Graham Parker and the Rumour, Mercury Poisoning

He’s pissed. The sound isn’t great, but the spirt is clear.

Here’s the original version. Better sound, and you can get the lyrics if you click through YouTube.

Looking at the picture sleeve, which I think I have a version of, the A-side was I Want You Back. How about that cover?

 

 

Nico, 1988

I saw this new film last week with friends. None of us knew much about the film, it had just opened, but it was Nico, about whom good books have been written, and who sang three songs on the first Velvet Underground album (the banana one). We knew that Lou Reed hated her, that Andy Warhol added her to his house band perversely, and our favorite song of hers was a cover of Jackson Browne’s melancholy These Days. Rael thought the trailer was a stinker.

But the movie was very good. Most notably, Trine Dyrholm acts and sings as if she’s living the part of the mordant junkie who can’t help but talk about how she feels and why she lives. But the movie makes excellent narrative choices that pile up, like leading with Nico’s These Days, and then moving on to her much broader music made in an atmosphere of chaos and imprecision.

This review on Slate by Carl Wilson does a good job of explaining the film, and puts it into the context of many other movie bio pix that don’t follow the form of Ray and Walk the Line. Read that, see the movie, and I’ll leave you with this. Not a spoiler, but a game changer in the film’s narrative, surprisingly enough.

 

Graham Parker, You Can’t Take Love For Granted

I think the first four Graham Parker albums are first rate. He made two monumental R+B elpees with the great Rumour, and Squeezing Out Sparks is tuff New Wave when that had to be the choice (if you wanted be heard).

The Real Macaw was the point of my departure. Not because the songs aren’t strong, but at some point a songwriter’s best stuff is used up.

But listening to this all these years later, this is an ambitiously universal song about love and how those you love will fuck you over. And you have to be brave if you want to have anything. Too long, for sure, but it eclipses all sorts of shorter tunes that ask much less of us.

I like it, but all I want to say is listen to Heat Treatment and Howlin’ Wind. Turn it up loud. It is rarely better.

Song of the Week – I Love You, People

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

“I Love You” was a great British Invasion influenced song by the San Jose based group, People. This song gets filed in my “restored” category. I heard it on the radio recently and said to myself “Damn, I like that song and haven’t heard it for years!” So I present it to you today.

It was written by Chris White, who was the bass player for The Zombies. In fact, it was originally released by The Zombies in 1965 as the B-side to “Whenever You’re Ready.” Coincidentally, the cover version by People was also intended as the B-side to their single “Somebody Tell Me My Name.” But the DJs, audience and record buyers felt differently about it and pushed the B-side onto the charts.

“I Love You” reached #14 in the US in mid-1968. Wow, 50 years ago!

Larry Norman, often credited as a pioneer in the genre of Christian Rock, was a lead singer in People.

Hopefully you have the reaction as I when you hear this song.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Street Fighting Man, Rolling Stones; Peace Frog, The Doors; Peace Dog, The Cult

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Did anyone watch the four-part series on CNN called 1968 – The Year that Changed America? It was very good and highlighted the turmoil that gripped the country the same year that saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy as well as marches against the Viet Nam War, the violent clashes at the Democratic National Convention and the civil rights protests by American athletes at the Summer Olympics.

And the strife wasn’t confined within the borders of the US. Events that took place in the summer of ’68 converged in rock music.

“Street Fighting Man” by the Rolling Stones was written about Tariq Ali, a British Pakistani political activist, after he marched on the American embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square in 1968 in a demonstration against the Vietnam war.

Keith Richards guitar part on “Street Fighting Man” was famously recorded using an acoustic guitar overloaded onto a cassette tape. No electric guitars are on the cut.

It took another 18 months for the Doors to weigh in, but they contributed “Peace Frog” from their Morrison Hotel album.

Wikipedia says the “lyrics were adapted from a couple of Morrison’s poems, one being entitled “Abortion Stories”. Guitarist Robby Krieger has told the story of writing (and then recording) the music for “Peace Frog,” and then working with Morrison to look through his notebooks of poetry until the lyrics came to the song.”

But many listeners interpreted the song as a response to the Chicago Convention protests or to Morrison’s arrest in New Haven for lewd behavior onstage. (He does refer to New Haven in the lyrics.)

I’m all in on the Chicago Convention theory because the first and last verse say:

There’s blood in the streets, it’s up to my ankles (She came)
Blood in the streets, it’s up to my knee (She came)
Blood in the streets in the town of Chicago (She came)
Blood on the rise, it’s following me
Think about the break of day
She came and then she drove away
Sunlight in her hair

We could use more of this 50 years later, in 2018!

I don’t really know if The Cult’s “Peace Dog” has anything to do with The Doors recording but the stylistic and title similarities will forever connect these two songs in my mind. So I’ll throw that one in here too, for good measure

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Avenging Annie, Andy Pratt

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Today’s SotW was written by guest contributor, Debbie Doherty. Debbie has been a lover of rock music since her childhood and has extensive knowledge of the subject. She’s always been partial to men that have some connection to the music world – though she’s no groupie. And not only does she know how to properly handle a vinyl album, she’s my wife!

“Stairway to Heaven,” “Jungleland,” “Free Bird.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” all epic rock songs for the ages. In my humble opinion, “Avenging Annie” by Andy Pratt should have achieved status in this elevated playlist.

Written in ’72 by Pratt, a recent Harvard graduate and a skilled studio engineer, “Avenging Annie” combines passionate piano with a strong bass line throughout. A colorful ballad loosely based on a “Pretty Boy Floyd” story line. Pratt’s alternating falsetto and tenor voices provide a strong female narrative in the telling of Annie’s love for Floyd, “the avenger from Oklahoma,” her decision to join up with her outlaw, and the terrible consequences that lay ahead. You feel Annie’s emotions and passion thru Pratt’s in-character voice.

I’m not a musician so I can’t speak to how the song was created. You do hear a mix of very intricate play, a western flavor, lots of complicated piano, not unlike similar sounds by ELP and Rick Derringer from that time period.

In 1973 I was a sophomore at a Catholic high school – we listened to WGTR a small, kilowatt, daytime station in Natick, Massachusetts. “Avenging Annie” was recorded in part, in nearby Southboro. Maybe they dropped a copy off at the station? All I know is that when I heard this song I thought it rocked and I loved the emotional roller coaster it took me on. It initially became popular when a bootleg copy was aired on WBRU at Brown University. Columbia records got wind of the song and signed Pratt. “Avenging Annie” only made it to #78 on The Billboard 100 but it did reach #1 in Providence and New Orleans.

Fun fact, guess what appeared on the B side of “Avenging Annie” on a 1973 Columbia promo disc? “Blinded by the Light” by Bruce Springsteen. Anyone have a copy of that? Ten minutes of music bliss.

Enjoy… until next week.

LINK: Michael Salfino on Paul McCartney’s Solo Career

Longtime friend of the Remnants, Michael Salfino tackles what turns out to be a more interesting question than it seemed on first hearing. How great was Paul McCartney’s solo career compared to the Beatles?

You can read Michael’s thoughts here: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2018/07/reassessing-paul-mccartneys-solo-career-successful.html

For my part, I think McCartney’s best solo song is Maybe I’m Amazed, but I also think Silly Love Songs is a brilliant bit of self-referential pop fluff (with a side of self referential sarcasm).

Michael doesn’t point out that Sir Paul is the only Beatle to record songs with Elvis Costello, Kanye West, and (the remains of) Nirvana. Constantly exploring, working, imploring, McCartney’s career has been admirable, even when the music is less successful. It’s hard to always write and perform great music.

And for pleasure? This one:

https://youtu.be/4IKXjuE4gH0

 

Song of the Week – Good Times, The Jay-Bees

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

In late 1964 the Rolling Stones released their second album in the US, 12 x 5. It included a couple of their early hits — “Time Is on My Side” and “It’s All Over Now,” both covers of American R&B songs. But by this time Jagger and Richards were already dipping their toes into the songwriting waters.

One of the originals on 12 x 5 was “Good Times, Bad Times.” It’s a decent slow, country blues. It may remind you of their version of Fred McDowell and Gary Davis’ “You Gotta Move” from Sticky Fingers.

In 1968 a garage band from West Virginia called the Jay-Bees took the song, converted it to a minor key and created a proto punk classic. (They also shortened the title to “Good Times.”)

The creepy laugh that continues throughout the song adds to the haunted house effect of the cut.

Why this track never made it onto one of the Nuggets compilations is a mystery to me. Someone needs to contact archivist Lenny Kaye to try to get the answer.

But no matter… I’d guess the Stones — the original punks — would approve of the Jay-Bees treatment.

Enjoy… until next week.

Lucinda Williams, Six Blocks Away

Lucinda Williams made an album called Sweet Old World in 1992. It was the follow up to her fantastic debut album on Rough Trade, which was actually her third album. She’d had a previous career, 10 years previous, recording for Smithsonian. Exclamation mark.

Those first two albums, Ramblin’ and Happy Woman’s Blues, are great by the way.

In any case, after her terrific album Lucinda Williams, for Rough Trade, she got picky. It took a few years to finish Sweet Old World, which leads with an upbeat song about a street person who resonates.

It took her six more years to record Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, her masterpiece, but I think a lot of the earlier songwriting is better. But the guitars rock more on Car Wheels.

Subsequent events suggested she was unhappy with the sound of Sweet Old World, which is softer than her later albums. And last year her husband suggested Williams rerecord the whole album with a harder and more rockin’ edge. So she took her touring band into the studio and they redid it.

You know, it’s hard to dislodge what you like with something else, even if it’s better, but here’s the new version of Six Blocks Away, followed by the original. You be the judge.