More Kevin Bacon

Good Old Boys made me think of Waylon Jennings and Waylon Jennings made me think of my favorite Waylon song, Honky Tonk Heroes written by Billy Joe Shaver.

If there’s a morality tale in this song I don’t know what it is and I don’t much care. I particularly like when it kicks in at about 1:30 and I like even better when it kicks out with the riff at 3:20.

It’s a testament to the musical world we live in that everybody has a Johnny Cash shirt, no one has a Waylon Jennings shirt and no one even knows who Billy Joe Shaver is. (No offense to Johnny Cash – it’s not his fault.)

Robbie Robertson Goes to Little Willie John, and then to Hell?

A few weeks back Peter noted some great stuff about Little Willie John on the site.

And, that kicked my brain cells back to Robbie Robertson’s eponymously named debut album which is a killer in my meager opinion.

Employing Peter Gabriel and U2 and the Bodeans among others to help with instruments and especially vocals, the album really goes all over the map musically, with each song a little stronger than the cut before.

This one, Somewhere Down the Crazy River is clearly the one that tripped the Little Willie John wires:

But, this song, Hell’s Half Acre is as driving and kickass a rocker as ever lived. I can actually leave it in a loop for five or six playings on my phone it is so good and visceral.

Here is hoping everyone out there has a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday!

Cooking with Little Willie John

I was making dinner tonight. Sauteed green beans and broccoli rabe with a creamy lime dressing, and some shrimps. For some reason I put on Little Willie John, who I see has been referenced on the site only once. His biggest hit, a John Cooley/Otis Blackwell tune called Fever, is no remnant. But I think we’ve been neglecting a great singer who sang great songs.

Mr. John, as the Times would say (no they wouldn’t), was a hit making machine for a while, and like many hit making abusers of alcohol, he died in jail.

His brother wrote this song.

This is a terrific song. This is the version I hear when I think of the song.

This is great.

So is this. This is the blues.

Charming interview with LWJ’s sons and biographer. A story of Detroit.

Seu Jorge

My girlfriend’s taking me to see Seu Jorge 9/30 in Philly. Like everyone else on the planet, I was turned on to Seu Jorge via Life Aquatic.

I think a dog could bark Life On Mars and it would be beautiful, but this moves me. I think I like Jorge singing Bowie even better than I like Ferry singing Dylan (and that says a lot).

Prog Rock Episode

I loved ELP’s version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

I loved Yes. I liked the Moody Blues. Fucking King Crimson.

Kelefah Sanneh wrote about prog rock in the New Yorker earlier this year. You can read his excellent piece here.

I loved much of this music. Virtuosity was important, but so was a big bottom. In my memory this was music that pounded was aggressive, like rock, but also exulted in notes and playing, and felt really good.

Sanneh gets that, which is why I’m here.

One thing I remember was that Scott Muni, the program director of WNEW as well as DJ, would often put on a whole side of Yes or the Moody Blues in order to take meetings while DJing. That usually worked, though WE knew.

There are lots of good suggestions about what you should listen to in Sanneh’s story, so go and listen to them. I’ve had three conversations in recent weeks about the Mahavishnu Orchestra. As Sanneh says, not prog, but passing.

And more than anything, you should listen to Bitches Brew.

 

 

 

Obituary: Walter Becker (February 20, 1950-September 3, 2017)

Walter Becker, co-founder, guitar, bass player, and songwriter for Steely Dan has passed away from and undisclosed illness.

I pretty much dismissed the band following the release of their first single, Reelin’ in the Years, thinking it was a solid enough pop tune, but not thinking that much of the band, kind of the same as I liked Radiohead’s Creep when it was released never thinking what an incredible and rich catalog of tunes the band would produce.

In fact the analogy works for me since I bought both bands’ first albums, Can’t Buy a Thrill (Steely Dan) and Pablo Honey (Radiohead) liking the works in general, but never really suspecting how sophisticated the development of the band’s respective music would become.

But, starting with Countdown to Ecstasy, Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, and then The Royal Scam, the Dan produced four albums that are as good, interesting, musically listenable and challenging as anything any performer could make

In fact, I think when I noted bands with three brilliant consecutive albums, Tom rightfully put Steely Dan’s–named for a chromed dildo in William Burrough’s Naked Lunch–list from above starting and stopping wherever you want, even adding Can’t Buy a Thrill on the front and Aja the back end.

I have to admit that with the band’s final big commercial success with Aja I became disinterested, slightly because it felt like I had been there before with the band, and partly because I was seriously into Punk and British Power Pop by then.

And, I had no interest in the band reforming and was no more interested in seeing their reunion than I would have been The Doobie Brothers or The Moody Blues.

Still, the band killed it for ten years with fantastic melodies and obscure interesting lyrics and a cluster of albums I still love.

Later Walter. Thanks for an incredible body of work and hours of pleasure. Here is a fave of mine.

The Kings

I’ve had a week with the new Queens of the Stone Age album Villians and it is truly a monster. It is the best album of 2017. There’s hardly a reason for anyone to release anything else. It should win every award.

Dense, lush, intense. Lots of melodies and harmonies and multi-layered interplay between guitars and bass and vocals and keys and synths (not a bad thing). Soaring and singing, melodic dissonance.

All the songs are good. Most are great. Most are long. This is an album to be taken seriously, to be consumed in its entirety. Over and over again.

Gene presented The Pillows a few weeks ago and asked, “if not this band, then who?” I will say, for me, it’s the Queens. They are leaps and bounds ahead of any other new music being made today. They would stand their ground in any era. Josh Homme is a musical genius.

This is my favorite song, for now at least. It’s a good sample of what makes the Queens so special, although most other songs on the album aren’t far behind. Pay particular attention to when the main riff sneaks back in (via synth), after the stoopid punk rock part kicks in.

Thank goodness there’s something that rises above the cesspool that is today’s music.

You Really Got Me: The Locomotion, Little Eva

Of course, once again I was in the car, driving to the links, when the Locomotion came on my shuffle.

I can write a lot about the song, How it nailed me (as documented) at family camp. How it is just a killer Goffin/King song with that monster sax grooving with the machine gun snare to start, and then drive the song.

But, when I was listening the other day I thought “man, I first heard this song in 1962 and it still sounds as good to me today as it did then.”

So, I started thinking about other  songs like that, and the Kinks, You Really Got Me was the first to pop into my head and that seemed an apropos title for a new category of fun.

The parms are just that: a song that nailed you first time and always, but, the caveat is that you have to remember distinctly where you first heard it.

So, here are six of mine in no particular order (and, though both You Really Got Me and the Locomotion match the category, I went to other songs for my list):

Drug Test, Yo La Tengo: I read about Yo La Tengo for the first time in the Utne Reader as their critic, I think named Jay Waljasper, waxed on for a couple of albums worth about how great this band I never had heard of was. So, kind of like Steve went to see Baby Driver to prove to himself it was lousy, I bought President Yo La Tengo/New Wave Hot Dog to prove to myself that the Tengo were nothing. This was 1998, and the opening track, Banaby Hardly Working was ok, but the second cut, Drug Test came smoking out of the car stereo and it remains an all-time favorite song. Needless to say, Waljasper was right: I own seven of the bands discs and have seen them three times.

Please Please Me, The Beatles: My family all lived in London and my cousin Eve sent us a copy of Please Please Me on Parlaphone records in 1963 and it completely knocked my socks off. I remember putting on our little Philco phonograph, and that we didn’t need to use the little center spindle thing for 45 rpm singles because British singles did not have that gaping hole in the middle. The couplet “It’s so hard to reason, I do all the pleasin’ with you…” still stands as one of my all time favorites.

Holidays in the Sun, The Sex Pistols: I had heard of Johnny and the Sex Pistols, as they were referred to in the San Francisco Chronicle and was dubious. But, in October of 1977 I went to London for the first time to meet my cousins and travel some. I was taking a bath in my grandmother’s house which was a 150-year old Victorian, listening to Top of the Pops on my aunt’s funky transistor which was on the floor and pow, the #1 song of the week blew me away.

Borrow Your Cape, Bobby Bare, Jr: I hit pay-dirt with an Amazon order around 2007 when I bought my niece Lindsay a couple of discs from Amazon for her birthday. At the bottom of the page was one of those, “people who liked this, liked that” and The Longest Meow by Bobby Bare, Jr and his Starving Criminal Brigade was the disc. “What the fuck?” I thought to myself and I bought it (a lot of four and five star reviews on Amazon) and man is it a killer album. And, Borrow Your Cape is my fave. The Biletones even covered it for a while.

Complete Control, The Clash: I was totally caught up with the punks and saw every band I could in the process, including the Pistols final performance at Winterland, and the Clash four times. I was going to sleep, though, shortly after my return from my European trip of ’77, smoking a doobie when Complete Control came on during Richard Gosset’s evening show on KSAN. By the time the second solo began I was totally lost in it. Still am.

Modern Love, Peter Gabriel: I was standing in Odyssey Records on the Ave in Berkeley in late 1977 when Gabriel’s first album came out, and the crew at the record store put the album on. So, as I was browsing Modern Love and Solsbury Hill came on and I bought the album without having ever heard any of the rest. I still love Modern Love.