Song of the Week – Tighten Up, Archie Bell & the Drells; Dance to the Music, Sly & the Family Stone; Memphis Soul Stew, King Curtis; Reggae Recipe, Desmond Dekker; The Intro and the Outro, The Bonzo Dog Band

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

I like a lot of songs where the band leader introduces each of the instruments into the song, one by one. I’ll call them “instrument intro songs.” For some reason they remind me of summer, though when I researched the actual release and peak chart position dates, I’m not sure any of my favorites were actually summer hits. But who cares about accuracy? In my mind these oldies are perfect songs to wrap up the summer of 2015.

First up is “Tighten Up” by Archie Bell & the Drells… from Houston, Texas.

“Tighten Up” peaked in the US at #15 in May of 1968. It does double duty as a song with a dance that goes along with it (like The Twist or The Mashed Potatoes). The song is just plain fun. Other hip bands including R.E.M and Yo La Tengo must agree since they’ve covered the song.

Sly & the Family Stone contributed the great “Dance to the Music.”

I was surprised to find that “Dance to the Music” actually came out just a little before “Tighten Up.” Its chart peak was at #8 in late April 1968. In my mind’s eye “Dance…” came out after “Tighten…” I was surprised to see they were on the airwaves at the same time.

I didn’t discover the next two instrument intro songs until well after their original releases.

“Memphis Soul Stew” is a funky number by saxophonist King Curtis from the late 60s.

When “Memphis Soul Stew” was released Curtis was recording for Atlantic Records. But he had a long and storied career. He warmed up for the Beatles at their historic Shea Stadium performance that just had their 50th anniversary on August 15th. He played that famous sax break on Aretha’s “Respect.” He recorded a cool cover version of Joe South’s “Games People Play” that featured Duane Allman on guitar. But he died tragically at the age of 37 in 1971 having been stabbed near his NYC apartment after an argument with a pair of drug dealers.

Desmond Dekker gives us a reggae instrument intro song called “Reggae Recipe.”

Dekker is best known for his #1 hit from 1969, “The Israelites.” “Reggae Recipe” is far less popular but ought not to be. I’m not sure, but I think this song came out later in the same year. The reggae recipe for this song is pure delight!

And of course I have to end with the greatest instrument intro song – The Bonzo Dog Band’s “The Intro and the Outro.”

This is really a parody of the Part One finale of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” where there is a pompous introduction of the many instruments used in its orchestration. No time here for the full album side of “… Bells” just to hear that one section, but the Bonzo’s parody is beautiful! In fact, it’s the Bonzo’s Viv Stanshall that calls out the instruments for both recordings.

I tried to think of a contemporary example of an instrument intro song but couldn’t come up with one. Can you?

Enjoy… until next week.

Correction:

Lawr pointed out “Slight correction, Tommy. “The Intro and the Outro” was released on “Gorilla” in 1967, while “Tubular Bells” was in 1973, What “The Intro and the Outro” really riffs on is Duke Ellington’s “C-Jam Blues.”

He’s right! My bad. I need a better fact checker.

TM

My Favorite Dickie

Since they “came up” recently, I thought of The Dickies for the first time in a while. Way more famous for covers than originals – from Paranoid to Silent Night – this is my favorite Dickies song nonetheless. Why?:

1) The scientific-sounding guitars over the Barracuda-like rumble (Heart sucks, by the way) are A+.

2) Always wanted to play this song. What could be cooler than chanting “Mole Men, Mo-a-ole Men” live on-stage?

3) The line “Beware of the head Mole Man Jack,” obviously a desperate attempt at something to rhyme with the previous “back” and “attack,” is so awful lyrically it becomes beautiful eventually.

By the way, in college, I owned a long-sleeved t-shirt with that phallic Dickies symbol on it. It got a lot of laughs in the cafeteria.

It Don’t Get More Off The Wall

Knights in White Satin indeed. I don’t despise the Moody Blues as you might figure. I mean, I mostly despise them, but they came up with some good melodies (no doubt stolen from Classic Composers). Hey, if The Toys can do it why not the Moodies? Be that as it may, I always thought Out and In was a tune that would be great all punked up.

I mean, am I wrong? Oh shut up, Steve.

But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here so you can hear the Moody Blues doing James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy.” Of course they were a different group then, a Brit Beat Combo. It’s not as bad as it could be, if only because the song is so great that Lawrence Welk could get it over.

But you have suffered enough. Dig on the man himself:

 

Afternoon Snack: Roxy Music, “Prarie Rose” meets Talking Heads, “The Big Country”

I cannot same that I am as crazy about Roxy as my mate Gene, but I do indeed love them, their sound, and a shitload of their songs.

I have my loves–Out of the BlueVirginia Plain, and All I want is You–but Prarie Rose has something to it that pushes beyond being just a favorite Roxy tune.

Aside from being just a wonderful piece of music and lyric, their are links to both Talking Heads (The Big Country) and Big Country’s In a Big Countrythat line being core to Roxy first.

Here are the Heads, live in a song that sort of has that great feel between driving and laid back thanks to great drumming laying down that fantastic groove.

Here is Roxy from a few years back, and though the hand held IPhone camera is way shaky, the audio is pretty good, and Phil Manzanera just fucking kills his solo even if we cannot really see him (check the video behind Ferry and I think that is a simulcast?)

Stuart Adamson’s fine Big Country band will be saved for another day!

Song of the Week – Jardin du Luxembourg, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Sean Lennon (son of Beatle John) and his model/musician girlfriend Charlotte Kemp-Muhl record together under the name The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (GOASTT).

I’m not that familiar with all of their work but I’ve always liked their first single – the Mick Ronson produced “Jardin du Luxembourg.” Ronson, you may recall, was also the producer of Amy Winehouse’s perfect album Back to Black.

If there’s one thing that’s for certain it’s that Sean, like his half-brother Julian, inherited his daddy’s vocal chords. He may also have picked up at least a whiff of his father’s knack for psychedelic (e.g. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”) lyrical imagery.

People say your brain is like cream cheese
Takes the shape of anything you please
The dust from the trails under your fingernails
The leaves in the Luxembourg garden
Are showing their true colours
They’re blushing, they’re begging your pardon
Cause time’s a jealous lover

The lyrics, vocals and instrumentation all hang together as GOASTT delivers a fine piece of modern pop with a touch of late 60s flair.

Enjoy… until next week.

Fun No Fun live

Nicky uncovered this video, one of our last gigs, at the Chase Lounge on 3rd Ave. and 13th St., on a hot and very late night. We went on at 3:30 AM. I hadn’t thought about the song Bag-dad Bang in a while. Nicky and I had a song called Divorce Party (“Come on everybody, split up!), but when the first Gulf War broke out – broke out my ass, when we attacked – we thought we should write a Political Song. So we didn’t, instead we wrote a Topical Song. I wrote the lyrics in record time, about 10 minutes in one sitting, and they still make me laugh, and since you’ll never understand them, I’m writing them down. It’s the opener on the video:

Coming in under the radar

I got shot right out of the sky

I wound up loaded in a Baghdad dive

The waitress looked at me and said you’re lucky you’re alive

Hey G.I. do you wanna surprise

You know your Uncle Sam lied

I got a thang it’s too too much

Bag-dad bang

 

She was selling so hard I didn’t know what to think

I said get that umbrella thing outta my drink

I’m serious about euphoria

Taking out Sadam but now I’m in Gomorrah

Hey G.I. take a look in my eyes, would I lie to you?

Now you can think, or you can drink

Bag-dad bang

 

C.I.A. trying to prove I’m a spy

In the house of pain I’m just another guy

Accusation’s untrue but it hurts

They think I wanna be a Colonel Kurtz

Hey G.I. I heard about that guy

He really knows how to fly

You like ’em pink?

Whadda Drink

Bag-dad bang

I was pissed off at this gig because my amp wasn’t loud enough and it hurts my tone, but what the hell. I hope you like it.

 

 

Sunday Funnies: Chico Marx, Lucinda Williams, and Hayes Carll and friends

I was stumbling around the television channels on Friday, in search of something funny or challenging, or even both.

As documented here before, I am a big fan of the Cartoon Network’s night time adult diversion, Adult Swim, which presents the most cutting edge/satire/intelligence of any station anywhere.

One show I love on Adult Swim is “Squidbillies,” which features the incorrigible Early Cuyler, a red neck squid who lives with his son, Rusty, Grandma, and sister Lil in the Appalachians where he makes meth and white lightening from pine cones while the family purports to supply “peanuts and hairdoos.”

It is pretty irreverent and good fun (if you watch, check the different hats Early wears).

Well, Squidbillies has a pretty good alt country theme song, and lo and behold, when I watched Friday, I heard Lucinda Williams singing the theme.

So, here is that:

But, in search of Lucinda on YouTube, I found this great little jam that features Hayes Carll, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Unknown Hinson, Rhett Miller, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, David Rawlings, Todd Snider, Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams and that was also on one episode.

If that wasn’t enough, I then found “A Night at the Opera” on TCM, , and though I have seen it a lot (I am sure more than 50 times) it still kills me (all their movies do).

But, I thought this great clip of Chico (and his very long fingers) doing his nominal piano thing made it more than worth presenting his rendition of “All I do is Dream of You.”

Song of the Week – I’m All You Need, Spanic Boys

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

If you like the variety of Americana made by artists like the Jayhawks, Los Lobos, the BoDeans, Marshall Crenshaw, Steve Earle and the Blasters, you must also be a fan of the Spanic Boys. Huh!?! Yeah, the Spanic Boys – the best roots rock band you’ve never heard of.

The Spanic Boys are the Milwaukee based father and son team, Tom and Ian Spanic. Tom was a self-taught guitarist that loved the instrument so much that he worked to become classically trained. (He even earned a position as a guitar instructor at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.)

Later, when it was time for son Ian to learn to play guitar, Tom made sure he was trained in the classical method on an acoustic guitar before letting him have his own Fender.

Middle aged, overweight and bespectacled; the Spanic Boys are not your stereotypical rock stars. But man, can those two sing and play.

Today’s SotW is “I’m All You Need” from their 1991 album on Rounder Records, Strange World.

The influences are obvious – Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, etc. – yet their sound is contemporary… much like Nick Lowe’s and Dave Edmund’s Rockpile. Telecaster guitar riffs, a tight rhythm section and close harmony vocals with rockabilly influences – that’s all they need.

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A bit of trivia about the Spanic Boys is their connection to Saturday Night Live. They’re often credited as being the most obscure musical act ever to perform on the show (though some will dispute that). They appeared on the episode hosted by Andrew Dice Clay in May 1990. The scheduled musical act, Sinead O’Connor, refused to appear with Clay because she felt he was vulgar and misogynist (he was). Her boycott left SNL’s bandleader and musical director, G.E. Smith, in a bind for a last minute replacement. He got permission to call the Spanic Boys, a band that he really liked at the time, and the rest is history.

Enjoy… until next week.

Night Music: Django Rheinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, “Minor Swing”

I have noted during my infrequent posts this summer that it was a crazy busy one. Like, I have never had as since I retired from ATT, I get to do what I want when I want.

That meant time in Pismo Beach, New York, Chicago, Yosemite (Diane had to go back to New York in this gap, but I got to go home), Chicago, Lake Tahoe, and then the Northern California Russian River area for our annual trek to performing arts camp.

I just never imagined when I had more time available, that I would be busier than when the “structure” having a job presents.

Music was indeed involved in a few of these treks. In the middle of July, my band, TheBileTones got to pretend to be a real rock’n’roll band, playing a pair of gigs in the Chicago area, and the Yosemite trip was with our core music community friends, so a lot of picking was attempted during that week.

But, nothing is like the Cazadero Performing Arts Camp, where I basically play in one band or another all day long, and even get to try some solo acoustic stuff and really experiment with both songwriting and styles.

This year I took my friend Dennis Fortin’s “Gypsy Jazz” class. Dennis is a great guy and teacher, and a killer on Telecaster, able to play a myriad of styles. I have played with him at camp having fun doing Dear Mr. Fantasy, One Way Out, and also Stop Dragging My Heart Around.

In fact, Dennis plays in a local bay area Gypsy Jazz band cleverly called “Eclair de Lune.”

Another class I took was string band, offered by my good friend, teacher, and mentor, Steve Gibson, and within that class Steve presented the song “Minor Swing” by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.

Though I do indeed have a couple of Django/Stephane CD’s, I have never tried to play anything of the Paris Swing ilk, and it is some tough stuff. Interesting, chord shapes, great rhythms, and fantastic jamming and improvising much of the time.

I realize we all have subjective notions about what is rock’n’roll, but I challenge you to find any song anywhere that is as smoking hot as this tune. These are unbelievable musicians, but what really suggests how masterful and in the zone they are, listen to how often in the background a voice pops through the instrumental with a “yeah” type sound.

Anyway, things slow down. I can catch up. And listen and write more

Woo hoo.