Categories
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Hey Jude

An infinite number of rockin’ pop records can be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

For years and years, “Hey Jude” was regarded by many as The Beatles‘ crowning achievement among singles, the fabbest of the fab, the toppermost of the poppermost. No, wait–neither fab nor poppermost, for “Hey Jude” was far more mature and accomplished than that earlier yeah-yeah-yeah hold my hand stuff. It had depth! It had meaning! It had purpose! It had a big room full of people swayin’ and singin’ Na-na-na-NA-na-na-na!, as if they’d lost their way and forgotten the precise words to “The Batman Theme!”

And I loved it. Wholeheartedly.

“Hey Jude” was released in the summer of 1968, a double-barreled 45 with the raucous “Revolution” as its flip. The Beatles promoted it via a video clip aired by British TV host David Frost and subsequently in the U.S. on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. I missed all of this, and I don’t remember hearing it on the radio or anywhere until the early ’70s. That’s when I finally heard “Hey Jude,” as I was visiting my brother Rob in Albany, and listening intently to an oldies radio countdown of the all-time greatest songs. “Hey Jude” came in second, falling just short of the unstoppable juggernaut that was “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe. Or maybe it was the other around, but no matter. I adored both songs immediately.

There was never a time where I didn’t like The Beatles, at least no such time after Beatlemania hit the States in ’64, when I was mere lad of four. But the early ’70s was a huge period of discovery and rediscovery for me in terms of your John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I listened to the Beatles records I knew, sought out the Beatles records I didn’t know, saw the Beatles films I hadn’t seen, and re-watched the one I knew–A Hard Day’s Night–whenever it turned up on TV. The Beatley Badfinger was my favorite current group on the radio, and the Beatley Raspberries later became my favorite current group on the radio; in the period between Badfinger and The Raspberries, Paul McCartney & Wings was likely my favorite current group on the radio. But my all-time favorite group? There was never, ever any question about who that was. There still isn’t.

Granted, the onslaught of punk in the late ’70s prompted me to re-examine my ongoing allegiance to The Beatles. My newfound devotion to The Ramones rivaled my Beatlemania, but certainly didn’t replace it. I did grow tired of the solo careers of the former Beatles by that time, and even started writing a song urging them to never get back to where they once belonged (‘Cause you got a good reason/For staying apart just as long as you can/You got a good reason/All things must pass, you can’t do that again). I developed a distinct preference for The Beatles’ pre-1967 recordings, before they got too serious with the Sgt. Pepper and the “All You Need Is Love” and the goo goo ga joob. On the other hand: RevolverRubber SoulBeatles VI and Beatles ’65 and Meet The Beatles and the American mix of “Thank You, Girl” on The Beatles’ Second Album? Yeah, yeah, a thousand times yeah! 

In my 1980s Beatles milieu, “Hey Jude” was not here, nor there, nor everywhere. I still liked it, but it was no longer in my Top 100, not even close. Hell, when a rummage-sale dive at a church basement in Buffalo netted me an Atlantic 45 of Wilson Pickett testifyin’ his own take on “Hey Jude,” the Wicked, Wicked Pickett’s rendition instantly became the version in my mind. That remained the case for decades thereafter. And seeing Paul (now Sir Paul) haul the song out again and again for seemingly every TV appearance honoring The Beatles’ legacy eventually caused “Hey Jude” to grate on me. Na-na-na-NA-na-na-na. No. No-no-NO-no-no-no.

There was an exception to this recently. I don’t remember what show it was, what specific honor or accolade or day-in-the-life matter was at hand. But there was Paul McCartney, on my little 32″ TV screen, once again recommending that we take a sad song and make it better. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. But after years of indifference, even disdain for this song…

…Well, all of a sudden “Hey Jude” clicked with me, for the first time in years. I may have even joined in with the na-na-nas, as I sat on my couch and remembered how large this song once loomed in my legend.

It would be difficult to name one track as the definitive Beatles track. I usually regard “Rain” as The Greatest Record Ever Made, but that doesn’t make it the definitive Beatles track. “Yesterday” is underrated in spite of its ubiquity, but it’s three Beatles shy of even being a Beatles record, let alone the definitive example. One could argue on behalf of the moptopped frenzy of “She Loves You” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” the mind-expansion of “A Day In The Life” or “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “I Am The Walrus,” the pathos of “Eleanor Rigby,” the elegance of “Penny Lane,” the sheer beauty of “We Can Work It Out,” the Utopian promise of “All You Need Is Love.”

But if it’s gotta be just one, it’s “Hey Jude.” “Hey Jude” is the definitive Beatles track. It captures one moment among many, just another snippet of time when The Beatles ruled the world. It captures it perfectly, the movement we need right there on our shoulders. It’s The Beatles still playing as a band, the fractures in that foundation still bonded together in a way only four specific people would ever truly understand. It’s The Beatles with nothing to prove, already reigning o’er their domain by divine right, the four kings of EMI sitting stately on the floor. It’s The Beatles proving it anyway, because they’re the goddamn Beatles.

So let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin. You were made to go out and get her. Tonight, I will see Paul McCartney in concert for the first time. He’ll play some songs I know and love, representing a body of work I cherish above all others. He’ll sing “Yesterday.” He’ll command us to “Let It Be.” He’ll channel James Bond with “Live And Let Die,” a license to thrill. And a splendid time will be guaranteed for all.

And he will sing “Hey Jude.” Where once I dreaded that notion, I now embrace it and anticipate it as a highlight. And I will sing along, full voice, with over 30,000 of my fabbest friends. Na-na-na-NA-na-na-na. For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder. Better, better, better, AH!

Categories
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Thank you, Girl!

I put this piece together as a potential chapter for my (clearly imaginary) book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but it is not included in the book’s current blueprint. That may change, but for now, it’s a blog piece instead.(And, considering the parts-is-parts manner in which Capitol Records cobbled together the American versions of The Beatles’ early LPs, it’s fitting that this chapter was itself stitched together from sections contained within two previous posts. Waste not, want not.)An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

THE BEATLES: Thank You, GirlWritten by John Lennon and Paul McCartneyProduced by George MartinOriginal release: Single (B-side of “From Me To You”), Parlophone Records [U.K.], 1963GREM! mix: From the album The Beatles’ Second Album, Capitol Records, 1964

Americans old enough to meet The Beatles‘ records in the ’60s (or even for a good while thereafter) were introduced to this forever fab sound via U.S. label Capitol Records‘ much-maligned and possibly Philistine muckin’ about with the original British tracks. The American LPs were shorter than their nearest U.K. counterparts, there were consequently more Beatles albums released here than in Her Majesty’s domain, and a lot of the tracks were tweaked and meddled with by Yankee hands indifferent to the intent of The Beatles and their producer, George Martin. One could imagine an American record producer chomping on a cigar and shrugging off criticism of such crass creative butchery: It’s not ART ferchrissakes, it’s a freakin’ pop record! Jeez, it’s for kids who don’t know any better; otherwise they’d listen to something good instead. But until they grow up outta this Beatle nonsense, WE know what the American kids wanna hear!

Philistines? Yeah Yeah Yeah. But I remain adamantly devoted to The Beatles’ American LPs. It’s how we heard The Beatles, how we fell in love with The Beatles. My Rubber Soul is the American Rubber Soul, the one that inspired Brian Wilson to create Pet Sounds. My two all-time favorite albums are the U.S. patchworks Beatles ’65 and Beatles VI. I prefer Meet The Beatles to With The Beatles. I recognize the purity of the British originals. I can’t and won’t shake my affection for the records that made me.

For all the (sometimes deserved) crap hurled at Capitol Records’ somewhat ham-handed treatment of The Beatles’ records before Sgt. Pepper, “Thank You, Girl” is one shining example of Capitol taking a fab song and making it better. The original U.K. version of this track is fine. But the U.S. version, on Capitol’s money-grabbing hodgepodge LP The Beatles’ Second Album? Man, that track explodes with more energy than even virgin vinyl can carry, adding extra harmonica parts, absolutely superfluous (yet paradoxically essential) echo, and a full-volume, full-throttle atmosphere that could be seen as over-the-top if weren’t so exactly, unerringly right. There are days when this is The Greatest Record Ever Made. And there are certainly occasional evening commutes when this is the only song worth playing, over and over, making me glad when I was blue.

The American mix of “Thank You, Girl” is better than the U.K. version. It’s not even close. I remember the first time I heard the British “Thank You, Girl.” I was in high school, spring of ’77, and I bought an import reissue of The Beatles’ Hits EP, specifically to own a copy of “Thank You, Girl,” a track I knew and loved from my cousin Maryann’s copy of The Beatles’ Second Album. And I was so disappointed with the relatively lifeless mix on the EP. AND IT HAD LESS HARMONICA! Heresy! Sure, it turned out to be heresy in reverse, I guess, but no matter. I knew which version moved me. I still do. I chalked it off to experience, and snagged a beat-up copy of The Beatles’ Second Album at the flea market. And all I’ve gotta do is thank you, Capitol. Thank you, Capitol.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Categories
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Lay Down (Candles In The Wind)

An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!


An earlier version of this chapter from my forthcoming book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) appeared as an entry in my weekly 10 Songs feature on 1/5/2021
This slightly expanded version was previewed in my weekly GREM! video blog (GREM! # 18), and makes its first complete printed appearance today.

MELANIE WITH THE EDWIN HAWKINS SINGERS: Lay Down (Candle In The Rain)Written by Melanie SafkaProduced by Peter SchekerykSingle, Buddah Records, 1970
My Mom hated Melanie. I mean, it wasn’t anything personal; if Melanie Safka had shown up at our house or something, I’m sure Mom would have offered her a bite to eat and a chance to sit and relax for a bit, all the while politely begging Ms. Safka not to sing. The distaste was based purely on artistic grounds; when Mom was working at a factory, Melanie’s 1971 hit “Brand New Key” came on the radio. It came on the radio repeatedly, as hit records are inclined to do. Over the clang ‘n’ clatter of hardware and machinery, the waifish voice trilling I got a brand new pair of roller skates, you got a brand new key reached Mom’s ears like Trotsky’s icepick. Mom thought it was the worst approximation of music she’d ever heard. Experiencing the song again at a later time–outside the factory, away from the industrial thrum and bang of assembly work–did not improve Mom’s initial impression, nor did any subsequent spin improve Mom’s view of the song. Noise. This is pop music?

I was eleven years old at the time. And while I may have enjoyed teasing Mom about this song she disliked so much, I didn’t have any particular love of it, either.

But. 

Although “Brand New Key”‘s hit reign in ’71 was the first time I recall hearing Melanie’s name in connection with a song, it was not the first Melanie song I knew. In September of 1970, when I was entering sixth grade, one of my favorite radio records was “Look What They’ve Done To My Song Ma,” which was written by Melanie and a hit for The New Seekers. Listening now to both The New Seekers’ single and Melanie’s own recording of that song, I’d swear it was actually Melanie that I heard on the radio as middle school beckoned. That doesn’t likely; it was almost certainly The New Seekers getting airplay on AM Top 40 in Syracuse, my stubborn contrary memory notwithstanding.

But I betcha I also heard Melanie’s first Top 10 hit, “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain),” earlier that same year, when I was still safely ensconced in elementary school. What a terrific, uplifting song, with the sanctified might of The Edwin Hawkins Singers lifting Melanie up to soar as high as the angels above. I’d had no real use for the straight black Gospel sound of The Edwin Hawkins Singers’ huge 1969 hit “Oh Happy Day” when I was nine, but “Lay Down” effortlessly mingled their celestial sound with Melanie’s folk-singer vibe, and it all wound up as pop music. Irresistible pop music. Forget the damned roller skates. “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” is the key, right here.

“We were so close/There was no room/We bled inside each other’s wounds.” Well, the lyrics pin this one to the Viet Nam War era. “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” was inspired by Melanie’s performance at Woodstock, a song written to express how it felt for her to see this massive crowd–perhaps not really a half a million strong, but giving the impression of a large, large number–as she sang and played her own songs of peace. The rain came down. You can hear her on the Woodstock Two album, performing “My Beautiful People” and “Birthday Of The Sun,” dedicating her music with a giggle to the beautiful, wet people. You can hear her smile. You can hear her belief. 

After Woodstock, Melanie took all of what she’d seen, all of what she felt, and turned it into “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain).” Raise the candles high. If you don’t we could stay black against the night. The Edwin Hawkins Singers provide amazing grace, immortal soul, an oh-happy-day’s journey into night. Raise them higher again. We could stay dry against the rain.

In the ’70s, I listened to my sister’s copy of Woodstock Two, transferring Melanie’s “My Beautiful People” (along with tracks by Jefferson Airplane and Joan Baez) to cassette mix tapes I made by placing my little deck right next to one of the stereo speakers. You can laugh at my lo-fi approach, but I’m still pretty sure that’s how K-Tel did it. In high school, I bought a cutout copy of the two-LP compilation Dick Clark 20 Years Of Rock N’ Roll, a collection which included Melanie’s “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain).” It was the first and only Melanie track I ever owned. The set also included “Oh Happy Day” among its varied treats by DionOtis ReddingThe Shangri-LasFats Domino, and Tommy James and the Shondells. It did not credit The Edwin Hawkins Singers on the Melanie track, and I doubt I even realized it was them singing those heavenly Lay down, Lay down!s behind our Melanie. I didn’t appreciate Hawkins and ensemble at the time. I do now.  

I did appreciate Melanie, and I confess that it wasn’t just on account of her singing. I was a boy. When “Brand New Key” was still a recent radio memory, I saw some photographs of Melanie for the first time, and the notion of lying down with her seemed very appealing to this eleven-year-old. 

I don’t think Mom would have approved.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

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
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)will contain 165 essays about 165 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). My weekly Greatest Record Ever Made! video rants can be seen in my GREM! YouTube playlist. And I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

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.”

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Categories
Boppin'

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

An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Categories
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Rock And Roll love Letter

An infinite number of rockin’ pop records can be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: “Rock And Roll Love Letter”
The next Beatles.

No one believed that particular bit of hype. I don’t recall the phrase “boy band” as part of the pop music lexicon in 1975, but it would have fit The Bay City Rollers like a Tartan glove. I was initially indifferent to them. As a discerning ‘n’ worldly 15-year-old Beatles fan, I thought the very notion of these Scottish wannabes, with their chanted S! A! T-U-R! D-A-Y! NIGHT!!,ever becoming a John, Paul, George, and Ringo just ludicrous. I dismissed them on that basis.

Dismissed them. I didn’t hate them. I dismissed them.

TV personality Howard Cosell took the hype seriously (though I betcha he didn’t really believe it either). In ’75, Cosell was launching a new live variety show called Saturday Night Livenot the famous one–patterned after The Ed Sullivan Show. Given Cosell’s goal to be the next Ed Sullivan, he wanted to introduce the next Beatles to the U.S. The Bay City Rollers made their American television debut on Howard Cosell’s Saturday Night Live. Again, not the famous one.

But slowly–and then more quickly–my indifference and dismissal began to yield to curiosity and burgeoning interest. I liked the idea of rockin’ pop teen sensations, The Beatles, The Dave Clark FiveHerman’s HermitsThe Monkees, even (one could argue) The Raspberries. I liked rockin’ pop songs meant to be played on the radio, from Badfinger to Johnny Nash to KISS. “Saturday Night” wasn’t a bad record; as I gave it a fair listen, it turned out to be a decent record. The Rollers’ second U.S. hit “Money Honey” was even better. And their third U.S. hit…well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

By the time The Bay City Rollers invaded America, they had already been stars in the UK. The group formed as The Saxons in 1966, with original members including lead singer “Nobby” Clark, bassist Alan Longmuir, and drummer Derek Longmuir, Alan’s brother. The Saxons became The Bay City Rollers, and had a UK hit with a cover of The Gentrys‘ “Keep On Dancing” in 1971. Follow-up singles, including a little something called “Saturday Night,” did not match the success of “Keep On Dancing.” The line-up evolved, as guitarist Eric Faulkner became a Roller, and “Remember (Sha La La)” returned the group to the UK Top Ten. Clark split, replaced by new lead singer Les McKeown, and guitarist (later bassist) Stuart “Woody” Wood joined. McKeown, Faulkner, Wood, and the Longmuir brothers became the  Rollers we know, and British stardom ensued. Hit singles. TV shows. Teen magazines. The Bay City Rollers were the idols of young lasses across the British Isles in 1974 and ’75. In late ’75, the colonies beckoned. Howard Cosell. “The next British phenomenon.” “Saturday Night,” a # 1 hit in America with a new version of a song that had never even charted back home. Success. International success.

Success, and immediate, everlasting scorn. That’s the price of being called the next Beatles. That’s also the price of actively courting an audience of adolescent females, young girls who’ll swear to love you forever, and plaster their bedrooms with craven images of their idols, only to outgrow you and move on. Ask David Cassidy, or Davy Jones before him. The Bay City Rollers’ music was not–and would never be–taken seriously.

Some of it deserved better.

I’m not trying to make a case for The Bay City Rollers’ induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. But I will insist there are true gems within the Rollers canon. “Rock And Roll Love Letter” is one such gem.

“Rock And Roll Love Letter” was written by Tim Moore, who recorded the original version for his 1975 album Behind The Eyes. It was a perfectly fine pop ditty. Its simple charm was transformed into something greater in the unlikely hands of The Bay City Rollers. The Rollers discarded extraneous lyrics about being crazy to express themselves this way, revamping and renovating the song’s basic structure. They replaced the easygoing sway of Moore’s instrumental opening with a quick rat-tat of drums, guitars then taking over to assume command of your heart, your soul, and your radio. It was louder. It was pop. It was a manifesto. I feel an ancient rhythm in a man’s genetic code/I’m gonna keep on rock ‘n’ rollin’ ’til my genes explode.

A rock and roll love letter.

Few would ever give The Bay City Rollers the credit they deserved. Boy bandPop stars. A guy I knew once referenced the great British group The Records and their own subsequent cover of “Rock And Roll Love Letter,” hailing The Records for rescuing the tune from the crass, clueless clutches of the deplorable, disposable Rollers. The comment made my blood boil. Now, The Records were a fantastic group; “Starry Eyes” is also The Greatest Record Ever Made, and it’s not even my favorite Records record (which would be “Hearts Will Be Broken”). The Records’ version of “Rock And Roll Love Letter” is lovely.

It does not surpass the Rollers.

Without recognition from critics and pundits, The Bay City Rollers comforted themselves with the cool lucre of continued chart success for a little while longer. The American Rock And Roll Love Letter LP included a fabulous, group-written power pop song called “Wouldn’t You Like It,” which shoulda been a single, shoulda been a hit. Alan Longmuir left the group, replaced initially by Ian Mitchell, who was replaced briefly by Pat McGlynn, and then replaced by no one as The Bay City Rollers became the next Fab Four, in number anyway. In the U.S., there were still a few more hits: a cover of Dusty Springfield‘s “I Only Want To Be With You,” the dynamic “Yesterday’s Hero” (originally an Australian hit for Paul Young, written by Harry Vanda and George Young of The Easybeats), “You Made Me Believe In Magic,” and “The Way I Feel Tonight.” Their star faded. Tick-tock. Such is the finite shelf life of teen mania. Alan Longmuir returned. A 1978-79 Saturday morning kiddie TV show with Sid and Marty Krofft served as the epitaph for their career. Les McKeown split, acrimoniously. Faulkner, Wood, and the Longmuirs regrouped under the truncated name The Rollers (with new lead singer Duncan Faure, ex of South African group Rabbitt) and made some outstanding records that did not sell. The next Beatles had reached the end of their short and winding road.

That’s sales. That’s popularity. That’s the broader equivalent of the schoolyard milieu we hope to outgrow someday. Cliques. Crushes. Notes passed in class, clandestine fantasies of holding hands and meeting at the lips, adolescent wishes for the rapture of romance. The pre-teen dream. The fact that The Bay City Rollers catered specifically to that fantasy doesn’t negate the occasional moments when they transcended it. Hey sister poet, dear brother poet, too.  “Rock And Roll Love Letter” exploded from the radio like an effervescent communique from an alternate world ruled by the virtues of pure pop. But I need to spend my body, I’m a music-makin’ man/And no page can release it like this amplifier can.

The little girls still understand. Older and wiser, maybe we can all understand it. too. It is what it promised it would be: a rock and roll love letter. The words are true, and meant for you. Gonna sign it, gonna seal it, gonna mail it away.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!
You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Categories
Boppin'

The Greatest Record Ever Made: “Life On Mars”?

An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

DAVID BOWIE: “Life On Mars?”
Dear David:
I am sorry that I’ve never written to you before. I’m sorry that I never took pen to paper to scribble a fan letter, and I regret that I didn’t write about you at all during the decades I spent writing about pop music. I wrote about Gary Glitter. I wrote about Toni Basil. I wrote about Stars On 45, for cryin’ out loud. How silly does that seem now?


The thing is, I always considered myself just a casual David Bowie fan. I mean no offense when I say that you were never one of my very favorite artists. Because, casual or not, I was still a fan. I heard “Changes” on the radio, and had to own the 45. I delved a bit deeper when I got to college, starting (perhaps incongruously) with a used copy of Pinups, and falling hard shortly thereafter for “Suffragette City” and your magnificent Ziggy Stardust album. I knew a couple of other disaffected teenagers who were big Bowie fans; one was a high school pal who adored the sense of alienation conveyed in the lyrics of “All The Madmen” on The Man Who Sold The World, and the other was a college acquaintance into hard rock, metal, and David Bowie. The high school pal killed himself in 1979; the college acquaintance was a kleptomaniac with a heart of gold, and I betrayed his trust in a manner I still regret, almost 40 years later. Let me collect dust. Memories….


But if I was just a casual Bowie fan, why am I so sad that you’re gone? The news was a true shock, delivered to me in an email from my friend Gretta, under the subject heading “Bowie Departs.” I have even found my eyes stinging, watering–just a little–in memory of this artist, of whom I was just a casual fan.


And I think I’m starting to understand the reasons why.
More than any other artist, performer, or public figure I can think of, you made it okay to be different. You made it okay to be weird, or strange, or left-of-center. You made it okay to be gay, or straight, or neither, or both. You made it okay for anyone to be whomever his or her inner muse wanted to be. Sometimes it was a struggle, and sometimes our efforts would fail, but you made it okay for us to try our own way. Maybe you even made it okay to be a lonely, chubby teenager from the suburbs of Syracuse. Casual fan? I loved your music more than I even knew. I still have my copies of your ‘70s LPs; they have survived every drastic purge of my record collection, over a span of many, many years. Although I stopped buying your albums after 1979’s Lodger–casual fan, that’s me!–I had a chance to see you in concert in 1983, and you were terrific. I’ve been listening to your stuff again all week, including a few things I never really played much before. You influenced so many other artists I love, and you made wonderful, timeless music that will live on and on and on.


I took you for granted. I miss you now.


Many of us believe in forever. In your new digs, I’m sure you’ve already had a chance to re-connect with Mick Ronson, with old friends like John Lennon and Klaus Nomi, maybe Freddie Mercury, Lou Reed, or Andy Warhol, perhaps Bing Crosby…because, why not? I bet you’ve chatted with Salvador Dali and Arthur Rimbaud, and with Einstein, too. I hope you’ll have a chance to meet Buddy Holly, and James Jamerson, and Elvis, maybe play with all of them. You can play with Miles Davis, and Count Basie, and Hank Williams, and Bob Marley, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Caruso, and Leonard Bernstein–that would be really, really cool, and each would consider you a peer. Lemmy’s probably got it all set. Heaven must indeed have one hell of a music scene. We wish we could hear it down here.


But now, there’s a Starman waiting in the sky. Our minds have already been blown. And we mere mortals can only gaze upward, and note that the stars look very different today. Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.
There is one thing you were wrong about. Unlike the spat-upon children you mention in “Changes,” I was not quite aware of what I was going through. I know better now. And I wanted to write you, just to say thanks. Thank you, David. Thank you for everything.
Sincerely,
Your fan


I didn’t see it coming.

David Bowie’s death in January of 2016 had far more impact on me than I would have ever thought likely. There were external factors in play; my daughter had just begun a semester in London, and it would be, by far, the longest time I would ever go without seeing her. I felt fragile, mortal. I felt sad, my pride in her accomplishments and delight in her opportunities not quite sufficient to ease the ache inside. Bowie died. I wasn’t even all that much of a fan. Yet his passing hit me harder than any celebrity death since losing Joey Ramone on Easter Sunday in 2001.


I needed to release the feeling. Somehow. I wrote this open letter to David Bowie, intending to use it as commentary for the posted playlist of our This Is Rock’n’ Roll Radio tribute to Bowie, which played on January 17th of ’16. My 56th birthday. Look at that caveman go.
It wasn’t enough. I couldn’t email the playlist out and just let it go. I needed more. I started my blog on January 18th, with this letter to Bowie as my inaugural post. It had been ten years since I gave up freelancing; it hadn’t been fun anymore. I promised myself I would post something, however slight, every single day. Every. Goddamned. Day. No excuses. I had largely stopped writing. I needed to get back to writing. Immediately.

Although I had always liked the track “Life On Mars?,” particularly when I saw Bowie perform it in concert, it had never been one of my top Bowie tracks. “Rebel Rebel,” “Panic In Detroit,” and “Suffragette City” had been my go-to Bowie tunes. That changed in 2016, as I found myself listening to “Life On Mars?” obsessively, clinging to its…what? Its artiness? Its desperation? The smoke and mirror of its implied depth, the verve of its execution, the simple beauty of its being? Yes. And Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, tickling the ivories so expressively on that recording. Sailors fighting in the dancehall, a lawman beating up the wrong guy. The song felt like a connection to what was lost, to what could still be recovered, to what could always be remembered.


The drumbeat of mortality seemed just incessant in 2016. Prince’s death in June felt like the last straw, but it wasn’t. Trump’s election was a vicious blow. On election night, Meghan texted me from college, looking in vain for reassurance as we both watched the electoral results with growing dread and horror. Jesus, 2016 wasn’t even two weeks old when Bowie died. We should have taken that as a sign to return the damned year to sender, postage due.


We survived. Not intact, not good as new, but…survived. As I mourned David Bowie here, my daughter was in England mourning actor Alan Rickman, so beloved by her for his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. We commiserated with each other’s loss. She wrote Rickman a touching thank-you note, which she placed at Charing Cross Station in his memory. I wrote a letter to David Bowie, and I started a blog. I cried. I wrote. I wrote more in 2016 than in any single year before that.


And I played a song called “Life On Mars?” Is there life on Mars? Is there life anywhere? The ache we feel is part of it. Talking about it helps. Writing about it helps. It’s about to be writ again. It’s a God-awful small affair. That’s life.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

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).

Categories
Boppin'

The Greatest Record Ever Made: “This Year’s Gonna Be Our Year”

“Columnist Carl Cafarelli originally posted this on his 59th birthday in 2019, and it will be included in his book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). The sentiment seems appropriate as we prepare to kick 2020 to the curb. Here’s to 2021 being our year.”

EYTAN MIRSKY: “This Year’s Gonna Be Our Year”
Annus mirabilus. The ideal of the miracle year is intriguing, enticing, yet elusive, and damned near unattainable. We touch it sometimes, briefly. Our favorite sports team exceeds expectations. Our favorite performer delivers a brand new masterpiece, a film or novel or record that thrills our ever-fannish spirits. We connect with the one we love the most, and our hearts rise to a higher horizon. Something great happens to friends or family, or something great happens directly to us, and we feel the elation of miracle. This year…!
That euphoria is short-lived. Setbacks temper our optimism. We win, we lose, we remain precariously steady in place, all with varying and unequal proportion. People leave our lives, whether through death or distance, sudden discord, changes in goals, or a simple freakin’ fork in the road. Time. See what’s become of us.

But as we reach the calendar’s final crumpled page, and we crawl from the rubble of the preceding twelve months’ accumulated yin and yang, we still hope for something better beginning. Our new year’s resolution may be survive and advance. But more than that, no matter how much past experience insists we should expect neither miracles nor miracle years, some resilient spark within us may still whisper, This year’s gonna be our year.

In pop music–a cherished refuge for fragile hopes and unsteady ambition–the feeling is expressed elegantly by The Zombies in their delicate wonder “This Will Be Our Year.” It’s my favorite Zombies track, which is saying something when we’re talking about the group that did “She’s Not There,” “Time Of The Season,” “Care Of Cell 44,” “A Rose For Emily,” and so many more perfect, polished gems. For all that, though, the ultimate reconciliation of facing long, crushing odds and forging ahead anyway has gotta be “This Year’s Gonna Be Our Year” by singer-songwriter Eytan Mirsky.

Do you know Eytan? He’s had some success as a song-seller for film soundtracks, crafting tunes for The Tao Of Steve (“[I Just Want To Be] Your Steve McQueen,” sung by Eytan), Happiness (the title song, sung in the film by actress Jane Adams and during the credits by Michael Stipe and Rain Phoenix), and American Splendor (the title song, sung by Eytan on screen). He’s released six albums from 1996 through 2016, with a new one on the way, and he’s recorded a number of additional tracks for various compilations and tribute albums. His public persona is a snarky Everyman, and he’s made a lot of really good music. If you’re a rockin’ pop fan, you should get to know Eytan Mirsky. You should most especially get to know “This Year’s Gonna Be Our Year,” the lead track on Eytan’s 2012 album Year Of The Mouse

Do you remember
Way back in January
The way we had it all worked out?
Knew what we wanted
Knew what to do to get it
If there was ever any doubt
Then we’d say
This year’s gonna be our year
Don’t you know it’s gonna be our year now
Much better than last year
Which wasn’t good at all

Confidence. Forward! This year’s the year. I know it. I think I know it.

But it so rarely works out that way.
Do you remember
The way we felt in August
When nothing seemed to go as planned?
We didn’t waver
We never hesitated
‘Cause it was time to make a stand
And we said
This year’s gonna be our year…

At what point do we give up? When is it time to concede, to surrender?

Today is my 59th birthday. It’s a number neither great nor small, not ancient, not new. My brain thinks I’m a teenager. There are days when my body’s aches and my mind’s troubles seem like even more than just under six decades of dead weight. There’s so much to do. Sometimes, I don’t want to do any of it. 

But things get done. Bills are paid, responsibilities met. Goodbyes. Hellos renewed. Laughter gives way to tears, but laughter returns. I still know delight and wonder. I have my superhero comic books. I listen to my invigorating pop music, my loud rock ‘n’ roll. I read, I watch TV, I follow the ups and downs of my basketball team. I like food. I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning more than I ever enjoyed a beer at night. I still enjoy a beer at night. I love, family and friends. I write. I look at my wife, and randomly say to her, “You’re pretty;” every mundane task we do together, I call a date. Hugs and kisses. I clear the snow from my driveway, and set my car’s radio to magnetic North. 

And now we’ve reached December
And it’s been so disappointing
That we’re glad this sorry year’s about to end
But in just a little while
We’ll be back in January
And you know we’re gonna start it all again
And we’ll say
This year’s gonna be our year
Don’t you know it’s gonna be our year now
Much better than last year
And the year before
Guitars and drums. Harmony. Purpose. Eytan sings, and we know he’s right.

Every year, and every moment of every year, we will discover that our path has been blocked. We will overcome the obstacles, until the day comes that we can no longer overcome them. Today isn’t that day. Not now. Not yet. We haven’t quite exhausted our supply of miracles. Like freedom fighters, abolitionists, and suffragettes before us. Like Tom Joad moving his family west, or Green Lantern vowing to shed his light over dark evil, for the dark things cannot stand the light. Allen Ginsberg putting his queer shoulder to the wheel. ElvisChuck BerryRosa ParksThe Beatles aiming for the toppermost of the poppermost. Lesley Gore singing “You Don’t Own Me.” The miracle MetsBarack Obama insisting Yes, we can. Malala. Anyone who’s ever looked ahead and seen the promise of possibility, the odds against us be damned. Win or lose. This year. Annus mirabilus. This year’s gonna be our year. 

It must be true. I have a song that says so. This year, man. This year.

“This Year’s Gonna Be Our Year” written by Eytan Mirsky, Mirsky Mouse Music BMI
You can hear the song hereand order music from Eytan here.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!
You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 
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
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: I Don’t Want To Grow Up

This was intended to be a chapter in my theoretically forthcoming book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). It was originally added to the book’s Table of Contents because I thought my abiding love of The Ramones wasn’t sufficiently conveyed in the preexisting chapter on “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,” and also because–let’s face it–The Ramones’ “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” IS The Greatest Record Ever Made.

But ultimately, although I like this chapter a lot, I don’t think it fits the book. So I’m going back to fortify the “Sheena” chapter, to let it more fully illustrate why I regard “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” as the record that changed my life. And we’re freeing up this chapter for public viewing. (My paid patrons have already seen it, but since it’s now being posted publicly so much earlier than planned, they’re also getting the as-yet-unseen 
Sly and the Family Stone chapter as a bonus private post.)

An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, THIS is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

There would be no hit records. The road to ruin reached its predetermined end. 
In 2002, Spin magazine ranked The Ramones second on its list of the 50 greatest bands of all time, with only The Beatles perched above them. Writer Marc Spitz explained the rationale of placing this seemingly misfit Carbona Quartet just a step below that other Fab Four:
“Punk rock exists because of the false assumption that The Ramones can be imitated. ‘1-2-3-4!’ Three chords. ‘Second verse, same as the first.’ Technically speaking, it’s simple. Legend has it that in every city where The Ramones played in support of their 1976 debut, a handful of punk kids started up bands, thinking that they could do it, too. But The Ramones’ loud-fast style masked a pop genius. Slow their tempos, and you’ve got Beach Boys harmonies. Replace lyrics about sniffin’ glue and eatin’ refried beans, and you’ve got The Ronettes. Give everyone matching leather jackets, and you’ve got the punk rock Beatles. Just four lads from Queens who birthed thousands of bands, then blew each one away.”
I believe I may have dropped the magazine at that point just so I could give it a standing ovation.
We have not yet created a language that can adequately convey the sheer, visceral thrill of that precise second when I realized The Ramones were…perfect. Just perfect. Punk? Sure, yeah. Rock ‘n’ roll? Oh God, yes. But also power pop, bubblegum, every great song ever played on any AM radio ever conceived on Earth or above, all distilled into this massive, physical presence that’s simultaneously as heavy as a truncheon and as light as helium candy. Pop music, played loud, played fast, and played for keeps, our hearts sustained by its velocity, our souls redeemed by its purity, our faith in the transcendent power of music restored by forceful melody, accomplished as easily as the above-cited count of 1-2-3-4.
And for all that, The Ramones never had a goddamned hit record. Not in America anyway. “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” charted. “Rockaway Beach” made it all the way up to # 66 in Billboard, and a cover of “Do You Wanna Dance” wrote finis to The Ramones’ brief three-part invasion of the lower half of The Hot 100, all accomplished in 1977-78. Like the immortal “Blitzkrieg Bop” before it, “I Wanna Be Sedated” did not chart. “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?” did not chart. “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” did not chart. Radio’s ears were closed to The Ramones. Retail declared them niche, cult…lesser. MTV all but ignored them. 
The Ramones pretended not to care. They insisted that hit records never mattered to them. Their practiced scowls hid the fact that they were lying through their teeth. 
Of course The Ramones wanted hit records! They’d come of age in a time when the greatest records were hits, from Del Shannon to The Dixie Cups, James Brown to The Beatles. They never outgrew the quaint notion that the best stuff could be the most popular stuff, the most popular stuff the best stuff. They didn’t want to grow up. They couldn’t.
When I’m lyin’ in my bed at nightI don’t want to grow upNothing ever seems to turn out rightAnd I don’t want to grow up
The Ramones’ final studio album was 1995’s Adios Amigos!, its stated intent to be the Ramones’ farewell effort tacitly understood to carry an asterisk: the final album* (*unless this one’s a hit). It was not. But Jesus, it should have been.
The album opens with a supercharged Ramonesified reading of Tom Waits’s “I Don’t Want To Grow Up,” a triumphant bludgeoning that plants its feet and establishes one last Rockaway Beachhead. There would be no hit records. That 2002 Spin piece concluded, “Like sharks, The Ramones never evolved. They didn’t have to.” But growin’ up is for squares, man. The Ramones weren’t gonna do it. We don’t have to do it either.

“I Don’t Want To Grow Up” written by Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan, Jalma Music ASCAP

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!
You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 
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.
(And you can still get our 2017 compilation This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4, on CD from Kool Kat Musik and as a download from Futureman Records.)

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).

Categories
Boppin'

THIS PEN FOR HIRE! My Guest Appearances In Other Writers’ Books

 Writing a book has been one of my dreams for nearly as long as I can remember. I’m working on my first book, The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), a project which I hope will turn that dream into reality.

But although GREM! will be my first book, it won’t be the first time my work has appeared in a book. It won’t even be my third or fourth time. My book resumé is still a little thin, mind you, but it’s a start.

To begin, it’s worth mentioning two books that predate the first time any of my stuff actually appeared in a book. In 1991, my friend Dave Murray wrote a book called House-Training Your VCR, subtitled “A Help Manual For Humans.” The book was illustrated by Joe Congel (who is himself a talented writer), it was a clever and effective precursor to the …For Dummies books that came along later, and it’s an overlooked gem of a book. I had nothing whatsoever to do with its creation. BUT! Dave did ask me to proofread the manuscript for style. His publisher was insisting that the plural of VCR had to be spelled with an apostrophe, and that is, of course, batshit crazy. I told Dave so, he agreed, and he held his ground on the all-important issue of ¡VCRs SÍ! ¡VCR’S NO! The publisher conceded the point. Autographing my copy of House-Training Your VCR, Dave wrote, Thanks for all your input and support. Without you, there’d be 2161 “VCR’s” in here. We do what we can, Dave! We do what we can.

My second peripheral book appearance was the pleasant shock of seeing my work quoted (with attribution) in another writer’s book. Cult Rockers by Wayne Jancik and Tad Lathrop was published in 1995, a collection of 150 profiles of artists in The Strange And Wild World Of Cult Rockers! Awright! I spotted Cult Rockers on the shelf at Media Play one evening. Intrigued by its promise of celebrating cult acts both famous and obscure, from The Grateful Dead to The Dead Kennedys, I flipped through the book. And I was surprised that the opening paragraph of the chapter discussing The Flamin’ Groovies was…well, me

“They have been and remain the very picture of a cult band, ignored by the world at large, but positively revered by a small but discerning group of loyal fans,” wrote rock critic Carl Cafarelli.

That, my friends, was a HOLY SHIT! moment. The quote came from my introduction to a 1992 Goldmine interview with the Groovies’ Cyril Jordan, and the next paragraph quoted Jordan himself from the same interview. I was flattered and preening, and within minutes I was also the proud owner of my very own copy of Cult Rockers. Flattery will get you any damned thing you want.

In between the publication of House-Training Your VCR and Cult Rockers, I made an attempt to do my own book. Shake Some Action would have been my power pop book; in 1993, I got as far as submitting a book proposal to a prospective publisher, but the publisher passed. 

My first actual book work was for MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide in 1996. This was essentially a CD buyer’s guide to rock history, presenting A-Z entries for individual acts and proclaiming which CDs were essential and which were, um…not. It was a paying market, so I wrote as many as I was allowed to. The book was updated in 1999, and I made enough off that project to pay for my wife and daughter’s round-trip airfares to Florida. Big-time writer? That’s me!

Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth followed in 2001. My involvement in this book grew out of the history of bubblegum music I wrote for Goldmine in 1997. I don’t think that Scram magazine/Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth editors Kim Cooper and David Smay saw my piece and said to themselves We need that guy!, and I don’t think either of them had even seen the piece prior to me sending it to them. But by whatever sequence o’ Bazookas, I did send them the bubblegum issue of Goldmine, and they agreed to run a shorter version of that history in Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth. To fatten the book’s essential CC content, Gary Pig Gold and I collaborated on “Good Clean Fun,” a debate about whether or not The Monkees were ever really a bubblegum group, and I updated an appreciation of The Bay City Rollers that had originally been my first-ever feature article for Goldmine back in 1987. There was very little money in this, but it was such an enjoyable experience. I went to the book release party in New York City, and I was later interviewed about bubblegum by a radio station in the Hudson Valley. I’m proud to have been a part of Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth.

I also participated in another book edited by Cooper and Smay, 2005’s Lost In The Grooves. Billed as “Scram‘s capricious guide to the music you missed,” Lost In The Grooves gathered essays by various pop pundits waxing rhapsodic about some of our favorite lesser-known albums. The book included my appreciations of Subterranean Jungle by The Ramones and Tell America by Fools Face, but the editors declined my offer to extoll the virtues of Elevator by The [bay city] Rollers

After that, I finally did get to write at least part of a power pop book called Shake Some Action; it just wasn’t my once-proposed power pop book called Shake Some Action. This Shake Some Action was assembled by my former Goldmine colleague John M. Borack, and John gave me the opportunity to update an extensive history of power pop I’d written for Goldmine in 1996. Gary Pig Gold and I also reunited for a discussion about the secret origin of power pop, but that was ultimately not included in the published book.

For John Borack’s 2010 book John Lennon: Life Is What Happens, John asked a bunch of his music-lovin’ friends to provide personal reminiscences of our experiences as fans of Lennon and The Beatles. I was delighted to comply.

Finally, Ken Sharp (another former Goldmine colleague) asked me for permission to use portions of my 1994 Goldmine interviews with The Ramones in his own massive ‘n’ irresistible Play On! Power Pop Heroes book series. Those quotes appear in 2015’s Play On! Power Pop Heroes Volume 2, with a plug for my own eventual goal of reprinting the interviews in a hypothetical book to be called Gabba Gabba Hey: Conversations With The Ramones. Anyone know a publisher?

So yeah, I’ve done a few things for other people’s books. I’ve been honored to do so, and I’ve had a pretty good blast all along the way. Now, it’s high time I did my own book. The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). It’s getting there. Book it.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

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
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)will contain 165 essays about 165 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).