Monday, November 16, 2015

DESERT ISLAND LP #1 -- GARY LEWIS AND THE PLAYBOYS' "GOLDEN GREATS"


In 1964, Gary Lewis and the Playboys auditioned for a job at Disneyland without telling Disney employees that Gary was the son of  the great Jerry Lewis. The entertainment director of the park liked what he heard and hired Gary and the boys on the spot to perform at the Space Bar in Tomorrowland. 
Legendary record producer Snuff Garrett lived just two doors down from Gary's famous father, and Jerry and Snuff had a mutual friend, conductor Lou Brown, who'd worked with Jerry ever since the Martin & Lewis days. Brown had brought Gary Lewis to Snuff's attention. Garrett would later recall: "I got to thinkin' that, hey, if I can get a record cut with Gary, it'd be a new way to promote records -- the son of a famous entertainer!"
The first song that Garrett brought to the group was "This Diamond Ring," which had originally been offered to Bobby Vee. The session was financed by Gary's mother, Patty Lewis. During the actual recording, the Playboys were almost irrelevant since they weren't allowed to play their instruments and their voices were used sparingly. Snuff wanted a hit, so he insisted on using trusted studio musicians. 
Garrett got "This Diamond Ring" on the radio in New York City by making a deal with WINS disc jockey Murray the K., who ran a series of all-star concerts at theaters around New York  Murray was promised that, if he played Lewis' record, the Playboys would play on his shows. Then Snuff had his neighbor, Jerry Lewis, pull some strings to get his son on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Within a few weeks, Gary and his group were on America's top variety program. But it was Sullivan's policy that all the acts appearing on his show had to perform live. Since so many studio tricks had been used on "This Diamond Ring," there was no way that the Playboys could re-create its sound. So a compromise was struck. Gary sang along with pre-recorded tracks as the Playboys faked it on their instruments. According to Garrett, this marked the first time that a song had been lip-synched on the show.

Gary Lewis and the Playboys were instant stars. Their song "This Diamond Ring" shot up to #1 and the pressing plants ran 24 hours a day to keep up with the demand for the record.

By 1965, Gary Lewis was Cash Box magazine's "Male Vocalist of the Year," winning over  nominees Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. He was the first and only artist during the 1960's to have his first seven releases reach Billboard's Top 10 on the Hot 100 chart. In the Philippines during this time, Gary Lewis and the Playboys were considered to be America's answer to the Beatles, and over a two-week period, sold out the Arianeta Coliseum there for 24 performances.

Along with his appearances on various popular television shows, including American Bandstand, The Joey Bishop Show, and The Tonight Show, Gary accumulated an impressive five appearances within two years on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Between 1965 and 1966, Gary Lewis and the Playboys rattled off an impressive string of hit singles. "This Diamond Ring" (#1), "Count Me In" (#2),  "Save Your Heart For Me" (#2), "She's Just My Style" (#3),  "Everybody Loves A Clown" (#4), "Sure Gonna Miss Her" (#9) and "Green Grass" (#8) -- all collected on this definitive album.

In their short-live career, Gary Lewis and the Playboys in total had eight Gold Singles, 17 US Top 40 hits, and four Gold albums, and sold 45 million records worldwide.

In 1971, Gary retired from performing and opened a music store in San Fernando Valley, where he sold drums, guitars and accessories. He found, however, that he still had the urge to play, and in 1973, put a group together called Medicine out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which included Bill Cowsill, formerly with the great '60s pop band, the Cowsills. The band failed to meet with any success.

In1984, Gary put a new version of the Playboys together, and began performing almost 100 shows a year with '60s pop groups like The Grass Roots, Peter Noone (of Herman's Hermits), the Grass Roots, the Turtles, and the Buckinghams to cash in on the burgeoning Sixties nostalgia biz.

Gary also appeared and performed on many of his father's Labor Day telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Despite Gary Lewis' string of hits and popularity during the '60s, one thing's for certain:  Not even the influence of his famous father will be able to get him into the honored position as a member of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

Friday, November 13, 2015

CHISELED IN STONE FOR REAL


While the nation has mourned Michael Jackson, J.D. Salinger, and Sky Saxon, many of us are still mourning the death of one of the greatest country singers of all time, Vern Gosdin. 

Known as The Voice of country music, Gosdin died from a stroke on April 28, 2009. His was a pained and tortured voice singing some of the saddest songs in the world, and when he died, we truly lost one of the voices of the ages.

Forget the current crop of Nashville pop crooners. Gosdin was a man who had the wrinkles of Merle Haggard and, like George Jones, knew what it meant to weep.  With his album, Chiseled In Stone, Gosdin created a country music masterpiece. It's virtually impossible to get through the thing without having an emotional breakdown.

On the album cover, the photo is worthy of Walker Evans. Gosdin squints at you, his boot on the bumper of the car, a leaf trapped in its grill, as two old men look out from the glass of a barber shop, its front window marked by fading square-dance posters.

On the recordings themselves, Gosdin squints even harder, clobbering you with the impact of his voice and the tight control of his band. The steel guitars of Sonny Garrish and Jim Vest are particularly astounding at recreating the sound of raw nerves.

The beauty of the record owes a great deal to the songwriting abilities of Gosdin and Hank Cochran, especially on "Set 'Em Up, Joe" and "I Guess I Had Your Leavin' Coming."

But the title song is the highlight. It's the story of a young man who, after fighting with his girlfriend, ducks into a bar, only to be told by an old codger that he should be grateful for what he's got--at least his woman isn't dead, and he doesn't have to wander through life alone.

"Chiseled in Stone" refers to the tombstone of the old man's wife, but it now refers to Vern Gosdin's own life.

More to the point:  "Chiseled in Stone" points to the tombstone's shadow cast in the background of all our lives.

Listed below are ust some of the awards Gosdin has received -- for Chiseled in Stone alone (there were, ultimately, many more awards for many other things):
1989 ASCAP Award - "Set 'Em Up Joe"
1989 ASCAP Award - "Chiseled In Stone"
1989 ASCAP Award - "Do You Believe Me Now?"
1989 CMA Song of the Year - "Chiseled In Stone" (Max D. Barnes & Vern Gosdin)
1988 Nashville Songwriters Association Song of the Year - "Chiseled In Stone"
1988 CMA #1 Song - "Set 'Em Up Joe"
1988 CMA Album of the Year - "Chiseled In Stone" (Nomination)
1988 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year (Nomination)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

WHICH OF THESE ARTISTS BELONGS IN THE ROCK 'N' ROLL HALL OF FAME?







VOTING RESULTS

The Archies
3% (5 votes)
The Cramps
14% (23 votes)
Gary Lewis and the Playboys
1% (1 vote)
The Fugs
18% (29 votes)
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
3% (4 votes)
Tommy James and the Shondells
12% (19 votes)
The Guess Who
11% (17 votes)
Three Dog Night
9% (14 votes)
Herman's Hermits
3% (5 votes)
The Shocking Blue
1% (2 votes)
Incredible String Band
1% (1 vote)
The Sonics
4% (7 votes)
Paul Revere and the Raiders
18% (29 votes)
Bubble Puppy

MAE WEST MEETS THE BEATLES


THE BEATLES GREATEST SHIT


I am working on a new Beatles compilation called Worst of the BeatlesPlease vote for their worst recording (live versions and covers are exempt).

 


COMMENTS

You Know My Name 

Submitted by Anonymous

I remember listening to this B-Side when I was 9 years old and thinking "Wow the Beatles really suck!!!"

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Such an annoying song.

Ob la di

is terrible....ruined rock n roll.

Missing from list

"I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" spoils every party I ever hear it palyed at.

Worst Beatles song?

"Flying" was just movie-score filler, so leave it out of this! "Wild Honey Pie" is stupid, but commendably demented. COuld I suggest replacing it with "Why Don't We Do It In the Road?" It's one of the earliest examples of Paul's willingness to record literally anything that he happened to make up.....

Worst Of The Beatles

Add Yellow Submarine and All Together Now to that list as well...and while we're at it, can we also add John Lennon's Happy Christmas (War Is Over)...probably the most irritating song of all time!

What, no "Revolution No. 9"?

What, no "Revolution No. 9"? Or does that not count as a song? And I'm kind of shocked that "'Til There Was You" didn't make it either.

I kind of like Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Lots of Maxwell hatin :(

worst beatles songs

Mr Moonlight is up there. All Together Now is pretty dull. Run For Your Life is *SO* thrown together as well. I would pick Run For Your Life as the unbearable one.

Run For Your Life

What makes this song so awful is not the music, its John's threat to kill his girl if he catches her with another man. And he's not exactly subtle about it.


VOTING RESULTS
Don't Pass Me By
8% (6 votes)
Piggies
11% (9 votes)
Wild Honey Pie
9% (7 votes)
Octopus's Garden
6% (5 votes)
What's the New Mary Jane?
14% (11 votes)
Flying
3% (2 votes)
Blue Jay Way
4% (3 votes)
Only a Northern Song
3% (2 votes)
Maxwell's Silver Hammer
22% (17 votes)
You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)
22% (17 votes)
Total votes: 79

Monday, November 2, 2015

TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

 


An assessment of Lou Reed's Transformer album as published in Creem (February 1973).

 Their faces drooping in disbelief, the fans shook their baffled, bewildered heads. "If we hadn't seen him with our own eyes we never would have believe it." 

They were commenting on Lou Reed's Transformation from a wrestling hero to a savage villain. -- from Teenage Wasteland Gazette #2
*
All Last year Lou Reed underwent variously assorted transformations. At one time he was a pirate, and another time he became a transvestite, and even a Lou Reed pamphlet was printed and distributed, claiming that Lou actually had a double who was really responsible for his first album.

This year, on the other hand, Lou Reed must carry the role of a social deviant who hides in closets and jerks off at the mere mention of Marilyn Monroe. Essentially, it's back to those blissful days of Warhol legends when living was clean, and everybody could be zombies with black circles around their eyes.

That's showbiz, and Lou Reed always did wanna appear in a Broadway musical.

This new album is further proof even that Lou Reed has turned into something sicker than a homicidal-rapist-mass murderer-porno editor. Far gone is that prevailing commercial bubblegum flair so evident on the first album (e.g. "I Love You," "'Lisa Says," "Love Makes You Feel"). Instead, it's more like what the third Velvet Underground album would have sounded like if David Bowie had been in charge of production back then.

There's a couple of cute ditties on here that perhaps belong on We're Only In It For The Money (dumbshit show tunes in which Bowie gets to fill in all the vacant gaps with chugging trombones and tubas), but other than that this album proclaims itself as most masterpieces proclaim themselves: IT GROWS ON YA!

Primarily this is because of the lyrics. There are so many good lines thrown at ya at once that, in fact, you could even make a scrapbook. Prime examples are for instance like on "Vicious" a chunky rocker which wraps its belt around ya with the lines – "When I see you walking down he street, I step on you walking down the street, I step on your hands and mangle your feet" or "Hey, why don't you swallow razor blades?!" which fades into the gritty chorus:

Vicious
You hit me with a flower
You do it every hour
Oh, baby, you're so vicious.


Then there's "Wagon Wheel," which is even more frantic than "Vicious" except that it features a prayer by Lou wherein he confesses all of his sins. Yeah, it's got good lines, too, like – "but if'n you think that you get kicks from flirting with danger/then kick her in the head and re-arrange her". This all fizzles into an over-bold attempt at "Wake Me, Shake Me."

Other noteworthy efforts include "Satellite of Love," total Bowie and would make a terrific Xmas AM hit single; "Make Up," a careful study of all the gunk that attractive "slick little girls" smear on their faces; "I'm So Free," a punk psychedelic rouser reminiscent of the Electric Prunes and a definite Midwest regional hit; and "Andy's Chest," which mostly takes about how your bellybutton is really your mouth and if your feet stink it's really your nose.

But none of em, absolutely none of em, can top "Walk on the Wild Side," which is most certainly the best thing Lou Reed has come out with since "Rock & Roll." The song is one of those impromptu "Wild Child" ramble-epics which feature exclusively Lou's magnificent sense of sneeze-phrasing. Strings are attached onto this one, and it makes you feel like tiny ants are gnawing on your big toe.

At the final clip of the saga, Bowie crams a mellow sax up your rectum, and Lou has his colored (that's what he calls em) backup female chorus do some percolator imitations. But it's words that curdle your oily lubricants and none are better than this verse:

Candy came from out on the island
In the backroom she was everybody's darling
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head.
She sez – hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.


Well, of course, there are songs you're gonna wanna skip, but the cover should make up for that. Lou Reed looks like he just stepped out of the horror flick about zombies or even more like he's been giving rim jobs to the Fugs during the performance on Golden Filth. Yup, he's a full-fledged social degenerate now, and I really don't see how he could get any lower. Not even Candid Press would have the guts to touch him these days.

Nevertheless, other than the fact that this album is great, there's something especially fine about it which sets it apart from all the other crappy platters being released lately. I mean, hell, at least it ain't anal retentive.

Friday, October 30, 2015

KRAZY GREG'S ROCK 'N' ROLL PLATTER PARTY #1





Krazy Greg's TV Platter Party
Press Kit
with signed letter from legendary producer/promoter
Buddy King
 

 This extensive press release includes:
2 page cover letter signed by Buddy King
28 pages of photocopied articles from various publications
including extensive pages from Greg Milewski's fanzine
Cat Tales.


This press release is in VG condition.
The first page has a torn corner (visible in scan) and ink scribble
no tears on remaining pages.
2 sets of staple holes through all pages.  


scroll down to see Buddy King's signature:



some of the articles included:



Thursday, October 29, 2015

THE REAL GODFATHER OF NEW JERSEY

UNCLE FLOYD KNOWS BEST
In the beginning was the word, and the word was Uncle Floyd. (There are other words, too -- Floyd Vivino, Mugsy, Oogie, the peanut gallery -- but that's a longer story.)

My devotion to this teevee character and his throw-it-against-the-wall programming broadcast via UHF out of New Jersey is rooted in the fact that for years I never saw the program but only heard about it from my friends in the New York City area.

The Uncle Floyd Show was what rock 'n' roll elitists watched while everyone else was focused on Saturday Night Live.

Ulimately, the comedy schtick of Uncle Floyd and his cast of misfits suggested a paradise that rarely existed on broadcast television -- a sacred place where whatever you could think of you could actually do, no matter what the mayhem.

Much of what we take for granted now -- especially the homemade ineptitude of a YouTube video or the intentional messiness of hipster television commercials -- were all present on Day One on Floyd's program taped in what seemed like someone's garage.
The local and national garage bands flocked there and rose to the anarchist challenge.

Back in the days of NY punk and garage sensibilities, when music was riskier and certainly more harebrain, I used The Uncle Floyd Show as a barometer of whether or not I would want to associate with someone. When I was asked, as music critics often were back then, what I was "into these days," I'd say: "Uncle Floyd, of course."  Invariably, someone would respond with, "yeah, well, I like Pink Floyd, too, but they haven't been the same since The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Then, I would simply walk away.

Not everyone was hip to Uncle Floyd back then. But now, you can buy his programs on DVD, VHS, and the Internet, and long for the day when discovering a televison program really meant something -- when the arcane and homegrown had a chance to grow an audience within the parameters of true rebellion by eating away at the edges of local programming.

Thanks to Uncle Floyd, New Jersey remains my favorite state (of consciousness).

images of zippy uncle floyd uncle scrooge

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

THEY'RE COMING TO TAKE YOU AWAY, HA-HAAA!!

They're coming to take us away, ha-haaa!

Here are XVI responses (answer records) to Napoleon XIV's novelty hit, "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" (Warner Bros 5831), recorded by audio engineer Jerry Samuels posing as Napoleon Bonaparte. I one-of-a-kind hit record that proves that the history of rock 'n' roll is not always what it seems.

The source below list (w/ more info) corresponds to the title listed.

1. Josephine:  "They Took You Away, I'm Glad I'm Glad"
2. Josef:  ""Took You Away, I'm Glad I'm Glad
3. Josephine XIII:  "Down On The Funny Farm (Oy Vey)"
4. Josephine XV:  "I'm Happy They Took You Away, Ha-Haaa!"
5. Henry The IX:  "Don't Take Me Back, Oh- Nooo!"
6. The Emperor:  "I'm Normal"
7. Teddy & Darrel:  "They Took You Away, I'm Glad I'm Glad"
8. Rose Brooks:  "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!"
9. Kim Fowley:  "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!"
10. VIX Noelopan:  "!Aaah-Ah, Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er'yeht"
11. Floris VI:  "Ze Nemen Me Eindelijk Mee, Ha- Haaa!"
12. Floris VI:  "Ahah Eem Kjilednie Em Nemen Ez"
13. I Balordi:  "Vengono A Portarci Via Ah, Aah!"
14. Napoleon Puppy:  "Ellos Me Quieren Llevar"
15. Boots Walker:  "They're Here"
16. Beatrice Kay w/ Mitchell Ayres & His Orch.:  "Hoooray, Hooray, I'm Goin' Away"


1. Valiant 745-A, 1966
2. Valiant 745-B, 1966
3. Cameo 427, 1966
4. Warner Bros. LP 1661 (They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa! LP), 1966
5. Showcase 9810
6. Current 111, 1966
7. Mira LP 10,000 (These Are The Hits, You Silly Savage!), 1966
8. Soul City 750, 1967
9. CBS (UK) 202243, 1966
10. Warner Bros. 5831, 1966 (flipside to orig. hit)
11. Decca (Netherlands) 10223-A, 1966
12. Decca (Netherlands) 10223-B, 1966
13. Durium (Italy) 7494, 1966 (acc. to Roberto Lanterna, "The Italian lyrics were by their producer Luciano Giacotto, and they're a bit different from the original -- here the band are taken away to a mental hospital because their music is too loud!")
14. CBS (Argentina) 21779; wr. cr. "Napoleón Bonaparte" (acc. to Ayrton Mugnaini, "The record plays at 33rpm. In the vinyl era Brazil and Argentina shared the dubious honour of being the only major phonographic markets not to produce singles at 45rpm.")
15. Rust 5115, 1967; aka Ernie Maresca
16. Columbia 37922, 1947

Track #10 above is the B-side to the hit single, and was a mirror-image (both sonically and graphically) of the topside. It is listed (among the album's other contents) on the front cover to the Napoleon XIV album, but, for reasons unknown, was replaced on the actual disc with the Josephine XV track (#4 above).

Saturday, October 24, 2015

WHAT TROUT MASK REPLICA HATH WROUGHT

 
Released in 1969, Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band remains one of the crowning achievements of the second half of the 20th century.

Produced by Frank Zappa, Don Van Vliet’s masterwork was created as if it were an ethnic field recording. As has been thoroughly documented, the musicians lived under cult-like conditions without food or regular sustenance, experiencing ongoing rigorous "music lessons" by Beefheart.

  The  great British deejay John Peel has said it best:  "If there has been anything in the history of popular music which could be described as a work of art in a way that people who are involved in other areas of art would understand, then Trout Mask Replica is that work."

Still, even today, the album's influence knows no bounds, its mysteries circuitous and neverending. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

WARM THOUGHTS FROM THE WORLD'S GREATEST LIVING POET


 "The fireside, the lamplight intimate and low, reverie with finger at the brow, and eyes that lose themselves in answering looks..." – Paul Verlaine, ‘La Bonne Chanson’

Born on February 19, 1940, William "Smokey" Robinson was blessed at birth with an extraordinary poetic vision:  God stepped down from His lofty perch and kissed the newborn's brow. 

Since then, Smokey – with a voice that can melt M&M's – has made us swoon, massaging our hearts with a romantic lyricism that justly earned him the title of World's Greatest Living Poet, awarded by both Bob Dylan and Patti Smith, prior to their current respective sainthoods.

From the Miracles' inception in the late '50s, Smokey swore that his music was inspired by the 12-year-old Frankie Lymon. Presently, because of his meticulous phrasing and air of self-confidence, he seems to be inspired by a more ancient deity, Frank Sinatra. 

During his waning years, Sinatra's voice mellowed, like a fine whiskey, into an authoritative perfection. Similarly, Smokey's voice now sails through a melody as if guided by the wisdom of a navigator so sure of his course that not even an approaching fog could dim his visibility.

Released on February 25, 1980, Warm Thoughts, Smokey's seventh solo album after he split from the Miracles in 1972, is the Motown Symbolist's most vital effort at keeping the embers of love burning since One Dozen Roses, his 1971 twilight masterpiece with the Miracles. 

On the album, his lyrics still rely upon the turned around phrase (‘Into Each Rain Some Life Must Fall’) – a sure sign of an intrinsic faith in language – but more than that, they reflect the poetic maturation of an artist no longer deceived by a mirage. Smokey has not only grown up, but his voice has changed, too.

His intertwining verse is still the stuff that romances are made of. Only a genuine madrigalist could have composed these lines from "Heavy On Pride (Light On Love)" -- 

So you say you stopped by
To make sure I watered creeping
Charlie
And to use the phone
But that ain't so
Baby, cause I know
You well enough
To know that kind of stuff couldn't
bring you home


To comprehend the adulthood of Smokey's rhyme scheme is to understand why the soul of his ballads belongs to a heaven light years away from the sleazy pit where Barry White and Teddy Pendergrass croon in June about spoons.

The album, of course, is not without flaws, but they are tactical errors, due primarily to the presence of intruders. On "Wine, Women and Song," Smokey sings a duet with his wife, Claudette, that's only saved from the schmaltz of Peaches and Herb by the magical allure of Smokey's voice. Co-written and co-produced with Stevie Wonder, the Godfather of Plants, "Melody Man" never really rises above its pop-disco sound to give Smokey a chance to paint his words across the landscape.

Nevertheless, the erotically rhythmic moments of the album (the pendulum swing of "Let Me Be The Clock," the shame-shame-shame groove of "Heavy On Pride") offset any of its headaches. Already a well-established album in the R&B canon, Warm Thoughts -- its revealed intimacies perhaps even designed for our own bedrooms -- remains one of the great the make-out albums of the early '80s.

Monday, October 19, 2015

THERE WILL BE DRUMS

George Coleman  Bongo Joe  Arhoolie album cover

George Coleman's nickname was Bongo Joe, but no one seems to know why, least of all George.  In Houston during the late '40s, he was turned down for a job as a drummer in a local band because he did not own a set of drums. George got real mad, found a discarded oil drum (Houston has plenty!), dented it with an axe, and hit the streets.

A self-made beatnik, George played for tourists in Galveston and found work in a coffeehouse in Houston.  But no one really appreciated his art so George moved to San Antonio, where he played for small change in front of the Alamo and where, on December 7, 1968, on portable equipment, this bizarre album was recorded.

Coleman's instrument is a 55-gallon oil drum which he pounds with the handles of oil cans filled with pebbles and BB-shot. His voice is that of a '50s R&B shouter.  At odd moments, he will mumble to himslef, and when he cannot think of anything to say, he whistles or makes bird noises.  He is given to mad outbursts of panting and laughter. Although seemingly composed on the spot, his lyrics are hip, filled with bawdy humor and structured as fables. George slings the bullshit real good.

Eight songs comprise this album, released in 1969 as Arhoolie 1040, and entitled simply "Bongo Joe."  Each of these songs sound like Bo Diddley and Mardi Gras music thrashing it out at the same time. Complete with barking and woofing, "Innocent Little Doggy" is the tale of a mutt who is run over by a drunk driver. George describes the dog's flea-bitten corpse in detail, comparing it, rather tragically, to a Skid Row bum.

On "Transistor Radio," a woman grieves for her dead husband only because he is being buried with her only radio.  "Cool It," the funkiest cut here, is worthy of James Brown, especially when George rants about "too much outasight and not enough insight."  Other titles include "Dog Eat Dog," "Listen at That Bull," and "I Wish I Could Sing"--titles that speak for themselves.

This record exists because Arhoolie, one of the great labels dedicated to the preservation of musical roots, felt that George's sound was a solid link between African roots and American black music. Since other cultures used drums as a way of conveying simple messages, then, according to the liner notes, George's craft "is the logical extension of this primitive art into modern culture."

Whatever the highfalutin justification for the record's release, it just sounds like rock 'n' roll to me.

THOSE MINDBENDING KIDS OF YORE

A Manchester combo originally called the Jets, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders performed with a trebly guitar, shirll falsettos, and a breakneck purposelessness. In 1965, they released, as if by chance, one of the great party albums of the British Beat era:  The Game of Love (Fontana MGF 27542).

The British Invasion era -- which gave us so much with the Beatles, and somehow gave us so little -- was mostly about English whippersnappers discovering and usurping American R&B. And the Mindbenders set out to prove that they too knew the traditions.

Traveling the length of this album, a short sweet distance, it's as if you have passed through the entire history of rock 'n' roll up to 1965.

Like the Animals and the Pretty Things, the Mindbenders conveyed their roots with integrity -- and with an enthusiasm that suggests they knew their moment would be brief. Without stopping for breath, the cover Bo Diddley's "Cops and Robbers," Fats Domino's "I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday," Ernie K-Doe's "A Certain Girl," and Chuck Berry's "Jaguar and the Thunderbird." Their version of "The Girl Can't Help It" is like a studio outtake caught in the middle of things -- the band plays too fast, stumbling, trying to keep pace with Little Richard's spirit.

Half the time these guys even sound like a girl group with their haunting, wavering falsettos never cracking, going way beyond what seems natural for male voices. There is a handclapping version of Little Eva's "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby, an Ellie Greenwich tribute ("She's Got the Power"), a piercing "Too Many Tears," and a song done in the style of the Motown ladies ("You Don't Know Me"), all played with a doo-wah innocence.  The one original on the album "One More Time," could be a recording by Rosie and the Originals.

"The Game of Love," the hit the album was built around, depended on this girl-group effervescence. (A year later, with "A Groovy Kind of Love," this style collapsed into a nauseating croon.) The voice states:  "The purpose of a man is to love a woman, and the purpose of a woman is to love a man," then a perfect tinny guitar fills the space, a bass competes with a falsetto, and a sexual squeal tears through the Garden of Eden. It sounds like the band is in drag.

Like many great albums, this one seems tossed together -- and it probably was, released quickly in the wake of the Beatles' triumph.

In fact, the Mindbenders themselves were thrown together in May, 1963, when two of the members of the Jets didn't show up for an audition for Fontana records.

This particular Mindbenders' recorded work has that kind of lightweight charm, the music of kids learning the ropes with determination and not caring if they lose, thrown together for one brief moment of enlightenment. The British Beat era was full of such young bands, but as this album shows, the Minderbenders were one of the very best. They were truly the "yeah, yeah, yeah"'s the Beatles left behind.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

ROY ORBISON SINGS....SORT OF



Unpublished (and censored) review of "Roy Orbison Sings" (MGM SE 4835), an album released in the United States in 1972.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

POLKA! A GREAT DRUG OF CHOICE


Brave Combo remain the definitive polka-rock band. They were founded in 1979 by guitarist/accordianist/genius Carl Finch in Denton, Texas. For over 35 years, the group has been a major force in popularizing polka music in America, a genre that was once, believe it or not, actually frowned upon.

Brave Combo often plays and records covers of popular songs in a style radically different from the original version. In other words, they subvert the text. Some examples of this are the polka versions of Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and the Doors' "People are Strange."  These restructured versions of familiar songs are performed with humor, but are not really considered a joke or a novelty release.


If I'm telling you stuff you already know, well, then here's some facts about Brave combo that might be news to you...

  • Brave Combo made an appearance as animated figures on the March 21, 2004, episode of The Simpsons. 
  • Their song "Busy Office Rhumba" was used as the theme for the 1993 FOX television series Bakersfield P.D.  
  • They wrote and performed the theme song for the 2005 series ESPN Bowling Night.
  • Two of their songs are on the 1989 Gumby album.
  • In 2000, they appeared on the national telecast of the MDA Labor Day Telethon, and the great Jerry Lewis danced along to their music.
And best of all:  Carl Finch and I produced Time-Life Music's incredible The Treasury of Polka Music, a 2-CD definitive set of the very best of polka hits--the genre's greatest recordings! This monumental project was only sold via direct-market channels, specifically broadcast television, and is long gone (altho avail via used CD markets). The anthology is a real tribute to Mr. Finch's knowledge and genius.


Monday, October 12, 2015

MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS: CRUISING THE AUTUMN SCENE WITH DEAN MARTIN


ALL HAIL THE CREEPING TERROR KNOWN AS FRANK ZAPPA


Frank Zappa is the creeping terror!

X the Unknown, That's Mr. Z., who set himself up ages ago as the spokesman for the dawn of social correction (listen, Barry McGuire was just clowning around, and Sgt. Barry Sadler just hated gooks so they don't count) and told a whole generation of innocent babes (not yet exposed to warfare like Starsky and Hutch but still being fed on Star Trek and The Joe Pyne Show) to TURN OFF THEIR TV SETS.

That's really what the agenda of Freak Out was all about, a justification for Zappa's own paranoia, suggesting that the Brain Police were actually seeping out of the tube.

Just like with Richard Nixon, though, it's time to stop kicking Frankie Zzzzzz around. It's getting boring. His head is in another direction altogether since those early days of hippie propaganda.

The cynicism is still apparent, but the music is no more a weak excuse for labored classical rips and free jazz atonality soup. In retrospect, there's nothing more hilarious than the sarcasm flaunted by the Mothers, and essentially Zappa has maintained that act all along.

With this in mind, Zoot Allures is a riot (well, ya know, in a perverted sense, like watching Lawrence Welk and thinking it's cute). "The Torture Never Stops" has gotta be the bumper sticker statement on Zappa's Mercedes (Honk for Zappa!) cause it has certainly been the theme of his last few records. On this doodle, the anguished moans and gasps of a woman being disassembled seems to be the ribtickler. Anyway, the mood of a concentration camp does come across (similar to "The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny": hoo boy).

 "Friendly Little Fingers" is just Zappa's witty way of saying that he does a guitar solo with himself (song ends with a chorus of "Bringing in the Sheaves"). Followed by "Wonderful Wino" which is the tale of an alkie who eats the labels off wine bottles and craps on old ladies' lawns (satire? WHAT DEPTH!).

"Zoot Allures" presents a restful pause. I wouldn't trade it for any Mancini record in. the whole world. Another chuckle is ‘Ms. Pinky’, Zappa's version of ‘Gloria’ with explicit sex lyrics for hardcore porn addicts (Redd Foxx is still the reigning champ).

But it's on "Disco Box" where Zappa really lets loose his punches ("Leave his hair alone, but you can kiss his comb"). A novelty song like "Disco Duck" could never fathom the vacuum of a trendy dance scene because it uses the disco formula to its own advantage. In contrast, Zappa remains consistently offensive by fronting his attack with heavy-metal slices. Rarely has Zappa bitten his enemy so viciously.  For those of you who despise the disko dorks, it's pure catharsis.

Suddenly the Disco Scene is transformed into a Disco Wake, composed of shuffling lacquered bodies with only a brainwashing pulse to keep them in motion. For Zappa, disco represents a masturbational fixation (the mindless bumps celebrating only the movements of pounding yr poodle). "Disco Boy, no one understands, but thank the Lord you still got hands/to do that jerking off that'll blot out your disco sorrow/it's disco love tonight." Ain't that sweet?

Zoot Allures is really only successful as a comedy album. Zappa's music is still about as exciting as a wet sponge, but he has found a new scapegoat. Television no longer seems to be the target of Zappa's satirical whip as much as the zombie wave of discophiliacs. In the final analysis, according to his Holiness the Zappa, who, indeed, are the Brain Police? Barry White! Salsoul Orchestra! K.C. and the Sunshine Band! Silver Convention! Ooga Booga and his Average Honkie Band and the entire silly bunch.

Thanks for the great insight, Frankie, baby!

Friday, October 9, 2015

THE HOMBRES LET IT ALL HANG OUT IN A GARBAGE CAN


The Hombres, Let It Out (Verve/Forecast FTS-3036), 1967

This is one of the great American garage albums that just don’t give a hoot.

A Memphis combo, the Hombres opted for the lighter side of garage-punk. The Hombres’ album cover (which is their only album cover since no record label was brave enough to release another record by them) is an obvious reference to the Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird LP, released in ’64, which shows the infamous surf band from Minneapolis clustered around a garbage truck.

Ironically, the Hombres had originally intended to be a surf band. In 1967, they traveled through Houston posing as a pop version of a West Coast surf group and somehow got tangled up with Texas producer Huey Meaux.  

In 1965, Meaux had already transformed a band of San Antonio punksters into an ersatz British Invasion act, the Sir Douglas Quintet (featuring a very young Doug Sahm).  And so, with the Hombres, Meaux saw an opportunity for reshaping the rebellion of a garage band into a comedic sensibility.

With Huey at the helm, the Hombres’ first 45 was “Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out),” a clear parody of Bob Dylan’s vocal style.  It is still the only pop hit that’s ever begun with a raspberry. In late ’67, the single went to #12 on Billboard’s pop chart—but only after the title had been censored to “Let It Out.”

Here are the song's notoriously ridiculous lyrics:

"A preachment, dear friends, you are about to receive
On John Barleycorn, nicotine, and the temptations of Eve"
(Bronx cheer)

No parkin' by the sewer sign
Hot dog, my razor's broke
Water drippin' up the spout
But I don't care, let it all hang out

Hangin' from a pine tree by my knees
Sun is shinin' through the shade
Nobody knows what it's all about,
It's too much, man, let it all hang out

Saw a man walkin' upside down
My T.V.'s on the blink
Made Galileo look like a Boy Scout
Sorry 'bout that, let it all hang out

Sleep all day, drive all night
Brain my numb, can't stop now
For sure ain't no doubt
Keep an open mind, let it all hang out

It's rainin' inside a big brown moon
How does that mess you baby up, leg
Eatin' a Reuben sandwich with sauerkraut
Don't stop now, baby, let it all hang out
Let it all hang out (repeat in a bumbling manner)"

The irreverent album includes all of the Hombres’ self-penned attempts to follow their initial punk/novelty hit—“Am I High,” Mau Mau Mau,” and “It’s a Gas.” The latter song is not to be confused with Mad’s Alfred E Newman’s infamous novelty song of the same name. Whereas Alfred’s record featured lots of belching and burping, the Hombres’ “gas” record features the inspirational verse:  “Don’t worry about the future, forget about the past/Whether it’s good or bad, it’s a gas!”

Most of the material on this album is marked by an offhand good heartedness as if the group is perfectly aware that their own musical ineptitude is beside the point. Meaux’s typically lackadaisical production-style only enhances the sound of the cheesy organ and sloppy guitars.

Perhaps the most telling moment on the album occurs during the middle of yet another garage version of Van Morrison’s “Gloria.” It is a remarkable version.

The song is untamed and yet focused, but it remains remarkable because it appears, suddenly, all six (6) minutes of it, out of context in the midst of a Southern-punk work of utter buffoonery. And then, right at the heart of the song, the Hombres forget—or seem to forget—the tune they’re playing, detouring into a charming, albeit primitive, stab at the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.”

With warmth and spirit, the Hombres album seems to explicate Alfred E. Newman’s famous maxim:  “What, me worry?”

Thursday, October 8, 2015

ROCK CRITICISM & COMIX & THE MAD PECK


When this book comes up, everybody asks, "Are these people for real?"

Here we have a strange book that combines rock criticism and cartoons with a kind of cyncal joy. It's true celebration of cultural debris for the masses.

Well, I wrote most of the thing.

Gimme a break: I’ve been keeping up with all this cultural crap for almost 50 years now!

Like the Mad Peck (the "brains" behind this strange book) once said, before he was tucked away in the bowels of the Brown University archives, “I’ve watched more television than anybody.”

Me, I don’t watch much teevee anymore because there are way too many images and texts on all the other addictive screens.

Anyway, I’m here to save you some time. That’s right, at this site, we glean the trash so you don’t have to.

Keep in mind, I have a staff of 20 solipsistic geeks who do nothing but surf ‘n’ drool all day long. It’s tough managing these guys, so please please please give us a few nickels to get ‘em fed. Burgers are okay with them. And they eat pizza and Subway sandwiches. (Actually it makes me sick just watching ‘em eat, but when your eyes never leave the screen, you’re bound to miss your mouth.)

And to answer the gnawing question right off the bat: Yes, I dig stuff  from the ’90s and the ’00s, but not so much. Like, there’s too much old stuff most folks don’t know about.

Do you know who Harmonica Frank Floyd is? Well, there you go…that’s exactly what I’m talking about.

Potential tags: Providence Rhode Island, Brown University, TV Guide, '70s rock, Nick Tosches, Mad Peck, Harmonica Frank Floyd

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

THE ABRACADABRA OF ABBA

 

 

Published review (April 1977) of Abba's fourth studio album, Arrival, originally released in Sweden on October 11, 1976, which became the top-selling album of 1977 in both the U.K. and West Germany and which includes their disco smash, "Dancing Queen."

Gushing with enthusiastic naivete, here come those sibilant Swedes again, blanketing the globe with the affectionate harmonies of polar sirens.

With the abracadabra of inventive wizards, Abba has hatched a presence that has been felt and absorbed on practivally every inch of foreign soil. And their ongoing strategic global takeover continues...

Abba believes in ancient visions of American teenagehood; they romanticize infatuation and stolen kisses, and, like their Spector-born predecessors, they possess the big voices and the big production know-how required to promote their fantasies and win audiences. 

Abba’s innocence, in fact, was never more conspicuous than during their appearance on Saturday Night and Wonderama. The artificiality of Frieda and Anna’s go-go boots and miniskirts looked bonkers compared to the cast’s usual routines.

In contrast, Abba’s Sunday morning stint on Wonderama (New York’s Kiddie Club) was a sugar coated delight of pre-pube choreography (gyrating forth the gummy bubble fans of the Wombles and Hudson Brothers with host Bob McAllister oohing and aahing at the female Abbas’ leggies). The difference here being that Abba survives only as alien rock ‘n’ roll force, contained in a time warp, rippling througout the 1970s.

Arrival, then, is the typical Abba album, complete as a collection of wholesome singles (designed for the younguns with pocket change who have not yet graduated to big bubba’s gullible level of rock sophistication) but incomplete as a total unit (featuring the filler between the hits). 

Still, Abba’s moments of extreme exhilaration are produced with enough precision to flutter your senses into oblivion. Of course, "Dancing Queen" has already evolved into a disco clich√©, but the elaborate use of strings on this record forces you to ignore the trendy rhythms. Any band that can make even disco sound like the Ronettes can’t be all bad.

There are at least five more smasheroos destined for the dj’s turntable spread all over this LP. You can just bet your Frampton records that a song like "Tiger" will pulverize the transistor waves this spring, shifting the planet on its axis with a sheer magnitude of sound. Same goes for "When I Kiss the Teacher" (don’t expect a light case of puppy love). Ditto for "Knowing Me, Knowing You" (it will give your parakeet goose-bumps). Likewise for the majority of these fine Abba melodies and on the whole, not really one lousy gasp worth mentioning.

It’s possible that Abba’s effusive charm may eventually wear thin, for lately the unemotional and synthetic seem to be all the rage. Certainly Abba could croak overnight competing with the recent plague of lobotomized superstars. 

With Arrival as a testament of Abba’s stamina, however, better give them another fifty years.

Monday, October 5, 2015

THE DELIGHTS OF DR. DEMENTO


Spikes Jones, Allen Sherman, Stan Freberg, Yogi Yorgesson - these are just a few of the wonderful gems that have been unearthed over the years by the crazy Dr. Demento.

Dr. Demento's radio show (online and off) has been a favorite of mine for decades, and it is that show alone, I think, which has kindled such a devoted interest in novelty and comedy records among growing fans over the decades.

Middle-school and high school kids bathe in this stuff.

Demento's fans plague him with requests - petitions, phone calls, smoke signals, telegrammed threats - pushing their fave raves be it Rusty Warren's "Knockers Up!" or Jim Backus' "Delicious."  The market for this stuff are those trapped in a state of arrested development, and usually that means teenagers.

Demento has compiled many collections of this dumb music, and each one is an event that heralds a new level of tastelessness.  His packaged nonsense consistently serves as a wunnerful wunnerful introduction to what seems like a lost world of noise, gibberish, and loud burps. Lots and lots of novelty recordings can be discovered regularly on his forever crazy show.

The selection of material on these collections has usually been determined by how successful it played on Demento's radio shows. (Napoleon XIV and R. Crumb always seem to be on them.)

For example, there's Possum's "The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati" (the answer record to "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago," which in and of itself is sufficiently demented - but in the world of novelty records there is always that step beyond) that combines belches, groans, and screams to create the perfect horror-snot performance. Not even grade-Z monster flicks were ever this appalling!

Then there's Ben Gay and the Silly Savages' "Ballad of Ben Gay," which belongs to the usual poke-fun-at-gays ilk, a genre so jam-packed with contenders that its equivalent can only be found in Helen Keller jokes. The Demento dimension does not always embrace being PC.

Dumb discs of the demented variety are constantly being rediscovered, and a record can become "demented" even though its original intent was quite serious. The frustration here is that you have to listen to Dr. Demento's show in order to keep up. (He's a great MC...kinda like what Ghoulardi was for horror movies on television.)

When bordom sets in, nothing but nothing beats a crazy record. Recorded dementia can cure zits, clear sinus passages, relieve back pain, and even stop constipation.  Hey, give it a chance!

Check out The Demented Music Database here.

CAS WALKER & DOLLY PARTON & KNOXVILLE TENNESSEE



By the time I was in the 4th grade, I had left behind the flat Oklahoma landscape of my younger upbringing and was living in East Tennessee in the suburbs of Knoxville, Tennessee.  My father was a preacher and my mother was an English teacher, and there we sat at the foothills of the Smokey Mountains.

Unlike in the Land of the Buffalo, folks actually sang in East Tennessee, and had some of the purtiest voices ever imaginable. My mother was from a small town in East Tennessee, and like Dolly Parton,
my mother's voice was crystal-clear, pure, unblemished by popular trends.

In Knoxville, I began learning to play the violin in a symphony orchestra funded by the public school system.  I sang regularly at church and was taught vocal discipline by mother as she accompanied me on show tunes, folk songs, and hymns.  And I even began to learn the acoustic guitar.

In short, I had entered Tennessee, the most musical state in America. (When I make this statement even today, nobody ever seems to argue or disagree with me, so it must be true.)

Needless to say, even though I was listening to pop, folk, and rock, I was not collecting music on record. I don't even remember buying any records the whole time I lived in Knoxville. Perhaps that was because I was creating, performing and learning the music itself rather than trying to keep some part of it as a plastic product

Although I don't remember the experience of buying records while living in Knoxville, Tennessee, I do remember the voice and presence of Cas Walker.

Cas was a Tennessee businessman as wall as a TV & radio personality who founded a successful chain of small grocery stores throughout the Knoxville area. Walker created The Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour, a local variety show he sponsored to bring attention to his stores. This variety program ran in various radio and television formats between 1929 through 1983, an amazing feat unto itself.

Another way he advertised his store's weekly specials was to scatter coupons from airplanes.

The Cas Walker television program aired on various local channels until the early '80s, and featured such great country artists as Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, and Chet Atkins. The show actually helped launch the career of the Goddess of East Tennessee, Dolly Parton, who first performed on the program at the age of 9.



Saturday, October 3, 2015

ROBOTS WILL BE FOREVER COOL



Some of you will already be familiar with this fabulous creation because it has made many appearances on playlists and radio programs of the weird and wacky variety. It has been labeled as one of the world's worst records, and of course, featured as a novelty hit on several Dr. Demento programs.

But, as the pic sleeve testifies, this recording is much more than that.

Bent Bolt was actually a pseudonym for Teddy Randazzo who died in 2003, but was a 50's rock icon who probably co-wrote god-only-knows how many songs that were covered by such greats as Frank Sinatra and Dionne Warwick. In the early years of rock and roll, Randazzo played with a group called The Three Chuckles, and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show numerous times.

With his composing partner, Bobby Weinstein, Randazzo wrote a string of major hits for other artists including "Pretty Blue Eyes", a top ten hit for Steve Lawrence. He also penned a number of songs for Little Anthony and the Imperials, including "Goin' Out of My Head" which was covered by numerous artists including the Letterman.

"I've lost count on how many versions of what I wrote there are," Randazzo once said.

If you try to dance to this record, you'll probably find it a bit clunky.  The vocalist sounds like he's using a vocoder, and could have hurt his throat trying to sing this weird tune--which has very, very weird lyrics.

I'm a mechanical man,
I was built in a factory,
my serial number is
084567123.

I'm designed in The U.S.A.,
and manufactured in Japan.
Does anybody here know a
robot girl who wants to meet
a mechanical man?

I was made out of stainless steel
to protect my brain from rust,
there's a vacuum cleaner built
into my chest that automaticlly
picks up dust

I am 5 foot 8 inch tall
and as strong as a moving van
Does anybody here know a
robot girl who wants to meet
a mechanical man?

I can fix an automobile,
I can put up a Christmas tree,
I can milk a cow,
I can mow a lawn,
I can pour you a cup of tea,
but I'm looking for someone
who could help me to charge my coils,
and fill me up with bat-ter-ies
and feed me my daily oil

I would not care at all
if she looked like a garbage can,
does anybody here know a
robot girl who wants to meet a
mechanical....chanical....chanical....
chanical....chanical....chanical....
chanical....chanical....OH NO!!!!


This is crazy stuff!