Rockin Band

I posted a song of The Waldos here before and everyone liked it. Here they are live at the Continental Divide, the NYC club that was where the rocker wing of the CBGB crowd repaired to in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The Waldos and The Senders and in general the spawn of Johnny Thunders played there a lot. I think it’s ballsy to even attempt Stand By Me and Tony Coiro nails it. I consider their album Rent Party to be one of the best albums of the 90’s. In this video, Walter Lure had broken a string and the band started without him. I like that. They couldn’t wait.

The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story

I loved Martin Scorcese’s Dylan documentary, No Direction Home. It seemed unusually synced to Dylan’s creative spirit, a major statement about where his talent came from. And also about where, more generally, talent comes from. Scorcese’s new Dylan movie is a weirder thing. Alan Light wrote a good piece in the NY Times about its provenance. I was new to New York when Dylan started prowling the clubs in 1976, playing impromptu shows at the Bitter End that featured a cast of new characters playing Dylan’s music on random nights. I had friends who went, though I never did. I suspect money was an issue, but whatever. This was also the time when Patti Smith and the Heartbreakers and the Ramones and Television and Talking Heads were playing in the East Village, and Steve Forbert and the Roches were playing at Kenny’s Castaways, just over from the Bitter End. Plus Max’s. We didn’t lack for music in those days. So what’s striking about the new movie is the intensity of Dylan’s performances all the way through. This was true in No Direction Home as well, in the film/video it is impossible to miss the intention and direction he brings to every action he takes, every nuance he conveys, even while professing he wants to run a circus. His intensity isn’t his only talent, but the intensity he brings to these performances is the talent that raises him above most. Obviously this isn’t a story of remnants, but it is a story of a superstar and his band playing at being remnants, playing small halls, disregarding commercial considerations, and making a rock ‘n’ roll tour into a work of art. Highly recommended. On Netflix. The version of Hattie Carroll in the movie is fantastic, equally Dylan and Joan Baez, who shines singing harmonies, and so is more exuberant and vivid than this also excellent version that lacks Baez, but is still an amazing song.

Song of the Week – What I Am, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

In 1988 Edie Brickell & New Bohemians released their debut album, Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars.  The album received a lot of airplay on “modern rock” radio stations, at least in Boston, and grabbed my attention.  There were two songs in particular that stuck to me  — “Circle” and today’s SotW, “What I Am.”

In 2006, Brickell described her inspiration for the song to the San Francisco Bay Times.

In a world religion class, everyone was complicating life and existence by over-thinking.  I had this sense it’s right here, right now.  It’s who we are and what we feel.  It’s not this tangled web of psychology and philosophy.  I was driving to band practice and started singing that song.  I wanted to be real, not adopt some philosophy or role.  Instinct is our driving force.

So she wrote:

I’m not aware of too many things
I know what I know if you know what I mean
Philosophy is a talk on a cereal box Religion is a smile on a dog

Besides the beguiling lyric, I was also drawn to the lead guitar work of Kenny Withrow who co-wrote “What I Am” with Brickell.  He uses an auto-wah/envelope filter on his leads that reproduces the sound of a Jerry Garcia solo (think “Estimated Prophet” or “Shakedown Street”).

On a side note, Brickell met Paul Simon on the set of Saturday Night Live when she was the guest musical artist on November 5, 1988.  About a half year later they were married and remain so today!

Her dad was a pro bowler that played for the Dallas Broncos.

Enjoy… until next week.

Weakened Friends, Main Bitch

This band, from Portland Maine, is playing nearby tonight. I’m not going, we’ve got an oratorio being performed by 30 canoeists in the Gowanus Canal at the same time (can’t miss that), but I did check them out. I’m a sucker for this sort of rock, a rock that has hooks and a beat, a catchy melody and clever wordplay. This one is from 2016, so it’s a good sign they’re still working at it. Plus, really good band name.
First video I ever saw with a color grading credit. Very video forward.

Song of the Week – The Battle of Who Could Care Less, Ben Folds Five

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

How do you feel about Ben Folds?  I first heard of him when he released his second album as the Ben Folds Five (there were only 3 people in the band), Whatever and Ever Amen (1997) – that’s the one with one of his most well-known songs, Brick.”

I kind of liked his sense of humor and self-deprecation.  At the time he described the groups sound as “punk rock for sissies.”

The band’s guitarless lineup of piano (Folds), bass (Robert Sledge) and drums (Darren Jessee) made them stand out against other popular groups of the day.  I often thought they sounded a bit like Todd Rundgren on some of his more poppy, piano-based hits, like “Hello It’s Me.”

Take a listen to the SotW, “The Battle of Who Could Care Less,” from Whatever… to see if you hear the similarity.

“Battle…” exemplifies the previously mentioned self-deprecating humor.  The song is about a guy who’s competing to prove his “coolness” by being aloof and indifferent.

Do you not hear me anymore?
I know it’s not your thing to care
I know it’s cool to be so bored
It sucks me in when you’re aloof
It sucks me in, it sucks, it works
I guess it’s cool to be alone

This should cheer you up for sure
See, I’ve got your old I.D.
And you’re all dressed up like the Cure

Will you never rest
Fighting the battle of who could care less
Unearned unhappiness
You’re my hero, I confess

Pretty funny stuff!

Folds indie cred was burnished through his work as the producer of the first solo album by the provocative performance artist, Amanda Palmer (formerly of The Dresden Dolls).

But somehow, I hold it against him that he was a judge on a TV singing show – the a capella contest The Sing Off, that was on NBC for five years.  That’s not very hip in my book.  Then again, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith agreed to judge American Idol for two seasons.  So who knows?

Enjoy… until next week.

We Don’t Know

Jody Rosen has written a long and worthwhile story about masters archives, jumping off from a fire that burned about 120,000 masters of the Universal Music Group in 2006. He does a great job explaining why the masters of albums by Elton John and Nirvana and Muddy Waters and John Coltrane, among many others, are valuable even when you can stream their music online. But then he gets grittier, and talks about Don Bennett, whose masters burned in the UMG fire, and whose career is almost impossible to survey. He was a vocalist in the Chocolate Watchband, which I’d heard of, but he also had a solo career, which has almost completely disappeared. The point? Lots of music that is disregarded at first turns out to be valuable later. So, here is the Chocolate Watchband. And a plea for Rosen to digitize the album he bought and get it out there!

Song of the Week – So It Goes, Let Me Kiss Ya & I Live on a Battlefield, Nick Lowe

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

I was listening to a Spotify Daily Mix a few days ago that was feeding me a healthy dose of Nick Lowe songs… and I was digging it.

Lowe began his musical career in the Pub Rock scene in early ‘70s London.  By the mid/late ‘70s he was working with Stiff Records as a producer and recording artist – vaguely associated with “punk” rock, but not really.

His first solo album was called Jesus of Cool (1978) in the UK but was given the less offensive title Pure Pop for Now People in the US (with a reprogrammed song order).  It contained Lowe’s first single release for Stiff, “So It Goes.”

Pure pop, indeed!  The song ended up on the soundtrack of The Ramones film Rock ‘n Roll High School.

Lowe’s next album, Labour of Lust (1979), contained one of his most popular hits, “Cruel to Be Kind.”

Lowe’s third solo LP, Nick the Nife (1982), gave us the power pop classic “Let Me Kiss Ya.”

This song is so innocent and sweet it could give you a cavity.

Lowe continued to write and record terrific songs.  In 1994, Lowe released one of my favorites in his catalog – “I Live on a Battlefield” (co-written by Paul Carrack) – from The Impossible Bird album.

An irony of his career is that he’s become a wealthy man from a song he wrote that was made more famous by Elvis Costello — “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.”  But the big bucks came from the song’s inclusion on the soundtrack to the Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner film The Bodyguard (1992) and it wasn’t even Costello’s version!  The massive sales success of that album generated royalties to Lowe estimated to exceed $2.5 million.  Not bad!!!

Lowe was married to Carlene Carter for 11 years.  That made him Johnny Cash’s stepson-in-law.  He played in “supergroup” Little Village with John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, and Jim Keltner.  He is also one of a relatively small collection of artists that have performed at least 5 times at the free, San Francisco music festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.  All of these connections put him in damn good company!

No wonder I was digging that Spotify playlist.  Nick Lowe is a treasure.

Enjoy… until next week.

Dr. John, Danse Fambeaux

I seem to have posted only once about Dr. John here, back in 2014, when Mac Rebennack played piano at Louis Armstrong’s old house in Corona, Queens, NYC. But Tom wrote a piece about him, which he reposted today, because Dr. John has died at 77. Too young for sure. There were many Dr. Johns over the years. The original was a Mac construction that he wasn’t even supposed to perform, but when he did it stuck. It led to hits, like Right Place Wrong Time, and the theme to the Curious George movie, but the shtick didn’t always serve the elegant and weird music Mac was making at the beginning, like Danse Fambeaux, and made throughout his career. Voodoo? Sure. But also lovely music that avoided the anthropological labels the Dr. John persona brought with him..