Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Radio memories

Listening to some rather obscure songs from the 1980s (Freur's "Doot Doot," anyone?) this week reminded me of my favorite radio station. From April 1983 to June 1985, San Francisco boasted what many people (myself included) consider to be the greatest radio station of all time. The station could be found at 98.9 on the FM dial and effectively broke the alternative music trail in the Bay Area. I'm referring to "The Quake," of course. Bay Area radio fans probably remember The Quake as the home of irreverent morning man Alex Bennett, and certainly he provided many memorable moments. It was also home to music you just wouldn't hear anywhere else on commercial radio in those days, including the latest alternative offerings from Britain and Australia. The Quake's broadcast range carried farther than such college stations as KUSF and The Quake seemed to play a greater variety of alternative music.
On-air personalities such as Rob Francis, Paul "The Lobster" Wells, Big Rick Stuart and Jed the Fish introduced listeners to the hippest sounds, so that The Quake served a similar role to that of KROQ in Southern California.
Unfortunately, if you target the hippest strata of the radio listening audience, that leaves many more layers of listeners unattended and you probably won't be able to make much money on advertising. The Quake evolved into "The City," a rather bland "adult" station. Now, I think 98.9 broadcasts in Spanish. The Quake's role would be somewhat claimed by "Live 105" in 1986, and Live105 thrived under music director Steve Masters. However, Masters eventually left the station and commercial considerations led Live 105 into a more "rock-oriented" sound by the mid-1990s. For listeners of a certain age and musical sensibility, there has never been another Quake.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A night of the ol' ultraviolence

I stayed up late last night watching Stanley Kubrick's 1971 masterpiece "A Clockwork Orange" on DVD. To borrow a phrase from the hooligan droogs, it was quite horrorshow ("good"), while also functioning as a literal horror show of a future of unchecked violence.
A number of questions chilled me as I watched Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his chums gulp drug-laced milk before participating in yet another night of random violence: What if novelist Anthony Burgess' premise is not so far off? Violence and sex scenes have been wildly escalating on television and films since I was a kid. What if the next generation of kids or the generation after that finally becomes emotionally immune to all of this violence? Could we someday face a society where violence is as widespread as in "A Clockwork Orange?"
Some might say we are already there, I fear.
PS -- As a side note, while watching the film I caught two references that provided band names.
1) The droogs call milk "Moloko," a name taken by a Sheffield-based dance-pop duo ("Fun for Me" and "Sing it Back").
2) Yet another Sheffield-based band, Heaven 17, took their name from a list of bands mentioned during Alex's trip to a music store.

Monday, November 28, 2005

"She said, 'Do you have a match?' and I said, 'Yes, my cock and Farmer Giles's prize-winning marrow'"

I'm having difficulty typing this entry... I have just downloaded "One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back" by The Darkness and it is causing me to dance around the room!
Oh... and you just know I'm punching the air, right?
I never know whether to take Justin and the lads seriously, but then I listen to the relentlessly catchy melodies on debut album "Permission to Land" and now "One Way Ticket..." and I think: Maybe taking them seriously is not the point. Maybe I should just have fun and quit thinking.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

My Aotearoa state of mind

I spent the morning sipping coffee, gazing out the window at a steady rain, listening to bands such as Straitjacket Fits, The Able Tasmans, The Chills and The Clean and thinking about New Zealand.
I have never been to Aotearoa (the country's Maori name), but I feel like I have been to "En Zed."
With its relative lack of people, snow-capped peaks, lush forests, green-draped cities and... oh yeah... rain, New Zealand seems a lot like Oregon, where we lived for 5-1/2 years and where my dad's side of the family settled after leaving Sweden.
Thanks to the excellent Little Hits Web site, located here, I have been listening to a bunch of great Kiwi tunes this morning.
For some reason (perhaps its remoteness), countless bands seem to have sprung from New Zealand in general and the southern college town of Dunedin in particular. This morning I have been enjoying the sounds of Tall Dwarfs, Space Waltz and the Doublehappys. All good music which resonates on a rainy day.
PS -- Cheers to the NZ rugby league team, which embarrassed Australia, 24-0, last night in Leeds to win the Tri-Nations tournament. Take that, Kangaroos.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Farewell to "El Beatle"

I have been listening to the tributes to George Best pour in to BBC Radio Five Live via the Internet today.
The former Manchester United and Northern Ireland star passed away today age 59.
I have read many stories about Bestie over the years, particularly how he redefined artistic football on the pitch and redefined soccer celebrity off the pitch.
His international playboy lifestyle eventually caught up with him, and the Belfast native died as a result of illnesses related to his chronic alcoholism.
He certainly reflected the Swingin' Sixties, and he was the first footballer to be perceived as a rock star.
My favorite George Best quote? "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

FRIDAY QUESTION: Holiday Travel Edition

'Tis the season for holiday travel. My sister is in Hong Kong, Thailand and Burma this week, my mom and step-dad are in Mexico and Jill, the girls and I just spent the day in, er, Cedar Rapids, Iowa...
Doesn't seem so fair, does it? No, it sure doesn't.
Alas, 'tis the season for holiday travel, so Route 1 readers have answered this week's FRIDAY QUESTION: What is your favorite driving song?
Diane H. -- I have an entire favorite driving CD, actually: "Graceland" by Paul Simon. I like to sing along and imagine that I'm on a road trip to Memphis.
Mary N.-P. -- "On the Road Again" by Canned Heat. It just reverberates through me and the car in a perfect traveling tempo, not too fast (so you don't keep speeding up until you're doing 85 when the song ends) and not too slow. Try it sometime when you're "on the road again."
Jill H. -- The girls and I always listen to three CDs when we travel: Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks.
Brian C. -- Not a holiday classic, certainly, but I've got to say "Radar Love" by Golden Earring. "The radio is playing some forgotten song/Brenda Lee's comin' on strong/The road has got me hypnotized/And I'm speedin' into a new sunrise..." I've got to keep an eye on my speedometer, lest I spend Thanksgiving in a holding cell.
Rick T. -- For an old trucker like me, it has to be "Six Days on the Road" by Dave Dudley. Hammer down!!!
Mike D. -- There are so many good choices, so I let fate be my co-pilot as I spun the radio dial on my drive back to work from lunch break. The first song I heard was ZZ Top's "La Grange." Maybe not as wholesome a locale as Grandma's house, but it makes driving there a bit more fun. A how, how, how, how!
Erik H. -- "There's a speed zone ahead, all right/I don't see a cop in sight/Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight." Yep, I gotta agree with Rick on this question.
Whenever I am driving a long distance, say, on an interstate, I always imagine what it must be like to be a long-haul trucker. I imagine the lifestyle must just as Dave Dudley described it in his 1963 trucking classic, "Six Days on the Road."
"I.C.C. is checking on down the line/I'm a little overweight and my log's three days behind/But nothing bothers me tonight/I can dodge all the scales all right/Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight."
I have one more great travel song I adore, albeit from an entirely different genre and era. The live version of Underworld's "Shudder/King of Snake," a techno/rock gem from 2000, seems to propel my car forward with its relentless beat and repetitive lyrics. Perfect for driving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

On the last bus out of town

I had to write three stories for the newspaper today, which is actually rather a lot.
When I would look up from my computer, the world looked like the side of a road at 75 mph -- a continuous, blurred ribbon.
Listening to Belle & Sebastian on my iPod helped me from packing it all in today.
In fact, I listened to "Lazy Line Painter Jane" five straight times.
You might think that is a bit much, until you have heard the song. It is my fave B&S song by the proverbial country mile.
Belle leader Stuart Murdoch duets on this 1997 UK No. 41 chart "hit" with Monica Queen, the lead singer of the Glasgow country rockers Thrum.
It's like a Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris duet, grand and catchy, memorable and melodic.
It kept me sane, I tell you, during an otherwise insane type of day.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Steve Brotherdale's Great Mistake

I am getting dressed for work while listening to some 1977 punk songs by Manchester band The Panik, and it reminds me of one of modern rock's greatest miscalculations.
It was in July 1977 that drummer Steve Brotherdale left fledgling Manchester punk band Warsaw, jumping ship to join The Panik.
In his Joy Division history, "An Ideal for Living," Mark Johnson relates how Brotherdale thought The Panik had much more potential than Warsaw.
"At a party in Macclesfield on 5 Aug. 1977," Johnson writes, "Steve played a tape of The Panik's single to (Warsaw singer) Ian Curtis, who tried to sing along with it. But Ian's vocals were completely wrong for the fast, hard style of The Panik, and he stayed with Warsaw."
As they say, "the rest was history," as Warsaw evolved into Joy Division and then into New Order. The Panik merit just a single entry in George Gimarc's "Punk Diary," suggesting their time in the spotlight was all too brief. New Order, of course, eventually released the best-selling 12-inch single in British history and have released their eighth studio album since 1981, "Waiting for the Sirens' Call," earlier this year.
I wonder what Steve Brotherdale is doing now?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Father of the Power Chord

Reports on the Internet this morning tell of the passing of Link Wray at age 76.
If true, the news would mark the passing of a rock revolutionary, no doubt about it.
His raw style in the early 1960s paved the way for modern rock guitar and earned Wray the nickname, "Father of the Power Chord."
I have been listening to Link Wray and the Raymen (pictured) lately, as their track "Jack the Ripper" was named one of the "50 Greatest US Punk Tracks" by MOJO Magazine.
For fun, I tried to compile as many of the "Prehistoric Punks" tracks that MOJO listed as I could. Wray's "Jack the Ripper" from 1961 heads my 10-track playlist, which also includes seminal early punk songs by The Trashmen, The Sonics, The Count Five, ? and the Mysterians, The Seeds and others.
My favorite story about Wray, however, concerns his ground-breaking instrumental "Rumble." Some nervous American authorities in the early 60s actually banned this wordless song, because they feared the distortion-laden music itself might incite teenagers to violence. That's about as "punk rock" as you can get in my book.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Livin' in the Eighties

Route 1 caps EIGHTIES WEEK with a look at some of our readers' favorite 1980s anthems.
Ken B. -- "Rock the Casbah" by The Clash or "The Final Countdown" by Europe.
Rick T. -- I don't remember the Eighties that well! It was a decade I partied and did it quite well. The country group Alabama made it big and I remember the song "My Home's in Alabama" because it made me homesick for the south!
Kerstin H. -- Culture Club's "I'll Tumble 4 Ya." It sounds really fun and peppy.
Ellen B. -- Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf." I love Duran Duran. I just saw them in concert in March!
Steve M. -- "Spirit of 76" by The Alarm.
Mike D. -- No one captured the sound, look and intensity of the big hair 80s like Bon Jovi. His "Livin' on a Prayer" gave inspiration to the misunderstood masses of metalheads, with the talkbox adding to the mystique.
Amy G. -- For me, the 80s was the Violent Femmes. So many nights, getting ready to go out, that was the tape in the jambox. First in high school, when I had to keep the volume low enough so my mother wouldn't hear Gordon Gano saying "Why can't I get, just one **ck," to college, when we boosted the volume to 11 and screamed it at the top of our lungs. My favorite was "Blister in the Sun."
Jill H. -- "Wild Thing" by Tone Loc. I had the record in college, and we always played the record at least twice anytime we went out.
Diane H. -- Probably "Rock Me Amadeus." Not only is it nonsensical, like all the best 80s songs, but it has the cheesy talking parts -- always a plus. I remember buying the Falco cassette when I was about 12 just for this song. I doubt I ever even listened to the rest of the cassette. But I think I still have it at home, so I may have to listen to it sometime.
Dave B. -- "I Melt With You" by Modern English. The No. 1 song of all time.
Erik H. -- It was an iconic moment for me. A popular film was unfolding on the big screen and my favorite band -- previously as far removed from the American mainstream as I felt I was -- provided the big hit song on the soundtrack. I first heard "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds when my sister called me to play it over the phone. You see, San Francisco radio stations often get the good songs before the radio stations in eastern Iowa.
Despite the thrill of hearing the song over the phone, experiencing the song while seeing "The Breakfast Club" in a cinema seemed like a revelation. My band had bubbled up from the underground and was washing across America.
Ironically, Simple Minds and I began to grow apart from that moment. Original bassist Derek Forbes left the band, and they seemed to streamline their sound to better fit commercial considerations. Poor old Anglophiles like me went in search of the next best thing nobody else had heard about.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hungry Like The Wolf: Here's the Science!

Route 1's EIGHTIES WEEK continues with a scientific analysis of an iconic 80s single, Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf."
"Dark in the city, night is a wire"
Contrary to public perception, wolves are actually active during both day and night periods.
"Woman you want me, give me a sign/And catch my breathing even closer behind."
Although the wolf primarily travels at a 5-mph trot, in chases a wolf can achieve estimated speeds of between 28 and 40 mph for about 20 minutes.
"Smell like I sound, I'm lost in a crowd."
The wolf (Canis lupus) utilizes a vast communication repertoire, including scent marks. A wolf's sense of smell is about 100 times greater than a human's. Wolves live in a family oriented social structure known as a "pack."
"And I'm hungry like the wolf"
A wolf can consume almost 20 pounds of prey at a feeding.
"Stalked in the forest, too close to hide/I'll be upon you by the moonlight side."
Wolves use direct scenting, chance encounter and tracking to locate prey. In scenting an animal, wolves typically remain downwind of the prey.
"High blood drumming on our skin it's so tight."
Wolves have two types of fur coats. The undercoat, the short fur closest to the skin, is soft and keeps the wolf warm. The overcoat, made up of long hairs, acts as a weather barrier.
"Strut on a line, between discord and rhyme/I howl and I whine I'm after you"
Wolves howl to greet one another, to indicate their location, to define their territorial boundaries and to call the pack together.
"Burning the ground, I break from the crowd/I'm on the hunt I'm after you."
The wolf is opportunistic and will attempt to catch the easiest and most vulnerable animal.
"And I'm hungry like the wolf."
Predation is not violence, but rather the act of obtaining food for survival.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Looking good in the 80s

Next up during Route 1's Eighties Week, we consider the picture disc -- one of the forgotten hallmarks of the 1980s music scene.
You could hang it on your wall alongside assorted posters and flags (and photos torn out of imported copies of the NME, Sounds and Melody Maker). Then, you could take it off the wall and play it on the stereo. The picture disc marked the ideal marriage of style and substance.
The example shown here is the 1982 release "Ghosts," by Japan, an atmospheric song whose mysterious qualities seemed perfectly captured by the rather murky photo of lead singer David Sylvian. "Ghosts" reached No. 5 on the UK charts and San Francisco's alternative radio stations played it from time to time.
The advent of the digital music age consigned the 45 to the annals of history. Although record companies have created "bonus tracks" for CDs and the video iPod shows promise, nobody has yet recreated a musical item with the same value for collectors.
I might be a nostalgic old fool, but I miss picture discs.
P.S. -- I would like to thank my sister Inger for the use of this record in demonstrating the glamour of the picture disc. Er... Actually, I don't think she knows I have this item from her record collection. I think I might have "borrowed" it. So... Better keep all of this under your hat, OK?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cassette of the decade

Welcome back to Route 1's Eighties Week!
Kerstin just asked why I looked unhappy in this photo. I'm not unhappy, just serious.
I seriously believe that New Order's "1981-FACTUS 8-1982" is my favorite cassette from the 1980s.
I listened to it almost constantly when I attended college. Side one features "Everything's Gone Green," "Procession" and "Mesh." Side two features "Temptation" and "Hurt."
Down the dorm-floor hall from me lived a lad who venerated New Order's "Power, Corruption and Lies," which featured music similar in style to the Manchester band's era-defining hit, "Blue Monday."
I was a huge Joy Division fan, listening to "Unknown Pleasures" and "Closer" on a daily basis.
"1981-FACTUS 8-1982" bridges these two musical forms of an evolving band. The five-song cassette E.P. finds New Order emerging from Joy Division's considerable shadow, introducing a dance sensibility to the band's post-punk stylings.
You could dance to "Everything's Gone Green," but "Temptation" is the real jewel here. It reached 29 on the UK charts, a healthy return for an "alternative" band. As you can see, I still have "1981-FACTUS 8-1982." In a concession to the digital age, I collected its tracks from the "Substance" double-disc compilation and reordered them on the iPod to follow the sequence of "1981-FACTUS 8-1982."
See, like I told Kerstin -- I am serious about this cassette.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Welcome to Eighties Week!

Yesterday's cleaning-the-bathroom-with-Yazoo experience surely should have tipped you off... We're wallowing in nostalgia this week!
Actually, I am unearthing some songs I haven't heard in ages, placing them on the iPod, and remembering those halcyon days in college.
You read right... it's Route 1's EIGHTIES WEEK!
This morning I have been listening to the song that proves there is hipster cred in everybody... even Bananarama.
I have been listening to their 1981 debut single "Aie a Mwana" on the iPod this morning. The story goes that the three lasses of Bananarama were living above a rehearsal space used by ex-Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook. Cook agreed to produce a single for the girls and "Aie a Mwana" was the result.
A pop song sung in Swahili was never destined for the UK charts, but it became an underground hit and generated enough of a buzz that the trio were soon singing with Fun Boy Three and well on their way to massive chart success with the likes of "Cruel Summer" and "Robert De Niro's Waiting."
It all started with a little ditty in Swahili. Who knew?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

New white dress for every situation

I've just been cleaning the bathroom, listening to Yazoo.
Please don't call them "Yaz" in my house. That was an abbreviation foisted upon them by their American record company because it didn't want to offend a specialist blues record label named for Yazoo, Miss.
Also, please don't deride them for having come from the 80s.
In retrospect, Yazoo's ability to craft timeless pop gems such as "Only You," "Nobody's Diary" and "Situation" seems quite logical.
In Alison Moyet, Yazoo had one of Britain's most soulful vocalists. In Vince Clarke, they had a person with an innate ability to take "bleeps!" "boops!" and "blips!" and arrange them into incessantly catchy musical backdrops.
The partnership was doomed, of course, because Alf and Vince boasted such wildly divergent musical agendas. Still, it was a powerful combination while it lasted.
I should know, I've just been singing along while scrubbing a shower curtain.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Brisk walk, brisk ska

I just took my daily walk. I required brisk music for brisk strides as a brisk wind blew down the sidewalks. I chose The Specials.
Their brand of punk-ified ska and rocksteady first captivated me as a teenager, and as I listened to songs such as "Gangsters," "Nite Klub" and "Rude Boys Outta Jail" just now, I realized this is one of those bands who will continually captivate me.

Friday, November 11, 2005

"Informers inform, burglars burgle, murderers murder, lovers love"

I have written about my favorite film -- "Shichinin no Samurai (Seven Samurai)" -- several times before.
Watching it unfold during its more than three-hour duration is akin to living a different life.
I think the same can be said for my second favorite film, too, although it only clocks in at a mere 89 minutes.
I watched "A Bout de Souffle" when I got home from work tonight. The rest of the family are away, so I had the DVD player all to myself.
I suppose it is a film geek cliché to say one loves Jean-Luc Godard's 1960 Nouvelle Vague masterpiece. Since I am a music geek, however, that statement will sound fresh coming from me, oui?
Every time I watch Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in this film I see something new, and that reminds me of listening to the greatest pieces of music.
When I first saw this film in college, of course I was amazed by the jump-cut editing and the loooooonnng single-take tracking shots which were apparently shot while the cameraman rode in a wheelchair. Those cinematic devices are now the stuff of legend. What I noticed tonight was the humor in "A Bout de Souffle," and not only the irony. There are some laugh-out-loud bits as well (I found Michel's dissertation on the ugliness of Swedish girls particularly hysterical, but that may be my Swedish heritage coming to the fore).
I also think I finally noticed fellow director (and "A Bout de Souffle" film treatment writer) Francois Truffaut's cameo. I could have sworn he was a photographer during the scene where Patricia interviews the man at Orly Airport.
Gosh, how I love this film!

Sticks and stones may break my bones...

... but these are some of the songs Route 1 readers think will really hurt you.
This week's FRIDAY QUESTION asked for the best "put-down" songs:
Mike D. -- I might risk damage to my rock 'n' roll reputation, but I think I will forego Motley Crue's "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" for Travis Tritt's "Here's a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)" as the ultimate slap-in-the-face song. Ye-o-ouch!
Scout S. -- Spoon's "The Agony of Lafitte"/"Lafitte Don't Fail Me Now" (Saddle Creek, 1999). Spoon got signed to Elektra by an A & R guy named Ron Lafitte who promised them the moon and the stars. Then, not long after they signed, he left the label for a better job elsewhere, and the people at Elektra just left Spoon dangling in the wind. No promotion, no tour support, nothing. After their albums flopped, they left the label. Then they put out two seething songs about what a lying scumbag Lafitte was.
Sample lyric: "It's like I knew two of you, man -- the one before and after we shook hands. Taking the calls but in all forgetting what's been said... so when you do that line tonight, remember that it came at a steep price."
Diane H. -- Even though I'm pretty ambivalent about the song itself, I think "You're so Vain" by Carly Simon has to be about the best "screw you" song ever.
Rick T. -- "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" by Lynn Anderson. A great, classic song!
Erik H. -- I was scrolling through the iPod late last night, listening to some classic "put-down" songs and I was just about settled to name Faster Pussycat's cover of "You're so Vain" as my top song in that category, when I came upon an oldie but goodie in the f-you class of tunes.
The Rolling Stones released "Stupid Girl" in 1966 (the BEST YEAR... EVER!) and I don't think the song's combination of incessant catchiness and vitriolic outrage has ever been matched.
"The way she powders her nose, her vanity shows and it shows" and "the way she talks about someone else, that she don't even know herself" are just two of the many stinging couplets Mick Jagger aims at the unnamed woman, who is "the sickest thing in this world" by his account. Ouch.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

"The Irish Cardigans"

I am going to pretend I knew about this great band called The Would Be's all along, even though I only really heard about them yesterday.
Why the subterfuge?
Because this short-lived Irish band is so good, I am going to start putting their songs on mix CDs I make, and I want people to think I was hip to this band a long time ago.
"The Would Be's? Of course I know about them."
Actually, not many people knew about The Would Be's when they were an active band -- 1990-1991. Their debut single and best-known song "I'm Hardly Ever Wrong," failed to chart in the UK but did make No. 12 in John Peel's "Festive 50" list of 1990's best songs. They produced a total of three, four-track singles before breaking up.
Hailing from Cavan, located near the Ulster border, The Would Be's were sometimes called "The Irish Cardigans," based on their similarity with the Swedish popsters.
Listening to their first EP and a Peel session, however, has convinced me that The Would Be's were actually closer to a an "Irish Blondie."
Lead singer Julie McDonnell sounds a bit like Debbie Harry -- in a good way. Aidin O'Reilly played trombone and tenor saxophone and Pascal Smith handled drumming duties for the band. The Would Be's also featured no fewer than THREE Finnegans. Paul and Mattie played guitar and Eamonn played bass.
Although they only briefly flirted with fame, the band sound like they had tons of potential, and the story might not be over yet.
The Tweenet Web site, located here, reported in 2000 that the band reunited for a Dublin gig. Perhaps "the Irish Cardigans" will reach the promised land after all?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Raggare is a bunch of... well... y'know...

Raggare is a Swedish subculture known for refurbishing American cars of the 1950s, drinking copious amounts of beer and -- at least in the late 1970s -- beating to a pulp anyone who looked a little bit out of the ordinary in Sweden.
This morning on my daily walk I listened to perhaps the greatest Swedish punk anthem of all time: "Raggare is a Bunch of Motherf**kers" by The Rude Kids.
Tired of being pummelled, this Stockholm punk band took up the fight against the Raggare through song.
"The only thing they can do at night, is fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight," sang The Rude Kids on their classic 1978 single, released in the UK on Polydor. "But why why why why why/why don't anyone do something against it?"
The Rude Kids really take it to the Raggare in true punk style:
"Raggare is a gang of freaks, who often beats the Greeks," they sing, in grammar that is probably OK by Swedes-struggling-to-speak-English standards. "They drive around in their big American cars/Think they are the owner of the town/But they aren't."
Listening this morning, I decided "Raggare is..." must be one of the greatest put-down songs of all time.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Safety pin stuck in my heart

George Gimarc's excellent "Punk Diary," which I have been reading for a couple weeks now, finally inspired me to create a more "obscure" punk playlist for the iPod. The songs are by no means obscure for aficionados of vintage UK punk, circa 1976-81, but I hadn't really heard about them until I read Gimarc's meticulously detailed book, so they were obscure to me.
I have got some great songs on there, such as Patrik Fitzgerald's "Safety-Pin Stuck in My Heart," Peter and the Test Tube Babies' "Run Like Hell," Tanz der Youth's "I'm Sorry, I'm Sorry," Leyton Buzzard's "19 and Mad" and many others.
I listened to it in the car during a busy day of work, in which I had three assignments for the newspaper on three ends of town.
If you saw me bopping my head excessively while driving, I was probably listening to something like "Danger Love" by the Vice Creems.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Thanks Mr. Peel

This morning on my daily walk I listened to a wonderful compilation of John Peel radio sessions on the iPod. I found the compilation on the great Peel tribute site, The Perfumed Garden, located here.
For those who don't know, Peel hosted radio shows on the BBC's Radio 1 for 40 years, championing underground music for decades. It really is not overstatement to say modern rock music as we know it would simply not exist without his influence: Peel exposed bands that the public simply would not have heard anywhere else.
He died in October 2004. This weekend I downloaded the compilation I heard today. It consists of radio sessions bands recorded for Peel circa 1970 to 1987 and was given away by music paper NME in the late 1980s. The earliest song is one of my all-time favorites -- "Ride a White Swan" by T.Rex. Peel is known for his unwavering support of The Undertones and The Fall and both bands are also represented on the compilation ("Here Comes the Summer" by the Undertones and "Put Away" by The Fall).
There is even a reggae classic on here -- "Two Sevens Clash" by Culture.
Actually, this compilation is one of the best things on my iPod.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Five songs... and out you go!

Hard to believe... It was 30 years ago tonight that the Sex Pistols played their first gig. I was 9, living in Concord, Calif., and I am sorry to say I have absolutely no recollection of the Pistols' first gig.
Actually, not many people probably have any recollection of that first gig.
It was at St. Martin's Art College, near the band's rehearsal space, and gig organizers pulled the plug a mere five songs into the set.
The Sex Pistols were very much a work in progress as of Nov. 6, 1975, apparently. There was no "Anarchy in the UK" or "Pretty Vacant" or "God Save the Queen" in the repertoire in those days.
Instead, the band belted out covers such as "Substitute" by The Who and "Whatcha Gonna do About it?" by the Small Faces.
Here is a great bit of Pistols trivia, courtesy of George Gimarc's "Punk Diary:"
The headliners for that first Pistols gig was a Hornsey Art College band called Bazooka Joe. Their frontman, Stuart Goddard, was so impressed by the Pistols and their do-it-yourself aesthetic that he soon quit Bazooka Joe and began planning his own band. He would eventually settle upon the stage name Adam Ant and...
Well, you probably know the rest.
Happy Anniversary, Sex Pistols!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday Question tickles your funny bone

This week's FRIDAY QUESTION asked readers to name a song that makes them laugh out loud. What's so funny?
Rick T. -- "When You're Hot You're Hot" sung by Jerry Reed. You just got to laugh or at least smile!
Shannon H. -- Lately, my friends and I have been laughing at "Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo" by the Bloodhound Gang. It's one of the dirtiest songs I've ever heard on the radio. It's so gross and ridiculous and obviously written by former frat boys that I laugh every time I come across it.
Diane H. -- I think Todd Snider is great at blending humor into really good songs. He's written some great songs that make me laugh, including "Doublewide Blues" and "Conservative, Christian, Rightwing Republican, Straight, White, American Males," but his live version of "Blow up Plastic Girl," which I'm pretty sure was written by someone else, makes me laugh every time, even though I know the punch line. You gotta love a song about a hick who orders a plastic girl that he named Wendy, but then ends up broken hearted when he catches Wendy with his best friend Earl.
Ann M. -- A peanut butter song I used to sing with my preschoolers.
Mary N.-P. -- "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" by Rolf Harris. He's just so EARNEST and it's such a goofy song to be earnest about.
Dave B. -- "I'm Just a Bill" by School House Rock.
Mike D. -- Most of the songs that make me laugh are pop songs that my brothers have rewritten with unprintable lyrics. In lieu of that, I'd have to say Jib Jab's 2004 election parodies or anything from Weird Al Yankovic. Mock 'n' roll!!!
Erik H. -- This week I have been exploring the vast catalog of Dan Treacy's brilliant indie-pop creation, Television Personalities. One of their earliest hits, "Part Time Punks" expertly parodied the then-current London scene. The part-time punks try to look trendy, seeking to shock but all look the same. They don't use toothpaste, Treacy sings, but they have enough money to see The Clash in concert.
Treacy's funniest song, however, and the one that makes me crack up every time I hear it, is "Another Rainy Day in Manchester."
This unreleased live gem from 1986 lampoons The Smiths and lead singer Morrissey in particular, with startling hilarious results.
In The Smiths' "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," Morrissey complains that "I was looking for a job and then I found a job/And heaven knows I'm miserable now."
Treacy sings "Once I had a job, then I found a job/And then I had two jobs" in a mournful, off-key croon just like Morrissey. I laugh every time.
The song finishes with more mock misery: "And I'm so miserable, and I've never been laid/And we've just signed to EMI, 'Cos we'll never get a number one on Rough Trade."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Some times, older is best

The great Big Rock Candy Mountain blog, located here, posted a pair of Patsy Montana songs this morning.
Listening to this great gal yodeling her way through some tunes prompted me to break out some more old country music.
Last year, I read a Carter Family biography and I picked up a cheap compilation CD. It was one of those CDs you can purchase for about $5.99, presumably because no one else would want it. That's their tough luck.
The Carter Family's songs, based on centuries old folk melodies compiled by A.P. Carter, never seem to age. Although, my 10-year-old daughter would argue that the "banjo music" puts her to sleep. I hope that one day, she will set aside her Tim McGraw CDs long enough to listen -- just listen closely -- as Maybelle Carter picks at her guitar.
Then, maybe my daughter will hear that Maybelle was as great a guitar genius as Jimi or Eric or any of the other guitar gods.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

My heart can still be found where you tossed it on the ground

I read in the paper that today is Charlie Walker's 79th birthday.
Happy Birthday!
The girls and I celebrated this fact by listening to his solitary, classic hit, "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down," en route to school this morning.
I suppose it could be argued that anybody can have a hit when legendary songwriter Harlan Howard pens the tune. I would argue that Texas-born Walker made this 1958 hit his own, thanks to his vocals. When he sings the words, I imagine a lovelorn guy in a roadside tavern, pouring his heart out into the latest bottle of Lone Star Beer.
"When you learn these things are true, I'll be waitin' here for you/When you tumble to the ground, pick me up on your way down."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The roots of indie pop

Strawberry Switchblade, We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It, Talulah Gosh... my, I have been listening to loads of unfashionable music lately.
These bands were (mostly) critically mauled during their brief stabs at pop stardom back in the 1980s.
I found some BBC radio sessions of the bands online and I have been listening to them on the iPod. With their fuzzy guitar blasts and -- yes, twee -- girly vocals, I can see where these bands would have driven some critics to the wall.
In retrospect, however, these bands and their sound were so instrumental in helping to form the indiepop sound now all the rage.
I hear echoes of these great bands in Tiger Trap, The Softies and Black Tambourine.