Friday, June 28, 2024

La Fin De La Semaine Essay Question: Special "The Beast With Two Backs" Edition

Okay, before we get started, here -- courtesy of my younger brother -- is this week's PowerPop Video Pick©.

Music lovers and professional musicians at Power Pop are sure to enjoy a new movie, The Sales Girl, that's a terrific contemporary combination of comedy and drama.

And that's because of the way that rock 'n roll compliments the movie's unusual plot.

The main storyline of the 123-minute flick focuses on the relationship between first year college student Saruul and 40-ish Katya, the owner of a sex shop in an unnamed city in Mongolia (most likely Ulaanbaatar, the capitol).

Saruul was offered the sales job by a classmate whose street injury -- shown in a very funny opening scene -- has incapacitated her for the time being.

Both characters, Saruul and Katya, will stay in your memory, long after the movie ends.

Rock songs accompany -- by my count -- 10 scenes in the movie. Most of the scenes are shot on location, so, in effect, The Sales Girl also promotes the city as a great travel destination.

Short version: Check out The Sales Girl, available from Film Movement, with English sub-titles on DVD or streaming, over at Amazon HERE.

-- Drew Simels

Thanks, Drew -- looks like a hoot!!!

But which, thematically, leads us to this weekend's business. To wit.

...and your favorite (or least favorite) post-Elvis pop/rock/folk/soul/blues/country/hip-hop song referencing -- blatantly or obliquely -- what my mom used to refer to as "X-E-S spelled backwards" in its title or lyrics is...?


And in case you're wondering, here's my candidate.

Swear to god, there are some days I think that may be the last great rock-and-roll record ever made.

Okay -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend everybody!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Hey -- Any Video Shot Where They Did the Last Scenes From Them! is Okay By Me!!!

What can I tell you -- so far, the summer here in Forest Hills, a/k/a the Paris of the East Coast, has totally sucked.

Which may be why I'm so taken with "Outside Place," the brand new promo film masterpiece by veteran West Coast power pop/punk band LA DRUGZ -- by comparison, Los Angeles looks like a little bit of heaven.

I must confess I was unfamiliar with these guys until a day or two ago, but I am informed that the song itself, which as you can hear totally rocks, is ten years old. Hey, I slept through the 'teens.

In any event, as you can also plainly see, the new vid is a sly homage to the greatest film of all time, the Mike Nesmith(!)-produced cult classic Repo Man.

And as I hinted up top, I'm a total sucker for all cinematic evocations of the L.A. River -- giant ants or no.

In the meantime, you can find out more about those guys (who come off above as both natural born comedians and a kick-ass band) and order the cool original (2013) EP from whence the song derives over at the website of Hovercraft Records HERE.

And I should add that a fab gear Weekend Essay Question will be up tomorrow, and it's a little smutty.

So stay cool, everybody!!!

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Slacker Wednesday

Hey -- yesterday's Un-Rock post tuckered me out. Sorry.

New music tomorrow, and a very cool Weekend Essay Question (hint: it's X-rated!) on Friday!

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

A Desperate Cry for Help

[Okay, you younger folks (if you're out there) -- I really need you to give me the proverbial hand. Read on and you'll understand why. -- S.S.]

So. As is not exactly a secret, when I'm not hanging out here, I'm often lurking/posting over at a certain left-wing political blog whose name I won't mention, but whose initials are Eschaton.

I've been a regular there going back to the 'aughts, and in fact, it's where I first encountered the original proprietor of this here blog, NYMary. I've also made several other long-lasting off-line/real world friendships at said location and, if truth be told, it's actually where I met and fell in love with a certain Shady Dame who's been mentioned here from time to time.

In any event, as you can gather, it's been a big part of my life for quite a while, and I owe its head honcho -- nom du blog Atrios -- more than I can put into words.

That said, the aforementioned Atrios is also semi-legendary for his utterly appalling taste in music. It's been a running gag over there for as long as I can remember, starting with the old days when he would put up videos by what I used to refer to as "whey-faced Brit prog-rockers".

Hey -- if you like those kinda bands, god bless, but I had fun taking cheap shots at him and them.

But of late -- starting this year, if memory serves -- he's been foisting clips on us by even whiter bands, and it's beginning to get really creepy.

I mean, all of them sound exactly alike, and when they don't just bore me to scowling fidgets, they actually make me physically ill. To wit.

I'm not kidding -- the above makes me slightly nauseous, which is a reaction I've never had to any music of any kind at any time in my life.

And those guys aren't even the worst. Gimme a minute and I'll find you a more egregious example.

Ah -- here we are.

And here's another one (BTW, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© will be awarded to any reader/listener who is still hanging in there after enduring those last two clips).

As you can hear, this shit is about as formulaic and twee as can be. Everything has insanely lame drumming (usually beginning with somebody playing with brushes), annoyingly simple arpeggiated guitar licks (sometimes executed on mandolin or uke), cutesy/affectless little girl vocals (sometimes, but not always, nasally harmonized) and pretentious/gobbledeegook lyrics that inevitably recall some sensitive teenager who has underlined verses in a thin volume of poetry and written "how true!" in the margins.

Also, one of the singers usually plays one-finger keyboards with sampled violin sounds or something similar half way through the song. Oh, and there are occasional very serious string, sax and flute players lurking about, and nobody in any of the bands seems to have the slightest interest in acknowledging the audience.

Have I mentioned that on top of everything else, the music is utterly and frighteningly sexless?

In any event, the end product just makes me, in the immortal words of Dorothy Parker about Winnie the Pooh, want to fwow up.

And I mean that literally. Which, as I said, is something that has never previously happened to me when listening to music.

Okay -- to finally get to the point: can somebody out there please -- PUHLEEZE -- tell me what this shit is called?

By which I mean -- what genre? What syle? There's gotta be a name for it, given how many bands are playing it.

In other words: Exactly how the fuck do the youngs -- who I assume are the audience (Atrios notwithstanding) for whatever it is -- describe it to the rest of us suffering mortals?

I await your replies with breathless anticipation.

Thank you.

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 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...


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?"


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.


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?


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.


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.


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!


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... 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.