Song of the Week – I Wanna Go Home, Jellyfish

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The Paisley Underground was a mid-80s genre of rock music that paid homage to the psychedelic California garage/folk rock bands of the 60s (especially The Byrds) through their usage of pop melodies, vocal harmonies and jangly guitars. The term was coined by Michael Quercio of The Three O’Clock, one the movement’s purveyors. Other bands in the The Paisley Underground were The Dream Syndicate, The Bangles and The Long Ryders.

Another group loosely associated with the genre was Jellyfish, a group formed in Pleasanton, California – an east bay suburb of San Francisco.

Jellyfish was a short lived band that put out two critically acclaimed, but sadly forgotten, albums in the early 90s – Bellybutton (1990) and Spilt Milk (1993). If you are a fan of Squeeze, Crowded House or XTC, you are (or will be) a fan of Jellyfish too.

Today’s SotW is “I Wanna Stay Home” from Bellybutton.

The song is a melancholy ballad that starts with an acoustic guitar intro before the full band joins. The plaintive verses are sung solo but with “ba, ba-ba-ba” background vocals. The lyrics long for the simple joy of living the life of a homebody.

When you need someone
And there’s no one there
There is always the nine o’clock train
To take you out somewhere

I take the train in town
Like I did for years
There is only seven more blocks
I could walk from here

Some tasteful trumpet playing is added to the chorus by Chuck Findley. Beatle-esque harmonies come in on the bridge.

When I realize the weight
That’s firmly on my shoulders
On my shoulders
I just try and find the place
I can take a walk on my blind side
On my blind side

Then a short, thick stringed guitar solo is played before the song returns to the final verse and chorus.

When these memories fade
In my ripe old age
Please remember my dear

I wanna stay home
I wanna stay home right here
I wanna stay home today
I wanna stay

This is a perfectly written and performed pop song. They don’t come any better.

If you listen to more of Jellyfish’s music (available on Spotify and YouTube) you’ll hear lots of other influences – Queen, The Beach Boys, and power pop titans such as Badfinger, Big Star and the Raspberries. They also imitate The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney. I have a live bootleg where they play his solo hit “Jet.”

Most people have never heard of Jellyfish, but once you discover them you’ll never forget them.

Enjoy… until next week.

Louis Johnson is Dead.

Louis Johnson was a bass player in the Brothers Johnson, a soul band my cohort made fun of back in the 70s because of the word Johnson.

Louis Johnson ended up being Michael Jackson’s bass player, which was no doubt a lucrative gig that landed him spots on many giant records.

Louis Johnson died this week, at the age of 60, which is frightening for those of us who wish to be immortal.

Now, after the fact, we can see that Louis Johnson added significant bass to a lot of songs. I can’t get past Strawberry Letter #23, which is an old Shuggie Otis song that the Brothers covered, and made a hit of.

Quincy Jones produced the Brothers Johnson’s Strawberry Letter #23, and, of course, produced all of Michael Jackson’s hits. Louis Johnson was there for all of that.

While I’m Posting Alternate Takes. . .

Since Jailbreak is in my all-time top 50, I bought the expensive super-duper deluxe version that came out a few years ago, with all kinds of demos, alternates, etc.

This is my favorite. Call me crazy, but it made the price of the whole package worth it all by itself. The differences are subtle until the different third verse (please stick around). And call me melodramatic, but when I first heard this, it gave me a sense of melancholy, as if Phil Lynott was still alive and making great new/old stuff again. I guess the entire song is kind of melancholy.

I’ve always thought this would be a cool cover for Springsteen.

While We’re On Classic English Punk. . .

Just ordered John Lydon’s new biography Anger Is An Energy for Amazon Prime delivery on Thursday. I looked at it at Barnes & Noble and it must be 500 pages. (I’m definitely a guy who shops at B&N and buys on Amazon and will be the first to bitch and whine when B&N goes under. What a hypocrite.)

Why does Lydon need another biography? I guess I’ll find out, but I read the first one years ago and liked it a lot. Ty Cobb must be up to like five bios at this point, with a brand new one also on the shelves. I’ve only read the I-think-most-well-known-supposedly-much-tall-tales-and-nonsense one by Al Stump.

And forgive me for treating you like a musical three-year-old, but the new Lydon bio inspired me to listen to the Pistols’ Spunk, the prior-to-Sid Bollocks version with Matlock on bass. Again, I’m guessing you all have this as well as Bollocks and you know that Steve Jones (the guitarist on both albums) played bass on Bollocks, because, true to his rep, Sid couldn’t play.

I give you a typical choice here in Anarchy. Notice the more raw sound, the bouncy bass and Lydon’s a-little-flatter-than-Bollocks vocals as well as slightly different lyrics and delivery.

It isn’t difficult to tell Steve Jones played bass on Bollocks because, on that version, the bass simply doubles the guitar, creating quite a powerful sound wall, but very different from the Matlock Spunk recordings.

Hey, if I taught one person one thing today, maybe it was worth it. I’ll let you know on the book.

Song of the Week – April Fool, Ronnie Lane & Pete Townshend (feat. Eric Clapton)

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We were all very saddened to hear that B.B. King passed away yesterday. Of course I was tempted to pay tribute to him with today’s SotW, but there were so many words written about him yesterday that I have nothing new or special to add. Rest in peace B.B. (and Lucille too).

I recently finished Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Eric Clapton, The Faces . . ., written by the legendary engineer/producer Glyn Johns. It’s an insider perspective of classic rock and roll that few people can offer. He was in the room when some of the most important albums in the history of rock and roll were recorded.

When Led Zeppelin recorded “Dazed and Confused” he was in the room.

When Mick Taylor and Bobby Keys ripped off those amazing solos on Sticky Fingers’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” he was in the room.

When Roger Daltrey let out that blood curdling scream toward the end of “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” he was in the room again.

As I read the book I was excited about the prospect that Johns would help me to (re)discover some gem of a record that I had overlooked or forgotten. That came in the chapter about the Pete Townshend/Ronnie Lane album Rough Mix.

I’ve always enjoyed that album but often focused on its most popular songs – the ones that got FM radio air play – “My Baby Gives It Away” and “Street in the City.” But it is a lesser known cut on the album, “April Fool”, that Johns says is “among the few moments in my recording career that I treasure.”

The track was almost finished when Eric Clapton offered to add a Dobro part to complement the song.

“I played him the track and I noticed that his foot was tapping as he ran through the song. I quickly put a mic on his foot and we recorded the next run-through. It was note-perfect and quite beautiful. Eric reacting in the most natural and emotive way to the song and Ronnie’s performance of it. Up until that moment I had paid very little attention to Eric as a musician and therefore never really understood what all the fuss was about. I thought he was just another bloody white kid playing the blues. That was very clearly my loss. In a matter of a few minutes I had been completely won over. This was a perfect example of what I have always thought about Eric’s playing. He never allows his brain to get in the way between his heart and his fingers.”

The instrumental title cut (also with Clapton on lead guitar) is pretty cool too.

Enjoy… until next week.

BB King RIP

BB King was my gateway to the blues, via his great album Live at the Regal. I saw him live once, at the Academy of Music in New York on a bill with the J. Geils Band in 1973 or so. An amazing show.

I just read on Wikipedia that King’s favorite singer was Frank Sinatra, who similarly died on May 14th.

Sweet Little Angel is a delightful song, full of life and generous good spirits. On a sad day, I get joy, and everything.