Friday, September 23, 2022

Songs That NRBQ Taught Us

The first NRBQ single was a statement of purpose: Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody" with Sun Ra's "Rocket Number 9" on the flipside. Call them eclectic or catholic: the Q have always believed that great grooves can be found in any genre or era. 

Their catalog of studio and live albums contains a wide range of cover songs that date all the way back to 1907.  NRBQ plays blues, country, doo-wop, jazz, R&B, rockabilly, children's music and song poems -- often in the same set. They are the CBGB-OMFUG of bands.

Terry Adams has kept the music going for over 50 years. Omnivore Recordings released a new NRBQ album (Dragnet) in 2021, as well as the 5 disc career overview High Noon and reissues of NRBQ's 1969 debut and 1977's All Hopped Up.

Today we have the first of three sets of NRBQ's Jukebox. This one includes many of the pianists who influenced Terry: Fats Waller, Fats Domino, Charles Brown, Floyd Dixon, Piano Red, Tiny Bradshaw, Little Richard, Big Joe Turner, and Sun Ra. 

Two more volumes of NRBQ's Jukebox will follow, once I find the polka song "Daddy-O".  Grooves In Orbit credits it to "Santos". Is it a norteño? A Daniel Santos composition with new lyrics?  If you can tell me where the Q got "Daddy-O", I've got apples and peaches for you!

Friday, September 2, 2022

Comeback Special: 2005-2006

Several artists made surprising comebacks in 2005. Alex Chilton finally agreed to make a new Big Star album after a dozen years of playing shows on and off with  Jody Stephens, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow.  Van der Graaf Generator powered up after two decades of inactivity, and gave their fans a Present. (VdGG is still active, playing concerts as recently as May, 2022.)  

Interest in Vashti Bunyan's music was rekindled around the turn of the century by a new generation of fans and folkies.  Encouraged by this recognition, Vashti made Lookaftering, her first album since 1970.  Kate Bush returned to her studio after a twelve year hiatus, and made up for her long absence with a double album, Aerial.

Dramarama reunited on VH1 and made a new record. Guy Chadwick and Terry Bickers put The House Of Love back together.  The Bats (one of New Zealand's great Flying Nun bands) released At The National Grid after a decade of silence. Three of the founding members of MX-80 (aka MX-80 Sound) made the weird and wonderful We're An American Band (and yes, they covered Grand Funk).

2006 was also full of surprises: The Who, The New York DollsThe Slits, and Radio Birdman reunited. The press, tours and documentary films surrounding those reunions overshadowed worthy comebacks by The Radiators From Space, The Shirts, The Nightingales24-7 Spyz, and The Toms.  

Lee Hazlewood released a final album (Cake Or Death) that was equally poignant and irreverent.  Billy Idol also returned. His video for "Plastic Jesus" is worth watching once (Christ Himself nails the guitar solo).  Billy followed it with a holiday album -- now that's what I call idolatry!  Not included in this compilation: 2006 comebacks by Cat Stevens and Bob Seger.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

To Helldorado and Back with Colin Winski

Stinky sezAny rockabilly fan that isn’t acquainted with Colin Winski’s music is living like a tick on a leaf.  Drop down and drink deep, cats!

Colin Winski was an Elvis-obsessed teenager when he met Rollin’ Rock fanzine publisher Rockin’ Ronny Weiser at an Elvis concert in 1970.  Weiser decided to expand his enterprise to include a record label.  Winski & Weiser tracked down cult-rockabilly artist Ray Campi teaching high school in Los Angeles—where The Runaways’ Cherie Currie was one of his students—and convinced Campi to record for Rollin’ Rock Records.

With rhythm guitarist/singer Winski’s teenage friend Jerry Sikorski on guitar, they joined the original line up of Ray Campi & His Rockabilly Rebels and recorded the band’s first album Born To Rock in 1977 (the same year fellow rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon released his first long-player).  In addition to playing the LA clubs (McCabe’s, The Palomino), the band were treated like royalty in the UK, where they opened for The Clash and The Cramps.

By their second album, the band also included Jimmie Lee Maslon and Rip Masters.  Over the years, Jackie Lee Cochran, Ronnie Mack, a pre-X Billy Zoom, and shit-hot guitarist/record producer Richard Bennett passed through the ranks of Campi's Rockabilly Rebels.

Winski and Sikorski left The Rockabilly Rebels after Campi nixed having Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe produce the band’s third LP.  Winski and Sikorski formed The Rebels, who opened for The Clash and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.  

In 1980 (a year before The Stray Cats’ first LP) Winski released his solo album Rock Therapy on the Chrysalis label—which unfortunately didn’t sell.  Winski moved to Arizona and worked a collection of odd jobs ranging from ditch-digger to security guard.  In 1993 the U.K.’s Fury label released Helldorado, which saw Colin backed by his incredible Helldorado Band.  

It was clear Winski learned a lot in the thirteen years between releases.  While he always drew on an impressive assortment of growls, grunts, hiccups, and breathy “a-huhs” that he propelled past his curled upper lip—by the second album he’s the living embodiment of a rockabilly cat.  Colin wrote or co-wrote five songs on the album—including Cool Love, which tells the tale of a man whose girlfriend has crossed over to the ethereal plane—but still returns nightly to satisfy his earthly needs.  The song, and the album, are under appreciated classics.

Rockin’ Ronny Weiser also tracked down, befriended, and recorded rockabilly legend Gene Vincent during Vincent’s decline into alcoholism after having his best friend, Eddie Cochran, die in his arms after a traffic accident.  According to legend, the squeaky sound effect on the final track of The Best of Colin Winski (Dig Them Squeaky Shoes) was made by manipulating Gene Vincent’s leather jacket—which Gene had given to Ronny Weiser on his deathbed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Steppingstones


Have you seen the awful video where a drunken John Lydon monopolizes a press conference for the documentary series Punk, and finally Marky Ramone (Marc Bell) has had enough and reminds Lydon that punk started in NYC, and that the Pistols did "Stepping Stone"?

Lydon had claimed that the Pistols didn't do any cover songs.  But in the earliest days (when Glen Matlock was in the band), they routinely performed "Don't Gimme No Lip Child" by Dave Berry (the b-side of his 1964 "Crying Game" single). 

The final song of the last Pistols' concert in SF was a cover ("No Fun").  The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle soundtrack included songs that the Pistols rehearsed back in '76 ("Stepping Stone", "Substitute", "Whatcha Gonna Do About It" etc.)   

Shawn Kerri rules.
The point that Marc was trying to make was that songs like "7 And 7 Is", "Talk Talk", and "You Really Got Me" were "the precursor to all this (punk) stuff".

Steppingstones is a compilation of garage rock songs covered by UK punks and pub rockers.  I skipped all the VU and Stooges covers; in 1977, punk bands were apparently required to do at least one of each.

There are two sets: the first Steppingstones contains the 29 original songs (recorded between 1964 and 1969), and the other includes the punk and pub rock versions of the same 29 songs (recorded between 1976 and 1980).  

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Plants and Byrds and Rock and Things

Don McLean promised to reveal the meaning behind "American Pie" in a recent documentary. He says that he wasn't making references to Elvis or Dylan. The Byrds, The Big Bopper, Richie Valens and Buddy Holly are definitely in there.

Name-dropping abounds in Stinky's third volume of "Keep My Name Outcha Mouth" (see volumes 1 and 2 here). Other songs are mentioned in these songs. There's Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Good Golly Miss Molly, Long Tall Sally, Blue Suede Shoes, Crazy Arms, I Walk The Line, Lonely Avenue, Hello Mary Lou, A Boy Named Sue, Yummy Yummy Yummy, Mack the Knife, Honky Tonk Women, She Belongs To Me, and Valleri. 

Among the real and mythical figures mentioned in this set of songs are Elvis, Dylan, The Byrds, JFKBrian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Ravi Shankar, Hugh Masakela, Herb Alpert, Aretha Franklin, Phil Spector, Frank Sinatra, Steve & Eydie, Ike & Tina, Boyce & Hart, Bonnie & Clyde, Bo Diddley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Burton, Doc Pomus, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Monkees, The Who, CCR, Yoko, Lulu, Liberace, Lemmy, Prince, Bowie, Hitler, Houdini, Davy Crockett, Billy Jack, Sigmund Freud, Hermann Hesse, Damon Runyon, Jack Benny, John Travolta, Timothy Leary, and a horse with no name. 

Places mentioned include Memphis, Gatlinburg, Madison Square Garden, Belsen, Dusseldorf, Burbank's Pickwood Bowl, and Ferriday, Louisiana.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Na Na Na, Sha La La

 

Stinky brings us a pair of mixes that go together: one with songs featuring the phrase "na na na" and another with "sha la la" songs. 

Don't underestimate the appeal of "na na na" in popular music! The J. Geils Band had a #1 hit called "Centerfold" with a catchy "na na na" intro, and "na na na" was the chorus of Blink 182's #1 hit "All The Small Things". Journey's first Top 40 hit might include the most na na na's of all. 

Joe South was a believer in the power of "na na na": he wrote "Games People Play" and covered Billy Joe Royal's song "Hush".

Of course, you've gotta include "Hey Jude" and "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)" if you're making a compilation of "na na na" songs (and Stinky acknowledges that it may have been done before).

"Sha La La" is another vocal phrase with a rich musical history. There's "Sha-La-La" by The Shirelles, "Sha La La" by Thin Lizzy, and "Howling At The Moon (Sha-La-La)" by The Ramones. I like the way Stinky includes lesser known versions of some familiar songs. 

I lobbied for "B.Y.O.B." by The Fleshtones -- maybe it will make the cut if there's a Volume 2 of Sha La LaI also suggested "Street Waves" by Pere Ubu, but it turns out that David Thomas isn't singing "na na na" in the chorus, and Stinky isn't an Ubu fan. Who knew? Indeed, who knows what Stinky will put his mind to next -- maybe Tra La La, Ooh La La, or Shoo Be Doo?

Monday, July 18, 2022

Alex Chilton's Jukebox #3

In 1977, Alex moved from Memphis to NYC, where his backing band The Cossacks included Chris Stamey.  Alex brought The Cramps to Memphis and produced their first singles and LP.  

Jim Dickinson had worked with Alex on Sister Lovers, and Dickinson helped Alex make Like Flies On Sherbert in a raw and unrehearsed style that was a big change from Big Star.  A batch of songs that Alex recorded with Peter Holsapple (while making Sherbert) were recently released as The Death Of Rock.

Sherbert was released on Sid Selvidge's label, Peabody Records.  Alex and Tav Falco were inspired to form The Panther Burns by The Cramps and Mud Boy And The Neutrons (a Memphis group led by Selvidge and Dickinson).

In 1982, Alex left Memphis again and moved to New Orleans, where he met bassist René Coman. Alex began another phase in his musical career, less anarchic and more "cool" in his playing and singing (like Chet Baker). He performed and recorded New Orleans and Memphis soul and blues, backed by Coman and drummer Doug Garrison (who had played in a jazz band with Alex's father). Garrison backed Alex from 1985 (Feudalist Tarts) through 1995 (A Man Called Destruction).

Alex enjoyed bawdy songs like Take It Off, Thank You John, Tip On In and What's Your Sign, Girl? His laconic delivery of the lyrics made these songs popular with a college radio audience. He stimulated interest in artists like Slim Harpo and Cordell Jackson among young people who had just discovered Big Star.

The Replacements (another band that reveled in musical anarchy and unexpected cover songs) recorded 1987's Pleased To Meet Me in Memphis with Alex and Jim Dickinson, and the Mats album included their song Alex Chilton. Alex received a financial boost when The Bangles recorded September Gurls (1986), and got another in 1998 when Ben Vaughn arranged for In The Street to become a TV theme song.  

In 1993, Alex and Jody Stephens reformed Big Star as a touring band with Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of the Posies. Alex also performed with The Box Tops on package tours. Alex, Ben Vaughn, and Alan Vega released the improvisational Cubist Blues album in 1996. Alex recorded Tear Off! with the Box Tops (1998), and Big Star's studio album In Space was released in 2005.

Alex Chilton's last solo album was 1999's Loose Shoes (aka Set). Alex "produced and directed" the LP, which was recorded in NYC and completed at Ardent Studio in Memphis.  His song choices spanned many of his influences (jazz, blues, soul, gospel, country and more), and his performances reflected both his serious side and his sense of humor.  You can also hear Alex's many interests in this final volume of Alex Chilton's Jukebox.

BREAKING NEWS: Tav Falco and the Panther Burns will embark upon a US tour next month! Dates and deets here!