Tag Archives: British Invasion

T.G.I.F. – Ten More Rocktober Chart Toppers

Since it’s Rocktober, I thought I’d revisit the charts.

A couple of weeks back I revisited the number one songs for the first week in October from 1963-1972, a classic era for AM Radio. Almost without exception those songs are still resonant today. Maybe it’s a result of when you hear music in your life, but when radio formatting became so formulaic and segregated, the impact of chart toppers just died for me. But when every artist fought to climb the same hill…man, that was some list of great songs.

So here are Ten More Rocktober Chart Toppers – the Number One hits from the third week of October during my Wonder Years.

1963 Sugar Shack (Jimmy Gilmer) – An unexpected hit and year-end chart-topper even though it only had one more week at the top than The Singing Nun. Recorded at Norman Perry Studios, just like Buddy Holly.

1964Do Wah Diddy (Manfred Mann) – A Jeff Barry / Ellie Greenwich classic, this was prime Brit Invasion Manfred Mann long before the Earth Band and their Bruce Springsteen covers.

1965Yesterday (The Beatles) – Really just Paul McCartney and a string quartet, of course. Still listed as the most covered song in pop history.

1966Reach Out, I’ll Be There (The Four Tops) – Stone cold classic with a great Levi Stubbs vocal. Michael Jackson (at Berry Gordy‘s request) used a line from it in the 1970 song below.

1967To Sir With Love (Lulu) Another song that wound up as the top single of the year on many charts thanks to the hit movie. Didn’t realize until today that The Mindbenders were the backing band (two of whom would form 10cc not long afterwards).

1968) Hey Jude (The Beatles) – Well, since we covered this last time – it was a nine week run at the top of the charts, you know – let’s highlight the flip side (and a much better song, IMHO) – Revolution. Their only other #1 hit that year was Hello/Goodbye ( the first two weeks of January).

1969I Can’t Get Next To You (The Temptations) – David Ruffin gets a lot of credit but if you ever doubted that Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks were just as good, this song will fix that. .

1970) I’ll Be There (The Jackson 5)  – After three straight bubblegum hits, The Jackson 5 won over a whole new audience with this ballad. Maybe Jermaine Jackson‘s best vocal, ever.

1971) Maggie May (Rod Stewart) – Another song that dominated the charts for the month, but like the Beatles’ single it was a two-sided hit. The flip was his dynamic cover of Tim Hardin‘s Reason To Believe.

1972) My Ding-A-Ling (Chuck Berry) – Sad but true: this was Chuck Berry‘s only #1 hit single. I think you should instead pick up The Great Twenty-Eight, a wonderful collection that gives Chuck his due.


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New Album! Mondo Topless

Named after the 1966 Russ Meyer film, Mondo Topless has released five albums of garage punk surf music over the past eighteen years. Influences range from such primal American bands as The Sonics, Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Stooges to the British Invasion flash of The Animals and The Kinks.

Freaking Out is their first album in four years; a twelve-track collection of psychedelic chestnuts primed for the dance floor. Featuring the ever-present Vox organ and fuzz guitar riding the lockstep snap of bass and drums, it’s impossible not to get your frug on. Gotta love their sense of humor; credits say “All songs by Mondo Topless except…” and then list all twelve tracks on the album.

Yep, this time around the band decided to go the all-cover route. The most recognizable track is probably Cream’s “SWLABR”, which gets a superior workout here. But Freaking Out rocks from start to finish; standouts being the Who-like  “Left In The Dark” and “Mystery Girl”, which sounds like a grittier version of The Smithereens. Even the closing “Little Clown” radiates the same simplicity and essence that great bands slip onto a b-side of a cool single.

Much like fellow tastemakers The Detroit Cobras, when they cover other people’s songs, they truly put the their own stamp on them. It’s a tribute to the band that they can forge an identity through such widespread material, but they’ve been living and breathing garage soul for a long time. Although they went through band members like tissue paper in the early days, the current lineup is stable, with drummer Steve Thrash the newest addition. Lead singer and Voxmaster Sam Steinig has been on board for the entire ride while guitarist Kris Alutius and bassist  Scott Rodgers have logged over a decade apiece.

If you’re a fab of bands like The Lyres, The Cynics, The Love Me Nots…you should be all over this. Grab a copy and play it loud.

Mondo Topless on MySpace

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Under The Radar: The Forty-Fives

Hate, hate, hate it when a great band starts to make their mark and then just fades away because of money issues, lack of recognition or some other game-changer. After getting progressively better from Get It Together to Fight Dirty, The Forty Fives looked like they hit paydirt with High Life High Volume. The Atlanta band went to Detroit to soak up the vibe and lay down tracks at Ghetto Recorders with producer Jim Diamond; the results were great! But somehow, not long after that, my expectations – and theirs, apparently – were dashed.

Looking back and giving this one another spin, I remembered why I get so excited when a band like this comes down the pike. At least they did get to tour the world, play gigs with their heroes and even showcase at Little Steven’s Underground Garage Festival at Randall’s Island. Maybe they’ll do me a favor and make another record?

Diamond continues to find and work with great acts (The Charms and The Love Me Nots among the more recent stunners) as does the label Yep Roc, and bands like this do continue to pop up and take their shot. I just have to keep looking since with few exceptions, the radio and the press isn’t much help. And when you find one…ahhhh, bliss.

Here are my words from 2004 as they originally ran in Pop Culture Press

Hip-shakin’, roof-raisin’, ass-kickin’ rock and roll as Atlanta’s finest quartet hooks up with a producer who “gets it” (Jim Diamond behind the knobs) for a jukebox full of dynamite. Echoing every great British Invasion band (with a special nod to the Small Faces), Bryan Malone’s stirring vocals and electrifying guitar chops lead the way, but this is a rock solid band effort.

They’re too cool for school, rocking with abandon, dipping their toe in a cow pie (the countrified “Bicycle Thief”) and even daring an instrumental (“Backstage At Juanita’s” soulful Hammond – kudos Trey Tidwell – is worth the price of the record by itself). Killer cover (“Daddy Rolling Stone”) segues into a Dolls-like glam rocker (“Junkfood Heaven”), before the horns and blues of “Too Many Miles”. And if you’re still wavering, the blazing “Superpill” features the best handclaps since The Romantics ruled the earth.

Did some jackass say rock and roll is dead? No way – it’s right here, baby, on one of 2004’s best records.

Give them a listen on MySpace or at their website.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Sixties Singles Acts

45 RPM record player

I lived my life at 45 RPM

I’m in the middle of a two-part feature concerning three of the best groups of the ’60s (Herman’s Hermits, The Young Rascals and The Turtles) and figured I’d make this week’s theme about ten bands whose 45’s were a staple of my collection. For those born later, AM radio was king, and WMCA and WABC in New York City were among the kingmakers. After an era of crooner pop and teen idol mania, the charts were invaded by surf rock, Motown soul, garage/psych sides and that multi-wave British Invasion. Radio would never be the same.

Many artists have gotten their due critically and financially, from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to The Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel. Many have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although several are either awaiting nomination or seemingly have no shot despite making a huge impact in a short and magical time.

I’m going to use today’s list to tout ten worthy artists who I feel are very under-appreciated. They’re enshrined in my Hall of Fame and I still enjoy hearing their music today. Not all have decent video clips, so I’m linking to a site where you can at least hear some audio samples and hopefully pick up a greatest hits collection, if not a few of their catalogue albums or a larger anthology.

If you’re a powerpop or garage fan, there are probably no surprises here. But if you only know these bands from a hit or two on oldies radio, I promise you there is more worth digging for.

jukebox

Tommy James and the Shondells: A pretty fascinating story of how a guy accidentally becomes a bubblegum idol, hates it, and then becomes one of the more interesting purveyors of commercial psychedelic pop. How can a guy who strung together that many hits not be more highly respected? One of the era’s better producers as well.  Wiki.

Gary Lewis and the Playboys: Even the involvement of Snuff Garrett and Leon Russell couldn’t overcome the fact that Gary was the son of Jerry Lewis, so how could you take this stuff seriously. But Gary was no Dino, Desi and Billy; the band kicked out seven Top Ten hits in two years (!) and this new collection reveals how much great stuff you never got to hear. Wiki.

The McCoys: The band that spawned Rick Derringer had an immediate hit with the iconic “Hang On Sloopy” and never hit #1 again, but their singles included covers of “Fever”, “Come On Let’s Go” and the underrated “Don’t Worry Mother”. Great stuff on the albums, too; “Mr. Summer” is an unknown wonder. The core of the band would up backing Johnny Winter during his transition from Texas bluesman to arena rocker.  Wiki.

The Buckinghams: Another band whose hits came fast and furious and then they were gone. Catchy songs that added horns and time changes resulting in songs more progressive than most. Sometimes it didn’t work out (the middle section in the expanded version of  “Susan” doesn’t age well) but Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears leveraged some of these tricks in their arrangements. Still  kicking today. Wiki.

The Grass Roots: Not certain why they never get included in the discussion of great groups of the era. Like The Turtles, they recorded the work of great songwriters (P.F. Sloan was even an original member) and had a string of radio hits that extended into the 70s. The songs were not only ear candy but many were socially observant, and they featured a great lead singer in Rob Grill. And yes, that’s Creed Bratton from The Office on guitar.  Wiki.

Paul Revere and the Raiders: Started as a raucous garage band in the Pacific Northwest, launched into America’s living room on an iconic television program and parlayed the opportunity into a string of hit singles, yet those costumes they became famous for led many to dismiss them as cartoonish wannabees. Wrong! Mark Lindsay’s looks got them onto teen magazines but singles like “Kicks”, “Hungry”, “Just Like Me” and the dynamic “Him or Me” cemented their legend. Wiki.

The Box Tops: I’m still amazed how powerful “The Letter” is forty years later, especially for a song that didn’t even hit the two minute mark. And while “Cry Like a Baby” was their only other Top Ten, that only scratched the surface of this great band. “Neon Rainbow”, “Soul Deep”, “Sweet Cream Ladies”…Alex Chilton would reinvent himself with Big Star and time has proven just how valuable Dan Penn, Wayne Thompson, Spooner Oldham and Chips Moman were to have around. Soul Deep was not only a great song, but a perfect description of the band.  Wiki.

The Troggs: Another band often mistakenly dismissed as a one or two hit wonder, they had several great sides. And as anthemic as “Wild Thing” might be, “With a Girl Like You”, “Love is All Around”, “All of the Time” and “I Can’t Control Myself” are superior songs. A great blend of garage band and druggy music with Reg Presley’s nasal sneer the icing on the cake. (Also famous, of course, for  the legendary taped argument where one member suggests that a track needs a little more fairy dust on it). Wiki 

Mitch Ryder: Mitch and The Detroit Wheels burned like a comet and recorded arguably the hottest rock’n’roll single of all time in “Devil With a Blue Dress / Good Golly Miss Molly”. Bad management and naive decisions broke the band up within a couple of years, but they had a few great singles and recorded a treasure trove of killer rave-ups. Most don’t know that Ryder continued to make great albums over the next forty years because he gets no airplay. (Hell, even his Wikipedia page isn’t up to date). Wiki.

The 1910 Fruitgum Company: Yeah, I know it’s a bubblegum group, but I will unashamedly put “Indian Giver” out there as one of the best singles of the late ’60s. “Simon Says”, “1-2-3 Red Light” and “Special Delivery” all got serious spin time at my house and remain irresistable hooks. Listen – if Joan Jett covers your song, you’ve passed the cool test. Wiki.

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Forty Years of Python

I want to start an argument

I want to start an argument

You’re either in or you’re out.

You either get it, or you don’t.

You can either recite the entire sketch by heart – hell, some entire movies by heart – or you can’t.

And if you’re in those latter camps, you’ll just never understand the clandestine language that Monty Python fans share. It’s like a secret handshake – overhear someone dropping a classic line about silly walks, or dead parrots, or Mary, Queen of Scots, and it’s an open invitation to join the conversation and be accepted all in one fell swoop. Skull and Bones never had anything this insidious, this lethal, this great. The Pythons might not have pioneered sketch comedy in Britain, but for reasons I (and they) can’t understand, they crossed The Big Pond and twisted our minds in a different way than Benny Hill or Peter Cook or even Peter Sellers could. What began as a cult is now an inseparable part of the American comedy fabric.

For the past 24 hours, you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing some combination of John Cleese and Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle hamming it up with newscasters, talk show hosts and…well, pretty much anyone who would have them. Michael Palin was traveling, but even the late Graham Chapman made an appearance (even though he had ceased to be…)

Why another British Invasion? It’s the fortieth anniversary of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and the surviving members of the troupe are here in the United States to accept an award and to revel in the six part series Almost The Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut). If you missed that ceremony tonight, click here. The six part documentary starts airing on IFC on October 18th.

Better yet? The series is available on DVD just nine days later(a link to my published review will follow in the coming days). This project is not yet another collection of broadcast clips, but a combination of recent interviews and archival footage that follows the troupe from inception to legend, featuring input from several of today’s leading comedic lights. I’s truly special.

So buckle up. And always look on the bright side of life.

Here’s a link to a poor soul who had his mind twisted. As for me…well, I’m a lumberjack and I’m O.K.

 Forty Years of Monty Python

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Sometimes (Not) A Great Notion

GARAGE ROCK AND ITS ROOTS

Eric James Abbey, © 2006 McFarland Press

 

 

Reading a bad book is painful enough. Getting excited that a book covering a favorite topic exists, andthen  realizing it sucks? Priceless

 

Where do I start with this mess? The ham-fisted description of what “underground” means and how bands who don’t try to sell out upon conception are cool? That his favorite band is really neat because they don’t condone fighting or stealing girlfriends from other musicians? That The Hentchmen, The Gories and The Hard Lessons are mentioned but The Detroit Cobras and Mick Collins are barely discussed and The Paybacks don’t even rate a mention? That the major motivation for forming a garage band was rejecting capitalist thought patterns (!), not having fun and getting laid?

 

Waffling throughout, first The Who isn’t an integral part of the British Invasion. Two pages later, they’re the apex of the movement. Another two pages and they’re out again. Some obvious points (garage bands draw influence from the past as opposed to the present) are repeated breathlessly, while true critical observations are avoided altogether. Unsubstantiated claims, lyrical misinterpretations, geographic myopia…it’s all here, folks, even embarrassingly amateur editing and proofreading. My eyebrow arched when I read the name “Phil Specter” early on, but when I got to “Jimmy Hendrix”, I had to stop reading.

 

Maybe Abbey likes Detroit, likes the music and appreciates the bands. Great – so do countless other people. The irony here is that he got a book deal and delivered a faceless, boring piece of crap; in his own way, he is that corporate, soulless product that better writers – er, garage bands – are rejecting with their art.

 

Here are just a few of the points that our author is unable to comprehend:

 

(1)     All bands are underground until they become popular

(2)     A “scene” happens when a multitude of good music occurs simultaneously

(3)     The Small Faces were anything but an obscure act

(4)     If you are going to talk about the Pacific Northwest garage scene and not mention The Sonics or The Wailers, stop writing

(5)     People weren’t sitting on their collective asses in Detroit waiting for the garage scene to save them. Detroit rocks 24/7

 

I should have been tipped off, though. Any book that spends an eleven page introduction (eleven!) explaining what the following chapters are about is suspect from the start. If you have to explain what I’m about to read, you’re either an idiot or you’re discussing a David Lynch film. (Note: this book does not discuss David Lynch).

 

The one redeeming factor is the author’s man-woody for The Sights, a criminally unknown band whose influence is three parts Small Faces and two parts urban soul. If somehow this book – or my reaction to it – makes one  person pick up a Sights album, then the terrorists did not  win.

 

Most editors are failed writers – but so are most writers.  ~T.S. Eliot

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