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.

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.

We Don’t Know

Jody Rosen has written a long and worthwhile story about masters archives, jumping off from a fire that burned about 120,000 masters of the Universal Music Group in 2006. He does a great job explaining why the masters of albums by Elton John and Nirvana and Muddy Waters and John Coltrane, among many others, are valuable even when you can stream their music online. But then he gets grittier, and talks about Don Bennett, whose masters burned in the UMG fire, and whose career is almost impossible to survey. He was a vocalist in the Chocolate Watchband, which I’d heard of, but he also had a solo career, which has almost completely disappeared. The point? Lots of music that is disregarded at first turns out to be valuable later. So, here is the Chocolate Watchband. And a plea for Rosen to digitize the album he bought and get it out there!

Little Sun Glover Has Died

I first admired Tony Glover’s writing in Rolling Stone in the early 1970s. He wrote a great story about a man who claimed to be the world’s oldest man, a story I think of often. In his obituary in today’s New York Times Glover’s writing is mentioned, and he’s quoted saying of Jimi Hendrix: Hendrix plays Delta blues for sure — only the Delta may have been on Mars. Glover reviewed the first New York Dolls album for Rolling Stone, too, which certainly turned me on to that great band. It’s a review that ranks the Dolls with the Allman Brothers as great real bands of the time, which is very true and not at all obvious, which is what we look to writers to do. One of my favorite obscure records, one of those that not many know, is Ashes in My Whiskey, the record Glover and Dave Ray made in 1990.

The Pandoras, Let’s Do Right

So, yesterday, I was driving and listening to KRFC and the DJ started saying it was time for his $1.99 album of day, which turns out to be an elpee he found recently in a yard sale or flea market. Today’s $1.99 album of the day was the first Pandoras’ elpee, which seemed to fit in well with recent posts. I’d not heard of the Pandoras before. They were/are an LA band in the 80s. Their elpee, Stop Pretending, is a very good garage rock album. The band’s story is a mess of contention, comings and goings, and lots of live playing. What I like is just how good all this music sounds, respecting the past (liberally), but also getting the emotional part right, too.

Amazing Grace, the movie

Aretha Franklin died last year. A movie shot in 1972 with some tech problems and edited to everyone’s satisfaction but her’s in 2015, was shelved in 2015 for reasons never explained. The movie wasn’t released until she passed. Now it’s out. I guess there could be questions about that, about Aretha’s preferences, she’s the star, but the fact is that the movie made from these oddly stranded film clips from 47 years ago, film shot on 16mm supposedly for network TV, is awesome. Mainly because of Aretha’s performance, which is mind-boggling, but also because of the view our filmmakers got of life inside a Black church in LA in that moment when one of pop’s biggest stars went back to her origins. Sort of, but plenty enough. The vibe is powerful. It counts for a lot. This supposed network special is anything but what you might expect. It is raw, real, awkward, and totally winning, thanks to the collective spirit of the choir, the church and especially Aretha, who seems unhappy every moment she isn’t singing, which then seems unimportant every moment she sings.

Graham Parker and the Rumour, Mercury Poisoning

He’s pissed. The sound isn’t great, but the spirt is clear.

Here’s the original version. Better sound, and you can get the lyrics if you click through YouTube.

Looking at the picture sleeve, which I think I have a version of, the A-side was I Want You Back. How about that cover?

 

 

Nico, 1988

I saw this new film last week with friends. None of us knew much about the film, it had just opened, but it was Nico, about whom good books have been written, and who sang three songs on the first Velvet Underground album (the banana one). We knew that Lou Reed hated her, that Andy Warhol added her to his house band perversely, and our favorite song of hers was a cover of Jackson Browne’s melancholy These Days. Rael thought the trailer was a stinker.

But the movie was very good. Most notably, Trine Dyrholm acts and sings as if she’s living the part of the mordant junkie who can’t help but talk about how she feels and why she lives. But the movie makes excellent narrative choices that pile up, like leading with Nico’s These Days, and then moving on to her much broader music made in an atmosphere of chaos and imprecision.

This review on Slate by Carl Wilson does a good job of explaining the film, and puts it into the context of many other movie bio pix that don’t follow the form of Ray and Walk the Line. Read that, see the movie, and I’ll leave you with this. Not a spoiler, but a game changer in the film’s narrative, surprisingly enough.