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Book Review – Sweet Soul Music – Peter Guralnick

9 October 2021 at 10:52
By: Jim S.

Do you like good music?
Huh, that sweet soul music
Just as long as it’s swinging
Oh yeah
Oh yeah

Peter Guralnick is arguably the most important, best writer we have on American roots and soul music. He wrote the two-volume series on Elvis Presley’s early life that I read a while back. He also wrote a book about Sam Phillips which I reviewed several years back. I met Gurlanick on that book tour and he signed my book. (He’s a Massachusetts guy so it was easy.)

I happened to be at a permanently standing flea market in Newburyport MA (by coincidence I believe this is Guralnick’s home turf) when I found a used copy of Sweet Soul Music. I took it home and pretty much gobbled it up.

The good news about Gurlanick as a writer is also the bad news if you are not into detail. Because he is. He will tell you not only about, say, Booker T. and the MG’s but also the offshoot bands the members were in, what small bands they came from, what they had for lunch, etc. I am no expert on soul music but after reading this book I sure felt like it.

Just to give you an idea of what’s in this most comprehensive of books here are some chapter titles

  • Prologue to Soul: Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and the Business of Music
  • King Solomon: The Throne in Exile
  • Beginnings: Stax
  • Otis Redding
  • Stax: The Golden Years
  • Fame and Muscle Shoals
  • Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag
  • Aretha Arrives

Yep, the soul gang is all here from Otis to Aretha, James Brown to Al Green. And what a wild ride it is. I’ve already read (and written) quite a bit about Aretha, Otis and Cooke (“The King of Soul”) but I had not yet written about Stax.

As noted there are two entire chapters on Stax and you will know all the ups and downs of brother and sister founders Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton. (STewartAXton = Stax.) So, how they got started, how they took an old movie theater in highly segregated Memphis and made it (however temporarily) into an integrated haven, how Booker T and the MG’s created a “sound” starting with “Green Onions.”

And you will find that contrary to what you might think, Stax’s heyday was pretty much only a few brief years in the late 50’s and into the late ’60s. And then how it all came crashing down one fateful night in April of 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis and the trust was gone. And how Stax got caught up in its own shit and went bankrupt. And is now a museum.

I find it interesting how many people in the book so much seemed to want to be either Otis Redding or Sam Cooke and how much James Brown – the hardest working man in show business – was very much his own man. And how soul was popular at the very same time Motown was popular but that Motown was aimed a white audience, soul a black audience.

There are also great stories in here about Atlantic Records and (specifically) Jerry Wexler who came south to first hire Stax musicians in Memphis and then Muscle Shoals musicians in Alabama. (Unbeknownst to Jim Stewart, when Stax signed a distribution deal with Atlantic, all the masters reverted to Atlantic. This is what happens when you are young and naive and don’t read the contract.)

One of my favorite stories comes late in the book when Memphis musician Willie Mitchell goes on the road and tries to groom his opening singer into being a big star. The singer tells him he has $1500 in debt he has to pay back in Michigan. So Mitchell gives him the dough, never really sure if he’ll see the guy again. Two months later the guy shows up at his door and says, “Remember me? I’m Al. Al Green.”

And there’s plenty in here about Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, the ecstatic Stax European tour and even a little bit about Duane Allman who played on so many of these records and was managed by Jerry Wexler at one point. (Phil Walden was Otis’ manager then started Capricon records whose signature band was the Allman Brothers. A big Southern stew is what it was.)

“Was” being the operative word here. As Guralnick says, soul – like rockabilly and blues before it – had its day. Now there is other stuff on the radio and if you want to hear soul you have to go to your record collection or satellite radio. (Stax has a whole in-depth anthology with dozens of tunes that you can find on Spotify. Ironically, Stax’ initial name was Satellite.)

Anyway, you get the idea. I will leave you with a few tunes for your dining and dancing pleasure.

Spotlight on Lou Rawls, y’all
Ah, don’t he look boss, y’all
Singing ‘Love’s a Hurtin’ Thing’, y’all
Oh yeah
Oh yeah

Spotlight on Sam and Dave, y’all
Ah, don’t they look great y’all?
Singing, ‘Hold On I’m Coming’
Oh yeah
Oh yeah

Spotlight on Wilson Pickett, now
That wicked Wilson Pickett
Singing, ‘Mustang Sally’
Oh yeah
Oh yeah

Spotlight on Otis Redding now
Singing ‘Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa’
‘Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa’
Oh yeah
Oh yeah
Get it, Otis

Spotlight on James Brown, y’all
He’s the king of them all, y’all
He’s the king of them all, y’all
Oh yeah
Oh yeah

Sweet Soul

jpas1954

A Six-Pack of Nine Inch Nails

3 October 2021 at 21:07
By: Jim S.

“I’m really into old David Bowie stuff for what it was, I’m really into Led Zeppelin or whatever. But I’m not going to have a band that tries to sound like that because it’s been done. I never liked the Beatles. If you’re going to have a band that is guitar, bass, drum, and vocal, try to do something different with it instead of trying to sound like every other band that uses the same equipment and plays the same chords.

“I think my affiliation with so-called industrial bands now is, I like the energy. I always liked the fact that it was electronic, but it wasn’t Thompson Twins. It wasn’t where Devo went with it. It was something that was kind of cool.” – Trent Reznor

Wikipedia: Michael Trent Reznor was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania on May 17, 1965, He began playing the piano at the age of 12 and showed an early aptitude for music. His grandfather said he “was a good kid […] a Boy Scout who loved to skateboard, build model planes, and play the piano. Music was his life, from the time he was a wee boy. He was so gifted.”

Reznor has acknowledged that his sheltered life left him feeling isolated from the outside world. “I don’t know why I want to do these things,” he told Rolling Stone, “other than my desire to escape from Small Town, U.S.A., to dismiss the boundaries, to explore. It isn’t a bad place where I grew up, but there was nothing going on but the cornfields.”

At Mercer Area Junior/Senior High School, he learned to play the tenor saxophone and tuba and was a member of both the jazz band and marching band. He became involved in theater while in high school, being awarded the “Best in Drama” accolade by his classmates for his roles as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man.

In 1987 in Cleveland, Ohio, Reznor played keyboards in the Exotic Birds, a synthpop band. He was employed as an assistant engineer and janitor at Right Track Studios where the studio owner gave him free access to the studio between bookings to record demos. Unable to find a band that could play it the way he heard it, but inspired by Prince, Reznor played all the instruments except drums himself.

Nine Inch Nails’ debut album in 1989 was called Pretty Hate Machine and it’s pretty much all Trent and a thousand engineers. Reznor chose the name “Nine Inch Nails” because it “abbreviated easily” rather than for any literal meaning. I will say that for such a small town band geek/Boy Scout, Reznor sure came up with some aggressive shit.

Since I don’t do these six-packs in any particular order, I’ll start with the EP Broken and the incredible deathfuckmetal of “Wish.” The video appears to be from the very bowels of hell. Play it loud:

Spotify link

The thing about Trent Reznor is that, well, he wants to fuck you like an animal. And who are you to resist? “Lyrically, “Closer” is a song about self-hatred and obsession. To Reznor’s dismay, the song was widely misinterpreted as a lust anthem due to its chorus. (How could people possibly have interpreted any sexual meaning to that?? – ME).

Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, said of the song, “Come on dude: ‘I wanna fuck you like an animal’? That’s the all-time fuck song. Those are pure fuck beats—Trent Reznor knew what he was doing. You can fuck to it, you can dance to it and you can break shit to it.” (I did all three at the same time to it once – ME). 

Spotify link

And so back to Pretty Hate Machine and “Down In It,” one of the first tunes Reznor ever wrote. I did the insistent beat and the chorus.

I’ll cross my heart, I’ll hope to die
But the needle’s already in my eye
And all the world’s weight is on my back
And I don’t even know why
And what I used to think was me
Is just a fading memory
I looked him right in the eye
And said goodbye

Spotify link

“Hurt” – from NIN’s breakthrough album The Downward Spiral – is every bit as much a signature song for Reznor as “Closer” is. Famously, Rick Rubin got Johnny Cash to sing it on one of his albums. Reznor at first thought it was “gimmicky” but on seeing the powerful video he said, ” .. Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend because that song isn’t mine anymore.”

Spotify link

Let’s go back to Pretty Hate Machine for “Head Like a Hole.” And remember to:

Bow down before the one you serve
You’re going to get what you deserve
Bow down before the one you serve
You’re going to get what you deserve

Spotify link

I end this Industrial rock, industrial alternative, rock electronic, rock industrial, metal ambient fest with “The Hand That Feeds” from 2005’s With Teeth.

About ten or twelve years ago, Reznor started putting his energies into film and television scores. With his co-writer, Atticus Ross, a partial list of stuff he’s scored includes The Social Network, Gone Girl, Patriots Day, and Ken Burns’ documentary, The Vietnam War. 

Spotify link

Head-Like-A-Hole-nine-inch-nails-21820311-1280-1024

jpas1954

New Music Revue – 9/27/21

27 September 2021 at 10:10
By: Jim S.

Wherein I spin a couple of new tunes for your dining and dancing pleasure…..

Early last year I did a post on Graham Parker. In that post, I mentioned that Parker had secured a major record deal with Phonogram records after Brinsley Schwarz manager Dave Robinson got a tape of a Parker demo to a radio show host.

For the uninitiated, Brinsley Schwarz is a guitarist and singer whose recording career goes back to 1967. According to his press kit, he made his “first records as a member of the British pop band Kippington Lodge.

In between the Kippington Lodge recordings and his new record Tangled, Schwarz was a member of the influential ‘pub rock’ band, the eponymously named Brinsley Schwarz with his school mate Nick Lowe, and The Rumour, which backed Graham Parker on tour and on five studio albums, in addition to releasing three albums of their own.

Schwarz continued to collaborate with Parker through four decades, co-producing the landmark albums The Mona Lisa’s Sister and Human Soul and, more recently, touring with Parker as a duo. Beyond this, Brinsley has worked with a wide array of artists, including Carlene Carter (whose debut album he co-produced), Dr. Feelgood, Kirsty MacColl, Garland Jeffreys, Ducks Deluxe, and Desmond Dekker.”

I have known the name Brinsley Schwarz for quite some time and am well aware of not only the band named for him but also of his contributions to the Rumour. I’m excited to say that not only does he have a new album out but that – in a first for Music Enthusiast –  I will be interviewing him (by email) in an upcoming post. In the meantime, check out his Facebook presence.

“Storm in the Hills” has got that old-time rock and roll flavor that we don’t hear enough of on the radio anymore. Gotta love that tinkly piano:

Spotify link

A song recently came my way, a new single by the “Utah-based ‘folk meets Americana’ singer-songwriter, Alicia Stockman. The song is – like so many of the really good ones you hear – about “lost love, painful memories that express feelings of suffering and melancholia.”

“Halfway to Houston” is the second single from Stockman’s debut album These Four Walls, which is set for release in November 2021. Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will recognize that I don’t do a lot of songs like this. You will also recognize that I know a good song when I hear one.

“Halfway to Houston” is a “token break-up song where Alicia recalls a painful memory of lost love. The song is poetic and emotive, laced with soaring vocals and intimate lyrics that express feelings of suffering and melancholia. “I wrote the chorus of this song while hiking a trail network near my house. It was a healthy way to process the end of this relationship while my ex-partner moved out of the house.”

Spotify link

From their bio: Belle Roscoe debuted a decade ago with a self-titled album that turned heads all over the place, spreading their name from their Melbourne home around the world. They bedded in with a fine 2013 follow-up and a series of teasingly inviting singles and EPs since. But now, in the 2020-21 season, they’ve created the thrilling sound that defines them.

So it’s with pride and excitement that siblings Julia and Matty Gurry and their band unveil the distinctly raunchy single “Soho Shoes'” as the first taste of the career-redefining EP Talking To The Walrus. The five-tracker sets Belle Roscoe firmly in the top division of modern melodic rock, with nods to glam, psychedelia, gothic blues, folk and country, 1970s Americana, and those instinctive harmonies that are the special preserve of sibling groups, from the Everlys to the Haims.

The EP takes its title from the “spirit animal” that inspired the sessions, who in turn connects them to one of their abiding musical heroes. “The walrus has been a big influence on the record,” says Matty. “One night, we were at the studio writing and I swear to god, John Lennon appeared to me as the walrus. We just started dialing in on the Imagine album and I realised it’s such a punk record.”

Spotify link

From his website: “Tyler Ray is an American singer-songwriter with a rich understanding of the highs and lows that this life has to offer. This blue-collar, CA native grew up with a shovel in his hand and a song in his heart. There’s no shortage of raw, unadulterated, relatable emotion on full display in his new single, “All Aboard.”

A completely Independent release, “All Aboard” was produced by Josie Award-nominated producer, Daniel Dennis. Featuring guitarist Jon Conley (Kenny Chesney, Luke Combs) and Lee Turner (Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton) it’s Ray’s most polished outing to date.

“I wrote this song in a camping trailer parked out in the backwoods of Michigan after playing a gig at a small biker bar in Midland…having just driven 2500 miles over the course of a day and a half before the gig.

I was popping a sleeping pill and washing it down with an energy drink while my opiate buzz was wearing off and I looked at myself in the mirror and asked myself…”what are you doing?” That night, I wrote “All Aboard”…then proceeded to struggle with addiction for another 5-6 years. I still struggle…but I’m in a better place now.”

Spotify link

AllMusic: “Los Angeles indie quintet Inner Wave plays a bright, experimental mix of pysch-pop and synthwave that earned them a significant streaming presence and die-hard regional following in the mid-2010s, thanks in part to songs like “American Spirits” and “Eclipse.”

The group’s quirky but catchy songs and combined Filipino, Colombian, and Mexican heritage have helped make them underground stars in the area’s Latinx indie rock community alongside acts like Chicano Batman and Cuco.”

I heard this tune, “Mystery” on the radio and really dug it:

Spotify link

Voice

jpas1954

Bruce Springsteen – The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts To Be Released

23 September 2021 at 19:19
By: Jim S.

Back in the ’70s, the No Nukes movement was alive and well (and yours truly even attended some protests.) I did not go to this concert but I remember the event well. And my first experience of the E Street Band was in this timeframe, specifically in 1977 when Bruce was in that “can’t record due to lawsuit” limbo. His most recent album had been Born to Run- Darkness was still a year out. (Seeing all the cool bands is damn near the only benefit I can think of about being old.)

In an article in Rolling Stone called Bruce Springsteen on Why He’s Finally Releasing His Full 1979 ‘No Nukes’ Shows, the Boss says. “I had some voodoo thing about that. Film and television were relatively cool mediums, and we were a hot band. I said, ‘If you want to feel that heat, you need to be at that show.’”

According to RS, he “made a rare exception to that rule in September 1979, when he agreed to perform at two No Nukes benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden alongside Jackson Browne, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, the Doobie Brothers, and Carly Simon.

“They were filming it,” Springsteen says. “They said, ‘You’ll have a choice of whether you’re in the movie or not.’ That meant I didn’t have to think about the cameras since I knew I could throw it away if I wanted to.” While he let the filmmakers use a few songs, most of them wound up in a vault.

Well, you’re in luck Springsteen-O-Maniacs. On November 16, a documentary called The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts, is released for purchase on all digital film outlets. Three days later, it will be available as a two-CD plus DVD or two-CD plus Blu-Ray package (as well as on LP), and on the 23rd it will be up for digital rental.

The concert – held in November 1979 – did not come out of nowhere. The Three Mile Island meltdown had happened several months prior. Musicians United for Safe Energy approached Bruce to “help guarantee that Madison Square Garden would be packed for the final two shows of the five-night stand.

“That was a critical moment,” says Springsteen. “My friend Jackson Browne was very involved. He’s an activist and I was sort of a hired gun. But I was curious to see where else I could take my music, and where it would be helpful. We had enough success where I felt like I should be doing something with it, and that was where I was at that moment.”

Among other tunes, Springsteen played a then-new song, “The River,” which was basically the life story of his sister Virginia who was (somewhat uncomfortably) in the audience. “That song was a real turn in my songwriting,” says Springsteen. “I felt like I had broken through to a narrative type of songwriting that I previously hadn’t quite [figured out],” he says.

“That turned into Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom JoadDevils and Dust, and so many other things. That one song birthed so many other incarnations and so much other music. It was a really critical song in my development and I knew it when I wrote it.”

The film ends with a nine-minute version of the 1961 Gary U.S. Bonds classic “Quarter to Three,” complete with false stops and Bruce collapsing on the stage James Brown-style and getting revived by Clarence Clemons and a towel-waving Steve Van Zandt. (That’s Show biz – ME)

It also made him realize once again that he erred in not allowing the band to be filmed on many other occasions back then. “I wish we had filmed all the time,” he says. “It was a mistake. It was just a young, youthful, insecure, mistake at the time. I wish we’d filmed at least every tour we’d done once. That would have been really nice.”

Looking ahead, Springsteen hopes he can return to the road next year to finally support 2020’s Letter To You with a tour. “I’m hoping,” he says. “Like a lot of people. Everyone’s hoping. We’re just trying to figure out how to do that, like everyone else. If we can, if it’s possible, we will be [touring]. If it’s just not safe or not practical, we’ll be waiting it out like everyone else. We’re waiting and doing our best to see.”

In the meantime, No Nukes will allow concert-deprived fans to experience the E Street Band at the height of their powers. “It’s wonderful,” Springsteen says. “If you missed 1975 Hammersmith Odeon, it’ll knock your socks off. And if you weren’t around in 1979, it will show you what we were all about.”

Shoutout to Rolling Stone for much of this content.

Oh, and Happy 72nd birthday, Bruce.

bruce-springsteen-legendary-1979-no-nukes-concerts-film

jpas1954

From the Vault – Vol 7

19 September 2021 at 21:30
By: Jim S.

(Pictured – ME’s Music Vault)

Wherein I periodically send our team into the vault to find tunes that ME has featured over the years and which he (and his minions) would not like the world to completely forget ….

Fleetwood Mac is a band I wrote about way back when. First installment was Peter Green’s original band. second was Mark II with Bob Welch. (I will eventually get around to the Buckingham/Nicks version).

But for right now, let’s go back to basics with a great tune – one of my Mac favorites – called “Like it This Way,” written by Danny Kirwan. I love the “call and response” on the guitars and great shuffle beat that Mick lays down. Here’s a live version from the Boston Tea Party, one of the great early rock venues before it all went commercial:

Spotify link

I saw the mighty J. Geils band a few times in my concert-going career. There were few bands in their league when it came to putting on a live show. Duane Allman called them one of his favorite bands ‘coz they played blues and they came to PLAY. (If you weren’t serious about playing, Duane had no time for you.) Boston was the first town the Allmans played outside the South and I seem to recall the bands getting to know each other and hanging out at Wolf’s place.

“First I Look at the Purse” is a tune co-written by Smokey Robinson. It did moderately well on the charts. Geils does it pretty faithfully and kicks the energy up a notch;

Spotify link

Back in 1961, there was a Kirk Douglas movie called Town Without Pity. The (largely) forgotten flick is about American soldiers accused of a gang rape. But the song – by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington – was a big hit for Gene Pitney. (The songwriting duo also wrote the theme from High Noon, a movie which – per film buff, CB – David Crosby’s father won a cinematography Oscar.)

Years later, ace guitarist Ronnie Montrose took a shot at recording an instrumental version of “Pity,” strings and all. The melody is a great one and he did a terrific job with it:

Spotify link

You can’t not know Big Brother and the Holding Company. I read an interesting quote by guitarist Sam Andrew about auditioning Janis Joplin: “We are doing this woman a favor to even let her come and sing with us. She didn’t look like a hippie, she looked like my mother, who is also from Texas.

She sang real well but it wasn’t like, “Oh we’re bowled over.” It was probably more like, our sound was really loud. It was probably bowling her over. I am sure we didn’t turn down enough for her. …, we weren’t flattened by her and she wasn’t flattened by us.

It wasn’t like this moment of revelation like you would like it to be. Like in a movie or something. It wasn’t like, “Oh my God, now we have gone to heaven. We have got Janis Joplin.” I mean she was good but she had to learn how to do that. It took her about a year to really learn how to sing with an electric band.”

Here they are doing “I Need a Man to Love” (Joplin/Andrew composition) from an album originally titled Sex, Dope, and Cheap Thrills. (The label killed the title. And the song is NOT live but crowd sounds were added in later.)

Spotify link

Steve Miller was born in Milwaukee and raised in Dallas. His mother was a jazz singer, his pathologist father an amateur recording engineer. Les Paul (“The Wizard of Waukesha” Wisconsin) was a frequent visitor and was Steve’s godfather.

According to Wikipedia: “Many distinguished musicians came to the (Dallas) house to record, and Steve absorbed much from greats such as T-Bone Walker, Charles Mingus, and Tal Farlow. Walker taught Steve how to play his guitar behind his back and also with his teeth He … instructed his classmate, future musical star Boz Scaggs, guitar chords so that he could join the band.”

From the post-Scaggs 1969 album Your Saving Grace, here’s the title tune whose chorus I especially love. The song was written by the band’s drummer Tim Davis:

Spotify link

Last but not least, before we close the vault again for a little while, let’s dip into The Band’s catalog for “Rag Mama Rag’ which is always good for a toe top and would probably sound even better with a washboard. If you want to know more about The Band, I did a series a while back which you can find by searching my site:

Spotify link

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jpas1954

A Six-Pack of Thin Lizzy

12 September 2021 at 17:05
By: Jim S.

I always liked Thin Lizzy but when they were popular I would not have told you they were one of my favorite bands. Now that I go back and listen, I say to myself, what the fuck was I thinking? I enjoyed them on the radio but I definitely should have followed more closely, maybe gone to see them. They were just a great band, period. 

Wikipedia: Thin Lizzy are a hard rock band formed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1969. Two of the founding members, drummer Brian Downey and bass guitarist and lead vocalist Phil Lynott, met while still in school. Lynott led the group throughout their recording career of twelve studio albums, writing most of the material.

Lynott and Downey met while at school in Dublin in the early 1960s. Lynott joined a local band, The Black Eagles, as vocalist in 1963, and Downey was recruited as drummer in 1965.

In 1967, Lynott was asked to join Skid Row by bass guitarist Brush Shiels who brought teenage Belfast guitarist Gary Moore into the band early in 1968. After a disappointing television appearance in June 1969, Shiels fired Lynott, although they remained on good terms and Shiels subsequently taught Lynott to play bass guitar.

Belfast guitarist Eric Bell was in the last incarnation of Them to feature Van Morrison, between September and October 1966. Bello saw Lynott’s band Orphanage and introduced himself to the band. He, Lynott and Downey agreed to form a band on the condition that Lynott play bass guitar as well as sing, and that the band would perform some of Lynott’s compositions.

“The band name came from a robot character in The Dandy called Tin Lizzie which they adjusted to Thin Lizzy as a playful reference to the local Dublin accent, in which “thin” would be pronounced as ‘t’in’.”

By the end of 1970, Thin Lizzy were signed to Decca Records and they traveled to London in January 1971 to record their debut album, Thin Lizzy. I can’t tell you much about their first two albums as the band was not yet on my radar.

It is, however, interesting to note that while Gary Moore was on both albums, he is not listed as a band member but only as part of “additional musicians.” (In fact, only one of their later albums list him as a member although he did become part of their touring band.)

I don’t necessarily do these six-packs in any kind of chronological order. I really gave a hard listen to a lot of Lizzy stuff before I picked these gems. I added a few extra to the Spotify playlist for your dining and dancing pleasure.

As a matter of fact, the first tune comes from their tenth album, 1980’s Chinatown. This album features long-time guitarist Scott Gorham and new addition, guitarist Snowy White who also played with Pink Floyd and Roger Waters.

This is the title tune and it’s a corker. Whatever happened to bands like this?

Spotify link

“Dancing in the Moonlight (It’s Caught Me in Its Spotlight)” is a totally anomalous tune for the band. It’s funky and it swings and sounds very much like early Springsteen. It’s from their 1977 album Bad Reputation, by which time Thin Lizzy had been on the map for a couple of years.

Now we go steady to the pictures
I always get chocolate stains on my pants
And my father he’s going crazy
He says I’m living in a trance

Spotify link

I mentioned earlier that Gary Moore was kinda sorta part of the band. My sense of it is that he could have been a full-time member had he so chosen but maybe wanted to do his own thing. Moore was (he died in 2011 of an alcohol-induced heart attack) a great blues player if sometimes a little bit too bombastic for my tastes.

Here he does a nice job on “Still in Love with You.” from 1974’s Nightlife. (Interestingly, Sade later covered this song in an acoustic version.)

Spotify link

The album that really put the Irish lads on the charts in the US was Jailbreak from 1976. Gary Moore was nowhere to be found. Scott Gorham (a wildly underrated guitarist) and Brian Robertson handled the guitar duties quite well indeed.

I wasn’t gonna do the title tune just to go deeper into the catalog. But boy when I heard it I said, I gotta do that song. It’s still all over classic rock radio. I marvel at what a tight fucking band these guys were. And I love Lynott’s voice;

Spotify link

The next album after Jailbreak was 1977’s Johnny the Fox. Guitarists on this were Gorham and Brian Robertson. Robertson was sacked after this album due to “creative differences” with Lynott. Gorham talked about other twin-guitar lineups. He said the Allmans had more of a major-chord country sound whereas Lizzy’s was more minor. He’s semi-accurate in that statement as it only speaks to one part of the ABB’s catalog.

From Johnny the Fox comes the short but tight “Don’t Believe a Word.” (Phil Collins plays percussion on this album but nobody can seem to remember exactly what he played on.)

Spotify link

By now – assuming you’ve even gotten this far – you’re probably saying to yourself, er, Mr. Music Enthusiast aren’t you overlooking a certain song? No, I am not. I am saving the best for last. There are certain songs that, when they come on the car radio, you turn up to 11 and go 100 miles per hour, even if you are in your driveway.

Such a song is “The Boys Are Back in Town,” IMHO one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time. It’s all there – a kick-ass song, killer riff, great vocals, great lyrics. The story of my life! (In my fantasy world).

Friday night they’ll be dressed to kill
Down at Dino’s bar and grill
The drink will flow and blood will spill
If the boys want to fight, you’d better let them

That jukebox in the corner blasting out my favorite song
The nights are getting warmer, it won’t be long
It won’t be long till summer comes
Now that the boys are here again

Spotify link

Lynott had developed a heroin dependency over the years, perhaps the main occupational hazard of being a musician. As a result, he died of pneumonia and heart failure due to septicaemia on 4 January 1986, at the age of 36.

The last time the band was known to perform was for a handful of shows in 2019 with Scott Gorham the only long-time holdover.

 

 

Lizzy

jpas1954

Book Review – Reckless: My Life as a Pretender – Chrissie Hynde

7 September 2021 at 11:28
By: Jim S.

“This is a story of drug abuse” – Chrissie Hynde

Reckless – Marked by lack of proper cautioncareless of consequences – Irresponsible

That’s the dictionary definition of the word. And I guess that that word pretty much sums up Chrissie Hynde’s life, at least through the early days of the Pretenders. (I find it interesting that the book is subtitled My Life As a Pretender as if to say she was pretending all along. (The band is named after a Fifties song called “The Great Pretender.”)

I’ve been a Pretenders fan from go, even seeing them open once for the Stones in Boston way back in 2002. I’ve written about them as well. And about all I knew of Chrissie Hynde is that she was from Akron, Ohio, somehow made her way to England, wrote for the New Musical Express – and then was famous.

This book fills in the gaps. I’d heard it was a good read and boy is it ever. Hynde has a tough chick exterior and well, in a lot of ways she definitely is that. (She confirms the story that she was drunk and kicked out the back window of a police car. Fuck me!)

She grew up in Akron, pretty much middle class with a stable home life. There’s even one of those “good school girl” pictures in the book. But having been born in 1951, the inevitable generation gap between her and her Nixon-loving parents was pretty much inevitable. She doesn’t come across in the book as heavily political so much as a great, great music lover. (That said, she was actually on campus at Kent State in 1970 when Nixon’s Gestapo gunned down unarmed kids. Her friend’s boyfriend was one of those who was murdered. )

By the time she was 15 or so, Chrissie had gotten pretty much into the drugs and rock ‘n roll scene. (She confesses she was a virgin till 19, having little to no interest in sex. She realized she had to get drunk to approach men in bars and eventually made up for lost time.) I find it amusing that her first kiss came from Jackie Wilson. She went to see him perform and his handlers would single women out of the crowd to kiss him.)

For whatever reason, Hynde was attracted not only to the music scene but also to the bad characters. She hung out with motorcycle gangs, one of whom later sexually assaulted her. Post-publication, Hynde got a lot of heat for seemingly blaming herself for getting raped. (I think she was raped – she alludes to it but never quite uses that word.) I never got the feeling she was blaming herself for that so much as saying, effectively, If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

If you read this book and didn’t know the outcome, you would just think that Hynde was, well, not exactly a winner and going exactly nowhere. I don’t think she thought she was either. It was all just drugs and down and out people. We’ve all met the type.

But Chrissie had one burning desire which was to be in a band. She learned to play guitar and discovered she could sing. (Is she not one of the most distinctive singers on the planet?) She loved British music and so on a whim, in 1973, moved to London which was an instant love affair. (She lives there to this day).

Through contacts she made in the States, she somehow fell into the perfectly right crowd. Someone hearing her talk about music suggested she scribe for the aforementioned New Musical Express. She also met Malcolm McLaren and worked in his clothes shop. (Chrisse could sew and design.)

Do I need to tell you that McLaren managed one of Chrissie’s favorites, The New York Dolls? And then later the Sex Pistol? Where was Chrissie in all this? Right the fuck in the center of it. She knew ALL those guys way before they had bands or were famous. She jammed with what became the Clash. They invited her on tour when they formed just to *hang* with them and get drunk. She was good friends with all the Sex Pistols guys. She has a whole chapter on Lemmy!

At one point, continually frustrated by not being to make headway in the aggro male world of rock and roll, she heads badk to Akron. But she later returns and starts writing tunes, starts finding the right guys to back her up. She gives the late James Honeyman-Scott all the credit in the world for bringing tough, melodic guitar to her songs and making them better. The guys had to work hard to play within her unusual sense of rhythm.

“Brass in Pocket” was an early hit and it’s interesting to see Hynde’s reaction to not only her loss of anonymity but also the “but I’m a pretender” syndrome kick in.

Interestingly, ninety percent of this book is in the “getting there.” Once the band is formed and they’re successful, there isn’t a whole lot left in the book. She kinda takes the next 40 years or so and wraps it up in a neat bow. Sequel?

As of this writing, the only original members in the band are her and drummer Martin Chambers. (Honeyman-Scott and original bassist Pete Farndon died of overdoses years ago.)

Anyway, if, like me, you enjoy a good sex, drugs and rock and roll story look no further.

 

Reckless_ My Life As a Pretender (2015) by Chrissie Hynde

jpas1954

Featured Album – Bright Size Life – Pat Metheny

2 September 2021 at 16:36
By: Jim S.

One of my very first posts ever was in late 2015 (my how time flies) and it was on the subject of virtuoso jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. As I said in that post, “What I like about Metheny is that he is very varied in what and with whom he plays. He’d do solo guitar stuff, then put out something with a rock-like flavor then do something totally “outside” with someone like Ornette Coleman. And as mentioned in an earlier post he was one of the jazz musicians who backed Joni Mitchell for a while.” (In the ’70s.)

What got me thinking about Metheny was a two-hour interview he did with YouTube blogger Rick Beato. Beato is no slouch himself on the axe but can be fairly said to be a worshiper of Metheny. Pat is an incredibly loquacious guy and his interview is well worth checking out, especially if you’ve ever picked up an instrument.

Metheny spent time playing with Gary Burton around his adopted home of Boston (he’s from Missouri) in the ’70s and like all acolytes, Burton eventually encouraged him to go do his own thing. Metheny had been hanging around with Jaco Pastorious who he met when he went to the University of Miami a few years prior. (UMiami was a hotbed of jazzers. Steve Morse also went there around the same time.)

Anyway, in the course of the interview, Metheny talks about his debut solo album Bright Size Life which was released in 1976. On this album, Metheny, Pastorious, and drummer Bob Moses play (mostly) Metheny’s solo compositions. Metheny has “described the album as being ‘moderately successful’ when it was released, selling around 900 copies.” (I guess it depends largely on your definition of ‘moderately successful.’

Moses was by then an established presence on the jazz scene but Metheny and Jaco were largely unknown. Pat wisely gives Jaco a lot of space because Pastorious is hardly the “I will play the root note” kind of player. Metheny has stated that in all the years since he played Jaco, while others try to imitate him, no one else really comes close to his style, sound and technique.

First up is the title tune. This introduced the world –  or at least 600 people – to Metheny’s bright, open, clean sound. To my ears, he really doesn’t sound like anyone else (I cannot find his studio work on YouTube so, all Spotify):

Spotify link

I find it ironic that the album was so overlooked at the time given that jazz and especially fusion was so (relatively) popular in the 70s. It wouldn’t be till a couple years later when the Pat Metheny Group released their eponymous album and then American Garage that he would become more well-known.

And with him living in Boston in those years, it wasn’t hard for me and my guitar buddies to go see him. Once my buddy Bill and went to see him at a small now-defunct jazz club in Cambridge. And while we were waiting for him to go on, there he was sitting on the floor behind us, warming up by playing scales. No star trip for this guy.

This tune is called “Missouri Uncompromised.” The whole band is on its game with Moses really wailing away on drums:

Spotify link

As these things sometimes go, after Metheny became a (jazz) household name, people went back and found Bright Size Life. My guess is that it’s now sold more than 600 copies to his mother. In fact, according to Wikipedia, “In 2005, the first track was included on the Progressions: 100 Years Of Jazz Guitar compilation on Columbia Records.”

In 2011, the first track was included on the Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology compilation In August 2020, the album was included in the list of 100 Jazz Albums That Shook the World.

And if that isn’t enough, this year it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry. Of the album they said:

“Pat Metheny’s debut album, Bright Size Life signaled a new direction for jazz in the mid-1970s–not only for leader Pat Metheny, but also bassist Jaco Pastorius, drummer Bob Moses, and Gary Burton, who went uncredited as a producer at the time, though he wrote the album’s liner notes.

In their only album together, all participants built on the musical traditions that preceded them to create a new expression of jazz distinguished by their own styles and personalities, before blazing their own distinctive trails in the music. The album saw modest initial sales, but the passage of time has made its significance clear.”

Metheny’s currently touring and coming back to Boston in November. I keep considering going to see him and I suppose I could safely with a mask. But well, then again there’s always next year

 

 

pat-metheny-bright-size-life(1)

jpas1954

An ME Tribute to Charlie Watts

29 August 2021 at 15:50
By: Jim S.

“Charlie Watts has always been the bed that I lie on musically.” – Keith Richards.

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died at the age of 80 on August 24, 2021, five days ago as I write this. Lest ye think that somehow the Music Enthusiast missed this momentous occasion, you would be wrong. ME has been otherwise engaged and then off for a few days of sun ‘n fun minus laptop, hence unable to post. 

Now I don’t comment on the passing of every single rocker in every single band. But the Rolling Stones aren’t just any other band. And so, I would feel remiss on not saying something, hopefully, something of value…

Wikipedia: Charles Robert Watts was born in Bloomsbury, London, to Charles Richard Watts, a lorry driver for the London, Midland, and Scottish Railway, and wife Lillian Charlotte who had been a factory worker.

Watts’s neighbor Dave Green was a childhood friend, and they remained friends until Watts’s death. Green became a jazz bassist and recalls that as boys, “we discovered 78rpm records. Charlie had more records than I did … We used to go to Charlie’s bedroom and just get these records out.

Watts’s earliest records were jazz recordings. He remembered owning 78 RPM records of Jelly Roll Morton and Charlie Parker. Green recalls that Watts also “had the one with Monk and the Johnny Dodge Trio. Charlie was ahead of me in listening and acquisitions.”

Charlie later said that he “bought a banjo, and didn’t like the dots on the neck. So I took the neck off, and at the same time I heard a drummer called Chico Hamilton, who played with Gerry Mulligan, and I wanted to play like that, with brushes. I didn’t have a snare drum, so I put the banjo head on a stand.”

In the late 50’s he played drums in local jazz bands, eventually meeting Alexis Korner who asked him to join Blues Incorporated. This was incredibly fortuitous because as I wrote about a while back, for a whole Korners’ band was THE center of R&B in London. (Charlie, like just about every other London rocker had gone to art school for graphic design and was later instrumental in designing some of their stage layouts.)

In mid-1962, Watts first met Brian Jones, Ian “Stu” Stewart, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards, who also frequented the London clubs. They couldn’t afford to pay him at first and so he didn’t join what would become the Rolling Stones until early 1963. His first public appearance as a permanent member was at the Ealing Jazz Club on 2 February 1963. By this time Bill Wyman had joined the band and the Rolling Stones were (and still, remarkably are) a thing.

I’ve read a lot – I mean a TON – about the Stones over the years. And if there is one constant in what Keith Richards has always said it’s his effusive, consistent praise for Charlie’s drumming. The interesting thing about their sound is that Charlie followed Keith’s playing rather than the reverse. So Charlie was always behind the beat which gave the band a certain swing, a certain feel that was hard to duplicate.

Here’s Keef from a couple of years ago talking about how Charlie influenced his playing.

And here’s one of my very favorite drummers, Stewart Copeland, talking about Charlie’s technique:

Married for fifty years to the same woman, Charlie was the low-key guy, the straight man to the Glimmer Twins’ bad boy antics. Remarkably, he stayed faithful to his wife all that time on the road, even at the Playboy mansion!

But like everybody who comes into the Stones orbit, he eventually had his problems with drugs and alcohol, coming out of it in the mid-’80s. My favorite Charlie Story from that period is this one:

In the mid-1980s, an intoxicated Mick Jagger phoned Watts’s hotel room in the middle of the night, asking, “Where’s my drummer?” Watts reportedly got up, shaved, dressed in a suit, put on a tie and freshly shined shoes, descended the stairs, and punched Jagger in the face, saying: “Never call me your drummer again. You’re my singer.” 

I’ll point out a couple of numbers where I think Charlie’s drumming is especially sharp. Here’s “Paint it Black”

And “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin'”, another great tune where Charlie is in that pocket and drives it as the song shifts beat:

And lastly, here is the other side of Charlie Watts doing Duke Ellington’s “Night Train.”

Charlie Watts is number 12 on Rolling Stone’s list of greatest drummers. One listen to any of the seemingly endless number of Stones songs will tell you why. There was no way they would have ever become The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll band without him. “Charlie put the roll in rock and roll,” Keith said. And who am I to argue?

Finally, here is a tribute video the band put together:

 

charlie-watts-performing-2015-billboard-650-compressed

jpas1954

One Song/Three Versions – Hard Times

22 August 2021 at 07:17
By: Jim S.

Wherein I provide three versions of a song to see how it can be (sometimes radically) reinterpreted ….

Even though I wrote a series about Ray Charles at the end of last year, I’d somehow gotten it into my head that Willie Nelson wrote this song. But no, Ray did. The song that pothead Willie wrote is called “Night Life” and a band I was in did both of these tunes. (For the record, Willie did write a song called “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” which amuses me no end.)

I will here quote a site called It’s All About Ray Charles. “Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I”) is a song that Ray Charles recorded while at Atlantic Records in the 1950s that was released in 1961 after he’d left for ABC Records and worldwide superstardom.

The song is a remarkable showcase for many of Ray’s musical and mystical talents and experiences. A short, slow blues song, it begins in the style of Ray’s earliest 1947 recordings: his piano, his voice, an apparent stand-up bass, and drums keeping the simplest of beats.

His piano playing is remarkable, burbling with short bursts of notes throughout, free of boring structure and exuding supreme confidence, a late night spent crying into a whiskey bottle.”

I think it’s one of the greatest blues songs ever written:

Spotify link

Here’s an interesting factoid I discovered in my research. Back in the late ’80s, there was (apparently) a syndicated show called Sunday Night hosted by David Sanborn and Jools Holland (and produced by Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels.) Not only did this show not make its way to my area, I never even heard of it. But with the kind of guests they had, I need to do a little more digging.

You’re thinking this tune might sound pretty good with some horns and a guitar. It’s such a good song I think it would sound good with a kazoo and a tuba. Eric Clapton appeared on the show several times and near as I can tell, this is his first appearance. Robert Cray was on the same episode as was Dan Hicks!

Here are Eric and the boys laying it down:

My inspiration for this post was hearing a pianist named Monty Alexander do a terrific instrumental version of this tune. Alas, I can’t find it anywhere. There IS a version with him on the piano with a singer. But as much as I like it, I wanted to have one instrumental version.

To the rescue comes none other than Aretha Franklin in this (mostly) instrumental version. She plays a very fine piano and scats towards the end. This is an outtake from a 1962 album called The Electrifying Aretha Franklin. Very tasty. And what a pleasure to have three of the absolute greats in one post:

Spotify link

Note – Much is made of Duane Allman’s fabled contributions to the Queen of Soul’s albums. But a perhaps little-known fact is that Eric beat him to it, appearing on her 1968 album, Lady Soul. And in 1993, Clapton played on a Ray Charles song called “None of Us is Free.” The solo sounds kinda phoned in but it’s actually a pretty good song that tries to upgrade Ray’s sound.

My mother told me before she passed away,
Said, “Son, when I’m gone, don’t forget to pray
‘Cause there’ll be hard times, Lord those hard times –
Who knows better than I?”

Well I soon found out just what she meant
When I had to pawn my clothes just to pay the rent;
Talkin’ ‘about hard times, hard times
Who knows better than I?

I had a woman, Lord, who was always around,
But when I lost my money, she put me down.
Talkin’ ’bout hard times, you know those hard times,
Yeah, Lord, who knows better than I?

Lord, one of these days, there’ll be no sorrow
When I pass away,
And no more hard times,
Yeah, yeah, who knows better than I?
Yeah, Lord, who knows better than I

 

 

Hard times song

jpas1954

One Song/Three Versions – Third Stone From the Sun – Jimi Hendrix

18 August 2021 at 16:08
By: Jim S.

Wikipedia: “In 1967, Jimi Hendrix told the journalist Keith Altham that ‘Third Stone from the Sun’ is about a visiting space alien who, upon evaluation of the human species, decides that people are not fit to rule Earth, destroys their civilization, and places the planet in the care of chickens. (Would that that had actually happened – ME).

The song is composed of two contrasting sections, one that features a jazzy guitar melody played in the style of Wes Montgomery over a straightforward rock tempo, and another that showcases Hendrix’s free-form Mixolydian mode guitar lines with a jazz beat. In addition to jazz elements, Unterberger identified Hendrix’s use of surf music motifs in the track that are reminiscent of earlier works by the Ventures, a group from the Pacific Northwest that Hendrix would have heard during his childhood.”

“Third Stone from the Sun” was released as a track on Hendrix’s seminal 1967 album Are You Experienced. (Released just a couple weeks before Sgt. Pepper which, if you think about it for more than two seconds, is mind-blowing. man. Like you’re on acid. Like you saw God. Like…

Where was I? Anyway, it’s a pretty phantasmagorical tune. The fuckheads who control Hendrix’s estate won’t put anything up on YouTube (but will in all likelihood keep scraping the bottom of the barrel to release posthumous albums. I lost count of how many there are.) So here’s the Spotify version:

Spotify link

According to their website, Sidemen is a High-Energy Instrumental Band offering a modern take on the deep Rhythm and Grooves of 20th Century Funk & Soul. Sidemen performs original music composed by its members and exciting covers by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Kenny Garrett, Snarky Puppy, David Sanborn, Randy Brecker, and Jimi Hendrix.

And so while we’re doing that Hendrix thing, my good “friend” guitarist Steve Morse sat in as a sideman with the Sidemen. (Say that three times fast.) And what number did they do? Two guesses. It is quite a bit less psychedelic rock and more big band jazz. It’s right in the pocket:

Spotify link

I used Francis Lockwood Trio on a previous piece and since have found out more about him. “In 1987 he was classified by Jazz Hot as one of the 5 top European pianists. He formed his own trio that featured Sylvain Marc and Aldo Romano. One year after, his release Nostalgia received good reviews from the press.

A few years later, he worked on a Claude Lelouch movie soundtrack Tout ça pour ça. (Loosely translated – Dude, what is your freaking problem?) From 1994 to 2000 he lived between San Francisco and Paris and by 1998, he recorded Jimi’s Colors, a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, another great success he played on many festivals.

Here they are doing a nice, traditional jazz version of “Third Stone.” Take it away boys. And a one-ah, and a two-ah:

Spotify link

 

 

Third

jpas1954

Have a Cuppa Tea – A Six-Pack of the Kinks

6 August 2021 at 16:08
By: Jim S.

Manager Robert Wace “I had a friend … He thought the group was rather fun. If my memory is correct, he came up with the name just as an idea, as a good way of getting publicity … When we went to [the band members] with the name, they were … absolutely horrified. They said, ‘We’re not going to be called kinky!'”

Ray Davies’ account conflicts with Wace’s—he recalled that the name was coined by later manager Larry Page, and referenced their “kinky” fashion sense. Davies quoted him as saying, “The way you look, and the clothes you wear, you ought to be called the Kinks.”I’ve never really liked the name,” Ray stated. 

I know that ME is not the only rabid Kinks fan. A certain fellow blogger whose name I will not reveal for confidentiality purposes but whose initials are CB and who lives up where you should not eat the yellow snow kinda digs them too.

Now, I haven’t written about the Muswell Hillbillies in a while. Here I’ll pick six perhaps less well-known tunes and expand it to a kinky 10 in the inevitable Spotify list. I’ll do a mix of early British Invasion Kinks to later arena rock guys.

I suppose the first tune isn’t exactly unknown but then it’s not quite “Lola” famous either. From that arena rock era comes 1977’s Sleepwalker and “Juke Box Music.” Wikipedia:  Ray Davies described the song as being about “a girl who listens to the jukebox all day and really believes all the lyrics. People like me write lots of lyrics and she really believes it.” (Sure, but I keep dialing 867-5309 and never get Jenny.)

Spotify link

You may well know that one of the lads’ classic albums is The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. You should definitely give this one a listen as it will have you using terms such as “old boy,” eating mushy peas, and drinking a cuppa in no time. From that album, I give you “Picture Book.” (Davies has some weird picture fetish going on. The last track of the album says, “people take pictures of each other just to prove they really existed.” That is a line Dylan could appreciate.)

Spotify link

I am going to skip the great “Waterloo Sunset” as I did an entire post on that song here. But a slower, more thoughtful if melancholy track from 1970’s Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One. (To the best of my knowledge there was never a Part Two) is an old favorite.

The song is called “This Time Tomorrow” and while it’s likely that Ray wrote it while flying to some gig, it also carries a poignant universal message that resonates:

Well, this time tomorrow where will we be
On a spaceship somewhere, sailing across an empty sea
Well, this time tomorrow where will we be
This time tomorrow what will we see
This time tomorrow

Spotify link

While I liked some of the Seventies Kinks, the band I first fell in love with was the oh-so-British Sixties band. I knew all the hits. (McCartney was a big fan of “You Really Got Me.” Lennon supposedly accused them of being a cheap Beatles knockoff.) There were tunes the band released that weren’t hits here (maybe even in England, don’t know) but that are still great tunes.

If you’re curious, Kink Kronikles is the album for you. Curated by an otherwise witless rock critic named John Mendelson*, it’s chock-a-block with great stuff, weird B-sides, etc. I promised you some obscure off-beat shit.

So, from Kronikles here comes “Berkeley Mews.” In Britspeak, a mews is a yard or street lined by buildings originally used as stables but now often converted into dwellings. So, whatever. This was on the B-side of “Lola.” And stay tuned for the blues ending:

Spotify link

Let us now journey on our Brit expedition over to Muswell Hill and the Muswell Hillbillies album. Strictly speaking, this album was the follow-up to the wildly successful “Lola” but pretty much tanked. (Actually they did a soundtrack for a film called Percy which was the kind of thing they made in those days before the studios went all blockbuster. You can read the plot -such as it is – below. Let me know if you ever see it.)**

On “20th Century Man”, Davies makes it clear he neither wants to live nor die here. I also want to give a shout out here to Mick Avory’s fine drumming on so many Kinks songs. He eventually left the band because he and Dave Davies could not get along. Rolling Stone has him #79 on the list of best drummers

Spotify link

I won’t end this post without a nod from my all-time favorite Kinks album, Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) which I profiled here. Poor Arthur has moved away to Australia to find a better life. But it sounds like, well, maybe he brought his problems with him. But we’ll rock out anyway. Just to make him feel good;

Spotify link

God save the Kinks!

*Mendelsohn famously trashed the first two Zep albums in Rolling Stone and got rightfully torched for it. To this day he can’t begrudgingly admit he was wrong. How come rock critics and bloggers are such opinionated a-holes? I ask you!

**Plot of Percy. = Edwin (Bennett), an innocent and shy young man, is hit by a nude man falling from a high-rise building while carrying a chandelier. Edwin’s penis is mutilated in the accident and has to be amputated; the falling man is killed.

Edwin becomes the recipient of the world’s first penis transplant: he receives the very large penis of the womanizer killed in the same accident. With his new bit of anatomy (which he names “Percy”), Edwin follows the womanizer’s footsteps, meeting all his women friends, before settling happily with the donor’s mistreated widow.

ray-davies-says-the-other-members-of-the-kinks-are-up-for-a-reunion

jpas1954

Woodstock 99 – Not Your Mother’s Peace and Love Festival

31 July 2021 at 13:31
By: Jim S.

“We played this festival in Nuremberg at an old Third Reich park. So I’ve played a venue that was literally built by Hitler that was more hospitable than that Air Force base was.” – The Offspring, who actually made an attempt to soothe the crowd.

A while back I did a series on the original Woodstock which a search of my site will reveal if you are into that sort of thing. I don’t know why it took them so long to come up with something about this. But HBO recently aired a documentary about the fiasco known as Woodstock 99. (Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage.) Sonny Boy and I watched it recently. Here’s the story (and why I’m now glad the 50th anniversary was a complete non-starter):

No, your memory doesn’t fail you. There have been three different Woodstocks – 1969, 1994, and 1999. The most notable thing about ’94 was A) mud and B) Bob Dylan. Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills & Nash. Country Joe McDonald, John Sebastian, and Santana were returnees from the original. But mostly the lineup reflected (as it should) a new generation’s bands – Nine Inch Nails, Blind Melon, Cranberries, etc. And so, I guess, it made sense that since both fests were largely peaceful, they should do it again.

But since the organizers had been dumb enough to have a weak chain-link fence allowing thousands to practically stroll in, this time – in order to maximize profit and utterly shed any of that phony peace and love bullshit, they decided to go all out. Fuck all that gatecrashing!

First decision in line with that diktat -hold the festival at a former Air Force Base. While others may think that a military air force base is completely and utterly antithetical to the idea of a festival whose backbone was as much antiwar as anything, none of this mattered to the organizers whose motivating factor was, apparently, greed. (“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” said Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.) That whole hippie thing? Over!

The organizers characterized the site as “defensible,” describing the 12-foot (3.7 m) plywood and steel fence intended to keep out those without tickets. (These guys didn’t think it all the way through. Had they added manned machine gun turrets that would have been a lot more effective in keeping these pissants out).

Wikipedia tells you more about the fun than you could possibly stand:  “Oppressive heat—which reached above 100 °F (38 °C)—and difficult environmental conditions marred the festival from early on. Added to this was the fact that the site, a former airstrip, lacked many shade trees.

The East and West stages were 2.3 miles (3.7 km) apart, forcing festival-goers to walk across hot concrete surfaces. There was not enough room on grassy areas for many campers to set up their pup tents, and some resorted to camping on asphalt.

Participants were met with high prices once inside. They had to buy from onsite vendors whose merchandise was expensive – burritos sold for $10, hotdogs and sandwiches for $5, a 10″ pizza was $12, and 20 US fl oz (590 ml) bottles of water and soda sold for $4.

If they wanted to visit regular stores, festival-goers faced a long trek, or cramped travel via looping buses, to Rome’s modest shopping areas, where stores had long lines and low stock. People stood in long lines to access the free water fountains, until frustration led a few to break the pipes to provide water to those in the middle of the line, in turn creating many large mud pits.

(Note – some of the “mud pits” were actually mud and shit pits but the kids didn’t know it. Serves ’em right.) Kid Rock demanded that the kids pelt the stage with plastic water bottles during his set, perhaps making a statement about the high price of hydration.

The number of toilets installed proved insufficient for the number of attendees. Within a short time, some facilities, notably the portable toilets and showers on site, were unusable and overflowing.”

Speaking of shit, some asshole named Fred Durst who fronted a POS band called Limp Bizkit actually egged on the drunken frat-boy crowd to bring out their negative energy. And boy did they ever!

The thing was every bit as much – as the documentary states – Girls Gone Wild as festival. Whereas the 1969 crowd chanted “No Rain” or “Fuck the War” or whatever, the mantra of these enlightened souls was “Show Us Your Tits!”

Even actress Rosie Perez who went on stage to greet the crowd got totally disrespected this way. She handled it about as gracefully as she could. There were female performers there, notably Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morrisette, and Jewel. But they were just sacrificial lambs on the way to Saturday night’s testosterone-fest of Durst’s Limp Dick, Rage Against the Machine, and Metallica.

“Show Us Your Tits” inevitably, and sadly, lead to this: “Police investigated four alleged instances of rape that occurred during the concert. Eyewitnesses reported a crowd-surfing woman being pulled down into the crowd and gang-raped in the mosh pit during Limp Bizkit’s set. A volunteer also reported seeing a gang rape during the Korn performance. (This is quite evident in the clip I added at the end of this post. At about 10:00. Fucking pigs.)

“Violence escalated the next night during the final hours of the concert as Red Hot Chili Peppers performed on the east stage and Megadeth performed on the west stage. A group of peace promoters, led by the anti-gun violence organization PAX (later renamed the Center to Prevent Youth Violence), had distributed candles to those stopping at their booth during the day, intending them for a candlelight vigil to be held during the Chili Peppers’ performance of the song “Under the Bridge.” (Smart move guys.)

During the band’s set, the crowd began to light the candles, with some also using candles and lighters to start bonfires. Hundreds of empty plastic water bottles that littered the lawn area were used as fuel for the fire, which had spread to both stages by the end of the performances. After the Chili Peppers were finished with their main set, the audience was informed about ‘a bit of a problem.’ (Ya think?) An audio tower had caught fire, and the fire department was called in to extinguish it.”

Eventually, New York State Troopers were brought it to break up this weary crowd. And inevitably, a 100-foot section of the Peace Wall was broken down – by people trying to get the fuck out.

There is perhaps no better metaphor for this whole sad, sorry affair than to watch Wyclef Jean’s pathetic attempt to do his best Jimi Hendrix by playing the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Not only could he not play the fucking thing but he also needed some other dude to help him set it on fire. Which didn’t work so he smashed the guitar.

Hey, Woodstock ’99 – fuck you and the horse you rode in on. Coachella, launched just a few months later, turned out to be a much better Woodstock than this piece of crap.

“It was dangerous to be around. The whole scene was scary. There were just waves of hatred bouncing around the place, (…) It was clear we had to get out of there…. It was like a concentration camp. To get in, you get frisked to make sure you’re not bringing in any water or food that would prevent you from buying from their outrageously priced booths. You wallow around in garbage and human waste. There was a palpable mood of anger” – Kurt Loder – MTV. 

 

JWoodstock-99

jpas1954

Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers – A Tribute to Dusty Hill

28 July 2021 at 17:42
By: Jim S.

I am actually cannibalizing myself and republishing a post I told a little over a year ago. This is because ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill died today at the age of 72. Never did get to see those three ‘lil o’ boys from Texas although I did see Billy Gibbons. .I guess it’s possible that they’ll soldier on without him. But how do you replace a guy who has been a fixture of the band since 1971?

As always, my six-packs aren’t meant to say “these are the best six.” In fact, ZZ Top has so many tunes I dig I could easily have done another six. The Spotify list is locked and loaded with these tunes and plenty more.

ZZ Top Spotify list

I recently did another great Texas blues guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan. I dunno – maybe these times just have me singing the blues. Here’s a little history. In addition to Wikipedia, I got much of it from a cool Netflix documentary called ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas.

Back in the early ’60s – back when Stevie Ray Vaughan was first picking up the guitar – Dusty Hill and his brother Rocky were playing in bands around Dallas. They needed a bass player and older brother Rocky pretty much told Dusty “you’re it.”

From the sound of it, it was pretty early R&B, rock and roll, and then eventually, British Invasion-styled stuff. Rocky saw drummer Frank Beard and said “that’s our drummer.” Rocky – who has since passed away – seemed to be a very determined guy.

The guys played in bands like the Warlocks, the Cellar Dwellers, and -eventually – American Blues where they all dyed their hair blue just to be different. From 1966 to 1968, American Blues played the Dallas-Fort Worth-Houston circuit. They were influenced by a band called the 13th Floor Elevators, a “psychedelic rock” band from Austin who gained some national notice. Eventually – again like the Vaughan Brothers – Rocky wanted to play pure blues, Dusty more rock-oriented.

Dusty took off for Houston followed not too much later by Frank Beard who had by now not only a wife and kid but also a traumatic parting with his parents. Houston was a different scene and the hot band was Moving Sidewalks and the hot guitarist was Billy Gibbons. Billy was a bluesman par excellence

The Sidewalks were pretty much playing the Houston circuit. But they did have a hit with a very 60’s sounding tune, cheesy Farfisa organ and all. That song is called “99th Floor” and you can hear it here if you’re so inclined. It has kind of a Yardbirds feel, especially when the harp kicks in. (Which, BTW, Billy plays.)

The band got some recognition and started opening for people like Jeff Beck, the Doors and even Hendrix (in 1968.) Billy and the boys sure know who Jimi was so that was a pretty big fucking deal for them. (There’s a possibly apocryphal story floating around that when Hendrix was asked what it was like to be the best guitarist, he said “I don’t know. Ask Billy Gibbons.”)

And then all the shit that happens to bands happened – two guys got drafted so they carried on as a trio. Tired, I guess, of the name Moving Sidewalks (which moved forward while 13th Floor Elevator moved up), they looked around their space one day and saw all the blues posters they had. Billy noticed all the initials – B.B. King, Z.Z. Hill, etc. So he thought, well, how about ZZ King? No. But what is the King? The top. Hence, ZZ Top.

Then the organist and drummer quit and so Billy needed a new band. Frank was looking for a band and “made” Billy jam with him in a studio all day. Billy loved Frank’s playing ‘coz he was right in the pocket. Frank brought Dusty* in and -voila! They played a blues ‘Shuffle in C’ for three hours and that was it  Just to put this all in perspective, this was in 1969, which I believe makes them the longest-running band with its original lineup.

The guys met a local record promoter/songwriter named Bill Ham and Ham was instrumental in helping them become successful, helping them define an image and a sound till his passing in 2016.

ZZ Top’s First Album was released in January 1971 to little fanfare. Not that it was a bad album or that blues-rock wasn’t popular. But it was just one more album in a slew of them that came out in that great time period.

One of the tunes is called “Brown Sugar” and it starts out like a traditional slow blues then goes into what would become that trademark Top sound. (Sorry, Mick. You wrote a song with that title first but they beat you to the release by several months.)

Spotify link

The guys played constantly all over Texas but all the small towns not the major cities. In the documentary, they talk about how they came out one night and played to one guy. Including encore. Then they bought him a Coke. Billy says that he still comes to their shows.

The guys caught a break and played the Memphis Blues Festival (which I believe is now the Beale Street Festival.) This would have been in 1971. A glance at their setlist shows their repertoire pretty much consisted of stuff from their first album plus Fleetwood Mac and Chuck Berry covers. (They also did “Jailhouse Rock.” Dusty is a fanatical Elvis fan and would need an extra dressing room on tour to keep his Elvis memorabilia. They do a killer version of “Viva Las Vegas.”)

The guys caught the attention of one of their favorite bands, the Stones, and were asked to open for them in Hawaii. They couldn’t believe their good fortune as they’d barely ever been out of Texas. They told their management they needed to go two weeks in advance to rehearse and spent the whole time checking out ladies on the beach and drinking which is exactly what you and I would have done. (Charlie Watts never left the bar per Dusty.)

Billy heard that Zeppelin were doing some work at Ardent Studios in Memphis and that was good enough for him. They went in to get “that sound,” that grit and they caught lightning in a bottle with Tres Hombres and the breakout FM hit, “La Grange,” I’ve always assumed it was probably about a boarding school for proper young ladies! It’s got that John Lee Hooker thing all over it. How how how how! A classic rock staple. (As is “Tush.”)

Rumour spreadin’ ’round
In that Texas town
About that shack outside La Grange
And you know what I’m talkin’ about.

Just let me know
If you wanna go
To that home out on the range.
They got a lot of nice girls.

Spotify link

Nobody seemed to know quite what to make of these three “Little Ol’ Boys from Texas.” Were they a Southern Rock band? They wore cowboy hats. Were they a country band? There was never any doubt whatsoever in my mind that they were a blues or blues-rock band. “Interpreters of the blues,” Dusty says.

To start showing off their proud Texas roots, in 1976 – 77 they staged the Worldwide Texas Tour. “The backdrop featured several scrims that showed a three-dimensional panorama, visual effects, and a canyon landscape, along with a stage in the shape of Texas. Native fauna, flora, wagon wheels, corral fences, and longhorn skulls were included in the shows.” They even had a buffalo and a buzzard and for all I know, live alligators.

The guys had been touring pretty much nonstop for four years and decided to take a three-month break. This break turned into two years. Billy traveled the world, Dusty got a job at an airport (!) so he could not be a star for a while. And Frank took the first $72,000 he ever earned ($300,000 in today’s dollars) and blew every last dime of it on pills, heroin, and cocaine. (He cleaned up his act later.)

The guys released an album called Deguello in 1979 and it contains one of the coolest songs any human being has ever done, “Cheap Sunglasses.” (For the record, the guys hadn’t much shaved during the hiatus, hence the beards to add to that image.)

Spotify link

The guys were a solid FM radio band with a good-sized following they had developed and could have stayed that way for years. But they saw the fledgling beginnings of MTV and thought, hmm, video. Their manager approached director Tim Newman who had directed his cousin Randy’s “I Love LA.” Together they made a couple of iconic videos (instuctions – chicks, cars) that made the Little Old Boys megastars.

Eliminator was released in 1983 and sold shitloads of copies. Some thought that ZZ Top had gone too commercial and lost the essence of the blues. I say bullshit to that. They still sounded great and if a little more commercial, so what. It’s not like it’s disco.

I’ve always loved “Sharp Dressed Man.” I was playing in a band at the time and this tune would always get the ladies up and dancing. Then they’d look at me in that way and then make a beeline for the drummer or the bass player.

Spotify link

Before we wind up our journey to the Lone Star State, let’s go back a few years to the album El Loco and do the “Tubesnake Boogie.” Blow your top, blow your top:

Spotify list

ZZ Top never hit the same commercial heights again and 1983 is a long ways away. But I kinda think they don’t much give a shit. They are still out there doing what they do and people are still coming to see them. I was going to see them with Gregg Allman but Gregg passed and that was that. I did see Billy at a small club with another band not too long ago and it was a blast.

The coronavirus has fucked everything up but their website shows them touring (hopefully) the States (not Boston) later this year and then Canada into next year.

The Spotify list has a bunch of good stuff so check that out at your leisure. But for this six-pack, I will leave you a nice slow one called “Fool for Your Stockings.” Yes indeed.

Spotify link

*In 1969, Hill was a member of a fake version of the British band The Zombies with Beard. This is a weird story you can read here if you’ve got the time. It revolves around the fact that the Zombies had a hit but had already broken up. But that didn’t stop unscrupulous promoters from trying to make a buck. 

 

 

ZZ Top Portrait Session

jpas1954

New Music Revue – 7.25.21

25 July 2021 at 06:22
By: Jim S.

Wherein I go digging for new gold, separating the wheat from the chaff. A lot more chaff than wheat out there lately. But what I got here passed the ME test. Something for everyone as long as you like blues-rock, gypsy jazz, big band and low-key funk. Otherwise, not so much. 

From his press release: “Blues-rock prodigies are a special breed. They live and breathe the fiery swagger of electric guitars and the irresistible allure of rhythm-soaked songs. That’s Clay Melton’s musical calling in a nutshell. At only 26, the Louisiana-born and Texas-based bluesy rocker has already spent 13 years performing live. His powerfully raspy voice and wicked guitar licks leave no doubt he’s grown up in the school of barroom blues-rock.

Back to Blue, a 5-song EP coming July 23, is Melton’s follow-up to 2017’s critically acclaimed, full-length debut Burn the Ships. Back to Blue, which Melton began recording November 2020 in Austin and finished May 2021 in Houston, boasts production and engineering credits by Grammy-winner Danny Jones (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Patti LaBelle, Etta James) as well as Clay himself.”

This is some tasty blues. His gruff voice reminds me sometimes of Warren Haynes. And at 26, he’s got some pretty killer guitar chops. Here’s “Say That You Love Me.”

Spotify link

About a year or so ago, just pre-COVID, I did a piece on Filippo Dall’Asta wherein I said this: “His website advises that he is “an Italian Gypsy jazz guitarist, composer, bandleader, and arranger, mixing the sounds of Gypsy jazz with traditional Indian music, to forge his own style of progressive guitar playing. Filippo began playing at the age of 5 in Parma, Italy, and studied music in his native country as well as Germany, France, Holland, and India.’

Filippo is back again with another tune, a standard called “Brazil.” It’s actually kind of a fun tune. I think you might recognize it:

Spotify link

When I heard this tune – “Permanently Down” – I instantly thought it had a little bit of that Little Feat flavor. The band is called Al’s Peace. Here’s a bit of bio:

Al.’s Peace is a soul, funk, blues, reggae, world music band based out of Southern California led by percussionist and lead vocalist Al Keith. The band members have changed over the years but always have been good friends and fellow performing/touring musicians.

“We play it all, and we mean it. This band is diverse for reason. We represent the world. Our music represents us. That’s why I refer to it as SoulFolkBlueFunkReggarJamBoogieSalsaRock, That’s right… That’s what we’re about.”

The band is unique in its diversity of material and also instrumentation. The full band currently consists of two guitarists, two bass players, two background vocalists, and a drummer along with Al and all his percussion. The music and the message is spiritual, soulful, and positive. And it’s all about the groove.”

I can’t argue with any of that. Here’s “Permanently Down.”

Spotify link

From his press release: “Saxophonist/composer Dave Mullen offers a welcome dose of Solace to a world sorely in need of it on his invigorating new album. Far from the somber elegy the title might imply, however, Mullen finds his comfort in the inspiring voices of some of jazz’s most iconic figures, in the warming embrace of family, and in the exhilarating musicianship of a group of his masterful peers.

That includes pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Hans Glawischnig, drummer E.J. Strickland, and, in a pair of special guest appearances, trumpeter Jim Seeley. The album was also mixed by the Grammy-winning producer-engineer Jeff Jones, a regular collaborator with Jazz at Lincoln Center who has worked with the likes of Wynton Marsalis and Dr. John.

From Solace, I leave you with a little jazz in “The Grind.”

SoundCloud link

Home stereo

jpas1954

Shadow Kingdom – A Bob Dylan Streaming Event

20 July 2021 at 13:44
By: Jim S.

It came to my attention recently that Bob Dylan was going to be doing a (I thought) live streaming event. There is a site called Veeps that hosts this sort of thing. And for a mere 25 bucks, you could dial in at the appropriate time (last Sunday at 5pm EST) and join in the fun.

I have for many years been a massive Dylan fan but I had very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’ve missed every opportunity to see him live. On the other, his voice has been so ragged the past few years it seemed very much like a crap shoot. But again, 25 bucks. I call that a bargain, the best I ever had.

We were going out Sunday night so I purchased the thing and they gave you a few days to watch it. So I did and well, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was not at all “live” but appeared to be a pre-recorded movie, filmed in glorious black and white much like McCartney 3,2,1,

As you can see from the picture on top of the post, they set it up as somewhat of an old-timey juke joint with guys smoking and ladies with hair made up to here. (On one song, two women stood on either side of Dylan and just smiled coquettishly into the camera.) Now when Dylan has made films, it’s typically somewhat oddball stuff. But I found this one strangely affecting and evocative. They were going for a mood and they achieved that.

Dylan and his “band” – who ti turns out, were faking playing the instruments – did his (mostly) older numbers with acoustic guitars, standup bass and an accordion. Not sure exactly how to describe the sound of the end result but I liked it. Not folk, nowhere near rock. But it sounded like it would not be out of place in a French cabaret.

Whatever the Enigmatic One’s intentions are here, he comes across as heartfelt and affecting. Hell, he’s 80 years old. Maybe he figured it was time to drop all the bullshit. And BTW, I like his voice here. It sounds lived-in. I’m really glad I watched this and likely will again.

Here he and his band are doing ‘Forever Young.”

They’ve decided to extend the viewing window till this Sunday 7/25. So if you’re interested, to the best of my knowledge you can still sign up here:

Shadow Kingdom

Customer support is here if  you’d rather check with them first

support@veeps.com

Set list:

When I Paint My Masterpiece
Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine
Queen Jane Approximately
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
Tombstone Blues
To Be Alone With You
What Was It You Wanted
Forever Young
Pledging My Time
The Wicked Messenger
Watching the River Flow
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

 

Dylan

jpas1954

McCartney 3,2,1 – A Documentary

17 July 2021 at 06:19
By: Jim S.

“We were writing songs that were memorable because we had to remember them.” – Macca

This is just a brief advisory note to let you know that there is a cool new limited series on Hulu called McCartney 3,2,1. (Personally, I would have called it McCartney 1,2,3,4!) It is, for whatever reason, filmed in black and white and if cinematographer Gordon Willis who did Manhattan was still amongst us, I’d swear it was his work.

This is essentially just two people – a producer and a musician – sitting down and talking about the latter’s work. They listen to songs from The Beatles and McCartney’s solo career, bringing the bass up here, dialing the vocals in there.

Sometimes McCartney jumps on the piano and explains how he learned to play it or picks up the guitar. All the while, Rubin reacts to every lick, every lyric, every fart as if it is Moses coming down with The Ten Commandments. (I am every bit of a Beatle fan as Rubin is but not every happy accident is genius.)

The series runs for six 1/2 hour episodes and is only occasionally marred by Paul’s ego when he talks about his bass playing as if that were the only thing that mattered in a given song. Interestingly, he talks about making Band on the Run in Nigeria where he went to see Fela Kuti – about whom we were just talking on Aphoristical’s site – whose music was so good it made him cry.

Anyway, if you are the kind of person who still wears your Beatle wig, carries a Beatle lunch box, and wears go-go boots, please get professional help. For the rest of you, if you dig seeing inside the creative process from a guy who lived it, this series is worth checking out.

 

50

jpas1954

From the Vault – Vol 6

10 July 2021 at 21:19
By: Jim S.

Time once again to open the vault door and see what’s in there. Stuff that I posted on at some time in the past that deserves to be heard…

Founded in the beach town of Westerly, Rhode Island, Roomful of Blues have been a New England institution since nineteen hundred and 67 AD. Founded by the great Duke Robillard, they have gone through any number of members including Ronnie Earl, himself somewhat of an institution.

They still play around all the time and the little lady and I saw them not too long prior to the great fucking plague. There is always a good time to be had at a Roomful show and if they come your way, put on your best dancing shoes, grab your partner, and head on down. And Turn it On! Turn it Up!

Spotify link

Wikipedia: The Crusaders were an American jazz group that were successful from the 1960s to the 1990s. The group were known as the Jazz Crusaders from their formation in 1960 until shortening their name in 1971. They were comfortable playing a wide assortment of genres, from straight-ahead jazz, to urban R&B, to R&B-based jazz, to even blues.

Larry Carlton was a member of the band some time in the Seventies and his solo on “Spiral” is not only one of my favorites of his but one of my favorites ever. Nobody can take complex stuff and make it sound as exciting as he can.

Spotify link

Here’s some of what I said about Kirsty McColl when I first posted this tune: “McColl sang on recordings produced by her then-husband Steve Lillywhite, most notably “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues.” (Lillywhite is a producer of some renown having worked with everyone from U2 to the Stones to Simple Minds to the Pogues.)

Kirsty was the daughter of folkie Ewan MacColl and – including the tunes mentioned above – became a fairly popular backup singer. She also toured with the Pogues and was somewhat of a better-known name in the UK than in the States.

In the year 2000 she released an album called Tropical Brainstorm which got some play in these parts, especially a song she co-wrote called “In These Shoes?” The album’s got a nice Latin flavor and this song is just plain fun. (And it should come as zero surprise that Bette Midler covered it.)

Spotify link

There was once a band that came out of the Great White North. They were the Hawks when they hung out with Ronnie Hawkins. They got so tight they decided – after adding an American singer – to strike out on their own.

They then hooked up with a guy named Zimmerman, did some other stuff and – yadda, yadda, yadda – were rechristened The Band. They could – and did – play pretty much anything from rockabilly to R&B to blues and practically invented Americana.

This is our nice young Canadian neighbors nailing a Holland-Dozier-Holland tune which they called “Don’t Do It.” This is live from the now-defunct Academy of Music where I saw a few shows back in the day.

Spotify link

How can you not love the Jesus of Cool, Nick Lowe, a guy who not only somehow wound up producing Elvis Costello’s classic early albums but also put out some pretty good shit himself? Oh yeah and he was also a member of rockpile with Dave Edmunds.

As my favorite blogger said some five years ago – “The very first record that Stiff ever released (in 1976) was Lowe’s great tune, “So it Goes.” More power pop here, kids. I couldn’t possibly love this song more, words and music:

All day discussions with the Russians
But they still went ahead
And vetoed the plan
Now up jumped the U.S. representative
He’s the one with the tired eyes
747 for the midnight condition
Flyin’ back from a peace keepin’ mission

And so it goes and so it goes
And so it goes and so it goes
But where it’s goin’ no one knows

Spotify link

Let’s end this trip down memory lane with a nice slide-heavy blues from Tull spinoff, Blodwyn Pig. This is from back when everybody and his cousin had a blues band. A Head Rings Out is a terrific album if you don’t know it.

This is “Dear Jill.”

Spotify link

Knox

jpas1954

A Six-Pack of David Crosby

4 July 2021 at 11:30
By: Jim S.

If you stick around to the end of this one, I’ve got a couple of surprises near the end that inspired this post. (Photo by Anna Webber.) 

A little history courtesy of Wikipedia: “David Van Cortlandt Crosby was born in Los Angeles, California, second son of Academy Award-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby, and Aliph Van Cortlandt Whitehead, a salesperson at Macy’s department store.

Crosby briefly studied drama at Santa Barbara City College before dropping out to pursue a career in music. With the help of producer Jim Dickson, Crosby recorded his first solo session in 1963. Hanging out in Chicago, he met singer Miriam Makeba who knew Jim (later Roger) McGuinn. They started playing together and gradually they brought in other members of what became the highly influential folk-rock ensemble, The Byrds.”

Through connections that Jim Dickson (now the Byrds’ manager) had with Bob Dylan’s publisher, the band obtained a demo acetate disc of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and recorded a version of the song, featuring McGuinn’s 12-string guitar as well as McGuinn, Crosby, and Clark’s vocal harmonizing.. When Gene Clark left the band, Crosby got more involved in songwriting.

If you’ve seen the Crosby documentary Remember My Name or know anything about him, alas he was somewhat of an asshole. He pissed the other guys off with his on-stage political diatribes. And then by 1968, the usual “creative differences” bullshit set in with Crosby only wanting to do original material. The band sacked him.

I will here quote myself from my post on the Crosby, Stills and Nash debut album: “Stills and Crosby – part of the infamous Laurel Canyon crowd -met at a July 1968 party at Mama Cass Elliott’s house and started jamming together. (Cass sings on “Pre-Road Downs.”)

Graham Nash had met the two guys before on Hollies tours. He’d pretty much had it with that band and was looking for a new gig. Stories differ on whose house they first sang together in, but apparently everyone there was blown away by their impromptu rendition of Stills’ “You Don’t Have to Cry.” (General consensus is that it was Joni Mitchell’s house.)”

I’ll spare you all the detail but as we know CSN – and later Neil Young – were a massive hit, playing one of their earliest gigs “scared shitless, man” at Woodstock. Unfortunately, just a month or so after Woodstock, Crosby’s girlfriend was killed in a car accident. He already had a bad drug problem and this did not help. The group went on hiatus in early 1971.

Right around that time, Crosby released his first solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name. Of this album, Allmusic says, “it is a shambolic masterpiece, meandering but transcendentally so, full of frayed threads. Not only is it among the finest splinter albums out of the CSNY diaspora, it is one of the defining moments of hungover spirituality from the era.” It is also the last solo album Crosby would release for 18 fucking years.

A lot of great guests on this album: – Graham Nash, Jerry Garcia, Neil Young, Jorma Kaukonen, Gregg Rolie, Phil Lesh, Jack Casady, Bill Kreutzmann, Michael Shrieve, Mickey Hart, Joni Mitchell, David Freiberg, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick.

This is “Traction in the Rain,” with Graham Nash.

Spotify link

After that, various iterations of CNSY worked, toured and/or recorded together amidst much petty bickering. (I don’t know exactly when it was from but there’s a memorable scene in the Crosby documentary where Stills leans into a reclining Crosby and calls him an asshole. So, good times.)

Crosby did a lot of backup singing during this time including working with James Taylor, Jackson Browne, David Gilmous, Elton John, and Phil Collins.

By 1985, it all caught up with Crosby and he spent nine months in a Texas prison for possession of heroin and cocaine. The drug charges were related to possession of heroin and cocaine. He was also arrested for drunken driving, concealed weapons, and well, you name it he probably did it.

Eventually, by 1989, he got his shit together and released his second solo album, Oh Yes I Can. This one had the usual assortment of guests, everybody from Danny Kortchmar to Steve Lukather and Larry Carlton to Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor.

The opening track is called “Drive My Car” and no it’s not the Beatles tune. Danny Kortchmar and David Lindley do the guitar honors. This tune sounds weirdly to me more like what Glenn Frey might have done. It’s a rocker:

Spotify link

I’m limited in what I can use here as not all of Crosby’s albums are up on Spotify. But lately, he’s had a bit of career renaissance. According to Allmusic, “his set was produced by Snarky Puppy boss Michael League, who co-wrote five of these nine tunes with Crosby.

The producer, a lifelong fan of the 1971 album, approached Crosby about recording something quick and dirty over a couple of weeks. He was met with incredulousness. The artist was used to working on albums for months, even years. After three days, they completed three new songs, and Crosby was all in.”

“The Us Below” is a nice tune, back in that acoustic groove:

Spotify link

Now when you hear the tune “She’s Got to Be Somewhere” you’re gonna say, Is that the great, lost Steely Dan tune? “We didn’t consciously do that,” Crosby says. “We just naturally go to a place where Donald [Fagen] goes. I loved Steely Dan right from the first notes I heard.”

Spotify link

Now here’s where it gets interesting. According to Rolling Stone, “Another breakthrough was finally convincing Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, one of Crosby’s all-time musical heroes, to write a song with him.

They’d vaguely known each other for years, but they didn’t collaborate until September 2019, when Crosby got onstage at a Santa Barbara Steely Dan show to sing “Home at Last” from Aja. Days later, Fagen asked him to fly out to New York to play “Wooden Ships” with them at the Beacon Theatre.

“I get there and they’ve learned it really well and they’ve written horn parts,” Crosby says. “It’s just smoking. I walk out and the whole audience goes absolutely batshit crazy. We practically did structural damage to the building. It was really good. After that, I really cultivated a relationship with Donald. He doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, but he’s a brilliant guy. I admire him beyond belief.”

Here’s the Dan/Crosby “Wooden Ships.” It does not suck. (No Spotify).

And the song they wrote together? Not long after the Beacon performance, Fagen sent over a new set of lyrics for a song called “Rodriguez for a Night.” Crosby and his son James Raymond then composed music to go along with the words. “We Steely Dan’d them right into the fucking ground,” says Crosby. ” It’s a story song and it’s really fun.”

Spotify link

If you’re waiting for a CSNY reunion, don’t hold your breath. Crosby insulted Neil Young’s wife Daryl Hannah a few years back. And Graham Nash said this a while back: “I don’t like David Crosby right now. He’s been awful for me the last two years, just fucking awful.”

Nash continued, “I’ve been there and saved his fucking ass for 45 years, and he treated me like shit. You can’t do that to me. You can do it for a day or so until I think you’re going to come around. When it goes on longer, and I keep getting nasty emails from him, I’m done. Fuck you. David has ripped the heart out of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.”

You’ll recall that Crosby was a sperm donor for Melissa Etheridge and her then-partner. Sadly, one of the kids – Beckett Cypher – died of an opioid overdose last year.

But on a happier note, his “delight in working with his son, whom Crosby met when Raymond was 30 after being given up for adoption, is palpable. “The relationship that’s developed with my son is absolutely uncanny and wonderful,” he says.

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