Wendy James, London’s Brilliant

I wrote about Ellen Foley’s very excellent Spirit of St. Louis, an album of her boyfriend Mick Jones’s songs, some written with Joe Strummer. And most of it played by the Clash as her backing band. Some will disagree about the excellent part. Another odd collection is Wendy James’s debut elpee, Now Ain’t the Time for Your Tears, from 1993. James was the singer in a new wavey band called Transvision Vamp that I don’t really know. After that band broke up she somehow ended up recording a solo elpee with all the songs written by Elvis Costello, some with his then wife Cait O’Riordan. Like Spirit of St. Louis, this is odd music that veers from punky riffs, to rock, to artsy new wave, and like Spirit of St. Louis, I find it very captivating.

London’s Brilliant, like many of the songs, appears to be self-referential, a song for James to sing that also describes her place in the rock world at the time the record was made. It is one of those co-written by O’Riordan. And perhaps I should warn you that it totally cops (and admits to copping) the guitar riff of Clash City Rockers.

Melody Maker has an excellent profile of James on the record’s release, that touches on many of the issues. Seems like Costello never met her. She sent him a letter asking him to write one song.

Name That Tune!

A few days ago Rolling Stone published a story about a song that appeared on the internet some years back and no one can figure out who recorded it, wrote it, or where it came from. It’s not a very good song, but it is kind of catchy, and suitably mysterious.
It was apparently recorded off a German radio show in the early 1980s.
It seems like there must be other music out there that is similarly unknown. Why did this one break out?

The Search for Nurse With Wound’s Favorite Bands

This is about a story in The Guardian. In 1979 an experimental/noise/art/industrial/krautrock band called Nurse With Wound put out their first album. The inner sleeve listed their favorite 291 bands. In the 90s that list became something of a challenge for fans of this sort of music to find, and some it was released on CD for the first time. Now, 40 years after it was originally released, Nurse with Wound is working with a record label trying to put together compilation sets with one track from each of those bands. This is their story, well worth reading if only for some of the band names. Here’s that album, which is everything haters of experimental music are likely to hate, but with some interesting sounds along the way.
The first volume of the compilation is out now.

It Should Have Been Me X 2

My friend Rael posted about a girl group called the Fortune Cookies on Facebook. They have a record called It Should Have Been Me. Good song, standard girl group arrangement. The video uses The Graduate well. https://youtu.be/a7da84nRkKY But of course things don’t stop there. There is, it turns out, another song called It Should Have Been Me with a wedding theme, and a totally different sound. Also well worth hearing.

New Releases: Peter Laughner Box Set

Laughner was a member of Rocket From the Tomb and Pere Ubu, influential, more heard of than heard bands from Cleveland. He said he wanted to be to Cleveland what Brian Wilson was to LA and Lou Reed was to New York, but instead died in 1977 at age 26 mission unfulfilled. A record company called Smog Veil has just released a five-LP box set of all known Laughner recordings, mostly self recorded in the late night by himself. The NY Times has a story about the release today. While you read it, here’s Ain’t It Fun! Laughner’s hit, which was later covered by Pere Ubu (if that’s a cover), the Dead Boys and Guns and Roses.

Art Neville has Died.

I saw the Neville Brothers play a few years ago. Okay, maybe in 2008. They were great, but what impressed me was that they said this was their 30th year. I saw them in 1978 at the Bottom Line in New York, opening for the Wild Tchoupitoulas. At the time the Nevilles seemed timeless, and the Tchoupitoulas even more so. But while Art was a seasoned veteran with the Meters and countless sessions, the Brothers had only stepped out on their own that year, backing up Big Chief Landry. It was a great show, maybe the best live show I’ve ever seen, in part because it was impossible not to dance and while the Bottom Line crew tried to enforce the city’s no-dancing rule, everyone knew that was hopeless on this night. The Nevilles and the Meters before them played with everyone. Part of the magic of New Orleans is how this music helped create ska and reggae, and how the jazz of Louie Armstrong and the amazing Professor Longhair led to a culture of breadth and rhythm. So, choosing a song is impossible, but rest in peace Art. I saw you plenty, felt I knew you, but that was an illusion.

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.