Grey Delisle’s latest single, Valentine, is a pretty, wistful ballad, guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings. Delisle’s emotional voice carries the melody as if it might be the last song she ever records (it isn’t). If you find the vocal on this a bit familiar-sounding, it might be because she’s also a voice actor, having played Daphne in Scooby Doo cartoons for years. Very nice.
The Dupont Circles produce a nifty brand of power pop, but they sure do take a looong time getting the stuff out. The tracks on their long player, In Search Of The Family Gredunza, took some 30 years to percolate and see the light of day. Our fave rave is Jokes On Zandra, a rough and ready rocker that recalls the best of The Replacements, with a dash of the Davies’ brothers thrown in for good measure.
Until we review Dolph Chaney’sThis Is Dolph Chaney, we recommend you check out his wink-and-a-nod track, My Good Twin. Chaney must be influenced more than a bit by Matthew Sweet, as this track made us want to give another spin to Sweet’s 100% Fun. Very well done, produced by the always-reliable Nick Bertling, who also takes a seat behind the kit.
Toto vocalist Joseph Williams’s latest solo outing features a collaboration with former bandmate David Paich on Black Dahlia. You’d be forgiven if you mistook its mid-tempo slickness for the new Toto single, as it’s got that band’s trademark vocal harmonies and rhythmic interest. Cool.
I don’t understand why no one ever talks about Phonograph Record Magazine, a rock tabloid that ran from 1970 to 1978. The magazine seems to be nearly forgotten, and you don’t see it mentioned alongside your Rolling Stone or your Creem, your Crawdaddy or Circus, or even your Trouser Pressas one of the great rock rags of the ’70s. But it was. For me, in fact, it was more important than any those, even more than my beloved Creem. Because PRM was my first. Not my first rock magazine; I’d flirted with a couple before that. But Phonograph Record Magazine was the first to make me fall in love with rock ‘n’ roll journalism, both as a fan and as a potential practitioner. Maybe I would have wound up writin’ about the big beat even without PRM‘s influence. It’s possible, maybe probable. Either way, though, it was in fact Phonograph Record Magazine that provided that nudge. I remain grateful, and I remain a fan.
I was a senior in high school in the spring of 1977. Although I’d been a devoted AM Top 40 radio listener for all of my young life, the increasingly banal fare on former Syracuse airwave Fave Rave WOLF-AM had largely driven me to FM–specifically, to nearby Utica’s WOUR-FM, “The Rock Of Central New York.” OUR had some of the negative aspects of ’70s FM rock stations, the laid-back atmosphere, the consciousness of its own perceived hipness, the almost smug feeling of superiority over those frivolous, uncouth Top 40 outlets. BUT! The station compensated for all of that by simply being more adventurous than any other commercial station in the area. I betcha Syracuse University‘s WAER-FM was probably at least the equal of WOUR, but I never heard AER at the time. It was okay, though. WOUR rewarded my interest by playing The Kinks (I became a huge fan of The Kinks’ Schoolboys In Disgrace LP track “No More Looking Back” via airplay on WOUR), Graham Parker, Greg Kihn, Michael Nesmith, Nick Lowe, and The Rubinoos. WOUR had a killer Friday night oldies show, but one could often also find essential ’60s gems by The Animals, The Rascals, The Dave Clark Five, and The Beatles airing alongside the station’s contemporary music choices. The following summer, I wasn’t surprised to hear vintage Elvis Presley on WOUR a few days before his scheduled Syracuse concert. Hearing a number of Presley tracks back-to-back, however, was my first clue that The King would not be keeping that Syracuse date. Elvis had left the building.
I digress. The point is that WOUR was a great radio station that helped to expose me to more and more music. Hell, I first heard The Yardbirds on OUR, and later on, it was OUR that allowed me my first dose of The Sex Pistols. Let AM radio have its disco and its swill and its “Undercover Angel;” WOUR-FM was playing the stuff I needed to hear.
And, in that spring of 1977, WOUR offered me a chance to read all about it, too.
I doubt that I had heard of Phonograph Record Magazine before that, though it’s certainly possible that an earlier issue crossed the periphery of my vision while I was divin’ through Hollies and Suzi Quatro LPs in the cutout bins at Gerber Music. But the April 1977 issue of PRM was different; it was free! The magazine had deals with radio stations in many markets (WMMS-FM in Cleveland, for example), with the stations presumably underwriting the cost to distribute PRM as promotional giveaways. WOUR instructed local rock ‘n’ roll fans to head on down to any Gerber Music location to pick up a free copy of the latest Phonograph Record Magazine. Well, I had my orders. Duty called! Rendezvous at Gerber Music! FALL IN, you battle-happy Joes!
Target acquired. And I was immediately rewarded with entry into a fresh vista of pure rock ‘n’ roll wonder. Phonograph Record Magazine blew my freakin’ mind.
More than forty years later, in this ever-changing world in which we live in, it’s just impossible to properly convey the feeling of discovery, the liberating sense of possibility, that blanketed me with the turn of each pulpy tabloid page. What, transcendent revelation from a razzafrazzin’ rock magazine?! Oh yes. Emphatically yes. This was a whole new world. This was the Promised Land! And it had a good beat. If one could dance, one would surely dance to that beat.
There was something indescribably exciting about Phonograph Record Magazine, a palpable thrill I never got from previous perusals of Circus or Rolling Stone. PRM‘s writers seemed engaged. tapped into the music they were covering. You might presume it was legendary rock writer Lester Bangs who dazzled me here, but I don’t even remember his Nils Lofgren piece from this issue. No, I was enticed by Ken Barnes, by Greg Shaw (in the May issue), by Rodney Bingenheimer, by Flo & Eddie, and by the proud, delirious silliness of Mark Shipper. Furthermore, I was intrigued by all of these mysterious, elusive rock acts I’d never heard about before. I’d read news reports of the controversial punk group The Sex Pistols, but this was my real introduction to the concept of punk rock. I instantly wanted to know more, so much more. Punk? Hey, that’s for ME! Between this issue and its May 1977 follow-up (with Eric Carmen on the cover), I saw a truckload of rock ‘n’ roll names that were brand-new to me. Iggy Pop. Blondie. The Dictators. Cheap Trick. Elvis Costello. The New York Dolls. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Eddie and the Hot Rods. Chris Spedding and the Vibrators. The Damned. Milk ‘n Cookies. The Ramones.
The Ramones. THE RAMONES!!! Oh, the notion of The Ramones just transfixed me. What could they possibly sound like? Were they really that loud, that fast, that violent, that incredible, that irresistible? Were they really as dangerous and depraved as they seemed? Did it matter? I was a closet Ramones fan before I’d heard even one of their famous three chords, all thanks to Phonograph Record Magazine.
Alas, I saw but one more issue of PRM, with the familiar face of The Raspberries‘ former lead singer Eric Carmen as its poster boy. I don’t know if WOUR’s deal with PRM ended, but I presume that was so. And it left me hanging. The May issue’s edition of Flo & Eddie’s Blind Date column had featured our erstwhile Turtles wrestling uncomfortably with British punk, with a promise of an all-American punk Blind Date to follow in June. I never saw it. And Lord, I wanted to! But it was not to be, at least for me. I found an older, WMMS-sponsored issue of PRM while visiting my sister in Cleveland that summer. I never saw another issue anywhere.
By the time I was in Cleveland that August of 1977, I had heard The Sex Pistols explode my radio with “God Save The Queen,” courtesy of WOUR. And then I was off to college, where I would finally hear more of that punk rock Phonograph Record Magazine had made me crave. I would read more about it, thanks to a (frankly, dumb) one-shot ripoff called Punk Rock or somesuch, teasing, enticing bits in the hallowed pages of a new discovery called Rock Scene, as well as in the otherwise-stuffy Rolling Stone. I would get into Creem and Trouser Press before long, and into John Holmstrom‘s Punk magazine, all as I developed a near-insatiable need to read rock ‘n’ roll magazines. And I developed a need to write about rock ‘n’ roll, which manifested in My First Rock Journalism: “Groovin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do),” an emeritus contribution to my high school newspaper The NorthCaster. My piece was influenced by Phonograph Record Magazine in much the same way George Harrison‘s “My Sweet Lord” was “influenced” by The Chiffons. I had to start somewhere. PRM provided my template.
No one talks about Phonograph Record Magazine. There’s no hardcover retrospective, no proposed behind-the-scenes documentary, no comprehensive, dedicated on-line archive. The magazine that meant so much to me is now a mirage, a memory that few recall. But I remember. If I ever write anything that can come close to connecting with a rock ‘n’ roll fan with even a fraction of the blissful, electric bond I felt with PRM, then my so-called writing career has succeeded. I am not exaggerating when I say that Phonograph Record Magazine was ultimately as important to me as any rock ‘n’ roll act this side of The Beatles. Seriously. Because I don’t get to The Ramones or The Flashcubes–and I don’t get to writing for Goldmine–without PRM pushing me in the right direction.That way, kid. Head to the light!
In the spring of ’78, about a year after communion with my first Phonograph Record Magazine, I was an eighteen-year-old punk of the world. I’d seen punk shows. I’d developed an occasional ability to seem pruriently interesting to gurls. In my mind, I was feverishly linking the punk of the Pistols and Ramones with the Beatles and Kinks records I loved, and with my favorite never-forgotten AM radio sounds of The Raspberries, Badfinger, and Sweet. I found a magazine that articulated that link, a magazine written in part by PRM‘s Greg Shaw, and in part by a visionary named Gary Sperrazza! They were writing about something called powerpop. Their magazine was called Bomp! It was pretty important to me, too.
TO BE CONTINUED!
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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-Op, Ray Paul, Circe Link & Christian Nesmith, Vegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie Flowers, The Slapbacks, P. Hux, Irene Peña, Michael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave Merritt, The Rubinoos, Stepford Knives, The Grip Weeds, Popdudes, Ronnie Dark, The Flashcubes,Chris von Sneidern, The Bottle Kids, 1.4.5., The Smithereens, Paul Collins’ Beat, The Hit Squad, The Rulers, The Legal Matters, Maura & the Bright Lights, Lisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.
The first rock ‘n’ roll magazines I recall seeing were issues of Circus and Rolling Stone. I found them around the house, and I presume they belonged to one of my older siblings, probably my sister Denise. I am reasonably certain that neither of my parents would have been into either magazine. On the other hand, my Dad worked at the post office, so it’s equally plausible that these were dead-letter subscription copies that had been discarded, and that maybe Dad brought ’em home. Either way, these magazines made their way to our living room in North Syracuse.
Circus never meant much to me, and although I occasionally flipped through new issues on the magazine racks when looking for rock ‘n’ roll reading material in later years, it wasn’t something I cared about. Until a couple of days ago, I’d largely forgotten that Circus was my first, from 1973. I remembered that Carly Simon was on the cover, and a bit of Google sleuthing led me to the likely culprit pictured above.
I liked Simon at the time. I was an AM radio fanatic. I enjoyed her singles “Anticipation” and “You’re So Vain,” as well as “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be,” and I would continue to like a few more of her hits before I lost interest in the mid ’70s. I’m sure I read the Circus article about her, and I would imagine I at least glanced through the other cover-mentioned pieces about Deep Purple, Yes, Black Sabbath, Stevie Wonder, Tommy, and Colombo‘s Peter Falk. But I remember virtually none of it. Not even the Uriah Heep calendar! Though it is fitting that my first rock magazine should presage my first live rock show: my first concert was KISS with opening act Uriah Heep on December 16th, 1976. A coincidence, sure, but a cool connection nonetheless.
My second rock magazine had a little more lasting impact: Suzi Quatro on the cover of the Rolling Stone, January 1975. Swoon! I was instantly smitten with Quatro, even though I’d never heard of her before seeing this magazine. I read the article about her, but didn’t get an opportunity to hear her music until much later. When I finally got to hear and see Suzi Q sing “I May Be Too Young” on the British TV show Supersonic in 1976, it verified the veracity of my smitten nature. Did I mention swoon? Thanks, Rolling Stone!
Most rock fans of my age or older had some affection for Rolling Stone at some point, and I was no exception to that. Other than a 1976 issue with The Beatles on its cover, I don’t think I read the magazine much (if at all) before starting college in 1977. But I devoured Charles M. Young‘s cover story about The Sex Pistols. My roommate Arthur had a subscription to Stone, despised punk, and eventually passed his copy of that Pistols issue to me (with the disdainful expression of one handing over a sack of poopy diapers). I bought Rolling Stone sporadically; I enjoyed “Bang The Head Slowly,” Timothy White‘s 1979 piece about The Ramones, but bemoaned the fact that The Ramones never rated an RS cover feature during their blitzkrieg-boppin’ lifetime.
I eventually subscribed to Rolling Stone, but I grew increasingly and frustratingly aware of the annoying polar opposites that characterized the magazine’s approach: one half rooted in a smug, condescending rote-hippie consciousness, the other not rooted at all, but embarrassingly eager to chase and embrace whatever shiny Next Big Thing mirage flits across pop culture’s short attention span. Come on–Rolling Stone‘s putz swine-in-chief Jann Wenner still insists on blocking The Monkees from The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but he’s fine with cover-featuring Kardashians? Sorry, even introducing me to Suzi Quatro doesn’t earn sufficient gravitas to compensate for that. Rolling Stone and I parted company a long time ago.
But let’s get back to the ’70s. In spite of being initiated via Circus and Rolling Stone, I don’t really recall reading many rock mags during my high school years. I was certainly into the music. I mean, I listened to radio nearly all of the time, bought records when I could afford them, tried to catch rock ‘n’ roll on TV when the opportunity presented itself. But the meager spending cash I had for reading material went to comic books, pulp paperbacks, and the occasional Playboy or Penthouse. The latter resource did include a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll coverage amidst its more celebrated, y’know, uncoverage. I remember reading the lyrics to The Kinks‘ “Here Comes Yet Another Day” in a Penthouse article, at a time when I was just beginning to learn about The Kinks. Penthouse also published an extremely dismissive piece about The Bay City Rollers, and an interview with Patti Smith that was the first time I’d even heard of her.
The only other rock-related magazines I remember from my North Syracuse High School days were Welcome Back Beatles, a series of fanciful scenarios detailing fictional Beatles reunions, and a Bay City Rollers one-shot fan magazine. Oh, and Marvel‘s KISS comic book. And there was still one more bona fide rock ‘n’ roll publication that did matter to me, and it mattered a lot. I only saw two issues of this during my senior year, plus one more back issue the following summer. Even so, the impact of those tabloid pages was far greater than any other rock read I’d experienced to that point.
This was something new. This was something different. This was Phonograph Record Magazine.
When he is not making music with the New Jersey band damfino, singer, songwriter and multiple-instrumentalist Joel Bachrach performs in a side project called Joel Bachrach & Friends. The band consists of a core of local musicians, including singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joe Merklee, bassist Alex Bachrach and drummer Chris McKinley from damfino.
Here on their latest album – Airport Dreaming – Joel Bachrach & Friends follow the lead of artists ranging from the early Kinks to The Velvet Underground to Big Star to the dBs. Economical songs, possessing a shrewd lyrical bent are the order of the day. A loose and relaxed mood lights Airport Dreaming, fostering the impression Joel Bachrach & Friends had a barrel of fun recording the album.
Dictated by jaunty piano fills and magical melodies blinking with life, the title track of the album is a real showstopper. Delivered in a folksy voice, Airport Dreaming contains vivid verse capturing the feeling of hanging out in an airport waiting for your flight to arrive and also describes the sights and environment.
Playing football and pizza for lunch are all but a few childhood memories revisited on the jagged jangle of I Was Nine, a cool Lou Reed styled rap is featured on the brisk and bobbing She Said and Oh Marie steps in as a cute and charming cut of fuzzy guitar pop. Devised of strummy riffs and a repetitious rhythm, Blew It is another catchy offering, along with the needling harmonious vibe of Put Some Weight On, which spills the story of what it was like growing up as a skinny bones.
Bubbling with wiggy hooks, choppy instrumentation and a carefree attitude, Airport Dreaming is alternative pop at its best. Joel Bachrach & Friends are in it simply because they love creating music, and this album is a nifty memento of their mission.
I should start this by saying that Suburban Urchins will appeal to fans of The Kinks. This rough-and-tumble outfit from Tasmania isn’t about smooth edges, but bringing the goods in the form of an iron-fisted right cross.
4000 Miles Away begins with a wind-up, propelled by big drums and power chords. With literally energy for miles, it leads way to I Don’t Wanna Go, an isolation song that’s a real fist-pumper. Scott Riley’s vocals and guitar are perfectly supplemented by the keys of Ernie Oppenheimer, who deftly sprinkles synth and Farfisa throughout.
My fave of the set is the anthemic No More Black Dogs, which feels right out of The Davies’ Brothers playbook, in all the right ways.
Paul McCartney brings his own namesake trilogy to a close with McCartney III. With most of the world in lockdown mode in 2020, Macca split his time between days at his recording studio, and evenings with his daughter and grandkids.
I’m a big fan of the first two installments of the trilogy, the first producing Every Night and Maybe I’m Amazed, the latter, Coming Up and Waterfalls. Working by oneself can produce results far different that a full band effort, and I think McCartney flourishes in this setting.
The instrumentation, which relies predominantly on acoustic instruments, is the perfect stage for Sir Paul’s now-weathered vocals. Find My Way is a peppy number fuel by harpsichord and guitar riffs that mimmic horn stabs. Lavatory Lil and Slidin’ are a couple of top-notch rockers, and Winter Bird/When Winter Comes is a pretty acoustic musing, and one of McCartney’s best.
All around, this is a really pleasant listen. With vibes to spare and a lot of really strong songs, I can’t recommend McCartney III enough.
The undeniable sign of a great release? Repeat listens. I’ll bet that in the past two days, I’ve listened to this e.p. at least ten times. From the first verse of the opener, the rambling Let’s Pretend, to the fadeout of the pretty Alien Eyes, I was comfortably hooked.
Cliff Hillis sounds remarkably like Bill Lloyd, who you know I’m partial to. These six tracks are nestled somewhere between the feisty Americana of Cracker and the always-reliable Tom Petty, but without any Southern vocal affectation. Hillis’s friendly, warm voice is perfectly accompanied by the contrast of crisp acoustic guitars and rougher electrics. The production is absolutely on-point.
Life Gets Strange was released in 2020, and I sincerely regret not hearing it earlier. It certainly would have made my year-end-best list. Highly Recommended.
Chuck Berry “Run Rudolph Run” (1958) Stamped with the late great fretmaster’s characteristic cycling chord patterns, “Run Rudolph Run” urges the iconic reindeer with the shiny nose to hurry up and get those presents to the good little boys and girls. “All I want for Christmas is a rock and roll electric guitar,” sings Chuck, which sixty-odd years later remains a staple on many a wish list.
Wizzard “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” (1973) Fronted by Roy Wood – whose previous claims to fame included posts with The Move and Electric Light Orchestra – Wizzard were key players on the British glam rock scene of the early seventies. Triggered by the ding of a cash register and clanking coins, “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” is bundled tight in a glossy package, booming with glistening melodies and the elated pitch of a children’s choir.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers “Christmas All Over Again” (1992) Gleaming and streaming with Tom’s signature southern drawl and jangling guitar motifs, “Christmas All Over Again” is so giddy that even Scrooge would enjoy the song. Perky piano passages and a quickie drum solo are icing on the sugar cookie.
George Thorogood and The Destroyers “Rock And Roll Christmas” (1983) So festive is “Rock And Roll Christmas” that you can almost taste the eggnog and kisses under the mistletoe dripping from the grooves. Accented by the duel drive of George’s rehashed Chuck Berry riffs and the bellowing bray of a saxophone, here’s a song geared for cutting the rug with a goofy grin on your face.
The Kinks “Father Christmas” (1977) From the witty pen and fertile imagination of Kinks lead singer Ray Davies, “Father Christmas” is a darkly humorous narrative of a department store Santa Claus who is mugged by a gang of juvenile thugs. The kids don’t want “silly toys,” they want money. Contagiously hooky, “Father Christmas” is set to a lively cadence that belies the tragic storyline.
The Waitresses “Christmas Wrapping” (1981) The holidays are stressing her out and she is spending Christmas alone, yet that only skims the surface of “Christmas Wrapping,” which additionally shares the tale of meeting a fellow earlier in the year. Phone numbers were exchanged, but schedules didn’t match so they were unable to get together. She coincidentally bumps into the guy while grocery shopping for cranberry sauce, and you can guess what happens from there. A fusion of funk, disco and rap, compounded by a new wave quirkness stand as the exciting elements behind “Christmas Wrapping” that entail red hot horn arrangements, nimble six-string strumming and cool vocals tending to border on talking rather than singing.
Stevie Wonder “Someday At Christmas” (1967) A teenage Stevie Wonder executes “Someday At Christmas” in an easygoing manner, rich with warmth and maturity that confutes his youth. Shaped of a spiritual nature, the gorgeous song contains prose visualizing a Utopian existence on earth, where peace, love, social and racial unity, and the absence of war are a reality. Illuminated by vibrant vocals, catchy harmonica fills and a spot of elegant orchestration, “Someday At Christmas” dispatches a positive message with honesty and integrity.
Bob Seger and The Last Heard “Sock It To Me Santa” (1966) Prior to obtaining worldwide recognition with the Silver Bullet Band, Bob Seger experienced an impressive amount of regional acclaim in and around the Michigan area, where he hailed from. Stealing the core lick of James Brown’s funk classic, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” – not to mention its title but changing the lyrics to “Santa’s got a brand new bag” – Bob Seger and The Last Heard created a rousing ruckus of garage rocking blue-eyed soul in the mold of Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels. Name checking reindeer, a reference to Santa’s tubby tummy and wanting a baseball bat and bike for Christmas are some of the things covered in the fast-paced sonic stocking stuffer. Ho ho ho!
The Blues Magoos “Jingle Bells”/”Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (1967) The psychedelic lollipopsters deliver a double whammy on this smashing single featuring unusual versions of traditional Christmas songs. Thudding with power, “Jingle Bells” echoes the hard and heavy rock of Vanilla Fudge, where “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” swings and swaggers to a jazzy bent.
Actively involved in music since the mid-seventies, Jim Basnight has certainly made great strides throughout his ongoing journey. Having fronted noted acts such as The Moberlys, The Rockinghams, The Jim Basnight Thing and The Jim Basnight Band, the Indianola, Washington based singer, songwriter and guitarist also boasts a very rewarding solo career.
Although recognized for his excellent original material, Jim chose to compile an album of covers for his latest release, Jokers, Idols & Misfits, which stages an A-grade job of paying homage to his wide-ranging influences. Recently issued as a single on the Big Stir label, Prince Jones Davies Suite is an industrious medley of Prince’sSometimes It Snows In April,” David Bowie’sWin and World Keeps Going Round by The Kinks.
Instrumentally, the track is rather sparsely furnished, but Jim’s impassioned delivery lends a fierce intensity to the moody movement. The Kinks are saluted again on the crisp and crackly This Is Where I Belong, while the hypnotic blush of Jim (aka Roger) McGuinn and Gene Clark’s You Showed Me – which The Turtles scored a hit with in 1969 – contains a splash of cool brass work, supplying the song with a bit of a jazzy touch.
Subsequent jazz inspirations appear on a slowed down version of Brother Louie that The Stories took to the top of the charts in 1973. Horn arrangements, as well as gospel-flavored harmonies, add an extra layer of inventiveness to Happiness Is A Warm Gun, which is just as potent as the recording we are all acquainted with by The Beatles. T.Rex’s stomping Laser Love locks in as another ace cut on Jokers, Idols & Misfits, along with a wicked reprise of The Who’s classic I Can See For Miles. True Believers are acknowledged with care and respect on the hooky power pop of Rebel Kind, and the sounds of the sixties Pacific Northwest style arrive in the shape of the swaggering Good Thing (Paul Revere and The Raiders) and the brooding teen folk rock of It’s You Alone (The Wailers).
In honor of The Lurkers, there’s the kinetic kick of New Guitar In Town, where She Gives Me Everything I Want revisits the popping rockabilly of The Hollies.
What sets Jokers, Idols & Misfits apart from most albums of its type is that the majority of songs are not merely paint-by-number doodles, nor are they misty-eyed nostalgic sojourns. Jim’s own personality and identity figure strongly in each entry, permitting the material to shine with a reinvigorated spirit. The artists celebrated on Jokers, Idols & Misfits would be mighty proud to hear these fine tributes.
The Go-Go’s do not get anywhere near the level of respect they deserve. A self-contained rockin’ pop combo that wrote nearly all of their own material, The Go-Go’s scored hits in the early ’80s, and released three fantastic albums before splintering in the acrimony that claims many a great group. They’ve reunited a few times since then for concerts and additional fine recordings. They should have been a shoo-in for induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame years ago. They have never even been nominated.
Their debut album Beauty And The Beat was my favorite new album in 1981. Nearly four decades later, I remain as fond of it now as I was then. It is very nearly a perfect album, with the cold-sounding, dispassionate new wave number “Automatic” the only track I don’t like. The rest? “How Much More,” “Lust To Love,” “Skidmarks On My Heart,” “This Town,” “Fading Fast,” “You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep),” “Can’t Stop The World,” and “Tonight” are all engaging as hell. The first single “Our Lips Are Sealed” was one of the two best things on the radio in ’81; the other best thing on the radio that year was also by The Go-Go’s, also from Beauty And The Beat, and it was their signature tune “We Got The Beat,” a magnificent single that earns its own entry in my book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). Gotta respect The Go-Go’s. HERMAN’S HERMITS: Hold On!
Although I did indeed see Herman’s Hermits in their 1966 movie Hold On! when it was still in theaters, let’s forget about that. And believe me, it’s an easy movie to forget. Instead, let’s move ahead by a decade and change, to when I was an 18-year-old college freshman in 1978. That’s when I scored a truly beat-up copy of the Hold On! soundtrack LP, a record that was a lot more interesting than the cinematic trifle that spawned it.
One may be tempted to likewise dismiss the album as a trifle, but it was at least an interesting trifle; I loved some of it, and I wasn’t much put off by the rest. If I could take or leave (mostly leave) “The George And Dragon,” “Leaning On A Lamp Post,” and Shelley Fabares‘ “Make Me Happy” (which skipped on my copy anyway), I had more enthusiasm for “Hold On!,” “Wild Love,” “All The Things I Do For You Baby,” and “Gotta Get Away.” My biggest go-to tracks on Hold On! were “Got A Feeling,” “Where Were You When I Need You” (which I heard and loved here before discovering that it had later been a hit for The Grass Roots), and “A Must To Avoid.” “A Must To Avoid” quickly became my favorite Herman’s Hermits (at least until I heard “No Milk Today”). My local heroes The Flashcubesused to cover “A Must To Avoid” in their live sets, and that was okay by me.
The sharp-eyed among you will notice some scribbling near the photos on my LP cover. The Herman-less Hermits played a bar called The Gin Mill in Liverpool, NY that very same summer of ’78, and you’re damned right I was there. The Hermits put on a swell show, after which I solicited autographs from bassist Karl Green, guitarist Derek Leckenby, and drummer Barry Whitwam, plus guitarist Frank Renshaw, who had replaced Keith Hopwood in Hermitdom. I saw original Herman’s Hermits lead singer Peter Noone on several subsequent occasions, including one show with his fab early ’80s new wave group The Tremblers, but have never had an opportunity to get him to add his signature alongside those of his erstwhile co-workers. THE KINKS: The Great Lost Kinks Album
About a year before The Who‘s vault-raidin’ 1974 compilation Odds And Sods, The Kinks‘ by-then-former American label Reprise issued The Great Lost Kinks Album, a collection of 1966-1970 recordings that The Kinks would have preferred to leave as lost. Gentlemen, start your lawyers!
I associate this album with The Vinyl Jungle, a small and short-lived record shop in my college town of Brockport in the fall of ’77. I remember seeing the album for sale at The Vinyl Jungle, but I passed on it and instead bought a Kinks compilation called The Pye History Of British Pop Music. I didn’t get my copy of The Great Lost Kinks Album until many years later, when I was considering (and finally deciding against) writing a book about the 500 definitive albums of the ’70s. This LP wouldn’t have been among the records discussed in That Great Lost Carl Book, but I scooped it up at the same time I was grabbing cheap-cheap-cheap vinyl by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Foghat, ZZ Top, et al. for research. Far out, dude. The Great Lost Kinks Album was of much more interest to me anyway, and I especially fell for “This Man He Weeps Tonight.” All of its once-rare tracks are now readily available, the lawyers all paid and satisfied.
THE RUTLES: The Rutles
My introduction to the fictional Prefab Four The Rutles came when Eric Idle of Monty Python’s Flying Circus hosted Saturday Night Live (then still called NBC’s Saturday Night) in October of 1976, when I was a high school senior. Idle played a clip of his faux Beatles mugging through “I Must Be In Love,” and I was hooked. When The Rutles’ TV special All You Need Is Cash appeared in March of 1978, I was all in. I reveled in the promo clip of “Ouch!” that was shown on Midnight Special the week before All You Need Is Cash, and was one of several floormates crammed into the dorm room across from mine to watch the TV special itself when it aired.
Alas, I was the only one among my group who dug it.
Undeterred, I bought the 45 of “I Must Be In Love”/”Doubleback Alley,” and gratefully accepted a gift of the companion album The Rutles, brought home from England by my sister Denise. Number one, number one…! VARIOUS ARTISTS: The Motown Sound Vol. 6
My very first Motown record? Could be, though my lovely wife Brenda thinks this was her LP rather than mine. If only we’d kept better track of stuff prior to the matrimonial merging of our collections. Either way, I do remember that we picked it up on a visit to the weekly flea market at Syracuse’s Regional Market, probably in 1979. It would have been around the same time (if not the same weekend) that Brenda snagged her flea-market copy of The Kinks’ Greatest Hits!, and/or when I got my 35-cent copy of The Who’s Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy. We were frugal shoppers. In spite of many, many cullings of the collection over the years, all three of these LPs still remain in our vinyl library.
And it certainly could have been either one of us who grabbed this Motown sampler. Brenda had grown up listening to soul and R & B on the radio, and this would have been a natural thing to add to her personal stash. I was just beginning to appreciate how great all that stuff was, and would have been drawn to my favorite Supremes song “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” my favorite Four Tops song “It’s The Same Old Song,” and my favorite Stevie Wonder song “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” and probably to The Miracles‘ “Going To A Go Go.” The rest would have been a history lesson waiting to happen. So: Brenda’s record? My record?
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The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project: Volume 1: downloadVolume 2: CD or downloadVolume 3: downloadVolume 4: CD or downloadWaterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:CD or download Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 155 essays about 155 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).
If we weren’t there at the time, we can’t even imagine it.
It was 1966. Pop music was at a creative zenith, while still retaining its identity as pop music. The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds, arguably the single greatest album of all time. The Kinks released Face To Face. The Rolling Stones released Aftermath. The # 1 spots on the U.S. pop chart were occupied by a series of mostly rock-solid singles; for every forgettable # 1 in ’66, for every “Winchester Cathedral” or “Ballad Of The Green Beret,” there was counterforce and then some, courtesy of The Young Rascals, The Mamas and the Papas, The Four Tops, The Lovin’ Spoonful, ? and the Mysterians, and a new made-for-TV group, The Monkees. Below the top spot, there was a wealth of pop treasures, from Otis Redding, The Hollies, and The Temptations through The Byrds, The Standells, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. It was a great, great year for music.
And a B-side was the greatest side of all.
It had already been two years since The Beatles’ initial conquest of America. The Beatles still ruled the pop world in ’66, with more hit singles and two–two!–of the greatest albums in pop history, Rubber Soul and Revolver. The Beatles were # 1. The Beatles were unstoppable. The Beatles were…
…The Beatles were tired.
Tired of fame? Maybe. Tired of touring? Definitely. Tired of the endless parade of rushing and waiting, and waiting, and waiting? Tired of square questions about their hair and how much longer they expected to last? Tired of people freaking out because John Lennon had pointed out that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ? Yes, yes, and goddammit yes. I was six years old at the time; I don’t remember my Dad banning The Beatles in our house. I don’t remember the controversy and public distortions and contortions. Looking back, decades later, I can only observe the sort of people who were burning Beatles records, and declare that if The Ku Klux Klan hates you, you’re probably on the right side of history.
In this pressure cooker, The Beatles kept right on creating and excelling. They were focused more on albums than singles, but there was still one non-album Beatles single released at the end of May: “Paperback Writer.” It was a glorious burst of pop-art pop-rock, telling a cartoonish story of a punter who just wants to write paperback novels, a song delivered with all the shimmering, swooping pop pizazz one would expect from The Beatles at the top of their game. Another # 1 hit for The Fab Four!
An album of The Beatles’ B-sides would put most acts’ A-sides to shame. “I Saw Her Standing There” was a B-side. “I’m Down” and “Day Tripper” were B-sides. They weren’t the only act putting top-shelf material on their flip sides–there’s some choice stuff backing some of those Beach Boys and Rolling Stones hits, too–but The Beatles were so prolific and (nearly) peerless that they could afford to just throw away songs any other band would have killed to release themselves.
And now: imagine.
It’s 1966. You’ve bought your Capitol Records 45 of “Paperback Writer,” and of course you love it. It’s the freaking Beatles, for cryin’ out loud! And then, your thirst for pop already slaked, you turn the record over, just to see what the lads have plopped on the flip. And you hear “Rain” for the very first time.
Stop. You can’t imagine it. You can’t. I can’t either. If we weren’t there, right there at that precise right time, we can’t conceive of hearing “Rain” in 1966.
But what must it have been like? Did it seem like a new world of pop music opening instantly within the ears and mind, or was it brushed off as just another pop record? How could it be? Nothing had ever sounded like this before. It had no antecedents, no roots other than the common experience of everything from The Crickets to The Who, and sounding like nothing else but The Beatles. Once you had heard it for the first time, it always existed, retroactively. One could no longer conjure a memory of a world that didn’t include this song.
I’ve often said that 1965 was pop music’s best year ever. I think it’s difficult to dispute, given the sheer mass of terrific records that connected with a vast audience in ’65. There was likewise a slew of wonderful records in 1966, but its case is hampered by those few regrettable clunkers that also hit the top of the charts; the # 1 spot in ’65 was never sullied by crap like “The Ballad Of The Green Berets.”
But still: 1966 gave us Pet Sounds. It gave us The Rolling Stones’ best album, one of The Kinks’ best albums, the debut of The Monkees, and so much more. It gave us Rubber Soul. It gave us Revolver. That’s a solid resume for any year. Nonetheless, the crowning achievement of pop music in 1966 was a B-side, an indispensable throwaway that just might tower over any other record, before or since. Shine! The weather’s fine.
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