Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Peter Laughner & Friends - "In The Bar"
I lead a boring life. I watch UND hockey games on a laptop hooked up to my TV, binge on Netflix, and read a lot. My social life, as The Music Machine once infamously sang, is a dud. Avoiding people is sort of a twisted pastime of mine. But with writing I can let my imagination run wild, put it on paper, and then revise it from there. It's truly the most fun I have, even if apathy, lack of discipline, and other assorted mental landmines abound. Sometimes it gets dreary, sometimes it's just a chore. But in the good times? As Herb Brooks said in Miracle: "Ever see him when his game's on?"
At some point, the small fun project I did to keep the writing muscles warmed up became the focus of the writing. And that's just fine. Time to write, a forum to present it, and the promise of this being possible again next week. Notebook in the bookbag, index cards in its pockets, a laptop on a clean desk with a lamp. That is all I ask.
And one more thing, a quote from Peter Laughner: "Here I sit, sober and perhaps even lucid, on the sort of winter's day that makes you realize a New Year is just around the corner and you've got very little to show for it, but if you are going to get anything done on this planet, you better pick it up with both hands and DO IT YOURSELF."
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Jack Scott - "There's Trouble Brewin'"
Giovanni Domenico Scafone Jr - he later went by the decidedly non-ethnic "Jack Scott" - was born in Windsor, Ontario, and moved to Detroit as a youth. He later served in the army, meaning that he was the rare man who left Canada to come to the United States to serve in the military. At one point, he formed a group called the Southern Drifters. This was clever, a nod to his Windsor roots. Because everybody (except Journey) knows that Windsor is south of Detroit.
When you think of the rockabilly sound, Jack Scott's music is likely what you have in mind. Swaggering beat, incisive guitar leads, and a greasy wannabe tough guy on the vocal. (I hear more Jack Scott than Elvis Presley in Johnny Bravo's voice.) On "There's Trouble Brewin'", he finds out that his gal has been stepping out with Santa Claus. He hints at malice towards old Saint Nick but ends up declaring the old man to be "a goof." Whew. As the man said: "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Jeff Beck Group - "Morning Dew"
Earlier this month while
Then we have the Grateful Dead. Wikipedia says "Morning Dew" was made famous by the Dead, a tidbit I was unaware of. I didn't even know the Dead were associated with the song. Me, undoubtably like many other hard rock fans, had discovered the tune via the Jeff Beck Group's Truth album, on that one Rod Stewart had been the vocalist. He was a notorious folkie in his early days and I'm guessing he didn't even learn the song from the Dead.
And here's what happens when I drink lots of coffee and
Oh, and the Beck Group's take on "Morning Dew"? It's folk rock at its finest and/or heavy rock at its most poignant. Chilling stuff.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Los Locos del Ritmo - "Hey Joe"
PART ONE: PLEASE MR. POSTMAN
Mexican Rock And Roll Rumble And Psych-Out South Of The Border. Ordered in the nineties via mail order. No, not Amazon Marketplace, where you can buy old CDs for like a penny and get them for four bucks total with shipping and the third-party dealer mails them to your door in those cute little padded envelopes. (And you hope the mailman leaves them on the floor in the lobby beneath your mailbox so you don't have to make a special trip to the post office solely for your meager little score.) No, mail order, where you had a catalog of a company's releases, you filled out the order form - having to use tiny little print on those things, right? - calculate your shipping costs and sales tax (if applicable), stuff it in an envelope with a check or money order, and then wait for your goods to show in the mail. How quaint! Almost as much fun as going to your local record shop, asking the dude behind the counter if he could order you Mott the Hoople's Brain Capers album, and he'd flip through this huge catalog the size of two Minneapolis phone books, and he'd say: "Yeah, we can order that. Should be in next Tuesday. We'll call you."
Thankfully nowadays, songs like those on Mexican Rock And Roll Rumble And Psych-Out South Of The Border - mid-sixties south-of-the-border garage bands doing rock 'n' roll songs, singing them in Spanish - are all over the web. On YouTube, on random sites, and on Amazon, where I'm eyeing up buying Los Nuggetz for myself for Christmas.
PART TWO: BULLET POINTS (HEY JOE, WHERE YOU GOING WITH THAT BERLITZ GUIDE IN YOUR HAND?)
My favorite song on Mexican Rock And Roll Rumble is where Los Locos del Ritmo ferociously attack "Hey Joe."
1. It's always fun to hear "Hey Joe" played at the faster speed. The Jimi Hendrix Experience's version is the one most well-known these days, and part of the genius of his version is that Jimi slowed the song - normally a fast-paced one that was up there with "Louie Louie" in being covered by garage bands coast to coast - down to make it unlike any of the prior versions.
2. "Hey Joe" seems like it's an old folk tune, but it's not. Lester Bangs: "There was this one song called 'Hey Joe' that literally everybody and his fuckin' brother not only recorded but claimed to have written even though it was obviously the psychedelic mutation of some hoary old folk song which was about murderin' somebody for love just like nine-tenths of the rest of them hoary folk ballads." (I also used this quote in a blog post last year about The Litter. I went on to write: "[Versions of 'Hey Joe'] all kinda sound the same once you've heard The Jimi Hendrix Experience's reimagining anyway." I am now declaring May of 2012 Bill Tuomala to be wrong! THIS VERSION of "Hey Joe" by Los Locos del Ritmo is uniquely brilliant and clocks in at #2 after the Hendrix version on my all-time "Hey Joe" list!)
3. This is recycled material from me, I've used it in my zine and on the radio: Since I don't know Spanish and Los Locos del Ritmo were from Mexico … I am dying to know - In this version of the tune, where does Joe plan to escape to?
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
David Essex - "Rock On"
I'm guessing this is the only David Essex song you'll ever need. Certainly, it's the only one most of us have ever heard, though I wonder if its flipside "On and On" is some sort of continuation of the single. Horribly covered by some soap opera actor in the eighties, in the nineties REM was smart enough to reclaim the song by quoting it on their eerie single "Drive."
It sounded out of place on the radio in the early seventies, and likely would in any era. Bass-driven and echo-heavy, it's first verse is an homage to old rock 'n' roll without sounding like any sort of rock 'n' roll at all. (John Fogerty had to be nonplussed upon hearing it.) "And where do we go from here?" anticipates Guns n' Roses "Where do we go now?" in "Sweet Child O' Mine." More significantly, the funhouse look at rock 'n' roll of "Rock On" anticipates the brilliantly haunting book Rock Dreams, which was released just a year later.
This tune leaves more questions than it answers. The question bugging me this week: Is "Jimmy Dean" a confidence that he knows the late James Dean on the familiar basis or does it to harken to singer Jimmy Dean, he of "Big Bad John" note, who is also known for his microwavable breakfast fare?
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Axe - "Rock 'N' Roll Party In The Streets"
PART ONE: US-81 OFF-RAMP TO MINNEAPOLIS WEST BANK
"Rock 'N' Roll Party In The Streets" is the rare song on Tuesday Tuneage which is not only a Q-98 Classic, but also has status as a favorite of the Cosmic Slop show on Radio K back in the day. I'd try to describe it, but you just have to track it. Soon you'll be pining for a summer night of having a keg cup in your hand, bumming a heater off of a friend, checking out the hot burnout girls in their Levi's, and nodding your head to the killer song blasting on the boombox.
And you gotta love the audacity of the song's premise. Most of us, when we have parties, we have them in our houses or backyards. Maybe in the garage. Not these guys and not this party. It's going to be IN THE STREETS BABY AND IT'S GOING TO BE A ROCK 'N' ROLL PARTY. How many kegs of High Life got drained out on the pavement that night? And did Axe invent National Night Out??
PART TWO: CONSUMER REPORTS SEZ
"Rock 'N' Roll Party In The Streets" is on the album Offering. A sophomore year dorm suitemate had Axe's Offering on cassette and played it frequently, I remember asking him if he could maybe play his copy of Hot Rocks for a change instead. I don't remember what the rest of Offering sounded like, but am pretty sure it didn't equal "Rock 'N' Roll Party in the Streets." Sure, I could go look up the take Rolling Stone had back in '82 or pull up the AllMusic review. But instead, I'm going to offer (sorry) up what genuine Amazon customers think of this album. Because if you are going to spend $15 on an Offering CD (or around $5 for the cassette on ebay, and I get the feeling cassettes outsold vinyl on the original release of this album like 10-1), you should know what the people truly think! (All spelling is left as-is.) Take it away, folks:
"The entire first side is terrific, and the second side is, too, until the last song or two. I own this album on cassette."
"I had 3 cassettes of Offering, one for my car, one for my boyfriend's and one for the portable player I took on my morning run."
"This album had a certain sofistication in it that, I, as a teenager, had to listen to a few times to grasp … Axe's sound, to me, is like Bob Seger electrified!!"
"I bought this on a cassette when it first came out. It's not a great album but definitely worth buying."
"Axe were your typical hard rock bar band type that had just enough licks to find them tapping on the shoulders of 80's A.O.R. radio stations. In order to get there, however, they put on a lot of polish to keep the airwaves sweet, which means that "Rock And Roll Party In The Streets" could have easily used some Everclear in the punch."
"It should also be on your current playlist if you are a true rock and roller."
"Way back in the early 80's my cousin and I walked into this independent record store in Missouri to pick up a Blue Oyster Cult album. At the recommendation of the owner we also picked up this GEM. I wore the vinyl out and switched to cassette."
"FYI - AOR stands for Album Oriented Rock, a very successful FM radio format in the late 70s and early 80s that evolved from the underground/freeform radio formats of the late 60s. ...Post disco, but pre Madonna. Quite a lot of these stations eventually morphed again into Classic Rock stations during the late 80s and early 90s. Axe is one of the many bands that had their moment in the AOR era, but have been excluded from most classic rock programming."
"I dont know if this is a good enough review or not. Need some feedback on it asap. This is my first time doing this."
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
New Radicals - "You Get What You Give"
With "You Get What You Give", New Radicals marked themselves as one of the great one-hit wonders of the past twenty years. I bought their only album, Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, back in the day when I read somewhere it was a refreshing alternative to Beck's minstrel act on Midnite Vultures. It had always been a fun, pick-me-up album to listen to, but after recently loading it on my iPhone and having it grab me in some way it hadn't before on a bus ride home one afternoon, I began to get more intrigued the overall seventies blue-eyed sould vibe, the humor, the Prince homage in "Technicolor Lover", and daring to a leftist (if not ummm, radical) lyrical vibe into a mainstream album. Not to mention the essential appeal of the hooks a'plenty all over the album. My only complaint is that the scorching indictment of Corporate America is largely buried on the title track via mumbling.
And now it's Groundhog Day here for me, as New Radicals only released the one album. Frontman/mastermind Gregg Alexander broke up the band to focus on songwriting and producing. Great for him, you gotta do what makes you happy. Still, I feel depraved and depressed there have been no more New Radicals LPs, EPs, 45s, or iTunes Exclusives that have come down the line since 1998. All we have is this: Hall and Oates, with the help of Todd Rundgren, covered "Someday We'll Know" in 2003. As expected.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The Victims - "Television Addict"
The dream where I was a rookie homicide detective and Lieutenant Giardello took a shine to me and my work effort. The only time ever I enjoyed wearing a suit.
Spending an an hour of two of research and seventeen bucks at Amazon figuring out how to hook up my MacBook to my HDTV, just so I could watch my college hockey team on a bigger screen.
Years ago when a couple told me they didn't have a television, stealing Joey Tribiani's material and asking: "What's all your furniture pointed at?"
My Mom saying that TV was the best babysitter. She'd just plop me or my siblings in front of it, we'd stare at it, and she could get the housework done in peace.
The dream where I was part of the Carver basketball team (despite being in waking life short and horrible at hoops), hanging out with Cool, New York, and Thorpe, joining Salami as we walked out to the Motel California.
Those times in the nineties when I would go out of my way during Screen-Free Week - when such a silly concept actually got attention, had to Google it to even see what it's called and if it's still a thing - to watch more TV. Take that, snobby dorks!
The dream where a friend and I were involved with a meth dealer, contemplated turning state's evidence, decided to do one more favor for the dealer, then the cops pulled us over, I lied my socks off, my friend got hauled downtown on a trumped-up bunco charge, and I destroyed damaging evidence and decided to leave town permanently.
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
Run-DMC - "Rock Box"
F*ck it, cards on the table, this off my chest: "Rock Box" is the greatest heavy metal song ever recorded.
First heard these guys on Chicago radio during the two years in the mid-eighties when my folks lived in Illinois and I'd visit them on college breaks. Mom was in the store grabbing a couple of things, I was out in the car and started channel surfing. I came across two guys rapping-near-yelling while metal guitar wailed on. I had read in a recent issue of Rock & Roll Confidential that there was a rap-metal group called Run-DMC and figured "how many rap-metal outfits can there be?" Back in Grand Forks, I found myself in the Columbia Mall record store buying Run-DMC's King of Rock and Jason and the Scorchers Lost and Found, what with the purchase of Purple Rain the summer before having led to my permanent removal from the "I prefer music by long-established acts, many are likely British, and some may be dead" ranks.
Soon I would backtrack and get Run-DMC's debut, where they first came up with their groundbreaking (and there is no way of overstating this) sound. Drum machine, synthed chimes, heavy metal riffs, and Hendrix-like leads on guitar. It's like they took the controlled chaos of the early Funkadelic albums or those few seconds of "Beat It" where Eddie Van Halen totally shreds and constructed a whole universe around it.
In two years they would follow the natural progression that "Rock Box", then "King of Rock" suggested, brilliantly cover "Walk This Way," and rehabilitate Aerosmith completely. Their formula was so unique it has never been topped. Rap. Metal. Rap-metal. Boom. I'll listen to Run-DMC on a loop to my death before I get into old fogey songwriter music by the likes of John Hiatt or Elvis Costello.
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.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
The Novas - "The Crusher"
So it's a Monday evening in July and I'm bored senseless. The volume of accounting work is slow slow slow, the mental numbness has creeped all over my brain. I don't feel like writing, reading, or watching Netflix. The newspaper has been read and the sun will be out for a while. I surf the channels on Comcast and come across WWE Raw. I stop to watch. The wrestling moves are the same as always, but I'm disturbed by the matchups. The people of color are either heels or getting beat up by multiple white guys. But then "The Real Americans" make their entrance and their manager runs down host city Brooklyn for being a melting pot. He also doesn't like foreigners who are sneaking their way into the country. His team faces the Usos, these high-flying Samoan dudes who wear war paint. The Usos win the match and immediately become my favorite babyfaces with their warpaint, chants, and high-flying moves. I'm hooked.
Next up is the smug Damien Sandow, who instantly becomes a favorite heel. He bills himself as "The Intellectual Savior of the Masses" (his entrance music is Handel's "Messiah") and repeatedly commands the crowd to "Silence!" His opponent is some nondescript guy named Christian, who I eventually deduce is a wily long-time veteran. This proves to be true as he outsmarts Sandow, gains a pin, and then runs out of the ring pointing to his forehead to indicate he also has the smarts that Sandow claims are his exclusively!
Also appearing that night were colorful characters like Alberto Del Rio, a heel who looks like a Hispanic Mitt Romney; weird backwoods cult the Wyatt Family (one guy wore a sheep's head mask); the fascist-looking Shield (three guys dressed in all black, boots and protective vests); and of course ANOTHER heel manager, Paul Heyman, insufferably smug in the best Bobby "The Weasel" Heenan manner. The WWE wasn't the AWA of my youth, but it flipped the AWA formula around. Classic AWA had boring matches - always a star beating up a jobber like Kenny "Sodbuster" Jay (he owned a landscaping business) and interspersed with brilliant over-the-top interviews where a star would interact with classic straight man Gene Okerlund. In WWE, the interviews are rare but the matches always feature name stars. The plan is to keep you interested in the ongoing storylines, hoping you will buy into their pay-per-view events.
And this all takes be back to being a child, when The Crusher was my wrestling hero along with many youth and adults across the Upper Midwest. Leave it to a Minneapolis garage band to pay homage to him on a 45. Listen up you turkeynecks!
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
R.E.M. - "Orange Crush"
My first sustained exposure to R.E.M. came from two sources: 1) Summer singles on Q-98 out of Fargo when I was spending college years June through August in Otter Tail County. "So. Central Rain" and "Can't Get There From Here" were so weirdly great to hear amidst the hard and classic rock on gravel roads while driving on the way to greasy summer jobs. 2) College pal Gary, who had the albums on cassette. The specific memory here is that we were at a party hosted by close friends but nothing much was going on, so Gary grabbed me and our friend Chris and we drove around Grand Forks with beers and listened to R.E.M. and The Replacements. In fact, that was Gary's reasoning to get out of the party: "Hey I got some R.E.M. and Replacements tapes in the car, let's go for a drive."
But I found Murmur through Document to be non-great outside of the singles. I was at a post-college bash at a friend's apartment in Grand Forks (UND was hosting hated NDSU in football, but it was chilly out so we watched the beer in his flat with multiple flats of beer) when a debate about R.E.M. broke out. The divisions broke down predictably in 1988 ways: The hep declared them arguably the greatest band in the world and the classic rockers deemed them wussy and non-rock. I uttered something I deemed significant from my Schmidt-fueled haze: "They should release a collection of singles, I'd buy that." That fell on flat ears. (Deservedly, I added nothing to the debate, I was just being an entitled consumer.) Amazingly, I was in Northern Lights down on Hennepin and 7th just a few days later and stumbled across Eponymous, the very singles collection I had recently called for.
I fell in love with Eponymous and grew to think of R.E.M. was an outstanding band. Should have went with my first "they're a singles band" instinct though, as Green and Out of Time were both duds outside of their singles (and not always then, "Radio Song" is pretty bad.) I learned my lesson by the time Automatic for the People came out, ducked buying it despite the brilliance of its lead singles "Drive." and "Man on the Moon." Friends would get miffed with my singles band theory and my disdain for Automatic for the People's "Everybody Hurts" but we've reached a detente in middle age as R.E.M. has disbanded and I spend more time delving into my music collection and less time concocting contrarian theories.
I had been silently campaigning for an Eponymous II - a collection of R.E.M. singles from 1988 forward - for years and then finally realized in this day of the mp3, I could make my own R.E.M. playlist. The first song on this R.E.M. Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (That Excludes "Everbody Hurts" And Other Songs) playlist is "Orange Crush". It's from an album titled Green (Chicago rockers Green soon released an EP titled R.E.M.) and is one of those songs that (temporarily) roped me into the sizable R.E.M. cult. It's not about soda pop or the 1977 Denver Broncos 3-4 defense but is intriguingly catchy.
Tuesday, August 06, 2013
Soul Asylum - "Barstool Blues"
to head through that door, take a right and find a barstool. To order and to drink and to glance at the baseball game on the TV. To watch the lovelies as they walk in, to check out the punks as they maintain the code. To order a shot, and then do it well. To contemplate a bus ride home but have one more. To stay later than you meant and to see the record store is closed. To decide to walk home. To stop at another bar. To daydream at night.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Smashing Pumpkins - "Cherub Rock"
In those heady days of my Z-Rock obsession they played grunge, which was sweet because grunge was a great subgenre of metal: bottom-heavy, Sabbath-influenced, and played by guys who guzzled beer and wore flannel shirts. Hell, the Pearl Jam guys even loved sports - thereby reinforcing grunge's populist appeal.
On 1992's Singles soundtrack, the one that you swore up and down was "going to be a mainstay of everybody’s album collection in twenty years”, Smashing Pumpkins' “Drown” dropped into all the grunge so beautifully. The following year, I debated buying the Pumpkins' second album, Siamese Dream. The first single, "Cherub Rock" was exhuberant, anthemic. The second single, "Today", had an annoying chorus that was childlike and not in a good way. The sinker was that the third single, "Disarm", it had the “I used to be a little boy” line sung so whinily by frontman Billy Corgan. Along with this was the increasing realization that this Corgan character was something of a dork.
This realization was vindicated after reading an article in the April 1994 issue of Spin on Soundgarden that had major moments of levity, all inadvertently provided by Corgan. To wit:
- Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and Kim Thayil drink beers, while Corgan orders a strawberry margarita.
- Corgan riffs on Jungian therapy, then actually asks Thayil what astrological sign he is.
- "Ooh," Thayil says a little too loudly as Corgan walks away, "I'll bet he's going to call his therapist in Chicago, wake her up at four in the morning, and tell her about that big, mean bear who made fun of him."
- Corgan walks past wearing a long-sleeved Superman T-shirt like the one your four-year-old nephew probably owns."You hurt me deeply," Corgan says, touching the giant S on his chest and pouting. "You hurt me deeply in my heart."
(At this point I must say I imagine that Jim Parsons - Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory - of course plays Corgan in the Smashing Pumpins biopic.)
As a music fan, it seemed you had to take the Corgan drama queen nonsense with the anthemic, surging guitars. I couldn’t get my head around that, especially at that age when I had an idealized view of rockers. I spent the rest of the nineties chuckling at Billy Corgan. The next Smashing Pumpkins album was titled - get this: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and had lyrics like "The world is a vampire" and "God is empty … just like me." Whoah, deep stuff there William! After that, there was the inevitable dabbling with electronica and when they put out an album titled MACHINA/The Machines of God I figured laughing at Corgan wasn't even worth the effort any more. Ryan Adams - an equally annoying whiner had appeared and The White Stripes were on the horizon to provide hope and optimism in rock 'n' roll as I entered my late thirties.
These days, I play some Smashing Pumpkins and have fun with nineties nostalgia. I remember the odd moment of seeing Billy Corgan as a panel member on Midwest Sports Channel on the Chicago-based cult favorite The Sports Writers on TV, which meant he wasn't one hundred percent dork. I can hit "skip" any time "Disarm" is played on a device and it's not like I have to hang out with Corgan. And every once in a while, I dwell on that time when “Cherub Rock” was an indicator that Smashing Pumpkins could be the next fave band - I remember what street I was driving on and what the weather was like when I first heard its opening chords - and the oncoming unraveling of the knowledge that their brand of alt rock wasn't exactly the Little Richard funhouse rock 'n' roll that I revel in.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
The Hellacopters - "Carry Me Home"
I saw The Hellacopters at the 400 Bar just over ten years ago, they were hyper and skinny Scandavian dudes. You know how most American bands will introduce a song, play it, then say "thank you"? The Copters would do this: "This one's called 'Like No Other Man.' Thank you!" Then they would play the song. It was quite endearing and while I have never found their studio releases all that consistent, they recorded enough hard rock anthems to find a steady place in my music rotation. Especially when I need that one song to blast away bad thoughts or distractions in my brain.
I first got into The Copters early in the first term of George W. Bush. I bring this up because of a theory being held by certain music fans I talked to at the time. The theory was this: With a conservative Republican back in the White House after eight years of a Democratic president, there was a good chance that this would bring back the glory of Reagan-era punk rock. (Think Minutemen, Black Flag, Husker Du, etc.) It seemed like an odd theory to me - these same people were badmouthing Bush for his politics, but then out the other side of their mouth were saying: "But think how great punk rock is gonna be in a few years!" As the early years of the Dubya administration played out, there was a punk revival - but it was led by the likes of The Strokes and The White Stripes and was a garage rock revival that had nothing to do with being a reaction to the Bush administration.
So what does all this have to do with The Hellacopters? They are sympton of yet another hole in this theory I'm addressing: The Copters weren't oppressed by some right-wing administration allegedly turning their country into a police state, they were garage rockers from Sweden, which everybody knows is a generous welfare state. Then note that the original punk rock - the American garage rock of the mid-sixties - was born in the midst of LBJ's Great Society. Yet nobody runs around claiming any type of link between big government and garage rock. Seems to me the only conclusion to draw is rather plain: These punky garage rock spikes happen when kids have garages.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Jethro Tull - "Bungle In The Jungle"
Decades before indie rockers across the land totally dweebed out by recording albums of children's songs (makes sense though as whiteboy crappy vocals and lazy rhythm sections - the hallmarks of indie rock - have "childish" written all over them), Jethro Tull placed one of the all-time great child rock songs at number 12 on the U.S. charts. Being eight years old at the time, I'm confident I knew what a great child's song was. The title rhymed, it mentioned animals, and it was catchy. What more could a kid ask for?
Also, "Jethro Tull", like "Led Zeppelin" sounded cool. (I assumed both were men, not bands.) In the last half of elementary school, "Bungle In The Jungle" was a fave. I didn't buy the 45, I didn't buy many 45s. But along with Star Trek reruns, Strangely Enough!, and game after game of Risk and gin rummy; it provided entertainment and entertainment only. Being a kid was no fun, except when it actually was.
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
UFO - "Rock Bottom"
I. UNLESS IT'S LINK WRAY, WHY BOTHER?
Guitarists! I have had guitarist-loving friends who have bought certain albums just because Steve Vai or Dave Navarro played on them. Oh boy! It's a strange little subculture, the fetish over the likes of Vai, Navarro, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, and Yngwie Malmsteen (who, if he didn't exist, would have to be invented.) This is a world where a bore like Journey's Neal Schon is considered worthy of attention and acclaim.
II. THE NUMBERS ALL GO TO ELEVEN
Gear! Like car buffs and computer enthusiasts, guitarists do that male thing of breaking down and detailing all of the equipment and technology involved in the endeavor. Just check out any guitarist's Wikipedia page to confirm. To wit, here's the wiki on Dave Navarro: Since late 2008, Dave's been seen using live and in studio a custom white Ibanez RG, with a humbucker/single/single pickup layout, gold hardware, and a vintage style tremolo... essentially an Ibanez version of his PRS Guitars Signature Model. Dave previously used a vintage Marshall JCM800, but now plays through 2 Marshall JCM900 amplifiers which are dubbed Tanjerine and Peach. For large gigs he will also use a Marshall Mode 4 for clean tones. In the studio he is also commonly known to use a Vox AC30 for cleans and a Bogner Uberschall for dirty tones.
Me, I like my writing gear: Mead Five Star notebook, Pilot pen, MacBook. One of the best moments in the fabulously great Almost Famous is that snippet on Writer's Gear between Lester Bangs and William Miller:
LB: What do you type on?
WM: Smith-Corona Galaxis Deluxe.
III. MICHAEL SCHENKER HAS STARRED IN TWO SEPARATE GROUPS NAMED "MSG", BUT WHY DOES MY FAVORITE CHINESE TAKE-OUT PLACE BAN THEM?
Recently I was thinking about the guitar/guitarist fetish that some guys have while listening to The Essential UFO. They were the complete package for fans of seventies hard rock: Great riffs, catchy tunes, compelling singer, with Michael Schenker pulling brilliant and inventive leads that avoided jamming and wanking. Like Eddie Van Halen, Schenker played with a certain metallic exuberance that lifted tunes like "Doctor Doctor", "Shoot Shoot", and "Cherry" into the stratosphere. Prime example is "Rock Bottom." It's six-plus minutes of hard rock fury filled with Schenker pyrotechnics. I would never buy an album simply because Schenker played on it, but he's one of those rare axemen who lives up to his hype.
AND IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING … Schenker's Wikipedia page states that: Schenker's main guitar for much of his career was a Gibson Flying V, which he typically played through a wah-wah pedal (used as a parametric equalizer to strengthen the "sweet spot") and Marshall amplifiers.
Tuesday, July 02, 2013
The Long Ryders - "Looking For Lewis And Clark"
The Long Ryders named themselves after the Walter Hill movie, but used the sixties/Byrds spelling of "Riders." So while "Looking For Lewis And Clark" is undoubtably one of the more compelling songs of the mid-eighties roots rock movement, you get the feeling something other than the typical back-to-basics may be looming. For instance, The Ryders are looking for Lewis and Clark, who were explorers themselves: Get it? (Not proud that it took me damn near thirty years to get it.)
The song kicks in with a whistle and a howl, so you get the feeling you're in for a good ride no matter what happens with the lyrics. There are mentions of Tim Hardin and Gram Parsons in the same verse in a bid for Songwriter Credibility, but then they mention their own band name and that seems a tad forced. There's also a bizzarre mention of the Yellow Pages, which you kids out there will have to Google. And speaking of which: HEY DEX AND VERIZON, WHY DO YOU STILL DROP OFF DOZENS OF PHONEBOOKS IN MY APARTMENT BUILDING'S LOBBY?? The song ends with a nod to "Louie Louie", which establishes garage rock credentials. And geography credentials also, as Lewis and Clark finally reached the Pacific near Portland … where both Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Kingsmen both recorded "Louie Louie" in the same week and in the same studio in 1963. Incredible!
Flipping the album cover over (advised, since the cover eerily mimicks what Lester Bangs once wrote about White Witch: Observe the dude standing on the left … a true dork) to scan the credits and you see that it was recorded at a studio in Oxfordshire, England. Hey that's not roots rock at all! What gives? Also, this: "The Long Ryders wish success and happiness to all bands." I smell a simmering feud and hope it involved The Paisley Underground and/or Dwight Yoakam. One can only daydream.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Jimmy Cliff - "Sitting In Limbo"
I'm still congratulating myself on being such a great citizen of the good old US of A after fulfilling my recent stint of jury duty. Sure, I didn't have to actually report, I was on call-in status. This meant call twice a day - shortly after noon, to see if I had to report that afternoon; and again in the early evening to see if I had to report the next morning.
Being on call-in status led me to altering my schedule and for a few I days I was leading a version of what could be my dream life: By doing my accounting work mostly on the weekends, I wrote during the days, worked out regularly and earlier in the afternoon than usual, had evenings open for NHL and NBA finals or Netflix movies and TV shows. I was in bed around midnight, got nine hours of sleep, had plenty of morning coffee with my remaining accounting tasks before lunch and the early-afternoon check-in.
But no amount of a Hennepin County-enforced staycation could totally erase whatever weird anxities I had pending in my mind. As the clock ticked towards those twice-a-day phone calls, I would be overcome with a looming dread that I might have to be somewhere that I hadn't totally planned on, wearing khakis and a polo shirt and waiting to possibly talk to lawyers and a judge. As someone who needs to know where and when he's exactly going to be in the next 48 hours (this is related to those "weird anxities" mentioned above), the possibility of being uprooted and obsessing over the Metro Transit website to find the right bus route to get me to the courthouse was troubling.
On the first Thursday evening, when the jury duty voice message said I didn't have to call again until Monday afternoon, I biked like hell to the liquor store and loaded up on Surly and Old Overcoat, enjoying both with the hoops action on ABC that night. On the following Tuesday, when it said my pool number had been released from jury duty and my committment was fulfilled for the next four years, I did a repeat performance of biking, booze, and hoops television. It seemed my appropriate due reward for making thirteen simple phone calls. And the anxiety-fueled dread immediately lifted. As The Tick once said: "Evil has been rousted and the babysitter's been paid."
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - "Century City"
Getting Pink Floyd's The Wall LP instead of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Damn The Torpedoes in the summer of 1980 may have set my appreciation of vital rock 'n' roll back by months, but all these decades later I have recovered. Now Floyd's double album (a late-teen favorite) screams "overblown, dated", but Petty's effort is an all-time fave and a go-to when I want to get back to the basics.
Petty's first three albums are essential, but Damn The Torpedoes was the breakthrough. It's one of those moments in rock 'n' roll when great art equals great sales and folks nod their head in the acknowledgement that the artist has gained much-deserved recognition, rather than muttering "sellout." This was an album so rich in songs that "Refugee" was bumped to second in the order and the hook-filled "Don't Do Me Like That" was moved to leadoff single. I'd never want to buy any the deluxe edition of Damn The Torpedoes, it's thirty-seven minutes of rock 'n' roll perfection.
The Torpedoes song I've been blasting lately to get me through the last four minutes of cardio is "Century City", a song of triumph up there with The Who's "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", The Animals' "It's My Life", and the Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Stone Free." If I ever do end up in Los Angeles, I'm going to hit up this tune on my iPhone, scope out Century City, and rewind the Chuck Berry guitar solo as many times as per my doctor's advised dosage.
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Beck Bogert Appice - "Superstition"
PART I: ST. PAUL CHEAPO CONTINUES TO HAUNT MY VINYL COLLECTION
There is a Rod Stewart biography from 1981, a glossy fan photo book with text by Paul Nelson and Lester Bangs. Nelson had writer's block, so Bangs hammered out eighty-eight pages in a weekend. The result was stuff like Bangs having Scott Asheton (Stooges) almost joining the first sixties incarnation of The Jeff Beck Group - which featured Stewart on vocals - and John Coltrane miffed because the Beck Group cut him on their take of "Greensleeves." (In the book's intro, Bangs admits he made things up.) A sample chapter is titled "Two Jewish Mothers Pose As Rock Critics" and if you don't want to check out the book after seeing that, well you must have Googled your way into the wrong blog by mistake.
My favorite Bangs-penned chapter is "Bowling For Supergroups: The Beck Years." Apparently, Jeff Beck conceived coming up with a group with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge as early as 1969. But Beck got into a nasty car accident and his dream of playing with Bogert and Appice was delayed until 1973. Beck Bogert Appice released one album, did one tour, and were promptly forgetten by just about everybody. Or so I thought.
(On the back cover photo of the Beck Bogert Appice album, Tim Bogert wears a "Beck Bogert Appice" teeshirt. Apparently HE thought they wouldn't be short-lived!)
BBA covered "Superstition" and the thing is: Stevie Wonder outrocked them on the original. He played all the instruments except sax and trumpet and cut one of the best hard rock songs of the seventies. The BBA cover is the type of thudding boredom that gives supergroups and power trios a bad name. You think the song is over, then what sounds like a gong (?) goes off, then Beck shows off his fretwork some more. And the tune weirdly ends on a drum solo by Appice. The plus side to digging this LP out of my archives and then reading up on BBA is that I think now I can finally distinguish Carmine Appice from Aynsley Dunbar. And I was shocked to see that neither ever played in Uriah Heep.
PART II: BILLIONS AND BILLIONS SERVED
My, uh, research indicated that in between Vanilla Fudge reunions, Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert also played in the following:
Derringer Bogert Appice - Yes, this is the same Derringer (Rick) whose big hit was "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo." He remade this with Mean Gene Okerlund in the eighties and more recently found The Lord and remade it as "Read The Word, Live It Too." Some most fondly look upon Rick as the producer of "Weird Al" Yankovic's eighties albums. I love that on one of their album covers, DBA uses the exact same font as BBA.
Vargas Bogert Appice - My understanding is that Vargas is a sort of Spanish Jeff Beck.
Char Bogert Appice - My understanding is that Char is a sort of Japanese Jeff Beck. Though when I first read this one, I thought it was Cher Bogert Appice. (That'd be a kick, they could star in the Cher Bogert Appice Comedy Hour on CBS.)
Bogert and Appice are everywhere! Wonder how big of a check you have to write to form a trio with them? Or maybe there are Bogert and Appice franchises?? I think the next step for Bogert and Appice is Beck Bogert Appice. You know: Beck! Not Jeff, but that slacker Scientologist guy. I haven't head anything about his "genius" for years. BECK BOGERT APPICE PERFORM MELLOW GOLD AS A BLUESY POWER TRIO. SPECIAL GUEST CHER. I'm not entirely familiar with Kickstarter, so can your people call my people?
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Monster Magnet - "19 Witches"
So it's Friday five p.m., I'm at the bus stop at Lake and Blaisdell, catching my last transfer home and it's not just any bus, it's the Eighteen Large, the one that practically drops me off at my front door. As I sit on the stop bench, there's holy rollers to the right of me. I can't hear them, but I see them handing out little pamphlets and talking talking talking to folks. How do I know they're holy rollers and not, say, Greenpeace activists? Because I just know. Gotta give props to them though, this is the type of intersection Jesus would teach at. The bus stop is outside of a White Castle with bulletproof glass at the order counter, there's a KMart across the street the offers layaway and has taco trucks in its parking lot, and across the other street is a bar in constant trouble with the police over the drug sales/use inside.
I'm sitting on the bench, blasting Monster Magnet's Powertrip album on my phone, and Holy Roller Guy approaches me. (I thought bus stop benches were neutral zones? Might have to ask the transit police about this.) I refuse to pause the music, I can kinda hear him. I see the poorly-designed pamphlet in his hand, a large cross in the middle of it. I shake my head and say "no thanks." He asks: "Do you know the Lord?"
Do not engage a holy roller.
I want to say something smart, like: "The question I have is 'Does the Lord know me?'"
Do not engage a holy roller.
I want to tell him the truth: "Look, it's Friday five o'clock and I'm waiting for my third bus to take me home. I just want to get there, crack a couple of cold ones, I bought the Surly Overrated! brew today, got a four-pack in my book bag, and can't wait to dive into the suds. See, it's a West Coast IPA and I'm not quite sure what that means, earlier today I was talking with my pal Andy and he asked if I had ever had a Colorado IPA and I said I had had IPAs from Colorado, but he said 'no, I mean a "Colorado IPA"' and started to describe the hops and I said 'Hey we sound like a Portlandia sketch.' You can check with the Lord, but I think he just wants me to enjoy the Surly, read the sports page, and maybe order up a pizza."
Do not engage a holy roller.
Instead, I break a commandment and lie. I tell him I have a phone call. Problem solved, but out of the corner of my eye I see him checking me out, he starts to circle back after noticing I'm not talking. I act quick, start a phony conversation with an imaginary friend about the Tony Hkrac/Bob Joyce line from the 1986-87 University of North Dakota hockey team. I remind my imaginary friend that it was Brent Bobyck who played right wing on that line for the last half of the season. Everybody assumes it was Steve Johnson, who was on the line early in the season. But Gino Gasparini moved Johnson to the second line to balance out the scoring (my guess), experimented with other right wingers, then settled on the speedster Bobyck. Johnson would play on the power play with Hrkac and Joyce, making for a potent man advantage.
The Eighteen Large pulls up and I am saved. (In so many words.) The soundtrack to me running my own interference is Monster Magnet's "19 Witches". The Ennio Morricone-like guitar is magic in helping me come up with a con to deflect a bigger con. Bring on the Surly, bring on the weekend.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Phantom, Rocker & Slick - "Men Without Shame"
A quick history lesson: The Stray Cats were that neo-rockabilly band in the eighties that were half as good as The Blasters. They had a monster album, Built For Speed, that landed them hit singles and a big presence on MTV. Then they stuck around, causing my brother - who had dug them - to yawn and say: "They were fun for one album." They are now known as being the band Brian Setzer got his start in. He's had quite the career since, but I stick with what I wrote fifteen years when I requested that he should "please jump, jive, and wail yourself onto that late-night-eighties-music anthology infomercial that is your destiny."
Earl Slick is one of those guitarists who wasn't Stevie Ray Vaughan that sessioned on David Bowie albums. He did not appear onstage with Bowie when I saw him in St. Paul in 1987. Those guitarists were Carlos Alomar and Peter Frampton.
Phantom, Rocker & Slick appeared when the the two lesser-known Stray Cats, Earl Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom, joined forces with Earl Slick. Why? Maybe it was because the kids of America's heartland were clamoring for a Marvel Team-Up of the Stray Cats rhythm secion and a random Bowie session man. Or maybe record company execs were hoping for returns similar to the wildly successful supergroup HSAS a couple of years earlier. (Yes those last two sentences exist solely to see if you are paying attention.)
And maybe, just maybe, these three guys liked playing in a group together. That shows in "Men Without Shame", an underrated Q-98 staple from late '85 and into '86. My college buddy OC claims to have listened to the album this tune is on in the last year. That claim is probably true. Wikipedia claims the band wrote the tune in ten minutes, a claim I want to be true. Wikipedia also claims these guys stuck around for a second album, but there's only so much I can buy from friends and Wiki, you know?
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The Jackson 5 - "Doctor My Eyes"
When they were in their hit-making glory, The Jackson 5 were my band. I've written the story before, I'm certain: Circa 1970, my Mom cut out a J5 single from the back of an Alpha-Bits cereal box. That song, "ABC" (natch), was my favorite song for all the obvious reasons: Fuzztone guitar, call-and-response vocals, catchy-beyond-belief chorus, Michael's exuberance. Certain elements of the Tuomala household derided my early seventies affection for the J5, called them "kid stuff." I didn't care. I loved them. They were uniquely mine, nobody else in the house listened to them and none of my friends did either.
Sure they were kid stuff, but in the best way possible. Because the J5 were sloppy joes, fruit cocktail, Lay's potato chips, and a big glass of milk; they were playing wiffle ball in the back yard during that brief time after supper and before bedtime is called. Kid stuff? So what! They had their own cartoon show! That was straight-up street cred in my book.
The joy I experience when listening to the J5 has never abated after all these decades. Earlier this month, I thought "then why in the world don't I have more of their music?" So on a recently mildly depressing Saturday, I fought the mind doom and bought a thirty-six song J5 anthology. It was the correct move on my part - the songs almost all great in the ways I remembered and that one can expect from the Motown machine. But what grabbed my attention as I tracked the songs were their covers. I had been unaware of these. They did Sly and the Family Stone and the Delfonics (medley of "Sing A Simple Song" and "Can You Remember"), Funkadelic ("I'll Bet You") and oddest of all: Jackson Browne's "Doctor My Eyes."
They absolutely kill it on this one, cutting Browne on one of his best songs (even if Jermaine does pull a Kingsmen/"Louie Louie" move and starts singing a verse too early.) Michael is simply a superior singer to Browne, while the rest of the J5 up the ante with their harmony stylizings. On the original, Browne used Graham Nash and David Crosby, no slouches with harmonies, but the J5 wipe the floor with them. Better guitar solo too. I'll take kid stuff over a Sacred Songwriter pretty much every time. Alpha-Bits taste so much better than granola, right?
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The Standells - "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White"
Excerpts from That '70s Show: The Complete Guide, by Bill Tuomala. Written on spec. Unpublished.
Hyde: Punk is the nihilistic outcry against the corporate rock 'n' roll takeover. It's the soundtrack of the revolution, man.
Forman: I thought you said Blue Oyster Cult was the soundtrack of the revolution.
But Hyde instinctively knew that both punk and the metal of Blue Oyster Cult had the potential to be such soundtracks: punk had the anger and the outcry, but metal spoke to the proletariat in America, where punk was for college kids. Hyde would also utter populist slogans like "The three true branches of the government are: military, corporate, and Hollywood."
That '70s Show exhibited a class consciousness not seen in prime time much in that era (or any.) Blessed with being a sitcom, it could get away with it. Freaks and Geeks, which debuted a year later, also showed such honesty but was a dramedy and didn't make it through a full showing of its first season.
Hyde spent his early years in a broken home until his mother abandoned him when he was a teen. He was taken in by the Formans, where Red Forman - a straight-talking, no b.s. Old Mil man - would come to admire hime more than his own son Eric, the kid with a perpetual smirk who laughs at his own jokes
In the first season Halloween episode, it is revealed that Hyde was meant for academic brilliance until he was blamed for ruining a classmate's project, a wrong actually committed by Forman, who never 'fessed up. Meaning Forman learned early that the kid lower than him on the economic scale could be a handy scapegoat. In season two, he would blame Hyde for stealing his stash of cash that he had hid in his Candy Land game box, it would turn out Red had borrowed it in order to have money to get the water heater fixed.
In the second season episode "Burning Down The House", Hyde claims to have been making out with the popular and fetching Kat Peterson (Amy Adams, yessir), Forman and Donna don't believe him, but she is soon seen leaving his bedroom.
Hyde: "She's slummin' it, I'm lovin' it."
Jackie, a spoiled pretty rich girl, plans a small dinner party where she imagines her friends as aristocratic, intellectual elites. (Dark-skinned foreign exhange student Fez is, of course, the servant. With an English accent.) Kelso invites everybody, the dinner party turns into a regular messy teen party, and chaos ensues. At the party Kat ignores Hyde, but once her friends leave, she approaches Hyde. He says: "You know, for a rich girl you're kinda skanky. C'mon let me show you the garage." They leave to go make out. Hyde being a teen male and preferring to have a hot makeout buddy that he doesn't have to spend any other time with, is fine with this arrangement. The downfall of his future relationship with Jackie was that he ended up a boyfriend and was expected to act as such once Jackie escaped her greasy fantasies like that one where she replicated Olivia Newton-John in her Grease-y tight black pants.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Jason And The Scorchers - "Absolutely Sweet Marie"
When in 1985 after returning from spring break in the Chicago area where my parents were then living, I took a trip to the record store at the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks to buy albums by two groups I had heard in Chicago on the radio and MTV: Run-DMC and Jason and the Scorchers. The Scorchers' Lost and Found LP quickly caught on with a few of us in the dorm. My pal Gary then went out and bought a prior release, the Fervor EP, taped it, then (bless him) handed the EP over to me to keep.
The Scorchers' combination of country and rock 'n' roll - cowpunk, some called it - provided a map to other cowpunk and roots rock artists I gained an affinity for in the mid-eighties: Del Fuegos, Steve Earle, Georgia Satellites, Social Distortion, True Believers. This in turn made the late eighties-into-nineties music of the Geardaddies, Jayhawks, Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo, and Wilco all the more welcome. And gave me the insight to look back and get into the Flying Burrito Brothers, maybe my favorite band ever to sing along with.
Upon digging the Scorchers' Fervor EP out of the archives, it is apparent to me now, in 2013, that the Scorchers were playing a game at age 19 that I was not aware of. The production team includes Jim Dickinson, the late Memphis legend who among many many other accomplishments produced Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers album. The credits on the back of the EP include a "Thank You Friends" (a song from said Big Star LP) and it was recorded in part at Sam Phillips Recording Studio and mixed in part at Ardent Studio, both of these are Memphis recording institutions.
And so, on the first song of this EP, they go about and cover Bob Dylan off of Blonde On Blonde (recorded in Nashville, and the Scorchers were orginally known as "Jason and the Nashville Scorchers", looks like the Scorchers beat Steve Earle to the punch by years in deciding to record in Memphis rather than Nashville to avoid the tinniness of the sound.) For this one they dropped the usual production team of the rest of the EP, it was instead guided by Terry Manning of Stax Records and Ardent Studio fame, who they also wisely had produce their first full-length. Their version of "Absolutely Sweet Marie" is, um, scorching. Driving rhythm section, inventive guitar work, soulful harmonica (!), and distinctive bleep-you-if-you-don't-like-my-accent vocals. Over before you want it to be, on "Absolutely Sweet Marie" Jason and the Scorchers proceed to own the song, which is a very Hendrix thing to do. I cannot think of a higher compliment.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Black Sabbath - "Children Of The Grave"
The only advantage I can see to this winter that won't end is that winter is metal weather and spring's weather is meant for cheerful clever pop or the Beach Boys or something bright and nasally I don't want to deal with. If you're listening to the likes of Black Sabbath's gloom 'n doom and it helps make sense of the gloom 'n doom of the gray skies, threatening snow, and whipping wind, then you are in a better place. Not to mention we got North Korea threatening to start a war and while sixties peace-and-lovers don't like to admit it, seventies greats Sabbath could match up with anybody in the Woodstock lineup when it came to anti-war and don't-blow-up-the-world songs, plus had a sound that stood up to repeated listenings. Unlike say, Country Joe and the Fish.
"Children Of The Grave" has a Love Conquers All message that sixties snobs should appreciate, the "problem" for the hippies was that Sabbath riffed away in headbanging glee, with the bass taking the lead early alongside drums that sound like an incoming thunderstorm, soon to be joined by guitar effects that mimic missile strikes, and Ozzy's raucous vocals. So yeah, it's not Dylan, the Airplane, the Beatles, or (thank the Lord) Joan Baez. It's murky metal telling kids they have the power to make the world a better place.
Sixties sellouts would hear this tune in some form years down the line anyways when Blondie used the exact same beat from "Children of the Grave" in their hit "Call Me." So have some fun and close your eyes and imagine your favorite sixties casualty in a disco in 1980, having giving up protests and changing the world, having ditched weed for coke, in white blazer, shirt unbuttoned, showing swank necklaces. He ponders Reagan's chances in November, dancing to that Black Sabbath beat.
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
April Is National Poetry Month
The Guess Who - "Bus Rider"
Beer On The Bus (Smokes In The Car)
Beer on the bus
December after Christmas
Twenty-four cans of Premium
The Friendly Beer
Beer on the bus
The bus, not the beer count
Step on board
Driver smiles, nods
You'd love to offer
You guys blasting
While the bus cruises
Or maybe Dennis Hopper
took the 18 Large over
You're passing out Premos
to keep the passengers cool
Hopper gets pissed
He's hiding, sober
falls for you
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
The Gap Band - "Oops Upside Your Head"
(EDITOR'S NOTE: In this blog post I discuss an episode of The White Shadow. If interested, you can watch this episode in its entirety on YouTube.)
The other night, in honor of Minnesota playing UCLA in the opening round of the NCAA basketball tournament, I kicked back and watched "Wanna Bet?", a first-season episode of The White Shadow. Why this episode? Michael Warren, who played hoops at UCLA under John Wooden, is the actor who has a major guest role as Bobby Magnum, a streetwise baskeball hustler who coach Ken Reeves hopes to bring to Carver and hence compete for the city championship.
Although I've seen it prior (including when it originally aired in 1979) "Wanna Bet?" has been stuck in my mind the past few days for a variety of reasons. To wit:
- Bobby Magnum carries a can of spray-on deodorant in his gym page. After he works up a sweat taking the local hoops-playing rubes out of their dough at a local playground, he proceeds to towel off and apply the Right Guard. Classy.
- As my brother loves to point out, the Magnum character is seventeen years old, while Warren was thirty-two at the time. This tops Nathan Cook, who portrayed Carver regular Milton Reese, who was twenty-eight during season one.
- Warren is compelling as Magnum, you can see why he went on to be part of the Hill Street Blues ensemble. His role helps make up for the total lack of lines from cast faves Morris Thorpe, Warren Coolidge, and Salami.
- This was the first "Kid transfers to Carver, plays on basketball team, but is only on show once" episode. This streetwise hustler kid was later followed by gay kid, autistic kid, illiterate kid, deaf kid, etc.
- I love that Reeves beats Magnum one-on-one after sporting him three easy baskets. And while wearing jeans.
- Hey Reeves: Telling your date that her looking better with makeup on is a "miracle" isn't too smooth.
- Reeves does better in his bantering with Sybil Buchanan. In my mind, there is an episode of The White Shadow where Reeves campaigns for a practice facility and the sexual tension between him and Buchanan reaches an all-time high.
- Although Reeves' talk (SPOILER ALERT) with a local bookmaker big shot gets Magnum out of trouble with another bookmaker's goons, there is never a scene where Reeves relates to Magnum that he did this. Yet Magnum thanks Reeves profusely in the closing scene. Odd.
- But the oddest thing of all in this episode, the thing that keeps me up at night in bafflement is this: There is a scene where the team is running laps and they chant "Bop upside the head, we're gonna bop upside the head!" (Check out the chant starting at 27:33 into the episode.) This sounds a lot like The Gap Band's chant from their hit "Oops Upside Your Head". But my Internet research indicates that The White Shadow episode aired in January of 1979, but The Gap Band single didn't come out until later that year … meaning that the Carver team's use of the chant predated The Gap Band's use of it by months!
I googled the heck out of this mystery and got nowhere. I suppose it's possible that members of The Gap Band were watching Shadow, and said: "That chant is genius, let's get to the studio and put it on wax!" My working theory is that the "upside your head" chant must have been a popular thing for urban youth in the late seventies. Ken Reeves would have referred to it as being "ghetto", but we'll let that slide.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Wilco - "Box Full Of Letters"
One day shortly after New Year's, I took the 18 Large to the post office, opened the PO box with the key, and there was no mail. The mail apparently had been forwarded by this point. I stopped at Office Max for some supplies, I went to Subway for my customary sandwich. And the walk home just wasn't the same. It was cold, it was windy, it was the last time I'd be taking that walk for that purpose. The liquor cabinet called, it was two in the afternoon.
It didn't start out as something I looked forward to. It was just a job. A client was travelling the country and they asked me check their mail in their absence. It was being forwarded to this PO box at the post office near my neighborhood. When I had a car it was a pit stop. Once I was without a car, it became a little more involved. In late summer and early fall I'd bike there. A nice little jaunt, something to break up the day, an excuse to stop by the nearby Subway.
It was later in the fall that these runs actually got to be fun. Being someone who is adverse to biking when it gets below fifty degrees, I found I could take the 18 Large from my front door to the front door of the post office. iPod blasting, the music tended to be Golden Smog who just seemed like an autumn band to me for some reason ("the leaves listen to what I say"). I also blasted Big Star, Semisonic, Wilco - all music I found/adored/obsessed over in the mid-nineties when I went through my first phase of bus commuting, when I doing temp jobs downtown, when I first set out to become a writer.
I wouldn't catch a return bus home. The 18 Large would have been a long wait and the 18 Normal wouldn’t save that that much walking and was always crowded. Instead, I kept the iPod blasting and trekked it home. Past the old folks high rises (Where I'll live someday??), past the community garden that reminded me that My Hell would involve some sort of gardening, past the Liberal Catholic church (I'm not sure exactly what this denomination believes in, but this parish's website promotes somebody named "Swami Ken"), past the convenience store with way overpriced 3.2 beer, and milk a week past its expiration date, and a decent frozen pizza selection for those no-plan weekend nights.
Later that day I would email the client with what I had found, a day or two after that I would take any checks to their bank up on Hennepin for deposit. That was a bus ride full of UM girls who had ponytails and wore what seemed to be fitted sweats. The bank always had a line but the black security guard was always there for a friendly hello and help with the door. At the joint next door I could get French toast and read the sports page. Soon after I would contemplate tanking the day away down 26th street at a fave local bar. I would see myself ordering a Scotch and soda and reading the sports page while keeping an eye on the cable news on TV. Sadly, I always ended up walking by the bar to catch the 4 home, where I poured myself some coffee and got back to work.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Babes In Toyland - "We Are Family"
1914 - The Great War (renamed "World War I" after the sequel came about) starts. Three of the combatants - England, Russia (Allies) and Germany (Central Powers) have monarchs who are first cousins. Yep, England's King George V, Russia's Czar Nicholas II, and Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II are grandchildren of Queen Victoria.
Almost 2014 - Three of the most prominent submarine sandwich chains - Jimmy John's, Milio's, and Erbert & Gerbert's are owned by first cousins. I bring this up because the centennial of the start of The Great War will soon be upon us. This causes me to worry about the state of our sandwiches, as some of these competing shops are too damn close to each other. Case in point: Jimmy John's opens on/near Augsburg College (genius move, near UM also!) and Milio's ups the ante by setting up shop in the same neighborhood pretty much in Zipp's Liquors (big ol' sandwich to go with that 9:45 pm beer run? Sure!) Will the sandwich chains continue to exist in peace? Or will some crazy Serb set off a chain of events that results in an extended war (also involving submarines!?) With whom will Subway and Quiznos align? More importantly: What about Cousins?