Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fat Man in the Bathtub

 I'm not sure it was possible for Little Feat to amaze me any more than they already do. Their flawless musicianship and their seamless melding of so many different musical styles all at once made them, at their peak, one of the most unique and brilliant bands of the 1970s.

But I was wrong. They can still stun me. Even in a clip that's nearly 40 years old. Or more to the point, late frontman and singer/songwriter/slide guitar savant Lowell George can still stun me. Even 35 years after he died.


And he does. Right here. Right around the one-minute mark of an awesome live performance of one of their greatest songs on The Old Grey Whistle Test, way back in 1975.


As you see, Lowell had been using a drumstick to hit the cowbell at the song's opening, in staggering syncopated time with percussionist Sam Clayton and drummer Richie Hayward (who deserves a post all of his own for his mesmerizing ability and signature technique). I had never noticed before that he doesn't put the drumstick down as he starts singing.

Nor does he put it down when he performs his first slide guitar solo, right around that 1:00 mark.

Again. He performs that little slide solo perfectly. While holding a drumstick in his right hand.

He eventually puts it down for his second solo during the second verse. But I mean...wow.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bay City Rollers We Love You

While the title of this here post is indeed entirely accurate, it's also the name of the first ever all-Nick Lowe single. That's right: the great Nick Lowe recording a mash-note to the Bay City Rollers. Which just...I mean.

Also, it's pretty swell.


[H/T: the amazing Dangerous Minds, which has the whole story.]

Monday, April 7, 2014

You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'

This should not have aged as well as it did. And yet.


I mean, seriously.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Summertime Blues


I got into The Who sometime at the end of 7th grade—it followed my initial forays into rock-n-roll in 1980-81 that began with The Beatles and then morphed into The Doors, because I was in 7th grade and that was the law! And then I tested the waters of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and Lynyrd Skynyrd and, a short time after that, The Rolling Stones.

But then came The Who. And along with The Beatles, who I’d gotten into in the Summer of 1980 prior to 7th grade and became a full-on fanatic about (chronicled here), this was the only band in my pre-age 18 years that I developed a legitimate obsession with. Sure, I would later become obsessed with Peter Gabriel (at age 18-19) R.E.M. (at age 19-20) and the Replacements (also age 20). And my deep and abiding love of Bruce Springsteen rightfully began sometime around my 17th birthday, but even Bruce was a slow build that took place over 3-4 years before finally exploding in the late 1980s. 

But this was different – like with R.E.M. and the Replacements would become and the Beatles were before them, this was a band whose music I just had to gobble up all at once. Once I’d listened to three, maybe four tracks that my friend’s older brother played for me (“My Generation,” “Happy Jack,” “Magic Bus” and, I think, “Pinball Wizard” – all of which came from the 1972 compilation Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy), I had to hear not just more, but all. There wasn’t a moment to waste. I had to hear it all.

I went to Marty’s Music Mart in my hometown (Bloomfield, CT – the store would later sell out to the up and coming Strawberries chain, which remains the single most awesome record store chain in history and there can be no argument about that) and bought the new Face Dances and the decidedly old Live at Leeds. Why did I start there? I think it’s all they had. In the next few weeks I would add Who’s Next, The Who Sings My Generation, compilations The Kids Are Alright and the aforementioned Meaty, The Who By Numbers and Who Are You. Tommy I would receive as a Bar Mitzvah gift from my brothers, and Quadrophenia would later be purchased with Bar Mitzvah money. Some of the earlier albums were (forgive me, industry) recorded off of friends’ records, like The Who Sell Out. I even bought It’s Hard the day it came out in 1982. I was a full-on Who junkie.

What was it that appealed to me so viscerally? I think it was the danger, something I didn’t hear in the Beatles (although later, when I developed a better ear, it was there plain as day) and certainly not The Doors (that was faux danger, and by the time I hit 14 I was done with them). There was a ferocity about them that somehow didn’t take away from their musicality. The stories and the lore—the smashed instruments, the insane Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey’s muscles, the fact that they were recorded as the loudest band ever, even the tragedy in Cincinnati—added a layer of menace that, having not heard a trace of punk rock yet, was entirely new to me. Daltrey’s scream at the apex of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was the single scariest and coolest thing I’d ever heard. John Entwistle’s lightning fast bass fill during “My Generation” made me want to play the bass just to learn how to do that (I never did). Everything Keith Moon did wowed me. Every power chord that Townshend hit inspired me. This was my band.

And it’s funny, because the other day I was trying to think back on the song that started it all. With so many bands I can pinpoint the very song that got me hooked—with the Beatles it was “Come Together,” with R.E.M. it was, oddly, “Time After Time,” with the Replacements it was “Talent Show” and with Bruce it was “Hungry Heart.” But The Who? I never really could recall.

Until last week, I did. And it should have been obvious, because it came off the first album of theirs I ever bought. The interesting thing was it wasn’t their song, but a cover. A live cover.

Great rock-n-roll cover songs is a favorite topic of mine. I love reading lists about the Greatest Covers ever. I love seeing these songs that were re-done so perfectly that the covering band basically came to own them. “Twist and Shout” just became a Beatles song. “All Along the Watchtower” just became a Jimi Hendrix song. Even “Jersey Girl” is more associated these days with Springsteen than its estimable author Tom Waits.

But for my money, this is my favorite cover song ever. And no, it was never done in-studio. Which is maybe why it eluded many “Best of” lists. But this is the sound of a band taking a truly great rock-n-roll song—to me this is a legitimate contender for the first punk rock classic ever written—and making it all their own.


Just listen to it. Moonie seems to take flight about halfway through, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn he actually did. Daltrey’s voice is as commanding as any lead singer's has ever been. The Ox gets to do his playful on the chorus, yet gives the song a spine made of pure steel. And Townshend’s work on those little staccato fills between the verses is simply stunning. Not to mention the high harmonies, the inimitable power chords and, lest we forget, maybe the most shocking, turn-on-a-dime key change I have ever heard (at the 2:25 mark).

I’m not exactly the Who fanatic today I was from, say, 1981 to 1985. That would be impossible. But there’s a reason I loved them so and always will admire them. And there’s a reason they belong on the shortest of short lists of the Greatest Rock-n-Roll Bands ever.

“Summertime Blues,” which had been done to sheer perfection a decade earlier by Eddie Cochran yet somehow they seized for their own, explains why.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Yesterday

This is how I feel whenever Dan goes too long without posting.



I wish it had started to drizzle in the video.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Girl From the North Country

Bruce Hornsby's a guy I've never given much thought to, and yet every time I actually listen to him, I enjoy the hell out of him, and he seems like a really cool guy. And this cover's just lovely.


Sadly, the song he talks about at the end doesn't seem to be on YouTube, which is a shame, since it's a fine version of his pal Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London," especially appropriate given that the show was recorded on Halloween.

Monday, March 24, 2014

I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock-n-Roll)

I love the polished studio version of this but boy howdy do they shred it live.


I never realized how much lead Billy Bremner played—I just assumed it was Dave Edmunds.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lay Lady Lay

We know Bob Dylan loved what Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix had done to his songs. I've love to know what he thought of what this Isley Brothers cover.


I like Bob's version just fine—I used to love it, but the vocal style he tried out for a while just doesn't work for me any longer, and yes, I get the irony in preferring Bob Dylan's earlier and later vocals to his briefly used croon. But the Isleys just make this their own in a way very few artists could, only tweaking the arrangement and melody ever so slightly, yet throwing down the gauntlet to the singer-songwriters of the day, showing they were more than capable of playing on anyone's turf, and underling just what an amazing band they were, even after their initial heyday and before guitar whiz Ernie officially joined. It's a tiny bit longwinded, sure, but when the mood's this intoxicating, who's really going to complain?

Monday, March 17, 2014

RIP Scott Asheton

Well. No fun indeed. There are never enough drummers named Scott in this world, but this one's definitely a big loss.


Who on earth would ever have expected Iggy Pop to be the sole member of the original band to still be around?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Patience

These guys were the biggest band in the world for a while.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

So very, very lovely.


And buried on a b-side. Incredible. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Billie Jean

No. No. I will not dance on the floor in the round with oh all right fine. Dammit.

)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Southern Man

In which the amazing "Gimme Shelter" vocalist takes one of Neil Young's greatest songs, if possible, to an even higher height.


We all know the feud between Lynyrnd Skynyrd and ol' Neil wasn't real. Many haven't seemed to notice or grok the background singers in "Sweet Home Alabama"—including, yes, a certain Merry Clayton—catcalling "boo! boo! boo!" to the very mention of Alabama Governor George Wallace's name. "Sweet Home Alabama" is a far more nuanced song than generally acknowledged. Meanwhile, Mr. Young's song can be criticized as something of a carpetbagging attack on a culture of which he, as a Canadian living in California, couldn't really understand or have any sort of in-depth knowledge, even as he appropriated many of its artistic hallmarks. [And, yes, I know they were probably responding to "Alabama" and not "Southern Man."]

Even were any of that true, however, having an African-American gospel singer from Louisiana cover Neil Young's song blows any such criticisms into dust. If there's anything at all disappointing about this version, it's that it's not twice as long.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Follow Your Arrow

Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of the Dear Alex and Annie pop song that doles out life advice. But when it's this good and this catchy and could be commercially risky for its dispenser? That I can get behind.