Categories
Boppin'

Main Street Records, Brockport, NY

For every moment of celebration or heartbreak, there has always been a song.  There was an artist to create the song.  There was a DJ to play the song, and a pop journalist to tell us about the song.  And, if we were lucky, there was a kind, knowing soul at the record store to sell us the song, so we could take it home and listen to it over and over again.  In that role, there were no kinder souls than Bill and Carol Yerger, and there was no safer haven than Main Street Records in Brockport, New York.

When I went off to college in Brockport in August of 1977, Main Street Records did not yet exist.  I was already a vinyl hound, with a little stack of records scored at flea markets and retail outlets in Syracuse and Cleveland (where my sister lived).  I needed music, in any shape or form.  There were two record stores in Brockport in ’77, both on Main Street:  the tiny Vinyl Jungle, which did not survive through 1978, and the larger (but hipper) Record Grove, which was managed by Bill Yerger.  My first Record Grove purchase was a pair of 45s:  “God Save The Queen” by The Sex Pistols, and a record I’d read about in Phonograph Record Magazine but had not yet heard, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” by The Ramones.  SWOON!  My life changed as soon as I played it the first time.  And there would be much more of that to come.

When Bill left The Record Grove to start Main Street Records in 1979 (with his wife Carol, an elementary school teacher fond of Bruce Springsteen, The Kinks and The Beach Boys), my allegiance followed him to his new digs.  Without Bill Yerger, The Record Grove lost its groove.  Though a smaller store, Main Street Records was cool beyond compare.

What did I get from the Yergers?  Man…dozens and dozens and dozens of albums, with titles like Marquee Moon, Raw PowerImagineMr. Tambourine ManDamn The TorpedoesL.A.M.F., and Pure Pop For Now People; various-artists sets like Hard Up HeroesEar Piercing Punk,The Motown StoryBattle Of The GaragesWanna Buy A Bridge? and Beatlesongs!; LPs and singles by Blondie, Cheap Trick, Little Richard, Love, Radio Birdman, The Chesterfield Kings, The B-52’s, The Left Banke, Devo, Them, The Five Americans, Joe “King” Carrasco & the Crowns,  Herman’s Hermits, The Tremblers, The Damned, The Village People, Hendrix, Boston, Billy Joel, The Bongos, Earth, Wind and Fire, Led Zeppelin, Josie Cotton, Public Image, Stars On 45, Joy Division, The Laughing Dogs, The Boomtown Rats, Robin Lane & the Chartbusters, Blue Oyster Cult, The Crawdaddys, Dave Edmunds, Elvis Costello, Elvis Presley, The Knack, The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada, The Doors, 20/20, The Cucumbers, Queen, Quincy, Blotto, Dylan, Phil Seymour, The Revillos, The Searchers, Graham Parker & the Rumour, Holly & Joey, The Rattlers, Great Buildings, Shrapnel, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, The Dead Boys, The Lords of the New Church, Roxy Music, Cherry Vanilla, Tommy Tutone, The Vapors, Kansas, Blue Angel, The Hypstrz, The Fast, Pete Shelley, The Quick, Soft Cell, Pat Benatar, The Cars, Gary Numan, Mott the Hoople, The Dictators, Squire, AC/DC, Kim Wilde, The Invictas, Alice Cooper, The Outsiders, The Music Explosion, and then all of the records listed on the playlist below.  And then still more stuff, and more after that.   I was voracious.  And I was satisfied.

Any clerk can sell you a damn record.  Bill and Carol could help you find the record you didn’t even know you needed.  They could–and would–make recommendations:  “You’ll like this.  I don’t think you’ll like that.  This one might be good.  Have you heard this?” Direction transcended the verbal; maybe it wasn’t all that unusual to find a magazine like Trouser Press at a record store, but how many small shops in small towns also carried Bomp! magazine, or The Pig Paper?  How many little village stores had such a wealth of popular favorites and obscure nuggets available in such great supply, whether new releases, cutouts or used LPs (often from Bill’s own collection)?   Main Street Records was a business, and it needed to turn a profit, but Bill and Carol had loftier goals alongside the necessity of making a buck.  “Carl,” Bill told me, “we’re gonna make a Beach Boys fan out of you yet.”  Carol asked me what my favorite Beach Boys song was; when I answered “Sloop John B,” she was appalled, and muttered as she turned away, “Who’s favorite Beach Boys song is ‘Sloop John B’…?!”  I had a lot to learn.  I loved every minute of learning it.

(As a further illustration of how much I owe the Yergers, consider my cherished Flashcubes live tape.  The Flashcubes were my favorite power pop group; if you think it’s silly that my three all-time fave raves are The Beatles, The Ramones, and The Flashcubes, then go get your own radio show.  But The Flashcubes only released two 45s before imploding in 1980, and that certainly wasn’t enough to sustain me.  I borrowed a cassette of a 1978 Flashcubes live show from a pal, I brought it to Main Street Records, and I asked Bill to copy it for me.  He did so, and that tape was the only long-form Flashcubes document I had for years and years.  It wasn’t something Bill had to do, but he did it anyway.  To me, that was the most important cassette I ever owned, a tape I only had because of Bill’s kindness.)

I moved out of Brockport in the summer of 1982, though I still visited sporadically for a couple of years thereafter, always making sure to stop at Main Street Records and add to my collection.  The very last time was in the summer of 1988.  Our friends Brian and Lisa were visiting my wife Brenda and me in Syracuse; on a whim, we decided to hit the highway and visit Brockport for the day.  Naturally, we had to check in at Main Street Records.

Bill recognized us immediately, and we chatted as if we were still regulars there.  Brenda talked about her apprehension in starting a new job as a preschool teacher, and Bill offered words of encouragement, just as teacher Carol had offered Brenda similar encouragement years before.  The talk turned to The Monkees, and I mentioned that I had never seen the group’s then-rare 1969 TV special, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee.  Well, Bill owned a copy of it, and he promised to make a dub and mail it to me in Syracuse.  We chatted a bit further, we made our purchases–okay, MY purchases–and we said our goodbyes.

The VHS tape of 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee arrived in the mail some time thereafter, filled out with miscellaneous clips from Shindig and Hullabaloo, plus The Monkees’ 1970 promo clip for the single “Oh My My,” a fave track of Brenda’s.  I still have the tape, and I still have the note that Bill sent with it:

“Dear Carl & Brenda,
Here’s a tape full of hits–but I got carried away and the “Oh My My” clip isn’t totally complete.  Anyway, someday I’ll put it on another tape in full for you.  Okay?
Brenda, for what it’s worth–I think you’d make a GREAT teacher, and I can speak with some authority on it because I’ve been married to a great teacher for years!
Anyway, I hope you both had a nice day in Brockport.  Your friend, Bill”

I only corresponded with Bill a couple of more times after that, via e-mail in the ’90s.  He told me that he had sold Main Street Records because it wasn’t fun any more.  I told him that, if nothing else, his long-ago efforts had finally paid off, for I was now a huge Beach Boys fan.  When I wrote a history of power pop for Goldmine magazine in 1996, I acknowledged Bill & Carol Yerger, and Main Street Records, among my primary inspirations; Bill e-mailed me his appreciation, and signed his note “Fuzz Bass Willy.”

 It was the last contact I ever had with Bill Yerger; he passed away not very long after that.  He was younger then than I am now.  It’s too late to mourn, but I still feel sad.  And I’ve grown so weary of feeling sad.
There are places I remember all my life. That line itself comes from one of Bill Yerger’s favorite songs.  There has been a song for every place and every face, for each lonely teardrop, for each smile that’s ever bust out at full speed.  Bill Yerger was the man who sold me records; he was a friend, and he was a mentor.  I learned so much about pop music just from shopping at Main Street Records, and that is one of the foundations upon which this show is built, the foundation upon which my brief career as a pop journalist was built.  It is a debt I can never fully repay.  But I believe that I do pay it back, just a little, whenever I play records…especially when I play records for someone else.  It was Bill Yerger’s gift to me, and it’s my own lasting legacy of the best little record store there ever was.

It’s time for some songs.

This edition of THIS IS ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl is a tribute to Bill and Carol Yerger.  Every one of the tracks we played this week, including the 27 song-snippets heard in our opening medley, is a tune I got from the Yergers at either The Record Grove or Main Street Records.  It could have been a thirteen-hour show.  Bill and Carol, I thank you for the days.  And I turn it up loud, so that everyone can hear.

THIS IS ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl streams live every Sunday night from 9 to Midnight Eastern, exclusively at www.westcottradio.org.

TIRnRR # 634, 6/17/12:  A Tribute To Main Street Records

*MAIN STREET MEDLEY:
*THE RAMONES:  “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?” (Sire, End Of The Century)
*THE NEW YORK DOLLS:  “Babylon” (Mercury, Too Much Too Soon)
*THE ROMANTICS:  “What I Like About You” (Nemperor, The Romantics)
*BLUE CHEER:  “Summertime Blues” (Philips, Vincebus Eruptum)
*THE ROLLING STONES:  “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” (Atlantic, Sticky Fingers)
*RICK JAMES:  “Give It To Me Baby” (Motown, VA:  25 # 1 Hits From 25 Years)
*CAST OF ROCKY HORROR:  “The Time Warp” (Epic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show OST)
*BOW WOW WOW:  “C30, C60, C90, Go!” (EMI, single)
*BRAM TCHAIKOVSKY:  “Girl Of My Dreams” (Polydor, Strange Man, Changed Man)
*THE BEAT:  “Rock And Roll Girl” (Columbia, The Beat)
*NIKKI & THE CORVETTES:  “Just What I Need” (Bomp!, Nikki & the Corvettes)
*THE VELVET UNDERGROUND:  “Rock And Roll” (Cotillion, Loaded)
*JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS:  “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” (Boardwalk, I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll)
*R.E.M.:  “Radio Free Europe” (IRS, single)
*CHUCK BERRY:  “Roll Over Beethoven” (Chess, Chuck Berry’s Greatest Hits)
*DAVID BOWIE:  “DJ” (RCA, Lodger)
*DAVID JOHANSEN:  “Frenchette” (Blue Sky, David Johansen)
*GEN X:  “Dancing With Myself” (Chrysalis, single)
*THE MODERN LOVERS:  “Roadrunner” (Beserkley, The Modern Lovers)
*JOE JACKSON:  “On Your Radio” (A & M, I’m The Man)
*DONNA SUMMER:  “On The Radio” (Casablanca, On The Radio:  Greatest Hits)
*KISS:  “Rock And Roll All Nite” (Casablanca, Dressed To Kill)
*JOAN JETT:  “Bad Reputation” (Boardwalk, Bad Reputation)
*SLADE:  “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” (Polydor, Sladest)
*THE GO-GO’S:  “We Got The Beat” (IRS, Beauty And The Beat)
*THE JAM:  “In The City” (Polydor, single)
*THE BEATLES:  “Penny Lane” (Capitol, Rarities)

THE RAMONES:  “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” (Sire, single)
THE ROLLERS:  “Roxy Lady” (Epic, Ricochet)
THE RUNAWAYS:  “School Days” (Mercury, Waitin’ For The Night)
THE DAVE CLARK FIVE:  “Nineteen Days” (Epic, 5 By 5)
THE PLEASERS:  “The Kids Are Alright” (Arista, single)
SPLIT ENZ:  “I Got You” (A & M, True Colours)

THE ROMANTICS:  “Little White Lies” (Spider, single)
SHOES:  “Tomorrow Night” (Elektra, Present Tense)
THE ROLLING STONES:  “Happy” (Atlantic, Exile On Main Street)
UTOPIA:  “Silly Boy” (Bearsville, Deface The Music)
MARSHALL CRENSHAW:  “Cynical Girl” (Warner Brothers, Marshall Crenshaw)
THE MOVING SIDEWALKS:  “99th Floor” (BFD, VA:  Pebbles Volume 2)

THE 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS:  “You’re Gonna Miss Me” (Sire, VA:  Nuggets)
THE GREG KIHN BAND:  “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)” (Beserkley, single)
PAUL COLLINS:  “Walking Out On Love” (Bomp!, VA:  Waves, Vol. 1)
THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES:  “Shake Some Action” (Sire, Shake Some Action)
THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR:  “Another Sad And Lonely Night” (Rhino, The Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four)
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND:  “I’ll Be Your Mirror” (Verve, The Velvet Underground & Nico)

THE MONKEES:  “Love To Love” (Arista, Monkeemania)
DOLENZ, JONES, BOYCE & HART:  “You Didn’t Feel That Way Last Night (Don’t You Remember?)” (Capitol, Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart)
THE SCRUFFS:  “She Say Yea” (Power Play, Wanna’ Meet The Scruffs?)
THE RAMONES:  “All’s Quiet On The Eastern Front” (Sire, Pleasant Dreams)
THE REAL KIDS:  “Now You Know” (Bomp!, VA:  Experiments In Destiny)
THE BEACH BOYS:  “God Only Knows” (Capitol, Pet Sounds)

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN:  “The Ties That Bind” (Columbia, The River)
THE NOW:  “He’s Takin’ You To The Movies” (Midsong, The Now)
DAVID WERNER:  “Too Late To Try” (Epic, David Werner)
EDDIE COCHRAN:  “Nervous Breakdown” (United Artists, The Very Best Of Eddie Cochran)
STIV BATORS:  “It’s Cold Outside” (Bomp!, single)
THE GO-GO’S:  “Vacation” (IRS, Vacation)

BIG STAR:  “September Gurls” (Ardent, Radio City)
THE RAMONES:  “Blitzkrieg Bop” (Sire, Ramones)
NEW MATH:  “Die Trying” (Reliable, single)
THE KINKS:  “Animal Farm” (Reprise, The Village Green Preservation Society)
THE PRETENDERS:  “Stop Your Sobbing” (Sire, Pretenders)
THE JAM:  “That’s Entertainment” (Polydor, Sound Affects)

THE SEX PISTOLS:  “God Save The Queen” (Virgin, single)
THE WHO:  “The Punk Meets The Godfather” (MCA, Quadrophenia)
THE BARRACUDAS:  “I Wish It Could Be 1965 Again” (Voxx, Drop Out With The Barracudas)
THE CLASH:  “Spanish Bombs” (Epic, London Calling)
THE UNDERTONES:  “Teenage Kicks” (Sire, The Undertones)
DAVID JOHANSEN & ROBIN JOHNSON:  “Flowers In The City” (RSO, VA:  Times Square OST)

THE MONKEES:  “Naked Persimmon” (from 33 1/3 REVOLUTIONS PER MONKEE)
THE BEACH BOYS:  “Our Prayer” (Capitol, 20/20)
JOHNNY THUNDERS:  “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory” (Sire, So Alone)
THE RAMONES:  “I Want You Around” (Sire, VA:  Rock ‘n’ Roll High School OST)
THE RECORDS:  “Hearts Will Be Broken” (Virgin, Crashes)
THE FOUR TOPS:  “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” (Motown, Greatest Hits)
THE FLESHTONES:  “Let’s See The Sun” (IRS, Roman Gods)
THE ZONES:  “New Life” (Arista, VA:  That Summer! OST)
DIRTY LOOKS:  “Let Go” (Stiff/Epic, Dirty Looks)
THE KINKS:  “Better Things” (Arista, Give The People What They Want)
EDDIE & THE HOT RODS:  “Do Anything You Wanna Do” (Island, single)
THE VENTURES:  “Walk–Don’t Run” (Liberty, The Very Best Of The Ventures)
THE BEACH BOYS:  “Pet Sounds” (Capitol, Pet Sounds)

Categories
Birthdays

Ringo Starr

Born on this day in 1940, in Liverpool, England, Ringo Starr. If you don’t know who he is and what he’s accomplished, you should.

Categories
Boppin'

Pezband / The Power Pop Hall Of Fame

Sparkling power pop! Chicago’s musical DNA is understood to be that of a blues town. Rightly so; the Windy City’s seminal role in developing and shaping the blues as we know it is beyond question, and Chicago deserves further specific recognition as the home of the mighty Chess Records label. But Chicago is large; it contains multitudes. It’s not a contradiction for a city to produce and embrace more than one style of music. For power pop–sparkling power pop–Chicago’s favorite sons would have to be Pezband.

Pezband denied comparisons to The Raspberries, but the similarities were always too obvious to ignore.  Influenced by The Beatles and other ’60s pop juggernauts? Check! Breathy vocals over hook-filled jangle ‘n’ buzz, tailor-made for the best AM radio station ever?  Right-o, daddy-o. Harmonies? Guitars? Oomph? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Pezband released three albums of pleasantly Beatlesque pop, commencing with 1977’s Pezband.  That debut album included Pezband’s signature tune “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” and it carried a proud advisory to File Under: Pop Vocal. Pezband seemed primed for the poppermost’s elusive toppermost. And while the frenzied mass adulation of Pezbandmania never materialized, Pezband remains one of the all-time great power pop acts.

Pezband’s second album, 1978’s Laughing In The Dark, overtly embraced power pop as a marketing approach, its above-cited Sparkling power pop ad line beating The Knack to the punch by a year or so. 1979’s Cover To Cover was Pezband’s final album, and the group disbanded shortly thereafter. There have been reunions and scattered archival releases, but the U.S. market is sadly lacking the comprehensive Pezband reissue series pop fans deserve. Even a best-of set, collecting Pezband essentials like “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “Stop! Wait A Minute,” “Love Goes Underground,” “Come On Madeline,” “Please Be Somewhere Tonight,” and “Waiting In Line” would serve as a potent reminder of Pezband’s status among the all-time giants of power pop. Pezband frontman Mimi Betinis remains active, crafting pure pop for new and old people, a national treasure waiting in line for overdue recognition. That recognition begins with Pezband’s induction into The Power Pop Hall Of Fame. Just another power pop band from Chicago? No. Chicago’s phenomenal pop combo, a blues town’s favorite power pop sons. Love goes underground. The bright sound of Pezband reverberates still.


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Categories
Pop Sunday

The Palace Guard / All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1966

The Palace Guard

All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1966 (Omnivore Recordings)

 These days, The Palace Guard are either a footnote in history or primarily remembered as the band that included Emitt Rhodes on drums (later to be replaced by Terry Rae) who went onto front The Merry Go Round, then launch an influential and critically acclaimed solo career. But the Hawthorne, California based group actually enjoyed a great deal of regional stardom and deserved to be heard on a far wider scale.

The other original members of The Palace Guard were the Beaudoin brothers – John on vocals and keyboards, Don on vocals and rhythm guitar and  David on vocals and tambourine – along Mike Conley on background vocals, lead guitarist Chuck McClung and bassist Rick Moser. A job as house band at the Hullabaloo Club in Hollywood, complemented by appearances on local television programs, granted the group a high profile in and about the area.

During their tenure, The Palace Guard released half a dozen singles that were as solid as anything their chart-topping contemporaries were peddling. Each side of these forty-fives have been compiled onto All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1966, which offers rare photos and liner notes by Rick Moser

Synchronized harmonies – couched in the  seam of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Beau Brummels and The Byrds – were  key compotents in the Palace Guard’s repertoire. Not only could these fellows carry a tune, but they proved to be quite a tight team in the instrumental department.

 As well, The Palace Guard had the initiative to pen a few of their own songs instead of relying on cover material, which was pretty much the norm for many bands at the time. Jingly guitars and plucky rhythms, magnified by a cute and chirpy chorus of “coochie coochie coochie coo,” energizes the insanely catchy All Night Long, while rolls of spinning carnival-styled organ chords underline Calliope and the moody Greed is peppered with exotic Middle Eastern psychedelic-scented motifs.

Also a self-composed piece, Oh Blue (The Way I Feel Tonight) possesses a curious appeal, touching on plaintive  teen idol crooning, shifting tempos, ringing folk pop and ending with a snappy Yardbirds– inspired rave up. 

Each song on All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1966 has merit, but the crown jewel of the set is perhaps Falling Sugar.  Taking in The Palace Guard’s strong and melodious vocal prowess, a spirited arrangement, chiming licks a plenty, spiffy breaks and a dash of wheezy harmonica playing, the infectious cut fuses Mersey-minded pop instincts with West Coast folk rock sensibilities in an immediate and direct manner.

 Don Grady, who held the role of the eldest son on the hit TV show, My Three Sons, joined The Palace Guard on a pair of numbers – the breezy Little People and the Tijuana Brass flavored Summertime Game, where an adaptation of Wilson Pickett’s If You Need Me examines the band laying down a slow burning soulful groove. Authored by future Bread master David Gates, the bouncy Saturday’s Child is no stranger to fans of sixties music, as the version by The Monkees is the one that we’re familiar with.

 In an alternate galaxy, The Palace Guard would have seized the airwaves with their hooky singles. But good songs refuse to die, and All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1966 contains such evergreen entries. There’s no doubt this fine collection will spark a renewed interest in The Palace Guard. 

Categories
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.

Categories
Got Any Singles? Quick Spins

Got Any Singles? Mike Skill, Pop 4 and Kevin Robertson

Mike Skill 

So Soul Alone

mikeskill.com/records

Over the years, The Romantics have superbly combined elements of jangle, power pop and garage rock into their own thing. A lot of their sound has to do with the stellar guitar work (and bass work after Rich Cole left the band) of Mike Skill, an indie guitar hero, if ever there was one.

Skill’s new single, available on Spotify, is a gruff piece of slinky pop that sounds remarkably like 1966-67. Not quite as polished as The Beatles, but certainly tighter and punchier than groups like Them or The Troggs, So Soul Alone brings to mind cool girls in mod fashion, dancing in all-night basement clubs. More, please.

***

Pop 4

(Love Is) Thicker Than Water

https://currycuts.bandcamp.com/album/higher-than-a-mountain-the-songs-of-andy-gibb

Really, there are a lot of great reasons to buy Curry Cuts’ tribute to Andy Gibb, but Pop 4’s take on (Love Is) Thicker Than Water is an absolutely stellar reason. While this whole band has got the vocal goods, Andrea Perry, one of our favorites, steals the show. Can anything sound as good as her voice double-tracked? I doubt it.

After you check out this tune, I highly recommend taking a trip through the back catalog of both Pop 4 and Andrea Perry. You will not be disappointed.

***

Kevin Robertson

Into The Black

https://kevinrobertson.bandcamp.com/album/sundowns-end

Nobody does jangle pop better than The Vapor Trails’ Kevin Robertson. Here, on his debut solo Lp, he manages to channel the charm of The Hollies and The Searchers, with the clever pop crispness of XTC. If you can listen to Into The Black without becoming a massive fan, then something is wrong with you.

Cheers also to Robertson’s co-conspirator, drummer and producer Nick Bertling, who always seems to know the perfect amount of living room to leave on the record.

***

By Dan Pavelich

Categories
Boppin'

The Spongetones : The Power Pop Hall Of Fame

“This Is the entry for The Spongetones’ 2017 induction into Aaron Kupferberg’s POWER POP HALL OF FAME.”

The early Beatles reborn, or an incredible simulation?

Taking inspiration from the Fab Four, Charlotte, North Carolina’s phenomenal pop combo The Spongetones have delighted discerning pop fans with avowedly Beatlesque hooks and harmonies. The group’s earliest efforts are engaging pastiches of Beatles ’65–much like The Rutles played straight–with each tune a familiar-sounding rummage through the British Invasion songbook. The appeal transcends mere mimicry; its magic lies not in where the group nicked its initial tricks, but in the self-assured manner in which such thefts became irresistible new pop confections. The greatness of The Spongetones has always been their ability to make all of this their own.

Now yesterday and today our theater’s been jammed with newspapermen and hundreds of photographers from all over the nation, and these veterans agreed with me that the city has never witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves The Beatles. Now tonight you’re going to twice be entertained by them; right now, and in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentlemen, THE BEATLES!

I can’t say for sure that Jamie HooverSteve StoeckelPat Walters, and Rob Thorne–the four young lads who would one day form The Spongetones–were all sprawled in front of black and white TV sets on the evening of February 9th, 1964, eagerly awaiting ol’ Stoneface Ed Sullivan‘s special guests The Beatles. But I betcha they were. They must have been. Because in America, that’s where everything we call power pop started. It’s not that The Beatles were the first great rock ‘n’ roll act; they were preceded by their own greatest influences, by Chuck Berry and Little RichardBuddy HollyArthur AlexanderThe Everly BrothersCarl PerkinsLarry WilliamsJerry Lee LewisMotownThe Shirelles, and King Elvis I, plus those California guys The Beach Boys. But pop mania? The notion that the kids could make a noise heard ’round the world? The Beatles weren’t the first there either, but they were the ones that made it permanent, unstoppable. In 1979, a decade and a half after The Beatles reclaimed the colonies for Her Majesty, that unstoppable moptopped juggernaut begat The Spongetones.

The Beatles were a product of everything around them, their sound shaped by every imported American 45 they heard and every tinny AM signal they tried to tune in. The same was true of their followers, and it was certainly true of The Spongetones. The Spongetones listened to The Beatles, The ByrdsThe HolliesThe Dave Clark Five, and every other pop sound that ever mattered. They listened. They learned. They created. They called their first album Beat Music, as if anyone could mistake their Mersey-bred goals for something else, for anything other than an early clue to the new direction. After their first album and EP, they began to leave overt Beatlemania behind, but they have continued to make stirring, timeless pop records that distill and expand upon the inspiration provided by the fabbest of sparks. Hoover, Stoeckel, and Walters are still Spongetones, with Chris Garges taking over the drummer’s seat. All together now!

Yeah (yeah yeah), all the Beatle references are fun and fitting. But don’t let the repeated reference fool you into thinking The Spongetones are anything less than what they are and always have been: one of the greatest groups that power pop has ever produced.  The Spongetones’ music is a treasure to be savored, an enduring pleasure, a splendid time guaranteed for all. I’m sure they would be flattered by a comparison to The Beatles; they deserve to be recognized for their own ongoing, nonpareil contributions to this music we adore. From Beat Music through Scrambled Eggs, “She Goes Out With Everybody” through “Talking Around It,” with tracks like “(My Girl) Maryanne,” “Anna,” “Are You Gonna, Do You Need To (Love Me),” “Better Luck Next Time,” “You’ll Come Runnin’ Back,” and “Anyway Town” among the many gems perched proudly in between, The Spongetones’ music is just, well, their music. Today, The Spongetones finally take their well-earned place in The Power Pop Hall Of Fame. And you know that can’t be bad.

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! #34: The Spongetones, “My Girl Maryanne.”

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Boppin'

Eight-Track Mind

My veteran stereo receiver recently reached the end of its days. My needs are simple, but I wasn’t taken with any of the immediate replacement options. A friend offered to give me an old Yamaha receiver, so I took him up on it. It’s cool and old-school, without the surround-sound pizzazz that would have been extraneous for my use, but with a sufficient number of inputs. I need inputs for phono, CD, TV, cassette, and mini-disc. I hooked the whole magilla up Tuesday morning, and tested the respective inputs with a Peter & Gordon LP, a power pop compilation CD, a Veronica Mars blu-ray, a B.D. Love cassette, and a back-and-forth mini-disc run-through of playing The Flashcubes and recording the previously-noted Peter & Gordon LP. All systems GO!, and my rock ‘n’ roll capabilities have now been duly restored.

While I had everything disassembled and about to be put back together, I tested one other piece of equipment, something I’ve never had hooked up on any permanent basis. I connected my eight-track player, and listened to a minute of my only eight-track tape, Dedication by The Bay City Rollers.

Although all but 16 days of my teen years were contained within that garish decade called the 1970s, eight-tracks were never my thing. I was primarily a vinyl guy, LPs and 45s alike. My first tape recorder was a reel-to-reel, and I moved from there to cassettes. The reel-to-reel was exclusively a plaything for recording–I never owned a prerecorded reel-to-reel product–and my cassette players were mostly for recording, too. I had a few cassettes, though the only one I remember owning in the ’70s was my copy of the Billy Jack soundtrack. GO AHEAD AND HATE YOUR NEIGHBOR, GO AHEAD AND CHEAT A FRIEND..!  Oops–sorry! ’70s flashback there. I also recall listening to my cousin Mark’s Deep Purple cassettes during our summer vacations in Missouri. To this day, a spin of “Highway Star” calls those happy days to the forefront of my memories. 

But really, my cassette deck was mostly used for creating mixtapes, accomplished by placing the little gizmo right next to one of the speakers at our home stereo, putting the needle on a BeatlesElton John, or Three Dog Night record, and trying to press RECORD on the deck before the music started. Fidelity? Not my main interest. I also tried to record my own comedy bits, either solo or with Mark. Not much fidelity there, either.

It must have been around 1977 or so that we got a new family stereo, with turntable, AM/FM tuner, and…eight-track? Awrighty. The eight-track never got much attention from me; I have a vague recollection of trying and failing to use the eight-track to record…something. God knows what. Still, knowing there was an eight-track player at my disposal, I bought exactly one budget eight-track tape: a collection of early sides by Paul Revere & the Raiders. That eight-track contained material predating the Raiders’ more successful run with Columbia Records, and it included stuff like their instrumental hit “Like, Long Hair.” I chiefly remember a song called “Sharon,” because I was keepin’ company at the time with a girl named Sharon, whom I’d met that fall ’77 semester at college. Sharon wasn’t in the picture with me for very long, making it really easy to pinpoint the approximate date of that stereo and its underused eight-track.

For dramatic purposes, the part of my ex-girlfriend Sharon shall be played by my vintage 1977 poster of actress Suzanne Somers

That stereo is, of course, long gone, and so is my Paul Revere & the Raiders eight-track. And, um, Sharon, too; she was gone by the end of ’77. I never gave much thought to eight-tracks again until, believe it or not, the ’90s, courtesy of my radio co-host Dana. Some time in between the death of our first radio show We’re Your Friends For Now in 1991 and the dawn of the inexplicably long-lived This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio at the end of ’98, Dana surprised me with the gift of an old eight-track player, and the above-mentioned Bay City Rollers tape. 

It still works, or at least it works as well as an eight-track player should be expected to work. I’ve often thought about hooking it up and leaving it hooked up, just because, but I could never spare an input for it. 

Until now. 

My freshly-installed Yamaha has enough open jacks for me to leave the eight-track player in place, and be free to re-live the ’70s Bay City Rollers eight-track experience at will. If I could find ’em cheaply, I could even expand my eight-track collection with tapes by The RamonesThe Flamin’ GrooviesThe Isley BrothersThe Raspberries, and…and….

No.

Over these past few years, I’ve begun a conscious effort to curtail my natural packrat ways. I’m not going to stop accumulating books–let’s not get crazy–but I sold nearly two-thirds of my comic book collection. I still buy new comic books, but I only keep a few of them. I rarely buy vinyl, and I try to keep my CD purchases within range of my ability to store them. I’m trying to cut back on tchotchkes. I don’t need to add eight-tracks to my vast accumulation of stuff.

So, with some reluctance, I disconnected the eight-track player and put it back in storage. If I ever really want to, I could hook it back up should the mood strike me, whenever, subject to the whims of my eight-track mind. Push and play. I feel younger already.

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Categories
Birthdays

Klaus Voorman

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 BeatlesRevolver Lp.

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Boppin'

Rock ‘N’ Roll On TV

Just as the 1966 debut of the Batman TV series wasn’t my introduction to superheroes on TV, neither was the debut of The Monkees later in ’66 my first televised rock ‘n’ roll experience. For that, we have to go back to at least February 9th, 1964; sure, I’d just turned four years old a little over three weeks before that, but trust me: that Sunday night, everyone saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Even before Smilin’ Ed introduced these four young men from Liverpool who called themselves The Beatles, I’m pretty sure I’d seen Chubby Checker twistin’ on TV when I was three, and I may (or may not) have seen The Four Seasons on some show, somewhere, singing “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

Still, The Beatles’ TV debut was seismic. Every televised rock ‘n’ roll moment I saw after that, from The Monkees through Elvis Costello & the Attractions on Saturday Night Live, and all points in all directions, is filtered in my mind through a memory of John, Paul, George, and Ringo singing “All My Loving” for an American TV audience that felt its hair growing longer and its soul growing freer before that first song was through.

In between February ’64 and September ’66, my specific memories of rock on TV are limited and hazy, at best. Aside from one-off fictional combos like The Mosquitoes on Gilligan’s Island or the actual band The Standells on The Munsters (both of which I’m sure I saw in prime time, but really only remember from reruns in the ’70s), there was The Beatles Saturday morning cartoon series, and there was Dick Clark‘s rockin’ pop showcase Where The Action Is! on weekday afternoons. I know for a fact that I saw at least some episodes of Where The Action Is!, but while I remember watching it, I don’t remember what I saw and heard; I wouldn’t take note of the Where The Actions Is! house band–the fabulous Paul Revere & the Raiders–until rediscovering them in the ’70s. I must have seen American Bandstand, and Hullabaloo, and Shindig! in this time frame, but I can’t swear it’s so.

So The Monkees show was also seismic. The cultural impact of the show remains underrated, but The Monkees probably did more to bring long hair and the burgeoning youth movement into the American middle-class mainstream, into acceptance, than any other single source. Yeah, even more than The Beatles themselves. Throughout 1967 and into the time of the TV show’s cancellation in ’68, The Beatles were getting weird by middle American standards; they did drugs, LSD, and were no longer the cuddly moptops we’d seen running from screaming fans in A Hard Day’s Night (a 1964 movie which was televised on election night in 1968). But The Monkees? Couldn’t call ’em clean-cut exactly, but they weren’t perceived as a threat to the status quo: smilin’ and laughin’, too busy singing to put anybody down. Even with their long hair and their beads and peace signs, The Monkees seemed…normalThe Monkees was the most quietly, successfully subversive TV show on the air in 1967. And it got away with it.

The above is a mere tangent to today’s discussion. While Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter were subtly moving the needle to the left, they were also an engaging rockin’ pop group, playing their great songs on TV, every week. You wanna talk about rock ‘n’ roll on TV? You’d better have a lot to say about The Monkees.

The only other rock-on-TV moment I can specifically recall from this ’66-’68 span is seeing The Jefferson Airplane sing “Somebody To Love” on American Bandstand.  When The Monkees faded to black in ’68, I didn’t really see much more rock ‘n’ roll on the telly for a while thereafter. I guess you could count the animated exploits of The Archies, whose agreeable bubblegum music was way better than anyone should have expected from a Saturday morning cartoon soundtrack, but Riverdale’s Phenomenal Pop Combo wasn’t quite the same as a flesh-and-blood combo, even an initially manufactured combo like The Monkees.

Things changed a bit in the ’70s. I was actively listening to AM Top 40 radio, and starting to see bands on TV. The bands had never gone away from the TV screen, of course; they were still making appearances on variety shows and talk shows, but I just didn’t see ’em. But I did see the TV special James Paul McCartney in 1973, I saw Wings‘ video for “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on The Flip Wilson Show, Smokey Robinson on The Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour, and the new late-night rock ‘n’ roll showcases Midnight SpecialABC In Concert, and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. Those three shows gave me opportunities to see artists ranging from The Rolling Stones to The Isley Brothers to The Bee Gees, and even ’60s acts like Herman’s Hermits.

Opportunities continued to broaden when I was in high school: The Bay City Rollers and The Patti Smith Group on The Mike Douglas ShowAlice Cooper on both The Smothers Brothers and The Snoop SistersThe Rubinoos and Fanny on American Bandstand. A British import called Supersonic offered me my first televised glimpse of my # 1 Pop Dream Suzi Quatro, as well as appearances by The HolliesThe Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, and that loathsome lizard Gary Glitter. NBC’s Saturday Night offered a Simon & Garfunkel reunion, and a one-off duo of Paul Simon and George Harrison, and–best of all!–THE KINKS!! Even more TV rock stars would appear during my college years: The RutlesTodd RundgrenDevoThe Sex PistolsBowieMichael NesmithKISSTom Petty & the HeartbreakersCheap TrickThe RecordsIggy PopThe Clash, yadda und yadda. In the early ’80s, my access to TV was limited, but there was Rick James and Fear on SNL, and The Ramones on, of all things, Sha Na Na. There was a video for Joey Wilson‘s sublime, elusive “If You Don’t Want My Love” on some long-forgotten video hits show. And then there was MTV, a rant for another day (if ever).

As home video became a thing, I acquired a lot of old rock ‘n’ roll favorites, to peruse again at my leisure. I have all of The Beatles’ appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. I have a Blu-ray set collecting the entire series of The Monkees. I have officially-licensed Hullabaloo DVDs, a bootleg DVD set of the complete Shindig!, and an assortment of other televised rock ‘n’ roll goodies, both legit and less so, from The Raspberries to The Dave Clark Five. And it’s all on YouTube anyway, for anyone to click and view at a moment’s notice.

While I miss the feeling of rock ‘n’ roll on TV as a unique and special event, I can’t deny that I dig the convenience of being able to see a Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich or (especially!) Suzi Quatro clip online whenever I wish. Expedience trumps nostalgia. But that desire was built on a bedrock of memories, fond recollections of sprawling before the tube to witness The Beatles sing “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” and all that came after that. Thanks, Mr. Sullivan. Set your antenna. Turn it up. Watch the music, and let it rock.

Carl Cafarelli

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