Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's The End Of The 70's

Bebe Buell models a Creem Magazine T-shirt

This mix collects popular songs from the years 1979 thru 1981 and hopefully captures the zeitgeist of pop/rock music as it transitioned from the late 70's into the early 80's. This is one of my favorite periods in music, one that I find myself coming back to repeatedly, in many ways it seems like the last hurrah for great commercial pop/rock. I recommend you listen while reading some bronze age Marvel comics and back issues of Creem, and Heavy Metal magazine for that full on 7-11 green chile burrito and slurpee flavor. You might even find yourself, after you burn one back by the dumpster, wanting to play a few rounds of Defender or Galaxian!  If so I've done my job.

1. Do You Remember Rock n' Roll Radio- The Ramones- The Phil Spector produced End of the Century album is underrated, though not the equal of their first four, it's a solid record that more often than not works. Around the same time the Ramones were recording End of the Century they were also filming their Roger Corman produced film Rock n' Roll High School, one of my favorite movies!  It's a real gas, a tribute to B-movies, Jerry Lewis and the Three Stooges, with outstanding turns by P.J. Soles, Clint Howard (brother of Ron), and especially Mary Woronov (former factory luminary and VU dancer) and Paul Bartel (make sure you see his film Eating Raoul).  You even get to glimpse Darby Crash from the Germs in the audience at one point, and Richard Meltzer and Billy Altman waiting in line for tickets. 1979 was a great year for rock n' roll movies, the big four being Quadrophenia, The Kids Are Alright, Over the Edge and Rock n' Roll High School.  

2. Just Got Back- Cheap Trick- This is from Cheap Trick's 1980 album All Shook Up produced by George Martin.  Cheap Trick, Van Halen, The Ramones and AC/DC form a quadrumvirate of awesome cartoonish (and I mean that in a good way as rock n' roll should be flashy and over the top in both sound and image) late 70's rock n' roll- pure teenage junk culture fun!  All four bands toured together at various times so these associations aren't entirely subjective.  Cheap Trick were originally pitched  Rock n' Roll High School but turned it down, later regretting the decision they contributed music to the film Over the Edge (along with the Ramones, Cars and Van Halen) and the animated features Heavy Metal and Rock n' Rule.

3. You Better You Bet- The Who- This was one of the first 45's I bought as a kid, I must have been about 10 years old.  I still have the single in its picture sleeve.  Amusingly flakey but loveable lyrics on this one like "I don't really mind how much you love me, a little is alright, when you say come over and spend the night, tonight" and "I know I been wearing crazy clothes and I look pretty crappy sometimes, but my body feels so good and I still sing a razor line, every time". 

This is also the second song in this mix to name check T. Rex.  "I drunk myself blind to the sound of old T. Rex, and Who's Next".  Cleverly alluding to both Townshend's struggle with thoughts of his own mortality in light of Marc Bolan and Keith Moon's recent passings (77 and 78 respectively) and the 1971 Who album of the same name. Unfortunately John Lennon would be next, shot roughly a month after the Who recorded this song.

4. Burnin' For You-Blue Oyster Cult- Rock writer Richard Meltzer penned the words to this one, as well as a number of other BOC songs.  I wrote a piece for Tangents once, Time to Play B-Sides, where I mentioned this song and disparaged the album from which it hails, Fire of Unknown Origin.  I'd like to take this opportunity to set the record straight and say that I have grown to really enjoy this record in its entirety.  BOC's records, and Fire of Unknown Origin in particular, put me in mind of the magazine Heavy Metal (American version of the French mag Metal Hurlant) as they both tread similar sci-fi/fantasy territory.  In addition to collecting old back issues of Creem magazine I have a pretty sizable collection of Heavy Metal, both magazines epitomize a teenage rock n' roll junk subculture that for the most part ceased to exist by about 1983.  BOC is one of those bands that are definitely more fun to listen to than look at but I've included the video promo for this song anyway.

5. Emotional Rescue- The Rolling Stones- Definitely sounds like the Stones had been listening to Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up." Mick can't get near Marvin's falsetto but it's still a cool song. I have vivid memories of hearing this on the radio on the way home from St. Cecilia, must have been 2nd or 3rd grade, as my sister was still carpooling with us at the time. The spoken word part broke me up as a little kid, the way Mick says "I'll be your knight in shining armor, coming to your emotional rescue" stretching the words out and dripping with what I now recognize as insincerity. Actually I still find it funny but not as funny as the bit right afterwards about "riding across the desert on a fine Arab charger". Shades of Peter O'Toole. 

6. Don't Bring Me Down-ELO- One of my sisters probably had this record as I remember hearing it and digging it a lot as a little kid, before I started buying music of my own.  Could have just been on the radio a lot, in any case its insanely catchy with its big glitter/disco stomp beat. A year or two later I bought the Xanadu soundtrack which featured ELO, and one of my first major crushes, Olivia Newton John.

7. Those Shoes- The Eagles- I'm not fan of the Eagles, but I really like their last album The Long Run- part of the appeal is Joe Walsh, his presence here helps immeasurably, but even more than that (though probably related) is that on this record the Eagles dropped the country rock shtick and opted instead for a smooth but funky urban sound and hey, surprise, it really works.  This record has a definite late 70's dark Hollywood sleaze theme running through it, see "King of Hollywood", "Teenage Jail", and "Disco Strangler".  But the best track is "Those Shoes", their paean to shoe fetishes ("got those pretty little straps around your ankles") or so I like to think, a groove funky enough to be sampled by both Eric B and Rakim and the Beastie Boys.  "You're so smooth, and the world's so rough".

Oh yeah, this record also features a rerecording of Joe Walsh's "In the City" which he had originally recorded for the soundtrack of the 1979 film the Warriors, another recommended, silly but fun, film.
"Can you dig it?"

8. Call Me- Blondie- Giorgio Moroder collaborated with Blondie for the theme song to 1980's American Gigolo, a film that captured the mood and style of the early 1980's, for better or for worse. The whole Moroder produced soundtrack is recommended, it features a lengthy mix of "Call Me", but for reasons of space I've gone with the single mix here.

9. Tusk- Fleetwood Mac- Another video I remember as a kid, interesting and weird sonics on this track, for that matter the whole album is odd in an admirable way, especially coming off such a massive hit as Rumours.  Any track this drum heavy gets my attention.  

10. Chuck E's In Love- Rickie Lee Jones- "How come you don't come and P.L.P with me, down at the meter no more"- PLP stands for public leaning post.  Rickie was Tom Wait's girl for a while- Rickie, Tom and Chuck E. were a trio of friends based around Hollywood's Tropicana Motel.

11. Controversy- Prince- There's a cool video for this one, but it seems like all the Prince videos have been pulled from youtube, so instead you get an original print ad for the album.  This time I opted for the long album version cause it significantly outpaces the single edit.  I remember my sister telling me about how all the Black girls at her high school (Robert E. Lee High School no less! Billy Gibbons alma mater by the way) loved Prince and had pictures of him in their lockers, in a few more years it would be all girls.

12. Don't Stand So Close To Me- Police- Sting in his Beat (English Beat to us yanks) t-shirt, the Police toured with the English Beat and with XTC and sonically had a bit in common with both.  Nice ominous synth line and Sting works Nabokov into the lyrics.  

13. Brass in Pocket- The Pretenders- Chrissie Hynde's voice is so unique, that fast vibrato, I love it.  She gets dissed in the video by her band.  Ah well, Ray Davies was waiting in the wings.

14. We Got The Beat-The Go-Go's- The Go-Go's remind me of the plastic bracelets and shoes girls would wear in Jr. High.  Jellies I think they were called. The clip blew is from Urgh! A Music War.

15.  And The Cradle Will Rock- Van Halen- Damn! Diamond Dave got himself some funky, furry boots. I like how the Jewish Roth plays the ridiculous Aryan rock god bit to the hilt. There was an MTV interview with VJ (video jockey don't cha know) Mark Goodman around the time of the second US festival where he makes reference to how both he and Roth are Jewish, Dave immediately begins riffing in a jive voice, "yeah we be chosen!"  The Clash once dismissively called Van Halen "hamburger music", they got it right, but not as an insult, hamburgers are, after all, rather delicious.  And more than that there's a strong Southern California vibe to the band that intersects with the older bands like the Beach Boys, who were also, at least early on, very much about surfing, drive ins, hot rods and hamburgers.  You know, fun stuff.

Roth is probably familiar with Larry William's "Bad Boy" with its "now Junior behave yourself!" line- hence the "have you seen Junior's grades?".  The whole song is lyrically a sort of updating of the themes of "Bad Boy" for the 80's.  I've included two versions of "Bad Boy" below to illustrate. The Larry William's original version is great, but I think we have a case here, as with "Twist and Shout" where due to Lennon's amazing vocal, the Beatles actually cut the original.

16. I Love Rock n' Roll- Joan Jett & the Blackhearts-  I remember buying this album in a record store in a mall near my house in Houston.  Some of those mall record stores weren't bad, many even had modest import sections.  In fact I remember seeing a guy buying an import copy of Black Flag's Damaged in the mall one day,  I asked him about it and he highly recommended it.  The import version was on Road Runner records and included their version of "Louie Louie"as the last song.  

I ended up buying that version of Damaged and still have it, though there's a large chunk missing from the first song second side (its a side one record anyway the second side getting too "are you there God it's Henry" angsty), because I dropped it one day on the way back from a Catholic youth group lock in.  I had brought the record to the lock in, not sure why (not sure why I was going to a lock in either), guess I was proud, and even got it on record player there for a hot minute before some girl demanded I take it off.  She wasn't nice about it either, heh.

17. Whip It- Devo- As a little kid Devo were almost scary, believe it or not, now they seem funny, in a good way.  But I do remember finding this video disturbing as a kid.  

18. Ashes to Ashes- David Bowie- This is one of Bowie's best, and despite how much I've heard it I never get tired of it.  I've also included a clip of a Johnny Carson appearance from the same time, I remember watching Carson with my grandmother when I was little.

19. Once in a Lifetime- Talking Heads- This is such a great video, I've included Barnes and Barnes "Fish Heads" video as well, because I remember seeing both videos, in what was probably the first time I had seen MTV, at a schoolmates pool party.  I do often ask myself "How did I get here?"

20. Better Things- The Kinks-  This and "Art Lover" were the strongest songs on Give the People What They Want, "Better Things" is worthy of Davies mid-60's golden era. The Kinks were the first band I ever saw live, must have been about 12, it was 1983, the State of Confusion tour.  My parents went with me and enjoyed the show as well.  Video below for the popular single "Destroyer" from the same album. "I hope tomorrow you find better things".

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In My Plums

Outtakes of Will Ferrell improvising in a scene from my favorite TV show at the moment- Eastbound & Down. Followed by some other favorite scenes.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Once We Had Dignity and Grace

Here's a favorite from the Kink's 1981 album Give the People What They Want, "Predictable".  I've always wanted to do a cover of this song.  I particularly like the way Ray sings "it gets harder and harder the harder I try, feels like a good time to die".

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Do Nothing-The Specials

Who says lip synched performances can't be great?  All you need are some nice sweaters, great dancing and gum chewing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Darker Than You Think-1980-84

Illustration by Edd Cartier

1. Vanity Fair- Squeeze- From 1981's East Side Story.  How great is this song?  Very!

2. House Bound- Special AKA- It's scary out there, it's true. Lately I've been blown away at just how ahead of its time In the Studio with The Special AKA is - damn fine stuff.  Jerry Dammers is top shelf.  

3. Watch Your Step- Elvis Costello- "Drinking down the eau de cologne, and you're spitting out the Kodachrome".  Amazing performance clip below from the Tomorrow Show, RIP Tom, your oddball charm is missed.  

4. Colour Blind- The Pop Group- Nothing else in their discography sounds quite like this, they were approaching their own style of twisted pop here. No video for this one, "Boys From Brazil" and "She Is Beyond Good and Evil" clips below.  

5. Golden Brown- The Stranglers- All they are saying is give Heroin a chance.

6. My Ever Changing Moods- The Style Council- Sometimes the production on Style Council records interferes with my ability to enjoy them, not so on this early version of this song. 

7. Crosseyed and Painless-The Talking Heads- "I might end up in the hospital." It's so damn hard to sit still while listening to this, one of the greatest dance bands ever, check both versions, 1982 and 1980 respectively.  

8. Di Black Petty Booshwash (Dub)- Linton Kwesi Johnson- Produced with Dennis Bovell who was also involved with the Pop Group and the Slits among others.

9. Wunderbar- Christiane F.- The movie Christiane F. has that strangely alluring Germany in the 1970's ambience.  Interview with Christiane from 1984 can be found here-

10. Superman's Big Sister- Ian Dury- Love the strings by Ivor Raymonde who worked with the Walker Brothers and Dusty Springfield as well.  More trivia- Ivor's son, Simon Raymonde, was in the Cocteau Twins.

11. Satisfy-The Mo-dettes- No video for this one so White Mice clip instead.

12. The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)-Fun Boy Three- Even more apropos these days.  Though Reagan was certainly the beginning of the end in many, many ways.  Trickle down economics still pissing on our heads.

13. Sleep- Voice Farm- "The phone is ringing, let's not answer it".  An increasingly rare sentiment in these phone fetish days of the 21st Century.  This track is from 1981's essential  Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation on Alternative Tentacles Records.  Dance troupe clip from Peter Ivers' New Wave Theatre below.

14. The Other Way of Stopping- The Police- Dismissed as filler at the time these weird little instrumental mood tracks on Police albums, usually written by Stewart Copeland, really added sonically to their records.

15. Save It For Later- The English Beat- I dig this the most, beautiful stuff.  Nice beatnik bit in the video- note the Juliette Greco LP.   These are my kind of peoples, I want to go to a club like this.

16.  Here's One That Got Away- The Style Council- No problems with the production on this one.

17.  Our Lips Are Sealed- Fun Boy Three- Written by Terry Hall of the Specials (and Fun Boy Three) and Jane Wiedlen of the Go-Go's. The promo video and performance clips follow.

18. Strange Little Girl- The Stranglers- The sensitive side of the Stranglers?

19. Big Sister's Clothes- Elvis Costello- The odd soundscapes thrown into this track at the beginning and end really make it.

20. Rebel Waltz- The Clash- Nice fan video for this beautiful track from 1981's Sandinista.

21. Nostalgia- Weekend- "Don't forget the bad times, you swore not to forget, the anger, mental violence, the worries and the threats".

22. Listening Wind- Talking Heads- The sun begins to set on the "white man".  It's later than you think.

23. Enjoy Yourself (Reprise)- The Specials- I think this went quite well. Go enjoy yourself!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Awright! The Saints

Chris Bailey, of the Saints, was second only to Iggy in his perfect delivery of the word awright!