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Paul Weller

Born on this day in 1958, in Woking, England, musician Paul Weller. In the 1970’s and 80’s, Weller fronted The Jam and Style Council, before moving on to a solo career.

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Uncle John’s Band

This appeared previously here at Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) in October of 2018. It has been slightly adjusted to reflect how it will appear in my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1).

An infinite number of rockin’ pop tracks can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Uncle John’s Band

Written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter

Produced by Bob Matthews. Betty Cantor, and Grateful Dead

From the album Workingman’s Dead, Warner Brothers Records, 1970


It’s the same story the crow told me
It’s the only one he knows
Like the summer sun you come
And like the wind you go
Ain’t no time to hate
Barely time to wait
Oh, but what I want to know is
Where does the time go?

OCTOBER 21, 2018
We try to hold on. We try to cling to things we cherish. We can’t hold on. We shouldn’t. We can’t.

When I was a teenaged college student matriculatin’ my way through the late ’70s, I actively loathed the Grateful Dead. To this power-poppin’ punk rocker, the Dead’s music, image, and interminably jamming vibe were anathema. Gimme the Ramones. Gimme the Sex Pistolsthe Buzzcocksthe Flashcubes. Gimme British Invasion. Gimme the Monkees. Gimme something short ‘n’ sharp, fast ‘n’ catchy, and play it loud. Gimme some truth. The Grateful Dead? No. Thanks anyway, but no.


Nonetheless, somewhere in this time frame, I heard the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band.” Maybe not for the first time–it was, after all, released way back in 1970, the lead-off track on the Workingman’s Dead album, and some radio station somewhere must have played it within my sovereign air space–but maybe for the first time that mattered. I still found time to hate the Grateful Dead. I made an exception for “Uncle John’s Band.”

Why? There was something…inviting about the track. I dunno. Something comforting, something pretty, something intrinsically appealing on a deeper level. Something that mattered. By the early ’80s, I quipped that “Uncle John’s Band” was a great track, and that I just wished it was by the Hollies instead of the Dead. I think I said the same thing about Van Halen‘s “Dance The Night Away” and “Lorelei” by Styx, in each case ripping off something I’d once read in Phonograph Record Magazine about “Cherry Baby” by Starz. Collectively, these were the beginnings of my eventual conviction that even a band you despise might be capable of putting out one track you adore.

I grew up. I’m sure I have that in writing somewhere. I graduated from college in 1980, got married in 1984, and became father to a newborn baby girl in 1995. Now, that baby girl is herself a college graduate, herself deep into the process of growing up. And today, she’s moving out of our house. She’ll be close by–not even ten minutes away–and she’ll still carpool to work with her mother during the week. I’m sure I’ll see her often. It’s a good thing, a great thing. A necessary thing. Our pride in our daughter far outshines the fragile nature of our emotions. It is a moment to celebrate. My eyes sting just the same. Where does the time go?

She and her boyfriend are moving into the house where I lived from 1960 until 1980, birth to graduation. My mother’s house. Mom doesn’t live there anymore. Dad passed away in 2012, and my sister (who lives in England) bought the house to keep it in the family as the inevitable marched its odious way in our direction. The inevitable happened faster than anticipated, as my mother fell at home in December of 2017. It soon became apparent that she could no longer live on her own, and she relocated permanently to a nursing home facility by the end of 2017. Ain’t no time to hate. Barely time to wait.

I see Mom every day after work. I check in, I chat, I see if there’s anything she needs, anything I can do for her. I get her audio books, even though her hearing is diminished. I make sure her TV is working, even though she’s now legally blind. I get her to the few doctor’s appointments that aren’t handled on the premises. I check her mail. I handle her accounts. I make sure she’s adequately stocked with whatever is appropriate to keep her as comfortable and content as we can. And then I go home for supper. I am Sisyphus. And like the summer sun I come, and like the wind I go.

I started to develop a little bit of appreciation for the Grateful Dead in the ’80s. Perhaps to my horror, I discovered that I loved their 1987 MTV hit “Touch Of Grey,” and I felt compelled to purchase both their then-current LP In The Dark and the greatest-hits set Skeletons In The Closet. The ’67 psychedelic rocker “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” became another fave rave, much later joined by another debut album track called “Cream Puff War,” plus “Can’t Come Down,” an earlier track dating from when the Dead were billed as the Warlocks. Cool stuff, all of this.

“Uncle John’s Band” remained the kingpin. Such a mystically comforting track, even as we feel time slipping away, the sands within its hourglass dropping at a rate too rapid to comprehend. Come hear Uncle John’s band playing to the tide/Come with me or go alone, he’s come to take his children home. Magnificent sadness, magnificent glory. In spite of the obvious fact that it really doesn’t sound anything like the Kinks, it is somehow a peer to the peerless music of my favorite Kinks album, The Village Green Preservation Society. At 18 or 19, I never envisioned myself speaking glowingly of the Grateful Dead alongside the Kinks. At 18 or 19, I never envisioned the melancholy ache of the question: Where does the time go?
Tomorrow, I’m going to help my daughter install some smoke detectors in her new abode. I’ll see my Mom tonight, like every night. I’ll eat supper with my wife in a house that will seem emptier than it did just a moment ago. I will hold her close. We first met forty years ago this weekend. My roommate at the time was into the Grateful Dead, and he vowed to make a Deadhead out of me. It never happened, except in the ways that it did. 

Well the first days are the hardest days. Life has never looked like Easy Street. There has always been danger at our door. Another singing group tried to tell us that all we’d need was love. We also need to be strong. We need to hold on. Our walls are built of cannonballs. And we’ve got some things to talk about, here beside the rising tide. We’re grateful. We ain’t dead yet.

POSTSCRIPT: Mom left us on December 9th, 2021. Time is the enemy. Yet it’s an enemy we’re grateful to have for as long as we have it.

“Uncle John’s Band” written by Jerome J. Garcia and Robert Hunter

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Walker Brigade / If Only

Walker Brigade

If Only (Big Stir)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/if-only

Having secured the reputation as a sizzling hot live act, Walker Brigade will finally be releasing their anxiously-anticipated first full-length album. Available May 27th, “If Only” includes offerings from most of the Los Angeles band’s 2017 mini-album, “Animal Therapy,” plus digital download singles previously issued by the Big Stir label, as well as new material and bonus tracks. 

Consisting of vocalists and guitarists Tracy Walker and Jeff Charreaux, bassist Mark Fletcher and drummer Craig Tykra, Walker Brigade produces an immensely powerful sound that blends artsy punk incentives with jarring pop rock maneuvers. Brandishing both ability and attitude, the band thrives on the kind of paranormal rapport found in uniquely great groups.

Piloted by a feral intensity, “If Only” is a noisy but wonderously melodic affair, with songs such as “No,” “Tower,” “Fallout,” “Disease” and “Choker”  zoning in on Walker Brigade’s flair for fusing nail-biting tempos and expressions with user-friendly undercurrents. Split somewhere between quirky roots rock and hook-happy garage punk, the cocky swagger of “V.D. Doll” and the loose-limbed rumble of “Fancy Boots” plug in as further winners on the album, along with the properly titled “Shake Shimmy,” which hustles and bustles to a hip-grinding beat. 

Awash with shifting rhythms, pinching breaks and tantalizing twists and turns as a whole, “If Only” discharges one surprise after another. But a cover of “I’m Tired” – which was initially sung by Madeline Kahn in the  1974 box office blockbuster “Blazing Saddles” – testifies to be an especially unexpected treat. Tracy’s vocal performance on the tart and raunchy cabaret corker is absolutely phenomenal, as her phrasing, range and passion is stretched to extremes.

A rendition of Wire’s kinetic “Sand In My Joints” also appears on “If Only,” while the gig wraps up with a number not listed on the set. Slyly coined, “Rock And Roll Toilet” makes the Sex Pistol seem tame by comparison. Devised of two  grungy chords, a hoarse growl and super trashy drumming, the hidden cut is the real thing – just like Walker Brigade. Raw, authentic and pulsing with mind-exploding singing and playing, “If Only” may have been worth the wait, but let’s hope the band’s next album arrives sooner than later! 

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THE OLD 52: Imagining A New Pre-Crisis DC Comics

I don’t remember any of the details (like whose idea it was or where the idea appeared), but some time back, someone in one of the online DC Comics groups I frequent challenged fellow fans to come up with a Pre-Crisis DC Comics New 52. That is, a hypothetical slate of 52 comic book series set in the DC Comics continuity that existed prior to the 1985-1986 mini-series Crisis On Infinite Earths, a series which wiped out the multiple universes that had been DC’s playground up to that point. Worlds will live! Worlds will die! And the DC Universe will never be the same!

The idea here was to create a new DC line-up based in the old DC continuity. One of DC’s latter-day relaunches was called The New 52, so this would be the new Old 52, drawing on characters and concepts that DC had before the Crisis. I liked the idea, and started jotting down possibilities. I wound up with way more than just 52.

I mean, way, way more than just 52.

Rather than attempt a self-edit–because really, what fun would that be?–I figured I’d just list the whole mess right here:

Action Comics

Action Heroes

The Albatross

Adventure Comics

All-American Western
All-Star Comics

All-Star Squadron

Ambush Bug

Angel And The Ape
Aquaman
The Atom
Bat Lash

Batgirl
Batman

Beowulf: Dragon Slayer
Beware The Creeper

Black Lightning

The Black Orchid

The Black Spider
Blackhawk
The Blue Beetle

Blue Devil
The Brave And The Bold

The Bronze Tiger

Bulletgirl
Captain Atom And Nightshade

Captain Thunder
The Challengers Of The Unknown

Claw The Unconquered

The Crimson Avenger
DC Comics Presents

DC’s Imaginary Stories

Deadman

The Demon

Dial H For HERO

The Doom Patrol

Doorway Into The Unknown

Dr. Fate

Firestorm

The Flash

Forbidden Tales Of Dark Mansion
Freedom Fighters

G.I. Combat

Green Arrow And The Black Canary
Green Lantern
Hawkman

Hercules Unbound

Hourman
House Of Mystery

The Human Target

Ibis The Invincible

Inferior Five

Jason’s Quest

Jimmy Olsen

The Joker

Jonah Hex

Judo Master

Justice League Of America

Kamandi

Kid Eternity

Kobra

Legion Of Super-Heroes

Lois Lane

The Maniaks

The Martian Manhunter

‘Mazing Man

Metal Men
Metamorpho
Mister Miracle
Mystery In Space

Nemesis
The New Gods

Newsboy Legion

Ninja The Invisible

Nubia Of The Amazons

OMAC
Our Army At War
The Peacemaker

The Phantom Stranger

Plastic Man 

Plop!

The Question

Ragman

Rima The Jungle Girl

Robin
Rose And The Thorn

Scribbly And The Red Tornado

Secret Origins

The Secret Six
Secret Society Of Super-Villains

Seven Soldiers Of Victory
Sgt. Rock

Shade The Changing Man
Shazam!

Shazam’s Squadron Of Justice
Showcase

Slam Bradley

Son Of Vulcan
The Spectre

Spy Smasher

Stanley And His Monster

Star Hunters
Star Spangled War Stories

Starfire
Strange Adventures

Sugar & Spike

Suicide Squad
Super-Team Family

Supergirl

Superman

Swamp Thing

Swing With Scooter

The Teen Titans

Thriller

Tomahawk

The Trident

The Unknown Soldier

The Vigilante

Vixen
Warlord

Weird War Tales

Wildcat

The Witching Hour

Wonder Woman

World’s Finest Comics

Young Love

Zatanna


As a Silver and Bronze Age kid, my specific yearning is for the DC Universe as it existed in the ’60s and ’70s, but I also included some ’80s titles, as well as the 1960s Action Heroes that DC bought from Charlton Comics in the ’80s. Given my druthers, this line would also include some licensed titles, from The Adventures Of Jerry Lewis through TarzanThe ShadowHot Wheels, and Captain Action. Plus the former Charlton book E-Man, which DC never published nor had rights to publish, but what can I say? I like E-Man! But that’s all well outside the parameters of this exercise.

In my imagination, these are written and drawn by creators like Nick CardyJim AparoTony IsabellaTrevor Von EedenMurphy AndersonNeal AdamsDenny O’NeilSteve EnglehartMarshall RogersTerry AustinJoe KubertNestor RedondoMichael UslanBob RozakisCurt SwanRamona FradonBob HaneyMike GrellSteve SkeatesDick GiordanoSal AmendolaPaul LevitzMark EvanierDan SpiegleJack KirbyLen WeinGerry ConwayJose Luis Garcia LopezAlex TothMike W. BarrDon HeckWally WoodDon NewtonGray MorrowMike SekowskyDick DillinMartin PaskoRoy ThomasJerry OrdwayKurt SchaffenbergerArnold DrakeIrv NovickGeorge PerezDave CockrumFrank RobbinsRich BucklerBerni WrightsonGene ColanMike KalutaJoe OrlandoBob OksnerE. Nelson BridwellMarv WolfmanJoe StatonWalt SimonsonArchie GoodwinCarmine InfantinoDick SprangMichael NetzerGil KaneSteve DitkoMarvel Comics stalwarts John Romita and John Buscema, latter-day lights such as Steve Rude and Darwyn Cooke, and a long list of more. Many of these creators are no longer with us. But if one is going to fantasize, one should shoot for the stars.

A few points to clarify. Starfire is the ’70s DC sword and sorcery heroine, not the 1980s Teen Titan. The Albatross was an aborted 1975 back-up series that would have been written by Martin Pasko, who hated the idea and did his successful best to sabotage it. Ninja The InvisibleVixen, and Captain Thunder were all era-appropriate DC books that were proposed but never realized, with the latter writer Roy Thomas’ idea for an Earth-1 reboot of the original Captain Marvel as an African-American hero. 

Batgirl, the Black Orchid, Black Spider (a Batman villain), Bronze Tiger, Bulletgirl, Dr. Fate, Hourman, Nemesis, Nubia, the Question, Robin, Rose and the Thorn, the Seven Soldiers of Victory, Shazam’s Squadron of Justice, Slam Bradley, and Wildcat (I’m thinking this would be the Earth-1 Wildcat) were DC properties that never starred in their own pre-Crisis DC books. The pulp-reminiscent Crimson Avenger was chosen here as a substitute for The Shadow.Jason’s Quest and The Maniaks had appeared in DC’s Showcase in the ’60s. There was never a book called DC’s Imaginary Stories, nor a Charlton characters team-up series called Action Heroes, but there should have been. I also wanted to have genres beyond my superhero favorites, hence the inclusion of humor, horror, science fiction, Western, war, and romance titles. If I could have justified throwing in a 100-Page Super Spectacular, I woulda, but even flights of fancy need some sense of tethering.

(The need for tethers didn’t prevent me from listing The Trident, a World War II-set comics series I submitted to DC in the ’80s. The perks of having your own blog. The Trident came about when I asked myself the question, “What if Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had created a two-fisted black superhero in the ’40s?,” and then attempted to answer that rhetorical query. You’re free to ignore the Trident; DC certainly did.)

So that’s the director’s cut of my Old 52, imagining a new pre-Crisis DC Comics. It’s not worth the effort to try to whittle this down to a mere 52, and I betcha everyone from Sargon the Sorcerer to Super-Turtle to the Mind-Grabber Kid is queuing up to expand the line after successful appearances in Showcase. Bigger worlds live. Nobody dies. A new old DC universe. Just imagine.

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon, or by visiting CC’s Tip Jar. Additional products and projects are listed here.

This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl