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Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Beach Boys

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.

As I’ve said before, it took me a little while to become a Beach Boys fan.  But there was a Beach Boys LP in the family library when I was a kid: Surfer Girl. As hard as it may be to believe, the title track from that album is the only Beach Boys song I remember contemporaneously. I know, I know–I was there (in my role as me), and I have difficulty buying the idea that I wasn’t aware of “In My Room” or “Surfin’ USA” or “Help Me, Rhonda” or “I Get Around” or “Our Car Club.” Well, okay, maybe that last mental omission is understandable. But how could I have missed the entirety of The Beach Boys’ ’60s output in the ’60s? Beats me. All I can tell you is that I didn’t start listening to The Beach Boys at all until the mid-’70s, and I didn’t become a big fan until much later.

But I got there. As a teen, I borrowed my cousin Maryann’s Beach Boys records (along with her Dave Clark Five, SearchersBeatlesAnimals, and Rolling Stones collection). I got a copy of the cultural prerequisite 2-LP set Endless Summer via the RCA Record Club, and I figured I was permanently set with all the Beach Boys I’d ever need. Probably more than I’d ever need–the only track missing (in my view at the time) was “Good Vibrations,” and I could live without that if I had to.

(I think I may have been surprised to learn that “In My Room,” a track included on Endless Summer, had originally been done by The Beach Boys. I knew it as an early ’70s single by local singer Nanci Hammond, whose cover of the song received significant AM radio airplay in Syracuse. It was the follow-up to her earlier local hit, “You Were Made Just For Me,” and I confess that I preferred “You Were Made Just For Me” to “In My Room.” At the time, man, at the time!)

In high school, I knew a guy named Larry Siedentop. Larry was a big fan of The Beach Boys, probably the only one of my peers who was really, really into them (though I do recall that another friend, Mary Saur, also liked The Beach Boys, but not as fervently as ol’ Larry did). Larry spoke of The Beatles and The Beach Boys with equal reverence, and to me, that was just crazy, freakin’ nuts. Those square, decidedly outta-fashion California beach bums on a par with the brilliance of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? That was like telling me that Up With People! was a peer to Bob Dylan. Sure, even my self-conscious efforts to make myself into a cooler-than-thou proto-hipster couldn’t deny the pop savvy of The Beach Boys’ best hit singles, but c’mon!

But now, even a slow-to-the-epiphany guy like me can look back and recognize how right Larry Siedentop was. Forty years later, I prefer Pet Sounds to Sgt. Pepper; that’s a turnaround in opinion that would have been inconceivable to me in 1976. I finally appreciate the greatness of The Beach Boys. Hell, I’m even okay with “Kokomo,” which makes me uncool, but I don’t care. And I got to see Brian Wilson play Pet Sounds in 2016! So much for first impressions, I guess, or even some subsequent impressions, too. Sometimes it takes me a while to catch on, and it certainly took me a while to catch a wave.

And I like “Surfer Girl” now. I love “Surfer Girl” now. I mean–look at her!

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

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: Head
THE MONKEES: Instant Replay
THE MONKEES: The Monkees Present
THE MONKEES: Music Box
PHIL OCHS: Farewells & Fantasies
THE RAMONES: Weird Tales Of The Ramones
OTIS REDDING: Otis!
THE ROLLING STONES: Singles Collection The London Years
SIMON & GARFUNKEL: Old Friends
VARIOUS: The Beach Music Anthology [incomplete]
VARIOUS: Children Of Nuggets
VARIOUS: The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968
VARIOUS: Hitsville U.S.A.–The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971
VARIOUS: Nuggets
VARIOUS: Nuggets II
VARIOUS: One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost & Found
VARIOUS: Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: Peel Slowly And See
THE ZOMBIES: Zombie Heaven


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

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

Loud, but modest.


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Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: The Batman Theme

This chapter from my book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) includes bits from a few other previous posts, all remixed into its own unique piece. It was distributed privately to this blog’s paid patrons on September 1, 2020. This is its first public appearance. You can become a supporter of Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) for just $2 a month: Fund me, baby!

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

NELSON RIDDLE: The Batman Theme

Written by Neal Hefti
From the 20th Century Fox TV series Batman, 1966
I grew up in a time when TV theme songs routinely entered the public consciousness. The catchy ditties that opened shows like Gilligan’s IslandF TroopThe Beverly HillbilliesThe Patty Duke Show, and Car 54, Where Are You? weren’t hit records in the usual sense, but within our shared pop culture they were nonetheless as big as any 45 spinning on the radio. 

Many theme songs were sufficiently hook-laden to prompt release as a single, sometimes by the original artist and sometimes in cover versions, and sometimes to chart success. The Cowsills‘ swell cover of “Love American Style” wasn’t a hit, but it should have been, and it remains a staple of their live act. The VenturesPerry ComoHenry Mancini, and Johnny Rivers all made the Top 40 with their respective renditions of themes from Hawaii Five-0Here Come The BridesPeter Gunn, and Secret Agent Man. Television tunes continued to maintain a radio presence throughout the ’70s and ’80s. In June of 1995, The Rembrandts‘ “I’ll Be There For You,” the theme from the NBC sitcom Friends, was the # 1 song on radio the week my daughter was born. I thought that was appropriate, and pretty cool.

The campy 1966 Batman TV series had a seismic effect on me when I was six. No other television program could ever equal Batman‘s lasting impact on impressionable li’l me, creating a life-long interest in comic books and superheroes in general, and in the Caped Crusader specifically. I didn’t understand that the show kinda poked fun at the character, because actor Adam West played the title role straight, and to perfection. As West said decades later in a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory: “I never had to say ‘I’M BATMAN!’ When I showed up, people knew who the hell I was.”

Batman was the most flamboyantly POP! TV show to ever grace the home screen, more so than The Monkees or Laugh-In, more even than essential jukebox shows like Shindig!  Each episode was an explosion of color and attitude, of purposely hammy acting accompanied by on-screen BIFFs, BANGs, and POWs.

But it wasn’t a rock ‘n’ roll show, at least not musically. Its musical direction was charted by bandleader Nelson Riddle, its simple theme song written by Neal Hefti, both of whom were traditional swing/jazz guys who normally eschewed rock. Paul Revere and the Raiders and Lesley Gore appeared as guests on the show, but it was always clear that Batman‘s producers considered themselves above such primitive noise.

(To illustrate this point that Batman‘s higher-ups did not love rock ‘n’ roll, consider the two-part episode guest-starring British pop duo Chad and Jeremy. When Catwoman literally steals Chad and Jeremy’s voices, a character played by Steve Allen [himself a vocal critic of rock ‘n’ roll] quips that maybe that loss isn’t such a bad thing. And we’re talking about agreeably goofy ‘n’ grinning Chad and Jeremy, who were wonderful but hardly hide-your-daughters ruffians on the authority-threatening scale of, say, The Rolling Stones.)

All of this just makes “The Batman Theme” all the more remarkable. It is rock ‘n’ roll; it’s rock ‘n’ roll written and performed by jazz guys who don’t care if you know they’re just slumming, but it rocks anyway. It transcends its secret origin. 

The Who covered it. The Jam covered it. The Kinks included it in their live set. George Harrison appropriated it for The Beatles‘ “Taxman” (which itself inspired The Bangles‘ “I’m In Line” and The Jam’s “Start!”), and Prince incorporated it into his 1989 Batman soundtrack single “Batdance.” The Marketts had a hit with it. Hefti recorded his own version, and it also charted. 

This entry represents the only spot in this book that’s not occupied by an actual record (although the track was finally given an official release on the CD version of the soundtrack to the 1966 Batman movie). The definitive version will always be the compact rumble performed by Nelson Riddle and his orchestra during the show’s opening credits, heard every Wednesday and Thursday night at 7:30, 6:30 Central on ABC. No subsequent recording has ever matched the specific feel, the unique sway of a caped-crusading call-to-arms accompanied by deadly-earnest chick vocals, rolling percussion, and the on-screen cartoon images of Batman and Robin boppin’ the bad guys at the start of another exciting episode. Riddle recorded a full-length version for the show’s official soundtrack LP, but even that fails to duplicate the simple magic of the short little TV version. 

Years ago, when I auditioned for a game show, prospective contestants were expected to dazzle and impress a small live audience. I did some schtick, got some laughs, and then said that I wanted to close with a rendition of  “The Batman Theme,” but couldn’t remember all the words. “Can anyone help me out?,” I asked. The response was tentative at first, then more confident, and soon everyone in the audience was singing with me: Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na BATMAN!
I whooped my approval. I didn’t succeed in getting on the game show, but I still felt that justice had triumphed. And right now, in your head, I bet you’re singing along with it, too. Thank you, citizen. And thank you, Caped Crusader.

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You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

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

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

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)will contain 165 essays about 165 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1). My weekly Greatest Record Ever Made! video rants can be seen in my GREM! YouTube playlist. And I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

Categories
Pop Sunday

The Split Squad / Another Cinderella

The Split Squad

Another Cinderella

https://thesplitsquad.bandcamp.com/album/another-cinderella

A bona fide supergroup, The Split Squad stars the indelible talents of Keith Streng (The Fleshtones), Eddie Munoz (The Plimsouls), Clem Burke (Blondie, The Romantics, The Empty Hearts), Michael Giblin (Cherry Twister) and Josh Kantor (The Boston Red Sox). After several years of taking a sabbatical from the studio, the band has returned with fire in their bellies and ants in their pants. The Split Squad are so smoking hot to begin with, but on their new – and second album – Another Cinderella – they sound meaner and keener than ever. 

The engine revs up with Hey DJ, which represents all the tasty traits we love about heritage power pop. Acrobatic and explosive instrumentation, radiant vocals and a punchy swing seal the song. In fact, Another Cinderella is chock-full of such power popping dazzlers. Relentlessly gripping, Trying To Get Back To My Baby races to a sweeping cadence and gleaming melodies, where the title track of the album bristles and bobs with muscle and might, topped by charmingly girly harmonies. And then there’s Sinking Ship, which is anything but, as electrifying guitars, vigorous drumming and seizing hooks snap the high-energy tune firmly into place. A power ballad rather than power pop, As Bright As You Are beams with divine piano work, liquid clear vocals and exquisite string arrangements. 

Ripping a page in the book from both The Beatles and The Who, the stunning Taxicab wheels in as a trippy slice of pop art innovation, and Palpitation Blues is a down and dirty blues number, chugging with gruff vocals, groaning rhythms and hard-hitting harmonica trills rooted along the lines of Beggar’s Banquet-era Rolling Stones. Comparisons to KISS are sure to be drawn on Showstopper, a loud and lively arena-ready rocker formed of clanging chords and a shouting chorus. The grand finale is a reprise of Hey DJ,  that adopts a danceable Motown-styled soul pop stance with brass orchestration added to the setting. 

By combining experience with enthusiasm, The Split Squad conceived the perfect classic pop rock platter. Jammed tight with killer chops, catchy vocals galore and on target timing, Another Cinderella captures the band at the height of their prowess. Here’s to a standing ovation!  

Categories
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Walk Like A Man

This was prepared as a chapter for my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but is not in that book’s current blueprint. That could change, but for now, here ’tis.

THE FOUR SEASONS: Walk Like A Man

Written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio

Produced by Bob Crewe

Single, Vee-Jay Records, 1963

I’m just old enough to remember hearing the Four Seasons on pre-Beatles radio in the early ’60s. That high voice of Frankie Valli calling dogs to dinner on “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” was distinctive, but I never had much interest in the group. In my senior year of college, one of my suitemates was a Four Seasons fan, and he couldn’t understand why I thought they were so uncool.


But that’s what I thought. Clunky. Uncool. In later years, I developed an awareness of the sheer craft of those records, but at the time of my late ’70s immersion in the righteously rockin’ noise of punk, new wave, power pop, and rock ‘n’ roll, when my heightened affection for the ’60s meant an adoration of British Invasion, garage, and the Monkees, the Four Seasons simply were not part of my preferred soundscape. They were, to me, too obviously old school, more Frank Sinatra than Rolling Stones. I didn’t hate them. 

But I didn’t like them, either.

You wanna hear a weird turning point? There was this 1993 movie called Heart And Souls, an inconsequential trifle starring Robert Downey Jr.Charles GrodinAlfre Woodard, and a cast of dozens. I barely remember seeing the movie, but I remember its use of the Four Seasons’ “Walk Like A Man,” and I remember digging the song for the first time…ever? Could be. I can’t explain what or why, but I’ve been into the song since that evening at the cinema.

I’m probably not ever going to be the world’s biggest Four Seasons fan. I don’t care about cool or uncool–I dig what I dig–but I also can’t pretend that I like something more than I do. And I have no affinity whatsoever for Valli and/or the Seasons’ work in the ’70s and beyond; I’d be perfectly okay with never hearing “Who Loves You,” “Swearin’ To God,” “My Eyes Adored You,” “December, 1963 (Oh What A Night),” or “Grease” again. 

But.

I can appreciate some of the ’60s stuff now. “Workin’ My Way Back To You.” “Let’s Hang On!” “Big Man In Town.” “Rag Doll.” A relative obscurity called “Let’s Ride Again.” Valli’s original version of “Silence Is Golden,” though I do still prefer the Tremeloes‘ hit cover. These are terrific records, a statement of the obvious that I would not have conceded when I was in my teens or twenties. “Walk Like A Man” is freakin’ superb. Hell, I might even consider seeing Jersey Boys. No rush. We’re walkin’ here.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

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

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

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

Categories
Boppin'

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HIT (B-Side Appreciation): Take It Or Leave It

By Carl Cafarelli

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 BARBARIANS: “Take It Or Leave It”
Laurie, 1965; A-SIDE: “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl”

A rock ‘n’ roll paradox, impossible but true: a vulnerable swagger.

When one discusses ’60s garage or punk or vintage grungy nom du jour, one tends to focus on the surlier aspects. We don’t think of The SonicsThe Chocolate Watchband,or The 13th Floor Elevators as particularly tender souls. But there are certainly flashes and hints of a more fragile emotion within, say, “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” by The Standells, and there are garage pop masterpieces like “It’s Cold Outside” by The Choir and “I Wonder” by The Gants. None combine pride and pathos with quite the effective passion of “Take It Or Leave It” by The Barbarians.

The Barbarians were a quartet from Cape Cod: guitarists Bruce Benson and Jeff Morris, bassist Jerry Causi, and drummer Victor Moulton, aka Moulty. Moulty had lost his left hand in an accident when he was 14, and his hook-handed percussion style served to emphasize The Barbarians’ badass image. In 1964, The Barbarians played in The TAMI Show–my choice for the greatest rock ‘n’ roll concert film ever made–alongside the likes of Chuck BerryJames BrownThe Rolling StonesThe Beach BoysThe MiraclesThe SupremesMarvin GayeLesley GoreGerry & the PacemakersJan & Dean, and Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas. Within that stellar line-up, maybe the members of The Barbarians asked themselves the same rhetorical question much later asked by guitarist Lenny Haise of The Wonders in the 1996 movie That Thing You Do!How did we get here…?!

Or maybe The Barbarians didn’t ask that question. They were punks, after all. ’60s punks, sure, but punks nonetheless.

The Barbarians never had any really big hit records. Their debut single “Hey Little Bird,” which they performed on The TAMI Show, was a Stonesy slice of lasciviousness that did not dent the pop charts. Second single “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl” was their closest brush with success at radio and retail, a triumphantly sneering little number about not being able to tell the boys from the girls:

You’re either a girl or you come from Liverpool
(Yeah, Liverpool!)
You may look like a female monkey but you swim like a stone
(Yeah, a rolling stone!)
You may be a boy, but
HEY!
You look like a girl

That was good enough for # 55 in Billboard, and it was far and away the biggest seller The Barbarians ever had. It’s rightly considered one of the defining classics of ’60s garage punk.

And I like its B-side even better.

It’s difficult to articulate the why of that. “Take It Or Leave It” (which is not the Rolling Stones tune with the same title) maybe isn’t all that distinctive as a song or as a performance. It’s a simple lament over a “Louie Louie”-inspired riff, a would-be lover’s last stand, as the singer pleads with the girl of his dreams to ditch her loser (but presumably moneyed) boyfriend and find true romantic happiness with a Barbarian instead. On “Take It Or Leave It,” the punk sheds his pride and begs:

Baby
I want you (I want you)
Whoa, baby
I need you (I need you)
I can’t stand this feeling of being alone
Got little to offer
But you got all that I own…
…Baby
I ask you (I ask you)
Baby
Is it right? (Is it right?)
To laugh with me all day
And cry with him all night?
I’m promising you
A love guaranteed true
Life
Love
Everything
Heart
Soul
Diamond ring
Whoa, take it or leave it
Take it or leave it
LISTEN TO ME!
Take it or leave it
(Take it! Take it! Take it! Take it!)
Take it or leave it

Okay, I guess he tries to grab back a bit of his pride with those last lines. But man, this guy has it bad for this chick, all but screaming in sheer desperation for the elusive validation of her love. Most of us have been there, or some approximation of there, regardless of gender. There’s that one guy or gal who means everything, but just can’t see what he or she means to you. If the situation isn’t quite universal, it’s pretty damned close.

My experience with this track was on a 45, playing loud and distorted the way a rock ‘n’ roll record oughtta. Subsequent reissues were namby-pamby by comparison, though a Barbarians CD compilation from the Sundazed label captures it pretty well. But that 45? It ached and pounded with passion unrequited. Even among the discerning few ’60s garage enthusiasts hip to The Barbarians, most would likely prefer the protopunk snarl of “Hey Little Bird” and “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl,” with an honorable mention for “Moulty,” the drummer’s musical story of persevering through the loss of his hand, a track immortalized by its inclusion on Lenny Kaye‘s seminal ’60s garage punk compilation Nuggets. I dig all of that, too. Still, my go-to Barbarians track remains “Take It Or Leave It,” a B-side that aspires to greatness, an all-or-nothing garage ballad that takes a leap for love’s brass ring with near-suicidal determination. Life. Love. Everything. Take it or leave it.

“Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl” (D.Morris-R. Morris)
“Take It Or Leave It” (D. Morris-C. Clark)

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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. A digital download version (minus The Smithereens’ track) is also available from Futureman Records.

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Boppin'

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

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


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

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

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

Headquarters, of course, was the first.

What were they thinking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

This was written for my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but is not in the book’s current blueprint.An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

ELTON JOHN: Saturday Night’s Alright For FightingWritten by Elton John and Bernie TaupinProduced by Gus DudgeonSingle, MCA Records, 1973
Somebody’s gonna get their head kicked in tonight.
In 1973, I had never heard (nor heard of) the song with that title. “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight” had been the non-LP B-side of Fleetwood Mac‘s “Man Of The World” single in 1969; for that rockin’ B-side (written by Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer), the group used the pseudonymous nom du hooligan Earl Vance and the Valiants, perhaps to establish plausible legal deniability for its intent to bash in craniums with mallets aforethought. Years later, it became something of a punk rock standard via a cover by the Rezillos. In ’73, relatively few Americans knew the song. Hell, in ’73, I had barely heard of Fleetwood Mac.
Oh, but I betcha Elton John and Bernie Taupin knew it. They didn’t copy the valiant Mac, but the pugnacious spirit of “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight” drinks at the same bar as a song Elton and Bernie wrote and Elton released as a single in 1973: “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.”

Elton John’s big hit singles were among the highlights of my prime AM radio days, commencing with “Crocodile Rock” in 1972. I discovered (and embraced) his previous nuggets “Your Song” and “Rocket Man” shortly thereafter, and rode right along with his subsequent hits “Daniel,” “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” I hated “Bennie And The Jets”–I still do–but was otherwise all in for whatever our Reg was doing on the radio. There was a TV special called Goodbye Norma Jean to promote his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album; I loved the documentary and I was intrigued by the album (especially the [then] less-familiar “Candle In The Wind” and the girl-girl enticement of “All The Young Girls Love Alice”), even though I didn’t get around to owning a copy of that album until many, many years later.

No, my sole contemporary EJ artifacts were his Greatest Hits album and later his “Philadelphia Freedom” 45, the latter purchased because my friend Jim Knight told me its B-side featured John Lennon in a live performance of the Beatles‘ “I Saw Her Standing There.” SCORE!! Greatest Hits allowed me the chance to play my Elton favorites again and again. I memorized Bernie Taupin’s lyrics for “Your Song,” and they became among my preferred passages when I was practicing typing, mentally dedicating the sentiment to every pretty girl I ever knew. (On the other hand, my choice for another practice typing piece–a quote from the 1940s comic book superhero the Sandman–kinda illustrates why I didn’t have a girlfriend.) 

“Your Song,” “Rocket Man,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” But my # 1 was “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” its rat-a-tat percussive opening and furious tempo oddly presaging the interest I would develop in punk rock just a few years later. That borders on the ironic, since punk is a large part of why I lost interest in Elton John’s music in the late ’70s. Still, other than “Crocodile Rock,” I’ve never relinquished my affection for the Elton John songs I loved in my teens. 

Especially this one. 

I didn’t pay particularly close attention to its lyrics. If I had, I might have been put off by its stated endorsement of drunken bar brawls. But I was 13; what the hell did I know about bar brawls? I had been in my share of fistfights at school, none of them drunken, all of them stupid and ill-advised. No heads were kicked in during the making of my middle school years. Nor was I much aware of the British pub experience, the Us v. Them scene combusted from the volatile mix of football and alcohol. The belligerent approach of “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” was in the tradition of aggressive records by the likes of the Rolling Stonesthe Who, and the Faces. And by Fleetwood Mac, alias punters Earl Vance and the Valiants. Somebody’s gonna get their head kicked in tonight. It is, after all, Saturday night.

So yeah, let’s have a drink, and raise a cheer for our side. Don’t give me none of your aggravation. Get a little action in. Elton John’s alright, alright, alright…!

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You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

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

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

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

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

Categories
Pop Sunday

The Grip Weeds / DiG

The Grip Weeds

DiG (JEM Records)

https://www.gripweeds.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Boppin'

Give Me A Head With Hair, Long Quarantine Hair

As quarantine restrictions ease, I am still not in the merest hurry to get a haircut. My hair is now longer than it’s been since the mid ’80s, when I was managing a record store. Actually, it may even be longer than it was back then. If not, it’s close. It’s bushy and cascading, curly, voluminous. I’m still just about bald on top, mind you, but I have an increasingly lengthy mane nonetheless.

My reluctance to have someone go all Delilah on li’l ol’ Samson me has less to do with COVID concerns and much more to do with my…well, I guess with my satisfaction with my current shaggy ‘do. It feels good to have hair, the follically-challenged part of my North 40 notwithstanding. In times like these, any little trifle that can make us feel better is welcome, no matter how superficial that feeling may be.

As a boy in the 1960s, my hair was short. Every boy’s hair was short. Longer hair was for girls, unless you were either The Beatles or The Mighty Thor; the former was a pretty exclusive club, and the latter wasn’t from around here. As The Rolling StonesThe Monkees, and the male contingent within The Jefferson Airplane further modeled and popularized the idea of lengthier locks for the older boys (and The Monkees probably did more for that cause than anyone else, just via the mainstreaming familiarity of starring on a weekly TV show), those of us still in elementary school retained our exposed ears and close-to-the-head styling, and I doubt many (maybe any) of my peers objected. I never had a buzz-cut, but regular trips to the barber were routine, expected. Normal. The thought of having longer hair never even occurred to me.

(That said, I hated going to the barber. Sitting still was not what I did best, but my regular barber got the job done. I remember visiting a different guy exactly once, and he kept getting annoyed with me, and he kept forcefully jerking my head into position. Bastard. A session with any barber, including my regular guy, left my neck and shoulders itchy, as stray bits of short ‘n’ sharp debris nestled under my collar and under my shirt. On the bright side, my regular barber had comic books for me to read while I awaited my turn to be shorn. And afterward, I liked to run my hand against the grain of the hair just above the nape of my neck, the bristly light resistance providing a unique and fulfilling closure to the process of a haircut.)

Things changed in the ’70s. I was still as four-cornered as they come, but even a square such as I wasn’t immune to a shift in prevailing fashion, as longer hair become more and more common for guys. My barber became a hair stylist, a transformation no less remarkable than Clark Kent entering a nearby phonebooth and emerging as Superman. Dad was still not gonna allow me to start looking like a hippie or a rock star, but the accepted look of male grooming evolved anyway. By eighth grade, I decided that I would have long hair and a beard when I grew up. By high school, while still beardless and not much shaggier than Paul McCartney circa ten years prior, I was using a blow dryer regularly. 
Punk rock hit as I transitioned from high school to college. The Ramones had long hair, but the prevailing image for most of the young punks was the short and spiky hairdo. Over time, this replaced my ’70s notion of stylin’ like Haight-Ashbury. I never quite got to looking like Sid Vicious, and settled instead for a power-pop hybrid that aped the pre-1967 Beatles. It always comes back to The Beatles, man.

The jobs I had from 1978 to 1984 did not favor tresses hanging much over my ears. The record store job was different. My hair grew to the point that customers remarked that I looked like Neil Diamond. That ended in 1986 when I got a job in retail sales, which is still what I do today. That gig required shorter locks. The length of my hair has varied in the ensuing decades (as the hair on top gradually vanished), while rarely getting too long before a supervisor reminds me of my need to visit a barber. Stylist.


Until now. New York state has allowed salons to reopen within appropriate guidelines, but I’ve come to dig having my hair longer. My bosses have mentioned a preference for me to return to a somewhat less hirsute style. Still, there’s been no hassle, and my stated intent to remain the walking, talking embodiment of a song by The Cowsills is understood and accepted, at least for now. It’s getting wild, but it’s clean, and it’s mine. I don’t even mind the miles of gray streaked throughout. I run my hands through it, and the feeling is as validating now as it was when I rubbed the back of my head when I was six or seven. Give me a head with hair. Long, beautiful hair. Shining, streaming, gleaming, waxen, flaxen. Here baby, there Mama, everywhere Daddy Daddy. HAIR!

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

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

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

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)will contain 165 essays about 165 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).