Tag Archives: Moon Martin

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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Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Music

T.G.I.F. – Let It Beatle!

I’ve tipped my sizeable cap to Angelo at Power Pop Criminals before; he is an amazingly creative guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre. He’s gone to great lengths to assemble some intriguing virtual tribute albums over the years. Recently he launched the last of his Tribute To The Fab Four series that he started in 2007 – reassembling the original albums with cover versions of each track. As he says, without the Beatles, there would be no powerpop music.

Of course, there are quite a few Beatle tributes on the market, everything from reggae to bluegrass to avant-garde interpretations to straight-ahead homage (like the recent efforts from The Smithereens). But these truly are a labor of love, and although you might not be a fan of every track, I promise you will be rewarded if you check them out.  I think album-to-album they’re as good or better than the commercially assembled releases.

Sure, some of the bands are extremely obscure, even to powerpop fans who dig deep. But you’ll also find a ton of great Beatle covers from famous artists like The Hollies, The Flamin’ Groovies, Aerosmith and Roger McGuinn, and even a couple from one (or two) hit wonders like Moon Martin and The Cyrkle.

Best of all, you’ll hear from many great bands that aren’t household names but are revered by powerpop fans, and rightfully so:  Cotton Mather, Ross Rice, The Blow Pops, The Quick, Walter Clevenger and The Shazam to name but a few.  (And if and when you do get turned onto some new bands in the process, maybe that album or two you purchase from them – you will, won’t you? – makes their day too.)

You’ll need Windows RAR software to unpack the files, you can download that here. And you’ll need the password, which is listed on each tribute page.

So pay it forward…and Thank God It’s Friday. Here’s a ten-spot, thanks to Angelo:

ppc beatles

Please Please Me

With The Beatles

A Hard Day’s Night

1965 / Beatles For Sale

Revolver

Rubber Soul

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Abbey Road

The White Album

Let It Be

animbeatles

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Filed under Features and Interviews, Music