Scott Bateman is making a short animated film every day for a year. On day 277, he tastefully featured our own Sex Clark 5 revamping the classic ’60s jingle for instant Great Shakes milkshakes. Maybe you’ve heard the versions of this incredibly catchy tune by the Who or the Yardbirds… but did you know that the song was written by another LITG artist, the incomparable Brute Force?
We like it when the universe converges in so nifty a fashion. So click on this link and get "Great Sheikhs."
The Pop Project TGIF CD-EP (popproject.com) With this release, blogger/drummer Adam Kempa and his pals gather to praise obscure singer-songwriter Jesse Frederick. But their reverence is not directed at his sole 1971 Bearsville LP, nor the pair of unreleased follow-ups, but at Frederick’s more widely-heard contributions to the world of eighties sitcom themes. It’s a intriguing instance of reclaiming the craft (or art, if you will) from a place of intentional invisibility, and from the included “making-of” featurelette you can tell the band had a blast making it happen. I confess I’ve never watched an episode of Family Matters, Full House or Step By Step (Perfect Strangers I think I saw once), and none of these under-two-minute theme song covers are familiar, but the commercial craftsmanship of the songwriting is apparent and nicely realized in these short, sweet and very upbeat performances. Check the website for more about the Pop Project, Jesse Frederick and the difficulties of getting a mechanical license to cover these tunes. You probably need to have watched these shows a lot at an early age to react viscerally to hearing them remade, but either way it’s an endearing concept.
Yes, yes, I know. I need to get back to doing these more often. Not a ton of time today, but I implore you to check out one of my favorite albums of all time: Le Chat Bleu by the band Mink DeVille.
Led by Willy DeVille, the band is long defunct (although DeVille himself still records on a regular basis out of his adopted hometown of New Orleans) but was once a part of the same New York City CBGB punk scene that spawned Blondie, Ramones and Talking Heads.
DeVille’s musical vision was slightly different than his brethren, though. Along with the vital street punkiness, DeVille added to his energetic rock a reverence for the classic pop of the Drifters and doo-wop in general, though the doo-wop part was more of a feeling than something he expressed musically. During its’ lifespan, his band recorded several albums of smart songs with lots of passion and plenty of guts. As albums, they were pretty good, though nothing really life-changing.
His music got life-changing when he started writing songs and running around with legendary Brill Building songwriting genius Doc Pomus, the man who wrote Save The Last Dance For Me for the Drifters and many, many hit songs for various artists, including Elvis Presley.
DeVille took the Spanish lilt (what I believe is called the baion beat) that Pomus specialized in and started adding it to his NYC street poetry. Together, the old legend and the young turk wrote songs that should have been all over the radio. The glorious result was Le Chat Bleu, a beautiful album that, sadly, was only released overseas at the time but eventually trickled back to the US through word-of-mouth. Recently re-released by Raven in Austrailia, the album has been expanded with a bunch of bonus tracks that somehow make perfection even better. The album is a smoky, rocking, almost-male-chanteuse-like, passionate testament to love and it is something I have yet to hear attempted by anyone else, let alone duplicated.
It simply knocked me out and I remain a fan to this day, though I stringly feel Le Chat Bleu was Deville’s peak, both with his band and solo. Today he seems to take the style of Le Chat Bleu a little serious and there is less of the warmth and innocense present though you could do much worse than using that album as a blueprint.
If any of this appeals to you I hope you decide to check this album out and give it a listen. It is available through Raven Records of Austrailia along with a few other of DeVille’s CDs both new and old and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Are you gonna love Willy?
From a NYT feature on photo archivist Michael Ochs, the following passage demands correction.
Many of his most important images came courtesy of James Kriegsmann, the longtime industry photographer who shot Frank Sinatra, Kate Smith, Buddy Holly and hundreds of early stars. Mr. Ochs paid about $50,000 for the entire collection in 1988 when Mr. Kriegsmann was in his 80’s and struggling. After signing the contract, Mr. Kriegsmann had a few words for the quirky enthusiast who reveled in the find, and was already itching to release the wealth of history to fellow rock fans.
"I want to tell you three things, Michael," Mr. Kriegsmann said. "What’s that?" Mr. Ochs asked. "No. 1, you stole the collection." "I know, James." "No. 2, I want to thank you, because I needed the money." "I know, James." "And No. 3, if it wasn’t for you, I would’ve thrown all this stuff away." Mr. Ochs looked at him and smiled. "I know that too," he said.
Either Mr. Kriegsman wasn’t entirely honest with Mr. Ochs, or Mr. Ochs isn’t truly interested in acquiring every piece of pop imagery ever captured on film. How else to explain the astonishing trove of late Kriegsmann material rescued from a Venice alley by a friend of Jennifer Sharpe’s, and lovingly scanned and shared through her Sharpeworld site? Sure, a lot of the stuff in Jennifer’s stash documents a world of entertainment removed from the usual Michael Ochs Archives themes, but there are plenty of oddball musical portaits in there. Did Kriegsmann hide these late images out of shame or misplaced judgement? Or could Ochs see into the future and anticipate no call for an 8 x 10 of Nbuda Funkshun? Tell that to the tens of thousands of people who have gleefully clicked through the Jennifer Sharpe-preserved Kriegsmann Files on flickr!
Anyhoo, it’s a mystery. But the Venice alley stash was not the whole of the missing Kriegsmann archives. As a matter o’ fact, I own a Kriegsmann 8×10 myself, of a magician and his foxy go-go booted assistant, and even used it as a Scram centerfold. Found it in a junk shop on Abbot Kinney a few years back, in a small pile of similar pics.
Could Michael Ochs, longtime Venice resident, have put the "dregs" of the Kriegsmann files out for the garbage man to collect, only scavengers happily got to it first?
Perhaps it was the most untimely demise of original dreamer Freddie Garrity. But did I really neglect to mention when last we took the virtual Ferry cross the Mersey that none other than Frank Lee Sprague – yes, he the still-taller half of those supremely rooty-rockin’ Sprague Brothers (not to mention an authentic cousin of The Man Who Invented Sixties Music Himself, I kid you not!!) — has been very busy indeed “on the side,” helping keep the meaty, big and bouncy spirit of the M-Beat alive and very thriving here in Century 21?
I hardly would’ve believed it possible myself …UNTIL, that is, I heard for my own a deceptively, disarmingly charmful little disc called Cavern, and on it some of the best, most magnificently melodic p-o-p this side of your fave rave Searchers EP of yore.
And also, here I felt I was the only lad left on the block who thought a certain P. McCartney wrote many of his best songs EVER for….. Peter and Gordon. But Frank Lee too has obviously been listening lots to “I Don’t Want To See You Again,” as well as to some of the more rough ‘n’ tumblest circa-’62 cellar sounds this side of The Big Three. When not channeling a certain Jane Asher as muse, that is.
Alas, the dank, sweaty, musty, subterraneanly homesick aura of those magic long-gone days and particularly nights beat again right there deep down in Frank Lee Sprague’s very own Cavern.
Rodier was a Montréal-based, Anglophone singer-songwriter whose twee yet slightly sinister style pulls the listener down into a rabbit hole of unexpected pop arrangements, into one of the most bipolar albums every made. This fragmented format is definitely not for everyone, but both styles are so well realized that it’s well worth the risk. Starting off hushed and whispery, the 1972 LP soon turns tough and anxious with the choir-backed anthem of betrayal “Am I Supposed to Let It By Again?” before slipping back into seductive intimacy in adoration of (shades of Jeff Mangum) Jesus Christ, and the heavy guitars and anguished, giddy shrieks of “While My Castle’s Burning.” Five strong bonus tracks flesh out Rodier’s versatility, which includes bubblegummy sunshine pop and sweetly spooky pop tunes in French. A very striking rediscovery, really excellent stuff.
Despite an unfortunate one day delay we will now return to the topic at hand: NRBQ.
For those who did not follow my helpful and life-changing instructions to check out some NRBQ over the weekend, I will describe them the best way I can. Imagine interstellar jazz traveller Sun Ra fronting a rock band and you will get an idea (albeit small and one-dimensional)about NRBQ. Not only does the band play some of the catchiest bar-band rock around, the band can immediately stop on a dime and play humourous ditties or songs just so crazy and “out” that it almost turns you off of the band and makes you decide to not listen to them anymore. Then, almost magically, the band will play something so tuneful and McCartney-like as to make you wonder why they are not all over the radio. It is this dichotomy that has both endeared the band to its’ many, many fans and also kept the band out of the mainstream.
You will often find two camps of NRBQ fans: ones who like the band better in it’s most popular incarnation when guitarist/songwriter/ex-Wildweed Al Anderson was still in the band (there were a few other guitarists before Big Al – he didn’t join until 1974) and those who like his replacement, Johnny Spampinato, Joey’s brother, who took over in 1994. Being a talented songwriter (besides being a demon on guitar)Anderson had to always know he could write hits. Even while being criminally ignored by the general public while being in the ‘Q – his songs were often covered by other country and rock artists. Nashville eventually called Anderson and he jumped ship, leaving the lead guitar spot open. Luckily Johnny shares the same genetic musical genius as his bassist/songwriter/singer brother Joey and he easily slid into the replacement slot and has also found his songwriting legs with the band as well, contributing one of their best latter-day songs, Be Here Now.
There is much argument over which album is the band’s best. They’ve recorded over twenty albums and about half of those are live documents, building them a following today that is populated by many jam-band fans who are attracted to the band’s willingness to experiment onstage and their formidable improvisational abilities. Since I prefer studio albums to live ones (which I feel never quite fully captue a band’s true sound and the total live experience)I find the albums most talked about are At Yankee Stadium, Grooves In Orbit and Wild Weekend.
At Yankee Stadium (1977) is a classic by anyone’s standards, containing most of the songs people associate with NRBQ. The songs Ridin’ In My Car, Green Light, and Me and The Boys are on this CD and it is, in a word, great. Every song is killer and pop bands like Cheap Trick and the Cars would dream of releasing this CD.
Wild Weekend (1989) is probably their best late period album, and the last album for which they were signed to a major label deal. They got a lot of press for this CD and it’s lack of commercial success despite the ‘Q reigning in most of the crazy side of their personality, sealed their fate as an underground band forever. There were a lot of potential hits on this that would have sounded great on the radio. It’s too bad radio sucks.
My personal fave is Grooves in Orbit, which came out in 1982. Not only does it have the killer song Rain At The Drive In but, to me, the album has the best selection of classic NRBQ songs than any other CD they did. This CD delivers on the promise that At Yankee Stadium suggested and, for the most part, the band was never this good on album again. The love songs are tender and meaningful and the rockers rock like hell.
You can probably tell that I can’t say enough about this marvelous band. While this is a just a small smattering of info, I hope it is enough to get you a little psyched about trying a few of the band’s CDs. All are worth the money because there’s not a bad one in the bunch. Some are better than others but all of them have some gems on them.
Are you new to the ‘Q?