Song of the Week – Bigelow 6-2000, Brenda Lee; Beachwood 4-5789, The Marvelettes; 6060-842, B-52s; 853-5937, Squeeze

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Ever since the telephone became an essential appliance in homes, it has also found a place in music… in the form of songs referencing telephone numbers.

The earliest example I know of is “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s 1940 hit (though I’m sure there are even earlier ones). Does anyone remember the scene form Twin Peaks when Leland Palmer puts it on his Victrola then dances with his murdered daughter Laura’s photograph? Creepy in that Twin Peaks way.

By the mid 1950’s a phone number was used in the Brenda Lee rockabilly hit “Bigelow 6-2000.” Brenda is impatiently sitting by her phone, waiting for her “baby” to dial her number. (If he doesn’t, she’ll call him!)

Motown got into the act in 1962 with the release of “Beechwood 4-5789” by the Marvelettes. In this one the singer wants very badly for a guy she’s eyeing at a dance to take her number and give her a call.

In 1979 The B-52s released “6060-842” on their debut album, a song about a disconnected number. (It starts off the same way Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309” does, with “a number on the wall.”)

“853-5937” was released by Squeeze in the late 80s on their album Babylon and On. It’s about a guy who is frustrated because he gets Angela’s voice message machine every time he calls her. In the end, the jealous and paranoid guy thinks his friend – who also isn’t answering – may be hooking up with Angela.

Of course there are many others including the aforementioned “867-5309,” Wilson Pickett’s soul classic “634-5789,” Etta James’ sweaty R&B on “842-3089 (Call My Name)” and the funky “777-9311” by Morris Day. And these are just examples of songs that have the phone number in the title! There are probably countless others that have a number in the lyrics but not the title. Alicia Key’s “Diary” (489-4608) comes to mind. My daughter informed me that (678) triple 9-8212 is referenced in Soulja Boy’s “Kiss Me Thru the Phone.”

Can you think of any others?

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Pattern Against User, At the Drive In

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One of the most popular SotW posts I’ve written was for “L’Via L’Viaquez” by the Mars Volta (August 30, 2014). It has received over 800 hits on this Rock ‘n’ Roll Remnants blog.

The Mars Volta rose out of the ashes of another punk band called At the Drive In, so it was only a matter of time before I posted about them. AtDI recently reunited, 17 years after their initial break up (and released a new album called in•ter a•li•a) making now as good a time as any to delve into their history and music.

In the early 90s, guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez met singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala at an El Paso punk club called the Dead End. Cedric formed several bands before recruiting Jim Ward and Omar to form AtDI. Over the next few years and multiple line ups (Ward joined and left the band several times) the group settled with the original three plus the rhythm section of bassist Paul Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar.

Fighting over artistic direction, exhaustion from relentless touring and the scourge of excessive drug use all converged to cause the band to call it quits in 2001.

Today’s SotW is “Pattern Against User” from AtDI’s 2000 album Relationship of Command.

According to Wikipedia, “Relationship of Command is now seen as one of the most influential rock albums of the decade, receiving accolades such as being ranked 47th in the 50 Greatest Albums of the 21st century in Kerrang!, number 83 on Spin Magazine’s 100 Greatest Albums 1985–2005, as well as number 90 on MTV2‘s greatest albums ever list.”

The new album has the band back in form and is worth checking out on Spotify.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Chitlins Con Carne, Kenny Burrell

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86 year old Kenny Burrell is one of the most influential guitarists in jazz history. His crisp clean tone was influenced by Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt but also has one foot in the door of the blues.

Perhaps his most important album was Midnight Blue, recorded for the renowned Blue Note label in 1963. On this album Burrell is backed by Stanley Turrentine (sax), Major Holley (bass), Bill English (drums) and Ray Barretto (conga).

Midnight Blue contains today’s SotW, “Chitlins Con Carne.”

A blog called Jazz Rock Fusion Guitar has a posting that describes the song very well:

… “Chitlins con Carne”… is the low-key original that set the standard for this now standard Latin-tinged blues. The eight-bar intro lays down a pulsing Latin clave, with Holley pedaling the bass as Barretto takes liberties on the congas. Turrentine’s matter-of-fact statement of the melody establishes his by turns lugubrious and diaphanous sound.

Burrell’s sparse comping sets the album’s precedent for succinctness, one of his hallmarks. His deceptively clean guitar solo walks a tightrope between endless space and airtight rhythmic motifs; a devil-may-care attitude in the face of death that comes from having been down and out and having lived to tell about it. Turrentine plays foil, Captain Kirk to Burrell’s Spock, singing the blues right out of the gate, but the two show their psychic connection when seamlessly trading not fours, but ones, until the blistering out chorus.

This song has been covered numerous times by artists as diverse as Horace Silver and Junior Wells. But perhaps the most familiar cover was by Stevie Ray Vaughan. If this song sounds familiar I’ll bet it’s because you’ve heard Vaughan’s version, even if you don’t specifically recall it.

It’s pretty clear that Burrell influenced many blues guitarists that followed him – Hendrix, Santana and of course, Vaughan.

He must have even made some impression on Elvis Costello. Check out the tribute paid with the cover to his album Almost Blue.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Way Down Now, World Party

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Today’s SotW was written by another guest contributor, Steve Martin (no, not that one!). Steve moved to SF from Staten Island, New York in 1979 (which pert near makes him a CA native) to attend San Francisco State University where he had a college radio show called the “Esoteric Dinosaur.” His favorite musical experience is the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. His musical interests cut across many different genres but tend more recently toward “Americana.” When he’s not listening to music he is working at the Oakland Coliseum where he has been a Facility Manager for the last 26 years.

World Party is a “band” started by Karl Wallinger in 1986 after 2 years as a member of The Waterboys. World Party is essentially a Wallinger solo project. He plays most of the instruments himself in the studio and tours with a variety of different musicians.

They had a string of FM radio friendly hits in the late 80’s and 90’s that showed Wallinger’s influences including The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Prince. (They recorded a version of John Lennon’s “Happiness is a Warm Gun.”) He wrote and recorded the original version of “She’s the One” that later became a hit for Robbie Williams.

Goodbye Jumbo was World Party’s second album (1990) and featured many of Wallinger’s signature catchy hooks, including “Way Down Now” that reached #1 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart.

The sardonic lyrics are sung with a voice mildly imitative of Bob Dylan. The music drives a solid beat all the way through and culminates just past the 3:00 mark with “whoo-whoos” that are a direct link to the Stones “Sympathy for the Devil.”

In 2001 Wallinger suffered a brain aneurysm but he was able to return to musician’s work again after 5 years of rehabilitation. He is currently writing and recording at his studio in England.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Easy Street, Edgar Winter Group

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Brothers Johnny and Edgar Winter were born in Texas and encouraged by their parents from an early age to pursue musical interests. They performed together as children. The elder, guitarist Johnny, was the first to break out with a recording contract with Columbia Records in the late 60s.

Edgar (keyboards and sax) played in Johnny’s bands but struck out on his own in 1970 when he received his own recording contract and formed Edgar Winter’s White Trash. In 1972 he formed a different group, The Edgar Winter Group, that included guitar hero Ronnie Montrose and singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Dan Hartman. The album they released, They Only Come Out At Night, reached #3 on the Billboard Album charts and spawned two hit singles – “Frankenstein” (#1) and “Free Ride” (#14).

For the follow up album, Shock Treatment, Winter recruited Rick Derringer who had the hit “Hang on Sloopy” as a teenager with the McCoys to replace the departed Montrose. This album has gone down in rock history as a disappointment. But that’s really unfair! Not only is it a very good album all the way through, it actually reached #13 and had a top 40 single (“River’s Risin’”).

My favorite song on Shock Treatment is “Easy Street”, today’s SotW.

“Easy Street” was written by Hartman but includes one of Winter’s best performances, both vocally and on alto sax. The sax solo perfectly embodies the sleazy, swagger of the bluesy rhythm (in 6/8 time) and nighthawk lyrics. Hartman’s bass is solid too.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – I Don’t Like You, The Regrettes

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The Regrettes are an LA based foursome – three women and a guy – that play a punk influenced brand of power pop that frequently references 60s girl groups.

The SotW is the lead track, “I Don’t Like You,” from their recently released album titled Feel Your Feelings Fool!

Lead singer/songwriter Lydia Night (real name?) has a vocal style that sounds like a crossbreed of Amy Winehouse and Chrissie Hynde. The songs have more hooks than an angler’s tackle box.

Lyrically, Night is as straightforward as you can be. Nothing she has to say passes through a filter. In an interview with Todd Martens, published last August in the LA Times, Night shared this:

“I feel like everyone in this generation right now is in denial about their feelings and about who they are and what they like and what they don’t,” she says. “Everybody is just kind of really scared to be honest and to be open and to be different and original, especially with our youth and people my age and people in high school. The people I’m surrounded by? People are scared to have real feelings and to actually be affected by certain things.”

Check out this “between the eyes” put down from “I Don’t Like You.”

I know I said that you are cute and said I like your eyes
But your eyes look too much, mine have looked away
You say hello, I say goodbye
I never meant to make you cry, wah, wah, wah

I’m really sorry that I have to let you down
I’m really sorry that I’m turning this around
The things I said before at the time were true
But now the truth has changed because I don’t like you

Is the “wah, wah, wha” taunt really necessary? Isn’t it cruel enough to blurt out “I don’t like you” over a Sex Pistols chord progression (“Cause I want to be [anarchy]”). (Though I must admit I dig the touch of adding that little Beatles’ reference in the first verse.)

Feel Your Feelings Fool! is a fun party album. Judging by the album cover with the band floating on a giant, pink birthday cake, that must be the vibe The Regrettes were going for.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – I’ve Found Someone of My Own, Smoked Sugar

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Today’s SotW is another installment in my “Rare Record Series.” It is “I’ve Found Someone of My Own” from the self-titled soul classic by Smoked Sugar.

Smoked Sugar was a 70’s soul/R&B group in the style of their contemporaries, The Chi-Lites. Their 1975 album received favorable critical notices but never connected with the music buying public. Why, I don’t understand.

“I’ve Found Someone of My Own” is a remake of the 1971 hit by the Free Movement. But where the Free Movement’s version had a dinner club feel (smooth with flute accompaniment) Smoked Sugar’s take is a grittier, southern soul take – like a lost Al Green cut. It’s wonderful!

The vinyl album is still pretty rare and commands prices from $16-50 on Discogs, though prices have come down since the record was released on CD in 2012.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Whipped Cream, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

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In 1965 Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass released their 4th album – Whipped Cream and Other Delights. The album was hugely popular. If you’re a baby boomer, odds are your parents owned a copy; if a millennial, your grandparents. In fact at the height of the British Invasion and Motown the album was able to shift over 6 million copies!!! As a lifelong “crate digger” I think I’ve touched half of them!

The album was as well known for its provocative cover as the music it contained. A 3 month pregnant model named Delores Erickson (now in her 80s) posed under a pile of shaving cream for the shoot. Her “come hither” expression and the illusion of nudity under that cream was a turn on for adult and adolescent men and no doubt helped sales.

The iconic cover inevitably led to a number of parodies, a sampling included below.

“Whipped Cream” was written by Allen Toussaint under the pseudonym Naomi Neville, his mother’s name. (He also credited the oft recorded “Fortune Teller” to “her.”)

The music was performed by the famed LA session players known as the Wrecking Crew. Artists that played on this album included Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye and Leon Russell (using the name Russell Bridges).

Even if you never heard this album, “Whipped Cream” may sound familiar to you. That’s because it was the music used on The Dating Game TV show as the lead in music when introducing the bachelorettes.

Now that’s was a trip down memory lane!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – I’m On The Lamb But I Ain’t No Sheep & The Red & The Black, Blue Oyster Cult

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Today’s SotW is by the heavy riffing, Long Island band Blue Öyster Cult and comes in two versions.

“I’m On The Lamb But I Ain’t No Sheep” was on BÖC’s 1972 eponymous debut.

The song was reworked and given a new title – “The Red & The Black” – for their second release, 1973’s Tyranny and Mutation.

“The Red & The Black” opens with what sounds like a song “ending” and then kicks right into a blast furnace, fast tempo rocker. After two rounds of verse/chorus comes a blistering guitar solo by Buck Dharma. At about 3 minutes in the bass takes a short solo but continues to propel the song forward all the way through to the end.

The song is a tribute to the Canadian Mounted Police and has become a staple of the band’s live shows in “The Red & The Black” format.

It is a prototypical hard rock performance in the genre that was popularized by bands like Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and Hawkwind.

BÖC was also the first band to utilize the umlaut in their name. This went on to become a heavy metal trademark, copied by other bans such as Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, Queensrÿche and most effectively by the parody group Spın̈al Tap.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Fish Walk, Harvey Mandel

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Harvey Mandel is a guitarist that languishes in relative obscurity when he really should be a household name.

His career began in the mid-60s playing blues guitar with luminaries such as Charlie Musselwhite, Barry Goldberg, Elvin Bishop and Graham Bond. He was invited to join Canned Heat when lead guitarist Henry Vestine quit in 1969. Mandel’s third gig with the band was at Woodstock!

Next he joined John Mayall for two albums – the now classics, USA Union and Back to the Roots. The musicians he connected with through Mayall led to a short lived band called Pure Food and Drug Act. Their only album was critically acclaimed but never troubled the charts.

In 1975, the Rolling Stones auditioned him to replace Mick Taylor – the job that Ron Wood won. Mandel played on two songs (“Hot Stuff” and “Memory Motel”) on the Stones “audition” album Black and Blue that also featured Woody and Wayne Perkins on other cuts.

But if Mandel is famous for anything, it is for developing the two-handed fretboard tapping technique that was later broadly popularized by Eddie Van Halen. (Mandel acknowledges picking up the technique, in a more rudimentary form, from fellow PFaDA bandmate Randy Resnick.) He introduced it on his 1973 solo album Shangrenade on songs such as “Fish Walk.”

Shangrenade was ahead of its time. If you’re a fan of Jeff Beck’s jazz/rock fusion instrumentals on Blow by Blow (1975), you will love Shangrenade as it explores much of the same landscape.

Enjoy… until next week.