Friday, December 24, 2010

Taking over bars and holding nights for hipsters

2010 was not the finest year for new music, but certainly there were a few releases that caught my attention. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the overtly power-poppy Blood/Candy from The Posies. Over the years they have mastered the Hollies/Byrds jangle-pop sound, layered with some grunge and hard rock. But this latest release is a new direction, beautifully produced and positively filled to the brim with hooks. Over the last twenty years or so they have produced some of my favorite recordings of that period. So it is high praise from me to say that this is quickly becoming my favorite Posies release. Guest spots from Hugh Cornwell (The Stranglers) and Lisa Lobsinger only enhance the broadening of musical styles to be found here.

She's Coming Down Again is a power pop masterpiece with one of the most stupdenous choruses in many a year. But underneath the layers of harmonies, fuzzed-out guitars, and uber-awesome keyboard work is one extremely sad drug parable. Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer (both born in the very late 60s) have perfected the art of power pop. One hopes they continue on for many years to come.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Life is kinda groovy in the gutter

For those who consider the Fifth Dimension to be corny or square, you can skip this entry entirely. I for one am a unabashed fan. Their stellar harmonies and pop/soul hooks of the late sixties are essential listening for me a decade into the 21st century.

Jimmy Web wrote all but one song on their 1967 Magic Garden LP, just as he was breaking up with his longtime girlfriend Susan. Her name pops up frequently in the lyrics. A true pop/psych song cycle, there are introductions and connecting pieces between the plethora of fantastic songs. The turmoil of the breakup is reflected by the increasingly depressing song subjects. In Dream/Pax/Nepenthe the singer refers to "cobweb shadows all over her face like lacquered lace", as if some long buried memory. In the heartbreaking The Worst That Could Happen he imagines her marrying another.

The true test of real "ear candy" is a song that hooks me within five seconds. The dense syncopated piano cluster chords that open Paper Cup are absolutely smile-inducing for me. Even in my worst mood this song will perk up my spirit. Quite the enigma considering that the lyrics are one supreme downer. "And everyone says I'm quite insane, and someday I'll be going down the drain. I know they're right, but I don't care. I feel no pain."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don't Leave Me Waiting Here

From the ashes of the Get Back recording sessions in 1969, who would have guessed that the most controversial reworking for the Let It Be LP would be Paul's simple yet emotionally powerful Long And Winding Road? Paul's legal case to end The Beatles listed Phil Spector's tinkering with this song as one of six reasons for the dissolution. On most counts I prefer the Naked versions of the Let It Be songs, but in this one case I have to disagree strongly with Mr. McCartney. Perhaps this is due to my memories of this song on the radio back in 1970, released just after the world learned that The Beatles were no more. The tugging of Richard Hewson's mid-song string arrangement just works for me on so many levels. When I listen to the untouched version I still hear the strings deep in my head. Paul's little ode to a broken heart begging to be let back in is perhaps his most touching late Beatle's moment, and one of the few times he was given free reign to bare his soul.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The house on Sandusky

I only lived there for about eighteen months. My first real "home" in Tulsa after moving there in 1980. Built in the 1930s and featuring a black glass art deco fireplace surround, my strongest memories of living there revolve around the music that I was listening to at that time. As a frame of reference consider Talking Heads - Remain In Light; EC and the Attractions - Trust; the Police - Zenyattà Mondatta.

At the time a little-known Kiwi band was making some noise in the US. Split Enz got some radio traffic with their 1980 single I've Got You. In 1981 their LP Waiata was released and immediately got some music videos playing on that new-fangled MTV channel. I was (and still am) very enamoured by that record. In fact I don't believe they ever released a better record. The radio hit One Step Ahead is a standout, but there are at least half a dozen other songs of equal quality on that album.

Which brings me to I Don't Wanna Dance, which appears snuggly in the middle of side one. The opening salvo of synths and drums leads to the first verse in which songwriter and vocalist Tim Finn makes the complex melody line seem simple. At 2:20 Neil Finn lets loose with an intense guitar solo that does not let up until the end of the song, and the complexion of the song changes dramatically. The angst inherent in the lyrics come front and center as the synthesizer chords build and build. The chorus returns and when repeated a second time, at just about 2:51, a moment of transfiguration occurs when the harmony is changed and Mr. Finn sings the line "I don't wanna dance.... tonight....". It is that rare moment in pop music where the perfect chord, the perfectly sung lyric, and the emotion of the moment take this song into another realm.

I drove by that house at the corner of Sandusky and 12th in the summer of 2009 and was happy to see that the current owners have spruced it up. I wonder if they kept the art deco fireplace, and what sort of music they listen to.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why you want to keep these lies on parade

Back on the subject of Heatmiser, Elliott Smith wrote some sparkling gems during his end of days in that band. Mic City Sons was released in 1996 and for me is their most fully realized effort, with both songwriters (Smith and Neil Gust) really hitting their stride.

The Fix Is In begins with a quietly lovely electronic piano accompaniment. Always attuned to emotional violence, Smith practically whispers the warning of the opening verse:

You want every day to be like that magic first
When she took shape in your eyes and you in hers
You're going down to see her, it's a big mistake
She got ice she don't want anyone to break

Then at 1:46 the guitar ratchets up the volume just a bit as he makes it clear he is heading down a path against his will:

I fit the perfect picture that you want for all
The fix is in I'm going where I don't belong

Mr. Smith would go on to perfect his little world of sad, lonely songs sung by a singer too tired and emotionally drained to fight back. But this earlier effort still hits me right in the gut.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

You may write the perfect song

Elliott Smith was a founding member of Heatmiser, a great Portland band from the early to mid 90s. Elliott's began his solo career in 1994, then the band broke up in 1996. He was nominated for an Academy Award for best song - Miss Misery - from the Gus Van Sant film Good Will Hunting. He moved to Los Angeles and there were rumored bad vibes left behind, possibly due to his self destructive behaviors and drug abuse.

Sam Coomes, the bass player in Heatmiser, went on as the frontman for Quasi. Several Quasi songs have links to Elliott. He played bass on several tunes on Quasi's Field Studies (1999). Lyrics to several Quasi songs certainly seem to be aimed at him, including Little Lord Fontleroy from Sword of God.

Perhaps the most poignant and biting is The Poisoned Well. It is unclear whether the lyrics are self reflective or aimed at another. But given the circumstances of Mr. Smith's death, there is certainly a haunting truth to several lines.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Tale of Two Interpretations

I have always been somewhat of a fan of the songwriting of Bachrach/David, especially those songs they farmed out to Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick. There is often a hint of real pathos in the lyrics, which are somewhat sweetened by the never ending progression of 9th and 11th chords. In 1966 they wrote songs for the soundtrack to What's New Pussycat? and among the odds and ends is an odd little minor key ditty named My Little Red Book. From the point of view of the gentlemen with the little red book, he has met his match with one particular girl. This swinging sixties dude realizes that she is the real deal, but unfortunately for him she has moved on.

So here are two versions of the song. The first, performed by Manfred Mann, starts off with an awesome piano pounding. The second - only a link here as there is no embed available - is Love's transmogrification and perhaps one of the oddest and most endearing relics of that transitional period between pop rock and psychedelia, with some garage rock thrown in for good measure. It starts much simpler, with a thudding repeated bass note. The minor key is discarded for a less fussy yet almost atonal harmonic structure. This video of the original Love line-up is perhaps their only filmed testament.

I know which version I prefer but will leave it to you to decide for yourself.

All I did was talk about you
Hear your name and I'd start to cry
There's just no getting over you... oh, no...

There ain't no girl in my little red book
Who could ever replace your charms
And each girl in my little red book
Knows you're the one I'm thinkin' of
Oh won't you please come back
Without your precious love I can't go on
Where can love be I need you so much

My Little Red Book-Love

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Keep On Rollin' On

A really odd thing happened with the demise of The Easybeats. After years as the number one rock'n'roll band in Australia, in 1967 they moved lock stock and barrel to London in hopes of becoming a worldwide sensation. And sure enough their first effort - Friday On My Mind - was an international smash hit. But the big followup never came. They made some great music but it never caught on with the public. When things came apart in 1969, George Young and Harry Vanda made some demos which ended up being released by the record company as the final Easybeats LP.

Never really considered a part of the Easybeats canon, some of the music on the Friends LP is top notch. There is one little nugget that just pops my chops everytime I hear it. Rock and Roll Boogie is a joyous excursion that celebrates the title in every way - a real tribute to the power of rock'n'roll. Some songs just have a"sound" and wow, does this ever have that chugging late 60's groove. The guitar lines throughout are pure genius. Nothing flashy or overpowering, just some of the tastiest licks ever put down on vinyl. Add to that the off kilter drumming, awesome bass lines, and some great syncopations and you have one hell of a tune that really makes me want to get up and dance.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tulsa Time

The summer of 1975 my Tulsa homeboys Dwight Twilley Band hit the national charts with the power-pop-tastic I'm On Fire. It has every element that a hit single should have - a monster guitar riff, cool harmonies, great drumming, rockabilly lead vocals and a closing chorale over the top of the chorus. With a top 20 hit on their hands, their record company was in shambles and by the time the followup album appeared ten months later the group was already forgotten. Mr. Twilley is somewhat of a god in power pop circles and has been making music pretty much continuously with a real renaissance in the last ten years.

Since you are here, give a listen to the tunes on Dwight's just-released Green Blimp. The Turtles-ish Me and Melanie and the gorgeous beyond belief Let It Rain are just stupendous.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Never bring me down

There once was a quartet of young women from Los Angeles who wrote and performed wonderful music in the vein of The Byrds and The Beatles. They released an EP and a LP of incredibly charming power pop and the future looked bright. Then the worst that could happen happened. Their talent got them noticed and they became popular with their third release. And it was all downhill after that.

The Bangs become Bangles. The girls who had previously shared singing and songwriting duties turned into a front for the girl singled out by the record company as the "lead" singer and they began to have hits with songs by outside writers. Their own material was miles above the dreck that was foisted on them - the wonderful Prince-ly Manic Monday notwithstanding.

But enough on what went wrong. Those first two releases have nothing but right on them. Here is their first single from the EP Bangles released in 1982. The Real World is a miraculous reincarnation of the 1964 Byrds, with a dash of harpsichord to boot. When the harmonies come in I just swoon!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Just casually appearing from the clock across the hall

She makes me so unsure of myself
Standing there but never talking sense
Just a visitor you see
So much wanting to be seen
She'd open up the door and vaguely carry us away

It is about time I got around to writing about the title song Paris 1919 from John Cale's 1973 LP. It is a clever ghost story, cloaked in his usual obscure lyrics, with one of pop music's finest keyboard and string arrangements. In recent years Mr. Cale has been known to give this the full symphonic treatment, hence the live video embedded below. This is another one of those songs that drilled into me on first listen and has remained inside throughout they years.

Considering that he had just previously produced the haunting, austere The Marble Index for Nico and the initial mix for the first LP byThe Stooges, the grandeur and scope of Paris 1919 went in a totally different direction. The addition of tubular bells and a glockenspiel in the last chorus in this live performance just put it totally over the edge for me.

You're a ghost la la la la la la la la la
You're a ghost
I'm in the church and I've come
To claim you with my iron drum
La la la la la la la la la

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Across the wooded plain the wild geese have fled

There are some songs that seem to have been with me all my life. Although I only discovered the Pretty Things in the last couple of years, their best work really gets under my skin in a good way. She's A Lover from Parachute jumped out at me the first time I heard it. Of course it is a totally subjective issue and I cannot really put my finger on why this song gets to me as it does. But it is so worthy of trying so here goes...

Repeated listenings reveal a constantly changing texture of keyboards and guitars. And the song construction is quite unusual with an overall A-B-C-A-C form. The main verse and chorus share the same underlying chords but the melody and driving percussion become much harder in the chorus portion. There are two additional sections that interrupt mid song, with the second instrumental section returning as a coda at the end.

The roxichord opening is augmented by some mega awesome drumming and a syncopated bass line obbligato. Phil May's lead vocal soars above it all, sounding like a cross between Colin Blunstone and George Harrison (!). At this point (1970) he was the primary songwriter and vocalist and this song is one of his many gems.

She takes the moon and stars
To wear as her disguise.
Then catching cosmic rays
She uses them for eyes.

At 0:55 lovely harmony vocals open the first of the two middle sections.

There below the grey stone walls
Behind the hill she waits for you.
Painted on a field of corn
Strange messages she leaves for you.

Then at 1:19 a battle of two guitarists breaks out with a constant dizzing change of meters.

At 1:57 it flows back into the main theme with the obbligato taken up by a very fuzzy guitar.

She sheds her summer dress
Fearing it displeases you
Amid the white silk melting forest
Where she flew.

The final verse is puncuated by savage drumming, the instrumental section returns, then that final out of tune guitar chord, as if A Hard Day's Night had gone sour.

Excuse me while I listen to it again :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

When you smile I have to take a chance

The introductory guitar salvo in Tonight is for me perhaps the most electrifying opening in all of rock 'n roll. Chords raining down from heaven. And the guitar work only gets better as the song progresses. In my book Wally Bryson is a guitar god. So much attention was paid to Eric Carmen's vocals and the groups 60's throwback harmonies that the tastiness of Bryson's guitar work was criminally overlooked. Not that I have a problem with the band's sound as I consider it to be power pop in its prime. And Mr. Carmen has a knack for recycling ideas from 60s bands and making them his own. By his own admission Tonight was intended to replicate the sound and texture of The Small Faces. And he succeeded in spades. How this managed to only barely graze the top 100 is one of life's great mysteries. Along with Overnight Sensation this is the peak of their work - a work that transcends its medium. The LP it came from - Side 3 - is pretty darn great too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Don't ask any questions, you won't get an answer

Here is another in a series of songs that appeared on 45rpm in a radically different version from that on the LP. At the time of their breakout hit Stuck In the Middle With You in 1972, Stealers Wheel went through a massive personnel transformation. First off, one of the primary songwriters - Gerry Rafferty - had already left the band. A replacement came in so that the band could tour to take advantage of their radio hit. Then Rafferty came back, all ancillary members left, leaving only Rafferty and the other songwriter - Joe Egan - to soldier on. They release Everyone's Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine as their next single.

The song has a wonderful loping tempo, Beatlesque duo harmonies, perfect little guitar/sitar interjections, and a killer faux-raga interlude with lovely harmonies. As excellent as this song is - and mark my words, it is a nearly perfect single (see my top 100 list for criteria) - it did not catch on with the public and was never released on a followup LP. Meanwhile Rafferty and Egan put out a second LP with a completely different rendition of the song. Slow, plodding, and missing all of those little flourishes that made the single so wonderful. To this day the single version has never been released on CD.

Moving through the city, making all the rounds
Trying different places, didn't like the faces (oh no, oh no)
Rollin' in the gutter, throwin' up my pride
Belly full of whiskey, was it hard to swallow (oh no, oh no)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happy coursing through my veins

Back in the days of music videos (remember when you could actually hear music on MTV?) I would often stay up late to catch 120 Minutes. It was my refuge from the hair metal and power ballads being touted on that network in the early 90s. Nearly every episode contained a song or two that inspired me to head out to buy a new CD.

De-Luxe by Lush is one of those tunes that drilled itself into my brain on first listen. I knew nothing about the band at that time, and I came home empty handed from the record store after attempting to score this song on CD. As it turns out it was released on a hard-to-find EP and as a promo single. Years later I finally found it on a "best of" CD.

This is exactly the kind of out-of-nowhere song that hits me upside the head. Alternating meters, jangly guitars, and sweet vocal harmonies. The lyrics - how can I say this gracefully - are dripping with sexual metaphors and imagery. But the insistent beat and the swirling guitar layers take me off to a very happy place whenever I hear this song.

When we're wrapped in polythene
What's that supposed to mean
Paper flowers bring me luck
No birds in sight I fear
Stick sticks in you my dear
When I'm up you're coming down

Skip's Song

I have been a fan of that first great Moby Grape LP for years, but only just discovered the song Seeing last year. It was never quite finished by Skip Spence before his departure from the group in 1968 after ingesting large amounts of hallucinogens. The remaining band members finished the song for inclusion on Moby Grape '69.

This song haunts me. It stays in my head for days. I cannot really say why. It just does.

If you'd seen the naked dream
I had of you
Would you care
And would you now come through?

Take me far away
My miles and mind can't beat the dream of death today
Hard to get by
When what greets my eyes takes my breath away

In my dream you are around the stars
I watched your walls all fall away
You were bare of thoughts, we were to part
And we stayed that way

Some try to hide because they lied
They were not true, they were afraid
And they refuse to see or be free
Be on to the gods they prayed

Ahh, save me, save me, save me, save me
save me, save me, save me
I'll save you, can I spend you?

And now this naked dream
I had of you
And will you care
And will you now come through?

Take me far away
My miles and mind can't beat the dream of death today
Oh, no, hard to get by
When what greets my eyes takes my breath away

Oh, cryin', save me, save me, save me, save me
save me, save me, save me
I'll save you, can I spend you?

-- Alexander Lee Spence

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Girls Are Back In Town

I am not about to harsh anyone's mellow with today's post. Back in the summer of 1974 I was between my college freshman and sophomore year, living on my own, and hanging with a new crop of friends. On occasion we would boogie up US 81 to Wichita to hit the bars and spend Sunday afternoons at the city park along the Little Arkansas River.

David was one of my buddies and he drove a hot orange muscle car. I vividly remember one Sunday afternoon on a return trip home. He had his swanky car stereo radio tuned to a top 40 station and three songs by female vocalists were played consecutively. All three were to be big hits. In the case of today's tune, it was that artist's biggest radio hit.

So what were the songs? I love them all but fully expect some groans related to at least one. First was Anne Murray's version of the Beatle's You Won't See Me. Believe it or not I was unfamiliar with that great McCartney tune from Rubber Soul. Ms. Murray's version pales in comparison, but the arrangement really isn't too bad and she had a nice voice that suited it well. Next up was Maria Muldaur and Midnight At the Oasis. The lyrics are as corny as all get-out but I have a real soft spot for this song. Maria has an unmistakable voice and her odd phrasing is frankly quite sexy. Plus the short guitar solo is quite tasty.

So my favorite of the batch? Hands down - Help Me by Joni Mitchell. Joni was entering a very jazz-inflected phase and the amazing procession of odd tunings and 11th chords ushered this song right up into the top ten. This was my introduction to her work and soon afterwards I had worked my way back through her catalog. Certainly not the Canadian folky sound of her earlier work, but it was a breath of fresh air in that summer of '74 and still brings a big smile to my face whenever I listen to it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

You've got your cue line and a handful of 'ludes

Opinions vary on the genuineness of David Bowie as a rock'n'roller. For me it is not so much a question of his theatrics. Nor is it a matter of his chameleon like qualities, shifting from the long haired hippy in a man-dress to an alien rocker to the thin white duke, etc. It all comes down to the music. There are big swaths of his career that lay outside my area of interest, but from 1970 to 1980 he turned out a string of songs - both for himself and for others - that I believe are essential listening.

In 1974 he released Rebel Rebel as a single from the upcoming Diamond Dogs LP. In the spirt of the Kink's Lola, it is a real gender bender - "You've got your mother in a whirl, cause she's not sure if you are a boy or a girl". In the USA the 45rpm release was a completely different production than on the album and on the UK single. The tempo is a bit faster, there are wonderful phased vocal harmonies, the run time is 1:20 shorter, and the mix is absolutely on fire. The US single version is very hard to find. My brother bought the single back in the day, and I finally found it on the Sounds & Vision box set. Some obliging soul has put it up on YouTube, so I suggest you give it a listen. It really rocks my sock off.

And a favorite memory from the olden days - I saw a punk band from Pine Bluff, Arkansas perform this song at the Blue Grotto club on S. Main in uptown Tulsa in 1980. Priceless!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thinking 'bout what to say and I can't find the lines

Back Of A Car is perhaps the quintessential power pop song. Frequent commenter and fellow blogger Who Am Us Anyway recently had a post about Memphis. It made me realize I have never written about Big Star. I am still reeling at the death of Alex Chilton earlier this year. There are no words I could write that would express my deep admiration and appreciation for the short but unique legacy left by that band.

I promise not to write much as the music speaks for itself, but I want to mention that Back Of A Car proves that counterpoint (that amazing guitar work) is just as necessary in rock as it was to 17th century baroque music.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beatles minus one

Back in the late 70s after Apple Records was dissolved, some bright entrepreneur put all of the remaining Apple LPs and singles on sale via mail order. I was a total Beatles nut by that point so I ordered nearly every single I could get my hands on. A good portion of the non-Beatles singles were heinous, but there were definitely some surprises. Ronnie Spector's Try Some Buy Some (a George Harrison tune) from 1971 is really quite lovely and epic. There is a wonderful early James Taylor song - Carolina in My Mind. And of course Badfinger - all of which rules my world.

One tune really knocked me out. George Harrison wrote Sour Milk Sea around the time of the White Album. There is even a rough demo out there with the Fab Four performing it. But alas like so many Harrison songs, this one was never to be part of the offical Beatle's canon. Instead he gave it to Jackie Lomax, an up-and-coming singer who was signed to Apple early on. It was released as a single in the US and UK in 1968. Apparently it sank without a trace.

On the recording you will find George on guitar, Paul on bass, and Ringo on drums. Nicki Hopkins tickles the ivories and Eric Clapton joins George with some blistering licks. It has a "sound" that really works for me. Deep and heavy, with lots of reverb. With Paul and Ringo holding down the rhythm section, how could it not be good?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Music of the spheres

Back in the 1980s there was a classical music FM station in Tulsa that always closed their broadcast day with an a capella Russian choral piece. Sometimes late at night I would have the radio on that station just so that could be the last thing I heard before falling asleep. Pure serenity and peacefulness.

What does that have to do with a blog about power pop? Everything really. For in the rock universe we have our own vocal prayer, that never-duplicated combination of Brian Wilson at the top of his game and the peerless harmonies of the Beach Boys. From the aborted Smile project circa 66/67, here is Our Prayer to lull you off into a night of peaceful contended sleep.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The words have all been writ by one before me

How many rock'n'roll bands had a resident poet who was a non-performing member? I can think of only one - Procol Harum - and what a fine band they were. It took me many years to really turn on to them. I purchased Grand Hotel when it came out in 1973, and although I quite liked it I did not seek out further PH music. Little did I know that the group had radically changed by that point. The original guitarist Robin Trower had departed just prior to GH, and the groups' second (and possibly finest) songwriter Matthew Fisher had left after producing their third album A Salty Dog in 1969.

By 1973 only lead singer/songwriter Gary Brooker and drummer B. J. Wilson remained as original performing members. Poet Keith Reid continued on as lyricist, and his darkly disturbing words were a key link between the old and new lineups. With Fisher and Trower gone, Gary Brooker was now the undisputed leader. His distinctive vocals, songwriting craftsmanship, and powerful piano pounding kept the group going strong well into the mid 70s. But for me the original lineup was unsurpassable. With Trower's white hot guitar interjections a'la Hendrix and Fisher's gentle lead vocals and baroque Hammand organ counterpoint, this band was unique among its peers. Sometimes lumped in the "prog rock" bailywick, PH was really much more than that.

The closing number on A Salty Dog is Pilgrim's Progress. The third and last Fisher written composition on the album, it begins with his signature Hammond organ sound accompanying his sweet soft vocals. If ever there was a song that makes me take a long look back at my life, this would be it. The lyrics are introspective and full of truth. Damn - this song sends shivers down my spine.

A few things I wish to point out:
  • B. J. Wilson's drumming. I rank him up there with Keith Moon and Ringo. Never was a better percussion man.
  • Fisher's uncanny ability to write a melody that could have come out of a Bach cantata
  • The absolutely stunning beauty of that melody
  • The sound of the Hammond
  • The touching story arc and the realization that life really is a big circle
  • The opening of the piano-driven coda, and B. J.'s entrance therein
  • The hand claps in the closing section
  • The Beach Boys-esque vocal harmony at the end

In starting out I thought to go exploring
and set my foot upon the nearest road
In vain I looked to find the promised turning
but only saw how far I was from home

In searching I forsook the paths of learning
and sought instead to find some pirate's gold
In fighting I did hurt those dearest to me
and still no hidden truths could I unfold

Saturday, August 14, 2010

This Is All You Will Every Be

Speaking of bands that were buried by the onslaught of grunge in the early nineties, The Posies rank near the top of my favorite bands of the last twenty years. Other than their first odd but endearing new wave-ish LP, every record since then has remained on my frequent playlist. The bass player and drummer positions were revolving doors throughout the first ten years, then the group went on several sabbaticals under the billing of a break-up. But the co-lead vocalists and songwriters Ken Stringfellow and John Auer keep drifting back together. They have a penchant for beautiful close harmonies a'la the Byrds and Hollies. Coupled with their fine guitar work and songwriting abilities, they were asked by Alex Chilton to join him and Jody Stephens for the third and last edition of Big Star.

Frosting On The Beater hit the record shelves in 1993. Unlike their pop-filled sophomore effort Dear 23, FOTB contains a definite movement towards a harder rock sound. It is filled with moments of grandeur as well as some of their finest melodies up to that time. Definite Door has a possible sci-fi premise with hints about "another dimension", but underneath it really seems to be about a life out of control. Heavenly harmonies come in with the second section of the bridge at 0:56, then around 1:24 an instrumental interlude kicks out the jams. The simple bass line alone is worth the price of admission. It knocks me in the gut every time I hear it.

Keeping track of the eyesight streaming
Isn't part of the regimen
Many hours of sleepless dreaming
Unaware of the mess you're in
And if you didn't have a clue
You probably never will
And all the things you didn't do
Will inundate you still...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Everything I Need To Know

The current post over at the PowerPop blog reminded me just how much I love The Small Faces. Just as they reached their peak with Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, they splintered when lead singer Steve Marriott left to join Humble Pie. That album has a unique construction, with hard rockers and music hall tunes on side one, while the flip is a philosophical journey of a character named Happiness Stan, and is told as a fairy tale.

Here is the fabulously soul-drenched Afterglow from side one. I love everything about this song - the initial comical acoustic opening, the Hammond organ sound, Marriott's vocal pyrotechnics from a whisper to a scream, Kenny Jones' powerful drumming, and the way the song builds each time to the furious chorus. They were an amazing band at this point in the career.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Desert Island Disks - a continuing series

If I remember correctly, John Cale's 1973 LP Paris 1919 was not originally released in the US. Regardless I had to hunt it down via Gem Imports (anyone remember those good old days?) after reading about it in Stereo Review. Upon arrival I carefully removed the vinyl, removed all surface dust with a disc washer, and placed it on my turntable. What followed was one of those little epiphanies that occur too rarely. A collection of songs that hang together as a single unit of work via the underlying mood and textures. Not to mention the lyrics, which globe trot from post-WW1 Paris to Antarctica.

An obvious choice for this post would have been the title track by virtue of its haunting melodies and ghostly back story. But this album has one rocker that deserves equal attention. A chunky rhythm section starts Macbeth off like gangbusters. In a typical obtuse John Cale fashion the lyrics do not give away enough information to make it clear who or what the song is about. But it does not matter for the music is upbeat and joyful, and the fiery guitar work by Lowell George of Little Feat is top notch. Something about this groove here reminds me of Paul MacCartney and Wings circa the same 73-74 period. Cale was firing on all cylinders.

And you know it's true
You never saw things quite that way
She knew it all
And made you see things all her way
Somebody knows for sure
It's gotta be me or it's gotta be you
Come on along and tell me it's alright
It's alright by me

Macbeth (press ctl-enter)

Monday, July 26, 2010

All The Lonely People

For a change of pace, here is a live Beatles' cover by Jellyfish that breaks the mold and goes off into its own little world of melancholy. It really gets me how the chords have been altered ever so slightly in a way I could never have imagined would work. Normally I would toss off any attempt to alter this classic, but it all works beautifully.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Nothing can hold the tears in me

Back in the 70s I was an avid reader of "Stereo Review" and especially the reviews by rock critic Steve Simels (now a co-host over at the fabulous Power Pop). He mentioned a long lost classic 45 by The Left Banke, the 1967 followup to their hit Pretty Ballerina. Desiree was a chart failure, barely denting the Billboard top 100 before disappearing in the mist. I searched high and low for years and was finally rewarded when a greatest hits LP was released in the 80s.

What other pop record starts with a string quartet and bassoons? It is a song of incredible complexity - mulitple sections which intertwine betwixt and between organ, trumpet, strings, brass, jangly guitar and the kitchen sink. Lead singer Steve Martin has a one-of-a-kind tenor voice that works perfectly within the baroque atmosphere of Michael Brown's compositions. And that ending with the cacophony of "la la las" over the orchestral counterpoint sends me over the edge. A guaranteed 2 and 1/2 minutes of pure listening pleasure.

Monday, July 19, 2010

God's gift to oxygen

Jellyfish could do no wrong in my book. Yet they barely dented the charts during their regrettably short two LP career. Grunge was ruling the airwaves in the early 90s so there was no large audience for a band with killer chops, Beach Boys harmonies, and complicated melodies. Pity because if there is any band that I wish had hung together for more recordings, it would be this one.

Listen to the impeccable harmony work in The Ghost and Number One. I have no idea who the "knappy superstar" is who inspired the rant in the lyrics but there is real venom exuding here.
Sure life's no cherry but a cupcake for the meek
So he shoots up his poison until the frosting tastes so sweet
At 1:23 the song enters a Pet Sounds-inspired musical universe. And again at 2:40, what with the banjo, chimes, and bass line, the spirit of Brian Wilson lives on.
Mrs.Lynn the fruit of your labour
Gives us a savior, nappy superstar.
To you we bid congratulations, to him adulation.
A blessed life begun, for the ghost at number one.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Searching in the sun for another overload

From Stockholm to Wichita in 24 hours. Wichita is a great little city. Clean and prosperous, never in the race to build a clunky downtown skyline like Dallas. Beautiful 1930s bungalows stretch north of downtown along the meanders of the Little Arkansas River. The gorgeous art deco tower and terra cotta work on Wichita North High School brings to mind a time when school architecture was adventurous and a student actually could look forward to going to school there. A two hour drive north of my home town, I always felt a special affinity there and still have fond memories of once a week journeys during my senior year in college to take viola lessons at WSU (The Wheatshockers!).

What brings me to revisit Wichita is perhaps one of the finest songs written in the 20th century. Those that read this blog know that I have a big gooey soft spot for the songwriting of Jimmy Webb. He has a way with weaving his words into melodies that seem to have always been there in the back of my mind. And more often than not the lyrics hit a chord with me that continues to vibrate years later. Wichita Lineman conveys a feeling of yearning, a desire for a connection that never quite transpires. The lineman imagines the voice of his lover echoing over the electric lines. But there he is, up on the pole, miles away from the real thing and the reality and loneliness sets in. The arrangement adds to the mood, with swooning strings and a Gulbransen synthesizer (thanks Wikipedia!) telegraphing an insistent morse code signal.

I hear you singing in the wire
I can hear your through the whine
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line

And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time
But the Wichita lineman is still on the line

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lazing on a halucinogenic Stockholm afternoon

Ah, sweet psychedelia is in bloom on my speakers. Here is Fantasy Island - the uber-fine A-side for the 1968 single by Swedish band Tages. The track kicks off with a fuzzy descending guitar riff that grabs me by the throat and will not let go. The drummer puts in his best clomping Ringo licks and a fiddle adds texture to the middle eight. The chorus harmonies are infinitely lovely. Then at 1:10 a riff out of Yardbirds heaven breaks open the skies.

The B-side - To Be Free - is a lovely piano driven Beatleish tune that would have fit nicely on Magical Mystery Tour. Wish it was available on Youtube so that I could share it. If I had to pick a year that was the peak of the 45rpm single it would probably be 1968.

Based on what I read at Tages they were the predominant pop/psych band in Sweden in the mid 60s. Based on a dozen tracks I downloaded a few years ago I can see why. Tuneful, great harmonies, and production work nearly on a par with the best UK bands. Many of their later tracks were recorded at EMI/Abbey Road studios in London.

Monday, June 21, 2010

She doesn't have anything you want to steal

Just a short post today to thank my friends Caroline and Lisa for taking me to the Psychedelic Furs concert last night. Both the Furs and the opening band She Wants Revenge were in fine form. Richard Butler has to have one of the most distinctive voices in all of rock, and he was a virtual perpetual motion machine during the show, jumping, pogo-ing, and gesturing wildly throughout the show.

Here is a video for the original version (imho much better) of Pretty In Pink. Caroline (my friend, not the subject of the song) is pretty sure the song is about a drag queen, and now that I have read the lyrics I must say I think she is spot on. Just like all of those great Lou Reed songs about transvestites, Pretty In Pink casts a shimmering soft light on its subject and treats her with great respect.

caroline laughs and it's raining all day
she loves to be one of the girls
she lives in the place in the side of our lives
where nothing is ever put straight

the one who insists he was first in the line
is the last to remember her name
he's walking around in this dress that she wore
she is gone but the joke's the same

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why there always has to be subterfusion

There is a quote attributed to John Lennon regarding an appearance by Sparks on British TV in 1974. "It's Hitler on the telly" was his supposed response the Ron Mael's toothbrush moustache. I remember watching the band on "In Concert" in that same year. My dad - a blue collar guy if there ever was one - walked into the living room and amazed my brother and me by watching all of their performance. He still mentions it occasionally.

I have no doubt that the Mael brothers were using every trick in the book to get noticed. After all this was their shot at the big time. They had two big hit singles in the UK earlier in the year and their offbeat stage personas had worked well amongst the oddities of UK pop music at that time. Glam glitter and gold lame were all the rage. Ron sat behind the electronic keyboard like Charlie Chaplin on tranquilizers while pouty-lipped brother Russell pranced around the stage with his poodle dog haircut bouncing in rhythm to the beat. Needless to say the effect did not translate to sales or radio play in the USA.

For me their first two Island albums are little treasures of pop depravity. The excellent lead guitarist and talented bassist from Kimono My House were jettisoned when their suggestions for a musical direction threatened the Mael's stranglehold on the band. Waiting in the wings was Trevor White, perhaps my favorite glam-era guitarists ever. His work throughout Propaganda is full of pyrotechnical somersaults, and the producer put that sound front-and-center in a way that was never allowed again on a Sparks recording.

Reinforcements consists of a verse melody that could have been composed by Kurt Weill and a rock chorus that is driven by an insistent guitar chord. The double entendre of the lyrics are a hoot, with comparisons of the sexual appetite of the singer's girlfriend Denise to the lexicon of armies going to war. At 2:04 the chorus repeats, each time building with more energy until the guitar nearly explodes, then at 2:36 the bottom drops out. What comes next is one of those unexpectedly divine moments that pop music can sometimes deliver. The verse harmony recurs, but instead of lyrics it is accompanied by a softly sung vocalise, a lovely guitar counterpoint, and a background chorus. Then on the second time through it is joined by the guitar and even more counter vocal lines. And then it repeats just enough times to linger in my head for hours afterwards. Imagine God Only Knows mutated into a twisted glam cacophony.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Shake it. Baby don't break it.

I am an unabashed a fan of the album Band On The Run. There - I said it. It feels good to let it out. Unlike many other 70's LPs that came into my collection back in the day (including several by Wings), this is a record that I still listen to, and always with a big smile on my face. In Geoff Emerick's must-read Here, There, and Everywhere not only does he cover his engineering days with The Beatles from Revolver through Abbey Road but he also includes a chapter on his experiences as producer for BOTR.

One of Paul's crazier ideas was to record his next record in a small EMI studio in a tropical land far away from the UK. Only after he had signed up as producer did Mr. Emerick learn that the studio was in fact in Lagos, Nigeria. Paul had recently ejected Wing's drummer and lead guitarist, leaving only the core of Paul and Linda, and the ever-faithful Denny Laine. Upon arrival in Lagos the hardy travellers were met with hostile locals, flooding monsoon rains, and a recording studio which was - shall we say - something less than modern.

In the process Paul pulled himself together to write what is likely his finest collected batch of post-Beatles songs. No worries about his departed band mates - Paul was more than up to the task of playing drums and guitar along with his vocals and always stellar bass work. And no solo McCartney or Wings record ever sounded as good as this album. Whatever was in the water in Lagos, Paul should go back for another drink.

The album closing track, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five finds Mr. McCartney in a rockier groove with a super fine bass sound. Then there are the lovely vocal harmony sections that weld together all the pieces. When the final buildup occurs at about 3:45, the smile on my face gets so big that my moustache touches the bottom of my reading glasses. Brass, synthesizer, piano, bass, and a final explosion that leads back to a reprise of the Band On The Run chorus. Thank you Paul -- all memory of At The Speed of Sound has been erased.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another lost classic

According to Wikipedia, The Pretty Things 1968 album "S.F. Sorrow was released in the same week as The Beatles White Album, The Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet, and The Kinks Village Green Preservation Society. The album was barely promoted by EMI." Produced by former Beatles former engineer Norman "Hurricane" Smith, it was a concept album sometimes referred to as the first rock opera. For me, its narrative of a man's descent into melancholy madness holds together better that Tommy.

Musically, Sorrow is a product of its time with psychedelic flourishes throughout. Mr. Smith's production adds odd instruments along with layered vocals. Pandora's box was opened with Sgt. Pepper the previous year and Sorrow takes advantage of the giant leap forward. Unlike the musical kaleidoscope, the story is quite grim. In fact it may well contain the most depressing story arc in the history of pop music. Before side one has ended, Sebastian F. Sorrow - the protagonist - as a young man has taken a job as a scab worker at a factory where his father had previously been employed. He goes off to war, witnesses atrocities, returns home only to witness his fiance's death in a Zeppelin disaster.

Later in the story Sorrow has been shown the dark side of life by the wicked Baron Saturday, and comes to the conclusion that the world is devoid of people of honor and trust. The song Trust finds him barely holding on to the last of his sanity. The loping melody, syncopated bass line and gorgeous vocal harmonies stab at a sharp angle with the hopelessness of the lyrics. This is truly one of the lost treasures of the sixties.

Excuse me please as I wipe a tear
Away from an eye that sees there's nothing left to trust
Finding that their minds are grey
And there's no sorrow in the world that's left to trust.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I'm just the oily slick on the windup world of the nervous tick

Elvis Costello has mentioned that he has always wanted to write a song with only one chord. But given his gift with melody and harmony he has always failed miserably. Both Imperial Bedroom and Blood and Chocolate kick off with songs in this vein, and both of them have enough chord changes to destroy his intention. In the first instance, Beyond Belief contains perhaps his most perfect wordplay. I will spare you any awkward analysis and instead embarrass myself by mentioning that I spent an entire Saturday long ago learning all the words so that I could sing along. Thanks to the amazing production work of Geoff Emerick that entire LP remains near the top of my desert island disks list. It was a one-off experiment in fancy studio trickery, never to be repeated in the EC & the Attractions canon. Still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A little goth Saturday

As a card-carrying Carhartt Okie, the last trend my friends would identify me with is the goth scene. And I certainly never ran in those circles or wore the trademark all-black. But every once in a while in indulge myself with the music of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Over the course their first ten or so years they released a bevy of singles that still find their way to my turntable on a regular basis. Insistent, spooky, dark, cloaked in sometimes candy-coated coverings, their best work reminds me very little of the punk/new wave movement from which they sprang. That is one of the oft-forgotten joys of that 1976-1982 period when just about anything different was lumped under the heading of "punk".

Some day I must write about Peek-a-boo, a disturbing song with an art house video in which Siouxsee Sioux dons a killer Louise Brooks bob. But today I am listening to Spellbound, a single from 1981. From the point the percussion (courtesy of Budgie) and acoustic guitar make their entrance about 30 seconds in I am hooked. The fast guitar strumming with interesting chord changes is a hallmark of this song. Reminds me of The Who and Aztec Camera. Listen and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Nice paying the price for being kept under

Upon the departure of original lead singer Alan Clarke in 1972, the Hollies continued on unabated with a Swedish replacement, Mikael Rickfors. Known for their phenomenal gifts with singles in the 60s, the loss of Graham Nash resulted in a somewhat less successful career although there are still a few excellent nuggets to be mined from their 1968-1972 output. But they were never really contenders when it came to 33 1/3rd. That is, not until 1973 and the advent of the first (and only US-released) Rikfor's led LP.

Romany is a little-heard jewel that contains some of their finest harmony work. Terry Sylvester turned out to be quite a talented replacement for Mr. Nash, and Rickfors added a soulful baritone lead that took them in an entirely different direction. Unfortunately, except for a few singles and a release-in-Germany-only LP, this lineup would never again issue vinyl.

There is so much to enjoy here. Judee Sill's odd vision of religious ecstasy Jesus Was a Crossmaker is given a beautiful power pop rendition with Terry Sylvester's lead vocal. Magic Woman Touch is the failed single that should have been a hit what with its lovely opening guitar work by the underrated Tony Hicks and a splendid lilting verse melody. Or Courage of Your Convictions - seen by some as an attempt to cash in on the sound of 1971's hit Long Cool Woman - but in my book this is a vastly superior rocker with more excellent chiming guitar work by Mr. Hicks. And the ballad Romany exhibits Mr. Rickfor's honeyed-voice in a way that no previous Hollies tune could have.

Perhaps the most surprising song here is Delaware Taggett and the Outlaw Boys. The Hollies imbue this tune with harmonies right out of Crosby Stills and Nash, and the tightness of the instrumental work indicates that they had finer chops that anyone had given them credit for up to this time.

Long time fans rejoiced the next year when Mr. Clarke returned to the fold but for me the promise of Romany was forever lost.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

When are they gonna stop all of these victory processions

When Trust came out in 1981 the backlash against Elvis Costello's cringe-inducing racist comment was in full force. The momentum of his career was affected enough that the album was treated with mostly indifference by the press and public, and for the first time since his first album no singles made the charts in the UK.

Knowledgeable reviewers knew the score though - this was EC's finest album to date. The power pop of This Year's Model, the orchestrated sweep of Armed Forces, and the compressed soulfulness of Get Happy all came together in a mature collage of lyrics and melodies. And the Attractions were at an absolute peak, giving each song a sound universe befitting the generally downbeat lyrics.

Just about every tune on this LP is a keeper, even the near rockabilly Luxemburg. For my money the absolute standout track it New Lace Sleeves with its shifting rhythms and harmonic movements that take it into new unexplored territory. The bass, percussion, and keyboard work are so fine I cannot bring justice to them with mere words. The final staccato organ chords keep coming back again and again as the song trails off. The first half deals with the aftermath of a less than successful tryst and then pulls in the media circus around politicians and their penchant for indiscreet rendevous. In the second half EC wags his finger at the British empire and its pursuant warmongering. At least that is how I read it, as on this album Mr. MacManus becomes even more opaque and obscure, but the rhythm and the poetry of the lyrics stand up even if they have become nearly indecipherable.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We once collided like a broken wheel

Every once in a while a record comes along that strikes a chord in my heart. In the late 90's Cheap Trick had been on a downward spiral since the mid 80's with long gaps between recordings, and those few releases were mediocre mishmashes. In 1997 they released what I consider to be their masterpiece, the ill-fated Cheap Trick also known as Cheap Trick '97.

The front cover photo contained no band members, just a five-necked checkered guitar and a bass drum skin. The moment I picked up the CD I could feel that something was different. Inside was a bonus disc which I listened to first. It contained a killer hard rock number Baby Talk and a spot-on cover of The Move's Brontosaurus. My expectations were high at this point, but I was in no way prepared for what I encountered on the official release.

CT 97 is filled with some of the finest power pop ever made. There are a few angry rockers like the opening Anytime that transforms itself into a grunge screamer. Then there are some stunningly beautiful quieter numbers like the closing It All Comes Back to You. And the remainder - mostly written by the band - shows a maturity beyond what I ever expected from the Tricksters.

I keep coming back to this album again and again. Because of the consistent quality from start to finish I am reluctant to pick a favorite. But at the moment there is a one song that keeps cropping up in my subconscious due to its combination of aching lyrics and one of the finest chorus melodies in the annals of power pop.

Carnival Game begins with a man who is sure that the pain caused by his relationship is so great that he would be better of alone.
Some days are easier said than done
Always expecting something's wrong
I'd rather live alone than drag this on
When the chorus arrives he momentarily relents and gives in to his need for a physical connection. But soon the pain returns and he gives up. That brief respite never returns.
Take your time - please lay your hands on me
Don't wanna be alone, oh no
A mask behind a face then you're gone
Oh yeah - comes a time when you're better off alone
We once collided like a broken wheel
So undecided what was real
Maybe a crash somehow has sex appeal
Whatever turns you on
One down - one to go
Oh no, playin' in a carnival
Your time is gone

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Repulsion Part 2

After a month of soaking up the sonic awesomeness of Quasi's new release American Gong it is time to post my thoughts on it. Joanna Bolme was added as full time bassist a few years ago and finally we have a studio recording available to hear the results. Quasi had mined the two member setup since inception in 1993, and the addition of the bass has thrown them into a new direction. And I for one love the results. The fullness of sound and the anchor provided by Joanna's inventive bass riffs gives their music a deeper dimension.

I previously posted an audio-only preview of the lead off track Repulsion but with the success of the release and the accompanying tour, a plethora of live videos have been posted. A favorite of mine is an video filmed at the Gibson studio in Austin TX by KEXP (Seattle) during the SXSW festival. It gives a real glimpse of the loose yet focused energy the band brings to their live performances.

Sam summons up a combination of Keith Richard's riffage and Summer of Love psychedelic guitar freak out in this little tale of a sad loser with love making performance issues. Meanwhile Janet and Joanna have become my favorite rhythm section of any band currently working. My objectivity is clouded of course - these folks are based here in my little heaven of a city.

I could not stop, I stayed too long
I gave it a shot but I got the gong
I hit the bed and I pull up the sheets
I am stuck in this rotten lump of meat

And "folding" over at You-tube has posted the studio version with a video credited to Mike Donovan that has a zillion jump cuts and odd video effects. Fits the song to a tee.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Try to save a world that doesn't want to be saved

Another gem from Quasi today, this one from 1999's Field Studies. More roxichord driven goodness, extremely cogent lyrics, and even a string quartet which enters at 2:22. Sam Coomes' former Heatmiser bandmate Elliott Smith plays the bass. This was the my introduction to Quasi from when I was living in Seattle, and I have been hooked ever since. Little did I know then that I would be moving to their base in Portland, Oregon three years later.

Sam moves beyond the heart-tugging relationship struggles from their previous release. As the lead off track All The Same expounds a world-weary attitude.

"frayed at the edges, busted at the seams
i can walk with a song, sleep with my dreams"

When he does touch on relationship troubles his take is much more adult than in previous lyrics. The decision of whether to suffer or move on is now within his grasp.

"you can get out with it clean or prolong the agony
which ever you prefer, it's all the same to me"

And perhaps my favorite bit of lyric from Quasi is a poke at starry eyed do-gooders. I count myself in that group from time to time. But as an environmentalist and realist I know the chips are stacked against us.

"you worship the future like it's some kind of saint
but it's just like the past with a new coat of paint
try to save a world that doesn't want to be saved
stolen like a child, the one you think is misbehaved"

Friday, March 12, 2010

We purchase pleasure, and pay for it with hurt

I have to admit that I have found the perfect CD to represent the break up of my long term relationship. It has been here right under my nose for years. If I promise not to continue down this road, then please indulge me this one time with a dose of super melodic pop that is juxtaposed with the most downright bleak and pissed off lyrics ever. My hometown band Quasi just released an awesome new CD, but today's post goes way back to their 1998 release Featuring "Birds".

The CD is chock full of bright roxichord-driven pop songs with broken hearts sprinkled liberally throughout the lyrics. There will be no tragic 19th century romantic subjects here. The sentiments expressed come from deep inside a wounded heart for sure, but there is no gothic vision nor tragic barely missed opportunities. Long time fans like myself have always wondered if Sam Coomes was writing about his failed marriage to drummer Janet Weiss. Only the two of them know for sure, but in a wicked twist of fate they journey on in the band now entering its seventeenth year. If she is indeed the antagonist of these tunes, it is an amazing resolution that they continue to make great music together.

So for your listening please here is I Never Want To See You Again.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fuzzy wuzzy lovin' cup explosion

Ok, happy music today. The Guess Who might seem an odd choice, but I love that Canuck bunch of beer-chugging prairie hosers. And today's song-o-the-day is none other than Hand Me Down World. From their hippy aesthetics period, it is a little environmental ode with all of the hit single accoutrements necessary to make me quite happy. At about 1:32 Kurt Winter lays down a very fine solo, followed by a Beatle-ish "la la la la" reintro to the next verse. A fine listening experience to be had by all!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Letting Go

OK, so maybe this isn't the happy song I promised to post next. But Who Am Us Anyway had a post up today about the Hollie's exquisite rendition of Chip Taylor's I Can't Let Go. And that reminded me that it was originally written for Evie Sands. Her slower, blue hot soulful version is one of those "should have been a hit" situations that was not meant to be. A situation echoed in the lyrics, for as uplifting as the music may be, the words describe a passionate love which is just a bit too desperate for its own good.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Goon Squad

Seems that Mr. Costello / MacManus and I share some sentiments. As with the last posting there is a subtext here that will remain private, but the song title rings so true I could not resist. The Attractions have to be one of the tightest, most dexterous bands ever, and this live performance of I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea gives a glimpse at the mighty power they wielded in their heyday.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

No Valentine's Day This Year

Not much to say - it is a sad day around Pleasant Valley Sunday. I am not going to write about it here. But Elvis Costello pretty much hits the nail on the head with High Fidelity. Great to see the rarely broadcast promo video.

Even though you're nowhere near me
And I know you kiss him so sincerely now
Even though the signal's indistinct
And you worry what silly people think

Who just can't wait to feel frozen out
I bet he thinks that he was chosen out of millions
I suppose he will never know about... High Fidelity

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sixty More

As I mentioned in the comments in the previous post, several singles were omitted from my top 100 list due to my negligence/ forgetfulness. Definitely Photograph should have been there, along with at least a couple of Jeff Beck-era Yardbird's singles. The opening chords to Evil Hearted You remain as shocking today as upon first listen in 1965, and Shapes of Things blows a hole in the atmosphere at 1:35 with Beck's psychedelic interlude.

Here is an unordered list of sixty songs that were all contenders, and if I could fit 164 into 100(+4) entries I would. Maybe a year from now I will revisit and refine the original list, but for now I think these 164 entries are a fine collection of the lost art of the 45rpm single.

A-Side B-Side Artist Year Link
Carpet Man The Magic Garden The 5th Dimension 1968Video
Earn Enough For Us(Australia only) The Man Who Sailed around His Soul XTC 1986Video
Grass Extrovert; Dear God XTC 1986Video
O, My Soul Morpha too-I'm in Love With a Girl Big Star 1974Video
September Gurls Mod Lang Big Star 1974Video
Say Goodbye Yeah Yeah Cheap Trick 1997Video
Stop This Game Who D'King Cheap Trick 1980Video
Surrender Auf Wiedersehen Cheap Trick 1978Video
Homburg Good Captain Clack Procol Harum 1967Video
Heroes V-2 Schneider David Bowie 1977Video
Golden Years Can You Hear Me David Bowie 1975Video
Changes Andy Warhol David Bowie 1972Video
#9 Dream What You Got John Lennon 1974Video
Mind Games Meat City John Lennon 1973Video
Stand by Me Move Over Ms L John Lennon 1975Video
Photograph Down and Out Ringo Starr 1973Video
It Dont' Come Easy Early 1970 Ringo Starr 1971Video
Back Off Boogaloo Blindman Ringo Starr 1972Video
When We Was Fab Zig Zag George Harrison 1988Video
Blow Away Soft Touch George Harrison 1979Video
Hi, Hi, Hi C Moon Wings 1972Video
The Back Seat of My Car Heart of the Country Paul McCartney 1971Video
Shangri-La This Man He Weeps Tonight The Kinks 1969Video
See My Friends Never Met a Girl Like You Before The Kinks 1965Video
Wonderboy Polly The Kinks 1968Video
Days She's Got Everything The Kinks 1968Video
Sleepwalker Full Moon The Kinks 1977Video
Dead End Street Big Black Smoke The Kinks 1966Video
Nutbush City Limits Help Him Ike and Tina Turner 1973Video
Help Me Just Like This Train Joni Mitchell 1974Video
Killer Queen Flick of the Wrist Queen 1974Video
Past, Present and Future Paradise The Shangri-Las 1966Video
Remember (Walking in the Sand) It's Easier to Cry The Shangri-Las 1964Video
Anarchy in the U.K. I Wanna Be Me Sex Pistols 1976Video
God Save The Queen No Feeling Sex Pistols 1977Video
See Emily Play Scarecrow Pink Floyd 1967Video
Arnold Layne Candy and a Currant Bun Pink Floyd 1967Video
Laughing Undun The Guess Who 1969Video
No Time Proper Stranger The Guess Who 1969Video
These Eyes Lightfoot The Guess Who 1969
Turn! Turn! Turn! She Don't Care About Time The Byrds 1965Video
So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star Everybody's Been Burned The Byrds 1967Video
Chestnut Mare Just a Season The Byrds 1970
Walk Away Renee I Haven't Got the Nerve The Left Banke 1966Video
The Little Girl I Once Knew There's No Other (Like My Baby) Beach Boys 1965Video
Wild Honey Wind Chimes Beach Boys 1967Video
White Rabbit Plastic Fantastic Lover Jefferson Airplane 1967Video
Little Games Puzzles Yardbirds 1967Video
Evil Hearted You Still I'm Sad Yardbirds 1965Video
For Your Love Got To Hurry Yardbirds 1965Video
Shapes of Things You're a Better Man Than I Yardbirds 1966Video
Happenings Ten Years Time Ago Psycho Daisies Yardbirds 1966Video
Over Under Sideways Down Jeff's Boogie Yardbirds 1966Video
It's My Life I'm Going to Change the World The Animals 1965Video
We've Gotta Get Out of This Place I Can't Believe It The Animals 1965Video
Stand! I Want to Take You Higher Sly and the Family Stone 1969Video
Hot Fun in the Summertime Fun Sly and the Family Stone 1969Video
I'm Free We're Not Going to Take It The Who 1969