Friday, March 01, 2024

Weekend Listomania: Special "Bad Taste is Timeless" Edition

[I first ran a version of this one back in 2009 -- yeah, yeah, I know, that blows my mind too -- but when I stumbled across it for the first time in ages the other day, it struck me as pretty funny and worthy of revival, so here we are. As is my wont, I've added an entry and done some rewriting, just so you don't think I'm a complete slacker asshole. -- S.S.]

Post-Elvis Group, Solo Artist or Song You've Taken the Most Snark For Liking From Folks Over the Years!!!

Self-explanatory, obviously, and no arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much. Basically, if anybody's ever looked at you with an alarmed raised eyebrow when you noted that, oh, Filth by The Swans was the record you'd most like to have played at your memorial service, then this category is for you.

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. The Ohio Express -- Yummy, Yummy, Yummy

Bubblegum crap, right? Blah blah blah. Turn in your Rock Writers of the World union card, Simels, you're embarrassing us.

Fuck that shit. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- if you turn off the goofy vocals on the left channel, and just listen to the instrumental stuff on the right, what you'll hear is as tough a rock instrumental track as anybody has ever made. I'm talking Rolling Stones or Velvet Underground tough here.

4. The Beach Boys

Not so much these days, of course, given that it's now generally conceded by all who walk upright that Brian Wilson is a genius, the Gershwin of his generation, but the Beach Boys have gone in and out of fashion so many times over the last 60(!) years that it's hard to keep track. Back in the hippie days, however -- particularly after the whole debacle of Smile -- the attitude in the counter-culture was that you had to be a hopelessly bourgeois square to take them seriously (in this country, at least; the Brits knew better). In any case, at that point being a Beach Boys fan was essentially the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, and I don't mean Mike.

3. The Guess Who

Seriously, back in the 70s, I can't tell you how often I would mention my fondness for these guys, only to notice that the people I was talking to were moving away, ever so slowly but firmly, from where I sat.

The clip above -- a medley called "Hi, Rockers!" -- is my favorite of several true gems from the band's masterpiece album. The transition from the hilarious beer-soaked barroom meeting of the minds that opens it into the seraphically lovely clavinet-driven "Heaven Only Moved Once" and finally the witty mutant rockabilly revenge number "Don't You Want Me" -- complete with faux Jordanaires harmony vocals -- is, frankly, a marvel to behold, and from where I sit one of the very greatest moments in 70s rock. I'm not kidding about this!!!

2. Procol Harum

These guys, although there's still a perception out there that they were one-hit wonders (hah!), actually get a fair amount of respect now -- it's amazing how often I run into people who turn out to be closet fans. So I'm mostly including them here because the luminous NYMary, annotating a piece I'd written about the band in the early 70s for reprint in these precincts, couldn't resist taking a shot at "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (bless her heart). I think the phrase she used was "Dodgiest lyrics ever..."

Naturally enough, then, the clip above is "Repent Walpurgis," a lyric-less instrumental that remains one of my all-time fave Procol numbers. It's a live version, featuring the classic five piece original lineup with Robin Trower and Matthew Fischer (the latter four decades away from settling his authorship suit over AWSOP) at the Fillmore West on April 11, 1969. How do you say "awesomely magnificent" in Yiddish?

And the numero uno artiste(s) or song for whom my enthusiasm has gotten me shunned from time to time is obviously --

1. The Four Seasons -- Marlena

The Four Seasons, despite (or perhaps because of) their metamorphosis into the inspiration for a world-wide hit Broadway/film musical phenomenon, remain somewhat less than hep in certain rock critic circles. I, of course, have said on numerous occasions (including here, if memory serves) that their great run of hits -- spanning the period between "Sherry" in 1962 through, say, "I've Got You Under My Skin" five years later -- comprise the purest pop confections in the history of the genre (the grittier class conscious romanticism of "Dawn" and "Rag Doll," and those songs' influence on Bruce Springsteen, is, of course, a subject for another day).

In any case, my advocacy of "Marlena" (which I think is their most profoundly silly accomplishment, and that's meant as a compliment) has gotten me into trouble on a couple of occasions, most notably sometime in the late 70s, when I -- along with twenty or thirty other folks, mostly writers and musicians -- was asked to make a list of our Five All-Time Favorite Songs by New York City rock colossus WNEW-FM (the station then played everybody's lists over the course of an entire day). I don't remember all five songs I picked -- one was The Who's "Glow Girl" -- but I did nominate "Marlena," and I recall that after the deejay ID'd it as one of my choices, I got at least three frantic phone calls from erstwhile friends questioning my sanity. Okay, I exaggerate just a tad, but you get the idea.

In any case, I think history has vindicated my assessment.

Incidentally, the audio clip of "Marlena" above is the original mono single mix, which I was able to find only after great personal effort and considerable financial expense. This is important because most currently available Four Seasons comps have the song in stereo, and as Pete Townshend famously said about The Who's "I Can See For Miles," the mono mix of "Marlena" makes the stereo version sound like The Carpenters.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!


MJConroy said...

I'm with Steve on 3 of his 5 (but Yummy, Yummy??? and while I know folks who love the 4 Seasons, I could never stand Valli's voice - thought he should get looser trousers!)

I'll go with The Monkees. I was in the target demographic when they came out, loved the show, and the wrecking crew did some fine work.

Cleveland Jeff said...

The Happenings' See You In September, but there's a lot of these for me, an unabashed pop lover.
Leslie Gore It's My Party
Edison Lighthouse Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)
The Angels My Boyfriend's Back
The Looking Glass Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)
The Dixie Cups Chapel of Love
The Casinos Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye

John K said...

Tough question. I'm finding that in my old age songs that once made me cringe sound surprisingly pleasant these days. Go figure.

Roger said...

Popsicles and Icicles

Anonymous said...

Sugar Sugar by the Archies. fun fact this song was covered by Wilson Pickett and even Bob Marley and the Wailers. also anything by Lesley Gore especially That's the Way Boys Are and You Don't Own Me.

edward said...

As I have traditionally been the snarkiest person in my groups, I really can't think of any songs/artists I have been snarked about.
Now personal faves like Tom Waits or Jonathan Richman have elicited reactions along the lines of "WTF was that?" or, especially in Bob Dylan's case "Please no, I hate his voice," but many of these cases have led to conversions and enlightenment.
There are certainly songs and people I have outgrown in my 50+ years of music accumulation, so I just may be at an age when we've given up snarking each other's pasts.

Alzo said...

There's nothing wrong with Bubblegum. After all, Joey Ramone took his name in tribute to Buddha records titan Joey Levine. If a pop song doesn't pass muster, I always say "They can't all be 'Build Me Up, Buttercup.'" Listen to 'Gimme Gimme Good Lovin' and tell me that's not Rock.

You might cringe at Rod Stewart's 'Hot Legs,' but for me it's the most sleazy fun Rolling Stones song they didn't write. Foreigner's 'Hot Blooded' is over-the-top-macho fun, too.

I always got strange looks in the room when I played Kate Bush or Nina Hagen and now they are in the Alt-Pantheon.

cthulhu said...

hmmm…first one that come to mind is Blues Image, “Ride Captain Ride”. A killer groove driven by some syncopated kick drum beats, a great chorus, and a tasty outro solo - one-hit wonder, yeah, but great.

A couple of others:
Boston - that first album got massively overplayed and a lot of it is mediocre at best, but the trifecta of “More than a Feeling”, “Hitch a Ride”, and “Long Time” are just magnificently composed and constructed melodic rock. The drums were well-played by Sib Hashian; Brad Delp didn’t have a particularly memorable voice but he stretched it to its limits and came up with very good performances on these three tracks; and Tom Scholz wrote, engineered , produced, and played everything else to a fare-thee-well.

Eagles, “Hotel California” - yeah, Henley and Frey are/were mostly humorless pricks, and the way they treated Don Felder was shameful, but this is another song that got massively overplayed but when you put that aside, it’s another beautifully composed and perfectly performed melodic rock song. Great production by Bill Szymczyk, and the dueling guitars on the outro are killer (and fun as hell to play!).

ZZ Top - yeah, the lyrics are often sophomoric, but the Reverend Billy G is never less than a force on guitar, the late Dusty Hill was way underrated on bass, Frank Beard was always competent bashing the pagan skins, and they often worked up a killer groove.

The Steve Winwood synth albums are looked down on by many as dated, but they’re really good, and the Arc of a Diver disc qualifies as great in my book. Will Jennings was one of Winwood’s best writing partners since Jim Capaldi (and Viv Stanshall co-wrote the title cut), melody for days, the pitch bend synth work is beautiful, and the closing track - “Night Train” - is kinetic and compelling and has a great guitar solo.

And I’m with MJConroy about Frankie Valli - sounds like his cojones are in a vise ;-)

Haik Mendelovich said...

In my high-school circle, the Beach Boys were considered utterly uncool. Saw a Brian-less, Dennis-less version play at MSG in '73 or '74, in order to placate a girlfriend. What a great show! I became an immediate, albeit secret fan, after initially swallowing a lotta snark after talking up the show at school the next week.

(And, at the same show, was shocked to see a pre-Megafame Linda Ronstadt get booed off the stage as the stoner-seeming Beach Boys fans! Cans and bottles were thrown. It was all very, very... punk?)

danny1959 said...

Add me to the "Brandy" contingent, but I actually like "Jimmy Loves Mary Amm" by The Looking Glass better.

getawaygoober said...

Have to agree on PH and GW. That's where I got my daily dose of Robin Trower & Randy Bachman.
Maybe too much saccharin has turned PowerPop into PowerPoop, said...

Couple things- as usual I am late to the game.
Procul Harem - let's not forget " Salty Dog", a great album.
Which brings me to your last song/album - the Beatles vs. The Four Seasons.My story I was living in Camden Maine at the time (70s) - I was yard saleing one weekend with my girlfriend and another - both Antique/ Vintage collectors. We stopped at a spot and I went rummaging through a box of albums and spotted that album. I laughed at the title and put it back. The next day I was at our local bookstore- found a book - rare and collectable albums. Thumbing through it was a mention of that album - value 300$ - Tried to revisit where I found it but we were so high that day I have no idea where we were:-(

GLLinMO said...

The Beach Boys Knebworth concert was very solid. Especially I Get Around.