Tag Archives: Mudcrutch

Blast From The Past – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Awaiting their new release Mojo, I was reminiscing about the band’s earliest days. Those who have never enjoyed the tactile sensation of cracking the seal on a vinyl album and anticipating the first notes from the speakers might not get it, but when you held a twelve-inch album jacket in your hand, you were more likely to focus on the task at hand.

I’ve clicked as many MP3 and WAV files as the next guy, but they all look antiseptic. The smell of the record, the familiar label pattern and most importantly the art on the front cover would set the stage for the next fifteen or twenty minutes…before you had to get up and flip the thing over for side two (or as I liked to think of it, the home stretch).

And on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ first album, there was this leather jacketed punk with the thin blond hair staring me down with a smirk on his face. He didn’t look that tough, though – I could probably kick his ass if the rest of the band didn’t jump me – so subliminally my response was something along the lines of  “prove it, buddy”.

And, of course, he did. “American Girl” still sounds as fresh as it did in 1979, and as someone who had spent many a night listening to cars on 441 “like waves crashing on a beach” it was right in my wheelhouse. Two years later, when You’re Gonna Get It proved there was no sophomore slump going on (“I Need To Know”, “Listen To her Heart”) I was dumfounded that the band was not immensely huge. Not that I didn’t have a large collection of albums that shoulda woulda coulda.

Video: “Listen To her Heart”

When Damn The Torpedoes came out, I was able to get an advance copy from a friend who was the local MCA Records college rep, and I was absolutely convinced it was going to be the record that finally broke these guys wide open. I was running a club at a University at the time, a place where Friday happy hours were huge, although we usually just piped in a local rock station for music. I was so convinced that one listen to “Here Comes My Girl” or “Refugee” or “Even The Losers” or “Don’t Do Me Like That” was going to blow their minds that I dubbed it onto cassette, brought my own tape deck in from home and wired it up.

Not me, not now.

The room was packed and I made a brief announcement; for a moment I felt like those AM jocks did when they were about to drop the latest single on their listening audience. Because here in my hands I held the perfect hybrid of The Rolling Stones and The Byrds, and in Petty’s voice and words you could feel the desperation of a man who had just watched his career almost get flushed down the toilet when his prior record label (Shelter Records) went bankrupt. I was about to do three hundred college kids a huge favor. I was going to change their lives. I was going to scoop the local rock station by three full days. This, indeed, would be one of those moments we’d remember forever.

Well, I was half right.

The record held up its part of the bargain, but the crowd just…didn’t…get it. The second song wasn’t even ten seconds old when people started yelling to play some Grateful Dead. The Grateful fucking Dead? What the hell was wrong with these idiots? I wasn’t that much older than the kids in the room, barely out of college myself, and the rule for Happy Hour was rock’n’roll, not trippy noodling. This was a town that was dominated by rock radio. I was crushed.

Of course, it wasn’t the first time I shook my head in disbelief as a great record fell on deaf ears, and it was far from the last (my annual submissions to the Village Voice Pazz&Jop poll look like alien transmissions). Lesson learned, again. But time would prove me right, as Damn The Torpedoes went on to become one of the biggest records of the year and the album that singlehandedly turned Tom Petty’s career around. I never anticipated he’d become actual rock royalty with such a critically acclaimed career, but I do know a great record when I hear it. Most of the time, anyway.

Hearing the recent Mudcrutch releases and the first sounds from Mojo, it sounds like Tom is looking fondly backwards as well. And that’s just fine by me.

 Tom Petty website

4 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews

Listen, People (Part 1)

Sixties spectacular

Forward, Into The Past

I don’t live in the past, but I don’t disavow it, either. I’m crammed into small clubs to hear The Gaslight Anthem and The Reigning Sound as often as I am out watching veterans like John Hiatt and Graham Parker still crafting magic. And when a tour like Sixties Spectacular comes rolling through town featuring The Turtles, The Rascals and Herman’s Hermits, well I’m there, too.

The show was opened by a ’60s cover band who played a competent set of radio staples. While hearing a pedestrian version of “Honky Tonk Women” might be acceptable at a wedding or corporate function, I dreaded the fact that my a quarter of my $50 ticket was designated to 30-40 minutes of this. I also feared I might be seeing these same people acting as the band behind the remaining original members of these featured groups. I’ve been to oldies shows before where a group of unknown musicians simply changed shirts between sets to morph from The Grass Roots into The Buckinghams. But as it turned out, I had nothing to fear (although one of these bands could have used the help). And old bladders be damned, the show lasted almost three and a half hours.

Young Rascals

Why can't you and me learn to love one another?

First up was The New Rascals, a legally-retitled band featuring original Young Rascals members Dino Danelli on drums and Gene Cornish (a native of this town) on guitar. A long time acrimonious split with Felix Cavaliere and the absence of Eddie Brigati meant that the primary vocalists of the band were no longer in the fold, their slots filled by current members Bill Pascali on keyboards and lead vocals and bassist/vocalist Charlie Souza. (Although they are advertised as formerly being with Vanilla Fudge and Tom Petty, respectively, neither were ever with the named artists in their heyday. Souza played bass with a late version of Mudcrutch and left before Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers; Pascali sang and played keyboards on one of Carmine Appice’s many reanimations of Vanilla Fudge earlier in the decade.)

Unfortunately, despite a wealth of great material to offer, the New Rascals were disappointing. I’m hoping that the issue was merely being under-rehearsed rather than lacking in ability. I don’t expect Pascali to be as soulful as Cavaliere, one of the era’s greatest singers, but he was often flat and occasionally struggled when playing piano and organ simultaneously. On other occasions, the band seemed to be playing off-rhythm. Ordinarily I’d chalk this up to bad monitors and/or faulty equipment, but having just witnessed the cover band whip through a set unscathed, I can’t lay blame there.

Cornish, who recently has endured some health scares, was as animated as he could be and flashed solid rock chops as the sole guitarist, and Souza did bring great energy and good voice to the mix. Danelli can still play flash, spinning sticks and muting cymbals, and on several songs everything clicked to remind the audience what an incredible catalogue of music this band generated in their career. Highlights included a rousing “People Got To Be Free”, “A Girl Like You” and a stripped-down “Groovin”, featuring a soulful harmonica solo by Cornish. The crowd ate it up warts and all, of course, and gave the band a rousing ovation. I saw enough good moments to warrant seeing them again in the hope that this was just an off-night.

Flo and Eddie

Stll two of the greatest voices in pop music

When the musicians in The Turtles hit the stage one by one, the keyboard player spun in circles before taking his place behind the rack, and I thought I had seen that move before. Sure enough, it turned out to be Greg Hawkes from The Cars, who has been with The Turtles for three years; the remainder of the band (although also not original members) have been in their shells for twenty. But the show is all about Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, the original lead vocalists, who are still singing as well as they did in their prime.

Scheduled for approximately forty minutes like The Rascals, I wondered how many Turtles favorites I wouldn’t hear, since my admiration for them goes way beyond the hit singles. Thankfully I got a good sampling of both, from “Outside Chance” to “”Happy Together”, “You Baby” and “She’s My Girl”. The band was tight, Howard and Mark sounded fabulous, and their infamous stage banter was on display as they ripped into sacred cows as well as each other. I’ve seen them several times over the years, and can honestly say that they are as good now as they have ever been.

It’s amazing to think how long these two have been (happy) together, from sax-honking friends in The Crossfires to huge stardom in the ’60s to the Zappa years, followed by literally hundreds of session appearances and their hilarious syndicated radio show. Yet here they are, almost fifty years later, still viable and still creative. There were a lot of incredible artists vying for chart position and limited radio play in the ’60s, and the under-appreciated Turtles were an integral part of that amazing musical era.

The concert was promoted as an oldies show, and the majority of the attendees looked to be several years older than me and there for the hits. I don’t think many appreciated the segment of the set where the band ripped into several minutes of Frank Zappa material (a medley including a ferocious version of “Peaches en Regalia”) and a couple of tunes from the Flo and Eddie catalogue, but I was thrilled. But even with the mid-set segue, after so much familiar material was performed so well, the band got several well deserved lengthy ovations and a standing O at the end.

Cold Hard Cash

During the break, the lobby was flooded with fans lined up in queues past long banquet tables where their heroes sat with Sharpie pens. It was quite the assembly line – hand over a twenty, receive a CD, get your autograph, thanks and keep moving please. I’m not certain how much the bands got paid to perform, but the money that changed hands at intermission was staggering; an exercise repeated after the show. It dawned on me that with a three thousand seat theatre almost sold out, this annual caravan of yesterday was far more financially viable than most bands or tours that come through town.

And now…Intermission!

I’ll finish this tale of time travel on Saturday. Until then, enjoy some of the great music that The Rascals and The Turtles brought to the world. Listen to samples of The Ultimate Rascals and The Turtles: 20 Greatest Hits and check out some video below.

The Turtles:  “She’d Rather Be With Me

The Rascals: “Good Lovin

The Turtles:  “Elenore” – how great was Johnny Barbata on drums?

The Rascals: “People Got To Be Free

And Happy Birthday, ‘erman! Hard to believe he’s 62 today!

3 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews

2008: Close, But No Cigar – Part 1

(What an odd saying that is, by the way.)

Close But No Cigar is my quick takes on albums that didn’t make it to my “best of” list this year but are still worth checking out. Some have a great song or two, many are consistently good but not great. Not quite “bridesmaids”, the “cigars” will slot somewere south of #40 on the list when all is said and done.

But that’s just one man’s ears talking. I’m hoping that you find an artist or three that knocks your socks off and/or rediscover something that you passed on earlier. Here are ten to start with, in no particular order…

 

Drink these up

Drink these up

Broken West: Now Or Heaven

Imagine if Wilco teleported to the 1980s and tried to beat Europop at its own game. Some very nice melodies, whiffs of Kinks on occasion, but ultimately a juxtaposition of styles that doesn’t quite flow from start to finish. If you enjoy the aforementioned bands and 80s pop as well as revitalizer bands like The Kaiser Chiefs and The Futureheads, this might grow on you. A good highway album.

 

Ian McLagan: Never Say Never

Mac is a little mellower than usual on this one, but there aren’t too many bigger hearts making records nowadays. Surrounded as always by great musicians, Mac’s soulful raspy vocals and expressive playing are framed by heartfelt songs, many obvious love notes to his late wife Kim. Ronnie Lane fans will like the organic feel of “Killing Me With Love” while Faces fans will delight in the barrel-house rocker “I’m Hot, You’re Cool”. The Bump Band is on tour where Mac’s material shines brightest, and I’ll wager some alternate arrangements pop up in the set-list.

click here to continue reading the full article…

1 Comment

Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews