Wouldn'tcha Just Like Ta...

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

:: Getting Used To The Family of God ::

:: Between The Cross And Heaven ::

:: Jesus, We Just Want To Thank You ::

I know you can't see it or feel it, but the cover of this record is textured. It's got little pits all over it, and it gives it an identity all it's own. Textured LP art was common in the 70s, but that was the only time in which it was really common. Some records had raised lettering (embossing), some had some kind of overall texture, such as "Deja Vu" or "Jesus, We Just Want To Thank You". You still might find some kind of textured artwork in today's LP and CD packages, but in the 70s it was common. This album came out in 1975 which was a good year for leisure suits. You can feel the texture.

In the 60s, you never saw textured album art. That's why when you started to see that trend in the early '70s, it was like "Jesus Christ!". It got me pretty fuckin' excited, I'll tell you that. Of course, shit like that tended to jack up the price of records after a while. That and the fact that every album had to include a poster. Very soon the artwork overshadowed the music. The evil record industry started cutting back on the extras by the mid to late '70s, reverting to non-gatefold, "English style" covers, with occasional texture of some kind, but rarely.

Peoples expectations were lowered, paving the way for the CD. I like digipaks as far as the way they look. Texture is possible with a digipak. They don't wear as well as a jewel case, but all ya gotta do is put it in a sleeve and it'll stay good as new forever.

But nothin' beats a 12" album cover with an interesting design and maybe some texture if appropriate. The most important thing is, the record inside should *sound* good. This one sounds good and funny.


Dennis Weaver, RIP

Monday, February 27, 2006

Sad to say that Dennis Weaver has passed away. Here's a link to the our piece on him last year.

Ride on, McCloud


Chirp At The Moon

:: The Little Angels - Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep ::

:: The Little Angels - Dominique ::

Once in awhile, the International bin in a used record shop will yield something decent if you can flip your way past all the German drinking song collections. Such was the case when I found this album a few weeks ago at Record City in Las Vegas. The Little Angels, a South Korean art troupe made up of children performers of traditional Korean folk songs and dance, first formed in 1962 and continue to this day. Much of this album is of that traditional type, along with a slew of Broadway show tunes, though that's not what made me grab the album (and fear not, that's not what I'm posting for your listening pleasure today). I picked it up because they cover the song, "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep." I'm not sure where, when, why or how I ever heard this bubblegum classic, but it stuck in my head as one of the more silly and inane, yet catchy, songs I'd ever heard, and it all came rushing back into my mental radio when I saw it on the track-listing . The song concerns the trials and tribulations of an abandoned young bird. Dig these choice lyrics:

Where's your Momma gone

(Where's your Momma gone)

Little baby bird

(Little baby bird)

Where's your Momma gone

(Where's your Momma gone)

Far, far, away

Far, far, away-ay-ay

Last night I heard my Momma singing this song

Ooh, wee, chirpy, chirpy, cheep, cheep

Woke up this morning and my Momma was gone

Ooh, wee, chirpy, chirpy, cheep, cheep

Chirpy, chirpy, cheep, cheep, chirp

Originally written and recorded by a Brit named Lally Stott, it was covered by Scottish pop group, Middle of the Road, and their version became an international hit in the summer of 1971. Trinadadian brother and sister duo, Mac & Katie Kissoon, had a chart hit with it the same year. Those versions are all fine, but The Little Angels version of 1972 definitely has more Seoul.

Another song these Little Angels cover is The Singing Nun's, "Dominique." The Singing Nun was Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile), a Belgian nun who became an unlikely chart-topping folk star in 1963 after recording, "Dominique" to help raise money for her Dominican order. She later left the order to run a school for autistic children, and tragically committed suicide in a pact with her long-time companion when the Belgian government came after her for taxes on the record's royalties - all of which had been donated to the convent. For shame, Belgium!

Now, The Little Angels may not be as angelic as they appear on the surface. The troupe was actually formed by self-professed Messiah, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and his right-hand man, Bo Hi Pak, with the purpose of enhancing South Korea’s image around the world. As the troupe travels to other countries, their purity and goodwill is exploited in helping Moon gain access to important world figures and thus aids his nefarious plot to take over the world. So be warned, you’re listening to Moonie music here today – try not to fall under the Little Angels’ spell, lest you find yourself forever pimping flowers on the street for Moon’s church, or even worse, becoming a Republican.


The Jesus

Saturday, February 25, 2006

:: Jerry Sinclair - I'm Gonna Rise ::

This sucker was sealed, can you believe it? Such luck! On top of that, it's a gatefold. Clearly, this was the will of God, for me to part with five bucks, and for this 34 year old album to become a part of my home. My cat inspected it, and immediately sneezed on it. You know there's nothing cuter than a cat sneeze? Well, maybe a kitten sneeze. Speaking of cats, this album has a very interesting way of showing musician credits on each song. You see, each musician gets their own piece of animal clip art symbol. So the lyrics to each song are surrounded by little animal pictures that tell you who played on what song, if you simply cross reference the picture with the legend. That's not crazy at all! Jerry's inner archivist shines here, with background information about every song just in case you were wondering how he comes up with this stuff. According to the liner notes, the cover was painted from the artist's personal experience, which if I may venture a guess, was taking acid while watching a double feature of Zardoz and The Last Temptation Of Christ.

All the songs on here were written by Jerry Sinclair, who is, or was, a proud Oklahoman. His love of God is evident, as is his enthusiasm in serving him and writing strange ditties for and about him. Most of it is terrible. But you can tell he really tried! The song I chose, "I'm Gonna Rise," is a little chunk of funky gospel that speeds up and slows down in funny ways, and in which he refers to Jesus as "The Jesus." Now when I hear this, I picture a certain scene in Big Lebwoski, and it makes all the difference. Also note the way he sings in certain spots. It's hilarious. God made him imperfect!


Mondo Mondo

Thursday, February 23, 2006

:: What Is This Thing Called Love ::

:: Footprints On The Dashboard ::

:: Blackeyed Suzy ::

Don't even bother to download the mp3s this time. This one's all about the cover "art". Look at it. Drink it in. Cherish it. As Peggy Lee once asked, "Is That All There Is?", and the answer is yes. If Joe Mondo were a hilariously shitty guitar player, or if his singing voice was not so good, then the music might be a little more interesting. But as it is, he's not too bad, and that sucks. It goes in one ear and out the other. If he looks like a guy you might find hanging out by the beach, playing these songs with his open guitar case lying on the ground nearby inviting passersby to throw a dollar into it, that's probably exactly who he is, or was.

Oh well, go ahead and listen to this shit if you must. I included "What Is This Thing Called Love" because it's the one song on the album credited to Mr. Mondo himself. For some reason none of the songs on side 2 have any songwritting credits. I imagine someone must have written "Footprints On The Dashboard", but I can understand why they wouldn't want to admit it. "Blackeyed Suzy" ain't that bad, and is mercifully short. Of course Joe can't help getting into the sexually suggestive lyrics. He knows what the ladies like.

Thanks to our buddy Trags for sending this one my way. I will be forever in his debt. Go Joe.



Wednesday, February 22, 2006

:: Dwarves - Drug Store (Live) ::

:: Dwarves - Goodnite Tacoma ::

I'm still a sucker for The Dwarves, though I can't say I've been bowled over by any of their LP's since Blood, Guts & Pussy and Thank Heaven for Little Girls. They still put on a high powered and intense 20 minute live show. The first time I caught them was back in '90 or '91. I was one of about 25 people who went to see them at the Trocadero in Philly. There was a drunken dwarf in attendance, swaying to the music in front of the stage. I didn't get the impression that they brought him as part of the act, though who knows? At about 15 minutes into the show, lead vocalist, Blag Dahlia started throwing bottles of beer at the sparse audience, each bottle shattering until the floor was covered in broken glass. Then he stretched his arms out and yelled, "Bring it on, motherfuckers," to which some folks started picking up the glass and throwing it back on stage at him. The dwarf began spitting on Blag, and hopping as he did, so his spit would reach its target. The show ended a few minutes later with the band trashing their equipment and a masked, but otherwise nude, HeWhoCannotBeNamed throwing his guitar off the stage. I watched a guy pick it up off of the floor and run with it out the front door. Ah, good times.

This picture disc 7-inch came out in 1995 on Man's Ruin, a few years after the hoax death of HeWhoCannotBeNamed that got them kicked off of Sub-Pop. You can read about it here. There are two live songs, "Drug Store" and "Dairy Queen," recorded at San Francisco’s Trocadero at one of their occasional “final” shows. There’s also a remixed "Smack City" (here called "Goodnite Tacoma"), and it has a little more punch than the version that appeared on Sugarfix, as well as contains a sound clip of someone calling 911 for a heroin overdose.


Yikes Good Golly Miss Molly

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

:: A Night At The Space Opera ::

:: They Call Me Energy ::

:: More Powerful Than A Steaming Locomotive ::

This is yet another of the gems I picked up in my monstrous Rockaway Records bargain store haul, and all things considered, probably my favorite. There's really no information that I can find, other than what's on the 45 itself. Even with the full names given, it's either a Google labyrinth or a complete dead end.

Here's what I know. That Hideous Strength were from NYC and liked to name their songs after sci-fi and fantasy titles or references. Their moniker, presumably, is taken from the title of the final part of a C.S. Lewis sci-fi trilogy. The song "A Night At The Space Opera" is probably named after a short story that appeared in the 70's Marvel mag Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction, alongside a comic book adaption of a sci-fi classic, Harlan Ellison's "Repent Harlequin!" Said The Ticktock Man." You probably recognize the phrase "more powerful than a steaming locomotive" from Superman.

Although I see this 7" listed on Henry Weld's fine NYC punk page, the only real thing that's punk about these guys is their approach, which is goofy and produces some interesting moments, mostly in the form of abrupt, odd changes. Imagine, if you will, if MAD Magazine had done a flexi insert in a punk style; it probably would have come out something like this. I've included the whole enchilada, because it's short and sweet and I bet you haven't heard anything like it.


Invest In The Sunshine Co.

Monday, February 20, 2006

:: Children Could Help Us Find The Way ::

:: Four In The Mornin' ::

:: Love Is A Happy Thing ::

:: Back On The Street Again ::

I like the Sunshine Company. As a matter of fact, the more I listen, the more I like them. I'm beginning to really get into the whole sunshine pop/folk psyche thing. The store I bought "Happy Is The Sunshine Company" from had two copies. I picked the cheaper one because the vinyl looked fine. Unfortunately, it was a shitty pressing with surface noise throughout. But I dug it, so of course I went back to the store and bought the other copy AND a copy of their 2nd album. Turns out the more expensive copy of "Happy Is" is in mono, and it sounds great.

The Sunshine Company were, in many ways the very definition of sunshine pop. Forced to come up with a name for the band on the eve of their 1st record release, they looked no further than the brand of crackers they were currently eating, not guessing it would someday define the genre. The crux of the band met at Harbor College in South Los Angeles in the mid 60s and began hanging out together at folk clubs and coffee houses in the Orange County area along with contemporaries like Jackson Browne and Tim Buckley. Before long their harmony vocals got noticed, and they were asked to record Jimmy Webb's "Up, Up and Away". Unfortunately, the Fifth Dimension beat them to it (with an almost identical arrangement), so the single was not released (although it was included on "Happy Is").

Thinking that was it, and not really having any aspirations to become pop stars anyway, the band went back to the folk clubs and making music strictly for the love of it. But they were asked to sing on another track called "Happy". To everyone's surprise, this one charted. The band was signed to Imperial Records and were sent into the studio to complete an album. Right away the band clashed with the powers that be over the direction the music was taking. Producer Joe Saraceno (see: The Ventures) and arranger George Tipton (who did some beautiful string arrangements) knew what the record company wanted, which was to make a quick buck, so very commercial pop songs were chosen for the band to record. The Sunshine Company wanted to keep it in the folk realm, but instead songs like "Love Is A Happy Thing" were chosen. It wasn't all bad though. Their breakthrough hit, "Back On The Street Again" struck a fine note somewhere between melancholy and pure pop lushness, as did "Four In the Mornin'". For every "Children Could Help Us Find The Way", with goofy lyrics like, "Back to a world of yesterday where a cow can fly, and nobody wonders why", there are great reworkings of "I Need You" and "Rain" by the Beatles (with arranging help from folk singer Mary McCaslin).

Overall this is a very fine record, and they made a good second album too. I haven't heard their 3rd album yet, but I do know that bassist Larry Sims and drummer Merle Brigante turned up later in Loggins & Messina's backup band, which makes sense. It's all about the sunshine.


My Other Car Is An Albert Fish

Friday, February 17, 2006

:: Ed Gein's Car - Annette ::

:: Ed Gein's Car - Boo Hoo ::

:: Ed Gein's Car - Making Dick Dance ::

I remember picking this LP up in the early 90's solely due to the fact that I was a morbid fucker and I thought they'd be a schlock horror band, because, you know, their band name referred to the real life Psycho's car. I came home, put it on and was quickly disappointed. There was some crude stuff lyrically, but no schlock, and it wasn't FAST and it wasn't THRASHY, which, at that time, were my criteria for good rockin'. So this record got shelved and ignored for a good long time while I went back to listening to things like Danzig. Thankfully, I eventually opened my beautiful mind and freed it from such silly restrictions, and have come to rediscover and appreciate this good ol' fashioned slab of garage punk rock.

Making Dick Dance was the only studio LP put out by New York City's Ed Gein's Car, released in 1985. It was book-ended by a 7-inch in '84 and a live LP from CBGB's in '87, and then they called it quits. Scot Weiss’ vocals can be somewhat gruff, which I think I found off-putting the first time around, but I dig them now. I'm sitting here with my usual indecision in trying to figure out which songs to post - I'll go with "Annette," a nice little paean to Annette Funicello, everyone's favorite mouseketeer, beach blanket bimbo, and peanut butter pusher; "Boo Hoo," about NYC's vegetarian vigilante, Bernard Goetz; and the album title track, a real fine instrumental jam that actually makes Phil dance.


I Dig Zeitgeist

Thursday, February 16, 2006

:: Zeitgeist - Araby ::

:: Zeitgeist - She Digs Ornette ::

When I was in 8th grade, my grades started to slip dramatically. I really didn't like all that homework business, it really cut into my baseball time. When I was in 7th grade, we had looked at a private school some 250 miles away, a tough college preparatory institution that had been there since the Civil War, which had been recommended by a friend of my mom's. I was freaked out by the place, which looked somewhat like a castle, or a series of them, and especially by the little Alex B. Keatons walking around in their blue blazers and school ties. I thanked my mom for thinking of my future, but made it clear I didn't want to be sent off there, that public school suited me juuuust fine. So, the next year, when I started fucking off at school, and even getting into some trouble, the private school idea went from educational opportunity to threat. Well, at 13 you think you have a lot of stuff figured out, and I what I figured was there was no way my mom would do that to me. I continued to ignore my homework, and next thing you know I was living in a dormitory and showering with other boys. I was miserable at first, but I learned to love it, and I learned a lot there. The life lesson here is that sometimes your life gets better if you are a little shit.

My junior year, we got a new art teacher, Mr. Covell. He was fresh from college, and a former boarding school student himself. He must have been 23 years old or so, and he was the dorm parent on my floor. He wore misfitting and often threadbare t-shirts, gave himself bad haircuts, wore chunky glasses, and his clothes were always wrinkled. In short, he was the first indie rocker I'd ever met. He was the coolest teacher ever. During the day, in art class, he'd show me how to silkscreen Housemartins and PiL t-shirts. At night, he'd let me play his records. I got my first taste of Love & Rockets, Billy Childish's Milkshakes, and this here record by Zeitgeist. I was hooked after hearing the leadoff track, Araby. I still love that damn song.

Zeitgeist were from Austin, Texas and fronted by guitarist John Croslin. Not long after Translate Slowly came out in 1985, the band got a cease and desist order from a band already called Zeitgeist, and they changed their name to The Reivers. I never heard about that, so the years I spent looking for this, or any other album by Zeitgeist, were in vain. I finally found a copy about 5 years ago, and the memories came flooding back when I put it on. They broke up long ago, but Croslin is still doing this and that with music, and has assisted with pretty much every Spoon album that's come out. This is gettin' me in the mood for SxSW.


Thixth Thixth Thixth

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

:: Four Jacks And A Jill - Penny Paper ::

Who knew Apartheid rocked? Well, apparently it didn't very much. Four Jacks and a Jill were about the biggest thing to come out of South Africa in the 60s however. Their song "Master Jack" was an international hit, and they had many more hits and a long career in their native country before finally calling it quits in the late 70s.

The band started out as an all male beat group in the early 60s. By the mid-60s, they were calling themselves The Zombies and were the first group in South Africa to grow their hair long. This caused such a great fuss though, including accusations in the press of "sissiness", drug abuse and downright Devil worship, the band finally decided a change of image was necessary. They cut their hair, hired singer Glenys Lynne and changed their name to Four Jacks and a Jill.

The liner notes on their debut American album are classic: "In these days of 'The Fugs', 'Jefferson Airplane', 'The Loading Zone' and 'Mothers of Invention', for a group to be called 'Four Jacks and a Jill' is a throwback to the wonderful world of the 1940s and the Big Bands."

Thanks, but I think I prefer sissiness and devil worship.


Phil's Last Article Before He Takes His New Job At Hallmark

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

:: Flag of Democracy - Guimo's Theme ::

Like any guy, I dislike Valentine’s Day each year, regardless of whether I’m single or not. I mean, if you’re in a relationship, you’re shelling out bucks for dinner, gifts and whatever else while still recuperating from the debt Christmas put you in. And, of course, if you happen to be girlfriend-less, the day serves as a reminder that you’ll be spending yet another night alone while the rest of humanity is getting laid. My favorite Valentine memory is from a few years ago when I was dating a girl who wore ratty cotton underwear with more holes than the face of Dick Cheney’s hunting buddy. Nothing sexy existed in this girl’s panty drawer. So, I thought I’d get a gift for myself as well as for her and went to Victoria’s Secret to pick out a bunch of tiny satin and lace numbers. Lest you think me completely selfish, these were in addition to dinner reservations at a pricey restaurant, and tickets to some play she wanted to see. [ Insert whip-cracking sound effect ]. During the ride back to her place at the end of the night, we started arguing over something and I can’t remember the details, but I do recall those last, final words she yelled through the window after dumping me and slamming the car door – “I’m wearing the panties you gave me, and you’ll never get to see me in them.” Ah, marvelous girl. I was really quite fond of her.

So, in the spirit of the holiday, I thought I’d put up a track that seems more fitting than some shitty love song. F.O.D.’s, “Guimos’ Theme,” a charming little song about trying to commit suicide, is one of the more melodic cuts off of their first LP from 1986, Shatter Your Day. It’s one of my favorite songs off of one of my favorite albums of the 1980s, and vocalist James McMonagle’s agonized screaming can serve as a wonderfully therapeutic remedy to your Valentine Day ills.


1984 Time Crapsule

Monday, February 13, 2006

:: Carl Lewis - Goin' For The Gold ::

:: Steve Lawrence - We're In L.A. ::

You remember 1984, right? Van Halen's album 1984 rocked every dorm in America, Big Brother was still something in a book, and the world was about to converge on Los Angeles for the Summer Olympics, giving yet one more gasp of life to Randy Newman's "I Love LA". The hype was grand, and the city I live in, the City of Angels, was getting the promotion machine revved up big time. Problems with freeways and other potentially unattractive and displeasing things to visitors of the world were swiftly rectified to make the host city look and feel more welcoming. Murals were put up, because Mayor Bradley really liked murals, including one along a stretch of the 405 down towards the South Bay by noted muralist Kent Twitchell, depicting marathon runners. That one always creeped me out, because the expressions on their faces, their hollow yet seeking eyes, and the implied rigidity of their movement say one thing and one thing only to me: BRAINSSSSSS. Over the years, this painting became filthy and mercilessly tagged, so they removed it for restoration a while back. You can still see faint silhouettes of the runners, like atomic shadows. Again, creepy.

So here we are in the midst of another Olympics, the Winter Games in Torino, Italy. These Olympics bore me. I don't want to hear about Bode and Miller Time, or Michelle Kwan's groin. I love hockey, but I don't want to look at Chris Chelios' dopey mug any more than I have to. I don't want to hear about Pavarotti unless he's doing a duet with Bryan Adams so preposterous that I injure myself laughing. So I am going to take you back to 1984, a very important Olympics. It was the first Summer Olympics for the U.S. since 1976, because we'd boycotted the 1980 games in the Soviet Union, and it was here on our soil, in the entertainment capital of the world, and we were armed with some of our most impressive athletes. We'd show 'em.

These here two songs are the product of the hype and hope of the 1984 Olympics, and reek of Los Angeles more than they probably intended. First off is a classic of bad music, "Goin' For The Gold." This 12" on Megatone Records by track superstar Carl Lewis hurts. There are three versions of the song to choose from. I've included the rap version, because as a white man it makes me feel good to hear a black man with less hip hop flavor than me. Seriously, I think Phil Donahue could have delivered this flaccid (c)rap with more street cred. If you like this, or like to laugh at shit like this, you should head over to Carl's official site and watch the video for another song of his. If someone hasn't already laid this one on you, you're in for a treat.

The other song, "We're In L.A.," is equally bad, and somehow trumps "Goin' For The Gold" with its lyrical content. Fortunately, hearing such fluffy drivel delivered via Steve Lawrence's schmaltzy lounge crooning makes it feel somehow like a celebration of the bad, or at least a celebration of how money can be misspent on studio time. Musically, it sounds like the theme to a local morning show. Lyrically, it may be the worst thing ever written. "Modern times are here at last, the age of the tar pits are in the past." The grammar isn't even right on that, but hey, we've got sunshine and movie stars!


Dino, Desi and Who?

Friday, February 10, 2006

:: Dino, Desi & Billy - Let Me Be ::

:: Dino, Desi & Billy - Everything I Do Is For You ::

:: Dino, Desi & Billy - Desi's Drums ::

When the Beatles hit the big time in the good ol' U.S. of A. at the beginning of 1964, adults reacted with a mix of bewilderment, and in some cases, absolute hatred. Something tells me Frank Sinatra (for instance) most likely didn't take them very seriously, nor did he think for one minute that he might someday record at least one of their songs (he recorded "Something" in 1969 and said it was the best song Lennon & McCartney had ever written).

I remember seeing the Rolling Stones on the "Hollywood Palace" TV variety show sometime in '64. I'd never heard of them at that point, and to my 7 year old brain, I thought they were comedians making fun of the Beatles, because the show's host, Dean Martin, introduced them while winking and rolling his eyes, as if to say, "Hey, these guys are really good", wink, wink.

Even if adults thought this British Invasion crap was a joke, they certainly had to have been impressed by the money it generated. By the end of 1964, Frank and Dean made somewhat of a concession to mid-60s teen aged sensibilities by signing Dean's son and a couple of his friends from school to Frank's label, Reprise Records. Besides Dean Jr., Dino Desi & Billy were comprised of Desi Arnaz IV (son of Lucy and Desi), and Billy Hinsche, whose parents weren't famous but were rich enough to live in Beverly Hills.

Now, these were 11 to 13 year old kids, and although they supposedly played their own instruments, they most certainly didn't in the studio. For the most part, the guys you hear playing guitars and drums and such on these tunes were the usual suspects who played on just about every pop song recorded in Los Angeles during the 60s (including Frank's and Dean's records). An exception would be "Desi's Drums", in which you can hear a then 12 year old Desi beating away, but with Hal Blaine keeping time in the background. One thing Dino and Billy could do was sing, just not very well. Not surprisingly, they didn't write any of their own material either. Not at first anyway. "Let Me Be" was written by P.F. Sloan, and "Everything I Do Is For You" by Clint Ballard Jr. The rest of the album is filled out with well known chestnuts like "Get Off My Cloud", "Act Naturally", "Fun, Fun, Fun", "Turn, Turn, Turn" and of course, Beatles songs - "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" and "Yesterday". I sincerely hope Yoko Ono regularly checks into the Record Robot, because I know she'll get a few giggles out of the fact that "Yesterday" is credited on the label as having been written by "J. Lennon". Bwahahaha!

Producer Lee Hazlewood wrote on the liner notes, "I'm asked perhaps a hundred times a week, 'What are Dino, Desi and Billy really like?'". These days that's probably down to a few times a week, tops. Hell, I doubt Lee Hazlewood even talks to more than a few people a week. Dino, Desi & Billy drove that road paved with teenage cash for as long as they could, finally breaking up in 1970. Dino went on to marry and divorce actress Olivia Hussey, then married Olympian Dorothy Hamill, then died at age 35 in a plane crash while serving in the Air National Guard. Today, the band performs as Ricci, Desi & Billy with Dino's kid brother, the unfortunately named Ricci Martin. I think they should join forces with another celebrity offspring / 60s pop star, Gary Lewis. Then they could be billed as Martin, Lewis, Arnaz & Hinsche. Or maybe not.



Thursday, February 09, 2006

:: The Heyettes - The Fonz Song ::

:: "Impressionist Track" ::

When I was seven or so, the family across the street would babysit me from time to time. They had kids around my age, a boy who was a year or two younger, and a sister who was ten or eleven. I have memories of the dad's CB radio and the big rig he drove, playing with Hot Wheels ramp sets and Six Million Dollar Man action figures with the son, and being propositioned by his older sister on quite a few occasions; she evidently really wanted my second grade ass. I naively entered into a game of spin the bottle in their basement once, and though I've forgotten (or blocked out) the result, I am pretty sure she was my first kiss. It was probably gross. She also once locked me in the bathroom with her (no easy feat as it had doors to two separate bedrooms) and demanded to know whether I loved her or not. I just wasn't ready for a commitment, so I had to let her down.

But the most distinct memory I have of that house is not unfettered grade school lust, or playing with toys that my own mom couldn't afford to buy me. It's of sitting on a hardwood floor in front of a record player, playing their records. Fonzie Favorites was among them, and it left the biggest impression. For the most part, it's just a compilation of good old 50's rock n' roll songs. The selections lean toward novelty, like "Bird Dog" and "Charlie Brown," and the record capitalizes on both the popularity of Happy Days and the related revivalism of 50's culture going on at the time. You also got the Happy Days Theme, in case you needed to hear that some more. I really loved the old songs on this album, and it was probably my first lesson in rock n' roll history, but what's stuck with me over the years? The ridiculous Fonzploitation tracks. I hadn't heard them in over 25 years, but I recently found a copy on the cheap.

There are three of them, all at the back end of side one. The first is the most far-fetched and heinous, an ill-conceived and obnoxious piece called The Fonzarelli Slide. I'd love to know whose idea this song was. It's kind of a song, with the loose thread keeping it together being the fabricated eponymous dance move, which of course requires sticking out your thumbs. Mostly it's three excruciating minutes of terrible impersonations of various ABC television show characters who are inexplicably exchanging mindless banter. Over a goddam disco beat. Strained attempts to showcase or make mention of nearly every character from Welcome Back Kotter mingle with insinuations that Laverne & Shirley are ready to get down. Never mind that the Fonz, Laverne and Shirley were all from the 50's and the Sweathogs were from the the present; time is linear and bullshit is not bound by the laws of time and space. OK, so I'm being a little harsh on this song obviously targeted at little kids, but if you were forced to listen to it, you'd want to slag on it too. The most reprehensible thing is that the Fake Fonzie sounds like a butcher from Brooklyn instead of The Fonz. They could have tried to get that part right at least, if they couldn't afford Winkler. Actually, I have a lot of respect for Winkler now that I think about it, for not participating in this.

The songs you get here are "The Fonz Song," which sounds like the Happy Days theme with a better beat, and a hilarious short number called "Impressionist Track," which is that same bad imitator repeating four Fonzie catch phrases over a poorly made loop of the exit music from Happy Days, supposedly so you can learn how to be cool like The Fonz. Again, I would love to know whose idea this was. Icing on the cake? Well, yes there is some. The entire front cover is a photo of the unlikely heartthrob, with no album title or words at all, save for the button on his jacket that's been doctored to read Sit On It. Seems a little artsy and commercially unwise, until you flip the thing over and see that part of the back cover folds out to form a frame stand, transforming your shitty LP into a swoonable decoration for your dresser.


Mure Than You Can Handle

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

:: Firecrackers ::

:: By The Beautiful Sea ::

:: Jealous ::

:: Crackerjack ::

I’m still on a Billy Mure kick, so here are some songs from his second LP, Fireworks, released in 1958. There’s the same multi-layered sound as his other “Supersonic Guitar” records, this one using four guitars, a bass player and three drummers. What sets this record apart from the other Mure releases I’ve heard is the use of a chorus -- eight vocalists and all of them not singing any words, giving us a lot of “Do-Doo-Wah’s.” These kind of wordless choruses were being employed by a lot of those space-age pop maestros of the day, like Esquivel. They’re not my favorite cuts from the album, so I’m only including one of them, “Jealous.” “Firecrackers” and “Crackerjack” are guitar rockers penned by Mure, while “By the Beautiful Sea” is one of those early twentieth century standards that I’m pretty sure my dear grandmother knows the lyrics to. Mure did four albums with RCA, jumped around to a couple of smaller labels for some Hawaiian-themed records, and finally ended up on MGM to briefly return to the “Supersonic Guitar” sound and concept. This lack of label stability and support is probably the reason he’s not very well-known and his records can be so damn difficult to find.


Wild Burl

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

:: Burl Ives - Wild Side Of Life ::

:: Burl Ives - Close The Door Richard ::

To look at the photos of Burl Ives on this album cover, you might assume that he really did know a thing or two about the wild side of life, and he did. He almost got kicked out of college for drunken rowdiness, but he quit instead. With only the clothes on his back he walked off down the road and never came back. He traveled the country learning to play folk songs from the people he met along the way. In New York in the late 30s he broke into show business by way of Broadway, then got his own radio show. By 1940 he was a household name and was making hit records to boot. By the early 50s he began appearing in films. About this time he was called before the House Unamerican Activities Committee to name some of his communist ex-friends like Pete Seeger, which he did. This of course angered many of his fans, but Burl kept himself off the blacklist and continued to record and act in films.

He made a ton of records in the 50s and 60s, all of which are highly entertaining. In 1962 he went Nashville and enjoyed some of his biggest hits like A Little Bitty Tear and Funny Way of Laughing. I remember seeing his portrayal of Capt. Morton in Ensign Pulver, the pretty lame sequel to the pretty great WWII film, Mister Roberts. Ives played the evil Capt. Morton, taking over the roll made famous by James Cagney in the original film. I was maybe about 10 years old when I saw Ensign Pulver, and I remember absolutely hating Burl Ives. A more disgusting person could not be possible.

In real life, despite ratting out a few friends, Burl Ives was basically a hell of a good guy. He loved to perform for people, but wouldn't allow his records to be sold at shows because he didn't want to appear to be a shill for himself. He once opened up his home to some folks who blew into town on a boxcar, fresh from the dust bowl. Burl had heard that one of these people played a mean guitar. It turned out to be Woody Guthrie and family.

Mainly though, Burl Ives had a way with a song that was as unique as it was fun to listen to. Folk music was his beat, and whether he was doing a country song, a Christmas song or an American standard, that voice which was tailor made to sing sea chanties and lonesome hobo ballads always came through and never disappointed, even on a wacky novelty song like Close The Door Richard. And by the way, what the hell is "The Thing"?


Mure To Love

Monday, February 06, 2006

:: Billy Mure - Flaming Guitars ::

:: Billy Mure - Supersonics In Flight ::

About 10 years ago, I worked in the basement of a small book publisher, doing production work and making little money. On weekends, I’d take my meager paycheck and spend it on what I’ve spent it on since high school, really – beer, cigarettes, and music. On those music excursions to any of the three or four decent record shops in downtown Philly, I’d invariably run into Mark, one of the designers at work. I wasn’t much of a vinyl hound, usually stopping in for my main pursuit at the time – any Guided by Voices release that I did not yet have. Mark, however, could usually be found sifting through boxes of dusty record albums underneath counters. Funnily (or sadly) enough, Mark was what I would eventually become. Anyway, on one of those record store encounters, Mark excitedly held up a find for me to see, Billy Mure’s first album, Supersonic Guitars in Hi-Fi. I’d never heard of Mure, and Mark said he’d tape it and bring it into work for me to borrow. I loved that fucking tape and I never gave it back.

I haven’t found my own copy of Supersonic Guitars in Hi-Fi, yet. Sure, I’ve seen it for sale on-line, but cringe at the thought of paying fifty bucks for any album. I’m hoping to find it the way Mark did, sitting unloved in a box of crap for a couple of bucks. I’ve found Mure’s other “Supersonic Guitars” albums that way, so it’s possible.

Supersonics in Flight was Billy Mure’s third album, released in 1959. As with the other “Supersonic Guitar” albums, he multi-tracked four electric guitars, along with two drum sets, bass and on this one, organ, to give us…uh, supersonic sound in RCA’s “Living Stereo.” The marketing ploy on this record is that it draws its inspiration from the Navy’s F11F-1 Tiger jet fighter, rather than exotic locales like a lot of the other bachelor pad instrumentals being released at the time. Those “fast-moving fingers” are “capturing, in sound and rhythm, the speed and excitement of the fleet-flying aircraft.” I’m sure I’m not feeling that, but just the same, I like what I’m feeling whenever I listen to Billy Mure.


The Fox

Friday, February 03, 2006

:: Bill "The Fox" Foster - Bawdy Medley ::

Guys out there probably remember The Fox from his years on The Man Show, the old dude with coyote grin and funny hat who would lead the audience in a German beer hall chant before consuming a beer in one mountrous swoop, but few know what a legend this man was. He got his start working in Los Angeles pubs, before ultimately finding his calling in life: leading crowds in drunken and improper pubs. His glory days were spent at The Fox Inn Rathskeller in Santa Monica, at 26th and Wilshire, where he entertained thousands of happy drunks over the years. When it closed in 1989, The Fox took his act on the road to another crowd that can appreciate beer and swear words -- college campuses. During the 90's he moonlighted at other pubs, sometimes completely spontaneously, and our pal Mark caught him at the Fireside Inn a time or two, the lucky bastard.

This recording was pretty much self-made, no record label, and the only address on the thing is the address of The Fox Inn itself. It was pressed at Rainbow, which would have been stumbling distance from there. Production is credited to Jake Butts. They basically just let tape roll and didn't even try to edit anything, as it just cuts off abruptly at the end of each side. There's not even a date on here, but from the looks of the cover and one Gong Show reference made inbetween numbers, I am pretty sure it's from between 1975-79. I don't know why it was made, but I am happy someone was sober enough to get it done.

This sort of frivolity doesn't exactly translate well to record, and it's certainly a disadvantage to not be able to witnesss The Fox drink two beers in two seconds, or one while he stands on his head, but you can feel the mood of the crowd as they laugh and try to sing along, and every once in a while you can hear a thud that must be The Fox's empty mug triumphantly returning to the table, empty. This was a man doing what he loved, and not just playing the part of a drunk like Foster Brooks did, but living and celebrating it. They don't make 'em like The Fox anymore, and today's cultural climate doesn't really allow for this kind of fun anymore, at least not in big cities. It's off-color jokes, and old standards played on piano with bathroom humor rewording, and you kind of had to be there. Some are classics you've heard before, some aren't. The sides aren't separated into tracks, so I just took out some bits from the evening that give a sense of what it was all about.

The Fox lost his battle with cancer at the age of 68 in 2000, but he probably lived the lifetimes of a hundred men. Even though by appearances he might seem a lout, he was actually a family man who was a longtime member of the Chamber of Commerce. He was a community institution. I wish I knew more about him and the history of The Fox Inn, and if anyone has stories or more info, please pass them along in the comments. ZIGGY ZAGGY ZIGGY ZAGGY HOI HOI HOI!!




All Ears

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Ok, I'll admit it: I was a CB geek in the 70s.

In 1975 when I was about 18, I acquired my Dad's 1972 Chevy Vega GT station wagon. My Dad, who was 6'5", bought the economy car about a year previous hoping to save money on gas during the first "oil crisis", but soon found it simply too small for him, so he went back to his usual full sized Chevys, paid for the gas, and let me drive the Vega. At the time, it had about 30,000 miles on it, and it was already starting to burn oil, but I loved it. It was a sporty little number, with leatherette bucket seats, 4 on the floor and room in the back for my whole drum set. I was styling.

About that same time, CB radios were becoming the rage thanks to C.W. McCall's "Convoy". I couldn't have cared less, until a friend of my Dad's gave me his old CB which he was replacing with a new 40 channel unit (until that time, there were only 23 channels). It was a Mobile unit, so installation in the Vega was a must, but this radio was a step above most 'em. It was a "sidebander", which meant that each channel had an additional upper and lower sideband, or channel. Sidebands were almost like a step toward Ham radio, as you'd get a clearer signal and the range was extended. More about that later.

Another goody that came with the free CB was a fully illegal power booster. As I recall, the maximum power allowed for broadcast was 5 watts, but with this thing, I could do 25 watts. Fuck all y'all! More about that later too.

So now I'm cruising around in my new ride with this huge antenna clamped to the rain gutter and I'm checking out the local CB scene. Lo and behold, there were a lot of kids my age who were not truck drivers speeding up the 405 hoping to hook up with a "Teddy Bear". These kids were looking to hook up with each other. On any given day, I could listen in on a casual but flirtatious conversation featuring no doubt nubile, willing young ladies who knew how to key a mic. Soon I found myself joining in the conversations, and before long my handle, "Onion Breath" was becoming, well, mostly ignored.

Occasionally I'd drive up the hill to a spot that overlooked the city. From there I could explore the world of sidebands, which was completely different than the regular CB. The high elevation, combined with optimal atmospheric conditions enabled me to talk to other sidebanders as far away as Colorado, and once even Florida. I learned that sidebanders sent post cards to people they had conversations with, so I opened up a PO box for that purpose.

The power booster came in handy sometimes, but I had to be careful as the FCC monitored the Citizen's Bands regularly in search of such violators as well as people who would use the Lord's name in vain or utter the dreaded "S" or "F" words on the public airwaves. The booster was a great thing to have though when some asshole wouldn't shut up, or if I felt like being an asshole and fucking up everyone else's conversations by "stepping on" them.

Quite by accident, I found another great usage for the power booster. I was driving along, talking on the CB when I heard my own voice broadcasting on the PA system at a car rental lot I was driving past. So, I parked across the street, turned on the power booster and had a little fun. A customer was checking out his rent-a-car, so I keyed the mic and said in my best announcer voice, "Did you know that Budget Rent A Car will ruin your Budget?" Sure as hell, my voice was booming from the lot PA system. The customer and the salesman were looking around like "what the fuck?!". I continued with some more stupid shit until one of the employees spotted me across the street, so I turned the power booster off and gunned the Vega out of there.

In the mean time, I was not making much of a splash on the local CB scene. Try as I might, I couldn't impress the CB babes like some of the other CB dudes seemed to. Finally, I decided to cross the line in a desperate quest for CB pussy: I attended a CB break. A break is a party, where people who have only heard each other's voices got to meet each other in the flesh. Attending the break was a big step for me, because I was kind of shy and not good at meeting people. Still, these were people I kinda knew, so I put on my brave face and went on down to the Moose Lodge where the break was held on the last Friday of each month.

It didn't go as bad as I thought it would. First of all, there weren't that many guys there, or at least not very many that were the least bit intimidating. There were a few girls, and although none of them were real lookers, one of them was ok. For some reason I decided to go downstairs to the Moose bar, where I found a few old timers sitting around watching the ball game. I strutted up to the bar and ordered a few beers for me and my friends. I'm sure the bartender knew I was well under 21, and had probably never ordered a beer in my life, but he didn't bat an eye and served 'em up. I walked back upstairs a returning hero. At last Onion Breath had arrived.

I wound up in the Vega with the "ok" CB babe and some other kids from the break heading up the hill to my favorite sidebanding rendezvous with a couple more cars in tow. We all blathered away on the radio, our very own convoy raising hell in suburbia. Once we got there, nothing of any significance happened, at least not that I remember, and I don't think I was that drunk on just one beer. We parked, looked at the lights below, goofed off on the radio some more, then headed back down to the flatlands.

I soon lost interest in all things CB. I finally decided I just wasn't the outgoing type. I'd listen to the truck drivers who seemed to inhabit channel 14 all the time go on and on about God knows what, and I knew I could never be like that. And I got a real bad taste in my mouth for the geeky kids who sounded oh so cool to me at first, but revealed themselves to be lonely people who wouldn't have anyone to talk to if not for the wondrous CB. Plus I was beginning to feel like I was following a shallow trend that was going away fast, and for good reason. The Vega started burning oil like a mofo, with billows of white smoke pouring out of the tail pipes. We sold it to some unsubspecting victim along with the CB and the illegal power booster. The poor sap was probably arrested by the FCC and has been languishing in prison ever since.

I can look back fondly on this period of my life now, no longer worried what someone might think if they knew I was a CB nerd in the 70s. As you Robot fans know, we're big on truck driving songs and CB records around here. We hope you like them too. I couldn't believe my eyes when I found All Ears. For one thing, my Realistic CB is featured prominently on the back cover. Radio Shack did a heck of a job putting this thing together too. Of course you've got your trucker/country/CB songs, but there's also "adult contemporary" pop stylings (Honey Bee), funk (Come On, CB Baby) and even Christian (The Night I Talked To The Lord). Too much good stuff to choose one or two tracks to put up. So, in a Record Robot first, we present to you the entire All Ears album. I'm gonna go 10-7 now, so get your ears on, keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down and watch out for the local yokels. Good numbers to all my good buddies!

Onion Breath Mike

:: Hey Shirley (This Is Squirrely) ::

:: Honey Bee (Please Answer Me) ::

:: Come On, Come On, CB Baby ::

:: Everybody's Somebody (In Our CB World) ::

:: Hey Good Buddy (Where's My Baby) ::

:: The Handles Hall of Fame ::

:: Listenin' CB Blues ::

:: Ain't Ever Gonna Be Lonely Again ::

:: L.J.'s CB Radio ::

:: The Night I Talked To The Lord ::

False Prophets

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

:: False Prophets - Destructive Engagement ::

:: False Prophets - Implosion ::

:: False Prophets - The Eggshell Walk ::

:: False Prophets - Who Will Be The One ::

False Prophets were one of the great underrated bands of the 1980's. They put out a few singles before contributing two songs to the infamous ROIR cassette comp, New York Thrash, alongside Bad Brains and Beastie Boys. They recorded their self-titled first LP in 1984, funded by lead singer Stephan Ielpi's uncle after a good night at the horse track, and it was later released in 1986 on Alternative Tentacles (now available on CD). Vinyl Mine has a recent write up on this first album and posted a few mp3’s not found on the A.T. site.

Though these guys were part of the hardcore scene, they didn’t strictly confine themselves to the conventional traditions of the genre, instead incorporating synths, horns, piano, reggae, rap, and artsy theatricality along with their thrash and political sensibilities. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but it helped their music stand out and makes their second LP, from 1987, Implosion, remarkable. Marred by some fucked up production values, courtesy of producer Giorgio Gomelsky, “discoverer” and promoter of the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds’ manager/producer, the music is able to shine through the cruddy mix with a great horn section led by James White & the Blacks, a huge cast of backing vocalists, and by simply slowing down the speed without sacrificing intensity or enthusiasm.