Born on this day in 1949, in Hetton Le Hole, Houghton le Spring, County Durham, United Kingdom, bassist and record producer, Trevor Horn. Horn was instrumental in producing many influential bands in the 80’s, including; Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Buggles, Paul McCartney, Yes, Art of Noise and Seal.
Born on this day in 1938, artist and musician, Klaus Voorman. Those familiar with the legend of The Beatles, will know that Voorman design the cover of The Beatles‘ Revolver Lp.
After 1997’s Blue Sky On Mars, Matthew Sweet just kinda fell off my radar. Although I enjoyed the covers records he did with Susanna Hoffs, I lost touch with his solo work. After hearing rave reviews from friends regarding Catspaw, I thought it might be time to get reacquainted.
Sweet’s voice is in remarkable shape, belying the fact that his ground-breaking Girlfriend Lp is 30 years old. Here, Sweet is stripped back to that era, with in-your-face dry production, framing that evergreen voice. That isn’t the sole reminder of his biggest past success. The songs are really, seriously good.
The opener, Blown Away, is a chugging White Album rocker that blisters with rough guitar and McCartney-inspired bass, both played by Sweet. Opting to cover lead parts himself, Sweet succeeds in pulling off what amounts to an amalgam of all the guitarists who’ve been his sidemen over the years. Challenge The Gods and Stars Explode both get the blood pumping with similar aplomb, chorus hooks and those trademark, double-tracked Sweet harmony vocals.
Catspaw is a strong outing that surprisingly improves with each successive listen. Highly recommended.
For me, one of the joys of listening to and appreciating new music, is that you often get so much more than you originally anticipated. Such is the case with the latest by The Braam Brothers, Landscape.
The brothers were kind enough to send me a vinyl review copy, which is almost unheard of these days. Unpacking the Lp and peeling off the cellophane, I could already feel the anticipation growing. Coupled with a really nicely-designed cover, I hoped that the music inside would be equally as appealing. It would not disappoint.
As I went through the first listen, my mind seriously began to wander. Not because the songs or performances were lacking or uninteresting, but because the overall vibe of the production took me back to a very specific place and time.
In the early 90’s, my best friend lived in a loft in Chicago, with two of his fellow Second City performers. It was everything you’d imagine, from a manikin serving as a coatrack, to a beat-up motorcycle permanently installed in the freight elevator. My friend’s roommates were obsessed with R.E.M., and their first record seemed to be playing in that place, 24 hours a day. It almost had the feel of being on the set of a hip indie film, or stage production. For me, it was always a cool hang, whether we were scarfing down pizza as we took in an old monster movie, or making fun of the Johns nervously trying to pick up the girls that were always, literally, walking the streets below.
The Braam Brothers took me back there, to a place and time that I rarely ever think about these days. Those dusty memories were there in my head alright, though months, even years, go by without their remembrance. I can’t promise a similar experience for you, but I can promise that, at the very least, you’ll get to hear some top-notch music.
My picks to click on this are the stirring title track, and the haunting I Want Your Love, both of which will make this Lp a contender for any year-end best list. These are honest tunes, played with no filter, by real musicians.
The Laurie Berkner Band
Laurie Berkner has covered in the upper echelon of family music for years now. Her songs are always crisp, smart and tuneful, a trend that continues with her latest, Let’s Go!
The title track is a nifty bit of pop set to the hand-jive rhythm, which lists everything that needs to be accomplished before we leave the house. If you’ve got one of those kids that drags his or her feet getting ready for an outing, this one’s for you!
Got a kid that resists wearing a mask during these unique times? The Superhero Mask Song is here to save the day! Without fear or condescension, Berkner explains how every kid can contribute to making their world a better place. This is good, positive stuff! My fave of the set is When It’s Cold, a winter song about keeping warm that’s as fun as it is funky.
Taking in this release just on the strength of how it sounds, it’s expertly produced and lively. The musicianship is top-notch, too. Berkner’s also got a ringer in the band’s line-up, with Brady Rymer on bass guitar. Top-notch.
By Dan Pavelich
An earlier version of this post appeared at Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) on March 24, 2018. It has been updated slightly, but is still prepared to string you along.
Two of the guitars, the electric ones, stand virtually forgotten in a corner of my office at home. The older of the two–a red one I bought shortly after my fortieth birthday, more than twenty-one years ago–is in its hard case, missing a string, maybe two. It’s been missing strings before. A long time back, my then very young daughter Meghan had her Mom, my lovely wife Brenda, bring her to the music store, my red guitar in hand, to have its strings replaced as a gift for Dad. I was touched beyond description. I used to play it. Not very often, never well, nor even adequately. I had no talent, no technique, no musical acumen whatsoever. Still, I plugged in. I knew some chords, mangled as they were in my clumsy hands. I’d forgotten the notes I used to know, but I could still manage an inept G, an approximate C, the odd D, E, A, and D7, and I do mean odd. I turned up, and slammed. The result never quite sounded like “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” or “Mr. Tambourine Man” or Lennon and McCartney’s “I’ll Be On My Way.” It was noise. But it was my noise.
And then I’d usually pop another string. So much for channeling Johnny Ramone.
The black guitar arrived in the mail in December of 2007, I think. It wasn’t a Christmas gift, just something I acquired via incentive points I needed to spend in a hurry. The memory is bittersweet. The day the guitar was delivered, I unpacked it and went upstairs to the office, where Meghan was at the computer with her cousin Stephanie, who was visiting Syracuse for the holidays. It was not the last time we would see Stephanie. She returned for a visit the following summer, when we took her to see The Flashcubes and to the New York State Fair. She was taken from us in October of 2008, the cruelest blow of our lives so far. Thinking of that black guitar makes me think of Stephanie, a pleasant memory that makes me cry, without fail.
The two acoustic guitars are in the garage, accumulating dust, both missing strings, neither played in years. All four guitars are out of tune. I can’t tune them properly, not even the black one with all six strings intact. I can’t play. I can’t make the music I wish I could make.
When I did try to play my guitars, there was a simple chord sequence I used to use, a G-A-D-G-A-D-G-E-A-G-C-A-D-G-A if I recall correctly. It was the presumed melody for a song in my head. The only lyrics it ever had have been with me for decades:
Sometimes in my dreams we still talk to each other
Although in real life I know we’re done with one another
I don’t know if I’d want you to return
I’d just feel better if I could learn
What became of you
Because I remember you
In my head, it was about the people who’d once been integral parts of my life before they slipped away. The high school confidante who killed himself. The teen co-conspirator who later severed her ties with me. The soulmate who was never really my girlfriend, though both of us wondered if we’d be married someday. The enigma who wanted to be my girlfriend, but I wasn’t ready for her. The college bud I discarded in anger. Pals and passersby. Lovers and friends I still can recall; some are dead, and some are living. Family. Regrets? I’ve had a few. I can’t say if they’re too few to mention.
Yet I know I’ve been blessed as well. Brenda and I are still together. Meghan, no longer the little girl who dragged her Dad’s red guitar to the store for mending, graduated with highest honors from Ithaca College in 2017, and snagged a part-time job–in her field!–at Syracuse University Press. I acknowledge the bad. I embrace the good. And I try to keep on playing, in my own fashion.
My daily blog Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) debuted on January 18th, 2016, originally with the less-distinctive title CC Says. It took just under a year to accumulate 50,000 views, and just over another fourteen months to quadruple that figure. It’s over a half a million strong now–just like Woodstock! It’s a modest number still, but one I embrace as good. The road to relevance winds on. You’re welcome to travel along with me.
I can’t play. I can write. I’ll be here every day for as long as I can. Maybe I’ll pick up the black guitar for a bit, just to remember. And just to play, even though I can’t. But the noise I make remains my own.
(Oh, and for the full story of my life-long failed attempts to make music, I refer you to “I’ve Got The Music In Me [And That’s Where It’s Gonna Stay].” Many guitar strings were harmed in the making of this picture.)
Released as a single by Paul McCartney, from his 1986 Lp of the same name, in July of 1986. Cracking the top 4o in The U.S. and U.K., it did nearly as well as his previous single, Spies Like Us.
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 was love at first sight.
Teen idolatry–specifically, the sort of starry-eyed quasi-romantic longing that conjures adolescent yearning for long walks in the moonlight hand-in-hand with the teen heartthrob du joir–has been part of pop music for as long as there has been pop music. I mean, I can’t speak for the probability of giggling young girls once makin’ ga-ga noises over noted hottie Ludwig von Beethoven, but Frank Sinatra? King Elvis I? Paul McCartney, Mark Lindsay, Bobby Sherman, and the lads in One Direction? Girls swooned over posters and magazines, LP covers and 45 sleeves, and kissed Monkees bubblegum cards with earnest, whispered wishes to one day become Mrs. Davy Jones: I’ll be true to you, yes I will.
That was the girls. Boys? Not so much.
That’s the image, anyway. In reality, kids won’t always follow the rigid scripts adults throw at them. There were girls who found this whole notion of getting wobbly-kneed over a pretty face just absurd. There were boys and girls whose pop dreams favored teen idols with whom they shared a gender. And there must have been boys dreaming of sweet pecks on the lips from Mary Weiss of The Shangri-Las, or Marianne Faithfull, or Chaka Khan. In North Syracuse in 1975, there was certainly one fifteen-year-old boy who saw Suzi Quatro on the cover of a magazine, and promptly fell in love. And yes, of course that boy was me.
The divine Miss Suzi was not my first pop crush; that was probably Nancy Sinatra circa “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” or possibly Lesley Gore when she sang “California Nights.” Expanding beyond the chanteuses who caught my eye, my other pop crushes likely included every pretty actress I ever saw on TV, from Yvonne Craig and Bridget Hanley through Linda Evans and all the women who ever appeared in Star Trek reruns. And Lorrie Menconi, Playboy‘s Miss February 1969. Nor was Suzi my final pop crush, as Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett, P.J. Soles, and Vanity were still off in my future when the calendar read ’75. But fickle and fleeting as I may have been, Suzi Quatro always remained my # 1.
I can’t say for certain how that particular issue of Rolling Stone found its way into my living room. Both of my older brothers were married and gone from the household by ’75, so the RS probably belonged to my sister Denise. It could also have come from my Dad, who worked at the post office and occasionally brought home subscription magazines that had been discarded as undeliverable. However it arrived in my suburban home, it was the cover of the Rolling Stone, dated January 2, 1975, that introduced me to this unfamiliar rock ‘n’ roll chick named Suzi Quatro.
Smitten. Immediately, irrevocably smitten.
Why? Man, answering that would be like trying to tell a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll. Some would say she wasn’t conventionally pretty in the way you’d expect a pinup or poster girl to be, but I found her irresistibly cute. It wasn’t even like the pictures of her in Rolling Stone were overtly sexy or deliberately provocative (though the cover and one interior photo did show how her leather pants loved to hug her derriere). I wish I could claim I was a budding feminist at 15, engaged not by Quatro’s looks but by her intelligence and personality, and by her music…but I’d be lyin’. I’d never heard her music, and I don’t know how much of her wit and wisdom could be ascertained from a casual read of a rock rag piece where she discussed the pros and cons of getting a tattoo on her butt. No, I have to admit it was something about her look. I was fascinated. And I was in love with her, as surely as all those girls reading 16 and Tiger Beat were in love with Donny Osmond.
It was a love with no kindling to feed its fire. In the immediate aftermath of discovering her, I didn’t see any more articles about Suzi Quatro. I didn’t hear her music on the radio. I didn’t see her on TV. I’m not sure if I saw any of her records at Gerber Music, but even if I had, I didn’t yet have enough concrete motivation to make a purchase. I was in love with a face, and a body wrapped tightly in leather; I had no idea if that was enough to make me a fan of the Suzi Quatro sound.
On May 1st of 1975, Alice Cooper was scheduled to appear in Syracuse for a concert at the Onondaga County War Memorial…WITH SUZI QUATRO OPENING…?! Glorioski! I thought Alice Cooper was one of the coolest things on AM radio at the time, and with Suzi Quatro on the bill, I knew I had to be there. My parents did not agree with the inevitability of this rendezvous, and refused permission. Years later, I would realize that my Dad was concerned about my seemingly fragile machismo, and was not going to allow his son to see a guy named Alice, no way, no how. I don’t know if Dad would have felt differently if he suspected my potentially prurient interest in Suzi Quatro. I missed my chance to see Alice Cooper, and my initiation into the musical world of Suzi Quatro’s music was likewise deferred.
That initiation finally took place in either late ’75 or in 1976. I’m not sure of the precise time frame, nor the exact sequence of events. Somewhere in there, I found and purchased a cut-out copy of Suzi Quatro, her debut LP. I can’t remember if that was before or after I saw Suzi Quatro on TV. For the sake of the narrative, let’s presume it was after.
Supersonic was a British rock ‘n’ roll TV series, showcasing performers in a cheesy ’70s studio setting, lip-syncin’ their hits and wannabe hits. It was briefly carried on Saturday afternoons by WPIX in New York City, and available to cable subscribers in Syracuse’s suburbs. I watched it when I could, eager as I was for more and more rockin’ pop, whenever and wherever. I saw some familiar acts on Supersonic, from The Hollies to The Bay City Rollers to The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. I saw that loathsome little bug Gary Glitter. I saw a number of other performers my memory won’t surrender. Supersonic looms largest in my legend for one thing only: showing me Suzi Quatro on TV.
There she was. One Saturday afternoon in the ’70s, the date long faded away, but the image still vivid in my mind. Suzi Quatro. She was beautiful. And hey, whaddaya know? She rocked!
I was transfixed. Hey, ya heard about Susie from Baton Rouge? She wasn’t asking me, but I shook my head, jaw agape, as she continued, Well, lemme tell you ’bout it! Guitars and drums, a churning ’70s bop, grinding forward, Suzi Quatro’s bass booming as she not-quite-sneered, not-quite-smiled her way through.
Awright. This deal was sealed as far as I could see. Marry me, Suzi!
It was the only time I saw Suzi on Supersonic, or anywhere else for a while thereafter. And I didn’t catch the damned title of the song! I spent years looking for something called “Little Susie From Baton Rouge,” or “I’m Just Waitin’ For You,” or, I dunno, “Suzi Quatro’s Love Theme From Supersonic,” all to no avail. I bought the above-mentioned eponymous Suzi Quatro album, either before or after seeing her on Supersonic, and that song was not on the album. And the album…aw, the album didn’t do all that much for me, dammit.
Suzi Quatro ain’t exactly a bad record. mind you. It contains not one, but two of her all-time signature tunes, “Can The Can” and “48 Crash,” plus “Glycerine Queen” and covers of Elvis’ “All Shook Up” and The Beatles‘ “I Wanna Be Your Man.” At the time, I only knew the latter as a track on Meet The Beatles, not realizing that John and Paul had originally written it for Mick, Keith, and Brian, or that it had been The Rolling Stones‘ first hit in the UK. At 16 or so, I was intrigued by the notion of a female singing about wanting to be someone’s man, though it really just meant that Quatro didn’t care enough about gender politics to be bothered; she just wanted to sing the song, you stupid boys. Kinda like Ringo singing The Shirelles‘ “Boys” on the first Beatles album. It wasn’t a statement; it was benign indifference.
I like the album more now than I did then, and I didn’t exactly dislike it then. But it never threatened to overtake the top of my pops, not like Sweet or The Raspberries, or like Suzi’s song on Supersonic might have. My Suzi Quatro fandom meandered after that. I picked up a used promo copy of her Your Mama Won’t Like Me album on a visit to Record Revolution or The Record Exchange in Cleveland Heights; other than a track called “Paralyzed,” most of the album’s hybrid hard rock/faux funk posturing left me unimpressed. In the summer of 1978, I purchased an import Suzi Quatro album called Aggro-Phobia; the LP was two years old by then, but I’d never seen it before, and rightly figured What the hell–why not?
I’d never quite stopped searching for that elusive, unidentified Quatro song I’d heard on Supersonic. It didn’t seem to be on her second album Quatro, an album I wouldn’t hear until a few more years thereafter, and it didn’t seem to be anywhere. I’m sure I was hoping it would be on Aggro-Phobia, but it was not. However, Aggro-Phobia did include a track which seemed to be a companion piece, since its mention of “Louisiana Sue” was a direct reference to Little Susie from Baton Rouge. The Aggro-Phobia track was called “Tear Me Apart.”
I’ll make your legs start shakin’ every time you hear my name
There’ll be no heartbreakin’, and you know you’ll never be the same
Don’t talk to me about Louisiana Sue
‘Cause she can’t do the things that I can do
So tear me apart if you wanna win my heart
I loved “Tear Me Apart,” a brash and confident rock ‘n’ roller that moved more fluidly and winningly than any other Quatro track I owned up to that point. Most of Aggro-Phobia was forgettable for me; “Tear Me Apart” was classic.
Although Quatro was originally from Detroit (where she and her sisters started a band called The Pleasure Seekers when she was 14), she found stardom in England, stardom that did not translate back in the colonies. In 1977, Quatro had begun appearing in a few episodes of TV’s Happy Days, playing anachronistic chick rocker Leather Tuscadero. I bought a Suzi Quatro poster at Economy Bookstore in Syracuse, and displayed it proudly in my dorm room alongside my KISS and Sex Pistols. 1979 brought Suzi’s belated American success: “Stumblin’ In,” a duet with Chris Norman, broke through the American Top 40 in early ’79, peaking at # 4. I was happy for her success, while remaining resolutely uninterested in any of it. I tried to get into her hit album If You Knew Suzi…, but it was a lost cause. In the midst of my embrace of punk and power pop, If You Knew Suzi… was, well…boring. I didn’t know Suzi, nor was I about to.
That said, 1980’s Rock Hard had some pretty damned good moments, and I wish I’d been more aware of them at the time. I knew the title track from its inclusion on the cool soundtrack album to Times Square, a film intended to do for new wave music what Saturday Night Fever had done for dat ole debbil disco. I liked that track just fine, but it wouldn’t be until years later that I discovered a couple of other cuts from Rock Hard–the peppy pop song “Love Is Ready” and the way-cool “Gloria” ripoff “Lipstick”–that I liked even better.
I did eventually identify that track I’d seen Suzi Quatro mime on Supersonic years before. I think it was in the early ’90s, rummaging through 45s at a great North Syracuse record store called Knuckleheads (Motto: We ain’t in no mall!), when I found a Quatro single called “I May Be Too Young.” Cash made it mine, and a spin on the ol’ home turntable verified that my search had finally reached its end.
I may be too young to fall in love
But I’m still hangin’ ’round
I’m waitin’ for you
I’m just waitin’ for you
You’re never too young to fall in love. I wasn’t too young to fall in love with Mary Rose Tamborelli when I was five, nor with Suzette Mauro when I was six, and they weren’t too young to fall in love with me. Temporarily. They got over me quickly–a little too quickly in Suzette’s case, if you ask me–but we weren’t too young to fall in the first place. You’re not too young to fall in love with people, whether as friends or potentially something more. You fall in love with all sorts of sparkly things. You fall in love with books and movies, cartoons, comics, favorite meals, art and artifice. You fall in love with stars. At 15, I fell in love in Suzi Quatro.
One Sunday afternoon around 1976 or ’77, I was chatting with another music fan at the flea market. The subject of Suzi Quatro came up, and he insisted that she’d posed for Penthouse, and that she’d released a live-in-Japan album called Naked Under Leather. I don’t know about the latter claim, but the Penthouse thing was nonsense. That was never Suzi Quatro’s image. She never pandered, never tried to be sexy or provocative in that way. She wanted to rock like the boys rocked. She wanted to be your man. It wasn’t a statement of sexuality; her gender was simply incidental to her, another label like black or white, Mod or rocker, DC or Marvel. She didn’t care. Have ya heard about Suzi from the Motor City? She was punk before we knew what punk was. She was Suzi Quatro. She’s still Suzi Quatro. Go, go, go, little Suzi.
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Born In The Suburbs
I should start this by saying that Suburban Urchins will appeal to fans of The Kinks. This rough-and-tumble outfit from Tasmania isn’t about smooth edges, but bringing the goods in the form of an iron-fisted right cross.
4000 Miles Away begins with a wind-up, propelled by big drums and power chords. With literally energy for miles, it leads way to I Don’t Wanna Go, an isolation song that’s a real fist-pumper. Scott Riley’s vocals and guitar are perfectly supplemented by the keys of Ernie Oppenheimer, who deftly sprinkles synth and Farfisa throughout.
My fave of the set is the anthemic No More Black Dogs, which feels right out of The Davies’ Brothers playbook, in all the right ways.
Paul McCartney brings his own namesake trilogy to a close with McCartney III. With most of the world in lockdown mode in 2020, Macca split his time between days at his recording studio, and evenings with his daughter and grandkids.
I’m a big fan of the first two installments of the trilogy, the first producing Every Night and Maybe I’m Amazed, the latter, Coming Up and Waterfalls. Working by oneself can produce results far different that a full band effort, and I think McCartney flourishes in this setting.
The instrumentation, which relies predominantly on acoustic instruments, is the perfect stage for Sir Paul’s now-weathered vocals. Find My Way is a peppy number fuel by harpsichord and guitar riffs that mimmic horn stabs. Lavatory Lil and Slidin’ are a couple of top-notch rockers, and Winter Bird/When Winter Comes is a pretty acoustic musing, and one of McCartney’s best.
All around, this is a really pleasant listen. With vibes to spare and a lot of really strong songs, I can’t recommend McCartney III enough.
Life Gets Strange
The undeniable sign of a great release? Repeat listens. I’ll bet that in the past two days, I’ve listened to this e.p. at least ten times. From the first verse of the opener, the rambling Let’s Pretend, to the fadeout of the pretty Alien Eyes, I was comfortably hooked.
Cliff Hillis sounds remarkably like Bill Lloyd, who you know I’m partial to. These six tracks are nestled somewhere between the feisty Americana of Cracker and the always-reliable Tom Petty, but without any Southern vocal affectation. Hillis’s friendly, warm voice is perfectly accompanied by the contrast of crisp acoustic guitars and rougher electrics. The production is absolutely on-point.
Life Gets Strange was released in 2020, and I sincerely regret not hearing it earlier. It certainly would have made my year-end-best list. Highly Recommended.
By Dan Pavelich
A Classic 60s Philly Band (Gear Fab Records 2020)
Although The Oxfords never netted national recognition, they experienced a great deal of success in and around the Philadelphia area during the sixties. A constantly booked schedule, including holding the prestigious title of house band at a local Hullabalo Club and appearances on regional television programs were among the group’s shining achievements.
The Oxfords also released four singles between 1964 and 1967, along with several tracks that remained in the vaults until now. A Classic Philly 60s Band marks the first time all the band’s efforts have been brought together on one collection.
Fixated on the British pop sounds of the day, The Oxfords executed their influences with raw talent and enthusiasm. The band’s phrasing and inflection, combined with a sharp sense of harmony and exuberant energy echoed the likes of The Searchers, The Hollies and The Swinging Blue Jeans. An earthy garage rock production provided the group’s material with an additional stroke of charm.
Extra points go to The Oxfords for writing a good chunk their own songs, which revealed a fine grasp of melody and motion. Accented by shuffling riffs and rhythms, It Serves You Right sails in as a tasty bite of Mersey-flavored ear candy, and the foot-tapping Help Me (Understand) further celebrates the band’s flair for coupling synchronized vocals with catchy instrumentation.
Stay in school, get a high school diploma and the world will be yours for the taking is the message conveyed on the plucky Don’t Be A Dropout, while Even True Love Can Die jangles with rockabilly flourishes. Illuminated by soft and shimmery textures, Without You registers as a sophisticated slice of sunshine pop splashed with a touch of soul.
Filed in the cover category, an adaptation of Ben E. King’s Don’t Play That Song drips with drama and heartache, where John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s You Won’t See Me is padded with brass arrangements, supplying the cut with a bit of a slick Motown styled finish.
Composed of fourteen hooky ditties, A Classic Philly 60s Band will not only yield happy memories for those who were there when The Oxfords were storming the scene, but fans of “Nuggets” and “Pebbles” type combos will appreciate the group’s nifty teen beat tunes as well.