The first two Cure albums

The career arcs of bands are not always controlled by the players. Or they spin out beyond local expectations.

The Cure became an international pop sensation, and in many ways deservedly so. I have no idea if that is what they aspired to, but they got it.

But all we ever listened to were their first two elpees, which are wonderfully clear and direct and poetic. Not unpopular, but pure art in a way.

If you’re at all studious about life in our modern world, you should read Albert Camus’s The Stranger, and listen to this song by the Cure. Obviously not the whole story, but a bit of perspective.

Part of the brilliance is you don’t need to know the book to love this song, and wonder about it.

 

Hank Wood and the Hammerheads, Go Home

I’m halfway through this elpee on YouTube, listening at top volume while editing the biographical info of quarterbacks for the Fantasy Football Guide. Blame Hank and Co. for any errors.

There aren’t many modern punk bands that grab me, but this is clangorous driving rock n roll, a little garage-y, with some fun song ideas a la the first and second wave of bands with ugly album covers. These guys have that, too. But they don’t sound derivative so much as inspired to make their own noise. So they do!

I think this is their first album. The second one is called Stay Home, or it could be the other way around.

A Bob Lefsetz Anecdote about Gregg Allman

I’ve quoted Bob Lefsetz’s newsletter before. He’s a former music industry guy who, in his later years writes about a range of topics in an energetic and provocative way. Provocative mostly because he states his opinions directly. You can read and subscribe to his stuff here. In a post this week he wrote a history of the Allman Brothers and Gregg, and his first personal encounter with Gregg. I quote:

ANYTHING GOES

My favorite cut on the “I’m No Angel” album, there’s a moment, after the break, when Gregg Allman reaches down deep and at the top of his lungs screams…ANYTHING GOES! It’s at 3:20in the song if you wanna check it out, and it’s moments like these that are personal, that keep you going, putting one foot in front of the other, so when we were hanging out before the show…

Yes, I ain’t got no money, but I’m rich on personality, and that has allowed me to meet all my heroes, get e-mail from them, it thrills me, and about an hour before they took the stage at the Greek I was introduced to Gregg and I had to ask him, about that emotive explosion.

Now you’ve got to understand, they’re not like you and me.

First and foremost, he was wearing his boots, the original American rockers never got over the Beatles. And he’s towering above me, and he leans down to my ear, his long hair almost falling on my shoulder, and he starts whispering, telling a story, sotto voce, like we’re the only two people in the universe, like he’s gonna reveal a deep dark secret.

“I can’t hit that note every night. But there are certain evenings, when I’m sitting on the piano bench, and I reach over to hit a note and my left nut gets caught under my leg and I yell ANYTHING GOES!”

I swear to god, just like that, that’s about an exact quote.

And he backs off, stands straight, but gives me a poker face, and I’m not sure if he’s making fun of me, pulling my leg, putting me down, or initiating me into the ways of the road, making me an honorary insider, but one thing’s for sure, he was still COOL!

I don’t know. You be the judge. I remember this album, and it seemed Gregg modernized and wrapped in frou frou. Not terrible, his was a great voice, but this was not music from our roots.

But if Gregg explained this moment to Bob this way, it’s very swell, no matter if it is actually true. A fine ad lib. Check it out:

 

Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter (on Ed Sullivan)

That ranking of Stones’ tunes I posted about earlier in the week ends, if you get that far, with You Can’t Always Get What You Want edging Gimme Shelter because it’s less of a cliche about the Stones. Happy song wins, dark song finishes second.

Fair enough.

But then there is this clip. The Stones on the Ed Sullivan show promoting Let It Bleed. And they do a version of Gimme Shelter without Merry Clayton! Still a good song, but stripped down, without the fire, is this close to the Stones’ best song?

I leave that for you to decide for yourself. For me the issue is how much does what we love hinge on the tangential, or not the core of the tune or the performance. Is it the singer, the song, or the backup singer and the mix? Each and every cut varies because the circumstances of the performance, the particulars of its creation, differ.

So, why rank them? If something can be both this and that, and something else also, isn’t the ranking of them a narrowing of vision, a squinting (in this case with the ears) that restricts the experience?

Shane McGowan and the Popes, The Snake

This is an album, not a song.

It was the product that McGowan produced after being ejected by the Pogues.

The Pogues, with McGowan, were a fantastic band. Lots of that was songwriting, much of it McGowan’s, some was approach, and a lot was an intense commitment to making real Irish music, sometimes in a punk framework.

When the Pogues, an ongoing enterprise, kicked McGowan out, it was at least partly because his rather self-destructive and theatrical love of the drink was disruptive to an ongoing enterprise. To find an equivalent, think of the Stones kicking Brian Jones out of the band. McGowan was of similar importance to the Pogues, and similarly dangerous.

What came next, for the McGowan, was the Snake.

It’s an Irish-y record, not that dissimilar from his Pogue’s stuff, but heavier. And after McGowan wasn’t a Pogue, the Pogues went more international. Less intense. Lovely tunes, often pot infused, but without the edge that McGowan often brought simply by showing up.

This is the first song from the Snake, the first song on McGowan’s answer record. It rocks as hard as the first song on the Pogues’ first album. I’ll post both. Enjoy.

The Sickbed of Cuchylainn.

 

 

 

Two Year Old, Glory Days (car karaoke)

Cute video making its way around the way things make their way around today.

No doubt, this song is hooky as heck, and I think the two year old gets it right. When asked to sing “throws that speedball by you, makes you look like a fool,” the tyke seems a little nonplussed.

Either he knows that a speedball is a shot of half heroin and half cocaine, or…

He knows no one in baseball calls a fastball, even a hot one, a speed ball.

Here’s what Paul Dickson says in the Baseball Dictionary:

speedball n. the fastball

Alright, okay, maybe I’m wrong. But I’ve never heard anyone ever call a fastball a speedball. Except Springsteen. This has always struck me as one of the jankiest lyrics by a guy who usually gets it right.

Rolling Stones, Brown Sugar

I just read Gene’s comment about the Political Correctness Police in the comments to the Now I’ve Got A Witness post (about the ranking of every Rolling Stones’ song). I started reading the list from the bottom up, and was noting the very excellent songs ranked near the bottom of the list. Short and Curlies, in particular, apparently because it is misogynistic ignoring the jamming instrumental track behind the lyrics.

In any case, I come at the Political Correctness Police a little differently. I believe people have a basic right to express their opinions, and I also believe people have a right not to be aggressively attacked with hateful speech. Since those two positions are not mutually exclusive, the resolution is one of constant negotiation with oneself and with those within earshot.

For me, there is a big distinction between words said by a person directly to another person in such a way that the implication is personal, and the same words issuing into the public space in a more general way. The former is hate speech, the later is hateful speech (if the subject is hate) and hate speech is perhaps not illegal but certainly morally reprehensible, while hateful speech can be extreme and uncomfortable and repulsive, but its immorality is far from automatic and should be given every benefit of the doubt.

Which brings us to the Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, which is certainly one of the most rampantly offensive and rocking songs in their oeuvre. A writer named Lauretta Charlton wrote a defense of the song in Vulture a couple of years ago,  and quotes Mick Jagger as saying, in 1995, “I never would write that song now. I would probably censor myself. I’d think, ‘Oh God, I can’t. I’ve got to stop. I can’t just write raw like that.’”

I can imagine a world without the hatred and history of Brown Sugar didn’t exist (I have a good imagination), and in such a world such a song probably wouldn’t exist. But that isn’t our world, and if in 1969 Jagger didn’t pour out the lyrics to the song (which he in subsequent years in live shows changed, because he felt uncomfortable singing the originals) as he did, our world would be a lesser place. Fuck those Political Correctness Police.

David Marchese ranks Brown Sugar as the 10th best Stones song of all time.

World Premier: The Public image is Rotten

My buddy Rael was going to be in town on Friday, and the Tribeca Film Festival was premiering a new movie about PiL and Johnny Rotten. Neither of us were big PiL fans, but this seemed like a fun date. I bought tickets.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Rael is sick. He can’t come into town. So I call my musically adventurous friend Julie. I know she is not a PiL fan, not a Sex Pistols fan, but I’ll have fun with her in any case. Plus, it turns out, there will be a discussion with Lydon/Rotten after the screening. More show biz!

We both order fish and chips at the venerable Tribeca institution, Walkers, and the fish is great, the cole slaw is fine, and the chips are very tasty. That’s a win.

Here’s the deal on the movie, in a few short bites:

If you love PiL you will chew this movie up with delight. It not only fetishises each version of the band, it exalts the Rotten process. Your taste is reified.

If you come from a more historical perspective, the movie does a pretty fine tick tock of the whys wheres and wayfores of the band over a long career.

If you enjoy watching John Lydon sing PiL songs, there’s lots here for you.

If you enjoy watching John Lydon talk about his life, there’s a good amount of that for you.

If you were an observer of PiL, and not a fan of the music, I think you might find a lot of fun in the music. More than you might expect. Less in Lydon’s memorable vocals than Wobble’s bass, Levene’s skronky guitar, and the similarly discordant and yet powerful music all the iterations of this band made.

So, there’s lots to like about the movie, but when you think about it as a movie, it starts to pale. This is a movie that seems to get Johnny Rotten talking emotionally and revealingly about his life. It’s a movie that chronicles many internecine wars among the various configurations of PiL. And it is, most tellingly, a movie that buys John Lydon’s version of the story.

Lydon’s version is a good story, but all the other voices in the film have other stories. And they’re allowed to tell them up to a point. That’s the point where Lydon/Rotten decides to drown them out.

What I’m describing is not an indictment. Rotten/Lydon, in the post-screening chat, talks about how he aspires to be a valued songwriter. He is saying he doesn’t think he’s there yet. He’s right about that, and wonderfully honest to admit it.

But the history of PiL the film describes is the arc of moving from talented and disorganized non-professionals to, over 20 years, the hiring of professional musicians who can actually play. And then marvelling at how everything got better.

And in many ways it did, but what seems to me most revealing is how all the aesthetic challenges disappeared once the band was competent. And this idea of competent musicians versus energetic amateurs is an invigorating discussion for everyone, but the movie glides over the issues.

It’s easy to see why, but without a discussion about talent, expression, experience, professionalism, talent and creativity, plus other stuff, I’m not sure how much what they produced matters.

I love PiL, I went to the screening tonight, because of this appearance I saw one morning in 1980 on American Bandstand:

Nuff said.