Try To Get Some Sleep

Coincidence or not, I began buying less music and making fewer tapes in the months after meeting my future wife in 1995 (and if it’s not coincidence, I’d do it all over again, dear). Besides, I was in my early 30s–maybe I was already getting a little long in the tooth for the alternative scene?

1995 was the last year I made mix tapes, too. It’s been a little while since I took a look at a tape, so let’s queue up one of my last gasps at the art form:

Weezer, “My Name Is Jonas”
Not long before I started this blog, I did a short Facebook series on my five favorite Weezer tunes (not that I have an extensive knowledge of their body of work). “My Name Is Jonas” clocked in at #4; if you must know, “The Good Life” was #1.

That Blue Album is a mighty sweet disk, you know?

Sugar, “A Good Idea”
I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea to include a song about a dude drowning his girlfriend (I hadn’t paid any attention to the lyrics, no doubt–had just dug the sound). I’m going with the notion that it is a good idea not to link to the vid, though.

The Darling Buds, “Burst”
A #50 hit in the UK toward the end of 1988. It’s track two on Pop Said…, and was perhaps the first indication that the Buds were going to be of great appeal to yours truly.

Adam Schmitt, “Illiterature”
Title song from Schmitt’s second album, which came out in late summer of 1993. Even if it’s louder, darker, and not nearly so winsome as World So Bright, Illiterature definitely has its moments. I think this is one of three songs from it that graced mix tapes; I really love its energy.

Madder Rose, “Car Song”
One of those cases where you buy a CD based on that song you heard on the radio. There are elements of the grunge sound that I like moderately well, like the extra guitar crunch that comes after being fairly quiet, as we get here on the refrain (the female vocals of Mary Lorson are another attractive element). Completely unrelated to the tune of the same name that came later from Elastica. I should go back and give Panic On another listen or two.

The Cocteau Twins, “The Itchy Glowbo Glow”
“Carolyn’s Fingers” was the song that reeled me into the world of the Cocteau Twins, but these days I think this dreamy thing just might be the best cut on Blue Bell Knoll. I want it to go on and on, as it takes me to some other place that I just don’t want to leave.

Lush, “Undertow”
Emma Anderson wrote the majority of the tracks on 1994’s Split, but it’s Miki Berenyi’s contributions, particularly “Kiss Chase,” “Hypocrite,” and “Undertow,” that stand out to me.

The Call, “The Walls Came Down”
Our first of three trips back to my college days on this tape. I’m forever grateful to Warren for tuning me into these guys. Michael Been looks so young here…

Danielle Brisebois, “What If God Fell from the Sky”
Yes, it’s Stephanie from late-era All in the Family, all grown up and doing that mid-90s music thing. She co-wrote this with Gregg Alexander of recently-reconstituted New Radicals fame (Brisebois was a member of the band, too). I’ve not researched it, but I’ve long wondered if this song was based on personal experience.

Matthew Sweet, “We’re the Same”
100% Fun is my favorite Matthew Sweet album–it’s just solid from end to end. “We’re the Same” was the second single. I must say I’m not convinced of the musical prowess of the band in the video.

Buffalo Tom, “Taillights Fade”
I’ve written about “Taillights Fade” before, and how it reminds me of my first weeks on the job here at Georgetown. I can’t explain how and why it speaks to me, but it sure does.

Blur, “Boys and Girls”
This didn’t sound anything like the Madchester-ish “There’s No Other Way,” their previous hit. (The same applies to “Song 2”–woo-hoo!) Completely loopy, but I still like it.

I was today years old when I learned that Damon Albern inserted a line of German right before “But we haven’t been introduced” (Du bist sehr schön–my wife tells me that’s “You’re very pretty”). I’d always heard it as “Deep obsession,” which I guess makes some sense, too.

Scandal, “Goodbye to You”
I’m strongly inclined to say that mid-1982 to mid-1983 (I’ll leave the exact endpoints vague for now) is now my favorite twelve-month period of 80s music. I think it’s the mainstreaming of new wave sensibilities, morphing into the second British Invasion, that makes the period shine. “Goodbye to You” is a prime example of what makes me think fondly of it all.

Marshall Crenshaw, “Let Her Dance”
And we close out the first half with Marshall doing Bobby Fuller up nicely. I couldn’t not link to this silly but nonetheless cute video set to it. I want to believe these three are siblings, but the height differential between the guy and the twins makes me dubious…

Back with side two soon.

Stereo Review In Review: February 1983

This was SR’s 25th anniversary issue. The monthly column from Editor-in-Chief William Livingstone traces changes in the magazine’s name (originally HiFi & Music Review, soon HiFi/Stereo Review, it finally shortened to simply Stereo Review in November 1969). He also anticipates the 50th anniversary issue in 2008; alas, just sixteen years later SR morphed into Sound & Vision.

2008: A Sonic Odyssey, by Alan Lofft
Speaking of looks twenty-five years into the future, Lofft chats with some folks in the A/V development biz to get their takes on the evolution of how we will consume media. The opening quote, from an assistant GM at Matsushita, is a doozy: “We’ll have a small digital player with no moving parts and little plug-in memory modules, each with several hours of music stored in solid-state memory circuits. You could take the module in to a record dealer who would slip the cartridge into a machine, punch a code into the console, and thirty seconds later hand it back to you. You’d pay your bill and away you’d go. Furthermore, the original musical information would not be in the retail outlet; it would likely be down-linked by satellite from a central data bank.”

There are also quotes from execs on the Compact Disc (“At this point, it’s at least 50 per cent more expensive than a conventional disc…While it certainly has some advantages, it’s not clear to us in the industry that the large population of record buyers will necessarily see them.”) and HDTV (“Talk of HDTV seems to suggest that the present standard can’t permit a really good picture, and that is absolutely wrong. I bristle at the attention given HDTV when one is comparing it with what is a poor use of the current standard.”) Sounds like there’s some turf protection being attempted here…

If it’s a February issue, it must be time for SR’s:

Records of the Year
Cats (Original London Cast)
Marshall Crenshaw, S/T
Lena Horne, The Lady and Her Music
Wynton Marsalis, S/T
The Police, Ghost in the Machine
Richard and Linda Thompson, Shoot Out the Lights


Honorable Mentions
Gary U.S. Bonds, On the Line
Aretha Franklin, Jump To It
The Griffith Park Collection, S/T
Billy Joel, The Nylon Curtain
Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Wise Guy
King Crimson, Beat
Cleo Laine and Dudley Moore, Smilin’ Through
Susannah McCorkle, The Music of Harry Warren
Merrily We Roll Along (Original Broadway Cast)
Mark Murphy, Bop for Kerouac
Dolly Parton, Heartbreak Express
Claudia Schmidt, Midwestern Heart
Sippie Wallace, Sippie

For almost the past decade, Stereo Review had also handed out a Certificate of Merit to a leading light in American music. This year’s award went to Eugene Ormandy.

Our reviewers are the usual suspects: Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

This is the penultimate appearance for Coppage, who’d actually passed away at the tender age of 44 in December 1982. I’ve found no mention of his untimely death in the SRs of early 1983; Alanna Nash simply took over his beat beginning with the April issue. Coppage is buried in his native Ohio County, Kentucky (which is neither near Ohio nor on the Ohio River; it is, however, adjacent to Muhlenberg County, home of the Everlys and a little mining town called Paradise). He’d spent his later years in New Hampshire; there’s a nice tribute to him in the January 1983 newsletter of the Monadnock Folklore Society.

Best of the Month
–The Roches, Keep On Doing (NC) “The Roches refer mainly to a world of their own creation; they are so far beyond borrowing that they’ve forgotten how.”
–Utopia, S/T (MP) “(The fifteen songs) run the gamut from head-bangers to tear-jerkers, and all sport hummable melodies, amusing lyrics, and smart arrangements.”

Featured Reviews
–Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge, Jazz Masterpieces and Roy Eldridge, The Early Years (CA) “Eldridge (on the former) continues to bear traces of Armstrong’s early influence, but he developed a highly individual style in the Thirties, a style that the young Dizzy Gillespie used to emulate with confusing perfection.”
–Peter Gabriel, Security (MP) “…ambitious, original, and profound. Fusing one of man’s oldest art forms, ritual drumming, with state-of-the-art electronics, Gabriel has transposed the elemental rhythms and spirit of native African music into a modern, technological context.”
–Lionel Richie, S/T (PG) “With so much clutter, noise, and outright foolishness in popular music these days, Lionel Richie’s album debut is an event, and the record itself is one to treasure and listen to again and again.”
–Linda Ronstadt, Get Closer (NC) “Ronstadt’s eclecticism this time is more quirky than trendy, but her voice is great.”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Daryl Hall and John Oates, H2O (SS) “I miss the exhilarating sense of artists hitting their stride that characterized their last two (LPs). Yet…even the throwaways are serenely well crafted.”
–Kool and the Gang, As One (PG) “Some records are bathed in such a happy spirit that listening to them is like taking a short, revitalizing vacation…If you can’t afford to travel, play this record instead.”
–Iggy Pop, Zombie Birdhouse (MP) “I guess you could call (this) Iggy Pop’s vision of the global village: not a world united by benevolent technology but a savage place where the first law is eat or be eaten and whose natives carry on their backs not baskets but TV sets.”
–Luther Vandross, Forever, For Always, For Love (PG) “All the elements blend with inconspicuous ease. Vandross suggests rather than shouts, making music that flows with a coolly sensual grace.”

–Monty Alexander, Ray Brown, and Herb Ellis, Triple Treat (CA) “…prepare yourself for a good taste of bubbly swing, some marvelous interplay, and a sound as rich and creamy as the three scoops of ice cream depicted on the cover.”
–Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society, Man Dance (CA) “But this is funk with substance, and if you have but an ounce of soul you will find it entrancing.”
–Tom Scott, Desire (PG) “(Scott) has had so much practice in mixing musical styles that it is no wonder he does it so well…this time around he has gone beyond gloss to produce a set that scintillates with lively tunes and gritty performances…”
–Jimmy Smith, Off the Top (CA) “No, this is Smith of the jazz man, surrounded by an elite group of his peers, swinging through an enduring no-charts session.”
–Spyro Gyra, Incognito (MP) “Neither visceral nor cerebral, Incognito…just glides effortlessly by on its spry, crafty melodies, surehanded arrangements, and flawless production. It covers a lot of musical terrain with maddening ease…”

Other Albums Reviewed
–Toni Basil, Word of Mouth (PR) “About a minute or so into this album…I got the feeling that (Basil’s) was a visual act. It would almost have to be, given the frantic convolutions of her vocal style.”
–Neil Diamond, Heartlight (NC) “There’s an interesting contrast here between how seriously Neil Diamond takes himself and how seriously the songs take anything.”
–Dire Straits, Love Over Gold (SS) “What’s worse, the man has clearly swallowed his rave reviews and now believes he has Something to Say…Knopfler’s guitar playing remains spectacular, but, given the hot air that surrounds it, it’s impossible to care.”
Fast Times At Ridgemont High soundtrack (SS) “…if this is the music that real kids actually listen to while they’re out raising hell, then we are probably nurturing a generation of accountants…It’s all inoffensive and utterly without quirks of any kind. Frankly, I’d rather play Pac-Man.”
–Jefferson Starship, Winds of Change (NC) “Most of the lyrics are the moon/June kind of thing Tin Pan Alley hacks were writing thirty years ago, and said hacks probably would have come up with better tunes.”
–David Lindley, Win This Record! (JV) “…the songs are a mixture of good times and a specialist’s whims. Too much of the album is given over to Caribbean rhythms and to Lindley’s own material, which is obscure, faintly paranoid, and dependent on the sexual slang of his circle of friends.”
–Diana Ross, Silk Electric (MP) “…another three-ring effort…that succeeds more often than it fails.”
–Steel Breeze, S/T (NC) “Most of these songs are all hook and no substance and rely heavily on synthesizers (you know how I feel about those), but these boys have still managed to fashion a catchy little sound of their own.”

Dad’s 45s, Part 9: Obscurities

While a substantial majority of the slabs in my father’s 45 stash are songs I know at least a little bit, there are several that are completely unfamiliar. I’d venture that a few are likely unknown to very many folks today, either. Here are four that didn’t come close to scoring big nationally–only one of them even sniffed the Hot 100. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to say, though.

Ralph Marterie and his Orchestra, “All That Oil in Texas”

Marterie was a big band conductor, born in Italy but living most of his life in the States. This is from 1954, so I can’t tell for certain that it didn’t chart, though I’m not finding it in any mentions of his band’s work. To my ears, the music isn’t that far off from what Bill Haley was doing.

Why is it here? I have a theory. My father’s maternal grandfather bought a plot of land not far from Lubbock, TX way long ago–probably in the latter years of the 19th century. It stayed in the family until maybe 15-20 years ago, split among around a dozen heirs. Oil companies drilled on it for several decades, to no avail. It wouldn’t surprise me if the title just happened to catch Dad’s eye in the record store one day.

Two other notes:
–the flip side is the band’s take on the March from Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges;
–the disk is notably heavier than the typical 45 made a few years later.

Jerry Lee Lewis, “Cold Cold Heart”

I’m not wholly certain that this cover of the Hank Williams classic is actually the A-side; Discogs lists the other song, “It Wouldn’t Happen with Me,” first more frequently. The latter has more of that Jerry Lee bravado you expect, comparing himself favorably to Elvis, Jackie Wilson, and Fabian, but I can understand why neither song charted.

While we were living in Stanford in the early 70s, Lewis made an appearance at a tiny theater in Crab Orchard, another small town tucked away in a corner of the county. Dad always regretted not driving down the road fifteen minutes to check out the Killer (Lewis receives mention in the linked article).

The Grandison Singers, “Little Liza”

There’s very little out there about the Grandison Singers. Depending on where you look, they’re either a trio or a quartet, originally a Black gospel group. This is the standard better known as “Little Liza Jane,” and it’s pretty rousing, decidedly informed by the group’s gospel roots (unfortunately, I can’t find anything from the Grandisons on YouTube). The flip is “Grandison Twist,” an attempt to cash in on the dance craze of the day (the single appears to be from 1962). It’s not bad at all, name-checking “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” and “Willie and the Hand Jive.” I want to know more about what happened to the folks in the group; based on this single, I’d like to hear more of their music, too.

Dr. Feelgood and the Interns, “Doctor Feel-Good”

Willie Lee Perryman was better known as Piano Red, with a career that began in the 30s; that linked Wikipedia page indicates he had a couple of songs make the national R&B charts in the 50s. Somewhere along the way Perryman also acquired the moniker Dr. Feelgood. He and his band reached #66 in June 1962 with this song, which one might consider to be in the vein of “Baby Got Back” (the opening lines are “Hey all of you women, now don’t come around unless you weigh around four hundred pounds”). As with the others featured today, I’m really curious how this wound up in Dad’s collection.

The B-side is the original recorded version of “Mr. Moonlight,” later covered by the Fab Four.

Modern Rock Tracks, 2/2/91

When I think of this point in time thirty years ago, just about the first thing that comes to mind is Operation Desert Storm, which officially began in mid-January and came to a close right as February did. The ground phase that ended it all was surprisingly short, just five days. On the last weekend of the month, I was in downtown Chicago, at a bridge tournament with Mark L when the announcement came over the PA that tanks were on the move. There was a lot of applause throughout the ballroom in response, though not at our table.

As for our first check-in with the nascent alternative scene for the year…while a number of these songs are awesome, I’m not feeling quite as much cumulative love this go-round as I have other times. We’ll look for things to get better later in the year, but we might as well take a peek.

28. Cocteau Twins, “Heaven or Las Vegas”
Songs are beginning to stay on the MRT chart longer on average–more and more frequently going forward, I’m getting to choose between two opportunities to write ’em up. This one was #21 back at the beginning of December and is now on the way down after a peak of #9.

27. The Pogues, “The Sunny Side of the Street”
Next time I’m in need of a pick-me-up, I may turn to this jaunty thing.

24. Inspiral Carpets, “This Is How It Feels”
I noted the silliness of the lyrics of “Commercial Rain” last time out, but the Carpets bounce back here with a thoughtful piece.

23. Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, “Fly Me Courageous”
I’d heard “Honeysuckle Blue” quite a bit on WPGU a couple of years earlier; they latched on to this one, too. Last March I’d made plans for a quick trip to the DC area to see 10K Maniacs with Greg and Katie, which obviously got postponed–these guys were scheduled to do a show in the area that weekend as well, though I doubt we would have gone.

18. The Charlatans UK, “White Shirt”
“Then” is sitting at #11 in its 15th week on, while this third single from Some Friendly is debuting.

14. Danielle Dax, “Tomorrow Never Knows”
What happens if you cover the Beatles using a Madchester backing track and female vocals? I believe it’s this.

13. The Darling Buds, “It Makes No Difference”
Two songs in a row produced by Stephen Street. A strong contender for my very favorite Buds tune. It’s close between this and #5 for best song on the chart.

12. Jellyfish, “That Is Why”
Saw Bellybutton featured at Record Service in Campustown for months on end, but never came close to pulling the trigger on a purchase. Please tell me how misguided I was. This is much better than “The King Is Half-Undressed,” which I passed over back in October.

10. They Eat Their Own, “Like a Drug”
Obscure band from LA that came and went very quickly. This is their one notable song, but it’s quite the song. I think I’ve got this CD somewhere still, no doubt courtesy of Greg.

9. The Mission UK, “Hands Across the Ocean”
These guys got their start after two of them left The Sisters of Mercy. Based on this song, I’d take them over SoM any day.

5. Lush, “Sweetness and Light”
This one slipped by me in real time–it’d take the release of “Nothing Natural” a year later for Lush to catch my attention. Started off as sort-of protegees of the Cocteau Twins but evolved a more rockin’ sound by the mid-90s, led by twin guitar attack of Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson. Their ascent was derailed by the suicide of drummer Chris Aclund in 1996; they broke up not long after. A Top 5 90s band in my head.

4. Happy Mondays, “Kinky Afro”
They get to the chorus and I’m suddenly having flashbacks to “Lady Marmalade.” Dig it, but it’s not quite at the level of “Step On.”

3. Jesus Jones, “Right Here, Right Now”
Sounds entirely of its time–about events of its time–yet somehow I don’t consider this a dated piece. Maybe it’s the infectious, unwarranted optimism…

2. Chris Isaak, “Wicked Game”
I think Isaak’s pretty good, and I’m definitely glad he made some coin off of this song, but there are plenty others of his I like better.

1. Sting, “All This Time”
Am I the only one who didn’t consider Sting an alternative/college rock artist by this point? I hear “We’ll Be Together” on SiriusXM’s 1st Wave, and it just sounds out of place. Ditto for this perfectly fine pop song.