Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Edgar Winter Group - "Frankenstein"
The Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein" was instrumental (ha ha) in trying to rehabilitate the image of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster among the Watergate Youth of the mid-seventies. Soon to follow in '73 was the made-for-TV movie Frankenstein: The True Story, which was an odd title with Frankenstein originally being a novel and all. Despite having a young Jane Seymour in it, my friends and I didn't dig it, it was pretty boring due to: 1) Being in color (not only was the original Frankenstein movie in black-and-white, we later learned from the back cover of Cheap Trick's In Color that many times B&W is more interesting), and 2) No lumbering monster with bolts in his neck. 1974's Young Frankenstein was an obvious improvement. It featured a rather fetching Teri Garr. And oh yeah, Mel Brooks at the height of his goofy talents.
The Winter Group's tune is important, because it says (ha ha) everything in under five minutes. It's an instrumental from when instrumentals still mattered, a masterpiece of funk-metal wowee that rocketed to the top of the charts and let us all imagine what it was "about." Childhood friend Brett claimed this song was a telling of the Frankenstein story and the "weird noises" part that starts about 2:49 in was when the monster was being elevated skyward to receive electricity from lightning.
Forty years later, "Frankenstein" continues to amaze. And one wonders would could have been. The Winter Group had Rick Derringer on guitar, meaning the Winter/Derringer axis was responsible for AM/FM hits "Frankenstein", "Free Ride", and "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo." They were set to completely dominate rock 'n' roll by 1975, but here's a bonus Halloween tale for you: Derringer was too haunted by Beck Bogert & Appice to concentrate on making hits.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
ZZ Top - "Got Me Under Pressure"
How can it be that at age 48, I gave in, surrendered any remaining class/Northern/intellectual biases against ZZ Top? Sure, before I would say: "Well, yeah they have a one bonafide great song: 'I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide', and a handful of other ones that make for good beer-guzzling fun on a summer afternoon, but c'mon: They're just for fun." Bleep that, I am embracing ZZ Top now after going all-in (kinda) and buying their Rancho Texicano collection. All those songs there were just "fun"? YEAH THAT'S THE POINT.
"Cheap Sunglasses" is a blast and just weird enough to stand out on Fargo's Q98 back in the day. "Tube Snake Boogie" is sophomoric, but brings back fond memories of me trying to change the channel when it came on the radio and my Mom was driving. "No, leave that on," she said. "Sounds like a good bluesy tune." "Uh, it's kind of raunchy," I said, understating things totally. Later in the song, she said: "Oh, I see." But thankfully she was commenting on the "she won't do it but her sister will" part and NOT the song's subject matter. "La Grange" brings to mind a great story involving my brother's brother-in-law. I asked once where in Illinois he lived. "La Grange," he replied. Seeing the smirk forming on my face, he quickly threw in: "They gotta lotta nice girls." Classic!
I find "Got Me Under Pressure" as my #2 fave ZZ Top song, after "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" It's got an art museum, lipstick, drugs, S&M (not Steve Martin's "Spaniards and Mexicans"), and a harried guy who doesn't like himself that much. And all credit to ZZ Top: They did the supposed hard rock no-no of using synths, but even those they turned into a fuzzy and distorted whiskey-soaked pulse. How this tune flopped on the charts in 1983 is beyond me, but Q98 in all its AOR glory played it proudly. 1984 would prove to be ZZ Top's year all over the radio. And the band's "sellout" moves on Eliminator sound refreshing all these years later. Go figure.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
The Kings - "This Beat Goes On/Switchin' To Glide"
How to do justice to one of the all-time greats? There's no way to overhype or overheat this one. Bigger concern: How to sit down and type up these notes up without cuing up the song and starting an instant party in the living room?
Canada's own The Kings' "This Beat Goes On/Switchin' To Glide" is a garage rock twofer with vocals and keyboards that hold hands with new wave, riffing guitar for the hard rockers, and a great beat so the girls can dance. Throw in an ECHO-y mix by clutch producer Bob Ezrin (a fellow Canadian, whose production credits include party classics "School's Out" and "Shout It Out Loud") and you've got a classic one-hit wonder that will bring a smile to Gen Xers all over North America.
This is one of the few songs that I bother obsessing with the lyrics:
- Lunatics and crazies are mentioned frequently, matching the no-holds-barred zaniness of the music.
- The lines: "Hey ladies / You crazies / Well me and Zero / Request you in the Mercedes" anticipate the appearance of the Beastie Boys a half-decade later.
- I don't trust the infinite lyrics websites. Is it: "I'm laughing as I'm analyzed" or "I'm laughing as I'm outta lies."?
- "Nothing matters but the weekend / From a Tuesday point of view" is another in a long line of lyrics and songs that point to Tuesday (this blog being biased) being the great non-weekend rock 'n' roll day. To wit, a sampling:
"Ruby Tuesday" by The Rolling Stones
"Tuesday's Gone" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Voices Carry" by 'Til Tuesday
"Friday on My Mind" by The Easybeats ("Coming Tuesday I feel better")
"Girlfriend" by Matthew Sweet (title track of an album that has Tuesday Weld - yessir - on its cover)
- The "nothing matters but the weekend" line comes into the song just as the drums go to a military march-sounding beat. It's a call to arms! Arm yourself with some Molsons and bring on Friday!
This song never quits. It's the "A Day In The Life", "Stairway To Heaven", AND "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature" of garage rock. Play it now and I guarantee: Instant party in your living room.
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Petra Haden - "I Can't Reach You"
When Petra Haden released her a cappella version of The Who Sell Out back in 2005, it went through a few stages of perception in my mind:
- Okay, I gotta buy this one just out of the curiousity factor. Maybe it'll give me some good material to mock.
- Hey this is dangerously catchy!
- This will cure any foul mood I ever have in my life FOREVER.
So last week involved barely making rent and other assorted minor/major hassles involved with being my own boss (and not always being very good at it.) Needless to say: Come Saturday night I fired up Petra Haden's gloriously charming album, poured a cold one, and gave in once again.
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Green River - "Swallow My Pride"
I recently finished reading Steve Waksman's This Ain't The Summer of Love: Conflict And Crossover In Heavy Metal and Punk. A few thoughts:
1) This was an absorbing and informative read, recommended for fans of either genre.
2) He states the case that punk was basically as a concept invented by writers. True, but how not "punk rock" is that?
3) Chuck Eddy wrote the synopsis for this book back in 1991 in the intro to his book Stairway To Hell: "Punk and metal had been swapping genes approximately forever. Graph their time lines, you'll end up with a double helix."
4) The Stooges' Fun House album is a great metal album. I mention this only because certain punk rock fans I know have hissy fits when I bring this matter up.
The title of This Ain't The Summer of Love was inspired by a bit of a song by Green River. They are one of those bands that looks better on paper than they actually sound. With two guys who went on to form Mudhoney and two guys who went on to form Pearl Jam, they were kind of a reverse-chronological supergroup. The excitement I felt in finding their Dry As A Bone/Rehab Doll collection in the used CD stacks at Roadrunner Records was tops I ever felt about them; actually listening to them is another matter. Mark Arms's sub-Iggy voice generally wears me down before I make it through a complete tracking.
"Swallow My Pride" is where in 1988 they cover their own song from 1985, and end up also covering the chorus of Blue Oyster Cult's "This Ain't The Summer of Love", tying in sonically to the metallic garage sound of the early BOC albums. As eighties punk/alt bands covering classic hard rock bands goes, it's about up there with The Minutemen's take on Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" but not up there with The Replacements covering Kiss and nicking a Ted Nugent riff on Let It Be. Green River scored extra points in advance for not covering the "cowbell" song though. Thank the Lord for that.