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Pop Sunday

Spygenius / Blow Their Covers

Spygenius

Blow Their Covers (Big Stir)

https://spygenius.bandcamp.com/

Trying to pigeonhole Spygenius is a rather difficult assignment. The Canterbury, England band thrives on experimentation, leading their highly rated albums to be charmingly chameleonesque. But Spygenius is so imaginative that they have spawned an identity of their own. The band’s latest album, Blow Their Covers, sends thanks to artists considered core inspirations, and features both obscure and well known numbers.

On their take of Traffic’s Paper Sun, Spygenius pretty much sheds the hazy psychedelic swirl of the original recording in lieu of a bright and burly power pop sound. The band further tends to downplay the country folk timbre of Gene Clark’s So You Say You Lost Your Baby, and Buffalo Springfield’s Rock & Roll Woman, by plumping up the proceedings with a hard-edged delivery.

Michael Hurley and The Unholy Modal Rounders are revisited on Griselda, which spins gleefully around and around to waltzing rhythms clipped of an Irish jig quality, and Robyn Hitchcock’s Queen Of Eyes is cast of a jangly day-glo demeanor. 

A sea shanty – Murrumbidgee Whalers – even appears on Blow Their Covers, while Spygenius turns Plasticsoul’s gutsy Mod-styled rocker, Therapy, into an emotionally-charged chorus of celestial harmonies, gleaming melodies and atmospheric textures. 

Madness is saluted on a remarkably oddball version of Michael Caine, that lies somewhere between the disjointed diddlings of Captain Beefheart and the gloomy gaze of Goth rock. Then there’s a pair of Monkees goodies – For Pete’s Sake and Love Is Only Sleeping – in which Spygenius sings and swings their way through these lively songs with unstoppable energy and enthusiasm. 

Aside from revealing the band’s wide scope of influences, Blow Their Covers captures how amazingly creative Spygenius is. The musicians who are paid homage to would certainly endorse these spirited renditions of their compositions. Routed by catchy and adventurous performances galore, Blow Their Covers is set to keep Spygenius groupies going until the band’s next album of self-penned material is available. 

Categories
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (VOLUME 1)

An infinite number of tracks can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. I like that idea so much, I’ve been writing a book about it: The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). The long-threatened book remains a work in progress, but what the hell. Work is progressing.

My first public announcement of my plan to do this book was waaaay back in September of 2018. The GREM! concept well predates that announcement, springing from a series of blog posts that commenced in 2016 with a celebration of Badfinger‘s “Baby Blue.” The first proposed Table of Contents was posted in April of 2019, back when I was only planning for the book to discuss a mere 50 songs. 

50…?! How quaint. It’s grown a bit since then. As of the last posted update in November of 2021, the book’s Table of Contents was a collection of 165 songs. It now stands at 175–170 selections plus five bonus tracks–and that’s probably where the number will stay.

The book’s current Table of Contents appears below. But before you dive in to experience its splendor, it’s worth repeating this caveat from one of the book’s introductory chapters:

“This specific disclaimer is worth highlighting in bold and all-caps: THIS IS NOT INTENDED AS AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST OF THE BEST RECORDS EVER MADE! Jesus, no! The chapters in this book cover a number of popular and personal favorites, but it’s nowhere near comprehensive, and it’s not meant to be. It’s a discussion and a celebration of pop’s infinite promise–nothing more, nothing less.”

Ready? Let’s GO!

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (VOLUME 1) 

Table of Contents

FOREWORD

DISCLAIMERS AND DECLARATIONS (A User’s Guide To The Greatest Record Ever Made!)

A Fistful Of 45s

OVERTURE THE RAMONES: Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?

1. BADFINGER: Baby Blue

2. CHUCK BERRY: Promised Land

3. DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: I Only Want To Be With You

4. THE SEX PISTOLS: God Save The Queen

5. ELVIS PRESLEY: Heartbreak Hotel

6. WILLIE MAE “BIG MAMA” THORNTON: Hound Dog

7. PATTI SMITH: Gloria

8. LITTLE RICHARD: The Girl Can’t Help It

9. NEIL DIAMOND: Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show

10. CRAZY ELEPHANT: Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’ 

11. WILSON PICKETT: In The Midnight Hour

12. THE HOLLIES: I Can’t Let Go

13. MELANIE WITH THE EDWIN HAWKINS SINGERS: Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)

14. THE ROMANTICS: What I Like About You

15. SAM COOKE: Chain Gang

16. PETULA CLARK: Downtown

17. ARTHUR ALEXANDER: Soldier Of Love

18. TRANSLATOR: Everywhere That I’m Not

19. LESLEY GORE: You Don’t Own Me

20. THE SHANGRI-LAS: Leader Of The Pack

21. THE SHIRELLES: Will You Love Me Tomorrow

22. THE RAMONES: Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

23. AMY RIGBY: Dancing With Joey Ramone

24. PINK FLOYD: Wish You Were Here

25. GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS: Midnight Train To Georgia

26.THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR: I Fought The Law

27. MERLE HAGGARD: Mama Tried

28. THE TEMPTATIONS: Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone

29. BUDDY HOLLY: Peggy Sue/Everyday

30. ROBERTA FLACK: Killing Me Softly With His Song

31. JOHNNY NASH: I Can See Clearly Now

32. ELTON JOHN: Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

33. SUZI QUATRO: I May Be Too Young

34. ALICE COOPER: School’s Out

35. THE RARE BREED/THE OHIO EXPRESS: Beg, Borrow And Steal

36. ARTHUR CONLEY: Sweet Soul Music

37. OTIS REDDING: (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay

38. ARETHA FRANKLIN: Respect

39. THE MONKEES: The Girl I Knew Somewhere

40. THE MONKEES: Porpoise Song (Theme From Head)

41. PRINCE: When You Were Mine

42. THE 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS: You’re Gonna Miss Me

43. THE ROLLING STONES: Get Off Of My Cloud

44. PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS: Just Like Me

45. BOB DYLAN: Like A Rolling Stone

46. THE KINGSMEN: Louie, Louie

47. BARON DAEMON AND THE VAMPIRES: The Transylvania Twist

48. THE MARVELETTES: I’ll Keep Holding On

49. THE WHO: I Can’t Explain

50. TODD RUNDGREN: Couldn’t I Just Tell You

51. SHOES: Tomorrow Night

52. THE FLASHCUBES: No Promise

53. TELEVISION: Elevation

54. DONNA SUMMER: I Feel Love

55. SMOKEY ROBINSON AND THE MIRACLES: The Tears Of A Clown

56. JUDAS PRIEST: Heading Out To The Highway

57. THE DIXIE CUPS: Iko Iko

58. THE NEW YORK DOLLS: Personality Crisis

59. MILLIE SMALL: My Boy Lollipop

60. THE EASYBEATS: Friday On My Mind

61. IKE AND TINA TURNER: River Deep Mountain High

62. THE RONETTES: Be My Baby

63. RONNIE SPECTOR AND THE E STREET BAND: Say Goodbye To Hollywood

64. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Girls In Their Summer Clothes

65. KISS: Shout It Out Loud

66. THE LEFT BANKE: Walk Away, Renee

67. THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: Rock And Roll Love Letter

68. THE KNICKERBOCKERS: Lies

69. THE WONDERS: That Thing You Do!

70. THE GO-GO’S: We Got The BeatINTERLUDE The Tottenham Sound Of…The Beatles?!

71. THE DAVE CLARK FIVE: Any Way You Want It

72. JAMES BROWN: Please, Please, Please

73. GRAND FUNK: We’re An American Band

74. THE VELVELETTES: He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’

75. THE FIRST CLASS: Beach Baby

76. THE ISLEY BROTHERS: Summer Breeze

77. THE RUBINOOS: I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend

78. THE PANDORAS: It’s About Time

79. THE MUFFS: Saying Goodbye

80. BIG STAR: September Gurls

81. PAUL COLLINS/THE BREAKAWAYS: Walking Out On Love

82. LINDA RONSTADT: You’re No Good

83. P. P. ARNOLD: The First Cut Is The Deepest

84. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS: All For Swinging You Around

85. THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET: Take FiveENTR’ACTE THE BEATLES: Yesterday

86. THE BEATLES: Revolution

87. YOKO ONO: Kiss Kiss Kiss

88. THE MC5: Kick Out The Jams

89. THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS: Time Has Come Today

90. MARVIN GAYE: I Heard It Through The Grapevine

91. SAMMY AMBROSE: This Diamond Ring

92. THE MYNAH BIRDS: I Got You (In My Soul)

93. RICK JAMES: Super Freak

94. BIG BROTHER AND THE HOLDING COMPANY: Piece Of My Heart

95. THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES: Shake Some Action

96. THE DANDY WARHOLS: We Used To Be Friends

97. THE CARPENTERS: Only Yesterday

98. MATERIAL ISSUE: Kim The Waitress

99. THE 5TH DIMENSION: Medley: Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In (The Flesh Failures)

100. THE JACKSON FIVE: I’ll Be There

101. SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE: Everybody Is A Star

102. LOVE: 7 And 7 Is

103. THE BANGLES: Live

104. THE SEARCHERS: Hearts In Her Eyes

105. THE FLIRTATIONS: Nothing But A Heartache

106. THE SPINNERS: I’ll Be Around

107. TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS: American Girl

108. THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY: I Woke Up In Love This Morning

109. EDDIE COCHRAN: Somethin’ Else

110. DAVID RUFFIN: I Want You Back

111. LED ZEPPELIN: Communication Breakdown

112. FREDDIE AND THE DREAMERS: Do The Freddie

113. THE BANDWAGON: Breakin’ Down The Walls Of Heartache

114. HEADGIRL/MÖTOR HEADGIRL SCHOOL: Please Don’t Touch

115. DON HENLEY: The Boys Of Summer

116. THE CLASH: Train In Vain (Stand By Me)

117. BEN E. KING: Stand By Me

118. GENE PITNEY: Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa

119. RUFUS: Tell Me Something Good  

120. THE SPONGETONES: (My Girl) Maryanne

121. THE TRAMMPS: Disco Inferno

122. HAROLD MELVIN AND THE BLUE NOTES: Don’t Leave Me This Way

123. GRANDMASTER AND MELLE MEL: White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)

124. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: I’ll Be Your Mirror

125. DEL SHANNON: Runaway

126. THE EVERLY BROTHERS: Gone, Gone, Gone

127. THE COCKTAIL SLIPPERS: St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

128. SAM AND DAVE: Soul Man

129. T. REX: 20th Century Boy

130. HEART: Kick It Out

131. THE RUNAWAYS: Cherry Bomb

132. AMERICA: Sister Golden Hair

133. THE KINKS: Waterloo Sunset

134. THE KINKS: You Really Got Me

135. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY: Time Will Tell

136. THE SMITHEREENS: Behind The Wall Of Sleep

137. THE COWSILLS: She Said To Me

138. ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ATTRACTIONS: (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?

139. THE FOUR TOPS: Reach Out I’ll Be ThereINTERLUDE Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll

140. THE BOB SEGER SYSTEM: 2 + 2 = ?

141. THE JIVE FIVE: What Time Is It?

142. LULU: To Sir, With Love [Museum Outings Montage]

143. FREDA PAYNE: Band Of Gold

144. THE CONTOURS: Do You Love Me

145. WHAM!: Freedom

146. THE COOKIES: Wounded

147. THE SUPREMES: You Keep Me Hangin’ On

 148. THE BEACH BOYS: God Only Knows

149. JOAN ARMATRADING: Me Myself I

150. THE SELECTER: On My Radio

151. TRACEY ULLMAN: They Don’t Know

152. MANNIX: Highway Lines

153. THE DRIFTERS: On Broadway

154. FIRST AID KIT: America

155. THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS: O-o-h Child

156. SOLOMON BURKE: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

157. THE JAM: That’s Entertainment

158. THE COASTERS: Yakety Yak

159. CHEAP TRICK: Surrender

160. TEGAN AND SARA: Walking With A Ghost

161. DAVID BOWIE: Life On Mars?

162. THE O’JAYS: Put Your Hands Together

163. THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Uncle John’s Band

164. RITA MORENO, GEORGE CHAKIRIS, SHARKS & GIRLS: America

165. EDDIE AND THE HOT RODS: Do Anything You Wanna Do

166. JOAN JETT: Bad Reputation

167. STEVIE WONDER: I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)

168. MARYKATE O’NEIL: I’m Ready For My Luck To Turn Around

169. EYTAN MIRSKY: This Year’s Gonna Be Our Year

170. THE JAYHAWKS: I’m Gonna Make You Love Me

An Infinite Number

INTERLUDE Underrating The Beatles

ENCORE! THE BEATLES: Rain

ENCORE!! THE T-BONES: No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)

Cruisin’ Music

CODA THE RAMONES: Blitzkrieg Bop

AFTERWORD


Repeating the disclaimer
: These selections are not ranked in any way, and this is most definitely NOT intended as an inclusive list of the all-time best songs. There are an infinite number of worthy prospects; these are the one I choose to write about in The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Voume 1).

At this writing, the book is only two chapters shy of a complete first draft. The completed chapters total just under 153,000 words, though that tally may shrink once I start revising the text. It is certainly possible that I will make further changes to the Table of Contents, but this is getting closer and closer to the final line-up.

I hope to complete those two remaining chapters in short order. Then, I’ll finally get to the revision process, tightening the prose and reducing redundancies. Somewhere in there, I’ve gotta start looking for an agent.

I have a different book due out by the end of 2022, but the principal work for that one is already done. Which means it’s finally time for The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)
Wish me luck.

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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
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Categories
Boppin'

45’s ARE GO! (Singles That Should Have Been): For Pete’s Sake/You Just May Be The One

For every record-biz weasel who whines that he doesn’t hear a single, there are legions of fans who hear one just fine, thanks. 45s Are GO! celebrates the singles that never were, but should have been.


THE MONKEES: “For Pete’s Sake”/”You Just May Be The One”
Colgems, 1967; LP tracks from the album Headquarters
What were they thinking?

In 1967, The Monkees were arguably the hottest rockin’ pop combo in the world. Regardless of whether or not we believe the (disputed) claim that the group’s record sales in ’67 were greater than the combined totals of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, there’s no denying that The Monkees were, at the very least, one of the most popular recording acts around. By ’67, the made-for-TV group–Micky DolenzDavy JonesMichael Nesmith, and Peter Tork–had succeeded in securing some small level of autonomy regarding the records that bore their brand name. After two blockbuster Monkees albums concocted as sweet-sounding puppets to the music and entertainment machine, The Monkees’ third album Headquarters would feature the band as players, co-pilots of this new flight into the fancy of pop rock ’67. Nesmith found a sympathetic producer in former Turtles bassist Douglas Farthing Hatelid (aka Chip Douglas), and the resulting album hit # 1 in Billboard

It stayed there for one whole week. Once The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play, The Monkees were relegated to the # 2 spot for the remainder of the burgeoning summer of love. It’s not likely that anything–anything–could have been more popular, more omnipresent, than the counter-cultural flashpoint that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club BandSgt. Pepper was only the second rock album ever to reach # 1 without the benefit of a hit single.

Headquarters, of course, was the first.

What were they thinking?

I’m not saying that a big radio hit from Headquarters would have buoyed the album above Pepper; again, really, nothing in the summer of ’67 was going to compete with that Splendid Time Guaranteed For All. But the decision to not issue a U.S. single off Headquarters still seems puzzling, maddening, more than five decades after the fact. 

Looking back, there are a few factors to consider, I guess. The Monkees were, as noted above, in transition in ’67, transforming themselves from cogs in a pop machinery into more active participants in that machinery. It’s possible that the suits running Colgems Records lacked confidence in the hitmaking ability of Monkees Mark II. It’s also possible that the label was worried about overexposure, taking care not to milk its cash cow to a premature demise (as we’ll discuss below). And it’s also possible that the folks in charge of such things heard the tracks on Headquarters, and did not hear any potential hits. If the latter, then again: what were they thinking…?!

Even without 45 rpm validation, some Headquarters material eventually received exposure on the group’s TV show. “For Pete’s Sake,” co-written by Tork with Joseph Richards, became the show’s closing theme in its second season, an abbreviated version playing over the credits at the end of each episode. An earlier version of Nesmith’s “You Just May be The One” (sometimes referred to as “You May Just Be The One”) had appeared in some individual first-season episodes. “Randy Scouse Git,” “No Time,” and “Sunny Girlfriend” were also used during the show’s second season. However, by the time the second season commenced in September of ’67, the more than three-months old Headquarters LP was practically a golden oldie. (On the other hand, a number of Headquarters tracks were edited into summer reruns of the first season’s shows, giving them at least a little bit of contemporaneous airplay push.)

Meanwhile, as “Randy Scouse Git” became a # 2 single in England (under the less-rude name “Alternate Title”), The Monkees went from the March ’67 release of “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”/”The Girl I Knew Somewhere” to the July ’67 release of “Pleasant Valley Sunday”/”Words” without a new 45 for the American singles market. From our smug 21st century vantage point, a mere four months elapsed between 45s seems like a flash of nothing; in the fast-paced pop world of 1967, it meant that Headquarters went entirely unrepresented in the American Top 40.

To be fair, we have to concede that Colgems never succumbed to the temptation to strip mine The Monkees’ albums for singles; there had been just one 45 release (“Last Train To Clarksville”/”Take A Giant Step”) off the eponymous debut LP, just one (“I’m A Believer”/”(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”) off the monster-selling More Of The Monkees, and then the non-LP “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”/”The Girl I Knew Somewhere.” All of this–three albums, four singles (including “Pleasant Valley Sunday”)–hit radio and retail in the space of less than a year. No time, baby. While that’s a lot of product in a short span, it nonetheless shows a remarkable level of restraint at Colgems, given how hot The Monkees were in ’66 and ’67. 

There certainly should have been a single taken from Headquarters. The album had some potential hit fodder, from the raucous workout “No Time” to the wistful “Shades Of Gray” to Nesmith’s “Sunny Girlfriend.” I do not think any of those would have been an optimal choice, nor do I believe a single of “Randy Scouse Git” would have duplicated the track’s British success. 

But a double A-side of “For Pete’s Sake”/”You Just May Be The One” would have been among the best singles of 1967. The peace-and-love vibe of “For Pete’s Sake” is perfectly emblematic of its day without seeming dated or trite, a still-compelling reminder that we were born to love one another, in this generation, in this loving time. “You Just May Be The One” is my favorite Headquarters track, a straightforward, country-tinged pop tune that belies Nesmith’s protest that he wasn’t suited to writing straightforward pop tunes. All four Monkees play on both tracks: “For Pete’s Sake” features Tork on guitar, Nesmith on organ, Dolenz on drums, Jones on tambourine, Chip Douglas on bass, and Micky singing lead with backing vocals by Micky, Davy, and Peter; other than some backing vocals by Douglas (with Micky, Davy, and Peter), “You Just May Be The One” is only The Monkees, unaided, the four guys from the beach house singin’ and playin’ like the real band they’d somehow become.

The release of this or any single off Headquarters would not have had much effect on the real-world trajectory of The Monkees’ career. Their next album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. was released in November of ’67, just a little over a year after the world heard The Monkees for the first time. Pisces was their fourth and final # 1 album; 1968’s The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees would peak at # 3, and The Monkees would never again crash the top 10 of the Billboard album chart. “Daydream Believer” (# 1) and “Valleri” (# 3) would be their last two Top 10 singles. As the TV show ended and their popularity ebbed and faded by late ’68, the imaginary gravitas of one extra pop hit 45 back in the summer of ’67 wouldn’t have mattered in the long run. 

Woulda been nice, though. “For Pete’s Sake” ultimately achieved some level of pop recognition and immortality simply because so many folks wound up hearing it in the ubiquitous reruns of the TV show. Although the song had only been the show’s closing theme during its second and final season, it wound up being edited into the commonly-seen episodes of the first season as they aired in reruns on Saturday morning and in syndication in the ’70s and beyond. In a way, it actually is the hit it should have been, a well-known and well-loved part of The Monkees’ canon. “You Just Me Be The One,” however, is frequently omitted from compact collections of The Monkees’ best. That should not be.

We know The Monkees’ legacy survived the downturn and downfall of fortunes it suffered in 1968. I still wish the original run of success had lasted longer (and that their brilliant ’68 movie Head and its magnificent soundtrack had found an audience at the time of their release). And I still wish there had been more, starting with the obvious notion of releasing a freakin’ 1967 single off a # 1 album by one of the most popular recording acts in the land. What were they thinking? Love is understanding. You know that this is true. “For Pete’s Sake”/”You Just May Be The One” is a single that should have been. That’s what I’m thinkin’, anyway.

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 FlashcubesChris 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
Quick Spins

Ken Sharp’s ‘Miniatures,’ Album Of The Year

Every year, one record has stands out as being far-and-away my favorite. There is a combination of elements that each year’s favorite seems to have in common. First, the cover art pull me in, either through an interesting graphic or particularly emotive color. Secondly, the songs, one after another, draw me in to view the artist’s complete, long-play vision. Last year, that record was Marshall Holland’s extraordinary Lp, Paper Airplane. This year, that distinction is most happily given to Ken Sharp, for his Miniatures Lp.

While Sharp is well-known in pop circles (his name has a perfect pop ring to it) his music was unknown to me, until fairly recently. The artwork for his 2020 single, Girl b/w Forget That Girl, jumped out at me. “TWO Monkees’ covers?” I remember thinking, “you, sir, have my attention.” Both were high-quality turns, owing equal parts to The Pre-fab Four’s arrangements and instrumentation, and Sharp’s own excellent, retro expressions. I was officially a fan.

Next came Sharp’s brilliant Miniatures Lp. With a cover brimming with Rankin/Bass-inspired art, I knew I had to order up. While I’m often afforded promotional copies to do these reviews, I instinctively knew, that this release warranted me plunking down my own money on the vinyl. I would not be disappointed. When it arrived with a full-color insert and on transparent vinyl, I was thrilled!

Now, the music…

There are 32 tracks here, some that don’t even break the minute mark. That isn’t to say that these are unfinished bits yet to become something more, they exist as potent short sentences, instead of more lengthy paragraphs. In presenting his songs in this manner, the Lp plays like the listener is getting a peak into the inner dialog we all have with ourselves, 24/7, though here we are, in Sharp’s head.

Susannah Silently Shining has been heard on numerous radio shows, and it’s a good snapshot of the project as a whole. A  fifty-two-second ode to pure, natural beauty, it’s sweetness flows like musical honey. Humble and to the point, as all these tracks are, it eases you toward the next daisy in the chain.

Lorelei reveals itself as a piano ballad in the classic tradition of McCartney’s For No One, albeit with a bit more drive. Sharp keeps the instrumentation simple throughout, which certainly gives the whole project a Fab vibe, though, that influence never gets in the way of his own style. You’ll hear piano, acoustic guitar and accents of mellotron, even as everything sounds crisp, contemporary and vibrant.

One of my favorites on this disc is the peppy Something’s Happening, which unfolds like the theme song to a great lost sitcom by Sid and Marty Krofft, in the very best way. I would hazard a guess that Sharp grew up on shows like The Bugaloos and the trippy Lidsville. A lot of these tunes have a definite visual element to them, which I find to be to their benefit.

Please consider taking a Listen to Miniatures, which I’m more than happy to proclaim, my pick for Album Of The Year, 2021.

By Dan Pavelich

https://kensharp.bandcamp.com/

http://www.ken-sharp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KenSharpMusic

Categories
Boppin'

UNFINISHED AND ABANDONED: The Comic Book Telephone Pitches, Part 2

YOU REMEMBER LAST TIME, when I talked about my aborted telephone pitch to write for Harvey Comics. Let’s pick up that story with my second and final attempt to sell my writing via a phone call to a comics publisher….

Revolutionary Comics was a comics publisher begun in 1989 by Todd Loren, commencing with its first (and initially only) series Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics. Each issue of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics was an unauthorized biography of a rock or pop performer, beginning with Guns N’ Roses in Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics # 1. Eventually billing itself as “unauthorized and proud of it,” Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics survived attempted lawsuits and continued to cover acts ranging from New Kids On The Block to The Sex Pistols.

Rock ‘n’ roll. Comic books. Well! I figured I could write that!

It was probably 1990 or ’91 (no later) when I called Todd Loren to pitch him on the idea of humble li’l me writing for Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics. My writing resumé was a tiny bit fatter than it had been when I pitched to Harvey Comics a few years before, and while it still didn’t include any fiction sales, it did include nonfiction rock writing. And I knew just the band I would most want to cover in Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics. I’m sure you know it, too.

The Monkees.

Loren was not interested in that.

This was a few years after the MTV-fed resurgent Monkeemania of 1986. By the dawn of the ’90s, most folks figured that The Monkees had fully used up their fifteen minutes of fame, and then used it up again, with little likelihood of a third quarter-hour looming. I knew better, at least on an artistic level. I believed that The Monkees’ recorded and pop cultural legacies were underrated, and well deserving of examination and exploration. On those grounds, The Monkees would have been ideal candidates for study in an issue of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics.

But on a commercial level, in the early ’90s? I have to concede that Loren was probably correct in his decision to pass on the idea. It would have sold in 1986 or ’87; it was, at best, an uncertain prospect in 1990 or ’91. 

With the pitch shot down, I never did any work on the idea of a comic-book biography of The Monkees. If I had been able to do it, I would have wanted it to read in a more compelling manner than the actual issues of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics I’d seen up to that point. My ability to pull off such an ambition is in question, but I would have hoped to tell the story in a way that somehow incorporated the quick cuts and absurdity of the TV series and recreated them on the printed page, to convey the notion that The Monkees were more than a mere prefab four, that The Monkees were important, that The Monkees mattered.

Loren was a bit more open to my secondary idea of a comic-book biography of The Ramones, but not interested enough to commit to it. We parted amicably, but there was clearly no path there for me to get work with Revolutionary Comics.

Todd Loren

Todd Loren’s own life came to a tragic, lurid end, as he was stabbed to death at home in 1992. Loren was 32 years old, born three days before I was. Loren was gay, and he was (per Wikipedia) “well known in San Diego’s gay social circles.” Those circles included Andrew Cunanin, who later became infamous for committing five (known) murders in 1997, including the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace. Some have speculated that Cunanin could also have been Loren’s murderer. Loren’s murder case remains unsolved. Cunanin committed suicide before he could be captured, and is now presumed to reside in Hell.

The Revolutionary line (including Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics) continued for a short time after Loren’s death, finally closing up shop in 1994. I had no further contact with Revolutionary after that single phone call to Todd Loren. 

I do still think there’s a market for a Monkees comic book. It may be a niche market, or it may be larger than that, but the market exists; I’m certain of it. The Monkees’ fabulous 2016 album Good Times! was a # 1 hit, fercryinoutloud. Monkees fandom is under-served. We deserve better.


The Monkees’ only latter-day comic-book appearance was a guest spot in The Archies # 4 in 2018, a welcome tribute to the benevolent vibe of Micky, Davy, Peter, and Michael. I wish for an ongoing Monkees comic book series, even if I’m not the one who gets to write it. There should also be a Batman Meets The Monkees story. And I have a specific idea for a Monkees mini-series that I’m a little surprised no one’s proposed yet. I probably won’t have any plausible opportunity to write any of this, but a guy can dream.

Decades after all those failed attempts to break into comics, I’ve finally made my first sales, with three prose short stories sold to AHOY Comics. One of ’em is a rock ‘n’ roll story. I’d still like to write some comics. I have ideas. Some may be worth developing. Some, alas, will remain unfinished and abandoned.

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

Our most recent compilation CDThis Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is still 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 FlashcubesChris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the CyphersYou gotta have it, so order it here. A digital download version (minus The Smithereens’ track) is also available from Futureman Records

Categories
Boppin' Comics

UNFINISHED AND ABANDONED: The Comic Book Telephone Pitches, Part 1

By Carl Cafarelli

Unfinished And Abandoned digs deeeeep into my unpublished archives, and exhumes projects that I started (sometimes barely started) but abandoned, unfinished. I am such a quitter.

WARNING: this blog piece contains no actual Batman content. Holy bait and switch!

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned these two (admittedly nondescript) sequences, but it occurs to me they’re worth documenting in all their unexceptional glory.

By the end of the 1980s, I’d begun to have a tiny bit of success as a freelance writer. My triumphs were meager, but they were sales, paychecks (however paltry) for stuff I’d written. I’d begun with writing about comics in Amazing Heroes from 1984 to ’86 or ’87, added a sale to Comics Collector in 1985, and commenced my two-decade stint as a freelance pop music journalist for Goldmine in 1986. Somewhere in there, I also started freelancing (very) occasionally for The Comics Buyer’s Guide.

My association with Amazing Heroes publisher Fantagraphics ended unpleasantly in 1987. A friend of mine knew a publisher just getting started with a new magazine about comics; I met with the guy informally, we established mutual interest, but I never completed anything to submit there. That magazine was itself short-lived, and I confess that the amateur level of writing on its editorial side may have dissuaded me from pursuing it. It may be a sin of pride or just outright arrogance, but I believe in my writing; I always aim to be among the best writers involved in any collaborative project, while expecting that the other writers will also be accomplished and capable, our collective prowess spurring all of us to be at the top of our game. I had that experience with Goldmine and a number of subsequent endeavors, but I didn’t see that as likely in this particular comics zine.

I had not managed to sell any fiction to any market. Hey, see what I just said above about my nonfiction writing? Those rosy comments emphatically do not apply to the fiction I was writing in the ’80s and ’90s; that stuff was terrible. I got better, and I finally made my first fiction sales this year, to the good folks at AHOY Comics. But those earlier attempts? Yechh. Looking back on them now reminds that I should probably oughtta have a little more humility in mind before complaining about someone else’s amateur writing.

Anyway. In the late ’80s and (maybe) the early ’90s, I attempted to pitch comics ideas to two different publishers. The first was Harvey Comics, famous publisher of such characters as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich. I read a notice in The Comics Buyer’s Guide that Harvey was looking to re-start its comics line, and was in need of writers. Wikipedia says that would have been 1986, but I think it was ’87 by the time I called Alan Harvey to pitch the idea of hiring ol’ CC as a freelance member of the mighty Harvey bullpen.

Harvey was pleasant and professional during our short conversation. We went over my resumé (which was modest, but not empty), and he told me what he needed. As I recall, he was looking for single-page gag strips, to be submitted via a proposal detailing the setup and the punchline. I had written humor in the past, so it wasn’t completely out of left field for me to attempt to craft some hilarious hijinks for the Harvey cast. We exchanged closing pleasantries, and he wished me luck.

I started trying to come up with something I thought Harvey could use, but I just couldn’t execute anything. I’m not sure what I was thinking to begin with when I contacted Harvey, other than yeah, I was looking to break into comics. I didn’t have any gag ideas. Knowing me (then and now), I betcha I was looking to bring some kind of continuity and longer-form storytelling into the mix, the sort of thing that was commonplace in superhero comics but not at all what Harvey would have wanted for its stable of stars. I’m also sure that I wanted to write Hot Stuff, the cartoon little devil who had been my favorite Harvey character when I was a kid, but I don’t think Hot Stuff was among the properties for which Harvey was seeking new material in the late ’80s.

(I had kind of a similar notion a few years before that, when Archie Comics attempted to revive its superhero line under the Red Circle Comics imprint. I scribbled some vague notions of a back-up strip starring the obscure hero Blackjack–figuring I wouldn’t face any potential competitors looking to be the official Blackjack scribe–in a story called “Murder In Riverdale.” Yeah, that Riverdale, as our hero solves the mystery when everyone’s pal Archie Andrews is accused of murder most foul. Although it would have been played straight and remained respectful of Archie and his pals and gals, there was no way in hell Archie/Red Circle would have considered buying that story.)

The Archie gang and superheroes? I was just ahead of my time.

Ultimately, my Harvey Comics ambitions were misplaced and unrealized, unfinished and abandoned. But I still had one more comic book publisher I would pitch over the phone. We’ll talk about my pitch to Revolutionary Comics next time. Here I come, walkin’ down the street….

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Boppin'

Talk Talk: My Brief Career As A Freelance Interviewer

My thoughts drifted back recently to the worst interview I ever did. I’m not talking about job interviews–I’ve had several less-than-stellar results there–but interviews I conducted for my freelance writing work. The car-wreck status of this particular interview was entirely my fault, and the interviewee bore zero percent responsibility for the ways in which the discussion went south. Frankly, I just wasn’t prepared; it was supposed to be color commentary for something I was writing, it was a subject with which I had some familiarity, so I figured we’d wing it, just chat off the cuff. Big mistake. Without background information, without the wealth of reference material I usually gathered at my fingertips to scan during interviews, without any prepared potential questions to ask, the conversation floundered and failed. It was not my finest hour. My interviewee was game and accommodating, but I’m sure after our fruitless session concluded, an under-the-breath muttering of Well, this Carl guy’s an idiot would not have been inappropriate. A simple and stupid miscalculation on my part, but it still bugs me, decades later, even though I’m the only one who remembers it.

Because I was usually better than that. A lot better than that. I won’t say I was ever a terrific interviewer, but I was more than adequate, and occasionally pretty good at it. More than one interview subject–both Joan Jett and Ben Vaughn spring to mind–complimented my preparedness, and most seemed pleased with the experience and the result. 


Most of my interviews were conducted on behalf of Goldmine, though I did a few for The Syracuse New Times and one each for DISCoveries and Yeah Yeah Yeah. I can’t remember the identity of my first interview subjects; might have been Tom Prendergast and Glenn Morrow of Bar/None Records, which I profiled for a Goldmine record label spotlight in the early ’90s. Although I began freelancing for Goldmine in 1986, and began writing GM feature articles in ’87 (commencing with a retrospective of The Bay City Rollers), my features were research pieces, compiled from previously-published resources and tied together with my attempts at overview and analysis. This was also true of my subsequent features on KISSThe MonkeesThe Ugly DucklingsToni BasilBarry Mann, and–Lord help me–Stars On 45, though I recall interviewing a KISS fan or two to gather background info. I interviewed Cyril Jordan in 1992 for a long history of The Flamin’ Groovies, and he was probably my first musician interview.

So I did a few more: Joan Jett, Ben Vaughn, The RamonesRon DanteJoey LevineGreg KihnGary Frenay and Paul Armstrong of The Flashcubes (for The Syracuse New Times, for whom I also interviewed a few other local musicians, some local radio movers und shakers, even some preschool educators for an ultimately unfinished report on alternative education), Lou Whitney of The SkeletonsMark LindsayLenny KayeDick DoddBarry Tashian, bubblegum producers Kasenetz and KatzRay Paul, bubblegum expert/aficionado Bill Pitzonka, writer Mark EvanierGreg Spencer of Blue Wave Records, and possibly some others I don’t recall in the moment. 

But I grew tired of doing phone interviews; transcribing such things is thankless drudgery, so I decided to discontinue doing them. Most of the interviews for my history of power pop were conducted via email (although those actually predate my Nuggets and bubblegum telephone interviews). Even if I were to ever take on another freelance assignment, I’m unlikely to do any further telephone interviews. It’s just not worth it to me.

Dana and I have done a few interviews on This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, though technical complications at our nearly-Flintstones-level studio basically preclude the viability of phone interviews. Such kerfrazzles swallowed our attempted on-air interview with The Charms‘ lead singer Ellie Vee, who gamely soldiered on through a chat where listeners could hear me but couldn’t pick up anything she said (forcing me to repeat all of her responses for the audience: Ellie says she’s happy to be here on TIRnRR!). It was not a situation designed to inspire confidence in performer or audience.

I really wasn’t a bad interviewer. Other than that one jarring incident of trying to tackle an interview without sufficient prep, I’ve been able to come up with the questions the interview required. In-person interviews are a true rarity, but I’ve done all right when guests have appeared in-studio on TIRnRR. But that one bad interview? It was decades ago, yet I know it’s always going to bother me. I try to hold myself to at least a tiny bit higher standard than that one.

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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe FlashcubesChris 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: Kick It Out

This was originally written as a part of one of my weekly 10 Songs entries. The version seen here has been tweaked ever-so-slightly for eventual inclusion in my proposed book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1).

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!HEART: Kick It Out

Written by Ann Wilson
Produced by Mike Flicker
Single from the album Little Queen, Portrait Records, 1977

Heh. Speaking of the unique ways in which we discover new songs….

When I was 17, I met a girl whose short-term goal was to pose for Playboy. It was a brief and casual platonic meeting, we were not alone at any point (nor would anything noteworthy have been likely to occur anyway), so there’s not much more to the story than that. When you’re a 17-year-old boy, hearing a girl about your age say she wants to remove her clothing for a magazine pictorial tends to get your attention. I don’t remember her name, I can’t quite remember what she looked like (except that she was definitely cute), and I don’t think she had quite yet achieved the legal age required for one to take off her shirt for the cameras. Nor had I, for that matter, not that anyone was asking. She was, I presume, just planning ahead.

It’s likely I’m always going to associate “Kick It Out,” a track from Heart‘s 1977 Little Queen album, with the afternoon when I met this prospective Miss August. I knew Heart’s hit single “Magic Man” (I bought the 45), and I must have heard and probably liked Little Queen‘s first hit single “Barracuda” by then. “Kick It Out” was new to me. And it was the apprentice Playmate’s favorite song on the album, so she had to play it for me. In her room, by the way, but again: never alone. No moral boundaries were breached in the making of this story.

My fond memory of “Kick It Out” illustrates the occasionally fleeting nature of a Greatest Record Ever Made. I mean, “Kick It Out” was never really my all-time favorite song. Even in that summer of ’77, it had too much competition, from old stuff by the Beatlesthe Kinks, and the Monkees to then-recent goodies by Fleetwood MacSweet, and the Rubinoos. But in that specific giddy moment, as a pretty girl shared her passion for a song she liked, Heart’s “Kick It Out” was the only song in the world.

I have no idea if this particular angel was ever a centerfold, though I suspect she was not. “Kick It Out” was released as a single by the end of 1977, but it wasn’t a hit. It remains one of my favorite Heart songs, its status enhanced by the memory of its introduction to me. When you’re a 17-year-old boy, the allure of a pretty girl about your age can have an immediate and pervasive effect, even if it means nothing. The moment fades. The soundtrack remains.

Categories
Pop Sunday

The Grip Weeds / DiG

The Grip Weeds

DiG (JEM Records)

https://www.gripweeds.com/

If there is one band that has appropriated the sounds of the sixties and managed to translate such aspirations into their own prize-winning formula, it is The Grip Weeds. Coming together in 1988, the Highland Park, New Jersey group is globally known for their superb recordings that are just as relevant, as those produced by the artists they are enamored with.

 Something of a family affair, the band includes founding members and siblings Kurt (vocals, multi-instrumentalist ) and Rick Reil (vocals, multi-instrumentalist), along with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist  Kristin Pinell (who is Kurt’s wife) and bassist Dave DeSantis.

Rather than sit idle and go into panic mode during the worldwide lockdown of 2020, The Grip Weeds made a beeline for the studio and crafted a new album of vintage songs. A two disc set, DiG, contains versions of both noted and obscure tunes from the sixties, which needless to say, is a tribute to the band’s influences. 

An ample amount of psychedelic classics are spread across the collection, specifically; Shape Of Things To Come (Max Frost and The Troopers), Journey To The Center Of The Mind (The Amboy Dukes), Something In The Air (Thunderclap Newman), Porpoise Song (The Monkees), I Feel Free (Cream) and I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) (The Electric Prunes). The Grip Weeds approach these trippy treasures in their signature standard of excellence, grounded in harmony-rich singing, tight and exciting musicianship and spirited empathy. These renditions are so great that you will think you are hearing them for the first time.

Paul Revere and the Raiders are honored on the gutsy acid-dappled garage rock of Louie Go Home, while Frosty’s funky Organ Grinder’s Monkey further stages an appearance. The Zombies are cited on a ravishing acoustic-based take of I Love You, and the slightly jazzy polish of Lady Friend is sure to score points with Byrds‘ fans.

An homage to The Squires surfaces on the cosmic folk rock chime of Going All The Way, and then there’s The Creation’s throbbing Making Time and the chilly atmospheric Twilight Time, which was initially cut by The Moody Blues.

Mouse and the Traps receive a walloping reprise on the hard-driving Lie Beg Borrow And Steal, whereas The Beatles are celebrated on the achingly sweet It’s Only Love. The Rolling Stones are also given a nod, on the brain-bending drone of Child Of The Moon. The Marmalade’s shimmery flower pop I See The Rain and DiG Theme, a searing and powerful Yardbirds-meets-Who flavored instrumental composed by The Grip Weeds, cycle in as other groovacious goodies gracing the package.

In terms of cover albums, DiG is a real stunner. The Grip Weeds clearly had a ton of fun waxing these tracks, which will feed the need of the band’s dedicated legion of followers until their next album of orginal material is released. 

Categories
Boppin'

KISS

In the mid-’70s, I was a pop-obsessed teenager in love with my AM radio.  I was old enough to remember Beatlemania, and my affection for ’60s rockin’ pop remained undimmed:  The Beatles.  The Dave Clark Five.  The Animals.  The Monkees.  The Hollies.  Paul Revere & the Raiders.  Over time, those stalwarts had been joined (but never replaced) by irresistible ’70s radio fare by Badfinger, Alice Cooper, Slade, The Raspberries, The Sweet.  Somewhere in there, I developed an insatiable taste for The Kinks.  And in December of 1976, I went to my first rock concert.  I went to see KISS.

I was not all that much of a KISS fan at the time.  I knew a few songs from WOLF-AM in Syracuse–“Rock And Roll All Nite,””Beth,” “Shout It Out Loud,” maybe “Detroit Rock City”–and these were all certainly songs that I liked.  But the KISS concert experience made me a fan immediately.  I never quite joined the KISS Army, but I bought the KISS comic books from Marvel, and I received a copy of the Rock And Roll Over album as a high school graduation gift from my sister.  I was particularly taken with “Calling Dr. Love,” and wanted to march in for graduation to that tune rather than “Pomp And Circumstance.”  Man, I NEVER get my way…!

That period of late 1976 through the end of ’77 saw a huge transition in my musical tastes. Or did it?  As I bought more records, as I burrowed through used records stores and flea markets, as I learned about exciting new stuff in Phonograph Record Magazine, as free-form FM radio drew my attention away from the increasingly disco-dominated AM airwaves…as all this was going on, I still loved The Beatles.  And everything else I loved was an extension of that.
And that included KISS.  KISS was a pop band, and a very good pop band at that.  The best KISS records were infectious in a way Led Zeppelin wasn’t, accessible in a way Pink Floyd and ELP could never be, thrilling in a way that The Bee Gees would never even understand.  KISS, though certainly not a punk band, was also my gateway to punk, a whole new world that nonetheless still drew inspiration from the prevailing and pervasive appeal of 45 rpm records played loud and distorted over a tiny transistor radio speaker.  I saw KISS in December of ’76; a year later, I wrote my first-ever piece of rock criticism, an emeritus contribution to my high school newspaper, drawing a line forward from the greatness of The Beatles to the virtues of The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Blondie, The Rubinoos…and KISS.  Punk.  Pop.  Rock ‘n’ roll.  For me, it was all part of the same continuum, and I loved it all.  I still do.

When KISS was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, I read through a lot of complaints that KISS was not deserving of this (or any) honor, and I became increasingly pissed off at such dismissals.  You don’t like KISS?  That is certainly your right.  You think KISS is untalented, insubstantial, too gimmicky?  You think the members of KISS (one member in particular!) are obnoxious jerks?  I guess that’s all fair game, too.  But KISS is important to me, and the band’s impact transcends the mere happenstance of being my first rock concert.  Loud, garish, celebratory, and as infectious as an arena cheer, KISS’s best records make me feel GREAT.  Awright!

The week of KISS’s Rock Hall induction, THIS IS ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RADIO attempted to put KISS in context, to play a few of the best KISS records alongside a bunch of other terrific pop tracks, and to prove that maybe KISS could be discussed with Badfinger, Big Star, The Raspberries, et al., as among the best rockin’ pop the ’70s had to offer.  “Strutter.”  “Comin’ Home.”  Anything For My Baby.”  “Calling Dr. Love.” “Detroit Rock City.”  “Shout It Out Loud.”  “Rock And Roll All Nite.”  These are pop songs, and they sound…well, awesome on rockin’ pop radio.  As one listener put it, “Stop giving me less reason to hate Gene Simmons!”  Turn it up.  Shout it out loud!  And if they tell you that there’s too much noise, they’re too old to understand….