Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Closed for Monkey Business


More specifically, I was in the studio last night and got home too late to think of something to post.

Okay, by "the studio" I mean the attic facility of my old garage band chums The Weasels, but I was actually recording music, so cut me some slack.

Normal blogging resumes tomorrow, cross my heart.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Burning Wood 2008-2014

Sad news: Our good pal (and frequent PowerPop commenter) Sal Nunziato has hung up his spurs at his incomparable music blog -- after five and a half years of unmitigated brilliance and fun -- for good.



You can -- and should -- read Sal's farewell post over HERE.

I've known Sal for a little over two decades, in both his capacities as the proprietor of NYCD -- my local record store back in my final days in Manhattan -- and as proprietor of the aforementioned Burning Wood. Apart from just being an all around great guy, in both capacities Sal has, over the years, turned me on to so much wonderful music (that I'd have never been exposed to otherwise) that it's literally incalculable.

So I'd like to take this occasion to say -- as I probably should have eons ago -- thank you, buddy.

I should also add that -- if pressed -- the following song and band are the one(s) I'm most grateful for having first encountered over the sound system at NYCD.




A life-changing moment, Sal, and one of too many others to mention I owe you.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Weekend Listomania's Greatest Hits: Special Your Favorite Band/Artist/Song Sucks! Edition

[I first ran this one back in 2009, but after I posted the Ohio Express version of Graham Gouldman's "Sausalito" on Tuesday, it occurred to me that it was newly relevant and might be worthy of revival. As is my wont, I've done some rewriting here and there and added an entry. Just so you don't think I'm a complete slacker asshole. -- S.S.]

Post-Elvis Performer or Performers or Song You've Taken the Most Snark For Liking From Folks Over the Years!!!

Self-explanatory, obviously, and no arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much. Basically, if anybody's ever looked at you with an alarmed raised eyebrow when you noted that, oh, the Swans' Filth was the record you'd most like to have played at a memorial service, then this category is for you.

And my totally top of my head Top Four is:

4. The Beach Boys



Not so much these days, of course, given that it's now generally conceded by all who walk upright that Brian Wilson is a genius, the Gershwin of his generation, but the Beach Boys have gone in and out of fashion so many times over the last 50 years that it's hard to keep track. Back in the hippie days, however -- particularly after the whole debacle of Smile -- the attitude in the counter-culture was that you had to be a hopelessly bourgeois square to take them seriously (in this country, at least; the Brits knew better). In any case, at that point being a Beach Boys fan was essentially the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, and I don't mean Mike.

3. The Guess Who





Seriously, back in the 70s, I can't tell you how often I would mention my fondness for these guys, only to notice that the people I was talking to were moving away, ever so slowly but firmly, from where I sat.

The clip above -- a medley called "Hi, Rockers!" -- is my favorite of several true gems from the band's masterpiece album. The transition from the hilarious beer-soaked barroom meeting of the minds that opens it into the seraphically lovely clavinet-driven "Heaven Only Moved Once" and finally the witty mutant rockabilly revenge number "Don't You Want Me" -- complete with faux Jordanaires harmony vocals -- is, frankly, a marvel to behold, and from where I sit one of the very greatest moments in 70s rock. I'm not kidding about this!!!

2. Procol Harum



These guys, although there's still a perception out there that they were one-hit wonders (hah!), actually get a fair amount of respect -- it's amazing how often I run into people who turn out to be closet fans. So I'm mostly including them here because the luminous NYMary, annotating a piece I'd written about the band in the early 70s for reprint in these precincts, couldn't resist taking a shot at "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (bless her heart). I think the phrase she used was "Dodgiest lyrics ever..."

Naturally enough, then, the clip above is "Repent Walpurgis," an instrumental that remains one of my all-time fave Procol numbers. It's a live version, featuring the classic five piece original lineup with Robin Trower and Matthew Fischer (the latter four decades away from settling his authorship suit over AWSOP) at the Fillmore West on April 11, 1969.

And the numero uno band or song for whom my enthusiasm has gotten me shunned from time to time is obviously --

1. The Four Seasons -- Marlena



The Four Seasons, despite (or perhaps because of) their recent metamorphosis into the inspiration for a world-wide hit musical, remain somewhat less than hep in certain rock critic circles. I, of course, have said on numerous occasions (including here, if memory serves) that their great run of hits -- spanning the period between "Sherry" in 1962 through, say, "I've Got You Under My Skin" five years later -- comprise the purest pop confections in the history of the genre (the grittier class conscious romanticism of "Dawn" and "Rag Doll," and those songs' influence on Bruce Springsteen, is, of course, a subject for another day).

In any case, my advocacy of "Marlena" (which I think is their most profoundly silly accomplishment, and that's meant as a compliment) has gotten me into trouble on a couple of occasions, most notably sometime in the late 70s, when I -- along with twenty or thirty other folks, mostly writers and musicians -- was asked to make a list of our Five All-Time Favorite Songs by New York City rock colossus WNEW-FM (the station then played everybody's lists over the course of an entire day). I don't remember all five songs I picked -- one was The Who's "Glow Girl" -- but I did nominate "Marlena," and I recall that after the deejay ID'd it as one of my choices, I got at least three frantic phone calls from erstwhile friends questioning my sanity. Okay, I exaggerate just a tad, but you get the idea.

In any case, I think history has vindicated my assessment.



Incidentally, the audio clip of "Marlena" above is the original mono single mix, which I was able to find only after great personal effort and considerable financial expense. This is important because most currently available Four Seasons comps have the song in stereo, and as Pete Townshend famously said about The Who's "I Can See For Miles," the mono mix of "Marlena" makes the stereo sound like The Carpenters.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Your Thursday Moment of Words Fail Me

Bob Dylan rehearses his part in "We Are the World."



This is so amazing on so many levels I don't even know where to begin.

[h/t Steve Schwartz]

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Your Wednesday Moment(s) of Power Pop Heaven: Special This Graham Gouldman Obsession of Mine is Really Getting Out of Hand! Edition

And from that recent UK newspaper giveaway CD we mentioned on Monday...


...here's the utterly amazing Graham Gouldman -- fronting the current touring version of 10cc -- with utterly exquisite unplugged versions of his Hermans Hermits classic "No Milk Today"....



...and the aforementioned 10cc's "I'm Not in Love."



This guy is a stone genius. Period.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Your Tuesday Moment of Power Pop Heaven: Special Bubblegum Gets a Bad Rap! Edition

Okay, I admit it -- for some reason I'm obsessed with the great Graham Gouldman of late.

I bring this up because -- well, from 1970, please enjoy bubblegum legends The Ohio Express and their infernally addictive (and more substantial than the genre usually gets) "Sausalito."

Written by -- wait for it -- Graham Gouldman. Yes, him. (And I should add that the following is a rewritten version of something I originally posted in a different context in 2009.)



Anyway, the interesting (I know, you'll be the judge of that) thing is that the guys in the clip were NOT the guys who played and sang the record. The clip guys, who admittedly have the then contemporary rock star look down pretty good, were a Mansfield, Ohio band called Sir Timothy & The Royals, who were renamed the Ohio Express and hired by the Kasenetz/Katz bubblegum factory to represent, as the kids say.

So who played on the record? Well, given Gouldman's fingerprints on the thing, you might guess it was his future band 10cc, and you'd be right; "Sausalito" is, in fact, the work of the same pop geniuses behind records like "Rubber Bullets" and "I'm Not in Love." Gouldman and company spent a year basically toiling as Brill Building hacks for Kasenetz and Katz; they had their own recording studio which they were trying to turn into a viable commercial enterprise at the time, and grinding out bubblegum tracks for K&K paid the bills. For more on the whole history of the Ohio Express, you should probably go over here.

And just to show you what a nice guy I am, here's a link to a nice clean copy of the record itself. Love that twangy sitar!!!



You're welcome.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Your Monday Moment(s) of Power Pop Heaven: Special Graham Gouldman is an Even Bigger God Than God! Edition

From a recent UK newspaper giveaway CD, please enjoy the incomparable Graham Gouldman...


...and absolutely gorgeous live unplugged versions of "Look Through Any Window"...



...and "The Things We Do For Love."



Technically, these are by the current touring version of 10cc (Gouldman is the only original member) and in fact the CD contains lots of acoustic remakes of his 10cc stuff, as well as familiar Gouldman-penned Brit Invasion classics (originally recorded by The Hollies, The Yardbirds et al) from the 60s.

In any case, just a wonderful, wonderful album -- you can (and definitely should) download the entire thing over HERE.

You're welcome.

Perhaps Needlessly Contentious Essay Question: Gouldman may be the finest pop/rock composer of his generation that isn't named Lennon or McCartney. And his 70s output was better than both of theirs.

Discuss.

[h/t Willard's Wormholes]

Friday, July 18, 2014

Return of the Son of Closed For Monkey Business

To be honest, I just got nothing.


Hopefully inspiration will return after a leisurely, stress free weekend

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Son of Closed for Monkey Business

Not feeling tip top today.


Hopefully, a Listomania will crawl out from the wreckage by tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Closed for Monkey Business

Totally snowed under with real life stuff.


Regular -- and vastly amusing, trust me -- posting resumes tomorrow.