Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Who Listens to the Radio?

I'll be guesting on my pal Capt. Al's intertube radio show today at fabulous AREA 24 RADIO

Beginning at 5pm east coast time and continuing for two glorious hours.

You can listen to it stream at the link HERE.

We'll be giving out my e-mail addy throughout the show; feel free to make requests, threats, or just say hi -- we get lonely in the studio.

Oh -- and here's a hint to the theme of the show.

And no -- it ISN'T songs about summer.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Thank You, Supreme Court -- I Just Went GAY All of a Sudden!

From 1984, Tom Robinson's cover of the Steely Dan classic "Rikki Don't Lose That Number." And yes, it was always a gay song, apparently we just never noticed.

I don't think this -- a minor hit in England -- can really touch the original, but good on Robinson for doing it anyway.

Friday, June 26, 2015

And So You See....Ennui!!!

"Casanova's Waltz."

My old chum from my Greenwich Village rock-and-roll days Peter Spencer, who wrote it, did an absolutely killer version of this when I saw him play at Kline's Gallery in Lambertville N.J. last Saturday.

Yes once I had money and lovers
Once I had teeth in my jaw
But why have adventures except when you're old to tell stories
That fill your companions with awe?

I shall die here of boredom
I shall die here of boredom

I swear to god, that's one of the greatest songs of all time. And yes, a certain Shady Dame and I had a lovely weekend, BTW.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Taylor Hawkins: Living Saint

Foo Fighters drummer and mensch Taylor Hawkins sings the lead vocal on "Holy Man," a Dennis Wilson solo track left unfinished at the tine of the Beach Boys legend's tragic death.

Being a Southern California surfer dude himself, I guess Hawkins kind of related to Dennis. In any case, a beautiful job (originally released on the 2008 Sony reissue of Wilson's 1977 masterpiece, Pacific Ocean Blue).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Closed for Monkey Business

Real life has reared its ugly head once again. Regular fun-filled posting resumes on the morrow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dave Grohl: Living Saint (An Occasional Series)

The Foo Fighters (on the Jimmy Fallon show) and "I am a River," the concluding track from Sonic Highways.

And here's the actual album version.

Just binge-watched the complete Sonic Highways documentary series and finally listened to the CD. Short version: Both doc(s) and album are inconsistent -- and "River" is not without its flaws, either, which is to say it's admittedly a tad earnest and a little contrived -- but overall they're both freaking tremendous. And when Tony Visconti's string arrangement kicks in at the end of "River," frankly I'm a goner.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Nick Danger Has Left the Office

Firesign Theatre member Phil Austin has passed away at the age of 74.

Announcing the news on Facebook, Phil Proctor said it for everybody who loved the guy's work:

Rest in Peace, Regnad Kcin.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Weekend Social Notes

So a certain Shady Dame and I are off to beautiful Lambertville, New Jersey, where on the morrow my old chum Peter Spencer -- a splendid singer/songwriter who I've known since my 80s days in the Village -- will be performing at Kline's Gallery.

Pete's terrific, so if you're in the area please drop by; his show starts at 8pm.

Here's one of my favorite songs of his, from a splendid all-acoustic CD available at his website.

And here, as you may recall, is an inadequate cover of it I did recently with my old garage band pals The Weasels.

I should add that when I presented this version to Pete earlier this year, he graciously declined to beat the shit out of me.

In any case, I won't be posting again till next Tuesday, so wang chung in my absence until then.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tom-Tom, C'est Moi

I don't know how I missed this 2010 New Yorker appreciation of the great Who drummer until now, but it's one of the best pieces of rock writing I've ever encountered, and I thought I'd share it.
My Life as Keith Moon

By James Wood

I had a traditional musical education, in a provincial English cathedral town. I was sent off to an ancient piano teacher with the requisite halitosis, who lashed with a ruler at my knuckles as if they were wasps; I added the trumpet a few years later, and had lessons with a younger, cheerier man, who told me that the best way to make the instrument “sound” was to imagine spitting paper pellets down the mouthpiece at the school bully. I sang daily in the cathedral choir, an excellent grounding in sight-reading and performance.

But what I really wanted to do, as a little boy, was play the drums, and, of those different ways of making music, only playing the drums still makes me feel like a little boy. A friend’s older brother had a drum kit, and as a twelve-year-old I gawped at the spangled shells of wood and skin, and plotted how I might get to hit them, and make a lot of noise. It wouldn’t be easy. My parents had no time for “all that thumping about,” and the prim world of ecclesiastical and classical music, which meant so much to me, detested rock. But I waited until the drums’ owner was off at school, and sneaked into the attic where they gleamed, fabulously inert, and over the next few years I taught myself how to play them. Sitting behind the drums was like the fantasy of driving (the other great prepubescent ambition), with my feet established on two pedals, bass drum and high hat, and the willing dials staring back at me like a blank dashboard.

Noise, speed, rebellion: everyone secretly wants to play the drums, because hitting things, like yelling, returns us to the innocent violence of childhood. Music makes us want to dance, to register rhythm on and with our bodies. The drummer and the conductor are the luckiest of all musicians, because they are closest to dancing. And in drumming how childishly close the connection is between the dancer and the dance! When you blow down an oboe, or pull a bow across a string, an infinitesimal hesitation—the hesitation of vibration—separates the act and the sound; for trumpeters, the simple voicing of a quiet middle C is more fraught than very complex passages, because that brass tube can be sluggish in its obedience. But when a drummer needs to make a drum sound he just . . . hits it. The stick or the hand comes down, and the skin bellows. The narrator in Thomas Bernhard’s novel “The Loser,” a pianist crazed with dreams of genius and obsessed with Glenn Gould, expresses the impossible longing to become the piano, to be at one with it. When you play the drums, you are the drums. “Tom-tom, c’est moi,” as Wallace Stevens put it.

The drummer who was the drums, when I was a boy, was Keith Moon, though he was dead by the time I first heard him. He was the drums not because he was the most technically accomplished of drummers but because his joyous, semaphoring lunacy suggested a man possessed by the antic spirit of drumming. He was pure, irresponsible, restless childishness. At the end of early Who concerts, as Pete Townshend smashed his guitar, Moon would kick his drums and stand on them and hurl them around the stage, and this seems a logical extension not only of the basic premise of drumming, which is to hit things, but of Moon’s drumming, which was to hit things exuberantly. “For Christ’s sake, play quieter,” the manager of a club once told Moon. To which Moon replied, “I can’t play quiet, I’m a rock drummer.”

You can read the rest of the essay over here.

I should give Greil Marcus, who so often deserves it, the last word; he famously observed that when you listened to Keith Moon's best performances, he didn't just sound like the greatest drummer in rock history, which he self-evidently was -- he sounded like the ONLY one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Annals of Shameless Self-Promotion (An Occasional Series)

The short version: I just did a liner note gig for the reissue of an album by an old friend of mine from my 80s rock-n-roll days in the Village. (The album originally came out in the early 70s). The CD version is being released by Light in the Attic, the same fine folks who brought you the Rodriguez reissues.

In any case, there's a brand new video for the album's first track below.

My notes open thusly.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear right from the start -- there are cult albums, there are Cult Albums, and then there's Marc Jonson's 1972 Vanguard LP Years.

I mean, if you're a power pop aficionado, you may be aware of the songs Jonson gave to other more celebrated recording artists (The Roches, Dave Edmunds), and you are almost certainly aware of his power pop masterpiece 12 in a Room (from 2000) -- still available over at Amazon, and if you don't already own it get over there and purchase it pronto. But otherwise, unless you're either one of Marc's personal friends or one of the handful of folks who stumbled across a vinyl rip of Years from an illegal download site sometime in the current century, then chances are the CD you are now holding in your hands is going to feel like it just bopped in from an alternate universe.

And therein, as you might suspect, lies a tale...

To read the rest of them -- and hear some other very interesting songs -- you'll have to buy the CD, which I believe will be unleashed sometime later this year.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Meet the Beatles

Courtesy of friend of PowerPop Steve Schwartz, a heretofore unseen pantomime video for the Fabs "Hello Goodbye."

Words fail me, except to say, as Steve is wont to do, that it is absolutely amazing that fifty years later, there is still new Beatles footage surfacing. It really was true that they were the most photographed human beings on earth in the second half of the 20th century.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Glory of the Human Voice

Peter and Stewie Griffin (aka Seth MacFarlane) sing Cyndi Lauper's greatest hits...

...as they were always meant to be sung.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Continental Drifting (Part Deux)

From that forthcoming Continental Drifters anthology I mentioned the other day...

...two of my favorite covers ever.

The Hollies' (via Evie Sands) great "I Can't Let Go"....

...and The Box Tops' "Soul Deep" (which in the original is pretty much my favorite thing Alex Chilton did before Big Star).

Have I mentioned that these guys were a great, great band?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Live from New York -- It's Mr. Death!

Genuinely legendary actor -- and long time hero of mine -- Sir Christopher Lee has died at the age of 93.

The world is now officially a duller place than it was before his passing.

This sketch, from Lee's appearance on Saturday Night Live, is only available behind a YouTube pay-for-view wall, but I'm posting the script as a tribute to the great man just because it's so damn funny.


Written by: Alan Zweibel, Herb Sargent, & Gilda Radner

Mother ... Jane Curtin
Penny ... Laraine Newman
Mr. Death ... Christopher Lee

[A little girl's bedroom at bedtime. A mother comforts her daughter, Penny.]

Mother: Your father and I will get you another dog right away, honey. We promise.

Penny: I don't want another dog! I want Tippy! Why did Tippy have to die?

Mother: Honey, dogs die just like people do. Just like when Grandpa died.

Penny: You mean, Grandpa also swallowed a doorknob?

Mother: Well, no, not-- No. But - but don't worry, honey, tomorrow we'll pick out a new dog.

Penny: Can I name him "Tippy"?

Mother: Of course you can.

Penny: Well....

Mother: Good. Now, close your eyes and get a good night's sleep [kisses Penny on forehead] and I'll see you tomorrow.

Penny: Good night, Mom.

[Mother shuts off light and exits. Penny gets out from under the covers, kneels by the bed and says her prayers:]

Penny: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. [Unseen by Penny, a shadowy figure moves into view behind her] God bless Mommy and Daddy and my best friend Karen and my dead dog Tippy. Amen.

Mr. Death: That's very nice, Penny.

[Penny turns and rises to confront Mr. Death, a Grim Reaper with a deep, cultured voice, wearing a dark robe, and carrying a huge scythe. Penny is not scared at all, just amazed.]

Penny: Hey! Who are you? What are you doing in my room?

Mr. Death: I'm ... sorry about Tippy and I came to apologize.

Penny: Are you the man who made Tippy die?

Mr. Death: Well, sort of. Tippy was on my list.

Penny: [upset] What list? What do you mean?

Mr. Death: Oh, please don't get too angry at me. Every day I'm given a list of lives that ... have to end. It's - it's not the greatest job in the world but it's a living.

Penny: [sits at foot of bed] But you KILLED Tippy! And that's bad! 'Cause in Sunday school we learned the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not cover up thy neighbor's wife. Thou shalt not witness false bears. Thou shalt not--

Mr. Death: [sits next to Penny] Yes, you are absolutely right, Penny. You are right. You are not supposed to kill and, well, I - I don't ... kill.

Penny: What do you do?

Mr. Death: Well, when you are born, Mr. Life is there. And when you die, Mr. Death takes over.

Penny: Well, you're mean, Mr. Death. You make people cry.

Mr. Death: Well, I can't help that, Penny. I'm ... inevitable. Everything has to die. People, animals, flowers.

Penny: What about rocks?

Mr. Death: Rocks were never alive so they can't die.

Penny: What about dolls?

Mr. Death: Same thing.

Penny: Once, Tippy ate off one of my doll's heads and I yelled at him and I hit him with the newspaper and he hid under the couch and - now I'm sorry and I can't tell him - oh! - 'cause he's not here anymore and I hate you! Why don't you take Kenny Tuckman? He sits behind me in school and pokes me!

Mr. Death: [pulls a scroll from his pocket] Tuckman? [consults the scroll] Tuckman? No. I don't see him on my list, uh, for-for quite a while. I wish that Richard Harris and Nick Nolte were on it.

Penny: Can I see that?

Mr. Death: [pockets the scroll] Oh, no, no, no. No, Penny! That's, uh, that's very private.

Penny: I'll bet you killed a million thousand skillion trillion people.

Mr. Death: Well, I don't know if "killed" is the right word. But I have got a big list.

Penny: My grandpa?

Mr. Death: Yes.

Penny: Senator Humphrey?

Mr. Death: Yes.

Penny: Jesus?

Mr. Death: No, the Romans did that.

Penny: Did you come here to get me?

Mr. Death: No.

Penny: Once, I had a baby chick -- it died. Last summer, I caught a frog -- died. And then I had a hamster -- died. Goldfish -- died. Turtle -- died.

Mr. Death: So I hate small animals! You can't blame me for that.

Penny: That's terrible!

Mr. Death: I told you, I just came here to apologize about Tippy. It's the first time I've ever apologized to anyone. I'm - I'm not used to this. So don't make it any harder for me, please. Do you mind if I have a drink? [pulls out a flask, unscrews it, and takes a snort]

Penny: You're drinking whiskey, aren't ya? You know, when my dad does that, some times he feels so bad in the morning he can't even go to work.

Mr. Death: Well, I wish I didn't have to go to work. You think I like making little girls like you cry?

Penny: [sympathetically] Oh, Mr. Death!

Mr. Death: I wanted to be ... Mother Nature. Didn't work out. I couldn't tell butter from margarine. So I went into this field and I'm quite successful at it but all the recognition, it doesn't help at all, you know. Poets, novelists, playwrights, philosophers, they've all written about me. Ingmar Bergman makes movies I'll never understand. Why don't they just accept me for, well, for what I am? I'm - I'm just a man with a job to do. Someone has to do it. [pause] Well, I'm off. [rises, Penny follows]

Penny: Well, where're ya goin' now, Mr. Death?

Mr. Death: I'm going to Lebanon. I have some mopping up to do there.

Penny: Well, are you really sorry about Tippy?

Mr. Death: Yes, I am.

Penny: Well, I guess I forgive you.

Mr. Death: Thank you, Penny.

Penny: Mr. Death, will I ever see Tippy again?

Mr. Death: Oh, yes, someday. Someday I'll take you to him but that won't be for a long time.

Penny: When?!

Mr. Death: [she's asked one question too many and he snaps at her] I'll come and visit you on your fifteenth birthday!

Penny: What?

Mr. Death: [realizes he's said too much] Oh, just kidding, Penny. You, uh, you better get to bed.

Penny: [climbs into bed] Okay. Well, Mr. Death, I'm sorry I got mad at you. I know you have a hard job.

Mr. Death: [sits beside her] It's not easy. But right now you have a job to do, young lady, and that's to go to sleep.

Penny: Okay. Mr. Death, can you kiss me good night?

Mr. Death: Penny?

Penny: Yeah?

Mr. Death: [crisply] Don't press your luck. [rises and walks off]

[ fade ]

I should add that Gilda, Laraine and Jane all said that Lee was their favorite guest host ever; they adored him.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Continental Drifting

The best reissue news I've heard in ages.

A great, great band.

More info -- including a track from the album -- at the link.

Have I mentioned that these guys were a great, great band?

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Closed for Monkey Business

Stuff to do. Regular posting resumes tomorrow, including the best reissue news I've heard in ages.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special And Yet Iggy Azalea Walks the Streets a Free Whatever the Hell She Is Edition

[I first posted this one sometime in 2010, which I believe is technically back in the Pleistocene Era. In any case, as is my wont, I've done some re-writing and added a new entry, just because I love you all more than food. Enjoy, if at all possible. -- S.S.]


And my totally top of my head Top Six is:

6. The Detroit Cobras

No cooler rock band trod a stage in the first decade of the current century. Needless to say, the world wasn't ready, and apparently it's still not.

5. Rob Laufer

Laufer is another alumnus of Beatlemania (see my number one choice, below) who turned out to have genuine talent above and beyond doing imitations of the Fabs. And as I've probably said here on several occasions, his 1995 Wonderwood album is one of the greatest power pop records ever made, with at least three songs -- including the Robin Zander-covered "Reactionary Girl," heard above in the composer's version -- that in any sane world would have been ubiquitous on every radio in the land.

4. R. Stevie Moore

Bloomfield, New Jersey's king of D.I.Y, and still either too smart, too weird, or both, for the room.

3. The Rutles

Okay, granted, their legend was never going to last more than a lunchtime, but I was convinced that at least one of the songs -- like the ominously Lennon-esque "Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik" -- from their 1996 pretend vault exhumation set would finally get Rutland's finest to the toppermost of the poppermost

2. Peter Blegvad

Singer/songwriter/guitarist/cartoonist Blegvad's "Daughter" got a lot of exposure via Loudon Wainwright's very nice cover on the 2007 soundtrack of Knocked Up, and justifiably so, but what a pleasure it would have been to hear the composer's original 1995 version on the radio. And he's got boatloads of songs this good, in case you were wondering.

And the Numero Uno it's-lonely-being-a-genius pop/rock act of them all simply has to be...

1. Marshall Crenshaw

Technically Crenshaw did co-write the Gin Blossoms' "Till I Hear It From You," which cracked the Top Ten in 1995, but please -- at least one of the countless gorgeous songs he's recorded under his own name since his 1982 debut album should have been a bona fide smash. I mean, come on.

Alrighty, then -- who would your choices be?

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Letter From Liverpool Test Pressing

Spent Tuesday evening in the studio working on the first "new" Floor Models song in decades with some old bandmates, including one I hadn't seen in over twenty years.

This is a very rough mix of our first go at adding a 12-string part; we're going to redo it in a couple of weeks, and add some other guitar stuff to finish it. But I thought you might get a kick out of hearing the work in progress.

You know -- I don't care how fucked up the world is at the moment; for the couple of hours the three of us were together in that dank basement, all was right.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Give the Drummer Some

The great Charlie Watts -- pictured here with some other grizzled geezer I don't recognize -- turned 74 years young yesterday.

I should add -- as long time readers are aware -- that one of the treasures of my tchotchke collection is a 1991 reissue of Charlie's utterly charming 1964 kids book about Charlie Parker.

Ode to a High Flying Bird.

As you can see, the illustrations are in the same wonderful cartoon style as the ones Watts contributed to The Stones' Between the Buttons album. The book itself came into my possession as a record company promo; Our hero was touring with his big (jazz) band, and whatever label put out the accompanying CD included this as a bonus for press geeks like myself.

Of course, my copy is personally autographed, thanks to a colleague who got to interview Watts at the time. And needless to say, I am rather insufferably pleased to have this one.

More to the point -- happy birthday, Charlie!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Your Tuesday (Truncated) Moment of Awesome

Fifty seconds -- albeit with great video and sound -- of Tommy James and Joan Jett doing "Crimson and Clover" at the 2015 Rock Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

I'm assuming the whole thing is up at HBO On Demand, and I can't wait to see it.

But in the meantime -- wow.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Your Monday Morning Moment of Musician Humor


Oh, and the big Who, concert we took in on Saturday was, musically, as terrific as any show of theirs I've ever attended (I don't think I've ever heard them do "I Can See For Miles" live before). Unfortunately, I didn't actually see the band, because this jerkoff...

...was in the seat in front of me and decided he needed to stand for the entire evening. When I asked him about this he informed me in no uncertain terms that a) my $150 ticket entitled me only to stare at his fat ass for the duration of the concert and b) if I didn't shut the fuck up he would kill me.