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.