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Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Rock And Roll love Letter

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

THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: “Rock And Roll Love Letter”
The next Beatles.

No one believed that particular bit of hype. I don’t recall the phrase “boy band” as part of the pop music lexicon in 1975, but it would have fit The Bay City Rollers like a Tartan glove. I was initially indifferent to them. As a discerning ‘n’ worldly 15-year-old Beatles fan, I thought the very notion of these Scottish wannabes, with their chanted S! A! T-U-R! D-A-Y! NIGHT!!,ever becoming a John, Paul, George, and Ringo just ludicrous. I dismissed them on that basis.

Dismissed them. I didn’t hate them. I dismissed them.

TV personality Howard Cosell took the hype seriously (though I betcha he didn’t really believe it either). In ’75, Cosell was launching a new live variety show called Saturday Night Livenot the famous one–patterned after The Ed Sullivan Show. Given Cosell’s goal to be the next Ed Sullivan, he wanted to introduce the next Beatles to the U.S. The Bay City Rollers made their American television debut on Howard Cosell’s Saturday Night Live. Again, not the famous one.

But slowly–and then more quickly–my indifference and dismissal began to yield to curiosity and burgeoning interest. I liked the idea of rockin’ pop teen sensations, The Beatles, The Dave Clark FiveHerman’s HermitsThe Monkees, even (one could argue) The Raspberries. I liked rockin’ pop songs meant to be played on the radio, from Badfinger to Johnny Nash to KISS. “Saturday Night” wasn’t a bad record; as I gave it a fair listen, it turned out to be a decent record. The Rollers’ second U.S. hit “Money Honey” was even better. And their third U.S. hit…well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

By the time The Bay City Rollers invaded America, they had already been stars in the UK. The group formed as The Saxons in 1966, with original members including lead singer “Nobby” Clark, bassist Alan Longmuir, and drummer Derek Longmuir, Alan’s brother. The Saxons became The Bay City Rollers, and had a UK hit with a cover of The Gentrys‘ “Keep On Dancing” in 1971. Follow-up singles, including a little something called “Saturday Night,” did not match the success of “Keep On Dancing.” The line-up evolved, as guitarist Eric Faulkner became a Roller, and “Remember (Sha La La)” returned the group to the UK Top Ten. Clark split, replaced by new lead singer Les McKeown, and guitarist (later bassist) Stuart “Woody” Wood joined. McKeown, Faulkner, Wood, and the Longmuir brothers became the  Rollers we know, and British stardom ensued. Hit singles. TV shows. Teen magazines. The Bay City Rollers were the idols of young lasses across the British Isles in 1974 and ’75. In late ’75, the colonies beckoned. Howard Cosell. “The next British phenomenon.” “Saturday Night,” a # 1 hit in America with a new version of a song that had never even charted back home. Success. International success.

Success, and immediate, everlasting scorn. That’s the price of being called the next Beatles. That’s also the price of actively courting an audience of adolescent females, young girls who’ll swear to love you forever, and plaster their bedrooms with craven images of their idols, only to outgrow you and move on. Ask David Cassidy, or Davy Jones before him. The Bay City Rollers’ music was not–and would never be–taken seriously.

Some of it deserved better.

I’m not trying to make a case for The Bay City Rollers’ induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. But I will insist there are true gems within the Rollers canon. “Rock And Roll Love Letter” is one such gem.

“Rock And Roll Love Letter” was written by Tim Moore, who recorded the original version for his 1975 album Behind The Eyes. It was a perfectly fine pop ditty. Its simple charm was transformed into something greater in the unlikely hands of The Bay City Rollers. The Rollers discarded extraneous lyrics about being crazy to express themselves this way, revamping and renovating the song’s basic structure. They replaced the easygoing sway of Moore’s instrumental opening with a quick rat-tat of drums, guitars then taking over to assume command of your heart, your soul, and your radio. It was louder. It was pop. It was a manifesto. I feel an ancient rhythm in a man’s genetic code/I’m gonna keep on rock ‘n’ rollin’ ’til my genes explode.

A rock and roll love letter.

Few would ever give The Bay City Rollers the credit they deserved. Boy bandPop stars. A guy I knew once referenced the great British group The Records and their own subsequent cover of “Rock And Roll Love Letter,” hailing The Records for rescuing the tune from the crass, clueless clutches of the deplorable, disposable Rollers. The comment made my blood boil. Now, The Records were a fantastic group; “Starry Eyes” is also The Greatest Record Ever Made, and it’s not even my favorite Records record (which would be “Hearts Will Be Broken”). The Records’ version of “Rock And Roll Love Letter” is lovely.

It does not surpass the Rollers.

Without recognition from critics and pundits, The Bay City Rollers comforted themselves with the cool lucre of continued chart success for a little while longer. The American Rock And Roll Love Letter LP included a fabulous, group-written power pop song called “Wouldn’t You Like It,” which shoulda been a single, shoulda been a hit. Alan Longmuir left the group, replaced initially by Ian Mitchell, who was replaced briefly by Pat McGlynn, and then replaced by no one as The Bay City Rollers became the next Fab Four, in number anyway. In the U.S., there were still a few more hits: a cover of Dusty Springfield‘s “I Only Want To Be With You,” the dynamic “Yesterday’s Hero” (originally an Australian hit for Paul Young, written by Harry Vanda and George Young of The Easybeats), “You Made Me Believe In Magic,” and “The Way I Feel Tonight.” Their star faded. Tick-tock. Such is the finite shelf life of teen mania. Alan Longmuir returned. A 1978-79 Saturday morning kiddie TV show with Sid and Marty Krofft served as the epitaph for their career. Les McKeown split, acrimoniously. Faulkner, Wood, and the Longmuirs regrouped under the truncated name The Rollers (with new lead singer Duncan Faure, ex of South African group Rabbitt) and made some outstanding records that did not sell. The next Beatles had reached the end of their short and winding road.

That’s sales. That’s popularity. That’s the broader equivalent of the schoolyard milieu we hope to outgrow someday. Cliques. Crushes. Notes passed in class, clandestine fantasies of holding hands and meeting at the lips, adolescent wishes for the rapture of romance. The pre-teen dream. The fact that The Bay City Rollers catered specifically to that fantasy doesn’t negate the occasional moments when they transcended it. Hey sister poet, dear brother poet, too.  “Rock And Roll Love Letter” exploded from the radio like an effervescent communique from an alternate world ruled by the virtues of pure pop. But I need to spend my body, I’m a music-makin’ man/And no page can release it like this amplifier can.

The little girls still understand. Older and wiser, maybe we can all understand it. too. It is what it promised it would be: a rock and roll love letter. The words are true, and meant for you. Gonna sign it, gonna seal it, gonna mail it away.

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Pop-A-Looza TV

Terry Carolan / Fade

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Terry Carolan has been a stalwart of the independent pop rock community for an impressive forty-five years now. Toting a mile long resume starred with bands such as Just Boys, Pinups, True Hearts, New Movies, Blue Cartoon and Heirs of Fortune, Terry is indeed a respected figure amongst the scene.

 Terry also boasts an artistically rewarding solo career, and is currently in the process of putting together a new collection of songs. He has not yet decided if Fade will appear on the forthcoming effort, but after hearing this great song I am sure you will stand in agreement that it should be included in the package.

 Administered by Terry’s rich and powered vocals, Fade is initially dominated by the ringing chords of a piano. Bathed in beauty and light, the song gains momentum at a nice and casual clip before transpiring into a soaring finish of tuneful electric guitars and sweeping rhythms. Set to a smooth arrangement and exploding with grand melodies, Fade sounds a bit like Billy Joel partnering with Badfinger, which certainly spells high praise. 

Although Fade carries a sharp and sparkly exterior, the lyrics express a touch of melancholia. Saying goodbye to a way of life or a relationship is always difficult, but pleasant memories never die and perhaps brighter days are on the horizon. Teeming with all the essential attributes desired in a hit song, Fade is a solid  example of Terry’s exceptional wordsmith and musical skills. 

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Boppin'

RESCUED FROM THE BUDGET BIN! The Very Best Of The Hollies

Record stores used to have cut-out bins, overflowing with deleted albums that the labels had given up as lost causes. The cut-out LP covers had been deliberately damaged: a corner chopped off, a puncture, some sort of premeditated defacing to mark them as clearance items, as soon-to-be discarded product that had been written off, as Grade B, as “other.” The cut-out bin was a record buyer’s last chance to grab a record on the cheap before it slipped into the out-of-print zone. In addition to the cut-outs, there were also budget albums, produced and priced for discount sales.

Cut-outs. Budget albums. I may have purchased a few of these over the years.

THE HOLLIES: The Very Best Of The Hollies (United Artists, 1975)

When I was actively and devotedly listening to AM radio in the early to mid ’70s, I had a number of fave raves at any given time. Alice CooperElton JohnSweetSladeJohnny Nash. Various former Beatles. My all-time faves from this era were the incredible hit singles by The Raspberries and Badfinger, all providing a working model of what I would later come to know as power pop. And throw one other single into that mix: “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” by The Hollies.

I understand that this is not an extra-popular choice, even among some Hollies fans. The track doesn’t contain The Hollies’ characteristic, heavenly harmonies, it doesn’t soar like The Hollies’ most unforgettable tracks from the ’60s, and it’s little more than a blatant attempt to copy the sound of Creedence Clearwater Revival, albeit with Allan Clarke‘s distinctive lead vocals. But I like it. I’ve always liked it, and I prefer it to anything that The Hollies did after that. (And yes, I mean that as a specific shot against their 1974 MOR hit ballad “The Air That I Breathe,” which has never done much for me at all.)

But more importantly, “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” was my gateway to the magic of The Hollies. I don’t think I remembered any of their ’60s catalog at the time–maybe “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”–though that knowledge would come in due time. By the mid ’70s, I was becoming obsessed with ’60s rock ‘n’ roll, particularly the British Invasion. That interest flowed naturally into a desire to know more about The Hollies. Oldies radio–principally oldies shows on Syracuse AM hit stations WOLF and WNDR, but also on Utica’s FM rock station WOUR–hooked me on “Bus Stop,” “On A Carousel,” and especially “Stop, Stop, Stop,” and maybe “Carrie Anne,” too. And once hooked, well, I needed more.

When available funds permitted, I started buying records (sort of) regularly around 1976-77, in my junior and senior years in high school. I never had a lot of cash to spare, and some of what I did have I needed for comic books and Playboy. But there were a lot of discount options available in the ’70s; both Economy Bookstore in Syracuse (and at Shoppingtown in DeWitt) and World Of Books in North Syracuse carried tons of used and/or stripped books and magazines, and the flea market offered table after table of dusty old comics, books, magazines, LPs and 45s. Even a little bit of cash could go a long way in feeding the collector’s hunger.

I loved going to record stores, going through the bins, looking at covers, trying to find stuff I could afford (and wishing I could afford more). I think my cousin Mark explained the concept of cut-out bins, but I was already diving into them independently anyway. I don’t remember the chronology of my cut-out bin purchases, but I sure remember a number of the individual records I scored.

And one of them was The Very Best Of The Hollies, a collection of some of the group’s ’60s sides, which I exhumed from the cut-out bin at Gerber Music in Penn Cann Mall. I was puzzled at the time that a supposed Best Of The Hollies included neither “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” nor “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”–and nor, for that matter, “Carrie Anne”–but it seemed a good value, and a quick exchange of cash made it mine.

I only recognized a handful of songs on that LP. The rest was undiscovered. I was a pop music Magellan! A rock ‘n’ roll Vasco da Gama! A power pop James T. Kirk, boldly going where no one had gone before, except for the mass o’ people who got there before me! Set the stereo on stun, and beam me up!

Side One opened and closed with tunes I already knew, “Bus Stop” and “Stop, Stop, Stop.” In between those two tracks, The Very Best Of The Hollies served up my first-ever spins of “Here I Go Again,” “I’m Alive,” and the incredible “Look Through Any Window.” Whoa! This was already money well-spent! Side Two commenced with another pure pop trifecta–“Pay You Back With Interest,” “Just One Look,” and a future Greatest Record Ever Made, “I Can’t Let Go”–before hitting the familiar, welcome groove of “On A Carousel.” The album closed with an anticlimactic cover of Little Richard‘s “Lucille” in a spot where, I tell ya, “Carrie Anne” shoulda gone instead. But no matter! This was pop music. This was The Hollies! And I was now a fan.

I eventually acquired my own copy of “Carrie Anne” on the soundtrack album to Stardust. I picked up the “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” 45 somewhere in there, too, and that reissue single included the sublime “Long Dark Road” as its flip. I learned about “King Midas In Reverse” and “Dear Eloise” and “Post Card” and “Yes I Will,” belatedly finding out the latter song was a Hollies record before it became “I’ll Be True To You” by The Monkees. Much, much later, I fell hard for The Searchers‘ “Have You Ever Loved Somebody” and The Everly Brothers‘ “So Lonely,” not realizing that both were Hollies compositions. (In fact, when The Flashcubes covered “Have You Ever Loved Somebody” live and identified it as a Hollies song, I went up to bassist Gary Frenay to correct his obvious mistake. Gary rolled his eyes and patiently set me straight. Stupid fanboy….) And later still, my then-young daughter Meghan used to bop around the house, singin’ along to the delightful bounce of The Hollies and “On A Carousel.”

I no longer own my copy of The Very Best Of The Hollies. Space considerations and long-forgotten scrambles for rent money have restrained my natural pack-rat tendencies, so duplicate items tend to get the ol’ heave-ho. I have CD reissues of many of The Hollies’ individual albums, plus the wonderful, multi-disc Hollies collection Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years. On This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl in 2010, we featured a long promotion called The Hundred Hollies Initiative, a successful effort to play at least one hundred different Hollies tracks over the course of the year; since the price for failure in this venture would have required us to play Bob Seger‘s execrable “Old Time Rock And Roll” as penance, we made damned sure that we played one hundred and one different Hollies songs. Can’t be too safe with such dire potential consequences! Our friend Rich Firestone credits The Hundred Hollies Initiative for turning him into a bigger fan of The Hollies, so that was my chance to pay this back with interest.

For me, this all started with “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress,” and a few songs heard on oldies radio. But it manifested in earnest with a cut-out bin purchase of The Very Best Of The Hollies, a record which was ultimately more important to me than I could ever appreciate at the time. I’m alive. I can’t let go. Riding along on a carousel. Watch me now, ’cause here I go again.

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Pop Sunday

The Lemon Clocks / Time To Wake Up

The Lemon Clocks

“Time To Wake Up” (Rock Indiana 2020)

Here on their fifth album, “Time To Wake Up,” The Lemon Clocks proceed to explore and embrace varied late sixties and early seventies musical forms with remarkable results. Self-contained and self-assured, the band’s adventurous songs expand on the concepts they are so dearly enamored with. Each new Lemon Clocks album reveals growth and depth, and “Time To Wake Up” is no exception. 

In case you are not familiar with the band, Jeremy Morris handles lead vocals as well as a slew of different instruments. Stefan Johansson and Oscar Granero are also multi-instrumentalists, while Carlos Vigara plays bass, and Dave Dietrich is on drums and percussion.  

Directed by Jeremy’s mega-melodious vocals based in the Beatles-Badfinger range, “Time To Wake Up” takes listeners on an enchanted expedition of magical shapes and sensations. Captivating chord changes, shifting grooves, reverb-soaked trimmings, spinning synthesizer passages, haunting Mellotron motions, ringing glockenspeils and the warm tones of mandolins contribute to the interesting and exciting sounds housed within the album. Inspiring and surrealistic lyrics further illustrate the songs, producing a presentation vibrating with color and wonder.  

Every single track on “Time To Wake Up” possesses memorable qualities, but for starters, there’s “Sleepwalkers” that simultaneously tip-toes and trembles across a bed of spacey squiggles, underlined by an eerie riff that is plucked over and over again. Imagine The Electric Prunes rubbing shoulders with Pink Floyd, and that should give you a good idea where the creepy-crawly confection is coming from. 

Thieving the jaunty lick of Them’s “I Can Only Give Everything” and nailing it to a wall of trippy and hypnotic patterns, “Floating Free” signs on as another stroke of psychedelic genius, along with “You Are The Cosmos” and “Infinity Dream” that shimmer and swell with atmospheric elements. A shot of mind-bending ingredients arrive at the end of “Flowers In My Hair,” where the title cut of the album jingles to a clinging arrangement, and the salty temper of “Buzz Off!” duly buzzes with strange sonic figures and venomous verse aimed at a character suitably called Mister Mosquito. 

Songs featuring hanclaps are always fun, and “Time To Wake Up” offers a couple of such efforts. Bouncing and bopping with optimism, “Brand New Day” reflects the bubblegummy blush of The Archies, and the popping garage rock of “Stop!” is powered by an utterly infectious hook and bright and breezy harmonies. 

Set to a swaying rhythm and delivered in an easygoing manner, “People Come And Go” dispenses sage and spiritual commentary, “How I Miss You” slides in as a gorgeous mid-paced ballad rich with heart-tugging emotion, and the comparably thoughtful and effective “This Is Love!” would make John Lennon beam with paternal pride. 

The closing number on “Time To Wake Up” is a cover of the Tommy James and The Shondells paisley-phased classic, “Crimson And Clover.” Stretching out the song to nearly fifteen minutes in length, The Lemon Clocks turn an already brain-twisting tune into a tapestry of epic proportions. The beginning of the band’s version of “Crimson And Clover” remains true to the original recording. But about halfway through the song, gears are switched and a celestial Moody Blues styled symphony enters the picture. The Lemon Clocks eventually return to “Crimson And Clover,” which proves to be a fitting finale to an album big on daring tricks and kicks.    

Categories
Pop Sunday

Jeremy / Living The Dream

Jeremy

Living The Dream (JAM Records) 2020


He’s a singer, songwriter, multi-dimensional instrumentalist, record producer and owner of the Portage, Michigan based JAM label. That’s Jeremy Morris, who is known to music fans all over the world for the highly accomplished albums he has been spooling out on a regular basis for the past few decades. To say Jeremy releases a new effort every couple of months is no exaggeration. 


Although Jeremy is a master of many musical fashions, his latest album, Living The Dream, concentrates on the pop rock  side of the pole. Keying in at a whopping seventy-six minutes in length, the twenty-five track collection offers a nice mix of original and cover material. 


Costumed in a coat of chiming guitars and sparkling sensations by the score, the title cut of the album launches the set off on an optimistic note, both sonically and lyrically. The aptly coined Keep The Faith also broadcasts Jeremy’s sunny attitude, Devil Next Door races with skittish spy styled rhythms, and Can’t Buy A Thrill imparts the pitfalls of substance abuse to an edgy and electrifying tenor. 


Beaming with vibrancy and color, Your Sweet Relief could pass as a Badfinger classic, and the catchy ring of Can You Hear Me Calling? features Jamie Hoover of The Spongetones handling guitar, drums, keyboards and harmonica, as well as chipping in on vocals. 
The similarly-christened I Want To Stay and Here To Stay further bear a rather like-minded sound, as the songs are spotted with bluesy George Harrison influenced licks sweeping and weeping with humming melodies. Then there’s the hypnotic pulse of the acoustic-laced Flying Away that blooms with perennial beauty and bliss. 


Jeremy’s music has often been defined as Beatlesque, and a generous portion of Living The Dream certainly adheres to such a description. In fact, one of the remakes on the album is Dear Prudence, which melts into another Beatles song, Baby, You’re A Rich Man, before returning to Dear Prudence, resulting in a very cool and unique move.


Jeremy acknowledges his Byrdsian roots on a loyal take of So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star that includes his recently dearly departed dad, Bill Morris, on trumpet. Rick Nelson’s delicately poignant Are You Really Real? is revisited with utmost taste and grace, and The Flamin’ Groovies are saluted on the power popping nugget I Can’t Hide.

Jeremy’s shredding abilities are showcased to amazing effects on blistering readings of Rick Springfield’s Speak To The Sky and Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky, where The Status Quo’s  Pictures Of Matchstick Men is seriously as great as the initial trippy version.


Raining mettlesome hooks and pitch perfect harmonies, supported by inspiring arrangements and energy to spare, Living The Dream exposes Jeremy in a full-on poptastic mode, leading to an album that is a staple of its genre.

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Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST : The Sex Pistols

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

Noise. Glorious, angry, cathartic noise. Loud. Pissed off. Incredible.

It took me decades to really appreciate the music of The Sex Pistols. When I heard my first Pistols record in 1977, I thought it was intriguing, fascinating, but not really music. Now? Now, I regard The Sex Pistols as one of the all-time great rock ‘n’ roll bands.

But I liked the noise immediately.

British punk rock in the ’70s wasn’t built with me in mind; suburban American teens were not really the target audience of these snotty, safety-pinned Nihilists screaming Anarcheeeee in the yoooooooooooooo-kay! Nonetheless, my own individual level of post-adolescent alienation ultimately made me receptive to the promise of no future, no future, no future for you.

Before the music, there were words in the newspaper. For some reason, my memory associates my earliest awareness of The Sex Pistols with the cold confines of the Media Center at my high school in North Syracuse, NY. It was my senior year, 1976 to ’77. I spent some time in the Media Center, theoretically studying, really just reading histories of comic books and attempting to flirt (to no avail) with the girl at the periodicals check-out counter. There were press reports of this strange punk thing going on in England, sensational, garbled accounts of obscenity, rebellion, a jarring rock ‘n’ roll cacophony, a band literally puking on its audience. The last bit wasn’t true; the rest of it turned out to be Gospel.

Whatever. I wasn’t interested.

I was 16 or 17. My pop music tastes ran to British Invasion and ’60s oldies, The Beatles always first and foremost, plus ’70s acts like SweetBadfinger, and The Raspberries. I’d missed a chance to see Alice Cooper (with the lovely Suzi Quatro, my # 1 rock ‘n’ roll crush) in 1975, and would see my first concert–KISS–in December of ’76. I wasn’t opposed to flash, to excitement. But the yellow-journalism tales of The Sex Pistols made punk seem…dumb.

My opinion of punk would revise with the revelation of Phonograph Record Magazine, a tabloid rock rag I discovered in early ’77. PRM‘s tantalizing descriptions of all these punk and peripheral acts I’d never heard–The RamonesThe DamnedThe ClashBlondieThe Vibrators, and of course the Pistols–intrigued me. I wanted to know more. I wanted to hear…something.

I finally heard The Sex Pistols in the summer of ’77, when Utica’s WOUR-FM played their new import single, “God Save The Queen.” The DJ introduced the track with mentions of the clamor and controversy surrounding the group, and then played the record so listeners could judge for themselves.

“God Save The Queen” was unlike any record I’d ever heard. Even though I didn’t initially think it was music, it was undeniably exciting, enticing. Different. That was good enough for me. I didn’t hear The Sex Pistols again for months thereafter, but “God Save The Queen” did not leave my mind at any time.

Summer ended. College at Brockport began for this 17-year-old freshman. I heard more punk rock, courtesy of the campus radio station. I had my classes, and I betcha I may have studied occasionally. Otherwise? Music. Keggers. Attempts at writing. Flirting. Reciprocal flirting, leading to more than flirting. A few really dumbass actions that I still cringe to recall. Arguments with my roommate. A growing certainty that I would never truly fit in anywhere, a certainty which proved to be accurate.

There were two record stores in town, The Vinyl Jungle and The Record Grove. The Vinyl Jungle was gone in short order, leaving only The Record Grove, whose wonderful manager Bill Yerger had import and independent 45s for sale at the counter. My first punk rock purchases occurred at that counter when I bought the 45s of “God Save The Queen” and The Ramones’ “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.”

My roommate let me play “God Save The Queen” once on his stereo, so props to him for that. It was just as powerful the second time through, and it retained its power for oh, a zillion subsequent spins over the years. B-side “Did You No Wrong” wasn’t quite as distinctive–what could be?–but I dug it, and I like even more all these decades later.

My girlfriend was a little older than me, about 20 or 21, and she didn’t care for any of that noisy trash I loved so much. Her abrupt replacement was just 17, if you know what I mean, and she didn’t like my music any more than her predecessor did, but she bought me The Sex Pistols’ debut LP as a Christmas gift.

I think I’d already heard the “Pretty Vacant” single before I got my copy of Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. I loved “Pretty Vacant” and “God Save The Queen,” and I loved a great album track called “No Feelings.” I liked “Anarchy In The UK” and “Holidays In The Sun.” I appreciated the foul-mouthed shock value of “Bodies,” and I approved of the album as a whole without ever embracing it as fully as I claimed at the time. I glowered at the barely-literate poison-pen review the album received in the campus newspaper, a frothing-at-the-mouth diatribe that sputtered such pithy witticisms as “Simply put, this album sucks!” Oh, you and your clever words….!

That was the basic beginning of my life as a Sex Pistols fan. Back home over Christmas break, my friend Jay came over to watch The Sex Pistols’ planned American television debut on Saturday Night Live, only to discover that our lads were still in England, and their SNL slot would be manned instead by some guy named Elvis Costello. The Pistols eventually made it to America, and the group broke up, acrimoniously and ignominiously, on these shores. When there’s no future, how can there be sin?

The sheer audacity of the Pistols phenomenon stayed with me. So much was made of their image, their DIY sloppiness, their presumed inability to play, that I didn’t realize until long, long after the fact just how solid this much-maligned band really was. Sure, Sid Vicious couldn’t play bass to save his short life, and Johnny Rotten‘s abrasive lead vocals were willfully more caterwaul than melody. But underneath all that? Guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook, and original bassist Glen Matlock were tight, together. They could play, and they played a basic, invigorating, exciting rock ‘n’ roll sound that doesn’t get the credit it richly deserves. These are terrific records. I wish they’d made more!

But Never Mind The Bollocks was The Sex Pistols’ only real album. There was the double-LP collection The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, assembled posthumously and at least as much sod as odd, and there was a terrific bootleg called Spunk, which preserved the Pistols’ pre-album demos. For a while, I preferred Spunk to Bollocks, but I’ve since settled firmly on the side of the official recordings.

Nowadays, my go-to Sex Pistols audio document is Kiss This, an import CD that contains all of Never Mind The Bollocks, the non-LP B-sides (“I Wanna Be Me,” “Did You No Wrong,””Satellite,” “No Fun”), and a selection of tracks from The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, including the Pistols’ cover of The Monkees‘ “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” and Sid Vicious’ silly deconstruction of “My Way.” If itonly added Sid’s surprisingly amiable version of Eddie Cochran‘s “Something Else” from The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll SwindleKiss This would be THE perfect Pistols set, but it’s close enough.

And, of course, I still have my original LP of Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, a Christmas gift from a girl who would remain my girlfriend for about two more weeks after she gave it to me. No future. No feelings for anybody else, except for myself, my beautiful self. We are the flowers in the dustbin. The poison in your human machine. We’re so pretty, oh so pretty. Noise. Glorious. Angry. Cathartic. Music
Mine. My music. The transcendence of its noise endures. We mean it, man.

WHEN THE EVERLASTING FIRST RETURNS: S is for

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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. A digital download version (minus The Smithereens’ track) is also available from Futureman Records.

Categories
Boppin'

Badfinger: Day After Day

Badfinger was my favorite act on the radio in the early ’70s. It’s no coincidence that the first entry in my series The Greatest Record Ever Made! was Badfinger’s “Baby Blue,” nor was there ever any likelihood of me choosing any other song to open my eventual GREM! book
Have to repeat the mantra for those who came in late: An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. “Baby Blue” stands out as my favorite among Badfinger favorites, and if I had to pick just one–ONE!!–song and stick with it as GREM!, “Baby Blue” would be among the finalists. But I loved all of the Badfinger songs I heard on the radio when I was in middle school. “Come And Get It,” the song Paul McCartney gave to the lads, was wonderful, but the singles written by the group’s own Pete Ham were better. “Baby Blue,” of course. “No Matter What,” which many think of as Badfinger’s signature tune. And this irresistible ballad “Day After Day.”
I am not generally a ballad guy, except on those occasions when I am. I’m infinite, too. “Day After Day” just soars, its heartfelt tale of devotion and longing propelled by a sound taken straight from Abbey Road, a sliding guitar that seems to mourn and hope at the same time, piano that proclaims ’70s pop music in all the best ways, harmonies, the experiences of love, wishes, dreams, regret, and AM radio all made as one.

The Fab Five: Arty Lenin, Gary Frenay, Dave Miller, Dave Novak, Paul Davie

In 1994, Syracuse musician and promoter Paul Davie organized a live event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Beatles‘ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Paul’s own British Invasion tribute combo The Fab Five would play a set of period-appropriate covers and a set duplicating The Beatles’ performances for ol’ Stoneface Sullivan back in ’64. The Fab Five would also back up Terry Sylvester of The Hollies and Badfinger’s Joey Molland in separate sets.

Screen Test in the ’80s: Arty, Tommy, Gary

The Fab Five at that time included Gary Frenay and Arty Lenin from The Flashcubes and Screen Test, along with Davie, local music legend Dave Novak, and veteran drummer Dave Miller. As mentioned in my liner notes for the Screen Test anthology Inspired Humans Making Noise, Dave Miller wasn’t as familiar with the Badfinger material as he was with the rest of the evening’s rockin’ pop syllabus, so NYC-based ‘Cubes/Screen Test drummer Tommy Allen agreed to come back to the ‘Cuse for a Screen Test gig on Friday night and the Badfinger portion of the British Invasion show Saturday night. Joey Molland also showed up at that Friday night Screen Test show, and he joined the lads for an unplanned, incredible rendition of “No Matter What,” setting a high bar for Saturday night’s show.

Joey Molland, Gary Frenay

The next evening’s show met that bar, maybe even surpassed it. It was neither the first time nor the last time I saw Molland perform, but it was without question the best time. Molland just cooked with the fab quintet of Screen Test plus Davie and Novak. Our Joey acquitted himself well on Badfinger’s hits and album tracks, singing most of the leads, including those originally done by the late Pete Ham. But for “Day After Day,” Molland ceded the lead mic to Arty Lenin.
And Arty friggin’ owned it.
I was 34 years old, a drink in one hand, my lovely wife Brenda on my arm. But I was also 11-12 years old again, my ears stapled to WOLF-AM and WNDR-AM in ’71 and ’72, hearing music that promised something better than my adolescent doldrums, my preteen angst, looking out of my lonely gloom, day after day. It was…everything, the good and the bad, with good winning out in storybook fashion. I was nearly speechless. After the set, I found my voice and walked up to Arty to say, “Dude, you are Badfinger!”
Pop music is a time machine. It’s not just memories, and it’s not just the past, because all the things we saw and heard and felt and tasted and dreamed and cried over or bled for remain with us. Always. The records don’t remind us–we would remember anyway–but the sound connects us, then and now, now to then. I don’t want to be 12 again. I wouldn’t mind having a little more hair, a few less pounds, and a better back, and it sure would be nice to skip one or a hundred of the heartbreaks along the way. But living is now, ending in -ing rather than -edEvery day, my mind is all around you. Turn it up. Every day, I feel the tears that you weep. It’s okay. Night after night. Day after day.

We have time.

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Categories
Birthdays

Tom Evans

Tom Evans (C) with Badfinger

Born on this day in 1947, in Liverpool, England, Badfinger bassist Tom Evans. Among his other successes, Evans wrote the mega-hit “Without You” and sang lead on the Paul McCartney song, “Come and Get It,” which was featured in the movie The Magic Christian.