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!

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Categories
Pop Sunday

The Empty Hearts / Second Album

The Empty Hearts

Second Album (Wicked Cool Records)

 
A true supergroup, The Empty Hearts are Wally Palmar from The Romantics on vocals, rhythm guitar and harmonica, Elliot Easton of The Cars on lead guitar and vocals, Andy Babiuk from The Chesterfield Kings on bass and Clem Burke of Blondie on drums and vocals. 


In 2014, The Empty Hearts released their self-titled debut album, which was expectedly greeted with wild applause. Considering how busy these guys are with their own separate projects, they can be excused for taking so long to deliver a follow-up effort. But it was definitely worth the wait, because the properly coined Second Album is just as fun and exciting as the first endeavor.


Dotted with wailing Yardbirds‘ styled harmonica trills, The Best That I Can crackles and crunches with classic  garage rock fervor, and then there’s Well, Look At You, which includes hip horn arrangements and grooves to a sprightly soulful timbre. 


Hook-laden power pop is the name of the game on fetching numbers such as  If I Could Change Your Mind and Coat-Tailer, where Sometimes Shit Happens For A Reason bristles to a gritty blues pitch managed by tobacco-ravaged vocals and raw-boned emotion.


The band’s good friend, Ringo Starr, lends his fabled tub-thumping prowess to Remember Days Like These, that chimes brightly with Byrds inspired bliss and magical melodies by the mile. An apt statement of the turbulent times we’re currently experiencing, The World’s Gone Insane roars with red hot anger generated by throttling riffs and pulsing punk rock energy. Shaped of a larger than life chorus and a stomping beat, Come On And Try It plugs in as another rousing raver included on the collection. 


Those hungry for a shot of authentic rock and roll will certainly feed their need with Second Album.  The Empty Hearts play their great songs straight from their hearts – pun badly intended –  and their passion for the music is instantly infectious. Equipped with killer-diller chops and the kind of telepathic chemistry found in the best bands, these fellows were destined to be together. Here’s to a standing ovation.

Categories
Pop Sunday

British Invasion Top Ten

1) “I Want To Hold Your Hand” The Beatles – Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is an obvious number one choice for this list. But aside from being a fantastic song, it was responsible for kicking off the British Invasion that dominated airwaves and record players everywhere from 1964 to 1965. Hooray for The Beatles for sparking the movement and opening the door for flurries of other fine bands from Jolly Old England.

2) “Needles And Pins” The Searchers – Glistening to a stunning synthesis of twinkling twelve-string guitars and choir boy harmonies, “Needles And Pins” proved to be as influential as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Folk rock before the term even existed, the song seized the ears of future Beau Brummels and Byrds members, who popularized the style and gave it its name.

3)  “Heart Full Of Soul” The Yardbirds – Also inspiring and inventive, “Heart Full Of Soul” is underlined by Jeff Beck’s distorted fuzztone guitar work, giving the song an eerie edge that predates psychedelia. A left-field offering from a left-field band, but accessible enough to become a hit single.

4) “Glad All Over” The Dave Clark Five – Bursting forth with stomping rhythms and a monster-sized call and response chorus, “Glad All Over” represents the Dave Clark Five’s style through and through, which was dubbed “The Tottenham Sound.” The timelessly catchy song further captures the youthful exuberance of the British Invasion in all its giddy glory.

5) “House Of The Rising Sun” The Animals – Navigated by lead singer Eric Burdon’s bluesy growl and Alan Price’s menacing keyboard passages, “House Of The Rising Sun” exposed a “darker angle” of the British Invasion that additionally included the rebel cries of bands like The Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things, who not only sneered and snarled, but looked mighty sinister with their exceedingly long locks and scruffy threads.

6) “You Really Got Me” The Kinks – Quaking and shaking with a wild and frantic guitar solo, “You Really Got Me” sounds as revolutionary today as it did in 1964. Often considered the first genuine heavy metal song, “You Really Got Me” is further intensified by jolting hooks and a screaming chorus.

7) “She’s Not There” The Zombies – Possessing a breathtaking repertoire of ethereal vocals, gripping keyboard exercises and melting melodies, the jazzy “She’s Not There” teems with class and sophistication. The British Invasion produced a variety of musical hues, and here’s a song – not to mention a band – that certainly sported its own individual identity. 

8) “Look Through Any Window” The Hollies –  Praised for their poised and polished harmony prowess, The Hollies deliver the goods to maximum effects on “Look Through Any Window,” which subsequently entails enterprising arrangements and a sturdy backbeat. A high energy and high quality slice of pop rock magic, “Look Through Any Window” soars with color and light.

9) “A World Without Love” Peter and Gordon – Composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “A World Without Love” steps in as a mid-paced ballad, pronounced by the yearning Everly Brothers-fashioned lilt of Peter Asher and Gordon Waller. Lushly textured and containing a spinning keyboard break, “A World Without Love” ripples with beauty and finesse.


10) “Concrete And Clay” Unit 4 Plus 2 – Fueled by a finger-snapping bossa nova cadence, the perpetually perky “Concrete And Clay” was quite a unique entry in the British Invasion sweepstakes. Crisp and crackling acoustic guitar licks, supported by folk-framed choruses and needling hooks furnish the tasty tune with a rather exotic touch.