Commander George Frayne Died.

The first rock band I saw play live not in a shopping center parking lot was the Allman Brothers Band, opening up for Mountain. But the first band I went to see many times in many cities all over the country was Commander Cody and HIs Lost Planet Airmen.

I listened to a lot of music in high school (doesn’t everyone?), and I loved the Beatles and Stones and Who. I really got into those excellent Jethro Tull records, though mostly Benefit, Yes, New York Dolls, and that first Jefferson Starship album (I mean Have You Seen the Stars Tonight), but whatever, the point is the records I listened to more than the golden age of the Stones and the dawning of J. Geils (big faves too) were those of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (who I saw open for Jefferson Starship at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium back in ’75).

What I liked about Commander Cody’s band was the way they fit together. Eight players, many instruments, many vocalists. A great guitarist, a rowdy leader, Billy C. Farlow, and most importantly, great songs.

Many of them were covers, most of them kind of obscure, but not always. But the band treated the covers with surprisingly sophisticated respect. Which meant not trying to copy the original, but also not trying to undercut the original with a smirk. List to My Window Faces the South for a bit of pone that is sonically delightful, respectful to the musical setting and yet still keeps it out of the museum. Maybe thank Virginia Creeper, the pedal steel player for that, but I think it’s bigger than that.

Originals like Lost in the Ozone and Seeds and Stems Again Blues (this version with Nicolette Larson on vocals) speak for themselves. They sounded classic the minute they were pressed into vinyl. Which is why they covered Willin’ a few years later, a song of similar majesty but not theirs.

Commander Cody was the center of all this. He got the crew together and with his boisterous pounding piano and over the top vocals on some great novelty sides created hits for a band much more into outre precincts like rockabilly and truck driver songs. Reading his obits reminded me today about how important a force can be. George Frayne was the force that made this band tick, even if it is the collaborative results that are why you should listen to them even today.

Charlie Watts, a tribute

Ben Sisario has a lovely piece about Charlie’s music and place in the music world in the NY Times today. Read it here. (It’s one of my 10 monthly “gift” links, so maybe it will work for nonsubscribers.)

The Watts story is one of thwarted desire, but the fulfillment of professional duty. He’d have preferred to play with Charlie Parker, but if he had to play with the Stones? Obviously yes.

My favorite factoid. He collected cars but never learned to drive. Evidence against his supposed lack of decadence.

My favorite personal anecdote. Sometime back in the 80s I took my friend Mo to JFK. He was flying off to Germany. In the International Departures section we ended up sitting next to Charlie and his wife, Shirley, on some banquettes on a long corridor. It was hard not to look, but also embarrassing to be seen looking. Mo was a master of such moments, gave a wave of acknowledgment, and said Hi. Charlie and Shirley politely said Hi back, and then we went back to our waiting. More comfortably.

For me the magic of the Stones was the way the pieces fit together in surprising and completely agreeable ways. Charlie fit that aesthetic to the t.

The Veronicas, “Untouched”

Here’s the tune..

I’m not sure I’ll ever play it again. I’m pretty sure I never heard it before tonight.

It’s from 2008. It hit No. 17 on the US Billboard charts, but even though I had a nine year old in the house it didn’t make an impression on me. But what’s striking is the speed (fast), the strings (aggressive), and the guitars (really aggressive).

Couple it with some plain talking lyrics and an oddly effective chorus and I’m not sure why it didn’t make it to No. 3. Maybe because it’s from Australia.

In any case, this post isn’t a recommendation exactly, but a nod to the idea that the pieces of great songs and great ideas can also end up in pieces of commercial product that might actually have some personality to it.

I think I will listen again.

Lee Dorsey, Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)

I was cooking on Mardi Gras, shrimp etoufee by the way, and had a playlist of Mardi Gras songs on. Lots of good stuff I knew, but then this song came on. It’s not in any way obscure. It was written by Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint and I gather it was used in a grocery store commercial at some point. It’s been covered quite a bit, too. But it was new to me.

Good advice, too.

Chick Correa’s Spot

As Tom posted, Chick Correa died this week. We’re of a similar age, so we’re both wowed (I suspect) about how big an audience jazz music had at some shows in the mid 70s. When in the mid 70s we were going to shows featuring Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra in arenas, not clubs.

And Chick Correa’s life story is mixed in with that cultural moment.

I don’t know the details of the way jazz embraced rock in the 70s, or maybe rock embraced jazz. I do have all the records. Chick Correa was a piano player then who played on the big jazz albums of that time and made his own albums, which got into a lot of Scientology stuff (which isn’t totally disqualifying) but makes you look more closely.

But let’s get back to the music. This is a track Correa plays electric piano on, one of his first with Miles, in which Miles adulates his second wife, a giant soul performer and personality, Betty Davis. I didn’t know this one (there is a lot of music out there).