Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.
I was reading The Avengers regularly in 1975-76, when writer Steve Englehart brought the character of Patsy Walker into the mix. I don’t think I’d read any issues of Marvel‘s Patsy Walker teen humor comic book in the ’60s, nor had I seen Patsy’s more serious appearances as a supporting character in The Beast (starring in Amazing Adventures). I had seen Marvel’s short-lived Claws Of The Cat book, so I recognized the costume Walker donned in The Avengers # 144, which was Patsy Walker’s first appearance as Hellcat. Decades later, I was several episodes into Marvel’s Jessica Jones TV series on Netflix before I realized that the character “Trish Walker” was Patsy Walker, albeit without the Hellcat identity.
“Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” was yet another of my many favorite songs on the radio in the early ’70s. I didn’t remember any of The Hollies’ ’60s hits from when I was younger, but I sure loved this song. My interest in The Hollies expanded as I began to explore more oldies radio, and I picked up a copy of The Very Best Of The Hollies outta the cut-out bin at Gerber Music in Penn Can Mall. Granted, it didn’t include “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress,” but it did have “Bus Stop,””Look Through Any Window,””Stop, Stop, Stop,””I Can’t Let Go,” and “On A Carousel,” among others, so I was in Heaven. I also picked up the soundtrack to the David Essex movie Stardust out of the dingy basement at Record Revolution in Cleveland Heights, and that contained The Hollies’ “Carrie Anne.” And, after all these years, I still don’t care about The Hollies’ 1974 hit “The Air That I Breathe.”
HOLLY & THE ITALIANS
In 1981, Creem magazine described Holly & the Italians’ debut album The Right To Be Italian as something like Lesley Gore or The Angels backed by Leave Home-era Ramones. Well, I was sold! I first heard Holly & the Italians on a CBS Records various-artists collection called Exposed II, which included “Rock Against Romance” and the group’s signature tune, “Tell That Girl To Shut Up.” A Holly & the Italians flexi-disc was also included with one of my subscription copies of Trouser Press magazine, and I bought a copy of The Right To Be Italian (with a water-damaged cover) from a record store in New York. The Right To Be Italian remains one of my all-time Top 25 albums.
I was a big fan of Mattel‘s Hot Wheels cars–my first Hot Wheels car was Splittin Image–and I liked the 1969 cartoon TV series on ABC. DC Comics licensed the rights to adapt the TV series, and these were some really well-done comics, with stunning artwork from Alex Toth and (in its final issue) Neal Adams. DC’s Hot Wheelscomic ran for only six issues, and the daunting prospect of trying to navigate the Sargasso Sea of licensing complications will likely prevent it from ever being reprinted.
Terry Carolan’s “Flights Of Fancy” provides all the delectable elements we have come to expect from the respected singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has been a staple of the pop rock circuit for more than forty years. Having acquired recognition with a number of different bands, including Just Boys, The Pin Ups, True Hearts, New Movies, Blue Cartoon and Heirs Of Fortune, Terry further cuts the mustard as a solo artist as this mighty fine album assuredly attests.
Flashing the signage of a quintessential frontman, Terry’s vocals are amiable and robust, emoting his smoothly-scribed songs with an intimacy and directness spurring response to both the words and the music. Additionally pronounced by a polish and a shine, his radio-friendly pipes resemble a blending of Billy Joel, Todd Rundgren and Allan Clarke of The Hollies.
A towering vocal performance, unified with a symphonic sheen represents “Solo Rita,” and a lightly-buttered psychedelic air cushions “The Muse,” which strolls and swirls to a gorgeous display of dreamy melodies and visually-enhanced lyrics. Containing earnest dialogue regarding the madness and confusion consuming life today, “The World Keeps Turning” clicks in as a bouncy pop rocker, rippling and coiling with ringing chords, tight drumming, choice hooks and an electrifying break.
Terry’s first-class piano skills are acutely accented on the measured cadence and haunting contours of “The Box,” as well as the sweetened punch of “Love,” and the downright dynamic “Fade,” a skin-prickling power ballad expressing sorrow at challenging changes afoot, but accepting these changes and courageously forging onward.
The desire for a happier time and place is communicated on the bright and bonny “I’ll Go Home (Elsyian Fields),” where “Easter ’83” steps in a twitchy and tuneful guitar instrumental. Gushing with color and wonder, “A Holiday For You” is cemented by soothing rhythms and textures, breathtaking harmonies, bracing Beatles-Badfinger six-string samplings and a whirling progressive pop rock mini-jam.
Sitting high on the hill as a bold piece of work, “Flights Of Fancy” fuses innovation, purity, beauty and spirited verse into a symmetrical set of songs dictated by moderate tempos. Neither too fast or too slow, these sophisticated and superior songs should also be lauded for their sonic quality. Hardly a flight of fancy, the album totally summarizes Terry’s genius for creating top-grade pop rock on every level imaginable.
My collection of CD boxed sets is fairly modest, I think. Given my level of pop obsession, and fact that I co-host a weekly radio show (and used to regularly write reviews for publication), you might think I’ve amassed a wall or two (or at least a few shelves’ worth) of compact disc sets housed in pretty, pretty boxes. But no; I own a relative handful, and that supply generally satisfies my boxed set needs.
Looking back, I don’t recall owning vinyl boxed sets; The Motown Story is the only one I remember, and I got rid of that one because its spoken narration ran into and spoiled the intros of many tracks. I think my first CD boxed set was a collection of The Rolling Stones‘ ’60s singles. purchased shortly before my first Stones concert in 1989. The Monkees‘ Listen To The Band was the first boxed set I ever received as a promo when I was freelancing for Goldmine (a gig which also brought me The Clash‘s box Clash On Broadway and the first two Nuggets boxes).
Bo Diddley‘s The Chess Box, The Velvet Underground‘s Peel Slowly And See, and the Stax and Motown boxes were all record club purchases, and the Otis Redding set was a Christmas gift from lovely wife Brenda. (Earth, Wind & Fire‘s The Eternal Dance was in turn a Christmas gift I gave to her, but I listen to it, too.)
It’s funny how a simple matter of packaging decides what’s included or excluded from this list. Because they’re housed in jewel cases rather than some kind of box, essential pop resources like Prince‘s three-disc The Hits/The B-Sides, The Monkees’ three-disc Headquarters Sessions, and The Hollies‘ six-disc Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years aren’t considered boxed sets, but the two-disc Bo Diddley is most certainly a box. It even has “box” in its title.
These are the boxed sets I currently own. You’ll note the absence of the above-mentioned Listen To The Band Monkees box, which I sold to a co-worker when I picked up the newer Music Box Monkees collection.
THE BEACH BOYS: Good Vibrations: Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys THE BEACH BOYS: The Pet Sounds Sessions THE BEATLES: The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1 THE BEATLES: The Capitol Albums, Vol. 2 BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD: Buffalo Springfield THE CLASH: Clash On Broadway BO DIDDLEY: The Chess Box EARTH, WIND & FIRE: The Eternal Dance THE JAM: Direction Reaction Creation THE KINKS: The Anthology 1964-1971 KISS: Box Set LED ZEPPELIN: Led Zeppelin THE MONKEES: The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees THE MONKEES: Head THE MONKEES: Instant Replay THE MONKEES: The Monkees Present THE MONKEES: Music Box PHIL OCHS: Farewells & Fantasies THE RAMONES: Weird Tales Of The Ramones OTIS REDDING: Otis! THE ROLLING STONES: Singles Collection The London Years SIMON & GARFUNKEL: Old Friends VARIOUS: The Beach Music Anthology [incomplete] VARIOUS: Children Of Nuggets VARIOUS: The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968 VARIOUS: Hitsville U.S.A.–The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971 VARIOUS: Nuggets VARIOUS: Nuggets II VARIOUS: One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost & Found VARIOUS: Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968 THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: Peel Slowly And See THE ZOMBIES: Zombie Heaven
Some of these get taken off the shelf with some frequency, particularly the Nuggets, girl group, Beatles, and Motown boxes. The Led Zeppelin box is rarely touched, but I’m glad to have it. The Zombies box is still listed here, but I actually haven’t been able to find it in months; if it doesn’t turn up soon, I’m gonna have to replace it. I missed out on Rhino Handmade‘s boxes of the first two Monkees albums; even as an obsessive fan, I couldn’t justify the cost of those, not when I already had two-disc editions that satisfied my needs.
I think The Kinks’ box is the most recent addition. I don’t buy boxed sets all that often, so my collection of them remains modest.
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.
Some of the best stories start with a bunch of 45s. Even if the story itself never goes anywhere, you’ve still got a bunch of 45s. That’s a great start for anything.
The story of my discovering the music of the Turtles doesn’t exactly start with a bunch of 45s, but a small collection of 7″ singles served as an integral early part of that story. The setting was Jean Price’s front porch in Syracuse’s Northern suburbs, 1967. Jean wasn’t there at the time; she was older, and she certainly wouldn’t have been hanging out with a bunch of seven- and eight-year-old children. In truth, I don’t even remember Jean herself, and I have no recollection of why I was hanging out on her porch with a small group of the other neighborhood kids.
But if I don’t remember the why, I remember the what. We were looking through a box of 45s, presumably Jean Price’s 45s. Memory won’t surrender the identities of most of those singles, though I think the stash included either “Liar, Liar” by the Castaways or “Wipe Out” by the Surfaris, or maybe both of those. But I clearly, clearly remember seeing the White Whale Records logo, as I stared at the Turtles’ “Happy Together” single.
I knew the song from the radio. I had no other specific tether to it in the moment. But in that moment, for whatever mystic forces manipulated (but fail to explain) the situation, “Happy Together” by the Turtles became immediately important to me.
My Mom thought it was even more important to me than it was. I must have mentioned the song a time or two, prompting a reasonable presumption that the Turtles were my favorite group, and “Happy Together” my # 1 favorite record in the world. I don’t think that was ever the case, but I sure did like it. A lot.
Still, over time the Turtles faded into a secondary realm of awareness, no longer a current hit, no longer a part of everyday life. If I heard any more of their music on the radio in the ’60s–and I must have–none of it registered with me as THE TURTLES!, at least not at the time.
That changed for me in the ’70s. As a teenager, I developed a consuming interest in the rockin’ pop of the ’60s, both the stuff I remembered from childhood and stuff that was essentially new to my post-adolescent ears. Oldies radio hooked me on the Turtles’ pop classics “She’d Rather Be With Me” and “Elenore.” “She’d Rather Be With Me” became the first Turtles track I ever owned, courtesy of a various-artists set called 20 Heavy Hits, scarfed up at the flea market. “Happy Together” followed, with a purchase of a (very) used copy of the cheap-o early ’70s Do It Now compilation in the spring of 1977, my senior year in high school.
One evening in that same spring ’77 time frame placed me in the audience for Rock Of The ’60s, a presentation of rock ‘n’ roll TV clips screened at Syracuse University. Rock Of The ’60s gave me a glimpse of the Turtles on (I think) The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, alongside clips of other ’60s luminaries like Buffalo Springfield, the Kinks, the Who, the Byrds, the Hollies, the Yardbirds, the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles. By then, I’d learned that the Turtles’ Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman had a post-terrapins pop life as Flo and Eddie; I’d seen them on The Midnight Special and read their Blind Date column in Phonograph Record Magazine.
My first Turtles album was the 2-LP anthology Happy Together Again, a dusty and well-worn used copy rescued from the basement of Record Revolution in Cleveland Heights in the summer of ’77, right before the start of my freshman year in college. This was my real indoctrination into all things Turtley, introducing me to wonderful Turtles tracks like “Outside Chance,” “Grim Reaper Of Love,” “Love In The City,” and more.
Happy Together Again accompanied me to college in Brockport. I met a pretty Long Island girl named Eleanor (never mind the spelling), who of course loved the Turtles’ “Elenore” but would have greatly preferred me refraining from singing it to her. Back home in the summer of ’78, I played the album for my doomed friend Tom, who liked the Turtles but hated one line in “Let Me Be:” I am what I am and that’s all I ever can be. That apparent expression of limitation bugged Tom; looking back decades later, I can’t wrap my mind around how to reconcile that sentiment with the fact of Tom’s suicide in 1979.
It’s weird the things we wind up remembering. A friend objecting to an innocuous lyric he heard a year before he killed himself. A box of 45s on a neighbor girl’s porch. I became a big fan of the Turtles, and I own each of their original albums via CD reissues on the Sundazed label. I missed a chance to the Turtles/Flo and Eddie at a club show in Buffalo in the mid ’80s, but saw them in Syracuse a decade later. I play the music of the Turtles at home, in my car, and on the radio. The story didn’t really start with a box of 45s. But by God, it should have. Happy together? Imagine me and you. I do. Brothers and sisters, friends and lovers and random passers-by. Together. We’ll do the best we can in that regard.
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As one half of Foster & Lloyd, Bill Lloyd experienced a run of success on the country charts in the late eighties. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the acclaimed singer, songwriter and mercurial instrumentalist has further enjoyed a gratifying solo career as a pop rock artist.
Originally distributed by the SpyderPop label in the fall of 2018, Working The Long Game marked Bill’s ninth solo excursion. Earlier this year, SpyderPop joined forces with Big Stir Records, resulting in a partnership focusing on reissuing select albums, with Working The Long Game rolling in as the third release in the series.
If there is any album worthy of a reprise, it is definitely Working The Long Game. Musically and lyrically, every song radiates spirit and substance. Bill’s lucid and lilting vocals, paired with in-the-pocket performances, equals dose after dose of melodious brilliance.
A number of notable friends were also recruited to lend their craft to the sessions. Among these familiar figures are Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson, Freedy Johnston, Scott Sax of Wanderlust, Buddy Mondlock, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and Graham Gouldman, whose credits involve authoring hit singles for The Hollies and The Yardbirds, as well as playing in his own renowned bands, such as The Mindbenders, Hot Legs and 10cc.
Guitars that simultaneously chime and crunch man the punchy Satellite, and the title track of the album shuffles to a merry vaudeville- inspired beat, which sounds kind of like a collaboration between The Kinks and Paul McCartney. A pinch of swagger and crackling power chords stand as the engaging elements behind Yesterday, where the jagged riffage and rustling rhythms of Interrupted produces a bit of a funky tenor.
Sealed to the seams with bracing hooks and a perky chorus, the slightly-country seasoned Make That Face, and the haunting glare of What Time Won’t Heal are additionally accented by sharp and spacious arrangements. Another attention-grabber on the album is the incredibly catchy Go-To-Girl, which romps to a youthfully exuberant bounce that crosses the sunny harmonies of The Beach Boys with the bright polish of The Smithereens.
If you missed Working The Long Game the first time around, now is your chance to score a copy and sink your ears into a groovy guitar pop extravaganza. Nothing but the best is expected from Bill Lloyd, and here’s an album that delivers the goods on all counts.
Over the years, The Romantics have superbly combined elements of jangle, power pop and garage rock into their own thing. A lot of their sound has to do with the stellar guitar work (and bass work after Rich Cole left the band) of Mike Skill, an indie guitar hero, if ever there was one.
Skill’s new single, available on Spotify, is a gruff piece of slinky pop that sounds remarkably like 1966-67. Not quite as polished as The Beatles, but certainly tighter and punchier than groups like Them or The Troggs, So Soul Alone brings to mind cool girls in mod fashion, dancing in all-night basement clubs. More, please.
Really, there are a lot of great reasons to buy Curry Cuts’ tribute to Andy Gibb, but Pop 4’s take on (Love Is) Thicker Than Water is an absolutely stellar reason. While this whole band has got the vocal goods, Andrea Perry, one of our favorites, steals the show. Can anything sound as good as her voice double-tracked? I doubt it.
After you check out this tune, I highly recommend taking a trip through the back catalog of both Pop 4 and Andrea Perry. You will not be disappointed.
Nobody does jangle pop better than The Vapor Trails’ Kevin Robertson. Here, on his debut solo Lp, he manages to channel the charm of The Hollies and The Searchers, with the clever pop crispness of XTC. If you can listen to Into The Black without becoming a massive fan, then something is wrong with you.
Cheers also to Robertson’s co-conspirator, drummer and producer Nick Bertling, who always seems to know the perfect amount of living room to leave on the record.
Manned by Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko – of the ace band The Armoires – Big Stir Records is easily the hardest working label in the biz. For the past few years, the Burbank, California based roster has been releasing a weekly singles series, then compiles the songs onto collections, with Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave counting as the latest chapter in their never-ending sonic sojourn.
It is highly fitting DJ Mike Lidskin of Woody Radio has written the liner notes, because these tunes are so remarkably good that the disc truly sounds like the greatest radio station imaginable. So not only is Big Stir impressively productive, but the quality of their fare is consistently cut of a top-grade fabric.
The Brothers Steve’sBeat Generation Poet Turned Assassin races steadily along to a chipper punk pop pose, where Pink Floyd meets Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars on Athanor’s cosmic-coated Approximately Eternity. From Nick Frater, there’s the rapturous rush of the Hollies styled Let’s Hear It For Love, as well as a striking cover of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s sad and somber Alone Again Naturally, which is transpired into a dazzling production, driven by glistening piano chords and punctured with a searing guitar solo.
Jim Basnight signs on with the Rolling Stones flavored snarl and drawl of Best Lover In The World and the ambitiously-crafted Prince Jones Davies Suite, a medley of Prince, David Bowie and Kinks missives. The Viewers fuse stadium rock flash with keen pop sensibilities on the gripping Beautiful, and the bracing chime of Dolph Chaney’sMy Old Fart celebrates the joy of maturing with your sweetheart in a charming narrative revolving around cats, books and Sunday crossword puzzles.
Irene Pena’s inspired reprise of Fountain of Wayne’sThe Summer Place rings with intent to a sharp new-wavish angle, and The First Song Of Summer by Blake Jones parents a cool art rock feel, pronounced by inventive keyboard moves and loping tempo changes. Blessed with a gorgeously-soulful set of pipes, Rosie Abbott turns in a spine-tingling performance on Hold On,” and Chamberlain from The Persian Leaps shimmers to an infectious clip of jangly licks, a flighty chorus and insistent drum drills.
David Brookings checks in with the chugging All I Love Is Rock And Roll, and the frisky acoustic-framed Livin’ Through The Plaque, which offers a cheeky commentary on dealing with virus crisis rules and regulations. Last but by no means least is Mike Daly & The Planets, whose Falling Out Of Love Song recites the drama of an on and off relationship to an inviting array of musical moods. Rich and melodic vocals, accompanied by powered and polished instrumentation, a punishing break and a crown of psychedelic riffs complete the epic track. The band further shines brightly on Star, an energetic burst of soaring hooks and harmonies, splashed with a showing of neat harmonica trills.
And speaking of such, every song here is a star. Trying to pick favorites is indeed a challenge, since each number contains its own divine spark. So switch the dial to Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Wave, and get ready for some serious ear-pampering!
Record stores used to have cut-out bins, overflowing with deleted albums that the labels had given up as lost causes. The cut-out LP covers had been deliberately damaged: a corner chopped off, a puncture, some sort of premeditated defacing to mark them as clearance items, as soon-to-be discarded product that had been written off, as Grade B, as “other.” The cut-out bin was a record buyer’s last chance to grab a record on the cheap before it slipped into the out-of-print zone. In addition to the cut-outs, there were also budget albums, produced and priced for discount sales.
Cut-outs. Budget albums. I may have purchased a few of these over the years.
THE HOLLIES: The Very Best Of The Hollies (United Artists, 1975)
When I was actively and devotedly listening to AM radio in the early to mid ’70s, I had a number of fave raves at any given time. Alice Cooper. Elton John. Sweet. Slade. Johnny Nash. Various former Beatles. My all-time faves from this era were the incredible hit singles by The Raspberries and Badfinger, all providing a working model of what I would later come to know as power pop. And throw one other single into that mix: “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” by The Hollies.
I understand that this is not an extra-popular choice, even among some Hollies fans. The track doesn’t contain The Hollies’ characteristic, heavenly harmonies, it doesn’t soar like The Hollies’ most unforgettable tracks from the ’60s, and it’s little more than a blatant attempt to copy the sound of Creedence Clearwater Revival, albeit with Allan Clarke‘s distinctive lead vocals. But I like it. I’ve always liked it, and I prefer it to anything that The Hollies did after that. (And yes, I mean that as a specific shot against their 1974 MOR hit ballad “The Air That I Breathe,” which has never done much for me at all.)
But more importantly, “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” was my gateway to the magic of The Hollies. I don’t think I remembered any of their ’60s catalog at the time–maybe “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”–though that knowledge would come in due time. By the mid ’70s, I was becoming obsessed with ’60s rock ‘n’ roll, particularly the British Invasion. That interest flowed naturally into a desire to know more about The Hollies. Oldies radio–principally oldies shows on Syracuse AM hit stations WOLF and WNDR, but also on Utica’s FM rock station WOUR–hooked me on “Bus Stop,” “On A Carousel,” and especially “Stop, Stop, Stop,” and maybe “Carrie Anne,” too. And once hooked, well, I needed more.
When available funds permitted, I started buying records (sort of) regularly around 1976-77, in my junior and senior years in high school. I never had a lot of cash to spare, and some of what I did have I needed for comic books and Playboy. But there were a lot of discount options available in the ’70s; both Economy Bookstore in Syracuse (and at Shoppingtown in DeWitt) and World Of Books in North Syracuse carried tons of used and/or stripped books and magazines, and the flea market offered table after table of dusty old comics, books, magazines, LPs and 45s. Even a little bit of cash could go a long way in feeding the collector’s hunger.
I loved going to record stores, going through the bins, looking at covers, trying to find stuff I could afford (and wishing I could afford more). I think my cousin Mark explained the concept of cut-out bins, but I was already diving into them independently anyway. I don’t remember the chronology of my cut-out bin purchases, but I sure remember a number of the individual records I scored.
And one of them was The Very Best Of The Hollies, a collection of some of the group’s ’60s sides, which I exhumed from the cut-out bin at Gerber Music in Penn Cann Mall. I was puzzled at the time that a supposed Best Of The Hollies included neither “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” nor “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”–and nor, for that matter, “Carrie Anne”–but it seemed a good value, and a quick exchange of cash made it mine.
I only recognized a handful of songs on that LP. The rest was undiscovered. I was a pop music Magellan! A rock ‘n’ roll Vasco da Gama! A power pop James T. Kirk, boldly going where no one had gone before, except for the mass o’ people who got there before me! Set the stereo on stun, and beam me up!
Side One opened and closed with tunes I already knew, “Bus Stop” and “Stop, Stop, Stop.” In between those two tracks, The Very Best Of The Hollies served up my first-ever spins of “Here I Go Again,” “I’m Alive,” and the incredible “Look Through Any Window.” Whoa! This was already money well-spent! Side Two commenced with another pure pop trifecta–“Pay You Back With Interest,” “Just One Look,” and a future Greatest Record Ever Made, “I Can’t Let Go”–before hitting the familiar, welcome groove of “On A Carousel.” The album closed with an anticlimactic cover of Little Richard‘s “Lucille” in a spot where, I tell ya, “Carrie Anne” shoulda gone instead. But no matter! This was pop music. This was The Hollies! And I was now a fan.
I eventually acquired my own copy of “Carrie Anne” on the soundtrack album to Stardust. I picked up the “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” 45 somewhere in there, too, and that reissue single included the sublime “Long Dark Road” as its flip. I learned about “King Midas In Reverse” and “Dear Eloise” and “Post Card” and “Yes I Will,” belatedly finding out the latter song was a Hollies record before it became “I’ll Be True To You” by The Monkees. Much, much later, I fell hard for The Searchers‘ “Have You Ever Loved Somebody” and The Everly Brothers‘ “So Lonely,” not realizing that both were Hollies compositions. (In fact, when The Flashcubes covered “Have You Ever Loved Somebody” live and identified it as a Hollies song, I went up to bassist Gary Frenay to correct his obvious mistake. Gary rolled his eyes and patiently set me straight. Stupid fanboy….) And later still, my then-young daughter Meghan used to bop around the house, singin’ along to the delightful bounce of The Hollies and “On A Carousel.”
I no longer own my copy of The Very Best Of The Hollies. Space considerations and long-forgotten scrambles for rent money have restrained my natural pack-rat tendencies, so duplicate items tend to get the ol’ heave-ho. I have CD reissues of many of The Hollies’ individual albums, plus the wonderful, multi-disc Hollies collection Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years. On This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl in 2010, we featured a long promotion called The Hundred Hollies Initiative, a successful effort to play at least one hundred different Hollies tracks over the course of the year; since the price for failure in this venture would have required us to play Bob Seger‘s execrable “Old Time Rock And Roll” as penance, we made damned sure that we played one hundred and one different Hollies songs. Can’t be too safe with such dire potential consequences! Our friend Rich Firestone credits The Hundred Hollies Initiative for turning him into a bigger fan of The Hollies, so that was my chance to pay this back with interest.
For me, this all started with “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress,” and a few songs heard on oldies radio. But it manifested in earnest with a cut-out bin purchase of The Very Best Of The Hollies, a record which was ultimately more important to me than I could ever appreciate at the time. I’m alive. I can’t let go. Riding along on a carousel. Watch me now, ’cause here I go again.
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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 Beatles, The 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 Dolls, Big Star, Chris Spedding, and Eddie & the Hot Rods. They covered The Troggs, The Jam, The Hollies, Television, The Raspberries, The Sex Pistols, The 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.”
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.”
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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Although The Oxfords never netted national recognition, they experienced a great deal of success in and around the Philadelphia area during the sixties. A constantly booked schedule, including holding the prestigious title of house band at a local Hullabalo Club and appearances on regional television programs were among the group’s shining achievements.
The Oxfords also released four singles between 1964 and 1967, along with several tracks that remained in the vaults until now. A Classic Philly 60s Band marks the first time all the band’s efforts have been brought together on one collection.
Fixated on the British pop sounds of the day, The Oxfords executed their influences with raw talent and enthusiasm. The band’s phrasing and inflection, combined with a sharp sense of harmony and exuberant energy echoed the likes of The Searchers, The Hollies and The Swinging Blue Jeans. An earthy garage rock production provided the group’s material with an additional stroke of charm.
Extra points go to The Oxfords for writing a good chunk their own songs, which revealed a fine grasp of melody and motion. Accented by shuffling riffs and rhythms, It Serves You Right sails in as a tasty bite of Mersey-flavored ear candy, and the foot-tapping Help Me (Understand) further celebrates the band’s flair for coupling synchronized vocals with catchy instrumentation.
Stay in school, get a high school diploma and the world will be yours for the taking is the message conveyed on the plucky Don’t Be A Dropout, while Even True Love Can Die jangles with rockabilly flourishes. Illuminated by soft and shimmery textures, Without You registers as a sophisticated slice of sunshine pop splashed with a touch of soul.
Filed in the cover category, an adaptation of Ben E. King’sDon’t Play That Song drips with drama and heartache, where John Lennon and Paul McCartney’sYou Won’t See Me is padded with brass arrangements, supplying the cut with a bit of a slick Motown styled finish.
Composed of fourteen hooky ditties, A Classic Philly 60s Band will not only yield happy memories for those who were there when The Oxfords were storming the scene, but fans of “Nuggets” and “Pebbles” type combos will appreciate the group’s nifty teen beat tunes as well.