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