Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's time to taste what you most fear (Dead Kennedys) #97

Dead Kennedys Holiday In Cambodia/ Police Truck (Cherry Red Records, Cherry 13, 1980)

Appropriately, the next single after The Damned's New Rose is a punk single from the US.

The Dead Kennedys are fronted by the charismatic nutcase who is Jello Biafra (real name Eric Reed Boucher). The other members of this rocking beat combo on the single are East Bay Ray on guitars, Klaus Flouride on bass, and...Bruce Slesinger on drums. Bit anti-climactic that last name - you'd have thought he'd come up with something to rival Rat Scabies of The Damned, but no - it's Bruce!

Amazingly, the band were formed in the city of peace and love - San Francisco. A great city - it's hard to see why a band playing hardcore punk would be distilled from the vibe of SF but there you go. a great song with a great message and a great driving momentum thanks to Klaus on bass and Jello's idiosyncratic and passionate vocal delivery.

All up, it's rather like Motorhead's Ace Of Spades - a hardcore song that somehow touched the general public's imagination without any sign of compromise.

Hidden gem: The B side is a similar slice of rock'n'roll vitriol - this time directed at lazy violent police people as in the famous LAPD Rodney King incident. Jello spits out the lyrics (literally). Gotta love the energy!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Is she really going out with him? (The Damned) #96

The Damned New Rose/ Help (Skydog Records, DAM 001, 1976)

This was the first single issued in the UK by The Damned and also the first punk single as well - before The Sex Pistols could get their act together with Anarchy In The UK.

My copy came from France - I ordered it from a UK mail order company in 1977 and it duly arrived. I was certainly not a punk in any way shape or form but I responded to the energy I was reading about in Sounds magazine at the time and fired off my order.

It's a great single - the A side is a perfect do-it-yourself stab at guitar based rock and roll noise. What I also love about it is that it's a love song - not a song about hate and anarchy and boredom.

Hidden gem: The B side is actually why I bought the single in the first place. The lure of a punk band doing a Beatle cover must have appealed to John Lennon as well. I'm sure he would have loved this version. His original cry from the heart is embellished by The Damned's breakneck pace. Their version lasts for 1 minute and change and feels shorter!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

August wastrels (Dance Exponents) #95

Dance Exponents If Only I Could Die (And Love You Still)Worldwide Wireless (Zulu Records, Z 003, 1986)

Before they were The Exponents they were The Dance Exponents. In NZ, they were a great singles band with hit after hit, starting with the wonderful Victoria.

Those early hits were for, the most part, rooted in the prevalent eighties sound though. Things changed with this single (it's the only one I own - as the boys morphed into an album band with Something Beginning With C).

If Only... is a proper rock song and a great slice of energy. I was immediately won over by the video at the time. Jordan Luck has great presence as a front man, as well as being a great lead vocal, and the band strike all the right rock poses.

Hidden gem: The B side appeared, like the A side, as a track on their Amplifier album. It's nothing special in the Dance Exponents universe, although it's instantly recognisable as their sound. It's a B side sure, and an okay album track.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What is that thing on my radio? (Sonny Curtis) # 94

Sonny Curtis A Beatle I Want To BeSo Used To Loving You (Colpix Records, D 1024, 1964)

This is a really weird one.

Sonny (his real name) is not a name everyone knows but rock fans know his songs and viewers of the Mary Tyler Moore Show (my dad's favourite) know his theme song Love Is All Around. And fans of Buddy Holly know he was a friend and a band mate at one time and that he joined The Crickets after Buddy Holly's tragic death.

Yes Sonny is responsible for writing the wonderful I Fought The Law (I love the Clash version as well as Bobby Fuller's) and other hits like Walk Right Back (a hit for the Everlys).

In 1964 he put out this effort - an early cash in on the Beatle invasion. I'm sure Holly fans John Lennon and Paul McCartney knew of Sonny's links to their hero. Nice that Sonny could get in on the act in this way.

It's a fun little ditty - jaunty and good humoured and not too patronising. Given it was 1964 Sonny can be safely called a pioneer as well as bandwagon hopper.

Hidden gem: The B side is a cross over pop country weepie (Curtis was to have an increasing career in the country charts) which has nothing very wonderful about it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

It's not far to never-never land (Christopher Cross) # 93

Christopher Cross SailingPoor Shirley (Warner Bros, WBS 49507, 1980)

Do you remember Chris Cross (not his real name obviously - no parent is that cruel)? He was huge back in the day - basically December 1979 to 1981, and basically one album (his first) did all the business. After that it was all downhill and nothing he released subsequently did anywhere near the volume that the debut did.

Sailing is a track off that mega seller and  it is very representative of the glossy LA session sound that exists on that album.

Here is a partial list of the crème de la crème musicians who feature on the album:
  • Larry Carlton - guitar
  • Valerie Carter - vocals, background vocals
  • Christopher Cross - guitar, vocals 
  • Chuck Findley - trumpet
  • Don Henley - vocals, background vocals
  • Jim Horn - saxophone
  • Nicolette Larson - vocals, background vocals
  • Michael McDonald - vocals, background vocals
  • Michael Omartian - synthesizer, keyboards, vocals, background vocals
  • J.D. Souther - vocals, background vocals

  • Slick and glossy all the way.

    How an unknown could gather all of those stars behind him is beyond me.

    Hidden gem: The B side is another track from the debut. It's a bit forgettable. I had to play the B side to remember the toon. So not hidden or even a gem then.

    Friday, October 11, 2013

    I'm just about to lose my mind honey honey (Creedence Clearwater Revival) # 92

    Creedence Clearwater Revival I Heard It Through The GrapevineGood Golly Miss Molly (Fantasy, K6270, 1975)

    John Fogarty is one of rock's finest writers (Fortunate Son, Bad Moon Rising, Proud Mary, Green River et al) so it's curious that this single is made up of two cover versions.

    It was released by Fantasy to tie in with compilations - Creedence Gold and More Creedence Gold. I actually don't have a problem with all the Creedence Clearwater Revival compilations out there coz they were a terrific singles band. They are a bit like The 'Oo in that regard. Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy is a superb compilation but it only scratches the surface of Townshend's brilliance. Similarly the Creedence compilations are great but beyond the singles there lurked another version; just have a listen to Green River, my favourite album of theirs.

    Their version of the Whitfield-Strong song settles into a great groove and tries for something different to the Motown Records originals. Marvin Gaye had the hit but Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight had previous versions as well in the sixties. Length for one thing - their version on Cosmo's Factory was around eleven minutes long, this edited single version clocks in at a modest 3:58.

    Hidden gem: The A side is sedate in comparison to the rave up version of the Little Richard rocker. It's a perfect fit for John Fogarty's shredded vocal style.

    Tuesday, October 8, 2013

    Hooray, up she rises (Country Joe McDonald) # 91

    Country Joe Mcdonald Save The Whales!Oh, Jamaica (Fantasy, K6355, 1975)

    Country Joe had an interesting career as a solo performer after the split with the Fish. Interesting is an interesting word. It is a weasel word in some senses - his career wobbled and finally collapsed (in terms of commercial potential and critical acclaim - he's still alive and well and putting out albums) under the weight of all the increased activism after his turn at Woodstock.

    His album Goodbye Blues (which I like a lot, bear in mind) is a lot like Lennon's Sometime In New York City - a potpourri of good causes but when all lumped together it comes across a little like rent-a-cause.

    Still - you can't help admire the energy and the good intention that Joe puts into songs like Save The Whales.

    Hidden gem: The B side comes from a previous album - Paradise With An Ocean View and it's a curious choice for a B side. It's a cod reggae paean to er...Jamaica and Jamaican weed (mon). Ho hum!