Shameless #Humblebrag

Last April The Biletones went into the studio to drop down five tracks for an EP, and while we were at it, a friend of the band, Andre Welsh, who does camera work in Hollywood, agreed to video the band in action. It was kind of fun and intense, but also ugh city.

As in for the Route 66 video, we played the song 11 times so the film crew could focus on different aspects and players during the song.

The four remaining tunes we played were It Takes a Lot to Laugh (check out Steve Gibson’s killer solos), It’s All Over Now (I sing lead), Don’t Cry no Tears, and lead singer Tom Nelson’s Rich Girlfriend. Do click to the third cut and check out Girlfriend. It is one of our strongest tunes (it is third on the playlist in the upper right corner of the Route 66 vid).

Song of the Week – Love Surrounds Me, Dennis Wilson

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Today’s SotW was written by another guest contributor, Ron Marcus. Ron has guested for the SotW a couple of times before. He is an exceptional musicologist and rock historian. He’s also a (tie) dyed in the wool Dead Head, having attended almost 300 Grateful Dead concerts by 1993. Ron is also the drummer for Rockridge Station, a band based out of San Francisco’s East Bay that performs original songs and covers of Americana deep cuts.

The Beach Boys have spread their music around the world since 1961. Brian Wilson has written hundreds of songs and has been immortalized by his uncanny craft for hit songs and incredible production, especially vocal harmonies that have hummed in the heads of millions of people for generations. His story was on display in the fantastic biopic Love and Mercy and he just finished a worldwide tour honoring the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds, his seminal album that inspired the Beatles to produce Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (considered by many the greatest recording of all time). His battles with mental illness are legendary and represent survival against many odds to come out so gracefully on the other side. Hardly Ignored or Obscured!

However, his brothers Dennis and Carl are a different story. Carl was a great surf guitarist, very underrated in his influence on other guitar players and his vocals on “Good Vibrations” and “God Only Knows” are as beautiful as any ever sung. Dennis (the Beach Boys’ drummer) is known more for being the only one in the band who was actually a surfer and car racer. He was the one that nudged Brian to write surf and car songs, which paved the road (and waves!) to their legacy. He also is known for being a drunk and druggie who was eventually fired from the band. Of course, he was also infamous for his association with Charles Manson and his family; quite a way to be remembered.

This week’s SotW is called “Love Surrounds Me” by Dennis Wilson. It is from the previously unreleased Bambu, the follow up to his seminal 1977 solo album Pacific Ocean Blue.

POB was critically praised and a seller of 200,000 albums, it was the first solo release from any Beach Boy. Momentum high, he continued to write incredible, deep textured songs that were slated for inclusion on Bambu, recorded in 1978 and 1979.

As his personal life fell apart, he descended into such self-destructive behavior that he lost all the friends and believers who engineered and produced these songs. So the project died on the studio shelves where they stayed until 2007, 34 years after his tragic death. The engineers and producers finished the mixes and gave the world a treat releasing Pacific Ocean Blue on a 2 CD set that included outtakes and the aforementioned, unreleased Bambu.

“Love Surrounds Me” shows a sensitive side of the wild Beach Boy. He plays most of the keyboards and drums. The harmony vocals are so particular that he went to 6 different studios for final mixing! This track features future girlfriend Christine McVie, from Fleetwood Mac, as one of the singers,

This is just a taste of the depth of Dennis Wilson’s catalog. By the way, none of his songs are about surfers or cars! Just for the record, he is the uncredited writer of Joe Cocker’s 1974 hit ‘You Are So Beautiful.”

Enjoy… until next week.

Rock’n’Roll Is More Than Three Chords

Before I retired, I was a pretty high level Project Manager at ATT, a gig I worked my last eight years with the company.

Of course at work we all have our own styles, and my boss decided to audit a meeting I was holding one day. This was fine: I liked my boss a lot, and was good at my gig and always got good reviews and such.

And, with my job, I usually ran between 4-6 meetings a day. As it happened, during one of the agenda items the day my boss listened in, a couple of team members got tasks accomplished that should have taken at least another month and I blurted out, “you guys so rock it.”

The only comment Yolanda made about handling my duties was suggesting maybe another word than “rock” was appropriate. But, after another year, she retracted since my clients mostly loved my work and style telling me, “Just keep doing what you are doing and be yourself. That seems to work quite well.”

It was a big moment, for being told professionally to be yourself, was not something I have ever been used to hearing in any environ.

I have thought about that incidentt in concert with the stupid and incessant discussions (nee arguments) on this site about what RockRemnants is about.

It is clear to me that in Steve’s view, we should only be writing around Rock’n’Roll for as he points out, that is in the name of the site.

But, aside from that being boring, not to mention smacking the face of Aristotle, our first literary critic, who said writing should “teach and delight,” Steve’s provincial view of the term as it applies is just a bunch of crap.

For one thing, we all have views and the site is for fun, so suggesting some category of music or art shouldn’t be included is specious. If all he wants to write about is the Germs, fine. Boring, yeah, but again, if that is what he likes, who am I to call him “an idiot” or suggest he “ramble incoherently?”

But, to me, as I have stated repeatedly, Rock’n’Roll is about attitude and the music is simply a subset of that mindset, irrespective of whether Allan Freed named the shit before he saw Elvis swing his hips or not.

For sure Rock’n’Roll is in the first licks of Johnny B. Goode, but it also lies within the words of Howard Beale (Peter Finch in Network) when he screams “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Rock’n’Roll is in the soul of any teenager who ever sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night to meet a lover in secret, or see a forbidden band, or ride fast in cars with one’s mates. And, like it or not, it is within Johnny Paychecks words when he said “take this job and shove it.”

So, for fun, here are some things that define Rock’n’Roll as far as I see it.

  • Muhammed Ali’s poetry and left hook.
  • James Dean’s smile.
  • Johnny Rotten’s sneer.
  • The Doors saying fuck you to Ed Sullivan with Jim Morrison screaming “girl we couldn’t get much higher” rather than the “much better” Sullivan insisted upon.
  • Mick and Keith’s on-stage interplay.
  • Joni Mitchell refusing to sell her song rights for commercial use.
  • Prince refusing to allow Itunes and Spotify stream his songs.
  • Marilyn Monroe’s voice.
  • Raj Davis’s homer to tie the 2016 World Series, and Ben Zobrist’s tenth inning double to tie it back up.
  • The wings at Virgil’s.

I could list more, but I think I make my point, and well, this is how I will continue writing and supporting the site because to me, Rock’n’Roll is indeed a music genre, but it is also part of a musical bigger whole, and music is one of the arts–like movies and painting and writing and all the other slices of imagination–the Muses ruled over.

To make one more point, if by having the name RockRemnants we are supposed to be limited to just Steve’s definition of the words and art form, then I suppose “all men are created equal” should only be applied to rich white landowning men, right?

And, if this song by Gabby Pahinui doesn’t kill you and tell you Rock is in everything, well, I feel sorry for your parochial existence.

 

 

 

Song of the Week – Heavenly Pop Hit, The Chills

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

This week we have a guest contributor, Barry Stelboum. He’s had a life-long love affair with music of all kinds and did a stint as a music journalist writing for Spin and other entertainment publications. He is an accomplished photographer and aspiring filmmaker. He is currently the drummer and sometime bass player for the Brooklyn based band called The Occasionalists (with my cousin Mark V.) that specializes in live karaoke performances. When he’s not indulging in his creative outlets, he heads up the Legal Department for a big New York ad agency.

Back in the day, I’d often wander into Sounds, a now sadly departed used record store on St. Marks Place in the East Village. I used to spend hours in the store looking for obscure gems and cheap .99 cent cut-outs on which I’d take chance. One day in 1990, I saw this album featuring a cover with a beautifully eerie photo of a huge jellyfish. The record was called Submarine Bells by a band called The Chills, about whom I knew nothing. There was something about the whole package that made me think that there was going to be something interesting inside. So, I dropped my hard earned $2.99 to see if I’d be right. In short, it was love at first sound.

The album’s opening track is this week’s Song of the Week, “Heavenly Pop Hit.”

The song opens with a splashy organ riff that sounds like it was recorded in an underwater church. Within seconds, drums, guitar, bass and the indescribably unique vocals of Martin Phillips join to create an instantaneously catchy melody that immediately draws you in. You’re hooked before you even get to the impossibly catchy “Dum de dum dum, It’s a heavenly pop hit” chorus, complete with an angelic chorus of male and female voices that elevate the listener to pop music heaven. Like so many of my favorite albums, the overall sound matches the eerie album cover art (Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath may be the most perfect example of this match), with fluid bass and guitar lines, flowing melodies, and dreamy and otherworldly vocals that somehow feel like that jellyfish floating through the sea.

While it garnered some critical praise and a bit of a minor underground/college following in the US, the album reached #1 on the New Zealand album charts and cemented The Chills status as the godfathers of the New Zealand music scene. Those initial keyboard sounds of “Heavenly Pop Hit” literally opened a whole new music scene for me and, after wearing out the grooves of Submarine Bells, led me to the discovery of countless other great NZ bands, beloved in their homeland, but unknown here, including The Clean, The Verlaines, The Bats, Tall Dwarves and others.

Heavenly indeed.

Enjoy… until next week.

Dead Boys, All This And More

One of the thrills of the punk years was the primacy of singles. US bands would launch with a self- or independently pressed 45, looking for enough buzz to get a major label deal. UK bands and labels eased the way into the US market by dropping 45s into the indie record stores, where some people, I was one, would hang out and hear the choicest cuts on the store’s record player.

These singles came, usually, with picture sleeves. Sometimes they came with other gimmicks. I’m sure every punk band wanted a hit single, but most of these weren’t destined for radio play. They were meant as samizdat from the heart of DIY RNR, a beacon looking for similar youths with guitars and loud drums. If you had a single, you had a calling card at least.

One true thing was that there were some great songs released, and another true thing was that many were followed by fairly crappy albums.

The Dead Boys album leads off with their great single, Sonic Reducer, and is followed by a collection that sounded pretty strong in its day. Looking back at it now, what seemed like great energy and clever arrangements then seems today a little obvious and not quite as hard as they should have been. Such is context.

Gene points out, however, that this album should have been on the Rolling Stone Punk Top 40 Albums, and he may be right. It was historic, one of the first true punk albums on the shelves. I’m not sure of that importance as I listen today, but I am nostalgic. See, I actually performed on the album as a musician, of sorts.

The cut is the second track, All This and More. My girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend, Jim, was an assistant engineer on the album for Genya Ravan at Electric Ladyland. One day we were hanging out there, maybe waiting for him to get off work, when he brought us into the studio. It was the weekend, for sure, it wasn’t someplace we could wander in to usually. But on this day we got headphones and instructions to do the hand claps that lead off All This and More. And we did them and are on the record.

I think. Because I’m assuming our hand claps were good enough. I’m assuming that Genya didn’t get some other young people in to do better hand claps. No way to know that now. In any case they’re good claps. Not as good as the hand claps in the Stooges’ No Fun, but good enough for All This and More, which has one of the great weird first lines in all rock songs.

So, Gene reminded me that I probably performed on a record he thought should be in the Top 40 of Punk albums, even if it’s the elpee that displaces Blink 182.

What a joke.

In other words, we didn’t get any royalties or credit. And I haven’t played the record since before it came out, which I guess is why I forgot about this story. Until now. But there it is. History, perhaps.

 

Rolling Stone’s Top 40 Punk Albums of All Time is Alt Fact!

When it comes to pissing matches and irreconcilable pluralism, no one does it better than Rolling Stone magazine.

They decided to make a list of the 40 best punk rock albums of all time. But, they limited each band to one elpee.  While I can see the reason for the limitation, I think having decided upon it, they should have realized that calling it the Top 40 Punk Albums of All Time was a falsehood.

Also, should compilation records qualify? Singles Going Steady was almost contemporaneous, sort of, but the Bikini Kill singles album came out way later. Terminal Tower was kind of Pere Ubu’s Kinks Kronikles, but does that make it chartworthy?

Might not be a bad idea for us to play around with our own Top 10s, with as many elpees from any band as you feel is warranted in, in the comments. Think I’ll invite Dave Marsh to contribute. I’m sure he’s got a Bob Seger record in mind.

So here it is. Sharpen your knives. Have fun.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/40-greatest-punk-albums-of-all-time-20160406/ramones-ramones-1976-20160406

While reading, listen to this, ponder (and read fast).