Ten so long years ago, a random gathering of some of the best musicians from Canada’s greatest musical berg threw themselves onstage as part of the annual Locke Street Festival. Spearheaded by legendary Junkhouse dog Tom Wilson, said ad-hoc combo was busy rocking and rolling things all the way up that street as the sun slid down when suddenly, a most familiar figure was spotted nearby.
The lead singer of the one, the only, Teenage Head.
As would later be reported in the press, “I asked Frankie, ‘Frankie, fuck man, you’ve got to come up here and sing,'” Wilson says. “He said, ‘You got to give me a hundred bucks.’ So I reached into my pocket and I only had fifty, so I asked Dave Rave for the other half. I said, ‘Dave, fifty bucks for Frankie.’
“And this was the kind of love they had for Frankie. Dave didn’t ask me, ‘What for? What does Frankie need fifty bucks for?’ He was just pulling it out of his pocket. And Frankie got up and did ‘Let’s Shake’.”
It turned out to be the last-ever public appearance of Francis Hannah Kerr, much better known – and most rightfully so – as Frankie Venom, who along with his high school pals four-plus decades ago decided to form a band in between spins of NY Dolls, Stooges and, yes, Flamin’ Groovies records. Remarkably, that little band that could went on to garner two gold and one platinum platters of their very own; the latest, in fact, gathers all their bravest hits and then some onto one 20-digital-track, or even better double-pink vinyl set. Fun Comes Fast indeed.
In a scar-studded career that admittedly held more bumps than most bands’, Teenage Head never turned (or toned) things down, never towed anyone’s line, and never ever made a bad record or gave a bad show that I, or anyone else for that matter, should care to recall. And whether slithering across the heat pipes of Toronto’s (in)famous Crash ‘n’ Burn club, opening for the Pretenders, Talking Heads and Elvis Costello in front of fifty-thousand at Canada’s Heatwave festival – or belting ‘Let’s Shake’ for and with some old friends on Locke Street on a warm late eve – Frankie Venom was every single inch the Head above all others.
He succumbed to throat cancer on October 15, 2008, aged fifty-two. Your record collection has never been the same.
For a taste of Frankie Venom and his band Teenage Head, check out their song “Some Kinda Fun“.
To check out more on the music and current activities of Teenage Head, click on the record cover below:
It was two score (that’s forty years) (I think) and several tens of thousand dollars ago (of that I’m sure) that I decided to get into the Record Business. For real. (Sort of.) I mean, Frank Zappa, Frank Sinatra, even those Beatles had their own labels. Why not me ??!
So armed with nothing but a basement full of innocence and ambition, not to mention several unwitting pals with pockets much deeper than mine, I spun my proto- (fan)zine The Pig Paper off into – you guessed it – Pig Records, and one momentous afternoon in June of 1978 several dozen fresh-from-an-unsuspecting-Capitol-Records-of-Canada-pressing-plant-during-the-graveyard-shift boxes of 45’s landed on my doorstep. Last time I checked, original copies of these discs, “with picture sleeve and rare two-sided printed insert,” go for several dozen dollars – U.S.! – over there on eBay. Yet I actually have three or four M+ copies left (without the insert though) stashed in a closet upstairs. Get in touch and I’ll make yez a deal, ok?
Edgar Breau – Vocalist and guitarist for Simply Saucer
Kevin Christoff – Bassist for Simply Saucer
Chris Houston – Bassist for the Forgotten Rebels, and so much more!
John Balogh – Hamilton promoter, comedian. The two not necessarily being mutually exclusive
Stephen “Sparky” Park – Guitarist for Teenage Head, Simply Saucer and the Loved Ones
Tom Williams – Co-founder of Attic Records
not to mention yours quite truly GPG – Founder of The Pig Paper, then Pig Records.
Plus I was also one of the Loved Ones’ other guitarists it seems.
Edgar Breau: Sometimes I felt like if you were loud – if your songs were short, fast, loud, and ugly – it was a pretty good fit for what was going on. It wasn’t as wide open in terms of what genres bands could play within their own set. Now I think it’s really opened up. Back then, it was just a little bit more narrow.
Kevin Christoff: We didn’t sit down and consciously try to write punk stuff. And a lot of songs that came out of that period, if anybody heard them, probably went right through them if it wasn’t their style, or if it wasn’t the kind of thing they were wanting to hear.
GPG: This would have been late 1977, into ’78. We decided we were gonna record Simply Saucer. You see, I’d been carrying around for years in the back of my mind the first discussion I ever had with Steven Davey of The Dishes: One momentous night he hands me an advance copy of their first EP Fashion Plates to review. I open up the sleeve, pull out the record… but for some reason I don’t see Columbia or Warner Bros. or anything at all like that on the label. Well, it turns out The Dishes had put this record out THEMSELVES. “You mean, you can do that? In Toronto??” Steven said “Sure! All you need is a tape, tell them what you want on the label, then you take everything out to this place called World Records in Oshawa,” I think it was, “and they’ll do the rest.” That definitely put the bug in my ear to start Pig Records someday, someway.
Kevin Christoff: When it came down to choosing the single, “She’s A Dog” was a conscious decision. The song was popular in shows. It’s memorable in a very simple way. Whenever we’d play a lot of people would call out for it, so it seemed to be a logical choice.
I think it’s more pop than punk, personally.
GPG: We held a charity corn roast up on Hamilton Mountain to raise money to make the single. We were going to go into Grant Avenue Studio, Daniel Lanois’ soon-to-be stomping grounds, but we couldn’t afford it. I guess we didn’t sell enough corndogs. So the only other recording studio available in Hamilton was in this guy’s basement.
Edgar Breau: I think the guy’s name was John Boyd. It was not a great studio at all. It was a mistake to record there.
GPG: The second we start, John’s saying “IT’S TOO LOUD!!!” And I said, “Then you just pull the faders down. You’ve got to capture this. You don’t want to turn them down. They’re not the Eagles; they’re something else.” Long battle short, he just barged upstairs at one point and said “You mix the damn record.”
Kevin Christoff: It was kind of funny. I guess the guy got supremely disinterested in what we were doing because he ended up leaving us pretty well in charge. He went up to watch the hockey game or something like that, ha ha ha, which suited us fine.
GPG: Next I remember taking the tape into Toronto for mastering, and the guy had no idea. He said, “This is distorted.” I said, “I know.” And he reached for some knob – “I’ll fix that.” And I go “Well, no, you can’t; it’s supposed to be distorted.” He goes, “But you actually have distortion on tape!” I said “I know. And it took a long time to figure out how to get that, by the way.”
There was a day when they wouldn’t have cared so much. Those first Who and Kinks and even Stones records still sound amazing, even though to many people they’re such quote unquote terrible recordings.
Chris Houston: It was so hard then because these people would go into a studio, and they wouldn’t connect with the studio. So you’d have these horrible records of these great bands, and you wanted to love the band…
GPG: It was hard in those days to put out your own record. It took a lot of effort and money to press a thousand 45’s. Then mailing them out to all the fanzines and record reviewers and college radio stations, and anyone else you’d tracked down who you thought might be interested.
To help get the word out a bit more I decided to plaster as much of Toronto as I could with flyers announcing The Very First Simply Saucer Pig Record! But I thought I’d be smart and use wallpaper paste instead of staples; that way, our handiwork couldn’t get so easily ripped down off all the telephone poles. So I brought along my friend Martin E-Chord, who handled the paste bucket as well as played lookout, and by the time of the first train home in the morning we had the downtown core pretty well covered. Or should I say plastered.
I wasn’t all that smart though: by the time we got home the Metro Toronto Police had already called my house. “You have to come tear all your flyers down.” Seems the cops were already pretty familiar with anything “Pig.” They knew where I was.
John Balogh: A lot of those bands, at the onset, didn’t realize they were in the School of Hard on You. We all felt like we were the underdogs, and we were typically the underdogs. We were the bands that radio didn’t play, television didn’t show, and we were the unspoken at the dinner table.
GPG: But I did it because it was fun, and because I thought Edgar and the band deserved it.
And you know what? I can remain extremely proud to this day that I was the only person who managed to get Simply Saucer onto vinyl at the time. Since then, many, many others thought that maybe they could’ve done a better job of it, and believe me I would’ve been right there to help in any way I could if that had happened. But no one else at all stepped up to bat. No one.
Kevin Christoff: But, we got some good reviews over the single. We got some positive press on that. Some people maybe didn’t like it, but you get that, right?
Stephen Park: There was something in Record Mirror that compared us with the Who and we just were floored. We couldn’t believe it! But that was somewhere in England, and it just seemed so inaccessible. We didn’t seem to be able to capitalize on some of the interest that the single was generating.
GPG: Cub Koda – remember “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” by Brownsville Station? – he loved Saucer. He gave “She’s a Dog” an amazing review in Goldmine, about how all the “dog, dog, dog”s in the chorus were driving his wife crazy. But how to make best of all this press that was coming in from literally all over the world? I was just one guy, with a bunch of Sharpie pens and cardboard mailers, working out of the basement.
Tom Williams: But most people were like one- and two-men operations. They didn’t have the distribution, they didn’t have the know-how, there was no support system in terms of national radio, national television; newspapers tended to ignore the local acts, there were no consumer music magazines that meant anything – a couple of trade publications that didn’t mean a lot. It was kind of a baby industry, really. I mean, it really was a bunch of people playing Let’s Make Records! I think we were pretty naïve and we said “We can do this,” and if we’d actually known what the stumbling blocks were we probably wouldn’t have.
But we did, and I think that’s always the way. Because when you’re young, you can do anything. In theory.
(EDITOR: To find out just what has been going on with Simply Saucer since that time period, check out the website for the band. And to check out the music from this particular piece of Canadian music history, check out the video below of “She’s A Dog” from Simply Saucer.)
There’s Brian Wilson and his Beach Boys, most obviously. Then there were Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young, those Eagles, and my own personal favorite Turtles, Byrds, and possibly even Runaways. Not to mention Lindsey Buckingham’s Big Mac.
Yet whenever the songs and stories of California are sung and strummed, one name – one very important name – is most often left out. A man who, beginning in the late 1950s with a bank of audio equipment in his Bel Air garage actually invented, or at least kick-started, the entire Los Angeles independent rock scene. By writing and performing songs in his home studio which, taken into the Hollywood recording studios proper were meticulously crafted into bona fide hit records back when young Wilsons, for example, were still mowing Hawthorne lawns for extra root beer money.
The man I speak of is William Jan Berry; a singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, actor, promoter best remembered as one half of that certifiably zany, albeit boldly pioneering SoCal rock duo Jan & Dean.
By adding their Pacific-blonde good looks to East Coast doo-wop hooks, the records Jan and highschool pal Dean O. Torrence made not only formed the vocal template for all surf-rock to come (starting right from the start with the “bom, bomp dip-de-dit”s of that very first Beach Boy song) but in their production employed various members of what came to be known as the Wrecking Crew when Jan’s sessions outgrew his garage and moved into Western, United, and the other fabled studios Phil Spector, most notably, would later erect his Walls of Sound within.
Yes: but before Phil, there was Jan. And before “I Get Around,” “Good Vibrations” and [gulp!] “Kokomo” there was a sun-kissed little classic called “Surf City” which, with Jan’s assistance, gave co-writer B. Wilson his very first Number One record back in the Summer of ’63.
The string of hits Jan went on to write and produce throughout the mid-Sixties, with their double-drumming attack welded to lush orchestrations were, and remain, just about the best records ever to come out of El Lay. Credit for innovations both technical and musical which continue to go Spector’s and Wilson’s way – with the latter’s Pet Sounds most often cited – again are more than evident in Jan Berry records from years earlier. Most unfortunately however, an utterly debilitating road accident in April of 1966 (eerily like the plot of J&D’s “Dead Man’s Curve”) kept Jan out of peak action for much of the rest of his life and career. Although brought back to the public’s attention via a 1978 made-for-TV biopic, the titanic twosome’s hit-making days never returned, though they continued to keep countless thousands of concert-goers throughout America well-versed beneath waves of harmonious California Myth until Jan’s death in 2004.
Thankfully, one man above all is helping keep Jan Berry’s life and legacy, both on record and off, alive and well: Mark A. Moore’s landmark Jan & Dean Record remains the reference book on this subject, in the process recounting the very birth and growth of the Los Angeles rock industry. Mark began his good work by assembling the much-praised 2008 Encomium In Memoriam tribute, and has now announced plans for a full-length Jan Berry biography.
“It will be a companion to The Jan & Dean Record,” Mark revealed to this Rock and Roll Reporter. “The biographical elements of the first book will be fleshed out for a full length stand-alone monograph. Unlike the previous expensive reference work, the new bio will be offered at a reasonable price.”
Good news indeed, absolutely. And until its arrival, you’re also urged to dive deep into my extensive interview with Mark and all things J&D which appears in Vulcher Magazine. What better way then to recognize, salute, and roundly honor Jan Berry on what would have been – what should have been – his 77th (!) birthday on April 3rd.
The first Friday of most every month throughout 1967 and into ’68, I was formally excused from school so that my mother could take me all the way into Toronto for orthodontic appointments. As due reward afterwards, I would be treated to a tasty french-fry-and-chocolate-milk lunch in the sumptuous Eaton’s Department Store cafeteria, then left for an hour alone in the adjacent Music Department while dear mom ran her errands elsewhere.
Gawd, I truly was deep in pre-teen heaven in there, believe you me: Guitars – just like the one Tommy Smothers played on TV every week! – lining each wall, while right over there were more record albums gathered alphabetically together in one place than my wide young eyes had ever ever seen.
But it was while methodically flipping through that “Misc. M” bin one innocent Friday in search of the latest Monkees long-player that I came across an image which shook me to the very core of my hitherto safe, sound, Micky’n’Mike-loving spine:
A foreboding, dark purple sci-fi sky shot through with lightning bolts, beneath which were strewn an above-motley crew of comic-book cut-outs (some of whose eyes were obscured with sinister black bars!) And in front of all that stood what appeared to be a group of bearded, ugly, definitely NON-Monkee-looking men wearing… wearing dresses and standing by a mess of rotten vegetables which for some reason spelled out the word “mothers.”
Subconsciously at least, I recognized this was sort of, for some reason, like the picture on front of my latest Beatle album. But I also instinctively gathered something BAD was afoot.
So for the next several months, as if revisiting a decaying body rotting in the back woods or the scene of some other such crime, I’d patiently let Dr. Shanks, D.D.S. rip around my mouth, rush with Mom to scarf down some Eaton’s fast-food, then creep back towards those record racks to check if …IT… was still hidden there. Why, one grave Friday I even showed the offending, but somehow alluring record jacket to my mother (who, immediately sensing things untoward indeed, said “put that down, Gary. We’re going home.”)
Flash forward a couple’a years: By now, my comparatively straight teeth and I were enrolled in the local high school, specializing in Fine Arts and pouring over my latest charcoal still-life when the most incredible music suddenly burst from the record player at the back of the room. It was Eric Shelkey’s turn to bring vinyl in to accompany the day’s lesson y’see, and Eric, being by far the most freeeky, out-there student in all our Grade 9 Specialty Art class (I mean, the guy wore little round eyeglasses just like John Lennon, and his hair actually reached below his shirt collar!) certainly did not disappoint with his choice of music. Yep, instead of the usual docile strains of Tommy Roe or, at worst, Blood Sweat and Tears, the room was this morning filled with fully-stereophonic snorks, wheezes, electronic noises (much like those the microphone made in the auditorium downstairs when it wasn’t working), and some creepy voice which kept whispering “Are you hung up?” over and over again.
Understandably I suppose, just like my mother had back in Eaton’s music department, our usually pretty patient art instructor Mr. Pollard walked quickly to the back of the classroom, turned the volume all the way down, removed the offending twelve inches from the turntable, inserted it back in its sleeve, and told Eric he could pick his record up after class, thankyouverymuchnowpleasegetbacktoworkeveryone. Of course, me being me, I made sure to follow Eric out into the hall afterwards to find out the name labeled onto the middle of this wondrous, forbidden twelve inches. Most obligingly indeed, but being careful to check both ways first to see if anyone was looking, he pulled the album slowly from his portfolio case.
Winking most conspiratorially, Eric invited me over to his place to listen to the entire record that day immediately after school. I naturally began saving up my allowance and bought my OWN copy a couple of months later, locked myself in my room… and it would be quite some time until I ever listened to Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. – or anything else, for that matter – quite the same way ever again.
I couldn’t say it then, but I surely will now: Thank you, Frank Zappa. Especially for your music. Especially for that one particular album released a full half-century (!) ago this very month.
Just on the off chance you’ve already made it through all 18 discs, 20 hours, and/or 379 tracks of Bob Dylan’s Cutting Edge Collector’s Edition, then may I suggest you now turn both ears immediately towards… 1 DRIFTING SAND Summer Splash (Piña Colada Records) To fill that sonic gap in a year which saw exactly zero new Beach Boys or even Laurie Biagini albums, Rick Escobar and all his fellow Surfer Spuds from the far left coast produce thirty-four-minutes-thirty-four of sounds, sights and even aromas which conjure those Modern Lovers of yore hijacked by Keith “Beachcomber” Moon. Bravely mixing a clutch of entirely too-cool-for-words instrumentals – Dan Burdick’s lonely trumpet being particularly effective – with Muscle Beach Party-pedigree songs to evoke your fave rave Surfaris B-side, Drifting Sand can, will, and do rhyme “splash” with “such a gas,” “July and August” with “Robert August” (!) and, on “Beach Tour USA” alone toss an M.Love-ly sax solo over carnival barking unheard since our last visit to “Amusement Parks USA.” Top with an ultra-vibra-spaghetti-slappin’ cover of Hazlewood/Sinatra’s “Sand” and the end result may well be the sophomore Fantastic Baggys LP we never thought would ever reach shore. P.S.: and guys? When you’re ready to do your next album, lemme know. Coz have I got a song for You!!
2 THE FLESHTONES Wheel Of Talent(Yep Roc Records) Technically speaking, this 2014 beaut didn’t arrive in the sty, courtesy of our pals over at Rock Beat International, til just a few months ago. But no problem! ’Cause any year’s an ideal time for those Fabulous F-tones. And as ever and always, these veteran garage czars’ unfailing, unflinching embrace of all things rock and naturally roll are intact from the very get-go herein: “Available” blasts direct into the backyard on wings of brazen brash ‘n’ trash …yet with some incongruously appropriate cellos and violas to boot. Likewise, a good half of this talented Wheel – notably “The Right Girl,” “Tear For Tear” and “For A Smile,” the latter featuring the Southern Culture Skid-vocals of Miss Mary Huff – somehow bring a Shadowy Meek sheen of pure pre-Beatle UK pin-up pop to the proceedings (attention! John Waters) without sacrificing one iota of the oomph. Elsewhere, “Roofarama” speeds Jimi’s “Crosstown Traffic” all the way downtown, “Hipster Heaven” sounds tailor-made for the nearest USB latte turntable, and “It Is As It Was” manages to spin the entire Fleshtone fable in a Schoolhouse Rock! as opposed to School of Rock manner; Ghetto Recorder Jim Diamond professorially sees to THAT. And, for anyone left out there who all these years later still doesn’t get the message? Right there on Track 4, “Remember the Ramones.” Got it!
3 GARFIELDS BIRTHDAYYou are Here (Pink Hedgehog Records) Another holdover from ’014, “recorded mostly at home with files winging their way from Dorest to Yorkshire via Bristol then back again” in the words of the handy enclosed press sheet. In other words? The fourth, and positively most welcome to date collection of smart, stylish poppin’ rock from the British brothers Felton, Simon and Shane, this time with none other than Lucky Bishops/Schnauser man Alan Strawbridge on drums. And that’s an important factor indeed, lest the Feltons’ files end a tad too GarageBanded as they travel the virtual UK. To wit, as soon as their “Magic Bike” gets rolling we are finely assaulted with a great big meaty and beaty bounty – yes, this being Century 21 the Magic Bus has been downscaled somewhat, but the drive is every bit as present and potent. “Carpet Ride” similarly soars Armenia City’s skies with, and I quote, “one eye on the future and one foot in the past.” Witness as well how “It’s Your Lucky Day” somehow Cyrkles clear ’round those Basement Tapes while “Lunar Eclipse” happily weds Kurt Cobain verses to killer-kilter XTC choruses. Shane Felton’s fearlessly inspired lead guitars are a vital part of the equation throughout, but particular notice must also be paid to the other Felton, Simon’s, magnificent vocals …on “Oxford” (most importantly); a masterful performance, and song, whose files deserve to be shared this very instant with Art Garfunkel for starters. Which reminds me: visit the Pink Hedgehog for a copy of Simon Felton’s recent Emotional Feedback as well. You will be doubly glad you did.
4 THE GRIP WEEDS How I Won The War (Jem Recordings) With their latest release, the Grip Weeds have gone and done, by my count, two outstanding things: (1) claimed full lineage at long last to their Richard Lester-ized namesake, and even more importantly (2) made the best album of their career. Here’s how: As no less an authority as Phil Spector once explained, some artists sing ideas, and that the Grip Weeds always have. And it helps immensely, to say the least, that they most fortunately number within their ranks a member who is equally talented on the other side of the microphones too. That would be Kurt Reil, who once again has twiddled knobs brilliantly inside the band’s own House Of Vibes studio to create textures that are lush but not cluttered; bright but never brittle. Overall, the sounds this time out contain much more bite and snarl – in Kurt’s vocals, pointedly – which suits to a “t” the confusion, conflict and, yes, warfare which always seems to boil below the surface. Several short, mainly instrumental segue pieces play a key role as well in making this disc an end-to-end singular experience. Ah! The long-lost art of the Album as a totality. What a concept! But then about two-thirds in, beginning with the completely Zombie-able “Heaven and Earth,” comes a trio of more nuanced numbers which relax things to a whole loftier level. In fact one of these, “Over and Over,” not only serves as a much-needed truce during this great War, but thanks in big part to the lead vocal of Kristin Pinell – always the Grip Weeds’ not-so-secret-anymore weapon – may honestly be the highlight of it all. Which reminds me, Kurt and brother Rick: Where’s HER album already?!!
5 RICK HARPER Pop Spaceman (HiVariety Recordings) Hey, have you noticed everyone and their roommate lately is not only a singer/songwriter/player, but a bonafide home recordist in addition it seems? Well, listen: Rick Harper, in case you hadn’t noticed – and you certainly should have by now – has been toiling at all that and so much more since ’way back in the primordial pre-laptop daze, I kid you not. Which is why he’s so damn good at it, dammit, as Pop Spaceman, the latest in his Demo Teasers series, surely demonstrates. Along with Erich Overhultz’s occasional keyboard, Rick sing/write/plays up a one-man storm of not only undeniable Songs for our far-out Times (“Pax: Kiss of Peace,” “Wind Idiot,” and “Ca$h Poor,” you bet) but offers as well an unusually good selection of classic Rickenharper-clever chord and monumental chorus compositions (“Not About Us” and my favorite “Pretty Fool”). Each note is not only expertly played, but oh-so-properly placed as well: a supreme proficiency at the fine art of orchestration which is even more apparent during the 14-minute “Music From the Film, Cue 1,” a score of truly cinematic proportions which, for best results, requires secure headphones, a recline position, and lights right off. Interesting how this Pop Spaceman appeared on the ol’ Pig Player right alongside Eddie Cochran just the other night …and fit in just fine.
6 THE LEMON CLOCKS Time To Fly (Jam Records) Rather than attempt myself to adequately describe the tight ‘n’ tart dayglo delights of this disc, let us turn instead to the wise words of the three Clocks themselves, Stefan Johansson, Todd Borsch, and Jeremy Morris: In the land of ELECTRIC TOMATOES we can always find the TIME TO FLY. When the FUTURE IS THE PAST we can bend the clock and make time last. We hear the RAINBOW ECHO all around. Our ring is a promise that is growing underground. We will WALK UPON THE WATER because you just CAN’T KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN. It all happened JUST IN TYME during an UNDERWATER DREAM. AND I FOLLOW in TIME until we’ve FINALLY FOUND OUR HOME. Our lemon clock life is like a GROOVY MOVIE with a very happy ending. It’s full of peace and love coming down from above. So LET THE SUNSHINE IN and let it in your heart. You’ll be really glad you did! It’s THE BEGINNING OF THE END and it’s also THE END OF THE BEGINNING…
7 MIRIAM Down Today (Norton Records) As if co-launching Brooklyn’s greatest-ever fanzine (Kicks) then coolest go-to music stop (Norton), as well as providing big beats behind the Cramps, Zantees and A-Bones wasn’t more than enough already the one, the only Miriam Linna again steps from behind her Pearl’s to deliver what must be 2015’s rock-candy ear necessity #1! Alongside producer/multi-musician Sam Elwitt, a dozen sweet Sixties slices of strictly 7-inch caliber are fully reheated and served anew… but with nostalgia thankfully taking a distant back seat to respect and utmost finesse in both arrangement (Gregor Kitzis’ occasional strings, for example, always augment; never swamp) and performance (Miriam has added a definite Bazooka Joe as opposed to Bubblicious snap to her Lisa-Jenio-meets-Mary-Weiss pipes). To wit, the Dave Clark Five’s “Don’t Be Taken In” now sounds more like one of December’s Children, while “One More Rainy Day” – the flip of my favorite Deep Purple (!) 45, by the way – quickly turns, somehow, into a full-on Joey Ramone-opus. But after reveling in a half hour of such Evie Sands, Terry Reid, Neil Diamond et al chestnuts, it’s actually one of Mr. Elwitt’s two own compositions, the wholly ’67 Gibb-worthy title track, that just might steal the show. Yes, in yet another year when words like “power” and “pop” continue to be thrown around far too liberally, Miriam shows not only how it’s done, but precisely how it should be SUNG. Hear, here, for yourself.
8 ANDY REED Relay Vol. 1 (Futureman Records) This little seventeen-minute EP demonstrates the absolute best case imaginable for the wealth of miracles found lurking, quite regrettably, in the nether regions of that musical so-called subculture. Relay 1 happens to be Bay City, Michigan one-man audio factory Andy’s first solo release since 2008 (in the meantime, he is also a member of the Legal Matters who I raved of as one of 2014’s Missed); it, and Vol. 2 are apparently due together soon on an up-coming Futureman vinyl release. Til then, this digital trailer recalls, on say “Dreaming Of The West Coast,” Bruce Johnston by way of Eric Carmen… BUT, luckily, with only the most attractive vocal characteristics of both. “I Love A Long Goodbye” features an octave-leaping melody of Jimmy Webb proportions – and that’s one comparison I rarely get to make anymore! – while “Darlin, You Don’t Know” is a drop-down wonder; an around-the-wide-world trip of sound in three and a half minutes flat. In all, Andy’s work is smart and detailed, sometimes stark, sometimes dense. Someone get this man a gig scoring indie films, quick! Meanwhile, as we await that Relay vinyl, you should seek and love his Oddities And Entities collection as well, which holds over thirteen years’ more rare and precious gems.
9 THE WIND Re-Wind (Cheft Records) Though it seems more like 300, it’s actually “only” been around thirty years since the original Queens-by-way-of-Miami, Lane Steinberg/Steve Katz/Stephen Burdick-model Wind last made us an album. And it HAS been worth the wait, for the trio’s deftly under-troubled skinny white approach serves as even more urgently-needed fresh air against our current century’s assaults upon ear canals. F’rinstance? “Fight Like A Girl” needs less than three whole minutes to perfectly encapsulate, then broaden wildly upon its Buddy ‘n’ Beatles For Sale history of every little AM radio thing. Spin the dial further and “Think On Your Feet” crouches in some recessed corner of an Emitt Rhodes session, “Which Part Of Goodbye?” really could be The Great Lost Wings B-side we’re still queuing for, “Baby, I Can Take A Punch” finds Todd Rundgren pillow-fighting Squeeze while “There’s A Clamoring” and even more so “Let Me Show You How It’s Done” point Badfingers in thoroughly the right direction. Still, Messrs. Katz and Steinberg roll their tan sleeves all the way up to mix “ambivalence” and “after-dinner mints” with some lo-gummed “Sugar Sugar” keyboard for “Yes And No” …and isn’t “Weak Spot” the theme from Craig Ferguson’s late late, extremely great talk show?! Whatever the cases may be, David Grahame’s co-production keeps all sounds – vocals first! – ice-clean, clear, and to-the-heart at all times; it does take a brave man, not to mention fabulous material, to mix this way. But that’s always been, and apparently continues to be, The Wind. Hopefully it won’t be another thirty years before another album blows our way.
10 FRANK ZAPPA Roxy: The Movie (Eagle Rock Entertainment) Delayed even longer than the mighty Wind is this nifty, sometimes tough, and often quite bitchin audio/video record of Frank and his Mothers’ three-night stint at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood during December of ’73. Why it’s taken sooo long to reach us is – Surprise! – NOT the usual legal morass ‘n’ molasses which coats most things Zappa. No, this time it was a simple [sic!] case of technology sufficient to sync the Roxy audio with the Roxy video not being at hand until just a couple’a years ago. Meaning we can all finally not only hear, but see FZ sucking down endless Winstons, seated on-stage in chair having make-up touched up as George Duke pulls a “Big Swifty,” watching Ralph Humphrey drum duel Chester Thompson with a lot of “Cheepnis,” then even manning an extra set of traps himself to help beat off the “Uncle Meat” variations. Later Bruce Fowler and Napoleon Murphy Brock go trombo-a-saxo too all over their “Be-Bop Tango” before Carl and Rick and Jane (then Lana, Brenda et al) are coerced on stage to, um, dance to it …a sight even more unsettling than I’d imagined all those years ago under headphones spinning Side 4 of Roxy & Elsewhere when I should have been doing my homework. Caveat Emptor however: as Gail Zappa (RIP) of the esteemed Zappa Family Trust says (admits?) in the accompanying liner notes, Frank indeed “shows up here at his geekiest,” as many of the fiercely wrought arrangements, not to mention between-song “announcements” attest. Of course, a mere five years pre-Roxy such a disclaimer would NEVER have been necessary regarding the original Mothers of Invention and those things they did, but…
Those Beach Boys and Rolling Stones weren’t the only septuagenarian rockers celebrating 50th (give or take) Anniversaries over the past twelve-or-so months, absolutely not. Just about each and every singer/songwriter/guitarist still standing – well, those with lucratively deep catalogues ripe and ready for recycling, that is – had multiple multi-media packages (and, in the Stones’ case, four-figure-plus concert tickets) competing for what remained of a loyal boomer’s nest egg throughout 2012.
So should you feel so inclined, unless you’re still busy searching for the real Bob Dylan via David Dalton’s Book Of The Year “Who Is That Man?” that is, may I wholeheartedly suggest investing in:
Yes indeed, it goes without saying that Brian Wilson and his familial band full of brothers, cousins and friends have enjoyed a career quite unlike any other across the cuckoo annals of show business.
Scoring a local hit in 1961 straight off the mark with their very first little indie single, then soon after placing a sophomore release into no less than the hallowed Billboard Hot 100 – and all at a time when the majority of the band still had to be home in time to attend class the next morning – The Beach Boys, it could be argued, really started their marathon run at the very tip-top, suicidally crash-dove towards oblivion a few short years later, and only then slowly but surely began their struggle up the ladder of ever-lasting fame, fortune and, ultimately, all-American glory …and just finished touring the globe promoting a new (!!) hit album, need I remind anyone.
For all intents and purposes, Lindsey Adams Buckingham has lived a charmed life.
Raised in the comfy Bay Area opulence of 1950’s Atherton, California, a handsome, athletic golden boy suddenly and forever sidetracked by his elder brother’s Elvis and Buddy Holly 45s. He quit the school water polo team, moved with his guitar into a local hotshot band called Fritz, left for L.A. with their singer Stevie, produced with her the magnificently understated Buckingham Nicks album, was soonafter asked to join Fleetwood Mac with whom he helped craft a 40-million-plus-selling album called Rumours and, by 1978 at the age of twenty-nine finally found himself at the very tip-top of his game.
Just like most near-lifelong Beatlemaniacs stuck in the summer of 1980, news that no less than John Lennon was about to reenter the recording studio after an unprecedented five year AWOL filled me and my ears with eager, excited anticipation. I mean, there could be no doubt the Chief Beatle would have identified with, not to mention greatly appreciated, the leather-jacketed back-to-raw-basics approach the late Seventies’ p-rockers had brought to an otherwise milquetoast music scene during his hiatus. So, naturally, these new Lennon recordings would undoubtedly reflect said fire and fury, righting all that was wrong upon my AM and maybe even FM radio dial. Right?