THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Personality Crisis

Based upon an earlier piece, this was prepared for inclusion in my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but is not part of that book’s current blueprint.

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

THE NEW YORK DOLLS: “Personality Crisis”

Written by David Johansen and Johnny Thunders

Produced by Todd Rundgren

Single from the album New York Dolls, Mercury Records, 1973
Blame the New York Dolls for KISS. Blame the New York Dolls for the Ramonesthe Sex Pistols, and all of ’70s punk and whatever it lead to. I guess we should blame the Dolls for ’80s hair metal, and probably for Guns N’ Roses, too. The New York Dolls bear at least a share of the responsibility for all of that.

God bless ’em. Maybe not for the hair metal, nor really for Guns N’ Roses, and one’s mileage may vary in the subject of KISS. But the Ramones? Pistols? Punk itself? Oh yeah. God bless the New York Dolls.

I was in middle school and high school when the Dolls existed in the early to mid ’70s, and they completely escaped my notice. I doubt they ever got any AM radio spins in Syracuse. I’ve read that the group played at The Lost Horizon sometime during this span, so maybe there was a local FM station playing with Dolls, but if so, I missed it. I never even heard of the New York Dolls; I didn’t hear ’em on the radio, didn’t see ’em on TV when they appeared on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, didn’t read ’em about in the few rock mags I perused prior to their combustion and implosion in 1975. All of that would come later for me.


The first time I remember seeing the name “New York Dolls” was in the tabloid pages of Phonograph Record Magazine in 1977. No. Even as I type that, a sudden memory warns me away. The Dolls were referenced (in derogatory terms) in a rock history book that I read some time before that; the book’s snooty British writers dissed the Dolls in no uncertain terms, with no less an authority than Mick Jagger hisself stating that the New York Dolls were like Stones contemporaries the Pretty Things, only prettier. I’m grateful to that largely-forgotten book for stoking my nascent interest in the Kinks, but still resentful with how casually its myopic pundits slagged the Dolls and the Monkees.

The take on the Dolls in Phonograph Record Magazine wasn’t necessarily positive either; a report on the New York scene mentioned Big Apple advocates and scenesters who “still think they were right about the New York Dolls.” “Right?” Wait. What..?! But there was also an underlying sense that at least some of PRM‘s scribes had some affection for these gaudy, glittery enigmas. 

Meanwhile, back in the suburbs, I wondered: who the heck were these New York Dolls?

I was the last of my siblings still living at home. For Christmas of ’77, it was decided that my parents and I would travel to see each of the robins who’d already left the nest. That meant visits to Albany, Nashville, and Cleveland. In Nashville, a stop at a J.C. Penney store revealed an LP cutout bin that included the New York Dolls’ eponymous 1973 debut.

It seems unlikely that I’d never seen a Dolls album before. Surely there’d been one in the racks at Gerber Music or Camelot or Cleveland’s Record Revolution during the many, many times I’d rummaged through, seeking sounds. But if so, I’d never payed it any mind. The New York Dolls weren’t on my radar until punk put them on my radar. I stared at the record in Nashville. Something like three bucks, maybe three-fifty, maybe. I turned it over and back over, examining the graphics of this strange group in their makeup and mascara, uncertain….

And I put the record back on the shelf. On to Cleveland!

It didn’t take long for me to regret that choice. I’m not sure why I hesitated, nor why I opted out. I guess, after all I’d read, I was still unsure if I’d care for the Dolls. In that moment, I was unwilling to take the chance, even at a discount. But yeah, regret came soon thereafter. I still hadn’t heard the New York Dolls, and I’d just blown my chance to hear ’em at a lower price.

Meanwhile, the Dolls’ mystique grew in my mind. Now, I read about them in Rock Scene, I learned a greater appreciation of their influence on the punk rock I loved, and I cringed the next time I saw a Dolls album available for sale: a 2-LP import set, priced outta reach like a 2-LP import set should be. Oh, the humanity…!

In January of 1978, I saw the Flashcubes for the first time. I saw the ‘Cubes as many times as I could, whenever I was back home during school breaks. The Flashcubes had great original songs, great energy, and great taste in covers. Via the Flashcubes, I heard my first New York Dolls song: “Personality Crisis.”


I recognized the title from Rock Scene. Awrighty. The Flashcubes proved to me that “Personality Crisis” was magnificent, and I further kicked myself for my folly in Nashville.

It would still be almost another year yet before I’d finally hear the Dolls themselves, courtesy of a compilation album that included “Personality Crisis” and “Who Are The Mystery Girls” by the mother-lovin’ New York Dolls. 

In July of ’79, the Flashcubes opened for former Dolls frontman David Johansen at The Slide-Inn in Syracuse. I’d heard a bit of Johansen’s eponymous solo album, and was blown away by his live set. Before that show, I’d tried to describe the New York Dolls to a friend who hadn’t heard them, and I settled on saying the Dolls were a cross between KISS and the Sex Pistols. Inaccurate, I guess, but best I could do at the time. Johansen included a trio of Dolls favorites in his setlist: “Babylon,” “Personality Crisis,” and Bo Diddley‘s “Pills.” And we saw that it was good.

“Personality Crisis” remains the New York Dolls’ signature tune. It’s trashy and messy, a puff of smeared mascara and loud guitars, a six-string catfight on high heels and just plain high, Eddie Cochran with lipstick, the British Invasion in fishnets, the Pretty Things, only prettier. Jerry Nolan pounds, Killer Kane plonks, Sylvain Sylvain plugs in and plays, while David Johansen preens and pouts, a prima ballerina on a spring afternoon. And guitarist Johnny Thunders? God knows where his head was or what it was doing–one suspects he may not have known where his head was or what it was doing–but the result is riveting, out-of-body, a noise that couldn’t possibly have been made anywhere amidst the green or gravel of this lonely planet, boy. It’s almost a parody of the strut of ’70s rock, but it’s either too self-aware to be accidental or too oblivious to be premeditated. In truth, it is both. Lookin’ fine on television! A personality crisis indeed.

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

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

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Uncle John’s Band

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

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

THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Uncle John’s Band

Written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter

Produced by Bob Matthews. Betty Cantor, and Grateful Dead

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

My 1960’s

My favorite decade of music has always been the 1960s. Even as a teenager in the ’70s, soakin’ up the wonders of AM radio (from Badfinger to The Isley Brothers to Alice Cooper) and then FM (from Graham Parker to Nick Lowe to The Sex Pistols), my true allegiance remained steadfast and true: The Beatles. Nothing could ever change that.

Although I was, technically, alive for all but the first sixteen (and much of the seventeenth) days of the ’60s, a lot of my awareness and appreciation of the decade’s music came well after the fact. I’ve been examining some of these stories on this blog, recognizing the dialectic and dialogue that reaches across the eras of one’s own life. I became a fan of ’50s hits by Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly when I heard them in the early ’70s; I didn’t discover The Velvet Underground, or Love, or even Otis Redding until the ’80s.

But I do remember some stuff from the ’60s, contemporaneous to the ’60s. I remember “The Twist” by Chubby Checker–my Aunt Anna had the 45–and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by The Four Seasons, and “Save Your Heart For Me” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. I remember my friend Willie singing Jan and Dean‘s “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” in my friend Steve’s back yard. Gene Pitney‘s legend loomed large in the Cafarelli household, with “Town Without Pity” and “Half Heaven Half Heartache” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” Lesley Gore‘s “California Nights.” Nancy Sinatra‘s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” The Rolling Stones‘ “Get Off Of My Cloud.” Tiny Tim, too.

One presumes I must have heard The KinksJames BrownPaul Revere and the RaidersThe Righteous Brothers, and so many more, but I don’t recall any of these prior to rediscovering them in subsequent decades. I knew of Chad and Jeremy, but I don’t think I knew any of their songs at the time. There was an ad for We’re Only In It For The Money by The Mothers Of Invention in the pages of Marvel Comics, but I didn’t have the merest clue who Frank Zappa was. I saw Herman’s Hermits in an awful movie called Hold On!, and while I’m sure I knew some of the Hermits’ biggest hits, I didn’t remember any of their songs in that film prior to buying a used copy of the soundtrack LP in the late ’70s.

Here are a few others that I do remember:

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE: “Somebody To Love”
THE T-BONES: “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)”
THE BEACH BOYS: “Surfer Girl”
THE ARCHIES: “Sugar, Sugar”
THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR: “I Fought The Law”
THE DAVE CLARK FIVE: “Bits And Pieces”
THE CASTAWAYS: “Liar, Liar”
THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS: “Monday, Monday”
THE TURTLES: “Happy Together”
THE FIVE AMERICANS: “Western Union”
THE AMERICAN BREED: “Bend Me, Shape Me”
TOMMY JAMES AND THE SHONDELLS: “Hanky Panky”
BILLY JOE ROYAL: “Down In The Boondocks”
ANDY WILLIAMS: “A Fool Never Learns”
EYDIE GORME: “Blame It On The Bossa Nova”
DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: “Wishin’ And Hopin'”
TWINKLE: “Terry”
FREDDY CANNON: “Teen Queen Of The Week”
BEN COLDER: “Ring Of Smoke”
JEANNIE C. RILEY: “Harper Valley PTA”
THE SURFARIS: “Wipeout”
THE FIFTH DIMENSION: “Up, Up And Away” and “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In”

I also knew a few of The Monkees‘ records–“She,” “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow),” “Gonna Buy Me A Dog,” “I’m A Believer,” “Last Train To Clarksville”–and I certainly knew a bunch of Beatles tunes, from “All My Loving” through “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I’ll Follow The Sun.” That cumulative pop frenzy is why I still regard Beatles ’65 and Beatles VI as my all-time favorite albums. But really, all of this stuff would come to mean even more to me as I looked back upon it in later years.

Is it nostalgia that makes me prefer ’60s music to all that came afterwards? Yes, of course, but not quite in the usual sense of personal nostalgia for the cherished playthings of childhood. Although I have some contemporaneous memories of rock ‘n’ roll during The Great Society, I can’t truly associate (The Association!) all that much of the era’s music with specific warm ‘n’ fuzzies from my preteen timeline. There is, I guess, that prevailing image of Beatlemania, that lingering sense that pop music was ruled by The Beatles, and always would be; seeing A Hard Day’s Night at the drive-in when you’re four years old can have that kind of effect on your development, and then seeing The Monkees on TV can reinforce that, move it from the realm of shiny passing fancy into the bedrock foundation of faith and certainty. I may not remember all of the nuances and shades, nor even all of the broad strokes of the ’60s with the crystal clarity of a reliable eyewitness, but I was there in just enough of its giddy heyday to retain that glow of affection, and to maintain that sense of familiarity and wonder. I remember what I remember; I embrace what I later encountered as a result of those memories.

Oh, and I remember some Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. I remember this one album cover in particular….

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

Categories
Boppin'

Cruisin’ Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

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

Reopening The Book On THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

With current work completed on my forthcoming [REDACTED] book, I’ve started turning my attention back to my long-threatened other book, The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). My first order of business really ought to be finding a new agent; I haven’t even started looking for new representation since parting company (reluctantly but amicably) with my previous agent. But working on the book itself is something I can do in the here and now. 

In the past two and a half weeks, I’ve completed GREM! chapters about Tracey UllmanBob DylanOtis ReddingArthur Conleythe Dixie CupsIke and Tina TurnerEddie and the Hot RodsMarykate O’Neil, and the Beatles‘ “Revolution,” restored previously-completed Love and Yoko Ono chapters, worked a little bit more on a still-unfinished chapter about the O’Jays, and tweaked the Linda Ronstadt chapter from a completed piece about the Stone Poneys‘ “Different Drum” into a completed piece about Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good” instead. 

As of my last public GREM! update in September, the Dixie Cups, Yoko Ono, Love, and Arthur Conley chapters were not part of the book’s Table of Contents; they are now. I’ve removed previously-planned chapters about the Policethe Shocking BlueTelevision, and Peter, Paul and Mary. I almost restored my chapter about the Romantics, but it’s not in the book’s current blueprint. Completed chapters about the Buzzcocksthe Raspberriesthe Dandy Warholsthe CastawaysDeep Purplethe Only OnesNick LoweWanda Jackson, and Al Hirt that were already out of the book’s TOC remain out of the book now, though any one (or more) of ’em could still be taken off the bench and placed into the line-up. Everything’s in play until the book’s done. 

Yeah, maybe even still in play after I think the book’s done. I tweak therefore I am. Here’s what my working Table of Contents looks like today:

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (VOLUME 1) 

Table of Contents

FOREWORD

DISCLAIMERS AND DECLARATIONS (A User’s Guide To The Greatest Record Ever Made!)A Fistful Of 45s

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

1. BADFINGER: Baby Blue

2. CHUCK BERRY: Promised Land

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

4. THE SEX PISTOLS: God Save The Queen

5. ELVIS PRESLEY: Heartbreak Hotel

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

7. PATTI SMITH: Gloria

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

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

10. CRAZY ELEPHANT: Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’ 

11. WILSON PICKETT: In The Midnight Hour

12. THE HOLLIES: I Can’t Let Go

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

14. SAM COOKE: Chain Gang

15. PETULA CLARK: Downtown

16. ARTHUR ALEXANDER: Soldier Of Love

17. TRANSLATOR: Everywhere That I’m Not

18. LESLEY GORE: You Don’t Own Me

19. THE SHANGRI-LAS: Leader Of The Pack

20. THE SHIRELLES: Will You Love Me Tomorrow

21. THE RAMONES: Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

22. AMY RIGBY: Dancing With Joey Ramone

23. PINK FLOYD: Wish You Were Here

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

25.THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR: I Fought The Law

26. MERLE HAGGARD: Mama Tried

27. THE TEMPTATIONS: Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone

28. BUDDY HOLLY: Peggy Sue/Everyday

29. JOHNNY NASH: I Can See Clearly Now

30. ELTON JOHN: Saturday Night’s Alright For Fightin’

31. SUZI QUATRO: I May Be Too Young

32. ALICE COOPER: School’s Out

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

34. THE DIXIE CUPS: Iko Iko

35. ARTHUR CONLEY: Sweet Soul Music

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

37. ARETHA FRANKLIN: Respect

INTERLUDE The Monkees Play Their Own Instruments

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

39. PRINCE: When You Were Mine

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

41. THE ROLLING STONES: Get Off Of My Cloud

42. PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS: Just Like Me

43. BOB DYLAN: Like A Rolling Stone

44. THE KINGSMEN: Louie, Louie

45. BARON DAEMON AND THE VAMPIRES: The Transylvania Twist

46. NELSON RIDDLE: The Batman Theme

47. THE MARVELETTES: I’ll Keep Holding On

48. THE CREATION: Making Time

49. THE WHO: I Can’t Explain

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

51. SHOES: Tomorrow Night

52. THE FLASHCUBES: No Promise

53. DONNA SUMMER: I Feel Love

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

55. LOVE: 7 And 7 Is

56. JUDAS PRIEST: Heading Out To The Highway

57. ABBA: Dancing Queen

58. THE NEW YORK DOLLS: Personality Crisis

59. MILLIE SMALL: My Boy Lollipop

60. THE EASYBEATS: Friday On My Mind

61. IKE AND TINA TURNER: River Deep Mountain High

62. THE RONETTES: Be My Baby

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

64. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Girls In Their Summer Clothes

65. KISS: Shout It Out Loud

66. THE LEFT BANKE: Walk Away, Renee

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

68. THE KNICKERBOCKERS: Lies

69. THE WONDERS: That Thing You Do!

70. THE GO-GO’S: We Got The Beat

71. THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL: Summer In The City

72. VAN HALEN: Dance The Night Away

73. PEGGY LEE: FeverINTERLUDE The Tottenham Sound Of…The Beatles?!

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

75. JAMES BROWN: Please, Please, Please

76. GRAND FUNK: We’re An American Band

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

78. WAR: Low Rider

79. THE FIRST CLASS: Beach Baby

80. THE ISLEY BROTHERS: Summer Breeze

81. THE RUBINOOS: I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend

82. THE PANDORAS: It’s About Time

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

84. BIG STAR: September Gurls

85. SAMMY AMBROSE: This Diamond Ring

86. PAUL COLLINS: Walking Out On Love

87. LINDA RONSTADT: You’re No Good

88. THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET: Take Five

ENTR’ACTE THE BEATLES: Yesterday

89. THE BEATLES: Revolution

90. THE MC5: Kick Out The Jams

91. THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS: Time Has Come Today

92. MARVIN GAYE: I Heard It Through The Grapevine

93. RAY CHARLES: Hit The Road Jack

94. THE MUFFS: Saying Goodbye

95. YOKO ONO: Kiss Kiss Kiss

96. THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES: Shake Some Action

97. THE CARPENTERS: Only Yesterday

98. MATERIAL ISSUE: Kim The Waitress

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

100. THE JACKSON FIVE: I’ll Be There

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

102. JUDY COLLINS: Both Sides Now

103. EMITT RHODES: Fresh As A Daisy

104. THE BANGLES: Live

105. THE SEARCHERS: Hearts In Her Eyes

106. THE HUMAN SWITCHBOARD: (Say No To) Saturday’s Girl

107. THE BYRDS: I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better

INTERLUDE Rick James! Neil Young! Motown Sensations THE MYNAH BIRDS!

108. RICK JAMES: Super Freak

109. THE FLIRTATIONS: Nothing But A Heartache

110. THE SPINNERS: I’ll Be Around

111. TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS: American Girl

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

113. LED ZEPPELIN: Communication Breakdown

114. EDDIE COCHRAN: Somethin’ Else

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

116. DON HENLEY: The Boys Of Summer

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

118. BEN E. KING: Stand By Me

119. GENE PITNEY: Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa

120. RUFUS: Tell Me Something Good

121. THE SPONGETONES: (My Girl) Maryanne

122. THE TRAMMPS: Disco Inferno

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

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

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

126. DEL SHANNON: Runaway

127. THE EVERLY BROTHERS: Gone, Gone, Gone

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

129. FREDDIE AND THE DREAMERS: Do The Freddie

130. SAM AND DAVE: Soul Man

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

132. THE MAYTALS: Pressure Drop

 133. T. REX: 20th Century Boy

134. HEART: Kick It Out

135. THE RUNAWAYS: Cherry Bomb

136. AMERICA: Sister Golden Hair

137. THE KINKS: Waterloo Sunset 

138. THE KINKS: You Really Got Me

139. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY: Time Will Tell

140. THE SMITHEREENS: Behind The Wall Of Sleep

141. THE COWSILLS: She Said To Me

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

143. THE FOUR TOPS: Reach Out I’ll Be There

INTERLUDE Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll

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

145. THE JIVE FIVE: What Time Is It?

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

147. FREDA PAYNE: Band Of Gold

148. EARTH, WIND AND FIRE WITH THE EMOTIONS: Boogie Wonderland

149. THE CONTOURS: Do You Love Me

150. BLONDIE: (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear

151. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS: All For Swinging You Around

152. WHAM!: Freedom

153. THE SUPREMES: You Keep Me Hangin’ On 

154. THE BEACH BOYS: God Only Knows

155. JOAN ARMATRADING: Me Myself I

156. THE SELECTER: On My Radio

157. TRACEY ULLMAN: They Don’t Know

158. MANNIX: Highway Line

159. THE DRIFTERS: On Broadway

160. FIRST AID KIT: America

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

162. SOLOMON BURKE: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

163. THE JAM: That’s Entertainment

164. THE COASTERS: Yakety Yak

165. CHEAP TRICK: Surrender

166. DAVID BOWIE: Life On Mars?

167. THE O’JAYS: Put Your Hands Together

168. THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Uncle John’s Band

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

170. THE PRETENDERS: Back On The Chain Gang

171. JOAN JETT: Bad Reputation

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

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

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

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

An Infinite Number

INTERLUDE

Underrating The Beatles

ENCORE! 

THE BEATLES: Rain

ENCORE!! 

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

CODA 

THE RAMONES: Blitzkrieg Bop

AFTERWORD

An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. I’m feeling an increasing temptation to include a chapter about the Animals; we’ll see.

At this writing, the chapters still in need of a completed first draft are ABBAMillie SmallPeggy Leethe VelvelettesWarthe PandorasP. P. Arnoldthe Chambers BrothersRay Charlesthe Muffsthe 5th DimensionJudy Collinsthe BanglesDon HenleyBig Brother and the Holding Companythe Maytalsthe CowsillsEarth, Wind and Fire with the EmotionsBlondiethe New Pornographersthe SupremesCheap Trick, the O’Jays, and the Pretenders

The rest of it? Done, at least in draft form. Now, I need to finish the rest, and secure some representation for it, not necessarily in that order. It’s time to head back into the infinite.


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

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Romantics

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 story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

Have you ever bought a record you had never previously heard, performed by an act you had never previously heard of?

I’m not talking about a record by a new act that includes a performer you’d experienced elsewhere (like when I recognized Paul Collins from The Nerves and scarfed up the debut LP by Collins’ then-new group The Beat), or a review you read somewhere prompting you to take a chance on the unfamiliar (like when Rolling Stone compared an act to BlondieThe Buzzcocks, and The Ramones, compelling me to purchase the debut album by The Darling Buds). No. I’m talkin’ tabula rasa, baby. You’ve never heard the music. You’ve never heard of the band. But money changes hands anyway, and this new music is now yours.

That’s how I discovered The Romantics.

My memory may be imprecise. I’ll concede the possibility that I read about The Romantics in Bomp! magazine before I bought my first Romantics record, but I’m pretty sure it was record first, write-up later. I do know that I can’t claim full credit for stumbling upon the record unassisted. The guy behind the counter at the record store pointed it for me.

It was in the spring of 1978. I was a freshman in college at Brockport, NY, and a budding power-pop punk with a musical mania for the 1960s, the British Invasion, The MonkeesThe Sex Pistols, and The Ramones. I’d recently discovered my Syracuse hometown heroes The Flashcubes, and I was constantly on the prowl for MORE! A cool place called The Record Grove was Brockport’s vinyl oasis, managed by a true believer named Bill Yerger. This was about a year or so before Bill opened his own emporium, Main Street Records, the best little record store there ever was. Bill was a huge fan of rockin’ pop music, he knew his stuff, and he knew how to steer kindred spirits toward the record we needed to own, even if we didn’t know it yet.

Although I was perpetually cash-strapped, I visited The Record Grove as often as I could, and bought what I could afford when I could afford it. Bill had a small display box of import and indie 45s for sale at the counter, the box from which I’d purchased my first Ramones and Sex Pistols records during the previous semester. On this particular spring ’78 visit, Bill recalled that I’d recently bought an EP by the British power pop act The Pleasers, a record I’d snapped up on impulse, drawn in by The Pleasers’ overtly Beatley image and the presence of a song called “Lies” (not The Knickerbockers‘ hit, I’m sorry to say). Bill asked me if I’d liked The Pleasers, and I said something like, Yeah, they weren’t bad. Not as good as The Knickerbockers, but I like ’em all right. Maybe Bill already had his next move planned, or maybe it was prompted by my mention of The Knickerbockers. Either way, he said, Well, if you liked that, I bet you’ll like this, too.
And Bill pulled out “Little White Lies”/”I Can’t Tell You Anything,” the debut single from Detroit’s Phenomenal Pop Combo, The Romantics. Awright, then. Just take my money, Bill. Just take it.

My roommate and I were increasingly at odds by this point, so I don’t know if he let me play my newest 7″ vinyl treasure on his stereo, or if I had to wait until a school break to hear the damned thing for the first time back home. Whatever whenever, I immediately dug both sides of this Romantics record, way more than I liked The Pleasers. “Little White Lies” just seemed to combust on the stereo, a pyrotechnic display of pure pop played fast ‘n’ swaggering. “I Can’t Tell You Anything” hijacked a Bo Diddley beat to craft a basic pounder that simultaneously (and incongruously) evoked both The Raspberries and The Rolling Stones. Magnificence times two, and I was duly hooked. When I finally did read about The Romantics in Bomp!, the write-up referenced “Can’t You See That She’s Mine” by my Tottenham Sound lads The Dave Clark Five. But of course.

I listened to a lot of music during the summer of 1978. My parents let me move my little stereo and my growing record collection into the living room; they were away for much of that summer, so I was able to play my rock ‘n’ roll platters with a bit more volume than might have otherwise been likely. I had a part-time job, I saw The Flashcubes as often as I could, and I let the records spin freely: KinksSeedsBobby Fuller FourThe JamGeneration XKISSHerman’s HermitsEddie & the Hot RodsRich KidsRunawaysStandellsBeau Brummels, Monkees, Beatles, Ramones, Pistols, Tom PettyBuddy Holly, Raspberries. The Pleasers, too–I did like them, just not as much as I liked The Romantics. Both sides of my Romantics 45 saw significant turntable time throughout that season.

As summer surrendered its space to my sophomore year at Brockport, I saw that The Romantics were coming to Syracuse for a show with The Flashcubes, and it would be at my favorite nightspot The Firebarn. It would also be my first week back at school, and there was no way I would be able to see that show. The Romantics played Syracuse dates with The Flashcubes on several occasions in this era (and the ‘Cubes also traveled to Detroit to return the favor), but always when I was away at school. I never did have an opportunity to see The Romantics play until decades later.

I remained a fan. I bought their second single, “Tell It To Carrie”/”First In Line,” mail-order from Bomp!, and I scored another Romantics track called “Let’s Swing” on the Bomp Records compilation album Waves Vol. 1 (an LP that also included “Christi Girl” by The Flashcubes). As my third and final year in college beckoned in August of 1979, local rock station 95X started playing “When I Look In Your Eyes,” an advance track from The Romantics’ forthcoming major label debut. That eponymous debut featured another new track, “What I Like About You.” Maybe you’ve heard of it…?

It cracks me up that so many folks think of The Romantics as a one-hit wonder for “What I Like About You.” The Romantics are so much more than one song, and that one song wasn’t even their biggest hit; that would be “Talking In Your Sleep” (# 3 in Billboard), and “One In A Million” also fared better chartwise (# 37) than “What I Like About You.” In fact, “What I Like About You” missed the Top 40 entirely (# 49), but it became a retroactive and enduring Fave Rave a few years after the fact, thanks to the power of a new, content-hungry entity called MTV. They were all hits in my mind anyway.

Sometimes, when a rock ‘n’ roll act you discovered ahead of the pack subsequently achieves mainstream success, you may feel a temptation to dismiss the more popular work, to sniff and insist that you liked ’em not only before they were famous, but before they, y’know, sold out, man! While it is true that, in my opinion, The Romantics’ major-label efforts never quite equaled the sheer punch of “Little White Lies”/”I Can’t Tell You Anything,” it is also true that I’ve loved The Romantics’ work across the span of their career. I love “When I Look In Your Eyes” and “What I Like About You,” I dig “One In A Million” and “Talking In Your Sleep” and “Rock You Up,” their incredible cover of the Richard & the Young Lions nugget “Open Up Your Door,” plus “Test Of Time,” “National Breakout,” and a fantastic, unreleased cover of The Spencer Davis Group‘s “Keep On Running.” Hell, I even like their 1981 hard rock album Strictly Personal–“In The Nighttime” just kicks, man!–and virtually nobody likes that record except me and Flashcubes guitarist Paul Armstrong

After years and years of missed opportunities, I finally saw The Romantics at an outdoor sports-bar show in the mid ’90s. Yeah, I would have preferred to see them at The Firebarn, but it was still a thrill. They opened with an authoritative cover of The Pretty Things‘ “Midnight To Six Man,” and I’m sure you can guess what song closed the show. I don’t believe that I will ever tire of hearing “What I Like About You,” nor will I tire of the lesser-known gems to be found throughout The Romantics’ stellar c.v. More than forty years ago, my friend Bill Yerger introduced me to the music of The Romantics, and they were but one of many pop treasures Bill pointed out for me. Bill Yerger passed away in the late ’90s. Bill, if you can read this across the veil that separates our world from yours, lemme tell ya: the inspiration you provided drives me to this day. That’s what I like about you.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

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

THE BEST OF EVERYTHING: Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four

Sometimes only the best will do. The Best Of Everything looks back on specific greatest-hits and best-of LPs and what they meant to me.

THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR: Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four (Rhino, 1981)

In 1966, my brother Art had a red Alfa Romeo. I’m told it was kind of a crappy car, really, and I remember its ignominious final days in his possession: a scarlet husk parked, prone, lying in state beyond the shed at the end of our back yard. Collecting dust, collecting rust. A tow truck ultimately came to whisk this luckless red Alfa Romeo to the promised land.

But my prevailing principle memory of this doomed vehicle is a happy one. I believe the memory involves the consumption of Royal Crown Cola, or possibly a root beer and Teen Burger at the nearby A & W Drive-In. The memory absolutely involves the car’s one true immortal virtue: its radio.

That radio? When I was six years old, I may have thought that radio was magic.

I mean, it must have been magic. There were songs I heard on that car’s radio that I never seemed to hear anywhere else. I should ask Art if he listened to Syracuse’s 1260 WNDR in ’66, or if it was WOLF instead, or even the less-fabled WFBL. Whatever it was, it played “I Like It Like That” by The Dave Clark Five, a record that–to me–only existed on the AM dial of Art’s star-crossed Alfa Romeo. Even better, it played–often!–another irresistible exclusive: “I Fought The Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four. To this day, more than five decades later, my visceral memory of that terrific song is inextricably linked to those moments in my brother’s Alfa Romeo, of drums, guitars, and a singer bemoaning his fate of Breakin’ rocks in the hot sun, allpouring forth from the little car’s speakers as my big brother cruised suburban streets with his pesky kid brother on board. It’s indelible, and I embrace and cherish its vivid image.

A decade and change passed. In 1978, I was finishing my freshman year in college, and immersing myself in the rockin’ pop of the ’60s and the then-contemporary sounds of punk, new wave, and power pop. It was all one big ol’ ball of pop music to me, from The Monkees to The Sex PistolsThe Romantics to The Beau BrummelsThe Ramones  to Joey Ramone‘s fave raves The Who and Herman’s Hermits. Oh, and The Kinks to The Kinks, “You Really Got Me” to “Rock And Roll Fantasy.” In this joyous crucible of discovery and rediscovery, “I Fought The Law” was ripe to reclaim. I think I found an oldies 45 reissue, but I found something lacking in its sound–couldn’t match the magic of the Alfa Romeo, lemme tell ya! I bought a various-artists LP called 15 Original Rock N’ Roll Biggies Vol. 2, an oddball set that gave me “I Fought The Law,” familiar old gold from The Platters and Little Anthony & the Imperials (and, incongruously, “Day By Day” from Godspell), and some archival stuff that was brand-new to me, by names like The StandellsThe E-Types, and Chocolate Watchband. I played “I Fought The Law” and the two Standells tracks–“Why Pick On Me” and “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White”–a lot in that music-filled summer of ’78.

I don’t know if it occurred to me that The Bobby Fuller Four might have had more than just one great song. Hell, my “I Fought The Law” 45 had only contained one BF4 track, its flip occupied by The Seeds‘ “Pushin’ Too Hard.” Nor did I know that Bobby Fuller himself was dead, and I certainly didn’t know anything at all about the suspicious circumstances surrounding his demise. The opportunity to learn about all of this would not present itself until after I graduated from college in 1980.

The specific sequence of events is cluttered and imprecise in my recollection. In 1981, my girlfriend and I were living in an apartment in Brockport. She would graduate that spring, and I’d already leveraged my Bachelor of Arts degree into full-time employment at McDonald’s–success! And rent money, as well as cash for beer and food and beer, and to keep buying music at Main Street Records. At Main Street, my dovetailing interests in punk and pop led me to Pebbles, the essential Nuggets-inspired series of possibly-not-fully-authorized compilations of ’60s garage and psych. I started with Pebbles‘ second volume, which introduced me to The Choir‘s “It’s Cold Outside” and The Moving Sidewalks‘ “99th Floor,” and to The Electric Prunes‘ unforgettable commercial for Vox wah-wah pedals. It’s the NOW sound! It’s what’s happening!

Pebbles, Volume 2 also offered my first exposure to a Bobby Fuller song that was not about robbing people with a WHOMP-WHOMP-WHOMP six-gun: the relatively nondescript “Wine Wine Wine.” Fuller remained a one-hit wonder to me for just a little bit longer.

Within this same time frame, Phil Seymour (formerly of The Dwight Twilley Band, and a collaborator with ace combos like Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and 20/20) released his first solo album. My favorite track on Phil Seymour was his version of “Let Her Dance,” an incredible pop confection first recorded by–you guessed it!–The Bobby Fuller Four. Something nagging at the edges of my memory insists that I did hear the original version before hearing Seymour’s cover, but I can’t imagine where I heard it. Either way, I loved the song. I was ready and eager to dive more deeply into Fuller’s c.v.

I probably snapped up Rhino Records‘ Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four the first time I saw it on the shelf at Main Street; if not, it wasn’t long thereafter. I knew, at best, two songs. It was high time to know more.

The album begins with the lone hit, Sonny Curtis‘ “I Fought The Law,” originally recorded by The Crickets, later covered successfully by The Clash. I’ve always considered The Bobby Fuller’s version to be definitive. I still do. By the early ’80s, I would have been more than skeptical of the idea that it could ever be demoted to something like my fourth or even fifth favorite BF4 track. But that revelation was mere grooves away.

Granted, nothing else on Side 1 of Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four really threatens to challenge the primacy of “I Fought The Law.” “King Of The Wheels,” the LP’s second track, is its weakest, an amiable but unremarkable car tune. The rest of the side is pretty damned good, with the pure pop likes of “The Magic Touch,” “It’s Love, Come What May, “Only When I Dream,” “Don’t Let Me Know,” and Buddy Holly‘s “Love’s Made A Fool Of You” combining to build the case that maybe these one-hit wonders deserved greater notoriety than the one hit that defined them. In particular, “Don’t Let Me Know” seems like it should have at least been a hit single, perhaps capable of cracking the lower end of the Top 20 while never quite matching the Top 10 status of “I Fought The Law.”

But Side Two…!

Side Two opens with “Let Her Dance,” a bona fide gem later covered by Marshall Crenshaw, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad version of it. The BF4’s original is the equal of “I Fought The Law,” perhaps its superior. “Another Sad And Lonely Night” is even better, a lovelorn lament that all too few recognize as the essential classic it is. “My True Love,” “I’m A Lucky Guy,” and the Eddie Cochran ripof…er, tribute “Saturday Night” keep things moving at a mere-mortal (but terrific!) level. By this point, Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four has already proven the group to be worthy of repeated play beyond just its best-known song.

“Fool Of Love” is the icing on this cake, a cruel-love compatriot to “Another Sad And Lonely Night,” both of them simultaneously shiny and devastating in their resigned, boppin’ acceptance of the heart’s tear-stained pursuit of an elusive happiness. The two tracks politely take turns as my all-time top Bobby Fuller Four track. The haunting “Never To Be Forgotten” brings the program proper to a close, the heart’s quest yet unfulfilled, but its lonely plight comforted by the warmth of the stereo. An unlisted bonus track–the group’s radio spot for The Big Kahuna, a popular DJon L.A.’s KHJ-AM, sung to the tune of “I Fought The Law”–finally ends the LP on a gloriously exuberant note.

I was 21 years old in 1981. I lived inside my pop music. I was also living in the (overrated) real world for the first time, trying to reconcile the frequently conflicting promise of art and the demands of responsibility, adulthood. It can be a difficult line to tread, an ongoing balancing act between the dreams we dream and the clocks we punch. Doing what we have to keeps things going; doing what we want to keeps us going.

Bobby Fuller wasn’t much older than that when he died in the summer of ’66, a pop star three months shy of his twenty-fourth birthday, a West Texas kid who hit the big time, a rockin’ pop success story with a Billboard smash on his resumé and the world at his feet. The liner notes to Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four offered my first hint of his tragic story. Bobby had talent. Bobby had good looks. Bobby had a string of pretty young things on his arm. And on July 18th, 1966, Bobby’s body was found slumped in his car outside his apartment in Hollywood. He had been beaten. He had been doused with gasoline. The authorities ruled his death a suicide (later amended to “accidental”).

Right.

The record business is big and brutal. And wherever there’s money, there are criminals, and there is often the mob. Ask Tommy James. Or ask Miriam Linna, co-author (with Bobby’s brother Randell Fuller) of the book I Fought The Law: The Life And Strange Death Of Bobby Fuller. Linna and Fuller believe Bobby was murdered by the mob. Sound crazy? Really, crazier than suicide by beating oneself and bathing in gasoline? I’m not one for conspiracy theories. Elvis is dead. Paul is alive. Neil Armstrong did indeed walk on the moon. Oswald may well have acted alone. I find tinfoil hats unbecoming. And I also believe that the mob killed Bobby Fuller, whether over business (likely) or for revenge on Bobby for dallying with a pretty young thing whose dallying allegiance was presumed to already belong exclusively to an underworld boss. The latter scenario was, as I recall, favored in the liner notes of Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four. Whatever actually happened to Fuller, it’s a safe bet it wasn’t self-inflicted.

The sordid tale of Fuller’s end, as sad and frustrating as it remains, can’t dilute the prevailing appeal of his music. Listening to Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four was my first real evidence that there could be more–much more–to an act that show biz writes off as a one-hit wonder. I no longer own my copy of that LP; it was replaced many years ago by a CD that contained even more great Bobby Fuller tracks, and that CD was replaced by the five discs of Bobby Fuller material that now sit proudly on my shelf at home. Fool of love. Another sad and lonely night. Let her dance all night long.

My road to appreciating the bounty of The Bobby Fuller Four began in earnest with Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four in 1981. But the road truly began on the road, literally, back in ’66: when the magic radio in my brother’s unreliable but intrepid red Alfa Romeo played a song I could never hear anywhere else. The law didn’t win this one, I fear. But the music plays on. Never to be forgotten.

(And, for a fictional take inspired by Bobby Fuller’s murder, check out the blurb for my story idea The Beat And The Sting.)

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

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

He Buys Every Rock ‘n’ Roll Book On The Magazine Stands, Part 1: The Circus And The Stone

The first rock ‘n’ roll magazines I recall seeing were issues of Circus and Rolling Stone. I found them around the house, and I presume they belonged to one of my older siblings, probably my sister Denise. I am reasonably certain that neither of my parents would have been into either magazine. On the other hand, my Dad worked at the post office, so it’s equally plausible that these were dead-letter subscription copies that had been discarded, and that maybe Dad brought ’em home. Either way, these magazines made their way to our living room in North Syracuse.

Circus never meant much to me, and although I occasionally flipped through new issues on the magazine racks when looking for rock ‘n’ roll reading material in later years, it wasn’t something I cared about. Until a couple of days ago, I’d largely forgotten that Circus was my first, from 1973. I remembered that Carly Simon was on the cover, and a bit of Google sleuthing led me to the likely culprit pictured above.

I liked Simon at the time. I was an AM radio fanatic. I enjoyed her singles “Anticipation” and “You’re So Vain,” as well as “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be,” and I would continue to like a few more of her hits before I lost interest in the mid ’70s. I’m sure I read the Circus article about her, and I would imagine I at least glanced through the other cover-mentioned pieces about Deep PurpleYesBlack SabbathStevie WonderTommy, and Colombo‘s Peter Falk. But I remember virtually none of it. Not even the Uriah Heep calendar! Though it is fitting that my first rock magazine should presage my first live rock show: my first concert was KISS with opening act Uriah Heep on December 16th, 1976. A coincidence, sure, but a cool connection nonetheless.

My second rock magazine had a little more lasting impact: Suzi Quatro on the cover of the Rolling Stone, January 1975. Swoon! I was instantly smitten with Quatro, even though I’d never heard of her before seeing this magazine. I read the article about her, but didn’t get an opportunity to hear her music until much later. When I finally got to hear and see Suzi Q sing “I May Be Too Young” on the British TV show Supersonic in 1976, it verified the veracity of my smitten nature. Did I mention swoon? Thanks, Rolling Stone!

Most rock fans of my age or older had some affection for Rolling Stone at some point, and I was no exception to that. Other than a 1976 issue with The Beatles on its cover, I don’t think I read the magazine much (if at all) before starting college in 1977. But I devoured Charles M. Young‘s cover story about The Sex Pistols. My roommate Arthur had a subscription to Stone, despised punk, and eventually passed his copy of that Pistols issue to me (with the disdainful expression of one handing over a sack of poopy diapers). I bought Rolling Stone sporadically; I enjoyed “Bang The Head Slowly,” Timothy White‘s 1979 piece about The Ramones, but bemoaned the fact that The Ramones never rated an RS cover feature during their blitzkrieg-boppin’ lifetime.

I eventually subscribed to Rolling Stone, but I grew increasingly and frustratingly aware of the annoying polar opposites that characterized the magazine’s approach: one half rooted in a smug, condescending rote-hippie consciousness, the other not rooted at all, but embarrassingly eager to chase and embrace whatever shiny Next Big Thing mirage flits across pop culture’s short attention span. Come on–Rolling Stone‘s putz swine-in-chief Jann Wenner still insists on blocking The Monkees from The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but he’s fine with cover-featuring Kardashians? Sorry, even introducing me to Suzi Quatro doesn’t earn sufficient gravitas to compensate for that. Rolling Stone and I parted company a long time ago.

But let’s get back to the ’70s. In spite of being initiated via Circus and Rolling Stone, I don’t really recall reading many rock mags during my high school years. I was certainly into the music. I mean, I listened to radio nearly all of the time, bought records when I could afford them, tried to catch rock ‘n’ roll on TV when the opportunity presented itself. But the meager spending cash I had for reading material went to comic books, pulp paperbacks, and the occasional Playboy or Penthouse. The latter resource did include a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll coverage amidst its more celebrated, y’know, uncoverage. I remember reading the lyrics to The Kinks‘ “Here Comes Yet Another Day” in a Penthouse article, at a time when I was just beginning to learn about The Kinks. Penthouse also published an extremely dismissive piece about The Bay City Rollers, and an interview with Patti Smith that was the first time I’d even heard of her.

The only other rock-related magazines I remember from my North Syracuse High School days were Welcome Back Beatles, a series of fanciful scenarios detailing fictional Beatles reunions, and a Bay City Rollers one-shot fan magazine. Oh, and Marvel‘s KISS comic book. And there was still one more bona fide rock ‘n’ roll publication that did matter to me, and it mattered a lot. I only saw two issues of this during my senior year, plus one more back issue the following summer. Even so, the impact of those tabloid pages was far greater than any other rock read I’d experienced to that point.

This was something new. This was something different. This was Phonograph Record Magazine.

TO BE CONTINUED!

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!
You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Categories
Boppin'

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

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!
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).

Categories
Boppin'

Didn’t Hear THAT Coming! (Unexpected Covers In Concert): THE FLASHCUBES, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter”

THE FLASHCUBES: Arty Lenin, Tommy Allen, Gary Frenay, Paul Armstrong

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 FLASHCUBES: Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter [Herman’s Hermits]
I believe I’ve already mentioned that I kinda like Syracuse’s own power pop powerhouse The Flashcubes; insisting that my all-time favorite groups are The BeatlesThe Ramones, and The Flashcubes is a pretty direct statement, right? ‘Cubes shows in 1977 and ’78 included a lot of covers; as time went on, the bulk of their set lists became (rightfully) dominated by their own compositions.

The Flashcubes had terrific taste in covers, encompassing ’60s British Invasion, ’70s punk, power pop, new wave, and Eddie Cochran. The ‘Cubes introduced me to the music of The New York DollsBig StarChris Spedding, and Eddie & the Hot Rods. They covered The TroggsThe JamThe HolliesTelevisionThe RaspberriesThe Sex PistolsThe Yardbirds, and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.” 

And The Flashcubes covered Herman’s Hermits. Just, y’know, usually not the song listed above.

“A Must To Avoid” was the Hermits track that eventually made its way onto Cubic set lists, a song ready-made for live power pop (though the ‘Cubes always skipped its final verse, presumably to keep it lean ‘n’ stripped). But one night in 1978, upstairs at either The Orange or The Firebarn, the ‘Cubes did a seemingly impromptu snippet of “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.” They were introducing a Sex Pistols cover, guitarist Paul Armstrong saying they were going to do a song by a group that had just broken up. “The Beatles…?!,” bassist Gary Frenay joked. “No,” said Armstrong, “and it’s not Herman’s Hermits either.”

For dramatic purposes, the part of Mrs. Brown’s lovely daughter will be played by the lovely actress Pamela Sue Martin

At which point guitarist Arty Lenin started picking the distinctive faux ukulele intro to “Mrs. Brown.” Paul paused, conferred with Arty, who then resumed his picking as Paul joined in briefly to wail along, Missus Brown you’ve gahht a luuuuvleeee dawwwwwwwterrr…! Drummer Tommy Allen may have thrown in a rim shot, completing this Borscht Belt power pop connection. The gag completed, The Flashcubes launched into their planned cover of either “God Save The Queen” or “Pretty Vacant.” 

She’s so lovely, she’s so lovely…she’s a DAUGHTER…!

Was this whole schtick planned out in advance? Maybe. Probably? If so, The Flashcubes pulled off the illusion of spontaneity with grace and aplomb, perhaps not a phrase often applied to the clattering Wall of Noise that defined the sound of Flashcubes ’78. 

My memory insists that I witnessed Arty throw in his “Mrs. Brown” lick during at least one other Flashcubes show, that time without Paul Armstrong channeling a punk Peter Noone. If he ever did it again, it was still an isolated incident. “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” would not be listed in any document of songs The Flashcubes ever covered. But I saw it. I heard it. I just didn’t hear it coming.

WHEN DIDN’T HEAR THAT COMING! RETURNS: David Johansen sings disco!

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

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