A Weird Story About Zane Campbell

The Washington Post profiles an old failed punk rocker turned failed but also kind of exalted country artist Zane Campbell. There’s also a video well worth watching.

This is a big ol’ shaggy dog story involving musical history, the Ramones, drugs, drinking, notebooks and a voice that the writer gushes about. It’s also tough to judge from the video if the artist the writer describes deserves the attention. But he rewards, even if he isn’t actually worthy.

To judge that I went to hear his music, something the video avoids.

I’ve now sampled a lot of his country stuff. I didn’t find album cuts, there aren’t any on Google Music, but there’s lots of poorly recorded live videos. I don’t know, I think I get why the video stays away from his song.

The 2015 album the article admires is available on Spotify, if you want to give some better produced tracks a try. It’s a better presentation, but the awkward breathing mars the singing, and weird pauses disrupt the flow of the songs. Campbell’s history is a checkered one, he freely admits, and it is reflected in the polish of these songs. It isn’t like they need to be slicker, but they should be more integral, more bewitching, instead of sounding like a man fighting to keep up. I liked the Post story better before I heard them.

Van Gets Even

One of my favorite Van Morrison albums is his 1991 double CD Hymns to the Silence, which is admittedly uneven but is also eclectic and lovely and swinging, religious and profane, too. And that’s what the best of all Van Morrison’s work is.

Hymns wasn’t on any streaming service and my version of it is vinyl, so I hadn’t listened to it for a long time, but Steve’s post prompted me to look for it again and there it is now on Google Music. But that’s not today’s story. While looking for Hymns today I found a record called The Infamous Contractual Obligations Albums of 1967, which consists of 30 songs, not one of which is more than a minute and half long.

The title is relatively new. The record was originally released as The New York Sessions ’67, and the story is complicated, involving contracts, hatred and death. You can read the whole thing here, at Dangerous Minds.

The writer there ponders the question of whether there is musical merit in these dashed-off tunes, a Minutemen-colored version of Van the Rocker. I’m not sure about merit, but what is cool about listening to the album through is how elemental the chord progressions of these “songs” are. Many refer to other hit songs, like Hang On Sloopy and Twist and Shout, but others are just clever enough to stand as underdeveloped bits of rock ‘n’ roll with goofy lyrics.

This is more derivative than some, more rockin’ than others. Go ahead, try out the whole thing. It’s fun.

Christian James Hand Breaks Down AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock

I learned about this from a Facebook post by my friends Annastasia and Herrick. Hand went to school with Herrick.

Hand takes songs and breaks them down into their component parts. Haven’t heard anything like this before, and don’t know how the he gets to the individual tracks, but it’s pretty neat. Here’s the show:

Here’s the whole song.

 

Dave Alexander, The Lost Stooge

My daughter went to elementary school with a boy whose father writes for the Please Kill Me web site. I’ve only met Todd a couple of times, in passing, so he’s not my friend, but he wrote this weirdly cool history of Dave Alexander, who played bass on the first two Stooges albums and was then kicked out and died.

What I like about Todd’s treatment is he reports what people said or wrote about Dave. He goes easy on the dramatic build up and is beautifully empathic to the storytelling of Alexander’s peers by using their quotes. Plus he includes some choice descriptions of behavior by various Rolling Stones. This is classic rock storytelling, for sure, but easy going the way rock should be.

You can read, should read, Todd’s piece here.

You’ll get the chance to play the video of Down On the Street while you read the piece, but you might also play it now.

One last thought. How different is Down on the Street from some Doors songs? Especially live? Which provokes the question: When it comes to classifying rock, do we maybe distinguish too much between hitmakers and their edgier cooler peers? The Stooges are punk pioneers on Elektra records, sounding here like the Doors, who made many hits on Electra records at roughly the same time. That’s a sonic fact, but not a complete one. But what is the real story of sound, aesthetics, ambition and commercial viability? Every one thing changes all the others.

This is a reason to read Greil Marcus’s Doors book, which goes deep into the band’s non-hit life as a live band, how they sounded different than the hits, and darker than the public image.

Shameless #Humblebrag

Last April The Biletones went into the studio to drop down five tracks for an EP, and while we were at it, a friend of the band, Andre Welsh, who does camera work in Hollywood, agreed to video the band in action. It was kind of fun and intense, but also ugh city.

As in for the Route 66 video, we played the song 11 times so the film crew could focus on different aspects and players during the song.

The four remaining tunes we played were It Takes a Lot to Laugh (check out Steve Gibson’s killer solos), It’s All Over Now (I sing lead), Don’t Cry no Tears, and lead singer Tom Nelson’s Rich Girlfriend. Do click to the third cut and check out Girlfriend. It is one of our strongest tunes (it is third on the playlist in the upper right corner of the Route 66 vid).