Monday, August 26, 2013

It's All Too Beautiful-The Small Faces & P.P. Arnold in 1968

Always nice to have an opportunity to post live footage (sort of live, halfway, singing along to backing tracks it seems and definitely having some mic trouble, but still with energy to spare) and pictures of the lovely P.P. Arnold, a class act all the way. And those cats she's playing with aren't half bad either!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"You're Not Human Tonight"

Raymond Chandler with pipe and black pussy cat
Watching Todd Haynes' mini-series adaptation of Mildred Pierce has had me re-reading James Cain. And while I like James Cain, and certainly can appreciate the blunt force of his compact style and first person narratives, I have to admit that his prose just doesn't excite or move me like my favorite hardboiled writer, Raymond Chandler. Case in point after revisiting The Postman Always Rings Twice, I picked up Chandler's The Little Sister from 1949, which for no particular reason, simply happenstance, is the one Chandler book I've never gotten around to reading, and from the blue bottle fly opening on I found myself not only laughing aloud at the hilariously sharp dialogue ("He used to wear a little blonde mustache but mother made him cut it off she said- Don't tell me. The Minister needed it stuff a cushion") , but pausing to reread and savor certain sections where his descriptive writing really takes full flight.

Chapter 13 in particular, in which Chandler's Philip Marlowe takes a ride in a reflective and despondent mood after a charged but unsuccessful encounter with Mavis Weld at her apartment, is a breath taking example of Chandler's pure artistry. Allow me then to quote a big chunk. I'm reminded of how Kerouac liked to re-type favorite writer's prose in order to get a more tactile feel for the writing.

I drove east on Sunset but I didn't go home. At La Brea I turned north and swung over to Highland, out over Cahuenga Pass and down to Ventura Boulevard, past Studio City and Sherman Oaks and Encino. There was nothing lonely about the trip. There never is on that road. Fast boys in stripped-down Fords shot in and out of the traffic streams, missing fenders by a sixteenth of an inch, but somehow always missing them. Tired men in dusty coupes and sedans winced and tightened their grip on the wheel and ploughed north and west towards home and dinner, an evening with the sports page, the blatting of the radio, the whining of their spoiled children and the gabble of their silly wives. I drove on past the gaudy neons and the false fronts behind them, the sleazy hamburger joints that look like palaces under the colors, the circular drive-ins as gay as circuses with the chipper hard-eyed car hops, the brilliant counters, and the sweaty greasy kitchens that would have poisoned a toad. Great double trucks rumbled down over Sepulveda from Wilmington and San Pedro and crossed towards the Ridge Route, starting up in low-low from the traffic lights with a growl of lions in the zoo.

Behind Encino an occasional light winked from the hills through thick trees. The homes of screen stars. Screen stars, phooey. The veterans of a thousand beds. Hold it, Marlowe, you're not human tonight.

The air got cooler. The highway narrowed. The cars were so few now that the headlights hurt. The grade rose against chalk walls and at the top a breeze, unbroken from the ocean, danced casually across the night.

Jesus this man could write! It's also interesting to note that Chandler was no fan of Cain's writing. There's an intriguing, albeit depressing book, called Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood -all the biggies spent time in Hollywood working on scripts and almost all of them had a terrible time of it- and in the section on Chandler that details his work with Billy Wilder on the script of Cain's Double Indemnity (the movie is better than the book due in large part to Chandler's work on the script) there's this withering quote from Chandler- "Cain is the kind of writer I detest, a faux naif, a Proust in greasy overalls, a dirty little boy with a piece of chalk and a board fence and nobody looking. Such people are the offal of literature, not because they write about dirty things, but because they do it in a dirty way".

Now honestly this quote might tell you as much about Chandler and his somewhat prudish background, the man I believe wore gloves even when he wrote (to be fair this was reportedly because of a skin condition), as provide an honest assessment of Cain as a writer, but then again he has a point regarding Cain's pervasive fascination with the intertwining of violence, greed and sexuality to the exclusion of much else. I mean how many people really draw blood from their lover's lips? Or want to? Maybe I've just been rolling with the right (or wrong if you find drawing blood a turn on) type of girls. Digressions aside, I need to read a biography of Chandler, as the brief information in the Heartbreak and Vine book is tantalizing, from his time spent in an English public school with Boris Karloff, his propensity for practical jokes (like going to popular melodramatic films with his friend, sitting on opposite sides of the theatre and laughing loudly at "serious" scenes in order to reverse people's perceptions of the film) to his late start in life as a published writer, dedication to his wife 18 years his senior, and time spent in Hollywood, the man no doubt lived an interesting life.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Let's Take A Trip- Jonathan Richman Live 1984

Once you get past Jonathan's initial amusement at his own Spanish, this is a pretty rocking show (though sadly edited)- rocking in the sense of beating out time on your acoustic, stomping on the wooden stage floor (that's the best sounding stage floor I've ever heard!), giving Paris one more chance, honking on the sax and little kids smiling in the audience. Can you get to that? We'll soon find out. Let's take a trip back to 1984.

Okay I couldn't stand how the second video cut off what is probably Jonathan's greatest song, "Summer Feeling" so to rectify I've added a live clip of that from 1983 and my favorite studio version. I feel much better now, gracias.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Latido Americano 1980-83

Some amazing things were stirring in the American underground music scene of the early 80's, a fact to which this mix means to testify. I made the first version of American Beat several years back strictly for my own enjoyment, but I've revised and tightened it up quite a bit for this post. So what you are getting here is the extra strength version, stronger than dirt, as both Ajax and the Doors were fond of saying. My hope is that the whole thing flows in a way that illustrates both the diversity and common threads among the many great groups that were flowering all over America in the aftermath of punk. We got the East Coast, the West Coast, the North and the South all represented, even a bit of the midwest with the Violent Femmes.

Americans seem to excel at guitar based pop/rock, it's our heritage I guess- best to leave the synths and futurism to Europe. There's an interesting contrast here to the so called shambling English guitar pop of the 1980's, which although it became a stylistic marker of its own was originally the result of English bands not having a very sure sense of rhythm. American bands usually have stronger rhythm sections that prevent such "shambling"- probably due to our more heterogeneous national make up. We've all had that backbeat drummed into us the past 60 years or so. One could argue that the difference was also due to Americans having greater access to instruments, lessons and places to play regularly, as well as being a few years older than their English counterparts.

Visually these American bands bring to mind thrift store clothes when they were still interesting and cheap (lots of paisley shirts from the 60's, and plaid and checked shirts from the 50's and early 60's) hair grown out long in front and shorter in back and on the sides, button up shirts often buttoned up all the way in an aggressively nerdy fashion- uptight in a good sharp mid-60's way-and of course beautiful Rickenbacker guitars. I've done my best to try and equalize the levels on the various tracks but there is still some contrast to the volume from one to the other depending on how recent the mastering is, such is the nature of the beast. Please download and follow up on investigating and buying the full releases of your favorite bands contained herein. I'm real happy with this one kids, it's a humdinger! Hope you like it too.

1.  Academy Fight Song- Mission of Burma- This might just be the greatest song of the 1980's. I refuse to shy away from such hyperbole. But regardless of whether you agree with that or not, it's a great opening shot. Mission of Burma formed in Boston, MA.

2. Black and White- The Db's- The first three songs here survive in order from the original version I made of this mix, and I'm still really happy with the flow and the energy level that's maintained.  The Db's were from North Carolina originally.

3. Telephoto Lens- The Bongos- The Bongos Drums Along the Hudson is a seminal release from this era I urge you to buy it, its an amazing record!  The Bongos were from Hoboken, New Jersey!  Poor guys.

4. Help You Ann- The Lyres- Jesus what a sound!  This song sounds like it could have been teleported straight from some obscure 1965 45 RPM.  The Lyres called Boston home.

5. 1,000,000- R.E.M.- Chronic Town is probably my favorite R.E.M. release there's just so much mystery and intrigue to it and it's perfect from the songs all the way down to the cover. These guys of course formed in Athens, Georgia. Athens is a great town, I visited once in the 90's and really loved it, it reminded me a bit of Austin but smaller, less crowded, and sans all the commercialization and computer industry. Georgia is a beautiful state all around. The second clip below is the oldest existing video of an R.E.M. show, it's from October of 1982.

6. Stop Fooling Around- The Fleshtones- The Fleshtones, from Queens New York, have a lot of records, many of them are worthwhile, but if you have to pick one to start with I recommend Roman Gods from 1982. Their singer Peter Zaremba was the host for IRS records MTV show the Cutting Edge, I always kind of dug his style and manner of hosting. The second video below is from a special The Cutting Edge did in 1985 on the Austin Music scene, in this clip Zarimba is interviewing the King of White Trash, Dino Lee. Dino loves all women!

7. Sex Beat- The Gun Club- Jeffrey Lee Pierce, former head of the West Coast Blondie fan club,  formed the Gun Club in Los Angeles. "We can fuck forever, but you will never get my soul!" Below the Gun Club bring their sex beat to Madrid in 1984.

8. Prove My Love- Violent Femmes- I've mentioned before that this debut got played into the ground in the 80's, so much so that for a while I just didn't want to hear it, but its been long enough now that it sounds mighty fine to me again. I like their neo-beatnik vibe. There's a deluxe reissue of it that's been released with extra stuff. The Violent Femmes originated in Milwaukee, just like Laverne and Shirley. Sclemeel, schlimazel!

9. How Much More- The Go-Go's- What a great pop song!  It comes complete with a nice quote from Elvis's "Marie's the Name (His Latest Flame)" written by the songwriting team of Pomus and Shuman. This album, Beauty and the Beat, was huge when I was in Jr. High reminds me of the surf shop in the mall, girls wearing Jellies and plastic bracelets, pastels and swatches. Two performances below. L.A. all the way baby!

10.  Garbage Man- The Cramps- "You ain't no punk, you punk, you want to talk about the real junk". Do you understand? And finally a song with a video!  And it's a a good un, the Cramps rockin' in the graveyard, natch.  "The hottest thing from the North to come out of the South" one half hillbilly and one half punk. Ivy and Lux met in California moved to Ohio, and then to New York and came full circle back to Cali. 

11. Because I Do- X- Video below is from the essential 1986 documentary on X The Unheard Music, it's on DVD and I strongly recommend you buy it!  X of course formed in and personified L.A., or at least the darker side of L.A..

12. Raised Eyebrows- The Feelies- In many ways these guys set the template for both the look and the sound that filtered into a lot of the bands in this mix.  Jersey boyz!

Alpha males, the Feelies
13. And She Rides- The Long Ryders- From their first EP 10-5-60, my favorite record of theirs.  The Long Ryders hailed from Los Angeles. 

14. Look Both Ways- The Rain Parade- I tried not to stick all the Paisley Underground stuff together in the mix but it just tends to flow together nicely.  Once again a Los Angeles band.

15. Stupid Einstein- The Three O'Clock-  I could listen to that organ all day. Michael Quercio of the Three O'Clock coined the term Paisley Underground not expecting it to stick, and it stuck.  Need I say, L.A..  The band performing on MV3 in 1983 below.

16. Man on a Window Ledge- The Judy's-  Pearland Texas!  But hell that's close enough to Houston for me to claim them.  I think the Judy's played at my high school a couple of years before I arrived there.  Great pop band, super catchy and very gay.  

17. Taking Too Long- Wipers- From Portland Oregon, an amazing band you should get all their records.

18. Definitely Clean- The Dream Syndicate- Ok, so I am partial to Los Angeles. Cool early footage below of the band playing in a Tower Records with maybe one person paying attention, and it looks like that guy has a rat tail!  Yikes!

19. The Real World- The Bangles- And guess where these gals are from? Looks like someone told Susanna to smile and shake her head a lot in this video, its always looks weird to me when people smile while they are singing. But mmm Susanna Hoffs! Let's take a closer look at her, shall we!?

Here she is looking cute and sweet.
Here she is looking a little wild and sexy, like she needs to be tamed, heh, I can dig it. I can still see you under all that hair girl! 
And finally here she is taking a closer look at herself. Someone is in bad need of a spanking!
20. How Long Will It Take- The Plimsouls- Oh, are you still here? Ahem, okay, got distracted, where were we? The Plimsouls then. It's hard convey in this day and age, with such easy access to all kinds of bands and info from photos to footage via the internet, how meaningful it was in 1983 to see glimpses of the Plimsouls playing a club in Valley Girl, a movie which was in regular rotation on cable at the time.  Even if the Plimsouls occasionally ventured perilously close to sounding like a bar band, they had some great moments, and seeing them perform a bit of "A Million Miles Away" was incredibly exciting for me as a young kid stranded in suburbia with limited access to music not played regularly on the radio or MTV. The movie is goofy fun as well.

21. Stop It- Pylon- In this song Pylon are giving me mixed messages, am I supposed to rock or not, then again sometimes it is hard to figure out when to rock n' roll and when not to- embrace the contradictions. Athen GA Inside Out clips below.


22. Brother- Oh-OK- Michael Stipe's sister's band, you can see the family resemblance in the pic below. Is this song about young Michael? Sounds like it. Oh-OK were straight out of beautiful Athens, GA. The B-52's really should be in this mix somewhere as well, but I ran out of room. Well they are in the Athens GA Inside Out clip above. Couldn't find an upload of "Brother"on youtube, so I've included "Lilting" which is another song that almost made the cut but had to be deleted for reasons of space.

23. Hey Hey Nadine- R.E.M.- Early R.E.M. before they had found their sound. At the time they were more of a trashy garage pop band, not as grand as what they were to become but still fun with an appeal of its own, very danceable. Stipe singing somewhat cliched pop lyrics is interesting too.  

R.E.M. the life of your party! 
24. Glow in the Dark- The Bongos- You really need to own a copy of Drums Along the Hudson! So nice they made it in the mix twice.

25. Big Brown Eyes- The Db's- This here is what they used to call power pop. Footage from the Old Grey Whistle Test below of the Db's performing "Big Brown Eyes". 

26. What's She Done To Your Mind- Rain Parade- You can hear the 12 string guitar just dying to drift off into a Byrds' riff.  Another great Paisley Underground band, with another great pop song.  

27. Fall To the Ground- The Three O'Clock- Michael Quercio's voice takes a little getting used to, he really does sound like a girl.  Does that make you uncomfortable? Their first EP and the album Sixteen Tambourines are both essential.

28. That's When I Reach For My Revolver- Mission of Burma- Burma both open and close our show with a bang! The title of this song originates from the supposed Hermann Goering quote that goes something like "when I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver". Crazy Nazis!