Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Jackie DeShannon turned 65 today so I have to give a shout to my first pop star
crush. With that in mind, not that I need a reason, I've been humming "Be Good Baby", one of those of those fluffy confections she whipped up with Jack Nitzsche back in '65.
Have some cake, a great weekend, and be good.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Following a busy year that brought five top twenty singles as a recording artist and a number one and two as a writer, Neil Diamond decided to leave Bang Records for greener pastures and artistic freedom. What the world did to deserve this is still unclear but we do know that his first three singles for UNI, the wonderful Chip Taylor production "Brooklyn Roads", the also wonderful but not Chipped "Two-Bit Manchild", and the merely okay "Sunday Sun" got trapped in the bottom half of the Hot 100. The debut album that followed didn't help, saddled with the exploitative (and unintentionally funny) "The Pot Smoker's Song" and the schmaltz of "Knackleflerg" and the better tracks finding Neil stuck somewhere between folk pop and Jimmy Webb without the depth to match either. Then, in 1969, a divine plan sent Neil to Chips Moman's American Sound Studios in Memphis and that is how "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" ended up being a (Neil Diamond version of a) butt kicking record.
"Hot August night and the leaves hangin’ down and the grass on the ground smellin’ sweet" and a great church piano lick set the scene beautifully, with the bass providing just enough sin to draw you in and before you know it, you've packed up the babies and grabbed the old ladies and fans are attempting to cut through the heat of revelation. "Cherry, Cherry" it isn't yet the same energy is there and soul it ain't, but it's not quite anything else either. One thing is certain, it wouldn't have worked if it had been recorded anywhere else. Once again, the single mix, heavy with reverb, a bit of double tracked vocal, and a tambourine on the edge of a nervous breakdown blows the album mix away yet that mono mix still remains outside the digital domain.
Sticking with their preferred theme of persecution, southern evangelicals cried that they were being mocked - by a Jewish boy from Brooklyn no less. Neil's story has changed a bit over the years so who knows what the intention was but, if he started out as a non-believer, as he passed the three minute mark he had clearly been moved - just listen to that yelp!
Being a little ahead of the God/Jesus pop curve that was to come, it wasn't a smash hit - it just missed the top twenty - but it, and the album that shared its name, paved the way for a return to Memphis a few months later to lay down the iconic groove that became "Sweet Caroline". Sequined shirts below unfortunate hair would follow and "Cracklin' Rosie" aside, "The Jewish Elvis" would never be the same or as good*.
*I don't care if he was on "The Last Waltz" and I still say "Beautiful Noise" wasn't that good even though it was pretty good.
In an attempt to answer the musical question, what would Jesus chew, I offer up Teegarden and Van Winkle's "God, Love and Rock and Roll", a chunk of bubblegum from the stacks of 1970 when it had already become a cliche to point out that Jesus had long hair, too. When compared to tracks like "Spirit In The Sky" or "Oh, Happy Day" it comes up lacking but I clearly recall seeing some sort of light coming from its grooves way back then. Although, it may have been only a sugar high.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The one hit wonder label is as subjective as any other form of reality even if the historical facts found in the charts of Billboard - Cashbox, even - are to be noted. For the buckets of acts handed the title, I can usually agree with only a few cans and even then, someone else will usually be more than happy to kick that around. Songs like "Antartica", "I Got The Message" "Where Do The Boys Go" and "I Like" might not be familiar to everyone - and that last one charted - who loved or despised Men Without Hats' "The Safety Dance" but all three were hits of some sort, somewhere, and the kids of Charles Village and Mt. Vernon danced ourselves silly to them all between '82 and '84.
By 1987, they were laughing referred to as "Men Without Hits", if they were mentioned at all. But, the laugh was on them when, along with cold winter weather, came "Pop Goes The World", a summer single if there ever was one. The silly Zeus B. Held produced thing hit the top twenty with it's giddy fizz about everything and nothing that fuels the world and it was no surprise to most of us that the point (non point) was that we couldn't take it, or anything else, too seriously because "...every time I wonder if the world is right, I end up in some disco dancin all night".
I uncork this for the birthday girl who bubbled up along with me whenever it hit the turntable. Happy birthday, Squirrelfriend.
Friday, August 14, 2009
A quick check confirms that it's been almost three months since any song involving Paul Weller has been mentioned so, after a minutiae filled conversation regarding the various release formats of Style Council tracks with someone I didn't know at the time that the minutiae was being created, I offer up "You're The Best Thing". Keeping within the spirit of that conversation, I note that I'm not referring to the version that was on "Cafe Bleu" and/or "My Ever Changing Moods" and not the version issued as a single on Geffen in the US and not the UK seven inch "Groovin'" version. I'm referring to the long version of the single mix found on the UK twelve inch version of "Groovin'".
If you're looking for this version, go directly to Universal/Polydor/Chronicles 2003 20th Century Masters compilation, "The Millenium Collection: The Best of The Style Council". The liner notes will inform you that it contains the version found on TSC6, implying that it's the UK 7" edit. It's not.
Okay. Now, who wants to slow dance to one of the best things to ever happen?