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.

The Possibilities Are Endless

Don’t know how I missed this very early, primitive Turbonegro attempt at a genuine music video.

Cool in countless ways.

I guess my favorite is the guitarist on the far right in the video.

This is from Ass Cobra, absolutely a glaring omission from the Rolling Stone best punk album list (not that they would know). My vote for best hardcore album ever.

Rock’n’Roll Is More Than Three Chords

Before I retired, I was a pretty high level Project Manager at ATT, a gig I worked my last eight years with the company.

Of course at work we all have our own styles, and my boss decided to audit a meeting I was holding one day. This was fine: I liked my boss a lot, and was good at my gig and always got good reviews and such.

And, with my job, I usually ran between 4-6 meetings a day. As it happened, during one of the agenda items the day my boss listened in, a couple of team members got tasks accomplished that should have taken at least another month and I blurted out, “you guys so rock it.”

The only comment Yolanda made about handling my duties was suggesting maybe another word than “rock” was appropriate. But, after another year, she retracted since my clients mostly loved my work and style telling me, “Just keep doing what you are doing and be yourself. That seems to work quite well.”

It was a big moment, for being told professionally to be yourself, was not something I have ever been used to hearing in any environ.

I have thought about that incidentt in concert with the stupid and incessant discussions (nee arguments) on this site about what RockRemnants is about.

It is clear to me that in Steve’s view, we should only be writing around Rock’n’Roll for as he points out, that is in the name of the site.

But, aside from that being boring, not to mention smacking the face of Aristotle, our first literary critic, who said writing should “teach and delight,” Steve’s provincial view of the term as it applies is just a bunch of crap.

For one thing, we all have views and the site is for fun, so suggesting some category of music or art shouldn’t be included is specious. If all he wants to write about is the Germs, fine. Boring, yeah, but again, if that is what he likes, who am I to call him “an idiot” or suggest he “ramble incoherently?”

But, to me, as I have stated repeatedly, Rock’n’Roll is about attitude and the music is simply a subset of that mindset, irrespective of whether Allan Freed named the shit before he saw Elvis swing his hips or not.

For sure Rock’n’Roll is in the first licks of Johnny B. Goode, but it also lies within the words of Howard Beale (Peter Finch in Network) when he screams “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Rock’n’Roll is in the soul of any teenager who ever sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night to meet a lover in secret, or see a forbidden band, or ride fast in cars with one’s mates. And, like it or not, it is within Johnny Paychecks words when he said “take this job and shove it.”

So, for fun, here are some things that define Rock’n’Roll as far as I see it.

  • Muhammed Ali’s poetry and left hook.
  • James Dean’s smile.
  • Johnny Rotten’s sneer.
  • The Doors saying fuck you to Ed Sullivan with Jim Morrison screaming “girl we couldn’t get much higher” rather than the “much better” Sullivan insisted upon.
  • Mick and Keith’s on-stage interplay.
  • Joni Mitchell refusing to sell her song rights for commercial use.
  • Prince refusing to allow Itunes and Spotify stream his songs.
  • Marilyn Monroe’s voice.
  • Raj Davis’s homer to tie the 2016 World Series, and Ben Zobrist’s tenth inning double to tie it back up.
  • The wings at Virgil’s.

I could list more, but I think I make my point, and well, this is how I will continue writing and supporting the site because to me, Rock’n’Roll is indeed a music genre, but it is also part of a musical bigger whole, and music is one of the arts–like movies and painting and writing and all the other slices of imagination–the Muses ruled over.

To make one more point, if by having the name RockRemnants we are supposed to be limited to just Steve’s definition of the words and art form, then I suppose “all men are created equal” should only be applied to rich white landowning men, right?

And, if this song by Gabby Pahinui doesn’t kill you and tell you Rock is in everything, well, I feel sorry for your parochial existence.




Classic Discs Versus Teen Faves Versus Artistic Growth

In the process of discussing our teen favorites, Tom pointed to the incredible run of brilliant albums Steveland Wonder released and I commented, noting that I felt Talking Book, Fulfillingness First Finale, and Innervisions were on my list of artists who produced three just brilliant albums in a row.

Also added in were:

  • Blue/Ladies of the Canyon/Court and Spark (Joni Mitchell)
  •  Beggars Banquet, Let it Bleed/Sticky Fingers (Stones)
  • Revolver/Rubber Soul/Sgt. Pepper (Beatles)
  • Bringing it all Back Home/Highway 61/Blonde on Blonde

Elvis Costello (first three) and Neil Young (Goldrush through Harvest) also made it once the list was initiated, and Prince just missed. But Steve made suggestions of Alice Cooper, the Ramones, and AC/DC which I quickly dismissed

This does not mean I don’t love Road to Ruin and Love it to Death but if we look at Cooper and Steve’s example, maybe I can explain the difference, at least as I mean it.

Love it to Death triggered three wonderful albums from the Alice Cooper band, but the third, School’s Out was a little thin in my view, and Love it to Death included the throwaway Black Juju, an immediate disqualifier.

Why, you ask?

Because in looking at the records produced by the Beatles for example, in Rubber Soul the band clearly kicked their songwriting to a deeper level with the focus of their lyrics moving to a new level, not just for the band, but for pop music. The Fab Four continued this growth, both lyrically and sonic-ally with Revolver, and then even further with Sgt. Pepper. The same can be said about Wonder, Dylan, Mitchell, the Stones, Costello, and Young, all of whom have challenged themselves and their sound, pushing into new directions, and delivering breathing works that pushed the groups collaborative art to a new level.

Not that Love it to Death isn’t art, or a fantastic album, but as good as the record is, by Killer, the band was still spot on musically and lyrically, but while 18 might really fit what I defined above, nothing else on any of the three suggested Cooper albums suggests or provides any kind of growth of the group’s art and sound any further than where it was.

Not that this means Cooper or AC/DC or any performer(s) should be dismissed, but, there is a major difference between releasing three very strong discs that contain great songs, but all basically of the same ilk, as opposed to the other artists who truly moved their skills and experience to a different level.

Snotty? Maybe.

Elistist? Maybe.

But, well, hard to argue? I don’t know.

Have at it, and just to show I understand my roots, let’s leave with Alice, and as good a garage tune as you will ever hear. It is just the individual tune does not the album or artistic value of the relative catalog make.



Afternoon Snack: London Tornadoes/Bill Frisell, “Telstar”

I remember the big breakthrough of the London Tornadoes’ (note the Internet does not acknowledge the “e” in Tornadoes, but the band’s drum kit certainly does)  hit Telstar was that the song was 3:15, that making it the first top 40 song in a million years to clock in at over three minutes (Marty Robbins El Paso actually exceeded four minutes!).

The song, released in the throes of the space race, was an homage to the first communications satellite sent into outer space, and the Tornadoes did pretty good job of evoking spaciness with the Joe Meek headed production. Meek, a British producer and songwriter also produced Have I the Right? by the Honeycomb during Brit Pop’s peak, and he explored alternative sounds until a sordid murder/suicide ended things, rather un-meekly, in 1967.

But, guitar virtuoso Bill Frisell, lovingly covering the iconic guitar sounds of early pop, chose to include Telstar in his 2015 release, Guitar in the Space Age.

Its all good stuff, it is.

The Tar Babies: A Sampler

The guitarist from the Tar Babies, Bucky Pope,  has a new album out with a band called Negative Example. Ben Ratliff tells me so in the NY Times. He calls Pope “one of the great non virtuosic guitarists of the era.”

Here’s a Tar Babies song,  Rockhead.

Here’s another tune.

Well, actually, it’s hard to tell who are Tar Babies and who are other bands called Tar Babies. But this is their first release, a 12″ put together from sessions produced by Butch Vig and Bob Mould. It’s a much heavier headbanging sound than the funk-inflected tunes above.

Tar Babies were from Madison Wisconsin in the 1980s. They reformed in the 90s for an elpee, and then played some more in the Aughts as the Bar Tabbies.

The only Negative Example album I could find on YouTube was this cover of the Beach Boys Disney Girls.


Brett Smiley is Dead.

Screenshot 2016-01-18 23.41.43There’s a lot of dying going on, but this afternoon I read a story in yesterday’s NY Times about a singer songwriter I’d not heard of. Brett Smiley had the aim back in the day to be a similarly big star in the glam rock world as David Bowie, and coincidentally died two days before Bowie, at age 60.

Josh Max became friendly with Smiley in Central Park in the 80s. They played guitars together, critiqued each others songs, but it wasn’t until Max looked Smiley up on the internet after his death that he learned the whole story, which involves Andrew Loog Oldham, a scrapped 1974 album that wasn’t released until 30 years later, oh, and the drugs. But Max does a convincing job introducing Smiley as a genuine nice guy whose story is certainly sad but maybe not exactly tragic.

Loog Oldham recorded that original album, but after the release of the first single (Space Age b/w Va-va-va Voom), he pulled the record. It wasn’t put out until 2004. The reason?

Max writes: “I just refused to let them release the album,” Mr. Oldham said. “I knew it would be a disaster, and we’d already had one — the 45 r.p.m. release of ‘Space Ace,’ ” a song from the record.

You be the judge.




HANZ KRYPT: Real Remnants

Hanz Krypt (or HANZ KRYPT) is

These guys had big ambitions in the mid 80s, and snagged the lead vocalist from Vermin. The future was written.

Things didn’t work out that way. They’ve posted their elpee on YouTube and it isn’t totally outlandish to call them the American Black Sabbath. That’s how good they sound.

Here’s their YouTube bio:

The band Hanz Krypt was formed in 1984 by bass player Mark Hayes and guitarist Phil Pedritti along with Larry Farkus on guitar. They were soon joined by vocalist Vincent Farrentino who left the band Vermin to join Hanz Krypt. Hanz Krypt has been called the American Black Sabbath. Although they do have a doom and gloom sound, they really sound like no one else.
The band performed throughout Southern California opening for such major acts as Foghat, Robin Trower, and Slayer. Along the way built a strong following and were friends with Metallica, Slayer, and Saint Vitus. Now 20 years later the band has reunited with all original members. The band is set to record a new CD and tour throughout the world. Hanz Krypt look forward to a very exciting new year please check us on Facebook and Youtube.

On the other hand, their most popular song, Rainbow Goblins, isn’t a hit by any means. And the sound of their album isn’t that good. On the other other hand, it sounds pretty rockin’. And I love the stills that make up the video.

The better story here is that a band of rockers, in 1984-1986, find themselves 30 years later, commenting on YouTube about all the hot new stuff they’re going to release. Bring it on!

I don’t mention this to mock their commitment, though objectively it is probably misguided, but to celebrate their sound and embrace of the rock. I love finding a band like Hanz Krypt, a band with history and a big sound, then learning more about those who love them and their sound.

More live video please, Mr. Hanz.



The Senders, Radar Love (with UPDATE)

I’m sure this video does these die hards a disservice, but it also defines the problem of rocking but maybe not being all that original.

The Senders were considered New York’s best bar band. At some point. That’s not a bad thing, especially when the PBR and Cosmos are flowing.

And it doesn’t mean they didn’t rock in their day, though this is weak.

So, Radar Love. By the Senders.

UPDATE: This is not the New York City band called the Senders. This is a Rhode Island band called The Senders, who have been playing out and around for more than 25 years, which is pretty cool. But they’re not the best bar band in the world. Or New York City.