Tag Archives: The Ramones

The Rock And Roll 500

The windowless white van rumbled eastward on Route 90, soon to take a dogleg right and hook up with its brother highway, The Mass Pike. A six-hour trek that normally would clog at one end or another, but on the two interior days of a four-day holiday, traffic was pretty much non-existent. Most people were already where they wanted to be. I was just going back and forth, as usual.

When I was her age, I moved a few times, and always with the help of friends. Someone always had a truck. Everyone would focus on the beer and pizza at the end of the run, and were it not for my abnormal amount of vinyl albums, we could probably have been in and done in a couple of hours. But I forgot what it’s like to live in a major city where public transportation is the norm, where not only do you not have a car, but no one you know does, either. And besides, isn’t this what Dads do?

The rental van was reasonably priced but came with its limitations. No power locks, so each of the five doors had to be constantly checked. No power windows, either – do they really still make hand cranks? And much to my horror, just a radio. No CD player, not even a cassette, and certainly no input for a digital device to be plugged in. Nope, the front end of the trip would be a hollow metal can bouncing down the road (what, you expected soundproofing?) and me alone with my thoughts, unless I could find something decent on the radio. I had given up trying to do that years ago.

But it’s Memorial Day Weekend, so rock stations across the country are broadcasting their own version of the Rock And Roll 500, a countdown of the five hundred greatest rock songs ever made. And although I constantly have to hit the scanner, as signals fade and ebb between markets or on each side of a mountain pass, sooner or later it’s there. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Cream, U2, Bruce Springsteen, The Cars, The Who, The Police, The Ramones…song after song that I know like the back of my hand, whether I like them or not. It’s a bit 60s and 70s heavy, but rightfully so, because that’s when the apex took place.

I remember selling my Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin albums in a used record store, not so much because I needed the money but because radio had played “Free Bird” and “Stairway To Heaven” so often that I couldn’t bear to hear either band again. This egregious life choice was eventually recanted, of course, even though those two particular songs have long worn out their welcome. But the punk ethic of the time was to burn the past, and somehow I got caught up in the moment. I mean, really – I have never disliked the first four Led Zeppelin albums, they are incredible…but there they went across the counter.

It was a mistake I would not repeat; the day my senses came back to me and I repurchased them was also the day I realized that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. I like what I like, period. I don’t owe you an apology for that just because you disagree.

I thought of that a lot during the six-hour drive as I beat rhythms on the dashboard and heard my voice echo through the empty metal canister (reverb!), singing along as a large part of my childhood was played out for me one track at  a time. I remembered the boxes of 45s that I meticulously catalogued, the first albums I listened to over headphones, juggling prog and pop and glam and blues in college. Even the glee with which Roger and I would pore through the new punk singles arriving at Record Theatre – usually one scooped up by him and one by me, leaving none to be placed in the racks for sale. There was always an insatiable taste for great songs, and there was always the bedrock of what had come before.

I thought of the music I wasn’t hearing on the trip; were there really no J. Geils Band songs, even on the Boston station? And Tom Petty, who quietly went from ignored to elder statesman just by never stopping – would I hear “American Girl“? I already knew that The Dictators, Billy Bremner, Dwight Twilley, John Hiatt, and other lifelong favorites would probably not be heard from, but how was I not hearing a Kinks song?

Heading westward was a different story; the stations seemed less numerous and the song selections started to get downright odd. Even Eli turned to me at one point with her face scrunched up as a Candlebox song came in at number 168. I was incredulous. “The entire Kinks catalogue is better than that song“, I told her, and as “Everything Little Thing She Does is Magic” followed at #167 I imagined Sting sighing, relieved that when the great books were tabulated, someone gave the nod to his fine effort to move ahead – just ahead – of the mighty Candlebox.

Eli and I talked about many things on the way back, and the conversation turned to Lady Gaga. I don’t really care for him/her in the same way that I was never a Madonna fan – I’m much more centered on the music than the spectacle. Eli grew up listening to her own music but also getting the aural second-hand smoke of mine. My rule was and is that the driver picks the music, not the passengers. “I don’t think it’s great music per se“, she said, “but when I feel like dancing in a club it’s really fun and gets everyone going. It’s great for what it is, and I like it for that.” No guilt, just pleasure. A chip off the old block.

The sun had long set and we still had a couple of hours to go when “Going To Califormia” came on the radio, and I let it wash over me. I wasn’t going anywhere but home, but I must have channeled a dozen road trip memories in my mind. Had Eli turned to her left she would wonder why I had a shit-eating grin on my face after the long day, but someday she’ll do that herself. If there’s a better song to hear when you’re in a pensive mood on a long car trip, I can’t think of one right now.

And to think I once sold that album for a dollar. What fools these mortals be.

Led Zeppelin: “Going To California

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T.G.I.F. – Ten For Joey Ramone

Joey Ramone would have turned sixty yesterday.

That’s inconceivable. It’s also hard to believe that so many older bands – who easily endured as much drugs and demonic activity as their younger followers – are still out there banging away when three of the founding Ramones are gone.

But time has taught us what only the die-hard fans knew at the time – The Ramones were one of the greatest American rock bands to ever take the stage. Initially classified as punk, they were really more of a hard, loud pop band who got in, banged out a few chords and got out without wasting your time. You not only could sing along with all the songs, you could play them. But there was magic in their direct simplicity, and Johnny Ramone was a very underrated rhythm guitar player.

Hard to believe that last month marked ten years since we lost him. Ten years! I feel like I’ve been in a coma; time shouldn’t move that fast.

But even though The Ramones are gone, their legacy lives on through their recorded work and the many bands who continue to carry the flag. Sure, there are the obvious ones, everyone from The Sex Pistols to Green Day.

But in honor of Joey – a fellow Queens guy – here are Ten For Joey Ramone…ten lesser known bands who took heed when American music was restructured back in 1974. Turn it up – gabba gabba hey!

(01) – Teenage Bottlerocket

(02) – The Huntingtons

(03) – The Methadones

(04) – The Leftovers

(05) – The Lillingtons

(06) – Screeching Weasel

(07) – The Riverdales

(08) – The Vindictives

(09) – The Queers

(10) – Teen Idols

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T.G.I.F. – Back To Schooldays

I don’t have to anymore, thankfully…

But September, and especially this weekend, brings the official end to summer and the start of the school year. (Feel free to substitute the word “football season” if you are a childless male past the age of eighteen.)

Music has always captured the essence of every emotion and occurence in our lives, and there certainly are many anthems that document the drudgery and celebrate the rebellion and pinpoint the pain. Many of these are obvious, although “School’s Out” will have to wait for June! And I didn’t want to go to hardcore teenage angst like Big Star‘s “Thirteen” and Ultimate Fakebook‘s “A Million Hearts” (an under-known classic!).

So as you hopefully are preparing for a safe and happy holiday, here are Ten Tunes to take you Back To Schooldays!

01 – “Schooldays” (The Kinks)

02 – “Be True To Your School” (The Beach Boys)

03 – “Back To Schooldays” (Graham Parker)

04 – “Hot For Teacher” (Van Halen)

05 – “My Old School” (Steely Dan)

06 – “School Days” (Chuck Berry)

07 – “School Days” (The Good Rats)

08 – “Teacher Teacher” (Rockpile)

09 – “High School Confidential” (Jerry Lee Lewis)

10 – “Rock and Roll High School” (The Ramones)

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New Album! The Dahlmanns

Short, sharp and sweet – this four track EP from The Dahlmanns is a blast of crunchy pop bubblegum. The EP kicks off with a great cover of Amy Rigby’s “Dancing With Joey Ramone”, which takes the hook from “I Fought The Law” and covers it with a bright pop sheen.  That’s followed by the lightning-paced  “I Want You Around”; an original, not the Ramones tune, but it sounds like the seminal punk band. Both songs (like the closing track “Didn’t Tell The Man”) are effervescent punchy pop;  chunky guitar chords and great hooks slathered with sing-along harmony vocals.

But I would expect nothing less, considering Andre Dahlmann is from The Yum Yums, one of the best powerpop bands around (and sadly not as well known in the States as they should be). Guitarist and vocalist Andre is joined by his wife Line Cecile Dahlmann on vocals; I’m not sure if the two other listed band members  (Christian and Ole) are real Dahlmanns or whether the adopted surname is a tribute to The Ramones, but no matter – whoever it is playing on these songs, they’re tight and fun.

The fourth track is a cover of Lindsey Buckingham’s classic “Holiday Road” (from National Lampoon’s Vacation), complete with spirited harmony vocals and infectious guitar. The webpage states that a full length is on the way this year, and if it’s anything like this four-track EP, powerpop fans are in for a real treat.

The Dahlmanns page at Pop Detective Records

The Yum Yums on MySpace

*****

Ever feel that the day is  just…weird? From the moment I got up today it seemed like things were a little off. Took a peek at what events have happened on June 17th across history and found out some odd pairings…

In 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor, a representation of all the good America had to offer. But in 1972, five White House operatives were arrested for breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee and Watergate was added to our lexicon.

Today also marks the anniversary of the last public use of a guillotine in France, outside Versailles in 1939, because modern society deemed decapitation too gruesome even for criminals. But fifty-five years later, a nation watched a white Ford Bronco chased by police cars in slow motion; its famous passenger accused of a comparably heinous act.

On a lighter note, June 17th is also the birthday of a three TV sketch comedians. Michael Showalter from The State is forty, while Saturday Night Live player Joe Piscopo is 59 years old. And Will Forte, ironically, turns forty.

(And for the record, although it was Phil Hartman’s version who said it, not Piscopo’s… Frank Sinatra has chunks of guys like MacGruber in his stool.

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The Lost Weekend

It only ends once

Everything that comes before that is just progress.

***

Speaking of Lost Weekends, I had many of those at The Lost Horizon in Syracuse, New York. If you ever played music or hung out in Syracuse, you knew the place and you knew of Greg Italiano, the man behind the club. Sadly, he passed away this week at 59; he would have been 60 this August.

I never got to know him personally but I did know many promoters and hundreds of musicians who always spoke highly of him. He gave countless bands their first break, and I’m sure the thoughts and well-wishes will pour in from around the globe as the sad news spreads through the music community.

Once Wanda’s and later The Yellow Balloon, Greg started running The Lost Horizon in the 70’s. In my stomping years, the club was anything but the Shangri-La the name implies, but in fairness Syracuse was known for having many clubs where it would be healthier to pee your pants than enter the bathroom.

But what it lacked in decorum it made up in solid bookings. My mind is clouded but a Who’s Who of rock bands played in that room – The New York Dolls, The Ramones, Jason and the Scorchers, The Beat Farmers, and on and on. Every local band worth seeing rocked that stage and probably put a few guitar necks through the low ceiling.

In its recent incarnations it was primarily an alternative and metal club, but ask any touring bands of that ilk where to play and draw the crowd and they’d drop that name. As always, that was Greg – finding out what kids want and providing it for them.

R.I.P. Greg – thanks for everything. 

Condolences here.

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Corvette + Gore Girl = Gorevette

Ladies, lock up your sons and husbands.

As if it isn’t great enough that Nikki Corvette and Amy Gore (The Gore Gore Girls) have hooked up to form Gorevette, they just release a new EP (Lustfully Yours), finished a tour with The Donnas and are heading out this summer with Blondie!

From their bio… 1978 saw the birth of Nikki Corvette’s career with the release of the Nikki Corvette and the Convertibles single “Young and Crazy” b/w “Backseat Love” and “Criminal Element”. This was all happening in Detroit during the punk rock explosion, where Nikki would see herself sharing the stage with The Ramones, Johnny Thunders and The Romantics. By 1980 the band name was changed to Nikki and the Corvettes. They would release their legendary debut album on BOMP! Records, an incredible mixture of 60’s style girl group vocals, twangy guitars and teenage pop with plenty of punk rock attitude, with songs about cruising for boys and fun in the sun. The album and band would influence everyone from The Go-Go’s (to go for more of a “pop” sound) all the way to The Donnas (see the lyric “I wanna be like Nikki Corvette” from Gimmie My Radio).

Amy Gore was born in Detroit, Michigan and in 1997 she founded the Gore Gore Girls, the first of few all-female bands of the garage rock genre. Along with other bands such as The White Stripes, The Dirtbombs, The Detroit Cobras and others, the Gore Gore Girls helped establish the modern American garage rock scene of the 1990s in Detroit.

Hear Gorevette on MySpace

Check out this video for “Lustfully Yours”!

Gore Gore Girls website

***

Wait a minute.

Are you telling me that Ann-Margaret, Penelope Cruz, Jessica Alba, Bridget Moynahan and Elisabeth Rohm were all born on the same day? And no one has started planning late July conceptions hoping their daughter would also get the April 27th good looks gene?

And since all five of those ladies are out celebrating tonight…keep those sons and husbands locked up even after the Gorevette video.

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New Album! The Flashcubes

We want YOU...to want US!

We want YOU...to want US!

Let me get the caveat out of the way right up front. I know all four of the guys in the band, I watched their career happen right before my eyes, I wrote about them at the time, and I even booked them to play at a couple of clubs I was managing. So I’m not exactly impartial.

That said, I’d recuse myself in a heartbeat if I had written the liner notes, recorded the music, remastered the tracks or was any way involved with the release of their material. My only advantage coming in to A Cellar Full Of Boys is the anticipation based upon knowing the material. But if you aren’t familiar with The Flashcubes, I’m not feeling superior – I’m feeling a bit envious. Because you get to hear one of the great lost pop bands of the 70s fresh and new.

In brief, The Flashcubes were a punk and power pop band from Syracuse, New York who almost grabbed the brass ring. Despite wowing the local community, opening shows for virtually every famous name who came through town and having heavyweights like Greg Shaw and The Ramones among their advocates, it just didn’t happen. Well…until twenty-five years later when half a planet away, the Japanese pop community determined that a band this good deserved better. What had been a couple of reunions and the occasional tribute album track exploded into a full-blown renaissance.

Gary was always taping, thankfully. Now these Basement Tapes breathe new fire into the Flashcube legend. You can read my full review of the new album at BLURT.

Flashcube button

The Flashcube Story in 3 1/2 minutes.

Listen for yourself at their MySpace site.

Bright Lights (the anthology)

Brilliant (the new material)

Air Mail Recordings.

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