Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 PREDICTION: THE NEXT ALBUM WON'T STINK


Flipping through Rolling Stone at the drug store about a week ago, I saw a short article about the Black Keys recording at Muscle Shoals, the legendary Alabama recording studio (Aretha, Wilson Picket, Stones, etc.). I made a mental note to check out the details online (Rule #143: Never buy a magazine with a teen heartthrob on the cover), but before I got a chance to, I was told by an old acquaintance, Dave Doyle, that his ex-band mate Mark Neill was producing. I got all sorts of worked up, for a few reasons. Number one is that the Black Keys shit don't stink. Number two: neither does Neill's. There's two right there. And Muscle Shoals studio has produced some epic shit in the past, so it seems like it could be the perfect storm for a landmark album.

When the first Black Keys album, The Big Come Up, came out in 2002, there were all these stories of guitarist Dan Auerbach honing his chops and blues cred hanging out with T-Model Ford for an extended length of time (not something your everyday guitarist would bother doing). Their sound was extraordinarily full for a two piece, more so than the White Stripes, the "other two piece" band that they were often compared to. The production, by drummer Patrick Carney, was awesome and meaty. They referred to it as "medium fidelity" ("equal parts broke ass shit and hot ass shit") and had somehow tapped into that missing link between distorto-blues and the heavy thud seventies guitar sound of bands like Mountain, Cactus, and raunchier Led Zepplin. It was an impressive debut and, other than producers, they've pretty much stuck to the same formula in their subsequent releases. That's not to say they don't branch out; they do. But they do so with other projects.

A year or so ago, Auerbach released a solid solo album (mixed by Neill), and Carney followed that up with his side band, Drummer (self described as shoegaze on the MySpace page...blech). And recently, as Blakroc, the two teamed up with a hip hop A-listers, which has probably brought unfair comparisons to other hip hop/rock collaborations. It's a bit more significant, to team up a primarily roots type band with rappers doing new material, than, say, Aerosmith and Run DMC teaming up for "Walk this Way." Time will tell if it carries the weight of some sort of groundbreaking fusion, but as a concept it clearly kicks ass.

How the Black Keys know Mark Neill, I've got no idea. He's familiar to many of the old San Diego punk rock/retro crowd through his work as guitarist for the Unknowns. One of the few local bands in the early eighties that could actually play well, they somehow managed to mesh a sixties reverb drenched sound with a little organ and, surprisingly enough, actual singing. To call them a punk band is inaccurate at best, but that's the crowd they were lumped with, such was San Diego's sad state for non-cover bands at the time. Singer Bruce Joyner was studied, and really into good singers (Del Shannon and Roy Orbison come to mind). Neill was all about Mosrite guitars and the Ventures/Semie Moseley lineage, showing a keen interest in sound, not just songs. It was that interest, and his disappointment with the production of the Unknowns early output, that led him to open his own studio (in '82 or '83).

Neill's studio, Soil of the South, is, at this point, very well known for it's retro sound and vintage equipment. Not unlike Liam Watson's Toe Rag Studios in the UK, bands record there to get that stamp of authenticity. Neill's recorded the elite of the pomade army, notably Deke Dickerson, Big Sandy, Rip Carson, and the Paladins, along with Billy Zoom, Carl Rusk, the Tell-Tale Hearts and surf stalwarts Los Straightjackets. Suffice it to say, with Neill's equipment, the Black Keys sensibilities and the walls of Muscle Shoals, there's every reason to expect good things to come out of the ten day recording session. That Neill's been quoted as saying that the album would be "their biggest statement...the equivalent to Radiohead's 'OK Computer'" not only raises expectations, but begs the question: Mark Neill was cognizant of Radiohead?

Mark Neill's Soil of the South studio (with excellent in-studio photography by Dave Doyle)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

WANT TO SEE A GROWN MAN CRY?


Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer cover Bob Marley. All three are gone. Play this sucker a couple of times in a row, and reflect. Because a little reflection won't make you a wuss, and it might do you some good. Motherfucker.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SANTA'S GOT A MIXED BAG


Here's another mixed bag of last minute holiday downloads. The quick lowdown on these: Nathaniel Mayer is, well, Eli "Paperboy" Reed lite. The ladies probably dig him as some sort of dreamy soul dude version of Chris Issacs (he, in his Herb Ritts meets Roy Orbison thang). Personally, I like my guy soul singers with a little more grunt, but he does have a good voice. The next one, by El Vez, is a surprisingly good rockabilly song, easy on the usual El Vez shtick. The Dirtbombs cut is of interest, if for no other reason, because, it's uncharacteristically mellow. Same goes for Rocket From the Crypt, although I'd put in on anyways to give props to my homeboys, in my opinion one of the best bands ever to come out of San Diego (really, their rockin' stuff is way better). The John Lennon song should be familiar to everyone (I really dig the "War is over, if you want it" background vocals). The Ramones cut woulda been better it it was on one of the first three albums, if'n you know what I mean. But, hey, it's the Ramones. Ooh, ooh, the Jimmy McGriff cut is way cool, in a smokey lounge sorta way. (The dude could take a shit on a Hammond B3 and I'd probably dig it). Pee Wee Dynamite's in there for a little international flava, but really, when you think afro-funk, do you ever think of Christmas? Threw in Gary Walker's take-off of the James Brown classic, I guess to represent all of those bands back in the sixties that would cover a song, right after the original came out, because either they actually thought they could do a better job or because they figured that people loved the song so much that they would buy it twice (ala the Raiders and "Louie Louie"), The Busy Boys are in here because I love the sparse DIY sound of early rap, when small labels popped up out of nowhere, and total unknowns had their own crews. The Marquees cut is straight out of the Cadets' ("Stranded in the Jungle") playbook. As much as I appreciate the smooth doowop, I really like the slightly more colorful oddball stuff. Finally, what Christmas would be Christmas without Link Wray? Leave it to Billy Childish to throwdown with some yuletide grease..
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On that note, I'll now retire to getting the shit done that I've been putting off for weeks. Happy Holidays to all of you knuckleheads.
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El Vez - Santa Claus is Sometimes Brown mp3 at Big Rock Candy Mountain
The Dirtbombs - My Last Christmas mp3 at Big Rock Candy Mountain
Rocket From the Crypt - Cancel Christmas mp3 at Liquid Dilemma
John Lennon - Happy Christmas (War is Over) mp3 at Yosemite Lanes
The Ramones - Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight) mp3 at Mp3.61baobao.com
Jimmy McGriff - Merry Christmas Baby mp3 at Liquid Dilemma
Pee Wee Dynamite - Groovy Christmas and New Year mp3 at Liquid Dilemma
Gary Walker - Santa's Got a Brand New Bag mp3 at Liquid Dilemma
Busy Boys - Funky Fresh Christmas mp3 at Liquid Dilemma
The Marquees - Christmas in the Congo mp3 at Big Rock Candy Mountain
Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire - Comanche (Link Wray's Christmas) mp3 at Liquid Dilemma

Saturday, December 19, 2009

PARTY PLANNERS ALERT


The holiday cash-in shit is pretty thick, though it's pretty much always been that way in music. I wonder what it would be like if every artist who has ever cut a holiday song or album, instead chose a different unifying theme. Let's just say, I don't know, trees, or birds, or even a different day, maybe the first day of summer. Really, it's kind of a moot point, because there have been a gazillion songs written about everything so chances are that there are a whole bunch already about trees, birds, the first day of summer and everything else. They're just not packaged, and marketed as such, and pushed during a particular time of year. That may explain why there's so much holiday shake on music blogs this time of year. (Plus, people eat that shit up, so...)
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If you are into holiday music (disclosure: I'm ambivalent/suspect), some holiday albums are pretty much essential. Phil Spector's "A Christmas Gift For You" is one that should be in every cane-head's quiver. You should already know it: Darlene Love, the Ronettes, the Crystals and Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans doing straight-up Wall of Sound versions of classics. Here's the Ronette's "Frosty the Snowman" and Darlene's goosebump inducing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."
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The Black Crowes have a pretty decent version of "Backdoor Santa". (The original by Clarence Carter was sampled on Run DMC's "Christmas in Hollis"). No idea of the details as the mp3 is buried of a fan site, the content of which I'm hesitant to wade through. (They're just a little too close to the whole Grateful Dead type fanaticism for me to go through all sorts of live shit.) But the bitchen horns reminded me of the Daptone horns, so it lead to a search for Daptone related holiday music. I quickly found Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings "Ain't Chimney's in the Projects." And serendipity struck, on the same post was a Julian (ex-Strokes) Casablancas version of the endearingly silly Saturday Night Live classic "I Wish It Was Christmas Today."
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Though this may be sacrilegious to some, there's a remix of Billie Holiday's "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" by some hooligan named Yesking, who has dropped a rocksteady rhythm over the original. Verve has allowed their catalog of classics to be pillaged for a handful of remix compilations and the results are always sketchy, but at least this one answers the question "Could Billie Holiday have cut it in mid-sixties Jamaica?"
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Another unlikely DJ JA mix comes courtesy of Go Home Productions' mash up of the Carpenters "Sleighride" with reggae backing legends Roots Radics. GHP is DJ Mark Vidler, whose Archies/Velvet Underground mash-up still gets laughs in these parts. Speaking of reggae, here's a bizarre treatment of the fatman by Lee "Scratch" Perry. Posted here for reggae curiosity seekers only (sorry to say, this madcap's best days are behind him as this pales next to his legendary work from the 70's).
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More later if I get all of my running around done...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

QUIEN ES MAS HEAVY?


Good singer, catchy songs, turn-it-up party jams on some stuff, mellower vibe on others. Hey, any band that can figure out how to toss an Ennio Morricone vibe into an acoustic song with Curtis Mayfield type vocals is A-OK in my book. On the rare occasion that my Dad would make dinner for us kids, he would mix all the leftovers in one pot and call it "stuff." The Heavy deal in "musical stuff." How is this band not huge? Fuck....kids these days...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

ANDRE GETS SQUAT


I know the Nat King Cole Christmas album by heart. Likewise with the Burl Ive's pre-Rudolph outing. Both were on constant play when I was a kid, So you'll have to excuse my tipping of the hat to a few ne'er do wells. At least they're bold enough to get in the fatman's face. These two songs are for those who find the holidays are often a cone of silence over misdeeds perpetrated during the first eleven months of the year.
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In "A Christmas Duel," over Spector-esque sleigh bells, Cyndi Lauper fesses up, "I burned the Christmas tree, and I slept with your brother. I wrecked your daddy's car, and went down on your mother," all before admitting to the most grievous offense "I burned your record collection"! Oh, sweet straw covered manger rat! Getting stiffed on the money day is not enough! Cyndi, I always kinda liked your cute offbeat shtick, but that's just fucking unforgivable! And Andre, dude, you're the Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot incarnate, after decades of forgetting. You get nasty, but you do leave my records alone. Still...

On a side note, if you are really into holiday music, but not necessarily the traditional type, you'll do well to stop by Big Rock Candy Mountain. An excellent blog year round, at this time of year they are indeed "serving up heaping platters of trash/soul/country/blues Xmas joy" including everybody from the Sonics to trucking god Dave Dudley. More nog, less egg!
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EXPLICIT: I would advise previewing these songs before playing them in a public gathering, family, office or otherwise. In other words, they are explicit, but in a strangely amusing way.
The Hives & Cyndi Lauper - A Christmas Duel mp3 at Snuthing Anything
Andre Williams - Poor Mr. Santa (Andre Williams is Naughty mp3 at Big Rock Candy Mountain

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I HEARD IT ON THE AM RADIO


About a year ago, a neighbor of mine was hanging out and listening to music in my apartment when the subject turned to the incredible ease of finding music in this mp3 age. I was relating that when I started getting into music, there was one source. A beat up clock radio hand-me-down from my parents that all five kids shared. The clock had ceased to function, as did the on/off switch, but my parents, resourceful as they were, had patched it together rather than throw it away. (My Dad installed a new toggle switch and power cord, and my Mom gave it a cosmetic makeover with self-adhesive Contact paper.) I explained to my friend that the radio represented the only means of listening to our own music, and as such was our lifeline to everything "boss." The only problem was, we only had access to a limited choice of music. The looser FM radio format hadn't really arrived yet, so we were weaned on the top hits of the day. It was what it was, and not knowing anything else, we were quite satisfied with what music we did have. But, as I explained to my neighbor, if you liked a particular song, you would have to wait until it was played. That sometimes meant enduring "Sugar, Sugar" (#1 on the weekly playlist in the image above) to get to "Honky Tonk Women" (#3 that week). And it also meant that the radio was on almost constantly. It was, quite literally, the soundtrack to our early adolescent years.

Right at this point in our conversation, my neighbor (who had musical tastes remarkably similar to mine in everything from blues, soul, and reggae to punk rock and afrobeat), ran up to his apartment and brought back an Everclear CD. "Everclear?" I thought, "Geez, I knew we'd have a miscue at some point, but Everclear?!?" As it turns out, he had one particular song in mind. It was "AM Radio," the lyrics of which pretty much mirrored everything that I'd been ranting about. The song starts with L.A. boss radio mainstay KHJ's station ID, then sequeys into a tinny sample from Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff", a groove familiar to anyone who grew up in that era. Right about then it kicks in, and I'm thinking that I can be proven wrong about just about any artist. (I should add here that on this same night, my neighbor told me about the exact moment when his dad's copy of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" opened his ears to jazz. So, yeah, he was someone whose taste I implicitly trusted.)

An important marketing tool for "boss radio", was the weekly surveys. The surveys (or hit lists) from that era were invaluable to a young persons rock n' roll education. Before we bought records and had liner notes to dissect, they provided the song titles and artists names, to songs that would feed our nostaglia jones years later. They were handed out at record stores, and other places kids would hang out (i.e. the newly opened Speedee Marts, before the name was changed to "7-Eleven"), and were a size handy enough to keep in your pocket for the duration of the week. One look at them now will tell you why a lot of old farts have pretty varied tastes. One random list, from 1971, includes the Stones, Marvin Gaye, Jerry Reed, the Osmonds, the Doors, Joe Cocker, the Partridge Family, Buddy Miles and a couple even I don't remember, Fuzz and Tin Tin.

It's kind of mind blowing to think back about the era of AM radio and how far things have come: the beginning of the album oriented FM format, the death of 8-track tapes, then the death of vinyl and cassettes, the advent of MTV, CDs, mp3s, and more recently, the resurgence of vinyl. You can now carry around a years worth of "top 30" hits in a doohickey the size of a credit card. But no matter what sort of fancy song-matching software they throw at you, you'll never be able to plug in the Stones and have it respond "You might also like Jerry Reed."

~ NOTE: ALL MEDIA IS HOSTED BY THE BLOGS & SITES NAMED BELOW ~
Listen:
Everclear - AM Radio mp3 at Star Maker Machine
History of Boss Radio in San Diego (includes song surveys)
Station Surveys (weekly hit lists) for San Diego at ARSA
ASRA (Airheads Radio Survey Archive) (search by city!)
Boss Radio at Wikipedia
Bonus, surprisingly decent, cover:
Everclear - Search & Destroy mp3 at Cover Me

Thursday, November 26, 2009

SEE YOU ON THE COUCH


Here's a good selection of dub. Dub aids digestion when prone on a couch, semi-comatose from a tryptophan overload. It's also great for making plans on how to spend all the time you'll free up by not shopping or buying anything for one day. Friday is Buy Nothing Day, which I highly endorse. How many days can you celebrate by not doing anything?

King Tubby - Satta Dread Dub mp3
Augustus Pablo - Keep on Dubbing mp3
The Upsetters - Black Panta mp3
Scientist - Babylon Fight Dub mp3
More dub at For The Sake of the Song

More about Buy Nothing Day:
Buy Nothing Day at Wikipedia
Buy Nothing Day at Adbusters.org

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

REST IN PEACE EVIE


There is no easy way to say it. Evie Bibo, one of San Diego's original punk rockers, has passed away. She died of a brain aneurysm, by all accounts suddenly. She was a rare individual who dearly loved rock n' roll (and classic films), yet made it all seem like curtains around the real show, friendship. She was a sweetheart, all substance, no bullshit. Never saw her angry. Ever.

We go way back. She was, at different times, a fellow fan, a roommate, and the object of a crush. But most of all, she was a friend. With all the shared tastes and in-jokes that real friendship implies. I'd lost touch with her, and had just recently reconnected via Facebook. It was enough for me to know that she seemed healthy and happy. Though sad as that sounds, I know that she felt the same way. I knew our paths would cross again at some point.

She was ultra cool. And I mean that as a fan of a friend. It is a rare thing, to be cool without swagger, but she was. If she dug something, you checked it out, because she was always dead on. I think of her everytime I see a listing for "It's a Wonderful Life," and I think of her everytime I hear Johnny Thunders. During my crush phase, I made her a little stuffed doll of a "Too Much, Too Soon" era-Johnny Thunders. During the roommate phase, she turned me on to the Heartbreakers. So I had to post these songs, not of any lyrical relevance, but because they were something we shared. They're cool. But even Thunders couldn't do it without swagger. Evie could.

Goodby sweet Evie. "Stoned yet?"

Johnny Thunders - You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory mp3
The Heartbreakers - Born to Lose mp3
The Heartbreakers - All By Myself mp3
The Heartbreakers - Chinese Rocks mp3
Above photo: Evie, San Francisco, mid-80's by Jacqueline Ramirez

Saturday, November 21, 2009

LAST CHANCE TO GET BUSY


For the first few years "Harlem Nocturne" had been in my record collection, it was just a cool instrumental. Part film noir soundtrack, part slowed down burlesque, it had one of those uncommon vibes that transgresses tastes. That was before there was a story attached to it.
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I don't even remember who it was who told me the special significance the song held for them. I do remember that it was someone older, who had been at high school dances in the sixties. Though I've known a bunch of rock n' roll elders/mentors over the years, I can narrow it down to someone I knew in the late 70's or early 80's. So, I'll tip my hat to all the likely candidates: Harold Gee, Rick Fortune, Pat Looby, Frank Gutch and Michael Page. Every one of those guys shared valuable "I was there" rock n' roll stories with me, and I could write entire posts on the significance of each of their shared memories. Suffice it to say, they were all like big brothers and are allowed the huge respect that comes with that.
All I remember is being somewhere, a party or a barbeque, when the Viscounts version of "Harlem Nocturne" was being played. In shit-shooting mode, mysto-elder (whoever he was) said that he had always loved that song, because so many bands had played it as their last song at high school dances. Before I could ask why, he told me that when the chaperons signaled to the bands that they had one more song to play, they invariably picked "Harlem Nocturne," because it was a slow dance favorite. To be more specific, it was a proven make out, grab ass inducing, no-brainer, and selected primarily because the band wouldn't get shut down, and the students wouldn't get kicked out, during the last song of the night. It was like sticking it to the teacher, and getting down with your girl, in one fell swoop.
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Years later, when I was pulling records to DJ, I came across the 45, and it became the last song I would play whenever I was spinning at the Pink Panther. Though it was in a different context, the song now reminds me of people slowly filing out of the smokey bar, smelling of beer and cigarettes, chaperons absent, to go home and finish the job.
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The Viscounts - Harlem Nocturne mp3 at WFMU's Beware of the Blog
42 other versions of Harlem Nocturne at Beware of the Blog

Thursday, November 5, 2009

WELCOME HATERS


Above: April March

I'm not a pop nut. One per mix, tops. Feels a little wussy a lot of the time. I'm talking classic pop, too. Spector, Bacharach, Abba, the Rasberries, the whole lot of them. It wears on my sourpuss side. But, when you're in a sourpuss mood, things are getting you down, the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and the fucking Yankees have just won the World Series, just remember, it's all just bullshit. All of it. Even your sacred serious music.
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These suckers sound like Fresca tastes:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I HATE THE YANKEES


My favorite team is in the World Series. Who's my favorite team? It's any team playing the Yankees. So I couldn't resist posting this Phillies fight song. G. Love and a Bad Brain are the only names I recognize (but the whole roster of those involved can be found at this write-up at the Philadelphia City Paper). It's a nifty hip-hop song (and even if you're not a hip-hop fan, anything that can amount to even a molecule of a thorn in the side of ARod is totally listenable), and for an impromptu effort, the rhymes are relatable to any baseball fan. "Even hipsters in their indie rock bands, clap their hands say yeah, Ryan Howard is the main man, 'cuz with a bat in his hand, he's like a van full of drunk Phillies fans" and, in the "unwashed" version "Chase tell 'em," followed by Chase Utley sampled saying "World Fucking Champions!" Dig it! Snail, Greaser, Stampone and Crippler, this one's for you!
[Shout outs updated. Or is that considered a singular shout out? Please advise. Regards, Tom G, Dept 1502.]
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Unstoppable mp3 at Guerilladelphia.com
Unstoppable (Unwashed) mp3 at Guerilladelphia.com

Saturday, October 17, 2009

BUMP AND GRIND


It's like coming home after a trip. Sure, those trails were nice, the sunsets spectacular, and the smell of the air was so fresh. But still, you get in the door and it's "Home sweat home!" No matter what mess you've come home to, it's somehow comforting and grounding, in a weird sort of way. So it is with loud, abrasive rock n' roll. It's always good to dance with the one who brung ya. And the more unlistenable it is to the public at large, the more it seems to be the soundtrack of a life lived with a lack of social graces. My kind of ruckus.

I could have hunted down any number of bands that would have been just as satiating as Pussy Galore and Pissed Jeans. But I liked the fact that this imaginary double billing would separate the wheat from the chaff by the marquee billing alone. Pussy Galore were long gone (and head Pussy Jon Spencer on his 36th subsequent band) by the time Pissed Jeans came along. But both bands serve essentially the same purpose. So, shake it off, burp, fart and scratch it where it itches.
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Pussy Galore - Renegade mp3 at The Cargo Culte
Pussy Galore - SM57 mp3 at Merry Swankster
Pissed Jeans - False Jesii mp3 at Subpop
Pissed Jeans - I Still Got You mp3 at Subpop

Monday, October 12, 2009

OTIS REDDING STARTER KIT


Every respectable record collection should have, at the very least, an Otis Redding Best of. Even if "(Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay" is a little too omnipresent for your preciously jaded ears, there's no denying that the man had one of the greatest soul voices of all time. It's unbelievable how much consistently good music he made before his early death at 26. I can think of no higher praise than "Aretha with balls." Thank you Snuhthing/Anything: Ten mp3's and a live video! Do I need to elaborate? Here's a teaser, the rest can be found at the just mentioned site.
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Friday, October 9, 2009

HERE'S TO THE ALSO RANS


Some records seem to be everywhere when they come out. Even though the pressings were limited, because of small demand, you end up seeing them everywhere right after they're released. This is especially true when they're punk records, about 500 pressed and maybe about 200 record buying punks in the scene when the record comes out. So it was that the Xterminators 45 (which came out about 1979) was overlooked by a lot of people in the San Diego scene. Coming out on Radio Active Records, it was released at roughly the same time as records by label mates the Injections and the Executives. (Who had money for three 45's and beer?)

The Xterminators were on the bill of a lot of shows back then, but rarely headlined. This made the demand for the record even less, especially when the Injections were the token notorious band of the label. And they were pretty humble guys too, definitely not a group that had "a look" or contingent associated with them. I'm not sure if I remember the complete line-up correctly: Doug "DT" Black sang and Terry Horn was the bassist (both pictured above, Horn in the shades), a guy named Juan Ruiz (kind of a scene outsider) was the guitarist and, if memory serves, Danny Ramirez was the drummer (could be wrong on that...). With DT and Terry the only scene regulars, they weren't a band that was highly visible as a unit off stage. Therein another reason why the record never went anywhere...back then.

Fast forward about 25 years and I'm on the receiving end of a call from a punk collector trying to get his hands on any San Diego punk records, the more limited the pressing the better. I passed his phone number on to DT and he's soon selling what remaining copies he had in his possession for something like 50 or 75 bucks. And shortly after that, the songs appear on a German compilation of rare punk singles. Punk record collectors (well any record collector really), are a bunch I've never completely understood, but I will enjoy the fruits of their labor any day of the week. So when the blog Killed By Death posted the Xterminators a few days ago, I wasted no time procuring a little San Diego punk rock history.

Hearing these songs again, unincumbered by scenester factors, I have to say, that they sound a hell of a lot more interesting than they did back then. DT's vocals sound nothing like his regular speaking voice today, but that's not neccessarily what gets me. I had totally forgotten that "Microvave Radiation" had a synthesiser on it (leading one commenter on Killed By Death to compare the sound to the Screamers), and the guitar on "Occasional Lay" sounds like a less produced Derwood Andrews (from the first Generation X album), with a few late song Clash-type chord changes. Regardless, I can't be objective. If you were around back then, you'd probably dig these. If not, there's always the comment section...

The Xterminators - Microwave Radiation and Occasional Lay mp3s at Killed By Death
(Yeah, I know, collectors like to disable direct mp3 links. Oi dude, whatever...)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

VOICE BEATS RIFF


If you have a kid that picked up the guitar around 2003, you're probably sick of the riff. Around that time, two different sets of parents that I know told me that the White Stripes "Seven Nation Army" was basically the new "Smoke on the Water," meaning it had supplanted the Deep Purple song as the go-to "I just got a guitar, now I'm gonna rock" lick. (London area guitar students rated it the #19 lick, with "Smoke on the Water" holding down #1. But that was in 2008, when it was no longer being jammed down the ear canals of every adolescent MTV viewer.) Regardless, if you're in the mood for a cover with some interesting instrumentation and one hell of a singer, download Nostalgia 77's cover, featuring Alice Russell. Once Russell starts singing, the riff that once annoyed the hell out of you will become irrelevant.
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

I DON'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP


Needing an excuse to post links to some shit-hot instrumentals on a blog that I frequent, Diddy Wah, I came across a headline from the town I live in (Ocean Beach, which is in San Diego). The rollover teaser read "Woman assaulted with bongo drum in Ocean Beach". I knew the OB jokes were not far behind...and I was right. As I write this, if you search "bongo assault" on Google, three out of the top four results lead with "Only in OB", including one from a "legitimate" and lazy network affiliate. (While it might be expected, even humorous, for a blogger to lead with that, a "legitimate" news source? C'mon...)
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Anyways, it reminded me that I had been meaning to post a link to DiddyWah's post with the Arrows' "Blues Theme" and "Bongo Party" (hence the weak tie-in, get it?). The Arrows are often referred to as Davie Allan and the Arrows, as he was the head Arrow, lead guitarist, and, above all, keeper of the fuzz. See, "Blues Theme" is not a blues song. It is from soundtrack of the biker-ploitation flick, Wild Angels and is the theme for Peter Fonda's character, Blue. And, in regards to fuzz, it's right up there with the Rock n' Roll Trio, the Beck-era Yardbirds, and the best of the garage bands: top shelf fuzz.
You ought to consider "Blues Theme" an essential download. It's like the "Johnny B. Goode" of fuzz, and it's got murdercycle sound effects to boot. And you should peruse and bookmark DiddyWah's blog. Another recent post had the seldom mentioned (and obscenely under appreciated), "Boss" by the Rumblers, another bona fide no-brainer. Unfortunately (and, in the interest of full disclosure), I gelled on posting a link to "Boss" before the link went dead. As consolation, here's a link to Boss Machine, by Jan Davis, a second tier Boss-related surf-type instrumental (but this one has, what must be, a Mustang for the token tough-guy sound effects). The A-side "Fugitive" in in an altogether different genre, that of the surf-type instrumental with hounds chasing a fugitive. One more before you go: it's not nearly as tough-guy as it's title, but Satan's Theme is just too B-movie-goofy of a name to not bury in a playlist.
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The Arrows - Blue's Theme mp3 at Diddy Wah
The Arrows - Bongo Party mp3 at Diddy Wah
Jan Davis- Boss Machine mp3 at Diddy Wah
The Rondels - Satan's Theme mp3 at Diddy Wah
Diddy Wah home page (bookmark it!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

ARI GROWED UP

Though it's been thirty years since the first Slits LP Cut, there's no mistaking the voice and the phrasing on the song "Ask Ma" from the upcoming Trapped Animal. Even if the sound isn't as all together organic as the first album (who can follow up using dropped silverware as a rhythm?), and there is more than a touch of electronically produced sounds, the feel (from the one song I've heard, at least) is still full-on Slits. And, surprisingly, even with all the time that has passed, it isn't as removed from the early work as you'd expect. But there's no mistaking that it is an update, and not a reunion.
It's comforting that Ari Up, punky reggae's Pippy Longstocking, hasn't changed much since the early days of the Slits. She exudes all of the characteristics of being comfortable in one's own skin. (And if it works, why change it, right?) Turns out, even with constant moving around, living in jungles and becoming a mother, she's still the same gangly wide-eyed girl she's always been. She's like the six year old that rides up on their bike while you're working on your car and says "Whatcha doing?" Without an ounce of fanboy (too old for that anyways), I have to say, I really missed her.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

MASSIVE GROOVE THING


For every studio with it's own distinct sound, there are marginally known session players who created the sound, and could arguably lay claim to it. Studio One, Coxsone Dodd's Kingston studio and label, was no exception. It was so instrumental in the development of reggae that it could (and should) easily be compared to Sun or Stax, in terms of importance to it's respective genre. And keyboard whizz Jackie Mittoo, still in his teens when he began working for Dodd in 1959, was right there when reggae was born. It was his bubbly organ that punctuated the tracks of just about every major reggae artist in the early sixties.
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As important as his organ was to the development of Studio One's sound, his solo output leans toward a reggae-fied version of Booker T & the MG's. So much so that his cover of "Hang 'em High" sounds more like a cover of Booker T's version than the original. It's as though he never heard the Ennio Morricone original (which he had to have, because spaghetti westerns were huge in Jamaica.) Whatever version he is covering, the bass/organ thing in his is a massive groove thing.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SPOKEN WEIRD


Just when you start thinking that you've got a handle of all of the offbeat genres of recorded music, comes one that is so old school WTF that you wonder what rock you've been under. Word jazz is really just spoken word laid over jazz and as simple as that sounds, when it's done right, it's simultaneously bizarre and hilarious. Really, this shit must have been de rigueur for all of the wanna be hep cats back in the day. And one of the best at it, the Chuck Berry of word jazz if you will, was Ken Nordine. After listening to one of these cuts, I instantly recognized the voice from nameless mp3s I've downloaded in the past. Leave it to Spread the Good Word (one of my favorite music blogs) to fill in the blanks about Nordine and word jazz.
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Visit Spread the Good Word for two others
Tons of Nordine, streaming at his site, WordJazz.com

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA IS STONED


Left of center? Check. From another country? Check. Mellow? Wait,...what? Ah, what the hell, I can do mellow two days in a row. "Unprecedented: day two of mellow." (Enjoy it while you can.)
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What is this? Brazillian tropicalia-psych-pop? I guess. Probably need a few more hyphens to accurately describe Os Mutantes. Everybody tries to, I don't really care. It just sounds good. In Wax Poetics, head Mutante Sergio Diaz cited Rubber Soul, Revolver, Their Satanic Majesties Request, Duane Eddy, Les Paul, Sly & the Family Stone, Jimmy Smith, Nat King Cole, the Everlys, and the Ventures, along with some Brazillian names (you probably wouldn't recognize anyways) as influences. But that doesn't really narrow it down, does it?
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They have a new album out. It's quite a big deal to a lot of folks, because it's their first in over thirty years. Seriously, hipsters of all ages are gonna be drooling all over this one, especially on vinyl. It's that kind of record. Good thing they recently reissued their back catalog too, because that's what level two hipsters will jump for. But it's good. Left of center and, albeit mellow, just weird enough to plug a few mix holes.
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Os Mutantes - Teclar mp3 at Melophobe
Os Mutantes - Anagrama mp3 at Pop Tarts Suck Toasted
Os Mutantes - Neurociencia Do Amor mp3 at Babylon Noise
Older stuff:
Os Mutantes - Baby mp3 at Choir Croak Out Them Goodies
Os Mutantes - Panis Et Circenses mp3 at Choir Croak Out Them Goodies
Os Mutantes Official web site:
Mutantes.com

Monday, September 7, 2009

START THE COALS


What is typically seen as the last day of summer, is commonly know in these parts as the day before the day we get our beach back. Gone are the people from Arizona. Gone are the inexperienced surfers and boogie boarders crowding the line-ups. Gone are the long lines at Hodad's, blocking the entrance to Newport Farms. Gone are those who wear flip flops in the sand, blast boom boxes playing classic rock, and leave shit everywhere in their trail. I don't hate these people. I just hope the door does hit them on the way out.

For another month or two, there will be pleasant days and warm-enough water. And fewer people. Starting tomorrow, the day after Labor day, things return to normal (or normal for Ocean Beach anyways). The locals will still be here. The Guitar Man will still be on his rock playing the same crappy two chords that he's been playing for the past fifteen years. The guy that brings his iguana to the beach (whom he calls Elvis but everybody else refers to as "wishes it was a chick magnet") will still be here. John, the homeless guy in the wheel chair, will still be at the foot of Newport. Boston James may or may not return, depending on if they charge him with Jimbo's death (after the two had a drunken brawl). But there will be pleasant days and warm-enough water. Now, it's the locals turn to chill. And these three songs are about as chill as I get.

Jack Nitzsche - The Lonely Surfer Race mp3
The Sandals - (Theme from) The Endless Summer mp3
Santo and Johnny - Sleepwalk mp3

THIS JUST IN: It wasn't more than a couple hours after I posted the above blurb that I ran into a guy name Tim, who used to drink with Jimbo and Boston James down at the beach. I hadn't seen him for a couple years (since alcohol was banned at the beach), so I asked him if he had heard about Jimbo dying. He answered that he had, and then told me that Big Bill (known to the kids at the beach as "Mad Dog") was up the street, outside the liquor store (aka Newport Farms, which, despite it's name, sells only fermented produce). I asked if he was sure if it was Bill, because he disappeared a couple years ago. "I know," he said, "everybody thought Bill was dead. I did too." So, it was, of course, my civic duty to welcome Bill back from wherever he'd been. On my way home, I stopped by to see him. He'd been in and out of hospitals, and just recently kicked out of a convalescent home. He is now back on the street, and already dialed in to the comings and goings of that ol' gang of his. He had heard about Jimbo, and told me that Boston James, though not charged with Jimbo's death, is now banned from the streets of O.B.. So that's your local update. Jimbo's dead, Boston James is banned and Big Bill is back. And the water is still warm enough....

Monday, August 31, 2009

WORLD'S LONGEST SOPHMORE SLUMP CONTINUES


"Well this sure sucks." That's what ran through my head the first time I heard the second Modern Lovers album. Actually, the second album was credited to "Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers." That should have been a tip-off.
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Not that the second one wasn't entertaining. It was, as were all of Richman's subsequent records (in various solo and Modern Lovers incarnations). But the first one had a mood, a droning vibe that just plodded along, Velvet Underground style, and was both brooding and personal. In comparison, the second sounded almost like a children's album.
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Richman's been at it for over thirty years now and has yet to come close to the overall feel of the debut album. It's all there on that first one. Jerry Harrison's organ, sometimes haunting, is always lurking. The pace of the album is steady, some songs more uptempo but all have this...feel. The guitar work, the most underrated ingredient, was amazing without being flashy or, technically, too good. (If you're gonna mention the John Cale connection, I think we can assume that it's common knowledge. Though, with thirty years, he's had plenty of time to rope Cale in for a second go, if he really wanted it.)
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Everything after his first album is just goofy shit, if you ask me. Songs about chewing gum wrappers, abominable snowmen, martians, and now a recent ditty about cell phones. While admittedly clever, it's oh-so-close to a final nail (the lyrics of which I agree with 100%, though.). The one thing that saves it? Who else would write a song about not needing a cell phone? Therein lies the appeal of Jonathan Richman. But, still, I'm running low on patience.
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From the first album:
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After the first album:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

WORTHY, I KID YOU NOT


You, like everybody else, have probably heard the Supremes' hits, to the point that you probably don't even really listen to them anymore. There so ingrained that they just go in one ear and out the other. I'm on the same boat (yeah, "Come See About Me," whatever...). So when I happened upon a Supremes' cover of "Come Together," I downloaded it with mild curiosity and that's about it. It was on the blog "Robots In Heat" which is one of those bare bones sites with no text other than song titles and artists. I check it out periodically because the head robot always puts up weird unrelated songs that invariably seem randomly picked. But the songs he chooses are always a little left of center, so, again, I bit.
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I was really surprised at this one. At the time it was recorded, a post-Diana Ross, Jean Terrell-led, Supremes were headed in a new direction. This meant away from the mascara caked lashes, evening gowns and bouffants, and onto afros and turtlenecks. The sound is far different from what you would expect from Motown as well. So, of course, that means, as a music geek, it was my duty to go trompsing around online looking for production credits (I was convinced that the producer had to have been Norman Whitfield, producer of all the great psychedelic-soul era Temptation cuts). (Follow me here...)
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As it turns out, the producer was Frank Wilson, who had been recruited in 1963 by Berry Gordy to work out of Motown's newly opened L.A. office. Wilson was well versed in the classic Motown sound, as evidenced by his own 45, "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)," an impossibly rare Northern Soul favorite. (Long story short, 250 were pressed and all were thought to be destroyed when Wilson decided to concentrate on producing. Two vinyl copies are known to exist, with one selling for roughly $37,000 back in May. The full story is here.)
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"Come Together" though, sounds completely different from any Supremes I've ever heard, let alone Motown. The pace is much slower than the Beatles' original, reminiscent of Isaac Hayes' reworking of Burt Bacharach's "Walk On By." It's not just the pace; it's ultra-heavy on the sitar and clavinet (!), and the vocals have enough echo on them that they'd have Sam Phillips adjusting his knobs. Worthy of a download, I promise. (So much for "one quick listen and onto other things.")
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The Supremes - Come Together mp3 at Robots In Heat
Frank Wilson - Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) mp3 at DJNoDJ
Isaac Hayes - Walk On By mp3 at Funky 16 Corners
"Record price for rare Motown disc" at the BBC News
Frank Wilson page at Wikipedia