Monday, March 31, 2014

Girls! Girls! Girls! (An Occasional Week-Long Series): Part I -- The Over the Top and Screechy? Show

From 1974 -- please enjoy folk goddess Sandy Denny...

...and her autobiographical masterpiece "Solo."

I've posted this video before, but it never fails to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Seriously -- nobody has ever been able to transition from the heartbreakingly vulnerable to the regal to the nail-you-to-the-wall in the same song (hell, sometimes in the same line) like the late Ms. Denny.

I should add that the clip derives from a tour with a particularly nice iteration of Fairport Convention; I saw them at another club, from pretty much the same audience perspective, around the same time and it remains one of the most indelible experiences of live music I ever had.

[h/t Gummo, although this probably isn't what he had in mind when he characterized Denny in the terms in today's title the other week]

Friday, March 28, 2014

Weekend Listomania Retro: Special There's No Need For That! Video Edition

For those of you playing at home, I originally posted this one back in 2008, but obviously the statute of limitations has run out by now, so here we go again.


No arbitrary rules, except don't give me any of that celebrity shit. In other words, Sebastian Cabot or William Shatner or any of the rest of the Rhino Golden Throats crowd need not apply.

Incidentally, I've rewritten this slightly, i.e. the original number one choice was David Bowie's "Let's Spend the Night Together." But like I said last week, I think I've flogged that particular deceased equine on one or two many occasions.

Okay -- my strictly off the top of my head Top Six is:

6. A tie.

"I Can't Make You Love Me" -- Bon Iver...


"Rocky Raccoon" -- James Blunt

My theory on those two is that these guys were just fucking with us. But who knows -- maybe they were serious?

5. "Signs" -- Tesla

This was an egregiously stupid song the first time around...

...but I am convinced the hair metal morons in Tesla actually thought it was cool.

4. "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" -- Bryan Ferry

In which Ferry, possibly the stupidest man in the history of pop music, decides that the only way to improve a Bob Dylan song is to add sound effects.

3. "The Ballad of John and Yoko" -- Hootie and the Blowfish

This is so bad you can't even find it on the intertubes, but trust me -- it was real. You have no idea how awful.

2. "White Lines (Don't Do It)" -- Duran Duran

Because nothing says hip hop culture more than a pasty white guy named Simon Le Bon.

And the number one absolutely most disgusting cover version that has ever been heard by the ears of sentient mammalian bipeds clearly is ---

1. "Ticket to Ride" -- Maroon 5

Has there ever been a successful band with less of a reason to live? I think not.

Seriously -- they're like a black hole of anti-charisma.

Awrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

[h/t a certain Shady Dame from Brooklyn]

Thursday, March 27, 2014

And People Wonder Why I'm Devoting My Golden Years to Non-Stop Hookers and Blow

The American experiment in democracy is officially over.

Seriously, this is the most depressing thing I've ever read in my entire life.

Via Digby, this morning.

The president's speech today was very strange. Ryan Grim reports:

President Barack Obama defended the American invasion of Iraq Wednesday in a high-profile speech to address the Russian takeover of Crimea. Russian officials, Obama noted, have pointed to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq as an example of "Western hypocrisy."

Obama struggled, however, in his attempt to defend the legality of the invasion. The war was unsanctioned by the United Nations, and many experts assert it violated any standard reading of international law. But, argued Obama, at least the U.S. tried to make it legal. "America sought to work within the international system," Obama said, referencing an attempt to gain U.N. approval for the invasion -- an effort that later proved to be founded on flawed, misleading and cherry-picked intelligence. The man who delivered the presentation to the U.N., then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, has repeatedly called it a "blot" on his record.

I can't imagine anyone on those planet who would buy the president's rubbish on that topic. You don't get extra credit for "seeking" UN approval and going ahead when it's denied, fergawdsakes. If anything that makes it worse! It proved to anyone with eyes that it doesn't matter what the UN thinks --- if the US wants to invade a country it's damned well going to do it. "Asking" the UN is a mere formality. I think most of the nations of the world got that "message" loud and clear.

Obama, in his speech, noted his own opposition to the war, but went on to defend its mission.

"We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain," Obama argued. In fact, the U.S. forced Iraq to privatize its oil industry, which had previously been under the control of the state, and further required that it accept foreign ownership of the industry. The effort to transfer the resources to the control of multinational, largely U.S.-based oil companies has been hampered in part by the decade of violence unleashed by the invasion.

Yes, we invaded a sovereign nation and killed many thousands of its people for their own good. Pay no attention to the litany of lies our government told to justify it.

I heard the speech this morning and nearly choked when I heard President Obama --- the man whose rationale for running for president in the first place was based upon his superior judgement compared to anyone who voted for that misbegotten war --- now standing before the international community and defending that travesty and drawing a fatuous moral distinction between what we did just a decade ago and what is happening in Russia today. I am embarrassed for him. And for the United States.

He went on to say that we left Iraq so we're not bad guy imperialists (like you know who) which is one of America's traditional claims to excuse our special brand of imperialism: we had good intentions and at least we didn't turn them into an American colony. Bully for us. The people who lost their families in any of these wars are unlikely to be moved by the fact that we remove our soldiers from the territory once our wet work is done.

Grim concludes with this upbeat current report about the results of our glorious adventure:

The president's paean to Iraqi democracy comes one day after the entire board of the country's electoral commission resigned en masse, protesting political interference and, according to Reuters, "casting doubt on a nationwide vote scheduled for next month." Critics have accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of a systematic effort to remove opponents from the ballot.

Across Iraq, 68 people were killed the same day the commissioners stepped down.

Words fucking fail me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

A long day yesterday, so I'm taking one off.

However, cool stuff coming. Including another episode of Weekend Listomania Retro on Friday.

And next week -- the triumphant return of Girls! Girls! Girls!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Knockers Up (AKA Oh, THAT Belle Barth)

Okay, I'm actually a little ashamed of this one, but from that same bootleg LP I mentioned yesterday, please enjoy Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis trying to get a radio promo for their forthcoming The Caddy right.

But getting it horribly horribly wrong...

Two words: Oy. Gevalt.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Some People Wanna Fill the World With Silly Love Songs

From 1953, and an under-the-counter 78rpm record, please enjoy the irrepressible Larry Lartz (in reality comedian and character actor Cliff Norton)...

...and perhaps the greatest ballad ever committed to magnetic tape.

This is no shit, indeed.

I should add that the orchestra is conducted and arranged by the future band leader of Johnny Carson's New York tenure on The Tonight Show, the equally irrespressible Skitch Henderson.

An old college housemate of mine had this on a bootleg LP in 1969 or 1970, and I have been looking for a copy of it ever since. Finally found it online last week.

Ain't the intertubes wonderful?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Weekend Listomania Retro: Special Fingernails on the Blackboard Video Edition

Another one from the vaults, but I think it would be interesting to see what your choices might be after all these years.

I've changed a couple of things since this first ran in 2008 -- the number six entry, for example, was originally David Bowie, but in retrospect I've decided that I've flogged that particular deceased equine on more than enough previous occasions.

In any case, let us now praise with faint damns the MOST ANNOYING POST-BEATLES POP/ROCK SINGERS EVER!!!!

No arbitrary rules, you're welcome, and obviously this is totally subjective so there's going to be (I suspect) a few disagreements about the following, but I want to emphasize that we're talking vocal quality here, not stage demeanor or general persona. For example it doesn't matter how hyperkinetically Patti LaBelle flutters her hands, annoying an affectation as that may be. Rather, it's her relentless over-singing of even the simplest song that makes me want to take a hostage every time I hear her.

Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Ten:

10. James Blunt

I'm sorry, whenever I hear that smug falsetto I think "somewhere an electric chair is waiting." Really -- this kid makes John Mayer sound like Howlin' Wolf.

9. Bjork

As my dear friend Laura the Rock 'n' Roll Travel Agent so aptly put it, "she sounds like two cats copulating."

8. Paul Williams

Williams is one of those guys, like Michael McDonald, who seems to sing from his jaw, rather than his throat, and his was one of the leading vocal annoyances of the early 70s. Fortunately for all of us, word has reached me that the man himself was in the wings at some sort of industry function yesterday and was eaten by the backstage cat before anyone could intervene.

7. Morrissey

Frankly, without Johnny Marr's jangly guitar, the Smiths would have been unbearable, which is the word I associate with Morrissey's solo career. "Have I mentioned that I cried?"

6. James Blunt

Yeah, I know I already mentioned him, but he's so vile he really needs to be here twice.

5. A tie --

Axl Rose


Sebastian Bach

I can't think of a genre that's spawned so many unlistenable yowlers as 80s hair metal. Actually, these two aren't even the worst, now that I think of it.

4. David Clayton Thomas

It boggles my mind that this guy was ever even considered a rock singer. It boggles me even more that apparently he was singing in a blues(!) band when BS&T plucked him from obscurity.

3. Madonna

Joan Armatrading famously allowed how she actually liked Madonna's "little Munchkin voice," but I think she was being ironic.

2. Cristina Aguilera

Ah yes, growing up on the mean streets of The Mickey Mouse Club is precisely the sort of experience to give somebody soul. Seriously -- I doubt there's a song extant that this horribly amusical belter couldn't flog into submission, leaving it gasping and exhausted on the floor of a stage like a porpoise out of water.

And the number one incredibly irksome, it's so obvious it's not even a fricking contest, singer is --

1. Geddy Lee

This song is a guilty pleasure for me, but sometimes when I'm really depressed, I think of somebody with a better voice singing it and I immediately feel better. In any case, I can't think of another rock vocalist who more consistently makes me want to rip my ears off.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday Phoning It In

Under the weather -- a pesky cold, actually -- so my brain isn't really up to serious new posting.

That said, in case you missed my appearance last week on my old chum Allan Rosenberg's intertube radio show LOST AT SEA, here it is.

Pretty funny stuff, I think, including -- at the halfway mark -- a riotous appearance by The Long Distance Comedian (who was calling from Manhattan).

Tomorrow, fortunately, brings the triumphant return of Weekend Listomania Retro!

Until then, enjoy the comedy stylings etc....

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Night of the Living Weasels

From the just (almost finally) mixed album* by my old garage band chums The Weasels, please enjoy the first single (heh):

The Raspberries Meets Exile on Mainstreet pastiche that IS "A Little Mercy."

For what it's worth, I'm not doing a lot on this track except some eighth-notes on the second half of each verse and some power-chording that's buried in the murk; the solo guitar stuff (including the cool slide) is by our producer, Glenn Leeds. The rest of the demerits go to the song's composer Jai Guru Dave Hawxwell (vocals and rhythm guitar), Allan Weissman (bass) and I Robot (drum programming).

* [I should add that the cover art above is for a forthcoming version of some stuff we did back in the '60s; the new album has possibly the greatest title in music history, but I'm not allowed to announce it yet.]

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You Have Only One Lord and Master -- Dr. Mabuse!!!!

He had a thousand eyes...

...but I only have two, and I'm off to the city for my specialist to check them. For the last time in a long time, I hope.

Regular (and extremely weaselly) posting resumes tomorrow.

Monday, March 17, 2014

In Retrospect, I'm Surprised Jimmy Page Didn't Plaigarize It First!

So if you missed last Friday's successfully recycled Weekend Listomania -- Theme: Cover Versions That Should Be But So Far Aren't -- you also missed my suggestion that Led Zeppelin blowtorch their way through The Dave Clark 5's 1964 Brit Invasion smash "Bits and Pieces."

And you also missed the following comment by reader Anonymous:

[Robert] Plant (Led Zep by extension) DID cover "Bits & Pieces" with Plant's version of Kenny Dino's 1961 single "Your Ma Said You Cried in Your Sleep Last Night," which the DC5 essentially rewrote as 'Bits and Pieces'."

He did it on 1990's "Manic Nirvana" album.

Well, knock me over with a feather...

...but sure enough it's true -- the 5 DID pretty much rip off the earlier tune. Granted, they added their own bridge section, but still; the provenance is pretty blatant.

As for Plant's version... takes a little while to get going, but in the final analysis it does indeed have that real gone spirit.

Heh. The things you can learn on the intertubes.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Weekend Listomania Retro: Special This One is Worth Recycling! Edition

[I originally posted this in 2007 -- don't get me started -- but I think it would be fun to give you guys another go at it. I've made a couple of small changes (it turns out that Emmylou Harris actually DID cover Richard Thompson's "Dimming of the Day"), but basically I still think my choices were pretty much on the money.

In any case, enjoy.

You know -- some really fabulous song you'd really like to hear some favorite artiste -- solo or group -- perform or record, but so far they haven't gotten around to it (the bastards!!!).

Okay, my totally off the top of my head Top Ten:

10. The Hold Steady -- The Boys Are Back in Town [Thin Lizzy]
They've probably jammed on it a thousand times -- it's about time they go public for gosh sakes.

9. The Posies -- Carrie-Ann [The Hollies]
They already proved they were genetically bred to do Hollies songs with their version of "King Midas in Reverse" -- just think what they would bring to the sunniest of the Clarke-Hicks-Nash classics.

8. The Pretenders -- Every Little Bit Hurts [Brenda Holloway]
My fave 60s soul ballad/torch song would be a natural for Chrissie Hynde, I suspect.

7. Neko Case -- The First Cut Is The Deepest [Cat Stevens]
Because she'd do it better than Sheryl Crow, duh.

6. Steve Earle -- Street Fighting Man [The Rolling Stones]
C'mon -- this is the job he was born for.

5. Bob Mould -- Calvary Cross [Richard Thompson]
On the 1994 Thompson tribute album Beat the Retreat, Mould turned the rockabilly tinged "Turning of the Tide" into a killer piece of buzz-saw punk. I swoon to imagine what he could do with Thompson's most intensely doom-haunted song....

4. Emmylou Harris -- Withered and Died [Richard and Linda Thompson]
I'm not sure we would survive the hearing of this, actually.

3. Elvis Costello and the Attractions -- Sooner or Later (One of Us Must Know) [Bob Dylan]
If anybody is going to do the most majestic "Blonde On Blonde" song it should be these guys.

2. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- 19th Nervous Breakdown [The Rolling Stones]
Jagger's snarl would morph into Petty's sly drawl pretty good, doncha think?

And the number one cover I'd love to hear is....

1. Led Zeppelin -- Bits and Pieces [Dave Clark Five]
For obvious reasons.....

Okay -- what would be your picks?

[h/t FeralLiberal]

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Life is a Bitch. Period.

Actually, everything's great, but I completely forgot to get something together for a post today.

Tomorrow, however, there's gonna be a killer Weekend Listomania.

And next week, new music from a certain bunch of garage band chums of mine. And one of the best damned singer/songwriter gals you've probably never heard of, but definitely will.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

They Say It's Your Birthday!

Glen "Bob" Allen -- my chum from the Floor Models and the Hi-Beams, as well as my musical director for the last half century -- is having a significant date today.

Here's something we did together back when both of us and the world were young.

Happy Birthday, you old bat!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Who Listens to the Radio? (An Occasional Series): Special Advertisements for Myself Edition

Well, it's Tuesday, and I'm gonna be on my chum Allan Rosenberg's fabulous intertube radio show LOST AT SEA once again.

You can listen to it, streaming live over at Area 24 Radio, by clicking HERE starting at 5pm East Coast time.

Not strictly a theme show, for a change, but our plan is to play a lot of comedy, a lot of music that's funny, and a little bit of just music to keep us honest.

Also -- in the show's second hour, we expect to have a special guest by phone: The incomparable...


We'll also be taking your e-mails for requests.

Be there or be square, as today's teens are wont to say.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tighten Up Those Lyrics, Guys, and You've Got a Hit!

And from that same 1969 Amboy Dukes album we discussed last week -- featuring a certain asshole who shall be nameless here forever more -- please enjoy, if possible, an obscure track recommended by faithful reader Mr. Minimac.

Who informed us that the reason this sounded strangely familiar (I know for a fact that I never listened to the LP back in the day) because it showed up in a bar scene in season 3 of Breaking Bad.

Well, it certainly sounds creepy enough to be the soundtrack for Walter White.

P.S.: As you may recall, a certain asshole who shall be nameless here forever more still claims that he had no idea that his first hit was about drugs -- this despite the fact that it was entitled "Journey to the Center of Your Mind," which one would think might have been a clue. However, faithful reader and chum Billy B. noted that the cover to the album containing said hit...

...should have been an even bigger clue.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Have I Employed the Phrase 'Words Fail Me' Any Time of Late?

And speaking as we were yesterday of the late great Frankie Lymon, here's The Amboy Dukes -- featuring you know who -- covering Lymon's "I Am Not a Juvenile Delinquent" in 1969.

I was going to say that apparently Ted Nugent was an asshole even back in the day, but I really don't know what I think about this. I mean, it genuinely seems like a song these guys actually dug -- unless I'm very much mistaken, they're doing it straight, if not particularly well compared to the original. But strictly from a commercial standpoint, I find it confounding that a punk-psych/blues-rock band in the late 60s thought doing a faithful version of a doo-wop classic was going to endear them to the hippie audience. I mean, Sha Na Na hadn't played Woodstock when this was recorded. It's also possible, it occurs to me, that this was supposed to be some kind of ironic-but-not-really Frank Zappa weasel move.

On the other hand, Nugent still claims that he had no idea that his breakout hit -- "Journey to the Center of Your Mind" -- was about drugs.

So yes -- he was already an asshole back in the day.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Words Fail Me -- The Even MORE Ultimate Edition

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers...

...absolutely fricking live, with no lip-synching, on the Frankie Laine television program in 1956.

I should mention that Lymon wrote and performed this song at the age of 13.

Sweet Jeebus: To think that a couple of years later people thought Michael Jackson was such a big deal.

Also: Somebody remind me again why I'm supposed to give a crap about that Lorde shit?

[h/t Sal Nunziato]

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Answer to a Question That Has Plagued Me For Four Decades

To wit: Why hasn't Bruce Springsteen ever covered The Easybeats "Friday on My Mind"?

It's obvious now: He was waiting till he toured Australia.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Words Fail Me -- The Ultimate Edition

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, live in Australia last week, covering The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive." Beautifully shot and with great sound.

I'm having a very tough week, so I really don't have the energy to give this the exegesis it deserves.

But let's just say that, on reflection. this performance makes a lot more sense, both conceptually and just as music, than I would have believed before I watched it.

Monday, March 03, 2014

And Now, in Honor of the Current Geopolitical Shenanigans in the Vicinity of Russia...

..from the 1956 rock film The Girl Can't Help It, please enjoy one of the great surreal moments in the history of American cinema -- the extremely vavavoom Julie London and her fabulously sultry rendition of...

...wait for it...

..."Crimea River."

Thank you, I'm here all week. Try the veal. Also -- tip your waitresses and bartenders, they all have massive drug habits to support.

The recorded version of "River," which Julie is lip-synching in the movie, derives from her debut album (above), which was released in 1955 (complete with cheesecake cover photo of London, which became something of a trademark on her subsequent album releases). The song (and album) were produced by Julie's second husband (and later co-star on TV's Emergency), the great Bobby Troup (who wrote "Route 66," among other notable accomplishments).

I think it's an absolutely genius single -- a brilliantly minimalist arrangement (just guitarist Barney Kessel and acoustic bassist Ray Leatherwood), coupled with London's all-but-perfect phrasing (she had, as she famously said, "only a thimbleful of a voice," but man it sounded great and did she ever know how to use it) and then a discreet little bit of echo as the record fades out.

What I did not know until yesterday was that the song itself (which has been covered about a zillion times by everybody from Barbra Streisand to Joe Cocker) is by a songwriter named Arthur Hamilton (also hitherto unknown to me), and was originally written to be sung by Ella Fitzgerald in the 1955 movie Pete Kelly's Blues; the song was dropped before the movie was released, however. The film's star was Jack (Dragnet) Webb, who London was married to at the time; presumably she heard a demo of the song and liked it enough to claim it as her own.

I should add that The Girl Can't Help It (Troup wrote the Little Richard-sung title song, by the way), while never less than fun, has a reputation as the first great rock film which it only occasionally deserves.

Yes, the "Cry Me a River" montage with London is a great proto-rock video; the segment with a young and gorgeous Abby Lincoln...

...should probably not be witnessed by impressionable teenage boys; and the club scene featuring the aforementioned Little Richard (and his lethal road band The Upsetters) is truly jaw-dropping.

But some of the other musical performances -- notably including Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent -- are criminally truncated, and while writer/director Frank Tashlin's cynicism about the workings of the music business and the nature of pop celebrity is bracing (even today), the whole thing is obviously an outsider's satire, and as a result it often doesn't quite ring true.

Still, TGCHI is definitely worth seeing; to my surprise, you can get it over at Amazon but only as part of a Jayne Mansfield collection with The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw and the very funny Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. Sounds like a pretty good idea, actually.