Song of the Week – Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, The Jam

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Back in late 1977, The Jam finished their second album, This Is the Modern World, and quickly left the UK for their first US tour. It was going to be a quick but important tour, covering six shows over nine days. It started with a west coast swing at the Whisky A Go Go in LA and San Francisco, then went east to Boston (The Rat) and NY (CBGB’s).

The tour was widely considered a disaster. Bandleader Paul Weller was homesick for London so his heart wasn’t into it. (Plus, the 19 year old was pissed that he wasn’t able to drink in the bars he was playing like he could in England where the drinking age was younger.) Equipment problems in SF caused them to cancel a show that was intended to be a major showcase for music industry bigwigs.

I was lucky enough to see the Boston show on October 13, 1977, as a guest of Polydor Records. (I was a DJ at WZBC at the time.) I remember meeting a guy who introduced himself to me as “Mark Parenteau of WCOZ.” I innocently asked him if he was “on air.” He replied “I do the fucking afternoon drive.” I didn’t mean to insult him but how would I know? I didn’t listen to commercial radio at the time. Mark went on to a long and illustrious career at COZ and WBCN but died at 66 years old in mid-2016.

But let’s get back to The Jam.

This Is the Modern World is a decent album but was considered a typical sophomore slump for the band upon release. The awful US tour and disappointing reception for This Is the Modern World was incentive for Weller to dig deeper and come up with better material. He answered the call and returned to form on their third release – All Mod Cons (1978). It is often considered the best album in the Jam’s strong catalog. Chris Woodstra of All Music wrote “Terms like ‘classic’ are often bandied about but in the case of All Mod Cons, it is certainly deserved.” MOJO wrote it “… still stands as The Jam’s finest hour.”

Its best song was “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight.”

The song tells the story of a guy who gets into an altercation with a gang in the London subway. They beat the crap out of him, leave him semi-conscious and take his money and the keys to his house. As he lies there he begins to worry about the safety of his wife, waiting for him at home.

The last thing that I saw as I lay there on the floor
Was “Jesus saves” painted by an atheist nutter
And a British rail poster read “have an away day, a cheap holiday, do it today”
I glanced back on my life, and thought about my wife
‘Cause they took the keys, and she’ll think it’s me
I’m down in the tube station at midnight

Tough stuff!

Enjoy… until next week.

New Speakers in My Life

For weeks I had a blown speaker. At first I was busy, then I was lazy, then I started digging on Roxy with a single channel, and otherwise hearing little things I had missed in songs I knew very well. You should try it with Roxy, or with one of the great dense production albums like Exile or Layla or – check it out – Cry of Love. Hendrix ain’t on youtube except for live stuff (some of which is great), and I hope that forces everybody who doesn’t own it to buy that album. I think it’s his best, which ain’t saying much unless you go for that oh wow doodling that stops all his other albums in their tracks. Makes me wanna drop Orange Sunshine into my eyes and become a strobe.

So finally I broke down and bought new ones. Actually, my sweet baby bought ’em for me today. Vic thinks of everything and makes me do things I like. So I hauled the box down to my cave and spent my usual befuddled half-hour trying to assemble the wires and plot an installing strategy. Detatching the old stuff proved impossible withour a forklift – cables running behind my massive desk-bookshelf-table-for-four – so I had to cut the wires.

The key new piece is a subwoofer. That threw me. I know mono and stereo and even remember quadraphonic but three speakers is new to me. When I hear subwoofers on the street I always have to take a shit – there’s the generation gap right there – but I have to admit the setup sounds great. We’ll see if I make it to the bathroom tomorrow morning.

Jimi live before he began indulging himself:

 

Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Passenger

Saw I, Tonya tonight. It’s well worth seeing, a grand entertainment, as they say, in a theater. On TV it will look like something that elected Trump.

The closing credits are this Iggy Pop song by Siouxie and the Banshees, which is worth a listen.

Though in all fairness, we should also link to the original. Well, not recording, but amazing live performance.

 

Song of the Week Revisited – Rocket Man, Pearls Before Swine & The Man in the Moon, Grinderman

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

I recently learned that Tom Rapp, a psych-folk innovator and the creative force behind Pearls Before Swine, has died after a long bout with cancer. This news has prompted me to pay him tribute by revisiting a SotW posting I originally distributed on April 4, 2009. You can read his full obituary here:

Back in the late 60s/early 70s, Tom Rapp recorded several fine “psychedelic folk” albums with his band Pearls Before Swine. His finest was The Use of Ashes (1970). This album was recorded in Nashville with some of the same session men (Charlie McCoy & Kenny Buttrey) used by Bob Dylan on Nashville Skyline and John Wesley Harding.

That album’s “Rocket Man” (not to be confused with the Elton John/Bernie Taupin song used in a recent episode of My Name Is Earl) is my favorite and this week’s song. The lyrics were inspired by Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” and tell the story of a son’s astronaut father that dies in space:

My father was a rocket man
He often went to Jupiter or Mercury, to Venus or to Mars
My mother and I would watch the sky
And wonder if a falling star
Was a ship becoming ashes with a rocket man inside

I was first turned onto Rapp and Pearls by my brother and his college buddies (they were big in Boston). A couple of years ago my buddy Joe M. (the drummer in San Diego’s Pink Floyd tribute band) revived my interest in these records when he let me borrow a boxed set he picked up. It wasn’t until this more current listening that I picked up on Rapp’s Carol Channingesque lisp. How did I miss it all the times I listened to this song/album in the 70s?

If you get a chance, listen to “The Jeweler” from the same album. It’s truly a gem. (Sorry!)

I was recently reading a MOJO article on Nick Cave and learned that his Grinderman song “The Man in the Moon” has a very similar feel and lyrical content, so I have to include that as a second song of the week.

My daddy was an astronaut
That’s what I was often taught
My daddy went away too soon
Now he’s living on the moon

Hang on to me people, we’re going down
Down among the fishes in an absence of sound
It’s the presence of distance and it’s floating in time
It’s lack and it’s longing and it’s not very kind

Sitting here scratching in this rented room
Scratching and a tapping to the man in the moon
About all the things that I’ve been taught
My daddy was an astronaut

They’re perfect bookends.

Enjoy… until next week.

Clapton/Gibson/Fender

I’m not much of a Clapton fan. As a matter of fact, anything he did in the past 25 years I likely don’t know.

But there’s a new Showtime doc on Clapton that you guys are bound to run into pretty soon. I stumbled into it and was interested enough to stick with it from about Cream through the middle of Clapton horndogging after George Harrison’s wife. Switched to the local news then, but I recorded it to watch the rest of what I want to later.

Anyway, Clapton went to see the Allmans. which led to the recording of Layla, of course. What struck me was a quote from Duane Allman saying something like, “I played the Gibson all the way through and he played the Fender all the way through.”

The movie then plays the Allman Layla guitar track naked and I never realized how much that gritty Gibson undertune contributes to the greatness of the song.

Forgive me if this is common knowledge to the Dave Marshers. I point it out because the Dave Marshers usually point out stuff like lyrics and jazz.

I’ve always been a Gibson man.

Wish I had the naked Allman track, but the best I can do is the whole song. Hopefully you can pick out the Gibson base guitar part (not bass guitar part). Watch the movie.

Jean Fleety

Is there a hotter true rock band these days than Greta and her young (Van) Fleet? These guys are gonna be BIG if they’re not already. Almost saw them months ago in some little club in Lancaster for like $15 but by the time I found someone to go, tix were like $150.

Heard this recently and like it pretty good. A little like if prime Zep covered the Genie.

Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson

While we go afield, here’s a tune from Saturday Night Live a bit ago.

Chris Stapleton is the biggest rock guy in country music. Think music.

Sturgill Simpson is the songwriter of country life. Think words.

Here the two of them offer awesome guitar solos, and a classic country theme. On Saturday night TV.

I’m glad to have heard it. And won’t ever likely hear it again.

Sturgill Simpson, You Can Have the Crown/Some Days

A few years ago I heard about this country songwriter named Sturgill Simpson. In recent years what I’ve heard from him has been clever and smarty, and not that interesting.

But this clip, from 2014, is surely the reason folks have been talking about all his talent. This is good stuff, if you like this stuff.