Song of the Week – Man in the Moon, Village

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first time a man walked on the moon.  If you were alive at the time, you remember it like you remember where you were and what you were doing when America was attacked on 9/11.

I was totally into the space program.  I knew the names of all the rockets and loved to build and launch Estes model rockets.  I even built the Estes model of the Saturn V – The booster that launched the Apollo XI mission.

As you may predict, I need to find a song that is a proper tribute to the occasion.  There are hundreds (thousands?) of songs that make reference to the moon and I love many of them.  Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” immediately comes to mind, as does Van Morrison’s “Moondance.”  There are more obscure candidates like Television’s “Marquee Moon” or “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” but I’m still not there.

This being the song of the week, I need to go even more Obscure.  My pick is “Man in the Moon” by Village.  I’ll bet you never heard it!

One of the reasons I picked this song is because it is of its time.  It was released in 1969, the year of the moon landing, and has the psychedelic sound of its day.  The “Man in the Moon” single was even released on a label called Head!

The blog site Anorak Thing describes the track as follows:

“Man In The Moon” starts out with some ethereal organ and then gets a bit heavy with some great bottom end bass.  What I love about this record is it’s from 1969 and despite the organ work it’s not overly heavy like some of the plodding/wanky Deep Purple stuff of the period.  Halfway through it gets a bit “improvisational” but never too “way out” either.  It reminds me of early Atomic Rooster if they were a bit more “lysergic”.

Village was led by British R&B musician Peter Bardens and included Bill Porter on drums and bassist Peter Thomas, who would later to be in Elvis Costello’s Attractions.  Before Village, Bardens was in Them with Van Morrison (1965).  After Village, he would go on to found the progressive rock band Camel.

“That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”

Enjoy… until next week.

Darlingside, Hold Your Head Up High

I wrote about these guys a few years ago, posting one of their new wavey songs with an excellent video. That was then. After they made that good song their drummer left, and rather than replace him they remade themselves as a bizarrely earnest harmony band. They stand on the stage, no matter how big, closely together so they can hear their partners and make incredibly lovely harmonies. They played tonight in the park by our house, and we were jazzed. This is music that is far from rock, but also music that has no genre. I think sometimes they sound like Mumford and Sons, revivalists with big ideas, but they resist that. They aren’t old style. They’re still new-wavey, only they eschew the drum kit (they have a kick drum) and they love their voices, which they surely should. Moyer will roll over tonight. Good for him.
So, YouTube fed me this one I didn’t know. I like this band.

Al Green, To Sir With Love

I remember driving in the car somewhere with my dad, maybe to the library, which is a place we went every week. What I remember is trying to explain how much I loved this song, the Lulu version, even though every part of me that had any aesthetic sense of value versus cheese knew that it was Top 40 folderol. I might have phrased it that way, that’s the sort of kid I was. But I didn’t hear this version until today. When Al Green proves that with Willie Mitchell almost anything can work. Excellent song. h/t Darrin Viola.

Song of the Week – Good Times, Chic

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the (in)famous “disco sucks” night at Comiskey Park in Chicago.  The event was officially called the Disco Demolition.

A local radio DJ, Steve Dahl, lost his job when his station went to an all disco format in response to the trend of the day.  I did a little research and was surprised to see that most of the hits that held the #1 spot on the Billboard singles chart in 1979 were disco (OK, maybe some were R&B) tracks.  This week in 1979, Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” was #1, “Hot Stuff” was #3 and Chic’s “Good Times” was at #13 – with a bullet.

When Dahl landed at another rock station, he decided to seek revenge and would “explode” disco records on the air.

“Back in the day when we had turntables, I would drag the needle across the record and blow it up with a sound effect, and people liked that.”

He decided to take this a step further and stage an actual demolition of disco records at Comiskey.  He persuaded the White Sox to co-sponsor a promotion that would allow fans to attend a twi-night double header against the Detroit Tigers for less than $1 if they would bring a disco record to be demolished in a center field explosion between games.

About 50,000 people showed up, way more than the typical 16k that attended most games.  The park’s security at the event wasn’t up to the task of crowd control.  Thousands of fans poured onto the field in a riot.  They stole the bases and tore up the field, forcing the second game to be postponed.

Here’s a short ESPN documentary about the event.

Ya know, at the time I was one of those “disco sucks” rockers.   But today, I kind of like to hear the best of those songs.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – The Things That I Used to Do, Guitar Slim

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Guitar Slim cut a record for the Specialty label in 1953 that would play a significant role in the history of rock & roll – not only for the singular performance but also for the impact it would have on future artists.  The track was produced by a then 23-year-old Ray Charles!

Slim applied his trademark distortion on “The Things That I Used to Do,” an effect that influenced guitarist legends.  You can connect his sound to guitarists from bluesmen Buddy Guy and Albert Collins to iconoclast Frank Zappa.  Hendrix, Johnny Winter, and Stevie Ray Vaughn recorded versions of Slim’s standard as did Elvin Bishop, Ike & Tina Turner, and countless others.

This Hendrix recording was released on the 2018 album Both Sides of the Sky.  It was cut at a session that featured Winter joining Hendrix on a second guitar, Billy Cox on bass and Dallas Taylor (who was playing with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at the time) on drums.

“The Things That I Used to Do” was voted as one of the 500 that shaped the rock genre by former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator, James Henke.

Enjoy… until next week.

Gary Duncan Has Died

I didn’t know Duncan by name, but he was a vocalist and guitar player in the Quicksilver Messenger Service, one of the great San Francisco bands of the late 60s. Quicksilver made a great impression on me with the brilliantly adolescent and epic first song on their first album.
QSM were nothing if not quintessential hippies, living on a commune, jamming constantly, living on health food and drugs, as this obit describes. But Duncan had an earlier incarnation as a musician in The Brogues, whose I Ain’t No Miracle Worker was included on Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets collection.

Song of the Week – 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Tom Robinson Band

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

This weekend marks the end of LGBT Pride Month.  June was selected as Pride Month to recognize the landmark Stonewall riot, 50 years ago yesterday, on June 28th, 1969, in Greenwich Village, New York.  This incident is often cited as one of the most significant events that triggered the modern gay rights movement in the US.

Today’s SotW celebrates gay lib in song – “2-4-6-8 Motorway” by the Tom Robinson Band.

“2-4-6-8 Motorway” was released in 1977 and reached #5 on the UK charts.  Though it didn’t make the pop charts in the US, it did receive significant airplay on FM Rock radio.

The song has two sides to it.  On the one hand, it is about driving a “lorry” through the night to the early morning.

And it’s two four six eight, never too late
Me and my radio trucking on through the night
Three five seven nine, on a little white line
Motorway sun coming up with the morning light.

The tie into the gay liberation movement comes to those enlightened with a familiarity of the popular gay lib chant “2,4,6,8, Gay is twice as good as straight… 3,5,7,9, Lesbians are mighty fine”.

Robinson also recorded the much more obvious “Glad to be Gay” that was included on his 1978 album, Rising Free.

We’ve come a long way since Stonewall and Robinson’s anthems, but we have further to go to ensure the rights of the LGBT community – especially for transgender individuals.  That’s why Pride Month remains relevant today.

Enjoy… until next week.

Mannequin Pussy, Fear/+/Desire

But maybe it’s not a problem. There is a lot to like about this song. Dreamy and meandering with a wash of rhythm underneath, it’s kind of lovely, which makes it like loud folk rock. In any case, here’s a heads up.
I keep listening to this, seduced by the wiry guitars and solid drums, and realize I’ve wandered into a pretty powerful description of sexual power and the dynamics that ensue.

I feel callow, but am glad to be here.

Peter and Gordon, A World Without Love

There’s a new movie out from Danny Boyle, who made Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, called Yesterday, about an indie Indian rocker who has an accident and wakes up in a world without Beatles. As in, a world in which he knows the Beatles music but no one else knows of it. I don’t know if this is a good premise for a movie, I have my doubts, but it surfaced this charming story of Peter and Gordon, guys who should have been remnants, but who kept getting hit songs, starting with this one Paul McCartney wrote when he was 16.
This story in Slate is terrific filling in the details.