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.
Released as a single in 1983, Tom Petty & The Heartbreaks‘ Change 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.
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.
I 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 Quatro, If You Knew Suzi…, The Very Best Of The Hollies, Rumours, Abbey Road, The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl, a Japanese import of Beatles VI, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, The Troggs, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers‘ You’re Gonna Get It, Buddy Holly & the Crickets‘ 20 Golden Greats, The Runaways‘ Waitin’ For The Night, The Raiders’ Greatest Hits Volume II, Grease, Cherry 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 ABBA, The Clash, The Ramones, The 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.
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 Ramones! Blondie! The Sex Pistols! Eddie and the Hot Rods! Chris Spedding and the Vibrators! It was a long, long list of acts I’d never heard of before, from The New York Dolls, The Dictators, and Milk ‘n Cookies through Cheap Trick, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, Tom 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 Bacich, Tim 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.
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.
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 Wave. New 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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
Chuck Berry “Run Rudolph Run” (1958) Stamped with the late great fretmaster’s characteristic cycling chord patterns, “Run Rudolph Run” urges the iconic reindeer with the shiny nose to hurry up and get those presents to the good little boys and girls. “All I want for Christmas is a rock and roll electric guitar,” sings Chuck, which sixty-odd years later remains a staple on many a wish list.
Wizzard “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” (1973) Fronted by Roy Wood – whose previous claims to fame included posts with The Move and Electric Light Orchestra – Wizzard were key players on the British glam rock scene of the early seventies. Triggered by the ding of a cash register and clanking coins, “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” is bundled tight in a glossy package, booming with glistening melodies and the elated pitch of a children’s choir.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers “Christmas All Over Again” (1992) Gleaming and streaming with Tom’s signature southern drawl and jangling guitar motifs, “Christmas All Over Again” is so giddy that even Scrooge would enjoy the song. Perky piano passages and a quickie drum solo are icing on the sugar cookie.
George Thorogood and The Destroyers “Rock And Roll Christmas” (1983) So festive is “Rock And Roll Christmas” that you can almost taste the eggnog and kisses under the mistletoe dripping from the grooves. Accented by the duel drive of George’s rehashed Chuck Berry riffs and the bellowing bray of a saxophone, here’s a song geared for cutting the rug with a goofy grin on your face.
The Kinks “Father Christmas” (1977) From the witty pen and fertile imagination of Kinks lead singer Ray Davies, “Father Christmas” is a darkly humorous narrative of a department store Santa Claus who is mugged by a gang of juvenile thugs. The kids don’t want “silly toys,” they want money. Contagiously hooky, “Father Christmas” is set to a lively cadence that belies the tragic storyline.
The Waitresses “Christmas Wrapping” (1981) The holidays are stressing her out and she is spending Christmas alone, yet that only skims the surface of “Christmas Wrapping,” which additionally shares the tale of meeting a fellow earlier in the year. Phone numbers were exchanged, but schedules didn’t match so they were unable to get together. She coincidentally bumps into the guy while grocery shopping for cranberry sauce, and you can guess what happens from there. A fusion of funk, disco and rap, compounded by a new wave quirkness stand as the exciting elements behind “Christmas Wrapping” that entail red hot horn arrangements, nimble six-string strumming and cool vocals tending to border on talking rather than singing.
Stevie Wonder “Someday At Christmas” (1967) A teenage Stevie Wonder executes “Someday At Christmas” in an easygoing manner, rich with warmth and maturity that confutes his youth. Shaped of a spiritual nature, the gorgeous song contains prose visualizing a Utopian existence on earth, where peace, love, social and racial unity, and the absence of war are a reality. Illuminated by vibrant vocals, catchy harmonica fills and a spot of elegant orchestration, “Someday At Christmas” dispatches a positive message with honesty and integrity.
Bob Seger and The Last Heard “Sock It To Me Santa” (1966) Prior to obtaining worldwide recognition with the Silver Bullet Band, Bob Seger experienced an impressive amount of regional acclaim in and around the Michigan area, where he hailed from. Stealing the core lick of James Brown’s funk classic, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” – not to mention its title but changing the lyrics to “Santa’s got a brand new bag” – Bob Seger and The Last Heard created a rousing ruckus of garage rocking blue-eyed soul in the mold of Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels. Name checking reindeer, a reference to Santa’s tubby tummy and wanting a baseball bat and bike for Christmas are some of the things covered in the fast-paced sonic stocking stuffer. Ho ho ho!
The Blues Magoos “Jingle Bells”/”Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (1967) The psychedelic lollipopsters deliver a double whammy on this smashing single featuring unusual versions of traditional Christmas songs. Thudding with power, “Jingle Bells” echoes the hard and heavy rock of Vanilla Fudge, where “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” swings and swaggers to a jazzy bent.
I was thinking the other day about the first albums I owned by a number of acts that would become Fave Raves, one album purchase leading to another, and another, and another. Not counting records that belonged to my siblings (but which I played anyway), I can’t remember my first Beatles album; I suspect it was a second-hand acquisition of Rubber Soul, though it may have been a tie between Introducing The Beatles and Let It Be, both of which I received as gifts one Christmas morning in the ’70s. I inherited my brother’s copies of the first two Monkees LPs, and eventually supplemented them with a flea market purchase of Headquarters and The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.
Every love story begins with that very first kiss. I remember my first Velvet Underground (The Velvet Underground & Nico, used), my first Ramones (Ramones), Otis Redding (Live In Europe), KISS (Rock And Roll Over), Kinks (Kinks-Sized), Suzi Quatro (Suzi Quatro), Elvis Costello (My Aim Is True), Prince (1999), and best-of sets as introductions to The Troggs, The Turtles, The Raspberries, The Jackson 5, The Ventures, and Little Richard. Here are some others I remember:
THE ANIMALS: Best Of The Animals Well, talk about an ignominious start to my Animals collection. In the mid ’70s, my growing obsession with the music of the ’60s (especially of the British Invasion) retroactively made The Animals one of my favorite groups, albeit a decade after the fact. I borrowed my cousin Maryann’s copy of The Best Of The Animals, but I needed to officially add Eric Burdon and his comrades to my library. For Christmas of 1976, my parents directed me to pick out some LPs I’d want to receive as gifts. I spied this budget-priced Animals set on the racks at a department store in downtown Syracuse; even though I didn’t recognize any of the song titles, the cover photo grabbed me, so I figured it must be a collection of Animal tracks I didn’t know, but which might be on a par with my familiar favorites “It’s My Life” and “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.” Wrong! The perfunctory blues covers were not my cuppa, and this LP did not remain in my collection for long. (As a happy ending here, let me add that the other albums Mom and Dad gave me that Christmas included a real Animals best-of–a two-record set on Abkco–as well as The Beatles Featuring Tony Sheridan and The History Of British Rock Volume 2. Christmas was saved!)
THE BEACH BOYS: Endless Summer As a teenager, I had no real affinity for the music of The Beach Boys. Even speaking as an avid fan of The Monkees (an act the hipsters hated), I just thought The Beach Boys were square, uncool. Establishment. “Be True To Your School?” Come on…! But within that haze of smug dunderheadedness, I still had to concede that some of The Beach Boys’ hits transcended the four corners of what I perceived as their image. “Good Vibrations.” “Fun, Fun, Fun.” “Help Me, Rhonda.” “I Get Around.” My grudging awareness of the sheer quality of these tracks was sufficient motivation for me to add a record-club purchase of the 2-LP Endless Summer to my fledgling pop-rock stash, even though it didn’t incluse “Good Vibrations.” It didn’t immediately open my mind to the wonder of The Beach Boys, but I played it occasionally, and took it with me to college in the fall of ’77. My second Beach Boys album was Pet Sounds, which I purchased during the Spring ’78 semester because I’d become enthralled with “Sloop John B.” Even with an introduction to that true classic album, my acceptance and revelation would be deferred, and deferred by another freakin’ decade, fercryinoutloud. But it would come eventually. My teenage self would have been appalled to learn that his middle-aged incarnation loves The Beach Boys, but what did the younger me know anyway? He liked Kansas!
DAVID BOWIE: Pinups Man, what an odd place to start with Bowie. I had the “Changes” 45, but my first long-player by the former Mr. Jones was this collection of covers, purchased at a used record sale set up on campus, probably in 1978. My interest in Bowie was (at best) borderline at the time. Looking back, I’m sure I was drawn to Pinups by the presence of a cover of The Easybeats‘ “Friday On My Mind;” I’d been unable to score a copy of The Easybeats’ version, so I settled for Bowie as a substitute. Bowie’s rendition of “See Emily Play” was my second-hand introduction to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, and I appreciated that Bowie seemed to share my burgeoning affection for early Kinks and Who. Within another year or so, I would be listening intently to The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, and expand from there. Hadda start somewhere.
JOAN JETT: Joan Jett One could argue that this shouldn’t count; I was already a fan of Joan Jett when she was in The Runaways, and I owned most of that group’s albums prior to their split and Jett’s subsequent solo career. But as much as I loved the best of The Runaways, I was really stoked by Jett’s first solo album, and snagged it at my first opportunity. Issued as an eponymous album in 1980 and reissued as Bad Reputation in 1981, this record was an immediate Top Ten album for me, an irresistible biff-bang-POP of bubbleglam. A Bo Gentry–Joey Levine song called “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” remains an undiscovered gem, and even the Gary Glitter covers are great. Opening track “Bad Reputation” sets the appropriate chip-on-the-shoulder/single-finger-in-the-air mise-en-scéne, and my daughter and I have an informal agreement to use that song as our father-daughter dance when she gets married. Because we don’t give a damn about our bad reputation.
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS: You’re Gonna Get It Although I’d read about Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in Phonograph Record Magazine, and adored hearing first-album track “American Girl” on the radio (all in 1977), it wasn’t until the summer of ’78 and the group’s second album that I felt compelled to participate in Pettymania. And I succumbed because Wolfman Jack told me to. Home from college for summer break, working part-time as a morning janitor at Sears, I had sufficient pocket change to buy records and see bands and buy more records. Win-win! Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers appeared on Midnight Special, the Friday night pop music TV showcase hosted by our gravel-voiced Wolfman Jack, and my jaw dropped at the sound of two new songs the group performed: “Listen To Her Heart” (which reminded me of The Searchers) and “I Need To Know” (which sounded like everything I ever wanted a rock ‘n’ roll song to sound like). I didn’t have my drivers license yet, so at the first opportunity, I asked my sister Denise to bring me to Penn Can Mall so I could buy the new Petty album, You’re Gonna Get It. Saying the album’s title out loud confused Denise, since she now thought I was hitting her up for a ride and demanding that she buy me a record. No, no–I’ve got pocket change, Denise! And I traded some of that pocket change for my first Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers album. There would be more to come. Get it? Got it. Good.
TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar! You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. TIR’N’RR Allstars–Steve Stoeckel, Bruce Gordon, Joel Tinnel, Stacy Carson, Eytan Mirsky, Teresa Cowles, Dan Pavelich, Irene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone–offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks’ classic “Waterloo Sunset.” That’s supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click Beetles, Eytan Mirsky, Pop Co-Op, Irene Peña, Michael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of “Infinite Soul” by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With Randolph, Gretchen’s Wheel, The Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It’s exquisite. You need this. You’re buying it from Futureman.