Darlingside, “Terrible Things”

I went with my daughter to see these four young men called Darlingside last night at the excellent Rockwood Music Hall in lower Manhattan. It’s a clever but lousy name. Darlingside, I mean. Rockwood is a clever and excellent name. We were there at the invitation of the author, John Seabrook, who is writing about the band for the New Yorker, who was there with his son Harry. Lucy and Harry were born two months apart 16 and a half years ago, and have grown up together in many ways. Rockwood is a 21+ venue. Special exceptions were granted. They were the youngest people in the room, surely, just as John and I were probably, statistically at least, the tallest. And maybe the oldest, now that I think about it.

John knew about Darlingside because his wife’s niece went to college with them recently at Williams. They’re very cute and apparently the kids at Williams thought they were great. These two things aren’t unrelated, but cuteness doesn’t diminish their skills. They are talented multi instrumentalists and harmonizers. Their first album came out yesterday and the show we saw was their first on their record-release tour. All of which is supposed to suggest that I didn’t know much about them until I listened to the album yesterday. It is full of very smart lyrics, and soft but engaging arrangements and vocals. In other words, it is not rock.

But watching their lovely show, which was thoroughly enjoyable and displayed a sense of humor the earnest songs on the album don’t, it was kind of easy to project back a few years to a band that was perhaps a little edgier, a lot less interested in being lovely and a lot more interested in telling it like it is. With drums.

Today my daughter found this old (from 2012) music video from Darlingside. It’s not hard rock by any stretch, but it’s a strong song with a rock beat and a sharp video that came way too late to hit the indie boom. But the harmonies are still front and center, and delightful, as is the dark storyline with a happy ending. This, I think, is Darlingside.

My Brilliant Career, as a model

audiocover-smallIn 1981 my friend Max and his associate (and our friend) Kathy, made an advertisement for the magazine Max worked for: Audio.

I have no recollection of how the whole thing came together, but at the end of the day three members of the Warren Street All Starz stickball team, Rafael Pizarro, Fleming Meeks and moi, were cast. Fleming as the delicate consumer, Rael and I as the Mono Brothers, the wild beasts of the street.

The “record store” was set up in the Cooper Square loft of Janet, a friend of other All Starz members.

I remember brutalizing my hair with a pair of scissors, trying to make it as spiky as I could, before heading over to the shoot, though it doesn’t look that spiky.

The image tells the rest of the story. This episode did not prove to be a stepping stone to a new career.


Excerpt: The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

sexlivesofcannibalsMy friend David, who is living in New Zealand these days, sends this clip from  The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

I packed thirty-odd discs that I felt could comprehensively meet any likely musical desire…[but] I forgot our CDs in my mother’s garage in Washington, thousands and thousands of miles away…

..I was thinking about these CDs a few months later, when once again I was being driven to the brink of insanity by an ear-shattering, 120-beat-a-minute rendition of “La Macarena,” the only song ever played on Tarawa. It was everywhere. If I was in a minibus, overburdened as always with twentysome people and a dozen fish, hurtling down the road at a heart-stopping speed, the driver was inevitably blasting a beat-enhanced version of “La Macarena” that looped over and over again. If I was drinking with a few of the soccer players who kindly let me demonstrate my mediocrity on the soccer field with them, our piss-up in one of the seedy dives in Betio would occur to the skull-racking jangle of “La Macarena.” If I happened across some teenage boys who had gotten their hands on an old Japanese boom box, they were undoubtedly loitering to a faint and tinny “La Macarena”…

…As I continued to be flailed by “La Macarena,” I took small comfort in the fact that at least no one on Tarawa had ever seen the video, and I was therefore spared the sight of an entire nation spending their days line dancing…

…What finally brought me to the brink was the recent acquisition of a boom box by the family that lived across the road… sometimes for hours at a time, and I would be reduced to an imbecilic state by the endless playing of “La Macarena.” It was hot. My novel—and this is a small understatement—was not going very well. My disposition was not enhanced by “La Macarena.” I wondered if I could simply walk across the road and kindly ask the neighbors to shut the fucking music off… and I asked Tiabo if she thought it was permissible for me to ask the neighbors to turn the music down. “In Kiribati, we don’t do that,” Tiabo [the maid] said. “Why not?” I asked. “I would think that loud noise would bother people.” “This is true. But we don’t ask people to be quiet”…

…As the months went by and “La Macarena” was etched deeper and deeper into my consciousness, I became increasingly despondent that our package of CDs would never arrive. Then, one day the stars aligned, the gods smiled, and as I rummaged among the packages I saw with indescribable happiness my mother’s distinctive handwriting. Oh, the sweet joy of it. I claimed the package, stuffed it my backpack, and biked like the wind.

“Tiabo,” I said, full of glee. “You must help me.” She eyed me suspiciously as I plundered through our box of CDs. “You must tell me which song, in your opinion, do you find to be the most offensive.” “What?” she asked wearily. “I want you to tell me which song is so terrible that the I-Kiribati will cover their ears and beg me to turn it off.” “You are a strange I-Matang.” I popped in the Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head. I forwarded it to the song “Gratitude,” which is an abrasive and highly aggressive song. “What do think?” I yelled. “I like it.” Damn. I moved on to Nirvana’s “Lithium.” I was sure that grunge-metal-punk would not find a happy audience on an equatorial atoll. “It’s very good,” Tiabo said. Now I was stumped. I tried a different tack. I inserted Rachmaninoff. “I don’t like this,” Tiabo said.

Now we were getting somewhere. “Okay, Tiabo. How about this?” We listened to a few minutes of La Bohème. Even I felt a little discombobulated listening to an opera on Tarawa. “That’s very bad,” Tiabo said. “Why?” “I-Kiribati people like fast music. This is too slow and the singing is very bad.” “Good, good. How about this?” I played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. “That’s terrible. Ugh . . . stop it.” Tiabo covered her ears. Bingo. I moved the speakers to the open door.

“What are you doing?” Tiabo asked. I turned up the volume. For ten glorious minutes Tarawa was bathed in the melancholic sounds of Miles Davis. Tiabo stood shocked. Her eyes were closed. Her fingers plugged her ears. I had high hopes that the entire neighborhood was doing likewise. Finally, I turned it off. I listened to the breakers. I heard the rustling of the palm fronds. A pig squealed. But I did not hear “La Macarena.” Victory. “Thank you, Tiabo. That was wonderful.” “You are a very strange I-Matang.”

Night Music: Tiki Brothers, “Ocean—Thank You Lou Reed”

My buddies the Tiki Brothers play a lot of water and beach themed tunes. They started out playing covers, lots of novelty tunes (Pipeline anyone?) a few years ago and at one of their early shows at the Steinhof Cafe, a bar up the road from my house, they played a gorgeous non-novelty song about the sea that stately-sloshed it’s way up the bank and back down the beach again, with a long inevitable build of tension and melody and determination. These are the not coincidentally the characteristics that, for me, dominate Lou Reed’s song writing. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that he wrote this late Velvet Underground song that I didn’t know, called “Ocean,” which I’d surely heard because it was on the Velvet’s big commercial move, Loaded. (The link here is to the demo version, which features John Cale on organ and wasn’t on the released elpee.)

Walker, the Tiki’s bassist, sent me a recording today. It’s Ocean, the Lou Reed song, only with a kind of righteous poem dedicated to Lou Reed laid on top by the Tiki’s vocalis/mandolin player, Buck, extemporaneously I’m told. And like the original it starts quiet and builds into something of a roiling swamp of tone poem and tribute and something a little lovely and oddly familiar with Lou. It’s recorded live in the rehearsal studio so the balance and mix isn’t always perfect, but that’s okay. It builds to something I thought worth sharing.

Ocean–Thank You Lou Reed, by the Tiki Brothers.

louandlaurie-southfork Ps. I went looking for a picture of Lou Reed at the beach, maybe doing tai chi or working on his tan, but this was the closest I could find.

Night Music: Gene McCaffrey, “This is the End”

My buddy Gene wrote this song, and with each iteration he raises the level of the vocals and the cleanness of the mix. Which is good. But the reason to love this song are the propulsive guitars and the rock solid drums. This thing kicks from the stall to the cleaning stall and probably even to the sleeping stall (I’m borrowing my daughter’s horse vocab here).

A metaphor lives forever.


Night Music: The Rolling Stones, “Rip This Joint”

A friend posted a link today to Bill Plummer’s recording of “The Look of Love,” which features a sitar, psychedelic cover art and a prominent bass line. When I saw the link I thought: The baseball player? Or the bass player? Or have I got the names screwed up? I didn’t have the names screwed up.

If you Google Bill Plummer, the baseball player comes up. He played from 1968 to 1978 for the Cubs, Reds and Mariners. He was primarily a backup catcher, put together 1007 PA with a .188 BA and 14 homers during that time. As so often happens with catchers, he ended up a manager for the Mariners in 1992, when they had a .395 winning percentage.

The only reason I knew Bill Plummer, bassist, is because if you read the inner sleeves of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street elpee, Bill Plummer shows up as an acoustic bass player on some of the songs. I have to admit, I don’t remember the name of everybody who plays on every album, but not only did I play Exile a lot and read the notes closely, but I also discovered that my “hi-fi” set at the time—a belt driven AR turntable and a fairly cheap but wood boxed desk radio with stereo RCA inputs—was capable of letting me get deep into the Stones’ mix. I couldn’t believe I could hear Bill Plummer in all that grimey noise. The mix is brilliant.

Plus, it couldn’t have escaped my attention at the time that a catcher on the Reds and a bass player for the Stones had the same name, and from such linkages memories are made.

The songs Plummer played on are “Rip This Joint,” “Turd on the Run,” “I Just Wanna See His Face,” and “All Down the Line.” I know all this because I found a website devoted to the Stones that is plug ugly, but goes on and on and on with interesting facts, documents and conversation, called iorr.org. It’s a good place to go if you want to get caught in the sway of the Stones.

I also learned at iorr (which is the acronym for It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll) that Bill Wyman later claimed that he played bass on at least some of the tracks credited to Plummer. And the posters at iorr.org credit that info totimeisonourside.com, another website of dubious aesthetics that seems to get the job done Stones-wise. Just as the Stones and Bill Plummer, among others, get the job done with this one. . .

The Heartbreakers

tumblr_l8e1glHJ571qckm0wo1_500The two best shows I ever saw were both the Heartbreakers. I saw all their early shows, starting with their debut with Walter Lure at CB’s in July 1975. They had played a no-one-knows gig at Coventry in Queens as a trio: Johnny, Jerry and Richard.

Truth be known, the Heartbreakers really made CBGB. By that time Television was drawing but not packing the place. No one else was even on the map, except Patti Smith who was working her way up along with Television. For the Heartbreakers debut it was packed out into the street. I got there early and sat at a front table with my buddy from work Steve, who was four years older and curious.

We saw I think six bands that night and I’m trying to remember them. Possibly Talking Heads was one but they may have opened for the Ramones about a week later. The Shirts for sure, a band called Cracked Actor, and definitely Mink DeVille. It was a great show and The Heartbreakers topped it easily, but it wasn’t their best show.

That show was their 3rd gig at CB’s, the night that they debuted their version of Love Comes in Spurts, which was eventually recorded in a much different version on the Voidoids first album. That night I went with my best friend Dee, and the two of us and the whole house were blown speechless. Maybe someone else can do it just as well but no one can do it better.

Naturally, they couldn’t get a record contract. Everyone was scared of the junk and the failure of the Dolls. Richard left the band in early 1976. Johnny, Jerry and Walter disappeared for 2-3 months and emerged with Billy Rath on bass. The Hell songs were gone and in their place were Get Off The Phone, It’s Not Enough, I Love You, All By Myself and Let Go. They gigged around a bit and went to England at the end of the year, as it happened on the very night that the Sex Pistols were on the infamous Bill Grundy Show. The Heartbreakers were on the Sex Pistols tour, along with The Clash and briefly The Damned. Briefly too because the tour only played six dates what with the threat to England of Johnny Rotten, but the boys stuck around after the tour gigging extensively all over England and even Paris.

In the summer of ’77, that anarchic summer, they came back to New York to play a long weekend at the Village Gate. No doubt me and the boys would be there. It was the week that Elvis died.

Another wild scene. I don’t mean uniforms either. What came to be “punk” fashion was much more an open question then. The looks were various and imaginative. The band was hanging out among the crowd and they looked perfect early 60s gangster, except for the hair of course (there is a Facebook page called Johnny Thunders’ Hair). It took several years for the junk to really show. Any number of members of NY bands were also there, in addition to all the band’s fans and lemme tell ya they were an active bunch. The little headline in the Daily News said “Crowd Steals Show at Heartbreakers Return.”

But not for us. The band stole the show. They came out smoking with Chinese Rocks, absolutely on the money with the hugest sound I ever heard, right into One Track Mind, and just blistered their way upward. Halfway through, Robert Gordon gets up on stage and they do Jailhouse Rock for Elvis and Be Bop a Lula. All of us walked out of there soaked and full of wonder. Actually, three of us decided that night that we were going to do this; we would make music like this. The fourth guy said “I’ll be your manager.”

Rockin’ in the (not quite) free world.

A band of buddies, the Sequoias, played at New York City’s tony private Century Club last night. One of the opening acts was Peter Duchin, opening only because he had to get home to bed at a reasonable hour. I was not there, but I don’t think it is out of line to praise a band of 50+ dudes playing the classics as if they were born rockin’ (helped by babysitter LaChrisha on vocals). Most weren’t.

Peter Duchin Orchestra playing Superfly is a different type of remnant.