Friday, July 17, 2009

He's a Mess

Wreckless Eric - 07.16.09 - Asbury Park, NJ

My friends and I are kicking ourselves for letting Wreckless Eric's debut brown vinyl Stiff Records 10" slip through our hands a few years back when we came across a copy in a collection. Not that it is an obscure record by any means, nor are most copies of colored vinyl releases by any of Stiff's power pop/pre-new wave artists scarce in the least, but we are kicking ourselves on principal: Wreckless Eric was a solid pop artist for a good couple of years and tonight our faith in him was reaffirmed.

A lot of Eric's early work is where most people focus their attention and appreciation. The early stiff singles ("Reconnez Cherie", "Take The K.A.S.H.","Hit and Miss Judy", and "A Popsong" - to name a good few) are the songs that have stuck with most fans over the course of the past thirty-odd years. By the time Eric teamed up with new groups and released records on labels such as the French New Rose Records (home of Willie Alexander, Alex Chilton, Sky Saxon, and Roky Erickson), most people's attention had strayed. Eric Trudged on, toured and kept on writing, writing, writing.

At the end of the 1990's Eric was surprised to hear a very familiar song being covered by a female singer/guitarist in a low-key east coast club. It was his infamous 1977 single "(I'd Go The) Whole Wide World", but something was a little off. "You know there are only two chords to this song, don't you?" he asked the woman. Confused but interested, she turned to him for further advice, and he provided exactly that - showing her the chords she should be playing. He sang the song with her, and once he realized that she had no idea who he was, he remarked: "I wrote this you know." The woman was Amy Rigby, a veteran to the NYC punk movement/scene of the late seventies, and ex-wife of db's drummer Will Rigby. Four years would pass before the two would meet again, but when they finally reunited, they married and relocated in France.

Last night I purchased a few records from a friend. In those records was a copy of Eric's 1980 single "A Popsong". I played it last night, admiring not only the boasted A side, but I also discovered a new found appreciation for one of his earlier singles found on side B titled "Reconnez Cherie". This, along with a Wreckless Eric video that a friend e-mailed me today was enough to get me in the mood to catch a few live songs down at The Asbury Lanes.

For the past few years, Amy and Eric have been collaborating their efforts, writing songs individually and recently released them collaboratively. 2008's Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, includes five songs written by Amy, three songs written by Eric, and three tracks that they wrote together. The songs are heartfelt and real, capturing a nostalgia in a folky, psychy, powerful fashion by way of big acoustic strumming, vintage 60's pop vocals, and unforgettable melodies. It's easily the best works for both of them in some time.

Tonight the duo sound checked with "Red Rubber Ball" by The Cyrkle. It was a great way to capture the attention of my friends and I, and although their set ended up being particularly lengthy and did not include "Red Rubber Ball", I remained entertained until the last track. The songs were a mix of songs from their 2008 album including a brilliant cover of Johnny Cash's "I still Miss Someone", numerous Wreckless Eric singles, a Flamin' Groovies cover, and plenty of hilariously wacky banter between songs. Their stage presence and chemistry was phenomenal. Amy's voice complimented Eric's beautifully, as did her hard alt-rock/alt-country guitar shredding.

I was able to chat briefly with Eric after the show. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey man. You killed it up there. Great stuff.
Eric: HUh..wuh? oh. Hey.
Me: Yeah I just wanted to say "hey" and let you know I thought you guys were great.
Eric: (laughs) ummm. well thanks. you know it's... well... yeah.
Me: Cool if my pal here snaps a picture of us?
Eric: yeah...ummm. pictures are... well. (laughs)

I shook his hand and walked away... leaving him to blast back off to whatever planet he came down from momentarily to play music for us all.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Best-selling album still sells... but for how much?

I wasn't surprised in the least when I heard that sealed copies of Micheal Jackson's Thriller were selling in online auctions for a thousand bucks a pop immediately following his death. There has always been this hustled fascination with fallen artists' work, as well as an impulse to hoard everything by the deceased artist that one can. Instant nostalgia is one cause of this phenomenon, but more often than that, it simply comes down to money.

The situation with Jackson's inflated secondary market sales is one that personally sickens me. All the Jackson gossip, jokes, and news reports don't even come close to annoying me on the level that this pseudo-inflation does. This is no different than the sales of pictures of the twin towers selling in auction on September 12th 2001. To me it's pathetic, and the fools who think they can get over on others at Michael's expense sicken me. Here are a few real situations I came across, followed by my opinionated (and more accurate) translation.

"Collector's Michael Jackson Picture Album"

Online Auction. Buy it Now: $600,000

Actual Listing Description:

Limited Edition Michael Jackson album picture disk edition with plastic sleeve. The album has the picture of the original Thriller album of Michael Jackson in the white suit. The other side has Michael in a brown jacket and a belt with a guitar buckle. The plastic sleeve is slightly bent but still protect the album, which is in mint condition. Album has only been played once.

IMFA Translation:

This record is not as common as the standard release of MJ's Thriller. It's essentially a record, with a picture of Mike on each side, that contains all the songs found on the Thriller album. It comes in a hard plastic case that has a nasty crease in it. Don't worry, the record inside is in great shape regardless!

Actual Retail Price: $5 before his death, $20 after.

"Michael Jackson Thriller Vinyl LP"
Online Auction. Starting Bid: $475,000

Actual Listing Description:

This is an original Michael Jackson Thriller Vinyl LP. It is marked as a QE38112 first release! The record is in excellent condition! This is a rare opportunity to buy the album that rocketed Michael Jackson into superstardom, in its original form as it was released in 1982. The album opens up to a double spread of Michael Jackson with the tiger cub. It has the gold stamp of CBS on the back upper corner, another rare trait of this particular album. If you are a true fan or collector of Michael Jackson this is one item that is a must have!!! Album is suitable for framing, gifting, storing, and playing. Item will be shipped safely, securely and promptly. Returns are not accepted.

IMFA Translation:

This is the same record that sold 50 million copies worldwide. This is an earlier copy that was used for promotions to record stores, radio stations etc. so it has a gold CBS "property of" stamp in the corner. This makes it a little bit more obscure (if you can even use the term "obscure" when talking about a copy of Thriller), but thousands and thousands of copies still exist. Returns not accepted because if you are dumb enough, and actually buy this record, someone will break the sad news to you eventually and you will undoubtedly demand a refund.

Actual Retail Price: $5 - $10 if properly marketed and sold as a promo copy.

"Rare Jackson Five Recording"

Online Auction: Buy it Now $1,000,000

Actual Listing Description:

Rare Jackson Five 45 record from Gary, In. recording studio Steel Town Records 1025 Taney Street Gary, In. produced by Gordon Keith and Sandy Wilborn one of the first records ever recorded by Michael Jackson and The Jackson Five. Song titles We Don't Have To Be Over 21 (To Fall In Love) And Jam Session.

IMFA Translation:

I hope whoever sees this auction really takes my word for it, doesn't do any research and shells out a million dollars for this record. What's even more interesting about this piece is that not only is it really only worth about $20 on the secondary market, but it's not even the first orange label pressing on Steel Town. If it was however, it could fetch upwards of $100 bucks in auction. Shipping is Free!

Actual Retail price: $20 plus shipping.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The tricks you pulled on me...

The Rare Breed

"Beg, Borrow And Steal" B/W "Jeri's Theme"

1966 Attack AR1401

The Rare Breed's "Beg, Borrow And Steal" is definitely an interesting piece of garage rock/bubble gum history. The song was written by a group of teenage musicians in the late 60's who were produced under the name "The Rare Breed". Producers Jeff Katz and Jerry Kasenetz (Super K Productions) knew exactly what they were doing when they made false promises to these highschoolers, and since the band was not under contract with ATTACK Records, it was that much easier for Katz and Kasenetz to take full advantage of them. They released the track on their ATTACK label under the name "The Rare Breed". Next, they rerecorded the track with a band called The Demotrons and released it on Cameo Parkway Records. This still wasn't enough. Shortly after the Demotrons release, they took the original "Breed" recording and reissued it under a new group name "The Ohio Express", again on Cameo Parkway Records. The record went gold, selling about 500,000 records over a fairly short period of time.

Katz and Kasenetz didn't stop here. In 1968, they decided to keep The Ohio Express alive and with Arthur Resnick on vocals, they wrote and recorded "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" - a song that would become even more popular later that same year when covered by 1910 Fruitgum Co.

Barry Stolnick, John Freno,Tony Cambria, Alexander "Botts" Norbett, and Joel Feigenbaum were the original young muscians that Katz and Kasenetz named The Rare Breed. The kids didn't even know that the record was being released under the "Breed" name until they received their own copies of the 45. They had actually been playing local shows under a completely different identity while Cameo Parkway Records was making their plans to move thousands and thousands of records.

The song is a blatant rip off "Louie Louie" - The infamous never-ending Richard Berry song (later popularized by The Kingsmen) that was under federal investigation in the 60's for rumored underlying drug themes that proved to be only based on rumors (and ended up being one of the most popular songs to cover of all time). It's a great tune regardless, and the lyrics and overall vibe are really classic and solid. Its B-side is a catchy, twangy instrumental titled "Jeri's Theme". I"m not sure who Jeri is or was, and from the looks of things, it was more than likely unbeknownst to the kids forcefully named "The Rare Breed" as well.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Record of the Week July 13th - July 19th

The Golden Dawn

Power Plant

1968 International Artists/2009 International Artists

Lelan Rogers was Kenny Rogers older and crazier brother. In 1965 he decided to start up his own record label, International Artists, after his and Kenny's joint effort KenLee Records failed in the late 50's. The International Artist's label would quickly become recognized as Houston's demented psychedelic rock label, signing bands such as 13th Floor Elevators, The Red Crayola, The Bubble Puppy, and more. One of the better albums released would be Power Plant, by The Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn featured a man named George Kinney on vocals and guitars. Kinney was a childhood friend of 13th Floor's Roky Erickson and remained friendly with him throughout their shared venture on International Artists. When it came time to pull the trigger in 1967 and release Power Plant, there was a last minute change of plans and 13th Floor Elevators ended up taking the newest International Artists release slot. The Elevators album was called Easter Everywhere. The record did fairly well and it has grown to become an epic psych classic to this day. Unfortunately, a combination of timing and label decisions pushed Power Plant to the immediate back burner and as a result, the record never received the attention it could have.

Power Plant by The Golden Dawn shares obvious influence and style with 13th Floor's Easter Everywhere. Erikson and Kinney were openly sharing ideas by the late 60's and the evidence in both the instrumentation and the lyrics are overwhelming. Swirling, twangy southern psych guitars with low-fi noise tracks and mid-tempo feelgood rock, Power Plant captures a very similar vibe as Easter Everywhere with a slightly happier, less desperate and nervous feel. A few songs on Power Plant sound like early Floyd while others could be 13th Floor songs if I didn't know the difference. The vocal style varies at times, and the subject matter (traveling through new planes of existence, psychic crystals, transcendental unity, and of course, love) coincide oddly with 13th Floor lyrics. The record is currently available as a repress on International Artists.

"There comes a time of starvation
It is true
If you believe in elevation
It will happen to you"

Taken from "Starvation" by The Golden Dawn

Friday, July 10, 2009

I never dreamed we'd meet here once more

The Church. July 8th, 2009 - Irving Plaza NYC.

My cousin called a few months back to let me know that The Church would be hitting New York in the near future and that our attendance to said show was essentially imperative. I agreed and although we almost blew it and missed it, he came through a few weeks back and the tickets were secured without any issues.

We arrived pretty much on time and ended up waiting in a small line for the doors to open. The crowd was comprised largely of older strung-out new wavers and ex-gothers but there was a presence of younger "hip" kids (Chameleons shirts, shoulder bags) as well as what appeared to be an "intellectual" crowd (turtleneck wearing nerds... to make it plain and simple). We got inside and my cousin eyed up the merchandise table and instantly raided it. Rare imported and OOP singles, amazingly obscure Priest=Aura and Seance tees as well as autographed copies of their latest gem Untitled #23 were just a few items the band was offering. He bought The Church tote bag and packed it with as much stuff as he needed and even some prints of front man Steve Kilbey's neo-psychedelic artwork. We hung around for a little bit as the theater became congested and then act one of two took the stage: Adam Franklin and the Bolts of Melody.

As a fan of Adam's legendary band Swervedriver, I was souped to see him and his new project. I'm a huge fan of the work he did with Swervedriver when the band was on Creation Records, but can't say the same for the later commercial releases. Something just changed in the early nineties that screams "boring and contrived" to me. I was a bit prejudice with the Bolts, and figured they would be a crummy watered-down facsimile of the later swervedriver material, but that ended up being only a half-correct assumption. Adam Franklin and the Bolts of Melody were good, but just good. They were definitely more shoegazy and atmospheric than the commercial releases of later Swervedriver, but there was still an occasional revisit to that undesirable later sound. His lyrics seemed half-hearted and banal, and the rest of the band rocked, but seemed as if they were just along for the ride.

It felt like we were subjected to the same tired mix of songs over the PA about ten times between the time the Bolts left the stage and The Church took it. Once the curtain went up and the boys appeared before us, it was instant ecstasy. They opened with "Tantalized", a heartfelt rock song from their 1986 album Heyday. Steve Kilbey was energetic and full of entertaining banter, Peter Koppes was back on guitar for this tour and shredding, I mean shredding on his Stratocaster. The newest member, Tim Powles kept it going strong on drums, and then there was Marty Willson-Piper. Holy shit. Now it's understood that this band has been around for some time now, and they really haven't had a hit in the states in almost 30 years, but time has done some strange things to this man. You can forget his clean cut pretty boy image that he maintained throughout the eighties - this man looked incredibly insane and I loved it. Dirty, baggy work clothes, long grey hair in a pony tail, and a straight-up Charles Manson beard. I took one look at him and thought: "this man goes home every night, guzzles a six pack and smokes the world's largest joint". It was an unreal sight to see him display his epic guitar skills in what could almost pass as a costume.

Their set was long and satisfying. The band jumped around from newer to older songs and then they played a song that changed the night for me. It was "Almost With You", from their rare (and import only) second record, The Blurred Crusade. The song fit my evening perfectly and assisted me in sinking deeper into a comfortably sad yet exciting realm. The rest of the show was wonderful, and even though they pulled the dreaded double encore, their sensational performance was enough to achieve my forgiveness. I just wish I got to hear
"The Unguarded Moment"," One Day", "Electric", "No Explanation" and oh so many more.... but they played for over an hour and a half so I can't really complain.

Day 5
North South East and West
After Everything
Almost With You
A Month of Sundays
Deadman's Hand
You Took
Under the Milky Way

Encore 1:
An Interlude
Space Saviour

Encore 2:
Hotel Womb

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Judy's

The Moo Album

1985 Wasted Talent Records

Some of my favorite acts hail from the state of Texas. From the garagey psychedelic sounds Roky Erikson, 13th Floor (and the rest of his related acts), to the weird psych-punk alternative sounds of The Butthole Surfers, to more recent rockers At the Drive-in, Texas might have something in their water and The Moo Album by The Judy's only helps my case.

The year is 1985, so punk has changed shape a few times by now and new wave has affected a lot of music by now as well, so The Judy's must have found themselves somewhere in the middle of all that was changing, because the times are quite evident in their sound.

The record is punk rock but poppy. It's professionally produced, but has a silly edge. Some songs remind me of The Dead Milkmen, other of Devo. Some of the pop melodies they experiment with sound influenced by late seventies/early eighties Nick Lowe , Joe Jackson, or Elvis Costello. From straightforward pop rock tunes like "Magazine Man" to zany songs like "The Moo Song", (which simply includes the word "moo" hilariously sung 98 times), The Judy's rock like a tight band should, but stay loose enough to keep it a good time.

To listen to The Judy's and for more info, go HERE