Categories
Boppin'

The Greatest Record Ever Made; The Beatles’ “Rain”

THE BEATLES: “Rain”

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 FaceThe 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 RascalsThe Mamas and the PapasThe Four TopsThe 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 ReddingThe Hollies, and The Temptations through The ByrdsThe 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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Categories
Quick Spins

The Bookends / The Well Wishers /The Vapour Trails

The Bookends

Calliope (JEM)

http://www.jemrecordings.com

The Bookends pick up right where The Bristols left off, with their JEM Records debut. Filled to the brim with double-tracked vocals, jangly guitars and catchy choruses, these fourteen original tunes are more fun than a barrel of Monkees.

Karen Lynn and Sharon Lee anchor the band, augmented by guitarist Frank Labor, and multiple drummers. Clearly influenced by the guitar pop of the 1960’s, Face The Facts and Mr. Know It All sound like a couple of lost Boyce & Hart numbers. My fave of the set, however, is the slinky She’s Got It, which shows that these ladies aren’t afraid of shifting gears. Very cool.

The Well Wishers

Shelf Life (TMSM)

https://thewellwishers.bandcamp.com

I was just telling someone the other day, that not only was I amazed at how prolific a songwriter Jeff Shelton is, but also at his ability to keep a standard of quality that few can match. Last Year’s The Lost Soundtrack was phenomenal, as was 2018’s A View From Above.

We Grow Up drives like an overland trucker, as does All The Same. Filled with muscular guitar arrangements and a 90’s pop sensibility, these tracks would fit well on a playlist between Bob Mould and Matthew Sweet. Shelton and his Well Wishers are equally adept on the alt-country Holidays Await and the groovy Only The Rain. Shelf Life is top-shelf.

The Vapor Trails

Golden Sunshine (Futureman)

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/golden-sunshine

The Vapor Trails caught my ear earlier this year, with their swell single, Lonely Man. Reminiscent of quality, classic guitar pop from Herman’s Hermits to The Rembrandts, it was the perfect teaser for their full-length, Golden Sunshine.

These twelve tracks are brimming with hook-laden goodness, and quite often make the listener feel like they are literally basking in the Golden Sunshine. The One That Got Away is dreamy in a Phil Angotti/The Idea way, and Different Girl slinks with a groove that is irresistible. Harmony vocals are sweet and well-thought-out, complimenting the abundant guitar jangle to perfection. Highly recommended.

By Dan Pavelich

Categories
Boppin'

LP Cover Cavalcade #1

I was thinking the other day about the first albums I owned by a number of acts that would become Fave Raves, one album purchase leading to another, and another, and another. Not counting records that belonged to my siblings (but which I played anyway), I can’t remember my first Beatles album; I suspect it was a second-hand acquisition of Rubber Soul, though it may have been a tie between Introducing The Beatles and Let It Be, both of which I received as gifts one Christmas morning in the ’70s. I inherited my brother’s copies of the first two Monkees LPs, and eventually supplemented them with a flea market purchase of Headquarters and The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees

Every love story begins with that very first kiss. I remember my first Velvet Underground (The Velvet Underground & Nico, used), my first Ramones (Ramones), Otis Redding (Live In Europe), KISS (Rock And Roll Over), Kinks (Kinks-Sized), Suzi Quatro (Suzi Quatro), Elvis Costello (My Aim Is True), Prince (1999), and best-of sets as introductions to The TroggsThe TurtlesThe RaspberriesThe Jackson 5The Ventures, and Little Richard. Here are some others I remember:

THE ANIMALS: Best Of The Animals
Well, talk about an ignominious start to my Animals collection. In the mid ’70s, my growing obsession with the music of the ’60s (especially of the British Invasion) retroactively made The Animals one of my favorite groups, albeit a decade after the fact. I borrowed my cousin Maryann’s copy of The Best Of The Animals, but I needed to officially add Eric Burdon and his comrades to my library. For Christmas of 1976, my parents directed me to pick out some LPs I’d want to receive as gifts. I spied this budget-priced Animals set on the racks at a department store in downtown Syracuse; even though I didn’t recognize any of the song titles, the cover photo grabbed me, so I figured it must be a collection of Animal tracks I didn’t know, but which might be on a par with my familiar favorites “It’s My Life” and “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.” Wrong! The perfunctory blues covers were not my cuppa, and this LP did not remain in my collection for long. (As a happy ending here, let me add that the other albums Mom and Dad gave me that Christmas included a real Animals best-of–a two-record set on Abkco–as well as The Beatles Featuring Tony Sheridan and The History Of British Rock Volume 2. Christmas was saved!)

THE BEACH BOYS: Endless Summer
As a teenager, I had no real affinity for the music of The Beach Boys. Even speaking as an avid fan of The Monkees (an act the hipsters hated), I just thought The Beach Boys were square, uncool. Establishment. “Be True To Your School?” Come on…! But within that haze of smug dunderheadedness, I still had to concede that some of The Beach Boys’ hits transcended the four corners of what I perceived as their image. “Good Vibrations.” “Fun, Fun, Fun.” “Help Me, Rhonda.” “I Get Around.” My grudging awareness of the sheer quality of these tracks was sufficient motivation for me to add a record-club purchase of the 2-LP Endless Summer to my fledgling pop-rock stash, even though it didn’t incluse “Good Vibrations.” It didn’t immediately open my mind to the wonder of The Beach Boys, but I played it occasionally, and took it with me to college in the fall of ’77. My second Beach Boys album was Pet Sounds, which I purchased during the Spring ’78 semester because I’d become enthralled with “Sloop John B.” Even with an introduction to that true classic album, my acceptance and revelation would be deferred, and deferred by another freakin’ decade, fercryinoutloud. But it would come eventually. My teenage self would have been appalled to learn that his middle-aged incarnation loves The Beach Boys, but what did the younger me know anyway? He liked Kansas!

Pin Ups front.tif

DAVID BOWIE: Pinups
Man, what an odd place to start with Bowie. I had the “Changes” 45, but my first long-player by the former Mr. Jones was this collection of covers, purchased at a used record sale set up on campus, probably in 1978. My interest in Bowie was (at best) borderline at the time. Looking back, I’m sure I was drawn to Pinups by the presence of a cover of The Easybeats‘ “Friday On My Mind;” I’d been unable to score a copy of The Easybeats’ version, so I settled for Bowie as a substitute. Bowie’s rendition of “See Emily Play” was my second-hand introduction to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, and I appreciated that Bowie seemed to share my burgeoning affection for early Kinks and Who. Within another year or so, I would be listening intently to The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, and expand from there. Hadda start somewhere.

JOAN JETT: Joan Jett
One could argue that this shouldn’t count; I was already a fan of Joan Jett when she was in The Runaways, and I owned most of that group’s albums prior to their split and Jett’s subsequent solo career. But as much as I loved the best of The Runaways, I was really stoked by Jett’s first solo album, and snagged it at my first opportunity. Issued as an eponymous album in 1980 and reissued as Bad Reputation in 1981, this record was an immediate Top Ten album for me, an irresistible biff-bang-POP of bubbleglam. A Bo GentryJoey Levine song called “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” remains an undiscovered gem, and even the Gary Glitter covers are great. Opening track “Bad Reputation” sets the appropriate chip-on-the-shoulder/single-finger-in-the-air mise-en-scéne, and my daughter and I have an informal agreement to use that song as our father-daughter dance when she gets married. Because we don’t give a damn about our bad reputation.

TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS: You’re Gonna Get It
Although I’d read about Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in Phonograph Record Magazine, and adored hearing first-album track “American Girl” on the radio (all in 1977), it wasn’t until the summer of ’78 and the group’s second album that I felt compelled to participate in Pettymania. And I succumbed because Wolfman Jack told me to. Home from college for summer break, working part-time as a morning janitor at Sears, I had sufficient pocket change to buy records and see bands and buy more records. Win-win! Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers appeared on Midnight Special, the Friday night pop music TV showcase hosted by our gravel-voiced Wolfman Jack, and my jaw dropped at the sound of two new songs the group performed: “Listen To Her Heart” (which reminded me of The Searchers) and “I Need To Know” (which sounded like everything I ever wanted a rock ‘n’ roll song to sound like). I didn’t have my drivers license yet, so at the first opportunity, I asked my sister Denise to bring me to Penn Can Mall so I could buy the new Petty album, You’re Gonna Get It. Saying the album’s title out loud confused Denise, since she now thought I was hitting her up for a ride and demanding that she buy me a record. No, no–I’ve got pocket change, Denise! And I traded some of that pocket change for my first Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers album. There would be more to come. Get it? Got it. Good.

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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.

Categories
Boppin'

Faces On The Wall

My first rock ‘n’ roll posters were hand-me-downs, but they were choice hand-me-downs. When my sister went off to college in 1970, I assumed possession of her Beatles posters. These painted portraits of your John, your Paul, your George, and your Ringo remained on my wall while I was in middle school and high school, and left North Syracuse with me when I commenced my own rock ‘n’ roll matriculatin’ in the fall of ’77. The posters served me well on one occasion in ’76 or so, when WOLF-AM‘s Beatles Weekend offered a free Beatles LP to the first caller who could correctly identify the color of George Harrison’s eyes. A glance at the poster, a sprint to the phone in the kitchen, a hastily-dialed call to The Big 15 so I could blurt out BROWN!, and a copy of the Help! album was mine.

I also remember my sister having a Dylan poster–my first conscious exposure to Bashful Bobby Dylan’s name–but I think she must have taken that one with her on her journey to higher education. ‘Sfunny, because I remember much later mentioning Mr. Dylan to one of the guys in my dorm suite in the Spring of ’78; my suitemate glanced up at my Beatles portraits, and asked me which one was Dylan.

Although I plastered my walls with graven images in high school and college, I had relatively few commercial posters. In college, my cherished Beatles posters shared wall space with LP inserts (from the White Album, from The Beach Boys‘ Endless Summer, from a collection of movie sound bites by The Marx Brothers, and from records by The HeartbreakersThe Runaways, etc.), promo materials, maybe some comics art, Flashcubes gig flyers, magazine pages (including a poster ripped from a Bay City Rollers fan mag), a Molson Golden Ale poster, and a few Playboy centerfolds. The promo items–posters and flats–mostly came from Brockport’s Main Street Records, which offered such bonus bounty in its handy-dandy Free With Purchase! bin. Decorating was easy!

And I did pick up a few commercial posters along the way. I believe I got my KISS poster from my college friend Fred, who had outgrown KISS and wanted nothing further to do with the group. I bought a couple of posters upstairs at Syracuse’s Economy Bookstore, one featuring my boys The Sex Pistols and one starring my presumed future spouse Suzi Quatro. There was an awesome Batman poster I wanted, but never quite got around to buying. I did get a Suzanne Somers poster at Gerber Music; that was sorta puzzling, because although she was certainly cute, I didn’t have any particular thing for her, nor for her sitcom Three’s Company. Why a Suzanne poster, instead of, say, a Farrah Fawcett? No idea.

After college, I don’t recall ever putting up many posters in my apartments. I really wanted to get a poster of The Monkees circa the time of resurgent Monkeemania in ’86, but never saw one I thought appropriate. Now, decades later, I have but a few posters on my wall. There’s a Frank Miller The Dark Knight Returns poster framed in my office, staring down a great framed Ramones poster I received as a gift. But that’s it, other than the framed two-page spread from my Goldmine interview with Joan Jett (autographed by Ms. Jett herself) and the framed artwork from Rhino Records‘ Poptopia! CDs, which Rhino gave me as a thank-you bonus for writing the liner notes to the ’90s Poptopia! disc, plus a few small items (a picture of Syracuse University basketball great Gerry McNamara, an autographed picture of Red Grammer, my Ramones wall clock, and a wall hanging my sister gave me decades ago, which reads A Creative Mind Is Rarely Tidy). That’s the sum total of wall decorations in my office at home.

I still have those same Beatles posters. They’re a bit tattered now, certainly worn, rolled up in a drawer because there’s no longer any point in even trying to flatten them or do a better job of preserving them. George Harrison’s eyes are still brown. The Pistols, KISS, and Suzanne Somers sheets are long gone; even Suzi Q has moved on. The Beatles remain. John. Paul. George. Ringo. Dylan must have been on holiday that day.

I still regret never buying this one for my dorm room wall.

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You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.

Categories
Boppin'

The Way I Talk (brought to you by pop culture)

Catchphrases have been a part of mass popular culture for as long as there has been mass pop culture. It goes back at least as far as the golden age of radio, with things like “‘Tain’t funny, McGee” (from Fibber McGee And Molly), “Coming, Mother!,” (from Henry Aldrich), and the whole litany–“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane…!”–heralding a new adventure of Superman. Hell, it probably goes back farther than that. The thread continues uninterrupted through “Bang, ZOOM!,” “You bet your sweet bippie!,””Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?,” and about nine dozen lines from Seinfeld, plus whatever more recent iteration I’m too curmudgeonly to notice. The devil made me do it.

I was thinking of what lines from pop culture regularly find their way into my own speech patterns. Some are more obscure than others, I guess, because my personality tends to be more obscure than others. I think the two phrases that pop into my daily discourse most often are “I’m comin’, Beanie boy!” (from TV’s Beanie And Cecil cartoon) and “HERE! In the SHADOWS!” (from the radio adventures of The Shadow). The former is better-known than the latter, and either is more widely recognized than my three runners-up: “I can’t pronounce Baccaruda” (from a Plymouth Barracuda commercial, reprised on record by the British group The Barracudas), the seemingly non sequitur “Now CRAYON I can say!” (from an episode of The Monkees), and “I own a hundred pairs of stretch socks” (from Marvel Comics‘s 1960s humor title Not Brand Echh).

(I have also been known to recite the opening bits from the TV shows The Adventures Of Superman and The Green Hornet in their entirety with no discernible provocation. I also sometimes blurt out made-up intros to shows that never existed, starring comic book characters The Challengers Of The Unknown or the original Captain Marvel. I am most certainly me.)

I live inside my pop obsessions. A number of slightly-used lines from TV, movies, comics, songs, and other effervescent sources could find their own random way into my patter at any given moment. “Hey, that’s O-NED-ers!,” “You gotta be quick!,” and “Chad? Who’s Chad…?” from my favorite movie, That Thing You Do! “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” from the 1966 Batman film, a line I once spoke directly to actor Adam West when one of us was in full Batman costume (I won’t say which one of us that was). “Your bullets cannot harm me; my wings are like a shield of steel!” from the Batfink cartoon. “No brag, just fact” from TV’s The Guns Of Will Sonnett, generally delivered in my best approximation of a Walter Brennan impression. Quotes from John F. Kennedy‘s speeches (“We choose to go to the moon and those other things…!”) and quotes from JFK impersonator Vaughn Meader‘s hit comedy LP The First Family (“I should like to point out that I am standing here in my shorts dripping wet,” and “The rubber swan is mine”), each spoken with my attempt at the right voice as the torch is passed to a new generation. With vigor.

The beat goes on. Lines from Casablanca and The Maltese FalconThe Dark KnightThe Grapes Of WrathThe Marx Brothers, audience response lines from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the deep tone of James Earl Jones, all jumbled together in a quotation gumbo: This could be the start of a beautiful friendship, the stuff dreams are made of. Why so serious? I’ll be there. Members of the faculty, faculty members, students of Huxley and Huxley students–well, I guess that covers everything. From the freezer to your table. This is CNN.

As I recite all of these lines in my ongoing role as whatever it is I’m supposed to be, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether or not folks pick up on the specific reference. It’s not a trivia challenge, a round of Name That Catchphrase! From “To the Batpoles!” to speculation of what’s behind the curtain Carol Merrill is standing next to, it’s just the way I talk. An early clue to the new direction. Sorry about that, Chief.

I do think it’s time to bring “You bet your sweet bippie!” back into the general lexicon. Save the Texas prairie chicken. I am Spartacus. Live long and prosper. And let’s be careful out there.

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

(And you can still get our 2017 compilation This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4, on CD from Kool Kat Musik and as a download from Futureman Records.)

Get MORE Carl! Check out the fourth and latest issue of the mighty Big Stir magazine at bigstirrecords.com/magazine

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

Categories
Boppin'

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY! The Dave Clark Five, Glad All Over Again!

The One That Got Away! looks back on records, comic books, and other cool things that I really, really wanted, but never got around to getting.

THE DAVE CLARK FIVE: Glad All Over AgainEpic Records, 1975
In the often narrow-minded rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere of the mid 1970s, digging the decade-old Tottenham Sound of The Dave Clark Five wasn’t the coolest thing one could do. It wasn’t quite as unhip as, say,  declaring allegiance to Paul Revere & the Raiders or The Monkees, but it was still an invitation to scorn and dismissal. I just happened to like all three of these acts anyway. That played a large part in how I learned not to give a damn about what other people thought I should or shouldn’t like.


I was 15 years old in 1975. I kinda remembered the DC5 a little from their hitmakin’ heyday in the ’60s; one of my older siblings (presumably my sister Denise) had the “Bits And Pieces” 45, and that lonely little 7″ slab o’ vinyl was still in the family record library at the Me Decade’s midpoint. It was around ’75 or so that my ongoing interest in The Beatles fueled a full-on obsession with the ’60s, especially with the music of the British Invasion. I borrowed a bunch of my cousin Maryann’s records–45s by The Rolling Stones and Yanks The Lovin’ Spoonful, LPs by The Beatles, The AnimalsThe Searchers, and The Beach Boys–and immersed myself in the sound of the ’60s.

Maryann’s stash included two Dave Clark Five albums, Glad All Over and The Dave Clark Five Return! The title of “Glad All Over” seemed familiar, and a spin of the record confirmed that it was indeed a song I remembered from somewhere. That was enough. I was now a DC5 fan.

Over the next couple of years, I slowly expanded my knowledge and appreciation of the DC5. I heard “Any Way You Want It” and “Catch Us If You Can” on oldies radio shows, and eventually scored a couple of Dave Clark Five albums at the flea market (a really beat-up Glad All Over and a pretty nice copy of Having A Wild Weekend). More would follow.

 don’t know when I became aware of Glad All Over Again, a double-album DC5 retrospective issued by Epic Records in 1975. I have no recollection of ever seeing it in a record store; I’m not 100% positive I’ve ever seen it at all, though I think I did, possibly in the library of the campus radio station WBSU when I got to college in the fall semester of ’77, or in the DJ booth at the on-campus Rathskeller during the weekly Oldies Night on Thursdays. I know that I did read a review of it in an old issue of CREEM magazine that came into my possession at that time. If I saw the record, or even if I only heard of it, I knew one thing for sure: I wanted it. I really wanted it.


But it was not to be. Lacking an opportunity to buy Glad All Over Again, I continued to build my DC5 collection as best I could. A 45 of “Red And Blue”/”Concentration Baby” (and I much preferred the B-side), and a slow process of acquiring albums one by one: Coast To CoastAmerican TourGreatest HitsYou Got What It Takes5 By 5I Like It Like ThatWeekend In LondonThe Dave Clark Five Return!More Greatest HitsTry Too Hard, and Satisfied With You, in that approximate order. Years later I scored a bootleg CD two-fer of The Dave Clark Five Play Good Old Rock & Roll and Dave Clark And Friends. I still have every one of these, plus a couple more bootleg CDs and the official CD best-of The History Of The Dave Clark Five, rent-money collection purges be damned. My Dave Clark Five collection isn’t complete, but it’s close.

It doesn’t include Glad All Over Again. That’s the one that got away.

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Categories
Boppin'

Cereal Infidelity

Sugary breakfast cereals! Man, I loved that stuff when I was a kid in the ’60s, and no silly notion of healthier eating has ever really changed that. A bowl of some corporate variant of Sugar-Frosted Sugar Bomb Sugar Explosions! was a perfectly acceptable dessert option for me when I was younger, and it’s still one of my go-to sweet treats decades later.
I don’t recall having an awful lot of allegiance to one particular cereal over others. Maybe Quisp, because of the comic-book vibe of Jay Ward‘s TV commercials pitting the extraterrestrial imp Quisp against subterranean superhero Quake. Quisp and Quake. I’m told they were the same cereal in different shapes and textures, but don’t even try telling that to six-year-old Carl in 1966. Little Carl liked Quake. Little Carl loved Quisp.

Beyond that, though, I was positively promiscuous in my ardor for cereals. I tried and generally enjoyed them all. Kellogg’s OKs, with Yogi Bear on the box. Sugar Smacks. Sugar Pops. Sugar Crisp (later Super Sugar Crisp, with a desperate crack-addict cartoon bear wailing, Can’t get enough of Super Sugar Crisp!).Sugar Frosted Flakes. Sugar-Sparkled Twinkles. Rice Krinkles. Puffa-Puffa Rice. Cocoa Puffs. Cocoa Krispies. Ka-Boom. Lucky Charms. Clackers. King Vitaman. Count Chocula. Frankenberry. Cap’n Crunch. Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries. Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch. Apple Jacks. Trix. Fruit Loops. Frosty O’s. I confess I never cared for Life (sorry, Mikey!), nor for banana-flavored Wackies, and nothing referred to as granola ever appealed to me. I kinda dug Rice Cream Flakes. I could add sugar to Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies if I had to, but why bother with adding sugar when there were already large factories geared to the task of adding the sugar for me? See, that’s American efficiency!
The variety packs were cool, feeding–literally feeding!–the wanton nature of my cereal infidelity. You could empty the contents of a little cereal box into a bowl, just like you did with its bigger brother boxes, or you could slit the little carton, add milk, and gulp it down right out of its miniature package. More American efficiency.

As an added bonus, specially-marked boxes of Honey Combs or Alpha-Bits occasionally came with an actual, playable cardboard record for prototypical pop kids like me to cut out and groove with on the ol’ Close-N-Play. My small cache of cereal records is long gone now, but at one point I had little sweet-smelling sounds from The MonkeesThe Archies, and Bobby Sherman. I tell ya, Murray the [special] K had nothing on Post Cereal.)
Eventually, as a result of changing standards and the concerns of consumer watchgroups,  the offensive word sugar was banished from cereal. I blame Watergate, or Ralph Nader. The cereals were still cavity-inducing gateways to reckless ricocheting and puttin’ on a few pounds, but at least American youth had been saved from the evil of the S-word. 
When did that Flintstones cereal, Fruity Pebbles, come out? The ’70s, right? I think so. That eventually became the top of my sugar pops, maybe by the time I was in high school, definitely by the time I graduated from college in 1980. Loved the stuff. It’s theoretically possible that my yen for Fruity Pebbles was enhanced by whatever else I was doing that seemed to work up a sudden, urgent appetite. Red-eyed and ravenous. Don’t judge. 

Yabba Dabba…yeah.

I was also into Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Crispy Wheats And Raisins. In 1989, at the still-immature age of 29, the release of the Batman movie prompted me to buy a box or several of a new Batman cereal, which came packaged with a Batman piggy bank. I still have the bank, citizen, and a 1966 Batman cereal bowl to go with it.

Over the years, I’ve developed a preference for flaky cereals, probably to match my flaky personality. I still require my cereal to be sweet. I will occasionally dabble in–believe it or not–granola, which my wife likes, and which I’ve grown accustomed to. I like some of the seasonal Pumpkin Spice cereals that seem to horrify so many folks; I’m especially fond of Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini-Wheats. I am as God made me. 

The top. The Coliseum. The Louvre Museum.

But more often than not, my cereal choice trends to flakes. Vanilla Almond Special K was my Fave Rave for a while. Now, it’s Raisin Bran Crunch. God, I adore Raisin Bran Crunch. I rarely have it for breakfast–breakfast for me is usually peanut butter on a bagel, consumed after I get to work–but it is often my dessert. I’m good with that. Raisin Bran Crunch! After all these decades of cereal infidelity, it looks like I’m finally ready to settle down.
Now: ask me about Danish Go-Rounds. 

Pop Tarts’ sexy ‘n’ exotic European cousin. Oooh la la…!

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Boppin'

The Other Side Of The Hit (B-side Appreciation): Surfing And Spying

Before mp3, CD, and cassette singles, a hit record was always a 45. The A-Side had the hit. The B-Side? Sometimes it was a throwaway. Sometimes it was something more.


THE GO-GO’S: “Surfing And Spying”IRS, 1981; A-SIDE: “Our Lips Are Sealed”
I don’t really consider myself a collector. I know, I know–there is an abundance of evidence to suggest I’m delusional when I say that. I have stacks and stacks of records (LPs and 45s, CDs, cassettes, some flexi-discs, one Bay City Rollers eight-track), books, comic books, magazines, DVDs, VHS tapes, and probably some other miscellaneous ephemera I’ve forgotten in the moment. I like stuff, cool stuff. Nonetheless, I’m generally more into the heady experience such stuff intrinsically supplies–the sound of the music, the thrill of the word, the rush of images on screen, the BAM-SMASH-POW!! of the comics page–than I’m concerned with accumulating multiple variant copies of the same thing over and over. Yeah, I bought all four variant covers of the Archie Meets Ramones comic book–I am as God made me–but that’s an exception. Usually, if I buy a CD reissue of an LP I already have, I ditch the LP; if I buy a later expanded CD reissue of a disc I already have, the earlier CD goes out the door. It’s a rule of thumb, its application varies, but more often than not, if I have one copy of some great thing, I don’t feel a need to keep two copies of that same great thing.
This was always true of my 45s. Well, sorta–I didn’t really ditch those singles even when I later bought the LP. But if I was going to get the LP, I needed a reason to also buy the single. I needed a non-album B-side. There were a lot of those, justifying my purchases of singles by artists ranging from The Beatles and The Monkees through The RamonesR.E.M.The Records, and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. One of my favorites was a surf instrumental called “Surfing And Spying,” the B-side of “Our Lips Are Sealed” by The Go-Go’s.

The first Go-Go’s album Beauty And The Beat knocked me out, a near-perfect confection of confident, irresistible pop music. I heard “We Got The Beat” in 1981 (possibly the original import single version) on a Sunday night alternative-rock radio show, I heard the live version on a 2-LP various-artists soundtrack album called Urgh! A Music War, and I was a spontaneously-generated Go-Go’s fan. Other than Urgh, I think my first Go-Go’s purchase was the Beauty And The Beat album, followed by the “Our Lips Are Sealed” single. I needed that B-side.

The early ’80s represented a continuation of my ongoing education in the wonders of pop music. I describe the years 1976-78 as the crucible that forged my tastes, as I expanded from a 16-year-old who worshipped The Beatles (as I still do today) into an avid fan of punk, power pop, and new wave, but still always with an eye and ear out for the beguiling sounds of the past. Post-crucible, a college graduate in 1980, I became enthralled with the guitar-bass-drums appeal of the legendary instrumental combo The Ventures. The Ventures’ “Walk–Don’t Run” knocked me out on oldies radio, prompting an essential purchase of The Very Best Of The Ventures. Somewhere, probably in the pages of the fine rock ‘n’ roll magazine Trouser Press, I learned that Go-Go’s guitarist Charlotte Caffey wrote a song for The Ventures. Well! Had to have that, didn’t I? There was no ready option for me to buy “Surfing And Spying” by The Ventures, but I cowabunga’d and hung ten for the chance to own a version by its author’s own rockin’ band. (If pressed, I would concede the possibility that I mighta maybe had a little crush on all of the individual members of The Go-Go’s, particularly bassist Kathy Valentine. Sorry, Ventures, but ya just can’t compete with that.)

Even considered apart from my prerequisite girl-pop swooning, The Go-Go’s did a helluva job crafting and capturing a Ventures-type song. I loved the record, and played it often. I don’t understand why it was omitted from the expanded CD reissue of Beauty And The Beat, nor why its only CD appearance seems to be on the two-disc Return To The Valley Of The Go-Go’s anthology set. It’s an important song for me, and it was important for the growth of my awareness and appreciation of ’60s instrumental rock. Before “Surfing And Spying,” I had my Ventures best-of and the 45 of “Beatnik Fly” by Johnny & the Hurricanes; after The Go-Go’s, my scope expanded to include latter-day instrumental groups like The Raybeats and Jon & the Nightriders, and classics like “Mr. Moto” by The Belairs, “Penetration” by The Pyramids, “Pipeline” by The Chantays, and the incredible “Miserlou” by Dick Dale & his Del-Tones. In later years, I’d learn of Link Wray, and of British instrumental gods The Shadows. It was all music simply too good for words.

I saw The Ventures play live at a club show in the late ’80s. I never did have a chance to see The Go-Go’s. I don’t remember whether or not The Ventures’ amazing live set included “Surfing And Spying,” but if it didn’t, it should have. It’s a great song, and it deserves to be considered right alongside recognized Ventures essentials like “Walk–Don’t Run,” “Hawaii Five-O,” and “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue.” And honestly, I think Beauty And The Beat would have been perfect (rather than just near-perfect) if “Surfing And Spying” had replaced “Automatic” on the original LP. SURF! SPY…! Some records are just plain meant for the collector in me.

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Guilt-free Pleasures: “I Never Thought It Peculiar,” by The Monkees

There is really no such thing as a guilty pleasure in pop music. Unless you happen to love neo-Nazi ditties or glorifications of hatred or violence, I’d say it’s okay for you to dig whatever you wanna dig. Yes, even the hits of The Eagles. Why? BECAUSE THEY’RE POP SONGS! Guilt-Free Pleasures (A Defense Against The Dark Arts) celebrates pop songs. The guilty need not apply.

THE MONKEES: “I Never Thought It Peculiar”
I never thought it peculiarThat you never gave me a smileI wasn’t socially suitedTo make it worth your whileOh, no….
Our own paths through the landscape of pop culture are directed by quirks and idiosyncrasies. We may have points of common ground–a hit movie or TV show everyone within our peer group saw, a top record we all heard on the radio in heavy rotation–but there are also less-shiny pop artifacts only some of us know, experienced in less-than-universal circumstances. There are TV shows we loved as kids that no one else seems to even remember much, if at all. There are records our memories insist must have been ubiquitous mega-smashes, because we remember ’em, in spite of the fact that they never occupied a second of AM or FM airspace on any radio known to boy or girl. They are the flowers in the dustbin (as The Sex Pistols would say). The world at large may be indifferent to their charm, but they matter to us.
And I never thought it peculiarThat my heart always beat like a drumEach time I would see you walk by meYou were as pretty as they come
Within the cavalcade of memory and impression I recall from being a kid in the ’60s and into the early ’70s, it seems to me that The Monkees had more hits than Billboard chart histories insist. Wasn’t “(Theme From) The Monkees” a hit? Howzabout “She?” “Papa Gene’s Blues?” “Gonna Buy Me A Dog?” C’mon, “(Look Out) Here Comes Tomorrow” must have been huge; how could it not have been…?!
But these weren’t hits, nor were they even singles. They were LP tracks I heard on my brother Art’s copies of the first two Monkees albums in 1966 and ’67, catchy ditties I likely also heard on The Monkees television series. Their everyday familiarity to me fooled my brain into thinking they were chart-toppers like “Last Train To Clarksville” and “I’m A Believer.” 
They were not. Yet I loved them as if they were.
Ain’t that peculiar?
As popular as The Monkees had been in the ’60s, the rock establishment in the ’70s was determined to toss the group and its legacy lock, stock, and little red maracas into the dustbin as well. By the time people tried to tell me that I couldn’t possibly like The Monkees, I already loved The Monkees, and I’d already determined that nobody could ever dictate what I could or couldn’t like. I’ve told that story elsewhere, notably in my account of seeing The Monkees live and of wishing to induct them into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The Monkees transcend my concepts of the guilty or even guilt-free pleasure.

n The Monkees’ canon, a clunky little number called “I Never Thought It Peculiar” is the closest thing I have to an exception.
Yeah, there aren’t an awful lot of folks who love this one. “I Never Thought It Peculiar” was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, the ace tunesmiths who created a number of classic songs for The Monkees, from the TV show’s theme through “Last Train To Clarksville,” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” “She,” “Words,” and “Valleri,” among many others. As performers, Boyce & Hart appeared on the TV shows Bewitched and I Dream Of Jeannie, released a bunch of singles and albums, and scored a # 8 hit in 1967 with “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight.” 

“I Never Thought It Peculiar” was something of a throwaway. It had been written and recorded during sessions for second album More Of The Monkees, and relegated to the vaults, unreleased. The track had no discernible sense of cool. As sung by heartthrob Davy Jones, it was guileless pop fodder, music hall, the sort of chirpy but forgettable dreamy-eyed luv song a teen-idol pinup could sing sweetly to his smitten little Tiger Beat girl (and vice versa). It didn’t appear on a record until it was unceremoniously exhumed to fill dead space at the end of Changes, the 1970 Micky Dolenz-Davy Jones vehicle that was the final album released under the Monkees brand name, after Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith had already left Monkeeshines behind them. It was not a hit record by any definition.

Making my own way through the ’70s, I discovered over time that The Monkees had released more albums than the mere two I remembered. There wasn’t much information readily available regarding The Monkees’ discography, but watching reruns of the TV show proved there were more Monkees songs out there. Through flea markets and friends, I filled in a lot of the gaps.
I had never seen nor heard a copy of Changes until the fall of my freshman year at college in Brockport, NY, late 1977. I was interested in joining the campus radio station WBSU–because, y’know, playing records–and took a tour of the studio. It was there that I saw this Monkees album I didn’t know. Changes

It was the only Monkees album the station had. I looked it over, but didn’t recognize the songs. I figured (correctly) that “Oh My My” probably wasn’t the Ringo Starr hit with the same name. I scanned these unfamiliar titles, “I Love You Better” and “99 Pounds” and “Midnight Train,” and settled my gaze on the album’s final track: “I Never Thought It Peculiar.”
And I began to sing that song to myself. I remembered the song from…hey, where the hell could I have remembered that song from…?! I knew I’d never listened to Changes. I was pretty certain the song hadn’t been played on the radio, and I was likewise sure it wasn’t among the few Monkees records I’d cut off the backs of specially-marked boxes of Post Honey Combs cereal. But I knew the song! I did!
Over the next few weeks, I pestered WBSU DJs with request after request, mixing urgent pleas for oldies by The Dave Clark Five and Paul Revere and the Raiders with fevered demands for the punk/new wave sounds of The Ramones and Blondie. And I often requested “I Never Thought It Peculiar.” The first time I heard that on WBSU confirmed my memory of it, from whatever secret place that memory was spawned. 
(My taste in rockin’ pop was decidedly out of sync with most of my fellow students, including most of the jocks at WBSU. There were exceptions, but most of ’em disliked my oldies, and really disliked my punk. And they hated The Monkees more than they hated any of the rest.)

Hating The Monkees. I’m sorry, I could never understand how anyone could hate a sound that made me feel so happy. But I did have to concede that “I Never Thought It Peculiar” wasn’t particularly hip. It was gawky, square, as awkward as unrequited love. I wrote its goopy lyrics in my notebooks, fighting for space alongside the words from lovelorn gems by The Rubinoos and Freddie and the Dreamers, the presumed soundtrack of an earnest love affair yet to be: a college girl whose eye I would catch, whose hand I would hold, whose lips I would kiss, a girl whose heart would beat next to mine. Peculiar? Infatuation’s like that. Love’s for damned sure like that, too.
So I sent some flowers to your doorstepAnd wrote on the card, “I love you”I don’t know whyBut I do know that IHad a feeling that you liked me, too

Her favorite Monkees song is “Oh My My,” from Changes. Peculiar together!

Changes isn’t much of an album, but it has its moments. “Oh My My” is a fantastic little chunk of strutting hard pop with a bubbly soul, Dolenz’s breathy vocals delivering an AM-ready juggernaut that should have been a hit. “I Love You Better” is agreeably reminiscent of Neil Diamond. The rest is marginal, culminating in the terminally uncool but somehow engaging trifle “I Never Thought It Peculiar,” the song that I knew somewhere.
I wouldn’t figure out the mystery of my forgotten introduction to “I Never Thought It Peculiar” until a few years later. Although I was old enough (if barely) to watch The Monkees’ TV series during its original 1966-68 prime time run, my true immersion in the Monkees experience came when the show was rerun on Saturday mornings from 1969 to 1973. Around 1970, when Changes was released, suits at Colgems Records hoped to capitalize on this TV exposure to spur sales for new Monkees product, so tracks from Changes replaced some of the older tracks previously heard playing behind Monkees romps on individual episodes. One of those freshly-inserted songs was, of course, “I Never Thought It Peculiar.” The song sunk its gummy hooks deeply into my ten-year-old psyche, and slumbered there until jolted awake when I was in college.
So I never thought it peculiarWhen you stopped to ask me the timeAnd I don’t think it’s terribly peculiarThat now, little girl, you are mine
There are no guilty pleasures in pop music. It’s pop music ferchrissakes. As I approach my 60th birthday, I’m still the boy who loved The Monkees, the boy who fell in love with girls, the boy who learned that love is defined by those who love, not by those who look on. I’m still a bit peculiar myself, and adamantly unlikely to change. My path remains quirky and idiosyncratic, and I’m still fascinated by flowers in the dustbin. The Sex Pistols wound up covering The Monkees, by the way. These flowers still bloom, for all who care to see. Peculiar? Proudly so.
VERDICT: Innocent, not guilty.


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Pop Sunday

Marshall Holland / Paper Airplane

Marshall.Holland

Paper Airplane (Mystery Lawn Records)

https://marshallholland.bandcamp.com/album/paper-airplane-2

Be sure to circle September 4th on your calendar because that’s the day Marshall Holland’s long awaited fifth studio album, Paper Airplane, will be available. Not only has the San Francisco-based  singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist already issued a pair of singles from the forthcoming set to whet hungry appetites, but yours truly has been fortunate enough to be treated to a sneak preview of the whole album.

The title track has been tapped as the first single from the album. Bathed in a hypnotic light, Paper Airplane floats with ease to Marshall’s soothing purr that emotes the joy of being greeted by a sunny morning, making a paper airplane and imagining climbing  on board and flying high in the sky. The dreamy flower pop mellowness of the song is pierced with a run of hard-hitting licks, and subsequently cops a trick or two from The Fifth Dimension’s 1967 chart-topper, Up, Up And Away. Also selected as a single is the beautifully performed and arranged Waiting For That Peace & Love, which imparts optimism in this challenging and confusing time we currently live in. Gushing with classically-attuned piano work, the contemplatively-conceived sentiment affirms Marshall’s gift for playing and composing music that touches the heart and the soul.

Marshall’s warm and polished vocals, complemented by the orderly construction and melodic metaphysics of his material, frequently echo the kind of soft rock sounds that were so prominent on AM radio during the early seventies. Songs like When The Rain Comes and Look Into My Eyes further reflect the tone and technicalities of the genre Marshall primarily mines. 

While the influence of bands such as Bread, America and Seals and Croft do dominate the proceedings on Paper Airplane, a jangly country folk tenor fires I’m Checkin’ Out, which was authored by co-producer Michael Brooks. Then there’s the sassy power pop of Don’t Do It that could possibly be The Monkees in disguise,  where She Buys A Dress kicks off to a rush of frenzied surf styled drumming before detouring into a new wave realm populated with nervous rhythms, nail-biting hooks and bouncy keyboard drills.

Fashioned of songs that evoke a variety of thoughts and feelings, Paper Airplane is a rewarding effort from a very talented fellow who knows how to mold his art into something special. Those with a sweet tooth for ultra-catchy pop songs are advised to take an audio ride on Paper Airplane and prepare for a harmonious flight.