Monday, December 31, 2012

It's New Year's Eve Day: Hey, 2012 -- You're Outta Here!!!

Submitted for your approval -- an utterly adorable video (I was under the impression it was done by a fan, but now it seems it's the official one) for "Nobody Knows Me at All" by The Weepies. Yes, the same band whose "All That I Want" prompted me to put up a perhaps overly sappy Christmas post on several occasions here over the years.

In any case, I think I posted the clip above most recently on New Year's Eve day of 2008, so think of it as a return to an ongoing PowerPop tradition.

And say what you will about these guys (including that singer Deb Talan has the cutest, most affecting suburban voice in contemporary pop) I think it's safe to say that they write the best bridges since Lennon and McCartney. Seriously -- that little bit beginning with "But oh...when the lights are low" opens the song up like Cinemascope.

Have a great time later, everybody.

And remember -- if you're out on your bike tonight, wear white.

Evening, all.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll: The Unsungiest One of Them All?

I refer, of course, to the legendary -- and still inexplicably not a household word -- Bert Berns (1929--1967).

Who died, tragically young, 45 years ago next Sunday

I thought I had written about Berns early in my tenure here, but as it turns out I was probably thinking about something I did for The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, probably involving the great 2002 compilation of the guy's best work The Heart and Soul of Bert Berns (still in print, and you can get it at Amazon here).

In any event, why this guy isn't in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame is fricking beyond me, as you can glean from this brief and (amazingly enough) incomplete list of the records he either produced or wrote or both.
"A Little Bit of Soap" The Jarmels (1961)
"Twist and Shout" The Isley Brothers (1962) / The Beatles (1963)
"Cry to Me" Solomon Burke (1962)
"Tell Him" The Exciters (1962)
"Cry Baby" Garnet Mimms (1963) / Janis Joplin (1971)
"Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" Solomon Burke (1964) / Wilson Pickett (1967)
"I Want Candy" The Strangeloves (1965) / Bow Wow Wow (1982)
"Hang on Sloopy" The McCoys (1965)
"Down in the Valley" Solomon Burke (1964) Otis Redding (1965)
"Are You Lonely For Me Baby" Freddie Scott (1967)
"Piece of My Heart" Erma Franklin (1967) / Big Brother and the Holding Company (1968)
"Twenty Five Miles" Edwin Starr (1968)
"Cry to Me" Solomon Burke (1962)
"Nobody but Me" The Isley Brothers (1963)
"Under The Boardwalk" The Drifters (1964)
"Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" Solomon Burke (1964)
"Baby Please Don't Go" Them (1965)
"Baby I'm Yours" Barbara Lewis (1965)
"Make Me Your Baby" Barbara Lewis (1965)
"Piece of My Heart" Erma Franklin (1967)Big Brother and the Holding Company (1968)
"Brown Eyed Girl" Van Morrison (1967)
I mean, sweet Jeebus -- but talk about a work ethic.

In any case, if he had done nothing more than write and produce this one --

-- he would deserve to be immortal.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Beat of a Different Drummer

So the other week, while we were discussing the recent grave injustice done to Procol Harum by the folks at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, some of our commenters were particularly irked by the fact that Public Enemy was going to be inducted this year.

Because their music is, you know, uh, rap. Not rock. And thus, you know, uh, shouldn't be in the Hall.

Now I'm not particularly a fan of Public Enemy -- actually, I thought Chuck D. was a self-righteous bag of gas back in the day, although I rather enjoyed him subsequently on the late lamented Air America.

But just to put things in perspective, here are three famous rap records, including a classic by P.E.

I dunno, kids, but all three of these -- both musically and in terms of attitude -- sound kinda like rock to me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Frank Christian 1952-2012

Sad news came on Christmas eve. Frank Christian -- guitarist, singer/songwriter, and all around good fellow, who was also one of the first genuine hepsters I ever met -- has passed unexpectedly.

Frank was mostly a blues/jazz/folk kind of guy, but he was a super versatile musician who played with everybody from The Smithereens ("In a Lonely Place" from Especially For You) to Nanci Griffith (he toured as her lead guitarist for ages).

He also wrote "Where Were You Last Night," which I will go to my own grave insisting is the best song about jealousy ever. Hear him perform it below and be changed.

Damn, but this death shit is really beginning to get on my nerves.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have Yourself A Merry (Lo-Fi) Christmas

Courtesy of some of our talented readers, please enjoy ace power popsters The Judes and their brand new (mono) holiday classic "Happy Happy Christmas Everybody."

After you've stuffed yourself with a holiday meal today, make sure you head over here to learn more about these guys; they're Canadian, but don't hold that against them.

Merry Grimble, everybody!!!


Monday, December 24, 2012

And In Conclusion Blogger -- Bite Me!

A piece I wrote and backed up several times for today was just eaten. A rather brilliant one, too.

To say I am irked would be an understatement along the lines of calling the Grand Canyon the World's Greatest Rut. In any case, I'll reconstruct it at some point down the line, but I'm too busy today and too pissed off.

Here's hoping my Christmas post, scheduled for tomorrow, doesn't suffer the same fate.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Video Guide: Part I -- The Episode Without a Sub-Title

Well, it's getting near Christmas, and you know what that means: Yes, it's time for me to comment on some of the interesting or alarming video product that has crossed my desk recently (and thus continue to justify the largesse the purveyors of said video product still unaccountably shower on me.)

This first batch is all pop culture stuff; Monday's installment will be tonier and perhaps more to the tastes of cineastes. Hey -- you know who you are.

Obviously, if you're so moved, they can all be ordered over at Amazon.

1. Charlie is My Darling (Abkco)

A gloriously restored version of Peter Whitehead's long out of print and rarely seen 1965 documentary on the Rolling Stones on tour in Ireland, which now takes its rightful place as the second best pop documentary of that miraculous year (the first, of course, is Don't Look Back.) The pricier deluxe set version of this includes a CD of astonishing live Stones tracks from their English tour around the same time; if you're really nice to me, I'll direct you to a download link where you can get it gratis.

2. The Kent Chronicles (Acorn)

Surprisingly entertaining collection (in a better transfer than you might expect, given the material's vintage and provenance) of the three made for TV movies based on the wonderfully pulpy Revolutionary War era novels by John Jakes, with a great cast of (mostly) 70s small screen stars including Ritchie Cunningham's dad. Five words: William. Shatner. As. Paul. Revere. Act now.

3. The Incredible Mel Brooks (Shout! Factory)

The Motherlode. Seriously. A six DVD box set collecting just about everything of any note Brooks ever did on television, including the How to Be a Jewish Son episode of the David Susskind show, his recent HBO special with Dick Cavett, his MTV music video for "The Hitler Rap," vintage appearances with Johnny Carson, pertinent episodes of Get Smart and (yay!) When Things Were Rotten, and of course the original 2000 Year Old Man cartoon. I should also add that Mel's impression of George Arliss -- which can be beheld in the bonus material with the HBO show -- made me laugh so hard I actually damaged a rib. If you buy nothing else this year -- food, clothing, whatever -- make sure you buy this.

4. The Ernie Kovacs Collection, Volume 2 (Shout! Factory)

A three disc follow-up to Shout! Factory's glorious 2011 Kovacs box set. Most of this stuff -- which derives from a mix of kinescopes and videotape, all of which looks surprisingly good -- hasn't been seen for more than 50 years, and almost all of it is drop dead funny. If you've never seen Kovacs, let's just say that he's one of the only genuine geniuses to have ever emerged from network TV, and that he's been ripped off by everybody who ever had a comedy show on the tube more times than you've had hot meals. Essential stuff.

5. Rock of Ages (New Line)

Tom Cruise in a (mostly) all-singing version of The Mötley Crüe Story. The only appropriate word for this one would seem to be mishegass, but to give the thing its due, it does have a certain jaw-dropping audacity, in the sense that you can't quite believe what you're seeing. The combo-pack above offers both the DVD and a Blu-ray version; "bonuses" include the likes of Pat Benatar reliving her 80s glory days. If any of your relatives are Homer Simpson-esque, this might be just the thing for their Christmas stocking.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Be Seeing You!

Okay, if there was ever any doubt that Patrick McGoohan -- star of Secret Agent and The Prisoner and my longtime hero -- was the coolest person who ever drew breath, then here's proof.

From 1962, gaze in breathless wonder as he pounds those pagan skins in All Night Long. Director Basil Dearden's jazz version of Othello.

I should add that said film is available in a budget set with three other equally astounding Dearden flicks -- Sapphire, The League of Gentlemen, and Victim -- from Criterion. It makes a great Xnas gift for any cineaste on your list and you can order it over at Amazon here.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Shorthand of Beauty

Via one of the Brit music rags, I just learned that George Gallacher -- lead singer of Scotland's finest beat group of the 60s, The Poets -- died this past August.

If memory serves, I first encountered these guys on NUGGETS II (the 2001 Rhino box set that documented all sorts of great garage rock and psych from parts of the world not located in the United States).

Here's the closest thing they had to a hit -- the quite remarkable (as in, boy, does that bass line and the overall sound of the record anticipate the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm a Man") "That's the Way It's Got to Be."

Amazingly enough, they were actually on American television in 1965, via Shindig. I totally don't remember this clip, BTW, and I used to watch that show religiously.

That's not as good as song as "That the Way...", of course, but still -- a great sound and charisma to burn, which is probably why Rolling Stones svengali Andrew Loog Oldham produced them.

R.I.P, George.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Separated at Birth....

From 1965, please compare and contrast...

Jerry Lewis' less than stellarly talented son Gary Lewis (of Gary Lewis and the Playboys fame)...

...and your humble scribe, before the onset of his secondary sex characteristics.

Seriously, I can't tell you how irked I've been, for decades, that Gary was the only rock star I ever looked like.

Passion is No Ordinary Word

Attention world -- I will no longer brook any criticism of filmmaker Judd Apatow.

Why? He just facilitated the reunion and comeback of Graham Parker and the Rumour. One of the most exciting groups that ever wore shoe leather.

I haven't seen Apatow's new movie yet, but trust me -- the the new Rumour album is transplendent.

Also -- if you don't already own it, get thee over to Amazon immediately and download their masterpiece Squeezing Out Sparks, which should be on anybody's short list of the best rock records ever made.

And a big shout out to drummer Steve Goulding (who you might know from his work with the Mekons over the years). I toiled with Steve for about a year at a certain music website whose name I will not mention at this point, given that they employ lawyers.

But he's a great guy and a great musician, and I couldn't be happier that he's now in a Hollywood movie.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Okay, Okay -- Two Cheers for Billy Joel

And as a coda to last week's discussion of the merits of that guy who used to look like Roy Cohn...

...and now looks like John McGiver...

...may I simply say, and for the record, as it were, that he wrote these two songs.

Both of which are flat out great, and no excuses necessary.

Thank you.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Okay, Let's Not Let This Billy Joel Mania Get Out of Hand

So -- like many of you, I watched the benefit concert for the Hurricane Sandy victims on Wednesday and mostly enjoyed it.

To my surprise, however, on Thursday morning I was moved to post the following on that Facebook thing the kids seem to like.

And may I simply say, and for the record, that although I have never been a Billy Joel fan particularly, and I don't think I ever even owned one of his albums -- he clearly stole the show at the Garden last night, despite the fact that he has turned into John McGiver in his old age.

And I think we have to face the fact that he has a seriously impressive body of work. If he's the Irving Berlin of his generation so be it -- and Irving was nowhere near as good a piano player. Or singer.

I will stand by that assessment, with the obvious caveat that the evening's other high point was clearly Kanye West, who looked just so darn good in a dress.

That said, however, I came across the following video of the young William Joel in 1967, performing a song from his first album with his first band The Hassles. And almost threw up something in my mouth.

Seriously -- I went to college on Long Island, and every goddamn band that ever got booked for a dance at my old school back then was just like this. Rascals/Vanilla Fudge clones with the requisite Hammond B-3 and the lead singer who could hit notes only dogs could hear. I hated every fucking one of them, and the Hassles -- who I saw in the South Cafeteria of the aforementioned old school -- were amongst the worst offenders.

On the other hand, we were all very young and there were probably drugs involved, so maybe I should cut them all some slack.

Have I mentioned that Kanye West looked good in a dress?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Like Most Rock Stars, He Secretly Wants to Be a Comedian

In case you missed it -- some guy named Mick Jagger does the Top 10 list on the Letterman show the other night. How he got the gig is beyond me.

"A good way to keep yourself entertained is signing every tenth autograph Doris Goldblatt."


And heh, actually.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 11th 2012 -- A Date That Will Live in Infamy

Well, I can't say I'm surprised, but I'm still pissed off.

Procol Harum didn't make the cut.

From Rolling

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has officially announced next year's inductees: Rush, Public Enemy, Heart, Randy Newman, Donna Summer and Albert King will all join the class of 2013, with Summer, who passed away this May, and King, who died in 1992, earning the honor posthumously. Lou Adler and Quincy Jones will both receive the Ahmet Ertegun Award for non-performers.

I will console myself, as I often do, by listening to perhaps my favorite track from their masterpiece A Salty Dog -- Matthew Fisher's beyond gorgeous "Pilgrim's Progress."

Incidentally, the short concluding section of this one -- which starts at 3:11 seconds in -- has roughly the same relevance to the body of the song as the non-vocal ending section of "Layla" has to the rest of that record.

And, IMHO, it's the single best instrumental in rock history.

I am not kidding about this.

I should add that until today I had no idea this had ever been released as a single anywhere.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And In Conclusion, Bill O'Reilly -- Bite Me!!!

From an undisclosed location at the North Pole, please enjoy power pop stalwarts The Mockers and their definitive rejoinder to Fox News, "(There's No War On Christmas) When Christmas Is In Your Heart."

Strictly on a musical level, I love everything about this record, which combines elements from all the best rock Xmas tunes, from the Beach Boys and Phil Spector to (dare I say it, because I actually really love it) Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas."

The fact that's it a heartfelt and gloriously melodic song that makes mincemeat of the whole War on Christmas bogosity on the Right is, of course, merely the icing on the holiday cake.

In any case, you can order the song itself, and the album it's from, over at Bandcamp. The single is also available at iTunes -- I can't seem to get the link to work, but you know what to do.

Oh -- and Happy Holidays, everybody!!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Shoes: Ignition

A while back, steve asked me why I had not written anything on Shoes' excellent 2012 album Ignition. My response was complicated: after the last three-plus years, I feel.... implicated in the disc in a way I'm not accustomed to feeling.

But it's a helluva ride.....

There is no question that Ignition is a triumphal record, an assertion of life from these too-long-quiet guys, from the elegaic "Out of Round" to the soaring "Heaven Help Me" to the raucous "Hot Mess."  It was nearly a year ago that I heard these songs in Gary Klebe's basement studio, and the wave of glowing press that followed its release this summer was a joy to behold.

My reticence was also probably based on my own guilt: though my part of Boys Don't Lie: A History of Shoes is complete, I'm waiting on a cover and an index. And so no, it's not out, and I feel badly about the delay. But we inch closer day by day.

In the meantime, pick up a copy of Ignition: trust me. It's totally worth it.

And Something is Happening Here But You Don't Know What It Is -- Do You, Mr. Simels?

So I was perusing one of the Brit music rags the other day, and I learned that At the Drive-In -- a Texas post-hardcore punk band totally unknown to me, but apparently highly regarded by those younger and hepper than I -- had just engaged in a fairly lucrative reunion tour.

So, time hanging not too heavily on my hands, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. And in the process, I discovered this absolutely astonishing performance -- from 2000 -- that had occurred on Jools Holland's always invaluable TV program.

As you'll hear, the intro by Brit disc jockey Zane Lowe is hyperbolic even by my standards -- these guys were better and more exciting than the MC5 or God or the entire history of rock-and-roll blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda...

...and so when the band kicked into their fan-favorite "One Armed Scissor," I was, shall we say, skeptical.

And yet by about half way in, I was a complete convert.

Hell, I felt like I'd been smacked upside the head with a 2 X 4. Sweet jeebus, these guys were amazing.

In fact, if anything, Lowe's description of this performance sort of sells it short in terms of the energy level and its mix of the shambolic and total focus. And lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala -- who currently fronts The Mars Volta, who I don't particularly care for -- just might have been, at least at this point, the Latino punk Jagger of my dreams.

So now, one question remains.


Saturday, December 08, 2012

History: It's What's for Breakfast!

Well, hello strangers. Nice to see you all. Happy Hannukah to the Chosen People!

Came across a fascinating article in the Guardian this morning: a history of how one of our Christmas staples came to be: The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York." (That is, **I** came across it this morning; it was posted two days ago. h/t V4V for the link.)
Once upon a time, a band set out to make a Christmas song. Not about snow or sleigh rides or mistletoe or miracles, but lost youth and ruined dreams. A song in which Christmas is as much the problem as it is the solution. A kind of anti-Christmas song that ended up being, for a generation, the Christmas song.
That song, Fairytale of New York by the Pogues, has just been reissued to mark its 25th anniversary; it has entered the Top 20 every December since 2005, and shows no sign of losing its appeal.
It's a terrific article, turning on a bet between Elvis Costello and Shane McGowan, and includes an embryonic version of the song. 

 It's a great story: the images alone are brilliant.

The first demo was recorded by Costello at the same time as the cinematic romance of A Rainy Day in Soho, MacGowan's first song to draw on his love of Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. When he brought that song into the studio in early 1986, Fearnley remembers: "He meant business, much more so than before. It was awe-inspiring to see him in the rehearsal room with his suit on and an attitude." 

The original demo was recording with Costello's wife, Cait O'Riordan, but by the time the band settled into record the final version, 18 months later, O'Riordan had left the band and Costello was no longer their producer. By now, they were working with Steve Lillywhite, who was married to the daughter of a folksinger and was herself a composer--she wrote "They Don't Know," which Tracey Ullmann made a hit--and singer: Kirsty MacColl.  She struggled with stage fright, so Lillywhite recorded her vocals at home, and the song's two widely divergent melodies completely separately. (I had missed the suspicious nature of her tragic death: awful.)

I won't rob of you of the pleasure of the history. It is Kick. Ass.

As is, and remains, the song in question.

It's Dutch Invasion Week: The Saturday Encore!!!

From their 1971 3rd Album, please enjoy my I'm-sorry-I'm-still-flogging-them- Hollandaise-favorite-rockers Shocking Blue and their meltingly beautiful masterpiece "Serenade."

These guys had broken up by the time (1974) this European album cut got released as a Stateside single by Buddah -- I actually owned a promo copy, a treasured possession for many years --

-- and it remains one of my all time obscure faves. The lyrics are gorgeous, despite the fact (or perhaps because) English is composer Robbie van Leeuwen's second language, and the interplay between the dry, scratchy electric guitar strums and the acoustic finger-picking is just great.

And then, of course, there's that lead vocal by actual Gypsy front woman Mariska is, as I am wont to say, to swoon.

Bottom line: I think this is as perfect a pop record as has ever been heard by sentient mammalian ears.

Coming next week: It's Serbo-Croatian Invasion Week!!! (I kid, I kid).

Friday, December 07, 2012

It's Dutch Invasion Week: Finale -- The Edam Stands Alone!!!

From 1972, and their fabulous "Live in Japan" album, please enjoy much-beloved of me Dutch rockers The Shocking Blue and their apparent PowerPop crowd pleaser "Hot Sand."

I first learned of the existence of this LP from a brief mention in one of the American record trade mags circa 1973, long after the group had broken up and even longer after it became apparent that nothing they had recorded (besides the album featuring "Venus") was ever going to be released in the States.

I tried to track it down for years, literally -- haunting record stores on the occasion of a mid-70s vacation in Spain, trying to deal with Dutch record dealers via highly expensive trans-continental phone calls in the 90s, etc. All to no avail.

So you can imagine my reaction when I chanced across a download link to it two years ago; in the words of Shakespeare, I plotzed.

You can also imagine my delight when it turned out the album was also really, really good.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

It's Dutch Invasion Week: Part Three!!!

From 1973 (and The Midnight Special) please enjoy -- if that's the word -- Netherlands prog-rockers Focus making the world safe for demented yodeling with their international smash hit "Hocus Pocus."

Prog with a sense of humor or just a complete piece of pretentious crap -- YOU make the call.

Personally, I always thought that Tales from Topographic Oceans was pretty funny, but then again -- as Chuck Barris famously said, what do I know, I like cold toilet seats.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

It's Dutch Invasion Week: Part Two!!!

In all seriousness, our younger readers may not believe this, but there really WAS a Dutch invasion of the American pop charts in the late 60s.

No kidding -- an indie record label called Colossus, run by a guy named Jerry Ross, who seems to have been one of the more colorful music biz hustlers of the period -- signed up a bunch of Dutch artists and actually scored a bunch of hits.

The most famous being -- still -- "Venus" by Shocking Blue. Deservedly.

This one, however, has irked me for decades now.

"Ma Belle Amie" by the too-cutely monikered The Tee-Set.

Let me stipulate up front that this is a very nicely produced record, and that the singer is not a bad simulacrum of certain Brit blues pop-rockers of the period.

Let me also stipulate up front that the song makes me want to shove pointed burnt sticks up my nose. Or the singer's nose, I'm not sure which.

Fun fact: The hippie chicks at my old school used to sing along to it as "Ralph Bellamy."

Monday, December 03, 2012

Today's Essay Question: Please Hammer (of the Gods), Don't Hurt 'Em

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but even though I like a lot of songs by last night's Kennedy Center honorees Led Zeppelin ...

...and despite the fact that I think Jimmy Page is something of a genius producer and arranger, I've never actually been what you might call a fan. In fact, I think it would be more accurate to call me a Zep agnostic.

I've also never actually been able to put my finger on what bothered me about them, until I read this quote from Trampled Under Foot, Brit author Barney's Hoskyn's new bio of the old lemon squeezers (in a recent issue of UNCUT).

Which seemed to me to get it, in the words of Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein, on the nosey.

"Zeppelin songs," Hoskyns writes, "became battle cries for a lost generation of disowned teenagers swearching for dark magic in their suburban shopping mall lives."


Friday, November 30, 2012

Not a Dry Seat in the House

"Let me hear you say 'yeah!' darlin'!!!!"

From disc four of the just released deluxe special edition of The Rolling Stones' legendary concert film Charlie is My Darling, please enjoy the aforementioned Stones somewhere in England in early 1965...

...and the best fricking version ever heard by sentient mammalian ears of Bobby Troup's ode to cross country travel (and one of the greatest songs of all time) "Route 66."

Some of the tracks on this new set have either been released before or fairly widely bootlegged, but this is (as far as I can tell) the first time they've been made available from the original master tapes.

And as you can hear, the recording quality is quite surprisingly good. It's real stereo, too, albeit with a less than 180 degree soundstage. (I suspect genius engineer/producer Glyn Johns deserves some credit for this).

More to the point, this "Route 66" -- strictly as a performance -- is pretty much ground zero for the Big Beat.

I'll go out on a limb even further: When people talk about the Stones as the greatest rock-and-roll band in the world, this single recorded artifact is prima facie evidence.

Nobody -- before or since -- has ever rocked this hard or as wonderfully.

I should also add that as great as Mick's vocal is, and as devastating as the Richards/Jones guitar duo is, and of course Charlie's good tonight...

...the secret weapon of the band is Bill Wyman on bass.

Listen to what he's doing, for jeebus sake -- nobody else and I mean NOBODY ELSE has ever managed to rumble apocalyptically and swing at the same time like the old guy does here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Your Thursday Moment of Shocking Blue

Woke up this morning and for some reason my first thought was -- hey, you haven't posted anything about Shocking Blue in years.

So -- from 1970, please enjoy my bizarre obsession/greatest Dutch rock band of all time (yeah, yeah, I know about The Outsiders) the aforementioned Shocking Blue and their utterly magnificent "Never Marry a Railroad Man."

Featuring haunting vocals by the unfortunately late Mariska Veres and the song's composer Robbie Van Leeuwen doing a pretty funny impression of a guy playing an acoustic guitar on a Telecaster.

This is their best song, in my book, and they had a lot of hot ones, not just the ubiquitous "Venus." Of course, "Venus," which has been running continually as the soundtrack to some TV commercial somewhere since, oh, the late 80s, has ensured that the aforementioned Robbie Van Leeuwen never had to work a day in his life since then, so I won't dispute you if you prefer it. I should also mention that the equally late Kurt Cobain probably favored" Love Buzz," if Nirvana's cover of same is any indication.

In any event, there are quite a lot of Shocking Blue best-of CDs out there, and if you don't own one your life is the poorer for it, trust me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Annals of Assholishness (An Occasional Series)

So the other day I was, as is often my wont, immersed in the great comforting warm bath that is the New York Times Arts & Leisure section, when the following interesting and alarming item caught my eye.

Chevy Chase Leaves Cast of ‘Community’

Chevy Chase is leaving the NBC sitcom Community under a mutual agreement with the producers and will not appear in the final episodes of the season, Sony Pictures Television said on Wednesday.

Mr. Chase had expressed his unhappiness with the low-rated show’s storylines and had clashed with Dan Harmon, the creator and former executive producer of the series. The show returns for a fourth season on Feb. 7 and is still in production...Mr. Chase played Pierce Hawthorne, a bored, wealthy, older man who goes back to school.

And immediately I thought -- ah yes, Chevy Chase. Boy, that brings back memories.

And now a seemingly tangential digression whose rationale will become obvious in a paragraph.

Attentive readers with long memories may recall that back in March of 2009, when both this blog and the world were young, I wrote about a 1989 article I had done for Rolling Stone, one which ultimately did not run (for reasons I won't get into, except that Jann Wenner is an asshole) but for which I was nonetheless lucratively paid. The premise of the piece was that most celebrities, in all fields of endeavor, now tended to have rock bands in their pre-celebrity pasts. In pursuit of this thesis, I interviewed a bunch of interesting people, including pre-rehab Insider host Pat O'Brien, Marvel Comics auteur Roy Thomas, vice-presidential spousal scold Tipper Gore and the late Republican strategist/devil incarnate Lee Atwater.

One of the other celebs I interviewed for the piece was (you guessed this, of course) Chase. I did this because I was a fan, obviously, but also because he'd been a member of a band called The Chameleon Church, who made one LP as part of the ill-fated "Bosstown Sound" hype that MGM Records attempted to foist on an unwilling world in 1968.

I had heard the album, which while not terribly memorable was at the least pleasant by the standards of its day, and I also knew that Chase was a really good Jimmy Smith-inspired Hammond B-3 guy. More important, as the only writer on the planet who had said nice things about his 1980 solo album (this in the pages of the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review), I thought we might have an interesting conversation about his musical career.

The shorter version of what happened is that we didn't. When I talked to him, by phone from the set of whatever bad movie he was making at the time, he was a thoroughgoing shit who could barely conceal his annoyance at having been tasked for the interview by whoever his long-suffering publicist was. It was a profoundly unpleasant experience, and the thing that particularly appalled me was what he said when I asked if he'd ever been in touch with his former bandmates. "No," he replied. "They wore faggy little suits, they wrote faggy little songs, and they were all junkies and they're probably dead."

Chevy Chase: A real asshole, in other words.

In any case, when I read that squib in the Times last week, it brought back, as I mentioned, a lot of memories. But it also moved me to revisit that 1980 solo album -- of which I alone, amongst those who walk upright, had said nice things in public -- after lo these many years.

Having now listened to it again, I must confess to you guys that I couldn't bring myself to actually download mp3s to share with you.

You can, however, stream the complete album, track by track, over here.

I suggest you start with the just barely amusing Chipmunks version of "Let It Be," due to the fact that the other cuts range from mildly unfunny to staggeringly unfunny to really fucking offensive and what the hell was anybody connected with this thinking?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hell is Windows 7

Still having computer problems, but they will definitely be resolved -- one way or another -- by days end.

Regular, and extremely amusing -- trust me! -- posting will resume on the morrow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Things That Blow Up Real Good (An Occasional Series)

Saw the new James Bond movie over the weekend.

Okay, that's actually a parody from a 70s National Lampoon; in reality, I saw THIS one over the weekend.

Which is somewhat less, er, phallo-centric. Heh.

Anyway, the short version of my Skyfall review is that it's not just by far the best of the Daniel Craig Bonds, it's pretty much the best Bond flick since Sean Connery hung up his hairpiece. Tons of fun, from jump, as they say.

Of course, I did think that Adele's title song was pretty much of a snoozer, although admittedly it was less ZZZZzzzzz-inducing than the 2008 Alica Keys/Jack White "Another Way to Die," a composition whose title described itself far too accurately. In any event, it remains a major cultural tragedy that Amy Winehouse didn't live to warble a Bond theme, given that she'd been genetically bred for just that task.

I will also stipulate that Skyfall gets mad props from me if only because of the coolest use of The Animals' "Boom Boom" in all of history. Let's just say that Javier Bardem's villain character has very interesting taste in music, somewhat along the lines of Robert Duvall blasting "Ride of the Valkyries" from his helicopter gunship in Apocalypse Now.

Found at

Fun fact: Bardem's actually blasting the album version of the song, with the guitar solo excised from the more familiar hit 45. I was so stoked by this I actually got a little verklempt when his character got knifed in the back at the finale.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Portrait of the Critic as a Snot-Nosed Self-Important Little Shit

Still in computer/Windows 7 hell, but -- via a certain Shady Dame's Mac in one of the outer boroughs -- I simply had to share this with you guys.

So. Just before my entry into computer/Windows 7 hell, I got the following e-mail from a fine fellow named Steve Korte, who -- incidentally -- seems to have one of the coolest jobs in the world.

Dear Steve,

I enjoyed your reviews over the years in so many magazines. I’m the librarian at DC Comics and was doing some research on Justice League of America comics from the 1960s. Much to my surprise in JLA no. 63 (June 1968) was a letter from Steve Simels of Teaneck, New Jersey. I’m guessing that’s you.

If you would like a copy of the page from that comic, please let me know and I’ll be happy to send it to you.

All the best,

I remembered having written the letter, actually. As a matter of fact, back in the day, before I figured out that reviewing rock music was a great scam to get free albums, I was already aware that belittling the work of people far more talented than myself might be a viable career move. That missive to the editor at DC was one of my earliest and most embarrassing efforts along those lines.

In any event, thanks to Steve, you can now read the screed in question. Double click the graphic directly below that fabulous JLA cover and then prepare to have a good cheap laugh at my expense.

I can't tell you how sophomoric I find this blast from my past, but given that I actually was a sophomore at the time that I wrote it, I have decided to cut myself some slack after all these years.

That said, I would also like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to the late Gardner Fox. Sorry, Gardner -- I was just an asshole kid.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Machine Stops Part II: Electric Boogaloo

Still without a working computer at home; I am currently catching up on the Mac of a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance.

Hopeful my PC issues will be resolved by the weekend.

In the meantime, I have something ready for Friday, so enjoy your Turkey Day until then.

And, also again -- pray for me.

Plus: Mumford & Sons totally suck.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Machine Stops

My computer died suddenly and/or I'm in Windows 7 hell.

Back when or if this gets resolved short of suicide.

Pray for me.

Also: Mumford & Sons suck.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The. Greatest. Thing. Ever.

And speaking as we were last Tuesday -- on an episode of my chum Allan Rosenberg's Lost at Sea intertube radio show, which may be listened to at the vault link here (scroll down to the episode for 11.13.12, and trust me, I'm really hilarious) -- please enjoy brilliant beyond words satirical singer/songwriter Gregory Fleeman (doing business here with The Fleewomen) and the story of the epochal meeting of two guys with "Dead Twin Brothers."

The two guys, of course, would be all-time pop culture icons Elvis Presley and Liberace.

From the album The Right Tool for the Job, which can be obtained at Amazon over here.

I've written about Greg before, and I've loved this song since forever. But until last week I had no idea that this video for it existed, let alone that it was so...

Well. Let's just say, as is often my wont around here, that words fail me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mystery Cover Version of the Week: Special "If You Get This One, You're Good!" Edition

And speaking, as we were last week, of the recently nominated to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Procol Harum, please enjoy "Boredom," one of the lesser known -- but nonetheless beloved of moi -- tracks from their 1969 album masterpiece A Salty Dog.

And from later that same year, please enjoy a relatively faithful cover of said song, albeit one that sounds rather a little too much like something you might have heard over a fruity rum drink at Trader Vic's...

...and I positively guarantee that you'll never in a million years guess who's the singer or the band.

Seriously -- it blew my tiny mind, and I'm not a young woman.

In any case, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize etc. etc. etc....

[h/t Sal Nunziato]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No Concert Hall For Old Men

Well, I had tickets to see Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry -- i.e., 50 percent of The Who -- perform 100 percent of Quadrophenia last night, at the fabulous new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Unfortunately, a last minute crisis (don't ask) intervened and I had to take a pass on the evening. I have mixed feelings about this, if truth be told, but that's sort of appropriate since I've had mixed (although mostly positive) feelings about Quadrophenia since the day it came out in 1973. For what it's worth, however, I will say that I would have liked to see the show. I mean fifty percent of The Who is still better than a lot of other bands I could mention. Oh well, maybe next time.

I should also add that if you've never read the little sort-of short story that Pete penned for the original LP, than your life is the poorer for it.

Brighton is a fantastic place. The sea is so gorgeous you want to jump into it and sink. When I was there last time there were about two thousand mods driving up and down the promenade on scooters. My scooter's seen the last of Brighton bloody promenade now, I know that. I felt really anonymous then, sort of like I was in an army. But everyone was a mod. Wherever you looked there were mods. Some of them were so well dressed it was sickening. Levi's had only come into fashion about a month before and some people had jeans on that looked like they'd been born wearing them. There was this bloke there that seemed to be the ace face. He was dancing one night in the Aquarium ballroom and everyone was copying him. He kept doing different dances, but everyone would copy it and the whole place would be dancing a dance that he'd only just made up. That's power for you, he was really heavy too, though. When the mods collected in Brighton, the Rockers would turn up too. There were never as many of them, but this geezer once took two of them at once and beat them. That didn't usually happen I can tell you.

I was in a crowd of kids once chasing three Rockers down Brighton Pier. As it seemed they were going to get caught anyway they stopped and turned to meet their fate. All hundred of these kids I was with stopped dead. I was the first to stop, but the rest ran, so I had to follow. There's nothing uglier than a Rocker. This ace face geezer wouldn't have run. He smashed the glass doors of this hotel too. He was terrific. He had a sawn-off shotgun under his jacket and he'd be kicking at plate-glass and he still looked like he was Fred Astaire reborn. Quite funny, I met him earlier today. He ended up working at the same hotel. But he wasn't the manager.

I never ever felt like I blasphemed. You know, in an old fashioned sense. But I was in a pretty blasphemous mood when I left for Brighton. Brighton cheered me up. But then it let me down. Me folks had let me down, Rock had let me down, women had let me down, work wasn't worth the effort, school isn't even worth mentioning. But I never ever thought I'd feel let down by being a mod. I pinched this boat, first time I'd ever been on a boat at sea. I had another few leapers to keep from coming down and I felt a bit bravado. So I headed for this Rock out off the coast. It was sticking up very jagged, but very peaceful. I didn't know then what I was up to, but I know now.

Schizophrenia! What a laugh. It must be alright to be plain ordinary mad. About halfway over I took a swallow of this Gibneys gin I'd bought. Booze never did help me much though. On the boat it did me right in, specially on top of the pills and the come-down. Anyway, the sound of the engine turned into this drone, then the drone turned into a sound like pianos or something. Like heavenly choirs or orchestras tuning up. It was really an incredible sound. Like the sort of noise you'd expect to hear in heaven, if there is such a place. I pinched myself and I wasn't really drunk anymore. I was floating. I felt really happy. I must have looked bloody stupid as it happens. I was waving me Gibneys around in the air and singing in tune with the engine. The sound got better and better. I was nearly delirious when I got to the Rock. I switched off the engine and jumped onto it. When the engine stopped, so did the music. And when that beautiful music stopped, I remembered the come-down I had, I felt sick from the booze, the sea was splashing all over the place and there was thunder in the distance. I remembered why I had come to this bastard Rock.

So that's why I'm here, the bleeding boat drifted off and I'm stuck here in the pissing rain with my life flashing before me. Only it isn't flashing, it's crawling. Slowly. Now it's just the bare bones of what I am.

A tough guy, a helpless dancer.

A romantic, is it me for a moment?

A bloody lunatic, I'll even carry your bags.

A beggar, a hypocrite, love reign over me.

Schizophrenic? I'm Bleeding Quadrophenic.

[No one in this story is meant to represent anyone either living or dead, particularly not the Mum and Dad. Our Mums and Dads are all very nice and live in bungalows which we bought for them in the Outer Hebrides.]

Seriously -- if I live to be 200, I'll still never write anything as evocative and poetic as that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Logrolling in Our Time

If you were listening to us on the intertube radio last night -- and if you weren't, don't worry, I'm gonna post a zip file link to the show this weekend, because it was a pretty damned amusing two hours of talk and music, if I'm any judge of horseflesh -- than you may have heard me carrying on about a band called The Mix.

The short version: They were friends of mine and they should have been huge.

Slightly longer version: They were managed by Leber & Krebs, who also handled some loser band called Aerosmith (the Mix's album -- American Glue -- came out on L&K's custom label aand has never been on CD), and they were a genuinely exciting live act. Frontman Stu Daye, in particular, was as annoyingly talented and natural a rocker as anybody I've ever seen -- think Steve Marriott with Pete Townshend's guitar moves. Still, although they were quite a big deal in the New York area for a while, they never broke through; if I had to guess why, I'd say it's because the record didn't really do them justice. For which I blame rather lackluster production by the late Felix Pappalardi.

That said, please enjoy my personal favorite track from the album (for reasons that will become apparent shortly), the sublimely Beatle-esque "Forever."

Incidentally, the band's drummer was the great Corky Laing, of Mountain fame. The bass player was David Grahame, an old bandmate of mine who I haven't heard from in a while but who's apparently become something of a powerpop cult figure over the years. It thus pains me to mention that to (perhaps) his eternal shame, his major credit remains co-writing the soul-destroying Mr. Big hit "To Be With You."

I should also add that the guitar riff that intros the tune was composed by yours truly, and I'm still waiting for my damned writers credit.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Left of the Dial

A brief programming note: I'm going to be on Lost at Sea, my old chum Allan Rosenberg's intertube radio show over at Area 24 tonight, between 5-7 pm...

...during which I will be, mostly, blathering about the release of Floor Your Love, the album I compiled for my early 80s twelve-string pop band.

Which has heretofore been available for download over at Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby, but which is now also available as a genuine, honest-to-Flying Spaghetti Monster compact disc.

In an effort to minimize the obvious self-indulgence of all this, however, we will also be playing selected tracks by a) bands that influenced us and b) our contemporaries and heroes on the Bleecker Street scene back in the day, i.e. The Smithereens and Willie Nile plus some other folks -- Gregory Fleeman, Mark Johnson -- who you may not have heard of but should have.

You can stream the show at the link above, obviously. I should also add that if I've previously promised anybody a copy of the CD, be sure to e-mail me, as my memory is even worse than it was when I promised you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Present Day Rickenbacker 12-String Refuses to Die!

Nice cover stories in the November issue of UNCUT on the original -- pre-Gram Parsons -- Byrds, including a Making-Of feature on Notorious Byrd Brothers, the album many people feel is the band's masterpiece (I am not one of them, incidentally; I prefer Fifth Dimension, if only by a chinchilla).

UNCUT, of course, is to MOJO what CRACKED is to MAD, so don't expect anything overtly unfamiliar or unexpected (like, say, Roger McGuinn announcing that yes, "Eight Miles High" was totally completely about drugs for heaven's sake) in the Notorious piece; still, it's a nice job all in all, and of course any issue of any magazine that puts The Byrds on the cover for any reason is, by definition, a good thing.

As is their wont, incidentally, UNCUT thoughtfully includes a bonus CD featuring cover versions of Byrds songs and tributes to same by various alt-rock worthies...

...some of which -- like the Flamin' Groovies cover of the un-fuckup-able "Feel A Whole Lot Better" -- you may already be familiar with.

Here's one that I had not heard before -- Canadian folk-rockers The Sadies (who I am informed do duty these days as the backing band for the divine Neko Case) with a thoroughly lovely take on Goffin and King's "Wasn't Born to Follow," one of my favorite tracks from Notorious.

From their 2001 album Tremendous Effort, for those of you keeping score at home.

In any case, I have loved -- nay lurved -- the Byrds version of this song since the very first moment I heard it (through a cannabis haze, doubtless) in my college dorm room in 1968, and if memory serves it was one of the first covers I suggested that my early 80s twelve-string pop band The Floor Models work up back in the day. My favorite of our performances of it took place at one of those Other End gigs I've documented earlier; my long time pal and bandmate Tony Forte used to drop by occasionally to play it with us, thus giving us two Rickenbacker 12-string guitars on one cramped stage. Alas, no tape of one of those renditions has surfaced, but trust me -- it was one of the most glorious noises imaginable.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Clothes Make the (Vertically Challenged) Man

So last week, during our day trip to London -- a town that actually DOES swing like a pendulum do, as it turns out -- we were at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is not at all as stuffy as it sounds, taking in (among other delights) a recent exhibition on the early days of British Rock titled Halfway to Paradise, which was quite fab. If it reaches these shores, I highly recommend it.

But as we were wandering around, we came across some other rock exhibits, including a little display case housing the following items.

Mick Jagger's jumpsuit from the 1972 Rolling Stones tour.

And this custom designed little outfit worn by Jimmy Page on the Led Zeppelin tour the next year.

Apart from the fact that, with the benefit of hindsight, they're both pretty heinous in that hideous early 70s way-- and to be brutally honest, I absolutely HATED that outfit of Mick's at the time -- the thing that struck me most about the two costumes is -- jeebus christ, but those dudes are shrimps.

Seriously, I'm barely 5'8" and I'm Andre the Giant by comparison with Jagger and Page.

Randy Newman was right; apparently, you gotta pick those two up just to say hello.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Last Tango in Dayton, Ohio. Seriously -- I Really Mean It. No More Frenchie Posts Until This Time Next Year. Scout's Honor!

Okay, and speaking of my fourth favorite Gay Paree themed rock song, here's John Cale's utterly gorgeous "Paris 1919."

From the album of the same name.

Seriously -- I can't believe nobody guessed this one in advance.

I should add that Cale is doing the entire album, complete with orchestra, at a show at BAM next January, and a certain shady dame got me tickets for my birthday.

Sometimes, as the Ignoble Frogs say, la vie truly est belle.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Egad -- Yet Another Paris-Themed Post!!!

Okay, partly because I'm still decompressing from our recent Gallic vacation, and partly because the election is kicking my ass, here's my third favorite rock record ever that references Gay Paree.

From 1980, live in Central Park, please enjoy the incredibly great Willie Nile and his utterly infectious tribute to "Les Champs Elysees."

I went to Versailles
I went to Verdun
I climbed the Eiffel Tower in the midday sun
I saw Notre Dame
I went to the Louvre
Couldn't find nobody there who wanted to groove


I should add there's an earlier studio version of this song -- on Willie's deeply disappointing second Arista album -- that is completely sabotaged, as I said in my review in The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review at the time, by an astoundingly gutless piano solo by the usually estimable Paul Shaffer.

This take, however, is all punk energy and endearing sloppiness.

Rock 'n' roll, in other words.

Incidentally, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who guesses the identity of my fourth favorite rock song referencing Gay Paree, which I'll be posting tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Last Exit From Paris Dayton

Still sort of decompressing from our return from the land of the Ignoble Frog. So while we flush the heavy sauces and elitist chardonnay out of our system, please enjoy -- from 1984 and the soundtrack to Top Secret! -- the very young and callow Val Kilmer(!) and my second all-time favorite rock song referencing the City of Light..."How Silly Can You Get?"

I went to Paris in France
I found a little romance
She was a-walkin’ down the boulevard
I know I should’ve been good
I never thought that I would
Be double-crossin’, baby, cross my heart!
But a little rockin’ and a little wine
Got me thinkin’ ‘bout a little valentine.
What’s a lonely boy to do? She looked so fine.

How silly can you get? Yeah! Yeah!
How silly can you get? Ooh, Yeah!
I never ever meant to stray
But when she looked at me that way
The night was young and gay Paree made me forget
How silly can you get? Yeah! Yeah!
How silly can you get? Ooh, Yeah!
I didn’t mean to hold her tight
Another fool turned out the light
I only know she’s in my arms to hold tonight.

Seriously, that's one of the best damn fake early 60s Elvis pop tunes ever; if I was still in a band I'd cover it in a heartbeat,

And I'm left with just one question.

Where the hell is Val Kilmer these days?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Jersey

Well, we're back -- a tad fatigued but otherwise alive and well -- from the land of the Ignoble Frog at last.

And here in Hackensack N.J. (the Paris of the Tri-State Metro Area) our power has been fully restored.

Jersey Pride, bitches!!!!

Regular non-storm related music postings will resume tomorrow.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Fermé pour le week-end

An update for those of you scoring at home: A certain Shady Dame and I will be winging our way back to Brooklyn -- 4th largest city in America, as viewers of Welcome Back, Kotter will recall -- on Sunday.

Brooklyn, fortunately, was spared The Wrath of Sandy; my beloved Hackensack, NJ (Paris of the Tri-State Metro Area) was not so lucky; it is, along with the rest of Bergen County, officially a disaster area. No electricity at the moment, although I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will have been restored by the time I get back.

My younger brother has been taking care of our Mom in my absence,and although they're shivering in the cold, they are otherwise well, and I will be taking over his duties on Monday.

If we don't have power, of course, I won't be posting until it comes back on.

Until we meet again, then -- in the immortal words of Casey Kasem, Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

Also -- fuck every Republican/climate change denialist who voted to slash funding for FEMA.

With a rusty chainsaw.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

A Legend That Will Last a Lunchtime

So earlier today a certain Shady Dame and I went for lunch at a delightful little tea shop down the street from our hotel in Paris Dayton, Ohio.

The proprietor/chef remembered us from our last visit -- 2008, if you can believe it; we had a long discussion of the lunacies of the American healthcare system -- and he immediately asked us if we were stranded due to the recent atmospheric unpleasantness on the East Coast. We allowed as how we were.

"Well," he said, "there are worse towns to be stranded in than Paris Dayton, Ohio."

We agreed, of course. I mean -- what's lovelier than Paris Dayton, Ohio in the Fall?

And in that spirit, please enjoy perhaps the ultimate tribute to that fair city -- Screamin' Jay Hawkins and his sui generis rendition of the classic "I Love Paris Dayton."

Incidentally, the 1958 album that's from -- At Home With Screamin' Jay Hawkins -- is one of the first (from the concept on down) rock album masterpieces, and behooves behearing. "I saw a Mau-Mau kissing Santa Claus" indeed

And if I may be serious for just a moment, I should also add that said charming tea shop -- Flirt Thé -- is located at 3 Avenue Duquesne, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in the beautiful 7th arrondissement. I had one of the most amazing roast chickens of my adult life there, along with a piece of chocolate cake that was world class as well. If you happen to be in Paris any time soon, be sure to stop by and say "Bonjour!"