Thursday, January 29, 2009

Setting the Record Straight - Part II

“I’m a Believer” - The Monkees / Neil Diamond.
Imagine Neil singing it. It’s easy. Then consider that other Monkees songs were written by artists such as Carole King and Harry Nilsson. The rumors were true…

1969: “Come and Get it” – Badfinger / Paul McCartney
When Badfinger was called The Iveys, Paul presented this song to them as a potential single on Apple Records. It was released as a Badfinger single in 1969 and later in 1996 with the arrival of The Beatles Anthology 3, the song was credited to The Beatles.

1969: “Sugar, Sugar” The Archies / Don Kirshner
Originally planned to be another Monkees hit, Don Kirshner along with a group of studio musicians recorded this song under the name “The Archies”. It became one of the top pop hits of 1969.

1982: “Always on My Mind” – Wille Nelson / Brenda Lee
Also often confused as an Elvis original made famous in the same year (1972) that Brenda Lee wrote the song, the heartbreak you feel when you hear Willie howl this one is not of his own.

1992: “I will always love you” – Whitney Houston / Dolly Parton
This enormous hit for Whitney was originally written by Dolly in 1974 as a "good bye' to Porter Waggoner when she left his show.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Excuse for the lack of updates

I was on my way to work on Wednesday, flying down New Brunswick, NJ’s Easton Ave, rocking out to Dinosaur Jr’s “The Wagon” and I noticed a cluster of cars and brake lights in front of me. I was surprisingly calm when I realized that my car was not stopping, but rather sliding towards the back of an older Plymouth mini van. I saw a small opening between the van and oncoming traffic so I went for it. Since I was on ice, the turning of the wheel only caused the car to drift to the left. It was not responding the way I had planned. I braced a bit for impact and clipped the left side of the mini van’s back fender. I tore the back off instantly and my car popped up on its side. The door panel and then the wheels rode the side of the van as I continued to try to control the car as best I could.

I had my friend’s Fender Deville guitar amplifier in the back seat. I heard it hit the ceiling and wondered if it was going to make its way to the back of my head. As I craned my neck sideways to try to see what was going on over the dashboard, I realized that I was up on my side and headed into oncoming traffic. I was still calm, almost self-congratulatory, in that I was proud of myself for handling the incident the way I had thus far. Then, from a sideways view, I saw a car speeding right for a head on collision. At that moment about twenty things went through my head and I actually said out loud: “Man, this is such a lame way to go”. My thoughts also sped about how disappointed I was that I managed to safely guide my car this far without killing myself or anyone else and now it’s not even up to me. The steering wheel does nothing when your wheels are in the air. I also laughed for a moment, thinking of the irony of dying to a Dinosaur Jr. song. Then I thought for the next split second or so: “please don’t flip, please don’t flip” and somehow the oncoming cars all avoided me. I slammed back down onto all four wheels and spun out into the oncoming lane of traffic. The cars that caused the accident all took off except for the guy I hit. “Dude, I saw the bottom of your car go by”. He said.

I had to turn the “The Wagon” down to hear the rest.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An interview with Mark Burgess.

(This is in an interview that I conducted in the summer of 2006. It was originally intended for a zine that my friend Matt and I had planned to print).

IMFA: Introduce yourself. Talk about your musical projects both past and current.

MB: My name is Mark Burgess, I was the bass player and singer with The Chameleons- Chameleons UK in America - from 1981 - 1987 and again from 2000-2002. I also played with a UK band called The Sun And The Moon from 1987-1989 and have recorded a few solo albums and collaborations in between. Currently I'm taking a break from music while I put the finishing touches to an autobiography - View From A Hill - which should be available this coming Christmas time.

IMFA: Growing up, what or who were your musical influences and when did you first realize that you were a musician?

MB: I started with records very young when a staff nurse at my kindergarten began playing Beatles records for me, that was 1964. I got my first record player when I was 8 and was buying records by The Beatles, The Searchers, Ennio Morricone, Procol Harem, got into The Doors at around 10 years old, then the Glam thing happened in England. For me it was T.Rex, Sparks and David Bowie and toward the end of the 70's - Kate Bush. Then came Punk, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Buzzcocks, The Jam, The Fall, ATV and most significantly The Adverts, cause that was the band that made me decide I wanted to play Bass. I also really liked The Stranglers. Then I got into Jah Wobble via Public Image, The Teardrop Explodes and the Cherry Red stuff - Morgan Fisher, Dead Can Dance. Discovered Phillip Glass around 82, but by this time I was really kind of trying not to be too influenced by bands around us, cause I was in a band and we were really trying to focus on developing a sound and style of our own, so I suppose personally my biggest influences at this time were Dave Fielding and Reg Smithies. Later on I became a huge fan of Mike Scott and The Waterboys and a whole host of acoustic writers and singers that most people will never have heard of. These days it's stuff like Woven Hand and The Arcade Fire. There's a massive amount of stuff I've left out here I know, ranging from Johnny Cash to Jeff Buckley..

When did I realise I was a musician? I think it was when the magazine 'International Musician' contacted me years ago and asked for an interview and all the questions revolved around my bass playing and the kind of gear I preferred, I thought to myself, hello-I must be a professional 'cause these guys are pretty serious about it!

IMFA: Is there anyone who stood out (or stands out) as an exceptional person to play or make music with?

MB: Bryan Glancy, a close friend and an acoustic singer/songwriter from Manchester, I was working with him a lot around 1990-93. He died February this year.

IMFA: How did the nickname Birdy come about?

From school. Burgess - Burge- Birdy - Bird. That was a common way of acquiring a nick-name at my school in those days..

IMFA: Have you always played guitar or did you make a switch from the bass guitar as some point?

MB: I started as a bass player and I suppose I'd still say that's chiefly what I am. I picked up the acoustic guitar gradually as a means of backing myself so I could do shows when I didn't actually have a band to play with. I still strum acoustically from time to time and do the odd show, but I can't really play it if I'm honest.

IMFA: Over the years I have detected what appears to be a struggle with spirituality and religion within your work. Is this accurate, and how does your work reflect these beliefs?

MB: I wouldn't say it's been a struggle, but I suppose it's one of the major elements of much of the lyrical work I've done. I suppose I was kicking against a culture that either pushes spirituality into the realms of over simplified religious dogma, or fails to understand how important it is as a basic cultural need. I mean in the UK in particular, by and large, it seems to be deemed enough to meet economic needs or provide luxury and comfort for the masses, but fails to comprehend the total lack of spiritual fulfillment in the way our society is structured. You know. It's getting better with regards to the education of very young children there, I mean in my day it was called Religious Education-RE- and it was a total crock. These days it's called something like Awe and Awareness and comprises things like, stopping a math class when it starts to snow outside and getting the kids out of the classroom so they can appreciate it. It's difficult for me to define it exactly.. For me true spirituality has nothing at all to do with religious institutions and denominations and more to do with getting in touch with very basic natural elements and values.

IMFA: I have always felt that your music has been overlooked and is somewhat undiscovered in the United States. Is this something that you would agree with?

MB: Actually it's always amazed me that anyone over there got into it at all, I tend to count my blessings more than I curse my failings..

IMFA: Other interests besides music?

MB: Cinema is a big passion of mine, although I don't get to the cinema as often as I used to or I'd like. My favorite Director is David Lynch.

My chief passion actually is cycling, well cycle touring, I love loading the bike up and taking off for a week or so cycle-camping. I've just recently come back from a 600km ride from Hamburgisland of Mors in northwest Denmark. I plan to do a lot more of that next Spring and Summer. My dream is to be able to do a Trans Am eventually before my old legs give out.

IMFA: It is apparent that there is a fantastic level of creativity and imagination found within your lyrics. What do you draw these concepts from?

Thank you that's very kind of you. I dunno really, I mean I was always quite imaginative I think, I was an only child growing up and so I suppose my imagination filled a gap. School tried to kill it off and they almost succeeded, I never did quite recover fully from that. It was a bad school full of bad teachers. I suppose the lyrics simply reflect the way I see things as I drift through life, I can't think of any other way of putting it really.

IMFA: Future prospects?

MB: Well on the surface things aren't looking too great to be honest!

I mean my label manager here died last December and I can't summon up the motivation to start shopping my work around. I'm nearly always on the verge of bankruptcy and often wonder how long I can keep it up. But then my teachers always told me my prospects were poor, so you know, I didn't listen then so I'm not going to start listening now. On the positive side I have a good time, I'm very happy with my wife Daniela here in Hamburg and I don't starve. So you know. I mean if I never get to make another record I feel I've helped produce a body of work I can be proud of, the future that's just a blank page same as always. I'll just continue being myself and doing my own thing like I've always done.

IMFA: Anything you’d like to say to young musicians and music lovers of today?

MB: Onwards and upwards and try and keep your chins up. Try not to get addicted to anything nasty and always try and remember who your true friends are.



Monday, January 19, 2009

Music For Creeps

Here is a quick selection of songs that have some sort of creepy edge to them. In no particular order:

1) She’s Lost Control – Joy Division
Ian Curtis eerily sings and quakes about a recent encounter with a female epilepsy victim. He is later diagnosed with the same disorder.
“And how I’ll never know just why or understand, she said. I lost control again”

2) Talking in Your Sleep – The Romantics

All I know is that my sleep talking scares the hell out of me for reasons discussed in this pop hit by The Romantics.

“ I can hear the things that you’re dreaming about – When you open up your heart and the truth comes out”

3) I Will Possess Your Heart – Death Cab For Cutie
This is stalker talk. Almost as creepy as hearing Sting tell us he’s checking someone out all day long, this newer DCFC song follows that same dark path.
“There are days when outside your window I see my reflection as I slowly pass”

4) Under My Thumb – Rolling Stones

Singing about the sexual submission of a previously dominant female partner is a bit heavy.

“Under my thumb - The girl who once had me down - Under my thumb - The girl who once pushed me around”

5) Every Breath You Take – The Police
All time creep fest here; you’ve heard it before.
“Every step you take, I’ll be watching you”

6) Hello – Lionel Richie
Think Lionel is a harmless lover? Think again. Total creep.
“I've been alone with you inside my mind - And in my dreams I've kissed your lips a thousand times”

7) Feet – Weston
A humorous look at one of the creepiest fetishes out there: Feet.
“When your feet are in my face, I feel alright”

8) I put a spell on you – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Screamin’ Jay puts it plain and simple in this classic tale of egotistical love control.
“You hear me - I put a spell on you - Because you’re mine”

9) Run for your life – The Beatles
Perhaps one of the most over the top songs about jealousy to date. A bit over the top as well.
“Well I'd rather see you dead, little girl than to be with another man”

10) Suffer Little Children – The Smiths
Write a song about the slaying of five British children in the early 60’s and you have a creepy song. Write it and sing from the victims’ voices and you have a creep masterpiece.
“John you’ll never be a man and you’ll never see your home again”.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Beatle Beyond the Grave

Woah. This is a little weird.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A-Z of 70’s-80’s Power Pop

The popular rock of the 1960’s brought something very special to the music scene a decade or so later. Power pop is a genre and title given to bands that incorporate their influences from these 1960’s bands with hooky melodies, tight riffs and arrangements, and listenable vocals. The sound these bands chased were those of a clean rock sound which often (but not always) included synthesizers as well as standard electric rock instruments. The music is mostly feel-good and direct, but each band adds its own special flair to the aforementioned formula. This by no means is a complete list, but rather an A-Z of notable, obscure, and/or overlooked powerful and “popular” sounding rock bands.

Any Trouble - (Manchester, England) Stiff Records band featuring friend of Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson, Clive Gregson. Gregson’s voice has a striking resemblance to Elvis Costello at times. Runner up: Artful Dodger.

The Barracudas – (London, England) UK based surf / garage / power punk with amazing hooks and feel good jams. Runners up: Big Star, The Boys.

The Cars – (Boston, MA) One of the most successful power pop acts from the states during the late 70’s and well into the 80’s. Runner up: Cheap Trick.

Dirty Looks – (Staten Island, NY) Bad ass heavy pop period.

Eddie and the Hot Rods – (Essex, England) Sometimes called punk, new wave, and even pub-rock, this powerful and fast R&B influenced group laid the foundation for many rebellious punk acts of their future.

The Fans - (Bristol, England) Quirky bass lines, catchy vocals, dangerous leads. Runners up: The Flashcubes, Flamin’ Groovies.

The Go-Betweens - (Brisbane, Australia) Considered more of an indie band and a jangle-pop band (jangle-pop drawing major influences from power-pop) The Go-Betweens are more of a subsidiary of the power pop category but good enough to deserve a spot here.

Holly and the Italians - (Los Angeles, CA) Girl fronted pop with attitude, Holly and the Italians was once an opening act for Blondie.

Ian Drury and The Blockheads - (Upminster, England ) A jazz and funk influenced pop that started in bars and ended up everywhere. Another Stiff records favorite as well.

The Jags -(Yorkshire, England) They remind me of Elvis Costello meets The Bomp! Power pop band 20/20.

The Knack - (Los Angeles, CA) Retro pop with a drum sound in “My Sharona” that some drummers claim is the best recorded pop drum sound of the 1970’s.

The Last - (Los Angeles, CA) Very good dark, garagey, surfy, folky, psychedelia debuted on Bomp!

Material Issue - (Chicago, Il) Retro paisley indie just barely made the list, as their career began in the late 80’s.Runner up: The Mice, Marvelous Darlings.

The Nerves - (Los Angeles, CA) Amazing west coast group responsible not only for influencing pop bands in their time, but for continuing to fuel the power pop revival of the early 2000’s. Runners up: Nikki and the Corvettes.

The Only Ones -(London, England) One of my personal favorites of all time, these guys lock in the feeling and there’s never a question about what is on their minds.

Pointed Sticks - (Vancouver, Canada) Power pop who fit in with the thriving punk and new wave scene in British Columbia at the close of the seventies Runner up: The Plimsouls.

The Quick - (London, England) Power pop that moved to the new wave and dance scene at the start of the 80’s.

The Real Kids – (Boston, MA) Big, raw power-rock with exciting vocals and guitar work. Get into them. Runner up: The Rubinoos, Red Rockers, Redd Kross, Romantics.

The Smithereens - (Cartaret, NJ) These Jersey power rockers went from basement shows to movie soundtracks and more in a very short period of time. Runners up: Stiv Bators (solo), Shoes.

Teenage Head - (Ontario Canada) Very Popular and listenable pop from Canada. Sometimes referred to as the “Canadian Ramones”.

The Undertones – (Derry, Ireland) Often classified as punk or early pop punk, The Undertones took the power pop sound and added a rough and exciting edge.

Vapors - (Guildford, Surrey, England) Most know these guys for “Turning Japanese”, but I assure you that the rest of their catalog will make you forget that hypnotic hit.

Wreckless Eric – (Newhaven, East Essex, England) Best known for his phenomenal Stiff Records single: “(I’d Go The) Whole Wide World”, single, Wreckless Eric demonstrated regularly that he truly was and is “a mess”.

XTC – (Swindon, England) Amazingly diverse and well-rounded pop band, XTC’s powerful pop found a comfortable home somewhere right between New Wave and Art Rock.

The Yachts – (Liverpool, England) Talented band with cheesy organ sound and silly lyrics that turns most listeners away.

-Rocks – (Houston, Texas) Great new wave era power pop who were lucky enough to tour the states with huge acts like Duran Duran and U2.

Glenn Ramone

Television show: Cash Cab

Channel: Travel Channel.

Scenario: Mid Twenties kid (and some, what appear to be family members) steps into the cash cab. As the host (Ben Bailey) asks the game show questions, the kid shouts answers without consulting his family. It gets him a few correct answers and eventually a few incorrect answers. This one was my favorite:

Bailey: “Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy are the first names of what influential NYC punk band?"

Kid: (without talking it over with family) “Ummm… I’m gonna say The Misfits.”

Bailey: “OH! That’s strike two…sorry…”

Someone needs to enroll in the Punk Rock Academy. My mom knows that answer, Bro.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Setting the Record Straight - Part I

1972: “All the Young Dudes” - Mott the Hoople / David Bowie
Bowie steps in when he hears news that Mott the Hoople is losing steam and becoming discouraged with their lack of commercial success. His first offer to them is his to be 1976 hit “Suffragette City”. They turn his offer down and Bowie later writes them this glam classic.

1976: “She’s a Sailor” - The Flying Burrito Brothers / Stevie Wonder
Stevie is a guy who has written songs for tons and tons of artists. One of the strangest is “She’s a Sailor” by TFBB. Stevie’s twangiest song ever gets some serious justice by these outlaws in 1976.

1978: “Hangin’ on the Telephone” - Blondie /The Nerves
Originally written by Jack Lee of the west coast power pop group, The Nerves, Debbie Harry and Blondie took this song to the UK charts in 1978 with the release of the album Parallel Lines.

1983: “Cum on Feel the Noize” - Quiet Riot / Slade
The origin of this song is commonly overlooked and falsely credited to Quiet Riot. Slade is not my favorite band of all time, but they definitely deserve credit where credit is due. Gene Simmons also stated that the song inspired the KISS hit “Rock and Roll all Nite”.

1990: “Nothing Compares 2 U” - Sinead O' Connor / Prince
Prince writes a song each day before getting out of bed and this one is by far the strangest of his arsenal. Since it was written originally for the R&B group “The Family”, it makes sense. Generally lending a helping hand to the popular dance, funk, and soul world, “Nothing Compares 2 U” really doesn’t easily compare to the rest of Prince’s outstanding and impressive “songs you can have” library, but yet another success.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Genius of Jandek

“And by the way, lately you’ve been listening to the worst music I’ve ever heard”. This is one of the final bits of dialog an ex girlfriend hit me with before our break up. I was listening to “You Painted Your Teeth” off of a record called Telegraph Melts By a man named Jandek. He and a woman are heard wailing “you painted your teeth, don’t paint your teeth” while sloppy nonsensical drums blare and discordant guitars are strummed haphazardly. As it turns out, most everything the man and his band plays follows this messy anti-formula, and with 52 releases there’s plenty to go around.

Considered an “Outsider Musician” (joining a category shared by Daniel Johnston and the late Wesley Willis to name a few), Jandek has been releasing these mysterious records since the late 70’s. Originally dubbed “The Units”( No relation to the late 70’s – early 80’s San Francisco Synth punk band “The Units”), Jandek (who is more commonly referred to as the man and the project rather than the project as a whole), has been operating a record label called Corwood Industries out of Houston Texas the entire time.

Some say his real name is Sterling Richard Smith, and he’s about 64 years old now. How true that is, I do not know. Super-fans have researched his business license for Corwood Industries and sure enough, Sterling Richard Smith is on the bill. There is a shroud of mystery that cloaks Jandek’s music. Some say that his low profile is an intentional statement on the purity of faceless music as previously demonstrated by bands such as The Residents. Some interpret his image as a real and honest result of being a passionate yet reclusive musician. Jandek rarely interviews, has rarely been photographed until recently, and keeps out of the mainstream media for the most part.

In 2004, Jandek began playing live. Many thought it was a hoax until they saw him in the flesh and realized that the event was an undeniable truth. He hasn’t stopped playing yet and is even rumored to be playing in Portugal tomorrow, January 10th 2009.

I have managed to obtain several of his scarce vinyl releases. I have about twenty of them, most of which are still sealed. The few that I have that are opened and listenable give me enough of a peek into this man’s brain to last a lifetime. Take a look at the album covers, the red haired man is Jandek himself; a truly marvelous concept.

“Jandek’s not pretentious, but only pretentious people like his music”. – Kurt Cobain, Spin magazine 1993.

Every Single Release is still in print today on Corwood Industries (on CD only) with the exception of Ready For The House which is available on JackPot Records. All other vinyl realeases are out of print. When ordering direct from Corwood, make sure you go all out and take advantage of the 50% off deal when buying twenty (20) or more CDs. That’s twenty CDs for $80.00. The shipping is on Jandek too! Pretty Righteous.


0739: Ready for the House (1978)
0740: Six and Six (1981)
0741: Later On (1981)
0742: Chair Beside a Window (1982)
0743: Living in a Moon So Blue (1982)
0744: Staring at the Cellophane (1982)
0745: Your Turn to Fall (1983)
0746: The Rocks Crumble (1983)
0747: Interstellar Discussion (1984)
0748: Nine-Thirty (1985)
0749: Foreign Keys (1985)
0750: Telegraph Melts (1986)
0751: Follow Your Footsteps (1986)
0752: Modern Dances (1987)
0753: Blue Corpse (1987)
0754: You Walk Alone (1988)
0755: On the Way (1988)
0756: The Living End (1989)
0757: Somebody in the Snow (1990)
0758: One Foot in the North (1991)
0759: Lost Cause (1992)
0760: Twelfth Apostle (1993)
0761: Graven Image (1994)
0762: Glad to Get Away (1994)
0763: White Box Requiem (1996)
0764: I Woke Up (1997)
0765: New Town (1998)
0766: The Beginning (1999)
0767: Put My Dream on This Planet (2000)
0768: This Narrow Road (2001)
0769: Worthless Recluse (2001)
0770: I Threw You Away (2002)
0771: The Humility of Pain (2002)
0772: The Place (2003)
0773: The Gone Wait (2003)
0774: Shadow of Leaves (2004)
0775: The End of It All (2004)
0776: The Door Behind (2004)
0777: A Kingdom He Likes (2004)
0778: When I Took That Train (2005)
0780: Raining Down Diamonds (2005)
0781: Khartoum (2005)
0782: Khartoum Variations (2006)
0784: What Else Does the Time Mean (2006)
0787: The Ruins of Adventure (2006)
0790: The Myth of Blue Icicles (2008)


0779: Glasgow Sunday (2005)
0783: Newcastle Sunday (2006)
0785: Glasgow Monday (2006)
0786: Austin Sunday (2006)
0788: Manhattan Tuesday (2007)
0789: Brooklyn Wednesday (2007)
0791: Glasgow Friday (2008)
0792: Glasgow Sunday 2005 (2008)