The Pozers / Crybaby Bridge

The Pozers

Crybaby Bridge 

https://thepozers.bandcamp.com/

The way that bands and solo musicians present themselves has changed considerably over the years. When I began my life as a professional critic, the year was 2004, and I was writing a weekly music column for The Kenosha (Wi) News. It was an honest-to-goodness local newspaper, printed on smudgy newsprint and was delivered, primarily, by being thrown on porches and lawns across Kenosha County.

In 2004, record labels and artists alike sent in what was known as a press kit. It usually came in a folder, and included a band photo, bio, CD, and occasionally a sticker or pin. As the years rolled by, the physical press kit morphed into the online press kit. It wouldn’t be too long, before that, too, disappeared completely. These days, most requests for press come in the form of an email with a link, where the actual music can be downloaded. 

It’ll probably come as no surprise that twenty years after penning that first review for The Kenosha News, I prefer the old-fashioned way. I’m a tactile human being, and to me, holding the product in my hands and reading every little album credit, really enhances the overall experience. I’d forgotten that, until The Pozers’ press kit for Crybaby Bridge arrived.

Their CD, Crybaby Bridge, came in a shiny silver folder, complete with promo one-sheet, band photo, bio, and a nice cover letter. This band had me in their corner before I even heard a single note of their music.

Jim Richey formed the band in Texas in 1994, and this new release, coincidentally, carries a decidedly 90’s vibe. By that, however, I don’t mean to say that it sounds dated. Rather, Richey and his bandmates have hit upon a nifty retro-rock sound that, similarly to Tom Petty, Lenny Kravitz, Matthew Sweet and Jellyfish, combines the writing chops of Lennon & McCartney with a jagged, modern guitar sound. If you like that sort of thing (I do), Crybaby Bridge hits all of the right notes.

The opener, Goodbye (I’m Gone), is a crunchy Pepper-inspired number, complete with bouncy bassline and an irresistable chorus. Heck, there’s even a middle 8 before the solo that’s catchy enough to be the chorus of a complete different song. The slinky Two sounds like a more melodic I Am The Walrus, and the bouncy The Only Girl might be mistaken for a Lennon outtake from Rubber Soul.

Telling My Secrets is a real power pop stunner, crispy as all-get-out, and chock-full of muscular rhythm guitars, just this side of fuzzy. Teenage Storybook is more top-notch power pop, with some very nice rhythmic injection.

While all of this record’s eleven tracks are worthy of consumption, the closer, So Long, in ascending Jellyfish mode. Buoyed by pumping bass and teenage harmonies, it’s a pop celebration that’s not to be missed. I don’t hear many fantastic tunes these days, and this track is FANTASTIC.

In short, The Pozers are doing everything an indie rock band can do right. From their excellent press kit (presentation, kids!) to the obvious care taken in songwriting and recording, this band is now firmly one of my favorites. Their music is available in all of the regular places, and they are more than worthy of your patronage. Buy Crybaby Bridge and ENJOY!

By Dan Pavelich

VHS Rewind

I still own a working VCR. True, my intrepid old Proscan hasn’t had much work to do the past few years (or past couple of decades), but it remains functional. I’ve kept it hooked up to my TV, just in case I ever want to play an old tape, or copy an old tape to DVD-R.  Neither prospect occurs all that often. Nonetheless, my VCR stands poised, ready to answer the call if needed.

The VCR isn’t the only piece of outdated tech I own, of course. I have an eight-track player (stored in the garage), a cassette player (connected to the stereo, very rarely used), an 8mm camcorder (retained for the library of home videos of my daughter when she was little), and a mini disc deck and a few portable MD players (the portables plopped in a desk drawer, but the deck an integral part of my stereo, and in frequent use for prepping tracks for the radio show until the pandemic changed all of that). I guess the CD and DVD players are now considered antiquated (as the turntable was considered passé for a very long time); it’s true that I’m now more likely to play CDs on my computer (via an external drive) and DVDs in my blu-ray player, but CDs and DVDs (and blu-ray) are themselves still current tech to me.

It’s funny that I seem to have a slightly more nostalgic attachment to VCRs than I have to cassettes, even though cassettes played a much, much larger role in my life. But I have no specific current interest in the act of listening to cassettes.  In contrast, I had a random notion about a month ago of pulling out some old VHS tapes, just to see if the Proscan could still play them.

That said, I didn’t pursue the notion until my wife did some housecleaning and uncovered some old tapes made at her preschool job in the late ’80s, when she was a new teacher there. She was curious to see the tapes. 

My intrepid Proscan to the rescue!

I discovered that I’d discarded the VCR’s remote control somewhere along the way. We operated the player manually for that night’s viewing, and I bought a new universal remote the next day.

Now, finally set to follow through with my original whim to watch some old VHS tapes, I pulled out a couple of homemade rock video compilations I slapped together…well, a very long time ago. These tapes consist of individual videos I recorded off cable, primarily from MTV, and then dubbed onto a fresh tape. Video quality? Not my primary concern. I just wanted to preserve some stuff for my viewing, minus the extraneous distractions of other videos that didn’t interest me.

So far, I’ve watched two of these tapes, neither in its entirety, just fast-forwarding (thanks to my new remote) and checking out the contents. The tapes include a home video of me lip-syncing and guitar-miming to my karaoke performance of “Johnny B. Goode,” the Monkees explaining the rules for tabulating results of voting on The American Music Awards, and various artifacts from MTV, Late Night With David LettermanSaturday Night LiveNashville Now, and The Pat Sajak Show

Who’s on these tapes? Well! We have the RamonesBen E. KingJoan Jett and the BlackheartsTom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Axl RoseTommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers (an American Music Awards clip that includes an audience shot of a visibly bored and/or annoyed Whitney Houston), the Long Rydersthe Moody Bluesthe Buddy System (great, forgotten MTV Basement Tapes winner “Go Back To Hollywood”), Iggy PopDumptruckthe EasybeatsMarshall Crenshawthe TurtlesJohn Lennonthe BeatlesDeep PurpleChubby CheckerFelix Cavaliere (frolicking with the cast of St. Elsewhere while lip-syncing his hit recording [with the Young Rascals] of “Good Lovin'”), Bruce SpringsteenDave EdmundsDon DixonToo Much JoySoul Asylumthe BanglesJohnny Riversthe CynicsSyd Strawthe Way MovesDionHindu Love Godsthe SmithereensIndigo GirlsRoachfordLiving ColourR.E.M.Toni BasilLou Reed and John CaleXTCLilac Timethe Darling Budsthe Georgia SatellitesGraham ParkerLords of the New ChurchMidnight Oil, and Tommy James and the Shondells, among others. 

Oh, and one of the tapes opens with the Monkees’ “Christmas Medley” from 1986, reuniting Micky DolenzDavy Jones, and Peter Tork with their erstwhile prime mate Michael Nesmith

SPOILER ALERT: Father Christmas secretly wears a wool hat!

Yeah, I could have probably found most or all of this stuff on YouTube, sure. But it was a more satisfying experience in the moment to dive into these videos I slapped together for myself those decades ago. I think I’ll watch a few more of these. I may even delve deeper into my VHS archives, and investigate further. All thanks to my intrepid Proscan. Time to rewind. You rock, dear old Proscan. You rock.

(And, back in ’88, I rocked, too. I have video to prove it.)

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! (VOLUME 1): No progress, but an update anyway!

An infinite number of tracks can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns.

Our favorite records don’t live in isolation. Each one has a story to tell.

Anyone who’s endured any time at all on this blog is aware of my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). Yeah, I’ve been working on this thing for years. I finished a complete draft of the book in January, and I’ve shared it with a potential publisher for review. No promise of progress there, but it does remain a work in progress.

In 2018, when I began trying to turn my GREM! concept into a book, it was intended to be my first book. Yep, after decades of freelancing for magazines, writing notes, short stories, blog posts, and stuff for other writers’ books, it was high time for a book I could call my own. GREM! can no longer be my first book, because I have a different book contracted and planned for a tentative 2022 publication. But still, I hope it will be a book.

The draft of GREM! that I shared with a publisher in early April followed my previously-posted blueprint, covering 175 songs and totaling a little under 144,000 words. Since then, I have also completed a slightly shorter alternate version, spotlighting 155 songs instead of 175, with a new word count just north of 131,000. At this moment, I prefer the shorter version. 

Unless, y’know, the publisher loves the longer version. I’m flexible. (And I have three even shorter versions prepped in case I need them. Um…that’s a secret. Shhhh. Don’t tell anybody.)

For now, here’s the proposed Table of Contents for that 155-song version. TA-DA! But before you dive in to experience its splendor, it’s worth repeating this caveat from one of the book’s introductory chapters:

“This specific disclaimer is worth highlighting in bold and all-caps: THIS IS NOT INTENDED AS AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST OF THE BEST RECORDS EVER MADE! Jesus, no! The chapters in this book cover a number of popular and personal favorites, but it’s nowhere near comprehensive, and it’s not meant to be. It’s a discussion and a celebration of pop’s infinite promise–nothing more, nothing less.”

Ready? Let’s GO!

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. ROBERTA FLACK: Killing Me Softly With His Song

30. JOHNNY NASH: I Can See Clearly Now

31. ELTON JOHN: Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

32. RUFUS: Tell Me Something Good

33. SUZI QUATRO: I May Be Too Young

34. ALICE COOPER: School’s Out

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

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

37. ARETHA FRANKLIN: Respect

INTERLUDE A Girl Known Somewhere: 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. THE MARVELETTES: I’ll Keep Holding On

47. THE WHO: I Can’t Explain

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

49. SHOES: Tomorrow Night

50. THE FLASHCUBES: No Promise

51. TELEVISION: Elevation

52. DONNA SUMMER: I Feel Love

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

54. THE DIXIE CUPS: Iko Iko

55. MILLIE SMALL: My Boy Lollipop

56. THE EASYBEATS: Friday On My Mind

57. IKE AND TINA TURNER: River Deep Mountain High

58. THE RONETTES: Be My Baby

59. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Girls In Their Summer Clothes

60. KISS: Shout It Out Loud

61. THE LEFT BANKE: Walk Away, Renee

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

63. THE KNICKERBOCKERS: Lies

64. THE WONDERS: That Thing You Do!

INTERLUDE The Tottenham Sound Of…The Beatles?!

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

66. JAMES BROWN: Please, Please, Please

67. GRAND FUNK: We’re An American Band

68. THE FIRST CLASS: Beach Baby

69. THE ISLEY BROTHERS: Summer Breeze

70. THE RUBINOOS: I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend

71. THE PANDORAS: It’s About Time

72. THE MUFFS: Saying Goodbye

73. BIG STAR: September Gurls

74. THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET: Take Five

75. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS: All For Swinging You Around

ENTR’ACTE THE BEATLES: Yesterday

76. YOKO ONO: Kiss Kiss Kiss

77. THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS: Time Has Come Today

78. MARVIN GAYE: I Heard It Through The Grapevine

79. SAMMY AMBROSE: This Diamond Ring

80. PAUL COLLINS/THE BREAKAWAYS: Walking Out On Love

81. LINDA RONSTADT: You’re No Good

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

83. THE MYNAH BIRDS: I Got You (In My Soul)

INTERLUDE The Rick James Riff (It’s Such A Freaky Scene)

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

85. THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES: Shake Some Action

86. THE CARPENTERS: Only Yesterday

87. MATERIAL ISSUE: Kim The Waitress

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

89. THE JACKSON FIVE: I’ll Be There

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

91. THE BANGLES: Live

92. HEADGIRL/MÖTOR HEADGIRL SCHOOL: Please Don’t Touch

93. THE FLIRTATIONS: Nothing But A Heartache

94. THE SPINNERS: I’ll Be Around

95. TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS: American Girl
96. THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY: I Woke Up In Love This Morning

97. DAVID RUFFIN: I Want You Back

98. LED ZEPPELIN: Communication Breakdown

99. FREDDIE AND THE DREAMERS: Do The Freddie

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

101. DON HENLEY: The Boys Of Summer

102. BEN E. KING: Stand By Me

103. GENE PITNEY: Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa

104. THE SPONGETONES: (My Girl) Maryanne

105. THE TRAMMPS: Disco Inferno

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

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

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

109. DEL SHANNON: Runaway

110. THE EVERLY BROTHERS: Gone, Gone, Gone

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

112. SAM AND DAVE: Soul Man

113. T. REX: 20th Century Boy

114. HEART: Kick It Out

115. THE RUNAWAYS: Cherry Bomb

116. THE KINKS: Waterloo Sunset

117. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY: Time Will Tell

118. THE SMITHEREENS: Behind The Wall Of Sleep

119. THE COWSILLS: She Said To Me

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

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

INTERLUDE Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll

122. THE BOB SEGER SYSTEM: 2 + 2 = ?
123. THE JIVE FIVE: What Time Is It?

124. LULU: To Sir, With Love [Museum Outings Montage]
125. FREDA PAYNE: Band Of Gold

126. THE CONTOURS: Do You Love Me

127. THE GO-GO’S: We Got The Beat

128. WHAM!: Freedom

129. THE SUPREMES: You Keep Me Hangin’ On 

130. THE BEACH BOYS: God Only Knows

131. JOAN ARMATRADING: Me Myself I

132. THE SELECTER: On My Radio

133. TRACEY ULLMAN: They Don’t Know

134. MANNIX: Highway Lines

135. THE DRIFTERS: On Broadway

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

137. SOLOMON BURKE: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

138. THE COASTERS: Yakety Yak

139. CHEAP TRICK: Surrender

140. TEGAN AND SARA: Walking With A Ghost

141. DAVID BOWIE: Life On Mars?

142. THE O’JAYS: Put Your Hands Together

143. THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Uncle John’s Band

144. RITA MORENO, GEORGE CHAKIRIS, SHARKS & GIRLS: America

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

146. JOAN JETT: Bad Reputation

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

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

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

150. 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

Well, I like it! I hope someone else will like it, too. And the edit serves the bonus purpose of giving me a start on a hypothetical The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 2), while retaining the overall narrative of Volume 1.


Before I close here and get back to polishing this pipe dream, I want to repeat some basic supplemental material that’s appeared here previously:

You can see links to each of my 34 GREM! video blogs here.

You can read the book’s foreword, introduction, and first few chapters here. (These are earlier drafts, so some changes have been implemented since these were posted. Still gives you the gist of what I’m doing.)

Here are a few other sample chapters (also in earlier drafts):

BADFINGER: Baby Blue

PATTI SMITH: Gloria

GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS: Midnight Train To Georgia

JOHNNY NASH: I Can See Clearly Now

THE MONKEES: Porpoise Song (Theme From Head)

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Girls In Their Summer Clothes

MATERIAL ISSUE: Kim The Waitress

DAVID BOWIE: Life On Mars?

THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Uncle John’s Band

CAST OF WEST SIDE STORY: America

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

EYTAN MIRSKY: This Year’s Gonna Be Our Year

I believe very, very strongly in this book. I think a few of you just might dig it, too. The work continues. Into the infinite!

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

Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men / Heart Inside Your Head

Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men

Heart Inside Of Your Head/One Of The Boyz (JEM Records 2021)

https://nickpiuntimusic.bandcamp.com/track/heart-inside-your-head

Although the members of Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men have been mainstays of the Detroit, Michigan music scene for many years, the band itself is a fairly new entity.  Made up of lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Nick Piunti, bassist Jeff Hupp, keyboardist Kevin Darnall and drummer Ron Vensko, the band issued its debut album, Downtime, in 2020.

Five-star reviews were delivered in droves, and the guys are set to return to the spotlight once again in the form of not one, but two smashing singles.  

Despite the name, there is nothing the least bit complicated about the band. In terms of classic power pop, Heart Inside Of Your Head clearly exemplifies such a genre. Nick’s radio-rich vocals sound like a less rootsy version of Tom Petty, while the instrumentation is rock solid and to the point. Navigated by a riveting rhythm, Heart Inside Of Your Head is further layered with muscular melodies and grooving harmonies. Great lyrics as well, which are universally-themed and executed with passion.

 On One Of The Boyz, Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men crank the volume to maximum decibels and turn in a fist-pumping anthem that combines the throbbing beat of Slade with the modliness moves of The Jam and the rebel bite of The Clash. Bouncing with intent, the rousing song contains a shouting chorus impossible not to sing along with. 

Both these singles fully express Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men’s expertise for composing and playing the sort of hook-packed pop rock that refuses to go out of style. 

Categories
Pop-A-Looza TV

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers / Change of Heart

Released as a single in 1983, Tom Petty & The HeartbreaksChange of Heart. From their Lp, Long After Dark, the song would become one of the band’s minor hits, reaching #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

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Boppin'

Gerber Music

I am not qualified to eulogize Bill Gerber, who passed away in May of 2020. I only met Bill once, very briefly, when his family’s former music retail store chain Gerber Music was inducted into the Syracuse Area Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2014. He seemed like a good guy, he was certainly an important guy, and any music fan who grew up in Central New York in the ’60s and ’70s mourns the passing of someone who operated this vital resource that meant so much to so many of us. I can’t offer a proper tribute to Bill Gerber. I can only offer condolences to his family and friends.

can speak glowingly on behalf of Gerber Music.

As a nascent teen record collector in the late ’70s, I was fortunate to have a number of fine record stores and record dealers available to me, from the used wares at the flea market and at Mike’s Sound’s Center in North Syracuse, to new stuff at chains like Camelot Music and Record Theatre, and to both new and used at places like Record Revolution in Cleveland Heights (where my sister lived). I loved ’em all. 

But there was something special about Gerber Music. I don’t know if the fact that Gerber carried musical instruments as well as records, tapes, and rock magazines may have attracted a staff more intrinsically connected to the music beat, or if the Gerber stores were just better-run than your typical shopping mall vinyl paradise. I couldn’t have defined it at the time, and I’m not sure that I can even now. Shopping elsewhere just felt like…shopping, regardless of the rockin’ treasures I scored. For whatever reason, even though I couldn’t play guitar or drums or anything, evenif my immortal soul depended on it, shopping at Gerber felt closer to the music.

I think I was at Gerber’s Northern Lights location a time or two, and I probably visited the Fairmount Fair Gerber. Probably. It was the Shoppingtown Gerber that was my destination whenever I could get there, combining happy searches of Gerber’s cutout bins with my ritual burrowing through dusty stacks of used books in the basement of the Shoppingtown Economy Bookstore. Records and books. Heaven.

The Northern Lights Gerber moved to Cicero’s new Penn-Can Mall when it opened in 1976. It was within walking distance of my house, and I felt like I’d hit the freakin’ lottery. A burger and a chocolate malt at Burger Haus, magazines and pulp paperbacks at one or the other of the two bookstores, and records at Gerber Music. Better than Heaven!

I was promiscuous in my record-buying habits. I can’t reconstruct any real list of the stuff I got from Gerber stores over those years. One of the most important things I got from Gerber was a free tabloid rock rag called Phonograph Record Magazine, introducing me to punk rock and exerting an immediate, pervasive, and prevailing influence on the parameters of my rock ‘n’ roll world. There was the time I went up and down the mall looking for a store that carried Baby Ruth chocolate bars; radio station WOUR-FM was running a promotion with Gerber and the corporate candymeisters, allowing customers with a Baby Ruth candy wrapper to buy Boston‘s debut album for just $2.96 or $3.96 or whatever it was. During that search, I stopped to chat with Sharon, who’d been my friend since childhood. Sharon was working at the movie theater, and I wound up flirting with her co-worker, who seemed to reciprocate (though she declined my request for a date). For a shy and awkward guy like me–no, really!–the request itself was uncharacteristically bold at 16 or 17. Let’s chalk it up to rock ‘n’ roll, and credit Gerber Music with the attitude adjustment.

But like I said, I Iong ago lost track of exactly which records I got at Gerber. The list should include my candy-bar promotion copy of Boston, plus Suzi QuatroIf You Knew Suzi…The Very Best Of The HolliesRumoursAbbey RoadThe Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl, a Japanese import of Beatles VIRock ‘n’ Roll High SchoolThe TroggsTom Petty & the Heartbreakers‘ You’re Gonna Get ItBuddy Holly & the Crickets‘ 20 Golden GreatsThe Runaways‘ Waitin’ For The NightThe Raiders’ Greatest Hits Volume IIGreaseCherry Vanilla‘s Bad Girl, and I’m sure scores of others my stubborn memory can’t locate or isolate in the moment.

My main Gerber Music years were tied to the time I was in high school, dovetailing into between-semester visits home during my first two years at college. Though I continued to shop there as a college student, I wasn’t in Syracuse as often by then, and I stayed in my college town of Brockport after snaggin’ my B.A. in 1980. Gerber Music was sold to the Buffalo-based Cavages chain in the ’80s. 

It wasn’t the same.

Gerber, of course, also sold singles, and we haven’t even mentioned any of the 45s I purchased there. We will mention five of them–by ABBAThe ClashThe RamonesThe Jam, and The Flashcubes–in a special Gerber Music edition of 45 Single Sleeve Cavalcade on friday. For now, raise a glass in memory of the great Bill Gerber. Here’s to you, Bill, and here’s to Gerber Music.

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Categories
Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Damned

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

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

Phonograph Record Magazine figures into my first exposure to British punks The Damned, but a larger role in that introduction was ultimately played by a green-eyed girl named Mary Ellen. We’ll get to her in just a sec, but we’ll start with PRM.  Phonograph Record Magazine‘s coverage of this exotic, scary, mysteriously intoxicating music called punk captivated me as a senior in high school, 1976-77. I didn’t know what any of it sounded like, but I was aching to find out.

I was intrigued by so many of these bands that PRM name-checked so casually in its tabloid pages. The RamonesBlondieThe Sex PistolsEddie and the Hot RodsChris Spedding and the Vibrators! It was a long, long list of acts I’d never heard of before, from The New York DollsThe Dictators, and Milk ‘n Cookies through Cheap TrickElvis CostelloIggy PopTom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and Yesterday and Today (later shortened to Y & T). I was desperate to learn more.

Even if you’re my age or older, it may be difficult to remember just how different the world was just four decades ago. Today, if you encounter a reference to some new musical act, the great ‘n’ powerful internet can put that act’s complete c.v. at your disposal instantly. YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and a bunch of other cloud-borne resources that would have been the stuff of science fiction during the Bicentennial are now humdrum, banal fixtures of everyday living. Hell, a YouTube video was likely your introduction to this new act in the first place. The thrill of the hunt has long since been replaced by the smug, jaded smirk of entitlement.

Heh. I’m a curmudgeon at 58.

With that all said, I have to admit I enjoy the convenience of easily-accessible information. But there was something intangibly thrilling about the sheer mystique and wonder conjured in a young man’s mind by the hype and glory of fevered ramblin’ in the pages of mid-’70s rock rags like PRM. You couldn’t hear the music; you could only imagine how amazing it must sound.

The Damned were among the many loud and angry punks mentioned in the pages of Phonograph Record Magazine. I don’t recall the group necessarily getting a lot of ink in the few PRMs I was fortunate enough to grab, but I do remember Flo & Eddie discussing (and dismissing) one of The Damned’s singles–either “New Rose” or “Neat Neat Neat”–in their Blind Date column. Flo & Eddie were not impressed with British punk on first exposure.

In the fall of ’76, I met Mary Ellen at the ESSPA (Empire State School Press Association) Convention in Syracuse. I was there with a cadre of my fellow North Syracuse High School literary insurgents–Dan BacichTim Schueler, and Sue Caldwell–representing our school literary magazine, The NorthCaster.  At the banquet and awards ceremony, we shared a table with a group representing a magazine from a Rochester area high school, and Mary Ellen was part of that group. I think their magazine was called Brown Bag, and I’m pretty sure they won top honors at ESSPA that year.

I have no photo of Mary Ellen. 

Our two groups hit it off pretty well, and it turned out that Mary Ellen was a big rock ‘n’ roll fan. She was especially fond of The Who; I’d remembered reading ads for some Who bootlegs (probably in The Buyer’s Guide For Comics Fandom). I said I’d send her the information, and we exchanged addresses.

She wound up writing to me first, saying she was listening to Montrose and slipping into the terra incognita, a favorite phrase of hers. Starry-eyed teen that I was–I was kinda like Davy Joneson any random episode of The Monkees, except usually without reciprocation–I immediately began to imagine True Love. I was–what’s the word?–an idiot. On a January bus ride from Cleveland to Syracuse, traveling back home solo after visiting my sister, I daydreamed about Mary Ellen, about singing Beatles songs together and maybe exchanging a playful kiss. 

But this was all just fancy on my part. I wrote her a long, presumably witty letter, devoid of any attempt at romantic content–I wasn’t quite that much of an idiot–and she responded with delight. Further correspondence revealed that we would be switching neighborhoods in the fall; I would be starting college in Brockport, a mere 19 miles from Rochester, while she would be attending Syracuse University. She sent me her phone number at SU.

One fall evening in Brockport, I called Mary Ellen, and we spoke on the phone for about an hour. It was a breezy, banter-filled conversation. I remember mentioning The Raspberries (whom she didn’t know all that well) and The Bay City Rollers (which horrified her, since she saw them as not far removed from the dreaded “D-I-S-C-O!”). We had both discovered punk. I don’t know how The Damned came up in the conversation, but she asked me if I’d heard them yet; I hadn’t, so she cranked up the stereo in her dorm room and played The Damned’s LP track “Stab Yor Back” for me. So that was my true, lo-fi introduction to the music of The Damned.

We mentioned earlier how much easier it is nowadays to find out about something or anything. You wanna know what else has changed since 1977? The cost of long-distance phone calls. My 60-minute call to Mary Ellen cost a whompin’, stompin’ fifty dollars, which is an awful lot of money to spend for a few seconds of The Damned. My parents weren’t real happy about paying that bill for me, so that was my Christmas present that year; they threw in a copy of the Alive II album by KISS, because they were really great parents.

But that phone call (and, I think, one subsequent shorter one) were my last positive communications with Mary Ellen. I tried to get in touch with her the next time we were both in Syracuse, but she’d figured out by now that I mighta possibly had hearts in my eyes, and she didn’t need that at all. And honestly, I can’t blame her. In any case, I was soon involved with Sharon, a girl I met in Brockport, and then also with Theresa (another girl I met in Brockport), and significant complications loomed on my immediate horizon.

Complications. My man Archie understands.

It was more than a year until I would be in the same room as a Damned song playing on a damned stereo near me. In the Spring of ’78, a friend at school loaned me a compilation album called New WaveNew Wave included The Damned’s debut single “New Rose,” and I liked it a lot. It turned out that there would be a number of songs by The Damned that I like a lot, especially “Wait For The Blackout” on the group’s 1980 LP The Black Album. I’ll have to try listening to that over a $50 phone call some day.

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Richard Turgeon / 10 Covers, Volume 2

Richard Turgeon

10 Covers: Volume 2″ (2021)

https://richardturgeon.bandcamp.com/album/10-covers-volume-ii


Every so often, Richard Turgeon takes a breather from crafting his own superb songs, and picks tunes of his favorite artists to tackle. The material included on the San Francisco Bay Area one-man band’s “10 Covers: Volume 2” slides in as the second installment of his recycling project, and features tracks that were released as digital singles over the past year.

The selections presented on this effort – which span different eras and styles –  generally follow the template of the initial versions. That is definitely not a bad thing, as some of these songs stand as of the most beloved of all time. Turgeon’s taut and durable vocals, paired with his cracking instrumental techniques, simply crystallize the qualities that made the cuts so appealing in the first place. 

Whether he is channeling the alternative rock of Hole’s “Malibu,” the twelve-string jangle of The Byrds’ “I’ll Feel A Whole Better” or the driving beat of Flesh For Lulu’s “Postcards From Paradise,” Turgeon approaches the songs with earnest enthusiasm.

 Other entries heard on “10 Covers: Volume 2” are The Mamas and the Papas’ luscious harmony-laden “California Dreaming,” T,he Cure’s punchy “Just Like Heaven,” and Neil Diamond’s “I’m A Believer” that was of course popularized in frisky fettle by The Monkees. 
Potty Mouth’s jaunty punk flavored “22,” The Bobby Fuller Four’s heartbreaking ballad “A New Shade Of Blue” and Oasis’ sweeping and soaring “Live Forever” also appear on the set.

 And how fitting it is Turgeon pays homage to Tom Petty on “10 Covers: Volume 2,” considering much of his original work invokes comparisions to the late icon. The song Turgeon elected to revisit is “Learning To Fly,” which adds a layer of  muscular guitar mettle to the mix. 

An eclectic choice of offerings, “10 Covers: Volume 2” is a nice thank you note to the musicians who have inspired Turgeon. Excellent indeed! 

Richard Turgeon / Let’s Take A Drive

Richard Turgeon “Let’s Take A Drive” (2021) 

https://richardturgeon.bandcamp.com/track/lets-take-a-drive

It’s one thing to be prolific, but it’s another thing to be prolific and accomplished. San Francisco Bay Area singer, songwriter and multi-faceted instrumentalist Richard Turgeon boasts both traits. Following the release of his last full-length album, Sea Change, which appeared this past August, Turgeon has been producing digital singles every couple of weeks.


His current single – “Let’s Take A Drive” – is a popping rocker sizzling with a solid sense of dynamics and sound. Ushered by Turgeon’s rural vocals, the simply-structured, yet bold and blunt song, exudes instant appeal. The energy is raw and forthright, and the hooks and chorus are absolutely addictive. As an additional treat, a sweltering guitar solo is squeezed into the showstopper.


An ideal suggestion for the times we are living in, “Let’s Take A Drive” will no  doubt encourage those cocooning to step outside, get behind the wheel and go cruising. The song is also designed to play at top volume while tooling about with the windows rolled down.

  
Visualize Tom Petty fronting Bachman Turner Overdrive, and that pretty much defines the flavor and feel of this great song. In a live setting, “Let’s Take A Drive” would be perfect to perform as the closing number. Excitement abounds, Bics are flicked, and when the crowd-pleaser hits the final note, the audience will scream for an encore. Strapped tight with all the makings of a classic rock anthem, “Let’s Take A Drive” possesses traction and power by the mile. 

Suburban Urchins, Paul McCartney & Cliff Hillis

Suburban Urchins

Born In The Suburbs

http://suburbanurchins.bandcamp.com/

I should start this by saying that Suburban Urchins will appeal to fans of The Kinks. This rough-and-tumble outfit from Tasmania isn’t about smooth edges, but bringing the goods in the form of an iron-fisted right cross.

4000 Miles Away begins with a wind-up, propelled by big drums and power chords. With literally energy for miles, it leads way to I Don’t Wanna Go, an isolation song that’s a real fist-pumper. Scott Riley’s vocals and guitar are perfectly supplemented by the keys of Ernie Oppenheimer, who deftly sprinkles synth and Farfisa throughout.

My fave of the set is the anthemic No More Black Dogs, which feels right out of The Davies’ Brothers playbook, in all the right ways.

Paul McCartney

McCartney III

www.paulmccartney.com

Paul McCartney brings his own namesake trilogy to a close with McCartney III. With most of the world in lockdown mode in 2020, Macca split his time between days at his recording studio, and evenings with his daughter and grandkids.

I’m a big fan of the first two installments of the trilogy, the first producing Every Night and Maybe I’m Amazed, the latter, Coming Up and Waterfalls. Working by oneself can produce results far different that a full band effort, and I think McCartney flourishes in this setting.

The instrumentation, which relies predominantly on acoustic instruments, is the perfect stage for Sir Paul’s now-weathered vocals. Find My Way is a peppy number fuel by harpsichord and guitar riffs that mimmic horn stabs. Lavatory Lil and Slidin’ are a couple of top-notch rockers, and Winter Bird/When Winter Comes is a pretty acoustic musing, and one of McCartney’s best.

All around, this is a really pleasant listen. With vibes to spare and a lot of really strong songs, I can’t recommend McCartney III enough.

Cliff Hillis

Life Gets Strange 

cliffhillis.bandcamp.com

The undeniable sign of a great release? Repeat listens. I’ll bet that in the past two days, I’ve listened to this e.p. at least ten times. From the first verse of the opener, the rambling Let’s Pretend, to the fadeout of the pretty Alien Eyes, I was comfortably hooked.

Cliff Hillis sounds remarkably like Bill Lloyd, who you know I’m partial to. These six tracks are nestled somewhere between the feisty Americana of Cracker and the always-reliable Tom Petty, but without any Southern vocal affectation. Hillis’s friendly, warm voice is perfectly accompanied by the contrast of crisp acoustic guitars and rougher electrics. The production is absolutely on-point.

Life Gets Strange was released in 2020, and I sincerely regret not hearing it earlier. It certainly would have made my year-end-best list. Highly Recommended.

By Dan Pavelich