Tag Archives: The Who

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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New Album! Thee Wylde Oscars

Not brand new, but hopefully new to you

As a music fan who grew up with singles, albums and later CDs, I must admit that I’m still struggling to move from the tactile world to the digital age. Meaning that not only would I prefer to have the object in my hands to savor and manage, but I will not have the mental connection to that image to fall back upon when trying to remember whether I own a digital album or not.

I can’t count the times I saved a link to the digital-only release of Right, Yeah by Thee Wylde Oscars; hoping that the CD version would soon be available Stateside. (Don’t ask me why I didn’t just send the money to Off The Hip in Australia, I didn’t say this was logical…). I mean, look at that cover – does that scream early Who album, or what? So plunk I did, eventually, and I smacked myself for waiting so long.

Jay Wiseman, lead Wylde, is a veteran of some garage/soul bands in San Diego that I’ve never heard of. He moved to Melbourne and recruited a young trio of like-minded rockers willing to take the journey, and a scant 18 months later we have this great result. Pop around YouTube and you’ll find a couple of videos that expose a band still gelling as a working unit, but the heart of the effort is undeniable. If they have indeed written fifty-plus songs already, I’m hoping that means a follow-up album in 2011.

Here’s my review from the latest smoking hot copy of…

I think I finally decoded the intent behind the somber voice intoning “…the watusi…the twist” in The Beatles’ epic “Revolution Number 9”. It was a call to action to reclaim the words “dance music” from the prepubescent Auto Tune singers and return it to the manic, sweaty, sexual gyrations that it was originally coined for.

What About Me?

Hyperkinetic and rocking, Thee Wylde Oscars start Right Yeah with a bang and don’t let up, and I defy you to not beat the crap out of the nearest solid object with a complimentary drumbeat. And yeah, get that air guitar cranked up – the rhythm one – and chunk along to one three-minute garage / punk / soul / rock chestnut after another.

Video: “Right, Yeah!”

Lead vocalist Jay Wiseman wrote all but three tracks, and the sonic wallop is seamlessly and consistently great. “White Light, White Heat” is a pretty simple song to play, which is why it’s rare that a cover version ever steps up to the plate to add anything new. Thee Wylde Oscars grab it, bitch-slap it and then burn it down. Unlike their namesake, there’s nothing the least bit fey about this Aussie band. ‘Nuff said…right?

Yeah?

Thee Wylde Oscars on MySpace

Listen to clips and buy at Amazon

More great stuff at Off The Hip

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New Album! The Parties

Not quite brand new, but hopefully new to you..

Maybe it was the personnel turnover, maybe the effort to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, but whatever the motivation, Coast Garde is a solid step forward for The Parties. Sounding at times like a merger between Let’s Active and The Three O’Clock, the jangle-pop, harmony-laden album also boasts some primal early Who and Stones DNA for muscle. It’s a great combination that grounds the more ethereal elements with substance, elevating what could be sing-along pop songs into something more substantial. 

Video: The Parties Much Better” (live)

Can’t Seem To Get My Mind Off Of You” is so catchy it could make a bus full of strangers sing along in unison; it’s a sixties AM radio formula repurposed through a current filter. Ditto “The Target Smiles”, a piano pop melody that Paul McCartney would have likely slotted on an album circa Ram. And tell me “Leavin The Light On” wouldn’t have been a smash for The Hollies. But the most impressive bit is the three-part “Suite”, clocking in at over seven minutes and incorporating everything from Kinks references and Byrdsian chord changes to Stones horn riffs and Who-like anthemic flourishes.

Don’t misunderstand – this is way more ambitious than it is derivative, and it’s persistently listenable. If you like the references you’ll love the album.

Listen to clips at Amazon

The Parties on MySpace

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Comedy Awards; R.I.P. Mick Green

It's OK to drink and vote, it's comedy!

Looks like comedy will get the last laugh after all.

MTV Networks and Comedy Central, along with Don Mischer Productions, will present The Comedy Awards, the “first multi-network event dedicated to the serious art of being funny” The affair will honor the writers, directors, actors and stand-up comics who made us laugh in 2010.

The event will take place on March 26, 2011 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, while the program will be simulcast on Comedy Central, Spike TV, TV Land, VH1 and Nick at Nite on Sunday, April 10, 2011.

This is actually pretty exciting. I’m seeing a comedy boom unlike any since the 80s, and as sad as it has been to lose so many of my comedy heroes over the past few years, there is a new generation making its mark thanks in large part to their ability to produce and distribute work online. It’s time to leverage the activity, and New York is the right place to do it. I really, really  hope they get this right.

Nominees will be chosen by The Comedy Awards, Board of Directors, a prestigious group of comedy legends including Will Ferrell, Billy Crystal, James Burrows, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth MacFarlane, Brad Grey, Phil Rosenthal, Adam McKay, Jimmy Miller and Jay Roach, among others.”  That’s actually a decent start with decent representation of performers and show runners, with people who are dialed in to the current scene as well as the classics.

Winners will be selected by the Comedy Awards Voting Body, comprised of professionals from the comedy community-including producers, writers, performers, directors and stand-ups. In addition, comedy fans from around the world will nominate and cast their votes in online-only categories…”. It will be interesting to see what the categories are, and whether they follow the path of having people vote only within their appropriate categories. But I like the fact that, at least for the major awards, this is not an online circus dominated by people who have limited awareness of the history of the art.

Obviously there will be a slew of hot performers to spice up the event and broadcast (and DVD sale, and t-shirts, and …). The press release says it’s an “historic one-night-only celebration” but you know this is going to turn into a cash cow and be an annual event. And after the embarrassing list of nominees for “Best Comedy Album” that the Grammys belched out, who could blame them?

Let’s hope for a serious Hall of Fame and a tribute to recent losses like Robert Schimmel, Greg Giraldo and Richard Jeni. Better yet, how about a perpetual exhibit featuring the history of comedy? Take the initially great idea of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and avoid their mistakes.

I will say that the mention of MTV made me throw up in my mouth a little until I realized that they and Comedy Central are owned by the same parent corporation, Viacom.

Read all about it at the official website.

And R.I.P. one of rock’s founding fathers, guitarist Mick Green. His innovative work in bands like Johnny Kidd and The Pirates was a huge influence on countless bands, from The Who and Chris Spedding to Dr. Feelgood to revivalist garage and Mod bands that feature that simultaneous lead/rhythm style of playing.

I’m not sure where we go when we die, but the band just got way better.

Mick Green website

The Pirates

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #7

The Sights’ newest release Most of What Follows Is True might be their best yet, and that’s saying a mouthful. Despite their relatively young age, these garage/pop/blues rockers have distilled the essence of primal garage inspirations like The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Pretty Things with a modern pop sound (many pull out a Supergrass comparison, and that’s not far off).

Video: “Rock and Roll Circus”

But it’s their versatility that slays me. “Guilty” is raucous, guttural rock’n’roll that intimates more horns that it actually contains. “Maria” is music hall crossed with sixties pop – like The Kinks and Small Faces made careers upon; shit, “Tick Talkies” all but has tap dancing in it. “Take and Take” and “How Do You Sleep” (with traces of “Tin Soldier” DNA in it) mine Freakbeat waters, and “Back To You” and “I Left My Muse“? Americana meets garage.

And can they wail? Oh yeah…”Nose to The Grindstone” closes the album with that 60s/70s FM deep track vibe that is so sorely missed today.

Video: “Nose To The Grindstone“.

The Sights are yet one more underrated American band – and from Detroit, mind you – who deserve much bigger and better things. Now a four piece (Eddie Baranek on guitar and vocals, Dave Lawson on bass and vocals, drummer Skip Denomme and Gordon Smith on guitar, keyboards and vocals), they’ve had a few changes over the years including Bobby Emmett, whose solo album was in my top ten last year.  This effort is their first studio album in five years, and it was worth the wait.

All of what follows is true

  • Their albums groove.
  • They’re Nugget-y.
  • You will play them often and loud. 
  • I highly recommend you check out their entire catalogue.

Listen to clips at Amazon.

Enlist in The Sights Army

The Sights on MySpace.

Four guys, totally fab.

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #9

Normally when a band gives itself four stars, it’s unwarranted. Not this time.

Craig Fox, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler might have been on hiatus from The Greenhornes, but they’ve been actively peppering your album collection as members of The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs or backing up Loretta Lynn with Jack White on Van Lear Rose. You can have the Animal Collective; I’ll take Brendan Benson, Jack White and the collaborative Venn diagram between Cincinnati and Detroit that’s released some of the most vibrant music of the decade.

Their marriage of 60s blues rock and garage pop is revered in the same circles that bow to The Lyres, The Chesterfield Kings and a serious chunk of the Underground Garage playlist. Basically anyone with a solid rock’n’roll pulse.

Video: “I’ve Been Down”

Eight years after their last album release, the boys are (finally) back in town, and Four Stars kicks ass from jump street. While “Saying Goodbye” blends the early Who (right down to the Keith Moon drum fills) and The Kinks, the standout is the organ-drenched “Better Off Without It”. My immediate first impression, oddly, was Wilco circa Being There; a pure garage-pop-psychedelia-blues hybrid that makes me turn up the volume and hit the replay button again and again and again. And my god…Craig Fox’s voice?

Easily one of the best songs of the year – listen for yourself!

Yet another example of the great music sailing under most people’s radar. If you’re not already hooked into these guys, catch up now and stay focused.

The Greenhornes website

The Greenhornes on MySpace

Jack White’s Third Man Records

Lost a few people over the past week; Hall of Famer Bob Feller, Captain Beefheart and Blake Edwards. And yesterday, sadly, Steve Landesberg lost his battle with cancer. I recently paid tribute to the man on his birthday, but like just about everyone, I had no idea that he fudged his age until today.

So a belated 76th birthday, Steve, not a 65th. RIP regardless.

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New Album! Rory Gallagher

After Elvis Presley died, there was such a flood of posthumous album releases and collections that even loyal devotees who cried at Graceland that weekend began to wonder if he wasn’t cranking them out from a studio behind that Dunkin Donuts in Minneapolis. The Who aren’t literally dead (although their career might be), but their catalog over the past couple of decades has consisted mostly of repackaging similar groups of hits, a trick The Rolling Stones only exceeded by actually recording them live.

Maybe it takes the artist’s family to intervene and bring sanity. Although the Jimi Hendrix releases aren’t culling a bottomless well of new material, at least love and care are shaping some definitive packages for posterity. And while Gail Zappa might have a wee bit too much stranglehold control on her husband’s name and likeness, every year there’s an intriguing new Frank Zappa release that meets the highest standards; an album that Frank himself would be proud to stand behind.

Donal Gallagher has taken a similar approach when it comes to the legacy of his brother. Rory Gallagher was one of the best guitarists ever to walk this planet (I’ll save you the fawning here as I’ve done it enough over the years). Those who knew him were mesmerized by his performances, but despite a history of heavy touring he still slid under the radar of too many listeners. Recent DVD releases have made great strides to right that wrong, especially Live At Cork and the unbelievably rich Rockpalast Collection (a three DVD set featuring hours of amazing footage). Sure, there have been a couple of “best of” titles over the last twenty years, but gems like the acoustic Wheels Upon Wheels album have been the focus.

The latest releases feature Rory’s live work for Radio Bremen that were broadcast on the German music show Beat Club. Featuring what I feel was his strongest band – the trio with Gerry McAvoy on bass and Wilger Campbell on drums – The Beat Club Sessions is another sizzling testimony to his genius. The CD features many of his best tracks (“Laundromat”, “In Your Town”, “Messin’ With The Kid”) and demonstrates why people are still buzzing about his talent fifteen years after his death. Gallagher was able to play ferociously or delicately with equal skill; a premiere blues soloist and slide guitar player, he also made the mandolin a weapon of choice.

Video: “Goin’ To My Hometown

The twelve cuts (culled from sixteen on the Ghost Blues DVD) feature stomping rockers (“Sinnerboy”), blues workouts (“I Could Have Had Religion“) and acoustic treats (“Just The Smile“). As a  contemporary of Cream and asked to replace Clapton in that lineup after his departure – one wonders why his songs  “Used To Be” never found the acclaim that “I’m So Glad” did, let alone his great interpretations. (His is the definitive version of “Messin’ With The Kid“, and “Toredown” is simply amazing)

I’m expecting my copy of the Ghost Blues documentary any day now and will be certain to have more on that in the near future. And Donal and family are working to secure the full BBC archives as well as work from Rory’s prior band Taste. Eagle Vision is now the official distributor of Rory Gallagher’s work, and if this is any indication of what’s to come, I am thrilled. This is magic stuff.

The Official Rory Gallagher Website

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