Friday, March 9, 2018

She's Gone

It must kinda suck to be John Oates. I mean, there are worse fates than to get to be an extremely successful, working musician your entire life, with absolutely no financial worries once you're in your late 20s. But no matter how much money in your bank account, it must suck to be a musical punchline. I assume Ringo is too removed to know how often he's (stupidly) mocked, or maybe he's just so easygoing and balanced it doesn't bother him. But we know it took a toll on perhaps the most commercially successful white male singer of the 80s, as Phil Collins spiraled down into depression and alcoholism, in large part because of how reviled he'd become, for pretty much no fault of his own. And then there was that devastatingly funny "I'm Oates" Behind the Music MTV parody Saturday Night Live did. It really captured what most people—understandably—thought of Oates's contribution to Hall & Oates, the most commercially successful white male duo ever.

And then you see a video like this. And you realize Oates isn't anything like Wham!'s Andrew Ridgeley. He's more akin, perhaps, to The Who's John Entwhistle—extremely talented, a good writer, a good singer, a great player, who happens to be in a band with a phenomenal talent.

I mean, how many times had you heard this song before you realized how many of the vocals were Oates? And once you see him sing them, you have no choice but to accept that he is a no kidding truly good soul singer. He was simply both lucky enough and perhaps unlucky enough to be the musical partner of one of the greatest white male soul singers ever.

Even the video itself gives an indication of what happened: note how much more evenly the vocal duties are split during the first half of the song, and then how Daryl Hall takes over more and more as the song progresses, if not quite to the extent he would in the 80s, where Oates would seem to largely be just one of the half-dozen backing singers onstage.

I'm sure cashing the enormous checks made it easier to bear, but as a fan of great pop, I wonder how much better some of their later, wonderful hits might have been if this kind of call-and-response, give-and-take had continued.

(It's also interesting to note how ragged they are at the beginning; it's hard to imagine them ever having to find their way into a locked groove in the 80s, but here it takes a while, and it seems to be Hall whose timing isn't quite solid.)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Monkberry Moon Delight

I knew the name of this tune for literally decades before I ever heard it, due almost entirely to the largely negative reviews of the entire Ram album I'd read over the years. So as a Paul fan with a limited income, I gave it a pass in favor of other stuff. But then Al Gore invented the internet and I was able to hear a few tracks and decided it was more than worth a serious listen and what do I discover but perhaps his second best studio album ever?

Now, I'm not going to go quite so far into revisionism as to claim it's better than the fantastic Band on the Run, but damn if Ram isn't a great LP; only Macca could release a collection this strong and have it not just overlooked but actually panned, rather than universally lauded as a peer of Pet Sounds when it comes to pop gems, as it should have been.

"Monkberry Moon Delight" isn't my favorite track on the album, but it may have been the biggest surprise, given that the title always made me assume it'd sound more along the lines of, say, the impossibly bittersweet "Junk," or the lovely, tender "The Back Seat of My Car." Instead, it's Paul in Little Richard mode and my god can McCartney rock when he wants to.

The lyrics may be the kind of nonsense Paul slapped down when he couldn't be arsed to work up something legit—or, perhaps, was stoned enough that he thought they did make sense at the time—and which only serve to illustrate how difficult it really is to pull off the sort of Carrollian wordplay John Lennon and Kurt Cobain were so good at. But when you've got the voice of a rock god it doesn't really matter what you're singing, as long as you're singing like that.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Purple Rain

You know, whenever my fellow whiteboys refer to Bruce Springsteen as perhaps the greatest bandleader in the history of rock and roll, I have to smile sadly and die a bit inside, thinking about how much better at every single aspect of being a performer Prince was. I may (I, in fact, do) prefer Springsteen as an artist, and brilliant as The Purple One was as a songwriter, I think Bruce is better. But when it came to the live show, the Artist Formerly and Again Known as Prince was very simply the best.

But today I was thinking of how justly lauded his guitar solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction was, and how fitting the great Nils Lofgren's solo was in tribute, as Nils—like Prince at the Hall—quotes extensively from the original while adding his own touches and infuses the entire thing with his own inimitable style. It's searing, it's soaring, it's lovely. As befits Prince.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

I Saw Her Standing There

I actually find the Who—despite being one of the five greatest bands in rock history—a bit hit or miss when it comes to their covers. When they're on, they're phenomenal but, for some reason, many of their covers are just kinda okay. And when you're dealing with a band of their stature and ability, just okay is not something that really passes muster.

But this...this is pretty damn glorious. And its tossed-off character makes it clear that had they practiced it even a tiny bit and then given a damn about the final performance—meaning, if any three of them, much less all four of them were sober—it could literally have been the greatest cover of any Beatles song ever. And that is a high damn bar to clear.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Ray of Light

Thanks to this Rolling Stone article, I discovered that this big and great Madonna hit was a cover. Who knew? Obviously, many, but not I.

But as I read elsewhere, it's not so much a cover as a reimagining, really. Not a deconstruction, but a dramatic reinterpretation, not only changing its setting from its folky original to a new and insanely propulsive dance beat, but also moving it from a dark, minor-inflected feel to the upbeat version that's best known today.

It's worth noting that the track features future Attractions bassist Bruce Thomas, but (sadly) not former Bodast bandmate Steve Howe. Ah, well. Such is life.

Of course, great as the original is, and Madge's reinvention, the finest version remains the phenomenal Sex Pistols mashup.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Ray of Gob

One of the first and still the single greatest mashup I've ever heard. What we have here is no less than one of the truly great supergroups ever, in itself an extreme rarity: two disparate yet tremendously important artists, Madonna (perennially underrated by rock and roll fans due to her choices of genres and her gender) and the Sex Pistols (perhaps the most underrated famous band ever), coming together to create something unique and brilliant. In other words, it's two great tastes that taste great together. It's a shame that they never actually existed in reality.

It's worth remembering that Madonna came out of the underground, and something of a street urchin, the kind of poor, struggling artist which many of the early middle-class punks could only wish they were. Stripping away the original's dance beat and replacing it with the incisive, searing guitar of Steve Jones and the feral, punishing drums of Pete Cook works so much better than it should. And yet if you didn't know any of the original tracks, you'd have no idea this was a mashup. It takes two (or, really, three) brilliant recordings and manages to create an entire new and equally brilliant piece of art by mashing them together. This isn't why the internet was created, but it should have been.

Madge should really do a short run of club dates backed by only a small punk combo.

And I feel like I just got home

Monday, February 19, 2018


So how on earth did I miss this? It is awesome and very nearly rock and roll happiness personified:

I am incapable of hearing that song without thinking about how staggeringly homoerotic it is and how delightful it is that it literally doesn't seem to have ever occurred to the lads, and once it finally did, in the 00s, Ringo was all, "the hell with it—I'm Ringo: I do what I want."

To which I can only say: damn skippy. Rock on, Ringo.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Smells Like Teen Spirit

I'm obviously engaging in hyperbole when I say this is approaching war crime territory...but not by much.

Monday, January 15, 2018

RIP Dolores O’Riordan

Well, this one hits surprisingly hard. Although never close to being one of my favorite bands, The Cranberries nevertheless created some absolutely top-notch pop, a commodity that is always in demand and eternally short supply.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

two years down the road

And still no easier.

Who knew that The Man Who Fell to Earth was also The Man Holding the World Together?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

I know this is not the greatest thing ever. Objectively, I know this. But neither the heart nor the soul always listens to objectivity.

I mean, I shouldn't love this so deeply. It seems the kind of rather facilely hep take that usually repulses me. But that voice, that kind of nerdy, insanely white voice that was such a massively formative influence on me growing up, covering what is often my favorite Bob Dylan song ever...I just...

Monday, January 1, 2018

She Bop

I loves me some Slowhand—in fact, I loves me nearly all the Slowhand—but boy howdy did he screw up with his unconscionably tepid (to put it politely) unplugged version of "Layla." There are few more heart-rippingly desperately passionate songs in the history of rock and he somehow turned it into EZ-listening cream of wheat at the early bird special. Gross. What's worse is that other artists took exactly the wrong lesson and similarly neutered some of the best songs. Blech.

Now compare and contrast that with the superb deconstruction Cyndi Lauper gives one of her biggest ever hits here.

Do she want to go out with a lion's roar? Turns out a sinewy growl from a mountain cat is just as effective and even more unsettling.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2018

Just for gits and shiggles, here are my brief reactions to each of this year's upcoming inductees.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Cool!
Nina Simone - Wait, she wasn't already in? WTF???
Radiohead - No.
The Moody Blues - NO!!!
Dire Straits - It's about time.
Bon Jovi - Whatever
The Replacements - Just kidding!


Another year. Another Hall of Fame induction without The Mats.

So. Here's a song by them at their best, in celebration of the fact that they seemingly will never ever get in. The kind of song that Radiohead, The Moody Blues and Bon Jovi couldn't create if they worked together, and if they had Paul Westerberg in the studio helping them out every step of the way.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Radiohead in the Hall of Fame: A Brief Debate

And now, Dan and Scott engage in a brief and informed debate over whether or not Radiohead is deserving of recently being inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

Gentlemen, please proceed.

Dan: No.
Scott: Nope.

This has been a brief and informed debate over whether or not Radiohead is deserving of recently being inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Thank you for reading.