“Pick On” Pink Floyd

Every week on my show on FNTSY (the Tout Wars Hour, 9-11 PM, ET every Thursday night he plugged shamelessly) I ask my special guest to reveal a favorite album, movie, TV show, athlete to watch, and food and the list, as Fantasy now spreads generations, is big fun.

There are wonderful surprises like Tim McLeod loving Sunburst Finish  by Be Bop Deluxe and Eno Sarris, being a fan of his namesake’s Taking Tiger Mountain by Storm.

A couple of weeks ago my special guest was Jeff Zimmerman, and when I suggested  that basic script for the show that week I also noted that during our final five minute  segment we do indeed review those pop items like players we like to watch and music  we like to listen to.

Jeff warned me in advance that he was not that much of a music person, and I  responded no problem, and there must be a Beatles or Stones or some kind of album or song in his head somewhere he liked and just do the best you can.

But, never, ever, ever, did I expect his actual entry to the list which is a blue grass cover of The Wall performed by Luther Wright and the Wrongs.

So, I went digging a little, and found the album, and during my guitar lesson that same week I asked my friend and mentor Steve Gibson if he knew about Luther and his band’s treatment of the Floyd.

Steve did not know The Wall specifically, but he was more than hep to Nashville musicians gathering and deconstructing famous albums and bands in a phenomenon known as “pick on,” as in “pick on Aerosmith” or “pick on AC/DC.”

I cannot say that this revisionism is totally my cup of tea as much as I like both the Floyd and blue grass. Clearly these guys are knockout musicians, but I think I actually prefer to hear them cover the Carters and Irish jigs, but just discovering this subculture of music was a kick and a half.

This is Luther’s treatment of my favorite tune from the Floyd album. I still prefer David Gilmour’s chorusy guitar ripping through, but this is still pretty good.

 

 

 

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.

Obit: June Foray (September 8, 1917, July 26, 2017)

June Foray certainly does not spring to mind as a name anyone would associate with music, let alone rock’n’roll; however, she was an integral part of the aging of the Boomer Generation.

June, who passed away a couple of days ago, just months shy of the Century Mark, was the voice of the following cartoon characters:

  • Rocket J Squirrel
  • Natasha
  • Granny on Looney Tunes (owner of Tweety)
  • Nell Fenwick
  • Witch Hazel
  • Daisy Duck
  • Mother Magoo
  • Betty Rubble
  • Cindy Lou Who (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
  • Jokey Smurf

And, a host of other voices, participating in a list of shows that is, to say the least, overwhelming.

I am indeed a huge fan of animation, dating back to the first Jay Ward show, Crusader Rabbit wherein at the age of six I got my first puns. Crusader Rabbit featured a two-headed dragon named “Arson/Sterno” which didn’t really mean anything to me. I knew what Arson was, but it was a cartoon. (There was also a villian named “Dudley Nightshade,” a pun I never got till I was a lot older!)

One evening my mother was having a cocktail party and she had a chafing dish that needed a Sterno can to keep the contents warm and I saw her prepare the dish, read the label and a light went off in my head (it might still be going off).

From that all the cartoons of my youth became the filter for my  viewing and reading and interpretation of literature and movies and TV, for it not only taught about puns, but also how characters define themselves, often by action and nameAdditionally, I got the author gets to play with characters and names and situations to emphasize things like irony, hypocrisy, and many other personality traits.

As I delved deeper into literature as an undergrad, then grad student, and learned that Charles Dickens, for example, was among the best at portraying his characters as round or flat, modifying their names in deed and action. So, I got that the Arson/Sterno tradition was pretty old, going back at least to Chaucer in the English language.

I still watch toons. I love Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers and Adult Swim in addition to old Looney Tunes because they still push art in areas where live action human stuff cannot go.

Are they important? Just listen…

RIP June, and I hope where you are is as much fun as the shit you created!

Galaxie 500, “Blue Thunder”

Again, Spotify drops a band and album on me I never heard of. This one came up on my “Discover Weekly” playlist, and I looked the guys up on Wiki and it seems there is some relationship between the band and The Reverend Horton Heat, but I could not track it down.

Galaxie 500, named wonderfully for the car, released this song and album (On Fire) in 1989 and it is sort of sweet melancholy and haunts in the same way Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark–which I call music to slit my wrists too and is go-to when I am sad–does.

I guess Blue Thunder is in a minor key because that does seem to help but man, I cannot pinpoint, and the song and album just get to me. I am not even sure of the words in this one as the mix is thick and the words sort of mumbled/slurred, but shit, I do like it a lot.

Booker T and the MG’s “Green Onions”

Green Onions holds a particular place in my life.

Certainly, prior to Booker and the MGs releasing the hit in 1962, I had many brushes with the radio and records.

I loved Little Star, Peggy Sue, Sorry, I Ran All the Way Home, the Happy Organ, and Red River Rock among great tunes released prior to Green Onions, but that was before I had a radio in my room, or our family had a phonograph player let alone a stereo.

Meaning I had no regular or consistent means of channeling the hits of the day aside from Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan.

The summer of ’62, however, we went to Lake Tahoe for a week, staying at a University of California family camp. I was nine then, and  The Locomotion, Runaway, and Sherry were all huge hits that lived on the juke box in the dining room at camp where the collegiate staff ruled the roost at night.

That made it great for my brother and I to hang with the kids we had met, and listen to those great songs as the entry to regular exposure of pop music, something that then never left.

That fall I entered 6th grade, and also began Hebrew School, being just a little ahead of three years before my suspected Bar Mitzvah date. Hebrew class was held at our Temple, and usually one of my mates in school who also attended car-pooled me with them while either my mother, or Cantor Cohn, whose son Ron was a great friend, would ferry me back home.

But, on one particular day, Miriam Costa, a neighbor from across the street whose family’s life has criss-crossed with mine in strange ways over the past 55 years, was there to take me back to our house.

I was quiet riding in the car, and Mrs. Costa had the radio on, and truth was I wasn’t paying that much attention save suddenly Green Onions came on and that is the first time I clearly recognized a song on the radio I had heard, and identified it by name and performer in what became my ridiculous mental data base of music trivia.

So, the song has always held a special spot in my heart.

Well, last week I was watching the wonderful Barry Sonnenfield film Get Shorty, a movie I also dig a lot and during an airport sequence, Green Onions came on the soundtrack.

Knowing that I had heard the song in both American Graffiti and The Big Lebowski, I began to wonder just how many films had included the great instrumental as part of their production.

So, I went to the Independent Movie Data Base (IMDB) and discovered 34 movies and TV shows had borrowed the song, which I think is kind of a lot.

It is a great tune, and, it both reminds me of Miriam Costa, and also of my love of song really kicking into full gear just after that fall, when my brother and I got a little Packard Bell radio for our room, while our parents purchased a Philco phonograph player and there was no looking back.

Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built”

I do like my Spofity shuffle and mixes because they do indeed jumble eras and genres up, although the band in question here is one our friend, Kyle Elfrink, of Sirius/XM, another baseball/music junkie, turned me onto.

They would be the Japandroids. And, Kyle was right, for I like them having added a couple of their discs to my continually growing Playlist. Which means their stuff pops up out of nowhere, which is good fun.

This tune crushes it for me. You?

CarTunes: Paul Simon, “America” and Lucinda Williams, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”

I thought hard during the last presidential campaign if I had ever seen a political ad that appealed to me more in substance and presentation than this wonderful Bernie Sanders ad which features the ridiculously beautiful Paul Simon penned song, America.

It is just a 1:00 minute splash, but so effective, somewhat because the editing feeds right into Simon’s composition, which is indeed such beautiful poetry,  the whole thing just sort of transcends the words of almost any other song/ad I can think of.

The whole tune came on my shuffle the other day as I was heading off the golf links and America is also a great car tune; that is, a song that is great to listen to while driving, so I decided to drop a new category for songs that are a great listen on a road trip.

I guess it goes without saying that arguably the greatest of the “Car Tunes” is Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, a song that has been featured here before, but another great reflection of travel and riding and life and the open road is Lucinda’s Williams fantastic painting of a tune, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road from the album of the same name.

As it was, Car Wheels popped onto my shuffle right after America the other morning making this whole mess fall together in some kind of prophetic way, but make no mistake, Williams words are just as beautiful and evocative as Simon’s, which is indeed saying something.

So, what else kills in the car on that long ride? Radar LoveDon’t Fear the Reaper? You tell me.

1970 Classic Nuggets: Tighter, Tighter, and Ride Captain Ride

The good old Spotify shuffle dug these choice pop tunes from 1970 out the other day as I was driving to the golf course (was I driving in order to drive?) and I was reminded of a couple of things.

One, is both are just classic pop/rock gems from the era, with pretty lush and thoughtful productions. The second is both songs feature not just one, but two guitar solos, the first of which falls after a couple of verses, the second to close out the song.

What is different is that in both, that second solo gives the guitar player a chance to cut loose, and by most 1970 pop song standards, both guys shred and push their sound as much as anyone.

First off is Tighter, Tigher, by Alive’n’Kicking. Alive’n’Kicking were actually discovered by Tommy James, who got the group signed to his Roulette label. James wrote the song Crystal Blue Persuasion  for Alive’n’Kicking, but liked it so much he kept the song for the Shondells.

However, as a gesture, James gave Tighter, Tighter to the band who scored a hit in a song which does bridge 60’s pop (ie, there are trumpets) with the pop influenced by Psychedelia and Brit Pop. Add that great Hammond organ, and guitar work by Dave Shearer and a sparkling catchy tune is the result. (Note these are two of the funkiest videos ever: maybe even funkier than those early Clash ones.)

The Blues Image were a Florida-based band who moved to LA at just the right time, making it to the strip and signed to Atco, releasing a second album in 1970 that included Ride Captain Ride.

For Ride Captain Ride Kent Henry–who went on to play with Steppenwolf–played the first solo and fills, and then Mike Pinera did the shredding at the end. Pinera moved on to play with Iron Butterfly and then Alice Cooper, and his band-mates did work with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Manassas. (This is one funky video, BTW.)

It is kind of sad that song production has changed from those lush 60’s sounds of Motown and Phil Spector and George Martin, to Jack Nietschze and Sonny Bono, and even into guys like Steve Lillywhite. Somehow, though, it seems like electronics have kind of purified music kind of like CGI has changed film.

I am OK with that progress, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss what used to be too.

Obituary: Chris Cornell (1964-2017)

Chris Cornell, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and driving force behind theband Soundgarden, and one of the leaders of the grunge movement in music has died.

Cornell had a fantastic voice, and his band was certainly a rock band, but they played with form and time much in the way the Allman Brothers did, using some jazz progressions and signatures to establish and develop the band’s sound.

I was a big fan of the album Superunknown, from which I drew the clip below, but Cornell, who was just 52, also played a bit part in Cameron Crowe’s lovely film, Singles, which also boasts a great soundtrack. Soundgarden were also featured in the film.

A sad loss. If you don’t know the band, check em out. They were good.

Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives

25 years ago I had a pair girlfriends, back-to-back, named Debbie, whom, in retrospect, I refer to as the “Deb-aucle.”

I guess the best way to describe the sensitivities of Debbie I, would be this little tale. I liked this woman, who was quite pretty, and who never seemed to feel acknowledged. So, I wrote a couplet for her that read:

“She is not the Deb you taunt,
That would not be fair.
She is just the Deb you want,
She’s so “Deb-o-nair.”

My beloved’s response to this epithet? “What in the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Well, Debbie I was a Top 40 girl of the highest order, although when we went together–and ashamedly I admit I endured a year with her–Debbie was seriously into country music. And, the worst shit in my view: Reba McIntire and Toby Keith and those kind of flag waving Jesus loving knuckleheads.

But, during that time, Marty Stuart released his album, This One’s Gonna Hurt You, and I bought that album and have kind of followed the fine guitarist (who began his career as a teenage guitar player with Lester Flatt’s band) and a guy I just liked.

Marty is now on tour supporting his latest album, Way Out West, and his band was set to play a wonderful little 400-seat venue called The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. This is not a little dump either, but a cool downtown non-profit community supported venue that is modern, has wonderful sound, and killer acoustics.

So, I hit my friends and musicians Steve Gibson and Stephen Clayton up and we toddled off to see Marty and his band Monday night, and all I can say is they were one of the two best live bands I have ever seen.

This statement is kind of bombastic, going back to 1968, and including seeing acts like Pink Floyd, Cream, Derek and the Dominoes, The Who,  Jimi Hendrix and Buffalo Springfield and so on. But a lot of bands, and a lot of great ones over the past 50 years.

From, however, the first note by Marty, Kenny Vaughn (guitar), Harry Stinson (drums) and Chris Scruggs (bass, and yep, Earl’s grandson, and a guy who can play every instrument on the stage) came out of the blocks smoking, and just got hotter and tighter with a set that featured new stuff from the new album, old stuff (Running Down a Dream) and a monster cover of Charlie Christian’s, Bennie Goodman’s, and Jame’s Mundy’s Airmail Special, of which I looked for a YouTube link, but none exists.

So, I went for this clip from David Letterman which gives an idea of just how tight the band is and how exceptional their players are.

One of the “oldies” the band played was Marty Robbins incredible El Paso, a song I loved from first listen in 1959. When guitar player Grady Martin was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Stuart and his band were asked to play, and since Martin played the melodic moving part in the song, El Paso was what they performed. The band did cover it Monday, and I did find a link.

BTW, I said one of the two best bands I have ever seen. The other? George Clinton and Parliment (with Bootsie, Bernie, et al).