Tag Archives: David Johansen

Mixtape: I’ll Be You

 

Back when I had that kind of time, I participated in a monthly tape swap, and for a time I had to dub these puppies in real speed. When we finally got to the CD stage and I could burn a disc at 2x I thought I was in heaven. What used to be a serious committment – the group was usually 35-40 people, so imagine the time and money involved – now can be done dirt cheap and at lightning speed. (I still participate in one of these groups twelve years running, although we’re down to one or two trades a year.) 

I used to make the cassette art by hand; sometimes a drawing and other times a cut-and-paste job, then type and shrink the set list to fit on the inside flap and print them off on colored paper…cut them along the outline…fold and insert into the J-Card slot on every one. Like I said, I had that kind of time. If I find the original art for this one I’ll upload it someday, but I remember it was a variation on a Powerpoint silhouette image of a man holding a mirror. 

I love tribute records, so this mixtape (from March 1997) was a tribute to tributes. It’s a great set and these covers are well worth seeking out. Now I have to find the actual tape, because just reading these names has me jazzed. 

And I still miss Material Issue.

  

you be me for awhile and….I’LL BE YOU

SIDE ONE
Dance Dance Dance Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom (Handsome Dick and a couple of Dictators) pay homage to Brian Wilson
Pictures Of Lily The ‘oo, done with great passion by that great sideman Ian McLagan and the Bump Band
She’s Got Everything The Droogs, Aussies yet, service Mr.Davies’ classic well. Can’t believe there aren’t more great Kinks covers.
Time Has Come Today Willy (Mink) DeVille from last years fab “Loup Garou” record. This Chambers Brothers song still rules!
Pictures Of Matchstick Men Status Quo song covered by the pre-Cracker Lowery in the late, great Camper Van Beethoven. Respectful yet cool!
Charlot Choogle Would have picked a better T-Rex cover if I could have but Sky Blue nailed the Bolanisms better than anyone else did.
Sweet Hitchhiker The fabulous DM3 (wow, I’ve already been to Australia twice in seven songs!) absolutely rip this one up! Go Don!
Mr. Spaceman Miracle Legion from another spotty tribute disc. For all you who remember the Byrds as electric Dylan, try this instead.
I Can’t Let Go Still the best tribute disc ever made, eggBert’s “Sing Hollies In Reverse” featured wall to wall greatness like this Continental Drifters cut.
My Minds Eye Ah, the Small Faces. Northern Uproar did yeoman service on last year’s tribute. A must-have for all true pop fans!
S-L-U-T The Woods, America’s Rockpile, nail this Todd tune. I will not rest until the name Jack Cornell is known far and wide.
Handyman True Story: Frank thought they were cutting “Candyman” for a Sammy Davis tribute. Nah…he loves Otis Blackwell too!
Sweets For My Sweet Doc Pomus gets the Brian Wilson post-sandbox/Landry treatment. And Mike Love is an asshole.
Love Is All Around Christine Ohlman is recording again! If you remember Big Sound Records or Dusty Springfield, Trogg out with this!
And Your Bird Can Sing Weller and company grew tired of “The Jam is just aping The Who” rumors. So they aped the Beatles instead.
SIDE TWO
I’m Not In Love Chrissie and the Pretenders snapped out two covers for movies/TV – this 10cc track and “Angel In The Morning”
Town Without Pity Gene Pitney covered by Steppenwolf’s John Kay on heroin. Naah..it’s the wonderful Thin White Rope from “Spoor”
Daydream Believer The Monkees tribute is way cool, including this John Stewart song ably harmonized by Man Size Job? Who? Me neither.
Run To Me If there were any doubts that Material Issue could do it all, this will silence them. Haunting BeeGeeutiful song. RIP Jim.
Hard Luck Woman The Kiss tribute is pretty funny, and I gotta admit that when I realized this was THE Garth Brooks I almost had a seizure.
It’s The Little Things And you thought Sonny Bono couldn’t write hooks. He did work with Spector, y’know, so bow down for The Skeletons.
Listen To Her Heart Tom Petty as seen through the eyes of Truck Stop Love, produced at Ardent by some guy named Jody Stephens.
Don’t Want To Say Goodbye Last year the Raspberries tribute came out, chock full of great versions, few better than this homage by The Flashcubes.
Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, … Wow that’s a long title! Believe it or not, this is The Records from a free EP that came with the first run of their LP.
Build Me Up Buttercup David Johansen, post-Dolls and pre-Buster P. David always kicked ass live and paid props to great 60’s soul music.
When Something Is Wrong With My Baby Wow – Sam and Dave voiced by the immortal Herman Brood, who truly is a rock and roll junkie. Live track.
Back Of A Car When you hear this song now you wonder how Big Star wasn’t huge then. This is The Loud Family – same comment.
Earn Enough For Us Freedy Johnston does XTC (who appeared on their own tribute record in disguise!). Love the pedal steel!
No Matter What Closing the set with a song by “the next Beatles” (Badfinger) done by “the next Beatles” (The Knack). Oasis my ass.

As always, play loud, play often.

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Blast From The Past: Sylvain Sylvain


Syl Sylvain
is one cool cat.
 

The Keef to David Johansen‘s Mick in the New York Dolls, Syl is the one who makes the engine hum. And as there are but the two sole surviving Dolls, that’s more important in 2010 than it was two decades ago when they first blasted upon the scene. 

I was playing some of his solo work today and flashed back to a review I wrote in November 1998 for Consumable Online; his albums had just been released on CD. At the time I surmised that the Dolls would never reform (I am very happy to have been proven wrong!) and hoped that he would resume his own career since Johansen obviously intended to do the same. 

The live Dolls reunion a few years ago and the subsequent album One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This both blew me away with a sound both classic and fresh. I wasn’t a big fan of the next Dolls album Cause I Sez So, and their recent live shows seem to use the same set list that they’ve been doing for a while. But I also believe that when good bands satisfy their outside urges they can bring some great stuff back to the table. 

The always-busy Steve Conte is doing that right now with The Crazy Truth. Syl is doing the same thing in Batusis with Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys. Maybe that will make the Dolls stronger. Maybe not. 

But no matter what happens, these Sylvain Sylvain albums rule. 

I'm Dickens, He's Fenster

After leaving the New York Dolls, guitarist Sylvain Sylvain released a couple of very good pop records that somehow got lost in the shuffle. When no third record materialized, it was a disappointment but not a big surprise – after all, post-punk pop was finding no welcome mat in the synth-happy 1980s, and even David Johansen had to whore himself out as Buster Poindexter just to put food on the table. 

Imagine my delight when Fishhead Records not only released some of Sylvain’s previous songs on one CD (Sylvain Sylvain…..In Teenage News), but a brand new collection of twelve songs! Adding to the good news was the announcement that Sylvain was hitting the club circuit again, band in tow. 

He’s still a pop guy with 50’s doo-wop roots glowing through his songs. The title track, an ode to his lost bandmates, is reminiscent of Little Anthony and The Imperials, while “Another Heart Needs Mending” mines the same sock-hop vocal territory. But grit abounds too, thanks to a crack band of backup musicians, among them Frankie Infante and Fuzztones Rudy Protrudi and John Carlucci. “Oh Honey” is pure Bo Diddley, and “I’m Your Man” is a finger-poppin’ rework that jumps out of the speakers. 

Although proud of his Dolls roots, reading Sylvain interviews gives a strong clue that a reunion will never happen, mostly due to a fractured relationship with Johansen. Still, Sylvain has no qualms with the great songs they wrote; three are included here, among them a spirited rendition of “Trash” (a song also recently covered by soulmate Gilby Clarke). And only a former Doll could write a “Sleepwalk” style instrumental and call it “Forgotten Panties”! Hopefully this signals the beginning of the second half of Sylvain Sylvain’s career

Syl’s MySpace site 

A good Creem interview from 2005 

Yet another  from 2006, courtesy Brooklyn Vegan

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Blast From The Past: David Johansen Group

If I’m going to continue to pace the room in breathless anticipation of the upcoming New York Dolls album ‘Cause I Sez So (produced by Todd Rundgren), I might as well dance.

Yeah, we took the ferry, whatchagonnadoaboudit?

Yeah, we took the ferry, whatchagonnadoaboudit?

A few months after the release of his first solo record, David Johansen packed the Bottom Linein NY for a three-night stand, the middle night being simulcast on WNEW-FM. A limited edition 9-song promo was released after that, but the full 18 track set didn’t surface for another fifteen years. And fifteen years after that, it still holds up.

The band, like Johansen, were Staten Island natives, albeit younger; to them Johansen and the Dolls were icons. Guitarists Johnny Rao and Thomas Trask, bassist Buz Verno and drummer Frankie LaRockawere a tight band in need of a singer, and after some relentless pursuit Johansen agreed to join in, bringing Sylvain Sylvain in tow. The sound of The David Johansen Groupbore a strong resemblance to the Dolls, but the campy chaos was now a streamlined soulful rock attack, with three guitars dancing atop a formidable but not-flashy rhythm section. In other words, rock’n’roll that could appeal to a much wider audience – more punk than the classic rockers and more structured than the punk bands. And since it was 1978, it was another validation that disco did suck.

The set was killer, featuring solo and Dolls tunes as well as the usual bevy of great covers, ranging from Motown (“I Found A Love“, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “Love Child“) to bubblegum pop (“Build Me Up Buttercup“) and even a whack at Bonnie Tyler’sIt’s A Heartache”, sandwiched within “Personality Crisis” just to keep the crowd honest.  They kicked it off in high gear with “Cool Metro” and peppered the crowd with rave-ups, swinging r&b and the usual cocky/funny shtick from David as front-man. When Johnny Thunders jumped onstage to close it all out with “Babylon” it must have been absolute bedlam.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen The New York Dolls several times in their original incarnation, and when they broke up it was a sad but inevitable occasion. But I was thrilled when Johansen rebounded with several good albums, and during this phrase of his career I saw the band six or seven times. They never failed to light the place on fire, and thankfully a couple of those are captured for posterity; both Live It Up and this album are highly recommended. I was not a Buster Poindexter fan and liked, not loved, The Harry Smiths. But having seen the 21st century version of the New York Dolls a few times already, I can vouch that they are in prime ass-kicking form.

So until that new album drops, to quote “Frenchette“…let’s just dance!

david-johansen-live-it-up

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Under The Radar: Mary Weiss

 I was thinking about how much I miss The Compulsive Gamblers, which of course made me realize that The Reigning Sound are way overdue for a new album. It also reminded me of the genius of Greg Cartwright and how much fun I had watching him (with The Reigning Sound) open for and then back up Mary Weiss a couple of years ago at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio. Weiss, of course, scored multiple hits forty (!) years ago as the leader of The Shangri-Las, and while “(Remember) Walking in the Sand” and “Leader of the Pack” were intregal parts of this set (and thoroughly appreciated by the audience, natch!) the new songs were flat-out killer. My favorite, “Stop and Think It Over”, is a classic Compulsive Gamblers tune that many bands cover; The Hives light it up pretty well and Sarah Borges even had a hit of sorts. And speaking of huge Shangri-La fans, this song has David Johansen written all over it – maybe a cover on the upcoming New York Dolls album, please?

But all this daydreaming only made me realize that despite all that magic, most people probably missed the tour and album. So true to the column header, I thought it would be a good time to shine a light on a well-deserved target.

Aren’t segues great?

Still the Leader of the Pack.

Still the Leader of the Pack.

Mary Weiss
Dangerous Game (Norton)

So many bands have been stitched back together for money-making stints at the local casino that it’s hard to remember what the word “comeback” really means. How about changing the sonic landscape in your teens, then aside from some oldies gigs, all but disappearing from the public eye for almost forty years…then launching a vital, contemporary sounding statement? Former Shangri-La Mary Weiss has done just that, thanks in large part to The Reigning Sound as her band and Greg Cartwright as chief songwriter and co-producer (along with Norton’s Billy Miller). Of course, when you can sink your teeth into Cartwright gems like “Don’t Come Back”, “Stitch In Time” and “Stop and Think It Over”, how can you not sound great? Who else could give Weiss the wiser-than-thou single “Cry About The Radio”, which opens with the immortal couplet “Kids / Kids don’t know shit”?

Miller and Cartwright create a wonderful sonic platform for Weiss, aided by some ace songwriting from John Felice, Barry-Greenwich and The Dictator’s Andy Shernoff. The latter’s “You’re Never Gonna See Me Cry” (a co-write with Miller) defies time, bridging the gap between the heyday of Spector and Shadow Morton (complete with short spoken word bridge) and twenty-first century neo-garage pop. Her old fans will certainly be thrilled by “the voice” along with enough angst and doom in the lyrics (though not as melodramatic). New fans will marvel that a sixty year old looks forty and sounds thirty.

If Mary Weiss spiked the ball with Dangerous Game and walked away, this would be great closure; a glorious and worthy cap on her career. But I hope she’s got a couple more in her.

***

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