Night Music: Marshall Crenshaw, “Someday, Someway”

We are up at the Tahoe house for a week which means no TV (save DVDs) and no radio (save streaming).  Right now it means pouring down rain banging off our metal roof, and maybe in a few hours it will mean the first snow drop of the year. Irrespective, we need the water, so bring it on.

But, it also means I am near KTKE HQ in Truckee, and while streaming this morningDJ Lindsday with an A spun this great Marshall Crenshaw tune from his equally fine self titled debut disc from 1982.

I had high hopes for Crenshaw and his Hollyesque delivery (these days I reserve that for Jake Bugg) and saw Crenshaw in the early 90’s at the Fillmore. He was good enough (and paired with the great Jimmy Dale Gilmore) but he hadn’t really advanced much beyond that first album.

Which is ok, I suppose. I just hope for growth out of an artist I like. Still, a tight little cut.

Sine qua non

Now that he’s made it to Viagra commercials might as well hear other great ones. As much as I hate to see the commercials they do get the music out there. We shouldn’t be snobby. My son Peter was at a high school dance last night and the DJ played Smokestack Lightning and the kids danced to it. This shit is eternal, and lest I stand accused of favoring my own era the 50s are not my era. I was born in 1955. I hardly heard any 50s music until WCBS-FM in New York became an “oldies” station in 1971, which then basically meant the 50s. At that time I 15-16 years old and was way into the Stones, Beatles, Led Zep, etc. No doubt age 16 is still the formative years, so in that sense sure it’s part of my formation, but I came to realize then and since that almost everything I like is variations and developments on blues, doo wop, and rocknroll/rockabilly. And Howlin Wolf is just in a class by himself. He’s like Ty Cobb – few you CAN compare him to and those few, well, Muddy Waters is Tris Speaker.


Song of the Week – What Is and What Should Never Be, Led Zeppelin


Today’s post will be short and sweet. (I’m still jet lagged due to my return flight from Europe yesterday.)

Wednesday, October 22nd, marks the 45th anniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin II (1969). The album quickly ran up to the top position on the worldwide charts – knocking The Beatles’ Abbey Road out of that spot here in the US. They just don’t make ‘em like they used to, do they?

The SotW is “What Is and What Should Never Be.”

The song was one of the first to have lyrics contributed by Robert Plant. It’s a slow blues that uses the soft/loud dynamic that Led Zeppelin employed to such great effect. MOJO recently made a list of the 50 Greatest Zeppelin Songs and WIaWSNB came in at #26. Writer Clive Prior had this to say about it.

Plant’s half-whispered, phased vocal is both seductive and covert, the invitation to his lady friend to visit his nearby castle sounding playful as well as slightly absurd on a song of alleged deep confession. Then in a dramatic vocal switch, he assumes his strutting Golden God persona, his strident vocal bursting dramatically forth. Page’s intimate production adds a smoothness to the atmospherics served up by Jones and Bonham, the drummer’s gong pressed into service for the first time on record at 1:09 to shimmering effect.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – That’s When I Reach For My Revolver, Mission of Burma


This post was originally mailed to my distribution list on October 11th.

Mission of Burma is one of my favorite Boston bands. (Those of you that have been following the SotW for a while have probably noticed that I write about Boston bands a lot… maybe too much.)

The band formed in 1979 when I was still a post grad DJ at WZBC (Boston College’s radio station). We were giving air time to many of the great local bands (Human Sexual Response, The Neighborhoods, etc.) a little ahead of the commercial stations in the city. That was the niche we were cultivating thanks in large part to people like Herb Scannell (GM) who later went on to a very successful career in the television media and Dave Herlihy who coined the station s “No Commercial Potential” tag line (and was a founder of the band O Positive). But I digress.

MoB consisted of Roger Miller (guitar), Clint Conley (bass) and Peter Prescott (drums). They also would sometimes call on Martin Swope who would work some magic as a sound shaper by manipulating tape recordings. The band only managed to stay together for 4 years and recorded one single, one EP (Signals, Call and Marches), and one proper album, (Vs). This entire output was compiled into a CD titled simply Mission of Burma.

The SotW is “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver”, written and sung by Conley and original on the Signals… EP.

Bill Janovitz wrote a great description of the song at

The Mission of Burma original version of “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” opens with a flatly recorded, ringing bass minor-chord line that forms the core of the arrangement. A chiming guitar enters soon after mimicking the hook. The flatness and the minor key portends gloom. The starkly poetic lyrics do not betray this mood; they suggest an alienated man who has reached his limits and who explodes on the chorus, “that’s when I reach for my revolver/that’s when it all gets blown away.”

The songs arrangement and use of “soft/loud” dynamics provide the clues necessary to connect the dots from MoB to Husker Du to The Pixies to Nirvana. Clint Conley’s ranting vocal may even serve as the template for the hardcore vocal style to develop later, but they’re not quite as harsh.

And, at about 2:25, the song busts into one of the coolest bass solos since John Entwistle’s freak out on “My Generation.”

If you want to learn more about the band, try to find a copy of the documentary Not a Photograph: The Mission of Burma Story (2006) on DVD or to stream.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Black and White, Parquet Courts


This post was originally mailed to my distribution list on October 4th.

A band that is currently on the indie rock circuit is Brooklyn (yes, another one from Brooklyn) based Parquet Courts. Their third album, Sunbathing animals, has been out for a few months now. I’ve been checking it out on Spotify and really enjoy the whole album. But “Black and White” stands out to me for its up tempo, post-punk drive – so it is today’s SotW. (It’s also the song they played on Seth Meyer’s late night show earlier this year.)

“Black and White” has a Velvet Underground/Television/Sonic Youth vibe to it – repetitive strumming and droning lead and a feedback laced freak out.

The lyrics communicate the difficulty and frustration of trying to balance how to continue to be fresh and creative when you’re trapped by the mundane tedium of constant touring. Here’s the second verse.

There’s a sinful sort of side of being
So contained, a bit like being lost
Stumbling through the background like a small town loner
Quietly a-whisperin’ my thoughts into my cupped hands
Folded and monk-like, at least that’s what I’ve always said
How does writing letters from the lonely margins feel
When there is no hair on my head?
Is the solitude I seek a trap where I’ve been blindly led?
Tell me, where then do I go instead?

Parquet Courts is another contemporary band worth keeping an eye on.

Enjoy… until next week.

Night Music: Neil Young, “Old Man”

I’m ambivalent about many Neil Young songs.

This one is utterly beautiful. So is a Man Needs a Maid. And the Needle and the Damage Done. But the content doesn’t always match the package.

That said, I love this clip. I’m going to see my old man in a few hours, and whether I like it or not I’m a lot like he is (this is what led me to this tune tonight).

Lunch Break: The Silos, “Let’s Go Get Some Drugs and Drive Around”

In the darkness of the late 80s there were the Silos.

Like the Mekons they had a fiddle. They also had a big drum sound, and spoke the vernacular English.

Like the Mekons they never had a hit, and maybe came even more unclose. They don’t rock nearly as hard as the Mekons, and didn’t endure nearly as long, since they were mostly a one-man band. Eventually he went solo, which made not much difference except his nut was smaller.

Is that a good thing?

But if you’re mixing up rock and folk, smarts and rock, this is a pretty fine band to have.

Breakfast Blend: The Wrens

I first heard this band with their third album, called the Meadowlands, after their New Jersey homelands.

What I hear in them is the sound of the Flaming Groovies without the Flaming’s complicated relation to garage and camp. And with a more stately rhythm, at least most of the time.

In other words, sincerely trying to make pop music in the guitarists dining room. Who doesn’t root for that.

These guys could have sold out magnificently, and it accrues to them positively that they don’t seem to have given that much thought. But it would be nice if some big star, looking for a fine tune, might find them. And their songs. This is nice music.