Tuesday, April 30, 2013

That's NOT the Incomparable Eddie ("Big Foot") Griffin-Cohen, BTW.

However, I'm in roughly the same mood as whoever that cat in the photo is.

Highly entertaining posting will resume on the morrow. Swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Over On the Plus Side of the Ledger, At Least Those Striped Shirts Have Finally Come Back Into Style

So over at Facebook the other day somebody trotted out the old "what's the band/performer you most regret not having seen live when you had the chance?" poser.

Which is, of course, a question I'm pretty sure we've batted around here at some point as well. And as usual, my immediate reaction was Buffalo Springfield and the MC5.

But that also got to me thinking about a slight variant to the question -- as in "what's the band/performer whose records you particularly enjoy but whom you not only have never seen live but in fact have barely any idea what they looked like or what they were about in concert?"

And immediately I thought -- the late Phil Seymour.

I'd seen him on TV as a member of the Dwight Twilley Band, of course, but Seymour was a drummer back then, not a frontman. Meanwhile, I really like the guy's solo stuff -- particularly his cover of Bobby Fuller's great "Let Her Dance," which I rhapsodized about in these precincts back in 2009 -- and I realized I have no idea what he was like at center stage.

So -- YouTube being the veritable Library at Alexandria that it is -- a little research turned up two clips. First: from 1981, Phil and band being interviewed by Dick Clark on Bandstand before a performance of "Let Her Dance"...

...and then the official video for the song itself.

About that video, of course, I can only say that Phil's "Let Her Dance" remains a great record. If you know what I mean.

[h/t Dan Mcenroe]

Friday, April 26, 2013

Los Jose Grecos del Muerte

Okay, I will admit to having become moderately obsessed with 60s hitmakers The Rascals of late, on account of having witnessed Once Upon a Dream, their transplendent Broadway concert/retrospective/mixed media show last week, but I promise that this is the last time I'll bother you about them for the forseeable future.

In the meantime, from 1967, please enjoy "Sueno," the utterly insinuating B-side of "Groovin'"

This was one of the more obscure songs in the show -- I don't think I'd ever actually heard it before, oddly enough -- and I found it vastly entertaining in a Spaghetti Western sort of way. Love the ersatz flamenco stylings of underrated (by me, up till last week) guitarist Gene Cornish.

P.S.: A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who identifies the source of today's title.

P.P.S.: A certain Man with No Name just hepped me to the existence of this even more obscure Brit pop-psych cover of the song by Truth.

Jeebus, that's fantastic.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Logrolling in Our Time (An Occasional Series)

From sometime in the early '90s, please enjoy my old chums The Rock Club with the effervescently McCartney-esque power pop gem "She's Alright."

Sung by the song's composer, the equally effervescent Ronnie D'Addario.

From the band's delightful CD Wet Money.

And may I say, and for the record, that...
"All of her girlfriends hate me
They all call me a creep and a jerk..."
...is one of the greatest opening lines in the history of the popular music field.

I should also add that these guys are still performing live in the New York area, although -- alas -- they haven't made an album since.

They did, however, contribute a terrific cut to the still available Raspberries tribute album Raspberries Preserved, which definitely behooves behearing.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Guys Without Gals. Or Something.

And speaking, as we were last week, of the fabulous Rascals Once Upon a Dream retrospective/concert show on Broadway -- for which Little Steven Van Zandt deserves numerous props in Heaven -- I found myself thinking of Men Without Women.

The astounding album Van Zandt made, in 1982, featuring the godlike ex-Rascals drummer Dino Danelli on those pagan skins.

And from it, please enjoy "Under the Gun."

Or as I like to call it around Casa Simels -- the greatest Keith Richards record Keith Richards never made.

You're welcome.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dino Danelli is God. Seriously.

And speaking of The Rascals' Once Upon a Dream (their reunion/retrospective show on Broadway) as we were last week, I found this wonderful 1969 live clip of one of the obscure -- but still delightful -- songs featured amongst the more obvious hits.

The terrific Southern soul pastiche that is "Carry Me Back."

I don't know what TV show that's from, but may I just say and for the record that whoever directed it actually knew what they were doing -- i.e., they always cut to genius drummer Dino Danelli at precisely the right moment.

Also: The drumming here is a veritable master class in how to create a monster groove. Simple (deceptively so), yet propulsive and exciting (visually as well as musically) all at the same time.

Friday, April 19, 2013

God and Man at the Richard Rodgers Theatre

Saw The Rascals Once Upon a Dream retrospective concert show on Broadway Thursday night; I'll let ace rock critic David Browne, writing in Rolling Stone earlier in the week, speak for me on this occasion.

Are the Rascals the most underappreciated and influential band in rock? Arguably New York's first great band, they had an astonishingly varied repertoire – these were the same guys who gave us the beach-stroll beauty of "Groovin,'" the most raucous cover of "Good Lovin'," the white-guy soul of "Lonely Too Long" and the blissed-out pop of "A Beautiful Morning." They've also been covered by Pat Benatar (who did a pretty faithful remake of "You Better Run"), and long before the White Stripes, the Rascals had no use for a bass player. And they were wearing little-kid knickers years before Angus Young.

For years, another longtime devotee, Steven Van Zandt, tried unsuccessfully to broker a reunion of founding members Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, Dino Danelli and Gene Cornish despite years of bad blood between them. "These guys are such gods to me," he told Rolling Stone in 2009. "There should be statues of them." With The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream, Van Zandt has finally come as close as possible to constructing those monuments.

Opening this week and continuing through May 5th, the two-hour Broadway production brings together the original quartet for their first extended performances together since Brigati left the band in 1970. Van Zandt wrote the script and co-directed it (with Marc Brickman, who has designed and lit shows by bands including Pink Floyd).

It's first and foremost a reunion concert, with the quartet augmented by three backup singers, a bassist and an additional keyboardist. It's also partly an offspring of Behind the Music, since the Rascals tell their story through filmed interviews interspersed throughout the show (albeit with a largely upbeat tone, like the first half hour of your typical BTM). The show is also a little bit Jersey Boys, thanks to additional footage in which actors recreate key scenes in the band's story, from the time Brigati was accidentally shot by his brother to the time they were asked to remake the Olympics' hit "Good Lovin'" (which earned a standing ovation when it was performed midway through Once Upon a Dream).

Fortunately, what could have been a mess mutates into an entertaining and fairly seamless show. From the repertoire to the photo collages behind them, Once Upon a Dream takes the Rascals from their bar-band, R&B-covers days (when they were the Young Rascals) to hitmakers to New York hippies. They're no longer young, in name or age; Cavaliere is now 70, and the others aren't far behind. But over the course of two hours, they gamely recreated their old stage personae: keyboardist-singer Cavaliere's fist-in-the-air exhortations, singer Brigati's dancing-with-tambourines moves, guitarist Cornish's goofy showboating and drummer Danelli's drumstick spins. Also returning were some of the paisley shirts from their Summer of Love period: As hard as they tried, the Rascals were never truly hip, then and now.

But as Once Upon a Dream rams home, cool points weren't quite the point. Before they broke apart, Cavaliere and Brigati were a tremendous songwriting team, and they weren't afraid to be jubilant, excitable boys, on record and onstage. The show opens with the charging "It's Wonderful" and closes two hours later with their civil rights plea, "People Got to Be Free." In between aren't just the biggest hits but plenty of others – the jubilant "A Girl Like You" and "If You Knew" – that attest to the durability of their catalog. Dipping elsewhere, they resurrect obscure album tracks like the trippy garage-band swirl of "Find Somebody" and the spaghetti-Western swagger of "Sueno," both from 1967's Groovin' album, as well as lesser-knowns like the Southern-soul-influenced "Carry Me Back."

Brigati can no longer hit all the supple high notes in the unabashedly sentimental "How Can I Be Sure," and there were opening-night problems, like under-miked voices and a mix that sometimes buried Cavaliere's organ. (And what's with the clip from Pam Grier's Seventies blaxploitation classic Foxy Brown for a show rooted in the decade before?) The ending, which blames their breakup on bad management, feels a bit too simplistic. But Once Upon a Dream compensates with a set list that never lets up, and with the tale of a bunch of regular Jersey and New York guys who naively pursued a dream of blending rock, R&B, soul and psychedelia before anyone else thought it was possible.
I had 11th row seats for last night's performance, and I have only one word to add to the above.


Also: Dino Danelli is in fact God. And Gene Cornish turns out to be a much more interesting guitar player than I'd remembered.

Oh, and they did my favorite Rascals song of all time, too.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

RIP Scott Miller: Part II

The Loud Family.

"Take Me Down (Too Halloo)."

Just wanted to second NYMary's farewell, and I have to add that the album above is one of the most magnificent pieces of music accomplished by anybody in the 20th Century.

He was only 53 years old when he passed? Goddamnit, this whole death shit is really starting to piss me off.

RIP Scott Miller

I was stunned this morning to learn of the passing of Scott Miller, mastermind behind two of the finest pop-rock bands in my lifetime: Game Theory and the Loud Family. His 2010 book, Music:What Happened? was a terrific year-by-year rundown of the last fifty or so years of the genre.

Miller was a young man, and according to the Loud Family website, had been planning to go back into the studio this year. At this time, they're not saying what happened, but in any case, we here at PowerPop send our warmest condolences to the family and friends of this gifted artist.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I'm Tired

Know what I mean, girls?

Regular, and astoundingly upbeat, posting resumes tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

(Possibly) Great Lost Bands of the Nineties (An Occasional Series)

As I'm fond of saying, YouTube really is the greatest research tool since the Library at Alexandria.

Ladies and gents, from their 1990 album Love With the Proper Stranger, please enjoy the utterly fetching The Aquanettas...

and their could have been a huge hit "Beach Party."

I never saw these gals perform or heard a note of their music (until this morning), but I was thinking about them for some reason (also this morning) because their guitarist Jill Richmond (the big-eyed redhead on the left) was one of the nicest publicists I ever dealt with (she toiled for Hoboken-based indie label Bar None Records when I knew her) and it just seemed like the right time to check them out.

Like I said, the Library at Alexandria. Guess I'm gonna have to poke around the intertubes now and see if I can glom the CD somewhere.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Surprising Footnotes to the British Invasion: An Occasional Series (Special Sci-Fi Edition)

Okay, so the set-up for the following is going to seem as if it has no connection whatsoever to the mission statement here at PowerPop, but be patient-- there's a kicker at the end in which all will be made clear.

To wit: Those who know me best -- by which I mean a certain Shady Dame plus the occasional attentive long time reader -- are aware that for the last couple of years, I have been involved in an on-going project to re-acquire various beloved pop cultural artifacts of my youth (my youth, in this case, being defined as somewhere between the ages of five and twenty-five).

Amongst these have been an impressive set of View Master 3-D slides that have, since back in the day, become the subject of one of my all-time favorite crackpot conspiracy theories...

...an early mixed-media set based on Disney's 1953 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea...

and the Charlie the Tuna wristwatch I am currently wearing.

But for the most part, this obsession has centered on rather more sensible stuff, like music (often on vinyl) and books.

So the other day, I was passing a charming antique store in the neighborhood [Cobble Hill: Where All Your Shit's in Walking Distance©] of the aforementioned Shady Dame, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a copy of one of my all time favorite sci-fi novels -- WASP, by Brit writer Eric Frank Russell (1905-1978).

First published in 1958, but which I first read, in the edition pictured above, in 1962.

Actually, devoured would be a better word than read in this case; it's essentially a fabulous spy novel about a wartime saboteur that just happens to be set in outer space a few centuries hence. Anyway, I remembered it as an absolutely smashing read, and after re-acquiring it, I was delighted to discover that it more than held up.

As is my wont, I then passed it along to an old chum who I thought might enjoy it, and when she returned it to me she allowed as how she had. We then both agreed that it was a shame the book had never been filmed; imagine what somebody like, say, the young Stephen Spielberg could have done with it.

And so -- and here we get to that kicker I promised you earlier -- as you can imagine, you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather when (a few minutes later) my friend directed me to Russell's Wiki entry, where I found the following graf tucked away at the very end.

In 1970, Russell was paid £4689 by The Beatles's company Apple Corps for the motion picture rights to his novel WASP, the contract being signed on behalf of Apple by Ringo Starr. The film was never made, but it remained one of the most lucrative deals Russell ever made.

We can only assume that Ringo, who was an aspiring filmmaker at the time (post Beatles, he directed the T-Rex tour documentary Born to Boogie), planned to helm the WASP adaptation himself. Which might have changed history in all sorts of unfathomable ways, if true.

In any case, I should add two things here in closing.

Number one: £4689 was a very tidy sum back in 1970, and it's nice to know that Russell got that sort of a pay-off near the end of his life.

Number two: After all these years, it still amazes me that there could be bits of Beatles lore like this one that I'm unaware of.

[h/t Kerrin L. Griffith]

Friday, April 12, 2013

Your Friday Moment of You'll Thank Me. Big Time.

And not just for the bonus tracks, as amazing as they are.

Seriously -- go here immediately.

And download at one of the links.

Seriously -- right now.

If you don't already have the music there on your iPod or in your collection (however you listen to things), your life has been spiritually poor for too long.

Hey -- what the hell are you waiting for?

Coming next week: Reviews of one of the best/worst movies ever to star a couple of charismatic rock stars out of their league, a VERRRRRRY interesting rediscovered 60s documentary, audio and video clips by the other (not my garage band chums) Weasels, who are hilarious, and all sorts of other fun stuff.

Wang Chung till Monday.

[h/t to Willard's Wormholes]

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Thursday Moment of Shameless Self-Indulgence

Attentive readers with long memories may recall that I have from time to time chronicled the adventures of my old -- and I mean REALLY old -- garage band chums The Weasels.

Actually, we were more of a basement band than a garage band, by which I mean that back in the day we had a little underground rehearsal/recording facility featuring a (for its era) state of the art Teac 4-track reel to reel machine, where we committed multiple offenses aginst the Muse of Music.

I won't bore you with any of the sordid details, but I just wanted to let the feline out of the sack, as it were, which is to say -- WE'RE BACK!!!

Yes, my old -- and I mean REALLY old -- chums and I are at it again. This time, not in a basement, but in an attic. Where, with the help of a lap-top computer, we now have a recording facility that affords us more tracks than the Beatles had available to them at the time they made Abbey Road. Our talent, however, remains as AWOL as ever.

In any case, here's an almost mixed version of "Fine Time," one of the first tracks from our newest affront to all that is good and holy in the world album, the appropriately titled Blame the Victim.

The song is sung by its composer, multi-instrumentalist and engineer Glenn Leeds; the bass is by Allan Weissman, the acoustic guitar by (Jai Guru) Dave Hawxwell, and all the electric guitar stuff is by some schmuck whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels. The other guys sing the harmonies on the choruses, BTW; they don't let me open my mouth near a microphone, for obvious reasons.

Despite all of this, please try to enjoy, won't you?

Also: I should add that the drum track is sampled from somewhere or other, and it sounds absolutely nothing at all like the work of our retired percussionist Mike "The Drummer" Sorrentino, who long ago informed us that "rhythm was an outmoded Western conception."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Don't Ask. Really, Please -- Don't Ask.

Serious shpilkes today.

Regular, and more self-indulgent than usual, posting resumes tomorrow.

And Friday -- featuring Dennis Wilson and James Taylor, together again!!!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Great Lost Singles of the '70s (An Occasional Series)

I posted this a couple of years ago in the context of something else, but having just listened to it for the first time in a while and being totally blown away, I suspect you won't begrudge me posting it again.

From 1973, please enjoy Easybeats auteurs Harry Vanda and George Young -- doing business as the Marcus Hook Roll Band -- and perhaps the greatest rock record almost nobody has ever heard.

The incomparable "Natural Man."

Seriously -- if a hookier, funnier, and more kick ass couple of minutes have ever been committed to magnetic tape, I for one have never encountered them.

And if you're wondering why this wasn't a hit, perhaps the mispelling of Vanda might indicate just how big a priority this was to the braniacs at Capitol Records at the time.

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Kids Are Alright

Okay, fuck you, Justin Bieber -- THIS is how it's done.

Matt Jaffe & The Distractions utterly addictive new single "Backs of Our Eyelids."

Nicely under-produced by none other than former Talking Head keyboard guy Jerry Harrison, who discovered Jaffe at an open mic thingie somewhere.

Of course, from my vantage point several hundred decades away from the target demographic, this kid thinks he's way cuter than he actually is. But the song and the performance are still awfully impressive accomplishments for a 17 year old, n'est-ce pas?

More to the point, this is in fact a rock record, and I'm a sucker for endangered species. A full album is due later this year.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Your Friday Moment of Madeleine

And not, strictly speaking, in the Proustian sense.

From some time in the 70s, the incomparable (and sadly late) Madeleine Kahn channels Clarence "Frogman" Henry, and much else.

I don't know why this strikes me as so ineffably funny, but it does.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Surf's Up, Y'All!

I just KNEW I liked this guy.

Rodney Crowell rehearses "Sail on Sailor" with the Beach Boys in 1996. Mike Love is nowhere in sight, incidentally.

That shot of Brian at the end of the song really says it all, doesn't it.

PS: You don't need to watch the second half of the clip, which is a low-fi audience tape of the official performance.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Anybody Seen My Muse?

In the immortal words of Stevie Winwood, some days I feel so uninspired.

Regular, and characteristically upbeat, posting resumes tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Fun With Digital Editing Software (An Occasional Series)

Okay, I'm not sure how I feel about this on the whole conceptual "Rock 'n' Roll Heaven" level, but jeebus -- wouldn't you have paid money to see this if it was real?

It's a commercial for BBC Radio, in case you were wondering.

Monday, April 01, 2013

She's About a Mover

Attentive readers with long memories may recall the story of my old collaborator Carol Bokuniewicz, who as a teenager was responsible for The Worst Album Cover of All Time...

...before eventually achieving lasting fame as a co-founder of M & Co., the hugely influential design firm whose wristwatch...

...is one of the most iconic images of the last several decades.

In any case, Carol's obviously done lots better album covers over the years since Brownsville -- the most famous is still probably the one for Talking Heads' Remain in Light -- and back in the late 70s/early 80s, in particular, she was turning out really wonderful stuff for Hannibal Records, the custom label run by the great producer Joe Boyd (of Fairport Convention and Nick Drake fame).

The first project (as I recall) Carol undertook for the label was the eponymous debut LP by vastly entertaining Tex-Mex revivalists Joe "King" Carrasco and the Crowns. The album, produced by rock crit worthy Billy Altman had come out in England on Stiff, who for some reason declined to release it in the States; Boyd changed the track listing a bit and asked Carol to rejigger the cover on the cheap and quickly. The old sleeve had been fairly straightforward -- a shot of Joe in full stage regalia against a plain background -- but for the new one somebody (perhaps Joe himself) came up with the concept of Carrasco Hot Sauce; Carol stole some elements from the old one, added some new ones, and asked me to come up with some gags (visual and otherwise) to add to the mix.

Here's the final result, front and back. Both of which tickle me inordinately, even after all these years. That's Carol as the model on the front, BTW.

I should add that -- apart from the "Buy my album and win a night with my sister" joke, for which I will undoubtedly spend eternity in the netherworld -- I had the most fun with the little More Great Albums For Your Collection banner on the back; if your browser doesn't allow you to enlarge the image, the fake albums in question are Devadip Joseph Carrasco and His Altered Consciousness Orchestra, Ziggy Carrasco and the Gay Guys From Outer Space, The Divine Mr. C, and Jackson Carrasco's Running on Bennies.

Meanwhile, here's Joe and the gang back in the day with the opening track of the album, live somewhere in Texas.

Presumably, Joe's sister was in attendance but, alas, history does not record what she thought of the album cover.