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’sSpeak To The Sky and Norman Greenbaum’sSpirit In The Sky, where The Status Quo’sPictures 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.
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.
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 Sweet, Badfinger, 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 Ramones, The Damned, The Clash, Blondie, The 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 Swindle, Kiss 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.
You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 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-Op, Ray Paul, Circe Link & Christian Nesmith, Vegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie Flowers, The Slapbacks, P. Hux, Irene Peña, Michael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave Merritt, The Rubinoos, Stepford Knives, The Grip Weeds, Popdudes, Ronnie Dark, The Flashcubes,Chris von Sneidern, The Bottle Kids, 1.4.5., The Smithereens, Paul Collins’ Beat, The Hit Squad, The Rulers, The Legal Matters, Maura & the Bright Lights, Lisa 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 -ed. Every 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.
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.