Tuesday, January 31, 2012

#523: Laundry-doin' music!

So, what music do YOU use as a soundtrack when you're doing chores around the house? I usually use Fleetwood Mac's TUSK, but on this particular Tuesday it was....

Can -- Father Cannot Yell, Soup.
Pogues -- Sunny Side of the Street, If I Should Fall From Grace With God, Lorelei, Thousands are Sailing, White City, Fairytale of New York, Fiesta.
Kinks -- VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY: Village Green Preservation Society, Do You Remember Walter?, Picture Book, Johnny Thunder, Last of the Steam-Powered Trains, Big Sky, Sitting by the Riverside, Animal Farm, Village Green, Starstruck, Phenomenal Cat, All of My Friends Were There, Wicked Annabella, Monica, People Take Pictures of Each Other, Mr. Songbird, Days, Do You Remember Walter? (alternate mix), People Take Pictures of Each Other (alternate mix).
King Crimson (live) -- Get Thy Bearings, Travel Weary Capricorn, Mars, The Talking Drum, 21st Century Schizoid Man.

"Father Cannot Yell" features Jaki Leibezeit's great propulsive drumming, Malcolm Mooney's hypnotic chanting vocals & Michael Karoli's screeching guitar. Pretty riveting, especially 1st thing in the morning. But it was WAY 2 early 4 the just-plain-noise of "Soup"! Both from ANTHOLOGY.
Ah, the Pogues. I've loved them from a distance ever since buying their IF I SHOULD FALL FROM GRACE WITH GOD album back in '88. The title song from that album has now bn immortalized in a Subaru commercial. "Sunny Side of the Street" is nice & bright & bouncy, but not essential.
The folky siren-call of "Lorelei," however, is gorgeous -- 4 me it's the best thing they ever did. "Thousands are Sailing" is also pretty good, a story-song about the Irish immigration 2 the US. & of course "Fairytale of New York" is freaking great, & on its way 2 Bcoming a Christmas comedy classic, hopefully -- along with the fact that it's also a really sweet lovesong. "Fiesta" adds sax & sets a FRANTIC pace. All from ESSENTIAL POGUES.
The Kinks' VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY is a cult classic, released a year 2 late at the end of 1968 -- it probly coulda bn a big hit if it'd bn released at the end of '67 in the afterglow of SGT. PEPPER. Its lite, bubbly, mildly psychedelic childhood-in-England approach woulda fit right in. By the end of '68 the mood had changed & the Kinks hadta compete against the WHITE ALBUM and BEGGARS' BANQUET. As a result, VILLAGE GREEN failed 2 make any known chart.
Which is 2 bad, cos it's really charming -- short songs with lotsa acoustic guitars & lite keyboards & very subtle strings. Xcellent waking-up music from the opening sing-along title track thru the hilarious "Do You Remember Walter?," about how people change but your memories of them don't. "Picture Book" continues this theme, as does "People Take Pictures of Each Other."
There R a coupla weak spots -- "Johnny Thunder" & "Last of the Steam-Powered Trains" especially R ... kinda dull.
But then there's the great "Big Sky," which I think is about God -- & "Animal Farm" is perfect from the opening line: "The world is big and wide and half insane...." There's King Kink Ray Davies' world-view in a nutshell.
There's lotsa room 4 fantasy in these small-town songs: "Phenomenal Cat" opens with a chorus of flutes & follows-up with some silly vocals, & the lite & playful lyrics Rn't far away from the Incredible String Band. Any1 who's ever bn embarrassed in public will B able 2 relate-2 "All My Friends Were There." "Wicked Annabella," about a witch, opens with a spooky gtr riff. I wish it was just a little more playful, cos then it would fit right in with the liteness of the rest of the album. "Monica" adds a little Spanish flavor.
Then there's "People Take Pictures of Each Other," which gets a lotta complex mileage outta the photo-album theme & features Ray's almost Dylan-ish lead vocal. "Mr. Songbird" is pretty great despite its kinda silly title -- the lyrics & choruses about the meaning of music R pretty ace.
The bittersweet "Days" was a hit in England & is possibly the showpiece here -- the heartfelt choruses R especially good. Modestly-gorgeous & nostalgic, I'm sure I'll B returning 2 it.
Overall, pretty Xcellent, with a lite old-world pastoral British-fantasyland feel that I didn't Xpect Dspite the reviews I'd read about it. Maybe not old-style Kinks rock&roll, but really nice & very diffrent. I'm sure I'll B playing it again.
Crimson's "live" trax from the FRAME BY FRAME best-of R a mixed bag. "Get Thy Bearings" is a very 1969 inducement 2 get high & make love, & the sound is dodgy, but there's some nice sax from Ian McDonald & atonal screaming gtr from Bob Fripp. "Travel Weary Capricorn" sounds tired. "Mars" is a long funeral march that slowly builds in intensity & loudness until an Xplosion at the end.
This version of the always-Xcellent "Talking Drum" features LOTS of screechy mellotron & violin. "21st Century Schizoid Man" is the usual screaming trauma, with some intresting bluesy(!) soloing from Fripp & John Wetton's overpowering bass.
Time 4 lunch!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

#522: The Walkman at tech school

Feb 1983, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana. In the middle of winter, 18 degrees & 2 inches of snow on the ground, & I'm stuck here 4 a 10-week journalism & public affairs course so I can go out & work on base newspapers 4 the U.S. Air Force.
Fort George Harrison was an Army base, with officers' homes dating back 2 the late 1890s. But I spend my 1st few days in a low-budget open-bay dormitory with a dozen other Army guys, some of whom yell pretty loud & slam things around when they get drunk over what seem like endless weekends....
After a few days I get "promoted" in2 the Air Force dorms, called "the condos" by the Army guys -- 3 guys share a room, there's a decent bathroom in each room, actual comfy beds & DESKS(!), & a real window you can open 4 fresh air, if you dare.
The dorms R cushy, but there's a problem: They're COLD. My theory is they're built out of permafrost. The central heating isn't on, 4 some godawful reason....
Classes start -- & they're terrifying. 1st thing the instructors do is inflict on us a 2-hour 200-question grammar test, 2 see if we know enuf about English 2 actually BE here. We're all scared shitless. I comfort myself by repeating over&over that I may not know parts of speech, but I know what they do, how they work. I end up with a 71 on the test -- nothing 2 B proud of, but I'm told it's the 3rd-highest grade in the class. Some folks bomb completely & get sent 2 Remedial Grammar -- & spend 2 MORE weeks in Indiana....
Then classes REALLY start. Basic stuff. Can you write in English? (Seriously.) Can you construct a news story? OK, now go out & interview somebody about their job, or about their neat hobby. Take photos 2 go with it. (You mean -- *GULP* -- actually TALK to someone? Interview them?! That's right, Scoop!) People start bashing on typewriters late in2 the nite all 'round the dorm.
While dealing with that, the Public Affairs part of the course gets rolling: Make a speech about the following military-related topic, completely unprepared -- GO! Oh, you survived that? OK, write a 20-page research paper on the following topic, & then B prepared 2 do a speech based on your research paper, with visual aids, & have it ready by the end of the week -- so we can videotape you!
Oh, & by the way, tomorrow you're going 2 shoot a photo essay somewhere on base. You know what a photo essay is? Great. Make sure you ask people B4 you take their picture. & if they yell at you -- you're on your own, kid....
This week we're gonna publish our own base newspaper. You, you & you -- you're the editors. Make it happen. It's due Friday. Oh, & this'll count 4 1/2 your grade 4 the whole course.
This went on 4 2-1/2 months, with 100 young Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines & Coast Guard folks scrambling 2 get all this work done. There was drinking, there was partying, there was carousing, there was womanizing. Marriages crumbled. I mainly hid in my room.
Every single week I was absolutely CONVINCED I was gonna flunk out. Somehow I survived it.
No suprise that I turned 2 music 2 help get me thru it. Almost immediately upon arriving on base I splurged & bought a Sony Walkman & a handful of cassettes 2 help screen out interference when I was studying & help me sleep thru my roommates' alarm clocks at 5 am. + we didn't all have the same musical tastes, so when there were other folks in the room I'd put the headphones on out of courtesy.
(Not everybody did this -- 1 of my roommates liked 2 fill the room with funk from 1 of Indy's top urban stations, EVERY morning B4 he went 2 class. It got him motivated. Hard 2 argue with that. Do you wanna get funky with me? It's too funky in here! We want the funk, give us the funk! Slightly later on it was Michael Jackson's "Beat It" & "Billie Jean" -- great, but WAY 2 loud....)
I'm convinced that Walkman & those cassettes got me thru tech school alive & relatively sane.
I was cripplingly lonely; I'd bn married 3 months & the separation was ripping me up -- I sent 20 pages' worth of letters home 2 the new Mrs. every week. Bob Seger's "Even Now" was my freakin' theme song 4 the 1st coupla weeks I was at school.
Then things got better. 1 of my roommates was a pretty good guy -- young & petrified, like me, but no dummy, & fairly talented. We could converse like humans & help each other study. & when we got on each other's nerves I'd put the headphones on.
Caught Modern English's "I Melt With You" on 1 of Indy's FM stations & bought the cassette, AFTER THE SNOW. 2nd side was freaking brilliant; 1st side kinda turned in2 very quiet art-rock.
Followed it up with Dire Straits' LOVE OVER GOLD, which I hadn't heard a note of, just loved their previous album MAKIN' MOVIES & figured I couldn't go wrong. LOG had 1 perfect cinematic 14-minute opening track called "Telegraph Road" (still my fave Dire Straits track ever), & the title track was pretty. "Industrial Disease" was kinda silly. "It Never Rains" was kinda bitter. & "Private Investigations" was kinda mood-music.
Grabbed Steve Winwood's TALKING BACK TO THE NIGHT cos I liked his previous album ARC OF A DIVER, & saw the video 4 "Still in the Game" & was sucked-in by the choruses. "Game" turned out 2 B the best thing on the album, but I remember picking up trash around the dorm building while the Walkman played "Valerie" in2 my ears....
Loved U2's 1st album BOY & thot their follow-up OCTOBER had some nice stuff on it, so I grabbed WAR when it appeared -- & discovered that ghostly guitar sound of theirs had mostly disappeared 4 the harder, more martial sounds on "Sunday Bloody Sunday" & "New Year's Day." I'm not sure I ever got any farther....
There was other music in the air, 2: The local FM stations loved Men At Work's "Be Good Johnny" & Genesis's "You Might Recall." I was hooked on Fleetwood Mac's mournful "Wish You Were Here." Def Leppard's "Photograph" summed-up a gorgeous young Air Force woman 1 of my classmates had convinced himself he was in love with....
Late at nite I'd stumble downstairs 2 the "day room" on the ground floor where my classmates would B pounding typewriters or shooting pool, & the TV would B on with MTV running stuff like Adam Ant's "Goody Two Shoes" -- a song that more than 1 person there said summed me up pretty well....
& of course when Michael Jackson's THRILLER album hit, we all heard "Beat It" & "Billie Jean" 24/7. Culture Club's 1st coupla hits were getting played constantly, Ghod forbid.
& 1 Indy station featured "The Seventh Day" -- 7 albums played back-2-back every Sun nite -- a great way 2 wrap-up the weekend even if it was all albums you already knew: DARK SIDE, Cars' 1st, Boston 1st, ABBEY ROAD, REVOLVER, WHITE ALBUM, BACK IN BLACK, etc. ....
Music was everywhere with the students. Noticed 1 classmate was listening 2 Rush's SIGNALS, so I mentioned I really liked their previous MOVING PICTURES, but hadn't heard the new 1 Xcept 4 "New World Man." He & I started playing stump-the-band 2 test R musical knowledge. Can't remember what-all we played, but I remember his big trick question was the slashing, driving opening riff from King Crimson's "The Great Deceiver" -- WAY too easy....
...Somehow I survived it, 10 weeks in Indy, graduated in May & then went on my way 2 a job at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas -- a job that did NOT involve working on an AF newspaper. As I climbed in2 a taxi 2 the airport, suddenly 1 of the Navy women who I knew in passing grabbed me, gave me a huge hug & a great big sloppy-wet kiss on the cheek.
"Oh, I'm SO excited for you!" she said. "Graduated and you get to get the hell outta this place! Good Luck!"
"Thanks!" I yelled as the taxi pulled away. But all I could think was: Where the hell has she been for the last 10 weeks...?

Friday, January 27, 2012

#521: "That's Entertainment"

The snow & rain R over with here, 4 now. Instead, it's just freaking cold. Great hibernating weather. Can't I just sleep til April? Or May?

Spinners -- It's a Shame, I'll Be Around, How Could I Let You Get Away?, Could it be I'm Falling in Love?, I Could Never Repay Your Love, One of a Kind Love Affair, Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You, Ghetto Child, Mighty Love, I'm Coming Home.
Left Banke -- Pretty Ballerina, She May Call You Up Tonight, Barters and Their Wives, I've Got Something On My Mind, Let Go of You Girl, Evening Gown, Walk Away Renee, What Do You Know?
Louis Jordan -- THE BEST OF: Choo Choo Ch'Boogie, Let the Good Times Roll, Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens, Saturday Night Fish Fry, Beware, Caldonia, Knock Me a Kiss, Run Joe, School Days (When We Were Kids), Blue Light Boogie, Five Guys Named Moe, What's the Use of Gettin' Sober (When You Gonna Get Drunk Again)?, Buzz Me Blues, Beans and Cornbread, Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying, Somebody Done Changed the Lock on My Door, Barnyard Boogie.
Doobie Brothers -- Sweet Maxine, Neal's Fandango.
B-52's -- TIME CAPSULE best-of: Planet Claire, 52 Girls, Rock Lobster, Party Out of Bounds, Strobelight, Private Idaho, Quiche Lorraine, Mesopotamia, Song for a Future Generation, Summer of Love, Channel Z, Deadbeat Club, Love Shack, Roam, Good Stuff, Is That You Mo-Dean?
The Jam -- THE VERY BEST OF: All Around the World, The Modern World, News of the World, David Watts, A-Bomb in Wardour Street, Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, Strange Town, When You're Young, Eton Rifles, Going Underground, The Dreams of Children, Start!, That's Entertainment, Funeral Pyre, Absolute Beginners, Town Called Malice, Precious, Just Who is the 5 O'Clock Hero?, The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow), Beat Surrender.

HIT & RUN: We've got a lot 2 cover here, so this is gonna havta B fast (hopefully). Hold tight on the curves.
Wanted 2 start this marathon session slowly, so pulled out the Spinners. I'm a sucker 4 early-'70s Soul. All the hits still sound great, especially "I'll Be Around" & "I'm Coming Home." I heard "Could it be I'm Falling in Love?" on the radio last week 4 the 1st time in awhile, & it still holds up.
Summa the stuff included here (from Rhino/Atlantic's DEFINITIVE COLLECTION) is intresting mainly 4 its off-the-track-ness: "I Could Never Repay Your Love" is a long vocal solo with the spotlight on main vocalist Philippe Wynne. "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You" has a very glitzy Vegas-y big-band-style arrangement. "Ghetto Child" is pretty heavily orchestrated 4 what was supposed 2 have been a tough inner-city tale. Yvette Davis's lyrics on "How Could I Let You Get Away" R kind of a mystery. The singing thruout all this is Xcellent, of course....
Left Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight" is classic mid-'60s pop, an overlooked treasure with an Xcellent Steve Martin vocal (not the actor/comic) & lots of the harpsichord Michael Brown liked 2 use. If you like this kinda stuff, I urge you 2 track this 1 down. My only complaint is it's TOO SHORT. "I've Got Something on My Mind" is another classic (the B-side 2 the magnificent flop "Desiree"), & the lyrics R pretty advanced 4 1966. The brief "Evening Gown" is a throwaway, just a little 2 thin. "Pretty Ballerina" & "Walk Away Renee" both still sound great. But "What Do You Know?" is Xcessively-twangy COUNTRY, without a harpsichord in sight. All from ALL THE SMASH HITS.
Louis Jordan's BEST OF is a collection of jump-blues jive tunes from 1941 thru 1954, some of which you've probly heard even if you think you haven't -- some of it's bn used in commercials & TV spots. The best of it sounds like the Marx Brothers locked in a recording studio -- hilarious & upbeat with great funny vocals & Xcellent sax.
"Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" has silly lyrics & great horns. The hilarious 5-minute "Saturday Night Fish Fry" has a funny story + great piano ... & GUITAR! "Beware" has some hilarious advice 4 dating-age men. "Knock Me a Kiss" sounds a little dated -- like it was mastered directly off an old 78. "Five Guys Named Moe" really moves & has great sax 2 go with the silly lyrics. You've probly heard "Beans and Cornbread." But the real masterpiece here is "Barnyard Boogie," a work of genius with a fast pace, spacey guitar, & a 1st 1/2 completely made up of silly animal noises....
I'm a sucker 4 the Doobies' "Neal's Fandango," which coulda gone on 4 another 10 mins & I woulda bn happy. Don't know why they rushed the recording -- it had all the makings of a hit, but it cuts off 2 abruptly. "Sweet Maxine" seems kinda muddy & bass-heavy -- cleaned-up it mighta worked. Both from STAMPEDE.
Xcept 4 "Roam" -- which I think is the greatest Go-Go's impersonation of all time -- the B-52's never did much 4 me. Mosta the stuff on their TIME CAPSULE best-of still didn't grab me -- maybe they hadta get less silly B4 I could relate, or maybe they just had 2 learn how 2 write a hook. Generally, I think the band got better, stronger, poppier, more memorable as they went along.
"Planet Claire" has a "Peter Gunn"-like riff & spacey B-movie sci-fi lyrics -- which I understand was sorta an obsession 4 these folks. The vocals on "52 Girls" Rn't unlike Florence + the Machine, 2 go along with the '60s/surf gtr. "Strobelight" is at least funny. By the time of "Private Idaho," Kate Pierson & Cindy Wilson's backing vocals R getting better -- the band gets better the more often the girls sing. "Deadbeat Club" is nostalgic & has gorgeous girl-vocals. "Love Shack" was just silly fun, of course. & "Roam" is still just awesome. "Good Stuff" has great group-vocal choruses, & "Is That You Mo-Dean?" finally realizes all the band's B-movie/sci-fi aspirations.
Never heard much by The Jam beyond their 90-percent-brilliant punk concept album SETTING SONS, where every single song is worth hearing over&over -- Xcept 4 the WORST version of "Heat Wave" that you'll ever hear. Hoped 4 more greats on their VERY BEST OF, & found a few....
On their early singles, The Jam came across as angry young punks, with nasal vocals that sound like the Sex Pistols meets the Ramones, & punchy songs about "the youth explosion." But these Jammers learned what they were good at fast: "News of the World" has some good gtr, & the vocal harmonies R stronger. "David Watts" is a decent cover of the old Kinks song -- with added piano!
Producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven joins 4 "A-Bomb in Wardour Street," & suddenly The Jam have lots more bass & a WAY bigger presence. "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight" is about getting beaten up in the subway -- & main songwriter Paul Weller's lyrics R very strong on how it felt, looked, smelled. EZ 2 C why he doesn't wanna go back down there again.
"Strange Town" is 1 of 2 trax from SETTING SONS (the Xcellent "Eton Rifles" is the other). "Strange Town" is diffrent from the rest of that album Bcos it's funny. It's a tale of alienation in the big city -- literally: Weller sez he's "really a spacer from those UFO's." It's punchy, there's great gtr, & the choruses R hilarious. "Eton Rifles" is also superb, with Xcellent angry lyrics, catchy choruses -- & organ!
"Going Underground" has some Xcellent lyrics about not understanding what society wants. "Start!" has more good gtr & nice vocal harmonies. "Funeral Pyre" is grim enuf that it coulda bn included on SETTING SONS -- that is not a criticism. It's powerful. But the real masterpiece here is "That's Entertainment," a low-key, bitter, all-acoustic classic.
The rest is OK -- Motown touches on "Town Called Malice" & "Precious," horns on "5 O'Clock Hero," female backing vocals on "Beat Surrender" -- but it's all aftermath 2 me. These guys really shoulda sold more records in the US. Maybe they were just TOO English?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

#520: "He knew the Marquis de Sade and Jean-Paul Sartre VERY well...."

4 a time back in the early/mid-1960's, Rolling Stones producer/manager Andrew Loog Oldham was sorta the English version of Phil Spector -- at least in terms of his drive & his belief in himself & what he wanted 2 do. Oldham's STONED (2000) is a sort of "oral history"/autobiography of his life as producer/manager of the Stones during their early years.
Tho some of it's fascinating & vivid -- especially in its details about how the pop biz in England worked in those days B4 "Swinging London" -- the book unfortunately ends B4 the Stones have even toured America.
No offense 2 Oldham or his early history, but the book actually starts on Page 139, Chapter 7, when American record-producer Shel Talmy (early Who, early Kinks, Easybeats, etc.) gets interviewed about how he became part of "The British Invasion." After that, it's pretty involving.
& of course the book takes another jump up on Page 184, when The Rolling Stones finally appear.
Oldham claims -- & others attest -- that in effect Oldham took his own drives & frustrations & amplified them on2 the Stones. ALO KNEW there had 2 B an alternative 2 The Beatles, & when he saw The Stones he took what was there & just amped it up 2 the highest possible degree. He urged them 2 B as ugly, scruffy, rude & disdainful as possible, Bcos he knew at least some segment of the young audience would love it. & they did.
ALO did this in part by cutting down the group -- dumping piano-player Ian Stewart, pushing Brian Jones 2 the side, putting the focus firmly on Mick Jagger & Keith Richards. & it worked.
ALO Xpresses little remorse 4 the things he did. He knew what his goal was. 1 of the pleasures of this book is when ALO takes a break from telling his story & lets others tell their parts in it 4 him. People like Pete Townshend, John Paul Jones, Gene Pitney, Marianne Faithfull, film-director Michael Lindsey-Hogg, etc. Keith Richards is quoted from other books, but as ALO notes, none of the Stones consented 2 B interviewed 4 these memoirs.
There's some fairly bad behavior on display here. There R lots of dirty business dealings -- Oldham & his business partner Eric Easton stab each other in the back many times. There is lots of drug & alcohol abuse, tho attempts R made 2 laff it off or at least underplay it.
& there is ALO's constant I-I-I story as he learns how 2 produce records on Decca Records' $$$ (& sometimes NO1 knows who's paying 4 the sessions), how he breaks all the rules 2 get his Stones on2 the charts, on2 TV, & in 4 the share of glory he knows they're due.
I wish it was funnier. The funniest stories come from the others who R interviewed, not Oldham.
If you're a fan of the early Stones, you might enjoy this. It's a look at the band while they were still sorta human & reachable. Bet you'll never read NE descriptions of Jagger being unsure of himself NEwhere else....
Oldham sez his memoirs will fill another book -- & I assume they continue in STONED 2. In that book I'd imagine ALO helps the Stones conquer America, then slightly later gets fired (not sure why, I don't know his story that well), then founds Immediate Records -- which lands some pretty good talent (The Nice, Small Faces, Marianne Faithfull, P.P. Arnold, etc) but doesn't last long & ends up in disordered bankruptcy. At that point I assume ALO crashes & burns & takes a long time 2 decide whether 2 keep living or not, based on what he sez in this book.
I trust there's more bad behavior on display in that later book, 2. I just don't know if I wanna go there....

Friday, January 20, 2012

#519: Up 2 R ankles in it....

Got the double- or triple-whammy of snowstorms out here over the past coupla days. It was still snowing lightly as of 15 mins ago. We got off EZ -- only about 6 inches max here in town. In Seattle they got about 4 inches, & the folks on CNN were laffing at "us" pampered wussie urban idiots.
But south of Tacoma, 30+ miles south of us, they got up 2 a foot & 1/2 of the white stuff -- a lot 4 Western Washington. As of midnight the local news-radio station (Seattle's Xcellent KOMO) reported that some 275,000 people in the area R without electricity 2nite -- no heat, & it's about 25 degrees outside. Some of them have been without heat & lights 4 more than 24 hours. & it's estimated some of them won't get electrical svc back til sometime over the weekend....
As I said, we got off EZ. My biggest problem is I can't get my car out of the driveway -- & if I try, the Cadillac'll slide down the snow-covered hill, keep sliding across the street, & wind up in somebody's living room....
Oh, & I've had 2 walk home from work the past couple nites. & that hasn't bn hard at all. But it beats driving in this messy stuff. + I don't havta deal with those other idiots out there Bhind the wheel....
It's sposta warm up 2 the low 40s & start raining Fri aft. Never thot I'd think rainy & in the 40s would sound pretty good. But I'll believe it when I see it. It ain't getting any warmer yet, & this snow has already bn here 24 hrs longer than it was sposta be....
Oh, & I also played some music while putting off going 2 work 4 as long as possible....

Squeeze -- ARGYBARGY: Pulling Mussels From the Shell, Another Nail in My Heart, Seperate Beds, Misadventure, I Think I'm Go Go, If I Didn't Love You, Farfisa Beat, Here Comes That Feeling, Vicky Verky, Wrong Side of the Moon, There at the Top.
From Squeeze's GREATEST HITS: Take Me I'm Yours, Goodbye Girl, Cool for Cats, Up the Junction, Slap and Tickle.

We played Squeeze's work a lot back in my record store daze. ARGYBARGY was a big in-store favorite, & we useta play the 1st side of EAST SIDE STORY a lot, 2. Course we couldn't GIVE AWAY the albums -- it was Idaho, nobody wanted 2 know, they hadn't heard it on the radio, etc.
& while I always loved "Pulling Mussels From the Shell" & "In Quintessence," some of their stuff went right by me ("Tempted"), & some of it I hadn't heard in 30 years....
Squeeze always useta get hailed 4 Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook's clever lyrics & songwriting, but I never read NE critic talking about Tilbrook's neat guitar breaks or Jools Holland's catchy keyboards -- that's what sets a lot of these songs off, along with the sometimes kinda seedy lyrics about falling in love by accident & hangin round the pub -- + the generally bouncy upbeat sound.
"Pulling Mussels" still sounds like it shoulda sold a million copies -- it's all the best things about this band in 1 quick 4-minute dose. Catchy choruses & great keyb & guitar work. "Another Nail in My Heart" is almost as good, with another Xcellent chorus supported by cool keybs.
"Seperate Beds" is a down-home story of young love with funny lyrics: "Her mother didn't like me, she thought I was on drugs/My mother didn't like her, she'd never peel the spuds."
"Misadventure" is high-speed bounciness about getting in trouble in foreign countries. "I Think I'm Go Go" slows the bounciness down, & "If I Didn't Love You" is a good Xample of the kind of jerky sounds the band comes up with on the album as a whole.
"Farfisa Beat" sounded GREAT in the record store 30 years ago. Hearing it again all these years later, I was kinda disappointed that it wasn't as catchy as I remembered -- & there's not enuf Farfisa organ. MayB if I played it LOUDER...?
"Here Comes That Feeling" is darker than usual 4 these guys. But the real forgotten classic here is "Vicky Verky," another charming tale of young love & how it almost goes wrong -- but not quite.
I remembered the choruses of Jools Holland's "Wrong Side of the Moon" from 30 years ago. Tho Difford co-wrote, this has a diffrent sound & feel from the rest of the album. MayB if they'd given him more space, Jools wouldn't have left.
Overall, this was an above-avg new-wave pop album 4 its time, & at least 9 of the songs R pretty memorable. But on a gray, snowy day like Thurs, I wished it was even MORE lively....
Kinda ironic 2 call Squeeze's best-of GREATEST HITS, since they only hadda couple of almost-hits in America, but the early stuff here ("Take Me I'm Yours" & "Goodbye Girl") is actually smoother & more melodic than mosta the stuff on ARGYBARGY. Not necessarily more distinctive or more memorable, however.
Producer John Wood joins on "Cool for Cats," & this track is much more like the Squeeze I know, more bouncy & jerky -- plus there R more production tricks here, female backing vocals & etc. There's also a sorta lower-class British accent on the lead vocal making it impossible 2 tell who's singing (& the CD's liner notes don't help).
"Up the Junction" is another bouncy, charming tale of love that goes bad. "Slap and Tickle" has a modern(!)-sounding synth opening, it's almost disco-y(!), & there's mildly amusing lyrics about love&sex....
I'll B getting back 2 these guys. There's at least a dozen more trax on this best-of that I've never heard -- all that later stuff I know nothing about....

More soon. I finally got some Louis Jordan back in the house (hilarious jump-blues singer & his band, hysterical lyrics, the missing link Btween late-'40s pop & rock&roll -- this is the stuff Joe Jackson covered 30 years ago on JUMPIN' JIVE), & there's a best-of The Jam on the way....

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

#518: Noodling Btween snowstorms

On a clear, sunny (but not warm) Tues aft -- the calm Btween 2 snowstorms -- I didn't feel 2 terrible & was able 2 play a LOT of new-2-me music. 1 thing the new CD player has bn forcing me 2 do is start at the START of a CD & play it all the way thru 2 get 2 what I want 2 hear -- which is very much against my usual habit. The CD player has a remote but no batteries yet, so I can't skip around like I useta do. This may B a good thing 4 me. It's at least a change in habits. A playlist & comments follow....

Hatfield and the North -- (1ST ALBUM): The Stubbs Effect, Big Jobs (Poo Poo Extract), Going Up to People and Tinkling, Calyx, Son of "There's No Place Like Homerton," Aigrette, Rifferama, Fol De Rol, Shaving is Boring, Licks for the Ladies, Bossa Nochance, Big Jobs No. 2 (By Poo and the Wee Wees), Lobster in Cleavage Probe, Giant Land Crabs in Earth Takeover Bid, The Other Stubbs Effect, Let's Eat (Real Soon), Fitter Stoke Has a Bath.
Spinners -- Games People Play, Sadie.
The Fifth Dimension -- THE MAGIC GARDEN: Prologue, The Magic Garden, Summer's Daughter, Dreams/Pax/Nepenthe, Carpet Man, Requiem: 820 Latham, The Girls' Song, The Worst That Could Happen, Orange Air, Paper Cup, Epilogue; Last Night I Didn't Get to Sleep at All.
Animal Collective -- In the Flowers, My Girls, Also Frightened (opening).
Van Morrison -- ASTRAL WEEKS: Astral Weeks, Beside You, Sweet Thing, Cyprus Avenue, The Way Young Lovers Do, Madame George, Ballerina, Slim Slow Slider.
Hatfield and the North -- Share It, Lounging There Trying, (Big) John Wayne Socks Psychology on the Jaw, Chaos at the Greasy Spoon, The Yes No Interlude.
I wish the Hatfields were as good & as funny as their song titles. When they stuck 2 their charming, tinkly, sparkly stuff I thot they were OK; when they got heavier they were harder 2 listen 2. The Hats' 1st album (1974) featured 15 songs that flowed 2gether in2 side-long suites. Bassist Richard Sinclair's baritone vocals & silly lyrics (at the Bginning & end) were always nice 2 hear, but there weren't enuf of them on the 1st album, & some of the rest is tough going. Not enuf TUNES 4 me.
Mostly the 1st album is pleasant noodling that sometimes Dgenerates in2 noise -- usually when Phil Miller's screeching feedbacky guitar or Dave Stewart's sometimes-atonal keyboards take over. There R also nice airy backing vocals from The Northettes. "Land Crabs" has a nice jamming finish that gets cut off. Drummer Pip Pyle's lyrics on "Fitter Stoke" sound kinda lonely.
After that I needed something more down-2-earth. Always loved the Spinners back in their heyday. Hadn't heard "Games People Play" in awhile & was suprised how pleasantly it bounces thru 4-1/2 mins. It's almost TOO smooth, but the changing vocalists helps. "Sadie" is a hymn of praise 2 a young mother -- a relaxed, underrated R&B hit. Both from THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION.
The 5th Dimension's MAGIC GARDEN is a 4gotten 1968 concept album with lyrics & arrangements by songwriter Jimmy Webb -- it's based on a bad relationship he had. Bones Howe produced with his usual great vocal sound; L.A.'s "Wrecking Crew" of top studio musicians (Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborn, Tommy Tedesco, etc.) play on the trax. Despite the 5D's Grammy-winning "Up, Up and Away" the year B4 & "Aquarius" a year later, MAGIC GARDEN bombed -- it didn't even make the BILLBOARD Top 100 LP's. "Carpet Man" & "Paper Cup" were minor hits.
Reportedly, British folksinger Nick Drake loved this album 4 the way it mixed pop vocals & orchestrations. All that said, some of it's very dated. "Summer's Daughter" especially -- Dspite the gorgeous group vocals -- is very Flower Power/1968-ish. But the title track opens with gorgeous, bouncy, sunshiney group vocals -- like late '60s soundtrack music at its very best. Then there's a dreamy closing. "Dreams/Pax/Nepenthe" sounds very vocal-lessons/show-offy, Dspite the occasional nice vocal textures. There's even some sitar....
But "Carpet Man" is just freakin' great, & the vocals really soar.
Some of Webb's lyrics on "Requiem: 820 Latham" R pretty vivid & passionate, & the solo vocal by 1 of the 3 guys in the group (which 1 isn't identified, & I don't know) is pretty great. "The Girls' Song" has a nice lead vocal by Marilyn McCoo. "The Worst That Could Happen" is just slightly less punchy than the later hit version by the Brooklyn Bridge -- & there's no real ending.
After that, I hadta put on "Last Night I Didn't Get to Sleep at All," which I've always bn a sucker 4, from GREATEST HITS ON EARTH. It's SO 1972. I'm a sucker 4 "If I Could Reach You," 2....
I've tried sevral times 2 hear Animal Collective. From what I can tell, their 2009 MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILION album is sorta trancey, pounding, synth-wash-type stuff. The keyboards R ever-present, the songs R built on a bed of them. But there's not enuf structure 4 me 2 grab ahold of.
The middle section of "My Girls" brightens somewhat, but their songs progress melodically as little as some of Coldplay's less-inspired stuff. The lyrics R the same lines chanted over & over. When the opening of "Also Frightened" looked 2 B more of the same, I hadta stop.
So instead I went 2 1 of Van Morrison's jazziest albums. "Astral Weeks" itself is musically very pleasant, tho I'm not sure about the lyrics. "Sweet Thing" is perhaps the best thing here, with a nice mood & good choruses -- it's also the closest thing 2 a structured song so far....
"Cyprus Avenue" has some nice fiddle & piano. All of this noodles along & drifts quite pleasantly -- the diffrence here is that I can HEAR what's going on, the production is very clear.
The horns R kinda corny & soundtracky on "The Way Young Lovers Do," which was an obvious attempt at a possible single. "Slim Slow Slider" is brief & the last verse is disturbing, & it cuts off abruptly. & then there's "Madame George"....
This isn't rock&roll, it's way closer 2 jazz. I don't know if this album is worth all the melodrama that rock critic Lester Bangs 1nce wrote about it -- I tend 2 think Lester's cosmic review was better than the album -- but it's hard 2 believe that this was all recorded in a coupla days, or that Van basically gave no musical direction 2 the backing musicians. If it weren't 4 them, the 7-minute "Ballerina" would have no structure at all....
Returning 2 the Hatfields' 2nd album THE ROTTERS CLUB 2 close: "Share It" features Richard Sinclair's usual good vocal & twisted lyrics. "Lounging There Trying" has the Hats' (& National Health's) usual sound -- Phil Miller's rather-more-delicate-than-usual gtr over Sinclair's busy bass & Dave Stewart's lite keys. A lot of National Health's later stuff sounds like this (as it should, only Sinclair is missing from that later band).
Then it gets heavier & noisier again with "Big John Wayne" & the suite that follows....

More soon. I've got some new Squeeze music in the house, & I only know about a handful of their songs, others I haven't heard in 30 years....

Sunday, January 15, 2012

#517: Waiting 4 the snow....

Waiting 4 the season's 1st snow 2 hit. It reportedly spat snow all around us on Sat, in some places it even stuck. Nothing here yet, tho lotsa people R panicky. Last time it snowed here a coupla years ago, we got a foot & 1/2 overnite & everything STOPPED. & then the snow hung around 4 a week & 1/2....
Meanwhile, I've bn inflicting the following music on unsuspecting members of the general public while at work. I vouch 4 the high quality of almost all of the following -- especially the stuff you don't recognize....

Happy the Man -- Service with a Smile, Wind-Up Doll Day Wind, Open Book.
Group 87 -- Future of the City, Magnificent Clockworks, One Night Away From Day.
Scarlet Rivera -- Day of the Unicorn.
Synergy -- S-Scape.
The Nice -- America.
Nektar -- Do You Believe in Magic?, The Dream Nebula Parts 1 & 2, It's All in Your Mind, King of Twilight, Wings, It's All Over.
The Who -- I'm One, 5:15, Love Reign O'er Me, Bell Boy, I've Had Enough, Doctor Jimmy, You Better You Bet, Long Live Rock, Life With the Moons I, Naked Eye, University Challenge, Slip Kid, Poetry Cornered, Blue Red and Gray, Life With the Moons II, Eminence Front, The Relay, Bag O'Nails, Call Me Lightning, Let's See Action, Baba O'Riley, Behind Blue Eyes.
Pete Townshend -- Give Blood, A Little is Enough.
The Waterboys -- A Life of Sundays.
Marvin Gaye -- What's Goin' On?
Rush -- The Big Money, Manhattan Project, Force Ten, Time Stand Still, Mystic Rhythms (live).
Pat Metheny -- Ozark, New Chatauqua, The Search, Praise.
Lyle Mays -- Ascent.
Aaron Copland -- El Salon Mexico, Simple Gifts.
Steve Tibbetts -- Ur.

Response 2 this Xperiment has bn comparatively thin. Is it possible NE muzak at all is ignorable by most folks? Maybe it's just the wrong week. Maybe I'm not playing the stuff LOUD enuf....
The Happy the Man, Nice & Nektar trax did cause a few people's eyes 2 pop open, & a couple Who fans seemed 2 B enjoying those pieces, but no comments were received. Research will nevertheless continue....

...While I will vouch 4 the high quality of American progressive-rock band Happy the Man's trax listed above (which R from their Xcellent 2nd album CRAFTY HANDS, 1978), while waking up on Sat & continuing 2 break-in the new CD player, I spun Happy's 1st album from back in 1977 & was (again) mildly disappointed. Tho it sounds fine (it should, Ken Scott produced & they spent Ghod knows how much $$$ on it), the material is kinda thin & it's programmed sideways.
They shoulda led with the gorgeous "On Time as a Helix of Precious Laughs," which is by FAR the best thing here & the only track that can stand with any of the work on CRAFTY HANDS. It's also the 7th track of 9 on the CD, so I wonder how many folks have actually HEARD it.
Tho the 2 trax that follow wrap-up the album pleasantly enuf, they're not Xactly stunning. There R gorgeous guitar, sax & keyboard textures thruout, & guitarist Stan Whitaker's kinda mechanical & nasal voice fits right in.
But some of this stuff is background muzak at best ... & I LIKE these guys. The leadoff track, "Starborne," is lite soundtrack music. "Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest" has some nice sax work from Frank Wyatt. 2 bad that Wyatt's lyrics 4 "Upon the Rainbow (Bifrost)" R a mouthful that don't help that piece NE. Only "Precious Laughs" is worth playing repeatedly.
If you like Yes or Genesis's more lyrical instrumental moments, you might like these guys. But start with CRAFTY HANDS. & watch out 4 the inflated album prices some folks R asking 4 these guys' work....

(PS, 16 Jan 12, 1:35 am -- We got Xactly 1 INCH of snow, just enuf 2 make things wet & intresting. But now we're in2 a hard freeze, so all the roads R skating rinks -- great times! At least I've got a coupla days off....)

Friday, January 13, 2012

#516: All-Brit Music Fest!

2 celebrate the new CD player working just fine, here's a ton of almost-all-new-2-me music, all from the British Isles, & from all diffrent time periods....

Florence + the Machine -- Only if for a Night, Shake it Out.

Madness -- One Step Beyond, My Girl, Night Boat to Cairo, Baggy Trousers, Madness, The Prince, Embarrassment, Return of the Las Palmas 7, House of Fun.
Wire -- 12XU, It's So Obvious, Mr. Suit, Three Girl Rhumba, Ex Lion Tamer, Lowdown, Straight Lines, 106 Beats That, Strange, Reuters, Field Day for the Sundays, Champs, Feeling Called Love, I Am the Fly, Dot Dash, Practise Makes Perfect, French Film Blurred.
Gang of Four -- Ether, Natural's Not in It, Not Great Men, Damaged Goods, Return the Gift, Guns Before Butter, I Found That Essence Rare, Glass, Contract, At Home He's a Tourist.
Incredible String Band -- October Song, The Tree, Chinese White, First Girl I Loved.
Nick Drake -- Cello Song, PINK MOON album: Pink Moon, Place to Be, Road, Which Will, Horn, Things Behind the Sun, Know, Parasite, Free Ride, Harvest Breed, From the Morning.
Strawbs -- Ghosts, The Battle.

Florence's 2 trax R from the recent CEREMONIALS, in case you missed me mentioning it a couple dozen times by now.
I'd heard a handful of trax by Madness back in my record store daze, but hearing "One Step Beyond" again made me wonder why I couldn't hear them BETTER way back then. Always loved "Embarrassment" & "Our House," but the rest of their stuff is lite & bouncy & silly, & they had a great sax player. My only complaint upon hearing "Embarrassment" again is that I thot it had a bigger hook. "Los Palmas 7" is a pleasant but kinda pointless instrumental. "Night Boat to Cairo" has some especially good sax sounds. "House of Fun" has some great lyrics. These guys were just a lot of bouncy fun. How come I couldn't hear them back in 1980? Oh, I remember -- I was still in my Prog Phase. All from THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION.
Wire -- Wow, Punk Rock! Very abrupt, short songs, deceptively simple-sounding. "Ex Lion Tamer" has some more lyrical guitar sounds & even backing vocals! & it breaks the 2-minute barrier! "Lowdown" breaks 2-1/2 mins! "Straight Lines" adds some clanking keyboards -- I think. "Strange"'s droning guitars push it 2 almost 4 mins! (This is how Wire got 21 songs on their debut album, PINK FLAG, way back in '77.) "Reuters" is hypnotic, & the lyrics R pretty brutal; not sure about that ending, tho.... "Field Day for the Sundays" possibly sets a record at about 15 seconds ... unless there was something shorter & I missed it. "Dot Dash" has really good rhythmic vocals. "Practise Makes Perfect" goes beyond annoying & in2 funny, with its screeching vocals followed by echoing laffter....
Not sure about this stuff Xactly, but it's obvious they were Up To Something. I'll B returning 2 this. All from their ON RETURNING best-of.
Gang of Four -- Just as stark as Wire, very clean-sounding, no feedback or show-offy gtr, but also very flat ... so their anger showed thru more clearly, I imagine. Xcellent rhythmic drumming from Hugo Burnham. Andy Gill's scratchy gtr was also pretty unique. What Wire mighta turned in2 if their songs had bn longer, I'd imagine. Very political -- the politics of everyday life. All from ENTERTAINMENT!
I was familiar with the loonies in the Incredible String Band -- their 1968 album THE HANGMAN'S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER is spooky & funny Olde British Folk, very rustic sounding in places, but with a ton of hippy spaciness & comedy. But I'd never heard much else of their vast output Xcept 4 the opening section of the full-side "Be Glad for the Song Has No Ending" -- a title that sez a lot about this band.
The 1st 2 songs here R from their very 1st album, 1966. "The Tree" features songwriter Mike Heron's very Bob Dylan-ish vocals. "Chinese White" is carried by what sounds like a very screechy violin. "First Girl I Loved" is way more like it -- nice acoustic gtr & memorable choruses, & the lyrics R charming. I'll B investigating these guys a lot more. All from BEST OF 1966-1970.
Nick Drake's "Cello Song" is 4 mins of gorgeous cosmic bliss, from FIVE LEAVES LEFT & the WAY TO BLUE best-of.
"Pink Moon" is 2 mins of gorgeous existential terror. It & all that follow R from Nick's last album, 1972's PINK MOON -- which is regarded by some as the closest thing 2 a suicide note. Tho I hadn't planned on playing the whole thing -- & still vastly prefer Drake's gorgeous BRYTER LAYTER, 1 of the great albums of all time -- PINK MOON is soothing & lulling, & Drake's gtr-playing & vocals R beautiful.
However, it gets a bit more depressing as it goes on. "Things Behind the Sun" sounds like a profoundly sad self-portrait, especially the last verse. Several of the songs sound like very knowing self-portraits, especially "Parasite." But coming after all this stark & dark stuff, the closing "From the Morning" sounds even more uplifting -- almost optimistic. But probly not what I should B playing in the middle of a cold, dark winter.
The folk-proggy Strawbs' "Ghosts" features nice keyboards & gtr, & lotsa melodrama. As always with them, this is very visual, cinematic music. You see the videos 4 the songs in your head. "The Battle" is an early, folky track, but with keybs, strings & brass added 2 increase the impact. The song's based on a chess/war metaphor. Again, very visual -- but neither R up there with "Down by the Sea," "Where is This Dream of Your Youth?" & "Hero and Heroine" among the band's very best work. Both from the HALCYON DAYS best-of.
More soon!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

#515: Recording The Beatles, Take 1

Geoff Emerick was The Beatles' sound-engineer from REVOLVER onward. Emerick was the guy who made John Lennon's voice sound like John was the Dali Lama chanting from a far-off mountaintop on "Tomorrow Never Knows." Emerick's idea of sending John's voice thru a rotating Leslie speaker kept Lennon from being suspended by a rope from the studio's ceiling & swung past the microphone....
Pushed by The Beatles at their creative height 4 ever-newer & more unusual sounds, Emerick ended up winning engineering Grammy Awards 4 SGT. PEPPER & ABBEY ROAD. He also engineered Paul McCartney & Wings' BAND ON THE RUN album, among many others.
He's also the guy who walked out 1/2way thru sessions 4 the WHITE ALBUM cos he couldn't take the stress -- endless long days of Beatles arguing with each other & snapping at the studio staff.
Despite his reputation as Beatles' producer George Martin's ever-loyal low-key right-hand man, some of Emerick's opinions might suprise you.
Emerick & Howard Massey's HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE (2006) starts with Emerick being promoted at the start of the REVOLVER sessions, then backtracks 2 his childhood -- where Emerick's discovery of a box full of old 78-rpm records triggers his lifelong obsession with sound (I admit I skimmed most of this).
Then we follow as young Geoff applies 4 an engineer/tape-operator job at London's EMI studios -- & is miraculously accepted. These early chapters show clearly the almost laboratory-like atmosphere of EMI's Abbey Road complex before The Beatles came along: the strict studio hierarchy, the engineers in their regulation long white coats, etc.
Emerick is there 4 The Beatles' 1st session & follows their career from that point on. He sees how the Fab 4 help the young engineers & tape-op's at EMI loosen up. The long white coats R eventually dropped, but shirts & ties stay as required studio wear.
When Emerick gets promoted 4 REVOLVER (upon engineer Norman Smith's departure 2 produce Pink Floyd's 1st album), Emerick dreads how the Fabs might react if he makes a mistake. He's especially worried about that acid-tongued Lennon, & the often-grumpy George Harrison. But he gets thru that, & he & McCartney form a lifelong friendship.
The details from the years of sessions that follow R solid -- you might not learn NEthing new about the Fabs, but Emerick's stories will confirm what you've already heard or read. There R 2 long chapters about the making of SGT. PEPPER that paint probly as clear a picture as Beatles fans will ever get.
The chapters on the WHITE ALBUM might B tough 2 read if you're a fan, but it's a matter of record that those sessions were stressful. The LET IT BE sessions were worse. Emerick's only around 4 a little bit of that, but his only chance 2 meet legendary producer Phil Spector ain't a pretty picture.
What suprised me was some of Emerick's opinions about some of these people. He points out many times what a stuffed shirt George Martin was -- how Martin apparently wanted no1 on the studio staff 2 get credit 4 the technical end of Beatles recordings Xcept himself. In Emerick's view, Martin always wanted 2 appear essential, irreplaceable 2 the recording process. (Emerick sez this despite the fact that Martin later offers him a job at Martin's AIR Studios, & Emerick takes it.)
Emerick also sez & shows that Martin was often exasperated by the Fabs' requests, by their immaturity, by their inability 2 grasp what could & couldn't B done thru recording. But Martin & Emerick & their crew found some way 2 make it work anyhow.
Emerick also zings Harrison repeatedly -- talking about how it often took George HOURS 2 get even the simplest guitar solo down properly, & how George's early songs often failed 2 inspire the band's best work. It isn't until ABBEY ROAD -- when Harrison shows up with "Something" & "Here Comes the Sun" -- that Emerick allows George a little respect. He sez at that point George seemed 2 have settled in2 his role in the band, found a place 4 himself & relaxed in2 it.
Some of Emerick's fellow engineers also get zinged. Engineer (& later producer) Chris Thomas gets jumped on 4 not knowing his place & talking 2 much during Martin's sessions. (Remember that studio hierarchy?) Engineer & later producer Ken Scott starts work during the WHITE ALBUM sessions, & ends up replacing Emerick on the project. & the brief up-close look we get at Phil Spector makes him look like an out-of-control maniac.
It's not that I don't think this is how things were, or that Emerick doesn't have a right 2 his opinion -- it's that this score-settling is unexpected coming from the kind of low-key, gentlemanly guy that Emerick was always portrayed as being.
There's a lot more: Emerick works a few years at Apple, recording & producing Badfinger among others, & trying 2 get Apple's basement studio straight. 1nce he gets the studio set, within a coupla years the Apple "management" levels the building.
Emerick travels 2 Nigeria & dodges lizards & giant cockroaches 2 record Paul & Wings' BAND ON THE RUN. He produces Elvis Costello's IMPERIAL BEDROOM & others. He continues 2 engineer Paul's later solo albums, TUG OF WAR, PIPES OF PEACE, GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROAD STREET, FLAMING PIE, & others. He helps assemble The Beatles' ANTHOLOGY's & records the 2 "reunion" singles that Paul, George & Ringo make based on John's demos. & he receives a "Technical Grammy" 4 lifetime achievement in recording.
& at the end of the book it's clear he isn't done yet.
If you're a Beatles fan you might like this -- the chapters on REVOLVER & PEPPER R especially good, filled with great stories & lotsa behind-the-scenes info. But the later chapters featuring the Fab 4 arguing endlessly Rn't much fun 2 read. Even ABBEY ROAD ain't all that much fun.

Monday, January 9, 2012

#514: Messin' 2

This cold, wet, dark winter is really starting 2 kick my ass -- like every winter lately has done -- but my sociological/musicological study continues. This weekend's at-work playlist looked something like this:

Journey: Spaceman.
Mary-Chapin Carpenter: This Shirt.
Boz Scaggs: You've Got Some Imagination, Dinah Flo.
Billy Squier: My Kinda Lover.
Queen: It's Late.
Bob Seger: Feel Like a Number, Hollywood Nights.
Cars: Dangerous Type.
Heart: Straight On, Mistral Wind.
Foreigner: Do What You Like, Rev on the Red Line.
Katrina and the Waves: Walking on Sunshine.
Clannad: In Fortune's Hand.
Eric Clapton: Let it Rain, Bell Bottom Blues.
Gordon Lightfoot: Summer Side of Life.
Turtles: She's My Girl, Let Me Be, It Ain't Me Babe, You Baby.
America: I Need You, Sandman.
Elton John: Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.
Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg: Tell Me to My Face.
Steely Dan: Gaucho.
Police: Omegaman, Secret Journey.
Phil Collins: Droned/Hand in Hand.
Paul McCartney and Wings: Love in Song.
Rickie Lee Jones: We Belong Together.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive: Blue Collar.
Chicago: Questions 67 & 68, Critic's Choice, In Terms of Two.
B.W. Stevenson: My Maria.
Joe Jackson: One to One.
Righteous Brothers: Dream On.
Delaney and Bonnie: Only You Know and I Know.
Dion: Ruby Baby.
McGuinn, Clark and Hillman: Don't You Write Her Off.
Donovan: Season of the Witch.
Marshall Tucker Band: Heard it in a Love Song.
John Lennon: Instant Karma.
Johnny Rivers: It Wouldn't Happen With Me, Memphis.
Beach Boys: Kiss Me Baby.
Elvis: Promised Land.
Chuck Berry: You Never Can Tell.
"I Know" (but I can't remember....)
Paula Cole: I Don't Want to Wait.
Dionne Farris: Kiss the Rain.
New Order: Regret.
Wallflowers: 6th Avenue Heartache.
Dog's Eye View: Everything Falls Apart.
Natalie Imbruglia: Torn.
...& a few repeats from the earlier playlists....

Responses remain thin, but I'm getting more of them compared 2 The Same Old Radio Crap.
1 Regular correctly identified BTO's jazzy/R&B-ish "Blue Collar" -- said he had the album when he was a kid. He also correctly ID'd Boz's "Dinah Flo," & pointed out how it sounded a little like Van Morrison.
1 guy asked me who was singing the Turtles' "She's My Girl," & when I told him who it was he said his wife'd probly like it, he was more a fan of '80s stuff; I said he missed the batch of that I'd played earlier.
1 woman in her 30s liked Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell," & we both got a laff when I told her that song was older than me, but at least it keeps me bouncing around.
Couple guys told me I was having "too much fun" bouncing around 2 stuff, I told them I hadta have SOMETHING, & they just laffed, but I can't remember what was playing at the time....
Jury's still out on whether tossing-in slightly-off-the-wall music in2 a public retail work environment makes much diffrence compared 2 the radio's usual carbonated crap. I just know it makes ME feel better. Luckily, I still have a couple million $$$ left on my federal-gov't grant 2 study the effects of off-the-wall pop music on the avg public, so there's still plenty of time left 2 compile results. I still have tons more mixes 2 fish out of my bottomless bag of cassette tapes....

I will B breaking-in a new CD player over the next few days & so might actually have some NEW sounds 2 report on shortly. The old CD player was Bcoming very picky & (you'll love this) had 2 B touched in JUST EXACTLY THE RIGHT WAY B4 it would play NE music at all. It had developed a deplorable Xcess of Personality, & a distressing habit of breaking down in the middle of songs it apparently didn't like -- most often old Gong trax, oddly enuf....
So hopefully there will B some new sounds 2 report on next time around, possibly including music from Wire, Gang of Four, Madness, the Incredible String Band, & possibly others....
Hope wherever you're at you're actually SEEING THE SUN, unlike those of us in Western Washington....

Saturday, January 7, 2012

#513: Messing with people 1 song at a time....

Continuing 2 provide my own soundtrack at work as local radio continues 2 suck. The 1 nite I didn't take my own music 2 work this week was the worst work nite I've had in awhile. More recent nites' playlists have been a touch more subversive, see below. Effect on the unsuspecting general public remains iffy at best. Comments follow the playlist:

Bailter Space: Retro.
Cat Power: He War. (Thanx 2 Rastro 4 these 2.)
Blue Oyster Cult: Astronomy (IMAGINOS version).
Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Stranded.
Cars: Hello Again, Magic, Drive.
Genesis: Paperlate, You Might Recall....
Journey: Still They Ride.
Pretenders: 2000 Miles.
Blondie: Angels on the Balcony.
Bob Seger: Even Now.
Steve Winwood: Still in the Game.
Tracey Ullman: They Don't Know.
Elton John: Empty Garden.
A Flock of Seagulls: Wishing.
Toto: Africa.
Pete Townshend: Slit Skirts.
Saga: Wind Him Up.
Fanny: Charity Ball.
Uriah Heep: Easy Livin'.
Guess Who: Road Food.
Lobo: A Simple Man.
Glen Campbell: Try a Little Kindness. (I always thot this song was kind of a joke, but I'm not sure Glen could figure out the irony. He sounds sincere -- the lyrics don't, not really....)
Mason Williams: Classical Gas.
Fendermen: Mule Skinner Blues.
Trashmen: Surfin' Bird.
Rivingtons: Poppa-Ooo-Mow-Mow.
Dramatics: Whatcha See is Whatcha Get.
Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart: I Wonder What She's Doin' Tonight.
Carlene Carter: Little Love Letter #1, Every Little Thing, Sweet Meant to Be, Little Love Letter #2, Heart is Right.
Beatles: Tell Me Why, I'm Happy Just to Dance With You, Things We Said Today, Anytime at All, No Reply, I'll Follow the Sun, Everybody's Trying to be My Baby, There's a Place, I'll Be Back, She's a Woman, The Night Before, I Need You, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, I'm a Loser, I'll Cry Instead, I Should Have Known Better, And Your Bird Can Sing, Norwegian Wood....
...There were also a few repeats from the previous list....

...Have I mentioned that I'll vouch 4 the high quality of all this stuff I'm inflicting on people? Wonder if I could get a government grant 2 study people's reactions? 1 guy bounced around pretty good 2 the choruses of the Cars' "Magic," & a Regular got the giggles just from hearing "Surfin' Bird."
...I've noticed I haven't used much Heavy stuff so far (does Cream's "Badge" count?), but there's more stuff in my bag of tapes, & I'm looking 4 more stuff 2 suprise people with.
Course it hasta keep ME bouncy & motivated & happy in my work 2, so....
More updates will B posted in the future on how this ongoing study is proceeding....

PS -- Currently about 1/2way thru Geoff Emerick's HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE, about his Xperiences recording & engineering the music of the Beatles & others. Emerick sound-engineered 4 the Beatles from REVOLVER onward. Xcellent details -- you really get a good feel 4 the almost laboratory-like atmosphere at EMI's Abbey Road Studios when the Fabs were 1st starting out. So far, looks like a really Xcellent Bhind-the-scenes book. Only weirdness is Emerick seems 2 have a bit of an axe 2 grind against George Harrison & George Martin; not sure what's up with that. Review coming soon....

Thursday, January 5, 2012

#512: Back when my hair was short....

Up til now, the best Punk-era history book I could find was Jon Savage's ENGLAND'S DREAMING. Simon Reynolds' post-punk history RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN (2005) can sit on the permanent shelf right beside it.
The books don't have much in common. Savage's book is a history of the Sex Pistols & the rise of British punk, written by a guy who was present 4 many of the events he recounts so vividly.
Reynolds' book covers what happened after the Pistols fell apart, & is written by a guy who was listening & enjoying the music that poured out of the British Isles Btween 1978 & 1984.
In America, we called the "poppier" end of this stuff New Wave. But there were still lotsa musicians who were dead serious about what they were doing, & Reynolds recounts the stories of a bunch of them: John Lydon & Public Image Ltd., Joy Division/New Order, Gang of Four, Throbbing Gristle, etc.
Not that there wasn't any fun involved: Reynolds also covers Madness, Malcolm McLaren's various silly doings, Bow Wow Wow, Adam and the Ants ("Antmusic"! "Goody Two Shoes"! "Stand and Deliver"!), Culture Club, Wham!, etc.
There's a lot here, covered in a lotta depth & squoze in2 400 pgs. I was even wrapped-up in the stories about bands I'd never heard of or didn't care about. & there's a really Xcellent chapter on the UK's independent record labels.
The only way it coulda bn better is if there was even MORE stuff covered. I'm not sure Xactly where Reynolds' post-punk cutoff line is. Some rather obvious names never appear in the text. U2 finally make an appearance toward the end, but The Clash, The Ramones, The Pretenders & Blondie R barely mentioned, & The Police R never mentioned at all. & summa my heroes such as The Bangles, Go-Go's, Squeeze & Split Enz never appear. There's probly some other obvious names I've 4gotten. Course adding all these folks woulda made the book 100 pgs longer.
(Elvis Costello? Not here. But Talking Heads get a lot of space. Punk or post-punk? -- Some folks Rn't that EZ 2 classify....)
But here's what I like: Reynolds' descriptions have already made me order albums by Wire, Gang of Four & Madness (who I'd actually heard a handful of songs by) -- & I'm also looking in2 folks like The Mekons, Raincoats, Residents, Slits, & others. If you want your musical horizons Xpanded, this book will do it. 4 me, that alone makes it worth reading.
Here's something else I liked: Even if you think you don't want 2 know the stories Bhind Frankie Goes To Hollywood or The Human League or Soft Cell or Wham! or Culture Club or Devo, Reynolds makes those stories enjoyable & worth reading. There's a lot of funny stuff here -- tho no 1-liners I can steal 4 use in this review.
I'm not a fan of all the artists in this book -- Reynolds wasn't, either. But if you're curious about the period, here's somewhere you can start & get some really solid background info. You'll also B grateful the book has an INDEX....
The last section of the book actually points 4ward 2 Reynolds' recent RETROMANIA (see review below). He feels that 1984 started the "Retro" boom that pop music still seems 2 B stuck in. Course there was also a later Rave and Hip-Hop boom that Reynolds touches on....
...I'm not doing this book justice. This is not 1 of my clearer or more-clever reviews. There's a lot of good info here, & I was carried along enjoyably from start 2 finish & never bogged down 4 2 long, even in the areas I didn't think I cared about.
I'm also now pretty convinced that I don't need 2 hear NEthing by Public Image Ltd. or Throbbing Gristle. Not sure I could TAKE Joy Division. Wish there'd bn more about New Order, tho. The section about The Fall was pretty enlightening. The Art of Noise sounds like a lotta fun. & there's probly a whole BOOK that could B written about Trevor Horn & Paul Morley's ZTT label....
4 this & a lot more, Simon, thanx. Did you ever write a sequel...?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

#511: Caving in

While upbeat rock&roll is keeping me happy & bouncing around & even productive at work, at home I'm fairly bored musically. This + the current string of mostly dark, chilly, rainy weather (& some cheap CD deals at Amazon) has perhaps led me in2 some musical places where I might otherwise not go (it ain't Prog, is it?). These areas range from unbelievably popular current stuff 2 my more usual Olde Stuff 2 some just plain strange stuff. Comments follow....

Florence + the Machine -- Only if for a Night, Shake it Out (x2), What the Water Gave Me.
Adele -- Set Fire to the Rain, Rumour Has It, Someone Like You.
Neil Diamond -- Love to Love.
The Cramps -- Green Fuz, Goo Goo Muck, Rockin' Bones, Voodoo Idol, Can't Find My Mind, Jungle Hop, Green Door, Human Fly, Surfin' Bird.
Butthole Surfers -- Birds, Cough Syrup, Pepper, My Brother's Wife.
Radiohead -- Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box, Pyramid Song, Knives Out, Morning Bell.

Florence was played strictly as a warm-up, & I only played "Shake it Out" 2wice this time. It's still the best thing I've heard in years. From CEREMONIALS, as if I haven't mentioned it.
Now, then: Adele. *AHEM* "Set Fire to the Rain" is as gorgeous & dramatic as her "Rolling in the Deep" is nagging. "Rumor Has It" sounds like a really good '60s R&B number -- it's even FUNNY!
BUT. "Someone Like You" is UNBEARABLE, & radio is playing the shit out of it, naturally. Sounds like a straight version of Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know," with all the rage & screaming left out. Creepy. I've heard this 1/2adozen times & can NOT finish it. Is there some1 out there who LIKES this & can Xplain Why without getting all angry? All these R from Adele's 21, which ... yes ... I caved-in & bought, used, cheap. 4 the 2 good songs on it.
Neil's "Love to Love" is nice, but the last time I heard it (in 1974) I coulda swore it ROCKED a little more. From Neil's early-best-of THE BANG YEARS, which BTW has some Xtensive liner notes from Neil that combine rose-colored memories of the Good Olde Days when he was Just Starting Out pretty equally with cliched descriptions about how he felt back then. Intresting how his lyrics R SO MUCH better, so much more original, than his liner notes....
The Cramps. Hmmm. Well, when you wanna hear something New & Diffrent & you can hear it Cheap, you might journey in2 some odd places. I wish The Cramps' music lived up 2 their reputation as Really Out-There Weirdos, the return of psychobilly or whatever.
"Goo Goo Muck" has some pretty out-there lyrics about running around looking 4 trouble & gettin' laid, & it Almost works; some nice twangy guitar thruout all these trax, cool but just not strange enuf, kinda dull. & the on-purpose thin production don't help.
"Can't Find My Mind" sometimes sounds like Steve Martin's on lead vocals. "Human Fly" is at least funny. "Surfin' Bird" is finally more like it -- after the "verses" it turns in2 a chaotic 5-minute jam ... which my CD player conked-out on & then refused 2 budge. All these R from PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE/GRAVEST HITS.
Butthole Surfers sound like what The Cramps maybe COULDA been -- "Birds" is WAY 2 fast with LOTSA guitar -- these guys have clearly had WAY 2 much coffee ... But they can't keep it up....
"My Brother's Wife" is swirling psychedelic noise that gets more intense & nightmarish as it goes, the synth starts out sorta nice & swirly, & then there's steadily building churning vocals & noise -- sorta like an exorcism. Not pleasant. All from ELECTRICLARRYLAND.
Radiohead's 4 trax from AMNESIAC were kinda hypnotic, but they didn't move around much & I wasn't Xactly knocked out. I can see where Pink Floyd fans might kinda like this....

COMING SOON: Further investigation of the Incredible String Band, The Headboys, & possibly others.
COMING NEXT: A review of Simon Reynolds' post-punk history RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN.

Any recommendations 4 a listener who's musically bored...?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

#510: And the hits just keep on comin'....

Just got thru a coupla brutal, long weeks at work. I worked both holidays. Christmas Eve wasn't bad, but Christmas Nite was unbelievably busy -- after about 6 pm we were the only store open in the neighborhood. The folks just kept on comin' in....
The radio was useless all thru it. The local radio folks didn't seemta realize it was a holiday, or even a weekend. Not enuf upbeat energy-filled stuff 2 keep me bouncing around & keep my mood up. So....
Realizing that local radio would likely remain useless, & knowing I'd probly need the NRG & support, I packed-up a bag of CDs & 20-year-old homemade cassettes 2 use as appropriate motivational music 4 New Year's Eve & New Year's Nite.
Neither nites were as busy as Xmas nite, but the music kept me moving, happy & bouncing around. & the tapes worked so well I never even GOT 2 the CDs.
I also had my own agenda of sneaking in subversive shoulda-been-hits rather than the Same Old Shit the radio always plays. This wasn't a total success -- tho I'm sure folks noticed that I stayed happy & NRgetic thru both nites & didn't collapse until after work Sun nite. But only a few folks noticed what was playing -- or at least noticed that it generally wasn't the Same Old Shit. (OK, SOME of it WAS the Same Old Shit, but a lot of it was Great Stuff radio oughta B playing.)
NEway, my mission was accomplished, I sneaked thru some Great Stuff people didn't realize was Bing secretly inflicted on them, & I may start doing this every nite I work. Hey, ya gotta change the world in the only ways you know how, right?
More about all this below. 1st, the playlist:

Clash: Train in Vain (Stand by Me).
Easybeats: Friday on My Mind.
Bobby Fuller Four: I Fought the Law.
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Who'll Stop the Rain?
Rolling Stones: Tumbling Dice.
Raiders: Hungry, Him or Me -- What's it Gonna Be?
Badfinger: No Matter What, Baby Blue, Day After Day.
Cheap Trick: Surrender.
Ronettes: Be My Baby, Baby I Love You.
Bob Seger: Rock and Roll Never Forgets.
Five Man Electrical Band: Absolutely Right.
Spencer Davis Group: Gimme Some Lovin'.
Four Tops: It's the Same Old Song.
Martha and the Vandellas: Dancing in the Street.
Cyndi Lauper: Money Changes Everything.
Buffalo Springfield: Bluebird, Mr. Soul.
Jefferson Airplane: Somebody to Love.
Rod Stewart: Maggie May.
Three Dog Night: Celebrate.
Chicago: Feelin' Stronger Every Day.
Blue Ridge Rangers (John Fogerty): Hearts of Stone.
Freddy Cannon: Palisades Park.
Mary-Chapin Carpenter: Passionate Kisses.
Tricia Yearwood: Wrong Side of Memphis.
B.J. Thomas: Rock and Roll Lullabye.
Richie Valens: La Bamba.
Buddy Holly: Peggy Sue.
Poco: A Good Feelin' to Know, Here We Go Again.
Queen: Need Your Loving Tonight.
Billy Joel: Traveling Prayer, All for Leyna.
Supertramp: From Now On.
Steve Winwood: Valerie.
John Lennon: Stand by Me.
Neil Diamond: Do It, Crunchy Granola Suite, Holly Holy, Soolaimon.
Elton John: Teacher I Need You.
David Bowie: Suffragette City.
Bangles: Everything I Wanted, Let it Go, September Gurls, Hero Takes a Fall, All About You, Dover Beach.
Traffic: Glad.
Mark Knopfler: Going Home (Theme of the Local Hero).
Jane Wiedlin: Rush Hour.
Fleetwood Mac: Everywhere.
Dream Academy: Life in a Northern Town.
Pentangle: Light Flight.
'Til Tuesday: Maybe Monday.
Heart: Alone, Never.
Tracey Chapman: Talking 'Bout a Revolution.
Byrds: I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better.
Camel: Sasquatch, Manic.
Tears for Fears: Broken, Head Over Heels.
Joni Mitchell: Coyote.
Icicle Works: Birds Fly (A Whisper to a Scream).
Cream: Badge.
Van Morrison: Wild Night, Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile), Caravan, Into the Mystic.
Paul McCartney: No More Lonely Nights.
Youngbloods: Get Together.
Pat Benatar: We Belong.
A Flock of Seagulls: I Ran, Space Age Love Song, Wishing.
Prince: 1999.
Everly Brothers: Walk Right Back.
Joe Cocker: Feelin' Alright.
Grand Funk Railroad: Rock and Roll Soul.
Supremes: Up the Ladder to the Roof.
Elton John: Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance!).
Ian Thomas: Painted Ladies.
Bullet: White Lies Blue Eyes.
Brewer and Shipley: One Toke Over the Line.
Christie: Yellow River.
Jeff Lynne: Every Little Thing, Lift Me Up.
Paul Simon: You Can Call Me Al.
Bruce Springsteen: Rosalita.
Rush: Show Don't Tell, Time Stand Still, Distant Early Warning.
John Cougar Mellencamp: Authority Song.
Pat Metheny: Praise.
Gordon Lightfoot: High and Dry.
INXS: New Sensation.
Bob Dylan: One of Us Must Know.
Jefferson Starship: Find Your Way Back.
Steve Tibbetts: Ur.
Glass Moon: Solsbury Hill.
Roxy Music: The Thrill of it All.
REO Speedwagon: Roll With the Changes, Blazing Your Own Trail Again.
Journey: Feeling That Way, Anytime.
ELO: Twilight, The Way Life's Meant to Be.
Kate Bush: This Woman's Work.

...So, as you can see, only mildly subversive stuff ... until I started sneaking Roxy & Kate Bush in there.
& while I KNOW people noticed that I was pretty happy & NRgetic, only a couple folks asked about the music that was keeping me that way. 1 guy guessed right on B.J. Thomas after I gave him a coupla hints, but he didn't know the song. Another guy knew he was hearing Rush but couldn't place "Time Stand Still" -- it was "too new" for him. I know the feeling....
I had more stuff planned 2 play, & still do -- I had halfadozen more tapes in my bag. But after 2 nites of almost-non-stop bouncing around 2 the music & actually doing SOME work ... I got a helluva headache & had 2 dope-up & shut the music off until the headache went away....

COMING UP NEXT: "CAVING IN" -- listening to current (very) popular sounds, old sounds, & some just plain weird sounds....