Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 8 of '08-The Fleet sets sail

Sub Pop has come a long way since the heyday of Grunge. Not a label to rest on its laurels nor let itself be branded by any one genre (except maybe the generic 'Alternative'), SubPop continues to diversify and mellow with age, as Folk made a return during 2008 in the form of Fleet Foxes.

This Seattle quintet released both the 'Sun Giant' EP as well as their eponymous debut LP to rave reviews from the likes of Pitchfork and Stereogum all the way down to Rolling Stone.

Their ambient harmonies are haunting and sublime. Reminiscent of Folk's founding fathers.

Great for a road trip or a quiet, snowy afternoon with a cup of hot mulled cider.

I'm just sayin'.

Fleet Foxes- Sun Giant
Chad Mitchell Trio- Blues Around My Head
Kingston Trio- Sloop John B

Fleet Foxes- 'Sun Giant/Blue Ridge Mountain (La Blogotheque, 2008)

Fleet Foxes - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Kingston Trio- Shady Grove/Lonesome Traveler (Early 60's)

Chad Mitchell Trio- 'Four Strong Winds' (1987)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Never Ending Song of Love

The obits I read over the last few days for guitarist/songwriter Delaney Bramlett were so abbreviated, you would hardly know how prolific a songwriter and performer he was.

As part of the husband wife duo Delaney & Bonnie, Bramlett released several successful albums either with or supporting Eric Clapton.

In addition to his performing, he penned some of the biggest hits of the late 60's and early 70's, including 'Let it Rain' (Clapton), 'Superstar' (w/ Leon Russell for the Carpenters) and 'Never Ending Song of Love' the 'New Morning' countrified hit which has been recorded by over 100 different artists.

I was however, surprised to learn that he was also responsible for teaching George Harrison how to play slide guitar. I had always figured it was Slowhand.

Nonetheless, he leaves us with a legacy of great tunes.

Never Ending Song of Love
Let It Rain (original mix)

Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett w/ Eric Clapton- 'Poor Elijah' (Price of Fame, 1969)

Delaney & Bonnie w/ Eric Clapton & George Harrison-'Comin' Home' (1970)

The New Seekers- 'Never Ending Song of Love' (TOTP 1971)

The Carpenters- Superstar (Promo, 1971)

Eric Clapton-'Let it Rain' (Montreux, 1986)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pay To Play-Mustang with a broken neck

A few months back I posted about the continued earning potential of Kurt Cobain. I came across this related story the other day (from the AP):

"A guitar late rocker Kurt Cobain smashed on his first tour of the U.S. has sold for $100,000 US.

An unidentified private collector bought the guitar, according to Jacob McMurray, senior curator at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

"It's a really cool-looking guitar because it's smashed and held together with duct tape and Kurt Cobain wrote on it," McMurray said on Tuesday.

"There's not a huge amount of broken Nirvana guitars out there," he added.

After breaking the Fender Mustang guitar on stage while on tour in New Jersey in the late 1980s, Cobain needed another one and made a trade with Sluggo, the punk rocker who recently sold the damaged instrument.

At that point, grunge band Nirvana was living hand-to-mouth. Cobain was staying with Sluggo, who goes by a single name and played with The Grannies and Hullabaloo, and his girlfriend.

Nirvana had its big breakthrough with Smells Like Teen Spirit in 1991. Cobain died in 1994.

Helen Hall, a broker in England, says a Cobain guitar sold for a higher price in 2006, when his Mosrite Gospel Mark IV guitar went for $131,000 US at auction.

I wonder if it was a lefty or rightie?

I'm just sayin'.

Pay To Play (Demo, 1990).mp3

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cohen for Christmas-Hallelujah!

Just saw this story come over the wire. (Like there's still some kind of actual telegraph.)

"Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" made British chart history Sunday when it became both number one and number two in the Christmas singles charts -- although both versions were covers.

Alexandra Burke was almost guaranteed to take the top slot with her version after winning television talent show X Factor this month, and the song became the fastest-selling single by a female solo artist, figures show.

But in what appeared to be a protest at the manufactured music industry, fans of US musician Jeff Buckley kicked off an Internet campaign to get his classic version to number one instead, through downloads.

It reached number two, making it the first time in 51 years -- and the first time ever at Christmas -- that the same song has held the two top spots in the singles charts, the Official Charts Company said.

The last time was in January 1957, when Tommy Steele and Guy Mitchell held the top two places with Singin' The Blues.

In another twist, Cohen's own version of the song -- which he first released on his 'Various Positions' album in 1984 entered the charts as a new entry at number 36.

The tune has been covered numerous times, but Buckley's haunting version is widely considered the best. It remains strongly associated with the singer-songwriter, who drowned in Memphis in May 1997 aged 30."

An amazing song, no matter who's performing it. I, myself have a hard time deciding whose version is best. Cohen wrote it, but Buckley's version is so personal and intimate, he kinda took it over. Tough call. That said, I could live without the Alexandra Burke rendition.

I'm just sayin'.

Hallelujah-Leonard Cohen
Hallelujah-Jeff Buckley

Bonus shout out to the Lord!
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds performing their own original, and equally haunting 'Hallelujah' from 2001's 'No More Shall We Part'.

Hallelujah-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Leonard Cohen-Hallelujah (1984)

Jeff Buckley- Hallelujah (1994)

Alexandra Burke-Hallelujah (2008)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds-Hallelujah (2001)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mirth! Merriment! MonkeyMix!

Christmas is to Rock as Egg is to Nog.

MonkeyMix Vol. 1 No.5: MonkeyXMix:

Jingle Bell Rock- Bobby Helms
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree- Brenda Lee
Run Rudolph Run- Dave Edmunds
Little Saint Nick- Beach Boys
Father Christmas- The Kinks
Little Drummer Boy/ Peace On Earth- David Bowie/Bing Crosby
Happy X-Mas- John Lennon/Yoko Ono
Thank God It's Christmas- Queen
Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You- Billy Squire
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town- Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
2000 Miles- The Pretenders
Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)- U2
Please Come Home For Christmas- The Eagles
Do They Know Its Christmas? - Band Aid
Step Into Christmas- Elton John
Christmas Wrapping- The Waitresses


Hall & Oates (w.GE Smith on Guitar) - Jingle Bell Rock (1983)

The Kinks- Father Christmas (1977)

Billy Squire- Christmas is the Time to say I Love You (1983)

Pretenders- 2000 Miles (1984)

David Bowie/Bing Crosby- Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth (1977)

U2- Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) (1987)

Band Aid- Do They Know Its Christmas? (1984)

Elton John- Step Into Christmas (1974)

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band- Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (1978)

Santa Claus Vs. The Martians (1964)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Christmas from me and Wilco. But mostly Wilco.

To celebrate the holiday season as well as Actual Monkey's first anniversary, I come bearing gifts. Don't say I never gave you anything.

Wilco @ Edgefield - Troutdale, OR August 22, 2007

1. Either Way 2. You Are My Face 3. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart 4. Remember The Mountain Bed 5. Handshake Drugs 6. Pot Kettle Black 7. A Shot In The Arm 8. Side With The Seeds 9. Shake It Off 10. War On War 11. Impossible Germany 12. Too Far Apart 13. Jesus, Etc. 14. Walken 15. I'm The Man Who Loves You 16. Hummingbird 17. On And On And On

Encore 1: 18. Bob Dylan's 49th Beard 19. The Late Greats 20. Hate It Here 21. I'm Always In Love 22. Outta Mind (Outta Sight)

Encore 2: 23. California Stars 24. Heavy Metal Drummer 25. Via Chicago 26. Spiders (Kidsmoke)

If you like this, I insist you go out and but Kicking Television. Now. Right now. Get up and go buy it. Now.


Christmas x 2

Another of my favorite Christmas LPs, Noel! Noel! is little more than a hodge podge of different artists from a bygone era. What makes this such an incredible collection, is the range of artists represented. What seems as a throwaway from the catacombs of Sony Records, is in reality, a brilliantly calculated tome for the season.

Lets start with the cover. As if the advent of the birth of the Savior isn't reason enough to celebrate, the repetitive Noel! Noel! (with exclamations) surely drives the point home. And the generic front door visual doesn't begin to give this amazing record its due.

That said, let's review, shall we?

Nothing says Christmas more than a stiff egg nog and Steve and Edie belting out 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'. This Borscht Belt duo has me craving Christmas ham and a suite at the Nevele.

I am especially fond of Ande Kostelanetz's spirited orchestral rendition of 'Sleigh Ride'. I can just feel the leather of the cracking whip. Ouch! Hurts so good!

We follow that with The New York Philharmonic, under direction of the legendary Leonard Bernstein delivering a triumphant and angelic version of the holiday opus, 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'. A nice job for a song that is approximately 11 stanzas too long.

Not to be outdone, my favorite track on the album is the sappy yet haunting 'Ring Christmas Bells', performed by the Ray Coniff Singers. The Major/Minor 7th chords supply just the right creepiness that enables this to sound like it ought to be on the soundtrack for the Exorcist. Move over Mike Oldfield.

If that wasn't a perfect way to close this magnificent album, then Carol Burnett's (yes, Carol Burnett) performance of 'The Christmas Song' surely is.

I'm so glad we had this time together.

I'm just sayin'.


Ray Coniff Singers- Christmas Medley (Mid 60's?)

Steve & Edie Sock Pupets- Sleigh Ride (2007)

Johnny Mathis- The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1993 TV Special)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Music X-travaganza: The Gang's all here

I am a sucker for Christmas music. Always have been, always will be. Not sure why. Most likely for sentimental reasons. A memory, a certain event or person attached to the season and the music. Nonetheless, whether I'm feeling the Christmas Spirit or not, I still indulge in the tunes.

In an effort to spread the good cheer, Actual Monkey has painstakingly compiled some favorite X-Mas music. So get ready to deck the halls!

We begin with a perennial favorite, albeit somewhat annoying, Mitch Miller and the Gang's 'Holiday Sing-A-Long'. Miller was a renaissance man of American popular music in the 50's and 60's. His resume includes stints as the top A&R man at both Mercury and Columbia Records. In addition, he was an innovative producer and accomplished performer. Not a big fan of Rock and Roll, Miller focused on traditional, wholesome American popular music as his sounding board. To this end, he utilized a chorale group, 'Mitch Miller's Gang' to do his bidding. So popular was this approach, that 'Sing Along With Mitch' was a staple of American television in the early 1960's.

By today's standards, the music seems cornball and out of touch. But it is awfully happy. So please join me as we follow the bouncing ball along to some of the season's finest songs. And remember, all smiles.

I'm just sayin'.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Third time's a charm- Wilco/Neil Young MSG 12.16.08

To my great surprise, I write this after returning from the Everest/Wilco/Neil Young show at MSG tonight. Happenstance that I got a few freebies just yesterday. The show was amazing. Of course Wilco was the highlight, cranking out an abbreviated set of greatest hits, including Jeff Tweedy's son Spencer celebrating his 13th B-day right there at The Garden taking over the skins on a rousing rendition of 'Late Greats'.

This was the third time this year that I saw Wilco live. And although tonight's performance was stellar, my favorite performance was their August gig at McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn. Mostly for the fact that we brought our 6yo twins. A proper initiation into the world of Rock and Roll. No?

As far as Neil, he was equally amazing. Opening with the feedback power ballad 'Love and Only Love', he too effortlessly breezed through his own portfolio of greatest hits including such faves as 'Powderfinger', 'Cinnamon Girl', 'Cortez the Killer' and 'Heart of Gold'.

Not sure what will wind up under the tree for me this year, but tonight was probably the best gift I could have received.

I'm just sayin'.

Wilco- Impossible Germany (2007)

Neil Young- Heart of Gold (1971)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

But he could play a guitar just like a ringin' a bell

Just in St. Louis for an overnighter so what better way to celebrate than with the music of one of the Gateway City's prodigal sons.

Although steeped in the history of Jazz (Scott Joplin, Miles Davis, etc.), St. Louis has had it's fair share of legendary rockers. Among then, the absolute standout is Chuck Berry. Rock's first badass (and badboy) lead guitarist, Berry's music was so damn good, his message so universal and appealing that it's just as relevant and kickass today as it was over 50 years ago. To say he was a/the seminal, influential rocker doesn't even begin to do him justice.

I'm just sayin'.

Chuck Berry Collection

Chuck Berry- Johnny B. Goode (live in Paris 1958)

Chuck Berry- Roll Over Beethoven (195?)

Chuck Berry and John Lennon -Johnny B Goode (Mike Douglas Show, 1972)

Chuck Berry- Reelin' And Rockin' (Midnight Special, 1973)

Chuck Berry- You Never Can Tell (Pulp Fiction, 1994)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

We are all of us in the gutter, some of us are looking at the stars

Originally released in April 1981 as a stopgap prior the their second full release, The Pretenders 'Extended Play' distilled the phenomenal songwriting of Chrissy Hynde & Co. with the raw energy of their live act in just five songs.

Two of the studio tracks ('Message of Love' and 'Talk of the Town') would all appear on the subsequent LP 'Pretenders II', which was released just two months later.

The blistering version of 'Precious' was recorded at their legendary gig in Central Park on August 30, 1980. Thanks to The King Biscuit Flour Hour and the novelty of the Blogosphere, you can hear it here.

Message of Love
Talk of the Town
Cuban Slide
Precious (Regent Park Demo)

Check out the man on the Moon introducing the band on the ABC's Saturday Night Live clone 'Fridays'.
Pretenders- Message of Love ('Fridays' Feb. 27, 1981)

Pretenders- Talk of the Town (1981)

Friday, December 5, 2008

The other Ringo

At the onset of the British Invasion, and the zenith of Beatlemania, a different Ringo ruled the airwaves. On this day in 1964, actor Lorne Greene wrangled himself a No. 1 hit with 'Ringo'. This spoken cowboy ballad also lassoed the top position for six straight weeks on the 'Easy Listening' charts. Giddyup!

Based loosely on the famous gunslinger, Johnny Ringo, Greene tells the tale of how he nursed the wounded outlaw only to later face him in a showdown. After our narrator accepts his fate, staring down the barrel of Ringo's six-shooter, cooler heads prevail and a happy ending ensues.

No drummers were harmed in the recording of this song.

I'm just sayin'.

Lorne Greene- Ringo

Bonanza Opening Credits

I just had to include this:
Daniel Boone Opening Credits (Spanish translation)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

all things must pass

In observance of the seventh anniversary of the passing of my favorite Beatle, a short musing of my earliest musical memory.

'All Things Must Pass', was and is one of my all-time favorite albums. Probably top five, definintely top ten. The biggest reason is that it was on heavy rotation in our house when I was a kid. My mother was a big GH fan and I can remember spending time listening along with her, on our huge console stereo, I remember the spinning apple with the hole in the middle and the two vinyl disks, suspended in air, patiently waiting their turn for a spin. I was fascinated and somewhat frightened by the album cover. At three years old, I had no idea what a lawn gnome was but I swear I thought those freaky little creatures were real. That cover is still kinda creepy even today. I wonder if, being his first solo album post-fab four if was comfortable having other bodies around him. I still find it amazing that by the time the Beatles were finished, kaput, over, George Harrison was a mere 26 years old. What's more, he had stockpiled a collection of brilliant songs that would comprise the core (no pun intended) of this three-disc masterpiece.

As I grew up, my mother (and I) continued to enjoy his subsequent releases, 'Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) being our fave, but nothing quite compares to that time in my life, pre-school days spent listening to that LP with my mother.

I miss those days. I miss George Harrison. And I really, really miss my mom.

George Harrison- Wah Wah
George Harrison- Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)
George Harrison- All Things Must Pass

A few amazing performances by GH, notably the Concert for Bangladesh from August 1971, featuring Bob Dylan's first live performance since the Isle of Wight in 1969.

George Harrison/Bob Dylan- 'If Not For You' (Outtake Concert for Bangladesh, 1971)

George Harrison-Bangladesh (Concert for Bangladesh, MSG, August 1, 1971)

George Harrison- Wah Wah (Concert for Bangladesh, MSG, August 1, 1971)

George Harrison- Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) (Japan 1992)

Note: Something was George's first A-side Beatles single. Frank Sinatra later called it the greatest love song ever written.

The Beatles- Something (1969)

George Harrison- All things Must Pass (VH1, 1997)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eat to the Beat: full course with a side

Just in time for turkey day, Actual Monkey is proud to serve up a heapin' helping of Blondie. So pull up a chair, grab a plate and feast your eyes on this:

Blondie's fourth studio record, 'Eat to the Beat' from September 1979 was the first to be released simultaneously with a corresponding video album. Still almost two years out from the launch of MTV, Ms. Harry & Co. had the foresight to see exactly where music was going, literally. The emergence of music videos paired with a commercially successful rock band, fronted by a sexy blond lead singer was pure kismet. Debbie and the camera had a symbiotic relationship. She looked good on camera and the camera returned the favor, exposing Blondie to a wider audience through a medium that had yet to be fully exploited. This band wasn't just ready for this next chapter in pop music, they helped write it. It's worth noting that Madonna wasn't even a blip on the screen yet. Debbie was the first to the party.

Following the double platinum 'Parallel Lines', Blondie continued their new-found direction of commercial success with this power-pop laden gem. That's not to say they took a powder. In fact, I think it is one of their best. Not as immediate or acerbic as Plastic Letters, Eat To The Beat kept it's edge but added a quantifiable maturity to the mix. By this point in their career, the band, behind uber-producer Mike Chapman, was playing with house money, defining what rock was to become in sound and vision, with Debbie always ready for her closeup. That said, the music was strong enough NOT to need videos on which to prop itself up with. Unfortunately, for many others, following the premier of MTV and subsequent onslaught of music video, that would no longer be the case. Bands became defined by their image, not their sound. MTV flourished, music did not.

Funny thing is nowadays, the last place you'll see a music video is MTV. Guess they had their fill.

I'm just sayin'.

P.S. No Blondie post would be complete without acknowledging the stratospheric talents of Clem Burke, one of rock's greatest drummers.

Thanks to the magic of the Blogosphere, and a little help from Youtube, Actual Monkey presents the visual smorgasbord that is Blondie's 'Eat To The Beat'.

Side 1

Blondie- Dreaming (1979)

The Hardest Part (1979)

Blondie- Union City Blue (1979)

Blondie- Shayla (1979)

Blondie- Eat To The Beat (1979)

Blondie- Accidents Never Happen (1979)

Side 2

Blondie- Die Young, Stay Pretty (1979)

Blondie- Slow Motion (1979)

Blondie- Atomic (1979)

Blondie- Sound-A-Sleep (1979)

Blondie- Victor (1979)

Blondie- Living In The Real World (1979)


After a week of Post Punk posts, I figured I'd sum it up with what is becoming one of the most sought after items in all the Blogosphere. No, not a ticket for the inauguration, it's a patented Monkey Mix Tape, for your listening pleasure.

Monkey Mix Tape Vol.1 No.4-Post Punk
Change- Killing Joke
Stigmata Martyr-Bauhaus
Cold Life-Ministry
Ether-Gang of Four
Shoot You Down-APB
Interzone-Joy Division
Do The Du-A Certain Ratio
Chosen Time-New Order
Respectable Street-XTC
C.R.E.E.P.-The Fall
Rip It Up-Orange Juice
Back In Flesh-Wall of Voodoo
Poptones-Public Image Limited
Twenty Years Ago-Magazine
Man at C&A-The Specials
Not Happy-Pere Ubu
Sorry for Laughing-Josef K
Happy Ever After-Stockholm Monsters


Saturday, November 22, 2008

White Album, Grey Matter

What an amazing thing, this Blogosphere, it allows for travel through time and space. After a week of Post Punk posts, Actual Monkey shifts gears and decades to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Fab Four's watershed masterpiece, known as 'The White Album', released on this day in 1968.

Much of the album was conceived and written while the Fab Four were on extended holiday with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This period of enlightenment and introspection yielded some of the most personal work in their entire repertoire. Unfortunately, this album also marked a clear change in both the dynamics of the music and the band. It was the protracted beginning of the end. The album, simply titled 'The Beatles', with it's stark white cover portrayed a brevity of plurality and gravitas, yet ironically was less a cohesive, collaborative work and more a collection of individual songs, by individual writers, using each other as backing musicians. Even Ringo got in on the act using the others to support his contribution 'Don't pass me by'.

The changes don't stop there. The approach to recording 'The White Album' was also different. The introduction of outside musicians on a Beatles record was also a first for the lads. Eric Clapton took the lead on 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps, while session player Nicky Hopkins lent his talents to 'Revolution'. No coincidence that the emergence of Yoko in the studio (read: carnal sin for bands- girlfriends at recording sessions) also added to the strife. All well documented in 'Let it Be'. The division and discord that festered among the quartet was not limited to the band itself. For a group that utilized the studio as an instrument, the departure of engineer Geoff Emerick and spotty appearances by Sir George surely added fuel to the fire.

Surprisingly, it's impossible to hear the problems the Beatles experienced during the recording of 'The White Album'. As far as the music, the entire album appears seamless and magical in a completely disjointed sort of way. And although at first blush there might seem to be a lot of half-baked ideas and snippets of works in progress, there's not a bum track to be found. That might seem an understatement (or overstatement, depending on how much you like the LP), but I think it's worth noting. So focused was each member on their individual compositions, that the resulting achievement enables it to appear to be a homogeneous effort. Remember these four were writing and rewriting the rules of as they went along. There was no wrong answer. Even John's throwaway 'I'm So Tired', packs a punch in the span of just two minutes. Brilliant stuff.

If I had to pick sides, I would go with one and two. That said, some of my faves include: 'Dear Prudence', 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', 'Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My (Actual) Monkey', 'Blackbird' and 'Mother Nature's Son'. Although I might seem partial to Paul's tunes, John's expressions on 'The White Album' are to me, his most personal, and his best during his tenure with the band. As usual, George was limited to his quota of two songs, which, in the case of this double LP amounted to a whopping four. Of those, the odd little commentary 'Piggies', demonstrates a distinct stylistic departure from his other offerings.

While I was previewing it prior to this post, I remembered an observation I made years ago. It was a comparison of John and Paul's different styles of writing, specifically the fact that John had most of the edgier, more vitriol stuff while Paul wrote the more dainty, proper pop songs. But, in fact, the hardest song in the entire Beatles catalog is by far Paul's 'Helter Skelter'. This track was so incendiary it proved ominously inspirational, just ask Charlie Manson.

If you are any type of regular visitor to Actual Monkey, you know I am preaching to the choir when I say this LP is an absolute must, a mandatory cornerstone of any music lovers collection. It is still, 40 years later, worth every penny of your hard earned cash.

Turns out The Beatles weren't the only ones who used each other for backing. Fast forward 36 years. DJ Dangermouse creates a mashup, combining the a capella vocals from Jay-Z's 'The Black Album' with just about all the songs of 'The White Album'. The result, 2004's 'Grey Album' is anything but. Not a fan of rap whatsoever, I admire and cherish this technically creative gem. Unfortunately, the execs at EMI didn't feel the love, and had it pulled from every known site on the Internet. Those corporate guys...pure gansta. I think it deserves an Encore.

I'm just sayin'.

The Beatles- Helter Skelter (Studio Demo 1968)

The Beatles- Blackbird (Studio Demo 1968)

George Harrison- While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Concert for Bangladesh 1971)

DJ Dangermous- The Grey Album (Promo Video 2004)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gang of Four-Music for a meltdown, sountrack to a bailout

Now I'm not one to get too political, I like to leave that to those far more experienced, like Sarah Palin or Barack Obama for example. But as I witness the Dow close at an 11-year low of 7,552.29, it creates a perfect alignment of the heavens in allowing me the opportunity to highlight my absolute, all-time favorite Post Punk artists, Gang of Four.

I find it both serendipitous and frightening how their discography of some 30 years ago marries perfectly to the current events of the ongoing world financial crisis in an Ashton and Demi sorta way. Freaky.

Let's begin with the most obvious 'Capital (it fails us now)'. "One day all will be living on credit...bankrupt" King and Gill certainly nailed this one, I knew Marx was a socialist, but a clairvoyant?

Feeling 'A hole in the wallet', lets move on to the funky, disjointed opus 'Ether'. I can envision some disillusioned hedge fund manager fixing a noose from his $300 Hermes tie while this plays softly in the background. Dirt behind the daydream. You ain't kidding.

'Paralyzed' reminds us of the most visceral of lessons: you have absolutely no control over anything, least of all your job. "the crows come home to roost and I’m the dupe". Biting.

Lest we not forget the anthem for this entire imbroglio, 'To Hell with Poverty'. So profound, I feel it a must to transcribe the lyrics in their entirety:

In my arms we shall begin with none of the rocks
well there’s no charge
In this land right now some are insane a million charge
To hell with poverty we’ll get drunk on cheap wine
To hell with poverty the check will arrive we’ll turn the boast again
To hell with poverty the check will arrive we’ll turn to boast again
In my arms we shall begin with none of the rocks
and there’s no charge
In this land right now some are insane a million charge
To hell with poverty we’ll get drunk on cheap wine
To hell with poverty

This should be engraved on Allan Greenspan's headstone.

I'm just sayin'.

Remember, the key tenet of socialism is the redistribution of wealth.

Gang of Four- To Hell With Poverty (1981)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Post-Punk Post: PIL

Following the inevitable self-destruction of the Sex Pistols in 1978, John Lydon, along with mates Jah Wobble and Keith Levine formed the nucleus of what was to become one of the post-punk movements preeminent bands, Public Image. After a failed attempt by Richard Branson (read: hot air-ballooning, entertainment mogul) to insert Lydon as lead singer of Devo, Lydon hooked up with his schoolmates and immediately began recording new music. Completed and released on a shoestring budget, First Issue proved to be one of the first of several albums that would establish the new sound, while borrow heavily from 'world music'. As the Clash had discovered with their successful attempts at melding punk with reggae, the members of PIL, relatively accomplished musicians all, used the same dub beats for their own ends. With the later addition of Martin Atkins (Ministry, Killing Joke) on drums, they were formidable band of miscreants, hell bent on taking experimental music and their fans to the outer limits.

Droning guitars, monotone vocals and hypnotic bass lines became the backdrop to Lydon's, apocalyptic, apathetic observations on life. This became their signature sound as the band released two more pivotal albums before internal strife and a revolving door line-up tore them apart.

1979's 'Metal Box' represented the high water mark. Still an amazing, perplexing, sonic amalgam, 29 years later.

By 1986, Lydon was left with nothing more than an assemblage of various studio musicians, among them a few notables (Steve Vai, Ginger Baker) to complete the generic themed 'album'.

As the decade drew to a close, PIL was nothing more than a Synthpop band, and not a very good one at that.

I'm just sayin'.

First Issue (1978)
Metal Box (1979)
Flowers of Romance (1981)

Always the consummate showman, John Lydon possessed an uncanny ability to manipulate the media years before Paris Hilton was even porn, I mean born. What follows is but a sample:

Public Image- Public Image (1978)

PIL-Chant (1979 'Check It Out' Program)

John Lydon on the Tom Snyder Show 1980- Part 1

John Lydon on the Tom Snyder Show 1980 - Part 2

PIL- Bad Life (1984)

PIL- Rise (1986)

Completely Sold Out- John Lydon Country Life Commercial 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Post-Punk Post: XTC

I doubt I can add much to all that has been written about this band, except to add that their air-tight pop arrangements were absolutely magnificent.

XTC- Transistor Blast

Disc 1 (BBC Sessions, John Peel Show, Maida Vale Studios)
1. Opening Speech
2. Life Begins at the Hop
3. Scarecrow People
4. Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her
5. Ten Feet Tall
6. Garden of Earthly Delights
7. Runaways
8. When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty
9. I'm Bugged
10. Another Satellite
11. You're The Wish (You Are) I Had
12. Crosswires
13. Roads Girdle The Globe

Blast 1

Disc 2 (BBC Sessions, John Peel Show, Maida Vale Studios)
1. No Thugs In Our House
2. One Of The Millions
3. Real By Reel
4. The Meeting Place
5. Meccanic Dancing
6. Poor Skeleton Steps Out
7. Into The Atom Age
8. The Rhythm
9. This World Over
10. Snowman
11. Danceband
12. Making Plans for Nigel
13. Jason And The Argonauts

Blast 2

CD 3 Live (Sound & Sound simulcast on BBC 2 TV on March 9th 1978 and The Paris Theatre on January 17th 1979)
1. Radio's in Motion (1978)
2. Crosswires (1978)
3. Science Friction (1979)
4. Statue of Liberty (1978)
5. The Rhythm (1979)
6. I'll Set Myself on Fire (1978)
7. Newtown Animal in a Furnished Cage (1978)
8. All Along the Watchtower (1978)
9. Beatown (1979)
10. This is Pop (1978)
11. Danceband (1978)
12. Neon Shuffle (1978)

Blast 3

CD 4 Live (Hammersmith Palais, December 22, 1980):
1. Life Begins At The Hop
2. Burning With Optimism's Flame
3. Love At First Sight
4. Respectable Street
5. No Language In Our Lungs
6. This Is Pop
7. Scissor Man
8. Towers Of London
9. Battery Brides
10. Living Through Another Cuba
11. Generals and Majors
12. Making Plans For Nigel
13. Are You Receiving Me?

Blast 4

XTC-Life Begins At The Hop (TOTP 1979)

XTC- Respectable Street (1980)

XTC- Generals and Majors (1980 w/cameo by Richard Branson)

XTC- Love On A Farmboy's Wages (1983)

Monday, November 17, 2008

t1/2: Exponential Decay

Well there is no getting around it. I turn 40 today. No use in keeping score but so far here's what the numbers look like: 14,611 days, 350,644 hours or 21,039,840 minutes (leap years included). Not big on birthdays to begin with, but this one especially smarts. Self-loathing and self-pity both showed up without so much as a card. Bastards. Today the glass is officially half-full.

Well anyway, the song 'Good Morning To You', a schoolhouse favorite was written by Patty and Mildred Hill way back in 1893. The adaptation of the 'Happy Birthday' lyrics happened somewhere around 1912. Believe it or not, the song is still under copyright.

Having now experienced 40 of them myself, I never knew the significance behind the birthday celebration. As I guessed, it is steeped in Pagan (and Christian) tradition. Before the rise of Christianity, the Pagans believed that evil spirits visited you on your birthday. Maybe it's just that nagging feeling that you're getting older and can't do a thing about it. Nonetheless, to ward off the spirits, people gathered around the person and made merry.

I am almost as depressed with who I share my birthday with as the birthday itself.
Here's just a few:
Issac Hanson (yes, one of the Hanson brothers)
Ru Paul
Lauren Hutton
Daisy Fuentes
Amber Michaels (porn actress)
Howard Dean (the screamer)

Upon further review, I was able to find a few that aren't so bad:
Martin Scorsese
Gordon Lightfoot (who Ironically, was blogged about here just last week)
Jeff Buckley (the singer/songwriter, since he's dead, he really doesn't celebrate them anymore, does he?)

Nothing more than a day, so to make it go a little faster, some appropriate music.

The Birthday Party- Happy Birthday
Altered Images- Happy Birthday
The Beatles- Birthday
Sugarcubes- Birthday
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five- Birthday Party

P.S. My day wasn't a total loss, just saw this on the P5. 'On this date in 1979, Joy Division released their debut single,
"Transmission".' And this, 'On this date in 1979, A Certain Ratio released their first long play offering. It was a cassette-only release called The Graveyard And The Ballroom', and finally this 'On this date in 1978, The Fall released their second single, "It's The New Thing".' Three of my favorite bands, who knew?

I'm just sayin'.

Sugarcubes-Birthday (1988, Icelandic version)

Altered Images- Happy Birthday (1981)

50 Cent- In Da Club (2002)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Post-Punk Post: APB

I once heard that the music you listen to as a kid, lets say between the ages of 14-17, will be the music you always go back to, the music you can't live without. As I approach the big 40, I find this to be truer and truer every day.

Lately, I find myself defaulting back to the tunes of my youth, 80's New Wave. Specifically Post-Punk. This genre was breaking and thriving just as I came of age, and although I had an appreciation of the classics, from 50's Rock and Roll through the British Invasion to Arena Rock of the 70's, Post-Punk was mine. Bands I could hear on the radio, then actually go see live. Growing up on Long Island I had the advantage of stations like WLIR, with forward thinking program directors like Denis McNamara who brought all this strange new music to the airwaves (anyone else remember 'Off the Boat' on Sunday nights?). The Metro area also had several strong college radio stations, with dedicated programming, like the Post-Punk Progressive Pop Party which aired locally on Hofstra's WVRC.

There were also some good record shops back then, Slipped Disc and Bleeker Bobs come to mind. They had everything, no matter how obscure.

To round out the experience, there were a host of clubs that catered to the kids, the bands and the sound. As soon as I was able to get my hands on a passable ID, I can remember night at The Peppermint Lounge, Malibu, My Father's Place and Spit, to name just a few.

The combination of radio, record stores and clubs made the music accessible and life revolved around the music.

Since my memories of those days are filled with endless bands and countless shows, I've decided to dedicate a collection of posts celebrating that time in my life and that period in music history.

For starters I begin with one of the first post-punk bands I ever saw perform live. Scotland's own APB. This trio specialized in 'blue-eyed' funk. Led by the incomparable Ian Slater on bass and vocals, these guys had a driving punk-funk sound that was absolutely infectious. The tight, staccato guitar chords were the perfect counter to Slater's slap-bass style. Slater was the white equivalent of Bootsy Collins.

A local favorite, the band got heavy airplay on WLIR and performed some incredible gigs at all the local haunts. The first time I saw them was in 1984 at Malibu in Lido Beach. I still remember that they didn't go on till well after 1am, but played an amazing show. I saw them again in 1989 at Hofstra University and Spit in Levittown.

I guess I'm not the only one who thought these shows were epic. On the 20th anniversary re-release of 'Something To Believe In', disc two includes live tracks recorded at those Malibu and Hofstra shows.

I missed out on their reunion shows a few years back, but hopefully I'll get to catch these guys again. If you get the opportunity, make it a point to check them out.

I'm just sayin'.

P.S. If you want to hear, see and learn more, head on over to The Post-Punk Progressive Pop Party blog. They are included in my links, or you can click here.

Shoot You Down (Live At Club Malibu 1989)

Talk To Me (Live At Club Malibu 1989)
Palace Filled With Love (Live At Hofstra 1984)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Who was that masked man?

Growing up part of the TV generation, my attention span is such that it's hard to focus on any one thing for too long a period of time. Hell, I can barely get through one of these postings without being totally distracted and losing all interest.

Hence, my love and appreciation for the three minute pop song. Satisfying bite size chunks of music. Yummy.

But there is more. There is 'important' music. Music of substance and intellect that demands more of the listener. Some call it avant-garde while others call it experimental. What it usually is is interesting, obscure and often times terrible.

Although I do consider myself versed in a wide range of musical genres, I don't know a whole lot about the Residents, except what most non-Resident fans know. They are an anonymous, avante-garde group of musical and visual artists who have sustained a long career creating a wide variety of project, garnishing critical, if not commercial success.
Yeah, and?

After some online research (what other kind is there?), I was directed to their 1980 release 'Commercial Album' as an introduction to the band. What I discovered was a collection of abbreviated musical excursions that are both beautiful and perplexing. I'm not sure I get it yet. Maybe I'm not smart enough, too lazy or just not paying attention.

Since I'm not yet entirely decided on the Residents, it's hard to make an assessment as to whether I like them or not. When I think of avant-garde and experimental, I think Zappa. I get Zappa.

This is becoming a lot of work.

So lets switch gears to a more current, somewhat comparative band, one I happen to be currently digging, Liverpool's Clinic.

The quartet, started in 1997, has quietly hovered just under the mainstream of the American Alternative music scene, while amassing a substantial European following with a string of interesting and accessible albums.

More musically structured than the Residents, Clinic's sound is awash in swirling organs and driving tribal beats. I would go so far as to say their sound is akin to the post-punk, no-wave sound of the early 80's. (see: The Contortions, the Fall, The Birthday Party and Throbbing Gristle.)

If any further connection to the Residents can be made, it would be in the band's presentation. Not unlike the eyeball masked members of the Residents, Clinic maintains a certain anonymity behind the guise of surgical masks.

If I can pay attention long enough, I'm certain I will grow to appreciate the Residents as much as I already like Clinic.

Now lets go ride our bikes.

Kaw-Liga-The Residents (H.Williams)
Hamburger Lady-Throbbing Gristle
Free Not Free- Clinic
Walking With Thee-Clinic

The Residents- One Minute Movies

Clinic- Walking With Thee