Allman Brothers, One Way Out

Sonny Boy Williamson wrote this song, or maybe he wrote it with Elmore James. Or they wrote it together with another guy, too. Someone knows the story, and he’s probably gone.

This cut is live, comes from the Fillmore East but was from the last show ever at the Fillmore East, in 1971, not at the other shows in which the band made their bones at that place.

It’s a remarkable cut. Berry Oakley is percolating and that great rhythm section is propulsive. The guitars are sweet, and Gregg sings. You taught me good. This band was great at getting jazzy and improving and turning meh lyrics into musical profundity, but given this piece of meat they come back concise, energetic, and unbeatable. In other words, with the best.

Chuck Berry Is On Top

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28740659

Dick Clark introduces an appearance by Berry promoting this album and stumbles over the title, with the audience tittering at the double entendre. Really?

It is 1959, and, as Clark mentions, this is an album that has on it Carol, Maybelline, Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Little Queenie and many more.

Those were the days of album oriented rock. Not.

It’s an incredible trove, not a greatest hits album, that the Rolling Stones particularly mined for their early (and later) setlists.

Berry, of course, looks right at home playing along to this other cut, Back in the USA, that is also on Chuck Berry is on Top, with the totally white and polite audience clapping along.

 

 

Good Songs, Bad Songs (You Know I’ve Had My Share)

My buddy Les Ogilby, who plays a fantastic blues harp–on occasion with the Biletones–and is as much of a music junkie as the rest of us (Les has contributed to the site, in fact) gave me a great disc with a bunch of cool less than widely known tunes, and one of the songs on it was this fantastic cover of Louie Louie by the Flamin’ Groovies (note the drummer has a real Boris Karloff look to him, and the bassist is on a Hofner!).

As I was listening and thinking about how simple this song is, the thought brought me back to Spirit in the Sky, another simple song that was a hit, but that is flat out weak compared to Louie Louie.

One reason we know the superiority is Louie Louie I believe is the most recorded pop tune, while anyone covering Greenbaum has been crucified.

Some of what works are the words, for one thing that drives me nuts about Greenbaum’s song is the “couplet:”

“When I die and they lay me to rest,

I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best.”

To say that is third grade poetry is an insult to eight-year olds everywhere. I mean that second line could have been “I love god it’s in him I invest” or “I’ll sleep with a heavenly crest” or “I’ll be denied because of incest” or something slightly more sophisticated. Not that Louie Louie has complex words, but part of the charm is like a good rock tune, the words are garbled and subject to urban myth and conjecture providing part of the essence of how Aristotle defined what poetry should do: teach and delight.

But, then I was streaming some New Wave stuff and on came a fantastic Johnny Thunders cover of the Shangri Las Give Him a Great Big Kiss, another tune that could easily be so tawdry and awful in the Honey/Teen Angel kind of sense, but somehow the song kills both in the hands of the Shangri Las and Thunders.

Anyway, I am not sure exactly where this is going. For sure I dig both these covers and was looking for an excuse to write about them, but, again, Kiss is such a simple song (two chords for the verse, two more for the chorus) and like Louie Louie it all works so well.

Maybe someone can explain that fine line to me between genius and stupid? I do know Einstein said “the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” True words for these times.

Classic Discs Versus Teen Faves Versus Artistic Growth

In the process of discussing our teen favorites, Tom pointed to the incredible run of brilliant albums Steveland Wonder released and I commented, noting that I felt Talking Book, Fulfillingness First Finale, and Innervisions were on my list of artists who produced three just brilliant albums in a row.

Also added in were:

  • Blue/Ladies of the Canyon/Court and Spark (Joni Mitchell)
  •  Beggars Banquet, Let it Bleed/Sticky Fingers (Stones)
  • Revolver/Rubber Soul/Sgt. Pepper (Beatles)
  • Bringing it all Back Home/Highway 61/Blonde on Blonde

Elvis Costello (first three) and Neil Young (Goldrush through Harvest) also made it once the list was initiated, and Prince just missed. But Steve made suggestions of Alice Cooper, the Ramones, and AC/DC which I quickly dismissed

This does not mean I don’t love Road to Ruin and Love it to Death but if we look at Cooper and Steve’s example, maybe I can explain the difference, at least as I mean it.

Love it to Death triggered three wonderful albums from the Alice Cooper band, but the third, School’s Out was a little thin in my view, and Love it to Death included the throwaway Black Juju, an immediate disqualifier.

Why, you ask?

Because in looking at the records produced by the Beatles for example, in Rubber Soul the band clearly kicked their songwriting to a deeper level with the focus of their lyrics moving to a new level, not just for the band, but for pop music. The Fab Four continued this growth, both lyrically and sonic-ally with Revolver, and then even further with Sgt. Pepper. The same can be said about Wonder, Dylan, Mitchell, the Stones, Costello, and Young, all of whom have challenged themselves and their sound, pushing into new directions, and delivering breathing works that pushed the groups collaborative art to a new level.

Not that Love it to Death isn’t art, or a fantastic album, but as good as the record is, by Killer, the band was still spot on musically and lyrically, but while 18 might really fit what I defined above, nothing else on any of the three suggested Cooper albums suggests or provides any kind of growth of the group’s art and sound any further than where it was.

Not that this means Cooper or AC/DC or any performer(s) should be dismissed, but, there is a major difference between releasing three very strong discs that contain great songs, but all basically of the same ilk, as opposed to the other artists who truly moved their skills and experience to a different level.

Snotty? Maybe.

Elistist? Maybe.

But, well, hard to argue? I don’t know.

Have at it, and just to show I understand my roots, let’s leave with Alice, and as good a garage tune as you will ever hear. It is just the individual tune does not the album or artistic value of the relative catalog make.

 

 

Make that Sir Ray

I was having my monthly Skype conversation with my cousin Eve, and her husband Jim last Tuesday when they mentioned that the wonderful Ray Davies had been knighted.

Eve and Jim live in London, and Jim, in particular, is as huge a Kinks fan as am I, and Eve is not that far behind, I suspect.

So, I thought that alone was worth mentioning, but in deference to Coachella and what seems to be a lack of anything creative or new or interesting–at least to us–in the music world, I thought going back to this great Kinks cut from a vastly underrated Kinks album, Muswell Hillbilly was perfect.

I do think of all the songwriters to come out of the rock era, Ray was the cleverest lyricist and social critic while also being the Noel Coward of the last wave of pop tune-smiths, hence the knighthood is really appropriate.

As for Jim and my love for the Kinks, my grandmother’s house, on Holders Hill Road, was in Finchley, just up the road from Muswell Hill, so I always think if Granny and the Davies family being neighbors.

Way to go Ray! Love ya forever.

 

Afternoon Snack: London Tornadoes/Bill Frisell, “Telstar”

I remember the big breakthrough of the London Tornadoes’ (note the Internet does not acknowledge the “e” in Tornadoes, but the band’s drum kit certainly does)  hit Telstar was that the song was 3:15, that making it the first top 40 song in a million years to clock in at over three minutes (Marty Robbins El Paso actually exceeded four minutes!).

The song, released in the throes of the space race, was an homage to the first communications satellite sent into outer space, and the Tornadoes did pretty good job of evoking spaciness with the Joe Meek headed production. Meek, a British producer and songwriter also produced Have I the Right? by the Honeycomb during Brit Pop’s peak, and he explored alternative sounds until a sordid murder/suicide ended things, rather un-meekly, in 1967.

But, guitar virtuoso Bill Frisell, lovingly covering the iconic guitar sounds of early pop, chose to include Telstar in his 2015 release, Guitar in the Space Age.

Its all good stuff, it is.

In Defense of the Elitist “X” Aimed at the Anti-Intellectuals: “When Our Love Passed Out on the Couch”

“I know this site favors smart, funny and sexy (and not even rock ‘n’ roll – a lot), but man, the feeling in my sizeable gut knows what it knows. If you don’t get it, I feel sorry for you.”-Steve Moyer

“They probably have about as much chance as Trump of getting elected.” (re: Bad Brains getting into the R&R HOF)-Steve Moyer

I think nothing better exemplifies the “battle” of the populists against the media and “educated” class as do these comments from my mate Steve, in defense of the Bad Brains, but at the same time decrying the likes of The Clash, The Ramones, and X, suggesting:

“…Clash, Ramones and X are minor leagues compared to the best the Bad Brains have to offer. Smart? Funny? Sexy? Who gives a shit when there’s a wasp in your drawers?”

Well, really. In politics, I find it interesting that the right–primarily those affiliated with the TEA Party, Sara Palin, and now Trump–decry the supposed left-wing media as elitists and snobs.

Well, like it or not, the bulk of members of the news industry are indeed college educated, and that means some years of classes with professors invoking things like library research and application of critical thinking. Depending upon, such a degree also often involves some kind of exposure to the humanities and arts, thus giving a college graduate a pretty good cross-referenced education that opens the assessment of new and potentially challenging situations.

In essence, this is considered job training, for college should train to complete assignments (projects), on-time, answering a specific question or questions, and coming to a reasoned and reference supported conclusion.

That means sentences like “Who gives a shit when there’s a wasp in your drawers?” become a sort of false equivalency. That is because, for one, I would never solicit any creature armed with a stinger inside my briefs in the first place, and believe me, I did not need to go to college to figure that out.

But, the sort of judgmental reaction to X, or the Ramones, as not Rock’n’Roll is as specious as Donald Trump saying he knows more about ISOL than do our Generals.

Surely music, and art, and apparently politics, are subjective, but, I do need to remind that out of gut reactions come the denial of Climate Change, the certainty that trying to control assault weapons means eliminating the Second Amendment, and that somehow simply killing all the terrorists will solve the issue (I actually heard this from a couple of conservatives just prior to the Iraq invasion).

Certainly, logic is both relative and subjective, but, virtually no one who is educated and understands research ascribes meaning to any such statements, meaning apparently going to college is important, but to a certain portion of the population, those exact motions and processes that helped us learn and make intelligent choices are actually crap.

Well, ok, then why even bother to learn? Or better, to all of you who decry us as elitists, if you are so much wiser, why go to a Doctor or Lawyer or educated professional if you really are so much smarter when push comes to shove?

My partner, Diane, has a friend Jean who is several hundred pounds overweight. Jean is a sort of prototypical Trump girl, thinking Donald just saying “I will make better deals” is all that is necessary to “fix” what is perceived as America’s terrible state of affairs when the reality is, things are actually pretty good.

Not that our country could not improve, or money and justice better meted out, but all-in-all our recovery from years worth of Bush has been pretty good. Not perfect, but not just on a solid path. However had McCain or Romney won the election we would never hear the end of what a great job they did rebuilding the stock market and reducing unemployment and at least pushing our GDP. (Gas prices are down too which is not even a presidential issue, but when prices went up in 2008, John McCain said in an ad, “Who can you thank for rising gas prices? Obama”).

But Jean suffers from Type-B diabetes, along with the requisite maladies that come with overeating and not exercising that fell people who suddenly find themselves in their 40’s, obese, with a failing body. Jean does go to the Doctor, and the Docs always say the first thing she needs to do is change her eating habits, lose some weight, and start, slowly, an exercise program.

Jean has seen at least four Doctors for the over the ten years I have known Diane, and every time Jean responds after seeing the physician, saying, “what does he know, I am older than he is?”

Well, this is like saying the media has a liberal bias (it isn’t, it is a researched and educated one) or that the Clash or Ramones are not rockers.

Or, more important, that smart and funny and sexy have no business in a form of art (hmm, but KISS can dress up in ridiculous costumes, because ideally their music is another hornet in our skivvies).

I can understand loving music, or even art because it is visceral. I mean, that is part of what makes Mapplethorpe, for example powerful because often his outrageous images haunt and that is what pushes our thoughts into “what is the meaning of things?” and that, at least to me, pushes towards understanding being part of a bigger universe that binds us.

But, really, how narrow-minded are our accusers? Or, how ironic is it that while knowledge is to be revered, just as readily it is to be dismissed when a certain portion of the population doesn’t buy in? Mind you, this is not new shit. Ask Copernicus about almost being burned at the stake for suggesting the earth rotates around the sun (did you know that Donald?). Ask Pasteur, who was vilified for suggesting disease was carried my micoro-organisms.

Just for fun, I am finishing with a fantastic cut from X’s brilliant-and-a-half Wild Gift, an album that made my essentials list. It is funny. It has teen angst. And well, if you don’t think it rocks, well then I guess you think the Chinese really did “invent” Climate Change.

Better, however, a bee in the bonnet than a wasp in your drawers.