Archive for July, 2009

Sampler Daze: A Bunch Of Stiff Records

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , on July 31, 2009 by 30daysout

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Back in the days of dinosaurs and vinyl LPs, record labels used to put out “samplers,” full albums with a track each from their top artists and usually budget priced.  In 1976, the pioneering punk/New Wave label Stiff Records came on to the scene and they put out an 11-song sampler LP in early 1977 to promote the first artists they signed.

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Elvis Costello

A Bunch of Stiff Records now sounds prescient, because the Stiff roster included Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Wreckless Eric, Graham Parker, the Tyla Gang and this guy named Elvis Costello – who would all become the most influential U.K. rockers of the era.  Perhaps the most ear-catching track on the album, Elvis’ “Less Than Zero” was one of three songs on the LP that had been issued as singles.  This version is slightly different than the track that appears on My Aim Is True.

Stiff also had, for some reason, Motörhead – the heavy metal rockers were formed in 1975 by Lemmy Kilmister, formerly a roadie for Jimi Hendrix.  Like a few of the early Stiff Records artists, they were under contract to United Artists when they cut sides for Stiff so there was a bit of a legal tangle that prevented some of this music, like the single “White Line Fever”, from seeing the light of day until years later.

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The 45 Turns 60!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on July 28, 2009 by 30daysout

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My kids have never known the pleasure of getting music from a 45-rpm single.  When many of us were young, we usually heard music two ways: on the radio or off a 7-inch vinyl record.  That was the 45: the gateway drug to long-playing albums (LPs).  People gave me 45s by the bushelful when I was a kid but the very first single I ever bought was in 1967: “Good Vibrations,” by the Beach Boys.  With its beautiful (then; today, nauseating) colorful swirl, it was the ultimate summer song.  And I played it until the grooves would no longer give music, only raunchy, scratchy static.

The 45-rpm record was born in 1949, created by RCA Victor as competition for the long-playing album that Columbia Records invented.  “Texarkana Baby,” by Eddy Arnold, was the first 45 and god knows what was the last.  Actually they still put ’em out although mostly as novelty items; check your friendly neighborhood record store – don’t tell me you don’t know what those are.

Perhaps the most valuable 45 is Elvis Presley’s first single sun223on Sun Records, “That’s All Right,” from 1954.  I would think the least valuable 45 single collectible is that goddamned “I Think I Love You” Partridge Family picture sleeve record – I have one too, we ALL have one!

Rhino Records is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 45 by making a bunch of tracks available (through iTunes) with their original cover art and b-sides.  (For you kiddies, you flip a single over and there’s another song, called a b-side.)  Among the 30 selections available are “Love Shack” by the B-52s, “Bang A Gong” by T. Rex, and 1960s classics from Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, the Monkees and Iron Butterfly.  You get the song and the b-side for $1.49, which is about twice what I paid for my “Good Vibrations” single, but whatever.

The 45 is a piece of pop culture history that’s gone for good.  Already dead for a couple of generations now, it’s one of those things that you can’t help but get kind of nostalgic about.  At least until you realize that now you sound like your grandpa.

Rhino Records Digital 45 website (see a complete list)

MP3: “Good Vibrations” (45 single version) by the Beach Boys

Motown 50th anniversary: The 1970s Supremes

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2009 by 30daysout
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Still Supreme, 1970: From left, Cindy Birdsong, Mary Wilson, Jean Terrell

Reader Steve Weaver pointed out last week that the 1970’s era Supremes – after Diana Ross’ departure – are often unfairly ignored.  And he’s right: although the Supremes had an evolving lineup between 1970 and 1977, the group still managed to put out quality music and even get to the upper reaches of the pop charts.

Even as the Supremes’ final No. 1 single, “Someday We’ll Be Together,” echoed on the nation’s radios, Diana Ross stepped aside and was replaced most ably by Jean Terrell.  Where Ross had a good “pop” voice, Terrell was more appropriately a soul belter – listen to her vocal on the “River Deep, Mountain High” team-up with the Four Tops (1970) and you can see where Terrell’s rougher approach may have been more fitting for the direction that soul music, and popular music in general, was moving in those days.

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The Body Divine

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27, 2009 by 30daysout

Thank god there is now a way to “stop the stink.”  And it’s made in the USA!!!

Bad Career Moves, Part 4

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , on July 26, 2009 by 30daysout
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Ashlee Simpson made an ass of herself on "Saturday Night Live"

This is just too painful.  Remember Ashlee Simpson trying to lip-synch a song on “Saturday Night Live”?  In 2004 she appeared as a musical guest and performed one song without incident but during her second spot the pre-recorded vocals for the first song came over the PA while her band kept playing.  Caught red-handed, Simpson did an idiotic jig then ran off the stage.  Ass.

Milli Vanilli.  These guys took lip-synching beyond Ashlee Simpson … not only did they lip-synch every song they ever did – somebody else actually did the singing.  Fab and Rob also got caught red-handed on MTV but a little investigation found they never sang on any of their records.  Ass.  And, ass.  Milli Vanilli broke up when Rob died in 1998.

YouTube: Milli Vanilli not singing “Blame It On The Rain”

The Beach Boys were pretty great most of the time, and they sucked pretty much whenever they let Mike Love run the show.  But one of their worst WTF? moments came during the disco era, in 1979, and it wasn’t Mike’s fault.   Not to be outdone by K.C. and the Sunshine Band, the Beach Boys put out a discofied version of a Brian Wilson/Mike Love song “Here Comes The Night,” which originally appeared on 1967’s Wild Honey.  The album version of this momma clocks in at 10 minutes and 51 seconds – even longer than the 12-incher!  And you can’t blame Mike Love: this disco disaster was masterminded and produced by Bruce Johnston.

MP3: “Here Comes The Night” (12-inch version) by the Beach Boys

Bob Dylan has had his share of nightmares and misfires.  Remember Self Portrait?  He later tried to pass that one off as a joke, and it’s probably as close as we came to getting a joke from Dylan in the 1970s.  But along came 1990, and Under The Red Sky.  When it came out the album had listeners scratching their heads at titles like “Wiggle Wiggle” and “Handy Dandy.”  Shortly after its release even Dylan ragged the album, blaming his half-assed recording technique – it didn’t work for Paul McCartney, either.  Although Under The Red Sky had a lot of guests, including George Harrison, Slash, Elton John, Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Al Kooper and others, it didn’t sell very well and Bob’s wife divorced him.

MP3: “Wiggle Wiggle” by Bob Dylan

The all-time bad career move was made by Billy Squier.  You know it’s coming … “Rock Me Tonite.”  What in hell was he thinking?  Or snorting?

Bad Career Moves, Part 3

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , on July 25, 2009 by 30daysout
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Stephen Stills - No booty today!

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were huge stars and gods of the counterculture in the late 1960s, but what many have forgotten (or didn’t know) is that CSNY was also a so-called “supergroup.”  Graham Nash was in the second-wave British invasion band the Hollies, and David Crosby spent a few years in the original Byrds.  Stephen Stills and Neil Young were the twin towers of Buffalo Springfield, probably the finest American rock band ever.

For some reason, Nash was always considered the weak link in the group – although he wound up writing and singing most of CSNY’s hits (“Teach Your Children,” “Wasted On The Way,” “Our House”).  Crosby always kind of a loudmouth and his songs had no melody and made no sense.  Stills and Young were the guitarists, and they gave this group its rock and roll kick.

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Bad Career Moves, Part 2

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , on July 24, 2009 by 30daysout

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In the years following the Beatles’ breakup, the only member of the Fab Four to start a real group of his own was Paul McCartney.  Wings, which included former Moody Blues member Denny Laine and Paul’s wife Linda, had its moments but more often the music was distressingly bad – especially for someone who just a few years before wrote and sang some of rock’s greatest songs.

Wild Life, the 1971 album that introduced Wings, was the worst.  To be fair, McCartney was still struggling to get a handle on his post-Beatles career, and Wild Life did have a few decent songs.   McCartney admired Bob Dylan’s organic, simple recording style and tried to emulate that but he forgot one thing – the songs.  “Mumbo” and “Bip Bop” sound unfinished – the former was made up on the spot – and the synthesized cover of Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” was kind of, well, strange.

Of course, McCartney and Wings would rebound spectacularly in 1973 with the title song from the James Bond movie Live And Let Die, and later that year, Band On The Run.  McCartney would again flirt with total suck-osity in the 1980s (Give My Regard To Broad Street, a movie and a record with remakes of Beatles songs) and the 1990s (Off The Ground), but by that time nobody cared any more.

Sir Paul is now something of a beloved entertainer, made even more so by his announcement last year that he’s retiring from live performances (after this tour) and the fact that his old Beatles fans are getting older.  McCartney is that rare entertainer who has given us so much to love, and so much to hate.

MP3: “Bip Bop”

MP3: “Mumbo”

Paul McCartney official website

Tomorrow: It was all downhill after Woodstock …