Tag Archives: Doc Pomus

Twenty Years Without Doc Pomus…

But not without his songs.

Timeless. Classic. Doc died twenty years ago today but his legacy is vibrant.

Still fresh now, and just the quality of the material can lift an average band onto a new level. Hell, just a cursory glance at Wikipedia lists “A Teenager in Love”; “Save The Last Dance For Me”; “Hushabye”; “This Magic Moment”; “Turn Me Loose”; “Sweets For My Sweet”; “Go Jimmy Go”; “Can’t Get Used to Losing You”; “Little Sister”; “Suspicion”; “Surrender”; “Viva Las Vegas”; “(Marie’s the Name of) His Latest Flame”…just a smattering of the hits he wrote with Mort Shuman, Phil Spector and others.

That would have sealed the deal right there. But later in his life he was collaborating with people like Dr. John and Willy DeVille, giving life to stories about people on the fringe – the loners, the night walkers, characters that would fill a film noir casting session.

I love tribute albums and Till The Night Is Gone is one of my favorites. Of course, when your songs are covered by Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Dion, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Solomon Burke, John Hiatt, Shawn Colvin, Aaron Neville, Lou Reed, The Band, B. B. King, Los Lobos and Rosanne Cash…it’s hard to make a bad album.

Doc lives on in my heart and mind. But mostly in my ears.



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Five More Enter The Hall…

Guarded by the Guitar Army

I must admit I was a bit surprised when I saw the list of artists elected for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (the ceremony will take place March 15, 2010)

  • Abba – on their second nomination in ten years of eligibility
  • Jimmy Clifffirst nomination, though eligible for twenty-one years!
  • Genesis – also their first nomination, eligible for sixteen years
  • The Hollies – another first nomination after twenty-one years
  • The Stooges – finally, after eight nominations in sixteen years

Amazing to see that three of the artists were eligible for between sixteen and twenty-one years prior to even getting nominated, and then they get elected on the first try. That’s just odd. How do these bands never even get to the nomination stage and then make it all the way to the podium in one move? And what does that say about the rest of the talent pool still hanging by the telephone?

Alice Cooper is still waiting. So are Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, Todd Rundgren…and KISS, of course. I could name dozens more who made bigger marks than some of the current inductees – Rick Derringer, The Faces, Lou Reed, Mott The Hoople – but I’d just get pissed off again, even though I know in my heart that it just doesn’t matter.

But it’s great to see The Stooges finally beat the door down – one would expect that a band that had been nominated so many times would eventually break through. And maybe the election of The Hollies opens the door for The Turtles or Herman’s Hermits, and Abba legitimizes the induction of The Monkees. Outside of Guns’N’Roses, there aren’t many newly eligible bands in the next two or three years to provide fresh competition. (Want to feel old? Julian Lennon became eligible for induction in 2009.)

And I certainly can’t argue with any of the songwriter nominations except to say…what the hell took you so long? Mort Shuman (Doc Pomus’ partner), Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Otis Blackwell, Jesse Stone…the real crime here is that Ellie won’t get to take that bow since she passed away earlier this year. Of course, the Songwriters Hall of Fame was on the ball and elected them way back in the 80s and 90s (only Stone is not yet inducted).

Let’s hope Iggy rips ’em a new one come March.

About fucking time.

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R.I.P. Willy (Mink) DeVille

Reniassance Man

Reniassance Man

We lost another great one Friday morning, as pancreatic cancer claimed the life of Willy DeVille, just two weeks shy of his birthday. Earlier this year he was diagnosed with Hepatitis, and in June as doctors were preparing to treat him, it was discovered that he had cancer. Sadly, the reaper was swift and unforgiving…but wherever we land after we flee this mortal coil, know that they’re all doing the Spanish Stroll today.

Though never a huge star here in America, he was one of the most consistently engaging perormers and vocalists of the past three decades plus, and universally respected and admired by his fellow musicians and artists. I first encountered Willy with his band Mink DeVille, who ripped through the punk/New Wave era with a special streetwise intensity and worldly flavor that set them apart from their contemporaries. Poet, punk, pirate; impossible to pin down or predict.

Mink DeVille discography

He didn’t spit from the stage or dress in rags or flaunt the inability to play an instrument…in an almost inverse direction he dressed sharp, played tight and tackled a truckload of styles with his music. Folk, doo-wop, rock, Tex-Mex, Cajun, blues, soul, Latin, garage, r&b, punk…I’d be hard pressed to find a genre that wasn’t in there somewhere. Europe got it – they always do – but aside from having his song featured in The Princess Bride (and nominated for an Academy Award) it’s quite possible that most Americans have never heard of him, let alone heard him. A shameful omission, if so.

Producer Jack Nitszche immediately saw the talent and produced the first two albums with a hard, street-tough edge. “Venus of Avenue D”, “Gunslinger” and “Spanish Stroll” are thoroughly visual songs that breathe the soul of a gritty New York City street, and it was immediately obvious that Willy was a first rate interpreter. On two well chosen covers, he made “Little Girl” (classic Brill Building sound from Barry/Greenwich/Spector) and Moon Martin‘s “Cadillac Walk” his own. “Mixed Up Shook Up Girl” showed his ability to find the soul in sadness, and throughout his career he’d mine the lonely and longing area of the heart in majestic fashion.

He soon abandoned the street pimp image, and as his career progressed and matured his image morphed to New Orleans hipster and eventually his Native American roots. A twenty year heroin jag left him frail and anemic looking at times, yet whatever pain he was feeling (or hiding) never ceased to emerge in his songs. Early on, his collaborations with Doc Pomus made Le Chat Blue a mesmerizing soulful album, and Coup De Grace featured brilliant anthems of the heart like “Maybe Tomorrow” and his cover of Arthur Alexander‘s classic “You Better Move On”. Sportin’ Life utilized the magic of the Muscle Shoals studios and musicians to continue the trend including the Springsteenish “I Must Be Dreaming”.

Performing “I Must Be Dreaming” on Letterman.

In recent years he continued to record wonderful albums but they hardly made a ripple in the States. Backstreets of Desire and Crow Jane Alley are standouts, and his recent DVD releases (including a brilliant performance at Montreaux) were a welcome reminder of his tremendous talent. Ironically I had just ordered his newest album Pistola when the news of his passing crossed my desk. I’ll listen to it with a heavy heart when it arrives. Adios, mi amigo – muchas gracias por todo.

Acoustic version of “You Better Move On

Willy DeVille discography.

Wikipedia page with a good career overview.

Willy DeVille website

The Willy DeVille MySpace site.

A 2006 interview courtesy AllMusic.com

Discography, including recent DVDs.

Tributes to the man here and here and here.

Now entertaining the Man Upstairs.

Now entertaining the Man Upstairs.

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