VHS Rewind

I still own a working VCR. True, my intrepid old Proscan hasn’t had much work to do the past few years (or past couple of decades), but it remains functional. I’ve kept it hooked up to my TV, just in case I ever want to play an old tape, or copy an old tape to DVD-R.  Neither prospect occurs all that often. Nonetheless, my VCR stands poised, ready to answer the call if needed.

The VCR isn’t the only piece of outdated tech I own, of course. I have an eight-track player (stored in the garage), a cassette player (connected to the stereo, very rarely used), an 8mm camcorder (retained for the library of home videos of my daughter when she was little), and a mini disc deck and a few portable MD players (the portables plopped in a desk drawer, but the deck an integral part of my stereo, and in frequent use for prepping tracks for the radio show until the pandemic changed all of that). I guess the CD and DVD players are now considered antiquated (as the turntable was considered passé for a very long time); it’s true that I’m now more likely to play CDs on my computer (via an external drive) and DVDs in my blu-ray player, but CDs and DVDs (and blu-ray) are themselves still current tech to me.

It’s funny that I seem to have a slightly more nostalgic attachment to VCRs than I have to cassettes, even though cassettes played a much, much larger role in my life. But I have no specific current interest in the act of listening to cassettes.  In contrast, I had a random notion about a month ago of pulling out some old VHS tapes, just to see if the Proscan could still play them.

That said, I didn’t pursue the notion until my wife did some housecleaning and uncovered some old tapes made at her preschool job in the late ’80s, when she was a new teacher there. She was curious to see the tapes. 

My intrepid Proscan to the rescue!

I discovered that I’d discarded the VCR’s remote control somewhere along the way. We operated the player manually for that night’s viewing, and I bought a new universal remote the next day.

Now, finally set to follow through with my original whim to watch some old VHS tapes, I pulled out a couple of homemade rock video compilations I slapped together…well, a very long time ago. These tapes consist of individual videos I recorded off cable, primarily from MTV, and then dubbed onto a fresh tape. Video quality? Not my primary concern. I just wanted to preserve some stuff for my viewing, minus the extraneous distractions of other videos that didn’t interest me.

So far, I’ve watched two of these tapes, neither in its entirety, just fast-forwarding (thanks to my new remote) and checking out the contents. The tapes include a home video of me lip-syncing and guitar-miming to my karaoke performance of “Johnny B. Goode,” the Monkees explaining the rules for tabulating results of voting on The American Music Awards, and various artifacts from MTV, Late Night With David LettermanSaturday Night LiveNashville Now, and The Pat Sajak Show

Who’s on these tapes? Well! We have the RamonesBen E. KingJoan Jett and the BlackheartsTom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Axl RoseTommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers (an American Music Awards clip that includes an audience shot of a visibly bored and/or annoyed Whitney Houston), the Long Rydersthe Moody Bluesthe Buddy System (great, forgotten MTV Basement Tapes winner “Go Back To Hollywood”), Iggy PopDumptruckthe EasybeatsMarshall Crenshawthe TurtlesJohn Lennonthe BeatlesDeep PurpleChubby CheckerFelix Cavaliere (frolicking with the cast of St. Elsewhere while lip-syncing his hit recording [with the Young Rascals] of “Good Lovin'”), Bruce SpringsteenDave EdmundsDon DixonToo Much JoySoul Asylumthe BanglesJohnny Riversthe CynicsSyd Strawthe Way MovesDionHindu Love Godsthe SmithereensIndigo GirlsRoachfordLiving ColourR.E.M.Toni BasilLou Reed and John CaleXTCLilac Timethe Darling Budsthe Georgia SatellitesGraham ParkerLords of the New ChurchMidnight Oil, and Tommy James and the Shondells, among others. 

Oh, and one of the tapes opens with the Monkees’ “Christmas Medley” from 1986, reuniting Micky DolenzDavy Jones, and Peter Tork with their erstwhile prime mate Michael Nesmith

SPOILER ALERT: Father Christmas secretly wears a wool hat!

Yeah, I could have probably found most or all of this stuff on YouTube, sure. But it was a more satisfying experience in the moment to dive into these videos I slapped together for myself those decades ago. I think I’ll watch a few more of these. I may even delve deeper into my VHS archives, and investigate further. All thanks to my intrepid Proscan. Time to rewind. You rock, dear old Proscan. You rock.

(And, back in ’88, I rocked, too. I have video to prove it.)

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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

Anton Barbeau / Power Pop!!!

Anton Barbeau

Power Pop!!! (Big Stir)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/power-pop

According to the definition printed on the back sleeve of Anton Barbeau’s latest album, power pop is “a guitar-based form of self-limiting pop music created primarily by/for unrequited men who wish The Beatles had never invited Dylan up to their hotel room.” And while Anton has certainly fathered a fair share of tunes grounded in the genre, he has always avoided restricting himself to a solitary style. So, therefore, calling the album “Power Pop!!!” Is merely a stroke of the singer, songwriter and multi-faceted instrumentalist’s sardonic wit. 

After thirty-plus years of making music and recording an equal amount of discs to match, Anton – who originally comes from Sacramento, California but currently lives in Berlin, Germany – still has plenty of petrol to spare. In fact, “Power Pop!!!” is possibly the musical mad scientist’s best album to date, as the collection seamlessly reinforces his remarkable shapeshifting techniques for composing and playing strangely addictive songs.

The first cut on the album, “Entrez-Vous Dans Les Maisons” punches in at just a little over a minute in length and is a piano instrumental featuring an ominous church type timbre. Then there’s “The Sound” that namechecks The Byrds, The Beatles and XTC, and climaxes to a squall of fizzy psychedelic loopings. Fired by a super speedy clip, “Hillbilly Village” blows in as a demented country-salted ditty, and “Free” is a tight and bright trance-inducing hip hop/electro-pop number. 

On the vigorous title track of the album, Anton proclaims, “Put down your guns, you culture cops, there ain’t no crime like power pop” and “the kids get high on power pop,” where “Running On The Edge Of The Knife” is an action-packed rocker, smirking with mischief and menace. A tribute to one of Anton’s main inspirations, “Julian Cope” dials in as wiggy pop piece, and the swift and bubbly jitters of “Never Crying Wolf Boy” five-fingers a couple of kicks and tricks from The Cars.

The ghost of Buddy Holly and a lady who doesn’t realize she is a cartoon character are referenced on “The Drugs,” which offers some sweet and gentle piano work and baroque pop orchestration before turning a corner, and letting loose a barking rap admirably emulative of Bob Dylan. On a far more traditional plane, “Whisper In The Wind” and “Rain, Rain” are lovely synth pop sentiments, glowing with hypnotic hooks, feathery harmonies and catchy and insistent rhythms. 

Anton’s British-inflected vocals and phrasing – reflecting a melding of John Lennon, David Bowie and of course Julian Cope – are perfectly tailored for the peculiar poetry and inventive sonic operations he so enthusiastically binges on. Cloaked in novel arrangements, off-center melodies and wonky ruffles, “Power Pop!!!” presents a wealth of interesting and exhilarating moves celebrating various art rock fashions, rather than the tongue-in-cheek moniker of the album. Good for Anton, forever following his muse and unraveling riches in the process. 

Big Boy Pete / The Cosmic Genius Of Big Boy Pete, 1966-1979, Volume 2

Big Boy Pete

The Cosmic Genius Of Big Boy Pete, 1966-1979, Volume 2 (Mono-Tone)

Big Boy Pete (nee Peter Miller) boasts quite an impressive pedigree. As lead guitarist of Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, the Norwich, England native enjoyed a  run of success during the initial phase of the British Invasion. 

Upon exiting the band in 1965, Peter became Big Boy Pete and received a bit of airplay in the UK with Baby I’ve Got News For You and Cold Turkey. John Lennon reportedly praised the latter single, so it’s probably no coincidence he called a song of his own Cold Turkey two years after Big Boy Pete’s forty-five  arrived. On a related note, Big Boy Pete heard through the grapevine The Beatles were interested in signing him to their Apple label, which sadly never occurred.

Those assuming Baby I’ve Got News For You and Cold Turkey were the only items Big Boy Pete ever recorded, were  pleasantly surprised a couple of decades down the pike when discovering he had tons of material languishing in the bin. A good amount of these tapes were reissued as album-length packages, rendering the now-San Francisco resident into a cult figure. 

Big Boy Pete proceeds to plumb the archives, and has recently released The Cosmic Genius Of Big Boy Pete 1966-1979 Volume 2.  Like its predecessor – The Cosmic Genius Of Big Boy Pete 1965-1977 Volume 1 – the collection is available on vinyl and is bolstered by printed lyrics and a goofy profile of Big Boy Pete authored by the man himself. 

Riddled with the buzz of a tottering sitar,  Strontium Ninety Nel sets the album in mettle motion to a punchy kaleidoscopic pulse, while the twinkling glimmer of Peter Pan and the orchestral beauty of Summerland detail the more delicate aspects of psychedelia. Also filed in this category is Convercircles, which sweeps and sways with taffy-stretching melodies and abstract imagery. Conducted by a taunting sneer based somewhere in the orbit of Bob Dylan and Sky Saxon, Nothingness Minus The Fun throbs insistently with rubbery riffs producing a bizarre breed of country folk rock. 

Classic rockabilly is the chosen style on the wickedly catchy Bad Girl, and then there’s The King Of Berentania, that crosses reggae aspirations with new wave perspectives, before transforming into a sea shanty. An inspired Johnny Cash imitation is unveiled on the gruff and gravelly Burnt Out, menacing surf and spy rhythms crop up on the hard-edged jolt of Freeloader and Flying Solo soars forth to a powered pitch centered around a keen arrangement, biting fuzz guitars and commanding hooks. 

Although Big Boy Pete keeps busy resurrecting material from yore, by no means does he live in the past. Apart from operating The Audio Institute of America in San Francisco, he continues to write and record original music. Those with an ear for a true blue rock and roll attitude that not only yields cool sounds, but adds wit, humor and surrealism to the show, will wear the grooves out of The Cosmic Genius Of Big Boy Pete 1966-1979,Volume 2, and then tune into his many other treasures, if they are not already acquainted with his work.

The Beatles and The Green Hornet for MEESTER TACO

Meester Taco was a taco joint in Brockport, New York in the late ’70s.  As a senior at the State University College at Brockport in the Spring of 1980, I wrote two Meester Taco commercials for the college radio station, WBSU-FM. I booked a studio date for production, but technical issues at the studio forced us to postpone–yeah, just like Westcott Radio today. It was already too late in the semester to re-schedule production, so these commercials were never produced.  But I still have the scripts.  The “Jane” in the Beatles spot would be my pal Jane Gach, who was a DJ at WBSU.  So, let’s hear from our sponsor:

MEESTER TACO 60 second spot

JANE:  We interrupt this program for a special bulletin.  I’m speaking to you from Meester Taco, where The Beatles–John, Paul, George and the other one–have been seen together.  John, you and the others have turned down countless multi-million dollar offers for a reunion. Why have you decided to get back together?

JOHN:  Actually, it wasn’t a PLANNED thing at all. We just bumped into each other on line for beef burritos at Meester Taco.

PAUL:  I was waiting for a soft-shell taco with hot sauce.

JOHN:  Well, taco or burrito, it’s the same existential concept.

JANE:  Paul, what is it you like about Meester Taco?

PAUL:  Oh, the spices definitely. In fact, I’d like to take some of these spices with me to Japan….

JANE:  I see.  And what do you say, George?

GEORGE:  Hare Krishna. Spare change, mister?

JANE:  Ringo?

RINGO:  I want another Apple Gomez.

JANE:  Well guys, I’m really glad that you could just forget your past differences and re-unite.

JOHN:  Yes, the devotion of our fans has, heh, “Please Pleased us,” and we just want to make everyone happy and–HEY! That’s me beef burrito you’ve got, Paulie!

PAUL:  ‘Tis not!

JOHN:  ‘Tis! Take THAT, McCartney!

[Fight sounds, continuing under narration]

JANE:  Well, I guess this just proves that Meester Taco can bring anyone together.  Right, guys?

JOHN:  Right. All you need is love.

PAUL:  Yeah.

GEORGE:  Yeah.

RINGO:  Yeah.

[Fight resumes]

JANE:  Meester Taco, on the corner of Routes 19 and 31 in Brockport–bringing people together.

MEESTER TACO 30 second spot

MUSIC:  “The Green Hornet Theme” by Al Hirt

NARRATOR: Meester Taco presents the adventures of The Green Hornet! You remember last time, the villanous Doctor Smirk had trapped The Green Hornet in a situation which could mean certain death for our hero! Let’s listen….

SMIRK: Aha, Green Hornet! I have you trapped in a situation which could mean certain death for you! What do you say to that?

NARRATOR:  Our hero bravely replies–

HORNET:  Oh God, somebody help me!

NARRATOR:  We pause now for this word from our sponsor.

MR. TACO:  This is Crazy Meester Taco on the corner of Routes 19 and 31 in Brockport, where we’ve got the best deals on tacos, burritos, tostadas and Apple Gomezes in the area. Meester Taco will NOT be undersold!

ORNET:  Wait a minute! I’m in deadly danger, and you interrupt for a commercial?!

NARRATOR:  Suddenly–

DEPUTY:  Okay, Green Hornet, you’re coming with us.

HORNET:   Who are you?

DEPUTY:  We’re from Bellevue and we’ve got a room waiting for you. Your show’s been off the air for fifteen years.

HORNET:  Where’s Kato?

DEPUTY:  Kato’s been dead for ten years. Now come along.

NARRATOR:  And what of the evil Doctor Smirk?

SMIRK:  Hey man, I’m in the middle of a beef burrito!

NARRATOR:  Meester Taco, at the corner of Routes 19 and 31 in Brockport.  For the great American meal that’s really Mexican.

Great. Now I’m hungry.

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

This was written for my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but is not in the book’s current blueprint.An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

ELTON JOHN: Saturday Night’s Alright For FightingWritten by Elton John and Bernie TaupinProduced by Gus DudgeonSingle, MCA Records, 1973
Somebody’s gonna get their head kicked in tonight.
In 1973, I had never heard (nor heard of) the song with that title. “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight” had been the non-LP B-side of Fleetwood Mac‘s “Man Of The World” single in 1969; for that rockin’ B-side (written by Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer), the group used the pseudonymous nom du hooligan Earl Vance and the Valiants, perhaps to establish plausible legal deniability for its intent to bash in craniums with mallets aforethought. Years later, it became something of a punk rock standard via a cover by the Rezillos. In ’73, relatively few Americans knew the song. Hell, in ’73, I had barely heard of Fleetwood Mac.
Oh, but I betcha Elton John and Bernie Taupin knew it. They didn’t copy the valiant Mac, but the pugnacious spirit of “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight” drinks at the same bar as a song Elton and Bernie wrote and Elton released as a single in 1973: “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.”

Elton John’s big hit singles were among the highlights of my prime AM radio days, commencing with “Crocodile Rock” in 1972. I discovered (and embraced) his previous nuggets “Your Song” and “Rocket Man” shortly thereafter, and rode right along with his subsequent hits “Daniel,” “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” I hated “Bennie And The Jets”–I still do–but was otherwise all in for whatever our Reg was doing on the radio. There was a TV special called Goodbye Norma Jean to promote his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album; I loved the documentary and I was intrigued by the album (especially the [then] less-familiar “Candle In The Wind” and the girl-girl enticement of “All The Young Girls Love Alice”), even though I didn’t get around to owning a copy of that album until many, many years later.

No, my sole contemporary EJ artifacts were his Greatest Hits album and later his “Philadelphia Freedom” 45, the latter purchased because my friend Jim Knight told me its B-side featured John Lennon in a live performance of the Beatles‘ “I Saw Her Standing There.” SCORE!! Greatest Hits allowed me the chance to play my Elton favorites again and again. I memorized Bernie Taupin’s lyrics for “Your Song,” and they became among my preferred passages when I was practicing typing, mentally dedicating the sentiment to every pretty girl I ever knew. (On the other hand, my choice for another practice typing piece–a quote from the 1940s comic book superhero the Sandman–kinda illustrates why I didn’t have a girlfriend.) 

“Your Song,” “Rocket Man,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” But my # 1 was “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” its rat-a-tat percussive opening and furious tempo oddly presaging the interest I would develop in punk rock just a few years later. That borders on the ironic, since punk is a large part of why I lost interest in Elton John’s music in the late ’70s. Still, other than “Crocodile Rock,” I’ve never relinquished my affection for the Elton John songs I loved in my teens. 

Especially this one. 

I didn’t pay particularly close attention to its lyrics. If I had, I might have been put off by its stated endorsement of drunken bar brawls. But I was 13; what the hell did I know about bar brawls? I had been in my share of fistfights at school, none of them drunken, all of them stupid and ill-advised. No heads were kicked in during the making of my middle school years. Nor was I much aware of the British pub experience, the Us v. Them scene combusted from the volatile mix of football and alcohol. The belligerent approach of “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” was in the tradition of aggressive records by the likes of the Rolling Stonesthe Who, and the Faces. And by Fleetwood Mac, alias punters Earl Vance and the Valiants. Somebody’s gonna get their head kicked in tonight. It is, after all, Saturday night.

So yeah, let’s have a drink, and raise a cheer for our side. Don’t give me none of your aggravation. Get a little action in. Elton John’s alright, alright, alright…!

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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.

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THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Hey Jude

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!

For years and years, “Hey Jude” was regarded by many as The Beatles‘ crowning achievement among singles, the fabbest of the fab, the toppermost of the poppermost. No, wait–neither fab nor poppermost, for “Hey Jude” was far more mature and accomplished than that earlier yeah-yeah-yeah hold my hand stuff. It had depth! It had meaning! It had purpose! It had a big room full of people swayin’ and singin’ Na-na-na-NA-na-na-na!, as if they’d lost their way and forgotten the precise words to “The Batman Theme!”

And I loved it. Wholeheartedly.

“Hey Jude” was released in the summer of 1968, a double-barreled 45 with the raucous “Revolution” as its flip. The Beatles promoted it via a video clip aired by British TV host David Frost and subsequently in the U.S. on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. I missed all of this, and I don’t remember hearing it on the radio or anywhere until the early ’70s. That’s when I finally heard “Hey Jude,” as I was visiting my brother Rob in Albany, and listening intently to an oldies radio countdown of the all-time greatest songs. “Hey Jude” came in second, falling just short of the unstoppable juggernaut that was “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe. Or maybe it was the other around, but no matter. I adored both songs immediately.

There was never a time where I didn’t like The Beatles, at least no such time after Beatlemania hit the States in ’64, when I was mere lad of four. But the early ’70s was a huge period of discovery and rediscovery for me in terms of your John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I listened to the Beatles records I knew, sought out the Beatles records I didn’t know, saw the Beatles films I hadn’t seen, and re-watched the one I knew–A Hard Day’s Night–whenever it turned up on TV. The Beatley Badfinger was my favorite current group on the radio, and the Beatley Raspberries later became my favorite current group on the radio; in the period between Badfinger and The Raspberries, Paul McCartney & Wings was likely my favorite current group on the radio. But my all-time favorite group? There was never, ever any question about who that was. There still isn’t.

Granted, the onslaught of punk in the late ’70s prompted me to re-examine my ongoing allegiance to The Beatles. My newfound devotion to The Ramones rivaled my Beatlemania, but certainly didn’t replace it. I did grow tired of the solo careers of the former Beatles by that time, and even started writing a song urging them to never get back to where they once belonged (‘Cause you got a good reason/For staying apart just as long as you can/You got a good reason/All things must pass, you can’t do that again). I developed a distinct preference for The Beatles’ pre-1967 recordings, before they got too serious with the Sgt. Pepper and the “All You Need Is Love” and the goo goo ga joob. On the other hand: RevolverRubber SoulBeatles VI and Beatles ’65 and Meet The Beatles and the American mix of “Thank You, Girl” on The Beatles’ Second Album? Yeah, yeah, a thousand times yeah! 

In my 1980s Beatles milieu, “Hey Jude” was not here, nor there, nor everywhere. I still liked it, but it was no longer in my Top 100, not even close. Hell, when a rummage-sale dive at a church basement in Buffalo netted me an Atlantic 45 of Wilson Pickett testifyin’ his own take on “Hey Jude,” the Wicked, Wicked Pickett’s rendition instantly became the version in my mind. That remained the case for decades thereafter. And seeing Paul (now Sir Paul) haul the song out again and again for seemingly every TV appearance honoring The Beatles’ legacy eventually caused “Hey Jude” to grate on me. Na-na-na-NA-na-na-na. No. No-no-NO-no-no-no.

There was an exception to this recently. I don’t remember what show it was, what specific honor or accolade or day-in-the-life matter was at hand. But there was Paul McCartney, on my little 32″ TV screen, once again recommending that we take a sad song and make it better. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. But after years of indifference, even disdain for this song…

…Well, all of a sudden “Hey Jude” clicked with me, for the first time in years. I may have even joined in with the na-na-nas, as I sat on my couch and remembered how large this song once loomed in my legend.

It would be difficult to name one track as the definitive Beatles track. I usually regard “Rain” as The Greatest Record Ever Made, but that doesn’t make it the definitive Beatles track. “Yesterday” is underrated in spite of its ubiquity, but it’s three Beatles shy of even being a Beatles record, let alone the definitive example. One could argue on behalf of the moptopped frenzy of “She Loves You” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” the mind-expansion of “A Day In The Life” or “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “I Am The Walrus,” the pathos of “Eleanor Rigby,” the elegance of “Penny Lane,” the sheer beauty of “We Can Work It Out,” the Utopian promise of “All You Need Is Love.”

But if it’s gotta be just one, it’s “Hey Jude.” “Hey Jude” is the definitive Beatles track. It captures one moment among many, just another snippet of time when The Beatles ruled the world. It captures it perfectly, the movement we need right there on our shoulders. It’s The Beatles still playing as a band, the fractures in that foundation still bonded together in a way only four specific people would ever truly understand. It’s The Beatles with nothing to prove, already reigning o’er their domain by divine right, the four kings of EMI sitting stately on the floor. It’s The Beatles proving it anyway, because they’re the goddamn Beatles.

So let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin. You were made to go out and get her. Tonight, I will see Paul McCartney in concert for the first time. He’ll play some songs I know and love, representing a body of work I cherish above all others. He’ll sing “Yesterday.” He’ll command us to “Let It Be.” He’ll channel James Bond with “Live And Let Die,” a license to thrill. And a splendid time will be guaranteed for all.

And he will sing “Hey Jude.” Where once I dreaded that notion, I now embrace it and anticipate it as a highlight. And I will sing along, full voice, with over 30,000 of my fabbest friends. Na-na-na-NA-na-na-na. For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder. Better, better, better, AH!

The Weeklings / In Their Own Write

The Weeklings

In Their Own Write (JEM Records 2021)

http://www.jemrecordings.com/


Live albums are the next best thing to being there, especially when brought to you by a group as great as The Weeklings. Recorded on the stages of the Strand Theater in Lakewood, New Jersey and Daryl’s House in Pawling, New York, In Their Own Write truly does capture the widely adored combo in all their energetic and exciting splendor.

 Because The Weeklings are so adept at composing and playing heritage genres, you would swear on a stack of vinyl that their songs were platinum-plated hit singles from the golden age of pop rock. 
Bobbing with jingling guitars and cheery choruses, Little Tease, Don’t Know, Don’t Care and Little Elvis mimic the mop-topped Liverpool Class of 1963, where Morning, Noon And Night projects a stirring folk rock feel, accompanied by the tremor of a bluesy harmonica. 

Wrapped in rotating rhythms, surrounded by power chords  and drum drills snapping like rubber bands, In The Moment bears a potent Who presence, the chugging roll of 1,000 Miles Away rests firmly on Chuck Berry turf, and the melodic shimmer of Leave Me With My Pride would have been right at home on a Raspberries album.

No Weeklings’ gig is complete without greeting The Beatles. That said, In Their Own Write contains a pair of John Lennon and Paul McCartney covers, but rather than recycling the songs note for note, The Weeklings offer treatments that are far different from the original versions. Both The Word and Baby You’re A Rich Man are shaped of  a stately stance,  marked by weighty arrangements, a measured intensity and harmonica interludes, resulting in very unique and imaginative takes.

The Weeklings flex their stadium rock muscles to maximum momentum on the pulsing Running Away, which climaxes to a whirring jam, as well as the ultra-catchy 3, that bucks and bounces with stabbing hooks, elevated harmonies and a powerful and gritty lead vocal reminiscent of John Waite during his Babys days.

Intended to be experienced to at ear-splitting volume, In Their Own Right will have listeners clapping their hands, stomping their feet and singing along with these nifty tunes. The Weeklings have passed the audition. Here’s to a standing ovation and an encore! 

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Thank you, Girl!

I put this piece together as a potential chapter for my (clearly imaginary) book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but it is not included in the book’s current blueprint. That may change, but for now, it’s a blog piece instead.(And, considering the parts-is-parts manner in which Capitol Records cobbled together the American versions of The Beatles’ early LPs, it’s fitting that this chapter was itself stitched together from sections contained within two previous posts. Waste not, want not.)An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

THE BEATLES: Thank You, GirlWritten by John Lennon and Paul McCartneyProduced by George MartinOriginal release: Single (B-side of “From Me To You”), Parlophone Records [U.K.], 1963GREM! mix: From the album The Beatles’ Second Album, Capitol Records, 1964

Americans old enough to meet The Beatles‘ records in the ’60s (or even for a good while thereafter) were introduced to this forever fab sound via U.S. label Capitol Records‘ much-maligned and possibly Philistine muckin’ about with the original British tracks. The American LPs were shorter than their nearest U.K. counterparts, there were consequently more Beatles albums released here than in Her Majesty’s domain, and a lot of the tracks were tweaked and meddled with by Yankee hands indifferent to the intent of The Beatles and their producer, George Martin. One could imagine an American record producer chomping on a cigar and shrugging off criticism of such crass creative butchery: It’s not ART ferchrissakes, it’s a freakin’ pop record! Jeez, it’s for kids who don’t know any better; otherwise they’d listen to something good instead. But until they grow up outta this Beatle nonsense, WE know what the American kids wanna hear!

Philistines? Yeah Yeah Yeah. But I remain adamantly devoted to The Beatles’ American LPs. It’s how we heard The Beatles, how we fell in love with The Beatles. My Rubber Soul is the American Rubber Soul, the one that inspired Brian Wilson to create Pet Sounds. My two all-time favorite albums are the U.S. patchworks Beatles ’65 and Beatles VI. I prefer Meet The Beatles to With The Beatles. I recognize the purity of the British originals. I can’t and won’t shake my affection for the records that made me.

For all the (sometimes deserved) crap hurled at Capitol Records’ somewhat ham-handed treatment of The Beatles’ records before Sgt. Pepper, “Thank You, Girl” is one shining example of Capitol taking a fab song and making it better. The original U.K. version of this track is fine. But the U.S. version, on Capitol’s money-grabbing hodgepodge LP The Beatles’ Second Album? Man, that track explodes with more energy than even virgin vinyl can carry, adding extra harmonica parts, absolutely superfluous (yet paradoxically essential) echo, and a full-volume, full-throttle atmosphere that could be seen as over-the-top if weren’t so exactly, unerringly right. There are days when this is The Greatest Record Ever Made. And there are certainly occasional evening commutes when this is the only song worth playing, over and over, making me glad when I was blue.

The American mix of “Thank You, Girl” is better than the U.K. version. It’s not even close. I remember the first time I heard the British “Thank You, Girl.” I was in high school, spring of ’77, and I bought an import reissue of The Beatles’ Hits EP, specifically to own a copy of “Thank You, Girl,” a track I knew and loved from my cousin Maryann’s copy of The Beatles’ Second Album. And I was so disappointed with the relatively lifeless mix on the EP. AND IT HAD LESS HARMONICA! Heresy! Sure, it turned out to be heresy in reverse, I guess, but no matter. I knew which version moved me. I still do. I chalked it off to experience, and snagged a beat-up copy of The Beatles’ Second Album at the flea market. And all I’ve gotta do is thank you, Capitol. Thank you, Capitol.

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He THOUGHT He Was An Artist!


When I was a teenager, I wanted to be an artist almost as much as I wanted to be a writer. I kept writing, and I got better at it; I didn’t really stick with the art to the extent that would have been necessary, so those skills never improved. 

This is a piece I did for art class in 1976, when I was 16, a junior in high school. Honestly, although that date felt accurate, my unreliable memory didn’t think I took an art class during my junior year. But I did, and this was from that class: 

The character of Agent 690: Man Of Action! was created by my friend Michael DeAngelo, intended as a one-off gag depicting me as an ass-kickin’ adventurer. Mike was a senior, and a much more accomplished artist than I was. We collaborated on comic strips for our high school literary magazine The NorthCaster. Those collaborations were strictly writer-and-artist, with me cobbling together the words and situations and Mike providing the pretty or gritty pictures necessary to tell the story. I had hoped we could take that collaboration to a higher level, working for DC Comics as the next Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, but the good folks at DC did not share my enthusiasm, and our Batman submission drew nothing more than a polite rejection slip.

Mike’s father Richard DeAngelo was my 11th-grade art teacher, and possibly my 10th-grade art teacher, too. Mr. DeAngelo was NOT–big letters, in italics, and what the hell, let’s put it in bold NOT–the high school art teacher referenced in my reminiscence The Jack Mystery Story, the teacher who told my parents he had to break me. No, no, no. Mr. DeAngelo may not have been terribly impressed with my prowess as an art student, but he never really discouraged me; that was my freshman art teacher, who I guess figured it was his job to crush the uppity art-makin’ aspirations previously nurtured by my eighth grade art teacher John DiGesare. Mr. DeAngelo did throw me out of his house once–I spent quite a bit of time there, visiting Mike and later on his younger sister Lissa–but that’s another story. 

(There’s also a story–perhaps apocryphal–that Mr. DeAngelo, as an active member of the local arts community, invited John Lennon and Yoko Ono to his house when Yoko’s This Is Not Here exhibit was at the Everson Museum in 1971, and that they accepted his invitation. But I digress.)

Anyway. I don’t remember whether or not I asked Mike if I could use Agent 690 for my own one-off art project, but use him I did. The result was silly and inconsequential, but I was 16, and I look back upon it fondly.

When He THOUGHT He Was An Artist! returns: before Agent 690, I did another one-off comic strip for Mr. DeAngelo’s class, a dark ‘n’ gritty superhero tale called Hero. My apparent lack of shame means it will post here soon.

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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.
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Hey, 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).

LOST IN THE GROOVES: ELEVATOR by THE (Bay City) ROLLERS

We’ve spoken of the 2005 book Lost In The Groovesthe self-described “capricious guide to the music you missed” which contained two entries written by me, covering Subterranean Jungle by The Ramones and Tell America by Fools Face.  I also submitted a short piece on Elevator, a 1979 album by The Rollers, the act formerly known as The Bay City RollersLost In The Grooves editors Kim Cooper and David Smay took a pass on that one. I can’t find my original manuscript so I wrote a new one for you:

THE ROLLERS
Elevator (Arista, 1979)

By 1979, The Bay City Rollers were clearly on the ropes. The hits had stopped, and the group’s fan base of screaming young girls had chosen not to grow older with their formerly-cherished tartan-clad heartthrobs. A Saturday morning TV series had not kindled a new audience; on the contrary, it was a tacit surrender, an admission that The Bay City Rollers’ S! A! T-U-R! D-A-Y! night had ended. As even the TV show faded to black, lead singer Les McKeown couldn’t split fast enough.

But the remaining members of the group–Eric FaulknerStuart “Woody” Wood, and brothers Alan and Derek Longmuir–remained together, determined to become the solid, successful rock ‘n’ roll group they felt they could be. They recruited a new lead singer, Duncan Faure, previously of a South African group called Rabbitt, and attempted to distance themselves from uncool, unfashionable teen idolatry, ditching the tartan togs and shortening their name to just The Rollers. And so The Rollers sought fame fortune anew, with an album called Elevator.

Elevator was neither new wave rock ‘n’ roll nor FM rock fare, but it was a splendid work that could have been appreciated by fans of The Babys or The Records. Faure’s vocals were identifiably influenced by John Lennon, lending a palpably Beatley sheen and edge to a confident collection of rockin’ pop tunes. The Bay City Rollers had been an underrated pop group, capable of creating a few unforgettable power pop tracks amidst the prerequisite morass of balladry and goop expected of lads gracing the covers of teen magazines. But Elevator was the group’s most consistent and listenable album to date. Sure, the drug references were winkingly and obnoxiously self-conscious–C’mon, an LP cover depicting a giant red pill in an elevator going up? Really?–but the songs and performances were first-rate. The single, “Turn On Your Radio,” was catchy and engaging, and it combined with terrific album tracks like “Playing In A Rock And Roll Band,” “I Was Eleven,” and “Who’ll Be My Keeper” to convey a compelling tale of the yin and yang of the good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll road show. The title song rocked, and the aforementioned “Who’ll Be My Keeper” was one of the best tracks of the year. Seriously!

And yeah, Elevator was stuck in the basement level from the get-go. There were some attempts to promote it; Trouser Press ran an article on this supposedly more mature edition of The Rollers, and the group appeared on The Mike Douglas Show hyping its new direction. But honestly, The Rollers could have released a record that cured cancer, fed the hungry, and reunited The Beatles, and none of it would have made any difference; in 1979, the public was done with The Rollers–with or without a “Bay City” prefix–and that was that.

This line-up of The Rollers released two more albums–an Arista contract-breaker called Voxx (one of the best odds-n-sods contract-breakers I ever did hear) and an album called Ricochet–that are well worth seeking out and enjoying; neither has ever been issued in the U.S. Later on, there was a terrible synth record called Breakout; in between Voxx and Ricochet, there was a cassette-only release called Burning Rubber, which I’ve neither seen nor heard (though the Rollers film for which it serves as soundtrack is on YouTube, I think). The Rollers’ career ended in obscurity. ElevatorVoxx, and Ricochet deserved a better fate.