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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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Boppin'

Personal Questions

Boppin’ Like The Hip Folks Do by Carl Cafarelli

As we all know, our online accounts require us to establish security questions, personal inquiries presumed to be sufficiently arcane that only we know our own secret answers. Each of the following security questions is accompanied by an answer that is technically true for me, at least on some level. They’re not the answers I’d use for any account, mind you, but they are real answers.

FIRST SURGERY

Birth. Really my Mom’s surgery, sure, but I was there. (True story: Mom fell and broke her leg while she was pregnant with your beloved future blogger. Which probably explains a lot.)

MAKE OF FIRST CAR

FIRST KISS

December 16th, 1976 at the Onondaga County War Memorial, with Uriah Heep opening. I wouldn’t get my first KISS record until the following June, when my sister gave me the Rock And Roll Over LP as a high school graduation gift.

WHERE YOU MET YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER

Oh, I just met lovely wife Brenda at a Mexican restaurant in North Syracuse for dinner after work on Tuesday night.

FIRST AIRPLANE TRIP

Started in one airport, ended in a different airport.

FAVORITE BOOK

Ron Glass. He was also the only actor to play the character of Book on the TV series Firefly and the subsequent movie Serenity.

FAVORITE TV SHOW

Radiovision by default; it’s the only TV show I ever did, co-hosted with my future This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio partner Dana Bonn. You can read the story here, and even see the damned thing here. We also appeared as guests on local ABC affiliate talk show Bridge Street, I participated in some public access cable talk shows in high school, and I used to be interviewed at work every summer by TV reporters doing stories about people suddenly rushing to buy air conditioners when it’s hot–imagine that! But Radiovision remains my only TV show.

FAVORITE RECORD

The late John Wicks. Great talent, and a hell of a nice guy.

John Wicks, CC, Paul Collins, Dana Bonn, This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio 6/11/09

FAVORITE MOVIE

“Movie” is an odd phrase to use in reference to fans of the fab ’60s British group The Move, but we’ll go with it. And it’s a four-way tie for my favorite Movie, as Gary FrenayPaul ArmstrongArty Lenin, and Tommy Allen–collectively, The Flashcubes–recorded Sportin’ Wood, a tribute album to The Move’s main man Roy Wood. Hello Suzie!

FAVORITE SPORTS TEAM

That answer’s evolved, but when I was a kid, we’d have to change the spelling a bit for the correct answer: I loved Teem soda. And I drank it at MacArthur Stadium while ignoring baseball games, so y’know, sports.

Later on, my favorite football team would be Huxley.

DREAM VACATION

FAVORITE MUSICIAN

Nah, with a few exceptions, I was never much for Musician. I was more of a Phonograph Record MagazineBomp!Trouser PressGoldmine, and CREEM guy. Among others!

NAME OF YOUR BEST FRIEND IN SCHOOL

In grade school? Batman. In middle school? WOLF-AM.

NAME OF FIRST PET

Sharon Bailey, May 1972. Took surreptitious glances at the smoke shop in White-Modell department store. Was smitten. Weird that no one ever asks “Name of first Playmate?”

Nancy McNeil, July 1969

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Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & CarlTIR’N’RR Allstars–Steve StoeckelBruce GordonJoel TinnelStacy CarsonEytan MirskyTeresa CowlesDan PavelichIrene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone–offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks’ classic “Waterloo Sunset.” That’s supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click BeetlesEytan MirskyPop Co-OpIrene PeñaMichael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of “Infinite Soul” by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With RandolphGretchen’s WheelThe Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It’s exquisite. You need this. You’re buying it from Futureman.

Get MORE Carl! Check out the fourth and latest issue of the mighty Big Stir magazine at bigstirrecords.com/magazine
Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).

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Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch

This was originally posted at Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) on July 11, 2018. As Marvel’s fantastic WandaVision TV mini-series concludes its run on Disney + today, we reprise this look back at how columnist Carl Cafarelli first discovered Wanda (and her brother Pietro) when he was a kid in the ’60s.

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

You can’t keep a band together.
–Jazz legend Del Paxton

When you’re six years old, you may believe that some things can remain stable, unchanging. At least that’s what I thought when I was six, in 1966. The Beatles were The Beatles, four specific guys, John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and they would always be The Beatles. The kids I knew on my block were the kids I knew on my block. Family was family: Mom, Dad, my brothers Art and Rob, my sister Nina, and an extended family of aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents. The death of my Aunt Connie, my Godmother, in 1965 was the first existential threat to my sense of comfortable consistency, but even though her passing shattered my little heart, and even though I now feared the possibility of more loved ones being taken away from me, I still had faith that things could remain in place, secure, unchallenged. Safe. When trouble appeared, Mom and Dad could chase it away. And on TV and in comic books, evil could be vanquished by superheroes. Like Batman and Robin, The Dynamic Duo–you could always count on those two. In the summer of ’66, I discovered an entire team of superheroes: The Mighty Avengers!

It was a back issue, a copy of The Avengers # 13 from 1965, but any book you ain’t read yet is a new book. It introduced me to my first superhero group, comprised of five characters I’d never seen before: Captain AmericaThorIron ManGiant-Man, and The Wasp. I was fascinated, and secure in the knowledge that this crusading quintet would always be there to thwart the machinations of nogoodniks like Count Nefaria.

And the next time I saw an issue of The Avengers, the old order had already, like,  changeth-ed. What the…?!

Captain America–then and now, my favorite Avenger–was still there. The Wasp was still there. Dumbass that I was, I didn’t realize that the big guy now called Goliath was good ol’ Giant-Man in a different costume. Thor and Iron Man were gone. In their place were three more unfamiliar heroes: the archer Hawkeye, and a pair of siblings, Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch.

Oddly enough, I think I took this confusing challenge to the status quo in stride. At six, I still didn’t quite understand all the busy little business occurring in superhero comics, especially in the comparatively denser experience of Marvel Comics. I just kinda held on, and exulted in my best thing ever: More superheroes! I think this second exposure to The Avengers predated my first exposure to The Fantastic Four, so Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch were likely the first brother-and-sister heroes I ever saw (before The FF’s Sue and Johnny Storm, The Invisible Girl and The Human Torch). A superhero family? I mean, I sorta knew Superman‘s pretty cousin SupergirlSuperboy‘s supposed older brother Mon-El, and had read a touching imaginary story about Lex Luthor as Superman’s brother. But sibling superheroes seemed new, perhaps even reassuring. In tumultuous times, what could be more reassuring than family?

I don’t recall which issue of The Avengers introduced me to Pietro and Wanda, the speedster Quicksilver and his pseudo-magical sister The Scarlet Witch; I suspect it was either The Avengers # 29 (June 1966) or the following month’s The Avengers # 30. But I felt an immediate attachment to them, and to Hawkeye, too. I accepted this new group as The Avengers. My Avengers. My next issue was probably The Avengers # 33 (October 1966), then # 42 (July 1967), and I tried to keep up with The Avengers as often as I could thereafter.

In the ’80s, writer and artist Mike Tiefenbacher said something to the effect that kids who are attracted to superheroes–and specifically to groups of superheroes–are drawn by the look of costumes as much as by any other factor. I agree. At six and seven years old, I thought Quicksilver’s bold white lightning bolt against a green body suit was mesmerizing, enhanced by his silver hair and its unique horn-like tufts. The Scarlet Witch was basically wearing a bathing suit with a cape, but my affection for her look wasn’t merely prurient, and it had more to do with her distinctive helmet, or whatever that was that framed her face. I didn’t know anything about Jack Kirby, and Dashing Don Heck was the artist on my earliest Avengers adventures anyway. It would be a few years before I learned that Wanda and Pietro had first appeared as conflicted minions of the evil Magneto in the pages of The X-Men, designed and rendered by King Kirby.

Anyway. Although I continued to follow The Avengers as best I could, I missed more issues than I read. Somewhere in there, Wanda and Pietro slipped away, Avengers no longer. I found them again as antagonists in The X-Men, and involved in an inter-title X-Men/Avengers crossover serial. New Avengers joined. One of them, a synthezoid called The Vision, won The Scarlet Witch’s heart, and they were married in the ’70s. Quicksilver’s costume coloring changed from green to a light blue. His mercurial temper and imperious nature resulted in Pietro not being an Avenger quite as often as Wanda was. I caught up on much of Wanda and Pietro’s back story in 1970, when my sister’s boyfriend gave me all of his old comic books, which included many early ’60s Marvels. By then, I no longer called my sister Nina; I had begun calling her by her real name, Denise, as she left home for college.

Things change. When I was a kid, The Avengers was my favorite comic book. I still buy new comic books, often including The Avengers, but the current run just doesn’t interest me, so I’m dropping it from my pull list this week. I’ve very much enjoyed the Marvel Cinematic Universe interpretation of The Avengers, and look forward to many more MCU movies. I’m still a version of that six-year-old kid, enthralled when I saw Captain America throw his mighty shield, enthralled even now with the notion of good triumphing over evil, order over chaos, stability over disarray.

On Monday morning, I was a pall bearer at my Aunt Mary’s funeral. It’s okay; she is in a much better place now than she had been in the recent past. In the limousine, some of the other pall bearers were men who only remembered me from when I was a kid, their friend Maryann’s weird and pesky little superhero-obsessed cousin. Aunt Mary was 94, the last of my Dad’s siblings. They’re all gone now, beginning with their little brother Arthur (killed in a car accident as a child), then my Aunt Connie in 1965, Uncle Danny in 1970, Aunt Helen, Uncle Tot, Aunt Rose, and then Dad in 2012. My mother is in a nursing home. She wanted to attend Aunt Mary’s funeral, but decided she just wasn’t up to the effort on Monday.

As the limo made its way from funeral home to church to cemetery and back, I heard these men talk about their memories of Aunt Mary. More than one of them said that they would have probably wound up in jail if Aunt Mary hadn’t provided them with a place to hang out, a place to be, instead of being out there somewhere getting into real trouble. She was a superhero, as powerful with her Italian cookies and macaroni and meatballs as The Scarlet Witch with her hexes, and Quicksilver with his speed. Avengers assemble. Lemme tell ya: even the baddest of bad guys would have been no match for Aunt Mary’s cookies.

The Beatles broke up. Robin went off to college, leaving his mentor to fight crime alone back in Gotham City, just as my sister Nina–Denise–matriculated her way out of North Syracuse. Some of the kids on the block moved away. Family and friends–so many have been claimed by time, circumstance, and mortality. I’ve welcomed newer members of those groups, too. “The Old Order Changeth.” That was the title of the story where Captain America returned from an adventure to discover he was the last of the old Avengers, charged with the task of whipping these new recruits Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and The Scarlet Witch into shape. Things change. The only constant is change.

Our faith in the value of what we knew, though…well, that doesn’t have to change. We remember. We believe. And we persevere, as our heroes taught us.

I may still have a tiny crush on The Scarlet Witch. She was just so damned cute in that helmet, or whatever the hell it was supposed to be.

Oh, it was a tiara! Of course!

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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'

He Buys Every Rock ‘n’ Roll Book On The Magazine Stands, Part 2: Carl, Meet Punk. Punk, Carl.

My first issue of Phonograph Record Magazine. Tattered and torn, but still mine.

I don’t understand why no one ever talks about Phonograph Record Magazine, a rock tabloid that ran from 1970 to 1978. The magazine seems to be nearly forgotten, and you don’t see it mentioned alongside your Rolling Stone or your Creem, your Crawdaddy or Circus, or even your Trouser Press as one of the great rock rags of the ’70s. But it was. For me, in fact, it was more important than any those, even more than my beloved Creem. Because PRM was my first. Not my first rock magazine; I’d flirted with a couple before that. But Phonograph Record Magazine was the first to make me fall in love with rock ‘n’ roll journalism, both as a fan and as a potential practitioner. Maybe I would have wound up writin’ about the big beat even without PRM‘s influence. It’s possible, maybe probable. Either way, though, it was in fact Phonograph Record Magazine that provided that nudge. I remain grateful, and I remain a fan.

I was a senior in high school in the spring of 1977. Although I’d been a devoted AM Top 40 radio listener for all of my young life, the increasingly banal fare on former Syracuse airwave Fave Rave WOLF-AM had largely driven me to FM–specifically, to nearby Utica’s WOUR-FM, “The Rock Of Central New York.” OUR had some of the negative aspects of ’70s FM rock stations, the laid-back atmosphere, the consciousness of its own perceived hipness, the almost smug feeling of superiority over those frivolous, uncouth Top 40 outlets. BUT! The station compensated for all of that by simply being more adventurous than any other commercial station in the area. I betcha Syracuse University‘s WAER-FM was probably at least the equal of WOUR, but I never heard AER at the time. It was okay, though. WOUR rewarded my interest by playing The Kinks (I became a huge fan of The Kinks’ Schoolboys In Disgrace LP track “No More Looking Back” via airplay on WOUR), Graham ParkerGreg KihnMichael NesmithNick Lowe, and The Rubinoos. WOUR had a killer Friday night oldies show, but one could often also find essential ’60s gems by The AnimalsThe RascalsThe Dave Clark Five, and The Beatles airing alongside the station’s contemporary music choices. The following summer, I wasn’t surprised to hear vintage Elvis Presley on WOUR a few days before his scheduled Syracuse concert. Hearing a number of Presley tracks back-to-back, however, was my first clue that The King would not be keeping that Syracuse date. Elvis had left the building.

I digress. The point is that WOUR was a great radio station that helped to expose me to more and more music. Hell, I first heard The Yardbirds on OUR, and later on, it was OUR that allowed me my first dose of The Sex Pistols. Let AM radio have its disco and its swill and its “Undercover Angel;” WOUR-FM was playing the stuff I needed to hear.

And, in that spring of 1977, WOUR offered me a chance to read all about it, too.

I doubt that I had heard of Phonograph Record Magazine before that, though it’s certainly possible that an earlier issue crossed the periphery of my vision while I was divin’ through Hollies and Suzi Quatro LPs in the cutout bins at Gerber Music. But the April 1977 issue of PRM was different; it was free! The magazine had deals with radio stations in many markets (WMMS-FM in Cleveland, for example), with the stations presumably underwriting the cost to distribute PRM as promotional giveaways. WOUR instructed local rock ‘n’ roll fans to head on down to any Gerber Music location to pick up a free copy of the latest Phonograph Record Magazine. Well, I had my orders. Duty called! Rendezvous at Gerber Music! FALL IN, you battle-happy Joes!

Target acquired. And I was immediately rewarded with entry into a fresh vista of pure rock ‘n’ roll wonderPhonograph Record Magazine blew my freakin’ mind.

More than forty years later, in this ever-changing world in which we live in, it’s just impossible to properly convey the feeling of discovery, the liberating sense of possibility, that blanketed me with the turn of each pulpy tabloid page. What, transcendent revelation from a razzafrazzin’ rock magazine?! Oh yes. Emphatically yes. This was a whole new world. This was the Promised Land! And it had a good beat. If one could dance, one would surely dance to that beat.

There was something indescribably exciting about Phonograph Record Magazine, a palpable thrill I never got from previous perusals of Circus or Rolling StonePRM‘s writers seemed engaged. tapped into the music they were covering. You might presume it was legendary rock writer Lester Bangs who dazzled me here, but I don’t even remember his Nils Lofgren piece from this issue. No, I was enticed by Ken Barnes, by Greg Shaw (in the May issue), by Rodney Bingenheimer, by Flo & Eddie, and by the proud, delirious silliness of Mark Shipper. Furthermore, I was intrigued by all of these mysterious, elusive rock acts I’d never heard about before. I’d read news reports of the controversial punk group The Sex Pistols, but this was my real introduction to the concept of punk rock. I instantly wanted to know more, so much more. Punk? Hey, that’s for ME! Between this issue and its May 1977 follow-up (with Eric Carmen on the cover), I saw a truckload of rock ‘n’ roll names that were brand-new to me. Iggy PopBlondieThe DictatorsCheap TrickElvis CostelloThe New York DollsTom Petty and the HeartbreakersEddie and the Hot RodsChris Spedding and the VibratorsThe DamnedMilk ‘n CookiesThe Ramones.

The Ramones.
THE RAMONES!!!
Oh, the notion of The Ramones just transfixed me. What could they possibly sound like? Were they really that loud, that fast, that violent, that incredible, that irresistible? Were they really as dangerous and depraved as they seemed? Did it matter? I was a closet Ramones fan before I’d heard even one of their famous three chords, all thanks to Phonograph Record Magazine.

Alas, I saw but one more issue of PRM, with the familiar face of The Raspberries‘ former lead singer Eric Carmen as its poster boy. I don’t know if WOUR’s deal with PRM ended, but I presume that was so. And it left me hanging. The May issue’s edition of Flo & Eddie’s Blind Date column had featured our erstwhile Turtles wrestling uncomfortably with British punk, with a promise of an all-American punk Blind Date to follow in June. I never saw it. And Lord, I wanted to! But it was not to be, at least for me. I found an older, WMMS-sponsored issue of PRM while visiting my sister in Cleveland that summer. I never saw another issue anywhere.

By the time I was in Cleveland that August of 1977, I had heard The Sex Pistols explode my radio with “God Save The Queen,” courtesy of WOUR. And then I was off to college, where I would finally hear more of that punk rock Phonograph Record Magazine had made me crave. I would read more about it, thanks to a (frankly, dumb) one-shot ripoff called Punk Rock or somesuch, teasing, enticing bits in the hallowed pages of a new discovery called Rock Scene, as well as in the otherwise-stuffy Rolling Stone. I would get into Creem and Trouser Press before long, and into John Holmstrom‘s Punk magazine, all as I developed a near-insatiable need to read rock ‘n’ roll magazines. And I developed a need to write about rock ‘n’ roll, which manifested in My First Rock Journalism: “Groovin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do),” an emeritus contribution to my high school newspaper The NorthCaster. My piece was influenced by Phonograph Record Magazine in much the same way George Harrison‘s “My Sweet Lord” was “influenced” by The Chiffons. I had to start somewhere. PRM provided my template.

A rock magazine mention of The Monkees, and it wasn’t condescending? Another reason to love PRM!

No one talks about Phonograph Record Magazine. There’s no hardcover retrospective, no proposed behind-the-scenes documentary, no comprehensive, dedicated on-line archive. The magazine that meant so much to me is now a mirage, a memory that few recall. But I remember. If I ever write anything that can come close to connecting with a rock ‘n’ roll fan with even a fraction of the blissful, electric bond I felt with PRM, then my so-called writing career has succeeded. I am not exaggerating when I say that Phonograph Record Magazine was ultimately as important to me as any rock ‘n’ roll act this side of The Beatles. Seriously. Because I don’t get to The Ramones or The Flashcubes–and I don’t get to writing for Goldmine–without PRM pushing me in the right direction.That way, kid. Head to the light!

In the spring of ’78, about a year after communion with my first Phonograph Record Magazine, I was an eighteen-year-old punk of the world. I’d seen punk shows. I’d developed an occasional ability to seem pruriently interesting to gurls. In my mind, I was feverishly linking the punk of the Pistols and Ramones with the Beatles and Kinks records I loved, and with my favorite never-forgotten AM radio sounds of The Raspberries, Badfinger, and Sweet. I found a magazine that articulated that link, a magazine written in part by PRM‘s Greg Shaw, and in part by a visionary named Gary Sperrazza! They were writing about something called powerpop. Their magazine was called Bomp! It was pretty important to me, too.

TO BE CONTINUED!

This could be the start of something BIG!

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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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He Buys Every Rock ‘n’ Roll Book On The Magazine Stands, Part 1: The Circus And The Stone

The first rock ‘n’ roll magazines I recall seeing were issues of Circus and Rolling Stone. I found them around the house, and I presume they belonged to one of my older siblings, probably my sister Denise. I am reasonably certain that neither of my parents would have been into either magazine. On the other hand, my Dad worked at the post office, so it’s equally plausible that these were dead-letter subscription copies that had been discarded, and that maybe Dad brought ’em home. Either way, these magazines made their way to our living room in North Syracuse.

Circus never meant much to me, and although I occasionally flipped through new issues on the magazine racks when looking for rock ‘n’ roll reading material in later years, it wasn’t something I cared about. Until a couple of days ago, I’d largely forgotten that Circus was my first, from 1973. I remembered that Carly Simon was on the cover, and a bit of Google sleuthing led me to the likely culprit pictured above.

I liked Simon at the time. I was an AM radio fanatic. I enjoyed her singles “Anticipation” and “You’re So Vain,” as well as “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be,” and I would continue to like a few more of her hits before I lost interest in the mid ’70s. I’m sure I read the Circus article about her, and I would imagine I at least glanced through the other cover-mentioned pieces about Deep PurpleYesBlack SabbathStevie WonderTommy, and Colombo‘s Peter Falk. But I remember virtually none of it. Not even the Uriah Heep calendar! Though it is fitting that my first rock magazine should presage my first live rock show: my first concert was KISS with opening act Uriah Heep on December 16th, 1976. A coincidence, sure, but a cool connection nonetheless.

My second rock magazine had a little more lasting impact: Suzi Quatro on the cover of the Rolling Stone, January 1975. Swoon! I was instantly smitten with Quatro, even though I’d never heard of her before seeing this magazine. I read the article about her, but didn’t get an opportunity to hear her music until much later. When I finally got to hear and see Suzi Q sing “I May Be Too Young” on the British TV show Supersonic in 1976, it verified the veracity of my smitten nature. Did I mention swoon? Thanks, Rolling Stone!

Most rock fans of my age or older had some affection for Rolling Stone at some point, and I was no exception to that. Other than a 1976 issue with The Beatles on its cover, I don’t think I read the magazine much (if at all) before starting college in 1977. But I devoured Charles M. Young‘s cover story about The Sex Pistols. My roommate Arthur had a subscription to Stone, despised punk, and eventually passed his copy of that Pistols issue to me (with the disdainful expression of one handing over a sack of poopy diapers). I bought Rolling Stone sporadically; I enjoyed “Bang The Head Slowly,” Timothy White‘s 1979 piece about The Ramones, but bemoaned the fact that The Ramones never rated an RS cover feature during their blitzkrieg-boppin’ lifetime.

I eventually subscribed to Rolling Stone, but I grew increasingly and frustratingly aware of the annoying polar opposites that characterized the magazine’s approach: one half rooted in a smug, condescending rote-hippie consciousness, the other not rooted at all, but embarrassingly eager to chase and embrace whatever shiny Next Big Thing mirage flits across pop culture’s short attention span. Come on–Rolling Stone‘s putz swine-in-chief Jann Wenner still insists on blocking The Monkees from The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but he’s fine with cover-featuring Kardashians? Sorry, even introducing me to Suzi Quatro doesn’t earn sufficient gravitas to compensate for that. Rolling Stone and I parted company a long time ago.

But let’s get back to the ’70s. In spite of being initiated via Circus and Rolling Stone, I don’t really recall reading many rock mags during my high school years. I was certainly into the music. I mean, I listened to radio nearly all of the time, bought records when I could afford them, tried to catch rock ‘n’ roll on TV when the opportunity presented itself. But the meager spending cash I had for reading material went to comic books, pulp paperbacks, and the occasional Playboy or Penthouse. The latter resource did include a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll coverage amidst its more celebrated, y’know, uncoverage. I remember reading the lyrics to The Kinks‘ “Here Comes Yet Another Day” in a Penthouse article, at a time when I was just beginning to learn about The Kinks. Penthouse also published an extremely dismissive piece about The Bay City Rollers, and an interview with Patti Smith that was the first time I’d even heard of her.

The only other rock-related magazines I remember from my North Syracuse High School days were Welcome Back Beatles, a series of fanciful scenarios detailing fictional Beatles reunions, and a Bay City Rollers one-shot fan magazine. Oh, and Marvel‘s KISS comic book. And there was still one more bona fide rock ‘n’ roll publication that did matter to me, and it mattered a lot. I only saw two issues of this during my senior year, plus one more back issue the following summer. Even so, the impact of those tabloid pages was far greater than any other rock read I’d experienced to that point.

This was something new. This was something different. This was Phonograph Record Magazine.

TO BE CONTINUED!

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Didn’t Hear THAT Coming! (Unexpected Covers In Concert): THE BANGLES, “7 And 7 Is”

Didn’t Hear THAT Coming! (Unexpected Covers In Concert) discusses songs I was surprised to hear covered in a live show by an act I’d gone to see.
Cover songs can add zip and spark to a rock ‘n’ roll group’s live repertoire. In their earliest gigs, most groups start out playing covers, and integrate more of their own original material into their sets as they play more dates, develop more of an identity, and attract more fans with an interest beyond just hearing bar-band interpretations of songs associated with other acts. It’s a basic long-term strategy for groups hoping to get noticed, to get somewhere; there’s a reason The Rolling Stones cut back on Chuck Berry songs and started writing their own material.

Still, a well-placed cover tune can enhance a live set, while the wrong choice can result in irritating a fan who doesn’t want to hear a fave rave act pandering to a lower common denominator. Whether it works or falls flat, the unexpected cover prompts us to say, “Wow–didn’t hear THAT coming!”


THE BANGLES: 7 And 7 Is [Love]

The hit 1980s group The Bangles. The broad Nuggets niche of 1960s garage, punk, and psychedelia. Never the twain shall meet.

Those of us with even a perfunctory knowledge of pop history know the above statement is nonsense. The Bangles drew significant and obvious inspiration from the sounds of the ‘60s, notably from The Beatles and from the decade’s Laurel Canyon axis of SoCal pop music, from The Byrds to Buffalo Springfield to The Mamas and the Papas. The Bangles were originally part of L.A.’s Paisley Underground, one of many Los Angeles acts in the early ‘80s professing and practicing a devout, pervasive connection to a vibrant rock ‘n’ roll scene that came nearly two decades before them. Maybe much of the general public couldn’t automatically draw a line from ‘60s touchstones like Pandora’s Box or Riot On The Sunset Strip to this distaff Fab Four mugging through “Walk Like An Egyptian” on MTV. Fine. But you and me? We know better. The Bangles had more in common with The Standells and The Electric Prunes than with virtually any of their Reagan era Top 40 contemporaries.

The Bangles’ eponymous 1982 EP included four originals, plus one cover, “How Is The Air Up There?,” a ’60s obscurity originally done by The Changin’ Times in ’65, and later recorded by The La De Das, for whom it was a hit in their native New Zealand in 1966. The Bangles at that time were guitarists Vicki Peterson and Susanna Hoffs, bassist Annette Zalinskas, and drummer Debbi Peterson, Vicki’s sister. The Bangles wore their ’60s loyalties like a badge of honor.

The EP was my introduction to The Bangles. I don’t recall if I read about them in the rock press or heard them on Buffalo’s WBNY-FM before I bought the record, but I was an instant fan. I remained a fan as Zalinskas moved on, as Michael Steele replaced her on the four-string, and as the group signed with Columbia Records for their first full-length album, 1984’s All Over The Place.

My God, I loved All Over The Place. The original songs were fantastic, the two covers (of The Merry-Go-Round‘s “Live” and Katrina and the Waves‘ “Going Down To Liverpool) were sufficiently obscure that I thought they were both originals, and the album will always be among my all-time favorites. The group’s tour in support of The Continental brought them to Buffalo for a show at left-of-the-dial nightclub All Over The Place, and I can testify that The Bangles were a solid live act. I don’t remember a lot of specifics, but I know I enjoyed it, and I know they covered Mose Allison‘s “I’m Not Talking,” with Michael Steele taking the lead vocal. I knew the song from The Yardbirds, and I guess that would qualify as an unexpected cover in concert.

But it wasn’t as unexpected as hearing The Bangles cover “7 And 7 Is,” a song written by Arthur Lee and originally recorded in 1966 by Lee’s band Love.

I had discovered the music of Arthur Lee‘s group Love in the early ’80s. I’d read about them somewhere, and snagged a used copy of their eponymous debut album literally off the floor at Brockport’s Main Street Records around, I dunno, ’82 or so. I picked up a greatest-hits set called Love Revisited after moving to Buffalo, and became enthralled by this furious, fascinating proto-punk tune called “7 And 7 Is.” 

If I don’t start cryin’ it’s because that I have got no eyes
My father’s in the fireplace and my dog lies hypnotized
Through a crack of light I was unable to find my way
Trapped inside a night
But I’m a day and I go
Oop-ip-ip, oop-ip-ip
YEAH!

Yeah, I had no idea what the hell it was about, and I woulda sworn that list bit above was an eloquent Batman-inspired Boom-biff-biff, Boom-biff-biff YEAH! rather than some [chuckle] non-sensical “oop-ip-ip” jazz. Obviously. But it didn’t matter what the words were or what the song meant. It was a freakin’ force of nature, it demanded high volume, and I played that damned track with manic devotion. I wasn’t using the phrase yet in the ’80s, but damn, this was clearly The Greatest Record Ever Made.


And now, live in 1985, The Bangles were performing on stage, right before my eyes. My jaw dropped. My fist raised itself without needing me to will it so. The Bangles. Love. “7 And 7 Is.” It was unexpected. And it was awesome!

Looking back, it shouldn’t have been all that unexpected. I knew of The Bangles’ roots in ’60s nuggets, and I wasn’t exactly shocked that they chose to cover Love. It was still a surprise, a pleasant surprise. That night, The Bangles said their version of “7 And 7 Is” would be on their next album. I regret that did not come to pass.

The Bangles’ commercial status took a dramatic upturn with their second album, 1986’s Different Light. The album’s first single “Manic Monday,” written by Prince (under the pseudonym “Christopher,” I guess because “Bernard Webb” was already spoken for), became the group’s first hit, a # 2 smash. Different Light is a very good record, but it seemed slicker and less exuberant than All Over The Place. It was an ’80s album. All Over The Place had felt timeless. Nonetheless, I cheered as this band I loved invaded the pop charts and Top 40 radio. Their success was deserved.

When The Bangles’ Different Light tour brought them back to Buffalo again, their higher profile had allowed them to graduate to a larger venue, The Rooftop in South Buffalo. Alas, I got my wires crossed about when The Bangles were scheduled to go on, and they had finished more than half of their set before I strolled in. Damn it.

The 2014 archival CD collection Ladies And Gentlemen…The Bangles! preserves concrete evidence that The Bangles covered “7 And 7 Is” in live shows, proof positive in the form of a 1984 live recording of Love via The Bangles. While most folks recall The Bangles as frothy ’80s video divas, I remember them as music fans made good, playing songs they loved in whatever venue was available. Their 1987 cover of Simon and Garfunkel‘s “Hazy Shade Of Winter” was a bigger hit than the original. Even on New Year’s Eve of 2000, when The Bangles appeared on Dick Clark‘s New Year’s Eve TV bash, they still surprised by pulling out a cover of The Velvet Underground‘s “I’m Waiting For The Man.” The Bangles were nobody’s empty-calorie cupcakes.

The Ramones also covered “7 And 7 Is,” on their 1993 all-covers album Acid Eaters. When I interviewed The Ramones for Goldmine in 1994, I mentioned to C. J. Ramone that I’d seen The Bangles cover the song live in 1985, and that they’d intended to record it. He was surprised. “That’s wild!,” he said, clearly impressed with the notion that The Bangles did a song as cool as “7 And 7 Is.”

They did indeed, C. J. And yeah, it was unexpected, but it shouldn’t have been. The Bangles loved the ’60s. The Bangles loved Love. 

Oop-ip-ip, oop-ip-ip, YEAH!

WHEN DIDN’T HEAR THAT COMING! RETURNS: The Dark Return Of LET’S ACTIVE

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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: downloadVolume 2: CD or downloadVolume 3: downloadVolume 4: CD or downloadWaterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 134 essays about 134 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).

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Boppin'

Didn’t Hear THAT Coming! (Unexpected Covers In Concert): THE FLASHCUBES, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter”

THE FLASHCUBES: Arty Lenin, Tommy Allen, Gary Frenay, Paul Armstrong

Didn’t Hear THAT Coming! (Unexpected Covers In Concert) discusses songs I was surprised to hear covered in a live show by an act I’d gone to see.
Cover songs can add zip and spark to a rock ‘n’ roll group’s live repertoire. In their earliest gigs, most groups start out playing covers, and integrate more of their own original material into their sets as they play more dates, develop more of an identity, and attract more fans with an interest beyond just hearing bar-band interpretations of songs associated with other acts. It’s a basic long-term strategy for groups hoping to get noticed, to get somewhere; there’s a reason The Rolling Stones cut back on Chuck Berry songs and started writing their own material.

Still, a well-placed cover tune can enhance a live set, while the wrong choice can result in irritating a fan who doesn’t want to hear a fave rave act pandering to a lower common denominator. Whether it works or falls flat, the unexpected cover prompts us to say, “Wow–didn’t hear THAT coming!”

THE FLASHCUBES: Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter [Herman’s Hermits]
I believe I’ve already mentioned that I kinda like Syracuse’s own power pop powerhouse The Flashcubes; insisting that my all-time favorite groups are The BeatlesThe Ramones, and The Flashcubes is a pretty direct statement, right? ‘Cubes shows in 1977 and ’78 included a lot of covers; as time went on, the bulk of their set lists became (rightfully) dominated by their own compositions.

The Flashcubes had terrific taste in covers, encompassing ’60s British Invasion, ’70s punk, power pop, new wave, and Eddie Cochran. The ‘Cubes introduced me to the music of The New York DollsBig StarChris Spedding, and Eddie & the Hot Rods. They covered The TroggsThe JamThe HolliesTelevisionThe RaspberriesThe Sex PistolsThe Yardbirds, and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.” 

And The Flashcubes covered Herman’s Hermits. Just, y’know, usually not the song listed above.

“A Must To Avoid” was the Hermits track that eventually made its way onto Cubic set lists, a song ready-made for live power pop (though the ‘Cubes always skipped its final verse, presumably to keep it lean ‘n’ stripped). But one night in 1978, upstairs at either The Orange or The Firebarn, the ‘Cubes did a seemingly impromptu snippet of “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.” They were introducing a Sex Pistols cover, guitarist Paul Armstrong saying they were going to do a song by a group that had just broken up. “The Beatles…?!,” bassist Gary Frenay joked. “No,” said Armstrong, “and it’s not Herman’s Hermits either.”

For dramatic purposes, the part of Mrs. Brown’s lovely daughter will be played by the lovely actress Pamela Sue Martin

At which point guitarist Arty Lenin started picking the distinctive faux ukulele intro to “Mrs. Brown.” Paul paused, conferred with Arty, who then resumed his picking as Paul joined in briefly to wail along, Missus Brown you’ve gahht a luuuuvleeee dawwwwwwwterrr…! Drummer Tommy Allen may have thrown in a rim shot, completing this Borscht Belt power pop connection. The gag completed, The Flashcubes launched into their planned cover of either “God Save The Queen” or “Pretty Vacant.” 

She’s so lovely, she’s so lovely…she’s a DAUGHTER…!

Was this whole schtick planned out in advance? Maybe. Probably? If so, The Flashcubes pulled off the illusion of spontaneity with grace and aplomb, perhaps not a phrase often applied to the clattering Wall of Noise that defined the sound of Flashcubes ’78. 

My memory insists that I witnessed Arty throw in his “Mrs. Brown” lick during at least one other Flashcubes show, that time without Paul Armstrong channeling a punk Peter Noone. If he ever did it again, it was still an isolated incident. “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” would not be listed in any document of songs The Flashcubes ever covered. But I saw it. I heard it. I just didn’t hear it coming.

WHEN DIDN’T HEAR THAT COMING! RETURNS: David Johansen sings disco!

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You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 
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
Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).

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Boppin'

Yoko Ono For Christmas

Yoko Ono does not get a fair shake. I’m serious.

Look, it’s not that I’m a big Yoko fan, because I’m not. Neither her music nor her art appeal to me, though I will say that in late 1980 I very much preferred her B-side track “Kiss Kiss Kiss” to John Lennon‘s A-side “(Just Like) Starting Over.” My This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio co-host Dana Bonn is on Team Yoko, but I do not share his enthusiasm for her work.

But I have nothing against her, the person, Yoko Ono. I don’t think she’s somehow evil or bad. I certainly don’t think she’s some cartoon Dragon Lady who broke up The Beatles, a group destined to split circa 1970 with or without a Yoko in John’s life (or a Linda Eastman in Paul McCartney‘s life). Hell, when I wrote my fantasy piece about a fictional 1976 Beatles reunion, I made Yoko the unsung hero who helped to make it happen. I think–I hope–that Beatles fans no longer demonize Yoko for whatever they think she did, nor who they think she is.  I’ve seen hateful comments, but I believe such bile is an anomaly. I hope I’m right about that. That’s still a pretty low bar to clear, though, and Yoko merits better consideration than that.

These thoughts occurred to me a few nights ago, as I listened to our annual spin of The Beatles’ Christmas messages. Yoko figures prominently in the 1969 message, the final Fab Yuletime track. It’s struck me before, and it strikes me again: at the beginning of this track, as John and Yoko chat and (sort of) banter, Yoko sounds like a woman in love. Scratch that–she sounds like a girl in love, giggly and giddy, as the eternal boy to whom she’s married mugs and capers, perhaps trying to impress and dazzle the girl to whom he’s married. It’s so, so sweet, touching…real. I don’t care if you tell me they rehearsed it with painstaking precision, or if it’s actually as off-the-cuff as it sounds. It feels genuine. How could anyone hate something like that?

Yoko Ono may have saved John Lennon’s life. When he met Yoko, John was floundering. His first marriage was doomed; that was mostly (entirely?) John’s fault, and neither fame nor acclaim, nor even artistic accomplishment, were helping him find happiness. He found happiness with Yoko. When they split for a while in the ’70s, John realized leaving Yoko was a mistake; the separation didn’t work out. So, once again, they were together, man. Happy.

John & Yoko’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” has always been one of my favorite Christmas records. It acquired a bitter taste of melancholy at the end of 1980, but its sense of hope, its embrace of light, its repudiation of our darker impulses all shine on (like the moon and the stars and the sun, as another Lennon song phrased it). The song makes me sad, but it makes me happy, too. I don’t think that song would exist if not for Yoko.

You don’t have to be a Yoko fan. You don’t even have to like her, I guess, but there’s no rational reason why you should dislike her. Maybe I should give some of her music another chance, though I doubt I’ll suddenly discover it’s, you know, my music. But I like Yoko herself. You should, too. Happy Christmas, John. Happy Christmas, Yoko.

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Pop Sunday

Jeremy / Living The Dream

Jeremy

Living The Dream (JAM Records) 2020


He’s a singer, songwriter, multi-dimensional instrumentalist, record producer and owner of the Portage, Michigan based JAM label. That’s Jeremy Morris, who is known to music fans all over the world for the highly accomplished albums he has been spooling out on a regular basis for the past few decades. To say Jeremy releases a new effort every couple of months is no exaggeration. 


Although Jeremy is a master of many musical fashions, his latest album, Living The Dream, concentrates on the pop rock  side of the pole. Keying in at a whopping seventy-six minutes in length, the twenty-five track collection offers a nice mix of original and cover material. 


Costumed in a coat of chiming guitars and sparkling sensations by the score, the title cut of the album launches the set off on an optimistic note, both sonically and lyrically. The aptly coined Keep The Faith also broadcasts Jeremy’s sunny attitude, Devil Next Door races with skittish spy styled rhythms, and Can’t Buy A Thrill imparts the pitfalls of substance abuse to an edgy and electrifying tenor. 


Beaming with vibrancy and color, Your Sweet Relief could pass as a Badfinger classic, and the catchy ring of Can You Hear Me Calling? features Jamie Hoover of The Spongetones handling guitar, drums, keyboards and harmonica, as well as chipping in on vocals. 
The similarly-christened I Want To Stay and Here To Stay further bear a rather like-minded sound, as the songs are spotted with bluesy George Harrison influenced licks sweeping and weeping with humming melodies. Then there’s the hypnotic pulse of the acoustic-laced Flying Away that blooms with perennial beauty and bliss. 


Jeremy’s music has often been defined as Beatlesque, and a generous portion of Living The Dream certainly adheres to such a description. In fact, one of the remakes on the album is Dear Prudence, which melts into another Beatles song, Baby, You’re A Rich Man, before returning to Dear Prudence, resulting in a very cool and unique move.


Jeremy acknowledges his Byrdsian roots on a loyal take of So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star that includes his recently dearly departed dad, Bill Morris, on trumpet. Rick Nelson’s delicately poignant Are You Really Real? is revisited with utmost taste and grace, and The Flamin’ Groovies are saluted on the power popping nugget I Can’t Hide.

Jeremy’s shredding abilities are showcased to amazing effects on blistering readings of Rick Springfield’s Speak To The Sky and Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky, where The Status Quo’s  Pictures Of Matchstick Men is seriously as great as the initial trippy version.


Raining mettlesome hooks and pitch perfect harmonies, supported by inspiring arrangements and energy to spare, Living The Dream exposes Jeremy in a full-on poptastic mode, leading to an album that is a staple of its genre.

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Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST : The Sex Pistols

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

Noise. Glorious, angry, cathartic noise. Loud. Pissed off. Incredible.

It took me decades to really appreciate the music of The Sex Pistols. When I heard my first Pistols record in 1977, I thought it was intriguing, fascinating, but not really music. Now? Now, I regard The Sex Pistols as one of the all-time great rock ‘n’ roll bands.

But I liked the noise immediately.

British punk rock in the ’70s wasn’t built with me in mind; suburban American teens were not really the target audience of these snotty, safety-pinned Nihilists screaming Anarcheeeee in the yoooooooooooooo-kay! Nonetheless, my own individual level of post-adolescent alienation ultimately made me receptive to the promise of no future, no future, no future for you.

Before the music, there were words in the newspaper. For some reason, my memory associates my earliest awareness of The Sex Pistols with the cold confines of the Media Center at my high school in North Syracuse, NY. It was my senior year, 1976 to ’77. I spent some time in the Media Center, theoretically studying, really just reading histories of comic books and attempting to flirt (to no avail) with the girl at the periodicals check-out counter. There were press reports of this strange punk thing going on in England, sensational, garbled accounts of obscenity, rebellion, a jarring rock ‘n’ roll cacophony, a band literally puking on its audience. The last bit wasn’t true; the rest of it turned out to be Gospel.

Whatever. I wasn’t interested.

I was 16 or 17. My pop music tastes ran to British Invasion and ’60s oldies, The Beatles always first and foremost, plus ’70s acts like SweetBadfinger, and The Raspberries. I’d missed a chance to see Alice Cooper (with the lovely Suzi Quatro, my # 1 rock ‘n’ roll crush) in 1975, and would see my first concert–KISS–in December of ’76. I wasn’t opposed to flash, to excitement. But the yellow-journalism tales of The Sex Pistols made punk seem…dumb.

My opinion of punk would revise with the revelation of Phonograph Record Magazine, a tabloid rock rag I discovered in early ’77. PRM‘s tantalizing descriptions of all these punk and peripheral acts I’d never heard–The RamonesThe DamnedThe ClashBlondieThe Vibrators, and of course the Pistols–intrigued me. I wanted to know more. I wanted to hear…something.

I finally heard The Sex Pistols in the summer of ’77, when Utica’s WOUR-FM played their new import single, “God Save The Queen.” The DJ introduced the track with mentions of the clamor and controversy surrounding the group, and then played the record so listeners could judge for themselves.

“God Save The Queen” was unlike any record I’d ever heard. Even though I didn’t initially think it was music, it was undeniably exciting, enticing. Different. That was good enough for me. I didn’t hear The Sex Pistols again for months thereafter, but “God Save The Queen” did not leave my mind at any time.

Summer ended. College at Brockport began for this 17-year-old freshman. I heard more punk rock, courtesy of the campus radio station. I had my classes, and I betcha I may have studied occasionally. Otherwise? Music. Keggers. Attempts at writing. Flirting. Reciprocal flirting, leading to more than flirting. A few really dumbass actions that I still cringe to recall. Arguments with my roommate. A growing certainty that I would never truly fit in anywhere, a certainty which proved to be accurate.

There were two record stores in town, The Vinyl Jungle and The Record Grove. The Vinyl Jungle was gone in short order, leaving only The Record Grove, whose wonderful manager Bill Yerger had import and independent 45s for sale at the counter. My first punk rock purchases occurred at that counter when I bought the 45s of “God Save The Queen” and The Ramones’ “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.”

My roommate let me play “God Save The Queen” once on his stereo, so props to him for that. It was just as powerful the second time through, and it retained its power for oh, a zillion subsequent spins over the years. B-side “Did You No Wrong” wasn’t quite as distinctive–what could be?–but I dug it, and I like even more all these decades later.

My girlfriend was a little older than me, about 20 or 21, and she didn’t care for any of that noisy trash I loved so much. Her abrupt replacement was just 17, if you know what I mean, and she didn’t like my music any more than her predecessor did, but she bought me The Sex Pistols’ debut LP as a Christmas gift.

I think I’d already heard the “Pretty Vacant” single before I got my copy of Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. I loved “Pretty Vacant” and “God Save The Queen,” and I loved a great album track called “No Feelings.” I liked “Anarchy In The UK” and “Holidays In The Sun.” I appreciated the foul-mouthed shock value of “Bodies,” and I approved of the album as a whole without ever embracing it as fully as I claimed at the time. I glowered at the barely-literate poison-pen review the album received in the campus newspaper, a frothing-at-the-mouth diatribe that sputtered such pithy witticisms as “Simply put, this album sucks!” Oh, you and your clever words….!

That was the basic beginning of my life as a Sex Pistols fan. Back home over Christmas break, my friend Jay came over to watch The Sex Pistols’ planned American television debut on Saturday Night Live, only to discover that our lads were still in England, and their SNL slot would be manned instead by some guy named Elvis Costello. The Pistols eventually made it to America, and the group broke up, acrimoniously and ignominiously, on these shores. When there’s no future, how can there be sin?

The sheer audacity of the Pistols phenomenon stayed with me. So much was made of their image, their DIY sloppiness, their presumed inability to play, that I didn’t realize until long, long after the fact just how solid this much-maligned band really was. Sure, Sid Vicious couldn’t play bass to save his short life, and Johnny Rotten‘s abrasive lead vocals were willfully more caterwaul than melody. But underneath all that? Guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook, and original bassist Glen Matlock were tight, together. They could play, and they played a basic, invigorating, exciting rock ‘n’ roll sound that doesn’t get the credit it richly deserves. These are terrific records. I wish they’d made more!

But Never Mind The Bollocks was The Sex Pistols’ only real album. There was the double-LP collection The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, assembled posthumously and at least as much sod as odd, and there was a terrific bootleg called Spunk, which preserved the Pistols’ pre-album demos. For a while, I preferred Spunk to Bollocks, but I’ve since settled firmly on the side of the official recordings.

Nowadays, my go-to Sex Pistols audio document is Kiss This, an import CD that contains all of Never Mind The Bollocks, the non-LP B-sides (“I Wanna Be Me,” “Did You No Wrong,””Satellite,” “No Fun”), and a selection of tracks from The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, including the Pistols’ cover of The Monkees‘ “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” and Sid Vicious’ silly deconstruction of “My Way.” If itonly added Sid’s surprisingly amiable version of Eddie Cochran‘s “Something Else” from The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll SwindleKiss This would be THE perfect Pistols set, but it’s close enough.

And, of course, I still have my original LP of Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, a Christmas gift from a girl who would remain my girlfriend for about two more weeks after she gave it to me. No future. No feelings for anybody else, except for myself, my beautiful self. We are the flowers in the dustbin. The poison in your human machine. We’re so pretty, oh so pretty. Noise. Glorious. Angry. Cathartic. Music
Mine. My music. The transcendence of its noise endures. We mean it, man.

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