One the lockdown started I started playing a decidedly retro playlist of tunes by singer songwriters of a long time ago. John Prine, who has Covid-19, was one of them. This song is like a movie.
This is one you may not have heard of. Or may have forgotten. The Golden Palominos were a working outfit from 1981 to 2012, when their last record came out. Their first album was a work of No Wave, a punk jazz fusion thing that highlighted bandleader Anton Fier’s massive drumming, and lots of skronking and wailing by downtown notables like John Zorn, Aarto Lindsey, Fred Frith, and bassist Bill Laswell, who played with the band consistently. I’m not impugning the first album, but like much of No Wave, the joys are hard earned. Worthwhile? Probably, but it is on their second album that Golden Palominos became music for minds like mine. This is a great rock record. For one thing it features guest vocals by Michael Stipe, John Lydon, and Jack Bruce. It has a cover of Skip Spence’s Omaha. Richard Thompson plays guitar. Carla Bley plays organ on Buenos Aires. And it introduces us to Syd Straw, who in subsequent permutations became one of the Palominos’s front people. I only saw them once, on stage at Studio 54, with the great Ordinaires opening for them. But this is a record that is heavy, jazzy, poppy, full of songwriters and singers, with great playing and a killer rhythm section. Try it out.
The song was written by Mickey Newbury, a famed Nashville songwriter, supposedly about the LSD experience. What I learned today is that while it was made into a hit by The First Edition, the first version was by Jerry Lee Lewis, who always rocks. One of the commentators on the above clip said to look for the Mickey Newbury version. Why not?
I can remember the first time I heard Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town. I was in the Grand Union supermarket in Smithtown NY. My memory is that I was buying a box of a new popcorn product that came in a black box (radical design back then) with lots of smart-alecky copy on it, but I can’t recall the product name (turns out Smartfood wasn’t introduced until 1985) and who really knows. But the song is a fact. It’s really an amazing song, catchy, spare, with a narrative that his expansive, as much not said as is said and implied, almost epic yet also close up and exact. Kenny Rogers didn’t write it, Mel Tillis did, and Waylon Jennings first recorded it in 1966, but it was Rogers and The First Edition who made it a hit in 1969. Ruby wasn’t The First Edition’s first hit. That was Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In), which is a pretty excellent example of commercial garage rock. Moyer would note the excellent face-making of the guitarist during his solo, and the excellent chops of the tambourine player. The First Edition eventually broke up and Rogers went on to have a long career as a MOR singer, bit actor, award-winning celebrity. His two No. 1 songs were Lady and Islands in the Stream, the latter with Dolly Parton. He also sang on We Are the World, for what it’s worth. He died earlier this week.
He played piano in John Coltrane’s great quartet in the early 60s. You can hear other great tracks here.
This post is about this odd project by Pink Floyd’s drummer, Nick Mason, who was looking to do his first solo project in 1979. After kicking some ideas around, undecided which way to go, the great jazz composer Carla Bley sent him a cassette of some “punk songs” she’d written. He decided to record them because he liked them and they were ready to go. He said, ” So I thought it would be much better to do that than to struggle desperately to find things that work together. The music is not punk rock (not close) and it’s not Pink Floyd (though closer). It is instead an odd melding of jazz and progressive rock that maybe tips its cap to Zappa, a little. But I’m not sure about all that. What I am sure is that they got it right, at least for me. This is a captivating synthesis of art rock and jazz that feels ornate and grand and yet not grandiose or bombastic. Maybe some of that is the lovely vocals by Robert Wyatt, who was once the vocalist for the Soft Boys. I’m A Mineralist is a good example of what’s going on here. Lyrical and then funky, by turns, maybe serious but then funny and not self-important. If you like it a little the album is worth checking out. The most atypical cut on the album is the first, which is the only one Wyatt does not sing on. Curiously, I just discovered that one of the voices on this fun cut is that of my old friend Vincent Chancey, who back then was playing French horn in Sun Ra’s Arkestra. I don’t recognize which one is his.
I’ve been listening to the Holy Modal Rounders, a band that is known for first using the word psychedelic in a song (!) and then became a big part of the Fugs for a while. So, the Rounders, East Village folkies with political and bluegrass roots, with a yen for spiritual awakening on many levels, and an antic sense of humor. A droll one, too. Also a love for songwriting and old timey music and new timey takes on old timey ways. Which doesn’t describe Boobs A Lot, a novelty song they wrote for the Fugs. The Fugs version is fun, a call and response thing. The Rounders version came out on their fifth album, Good Taste is Timeless, in 1971. As a college boy in Southern California in the mid 70s I discovered it as a staple on the Dr. Demento radio show on Sunday nights. What I remembered of the song was its delightful glee, but what I heard tonight was some pretty cool rocking, growing a solid Bo Diddley riff in a pretty clever way. A novelty song, sure, but a fun listen to for the music, too. At the end of the day, a rock song with novelty lyrics. So, to make this a shaggy dog story, when the Rounders album finished (I was making dinner), I for some reason thought about the Pink Faeries, a band I learned about five years ago. They were British psychedelic rockers from the early 70s, they grew out of a band called the Deviants that I haven’t looked up, but they then made some records that are uniformly excellent. Not because they’re polished, but because whether they’re covering Chuck Berry tunes or offering their originals, they have an inexhaustible drive (two drummers) and weaving guitars (two lead guitars) and the chops to make propulsive memorable rock. This is rock that managed in its time to bridge the Allman Brothers and the punk scene that was soon to come. Check out my previous posts for Pink Fairies (that was my spelling then) for some choice cuts, but today let’s admire Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout, from 1971 as well, which is a heavy metal tune that morphs into an exemplary jam band tune without apology. Before heavy metal and jam bands were a thing. And back again on this live track from the John Peel show. For me a big question is how much had Pink Fairies heard the Allman Brothers at this point. The Allmans were first. Part of this song leans heavily toward Morning Dew and Elizabeth Reed. And the double drummers compound the point. None of which is a bad thing, no matter who came first.
Steve Moyer named Rock Remnants. Our talks were beer besotted nights, but our confluence was Rock Remnants. The band Steve was in, Follow Fashion Monkeys, were huge in their local Lehigh Valley environment, and are gradually emerging as the history of Lehigh Valley hardcore emerges.
So, let’s start here. Tribute to Steve.
So, let’s start here. Tribute to Steve.
This band pushed their way to attention and success with rigorous playing and intelligence and that ineffable something more than striking songwriting, incisive propulsive guitar, and a killer rhythm section, something Andy Gill’s obits are calling genius. I might say talent, but whatever. This is their first single.
Read a bit about them in the upcoming shows list, and played their 2019 record. Good stuff. I won’t say this is the best, but it captures what they’re doing, a rock-soul mix that’s pretty irresistible because, songs are good.