Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Interview with Steppenwolf's Goldy McJohn

In 1968, Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" signalled a shift in the counterculture from flower power to something, well, wilder.
And the wildest thing about Steppenwolf was probably the hair on keyboard player Goldy McJohn's head.

"I go into the shower one day," says Goldy. "And I come out and start shaking my head and let it dry in the sun and it's like "Wooooooooh"! And I'm like "Woah! Cool!"

Steppenwolf sealed its outlaw biker image on the soundtrack to Dennis Hopper's underground classic Easy Rider.

But as Steppenwolf found fame, Goldy found drugs.
Listen to the beginning of "Magic Carpet Ride". Goldy says the reason the organ comes in late is because he was THAT out of it.

"I was forced to take LSD." he told me. "I was forced to take a lot of stuff and then I found out 'Wow. This stuff is great.
'Can't get enough of it. Where's the next hit?'
I'm like paranoid. I can't wait. It's a buzz and then you smooth out and calm out and you're really cool and John (Kay) would be on top of me going 'Woah, yeah baby'.

Goldy says it was in one of those drugged out dazes that he signed away his legal rights to the songs as well as the name of the band.
When I met him, his house was unheated.
But at least Goldy McJohn has found a new addiction: golf.

"Each club is like a chord change." he says.
"That's what it does for me even if it's bad, it's good.
It's like 'Ok, try to hit the little white ball'.

Goldy now has his own website .

Source Code's Vera Farmiga picks the song that makes her time travel

The sci fi thriller SOURCE CODE, now out on DVD, has a new take on time travel. So 1001Songs asked the stars to name a song that takes them back in time... to happy childhood memories.


Oscar nominee (for Up In The Air) Vera Farmiga grew up in a strict Ukranian home in New Jersey. She didn't learn to speak English until she was six.

Her childhood song?

"Oh God you wouldn't know it if I mentioned it.
It would be these kooky Ukranian folkloric songs of my childhood that my grandma used to sing.
There are recordings of it.
In fact I put in the film that I directed. (HIGHER GROUND out later this year)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Source Code director ZOWIE BOWIE on the song that makes him Time Travel

The terrific sci fi thriller SOURCE CODE, now out on DVD , has a new take on time travel. So 1001Songs asked the director Duncan Jones ( AKA Zowie Bowie) to name a song that takes him back in time... to happy childhood memories.

( aka Zowie Bowie)

Both Duncan Jones and his father, David Bowie, first hit the mainstream with artistic takes on lonely spacemen as their topics. Dad had "Space Oddity". Duncan had Moon. A "mesmerizing mindbender" that Vera Farmiga claims to have seen 8 times.

The song that takes him back isn't one of his dad's though. It was a UK hit from the 80's.

" There's a piece of music which I used in "Moon" and then used again in "Source Code". It's a song by a guy called Chesney Hawkes from the UK and I used it as an alarm clock ring in Moon and I used it as a cell phone ring in Source Code and that's kind of my Alfred Hitchcock shadow in the background so I'm hoping to use that in every film I can but that certainly puts me back in time"

I should add after seeing SOURCE CODE and MOON, I think it is becoming less and less important to point out he's David Bowie's son. He's a masterful director in his own right.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

SOURCE CODE stars pick fave songs from childhood

The sci fi thriller SOURCE CODE, now available on DVD, has a new take on time travel. So 1001Songs asked the stars of the movie and director Duncan Jones ( AKA Zowie Bowie) to name songs that take them back in time... to happy childhood memories.
First off:

( aka Zowie Bowie)

Both Duncan Jones and his father, David Bowie, first hit the mainstream with artistic takes on lonely spacemen as their topics. Dad had "Space Oddity". Duncan had Moon. A "mesmerizing mindbender" that Vera Farmiga claims to have seen 8 times.

The song that takes him back isn't one of his dad's though. It was a UK hit from the 80's.

" There's a piece of music which I used in "Moon" and then used again in "Source Code". It's a song by a guy called Chesney Hawkes from the UK and I used it as an alarm clock ring in Moon and I used it as a cell phone ring in Source Code and that's kind of my Alfred Hitchcock shadow in the background so I'm hoping to use that in every film I can but that certainly puts me back in time"


Oscar nominee (for Up In The Air) Vera Farmiga grew up in a strict Ukranian home in New Jersey. She didn't learn to speak English until she was six.

Her childhood song?

"Oh God you wouldn't know it if I mentioned it.
It would be these kooky Ukranian folkloric songs of my childhood that my grandma used to sing.
There are recordings of it.
In fact I put in the film that I directed. (HIGHER GROUND out later this year)


My interview with the star of Source Code was cut off so sharply I didn't have time to ask. But he did tell KCRW's Liza Richardson recently that his pick would be "The Fox" by Burl Ives.

"My father used to sing this to me -- and I love Burl Ives just as a character, just as a musician -- and when I was a little kid we were robbed outside of our house. We were driving home, we pulled up and we were robbed and ever since I was always really nervous about falling asleep, you know, naturally, and so my dad would sing this to me before I'd go to bed."


Jake's romantic interest in Source Code is Iowa native Michelle Monaghan. And like most people from Iowa, she's incredibly kind. You may have seen her in Mission Impossible III or Gone Baby Gone

Michelle's childhood tune? A #1 country song from 1987.

"Oh my gosh any kind of country music. "Fishin' in the Dark" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Yeah that song takes me back. That's a good song. Something that I played and my parents played a lot."

Surprised Duncan Jones didn't name one of his dad's tunes? He's learned not to favor one over the other. He told 1001Songs "if I picked one favorite song, Dad would be furious".

Friday, March 25, 2011

#17 Wizzard "See My Baby Jive" 1973

Every band needs a bass player who can take the stage in rollerskates.
Roy Wood formed Wizzard after The Move broke up and followed his muse into Phil Spector-ish Wall of Sound pop. "See My Baby Jive" hit #1 in the UK and Ireland but did nothing in the US.

They certainly made glam fun. Roy's war paint and crazy hair lit up TV screens in close-ups. But in the wide shots audiences might see a pantomine horse, costumed gorillas and angels on rollerskates.

"See My Baby Jive" held the top of the UK charts for an entire month before Suzi Quatro's "Can the Can" kicked it aside.

ABBA has said the song inspired the sound of "Waterloo". Still trying to figure out why "See My Baby Jive" didn't jive with American audiences.

See My Baby Jive

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

#16 The Saints "Memories Are Made of This" 1978

Aren't you a mess? You shouldn't act like this
You stand right there and laugh in my face
You ask me why I haven't left

To the old timers looking for Dean Martin's "Memories Are Made of This", you've come to the wrong page. So slag off.
This is one of the many great songs on Eternally Yours , a cut-out cassette I bought at a Woolworth's in Reno for $2.99 in 1980.
Best three dollars I ever spent. It's an amazing album from one of Australia's greatest bands. Full of blustery horns, minor chords and major attitude.
Bob Geldorf said "Rock music in the seventies was changed by three bands—the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and The Saints".

So if you were expecting to hear Dean sing:

Take one fresh and tender kiss
Add one stolen night of bliss
One girl, one boy
Some grief, some joy
Memories are made of this

Sorry. You've got Chris Bailey snarling lyrics that wouldn't pass the PC test these days:

You're living your life in a chain gang - you're so well guarded
You're living your life in a chain gang - you're so retarded

The Saints Memories Are Made of This

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Cars "Sad Song"

It's like the last twenty-five years haven't even happened!
Wait a minute:
Is that a good thing?
You be the judge.
For the official video:click here

Sunday, March 20, 2011

5 Horrible Songs that Mar Great Albums

1. "Mother" from SynchronicityAndy Summers' Mother was a bomb dropped right into the heart of The Police's Synchronicity. Small wonder that it was the last album the blond boys did together.

2. Mind Gardens for Younger Than YesterdayDavid Crosby must have been inspired by The Incredible String Band for this foray into psychedelic folk. Roger McGuinn hated including the song on the poppy Younger Than Yesterday, claiming the tune had no "rhythm, meter, or rhyme." Crosby was fired during the recording of the next album.

3. Phenomenal Cat from Village Green Preservation SocietyWere The Kinks smoking helium? "Phenomenal Cat" is kitty litter compared to the rest of Village Green Preservation Society, which has become a fan favorite for good reason.
At least it's better than Bowie's equally helium filled "Laughing Gnome"

4. Fitter, Happier from OK Computer
It's the NOT OK tune on OK Computer. Described by Thom Yorke as a checklist of slogans for the 1990s he considers "Fitter, Happier" "the most upsetting thing I've ever written". Might have been better as liner notes.

5. Student Demonstration Time from Surf's UpThe Beach Boys were always better at offering us breakaways from our troubled times than commenting on them. But good old Mike Love had something to say about student protests--even if it meant swiping the Leiber-Stoller song "Riot in Cell Block #9" to do it. The must skip track off Surf's Up was also released as a single as if it say "Look, we can crank up our guitars too!"

What's your choice for wretched songs that nearly ruin great albums?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Interview with Paul Revere & The Raiders singer Mark Lindsay

Even if his name no longer rings so many bells, his music will. As the pony-tailed lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders, Mark Lindsay sang on more than a dozen Top 40 hits and made more than 700 television appearances.


"We've gotten a lot of reviews," he told me , " Especially from European venues that say
'Hey man, the Raiders were the American Stones'."

Teen idol magazines called Mark the American Mick Jagger...with the Paul McCartney looks.
Though he was legally blind, Mark was rarely photographed wearing glasses.

"If you look at Tiger Beat or 16
here I was this clean cut all american guy
but inside I was still this raucous raunchy punk
hanging in the rafters you know?
So it was weird it was like not really being there you know?"

In the early days the Raiders really were punks, outdrawing Northwest bands like The Wailers and Sonics by playing loud and raunchy shows.

"I had a 100 foot cord for my microphone so I could go roll around or go to the restroom and give people a version of 'Fever' they never heard before".

It all came together for The Raiders in 1965.
They got signed by Columbia Records and Dick Clark made them the house band for "Where The Action Is".
The show could be seen every weekday afternoon nationwide for two years.

"Dick Clark signed us for 13 weeks under the assumption that if the show took off he'd hire a real band.
Well after 13 weeks we were getting bags and bags of mail and we became that real band."

They could be a real goofy band. The Raiders began wearing revolutionary war costumes they discovered in a Portland costume shop.

"When you look at the bass player and he's wearing a lace dickie it's hard to have a bad time you know?" Lindsay laughs.

For more than two years The Raiders were a huge hit making machine. Among their biggest hits was one of rock's first anti-drug songs, "Kicks".
"I didn't really realize it was an anti drug statement," says Lindsay today. " I thought it was about 'Gee it's hard to have as much fun as you used to have.'"

Even after "Action" went off the air, The Raiders continued their string of hits, but eventually the band broke up and Mark went solo. But he--and The Raiders--would be heard from again.
In 1971, Mark recorded a twelve year old song with some LA sessionmen.

"I went to (Paul) Revere and said this record is either going to be the biggest record we've ever done or the biggest flop. I said if you want to put the Raiders name on it you can."

"Indian Reservation " became the Raiders only #1 single.
Had he put the single out as Mark Lindsay perhaps his name would be better remembered.

 In the four decades since, Mark has stayed busy by recording, owning a restaurant, performing and working behind the scenes as an A&R man.
 Revere, on the other hand, is touring the casino circuit with his ersatz Raiders.
If Lindsay holds a grudge he's not making it public.

"Those were the days my friend.
I thought they'd never end and they didn't!!!"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

#15 Captain Beefheart "My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains" 1972

Arguably rock's most eccentric character, Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart is best known for his ear bending avant garde gumbo of Delta Blues and Beat Poetry as heard on Trout Mask Replica.
This is something else entirely.

One story is that Beefheart wrote most of the album Clear Spot on an eight hour car journey from Boston to Yale.
I'd like to think he wrote this song passing my hometown in Connecticut at Exit 58.
With beautiful interlacing guitar work from Bill Harkleroad AKA Zoot Horn Rollow, this is Beefheart's most poignant love song.Ever.

My arms are just two things in the way
Until I can wrap them around you
You can make my sad song happy
Make a bad world good

I hate to hear other people hear me sing this song
If it reaches you before I do
Follow this song to I love you
That’s where I’ll find you
And my head is my only house unless it rains

Another fave from Clear Spot , "Too Much Time" sounds so accessible it could have been something Van Morrison recorded on Moondance, a mellow Memphis-styled R&B tune with a great horn section and lovely backing vocals.

Why did Beefheart record such a tame album three years after Trout Mask Replica? For one thing Warner Brothers brought in Van Morrison/Doobie Brothers producer Ted Templeman to guide Beefheart to do something a bit more commercial. Clear Spot cracked the Billboard Top 200 racing up the charts all the way to ...well, #191. So he failed miserably. But what a failure!

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band My Head is My Only House Unless It Rains

Monday, March 14, 2011

Interview with The Whipped Cream & Other Delights Model

In the 1960's Seattle's doe-eyed Dolores Erickson became one of the nation's top fashion models. But her most famous photo shoot involved little in the way of fashion. In a Los Angeles garage, Dolores smothered herself in shaving cream to pose for one of the most famous and sexiest album covers of all time.
"It didn't seem risque to me," Dolores told me decades later in a cafe."You know, a low decolletage has always been in."
The album cover promised "whipped cream and other delights". For decades men have fantasized about those "other delights" with the tantalizing woman smothered in form fitting foam.

"I had a bikini underneath and at one point it did slip all the way down but I wasn't aware of it."
Dolores is now an artist living in Kelso Washington. But she'll never shake that sultry image that helped Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass sell eleven million albums.
"I've done so many wonderful things", she laughs. "I just think it's ironic that this happens to be my ghost."
For dessert I had the waiter bring out a small cup of whipped cream for Dolores.
"Mmmm, " she said after a spoonful."It's great.Corny but great".

                                                Photo from Seattle Times

#14 Czerwone Gitary "Nie Zadzieraj Nosa" (1966)

The Red Guitars were the Polish Beatles. The songwriting team of Klenczon/Krajewski showed off their gift for Beatlesque melodies on songs like "Don't Be Stuck Up" from their debut album To Wlasnie My. The band was huge in the mid-60's . Their second album sold more than a quarter of a million copies. They toured all over the Eastern Bloc. Like Lennon and McCartney they progressed from beat pop to experimenting with other instruments. You can even hear their Balalaikas ringing out on some.

They also got involved in silly projects like the film below. Imagine an even more poorly executed Magical Mystery Tour and you'll know what it's like to sit through this far out 1969 Soviet film "In the Thirteenth Hour of the Night".
Czerwone Gitary are the second band to appear. And, once again, they've recorded a Beatlesque ear worm.


The band recorded 82 albums over all these decades and as late as 2007 were still playing together on stage.

Czerwone Gitary -Nie Zadzieraj Nosa

Sunday, March 13, 2011

#13 Tower of Power "Only So Much Oil in the Ground" 1974

,, Oil

In the mid 70's, Oakland's Tower of Power were the funkiest band on the West Coast. The first three albums are great but Urban Renewal leads the pack because of this tune. The message and sound haven't edged a bit. The brass kicks ass. And TOP still play tight funky shows today.

Like the song says, there's only so much oil in the ground. Oil  is a non renewable commodity AND The Low Fuel Warning Light is already on.
In the US we consume 20 million barrels of oil a day.
We produce 7 million.
Our presence in the Mideast is about keeping our country moving. As the middle classes of China and India grow, the pressure will be even greater on that resource.  Might want to start coming up with some kind of alternative soon.

Tower of Power - Only So Much Oil in the Ground

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Elvis is on the Edge of Reality (1968)

Just wanted to share this bizarre clip from one of Elvis Presley's least remembered movies, Live a Little, Love a Little. It's the last movie directed by Norm Taurog who made a number of movies with The King including It Happened at the World's Fair, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Blue Hawaii and G.I. Blues.

The song is written by the same team that wrote a lot of Elvis schlock during his movie era. And yes, that's Dick Sargent of Bewitched fame in this druggy dream sequence.

#12 The Merseys "Sorrow" 1966

One Half of Led Zep + One Half The Merseybeats = Sorrow

When the Merseybeats broke up, two members, Tony Crane and Billy Kinsely, carried on as The Merseys. They scored a #4 hit in the UK charts with "Sorrow", originally a B Side by Rick Derringer's band, The McCoys ( of "Hang on Sloopy" fame).

The McCoys version has a folk rock feel. Billy has said that it sounded like a Neil Young tune but was far too country and western for him.So he reworked the harmonies and added the lagging second vocal line.

The line "with your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue" reappears on the George Harrison penned "It's All Too Much" on The Beatles' Yellow Submarine.
David Bowie cut the song for his Pin Ups album in 1973 and hit #3 in the UK chart.

Future Led Zep bandmates Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are  playing on the Merseys cut which was recorded live at CBS Studios in New Bond Street, London.

Dig the horn break, pure Carnaby Street grooviness.

The Merseys Sorrow

Friday, March 11, 2011

#11 Bill Anderson 3AM (1964)

There's an old saying: If you want somebody's attention, whisper. Whispering Bill Anderson earned his nickname with his soft breathy vocals and he earned his reputation as 6 time Country Music Songwriter of the Year with his knack of hitting listeners right where they live. "3 AM" is not one of his best known songs but it's got to be his most depressing. The singer lost his girl. The bars are closed. He's taking a lonely walk and his destination ends in his own demise.

Look at me walking the streets at 3 a.m.
And you're saying what a crazy fool I am
But the one I love is out tonight with him
Somewhere making love at 3 a.m.
I need a drink but all the bars are locked up tight
A lonely man gets mighty thirsty late at night
I won't ever kiss her sweet, sweet lips again
This old world's an awful place at 3 a.m.
--- Instrumental ---
There's the river here's the bridge it's too late now
I've got nothing left to live for anyhow
In the news they'll say he couldn't even swim
And he gave his love for love at 3 a.m.
Yes, he gave his life for love at 3 a.m...

I'm not the only one who thinks this song is great. Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens covered this tune on his album I Had A New York Girlfriend.
Bill Anderson 3 AM

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Peter Buck's 5 Catchiest Guitar Hooks

Compiled to celebrate R.E.M.'s apparent return to form with their new album:

   #5: R.E.M. "Talk About the Passion" from Murmer

Every mid-80's college student with a guitar tried to figure out this lick. On revisiting these albums it surprises me how many of the memorable riffs actually came from Mike Mills on bass.

 #4 The Replacements "I Will Dare" from Let It Be

The R.E.M connection helped sell the Mats to college radio stations who were still taking their cues from MTV. It's a great song but can you imagine "I Will Dare" without Buck's searching lead lines?

#3 R.E.M."Wolves, Lower" from the Chronic Town EP

Here's where we first heard the jangle and arpeggios ( as well as the mumbled lyrics) that inspired a hundred really sincere bands to form.

#2 Full Time Men "I Got Wheels" from Fast is My Name EP

Had to throw a curve. This is from Buck's 1985 EP with Keith Streng of the Fleshtones.Honestly the whole thing is one great guitar hook. Can't find it anymore so here's an mp3.

#1 R.E.M. "The One I Love" from Document

Buck used every trick in his arsenal, added a touch of distortion, and helped make "The One I Love" R.E. M.'s first major hit. Inescapable on Friday nights driving to football games in South Carolina's Low Country in 1987.

R.E.M. "Driver 8", "Shiny Happy People" ( hate the song but this is about "catchiest" riffs) and "Losing My Religion"
Decemberists "Down By the Water"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Well That's One Way To Get The Kids Excited About Greek Mythology

The kids at Watville Primary School sing Iron Maiden's Flight of Icarus.
Hang around at least to the two minute mark. You WON'T be disappointed

On Mardi Gras Day In N'Awlins, Da Best show Ain't On Da Floats

Every Year for Carnival Time, We make a new suit,

Red yellow green, purple or blue, We make a new suit,

We all try to make ours, as best as we could,

So when we out at Carnival, We be looking good,

Every Year for Carnival Time, We make a new suit,

Red yellow green, purple or blue, We make a new suit,

We got rhinestones on our suit, that shines like diamonds and stars,

Got to be sure that we 're together, cause we're sold on Mardi Gras, oh yall!

Every Year for Carnival Time, We make a new suit,

Red yellow green, purple or blue, We make a new suit,

Every Year for Carnival Time, We make a new suit,

Red yellow green, purple or blue, We make a new suit,

We got feathers, on our crowns, that stand a'bout eight feet high,

In every color, of the rainbow, We're beautiful , I ain't lying, oh yall!

Every Year for Carnival Time, We make a new suit,

We make a new suit

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cyndi Lauper Just Wants to Have Fun

Stuck at Buenos Aires' Jorge Newbery Airport last Friday, Cyndi Lauper grabs the public-address microphone and sings her 1983 2-million selling platinum hit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," as nearby travelers and airport workers sing along.

The song was originally written from a misogynistic man's point of view. Cyndi rewrote it and it remains one of the great feminist anthems of our time

#10 Merrilee Rush "Angel of the Morning" 1968

It is June 1968.
An assassin guns down another Kennedy.
Police arrest Martin Luther King Jr's killer.
War rages in Vietnam.
And racing up the pop charts is a steamy million-selling love song about a one night stand, "Angel of the Morning", by Seattle singer Merrilee Rush.

"The lyric was revolutionary for its time." Merrilee says, "Because this hasn't been said this way before. It was an overnight stand but it was said beautifully."

And sung beautifully by Rush, a dazzling brunette Johnny Cash called "the prettiest, sweetest apple the state of Washington ever produced."

"I was the Marlo Thomas of Rock n Roll," She laughs.

More than 40 years after that Grammy nominated performance, Merrilee has still got it. The voice. The stage presence. The mile wide smile. But she spends most of her time, these days, with her first true loves: her English sheepdogs. She bought her first sheepdog with babysitting money.

"I don't breed a lot, " she says. " but I've been breeding for 25 years and handling in the show room for 23 years and I love it. When you have a great moving dog that's really put together
and flows with you it's just my happy place!"

Her other happy place is an old dairy farm where her grandparents once lived. The cows are gone and so is the barn.

"And the outhouse," She points out. "I used to go in the outhouse .I was a mere child and I'd have to get up in the middle of the night, go out in the dark and I'd have to go to the outhouse."

A shy girl growing up, Merrilee had to be coaxed to front the bands she played in. Those were the days of bold patterned dresses and not one but two sets of false eyelashes.

"I was groovy." she laughs.

How groovy? Check out this 1969 clip from The Johnny Cash show.

Merrilee says looking back it all seems so foreign. Of course there were supposed to be other hits but that meant playing a game Merrilee wasn't interested in.

"I hated Vegas." she said."I hated the whole 'do the same thing three times a night every night'. There's no creativity. There's no room to move."

Now , with the farm she shares with musician husband Billy Mac and all those shaggy angels by her side, Merrilee has plenty of room.

Every so often she gets up on stage and sings her old hit, written incidentally by Jon Voight's brother Chip Taylor ( who also wrote "Wild Thing" for the Troggs).

The fans she considers most special? That's easy.

"The Vietnam vets that were over there at the time," She says."There was one fellow who said 'Yeah we played that before we'd fly out in the morning and some of them would tear up just talking about that period and that song so that means a lot."

By the way Merrilee is no angel of the morning. She's more of a night owl and prefers to sleep in.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

#9 Ron Wood "Act Together" 1974

It is a tribute to Ron Wood and his good nature that when he recorded his first solo album, I've Got My Own Album To Do, he managed to enlist the help of an all-star cast of British Rock stars: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and even an uncredited David Bowie.
They all came to his house in Richmond to help their buddy out and they all left their egos inside the sports cars and limosines parked outside.

Writing credits for "Act Together" belong to Mick and Keith, but in his autobiography, Life, I could swear Keith said he wrote it either by himself or with Ronnie.  I've lent out my copy of Life so maybe someone can fill me in. In any case the two were best mates and with Mick Taylor's departure, The Stones brought Woody on board in 1975 for the album Black and Blue and when The Faces finally broke up...well,  the rest, as they say, is history.

                                                          Ron Wood at home      

You can argue an entire night about what makes the best cut on this album . Hell, you can even argue whether this is the last great Stones album. ( I'd say Some Girls and Keef's Talk is Cheap qualify) I love the boozy feel of "Act Together". Is this another song Keith wrote to Mick or Anita Pallenberg? Does it even matter? The lyrics work for both of those stormy relationships:

 " We should try get our love together.
Once in a while,
 put ourselves together
 It's looking good.
 Let's get our shit together.
Sure won't hurt you now."

Act Together

Thursday, March 3, 2011

#8 The Electric Prunes "The Great Banana Hoax", 1967

"Noise can be musical and beautiful. Once you commit to tape or disc format you've changed the presentation; why not take it as far as you can. Vibrating a bunch of guitar strings is an effect, after all. Layering various textures puts a kind of depth to the record...I dig that." -- James Lowe, lead singer, the Electric Prunes

"The Great Banana Hoax" is the lead off cut to one of the great albums from one of the greatest years in rock, 1967's Underground.. What is the hoax? Back in '67 word got around ( with the help of Donovan's "Mellow Yellow") that people could get high by smoking banana peels. Even Time & Newsweek wrote about it. The FDA put their best scientists on the case.

They discovered there are chemicals in the banana peels called serotonin and norepinephrine that are related to hallucinogens such as LSD, but not enough to get you high. All the people who have smoked banana peels say it doesn't get them high, only headaches

Though their roots were pure garage, The LA based Prunes experimented like mad scientists in the studio. That motorcycle revving up that you hear at the beginning of the song is actually a slowed down growl, meant to evoke the sound of moving furniture. The percussive effects at the end are done with an African kalimba.

This week bassist Mark Tulin, who also worked briefly with Smashing Pumpkins, died at the age of 62.

Billy Corgan paid tribute to Tulin via a blog post on, stating : “Mark was part of a movement of suburban kids in the mid to late 60s that changed the world with their dark musical dreaming, and of course their Anglophile obsessions. From their imaginations sprang so many technicolor daydreams and all manner of wishing; wishing that we were often what we are not,” before concluding, “God Bless you Mark, you will always be a star”.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

#7 Jacques Dutronc "Le Responsible" 1966

With a blast of feedback and no apologies to The Out of Our Heads era Rolling Stones, french rocker Jacques Dutronc is a misanthrope...but a responsible one.

I am worried I'm in trouble
I have trouble I torment
I have not the moral I've no money
I have no luck I have no friends
I am a responsible man

In the mid 60's Dutronc was a huge rock star. My stepmother, growing up in Switzerland, said all the schoolgirls had the biggest crush on Jacques. He kept his eyes and ears focused on what was happening in England at the time and, whether it was garage rock, Kinks-like pop or psychedelia he could translate it into a French hit. But he wasn't the only one borrowing riffs and ideas.

Mungo Jerry took Dutronc's "Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi" and scored a No 3 UK hit with its cover, called "Alright, Alright, Alright."

Finally, Dutronc gets name-checked in one of the best songs of the entire 90's, Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha":

Jacques Dutronc and the Bolan Boogie/
The Heavy Hitters and the Chichi music.

Dutronc married french singer Francoise Hardy in 1981. He's an actor of note, having won the French Academy Award, the Cesar for his role in the 1991 film Van Gogh.

Clearly an artist who deserves more than a cult following.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Esperanza Spalding Interview

In February of 2011, I had the privilege of sitting down with Esperanza Spalding, the first jazz musician to ever win the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Weeks later, Justin Bieber fans were still upset. They'd been retweeting this mock dialogue :

Justin: Knock Knock.
Esperanza: Who's There?
Justin: Esperanza Spalding.
Esperanza: Esperanza Spalding who?
Justin: Exactly.

Esperanza has shown nothing but grace in light of the onslaught by Bieber fans. At a one day master class she gave jazz majors at Portland State University, she drew a standing room only crowd. She made a point about supporting solos rather than stepping over them by asking one of the musicians how his day was and then interrupting him incessantly. The audience laughed.

Born in Portland, Esperanza says her life changed course at age 5...thanks to an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

He played one of the Bach cello suites and I had never heard someone play an instrument.
I just never heard music like that and I was...I dunno. Sold.
I was captivated and I went "Mama, I wanna do that .

For years she played classical violin. Then Esperanza found a double bass in her high school music room.

I was just trying first of all to play a note which was impossible.
Cuz if you've played violin for 11 years
and you try to play bass it's like your body rejects.
It's like no.

At 16 she enrolled at Portland State University to study jazz with Professor Darrell Grant.

(Darrell Grant)
She had a really good pulse
A really good sense of rhythm
She had a good sound in the bass even from the beginning
She could pull the strings.

A year later, Esperanza won a full scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music.
At 20, she became the youngest faculty member in school history.
Her focus has always been on her art.
It's taken her a long way from Portland:
around the world, to the top of the jazz charts, even to The White House.
But she is still a Rose City girl at heart.

I love this city.
I'm always raving about it.
And then people come here and they see what I mean and
I'm like "Yeah!"
I'm proud.

And of course Portland is proud of Esperanza,
The night she won her Emmy a roar could be heard throughout the city,

(Darrell Grant)
I mean, we just screamed.
I was like "She won! She won!"
I went out on my front porch like yelling "She won! She won!"

Wherever life takes Esperanza she won't be travelling light.
After all she is in a committed relationship with that double bass.

I just like the damn thing you know
It doesn't have to get too deep
I just love the instrument &
It's fun to play I keep going.

Because this blog is about music I just want to let Esperanza talk more at length about that last point: her love affair with the double bass.

I don't know why it's the bass.
When I picked up the bass something just felt more open
It was like "Oh I speak this language".
I don't know what that means.
I certainly couldn't play.
Like anyone who just picked up the bass I had no physical ability on the instrument, but I guess I felt like I could do it.
It just seemed accessible to me.
That was the beginning.

Then as I learned more about the bass's role in music and arrangement, I really started to love being a bass player.
I really loved playing with harmony like that.
I loved the exploration of expressing textures with lines.
Expressing whole palettes of color with one line.
I love that.
It's like playing drums and piano kind of together and those are two of my favorite instruments.
And so I love translating rhythmic ideas and grooves and patterns to this melodic instrument.
I just love everything about it.
I love the tone.
I love where it lies in the sonic spectrum--in a song.
And for singing, it's such a nice accompaniment for me anyway.
I love counterpoint.
I'm a fan of counterpoint.
I'm addicted to counterpoint.
For me , that's the way I get to express it.
With the voice and the bass and I got hooked on that right away ( laughs).
And of course there are reasons you can't explain:
I just love the damn thing, you know?
It doesn't have to be too deep.
I love the instrument and it's fun to play,
And it's fun to play improvise music with people that you enjoy communicating with so ...I keep going.