This appeared previously here at Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) in October of 2018. It has been slightly adjusted to reflect how it will appear in my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1).

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

THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Uncle John’s Band

Written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter

Produced by Bob Matthews. Betty Cantor, and Grateful Dead

From the album Workingman’s Dead, Warner Brothers Records, 1970

It’s the same story the crow told me
It’s the only one he knows
Like the summer sun you come
And like the wind you go
Ain’t no time to hate
Barely time to wait
Oh, but what I want to know is
Where does the time go?

OCTOBER 21, 2018
We try to hold on. We try to cling to things we cherish. We can’t hold on. We shouldn’t. We can’t.

When I was a teenaged college student matriculatin’ my way through the late ’70s, I actively loathed the Grateful Dead. To this power-poppin’ punk rocker, the Dead’s music, image, and interminably jamming vibe were anathema. Gimme the Ramones. Gimme the Sex Pistolsthe Buzzcocksthe Flashcubes. Gimme British Invasion. Gimme the Monkees. Gimme something short ‘n’ sharp, fast ‘n’ catchy, and play it loud. Gimme some truth. The Grateful Dead? No. Thanks anyway, but no.

Nonetheless, somewhere in this time frame, I heard the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band.” Maybe not for the first time–it was, after all, released way back in 1970, the lead-off track on the Workingman’s Dead album, and some radio station somewhere must have played it within my sovereign air space–but maybe for the first time that mattered. I still found time to hate the Grateful Dead. I made an exception for “Uncle John’s Band.”

Why? There was something…inviting about the track. I dunno. Something comforting, something pretty, something intrinsically appealing on a deeper level. Something that mattered. By the early ’80s, I quipped that “Uncle John’s Band” was a great track, and that I just wished it was by the Hollies instead of the Dead. I think I said the same thing about Van Halen‘s “Dance The Night Away” and “Lorelei” by Styx, in each case ripping off something I’d once read in Phonograph Record Magazine about “Cherry Baby” by Starz. Collectively, these were the beginnings of my eventual conviction that even a band you despise might be capable of putting out one track you adore.

I grew up. I’m sure I have that in writing somewhere. I graduated from college in 1980, got married in 1984, and became father to a newborn baby girl in 1995. Now, that baby girl is herself a college graduate, herself deep into the process of growing up. And today, she’s moving out of our house. She’ll be close by–not even ten minutes away–and she’ll still carpool to work with her mother during the week. I’m sure I’ll see her often. It’s a good thing, a great thing. A necessary thing. Our pride in our daughter far outshines the fragile nature of our emotions. It is a moment to celebrate. My eyes sting just the same. Where does the time go?

She and her boyfriend are moving into the house where I lived from 1960 until 1980, birth to graduation. My mother’s house. Mom doesn’t live there anymore. Dad passed away in 2012, and my sister (who lives in England) bought the house to keep it in the family as the inevitable marched its odious way in our direction. The inevitable happened faster than anticipated, as my mother fell at home in December of 2017. It soon became apparent that she could no longer live on her own, and she relocated permanently to a nursing home facility by the end of 2017. Ain’t no time to hate. Barely time to wait.

I see Mom every day after work. I check in, I chat, I see if there’s anything she needs, anything I can do for her. I get her audio books, even though her hearing is diminished. I make sure her TV is working, even though she’s now legally blind. I get her to the few doctor’s appointments that aren’t handled on the premises. I check her mail. I handle her accounts. I make sure she’s adequately stocked with whatever is appropriate to keep her as comfortable and content as we can. And then I go home for supper. I am Sisyphus. And like the summer sun I come, and like the wind I go.

I started to develop a little bit of appreciation for the Grateful Dead in the ’80s. Perhaps to my horror, I discovered that I loved their 1987 MTV hit “Touch Of Grey,” and I felt compelled to purchase both their then-current LP In The Dark and the greatest-hits set Skeletons In The Closet. The ’67 psychedelic rocker “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” became another fave rave, much later joined by another debut album track called “Cream Puff War,” plus “Can’t Come Down,” an earlier track dating from when the Dead were billed as the Warlocks. Cool stuff, all of this.

“Uncle John’s Band” remained the kingpin. Such a mystically comforting track, even as we feel time slipping away, the sands within its hourglass dropping at a rate too rapid to comprehend. Come hear Uncle John’s band playing to the tide/Come with me or go alone, he’s come to take his children home. Magnificent sadness, magnificent glory. In spite of the obvious fact that it really doesn’t sound anything like the Kinks, it is somehow a peer to the peerless music of my favorite Kinks album, The Village Green Preservation Society. At 18 or 19, I never envisioned myself speaking glowingly of the Grateful Dead alongside the Kinks. At 18 or 19, I never envisioned the melancholy ache of the question: Where does the time go?
Tomorrow, I’m going to help my daughter install some smoke detectors in her new abode. I’ll see my Mom tonight, like every night. I’ll eat supper with my wife in a house that will seem emptier than it did just a moment ago. I will hold her close. We first met forty years ago this weekend. My roommate at the time was into the Grateful Dead, and he vowed to make a Deadhead out of me. It never happened, except in the ways that it did. 

Well the first days are the hardest days. Life has never looked like Easy Street. There has always been danger at our door. Another singing group tried to tell us that all we’d need was love. We also need to be strong. We need to hold on. Our walls are built of cannonballs. And we’ve got some things to talk about, here beside the rising tide. We’re grateful. We ain’t dead yet.

POSTSCRIPT: Mom left us on December 9th, 2021. Time is the enemy. Yet it’s an enemy we’re grateful to have for as long as we have it.

“Uncle John’s Band” written by Jerome J. Garcia and Robert Hunter


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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 You can read about our history here.

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

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.


I’ve written about a number of albums over the years (especially when I was freelancing for Goldmine), but I’ve always been a single-song guy. Each of the tracks in today’s fake playlist is an individual song that was the focus of a post right here at Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Most of them came from my Greatest Record Ever Made! series, though some were originally posted in some other series instead. The curious can follow links to read my original post about each song. Ready to bop? We’ve got some songs for you.

This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl–y’know, the real one–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 You can read all about this show’s long and weird history here: Boppin’ The Whole Friggin’ Planet (The History Of THIS IS ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RADIO). TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS are always welcome.

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

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download

PS: SEND MONEY!!!! We need tech upgrades like Elvis needs boats. Spark Syracuse is supported by listeners like you. Tax-deductible donations are welcome at

You can follow Carl’s daily blog Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) at

Fake TIRnRR Playlist: The Songs Of Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do)

THE MONKEES: I Never Thought It Peculiar

THE RAMONES: Babysitter


GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS: Midnight Train To Georgia


THE GO-GO’S: Surfing And Spying

WHAM!: Freedom


WILSON PICKETT: In The Midnight Hour


WANDA JACKSON: Let’s Have A Party

LITTLE RICHARD: The Girl Can’t Help It

MANNIX: Highway Lines

JOHNNY NASH: I Can See Clearly Now

YOKO ONO: Kiss Kiss Kiss

ELTON JOHN: Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

HEART: Kick It Out

CHUCK BERRY: Promised Land



MATERIAL ISSUE: Kim The Waitress


THE MONKEES: The Girl I Knew Somewhere

LOVE: 7 And 7 Is

BIG STAR: September Gurls

DAVID BOWIE: Life On Mars?



CRAZY ELEPHANT: Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’


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

THE BUZZCOCKS: Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)

THE SEARCHERS: Hearts In Her Eyes


THE RAMONES: I Don’t Want To Grow Up


THE KINKS: Waterloo Sunset

THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Uncle John’s Band

THE SMITHEREENS: Behind The Wall Of Sleep

THE WONDERS: That Thing You Do!


LESLEY GORE: You Don’t Own Me

THE MONKEES: Porpoise Song (Theme From Head)

THE WHO: I Can’t Explain

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Girls In Their Summer Clothes

GRAND FUNK: We’re An American Band




THE BEATLES: Thank You, Girl

THE RARE BREED: Beg, Borrow And Steal

THE JAYHAWKS: I’m Gonna Make You Love Me


THE LEFT BANKE: Walk Away, Renee

KISS: Shout It Out Loud

THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: Rock And Roll Love Letter

THE KINKS: You Really Got Me

EYTAN MIRSKY: This Year’s Gonna Be Our Year

What’s Not On Your iPod?

What’s not on your iPod?

My friend Dave Murray has posed this question a few times. It would be a good subject for a poll of music fans, a chance to explore what seemingly essential artists one would elect personally to just skip entirely. I’d think the discussion should be limited to the plausible; you wouldn’t expect a 58-year-old rockin’ pop fan like me to have much–if any–current Top 40, country, metal, or hip hop in my listening queue, so that’s not what we’re talking about. It’s also not about an iPod specifically, nor any other portable music player. It can be about the music in your head, the stuff you’d listen to when you call the shots and you make the playlist. For the sake of expedience, let’s call that your iPod.

So. What’s not on your iPod?

Dave and I have bounced the question back and forth for a good long time. For me, a lot of my expected pop bogeymen are on my iPod. I’ve got Bob Seger (I like “Get Out Of Denver,” “Heavy Music,” and “Hollywood Nights”). I’ve got The Eagles (“Take It Easy” and “Already Gone”). I’ve got Styx (I love both “Lorelei” and “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye”). I even have the hated REO Speedwagon (“Tough Guys”). I don’t have a lot of Dylan or Springsteen, but they’re there. The Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd, too. Amidst my preferred mix of BeatlesKinksRamonesFlashcubesMonkeesChuck Berry, power pop, Motown, British Invasion, soul, bubblegum, surf, punk…well, it’s all part of my preferred mix, up to and including Phil OchsPercy Faith,and Grandmaster Flash. It’s all pop music, anyway.

What’s not on my iPod? Well….

As I was listening to the radio the other day, the local airwaves reminded me of a popular classic rock act whose music always prompts me to change the station, every time. And that act is Lynyrd Skynyrd.

It’s not that I hate Lynyrd Skynyrd. Lynyrd Skynyrd is in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and it’s a group that deserves to be in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. I’m not hostile. I’m not exactly indifferent, but it’s music that I just don’t care to listen to. Ever. I understand its appeal. The audience for that appeal does not appeal to me.

There are, of course, many other acts whose records are likewise alien to the rich ‘n’ fertile playground of my iPod. There’s no Frank Sinatra or Stevie Ray Vaughan. There’s no Van Halen, though it’s theoretically possible I would consider adding “Dance The Night Away” or “Runnin’ With The Devil” someday. There’s for damned sure no Dave Matthews Band; that one’s probably a given. And I’d take a truncheon to the damned thing if it tried to play Kid Rock, whom I loathe. But, among worthy acts that just ain’t my cuppa, Lynyrd Skynyrd tops the list of what’s not on my iPod. Turn it up? Turn it off. Your iPod may vary. What’s not on your iPod?


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. 

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Rockaway Beach (On The Beach)

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

This entry originally appeared as part of a larger post, and is not currently intended for my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1).


Written by Ramones and General Johnson

Produced by Ben Wolff and Andy Dean

Single, Forward Records, 1994

I first heard about this beach-music team-up of Joey Ramone and former Chairmen of the Board singer General Johnson when Joey Ramone called to tell me about in 1994. Yes, I am cooler than you are. (I should probably let that illusion stand in place, but Joey’s call to me was just a follow-up to a Goldmine interview we’d done within the previous week, as he wanted to make sure I was aware of a number of projects he was doing outside the Ramones‘ aegis. He never called again. My claim to being cooler than you are is, y’know, suspect at best.)

But: back to the record! It’s an ongoing testimony to the greatness of Ramones songs that they can thrive in different interpretations. The Swedish girl-pop group Shebang did a girl-pop bubblegum version of “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.” Ronnie Spector covered “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” and “She Talks To Rainbows.” KISS did “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?” with more kitchen-sink Phil Spector than the Spector-produced original. The Nutley Brass and the Ramonetures did entire albums of Ramones covers, in the respective styles of elevator music and surf instrumentals. It all worked. These Blitzkrieg bops remain more versatile and universal than anyone realized at the time.

Remaking the power-pop bubblepunk of “Rockaway Beach” as a soulful slow-groove Carolina beach shag would seem a preposterous notion…until you hear it. Whoa! Grab a blanket, grab your honey, and snuggle by the fire as the sun descends. It’s not hard, not far to reach. Hitch a ride, baby.

If you like what you see here on Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do), please consider supporting this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon, or by visiting CC’s Tip Jar. Additional products and projects are listed here.

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 You can read about our history here.

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

Pop With POWER!

This piece was commissioned by John M. Borack and S.W. Lauden for Big Stir magazine # 6, a special edition asking that musical question, IS THIS POWER POP? The magazine is still available and highly recommended, and I was damned proud to participate. Here’s my contribution to the discussion.

Pop With POWER!

By Carl Cafarelli

“After all, power pop means pop with POWER! Not some whimpering simp in a Beatles haircut.”

–Gary Sperrazza!, Bomp! magazine

It was a straightforward sequence of events. I broke up with a girl just before my 18th birthday. Just after my 18th birthday, I saw my first power pop band.

That band was the Flashcubes, soon to be called Syracuse’s own power pop powerhouse, and quickly perched alongside the Beatles and the Ramones in the trinity of my all-time Fave Raves. When I saw them in January of 1978, few (if any) were calling them “power pop,” a phrase which was just beginning to work its way into the lexicon. The Flashcubes were a punk band. A punk band that covered the Kinks, the Who, the Searchers, the Hollies, and the Yardbirds, sure, but still a punk band.

And they were absolutely power pop. Loud, proud, and hook-laden. Pop with power.

Many deny any relationship between punk and power pop. Yeah, punk’s angry clatter is certainly a breed apart from Badfinger. But within punk’s first wave, groups like the Ramones, Generation X, Eddie and the Hot Rods, the Buzzcocks, and the Jam were applying battered hearts to tattered sleeves, running AM radio influences through a primal DIY aesthetic. Some pop fans require jangle and harmonies as power pop prequisites, and dismiss, say, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” for its lack of either. But man, it ain’t power pop if it doesn’t have power.

My idea of power pop came from writers Greg Shaw and Gary Sperrazza!, via the power pop issue of Bomp! Magazine in 1978. The phrase predates them; “power pop” was coined by Pete Townshend in 1966, describing what the Who were playing, what the Small Faces were playing, what the Beach Boys had played prior to getting all sober and mature with Pet Sounds. Shaw and Sperrazza! saw the sound of the early Who as the Ur-Example of power pop. Bomp! put forth a simple power pop equation: the punk energy of the Sex Pistols plus the catchy pop of Shaun Cassidy equals the power pop of the Who.

I concur.

(And, whether we start power pop’s shot clock with the Beatles [my choice] or with the Who [Bomp!‘s pick], it’s clear that the style existed in the ’60s. I reject the notion that it was created in the ’70s as an attempt to recapture the excitement of the British Invasion. The latter view reduces power pop to mere revival, no more vital than freakin’ Sha Na Na. Power pop is not a revival. Revivals are well-behaved. Power pop explodes.)

Bomp!‘s power pop issue also extolled the unassailable cred of the Ramones as power pop touchstones. The Ramones wed the promise of AM radio with the 1-2-3-4! ferocity of velocity, pure pop for punk people. When I was corresponding with Shaw in the ’90s, he still maintained that no discussion of power pop could have any meaning if it didn’t include “Rockaway Beach.”

The discussion has continued, long after Shaw and Sperrazza! have departed. As power pop fans, we are passionate and confident in our individual, often contrasting points of view. That’s okay. We’re friends here. Friends can disagree and remain friends. (Except for the guy who called me a ninny for regarding the Ramones as power pop. That guy can take a hike.) Squeeze and Marshall Crenshaw don’t fit within my idea of power pop; I love ’em just the same. You don’t agree that the Ramones are power pop? I won’t let my conviction that you’re wrong prevent you from buying me a beer. Cheers!

My own POV can shift over time. But I have a pretty good idea of how I define power pop, and it goes back to that Bomp! equation: Punk + Pop = Power Pop. Still, there are shades and subtleties to consider. And how many power pop acts are really 100% power pop all of the time? Raspberries did the country-flavored “Last Dance.” Big Star did “The India Song.” The Ramones did “Warthog.” The Who did…well, the Who did a lot of stuff, didn’t they? On the other hand, Styx is certainly not a power pop band, no way, no how…except with “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye,” which is as power pop as anything ever. Musician Marty Ross recently suggested that power pop is an approach rather than a genre. Bomp! said otherwise, but I think Marty’s right on this count. Hey, this means we can have it all!

Do the definitions matter? Yes. And no. Yeah, we should have recognized parameters, common ground to understand what the hell we’re going on about when discussing power pop favorites (or ska favorites, rockabilly favorites, et al.). Power pop’s just a label, a tool to help identify sounds that may appeal to us. Recommended If You Like Cheap Trick. Or, as AM radio told me when it turned me on to Badfinger, “These guys sound like the Beatles.”

My favorite music had a name. I didn’t know that name until I was in college.

“Power pop’” is a misunderstood genre, and there will never be a true consensus on its meaning and parameters. It’s my favorite music. It’s not my only favorite music–I adore so many sounds that fall outside my strict definition of power pop, even many that fall outside a broader, nebulous approximation–but it’s my primary boppin’ raison d’être. My awareness of power pop, my understanding of its meaning, began in 1978 with an incredible magazine called Bomp!

I wrote the above a few years back, introducing a reminiscence about how important Bomp! was to me, particularly in developing my understanding of power pop. Bomp! is still my go-to reference in that regard. Greg Shaw’s equation still holds. Gary Sperrazza!’s statement still rings true: “Power pop means pop with POWER!”

Pop with power. Whimpering simps need not apply. No matter what kind of haircut they have.

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon, or by visiting CC’s Tip Jar. Additional products and projects are listed here.

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 You can read about our history here.

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

Flashcubes On Fire!

These are my liner notes for Flashcubes On Fire, a new CD preserving the Flashcubes‘  incendiary live show at the Firebarn in Syracuse on May 26, 1979. I’ve been waiting more than 42 years for this. You wanna know why the Flashcubes are up with the Beatles and the Ramones in the pantheon of my all-time favorite groups? This CD offers an invigorating glimpse at the answer.

Writing about the Flashcubes brings out the best in me. Syracuse’s own power pop powerhouse. It’s a Saturday night in Syracuse. Get ready. Get set. 



At its best, live music is alchemy in action, capable of transforming the air around us into pure gold. This mystic process is fueled by so many ingredients, both physical and phantasmic. Sweat. Love. Lust. Hate. Alcohol. Hunger. Ambition. Greed. Generosity. Divine inspiration. Betrayal. Heartbreak. Laughter. Tears. One pill that makes you larger, one pill that makes you small. Amplifiers, power chords, the beat of the bass and drums. Voices rising in anger or exultation. Taking a sad song and making it better. One for the money, two for the show. NOISE. Beautiful, transcendent noise. The sound of gold.

In 1979, I was 19 years old. I reveled in this golden sound. My preferred alchemists were a fantastic rock ‘n’ roll group called the Flashcubes. My go-to goldmine was the Firebarn.

The Firebarn Tavern, a former fire station, was on Montgomery Street in Syracuse. In the mid ’70s, before there were Flashcubes, the Syracuse Cinephile Society held screenings upstairs at the Firebarn; my cousin Maryann took me to see films starring Humphrey Bogart and Errol Flynn, and my parents endured a long evening indulging me for all twelve chapters of the 1941 Adventures Of Captain Marvel movie serial. 

From the age of 18 on, I saw tons of bands at the Firebarn: the Fast, New Math, the Dead Ducks, the James L. Cortland Band, Distortion, the Most, the Battered Wives, and others that the generous flow of beer blocks in my memory. I was not among the tiny group that witnessed the Flashcubes share a 1978 Firebarn gig with a new British group called the Police. But I was at the Firebarn a lot. The bartender recognized me as I came in, and had an ice-cold Miller ready by the time I got to the bar. 

And then: upstairs! The movies weren’t upstairs anymore. Upstairs was for bands.

That’s where you’d find the Flashcubes, bending air into gold. They were gonna be the biggest stars in the whole goddamned world. I knew it. If history contradicted me, I regret nothing. I wasn’t wrong. The world was wrong.

But in 1979, the world was poised to get it right. There was an undeniable buzz. When the Flashcubes debuted in 1977, they didn’t seem…normal. Punk rock? Power pop? Original songs? Cover choices that favored the Sex Pistols and Television rather than Zeppelin? In Syracuse…?! 

Things evolved. In 1979, The Syracuse New Times‘ Mike Greenstein proclaimed the Flashcubes the local band of the year. Gigs drew exuberant crowds. On this very set, you can hear future GRAMMY-winning recording engineer Ducky Carlisle introduce the Flashcubes with confidence: “One day, very soon from now, all you people are going to be able to say ‘I saw this band before they were famous.'” 

As the summer of ’79 approached, that day seemed imminent. Gold. Syracuse’s phenomenal pop combo. Gary, Arty, Paul, and Tommy. Like John, Paul, George, and Ringo, or Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy, the ‘Cubes were a fab and ferocious four:

Bassist Gary Frenay sang sweetly, played commandingly, and crafted surefire radio-ready confections, Central New York’s songwriting answer to Eric Carmen, Emitt Rhodes, and Paul McCartney. 

Guitarist Arty Lenin lived at the left of the dial before anyone heard the phrase, a six-string (and twelve-string!) shaman preoccupied with a million thoughts at once, from William Faulkner to jazz LPs to Miss September. 

Guitarist Paul Armstrong was this town’s first punk and # 1 rock ‘n’ roll fan, driven and hard-working, the individual most responsible for bringing that energy to the Syracuse scene, and described in local fanzine Poser as “Dennis the Menace all grown up.” 

Drummer Tommy Allen could have appeared on the covers of 16 and Tiger Beat, while simultaneously wielding fast and lethal sticks like heavy artillery in the battle for your heart and your wallet. 

Gold. Precious metal formed by British Invasion, maximum pop, absolute rock ‘n’ roll, the edgy sound of the underground, and the rush of AM Top 40 when AM Top 40 was cool. Put ’em all together. Let ’em play.

The Flashcubes were loud. The Flashcubes were invigorating. And the Flashcubes were on fire.

On May 26, 1979, the Flashcubes recorded a Firebarn show on multitrack, their only 1970s show to be preserved with that level of oomph. You can hear the sweat. The Firebarn’s upstairs could get hot. It was never hotter than this night. Bright lights. Guitars, bass, drums. Volume. Your ears are gonna be ringing for days. Ladies and gentlemen, The Flashcubes!

The tape is the Flashcubes’ greatest hits, live, from Arty’s Playboy appreciation “Taking Inventory” through the one-two bludgeoning of Paul’s “Got No Mind” and the stalwart “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” a Larry Williams song the Beatles taught us, with a little Link Wray to chase us home. It’s got Arty’s gorgeous treasure (and the Flashcubes’ first single) “Christi Girl,” Gary’s urgent “Wait Till Next Week” (their second single), Paul’s angry “Sold Your Heart,” pumpin’ covers of fave raves by the Raspberries, Big Star, the Kinks, the Who, Eddie Cochran, and Arthur Alexander (via a Beatles bootleg), and so much greatness from the Flashcubes’ own songbook. 

“She’s Leaving.” “Gone Too Far.” “No Promise,” which should have been their third and biggest single. Arty’s lost song “Cycle Of Pain” and Paul’s likewise-lost “You For Me,” both making their over-the-counter debuts here. Gary’s “Suellen,” later a single for Gary, Arty, and Tommy’s ace post-‘Cubes outfit Screen Test. “Muscle Beach.” “Beverly.” “Boy Scout Pinup.” “Girl From Germany.” “You’re Not The Police.” “Angry Young Man.” And Paul’s “A Face In The Crowd,” a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy performed by a group THISCLOSE to making it all come true.

Gold? Oh hell, yeah. The Flashcubes were pristine ‘n’ dirty gold. Stars? In 1979, the brass ring wouldn’t even know what grabbed it. As the summer beckoned, the Flashcubes shopped their demo to record labels. They did shows with the Ramones, Joe Jackson, 999, David Johansen. They had interest from high-powered management. My God, the Flashcubes were about to go big time.

And it all went away. 

Bad luck. Bad advice. Bad decisions. Gold traded for pyrite. Paul Armstrong was no longer a Flashcube. The Flashcubes were still great, but one could argue that they were no longer the Flashcubes, not as we knew them. The four would reunite in later years. They would play, they would tour and record, they would become legit legends of power pop. But that flashpoint when material gold was within reach, when the dreams written so large in the sky were near enough to touch and taste and take to the bank, THAT moment….

Gone. Like it was never there. But it was there. I remember it.

In 1979, the Syracuse summer was electric with promise. I was 19, a shy, misfit teen from the Northern suburbs, home from college until the fall, and having the time of my life. I was in love, falling ever more deeply in love with a girl I’d met at school. We saw each other every weekend. I had a full-time summer job, putting a little cash in my pocket. So there was romance, money to spend, and a giddy sense of freedom.

And there was gold. The summer could have lasted forever.

Even nostalgia can’t erase the bad times. By the end of that same summer of 1979, my favorite band had split, and one of my best friends was dead by his own hand. I thought the world would just crush me at that point. 

Yet I still look back on that summer as the best I ever had. See, there will always be heartbreak; there will always be tears and sadness, and there will always be an abyss that taunts us. But there will also be love, and there will also be music. In 1979, the Flashcubes were among the best live rock ‘n’ roll acts anywhere. My ears are still ringing. The moment lives on.

Flashcubes On Fire documents that precise moment, that pyrotechnic spark when the Flashcubes were at their peak: a quartet of rock ‘n’ rollers dead set for the toppermost of the poppermost. If you were there, you’ll never forget it. If you weren’t there, just close your eyes, open your imagination, and breathe in the gold. 

GOLD. You’re there now. You’re one of us, upstairs at the Firebarn. Grab a beer on your way up. Welcome to this golden world of promise under the bright, bright lights.

Carl Cafarelli

Syracuse Summer 2021

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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 You can read about our history here.

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

Cruisin’ Music

I listen to music while I’m driving. The car is my favorite place to listen to music; it’s also frequently almost my only place to listen to music, but it’s not merely my favorite by default. As a former pop journalist, I should try to propagate an image of sophistication and deliberation, retiring to my study, brandy in hand, intent on contemplating the splendor of a virgin vinyl Pet Sounds played through a 5.1 surround stereo system that cost more than I made in twenty years of freelancing for Goldmine. And…no. To be fair, there are decent meals that cost more than I made freelancing for Goldmine, but that’s irrelevant. Pop music was meant to be listened to on cheap speakers, loud and distorted, as you’re movin’ down the highway at 500 miles an hour. 

(This example is intended as hyperbole. Always obey posted speed limits, even when The Ramones are on.)

And I won’t apologize for it. The unique experience of listening to rockin’ pop music in the car is magic, nearly an out-of-body rapture. It was true when I was a little kid, hearing The BeatlesThe Dave Clark Five, and The Bobby Fuller Four blastin’ outta WNDR-AM in my brother’s fragile Alfa Romeo. It was true much later, when my Dad gave me his ’69 Impala, and early ’80s AM Top 40 on Buffalo’s 14 Rock gave me Tracey UllmanToni BasilPrince, and Paul McCartney. It was true when the FM radio in my otherwise-crappy ’78 Bobcat allowed me to achieve my dream of hearing The Ramones on a car radio–thank you, WBNY-FM! It was true when cassette decks granted me the opportunity to customize my motorized listening, and when car CD players let me immediately immerse myself in an album I’d just purchased, right then and there on the drive home from the record store. Radio. Mix Tapes. Mini-discs (plugged in via a car kit). CDs. Satellite radio. My intrepid iPod. The wide world of pop music lives in my car. 

None of this is intended to downplay the impact and enjoyment I have felt in other listening environments. I would not have become the giddy, contented pop fan I am without all of the joyful hours spent listening to radio in my room, from Smokey Robinson & the Miracles and Badfinger through The Sex PistolsThe Go-Go’s, and…well, everyone. I can never forget the sheer thrill of the first time I heard “Porpoise Song” by The Monkees, courtesy of a girl in high school who let me borrow her copy of the Head LP. I retain the sense of transcendent inspiration from a neighbor playing Otis Redding‘s Live In Europe, or friends hooking me on stuff by David BowieThe O’JaysFingerprintz, and Anny Celsi, or hearing a Nada Surf CD playing in a record store and saying to the clerk GIMME!, or boppin’ around my dorm room or apartment or suburban house, exulting in the sweet sounds of Fools FaceChuck BerryGladys Knight & the PipsThe KinksThe FlashcubesThe Isley BrothersP. P. ArnoldThe Barracudas, a crunchy James Brown 45, a Bay City Rollers eight-track, a Gretchen’s Wheel mp3, all playing back on whatever home stereo equipment was/is available at the time. I wouldn’t surrender a second of any of that.

Still: music in the car. Irreplaceable. Windows down (or air conditioner up) in the summer, snow tires barreling forward in the winter, the music turned up LOUD. It’s a solitary experience, a communion; it’s not quite the same when there’s a passenger. When The Monkees released the digital single “She Makes Me Laugh,” the first tease from the 2016 album Good Times!, I was disappointed with it…until I listened to it in the car. Then I got it, and I loved it. Pop music is made for the car. Driving in nearly any weather, give me my tunes, and I’ll get there. The wind, the rain, the sun, and the snow are no match for the power of my music. Sunglasses on. Car stereo on. Let’s go.

Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to ROCK ‘N’ ROLL…!


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Pop In A Box

My collection of CD boxed sets is fairly modest, I think. Given my level of pop obsession, and fact that I co-host a weekly radio show (and used to regularly write reviews for publication), you might think I’ve amassed a wall or two (or at least a few shelves’ worth) of compact disc sets housed in pretty, pretty boxes. But no; I own a relative handful, and that supply generally satisfies my boxed set needs.

Looking back, I don’t recall owning vinyl boxed sets; The Motown Story is the only one I remember, and I got rid of that one because its spoken narration ran into and spoiled the intros of many tracks. I think my first CD boxed set was a collection of The Rolling Stones‘ ’60s singles. purchased shortly before my first Stones concert in 1989. The Monkees‘ Listen To The Band was the first boxed set I ever received as a promo when I was freelancing for Goldmine (a gig which also brought me The Clash‘s box Clash On Broadway and the first two Nuggets boxes). 

Bo Diddley‘s The Chess BoxThe Velvet Underground‘s Peel Slowly And See, and the Stax and Motown boxes were all record club purchases, and the Otis Redding set was a Christmas gift from lovely wife Brenda. (Earth, Wind & Fire‘s The Eternal Dance was in turn a Christmas gift I gave to her, but I listen to it, too.)

It’s funny how a simple matter of packaging decides what’s included or excluded from this list. Because they’re housed in jewel cases rather than some kind of box, essential pop resources like Prince‘s three-disc The Hits/The B-Sides, The Monkees’ three-disc Headquarters Sessions, and The Hollies‘ six-disc Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years aren’t considered boxed sets, but the two-disc Bo Diddley is most certainly a box. It even has “box” in its title.

These are the boxed sets I currently own. You’ll note the absence of the above-mentioned Listen To The Band Monkees box, which I sold to a co-worker when I picked up the newer Music Box Monkees collection. 

THE BEACH BOYS: Good Vibrations: Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys
THE BEACH BOYS: The Pet Sounds Sessions
THE BEATLES: The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1
THE BEATLES: The Capitol Albums, Vol. 2
BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD: Buffalo Springfield
THE CLASH: Clash On Broadway
BO DIDDLEY: The Chess Box
EARTH, WIND & FIRE: The Eternal Dance
THE JAM: Direction Reaction Creation
THE KINKS: The Anthology 1964-1971
KISS: Box Set
LED ZEPPELIN: Led Zeppelin
THE MONKEES: The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees
THE MONKEES: Instant Replay
THE MONKEES: The Monkees Present
PHIL OCHS: Farewells & Fantasies
THE RAMONES: Weird Tales Of The Ramones
THE ROLLING STONES: Singles Collection The London Years
VARIOUS: The Beach Music Anthology [incomplete]
VARIOUS: Children Of Nuggets
VARIOUS: The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968
VARIOUS: Hitsville U.S.A.–The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971
VARIOUS: Nuggets
VARIOUS: One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost & Found
VARIOUS: Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968
THE ZOMBIES: Zombie Heaven

Some of these get taken off the shelf with some frequency, particularly the Nuggets, girl group, Beatles, and Motown boxes. The Led Zeppelin box is rarely touched, but I’m glad to have it. The Zombies box is still listed here, but I actually haven’t been able to find it in months; if it doesn’t turn up soon, I’m gonna have to replace it. I missed out on Rhino Handmade‘s boxes of the first two Monkees albums; even as an obsessive fan, I couldn’t justify the cost of those, not when I already had two-disc editions that satisfied my needs.

I think The Kinks’ box is the most recent addition. I don’t buy boxed sets all that often, so my collection of them remains modest. 

Loud, but modest.


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Revealing My Age (One Concert Ticket Stub At A Time)

One of the many datamining exercises on Facebook poses the challenge of dating yourself without naming a year, but just by naming a (presumably old) performer you saw in concert. Now, this sort of datamining won’t work on me anyway. When one of my security questions asks me to name my first concert, I routinely answer [name redacted], a teen girl who threw herself against teen me because my Jerry Lewis impression apparently made me irresistible. 

For dramatic purposes, the role of [name redacted] is played by Stella Stevens

(Those circumstances worked exactly once.)

Where was I? Oh right, old concerts. It seems to me the question’s premise is inherently flawed. I’m in my 60s, and I saw my first concerts when I was a teenager. My Me Decade-era shows include then-contemporary acts the Ramones and the RunawaysElvis Costello and the AttractionsKISS and Uriah Heepthe Charlie Daniels Band999the RecordsJoe JacksonDavid JohansenArtful Dodgerthe Flashcubesthe Fastthe Battered Wives, and classic (but still current) stars the Kinks and Bob Dylan

Of these, only the Runaways tie me specifically to the ’70s, as all of the others remained active into the Reagan Administration and beyond. 

I also saw Herman’s Hermits at a bar in 1978, minus Herm himself Peter Noone, but still the Hermits (and a mighty fine show). I saw the Animals, with all five original members, in the early ’80s. I saw the Everly BrothersBo DiddleyGene PitneyRay Charlesthe Searchers, and more on the oldies circuit in the ’80s and ’90s. I had missed opportunities to see James BrownDizzy GillespieDel Shannon, and Rick Nelson. Listing any of those acts in response to our original question might suggest I was attending rock ‘n’ roll shows in the ’60s, when I was a mere lad and a beardless youth. Fakeout!

On this blog, my Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery includes a 1976 Beatles concert, but that’s not technically, y’know, real. I have seen A Beatle, attended a press conference for another Beatle, and I also saw the Pete Best Band, but no, unlike my friend Pete Kennedy and my brother-in-law Tony Dees, no actual Fab Four on my concert resumé. Though I guess I could make the claim anyway. I’ve seen all four Monkees, too, but in increments of three Monkees at a time.

So the premise is indeed fatally flawed. My daughter saw Cheap Trick. And she was not around in the ’70s or ’80s. I’d remember if she were. Mommy’s all right, Daddy’s all right, we just seem a litle weird. And old. But still rockin’ and rollin’.


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My Pop Culture Resume’

I was thinking the other day about my pop culture resumé. Actually, I was thinking about what distinctive and interesting li’l tidbit I could slip into a personal bio, like if I were auditioning for a game show. It was purely a hypothetical; I am not currently auditioning for a game show, nor is there any other immediate real-world forum for this. I mean, other than for a blog; we set the bar pretty low when it comes to a blog.

Anyway, this is what I came up with:

I’ve met BATMAN, talked to a BEATLE, received phone calls from THE RAMONES, saw MICKEY MANTLE hit a home run, and made SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS cry.

And no, the Beatle wasn’t Pete Best.

I was also gonna include “wrote something shared by a Monkee,” “sold stuff to David Copperfield and Michael Chabon,” and “set up with a girl by Harlan Ellison,” but that woulda been too long. All true, though.

I could explain each of these. But what fun is that? 


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