Monday, October 16, 2017

My Subconscious at Work

True story: In the last two weeks I have had bizarre dreams involving pop music.

In the first, I dreamt that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were hosting a show on ESPN.

Titled The Rolling Stones Sports Desk.

Hey -- to quote Judy Tenuta, it could happen!

In the second, and more disturbing, I attended a concert by an underground rock band.

Called The Papoose of Pop.

I am not making any of this up.

In any case, I think it's getting increasingly obvious that my decades of obsessing over rock-and-roll have gotten me into a weird area here in my Golden Years.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Sad Songs Mean So Much: An Occasional Series

This is an oh so tragic story, so please try not to laugh.

A long time ago (no Spanish American War jokes, thank you) I was going through a really painful breakup, by which I mean I was at the beginning of a three year depression that made me all but impossible to hang out with because of my annoying habit of saying things like "What's there to live for?" in response to questions like "Would you like fries with that?"

As you can imagine, my emotional state was impacting my listening habits, and at one point the then new 1991 album Anything Can Happen, by Nashville alt-pop rockers The Questionnaires, happened to cross my desk.

One song from the album in particular -- the (I thought) ragingly beautiful breakup ballad "In the Back of My Mind" -- hit me pretty hard and I began listening to it obsessively, to the point where I think I basically ignored everything else on the record, the rest of which could have been Lithuanian grindcore for all I knew.

Anyway, one day a critical colleague of mine -- toiling at Entertainment Weekly, as I recall -- happened to ask me what I was listening to, and I recommended said Questionnaires album, rather heartily, as I also recall. A few weeks later he called me up about a review assignment, and he finally said "Uh...Steve? You know that Questionnaires thing you made me listen to? It...really sucks."

To be honest, I didn't really see the point in arguing, and I'm sure I figured that my own judgement probably wasn't all that reliable anymore, for obvious reasons. So I put the CD away out of earshot, and eventually mislaid it somewhere, probably while moving to a new apartment a year or two later.

Cut to the present and, for whatever reason the song popped into my head unbidden yesterday. So out of curiosity, I went through my iTunes library and checked out "In the Back of My Mind" for the first time in at least two decades. And guess what -- I still think that it's ragingly beautiful in a sort of Brian Wilson/early Association/lotsa harmonies kind of way.

Okay, no larger point, but you can listen to it here and make up your own mind about whether or not I'm the biggest pathetic wimp who ever lived.

Incidentally, the guy who wrote the song is big band jazz great Woody Herman's grandson. What Woody would have thought about any of this, of course, is anybody's guess.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Closed for Monkey Business

Dealing with doctors today.

Nothing serious, but still annoying and time consuming.

Regular incredibly posting -- including, possibly, the triumphant return of Weekend Listomania -- resumes on the morrow.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Great Composers Steal, Mediocre Composers Borrow

So as I noted yesterday, the single from The Searchers' fabulous 1979 comeback album...

...was the first cover song my 80s band The Floor Models learned as we were getting our act together.

Compare and Contrast: This song by my 90s band Gerry Devine and the Hi-Beams (aka The Flo Mos Mark II).

Doesn't sound remotely similar.

Nah. Not at all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Best News I've Heard All Year

They're doing a deluxe reissue (with bonus tracks) of the two great comeback albums made by Brit Invasion legends The Searchers between 1979-81.

From Omnivore's press release:

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — During the British Invasion, there was another Liverpool band topping the charts worldwide. The Searchers had 11 Top 40 hits between 1963 and 1966 in the U.K., including three #1s with “Needles and Pins,” “Sweets for My Sweet,” and “Don’t Throw Our Love Away.” There were eight hits in the U.S. including a #3 cover of “Love Potion No. 9.” By the end of the decade, the group’s chart presence may have slowed down, but the Searchers didn’t. They continued to hone their sound on the live circuit, adding a modern musical crunch to their incredible harmonies. After seeing the band perform, Sire Records head Seymour Stein offered them a home on his new wave flagship label (home of the Ramones, Talking Heads, Dead Boys, and soon, Pretenders).

The Searchers returned in 1979 with a self-titled release, featuring originals and covers of tracks from Tom Petty, The Records, Bob Dylan, and the Mickey Jupp-penned “Switchboard Susan”—a concurrent hit for Nick Lowe. Produced by Pat Moran (Be Bop Deluxe, Dr. Feelgood, and Rush —yes, that Rush), it was a sonic powerhouse. That album was followed the next year by Love’s Melodies (titled Play for Today in the U.K.), with Ed Stasium (Ramones, Talking Heads, Smithereens) joining Moran as co-producer. More originals, and more covers (Big Star, John Fogerty, and others), and another great album.

These are two of my favorite records ever, both for the originals (the first cover song The Floor Models learned was "It's Too Late," the single from the 1979 album)...

...and the covers (the version of "Almost Saturday Night" is IMHO the best one ever by anybody).

Have I mentioned that this is the best news I've heard all year?

Monday, October 09, 2017

In Case You Missed It...

...this was the cold open of Saturday's episode of SNL.

His intro was a little apolitical/boilerplate -- a mention of gun control would have been nice -- and Jason Aldean isn't much of a singer, really. His band absolutely nailed the song, however, and I have to admit I was moved. Good on Aldean for doing it; I can only imagine how horrific last Tuesday must have been for him.

Host Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) was pretty great, too.

Friday, October 06, 2017

From 1977, live as you want them, please enjoy Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and "I Need to Know."

Basically, my second favorite of their early songs.

I should add that I saw them in a small club around the time this was recorded, opening for Roger McGuinn, whose cover of "American Girl," which he inadvisedly performed at the same show, was shall we say disappointing.

Petty and company were dressed all in black, played extremely loud, and were pretty much the coolest band I've ever seen, before or since.

BTW, did you know this Taylor Swift cover of "American Girl" was actually a thing?

I didn't, and Jeebus H. Christ on a piece of challah toast it's fucking awful.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Get Your Kicks...

...with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, live in 1977...

...on "Route 66."

I once got into a big internet brawl with a more celebrated rock critic than moi over this track. He thought it was the worst ever cover of the song, and I thought it was phenomenal, dripping with a sinister quality of menace barely hinted at in the song itself. Kinda like the Stones transformed Bobby Womack's jaunty original of "It's All Over Now" into something way darker. In retrospect, I think I may have overstated my case, but since then said critic has blocked me on Facebook forever. Oh well.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me

I had no idea this was actually a thing.

Hopkins is a mensch, obviously.

As was Petty for doing this for his old band.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Into the Great Wide Open

From 1991, the Tom Petty song I always wanted to cover

I don't wanna end up
In a room all alone
Don't want to end up someone
That I don't even know

I think it's the most personal thing he ever wrote. And those lines have been haunting me since I heard the news of his passing yesterday.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Tom Petty 1950 - 2017

I have been weeping non-stop since I heard the news. Obviously, that's partly because I'm sensing my own mortality, but goddamnit I loved his music and he was too fucking young to go. Just saw him in concert last August and he was spectacular.

Aw, fuck.

it's the Last Gasp of Chris Hillman Week!!!

From his incredibly terrific new Tom Petty-produced album...

...please enjoy founding member of The Byrds (and the biggest influence on my own, inadequate by comparison, bass playing) Chris Hillman and "Here She Comes Again."

This was apparently originally written back in the late 70s for a McGuinn, Clark and Hillman studio LP (although I'm told it only ever appeared on an Australian live album) but it's obviously a pretty cool song despite its previous obscurity. And yes, Roger McGuinn himself is doing the great Rickenbacker 12-string stuff; Hillman plays bass on the record (his first appearance on the instrument he essayed in the Byrds in 30 years).

Bottom line: The performance is gorgeous, and for the two minutes and thirty-two seconds it's blasting from my stereo, I can't help but feel that God's in his heaven and all's right with the world.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Oh, Screw Chris Hillman Week -- Here's the Greatest Song of All Time!

From 1950, please enjoy the great Phil Harris and his incomparable hit version of "The Thing."

This was actually my favorite record as a kid. I mean, the hell with that rock 'n' roll crap -- this was the real deal.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

It's Chris Hillman Week: Part III -- Special J.S. Bach Edition

From the incredibly great Chris Hillman's swell new album...

...please enjoy his terrific remake of Gene Clark's magnificent "She Don't Care About Time."

That was originally the b-side of "Turn Turn Turn" back in October of 1965. Here's what it sounded like then, in case you've forgotten.

Je repete -- a b-side. I don't want to say "those were the days," but by golly they were.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

It's Chris Hillman Week: Part II -- Special Senior Citizens Edition

From the incredibly great Chris Hillman's new album Bidin' My Time...

...please enjoy a remarkable bluegrass remake of The Byrds 1967 classic "Old John Robertson."

Now called "New Old John Robertson."

That was written by Hillman and one of my other Byrds heroes Roger McGuinn and as you will hear, the original version is beyond belief great.

And as I sort of suggested yesterday, although I'm really a purist about this kinda stuff, I really like both of these versions more or less equally.

More on this subject tomorrow.

Monday, September 25, 2017

It's Chris Hillman Week: Part I -- Doing the Ttwistfrugwatusijerk to a Song About a Welsh Mine Disaster

From his just released new album (his first in a decade) Bidin' My Time, please enjoy the incredibly great Chris Hillman and his remake of The Byrds' "Bells of Rhymney."

Hillman is one of my genuine all-time musical heroes, but I'll have more to say about that later on in the week.

In the meantime, this is just fricking gorgeous.

In case you've forgotten, here's what it sounded like on The Byrds' debut album from 1965, back when the world and I were young.

I'm kind of a purist on this sort of thing, so I never thought I'd say this, but I like both of these versions pretty much equally.

And a special coveted PowerPop No-Prize© to the first reader who identifies the literary reference in the title of today's post.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hey -- It Was No Bigger Fraud Than the Trump Administration

I actually owned that album on vinyl LP back in the day, although I didn't pay for it due to being on the Warner Bros. mailing list as a baby rock critic.

It was really lousy, actually. Although "Can't Get No Nookie" was good for a couple of laughs.

And, of course, anything that pisses off Brian Williams obviously has some socially redeeming value.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We're Back! And To Prove It We're Here!

I was in Google hell for the last couple of days -- don't ask -- and consequently unable to post.

Our long national nightmare is over, however, and regular postings will resume on the morrow.

I thank you all for your patience, and also -- fuck you, Google.

Seriously, why am I not surprised that somebody had already done the appropriate graphic to express that sentiment?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Grant Hart 1961-2017

Goddamn, this pisses me off. That's much too young.

And yeah, I know Hart didn't write this one, but it's my favorite Hüsker Dü song. So sue me.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Okay, You Dragged It Out of Me

From the Me, Myself and Irene soundtrack in 2000, here's the Brian Setzer Orchestra and their smokin' rockabilly-ish cover of the Dan's "Bodhisattva."

BTW, one of these days I'm gonna post something by Setzer's pre-Stray Cats downtown New Wave band the Bloodless Pharaohs. I really like the guy, but that outfit was the biggest steaming pile of crap you've ever heard in your life.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Okay, Maybe It WON'T Be Butch Walker Week

From 2000, and the soundtrack to the mediocre Jim Carrey vehicle Me, Myself and Irene (which is a de facto Steely Dan tribute album)...

...please sort of enjoy Butch Walker and the Marvelous 3 (who I had, deservedly, nice things to say about a couple of days ago) and their cover of the Dan's "Reelin' in the Years."

I'm sort of a born again Butch Walker fan, but I gotta say...this one doesn't do it for me. The phrase that comes to mind immediately is -- rinky-dink.

That said, the original is so perfect that I can't imagine anybody else doing justice to the song.

Your thoughts?

Press Releases We're Glad We Read

We get e-mails from publicists and occasionally we open them.

To wit, this one that came in over the transom last week:

In celebration of the band's 25th Anniversary, pop-rock trio HANSON are releasing their Middle Of Everywhere - The Greatest Hits, their first comprehensive career-spanning collection. The album includes hit singles spanning the last two decades, including "Mmmbop", "Where's The Love", "Weird", "This Time Around", "If Only", "Save Me", "Penny And Me", "Thinking 'Bout Somethin'" and "Get The Girl Back", plus their brand new single "I Was Born" that NPR music calls "impossible to resist".

The album includes 26 songs from the multi-Grammy nominated band's six studio albums, many of which are featured in their live show on the Middle Of Everywhere 25th Anniversary World Tour. The extensive world tour has seen the band performing to sold out crowds in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America, and begins it's North American leg on September 12th.

"It's incredible to be able to reflect on 25 years of making music together, and even more amazing to have been able make such a strong connection with music fans around the world", said keyboardist Taylor Hanson. Added guitarist Isaac Hanson "The response to the tour so far has blown us away. Releasing the album and kicking off the US tour in the same week is very exciting."

I always thought those guys were a lot better than their initial teeny-bopper celebrity suggested, and I will never forget the time in 2000 when a rock crit friend of mine handed me a Walkman and said "Listen to this song and then guess who it is." When he told me who the auteurs were, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

As you will have noticed, it's a song about mortality, fer crissakes, and coming from a bunch of kids whose testicles had barely descended I think you'd have to admit it's pretty damn audacious and wise beyond their years. Maybe that's why it flopped. I still love it, of course.

Meanwhile, you can -- and should -- order Middle of Everywhere over at Amazon HERE.

And because I love you all more than food, here's a little piece about Hanson that's one of the funniest things written in English in the second half of the 20th century.

It's by Jon Stewart -- yes, him -- and originally appeared in his 1999 collection Naked Pictures of Famous People.


December 15, 1996


Greetings and happy tidings to all, in this the beautiful season to celebrate the Savior's birth. The tree is up and the Christmas Ham is awaiting my apricot glaze, so once again it's time to check in for our yearly Hanson Family update. A promise from the heart to keep this year's news-letter as brief as possible (I hear you sighing, Uncle Jack! Just kidding, I can't hear you!). It's hard to believe that a year has passed since my last correspondence. Time sure flies when Jesus is flying the plane! It's a crisp afternoon here in Sooner Country. Gary and the boys are off hunting snow rabbits so the girls and I broke out the old Smith-Corona to fill everyone in, Don't worry, Peg, there's a Pumpkin Pie waiting for my men when they return -- hopefully with a fresh kill.

We're awaiting a wonderful Christmas. As is our family tradition, no gifts are exchanged but all the children will prepare a drawing, poem or play. This year's theme is Genesis. The girls are painting a beautiful mural of God's creation of man, using only the juices of fruit they grew themselves. Isaac and Taylor are preparing a heartwarming skit on the Garden of Eden (Taylor makes a beautifully innocent Eve) and little Zach, well, let's just say shouting "Let there be light" and Clapping the Clapper on and off doesn't show great inspiration. It doesn't matter. We love all our children equally, and still believe greatly in last year's Christmas theme, "Abortion Is Murder."

Some Hanson Highlights: Gary's working on a book about our methods of teaching the children called All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, at Home with My Parents; Who Taught Me Better Than Any Government-Run Public School That Denies Prayer Could. The girls once again won the yearly Hanson Home School Science Fair. They devised a method for testing the bacterial content of foods using only Litmus Paper, Paper Clips and a homemade Centrifuge. These girls are going places! The boys did well too. They built a mobile depicting the fallacy of evolution. As for Zach, well, let's just say sneaking something into our dinner and waiting to see if anyone would eat it and become ill didn't impress these judges. But we love all our children equally and hope one day Zach will tell us what it was, and why I can no longer hold down solid foods.

In Hanson Sports News, it was a very good year. The Hansons played a very strong schedule, going head to head with the only other Home School Team in the area, the Jurgensons. It was great fun.

Oh, before I forget, the boys continue with their little music project. They recently played the Devlin County Pan-Asian Wet and Wild Jamboree for Vietnamese Exiles. I don't want to go into too much detail, in this, the season of good tidings, but the crafty little Asian gentleman who organized the fair tried to cheat the boys out of their $50 performance fee. We nearly came to blows over the matter, but eased off when both parties quoted the same piece of foreboding scripture at the same time. I can't say I condone the boys' interest in this pursuit of popular music, but as I always say, "Encouragement is next to Charity, which is next to Faith, which is next to Cleanliness... and we all know what that's next to."

Jesus loves you,
Eileen and Gary Hanson and the Hanson Family

P.S. Any donations to the charity to help that poor boy in our neighborhood with the cleft lip would be greatly appreciated. We've raised some money, but he still looks odd when he eats in public, which is often. Remember, Charity begins at home, which, as you know, is where we have our school.

December 25,1997

Dear Hanson Super Fan Friends and Family,

Hey everybody! It's that time of year again! And what an amazing year it's been. I apologize for the Fan Club stationery, but it's all I could find. Normally I would just ask Carmen where she put the newsletter paper, but I gave her the day off. Most of her family is somewhere in South America, but bless her heart, she still seemed set on not working the holiday. Although I'm sure you could make a case that that's when I would need her most.

I feel bad about the stationery even though I'll bet none of you care. I'll bet you're just impressed that with all the amazing things happening to our family I still make a point of personally sending out the yearly holiday update. I agree! That is exactly what I told Gary, who was of the mind that if you all really need information, you can visit our official Web site like everybody else. But that's crazy. Being stars doesn't mean we can't take the time to stay in touch with our friends and family. By the way, the unofficial sites are not sanctioned and contain a great deal of fabricated information. I can't stress that enough. Our official site has received over two million hits to date!!

You're probably saying to yourself "Wow, that must be making them a fortune!" You would think!! Although perhaps you are not taking into consideration a poorly negotiated contract that paid a one-time up-front fee and neglected any back end or merchandising considerations.

But you know our Gary. I think when the Lord was passing out business acumen, Gary was downstairs getting good hair. Of course you can't tell that to Gary. I guess he figures his year and a half of technical school and previous work experience selling homemade knickknacks at mall art fairs qualifies him to manage a world-famous band.

A big "I'm sorry" on behalf of Gary, the boys and myself for not being at Ned and Irene's annual family reunion picnic. The girls told Carmen it was a hoot. Unfortunately that was the weekend before the Grammys and as you might imagine we were swamped. While the boys were sad to miss Irene's annual mock apple pie, their dinner with Fiona Apple softened the blow. I had heard through the grapevine that Irene was a little bent out of shape. I'm sure that's not true because Irene and Ned are God-fearing people and very aware that envy is a sin.

Ooops! Please excuse the sloppy penmanship. I'm jotting this update from the back of a Limousine the boys bought me for Christmas, and the slick leather interior doesn't offer great stability. Lincoln, my driver, and I have developed a very funny joke where he calls me Miss Daisy and I pretend that's my real name.

Well, enough chatter, I better have Lincoln take me home. The boys and Gary are in Dnsseldorf, but Zach still likes me to spend at least six hours a day in his room, cleaning the shag carpet, strand by strand, with my teeth. Anything for my little angel, because, as I always say, I love all my three boys equally.

It's been a wild year. The Lord sure works in mysterious ways, or as I like to say, "What a long strange trip it's been!"

Jesus loves us,
Eileen, Gary, Zach, Taylor and Isaac
(collectively known as Hanson)

P.S. You can stop sending money for the gimp boy with the Cleft Lip. It turns out we had enough money left over from just one mall show to ship him and his entire family off to Nebraska.

December 28, 1999

To Whom It May Concern,

HO, HO, HO! Zach has Herpes. There. Are you Happy now? You try controlling an eleven-year-old multi-millionaire with a hard-on for strippers. For those of you wondering about last year's newsletter, there wasn't one. If you must know, I was at a retreat in Hazelden, Minnesota, and they didn't allow pens, pencils or any other sharp implements for that matter. It's been quite a ride... quite a... I sit here, alone in my Hotel suite. Pen in one hand, bottle of Glenlivet in the other. A gun at my feet. Darkness all around me...

First of all, to all you Nosy Parkers in the crowd, I did not embezzle money from my family, I don't give a rat's ass what that judge says. I am their manager... co-manager... was their co-manager. I had every right to that money. I gave birth to those boys. What did Gary do? His three minutes of dirty business? Foreplay?! Please. Whispering "The Bible says be Fruitful and Multiply" before ejaculating and passing out isn't foreplay. Seven times I allowed that man to sully me... seven times.

I'm tired ... so very tired. Someone had to have some fiscal responsibility. Christ! Do you know what Taylor and Isaac did on their big "Africa Tour"? Sat in a hotel restaurant ordering Lasagna made from 1,000-dollar bills and White Tiger's Blood. Not all the time, of course. No, sometimes they would lock themselves in their hotel rooms doing what looked and tasted like high-grade Brazilian Heroin. Where was their father, you might ask? Oh I don't know, maybe shacked up in some Backwater Indonesian Fuckee Suckee bar. Maybe it's just me, but I still believe in a thing called Statutory Rape Laws.

You think I'm bitter? You think I'm beaten? You think I might take the pills I have in my hand, wash them down with Scotch and glide off into a world of euphoria where all my pain will cease? HA! No, this old girl has some fight in her yet. Believe it!! I know things. Things that would be worth a lot of money if they got out. And not the usual bullshit, the "Taylor is fucking Naomi Campbell" shit. I could put a lot of people in jail... Think I'm bluffing? Try me... I dare you... I... I miss my angels. I just want to talk to them. To tell them Mommy loves them... to ... tell them... I could fucking kill Gary with my bare hands and not blink. I could stare into his eyes as he begged for my mercy and forgiveness and I could snuff out his life and then go back to my lunch as though nothing happened. I miss them so much. Do they care? Of course not.

Hey, some crude garage mix of the little bastards rehearsing Christmas music just went to Number 1 on the Holiday Charts. Think Kenny G is choking on his own cock over that one? I believe these tiny ingrates, who I gave life to, could sing into a bag of their own shit and ten million girls whose life ambition is to someday get breast implants would spend their hard-earned abortion money just to cradle it in their arms.

But hey! It was a great run, huh? Better to burn out than fade away! What do I care? I still have more money than any of you will ever have in a lifetime of being paid by the government not to grow corn.

Merry Fucking Christmas,
God is dead,
Eileen Hanson

Friday, September 08, 2017

Annals of the Age of Consensual Hallucination

And speaking as we were yesterday of T-Bone Burnett's great Trap Door EP, here's my other favorite song from it.

Which is obviously a deeply prescient ode to our current Nazi-in-Chief, but let's not bring politics into it.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

[h/t William Gibson]

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Your Thursday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special "A Goddess Walks Amongst Us" Edition

From 1983. please enjoy the divine Emmylou Harris and her utterly astounding version of the Carol Channing/Marilyn Monroe classic "Diamond's Are a Girls Best Friend."

This is the same arrangement T-Bone Burnett did a year earlier on his great Trap Door EP, but how this happened and who came first is a mystery that I have yet to unravel. If any of you guys knows what the deal is, please enlighten me.

[h/t Capt. Al]

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Closed for Monkey Business

Real life distractions today.

Regular posting -- in this case, involving a genuine goddess -- resume tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Chicago and San Francisco Confidential: A Photo Essay

So, as you may have heard, a certain Shady Dame and I recently had a transcontinental vacation -- flying into Chicago for couple of days, and then taking the California Zephyr train to San Francisco.

We had a thoroughly splendid time (and I heartily recommend a similar train trip to everybody). So herewith, as is my wont on these occasions, a little visual look at our trip. (Click on the photos to enlarge).

We saw this in our cab from O'Hare Airport on our way into town. I think if you look at the second from the bottom fee, you'll conclude, as we did, that Chicago is a town that really knows how to party.

The Pritzker Pavillion and the famous Cloud Sculpture. The locals have assured us that these are actually the pods that ALIEN hatched from.

At the Chicago Art Institute. Who knew that Ivan Albright had painted a highly flattering portrait of me?

And speaking of the Art Institute, here's my favorite exhibit -- which is on display at their cafeteria year round. Artist unknown, but obviously pretty frosty.

A Catholic book shop near the museum. Have your picture taken with Pope Frankie giving a big thumbs up!

Near our hotel. Obviously, I was just about to get my kicks.

The view from the dining car on the California Zephyr, at our first stop (in, I believe, Bumfuck,Nebraska.)

In San Francisco. Why do I have the feeling that Orson Welles once visited this building?

Okay, these people need to get a life.

Seen in front of a hotel that caters to show biz folk. But how did she tell such funny jokes with such tiny hands? (They're bigger than Trump's, but still...)

Does anybody else find it weird that horrible medical conditions...have their own phone numbers and galleries in this town?

A famous Beatnik hangout in North Beach. As you can see, the late Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane was a regular.

The Roz Chast exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The aforementioned Shady Dame seems somewhat nonplussed.

P.S.: Unlike as in my previous photo essays on Quebec and Stockholm, there was no evidence I could find that folks in either Chicago or San Francisco are particularly interested in mooses.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Walter Becker 1950-2017

The co-founder of Steely Dan has died from an undisclosed illness.

From 1994, here's my favorite track from his debut solo album.

I've said it before but -- damn, this death stuff is really starting to piss me off.

PS: To paraphrase Cameron Crowe, you still can't buy a better album than Countdown to Ecstasy...

...or Pretzel Logic.

Yeah, I know most people are more partial to the Dan's later, more self-consciously sophisticated records, like Gaucho or Aja, but those two have always struck me as just a little too mellow by comparison. Which is, I guess, to say that they don't rock as hard.

Not that there's anything wrong with THAT, of course.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Get Your Kicks Etc.

So as you may have heard, a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance has snagged two tickets to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway

On October 21. Which just happens to be a major milestone birthday of mine (don't ask).

In any case, when friend of PowerPop Phil Cheese heard this news over at Facebook he was moved to ask "Are you going to shout out for 'Route 66' like you did decades ago? Haha!"

And therein lies a tale.

If you've never heard it, here it is at it originally appeared over at the website of Barnes and Noble back in the late 90s. (The occasion was the publication of that huge coffee table book of Bruce's complete lyrics).


That Bruce Springsteen changed a lot of lives is both a truism and a cliché, although at this moment, if one is feeling uncharitable, it may be a rather naive and adolescent cliché. After all, 25 years after his first album, "Greetings from Asbury Park," Bruce is an institution (he's now eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, if you can believe it), and his music has changed in ways few of us expected (although we probably shouldn't be surprised about it). Springsteen now resembles a plainspoken populist like Merle Haggard far more than a generational spokesperson/poster boy like, say, Kurt Cobain. And the people whose lives Bruce most radically affected are, of course, now comfortably middle-aged, with more on their minds, understandably, than rock dreams. Face it: To paraphrase an early Springsteen song, it's hard to be a saint in the city when you're worried about making your mortgage payments or finding a good preschool.

Still, cliché or not, Bruce did impact more than a few lives, and if you want to know why, at least part of the reason can be found in the just-published Bruce Springsteen: Songs, a massive coffee-table tome featuring the complete lyrics to every song found on every one of his albums (save the simultaneously released "Tracks"—more about that later) as well as Bruce's reflections on what he was thinking at the time. What's most surprising about Songs—for me, at least—is just how well the stuff holds up on the page. It's a given, of course, that Springsteen is a great storyteller. Back in 1981, I noted, in a review of his "Nebraska" album, that the song "Highway Patrolman" would probably make an interesting film someday, so I was not exactly shocked when Sean Penn adapted it as "The Indian Runner" a decade later. Still, given Springsteen's penchant for overheated, fuel-injected romanticism, I was pleasantly struck, seeing these lyrics in cold type after all this time, by how even the least of them are redeemed by flashes of humor and wordplay. I was particularly taken reading "Thunder Road" (from "Born to Run"): Bruce has gotten a fair bit of feminist flak over the years for the line, "You ain't a beauty but hey, you're alright," but such complaints seem misguided in light of the line that immediately follows: "Oh," he adds, in what strikes me as an ineffably funny, apologetic attempt to deflect that very criticism, "and that's alright with me." What a gentleman.

But we were speaking of life changes. My own Springsteen moment was in early 1973. At the time, I was a baby rock critic at the old Stereo Review, and "Greetings from Asbury Park" had just come out, accompanied by reams of Columbia hype, the gist of which was that Bruce was (what were they thinking?) the latest New Dylan. Little did I know, of course, that for the rest of the more jaded rock press, this tag had the sort of negative connotations associated with phrases like "serial killer" or "record company weasel." In any case, in my naïveté I gave the disc a spin, and sure enough Bruce was spewing the sort of freely associative lyrics that could most charitably be described as Dylanesque (if not, more accurately, verbose and in need of a good editor), and I recall being mildly unimpressed. And then suddenly: Boom! A drum beat and Clarence Clemons's near-mystic sax wail announced "Spirit in the Night," and I was a goner.

The music was perfect, like much of Bruce's stuff to come: a sort of Proustian mix of half-remembered licks from rock and R&B oldies that may or may not have actually ever existed, the whole thing sounding simultaneously sublime and absurd, like Van Morrison at his most uplifting, jamming at a South Jersey pizzeria. And the song's lyrics were—and are—the most dead-on evocation ever of what it felt like to be a post-Woodstock 20-something with no direction home. I personally had the eerie feeling that Bruce had been reading my mail, and I later found I was far from alone in that perception.

As it happened, Bruce was making his semiofficial New York debut that week, on a double bill with the similarly debuting original Wailers. (To put this in perspective: This was at Max's Kansas City, a club that sat fewer than 200 people. I don't want to say, "Those were the days," but frankly, they were.) Every rock critic in New York showed up for what would be their first exposure to live reggae, and yes, the Wailers' opening set was rapturously received by all (few bands have ever had two front men as charismatic as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh). After intermission, however, I realized that the aforementioned highly jaded press contingent, having already had their tiny minds blown by a bunch of Rastas turning the beat around, were not about to fall for any "New Dylan" hype and had beaten a hasty exit. This left me in the odd position of being alone in the back of Max's with 30 or 40 of Bruce's buddies from the Jersey Shore. I was, literally, the only stranger there.

And the show was everything I'd hoped for, and more. Bruce and his E Street Band opened with a version of "Spirit..." that made the album take sound anemic. He went on to preview the far richer material he had already written for what became his sophomore masterpiece, "The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle," going so far as to use a mellotron on a gorgeous "New York City Serenade" that sounded like a Phil Spector record made flesh. Most memorably, though, I got to witness an early incarnation of the sort of interactive, fan-friendly stagecraft that would soon establish the Cult of Bruce. "Any requests?" Springsteen asked at one point. "It don't have to be one of ours." I blurted out "Route 66," having been listening to a lot of early Stones that week, and to my amazement, Bruce and band immediately launched into the best rendition of that chestnut I had ever heard. Who'd have thunk it: On top of everything, these guys were the bar band of my dreams.

You know the rest of the story, of course. Bruce's live show became legendary, his fans became famous for their missionary zeal (the sort of people who bought tickets for unbelieving friends), and eventually the kid from Asbury Park made "Born to Run" and wound up, simultaneously, on the covers of Time and Newsweek. Around this time, Bruce also became the second most widely bootlegged solo artist in the history of recorded music; most of those fan favorites are now, finally, officially available on the four-CD "Tracks" box set, with the conspicuous and peculiar omission of "The Fever," perhaps the most mesmerizing performance Bruce ever committed to tape. So what's the bottom line? Even if you're a lapsed fan like me (mortgage payments and all that), Songs is going to remind you that, yeah, you weren't crazy. Maybe the guy didn't literally change your life, but he sure as hell enriched it. Thanks, Boss. -- Steve Simels

I bring all this up partly to gloat, which I think I'm more than justified doing under the circumstances, but mostly because over the years few people have believed this story when I've told it.

Until today, bitches. Because listen to what I just found on the intertubes.

Okay, it's not great, and it certainly isn't as good as the one I remember hearing at Max's. But still.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Closed for Monkey Business

Had a productive but very late night.

Regular all dressed and peppy postings resume on the morrow.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Oh Hell, Let's Just Make It Butch Walker Week

From 2012, please enjoy the great you know who on Daryl Hall's brilliant TV series.

With "Bodegas and Blood."

Sweet jeebus, that is amazingly wonderful. Listen under headphones, BTW.

And may I add that I would give my left nut to be a guest on an episode of that show. Singing or playing anything.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is This the Most Exciting Rock 'n' Roll Song Ever? Some Signs Point to Yes!!!

From 2000, please enjoy the Marvelous 3, featuring the great Butch Walker...

...and their brilliant ode to negative solipsism "I Could Change."

New Year's Day, lyin' next to my bed
With a hand in my pants and a song in my head
About being depressed til I figured out
It ain't the '90's anymore

I looked through a Raygun and looked through a Spin
Then I ripped out the pages of clothes that were in
Threw on my Pumas and tried to throw it all behind me

And Mona Lisa smiled as I was walkin' through the door
She said, "Yo, you gotta keep it real, just like the year before"
I second that emotion and twenty thousand more

I could change and you could change
But everybody would stay the same
I could change and you could change
But everybody would stay the same
I know

Still on vacation with nothin' to do
So I got in my car and I got a tattoo
Just to cover up the one that I got of you
When I was drinkin'

I really only now regret the things I haven't done
Stayin' under covers in the dark it ain't no fun
I'd rather take my glasses off and stare right at the sun

I know
I know

I don't precisely recall how I stumbled across this song -- which is by a band I missed back in the day -- but Jeebus H. Christ on a piece of challah toast, this is about as killer as it gets.

I mean seriously -- if this one doesn't get you jumping around you need immediate medical attention. And I should add that the lyric is so vividly written that anybody, of any generation, should know the feeling.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Your Monday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words" Edition

So two weeks ago, on our first day in San Francisco, a certain Shady Dame and I were walking down Geary Street; I believe the plan was to go see the old Fillmore West, which is still a concert venue. (It was way disappointing, BTW, but that's a subject for another post).

At any rate, in the course of our moseying, we passed a small art gallery called the San Francisco Art Exchange, and suddenly we were both flummoxed to see a set of six photos from the Abbey Road album cover shoot -- five outtakes and the familiar iconic LP -- hanging on the wall.

Intrigued, we went in, and suddenly realized the gallery was also hosting this amazing exhibition.

And yes, the Abbey Road collection is the last commercially available complete set of the original photos, and can be obtained for your personal collection, if you have a lot of disposable coin, for 800 thousand clams (cheap, as they used to say at MAD).

In any case, we wound up talking to the gallery rep, a wonderfully enthusiastic and kind young man named Matthew Ely, who was gracious enough to take BG and I on a tour of the gallery's full cache of rock and movie memorabilia. Among the unbelievable stuff available for purchase there was one of Jim Marshall's last remaining prints of the cover for the first Moby Grape album (a mere 10,00 bucks, if you want to buy me a birthday present), an actual edition of Gered Mankowitz's famous shot of Jimi Hendrix in his trademark military coat, and signed-by-the-photographers prints of famous Stones and Beatles images up the wazoo.

But this is the one that totally killed me -- the Blonde on Blonde cover photo, signed by shutterbug Jerry Schatzberg. I was dumbstruck.

To browse the gallery's collection -- and BTW, the SFAE is also the largest dealer of original artwork by the great Alberto Vargas (yes, him) -- click on their website HERE.

And if you're ever in San Francisco, stop by 458 Geary Street and tell 'em PowerPop sent you.

Friday, August 25, 2017

For Andy

Self-indulgence alert: I'm gonna get a little sentimental here.

So as long time readers are aware, back in the early 80s I toiled in a 12-string pop band called The Floor Models. And also that Andy Pasternack, one of our principal songwriters (and our Rickenbacker ace), passed away unexpectedly in 2012.

I should add that apart from being immensely talented, Andy was also one of the sweetest guys who ever wore shoe leather; as Gerry Devine (our singer and other principal songwriter) put it to me recently -- Andy never got the memo that if you're a genius you're supposed to be a dick to other people.

In any case, there was a song of Andy's called "You Can't Tell Me Anything" that I particularly loved, and which we used to do live for ages, but for some reason never demoed, which has been a sort of sore point with me for all these years. So recently I decided that we should record it for a possible posthumous EP as a sort of tribute.

Only problem was nobody could remember the lyrics. Ack.

Then a month or so ago I discovered a crude live version, taped by someone with a boom box in front of the band at one of our legendary weekend gigs at The Other End (bless you, Pat Kenny!). We edited it -- removing a duplicate verse and a brief instrumental solo section that didn't really work -- and presto! We had a click track for a concise three minute song that seemed to encapsulate the entire esthetic of the band.

So then ace drummer Glen "Bob" Allen, myself, and brilliant guitarist J.D. Goldberg (who came in for Andy in a later incarnation of the band) headed into the studio to recreate the song from the ground up. (Gerry did his vocal at home and then intertubed it to us.)

And here it is, a few sessions later, in more or less finished form.

Where are you going with that look on your face
Seems so off-center
So out of place
What makes you think that I know
How much of you I'm missing

But you can't tell me anything
If I don't listen
If I don't listen

What are you thinking with that crease in your brow
There's been some confusion
But that's all over now
You know it might make some sense
If only you let it

But you can't tell me anything
And then just say forget it
And then just say forget it

You say that you're thinking
Thinking about me
It sounds like you're planning to make it without me
And I would do anything
I would do anything
If you just wouldn't doubt me

What are you doing with this time on your hands
Too many secrets that I might understand
What makes you think that I see
How much of you doesn't show

Well you can't tell me anything
You don't want me to know
You don't want me to know

We're gonna tweak the mix, and we'll probably put a Rickenbacker 12-string part on it, but even at this stage, I gotta say -- this is a magnificent song and the performance ain't too shabby either.

And I think Andy would have approved.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Your Thursday Moment of Words Fail Me

So to paraphrase Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby -- I just went *FOLKIE* all of a sudden!

Seriously, after listening to my chum Peter Spencer's splendid new album (as discussed yesterday) I remembered an obscure folk thingie by a 60s guy named Jackson C. Frank that I originally wrote about in back in 2009. And I decided to revisit it.

And what I stumbled across in the process is an amazing cover version by a young woman from the UK -- previously unknown to me -- named Janileigh Cohen. Who I think may have a future in the music field.

I'm still not sure whether this is a great song or merely a maudlin one in an interestingly period way, but I think we can all agree that the above is a pretty spine-tingling performance.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me

My old chum from my days in Greenwich Village Peter Spencer has a new album about to drop, and this is my current favorite song from it.

I've been listening to it obsessively for two days now, and when I informed Pete of that he told me "There's a running bet over which Dylan song it "borrows" from the most, 'Boots of Spanish Leather' or 'Girl From the North Country.' "

Personally, I vote for "Girl," but I don't really care if it's derivative -- I'd give my left nut to be able to finger-pick and sing like that.

The rest of the album is equally good -- when it's available for purchase, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Closed for Monkey Business

Had a massive attack of post-vacation exhaustion.

Regular posting -- including a dispatch from the most amazing music-related art gallery ever -- resumes on the morrow.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Jerry Lewis 1926 - 2017

On top of everything else, Monsieur Lewis deserves to go down in history as one of the great avant-garde noise-rock guitar heroes of all time.

You know -- as in Mars, DNA, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks...bands like that.

And speaking of DNA, as you will doubtless notice, Jerry's guitar solos in the clip above sound pretty much exactly like Arto Lindsay. He kind of looks like him, too.

Obviously, if Jerry had been hanging out on the Bowery circa 1984, it wouldn't just have been the French hailing him as a genius.

POSTSCRIPT: So I was at our local watering hole in the Q-Boro yesterday when the news came of Lewis's death.

I mentioned it to the very nice millennial bar lady and she said "I don't know who that is."

ME: The other half of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, the most famous comedy team of the 50s.

HER: I've heard of Dean Martin. Jerry Lewis, no.

ME: (thinking) Ah -- ever see that Eddie Murphy movie THE NUTTY PROFESSOR?

HER: Oh, yeah -- love that.

ME: It's a remake of a Jerry Lewis movie.

HER: Oh. Okay.

Kill me now, is the point I'm trying to make.

Friday, August 18, 2017

You Can Take the Jew Out of New York...

...but you can't take the New York out of the Jew.

So, of course, BG and I had to travel 4000 miles to see a Roz Chast exhibition at San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum this morning.

More dispatches from our Excellent Cross Country Adventure starting Monday, after our return to the East tomorrow.

In the meantime -- have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

It's Steve and BGs Musical Itinerary -- Part V

We've arrived...and to prove it, we're here!

Yes, via California Zephyr...

...we're now in San Francisco...

...just in time for the 50th anniversary of the fabled Summer of Love.

Hey, I vas dere, Charlie. Albeit for only a couple of days. And that's a band I was in a few years later doing the Jefferson Airplane-ish ode to the City by the Bay (hey -- it was recorded under extremely primitive conditions and we were kids, so don't hold it against us).

Photos of our adventures begin posting tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

It's Steve and BGs Musical Itinerary -- Part IV

Still zipping our way to the coast on the California Zephyr.

Next stop -- Reno, Nevada! The city...

...where Johnny Cash shot a man just to watch him die.

Guess where we'll be tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It's Steve and BGs Musical Itinerary -- Part III

Chicago was great, but now we're zipping along on the California Zephyr... our next destinations on our way to the coast.

First to the Mile High City...

...and then to the spiritual home of Mittens Romney (who, I might add is looking considerably better in retrospect (when compared with the current occupant of the White House) if you know what I mean.

Guess where we'll be tomorrow! Damn, this is fun.