Friday, January 31, 2014

Your Friday Moment of Words Fail Me

Brian Wilson and George Martin explain it all -- i.e., "God Only Knows" -- to you.

You know, the people who posited Brian as being the contemporary version of Mozart -- okay, Gershwin -- are seeming more and more on the money as the years go by.

Seriously -- was a more beautiful song written in English in the second half of the 20th Century? I don't think so.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

And Flo, She Don't Know...

From a privately issued recording from 1938, please enjoy amusingly bonkers NYC socialite Florence Foster Jenkins and her inimitable version of the "Queen of the Night" aria from Mozart's The Magic Flute.

If you don't know Florence...
In her time, Florence Foster Jenkins was a novelty in the history of music, an operatic coloratura who had all of the requisite charms and trappings worthy of a diva, minus the voice. Married to a wealthy industrialist and well entrenched in upper-crust New York society by 1912, "Madame" Jenkins obtained a divorce that year. The resulting settlement was handsome enough to set Jenkins up in style and to pursue her extensive charitable interests. She had already been studying voice for some time, and her charity fundraisers included such gala events as "The Ball of the Silver Skylarks," involving special costumes made at her request, and usually culminating in a sample of her singing. Jenkins' voice was high, scrawny, and seemed to have a mind of its own, warbling its way through difficult coloratura arias with the grace and control of an upright piano pushed down a spiral staircase. Well-heeled society types would attend Jenkins' recitals and patiently endure her auditory assault, along with enjoying a well-concealed chuckle or two at her expense. Jenkins' annual gala would remain a popular fixture in New York society for decades.

In 1938, Jenkins made her only recordings at the Melotone studio in New York, which were pressed up and sold privately. On this occasion, and most others by this time, Jenkins employed the services of accompanist Cosme McMoon, a flamboyant and eccentric character well known in New York's underground gay community. McMoon proved an excellent foil for Jenkins, waiting for her entrances at key points in arias and writing special material to best show off her vocal "assets." At age 76, Jenkins finally achieved her lifelong dream of performing at Carnegie Hall's Recital Hall on October 25, 1944, but this may have backfired, as rumor has it that afterward she discovered what her audiences really thought about her music making. Jenkins collapsed and died a month later in Schirmer's Music Store, her last words allegedly being "It must've been the creamed chicken."

I should add that RCA Victor actually issued this stuff on a couple of LPs in the late 60s, apparently on the theory that Florence could become a sort of cult hepster camp figure like Mrs. Miller.

I also love the fact that her accompanist/Svengali was named Cosme McMoon. I'll betcha he was a lot of fun at parties, if you know what I mean.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Glory of the Human Voice

Barry Gibb and Jimmy Fallon(!)...

sing a medley of Everly Brothers songs on Late Night last week.

My respect for both of these guys has been increasing exponentially of late, I'll tell you that for free.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Where Have All the Folksingers Gone?

Meant to post this earlier today, after hearing the sad news of Pete Seeger's passing, but couldn't find the audio until now.

From the end credits to the criminally overlooked 1998 HBO film version of Neil Sheehan's brilliant Vietnam history A Bright Shining Lie (starring the great Bill Paxton), here's Pat McGuire and hands down the best version of Seeger's signature song ever.

To be honest, I had always thought this song -- even the sublime hit cover by The Searchers -- to be a little earnest at best and borderline kitsch at worst.

First time I heard this version, however, I changed my mind and pronto. Just kills me...

Pete Seeger 1919--2014

My old college roommate Peter Eisenstadter reacts to the sad news far better than I could.

I hear this morning about the death of Pete Seeger, who was a personal hero of mine. Today the world would be immeasurably poorer if it weren't for the fact that we will have his music forever. That's first. Then we will always have the example of his social conscience, his never-ending activism, and his belief that we are all in this together and should regard ourselves all as part of the same community--humanity. We have all this--but the man is gone. As I once said elsewhere: when a great tree falls in the forest, it may or may not make a sound, but it certainly leaves a great space in the forest canopy.

One more thing: I'll bet that if he could, he would echo Joe Hill: "Don't mourn for me; organize."

To which I can only add Pete's classic "Living in the Country"...

...which remains the greatest folkie instrumental of them all (and an obvious influence on Jorma Kaukonnen's "Embryonic Journey" (from Surrealistic Pillow).

And, of course, The Byrds' version of his sublime "Turn! Turn! Turn!."

A song for which, of course, if nothing else Seeger will remain one of the immortals, and deservedly.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Yes, THAT Billy Mumy...

...captured, via cell phone, Brian Wilson and two guys from his touring band last week at a Gibson guitar showroom.

Brian and company, of course, were performing a raggedy, but ultimately wonderful, unplugged version of "God Only Knows." And a little snippet of one of the Beatles songs Brian sang on Beach Boys Party back in the day.

Mumy takes a selfie at the very end, BTW.

[h/t Mrs. Gummo]

Friday, January 24, 2014

Before There Was Either Rock OR Roll (A Thankfully Concluding Series): Special Will Somebody Just Put Me Out of My Misery Already? Edition

From the 1967 RCA Victor LP compilation 1928...

...please enjoy the wonderfully goofy Irving Aaronson and His Commanders and their inimitable rendition of Cole Porter's Jazz Age paean to boinking -- "Let's Misbehave."

1928, of course, is the year the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries -- the TV show/obsession of mine that inspired this entire week's worth of postings, is set in. In fact, RCA did a bunch of similar compilations of music from the 20s around the time of this one, and they're not all that different from the Miss Fisher soundtrack album. You may recall that there was a brief vogue for that sort of thing in the mid-60s, mostly inspired by The New Vaudeville Band's execrable hit "Winchester Cathedral," so I assume they were trying to cash in. I actually owned a copy of this album, for reasons that now escape me.

On the other hand, I was tickled when Aaronson's record turned up five years later as the opening credit music in Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, accompanying a montage of rabbits doing what rabbits do best.

I should also add that another hilarious cut from the album -- the Leo Reisman Orchestra's version of "I Kiss Your Hand Madame" -- is so effete it makes "Let's Misbehave" sound like Black Sabbath.

Back in the day, I actually memorized all the lyrics to the song, and would sing it -- for no earthly reason -- at the drop of a hat. My friends -- and it's a wonder, in retrospect, that I even had any -- were not, how shall I say, amused.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Before There Was Either Rock OR Roll (An Occasional Series): Special Have I Mentioned Dorothy Provine? Edition

From the 1960 Warner Brothers television production The Roaring 20s, please enjoy the paralytically sexy and talented Ms. Provine...

...and her rendition of the 1925 pop hit "Don't Bring Lulu."

And because I love all you guys, here -- in glorious 60s stereo -- is the version of the song from the soundtrack LP.

This was a Top 20 (heh) hit in England back in the day, BTW.

In any case, jeebus -- was this woman as riveting a performer as any rock star you ever saw?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Before There Was Either Rock OR Roll (An Occasional Series): Special Words Fail Me Edition

So if you've been here since my Friday post on the wonders of the flapper era tv series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, you are aware that of late I've been sort of obsessing on pre-rock (specifically, from the 20s to the early 30s) American pop music.

So, in that spirit, please behold in breathless wonder the paralytically sexy and talented Margot Bingham...

...on HBO's Roaring '20s gangster show Boardwalk Empire, performing George Gershwin's 1924 classic "Somebody Loves Me."

As it was always meant to be performed.

I'm embarrassed to say I've never watched the show -- I think I may have seen a few minutes from the premiere episode, at some point, mostly because it was directed by Martin Scorsese. But for whatever reason, it just didn't grab me.

That said, I'm told Ms. Bingham figures prominently on the most recent season, and if so I can only ask --


Sweet Jeebus, that woman can sing.

[h/t QL]

Monday, January 20, 2014

Before There Was Either Rock OR Roll (An Occasional Series): Special A Warner Brothers Television Production Edition

If you saw my piece on Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries last Friday, you probably won't be surprised to hear that I've been obsessing suddenly on pre-rock pop music, particularly of the late 20s and early 30s.

In that spirit then, from 1960, and the vastly entertaining period TV drama The Roaring '20s, please enjoy the adorable and sexy Dorothy Provine performing the 1926 George and Ira Gershwin classic "Someone to Watch Over Me."

This is from an episode of the show called Lucky Charm, starring Cesare Danova (best known as Mayor Carmine DaPasto in Animal House) as Provine's no-goodnik gambler boyfriend; Provine, who plays speakeasy proprietor and star performer Pinky Pinkham, sings the Gershwin classic straight through beginning at the 36minute/55second point, and reprises it at the show's finale, after said gambler boyfriend has been unceremoniously rubbed out. (Or so Pinky thinks.)

I saw this, originally, as a thirteen year old kid, and I remember being absolutely slain by Provine's rendition of the song (which is one of the most gorgeous ever written in English in the first half of the 20th century). When I finally saw the episode again -- last year -- I was pleasantly surprised that I still found it hugely affecting. Why Provine, who was an even better dancer than she was a singer, isn't better remembered these days is beyond me, frankly.

And because I love all of you guys more than food, here -- in glorious 60s stereo -- is the soundtrack LP version.

Said soundtrack is finally on CD, by the way, and you can order it from Amazon over HERE.

You're welcome.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Your Saturday Ringtone

From Independence Day -- the greatest Civil Rights movie ever made; seriously, Jews and African-Americans save the world -- please enjoy Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith with my favorite exchange of dialog of the '90s.

And no, it's not the fat lady exchange; whoever downloaded the clip mis-labeled it and I don't know how to change it on the player.

In any case, you're welcome.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thoroughly Modern Miss Fisher

If you've chanced across my rantings in other online forums of late you're probably aware of my enthusiasm -- oh hell, I'm obsessed, obviously -- for the Australian period detective series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Set in 1928 Melbourne and starring stunning clothes horse/great actress Essie Davis as Louise Brooks with a gun and a left-wing social conscience. (Obviously, my ideal woman.)

In any case, if you haven't seen it, one of Miss Fisher's many charms, apart from very sharp writing and tremendous chemistry between its regular characters (including Nathan Page as the coolest police inspector in TV history) is a very smart choice of genuine pop music -- Australian and otherwise -- of the era on the soundtrack.

Case in point: The following song -- "Sailing on a Sunbeam," by Des Tooley (featuring Frank Coghlan), which I find oddly haunting. The record features at the end of the season one finale, at a point when the show has gotten very dark and depressing, and it's being played at Miss Fisher's birthday party in an attempt to cheer her up. Whether it does or not, of course, remains ambiguous.

I gotta tell ya, it took me two weeks before I realized that it was being sung by a guy; in fact, the androgyny of the vocal is part of what makes it work, even if that's not what they had in mind when it was being recorded.

In any case, it's worth remembering Noel Coward's great line, to wit, "there's something extraordinarily potent about cheap music."

And speaking of the aforementioned cheap music, you can -- and very definitely should -- download the Miss Fisher soundtrack album over at iTunes or at Amazon HERE.

Meanwhile, you can watch a series trailer for the show over at the Acorn Video website HERE, or at YouTube below.

The show itself -- just the first season so far -- can be streamed over at Netflix, but frankly Acorn's disc versions are a better deal in the long run, the picture quality being more than incrementally better on the DVD or Blu-ray versions.

Said discs of Season One can be ordered at Amazon over HERE.

Or you can watch the show on Acorn's YouTube channel HERE; you can subscribe for $4.99 a month (cheap) but you can also get a 14 day free trial, which is a great idea because Acorn has lots of other shows at least as good as Miss Fisher; I strongly recommend George Gently (another period detective show, but this time a police procedural set in Britain in the mid-60s) and the Murdoch Mysteries, a period forensic show but set in 1895 Toronto.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Qu'est-ce Que Vous Dites AAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!! en Francais?

Divshare has been down since early this morning.

Thus, today's planned post -- a masterpiece that will make my name live beyond infinity -- has been postponed until tomorrow.

J'espere, obviously.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Somewhere, Marconi is Turning in His Grave

So that internet radio show -- Lost at Sea, hosted by my old chum Allan Roseberg -- I guested on last week can be listened to, complete with technical glitches, over here.

Enjoy, won't you?

I should add that -- apart from the aforementioned technical glitches, for which I take full responsibility -- this episode is noteworthy for the debut of a song by friend of PowerPop Darren Riley. Who does business in the nifty powerpop band Ballard.

The short version: Essentially, I challenged Darrin to write and record an Everly Brothers-inspired song on the same afternoon I was scheduled to be on the radio. And damned if he didn't do it, and damned if it isn't really really good.

You can listen to "Take Good Care" at the link above, beginning at approximately 1:40 into the clip.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

You Tuesday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special Marshall Crenshaw Gets Rich! Edition

From 2000, please enjoy in stupefied amazement manufactured Brit pop group S Club 7... they cover Marshall's classic "Someday Someway."

If truth be told, I had never heard of S Club 7, who were apparently concocted by the same management that foisted the Spice Girls on an unwitting mankind, until I stumbled across this clip on YouTube yesterday.

And frankly, I don't know what's more amazing -- that somebody connected with this "band" was smart enough to cover the song, or the fact that it's actually not bad at all.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Blues Came Down From Chip Taylor

Well, actually it didn't, but he did write "Wild Thing." So why isn't HE in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame?

In any case, I was reminded of the Chipster last Friday when I mentioned Sloan's version of his fabulous and often recorded"I Can't Let Go."

A little history lesson, then, with various artists essaying the song over the years.

Let's begin, shall we, with the song's original version -- from 1965, a minor hit for the incredibly great Evie Sands.

And now, from 1966, here's the more familiar international hit version by The Hollies.

Moving right along and skipping decades, from 1995 and the fabulous tribute album Sing Hollies in Reverse, please enjoy The Continental Drifters -- featuring Peter Holsapple, Vicki Peterson and Susan Cowsill -- with their truly snappy cover.

From 1996, and that Live at a Sloan Party album I mentioned Friday, here's the aforementioned Sloan and their quite spirited cover.

And finally, from 1998, here are The Dickies with their surprisingly un-ironic and vaguely punkish assault on the tune.

What can we learn from all of this?

Well, for one thing, I'm beginning to think it's quite literally impossible to do a bad version of the song...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Your Friday Moment of Canadian Content

Okay, blame Canadia.

As you may recall from yesterday's post, I just discovered that my fave obscure Turtles song -- the Mann/Weill "Glitter and Gold," from the band's 1965 debut LP -- was actually a remake of an earlier Everly Brothers record.

And by accident, too; I learned it when I chanced across the following Sloan album at a download site I frequent. Which claimed, in the track listing, that the song was an Everlys cover. Who knew?

Sounds more like the Turtles version, if truth be told, but whatever. Very nice job, lads.

Anyway Sloan, who've been around for twenty years without a personnel change, are the closest thing our neighbors to the North have come, musically speaking, to The Beatles, unless you count The Wackers, which I do. They were actually one of the first bands I reviewed here after NYMary gave me the metaphorical keys to the car; in a piece on Sloan's 2007 album Never Hear the End of It, I noted that a friend had described it as "sounding like side two of Abbey Road extended into infinity," which moved me to listen to the thing for the first time in several years. Guess what: I still agree with that description.

The Everlys/Turtles cover above, incidentally, comes from a bonus disc included with their 1996 album One Chord to Another; titled Live at a Sloan Party, it's a tribute to the Beach Boys 1965 fake live unplugged album, and like that record it was actually recorded in the studio with applause and sound effects added later.

You can download the whole CD -- which also includes a nice cover of "I Can't Let Go" by The Hollies -- over HERE.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Your Thursday Moment of Sibling Rivalry

Holy crap -- I just learned that my all time favorite song by The Turtles -- the Mann/Weill penned "Glitter and Gold," from their 1965 debut album... actually a folk-rock remake/cover of...

...wait for it... Everly Brothers record.

This is so cosmic I can't even deal with it.

But how did I learn about this? Ah, therein lies a tale -- and yet another cover version of the song -- which will have to wait for tomorrow's post.


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

R. Crumb Speaks For Me

Actually, I'm in a perfectly good mood, but after last night's radio appearance -- which will be archived and available on-line by the weekend, I'm told -- my creative juices are a little dehydrated.

Regular and more perky posting resumes tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Who Listens to the Radio?

Well, hopefully, you guys.

Because I'm gonna be on my old chum Allan Rosenberg's show Lost at Sea this evening beginning at 5pm est.

You can access it HERE. The first hour will be a musical tribute to New York City; the second hour will be a tribute to the late great Phil Everly. Assuming all goes according to plan.

In any case, tune in, won't you?


Monday, January 06, 2014

Phil Everly 1939-2014

I have little to say in tribute to the late great Phil Everly that hasn't already been said more trenchantly by others. Except perhaps that the very first record I ever bought with my own lunch money was this Cadence 45 in 1957.

I've been a fan ever since, and boy was I pleased to finally hear this stereo version.

I should add that "On the Wings of a Nightingale," the Paul McCartney song Dave Edmunds produced for the Everly's gorgeous 1984 comeback album is as wonderful as any of the duo's more celebrated 50s and early 60s hits. Which as you can hear, it very clearly is.

As I said in a different context the other day -- this death shit is really beginning to piss me off.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special The People's Republic of the Big Apple Edition

[I originally posted this one back in 2008, but I've changed some of the song choices and revised it a little. In any case, it just seemed appropriate now that my fellow Jews and I have elected a Commie mayor in NYC who is going to bring about what all of us really want -- to restore the city to the state of nightmarish dystopia seen in crappy 1970s potboilers like Death Wish. -- S.S.]

Best Post-Beatles Pop/Rock Song/Record About/Referencing New York City and Environs in Title or Lyrics!!!

Okay, no arbitrary rules here, but if you nominate any version of "New York, New York" I will come to your house and kill you AND your family.

Okay, that said, my top of my head Top Seven would be:

7. Dirty Boulevard -- Lou Reed

From the New York City album, obviously. One of Lou's sharpest lyrics, I think, and his cosmic sense of timing on the chorus is a marvel.

6. Incident on 57th Street -- Bruce Springsteen

In this early (1975) radio performance especially. If you don't get Springsteen after listening to this, there's no hope for you.

Honorable mention:

53rd and 3rd -- Ramones

Dee Dee's poignant ode to giving it away on Third Avenue. Well, not exactly for free.

5. King of the New York Streets -- Dion

From his unjustly overlooked Yo Frankie album in 1990, mostly produced by Dave Edmunds. Proof that Dion's a great songwriter, not just one of the greatest rock voices ever, although the last line has always struck me as a copout.

4. Six O'Clock -- The Lovin' Spoonful

I know, I know, "Summer in the City" would be a more obvious pick, but this one just feels so much like NYC when I lived there. Actually, so do a lot of Spoonful songs -- "Rain on the Roof" comes to mind as well.

3. New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones - Fear

The great Lee Ving on vocals, much beloved of John Belushi.

2. Christmas in Hollis -- Run D.M.C.

That's Hollis, Queens, bitches! God, I love this song.

And the number one Big Apple record, it's not even close so don't give me any goddamn attitude, obviously is --

1. New York's a Lonely Town (When You're the Only Surfer Boy Around) -- The Tradewinds

"My woody's outside...covered with snow." That's future Ringo Starr associate Vini Poncia, mastermind of the greatest NYC surf song ever, singing lead.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Thursday Post-New Years Day Essay Question

[First Neil Diamond, now Dan Fogelberg: we are not off to a good start for 2014. How about some rock & roll tomorrow.


And speaking as we were yesterday of Dan Fogelberg's New Year's Eve soft-rock classic "Old Lang Syne," attentive readers may have noticed that the opening line of said song is, basically, a straight lift from Tchaikovsky's noise-rock classic "The 1812 Overture."

Obviously, ironies abound.

In any case, here's a song that also is a straight lift from Tchaikovsky's stereo system demo -- The Move's "Night of Fear."

As seen performed -- brilliantly -- live, on Italian TV, by the original five-man lineup of said band, including the god-like Roy Wood. But which rocks out considerably harder than Fogelberg's.

From 1967. Their debut single, now that I think of it.

So -- were these guys the single most exciting Brit band who never made a noticeable impact in America or what?


Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year's Day's Greatest Hits!!!

[I first posted this one on New Years Day of last year, and, while I'm not trying to turn it in into some kind of tradition, I do find it amusing enough to give it the old "One More Time!".

In any case, have a great day nursing your hangovers -- I recommend hair of the dog -- and here's hoping 2014 is better than 2013, which let's face it sucked on ice with the exception of the Zero Hour release of Floor Your Love. Which it wouldn't kill you to order, BTW. -- S.S.]

This is, as I have been wont to say here on many previous occasions, a very sad story, so please try not to laugh.

It also has a certain relevance to today's festivities, which will be revealed later in the narrative. Please be patient.

Anyway, so the other day I was in a cab heading down the West Side Highway in a snowstorm, and the driver had the radio tuned to whatever soft-rock Lite FM station they inevitably have on when they don't have WINS News Radio blasting or some guy from Queens yelling about sports.

I wasn't particularly paying attention, but suddenly some soft-rock Lite FM staple song came on, and immediately I knew three things.

1. I had definitely heard it before.

2. It was probably from the 70s or the 80s, although I couldn't rule out the possibility that it might have been more recent, and it had that whole California soft-rock vibe, which I usually detest, in spades.

3. I had no idea who the guy or the group singing it was, although I was painfully aware that when and if I found out I was gonna kick myself. Because pretty much everybody in the world, at least of a certain age, would have been able to recognize it instantly.

The truly insidious part was that there was something about the damn thing that grabbed me. Yes, the vocals had that laid-back L.A. Mr. Sensitive shtick that usually makes my gorge rise. But the tune was charming, the voicings of the harmony parts in the chorus were really quite lovely, and -- try as I might to deny it -- it was getting under my skin.

Fortunately, because of the roar of traffic, I couldn't really hear the lyrics, although one word -- "architect" -- jumped out. "Hmm," I thought. "There's a word you don't hear in a pop song everyday."

Anyway, I then went about the rest of my weekend, but I knew with an absolutely dread certainty that I was gonna break down sooner or later and look the song up on the Intertubes.

So, late on Monday, I googled "Soft Rock song with the word architect in it" and up it popped.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...and my fingers are shaking as I type these words....Dan Fogelberg (the horror, the horror!) and his 1980 smash (which I had apparently put out of my mind, probably deliberately, ever since its original vogue) "Same Old Lang Syne."

Well. In case you're wondering, no -- I have no interest in revisiting the rest of Fogelberg's body of work, and yes, I still basically can't stand the whole genre he represents, but goddamn it -- this damn song works and it gets to me. Like I said, it's melodically quite charming, and now that I've actually deciphered the lyrics, it turns out that -- despite a certain smugness that kind of rankles -- they actually make a pretty good little short story.

And the record's not even a new guilty pleasure, to be honest, because I don't feel particularly guilty about liking it.

Sticks in my craw a bit, though.

As I said, this is a very sad story, so please try not to laugh.

Happy New Year, everybody.

And fuck you, Dan Fogelberg, for your pernicious influence. Wherever you are.

Thank you.