Tag Archives: Elvis

T.G.I.F. – Ten Wishes for 2010 Comebacks

 

Happy New Year! Many of us look upon January 1st as a fresh start, a chance to wipe the slate clean and start a new plan. For others, it’s an opportunity and a challenge to make a mark in life, to have a sense of purpose and accomplish a goal. And for pop culture freaks, it’s a chance to wonder what the year ahead has in store, as every year brings us some wonderful surprises, whether a great album or a new TV show. Who will occupy our thoughts in 2010? Certainly there will be some new breakout artists, but as always, some blasts from the past will knock us for a loop as well. 

All too often we take our cultural heroes for granted, expecting them to continually churn out yet another book or album or screenplay at the same pinnacle of quality. If they hibernate or quit, we pine that they walked away too early. Yet if they start to slip, we pounce upon them for overstaying their welcome and selling out. But our culture seems preoccupied with success and redemption, so we seem to be especially cognizant of those who recapture some past glory, especially if the road since then was paved with difficulty. 

I used to be among the camp that wanted to leave well enough alone – don’t tarnish a reputation with a comeback, but walk off on top and disappear into legend. With very few exceptions, no one does that voluntarily; it’s usually an untimely death that cements a legend. James Dean might have made as many horrible film choices as Robert DeNiro had he lived into his sixties. Had Elvis died while in the service, he’d still be larger than life, only not literally. But instead we usually witness a fall from grace – Willie Mays playing center for the Mets, Dick Clark still counting down New Year’s Eve. 

But after seeing Mott The Hoople reform in 2009, after watching Jim McCarty and Johnny Badanjek rocking like they were teenagers again, after having Dana Gould and Steven Wright release hilarious new albums years after I thought they were done with it all, I’ve jumped ship. Life is short – give me all I can handle. Not everyone will succeed, but I can swallow the moments of ineptitude for a calculated risk that there will be moments of pure magic that otherwise never would have happened. 

So with that caveat in mind, here are ten reunions, revivals and/or comebacks I’d like to see this year…a few of which might actually happen! 

Risk and Reward

The Faces – A test run happened late this year where Ian McLagan, Ronnie Wood and Kenney Jones finally gave up on Rod Stewart‘s false promises and played a gig without him. If only they would have done this while Ronnie Lane was still alive, but throw in Glen Matlock on bass and someone like Sulo of The Diamond Dogs on vocals and this could be magic. 

Arrested Development – Maybe line-for-line the funniest television comedy ever, and it’s a crime that something that great couldn’t find a strong audience let alone a network exec with a spine who would have kept it on the air for the sake of art. (Yeah, right) Rumors about a movie continue to swirl – please get it done before it’s too late! 

RockpileBilly Bremner is playing music in Europe, Nick Lowe is still great but sedate, and…well, where the hell is Dave Edmunds, anyway? Technically they only made one album although all those Lowe and Edmunds records were really Rockpile albums in disguise. Seconds of Pleasure turns thirty this year – how about a sequel? 

Eric RobertsMickey Rourke was right – if someone would just give Eric Roberts a chance, I think he’d knock the ball out of the park. After all these years tolerating his sister’s horrible movies, I think Hollywood owes me a film where Roberts has a great role to sink his teeth into. Tarantino, you listening? 

The Kinks – Come on, guys, even The Zombies have managed to get back together. Dave is recovering but back out on the stage, and Ray’s work over the past couple of years has been among his best. There’s an entire generation who hasn’t seen the band live on stage. Please guys…one for the road

Mel Brooks – I know he’s having great success reviving old hits on Broadway, and I know he’s in his eighties. But he’s still one of the quickest, sharpest wits around and perhaps five years after losing the great Anne Bancroft he will dig deep for one more devastating comedy film. 

The J. Geils Band – Peter Wolf still has the chops, and lord knows we need a band that doesn’t take itself so seriously. A kickass band with a guy who knew what being a front man was all about, their party atmosphere the antithesis to indie shoegazing. 

David Simon – The man gave us two of the finest television shows in history – Homicide and The Wire. Both scripted dramas were far more real than any of that reality TV crap that we drown in today. Save us, David. 

Tonio K. – I think I wish this every year. Not sure if he’s flying well under my radar or just involved in other projects (like assembling a blues compilation) but it’s been over a decade since Gadfly Records released his reissues and almost twenty since an album of new material. America needs all the cynics it can get.

Robert KleinGeorge Carlin might have been the one to make the most of the opportunity, but it was Robert Klein who helped put HBO on the map with his comedy specials. Whip-smart and multi-talented, I can’t believe that the events of the past several years haven’t inspired him to create a new hour of material. We need you, sir. 

"You start something this time, we all get a half-life, go figure it out on your own..."

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Blast From The Past: Rockabilly Raveups

For all the countless repackaging that we are constantly drowning in, sometimes the major labels throw us a bone with brilliant anthologies. Being a fan of garage rock, the pinnacle for me might be the original Nuggets collection, although I’m certainly not sneezing at the various label series that have followed in those caveman footprints to issue regional and chronological; collections of little-known garage and punk singles.

Rhino and Sony Legacy have really stood out in this regard (although in fairness to other labels, their access to the entire Columbia and Warner Brothers libraries is a hell of a head start). When these efforts are done right, you get a great cross-section of material in its best available sonic condition combined with some entertaining and/or authoritative liner notes written with care. If there’s one major drawback to the digital download medium – and there are several – the loss of liner notes might be the leading contender.

I didn’t grow up an Elvis or rockabilly fan, but I did grow up loving rock’n’roll, and chasing the roots of an art form is a worthwhile exercise for any devotee. These collections are far from complete but are an excellent primer for someone wanting to know what the fuss was all about.

When I saw that Whistle Bait is on sale at Amazon for $6.99, I figured I should pay props to these killer anthologies once again. Here’s my original review from 2000 as it ran in PopMatters

Fifty—count ‘em—50 snips of rockabilly, America’s original punk rock music, collected on two CDs to awaken your latent juvenile delinquent tendencies. Rockabilly was the cross-cultural spawn of hillbilly country, southern R&B, urban blues and rock’n’roll (which, of course, was itself a hybrid of the previous three). If you think the ‘50s were all about American Graffiti and Happy Days, you’re as wrong as the people who think Pat Boone butchering “Tutti Fruitti” was the cat’s meow. This was rebel music, parent-scaring yelps from garages and small towns across America. In your town, it was that kid down the block who chain-smoked and had a pompadour seemingly held in place by 30-weight motor oil. Thirty miles away, some kid with a buzzcut and an attitude was making the “bad girls” swoon.

Whistle Bait and Ain’t I’m a Dog strip-mine the vaults of Columbia Records—who, through their strong country music associations had a leg up on these things—and their associated labels. Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, in their post-Sun era, are just two of the stellar names among The Collins Kids, Johnny Horton, Link Wray and Marty Robbins. Perkins checks in with some pre-requisite sharp clothing titles like “Pink Pedal Pushers” and “Pointed Toe Shoes”, but cuts like “Jive After Five” prove who Dave Alvin spent a lot of hours listening to. Billy Crash Craddock might not have been the star that Elvis was, but “Ah Poor Little Baby” could fool many people in a blind taste test. For me, the revelations were Ronnie Self and The Collins Kids—it’s no accident that the first track on each volume comes from their catalogue.

Hard not to learn a few things along the way, too. I never knew that Ronnie Dawson cut tracks under the unlikely moniker of “Commonwealth Jones”, nor did I realize that Webb Pierce had a hand in writing both “Bop-A-Lena” and “Bo Bo Ska Diddle Daddle” (although now that I look at those titles side by side, I know why Mensa passed on my application!). Then there are the classic monikers like Ornie Wheeler, Ersel Hickey and Werly Fairburn; three names impossible to pronounce without a little twang in your thang. Many of these acts had one or two records and then disappeared; some (Cash, Perkins, Dawson) had long careers, and some wound up in unexpected places (how the hell did Larry Collins cut tracks like these and then later pen schlock like “Delta Dawn”?). Although the genre primarily existed for but a few years (the tracks here range from 1955-1961), there sure were a hell of a lot of great records, and you know there are plenty more where these came from. File these two right alongside Nuggets when not playing loud.

Listen to clips from Whistle Bait

Listen to clips from Ain’t I’m a Dog

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New Album! Muck and the Mires

Dr. Tongue never had it so good

Much like Hypnotic‘s 3-d  album cover, the music of Muck and the Mires comes straight at you. Kim Fowley’s production is sharp and thin – he usually just throws the songs out there without fanfare (“Cocoa Beach” does get a roll of surf). When the songs are strong enough, like the garage crunch of “Crush on Me” and the killer opening track “Doreen”, it appears to be a marriage made in heaven. But when it doesn’t, it exposes a song like “Hang All over Me” for what it is; a pedestrian pop rocker that disappears from memory almost immediately. But that’s the beauty of an album of short pop songs – mental floss is three minutes away, and there are far more hits than misses.

Many bands ape The Beatles, but these guys cleverly went all the way back to Hamburg (and if “Hamburg Time” doesn’t get your mop top shimmying, there’s something wrong with you). But they don’t stop there – “Wipeout” is embedded in “Cocoa Beach”, “Do It All Over Again” subtly buries the theme from The Munsters in its melody, and “Treat Me Right” sounds like a teenaged Dave Edmunds grave-robbing Scotty Moore-era Elvis. The title track should be the theme song for a revival of Where the Action Is. I don’t think this is the best Muck album, but Fowley has captured a rawer, live sound, accentuated by deeper, raspier vocals from Evan Shore.

So what the hell, this isn’t rocket science. Do you wanna have fun or not? Pop this in and turn it up before that hot chick who wants to dance leaves the party. 

(This review is published in Bucketfull of Brains #73, available now. So what are you waiting for? Go to Bucketfull of Brains and get your copy.)

Visit Muck and the Mires at their  website and on MySpace

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Celebretards

Don't worry - they can't read it

Don't worry - they can't read it

BEATING A DEAD HORSE…So let me get this straight. An album that comes out in 2003, and is itself a compilation of music even older than that, somehow can get nominated for Album of the Year? And an artist who hasn’t released a new piece of music in years and even dies midway through the year is a nominee for Entertainer of the Year? Entertained how? By continuing to provide creepy tabloid fodder? Does no one understand the concept of rest in peace? Bad enough Elvis is buried in his backyard like a house pet, now we gotta ghoul it up again with his sorta son-in-law? (I think I just puked in my mouth a little…) That’s what happens when an award is based on album sales. Maybe Dark Side of the Moon will win next year.

CHEATING, UH OF COURSE…And before you tell me that this award-nominated album – unreleased as of yet, mind you – contains new songs, it only took a day to debunk that charade. And not only were these tracks older material, the choice for first single “This Is It” was issued without credit to the real songwriter. “We just found it in a box” said the label chairperson. (I will resist the obvious joke here). So pants down, that loveable family said “oops” and decided to pay the guy fifty percent of the royalties. Wonder if that admission would have come out if it wasn’t someone as famous as Paul Anka? Nice work, Sony.

TWEETING, A DEAD FORCE?…And oh, what will I do without the constant barrage of inanity from Miley Cyrus and Kate Moss and Courtney Love and all of those nameless skanks from reality shows? Probably the same things I’m doing now, since I don’t let my life get disrupted by the most inane fad since the Pet Rock. At least the Pet Rock just sat there and left you alone instead of constantly pebbling “I feel solid right now” or “I’m still here where you left me”. Stop abusing the technology, people. And if your undeserved fifteen minutes is up…go away! Like Darren Frost says, make your millions and then get lost. (<— hilarious, but not for the workplace.)

Pet Rock

Ah, I feel better. Sorry for the purge, but it’s hard to try to check in with the entertainment world and not feel the immediate need to bathe and use mental floss. Amazing that stuff like that is getting millions of hits while the insurance industry and the government are about to screw up health care in America again and we just sit by and watch. (Sorry…I promised this was a politics free zone.)

Finally – and sadly – a blue cheer and salute for the late Dickie Peterson, the heart and soul of Blue Cheer. The band survived off and on over the years but never recaptured the fire that started with their cover of “Summertime Blues” in the 60s. Still they recently tossed a couple of interesting platters our way and even made ears bleed in a small club in my town. So the next time you hear thunder from above, it might be a bass player.

Dickie Peterson and Blue Cheer wiki

Thundah!

Blue Cheer

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Number Nine…number nine oh nine…

Put Guitar Hero down and listen to the real thing

Put Guitar Hero down and listen to the real thing

If we didn’t see the marketing forecast incubating with the debut of the CD format, the master plan has become abundantly clear in the years that followed. Sell the consumer something, then reformat it and sell it again, then repackage it and sell it a third time, then remaster it and sell it a fourth, then create a special edition and sell it a fifth, and so on. Granted, bonus tracks appear and sonic quality improves, and those who hesitated ever buying in continue to get more and more tempted to make the leap.

But the marketing wizards also know there are collectors and completists who must own every version and format, for they perceive a gaping hole if they do not. As someone who has been known to dabble in this obsessive behavior, I thought collectors learned their lesson with posthumous Elvis and Hendrix releases, or the life and death of colored vinyl, but I was wrong. (Example: I just got an email for a reissue of Get Yer Ya-Yas Out at the $50-60 mark, and while I’m a big fan of the Rolling Stones, I own the album and the CD and the DVDs of Gimme Shelter and Sympathy For The Devil. How much more do I need?)

But this is special – these are The Beatles, after all – and the sonic quality is supposed to be phenomenal. Boomers who might have purchased Beatles 1 to capsulize their albums and 45s could decide that now is the time, and we certainly see an entire generation of musicians and fans looking backwards for inspiration these days. So hell, if it really takes Rock Band and Guitar Hero to bring these generations together, so be it.

The world has enough sad stories and horrific events. So if 09/09/09 is Global Beatle Day, I’m okay with that. And just in case that’s not enough…on September 10th – a/k/a “one after nine-oh-nine” – this ships.

uh-HUH. uh-HUH, yeah.

uh-HUH. uh-HUH, yeah.

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