Night Music: The Modern Lovers, “I’m Straight”

I found this song a few years ago. I think it is an outtake of the Modern Lovers album John Cale produced, but I don’t know that for sure. It reflects something of what Gene pointed out about Jonathan’s busking days.

What I know for sure is that Richman soon after the Cale sessions rejected the negative vibes he was giving off with great songs like She Cracked and Pablo Picasso and wrote and performed a few great albums of perky and twee tunes that were also really fantastic.

But I’m Straight is a song from derangement, though it erupts from great discipline and an obvious challenge.

It is not a great a pop song or rock song by any stretch, but as a heartfelt expression by a songwriter it stands very naked and tall. And weird.

Night Music: Grateful Dead, “Friend of the Devil”

I’ve had many friends who were Dead Heads. I once rode on an Amtrak train north of NYC that was full of Dead Heads going to Syracuse, if I remember correctly, for a giant show at the Orange Dome. Beautiful people, but not me.

But I also think that the Dead, and Garcia and Lesh and no doubt others I’m not thinking of now, are great American rockers. Two drums? That’s good. More guitars? Can’t hurt. They did that early in the game.

They were always loud, always rhythmic, but they did move from innovative surrealism to smart social satire, as the years passed. And they got famous for two perfect albums of restrained country rock (Working Class Blues, American Beauty) and exquisitely long live jams that lent themselves to derangement via whatever hallucinogen was nearby.

I think those two albums are close to perfect, and while I write this I wonder why that happened then (and didn’t happen before or after). But for tonight:

Night Music: Frankie Ford, “Sea Cruise”

Cosimo Matussa also engineered/produced this one, which is just a perfect pleasure. I can remember the first time I heard it. I’d bought a compilation of early New Orleans music, curious about these oldies that weren’t on the radio. It was full of great tunes, but this is the one that beckoned over and over.

I got to boogie woogie like a knife in the back.

Obit: Cosimo Matassa

Is this the first rock ‘n’ roll song?

That was 1947. Some say it was this Fats Domino tune from 1950.

I always thought this Joe Turner tune was the one, but obviously this was a process.

The unifying thing here, however, is that all three tunes were recorded in Cosimo Matassa’s studio in New Orleans, with Matassa engineering.

Jerry Lee Lewis cut his first demos in that studio. Frankie Ford’s iconic New Orleans tune Sea Cruise was recorded there. Little Richard’s hits? Matassa recorded them.

You can read all about his rockin’ life in this New York Times obituary.

Night Music: Joy Division, Transmission (Official Video)

The movie clearly copped the setting and specifics of the band’s official video for Transmission, but aestheticized it. The better sound is a plus, the more engaged closeups are a plus, but the more controlled edges of the frame and the understanding that these are actors defangs it. The Official Video feels edgier, even though it is official.

Song of the Week – NYCNY, Daryl Hall & You Burn Me Up I’m A Cigarette, Robert Fripp


I was watching an episode of Live from Daryl’s House that had Minus the Bear as his guests. To my surprise, they played a version of “NYCNY” from Hall’s Sacred Songs solo album. That got me thinking about my favorite songs on two pretty obscure albums that remain forever intertwined.

Sacred Songs
is an interesting album and considered a hidden classic by its fans. It was recorded with Robert Fripp’s help (guitars and production) in 1977, but RCA withheld its release until 1980. At that time, Hall wanted to branch out from the blue eyed soul he was making with partner John Oates, and Fripp, on hiatus from King Crimson, was about to start work on his Exposure solo album.

“NYCNY” is a very cool song that was written in collaboration by Hall (lyrics) and Fripp (music). An alternate version showed up on Exposure in 1979 under the title “I May Not Have Had Enough of Me but I’ve Had Enough of You” but with different lyrics by that version’s co-writer, Joanna Walton.

When work was completed on Sacred Songs – it only took three weeks – Hall returned the favor and agreed to help out Fripp with Exposure. My favorite song on Exposure is “You Burn Me Up I’m a Cigarette” which was also co-written by Hall and Fripp and features a Hall vocal.

Recorded in New York in 1978, you can definitely hear the influence of the local punk scene that was on the rise at that time.

Although Hall and Fripp seemed like a very counter intuitive pairing when they began work together, you must admit that the music they made still sounds pretty good some 35 years later.

Enjoy… until next week.