Thursday, July 31, 2014

Slacker Thursday

A track from an extremely obscure 1972 folk-psych LP by one of my old Village pals from the Floor Models days.

Apart from the fact that I was amazed to find it on the intertubes -- why am I posting it?

Tune in tomorrow for the answer!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special Buddy Knox is Very Depressed Edition

From 1956, mind you. Apparently, Buddy's party doll gave him the brush.

I realize that death songs are an old and honored tradition in what we refer to as the rock-and-roll field, but I didn't suspect until a few weeks ago that they had rockabilly origins quite this explicit.

[h/t Todd Everett]

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Closed for Monkey Business

More specifically, I was in the studio last night and got home too late to think of something to post.

Okay, by "the studio" I mean the attic facility of my old garage band chums The Weasels, but I was actually recording music, so cut me some slack.

Normal blogging resumes tomorrow, cross my heart.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Burning Wood 2008-2014

Sad news: Our good pal (and frequent PowerPop commenter) Sal Nunziato has hung up his spurs at his incomparable music blog -- after five and a half years of unmitigated brilliance and fun -- for good.

You can -- and should -- read Sal's farewell post over HERE.

I've known Sal for a little over two decades, in both his capacities as the proprietor of NYCD -- my local record store back in my final days in Manhattan -- and as proprietor of the aforementioned Burning Wood. Apart from just being an all around great guy, in both capacities Sal has, over the years, turned me on to so much wonderful music (that I'd have never been exposed to otherwise) that it's literally incalculable.

So I'd like to take this occasion to say -- as I probably should have eons ago -- thank you, buddy.

I should also add that -- if pressed -- the following song and band are the one(s) I'm most grateful for having first encountered over the sound system at NYCD.

A life-changing moment, Sal, and one of too many others to mention I owe you.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special Your Favorite Band/Artist/Song Sucks! Edition

[I first ran this one back in 2009, but after I posted the Ohio Express version of Graham Gouldman's "Sausalito" on Tuesday, it occurred to me that it was newly relevant and might be worthy of revival. As is my wont, I've done some rewriting here and there and added an entry. Just so you don't think I'm a complete slacker asshole. -- S.S.]

Post-Elvis Performer or Performers or Song You've Taken the Most Snark For Liking From Folks Over the Years!!!

Self-explanatory, obviously, and no arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much. Basically, if anybody's ever looked at you with an alarmed raised eyebrow when you noted that, oh, the Swans' Filth was the record you'd most like to have played at a memorial service, then this category is for you.

And my totally top of my head Top Four is:

4. The Beach Boys

Not so much these days, of course, given that it's now generally conceded by all who walk upright that Brian Wilson is a genius, the Gershwin of his generation, but the Beach Boys have gone in and out of fashion so many times over the last 50 years that it's hard to keep track. Back in the hippie days, however -- particularly after the whole debacle of Smile -- the attitude in the counter-culture was that you had to be a hopelessly bourgeois square to take them seriously (in this country, at least; the Brits knew better). In any case, at that point being a Beach Boys fan was essentially the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, and I don't mean Mike.

3. The Guess Who

Seriously, back in the 70s, I can't tell you how often I would mention my fondness for these guys, only to notice that the people I was talking to were moving away, ever so slowly but firmly, from where I sat.

The clip above -- a medley called "Hi, Rockers!" -- is my favorite of several true gems from the band's masterpiece album. The transition from the hilarious beer-soaked barroom meeting of the minds that opens it into the seraphically lovely clavinet-driven "Heaven Only Moved Once" and finally the witty mutant rockabilly revenge number "Don't You Want Me" -- complete with faux Jordanaires harmony vocals -- is, frankly, a marvel to behold, and from where I sit one of the very greatest moments in 70s rock. I'm not kidding about this!!!

2. Procol Harum

These guys, although there's still a perception out there that they were one-hit wonders (hah!), actually get a fair amount of respect -- it's amazing how often I run into people who turn out to be closet fans. So I'm mostly including them here because the luminous NYMary, annotating a piece I'd written about the band in the early 70s for reprint in these precincts, couldn't resist taking a shot at "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (bless her heart). I think the phrase she used was "Dodgiest lyrics ever..."

Naturally enough, then, the clip above is "Repent Walpurgis," an instrumental that remains one of my all-time fave Procol numbers. It's a live version, featuring the classic five piece original lineup with Robin Trower and Matthew Fischer (the latter four decades away from settling his authorship suit over AWSOP) at the Fillmore West on April 11, 1969.

And the numero uno band or song for whom my enthusiasm has gotten me shunned from time to time is obviously --

1. The Four Seasons -- Marlena

The Four Seasons, despite (or perhaps because of) their recent metamorphosis into the inspiration for a world-wide hit musical, remain somewhat less than hep in certain rock critic circles. I, of course, have said on numerous occasions (including here, if memory serves) that their great run of hits -- spanning the period between "Sherry" in 1962 through, say, "I've Got You Under My Skin" five years later -- comprise the purest pop confections in the history of the genre (the grittier class conscious romanticism of "Dawn" and "Rag Doll," and those songs' influence on Bruce Springsteen, is, of course, a subject for another day).

In any case, my advocacy of "Marlena" (which I think is their most profoundly silly accomplishment, and that's meant as a compliment) has gotten me into trouble on a couple of occasions, most notably sometime in the late 70s, when I -- along with twenty or thirty other folks, mostly writers and musicians -- was asked to make a list of our Five All-Time Favorite Songs by New York City rock colossus WNEW-FM (the station then played everybody's lists over the course of an entire day). I don't remember all five songs I picked -- one was The Who's "Glow Girl" -- but I did nominate "Marlena," and I recall that after the deejay ID'd it as one of my choices, I got at least three frantic phone calls from erstwhile friends questioning my sanity. Okay, I exaggerate just a tad, but you get the idea.

In any case, I think history has vindicated my assessment.

Incidentally, the audio clip of "Marlena" above is the original mono single mix, which I was able to find only after great personal effort and considerable financial expense. This is important because most currently available Four Seasons comps have the song in stereo, and as Pete Townshend famously said about The Who's "I Can See For Miles," the mono mix of "Marlena" makes the stereo sound like The Carpenters.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Your Thursday Moment of Words Fail Me

Bob Dylan rehearses his part in "We Are the World."

This is so amazing on so many levels I don't even know where to begin.

[h/t Steve Schwartz]

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Your Wednesday Moment(s) of Power Pop Heaven: Special This Graham Gouldman Obsession of Mine is Really Getting Out of Hand! Edition

And from that recent UK newspaper giveaway CD we mentioned on Monday...'s the utterly amazing Graham Gouldman -- fronting the current touring version of 10cc -- with utterly exquisite unplugged versions of his Hermans Hermits classic "No Milk Today"....

...and the aforementioned 10cc's "I'm Not in Love."

This guy is a stone genius. Period.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Your Tuesday Moment of Power Pop Heaven: Special Bubblegum Gets a Bad Rap! Edition

Okay, I admit it -- for some reason I'm obsessed with the great Graham Gouldman of late.

I bring this up because -- well, from 1970, please enjoy bubblegum legends The Ohio Express and their infernally addictive (and more substantial than the genre usually gets) "Sausalito."

Written by -- wait for it -- Graham Gouldman. Yes, him. (And I should add that the following is a rewritten version of something I originally posted in a different context in 2009.)

Anyway, the interesting (I know, you'll be the judge of that) thing is that the guys in the clip were NOT the guys who played and sang the record. The clip guys, who admittedly have the then contemporary rock star look down pretty good, were a Mansfield, Ohio band called Sir Timothy & The Royals, who were renamed the Ohio Express and hired by the Kasenetz/Katz bubblegum factory to represent, as the kids say.

So who played on the record? Well, given Gouldman's fingerprints on the thing, you might guess it was his future band 10cc, and you'd be right; "Sausalito" is, in fact, the work of the same pop geniuses behind records like "Rubber Bullets" and "I'm Not in Love." Gouldman and company spent a year basically toiling as Brill Building hacks for Kasenetz and Katz; they had their own recording studio which they were trying to turn into a viable commercial enterprise at the time, and grinding out bubblegum tracks for K&K paid the bills. For more on the whole history of the Ohio Express, you should probably go over here.

And just to show you what a nice guy I am, here's a link to a nice clean copy of the record itself. Love that twangy sitar!!!

You're welcome.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Your Monday Moment(s) of Power Pop Heaven: Special Graham Gouldman is an Even Bigger God Than God! Edition

From a recent UK newspaper giveaway CD, please enjoy the incomparable Graham Gouldman...

...and absolutely gorgeous live unplugged versions of "Look Through Any Window"...

...and "The Things We Do For Love."

Technically, these are by the current touring version of 10cc (Gouldman is the only original member) and in fact the CD contains lots of acoustic remakes of his 10cc stuff, as well as familiar Gouldman-penned Brit Invasion classics (originally recorded by The Hollies, The Yardbirds et al) from the 60s.

In any case, just a wonderful, wonderful album -- you can (and definitely should) download the entire thing over HERE.

You're welcome.

Perhaps Needlessly Contentious Essay Question: Gouldman may be the finest pop/rock composer of his generation that isn't named Lennon or McCartney. And his 70s output was better than both of theirs.


[h/t Willard's Wormholes]

Friday, July 18, 2014

Return of the Son of Closed For Monkey Business

To be honest, I just got nothing.

Hopefully inspiration will return after a leisurely, stress free weekend

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Son of Closed for Monkey Business

Not feeling tip top today.

Hopefully, a Listomania will crawl out from the wreckage by tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Closed for Monkey Business

Totally snowed under with real life stuff.

Regular -- and vastly amusing, trust me -- posting resumes tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Give the Drummer Some!

The art of percussion took a couple of very sad hits last week.

Tommy Erdelyi (1949-2014)....

...and Skip Meyer (1949-2014).

Both of these guys played on the earliest, groundbreaking albums by their respective bands, i.e. The Ramones and Shoes.

And if you don't care about those two bands, I have no idea why you're reading this here blog.

RIP Tommy and Skip.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Essay Question

The two greatest couplets in the history of rock 'n' roll are:

From "Midnight Moses" by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in 1974...

"I wish I was a forest ranger...

Danger, danger, danger."

...and from 1968 and The Kinks' The Village Green Preservation Society...

"We are the Custard Pie Appreciation Consortium...

God save the George Cross, and all those who were awarded them."


Friday, July 11, 2014

Your Weekend Moment of Power Pop Heaven: Special Marshall Crenshaw is God! Edition

And from his 1985 meisterwork (well, okay, his most underrated LP) Good Evening, please enjoy yet another one of my favorite Marshall tracks -- the quite beyond awesome "Someplace Where Love Can't Find Me."

The album was Marshall's attempt to go for a slightly harder, more rocked out sound than he had done previously, and I think on the basis of this you have to agree he succeeded.

I should add that the quite astounding slide guitar work on the track is by quite astounding slide guitar genius Sonny Landreth.

I should also add that if you ever get a chance to experience Landreth's work in concert, don't hesitate. It will be, quite literally, the most amazingly psychedelic experience you will ever have legally.

See you all on Monday.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Your Thursday Moment of Power Pop Heaven

Okay,put your headphones on, kids, and enjoy an absolutely transplendent live version of perhaps my all time favorite Marshall Crenshaw song.

You'll thank me.

I found this on a certain Shady Dame's computer the other day -- I assume I must have downloaded it there at some point in the dim dark past, but I have no idea where I got it or when.

Of course, Letterman's intro clearly indicates that Marshall was plugging his 1994 live album, so that would seem to nail down its provenance. But I haven't been able to find it on YouTube, and thus I can't confirm whether or not Crenshaw is backed here by the Letterman band.

Sounds like Will Lee on bass, I'll grant you, but it's a great performance despite that.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Wednesday Essay Question (A Postcscript)

Holy Greil Marcus reviews The Stones' Some Girls in the Village Voice, summer of 1978.

What he said.

Wednesday Essay Question

And speaking as we were yesterday of The Rolling Stones:

A) If the Stones had never written a song, they would deserve to considered as one of the greatest rock bands of all time solely for their covers of blues and r&b.

B) This may be the best cover they ever did.


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Your Tuesday Moment of Words Fail Me

You know, there are some days I think "Beast of Burden" is among the Top Ten best songs the Rolling Stones ever wrote. I'm also extremely fond of The Divine Miss M's cover of it.

That said, this particular video is...well, let us simply stipulate that it may be vastly more self-revealing than was intended at the time.


Which is to say, as a friend noted, that some great art doesn't actually depend on subtlety.

I should add that the answer to Bette's question -- 'what's the matter with me?" -- is....absolutely nothing.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Closed for Monkey Business

Totally swamped with real life stuff.

Regular posting -- and delightful, I might add -- resumes tomorrow. Trust me.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special The Right Tool for the Job! Edition

[I first posted this one in 2009, but given my attendance the other night at a concert by a certain piano guy who will remain nameless, I thought it was relevant enough to shake the dust off of it. I have, as is my wont, done a little general re-writing, and in one case sort-of substituted a new selection; you know -- just to keep my hand in, if not actually doing any real work. -- S.S.]

And so, without any further ado:

Most Memorable Post-Elvis Song or Record Referencing a Musical Instrument in the Title or Lyrics!!!

No arbitrary rules this time, except if anybody nominates "Piano Man" I will come to their house and taunt them mercilessly.

Okay, just kidding about that. Seriously -- no arbitrary rules. Anything goes as far as I'm concerned.

And my totally top of my head Top Seven is:

7. Jimmy Silva and the Goats -- A Tin Whistle and a Wooden Drum

I know very little about Silva except that he was involved with the whole Young Fresh Fellows axis of Northwest coolness and that apparently he died not too long after making the absolutely gorgeous 1991 album this particular ecstatically Byrdsian song appears on. The rest of the album's really great, too, BTW...if you're curious you can download the whole thing free right here.

6. Tom Waits -- The Piano Has Been Drinking

Waits in '77, toward the end of his initial Beatnik period, and pretty damned funny.

5. The Tokens -- I Hear Trumpets Blow

I must confess to having a soft spot for these guys that goes way beyond "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (get me drunk sometime and I'll bore you with my theory that their gorgeous Carole King-penned "He's in Town" is a major stylistic influence on the sound of Springsteen's E-Street Band). This one, one of the very best Brill Building blue collar romantic ballads of the 60s, is another of my real faves.

I should also add that if I ever run into Music Mike, whoever the fuck he is, in the flesh I will definitely be taking him as a hostage. Thank you.

4. Mike Oldfield -- Tubular Bells

Is it cool to admit liking this again? I've lost track. In any case, Philip Glass and all his subsequent minimalist stuff can frankly bite me.

4. Joni Mitchell -- For Free

A great song about a clarinet player, as unlikely as that sounds. Truly gorgeous, but it has much to answer for, perhaps, when you consider she later hired the appalling Tom Scott and the fricking L.A. Express to back her up.

3. The Aliens -- Theremin

Because, you know, we like to include a track recorded in this century. Seriously -- a pretty cool tune, even if it doesn't feature the titular instrument.

2. Cheap Trick -- Mandocello


Rick Nielsen's ode to the theoretically obsolete title instrument, and one of the very best songs on their epochal debut album.

And the numero uno "A Tinkling Piano in the Next Room" tune obviously is --

1. Roy Montrell-- That Mellow Saxophone

I first heard this song on a late 80s/early 90s album featuring the great Lou Witney and D. Clinton Thompson bass & guitar team doing business as The Morells; it's a great album, btw, although long out of print. You can find copies over at Amazon HERE, however, and I can't recommend it highly enough. You're welcome.

In any case, it's now fairly clear to me that the Morells version, which they learned from the original Fifties record above, was at least partly done tongue-in-cheek; Montrell's original, however, simply rocks like a mofo -- dollars to donuts, that's the great Earl Palmer on drums -- and I can't believe I never heard it till yesterday. (I'm informed the Stray Cats also did a cover version at some point in time, but as the guy says in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre -- there's no need for that).

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Slacker Thursday

Saw Billy Joel at the Garden last night, and got home very late.

A wonderful fun evening, even though there was no special guest as there was at Joel's previous Garden show. Heh.

In any case, assuming I'm not too wrecked from another day of helping a certain Shady Dame unpack, regular posting -- perhaps even a Listomania, if the Gods smile -- will resume tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special Vanda and Young Edition

I don't even know where to begin with this, other than to say this is a recent episode of RocKwiz. An Australian tv extravaganza that seems to be a sort of bizarre hybrid of Rockstar INXS and a game show.

In any case, this episode is a tribute to the genius that is Easybeats (and much else) auteurs Harry Vanda and George Young.

Like I said, I don't even know where to begin about this. Except possibly to say that as somebody who has been trying, for most of my adult life, to evangelize about the greatness of those guys to American chums with only fitful success, I never expected to ever witness anything quite so cool. And yes, a lot of the performers are mediocre, but who cares? [I love that Isabella Manfredi, however, for obvious reasons.]

I should add that I did extremely well on the quiz portion of the show, which makes me very proud. I should also add that as a result of this show I discovered two terrific straight-ahead rock songs, by Aussie bands heretofore unknown to me -- "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again" by The Angels...

...and "Run to Paradise" by The Choirboys...

...that Vanda and Young had a hand in.

I should also also add that I was turned on to this show by ace antipodean pal Peter Scott.

Hey Pete -- I owe you, big time.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Not Only Has This Country Jumped the Shark, It's Jumped the Sharknado!

The Supreme Court, with this Hobby Lobby decision bullshit, has apparently come around to Kinky Friedman's way of thinking.

And Monty Python's as well.

Seriously, I would like to thank the five justices behind yesterday's ruling for validating my deeply held belief that I actually have Jesus H. Christ in a chicken basket.

Actually, what I really believe is that I actually have Jesus H. Christ on a piece of challah french toast, but I couldn't find a graphic for that.

In any case, I have been cruelly persecuted for holding this view for years, so kudos to Justice Roberts and the rest of the like-minded Supremes.

I should add that this decision has reminded me of the famous telegram filmmaker Jean Renoir sent to his studio boss after a disastrous sojourn in Hollywood: "Goodbye Mr. Zanuck, and let me tell you it has certainly been a pleasure working at 16th-Century Fox."