It’s No Use Calling, the Sky is Falling, and It’s Getting Pretty Near the End

notimeI love the movie Almost Famous.

Aside from the work being a terrific piece of cinema, I was a subscriber to RollingStone when the original article–written by Cameron Crowe and based upon the Allman Brothers Band tour–on which now director Crowe’s film is based, was published. I remember the words and for sure the photographs.

I am also a big fan of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the chameleon actor who portrayed Truman Capote, Scottie (the neurotic “go-for” in Boogie Nights), Brandt, the other Lebowski’s ‘go-for,’ Athletics manager Art Howe (in Moneyball), and my favorite, tragically doomed rock critic Lester Bangs in Crowe’s tome.

In a typically Bangsian rant, the actor dismisses cool bands–including the Doors and Morrison Hotel–, extolling the 70’s band, The Guess Who thusly: “Give me the Guess Who. They got the courage to be drunken buffoons, which makes them poetic.”

Well, over the last few months we have been having work done to our home, and that meant storing a bunch of crap in what usually masquerades as my music room. Actually, I love the room. All my guitars and array of amps live in there, along with a drum kit and a keyboard. I have a a little PA, and all my music books (some songbooks, but I am talking Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung  type books) in there as well.

There is also a stereo–with a turntable no less–and all the 800 or so albums I collected before albums and their moniker became things of the past.

So, with one phase the reconstruction completed, my niece and music bud Lindsay came over not just to help me put stuff in order, but to redo the albums, placing them in band name/release date order a la High Fidelity.

In the course of going through things, I happened onto my old single of The Guess Who’s,  No Time  which I suppose I have lugged around from house-to-house for the past 40 years or so.

I guess in a Proustian/Swann’s Way fahion, stumbling across the record brought back a flood of Guess Who memories. Like remembering that Burton Cummings had appeared as “an eligible bachelor” on The Dating Game (he wasn’t picked) and the Hoffman cum Bangs line from Crowe’s movie.

In retrospect, Bang’s observation of the band as a bunch of “drunken buffoons” is kind of harsh (but, that is Bangs). Although I don’t know the particulars of their habits regarding the ingestion of alcohol, let alone pyschotropics, but I do know that the Guess Who had a litany of hits.

Between 1968-76, the team of Cummings and guitarist Randy Bachman (the Bachman of Bachman-Turner Overdrive) penned/released no fewer than 32 singles that registered on the Top 100 of one, if not all the charts for Canada, Australia, and the United States.

Of their songs that really clicked in the States, both American Woman and No Sugar Tonight/Mother Nature (the song the title for this piece was stolen from) hit #1.

But, there are a number of great pop tunes within the group’s catalog, including the amazing output list below over a three-year span:

  1. These Eyes (1969)
  2. Laughing (1969)
  3. Undun (1969)
  4. No Time (1970)
  5. American Woman (1970)
  6. No Sugar Tonight (1970)
  7. Hand Me Down World (1970)
  8. Share the Land (1970)
  9. Hang Onto Your Life (1971)
  10. Albert Flasher (from 1971, and which is part of the Almost Famous soundtrack)

The group still released songs after that fruitful period, but nothing apparently as strong, and they barely registered a flicker on any chart other than their native Canadian one.

They continued to perform as the Guess Who until 1975, split up, and then–shudder–reformed and are still apparently playing to my fellow boomers who refuse to let go of the past.

Irrespective, that list of ten tunes above deserves more merit than even Mr. Bangs could offer.

Both These Eyes and especially Undun were just great tracks at the time, with the flute in Undun pre-dating Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson by a couple of years.

No Time is simply a great song, with a cool drum kick that starts the groove off.  And there are similarly the vague and cool words:

“no time for my watch and chain,
no time for a summer rain,
seasons change and so do I,
you need not wonder why,
for no time left for you…”

OK, so maybe a little hippy dippy trippy, but it was 60’s, and, well, American Woman was probably no less naive in principle. It also rocked enough for Lenny Kravitz to cover in a great way, and it is another song I always wanted to cover in one of my bands.

The apex, though, was No Sugar Tonight/Mother Nature, probably the band’s maximum opus that sort of merged together two tunes eventually pulling the melody from No Sugar for the coda and finish.

Certainly, Cummings, Bachman, et al, were not The Stooges, or even the Seeds or the 13th Floor Elevators in the world of in your face Rock’n’Roll.

But, for a brief time, right when FM radio was taking off, and baby boomers were determining that “Up With People,” and “The King Family” were not really what represented music and the future (check out the first 20 years of Super Bowl halftime acts, and you will see), and no one really knew what direction we were supposed to go, let alone would go, The Guess Who popped out some pretty good and tuneful tunes.

To me, they were even more than drunken buffoons. They still are.


Shoutout to WBLM!

I was in New Hampshire over the weekend, and stumbled upon a fantastic radio station that apparently originates out of Portland Maine.


They pronounce that Blimp, which doesn’t work for me, but on my drives into town to buy coffee and pastries on Saturday I was privy to a fantastic show of psychedelic soul music, and on Sunday morning they had a show called Mainely Blues, which was similarly well defined and also imaginatively loose. And this is a commercial station. They have ads. Not a few, and yet the programming was so great I’ll enjoy (rather than resent) ads from local hardware stores.

Great stuff!

Update: 12:10am They’ve followed Neil Young’s Southern Man and Heart of Gold with Kiss’s Beth and Tears are Falling. I love that I can listen from NYC.

The 20 Greatest Albums Of All-Time According To Me, Described In 20 Words Or Less

By Steve Moyer

I’ve decided that the best testament I can give to my existence is to review my entire music collection (including these), because I have been absolutely intimate with the good stuff, not like some music critic dude who listens once and writes. I will do this little by little. So here’s the teaser. Obviously, I don’t give a rat’s ass about the albums that are “supposed to be” in everyone’s top 20 (not that I don’t like some of those, they’re just not in my top 20). Oh well. These are what I’m taking to the desert island.

If you’re interested in checking this stuff out, PLEASE don’t download, or worse yet, youtube one song and then pass judgment. Buy the whole thing, preferably a bricks and mortar version. Listen to it at least five times, in its entirety. Look at the pictures. Read the liner notes. That’s how albums are meant to be enjoyed. Enough is enough.

I reserve the right to change this list any time for any reason.

2151NH5G8DL__AA160_1) Supershit 666 – Self-Titled (2002) – Not a bad second to be found. Best ever six songs in a row. Perfect. Expensive. Worth every penny.
2) Apocalypse Dudes – Turbonegro (1999) – If all the songs on “Raw Power” were as good as “Search and Destroy” and “Gimme Danger.”
3) Supershitty To The Max – Hellacopters (1997) – “Hell, hell’s exactly what they raised.”
4) Ass Cobra – Turbonegro (1997) – I thought I had outgrown hardcore until I heard this a few years ago. Late to the party.
5) Masters Of Reality – Self-Titled (1988) – They’d be Guns And Roses if Chris Goss wasn’t fat and ugly. Salvages ‘80s music all by itself.
images6) Hydromatics – Parts Unknown (2003) – Soul meets kick ass. Expensive. Worth every penny.
7) Queens Of The Stone Age – R (2000) – Makes you feel like you’ve done something bad. Really bad.
8) Cream Of The Crap Volume I – Hellacopters (2002) – Primo mostly Dregen-era Hellacopters. Extraordinary cover material.
9) Cream Of The Crap Volume II – Hellacopters (2004) – Primo mostly later Hellacopters. Extraordinary cover material.
cover_5930587200710) Second Thoughts – Split Enz (1976) – Very weird and mostly mellow. Nothing like their later stuff. Never heard an album like it before or since.
11) High Voltage/Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap/Let There Be Rock/Powerage (1976-1978 – impossible to sort them out) – Bon Scott AC/DC. Boogie woogie rock ‘n’ roll at its best. “Highway To Hell” omitted on purpose.
12) Mott The Hoople – The Hoople (1974) – Critics always favor the Mick Ralphs stuff, but this is the best and most rocking.
images-113) Slade – Sladest (1973) – I teethed on the American version of this album, which doesn’t really exist anymore. More boogie woogie rock ‘n’ roll.
14) Blue Oyster Cult – Secret Treaties (1974) – Made me feel like I was doing bad things when I was 14. Really bad. Still really good.
15) The Specials – More Specials (1980) – Grooves heavily beginning to end. Appreciated more now than when released. Never heard an album like it before or since.
16) Angry Samoans – Back From Samoa (1982) – Very offensive, catchy, next-to-perfect SoCal hardcore album. The 80’s weren’t so bad if you went looking, I guess.
Angry Samoans - Back From Samoa17) David Bowie – Hunky Dory/Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1971-1972) – Sorry, can’t sort these out either. There were other pioneer oddball rockers, but never better than this.
18) Devo – Are We Not Men? (1978) – A bunch of geniuses far ahead of their time. Often wrongly dismissed as a joke.
19) Judas Priest – Sad Wings Of Destiny (1976) – Really heavy in a Black Sabbath kind of way. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
20) Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak (1976) – Includes two very overplayed songs, but it’s not their fault. Lizzy’s other albums are uneven, but this is excellent throughout.

Doors of Life: Always Swinging

doorsMy life long friend Stephen Clayton managed to see the Doors twice during their mercurial rise,and then demise after the death of Jim Morrison.

He said they were were ridiculously good one time, and awful–as Morrison was drunk–the second time.

Maybe it was fortuitous, but I happened to be listening to the local head banger station (sorry, no XM/Sirius for me yet, still) in my car the other day and John Densmore, the Doors drummer happened to be the guest. I always thought both Densmore and guitar player Robbie Krieger under-rated, living in the shadow of the more riff driven keyboard player Ray Manzerak, and of course the specter Jim Morrison.

Densmore shared some nice tidbits (like that Lonnie Mack, with whom the Doors were touring at the time played the bass on “Roadhouse Blues”) and maybe it was a harbinger as Manzarek passed away Monday at the age of 74 in Germany (presumably undergoing some form of cancer treatment not offered in the States).

Morrison was at least enigmatic, and a strong singer, and he played his Lizard King role to the max, but just how good a band were the Doors?

To me, there is no question the band’s first eponymously titled album was a great one. Forget the signature “Light My Fire.” “Break on Through,” “Soul Kitchen,” and their treatment of the Brecht/Weil tune “Whiskey Bar” were all so realized, as was “The End” which found its way to being a pivotal part of the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.”

“Strange Days” had its moments but to me it was largely a function of rushing a second album out on the tails and success of the first. Uneven, at best is what I would call it.

And then I ran sort of cold with the Doors schtick. I never even owned “Morrison Hotel,” or “Waiting for the Sun,” and I have a vinyl copy of “Soft Parade” I bought at a used record store for $2 mid-70’s.

However, I do love “L.A. Woman,” having bought it both when it came out on vinyl, and like the first album, repurchasing on CD (what a racket, vinyl, to 8-track, to cassette, to CD, to digital download, meaning you could buy the same work no fewer than six times if your timing is bad enough).

But, along with “Love Her Madly,” were “Riders on the Storm,” “Cars Hiss By My Window,” and the killer title track that I was surprised to realize I still remembered all the words to when it popped on my shuffle (in the car, so I am not a total cretin) a few weeks back.

Meaning the Doors at worst had a solid sound and a collection of tunes that more than carry the burden of being remembered.

But, were they great, or was Morrison’s outrageous behavior, that was as much contrived as was a lot of his poetry, the real driver of the band’s perceived “greatness”?

I guess that is a lot of the paradox, for Morrison, when on, was apparently a riveting performer, and certainly he had a powerful and memorable voice.

He was also a lout and buffoon who took a lot of pleasure in pissing off Ed Sullivan, which in 1969 was not that hard to do (remember, the Stones, corporate players that they are, were ok with changing the words of “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” although to this day I still shake my head in wonder as to why any of us gives such a shit about who sleeps with whom?).

He was also a drunk, which is pretty well documented and maybe Hemingway could earn a Nobel prize and wear that mantle, but Ernest’s body of work was also a lot more substantial. So was Richard Burton’s for that matter.

I think, though that like Janis Joplin and James Dean (who was vastly over-rated in my opinion, basically playing a role great once, then replaying the same role two more times before he self destructed) and Amy Winehouse and John Belushi (also vastly over-rated) that early death somehow gives the public the freedom to transmogrify “what ifs” into “genius.”

And whatever else be said of Jim Morrison, he was hardly a genius. I mean, if nothing else, most geniuses do not die of natural causes in bathtubs at the age of 27.

But, our desire to apotheosize our fallen idols is probably as out of control as our use of the words genius and classic.

I doubt, were Morrison still alive today, he would be as vibrant and productive as say Darryl Hall. Or even Dave Navarro.




I Got Em’

photo (3)As the lone West Coaster of this quartet, it is appropriate that I write my first post about my recent foray to the Fillmore–as in West, although I am not sure there is an East any longer–to see Yo La Tengo.

I do love the Tengo, and this was my third time seeing them, so armed with my buds Michele and Leslie, we first gobbled down noodles at the Japan Center, then trucked up the street to the Auditorium.

I have to confess that though I am a big fan, and probably own six or seven of the band’s albums, I don’t really know the names of the bulk of Yo La Tengo’s tunes. I do say that “Painful” and “New Wave Hotdog/President Yo La Tengo” are my faves, but even then I might recognize the tunes, but forget the names.

Unlike the other two Tengo shows I witnessed, this time the troika of players did a great 35 minute acoustic set to start (as I turn into a cranky old man, almost worthy of shaking my fist at the neighborhood youngins screaming, “you kids stay outta my yard, it is clear to me that I don’t really care about the opening act, and there was none this time save acoustic Tengo) featuring “Two Trains,” and finishing the seven tune min set with a lovely “No Water.”

Ira announced a short break and all the ear splitting stuff was set up while Leslie, Michele, and I found a couple of friends and hung out by the bar, and by 10 PM the Tengo were back on stage, serious shit strapped on.

The electric set featured just a killer version of the ever sweet “Nowhere Near” and a driving “Stockholm Syndrome,” plus “The Story of Yo La Tengo” along with ten other pop-laced tunes that built and drove into the bands familiar wall of noise.

During the final cut of the set, “Electric,” Michele pulled out her IPhone and started to record. When the song ended, I asked “Did you actually record some of that cacophony?” She nodded saying, “It was pure noise,” and, I responded with “Yeah, but it was in tune and in time noise. That is what makes them so terrific.”

To which I got another nod.

The band came back and to my joy started their encore with “Drug Test,” easily my favorite song within their catalog (and one I do know the title of) and came back with “Nervous Breakdown,” and then a softer cover of “Yellow Sarong” which was great, but during which James, the bass player’s amp started in with its own decibels.

After the tune, James unplugged, and plugged his bass in a couple of times to see the source of the problem, looked at Ira, and Ira shrugged and said, “Well, I guess that is it.”

It was. But all in tune, and in time.

Considering Aerosmith

aerosmith1Most of the worst bands that make it big don’t last long. They have a moment with their fingers up the pulse of the people, and that’s it. Kansas, Asia, Boston, Palookaville, I sense a theme here.

Oh, wait a minute. I have to address the subjectivity issue. Yeah, everybody has different tastes and there is no good and bad. Half bullshit.

What we like in music, what we call taste, comes from our mindsets and, if you will, our soulsets. What we are feeling and what we are thinking. Now, if you contend that what we are feeling is beyond objectivity, I agree. But plenty can be said objectively about mindsets. For example, if your mind is closed to anything but what you already like, you WILL have bad taste, except perhaps in those things you already like, and even there I rather doubt it since nothing good can come of atrophy. Old wine in new skins eventually becomes vinegar.

Part of greatness in music is that the music reaches beyond itself, pointing to something new. Not necessarily grand concepts because details count too, a lot. Whether it’s the Beatles combining Chuck Berry and the Everly Brothers with Tin Pan Alley zing, adding instruments and new electric sounds as they went, or the Misfits doing their twist on the Ramones and the sick joke tradition, the music is good partly because it’s staking out its own turf. This is why pure genre exercises can never be great.

Which is one of the reasons Aerosmith sucks. Yes, back to the top: Aerosmith is a really bad band that has thrived as long as any band from the 1970s unto today. I ask myself why.

I was prepared to like them, way back then. I must have seen some at least mildly intriguing publicity, and I did know that they had the same management as the New York Dolls, my favorite band at that time (and still right up there). If memory serves, their first hit, Dream On, did not become a hit until their second album had been released, or very close to it. Anyway, I bought their 2nd album before I heard Dream On, which was on their first album, and not a half bad song for AM radio at the time. Anyway, I bought the album and slapped it on the turntable and…blah. By far the best song was their cover of The Train Kept a Rollin’, which was actually more a cover of the Yardbirds’ Stroll On, but the songs are basically the same anyway. In 40+ years they never did better.

The rest was just Heavy Rock boilerplate: flashy but instantly forgettable guitar, thud, thud, thud on the bass/drums, and the usual sex cliché lyrics, Spinal Tap without the wit. And that’s all they’ve been doing ever since.

I heard a story about Dream On. I don’t know that it’s true, but for me it rings so I’ll repeat it. Seems that the song was written by a band that was rehearsing in the same studio as Aerosmith, and they left it taped on the wall. The rest is history. I believe the story because they never developed that strain of “their” music, and this is a band if ever there was one who milked what worked.

boonemetalmood0594442It’s almost impossible to slog around in blues/rock riffs for that long and not come up with something good. Grand Funk did it. Foghat did it. Deep Purple did it. Hell, Modern English did it. I’ll give Aerosmith their due: parts of Sweet Emotion are sharp, and the end of Sick as a Dog (stolen and improved by the Sex Pistols) is fine shit. And that’s it. I confess that I have not listened to everything they ever did. They probably do have another one or two minutes of good music in there somewhere. But life is too short and first they have to give me a reason.

What really gets me about Steve and Joe and the boys is the pure exploitation, which of course is more a comment on those who allow themselves to be exploited. I suppose there is some Warholian genius in their flagrant genericness. When the “anybody can do it” ethos was first promulgated about Punk (by critics who had obviously never tried it), it should have been said of Aerosmith. They should have added “and everybody will buy it.”

But then why couldn’t other bands seize the obvious and ride it to fame and profit? Well, they did: all those 80s hair bands were Aerosmith’s children, up to and including Guns n Roses who at least had a few good tunes. Such bad boys. They probably had drug problem consultants – “tailoring your drugs to YOUR image!”

Yeah, the de rigeur drug problems, the leering fuck-me-now-or I’ll-jerk-off-right-here lyrics, the scarves on the mike stand that you wanna stuff down Tyler’s throat, the image ripoff of everything the Stones had already made safe and the Dolls had already taken two steps further, the seamless transition to TV celebrity status and fast food commercials – these guys are Pat Boone with eyeliner.

Introducing Gaunt.

To me, anyway. A Facebook friend mentioned them. Jerry Wick, band’s singer/guitarist/songwriter, died in 2001 (hit by a car while riding his bike). Their first album was produced by Steve Albini. Their fifth album was a major label sell out and they broke up before it came out. Jim Motherfucker is the first song I listened to and it’s a great big noise, with a fantastic hidden guitar solo at about 2:40. By the time of their third album, the first I can find, they’re a little poppier (kind of like the Replacements).

Here’s an interview with the band in Chunklet about the origins of the embedded song.

So who’s Jim (from their “Jim Motherfucker” single)?
Jerry: It’s Jim from the New Bomb Turks. When our first single came out, which was a split single with the Turks, he took it home and on the sleeve it says “All Rights Reserved, Motherfucker.” And it says “Motherfucker” three or four times on the single. He took it home and showed his parents and said “Hey, I got a record out now.” His dad just freaked, went through the roof and said “I can’t believe I spent all that money putting you through school and to buy that guitar so you could use language becoming of scum.” So then, of course, “Jim Motherfucker” is an easy target.