Monday, December 30, 2013

RIP Lou Reed

In thinking about what went down in 2013, the big thing that jumped out at me was the death of Lou Reed in October.

I was incredibly sad when I heard that Lou Reed had died. I know that he had been ill, that he had had a liver transplant, but it never really registered that he could die.  It felt like Lou had survived so damn much, he had to be invincible.

I was driving on 94 between Minneapolis and St. Paul when his death was announced on The Current, our local alternative rock station. The next day someone had hung a huge, homemade RIP LOU REED banner on one of the footbridges across 94. I wish I had a picture of it.

Lou and I go way back. I first discovered Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground when I was in high school. The songs! They were loud, angry, sarcastic. Kind of like me at the time.

 Lou gave me something besides a bad attitude, though. In 1992, when Magic and Loss came out, I was volunteering at an AIDS foster care home where I helped take care of people who were dying. I had moved to Minnesota a few years earlier, not too long after my father died from cancer.

I was pretty broke in 1992, but Lou Reed was one of the handful of artists that I will find some way to see when they're in town, come hell or high water.   He was at the Orpheum in Minneapolis - pricey stuff, but worth it. We managed to get tickets before it sold out (lousy seats, though).

Lou looked and sounded fantastic. He played Magic and Loss from start to finish, and then played cuts from New York and Songs for Drella. It was an awesome show, and it will forever be known as The Show That Made Andrea Cry. Magic and Loss is a sad album. It's also a really angry album. Seeing and hearing the songs played brought back the all of my sadness, hurt, regret, and anger from seeing lots of people die too soon, my father included. Up until the point, I really didn't feel like anyone else understood how I was feeling. But Lou did. He got it.

Please rise for our belated seasonal anthem ...

The Ventures' CHRISTMAS ALBUM [1965] is the greatest Xmas album ever recorded. Don't even pretend that Phil Spector wall-of-sound yuletide wailing or the Beatles' happy-Christmas-to-just-our-fanclub quickies or even the mighty Vince Guaraldi can compete.

This LP is a Swiss Army knife of an Xmas LP -- put it on in the background for your holiday party and enjoy mostly ignoring it while you pretend to enjoy chatting with your guests; put it on while wrapping presents for your ungrateful loved ones and occasionally stop to guess where the next song is headed after the first twelve bars; or, I shit you not, put on your headphones and treat it like a Pink Floyd album, but without the 1AM-conversations-in-your-dorm's-stairway levels of pretension.

The combo playfully twist convention by taking a pop tune of the day and warping it into a Christmas classic: "What'd I Say" sets the groove for "Jingle Bells," the Lonnie Mack stomp of "Memphis" paves over the tinsel swing of "Jingle Bell Rock," and "Blue Christmas" finally gives you something to think about on the off chance that you ever hear the Searchers' "When You Walk Into the Room" on the radio or while browsing in a used-vinyl store, etc.

For me, the track to go back to over and over, especially through a pair of ear buds, is "Snow Flakes," their take on "Greensleeves" mixed with a little of the Zombies' "She's Not There."

If the soundtrack of all our Christmas seasons must forever be the soundtrack of the boomers' childhood Christmases*, then let this album get the most play.

* It's not a coincidence that the only new song of the last 30 years to make it into heavy rotation in the malls and on lazyass-December commerical radio is Mariah Carey's "All I want For Christmas Is You," a song so boomer-retro that Spector probably embellishes a false memory that he supervised the track's final mixdown with his pistol in Carey's mouth every time he hears it. Speaking of which:

OK, fine -- here's one Christmas song that we can probably claim for our own; even as a filthy, agnostic Jew, I can get into this medieval French carol about the animals in the manger doing what they could to care for the newborn baby Jesus.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Super Hits 1982, Part 8

Yeah, I'm back.

Eddie Schwartz, “Over the Line,” #91, 3/27/1982

Second single from Schwartz following “All Our Tomorrows” is slightly more rocking than the first, but didn’t do as well on the American charts. A native of Toronto, Schwartz apparently charted higher in Canada than in the States. After a third album in 1983, Schwartz has pretty much stuck to songwriting and producing for other acts – his songs have been recorded by Pat Benatar (“Hit Me With Your Best Shot”), The Doobie Brothers (“The Doctor”), Paul Carrack, Joe Cocker, Donna Summer, and others.


Olivia Newton-John, “Make a Move on Me,” #5, 4/3/1982

Olivia was certainly becoming less subtle about what she was after around this time. The second single from Physical became a top five hit in the United States, and top 10 in Australia and Canada. It’s almost a forgotten single – it wasn’t even included on the American version of her 1992 best-of Back to Basics – but it was pretty inescapable when it was out (although not as inescapable as “Physical” itself, which was #1 for ten weeks).


The Pointer Sisters, “Should I Do It,” #13, 4/3/1982

A throwback to the girl groups sound of the 1960s, this turned out to be a fine followup to their hit from the previous fall, “Slow Hand.” The sisters had placed six singles in the Billboard top 20 up until this point; “Should I Do It” marked the first time two of those songs came from the same album (in this case, Black and White). Of course, two years later the aptly titled Breakout contained four top 10 hits, but who knew in 1982 the best was yet to come?


Sister Sledge, “My Guy,” #23, 4/3/1982

Third and last top 40 hit for the four sisters who had hit the big time three years before with two Nile Rodgers-Bernard Edwards produced disco classics, “He’s the Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family.” (I wonder how the Philadelphia-born Sledge girls felt when “We Are Family” was picked up as the theme song by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Phillies’ cross-state rivals.) The sisters made a smart move here: when you’re not getting hits, remake an old Motown song (written by Smokey Robinson, “My Girl” hit #1 for Mary Wells in 1964). Sister Sledge would chart in America one more time three years later with “Frankie” (which hit top 10 in five different countries but only climbed to #75 in the States), but they still perform (separately and together) today.


Foreigner, “Juke Box Hero,” #26, 4/3/1982

Third single from the 4 album, so named because a) it was their fourth album, and b) there were only four guys in the band by this point. (Wikipedia lists thirty-six different full-time members of the band since they started recording in 1977.) This one didn’t chart nearly as high as the first two singles, “Urgent” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” but it’s been a mainstay on classic rock radio stations for years.


Stevie Woods, “Just Can’t Win ‘Em All,” #38, 4/3/1982

Second top 40 single for pop/soul singer Woods, after “Steal the night” broke into the top 30 in late 1981. All three came from the same album, Take Me to Your Heaven, which was released through Atlantic Records subsidiary Cotillion. However, don’t be mistaken by the label association; it’s not like this will remind you of any of Atlantic’s R&B releases of the 1950s and 1960s.  (Note: and You Tube are combining to not let me embed the one existing video of this song, so I'm adding a link instead:


The Go-Go’s, “We Got the Beat,” #2, 4/10/1982

Now we’re talking. Second single from their #1 LP Beauty and the Beat, and a truly terrific pop single. Written entirely by guitarist Charlotte Caffey (Caffey and Jane Wiedlin wrote or co-wrote all but one of the songs on the album), it was an instant “get up and dance!” song during its time out, and still resonates today.


The J. Geils Band, “Freeze-Frame,” #4, 4/10/1982

Wow, two great songs in a row – how often does that happen? Title track from their 1981 album, it didn’t quite match “Centerfold” on the charts, but it came close, and it’s a lot easier to explain this song to your kids than try to explain what a centerfold is. Cool video (for the era) with a lot of paint being splashed around as well.


Meco, “Pop Goes the Movies, Part 1,” #35, 4/10/1982

And back to Earth we come. Meco Monardo had been doing disco versions of movie themes for a few years, hitting the charts with everything from “Star Wars/Cantina Band Theme” in 1977 (his only #1) to “Theme From Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (“Goodbye! Goodbye!”) in 1978, and even a disco Wizard of Oz medley. With a few years between Star Wars movies, and with medleys still being popular, Meco strung together a pile of themes from classic movies, added the usual disco backbeat and/or handclaps, and out it went. It’s out of print now, and thus long forgotten – probably just as well. (In my book, it takes a very special kind of chutzpah to put disco handclaps on “Suicide Is Painless,” a.k.a. the theme from M*A*S*H.)



George Duke, “Shine On,” #41, 4/10/1982

Duke passed away earlier this year, but he sure got around during his lifetime. After notching a top 20 single with “Sweet Baby” in 1981 (as part of The Clarke/Duke Project with Stanley Clarke), Duke came up a little short here with this catch pop/soul number. The guy’s played with soul and jazz stars (Clarke, Frank Zappa, Flora Purim, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Deniece Williams, David Sanborn, Teena Marie), and his songs have been sampled by such current artists as Common and Ice Cube.


George Benson, “Never Give Up on a Good Thing,” #52, 4/10/1982

Benson had a ton of hits between 1976 and 1983, but he never managed two top 40 hits on a single album – or, in this case, on the two-album greatest hits set The George Benson Collection, either. This was the followup to the similar “Turn Your Love Around,” and did manage to make the top 15 in the UK. The parent album is probably his best anthology, if you can live without “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” (which was lopped off when the original CD was released due to time constraints, and hasn’t been added back since).


Sugarhill Gang, “Apache,” #53, 4/10/1982

Third and final Hot 100 single for the first rap group to make the top 40, on Sugarhill Records. They still tour, however, and did a CD aimed for the children’s market (with a remake of “Rapper’s Delight” more appropriate for the small fry) in 1999. Have you ever been over to a friend’s house to eat, and his momma’s cooking just ain’t no good?


Shooting Star, “Hollywood,” #70, 4/10/1982

For a band that charted three singles in the early 1980s, none of which made it above #65, these guys sure have their fans – they’ve released seven studio albums and are still around today (albeit with only two of the original members). Fairly standard rock from the era, but obviously someone was listening.


Chris Rea, “Loving You,” #88, 4/10/1982

Fourth US chart hit for the native of Yorkshire, England, but this song is remarkable for being the first time Rea charted higher in the UK than in the States. Having finally shaken loose of producer Gus Dudgeon (who handled his first two albums; Rea was so dismayed by the way they sounded that he hasn’t allowed his biggest US hit, “Fool (If You Think It’s Over),” to be released digitally in anything but a self-produced rerecording) and the label managers who suggested he change his name to Benny Santini, Rea would slowly build up his career to the point where he had six consecutive albums hit the UK top 10, including a pair of #1 albums in The Road to Hell and Auberge.


Huey Lewis & The News, “Do You Believe in Love,” #7, 4/10/1982

First of 21 chart hits over a 12-year time span for the band, who got their start as Clover (although only Sean Hopper was among the band members that backed up Elvis Costello on My Aim Is True). After Clover broke up, Lewis and Hopper picked up three members of a rival SF-based band, Soundhole, and later added guitarist Chris Hayes, before signing to Chrysalis Records. Their first album didn’t do much, but the second one broke big, thanks to this made-for-radio  singalong song.


Bertie Higgins, “Key Largo,” #8, 4/17/1982

In 1982, you could do this: make a top 10 hit with an adult contemporary homage to a Humphrey Bogart movie from 34 years before. Higgins was a singer-songwriter from Florida whose main claim to fame up until this point was playing in Tommy Roe’s backing band, but he hit the jackpot with this song (admittedly, some of the lyrical references were from Casablanca, which was an earlier Bogart movie that did not feature Lauren Bacall). A little goofy, but also a good change of pace for Top 40 formats, and probably made for some happy film buffs in the days before VCRs were standard in households.  (This video gets some creepiness point if, as claimed on one web site, the woman in the video was pulled out of high school to do the shoot; Higgins would have been roughly twice her age.)


Stevie Nicks, “Edge of Seventeen,” #11, 4/17/1982

And yet another song misinterpreted. I read somewhere that this was Stevie’s oblique reference to losing one’s virginity, but it’s actually a song about the deaths of both John Lennon and an uncle of hers (so the white-winged dove meant something completely different). “Edge of Seventeen” comes from Tom Petty’s then-wife, who told Nicks the two met at the “age of 17” in a thick Florida accent. Anyway, this was the third hit single from Nicks’ Bella Donna album.


Van Halen, “(Oh) Pretty Woman,” #12, 4/17/1982
Cool, another good song, although opinions may vary. I’ve always liked the Roy Orbison originally, but this added some edge. Possibly a sign that Eddie Van Halen’s songwriting well was running dry (the next single was also a remake, in that case “Dancing in the Street”), but he bounced back well two years later with 1984. The biggest single for the band to this point, and the first single from their album Diver Down.


Cover Me: Original Versions of Hit Songs

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Do You Hear What I Hear: 10 Obscure Christmas Songs

You're probably as insanely tired as I am of hearing the usual plethora of Christmas songs, so cleanse your aural palate with lesser-known versions and original tunes you might never have heard. (The Bessie Smith song is extraordinary.)

Some of these are taken from a classic punk/new wave compilation from the early 80s on Ze Records called A Christmas Record.  It was for me the first time I ever heard the Waitresses' still-great "Christmas Wrapping". You can listen to the entire album on YouTube.

Suggest your own little-known favorites!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ray Davies' Later Stuff Was Better

EDIT: Welcome, KindaKinks readers!

Exhibits A, B, C, D and E

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thinking the Thinkable About John Lennon

The Beatles were most of all a moment. But their generation was not the only generation in history, and to keep turning the gutted lantern of those dreams this way and that in hopes the flame will somehow flicker up again in the eighties is as futile a pursuit as trying to turn Lennon's lyrics into poetry. It is for that moment--not for John Lennon the man---that you are mourning, if you are mourning. Ultimately you are mourning for yourself. - Lester Bangs, "Thinking the Unthinkable About John Lennon" (1980)
John Lennon would have been 73 years old on October 9.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

When I'm With You, I Get An Extension: 10 Songs Sung While on the Phone

You'd think a post about telephone songs would be an easy one, but the catch here is that the singer has to actually be on the phone. The song can't just be about telephones, it has to be a telephone call itself. So with that in mind...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy 64th Birthday, Boss

Thought I'd forget, didn't you? (more likely, you didn't care)

Do young, contemporary bands put out this kind of energy and imagination?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Nothing But Teardrops: Songs About 9/11

I have nothing especially profound to say about this anniversary or this list of songs, except to say that throughout the years of war and flag-waving and cries of vengeance and boots up asses, the prevailing emotions about this day continue to be loss and mourning and horror. All those people. All those families.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Keep Me in Your Heart: Warren Zevon Remembered

Zevon died ten years ago this past Saturday. One of those artists who works his way into your system, whether you like it or not (and I do).

Here's a remembrance.
Zevon had always written songs that referenced death, baiting the very thing that terrified and fascinated him: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, Life'll Kill Ya, Don't Let Us Get Sick. The Wind contains some of his most beautiful reflections on mortality, including Knocking on Heaven's Door and Keep Me in Your Heart: "Sometimes when you're doing simple things around the house / Maybe you'll think of me and smile / You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on the blouse / Keep me in your thoughts for a while.
 As Zevon predicted, it would become one of his most critically lauded albums, but he barely lived to see the plaudits: two weeks after the album was released, he died on 7 September 2003.
One of the most unbearably heartbreaking songs of all time:

Friday, August 30, 2013

There Once Was a Union Maid, She Never Was Afraid: Songs About Labor

Just a reminder that the 40 hour work week, 9-5 hours and vacations did not come about via the big-hearted benevolence of rich, powerful CEOs, but from the blood, sweat, and anguish of our grandparents and their parents.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Happy 62nd Birthday, Fender Telecaster!

This blog's head cheese reports that today is the Tele's 62nd birthday, which dovetails well into Leo Fender's memories of its development aside from the year; there are 1950 Teles that are clearly Teles except for the headstock decal reads either "Broadcaster" or nothing at all, the semi-legendary "No Caster."

I've occasionally written about the Tele in the past, and I'm on deadline now, but I'd like to share some iconic Telecaster recordings, some that one might not know were recorded with a Tele, and some because I still find headless-guitarist YouTbue videos terribly hilarious.

FYI, I'm not including any twang-assed country chicken-pickers because reasons, nor is Bruce Springsteen included because 1.] man, fuck that guy and 2.] his famous Tele is actually a Fender Esquire that's been modified to look like a Tele, which is like buying a pair of wingtips to wear with a tuxedo T-shirt [see reason #1].

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

No Reason At All

Time for a sad love song, with trumpet.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Great Rock Books I Have Read, Part 2

Paperback Writer: The Life and Times of the Beatles, the Spurious Chronicle of Their Rise to Stardom, Their Triumphs and Disasters, Plus the Amazing Story of Their Ultimate Reunion Mark Shipper, 1979

Even before John Lennon's demise it seemed a new Beatles book was published about every two weeks, and Paperback Writer was in some ways a response to that glut. It is a blissfully funny parody, a fictionalized madhouse version of the Beatles story (the premise being that author Shipper interviewed Ringo Starr, lost his notes on the way home, and decided to make the whole thing up), and it skewers not only the stifling worship fans have laid on the band but the Beatles themselves. Puns abound in record-breaking number, from a photographer's name (F. Stop Fitzgerald) to a great running joke concerning Ringo's faltering solo career:
By 1976, Ringo Starr was no longer enjoying hit records with the same sort of regularity that he had in the early 70s. An occasional record appealed to him, like Elton John's Philadelphia Freedom, but by and large he found little to enjoy.
The last quarter of the novel has to do with a fictional Beatles reunion, and it's where Shipper's teeth start to sink in longer. Having failed on their own (especially John and Yoko's ill-fated team-up with Sonny and Cher, The Plastic Bono Band), the Fab Four reluctantly and under great pressure return to the recording studio to re-create their magic. Unfortunately, time has taken its toll, and the Beatles are reduced to a spate of uninspired and hilariously terrible songs, such as George's "Disco Jesus" and John's paen to Gilligan's Island:
Bob Denver, Jim Backus, each day they attack us
With laughter, fun and mirth
Their much-anticipated tour is a disaster, as their new material meets with stony silence and righteous anger. Frustrated, the Beatles end their ban on older material, and the moment they hit the first chord of one of their early hits, the crowd goes wild, and all is forgiven. Later, exhilarated but puzzled, the band struggles to understand why fans wanted a reunion, when all they really wanted was the Beatles of old, exactly as they were.
“I guess,” McCartney said as he took his wife’s hand, “it’s because you can’t live in someone’s past and live in their future, too.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


None of these women care what you think.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Late Monday Music: The Specials-"The Specials"

Originally posted on Summers of Fret
This first edition of Late Monday Music will focus on the first and self-titled album of The Specials, a British ska band that emerged in 1979 and served as direct youth opposition to the election of Margaret Thatcher. Their music is jumpy and agitated, reflecting the turmoil of racism and recession that was crashing through Britain in the late ’70s and early 80′s, and there is a distinct blend of reggae, ska, and punk that howls against dowdy domesticity. The Specials were well known for being a racially integrated group during a notably prejudiced period in Britain, and their jarring music and presentation was a brass blast against bigotry.
The first Specials album, The Specials, is a kaleidoscopic whirl through pseudo-Dickensian streets of grime, violence, and hedonism. Many of the songs are covers or are derivative of earlier Jamaican ska, transformed to fit an urban British narrative. Visually the group embraces a stark black and white approach in fashion and in music videos that leaves an inescapable frenetic feel, as well as embracing racial unity. The first track “A Message to You, Rudy” has a more traditional sound and opens the album with a cheery, arching upper harmony so common in Jamaican-influenced music. The effect of the brass instruments is instant, they lurch in and out of the song with a delightful tipsiness. If this song is a little inebriated, the rest of the album is belligerently drunk, and in the best possible way. There is an omnipresent image, due to the lyrics and instrumentation, of a permanent nightfall.
Vocally the lyrics are often shouted in the punk style, with rambling rhythms that frantically speed up, juxtaposed with relatively controlled bass and keyboard solos. The cover of “Monkey Man,” initially performed by Toots and the Maytals, lives up to the already outstanding original, and the back half of the album is supported by the bitter anti-authority “Stupid Marriage” and “Too Much Too Young” where it is exhorted that we, the listener “should be having fun with me.” Not every song is perfect. “Do the Dog” retains a punk feel but loses some of the harmonic musicality that makes the group intriguing, and “Blank Expression” is one of the weaker lyrical offerings. In fact, the group is at its strongest when they successfully take a confluence of traditional ska and reggae backdrop and mix it with punk lyrics of street violence, exemplified in their interpretation of “Concrete Jungle.”
Ideally, music is not just a sound for somebody’s ears. It has a message, and The Specials, with tremendous success, blend their music with their message. The panting guitar parts leer at you from nightclub doorways, and the rapid vocals produce a determined anger that doesn’t veer into extremism. These guys know exactly what they are about, and their music that sneers against convention and doldrumic existence proves it.

Great Rock Books I Have Read, Part 1

Along the road of my musical journey I discovered a plethora of great rock books. Herewith is a list of some of the best.

Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story by Dave Marsh (1978)

Considered by many to be the first real rock bio, Born to Run was published just after Springsteen's first real success but well before he became a bonafide household name. Author Marsh was a friend and unabashed fan of Springsteen when he started the book in 1976 (his wife later became Bruce's PR agent), but beyond the facts of Springsteen's life is a pretty good assessment of his songwriting and performance abilities, as well as plenty of writerly scholarship of  the cultural context in which he crafted his work. An updated edition was published in 1981, which veered dangerously toward hagiography, and its monster sequel Glory Days was a hideously boring insider's celebration of the Born in the USA era. Both books were eventually slapped into one volume entitled Two Hearts.

I'd Only End Up Crying

What I love best about Chris Isaak: even his happiest songs are troubled and full of dread.

"And that mole is the key to it. "

Hey, do you guys remember that time that George Harrison recorded an incredibly rare Bob Dylan song, backed by most of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and produced by Dave Edmunds?

No? What about the time Jeff Beck covered the classic instrumental, "Sleepwalk?"

Oh, Then you've probably never heard Willie Nelson crooning "Love Me Tender."

Yeah, well .... they're all on the same album, you know.

All this heartfelt music was recorded in support of the cynical cashgrab/devastating case study of diminishing returns that is Porky's Revenge.

In addition to several Edmunds tracks, the soundtrack also includes Carl Perkins rerecording "Blue Suede Shoes" [presumably with an appropriately all-star backing band], Springsteen saxman Clarence Clemons mostly exhaling rhythmically to the Peter Gunn theme and the Fabulous Thunderbirds covering "Stagger Lee" exactly how you imagine it sounds in your head right now. It's always remarkable when a soundtrack LP shows more effort and craftsmanship than the movie it supports. In this case, it's "more effort and craftsmanship than Porky's 2: The Next Day and Porky's Revenge"

The album also features the sound of Robert Plant & Phil Collins, but every album must have its worst track, now doesn't it.

So, how terrible is the movie? The studio begged Bob Clark, the auteur of the first two Porky's, to make a third film. He preferred to make Rhinestone instead. Rhinestone.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Won't Cry... I WON'T CRY....

Hey y'all.  It's Tim; here to compensate for John's shortcomings.  I keed, I keed... that's just how it feels, posting to someone else's blog (for more shameless blogging, visit me at Media Bliss).

So, here's another version of Stand By Me, which has become kind of the definitive version for me.  No matter who else I'm listening to, I still want to chime in with the "Sha-la-na-mi" on the chorus.  Also, bonus points for the big hug around the world.



Daddy's Tune

Happy birthday, Dad.

I want to let you know somehow
The things you said are so much clearer now
And I would turn the pages back, but time would not allow
The way these days just rip along
Too fast to last, too vast, too strong

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

I Won't Get Lost

A beautiful achy love song to close out your night. Hold them close, thems what love ye.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Five for the Fourth

This is a Dave Alvin song from X's 1987 album See How We Are.  X went through a lot of changes around this time - Exene and John were splitting, Billy Zoom had left the band - and the tone of this song seemed to capture that sad feeling that something really great was gone.

Here's the original

I loved this band.  I first saw them at the Waterloo Folk Festival in Stanhope, New Jersey and was blown away.  They didn't take themselves too seriously and they had awesome harmonies. Check out Tom's Eddie Van Halen moves on the banjo! They broke up in 1994, way too soon, after the way too early death of one of their members (Bruce, the guitarist).

With the verse they never taught us in school!

As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!

Going to the shore meant escaping from the parents, hitting the Boardwalk, smoking in public without getting busted by my mom, incredible pizza from Freddie's on Broadway in Asbury Park - last I checked it's still there so go check it out - and hitting massive traffic on the way home.  

Nobody does it better than Brother Ray.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Two of Us: Great Collaborations

A list of the best twosomes between musicians. As always, add yer own...

10. Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, "Don't Give Up"

Dr. Winston O'Boogie Writes

In 1974 Todd Rundgren gave an interview to Melody Maker that was disparaging of the Beatles and of John Lennon in particular. Lennon responded a few months later in a letter to the magazine, proving the adage that trying to out a-hole John Lennon was a mugg's game.


Couldn't resist adding a few "islands of truth" of my own, in answer to Turd Runtgreen's howl of hate (pain.)

Dear Todd,

I like you, and some of your work, including "I Saw The Light", which is not unlike "There's A Place" (Beatles), melody wise.

1) I have never claimed to be a revolutionary. But I am allowed to sing about anything I want! Right?

2) I never hit a waitress in the Troubador, I did act like an ***, I was too drunk. So shoot me!

3) I guess we're all looking for attention Rodd, do you really think I don't know how to get it, without "revolution?" I could dye my hair green and pink for a start!

4) I don't represent anyone but my SELF. It sounds like I represented something to you, or you wouldn't be so violent towards me. (Your dad perhaps?)

5) Yes Dodd, violence comes in mysterious ways it's wonders to perform, including verbal. But you'd know that kind of mind game, wouldn't you? Of course you would.

6) So the Nazz use to do "like heavy rock" then SUDDENLY a "light pretty ballad". How original!

7) Which gets me to the Beatles, "who had no other style than being the Beatles"!! That covers a lot of style man, including your own, TO DATE...

Yes Godd, the one thing those Beatles did was to affect PEOPLES' MINDS. Maybe you need another fix?

Somebody played me your rock and roll pussy song, but I never noticed anything. i think that the real reason you're mad at me is cause I didn't know who you were at the Rainbow (L.A.) Remember that time you came in with Wolfman Jack? When I found out later, I was cursing cause I wanted to tell you how good you were. (I'd heard you on the radio.)

Anyway, However much you hurt me darling; I'll always love you,
J. L.
30th Sept. 1974

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Alternate Universe: Early Takes of Famous Songs

"Mister" Reed

10. Michael Jackson, "We Are the World" - Michael's demo for the charity disc.

9. George Harrison, "It Don't Come Easy" - George writes a hit for Ringo.

8. Pretenders, "Stop Your Sobbing" - demo version of the band's first single, a remake of future Hynde paramour Ray Davies' Kinks song.

7. Bob Dylan, "Blowin in the Wind" - early version.

6. Appolonia 6, "Manic Monday" - Prince turned his roving eye to Susanna Hoffs, and the Bangles got the hit instead.

5. Queen, "Feel Like"  Became "Under Pressure".

4. Elton John, "Benny and the Jets" Working version.

3. Lou Reed, "Satellite of Love" Outtake from Loaded

2. Ramones, "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio"  Pre-Spector version.

1. R.E.M., "Radio Free Europe"  I kind of prefer this punkier take.

A&H Blogger Milo comments below:

"Earth's greatest demo/abandoned take:"
Replacements, "I Can Hardly Wait"

And A&H regular Brian Middleton adds one of my favorite early demo versions

John Lennon, "Strawberry Fields Forever"

Monday, June 17, 2013

Feel A Whole Lot Better

Here's to Roy Edroso and his good health.

Just before CBGBs closed its doors for good in 2006, Roy played bass at a gig by the legendary songwriter Lach. This is that performance.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Father's House

This is the Father's Day post. In addition to the list of Dad Songs, I'm also invited people to add personal songs about, or for, or in memory of their fathers via Facebook. Both parts of the post will remain open to contribution, so feel free to add your own. This post is of course dedicated to my wonderful dad, Jerry.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dead Ends in Two-Bit Bars

Steve Van Zandt on all things Little Steven, Plus Stuff About Bruce

"Right now, and we were just talking about this last week, the only album that has been totally ignored is what I think is one of the best albums he's ever done, which is The Promise... The entire Promise album is absolutely remarkable. I'm hoping we start playing it."

I always thought Van Zandt was Springsteen's best critic, and I mean that in every good sense of the word. I think he sometimes understands the quality Bruce's music better than Bruce does. In the Born to Run 30th anniversary documentary, while the rest of the players talk about how much sweat and hard work went into the eighteen month-long recording of the "Born to Run" single, Van Zandt grins and declares it to be a little much, and adds that a good single should take maybe three hours. He's a wise man, is Steve.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Replacements Reunite

Replacements Announce First Shows in 22 Years

Also: Westerberg recently wrote an editorial about songwriting for the New York Times.

Soundalike File

Opening and theme riff from "Is This Love" (1978)

Opening and theme riff from "Spirit in the Night" (1972)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

With (Facebook) Friends Like These

Herewith a gathering of the musical contingent on my Facebook friends list. The 'famous' ones are included only if I have had some kind of direct FB contact with them, from the briefest hello to the lengthiest discussions. They are, regardless of level of fame, a truly talented and inspiring group of people, and it's fun to have them around.

Let me know if I missed anyone.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Summer of '83 - A Nostalgic Ramble

My favorite summer of my youth was 1983. This was because despite the absence of a new Springsteen album (when oh when was Murder, Inc. going to be released?!?) and a new Star Trek movie (Return of the Jedi had to do instead; by the end of the summer I had seen it about 8 times and was sick of it). It was a summer that made few demands on me -- I was a year out of high school, with no serious life goal in mind. I was working as a shift supervisor at a Friendly's restaurant that I considered more a clubhouse and 24-hour social hall than a job. And I was taking a few college classes to make up for my screwing around the previous semester at Seton Hall.

The actual Friendly's in New Providence, NJ, where I actually worked.
This photo was 
actually taken in 2012, but the outside of the
joint has not changed a bit in 30 years.

Spies Like Us: Ten Songs About Sneaky Snoopin'

In light of the not-at-all surprising revelations about the NSA and phone and e-mail data, herewith a suitable soundtrack. As always, feel free to add your own.

1. The Decemberists, "Valerie Plame"

More after the cut.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

You Made Me Cry

Another reunion performance.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Little Hometown Jam

Born in the USA was released 29 years ago today.  Here's my assessment of the album, three decades in the making:

First, my complaints. Born in the USA took Bruce out of Jersey and made him an international phenomenon, which isn't bad in and of itself (depending on your view), but it did distance him from his core audience; the album instantly produced a massive crop of bandanna-wearin' musclehead fans who willfully misunderstood the title track (and still do); Bruce went from scrawny, soulful street tough to calculated fitness buff (in the "Dancing in the Dark" video Bruce looks, as Bobcat Goldthwait said at the time, like a member of Up With People); "Glory Days" was a dopey song; it was suddenly even harder in the NY/NJ area to get concert tickets; Steve Van Zandt left the band to make screechy political albums (before returning to earth in time to give us Silvio Dante); Bruce dated (and married) a supermodel; "Downbound Train" is just plain stupid; and finally, for the first time, Bruce lip-synched in videos. (This list may be some people's highlights, rather than complaints, and if so then you may go in peace.)

On the positive side:
I spent two summers seeing him at the Meadowlands again and again, which was great once you got past the whole football stadium atmosphere; there was an explosion of fantastic live and studio bootlegs that jump-started not only my already-intense fannishness but greatly inspired my own singing and performing at the time; certain girls suddenly found me that much more interesting because I knew all things Bruce and could play almost all his songs; if you were a fan you wanted Bruce to succeed so he could sustain a career, and clearly he did; and Bruce's own reaction to the fame and the failed supermodel marriage informed  Tunnel of Love, which remains for me his finest album and one of the greatest collections of songs about love and marriage ever recorded. So there's that.

And finally, if you hear it right, the title track is the most powerful song about American combat vets in the history of pop music. I wish we had all heeded it better, since there are  modern vets currently living out almost every word.