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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.

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 download

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

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Pop Sunday

Chris Church / Limitations of Source Tape

Chris Church

Limitations Of Source Tape (SpyderPop Records/Big Stir Records)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/limitations-of-source-tape


Early 2021 saw two great labels – SpyderPop and Big Stir – team up as a relaunch imprint. Chris Church is one of the artists receiving a reprise. And here is a look at the Lenoir, North Carolina-based singer, songwriter and multi-varied instrumentalist’s second solo album, Limitations Of Source Tape, which was originally recorded in 2017 and distributed by SpyderPop.

While Chris boasts a background involving a diverse selection of musical styles, Limitations Of Source Tape points the arrow straight towards the guitar-oriented pop rock side of the spectrum. Equipped with a fine voice seated somewhere between the harmonious blush of Todd Rundgren and a rootsy brogue, Chris unleashes his intelligently-composed material with assertiveness and authority.

Certain portions of Limitations Of Source Tape additionally share traits with the likes of Tommy Keene and Michael Penn, placing Chris in very good company indeed.

 Navigated by a tugging rhythm and an equally snaring hook, Bell The Cat stands as one of those ridiculously catchy tunes impossible to shake, whereas Be My Nuisance is glazed with jangling chords and pops with power.

Energetic tempos, tied to solid arrangements and shrewd breaks, command the course on tracks such as Pollyanna’s Going Dark and Fall Into Me, and be sure to also give a listen to Understudy Blues, which charges forth as a tasty piece of hard-rocking ear candy.

No frills and all thrills, Limitations Of Source Tape focuses on strong and melodic songs created from the heart and gut. The crisp and crunchy production of the album provides extra appeal. And speaking of perks – in conjunction with Limitations Of Source Tape – SpyderPop and Big Stir have resurrected Chris Church’s third solo album – Backwards Compatible – which was initially released in 2018 and is highly recommended as well. 

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Pop-A-Looza TV

Pink Flloyd / Another Brick In The Wall

Released in 1979, Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall.

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Pop-A-Looza TV

The Pretenders / Complex Person

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Boppin'

The Ramones: It’s Alive!

THE RAMONES

It’s Alive!

Sire (46045

It’s about bloody time. It’s Alive!, the Ramones’ 1979 tour-de-force double-LP live album, has finally gotten a domestic release, a mere 16 years behind the rest of the free world. Everything that’s gone wrong with this country since then, from the Iranian hostage crisis to the O. J. Simpson trial, can no doubt be attributed to Americans’ lack of easy access to the one live album that could obliterate all of life’s nagging little problems in a 1-2-3-4! barrage of amphetamine-laced bubblegum, fueled by punk attitude, a twisted AM pop sensibility, and a stunning use of nearly three chords.

Okay, so we’re getting carried away here. But critical objectivity tends to fly out the window when it comes to the Ramones. Many still view the group as a joke, while a select few (very few) others regard the Ramones with near-religious devotion. And let there be no doubt which side of that argument this scribe favors: the Ramones rule, pal, It’s Alive! is the greatest live album ever recorded, and if you don’t agree, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. Plus you’ve got bad breath.

Seriously, although It’s Alive! may not convert many non-believers to da cause, it’s a bracing, invigorating slap of Carbona-strength Hai Karate for righteous pinheads everywhere. Recorded live in London on New Year’s Eve 1977, It’s Alive! offers 28 faster-than-sound samples of unfiltered Ramonesness, culled from the group’s first three albums.


This was also one of the last appearances of original drummer  Tommy Ramone, who’d already been replaced by Marky Ramone by the time of It’s Alive!‘s original release. Although Marky is undeniably a (much!) more accomplished drummer than Tommy, the Ramones lost something irretrievable when Tommy left. Marky is heavier and flashier, and he’s propelled the Ramones to faster and faster rhythms, but Tommy’s light touch added a buoyancy that the group has been unable to replicate since.

And the band is in absolute control throughout this disc. Compare the military precision and passionate urgency of It’s Alive! with the detached, throw-away performance on 1992’s Blitzkrieg-by-numbers Loco Live, and there can be no doubt which disc captures Forest Hills’ Finest at the peak of their in-concert skills.
Color photos from the original LP’s gatefold have been changed to black-and-white for the CD insert (presumably so you can still sort of make them out in this cursed reduced format). But the sonic buzz is still there, an ephemeral thrill made timeless, preserving a fleeting moment when it really seemed possible–inevitable–that four guys from Queens could save rock ‘n’ roll. My fellow Americans, everything’s gonna be all right now.

2021 POSTSCRIPT: my appreciation of Marky Ramone has continued to grow over the decades. What hasn’t changed? It’s Alive! remains my all-time favorite live album.


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Pop Sunday

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! 

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52 Sellout

Insurance That Covers Fury Road

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Boppin'

The Flamin’ Groovies: The Power Pop Hall of Fame

“1975 will be the year of The Flamin’ Groovies!”–Greg Shaw, Who Put The Bomp magazine
“It wasn’t, but it shoulda been.”–Groovies fans ever since then

It could be argued that no rock ‘n’ roll act was ever so good and simultaneously so ignored as San Francisco’s legendary Flamin’ Groovies. Throughout their long history and many personnel changes, the group was consistently out of step with the times. While contemporaries were properly freaking out and endlessly jamming in a tedious soundtrack to an emerging counterculture, the Groovies drew on unfashionable rock ‘n’ roll roots, alternately purveying good-time jug band music á la The Lovin’ Spoonful and rockin’ the motherlovin’ house down with a ferocity to rival The Rolling Stones and The Stooges. By the time reduced-frills rock started making a comeback in the ’70s, a new incarnation of The Flamin’ Groovies was dressed up in Mod clothing and playing polished power pop as if it were 1965 and the band was some mythic combination of The BeatlesByrdsBeach Boys, and Rolling Stones heading into the studio for a session with Phil Spector. And by the time “jangly pop” became a buzz phrase, The Flamin’ Groovies were so far underground that no amount of excavating could bring them to the surface, let alone to the pop stardom that should have been their divine right.

As it is, The Flamin’ Groovies produced some unforgettable work, including three oft-covered classics: “Slow Death,” “Teenage Head,” and the incomparable, booming “Shake Some Action,” which sounded like the eleventh-hour announcement of pop-rock Armageddon. Groovies fans are generally divided into two camps: those who favor the manic-rockin’ original Groovies fronted by Roy Loney, and those who prefer the pop perfection of the Sire years (1976-79) with Chris Wilson. In both incarnations, guitarist Cyril Jordan and bassist George Alexander kept the flame burning brightly.

It’s the Sire era that puts The Flamin’ Groovies into The Power Pop Hall Of Fame. That’s not a knock against the earlier stuff, much of which is just fantastic, but an acknowledgement that we wouldn’t be talking about the Groovies as a power pop act if judged solely on the basis of “Teenage Head” and “Second Cousin;” as irresistible as those tracks are, they’re closer to the cantankerous grandeur of, say, The Pretty Things than to anything one would call power pop. The Flamin’ Groovies’ three albums for Sire–Shake Some ActionNow, and Jumpin’ In The Night–radiate a catchy cool, combining the bop and swagger of a solid rock ‘n’ roll foundation with a swoon-worthy dedication to the giddy, visceral thrill of pure pop pursuits. Shake Some Action is one of the defining albums of the genre, loaded with exquisite tracks–“I Can’t Hide,” “You Tore Me Down,” “Yes It’s True,” “I’ll Cry Alone,” and the nonpareil title tune–that shimmer with conviction and glory. Now and Jumpin’ In The Night have been less celebrated by pundits, but nonetheless gave the undeserving world such pop gems as “Good Laugh Mun,” “All I Wanted,” “Yes I Am,” “Tell Me Again,” and the magnificent “First Plane Home.”

A different line-up of the Groovies (still including Jordan and Alexander) emerged in the late ’80s, releasing the Rock Juice album in 1992 before returning to the shadows. Eventually, Cyril Jordan and George Alexander reunited with Roy Loney for live gigs as The Flamin’ Groovies. Chris Wilson even joined in for an encore at one show, an event that had once seemed, y’know, really unlikely. Credit to all parties for transcending the accumulated baggage of the past.

Both Jordan and Wilson remain in the current edition of The Flamin’ Groovies, and they released an album called Fantastic Plastic in 2017, 24 years after Rock Juice, 38 years after Jumpin’ In The Night. George Alexander plays on some of the album, but Chris von Sneidern has occupied the bass spot for recent live shows. Is this finally The Year Of The Flamin’ Groovies? No, it is not. And that’s okay. To fans, every year is another year of the Groovies. Let us bust out at full speed, ’cause love is all we need to make it all right.

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

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Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?

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!

This piece is a modified version of what I wrote for This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio when Pete Shelly passed away in late 2018, repurposed as a chapter for my forthcoming book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). Ultimately, however, the Buzzcocks chapter didn’t quite fit in with my plans for the book. It be that way sometimes. Nonetheless, the chapter is presented here for your enjoyment.
THE BUZZCOCKS: “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”
Single, United Artists Records [U.K], 1978

Singles Going Steady was my introduction to the music of The Buzzcocks. Although it was really just a compilation of the group’s singles, it was the first Buzzcocks album released in America. I cherished it from that day forward. “Ever Fallen In Love?” “What Do I Get?” “I Don’t Mind.” “Orgasm Addict.” “Love You More.” “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays.” “Harmony In My Head.” “Promises.” Classics, all of ’em. And that was just Side One!

I’m sure I read about the band before that visit to the record shop, but I can’t remember whether or not I’d heard any of the songs before snapping up my copy of Singles Going Steady. Either way, I knew: My music. My kind of record. My kind of band. Music firmly rooted in the example of the 1960s British Invasion, music that couldn’t have existed without British punk (and American Ramones) making it possible. 

Other than Steve Diggle’s “Harmony In My Head,” all of those amazing tracks on Side One of Singles Going Steady were written or co-written by Pete Shelley. Shelley and Diggle were inspired by The Sex Pistols, but informed by a working knowledge of hooks and harmonies, the power of pop, the sheer thrill of what a 45 rpm record could do when played loud, when played on the radio. Some called The Buzzcocks the punk Beatles. To me, another touchstone seemed closer to the mark: The Buzzcocks reminded me of The Kinks.

I can’t explain exactly why. Maybe it was a vague similarity in the quirky nature of the lead vocals. Maybe it was the shrugging off of any pretense of perfection, the casual embrace of its own ragged glory. For whatever reason: God save The Buzzcocks. Now and always, God save The Buzzcocks.

Although The Buzzcocks’ “What Do I Get” has shown up (incongruously) in American advertising–one still awaits the day when “Orgasm Addict” will appear in a TV commercial for ED drugs–the group’s signature tune has to be “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” (shortened to just “Ever Fallen I Love?” for the American LP). The song’s lyrics reflect a same-sex relationship, though the notion of falling in love with someone we shouldn’t have transcends the specifics of sexuality and gender politics. Few of us have been fortunate enough to avoid that trap entirely, to never find ourselves ensnared with a boy or a girl who ain’t nothin’ but trouble, however that trouble manifests its ornery self. The Buzzcocks’ recording is convincing and commanding, making what may be a really bad romance sound really good, at least on the stereo. Where it’s safe!

Ever fallen in love? With a guy or gal who just isn’t right for you, or perhaps with a style of music that will mark you permanently out with the in crowd? Testify, brothers and sisters. The pundits said punk wasn’t built to last. Pete Shelley passed away suddenly in December of 2018. The music outlasts us. It will outlive us all. It’s okay to fall in love with that.


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Cheap Trick / Dream Police