Tag Archives: Joe Jackson

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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Power Pop Tributes V

Power Pop Criminals have done it again.

Every so often, my friend Angelo and the crew at PPC put in some yeoman work to gather together a collection of artists covering other artists and wrap it up for us with a nice bow. On this, their fifth collection of Tribute or Not Tributes, they’ve assembled forty-nine tracks of cover tunes that range from nice surprises to holy shit moments, and there’s no doubt that this will spin multiple times in your player.

Want some familiar names? Ronnie Spector, Butch Walker, The Rubinoos, Cheap Trick, The Goo Goo Dolls, Joan Jett and The Wildhearts are just some of the bands taking a whack at their peers and influences.

Great bands that never got the cred they deserve? Check out The Beat Angels, Pugwash, Velvet Crush, The Merrymakers, Material Issue and Gigolo Aunts.

Names only your powerpop friends know? Discover and enjoy Marty Rudnick, Jaimie Vernon, Chris Richards, Cloud Eleven and The Slingsby Hornets.

These and many others take on tracks from the classic B’s (Beatles, Beach Boys, Badfinger) as well as Tommy James, David Bowie, The Troggs, Joe Jackson, Marshall Crenshaw, Blondie, The Who…ahhh, just click on the damn link and get started, willya? There’s even a bonus 50th track on the site for those of you with Monk-like neuroses.

Like the man says, it’s just raw rock’n’roll with la la las

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Happy Birthday, Elvis Costello

Miracle Man.

Today we celebrate the birthday of one Declan MacManus, better known to the world as Elvis Costello, among other aliases over the years. Bursting onto the scene with what is arguably the best ever 1-2-3 punch of albums (My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model and Armed Forces), Elvis quickly grabbed your attention with short catchy songs, a rapier wit and his secret weapon, The Attractions.

For as good as this sneering, scrawny Buddy Holly caricature was – and he was great – Steve Nieve on keys, Bruce Thomas on bass and Pete Thomas (no relation) on drums were as formidable a rock band as you could hope for. They weren’t as spacial as The Police would become, nor were they thunderous like the then-still powerful Who, but they were so tight you couldn’t slip an ant’s ass hair through them.

But before Elvis Costello and The Attractions became one, it all started with an iconic debut; tracks laid down with session musicians who weren’t initially credited, total recording time adding up to less than one day.

People listen to records differently these days, especially if they are digital downloads. No tactile sensation of an album cover, liner notes, lyric sheets. Earbuds instead of walls of speakers. Sigh.

I remember the day my friend Phil showed up at my house with My Aim Is True; import version, of course. My roommate Larry and another friend were already hanging in the living room, music on as always. We had heard about the album coming out that day and planned to go grab it in a couple of hours. Phil was no procrastinator; he snagged it and came over where he knew there would be other willing participants to share the magic with. (Yet another earbud problem – isolation instead of the communal experience).

It was astonishing.

Two of the songs didn’t even hit the two-minute mark. The opening rocker “Welcome To The Working Week” somehow jammed a boatload of hooks, wry lyrics and choruses into a minute in a half; “Mystery Dance” sputtered and tumbled much like the clumsy lover the narrative depicted. There was fury and sarcasm, and there was great wit and wordplay, and the band (preAttractions musicians from Clover and The Rumour, among others) snapped everything to attention.

And maybe it was because it stood out with its winsome melody and broken heart, but “Alison” was an instant classic. The chink in the armor was there for all to see; this snarling wise-ass had feelings after all. When not long after I heard him nail this live it sent chills up my spine.

We were gobsmacked; I can’t tell you how many times we played this album over and over and over that day. It was all we would talk about with friends for days after, and whenever someone came over that album would come out and they would get indoctrinated. Not long afterwards some friends in a band worked up three of his songs so that I could duck out from tending bar and play lead singer for ten minutes. (We were the first Syracuse band to play Elvis Costello songs, and yes, I’m proud of that!)

Of course, Costello continued to floor us with one great album after another, and thanks to him and Rockpile and Graham Parker and Joe Jackson there was a new, fresh volley of literate songwriters serving up an alchemic stew of influences and flushing the distaste of disco and flaccid pop out of our ears. 

The trend wouldn’t last of course – none do – but the music proved timeless. On Friday I’ll celebrate Costello’s career with an Elvis-themed TGIF.

And yes, I know that today is also the birthday of Gene Simmons, Ruby Keeler, Tim Burton, Rob Halford, Wayne Shorter, Walt Kelly (Pogo), Regis Philbin and several others…as well as the tenth anniversary of Jack Nitzsche‘s death and the first for Ted Kennedy. But today, I must honor the Elvis who has been a part of my musical life for over three decades.

No offense, Mr. Presley.

Elvis Costello  wiki page

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Today also marks the 35th anniversary of Born To Run, when a talented performer, a crack band, a savvy manager and an all-too-eager mainstream press joined hands to crown the new King of rock and roll. Bruce Springsteen has since earned every jewel in that crown and then some, but it’s yet another reminder of how fractured the entertainment industry has become. It’s no longer possible to make the stars align on that kind of scale, and with very few exceptions, those things never happened organically.

But that can’t and won’t tarnish the memory of a time when it seemed like a blue-collar bar room rocker grabbed the brass ring and pulled down the whole damned curtain with it. Rock concerts would never be the same.

Could that really have been thirty-five years ago?

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Graham Parker Film!

 

Well, it’s about damned time! 

Don’t Ask Me Questions is a new documentary film about Graham Parker being brought to life by Michael Gramaglia, who co-produced and co-directed the wonderful Ramones film End of the Century

I doubt I have to explain to the regulars here who Graham Parker is…how he burst upon the US scene in 1976 with not one but two five-star albums (Howlin’ Wind and Heat Treatment). Or how three years later Squeezing Out Sparks was lauded by most critics as the best rock album of the year. How thirty-five years after his first splash he continues to write, record and perform some of the most intelligent, passionate, and literate rock’n’roll on the planet. 

But for the sake of convenience, here’s a link to a couple of hundred song clips that should seal the deal for any of you scratching your head. There are enough collections and best-ofs to fill a shelf, but don’t sell yourself short. Start at the beginning if you must, but work your way through his incredible catalogue and hear the albums in their entirety. You’ll find wonderment galore, from classics like  “Soul Shoes“, “Discovering Japan” and “Temporary Beauty” to recent gems like “She Swallows It” and “You’re Not Where You Think You Are“. 

I was angry too, back then.

I’ve seen Graham Parker perform many times over the years and have had the great pleasure of interviewing him for a magazine feature. He’s as powerful a presence with an acoustic guitar and his sardonic wit as he is backed by the fire of The Rumour and The Figgs. Once he was lumped together with Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson (and for some of us, John Hiatt) as one of rock’n’roll’s “Angry Young Men“. Now, older and wiser, he’s aged like fine wine. Here indeed is a man who spent a career putting art before commerce, passion before trend and substance before flavor. 

Now, finally, the Graham Parker story…on film

 

From the website“A modern troubadour, Graham releases new music almost on a yearly basis, while touring small clubs around the country to a die hard fan base…The film documents the history of his independent spirit and defiant optimism, celebrates the sincerity of his music and delights in his self-deprecating wit.” 

Interviewed in the film are Martin Belmont, Steve Goulding, Bob Andrews, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson, Dave Robinson, Ian Hunter, Pete Thomas, Black Francis, Jesse Malin, The Figgs, Meg Griffin and Alan Pepper, among others. 

The project has been in the works for four years and is available for the general public to financially participate in the production at varying levels through the Kickstarter website. This is the same method that enabled the recent Kinks film Do It Again to get off the ground, and as a proud participant in both efforts I can vouch for the process. 

It’s not cheap to assemble a quality documentary film, especially when you have to secure rights to footage and audio and do it the right way. A project like this really hits home for me; it’s the type of thing I would do if I had the time and the money…and the guts

But someone is doing it. And he needs a hand. The pledge drive continues through the Summer; there’s a long way to go but a very reasonable target to aim for. Contribute if you can, but at least spread the word far and wide

Don’t Ask Me Questions official site . Great promo clip!

Graham Parker official website. Mecca!

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Radio Records

Happy Radio Day!

Well, that’s if you believe that Popov invented the concept instead of Marconi or Tesla. (And if everyone believed that, would we have had a band named Popov instead of these guys? Would Marconi not have played the mamba?

Celebrate the day anyway – it is Friday, after all – and blast some music out your car window. You might also want to celebrate by seeing films like American Hot Wax and The Boat That Rocked, a/k/a Pirate Radio.

Here are ten radio-related songs to get you started…

Joe Jackson:  “On The Radio”   Not the best song on I’m A Man, but that’s how strong the early Joe Jackson albums were (and how tight the band is).

Bruce Springsteen:  “Radio Nowhere”  I like Bruce’s social conscience, and I can appreciate the whole Woody Guthrie thing and his passion for the roots of music. But sometimes I just like a great Bruce single, and this is one.

Rush:  “Spirit of the Radio”  I was never a big Rush fan, mostly because Geddy Lee’s voice is like chalk on a blackboard to me. But when he shuts up and the band jams…wow.

Warren Zevon:  “Mohammed’s Radio”   Great live version (with Jackson Browne). God, I miss this man.

The Doors:  “WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)”  I know a lot of people hate The Doors and think Jim Morrison was an overrated ponce, but I think L.A. Woman was a phenomenal album; an indication of what might have been.

Everclear:  “AM Radio”  One can argue that many of Art’s songs sound like they’re built on the same rhythm and chord progression, but you can’t knock his ability to combine humor and pathos. Great video, too.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch:  “Midnight Radio”   If you have not seen this film, you need to run to the store and get the DVD. John Cameron Mitchell’s performance is amazing, and thanks to Steven Trask, this is arguably the best rock and roll soundtrack ever. That’s right…ever. The original cast recording from the play is as good or better than the film soundtrack, but get both.

R.E.M.:  “Radio Free Europe”   The song that started it all for them, and one listen brings back that era in a flash, when these guys sounded so different from everybody else.

John Hiatt:  “Radio Girl”  The video sadly cuts off at the end, but I’m thankful even this much exists. John doesn’t play songs from Slug Line and Two Bit Monsters anymore, and that’s our loss.

Elvis Costello:  “Radio Radio”   Elvis Costello hit the ground with an astounding one-two-three punch of albums, and I wish I had a good rip of his initial SNL appearance when he played this song. But this nod and wink to that event with the Beastie Boys is pretty damned cool.

And your bonus trackJonathan Richman’sRoad Runner“. Priceless!

Got my radio ON!

Tim Russert would have been sixty today. RIP, buddy.

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Under The Radar: Cartoon Factory

So many pop bands, so little time…

Ten years ago I came across a Greenville, South Carolina band called The Cartoon Factory on a late night surfing expedition; I was attracted to their energy and knack for a good powerpop hook. I thought their debut album was pretty good, and although it doesn’t appear they they ever issued a follow-up album (a 2002 release featured songs from an earlier configuration of the band under a different name), they’re still around and playing gigs, although Chuck Chapman seems to be the only original member still standing.

Powerpop is a broad term, so what do they sound like? Their website has some free downloads of pop covers like “Ah Leah”, “I’m a Believer” and “(I Want To) Rock and Roll All Night” as well as handful of great originals written in that same vein. Good harmonies, pop crunch; I’d say their self-appended comparison to Fountains of Wayne and Weezer is a decent starting point, as are the references I make below. If those names put a smile on your face, give these guys a listen.

My original review ran in Cosmik Debris in 2000…

Although the name might connote animated characters (or Jim Carrey’s short-lived sitcom debut), this quartet is a high-energy power-pop band that sets its sights on harmony and melody. You can’t be taking things too seriously when you have a track called “Monkey Girl” lead off your record. Factor in a band that has two Bay City Rollers fans paired up with two guys leaning more towards classic rock, and the combinations can get pretty interesting. For example, the melody of “Tongue Tied” sounds like The Cars taking a stab at Joe Jackson‘s “Is She Really Going Out With Him?.”

“Deaf Dumb And Blind” starts out like Eric Carmen‘s “Hey Deanie” before sliding into the infectious chorus. Only the closer “I Live For You” falls flat here, a disappointing arena thud-rock entry. The band is tight – David Swift‘s guitar and Louis Sijon‘s power drumming are solid, and the harmonies are spot on. Bassist Chip Anderson and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Chapman (the aforementioned Rollers fans) are also fans of the arena-sized power pop of Cheap Trick and KISS.

However, the production of the self-titled disc muzzles the bombast and goes for a crisp and clear sound; power chords are there, but glass isn’t shattering. “Hopeless” is a very catchy song that opens with a classic guitar riff that deserves to shake the house. But I’d rather have catchy songs than catchy production any day – I’ll bet that “Without You” and “Whirlwind” rock the house live. Keep an eye on these guys.

The Cartoon Factory website.

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