Monday, November 11, 2019

Detroit Leaning

Pretenders : Brass In Pocket

On November 11, the new Pretenders single, "Brass In Pocket", entered the U.K. charts at #57. By January of 1980, the month the band's debut album finally came out on Real Records, it would top the U.K. charts. The tune would also be a U.S.#14 hit, even inspiring a few to learn what the Yorkshire term "brass in pocket" means ( spare change) though nobody has really deciphered the phrase "Detroit leaning".

Many male critics were taken with singer-songwriter Chrissie Hynde's sex appeal in this song. Here's David Hepworth's review in Smash Hits:

Well, they may be keeping us waiting a sinful long time for their debut album, but as long as they can put out singles as simple and easy as this then they've got good reason to be confident. This is less of a song than a series of remarks that gets its hooks in you with one simple guitar riff over a light and lovely rhythm. I think she's got a sexy voice.

That may be true but Hynde also spoke to women in a way no rocker has before. Here's what Ann Powers wrote about this song and the debut album as a whole:

In the same way that The Cather in the Rye gave generations of undergrads ab way to make sense of their own alienation, or Fear of Flying taught secretaries and schoolteachers how they might articulate desire, Pretenders pinpointed the thrills and frustration felt by  the women musicians, record store clerks, band managers, scenesters, and fans living in the shadow of a male-dominated rock + roll --but also daring the rebel moves it seemed to make possible.

The B-sides, sadly, are both uninspired instrumentals.

I just watched "Lost In Translation" for a second time last week. Scarlett Johansson performs the song in a karaoke bar in a memorable scene that has the audience wondering what exactly is happening between her and Bill Murray.  One of those odd moments when my musical life crosses over into my real one.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A Beautician At The Wheel

ZZ Top : I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide

After a two year break in which guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill grew their chest-length beards, the band released the platinum album, Degüello. It's my favorite of their albums and some top notch critics agree with me. Robert Christgau gave the album a grade of A-, writing:

These guys got off the road for real--sounds as if they spent all three years playing the blues on their front porch. The strident arena technique is gone, every song gives back a verbal phrase or two to make up for the musical ones it appropriates, and to vary the trio format they not only learned how to play horns but figured out where to put them. I've heard a shitload of white blues albums in the wake of Belushi + Aykroyd. This is the best by miles.

Another fan was Lester Bangs whose review contains the following wildly written statement:

“Punks used to wear razor blades, but these guys play ’em, lividly. It’s fun, like eating tequila backward. They’re bound and determined to suck you into their cliché–but, hey, everybody has to search for roots, remember? Alex ‘n’ Newsweek said so. ZZ Top just laid off awhile to dig up more of theirs. Yet listening to Degüello really is as painful as trying to swallow tympanic jalapeños, so proceed with caution (and eat your “high energy” hearts out, mush-grooved power poppers). If you lose control, you can always douche with guacamole.”

This is serious pick up truck driving and beer drinking music, ten times better and smarter than it probably needs to be. Also includes "I Thank You" and "Fool For Your Automobile".

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Their Eyes Go Blank

The Brains : Money Changes Everything

When "Money Changes Everything " by The Brains made the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critic's singles poll, tying The Flying Lizards' "Money" at #9, producer Steve Lillywhite added the band to his list of projects following XTC's Drums and Wires and the Psychedelic Furs' debut.

Big things were expected. Critic Greil Marcus, listing it at number 10 of his Real-Life Rock Top Ten 1979, said, "Singer Tom Gray told his story in a strangled voice, as if he were trying to explain, but instead he laid a curse. This damned single ranks higher than I've placed it, but if it were anywhere else I couldn't end with it, and there's no other way the decade could end. "

The self-titled debut album would get critical praise in 1980 though it has been lost among all the faceless new wave rock albums that came out around then.

The version of "Money Changes Everything" the world knows is Cyndi Lauper's. It was the fifth single from 1983's She's So Unusual and charted at US#27 and #3 in Chile!!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Wipin' Out Brain Cells

Mental As Anything : The Nips Are Getting Better

In November of 1979 Australia's Mental As Anything released their debut album Get Wet, featuring the single "The Nips Are Getting Bigger". The song has nothing to do with breasts and everything to do with the dangers of drinking:

Sometimes I wonder 
What all these chemicals 
Are doin' to my brain 
Doesn't worry me enough 
To stop me from doin' it agai-ai-ain

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Freeze Frame

Godley + Creme : I Pity Inanimate Objects

In November of 1979, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley released Freeze Frame, their third album since departing 10cc. My favorite track is "I Pity Inanimate Objects" which anticipates the use of autotune. 

In an interview for The Idler magazine in 2007, Kevin Godley explained how that song was realized:
Recently, I played I Pity Inanimate Objects from Freeze Frame and I remembered how and why we actually did that. The idea was driven by a new piece of equipment called a harmoniser. It's used in studios all the time these days as a corrective device to get performances in tune, but this early version came with a keyboard. You could put a sound through a harmoniser and if you wanted an instrument or voice to hit a certain note that it hadn't, you could play that note on the keyboard. So we got to thinking, 'Let's forget about singing for the moment. What happens if I vocalize these words in a monotone - do an entire song on one note - and get Lol to play my vocal on the harmoniser keyboard?' That was the experiment. It worked pretty well. Predated Cher's digital gurglings by a few years. I don't know where the lyric came from. Maybe because the harmoniser was inanimate.

Paul McCartney provided vocals on album closer "Get Well Soon",  but the most famous track on the album is "An Englishman In New York". Released as a single, it charted in Germany (no. 25), Australia (no. 17), the Netherlands (no. 7) and Belgium (no. 4) 

You can often find Freeze Frame with 1978's superior L on the same CD. That's a keeper!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

John and Yoko Farming Beef

Tim Curry : I Do The Rock

On November 6 , 1979 Tim Curry entered the Billboard Hot 100 at US #96 with "I Do The Rock". Four years after playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and about 11 years before he played Pennywise the Clown in the mini-series It, Curry teamed up with producers Michael Kamen and former Lou Reed collaborator Dick Wagner on the album Fearless which would hit US#53 on the album charts.  

A+ M Records promoted the album with the lines "Straight talk from a man who's not afraid to be different. It's music that takes chances. An album with guts. If you've got the nerve, you'll listen...carefully."

The album features a rocking version of Joni Mitchell's "Cold Blue Steel + Sweet Fire". 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

It's Crazy But It's True

The Tourists : I Only Want To Be With You

On November 5 1979 The Tourists entered the U.K. charts with their cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want To Be With You", a single that would peak at #4 there and #83 in the United States. There's nothing remarkable about this new wave band except that it included future Eurythmics Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart.