Tag Archives: The Romantics

Detroit Rock City

Fewer places have been hit harder by the recession than Detroit in recent years. Maybe you’ve never been there and that statement doesn’t resonate much with you, but when one of America’s greatest cities is fighting to survive, the rest of us need to wake up.

Anyone involved in the music business knows how important Detroit has been to rock’n’roll. The list of giants is staggering, from Motown to Mitch Ryder, from Ted Nugent, Bob Seger and Alice Cooper to The Romantics, The Stooges and The MC5. I could list a hundred artists. Edumucate yerself.

America has turned from a nation of innovators and producers to a nation of consumers. Global conglomerates only exist to groom, maintain and satisfy shareholders, and we’re feeding the beast like never before. Hey, everyone wants a deal, whether it’s on their new car, their mortgage or a pair of pants. But even the most caustic critic of social issues must be aware of the toll that has been taken as corporations squeeze out labor through offshore flash farms and duck financial ethics using creative accounting loopholes.

First it was the farmers unable to sustain businesses that had weathered the toughest of storms – even The Great Depression – thanks to banking maneuvers that we now realize were less than ethical. And the auto industry – the backbone of American manufacturing – is now gasping for air.

So what is the Assembly Line Concert?

Live musical marathon from March 19th through April 1st, to raise awareness of the importance of the Auto Industry and the buying of domestic and locally made goods and services to the creation of jobs in our communities. It is also an attempt to break the Guinness Record we set last year for the longest concert by multiple artists.

This year’s effort is appropriately nicknamed the Second Shift. The Daily Tribune reported that “the concert record set last year brought attention to the cause. …About 200 bands have signed up to play one-hour sets at Assembly Line II. The Guinness Book of World Records clock starts ticking at 5 p.m. and if all goes well, musicians will play continuously for 13 days.”

So tune in and rock! And maybe the next time you’re going to plunk some money down, consider where it’s going before you make that final decision.

Detroit = Rock City

1 Comment

Filed under Editorials, Music

I Got The Knack

R.I.P. Doug Fieger

R.I.P. Doug Fieger of The Knack.

The best-selling album of 1978 was Saturday Night Fever, the zenith of popularity for guys in satin shirts (open to the waist so that the gold medallions could bounce within the prominent clump of chest hair, of course). Women were no better, focused upon inane dances with said hairy men, hopefully rendered impotent after bathing in strobe lights under satanic mirror balls and shaking what booty they thought they had to beat-pulsing stage lamps flashing primary colors like an amoral heartbeat. Surely the world had gone to Hell in a handbasket, although that handbasket now had a designer name and cost more than a week’s wages.

Sadly, 1979 was no better. Those of us buying Blondie and Ramones and Sex Pistols records could not help but wonder what the hell happened to rock’n’roll, since all the attention and the money and the shelf-rack space in the record stores – our record stores, dammit! – were being glommed by Donna Summer and Chic and Andy Gibb. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, this simplest of rock songs, this most basic beat, blasted its way to the top of the charts like a lung full of oxygen in a coal mine…”My Sharona“.

Video: “My Sharona

No, it wasn’t the best pop song ever written and The Knack were certainly not The Beatles despite the great pains the Capitol Records marketing department went through (the black and white cover photo and the Meet The Beatles cadence of the title Get The Knack). Nor did the bizarre decision to not do any interviews play out well; what initially inspired mystery in a band holding the Number One Single hostage for six weeks soon turned into resentment and an attitude of animosity towards four guys who were just trying to sell pop music.

But “My Sharona” did serve notice to the industry that despite disco and punk and prog and that god-awful corporate rock that Columbia Records kept spewing out its sewage pipe, there was an audience for what we refer to as powerpop music. Good melody. Great hook. Big beat. Maybe it wouldn’t dominate the charts like it did in the 60s, but when given a chance, people respond to it. Sure, you might gloss a sheen of hair metal over it, maybe even countrify it, but at its core a great pop song is a great pop song.

Of course The Knack didn’t last long; maybe these things aren’t supposed to, although their next couple of albums weren’t bad. One knock on the group was that the girls being sung about might be a tad on the younger side, which could explain the occasional leering expressions from the band members. (I’m not certain where these prudential critics were when Gary Puckett and The Union Gap were prowling school yards in the 60’s in military gear, but so be it.) In subsequnet years The Knack would occasionally reform sans retired drummer Bruce Gary (who passed in 2006) with ringers like Terry Bozzio standing in alongside Fieger, guitarist Berton Averre and bassist Prescott Niles.

The Knack will never have the cred that Big Star or Badfinger or even The Romantics have earned, but “My Sharona“, the biggest pop single of 1979, was the right song at the right time. Thanks, Doug (and co-writer Averre), for that lifeboat you dropped into The Sea of Disco. Rest in peace.

***

And R.I.P.  Dale Hawkins, the rock and roll tornado

2 Comments

Filed under Features and Interviews, Music

Under The Radar: The Forty-Fives

Hate, hate, hate it when a great band starts to make their mark and then just fades away because of money issues, lack of recognition or some other game-changer. After getting progressively better from Get It Together to Fight Dirty, The Forty Fives looked like they hit paydirt with High Life High Volume. The Atlanta band went to Detroit to soak up the vibe and lay down tracks at Ghetto Recorders with producer Jim Diamond; the results were great! But somehow, not long after that, my expectations – and theirs, apparently – were dashed.

Looking back and giving this one another spin, I remembered why I get so excited when a band like this comes down the pike. At least they did get to tour the world, play gigs with their heroes and even showcase at Little Steven’s Underground Garage Festival at Randall’s Island. Maybe they’ll do me a favor and make another record?

Diamond continues to find and work with great acts (The Charms and The Love Me Nots among the more recent stunners) as does the label Yep Roc, and bands like this do continue to pop up and take their shot. I just have to keep looking since with few exceptions, the radio and the press isn’t much help. And when you find one…ahhhh, bliss.

Here are my words from 2004 as they originally ran in Pop Culture Press

Hip-shakin’, roof-raisin’, ass-kickin’ rock and roll as Atlanta’s finest quartet hooks up with a producer who “gets it” (Jim Diamond behind the knobs) for a jukebox full of dynamite. Echoing every great British Invasion band (with a special nod to the Small Faces), Bryan Malone’s stirring vocals and electrifying guitar chops lead the way, but this is a rock solid band effort.

They’re too cool for school, rocking with abandon, dipping their toe in a cow pie (the countrified “Bicycle Thief”) and even daring an instrumental (“Backstage At Juanita’s” soulful Hammond – kudos Trey Tidwell – is worth the price of the record by itself). Killer cover (“Daddy Rolling Stone”) segues into a Dolls-like glam rocker (“Junkfood Heaven”), before the horns and blues of “Too Many Miles”. And if you’re still wavering, the blazing “Superpill” features the best handclaps since The Romantics ruled the earth.

Did some jackass say rock and roll is dead? No way – it’s right here, baby, on one of 2004’s best records.

Give them a listen on MySpace or at their website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews

PPC Tributes Strikes Back

Oh my god, he’s done it again.

Earlier this month Power Pop Criminal$ assembled yet another volume of their incredible tribute series, their first in fifteen months. Powerpop artists covering other powerpop artists. A Whitman’s Sampler of ear candy. (The three earlier compilations are available here).

Covers of  legends like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, T Rex, Nilsson, Elvis Costello, Badfinger, The Replacements and many more. Covers by esteeemed genre arttists including Superdrag, Dwight Twilley, Matthew Sweet, The Romantics, Teenage Fanclub and Cheap Trick – to name but a few.

Angelo and crew do incredible work putting these things together. Despite their site name, they are crystal clear that if any out-of-print albums they post become commecially available, they will pull them from the site (and I’ve seen them do it).

December alert: Pay attention to their site for the 2009 PPC Advent Wall of Sound. It works just like an Advent calendar where you open a compartment each day from December 1-24 to find a picture or treat. In this case we’re talking treat – a new powerpop rarity appears daily and only for one day. There are also some twisted holiday comps on the PPC site.

Hope you discover some new artists in the process, and if/when you do, please support them by purchasing their CDs and merch. It’s tough to survive in this business, and every dollar counts.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

He Put The BOMP…

No statue? This will have to do.

No statue? This will have to do.

I’m often asked what makes Bomp different. One answer is that where most labels concentrate on a small roster, I’ve always preferred to give a lot of bands the chance to be heard…I guess I’d most like Bomp to be remembered as a label utterly dedicated to the people who care most about music: the fans and collectors.”

Five years ago we lost one of our greatest soldiers, Greg Shaw. Most pop music writers have read him if not been influenced by him; many saw an opportunity to take the leap from fan to participant because of his magazine and his labels. Shaw began by writing fan letters to magazines and was soon writing reviews for everyone from Rolling Stone to Creem.  Along the way his journey led to managing bands, working at major labels (assembling compilations, of course) and running a record shop, but legions of powerpop fans point to a 1978 issue of Bomp Magazine as the rallying cry that launched a movement.

“Punk had already had its day by 1978, when Bomp Magazine ran a cover story proposing Powerpop: a hybrid style with the power and guts of punk, but drawing on a pop song tradition with wider popular appeal. I had in mind bands like The Who and The Easybeats, (hell, even The Sex Pistols fit my definition!) but much to my chagrin, the term was snapped up by legions of limp, second-rate bands hoping the majors would see them as a safe alternative to punk. I took a lot of heat for starting the whole business…”

Bomp Powerpop cover

But he should also get credit for what did go right. Many great bands rose from the masses of skinny tie wannabes, and some (including Shoes, 20/20, Paul Collins, The Plimsouls, and The Romantics) started at Bomp before landing at major labels. Writers including Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Mike Saunders and R. Meltzer passed through his masthead. That Bomp didn’t become a haven for great bands like Sire Records is a shame, but Shaw was unwilling to compromise his vision just to play on a bigger stage.

In the ’80s retro-garage was bursting out thanks to bands like The Fuzztones, The Lyres and The Chesterfield Kings; Shaw’s Voxx label attracted a ton of groups. He launched a series of compilations called Pebbles (inspired by Nuggets) featuring some of the rarest original ’60s punk records from his personal collection. He picked up Iggy Pop’s first solo album, Kill City (“when nobody else would touch it”) and issued a series of Stooges outtakes under the title of The Iguana Chronicles. In the ’90s he aligned with Alive Naturalsound Records which brought great bands like Black Keys, Bloody Hollies and Soledad Brothers into the fold, and he continued to discover and nurture new bands that tweaked his antennae until his death from heart failure. He was only 55.

I think the essence of Greg Shaw can be found in this quote:

“I think it comes down to the fact that Bomp is an outgrowth of my love for music. Where many would view it as a marginal business that barely breaks even, I prefer to see it as a hobby that’s profitable enough to allow me to build my life around it.

Contemplating the impact Greg Shaw had upon the industry, it just makes me sadder when I think about politics and greed making charlatans wealthy and famous, while true visionaries are sometimes just cult heroes. But fame is cheap commodity and wealth dissipates. Legacy is the coin that matters, and Shaw’s legacy continues to inspire. 

The BOMP website

Tributes from other writers

The bookSaving The World One Record at a Time

The date of October 19th also claimed guitarist Glen Buxton of the original Alice Cooper Band, who died in 1997; he was only 49.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Music