Tag Archives: Dwight Twilley

The Rock And Roll 500

The windowless white van rumbled eastward on Route 90, soon to take a dogleg right and hook up with its brother highway, The Mass Pike. A six-hour trek that normally would clog at one end or another, but on the two interior days of a four-day holiday, traffic was pretty much non-existent. Most people were already where they wanted to be. I was just going back and forth, as usual.

When I was her age, I moved a few times, and always with the help of friends. Someone always had a truck. Everyone would focus on the beer and pizza at the end of the run, and were it not for my abnormal amount of vinyl albums, we could probably have been in and done in a couple of hours. But I forgot what it’s like to live in a major city where public transportation is the norm, where not only do you not have a car, but no one you know does, either. And besides, isn’t this what Dads do?

The rental van was reasonably priced but came with its limitations. No power locks, so each of the five doors had to be constantly checked. No power windows, either – do they really still make hand cranks? And much to my horror, just a radio. No CD player, not even a cassette, and certainly no input for a digital device to be plugged in. Nope, the front end of the trip would be a hollow metal can bouncing down the road (what, you expected soundproofing?) and me alone with my thoughts, unless I could find something decent on the radio. I had given up trying to do that years ago.

But it’s Memorial Day Weekend, so rock stations across the country are broadcasting their own version of the Rock And Roll 500, a countdown of the five hundred greatest rock songs ever made. And although I constantly have to hit the scanner, as signals fade and ebb between markets or on each side of a mountain pass, sooner or later it’s there. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Cream, U2, Bruce Springsteen, The Cars, The Who, The Police, The Ramones…song after song that I know like the back of my hand, whether I like them or not. It’s a bit 60s and 70s heavy, but rightfully so, because that’s when the apex took place.

I remember selling my Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin albums in a used record store, not so much because I needed the money but because radio had played “Free Bird” and “Stairway To Heaven” so often that I couldn’t bear to hear either band again. This egregious life choice was eventually recanted, of course, even though those two particular songs have long worn out their welcome. But the punk ethic of the time was to burn the past, and somehow I got caught up in the moment. I mean, really – I have never disliked the first four Led Zeppelin albums, they are incredible…but there they went across the counter.

It was a mistake I would not repeat; the day my senses came back to me and I repurchased them was also the day I realized that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. I like what I like, period. I don’t owe you an apology for that just because you disagree.

I thought of that a lot during the six-hour drive as I beat rhythms on the dashboard and heard my voice echo through the empty metal canister (reverb!), singing along as a large part of my childhood was played out for me one track at  a time. I remembered the boxes of 45s that I meticulously catalogued, the first albums I listened to over headphones, juggling prog and pop and glam and blues in college. Even the glee with which Roger and I would pore through the new punk singles arriving at Record Theatre – usually one scooped up by him and one by me, leaving none to be placed in the racks for sale. There was always an insatiable taste for great songs, and there was always the bedrock of what had come before.

I thought of the music I wasn’t hearing on the trip; were there really no J. Geils Band songs, even on the Boston station? And Tom Petty, who quietly went from ignored to elder statesman just by never stopping – would I hear “American Girl“? I already knew that The Dictators, Billy Bremner, Dwight Twilley, John Hiatt, and other lifelong favorites would probably not be heard from, but how was I not hearing a Kinks song?

Heading westward was a different story; the stations seemed less numerous and the song selections started to get downright odd. Even Eli turned to me at one point with her face scrunched up as a Candlebox song came in at number 168. I was incredulous. “The entire Kinks catalogue is better than that song“, I told her, and as “Everything Little Thing She Does is Magic” followed at #167 I imagined Sting sighing, relieved that when the great books were tabulated, someone gave the nod to his fine effort to move ahead – just ahead – of the mighty Candlebox.

Eli and I talked about many things on the way back, and the conversation turned to Lady Gaga. I don’t really care for him/her in the same way that I was never a Madonna fan – I’m much more centered on the music than the spectacle. Eli grew up listening to her own music but also getting the aural second-hand smoke of mine. My rule was and is that the driver picks the music, not the passengers. “I don’t think it’s great music per se“, she said, “but when I feel like dancing in a club it’s really fun and gets everyone going. It’s great for what it is, and I like it for that.” No guilt, just pleasure. A chip off the old block.

The sun had long set and we still had a couple of hours to go when “Going To Califormia” came on the radio, and I let it wash over me. I wasn’t going anywhere but home, but I must have channeled a dozen road trip memories in my mind. Had Eli turned to her left she would wonder why I had a shit-eating grin on my face after the long day, but someday she’ll do that herself. If there’s a better song to hear when you’re in a pensive mood on a long car trip, I can’t think of one right now.

And to think I once sold that album for a dollar. What fools these mortals be.

Led Zeppelin: “Going To California

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New Album! Smash Fashion

Glam punk powerpop alert!

I’ll admit it – I love everything about glam powerpop. The fat guitar chords, the thrashing drums, the foot-stomping beat and the huge hooks are the antithesis of subtle, but there’s a time and place for everything. I love Loudon Wainwright III but I don’t bounce down the street blasting “Your Mother And I” out of the car stereo, windows down, rear-view mirror shaking from the pulse of the woofers. Nope, that’s what glam and powerpop is for.

I missed Smash Fashion’s 2003 release (and have since made up for it) and almost did the same thing with 2010’s Don’t Pet The Sweaty Things. (Thank god for late night “sounds like” tangents on Amazon and CD Baby!) I wasn’t sure what to expect from a group photo that had one guy thrusting a Flying V guitar neck at me while sporting an eyepatch, but at the risk of hearing an album full of Dr. Hook covers I dove in.

Video: “She Goes Down

Like most powerpop bands, you can play spot the influence. For example:

  • Baby Dancer” and “Blonde Raccoon” are so reminiscent of Dwight Twilley I had to check the credits
  • Hard On Love” is as KISS-like as its title
  • Confessions of a Opium Eater” is the bastard child of “Auf Weidersehen
  • Proper Way To Eat A Muffin” is T.Rex incarnate
  • Sad Sweet Sick and Beautiful” has Mick Ronson’s fingerprints all over it 
  • All Systems Go” is like a mashup of Matthew Sweet and “If I Needed Someone
  • Mott The Hoople, The Sweet, Cheap Trick…and so on.

The title track is as close as you’ll get to a glitter ballad. There are also a couple of covers – the muscle pop rendition of Abba’sDoes Your Mother Know” is really good but “Benny And The Jets” was probably better left alone. Still, this impressive collection of glammy chestnuts is well worth getting and playing loud. These guys know exactly what they’re doing, and they sound like they’re having a blast in the process.

Life is short, stop taking it so seriously. Blast this mofo out a window.

Smash Fashion’s website and MySpace page

Listen/buy at CD BABY.

Smash Fashiion - worth the trip.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten for Bill Pitcock IV (R.I.P.)

Bill Pitcock IV might not be a household name, but anyone who has ever heard a Dwight Twilley album – and I sure hope you have heard several – is feeling a bit sad today. Pitcock died this morning in Tulsa.

Pitcock was (pun fully intended) instrumental in the sound of The Dwight Twilley Band. In fact, the band recorded in a shop owned by Bill’s Dad. To say that Dwight, Phil Seymour and Bill made magic is a vast understatement.

Tons of Twilley song clips here.

For all the recent accolades about Leon Russell – well deserved, mind you – it was his split with Denny Cordell that tanked Shelter Records and almost sunk the careers of Dwight Twilley and Tom Petty. It certainly derailed the release of Sincerely, where “I’m On Fire” was an aptly named track except that no one could find the album in the stores. By the time they could, the heat was off, and who knows whether that doomed Twilley to “almost brass ring” status. Even Petty didn’t click widely until Damn The Torpedoes; his first two albums are just as good and the first three are better than the rest combined.

Pitcock continued to record with Twilley on and off over the years, most recently back in the fold for the Blimp album. Bill also just released his first solo album Play What You Mean. Check out Bills MySpace site or go to Amazon to hear some tracks.

So R.I.P. Bill Pitcock IV – your ringing guitars will live forever at my house. Here are Ten For Bill Pitcock on this week’s TGIF

(01) – “Twilley Don’t Mind” – yeah, that bass player is who you think he is.

(02) – “You Were So Warm” – how was this not #1?

(03) – “Trying To Find My Baby

(04) – “Precious To Me“- I hope Bill is playing with Phil today.

(05) – “Feeling In The Dark

(06) – “Girls” – the uncensored video

(07) – “Looking For The Magic

(08) – “Baby It’s You” – more Phil Seymour magic.

(09) – “I’ll Be Taking Her Out Tonight” – he and Geo Conner played guitar on The Tremblers album

(10) – “I’m On Fire” – Acoustic version, 2010, followed by the original.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten More Bridesmaids

You’ve seen the Top Ten for 2010, and the full list is still being whipped into shape, but there’s no harm tipping the cap to ten more albums that didn’t make the top of the list but were great purchases during the year. Some finished high on other lists – including one that straddled the top on many of them – while others can claim a handful of people like me in their fan club.

Huge followings don’t affect my barometer, nor does a lack of a visible fanbase make me think less of the artist. I like what I like; there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Guilty pleasures are for cowards.

So here, in no particular order, are Ten More Bridesmaids to check out. Hopefully a few of these are already spinning repeatedly at your place too.

01) Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From A Young ManSome say they went commercial with their tenth album; I say they have one of their most irresistible collections of songs in years. Why are they not huge in the US?

02) Paul Collins – King of Power Pop. Maybe a slew of living room concerts inspired him to revisit his more energetic power pop side, and revisit his Beat days. The Flamin’ Groovies and Box Tops covers are icing on the pop cake.

03) Dwight Twilley – Green Blimp. The Man of A Thousand Comebacks makes yet another one, but Green Blimp is very much a return to form. You can almost hear him ripping himself off on these tracks, but in-house sampling is fine when it’s this good.

04) The Parting Gifts – Strychnine Dandelions. Greg Cartwright from Reigning Sound collaborating with Coco Hames of The Ettes, and I would have bounced it higher if Greg sang everything. Great guests including Dave Amels and Dan Auerbach, and the songs are stellar – of course.

05) Arcade Fire – The Suburbs. I like this album quite a bit, but not with the overwhelming fawning that it is getting across the board; I suspect it will finish atop this year’s Village Voice Poll (nah, they’ll cop out for Kanye West…). More of a consistent album than usual and it is growing on me.

06) Jason and the Scorchers – Halcyon Times. Dare I say it? The Scorchers are back. New rhythm section, but Jason Ringenberg sounds young and refreshed, and Warner Hodges is once again a guitar slinger to be bowed down to. Your move, Del Lords!.

07) Stereophonics – Keep Calm And Carry On. Another band that inexplicably doesn’t find success in America, and I’m dumfounded. Kelly Jones and crew just keep getting better and better; maybe one day we’ll catch up with the rest of the globe?

08) Locksley – Be In Love. Maybe it’s the reputation as a band for teens? Their second album is a big leap forward, stuffed with energetic, bouncy, dance-worthy pop songs and great vocals. Remember – no guilty pleasures!

09) Marah – Life Is A Problem. The sound of a band falling apart and being glued back together at the same time. Organic, loopy, rough, heartfelt, strange and exciting, it’s by turns depressing and magical; listening to it is like eavesdropping. I see light at the end of this tunnel.

10) Pernice Brothers – Goodbye Killer. Really, have these guys ever made anything less than a compelling album? Joe Pernice has to be one of the most under-appreciated songwriters around; here his gems echo everything from 60’s singles to late 20th century indie angst. Meant to be listened to cover to cover.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Absent Artists

I hope they're not lost...

As I’m going back and revisiting the year, I’m reminded once again of those artists I hoped to hear from who didn’t pop up and release an album. Some of them might just be in the normal development cycle, but for others it’s an unusual gap between efforts. I know they won’t all go on forever, but there are many who are still creating at a high level and I selfishly want more from them. I am the customer, after all, and rumor has it that I’m always right.

It’s not too much to ask, is it? Jason and The Scorchers reformed and released an absolute gemDwight Twilley came out with a brand new album this year after a half-decade of vault outtakes. Robert Klein has a new comedy release scheduled for January. I’m not going all Tinkerbell on you here, but things can happen. (Clapping hands is optional.)

So here are Ten Absent Artists – I hope each of them read this and kick it into high gear. I promise to be appreciative of the effort, and I’m hopeful that my anticipation will be replaced by a huge smile.

01) Walter Clevenger – He’s been more centered on his production work than recording. Maybe he’s busy, maybe it’s the frustration of releasing wonderful albums that failed to launch him into the mainstream. But I wish he’d keep punching that wall until it falls. Stop breaking my Paper Heart.

02) Tonio K – A repeat submission, I’m sure, and I know he’s out there because his work shows up on other people’s albums. I wish he’d just saddle up and form a band – Nashville, LA, whatever – and record his own material again. Don’t that make you want to jump right up and start to dance?

03) Fountains of Wayne – There have been a few collaborations with others, from songwriting for Russell Brand to the apparently one-off Tinted Windows project. We need your pop genius, now. Don’t give up.

04) Joe Jackson – You came out in that same “angry man” wave as Graham Parker, Elvis Costello and John Hiatt. Guess who is the only one not releasing new material? Pretty soon now, you know you’re gonna make a comeback.

05) Richard Belzer – you might think this is an odd choice, but Belz was a great stand up comic long before he made a living playing Detective John Munch. Call me a rooster on acid, but i think since he’s been popping up on celebrity roasts, he might have an album in the can.

Waiting to be rocked.

06) The Montgomery Cliffs – Man, I miss this band so bad. Great songs, great presence, big sound and a killer sense of humor. That band, she was good! Hope they reunite or Joey Salvia will have to continue to play for Republicans.

07) Artful Dodger – A lot of pop bands have reunited in the past few years, some for the cash, some out of curiosity, some purely out of the respect for their music and their fans. Artful Dodger never got the credit they deserved the first time around, and their 2006 show in Cleveland proved they still had it. Will bands who copped their style be jealous? I say there’s honor among the thieves.

08) The Faces Rod is back to spewing out collections of pop standards, but Ron, Mac and Kenney hooked up with Glen Matlock and Mick Hucknall to play a series of shows and apparently not only have more dates in 2011 but some new material to record. Rod passed, so let him go!  Seize the day, mates! And this time stay with me.

09) Love NutAndy Bopp moved from Love Nut to Myracle Brah to solo and collaborative efforts, but the pure pop power of Baltimucho needs to be revived. You could just change anything that you want, ’cause that’s alright.

10) The Kinks – Yes, I know there’s another Ray Davies album on the way. Yes, I know he and Dave have sibling issues. I hoped Pete Quaife‘s passing would have woken them up to how tentative life is, since Ray’s bullet hole didn’t do it. Come on, boys…give the people what they want.

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Mixtape: She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

 Mixtape time again!

This one, She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not – was from my monthly mixtape swaps back in 1997. Here’s what I wrote back then as an introduction:

Love comes in spurts, says Richard Hell. Love comes in cycles, sez me. The wonder of a crush, the rush of recognition that affection is mutual, the delicate jab and parry of getting to know someone, that first kiss, the first mistake, the uneasy first fight, the first break up (and the wonderful first make-up), the second mistake and third, the wandering eye, being taken for granted, being misunderstood, falling apart, getting sad, getting bitter, getting haunted, that smile-on-the-surface but acid-in-your-stomach feeling of seeing them with someone else, the greens and blues, the depression, the worthlessness and then just when you think you’ll jump…that new person who sends a thousand volts through your spine and into your heart. Another chance, and you drag your still smoldering carcass through the whole mess again.

So here’s the yang and yin; the L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E tattoos that Robert Mitchum wore on his knuckles are now on your heart.

(This one’s for you, Eli.)

SHE LOVES ME side

DANIELLES MOUTH – Crush

Sweet, saucy, sexy – is there anything better than a crush? Can be innocent, but I know what Danielle wants!

JONNY POLONSKY – Love Lovely Love

I know Jonny isn’t sixteen, but it’s that bubbly optimism that gets me. Great pop record, except it was only 30 minutes long…

BIG STAR – Thirteen

One of my favorite songs, ever! Alex Chilton perfectly captures that frustration of being a (sorry, Dion) “teenager in love”

MARSHALL CRENSHAW – I’ll Do Anything

From maybe the best debut record ever….love makes you do funny things!

DWIGHT TWILLEY – Please Say Please

This Beatle-esque rocker a bonus track on the reissue of the great “Sincerely” record. Self-explanatory!

THE REPLACEMENTS – Kiss Me On The Bus

Maybe the same couple from “Thirteen”? Forget what’s proper and KISS ME, baby!

PHIL SEYMOUR – Baby It’s You

The late, great Phil with what has to be one of the most perfect pop records ever made! Sing it LOUD!

ADAM SCHMITT – Garden of Love

So you’re afraid, baby, been hurt before? Trust me! From what might be the best record of the 1990’s

LOU CHRISTIE – Lightning Strikes

I remember this from when I was a young pup, having my heart yo-yo’d for one of the first of many times. A classic!

BEN VAUGHN – Words Can’t Say What I Want To Say

Yeah, I’ve felt like this. That ga-ga, mouth-open, please-god-don’t-let-me-say-something-stupid moment

RICHARD X HEYMAN – When She Arrives

I can’t wait until “Cornerstone” comes out so you can all see what a great record this is. A love cycle in itself!

THE FACES – Tell Everyone

A Ronnie Lane tune, but Rod sings it…true love settles in for the long haul?

CROWDED HOUSE – Fall At Your Feet

An adult version of the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There”, with music so pretty I’d love it even without the words! Uh-oh, side’s over….

SHE LOVES ME NOT side

JOHAN – Easy

Swedish pop rules! A 1997 record that almost slipped by sees the chink in the armour…

THE FLASHCUBES – You’re Not The Police

Things are starting to fall apart..we can’t go on together, with suspicious minds. GREAT 1997 reissue!

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS – Bored Of You

Uh-oh….nice guys finish last. Why do women want to be treated like queens and then fall for rude assholes? Moe knows…

THE RUBINOOS – Over You

Where I start lying to myself, saying that it doesn’t hurt…all the while my heart is bleeding…

THE MONTGOMERY CLIFFS – Tonight

More bravado, and two can play that game, baby…this time when you put the cheese in the trap, I’m not buying.

JEN TRYNIN – I Resign

I think Jen is the best female songwriter around. I love the way her mind works!

THE RASCALS – You Better Run

Pat Benetar, eat your heart out. Oh yeah – I ain’t gonna eat out my heart anymore……

THE BEAT – I Will Say No

Go on, get out of my life, and let me make a new start. Maybe the longest fade out in pop history

KENNY HOWES – Somebody

Not sure if she’s still trying to come back or whether I’m fooling myself, but I feel better. Get lost!

THE KINKS – Set Me Free

It’s frightening to think just how many great songs Ray Davies wrote in about three years time. Bye Bye Baby!

DWIGHT TWILLEY – Release Me

I never put an artist on a tape twice, but have to here. SINCERELY is a Desert Island Disk! Heartbreak!

TOMMY KEENE – Nothing Happened Yesterday

More self-denial from one of the great pop unknowns. I am man, hear me roar!

TONIO K – Stay

Oh shit….two damaged people see that spark and circle each other – should I try to fall in love again? Flip the tape over, honey, ’cause here we go again!

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Under The Radar: Dwight Twilley

In closing yesterday’s post about Dwight Twilley’s Kickstarter campaign for Green Blimp, I stated that despite the indifference of pop radio and the music industry in general, for veteran artists with a core following, every new album is another chance.

That led me to look back to what I wrote when Dwight’s last album of new material, 47 Moons, was released in 2005. Sure enough, I had the same tempered enthusiasm and cockeyed optimism. But I openly questioned the marketing and distribution plan for that album…and apparently rightfully so.

This time around, Twilley seems committed to a more conventional promotional campaign including radio station visits and shows in key markets (in addition to his viral online strategy). Hell, I don’t care what it takes – I just hope people get the opportunity to discover the album is out there and then listen to his music. Let the chips fall where they may at that point, which is all that an artist can really ask for.

Here’s my 2005 review of 47 Moons

I’ve been waiting years and several releases to be able to utter these words: DWIGHT TWILLEY IS BACK! I’ve enjoyed the past few collections and reissues and even the newer material, but somehow it was all a little bit lacking. Not anymore.

Twilley has long since abandoned the three-minute pop formula he used to dazzle us with. Songs now drift into the fifth minute with regularity, and the title track clocks in at close to seven. It’s as if he’s realized that the current radio sandbox doesn’t have room for him anyway, so why bother? Instead, he seems to have put his industry bitterness to the side and focused upon making some music from his heart. Great move Dwight: almost as good as making certain Bill Pitcock IV is a central part of the effort.

The results may not knock you out on a quick listen: there’s no “I’m On Fire” to be had here – but spin this two or three times and you cannot help but be won over. It’s not a perfect record; “To Wait Is To Waste” is bloated at six minutes long, an idea that never gets off the ground. And those in search of more electrifying material might want to skip through the midtempo “King Of The Mountain” or the synthetic “Chandra.” However, “Ice Captain” and the beautiful title track prove he can shine in that pace as well. Add five standout tracks that will captivate any classic Twilley fan – “Chance Of A Lifetime,” “Walkin’ On Water,” “Runaway With You,” “Better Watch Out” and the infectious “Jackie Naked In The Window” – and you can see why this record is destined for my Best of 2005 list next December.

Dwight Twilley has always had one of the great pop voices, and his harmonies with Phil Seymour still send chills up my spine. But even in the old days he could stack his own vocals with great results, and it’s great to hear him singing with passion again. And three cheers for Bill Pitcock, the little-known guitar whiz who added so much charm and texture to the classic Twilley catalogue. He’s in classic form bouncing notes off Twilley’s rockabilly-hiccup vocals in “Flippin” or playfully ripping off his own licks in “Runaway With You.” Still inventive on guitar and bass, still criminally unknown.

The real mystery to 47 Moons is the marketing and distribution. Digital Musicworks is a label dedicated to “distributing and promoting artists’ music exclusively through digital music stores.” That’s a nice credo, but an unproven business model for legacy artists who have a wider and older fanbase. Sure, there are those who will be happy to buy a track or even the album in a digital download format. But cutting out the physical market when the digital age is embryonic is a major, major mistake. And if you are, then why is it available as a standard CD on Amazon?

And if Amazon can sell it, why is it not yet available at online retailers like Not Lame who have supported his past efforts and cater to his audience, let alone independent record stores where his fans would likely shop? What kind of “promoting” and “distribution” is that? I had to scrounge to find a copy of the record and only knew about it because I periodically do a web-search for information about Twilley. I was also surprised to find a Christmas EP. If I’m struggling as a proactive fan, what about the casual audience who needs to be alerted? You’re a label with one of the brightest lights in power-pop history in your hands and you’re not making a big deal out of his new album?

This reminds me of a horror story from the past. Dwight Twilley’s career missed capitalizing on a meteoric start when his label (Shelter) couldn’t get Sincerely into stores despite massive airplay for the single (“I’m On Fire”) and a strong promotional buzz across the media landscape. By the time they finally did connect with the buying public, it was too late – the momentum was gone and so were the sales and dollars. I sure hope DMI isn’t about to make history repeat with the same colossal blunder.

Listen to clips of 47 Moons at Amazon

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