Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June's Picks

1. THE BALLOON BUSTERS-"Alcock And Brown"
I love that there are still 60's 45's out there from the U.K. by bands on major labels I know fuck all about.  This amazingly catchy tune came out in the U.K. on Pye in '69 and sounds a lot like harmony/proto bubbleglam like Katch 22 or Sight & Sound.  Thanks to my pal Larry over at Iron Leg and his U.S. pressing (on Chess oddly) I am now a wiser man!

2. THE GUESS WHO-"This Time Long Ago"Stunning Who '66 harmonies (damned if this doesn't sound like "Glow Girl", which is impossible...)giving way to some loungey marimbas and pop precision on this killer 45 from 1967.

3. THE MONTANAS-"Roundabout"
Smashing high harmonies, heavy playing Britain's The Montanas crash into 1969 sounding rather menacing and shaking all off accusations of being the Four Seasons of the British Isles.  Sadly they didn't cut any more like this!

Acid Jazz has been kicking out some really cool 7" E.P.'s as of late.  My thoughts on Geno Washington are pretty well documented here but this E.P. has a version of The Stone's "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that's amazing.   It's drenched in Hammond and slowed down a tad slower than Thelma Houston's killer version.  Why couldn't Geno have made more records like this?

5. INKASE-"(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me ?"
There's a plethora of obscure 60's Australian covers of Small Faces tunes out there (Tymepiece's "Become Like You" and The Clevedonaire's "Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire").  This one is equally interesting because the playing is great but the most interesting fact is the lyrics are completely botched (I've read they also covered "Rene" as well).  That's usually the norm for countries who do not speak English as a primary language so I'm thinking these guys didn't have time to learn them.  For instance the trippy line "I see flowers breaking through the concrete..." becomes "I dig flowers, I take 'em to the laundry".  Hey hey, hey hey hey hey...

6. BOBBY BLAND-"Jelly Jelly Jelly"
Word reached us here at "Anorak Thing" central this past Sunday that Mr. Bland had left the stage for the other side.  Picking a fave Bobby "Blue" Bland number was no easy feat as there's so many good 'uns to choose from but this was always  a fave of mine, slow, smokey and scorching.

It took me a very long time to come around on these guys but the arrangement and Gram Parson's voice knocks the Stone's version in the dirt.  It doesn't get more soulful and impassioned than this and Gram was born to sing it. Stunning.

8. THE MONKS-"Complication"
I was never a big Monks fan, I didn't dislike them but I don't think I'd ever appreciated "Black  Monk Time" like the rest of my friends.  I read Eddie Shaw's book "Black Monk Time" when it came out and enjoyed it and sat riveted while watching the documentary done on them a few years back and it wasn't until last year when I saw a few friends in Minneapolis backing Gary Burger for an entire set that I came to appreciate this tune. Written in the 60's it still makes perfect sense now:
"People die for you.
People kill,
People will for you.
People run,
Ain't it fun for you.
People go
To their deaths for you"

9. BIG MAYBELLE-"I Can't Control Myself"
I love this, it's so inept and you can tell it was rushed out (like #5's entry correct grasp of the lyrics were obviously not considered) and Big Maybelle sounds downright scary as she sings "I'll take you boy as you're standing there low cut slacks and your wavy hair" conjures visions of a hoary old cradle robber!  From her LP "Got A Brand New Bag" (on the suspect sounding "Rojac" label that reeks of cosa nostra greenback laundering!) which is second in the worst LP cover artwork next to the Rod Stewart LP shown/mentioned in March's picks.

10. IAN MCLAGAN & THE BUMP BAND-"Hello Old Friend"
Ian McLagan wrote this number for/about his friend the late Ronnie Lane who had come to visit him late in his short life.  It never ceases to rouse me from a funk and whenever I'm enjoying the company of an old friend I haven't seen in ages it's never far from my brain.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Local Heroes: James Gandolfini R.I.P.

"You better get me 100 faces to show up for the weekender and tell 'em to come heavy because there's gonna be alotta drunk gavones lookin' for trouble there. Make it fuckin' happen..."
Not a lot of cool people come from my home state of New Jersey.  We're cursed with fucktwits like Whitney Houston, Jon Bon Jovi, John "I did not offer that masseuse a hand-job" Travolta, socially conscious yet musically boring  Bruce Springsteen, a Jonas Brother, Susan Sarandon (went to high school with my best friend's dad in Edison, NJ)....yeah you get the picture. Who do we have to brag about? Frankie Valli (true story he sang at a B-day party for a classmate in grammar school who was his niece) and that's about it. Last night FaceBook was abuzz with word that one of our favorite sons, actor James Gandolfini had died at the age of 51. I'm not the type to get misty when celebs die.  The passing of Joe Strummer, Syd Barrett and Reggie King were about the only times I've ever been moved. But I liked Gandolfini, especially when he played the complex hard nut Tony Soprano on HBO's series "The Sopranos" and it struck me because he was only a few years older than me.

I've been a life long New Jerseyite and there's two very important stereotypes about my fellow Garden State residents: they've all got a story about meeting Bruce Springsteen (accurately portrayed on "The Ben Stiller Show" in their "Tales From Springsteen" sketch) and everyone knows someone who is either in the mob or knows someone who knows someone....Organized crime is steeped in our marrow, which explains the mass appeal to myself and the rest of the state with "The Sopranos".  Growing up as a kid in Jersey the mark of success in a diner or restaurant was to have a framed, signed potrait of Frank Sinatra on display .  These days it's one of James Gandolfini(my octagenerian Aunt and Uncle's fave Central Jersey Italian bistro proudly displays a framed shot of the owners with Gandolfini standing between them in their foyer) . His "Tony Soprano" character was one of the finest I've ever seen on a TV show.  His butchering of the English language was always a constant source of amusement ("my ma, she's like a freakin' albacore around my neck..."). He was a brute who had soft spots for children and animals, would screw anything that took his fancy and wouldn't think twice about unflinchingly putting a bullet in your face (and once beat Ralphie Ciffaretto to death for killing his racehorse). Each week I'd tune in to see what sort of drama he'd be under secretly praying we'd get to watch him "whack" (that's murder to you non-Americans) somebody because he did it so well.  One of my fave scenes was him offering a wanna be wiseguy who was tied up in a chair a can of warm diet soda asking him  if it was okay, when the hapless victim says "Thank you T", Tony quips "Cause that sugarless motherfucker, it's the last fucking drink you're ever gonna have" before emptying a clip from an automatic in his chest. My home team/local heroes The Swingin' Neckbreakers even got five seconds of fame on an episode rocking out to "You", one of their best tracks from their killer debut LP "Live for Buzz".  He  produced a moving documentary on wounded Iraqi War vets called "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq" and later another on post traumatic stress disorder called "Wartorn 1861-2010", which wins kudos from me because, well I've got a soft spot for anybody who's concerned for Veteran's. James Gandolfini was a Jersey boy, born and bred, went to Rutger's University and played one of TV's most famous fictional New Jersey character. We loved him for that.  Salute Tony Soprano, wherever you are....

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Best 1960's Sides: Checker

1. THE KOLETTES-"Who's That Guy" Checker 1094 1964
One of my fave Checker sides, I can't tell you much about the Kolettes, in fact from what I can tell this was their one and only single. But with a single like this you needn't worry about shortness of your discography as this is a killer and a classic mod/r&b dancer if ever there was one.

2. SUGAR PIE DeSANTO-"I Don't Wanna Fuss" Checker 1093 1964
Picking a fave Sugar Pie DeSanto single was tough. The diminutive Ms. DeSanto proves that you can't judge a book by it's cover and there's a whole lotta soul packed into this petite lady.  This one is definitely my fave by her!

3. BOBBY MOORE & THE RHYTHM ACES-"Try My Love Again" Checker 1156 1966
Hands down my fave Checker 45.  It's almost Latin flavored rhythm with some jazzy brass punctuations and 1,000 times better than their "hit" single "Searching For My Love"". I got a heavy duty amount of mileage out of this 45 on the floors in the late 90's/early 2000's and if I was still spinning it'd be in rotation.

4. KO KO TAYLOR-"Wang Dang Doodle" Checker 1135 1966
This is some raw stuff kids.  Veteran blueslady Ko Ko serves it up raunchy and gritty. The record does not sound like it's from the date it was released and could've easily come from 3 or 4 years earlier!  If you don't know what I'm on about well there's nifty little clip below for you to suss!

5. ANDRE WILLIAMS-"The Stroke" Checker 1187 1967
A bit of groovy blues and funk with some sitar like guitar warbling while Andre croons about a groovy little juke joint where everybody gets down and dirty (with some annoying screams by some over excited female). I'm rarely impressed with Andre Williams because he's one of those cats everyone goes on about to the point that he's more legend and image than substance to me but this one I dig.

6. STEVE ALAIMO-"Everyday I Have To Cry" Checker 1032 1962
I'm rarely a fan of white guys covering r&b originals but I've got to say I prefer this version to the Arthur Alexander original,maybe more to do with the strings and brass than Steve's voice but hey I'm being honest. But I'm a fan of this version. So was Dusty Springfield who's version uses this arrangement as her template.

7.  TOMMY TUCKER-"Hi-Heel Sneakers" Checker 1067 1964
This was probably the first r&b 45 I owned after scoring an "oldies" reissue shortly after acquiring the "Quadrophenia" soundtrack in '81 and hearing this covered by some band called The Cross Section.  A prototype/blueprint for aspiring white (British) r&b bands everywhere.  Simplistic, almost predictable but delightful.

8. BO DIDDLEY-"Pills" Checker 985 1961
Bo's ode to pills should've been an amphetamine mod anthem of sorts owing to the original 60's modernists supposed predilection for the stuff.  Delivered tongue and cheek it's Bo's finest track in my humble opinion.  U.K. mod/r&b/ska boys Mickey Finn and the Blue Men dug it so much they cut it with a ska flavor which you can dig here.

9. FONTELLA BASS-"Safe And Sound" Checker 1147 1966
Poor Fontella Bass.  She's forever linked with perhaps the most overplayed soul track of all time, "Rescue Me", which somewhere in America right now is playing on an "oldies" radio station.  Well she had a lot more to offer boys and girls. This being one of them, dig the congas! Though the refrain sounds a bit like "Rescue Me"......

10. LITTLE MILTON-"If Walls Could Talk"  Chess 12226 1969
Little Milton's blues shouter style comes in loud and clear in this ode to sneaking around on the down low.  A bit late (December 1969) but it doesn't sound like it!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Maxwell's R.I.P.

I read the news today...Maxwell's, a rock n' roll institution in Hoboken, New Jersey is shutting it's doors at the end of July.  Maxwell's looms large in my music life from the first time I set foot there in December 1985 to see Lord John open for Mod Fun (I only know it was December as there were Xmas wreaths hanging on the stage in pics I've seen of the show and it was fucking freezing in there!).  I had my very first DJ night there in 1994 ("**** ******'s Mad Mod Ball"), tried (unsuccessfully) to pull my wife at a gig there once (five years prior to our first date), met good friends there for the first time and rang in my 21st B-Day there (two years after I'd been drinking there illegally already) with my pal Larry Grogan one sleepy Sunday night where we downed pint after pint of John Courage on draught and played "Downtown" on the juke so many times the bartender unplugged it.  The food and drink were always great, the jukebox was the best in the world . I remember playing the shit out of The James Taylor Quartet's debut 45 "Blow Up" one night right after it was released about half a dozen times, swilling pint after pint and leaning on the wall next to it that led to the basement there thinking I was "the face" in my dark silver grey mohair jacket and backcomb. I saw some of the best gigs I've ever seen there and the sound was almost always exceptional. The place was always in good shape, it wasn't some hole in the wall and there was very rarely ever any issues with the crowd. I remember watching The Secret Service's debut gig there opening for what would be one of Mod Fun's last gigs there in June of 1986 and then I remember what would be one of The Secret Service's last gigs at Maxwells in late 1988. All of my friends who were friends before they had bands gigged there, like The Insomniacs debut gig there on an opening slot for The Fleshtones where they were introduced by Pete Zaremba. I remember the night The Grip Weeds played on a weeknight in early 1989 and I had several hundred dollars in my pocket from a scooter I'd got the final payment on at the gig (my beloved but maligned Vespa P200E) and drank a record 14 pints of John Courage and went home penniless! I watched my pals and one time "local team", Trenton's own Swingin' Neckbreakers play their very first gig there on a weeknight opening for The Lyres to about 25 punters, six months later they were packing the place. I remember S.F's Loved Ones and The Insomniacs playing to about 25 people on a Sunday night and being out of my brain on Double Diamond.  I remember having a drink with Phil May and talking about psychedelia. I remember Mole from The Embrooks being surprised that my friend Haim and I were drinking Double Diamond and saying "That stuf'll kill ya, navvies drink that!".

I grew away from Maxwell's eventually, moved too far away, was put off by the long drive, the nightmarish parking situation there and just grew tired of going to gigs even before the need for a babysitter or a hotel room came into the picture.  The Dive on New York's West side (257 West 29th Street to be exact) might've been my own version of The Scene Club of the 80's but Maxwell's was my Marquee, for the 80's, the 90's and the 2000's. Farewell old friend.

AND my old pals the Insomniacs and The Swingin' Neckbreakers are playing a last gig there on June 22:

With that in mind I'd like to pay tribute to all the bands (that I can pull from my memory) I was privileged to see there (in no order of preference, chronology or even like, hell at least a quarter of these I didn't like but shared a bill with someone I did!):

The Mod Fun, The Lyres, The Secret Service, The Embrooks, The Friggs, The Swingin' Neckbreakers, The Insomniacs, The Electric Nubians, The Stairs, The Loved Ones, El Vez, The Grip Weeds, The Muffs, Laika & The Cosmonauts, The Omega Men, The Kaisers, The Anderson Council, The Psychedelic Furs, Lord John, The Grievous Angels, The Vipers, The Fleshtones, Untamed Youth, The Real Kids, The Television Personalities, Mooney Suzuki, The Black Hollies, The Nashville Ramblers,The Rising Storm, The Spectors, The Creatures of the Golden Dawn,  The Gants, Clive Pig, The Pretty Things, The Chesterfield Kings, The Trashwomen, The Cynics, The Loved Ones, Holly Golightly, The Woggles, The Dirty Knees, Man Or Astroman, Slaughter & The Dogs, Southern Culture On the Skids, Tiny Lights, The Press, The Monomen, The Makers, The Flat Duo Jets, The Hentchmen, The 27 Various, The Neaderthals, Los Straitjackets.....

October 1994 the men behind "Anorak Thing" and "Funky 16 Corners" and "Iron Leg" compare close cropped haircuts at a Spectors gig at Maxwells.