Tuesday, August 12, 2014

R.I.P. Robin Williams

Yesterday it hit me like a ton of bricks. Robin Williams, in an apparent suicide, died at the age of 63. Normally celebrity deaths don't affect me that much. After all, they're just people. Sure, it's sad when they die but for the family and friends of the deceased, it's sad when anyone dies. But somehow Robin Williams was special. Just hearing the newscaster list his accomplishments it's obvious the man was not just any celebrity. Everybody has his or her own RW favorites. For me it was his role on "Mork and Mindy", especially in its last season when Jonathan Winters was on the show. The two of them together, riffing off each other was pure comedic brilliance. And his moving role of teacher John Keating in "Dead Poets Society". Those were my 2 favorites but there were so many others that I also loved.

But for me (and I am sure I am not alone here) the saddest thing of all was that he committed suicide as a result of his depression. I can relate because I too suffer from this potentially debilitating and deadly disease. And yes, it is a disease. But the good news is that for most of us who suffer with it, it can be lived with. I have been on anti-depression meds for about 7 years now. What they do is fix the chemical imbalance in my brain that used to give me these overwhelming, all-encompassing feelings of hopelessness and despair. I still get depressed sometimes, just like everyone, but the meds definitely level the playing field and let me get on with living my life - the good and the bad.

Although things are getting better, there is still a stigma attached to depression. "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps", "Everyone's got problems, not just you"  and "Just tough it out" are things that many of us have been told by supposedly well-meaning friends and family. Unfortunately it's just not that simple. So the point of what I am getting at is this. If you are depressed or feeling so desperate and hopeless that ending it all seems like a viable solution, please GET HELP. There is nothing shameful or weak about admitting that you need help. We all need help sometimes. And take heart in knowing that you are definitely not alone.

And now onto happier things like music.

Clifton Chenier - Hot Rod
I have always loved the sound of a rockin' accordion and nobody serves it up better than the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier. This zippy tune never fails to put a little extra bounce in my step.
The Clingers - Gonna Have A Good Time
In case you were wondering what you get when you mix Kim Fowley, Michael Lloyd, 4 Mormon sisters and an Easybeats song - wonder no more. This came out in the US on the Columbia label in 1969. I wish I could find a copy of the French 45 which came with a picture sleeve.
The Resonars - If He's So Great
These guys have been together since the mid 1990's and have a number of releases under their belt. "If He's So Great" is just one of many great tunes that have found a home on my Ipod. Check them out and hear more on their Bandcamp page.
Del Shannon - Led Along
After Del's contract with Amy Records ran out he signed with Liberty Records where he recorded 10 singles and a handful of albums, most of which were quite good and showed him maturing as a singer and an artist. But by that point in time the public had had their fill and they were all pretty much unjustly ignored. This was one of those singles that definitely deserved more notice that still sounds fantastic today.   
Dale Hawkins - Wildcat Tamer
Dale, who was mostly known as the writer and original performer of "Susie Q" recorded this in 1999, which is surprising to me as it sounds like an early outtake. He also produced many records in the 1960's, among them "Western Union" by The Five Americans and "Do It Again, A Little Bit Slower" by Jon & Robin and The In Crowd. He died in Feb. of 2010 from colon cancer. 
The Menace - You Don't Even WInk Your Eye
I included this song in my last playlist before my hiatus back in July of 2012. Unfortunately in all that time I've been unable to track down an original 45 or even a better sounding mp3. Earlier this year someone was selling their album which does contain this song on Ebay for about $800 which is so far out of my league I never even considered it. Had it been around $200 it could well have been a different story. But from what I can tell this would probably have been the only really great song on the album as they were mostly into covering the soft-rock Top 40 hits of the day. Ho hum. But what a song this is. In my original post I described it as the best song The Hollies never recorded and I stand by that description.  
The Meters - Jambalaya
This Hank Williams classic has been recorded by everyone from John Fogerty to The Carpenters, The Muppets, Gerry & The Pacemakers and just about anyone else you can think of. This version by The Meters is the one I keep going back to.     
Michael Lynch - This Girl
Those of you from the NYC area who were part of the local garage scene over the last 10 - 15 years probably saw The Anything People at some point. Unfortunately they are no longer together but singer and main songwriter Michael Lynch has been doing a lot of recording on his own. "This Girl" is the b-side of his latest single and is available along with his other recordings on his Bandcamp page. There are a lot more goodies there where this came from.   
The Stumps - Think Of The Good Times
Although thy recorded for the Boyd label in Tucson, Arizona and are thought to be from there, according to an interview with bass player Mark Fraze, they actually called Kettering, Ohio home. "Think of the Good Times" is their one shot at garage immortality. 
The Banana Splits - The Very First Kid on My Block
If it weren't for first heartbreaks, think of all the incredible songs that would never have been written. The Banana Splits were a session group recording as the characters of the successful cartoon series "The Banana Splits Adventure Hour". Back in those days the truly hip would never have admitted to liking this but I'm sure it was a guilty pleasure for many of us.  
Donnie Burkes - Why Don't You Smile Now
Most people know this early Lou Reed/John Cale song by the Downliners Sect version. But here it is done mid-tempo soul style on the US Decca label in1965.
The Poppees - If She Cries
This Beatles sound-alike was one of two singles these guys released on Bomp Records in the early-mid 70s. A few years ago Bomp records put out a nice anthology of their singles plus some live tracks and demos, which you can order here
King Khan & BBQ Show - Too Much In Love
I just love their infectious combination of low-fi garage and doo wop. 
The Magnificents - Up On The Mountain
This killer doo wop classic came out on the Vee Jay label in 1956 and, despite never cracking the Top 100, got a decent amount of airplay in subsequent years on oldies stations.
The Burgundy Run - Stop!
Many of us first heard this song when it was covered by The Chesterfield Kings back in the mid-80's but this is the original, done by this Albuquerque, New Mexico combo in 1966. 
Barbara Feldon - 99
I don't know anyone who grew up in the 1960's who wasn't a fan of the TV series "Get Smart". Barbara Feldon in her role as Agent 99 was a big reason for the show's success. The actual mp3 file is mislabelled as being by Barbara Eden, the star of the TV series "I Dream of Jeanie". Sorry for the goof-up. 
The Galaxies - 6.15
As much as I like this sax and guitar instro stomper, it's not all that different from the thousand other records that came out in the early-mid 60s in the same style. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing as this still sounds quite good today. But the most interesting thing about it for me is the fact that it came out on the Chess label which was known almost exclusively as a blues/R&B/soul label.

Whenever you are near me oh my heart is on a spree

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I'm baaack!!!

Yeah, I know it's been a really long time. Almost 2 years. Since my last post I've given up the job hunt and decided to retire. So I am learning to live on less money but without the stress of working full time - the commute and office politics. It's a trade-off I never would have made voluntarily but since it was made for me, I am generally much happier.

I am sure that most, if not all, of my old playlists have long been deleted. I no longer have them so I can not re-upload any of them. So in a sense I am starting over. Some of the songs on this playlist have been posted before. Once again I emphasize that this is not just about free music. If you like something, please think about purchasing it if it is readily available. While it's true that music is art, the economics of it are still a major factor in what gets released and made available. That is true even for most of those 'grey-area' comps. If whoever puts them out can't sell them, at some point they're going to stop.

And now a little plug. I do a once-a-month 1 hour radio show (usually the 3rd Wednesday of the month from 8 - 9 PM EST) on an online radio station Top Shelf Oldies. Not only on my show but every night of the week you will hear some great old R&R (almost all from the 50's and 60's) played by some of the most knowledgeable and entertaining disc jockeys around, most of whom are also fanatical collectors. And when the jocks aren't on, our automatic DJ Otto is also spinning some fine tunes. The best Rock & Roll on the internet only on Top Shelf Oldies.

Anyway, enough talk from me, let's get to the music. And needless to say, if anything here gives you the urge to leave a comment, don't be shy.

Alternative TV - Action Time Vision
Unlike a lot of UK punk from the late 70s which made a specific point of distancing itself from the past, this song is clearly influenced by what came before, in this case The Who and The Creation.
Bo Diddley - Hong Kong, Mississippi

For me Bo is the epitome of cool. I loved that scene in "Hail Hail Rock & Roll" when they are interviewing him along with Little Richard and Richard is getting all frenzied and Bo is just sitting there with this sly little smile on his face, like he was in on some cosmic joke that the rest of us just don't get. 
The Chentelles - Be My Queen
This was just one of the many 60's garage classics that was brought to our attention by the incredible Back From the Grave series. While there have been no new BFTG volumes since last century, I have it on good information that the maniacs at Crypt Records are working on 3 new volumes that are expected to see the light of day by the end of 2014.  I'm totally psyched!!
Lee Tillman - Tarzan

The only info I could find on this is that it came out on the Sonora label, possibly in 1962, and (if my ears are any judge) was recorded in New Orleans. Back in the pre-Beatles 60's records based on comic book heroes were almost a genre unto themselves and this was no doubt, recorded to cash in.
Roky Erickson & The Nervebreakers - Bermuda

This is not the original single version that came out on the fledgeling Rhino label back in 1977. Nonetheless, it's a fine live rendition. Roky's been touring the last few years, mixing in some of his solo material with songs from his 13th Floor Elevator days and if he ever plays anywhere near you, he is not to be missed.
Muck & The Mires - Caught In A Lie

Over the past 10+ years these guys have become one of my favorite bands. Main songwriter Evan Shore constructs these perfect pop songs and makes it sound like the easiest thing in the world (and as a frustrated songwriter myself I can tell you that it's anything but easy). Almost all of their CDs are out of print but you can buy most of their albums, like the one this song came from, "All Mucked Up" as mp3's on Amazon and some of their CDs and LPs can be found reasonably priced on Ebay.
Scott McKenzie - No, No, No, No, No

Sometimes an artist becomes completely associated with one song, and when that song is as overplayed as "San Francisco",  my curiosity as to whatever else he may have done is reduced to almost zero. It wasn't until I started listening to Top Shelf Oldies on a regular basis that I started hearing other records by Scott McKenzie that I liked a lot better. "No, No..." is from the "San Francisco" album that came out in 1967 and was not released as a single at the time as far as I know. Which is too bad because it's a much better song.  
The Five Satins - When Your Love Comes Along

Speaking of artists associated with only one song, that is certainly the case with The Five Satins as "In the Still of the Night" is a staple of oldies stations everywhere. "When Your Love..." was released in 1959 on the First label and promptly went nowhere.
Freddie Chavez - They'll Never Know Why

I love this song, especially that little guitar riff that is repeated  throughout the song. An original copy will set you back a good 3 figures - if you can even find one - but luckily, over the years this has been comped a number of times in good sound quality. I bet The Fleshtones would do a dynamite cover of this song. 
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross - Twisted

I first heard this song when I was in my early 20's when Joni Mitchell covered it on her "Court and Spark" album. While Joni did a more than credible job on it, for me this version from 1959 is the best.
The Dellwoods - (She Got A) Nose Job

This coulda/woulda/ shoulda/ been a hit is from the "Mad Twists Rock & Roll" album which was a big favorite of mine in my pre-teen years.
Jules & The Polar Bears - Sometimes Real Life
Jules Shear has had a long recording career to much critical acclaim. It's probably my loss but this is one of the few songs I've ever heard by him. I'm not exactly sure why but there is something about that chorus that always gets to me.
Andre Williams - Going Down To Tia Juana

Andre has to be THE most loveable dirty old man of Rock & Roll. This is but one of many fabulous records Andre recorded for the Fortune label back in the 50's. 
Dr. Feelgood -  Milk And Alcohol

Although this was recorded after the departure of guitar player Wilko Johnson, they were still at their peak when they played the show from which this was taken in 1979. Bluesy Rock & Roll at it's finest.
Buzz Cliford - More Dead Than Alive

Buzz scored a Top 10 hit in 1961 with the novelty tune "Baby Sittin' Boogie".  As happens so often, he never achieved anywhere near that success again despite the fact that a number of his subsequent releases were way superior. Like this one which never even cracked the Billboard Bubbling Under chart.
Sonny Rollins - St Thomas
One of the best concerts I've ever seen in my life was an outdoor free show that Sonny Rollins did in the summer of 1998 at Lincoln Center. It was jam packed and I couldn't get closer than maybe 100  feet from the stage. Nonetheless, his music was mesmerising on so many levels.

What's so strange when you know that you're a wizard at three?