Here’s another batch of record write-ups I did for the minds.com Vinyl Collector group, plus a few extras at the end, aggregated for my convenience and yours. You know, just trying to make our junk internet a little less ephemeral and more useful, at least with regard to my stuff — a futile, thankless job as I’m well aware. If you’d like to join in the fun (and it is fun) you can sign up for minds here; or just lurk.
I say “just lurk” but the minds.com link bug has popped up again, so lurking isn’t likely to be quite so fruitful. I have included links to the original posts here, on the assumption that they may work one day, but for now you need to be logged in to see them. (Or you can go to my main page and search/scroll.) As I’ve said before, minds is young and still buggy, but it is better than the alternatives in many important ways — when it works — and it’s worth supporting. I’m sticking with it anyway.
At any rate, all the more reason to recapitulate them here. This is the sixth installment; here are the others — one; two; three; four; five. Two of these entries have also been posted as self-contained essays here as well: this one on The Yes Album, prejudice, and ideology; and this one on the Blue Oyster Cult album Imaginos. Bye for now.
Tuff Darts — Tuff Darts! — Sire — SRK 6048–1978
New York’s Tuff Darts was one of the early cohort of CBGBs “underground” bands in the mid-70s, first appearing on the 1976 Live at CBGBs album alongside bands like Mink Deville and the Shirts. By the time they recorded their 1978 LP for Sire they had lost their original frontman, the charismatic and immensely talented Robert Gordon. If the new guy (Tommy “Frenzy” Frenesi) couldn’t quite fill those shoes, the resulting album is nevertheless a compelling and rather under-appreciated chunk of rock and roll. At any rate, it played a big role in my life as an adolescent and I find it still works on me today. Like many such recordings, I doubt it sounds very “punk” to most people nowadays (whatever that means… in those days, skinny ties and an arch attitude could do it, and it was certainly good enough for me.)
Anyhow, it sure was “punk” to my 14 year old punk rock obsessed self. I was sold the minute I heard “(Your Love Is Like) Nuclear Waste” on Doctor Demento. Seriously, that song was tailor-made for my sensibility. It ran constantly through my head, which meant I walked around dodging bullies silently mumbling it to myself along with other songs like “Homicide” and “Sonic Reducer.” All my pretend bands I tried to have in high school played it. It was my “jam,” if I’m using that term properly. It spoke to me. The rest of the album was largely overshadowed by the one song at the time, though I certainly took the lesson of “Rats” to heart as well. (“Some people aren’t people, some people are rats…” Boy, aren’t they though?)
But the full LP has a lot to offer, by turns silly, faux-cerebral, and simply classic. They managed to squeeze out two genuine rock and roll anthems, “My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms” and “All for the Love of Rock and Roll.” A cover of the latter (a year earlier) somehow wound up on the Ram Jam album that had “Black Betty” on it. I had that album too, and just thought, you know, all the good bands must play that song. It sounds like KISS wishes they sounded like. I should try to learn it someday.
— original post on minds.
The Gymslips — Rocking with the Renees — Abstract Records — ABT 006 — UK — 1983
DEFINITION OF A RENEE (PLURAL — RENEES)
APPEARANCE: Slightly rotund, double chin, in most cases short hair
DIET: Excessive alcohol, Pie and Mash
CLOTHING: Jeans, monkey boots, denim jacket (leather in winter), T-shirt
HABITS: most disgusting things The male counterparts are known as Ronees.
That, from the album cover, ought to clear things up.
The Gymslips were a rather brilliant street/skin type punk pop all girl band who should have been huge-ish. But despite great songs and the support of John Peel (who did no fewer than five sessions with them) they never really got too far off the ground. Fortunately they left behind this honey of an album, which retains its punch and charm all these years later.
They are chiefly noted, as far as I can tell, for the entirely fitting, competent-though-rote cover of Suzi Quatro’s “48 Crash”, their first single and a minor radio hit. But it’s the casually well-crafted original songs of every day life — gently ironic and verging on novelty — that really shine. (You know me: I love nothing more than things that are gently ironic verging on novelty, particularly when they have nice melodies as well.) “Drink Problem” is a unique masterpiece that would be a classic in any idiom and it never fails to cheer me up.
If you’re looking for a pleasant way to spend twenty-five minutes or so, you could do a lot worse than Rocking with the Renees. Two of the three orginal Gymslips reconvened as the Renees later on for the 1990 electro-pop tinged release Have You Got It! While the style isn’t quite my cup of tea, the ironic cum novelty slice-of-life spirit remains intact and manages to produce yet another unique sort of masterpiece named “He Called Me a Fat Pig and Walked Out on Me.” They still got it, kind of.
— discogs entry.
—YouTube: I couldn’t find a post of the album proper, but here’s a 27 song compilation that includes the album’s 14 tracks along among all the extras; “Drink Problem” from the album; “Drink Problem”, Peel session; a music video of the song “Dear Marge”; — The Renees — “He Called Me a Fat Pig and Walked out on Me”.
— original post on minds.
Sex Pistols singles
“Anarchy in the UK” / “I Wanna Be Me” — Glitterbest — 640 112–1977 (1976) — Fr
“God Save the Queen” / “Did You No Wrong” — Virgin — VS 181–1977 — UK
“Pretty Vacant” / “No Fun” — Virgin — VS 184–1977 — UK
“Pretty Vacant” / “Sub-Mission” — Warner Brothers — WBS 8516–1977 — US
“Holidays in the Sun” / “Satellite” — Virgin — VS 191–1977 — UK
These are the four UK Sex Pistols singles, plus one US variant. “Anarchy in the UK” is a 1977 French re-press. They aren’t particularly rare or valuable, being on major labels and released with massive attention and hype and re-pressed endlessly, but collecting them was a big deal to me when I was a kid and I’m glad I still have them. Which I probably wouldn’t now, if they had been valuable enough to warrant selling somewhere along the forty year (!) timeline.
I still think they’re great. No doubt you can get all the Sex Pistols you’d ever need or want conveniently from the LP (which contains five of these songs and which is obviously great too.) But the singles is how I first experienced this music and it seems the proper way somehow. Plus the B sides are great great great.
It’s easy to adopt a jaded, been-there-done-that attitude towards this band. After all, it’s what the band itself appears to have wanted. The hype quickly became a bit tedious even at the time, in the course of a single Summer, even to a thirteen-year-old an ocean and a continent away. I’ve even been known to describe the Sex Pistols on occasion as “just another rock band.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and anyway it is absolutely correct, they were. But the main thing I get from listening now is how remarkable the music is for all that. It genuinely rocks and rolls. And I mean, it really, really rolls, in a way that few punk bands (and few enough rock and roll bands period indeed) have ever managed. And the fact that it is all done with a cynical declaration of the death of rock and roll itself and with a cavalier “we’re only in it for the money” sneer makes it all so much cooler.
The thing people always used to say was that they “couldn’t play their instruments” which was part of the cavalier nothing matters image, part of the branding. But it’s obviously untrue. There’s some documentary in which Iggy says, of the idea that the Sex Pistols weren’t good musicians: “they were ridiculously good.” Ridiculously good. They were. And I guess by “they” I mean mainly Cook and Jones, and Chris Thomas who engineered those sounds. (The voice was important too, but, as with Led Zeppelin — hah! — it’s the drums and guitar that mattered.) Just listen to “Did You No Wrong,” the “God Save the Queen” B side, and one of my top five or so favorite recordings of all time. That guitar figure is something like the platonic ideal of rock and roll guitar and the whole thing still explodes out of the speakers. Punk rock went far astray after this, but while it lasted it was dynamite. To my ears at the time, it really did sound like the end of something, as it purported to, like there was nowhere to go after that. Everything was just blown up and kicked to pieces. (I missed the traditional elements that made it work, mostly, though that’s all I hear now.)
In my book King Dork Approximately Tom Henderson the narrator says, of punk rock: they had to kill rock and roll to save it. And, of course, that’s what happened. Rock and roll was kept alive for at least another couple of decades, on life-support in the end; and punk rock, despite the premature disintegration documented here lasted even longer in a sense, in name at least, certainly far longer than the original cultural phenomenon it was meant to destroy and reform. Which is an irony to be sure. I know there’s cultural and political significance and what-not (thought to be so important that subsequent generations of “punks” rebuked the Sex Pistols bitterly for not “meaning it man.”) That stuff matters not at all to me. I can’t get over the rhythm and the sounds. The cutting, thick guitar. The snare. And the rolling, especially the rolling. It’s just so great, and I’ll never get tired of it. It doesn’t need to mean anything more than that.
—Youtube: “Did You No Wrong” ; “God Save the Queen” on the boat (they weren’t too cool to lip synch); “Anarchy in the UK”; “I Wanna Be Me”; “Satellite”; “Pretty Vacant” live in Winterland, ’78. (I was there!)
— original post on minds.
Getz/Gilberto — Getz/Gilberto — Verve Records — V6–8545–1964
Shifting gears briefly away from the rock and roll, because yesterday was one of those days where inner anguish needed soothing by some cool, cool sounds…
This is the record that introduced Bossa Nova and Brazilian music to USA pop culture in a big way, so it’s historically important, and it’s personally important to me as well, though it’s so, so easy to take it for granted. Tom Jobim, the composer and arranger of most of the material is a true genius, and that simple, relentless João Gilberto guitar driving the whole machine is still thrilling, as are the delicate, melancholy songs. The breathy, unpretentious vocals, from Gilberto and his soon-to-become-internationally-famous young wife Astrud, evoke a mood unlike anything else in popular music. And the rhythm section is a miracle of effective restraint. The bass playing from the uncredited Sebastião Neto, and above all the bass sound, is phenomenal. The status of this album as a pop/jazz classic is certainly deserved.
It wouldn’t have happened without Stan Getz, and certainly I’m grateful for that. Without him and this recording project and the smashing success of “Girl from Ipanema” I doubt a guy like me would ever have heard of Tom Jobim or bossa nova. However, for all that, I have to say, I tend to prefer the non-Getz versions of all of these songs, those that came before and after. That sax always feels like an intruder when it pops up. (And I don’t hate saxophones either — stay tuned for some sax posts in future, maybe.) In the context of this gorgeously understated music, it’s just a shade too aggressive. In the non-New York context, bossa nova tended to feature “softer” sounds for the woodwind role, flute usually, or other brass and wind instruments more integrated with the rhythmic backbone, not so “in your face.” Anyway, it tends to shatter the mood, which depends, at least for me, on the contemplative and the melancholic amid the cool, cool sounds, even though the cool, cool sounds obviously lend themselves to American jazz. The 1959 Gilberto album Chega De Saudade (which I’m still looking for an acceptable vinyl copy of) works out way better for me; and I’m in awe of the Tom Jobim oeuvre.
That said, I love this record even when I wince slightly through the sax. “Desafinado,” the anthem of the unconventional singer for whom heart is more important and meaningful than prowess is definitely the most beautiful and compelling song ever written concerning singers for whom heart is more important and meaningful than technical prowess, and for that alone I am pretty much contractually obligated to celebrate it. This album, at the time it was released, at the time I discovered it, and now retrospectively, is a window into a huge, fascinating, amazing, almost unbelievably cool world.
This copy is a stereo 1973 repress, per discogs.
— discogs entry.
— the wikipedia article for the album is fairly good.
— original post on minds :
Here are some posts on records and/or songs that I never posted on Vinyl Collector (because I didn’t possess, or no longer possessed, the physical records.
— James Taylor — “Knocking ‘round the Zoo”: As with Fleetwood Mac (as I’ve described recently) it took me a long, long time to come to terms with liking James Taylor. And as with FM, it was pure prejudice: as a kid I associated him with stuff I found insipid, distasteful, uncool. To me, James Taylor was a bunch of hairy parents in a hot tub passing around a joint talking about their mortgages or whatever. None of this was based on listening to any songs, like so many of such prejudices. I had this album in my collection for years and years before ever listening to it, probably because it was an Apple record, which made it worth hanging on to unheard, evidently. Then I put it on the turntable sarcastically on a lazy Sunday and was completely blown away.
And this is the track that did it:
Subsequently the LP seems to have disappeared. Or it has been misfiled. Or maybe the girl for whom I played it sarcastically that one Sunday confiscated it as break-up “alimony” (something that used to happen on occasion — that’s how I lost most of my Robyn Hitchcock and Black Sabbath records once upon a time.) So I guess I’m in the market again.
— Jerry Lewis with Les Brown and His Band of Renown — “We’ve Got a World that Swings”
I have loved this song for almost as long as I’ve been aware of songs, since I saw The Nutty Professor on TV as… well I don’t know how old I was, but not very. This is, as far as I know, an original song composed for the film by Jerry Lewis’s frequent collaborator Louis Yule Brown (lyrics by Lil Mattis) and performed by Jerry as the chemically enhanced Buddy Love at the college senior prom, backed by Les Brown and His Band of Renown. (No relation, apparently. For years I thought Les Brown had written the song because of that credit. Also: college proms, they were once a thing, apparently.)
It’s a great film. And this is a great performance of a tremendous, extremely succinct and well-composed song. The sentiment (if we have each other, nothing else matters all that much) is of course time-honored and the subject of many a song since the beginning of songs; the details of every day drudgery, and the unexpected “political” stuff that pops up in the bridge, are well chosen and just barely limned, a triumph of effective lyrical minimalism.
I do a version of this song myself. I’ve sung and played it at one wedding, believe it or not, and I do a little jazzy instrumental version, fingerpicked melody with chords, on the couch, to the cat, fairly frequently. There’s one bit I can’t figure out though, and it has driven me nuts for decades. It’s in the second bridge, the part that goes with the lyrics “I’d like to take you through this wild, wonderful venture, fly like a kite through space”: I just can’t figure out the chords for those few measures before it resolves back to (some kind of) slid-down-into B7 on “no strings.” It doesn’t sound that difficult, but when I sit down to play it it just doesn’t happen for some reason. I have some kind of “block,” I think. It kind of almost sounds like a momentary key change, but it very quickly migrates back to the original key. (I do it in D.) I just fake it with jazzy chords in that spot, usually some kind of A minor and derivatives, but it’s all wrong and it throws the whole thing off.
Internet “tabs” have been no help at all (as usual.) The Mel Tormé version on which they are all based just leaves that part out. (And he puts in bits of “I Got the World on String” and Irving Berlin’s “I Got Sun in the Morning” instead: which is cute, and kind of apt, but it doesn’t help me with “I’d like to take you through this wild, wonderful venture…”) The They Might Be Giants cover (which I don’t care for, particularly) just fudges it the same sort of way I do. Anyone who can figure it out and lets me know, I’d be grateful. (I’ve asked this before on the internet, with no success, though.)
— Mama Cass — “Jane the Insane Dog Lady”
This tune from Cass Elliot’s first post-Mamas and the Papas solo album, written and produced by John Simon, is one of my favorite songs. I cannot defend this sentiment beyond a reasonable doubt, or indeed explain why per se, but if you know me at all generally it probably won’t surprise you. It doesn’t surprise me. There was a time when major labels and major superstars put songs like this on their major albums. This time was 1968. It paints a picture. Anyway, I like it.