Tuesday, January 28, 2014
The Mike Curb Congregation - "Burning Bridges"
One day last week my accounting brain and writing brain were at war with each other, so I did what any reasonable person would do to avoid a complete intellectual breakdown: Took the afternoon off, made a pot of coffee, and fired up a film I hadn't seen since as a kid, Kelly's Heroes, on TV via Amazon Prime and the Roku box.
Among the many anti-war war movies of its sixties-into-seventies, it throws a little Me Generation philosophy in as well. A group of American soldiers go on a rogue mission well behind enemy lines to rob a bank of its gold. The town is in occupied France, and I never caught if they are intent on plundering French or Nazi gold, but who cares? It's a caper movie, and who doesn't love a good caper? And sure, it's considered an anti-war movie, but when the Nazis get blown away, they get blown away violently and in large numbers.
And if you're worried about any actor going against type, no such worries here. Telly Savalas talks tough. Donald Sutherland excudes a proto-beatnik cool vibe (he even rides around with a guy named Moriarty.) Carroll O'Connor yells a lot and his character is unintentionally funny. Donald Rickles rolls his eyes and makes smart remarks. Clint Eastwood squints.
So you're saying: "Yeah, I just looked this flick up on Wikipedia and it clocks in under two-point-five hours. How did it take up a whole afternoon?" Well, there's things going on with the music that had me hitting the pause button and headed to my iMac, and I'm not just talking about the abundant anachronisms. Like a Morricone-like moment near the end that nods towards Clint's role in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Or Sutherland's character leading a tank raid by blasting Hank Williams Jr.'s "All For The Love Of Sunshine" (forcing Coppola to top it with "Ride of the Valkyries" in Apocalypse Now.) Said Hank Jr. song was written by Mike Curb, whose own group sings the movie's hippy-dippy theme song, "Burning Bridges." Curb went on to become Lieutenant Governor of California. The Man can't bust our music? The Man made the music!
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Tony Carey - "A Fine Fine Day"
Tony Carey isn't from the Garden State, but "A Fine, Fine Day" has New Jersey all over it. The video is Sopranos-light (and shot a decade-plus before Jersey's own Tony Soprano and family appeared!), telling a darker story than what is alluded to in the song. The tune itself is a first-rate Bruce Springsteen knockoff, Carey haunts the Springsteen ballad side effectively, leaving the rocker side of Bruce to John Cafferty with "On The Dark Side." Both tunes are from '84, I hear Springsteen himself had a good year also.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Wet Willie - "Keep On Smilin'"
A glance at Wet Willie's Greatest Hits album cover confirms the stereotypes you imagine for a seventies Southern rock band:
Fat guy with hat and facial hair? Check.
Guy with overalls or suspenders? Check.
Guy with plaid or flannel shirt? Check.
Guy with rapidly-receding hairline? Check.
And one guy who looks glad to be along for the ride and one skinny guy with a beard who pulls of the Legitimate Rocker look.
Not to mention that song titles like "Grits Ain't Groceries", "Red Hot Chicken", and "Dixie Rock" point towards yet another Southern rock band piling up cliches and guitar solos. But to listen to the tunes … As John Milward wrote in The Rolling Stone Record Guide (orginal red edition):
"Most other Southern bands seasoned their blues rock with country influences, but Wet Willie fueled its with hard-biting R&B."
Lead singer Jimmy Hall was a solid soul-influenced singer, and Wet Willie's only hit, "Keep On Smilin'", is one of the lost classics of seventies blue-eyed soul, gospel-tinged and triumphant. (It charted #10 but doesn't get oldies radio play? What gives?) On a down day you can do no worse than to track this one and heed Johnny's reminder to stay gold.
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - "Opera Star"
Released at the start of the "Neil Young experiments with a new genre every year" era1, Reactor was the first Neil album I bought, and still my favorite - mostly because I got it when I was sixteen and didn't know what canonical Neil Young music quite was. Reactor is grungy, silly, serious, and kicks down doors like no other Neil album I have heard. Then again, I haven't heard all of 'em.
The leadoff track "Opera Star" is an underrated garage rock gem chock-full of goodies. It's a Neil song with an actual interesting rhythm, you can almost dance to it. Reactor also contains "T-Bone", which is Neil's attempt at an extended dance mix. It works, in fact, pairs quite well with any number of the "mashed potatoes" R&B songs from the early sixties.
And not to mention, "Opera Star" also has: class resentment, drugs, getting f*cked up, and ridiculous-but-fun backing vocals. In the chorus, Neil informs the protagonist - and by extension, the listener - that he/you will never be an opera star. I'm sure Neil Young fans continent-wide were crushed.