Melvins, The Man Down There

So, looking into the Sonny Boy Williamson/Elmore James/Whoever song, One Way Out, I came across this single by a band called Melvins from Sweden in 1965, derived from the old song. This isn’t blues, it melds Coasters/Platters gimmickry to an old narrative, with a touch of the Mersey beat. Chances are when you listen you’ll be one of fewer than 700 who have heard this in recent times. Pretty cool!

Allman Brothers, One Way Out

Sonny Boy Williamson wrote this song, or maybe he wrote it with Elmore James. Or they wrote it together with another guy, too. Someone knows the story, and he’s probably gone.

This cut is live, comes from the Fillmore East but was from the last show ever at the Fillmore East, in 1971, not at the other shows in which the band made their bones at that place.

It’s a remarkable cut. Berry Oakley is percolating and that great rhythm section is propulsive. The guitars are sweet, and Gregg sings. You taught me good. This band was great at getting jazzy and improving and turning meh lyrics into musical profundity, but given this piece of meat they come back concise, energetic, and unbeatable. In other words, with the best.

Song of the Week – Suzette, Foster & Lloyd

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Back in 1983 I was living in Boston and my girlfriend (now wife) was working for an ad agency as a media planner. Her position had the side benefit of receiving invitations to lots of cool events and I was lucky to be her “plus 1.”

That summer WBOS surprised the people of Boston by converting from an adult rock station to a country music format. (In the early 80s Boston was NOT a hotbed for country music.) They celebrated the switch with a party at the Aquarium that included live music by some of the top country music acts of the day. We were invited.

I remember Dwight Yoakam on stage performing for an audience of one – me. Later Reba McEntire took the stage as men in women in business suits munched on shrimp and drank cocktails, oblivious to her presence. I wish I could remember the rest of the acts that were there that evening.

Watching these people perform up close gave me an appreciation for their talent and caused me to pay more attention to country music for a few years. That included acts like Randy Travis, Ricky Scaggs and Rodney Crowell.

Another, lesser known group I followed was Foster & Lloyd. Today’s SotW is “Suzette” from their 1989 album Faster & Llouder.

Radney Foster & Bill Lloyd’s style of music is a country tinged version of power pop — a close cousin to the music of Marshall Crenshaw who makes significant contributions as a guest on the album.

“Suzette” chronicles a couple in a dysfunctional relationship of constant fighting and making up.

Suzette, I get so upset about us
We keep fighting we keep falling in love
All the games we play we always regret
Let’s forgive and forget, I love you Suzette

Today, country music is more popular than ever, even in urban areas. I don’t really follow it anymore but I did listen to Sturgill Simpson’s great 2016 album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.

Enjoy… until next week.

But Good Old Can Make Good New (Relatively New, At Least)

Have still been thinking about Chuck Berry’s passing and I’m most always thinking about my beloved Hellas. This morning I woke up realizing how this song that knocks about in my head from time to time is little more than souped up “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

And by the way, the righthanded guitarist (not lefty Nikke the singer) died in February.

Another one bites the dust.

Hey Kids, All That is Old is Not Good.

I was casting about in my memory palace today for rock bands that had an impact on me when I was in high school, but didn’t endure. The name Uriah Heep bubbled up to the top. These were, in my memory, Celtic progressive rockers like Jethro Tull, who similarly took the name of a mythological figure (correction: well, a character from David Copperfield), and who rocked.

Or something like that.

I’m sure Jethro Tull has some down moments, but most of them are at least agreeable, and many of them are  pretty damn good.

Uriah Heep? I’m sure I’m missing something good, there was a reason they were on the radio, but this is awful! Or is it just me? You decide.

The Little Bits, The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)

The version of this song you may know, by the Four Seasons, is a gorgeous slow burn, though a version by the Walker Brothers that has a touch of Merseybeat baked in was a bigger hit.

This version was recorded first, and it punks it up, as Gene might say, in a Spectorish way. The common denominator is Bob Crewe, who wrote the song with Bob Guadio, and whose record labels released both versions.

Allman Brothers, Dreams

My old friend Russ and I fashioned ourselves in the mode of Neal and Jack, at least sometimes, living a sort of vagabond life of simple ascetic pleasures traveling the world the way the monks of Tibet once famously did.

That meant hitchhiking after school from St. James to Cold Spring Harbor to try on and sometimes buy Hit Em Hard corderoy work pants, baggy the way they wore them back in the depression. If we found a beer or a J to go along with our Camel cigarettes we would enjoy it, and when we got hungry some yoghurt usually did the trick.

Most days we played basketball in Gaynor Park. There was always a game on the single court there, and we’d rotate in and out, playing full court hard, against our high school friends, and Freddy and Jay and others who had cycled back from Vietnam and brought a steely dark humor and cynicism to our lives.

The hoops court at Gaynor Park was the locus for our social life. This is where you went when you wanted to find your friends, who were either jamming on the court or flopped over the concrete pump house on the other side of the unused tennis courts. I didn’t know how all the boys and girls who spent so much time in that strip of tarmac, grass and concrete ended up there, it all seemed magical, but some part of it was because the Eastman clan, Russ and family, lived catty corner across the avenue.

It was there, at Russ’s house, that we hung out at lunch, and on days when school was shortened for testing. It was there we sat in the yard discovering that granny smith apples and Madeira Rainwater were an incredible combo. It was there that we watched Bogart movies, read Tin Tin (Rich, having colored all the dog images in a book with a yellow marker: “Don’t eat the yellow Snowy.”), and learned what Thai stick was (in the garage, in case it was volatile).

Russ and I also spent many weekends hitchhiking around Long Island, setting some goal (Hey, Southhampton!) and often making it there and back. The adventures weren’t usually dramatic. A dip in the ocean, flirting with some girls who droves us two miles, finding somehow some beer. Not exactly Tibetan simplicity, but basic, elemental, life distilled.

We talked to everyone. Drivers who picked us up, of course, but also road workers, and convenience store clerks. The workers in Army Navy stores and wherever we went to buy Dannon yoghurt as a snack. Local gossip, news, the weather, that downhome chatter was part of a package of values that we developed and shared and which I think has endured. In later years, when we were actually in control of the car, we’d stop and help people whose cars had broken down, Russ making them feel safe as we helped or found help for whatever the problem was.

We often found ourselves, because of our long hair and baggy pants, talking to police officers who assumed we took drugs. I remember a number of times that we chatted up those cops, while holding a joint or two, talked seriously about the problems with Nelson Rockefeller’s increasing penalties for pot possession, and managed to save our hides by good grace and luck and maybe a certain amount of innocent guile.

Until we didn’t, at which point our wanderings and self-inventing become more publicly known at home, and lawyers had to be called. We’ll blame Frank Zappa for that. We ate the yellow snow, metaphorically at least.

Through all of this we listened to a lot of music. And the music that we listened to most was the Allman Brothers. When I heard from Russ’s sister that he’d died this past Saturday I thought about his cancer, and the unrelenting beat of disease that transforms a life of love and devotion into an unrelenting agony and violation of all of that. And I ached, for the many years in between those strange halcyon days Russ and I shared figuring out how to live in the world, and these strange days when whatever script we’ve been given makes the ending seem as inevitable as one of those Bogart movies. And much more terrible because it isn’t just a story.

I started thinking about this Allman’s tune today. It’s from their first album, which for some time was underappreciated, though nobody cares anymore from whence the good stuff came. And this is the good stuff.

So sit with Russ and me on the pump house, with our friends, and argue about Jaimo and Butch, and Duane and Dickey, appreciate Berry’s amazing bass line, and think about motorcycles and eerie coincidences and terribly sad moments. And raise a Stegmaier, please, for Russ. And don’t klunk.

 

Song of the Week – Just Like Honey, The Jesus and Mary Chain

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Back in the mid/late 80s SPIN magazine was a hip alternative to Rolling Stone for people interested in “alternative” rock music. I subscribed for a number of years and credit the publication for turning me on to a number of great artists and albums. You have to remember that this was before the days of file sharing, Pandora or Spotify. Back then you only heard about great new music via word of mouth, radio or published articles/reviews.

One album in particular that I credit SPIN for alerting me to is Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain. The group was featured in an article about Scottish bands in the April 1986 issue. You can read it starting on page 29 of the link below.

Spin Magazine – April 1986

Then check out the ad on page 38.

The SotW is “Just Like Honey” from Psychocandy.

In an 1985 article in The Face, Max Bell described the JAMC sound beautifully:

“The Jesus And Mary Chain certainly make a fine racket. Guitars are pitched to distortion, feedback snarls, rhythms filter through to create a polyphonic and massive effect. Yet within this healthy maelstrom lurk conventional melody lines, whose impurities are matched by their catchiness.”

Yes indeed. I think of “Just Like Honey” as the melding of Spector’s Wall of Sound – it also utilizes Hal Blaine’s famous opening drum phrase from the Ronettes “Be My Baby” – Brian Wilson’s earliest, most innocent Beach Boys anthems, and The Velvet Underground’s distortion and feedback.

After more than 30 years, “Just Like Honey” and Psychocandy still sound sweet.

Enjoy… until next week.