Song of the Week – It’s My Show!, Broken Baby

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Broken Baby is an LA based band that plays their own version of post-punk, power pop.  The band is led by guitarist Alex Dezen and Amber Bollinger on vocals.  Max Diaz (bass) and Garrett Henritz (drums) round out the foursome.

The band’s sense of fun reminds me of the early B-52’s.  They’ve validated that viewpoint by making a recording and video cover of the B-52’s “Private Idaho.”

Today’s SotW is “It’s My Show!”, a feminist declaration of freedom over the entitled bro culture’s attitude toward women.

Fill my glass to the brim with a shit Bordeaux
You wanna know my sign, sure it says stop bro
No Patrick Swayze you ain’t gettin no ride
I’m not looking for the time of my life
With enough candles on my cake you can watch me blow

This is music for fans of Blondie and the aforementioned B-52’s.  You can dance to it, but it will also make you think.  I’ll be following this band.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Sing a Simple Song, Sly & the Family Stone

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A few weeks ago. I celebrated the anniversary of the Woodstock festival as I do every year, by watching the 3+ hour director’s cut of the documentary film.  One of the highlights is always the performance by Sly & the Family Stone.  They were sooo good!

My favorite Sly album is Stand! (1969) thought the critics favorite is always There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971).  Although not included in the Woodstock movie, one of Sly’s signature songs from Stand! was “Sing a Simple Song”, today’s SotW.

“… Simple Song” follows a familiar formula where several of the band members are featured on vocals.  The lyrics idealistically implore us to “sing a simple song” as a solution for dealing with unhappiness.

I’m living, living, living life with all its ups and downs
I’m giving, giving, giving love and smiling at the frowns
You’re in trouble when you find it’s hard for you to smile
A simple song might make it better for a little while

The funk is incomparable.  Great horns, chicken scratch guitar, pulsing organ stabs and a heavy bottom make this track irresistible.

Apparently, many others agree.  According to Wikipedia the song has been covered by  “Dusty SpringfieldDiana Ross & the SupremesThe TemptationsThe Jackson 5The CommodoresMiles Davis (wow!), The MetersBooker T. & the M.G.’sPrinceThe Budos BandMaceo Parker and others.”

And somewhat more significantly, the song has been sampled by hundreds of rap/hip hop artists, demonstrating the lasting influence it has had on many generations.  Again, Wikipedia lists “Ike & Tina Turner2PacJodeciWu-Tang ClanPublic EnemyDe La SoulDigital Underground (“Humpty Dance“), Cypress HillGorillazArrested DevelopmentBackstreet BoysSpice GirlsAlanis Morissette, and Adina Howard” as artists that have sampled “… Simple Song.”  The website Who Sampled lists 477 songs that used “… Simple Song”!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Highway 5, The Blessing

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In the early ‘90s, a British band called The Blessing released a pretty damn good album called Prince of the Deep Water.  The band was led by vocalist and songwriter William Topley.  Their best-known song, “Highway 5”, is today’s SotW.

Topley’s soulful vocals are terrific on this cut.  When he gets to the pre-chorus, the timber of his voice changes to sound like Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals – and that’s a good thing!  And that soaring chorus is catchy.

Baby got lost on Highway 5 and called my name out loud
Said she broke down and cried about how we can’t live apart
And all the people they were driving by they watched her like she was mad
But she knew she would never suffer from the madness that they had

I always wondered if “Highway 5” was a reference to Interstate 5 (“the 5”) in California.  Although Topley is British, part of the album was recorded in Hollywood, CA.

According to the album liner notes a large cast of superstars contributed “their help in making this record,” including Robben Ford, Nicky Hopkins, Bruce Hornsby, Steve Khan, Hugh McCracken, Jeff Porcaro, and Soozie Tyrell, among others.  According to Wikipedia Rickie Lee Jones also participated but I can’t find her name anywhere in my CD liner notes.  It’s also too bad that those artists aren’t given credit for the specific songs they contributed to.

The Blessing broke up after two albums, but Topley continued to record and perform.  His latest release was Back at the Napoleon House (2020).

Enjoy… until next week.


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Song of the Week – I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore, Phil Ochs & Chicago, Graham Nash

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It was this week in 1968 that the Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago.  That was 55 years ago!

As most of you know (and maybe remember) this was the convention that resulted in chaos and violence when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley called in his police force and the National Guard to quell the anti-Viet Nam war protests that were being staged outside the convention hall.

One of the most important organizers of the protests was the folk artist, Phil Ochs.  Most other artists, including Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, and Paul Simon refused invitations to attend and perform.  Only the MC5, managed by Yippie John Sinclair, accepted the invitation.

Ochs played “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore”.  The male protesters burned their draft cards.

In 2018, he Chicago publication The Reader reported:

 “Wednesday, August 28, (is) the day that most people think about when they think about that convention in Chicago. That early morning, protesters agitated along the east side of Michigan Avenue across from the Conrad Hilton Hotel where the Democratic delegates were staying. That included Ochs, who wore a flag pin on his suit jacket.”

“… about 3,000 protesters tried to march and the police didn’t let them and some of them started throwing rocks, sticks, sometimes feces. What ensued was a 17-minute melee in front of the hotel between the marchers and a force that included some of the 12,000 Chicago police in addition to 6,000 army troops and 5,000 National Guardsmen that had been called to protect Chicago on the orders of Mayor Daley. Officers beat activists bloody in the streets of Chicago with nightsticks—live on national TV.”

This incident inspired Graham Nash to write his song “Chicago”.

Today’s rock stars often choose to “play it safe”, rather than engage in the political discourse that may alienate some part of their fan base.  I wish we could bring back the old days.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Pearl to the Swine, Mapache

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I have plans to see the Grateful Dead tribute band Grateful Shred in November.  Two of the musicians in that band, Sam Blasucci and Clay Finch, have been performing and recording together as Mapache for several years.

Mapache (Spanish for racoon) has a unique blend of Gram Parsons like country, Americana, and traditional, Spanish language, Mexican influences.  Their 2022 album, Roscoe’s Dream, is a tribute to Blasucci’s Boston terrier, that has travelled on the road with them for many years.

Today’s SotW is “Pearl to the Swine.”

It has Americana roots but with a groovy, ‘60s fuzzed out, psych guitar.  And in Mapache style, there are some nice harmonies on the outro.

Keep an eye on this duo!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Pony, Annette Peacock & Aladdin Sane, David Bowie

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Annette Peacock is one of those artists that almost no one remembers, even though she was quite influential in her day.  Her 1972 album I’m the One was a mix of jazz, psych, and avant-garde funk.  It was helped along with a prototype synthesizer that we provided to her by none other than Robert Moog himself.  She used it to process her vocals very effectively.

As background, Peacock was married to jazz bassist Gery Peacock in the early ‘60s when she hooked up with Timothy Leary at Millbrook — the hippy commune just east of Poughkeepsie, NY devoted to drug experimentation and spirituality — to study Zen and Microbiotics.  She later married jazz keyboardist Paul Bley, who was also a pioneer in the use of ARP and Moog synthesizers.

On I’m the One (1972), Peacock was responsible for vocals, electronic vocals, acoustic and electric piano, synthesizers, and electric vibraphone.  It also included appearances by Bley, keyboardist Mike Garson, and drummer Rick Marotta.

Legend has it that David Bowie was so impressed with I’m the One that he invited Peacock to guest on his next album — Aladdin Sane.  (The title is a pun on the words A Lad Insane.) She declined but suggested Bowie hire her keyboardist, Garson.  Garson accepted and is responsible for the innovative piano solo on the title song.  It is one of my favorites!

So, if you are the type of person that is always seeking out new musical ideas, check out Peacock’s I’m the One.  It is available on Spotify and YouTube.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Summertime Blues; Eddie Cochran, Blue Cheer, The Who, Guitar Wolf

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Today’s post is yet another in my “Evolution” series.

Sixty-five years ago, Eddie Cochran released the evergreen “Summertime Blues.”  Originally intended as the B-side to Cochran’s “Love Again” it captured the zeitgeist of the late ‘50s rebellious American teenage life.  It rose to #8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the summer of 1958.

San Francisco’s hard rock group Blue Cheer made the song their own when they released the unlikely single in 1968.  Given the ear-splitting volume that Blue Cheer’s music was meant to be played at, their version reached a surprising #14 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  I remember watching them perform on Dick Clark’s American BandstandBandstand was well known for having their guest performers lip-synch.  The band clearly isn’t playing live (they have no vocal mics, although drummer Paul Whaley seems to be pounding the skins) but as a 12-year-old kid, I was very impressed with the giant wall of Marshall stacks they had behind them as props.

The Who also included “Summertime Blues” in their setlist.  They recorded studio versions of the song, but they didn’t see the light of day until the late ‘90s and early aughts on expanded CD releases of Odds and Sods and The Who Sell Out.  But their seminal version from Live at Leeds (1970) managed to reach #27 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  The Who also performed “Summertime Blues” at Woodstock which will have its 54th anniversary in mid-August.

That makes 3 top 40 versions of the song!

In 1999, Japanese Punk Rock band Guitar Wolf, released their own version of “Summertime Blues.”  The fact that they are singing the lyrics in an undecipherable form of Japanglish only adds to the charm of their recording and is true to the spirit of teen defiance that was captured in the Cochran original.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Rock a Doodle Doo, Linda Lewis

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Fifty years ago, British singer-songwriter Linda Lewis charted with her first hit in the UK, “Rock a Doodle Doo.”

This song is a taste of British soul at its best. It is smooth and sultry, and sung beautifully.  The New York Times described her performance as showing “off her range with vocals that swung from husky lows to shimmering highs, to the point that the song could be mistaken for a duet.”

“Rock a Doodle Doo” didn’t dent the charts in the US, even after being given a promotional push through its inclusion on Appetizers (1975), one of the Loss Leaders compilation albums that Warner Brothers released through mail order.

Besides her solo work, Lewis was an “in demand” background singer. She sang on David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, Cat Stevens’ Catch Bull at Four, Rod Stewart’s Blondes Have More Fun, Al Kooper’s Possible Projection of the Future and last week’s SotW, “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)” by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel.  She was also an extra in The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, in the role of a screaming fan!

Lewis passed away just a few months ago in May 2023, at the age of 72.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me), Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel

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Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel enjoyed considerable success in the UK throughout the ‘70s, notching four Top 10 singles there.  Here in the US, he only charted once.  “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)” reached #96 here in 1975.  And that is the SotW.

After charting a couple of Top 10 singles (#5 “Judy Teen” and #8 “Mr. Soft”), original band members John Crocker (fiddle), Milton Reame-James (keyboards), and Paul Jeffreys (bass) held a mutiny over publishing royalties.  They wanted to contribute to the songwriting and Harley told them their songs weren’t good enough.  So they quit.  The incident motivated Harley to write “Make Me Smile…”

You’ve done it all
You’ve broken every code
And pulled the rebel to the floor
You spoiled the game
No matter what you say
For only metal, what a bore

Reame-James and Jeffreys joined Bill Nelson in Be-Bop Deluxe which inspired that last line.

There’s nothing left
All gone and run away
Maybe you’ll tarry for a while
It’s just a test
A game for us to play
Win or lose, it’s hard to smile

In the end, you would have to say Harley won the battle.  He recruited a new band and “Make Me Smile…” soared to #1 – the Top of the Pops!

In 2015, the song charted in the UK again at #72.  Now how did that happen?  As it turns out, Harley was fined £1,000 when he was caught travelling at 70 MPH in a 40 MPH zone.  Jeremy Clarkson, then host of the BBC’s motoring programme Top Gear, was outraged by the fine so he encouraged all of his viewers to download “Make Me Smile…” to help Harley pay for it.  It worked!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Melody, Rolling Stones

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In the first few years after college, my friends and I threw some epic dance parties.  We didn’t offer a lot.  There was plenty of cheap beer and wine, and some munchies.  But what we had in abundance was good vibes and great tunes!

A deep cut that was always a big hit on the dance floor was “Melody” by the Rolling Stones.

“Melody” comes from the Stones’ underrated 1976 album Black and Blue.  It is a smooth, sultry number that was credited as “inspired by Billy Preston.”  But let’s face it… we all know it was really written by Preston; but Jagger/Richards had the clout to deny publishing to “bandmates.”  (Just ask Mick Taylor!)  Further proof is the prominence of Preston’s jazzy piano playing and soulful vocal duet with Jagger.

Whenever I hear this song, I’m back on the dance floor with old friends in that magical house in Newton, MA.  Good times!

Enjoy… until next week.