Song of the Week – Doctor Wu & Chain Lightning, Steely Dan


As an amateur sax player, I always take notice when great players pass on from this earth. In September we lost two important jazz sax greats – Wilton Felder (September 27th) and Phil Woods (September 4th).

As I thought about their work, it occurred to me that both men played on Steely Dan albums. I couldn’t recall of the top of my head which songs they played on so I did a little research and was reminded that Felder played bass (not sax) on “Chain Lightning” and Woods was on “Doctor Wu” – both from Katy Lied (1975). Now that’s a pretty strange coincidence!

p13032t7y42Felder is most well known as a founding member of The Jazz Crusaders. In that band he was known as a tenor sax player. Check out his work on Carole King’s “So Far Away” from the live album Scratch, where he holds a near one minute long note toward the end. The audience is whooping encouragement at first. As the tension builds, some guy shouts “stop” and there’s some nervous laughter to break it. It’s a marvelous moment caught on tape.

But Felder was also was an “in demand” session bass player on recordings for many popular music artists. He played bass on the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” to mention just a few of the hits. He also played bass on albums by Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell.

weather09240481443647101Woods was known as the “New Bird” in tribute to his influence, Charlie Parker. (He later married Parker’s widow.) The bulk of his career remained close to his bebop roots. He played with many of the greats including Dizzy and Monk.

But he also made some advances into popular music. He can be heard on Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” and Paul Simon’s “Have a Good Time.”

Sometimes, like this week, the SotW writes itself!

Enjoy… until next week.

Breaking News! Lord Rockingham Ghostwrote Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices”

This isn’t really breaking news. This link leads to a story from June 2014, but it’s new to me.

Yes, it seems that the Upper Crust’s Lord Rockingham, an Upper Crust member in 1995 through 1997, wrote Hard Choices, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s inside look at the choices and challenges she has made and faced.

But not Bernie Sanders.

The linked story has some clips, but let’s add one more. h/t to Cindy Brolsma.

As if that’s not enough, there is a surprise Upper Crust documentary, that features plenty of Ted Widmer, aka Lord Rockingham.

I’ve just started it, but, um, it is called Let Them Eat Rock!


Happy Birthday Bruce.

When I was in high school, maybe junior year, a new kid named Robert Ellis moved to town from Cherry Hill New Jersey. I guess we shared a class and became friendly, and one day he came over my house and we spent hours arguing whether Springsteen or the New York Dolls were better. It accrues good will to us that we weren’t arguing between Foghat and REO Speedwagon, these are two of the greatest rock artists of all time in their infancy, but I still remember him saying that the Dolls didn’t even play their own instruments, as if they were the Monkees or something. I loved the Monkees.

Robert was right, the Boss was boss, and I in fact had no problem with Greetings from Asbury Park or the Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, except they weren’t the Dolls.

Today, or maybe yesterday, is the Boss’s birthday, and there is a post on Gothamist ranking all of his records. I’m so over that, I didn’t even open it, but it did make me think about the songs that speak to me. Top of the list is Rosalita, which should probably be everybody’s favorite song and lets be done with it. Then these two came to mind:

This is a really early version I’d never seen before!

Totally frightening, never old.


Lightning Bolt, Dracula Mountain at the Unitarian Church of Philadelphia in May 2015

I posted a great video of this tune yesterday, but this one has brighter color and is from just a handful of months ago. It also has a camera dude who is clearly not committed to not rocking.

Before the video, here’s a little of what I learned today about Lightning Bolt. They’ve been playing together for 20 years. They’ve made a number of records. The most recent came out in May 2015. The previous came out in 2009.

Brian the Bass Player has a regular job as a game designer, and worked on Guitar Hero. They live in Providence RI, so maybe he worked with Curt Schilling! Don’t know, but it seems possible.

What’s in My Bag is a show in which musicians go to a store and select stuff, and then talk about what they selected. I can tell from what Lightning Bolt selected that they’re educated and experimental. That’s a little too bad, but maybe that’s why they do what they do so well. Here’s the clip:

But much better yet, here’s more music, from a band that does away with the stage and invites the audience to stand as close as possible to them while they play. Loudly. I’m still blown away.

Stinking Polecats, She Was Great

Friend of the remnants, Evan Davies, the WFMU DJ, is traveling around the UK buying records. Today he posted yesterday’s haul, which like his excellent radio show was an eclectic mix of punk and rock and novelties. One band name jumped out at me: The Stinking Polecats. Who?

It’s an excellent name and a quick survey at YouTube revealed a pop punk guitar band with an excellent attack and a bit too much (for my taste) of that cute uplifted voice in the vocals, like the theme song from Friends and a million other bands of their time. Which was from 1996 or so until 2006, when they stopped updating their blog.

There isn’t much out there about them, but Googling revealed that the Stinking Polecats, who sound 100 percent USA, were Italians from Piacenza, which is south of Milan. Plus, the chorus seems to be, “She was reading, and my heart was beating so fast.”

Song of the Week – Jimmy Olsen’s Blues, Spin Doctors

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Last Sunday Jack Larson, the man that played cub reporter Jimmy Olsen on the 50s television show Adventures of Superman, died. I was such a huge fan of the show when I was a kid that this news touched me.

I went to YouTube to see if the shows intro was available to view. It was and I wasn’t even slightly surprised that I could still recite the entire script, word perfect, as I watched it.

So then, what does Jimmy Olsen have to do with the SotW? How about “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues” by Spin Doctors?

Spin Doctors are most well known for their songs “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” from their 1991 hit album Pocket Full of Kryptonite. But that album also contained “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues.”

JOB is the only “Superman” song I could think of that is from the point of view of Olsen rather than the Man of Steel himself. In this song, Olsen seems to be suffering from depression and jealousy because his partner Lois Lane seems to be more attracted to Clark Kent than him.

Those other “Superman” songs include many different recordings simply called “Superman” by Eminem, The Clique (covered by R.E.M.), Snoop Dog, and Barbra Streisand. Then there’s “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan and “Superman’s Song” by Crash Test Dummies.

Have I forgotten any?

Enjoy… until next week.

Vegan Black Metal Chef

This is proof of something. I mean, it’s a pretty funny concept for a one off thing, but this guy has made at least 18 shows! Who’s watching? Or is it listening? Or maybe reading? I want to try the tahini thing he does in this one, “turning bitter brown shit into a creamy white paste!” It sure does seem like a mistake to finish this dish off with a jar of sauce, when a can of crushed tomatoes would make it your own.