The True Voice Of Taos:
The Secret Museum
By Michael Mooney and Jim Webb
The search for The Lost Chord is over. The Secret Museum has been 7,000 years in the making, a life changing potentiality that is now available exclusively to Horse Fly readers.
With The Secret Museum, we will attempt a periodic consumer’s guide to popular and unpopular music through an email exchange posted exclusively on the Fly online. Our focus is on works that have been overlooked or fallen by the wayside. We’ll also occasionally take a peek at certain “sacred cows” (hello, Van Morrison) who have either done little of note in recent years (post-Beatle Beatles, anyone?) or ever (for Mooney, that starts with everyone based in Los Angeles between 1969 and 1976, with the exception of Arthur Lee, Judee Sill, and Randy Newman).
We hope to inform and otherwise drag forth our favorite tunes from the Secret Museum. Get ready to renew the faith or engage in friendly retro-revisionism at taosdaily/horseflyonline.com
Introducing Michael Mooney
The seventh and last of Anthony and Rose’s demon spawn, Michael Mooney shuffled into this mortal coil to the sound of The Champs, “Tequila” (Cashbox #1, April 5, 1958). Also in the top ten that week: Chuck Berry, “Sweet Little Sixteen,” Jerry Lee Lewis, “Breathless,” and, holding steady at #5, Perry Como, “Catch A Falling Star”. Philadelphia Shanty-Irish, young Mike’s birth and future are uncannily embodied (except for the wedding night and poisoned pigeons) in the parabolic lyrics of Microdisney’s Birthday Girl:
She was tired, it was dawn
When she heard the nurse say
Here’s a baby boy
Without fear, zero years,
Come to seek damnation
And the vale of tears
And my claim to fame
Is that then I was that baby boy
Birthday girl, rosy and special
Will this night last forever?
When I wed I will dream,
In a champagne haze, of my first affair
Like a private joke
On the one I love, between myself and me
Birthday girl, rosy and special
Will this night come to an end?
Feed the birds
In the square beneath my place of birth
So will I
Cut and dried and empty, quite alone
When they bury me,
Will the people know of the baby boy?
Birthday girl, now I am begging
But I still think of the baby
Birthday girl, smiling in silence
Will this night please come to an end?
First single purchased: “Theme From Thunderball” – John Barry Orchestra, 1966.
First LP purchased: “Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass),” The Rolling Stones, 1966.
First concert: either Louis Armstrong or The Cowsills at Steel Pier, Atlantic City (can’t remember which; both were GREAT), 1969.
Having invented what we recognize as Punk Rock in the fall of 1971, Mike elected to keep his creation to himself, thus establishing a pattern of self-denial that remains to this day.
Catch A Falling Star!
Michael Mooney (still thinking of the baby) Second Grade Spelling and Religion Bee champion, St. Charles Borromeo School, 1965.
Presenting Jim Webb
Born in St. Louis during Mao’s Great Leap Forward, Jim Webb experienced The Summer of Love in Toledo, Ohio. He has spent a significant amount of time in Southeastern PA and New Jersey.
Part of the “first wave” of the national furniture and appliance rental craze in the early ’80s, Jim was the last of the old school operators who shunned computer technology as a means to enhance profits (is this related to the subsequent shutting down of operations?). Upon departing the rental scene, he quickly became one of the East Coast’s leading greeting card resellers to the elderly. Jim is currently based in Santa Fe, spearheading the “new wave” of the luggage and travel accessory industry.
Still philosophically challenged by technology, Jim Webb is committed to finding a new spiritual path based on the melding of the ancient Zen tradition of “Sudden Enlightenment” with the sound dynamics of contemporary music. Instead of countless hours spent in meditation, the active listening to certain unappreciated musical classics becomes the vehicle to open one’s mind to new ways of experiencing reality.
“What can a poor boy do but play in a rock and roll band.” Those that can’t play, listen, or go see the boys and girls live. Jim’s first concert was May 29, 1975, featuring Bad Company and Maggie Bell at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. So far 782 more have been witnessed in various locations around the world, including the U.K., Holland, France, Spain, Canada, Jamaica and Mexico. His most recent show was Oct. 13, 2008 at The Lensic Theater in Santa Fe to see Branford Marsalis with members of the Philharmonia Brasileira. Anyone who knows of a good gig coming up can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Secret Musuem
October 23, 2008A musical dialogue between Jim Webb and Michael Mooney.
Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple: "Back in the late Sixties, there were few organists who could play like Jon. We shared the same taste in music. We loved Vanilla Fudge - they were our heroes. They used to play London's Speakeasy and all the hippies used to go there to hang out - Clapton, The Beatles - everybody went there to pose. According to legend, the talk of the town during that period was Jimi Hendrix, but that's not true. It was Vanilla Fudge. They played eight-minute songs, with dynamics. People said, "What the hell's going on here? How come it's not three minutes?" Timmy Bogert, their bassist, was amazing. The whole group was ahead of its time. So, initially we wanted to be a Vanilla Fudge clone."
-Guitar World Interview, Feb. 1991.
Quote hi-jacked from the The Highway Star: The Deep Purple Official Site
...thus began the long, slow decline of British Rock. Actually, Blackmore's full of shit. According to VF's official website, they didn't get to the UK 'til Sept. '69, well past their prime, and never played the Speakeasy. The Beatles by then were pretty much finished. If Clapton was there to "pose", Ritchie's gotta be off by 2 years. Blind Faith had debuted earlier that year; Eric's perm, robes, and poses were long gone. I remember seeing Purple on the Steve Allen show; had to be Summer/Fall '68. Their sound at the time was closer to Fudge than after Gillan arrived in 1969. Ergo too much cider for Ritchie…
That Blackmore quote comes from the VF official website, too. I agree that Ritchie’s wine/hash/Mandrax intake has burnt out memory cells. I did think it was interesting that Blackmore, the self-proclaimed inventor of Heavy Rock, actually gave another band credit for influencing him.
I think we should seriously consider writing a newspaper column for CD buyers to help them on their way toward building a collection. There are a lot of 15 to 30 year olds that missed the whole golden age (1966-74) of Rock, and possibly the best of the 80s and 90s, who need a reference guide that will tell them exactly what releases to stay away from as well as which gems to track down. We could either do it in a Siskel & Ebert format where we both give our thoughts on a title, or you could take certain artists and I’ll grab others… Chapters on “sacred cows” where we trash the conventional wisdom of greatness (Van Morrison, etc.), but also make sure that they hear about Gypsy Blood, Mellow Candle, and hundreds of other “lost” classics. You and I have invested too much time in music the last 40+ years to keep this information inside our heads. I am so tired of reading Amazon reviews that turn out to be worthless, or bloggers who are way off the mark. We need to act. This is our calling, something we can leave behind for the future youth. Besides the esoteric and lost releases, we will lay down the truth on “major” acts. Deep Purple’s best is NOT Machine Head or Made in Japan. We can also list the 10 best tracks from any band (for the i-Tunes generation). I have told you before how much time I’ve wasted buying a record and not liking a group- only to find out 10, 20, sometimes 30 years later that I DO like them, I just bought the wrong title(s)…
We have it in our heads, and just need to put it down on paper.
Let's also keep in mind that certain assumptions can be made regarding the older fans whom may already be familiar with (at least some of) this. We won’t intentionally insult anyone’s intelligence, while reminding the reader that this is primarily a beginner’s guide.
Doll By Doll: Gypsy Blood
(Automatic Records LP, 1979; Rhino Records CD, 2007)
"I see the bars of your prison when you cry"
Released in the early morning of the Thatcher era, Gypsy Blood is a towering monument to the failure of Punk. Working loosely within the Classic Rock idiom, on this recording (their second LP, following the speed-fuelled sonic claustrophobia of Remember- a relentless, dualistic masterpiece of horror and beauty) Doll By Doll blended elements of pub-rock, doo-wop, folk, country, psychedelia, gospel, early-60s pop melodrama, and the Velvet Underground, added their own unique guitar ferocity (albeit tempered here) and a late-70s dynamic production sheen (think Born To Run or Bat Out Of Hell). The result is a singular work of breathtaking magnificence, capped by the sweeping power of Jackie Leven's vocals.
This record simply sounds like no other. From the 1-2 radio-friendly punch of Teenage Lightning and the title track, through the majestic Stripshow, The Human Face and Highland Rain, and finally the unsettled and unsettling Endgame and When A Man Dies, Doll By Doll achieve that rarest of aims: absolute timelessness. The album could have been recorded in 1969, or last week. That it evokes a Britain (and Europe) about to disappear forever is the only clue to Gypsy Blood's moment in time.
Roundly ignored upon release (the album was un-issued in the US), Gypsy Blood's failure signaled the coming musical backslide- Spandau Ballet were just around the corner- that the English record buying public willingly accepted. Nearly 30 years later, it still stands alone, reflective of a time when music took chances and changed lives.
"The Devil of Dreams is Black"
Why is this record so different and important that you should immediately pop round the local shop to order a copy? If I rave about how brilliant Gypsy Blood is, I risk becoming just another fanatic trumpeting his favorite group. But there is truly something special about Doll By Doll, a UK rock band from the late 70s/early 80s led by singer, guitarist and main writer Jackie Leven. Two guitars, bass and drums were the basic components, playing in a straightforward rock style that we’ve all heard before. They are musically tight as a group and play with passion. The magic for me, however, lies in two things which elevate this band from hundreds of others who suddenly appeared on the late 70s scene.
Jackie Leven’s vocals are unique, and will have you on the edge of your seat with the passage of each song, wondering where he will soar to next. I won’t compare him to Roy Orbison, or other celestial-voiced wonders, because, while he has taken on many influences (as Gypsies do), what comes out of his mouth is ALL Leven ALL the time. Jackie’s range is unbelievable, and he has the gift of a classic saloon singer for putting across real depth and emotion.
The other aspect of this band that is so enjoyable to me is the subject matter. These are no run-of-the-mill tunes about whiskey, women, or life on the road. Leven writes from an idiosyncratic perspective that makes his lyrics so much more interesting than anyone else’s. He will walk that lonely street and, by the time he reaches the next corner, you will feel that his world and yours are one. Stripshow is one of the most powerful songs I have ever heard in over 40 years of listening to music. On The Human Face, Jackie sings about knowing why Jesus wept (for the next 30 years he’ll continue to unravel that particular mystery in his solo career). You may at times find yourself close to weeping, too, at the beauty of this music.
Jackie's like an insomniac bus driver, cruising the late-night streets. His passengers are the tired, the hurt and the truth seekers. He lets you know you're not alone, and the common bonds we all share of joy and despair are illuminated by him in a way that reminds us of the beauty of everyday life. No matter how you're feeling when you get on his bus, by the time you arrive at your stop, life has become a more interesting ride.
1979 brought us a lot of great new music, but, in my opinion, Gypsy Blood battles The Clash's London Calling for best LP honors. I vote for Gypsy Blood. Get this CD if you like rock music that has power and intensity yet travels down a different path. You will not be disappointed.
Jackson Browne is high on my list of sacred cows to slaughter.
Maybe we need a category of “Bad Classics”. I’m thinking of late-period Uriah Heep (1976-78) where they had totally lost their early 70s Prod/Hard Rock audience, and had absolutely no idea what direction in which to turn. They wound up literally creating the “Big Hair, Big Arena” sound with hooks ala Journey/Asia and the rest, but never received a morsel of thanks from those who cashed in it. Unplayed by this time on FM radio, they opened for Jethro Tull in 1978 on a US tour, and then quietly left. Labels kept letting them sporadically release LPs, thinking lightning would strike again. It never did.
Sometimes I wonder why as a 50 year old I am driving around listening to late-period Heep that has no real redeeming value to the planet.
Yeah, let's get that dude.
U. Heep aren't getting a morsel of thanks from me, either. Dave Byron was a complete twat however you look at it. Hensley and Box should have canned his ass long before they did. Then they may have had a chance.
Jackson Browne and the California Myth
One of the first to try and make a career out of hanging around other people while doing nothing: Jackson Browne. It wasn’t until the late 60s that it became possible to seriously think you could get away with it (Southern California had copious amounts of weed and cocaine amongst the hippie/music fringe types). Who needed a job when it was sunny?
But then, who wants to listen to anyone’s constant personal diary, especially when it’s set to such uninspiring music? America’s youth lost 10 years of their lives listening to Browne’s and James Taylor’s navel-gazing drivel. He couldn’t even make his best song a hit; had to let those flannel-shirted idiots The Eagles smooth it out for national consumption.
I saw Browne live in 1976. Even then he was the dullest headline performer I’d ever seen (out of 800 concerts). Lawyers In Love- the title says it all- you knew that would be a real sad-ass album before even hearing a note of it. In 2008, I thought I would give him one last chance and bought Solo Acoustic, Volume 2. This CD is so God-awful sleepy, I almost lost consciousness while trying to listen to it. I want to give him a little slack because he has been on the right side of most political issues of our day, but I’m sorry, this is strictly a musical critique. If you want to listen to a good singer/songwriter, try Fred Neil, Townes Van Zandt, Nick Drake, Kevin Ayers, John Hyatt, or Stephen Merritt (for starters).
Joni was right- he’s a loser; stay away from him.
Wow. Nothing to add here, except that he's a cheap tipper (and beats women).
I am not making this up. This list was prominently shown on the homepage of AOL earlier today as the 10 CDs YOU MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE. The need for a comprehensive guide is greater than I could ever have imagined. Here’s AOL’s list:
1. Pink Floyd- Dark Side…
2. US- Joshua Tree
3. Michael Jackson- Thriller
4. Madonna- True Blue
5. Public Enemy- It Takes A Nation…
6.Billy Joel- The Stranger
7. Beach Boys- Pet Sounds
8. Dylan- Hwy 61
9. Prince- Purple Rain
10.Beatles- White Album
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Right, so that's 5 from the 80's, 2 from the 70s, 3 from the 60s... The mind reels. I've probably heard all of Thriller, since every song was a hit single. That leaves True Blue and Joshua Tree. Maybe if I listen to them back-to-back I WILL die (or want to).
William S. Burroughs was right. The control and domination of our society will happen through the subversive use of the media by unknown powers. We must redouble our efforts in the face of such obscene information.
Billy Joel’s The Stranger is particularly offensive to be included on any list other than worst of. I feel the bile rising and am thinking about sharpening the sword on another sacred cow. He may have already been slammed enough, and it would just be gratuitously piling it on the mentally disabled. Let me know if there’s a green light to take on Joel, or is that just farting in a mud puddle?
Totally fair game. "The Stranger"- ooh, that would be Billy, right? In the Camusian sense of the only man who dares speak the truth, and damn the consequences. Almost punky. Just like that album cover where he's about to chuck a rock at the glass house. Does he live in one or not? "Don't go changing to try and please me"- fuck you, Joel, misogynist pig. Remember when FM rock stations gave him airtime? Manilow, too. All because they had a 5- minute song with classical elements, and, in Billy's case, risque subject matter (Captain Jack equals beating off, get it?). Neither held a candle to Andy Pratt. Too bad he found Jesus. When Billy lived in Allentown, he refused to get out of bed because he was laid off from the steel mill! And when he encountered New Wave, he became indignant about it, even though he was wearing Joe Jackson's shoes. Loser.
I do like Uptown Girl.
The only song of his that I turn the volume up for is Uptown Girl. Is that because I like some of Frankie Valli, or some of Christie?
Is it time to think of reviewing the Clash, or have they been written about to death? If we pass on them I understand we have other fish to fry, but their first release might be able to use another look from two white guys who immediately knew greatness when they heard it.
Already veering off-course from our stated intentions, but what can you do…
From Notting Hill to the Five Points Riot
The Clash: The Clash
I don't know why this record (UK edition) did not immediately resonate with me when I first heard it in Jim's room that Year Zero summer- too dole-queue English in outlook? Too harsh and trebly? Not enough hooks? Was it Joe Strummer's one-dimensional croak? Or a message I just wasn't ready to hear? It’s difficult to say. As a more-typical-than-I'd-hoped-to-be 19 year-old barely coping in the Teenage Wasteland of suburban Philadelphia, I certainly had enough distractions to keep my increasingly short attention span occupied. In any event, after several spins of Jim's copy (apparently it worked for him), I decided to give a pass on The Clash. But when CBS released a re-sequenced domestic version two years later (replacing four original songs with seven non-lp single tracks), I bought it (in tandem with Give 'Em Enough Rope), and suddenly everything clicked. THIS was MY music.
By the summer of 1979, I'd spent a few miserable post-high school years living the very things the Clash sang about- being bored, working a series of go-nowhere jobs, loving rock 'n' roll, feeling alienated, getting stoned, lacking social status, and (most-profoundly) jail guitar doors- just like, except for that last one, several million other dumb American kids (so why were they all listening to Toto, Benatar and Breakfast In America and not THIS?). The contrast to Give 'Em Enough Rope (released six months prior) was extreme, and not just because of Sandy Pearlman's big and slick production (someday we'll need to take a closer look at that one; it definitely isn’t the Sophomore Slump). A comparison of the two puts the former into perspective, but requires it's own juxtaposition with the original UK release.
Stated simply, I didn't realize what I was missing. While the US version is the meatier prospect, song for song, and displays to fuller effect the humanity, humor and reach of the band (adding the excellent- and free- bonus single, it sets the stage for London Calling), The UK edition is the one for me. There's an immediacy here that is unparalleled in the annals of Rock, a low-fi fury of tightly wound working-class frustration, sulphate-driven riffing (Mick Jones- guitar HERO), and the rabid bark of THE quintessential acquired taste in Rock vocals. The Clash is an attestation to the disaffected, a permission slip to act up (which I took literally for the next twenty years) and ask questions (ditto- plus ten). And the hooks were there all along. When I listen to this record now, I can see the boy who became the man, and hear the voice of Strummer reminding that boy that he is not alone.
I bought the White Riot 45 at Plastic Fantastic in Bryn Mawr, Pa. It sounded like an ambulance racing by at 90 miles an hour, sirens wailing. The power and fury were extraordinary. The Ramones had led the way, and The Damned's New Rose was one hot track, but The Clash were serious from start to finish, and were on the Front Line. Listening to the first Clash LP was like a radio transmission from Mars that suddenly came blasting through my stereo speakers. Certain words and phrases jumped out of the distortion... “I'm So Bored With The USA”, “Career Opportunities, the ones that never knock”, “We come from Garageland”, “Hate and War- the only things we got today”, “London’s Burning with boredom now”, “Monday’s coming like a jail on wheels”…
It felt like a nuclear blast when you consider the weak crap Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Frampton were pushing. This wasn't just a music group; it was the complete package. Clothes, style, music, political beliefs all rolled up inside that ambulance heading past your house at breakneck speed with the windows rolled down, flames and massive sound pouring out. The raw power and style of Punk was an earthquake that forced major changes in our lives. Mike and I left for London Town on October 31, 1977. Nothing could stop us from being part of that scene.
December13, 1977, Rainbow Theater, Finsbury Park, North London: The Clash, Sham 69, The Valves. The electric jolt of Complete Control short-circuited every brain cell. I had found the actual center of the Universe. “The Only Band That Mattered”- true for a while. No wonder the sheer force of Punk Rock buried all the 70's dinosaur bands like ELP and Yes.
Rest in peace, Joe. Mission accomplished.
The Clash: The Clash (Epic UK, 1977; Epic US, 1979)
Today’s assignment: The epitome of kick-ass rock. Uptempo guitar riff blowouts, heavy and smokin': the MOTHER list of all foot stompin' rock tunes that we were raised on.
Unfortunately, heavy and smokin’ ain’t always uptempo. In fact, because it’s so heavy, it’s frequently very slow, and unable to stomp it’s feet at all. Here’s a random sampling:
Love- Seven and Seven is (Da Capo LP- 1967, single- 1966)
Proto-something or other and the baddest dude on the Sunset Strip.
Oop-bip-bip, oop-bip-bip, YEAH!
MC5- Looking At You (single- 1968)
Frantic testimony from Brother Tyner over a furious fuzzy squall recorded on a Radio Shack condenser mic at the far end of the airplane hangar.
Beatles- I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (Abbey Road LP- 1969)
Shit. Judging by this monster track, if The Beatles had stuck around, every proggy girl’s blouse would have their clocks cleaned REAL quick. So long, ELP!
Randy Holden- Guitar Song (Population II- 1969 LP)Like it says: just Randy, a drummer, sixteen 200-watt Sunn amplifiers, and Dickie Peterson nowhere in sight. Far-out.
Free- All Right Now (Fire and Water LP- 1970, single- 1970)
Black Sabbath- Paranoid (Paranoid LP- 1970)
1970: being a good year for the chance indelible guitar figure (see below).
Fleetwood Mac- The Green Manalishi (single- 1970)
Peter Green didn’t want the money or fame, and gave us this instead (see The Clash: Jail Guitar Doors). Thanks, Pete!
Sir Lord Baltimore- Hell Hound (Kingdom Come LP- 1970)
Slippery, choppy- how can that be? And it feels like this: “Woo-muhn is uh hal-hown-duh, you know I got the fee-vuh”!
Chicago- 25 or 6 to 4 (Chicago LP- 1970)
The fastest gun in the (Mid-) West (sorry, Ted) versus Chicago’s horn section, and wastes them cold (careful with that pistol, Terry)
The Stooges- T.V. Eye (Funhouse LP- 1970)
Ron Asheton finds a chord sequence he can almost master, repeats till he needs to use the bathroom halfway through, but returns in time to remember where he left off. A Rock masterpiece is born. I’m kidding.
Groundhogs- Cherry Red (Split LP- 1971)
Spartan power-rock. One tap of the cowbell (rock percussion’s most effective weapon) and TS McPhee’s greatest distillation of Heavy Blues is off and running with dynamics galore. Feverish.
Focus- Hocus Pocus (Moving Waves LP- 1971, single- 1973)
Alternating between wickedly fluid guitar turns by Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Leer’s keys, flute, and truly bizarre gnomic vocalizing, plus an ace rhythm section, this bears no resemblance to anything else from these Dutch Prog masters. The single edit belatedly hit the US Top Ten in ’73. So someone bought it. Now fess up.
Deep Purple- Highway Star (Made In Japan LP- 1972)
I chose this over the studio version (Machine Head) simply because it’s more muscular and loosey-goosey. Ian Gillan sounds like he knows he’s the luckiest man in the world. See Amboy Dukes (below).
Alice Cooper- School’s Out (School’s Out LP- 1972, single- 1972)
An anthem to those of us leaving life-phase one (8th grade/Junior High), while assuming things would improve for phase two (it didn’t). Also, Hard Rock was becoming more rare on AM radio that summer. Need a reminder? Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from August 5, 1972:
1. Alone Again (Naturally)- See?
2. Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)- I do like this one, though. A LOT.
3. If Loving You Is Wrong…
4. Daddy, Don’t You Walk So Fast- I said SEE?
5. Too Late To Turn Back Now
6. Where Is The Love
7. School’s Out
8. How Do You Do- Man, this one didn’t waste ANY time on its trip to History’s dustbin.
9. Long Cool Woman- Fake CCR (doesn’t count).
10. Layla- And neither does this.
From Wikipedia: Cooper has said he was inspired to write the song when answering the question, "What's the greatest three minutes of your life?", Cooper said: "There's two times during the year. One is Christmas morning, when you're just getting ready to open the presents. The greed factor is right there. The next one is the last three minutes of the last day of school when you're sitting there and it's like a slow fuse burning. I said, 'If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it's going to be so big.'"
Blue Oyster Cult- The Red and The Black (Tyranny and Mutation LP- 1973)
They get their man in the end: hyper riff-o-rama, tight as a bull’s arse, but it ain’t no sheep (it’s Buck)
Amboy Dukes- Pony Express (Call Of The Wild LP- 1973)
Most anything from Nugent is going to have a killer riff. This album is full of them (and THIS one happens to be borrowed from Highway Star)
The Troggs- Strange Movies (single- 1973)
Reg Presley encounters porn and (shock!) approves, while minimalist guitar master Chris Britton riffs on Joe Meek’s staircase, and Ronnie Bond thumps between pulls on the jug. A Rock masterpiece is born. No kidding.
ZZ Top- Tush (Fandango LP- 1975)
This one reached the Top Twenty in the sweltering summer of 1975, but in Philly I’ll bet it went way higher than that. Smart and ballsy, just the right length (2:14), and loud enough to drown out Jive Talkin’ playing on that dude’s transistor over there.
Television- Friction (Marquee Moon LP- 1977)
Tense and slashing raga-punk rave-up stretched to the breaking point.
Buzzcocks- Fiction Romance (Another Music In A Different Kitchen LP- 1978)
Why do people find the Buzzcocks wimpy? This driving, angular dual-lead workout starts Motorik, then careens all over the M1 before missing the J42 interchange.
Black Flag- Rise Above (Damaged LP- 1981)
I wasn’t thinking of including anything more recent than the 1970s here, but I just counted 19 songs on the list, needed 20, and this one came immediately to mind. A furious, funny anthem from an adult record made especially for kids, or School’s Out for Gen X tykes.
After mulling it over I pretty much knew where I was headed, but used a couple of Google searches after the fact to see if I forgot something important. The searches were ultimately weak and pathetic (that's why we are doing this damn guide). The only song found that made me think twice was Ram Jam - Black Betty. I concluded that if I didn't think of Black Betty originally, it must not be in my bonecrushing best of pile. Maybe this should've been split into separate lists for the 60's/70's/80's. The 70's obviously dominated my list; some might say it shows my bias from early listening habits. I simply think that the guitar was king in the 70's and the producers made sure it was up front in the mix.
1.) The Kinks - You Really Got Me - Dave Davies bludgeons the world. Bonus points that it's from 1964,and such a brutal riff that was copied and slightly varied into so many other classics that it's rightful influence can't be denied.
2.) MC5- Kick Out The Jams - I feel like I'm at the 1968 Chicago riots.
3.) Mountain - Mississippi Queen - The Great Fatsby's finest hour.
4.) Steppenwolf - Born To Be Wild - The most perfect match of music to lyrics in the history of the planet.
5.) Led Zeppelin - Communication Breakdown - Page stole Whole Lotta Love from Willie Dixon; at least here I don't know who he nicked it from (I still love the thieving bastard).
6.) ZZ Top - Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers - I'm dreaming of an ice cold Lone Star
7.) Deep Purple - Burn - Spinal Tap idiots will pick Smoke On The Water or Highway Star (nota bene: I picked Highway Star!- mm). Ian Gillan was at his best as Jesus. A room full of apes could've come up with Smoke On The Water (some say did). Burn does sound like a witch is being burned at the stake, and has the added bonus of Ian Paice's finest drum track ever.
8.) Johnny Winter - Still Alive And Well - The albino is back with a vengeance.
9.) Robin Trower - Day of the Eagle - A 70's guitar rock classic. Robin never topped Bridge of Sighs.
10.) The Stooges - I Wanna Be Your Dog - This is so primitive I almost left it off, but the Darwinian connection between animals and certain rock musicians was too great to pass up.
11.) The Clash - Complete Control - A true buzz saw riff.
12.) Black Sabbath - Paranoid - A lot to choose from with these guys.
13.) Blue Oyster Cult - Hot Rails to Hell - Buck Dharma has to be on the list somewhere.
14.) Focus - Hocus Pocus - A ferocious riff, it dropped down because of the yodeling.
15.) Guns & Roses - Welcome To The Jungle - I hate to put this on because Axl is such an ass, but this is more about Slash.
16.) Sex Pistols- Anarchy in U.K. And to think no one at first believed they were playing their own instruments.
17.) Cactus - The Swim - Blistering.
18.) Ted Nugent - Great White Buffalo - Michigan is well represented in the top 20
19.) Thin Lizzy - Are You Ready - A live staple of the band.
20.) N.Y. Dolls - Puss N' Boots - Johnny Thunders fat riff rounds out the list.
Aeroshite- Train Kept A Rollin', Black Flag- Six Pack, Blue Cheer - Summertime Blues, Foghat- Honey Hush, Guess Who- American Woman, Rory Gallagher- Shin Kicker, Montrose- Space Station No. 5, Nazareth- Razamanazz, Romantics- What I Like About You, Stiff Little Fingers- Suspect Device, Undertones- You’ve Got My Number .
The Secret Museum
November 02, 2008
"This world is big and wild and half insane
Take me where real animals are playing
Just a dirty old shack
Where the hound dogs bark
That we called our home
I want to be back there
Among the cats and dogs
And the pigs and the goats
On animal farm
My animal home
On animal farm
My animal home
While I lay my head upon my pillow
Little girl, come play beneath my window
Though she’s far from home
She is free from harm
And she need not fear
She is by my side
And the sky is wide
So let the sun shine bright
On animal farm
My animal home
On animal farm
My animal home
Girl, its a hard, hard world, if it gets you down
Dreams often fade and die in a bad, bad world
I’ll take you where real animals are playing
And people are real people not just playing
It’s a quiet, quiet life
By a dirty old shack
That we called our home
I want to be back there
Among the cats and dogs
And the pigs and the goats
On animal farm
My animal home
On animal farm
My animal home
On animal farm"
THAT IS FUCKING SONG WRITING
Hey! That's where I live! It's also a song from one of my Top Ten Concept Albums of all-time (yours, too, I'll bet.)
The Top Ten Concept LP’S of All Time
1.) Jesus Christ Superstar / 1970
Music – Andre Lloyd Webber
Lyrics – Tim Rice
A Rock Opera that has Jesus of Nazareth, Judas Iscariot, and King Herod, among others, brought into the 20th Century medium of Rock and Roll. Controversial in it’s approach that Jesus was “just a man.” Tim Rice’s lyrics bind this narrative together with such clarity and force that you’d think he’d located a Lost Scroll as a guide to chronicle the true story of Jesus’ last days. What’s the Buzz and Yvonne Elliman singing I Don’t Know How to Love Him are just two of the many standout tracks on what was originally a double LP release. Great songs, coherent story line, well recorded: a masterpiece in concept and execution (no pun intended.)
“ One thing to say for him, Jesus is cool.” – Caiaphus the High Priest
2.) The Who – Quadrophenia / 1973
A turbulent look at a week in the life of Jimmy the Mod, a U.K. teen circa 1964. While we Yankees may not totally understand the Mod vs. Rocker battles in mid 60’s England, the themes of despair, loneliness, and redemption are universal to any time period. Love Reign O’er Me is arguably Townshend and Daltrey’s finest effort ever. The Punk Meets the Godfather, The Real Me, and 5:15 are songs that show The Who flexing their muscles in the streets of Brighton, ready to take on all Rockers. Is Quadrophenia better than Tommy? I think it’s coming of age adolescent story is one which I can relate to more. The great thing about Quadrophenia is that the music will move you, even if the story line doesn’t. Don’t miss the film version, either.
3.) The Who – Tommy / 1969
Rightly praised as an instant classic, Pete Townshend reaches high and (mostly) delivers on the amazing journey of a deaf, dumb and blind boy “Tommy” Walker. The Beatles had taken small steps in turning Pop Music into certifiable Art with Rubber Soul and Revolver. Sgt. Pepper was a big advance, using recording technology to enhance the listening experience, and The LP suddenly was no longer a couple of hit singles with a lot of filler. Tommy was a giant leap forward in taking a complex story line and weaving a musical tale around it. Pete seemed to expound on and slightly alter what the story really meant through the years, but the spiritual essence never changed. This is Townshend’s baby as much as Mrs. Walker’s.
4.) The Pretty Things – S.F. Sorrow / 1969
Recording started in the summer of 1967 and was finished the following year. The delay in actually releasing the LP until 1969 was a huge factor in it’s getting lost in Tommy’s supernova explosion. The story of Sebastian Sorrow was (supposedly) heard by Pete Townshend. He in turn was influenced by the idea of using a conceptual theme for an entire album. Phil May and band deserve high praise for some excellent tunes like S.F. Sorrow is Born, She Says Good Morning and Balloon Burning. The overall song quality is high, but there are no classics to propel it into the stratosphere. FM radio didn’t grab onto it and make S.F. Sorrow a listening staple, unlike its more famous cousin Tommy. Maybe this should be number one for it’s importance as the first Rock story album. Sebastian will forgive me for putting this in the number four slot.
5.) The Kinks – Arthur / 1969
Ray Davies is a great songwriter who almost seemed destined to meld his keen eye for the workingman with his love of traditional Britain into themed stories. A tale about his sister and brother-in-law’s move to Australia, the poignant songs, celebrating the lost British Empire and its people’s simple lives, are extraordinary. Victoria and Shangri-la are two of Davies’ finest tunes in a career that has literally scores of them to choose from. Hard rocking tracks (like Brainwashed) compete with emotional remembrances of personal sacrifice (Some Mother’s Son) to create a varied and rich narrative that will have you brewing a pot of tea while wishing you had a Union Jack wrapped around your shoulders, as you listen to this beautiful creation.
6.) The Kinks – Village Green Preservation Society / 1968
A collection of songs whose central theme is loosely based on the life and people of a small English village, meanwhile showing how quickly the world has changed (mostly for the worse): this is possibly the best collection of songs of any concept LP in my top ten. Tracks like Animal Farm, Picture Book, Big Sky and The Village Green Preservation Society are all gems in their own right. The only thing holding back this effort from a higher position is that there is not a hard connecting story to these songs- some were written independently of each other, and later grouped together due to their neighborly connection to Old England and the everyday people who made it great- a small quibble about a wonderful basket of tunes that never grows old.
7.) Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick / 1972
One song (43 minutes long) that was written as a send up of all concept albums: Ian Anderson was exasperated by all the critics who bashed Tull’s previous release Aqualung for being too highbrow and conceptual for a rock band. He vowed to give them a pompous themed concept LP that they would really dislike. Somehow, Thick As A Brick found its way to number 1 in the U.S. charts. The most prog-rock sounding of all Tull albums up to that time, the centerpiece of the story is a poem written by a fictional 13 year-old. The biting and sarcastic lyrics and humor of Ian Anderson became a top selling response to the charges of “Jethro Dull.”
8.) David Bowie – Outside / 1995
Based on Bowie’s short story The Nathan Adler Diaries, this is a futuristic, Bladerunner-meets-Nine Inch Nails concept that is startling in it’s originality. Nathan Adler has a Government job to decide what is Art and what’s trash. Throw in a good murder mystery, coupled with a surreal Dali- Enoesque production, and you wind up with an unqualified success. No one on this list took a bigger chance than Bowie with this release. If the Tin Machine project turned off the Ziggy Stardust/Thin White Duke crowd, Outside absolutely buried Bowie’s past. The musical risk-taking alone should have pushed this much higher in the rankings, but some of Townshend’s and Davies’ songs are just too strong to overcome. Jagger, Page & Plant, and all the other groups stuck dishing out the same meal should take note. But they won’t. This is my favorite concept release of the last 30 years; the future is for those who can hear it.
9.) Lou Reed – Berlin / 1973
Lester Bangs called this the most depressing record ever made. I don’t disagree, but personally think it’s more dark and heavy than depressing. Lou Reed takes a detour from his walk on the wild side and writes about a relationship that breaks down due to drugs and suicidal tendencies. This record has great sound and arrangements from Alice Cooper producer Bob Ezrin. Berlin is a concept LP that I can’t play very often, but when I do, the beauty of it is unrivaled by anything that Lou Reed has ever written. I wouldn’t argue if someone called this their favorite record ever, but its black hole gravity makes me hesitate to put it higher on my list. I’m afraid that somehow while listening to it, I’ll enter into the same downward spiral with no escape possible.
10.) The Kinks – Soap Opera / 1975
Is there a Kinks bias on this list? Yes, because Raymond Douglas Davies is the greatest rock conceptual songwriter of all time. I could easily have put in the number ten position Muswell Hillbillies, Lola Vs Powerman And The Money-go-round, Preservation Act 1 and 2, or Schoolboys In Disgrace. I chose Soap Opera because of its simple tale that resonates so well with today’s celebrity-fixated culture. The story revolves around Norman, a common man who wants to be rock star in order to escape his mundane world. Ray Davies has always been in tune with everyday feelings and emotions. Is there a more real story than the idea that we all want to be famous? Soap Opera accurately foreshadows the beginning of the modern celebrity cult that we find so fascinating today. I envision a slightly revised Broadway show with Norman now playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band 2 on his play station as he rules the universe. With Ray Davies as the writer, everybody’s a star.
You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown
Gong- Radio Gnome Trilogy
Pink Floyd- The Wall
Frank Zappa- Joe’s Garage
Spock’s Beard- Snow
Genesis- The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Some might argue that a few of my titles don't meet the minimum requirements of 'concept album.' I conclude that a concept can be dictated by the overall mood of the recording, particularly one that is not reflected elsewhere in the artist's body of work. Peculiarly, a good many of these records have an autumnal flavor, including the "rock opera" selections. Here's my list:
1. Forever Changes- Love (1967)
"We're all normal and we want our freedom"- Arthur Lee's eulogy to Los Angeles. Also his self-requiem: "When I did that album, I thought I was going to die at that particular time, so those were my last words."
2. Muswell Hillbillies- The Kinks (1971)
Life in the welfare state, North London (and Stereo Review's Album Of The Year- 1972): "Gotta stand and face it- life is so complicated."
3. The Who Sell Out (1967)
LP as pirate radio broadcast, but they drop the concept at the beginning of side two. Perfect!
4. Geek The Girl- Lisa Germano (1994)
Need to clear the room? Put this on. You'll probably leave, too. Lisa Germano: "Hi. This is the story of geek the girl, a girl who is confused about how to be sexual and cool in the world but finds out she isn't cool and gets constantly taken advantage of sexually, gets kind of sick and enjoys giving up but at the end still tries to believe in something beautiful and dreams of still loving a man in hopes that he can save her from her shit life.........ha ha ha, what a geek!"
5. Pet Sounds- The Beach Boys (1966)
Mike Love didn't 'get’ it': what better endorsement do you need??
6. Histoire de Melody Nelson- Serge Gainsbourg (1971)
Melody's riding a bicycle when Serge hits her with his Rolls. Age-gap romance ensues, only to end tragically when the cargo plane goes down over New Guinea. Don't ask.
7. Pink Flag- Wire (1977)
Media-informed Art Punk tour de force: 21 songs in 35 minutes 37 seconds that work best when experienced as a whole.
8. It Falleth Like The Gentle Rain From Heaven-The Mekons Story (1982)
A collection of outtakes, live tracks, b-sides, etc.: what ties it all together is David Spencer's (who?) drunken - on cider, to be precise- narration. Mine's another!
9. Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake- The Small Faces (1968)
"Are you all seated comfortable, too square on your botty? Then I'll begin..." Here the 'concept' starts on side two (see Sell Out), being the story of Happiness Stan's 'trip' to find the missing half of the moon. Hmm.
10. Odessey and Oracle- The Zombies (1968)
An Invasion-era beat group on the brink of disbandment give it one more try, and create a pop marvel. The theme, whether intended or not, alternates between desire/longing and resignation/acceptance. Seems to summarize The Zombies own career, sadly.
David Bowie- Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars
The Flaming Lips- The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Horslips- The Man Who Built America
The Jam- Setting Sons
The Kinks- VGPS*, Face To Face, Arthur
The Pretty Things- SF Sorrow
Lou Reed- Berlin
Spirit- Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus
The Who- Quadrophenia, Tommy
(*Village Green Preservation Society is truly my number one, but since it made your list, I left it off.)
Juana Molina / Son
The cd of the year in 2006 for me was Son by Juana Molina: a beautiful sounding slice of music that can be played endlessly without ever becoming boring. Almost like breathing, this has an effortless grove permeating each song. A warm sound that reminds me of producer Daniel Lanois' best work, and there is a simplicity to the arrangements that also has me thinking of Eno's Another Green World. The adage less is more is in full force on this, her fourth release. The right blend of subtle South American rhythms, tasteful electonica and comforting vocals will pull you into her spell. It doesn't even matter that most of the lyrics are in Spanish. I understand her completely.
As you know, I used to be a big fan of Lisa Germano back in the ‘90s. There was something indefinable about her haunting, catchy music that struck a chord with me, and I had great affinity for her remarkably confessional-and frequently very funny- lyrics. Mainly, though, it was her voice that first caught my attention. Soft, measured, and unaffected, with a barely-discernible Midwest twang, hers was the slightly cracked sing-song Voice Of The Prozac Nation. If you asked me in 1995 which female musical artists (Rock Division) were my all-time favorites, I would have obviously answered, "Number one: Kleenex/Lilliput", but Lisa ran a close third or fourth, right after Poly Styrene's consumerism-obsessed X-Ray Spex and, I'm almost embarrassed to admit (after all, it being 1995), Huggy Bear or Bikini Kill, both of whom I stubbornly believed were about to rid the world of the growling Eddie Vedders (despite ample indications to the contrary.)
So what happened to Lisa? Well, for one thing, there's evidence of creeping decline in the Germano disco-chronology, and, for me at least, her dejected tales of uncertainty and woe eventually began to lose their appeal. I can't say that Lisa's lyrics became farcical or myopic over time (her subject matter never changed;) I just didn't relate to them personally anymore. It's as if she got stuck in her own discomfort zone, and invited everyone to join her there, then decided she didn't like the company. What once was self-deprecation became self-pity. Loyalist that I am, I responded by attempting to tune out the lyrics her new songs and focus solely on the music instead. But you know that never works for me. Then, there's the music itself: Lisa's trademark mix of creaking parlor recording and studio-created sound collage now appeared increasingly dull and indistinct.
Another thing: I turned 40, and suppose I'd become more critical, lacking the patience for Lisa Germano's musical endurance test. If Lisa was so sad all the time, yet capable of recognizing the reasons why, how come she never seemed to do anything about it except, maybe, according to the lyrics, increase her wine intake? Not necessarily a bad course of action, mind you, unless the result is something like the dreary Lullaby For Liquid Pig (2003), in which, after a 5-year recording hiatus, Germano returned with more of the ol' mopey-dope (bizarrely, this particular dud was reissued in 2007 by infamous Rock Creep Michael Gira on his Young God imprint- just to piss me off further?). When she used to laugh at herself, you felt empathy (hey, that's me, too!). On LFLP, though, Germano simply won't let you in, so the listener is left with nowhere to go but OUT. And while I'm certainly guilty of similar behavior (in life, if not music), I can also take a hint. Never had I lost faith in an artist so near to my heart, and so quickly- until this very year and what currently passes for Wire, formerly in my all-time top five male musical artists (Rock Division); there goes YOUR legacy, fellas.) Here's hoping she'll one day lose the funk and rediscover her creativity.
This bit comes from Lisa's own blurb for Lullaby For Liquid Pig (on her website):
"ok i give up
too hard to trust people
stay alone and LOVE your addictions
NOT A GOOD WAY TO LIVE
See what I mean?
Critical comparisons have been made between Juana Molina and Lisa Germano. I can hear some of it: electro/acoustic instrumentation, murmured vocal styles, similar range, lots of space. One big difference exists between the two, though. What ultimately turned me away from Lisa Germano's music were her lyrics. No such concerns regarding Juana Molina, as I have no idea what she's singing about. And though I may be completely off base here, I think the difference is that, while both artists appear to be reflective by nature, Juana Molina's music projects outward. It affirms rather than denies. You can hear the difference.
On Son, her fourth (and best) LP, Molina creates a bioactive masterpiece, replete with cat mewls, hypnotically intricate guitar patterns, insect percussion, hums, whistles, vintage minimalist synth, bird song, and soaring (sometimes manipulated) human voices, with wickedly-effective use of sampler. And it's tuneful. Here is music in which to lose yourself- anytime, anywhere. Despite the electronic elements, it's not a complicated recording. The rhythm is infectious, but this is not dance music. There's an organic quality to this record that defines what is best in music making: an ability to reinforce the idea that part of the joy in listening to music derives from its ability to transcend categorization, or even cultural boundaries. Juana Molina is best known in Latin America as a comedic television actor. Go figure.
Buy this record, then her latest, Un Dia (just released.) She’ll be touring the US in February. Let’s try to get her up this way.
Top 10 female musical artists, Rock Division (2008 edition):
2. Mellow Candle
3. Juana Molina
4. Fovea Hex
5. X-Ray Spex
6. Keren Ann
7. Bobbie Gentry
8. Francois Breut
9. Holly Golightly
10. Tegan & Sara
THE SECRET MUSEUM
Concerts: The Who & Joe Jackson Band
November 13, 2008
By Staff Reports
Wachovia Center, Philadelphia
26 October 2008
I am not the Honorable Michael Nutter, mayor of the City of Brotherly Love, but I did have use of his deluxe suite (long story) at the 19,000-seat Wachovia Center to witness U.K. legends The Who. The event was a stop on their brief U.S. tour. Classic tunes were in abundance on a hectic Sunday night in South Philadelphia. 65,000 people had already witnessed the Eagles vs. Falcons game next door at Lincoln Field (a 27-14 Birds win), and 45,000 more were watching the Phillies play game four of the World Series across the street at Citizen's Bank Park. I Can't Explain and The Seeker commenced a two-hour set; highlights included Baba O'Reily, 5:15, My Generation, Who Are You, and a megaton version of Won't Get Fooled Again.
The Mayor's Suite is like an ultra-deluxe living room, with a 50" plasma TV, computer, bar, and private lav. Sliding partition windows open onto the main arena, revealing twelve open-air seats facing the action. Swanky. The first encore was an extended Tommy medley. Tea & Theater from Endless Wire closed the show. Pete Townshend continues to be a human windmill on guitar, while Roger Daltrey has lost none of his front-man charisma, and just a little of his range as a singer. Pino Pallidino on bass and Ringo's kid Zack Starkey on drums now power The Who's engine. There were no lasers or razzle-dazzle gimmickry to distract from Rog and Pete's mission tonight: the union of audience and performer through the power of words and music. On a special day in Philadelphia sports history, The Who proved yet again why they're one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time.
-Jim Webb (Secret Museum National Gig Desk)
Joe Jackson Band
Lensic Performing Arts Center, Santa Fe
23 October 2008
One day I'll learn that these older guys with nothing left to prove (The Who excepted) will either play a mediocre gig with consummate professionalism, or embarrass themselves and, normally (depending on alcohol consumption), their audience with awkward demonstrations of parity and musical ineptitude. I prefer the latter. Joe Jackson, of course, would never succumb to such tackiness. He's a decent piano player, the rhythm section is tight/loose, and he has some good songs. What's missing is passion. I was bored.
Thea Gilmore is great. Accompanied by her husband on second guitar, she's a formidable singer-songwriter and engaging performer, with a unique and powerful voice. The two local music-for-grown-ups radio stations could do a lot worse (and usually do) than to add her to their playlists. But they won't. For one so young (29, I think), Gilmore has a substantial body of work. Definitely worthy of further investigation. I wish I'd caught more than fifteen minutes of her set.. -Michael Mooney
Guilty Pleasures - Music You're Not Supposed to Like
Musical snobbery has its unhealthy roots in popular culture. If enough people love (and buy) a particular song, then the elitist saying goes, “it must be crap.” There are exceptions to the rule because sometimes quality songs just can't be denied. Roger Miller's 1964 smash King of The Road comes to mind, as well as The Beach Boys' Good Vibrations, but those are just two examples from the Golden Era of Pop. Don't tell me about all the great singles from The Beatles, British Invasion or Motown, because the Sixties was the time before Big Business got a real stranglehold on the music. Popular Music went downhill fast in terms of quality starting in the 1970's, when calculated fluff took over the airwaves and your local radio DJ become a puppet to corporate profiteers. The 70s saw the rise of Barry Manilow's super-schmaltz formula, The Bee Gees hollow disco, and Olivia Newton-John's plastic world of joy. The 80s were just as bad with Hall & Oates, Billy Joel and the impossibly sappy Air Supply. If you add Mariah Carey to this list representing the 90's, you would have a great set of mega-selling "artists" who collectively haven't received a good review in forty years. The music executives of corporate America have been fleecing you and your loved ones out of hard earned money for a long time now. They have it down to a science including focus groups telling them what kind of music to sell, with demographic trends and promotional budgets targeting the weak and easily duped.
I have also been led astray by the greedy Music Moguls who live in high story condominium castles. The narcotic-like trap they set with music is a powerful one and sometimes you just can't get out of its grip. Phil Collins has sold over 150 million records in his solo career, and his brand of aural voodoo has proven to be an especially strong spell to break. The cover songs he has scored with include homogenized versions of Groovy Kind of Love and You Can't Hurry Love, both from the 60's. Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) is a typical emotional plea that ruled the charts in 1984 for 16 weeks. And let's not forget Easy Lover (no Pulitzer here for lyrics), or the great Sussudio. Phil's music to me is like a large Sonic Oreo Blast with whipped cream. You know it's not good for you, but you still got to have it occasionally. Yes, a founding member of The Secret Museum - an organization that is committed to uncovering the underrated and overlooked lost classics of music- listens to Phil Collins. Don't tell anyone.
While I tend to agree with your thoughts regarding musical snobbery, I have never been guilty of reacting to a piece of music based on its potential to reach (or avoid) the Top Twenty. My criteria are determined by how I respond intellectually and/or emotionally to the song itself. I know that I am simply not going to like much of what appears in the pop charts, though there have been unaccountable deviations. For example, Vanessa Williams' Save The Best For Last was Number One for five weeks in 1992. I love that song, and know I shouldn't: it's a banal topic- boy realizes girl was the one for him all along, she compares it to meteorological/astronomical phenomena- and lyrically very Moon/June (in a good way, and the writers were aware of it) but containing a degree of intelligence- probably Wendy Waldman's- that places it a notch above your standard modern ballad (N.B.- one of the guys involved in this also had a hand in Crazy For You, one of two or three Madonna songs I can almost stomach). These lyrics mean nothing to me. The appeal must be, and is, the music (it's catchy) and vocal performance- just like Crazy for You, only more so here- and though I believe that just about anyone could have made this song a hit, Williams does a tremendous job of not going over the top with it, and at the same time projecting a sense of wonderment that other Pop Divas of the day- Celine, Mariah, Madonna, Amy Grant?- would be incapable of pulling off. My emotions recognize this as melodic and well-crafted early-90s radio fodder. Intellectually, my response to Save The Best For Last is that Vanessa Williams works restrained magic on an above-average obvious Hit and turns it into Art. But if this song had only reached number 84 in the Billboard singles chart that year, I would probably never had heard it.
One guilty pleasure I'll admit to is Sleeper, a musically and conceptually lazy (their lyrics were okay, though) U.K. rock group from the 1990s, one of many also-rans of the Britpop era. There's absolutely no reason I should REALLY like them any more than, say, Pulp or Elastica or The Boo Radleys or (even) Blur (whom I don't like much at all), or any of the dozens of others who waved the banner of 'Cool Britannia'. My guilt here derives not from any sense of embarrassment for admiring music such as this, but only because I can't figure out why I do. Maybe it's something about needing to have favorites in every conceivable category, like why are The Misunderstood my favorite 60s California Psychedelic band who didn't hail from L.A. or the Bay Area? Or why is Brigitte Bardot my favorite Ye-Ye girl, when she isn't a Ye-Ye girl at all? Or why The Big Boys but not The Dicks? Or Steve & Eydie but not Nino & April? The Vogues but not The Lettermen? Why is Turn Down Day my favorite summer song of 1966, and not Summer In The City? Or Summer Wind? Or Sunny Afternoon? Or Sunny? See You In September? You've got to pick something, and so, for 60s/New Wave-inspired, guitar-based, tuneful English Rock created between 1994 and 1997, I choose Sleeper.
Now, about Phil Collins: apart from breaking up with his second wife via fax (so what if he didn't; he's capable of it), your comments reminded me of this memorable monologue from American Psycho's Patrick Bateman:
Do you like Phil Collins? I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins' presence became more apparent. I think Invisible Touch was the group's undisputed masterpiece. It's an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums. Christy, take off your robe. Listen to the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford. You can practically hear every nuance of every instrument. Sabrina, remove your dress. In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer songwriting, this album hits a new peak of professionalism. Sabrina, why don't you, uh, dance a little. Take the lyrics to Land of Confusion. In this song, Phil Collins addresses the problems of abusive political authority. In Too Deep is the most moving pop song of the 1980s, about monogamy and commitment. The song is extremely uplifting. Their lyrics are as positive and affirmative as anything I've heard in Rock. Christy, get down on your knees so Sabrina can... Phil Collins' solo career seems to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying, in a narrower way. Especially songs like In the Air Tonight and Against All Odds. Sabrina, don't just stare at it... But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist. This is Sussudio, a great, great song, a personal favorite.
So you can see, Jim, where this might be cause for concern.
P.S. From the same film (nothing to do with Phil, but I still think it's funny):
Patrick Bateman: Do you like Huey Lewis and the News?
Paul Allen: They're OK.
Patrick Bateman: Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercial and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far much more bitter, cynical sense of humor.
Paul Allen: Hey Halberstram.
Patrick Bateman: Yes, Allen?
Paul Allen: Why are their copies of the style section all over the place, d-do you have a dog? A little chow or something?
Patrick Bateman: No, Allen.
Paul Allen: Is that a raincoat?
Patrick Bateman: Yes it is! In '87, Huey released this, Fore, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is "Hip to be Square", a song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it's also a personal statement about the band itself.
[raises ax above head]
Patrick Bateman: Hey Paul!
Phil Collins 80s LP discography:
Face Value (1981)
Hello, I Must Be Going (1982)
No Jacket Required (1985)
But Seriously (1989)
The It Girl (1996)
Pleased To Meet You (1997)
The Comfort Zone (LP 1991)
Save The Best For Last (single 1992)
THE SECRET MUSEUM
Jim Webb & Michael Mooney
Stephanie Farr gave us permission to reprint this piece. She’s a great writer; her byline can be found at philly.com/dailynews/. Our comments follow.
In '68, music spanned - and erased - cultural lines
By STEPHANIE FARR
Growing up in a segregated neighborhood in 1968, it was through music that Guthrie Ramsey Jr. learned of other social worlds.
"While they could tell me it was dangerous to walk through this neighborhood or that neighborhood, no one could tell it was dangerous to listen to this particular music," said Ramsey, a professor of music at the University of Pennsylvania. "Music widened my social and cultural outlook and gave me a way to understand people different from myself."
While fault lines were opened by racial tensions, gender gaps and the Vietnam War in 1968, it was through music that people often, and sometimes unexpectedly, found themselves on the same solid ground.
"There was a sense that the music of different cultures and communities could be brought together," said Graeme M. Boone, professor of music at Ohio State University. "It was tremendously liberating."
Ramsey, author of "Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop," says the flow of black music into the mainstream of popular culture increased white sympathies for the civil-rights movement.
"Beginning in the 1940s, the popularity of black popular music exploded because of shifting demographics [black Southerners migrating to Northern cities]," Ramsey said. "Coupled with a proliferation of independent record labels that sought out new forms of music and entertainers, the scene was ripe for mass-mediated black images.
"This continued into the 1960s. Together with the sudden appearance of civil-rights-era images of marches, protests, dogs barking at and fire hoses trained on black citizens, a moral authority began to shift toward African-Americans."
It was into this milieu that Motown appeared: Berry Gordy's assembly line of pop songs with infectious beats, glamorous images, succinct and catchy lyrics and precise musical arrangements.
"Gordy and all he symbolized did much to open up a space for Americans to think that civil rights for all was a perfectly reasonable goal for which to strive," Ramsey said.
More barriers fell as artists like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone and the Beatles (who had the year's No. 1 hit with "Hey Jude") defied distinctions by absorbing a wide range of influences.
Someone like Janis Joplin, for example, transcended her image as a white female and embraced the legacy of the great, black blues songstresses of the 1920s, Ramsey said.
The Temptations, on the other hand, moved away from traditional love songs like "I Wish It Would Rain," which were "part and parcel of black popular music," to songs of social change, like "Ball of Confusion."
Not only did musicians reflect and affect social changes, they also took on the politics of the Vietnam War.
"Wars always affect music because wars affect culture profoundly," Boone said. "It was during World War I that jazz burst on the scene; during World War II bop came out and during the Vietnam War rock emerged.
"The war was a tremendously powerful motor towards the idea that rebellion was necessary."
The 1950s is often seen as the era of a "rebel without a cause;" the 1960s can be viewed as the era of "a rebel with a cause," Boone said.
"This music suggests a moment, historically, where the counter-culture became the culture," he said. "But by the '70s, when you see construction workers growing their hair out and wearing bell bottoms, you knew it was over. They were the same people that beat up the hippies in the '60s."
The "let's change the world" idealism of the mid-'60s, had deteriorated by 1968, and when Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were killed that year, something in the music died too, said Harvey Holiday, a Philadelphia disc jockey of more than three decades.
"I think the hope of Dr. King and Kennedy was more prevalent in music when they were alive," he said. "A lot of people thought their assassinations were the death of hope. The spunk was taken out of the youth movement because their heroes were taken down."
In Philadelphia, people were getting their music on TV from "The Ed Sullivan Show" on Sunday nights and on the radio from WDAS, one of the nation's first African-American radio stations, which hosted leaders like King and Malcolm X, Holiday said.
It was also the year that the Intruders gave birth to the "Philly sound" with their hit, "Cowboys to Girls," he said.
At the time, radio was a major influence on people like Holiday, who fell in love with music by listening in bed at night to the AM channels.
On the FM dial, radio was charting new ground by playing 20-minute songs from concept albums and promoting the idea of "listening environment," Boone said.
In 2008, when music is bought not from a store but from a Web site, and is listened to not on radio but on-demand, it's hard to get the sense of convergence that the music of the late 1960s produced.
This year, though, the music of 1968 and 2008 converged when Wayne Kramer, founder of rock pioneers MC5 (Motor City Five), the only band to play at the volatile 1968 Democratic National Convention, performed with Rage Against the Machine during the "Tent State Music Festival to End the War" at this year's DNC.
"People say the golden age was over by 1968," Boone said, "but that all depends on who is writing the history."
I lived in Toledo, Ohio from 1965 to 1969. Just sixty miles south of Detroit, I felt a connection to the Motor City, and remember when the Tigers were in the World Series in both 1967 and 1968. My elementary school provided a TV set for the classroom, where we would all watch the baseball games in the afternoon instead of doing class work. Baseball triumphed over school, and I've loved the game ever since. I don't recall much about the '67 riots in Detroit, only being vaguely glad that we did live sixty miles away in a nice neighborhood, where I could leave my bike on the lawn, trusting it would still be there the next morning. As a ten year old in 1968, my slightly older friends were listening to The Cream, Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Instead of Bubblegum Pop, here were totally wild and exciting sounds, which seemed dangerous to my young ears. I was instantly hooked. We seemed to accept music in those days without any thought to the 'color' of the musicians. Just look at the Top 40 charts in 1968. Or the triumph of Jimi Hendrix, clearly a man on a mission.
In 1968, three men orbited the moon- a monumental accomplishment, and a proud moment for our country. In 2008, we had perhaps an even bigger triumph - a worthy man as president, and it didn’t matter what color his skin was. And I feel kind of proud that our generation helped to elect him.
P.S. I took violin lessons all through 1968, but never developed a passion for it. I loved the feel of the instrument and hearing the notes resound, but preferred to be running around outside with my friends. I still wonder what might have happened had I taken up electric guitar instead.
I also turned ten in 1968. This was the precise time when I began to place names to the pieces of music I’d been hearing on the radio over the last several years. Suddenly I knew the difference between Levi Stubbs and David Ruffin, and realized The Kinks weren’t Bob Dylan. Stephanie Farr’s article reminds me that we came of age at a time when, musically, anything seemed possible. Johnny Taylor shared the airwaves with Steppenwolf, courtesy of the Boss Jocks. You weren’t living in Philly yet, but here’s the WFIL Boss 10 from your birthday week:
1. Harper Valley P.T.A.- Jeannie C. Riley
2. House That Jack Built/ I Say A Little Prayer- Aretha
3. Girl Watcher- O’Kaysions
4. Hush- Deep Purple
5. 1, 2, 3 Red Light- 1910 Fruitgum Co.
6. People Got To Be Free- Rascals
7. Light My Fire- Jose Feliciano
8. Love Makes A Woman- Barbara Acklin
9. Slip Away- Clarence Carter
10. Fool On The Hill- Sergio Mendes
Admittedly, Philadelphia A.M. radio had odd playlists (for example- out your way, Detroit’s WKNR Top Ten that same week shares only two songs with WFIL, something worth checking into further), but look at this chart for a second: 3 Soul, 2 Blue-eyed Soul, 2 Latin-flavored Pop, 1 Country Pop, 1 Heavy Rock, and 1 Bubblegum. This is a typical Philly Top 40 radio hit list in the late 60s, and though it wasn’t a particularly good week, it’s hardly predictable (my favorites are Slip Away and 1, 2, 3…), and the mix of songs would be entirely different by the end of the month. This is the music we were raised on. It’s no wonder we’re consistently disappointed these days. That “sense of convergence” Farr mentioned is right on the money. Something was happening in 1968, just as our little worlds were beginning to broaden (and any world where Aretha Franklin battles a Tom T. Hall song for the Number One Single slot was one I wanted to live in.)
THE SECRET MUSEUM
Jim Webb & Michael Mooney
LOST IN SPACE: How Technology Won (And We Lost)
Music download sites have caused radical changes in the way we listen to music. Courtesy of the iTunes Store, Zune, Spiralfrog, etc., you can now create your own mix from an artist's body of produced work. You pick the songs you like from a given official compact disc release and ignore whatever doesn't suit your tastes. This freedom to pick and choose, like selecting fruit at the market, has the potential to compromise the artist’s intention, i.e. disrupting the songs original running order or interrupting the narrative flow, not to mention an album’s overall meaning. This would be like changing what colors Picasso used on his canvas, or telling him where and how to use his brush strokes. Creating your own 'new' book, painting or cd cobbled together from various sources might sound like fun to William S. Burroughs, but this digital cut-up technique leaves me cold. I want the artist's original vision of the music, not some interactive reality game or digital Cliff Notes.
Leisure technology that traps you in its complexity and myriad possibilities is a dead end. Fifty years from now we will see certain types of software made illegal (like drugs)- those that are addictive and/or not producing anything positive. Video games will be described as the new heroin of the 21st Century (already are in my view). The supposed increase in productivity that this specific technology gives us in our "free" time will actually be shown to be counterproductive and "enslaving" us to Corporate profits in some faraway location. I am obviously talking about the frivolous nature of most interactive leisure related products like Guitar Hero. The medical and scientific advances that technology brings us in a functional way are a necessary part of living and surviving on the planet. There should always be a benefit to society at large when new technology is introduced to the masses. Tang is what I consider to be an example of such a product. The astronaut’s instant o.j. was universally (no pun intended) well received and nutritionally much better than fizzy caffeinated beverages. It is no longer widely available, even though it makes a good dish washing detergent replacement (high Citric Acid content), because corporate powers needed a product that was more addicting and had a higher profit margin. Enter Bill Gates and his gang. Remember that Gates is just a straw man for a Syndicate whose power is all encompassing. If Gates is one day immortalized as the real Antichrist, you heard it here first. I'll stop now before I mention that "Uncle " Ted Kaszynski was on to something before he went mad and started killing innocent people.
1. Someone once told me I resembled Ted K.
2. I bought a jar of Tang at Smith’s last week.
3. The Rolling Stones have released eight studio albums since their last really good one (1978’s Some Girls.) With an average price of, let’s say, $12.00 plus tax per new disc (I’m being conservative here), I’d be shelling out over $100.00 in order to discover what absolute rubbish all eight are. By my reckoning, there are one or two worthy tracks on each of these LPs, maybe 11 altogether. If I download those songs at .99 a pop, I’ve got a pretty decent Rolling Stones album for the price of a lousy Rolling Stones album. As to disrupting Mick and Keith’s artistic intentions, so much the better.
The Rolling Stones studio LP discography 1980- present:
Emotional Rescue (1980)
Tattoo You (1981)
Dirty Work (1986)
Steel Wheels (1989)
Voodoo Lounge (1994)
Bridges to Babylon (1997)
A Bigger Bang (2005)
My recommended mix:
Start Me Up
Anybody Seen My Baby
Undercover Of The Night
Thru And Thru
Sweet Neo Con
Waiting On A Friend
She’s So Cold
I wonder why Tang is only sold in certain restricted areas, like Taos. This situation is much worse than I thought!
SIR LORD BALTIMORE
It has recently come to my attention the ultimate heaviness of one of Your creations - Sir Lord Baltimore. I realize that, in 2008, it is forty years since their original appearance on the planetary music stage Earth, and thirty-eight years have passed since their/Your magnum opus Kingdom Come was released. I say their/yours because it has been postulated by other 'humans' that all things emanate from and through You, and all material creation is but Your way of experiencing sound, emotions and consciousness via our existence.
Sir Lord Baltimore is ONE OF THE HEAVIEST THINGS I HAVE EVER HEARD! Do I believe their pile-driving riffs and thundering vocals are just a lower watt version of You? What if Sir Lord Baltimore is an independent and renegade force of energy that even RIVALS YOUR SUPREMACY? The cd Kingdom Come is that of which I speak- released in 1970, it heralded a new power of crunching guitars and breakneck-speed rhythms. Overlooked by the masses, they vanished as quickly as they appeared; their Second Coming occurred in 2006 Anno Domini.
P.S. Michael Mooney sent me the cd. Please apply any bonus points, positive karma, or whatever you're using these days, to his account. He lives in the shadow of Taos Mountain and, Christ knows, he could use it.
I'm sorry to have challenged Your Ultimate Heaviness.
Sugarland played a benefit concert with Amos Lee and Emily Saliers in Santa Fe on Saturday, November 22, at The Armory for the Arts on Old Pecos Trail. Jennifer Nettles, Sugarland’s lead singer, recently created a charitable umbrella group called Common Thread, which promoted and sponsored the event. What's unique about Common Thread is that the performers individually choose where they want the money to be donated. Jennifer picked the American Cancer Society, among others, to receive her contribution.
Singer-songwriter Amos Lee opened the evening with a set that highlighted his soulful voice. The song Arms of A Woman was my favorite. Check it out on YouTube to see what I mean.
Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls was next, and you could tell this acoustic setting was perfect for her. A strong voice and songs like Galileo made her thirty minutes go by quickly.
Sugarland is Nettles and guitarist/ vocalist Kristian Bush. Tonight they were minus the electric guitars and drums. Jennifer’s' powerful voice soared on the song Joey and was restrained on the appropriately titled The Last Country Song. We didn't get the up-tempo country-rock radio hits that have dominated the U.S.A. airwaves the last four years, but nobody missed them. Candles were lit around the stage, and the mood was one of sitting on a front porch and singing into the night. The bedrock roots of country and traditional songwriters are always carried forward by the next generation; it felt as if a torch was being passed from the likes of Emmylou Harris to Jennifer Nettles. And as much as Nettles is a great country singer, I can't wait for her to do a Wrecking Ball- type release, as Emmylou did when she broke free of the country labels and just made adventurous music.
The four musicians joined together in a final set which saw them trading vocals and guitar licks on a good many tunes, ending the show with a sublime version of People Get Ready. They capably showed how much good music is woven together by simple chords, true words and beautiful vocals.
ROCK AND ROLL CITIES (#1 in an occasional series)
Akron! The Rubber City. Home to Devo, Chrissie Hynde, The Waitresses (whom I love), Rubber City Rebels (not a fan ), Rachel Sweet, Tin Huey, and the immortal Robert Quine, as well as The Black Keys and David Allen Coe. With 300,000 fewer residents than Albuquerque, it has produced 1000% more credible Rock Acts (I’m counting the Shins.) Why is that so? I invite Jim to explain this to me.
Meanwhile, speaking of rubber, this conversation took place recently over the phone-
Dave: This is Dave.
Me: Hi Dave. I was wondering if you would consider changing your policy of only servicing customers who come in with loose tires AFTER everyone else has been helped. I had a flat on my car, and instead of using that pain-in-the-ass-for-you slimy dirty stuff that comes in a can and driving over there, I took the tire off and brought it in my wife’s car instead. That made me ineligible for prompt service, even though I was trying to do the right thing by you guys.
Dave: Weeelll, we’re not going to change our policy for you.
Me: It wouldn’t just be for me, but for everyone who is compromised by not always having his or her tires attached to a car. For example, I’m sure people roll flat tires in there on foot all the time. Or maybe someone needs a wheelbarrow tire repaired. Why should they be punished? I could have been out of there a lot sooner, and at a great inconvenience to your staff, if I was only thinking of myself.
Dave: Weelll, as I said I’m not changing my policy, and if you don’t like it you can take your business elsewhere from now on.
Me: Weeelll, I bought all four of my tires there, so I really don’t have much choice now, do I?
Dave: Weeelll, that’s why the flat repair service is free.
Me: Yeah, except it isn’t cos time is money, and mine is as valuable to me as I’m sure yours is to you. I had to wait 2 hours for you to make your money off the tourists before someone thought to repair my tire. You’re discriminating against the loose-tired element of your customer base. Why don’t you have a ‘first-come, first-served’ policy like any normal business? And how come my tires are always going flat anyway?
Devo- Mongoloid, Uncontrollable Urge, Come Back Jonee, The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize, Freedom Of Choice.
The Pretenders- Brass In Pocket, Precious, Mystery Achievment, Talk Of The Town, My City Was Gone, Back On The Chain Gang, How Much Did You Get For Your Soul.
The Waitresses: I Know what Boys Like, No Guilt, Christmas Wrapping, Quit, A Girl’s Gotta Do, Bruiseology, Make The Weather.
Rubber City Rebels: Brain Job, Young And Dumb, Child Eaters, Paper Dolls.
Rachel Sweet: Who Does Lisa Like, Wildwood Saloon, B-A-B-Y, Stranger In The House, Fool’s Gold.
Tin Huey: Puppet Wipes, I’m A Believer, Pink Berets, Coronation, English Kids, The Tin Huey Story.
Robert Quine: The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts LPs (Lou Reed), Blank Generation, Destiny Street LPs (Richard Hell), Girlfriend LP (Matthew Sweet), Painted Desert LP (w/ Ikue Mori & Marc Ribot.) Any fan of the electric guitar should seek out Quine.
Having spent practically the entire 1960s living in Ohio, I have a few imperfect observations about that crazy patch of ground. Ohio is kind of in a no-man's land between the happening East and West Coast art, music and theater scenes. Everybody's perception is that you have to leave small mid-west towns in order to " make it." If you want mass acceptance, that is probably true. The people who don't head for the bright lights of L.A. or N.Y.C. are left behind to create something different. Usually they are especially weird (Pere Ubu, Devo.) The bands you cited are unique in their style and music; only The Pretenders have had significant success in terms of records sold and concert ticket sales, and Chrissie Hynde had to relocate to London in order to achieve that. Rubber is toxic- it winds up in the air, and the winds blow it everywhere. Twenty years from now they'll probably do a study and have some shocking results about brain waves being affected within 300 miles of Akron. I lived in Cleveland, Findlay and Toledo, Ohio from 1962 to 1969. I don't have a chance.
I was going to say that The Fallen is the best music book I've read this year (just finished it), but I will change that and say it is the best book I've read this year period. That might say more about my tastes, but it's just a damn well written thing with an impressively original idea. I'm going to have to track down a copy of Hip Priest by Simon Ford. My highest compliment is that I now have about eight more Fall titles on the way to my hut.
The Fallen - Searching for Members of The Fall by Dave Simpson
A tremendous book that is essential not only to fans of the U.K. musical group The Fall, but to anyone who enjoys seeing where the twists and turns of life can take everyday people like us. The Fall were formed near Manchester, England in 1976 by one Mark E. Smith, the central player in this ongoing story. They became one of the best loved U.K. indie rock bands, having survived not only The Punk years (1976-81), but continuing on to the present day with a mixture of caustic lyrics from Smith and a loose chaotic sound that encompasses rock, noise and whatever else they feel like playing at the time. What is unique about this band is its revolving door list of musicians, who come and go at Smith's (dis)pleasure. MES comes off at times as a demented control freak, drunkard, and generally unpleasant person, one operating under a great deal of stress while trying to keep this low budget operation surviving for thirty-plus years.
Author Dave Simpson decides to take on the Herculean task of tracking down over forty previous members of the group to get their take on what it was like being in a famous band, however briefly for some, and dealing with the mercurial Mark E. Smith. What I find most appealing about this book is the way Simpson brings us into the current lives of the ex-Fall members, some still involved in music, to varying degrees of success, while others have moved on to other jobs, families and careers. This aspect of the book- revisiting people's lives ten, twenty, even thirty years later- reminds me of film director Michael Apted's fascinating Up Series (for the uninitiated, Apted interviewed a group of British 7-year olds in 1964, then every seven years revisits them to see how their lives are unfolding. 56 Up should be out in 2012.) Simpson finds some of the same magic on his journey. If you like hilarious, weird road tales- some almost unbelievable, but all true- get this book. Simpson writes a story about musicians that we all can relate to. Life's journey has many twists and turns. This is a rewarding read that makes you think about your own choices, and what led you to ‘now’.
I agree- this is a great book, and it’s concept is hard to beat. The ‘where are they now’ theme simply never gets old, particularly when, as is here, the subjects are among our own peer group (late Boomers-Early Xers). Some innumerable-hits websites, like classmates.com, reunion.com or yourlifeissosadthateverythinginthepastlooksgreat.com, confirm both the lure of nostalgia and the desire to validate one’s personal choices in life. Luckily, we’ve both avoided the temptation to cast that backward glance (so far- though I did see the latest high school reunion photos, and it appears that all the boys from our class are in middle management, while the girls have that certain real estate-licensed glow. But I digress.)
Dave Simpson, music critic for the Manchester Guardian, is clearly a Fall obsessive (what other type is there?). It’s reflected in his tenacious sleuth-hound’s determination, and comes at great personal expense, but while he doesn’t locate everyone who has ever performed with the group, or even attempt to (like Cuz’n Roy Gittens, inspiration for the character Jack in the film Sideways, and almost-member of my very own 90s-era Rock group), Simpson finds the ones who matter most (well, nearly.)
1. Virtually all of the Fallen display ongoing admiration, if not outright affection, for their tyrannical erstwhile leader.
2. MES deserves an MBE.
WORST GIGS EVER (part one):
Michael Bolton/ Kenny G.
Los Angeles, 1990
Diane had heard something by Gorelick on the radio at work, and decided that she liked his smooth style. I was able to get tickets to this sold-out show via a brokerage ($50 each), and had no idea what I was in for-I thought they might be Jazz guys like maybe Al Jarreau or Chuck Mangione or something. This was the single-most horrific musical experience of my life. Kenneth Gorelick made like a brain-dead Pied Piper as he lurched from the stage all the way up the center aisle to the lobby (keep going!); Mikey Bolton’s take-no-prisoners vocal histrionics gave new meaning to the term ‘stupefying’. Afterward, we retired to Bob’s Frolic Room in order to erase all lingering memories-double Jameson’s for me- though whenever I see a guy with a shiny mane of curls (not very often in Taos) or a Bolton-style mullet (seems like every day!) I’m reminded of that night, and want to be sick all over again.
Here’s something I didn’t know:
Gorelick's 1999 single, “What A Wonderful World” stirred controversy among the jazz community regarding the overdubbing of Louis Armstrong's classic recording. A common criticism was that such a revered recording by a musician known especially for improvisation should not be altered. Pat Metheny responded to this recording by saying, "With this single move, Kenny G became one of the few people on earth I can say that I really can't use at all - as a man, for his incredible arrogance to even consider such a thing, and as a musician, for presuming to share the stage with the single most important figure in our music."
Santana/ Rusted Root
Los Angeles, 1997
Two years before the massive Supernatural, we find Carlos here at his career’s ebb, preaching to the largely upscale Hispanic audience that their lowly vocational choices (itinerant farming, lawn care, dry cleaning) determine how the world sees them. Also, only meditation will heal the planet. Interminable jams follow. Saving grace: the explosive power of Cuban percussionist Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez.
And whose idea was it to allow the appalling Rusted Root a 75-minute opening set?
HOLIDAY MUSIC BONANZA
How about 10 great Holiday songs? And why (a weak idea, I realize, but hard to resist.)
Here's my holiday song list:
1. Brenda Lee - Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
One of the most joyous Holiday songs ever.
2. Crystals - Santa Claus is Coming To Town
Phil Spector did a whole LP on Christmas classics - hard to pick
3. Roger Miller - Little Toy Trains
Mr. Miller was a great songwriter, not just a guy with novelty hits.
4. The Kinks - Father Christmas
Watch the volume knob on this one.
5. Burl Ives - Holly Jolly Christmas
The old-time innocence of Burl’s world is sadly gone.
6. Roy Wood / Wizzard - I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
A U.K. hit in the 70's; track it down for a real treat.
7. Greg Lake - I Believe In Father Christmas
Beautiful vocals, simple guitar, tasteful orchestration, nice bells.
8. David Bowie/ Bing Crosby - Peace on Earth/ Little Drummer
I'm in a major Bowie infatuation right now.
9. Nat King Cole - The Christmas
I can feel the warmth from the Yule logs.
10. Jerusalem Sonic Highway - Do They Know It's Christmas
A quasi-mystical group from the high desert, this isn't available for purchase,
The Secret Museum
Michael Mooney & Jim Webb
Holiday Music Bonanza (Part 2)
December 11, 2008Jim-
I've come up with over 30 favorite Holiday songs. Can you give
me more, or does the thought make you ill?
I came up with a few but still fell a little short. I could have filled in the rest with the Phil Spector LP but that didn't seem right.
11. Keith Richard - Run Run Rudolph
The Christmas pirate needs to be in here, as does Chuck Berry.
12. Elvis - Blue Christmas
Blue on Christmas- that's as blue as you can get.
13. Johnny Mathis - Silver Bells
Hard to pick just one from Mr. Mathis
14. Jewel - Joy to the World
Strong pipes on this classic.
15. Pretenders - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
A different side of Chrissie & Co.
16. Jose Feliciano - Feliz Navidad
Up-tempo feel for the holidays is perfect.
17. Bobby Helms - Jingle Bell Rock
Reminds me of Christmases past.
18. Beach Boys - Little Saint Nick
For Brian, not Mike.
19. Commander Cody - Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas
I have to honestly say I've never heard this one, but I'm sure I’ll love it.
20. Adam Sadler - The Hanukah Song
The true miracle was that the Maccabees were victorious.
I struggled to come up with this favorites list, and it seems like even the good songs have been played to death through the years, and any joy has been squeezed out of them (particularly if you've been listening 24/7 from retail prison every year.) There are plenty of obscure Christmas tunes in blues, r n' b, and even from Buster Poindexter, but I unfortunately have never heard any of those gems. You were right about not doing the list too quickly. I realize now I don't have ANY true favorite Holiday tunes. Here's my Worst Of Holiday music:
1.Billy Squire - Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You
The reason we need government is to find out who likes this kind of nonsense, and make sure we keep track of their whereabouts at all times.
2. Sir Paul McCartney - Wonderful Christmastime
Mr. All We Need Is Love turns into All We Have is Shite.
3. Dean Martin - Let it Snow (or any holiday song he's ever tried to sing)
How a guy acting drunk most of the time became so revered in Middle America is scary.
4. Bruce Springsteen - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
What used to be real many years ago is now just a big phony show. Why a musician worth half a billion or more would try to pull off this poor Mr. Dustbowl working man con game on everybody is stupid. Stop it.
5. Bing Crosby - White Christmas
The guy can't sing, can't act, can't dance, isn't funny, and yet somehow became America’s favorite in the 30's through 60's. The only less talented hack around then was his pal Bob Hope.
6. John Lennon / Yoko Ono - Happy Xmas
Yoko re-enacts being burned alive.
7. Bryan Adams - Christmas Song
This guy is so middle-of-the-road he's got a white stripe running down his back. The opposite of dangerous.
8. Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You
She was almost exiled for good around the time of her Glitter bomb in 2001; every song sounds like she practicing vocal scales.
9. Nick Lachey/ Jessica Simpson - Baby It's Cold Outside
By even listing this piece of crap, I become part of the problem.
10. Chipmunks - Chipmunk Song
Our country was closer than we could ever realize in 1958 to being taken over by The Soviet Union when this went to No. 1.
Krushchev thought he saw an opening to strike when we went collectively daft as a nation over this tune, but pulled back at the last minute. Maybe he liked it, too.
I can get behind most of this except for Paul McC, The Chipmunks, and, particularly, your Dean Martin comments. If more Americans were like Dino, the only people getting “bombed” would be us.
Here’s my Top 30 list in order of original release date:
1. The Singing Dogs- Jingle Bells (1955)
Arranged by a Danish ornithologist (and notorious dog hater),
this rendition of the timeless classic handily beats all others.
2. The Chipmunks- The Chipmunk song (1958)
Almost as annoying, but still one of the best.
3. John Coltrane- Greensleeves (1961)
From the Village Vanguard sessions- the 5:03 version.
4. Eugene Ormandy/ The Philadelphia Orchestra- O Come, O
Come Emmanuel (1962)
Sacred and haunting.
5. Harry Simeone Chorale- Do You Hear What I Hear (1962)
Written as a response to the Cuban Missile Crisis- “Pray for
Peace, People Everywhere”- I weep like a little baby every time.
6. Roger LaVern and The Microns- Christmas Stocking b/w
From the Joe Meek stable, a double dose of high weirdness.
Good luck finding a copy.
7. The Ronettes- Frosty The Snowman (1963)
Personal highlight from A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector. I believe I hear Bronx-bred Ronnie pronouncing the snowman’s name as “Fwosty.”
8. Valerie Masters- Christmas Calling (1964)
Another bizarre Joe Meek Holloway Road production.
9. Vince Guaraldi Trio- Christmas Time Is Here (1965)
10. The Sonics- Don’t Believe In Christmas/ Santa Claus/
The Village Idiot (1965)
Actually, this is Too Much Monkey Business and Famer John with different lyrics, and an ‘acting retarded’ take on Jingle Bells.
11. Thurl Ravenscroft- You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch (1966)
Tony the Tiger (and voice of Pageant Of The Masters) sings.
This guy had the best job in history.
12. The Royal Guardsmen- Snoopy’s Christmas (1967)
The ‘bloody’ Red Baron forces Snoop down behind enemy lines, only to offer a toast to Christmas and peace. A powerful anti-
war statement from the two-hit wonders.
13. Mahalia Jackson- What Child Is This (1968)
Actually, I’m not sure when this was recorded. The 4:16 version I have sounds much older, ancient in fact. Just like Mahalia’s voice- weary, majestic and eternal.
14. The O’Jays- Christmas Ain’t Christmas, New Year’s Ain’t New Years Without The One You Love (1969)
Early Sound of Philadelphia, and a whole lot of truth.
15. The Who- Christmas (1969)
Technically not a holiday song, though I received my first
copy of Tommy for Christmas, 1970.
16. Caetano Veloso- In The Hot Sun Of A Christmas Day (1970)
Caetano evades the hard-liners and is about to lose the girl one
hot Christmas day during the Years of Lead.
17. The Carpenters- Merry Christmas Darling (1970)
The dulcet tones, etc….
18. John Prine- Christmas In Prison (1973)
Can’t imagine what that’s like.
19. Wizzard- I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday (1973)
Here’s one of your choices. Starts with the bell-like ka-ching
of the cash register, ends with the bells themselves. Kept from
the UK Number One single position by those bastards Slade
and Merry Christmas Everybody. This is much better.
20. The Kinks- Father Christmas (1977)
Another Webb pick. In this one, Ray plays Santa and gets
mugged for his trouble. Wicked drumming from illiterate
slacker Mick Avory.
21. Paul McCartney- Wonderful Christmastime (1979)
Macca monkeys around on a Prophet-5. Simple and effective (and
Webb hates it!)
22. Jona Lewie- Stop The Cavalry (1980)
Another one that’s not really a holiday song, except it is. Brilliant.
23. The Waitresses- Christmas Wrapping (1981)
Patty Donahue (R.I.P.) finds joy and “the world’s smallest
turkey.” A Christmas miracle. From Akron.
24. The Pretenders- 2000 Miles (1983
Also from Akron. Chrissie Hynde misses her baby. And it’s
25. The Pogues w/Kirsty MacColl- A Fairytale Of New York
My favorite Holiday song EVER. Kirsty MacColl (R.I.P.- why
are these great singers already gone?) has never received her
due. She’s a wonder and, on this, perfectly complements Shane
MacGowan’s Jameson’s-sodden bark. The last great Christmas
26. Chris Rea- Driving Home For Christmas (1988)
Just plain nice.
27. Mary Margaret O’Hara- What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve
Mary Margaret works her extraordinary magic on this oft-
covered staple. Why isn’t this on Jim’s list?
28. The Fall- Christmastide (1997)
Because what is Christmas without The Fall?
29. The Flaming Lips- A Change At Christmas (2003)
“Oh, if I could stop time
It would be a frozen moment just around Christmas
When all of mankind reveals its truest potential
And there is sympathy for the suffering…
And the world embraces peace and love and mercy
Instead of power and fear
And as sure as I'm standing here
I swear it really does appear that a change comes over us…
And it's glimpsed for one shining moment
And this change feels like a change that's real
But then it passes along with the season
And then we just go back to the way we were…"
30. Holly Golightly- Christmas Tree On Fire (2006)
The ever-busy Holly covers Tom Heinl (he of Minimum Wage
Sugar Daddy, Peein’ In An Empty and Ingrown Nail On The
Oregon Trail). Garage Rock perfection.
Happy Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Rohatsu, Eid ul Adha,
Yule, et al.