Saturday, October 4, 2008

Back from the Ipod Pt. 1

Yesterday was my first day of unemployment. It seems the powers that be at the bank where I worked for 11 years have decided that some kid in India can do my job as good as I can. Or at least cheaper. My father who worked in retail for a number of years in a high-end men's clothing store used to say "You get what you pay for" and I suspect in time they will find this out. But for the moment it means I am out of work. I got a pretty good severance package so I'm not gonna starve or be out on the street but my first priority has got to be finding another job. And with the financial world in the tizzy that it's been in lately that might not be too easy. So if anyone out there is looking for an overpaid flunky with a bizarre sense of humor and an uncanny knowledge of useless Rock & Roll trivia, please let me know. 

My Ipod has completely changed the way I listen to music. The thing I like about it most is that I never know what song is coming next. I don't usually load whole albums but instead I prefer to make playlists of about 150 -180 songs, enough to fit on one 700mb CD-R. It seems that Itunes has it's own way of ordering them, that is usually vaguely alphabetical by artist, but not consistently. I have never been able to figure out the method to their madness but I've grown to really appreciate it from an aesthetic point of view. Some of the segues have been truly sublime while others have been totally off the wall. One that comes to mind is when "Everybody Knows" by Leonard Cohen was followed by a Motorhead song. So when I came up with this latest post I had an idea of how I wanted the songs to flow but I when I played it in Itunes it got totally rearranged. So, to appease the Ipod gods, I'm gonna list them in the order they play. At least on my machine. 

Most of the records that came out of the Group Sounds scene in Japan back in the mid-60s sound kinda lame now. Many were just watered down versions of US and English hits of the day. But among those in the top 5 or 10 percent, are some absolute stone classics. "Why Baby Why", an original by the Beavers with it's Merseybeat type harmonies and background 'wooos' is definitely one of them...As I promised last week, here is Big Maybelle's gutsy version of "96 Tears". I actually like it as much as the original. I found an copy of the 45 on Gemm Music last year for about $20... I always dug  "Please Crawl Out Your Window" by Bob Dylan and here it is from the "Highway 61 Revisited Again" bootleg in an alternate version. It's not quite as rockin' as the officially released 45 and the sound quality is a little rough but it's still worth hearing.

Over the last 20 years Dom Mariani has been involved with a number of bands and has produced some of the best records that almost nobody has heard. Living in Australia he doesn't make it to New York very often but I've been fortunate enough to see him a few times, once solo and twice with a reformed Stems. DM3 was his second band and "1X..." was the closest they got to having a hit. Their CDs are all out of print and hard to find but last year Get Hip put out a best-of by The Stems. If you've been enjoying the music I've been posting so far anything by either band is highly recommended...I first read about Ellis Hooks in Mojo magazine a few years ago. Nothing very complicated or new here - just upbeat, funky, rockin' blues played with passion and style. He has a few albums out but this song is from "Uncomplicated" which you can find for download on Emusic. It's great to see artists like him and Shemekia Copeland keeping this music alive without sounding all reverent or academic about it.

"Ooh Little Girl" by Floyd Dixon is a perfect example of what happened in the mid-50s when blues shouters and supper club singers wanted to keep current and get down with the new Rock and Roll thing. With what sounds like Little Richard's studio band behind him, he succeeds a lot better than many of his contemporaries...Ditto for H-Bomb Ferguson who released a slew of records on a number of different labels. "Midnight Ramblin' Tonight" came out on King and is another great R&B pounder...The Hoodoo Gurus were another Australian band who recorded many wonderful records in the 80s and 90s that went absolutely nowhere despite being released on a major label. "I Want You Back" is from "Stoneage Romeos", their first and best album. Try to find an original Australian pressing (with the yellow cover)  as the US version was remixed and not very well at that.

The Lykes of Us were one of hundreds of bands across North America who, after hearing the Beatles, Stones, Kinks etc. etc. decided that they could do it too and then did. "Tell Me Why Your Light Shines" is an inspired classic, easily up there with the contemporary hits of the day by their heros. Of course after that they were never heard from again but I'm sure they were big wheels in their home town of Trenton, Michigan at least for a few weeks...Fast forward to now and The Lyres are also playing the same kind of music, influenced by the same bands. Jeff Conolly, the lead singer and keyboard player is the main force behind this Boston combo and his incredibly soulful vocals and organ playing definitely set them apart from the hundreds of other bands currently out there playing 60s garage inspired music. They've been responsible for some of the best shows I have ever seen over the last 25 years. 

Another Japanese GS band, The Outcasts perform the wildest and most demented version of "Long Tall Sally" I have ever heard. It makes me wonder just what they were thinking (or ingesting) when they went into the studio to record. But whatever it was, 40 plus years later we are left with this insane gem of a record. If anyone has an original copy for trade or sale, please get in touch...From Japan we take a short hop back over to Australia one last time this go round for "Last Night" by The Scientists. It's from their "Pissed on Another Planet" collection which documents their early years when they were more of a pop/punk band. Later in their career they developed more of a psych/grunge edge but personally I like the Mk1 version of the band better.

In addition to having a hit back in 1966 with "Baby Scratch My Back" Slim Harpo wrote a number of songs that were recorded by other bands such as "I'm A King Bee" by The Stones.  "You'll Be Sorry One Day" is one of many great sides he did for Excello Records. Listening to it  I can almost feel the heat of the deep south swampy bayou on my back...The Vacant Lot were major players in the NYC garage/punk scene of the early 90s. Their approach was very simple -Mersey and surf inspired pop played at breakneck speeds. I saw these guys a ton of times back in the day and their shows were never anything less than a total blast...Although I never actually looked at the writers credits, I always assumed that "Outcast", on the Animal's "Animalism" album was written by the band. But when I heard the original by Eddie and Ernie I realized that not only did Eric Burden & Co. not write it but they pretty much stole the arrangement note for note. Not that that's a bad thing as I really love both versions.

"My Confusion" by The Elite has been on a number of 60s garage comps over the years but most fans of the genre know it from "Back From The Grave". Like many similar bands of the day, these guys had their 2:10 of total Rock & Roll brilliance and were never heard from again. I used to have this friend who was a total Beatles and Stones freak. And she would always talk about how they changed Rock and Roll, and our culture in general forever. And of course she was right. But to me, bands like The Elite, The Lykes of Us and the other lesser known bands who had one or two great records and then fell through the cracks, were/are what Rock and Roll has always been about. That what-the f*&k, give it all we've got for 2 minutes and then get out attitude...Speaking of 2 minutes of greatness and then fading away, "Chills and Fever" by Ronnie Love was just that. I love that creepy horn riff in there. Before he became a household name Tom Jones had a minor hit with this song and his version is actually pretty good too.

One last thing. Doing this blog is really lots of fun but I'd also like a little feedback - good, bad or indifferent. So please leave comments.   

The Beavers - Why Baby Why
Big Maybelle - 96 Tears
Bob Dylan - Can You Please Crawl Out Of Your Window
DM3 – 1X2X Devastated
Ellis Hooks - Can't Take This No More
Floyd Dixon - Oooh Little Girl
H-Bomb Ferguson - Midnight Ramblin' Tonight
The Hoodoo Gurus - I Want You Back
The Lykes Of Us - Tell Me Why Your Light Shines
The Lyres - Baby It's Me
The Out Cast - Long Lall Sally
The Scientists - Last Night
Slim Harpo - You'll be Sorry One Day
The Vacant Lot - Good As Gone
Eddie & Ernie – Outcast
The Elite - My Confusion
Ronnie Love - Chills and Fever


Curty Ray said...

Thanks for this share. Sorry about your gig. At least you are not a Cubs fan (like me). There is always something worse

Keep up your blog. I am enjoying it very muck

Curty Ray

YankeeBoy said...

You're tight - there is something worse. I'm a Yankees fan and we never even made it that far. So right now I root for whoever plays Boston.