Good Old Boys

Randy Newman’s first three albums are full of good songs. Songs that were hits for others, like Mama Told Me Not to Come, and songs that made his reputation as a song craftsman and satirist. But it was his fourth album, Good Old Boys, that I think is his masterpiece. Here the satire is scathing, and then the sentiment is true, and in a song like Birmingham, the two come together seamlessly.

Thinking about Alabama tonight, and thinking how in the 43 years since this great album came out, the same problems persist. Maybe things are worse.

If Roy Moore wins in the Alabama race for the Senate seat tonight (Ed. Note: He didn’t.), we should probably all sing Kurt Weill’s and Bertolt Brecht’s Alabama Song, something of a hit for the Doors back in the day, (Show me the way to the next whisky bar, oh don’t ask why, oh don’t ask way. Show me the way to the next little girl, oh don’t ask why, oh don’t ask why.), but in the meantime, these three songs from Good Old Boys will get you started:

Last Kiss Plus Wayne Cochrane and Pearl Jam

Wayne Cochrane wrote and performed the song Last Kiss in 1961. It wasn’t a great hit. But it had legs. Here’s the original recording.

Cochrane is a character in John Capouya’s new book about Florida Soul, which is how I came upon the song.

The funny thing for me is that the original version of the song is catchy, but doesn’t get at the real moral position the young man is in as the Pearl Jam version, even though Cochrane was a preacher (a Florida preacher, but still). What Pearl Jam version?

Tommy Keene RIP Places That Are Gone

I liked this song back in the day, partly because of the Bobby Thompson quotes, but it’s also smart and sounds great and has a bit more oomph than many of the 80s power pop tunes did. He went to the same high school as Nils Lofgren, made many records, had no hits and a part of the world mourns his death yesterday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It was my civic duty to make this post. I was rearranging my CDs over the Thanksgiving days and I ran into Primal Scream’s Riot City Blues, which made me realize how good it is. This is perhaps the best song on the album.

Things:

1) Three chords. All the guitar solos are rock ‘n’ roll cliches. Beautiful.

2) Notice how many posing/cliche rock star moves the players do. When a song causes a musician to launch uncontrollably into a rock star move, that’s a good thing.

3) “Don’t need a knife, don’t need a gun, I got a crown made of human skull.”

4) The chick (I didn’t know who she was either) is the singer from The Dead Weather, among other bands.

5) Jools Holland!

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!

The End of the Internet

You know how you’re going from place to place on the internet, and then you end up someplace and you have no idea how you got there? Tonight that happened to me, when I landed at clubdevo.com.

Devo would seem to be an internet savvy band, all techno and futuristic, even if that represents the devolution of humankind. But clubdevo.com is a wasteland. Only the Twitter feed is alive with content. You can check in here: http://www.clubdevo.com/

But better to check this:

 

Basement 5, Last White Christmas

I bought the Basement 5 album 1965-1980 unheard. Cool logo, promise of reggae-punk fusion, and I’m not sure what else. Did I know the drummer was in the Blockheads? I don’t think so, but maybe I did. Don Letts sang with the band at some point, but they weren’t Clash or PiL associated that I remember at the time. But who knows, it was a long time ago.

I stumbled across the artwork yesterday, remembered I owned the disk, then found that the elpee had been rereleased recently on vinyl by Rough Trade. And then I stumbled upon this Peel Session recording from 1980, which sounds a whole lot better than the album did. Or does.

I was talking about this at dinner last night at a friend’s house, the song immediately appears on our host’s Spotify over Sonos magnificent sound system from the elpee, and it sounds terrible.

Peel Session sounds great. Last White Christmas is a keeper. My attention has wavered on and off after that one. But for an obscure one-off from a long time ago, having one song worth listening to is pretty darn good.