Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Los Pets - "Hello I Love You"
circa mid-sixties

The Doors were for the most part dorks, let's admit. Their shorter songs were inevitably their better ones, that way the bands' hackneyed sound and Jim Morrison's pretensions were left fewer chances to be exposed. Francis Ford Coppola found great use of "The End" in Apocalypse Now and while the likes of "People Are Strange" do strike a certain chord in the I'm-weird/I'm-unwanted/I'm-so-alone category, it was soon outclassed by the likes of "Do You Know How It Feels" by The Flying Burrito Brothers. You don't hear many great covers of Doors songs either. What do you think of when you hear "Doors cover"? That you've wandered into what looks to be a cool dive bar for an Old Style and a shot of bar whiskey, but there's some lame hippie band meandering through a lounge-music-with-bad-poetry bore. (Maybe Blood, Sweat & Tears should have covered "Touch Me"? That mighta worked.)

So. We are left with this tune by Los Pets and it's the one great cover of a Doors song, and it's amazing. This run through "Hello I Love You" is more punk than most anything to come down the pipe from the UK or US the following decade(s), better trash than any number of overhyped tracks you've heard over the years. Fuzz-guitar greatness replaces the chintzy Manzarek keyboards, and it's vocals in left ear, that guitar in right. It stands as a certain singular madness of garage rock genius. The liner notes to Mexican Rock and Roll Rumble and Psych-Out South Of The Border succinctly/correctly state: "The Pets were actually from Venezuela and the Doors should've sounded like this in Hell!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
The Reds - "Self Reduction"

The Reds are/were a whatchyamacallit band out of Pennsylvania. Easy to dig, harder to label. Like The Cars (new wave with a hard rock edge) and Cheap Trick (hard rock, but we thought they might be new wave due to their name and Rick Nielsen's outfits), The Reds made one of those late-seventies debuts that decidedly sounded quite unlike anything out there in hard rock or new wave. They were arty enough to win over the college rockers, had prominent cool keyboards to signal to the new wavers, and had guitar riffage to placate the hard rockers. And they weren't just some grab bag of genres attempting to be all things to all listeners: Their self-titled debut album from 1979 shows a band that doesn't mail it in or go cold, a singer who sounds like he gives a damn.

I only became aware of them while doing my bimonthly skimming through Chuck Eddy's Stairway To Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums In The Universe, where he tucked their first album in at #279 between ZZ Top's Tejas and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' I Love Rock 'n Roll. Eddy correctly described them as "sorta like if Joy Division had come from a Philly suburb instead of some stupid factory burg in Blighty." Enough for me to take a six-bucks gamble on their their debut album at Amazon. It contains nine tracks of angsty/angly high-quality rock. Cool cover, too.

So who the fuck exactly were these guys? They seem to still exist as a rumor thirty-five plus years after their A&M debut. Nobody ever slapped a Reds tape into my hands as a youth, they don't show up on those same radio stations that play "What Do All the People Know" by The Monroes, and they aren't appearing this summer at Mystic Lake Casino (featuring two original members.) Googling gets you a few songs on YouTube, that they contributed to the soundtrack for the Chris Elliott vehicle Manhunter, and that they did a garagey version of The Doors' "Break On Through" (though it doesn't top the sheer punk garagey-ness of Los Pets' rip through "Hello, I Love You".) So The Reds are but a postpunk rumor, a mystery for pop archivists to tackle in 2015.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Aerosmith - “Let The Music Do The Talking”

A comeback from back when comebacks still mattered, you gotta love the sheer Orwellian audacity of Aerosmith starting off their Done With Mirrors album with a cover of the best song from the Joe Perry Project. (Joe Perry is a member of Aerosmith, Joe Perry has always been a member of Aerosmith.) Like an aging boxer throwing haymakers in a one-last-defense-of-the-title match, it harks back to classic Aerosmith raunch. Outstanding rumbling rhythm, that swagger, Perry’s slide guitar. The lyrics also swagger, they tap into Carl Perkins' "one for the money, two for the show…" but take it somewhere else.

Perkins' rock ‘n’ roll take on a nursery rhyme started the song which put him on the map. (Though many associate it with Elvis Presley. This was a critical moment in a WKRP in Cincinnati episode when Johnny Fever realizes he has truly sold out when he credits “Blue Suede Shoes” to Presley rather than Perkins.) It takes me back to a short story in Boys' Life in the mid-seventies about the free spirit quarterback of the football team who is a flake - and a winner - and once calls out the signals by singing: ”One for the money, two for the show....” Boys' Life had some great short fiction, stories I would read again and again. They had a whole series about these kids who found a time machine and had adventures in time travel. One brilliant story here was when the narrator devises a way to place a phone call to himself in another timeline. Man, that story blew me away. 

Then there was the story about this regular kid who is recruited by his high school’s chess team coach to play on the team because he knows how the game is played and the coach needs a body to fill out the roster. This kid works and studies at chess, becomes not half-bad, ends up scoring victory after victory (a forfeit may have been involved) in a tournament, then ends up in the championship against the Local Teenage Chess Terror, a character obviously based on Bobby Fischer. Our hero figures his magical run is over, but early in his match against the prodigy, he realizes Fischer Junior has fallen into playing the losing side of a past grandmasters’ match he has long memorized. The protaganist is also familiar with this match and realizes his opponent is on an autopilot losing mission. He has an inner debate: Is it ethically okay to claim this easy victory? And does he want the attention of being the local chess champion when he will undoubtably be exposed as a chess fraud in the next tournament? Wish I had kept some of those issues or at least cut out the stories that I loved.

But I daydream. Back to Aerosmith and “Let The Music Do The Talking”: They outdid the Joe Perry Project version and you can give equal shares to Tyler’s personality and the band for their inspired playing. Me, I see PRODUCED BY TED TEMPLEMAN and you might guess at what kind of rambling I’m going to concoct after enough listens, enough coffee, and sudden memories of the mid-seventies, the mid-eighties, and a lifetime of reading.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Tuesday Tuneage
Humble Pie - "30 Days In The Hole"
This is what happens
 when Peter Frampton's sunny disposition
 and boyish good looks
 aren't around to save us.

This ain't The Small Faces. It's not Lazy Sunday; one of those precious, dainty English songs. Like when Small Faces morphed into The Faces, Steve Marriott's Pie outfit embraced soul screaming and jagged guitars.

   background female soul singers
   booming bass rolls into it late,

imitation of a stuttering Southern lawman threatening to cut your hair, jailhouse bound

   a greasy whore, Hammond B-3
   finger snapping
   still controlled enough to pass for blue-eyed soul
     but about to tilt hard into boogie

Enough drug references to make you look for a B12 shot: Red Lebanese, dust, coke spoon, Newcastle Brown (smack, not the Schmidt Dark of imported beers), Durban poison (a type of marijuana apparently, the internal rhyme here is "urban noise"), Black Nepalese.

CONCLUSION: Thirty days for the levels of illegalities detailed in this one seems light. So much for Nixon's promises on law and order.