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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).

Categories
Boppin'

Boppin’ Comes Alive!

Live albums can carry a special fascination for rockin’ pop fans. Though I generally prefer the finished pop product of a studio track (and my younger, purist rock ‘n’ roll self would likely strike me for thinking that), there’s something exciting about a document of rock ‘n’ roll played live. Sure, many–maybe most–of our cherished live albums have benefited from a little studio sweetening, but the live feel is there, and that’s what counts.

The first live album I remember at all was my sister’s copy of The Live Kinks, the only Kinks record in the household collection when I was a teenager. I didn’t pay much attention to it–the only Kinks song I knew was “Lola,” and The Live Kinks certainly predates that–but I did occasionally try to play The Kinks’ live version of “The Batman Theme,” because, y’know…Batman! That track was part of an in-concert medley on The Live Kinks, so it was tricky to isolate the track and ignore “Milk Cow Blues” and “Tired Of Waiting For You,” neither of which interested me at the time. (And yes, my contemporary self would surely strike pissant li’l young me for not recognizing the brilliance of “Tired Of Waiting For You” a bit earlier in the timeline.)

My sister also owned a copy of the second Woodstock collection, and a live Procol Harum record. I’ve been trying to remember the first live record that was specifically mine, and I think I have to go all the way up to senior year in high school, spring of ’77, and the release of The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl. That album was the first time I ever rushed to the record store to buy an album on its release, and I loved that record. The Beatles live? Yeah. Yeah, I’m in. I haven’t yet heard the new CD reissue (re-titled Live At The Hollywood Bowl), though I’ve read the complaints that it’s just a straightforward, unvarnished reissue, not the remixed, re-vitalized concert document we were promised. I’ll get it soon anyway. Live Beatles!

My second live album was probably Got Live If You Want It! by The Rolling Stones, or perhaps The Cowsills‘ In Concert, both purchased used in that same spring of ’77 for fifty cents each at Mike’s Sound Center in North Syracuse. Later that year, I succumbed to (imaginary) peer pressure and joined the bazillions of people who owned a copy of Frampton Comes Alive! Even just typing that sentence bores me. I received KISS‘s Alive II as a Christmas gift that year (and my main interest was one of the studio tracks, a cover of “Any Way You Want It” by The Dave Clark Five). I subsequently picked up a used copy of its predecessor, Alive!, on a trip to Cleveland somewhere in there, too.

And my acquisition of live records is just a blur after that. My friend Tom turned me on to The Runaways‘ Live In Japan; the others that meant the most to me were The Ramones‘ It’s Alive!The Heartbreakers‘ Live At Max’s Kansas City ’79Cheap Trick At Budokan, and a bootleg cassette of The Flashcubes live in ’78. I had some bootlegs of live stuff by The Sex PistolsThe New York Dolls, and Elvis Costello & the Attractions, and two separate sets of neighbors in the ’80s turned me on to James Brown‘s Live At The Apollo and Otis Redding‘s Live In Europe.

The live album I wished for most was a live Monkees album; resurgent Monkeemania granted that wish in 1987, with the release of Live 1967, which I adored in all its rough ‘n’ ragged glory (and which I later upgraded to a 3-CD Rhino Handmade edition). Later in 1987, I attended a Monkees concert and discovered a new Monkees live album, 20th Anniversary Tour Live, recorded the previous year and sold only at concessions on the ’87 tour. In those days before social media, most people didn’t even know the album existed. In fact, when I reviewed the album for Goldmine, I had to prove its existence to editor Jeff Tamarkin before he would run the review! That’s the only time in twenty years as a Goldmine freelancer I ever had to do that.

My few remaining Holy Grail albums include one live record, a 2-LP set of The Bay City Rollers‘s mid-’80s reunion tour of Japan. I’d still love to hear that one, but I do already have a Rollers live album (also from a Japanese concert, but from the ’70s rather than the ’80s). That makes it a lot easier to live without the rare–and presumably pricey–’80s set.

I still get the occasional live CD–cool, relatively recent releases from The Grip Weeds and Lannie Flowers come to mind–and I’m sure there are many, many more to come. And I recently listened to Alive! and Alive II, the first two KISS live albums, for the first time in years. And they kick. I still love it live.

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Boppin'

10 SONGS / THE KINKS

10 Songs is a weekly list of ten songs that happen to be on my mind at the moment. Given my intention to usually write these on Mondays, the lists are often dominated by songs played on the previous night’s edition of This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. The idea was inspired by Don Valentine of the essential blog I Don’t Hear A Single.

This special 12-song edition of 10 Songs collects previous 10 Songs entries celebrating the music of THE KINKS!

THE KINKS: All Day And All Of The Night

It’s important to note the significance of “All Day And All Of The Night” in the story of how I became a fan of The Kinks. “Lola” was the first Kinks song I ever knew. My sister’s copy of The Live Kinks was the first Kinks album I ever saw. But “All Day And All Of The Night” was the first Kinks track I ever owned, contained on the 2-LP compilation History Of British Rock Vol. 2 I received as a Christmas present in 1976, less than a month prior to my 17th birthday. Essential. And loud! The track was also on my first Kinks LP, Kinks-Size, purchased early in ’77. 

When discussing the monolithic 1-2 punch of The Kinks‘ first two U.S. hits, “You Really Got Me” tends to grab all of the loud ‘n’ grungy glory. It is, after all, the greatest record ever made. But its follow-up “All Day And All Of The Night” is even more savage and relentless, and if it lacks a tiny bit of “You Really Got Me”‘s mesmerizing single-mindedness, it compensates with its sheer combustibility. “All Day And All Of The Night” sounds like it’s ’bout to explode, and it sounds loud (if never quite loud enough) at even the lowest volume. As revealed in my Everlasting First piece about how I discovered the group, “All Day And All Of The Night” was the first Kinks track I ever owned. There would be many, many more to follow.

THE KINKS: Dedicated Follower Of Fashion

When I was in the process of becoming a Kinks fan at the age of 16 and 17 (circa late ’76 and into ’77), “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” was a mystery track. I had seen the title listed in reference works, but it wasn’t a Kinks song I knew, like “Lola” or “You Really Got Me,” “All Day And All Of The Night,” “Tired Of Waiting For You,” “A Well Respected Man,” or even “No More Looking Back” from Schoolboys In Disgrace.  I recall hearing Status Quo‘s “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” on the radio, and wondering (with no real-world justification) if that might be “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion.” I have no memory of where, when, or how I finally heard “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion,” but I do remember that I was initially underwhelmed by it. 

Well, that reaction sure changed over time. In the summer of 1979, the first time I saw the fab local combo The Dead Ducks, my pal Joe Boudreau and I bellowed along with the Oh yes he IS! as the Ducks covered the song. Many, many years later, I have a specific memory of strolling through a shopping mall with my wife and daughter as “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” came on the sound system. Just as I’d done as a teenager, I began to bellow along, Oh yes he IS! My then-teen daughter was mortified. Hmph. It’s as if she didn’t think her Dad was in fashion.

THE KINKS: I Took My Baby Home

For a very brief flash of time, “I Took My Baby Home” was the most exciting track that The Kinks ever released. It didn’t have a lot of competition for that title, since it was the B-side of the very first Kinks single, and much more distinctive and interesting than the perfunctory cover of Little Richard‘s “Long Tall Sally” on its A-side. The Kinks’ second single, “You Still Want Me”/”You Do Something To Me,” paired a couple of fine beat numbers, though I’d say “I Took My Baby Home” was still the pick of this four-song run.

The Kinks’ third single was the greatest record ever made, and its release ended the short reign of “I Took My Baby Home” as the best of The Kinks.

Nonetheless, “I Took My Baby Home” remains a superb rock ‘n’ roll track, with its strutting harmonica come-on and its euphoric tale of a helpless chap gleefully seduced by his girl (whose high-powered kisses really knock him out, they knock him oh-oh-over). 

And it was one of the songs I acquired in my first year as a Kinks fan. I started with “All Day And All Of The Night” on a various-artists LP at Christmas of 1976, added “You Really Got Me,” the Kinks-Size LP and maybe Sleepwalker before heading off to college the following August, and scored my first Kinks compilation album during the fall semester. This Kinks volume of The Pye History Of British Rock introduced me to “I Took My Baby Home,” right alongside “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion,” “Sunny Afternoon,” “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” “Where Have All The Good Times Gone,” and “Till The End Of The Day.” I knew “I Took My Baby Home” before I knew “Waterloo Sunset,” though I would discover that one soon enough. Not a bad way to get to know The Kinks, I say.

(And I still mentally change the song’s line “And she put her hands on my chest” to “And she put my hands on her chest.” Aggressive girl. I bet her name was Lola.) 

THE KINKS: Muswell Hillbilly

I have a black t-shirt emblazoned in white letters with The Kinks‘ classic ’60s logo. It’s my favorite t-shirt. When I wear it, some random stranger will often notice it and express approval (even from a socially-distanced vantage point). I’ve had people insist I’m too young to even know who The Kinks are (which means I’m either older than I look, or that I wasted my money on those three Kinks concerts I attended; I enjoyed those shows, so I don’t feel like I coulda been too young to know The Kinks at the time).

Yes, I DO wear this shirt all day and all of the night!

It’s not unusual for the sight of my Kinks shirt to inspire strangers to want to chat, however briefly, about these well-respected men. Recently, a gentleman just over six feet away from me admired my shirt, and mentioned his favorite Kinks album: 1971’s Muswell Hillbillies.

This is not the first Kinks record that most passers-by will cite in reaction to my dedicated follower of fashion choice of wardrobe. “Lola.” “You Really Got Me.” One guy said “Come Dancing.” Muswell Hillbillies isn’t exactly an obscure record, but it doesn’t usually come up in casual conversation out in the real world, the vast playground beyond our own shared but insular rockin’ pop universe. I was pleased. And I made sure to play the album’s title track on this week’s TIRnRR

THE KINKS: Set Me Free

I’m not 100% sure where I first heard The Kinks‘ 1965 single “See My Friends.” I initially knew “See My Friends” from the great British group The Records, who included their version in an all-covers EP that came with the purchase of The Records’ debut LP in 1979. My first exposure to The Kinks’ original must have been Golden Hour Of The Kinks, a 1977 compilation I picked up as a budget cassette release in the mid ’80s. With the possible exception of my bootleg live Flashcubes tape, Golden Hour Of The Kinks was my favorite cassette, even more so than the (then-) contemporary garage sampler Garage Sale. I listened to Golden Hour Of The Kinks over and over on the boom box my Uncle Carl gave Brenda and I as a wedding gift in 1984, with only a couple of Beatles tapes (Help! and Beatles For Sale) challenging its boom-box sovereignty. Golden Hour Of The Kinks hooked me on “Animal Farm,” reinforced my adoration of “Days,” “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion,” “Till The End Of The Day,” “Waterloo Sunset,” “Dead End Street,” “Shangri-La,” and “You Really Got Me,” and it introduced me to the original “See My Friends.” Best cassette ever? A contender at the very least.

THE KINKS: Set Me Free

1977: I was just 17, if you know what I mean. And my girlfriend and I were moving way too fast. It was almost entirely my fault, maybe even my fault alone. But I had to stop it.Over the course of ’77, I had become a fan of The Kinks. In August, I went off to college with the tentative beginning of a Kinks collection, which included the Kinks-SizedSleepwalker, and possibly Schoolboys In Disgrace LPs. I was still learning about this great band and its cavalcade of wonder. Late in that fall semester of my freshman year, I picked up a Kinks compilation, The Pye History Of British Rock. That revelatory set included just two Kinks tracks I already owned (“You Really Got Me” and “I Gotta Move”), and introduced me to “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion,” “Where Have All The Good Times Gone,” “Till The End Of The Day,” “Sunny Afternoon,” “The World Keeps Going Round,” “So Mystifying,” “Long Tall Shorty,” and a superb, rockin’ B-side called “I Took My Baby Home.” Fantastic stuff, and an essential plank on my path to greater Kinks devotion.
And it included a song called “Set Me Free.”
Set me free, little girlAll you gotta do is set me free, little girlYou know you can do it if you tryAll you gotta do is set me free, free….
It wasn’t her fault. It was mine. Yeah, probably all mine. I was 17. That’s explanation, not excuse. I listened to the song playing on my roommate’s stereo in our dorm room, looking at my girlfriend, feeling guilty for what I was thinking. But I was beginning to realize what had to happen.
We lasted until Christmas break. I wrote her a letter. It hurt her, and I regret my actions that made that seem necessary. Damn me. But it was time. Set me free.

This was my first Kinks LP. Though my copy was considerably more beat-up than this one.

In my oft-told story about how I became a fan of The Kinks, 1964’s “Tired Of Waiting For You” represents the tipping point, the seismic event when I heard the song on the radio in 1977 and knew, just knew before the DJ said, that it was The Kinks. The Kinks’ primal oldies “All Day And All Of The Night” and “You Really Got Me” had only recently taken my fancy hostage, a mere decade and change after the fact. Radio introduced me to The Kinks with “Lola” in 1970, my burgeoning interest in the mid-’60s British Invasion prompted a deeper dive into Sire‘s History Of British Rock collections, and radio came back to seal the deal with a spin of “Tired Of Waiting For You.” It’s not an oversimplification; that really was the precise moment when I became a die-hard Kinks fan. It’s your life, and you can do what you want. And I want to listen to The Kinks.

THE KINKS: War Is Over

Last week on his SPARK! radio show Radio Deer Camp, the above-cited Rich Firestone played The Kinks‘ “To The Bone,” a cut that has never been played on This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio. And we’ve played a lot of Kinks songs over the past 22 years! The song is the title track from a 1996 2-CD US version of a live Kinks album released as a single disc in the UK in ’94. The US version adds several tracks, but omits “Waterloo Sunset” and “Autumn Almanac,” forcing fans (like me) to buy both versions. The US set also adds the two studio tracks that are the final Kinks recordings issued to date; Rich just played “To The Bone” on Radio Deer Camp, and we played the other studio track (“Animal”) on TIRnRR some time ago.
We still haven’t played “To The Bone,” but we did want to try to program a Kinks song that we hadn’t played before. We picked “War Is Over,” from 1989’s UK Jive, which is my least favorite Kinks album. The song’s fine. The album….
I was able to see The Kinks on the UK Jive tour. It was the third and final time I saw The Kinks in concert, and oddly enough the show occurred in the same week that I saw my first Rolling Stones concert. Kinks and Stones in a single week? Awrighty! 
My first Kinks show was in 1978, and it was awesome; I told that story here. Seeing them a second time at a mid ’80s arena show in Buffalo was less special, but still The Kinks. The 1989 show was weird. It was staged in a gym at the State University of New York at Oswego; the arena show felt impersonal, and this felt, I dunno, somewhere in between, but still almost haphazardly disconnected. 
The show was sparsely attended, so lovely wife Brenda and I were able to get THISCLOSE to the stage where The Kinks–THE KINKS!!!–were playing. But it was the UK Jive tour. I have little memory of it. I can’t believe I saw The Kinks at such close proximity, but that a combination of off-putting venue and a set list emphasizing a lesser album made the whole event seem so forgettable.
But it was THE KINKS…!

THE KINKS: Waterloo Sunset

“Waterloo Sunset” is one of two songs by The Kinks given its own chapter in my book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), where it immediately precedes The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and Holly Golightly‘s version of “Time Will Tell” (itself also a song written by The Kinks’ Ray Davies). This is how the book’s discussion of “Waterloo Sunset” begins:
It’s one of the most beautiful depictions of burgeoning romance ever committed to song. And it’s told, not from the perspective of the young lovers themselves, but from the viewpoint of a benevolent onlooker, wishing them well as they cross over the river, where they feel safe and sound.
I wonder what that onlooker would have thought of me when I was 18….
Our connection with the pop music we love is personal, deeply personal. We know that the songs on our stereo, our radio, our iPod, or our Close-N-Play aren’t really about us, but we have license to incorporate them into our own experiences. We assign meaning. While The Kinks insisted elsewhere that it was only jukebox music, it is really so much more than that.
In the book, I place “Waterloo Sunset” directly after chapters about T. RexThe Runaways, and “Sister Golden Hair” by America, a little trilogy threaded together with the memory of my near-disastrous freshman year in college, 1977-78. “Waterloo Sunset” follows with the potential for catharsis. Every day I look at the world from my window…Waterloo sunset’s fine.It’s not the story Ray Davies intended to tell. It’s the story I hear nonetheless.

THE KINKS: Waterloo Sunset (worth a second entry!)

The Kinks have come to be known as TIRnRR‘s house band, perhaps for no real reason other than we all think it’s cool to celebrate the splendor of The Kinks whenever possible. The Kinks remain the only act to ever take over an entire episode of our radio show; in fact, we’ve done two all-Kinks shows. God save the house band!

“Waterloo Sunset” has two additional specific links to TIRnRR. In 2019, when a bunch of our friends and supporters decided to surprise us by recording a single to benefit our cash-strapped operation, these TIR’N’RR Allstars chose to do a cover of “Waterloo Sunset.” And we were in paradise. And some years back, when Dana was out of commission for a bit, I devoted a show to something I called “A Girl And A Boy: The Story So Far.” This was an attempt to create an extended song cycle to tell the story of a relationship, using preexisting songs and alternating female and male lead vocals to suggest a girl and boy looking back at their history together and apart. The boy’s name was Terry, the girl’s name was Julie, and as long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset, they are in paradise. It was a fun exercise, and intended as a tribute to one of my favorite songs. Sha-la-la….  


THE KINKS: (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman

Bert Parks‘ greatest hit. Sort of.

The Kinks‘ 1979 album Low Budget brought the group a commercial resurgence in America, moving them from modest concert halls to arenas. Its release was preceded by the single “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman,” which was a seemingly incongruous mix of our dedicated followers of fashion with a disco beat. Faster than a speeding leisure suit, more powerful than a mirrored ball, able to leap over tall velvet ropes in a single bound, the record is flush with Ray Davies‘ characteristic cantankerousness, and it was accepted by rockers who would not have been caught dead with any kind of Saturday night fever. Disco? The Rolling Stones did it. KISS did it. Blondie had their first U.S. hit by doin’ it. Even the razzafrazzin’ Grateful Dead did it with “Shakedown Street,” though every Deadhead I knew denied the fact and the beat. So why shouldn’t The Kinks make a disco record? The Kinks pulled it off, and The Kinks got bigger.

And then…Bert Parks.

1979 was the final year that Parks would host the annual Miss America beauty pageant. He had been that show’s host since about, oh, the dawn of time, and he was about to be kicked aside and replaced by someone younger, if not exactly hipper. “Hipper” and “Miss America beauty pageant” were definitely not two great tastes that taste great together. Actor (and former TV TarzanRon Ely took over the job in 1980 and ’81.By ’79, I was not in the habit of watching the Miss America broadcast. Whatever interest I could have derived from seeing pretty girls on my TV screen was overshadowed by the sheer hokiness of such an emphatically four-cornered spectacle. But that year, my girlfriend asked me to be her plus-one at the wedding of one of her dearest friends, so I accompanied her out of town for the event. We had some down time one evening, and we found ourselves watching TV. 

Miss America.

Bert Parks.

The…Kinks…?!

No, Muswell Hill’s finest didn’t show up to warble “Theeeere she is, Miss America…!” That would have been odd, but interesting. Instead, Bert Parks himself lent his golden throat to a never-before, never-again, why-in-God’s-name-in-the-first-place performance of “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman.” Parks concluded the brief songlet by ripping open his shirt to reveal the Superman shield on his chest.

I was horrified. Transfixed, car-crash hypmotized, unable to turn away, scarred for life, damaged beyond repair, a gas-strike, oil-strike, lorry-strike, bread-strike pinned-in-place deer in the disco lights. Hey, girl. We gotta get out of this place.

You don’t believe me? Lord, I wish it had only been the hallucination it seemed. But no! It was real. Check out this YouTube clip, and go directly to the 38:08 mark…IF YOU DARE!

So. Bert Parks’ final gig as Miss America pageant host. Coincidence? Maybe. Or further evidence that you don’t tug on Superman’s cape. And, for God’s sake, you don’t mess with The Kinks. 

THE KINKS: You Can’t Stop The Music

God save The Kinks! From a previously-posted piece about my five favorite 1970s Kinks songs:Other than Schoolboys In Disgrace, I mostly missed out on The Kinks’ concept album phase. I saw Preservation Act 1Preservation Act 2, and The Kinks Present A Soap Opera in the bins at Gerber Music, but I didn’t hear any of that until many years later. And while I appreciate them and dig each of them in its own right, I can’t rank them alongside The Kinks’ 1960s album masterpieces like Face To FaceThe Village Green Preservation Society, or ArthurWith that said, “You Can’t Stop The Music” is (along with “[A] Face In The Crowd”) one of a couple of standout selections on Soap Opera. It serves as a de facto statement of intent, and a reminder of the resilience of the sounds we adore. 

Ahem. THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!!

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

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

The Flamin’ Groovies: The Power Pop Hall of Fame

“1975 will be the year of The Flamin’ Groovies!”–Greg Shaw, Who Put The Bomp magazine
“It wasn’t, but it shoulda been.”–Groovies fans ever since then

It could be argued that no rock ‘n’ roll act was ever so good and simultaneously so ignored as San Francisco’s legendary Flamin’ Groovies. Throughout their long history and many personnel changes, the group was consistently out of step with the times. While contemporaries were properly freaking out and endlessly jamming in a tedious soundtrack to an emerging counterculture, the Groovies drew on unfashionable rock ‘n’ roll roots, alternately purveying good-time jug band music á la The Lovin’ Spoonful and rockin’ the motherlovin’ house down with a ferocity to rival The Rolling Stones and The Stooges. By the time reduced-frills rock started making a comeback in the ’70s, a new incarnation of The Flamin’ Groovies was dressed up in Mod clothing and playing polished power pop as if it were 1965 and the band was some mythic combination of The BeatlesByrdsBeach Boys, and Rolling Stones heading into the studio for a session with Phil Spector. And by the time “jangly pop” became a buzz phrase, The Flamin’ Groovies were so far underground that no amount of excavating could bring them to the surface, let alone to the pop stardom that should have been their divine right.

As it is, The Flamin’ Groovies produced some unforgettable work, including three oft-covered classics: “Slow Death,” “Teenage Head,” and the incomparable, booming “Shake Some Action,” which sounded like the eleventh-hour announcement of pop-rock Armageddon. Groovies fans are generally divided into two camps: those who favor the manic-rockin’ original Groovies fronted by Roy Loney, and those who prefer the pop perfection of the Sire years (1976-79) with Chris Wilson. In both incarnations, guitarist Cyril Jordan and bassist George Alexander kept the flame burning brightly.

It’s the Sire era that puts The Flamin’ Groovies into The Power Pop Hall Of Fame. That’s not a knock against the earlier stuff, much of which is just fantastic, but an acknowledgement that we wouldn’t be talking about the Groovies as a power pop act if judged solely on the basis of “Teenage Head” and “Second Cousin;” as irresistible as those tracks are, they’re closer to the cantankerous grandeur of, say, The Pretty Things than to anything one would call power pop. The Flamin’ Groovies’ three albums for Sire–Shake Some ActionNow, and Jumpin’ In The Night–radiate a catchy cool, combining the bop and swagger of a solid rock ‘n’ roll foundation with a swoon-worthy dedication to the giddy, visceral thrill of pure pop pursuits. Shake Some Action is one of the defining albums of the genre, loaded with exquisite tracks–“I Can’t Hide,” “You Tore Me Down,” “Yes It’s True,” “I’ll Cry Alone,” and the nonpareil title tune–that shimmer with conviction and glory. Now and Jumpin’ In The Night have been less celebrated by pundits, but nonetheless gave the undeserving world such pop gems as “Good Laugh Mun,” “All I Wanted,” “Yes I Am,” “Tell Me Again,” and the magnificent “First Plane Home.”

A different line-up of the Groovies (still including Jordan and Alexander) emerged in the late ’80s, releasing the Rock Juice album in 1992 before returning to the shadows. Eventually, Cyril Jordan and George Alexander reunited with Roy Loney for live gigs as The Flamin’ Groovies. Chris Wilson even joined in for an encore at one show, an event that had once seemed, y’know, really unlikely. Credit to all parties for transcending the accumulated baggage of the past.

Both Jordan and Wilson remain in the current edition of The Flamin’ Groovies, and they released an album called Fantastic Plastic in 2017, 24 years after Rock Juice, 38 years after Jumpin’ In The Night. George Alexander plays on some of the album, but Chris von Sneidern has occupied the bass spot for recent live shows. Is this finally The Year Of The Flamin’ Groovies? No, it is not. And that’s okay. To fans, every year is another year of the Groovies. Let us bust out at full speed, ’cause love is all we need to make it all right.

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

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Boppin'

Didn’t Hear THAT Coming! (Unexpected Covers In Concert): THE BANGLES, “7 And 7 Is”

Didn’t Hear THAT Coming! (Unexpected Covers In Concert) discusses songs I was surprised to hear covered in a live show by an act I’d gone to see.
Cover songs can add zip and spark to a rock ‘n’ roll group’s live repertoire. In their earliest gigs, most groups start out playing covers, and integrate more of their own original material into their sets as they play more dates, develop more of an identity, and attract more fans with an interest beyond just hearing bar-band interpretations of songs associated with other acts. It’s a basic long-term strategy for groups hoping to get noticed, to get somewhere; there’s a reason The Rolling Stones cut back on Chuck Berry songs and started writing their own material.

Still, a well-placed cover tune can enhance a live set, while the wrong choice can result in irritating a fan who doesn’t want to hear a fave rave act pandering to a lower common denominator. Whether it works or falls flat, the unexpected cover prompts us to say, “Wow–didn’t hear THAT coming!”


THE BANGLES: 7 And 7 Is [Love]

The hit 1980s group The Bangles. The broad Nuggets niche of 1960s garage, punk, and psychedelia. Never the twain shall meet.

Those of us with even a perfunctory knowledge of pop history know the above statement is nonsense. The Bangles drew significant and obvious inspiration from the sounds of the ‘60s, notably from The Beatles and from the decade’s Laurel Canyon axis of SoCal pop music, from The Byrds to Buffalo Springfield to The Mamas and the Papas. The Bangles were originally part of L.A.’s Paisley Underground, one of many Los Angeles acts in the early ‘80s professing and practicing a devout, pervasive connection to a vibrant rock ‘n’ roll scene that came nearly two decades before them. Maybe much of the general public couldn’t automatically draw a line from ‘60s touchstones like Pandora’s Box or Riot On The Sunset Strip to this distaff Fab Four mugging through “Walk Like An Egyptian” on MTV. Fine. But you and me? We know better. The Bangles had more in common with The Standells and The Electric Prunes than with virtually any of their Reagan era Top 40 contemporaries.

The Bangles’ eponymous 1982 EP included four originals, plus one cover, “How Is The Air Up There?,” a ’60s obscurity originally done by The Changin’ Times in ’65, and later recorded by The La De Das, for whom it was a hit in their native New Zealand in 1966. The Bangles at that time were guitarists Vicki Peterson and Susanna Hoffs, bassist Annette Zalinskas, and drummer Debbi Peterson, Vicki’s sister. The Bangles wore their ’60s loyalties like a badge of honor.

The EP was my introduction to The Bangles. I don’t recall if I read about them in the rock press or heard them on Buffalo’s WBNY-FM before I bought the record, but I was an instant fan. I remained a fan as Zalinskas moved on, as Michael Steele replaced her on the four-string, and as the group signed with Columbia Records for their first full-length album, 1984’s All Over The Place.

My God, I loved All Over The Place. The original songs were fantastic, the two covers (of The Merry-Go-Round‘s “Live” and Katrina and the Waves‘ “Going Down To Liverpool) were sufficiently obscure that I thought they were both originals, and the album will always be among my all-time favorites. The group’s tour in support of The Continental brought them to Buffalo for a show at left-of-the-dial nightclub All Over The Place, and I can testify that The Bangles were a solid live act. I don’t remember a lot of specifics, but I know I enjoyed it, and I know they covered Mose Allison‘s “I’m Not Talking,” with Michael Steele taking the lead vocal. I knew the song from The Yardbirds, and I guess that would qualify as an unexpected cover in concert.

But it wasn’t as unexpected as hearing The Bangles cover “7 And 7 Is,” a song written by Arthur Lee and originally recorded in 1966 by Lee’s band Love.

I had discovered the music of Arthur Lee‘s group Love in the early ’80s. I’d read about them somewhere, and snagged a used copy of their eponymous debut album literally off the floor at Brockport’s Main Street Records around, I dunno, ’82 or so. I picked up a greatest-hits set called Love Revisited after moving to Buffalo, and became enthralled by this furious, fascinating proto-punk tune called “7 And 7 Is.” 

If I don’t start cryin’ it’s because that I have got no eyes
My father’s in the fireplace and my dog lies hypnotized
Through a crack of light I was unable to find my way
Trapped inside a night
But I’m a day and I go
Oop-ip-ip, oop-ip-ip
YEAH!

Yeah, I had no idea what the hell it was about, and I woulda sworn that list bit above was an eloquent Batman-inspired Boom-biff-biff, Boom-biff-biff YEAH! rather than some [chuckle] non-sensical “oop-ip-ip” jazz. Obviously. But it didn’t matter what the words were or what the song meant. It was a freakin’ force of nature, it demanded high volume, and I played that damned track with manic devotion. I wasn’t using the phrase yet in the ’80s, but damn, this was clearly The Greatest Record Ever Made.


And now, live in 1985, The Bangles were performing on stage, right before my eyes. My jaw dropped. My fist raised itself without needing me to will it so. The Bangles. Love. “7 And 7 Is.” It was unexpected. And it was awesome!

Looking back, it shouldn’t have been all that unexpected. I knew of The Bangles’ roots in ’60s nuggets, and I wasn’t exactly shocked that they chose to cover Love. It was still a surprise, a pleasant surprise. That night, The Bangles said their version of “7 And 7 Is” would be on their next album. I regret that did not come to pass.

The Bangles’ commercial status took a dramatic upturn with their second album, 1986’s Different Light. The album’s first single “Manic Monday,” written by Prince (under the pseudonym “Christopher,” I guess because “Bernard Webb” was already spoken for), became the group’s first hit, a # 2 smash. Different Light is a very good record, but it seemed slicker and less exuberant than All Over The Place. It was an ’80s album. All Over The Place had felt timeless. Nonetheless, I cheered as this band I loved invaded the pop charts and Top 40 radio. Their success was deserved.

When The Bangles’ Different Light tour brought them back to Buffalo again, their higher profile had allowed them to graduate to a larger venue, The Rooftop in South Buffalo. Alas, I got my wires crossed about when The Bangles were scheduled to go on, and they had finished more than half of their set before I strolled in. Damn it.

The 2014 archival CD collection Ladies And Gentlemen…The Bangles! preserves concrete evidence that The Bangles covered “7 And 7 Is” in live shows, proof positive in the form of a 1984 live recording of Love via The Bangles. While most folks recall The Bangles as frothy ’80s video divas, I remember them as music fans made good, playing songs they loved in whatever venue was available. Their 1987 cover of Simon and Garfunkel‘s “Hazy Shade Of Winter” was a bigger hit than the original. Even on New Year’s Eve of 2000, when The Bangles appeared on Dick Clark‘s New Year’s Eve TV bash, they still surprised by pulling out a cover of The Velvet Underground‘s “I’m Waiting For The Man.” The Bangles were nobody’s empty-calorie cupcakes.

The Ramones also covered “7 And 7 Is,” on their 1993 all-covers album Acid Eaters. When I interviewed The Ramones for Goldmine in 1994, I mentioned to C. J. Ramone that I’d seen The Bangles cover the song live in 1985, and that they’d intended to record it. He was surprised. “That’s wild!,” he said, clearly impressed with the notion that The Bangles did a song as cool as “7 And 7 Is.”

They did indeed, C. J. And yeah, it was unexpected, but it shouldn’t have been. The Bangles loved the ’60s. The Bangles loved Love. 

Oop-ip-ip, oop-ip-ip, YEAH!

WHEN DIDN’T HEAR THAT COMING! RETURNS: The Dark Return Of LET’S ACTIVE

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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.
The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:
Volume 1: downloadVolume 2: CD or downloadVolume 3: downloadVolume 4: CD or downloadWaterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 134 essays about 134 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).

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Didn’t Hear THAT Coming! (Unexpected Covers In Concert): DAVID JOHANSEN, “Hot Stuff”

Didn’t Hear THAT Coming! (Unexpected Covers In Concert) discusses songs I was surprised to hear covered in a live show by an act I’d gone to see.
Cover songs can add zip and spark to a rock ‘n’ roll group’s live repertoire. In their earliest gigs, most groups start out playing covers, and integrate more of their own original material into their sets as they play more dates, develop more of an identity, and attract more fans with an interest beyond just hearing bar-band interpretations of songs associated with other acts. It’s a basic long-term strategy for groups hoping to get noticed, to get somewhere; there’s a reason The Rolling Stones cut back on Chuck Berry songs and started writing their own material.

Still, a well-placed cover tune can enhance a live set, while the wrong choice can result in irritating a fan who doesn’t want to hear a fave rave act pandering to a lower common denominator. Whether it works or falls flat, the unexpected cover prompts us to say, “Wow–didn’t hear THAT coming!”

In the late ’70s, disco and punk were supposed to be at war with each other. As a self-professed punk rocker in that era, I can attest that, yeah, punks didn’t like disco, and the bumpin’-n-hustlin’ set was appalled by the loud and fast noise my people favored. Hatfields and Capulets, meet McCoys and Montagues. Never mind the fact that the mainstream rock crowd held both punk and disco in nearly equal disdain; this was war!
Except that it wasn’t. I’m skeptical of the notion that many of the Saturday Night Fevered ever took much interest in The Damned or The Dead Boys, but some among the new wave brigade did eventually allow their ears and minds to be a bit more open to non-pogo dance music, to the beat of dat ole debbil disco. Maybe it was just me, but I was a pop fan anyway; my intense dislike of disco music evolved into occasional tolerance, and tolerance evolved into a sporadic realization that some of the records weren’t bad. Plus, Donna Summer was gorgeous. I feel love.

At the age of 19 in 1979, my belated discovery and embrace of early ’70s proto-punks The New York Dolls was still at an early stage. My local Syracuse heroes The Flashcubes introduced me to the Dolls’ classic “Personality Crisis” via their own Cubic live cover in ’78. By the end of my spring ’79 semester at college in Brockport, I think I may have heard former Dolls lead singer David Johansen‘s solo track “Funky But Chic” on the Brockport campus radio station WBSU. I had heard a handful of Dolls tracks, “Personality Crisis,” “Who Are The Mystery Girls?,” and probably “Babylon,” and I was aware of the group’s importance at Ground Zero of my cherished punk movement. Given an opportunity to see ex-Doll David Johansen live, with The Flashcubes opening the show, I had just enough basic familiarity with the headliner (and abundant enthusiasm for the opening act) to declare there was no way in Hell I was missing that show.

The show took place at The Slide Inn in Syracuse. A quick check of Pete Murray’s Flashcubes timeline reveals that the date was 7/26/79. Prior to reconciliation and reunions in later years, it was the last time I saw the original line-up of the ‘Cubes, just a few days before guitarist Paul Armstrong parted company with the group, ejected over musical differences. With no knowledge of the tension within The Flashcubes at the time, I just thoroughly enjoyed their set, a set which included my first exposure to a trio of ‘Cubes originals: Paul’s “You’re Not The Liar,” Gary Frenay‘s “I Wanna Stay All Night,” and Arty Lenin‘s “Nothing Really Matters When You’re Young.”

The David Johansen Group were amazing. Johansen’s fellow former Doll Sylvain Sylvain was no longer in David’s group by the time I saw them, but it was an incredible show nonetheless. It didn’t matter at all that I didn’t know many of the songs; I knew ’em by the end of the show. “Frenchette,” in particular, floored me, and I immediately adored “Cool Metro” and “I’m A Lover,” all three of those gems turning out to be from Johansen’s eponymous debut solo album, an LP I purchased not long after hearing it played live at the Slide.

Johansen and company also did a little bit of Dolls material: “Babylon” and their Bo Diddley cover, “Pills.” The encore was “Personality Crisis.”

If you’re familiar with the Dolls’ original recording of “Personality Crisis,” you know there’s a pause in the song just before its two-minute mark, followed by Johansen whooping And you’re a prima ballerina on a spring afternoon!, the band returning as well with wolf-whistles and guitar grunge. In a live performance of the song, it’s a natural spot to throw in a snippet of a different song as a willful non sequitur, illustrating the schizophrenic nature of a personality crisis. In ’79, I think I’d read in Trouser Press that Johansen was doing “Personality Crisis” as an unlikely medley with Bonnie Tyler‘s “It’s A Heartache” (a song which channeled Rod Stewart so effectively that I thought Bonnie was Rod; she was, in fact, bigger than Rod). That night at the Slide, I’m sure I half-expected to hear “It’s A Heartache” in the middle of “Personality Crisis.”

But…no. The song’s pause came, and a familiar guitar riff suddenly filled the Slide, as patrons like me, with senses slowed by beer, struggled to mentally name that tune in…OH MY GOD, IT’S DONNA SUMMER!!

I guess the divine Miss S actually appearing at the Slide to duet with David Jo would have been a bigger surprise than just hearing him sing a Summer song, but maybe not by much. Sittin’ here eatin’ my heart out waitin’, waitin’ for some lover to call. “Hot Stuff.” Donna Summer. One could argue that Summer’s own version of “Hot Stuff” was already more of a rock song than it was a disco song. It certainly rocked in the capable hands of The David Johansen Group. 

The connection was monumental. We were punks and rockers, boppin’ with unironic intent to a song–a great song–by the reigning queen of disco. Johansen’s short cover was faithful and true, so we couldn’t claim he’d somehow redeemed the song. The song was already great; our own closed ears may have made us deaf to its charm. Until that instant.

This wasn’t my first realization that maybe some disco or disco-related music wasn’t necessarily awful. I already liked Donna Summer’s percolatin’ hit “I Feel Love,” and (as I’ve noted elsewhere) I’d already approved of “In The Navy” by The Village People, figuring that the sound of an openly gay group chanting They want you! They want you! They want you as a new recruit! on American Top 40 radio was more punk than The Sex Pistols.

But David Johansen singing Donna Summer, even if it was just an excerpt of one of her songs, performed and contained within a cantankerous classic by The New York Dolls, was an irresistible manifesto for a brokered peace between the battling factions of punk, disco, and rock ‘n’ roll. Cease fire. War is over if you want it.

Yeah, I know it wasn’t really that simple. Schisms remained, and would remain. But I saw. I heard. I wasn’t alone in that. By the ’80s, as punk and new wave had slid into new (later alternative) music and disco’s commercial day had passed for the time being, lines continued to blur. Much of the mainstream rock crowd still hated us, but that was okay. We were fighting the good fight. Looking for a lover who needs another, don’t want another night on my own. Fall in, troops. No sleep ’til victory. A New York Doll says Donna Summer’s here, and the time is right for dancing in the streets. 

WHEN DIDN’T HEAR THAT COMING! RETURNS: Love, The Bangles

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You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 
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: downloadVolume 2: CD or downloadVolume 3: downloadVolume 4: CD or downloadWaterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 133 essays about 133 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).