, this is a true story, so cut me some slack.

Once upon a time (actually sometime in 1974) I found myself -- along with my colleagues from my post-college rock band The Hounds -- in the prestigious and normally prohibitively expensive confines of world famous recording studio Electric Lady, on 8th Street in New York's fabled Greenwich Village.

The short version is that the studio was running a program of classes for aspiring recording engineers, and they needed bodies in the studio making noise while they taught the students how to be the next George Martins. I don't recall exactly how we got lucky enough to be such freebie musical guinea pigs, but I do recall that we were acutely aware of our good fortune in this regard, and as a result we were -- uncharacteristically -- well rehearsed and well prepared. I mean hey -- it was the best and in many ways the coolest studio in the freaking world at the time; we weren't gonna fuck around. Especially at those prices.

In any case, we had been gifted with two four-hour sessions on consecutive Saturdays, and our goal was to perform, record and mix one of our original songs, to be used as a demo to knock on record company doors with, before time ran out.

During a brief break in the first session, I meandered into the studio lounge looking for the coffee machine. And to my stunned and delighted surprise, there I ran into none other than Rolling Stones' guitarist Ronnie Wood, making himself a decaf. (I didn't know it at the time, but Wood was working in one of the bigger rooms at E.L., doing sessions for what became his first solo LP, I've Got My Own Album to Do.)

I tried, with what success I know not, to remain cool in the presence of one of my long-time idols, and poured myself a cuppa. And then Wood suddenly said "'Allo mate. Whatcha doin'?"

I mumbled something about what we were up to -- I assume it was utterly incoherent -- and finally he replied "Well, good luck to ya. And use this while you're doin' it."

And then he handed me one of these...

...and exited stage right.

POSTSCRIPTS:

I. I never actually used that pick to play my guitar, but it sat in a place of reverence in a dish on my living room coffee table for at least the next twenty years. (I lost it subsequently; how, I have no idea).

II. In case you were wondering, our E.L. session turned out fabulously. I would have preferred a bigger guitar sound, but nonetheless we ultimately were thoroughly pleased with the finished product -- a delightful piece of Stones-ish punk/pop that we used for the A-side of our DIY single a year or two later.

Which actually sold 800 copies (including a couple overseas) and which is an honorable footnote to rock history, you're welcome very much.

You can listen to it HERE.

Hey -- I said it was a true story. But as I often add on these occasions, I didn't say it was an interesting one.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Your Wednesday Moment of Why Didn't I Get the Memo? (Special "Ripped Jeans Say So Much" Edition)

From her 2005 album Little Fugitive, please enjoy noted woman in rock Amy Rigby and her infectious and kinda touching account of the night she spent "Dancing With Joey Ramone."

I've been a fan of Rigby's since her 1996 debut Diary of a Mad Housewife, but somehow I missed the above until last weekend. Oh well, better late than never.

Oh, and in case you can't make out the lyrics...

He walked into the party looking just like he had in the past
He came up to me and he didn't even have to ask
I tried to say something, he said "Girl, shut your mouth
They're playing Papa Was a Rolling Stone"
Last night I was dancing with Joey Ramone

He was cool with his leather jacket and his little dark shades
He started dancing around, I tried to copy every move he made
When I reached for his hand he kind of brushed me off
Then they played "Hangin' on the Telephone"
Last night when I was dancing with Joey Ramone

They played "The Worst That Could Happen" by the Brooklyn Bridge
"He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)"
"Glad All Over", "Needles and Pins"
"Be My Baby" again and again
"Gloria" by the Shadows of Knight
"He's So Fine" and "I Feel Alright"
"Charlie Brown", "Can't Sit Down"
We were dancin' around and around

Well I closed my eyes for a minute and then he was gone
The room looked different but the music kept playing on
And on and on and on
When I woke up today I had a song in my head
I wanna wanna wanna go home (wanna wanna wanna go)
They played it last night when I was dancing with Joey Ramone
Whoa-oh
Last night I was dancing with Joey Ramone
Last night I was dancing with Joey Ramone
Last night I was dancing with Joey Ramone
1,2,3,4!

C'mon -- isn't that like the cutest thing you've ever heard? Not to mention hooky/catchy as a good Ramones track.

Okay, gotta go now -- have to start writing a song called "Dancing With Taylor Swift."

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Sometimes You Just Have to Pick a Side

Exhibit A.

Okay, that totally cracked me up, for any number of reasons. Sorry, Daryl.

I should add that the guy in the shirt is way cool Jersey-born rocker and friend of PowerPop Mike Daly.

Attentive readers will recall my bringing him to their attention back in 2017, when he unleashed this hilarious masterpiece upon an unsuspecting out of state audience.

Anyway, thanks Mike! And thanks again for the other t-shirt...

...which I still wear proudly,

Tomorrow: Back to serious regular posting, and a song that will knock your proverbial socks off!!!

Monday, May 20, 2024

Classic Rock Makes Strange Bedfellows!

Okay, this is disturbing, but it made me laugh anyway.

BTW, I have no idea who's responsible for that photo, but my hat's off to them.

I should probably also add that not only do I dislike both those album covers, but I also dislike both those albums.

But of course that's a story for another time.

Friday, May 17, 2024

La Fin de La Semaine Essay Question: Special "You Make Me Feel Like Manson” Edition

[Apologies to Leo Sayer for today's title -- S.S.]

Still recovering from seeing Neil Young and Crazy Horse down the street from Casa Simels in Forest Hills last night -- but that's a whole other story; let's just say, I wanted to kill the audience.

In the meantime, let's get immediately to the weekend's business, which is inspired by the brilliant choreography in The Heart of Rock and Roll that I mentioned yesterday.

To wit:

...and your favorite post-Elvis, non-Disco pop/rock/soul/country song referencing a dance or dancing in its title or lyrics is...???

No arbitrary rules, you're welcome very much, but a warning -- I'm gonna enforce that exclusionary No Disco clause big time. Seriously, if you mention any of that Boogie Oogie Oogie shit I will come to your house and slap you with a dead fish.

Oh -- and my nominee?

The Beach Boys. "Dance, Dance, Dance."

A Rickenbacker 12-string, one of the all-time killer riffs, and those harmonies = one of the greatest singles of the 60s.

I should add that A) I've never seen that clip before, and have no clue from whence it derives -- anybody have an idea? B) If you ever wondered if the original BB lineup could cut it live, the above should settle the issue. Brian, in particular, shines -- trust me, simultaneously playing that riff and singing like an angel is not a skill to be sneezed at,

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Do You Believe in Comps?

So as some of you may be aware, a certain Shady Dame and I were gifted tickets for last Sunday's matinee performance of Broadway's The Heart of Rock and Roll, i.e. the Huey Lewis and the News show.

As you may also be aware, I'm not particularly a fan of either 80s nostalgia or juke box musicals, and let's just say I went in with very low expectations.

The short version: To my delighted surprise, it's absolutely wonderful. Smart, very very funny, and with (obviously) lots of great music -- and believe it or not, none of the songs feel shoe-horned into the plot. Which is to say the after-the-fact storyline that's been concocted for the thing really works. I mean you actually care abut the characters, which is the last thing I expected.

Yeah, yeah, I know -- I wouldn't have thought it possible, either.

I should add that the choreography is to die for; in particular, the first act number where all the characters line up to dance on an unrolled length of bubble wrap(!) is a genuinely hilarious show stopper.

As for the music, you know going in just how good the Lewis/News hits are, and that they've stood the test of time, but I must say that "The Only One" -- which I had forgotten about, and which figures prominently in the show's most poignant scene -- is just freaking great.

(Slightly off topic digression: I should also add that I'd TOTALLY forgotten just how interesting a guitarist The News' Johnny Colla was. I mean seriously, not only does he have an absolutely gorgeous instrumental tone, but his solos on that track sound like the ones I always wished I was good enough to invent back in the days when I fancied myself the Jewish Keith Richards/Mick Taylor but wasn't.)

In any event, trust me -- if you're in NYC and somebody gives you a pair of tickets, get thee to the James Earl Jones Theater pronto. You won't regret it.

And a big tip of the PowerPop hat to my old college chum Michael J. Nugent and his pal Andrew Perez, without whom etc.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Closed for Monkey Business: Good Things Come to Those Who Wait Edition

Real life bullshit intruded, so I regret I got nothing today

Here's a hint about tomorrow's post, however:

Those Fabulous 80s! And the Magic of Theater!

See ya then!!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

New Music From Around the World (An Occasional Series): Special "Feed Your Lawn -- Feed It!” Edition

Okay, folks -- from just the other day (i.e., it's just released), please enjoy way cool Scottish indie power pop combo Be Like Pablo and their addictive new single "There Goes the Sunshine."

The song is fabulous, I think you'll agree, but the video is particularly freaking hilarious. Kudos to stars Alec Westwood (as the Janitor) and the incomparable Pepper the Robot.

I should add that these guys were previously unknown to me, but apparently they've been around for awhile and you can find out more about them (including where they're gigging, if you happen to be in the UK) over at their official website here.

I would also like to take this opportunity to apologize to the band for the truly dumb joke in the title of today's post, which of course borrows from the current TV ad campaign for Scott's Turf Builder. (Get it -- Scott's?).

Sorry -- I should have known better.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special “Jews for Jesus” Edition

From 2022, please enjoy Richie Furay and friends and their brilliant take on Marc Cohn's sublime "Walking in Memphis."

Seriously -- that's an absolutely breahthtaking performance.

The song itself, of course, is one of the greatest contributions to American popular music in all of the second half of the 20th century. Sorry if you're too cynical and punk rock to get it, but it's nonethelss true.

And yeah. yeah, I know, that off-stage Furay's politics are a little, shall we say, problematic.

But sorry -- if you were prominently a fixture on the three genius Buffalo Springfield albums, and then responsible for the above, I'm willing to give you a pass despite whoever you're voting for.

BTW, as great as the above is, it is NOT my favorite visualization of "Walking in Memphis" not involving the composer.

This sequence -- from my favorite expisode of The X-Files -- is.

Hey -- I'm a little weird. So sue me.

[h/t Jai Guru Dave]

Friday, May 10, 2024

La Fin de La Semaine Essay Question: Special "Love, Where is Thy Ring-a-Ding-Ding?" Edition

Okay, it's Friday. And as you may have gleaned after yesterday's l'affaire Swift extravaganza, I've been forced to repair to a top secret secure location where I'm safe from death threats, but where it is, unsurprisingly, difficult to work.

Consequently, we're going to go swiftly (heh) and directly to the weekend's business.

To wit:

...and your favorite (or least favorite) recorded performance of a pre-rock pop standard by a post-Elvis pop/rock/soul/country performer is...???

Arbitrary rules: 1) I am allowing the inclusion of any versions of "Till There Was You" or "Moon River," despite their having been written in the rock era. 2) If you nominate anything sung by Michael Bublé, I will come to your house and beat you savagely.

And in case you're wondering, my choice is "Goody, Goody." In the hit version recorded by the great Frankie Lymon.

Sweet jeebus, but that kid was a staggering package of talent. And if you doubt it, hie thee over to YOUTUBE here to watch him performing the song live on The Ed Sullivan Show.

I should add that the song itself was originally written by the great Johnny Mercer in 1936. Mercer, of course, also co-wrote "Moon River" decades later, thus bringing things satisfyingly full circle.

Okay -- alrighty then, what would YOUR choices be?

Discuss.

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, May 09, 2024

A Few Thoughts on Taylor Swift (Steve's Version)

Okay, I may regret this -- no death threats, please -- but as a responsible journalist I feel I can't put it off any longer.

So here's the thing: I liked everything about Taylor Swift -- her attitude, her politics, her work ethic --EXCEPT her recorded output, i.e. her songs and albums.

And I didn't know why that is.

Weird, right? And, adding insult to confusion, lately that inability to get behind La Swift has really been bugging me.

Until, however, last week, when a couple of things popped up on the intertubes (or went viral, or became memes, or however the youngsters categorize the phenomenon) and I finally figured out what it was about Taylor that I didn't dig.

Here's exhibit A -- a knife-turning (yet clearly affectionate) parody of the 21st century's biggest pop phenomenon by somebody who's actually a huge fan.

Pretty hilarious, for sure, but it started me to thinking. At which point the following piece in the New Yorker by Sinéad O’Sullivan appeared to my wondering eyes. (Sorry, I can't give you a link to the entire thing, but it's behind a paywall and you'll get the idea from this excerpt anyway).

Ask music critics what they think of Taylor Swift’s eleventh studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, and those who aren’t afraid of getting doxed might say something about the interminable length, the repetitive synth overlays, or the uninspired lyrics. Take “imgonnagetyouback,” a track that’s notably similar to Olivia Rodrigo’s “Get Him Back!”. In the chorus, Swift sings that she hasn’t yet decided “whether I’m gonna be your wife or gonna smash up your bike.” Perhaps the lyric is meant to be somewhat infantile, but even the most novice editor should have pushed Swift toward the more obvious rhyme: “whether I’m gonna be your wife or gonna smash up your life.”

Ask a Swiftie what they think of the album, though, and they may very well say that it’s her best work yet. Yes, it would have made more sense for her to rhyme “wife” with “life” in “imgonnagetyouback.” But Swift obsessives know to connect “imgonnagetyouback” with “Fallingforyou,” a song by The 1975 that was written by Swift’s ex-boyfriend Matty Healy. In it, Healy sings, “I’m so excited for the night/ All we need’s my bike and your enormous house.” Swift’s mention of a bike, in “imgonnagetyouback,” is therefore an intentional creative decision, like the lack of spaces in the song’s title. Some fans have gone even further, claiming that the lack of spaces not only invites a comparison to “Fallingforyou” but to Swift’s own “Blank Space,” a song on her 1989 album. (1975, 1989—there are a lot of years to keep track of here.)

“In Blank Space music video, Taylor Swift is smashing things and sings ‘Cause you know I love the players And you love the game’” a YouTube user called Miranda-ry9tf writes in a comment. “In 'imgonnagetyouback' she says ‘We broke all the pieces, but you still wanna play the game.’ Perhaps “Blank Space,” released in 2014, was about Healy, too? Those Swifties who have gone far down the rabbit hole might argue that Swift, by leaving out the spaces in her new song’s title, has created a kind of ouroboros — - a running theme in the artist’s work since 2016, when Kim Kardashian referred to her as a “snake.” If you write the words “imgonnagetyouback” in a circle, you’ll notice that the “k” and “im” are right next to each other. This might seem like a reach, but -- six tracks later -- Swift mentions a mysterious rival named Aimee, on a song titled “thanK you aIMee.” It doesn’t take a Swiftie to figure out whose name the capital letters spell.

Alrighty, then. So how is all this stuff relevant to my lack of enthusiasm for the music?

Well, for starters, as should be obvious from the video above, it's way too easy to parody Swift, which is a bad sign from jump.

I mean, I love the line in the take-off about how singing fast is the closest Taylor ever gets to rapping. But the larger point being made there is that her songwriting and record-making can be reduced to their basic level -- which is to say a shtick -- in an instant.

C'mon, really; can you even imagine the work of any previous comparably important pop auteur -- The Beatles, Dylan, Joni Mitchell -- being distilled to a few cliche predictable gestures like that?

Okay, Joni Mitchell maybe. But otherwise, I think not.

As for the rest of it, and this is my real problem with Swiftiana -- we're obviously talking about somebody whose major talents come down to mad marketing skills. Period, end of story, and sorry.

Forget the depressingly anonymous cookie-cutter-unimaginative instrumental backings that decorate the whole of her oeuvre, or the albums' numbingly endless cavalcade of relationship songs (does she write anything else?) that seem -- deliberately -- addressed after all this time solely to the concerns of 15-year-olds.

Forget all that and it's still clear that Swift's medium -- her aesthetic, if you will -- is essentially the equivalent of nothing more or less artistically valid than a Marvel Universe Superhero franchise.

Or, not to put to fine a point on it, something totally self-referential and uninteresting to anybody but rabid enthusiasts with unhealthily expansive attention spans. And let's just add that such a thing is NOT what I, at least, go to the movies/listen to pop music for. Or ever have.

Your mileage may vary, of course, and Swifties will doubtless disagree. Hey -- that's life in a corporate-dominated cultural environment.

But thank you for your attention in this regard in any case. And now excuse me -- I have to go find some out of the way hidey-hole to disappear into untill all this blows over.