Text © Robert Barry Francos
Images from the Internet
This was another tape made for some long drives I was making at the time. As always, I have tried to find the original release of the song as it appears on the tape, and if that’s not possible, a live version. However, much of the music I listen to is indie stuff, so it’s kind of hard to find.
Oh, and FYI, I strong resent and hate the new ads that are popping up on video sites like Vevo and YouTube.
Cadallaca – The Trouble with Public Places
Closely associated with Sleater-Kinney, this Cali trio has a great alt-indie sound that’s sharp, in both intelligence and beat. The live version of the song below (mine is off the studio CD EP) is hard to make out, but it tells of being pestered by some drunk (or druggie) while waiting for a band to show up, leaving the question of whether go home to get away from this tool and miss the band, or stay and be annoyed. I loved this song from the first time I heard it, and still do. Best cut on the EP.
Mike Brown and the Sneakies – Fuck You
While the whole CD is great rock’n’roll in a bar/garage format, this song is a killer. It starts off with a callous phone message from the girlfriend telling the singer she’s leaving him, while bragging she’s been “lying and cheating…so, fuck off.” This song is the response, and it’s so well written, with lines like “Fuck you and your suicide sidekick / Fuck you as you both spiral down / I’m through with the lies and the bullshit / I won’t be there when you both hit the ground.” There’s a very catchy chorus that has to go through the mind during a break-up after the listener has heard it.
Syd Straw – Think Too Hard
Syd was in the Golden Palominos, among other collectives, and has a great rock-meets-country sound. Surprise, the album this cut is taken from, though, is solid pop (with a country flair). Lots of pounding rhythm, gloss studio work, and I think a weakening of a great sound. That being said, there are a couple of really good cuts on it, including the Michael Stipe joined “Future Forties”, and especially this one. It’s a foot pounder, for sure, and manages to show Syd’s unique range. Sadly, I couldn’t find the video that goes with it, which is directed by Diane Keaton, of all people (who also did her “FF”) .
Mystic Eyes – Turn and Kiss Me Goodbye
There are a number of compilations that feature the Mystic Eyes, and this is one that made it onto the Lonely Planet Boy comp, but not either of their (excellent) albums. This tune's a rip roarin’ number, with Bernie Kugel getting’ all in your face, with a scream of “We’re the Mystic Eaaayyyeeeeezzzz.” As with most of Bernie’s songs, there are a couple of amazingly great written lines, one such as in this case “I see your face / I see your eyes / The genius things / That only I surmise.” And, as is usual with a BernieTune, it has a melody line that is both sing-a-long, and a pleaser. When is someone going to do a tribute album of his songs, already? I mean, the Cynics did a wicked cover of his “Girl, You’re on My Mind,” and the Dark Marbles have already covered “Walk Around the World.” There is just so much more that needs to be heard. (RIP Eric)
Molly and the Haymakers – Jimmy McCarthy’s Truck
Solid country, this is another rave-up. I found this CD at Sounds (St. Mark’s Place) for $2.99 a while ago, and keep coming back to this song about first love. She states, “Jimmy and I, you know that we were tight / In that cabin we learned about the night / My mama said, ‘What do nice girls do / ‘Til 25 to 2?’ / We were riding around in Jimmy McCarthy truck.” There’s a couple of lines I’d love to excise from the song where she states that growing old “becomes a growing fear,” which brings down the mood just a bit. Still, every time I hear this song, I’m happy.
California Speedbag – Shitlist
Off a compilation collection called Pies and Ears, this is one of the great punk country “I kilt my wife” songs. Takes a long time to get to its point, with a slow pounding melody, and then Gary Lupico’s creaky vocals come in, to a song that never lets up. The protagonist, in prison, wonders, “Am I on your shitlist Jesus / I know I’m no saint / They tell me that I’m worthless / Jesus tell me that I ain’t.” He further explains, “I never would have loved her / If I know’d she walked the line / And I never woulda shot her / If I know’d I’d do the time.” His voice sounds like he really has had a rough and tumble, hardscrabble life (RIP Gary).
Melanie – Almost Like Being in Love
I heard this as a bonus track on the CD release off the Melanie album. She takes the tune from Brigadoon and makes into something completely else, using dissonant notes and a sweeping melody (rather than the original hokey love ballad). With harmonious backup singers, she shows that she wasn’t just some hippie singer, but a well-rounded, talented New York musician. Though I’ve seen her in concert a few times, I regret that I didn’t get to meet her when she was recording in a studio while I was working in the office (early ‘80s); didn’t know she was there until after she left. The live video below is pretty close to the studio version on my tape.
Life Underwater – Lead Me On
Author/musician/poet JD Glass and Shane Salek are the core of Life Underwater. This live cut is one of LU’s strongest cuts, though all of them are well written and played. They’re sort of a cross between rock and singer-songwriter, depending on the line-up at any particular time. LU have a new name now: The Charm Alarm, and I’m looking forward to hearing more of their tunes.
Read an interview I did with lead singer JD here (Part I; see list on right side of page for link to Part II: ffanzeen.blogspot.com/2007/12/co-interview-with-writer-musician-jd.html).
Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom – The Party Starts Now
When rhythm guitarist Top Ten left the Dictators, they broke up, but they couldn’t stay apart (yet). Handsome Dick Manitoba, Andy Shernoff and Ross the Boss (along with a new drummer) reformed into essentially a leaner, meaner Dictators. This song is a kick-ass rocker that equaled the ‘Tator’s material. The video is kinda cheesy in a rock-chick filled mess, but the song holds up. Yankees lovin’ HDM’s gum-chewing is a more funny than distracting, but the only sad thing about this song is more people know this video than any of the Dictators canon. Perhaps it’s the women wearing sports gear? Not sure, but this is solid fun anyway.
Slickee Boys – Going All the Way / Glendora
The Slickee Boys were one of those bands who deserved to get a lot further than then did, whether Martha Hull is singing with them or not. Mark Noone’s vocals are great on these songs, and Kim Kane (the tall thin guy) has such a great presence. The medley of these two songs are so good, that I had to add in another song that I love as much as the one’s here (I’ve seen them live a couple of times, once at CBGBs, and they are an amazing live band). “GAtW” has a strong driving melody and rhythm, and “G” is a hilarious cover (once sang by Perry Como, though the SB’s take is closer to the underrated Downliners Sect’s version). See two early renderings of this song after the blog) about falling in love with… naw, I won’t give it away.
Bonus Video, just because it is so good:
Barbara Manning – Smiling
I only have one album by Manning, and it’s really decent lo-fi, high kitsch, in a way that twee artists like Adam Green have been trying to reach for years. Her voice is vague on melody, but so full of richness, it doesn’t matter. Just very simple and easy. (Note that I may have the name of the song wrong!)
Media Ecology Unplugged – Hands of Captain Ludd
MEU is acoustic songwriters John McDaid (taking lead here) and Bill Bly, who tend to sing, both directly and indirectly, about culture, technology, and politics. For example, “HoCL” is about the Luddites failed violent revolt against the rise of the industrial revolution. This dissonant chorded (hence tense) piece tells not only the story of one of Ludd’s followers, but a technological history of how machines have been used as a means of control (“When the Roman Empire fell the Church used the bell for a hell of a devious scheme / To summon their flock they invented the clock, they made time with their new machine”). MEU have songs that are hysterically funny and deadly serious. You can download all their songs free here: www.infomonger.com/meunplug/
The Cramps – Garbageman
“You ain’t no punk you punk!” starts off one of the great songs of the Cramps that came in their important transition period, between voodoobilly and garage-billy (i.e., post-“The Way I Walk” and pre-“Goo-Goo-Muck”), when they were arguably at their strongest. There are lots of driving rhythms and wild guitarwork around this drug seller tale, but it’s the great bon mots that come out of it that helps make this such a great take-away: “If you can’t dig me you can’t dig nothin’” Lux spits out. With fevered pitch, he repeatedly asks, “Do you understand?” The video was shot in less than an hour, and looks as good as many of the MTV-level ones from the period. (RIP Lux; RIP Bryan)
Joey Ramone – Stop Thinkin’ About It
Joey’s one and only solo album was full of songs of hope and promise, as he was battling the cancer that claimed him. “Nuthin’ lasts forever, and nothin’ stays the same,” Joey looks positively ahead. The song is slick without being overly so, in a non-Top-Ten kinda way; he certainly didn’t embarrass himself like the “Funky Guy.” Joey could have had a long career as a lone act, more so than the other bruthas, but was tragically cut short, just like the other bruthas. (RIP Joey)
Mary Lou Lord – Lights are Changing
MLL opened her 1995 EP with this Bevis Frond tune (backed up Juliana Hatfield). It sounds almost out of place with the rest of the release, with its high production value (the rest on the EP is simply her voice and guitar). That being said, the whole thing is amazing and I can listen to all the songs straight through (except the last cut, a cover of “Speedy Motorcycle,” a song I never cared for whoever did it). The video is a different version from a EP release, but it holds up as a great song nonetheless, using imagery of her history of subway busking in Boston. MLL is another who deserves a bigger shot (read my interview with her here: ffanzeen.blogspot.com/2008/10/mary-lou-lord-who-is-mary-lou-lord.html)
The Murmurs – You Suck
The Murmurs have a phenomenal and dedicated (mostly female) following. This song is just one of the reasons. From their sophomore release (before they became more rock based and then changed their name, eventually broke up both the band and their relationship). This song is one of their strongest, and one of two videos that were made off this album (the other is “Bad Mood”). People who have seen the video know it for the chorus “Right now there’s dust on my guitar you fuck / And it’s all your fault / You paralyze my mind / And for that you suck.” But there’s also redemption in the song that’s no less clear than in “I Will Survive.” The harmonies are sweet, the melody is memorable, and the tension just builds beautifully. I haven’t seen a video where the “f” word isn’t cut out, so here you go.
Transparent – Anything (In 3)
In the heady Punk Temple days in Bensonhurst during the early 2000s, I saw Transparent play. They were one of the first bands to give me their (4-song) CD to review. From Providence, RI, the band had (I’m using past tense assuming they are not a viable as a unit as their Web site doesn’t exist) a strong sound. This particular song, which stood out during their live show as well, is a great grinding punk piece, with singer Keith Allen yelling out on the chorus, “And I would do anything / Just to keep you satisfied.” Pure romantic angst at its finest. Some bands may not last long, but they have the potential of releasing some excellent sounds, such as this one. Other members were Adam Riley (guitar), John Farley (rhythm guitar), Sweet Chris (bass), and Rich Bocchini (drums).
She Wolves – Hundred Bucks
There are different versions of this song by varied line-ups of this band (though two of the three have remained the same), all of which are worth a listen, but this one from the first EP is my favorite. Solid Ramones-influenced metal gnashing with Donna She Wolf screaming out “All I fuckin’ need now / Is a hundred bucks / it’s not for drugs!” The music is solid drive. This tune is short, simple, and relentless. Newer versions are more Ramones-metal than Ramones-punk, but it’s still just killer stuff. Check out the She Wolves’ (so far) masterpiece full sludge-crunch-metal CD, 13 Deadly Sins. While this type metal is not a genre I commonly listen to, the She Wolves are so amazing that it is one of the bands I truly miss being away from NYC. Big hugs Donna and Tony (and whoever is playing bass now).
shewolves.com (though their MySpace page seems to be more up-to-date).
John Otway – Beware of the Flowers Cos I’m Sure They’re Gonna Get You (Yeah)
John Otway is one of those guys who either you’ve never heard of or you just like. There is an amazing greatest hits collection that I listen to all the time. From the first time I heard him in the late ‘70s (when he had long hair) and had the opportunity to not only see him play a couple of times, not to mention interview him for my fanzine – thank you Janis Schacht - I knew he was worth a listen. He reminds me of a British Willie Alexander, but more in a more rock vein. Along with then-partner Wild Willy Barrett, he would tour around and just smash away, but with imaginative tunes and lyrics that were, well, John Otway written as only Otway could. Whether he’s writing about “Louisa on a Horse” (a song produced by Pete Townsend) or “God’s Camera,” he takes simple concepts and blows them up into a sing-along melody and words. There are so many wonderful songs he’s written or covered and made his own. And so, this is the big one, proper.
Morphine – You Look Like Rain
Actually, I find most of Morphine’s output to be pretentious and boring, but I really do like this song. It’s almost growled and could have been easily turned into a leer, but it’s more about desire than lust, and that’s to the singer Mark Sandman’s compliment. Morphine were trying to reinvent rock’n’roll, but ended up being some cross between rock and jazz, and, in my opinion, failed at both. But even artists who do not interest me in general may have a cut that I will enjoy. I’m usually open to find some nuggets. (RIP Mark)
Planet Smashers – Fabricated
Message to Gwen Stefani: this is ska, not the crap you produce (or ever had). Okay, the Planet Smashers are a ska band from Toronto, and from the first listen, it was solid Madness / Specials / Bad Manners, but even faster. As a student of Media Ecology, “Fabricated” spoke to that side of technopoly that Neil Postman and Jacques Ellul posited. The chorus states, “We are fabricated / we are regulated / We will fight to control the truth.” I don’t have much more to say about this, except give it a listen.
Waldos – Sorry
Do I really need to explain about Walter Lure? Is there anyone who reads this that needs more info on him? Well other than checking out the interview on this blog (ffanzeen.blogspot.com/2009/10/walter-lure-on-gross-state-of-art-part_27.html: the second part is on the same day in the blog). The Waldos still exist, and their Rent Party album is as fine piece of work all the way around as the Heartbreakers. In the song, Waldo kicks out a groupie who was expecting more (“Next thing that I know you’re making eggs and cheese / Next thing that I know you want to live with me / I gotta go, what can I say / Sorry you took it that way”). As with most of the cuts on the CD, this one is guitar-driven and chain-saw revs. The video is a more recent live version. (RIP Tony; RIP Richie)
Washington Squares – D Train
Made up of an ex-New Wavers (Lauren Agnelli of Nervus Rex) and two ex-punkers (Tom Goodkind of U.S. Ape; Bruce Jay Paskow of the Invaders), the WS developed a beatnik look of wearing black (or black and white horizontal stripes), including sunglasses and turtlenecks, and sang both modern and traditional folk, but they did it with a sense of both respect and irony, playing the Civil Rights edge as a response to Reganomics. About half their songs were covers, the others original (all three contributed). This one touched a nerve, not just because it’s a rave-up. At the time, my pal Alan lived on the D line, so he could relate. Ironically, after some major subway construction, the D train was rerouted in Brooklyn (replacing the B) and became my train. But the song isn’t really about the subway, it’s about being stuck in a mundane job. Other WS videos are available, but not this one. (RIP Bruce)
Linda Ronstadt – Close Your Eyes
As I’ve stated before (much to the chagrin of a reader), Linda’s country period of the early-to-mid-‘70s was her strongest (before she started trying to be more pop with covers of Buddy Holly and Motown). This James Taylor song is a strong example of why I believe that. It’s smoky and sensual, definitely Linda at her best.
Gotta go find it as embedding not permitted by these corporate suits: youtube.com/watch?v=5UVBXOCd_fc
Mystic Eyes – I Thought I Saw a Tear
Mystic Eyes – Share
I was relistening to their Our Time to Leave album when I was making this tape, and as I love these songs (actually, I like all the of the material on it), I added them on. “ITISAT” is typical Kugel pop; in other words, a marvel of songwriting, in this case fueled by Scott Davison’s rapid-fire drumming. But with “S,” bassist Craig Davison takes charge, writing / singing / playing just about everything in his then-home basement studio, proving that he is a Renaissance man with this strong kiss-off tune that has a hint of pathos (“Go to your cross-town love / You are now his alone / You’d rather share your love / Than to be mine alone”). Oh, and check out Craig’s blog at who-really-cares-anyway.blogspot.com (link is also on the right of his page).
Mason Williams – Classical Gas
This is one of my favorite instrumentals, period. I own a large collection of his works (both music and print), and the album this comes from, The Mason Williams Photograph Record, is one of my favorite records of all time (along with The Mason Williams Ear Show and Music). “Classical Gas” had a resurgence when it was used as the theme to the Bruce Willis / Michelle Pfeiffer ’99 film The Story of Us (redone by Eric Clapton; youtube.com/watch?v=bX9wE6TA80Q&feature=related), but I’ve been listening to it all along. This is a guitarist’s dream piece, and I’ve heard it played excellently by the likes of Glen Campbell (youtube.com/watch?v=YX6kCqgBffY) , Chet Atkins (youtube.com/watch?v=DRtvALWlKK4&feature=related), and Jim Stafford (youtube.com/watch?v=xdWXo-mMjZk). The video is a live version, but has the integrity.