Obit: Paul Revere (1938-2014)

Way back in February, Peter wrote a Night Music piece on Paul Revere and the Raiders and I started to write this very article I am now updating.

I saw the band a couple of times in the early 60’s, opening for the Beach Boys, who played Sacramento a lot. In fact I was at the show that became The Beach Boys in Concert, and the Raiders played that gig.

The Raiders, headed by Paul Revere, were a more than entertaining collection of players who knocked out some very good pop hits. Just Like Me, Kicks, Louie Louie, and Him or Me, What’s it Gonna Be?, to name some.

But, Revere and band hold kind of a funny and dubious place in history.

At the time the first wave of British bands were washing onto the American shore and airwaves, the head of A&R at Columbia Records was none other than Mitch Miller. You know, the Sing Along With Mitch guy, who had a Van Dyke to give the illusion of beatnik coolness, but who in reality was as square as they come.

Convinced that long hair and Brit Pop were just a passing fancy, Miller dissuaded the Columbia powers that the company should not sign any of the zillion bands just waiting to be discovered, and by the time it was realized this was a business/tactical error, The Raiders were the first band signed, for a million clams.

Not that the band was bad: they were just a lot different than the British invasion bands.

Miller skedaddled from Columbia, and Clive Davis took over to a pretty successful run, but the plan definitely waylaid the company for a few years.

Anyway, Revere, the leader, passed away Saturday, perfectly enough at the age of ’76, and irrespective of Miller’s acumen, the Raiders were excellent showmen and musicians and songwriters.

I will leave you with a taste:  Hungry.


RIP: Gerry Goffin, It Might as Well Rain Until Forever

In 1958, I was first really hit by pop music and the radio. That is when I first heard Buddy Holly’s Peggy Sue, at the tender age of five. There are other tunes from around that period of my life that I remember–Gypsy Woman, Little Star, Sorry, I Ran All the Way Home, Come Softly to Me–but at that age I also played with army men and cowboys and well, I did not own a radio. Not to mention the radios we did have were controlled by my parents.

But, it was in the summer of 1962, when I was 10 and we were at a family camp near Lake Tahoe, I heard the incredible machine gun drums and droning saxes of what was the huge hit that summer, The Locomotion for the first time, and if Buddy Holly was the first nail of my rock and roll coffin, that moment was second.

The Locomotion was penned by Carole King and her then husband, Gerry Goffin, and was the first hit for their Dimension record label, but in reality, the team of Goffin and King had been cranking out hits as members of the Brill Building for years.

The Brill Building was the songwriting haven for luminaries that included Lieber and Stoller, Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, all of which is documented beautifully in the book Always Magic in the Air by Ken Emerson.

The Locomotion led to a request for a radio for the bedroom I then shared with my brother, and that Xmas we were given a white Packard Bell. As if that were not enough, our family also got a Motorola phonograph which played all speeds–16, 33.3, 45, and 78 RPM–of records.

We also got a copy of The First Family album, a political parody of the Kennedy family that was a huge hit at the time, and that started me on my path to collections of records and CDs along with a room full of musical instruments and playing in bands and pretty much a lifelong love of music in all forms. It started me on parodies, too.

Though I would have probably been hooked by music pretty soon anyway (I’m thinking had it not been The Locomotion, it would have been the Rockin’ Rebels Wild Weekend a few months later).

Wild Weekend was not written by Goffin and King, but it was a seriously rocking aong and one that hit me at the time like my mate Steve here notes KISS hit him. Don’t forget, I was just 11-years old then.

But, back to Goffin and King, among the wonderful hits the pair wrote are:

  • Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (The Shirelles)
  • Take Good Care of my Baby (Bobby Vee)
  • Might as Well Rain Until September (The Shirelles/Carole King)
  • One Fine Day (The Chiffons)
  • Pleasant Valley Sunday (The Monkees)
  • Up on the Roof (The Drifters)
  • I’m into Something Good (Herman’s Herrmits/Earl-Jean)
  • Don’t Bring Me Down (The Animals)
  • (You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman (Aretha Franklin)

Now, you have to remember that at the time a lot of the rock and roll was laughable by today’s standards. The wonderful and visceral and sexual Little Richard, for example, was sanitized by the awful Pat Boone for white kids (remember too this music was burgeoning around the time of the Civil Rights movement in the early).

But, much like Hip Hop was developed by the African American community, and the form was then “appropriated” for even broader commercial exploitation (and believe me, I am not talking the Beastie Boys here) earlier, rollicking rhythm and blues was swiped a la Richard to Boone.

At the time, though, Tutti Fruitti as performed by Little Richard was akin to Jimi Hendrix humping his Strat-O-Caster, or Wendy giving Prince a quasi blow job in the Purple Rain film (she does play a Rickenbacker, though), or anything current from Beyoncé on out.

Still, pop music, which was not necessarily rock and roll, was similarly tamer, and more orchestrated, an off-shoot of Broadway and tin pan alley largely still without the dominance of the electric guitar. Though that was indeed coming.

And, whether it floats your boat or not, or if the songs sound horribly dated and silly, the tunes of Goffin and King, I think, are still just lovely little masterpieces, much in the same league of Phil Spector. In fact, John Lennon noted that he wanted his songs with Paul McCartney to of the same ilk as those of the Dimension duo.

I still feel Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow is among the sweetest of love songs.

One of the things that always nailed me about this production is the beautiful tremoly rake of the electric guitar on the “one” of each measure. Such a simple and sweet effect, and one that has impressed me to the tune that I try to employ it often when I am playing rhythm guitar.

By the time Pleasant Valley Sunday hit it, the Beatles had come and guitars were happening and even Hippies were here, criticizing the plastic life of the suburbs, so Goffin came up with this:

Oddly this is a song I always kind of wanted to cover in some band or another.

So, last week, Goffin passed away at the age of 75.

Though I have been so remiss at contributing here at the site–it is hard once my work week begins to find time for much else, but, well, 185 more calendar days–I could not let his passing go without honoring and thanking just a great songwriter and influence on my life.

So, I will close with one other tune from the pair, and the one that introduced me to the voice of Carole King:

Thanks Gerry. Peace out.


Night Music: St. Paul & the Broken Bones, “I’ve Been Loving You (too Long to Stop Now)”

One thing about the core of us here at the Remnants is that we all became friends thanks to baseball: in particular fantasy baseball.

And, maybe there is something about how our respective and collective brains process, that makes it so that while we all do love baseball and games, there are a bunch of other things we all love, and are happy to discuss ad naseum.

Like music.

So, when our good buddy from Rotowire, Derek Van Riper, asked me if I was familiar with St. Paul & the Broken Bones, I had to plead ignorance, but that did not last too long.

I did a YouTube search, and found a song entitled Call Me, which was pretty good. It also reminded me so much of the late great wonderful Otis Redding, and his band the Barkays, who sadly died in a plane crash in December of 1967.

And, as I finished watching the Call Me video, what did I spot but a live cover of the band performing Redding’s wonderful I’ve Been Loving You (too Long to Stop Now).

Now, to be fair, my love of Redding and that song tracks back to a pair of vintage all time classic albums: Otis Redding Live in Europe, and Jimi Hendrix & Otis Redding Live at Monterey (which made my essential 50 albums list).

So, the fact that Paul Janeway (St. Paul) and his crew pretty deftly pull off their homage and sound is high praise. I mean, these guys really have the essence of the Stax/Volt sound down.

Here is the band covering Otis:

And, as a means of comparison, here is Otis and the Barkays at the peak of their form at the Monterey International Pop Music Festival, just about six months before they perished.

Otis is so good and cool, and his band is so tight that it is hard to imagine anyone even trying what St. Paul and mates did. They certainly get props from me. Thanks DVR!




RIP: Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

Folk great Pete Seeger passed away today, ideally peacefully, at the age of 94.

Seeger might not be thought of as a rocker, but he represented the spirit and attitude that any serious musician–or artist, for that matter–held and spoke, unashamedly about any cause.

Seeger was a founding member of the Weavers–who recorded probably had their biggest hit in the 50’s with Goodnight Irene by Lead Belly–some of whom were blacklisted during the McCarthy era for their beliefs.

However, in the 60’s, with the emergence of Bob Dyan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul, and Mary, Seeger found company and even a mentor-ship as his songs If I Had a Hammer, Waist Deep in the Big Muddy, and Turn! Turn! Turn! found their way to radio play.

Seeger, who played with Woody Guthrie as well as Lead Belly (with whom he co-wrote So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You along with fellow activist and musician, Lee Hays) was a pioneer in roots recording, and equally important, the Civil Rights Movement that grabbed hold in the 60’s, and is really still going on.

Seeger was a great gentleman by all accounts, and a man dedicated to humanity and equality and freedom for all human beings: something I like to think all artists, and especially rockers, strive for.

But, in thinking about Seeger, I could not help but think of the clip of him in Martin Scorsese’s fabulous American Masters documentary about Bob Dylan, No Direction Home.

Seeger is so sweet and perplexed and definite about wanting the cables to the electric guitars of Mike Bloomfield and Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival, in 1965, that it is funny to think how we all as human beings have our limits and adjustments.

For, Seeger was indeed a progressive politically. And, as a guy who quit the Weavers because they had signed an agreement to perform a cigarette jingle, he was certainly principled. But, I guess some progress, like cranked up Mike Bloomfield blues licks were hard to take for a middle-aged banjo player.

The world was a better place with, and because of Pete Seeger. And, it is sadder with him gone.

I did try to find the clip from No Direction Home, but couldn’t (although I highly recommend the movie and soundtrack) but, I did find this lovely clip of Seeger performing Dylan’s Forever Young.

And, well, remember, attitude does not have to be in-your-face Ted Nugent. A quiet message is always the most powerful, and Seeger was the purveyor of just that.


In Defense of Joe Jackson

Steve’s New Year’s article included a bunch of discs Mr. Moyer was considering blowing a bunch of holiday Amazon cash on.

looksharpAmong the coveted was Joe Jackson’s terrific 1979  Look Sharp, a solid and even pretty diverse debut released during the hey day of Punk and the New Wave.

At first I dismissed Jackson as an Elvis Costello wanna be, but several songs from Look Sharp really nailed me. Is She Really Going Out With Him, Sunday Papers, and One More Time not to mention the great title cut made me buy the vinyl (I got the same issue as Peter, two 10″ discs) and the album was strong enough for me to easily take the plunge with Jackson’s second album, I’m The Man.

I felt Jackson’s second work was even stronger than his first, with the title track resting among my favorite Jackson tunes (it is also a song I played lead guitar on and sang with my first band, Mid Life Crisis). The album also had On Your Radio and the lovely and ironic It’s Different for Girls.

I bought Jackson’s next foray, Beat Crazy, and it did not do that much for me, but the eclectic musician and songwriter–who studied at Britain’s Royal Music Academy–followed that up with his Jumpin’ Jive Review, a wonderful homage to Cab Calloway and especially Louis Jordan.

Next for Jackson was Night and Day, a nod to pop and to Cole Porter, and an album that featured perhaps Jackson’s best known tune, Stepping Out and while there were still guitars and bass and 4/4 time in Jackson’s compositions, it was clear Jackson’s love for big bands and orchestrations was guiding his evolution as an artist.

By the way, Night and Day was again a very strong product, with diverse, tuneful, and thoughtfully constructed pop tunes. And, Stepping Out represented the first produced video by Jackson, who had eschewed the format that had become a staple in 1982, because he felt that video detracted from the music.

Jackson’s next work, Body and Soul again displayed the move towards a more refined jacksonsound well as jazz in a work that lovingly replicates the cover art of the 1957 release by Sonny Rollins, Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2Body and Soul has also proved to be my favorite Jackson disc, and the one that made my Top 50 (which now seems like a Top 75) for the site here.

Jackson’s next work, Big World, sampled even further beats and rhythms of the world at large, while also displaying another aspect of the principled auteur, for though the album is a double disc, Jackson only felt he had enough quality material for three sides. So, side four is left intentionally blank.

From there Jackson generally moved more towards works that pushed towards fuller orchestrations, eventually delivering his Symphony #1 (1999) and though I stopped buying each of Jackson’s works, I did see Joe and the band on the heels of their Blaze of Glory tour in 1989, and they were beyond great. Tight, tuneful, and funny, with the goofy Jackson playing all kinds of instruments while he stalked around the stage, like a mad musical scientist dressed in a trench-coat, as his band simply smoked.

As noted, since then, Jackson has moved from the punky guitar driven sound that garnered notice, towards classical music (he has also done a bunch of soundtracks, including Mike’s Murder and Tucker), but comparing the literate and erudite Jackson with the likes of Billy Joel is not just wrong, it is criminal (sorry Gene).

One of the things I have noticed as the cluster of us contributing to the site have made our musical loves known, is some of us have a genre we love the most, or that we feel best represents what the site, as in Remnants of Rock, as opposed to country, or pop, or classical or salsa means, is that we have clear lines drawn about what qualifies.

And, while I understand this–and hell, guitar driven tunes are the ones that get me most as you can see by simply watching the I’m the Man vid–I think artists growing and pushing their vision is what keeps art, both theirs and ours, vital.

Joe Jackson is such an artist. Like Prince, or Joni Mitchell, or the Stones or Beatles, Neil Young, or even Dylan, Jackson has never been satisfied simply doing the same mishmash of tunes over and over again.

Rather he pushes and reinvents himself, and his work to keep both the music and himself growing, learning, and producing.

The results speak for themselves, whether he is your cup of Joe or not.

Night Music: The Rutles, “With A Girl Like You”

I remember seeing the Rutles mocumentary, All You Need Is Cash, back in 1978, and being quite fond of it. A story about it in the NY Times last week sent me to YouTube, where my reaction was of a somewhat different sort. What I remembered as cute parody back then, plays as alternative Beatles tracks now. As Paul Simon says in the Times’ story, “it is more of a panegyric than it is a satire.” I think maybe the confusion stemmed from the title, which sounds satirical. Meanwhile, the music is so much like the Beatles sound that on the surface on crummy speakers it can almost pass.

That’s why Neil Innes, the songwriter, paid when the Beatles’ publishing company sued. And why these songs are a pleasure to hear even today.

Night Music: Cheap Trick, “Sgt. Pepper Reprieve” and “A Day in the Life”

A lot of Beatles buzz on the site the last few days, and I wondered how much of the world knew that Cheap Trick actually covered the entire Sergeant Pepper album a few years back, taking it to the road (kind of like Phish, who do someone’s classic album every Halloween)?

Though I was a big Trick fan during their early years–especially In Color and Black and White,  Heaven Tonight, and Dream Police–I sort of lost track of their newer stuff after that (shame on me, as that is when Buddakon came out, but as good a live band as the Trick are, that one seemed like too much hype too after I had found them).

Not that I ever wrote the band off: I still love all three of those albums from the Rockford band (about 40 miles from where Diane lived in Algonquin) who so emulated the Beatles with their own spin. Though the Trick have been a lot more. Poppy, tuneful, funny, and they don’t take themselves too seriously, which to me means if they take from other bands (like the great bridge chords in I Know What I Want and I Know How to Get It that are lifted from Eight Days a Week)  it is more of an homage than a rip.

Well, a few years ago my friend, drummer Steve Chattler turned me onto the Trick doing Sergeant Pepper in its entirety, and the band does a killer job.

See for yourself. I mean, this is nothing like watching a tribute/cover band.

RIP: Peter O’Toole (1932-2013)

220px-Peter_O'Toole_--_LOA_trailerDiane just advised me that the wonderful British actor, Peter O’Toole has passed away.

I get this is a rock’n’roll site–or at least largely a music site–but often music and film are inexorably linked.

Although, I must admit, not so much in O’Toole’s case.

It is more of a case that his face is as iconic as the roles he played.

Among those films of his I love:

Lawrence of Arabia (1962): O’Toole’s mesmerizing film debut (also Omar Sharif’s) was in arguably one of the greatest cinematic achievements ever. I think the first half of this film is as fine a piece of film making–as in script, photography, acting, and music–as has ever been assembled.

The Lion in Winter (1968): Incomparable historical piece with O’Toole as Henry II to Katherine Hepburn’s Elanor of Aquitaine, with a witty and intelligent a script that allow the brilliance of the actors to shine (this time Anthony Hopkins made his film debut).

The Ruling Class (1972): As dark as dark and funny can get, O’Toole plays the mad 14th Earl of Gurney. O’Toole thinks he is Jesus (he has a big wooden cross on which he roosts from time-to-time) although he likes to be referred to as either “Bert” or “JC,” though his given name is Jack. The catch is his relatives want to seize the assets that are Bert’s, but in order to do that, he has to be declared insane and a threat. So, they marry him off to his uncle’s mistress so they can have a child/heir, and thus simplify the insanity process. Of course nothing  goes according to plot, but ultimately Jack is forced to jettison his loving and happy-go-lucky Jesus alter ego, and assumes that of another Jack, as in The Ripper.

The Stunt Man (1980): O’Toole as an autocratic film director who pushes a walk on stunt man (Steve Railsback), who is on the run from the law, into going further and further on a limb with the stunts. O’Toole is great at this–roles on the verge of losing it–and this film is no exception. Also filmed around the lovely Hotel Del Coronado, in San Diego, where Some Like it Hot was also largely set.

My Favorite Year (1982): A lovely sentimental comedy about TV in the 50’s, ostensibly based upon Mel Brooks’ early days writing for Sid Caesar and his Show of Shows. O’Toole plays Allan Swann, an Errol Flynn-like swashbuckling star of the 30’s who can still give women wobbly knees. He accepts a role on a TV show in order to earn some extra moolah and even himself out with the IRS.  This movie, directed by comedian Richard Benjamin, is as sweet as they come.

Amazingly, O’Toole was nominated for the Oscar for all five of the above (I did not realize that when I picked them as my faves as I was thinking about it) and had a total of eight nominations (also Becket, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and Venus), but never actually won for those films. Rather, he did get a lifetime achievement award from the Academy in 2003.

Night Music: Petra Haden and The Who, “Armenia City in the Sky”

Peter’s fantastic Chet Baker and Charlie Haden post of earlier today got the gears in my brain going.

That is because Charlie’s daughter, Petra, did one of the most amazing musical feats ever accomplished: Petra redid The Who’s fabulous, and my very favorite album of theirs, The Who Sell Out. The catch is that Haden did the entire album with voice only: that is, the singing, harmonies, guitars, effects, bass, drums, everything was sung by Petra.

To make the whole thing complete, she even copied the crazy cover of the album, substituting her own beak as necessary for the members of The Who. To me, this is as loving and beautiful an homage to any band or album as anyone could ever do.

Below is Haden’s cover of Armenia City in the Sky, the opening track of the phenomenal 1967 album:

And, as a means of comparison, here is the original by my all time favorite band: