Tuesday, May 30, 2006

GRADUATE "Acting My Age"

Sorry for the break. It was a well-deserved looooooong Memorial Day weekend filled with Manhattans on rooftops, Pimm's Cups in the backyard, and more importantly, no time spent in front of the Vic 20 here.

Tears For Fears will always remind me of summer. We all have those bands that despite our best efforts to whitewash them from our memory because of their questionable credibility, they stick. I mean, Tears For Fears were no Howard Jones or Nik Kershaw (try finding fans of either in 2006), but they've continued making at least remotely interesting recordings, and for some reason, 1983's The Hurting has become something of a cult status album. Even before Gary Jules' sad rendition of "Mad World" for Donnie Darko, I knew of indie rockers singing the praises of "Pale Shelter" and "Change", and when I listen to them now, I can see why.

When I hear those aforementioned songs and even some songs from 1985's Songs From The Big Chair, I really feel it's summer, even though both albums are very very sad. Something about "Head Over Heels" or "Mothers Talk" reminds me of riding my bike to the beach. They remind me of washing dishes at the Crab's Claw in Lavalette. I hear Roland Orzabal's soulful "watch me bleed, bleed forever" to this day whenever I get on a skateboard, go figure.

Though I wouldn't say they were ever one of my favorite bands, I was intrigued by a band that could make a very morose effort like The Hurting and spin it into a monster worldwide following by the time "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" came out. So, I needed to know more. I bought a 10 inch record by Graduate at Rebel Rebel on one of my many weekend trips to NYC, senior year of high school. I didn't think I still had it, but 10 inch records take up a space of their own I guess, so they're hard to lose. The cover of the Graduate 10 inch features a very young Roland and Curt Smith and a sticker exploits the fact that, yes, this is the same duo who are making young girls cry now.

Graduate isn't anything like Tears For Fears, it predates The Hurting by a few years. They were obviously influenced by Joe Jackson and even the Specials. It's bouncy, with cheesy whistling keys, but with that trademark Orzabal swagger. Ever Met A Day is the most pop of the bunch and I've also included the title track. Interesting, not like unearthing a real buried treasure, but interesting.


Thursday, May 25, 2006


It's easy listening day. My head hurts from a night at the Bohemian Beer Hall in Queens and it's all I can handle today. So if you are recovering from a Spaten-induced hangover and feel like an undercooked kielbasa, like me, you are in the right place.

I knew nothing about The Alan Copeland Singers except that it was a mid to late 1960's release on A&M. That's all I needed to know. That, and I paid 99 cents for it at the old record shop in Port Chester, NY (way more to come about that later). I'll pretty much buy anything on a certain label during a certain period, especially if I'd never heard of it. A&M serviced us with some pretty boss easy listening in the 60's. Sandpipers, Herb Alpert, later the Carpenters. I love it. Oh, and I still know nothing about Alan Copeland Singers. If you have info, educate me.

Also, on A&M, Roger Nichols & His Small Circle Of Friends was something I'd been after for years after getting the song "Don't Take Your Time" on a mixtape of lost soft pop. I don't have this on vinyl, it's worth tons of bank. Japan, the country, they like the easy listening too, and they re-issued it on disc. In fact, most of the rare lot of A&M releases have found their way to CD via the Japanese enthusiasm for such things. Oh, but I do have the 7 inch for Snow Queen, so technically I'm not cheating. I don't remember where I got it, I think at a place in Halifax, in with a lot of Susan Jacks singles. Snow Queen, not appropriate for summer, but give me a break, I'm hurtin' here.

I do know that Roger Nichols ended up being a fairly known producer. My lady friend (TPC) would be proud to know he twiddled the knobs on a few Steely Dan releases. I'm not sure what else and I haven't done any homework today. I won't even proof this post. Have you ever been mellow?


PS: Thanks you guys. Yesterday's traffic was the craziest yet. All you zombies made the Hooters post the most popular to date. You're nuts, I'm silly.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I can totally hear the collective sigh of the 15 people who read this blog so far. It's ok, I know, it's the Hooters. Welcome to the first installment of Local Heroes. I'll have many sub-themes on Little Elpees, because I'm third grade gay. Visitors here are already familiar with Great Compilations and there will certainly be Songs To Make Sweet Love To Your Woman By, but Local Heroes, I know I'll have more fun posting than you will listening. Tough shit, suck it up.

Long before there were busty women serving up wings in orange jumpsuits, there was a Philadelphia new wave outfit called Hooters. You may be saying to yourself if you are still reading, "but Little Elpees, the Hooters were like, a big popular MTV band!". You'd be right, but in 1983, they were a little indie band that only people in the 215, 609, and 201 area codes knew about. My local station on the Jersey shore, WHTG, played the shit out of them. That station was good like that back then, they played bands called Private Sector, Screaming For Emily, and Spiral Jetty, all local heroes, all as big as New Order to me in high school.

Back to Hooters. You likely know they named themselves after the melodica they featured on their songs. Let's be glad they didn't incorporate a cumbus. The songwriting team of Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman (unfortunate last name) also wrote songs like Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time (underrated) and Joan Osborne's One Of Us (craptastic). My sophomore year of high school, I saw the Hooters play the Chestnut Cabaret with Tommy Conwell & Young Rumblers (see post about Rave-Ups and "modern rock"). They had already signed to a major and were in their third or so inning of fame, but at 15, I was probably impressed. In fact, my band, Intrigue (I can't make this shit up), promptly "rehearsed" and performed "Day By Day" at a high school dance. I got so much action that night.

Amore was self-released on Antenna Records in '83, I won it the next summer at Union Jacks on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights. As far as I know it was never re-issued on disc. Some of the songs were re-recorded for Nervous Night, their big platinum offering. Here are two songs not included and ones that stuck in my head despite the lunkheaded lyrics and tinny guitars. I apologize for the pottymouth today. I invite you all to comment on your local heroes and perhaps if you send me an mp3, we can create a download mix based on region. See ya, senorita.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

NEIL DIAMOND "Velvet Gloves And Spit"

As promised, Neil!

OK, I must've done something nice last year because for Christmas 2005, my girlfriend (TPC) got me a brand new turntable. It's probably why I'm blabbering on and becoming a blogger actually. The day I opened it, her mother was in town to celebrate the holidays. We went to Les Halles for dinner and came back to the house to unwind, drink wine, and listen to albums. I asked her mother to suggest some artists as I'm sure I had something to her liking. She said she was an Edith Piaf fan, surprising, but OK, I found a hits collection and we played her until we couldn't anymore (about 4 songs).

I'm not sure who suggested Neil Diamond, but everyone was amenable. The A-side opens with the upbeat, hand-clap riddled "Two-Bit Manchild", so we're off to a good start. We're on autopilot, cruisin' through a bottle of Uva Di Troia and some mediocre album filler when all hell breaks loose. What was funny was TPC's mother wasn't fazed at all by track four. I couldn't stop laughing. "The Pot Smoker's Song" opens with the chorus "Pot, pot, gimme some pot, forget what you are, you can be what you're not" with a buoyant and celebratory beat that caught us all off guard. The song then spirals into this weird PSA with actors reading the most hilarious accounts of their drug addictions ("My Rabbi put too much pressure on me"). Awesome! Really, if you dig your weed or you don't, this is classic.

Certainly this little novelty isn't going to convince any Neil haters out there to switch sides. Pot Smoker's Song was a huge misstep, but a very necessary one, methinks. I kind of like that about Neil, for every Tap Root Manuscript he has a Jazz Singer. As a bonus, though, I've included one of the prettiest Neil Diamond songs and one that will make you think differently about him, for sure. "And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind" isn't on Velvet Gloves And Spit, it appeared on the Sweet Caroline collection, but it's soaring strings and soulful, yes, soulful crooning get me every time. I bought Velvet Gloves And Spit from an old lady's tag sale in Yonkers, I think I got a good chunk of the Les Baxter and Herb Alpert catalogues that day too. Play it loud!


Monday, May 22, 2006


Part two of the neverending series, Great Compilations. Ahem. No, really, I have a limitless supply of this stuff, so clear your hard drive, here we go.

Welcome To Comboland is a 1986 collection of bands from North Carolina. For reasons unknown, it was only released in Europe, on a small indie called Making Waves. Perhaps it was an attempt to woo the British press into thinking there was a burgeoning scene down there in Chapel Hill or Charlotte or Greensboro. Maybe it perked the ears of UK record executives
enough to sign some these bands. Probably worked on both counts.

Comboland isn't a great compilation, I take it back. It's ok, but what it lacks in bonafide hits, it makes up for in spirit. From reading the liner notes, it seems the bands themselves were self-deprecating enough to know that people outside of NC thought of the state as either a monotonous midway between New York and Florida or a college basketball powerhouse. But there was a scene.

Don Dixon is all over this thing. Some of the bands' members are interchangeable with one another. Mitch Easter recorded a good portion of the cuts at his Drive-In Studios in Winston-Salem. However, looking at the tracklisting now, the only bands that succeeded beyond the 919 area code were Southern Culture On The Skids and The Connells. If you're a power pop freak, you'll know the name The Spongetones. They all clearly knew each other or respected each other and set out to put NC on the map. There's a nice summary here from Godfrey Cheshire who pieced together the original idea.

This week, oh my, I'll start something called "Local Heroes" (featuring songs from bands I grew up with in high school that were just as good as the popular ones) and you'll definitely get some nice surprises, maybe I'll dig into my 10 inch collection. In my pants.

Fetchin' Bones PLUS 7

UPDATE: Crap! I forgot to mention that I paid 49 cents for this album at Reckless in Chicago probably in the early 90s. Reckless used to have a crazy system of pricing LPs. They stickered it and every week would lower the price if it hadn't sold. It started at $6.99, then $5.99.... I like that. Record stores should do that more often. Also, the state bird of North Carolina is the Cardinal. You're welcome.

Friday, May 19, 2006

THE BECKIES "The Beckies"
THE LEFT BANKE "There's Gonna Be A Storm"

Have you ever spent more than 5 years looking for a record? You are a record geek. In 2006, it's not impossible to find something you've been obsessing about for years. There's Ebay, GEMM, well, there's the internet I guess. Try this in 1993 and you have only a few options. Record fairs that are populated with hygiene-challenged loners who would love nothing more than to interact with you to discuss Roky Erickson or Princeton Record Exchange. I chose the latter, anytime I was within a 60 mile radius.

The Left Banke, in the summer of 1993, was a band I became mildly obsessed with. I knew Walk Away Renee, but upon investigation, their entire output (26 songs, 2 albums worth) pushed every emotional button on my dashboard. Baroque pop, manic harpsichords, soaring strings, sugary vocals, sigh. I found out the genius behind this sound was Michael Brown, a 15 year old classical rock virtuoso. I needed more, much more, please let there be more!

Oh, there was more. For a very very quick history lesson, here goes: Michael left Left Banke and formed Montage, did a soundtrack for a soft porn movie called "Hot Parts", formed Stories who had a top tenner with "Brother Louie", and by 1976 created the power pop quarter the Beckies. I'd found all the above albums minus the Beckies, until the summer of 1999. Six years, people, and I don't even think that's my record. And thank you PRE, for my many $1.99 albums that I covet so. Oh, so much better and articulated story of Michael Brown and his projects here.

The Beckies sounded decent for 1976. They were on Sire, so maybe Seymour Stein even signed them himself. Anyway, it's unremarkable power pop, but there are lovely tinges of Brown's signature plucky violins and arrangements. There's a complexity to the simple harmonies, though I'm not a huge fan of the band's two vocalists. I've included the best songs from side A here, one song from each singer. And because it's Friday, the last song ("Desiree") Mr. Brown recorded with the Left Banke, which kills me dead.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

BEE GEES "To Whom It May Concern"

I love love love the overrated-underrated syndrome that some bands seem to accidentally succumb to. It's not their fault. They've sold millions of records, but people seem to dismiss them based on their success. Sometimes their sound one year just clicks with the mainstream. There is no more interesting case than the Bee Gees. They've reinvented themselves so many times without really straying too far from their precious harmonies, smart arrangements, and infectious choruses. You love them or you hate them. You know only Saturday Night Fever or I Started A Joke. Oh, you don't know anything.

Something I learned early on about popular artists who've released music that precursored my formative years is, LISTEN TO COMPLETE ALBUMS INSTEAD OF BUYING GREATEST HITS. Always. There are artists for which this is paramount. Neil Diamond is one. I have a best friend who is a music critic and I can not convince him of the merits of Neil no matter how hard I ridicule him for his suspect taste in college rock (Guadalcanal Diary people, ahem) . He was traumatized as a kid, his parents took him to see Neil and he played America like three times in a row. Too bad, because albums like Velvet Gloves And Spit and Sweet Caroline are incredible. More on Neil later, I'm certain.

The Bee Gees' made To Whom It May Concern in 1972, shortly after they reunited (Robin left the band briefly, c'mon, they were brothers!). The album is not my favorite, that would be 1967's Idea, but I do dig it. I grabbed TWIMC for $2 at a record fair in Austin, sometime in the early 90s. I snagged nearly the complete Bee Gees catalogue that day, including a felt covered Odessa LP. After the successes the teenagers had in the late 60s with Massachusetts, To Love Somebody, and How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, 1972 was an odd year for the Brothers Gibb. The record company clearly had no clue on how to promote the album (there's a promo sticker on the front of my copy that reads: "Suggested Cuts: Sea Of Smiling Faces, Bad Bad Dreams", the single that ended up getting played was "Run To Me"). Their musical direction was more ambigious than say Holiday or even Jive Talkin'.

Something else that I always found endearing, there's home addresses for the fan club presidents, should you want to stalk them. I always thought that was a nice touch, I remember the first Robyn Hitchcock LP I bought added the fan club info. Wherever Mrs. Anne Clark is today, congrats, you're immortalized.

Oh, but back to the music. I really included these three cuts because I wanted to share one of them specifically with you. Sweet Song Of Summer is fucked up. I don't know how else to put it. Moogs were just starting to be used by popular artists (see James Brown) and someone thought it would be a good idea to put one in Maurice Gibb's hands. The album is peppered with a sort of bizarre chanting backing vocals thing, as if they just came back from seeing the Dalai Lama or something. But the flailing Moogs on "Summer" are beyond explanation. Alive and I Held A Party are classic Bee Gees, but probably not songs you've heard before. All the more reason, go buy complete albums, people. If you need suggestions on any one artist you've been curious about, e-mail me. I have answers.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Various Artists "Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father"

You have to hand it to the Brits. They rally around their causes. At least their artists do. The Beatles started it. Maybe they didn't, but I like to think they did. George Harrison's Concert For Bangaladesh spawned a trillion fundraisers in the years since. Band-Aid, USA For Africa, etc. If you were a teen in the 80s like I was, you remember the flurry of compilations intended to aid somethingoranother. They were usually sponsored by music magazines and featured bands, that in hindsight, could probably use the money themselves about now.

This is the first in a series of what I like to call "Great Compilations" (said in monster truck pull voice). I spent a good amount of time last night going through some fantastic collections, for profit or not, and culling some good material. You'll get some in the coming days, weeks, whenever.

For starters, here's 1988's Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father, a 13 track benefit album for the charity Childline. I have no clue whether or not this charity still exists, but it was intended to provide support for kids in abused households. Random British bands of the day offer renditions of songs from the Beatles' tripped out 1967 concept LP. I've spared you Wet Wet Wet's "With A Little Help From My Friends" and the traumatic "Fixing A Hole" by Hue & Cry.

However, gems include the perfect pairing of The Wedding Present with a pre-Heavenly Amelia Fletcher, Billy Bragg with Cara Tivey (a vocalist who sung with Everything But The Girl and Lilac Time), and Australia's criminally underrated, Triffids. Wow, a triple play! I'm getting better all the time at this. Take today to donate like, a dollar or something, to a charity, or even a friend in need. Holy shit, what the hell is happening to me?

The Wedding Present ft. Amelia Fletcher GETTING BETTER
Billy Bragg ft. Cara Tivey SHE'S LEAVING HOME

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

SLOAN "Stood Up b/w Same Old Flame"

I bought in. I jumped right on that Canadian power pop bandwagon sometime around 1993 and never got off. It's really hard, really really hard, to not have a massive love affair with the underrated and crunchy Beatlesque melodies that have been coming from places like Halifax, Vancouver, Toronto, and even Winnipeg. Yes, sometimes it's not all that innovative, but there's something distinctly unique about the chord progressions and sweet vocals. Clearly Canadian.

Both of these rare singles were acquired on one of my many visits to Halifax for their Pop Explosion festivals they hosted in the early-mid 90s. Twisted, a 4 band compilation, features The New Grand, Cheticamp, and The Super Friendz, a group I was working with at the time. Twisted was the inaugural release on Poster Girl Records, blue colored vinyl, 123 out of 500. Sigh, remember those days? Anyway, thanks to the nice girl who handed me a couple of copies during the festival. I'd completely forgotten that Zumpano, the short lived pre-New Pornographers project of AC Newman, had contributed the likable "The Moment Business". Definitely no throwaway, the band named after their beloved drummer (Jason now plays under the moniker, Sparrow) raves up a nice piece of jagged little pop here.

Sloan are undeniably the godfathers of the indie Canadian music scene, showing everyone what to and not to do. They even mentored a few of their favorite bands on their Murderecords label, considering and releasing music by the Inbreds, Jale, and other neighbors. Murder released some rare singles, including Sloan's fabulous Stood Up b/w Same Old Flame, in 1994. This single came out around the same time the band had decided to call it quits. However, they 180'd on that, and self-released the gorgeous One Chord To Another album shortly after, which is regarded as one of their best. Some of you might know their "Everything You've Done Wrong" which was highlighted in the movie The Virgin Suicides.

I apologize for the scans here and who knows about the quality of the vinyl (colored vinyl, ick), but I hope you enjoy. Apparently, the Sloan song is available on a Japanese cd pressing of One Chord To Another. Good luck finding it.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

THE RAVE-UPS "These Wishes 12 inch"

Whenever I hear friends my age mounting their high horses about "alternative used to be alternative" and "modern rock this and that" and "the kids now don't know", I just shrug. I mean, they have a point, "alternative" radio right now should be playing bands like Voxtrot, Matt Pond PA, Phoenix, or Field Music instead of Hawthorne Heights and Godsmack. But they won't. So let's all get over ourselves, ok? Because when I dig deep down into records that came out during my formative years, the early 80s, it's not that hard to seperate your Mission UKs from your My Chemical Romances. Ick.

I didn't know much about Cowboys International when I was handed the record, yes, again, from my elders at the short lived vinyl only Entertainment Outlet in Chicago. I do remember them telling me that Psychedelic Furs owed them a great deal. Dopplegangers! Listen to "Pointy Shoes" and you tell me. Down to the persistent distorto-harmonica and angular guitars, it certainly could've appeared on the first Furs LP. Astonishingly, they have a website, and this may even be on cd. I was certain when I ripped this that a one-off album this old (1979) wouldn't be zeroed and oned, but maybe I'm wrong. More on them here.

The Rave-Ups came into fame because they were Molly Ringwald's favorite local band. They even appeared in Pretty In Pink as the house band (they were sadly overlooked for the soundtrack which could've won them a bit more of that, ahem, fame). They were an indie band, though, in 1986, and "Three Wishes" comes from a 12 inch on their Fun Stuff label. I picked this up at one of the absolutely most wonderful events for record geeks, for a dollar. For 10 glorious days, in Skokie, IL, fundraisers for ALS used to pitch a football field sized tent and sell hundreds of thousands of donated vinyl albums. They would sell you a box for $25 that holds about 50 records and you could just fill it. Unbelievable. I haven't lived in Chicago for years, and looked on that link, no mention of the annual sale. Sad if they don't do it still. Very sad. I always looked forward to it. "These Wishes" didn't appear on any album, but was re-recorded for their major label debut, which, let's face it, came about 3 years too late.

Anyway, I lump the Cowboys Int'l (name so not appropriate) and Rave-Ups in together, because, even though they are seperated by 7 or 8 years, they mine the same territory. The Rave-Ups could've been the Cowboys if they existed in '79 and were British. The Cowboys could've lived up to their name had they possessed a bit of the Rave-Ups' twang. Both belong to the same modern-rock-i-think-it-is-if-you-say-so-fine club and may have found a more mainstream audience if they were this year's model. For fans of Wilco, Bright Eyes, or maybe, Flaming Lips.

Cowboys International POINTY SHOES

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

SERGE & CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG "Charlotte Forever b/w Pour ce que tu n'├ętais pas"

I'm not sure about you, but there's nothing more heartwarming than a father obsessed with his teenage daughter. Oh, Serge! This is, of course, the successful follow up single to the first duet with the 13 year old Charlotte, "Lemon Incest" (if I'm not mistaken, Rita Marley, Bob's wife, sang backing vocals on this and when Bob found out about the questionable and erotic lyrics, he was livid), and the title track to a movie I have yet to see. Think of it as a French version of "Valley Girl" by Frank & Moon Unit Zappa. I mean, if I were a successful recording artist, I certainly would want to immortalize my daughter get out of a record contract by bringing her in the studio late night to cut a single. No? To sing lyrics like ("Inceste de citron, lemon incest, Je t'aime t'aime, je t'aime plus que tout, papa papa"). So sweet! She loves her papa!

Not sure if this offering is on cd, my guess is yes, but I don't care, it's still coming via my record collection straight to iTunes. I think I picked this one up in Paris sometime in 1999. It was cheap, I'm sure, as it's probably as easy to find in Paris as Frampton Comes Alive is....I dunno....anywhere? I'm also going to disclaim this mp3 by saying, you will feel dirty, pretty much from the first verse.

If you're not familiar with Serge, however, please do investigate his discography. This song is from 1986 and it's safe to say, you can stray from his 80s output, as Charlotte Forever hardly even qualifies as a song. Some people make a case for 1984's Love On The Beat, but it's pretty gay eurodisco, if that's your thing. Start with Couleur Cafe or Comic Strip. Also, be sure to read Sylvie Simmons' Fistful Of Gitanes, which is a fascinating read. Especially the chapter about his appearance on a French TV show with Whitney Houston.

Don't get too spoiled on this daily mp3 thing from me. I'm off to Texas, but I'll be back, hopefully armed with some local country elpees to share with you.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

GRAUZONE "Eisbaer b/w Film 2 + Ich Leib Sie"

A very brief post today. This one comes from the stash of my aforementioned stint at a place called Entertainment Outlet (sweet name) in Chicago when I was 19. As part of my hurried education by the store's managers, this Grauzone 12 inch was handed to me and praised as the first real 'industrial' single. After playing the new 12 inch from 1,000 Homo DJs for the 1,000th time, I figured it was worth a shot, with a bonus for the cute polar bear on the cover. Now, I've yet to actually do any research on Grauzone, I will after I post this, and feel free to school me. I don't have a year on when this came out, but I'm pretty sure they were German. Eisbear is a total trip, somewhere between that Martin Hannett/ESG/Factory drum sound and the Slits experimental and nearly fatal saxophone noodling. I probably hadn't dug this out in over 10 years, but it doesn't sound as bad as I thought. It's kinda funny actually, but possibly a room clearer.


Monday, May 08, 2006

THE GO-BETWEENS "Metal And Shells"
THE GO-BETWEENS "16 Lovers Lane"

Something woke me up this past Saturday night at 4AM. I am definitely a light sleeper, but it's pretty rare for me to wake up, lucid, in the middle of the night, and especially after partying the night before. I headed straight to my computer, hopefully to lullaby myself back to sleep by reading banal news stories. Within 2 or 3 clicks, however, I'd stumbled on the news. Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens was dead at 48. I was very shocked as I'm sure everyone who Grant has ever touched is right now.

I remembered the first time I'd ever heard or seen the band, they played the video for "That Way" on 120 Minutes. I pretty much absorbed nearly anything that show played in 1985 and 1986 and anything WHTG or WLIR would play as well, but the Go-Betweens really stuck with me. I headed straight for Music In A Different Kitchen in New Brunswick to find the recently released compilation "Metal And Shells". I think I paid $9.99 for it, I ripped the sticker off and don't know for sure, but however much I paid, it was worth it. I lost this album and replaced it in the last few years, several times. I may have three copies.

I remembered the time a few years later, I started working as a college rep for Capitol and got to hang out backstage with the Go-Betweens when they played Metro in Chicago on the 16 Lovers Lane tour. They were so sweet, so humble, so celebratory, and charming. I think I thought all rock stars needed to be distant and unapproachable at that point. I was so happy to find out that wasn't true. 16 Lovers Lane became my soundtrack that year, I was sad to find out they were calling it quits soon after.

I remembered finding out that Grant and Robert were re-uniting the Go-Betweens in 1998 and recording a new album. I remember driving on a weeknight from Westchester County, 3 hours each way to Providence to see them in front of 40 people on the Friends Of Rachel Worth dates and three days later at packed Fez in NYC. I floated on McLennan-Forster melodies all that week, I can't remember how happy I was, but I'm positive it was the happiest I'd been since moving back to NYC from Chicago.

I knew this would happen, I'd stray from the formula of old ripped vinyl (and it only took like 4 posts!). That's okay, it will happen from time to time, but hopefully not that often, especially under these circumstances. I know "That Way" (see below) is a Robert song, but it was my introduction to the band. I will always remember Grant McLennan and the absolute joy his songs have brought to my life. See if you can listen to "A Quiet Heart" and scan the tributes on the Go-Betweens message board without crying your eyes out. Songs like "Right Here" and "Bachelor Kisses" have accented nearly every significant moment of my life. Like I could actually not put a Go-Betweens song on a mixtape everytime I'd meet a nice girl....

Grant, rest in peace, we will miss you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You've given more than you'll ever know.

The Go-Betweens THAT WAY
The Go-Betweens QUIET HEART

Also, here's the video for "Right Here":

Friday, May 05, 2006

PINK LADY "Pink Lady"

There was a trainwreck of a TV variety show on in the late 70s. Pink Lady & Jeff starred two hello cutie Japanese women speaking broken engrish and a C-list comedian named Jeff Altman (possibly known for his bit parts on Maude or Mork & Mindy). Pink Lady were already an established disposable Japanese pop duo, akin to Expose minus one singer or two Stacey Q's put together. Right. Anyway, some genius thought it would be a good idea to introduce them to America by exploiting the fact that these girls, Mie and Kei, were kinda hot and spoke little engrish. Jeff played the straight man, always the butt of the joke, probably still is.

Pink Lady's LP on Elektra was released and apparently, according to Billboard, Kiss In The Dark cracked the top 40 back in 1979. I found this one, one of many I'll post about, at Princeton Record Exchange, several years ago, for $1.99. What immediately struck me was that there appeared to be a cover of the celebrated and underrated 60s baroque pop group, The Left Banke, on here. You know, I had to take it home to hear the blasphemy first hand. This record makes the rounds when friends are over and several Pimm's cups have been consumed. Enjoy or die trying.



Wednesday, May 03, 2006

THE BATS "How Pop Can You Get?"

Jon Brion is a late bloomer I guess. I've definitely been fascinated with his most recent success, scoring several soundtracks for Hollywood (Eternal Sunshine, I Heart Huckabees) as well as producer (Fiona Apple, Kanye West!), especially after spending something like 20+ years looking for a break. I think of him as a more adaptable Todd Rundgren for our generation. The first time I ever heard the name Jon Brion was when I worked as a junior A&R guy at a big label. He showcased at China Club in NYC with an all-star band, Aimee Mann, Lloyd Cole, who knows who else, I remember little from those days. I did note his unique pop songwriting style. It almost seems that he has this element of prog (King Crimson, Yes) that wants to come out, but the songs end up with Brion's signature chord progressions, when you hear it, you know it's him.

I picked up How Pop Can You Get by a local Connecticut band called the Bats (not the same as the Flying Nun, Kiwi band, the Bats) at Brass City Records in Waterbury, CT in 1999. It was $3 and at the time, Jon Brion hadn't emerged as the in-demand renaissance man just yet. But I did notice his name and how young (he was 19) he looked on the back of the sleeve, and figured it would be an interesting Sunday afternoon listen. Like most power pop, the lyrics are pretty disposable, but like most power pop, that's the least of your concerns.

I apologize for the bad rip here, I actually combined the first two songs (there was a little instrumental lead-in that was impossible to edit) into one and some of the leads on the files are a bit shoddy, I'll get better, promise. Doesn't it seem like Material Issue made an entire career of ripping off Living In Alaska? And oh my, How Pop Can You Get, I swear, this is the stuff that bad 80s movie soundtracks were made of. American Anthem anyone? This is 1982, suburban power pop, people. Dig it.


Monday, May 01, 2006

THE REVERBS "The Happy Forest"

I was going to start this post with a long-winded chapter about the many wonderful and haphazard ways we discover music. But let's just dedicate this one to a guy named Tom Garvey who I worked with at Rose Records on State St. in Chicago when I was 19. Fresh from dropping out of college, I landed the enviable (ahem) $3.50 per hour position of "singles buyer" at the now defunct Chicago record chain. Newly promoted from cashier or "floater" (one customer asked me where the Leonard Cohen was and I believe I answered, "is that jazz?"), I was excited to buy 45rpm 7" singles and cassette singles for our store. It was a pretty easy gig, just follow the Billboard chart and order according to the neighborhood. We sold a ton of Edie Brickell and Julia Fordham singles that fall I believe.

Anyway, within a month of getting this posh gig, the manager told us all that the store was to be shut down and replaced with something called "Entertainment Outlet". We were given the option to continue working at EO, but it would be all surplus vinyl, cutouts, overstock, etc, nothing new, and of course, my status as singles buyer wouldn't be upheld. At 19, I didn't realize what an amazing concept (overstock LPs) it was for a record store, but Tom Garvey, assistant manager, re-assured me, to stay. I had to come up with $315 a month for my studio apartment in Wrigleyville, so staying was the only option.

To this point, I was on a 4AD and Wax Trax diet. A constant binging of Cocteau Twins and Pailhead. The staff (most of us from the aforementioned failed Rose store) spent about two weeks unloading boxes, tens of thousands of vinyl albums from defunct music mall chain stores with names like Turtles, Camelot and Record City. Almost immediately, Tom, and our other manager, Al, started hyperventilating and each started a "hold" bin. They were going apeshit, every time they'd open a box, I'd hear a "Holy Shit, Tom! It's a fucking mono copy of Sweethearts Of The Rodeo!", "Mine!". I started one too. At first, with Killing Joke 12 inches, but then, anything on their recommendation. At one point I think I had 400 albums on hold, not nearly the most of any employee, but impressive, because I do believe I bought most of them (and still possibly own them).

I was ignorant to the midwest power pop scene until one day when Tom handed me BOTH Paul Chastain's solo EP from 1985, Halo, and The Reverbs' Happy Forest EP from around the same time. He said I'd like them because one of my favorite albums to that point (still is actually) was Cypress by Let's Active. This was my first foray into small independent pop music which would be my calling years later when I started my own label. Ric Menck from the Reverbs and Paul ended up forming Velvet Crush several years later, who released my favorite record of 1991, In The Presence of Greatness, produced by Matthew Sweet on 8 track. Still, these EPs remained in my collection and eventually got heavy spins as soon as I abdicated my shoegazing throne. They were the first things I thought about when ripping vinyl to MP3.

There will be more posts about this wonderful chapter of my education and discovery of music, until then, enjoy these rare songs:

Paul Chastain HALO