Gaming Spotify.

A band needed money to tour. Which makes sense, since album sales are nothing. And touring costs money.

They made an album of short songs with no noise, called it Sleepify, and posted it on Spotify. Then had friends of the band play the record over and over. Repeat and repeat. Slowly, the royalty rate added up to a full tank of gas. Now that’s rock.

Brilliant, and unsustainable. Have a great time on the road.

LINK: Physical Graffiti is 39 Years Old Today

Screenshot 2014-02-25 11.55.14On this day in 1975, Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti was released. The website Gothamist included it in their series NYC Album Art, which includes the album cover, a story about the album and other stuff that readers here might enjoy, including a YouTube playlist.

The Physical Graffiti entry in the series includes NY Times critic John Rockwell’s Top 10 list for 1975. He lists Zep’s big album as an honorable mention and points out in the intro that he likes new music, which is why his list is topped by a couple of youngsters, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith.

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS: Beatles vs. Stones

I’m reading this book, called Beatles vs. Stones, by John McMillan. It’s been a fun telling of the times when the two bands overlapped during their histories.

The New York Library is having a debate, with Mike Meyers and some other folks facing off on this hot issue, on February 27th, at Lincoln Center.

In anticipation of that, Gothamist has a post today declaring the Beatles clear winners, by comparing three truly awful late Stones songs no one has ever heard of to Revolver, Abbey Road and The Beatles. It’s worth listening to the Stones songs just to make the question somewhat more interesting.

For my part, I listen to the Stones much more than the Beatles, even records I played out decades ago, but without specific criteria it’s a tough choice between them. Seems likely the Beatles were the more creative while bridging the transition from early 60s pop forms to rock, while the Stones were more influential twisting blues and r’n’b forms into rock and pop music going forward into the future.

In any case, giving the Stones demerits for continuing to write material, no matter how crappy, long after they could have stopped trying, doesn’t seem fair. Especially when the other guys, the non-aligned Beatles, made plenty of crap music as solo artists. But it does make me wonder why the Stones they didn’t recognize how awful so much of it was and have the self-respect to bury it. Could their taste have become that rotten?

Night Music: The Replacements, “Takin’ a Ride”

I’ve been listening recently to a set called The Replacements “The Complete Collection.” As you might imagine, it seems to have just about everything the Replacements recorded and released on lp or ep. Don’t ask me about bonus tracks or anything, the draw here seems to be all the discs in track order, from the first to the last. (If you want rarities and alt versions, check out this site.)

I remember seeing the Replacements’ first album, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, in some record store when it came out. Great title, for sure, but I’ve never owned it and didn’t get into the band until later, when everyone did. So sue me.

So the other night I was making some food and I started at the beginning. The first song on Sorry Ma is called Takin’ a Ride, and it is mind blowing. First of all, it’s fast. The drums hurtle right at you and the guitars pizzicato and roar and then pulsate like a siren, while Westerberg seems determined to say it as plainly and as quickly as he is able. The effect is transfixing, even if his voice sounds a little like a box being crushed.

This is a tune that starts out sounding like the Clash, chugs like Blue Oyster Cult, suddenly becomes vintage Modern Lovers, embraces the Heartbreakers, and then explodes with some of that good regular rock music from the 70s that bubbles out of the gutter and reaches greedily for the bright lights. What teenage boys in suburbia dream of instead of disco. For a bunch of goofball fuckups, this is some powerfully ambitious songmaking. Tommy was only 14 at the time. Maybe they didn’t know any better.

And it seems like every song on this album is like this, a million ideas and sounds, all of them played as hard as they can, as if this was their last chance. Their only chance. Maybe because it almost was.

PS. One thing about the (digital) boxed set is that it sounds great. YouTube is not nearly as alive. I’m assuming the masters were cleaned and remixed, but in fact after a little digging around it doesn’t seem like much push was put behind this. Whatever. I have it streaming on Google Music All Access, and it’s getting plenty of play in my house. The Replacements albums I did own, Let it Be, Pleased to Meet Me, All Shook Down, came out during my cassette years. Ugh.

Lunch Break: De La Soul, “Talking ’bout Hey Love”

De La Soul was the best of a flowering of hip hop groups about 25 years ago who broke the hard street mold of lots of rap back then. Others I liked a lot were the Jungle Brothers and Monie Love. DLS were from the Long Island suburbs and their music, designed by another Long Islander named Prince Paul, is usually affable and often funny, sometime surreal and not all that aggressive. But it crackles and pops atop a big resounding beat, sometimes with some sharp social observation, while you sway and smile. Their tunes have the scratchy feel of an oldie, mashed up and filtered through time and polished with a modern attitude, filtered by a sense of humor even when angry.

This tune is a good one for Valentine’s Day, a love song built on a Stevie Wonder song, with some sharp spoken word to round it out. Hmmm, maybe not so good for Valentine’s Day after all.

I bring De La Soul up today because as a promotion for something new that’ve got coming up they’re giving away mp3s of all their music. That seems like a funny way to do business, but a visit to YouTube shows all their albums online already. You can sign up for the promo (you have to share an email address) at UPDATE: I always wondered why I couldn’t stream Three Feet High at Google Music or Mog, and it seems the answer is that because of the way the rights were cleared neither label nor band had the rights to release the music digitally. That seems about to change, as well as the band having new music coming shortly. Now you know.

Which is the best De La Soul album? People I’ve been reading today seem to favor Buhloone Mindstate, but by that time my attention had flagged a little. Both 3 Feet High and Rising and De La Soul Is Dead caught me at a really good moment, so I think it’s probably best to start at the beginning, if you’re going to wade in.

Then tread water.

Night Music: David Bowie and the Spiders From Mars, “Hang On To Yourself”

I did not know about DA Pennebaker’s Ziggy Stardust movie until yesterday. Poor me.

It seems that Bowie had plans to retire the The Spiders from Mars as his backing band after these very shows, as well as Ziggy Stardust as his stage persona. He invited Pennebaker to record a couple of songs, for posterity, but the legendary director of music films (Don’t Look Back among others)ghby saw a bigger chance, and recorded the weekend of shows at the Hammersmith Odeon.

With word out that the Spiders were done, many took that to mean that the willful Bowie was retiring from the stage himself. I watched half of this today and it is so fine, a mixture of fab musical performance and just enough verite color to make it all feel immediate and up close.

There is a DVD of the whole show that surely has better pictures and sound, but this clip will give you an indelible taste.

“You don’t own Blonde on Blonde?”

Obviously, that’s not my real name, but Peter set me up with an account here at the First Pitch Forums. For well, reasons, I prefer to post anonymously now and then. I used to be on the email thread we had before the website came into being. Most of you can figure it out. If not, ask Peter.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following the work posted here so far, and feel I have a couple of things I could add here and there. My time period runs a tad later than the rest of you, but hopefully I have something to add, and perhaps make you acquainted with something you’ll like that you hadn’t heard before.

I grew up with a father who loved the Beach Boys and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Thankfully for my music tastes, my stepfather came into my life at age 9 with a copious Blues collection, while also introducing me to the Stones, the Kinks, and the Allman Brothers, as well as AC/DC when I got older. Musical taste crisis averted.

My musical tastes run the gamut. I listen to everything. Except country. Insert the worst insult Lester Bangs ever wrote about any piece of music here to tell you how I feel about country music. These days my XM Radio will mostly be found on the blues and vintage soul stations. I find myself listening to more stuff from the Stax, Volt, Chess, and Motown labels than anything else these days. One of the good things about my affection for mid-80s to mis-90s hip-hop are the great vintage songs I would not otherwise have been exposed to as a result of sampling.

In the movie High Fidelity, Jack Black’s character is surprised and semi-berates a record store customer for not owning Blonde on Blonde, saying something to the effect of “Shh, don’t tell anybody you don’t own it!” He then presents him with a copy and an affectionate hug, saying, “don’t worry, it’s going to be OK.”

I’m not going to do a list of my ten best or ten favorite albums, but in the vein of that column, I am going to do a list of what I see are ten “must-listens” at least once. They are an essential part of my library, the albums in my possession that give my music collection a certain panache. And as Steve says, listen to them as full albums in the way they were intended. Not cherry-picking a single on YouTube. Don’t be that guy.

One other note: I’m not going to be obvious here. “Hey, you should listen to London Calling by the Clash!” I have way too much respect for you guys to do that. A little bit of an eclectic mix, but then again, that’s kind of the point isn’t it? Admittedly, a little more modern feel than a site with the word “remnants” in the title should probably have, but I think overall it works.

In no particular order:

1)    Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes: Gordon Gano is the Joe Charboneau of songwriting. One great album of songs, and then poof. Sure, there was further output after that, but let’s be honest. Come for “Blister in the Sun” and “Gone Baby Gone” and stay for “Add It Up,” one of the greatest songs ever about teenage sexual longing.

2)    Johnny Cash – The Essential Johnny Cash: Three points to make here. 1) Am I cheating by putting a hits album on here? Yes. Don’t Care. 2) “But wait a minute, you said you hated country music?” Don’t kid yourself. Johnny Cash is as rock-n-roll as they come. It’s not country when Johnny plays it. 3) In my day job, I put a “plus” makeup grade on a prospect once for the singular reason that he used Johnny Cash as his at-bat walkup music. That’s a guy I want on my team.

3)    Soul Coughing – Irresistible Bliss: Key songs are “Super Bon Bon” and “Soundtrack to Mary.” This is a band that never reached its heights due to drugs and personal differences. They never really put it all together for one album. This is as close as they came, and it’s still pretty good.

4)    Van Halen – Fair Warning: This is not going to turn into a rant about Sammy Hagar. If you own one Van Halen album this should be it. It illustrates the brilliance of Eddie’s guitar playing in a short, tight album, and a band operating at its peak musically if not commercially.

5)    J Geils Band – Blow Your Face Out (Live) – A fantastic live album from a sorely underrated band. If you cheat and go with a best of album of studio tracks, their “Flashback” album from 1985 is better than any other compilations that came after it. A better live band than studio band. But both were pretty darn good.

6)    The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses – Make sure you get the US release with “Fools Gold” on it, not the original UK release.

7)    Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material: I will put “Suspect Device” up against almost any 7” punk record ever made. (Note: That statement was purely baiting Steve and Gene to post in the comments.) “Alternative Ulster” is a classic in its own right. That said, this is a band that should have stopped making records a long time ago. Still, we’ll always have this.

8)    Muddy Waters – Hard Again: Real Chicago blues with more modern rock production/sensibility/feel. Johnny Winter produced this and it’s on fire from start to finish. One of the best blues albums of all time.

9)    Weezer – Weezer: This debut album was released in 1994. I had heard a little bit of this band’s output over the years, but really only gave them a big listen-to about 5-6 years ago. The best part of coming to band a really late is that you have a whole back catalog to go through and appreciate. It’s a really strong catalog, especially the first 5-6 albums. Might be a touch too-poppy for some tastes and I get there, but their catalog continues to grow on me and be very re-listenable. And I say this as someone who doesn’t buy much current rock music anymore (Black Keys was the most recent I think.)

10) Insert best-of soul album here. I can cheat on my own list if I so choose. There are four acceptable choices. Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding or at worst, Stevie Wonder (provided there are no songs on the album after 1980, which is about when his legacy started getting tarnished with each piece of claptrap he released). If you don’t own something by one of those four artists, I feel very sorry for you. (Of note: recordings of Redding’s sets on the Sunset Strip at the Whisky over three nights in April 1966 were released on CD in 2010. They are entire sets as opposed to individual songs that had previously been released in bits and pieces. They give you a flavor of what we missed when he was killed a year later. Fun trivia: Bob Dylan was in the audience for the first set on this recording. Now that I’ve looped the post back around to Dylan again, I’ll end it.)