Categories
Boppin'

Pop In A Box

My collection of CD boxed sets is fairly modest, I think. Given my level of pop obsession, and fact that I co-host a weekly radio show (and used to regularly write reviews for publication), you might think I’ve amassed a wall or two (or at least a few shelves’ worth) of compact disc sets housed in pretty, pretty boxes. But no; I own a relative handful, and that supply generally satisfies my boxed set needs.

Looking back, I don’t recall owning vinyl boxed sets; The Motown Story is the only one I remember, and I got rid of that one because its spoken narration ran into and spoiled the intros of many tracks. I think my first CD boxed set was a collection of The Rolling Stones‘ ’60s singles. purchased shortly before my first Stones concert in 1989. The Monkees‘ Listen To The Band was the first boxed set I ever received as a promo when I was freelancing for Goldmine (a gig which also brought me The Clash‘s box Clash On Broadway and the first two Nuggets boxes). 

Bo Diddley‘s The Chess BoxThe Velvet Underground‘s Peel Slowly And See, and the Stax and Motown boxes were all record club purchases, and the Otis Redding set was a Christmas gift from lovely wife Brenda. (Earth, Wind & Fire‘s The Eternal Dance was in turn a Christmas gift I gave to her, but I listen to it, too.)

It’s funny how a simple matter of packaging decides what’s included or excluded from this list. Because they’re housed in jewel cases rather than some kind of box, essential pop resources like Prince‘s three-disc The Hits/The B-Sides, The Monkees’ three-disc Headquarters Sessions, and The Hollies‘ six-disc Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years aren’t considered boxed sets, but the two-disc Bo Diddley is most certainly a box. It even has “box” in its title.

These are the boxed sets I currently own. You’ll note the absence of the above-mentioned Listen To The Band Monkees box, which I sold to a co-worker when I picked up the newer Music Box Monkees collection. 

THE BEACH BOYS: Good Vibrations: Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys
THE BEACH BOYS: The Pet Sounds Sessions
THE BEATLES: The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1
THE BEATLES: The Capitol Albums, Vol. 2
BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD: Buffalo Springfield
THE CLASH: Clash On Broadway
BO DIDDLEY: The Chess Box
EARTH, WIND & FIRE: The Eternal Dance
THE JAM: Direction Reaction Creation
THE KINKS: The Anthology 1964-1971
KISS: Box Set
LED ZEPPELIN: Led Zeppelin
THE MONKEES: The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees
THE MONKEES: Head
THE MONKEES: Instant Replay
THE MONKEES: The Monkees Present
THE MONKEES: Music Box
PHIL OCHS: Farewells & Fantasies
THE RAMONES: Weird Tales Of The Ramones
OTIS REDDING: Otis!
THE ROLLING STONES: Singles Collection The London Years
SIMON & GARFUNKEL: Old Friends
VARIOUS: The Beach Music Anthology [incomplete]
VARIOUS: Children Of Nuggets
VARIOUS: The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968
VARIOUS: Hitsville U.S.A.–The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971
VARIOUS: Nuggets
VARIOUS: Nuggets II
VARIOUS: One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost & Found
VARIOUS: Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: Peel Slowly And See
THE ZOMBIES: Zombie Heaven


Some of these get taken off the shelf with some frequency, particularly the Nuggets, girl group, Beatles, and Motown boxes. The Led Zeppelin box is rarely touched, but I’m glad to have it. The Zombies box is still listed here, but I actually haven’t been able to find it in months; if it doesn’t turn up soon, I’m gonna have to replace it. I missed out on Rhino Handmade‘s boxes of the first two Monkees albums; even as an obsessive fan, I couldn’t justify the cost of those, not when I already had two-disc editions that satisfied my needs.

I think The Kinks’ box is the most recent addition. I don’t buy boxed sets all that often, so my collection of them remains modest. 

Loud, but modest.


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Categories
Pop Sunday

Spygenius / Blow Their Covers

Spygenius

Blow Their Covers (Big Stir)

https://spygenius.bandcamp.com/

Trying to pigeonhole Spygenius is a rather difficult assignment. The Canterbury, England band thrives on experimentation, leading their highly rated albums to be charmingly chameleonesque. But Spygenius is so imaginative that they have spawned an identity of their own. The band’s latest album, Blow Their Covers, sends thanks to artists considered core inspirations, and features both obscure and well known numbers.

On their take of Traffic’s Paper Sun, Spygenius pretty much sheds the hazy psychedelic swirl of the original recording in lieu of a bright and burly power pop sound. The band further tends to downplay the country folk timbre of Gene Clark’s So You Say You Lost Your Baby, and Buffalo Springfield’s Rock & Roll Woman, by plumping up the proceedings with a hard-edged delivery.

Michael Hurley and The Unholy Modal Rounders are revisited on Griselda, which spins gleefully around and around to waltzing rhythms clipped of an Irish jig quality, and Robyn Hitchcock’s Queen Of Eyes is cast of a jangly day-glo demeanor. 

A sea shanty – Murrumbidgee Whalers – even appears on Blow Their Covers, while Spygenius turns Plasticsoul’s gutsy Mod-styled rocker, Therapy, into an emotionally-charged chorus of celestial harmonies, gleaming melodies and atmospheric textures. 

Madness is saluted on a remarkably oddball version of Michael Caine, that lies somewhere between the disjointed diddlings of Captain Beefheart and the gloomy gaze of Goth rock. Then there’s a pair of Monkees goodies – For Pete’s Sake and Love Is Only Sleeping – in which Spygenius sings and swings their way through these lively songs with unstoppable energy and enthusiasm. 

Aside from revealing the band’s wide scope of influences, Blow Their Covers captures how amazingly creative Spygenius is. The musicians who are paid homage to would certainly endorse these spirited renditions of their compositions. Routed by catchy and adventurous performances galore, Blow Their Covers is set to keep Spygenius groupies going until the band’s next album of self-penned material is available. 

Categories
Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Turtles

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.

Some of the best stories start with a bunch of 45s. Even if the story itself never goes anywhere, you’ve still got a bunch of 45s. That’s a great start for anything. 

The story of my discovering the music of the Turtles doesn’t exactly start with a bunch of 45s, but a small collection of 7″ singles served as an integral early part of that story. The setting was Jean Price’s front porch in Syracuse’s Northern suburbs, 1967. Jean wasn’t there at the time; she was older, and she certainly wouldn’t have been hanging out with a bunch of seven- and eight-year-old children. In truth, I don’t even remember Jean herself, and I have no recollection of why I was hanging out on her porch with a small group of the other neighborhood kids.

But if I don’t remember the why, I remember the what. We were looking through a box of 45s, presumably Jean Price’s 45s. Memory won’t surrender the identities of most of those singles, though I think the stash included either “Liar, Liar” by the Castaways or “Wipe Out” by the Surfaris, or maybe both of those. But I clearly, clearly remember seeing the White Whale Records logo, as I stared at the Turtles’ “Happy Together” single.

I knew the song from the radio. I had no other specific tether to it in the moment. But in that moment, for whatever mystic forces manipulated (but fail to explain) the situation, “Happy Together” by the Turtles became immediately important to me.

My Mom thought it was even more important to me than it was. I must have mentioned the song a time or two, prompting a reasonable presumption that the Turtles were my favorite group, and  “Happy Together” my # 1 favorite record in the world. I don’t think that was ever the case, but I sure did like it. A lot.

Still, over time the Turtles faded into a secondary realm of awareness, no longer a current hit, no longer a part of everyday life. If I heard any more of their music on the radio in the ’60s–and I must have–none of it registered with me as THE TURTLES!, at least not at the time.

That changed for me in the ’70s. As a teenager, I developed a consuming interest in the rockin’ pop of the ’60s, both the stuff I remembered from childhood and stuff that was essentially new to my post-adolescent ears. Oldies radio hooked me on the Turtles’ pop classics “She’d Rather Be With Me” and “Elenore.” “She’d Rather Be With Me” became the first Turtles track I ever owned, courtesy of a various-artists set called 20 Heavy Hits, scarfed up at the flea market. “Happy Together” followed, with a purchase of a (very) used copy of the cheap-o early ’70s Do It Now compilation in the spring of 1977, my senior year in high school. 

One evening in that same spring ’77 time frame placed me in the audience for Rock Of The ’60s, a presentation of rock ‘n’ roll TV clips screened at Syracuse UniversityRock Of The ’60s gave me a glimpse of the Turtles on (I think) The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, alongside clips of other ’60s luminaries like Buffalo Springfieldthe Kinksthe Whothe Byrdsthe Holliesthe Yardbirdsthe Lovin’ Spoonfulthe Rolling Stones, and the Beatles. By then, I’d learned that the Turtles’ Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman had a post-terrapins pop life as Flo and Eddie; I’d seen them on The Midnight Special and read their Blind Date column in Phonograph Record Magazine

My first Turtles album was the 2-LP anthology Happy Together Again, a dusty and well-worn used copy rescued from the basement of Record Revolution in Cleveland Heights in the summer of ’77, right before the start of my freshman year in college. This was my real indoctrination into all things Turtley, introducing me to wonderful Turtles tracks like “Outside Chance,” “Grim Reaper Of Love,” “Love In The City,” and more.

Happy Together Again accompanied me to college in Brockport. I met a pretty Long Island girl named Eleanor (never mind the spelling), who of course loved the Turtles’ “Elenore” but would have greatly preferred me refraining from singing it to her. Back home in the summer of ’78, I played the album for my doomed friend Tom, who liked the Turtles but hated one line in “Let Me Be:” I am what I am and that’s all I ever can be. That apparent expression of limitation bugged Tom; looking back decades later, I can’t wrap my mind around how to reconcile that sentiment with the fact of Tom’s suicide in 1979.

It’s weird the things we wind up remembering. A friend objecting to an innocuous lyric he heard a year before he killed himself. A box of 45s on a neighbor girl’s porch. I became a big fan of the Turtles, and I own each of their original albums via CD reissues on the Sundazed label. I missed a chance to the Turtles/Flo and Eddie at a club show in Buffalo in the mid ’80s, but saw them in Syracuse a decade later. I play the music of the Turtles at home, in my car, and on the radio. The story didn’t really start with a box of 45s. But by God, it should have. Happy together? Imagine me and you. I do. Brothers and sisters, friends and lovers and random passers-by. Together. We’ll do the best we can in that regard.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.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.

The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or downloadI’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

Categories
Boppin'

Didn’t Hear THAT Coming! (Unexpected Covers In Concert): THE BANGLES, “7 And 7 Is”

Didn’t Hear THAT Coming! (Unexpected Covers In Concert) discusses songs I was surprised to hear covered in a live show by an act I’d gone to see.
Cover songs can add zip and spark to a rock ‘n’ roll group’s live repertoire. In their earliest gigs, most groups start out playing covers, and integrate more of their own original material into their sets as they play more dates, develop more of an identity, and attract more fans with an interest beyond just hearing bar-band interpretations of songs associated with other acts. It’s a basic long-term strategy for groups hoping to get noticed, to get somewhere; there’s a reason The Rolling Stones cut back on Chuck Berry songs and started writing their own material.

Still, a well-placed cover tune can enhance a live set, while the wrong choice can result in irritating a fan who doesn’t want to hear a fave rave act pandering to a lower common denominator. Whether it works or falls flat, the unexpected cover prompts us to say, “Wow–didn’t hear THAT coming!”


THE BANGLES: 7 And 7 Is [Love]

The hit 1980s group The Bangles. The broad Nuggets niche of 1960s garage, punk, and psychedelia. Never the twain shall meet.

Those of us with even a perfunctory knowledge of pop history know the above statement is nonsense. The Bangles drew significant and obvious inspiration from the sounds of the ‘60s, notably from The Beatles and from the decade’s Laurel Canyon axis of SoCal pop music, from The Byrds to Buffalo Springfield to The Mamas and the Papas. The Bangles were originally part of L.A.’s Paisley Underground, one of many Los Angeles acts in the early ‘80s professing and practicing a devout, pervasive connection to a vibrant rock ‘n’ roll scene that came nearly two decades before them. Maybe much of the general public couldn’t automatically draw a line from ‘60s touchstones like Pandora’s Box or Riot On The Sunset Strip to this distaff Fab Four mugging through “Walk Like An Egyptian” on MTV. Fine. But you and me? We know better. The Bangles had more in common with The Standells and The Electric Prunes than with virtually any of their Reagan era Top 40 contemporaries.

The Bangles’ eponymous 1982 EP included four originals, plus one cover, “How Is The Air Up There?,” a ’60s obscurity originally done by The Changin’ Times in ’65, and later recorded by The La De Das, for whom it was a hit in their native New Zealand in 1966. The Bangles at that time were guitarists Vicki Peterson and Susanna Hoffs, bassist Annette Zalinskas, and drummer Debbi Peterson, Vicki’s sister. The Bangles wore their ’60s loyalties like a badge of honor.

The EP was my introduction to The Bangles. I don’t recall if I read about them in the rock press or heard them on Buffalo’s WBNY-FM before I bought the record, but I was an instant fan. I remained a fan as Zalinskas moved on, as Michael Steele replaced her on the four-string, and as the group signed with Columbia Records for their first full-length album, 1984’s All Over The Place.

My God, I loved All Over The Place. The original songs were fantastic, the two covers (of The Merry-Go-Round‘s “Live” and Katrina and the Waves‘ “Going Down To Liverpool) were sufficiently obscure that I thought they were both originals, and the album will always be among my all-time favorites. The group’s tour in support of The Continental brought them to Buffalo for a show at left-of-the-dial nightclub All Over The Place, and I can testify that The Bangles were a solid live act. I don’t remember a lot of specifics, but I know I enjoyed it, and I know they covered Mose Allison‘s “I’m Not Talking,” with Michael Steele taking the lead vocal. I knew the song from The Yardbirds, and I guess that would qualify as an unexpected cover in concert.

But it wasn’t as unexpected as hearing The Bangles cover “7 And 7 Is,” a song written by Arthur Lee and originally recorded in 1966 by Lee’s band Love.

I had discovered the music of Arthur Lee‘s group Love in the early ’80s. I’d read about them somewhere, and snagged a used copy of their eponymous debut album literally off the floor at Brockport’s Main Street Records around, I dunno, ’82 or so. I picked up a greatest-hits set called Love Revisited after moving to Buffalo, and became enthralled by this furious, fascinating proto-punk tune called “7 And 7 Is.” 

If I don’t start cryin’ it’s because that I have got no eyes
My father’s in the fireplace and my dog lies hypnotized
Through a crack of light I was unable to find my way
Trapped inside a night
But I’m a day and I go
Oop-ip-ip, oop-ip-ip
YEAH!

Yeah, I had no idea what the hell it was about, and I woulda sworn that list bit above was an eloquent Batman-inspired Boom-biff-biff, Boom-biff-biff YEAH! rather than some [chuckle] non-sensical “oop-ip-ip” jazz. Obviously. But it didn’t matter what the words were or what the song meant. It was a freakin’ force of nature, it demanded high volume, and I played that damned track with manic devotion. I wasn’t using the phrase yet in the ’80s, but damn, this was clearly The Greatest Record Ever Made.


And now, live in 1985, The Bangles were performing on stage, right before my eyes. My jaw dropped. My fist raised itself without needing me to will it so. The Bangles. Love. “7 And 7 Is.” It was unexpected. And it was awesome!

Looking back, it shouldn’t have been all that unexpected. I knew of The Bangles’ roots in ’60s nuggets, and I wasn’t exactly shocked that they chose to cover Love. It was still a surprise, a pleasant surprise. That night, The Bangles said their version of “7 And 7 Is” would be on their next album. I regret that did not come to pass.

The Bangles’ commercial status took a dramatic upturn with their second album, 1986’s Different Light. The album’s first single “Manic Monday,” written by Prince (under the pseudonym “Christopher,” I guess because “Bernard Webb” was already spoken for), became the group’s first hit, a # 2 smash. Different Light is a very good record, but it seemed slicker and less exuberant than All Over The Place. It was an ’80s album. All Over The Place had felt timeless. Nonetheless, I cheered as this band I loved invaded the pop charts and Top 40 radio. Their success was deserved.

When The Bangles’ Different Light tour brought them back to Buffalo again, their higher profile had allowed them to graduate to a larger venue, The Rooftop in South Buffalo. Alas, I got my wires crossed about when The Bangles were scheduled to go on, and they had finished more than half of their set before I strolled in. Damn it.

The 2014 archival CD collection Ladies And Gentlemen…The Bangles! preserves concrete evidence that The Bangles covered “7 And 7 Is” in live shows, proof positive in the form of a 1984 live recording of Love via The Bangles. While most folks recall The Bangles as frothy ’80s video divas, I remember them as music fans made good, playing songs they loved in whatever venue was available. Their 1987 cover of Simon and Garfunkel‘s “Hazy Shade Of Winter” was a bigger hit than the original. Even on New Year’s Eve of 2000, when The Bangles appeared on Dick Clark‘s New Year’s Eve TV bash, they still surprised by pulling out a cover of The Velvet Underground‘s “I’m Waiting For The Man.” The Bangles were nobody’s empty-calorie cupcakes.

The Ramones also covered “7 And 7 Is,” on their 1993 all-covers album Acid Eaters. When I interviewed The Ramones for Goldmine in 1994, I mentioned to C. J. Ramone that I’d seen The Bangles cover the song live in 1985, and that they’d intended to record it. He was surprised. “That’s wild!,” he said, clearly impressed with the notion that The Bangles did a song as cool as “7 And 7 Is.”

They did indeed, C. J. And yeah, it was unexpected, but it shouldn’t have been. The Bangles loved the ’60s. The Bangles loved Love. 

Oop-ip-ip, oop-ip-ip, YEAH!

WHEN DIDN’T HEAR THAT COMING! RETURNS: The Dark Return Of LET’S ACTIVE

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You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.
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.
The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:
Volume 1: downloadVolume 2: CD or downloadVolume 3: downloadVolume 4: CD or downloadWaterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 134 essays about 134 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).

Categories
Pop Sunday

The Vapour Trails / Golden Sunshine

The Vapour Trails

Golden Sunshine (Futureman Records) 

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/golden-sunshine

The Vapour Trails hit the jackpot right from the start, as the Scottish band’s debut album, See You In The Next World, was an instant smash, both artistically and sales-wise. Needless to say, expectations run high for the follow-up effort, and I am happy to report Golden Sunshine soars above and beyond the call of duty. 

Suitably christened, the album emits endless rays of warmth and vitality. Positive energy abounds, producing songs of a spiritual nature that transcend space and time. The band’s mastery of sonic innovation also supplies additional layers of spellbinding beauty to their superbly-scripted material. 

The paired pursuits of folk rock and psychedelic experimentation are strongly emphasized throughout Golden Sunshine, particularly on the title cut, which begins on mellow footing, prior to expanding into a mountain of crunchy acid-dusted jamming that reflects a head-on collision between The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield.

Assembled of honey-coated vocals, angelic harmony and rich melodies, Dr. Barnes, Lonely Man and Different Girl, kick in as subsequent stunners, as well as the hauntingly gorgeous Seabird that sweeps and swoons with a Beach Boys flavor, and appropriately concludes to a choir of chirpy feathered friends. A rougher edge guides the meaty, beaty, bouncy Strange, which provides the bluesy toot of a harmonica, while an exotic belly-dancing vibe anchors The Conversation, that includes a burst of blaring trumpets. 

Pulsing with vibrant contours and a groove that energizes the soul, Golden Sunshine revisits Southern California sixties sounds with a here and now mentality. Blending discipline with spontaneity, The Vapour Trails keep their songs consistently fresh and exciting. Chock full of magical moments, Golden Sunshine catches The Vapour Trails singing and playing the kind of music they love and believe in. Such enthusiasm is infectious, which is yet another aspect that makes the band and their new album so special.