Thursday, April 30, 2015

They're Good, But They're No Zager and Evans!

Stumbled across this on YouTube yesterday while researching that song from Streets of Fire. I had no idea Hall and Oates had ever covered it, let alone covered it so beautifully. And apparently Dan Hartman originally wrote it with them in mind.

BTW, there was a major anti-Hall and Oates piece -- at Salon, I think -- online the other week; apparently the present-day hepster concensus is that the duo was not just the worst remaining artifact of the 80s but actually worse than Hitler. I gotta say -- I don't get it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Things From the 80s That Hold Up Better Than You Might Have Expected

The Sorels -- four actor/dancers making like a New Wave version of The Temptations while lip-synching Dan Hartman's "I Can Dream About You" -- in Streets of Fire (1984).

First of all, those dance moves are just fucking great. And those guys are the snazziest dressers in rock-and-roll history; I'd wear one of those suits today in a heartbeat. Of course, it helps that the song itself is ragingly beautiful; it also helps that you don't see Hartman and his band doing it (you can find a clip of that elsewhere on YouTube, and you'll hate me if you do).

I should also add that until this morning I had no idea that one of The Sorels was the wonderful Mykelti Williamson, most recently of TV's Justified.

That's him, second from the right.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Better Late Than Never

Finally saw Tommy Tedesco's documentary on The Wrecking Crew over the weekend, and yes it's as great as everybody told me -- funny, touching, informative, and as neat a portrait of a now vanished era as you're ever likely to witness.

Plus lots of incredible music, obviously.

That said, however, I have one cavil -- with the exception of a brief captioned photo, there's nary a mention of the guy I think was the most amazing musician of the bunch. I refer, of course, to perhaps the greatest multi-instrumentalist/rock-and-roll keyboard guy who ever lived, the incomparable Larry Knechtel.

Here's a little tribute I did to Knechtel on the occasion of his death in 2009; the Divshare links are down, so here are YouTube links to two of his most indelible contributions to 60s and 70s pop.

The bass riff for "Mr. Tambourine Man."

And his absolutely astounding piano part for "Mother and Child Reunion." The first -- and for my money still the best -- example of white boy reggae ever. And damned if Knechtel's descending octave passage work at approximately 1:50 seconds in doesn't kick the track into a whole other dimension. And then keeps building from there.

In any case, despite the omission of Knechtel, a fabulous movie; you can, and should, stream it from Netflix or Amazon; Amazon also has the DVD.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Annals of Gentlemanly Discretion

And as a followup to Friday's post about the new Broadway musical version of Dr. Zhivago -- said show written by my old employer Lucy Simon (sister of Carly) -- there was a fitfully interesting interview in the NY Times late last week with the two siblings.

Modesty, of course, forbids me from saying anything more about the piece; obviously, if I did, Carly would write another song about me.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Sing Out, Louise!

So it appears that the New York Times was unenthused by the new Broadway musical version of Doctor Zhivago.

I only bring this up because -- as longtime readers may recall -- my one big-time professional music gig was as a member of the show's composer Lucy (sister of Carly) Simon's touring band at the time -- 1975 -- she was promoting her then debut LP on RCA Victor Records and Tapes.

(I would be remiss at this juncture if I didn't mention that "touring band" is a bit of an overstatement; said tour consisted of a couple of nights at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village and then a Thanksgiving weekend at a dive on Long Island. And yes, that's me on the left in the stupid hat.)

You can read my amusing account of the whole sordid business over here.

In the meantime, let me simply add that while Lucy is a very nice and very gracious lady, I wasn't particularly surprised by the review. If you know what I mean.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Closed Due to Greed

Late on an actual -- paying! -- writing assignment.

Regular posting resumes tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Great Moments in Folk Rock (An Occasional Series)

From 1965, please enjoy the great Jackie deShannon -- backed by none other than the original Byrds(!) -- and her quite ineffably touching "Splendor in the Grass."

I can sort of get why this wasn't a hit at the time -- the band's playing is a little raggedy if truth be told -- but there's no question the record deserves to be much better known (Byrds fanatic that I am, I actually had never heard it myself until four years ago, when my late bandmate Andy "Folk Rock" Pasternack brought it to my attention).

In any case, I bring it up because of a curious accident of fate. DeShannon is married to singer/songwriter/film composer Randy Edelman, a guy I went to high school with, and our 50th class reunion is coming up in June. I have no idea if he'll be attending, let alone bringing the missus along, but I have resolved to find a 45 copy of the song on eBay, and plan to bring it to the festivities for purposes of autograph just in case.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Just a Stranger on the Bus...

Courtesy of amusing intertube wisenheimer Matt Neuman please enjoy THE TIME GOD APPEARED ON WHAT'S MY LINE.

I realize this has little or nothing to do with the mission statement of this here blog, but I've decided to post it because a) it's brilliantly funny; b) we were speaking of What's My Line yesterday; and c) Ohio governor John Kasich [R-Should Be Making License Plates] announced on one of the Sunday gasbag shows last weekend that he wouldn't run for president until God told him to, so it seemed kinda relevant.


[The following is a transcription of What's My Line? as it was originally broadcast on September 11, 1955, at 10 PM, by CBS.]

JOHN DALY: Panel, put on your masks... good. Now, will our Mystery Guest enter, and sign in please.

(GOD enters, signs "God" on the blackboard, and takes his seat next to JOHN DALY. There is extended applause.)

DALY: All right then, let's begin with Bennett Cerf.

BENNETT CERF: Well, from the applause, you're obviously well known.

DALY: I think you could say that without fear of contradiction, Bennett.

CERF: Would someone of my generation recognize you without having to consult the various popular music periodicals?

GOD: (high, squeaky voice) Yes.

CERF: Was that a yes?

DALY: It was. Continue.

CERF: Are you someone we would recognize from films, or television?

GOD: No.

DALY: That's one down, and five dollars... Dorothy Kilgallen.

DOROTHY KILGALLEN: Mystery Guest, have you ever been the subject of a front page story in a national magazine?

GOD: Yes.

KILGALLEN: Would you say that you are a... controversial figure?

GOD: Yes.

KILGALLEN: Do you travel extensively? Are you known throughout the world?

GOD: Yes.

KILGALLEN: I can't tell if you're a man or a woman. Are you... a woman?

GOD: No.

DALY: That's two down. Robert Q. Lewis, you're next.

ROBERT Q. LEWIS: Hmm... Mystery Guest, you wouldn't happen to be a millionaire Latin playboy who was recently seen in the company of atomic bombshell Jayne Mansfield, would you?

GOD: No.

DALY: That's three down, seven to go... Arlene Francis.

ARLENE FRANCIS: Mystery Guest, I get the feeling that you're someone who possesses power as much as fame. Would that be correct?

GOD: Yes.

FRANCIS: Have you ever, or are you currently for that matter, in a position of power?

(GOD whispers in DALY's ear.)

DALY: Could you define what you mean by "power," Arlene?

FRANCIS: Well, political power, for example.

GOD: No.

DALY: That's four down. Bennett?

CERF: We know you're not a Latin millionaire playboy, but we haven't ruled out whether or not you're, well, I'll ask. Are you rich?

(GOD whispers in DALY's ear.)

DALY: Once again, I must ask you to define your terms.

CERF: Are you... a millionaire?

GOD: No.

DALY: Five down, five to go. Dorothy Kilgallen, you look puzzled.

KILGALLEN: I am. He's obviously a well-known personality, he's powerful, but he's not rich, at least not in dollars-and-cents terms... he's not an actor. Mystery Guest, are you someone who operates "behind-the-scenes?"

GOD: Yes.

KILGALLEN: Are you one of our great directors, or producers?

GOD: Yes.

DALY: Excuse me, Dorothy, did you mean film directors or producers?


DALY: Then I think the correct answer, and I'll speak for our Mystery Guest, would be a "no." Six down, four to go. Robert Q. Lewis?

LEWIS: Are you unusually strong, and fast?

GOD: Yes.

LEWIS: Would you consider yourself a great athlete?

GOD: Yes.

LEWIS: Do you have abilities far beyond mere mortal men?

GOD: Yes.

LEWIS: Are you... Willie Mays?

GOD: No.

DALY: I thought you were going to say Superman.

LEWIS: Willie Mays is Superman.

DALY: Seven down, three to go, and Arlene Francis, it's your turn.

FRANCIS: Well, he's not Willie Mays, but we haven't ruled out athlete, or professional athlete... could we have a conference?

DALY: Certainly.

(FRANCIS, LEWIS, KILGALLEN, and CERF huddle and whisper to each other.)

FRANCIS: Are you considered... tough?

GOD: Yes.

FRANCIS: Have you ever been referred to as "the Rock"?

GOD: No.

DALY: Eight down. Bennett Cerf.

CERF: Well, he's not Rocky Marciano or Rocky Graziano. That only leaves a few billion people. Mystery Guest, are you a religious person?

GOD: Yes.

CERF: Are you a religious person who is in a prominent position within the church?

GOD: Yes.

CERF: Do you have millions of followers?

GOD: Yes.

CERF: Are you... Bishop Fulton Sheen?

GOD: No.

DALY: That's nine down, one to go, and it's up to Dorothy Kilgallen.

KILGALLEN: Now I'm really confused. He's big, strong, in a position of considerable influence in the church, well-known, but controversial... powerful...

DALY: I'll throw over the last card if you don't have a question, Dorothy, we're running out of time.

KILGALLEN: Oh, all right, I'll take a wild stab...are you...God?

(There is loud applause.)

DALY: You got it! You can take your masks off now, panel.

FRANCIS: I almost guessed it, but...

KILGALLEN: We should have had it sooner.

LEWIS: And you say you're not seeing Jayne Mansfield?

CERF: Well, as someone who has millions, God, it's not all that it's cracked up to be.

DALY: God, anything you'd like to say? We've got a few seconds.

GOD: Just that I'm donating my winnings to the Boys Club of New York, and the Police Athletic League, they do such good work, and the Fresh Air Fund, which sends needy kids to camp each summer.

DALY: Anyone have a question for God before we sign off?

LEWIS: Yeah, just this: you wouldn't happen to have Jayne Mansfield's phone number, would you?

DALY: Oh, Robert... that's our show for tonight, ladies and gentlemen, until next time, this is John Daly, saying, "good night."

Monday, April 20, 2015

Will Our Mystery Guests Enter and Sign In, Please?

Okay, obviously, the guy with the great haircut in the middle of this photo -- which I had never seen until last week, BTW -- is, if memory serves, the guitarist for some British band that achieved some minor notoriety.

But do you know who the guys on the drums and bass are?

Here's a hint: The pic was taken in Los Angeles sometime in October or November of 1968.

A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the first reader who correctly identifies the musicians WITHOUT googling.

[h/t Steve Hoffman]

Friday, April 17, 2015

I Don't Need No Doctor

Well, actually I do, but with any luck it won't be THIS guy.

Seriously, scheduled for some routine tests today, so I'm too cranky for real posting. Regular -- non-Tom Petty -- related hoo hah resumes on Monday.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

More Cowbell! (An Occasional Series): Special Oh No, It's That Guy From Florida Again Edition

From 1987 -- and one of his most oddly overlooked albums --

-- please enjoy TP and Company and "Stop Jammin' Me." Featuring lyrical contributions from some Jewish guy from Minnesota.

Actually, the lyrics, though occasionally droll, don't hold up as much as I'd hoped, but Jeebus H. Christ on a piece of challah toast, what a fricking fantastic rock-and-roll groove. Proving, as I have long asserted, that although Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench are fantastic musicians who deserve the lion's share of the credit for the band's sound, it was departed drummer Stan Lynch who was always the Heartbreakers' secret weapon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Might as Well Face It, It's Turned Into Tom Petty Week!

TP and company, 1977. Performing Bobby Troup's immortal ode to road trips...

..."Route 66." 'natch. Live in Germany, and I have no relevant joke about THAT.

I should add that I saw the Heartreakers -- opening, ironically enough, for Roger McGuinn -- perform this song at the Bottom Line that same year and it was devastatingly great, by which I mean really loud.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Masses Are Clamoring For Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!!!

And as a follow-up to yesterday's discussion, here's TP's cover of the great Nick Lowe song "Cracking Up." From the great box set below.

I mean -- what's not to like?

Monday, April 13, 2015

I Talk to the Trees...

From 1978, and their second album You're Gonna Get It, please enjoy the original (and still the greatest) incarnation of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and their quite ecstatically McGuinn-esque "Magnolia."

I bring this up because the magnolia tree outside the Q-Boro apartment of a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance... finally starting to flower after our long, depressing, almost Bergman-esque East Coast winter.

But also because I have been continually amazed over the years to find out how many people of my acquaintance -- people whose opinions I respect -- seem to have an absolutely visceral loathing for TP and company. Most recently, a Facebook pal of mine who is also a first generation rock critic of some deservedly serious repute.

No fooling -- as somebody who considers the Heartbreakers absolutely superb musicians with as impressive a body of work as can be found in American rock, I can't understand the animus. Can anyone help me out here?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Video Pick

Courtesy of a recommendation from our pal (and friend of this here blog) Sam Walters -- formerly the lead singer of King Hell, the greatest rap metal band out of Brooklyn ever, and currently doing similar splendid duty for monsters of rock Driven Mad (find them on Facebook and otherwise check your local listings) -- I just watched what is without question one of the most remarkable -- and remarkably disturbing -- rock documentaries ever made.

The short version: The film is a mash note from a fan to Pentagram, who -- previously unbeknownst to me -- are one of the genuine cult bands of all time, a long-running, hugely influential and commercially unsuccessful metal act featuring a notoriously self-destructive lead singer who by all rights should have died years ago; let's just say that the phrase "elegantly wasted" has never been used to describe him. It's one of the most harrowing things of its kind I've ever seen -- when people ask, I tell 'em its sort of like Anvil! The Story of Anvil if it had been directed by Tod Browning. I should add that you absolutely don't have to be a metal fan to find the film compulsively watchable, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it features a surprise ending that you absolutely won't see coming.

Here's the trailer, which should give you an idea.

Traditionalist that I am, I viewed the thing on DVD (available from Amazon) but I believe you can also stream it from Netflix. In any case, not to be missed.

P.S.: While doing a little Google research on Pentagram, I was positively gobsmacked to learn that one of the many guitarists who did duty in the band over its long history is none other than John Jennings, a great country/folk-rock player who wound up being Mary-Chapin Carpenter's bandleader and musical director for decades, and whose music with MCC couldn't be more stylistically different from metal.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Ain't Technology Grand?

My computer is acting like this guy today...

i.e., squirrelly.

Normal posting resumes tomorrow. Actually, not so normal -- I can pretty much promise one of the damndest things you'll ever see.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Closed for Monkey Business

Gotta do some work on an actual paying liner notes gig I'm months behind on.

Back with more of the usual frivolity tomorrow.

Monday, April 06, 2015

And Speaking of Gorgeous (An Occasional Series)

Thanks to the nice folks at Shout!Factory, I was able to shnorr a Blu-ray version of the 2012 MusiCares tribute to Paul McCartney a few weeks ago...

...and unsurprisingly (for this sort of thing) the performances are inconsistent, ranging from the cringeworthy (the cast of Cirque du Soleil) to the charming (Duane Eddy's twangy guitar version of "And I Love Her").

And I never thought I'd say this, but Neil Young and Crazy Horse -- who render an inappropriately elephantine version of "I Saw Her Standing There" -- absolutely flat out suck.

This Alison Krauss and Union Station performance, however -- of one of Sir Paul's MTV era hits (which I hadn't thought much about in years) -- is about as achingly beautiful as it gets.

Krauss sings the very bejeezus out of the song, obviously, but the secret weapon here is Jerry Douglas on dobro, in a performance for which the word "transplendent" seems to have been specifically coined.

Friday, April 03, 2015

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

[This one dates originally from 2009, a period which, ironically enough, predates my return to actively playing a musical instrument, let alone making alleged music in the company of other people. As is my wont, I've done some editing and re-writing, plus I've added a new entry just for shits and giggles. Please try to enjoy.-- S.S.]

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

No arbitrary rules this time, you're welcome very much. Seriously -- no arbitrary rules. Anything goes as far as I'm concerned.

Oh, actually there IS one arbitrary rule. No "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" or "Squeezebox."

Just because.

And my totally top of my head Top Eight is:

8. The Mothers of Invention -- My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama

Still not much of a Zappa fan, but I've always loved that title, and in any case the song I actually wanted to use in this slot -- "Guitar" by Prince -- isn't on YouTube for obvious reasons.

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 album this particular ecstatically Byrdsian song appears on. The rest of the record's really great, BTW.

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 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.

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 Joni later hired the appalling Tom Scott and the fricking L.A. Express to back her up.

3. The Aliens -- Theremin

A pretty cool tune, even if it doesn't feature the titular instrument. I actually discovered these guys on a MOJO sampler back in the day, and they had a couple of really good songs, although a quick Google search suggests they may currently be toiling at the 21st century equivalent of the car wash.

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 and His Band-- That Mellow Saxophone

This is one of those records that I can't conceive of anybody being able to listen to without smiling. And I do not know this for a fact, but if I were a betting man I'd put serious money down to say that the drummer kicking serious ass on this is the great Earl Palmer.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Cynthia Lennon 1939 -- 2015

Apart from being great musicians, the Fabs were admirable people -- as evidenced, obviously, by how well all the Beatles kids have turned out -- but they were not saints, and, unsurprisingly, some of the folks in their orbit got a raw deal. Pete Best comes immediately to mind, and Cyn -- who I always liked -- as well. Against the odds, however, she was a pretty classy lady by all accounts, and our condolences go out to Julian and everyone else who knew and loved her.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Closed for Monkey Business

To paraphrase the Fab Four, some days it's just all too much.

Regular posting resumes tomorrow, and it is my fervent wish that I get an edition of Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits up for Friday. We shall see.