It’s not what it seems…

I’m not having “relations” with fellow writer David Dunlap Jr., but here we go with more props. I suppose that Dave and I have been writing for The Memphis Flyer about the same amount of time (7 years), but he’s the one that wrote THIS. Perhaps the best piece of music writing I’ve read in the Flyer, but this style suits me. And I hope that some cargo shorts and birdy unicorn  abstract t-shirts get in a wad over it, though that may be wishful thinking. The good fight in music criticism continues (though we are losing, and by “we” I mean my little secret handshake club of writers that post comments on this site….ok, that’s ridiculous).

Capsular Reviews of Anything

(this post will feature no formatting, as I am burdened with Safari at the moment…the Ford Escort of web browsers)

1. Lost (a TV show) – To clarify, Terry O’Quinn is the only reason that I’m watching this show. Believe that? I feel great about it.

2. Air America (syndicated radio) – Memphis lost Air America earlier this week. I’m going to miss the four-year-old, scratchy local spots for pathetic computer repair businesses. I’m also going to miss the fresh, pointed content. Already unfunny comics that just lost their minds once Bush was elected. Preaching to the converted. Fishing for issues, then flogging them useless. I will miss these things.

3. Steven Tyler on the Henry Rollins Show (IFC) – This hasn’t aired yet, but I’m going to go ahead and throw some proposed dialogue out there so you don’t have to watch it. “Man, back when we were all eating toothpaste on crackers at the SST offices, we used to jam “Rocks,” I mean, we didn’t even listen to current punk rock, we were all into classic hard rock. You’re lookin’ pretty fit these days, Steven. You know what I like to tell the ladies? GET IN THE VAN!!!”

4. MySpace – Over the course of a week, the number of my MySpace friends dropped by about 50 people. I cannot devote the research to finding out exactly who these people are/were. Did they die? Did I do something wrong?

5. Death Sentence/Shoot ‘Em Up/The Brave One (these are movies) – Haven’t seen them!! BUT…I plan on an entire day devoted to these three movies back-to-back. Color me surprised that there is a “think piece” in the NYT about the “return of the revenge/vigilante movie.”

6. The “Mumblecore” Genre of Indie Film – A more detailed post is forthcoming. See previous post. The Indie Film has been dying a slow death for some time, and trends such as this one signal a true case of my favorite term (and title of a book I hope to write by the time I turn 80) Creative Bankruptcy. A note to Doug M.: Let’s discuss it ONLINE!!!! For everyone to see!!!

My Version Is Better Than Yours Part 6 –Incorporating the Mike Berry story Part 2: Round The Gum Tree:Fire VS Real McCoy


Fire –Round The Gum Tree/Toothie Ruthie –London 45 -20048 (1968 US issue)
Real McCoy –Round The Gum Tree/ I Will –Target 7N 17704 (1969 IRL)

We are talking Bubblegum here and with a capital B! Fire were a trio from Hounslow featuring future Strawb Dave Lambert, they are more widely celebrated for their classic Psych/ Freakbeat number My Father’s Name Was Dad (Decca). Mike was producing this later Fire session.

MB: Time was running out and their songs were not coming together, so I showed them this song that I knew we could finish before we ran out of time.

At 1 minute and 32 seconds you can see his point and it’s also a very simple but catchy tune, even the backing vocals are sped up sounding like the Chipmunks on Helium.
MB: After we finished the session, I said to myself –What I have done here? –I’ll never work in this business again.

Later Mike received a phone call… “Hello Mike –Dick Rowe (head honcho at Decca at the time) here –I have to say that Round The Gum Tree is the most commercial song I’ve ever heard, we must release it and it will be a huge smash”

MB: I thought it was a prank call and I put the phone down on him, but rang back to check and it was actually him

Fire’s Round The Gum Tree wasn’t the predicted smash, but Irish showband Real McCoy gave it another shot. Their version is longer with added Psych guitar effects and even a key change. Whatever version you prefer, this song sounds like a real hit, just a shame that it wasn’t issued in the US as The 1910 Fruitgum Company…

Click on title for edits of Fire’s and Real Mccoy’s versions of Round The Gum Tree

The Polder and the City

Doesn’t exactly look like Vacation Paradise, does it? Even disregarding the blue sky, it’s exactly what it looks like: a suburb. A suburb of a suburb, in fact; a recent development on the polders outside of de Meern, which itself is one of the ring suburbs put up after World War II around Utrecht, Holland. Still, it’s where I was based for most of the past week, and there was a real good reason for it. It was free.

My friends Brett (whom I hadn’t seen in several years) and his wife Carole (whom I hadn’t seen, she pointed out, in ten years), who live in Portland, Oregon, had done a house-exchange with the family who lives here, one of whom is a former Portlander. Complicating things was the fact that Carole lives in a motorized wheelchair with a ventilator, owing to muscular dystrophy. Making things much simpler was the fact that this Dutch-American family has a son who also has a chair, meaning that the garage in their house was converted to a bedroom with all accessible amenities. For a Dutch house, it’s huge, so I had a place to sleep. And it’s also not far from a bus stop whose bus will deliver you to Utrecht Centraal, the train and bus station downtown.

I arrived on Thursday evening, and wound up schlepping my luggage all over Utrecht, because another good reason to go last week was the Utrecht Early Music Festival, and Brett, who is a music critic who does a lot of classical reviewing (and is working on a much-anticipated biography of the late American composer Lou Harrison), had an extra ticket for that evening’s concert by the Orchestra of the 18th Century. Unfortunately, the program was an all-Beethoven affair, and neither of us much likes Beethoven, myself in particular. But he had to go to it and he didn’t have time to head back to de Meern before showtime. Beethoven’s not my idea of “early music,” but the orchestra did fine.

After that it was time to find something to eat, and we wandered around until it was too late, settling for some of those inimitable, indigestible Fried Things the Dutch specialize in at a bar featuring a fine selection of Belgian beers. Hey, they had onion rings, and they were good.

Carole’s battery charger had blown earlier in the week, so she and her caretaker Susan were pretty much housebound until the technology could be worked out, but they were still up when we got there (Carole: “I don’t do mornings.”) and we sat up late talking and getting up to date. She’d also managed to bring her iPhone — the only one in Europe, practically — to use the Airport wireless system they’d set up in the house, and I was really eager to play with that.

The next morning, while waiting for everyone to wake up, I walked to the outskirts of de Meern to find a bakery and a butcher they’d told me about so I could buy some bread and cheese for breakfast. Dutch bread isn’t like German bread — it’s far softer — but makes better use of herbs and spices. And Dutch cheese, well, let’s just say that the cumin Gouda and three-year-old aged Gouda I picked up were a hit.

Brett had tickets for a 2pm show in the Dom, the huge cathedral that dominates Utrecht’s skyline. Clarino is a small ensemble of soprano, violin, cornetto, trombone, dulcian and basso continuo, and it wasn’t done any favors by the Dom’s huge, echo-y interior, but the program, of works by composers at the Danish court of Christian IV (Dowland, Schütz, and Weckmann), was excellent, although the way the soprano buzzed her r’s was a bit annoying.

After that, Brett had a concert but no plus one, and I opted for a free concert of music by Salomon, who wrote some gorgeous Jewish liturgical music in the Renaissance. I wish I’d heard it; the church were it was being presented didn’t look much like a church, unfortunately, and I wandered and wandered until it was too late. So I wandered some more. Downtown Utrecht is all old buildings, with two major canals alongside of which are some great cafes. I spent most of the 90 minutes I had to use up trying to figure out how the town was laid out, but those canals can be disorienting, and, of course, I got disoriented. I did find a few interesting spaces, and one of them was the Museum Catharijneconvent, a museum of Catholic and Protestant life in Holland, located in a former cloister, which I resolved to go back to. Next door to it was a building from the 15th Century, the “new slaughterhouse,” whose entertaining mascot, which I dubbed the “Death Steer,” I hope you can see in this photo:

After Brett and I met up at the Dom, I successfully talked him out of his one-ticket Freiburger Barockorchster Mozart show (again, not what I — or he — consider “early music”) in favor of grabbing some dinner. Carole had gotten her charger fixed at long last and she and Susan were due to head in to see a performance of Debussy’s “Chansons de Bilitis” at 10:30 with Brett (not of great interest to me and anyway, how on earth can you consider Debussy “early music?”), so we managed to time it so that we found a great, affordable restaurant, had a fine meal, and Brett dropped me off at the bus station while waiting for the girls. Fortunately for me, my brain kicked in just as he was disappearing into the huge mall that’s part of the Utrecht train station and I got the house key.

Given that it was looking a lot like rain by the time I got to de Meern, I was shocked to see the two women waiting forlornly at the bus stop there. Apparently, only a few of the buses on the routes into town were accessible, and they were still waiting for one. One pulled up while I was talking to them, but it didn’t have a ramp, so they went to another nearby bus stop for the next bus, and I wished them luck. Almost as soon as I got back to the house, the rain pounded down, but as luck would have it, they made the ramp-equipped bus before this happened and it didn’t rain in Utrecht at all.

Saturday’s early bit was spent shopping for food at the nearby supermarket (the Americans couldn’t get it through their heads that everything really, truly, does shut down on Sunday), and mid-afternoon Brett and I met at the Jakobkerk for the concert I’d been waiting for (although I didn’t know it at the time), by the Holland Baroque Society. This is one exciting group. Other than the fact that the composers represented were Muffat, Corelli, and Lully, I’m not entirely sure what was played, but then, that shouldn’t make any difference. I know that the Corelli was a concerto grosso, a soloists-and-orchestra kind of piece in which various soloists and duos get to show off instead of a single soloist being featured, and led off the program. In seconds, it became apparent what was so cool about this band. Yeah, band: like a good jazz or rock band they paid attention to each other a lot. The lack of an actual conductor (there was a harpsichordist up front, who conducted a few moments of transition and started up each movement, but he could hardly be called the “leader” during much of the performance) meant that everyone had to be aware of what was going on. Particularly fascinating were the two lead violinists, a brown-haired woman and a blonde, both of whom were playing off each other like two jazz greats trading eights. Lots and lots of eye contact, and, overall, a sense of swing, which you could watch happening as the brown-haired violinist violated all classical protocol by occastionally tapping her feet, propelling the energy up into her hands and making sure that the kind of metronomic monotony so much Baroque music suffers from was a distant memory. They don’t appear to have recorded, but they do appear to tour Germany every now and again, so I’m going to watch for them.

Saturday evening Brett and Carole had tickets to a staging of a Vivaldi opera by another young ensemble called B’Rock, so we met the ladies over at the “Deranged Rabbit,” a sculpture I’d managed to miss over by the post office. You do have to wonder what people who commisson public art are thinking sometimes; this actually did look like a skinny rabbit with a really bizarre expression on his face. We wandered around a little and settled on an inconspicuous-looking place in a studenty neighborhood, and were surprised by yet another fantastic affordable dinner. (I’m going to do a separate post about food on this trip). Susan and I headed back to the polder after dinner, and apparently what we missed was a blood-and-guts fest with only minimal connection to the text (which was in Italian anyway). That was okay; I’d had my musical treat for the day.

Sunday was the festival’s last day, and the grand finale concert, the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, was sold out. Brett had a ticket to the Concerto Copenhagen’s peformance of Handel’s Acis and Galatea at 4, but I was determined to see some of the museums that were open, including the Museum Catharijneconvent. We had cards, left by our hosts in de Meern, which got us into museums for free, so we headed off and not only got that in (some extremely nice woodcarvings that had been spared the wrath of the Reformation, and a very nicely balanced view of the whole Catholic/Protestant debacle in Holland, given that it appears the administration of the place is connected with the Catholic church) but almost had time to take in the whole National Museum of Musical Clocks and Street Organs, which is truly amazing. I headed to a concert by a mostly-Polish Baroque trio, and we had one more excellent meal before returning to de Meern to start packing.

The next day found us in Amsterdam, and here I got to play local expert, although, to be honest, I’m not really an expert. I did, however, know more of the city than Brett and Carole, and managed to bring back memories of their stay in Indonesia with a trip to the legendary Restaurant Kantjil en Tijger, one of my favorite Indonesian places in the city (the other one being up a flight of stairs that scares me, let alone Carole). Tuesday I gave them my best attempt at a city tour, as we fought to indulge Brett’s insistence on finding poffertjes, which turn out to be heavy little dollar pancakes drenched in butter, and to wander through the Jordaan district, which I don’t know at all. We wound up enjoying a beer in the sunshine before it vanished, and then some extremely inexpensive traditional Dutch food at a restaurant whose name I clean forgot to get, on the Spuistraat near Kantjil.

All in all, a nicely relaxing time off from Berlin, thanks to my friends’ generosity in buying the train ticket and picking up tabs here and there. It reinforced my decision that Holland isn’t somewhere I’d want to live, although it’s nice to visit. That’s the problem: it’s too damn nice. There’s a lack of an edge there that I think would make me nuts if I had to live with it 24/7, something I couldn’t quite make Brett understand. The niceness, of course, is a byproduct of living so close together. There are no wide open spaces in Holland, and no real countryside. People are packed in, and in order to make that work, they’ve had to rein in some of their instincts. That’s not a bad thing at all, but there’s a resultant blandness that gets to you after a while, not only out on the polder, but in the cities, too.

That said, it could well be that Brett and Carole will be back in two years when the other family is ready to do a house-exchange again, and by then I hope I can sell someone on a story about the Early Music Festival. It’s the biggest one in Europe, and one of the oldest, and if the less than half-week I saw is anything to go by, it’s an undiscovered gem — as is Utrecht, for that matter. I’d gladly go back. It’s just that I wouldn’t want to live there.

THE PRATS RIDE THE SPECIAL BUS

Perhaps one of the most “developmentally delayed” – and yet paradoxically miles ahead of the pack – releases of the go-go late 70s would be the three tracks from THE PRATS that made it to the EARCOM 1 record on the Fast Product label. These Scots helped redefine shambling, spasmodic, inepto-rock. Their primitiveness to me almost comes off as a bit forced at times (“Inverness”), but damn me if I still don’t totally dig listening to their joyous mess when I get the gumption. It defines the learning-to-play-on-the-job ethos of late 70s Britain, and a period that generated some of finest 45s of any era. The EARCOM 1 12” compilation was a collection of “up and coming” bands from the British Isles, and also included the BLANK STUDENTS, the much-underrated FLOWERS and others. EARCOM 2 came out a year or so later, and had legendary eardrum rippers from Americans like the MIDDLE CLASS and NOH MERCY.

Well, I’m hoping to help kick up a cloud of PRATS mania, since it turns out there’s a new compilation of their compleat works now out called “Now That’s What I Call Prats Music”. One of their songs even turned up in the remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” that no one saw. Lots more to learn & do over at their site, but in the meantime, here’s those Earcom 1 tracks.

Play or Download THE PRATS – “Prats 2”
Play or Download THE PRATS – “Inverness”
Play or Download THE PRATS – “Bored”

Remember This –Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival

Remember This –Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival/Over and Over Again –Penny Farthing PEN 862 (1975 UK)

Remember This is in fact Brum legend Mike Sheridan as the A side was originally recorded for the unreleased Elmer Goodbody Jnr album (check out his version of The Move’s Do Ya on Charisma). Featuring members of Wizzard (minus Roy Wood), it stands head and shoulders above The Cherrie Vangelder-Smith version. Rock ‘N’Roll Revival is a real opus. Part Slade, Rubettes, Wizzard with some Glitter Band thrown in plus with a Bolan/ Buddy Holly (or is it Gene Vincent?) hommage at the end. The performance ends up being much more than the sum of its parts. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something happening here and it all ends up being strangely touching and evocative. The B side is also a pretty good rocker written by Mike Sheridan.
To check out the Mike Sheridan/ Elmer Goodbody Jnr story go to
http://www.mikesheridan.org.uk/the_official_nightriders_website_002.htm
The Elmer Goodbody Jnr album is available there and real cheap

Click on title for a full version of Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival

Smith & Weston – A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues

Smith & Weston –A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues/Run Run Run –Decca F13441 (1973 UK)

Smith & Weston come up with a neat version of the Arthur Alexander track. Rawer than The Flamin’ Groovies‘ version from the previous year, this version stands (and stomps) at the crossroad of the then current Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival (Wild Angels, Fumble…) and crunching Glam. It features great power chords and handclaps, but the fuzzy/ scratchy guitar didn’t get quite through the mastering stage unscathed. Who the hell were these guys? More Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival/ Glam crossovers soon…

Click on title for a soundclip of A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues

MEET THOMAS FUNCTION

One of my top 2007 finds (and perhaps yours as well – the word is most definitely out) is a young band from Huntsville, AL called THOMAS FUNCTION. Reminscient in so many ways of a stripped-down, keyboard-augmented, less grandeur-bound TELEVISION, two of their three 45s are among the finest & most deceptively catchy records of our aging decade so far. (I say 2 of the 3 because I haven’t heard the new one yet – the label says it’s “in the mail”). I think the main guy’s vocals come off as so much more real than others looking to recreate a pre-punk history for a post-punk world, and THOMAS FUNCTION are the sort of band that’s going to appeal equally aging record dorks like myself and the new gaggle of teenage hipsters. Apparently the garage punk congnescenti dig ’em too. See you what you think by downloading two of their best so far.

Play or Download THOMAS FUNCTION – “Conspiracy of Praise” (from “The Insignificants” 7″EP)
Play or Download THOMAS FUNCTION – “Vanity Lights” (from self-titled 2nd 7″EP)

Mogan David And His Winos –Savage Young Winos

Please welcome scribe and curator extraordinaire Collin to Purepop with his review of this artifact that I hadn’t taken out of its sleeve for at least 25 years…God it’s FUN. Hopefully Collin will be submitting more reviews, which will be great as I only have so many words in my vocabulary…

Mogan David And His Winos –Savage Young Winos –Kosher Records KOSR-001 (1973 US)

Proto-punk and general good taste fans should definitely try and track this one down”

It’s Harold Bronson, the guy who founded Rhino Records, leading a gang of school-pals (all with great names like ‘Cute Dan’ and ‘Speed Freak Paul’) through a side and one more of excellente giz-rock of the oily 1970’s vintage. Saturday Night Pogo owners should instantly recognize the Winos brand as their Beauty Queen (reecoded circa ’73) is probably – no, definitely – the best track on said sad slab o’ wax. Lethal levels of ineptitude are reached and somehow hitched to unbelievable lines of melodicism!!! Street Baby is The Real Kids seven years early, Party Games is more psychedelic than the Leopards picking a fight with Poobah and Nose Job has lyrics stolen from MAD Magazine – recorded on George Carlin‘s portable tape machine no less! Side two is live and kinda blows (plus it’s all covers – though there is a surprise bluezz bonus track!).

The packaging is Live-At-Leeds-lavish beyond all reason – especially given its limited nature – with the sordid history of the band all typed out on the back-side of the gatefold (three members quit to devote more time to working on their hot rods only to miss out on Nose Job becoming the semester hit of the UCLA campus bookstore). Funny inserts, comics, contests, failed music theory papers and clippings are all an extra-tall glass of glee and refreshingly round out this bubbly belly-washer of an LP. Can still find dis ‘un for not too much money (got mine for a ten spot) and it’s all over (the U.S.) given that it was sold mainly through the pages of Phonograph Record and other period TB sheets.

Has Chris Stigliano done a Winos tribute issue of Black To Comm yet – if not, somebody should tell him! Sure to be a hit amongst Low Numbers fans, especially since most of ’em were Winos before graduating to chic, L.A. modernity.

To sum up:The name of the band is Mogan David & His Winos, The name of the record is Savage Young Winos, available on Kosher Records


Click on title for edits of Beauty Queen, Street Baby and the bonus track (comes after The Berkowitz Blues)