Embedophenia

Tonight’s installment is from another band I never did have a whole lot of use for, but this one is…well, it’s simply monstrous.



That’s some mighty tasty harp playin’ right there. Whatever your opinion of J Geils might be, there’s no gainsaying Magic Dick. He’s a true master of the beast—an instrument the bassist/harpist from a band we toured with (whose identity I shan’t reveal here, for their own protection) always called a “nigger whistle.” I laughed so hard I think I cracked a rib or two the first time I heard Joey say that.

1
2

RIP Charlie Watts

A bit belated, I know, but still. One of the all-time great drummers just shook these mortal coils to join Heaven’s Own Band.

In a previous piece, I described Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham as the overall rock drummer par excellence. Extraordinarily dynamic, Bonham had a lot of gears. He could play louder and heavier than anyone, but could also finesse quiet passages, zig-zag between funk and reggae and swing, and, well, you get the picture.

Charlie was a different sort of drummer, at least while playing with the Rolling Stones. If Bonham was a six-gear, $100,000, 230 horsepower, hot-rodded Harley (with Batmobile-style mods like a smoke-blower, mini-machine guns, and oil-slick dispenser), Charlie was your English grandfather’s vintage Raleigh bicycle. It never broke. It was easy to maintain. You could cruise along on it all day long year after year, decade after decade. It had only one gear, but for a bicycle, it was the perfect gear. And it is with drummers and vehicles as it is for everything else: horses for courses. Which one’s best depends on what you need.

Simple, steady, rock-solid—that was Charlie Watts in a silver-sparkle Ludwig nutshell, and is exactly why I always loved his playing. No flash, no trash, just a backbeat you can feel deep in your soul, if you have any at all. The very best rock and roll drummers are like that, or so I believe. I never have been just a huge Stones fan, I can take ’em or leave ’em alone, but I DO love me some Keef, and some Charlie too.

No eight-bazillion flavors of crash cymbals; no racks-o-toms surrounding him; no gongs behind him, nor tympani he might hit one precisely (1) time over the course of a two-hour set; no synchronized kick-drum pedals by the dozen, when you only got two feets to play ’em with anyway. Just a simple trap kit, a no-nonsense, smack-it-silly snare-drum crack, and…well, just sheer nonchalant elegance, really.

I saw Buddy Rich a couple times years ago, and he was pretty much the same way, at least as far as his bare-bones kit went. The nonchalance and elegance…ehh, not so much; Rich’s facial expressions alone were absolutely maniacal, truly a sight to behold. Both times I saw him, he was sweat-drenched and purple-faced from early into the set, and he weren’t no spring chicken by then either. The energy level and overall vibe he exuded was powerful, not something easily caged or controlled. Joyful too, which I didn’t expect, having heard the stories and the infamous recordings confirming all the rumors of what a total bastard he was to work for, onstage and off. It was a little like watching a precocious teen on his first trip to the titty bar or something.

Anyhoo, back to Charlie.

First, you might never guess, listening to his recorded Rolling Stones drum performances, that Charlie was a precocious jazz drummer. With the Stones, he was a paragon of percussive minimalism. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a single drum fill on any Stones song a five year old couldn’t play.

But that’s no sleight. What matters is playing the right thing—not the complicated thing—and as it happened, Charlie always played the right thing. He played what he played because that’s what he should have played in the Rolling Stones song he was playing. That’s what good musicians do, after all.

Bingo. I’m reminded of something I saw in the Creem mag letters section soon after Van Halen had hit big with their debut album, wherein an EVH fanboy got himself all worked up and slobbery over Eddie’s otherworldly virtuousity, which nobody was trying to argue with anyway. He ended his long, effusive rant thusly: “Why play three notes when you can squeeze in ten?” Which flabby sentiment one of the editors blandly eviscerated with one of the pithiest yet most profound comebacks I ever did see, one that’s stuck with me ever since: Why play ten notes when you can say it in three?

I’m sure that statement went right over that kid’s head, but it’s a more important point than most non-musician types might realize. In all pop music, the Thing, the essential, crucial Thing, is to not overplay, to not burden a good tune with a lot of extraneous self-indulgence. Every talented professional will get his chance to show off his chops and shine a little, in every set he plays. But the REAL pros know that when you throw in everything but the kitchen sink in every damned song, you dull the impact of your sharpest material. First rule of showbiz, taught to me by my dad, my uncle, my early-childhood piano teacher, my church-choir director and high-school band director (same guy), and pretty much every musical mentor I’ve ever had: always, always, ALWAYS leave your audience wanting more. ALWAYS. Playing with discipline and restraint rather than letting it all hang out and flop around all over the place is one of the ways you do it.

This is the key to every Rolling Stones song. Charlies never breaks character. He starts the song, pumps along underneath, hits the fills where needed, but never plays a single gratuitous note. Then the song ends. Then he starts a new one. On it goes. As each song begins, everyone else hangs on, so to speak, to his chugging rhythm. It’s no wonder Keith once said “Charlie Watts is the Stones”.

Not to shortchange Charlie here, but there’s another great drummer who also lived his musical life by the less-is-more rule I gotta mention: Cheap Trick’s Bun E Carlos. Way underappreciated, in my view, but he’s another one who eschewed the flashy sturm und drang for just quietly doing an impeccable job of holding down the bottom end and keeping the proceedings rockin’ right along with neither fuss, muss, nor excess of any kind.

And this KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid, not their 1977 tour-mates) approach from the drummer of a band that, for years, opened every show with a fucking DRUM SOLO, mind you. I mean, NOBODY likes drum solos, ferchrissakes. Not even other drummers.



Ahh, but simplicity wasn’t always the Bun E Carlos Way. As with almost every aggressive but unschooled young hotshot whose only thought is to swing for the fences on every pitch, holding back was an acquired taste for Carlos too.

In 1973 or 1974, Carlos gained a major insight into his drumming. He told interviewer Robin Tolleson in 1986 that, like most young drummers, he was mostly interested in making his drumming stand out (“Where can I get the most licks in, and how cool can I sound”). While listening to a tape of a Cheap Trick concert, he realized he was rushing the beat and interfering in the performance of the other band members. Afterward, he began taping every Cheap Trick show to study his own drumming much more objectively, focusing on keeping time and supporting his bandmates. The band also played several gigs alongside Mahavishnu Orchestra about this time. Carlson says he learned a great deal about ambidextrous drumming from drummer Billy Cobham.

Making yourself a part of the music instead of trying to dominate or overwhelm it—recognizing that YOU must be all about the music, rather than the music being all about YOU—is a critical step in every player’s career, and sometimes a quite difficult one as well. Given my own background in hard rock/classic rock, I struggled mightily with it myself, and never really managed to master the thing. In fact, that’s why I never was able to play traditional blues at all well, and eventually just pretty much gave up on ever getting it right consistently, aside from the occasional (VERY occasional) fluke solo.

When it comes to restraint, blues is a particularly demanding genre, maybe the toughest of any modern popular music styles. It’s often said that blues lives and breathes in the spaces between the notes, not in the notes themselves. With blues guitar, what you DON’T play is every bit as important as what you DO play, very often moreso. Of equal importance is playing those notes correctly, what BB King meant when he used to talk about making his trademark single-note solos “sting.” Shaping the notes you play is paramount, and attack is all.

All of that is a little different for drummers than it is for guitarists, of course. Nonetheless, the basic principle of Less Is More still applies. Both Bun E Carlos and Charlie Watts spent long and notable careers providing an excellent education for all of us in how it was fucking done.

Update! Almost forgot another thing I always dug about Carlos: when onstage with Cheap Trick, he actually had a drum tech whose primary responsibility was this: whenever Bun E’s ever-present cigarette was near the end, said roadie would light up another, run out, and replace the expired butt with the fresh one, thus averting the unacceptable calamity of Carlos having to play without a gasper dangling from his lips. Too funny, that.

The (rock) gods that fell to earth

You’re never too old to rock and roll?Like HELL you ain’t. Although this could well be related more to general dissipation and decadence than strictly age.

Vince Neil performed on his first concert after pandemic his solo band headlined the Boone River Valley Festival in Iowa over the weekend. From what we could heard, it’s probably for the better that MÖTLEY CRÜE‘s stadium tour with DEF LEPPARD has been postponed to next year.

Vince’s band opened with “Looks That Kill” before jumping into “Dr. Feelgood,” and though Neil’s vocals on “Dr. Feelgood” weren’t “that bad,” it definitely wasn’t one of his strongest performances.

But everything started to fall apart when Neil launched into a cover of the THE BEATLES’ “Helter Skelter.” Vince seemed to forget the words to the Beatles classic, while struggling to keep up with his band’s down-tuned instrumentals.

One fan wrote: “I was there front row seen Vince 8 times worst performance EVER he was reading the lyrics that his roadie taped on the floor while Vince left for a well need break. NO WAY he could do a stadium tour.”

And then, while performing “Girls Girls Girls,” Vince finally gave up addressing to the crowd: “Hey guys… I’m sorry, you guys. It’s been a long time playin’. My f*ckin’ voice is gone… uhh… we love you and we uhh… hope to see you next time, man. Thank you.”

A pic from the show of the new, suckier Bloated Vince onstage:

Great SCOTT. Didn’t anybody learn ANYTHING from the ghastly trainwreck Elvis finished up as? Anything at ALL? Double-threat superstar Chris Jericho—whose rockin’ ‘n’ ‘rasslin’ combo, Fozzy Osbourne, had the best band name in all history before they had to change it—had a little something to say about Neil’s sorry state.

Asked how he felt after seeing the footage of Vince’s gig, Chris said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “It’s disappointing because I think everyone is pulling for Vince and they’re pulling for MÖTLEY CRÜE. And it’s gonna be tough doing [‘The Stadium Tour’ in 2022 with DEF LEPPARD, POISON and JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS] because Joan Jett, I don’t know if you’ve seen her recently, she’s freakin’ awesome. And Bret Michaels — I was just talking about POISON the other day; they’re gonna steal the show. You’d better watch out for POISON, ’cause Bret Michaels is the best frontman out of all of those bands. And then DEF LEPPARD’s DEF LEPPARD; they do what they do. And MÖTLEY CRÜE, they’re gonna have to really step it up.

Meh. I never liked Dead Leper (which is what my mom actually, literally believed their name to be back in their glory days, s’truth) at all. Poison simply sucks ass, hard; always did, always will. I see no reason to expect improvement now that they’re all decades down the road. As for Joan Jett—well, I can’t quite consider her as being on the same plane with the other dudes, exactly. No slight intended, mind, she’s just…different. Different musical style; different approach; different draw; different attitude and presentation; different everything. Anyhoo, Jericho goes on:

“I’m disappointed to see Vince the way he is, because I think if he lost some weight and did some training and came out there and was in some semblance of shape, a) his voice will sound better just from that alone, and b) people would go, ‘Holy shit! Did you see Vince Neil? He looks great.’

“I think if he really wants to do it, he could do it,” Jericho continued. “But I don’t know if he does. And that’s the thing. And it’s up to him. And either way, it’s MÖTLEY CRÜE — people are gonna go, and they’re gonna love it. But to me, as a performer, I would take that as a challenge: ‘I’ve got one year. Let’s do this. It’s been long enough. Let’s do this for real. Let me call Phil Collen and Duff McKagan and other rock guys that have got themselves into great shape: ‘How did you do it?”

From what I heard said on the radio the other day, Dead Leper’s likewise-flabby frontman (Joe something or other, I think) pushed Neil into purchasing a shit-ton of workout gear and the two gone-to-seed rawk icons have been hitting the iron pile together, trying to get themselves fit enough to take the stage without embarrassing everybody present.

I wish ’em all luck, with the training and the tour both. Crue I DID rather like; they were one of the very best of the 80s wave of hair-farmer bands, in my opinion. Out of a horde of mediocrities, also-rans, and wannabes from that era, Motley Crue lived the sex-drugs-rock and roll lifestyle to the absolute fullest, at great personal cost to some of them. But that’s just the way the dice roll in that game sometimes, and they knew what they were signing up for when they took their seats at the table and ante’d up. Love ’em or hate ’em, either as musicians or as people, nobody can ever say the Crue weren’t entertaining as hell, both onstage and off.

2

THIS SHALL NOT STAND!!

I have been saddened and dismayed by the rather blasé response to Dusty Hill’s death from my local classic-rock radio stations, which I listen to sometimes while I’m out delivering food or picking up/returning the young ‘un or whatever. When Tom Petty died, it was pretty much a three-day orgy of tribute to the man, which I had no problem with. I mean, I was by no means a rabid Petty fan, but on the other hand he WAS a truly gifted songwriter, with a top-notch band behind him. All in all, Tom was okay with me, and he had a long string of hits, so give the man his due, right?

By contrast, I’ve heard very little at all in the way of mention, recognition, or repeat ZZ Top spins in the wake of Hill’s death apart from a brief notice that their tour dates would go on more or less as scheduled. Commercial-free two, three, or four-play song sets,, interviews with the band, obscure live tracks, all that sort of thing? Not on your life, or not that I’ve heard, anyway.

Well, screw that. When I said the other night that I considered ZZ to be one of the greatest rock bands that ever was or ever will be, I meant every word of it. So have yourselves a couple bonus slices of musical genius from that li’l ole band from Texas, gratis. No need to thank me, y’all.



For anybody who might not know already: the trademark deep, rough-and-ready grizzly-growl on their records is Billy Gibbons, who handled most of the lead vocal duties. The higher, somewhat smoother, sweeter croon swapping verses with Gibbons on some songs, and holding forth on its own on others, is Dusty Hill. Of course, that’ll be obvious in the video footage. But still.

I repeat: God rest him, and may His comfort and love bless Dusty’s bandmates, family, friends, and fans.

Just a li’l ole band from Texas

RIP Dusty Hill.

Dusty Hill, the bassist for blues-rock trio ZZ Top, has died. He was 72.

“We are saddened by the news today that our compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, Texas,” wrote ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard and lead vocalist Billy Gibbons in a joint statement Wednesday, Rolling Stone reported. “We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature, and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top.’ We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’ You will be missed greatly, amigo.”

Hill served as the still-active group’s bassist for over 50 years. In 2004, Hill was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the group, which was founded in 1969.

ZZ Top is, of course, the only band ever to have kept its original lineup for that many years. I’ve always loved ’em, and I still consider them one of the greatest rock and roll bands that ever has been, or ever will be. Out of so much exemplary material to choose from for posting purposes here tonight, I just gotta go with my young ‘un’s personal hands-down fave—not only because it really is a great song, but also because it features what might be the best opening stanza ever:

Well I was rollin’ down the road in some cold blue steel,
I had a bluesman in the back, and a beautician at the wheel

Schweeeeet.



Rest easy, Dusty, and thanks for all the choice tunes. You will be forever missed, and never forgotten.

3

Get hot or go home!

I originally appended this next selection to a previous post as an update, to wit:

Update! Related? Perhaps—if you down a few bourbon shots, squint a little bit, and look at it from the side.



Yet another from the CD I made that I didn’t think I’d find on YToob. I’ll probably end up working my way down through the whole songlist before I’m done here.

And with that, I’m off and running. So rather than keep updating a completely unrelated post with these nuggets, I made a new ‘un. Round two:



Although they make a quite admirable job of sounding like a ginyoowine original RAB outfit on this one, Jack Rabbit Slim is actually a contemporary band. From Ainglund, if I remember right. Which fits, actually; with almost all the European RAB combos, it’s either trad-rockabilly or full-on, balls-out psychobilly, a sound I just never have had a whole lot of use for.

Okay, Round Three coming shortly, you betcher.

Testing, testing

As mentioned the other night, I have now set up genre sub-categories under the Twangin’ and Bangin’ parent cat for our musical posts. Plus, in light of the recent spate of posts on the completely un-American trend towards risk-aversion, I also felt it necessary to create a new ‘un which I’m afraid is going to see a lot of hard use from now on: A nation of pussies. This post is just to make sure they’re working right, that’s all.

Update! Hmm, very interesting; the sub-cats don’t present either on the page or in my third-party posting software exactly like I thought they might, and don’t seem to appear in the sidebar “Categories” dropdown menu at all, or at least for me they don’t. But that’s okay, they seem to work just fine.

Peculiarities and odds bodkins

Burned a CD today for a girl I know to listen to in the car, consisting of some fairly obscure 50s RAB and R&B tracks. After playing it for my too-rapidly-maturing daughter (she’s in a training bra now? RUFKM?!? How the hell did THAT happen?) on the way back from picking her up earlier today, it hit me what a solid-gold mix this collection is. It’s been a while since I gave any of these tunes a listen; fact is, I had just about forgotten I even had ’em in the first place. It’s a mistake I don’t think I’m likely to be making again.

My rediscovery of these neglected favorites inspired me to check YouToob for ’em so as to share ’em here, although I didn’t have high hopes of finding them, there or anyplace else online. I mean, why would they be available on the Innarnuts, really? Rockabilly was never hugely popular its first time around, although admittedly it’s stood the test of time quite well. In fact, it’s almost certainly way more popular than it ever was back then. Despite that, though, the songs I was looking to unearth would amount to obscurity squared, so far underground that they were buried at a level far below the one where their underground genre was planted.

Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when I scored on the very first try, with The Moonlighters’ sizzling “Rock-A-Bayou Baby.”



This rockin’ and ravin’ Texas outfit is not to be confused with the far-more-famous Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, natch, who churned out hit after hit in the same pop-music era. Just thought I’d mention that, apropos of not much.

“Rock-A-Bayou Baby” is a graduate-level edjumacation in what it is that makes rockabilly truly “nature’s perfect music,” as my old friend and columnist for the P-burgh Tribune Mike Seate quipped in a BP’s review that still makes me blush a little bit. Mike had the right of it, too.

If it was possible to boil the whole RAB style down to a single word (it isn’t), that word would have to be frenzy. The thumping, humping slap bass; the slashing, clawing, primitive guitar attack; the feral howls, snarls, and yelps from the singer—these are all no more than typical of well-executed rockabilly, both then and now. The best rockabilly is like that: raucous, ferocious, untamed and untamable. Whatever rockabilly might lack in music-school technique and finesse it more than makes up for with triple-decker dollops of passion and intensity. The appeal is no doubt lost on most—I’ve always considered it a miracle that many if not most of the early RAB tracks were even recorded at all, much less pressed and released—but for the cats ‘n’ kittens who dig this stuff, there really isn’t anything else that comes close.

Another good example of what I’m talking ’bout:




“Love Me” is a lot better-known both in and out of rockabilly circles than “RockA-Bayou Baby” is, probably due to the Cramps covering it for one of their early singles, a version also included on the 1983 Off The Bone compilation. The blurb from the guy who posted the Phantom original on the ‘Toob says it well: Chaotic wonder by Jerry Lott a.k.a The Phantom, fun, furious, essential!!! Pretty much. “Chaotic wonder” nails it down clean and tight, if you ask me.

Okay, let’s try and dig up one more of these crazy diamonds on YT, shall we?

Searching…searching…

Okay, no way. I really can’t believe this.



This one is the aural analog to the famous “chicken” scene from Rebel Without A Cause, or maybe the “Paradise Road” drag-race scene from American Graffiti. Especially the end, when Harrison Ford dumps that Bowtie POS hard.

Anyhoo, there you have it: some hellraisin’, off the chain buck-wildness, from the most off the chain, buck-wildest musical genre there ever has been. Though it will surely sound odd to ears accustomed to modern popular music, it’s bound to grab at least some of you folks, or so I hope. And with that, I think I need to create a few sub-categories under our “Twangin’ and Bangin'” catch-all, maybe. T and B is getting kinda crowded, with a diversity of musical styles all tossed in together. A bit more specificity in there might come in handy someday, I think.

2

Different strokes

Heard tonight’s Tune Damage number on the car radio the other day. I’d forgotten how much I loved it, and have been singing it to (okay, at) the young ‘un ever since. She thinks Daddy is just too, too funny.




Joan Jett had a hit herself with a perfectly creditable cover of this one years ago, which I have no gripe at all with. But for me, there just ain’t no substitute for the original, baby.

Sly and the Family Stone was one of those genuinely innovative American outfits whose influence was wide, deep, and lasting. Wiki backgrounder:

Sly and the Family Stone was an American band from San Francisco. Active from 1966 to 1983, it was pivotal in the development of funk, soul, rock, and psychedelic music. Its core line-up was led by singer-songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist Sly Stone, and included Stone’s brother and singer/guitarist Freddie Stone, sister and singer/keyboardist Rose Stone, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, drummer Greg Errico, saxophonist Jerry Martini, and bassist Larry Graham. It was the first major American rock group to have a racially integrated, male and female lineup.

Formed in 1966, the group’s music synthesized a variety of disparate musical genres to help pioneer the emerging “psychedelic soul” sound. They released a series of Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits such as “Dance to the Music” (1968), “Everyday People” (1968), and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” (1969), as well as critically acclaimed albums such as Stand! (1969), which combined pop sensibility with social commentary. In the 1970s, it transitioned into a darker and less commercial funk sound on releases such as There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971) and Fresh (1973), proving as influential as their early work. By 1975, drug problems and interpersonal clashes led to dissolution, though Sly continued to record and tour with a new rotating lineup under the name “Sly and the Family Stone” until drug problems forced his effective retirement in 1987.

The work of Sly and the Family Stone greatly influenced the sound of subsequent American funk, pop, soul, R&B, and hip hop music. Music critic Joel Selvin wrote, “there are two types of black music: black music before Sly Stone, and black music after Sly Stone”. In 2010, they were ranked 43rd in Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and three of their albums are included on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

…On August 16, 2011, the album I’m Back! Family & Friends was released. The album features re-recorded versions of Sly and the Family Stone’s greatest hits with guest appearances from Jeff Beck, Ray Manzarek, Bootsy Collins, Ann Wilson, Carmine Appice, and Johnny Winter, as well as three previously unreleased songs.

One month later, on September 25, 2011, the New York Post reported that Sly Stone was now homeless and living out of a white camper-van in Los Angeles: “The van is parked on a residential street in Crenshaw, the rough Los Angeles neighborhood where ‘Boyz n the Hood’ was set. A retired couple makes sure he eats once a day, and Stone showers at their house.”

Sad for sure, but again, hardly unheard of in the biz. As with pretty much every young American band from the hippie-dippie 70s era, their music suffered somewhat from the intrusion of politics and Leftist ideology. Nonetheless, they did some remarkable work, uncorking a long string of solid hits until Sly’s dismal crash-n-burn, dragging a stellar career into a depressing trainwreck. Frankly, I was kinda surprised to learn that he hadn’t died years ago.

2

Solemn anniversary

Saw somewhere that yesterday was the anniversary of the passing of punk-rock icon Dee Dee Ramone, which inspired me to revisit my own obit from way back when. Seems only appropriate to repost a bit of it:

So you wanna disagree with me about the impact of the almighty Ramones? It still stuns me that there are people out there who like bands like Nirvana or Green Day or Pearl Jam or Smashing Pumpkins, and who don’t even realize that none of those bands would even exist if the Ramones hadn’t left some very large footsteps for them to follow in. I don’t know if the same can be said of more modern flashes-in-the-pan like Limp Bizkit or Kid Crock or Puddle of Mudd and the fact is I’m glad of that, because they suck. But whether you like the Ramones or not, anyone who cares at all about real rock and roll knows whose faces would be the first carved into any punk rock Mount Rushmore, and it ain’t Fred Durst’s. Nor would it even be John Lydon’s or Sid Vicious’ or Dave Vanian’s or Stiv Bators’, although they’d all have their place. The Ramones did it first, the Ramones did it better, the Ramones did it longer. The Ramones did it. To paraphrase the Beatles, before the Ramones, there was nothing. Period.

Those of you who are old enough to remember (God help us every one), think back to 1976. Disco was king, as was Elton John and Queen and Styx and a whole slew of other pomp-and-pageantry bands. I won’t belabor a history that has been restated thousands of times since then, but the crucial point is that rock and roll was so far removed from the grasp of the ordinary disgruntled kids in the garage – the people who had kept it living and breathing since the beginning – that they couldn’t even see it from there. Rock and roll wasn’t just dead, it was starting to smell. Now imagine the Ramones strutting onto the scene, all leather and tattered denim and just plain noise. They were like an invasion from Mars, and truth to tell, I still can’t figure out just where in the hell they came from. I have a video that shows the Ramones doing “Loudmouth” from 1976. Joey looks like a freak scarecrow, doing those awkward leg kicks and clinging to the microphone stand as if it were a life raft on a sinking ship. Johnny was cool incarnate, slinging his stick-straight hair around and slashing at the guitar with that untireable right arm. Tommy was, well, Tommy, which means replaceable. Good enough, but replaceable, and he soon was. And then there was Dee Dee. That Fender Precision bass almost scrapes the ground, and Dee Dee hacks at it as if it had just assaulted his girlfriend. And the sound; my God, the sound. The level meters aren’t just in the red – they had to be trying to fly out the right side of the machine, they were pegged so hard. All distortion, all the time – and it’s beautiful. The sound is so pure, so chunky, so hard, so goddamn fucking pissed off that it makes me come up off the couch and yell every time I watch the damn thing. Still. The raw power and energy is so intense it makes me dizzy, and I’ve seen it a million times. I’ll be seeing it a million more this weekend, I’m sure.

And yet somehow, even with all the energy and buzzsaw adolescent aggro, they managed to keep it FUN. They never once lapsed into self-parody or foolish smug irony (the blood and sinew of New York bands these days, seemingly, and the last refuge of a rock-and-roll scoundrel). They never tipped a sly wink at their milieu, mocking their fans for cool points with critics, like so many alterna-dorks do these days. They always played it straight, and it was always just about smiling and moving and enjoying. It was rock and roll, plain and simple. Some critics in Elvis’ early days assumed that he was either the cleverest manipulator they ever saw, milking the dopey teeny-boppers for cash on the barrelhead, or he was just simply dumb as a box of hair. Most inclined towards the latter view, and so it was with the Ramones. I can’t tell you how many reviews I read in the early days, by pompous twits who liked to explain rock and roll in terms usually reserved for Van Gogh and Raphael, whose headline had the word “D-U-M-B” in capital letters over ’em. As usual, the art-wonks didn’t get it.

The Ramones truly changed the rock and roll world, in a way that is attainable for only the truest and deepest innovators. And Dee Dee WAS the Ramones. D-U-M-B? ‘Fraid not, Jocko. God rest his outrageous soul, and Dee Dee, if you can somehow hear my thoughts, I hope you know how much you meant to so many of us.

Back in the Gay 90s I met Joey at a NYC joint owned by a good friend of mine called Coney Island High, on the hallowed St Marks Place. I told him that he and the Ramones had quite literally changed my life, which was nothing but the God’s honest truth, as we say around these environs. He was deeply gracious and humble, not a trace of ego or pretention about him, expressing his sincerest thanks for my saying so. We did the usual music-biz chit-chattery for about twenty minutes or so, and then a brawl broke out that slammed one of the participating pugilists into Joey’s back, causing him to spill his drink. Off he went to the bar for another; the rumble sort of petered out, and I went back to sit with my girlfriend in a dream-like state of shock and awe at who it was I’d just been speaking with.

I met Dee Dee a few times on St Marks also. He could be seen regularly around what we used to call the Trash & Vaudeville block, the holiest of ground for American punk fans; pretty much everybody that hung around the area knew him. He seemed nice enough, but was usually way too focused on scoring dope to spend very much of his time idly conversing with worshipful, gushing strangers like myself. Dee Dee’s story is a truly sad one, albeit a too-familiar one in the rock and roll universe, and I hope he’s at peace.

Permission: GRANTED!!!

I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.

Fauci-PeeInPoolPermitted.jpg

What a relief. Umm, so to speak. Thanks, Herr Doktor Fauci!

Lifted from ye ol’ Gorillapundit. Which, by the way, if you were stumped by his add-on Who Dis earlier—and if you were, what the hell is WRONG with you, anyway?—here’s a little help.



Mark, Don, and Mel, baby. Git yo’self some.

Bonus Gaye!

In the comments to the Marvin Gaye piece below, Kenny reminded me of another one of my all-time faves.



I should maybe add that I don’t disagree at all with Kenny’s evaluation of What’s Going On, either. I always liked Gaye, but as far as I’m concerned his best work was already behind him by the time WGO came out. His latter-day stuff, although certainly influential and bold, just left me cold for the most part, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise in the earlier post. More deets on “Peculiar,” and on Marvin Gaye himself:

“Ain’t That Peculiar” is a 1965 song recorded by American soul musician Marvin Gaye for the Tamla (Motown) label. The single was produced by Smokey Robinson, and written by Robinson, and fellow Miracles members Ronald White, Pete Moore, and Marv Tarplin. “Ain’t That Peculiar” features Gaye, with The Andantes on backing vocals, singing about the torment of a painful relationship.

The single was Gaye’s second U.S. million seller successfully duplicating its predecessor “I’ll Be Doggone”, from earlier in 1965 by topping Billboard’s Hot R&B Singles chart in the fall of 1965, peaking at #8 on the US Pop Singles chart. It became one of Gaye’s signature 1960s recordings, and was his best-known solo hit before 1968’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”.

Marvin’s accompanied with background vocalist The Andantes: Marlene Barrow, Jackie Hicks and Louvain Demps with instrumentation by The Funk Brothers and Marvin Tarplin of The Miracles (guitars).

Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown Records in the 1960s with a string of hits, including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, and duet recordings with Mary Wells and Tammi Terrell, later earning the titles “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul”. During the 1970s, he recorded the concept albums What’s Going On and Let’s Get It On and became one of the first artists in Motown to break away from the reins of its production company. Gaye’s later recordings influenced several R&B subgenres, such as quiet storm and neo-soul.

Following a period in Europe as a tax exile in the early 1980s, Gaye released the 1982 Grammy Award-winning hit “Sexual Healing” and the Midnight Love album. Since his death in 1984, Gaye has been posthumously honored by many institutions, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

At around 11:38 am on April 1, 1984, as Marvin was seated on his bed talking to his mother, Gaye’s father shot at Marvin twice. The first shot, which entered the right side of Gaye’s chest, was fatal, having perforated his vital organs. Gaye was taken to the emergency room of the California Hospital Medical Center and was pronounced dead on arrival at 1:01 pm. Gaye died a day before turning 45. The gun with which Marvin Gaye, Sr. shot his son was given to him by Marvin as a Christmas present.

Another gifted musician dogged, and eventually doomed, by what’s generally known as a “troubled” personal life—an old story, a common one, and a tragic one. We’ve lost all too many of our greatest artists due to their “troubled” tendencies, one way or another. It’s long been my own belief that those “troubled” personal lives very often come along with the territory of creative genius. That maybe, just maybe, you only rarely get the one without the other—as if a skewed, reckless personality actually feeds the creative bent, both of them being integral components of the artistic soul. The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long, as the saying goes.

A Gaye anniversary

The legendary Marvin Gaye’s seminal album turns fifty.

Marvin Gaye famously sang that “war is not the answer” in his signature protest song “What’s Going On.”

But for the late Motown legend, football was the answer to help lift him out of a deep depression after the 1970 death of Tammi Terrell — his frequent duet partner on hits such as  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”  — and into creating “What’s Going On,” his classic album that was released 50 years ago on May 21, 1971.

Be mindful of the bit about Tammi Terrell. You’ll be seeing this material again.

“It was during a time when he was trying out for the Detroit Lions and being a football player,” said David Ritz, author of 1985’s “Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye,” the definitive biography of the singer. “He was a good athlete, and he had this notion of wondering if he could turn pro, but I’m not sure he had the chops. But he certainly had the drive.”

Ultimately, his would-be teammates stepped in. “They told him, ‘Hey Marvin, we’re crazy about you, but go home ‘cause we don’t want to hurt you.’”

Still, Gaye went on to become such good buddies with Detroit Lions players Lem Barney and Mel Farr that they teamed up to provide background vocals on “What’s Going On,” the song that inspired and introduced Gaye’s masterpiece album, which last year Rolling Stone ranked at No. 1 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

In addition to coming in at Numero Uno on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time list, along with a tremendous number of other Best Ever enumerations from around the planet, What’s Going On remains the biggest-selling album Motown ever has had.

You DID remember what I said about keeping that Tammi Terrell mention fresh in mind, right? As promised, we’re coming back to that material, if from a somewhat sideways direction. See, although Marvelous Marvin did indeed produce a whole slew of truly wonderful work with Terrell, the duet of his I always liked best was with Kim Weston.



No slight whatever intended to Tammi Terrell, of course or any of the other artists fortunate enough to have shared a mic with Marvin Gaye. But that right there’s some goooood squishy.

Happy birthday

To trad-country icon Hank Snow.

Clarence Eugene “Hank” Snow (May 9, 1914 – December 20, 1999) was a Canadian-American country music artist. Most popular in the 1950s, he had a career that spanned more than 50 years, he recorded 140 albums and charted more than 85 singles on the Billboard country charts from 1950 until 1980. His number-one hits include the self-penned songs “I’m Moving On”, “The Golden Rocket” and “The Rhumba Boogie” and famous versions of “I Don’t Hurt Anymore”, “Let Me Go, Lover!”, “I’ve Been Everywhere”, “Hello Love”, as well as other top 10 hits.

Snow was an accomplished songwriter whose clear, baritone voice expressed a wide range of emotions including the joys of freedom and travel as well as the anguish of tortured love. His music was rooted in his beginnings in small-town Nova Scotia where, as a frail, 80-pound youngster, he endured extreme poverty, beatings and psychological abuse as well as physically punishing labour during the Great Depression. Through it all, his musically talented mother provided the emotional support he needed to pursue his dream of becoming a famous entertainer like his idol, the country star, Jimmie Rodgers.

As a performer of traditional country music, Snow won numerous awards and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The Hank Snow Museum in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, celebrates his life and work in a province where his fans still see him as an inspirational figure who triumphed over personal adversity to become one of the most influential artists in all of country music.

The influence of The Singin’ Ranger, as he was known early in his career, wasn’t limited to country music.

A regular at the Grand Ole Opry, in 1954 Snow persuaded the directors to allow a young Elvis Presley to appear on stage. Snow used Presley as his opening act and introduced him to Colonel Tom Parker. In August 1955, Snow and Parker formed the management team, Hank Snow Attractions. This partnership signed a management contract with Presley but before long, Snow was out and Parker had full control over the rock singer’s career. Forty years after leaving Parker, Snow stated, “I have worked with several managers over the years and have had respect for them all except one. Tom Parker [Snow refused to recognize the honorary title “Colonel”] was the most egotistical, obnoxious human being I’ve ever had dealings with.”

Snow’s evaluation of Parker is by no means a unique one, shall we say. Although to be fair about it, I’ve also heard tell that Snow could be pretty prickly and unpleasant his own self. But now that we’ve brought Elvis into this thing, enjoy yourselves an early Hank Snow hit that the King covered as well a few years later on, which version has always ranked near the tippy-top of Ye Olde Blogghoste’s list of personal favorite Elvis tunes.



Happy birthday, Hank. Country music—REAL country music, I mean, not the sappy, crappy contempo swill—just wouldn’t have been the same without you.

WHO?!?

Not all rock stars are libtard morons.

Roger Daltrey: The ‘Woke’ Generation is Creating a Miserable World

That’s the whole idea. Wokesters are all miserable little worms themselves, and as everybody knows, misery loves company.

The Who legend Roger Daltrey says the ‘woke’ generation is creating a miserable world that serves to stifle the kind of creative freedom he enjoyed in the 60s.

“It’s terrifying, the miserable world they’re going to create for themselves. I mean, anyone who’s lived a life and you see what they’re doing, you just know that it’s a route to nowhere,” he added.

Daltrey also slammed the negative impact that social media has had on the world, saying it has undermined truth.

“It’s just getting harder to disseminate the truth. It’s almost like, now we should turn the whole thing off. Go back to newsprint, go back to word of mouth and start to read books again,” he said.

While Daltrey’s comments may not be mind-blowing, any celebrity speaking out against the mob that has cannibalized culture is something to be applauded.

Indeed so. I do believe this calls for some Who embeds tonight, which we’ll get to anon.

My own personal rundown of the 60’s Brit Invasion bands runs something like this:

  • The Beatles: love love love their early stuff; can’t stand their latter-day hippy-dippy psychedelic glop
  • The Stones: meh (Keef and Charlie emphatically excepted, of course)
  • The Kinks, ditto (no exceptions)
  • Herman’s Hermits: oof
  • The Hollies: Some truly GREAT stuff, interspersed with some real clunkers later on
  • The Yardbirds: meh

Which pretty much leaves the Who at the top of the whole pile as far as I’m concerned. In discussing this topic with friends and fellow players over lo, these many years, some have expressed surprise over my antipathy to most of the Stones’ ouevre, along with my professed fondness for the ‘Oo. The Stones, after all, were grungy, cocky, rough-hewn outlaws—ie, the same ruffian cloth I’m cut from myself—in sharp contrast to the Who’s more clean-cut, less-outlandish Boy Next Door image, Daltrey especially.

What can I possibly say, except…I can’t explain.




The almighty power chords raging throughout the most iconic rock anthem of all time might help explain my lasting affection for these guys, maybe.



That’s the closer of what was billed at the time as The Who’s farewell show in 1982—although as final shows go, this one later turned out not to be all that final. The concert was aired on Showtime, I think it was. I do remember watching it over and over at a friend’s crib with the rest of our crew, completely in awe of the way these old geezers could still kick out the jams with the cream of the Young Dudes crop. If you got the time and dig the Who like I do, it’s definitely worth checking out the whole thing.

And since I brought up the Hollies before, here’s one of their best, according to l’il ol’ moi at any rate.




Lip-synced, naturally. I did run across a quite creditable live clip of the song from another TV appearance, but when the instrumental break came around and those sweet steel drums…JUST…WEREN’T…THERE

…well, my heart broke a little bit, I missed them so very much. Still, though: could those boys sing or WHAT?

Birth of an icon

My buddy Würm hipped me to a thing that had passed right on by Ye Olde Hoste somehow, namely that yesterday was the peerless Link Wray’s birthday. Even though you might think you don’t know who he is, in which case I can but pity you, I assure you that you almost certainly do—especially if you’ve ever seen a Tarantino flick. Background:

Wray was born on May 2, 1929, in Dunn, North Carolina, to Fred Lincoln Wray, Sr., who was born in Indiana, and his wife, Lillian Mae Wray (née Coats), born in North Carolina, whom her son identified as being Shawnee. The 1930 and 1940 censuses identify both parents as being white. As a child, he and his family were among those persecuted by the Ku Klux Klan. His mother would often turn off lights, put blankets on windows when the KKK burned crosses. They would often hide in barns, under beds, and holes underground. Wray would later say “The cops, the sheriff, the drugstore owner—they were all Ku Klux Klan. They put the masks on and, if you did something wrong, they’d tie you to a tree and whip you or kill you.” Three songs Wray performed during his career were named for indigenous peoples: “Shawnee”, “Apache”, and “Comanche”.

His two brothers, Vernon (born January 7, 1924 – died March 25, 1979) and Doug (born July 4, 1933 – died 1984), were his earliest bandmates.

Wray served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War (1950–53). He contracted tuberculosis, which hospitalized him for a year. His stay concluded with the removal of a lung, which doctors predicted would mean he would never be able to sing again.

To be brutally honest, except for certain values of the word, poor old Link never could sing in the first place. Sorry, but it’s true.

Building on the distorted electric guitar sound of early records, Wray’s first hit was the 1958 instrumental “Rumble”. It popularized “the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists,” facilitating the emergence of “punk and heavy rock”. The record was first released on Cadence Records (catalog number 1347) as by “Link Wray & His Ray Men”. “Rumble” was banned in New York and Boston for fear it would incite teenage gang violence, “rumble” being slang for a gang fight.

Legend has it that the familiar Link Wray crackling, distortion-rich guitar tone was originally achieved when Link came up with the bright idea of addressing his deep dissatisfaction with the amp he was using at the time by punching multiple holes in its speaker, using a standard No 2 pencil. Be that as it may (or may not), the origins of all hard-rock guitar can be found in the unique sound pioneered by Link Wray.

Years ago I did a post here telling the story of the blessed night I played with Link on the stage of Charlotte’s now-deceased Double Door Inn back in, oh, about 1997 or thereabouts. Unfortunately, the CF archives now being permanently hosed due to the infamous 2020 Rooskie hack, that post is no longer extant, but believe me it was a heck of a story. Yes, there are pictures, but for some reason I can’t find ’em on the hard drive right now, so in lieu of that you’ll have to make do with a video which…um, does NOT include myself and Link Wray onstage together At. ALL.

Link did plenty of great songs, but the one I always liked best was “Jack The Ripper,” which was re-recorded and re-worked under several other names in the fine old blues-rockabilly tradition. Here’s the BPs version, recorded by my then-girlfriend at Smokeout East.



The Playboys opened our shows with that number for several years. It was a perfect stage-setter for some truly rowdy goings-on as the evening progressed, let me tell ya, instigating who knows how many packed dance floors, bared boobies, or drunken brawls.

My guest appearance with him was supposed to last only a cpl-three songs, but as each one ended he’d turn to me with a huge grin and yell, “How about this one, know this one at all?”, either calling the song’s name or strumming the first few chords for me. Of course I knew all of ’em, and thus ended up onstage with him for more than 45 minutes, almost his entire set. He seemed stunned by how familiar with his work I was when we were hanging out together in the dressing room later, even after I told him I’d been a huge fan of his for literally decades by then.

Link Wray departed this vale of tears in 2005, leaving us all the poorer for his loss. On November 5th, to be exact, which as my friend Würm informed me happens to be his own birthday. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have spent what time I did with him. He was gracious, friendly, warm, and entirely humble, thanking me again and again for how “you young guys have kept my music alive.” I responded by thanking him for not suing us, since the Playboys had included at least one cover of a Link Wray tune on every CD we did and never coughed up one thin dime for the privilege. He shrugged my confession off with a laugh and another huge grin.

Link Wray was an incredibly modest and unassuming man despite his incalculable influence, making it seem almost as if he was completely unaware of the impact he’d had or the inspiration he’d been for legions of rock and roll guitarists around the world. He had some tough rows to hoe and suffered some serious setbacks in his life, only to attain greater heights of success and fame than ever before in his last years. He was and shall remain an icon of rock and roll guitar, and rightly so. I liked him. I was honored and thrilled to get to play with him. I will never, ever forget him, and neither should you.

May God forever bless and keep you, Link.

Solid blues

Tonight’s Tunedamage excursion is inspired by the AoSHQ ONT’s mention of the incomparable Little Walter’s birthday, which for some reason put me in mind of another blues-harp icon: Sonny Boy Williamson.



Led Zeppelin did an altogether inferior cover of the song, as you probably know. Not that I have anything in particular against Led Zep, mind. But as the current “president” would say: COME ON, MAN!!™

Since I would never want to be accused of shorting Little Walter ’round here:



No harp on this one, just vocals and guitar from one of the most amazing singers ever to grace this plane of existence: the great, great Otis Rush.



Staying in full-on Blues Mode, back we go to the harp for one more master of the instrument: perennial Muddy Waters sideman James Cotton.



Probably shouldn’t bring this up, but one of the biggest laughs I ever had on the road was on opening night of a stint as support act for a certain West Coast trio that shall remain anonymous, whose bass player was also a damned fine harmonicist. Only he didn’t call it a harmonica, or a harp, or a mouth organ, or anything similarly polite. No, to this guy—who turned out to be a total card and a really good dude all around—it was first, last, and always a nigger whistle.

I swear, I snorted so hard I nearly deflated a lung when he casually tossed that one at me while we were standing around waiting for soundcheck to commence. Got a few more good stories from that tour, which I’ll bank for later.

Nothing succeeds like excess

Tonight’s musical selection is a real chestnut: Foreplay/Long Time, one of a long succession of chartbusters from Boston’s 1976 self-titled debut release, a for-reals monster hit of an album as well.



After several years of receiving the contemptuous stiffarm from just about every major label in the biz, the band finally signed with Epic, in a story full of the kind of remarkable turns of Fate, happenstance, and fortuitous timing which have become as old and familiar as Classic Rock itself.

Epic wanted the band to record in Los Angeles with a record producer, but Scholz was unwilling and wanted to record the album in his basement studio, so he hired Boylan to run interference with the label. In an elaborate ruse, Scholz tricked the label into thinking the band was recording on the West Coast, when in reality, the bulk was being tracked solely by Scholz at his Massachusetts home. The album’s contents are a complete recreation of the band’s demo tape, and contain songs written and composed many years prior. The album’s style, often referred to as the “Boston sound”, was developed through Scholz’s love of classical music, melodic hooks and guitar-heavy rock groups such as the Kinks and the Yardbirds, as well as a number of analogue electronic effects developed by Scholz in his home studio. Scholz would later found Scholz Research & Development, Inc. to market many of his inventions that he used in developing the sound on the album.

The album was released by Epic in August 1976 and sold extremely well, breaking sales records, becoming the best-selling debut LP in the US at the time, and winning the RIAA Century Award as best selling debut album. The album’s singles, most notably “More Than a Feeling” and “Long Time”, were both AM and FM hits, and nearly the entire album receives constant rotation on classic rock radio. The album has been referred to as a landmark in 1970s rock and has been included on many lists of essential albums. It has sold 17 million copies in the United States alone and 25 million worldwide.

In the late 1960s, Tom Scholz began attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he first began writing music. After graduating with a master’s degree, he began working for the Polaroid Corporation in the product development division. By night, he played keyboards for bands in the Boston bar and club scene, where he collaborated with keyboardist/drummer Jim Masdea. The two—who shared a concept of the perfect rock band, one “with crystal-clear vocals and bone-crunching guitars”—viewed themselves as only part-time musicians. Despite this, the duo built a small studio near Watertown, Massachusetts to record ideas. Scholz recorded for hours on end, often re-recording, erasing and discarding tapes in an effort to create “a perfect song”. Both musicians later joined Mother’s Milk, a band featuring guitarist Barry Goudreau, that vied for recognition in the Boston music scene. Scholz quickly went from keyboardist to lead songwriter, and the band went through dozens of lead vocalists before Brad Delp auditioned. Delp, a former factory worker at a Danvers electric coil company, spent much of his weekends in cover bands. Delp drove to Revere Beach, where the three-piece were performing at a club named Jojo’s. Delp was impressed that the band had recorded a demo tape and were still recording, and earned his position in the band after auditioning the Joe Walsh song “Rocky Mountain Way”. Mother’s Milk became an early version of Boston, with Goudreau on lead guitar.

By 1973, the band had a six-song demo tape ready for mailing, and Scholz and his wife Cindy sent copies to every record company they could find. The songs on the demo were “More Than a Feeling”, “Peace of Mind”, “Rock & Roll Band”, “Something About You”, “Hitch a Ride” (under a different title) and “Don’t Be Afraid” (which would be eventually released on Don’t Look Back). The group received rejection slips from several labels—RCA, Capitol, Atlantic and Elektra among the most notable—and Epic Records rejected the tape flatly with a “very insulting letter” signed by company head Lennie Petze that opined the band “offered nothing new”. The tape that received the most attention contained embryonic renditions of future songs that would appear on Boston’s debut album. Financial reality encroached the dream for Delp, who departed shortly thereafter because “there just wasn’t any money coming in”. By 1975, Tom Scholz was finished with the club scene, concentrating exclusively on the demo tapes he recorded at home in his basement. Scholz was renting the house and spent much of his funds on recording equipment; at one point, he spent the money he had saved for a down payment on a future home on a Scully 8-track. He called Delp to provide vocals, remarking, “If you can’t really afford to join the band or if you don’t want to join the band, maybe you’d just want to come down to the studio and sing on some of these tapes for me.” Scholz had given the Mother’s Milk demo to a Polaroid co-worker whose cousin worked at ABC Records (who had signed one of Scholz’s favorite bands, the James Gang). The employee forgot to mail the tape out and it sat in his desk for months until Columbia began contacting Scholz, after which he sent the tape to ABC.

Charles McKenzie, a New England representative for ABC Records, first overheard the tape in a co-worker’s office. He called Paul Ahern, an independent record promoter in California, with whom he held a gentleman’s agreement that if either heard anything interesting, they would inform the other. Ahern had connections with Petze at Epic and informed him—even though Petze had passed on the original Mother’s Milk demos. Epic contacted Scholz and offered a contract that first required the group to perform in a showcase for CBS representatives, as the label felt curious that the “band” was in reality a “mad genius at work in a basement”. Masdea had started to lose interest in the project by this time, and Scholz called Goudreau and two other performers who had recorded on the early demos, bass player Fran Sheehan and drummer Dave Currier, to complete the lineup. In November 1975, the group performed for the executives in a Boston warehouse that doubled as Aerosmith’s practice facility. Mother’s Milk was signed by CBS Records one month later in a contract that required 10 albums over six years. Currier quit before he knew the band passed the audition, and Scholz recruited drummer Sib Hashian in his place. Epic had signed an agreement with NABET, the union representing electrical and broadcast engineers, which specified that any recording done outside of a Columbia-owned studio but within a 250-mile radius of one of those studios required that a paid union engineer be present. As such, the label wanted the band to travel to Los Angeles and re-record their songs with a different producer. Scholz was unhappy with being unable to be in charge, and John Boylan, a friend of a friend of Ahern, came on board the project. Boylan’s duty was to “run interference for the label and keep them happy”, and he made a crucial suggestion: that the band change their name to Boston.

And thus was their future secured, and rock and roll history made.

Now, as y’all already know, I was a confirmed punk-rock devotee right from the inception of the sub-genre. So, seeing as how Boston’s music was pretty much the living embodiment of the overly slick, tamed-down, theatrical “corporate rock” that the punk movement’s founders so angrily objected to, one might think it safe to assume that my visceral response to Boston’s stuff would consist of little more than a sneer, a snarl, and a disgusted snort.

Au contraire, mon frere. When the Boston album hit the airwaves, my inner Classic Rock afficionado—although already forcibly leashed and subdued by the heat and unrestrained frenzy of the Ramones, the Damned, and the Pistols—still definitely dug it anyhow. Now granted, Boston’s output was overproduced, all the jagged edges meticulously smoothed away by a recording-studio process that might as well have been designed for the purpose of watering down the wild, rebellious angst innate to rock and roll from Sun-era Elvis on, all aggro and ferocity removed so as to appeal to more timid ears. Boston wasn’t quite what anyone would call “soft rock,” no. Then again, they weren’t quite D-Purp or Black Sabbath, either.

That said, in spite of all the studio jiggery-pokery and my own all-in embrace of the punk rock revolution, despite Boston reputation as one of the exemplars of 70s recording-studio excess and sterility, I loved ’em then, and I love ’em still. Listen carefully to the passage in the video above that begins at 6:01 and runs to 6:21—the close of the guitar solo, which builds into a somewhat elaborate resolution to the dominant, with Brad Delp’s signature yelp providing overwatch throughout. Then the turnaround, taking us back into the final verse and the end of the song.

Might as well just embed that specific section too so’s nobody misses anything, what the hey.



Wretched 70s corporate-rock excess or no, that’s some Really Big Noise there. And if it doesn’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up, you’re almost certainly dead. Or have a tin ear, maybe. It’s as powerful a climax to a rock song as any I know of, and moreso than a lot of ’em. It might well be a fair cop to say that my fondness for Boston makes for an unflattering constrast with my equally-strong love for the stripped-down, spare, no-nonsense credo of punk. Don’t care. I repeat: loved it then, love it still. And you should too.

Beautiful day

I have one, and only one, complaint about this song: it’s over way too soon.



Just over a minute and a half for one of the most perfectly put-together power-pop confections I ever did hear? COME ON, MAN!

This enjoyed Most Favored Song status with my young ‘un back when she was little enough to admit to enjoying such piffle, and the kiddle-TV show Yo Gabba Gabba from whence it came just rocked her rapidly-expanding world. I haven’t checked with her lately, but at the ripe old age of not-quite-twelve now I assume this ditty is probably just too dopey and little-kiddish to be endured without at least a curl of the lip and a roll of the eyes. God forbid we even mention YGG, parts of which I could only get through myself by gritting my teeth until my jaw ached, but which DID feature some truly excellent bands on the regular, probably thanks to the show’s having been created and co-run by two guys from a decent So-Cal pop/punk-ish outfit yclept the Aquabats. Dig ye well this partial YGG list of distinguished guests:

Hosted by a character named DJ Lance Rock, the series featured a mix of live-action segments featuring all five cartoonist costumed-characters, Muno (a red cyclops), Foofa (a pink flower bubble), Brobee (a hairy little green monster), Toodee (a blue cat-dragon), and Plex (a yellow robot), and many short animated sketches and songs.

Famous musicians who have appeared on the show include Mos Def, Bootsy Collins, Ladytron, The Killers, Enon, The Clientele, Jimmy Eat World, Solange Knowles, Taking Back Sunday, Datarock, The Aquabats, Devo, Anne Heche, Joy Zipper, Of Montreal, Chromeo, My Chemical Romance, Weezer, Hot Hot Heat, The Faint, The Roots, Paul Williams, Mates of State, MGMT, Peter Bjorn and John, Trunk Boiz, The Shins, The Aggrolites, The Flaming Lips, Mya, Biz Markie, Blitzen Trapper, The Ting Tings, Money Mark, Mariachi El Bronx, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Erykah Badu. Other celebrity guests to have appeared include Jason Bateman, Jack Black, Andy Samberg, Melora Hardin, Tony Hawk, Elijah Wood, Sarah Silverman, Laila Ali, Bill Hader, and Anthony Bourdain.

Among the varied animation sequences during the show was Super Martian Robot Girl, designed by indie cartoonists Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer; the title character of that segment was voiced by Ariela Barer.

Okay, I remember SMRG being pretty cool now and then too, I admit.

Who knows, I may not be giving my own child enough credit when I say that Jimmy Eat World’s excellent throwaway number would be no more than an object of scorn and a source of blushful embarrassment for her today. I’m doing my damnedest to see to it that MJ is equipped with an ear capable of distinguishing musical wheat from chaff in all styles and genres, as well as trying to school her in identifying what it really is that makes good music good in the first place. So far, even some of the stuff she picks up from her mom which kinda leaves me cold—like, say, System Of A Down, for example—I can still see at least some merit in.

There’s a making-of vid for the Jimmy Eat World tune also, and it’s interesting enough to deserve its own spot here, I think.



Bless you, Jimmy Adkins and Co. Your music brightened my child’s early years, and put a smile on her dad’s grim old visage as well. Quite a respectable achievement for a song that clocks out at only 1:49, I’d say.

Hey, did I hear someone say The Aggrolites just now? That’s all the excuse I need to close things out with a nice little slice of old-school Bluebeat ska.



What the hell, here’s the SoaD song I find least…that is to say, it’s not all that…uhhh, it’s alright, I suppose.



Legend you never heard of

Another day, another effing brilliant SteynMusic outing.

This weekend marks the centenary of George David Weiss, born April 9th 1921. Who was George David Weiss? Well, he’s no household name, but, to reprise my old line on obscure songwriters, you’d be hard put to find a household that doesn’t know at least one George David Weiss song.

So who was George David Weiss? Well, even George Shearing, who wrote his one and only enduring song with Weiss, had no more to say about him in his autobiography than that he was “a man by the name of George David Weiss”. The man by the name of was born under that name in April 1921 and was all set to become a lawyer or accountant when he decided to follow his heart and go to Juilliard, where he learned composing and arranging. The latter got him employment with Stan Kenton and other bands, until he met his first songwriting partner, the talented West Indian composer Bennie Benjamin. A young Sinatra picked up their “Oh, What It Seemed to Be”, and a few years later Kay Starr had a monster hit with “Wheel of Fortune”…

Starr’s chartbuster is of course a true gem, one which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed performing onstage myself who even knows how many times. Robert Gordon did a mighty fine version as well.



Weiss had one hell of a capacious catalog, and as Steyn somewhat bemusedly notes, had everybody from Sinatra to Nat Cole to Peggy Lee to Elvis to…ummm…Whitesnake(?!?) cover his stuff over the years. That’s a variety so stylistically broad that it says a lot about the enduring appeal of the man’s work all by itself. I’ll embed another of my personal all-time Weiss faves before we all move on to what I consider the really fun part of the story.



The Tokens, in an ironic twist quite commonly found in the music biz, not only had no faith in the song but actually despised the thing, even going so far as to plead with the producers and their label not to release the very song that would end up being their one and only bona fide smash. Not the first time such lightning-strikes weirdness has occurred in the biz, and you can be sure it won’t be the last.

Now we come to the part I was most amused by, a chapter of the Weiss story all a-brim with music biz irony of its own unique flavor. This will require some heavy excerpting, but I assure one and all that the payoff is well worth the arduous wade to get there.

It started with Bob Thiele, who was a successful record producer but only a very occasional songwriter. So, for a composing partner, he turned, as so many others have done, to George David Weiss. In theory the latter could have written any or all of “What a Wonderful World”, but Thiele told me that Weiss stayed mostly down the musical end.

Which I find hard to believe, because the tune is mostly “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” and, after decades in the music biz, Weiss was way beyond that.

On the other hand, Weiss told Graham Nash (of the Hollies and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) that he wrote it with Louis Armstrong in mind – which suggests he also had a hand in the lyric.

Why Satchmo? Well, it was a ballad of hope and optimism that transcended the times. But for that very reason it also required a singer who transcended the times.

A singer like, say, Louis Armstrong…

And, if you think that seems kind of obvious now, it certainly wasn’t in 1967. If you pick up almost any jazz critic’s biography of Satchmo, they generally follow the same basic arc: Terrific trumpeter, innovative musician – and then he sold out and did commercial pap for suburban hi-fi filler. I don’t subscribe to that crude reductio myself, but it is true that, after he’d booted the Beatles off the top and taken “Hello, Dolly!” to Number One, the calculus changed somewhat for Armstrong’s management: There’s a new Broadway show opening? Take the big song and do another “Dolly” knock-off. Hence Satchmo’s “Mame” and Satchmo’s “Cabaret”, and doubtless, had he lived, Satchmo’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” and Satchmo’s “Phantom of the Opera”.

Nevertheless, the writers met with Louis to pitch the song. As Bob Thiele recalled, “We wanted this immortal musician and performer to say, as only he could, the world really is great: full of the love and sharing people make possible for themselves and each other every day.”

Instead, Satch peered at the sheet – unlike many singers, he was a musician who could read the music – and, when his eye got to the bottom of the page, he looked up and said:

What is this sh*t?

He was studying the music – no words, just a contemporary ballad tune that called not for Armstrong’s tight jazzy All-Stars but for a string section willing to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. I wouldn’t myself say the tune was exactly “sh*t”…But, as I said, Armstrong hadn’t seen the lyrics. And, when they passed him the words, he fell in love. Not so much because of the green trees, red roses, blue skies, white clouds, but because of the final eight bars, which ditch the “colors of the rainbow” theme:

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself
What A Wonderful World…

That quatrain reminded him of 107th Street in Queens, the tree-lined block he and his wife Lucille had lived on for a quarter-century (and whose modest red-brick home now houses the Louis Armstrong Museum):

There’s so much in ‘Wonderful World’ that brings me back to my neighborhood where I live in Corona, New York. Lucille and I, ever since we’re married, we’ve been right there in that block. And everybody keeps their little homes up like we do and it’s just like one big family. I saw three generations come up on that block. And they’re all with their children, grandchildren, they come back to see Uncle Satchmo and Aunt Lucille …and I got pictures of them when they was five, six and seven years old. So when they hand me this ‘Wonderful World,’ I didn’t look no further, that was it.

He was genuinely touched by the heartfelt optimistic simplicity of the sentiment, and its faith in the future – that a new generation would know things that he would never live to see. Like, er, Twitter. Well, let’s not get hung up on the details. He was struck by the song’s message, and so agreed to sing it.

An arrangement was made, musicians were booked, and a studio was procured – for a midnight session in Vegas, after Satch had finished up his set at the Tropicana. There was just one problem. Louis Armstrong had recently switched record labels, to ABC, and the president of the company, Larry Newton, was opposed to Satchmo doing “What a Wonderful World”. I don’t mean he was antipathetic or indifferent to it, or felt it was not a strong choice for a single but would be okay for Side 2 Track 5 of an album. I don’t even mean that he disliked it. He loathed “What a Wonderful World” with a passion: He thought he’d signed the Number One bestselling pop star of “Hello, Dolly!”, and he didn’t want his new act doing what he regarded as the polar opposite of “Dolly” – a soporific inert crawl-tempo ballad.

He’s not necessarily mistaken about that, as my kid’s class certainly demonstrated. So I’m not unsympathetic to Larry Newton’s concerns. The trouble was that on August 16th 1967 he’d flown in to Vegas for a photo shoot with his new star and that evening he showed up at United Studios determined to prevent the recording. He went so totally bananas that Ed Thiele, as producer, and Artie Butler, the arranger, and George Weiss and Frank Military, who were also present, hustled him through the door and locked him out of the studio. Which isn’t exactly conducive to Louis Armstrong recording a tender and sensitive ballad unlike anything he’d sung before…

It was a long session – either because of Newton’s antics or because they were interrupted by the toots of passing Union Pacific freight trains, or because the material was a little outside Pops’ comfort zone. They stayed there till 6am, and then they all went for breakfast. And the label only agreed to pay the orchestra for their extended shift on condition that Satchmo himself accept a mere $250 for the session. But it was worth it: Louis worked and worked on his interpretation until he and the writers were satisfied. I confess as a young child I always heard “the dark sacred night” as “the dark say goodnight”, but once I’d grasped Satch’s enunciation I appreciated what a fine pairing that makes with “the bright blessed day”: it adds a subtle touch of the holy and transcendental to the song; that the world is not merely “wonderful” in the way that a great cheeseburger and a vanilla shake can be, but truly wonderful because it’s the wonder of God’s creation. But, as I said, it’s discreetly done. And Armstrong’s reading of the middle-eight, in that unmistakeable beautiful gravelly rasp, is as sincere and true as anything he ever sang:

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, saying ‘How do you do?’
They’re really saying, ‘I love you…’

Is that really what they’re saying? Well, Pops bought into it. In the studio that night, representing all those children who’d grow to learn more than he’d ever know, was George Weiss’ kid Peggy. “So you’re George’s daughter? Pleased to meet you!” And he shook her hand, and maybe, for a small, shrunken old man not in the best of health, it really did mean “I love you.”

And, for those wondering what the hell all this hippie-dippie peace’n’love stuff had to do with Louis Armstrong, he waited to the very end to tie it back to his entire oeuvre in what, with hindsight, was the only possible wrap-up:

Ohhhhhh, yeahhhhhh.

Larry Newton wanted another “Hello, Dolly!” Well, he got the last two words.

But he wasn’t happy, and he swore to exact his revenge – by doubling down on the petty and stupid. In order to prove he was right about the song, he released the single in late 1967, but refused to promote it. He didn’t ship it to radio stations, so no disc-jockeys played it, and nobody bought it. In those days, ABC’s UK distribution was licensed to EMI, and, in the fullness of time, “What a Wonderful World” showed up at the London office, and they released it as a normal single. Actually, not that normal, because it was, I believe, the very last single EMI released on their HMV label. But, other than that, they did all the things you’re meant to do with a new release: They sent review copies to the BBC and to trade magazines, and discovered what Larry Newton, once he’d gotten over being locked out of the studio, should have realized – that people really liked it. It entered the UK charts at the beginning of February 1968 at Number 45, cracked the Top Forty in its second week, the Top Thirty in its fourth, and then climbed through March and April up to Number One.
So, just for the record, where did it get to on the Billboard Hot 100?

Er, big hit sound Number 116.

In fact, Larry Newton’s singular talent for sabotage was so effective that he wound up with a record that was a hit everywhere except his own territory: Top Thirty in Australia, Top Twenty in New Zealand and the Netherlands, Number Seven in Switzerland, Number Six in Belgium and Germany and Norway, Number Two in Ireland, Number One in Austria… What a wonderful world (America excepted). In London, EMI decided the song was so big they needed an album built around it. At which point Larry Newton decided to triple-down on the moronic. He agreed to the LP, but only if Armstrong did it for $500. Joe Glaser, Louis’ manager, wasn’t in the mood for that, and instructed Bob Thiele:

You tell that fat bastard to go f**k himself and give us $25,000 for eight more sides.

Larry Newton responded:

Tell him to go f**k himself, and why do we give a sh*t about these European companies? Screw ’em all.

They’re really saying “I love you”.

Three years later, Louis Armstrong was dead. If you’d been listening to the radio in Britain, Europe, around the planet in 1971, they marked his passing with “What a Wonderful World”. On American stations, they played everything but.

It took two decades and Good Morning, Vietnam for a great record finally to achieve the recognition on its home turf it had known for a generation everywhere else. It doesn’t matter that Satch was born in 1901; he sounds old and elegaic on the record, and that’s the point: he’s a fellow approaching the end of his life, but he’s not bitter or even bittersweet; he’s not looking back but looking forward to when those babies will grow. It’s an old man, but it’s a young song. That’s why it’s a popular father/daughter dance at weddings: It’s the past blessing the future.

And that’s also true of any great songwriter’s catalogue – which is why we salute George David Weiss on his centennial.

As for Larry Newton, well, I wasn’t sure whether he was still with us or not, so I looked him up, and read:

Newton is probably best remembered today for trying to stop Louis Armstrong from recording ‘What A Wonderful World’.

Ohhhhhh, yeahhhhhh!

Beautiful song, beautiful story, no? Tales like this provide a small window onto why it is that people get into the music business in the first place, and why a not-negligible percentage of them are perfectly willing to break themselves—financially, spiritually, morally, even physically—to stay in, on any level they can contrive. I swear, out of all the great music posts Steyn has done, and he’s done quite a few, this one may well be the beat of ’em all.

About a guy most of us have probably never even heard of.

Comments policy

Comments appear entirely at the whim of the guy who pays the bills for this site and may be deleted, ridiculed, maliciously edited for purposes of mockery, or otherwise pissed over as he in his capricious fancy sees fit. The CF comments section is pretty free-form and rough and tumble; tolerance level for rowdiness and misbehavior is fairly high here, but is NOT without limit. Management is under no obligation whatever to allow the comments section to be taken over and ruined by trolls, Leftists, and/or other oxygen thieves, and will take any measures deemed necessary to prevent such. Conduct yourself with the merest modicum of decorum, courtesy, and respect and you'll be fine. Pick pointless squabbles with other commenters, fling provocative personal insults, issue threats, or annoy the host (me) and...you won't. Should you find yourself sanctioned after running afoul of the CF comments policy as stated and feel you have been wronged, please download and complete the Butthurt Report form below in quadruplicate; retain one copy for your personal records and send the others to the email address posted in the right sidebar. Please refrain from whining, sniveling, and/or bursting into tears and waving your chubby fists around in frustrated rage, lest you suffer an aneurysm or stroke unnecessarily. Your completed form will be reviewed and your complaint addressed whenever management feels like getting around to it. Thank you.

Categories

Archives

Subscribe to CF!

Support options

Shameless begging

If you enjoy the site, please consider donating:

Notable Quotes

"America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." – Claire Wolfe, 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution

"There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." — Daniel Webster

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” – Frank Zappa

“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea.” - John Adams

"It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged." - GK Chesterton

"I predict that the Bush administration will be seen by freedom-wishing Americans a generation or two hence as the hinge on the cell door locking up our freedom. When my children are my age, they will not be free in any recognizably traditional American meaning of the word. I’d tell them to emigrate, but there’s nowhere left to go. I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free." - Donald Surber

"The only way to live free is to live unobserved." - Etienne de la Boiete

"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid." — Dwight D. Eisenhower

"To put it simply, the Left is the stupid and the insane, led by the evil. You can’t persuade the stupid or the insane and you had damn well better fight the evil." - Skeptic

"There is no better way to stamp your power on people than through the dead hand of bureaucracy. You cannot reason with paperwork." - David Black, from Turn Left For Gibraltar

"The limits of tyranny are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." - Frederick Douglass

"Give me the media and I will make of any nation a herd of swine." - Joseph Goebbels

“I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.” - Ronald Reagan

"Ain't no misunderstanding this war. They want to rule us and aim to do it. We aim not to allow it. All there is to it." - NC Reed, from Parno's Peril

"I just want a government that fits in the box it originally came in." - Bill Whittle

Best of the best

Neutral territory

Alternatives to shitlib social media:

Fuck you

Kill one for mommy today! Click to embiggen

Image swiped from The Last Refuge

2016 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

RSS feed

RSS - entries - Entries
RSS - entries - Comments

Contact


mike at this URL dot com

All e-mails assumed to be legitimate fodder for publication, scorn, ridicule, or other public mockery unless otherwise specified

Boycott the New York Times -- Read the Real News at Larwyn's Linx

Copyright © 2021