Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Agony and The Ecstasy

If any of you readers/downloaders out there in blogland still haven't seen "The Agony and The Ecstasy of Phil Spector" it is definitely worth a few dollars and a couple of hours of your time. The man is entertaining, no doubt about that and he also never lacks for self-confidence as he compares himself to Galileo and DaVinci. The interview segments, which were taken in between his two murder trials are interspersed with courtroom scenes and videos of many of the acts he produced and if nothing else, one walks away with a renewed respect for his unique musical vision. Pop symphonies indeed! The question of whether or not he actually did murder Lana Clarkson is never pondered on anything more than a superficial level nor do they talk about what evidence in the second trial actually convinced the jury to find him guilty. While I fully believe he is capable of doing what they say he did, I oddly (and somewhat disconcertingly) found myself rooting for the guy. And, of course, the music and especially the live footage was absolutely breathtaking. Go see it.

The Astronauts - Come Along Baby
Despite the fact that these guys had a whole slew of albums and 45s on RCA back in the 60's I always found their music kind of lightweight. And while chart success does not always equal musical worthiness, apparently the American public also felt pretty much as I did as they only cracked the Billboard Top 100 once, in July 1963 when their version of "Baja" made it to number 94. One of their best records, "Come Along Baby" was recorded in 1962 before they actually signed with RCA and when they were still known as The Stormtroopers. It's probably a good thing for them that they changed their name.
Big Star - When My Baby's Beside Me

I never really bought into the whole mystique that saw these guys as demigods but that doesn't mean that they didn't have a bunch of really fabulous songs, of which this is but one.
Bobby Milano - Life Begins At Four O 'Clock
Another favorite of mine from long-gone more innocent days. If only life really were this simple - even if it didn't seem that way at the time.
Jerry And The Others - Don't Cry To Me
From Dayton, Ohio, Jerry and his pals recorded this 2 minutes and 52 seconds of sonic skronkiness and were, as far as I know, never heard from again. Nonetheless, as far as one-song legacies go, as the Scooter Phil Rizzuto would have said, this one's not too shabby. Not at all.
Ike & Tina Turner - River Deep-Mountain High
The Devil Dogs - Best Part Of Breaking Up
One of the highlights of "The Agony..." had to be the live footage of Ike and Tina performing "River Deep..." in 1974. Although this was, deservedly, a number one record in England, it got little or no airplay here in the states. At the time I remember hearing OF this record but never actually hearing it until a few years later. For a few years, back in the early 90's, the Devil Dogs were favorites in the NYC garage/punk scene. Despite the misogyny of many of their songs, those of us that knew them knew that it was really just a matter of the lady doth protest too much. At heart they were just a bunch of wide-eyed pop romantics and their super-adrenalized take on this Ronettes classic was always a crowd favorite.
The Resonars - I'll Keep It With Mine

I've always had a soft spot for a good Dylan cover and in this case, for years, the only version of "I'll Keep It With Mine" I was familiar with was the one by Nico from her "Chelsea Girl" album. On one of the many fine compilations put together by the folks at Power Pop Criminals (see sidebar for link) The Resonars turn in their own rendition, taking this song in a whole other direction.
Kangaroo - Such A Long Long Time
I first heard Kangaroo when they opened up for The Who and The Doors at the Singer Bowl in August of 1968. With such co-headliners as that it says a lot that I walked away from that show determined to seek out their first album, which had just been released and was reissued again a few years ago. By the way, The Doors were absolutely awful but that's another story.
The Jaguars - Its Gonna Be Alright
According to the Soybomb Garage Compilation Database there were at least a dozen bands calling themselves The Jaguars back in the 60's. These particular Jaguars came from somewhere in Michigan and while this may be their only 2 minutes-plus of fame, they can take pride in the fact that they were the only Jaguars to make it on to a "Back From the Grave" compilation 20 years later.
The Booby Traps - What A Guy Can't Do

"What A Girl Can't Do" is a garage classic that's been covered numerous times over the years. But this is the first time I'm hearing it from the girls' point of view. What's good for the goose is god for the gander.
Little Johnny Taylor - I Can't Stop Loving You
Besides the fact that it's on some comp I got from another blog I really don't know a whole lot about this particular record. Little Johnny Taylor had a handful of minor chart entries back in the early 60's but this wasn't one of them. Still, it's a fine record and if anyone out there has a little more info, please leave a comment.
Dion DiMucci - Drip Drop
I'm sure that Dion needs no introduction to anyone reading this blog as he's had so many hits over the years and so much has been written about him. This particular record, another remake of an old Drifters' song, came out after he had such a big hit with his definitive version of "Ruby Baby". While it did make it all the way to number 6 on Billboard's chart in the latter part of 1963, to me it just doesn't pack the same wallop as "Ruby...".
Dee Clark - 24 Boyfriends
Speaking of wallup, this Little Richard imitation/tribute has plenty to spare. For reasons I can't fathom this song may have never been issued as a 45, only appearing as an album track. I love that line "Bust 'em all in the head with a rolling pin". Pure genius!
The Gurus - Blue Snow Night

Although I can't remember exactly when (I'm thinking early fall of 1966) I remember very vividly being in this hardware store in Bayside, Queens where I grew up that sold records in the back. I picked this 45 up in its picture sleeve with those freaky looking guys, that big mandala and I was sold. Unfortunately for them I must have been the only one as "Blue Snow Night" never cracked the Top 100 and plans for an album were shelved, probably due to consumer indifference.
Teenage Fanclub - About You

I've written about these guys before here on TOMH so I'm not going to mention yet again how overdue these guys are for a definitive box set that includes all of their numerous non-album b-sides and other rarities. No, I'm not going to talk about it at all.
Warren Zevon - Bad Karma
Say what you will about Mr. Zevon - I've had his biography sitting on my shelf for 2 years and I am still afraid to read it - the man did have a sense of humor and his best songs were incredibly insightful while never taking themselves too seriously. What am I afraid of you ask? Once I read the details of what a horrible abusive violent jerk he was in real life I'm afraid I won't be able to enjoy his music anymore which would really be a loss for me. Every time one of his songs comes on my Ipod, it hits me like the proverbial ton of bricks and I end up playing it 3 or 4 (sometimes more) times and the experience always leaves me feeling transformed somehow. I don't want to lose that so I am thinking that for now, what I don't know won't hurt me.
Dave Berry - Don't Gimme No Lip Child
I'm not sure how much UK chart action Dave Berry saw back in the day but here in the U.S. he was a virtual unknown. This was actually the B-side to "The Crying Game" which was featured in the movie of the same name years later.
Willie Mitchell - Monkey Jump
Sadly, Willie Mitchell is no longer with us, having passed away back in January. While he is mainly known as the producer of Al Green's and Ann Peebles' hits for Hi Records back in the 70's he had a rather extensive discography of his own. He will be missed.

How long can you search for what's not lost?