Tag Archives: Richard X Heyman

Civil War Buff

Today marks 150 years since the start of the Civil War.

Pop maestro Richard X Heyman is a real-life Civil War buff; on his early album Hey Man! he recorded a killer pop tune about his fascination. Now in 2011, he’s recut an acoustic version to commemorate the sesquicentennial. A brilliant video interspersing historical images and Heyman’s performance is now online (the video is credited to Nick DiFabbio).

Video: “Civil War Buff

I was never a good history student myself, too many dates to memorize when my head was filled with lyrics. I could never understand the fanaticism, even when my nephew immersed himself in it and eventually became a reinactor. But now as an adult, I get it. It’s a fascinating period of history with so many “what if” moments, and even one hundred fifty years later, there’s still a palpable north/south thing in certain areas.

Heyman has never gotten the credit he deserves, and the fact that you can pick up the aforementioned album for a penny on Amazon is a crime (as is the presence of only one review). But dammit, if you don’t know the man and won’t invest a single penny (okay, three dollars with shipping charges) to dip your toe in the pool of Heyman, you should be shot. And with a musket, just to make it appropriate. This is a solid dozen pop chestnuts featuring the multi-instrumentalist at the top of his game.

Where he still resides, by the way. Heyman’s latest album is a double called Tiers/And Other Stories (his album titles are usually puns) and his other band The Doughboys are already working on their third studio album while their upcoming live CD/DVD Rock’n’Raw is on its way to the stores.

So enjoy this song (available on iTunes soon) and all of his work. And as for the war, choose your side carefully – those embers still glow.

Richard X. Heyman website.

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Mixtape! This is Your Brain On Pop…

Way back in the day – June 1997 to be exact – I slapped this puppy on a C-90 and shared it with my tape swap group. Damned if it still doesn’t sound good now. A nice mix of old and new (new then, anyway), famous and obscure, sweet and bitter. Someday when I have both bandwidth and time I’ll load these on a special tab, but just YouTube or MySpace or Google your way around for now.

This Is Your Brain.

This Is Your Brain On POP!

Any Questions?

The Nerves – “When You Find Out” How can you go wrong when you have not one, not two, but THREE great songwriters in the band? Well, that’s probably two too many…
Ginger – “Feel Like Falling Down” Always a Molson’s Ale in the fridge, always a Canadian pop band on my tapes. Can’t recommend the whole CD but this song is sweet.
Joan Jett – “Indian Giver” Yes, your eyes are working fine. Little Ms. Riot Grrrl does a nice job on this 1910 Fruitgum Company classic.
The Shazam – “Blew It” From Copper Records, the label that brought us the Badfinger tribute, comes this Cheap Trick/Who/Badfinger sounding band produced by Brad Jones, whose influence is strong here (that’s a GOOD thing).
The Clouds – “Aquamarine” An Australian band who I only heard of because they opened up for TPOH – spotty record but this track is killer.
The Guess Who – “Don’t You Want Me” Burton Cummings is a guilty pleasure of mine. This is the second version of this song, from “Road Food”. They could really rock live.
John Hiatt – “Doll Hospital” The greatest living American songwriter. His older stuff is classic; if all you know is “Bring The Family” you are missing a TON of great stuff.
The Chills – “The Male Monster From The Id” Martin Phillips and company – this one’s for all the girls. Another spotty record with some great songs.
Candy Butchers – “Til You Die” More Mikey! No knock on Adam Schlesinger of FOW, but Mike Viola deserves some props for his vocals in the movie THAT THING YOU DO. Buy this EP before its gone.
Blue Cartoon – “Parachute” Lee, who’s one of my SON OF TAPE TREE swap partners, is far too modest to tell you that he writes great pop songs. So I will – this stands up with the best of 1997.
Michael Shelley – “Going To L.A.” East Coast Beach Boys with great lyrics and a borrowed T-Rex riff. Mike’s HALF EMPTY is one of the best records of 1997.
Sylvain Sylvain – “Teenage News” Ex-N.Y.Doll had a much poppier side than the band ever did. Two great records and gone – I wish he were still making music.
Sutherland Brothers & Quiver – “Dream Kid” Great, great pop rock band, probably known best for “Sailing”. This version of the band featured future Attractiion Bruce Thomas on bass.
Stella Luna – “Nervous Man” A plug for Bruce Brodeen’s NOT LAME label and sampler. Jamie Hoover produced this new band’s track; can’t wait to hear the whole record!
Sparks – “Here Comes Bob” Besides being a vastly underrated band, Sparks had a great sense of humor. In this song, Bob has a strange way of making friends…
 
Redd Kross – “Pretty Please Me” I wanted to put “Mess Around” on this tape, but “Pretty Please Me” started off with more of a bang! Cannot believe this band isn’t all over the radio!
Semisonic – “Brand New Baby” One of the best of 1996, from the ashes of Trip Shakespeare. Semisonic’s debut CD was wall to wall great songs and was criminally ignored.
Richard X. Heyman – “Everything The Same” Permanent Press Records will release CORNERSTONE, Richard’s first new record in five years. He plays all the instruments on this song and is a pop god.
The Del Lords – “Stay With Me” In a better world, Scott Kempner and Andy Shernoff would be revered songwriters. This Dictators classic re-interpreted by Scott’s next great band, whose catalogue deserves better. Rhino? Ryko? Hello??
The Pursuit Of Happiness – “Pressing Lips” Speaking of great songwriters….Moe Berg writes ’em, the great band kicks them into gear, and those killer harmony vocals seal the deal
The Faces – “You’re So Rude” We lost Ronnie Lane this month. Although overshadowed first by Steve Marriot and later by Rod Stewart, “Plonk” was the backbone of the Faces, Small and otherwise.
Firesign Theatre – “Porgie Tirebiter” I’ve been slipping in a few non-musical interludes on this tape, but since this is a theme song, I might as well ‘fess up. If you haven’t heard “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers”, you haven’t lived.
Rick Derringer – “Something Warm” From “Hang On Sloopy” forward, Rick always had a knack for pop, even if he didn’t have the voice to match. Still, GUITARS AND WOMEN was a first rate album. He’s back to the blues now, though.
Godley & Creme – “Big Bang” Dedicated to the Jellyfish Listgroup – what should we call this, 5CC? For a laugh, play the Blues Brothers’ version of “Hey Bartender” at the same time.
Cheap Trick – “Oh Candy” From the first of two self-titled albums, a nice, bouncy cheerful pop song about suicide. You won’t be comin’ around no more….
Pat Godwin – “Amish My Ass” For every guy who ever got turned down with a bullshit excuse, Pat sticks it right back up her ass in one minute and twelve seconds.
Eric Carmen – “Hey Deanie” Maybe he lost his way off the path, maybe he is label-less because he is a problem guy. But forget the BS – it’s amazing how many different times Eric captured the innocence of summer love in a song.
Kyle Vincent – “Wake Me Up (When The World’s Worth Waking Up For” Am I the only person who thinks Kyle and Eric Carmen sound alike? This perfect single should be blasting out of every car radio right now! Why isn’t it??
Sparks – “Batteries Not Included” Part two of the Sparks humor brigade. Followed up on the record by a song called “Whippings And Apologies” which I’ll probably toss on another tape someday…
Mick Ronson – “Sweet Dreamer” (edit) Speaking of losses, I miss Ronno. He made Bowie and Hunter better, brought out a great side of Morrissey, and had an appreciation for classic American music like Patsy Cline. 

Any questions?

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #8

If the overt visual homage to Jesus Of Cool didn’t tip you off that there’s some Nick Lowe influence here, one spin through this excellent debut disc will clearly prove that Edward O’Connell is a product of his influences. Had he Photoshopped Elvis Costello’s head on those shoulders instead of a paper bag, you’d have his two major ingredients clearly identified.

Pop guy influenced by Nick Lowe? Maybe that’s why I immediately thought of Walter Clevenger when I heard Our Little Secret. If like me you are pining for Clevenger to release another album, I implore you to grab this one, for it pushes all the same buttons (I bet you could play “With This Ring” to a Clevenger fan and fool him).

What separates O’Connell from most artists with melodic chops is strong lyrical songwriting. Gotta figure that a law student knows his way around a lexicon, and like Elvis Costello, there’s a lot going on in and between the lines. I was gobsmacked at just how good this album is wall-to-wall. The lyrical wordplay of “Acres of Diamonds”, “Happy Black” and “We Will Bury You” is at a level I would expect from a vet like John Hiatt. How could I never have even heard his name before when he drops this as his debut?

Jangly, chiming guitars. Massive hooks and choruses. Superior vocals. Organic warmth. A sound that recalls (in addition to the aforementioned geniuses) Tom Petty, The Byrds, Richard X. Heyman, Teenage Fanclub, Michael Carpenter and their ilk. As fulfilling on the tenth play as the first. Why he has a bag over his head like The Unknown Comic is beyond me; this is clearly a major pop release that deserves widespread attention.

Let’s not make this (ahem) Our Little Secret – spread the word far and wide. We just might have a major pop star on our hands.

Listen to clips at Amazon or CD BABY

Edward O’Connell website

Edward O’Connell on MySpace

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Blast From The Past: The Wildweeds

It wasn’t unusual for bands in the 60s to work their way to the top of the local and regional pile and get an opportunity to take that next big step to stardom. But consider the obstacles – how primitive the communication and public relations tools were, how few venues there were to siphon through as an artist – and it’s not hard to look at the long list of bands who were one-hit wonders*.

Now take that down a notch and think about the bands who just missed that rung – a breakout regional hit whose spark just didn’t catch enough fire – and that list gets exponentially longer. There is so much great music that never got its due, but thanks to the ability to create and promote a label from your desktop, more and more are getting their day in the sun. One such band is The Wildweeds, who were monsters in Connecticut but failed to explode nationally. Their recorded canon labored in obscurity for decades despite having a famous alumni, the great Al Anderson on guitar, who went on to achieve legendary status with NRBQ.

I pulled this record out again after getting an email from Doc Cavalier‘s daughter Darlene which included a link to this great video her Dad spliced together. I didn’t recall having seen the Wildweeds video before – turns out it’s the only video of this lineup – but I did remember Michael Shelley issuing this great CD on his Confidential Recordings label a few years back, so I pulled it out to play it.

No Good To Cry assembles singles and studio tracks from The Wildweeds Cadet era tracks plus ten additional songs; all were remastered by Doc Cavalier and Richard Robinson, and for the most part you can see where the band’s “Soul City” moniker came from. Most tracks sit squarely at the intersection of Philly soul/r&b and garage rock, much like their contemporaries The Young Rascals. There’s a great photo on the back of the booklet where the band is standing in a field of…well…three guesses. With their powder-blue suits and stocky frames, they look about as hip as The Turtles.

Having the ability to morph from jazzy to surf to psychedelic sounds, and with a spirited vocalist like Bob Dudek on many tracks, they were versatile and sophisticated. Vocal arrangements that rivaled harmony groups like The Association; guttural pop blues that emulated Blood Sweat and Tears, and numbers featuring flute and acoustic guitar reminiscent of early Traffic. (And yes, they might toss in a Beethoven riff during the bridge if they felt like it.)

I could go on about the band’s history and demise, but I’d prefer to point you to a couple of experts. Ironically one of the best essays about the band was written by Christine Ohlman, whose album I highlighted two days ago. (Christine, as you would expect, is a passionate writer and music historian in addition to her performing skills). And major kudos to Richard Brukner (co-founder of Confidential Recordings) for his excellent essay in the liner notes, just one part of a fabulous package that was assembled with love and respect.

Forty years after the 60’s ended, Felix Cavaliere is playing with Steve Cropper. Jimmy McCarty and Johnny Badanjek are playing together. Richard X Heyman is enjoying success with his 60s garage band, The Doughboys. Not every trip down memory lane is fueled by money; sometimes it’s just the right thing to do at the time.

Likewise, although I listen to a ton of new music, there’s no reason to turn my back on the past… especially if I’m experiencing some of it for the first time. Please do seek this one out and be rewarded like I was.

*No Good To Cry actually did register as a “one-hit wonder” in a 1990 collection on Rhino Records.

***

And Happy Birthday to Russell Crowe, who has never thrown a telephone at me,  but whose performance as Bud White in 1997’s L.A.Confidential will stand the test of time. Sadly, neither Crowe nor Guy Pearce were even nominated for their roles, which is unbelievable in hindsight, and the film got drowned in the Titanic tsunami, winning only for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress Kim Basinger. More  on one of my favorite films at another time.

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Listen, People (Part 2)

On Thursday I waxed poetic about a recent concert featuring The Rascals, The Turtles and Herman’s Hermits and left off at intermission. Here’s the rest…

Peter Noone 2009

I wondered why Herman’s Hermits was set up as the sole act past intermission, an obvious headline ploy (as if the posters didn’t make it clear enough).  As the lights dimmed after intermission, a huge Union Jack dropped down across the upstage scrim in tandem with explosive fanfare and British anthems blaring. But when Peter Noone hit the stage with four younger, energetic musicians dressed as if it was 1964, my question was answered. The British were coming…again!

Peter Noone is 62 but looks like he’s in his mid-40s and sings like he’s in his 20s. In reality, by the time he was twenty, Herman’s Hermits were just about done. But on this night in a packed auditorium, the only sign of age was in the crowd; the band was on fire and gave the songs a boost they never had in their original form; for the most part they sounded as good or better.

Noone led the band through an entire catalogue of beloved songs, and as each one played two points dominated my thoughts. First, every one of these tunes was melodic, crisp and fun, and he and the band played them with such enthusiasm and life that they should just hit the club circuit and win over a whole new generation of fans; ones who avoid “oldies shows” like the plague. And second…my God, this was a prolific band!

What were you doing at sixteen?

When people talk about the great bands of the ’60s, Herman’s Hermits seldom enters the discussion. Why not? For starters, just look at this string of singles five Top Five hits…in five months! A dozen singles in the Top 15 in just over two years. Amazingly, in 1965, they outsold The Beatles in the United States!

And in addition to their own great material, Noone filled out the show with tributes both sincere and funny. Peers like Freddy and The Dreamers, Peter and Gordon and Chad and Jeremy got their due with excellent cover versions of some of their hits. But Noone’s funny between-song banter and occasionally randy storytelling also gave him an opportunity to imitate artists from Mick Jagger to The Sex Pistols (!) as the band launched into segments of “Start Me Up” and “Pretty Vacant”.  There was also a running gag about The Turtles being old men, although like Peter,  Mark Volman and Howard Kalyan are also 62 (their birthdays are a few months apart). It was just banter between and about old friends, playfully mocking them for being asleep in the limo before it gets to the hotel and wondering if it was their set list taped to the floor “because there’s only four hits on it“.

Like many UK groups from the pre-Beatles  era, there’s a strong music hall influence bleeding through their material, whether it’s vaudevillian jokes  about dim people requesting “She’s A Muscular Boy”, or the bounce in pop chestnuts like “Dandy” and “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat”. Until Noone pointed it out, I hadn’t realized that part of the charm about Herman’s Hermits was the unrelenting joy in their songs. Maybe “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” is a little sad, but only “The End of the World” is truly morose. The rest can’t help put a smile on your face.

The Tremblers 1980

He also wove in a couple of tracks from his underrated skinny-tie era album with The Tremblers and cheekily made up a song about his lifelong dream to be in this very theatre on this very night. By the time the vocal participation challenge went out to the audience during “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”, he had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand (not that there hadn’t been a few eating out of it since the moment he walked onto the stage). Knowing the show was closing with “There’s a Kind of Hush”, the audience was on their feet mid-song, providing Noone and band a lengthy standing ovation for what was truly a dynamic ninety minute show. The post-show autograph and merch line was enormous, and Noone graciously shook every hand and signed every item.

Some bands from long ago trot themselves out for these events to get a little adulation, connect with their glory days and make a little coin (sadly, perhaps for the first time in their career). Peter Noone and his new version of Herman’s Hermits might be a nostalgic act because of their catalogue, but their presentation, energy and musical chops were fresh and vibrant. No doubt they could kick the ass of a lot of current pop acts.

I’m not certain if Peter is writing songs these days, or even if he’s entertaining cutting new material in addition to bringing the old hits to his loyal fanbase of Noonatics. But he’s talented as hell, is a consummate entertainer, and he’s proven time and time again that he can deliver the goods. The Hermits era speaks for itself. The Tremblers album from 1980 still sounds wonderful. And as recently as 2001 he guested on pop wunderkind Richard X Heyman’s ep titled Heyman, Hoosier and Herman and nailed it with “Hoosier Girl”.

Someone get this guy and this band into a studio, get them the right material, and have at it. Something tells me we’d be into something good.

Peter Noone website.

Wiki pages for Peter and Herman’s Hermits.

Grab that Tremblers album!

56 tracks of Hermits

Heyman Hoosier Herman

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