Cubilophobia And The Brainwashing Of Youth

Friday, April 28, 2006

:: Rickett's Hornpipe & Durang's Hornpipe ::

I'm not a huge fan of square dance records, but of course that didn't stop me from buying one. I got a bad taste in my mouth for square dancing after I was forced to learn how to do it in the 3rd grade, so please don't ask me to dosado or allamande thar or somesuch shit. I am simply not interested. I was correct in assuming though that a square dance record might be amusing because if you didn't know what it was all about, it would just sound weird.

Ok, so the guy doing the "calls" on this record is Dave Rumbaugh. According the liner notes, Dave was not a "professional" square dance caller, but rather a physical education supervisor for the Goddamn L.A. Unified School District! And his job included the instruction of square dance fundamentals to teachers in elementary schools! Shiiiit! So I can effectively blame this guy for permanently scarring me at such a tender young age. Fine.

Band leader Cliffie Stone is a much more interesting character, however. A Los Angeles native, he was the son of comedian/banjo player Herman The Hermit (!!!). After WWII, he played bass for one of my favorite big bands, Freddie Slack ("Cow Cow Boogie"). He got into local radio and made a big splash with shows like Covered Wagon Jubilee and Hollywood Barn Dance and somewhere along way, worked his way into the then fledgling Capitol Records as an A&R guy. There, he discovered Tennessee Ernie Ford and Western Swinger Hank Thompson, who he also managed for 10 years. If you ever wondered how Capitol cornered the market when it came to Bakersfield and basically any non-Nashville based country, Cliffie Stone is your answer.

There used to be a square dance club near my house that had weekly meetings and you'd always see old people dressed all weird coming and going all the time. Does that still happen, or is it now a lost art? Where's Dave Rumbaugh when you need him?


Lou Monte Live

Thursday, April 27, 2006

:: 16 Tons ::

:: Skinny Lena ::

:: Sorrento ::

Lou Monte is an Italian-American legend. If you haven't already heard him, I am really glad you are going to get to now. Part balladeer, part comedian, and 100% entertainer, he zips deftly in and out of English and Italian in his songs without ever disparaging either tongue.

This album is a document of a live show from the early 60's at The Boulevard Club in Long Island, and the song selection features all the styles he's adept at performing, from sentimental Italian love songs to lovingly altered covers of standards. The band (to be specific, Johnny Morris and His Band, with Vinnie Bell on guitar) is great and moves from romantic to rollicking with aplomb. I'm giving you three of the final four songs of the show, my favorite part, and a perfect cross-section of Lou's repertoire. Thankfully, the recording is excellent, and it sounds like you are there.


Your Kisses, Seasoned

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

:: What Does America Mean To Me ::

:: Senselessly ::

Norman Lee played sax and performed vocals for the Lawrence Welk Orchestra for a few years in the 1940’s, where he and Welk co-wrote “Champagne Polka” together. In 1947, he joined the Eddy Howard Orchestra performing the same duties, and took over as band leader in 1963 when Howard died, thereafter calling the band the Norman Lee Orchestra.

This single, I believe, came out sometime in the early 1970’s, though it sounds like it’s straight out of the 40’s. The music and words to the a-side, “What Does America Mean to Me” were written by Lee when he was but a wee lad of ten. The simple childishness of the lyrics, read by a young boy (David Broderick), the low production values, and especially the sudden burst into “America the Beautiful” towards the end of the song go a long way towards making this into quite a charming piece of patriotic putridity. It’s contrasted by the b-side, which started out as a background score for an industrial film. The writer of the film, Tom Broderick (father of Lil’ David, I suppose), prevailed upon Lee to let him write lyrics to the song, and “Senselessly” was created. I can almost smell my grandfather’s Brylcreem and Lucky Strikes while listening to it.

In 1978, Norman returned home with his wife after playing an “over 40’s” dance in Wichita, Kansas. There they were met by a former trumpet player for Lee’s band, Charles Martin, who Norman had fired a few months prior for difficulties related to drug addiction. Martin hadn’t taken too kindly to the dismissal apparently, and gunned down both Norman and his wife, a little while later turning the same gun on himself in Houston, Texas.


Gimme Some Louvin

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

:: I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby ::

:: Pitfall ::

:: When I Stop Dreaming ::

:: In The Middle of Nowhere ::

I've been lovin' the Louvin Brothers ever since a friend turned me on to "Satan Is Real" about 10 years ago. At the time, I didn't much care for country music, period, but one look at the cover art and I was intrigued, to say the least. Upon listening, I discovered some incredibly well produced and well written old-timey music, with close harmony singing the likes of which I'd never heard before. I started telling other people about it, and it was always the same thing: The fire and brimstone engulfed goofy Satan standup and jazz-handed Louvins on the cover induced guffaws, and the sermon that takes up much of the title track dropped a few jaws, but ultimately the sheer beauty of the music and the earnest dedication of the musicians transcended any jilted, irony laden '00 sensibilities inherent in the listener.

I started picking up any vinyl I could find by them and in the last 10 years, I've found most everything, except "Satan Is Real" of course (unless I want to spend a couple hundred bucks on Ebay or something). The Louvin's are very consistent - just about everything they did was a winner. They tended to do a gospel album, then a secular album, then back to gospel and so forth. I'm sure Capitol would have been happy if they dropped the gospel altogether, but thankfully they stuck to their guns because although they could write and sing a country love song with the best of 'em, Jesus always brought out a passion in them that was awesome.

I found this EP recently at a street fair, and I didn't really recognize the song titles, but I figured they were probably on one of the albums I own. Turns out they're not, except "In The Middle of Nowhere" which is on a late '60s comp, so that's way cool. "When I Stop Dreaming" and "I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby" were early hits for Ira and Charlie, so I guess this EP is a comp of some kind. I don't know if it originally came in a picture sleeve or not. Once again, it's a damn fine collection of tunes though, and I'm glad to add it to my collection. Now, if anyone wants to sell me a copy of "Satan Is Real" real cheap...


Mizzou Moonshine

Monday, April 24, 2006

:: The Revelators - Serve The Man (Original 7" Version) ::

:: The Revelators - Crawdad ::

There was a time during the 90's where a ton of dirty, filthy garage rock spewed up from under the broken sidewalks of American music. A lot of it was sloppy, but the energy and raw soul in much of the music made it rock harder than the tighter "guitar bands" that ruled those times. It was a great time to buy vinyl, because most of these bands put their stuff out on vinyl. I think I was in between record players at the time, but I had a friend in Reno who would send me cassettes of sparse, noisy garage rock from his collection. I wasn't always able to find the cool stuff myself, but I did stumble across Crypt Records samplers. I have two of them, and with as much as they packed on there, and the ferocity of most of the songs, they're some of the best bargains I've ever come across.

The first band that really caught my ear was The Revelators. The song that did it was "Serve The Man," with a guitar sound like spinning wheels kicking out gravel and the drums being played with murderous intensity. It's pure American moonshine, a hybrid of punk and backwoods howl. I bought their album, We Told You Not To Cross Us , and was treated with more of the same. But I never did find anything else by them, and learned they'd broken up without ever releasing their 2nd album. When I came across this 7" the other week, I picked it up thinking it would be cool to have one of my favorite songs on a 45, especially a song so deserving of crackles and pops. When I put it on, I was happy to find out it's a different version, and the b-side isn't on the CD I have.

When I was trying to get a little more info on them for this piece, I ran across a post about them on the fantastic Something I Learned Today blog. There you can find the album version of "Serve The Man" and a few other treats, plus a little more info. I also found out there are at least 2 other bands, both with websites and both apparently active, called The Revelators. Don't be fooled, they can't touch this one.


Glenernie Glenford

Friday, April 21, 2006

:: Tennessee Ernie Ford & Glen Campbell - For the Good Times ::

:: Tennessee Ernie Ford & Glen Campbell - There Goes My Everything ::

:: Tennessee Ernie Ford & Glen Campbell - I Really Don't Want to Know ::

There is something incredibly soothing about this album for me, and it came to the rescue today while sweating out a sickening hangover, so I figured it was a good time to share some of it. It was released in 1975, at the twilight of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s career (his 27-year relationship with Capitol ended the next year), and amidst one of Glen Campbell’s peaks (his Rhinestone Cowboy LP was released the same year). Both of them were Capitol Records’ biggest selling country artists at the time, so the pairing made sense. It consists of 10 country standards chiseled down to bare simplicity – Campbell’s acoustic guitar, Ford’s voice, and an upright bass played by Chuck Domonico. Ford’s baritone is as powerful as ever, yet wistful, and Campbell’s guitar work feels responsive to that wistfulness, filled with sensitivity and sympathy. There’s such a stirring rapport struck here, both musically and amongst the banter throughout the course of the record, that it leaves you wanting more when the last song comes to a close.


Obtuse Ingle

Thursday, April 20, 2006

:: Red Ingle And The Unnatural Seven - Serutan Yob (A Song for Backward Boys And Girls Under 40) ::

:: Red Ingle And The Unnatural Seven - Oh! Nick-O-Deemo ::

Growing up, some of my favorite songs from my Dad's record collection were by Spike Jones and Red Ingle. These records were great stuff for a little kid, because they were funny, and funny in a way that a kid could "get" without any sophistication, let alone life experience. Both acts spoofed music, but in Jones' case it was jazz, classical and the pop music of the day, but Ingle went straight for a seemingly easier target: Hillbilly music. The thing I didn't realize at the time was that Red Ingle was in Jones' band before he formed The Natural Seven, and in Spike Jones' band, Red was the star attraction.

The pride of Toledo, Ohio (or at least in the early part of the 20th century), Ernest Ingle was a child prodigy, playing violin at age 5, saxophone at age 13. In the '30s while playing in Ted Weems' band, vocalist Perry Como commented that Ingle was "one of the most talented men I'd ever met." But his talents went beyond playing instruments. He brought a vaudevillian aspect to each band he played in, his sense of humor being irrepressible.

So it was a perfect fit when, after a stint in the service during WWII, he joined Spike Jones & His City Slickers. By that time, Jones and his band were well established, but the addition of Ingle made them more popular then ever. Ingle introduced a new theatricality to the band's stage presentation, and his amazing vocal effects helped push songs like "Chloe" into mega-novelty-song-hit territory.

After about 3 years, Ingle had a pay dispute with Jones, and they parted ways. Ingle drifted about, sitting in with various bands, then he cut a spoof of the chestnut "Temptation", renaming it "Tim-Tayshun", and hit paydirt. The female vocalist on the tune was Jo Stafford, calling herself Cinderella G. Stump. Jo Stafford is a very interesting character to me. A big band singer, she delighted in using a nom de plume like "Cinderella G. Stump" and totally fucking with people's heads. Later on, she'd team with her husband, "easy listening" pioneer Paul Weston as "Jonathan & Darlene Edwards", with Weston screwing up on piano and Stafford amazingly singing just sharp of the note she was supposed to be hitting, which is not an easy thing to do. But anyway, I'll have to post some Jonathan & Darlene sometime. Oh shit, I'm rambling now. Tony's gonna kill me.

Anyway, the thing I like about Red Ingle and The Natural Seven is that they consistently stayed in Hillbilly mode. Ingle began most of the songs with a rhythmic salutation followed by a mouth fart, then the band kicked in. Sure, these are jazz musicians making fun of Hillbilly music, but I sense some love for the genre as well. I couldn't resist buying this 78 when I found it, knowing the only 78 in my Dad's collection was "Tim-Tayshun", so these two songs make a nice addition. And Cinderella sounds great on "Serutan Yob" ("Natures Boy").

Ingle slowly eased himself out of show biz until Spike Jones asked him to redo "Chloe" with him in the mid-60s. Both men died within months of each other in 1965 and the song never saw the light of day. Why do most of my articles end with the subject dying? Maybe I should do more recent material.



Malayan Flava

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

:: Saloma - Chiki Chiki Boom ::

:: Saloma - Lenggang Kangkong Baru ::

Raise your hand if you've heard of Malaya. Yeah, I hadn't either, before buying this record. Basically, it was a part of what is now all simply called Malaysia, and at one time included Singapore. Having a busy port like Singapore nearby no doubt helped bring in very Western cultural influences, like pop music and movies. You can hear these influences on this record.

Malaya, the album, is divided into two sides. The first side has songs performed by Malaya's most beloved actor and entertainer, P Ramlee (real name: Teuku Zakaria Teuku Nyak Puteh), a prolific artist who managed to make 66 movies (including the curiously titled Curse Of The Oily Man,) and win awards for many of them, before his untimely death from a heart attack in 1973, at age 44. Unfortunately, his singing doesn't really do much for me, and as much as I'd like to put up a song called "When Mama Wears Her Jeans," I'm going to stick with songs from side two.

Side two features the singing of P Ramlee's wife, Saloma (real name: Salmah Ismail). Chiki Chiki Boom is gondola rock, and sounds like it's from an Elvis movie, but Elvis movies never made it all the way to Malaya. Maybe Elvis moved there after faking his death. Lenggang Kangkong Baru is an ode to an edible plant. It's more traditional, and might be stuck in your head all day long.


Overhead Cam

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

:: Cameron Mitchell - Born of a Simple Woman ::

Cameron Mitchell was a TV and B-movie actor for about 50 years in a bunch of stuff you’ve probably never seen. At some point in 1973, he released this one-sided single, “Born of a Simple Woman.” The story behind it is that while on a flight from L.A. to Nashville for a charity benefit, he jotted down this magical and meandering story of Jesus. He recited it at the benefit and people were so touched that he then recorded it with the inspirational strains of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in the background, ‘cause, you know, Jesus mixes well with war. According to the back cover copy, “Pope Paul heard it three times…and each time with tears in his heart and eyes.”

For the most part, it’s a lot of dramatized rambling. Mitchell switches between the hip lingo of the day and archaic pronouns like, “thee” and “thine.” Try to stick around towards the end when he addresses the audience he was aiming for, which includes aliens: “And now we say to one and all, this to one and all we say, to all the armies, navies, governments, and spaceships far away, this simple man of love was never royalty, nor king, yet his truth goes marching on.” Feel that tug? It’s your heart, crying.


I Got The Blues So Bad, I'm A Smurf

Monday, April 17, 2006

:: Come Down ::

:: Trout ::

:: Honey Wine ::

I had never heard of Hamilton Camp until I bought this record and started researching him. And it's one of those things where I thought to myself, "where have I been all these years?". Not listening to enough 60s folk revival music I guess, and apparently not watching enough movies or TV either, when you consider Camp was an elite bit-part actor and a folk singer of some renowned. Starting out as a child actor in the film "Bedlam" with Boris Karloff at age 12, he went on to many character rolls in film and TV, and became particularly well known for his voice work in animated shows like The Smurfs (Greedy Smurf). He was also in Second City in his native Chicago, where in about 1960 he became a folk singer, teaming with Bob Gibson. Together they released one LP, "At The Gate of Horn" recorded live at the famous Chicago folk club (Mr. Camp was known as Bob Camp at that time, changing his name to the more distinctive Hamilton after the duo broke up).

Hamilton was soooo influenced by Dylan, by his own admission he emulated him to a tee. His first solo album, released in 1964 featured 7 Dylan compositions. Camp was no slouch of a songwriter however. His 1st solo outing featured "Pride of Man", which was later turned into a psychedelic anthem by Quicksilver Messenger Service.

On this album, released in 1969 Camp once again covers Dylan, as well as Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon, but nothing can compare with his take on Dylan crony Bob Neuwirth's "Trout" (or Lunatic's Quadrille), which in the liner notes, Camp himself does not know what to say about. Nor do I. I threw in a couple of his original compositions too, just so you can get to know that man himself just a bit.

His voice has an interesting quality. Not unpleasant, but you can kind of see why he went into doing cartoon voices too. Unfortunately, Hamilton died suddenly of heart failure just last October, at a time where he was very busy with movie roles, acting in Shakespeare stage productions and appearing at folk festivals. According to his website, he had also just completed work on a new album. I wonder how many Dylan songs are on it?

The Lesser Known Works Of Falkner

Friday, April 14, 2006

:: Kidz Without A Curfew ::

:: They're Coming To See Us ::

I first saw Jason Falkner with The Grays, at Slim's in San Francisco. They were opening for the suddenly-and-inexplicably-kinda-buff 80's former Haircut 100 front man, Nick Heyward. I came away more impressed by The Grays, a collection of talented songwriters whose ranks also included Jon Brion, who's since made a mark with his work on the soundtrack to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and his fantastic anything-goes shows at the club Largo in Los Angeles. (He plays there most Fridays, and I highly recommend it -- he's funny, plays just about anything, and you never know who might show up to play with him, though chances are favorable that it'll be Grant-Lee Phillips...)

Jason's a Southern California kid who's also played with The Three O'Clock (on their parting album Vermillion,) with Jellyfish (on Bellybutton,) Brendan Benson , Air, Eric Matthews, and many others. He's got a bit of the Rundgren in him, as he typically records at home, and plays all the instruments himself. He's got the pop chops, looks, and hooks to be a famous person, but for whatever reason he's never become one. Even though he's not famous, lots of famous people go see him live. I've seen David Cross, Adam Duritz, David Foley, Newman from Seinfeld, and Aimee Mann with her Romeo in black jeans, Michael Penn, all rocking out to him at various shows. I get the feeling he's loved the most here in LA, and maybe Japan, but if he comes to your town, go see him -- he really puts on a good show. He recently did some session work on Paul McCartney's newest material, on a few album tracks and a b-side. He should hopefully have a new album of his own out some time this year.

The three non-title tracks from the 1996 Miracle Medicine Sub Pop double 7", to my surprise, have apparently never appeared on CD, not even on the double CD Japanese odds n' sods comp Everyone Says It's On. I'm putting up both sides of the 2nd disc, one of which (Kidz Without A Curfew) is one of my favorite songs by him.


Pagan Babies

Thursday, April 13, 2006

:: Dreams ::

:: Clearing the Blur ::

:: Bitch ::

:: Little Brother ::

:: Friends ::

:: What Really Matters ::

:: Save Your Breath ::

:: Well-Oiled Redneck ::

Someone wrote us a little while back requesting Philadelphia’s Pagan Babies, so here we are. Being from my hometown, you’d think I’d have a little more info to share on these guys, but at the time of their existence I was in 8th grade. The only “scene” I was involved in was the one that had me and my buddies listening to records in my bedroom. So here are the basics: They had two releases, this 7-inch from 1987, Immaculate Conception, and a follow-up LP a year later on Hawker Records, Next. They also had a couple of songs on a regional compilation called Discpan Hands. I’ll probably put up some tracks from that comp. sometime soon. This EP came out on Positive Force Records, the same folks who put out some of the early 7 Seconds stuff.

Of the two releases, I dig this one more mostly because I like my vocals screamed and my production rough. The LP was a little slicker and the vocals were laid back to the point of talking - one of the tunes was even rapped. They recorded updated versions of a couple of the songs for the LP: “Save Your Breath” and the cover of Slaughter & the Dogs’, “The Bitch.” Oh, somewhere along the line, the cover to my copy got lost, so the scan is a photo from the lyric sheet.


Tales Of Weight Challenged Brass

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

:: Further Adventure of Tubby The Tuba, Part One ::

:: Further Adventure of Tubby The Tuba, Part Two ::

Once again, yet another case of tuba persecution. Tubas are fat. Tubas are slow. Tubas are relegated to only play "oompah, oompah", and if they can play a melody, they only have enough imagination to play one. But in the end, this particular tuba, named Tubby, learns to accept himself for who he is, and the orchestra in which he plays gets a new appreciation of Tubby's contributions.

Paul Tripp developed Tubby the Tuba as a way of entertaining and educating children through music. Going back to a time before rock & roll, when most parents preferred to expose their kids to orchestral music, Tubby made a great electronic babysitter. Broadway actor Ray Middleton did a wonderful job narrating, and inadvertently inspired Phil Hartman too.

Now if you're good for the rest of the day, I'll let you listen to it again before supper.


You're Pretty Fucking Loud, Palo Alto

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

:: Honky Tonk Women ::

:: It Don't Come Easy ::

:: All Right Now ::

Let me lead this off by saying that I may not have even picked this album up if not for Crud Crud's awesome post last year about another of their albums; though who knows -- I did pick up an entire LP of circus music at the same time I bought this. Like Bukowski, I'll pick up just about anything and take it home. Anyway, for some good information on this zany marching band, please read Scott's article.

But what of this album, then? Well, it's from 1972, a rather contentious time in Stanford history. The university had recently given in to pressure from groups seeking to get rid of all mentions, imagery and representations of the Indian as its athletic teams' mascot. One result of the change from Indians to Cardinal was the jettisoning of Timm Williams, a Native American who had performed ritual dances at Stanford events for twenty years as Prince Lightfoot. This album is dedicated to him.

The band covers a lot of musical territory, including three Grateful Dead songs, some Chicago, Edgar Winter, Lighthouse's Canadian horn-rock classic "One Fine Morning," and even a song from West Side Story. I chose the three songs that tickled my classic rock bone the most.



Monday, April 10, 2006

:: Antisect - Out from the Void, Side 1 ::

:: Antisect - Out from the Void, Side 2 ::

Antisect were responsible for one of my favorite LP’s of all time, 1983’s In Darkness, There is No Choice. Produced by Coal Bunker of Flux of Pink Indians, and put out on FPI’s label, Spider Leg Records, the LP encapsulates all the flavors of anarcho punk - animal rights, globalization, war, etc. Each song neatly segues into the next, wrapped up in powerfully dark, yet inspiring and poetic lyrics that challenge you to question concepts of authority, system control, and again, war. War is the overriding theme of the record – it’s filled with recurring bleak visions of nuclear annihilation - through its lyrics, album art, brutal sound, and the alienating sound samples spread throughout the vinyl. Would that these bleak visions were merely a sign of the times we were in twenty years ago, instead of our continuing to learn of the obscene plans of today’s madmen. In any event, Southern Records nicely reissued the LP on compact disc in 1998 and you can easily find a copy today.

What we have here is Antisect’s second and last studio release, a 7-inch EP put out in 1985, Out from the Void. The vocals are throatier and the music more metal than on the LP, and some credit this record (along with Amebix’s, Arise!) as the starting point for the crust-punk sound and genre. The songs are both untitled, and I’d say that they deal mainly with fear, and perhaps filling the void in one’s life with material things – the latter being something us record collectors would know nothing about. I’ve scanned the lyrics from the back cover, as it will no doubt be difficult to follow just what exactly is being sung. This EP has long been out of print, and goes for far too much money on ebay, so enjoy.



Friday, April 07, 2006

:: Bulldog ::

:: Nearly Sunrise ::

A couple of years ago, I bought an album by the Fireballs. The name of the band seemed slightly familiar to me, and the title of the album was a bit odd, and it was obviously a late '60s Atlantic release, so I picked it up. The album, "Come On, React!" turned out to be a little bit better than merely mediocre, so I filed it away, but not before I did a little research. Turns out this was the Fireballs' last ditch effort to get a hit just before they faded into obscurity for good.

The Fireballs go back to the late 50s, when 4 or 5 lads from Clovis, NM won a high school battle of the bands and attracted the attention of Norman Petty, who owned a recording studio in town. By that time Petty was world famous because of his association with Buddy Holly. The Balls took a lot of guff after Holly died for overdubbing instrumental tracks over demo recordings Holly never had a chance to finish himself. Of course they were only doing as they were told by Petty, but they took the blame anyway.

On their own, they rode the instrumental rock wave and had hits with "Bulldog" and "Torquay". Their sound was kinda surfy, not unlike the Ventures, but with a Tex-Mex twist. In '63 they added vocalist Jimmy Gilmer and had a huge hit with "Sugar Shack". But then the Beatles came along and pretty much killed their career until they made a comeback in the late 60s with "Bottle of Wine".

Cut to about a month ago, when the Robot crew ventured to Austin, TX for SXSW. While we were at it, we stopped in at Antone's Records to take care of a little Texas style Robot business, if you know what I mean. I was pretty engrossed with browsing activities (a fine, fine record store, by the way), but at some point I became aware that the music that had been playing in the store had been replaced by live music coming from the parking lot outside. I went to investigate, and found 3 old dudes, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer churning out competent versions of late '50s/early 60s style instrumental rock. Someone told me the guitarist used to be in the Fireballs, which didn't mean much to me at the time because "Come On, React!" didn't impress me much. Still, these guys weren't bad, and they seemed like the real thing. After a few tunes, they asked another old dude to join them. Once again, someone (I don't remember who now. There sure is a lot of beer in Austin) told me this guy was an L.A. session guitarist from in the 60s. This really old looking guy steps up, straps on a Strat and starts wailing. The best part was when he stepped on his distortion pedal, he would kind of squat and get this rock face going, and just rock the fuck out. We stayed for a couple of tunes, then we had to leave to get back to 6th Street to see some band or another and that was the end of that.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a crap load of singles from a guy at a street fair near my house. Amongst them was "Bulldog" and "Sugar Shack" by the Fireballs. I started doing a bit more research and found some current pictures of Fireballs guitarist George Tomsco, but the guy in these pictures was neither of the guitarists I saw outside of Antone's Records that day. I was confused, so I wrote to Antone's and asked them who those guys were playing outside the store that day, and I included some pictures I had taken. Turns out the first guitar picker is a guy named Mike Vernon (not the English Mike Vernon), a local Austin musician who fronts a band called 3 Balls of Fire, and who carries the torch of the Link Wrays and George Tomscos of the world of instrumental rock. The old guy with the rock face was Jerry Cole, indeed a legendary L.A. session man who, besides being an original member of the Champs, of "Tequila" fame, fronted his own band, The Spacemen, was a member of the Wrecking Crew, played guitar on The Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man", was the band leader on the Shindig TV show, and played with everyone from Sinatra to Roger Miller. George Tomsco of the Fireballs did play in Antone's parking lot that day, but it was after we left. Damn.

Funny how at the time it was like, "yeah, these old guys are pretty good", but when you learn a little back story, it becomes much more exciting and somehow, relevant. Oh well, next time I see those guys, I'll appreciate them more. If I live long enough.

We Really Do!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

:: New Hope - We Really Do! ::

When I first posted this piece this morning, it came only with the concise, contrite message: "I'm sorry." The more I thought about it, that was a little too easy, a little too absurdist, and also I was thinking of Mike and Phil's eyes lighting up at the prospect of having to only type two words and still have it be an article.
Screw that. <-- not an article

Well, it's pretty hard to write about this album. But this a good time to talk about how amusing a lot of religious records are to me. Most music is made because of an artist's need to create, whether they do it all and write it themselves, or their talent is mostly vocal or musical and they perform someone else's songs. They do it because they can't not do it. Or they want to meet chicks. Pretty much the only people who write music to get other people to do something are protest singers, folks who write commercial jingles (and those are going the way of the dodo), and religious artists. Now, the history of religion in music is a long and proud one, and I don't see anything that funny about most gospel music, traditional hymns, old country songs about finding the light, or even pop hits that just happen to be Christian music, but when you obviously set about making music to proselytize, and you try to lay your sales pitch over the template of sexier music like rock and roll, jazz or funk, then we are navigating humorous territory. Especially when the people making the music are hopelessly white bread.

I think a lot of Christian music, and this album certainly falls into this category, plays close cousin to the song poem. Song poems can't help but feel awkward because the person supplying the words either had a specific meter and type of music in mind when they penned them, or no clue about that stuff at all, and the musicians building the song around these words have their own ideas, with the near certainty that the two ideas are nowhere near each other. Sometimes the words don't fit in very well, sometimes the phrases are so ungainly that they end up just being spoken instead of sung, and sometimes it sounds as if the song poem person in charge spitefully sabotaged the song to help make his or her job less tedious. It's a wondrous trainwreck of the worlds of the wanna-be and the never-were's, and even though it's high cheese, it functions as an almost abstract form of art. I think when some Christians who happen to sing and play instruments get together and decide they are going to write songs about Jesus and the Bible, etc., and to try to use modern styles to make it more relatable, it's almost as incongruous a union as the song poem. The sentiment and intent are genuine, but the end result is usually very bad or very funny.

This song here goes from flaccid gospel-tinged 70's horn rock, to tentative jazz, to the inevitable attempt at disco/funk. The disco portion is actually the most interesting because it really sounds like two separate songs played at once -- the theme from S.W.A.T. and bad Manhattan Transfer style a capella work over it. Then it reverts into some Love Boat rock, and totters off into the light with the strains of a Supertrampesque guitar solo. It gets me every time, this stuff.


The Philadelphia Reds

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

:: The Reds - Victims ::

I grabbed this record recently out of a box of stuff my uncle was about to chuck in the trash when he was moving to a new place. I’d never heard of The Reds, but this record is pretty good. It’s their first LP, released on A&M in 1979, and it has the feel of the era that it was recorded in - its sound fitting somewhere between post punk and new wave. That between-ness might explain why they didn’t catch on and, after a follow-up EP with A&M, were dropped. They kept going, mainly as a studio outfit, and put out a few more independent albums over the years. Michael Mann took notice of them, using their music for episodes of Miami Vice and his films, Band of the Hand and Manhunter. And yeah, these guys are yet another band from Philadelphia that I’m putting up, and there will be more to come. But fear not, there shall be no Hall & Oates in our future.


The Singer Wore Satan Pajamas

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

:: Jimmy Dickens - Take an Old Cold 'Tater ::

:: Jimmy Dickens - I'm Little but I'm Loud ::

Before I heard this, I didn't know much about "Little" Jimmy Dickens other than his mid-60s crossover novelty hit, "May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose". I knew this song because it played on the radio station my parents listened to in the car (probably L.A. 60s adult contemporary giant KMPC AM), otherwise I wouldn't have heard it because I had absolutely no exposure to country music. My parents hated country music, and considered it to be music for uneducated clods. I seem to remember that my Dad actually liked that song though, probably because of the Johnny Carson-like salutation in the title, and maybe it reminded him of the faux-country stylings of Red Ingle and the Natural Seven, which perfectly fed into my Dad's skewed view of country folks.

So, not knowing much about Jimmy Dickens, I was horrified when I first played "Take an Old Cold 'Tater (And Wait)" because of it's seemingly auto-biographical subject matter. It seemed to me to be a very sad tale about how a boy grew to become a very "puny" man, and it is. But "Little" Jimmy is known as the king of the country novelty song, and had been for 20 years by the time he recorded "May The Bird...", which finally put him in the national spotlight. "Take an Old Cold 'Tater" was his theme song, and by the time this album came out in 1957, he'd been delighting audiences with it for a good 10 years or so (Hank Williams nick-named him "Tater"). The song was probably a good way to make audiences feel comfortable gazing upon his 4'10" frame. So, while the song is supposed to be "funny", it's really a tale of an undernourished kid.

Born in 1920, Jimmy had a hankerin' to sing and perform since he was really small. And despite his diminutive stature, he could really belt it out (as evidenced on "I'm Little But I'm Loud"). Roy Acuff caught his act in 1947, and brought him to the Grand Ole Opry and helped him secure a deal with Columbia Records.

One cannot sustain a career singing novelty songs about ones minuscule amplitude however, so please do not assume that was the only thing Dickens sang about. He was one heck of a ballad singer as well. While at the Opry, he assembled a band, the Country Boys, that was considered one of the best in the business, and along with his flamboyant style of dress (check out that devilish shirt on the cover of "Raisin' The Dickens"!), Tater and the Boys put on one heck of a show.

So, even though the poor guy was dealt a lousy hand from a short deck, feel not too damn sorry for Little Jimmy. He remained a popular stage attraction and continued to record and sell records well into the '70s. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983, and he's still alive and kickin' to this day.



Monday, April 03, 2006

:: Hold ::

:: Disappear ::

:: The People ::

Mike actually picked up this album first, thinking it might have been a Jandek album. Judging from the cover, who could blame him? When he put the record on one night after band practice, I was mesmerized. I kept muttering about how I had to get this record, like a crazy person. Or a very drunk person. And a few days and internet searches later, I located a copy. I have a feeling many people will find this to be boring, but for me it strikes chords, and reminds of the moody music of Bibio, and the whispery lo-fi of Black Moth Super Rainbow predecessor Satanstompingcaterpillars. Some music just hits me right in my melancholy spot, and already sounds familiar to me somehow. This self-titled, home-recorded album from 1994 by a guy named Lou does just that. It's full of crackles, unscreened "p" sounds on the mic and room noises, and you can often hear the record button being pushed. You don't always want that on an album, but here it seems perfect, like you're eavesdropping on Lou as he records it. Evidently, Farewood is now, or at some point became, a full band. But this is probably all I'll ever need.