Category Archives: Music Nerdery

You Can Turn It Up Any Time Now

This has been sitting in my draft folder for days and it’s time to let it go.  It’s not perfect but I think it says what I need it to say.

Summer afternoon 1993 – I’m 19 years old and I’m riding a bus home with my first real girlfriend. We had just gone to a used record store where I bought a vinyl copy of The Replacement’s Pleased to Meet Me for $4.99.  After the bus dropped us off and I walked her almost all of the way home (she didn’t like her walking me all the way because her mother might see me) I went home to play IOU, Alex Chilton and the rest of the album* as loud as I could before anyone got home.

*I played the whole album that day but after a few listens I would skip Nightclub Jitters. Which brings up a related thought: I love The Replacements like they are family they are probably my favorite band ever but on every album there’s one song I usually skip. By album they are: Sorry Ma- Otto, Stink- Go, Hootenanny- Hootenanny, Let it Be – Answering Machine, Tim – Dose of Thunder, Pleased to Meet Me – Nightclub Jitters, Don’t Tell a Soul – We’ll Inherit the Earth, All Shook Down – Problem.  Still, one skipped song per record is a pretty decent run.

the_replacements_pleased_to_meet_meI like Pleased to Meet Me a lot but it’s probably my 5th favorite Replacements album.  That said, I’ve probably listened to it more than any other Replacements record because it has a way of appearing at important times in my life.  For example:

  • When I moved out of the house I brought my records with me (of course). I’d like to say that the first thing I did after getting unpacked was play Pleased to Meet me but that would be a lie, the first thing I did was get my phone line connected and call one of the numbers advertised in the back of Swank Magazine (don’t judge me, I was 20 years old and finally had my own phone line, what would you have done?). The second thing I did was cue up side two of Pleased to Meet Me. In retrospect hearing Nevermind was a better and less expensive way to spend three minutes.
  • A few years later I was dating someone and we had some sort of stupid argument that ended with me driving away angry.  Prior to the argument my girlfriend had borrowed my car and left Pleased to Meet Me  in the cassette player.  When that tape got to Valentine (second song on side 2) I turned the car around and apologized before she could cut me out of all of our photos (she sometimes did that when she got mad at me)
  • In 1999 I paid about $5 to ship Pleased To Meet Me and some other records from Long Island to Los Angeles.  Several months after I moved I found myself back home, across the street from where that record store stood doing something I thought would change my life forever but only changed it temporarily.  When I finally sat down to tell that story I referenced the only man with a song named after him on Pleased To Meet Me (that story can be found here but anyone who has read my blog more than once knows it already.)
  • A few years after that, a particularly bad summer ends with me locking myself in the house and playing Pleased to Meet at least three times a week for the rest of the year.

4360927(Not the record player I talk about below)

A few days ago I was reconnecting an old record player and I wanted to hear how it sounded after being in storage.  I blindly reached into a crate of records and pulled out Pleased To Meet Me.  It’s the same copy I took home on the bus in 1993.  The turntable hummed as it warmed up, the needle lowered to touch the record and the speakers came to life.  It occurred to me halfway through Alex Chilton that this copy of Pleased to Meet Me is the last tangible artifact of my teenage daydreams; the last record I bought and first played at my father’s house (at least the last one I still have today).  I should probably replace it with a CD copy or at least a less worn vinyl copy but I probably won’t  because the sound of this beat up record takes me somewhere I can’t get any other way.

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Knockout Rock Parts 1-3

Yesterday, Jim from Media Loper and other fine publications was making a list of songs he has never tired of. While I can probably list 50 songs I expect to enjoy for the rest of my life  I was already thinking of another list at the time: Songs that made me stop everything so I could listen and then run out to buy the record.

Have you ever been in a bar, at a record store, on a date or in a car and suddenly a song comes on that you have never heard before?  Then, in the split second before you can tune it out or change the station the song catches you just right and you have to stop everything to take it all in?  When the song is ens there are only one thing on your mind: How do I make that song a part of my life?

These moments of surprise discoveries are always thrilling and it’s happened to me many times.  Here are the three examples I can recall of songs that came out of nowhere to knock me over.

The Fall – Kurious Orange – I’ve always liked The Fall more in theory than in practice but this song delivers on all of Mark E. Smith’s promises.  I first heard this while driving my old VW Jetta on Santa Monica Blvd while listening to KXLU.  Before the song ended I had made the right onto Highland and pulled into the tiny parking lot at Aron’s Records.  As soon as the DJ back listed the songs I got out of the car to buy it.

The Swell Maps – Spitfire Parade – This is one of those songs where I wondered how I lived my life without it.  I’m not sure where the Swell Maps had been hiding to that point but when I heard this song I felt like a missing piece of my brain had been found.

The Halo Benders – Virginia Reel Around the Fountain - I had already heard the (relatively) stripped down version of this song by Built To Spill but I didn’t know that Doug from Built to Spill also recorded it with Calvin Johnson on the last Halo Benders record until a year later.   This is the only time I’ve been knocked out by a song I already knew.

More on this topic another day.  I hope you hear something that knocks you out soon, maybe one of these songs will do it for you.

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Lux Interior – RIP

UPDATED:  It’s official – Lux Interior has passed away.  Details at The Daily Swarm.

This hasn’t been officially confirmed by the band but according to Daily Swarm, Lux Interior  of The Cramps has passed away.

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Here is the official press release:

Lux Interior, lead singer of The Cramps, passed away this morning due to an existing heart condition at Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale, California at 4:30 AM PST today. Lux has been an inspiration and influence to millions of artists and fans around the world. He and wife Poison Ivy’s contributions with The Cramps have had an immeasurable impact on modern music.

The Cramps emerged from the original New York punk scene of CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, with a singular sound and iconography. Their distinct take on rockabilly and surf along with their midnight movie imagery reminded us all just how exciting, dangerous, vital and sexy rock and roll should be and has spawned entire subcultures. Lux was a fearless frontman who transformed every stage he stepped on into a place of passion, abandon, and true freedom. He is a rare icon who will be missed dearly.

The family requests that you respect their privacy during this difficult time.

I was lucky enough to see Lux, Ivy and the band live several times and they always, always killed.

Go out and buy a Cramps record today, you’ll never regret it.

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Replacing The Icons

Recently, the esteemed and highly entertaining Joe Posnanski was trying to determine the most iconic songs of the rock era.  Along with a team of writers and blog readers he came up with a final list* of iconic songs. I’ve got a comment about the list but first go see the final list complete with Joe’s commentary and the follow up post here.

* Some writers like ESPN’s Keith Law  have made their list public.

Overall I can’t argue with the list, all of the songs are certainly iconic.  The list contains nothing but outstanding songs but now that the list of iconic songs has been established I’d like to propose something:

Let’s take every song on the list and place it in a vault for one year where no one can listen to them.

It’s not that I don’t like the songs, take another look at the list:

Alive, American Pie, Another Brick in the Wall, Bohemian Rhapsody, Born to be Wild, Born to Run, Bridge Over Troubled Water, (Gnarls Barkley), Crazy, Crazy (Patsy Cline), Georgia On My Mind, God Save the Queen, Good Vibrations, Fight the Power, Fortunate Son, Freebird, Friends in Low Places, Hey Ya, Hotel California, Hound Dog, I Feel Good, I Love Rock and RollI Walk The Line, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Imagine, Johnny B. Goode, Layla, Like a Rolling Stone, Like a VirginLondon Calling, Louie Louie, Mack the Knife, Melt With You, My Generation, My Way, Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang, Oh Pretty Woman, Peggy Sue, Purple Haze, Purple Rain, Rapper’s Delight, Redemption Song, Respect, Rock Around The Clock, Satisfaction, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Stairway to Heaven, Staying Alive, Sunday Bloody Sunday Thriller, Welcome to the Jungle, The Weight, Y.M.C.A.

Those songs are great but I’ve heard them all many, many (and in some cases MANY) times before.  I could sing every song on this list without having to look up the words.   It’s not that I never want to hear them again, I just don’t NEED to hear them anymore.  I can play them in my head from memory.

I think we could all benefit from putting these songs away and hearing some different voices; songs and artists that while not iconic today could become iconic  if given a chance.   Here are five of my choices to replace songs on the icon list, some are well know and some are not but they are all worth checking out. I’m not saying they are better than all of the songs listed above.  I’m just saying that if you removed any of the five songs above with the ones I’m about to name I would be okay with it.  I can name about 200 more but these will do for now.  Feel free to suggest some alternate icons in the comments.

Townes Van Zandt – Pancho and Lefty: Not the best Townes van Zandt song (that’s To Live is To Fly) but the best story he ever told, that makes it icon worthy.

Greg Cartwright -Live The Life: Greg Carwright originally recorded this traditional gospel song song as a member of The Compulsive Gamblers then again with The Oblivians, here he is  playing a quieter acoustic version.

FYI – This version was recorded at Goner Records which I mentioned yesterday in reference to a very good cause.

The Replacements – Bastards of Young: Over the past few years I’ve listened to the Replacements less but this makes my list no matter what.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - The Ballad of the Sin Eater: The iconic version appears on the Hearts of Oak record but here is a live version from a solo Ted Leo show that captures the feeling of it very well.

Toots & The Maytals – Pressure Drop: Far superior to the version the Clash later recorded (and I love The Clash).

Note: If you’re wondering:  Am I just trying to call attention to some of my favorite songs?  Yes, of course I am but for a good reason.  While my choices may never become iconic rock anthems they derserve to be heard by a wider audience and it’s hard to for these voices to be heard when the airwaves are  filled with the same old songs.  I would love to see everyone retire some of the classic rock standards, just for a little while, and try something else.

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Stooges Guitarist Ron Asheton Passes Away

Sad News from Ann Arbor Michigan today, Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton has passed away at age 60.  More info from Radio Exile here.

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(The reunited Stooges L-R Mike Watt, Iggy, Ron Ashton, Scott Ashton)

Ron Asheton won’t go down in history as the best guitar player ever but he may be one of the most influential.  Ashton’s raw, feedback drenched guitar sound on the first two Stooges records helped create the template for what later became punk rock.  As some of you know The Stooges 1970 album Funhouse is one of my favorite records ever.  I wrote something about it for another site, the fabulous Aquarium Drunkard, a while back that went like this:

Calling From The Funhouse

By 1970 Los Angeles was holding a wake for the hippie era, it had been found wounded on the side of the freeway, bleeding from a knife wound to the heart delivered by the Manson Family. All of the incense and sitar music in the city couldn’t nurse peace and love back to health, it was over. While the kids in LA mourned, five guys who called themselves The Stooges arrived from Ann Arbor Michigan, not to praise the time gone by, but to bury it. The funeral had been crashed.

Over the course of a week of summer nights the original Stooges lineup, Iggy, Ron and Scott Asheton and Dave Alexander were joined by hometown pal Steve McKay on saxophone to record what would become Fun House the second and last real Stooges album (Raw Power is a good record but not a Stooges record).

The purpose of the sessions was to capture the intensity and spirit of a live Stooges show on record. Producer Don Gallucci (who by the way played keyboards on the Kingsmen’s Louie, Louie) instructed the band to just show up once it got dark out and just play. All tracks were recorded live in studio with no overdubs or tricks until they came up with the seven songs that wound up on the album. What the band created over a handful of nights was a blast of primitive punk rock aimed straight at the heart of the rock and roll establishment. Fun House is the sound of the 60’s being dragged, kicking and screaming off the stage.

Don’t take my word for it though, here’s a clip from Funhouse:

For more about Ron Asheton, The Stooges and a whole lot more check out Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Rock.

Update: The Detroit Free Press has got the story up too.

Update 2: I originally called this post “Jesus Loves the Stooges” (a nod to an old Bomp Records release of some Stooges material).

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A Bad Idea I’d Like To Share

It’s been a while since I’ve had a really bad idea but I had one yesterday that I’ll share with you because it’s guaranteed to make no money and could potentially ruin people.  OK, here it is: I’d like to create a version of Rock Band or Guitar Hero featuring the best bands ever performing their worst songs.  The trick is that they have to be terrible songs that people are familiar with, this means no outtakes or b-sides, we’re talking nothing but the worst songs that actually appeared on records.

Imagine a kid on his or her birthday getting Rock Band only to discover that it’s “The Worst Songs Edition”  and then having to master The Beatles “Revolution # 9 in order to unlock the Replacements “Back to Back” ending in a guitar battle of The Stooges “LA Blues”.  That would be no fun at all.

Feel free to steal this idea and create this game, or at least suggest songs that would fit in it.

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Rock and Roll Time Machine

Thanks to this blog I saw Mission of Burma last night and I didn’t even need to use The Rock and Roll Time Machine.  Because I’ve kept it secret you’ve never heard of The Rock and Roll Time Machine until now, but it’s  time I told you about it.  The Rock and Roll Time Machine is an invention that I’ve been working on that can take you to concerts that you missed.  This machine is helpful when you want to see a band who broke up before you got to see them.

For years I though Mission of Burma would be a Time Machine band but they surprised me twice, first by getting back together earlier this decade and second by releasing two records that are as good as their early 80’s stuff.  Now that I’ve finally seen them live (and they kicked ass) I can focus my time machine attention on other bands I missed.  As soon as I get the machine working right I’m heading straight to a Husker Du concert and then looking to see where in the past The Minutemen and The Jam are playing.  There are dozens more I’d like to see but those three ae a good start.

What about you; who would you go see with your musical time machine?  I promise not to make fun of your choices.

While you ponder that, here’s a classic Mission of Burma song:

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Greg Cartwright at Goner Fest 2007

This clip is about a year old but I’ve been watching it repeatedly for about a week.  Greg Cartwright of Reigning Sound, Oblivians and Compulsive Gamblers fame may be gods gift to Rock and Roll and here he is playing one of my favorite songs.

Reigning Sound on Emusic.

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Torn and Frayed Tee Shirts

Many years ago I had a Sex Pistols t-shirt.  I wish I could tell you that I owned this shirt in 1977 and I made it myself but I was three years old at that time so punk rock was lost on me.  I had to wait until 1988 when I was 14 to get a Sex Pistols tee and I got it in the most punk rock way available to me at the time: I bought it at The Sunrise Mall in Massapequa Park, New York.  It’s not as cool as Richard Hell scrawling Please Kill Me on a tee (and he may never have actually done that) but it was the best I could do.  If it helps my punk cred at all I went with my best friend at the time (who already owned the same shirt) and we totally smoked cigarettes and did not obey traffic signals on the way to the mall.

Anyway, I mention the Sex Pistols shirt because it was the first rock band tee shirt I ever owned, the first of probably 100 I’ve had over the last 20 years.  100 band tee shirts years may sound like a lot but for a middle class white guy into rock and roll I’m probably right around the median range of band related tee shirt ownership.  Some guys have none, some guys only have rock tees, between the ages of 17 and 24 I was one of the guys who only had rock tees. In the ten years since stopped feeling the need to constantly advertise my musical tastes I’ve kept a few in rotation at all times but over the years the number has dwindled and as the shirts have worn out I’ve stopped buying new ones to replace them.  In my closet there are maybe ten tattered and torn rock tees and The Clash London Calling tee I’m wearing as I type this is literally hanging by a thread.  Will they be the end of the rock tee line?  Am I officially a grown up now?

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The Hobo Record Club Comes Out Of The Past

You may know already that I’m in something called The Hobo Record Club a.k.a. Columbia Houseless, an incredibly shady organization that you should avoid.  Basically it works like this, I sit at home minding my own business while drifters and con men leave records at my house.  You should go read the first record club post for an explanation and then click here to see all of the  examples of Hobo Record Club trickery.

You may have noticed that the record club has been absent from these pages for a while but don’t let that fool you, they are still leaving records and scheming against me, I’ve just been too busy to keep up on the blogging end of it so let me rectify that with one of their recent selections.

A few weeks ago I came home to find a record hidden in a tree behind my house but it wasn’t any record, it was a record that I love but one that has followed me around for years.

Yeah, those hobos brought me a copy of Tom Waits – Blue Valentine.  Now if you know me you’re saying to the screen “You already own that record” send it back and to that I say the following:

1- I can’t hear you when you talk to the screen so stop that.  It is a very ineffective way of communicating with me.

2- The hobo record club has a strict no returns policy.

3- I own it doesn’t mean I can’t use another copy, Blue Valentine has always been a favorite of mine.

Just look at how impossibly young Tom is on the cover.  I first bought Blue Valentine at a similarly impossible age, I think I was 19 and I bought it used on vinyl from the old Uncle Phil’s Records in Massapequa*, for $2.99.  As I rode the train two stops to Copiague I read the lyrics an liner notes and then hurried home to listen to it.  I played that copy it until it wore out and then replaced it with a CD copy that was never quite as satisfying as the vinyl copy.  That CD copy got lost in a breakup but four years ago I purchased it for a third time, from iTunes put it on my iPod, played it once while walking down Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles in the middle of the night and then never listened to it again.

For whatever reason I just couldn’t get enthused about Blue Valentine anymore.  Maybe my tastes had simply shifted but more likely I felt like I wasn’t able to identify with the kid I was when I heard the record for the first time in 1993.  It’s silly because I still listen to many records I first heard when I was in my teens or younger but this one felt like one I couldn’t return to.  However before I tucked it away unheard I thought of how I felt riding the train home and then walking from the station to my house full of anticipation for a record I had never heard.  Lately I’ve been homesick not only for that place but that time.  In the pre internet world there was no sampling songs online, either you knew someone who could play it for you (and maybe copy it for you) or you too your chances and bought the record then hoped for the best.  With this in mind I decided to take my chances on a repeat listen, for old times sake at least.  While it doesn’t sound as great as I remember it (Blue Valentine is a lesser Waits record in my opinion),  I enjoyed hearing it in the context I first discovered it in, on vinyl alone at night.  The city has changed and I’ve gotten older but Blue Valentine on vinyl feels like going home, at least in my head.

Those record hobos are pretty sneaky sometime.

*For the Long Islanders reading this: Not the original Uncle Phils, I bought this at the later location in The Busy Bee Mall.  Also, I’m homesick, thats why I keep adding people from Long Island on Facebook.

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