Thursday, May 31, 2018

Screaming Through a Jukebox

Graham Parker : Heat in Harlem (live)

In May of 1978 Graham Parker and the Rumour released the live album, The Parkerilla. Recorded at a variety of venues, the double album has been dismissed by critics as a contractual obligation so Parker could leave Mercury for Arista. By treading water, Parker saw his critical appeal migrate to Elvis Costello. But what the critics didn’t know is Parker had already written songs that would appear on his best album, 1979’s Squeezing Out Sparks

While I found listening to this album drudgery, I like Parker's 1989 Live! Alone in America and I would always recommend seeing Parker if he comes to your town.

 Robert Christgau gave The Parkerilla a B- review writing : 

 If you think it's a little early for a concert album by Parker, who's not exactly Peter Frampton on the rackjobber circuit, you're right, but only if you view this--three live sides plus one 33-rpm single (the fourth version of "Don't Ask Me Questions" Parker has put on disc)--as music, or product. Regard it instead as a gambit designed to terminate his contract with Mercury. The music that fleshes out the gambit has a nice intensity that gets left out of those nasty rumors. But none of the songs are new and none of the remakes revelatory. 

Rolling Stone’s Greil Marcus called the live album cloddish and close to pointless: 

 They think it's a show," English rocker Graham Parker muttered one night last fall, coming off a stage in Phoenix. "But it isn't a show, it's real." The Parkerilla, three sides of live material (side four is taken up by a new studio version of "Don't Ask Me Questions," reduced to just under four minutes for the benefit of AM radio), is a show. 

 We find Parker and the Rumour, who at their best greet a crowd like a storm warning, on something less than a hot night; rather, they're very competent, which is to say that The Parkerilla is close to pointless. Parker and the Rumour don't take off from their three previous albums, they clone them: the live version of "Don't Ask Me Questions" offered here misses the original studio take by a mere six seconds. 

 The only vital differences are negative. Stephen Goulding, whose drumming on Howlin Wind and Heat Treatment is so clean and full of snap, overplays constantly; like a nightclub hack who can underline a phrase only with his cymbals, he sounds cloddish. Bob Andrews' cute, emotionally barren piano capsizes the "Maggie May" romanticism of "Gypsy Blood." A certain amount of bullshit has crept into Parker's singing: he pumps up "Don't Ask Me Questions" with melodrama, and the natural intensity of his attack sometimes crosses the line into ersatz hysteria. You can hear him pushing.

 What truly makes this record a waste of time is the song selection. Parker's last album, Stick to Me, was miserably recorded, virtually snuffing the power of the three blazing, intelligent tunes he then proceeded to rescue on-stage: "Stick to Me," "Soul on Ice" and the magnificent "Thunder and Rain." None is included on The Parkerilla — nor is "Pouring It All Out," as perfect a rock & roll song as anyone has written in the Seventies, and the essence of Parker's live dose of "reality." What we get instead are seven and a half minutes of "The Heat in Harlem," a clichéd fantasy that only Carmen Miranda could save. And so on. 

 Parker's career has clearly hit a snag, both in terms of commercial failure — FM airplay hasn't sold his records — and in terms of his ideas of what to do about it. The enormous critical support he received for his first two albums — all of it deserved — has been pretty much transferred to Elvis Costello, who has a far more distinct (i.e., marketable and easy-to-write-about) image, and who projects the pop (as opposed to Parker's personal) obsessiveness that critics, pop obsessives themselves, respond to most deeply. It's not inconceivable that a nicely titled live album could put Parker across. Such artifacts have worked for other stalled performers recently: Peter Frampton, of course, but also Bob Seger, with whom Graham Parker has a lot in common. Vegas, however, is not posting any odds.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Haphazard Masterpiece

Big Star : Holocaust

I was getting very destructive  in a lot of ways then, and I was trying to capture that on recordings.
-Alex Chilton

In 1978 Aura Records in London, and later PVC in the US, released 1974 recordings made by Alex Chilton and Big Star drummer Jody Stephens as Big Star 3rd. These are different versions of the same influential album. Chilton was never informed about what tracks were selected. The album has also been called Sister/Lovers because Chilton and Stephens were dating the Aldridge sisters, Lesa and Holliday.

Lesa is on the right, in this photo by William Eggleston

Chilton wrote "Blue Moon" for 18 year old Lesa,  with the line "Let me be your one light/if you like a true heart". Lesa told A Man Called Destruction author Holly George-Warren "It was a a validation of his love for me--he loved me very bit as much as I loved him. You can't write that kind of song for someone you don't."

“Lesa is a muse, unquestionably,” Jim Dickinson, Chilton’s producer, once said. “Nearly every song on 3rd is about her. The world will never know the extent to which Lesa was responsible for that record.”

It was a tumultuous relationship. Chilton, messed up on downers, would sometimes get physical with her. Lesa inspired many of the songs on 3rd . The song "Kanga Roo" is supposedly about their first meeting "I first saw you/ You had on blue jeans/ Your eyes couln't hide/Anything", and she is even name checked in "Kizza Me" with the line "Lesa, why not".

Reviews were mixed. Some heard a sloppy, self -indulgent mess. But Creem's Robot Hill wrote:

Chilton's genius was in allowing the songs to remain untouched, a decision that intentionally reflected his confused state. Because they tend to reveal little more than the artist's mushrooming ego, personal albums usually make me sick. But this one just happens to be a haphazard masterpiece. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My Secrets To Reveal

Walter Egan : Magnet and Steel

In the week if May 29, Walter Egan's teen make-out ballad "Magnet and Steel" entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #87. The song, about his feeling for Stevie Nicks, would peak at US #8 thanks to backing vocals from both Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Previously, Egan had written "Hearts Of Fire", which was recorded by Gram Parsons and released on Grievous Angel.  

Here's Egan's story about how the song came about:

"In 1976 I was living in Pomona, California and I had a notion to write a song with the 'stroll' beat (made famous by Chuck Willis) and so began the rough outline of what was tentatively called 'Don't Turn Away Now.' Now, this was also at the time of putting together my first album, Fundamental Roll, and my two new friends and producers, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks and I were starting the recording process. 

 On the night when Stevie did the background vocals for my song 'Tunnel o' Love,' my nascent amorous feelings toward her came into a sharper focus - I was smitten by the kitten, as they say. It was on my drive home at 3 AM from Van Nuys to Pomona that I happened to be behind a metal flake blue Continental with ground effects and a diamond window in back. I was inspired by the car's license plate: 'Not Shy.' ( The name of his sophomore album).

 By the time I pulled into my driveway I had formulated the lyrics and come up with the magnet metaphor. From there the song was finished in 15 minutes. 

 It was especially satisfying to have Stevie sing on 'Magnet,' since it was about her (and me)."

Monday, May 28, 2018

People Think I'm Crazy

The Rolling Stones : Miss You ( extended version)

It is the summer of '78 and my dad has dropped me off at a bowling alley in West Haven with friends so he could spend more time with a Swiss woman who would become my step mother. I've got enough money for a soda or candy, but not both, and there's no way I'm going to break 200. But I can beat my sisters with my eyes closed.

 All of a sudden this song comes on. All I'm hearing is the bass and drums at first, a disco beat that doesn't do anything for me. Then comes the chorus with its "Oooh oooh oooh oooh" and EVERYBODY in the place is singing along.

 What the hell is this? It's the new Rolling Stones single, THE song of the Summer of '78, which broke into the Billboard Hot 100 at #76 on May 28, 1978. It would hit #1 in August and so would the album Some Girls

That was the Summer I returned from boarding school needing a tutor for Algebra I/ Symbolic Logic and Introductory French. The Summer my dad and his Swiss friend and all of our families lived together in a rented beach cottage. Like cats introduced in the same house all at once, we hissed . We fought. We found our quiet places. It was also the Summer I would bike over to the next town to hang out with a friend who had a guitar and was willing to write songs with me.

When his dad caught us sitting around, he'd call us over to do some yard work. We'd muck the one horse stable or chop wood. Writing songs in the basement was the best way to avoid that work. We decided to call the band Split Wood. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Can’t Take Two, What Will I Do?

The Lurkers : Ain't Got a Clue

Punks with mullets and a love for The Ramones. . The Lurkers were the first band signed by Beggars Banquet. "Ain't Got a Clue", the band's third single was issued in May of 1978  with a free gold colored flexidisc consisting of five minutes of The Lurkers rehearsing that eventually becomes a song called "The Chaos Brothers". "Ain't Got a Clue"  actually made the U.K. charts, peaking at #45. 

Their success would pave the way to more signings like Gary Numan's Tubeway Army, The Charlatans and The Go-Betweens. The label, Beggars Group, now consists of 4AD, Matador, Rough Trade, XL Recording and  Young Turks. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Butcher, It's Meaty

The Soft Boys : ( I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp

On May 26, 1978 Radar Recoprds released the second single from The Soft Boys,  "( I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp" b/w "Fatman's Son", both written and sung by Robyn Hitchcock. Hitchcock is one of rock's most eccentric songwriters, blending his own sensibilities with those of John Lennon, Syd Barrett, The Beach Boys and The Byrds. The single stiffed and Radar dropped the band which also consisted of Kimberley Rew, later of Katrina and the Waves. Would this be the last we'd hear from fair Robyn? Don't bet on it!

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Languid Wallop

David Gilmour : Raise My Rent

Coming off Pink Floyd's "In The Flesh" Tour which ended with an increasingly agitated Roger Waters spitting at a fan, the usually reclusive David Gilmour had helped secure Kate Bush a record deal and was now ready to make his own statement, a solo album released May 25,  1978. 

 Fans, reading between the lines of songs like "There's No Way Out of Here", could sense Gilmour's state of mind.

 “This album [David Gilmour] was important to me in terms of self respect.," Gilmour told Circus Magazine. "At first I didn’t think my name was big enough to carry it. Being in a group for so long can be a bit claustrophobic, and I needed to step out from behind Pink Floyd’s shadow.” 

Michael Bloom, writing for Rolling Stone, was not all that impressed with the album, which went gold

In his work with Pink Floyd, David Gilmour's exact, blues-based guitar solos function as tense pivotal points that set the stage for the next revelation. On his first solo album, however, Gilmour simply flirts with his own crystalline perfection. Drummer Willie Wilson (from the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver) and bassist Rick Wills (a ubiquitous hack from Frampton's Camel, Roxy Music and the reconstituted Small Faces) are constrained to the sluggish tempos favored by Floyd, and Gilmour dives in like a duck to water. But the alien overview, the philosophical paradoxes that make Pink Floyd's lazy playing so poignant and pregnant, are sorely missed here. Gilmour affects a bland innocence in the face of earthly perversity in lyrics barely worthy of Samuel Beckett's shoeshine boy. 

 One cut stands out: "Short and Sweet," coauthored by muckraker Roy Harper. A longtime Floyd ally -- he sang the biting "Have a Cigar" on Wish You Were Here -- Harper is widely regarded as the most uncompromisingly honest songwriter in England. Here, he articulates the existential riddle of David Gilmour better than Gilmour himself can. 

 There's nothing amiss with David Gilmour as an immaculate guitar sampler, but as far as providing genuine ideas -- forget it.

Future Rolling Stone Album Guides would mostly share the sentiment, although I swear there was a four star review in the second edition.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fly Her Away

The Motors : Airport

In May of 1978 The Motors released their sophomore album Approved By The Motors, which featured their biggest hit, the U.K. #4 "Airport". Andrew McMaster says he wrote the song while living under the Heathrow flightpath. The follow-up single, "Forget About You", reached number 13 in the U.K. charts. The band would break up before releasing  their third album Tenement Steps in 1980. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Beaten Black, Beaten Blue

Angelic Upstarts : The Murder for Liddle Towers

In May of 1978 the punk rock band Angelic Upstarts released their debut single "The Murder of Liddle Towers", an anti-police diatribe recounting the death of a 39 year old electrician who was allegedly beaten by police outside a nightclub. He died three weeks later.  An inquest into the death returned a verdict of justifiable homicide. 

The case also inspired Tom Robinson's " Blue Murder" and "Liddle Towers" by the skinhead band The Crux. 

Liddle Towers

Why did he die, or did they lie? 
I think he's dead, so a doctor said 
He was beaten black, He was beaten blue 
But don't be alarmed, it was the right thing to do 
The police have the power, Police have the right
 To kill a man to take away his life 
Drunk and disorderly was his crime 
I think at worst he should be doing time
 But he's dead He was drunk and disorderly and now he's dead 

More than two decades after its release, their debut single, "The Murder Of Liddle Towers", was included in Mojo magazine’s list of the best punk rock singles of all time. With other blue collar punks, the Upstarts became the forefathers of the Oi skinhead movement although they were anti-racism and never flirted with right wing elements.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Suck My Socks

Klark Kent : Don't Care

On May 27 a mysterious seven inch from someone named Klark Kent was released on green vinyl, in a green sleeve,  on the Kryptonite label. The press release suggested Kent came from a Welsh fishing village and could only speak a New Orleans patois but we would all soon learn the singer of the U.K. #48 hit "Don't Care" was none other than Stewart Copeland, the drummer of The Police. He'd offred the song to his band but Sting just couldn't relate to lyrics like 

I Am The Hottest Thing You Ever Will See 
You Know I'm Something It Ain't Easy To Be
 I Am The Neatest Thing That Ever Hit Town 
There Isn't Anything The Could Bring Me Down

Monday, May 21, 2018

Functioning Automatic

Kraftwerk : Die Roboter

In May of 1978, Kraftwerk released Die Mensch-Maschine (The Man Machine) ushering in an age of electronic pop music that would inspire everyone from Gary Numan, to The Human League, from Depeche Mode to New Order.  Kraftwerk has always been one of the most mysterious bands of the rock era. Upon first listening to their album, you might think the band has decided to keep its most human qualities as distant as possible from the music they play.

"We are playing the machines, the machines play us," Ralf Hütter explained at the time. "It is really the exchange and friendship we have with the machines which make us build a new music."

With time, listeners pick up on Kraftwerk's wicked sense of irony, most apparent at the record launch in Paris where the press were greeted by the Kraftwerk automatons. If the press criticized their music as so cold they could have been written by robots, then the band members would give them real robots.

For many, the highlight of the album is "The Model", a song so ahead of its time it would take five years before it would reach the U.K. Top 40, sounding not at all out of place among the likes of Soft Cell and The Human League. The model may be beautiful but she is just as much of a robot as anyone else, "posing for consumer products now and then".

The Man Machine is the greatest statement Kraftwerk would ever make. In fact, it's so perfect the band would never come close to topping it. They took a three year break before releasing Computer World. Soon Hütter and bandmate Florian Schneider would become obsessed with cycling, riding up to 200 kilometers a day.

The world's greatest technological rock band would be side tracked by something as simple as a bicycle.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Psychic Frequencies

Blondie : (I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear 

On May 20, Blondie's new single "(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear" peaked in the U.K. charts at #10. The music may be straight-forward by the double tracked lyrics are quite complicated, referencing kismet, theosophy, R.E.M, levitation and the stratosphere. Departing bassist Gary Valentine wrote the song about the telepathic experiences he believed he was having with then girlfriend Lisa Jane Persky ( who played the teenage daughter in The Great Santini opposite Robert Duvall).

"During the Iggy {Pop} tour we discovered we were having the same kind of dreams or found we were thinking of each other at the same time.," said  Valentine. "Although we were thousands of miles apart, we were still in touch. Thinking of this one afternoon, it all came together in a song."

The single, from Blondie's second album,  Plastic Letters,  was not released in the United States.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Every Dog Has His Day

The Kinks : Misfits

On May 19, 1978 The Kinks released Misfits, their follow-up to their Arista debut Sleepwalker. Here, we find Ray Davies contemplating the rock and roll life during the punk revolution with the wistful tone of an older and wiser man who has already seen it all.

To sell the album, The Kinks hit the road with drummer Mick Avory returning into the fold and two newcomers Gordon Edwards (Pretty Things) and Jim Rodford (Argent) . Across the United States The Kinks played with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Blondie, Cheap Trick and The Cars.  The single 'A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" peaked at US#30 in September., around the same time Bad Company was recording their last hit single, uh--this is awkward--, "Rock'n'Roll Fantasy". No relation. 

After twenty-odd albums, either you follow the Kinks or you don't. If you don't ("Gently pity those you can't persuade," as Jonathan Swift put it), it's unlikely you'll acquire the habit with Misfits, especially since none of the songs sounds like an immediate hit single. But if you do, this LP can make you cry. Not because Misfits is a bad record — on the contrary, it's the Kinks' best since, at the very least, 1974's underrated Preservation Act 2. No, what makes it heart-rending is its candor bordering on cruelty. And both the victim and the victor are Ray Davies. 

 It's as if the voice that has probably whispered for years inside Ray Davies' head, murmuring, "Come out, come out, wherever you are," has swollen into a scream that can no longer be stifled. No more hide-and-seek with the dramatis personae of the theatrical RCA albums or the metaphors of the last LP, Sleepwalker, the Kinks' first for Arista. No more peek-aboo behind cute ambiguity ("...I'm glad I'm a man/And so is Lola") or the disingenuous exhibitionism of drunkenness. Out of the closet, out of the Kinks even, and into the fire — not of damnation but, what's more excruciating, of irresolution. For sometimes, coming out isn't as difficult as it's cracked up to be: discovering where you are is often the hard part. That's why Davies, rather than answering the scream in kind, responds with a sigh that is desolating but that also speaks of a peace — a sadder but wiser awareness of his own ambivalence — that passeth all under-standing. 

 Where, after all, does a misfit belong? To come out of the closet may be to leap into the void. Almost all of the songs on this record are about people who don't belong anywhere: a tax exile in a tropical land, a heterosexual transvestite, "the only honky living on an all black street" and most of all, Ray Davies himself. The title track, addressed to every performer whose time has come and gone, but especially to Davies, is a fitting introduction to the Kinks' most intimate album. Alienated from the dwindling crowd on whom his livelihood depends, Davies sings: 

You had your chance in your day
Yet you threw it all away 
But you know what they say 
Every dog has his day. 

 That "dog," which Davies drops almost casually, without bitterness or self-pity, is devastating. Apart from Johnny Rotten, the only other rock performers capable of such a brutal self-assessment are Pete Townshend and perhaps Neil Young. "Misfits" shows up a song like Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" for the callow self-romanticization it really is.

 "A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" is even more ruthless. It's a twofold fantasy: that of Davies, who'll "break up the band, start a new life, be a new man," and that of a diehard Kinks fan, Dan, who's wrapped up in their records. At its lovely beginning, the song suggests a breathy ballad by the Bee Gees, another veteran group but one that, unlike the Kinks, is now enjoying greater commercial success than ever before. As the lyrics describe Dan's rapt devotion, billowing harmonies deliberately evoke the Beach Boys, a band that seems to have soldiered on only for the sake of nostalgia. Then, as this description reaches its climax, the Kinks burst into an approximation of the sound of Boston's dense, swirling guitars. (If Boston can scarcely get it together to record a second LP, imagine how the Kinks, whose success was equally over-night, feel as they approach their twenty-second or so!) "A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" ends with Davies insisting, "Don't want to spend my life, living in a rock 'n' roll fantasy /...Don't want to waste my life, hiding away anymore," but after nearly fifteen years as a rock and  roller, it's clear that any alternative is every bit as much a fantasy. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. 

 Quoted in snatches, the lyrics of these two songs make them sound lacerating, but actually they're extraordinarily tender. Ray Davies sings them gently, almost conversationally, as if the last thing he wanted to do were to melodramatize his dilemma. Indeed, Misfits may be his best-sung — and most subtly sung — record yet. "Misfits" and "A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" are arranged as under-stated anthems; each begins on a delicate, confessional note and builds, layer upon layer, to a chaste grandeur that never topples over into pretentiousness. With Andy Pyle replacing John Dalton on bass, the Kinks play immaculately. This is rock and roll with a bitter-sweet restraint.

Only "Trust Your Heart," the first song kid-brother-cum-lead-guitarist Dave Davies has written and recorded in six years, erupts uncontrollably, and the chaos is scarifying. As the track lurches from a love song to a political jeremiad ("What on earth do we need government for?"), guitars whine and wallop in a dark void. Dave squeals and caterwauls like Little Richard until on the last verse, his hysteria becomes incomprehensible without the lyrics sheet. Unlike Ray, he cannot articulate his torment, which makes it all the more violent. How can you trust your heart when it's incoherent?

 Letting it all hang out as the brothers Davies do on Misfits has its limitations. The straightforward "Out of the Wardrobe," a prosaic ode to transvestism, misses the dodgy wit of "Lola." Though "Black Messiah" rightly ridicules the naive enthusiasm of white audiences for the Rastafarianism of reggae (which it travesties musically by adulterating it with Dixieland), the song raises without resolving the issue of Davies' own racism. And "Get Up" is saved from unseemly condescension ("Here's a message for the little guy") only by the excitement of its beat and because it becomes obvious that the exhortation is aimed, above all, at the singer himself. 

 Thanks to Ray Davies, Misfits is very nearly a masterpiece because it anatomizes rather than glorifies Davies' role as "One of the Survivors," as the Kinks sang five years ago. After all, merely to have survived is nothing to crow about: Al Martino is hanging in there, too, and for all we know, Martin Bormann is alive and well and living in Argentina. For an artist (and anyone else, for that matter), the point is not only to survive, but to flourish. The Kinks aren't getting older — they're getting better.

From Robert Christgau's B review:

 Ray Davies hasn't put so many hummable melodies in one place since Everybody's in Showbiz (just to make sure, he's put a couple of them both places), and the lyrics evince renewed thought and craft. All of which makes his congenital parochialism and ressentiment seem surprisingly fresh and vivid. Dismaying: "Black Messiah"--Enoch Powell would be proud.

Rolling Stone critics called both Misfits and the "Rock'n'Roll Fantasy" single Runners Up in Best album and Best Single  categories.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Momma Thinks I Look Pretty Fruity

David Johansen : Funky But Chic

In May of 1978, a year and a half after the New York Dolls broke up, David Johansen released his self titled debut album. Ex Doll Sylvain Sylvain played guitar on "Cool Metro" and co-wrote four songs including "Funky But Chic",  the best song ever written about thrift shopping. ( Sorry, Macklemore).

The two paired up on the writing on the fan favorite "Girls" ( lovingly known as "Goils" by fans). It's as tough as anything the Rolling Stones were recording at the time. David Johansen is your classic critic's favorite, a Top 10 finish in the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critic's Poll. Robert Christgau gave the album an A- grade, writing:

Balancing the unrecorded classics of the Dolls' rent-party phase--"Girls" ("I love 'em seizin' the power"), "Funky but Chic" ("Mama thinks I look pretty fruity but in jeans I feel rotten"), and "Frenchette" (as in laundrette)--against ground-breaking love/heartbreak songs like "Donna" and "Pain in My Heart," this is in many ways a "better" record than either Dolls LP. Sound quality is fuller, the rhythm section funks and flows, the guitarists play genuine solos and respond to the call, and Johansen's voice is as open and direct as his new songs, finding an almost soulful musical and emotional range. Conceptually, though, it's singer-with-backup in a post-garage mode, packing no distinctive structural or sonic kick, pretty conventional for the pied piper of outrageousness.

Maybe that's why the album sank like a stone.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

She's A Darling

The Go Betweens : Lee Remick

After just six weeks of practice, two gigs, and yet to find a drummer, cinephiles Robert Forster and Grant McLennan entered Brisbane's  Bruce Window Studios as The Go-Betweens. It was here that The Saints had recorded "I'm Stranded" a year or so earlier.

Looking back in the memoir Grant and I, Forster writes:

The choice of songs was important; this could be the only record we ever made. Our models were The Velvets, The Doors and Roxy Music, groups capable of pop and arty adventure. "Lee Remick" and "Karen" covered that.

Four hours later, the duo headed to the parking lot with a master tape. They sent the tape off to a Sydney processing plant . In September they were presented with the first copies of their single. Copies were sent to Lee Remick, Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, Lenny Kaye ( of Nuggets and the Patti Smith Group fame) as well as Beserkley UK who wanted to hear more.

For a few weeks we walked around like kings.

Looking back, "Lee Remick" has a bit of a novelty song feel to it. Also, without the benefit of Wikipedia, Forster wrongly asserts she came from Ireland ( instead of Quincy, Mass) . But since he follows up with "She's very beautiful/ I come from Brisbane/ And I'm quite plain" I'm not going to tell him.

"Karen" would make Lloyd Cole blush with its literary references, but as Forster reminds eveyrone below, he was only 20 years old.

The Go-Betweens were just getting started. Before they were done, they would become my favorite band. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Any Way The Wind Blows

Joe Walsh : Second Hand Store

On May 16, 1978 Joe Walsh released But Seriously Folks.... Recorded while The Eagles were struggling to follow up Hotel California, the album features many of his bandmates on backing vocals and pedal steel guitar from Don Felder on "Second Hand Store". The highlight is the eight minute album closer, 'Life's Been Good", his famous piss take on the decadent lifestyle of the rock and roller: 'I have a mansion, forget the price, ain't never been there, they tell me it's nice.' 

I bought a cassette in the Summer of '78 and still have it in the attic, probably melting in the heat of the Summer of '18.

From Greil Marcus writing for Rolling Stone

Joe Walsh seemed an odd choice as Eagle-come-lately because he has a sense of humor; he's a mensch, not an Übermensch. Presumably, Henley, Frey and  Co. wanted him for his guitar playing. Walsh added enormous punch to Hotel California -- he's the one who kicks "Life in the Fast Lane" into fifth gear -- but good as that album was, it hardly left room for Walsh's bizarre brand of self-depreciation. For that, he has to make his own records.

 "But Seriously, Folks..." -- whose jacket pictures Walsh relaxing at a cafe that is unremarkable except for the fact that it's underwater -- is a triumph in the grand tradition of So What? and You Can't Argue with a Sick Mind. (Since Walsh is now signed to Asylum, shouldn't he have called the new disc Voluntary Commitment, or something like that?) The sound is full of brilliant highlights, and the songs are good, though not as carefully written as Pete Townshend's, with whom Walsh shares a lot, and not as lazy as Jimmy Buffett's, with whom Walsh shares too much. On the other hand, not having to try very hard is pretty much what the album is about -- "Theme from Boat Weirdos," a delightful instrumental, comes off like a backing track for which Walsh couldn't be bothered to find lyrics -- and what makes Walsh's celebration of ease so much fun is that he's never arrogant. He's befuddled, but he won't look a gift horse in the mouth -- a phrase that might well turn up as the title of his next LP.

The best thing here is clearly "Life's Been Good," an eight-minute reverie on the absurdity of success (what's absurd to Walsh is that he's successful). It starts off with dramatic guitar figures -- this is the Big One, the music announces -- and then drops into bubblegum reggae for the world's least dramatic autobiography: "My Maserati does one-eighty-five/I lost my license/Now I don't drive." It's a tale of a rich, carefree rock star, laughing at the world that has given him his pleasures, and laughing as well at his ability to enjoy them without a twinge of guilt -- or even a hint of the self-pity such songs conventionally use as a substitute for soul. "I can't complain," Walsh admits. "But sometimes I still do."

 As always, Walsh sings in his filtered, tinny whine -- he sounds as if he's coming from across the street, an odd contrast to the full presence of his guitar and the band -- but after a while you get used to it. He's got a lot of Keith Moon in him, and the quality of his voice simply cops to the fact that he's not quite all there, aurally or otherwise. Queer as his voice may be, Joe Walsh is never as choked up as Tom Petty, but then he doesn't take himself as seriously either. Long may he keep on not doing so.

Well, "Second Hand Store" is fairly likable, but keep it to yourself -- a follow-up would ruin everything. "Life's Been Good" is not only Summer Song '78, it was born to be a novelty one-shot, and that it happens to say more about the tribulations of stardom than all the concept albums ever devised on the subject just goes to show how deeply significant AM radio can be. C+

Monday, May 14, 2018

Got My Kiss Records Out

Cheap Trick : Surrender ( alt. take)

In May of 1978 Cheap Trick released their third album, Heaven Tonight. The album-- like In Color,  its predecessor,  produced by Tom Werman-- kicks off with perhaps the band's greatest song"Surrender". Here, this Midwest band of anglophiles plays up all of their UK 60's rock band influences and complies them into 44 minutes of fun.

Reportedly released a few weeks early in Japan where the band was on tour and recorded the breakthrough Live at Budokan album on April 28 and 30.

Mitchell Schneider for Rolling Stone 

 Given Cheap Trick's boisterous indebtedness to rock and roll history, you could argue that the members of this foursome are not so much creators as dedicated fans. Exactly. Heaven Tonight, the band's third and best album, practically synthesizes the music of the Beatles, the Who, et al., into a series of superbly crafted and cleverly arranged original songs. While Cheap Trick may not be remembered as lovingly as its primarily British antecedents — the price one has to pay for musical kleptomania, I suppose — the group's intelligence, verve and charm will do just fine for now.

Not since the Move (whose "California Man" is covered here) or the Raspberries has a band hammered out power pop as irresistibly and snappily as Cheap Trick. Heaven Tonight has enough gorgeous harmonies, zealous melodies, two-fisted riffs and heavy-metal chords to scare the kitsch right out of Queen or Kiss. However impressive last year's In Color was, it merely anticipated this record. If Cheap Trick now plays with more force and precision — guitarist/chief songwriter Rick Nielsen slashes away with Pete Townshend vengeance — it also comes on with more innocence in its bubbly harmonies. And that's where the tension in the group's music resides.

There is probably not one melody, vocal harmony or chord pattern on Heaven Tonight that honestly belongs to Cheap Trick. So what. Listening to this LP makes you feel as frenzied as a contestant on Name That Tune. Some of the vocals on "Surrender" (whose electronic guitar effects and power chords re-create Who's Next) duplicate those from the Hollies' "Carrie-Anne." "Stiff Competition," which borrows its chords from Pete Townshend's "Won't Get Fooled Again," contains harmonies that are reminiscent of the Beatles' "I Feel Fine." The vaudevillian frivolity of "How Are You" bears a suspicious resemblance to the bouncy part of "A Day in the Life." Further, lead singer Robin Zander successfully impersonates John Lennon (not to mention Lennon's clone, Jeff Lynne). So it's no wonder that "Heaven Tonight" and "Takin' Me Back" suggest "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," respectively. And so on.

Yet for all its stylistic meticulousness, Heaven Tonight never comes off as detached or lofty. Such compellingly moronic verse as "Sayonara oh suicide hari kari/Kamikaze you won't/See another evening/Goodbye" makes Cheap Trick, along with the Ramones, ardent practitioners of Andy Warhol's finest philosophy: "We should really stay babies for much longer than we do, now that we're living so much longer." Consider the phallocentric "Stiff Competition," on which Zander sings "The bigger they are — the harder they fall." Or "On the Radio," whose Pampers harmonies brilliantly satirize and celebrate the Bay City Rollers in their prime.

 However admirable Heaven Tonight may be as an aural rock and roll encyclopedia, one wonders if Cheap Trick will continue to swipe its musical ideas from the past — an approach that could become tedious — or eventually carve its own initials. I'm willing to find out.

Robert Christgau gave the album a B+ review writing:

When I gave the weak side a final spin, I was quite surprised to recognize four hooks with pleasure. The strong side begins with a wonderfully funny parents song and includes a sarcastic ditty about suicide. Am I to conclude that I'm once again seduced by this power-tooled hard rock product? Guess so.

Heaven Tonight finished #22 on the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll just behind Bob Dylan's Street Legal.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Knocking On My Door

Tarney Spencer Band : I Can Hear Love

Prepare yourself for an ear worm. Released in 1978, Three's a Crowd is full of classic pop from Australians Alan Tarney ( who produced Cliff Richard's"We Don't Talk Anymore" and A-ha's "Take On Me" )and Trevor Spencer backed by the Climax Blues Band. I became familiar with it by purchasing a cassette in the cut out bin at a Woolworth's a year later.  Inoffensive pop in teh style of Gerry Rafferty. The song "Maybe I'm Right" got some airplay on a mellow pop station near my home.

Friday, May 11, 2018

These Dreams Are Not Your Own Anymore

The Saints : A Minor Aversion

In May of 1978, The Saints released their second album, Eternally Yours. Swept up in the punk rock craze, The Saints found themselves quickly disillusioned by the London scene. They added brassy horns and played acoustic guitars on this brilliant album. I was lucky enough to find the cassette in the cut out bin at a Woolworths in Reno, a reminder that great albums don't always sell. 

Selected as one of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, the writer notes Chris Bailey's lyrics sounds like the "rantings of a cranky hippie". Never more so than on the deep cut "A Minor Aversion" where Bailey sings "I've taken all I can I'm not gonna stand here /And be walked on no more/ 'Cause I don't need you/ These days your facts/ They don't mean a thing, no".

Robert Christgau didn't care for the album, giving Eternally Yours a C+ and writing:

"Private Affair" is the perfect punk-cum-early-Kinks song, "International Robots" invents a Jonathan Richman clone, and Chris Bailey should dub in the vocals on Seymour Stein's Wild in the Streets remake. But the lyrics are received protest, the tempos have slackened, and if those horns are somebody's idea of a joke I am not amused. The very idea.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

She's Like a Narcotic

Elvis Costello : Pump It Up

“All it took was some gin, some tonic, some blue pills, and a red pen to write “Pump It Up” during my first exposure to idiotic rock and roll decadence.” 
Elvis Costello.

On May 10, 1978 Elvis Costello had two tracks in the U.K. charts. "(I Don't Wanna Go To) Chelsea", at #69, was dropping quickly from its UK#16 peak. But "Pump It Up" was debuting at a respectable #46. With its aggressive riff and incomprehensible lyrics (List'ning to the Muzak, thinking 'bout this 'n' that /She said, "That's that, I don't want to chitter-chat"), "Pump It Up" is an all time fan favorite.

Costello tried to get The Clash's Mick Jones to play on the single, starting a "ridiculous" rumor that he was trying to poach Jones from The Clash. Jones did not wind up playing on "Pump It Up" but did play the part that sounds like sirens on the B side, "Big Tears".

Check out Elvis's floppy legs below: