Spygenius / Jobbernowl

Spygenius

Jobbernowl (Big Stir)

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/jobbernowl

A momentous occasion occurs June 24th, as this is the date the new Spygenius album is released. Skating in as the Canterbury, England band’s seventh full-length endeavor, “Jobbernowl” is jammed to the pores with tunes of the “hit repeat button” quality.

But then again, we wouldn’t expect anything less from lead singer and guitarist Peter Watts, bassist and vocalist Ruth Rogers, keyboardist and vocalist Matt Byrne and drummer and vocalist Alan Cummings, who certainly hold court as one of the most interesting and exciting musical configurations of today.

Enigmatic verse, compounded by ripe melodies, compelling instrumentation and perfectly-pressed harmonies represent “Jobbernowl,” beginning with the spinning thrust of “I Dig Your New Robes, Pierre!,” which is topped by a manic chorus of “Dig it! Dig it! Dig it!,” and then there’s the throbbing stomp of  “Sky-Pie, Century 21” that slips a pinch of zoomy surf-rock shadings into the fold via the iconic “Batman” theme. 

Submerged in jangling guitars and juicy hooks, “Mandy Rice-Davies Applies” cycles in as another particularly stand out cut on the album. Also seated in the platinum-plus category is “Screwy,” a bippity-boppity XTC-influenced number  charting the experiences of a couple who are nine years apart in age. 

An invitation to spool back to the flower power era, “The Marvellous, Mendacious Time Machine” is an uptempo slice of psychedelic pop magic, where “Son Of The Morning, Go Man Go!” rocks to a racing beat, based in the neighborhood of The Buzzcocks and The Undertones.   

Classy piano flourishes, whirling with beauty and grace, highlight “All That Is Solid Melts Into Ash,” which frequently reflects the moodier aspects of The Beach Boys, while the squeaky ukulele-driven “Foucault Swings Like A Pendelum Do” would make Tiny Tim glow with pride. 

As is the case with previous Spygenius albums, “Jobbernowl” contains a grab bag of notions, but such variation somehow manages to flow to a synchronized rhythm. So raise a toast to these three lads and a lady, and relish every minute of “Jabbernowl” and its avant-garde magnetism. 

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Beach Boys

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 love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.

As I’ve said before, it took me a little while to become a Beach Boys fan.  But there was a Beach Boys LP in the family library when I was a kid: Surfer Girl. As hard as it may be to believe, the title track from that album is the only Beach Boys song I remember contemporaneously. I know, I know–I was there (in my role as me), and I have difficulty buying the idea that I wasn’t aware of “In My Room” or “Surfin’ USA” or “Help Me, Rhonda” or “I Get Around” or “Our Car Club.” Well, okay, maybe that last mental omission is understandable. But how could I have missed the entirety of The Beach Boys’ ’60s output in the ’60s? Beats me. All I can tell you is that I didn’t start listening to The Beach Boys at all until the mid-’70s, and I didn’t become a big fan until much later.

But I got there. As a teen, I borrowed my cousin Maryann’s Beach Boys records (along with her Dave Clark Five, SearchersBeatlesAnimals, and Rolling Stones collection). I got a copy of the cultural prerequisite 2-LP set Endless Summer via the RCA Record Club, and I figured I was permanently set with all the Beach Boys I’d ever need. Probably more than I’d ever need–the only track missing (in my view at the time) was “Good Vibrations,” and I could live without that if I had to.

(I think I may have been surprised to learn that “In My Room,” a track included on Endless Summer, had originally been done by The Beach Boys. I knew it as an early ’70s single by local singer Nanci Hammond, whose cover of the song received significant AM radio airplay in Syracuse. It was the follow-up to her earlier local hit, “You Were Made Just For Me,” and I confess that I preferred “You Were Made Just For Me” to “In My Room.” At the time, man, at the time!)

In high school, I knew a guy named Larry Siedentop. Larry was a big fan of The Beach Boys, probably the only one of my peers who was really, really into them (though I do recall that another friend, Mary Saur, also liked The Beach Boys, but not as fervently as ol’ Larry did). Larry spoke of The Beatles and The Beach Boys with equal reverence, and to me, that was just crazy, freakin’ nuts. Those square, decidedly outta-fashion California beach bums on a par with the brilliance of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? That was like telling me that Up With People! was a peer to Bob Dylan. Sure, even my self-conscious efforts to make myself into a cooler-than-thou proto-hipster couldn’t deny the pop savvy of The Beach Boys’ best hit singles, but c’mon!

But now, even a slow-to-the-epiphany guy like me can look back and recognize how right Larry Siedentop was. Forty years later, I prefer Pet Sounds to Sgt. Pepper; that’s a turnaround in opinion that would have been inconceivable to me in 1976. I finally appreciate the greatness of The Beach Boys. Hell, I’m even okay with “Kokomo,” which makes me uncool, but I don’t care. And I got to see Brian Wilson play Pet Sounds in 2016! So much for first impressions, I guess, or even some subsequent impressions, too. Sometimes it takes me a while to catch on, and it certainly took me a while to catch a wave.

And I like “Surfer Girl” now. I love “Surfer Girl” now. I mean–look at her!

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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. 

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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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THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (VOLUME 1)

An infinite number of tracks can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. I like that idea so much, I’ve been writing a book about it: The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). The long-threatened book remains a work in progress, but what the hell. Work is progressing.

My first public announcement of my plan to do this book was waaaay back in September of 2018. The GREM! concept well predates that announcement, springing from a series of blog posts that commenced in 2016 with a celebration of Badfinger‘s “Baby Blue.” The first proposed Table of Contents was posted in April of 2019, back when I was only planning for the book to discuss a mere 50 songs. 

50…?! How quaint. It’s grown a bit since then. As of the last posted update in November of 2021, the book’s Table of Contents was a collection of 165 songs. It now stands at 175–170 selections plus five bonus tracks–and that’s probably where the number will stay.

The book’s current Table of Contents appears below. But before you dive in to experience its splendor, it’s worth repeating this caveat from one of the book’s introductory chapters:

“This specific disclaimer is worth highlighting in bold and all-caps: THIS IS NOT INTENDED AS AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST OF THE BEST RECORDS EVER MADE! Jesus, no! The chapters in this book cover a number of popular and personal favorites, but it’s nowhere near comprehensive, and it’s not meant to be. It’s a discussion and a celebration of pop’s infinite promise–nothing more, nothing less.”

Ready? Let’s GO!

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (VOLUME 1) 

Table of Contents

FOREWORD

DISCLAIMERS AND DECLARATIONS (A User’s Guide To The Greatest Record Ever Made!)

A Fistful Of 45s

OVERTURE THE RAMONES: Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?

1. BADFINGER: Baby Blue

2. CHUCK BERRY: Promised Land

3. DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: I Only Want To Be With You

4. THE SEX PISTOLS: God Save The Queen

5. ELVIS PRESLEY: Heartbreak Hotel

6. WILLIE MAE “BIG MAMA” THORNTON: Hound Dog

7. PATTI SMITH: Gloria

8. LITTLE RICHARD: The Girl Can’t Help It

9. NEIL DIAMOND: Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show

10. CRAZY ELEPHANT: Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’ 

11. WILSON PICKETT: In The Midnight Hour

12. THE HOLLIES: I Can’t Let Go

13. MELANIE WITH THE EDWIN HAWKINS SINGERS: Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)

14. THE ROMANTICS: What I Like About You

15. SAM COOKE: Chain Gang

16. PETULA CLARK: Downtown

17. ARTHUR ALEXANDER: Soldier Of Love

18. TRANSLATOR: Everywhere That I’m Not

19. LESLEY GORE: You Don’t Own Me

20. THE SHANGRI-LAS: Leader Of The Pack

21. THE SHIRELLES: Will You Love Me Tomorrow

22. THE RAMONES: Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

23. AMY RIGBY: Dancing With Joey Ramone

24. PINK FLOYD: Wish You Were Here

25. GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS: Midnight Train To Georgia

26.THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR: I Fought The Law

27. MERLE HAGGARD: Mama Tried

28. THE TEMPTATIONS: Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone

29. BUDDY HOLLY: Peggy Sue/Everyday

30. ROBERTA FLACK: Killing Me Softly With His Song

31. JOHNNY NASH: I Can See Clearly Now

32. ELTON JOHN: Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

33. SUZI QUATRO: I May Be Too Young

34. ALICE COOPER: School’s Out

35. THE RARE BREED/THE OHIO EXPRESS: Beg, Borrow And Steal

36. ARTHUR CONLEY: Sweet Soul Music

37. OTIS REDDING: (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay

38. ARETHA FRANKLIN: Respect

39. THE MONKEES: The Girl I Knew Somewhere

40. THE MONKEES: Porpoise Song (Theme From Head)

41. PRINCE: When You Were Mine

42. THE 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS: You’re Gonna Miss Me

43. THE ROLLING STONES: Get Off Of My Cloud

44. PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS: Just Like Me

45. BOB DYLAN: Like A Rolling Stone

46. THE KINGSMEN: Louie, Louie

47. BARON DAEMON AND THE VAMPIRES: The Transylvania Twist

48. THE MARVELETTES: I’ll Keep Holding On

49. THE WHO: I Can’t Explain

50. TODD RUNDGREN: Couldn’t I Just Tell You

51. SHOES: Tomorrow Night

52. THE FLASHCUBES: No Promise

53. TELEVISION: Elevation

54. DONNA SUMMER: I Feel Love

55. SMOKEY ROBINSON AND THE MIRACLES: The Tears Of A Clown

56. JUDAS PRIEST: Heading Out To The Highway

57. THE DIXIE CUPS: Iko Iko

58. THE NEW YORK DOLLS: Personality Crisis

59. MILLIE SMALL: My Boy Lollipop

60. THE EASYBEATS: Friday On My Mind

61. IKE AND TINA TURNER: River Deep Mountain High

62. THE RONETTES: Be My Baby

63. RONNIE SPECTOR AND THE E STREET BAND: Say Goodbye To Hollywood

64. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Girls In Their Summer Clothes

65. KISS: Shout It Out Loud

66. THE LEFT BANKE: Walk Away, Renee

67. THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: Rock And Roll Love Letter

68. THE KNICKERBOCKERS: Lies

69. THE WONDERS: That Thing You Do!

70. THE GO-GO’S: We Got The BeatINTERLUDE The Tottenham Sound Of…The Beatles?!

71. THE DAVE CLARK FIVE: Any Way You Want It

72. JAMES BROWN: Please, Please, Please

73. GRAND FUNK: We’re An American Band

74. THE VELVELETTES: He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’

75. THE FIRST CLASS: Beach Baby

76. THE ISLEY BROTHERS: Summer Breeze

77. THE RUBINOOS: I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend

78. THE PANDORAS: It’s About Time

79. THE MUFFS: Saying Goodbye

80. BIG STAR: September Gurls

81. PAUL COLLINS/THE BREAKAWAYS: Walking Out On Love

82. LINDA RONSTADT: You’re No Good

83. P. P. ARNOLD: The First Cut Is The Deepest

84. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS: All For Swinging You Around

85. THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET: Take FiveENTR’ACTE THE BEATLES: Yesterday

86. THE BEATLES: Revolution

87. YOKO ONO: Kiss Kiss Kiss

88. THE MC5: Kick Out The Jams

89. THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS: Time Has Come Today

90. MARVIN GAYE: I Heard It Through The Grapevine

91. SAMMY AMBROSE: This Diamond Ring

92. THE MYNAH BIRDS: I Got You (In My Soul)

93. RICK JAMES: Super Freak

94. BIG BROTHER AND THE HOLDING COMPANY: Piece Of My Heart

95. THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES: Shake Some Action

96. THE DANDY WARHOLS: We Used To Be Friends

97. THE CARPENTERS: Only Yesterday

98. MATERIAL ISSUE: Kim The Waitress

99. THE 5TH DIMENSION: Medley: Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In (The Flesh Failures)

100. THE JACKSON FIVE: I’ll Be There

101. SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE: Everybody Is A Star

102. LOVE: 7 And 7 Is

103. THE BANGLES: Live

104. THE SEARCHERS: Hearts In Her Eyes

105. THE FLIRTATIONS: Nothing But A Heartache

106. THE SPINNERS: I’ll Be Around

107. TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS: American Girl

108. THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY: I Woke Up In Love This Morning

109. EDDIE COCHRAN: Somethin’ Else

110. DAVID RUFFIN: I Want You Back

111. LED ZEPPELIN: Communication Breakdown

112. FREDDIE AND THE DREAMERS: Do The Freddie

113. THE BANDWAGON: Breakin’ Down The Walls Of Heartache

114. HEADGIRL/MÖTOR HEADGIRL SCHOOL: Please Don’t Touch

115. DON HENLEY: The Boys Of Summer

116. THE CLASH: Train In Vain (Stand By Me)

117. BEN E. KING: Stand By Me

118. GENE PITNEY: Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa

119. RUFUS: Tell Me Something Good  

120. THE SPONGETONES: (My Girl) Maryanne

121. THE TRAMMPS: Disco Inferno

122. HAROLD MELVIN AND THE BLUE NOTES: Don’t Leave Me This Way

123. GRANDMASTER AND MELLE MEL: White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)

124. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: I’ll Be Your Mirror

125. DEL SHANNON: Runaway

126. THE EVERLY BROTHERS: Gone, Gone, Gone

127. THE COCKTAIL SLIPPERS: St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

128. SAM AND DAVE: Soul Man

129. T. REX: 20th Century Boy

130. HEART: Kick It Out

131. THE RUNAWAYS: Cherry Bomb

132. AMERICA: Sister Golden Hair

133. THE KINKS: Waterloo Sunset

134. THE KINKS: You Really Got Me

135. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY: Time Will Tell

136. THE SMITHEREENS: Behind The Wall Of Sleep

137. THE COWSILLS: She Said To Me

138. ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ATTRACTIONS: (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?

139. THE FOUR TOPS: Reach Out I’ll Be ThereINTERLUDE Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll

140. THE BOB SEGER SYSTEM: 2 + 2 = ?

141. THE JIVE FIVE: What Time Is It?

142. LULU: To Sir, With Love [Museum Outings Montage]

143. FREDA PAYNE: Band Of Gold

144. THE CONTOURS: Do You Love Me

145. WHAM!: Freedom

146. THE COOKIES: Wounded

147. THE SUPREMES: You Keep Me Hangin’ On

 148. THE BEACH BOYS: God Only Knows

149. JOAN ARMATRADING: Me Myself I

150. THE SELECTER: On My Radio

151. TRACEY ULLMAN: They Don’t Know

152. MANNIX: Highway Lines

153. THE DRIFTERS: On Broadway

154. FIRST AID KIT: America

155. THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS: O-o-h Child

156. SOLOMON BURKE: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

157. THE JAM: That’s Entertainment

158. THE COASTERS: Yakety Yak

159. CHEAP TRICK: Surrender

160. TEGAN AND SARA: Walking With A Ghost

161. DAVID BOWIE: Life On Mars?

162. THE O’JAYS: Put Your Hands Together

163. THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Uncle John’s Band

164. RITA MORENO, GEORGE CHAKIRIS, SHARKS & GIRLS: America

165. EDDIE AND THE HOT RODS: Do Anything You Wanna Do

166. JOAN JETT: Bad Reputation

167. STEVIE WONDER: I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)

168. MARYKATE O’NEIL: I’m Ready For My Luck To Turn Around

169. EYTAN MIRSKY: This Year’s Gonna Be Our Year

170. THE JAYHAWKS: I’m Gonna Make You Love Me

An Infinite Number

INTERLUDE Underrating The Beatles

ENCORE! THE BEATLES: Rain

ENCORE!! THE T-BONES: No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)

Cruisin’ Music

CODA THE RAMONES: Blitzkrieg Bop

AFTERWORD


Repeating the disclaimer
: These selections are not ranked in any way, and this is most definitely NOT intended as an inclusive list of the all-time best songs. There are an infinite number of worthy prospects; these are the one I choose to write about in The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Voume 1).

At this writing, the book is only two chapters shy of a complete first draft. The completed chapters total just under 153,000 words, though that tally may shrink once I start revising the text. It is certainly possible that I will make further changes to the Table of Contents, but this is getting closer and closer to the final line-up.

I hope to complete those two remaining chapters in short order. Then, I’ll finally get to the revision process, tightening the prose and reducing redundancies. Somewhere in there, I’ve gotta start looking for an agent.

I have a different book due out by the end of 2022, but the principal work for that one is already done. Which means it’s finally time for The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)
Wish me luck.

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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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Boppin'

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HIT (B-Side Appreciation): Take It Or Leave It

By Carl Cafarelli

Before mp3, CD, and cassette singles, a hit record was always a 45. The A-Side had the hit. The B-Side? Sometimes it was a throwaway. Sometimes it was something more.

THE BARBARIANS: “Take It Or Leave It”
Laurie, 1965; A-SIDE: “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl”

A rock ‘n’ roll paradox, impossible but true: a vulnerable swagger.

When one discusses ’60s garage or punk or vintage grungy nom du jour, one tends to focus on the surlier aspects. We don’t think of The SonicsThe Chocolate Watchband,or The 13th Floor Elevators as particularly tender souls. But there are certainly flashes and hints of a more fragile emotion within, say, “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” by The Standells, and there are garage pop masterpieces like “It’s Cold Outside” by The Choir and “I Wonder” by The Gants. None combine pride and pathos with quite the effective passion of “Take It Or Leave It” by The Barbarians.

The Barbarians were a quartet from Cape Cod: guitarists Bruce Benson and Jeff Morris, bassist Jerry Causi, and drummer Victor Moulton, aka Moulty. Moulty had lost his left hand in an accident when he was 14, and his hook-handed percussion style served to emphasize The Barbarians’ badass image. In 1964, The Barbarians played in The TAMI Show–my choice for the greatest rock ‘n’ roll concert film ever made–alongside the likes of Chuck BerryJames BrownThe Rolling StonesThe Beach BoysThe MiraclesThe SupremesMarvin GayeLesley GoreGerry & the PacemakersJan & Dean, and Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas. Within that stellar line-up, maybe the members of The Barbarians asked themselves the same rhetorical question much later asked by guitarist Lenny Haise of The Wonders in the 1996 movie That Thing You Do!How did we get here…?!

Or maybe The Barbarians didn’t ask that question. They were punks, after all. ’60s punks, sure, but punks nonetheless.

The Barbarians never had any really big hit records. Their debut single “Hey Little Bird,” which they performed on The TAMI Show, was a Stonesy slice of lasciviousness that did not dent the pop charts. Second single “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl” was their closest brush with success at radio and retail, a triumphantly sneering little number about not being able to tell the boys from the girls:

You’re either a girl or you come from Liverpool
(Yeah, Liverpool!)
You may look like a female monkey but you swim like a stone
(Yeah, a rolling stone!)
You may be a boy, but
HEY!
You look like a girl

That was good enough for # 55 in Billboard, and it was far and away the biggest seller The Barbarians ever had. It’s rightly considered one of the defining classics of ’60s garage punk.

And I like its B-side even better.

It’s difficult to articulate the why of that. “Take It Or Leave It” (which is not the Rolling Stones tune with the same title) maybe isn’t all that distinctive as a song or as a performance. It’s a simple lament over a “Louie Louie”-inspired riff, a would-be lover’s last stand, as the singer pleads with the girl of his dreams to ditch her loser (but presumably moneyed) boyfriend and find true romantic happiness with a Barbarian instead. On “Take It Or Leave It,” the punk sheds his pride and begs:

Baby
I want you (I want you)
Whoa, baby
I need you (I need you)
I can’t stand this feeling of being alone
Got little to offer
But you got all that I own…
…Baby
I ask you (I ask you)
Baby
Is it right? (Is it right?)
To laugh with me all day
And cry with him all night?
I’m promising you
A love guaranteed true
Life
Love
Everything
Heart
Soul
Diamond ring
Whoa, take it or leave it
Take it or leave it
LISTEN TO ME!
Take it or leave it
(Take it! Take it! Take it! Take it!)
Take it or leave it

Okay, I guess he tries to grab back a bit of his pride with those last lines. But man, this guy has it bad for this chick, all but screaming in sheer desperation for the elusive validation of her love. Most of us have been there, or some approximation of there, regardless of gender. There’s that one guy or gal who means everything, but just can’t see what he or she means to you. If the situation isn’t quite universal, it’s pretty damned close.

My experience with this track was on a 45, playing loud and distorted the way a rock ‘n’ roll record oughtta. Subsequent reissues were namby-pamby by comparison, though a Barbarians CD compilation from the Sundazed label captures it pretty well. But that 45? It ached and pounded with passion unrequited. Even among the discerning few ’60s garage enthusiasts hip to The Barbarians, most would likely prefer the protopunk snarl of “Hey Little Bird” and “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl,” with an honorable mention for “Moulty,” the drummer’s musical story of persevering through the loss of his hand, a track immortalized by its inclusion on Lenny Kaye‘s seminal ’60s garage punk compilation Nuggets. I dig all of that, too. Still, my go-to Barbarians track remains “Take It Or Leave It,” a B-side that aspires to greatness, an all-or-nothing garage ballad that takes a leap for love’s brass ring with near-suicidal determination. Life. Love. Everything. Take it or leave it.

“Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl” (D.Morris-R. Morris)
“Take It Or Leave It” (D. Morris-C. Clark)

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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.

Categories
Pop Sunday

The Silvers / Back To Basics

The Silvers

Back To Basics (Revlis)

If you resided in Iowa during the seventies and were tuned into music, you were surely hip to Silver Laughter. The band kept incredibly busy on the gig circuit and released a couple of albums and a few singles. Although Silver Laughter’s vinyl efforts fell through the crevices  – but have recently been rediscovered and highly praised – their legacy as a great live act remained and they were inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

Silver Laughter retired as the seventies were winding down, but several years ago, vocalist and bassist Mick Orton revived the band’s spirit under the name The Silvers. Cemented by guitarist and vocalist Dain Bedford-Pugh, keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist Steve Farac, and drummer Carl Upthegrove, the Northern California-based band recently issued Back To Basics, which posts as their fifth full-length album.

Being the seasoned pros they are, The Silvers have absorbed a variety of sounds throughout the decades, while adeptly assimilating these influences into their own stellar material that continuously connects and flows. Masters of radio-friendly fare, the band floods Back To Basics with punchy and precise hooks, aided by snug and refreshing arrangements.

The first track on the album, Gravity, crackles to a subtle intensity tempered by steady and reassuring rhythms. Snappy drumming and a brief and bracing guitar solo also solidifies the REM-ish flavored cut. Threaded with the bouncy chime of an accordian, Nothing Left To Say glides in as a smooth and smart Merseybeat-styled winner, where Out Of This World also surveys the band’s prowess for crafting a perfect pop rock song.

Lush and breezy harmonies sharing similiar characteristics as the likes of The Beach Boys and America, are a common factor found on Back To Basics, which duly bodes well with the band’s melody-driven approach. And then there’s the polished textures and relatively jazzy perks of Stand Up and Stay With Me (This Is The Place), that combine Steely Dan ideals with a power pop awareness. 

Switching to different scenarios, The Silvers expose a taste for gritty garage rock on It’s Such A Shame and I’m Dancing is rooted in a funky boogie groove tinted with choppy Chuck Berry-inspired licks.

It’s every band’s dream to produce an album as enjoyable and accessible as Back To Basics. Simply stated, The Silvers write, play and sing songs that are so catchy you’ll be whistling them for days on end. Proving to be impressively prolific, the band is already working on their next album. 

Categories
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Beach Baby

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!

THE FIRST CLASS: “Beach Baby”

Can a pastiche touch the divine? Can a copy become more than it is? Can mere imitation transcend its mundane genesis, and live on its own as something great?

In rock ‘n’ roll? Yeah. It happens all the time.

“Beach Baby” was intended as commerce, not art. It conjured the classic, elegaic sound of The Beach Boys, without ever calling to mind any one specific Beach Boys track. Perhaps there were hints of “In My Room,” or “Don’t Worry Baby,” or “California Girls,” or other lush, luxurious, mid-tempo hits from the pride of Hawthorne, but we’re just grasping at straws in the sand to say so. Really, “Beach Baby” sounds like none of these. And yet it sounds like all of them, all at once. Gloriously, triumphantly, all at once.

And the record was made by a studio group, a band that didn’t exist. The lead voice belonged to Tony Burrows, an accomplished singer who had already graced the Billboard pop charts as the voice of Edison Lighthouse (“Love Grows [Where My Rosemary Goes]”), White Plains (“My Baby Loves Lovin'”), Brotherhood Of Man (“United We Stand”), and The Pipkins (“Gimme Dat Ding.”) Like The First Class after them, each of these combos was an imaginary entity; with the success of “Beach Baby,” Burrows earned the distinction of becoming the first and only artist to be a One Hit Wonder five times.

If that seems snarky, lemme assure it’s not intended to be. These were all bona fide hit records. Maybe I won’t have much to say on behalf of “Gimme Dat Ding,” but the other three were fine examples of pop radio songcraft. “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” is still a staple of This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio today. The relative anonymity of the principles takes nothing away from the quality of the work.

“Beach Baby” is the crowning achievement. Wafting breezily from AM radios across the country and around the world in 1974, it sounded almost–almost–like a lost hit from somewhere in the vast mobile pop terrain of 1963 to 1966. Yet it doesn’t really sound like a ’60s track, either. Its production, its spirit, its good vibrations were all audibly, palpably of the ’70s. It would have ultimately sounded weird, out of place, in between Jan & Dean and Sunrays hits on Your Fave Rave station in 1965. But in 1974, “Beach Baby” sounded like a welcome communique from a warmer, sunnier place.

And it was not Brianmania; it wasn’t The Beach Boys, but nor was it an incredible simulation. Burrows’ voice (or voices) didn’t sound at all like Brian Wilson or Carl Wilson or Dennis Wilson, not Al Jardine nor David Marks, and for damned sure nothing like Mike Love. No one with ears would mistake it for a Beach Boys record. But the homage was clear and true, the tribute seemingly sincere, the result unerringly effective and moving. It was sad, like a memory of summer love long gone. It was celebratory, like the songs shared as one by revelers gathered around the fire as the moon lit the sand, and the promises of the stars above were reflected in the irresistible spark you could swear you saw in the eyes of someone you just might want to love for ever and ever.

Long hot days
Cool sea haze
Jukebox plays
But now it’s fading away

It seemed so long ago, if it ever really existed in the first place. But it also seemed real and immediate, perhaps just beyond our ability to grasp and hold on, but with us still, with us always. Give me your hand, give me something that I can remember. The authenticity of its origin is immaterial. Brian Wilson himself is said to have been certain that The First Class was an American group, rather than a bunch of British session players channeling a mythic beach scene that never was. Just like before, we can walk by the shore in the moonlight. It may not be too late to fall in love, all over again.

Categories
Pop Sunday

Bill Lloyd /Working The Long Game

Bill Lloyd

Working The Long Game (SpyderPop Records/Big Stir Records 2021) 

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/working-the-long-game

As one half of Foster & Lloyd, Bill Lloyd experienced a run of success on the country charts in the late eighties. Based in Nashville, Tennessee,  the acclaimed singer, songwriter and mercurial instrumentalist has further enjoyed a gratifying solo career as a pop rock artist.

Originally distributed by the SpyderPop label in the fall of 2018, Working The Long Game marked Bill’s ninth solo excursion. Earlier this year, SpyderPop joined forces with Big Stir Records, resulting in a partnership focusing on reissuing select albums, with Working The Long Game rolling in as the third release in the series.

 If there is any album worthy of a reprise, it is definitely Working The Long Game. Musically and lyrically, every song radiates spirit and substance. Bill’s lucid and lilting vocals, paired with in-the-pocket performances, equals dose after dose of melodious brilliance.

 A number of notable friends were also recruited to lend their craft to the sessions. Among these familiar figures are Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson, Freedy Johnston, Scott Sax of Wanderlust, Buddy Mondlock, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and Graham Gouldman, whose credits involve authoring hit singles for The Hollies and The Yardbirds, as well as playing in his own renowned bands, such as The Mindbenders, Hot Legs and 10cc

Guitars that simultaneously chime and crunch man the punchy Satellite, and the title track of the album shuffles to a merry vaudeville- inspired beat, which sounds kind of like a collaboration between The Kinks and Paul McCartney. A pinch of swagger and crackling power chords  stand as the engaging elements behind Yesterday, where the jagged riffage and rustling rhythms of Interrupted produces a bit of a funky tenor.

 Sealed to the seams with bracing hooks and a perky chorus, the slightly-country seasoned Make That Face, and the haunting glare of What Time Won’t Heal are additionally accented by sharp and spacious arrangements. Another attention-grabber on the album is the incredibly catchy Go-To-Girl, which romps to a youthfully exuberant bounce that crosses the sunny harmonies of The Beach Boys with the bright polish of The Smithereens

If you missed Working The Long Game the first time around, now is your chance to score a copy and sink your ears into a groovy guitar pop extravaganza. Nothing but the best is expected from Bill Lloyd, and here’s an album that delivers the goods on all counts.

By Beverly Paterson

Categories
Pop Sunday

Mike Browning / Class Act

Mike Browning

Class Act

https://mikebrowning.bandcamp.com/album/class-act

At an age when most people are preparing to retire, Mike Browning launched a new career – as a recording star! The North Carolina based singer, songwriter and multi-varied instrumentalist’s debut effort – a six track EP aptly called Never Too Late –  was released in 2020, ensued  by a single, Another Bite At The Apple. Both of these endeavors received rave receptions, which duly celebrated Mike’s indelible talent for composing, arranging and playing hook happy pop rock to the hilt. 

However, Mike’s current collection – Class Act – was not intended to be an album. The project was initially conceived back in 2018, when Mike was enrolled in a recording and production program taught by Jamie Hoover of the famed Spongetones. Students were assigned to pick tunes of their choice to record, and the numbers on Class Act are those Mike selected. 

Exclusively covers, the material basically sticks to the same structure and tempo of the original recordings. But Mike’s bubbly harmony-laden vocals, attended by his earnest passion for the music, stamps a fresh feel onto the songs. 

Considering The Beach Boys are one of Mike’s key inspirations, it is only appropriate that Class Act opens the session with the sunshine-soaked doo-wop of Do It Again. In fact, the album focuses heavily on the sounds of the sixties. 

The Beatles are saluted on Norwegian Wood, while Picture Book by The Kinks, and the Spencer Davis Group’s keyboard-driven Gimme Some Lovin’ are also revisited in fine form. 

As well, the garage rocking (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone – which was popularized by The Monkees and Paul Revere and the Raiders – and Just Like Romeo And Juliet from The Reflections, appear on the album. 

Then there’s a couple of Bob Dylan essays, which are delivered in the manner mainly recognized by the versions by The Byrds. Among these songs are the countrified You Ain’t Going Nowhere and the ringing folk rock of My Back Pages.  Further folk rock pieces include the quirky nursery rhyme prose of The Little Black Egg (The Nightcrawlers) and the bright and beautiful I’ll Never Find Another You, that The Seekers scored a hit with in  1965. 

XTC fans will rejoice when hearing Mike’s spot on treatment of the paisley-appareled Dear Madame Barnum, along with Tommy Tutone’s 867-5309/Jenny, which bounces to a cool new wave vibe.

It is a good thing Mike decided to make these cuts available. Lively and sparkling with enthusiasm, the album certainly deserves an A-plus. Class Act will tide us over until Mike’s next album of his own great songs rears its head. 

Categories
Boppin'

My Top Ten Power Pop Acts

Jari Mäkeläinen asked me to contribute a sidebar piece to be used in Manifesti, a fanzine published in Finland. The challenge posed to sidebar contributors: name your all-time top ten power pop acts.

In the words of Micky Dolenz: okay, I will.

MY TOP TEN POWER POP ACTS

by Carl Cafarelli

For me, the challenge of naming my all-time top ten power pop acts is in deciding what parameters of power pop I wanna play within. While many view power pop as strictly a post-Beatles phenomenon, I agree with the view expressed by writers Greg Shaw and Gary Sperrazza! in Bomp! magazine’s epic 1978 power pop issue: power pop began in the ’60s. Greg ‘n’ Gary traced power pop back to the early Who, while I go a little bit further back to the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” in 1963. I’ve begun to entertain the notion that power pop predates even that; I don’t think the music of Buddy Hollythe Beach Boys, or the Everly Brothers is quite power pop, but it’s difficult to dismiss the power pop gravitas of some of Eddie Cochran‘s singles, especially “Somethin’ Else” and “Nervous Breakdown.”

But I wouldn’t list the Beatles or the Kinks among my all-time Fave Rave power pop acts, if only because so much of their work falls outside my idea of power pop. The Who were 100 % power pop until Tommy, and really not power pop after that. 

So my power pop Top Ten doesn’t go back to the ’60s. By default, and for different reasons, I wind up agreeing with those who won’t move power pop’s Ground Zero to any date before John, Paul, George, and Ringo settled on separate and individual long and winding roads. I’ve also come to accept the idea that power pop isn’t so much a genre as it an approach, which means relatively few acts are strictly power pop all of the time. With all that said, this list offers ten dynamic rock ‘n’ roll combos I’m comfortable referring to as power pop acts.

THE WHO

Yeah, I was lying. Upon further review, you can’t talk about power pop without talking about the early Who, “I Can’t Explain” through The Who Sell Out. It’s not just because Pete Townshend coined the phrase; it’s because he and his band embodied it. Everything the Who did before Tommy is at least peripheral to power pop, and much of it is the power pop Gospel.

THE FLASHCUBES

Power pop on the radio, where it belongs. The horny singles–“Go All The Way,” “I Wanna Be With You,” “Tonight,” and “Ecstasy”–plus the dreamy “Let’s Pretend” (also covered by the Bay City Rollers) and album track “Play On” combine for a compact summary of the Raspberries’ power pop c.v.

THE RAMONES

A consistently controversial choice for a power pop list, but I side with the Bomp! writers who considered the Ramones an essential part of the power pop story. The first four albums tell the tale: RamonesLeave HomeRocket To Russia, and Road To Ruin, with a little extra oomph provided by the irresistible in-concert document It’s Alive!

BADFINGER

This gets back to the idea that some (many, most) power pop bands aren’t power pop all of the time. Badfinger certainly wasn’t, but then I’ve also gotta get back to that idea of power pop on the radio, where it belongs. “Baby Blue” may be my all-time # 1 favorite track by anybody.

THE ROMANTICS

On the other hand, the Romantics are generally power pop regardless of their intent. It’s their DNA. They tried to make a hard rock album, Strictly Personal, but it came out as hard-rockin’ power pop, and I mean that as a compliment. If you do just one Romantics album, you’ve gotta go with the eponymous debut, which includes “What I Like About You” and “When I Look In Your Eyes.” Their early indie singles are likewise essential, especially “Little White Lies”/”I Can’t Tell You Anything.”

THE GO-GO’S

I continuously waffle on the question of whether or not the Go-Go’s can be considered a power pop act. Their debut album Beauty And The Beat comes close at the very least, and its power remains undiminished forty years on. It’s not just that album’s great singles “We Got The Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed,” but also album tracks like “Can’t Stop The World” and “This Town” that make the case on behalf of the Go-Go’s. Add in subsequent tracks from “Vacation” to “Head Over Heels” to “The Whole World Lost Its Head” to “La La Land,” and it’s difficult to deny the truth that this is pop with power.

THE NERVES

Cheating, but I don’t care. The Nerves’ eponymous 1976 EP inspired Blondie with “Hanging On The Telephone” (written by the Nerves’ Jack Lee), but Lee’s fellow Nerves Paul Collins and Peter Case went on to have significant and prevailing impact on power pop with their post-Nerves work in Paul Collins’ Beat and the Plimsouls, respectively.

BIG STAR

Big Star’s story also sprawls, spills, and bleeds beyond power pop territory, and I’m sympathetic to those who claim the group’s records didn’t have the pure power one would expect from power pop. Nonetheless: “Back Of A Car” delivers, and “September Gurls” transcends our silly little labels to assume the description a rock journalist bestowed upon it decades ago: “Innocent, but deadly.” First two albums, # 1 Record and Radio CityThird, however, is most definitely not power pop.

THE SPONGETONES

North Carolina’s phenomenal pop combo the Spongetones have always taken their love of rock and pop and Beatles and British Invasion and channeled it into something unerringly Fab. You know that can’t be bad.

With a limit of ten acts in this exercise, I can’t go on to tell you about the RubinoosPezbandHolly and the Italiansthe Flamin’ Grooviesthe RecordsShoesthe BuzzcocksGeneration XDirty Looksthe Shivversthe ScruffsSorrowsArtful DodgerBlue Ashthe Knack, and dozens more, then and now. Good thing that, in real life, we’re not limited to just ten favorite power pop acts, right? Play on.

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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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