Friday, May 15, 2015

B. B. King - Live At The Regal (RS500 - #141)

We lost a legend last night . . . not entirely unexpected, but still sad, and a tremendous blow to the music world.

Riley B. (B.B.) King: September 16th, 1925 - May 14th, 2015

What else need be said?  Farewell, Mr. King, and thanks for all the music.

In honor of and in tribute to his remarkable life, here's B.B. King's classic blues album Live At The Regal, recorded on November 21st, 1964 at the Regal Theater in Chicago, and released by ABC Records in early 1965. Enjoy and remember B.B. King, more than just a great blues guitarist, but one of the 20th century's greatest, most influential musicians.

And as always, let me know what you think.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Various Artists - SPIN Magazine CD Sampler #3 (1993)

Hit a new milestone earlier today - 300,000 visitors! All that in less than five years!  Thanks a bunch to all of you who have come and continue to come here to read my little stories, and share in the music that I enjoy and I hope that you enjoy as well.

As a 'thank you' for all of my intrepid visitors, here's a little gift: the third Spin Magazine CD sampler compilation, released as a promotion in 1993, shortly before I ended my longtime subscription to the music rag. It's been so long now, that I can't remember what issue this disc was included in - probably the 8th anniversary edition published in April of that year - I simply don't recall. In any event, this comp was never released for commercial sale - the only way you'll probably be able to get it is through here!

Here's the song list:
1. Otha Fish - The Pharcyde
2. Bottom - Zap Mama
3. Dreams - The Cranberries
4. Is It Like Today - World Party
5. Sleepwalk - Pere Ubu
6. Accelerator - Gumball
7. Mr. Blameshifter - The Fluid
8. Mr. Cimbalista - Orangutang
9. Swamp Song - Tool
10. Pickin' Flowers For - The Best Kissers In The World
11. I Should've Known - Aimee Mann
12. City Of Wet Angels - Funland
13. Falling - Straitjacket Fits
14. Under Jets - Murray Attaway
15. Sunshine Smile - Adorable
16. Someone To Talk To - The Devlins
Other than "Dreams" (and possibly the World Party song, which got a lot of play in certain quarters), there aren't a lot of 'hits' on this disc, and nothing particularly vital to music history. Still, it's a pretty good overview of what the alternative music world looked like in the early 1990s, just before (in my opinion) the bottom fell out. Hopefully there's something here that you'll like.

Again, thanks tons to all of you from all over the world for stopping by over the years and for contributing your comments and thoughts on the music.  Keep on coming back!

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Billie Holiday - The Complete Decca Recordings (2-Disc Set)

What can purge my heart
Of the song
And the sadness?
What can purge my heart
But the song
Of the sadness?
What can purge my heart
Of the sadness
Of the song?

Do not speak of sorrow
With dust in her hair,
Or bits of dust in eyes
A chance wind blows there.
The sorrow that I speak of
Is dusted with despair.

Voice of muted trumpet,
Cold brass in warm air.
Bitter television blurred
By sound that shimmers–

- Langston Hughes, Song For Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday would have turned 100 years old today.

Holiday lived a life filled with degradation, suffering, harassment, tragedy and abuse of body and mind (by others and herself), and died of cirrhosis of the liver and pulmonary edema, nearly flat broke and handcuffed to her bed (she was arrested by the New York City police for drug possession as she lay dying) in a Harlem hospital on July 17th, 1959, barely 44 years old. Despite her short life, she left an incredible body of work. And even more than half a century after her death, she is still considered one of the most innovative and influential voices ever in popular music.

Billie recorded her last sides with Columbia Records in late 1942. By the fall of 1943, the label had dumped her, failing to renew her contract and ending a decade-long partnership that made Columbia a lot of money and Holiday a star. Despite the mutual benefits of their business relationship, relations between Holiday and the label had been strained since 1939, when Columbia refused to let her record her then-current show-stopper during her residency at New York's Cafe Society, the anti-lynching protest song "Strange Fruit". The best the label would do was allow Holiday to record the song on Milt Gabler's Commodore Records
label. The record, released with "Fine and Mellow" on the flip, was a huge hit for her and Commodore, and Billie and Milt became fast friends.

Gabler joined Decca Records as an A&R man in late 1941, but continued to run Commodore under a special arrangement he made with the head of Decca, Jack Kapp - as long as Commodore stuck to jazz records and didn't try to encroach into Decca's market with pop recordings, Milt was good to go. After Holiday got dropped by Columbia, she went to Gabler to see if she could record again with him on his jazz label. Milt quickly agreed, recalling the success they had with "Strange Fruit". He was looking forward to recording another half-dozen jazz singles with her over the next year.

But one night soon after their agreement, Gabler walked into the New York club where Billie was performing, and heard her belting out "Lover Man (Where Can You Be)?" He said later that he knew instantly that the song would be a smash hit, but he also knew that if he recorded it on Commodore, he would lose his job at Decca, since the tune was clearly more pop-oriented than most of Holiday's Columbia releases. In a bind, he did what he thought was the best thing for the song and Holiday's career - he convinced Decca to sign her as a pop artist.

Billie signed on with the label on August 7th, 1944, an exclusive one-year contract for a minimum of twelve sides, with an additional one-year extension option by the label. Holiday got plenty in return for this contract. At that time, Decca was the only major label still producing commercial recordings (In 1942, the American Federation of Musicians, led by their union president James Petrillo, had gone on strike against all of the other major American labels over royalty payments - the final label holdouts, RCA Victor and Columbia, didn't settle with the union until late 1944). In addition, for the first time Billie Holiday was treated as an artist of stature; the symbol of that stature was something that few recording artists at the time were provided - for her first sessions at Decca on October 4th, 1944, Holiday was backed by a full string ensemble. She was so overwhelmed with joy by the sight of them when she walked into the studio that day that she immediately walked out to compose herself. "Lover Man" was the first side she and her new label cut.

Holiday had several recording sessions with Decca from late 1944 to early 1947, recording mostly torch songs and pop standards that were very well received. By 1947, she was one of the most popular and celebrated recording artists in America, with an income from royalties (for the first time in her career, Holiday would receive royalties for her recordings with Decca) exceeding $100,000 in 1946. However, in May 1947, Billie was busted for narcotics possession in New York City. The trial shortly thereafter was a farce - she was sick and dehydrated, and discovered as she stumbled into the courtroom that the attorney she hired to represent her had abandoned her. Even the prosecuting attorney came to her defense. Even so, Holiday was sentenced to a year in federal prison in West Virginia.

When Billie was released from prison in early 1948, she and others were worried that her career was over. Her manager arranged a comeback concert for her at New York's Carnegie Hall, but no one was sure if people would turn out to hear a convicted drug felon who hadn't had a huge hit since "Lover Man" more than two years earlier. But the Carnegie Hall concert,
held on March 27th, 1948, was a tremendous success, and reestablished Holiday as a major artist. She continued recording with Decca through 1950; a number of her songs were minor hits during that time in terms of sales, but, due to her unsavory reputation in some quarters, were little heard on the radio. Holiday's relationship with Decca ended later that year.

I purchased this set at the same time I bought Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia 1933-1944, at the record store in Newark, Delaware all those years ago. Some music critics have tended to disparage Holiday's Decca output, considering her body of work there syrupy and lacking the power or nuance of her jazz and blues recordings with Columbia. But I tend to disagree. The Decca recordings show a different, more accessible side of Holiday's artistry, and prove that she was strikingly adept at more than one genre of music. Several of her Decca tunes, including the aforementioned "Lover Man", "Good Morning Heartache", "Big Stuff", and "You Better Go Now", are just as classic and celebrated today as her Columbia sides.

In all of her recordings, Billie Holiday imparted the joy, heartbreak, elation and sadness of love and life, and found ways to express the inexpressible, time and time again. She remains a towering figure in popular music.
Billie Holiday’s burned voice
had as many shadows as lights,
a mournful candelabra against a sleek piano,
the gardenia her signature under that ruined face.

(Now you’re cooking, drummer to bass,
magic spoon, magic needle.
Take all day if you have to
with your mirror and your bracelet of song.)

Fact is, the invention of women under siege
has been to sharpen love in the service of myth.

If you can’t be free, be a mystery.

- Rita Dove, Canary
Here, on the centennial of the birth of the great Billie Holiday, one of my all-time favorite artists, I proudly offer to you The Complete Decca Recordings, released October 1st, 1991 by Decca Records, a two-disc set containing all fifty sides and alternate takes of songs she recorded with the label from 1944 to 1950. Have a listen and remember this great lady. And as always, let me know what you think.

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Peter Gutteridge - Pure

This post will eventually be about Peter Gutteridge, the legendary New Zealand musician who died September 15th, 2014. But first, a few words about a well-respected drummer for my favorite band.
If you’re a fan of The Fall, then you may already know who Simon Wolstencroft is. He was the band’s drummer for more than a decade, and contributed keyboards and computer effects as well, on every Fall album from 1987’s The Frenz Experiment to 1997’s Levitate. In addition, Wolstencroft holds the distinction of co-writing one of the bands only three singles to make the British Top 40, and the only non-cover song, “Free Range” off of 1992’s Code Selfish.

However, in some music circles, Wolstencroft is known for another more dubious reason, and by another name: “The Nearly Man”. Why? Because Simon had the misfortune of being part of or nearly a member of at least three other popular and legendary bands before they hit it big, missing out of their huge success every single time.

As a 17-year-old student in Altrincham, England in 1980, he formed a punk band called The Patrol with two classmates, Ian Brown and John Squire. After much initial enthusiasm and a number of gigs that year, The Patrol just sort of petered out. Simon moved on, and in the following year became drummer for Freak Party, an instrumental funk band that he formed with two other schoolmates, bassist Andy Rourke and a guitarist named Johnny Mahar, who later became known by the name Johnny Marr. Marr quickly grew tired of funk and found a vocalist for the group’s new rock sound, but after a couple of demo recordings, Wolstencroft quit in late 1982, allegedly because he didn’t like the new singer, Steven Morrissey’s, voice and overall attitude. The

band, known as The Smiths, recruited another drummer and released their first single, “Hand in Glove”, six months later. The rest, of course, is part of music history.

He then rejoined his old friends Brown and Squire, who were just starting up a new band and going through months of rehearsals. But Wolstencroft’s reunion with them was half-hearted. During the rehearsal period, he was also auditioning for other groups, and in the summer of 1984 he left his friends to join The Colourfield, ex-Specials frontman Terry Hall’s band, as a touring member. Less than two months later, 

Brown and Squire’s band, now known as The Stone Roses, played their first gig and inaugurated the ‘Madchester’ sound.

The Colourfield thing didn’t work out for him, so Simon eventually joined The Fall in the summer of 1987. But while in that band, he was approached by musicians from a local Manchester 

band, The Rain, who were looking for a live drummer to replace their drum machine. The group’s lead guitarist, Noel Gallagher, asked Wolstencroft if he would leave The Fall to join their group, but Simon declined. The Rain shortly thereafter evolved into Oasis, one of the most successful British acts of the 1990s.
Why have I spent so much time and space detailing the career of a musician unrelated to this post? Because in many ways, Peter Gutteridge was the Kiwi Simon Wolstencroft . . . the Nearly Man of New Zealand. Gutteridge was involved in the founding of some of the country’s most seminal bands, but in each case never stayed around long enough to enjoy the fruits of the groups’ successes.

Peter Gutteridge was born in the South Island city of Dunedin in 1961. He was the kind of kid who took to music naturally, eschewing formal lessons and just bashing about, learning how to play on his own. His family had a piano that he noodled with at a young age until he got fairly proficient, and when he was in his teens he taught himself to play guitar and bass. While still in high school, he teamed up with two classmates, brothers Hamish and David Kilgour, to form The Clean in 1978. The Clean’s sound – made up of David’s angular guitar notes, Hamish’s simplistic, shambolic beats and Peter’s melodic, throbbing bass lines - was unlike pretty much every other band in New Zealand at the time, and the group became very popular and influential in their hometown. Within a few months, The Clean became proficient enough to play gigs around Dunedin, even opening for the premier punk band in the city, The Enemy, fronted by Chris Knox. The two bands became close, drawing inspiration from each others styles. And their combination of raw punk and ringing guitars, filtered through a Kiwi sensibility, led to the development of the celebrated “Dunedin Sound” of the 1980s.

After less than a year of existence, the Kilgour brothers began to feel that Dunedin was getting too small for them. Envisioning a move up to the ‘big time’ in New Zealand music, in 1979 they decided to relocate The Clean to Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, where they felt there were more advantages in terms of venues and opportunities for recording contracts. Peter wanted no part of this relocation, however, and quit the band just before the move. However, he did leave with The Clean a riff he created that evolved into one of the bands finest, most popular songs – “Point That Thing (Somewhere Else)”.

Initially, it appeared that Peter made the right move by staying in Dunedin. The Clean’s move to Auckland was, by most accounts, a disaster, and within a year the Hamish brothers came back to the South Island chastened, with their tails between their legs. Meanwhile, Gutteridge hooked up with another musician classmate, Martin Phillips, and in 1980 helped form The Chills. The Chills later became hugely successful and an important part of New Zealand popular music history. But Peter didn’t stick around long enough to revel in the band’s success. In fact, he only played a handful of gigs before leaving the group less than nine months after he joined.

By the time Gutteridge quit The Chills, the Hamish brothers had reformed The Clean in Dunedin with new bassist Robert Scott, and had released their debut single “Tally Ho!”, one of fledgling indie music label Flying Nun’s first releases. The single became the band’s and label’s first hit, reaching #19 on the national charts. Peter did not have a role in any of this; instead, he spent the next couple of years as a member of various short-lived minor bands, including The Cartilage Family and The Craven A’s.

After a couple of years, The Clean fell apart. Hamish Kilgour moved to Christchurch to work on some of his own acoustic, more folk-focused material, and his brother David came to the city shortly thereafter to help him work on the tracks. The resulting music was released under a new band name, The Great Unwashed (the opposite of The Clean – get it?), and the
brothers went out on the road to support the album, Clean Out Of Our Minds (another pun). Needing some additional musicians for the tour, the Kilgours reunited with Gutteridge, just coming off a brief stint with another aborted band project.

Since the group refused to include Clean songs on their setlist and only had a limited number of songs off of their only album for their gigs, the Kilgours asked Peter if he too had some solo material to add to the sets. He responded enthusiastically – over the years, he had composed quite a few original works somewhat different from what was the New Zealand alternative mainstream at the time, but up until then had no viable outlet to present his music. Gutteridge flourished under his first real taste of artistic freedom; his songs proved to be popular, so much so that for The Great Unwashed’s next release, the 1984  
Singles EP, three of the five songs on it were written by Peter. By the time the band broke up at the end of that year, Peter had gained the confidence to go his own way musically.

He moved back to Dunedin and started a new band, The Phromes, all the while looking for the ‘right’ musicians to start a new project he had in mind. After a couple of years, he found the people he was seeking – drummer Alan Haig, guitarist Dominic Stones, and keyboardist/backing vocalist Christine Voice – and formed Snapper in 1987.

In many ways, Snapper was Gutteridge’s protest of and response to the commercialization of New Zealand alternative music, embodied in the movement he had some hand in creating. As he told a national music magazine a few years ago, “When I formed Snapper it was a deliberate reaction against the Dunedin Sound, I couldn’t fuckin’ stand it.” The music he was creating was definitely a far cry from those early days, with a sound more akin to that of The Jesus & Mary Chain, Suicide, and late-80s/early 90s Kiwi noise rock bands like The Dead C and Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos. A music critic described an early Snapper gig as “a relentless throb… the enormous keyboard sound must be like getting a crew-cut with a Masport… cathedrals of electricity… great swinging mass of harmonics…” However, this journalist was one of the few at the time who understood what Peter was up to, writing that “Gutteridge, who’s finally got a band to play his songs en masse clearly has a wider vision for this band.”

Snapper’s first record, the four-song Snapper EP, was released by Flying Nun in 1988. It was welcomed with rave reviews both at home and abroad. In the UK, the EP was selected as Single Of The Week in the NME and even made John Peel’s playlist. The band continued gigging and prepping songs for an eventual full-length album. But in 1989, Peter couldn’t resist an offer from local independent record label Xpressway to release his demos and solo material under his own name. In 1989, the cassette-only Pure hit the shelves.

Pure was . . . well, I think that music journalist Richard Langston described the album best: “… it shows the full range of Gutteridge’s talents, so besides raw over-loaded guitar-and-keyboard-fed- electro-boogie we get some stuff that treads with the melodic delicacy of your favourite moments from The Chills, yep that damn good…just bloody wonderful …”

And Mr. Langston was right – there’s some brilliant stuff on this disc. Here’s the album lineup:
1. Lonely
2. Exhibition I
3. First Instrumental
4. Hang On
5. Ocean
6. Dead Pony
7. Fuck Your Mother to Hell
8. Suicide
9. Oil
10. Pure (Nr. 1)
11. Thumbaline
12. Cause of You
13. Rubout
14. Planet Phrom
15. Sand
16. Exhibition II
17. Having Fun
18. Bomb
19. Fifty-seven Seconds
20. Chinese Garden
21. Pure (Nr. 2)
Snapper’s first album, Shotgun Blossom, was released the following year. It received superb reviews as well both in New Zealand and in England; Melody Maker called it “a solid-gone, stone-cold, down-under classic.” Gutteridge finally had a winner done his way, and it seemed that he and his band’s star could do nothing but continue to rise.

But shortly thereafter, problems began to arise in Peter’s personal and musical life. Typical of many New Zealand bands of that period, the original Snapper line-up started slowly falling apart. Dominic Stones began having success with his own band The 3Ds, and left Snapper in early 1992. The group managed to release a single in 1993, “Vadar” b/w “Gentle Hour”, but these songs did not have the power or impact to the band’s earlier tunes. It was also around this time that Gutteridge got hooked on some fairly hard-core drugs. His addiction drew his attention away from his group, and as the gigs became fewer and far between and Peter’s health declined, most of the remaining members drifted away.
Snapper released one last full-length album, A.D.M., in 1996, but it was mostly a solo effort, with Gutteridge singing and playing almost all of the instruments. Snapper never really broke up after that – Peter reformed various versions with varying lineups for one-off gigs in 2000 and 2012. But due to his drug problem and resulting reclusive nature, the band was pretty much kaput before the end of the millennium.

While Gutteridge spent most of the 2000s hunkered down, the reputation of Snapper continued to evolve and grow, especially abroad. American bands began covering Snapper songs, and the name “Peter Gutteridge” began being tossed around in some music circles as a symbol and indication of being “with-it” and “in-the-know”. However, only a few people had ever heard the man’s music – the Pure cassette had by then long been out of print, up to that point the only Xpressway release never reissued on vinyl or CD. But a small New York label made a special effort, assisted by David Kilgour, and in 2013 Pure was finally re-released as a double LP.

The release relaunched Peter’s career. By this time, he appeared to have kicked his drug addiction, and was healthy and ready for action. He reformed another version of Snapper with Dominic Stones and a new keyboardist and drummer, and went on a much-celebrated tour of New Zealand’s North Island in early 2013. While the band’s glory days were far behind them, most people were glad to see Peter up on stage again where he belonged, doing what he loved. It seemed that he was back, and this time for good.

In the summer of 2014, he made his first trip to the States, spending time in New York seeing the sights and visiting his old friend Hamish Kilgour, who’s now a resident of Brooklyn. He even got the opportunity to perform his first American show that September 1st, at Palisades in Brooklyn, where he played his Pure album in full to a packed house. He was billed that night as "The man who launched a thousand Flying Nun bands."

No one knows what may have been going through Peter’s mind when he returned to New Zealand a week later, where he saw his future or envisioned what his legacy really was. Would he be known as the innovative, visionary musician behind Snapper and Pure . . . or as just the guy who missed his chance, over and over again? That’s a question that he will never answer . . . since shortly after arriving back home, Peter Gutteridge died.  Details on the circumstances of his death are still sketchy, but it appears he took his own life.

Below, I’ve provided a copy of the liner notes from his solo album. I find the last line very poignant . . .
Compiled by Peter Gutteridge & Peter Jefferies
Mastered by Peter Jefferies

Remastered by Tom Bell and John Golden, 2013.

PETER GUTTERIDGE vcls/gtr/kydgs on all the above. CHRISTINE VOICE gtr/vcls on 7, 8 & 14. ALAN HAIG drms on 4, 6, 7, & 14. DOMINIC STONES gtr on 7, 13 & 20. RUSSELL MOSES drm mchns on 2. GEORGE HENDERSON gtr on 15. BRUCE MAHALSKI vcls on 18. (c) and (p) PETER GUTTERIDGE 1989. ALL TRACKS RECORDED ON PORTA-STUDIO BY PETER GUTTERIDGE, 1986-87. More to come.

Peter Gutteridge has been making music for ten years or so now. A former member of various Dunedin bands (the CLEAN, GREAT UNWASHED, CHILLS and PUDDLE, to name a few), his musical and compositional talents currently form the nucleus of SNAPPER.

However, while all the members of SNAPPER (as well as several other friends) contribute to the music on this tape, the total result is not the work of a band. It is, as the title suggests, 'Pure Peter Gutteridge', 4-track prota-studio demos covering a two year span, compiled from his work-tapes. Peter's songs are here presented 'in the raw;, just as they came to him, from the first piece he ever recorded on his 'Fostex', through to early versions of some SNAPPER material.

This collections presents the widest variety of Peter's music yet to reach the public, and we think some of the best too. What's more, there's at least as much again currently recorded, and more going down all the time - so look out for vol. 2!
Volume 2 never arrived, and never will; sometimes in life you don't get those second chances. There will be no more new music from him. . . but I am very happy that he did manage to leave us with what he did. R.I.P., Peter.

So, for your listening pleasure, here is Peter Gutteridge’s Pure, released on cassette by New Zealand’s Xpressway Records in 1989 and re-released by American label 540 Records on double vinyl discs in 2013. This copy was burned off of my mint-condition LPs, and is impossibly hard to find on the Web; as far as I can tell, this is the only digital source for this album currently available. Anyway, enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP:

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Finally, here's a live version of "Point That Thing Somewhere Else" performed by the reformed Clean during a New Zealand gig in early 2014, with Peter guesting - kinda nice that he finally got to play his song with his old bandmates:

24 May 2015 - I've recently received a message from Mr. Zach Burba, who played bass for Peter Gutteridge at his last show in Brooklyn last September. Here's what he had to say regarding the Palisades gig:
"My band had a show in Brooklyn booked and the people that were setting it up ran into Peter at The Clean's reunion show. He told them he was trying to play a show in NYC and they asked him if he would want to play at Palisades with us. I was a fan of Kiwi music and The Clean and had heard some of Peter's music but wasn't deeply familiar. At the show I started talking to him back stage. He was helping me fix a Casio keyboard, he mentioned he wanted to play with a band and my friend Erin and I stepped in. He showed us his songs in the bathroom of the venue and then we just went for it. It was a lot of fun, I hope we did the songs justice. I'm about to upload our version of 'Born in The Wrong Time' which, for me, was the highlight of the show. We some how managed to play for 2 hours. IT seemed like 15 minutes. After the show we were all buzzing with excitement. Peter was SO HAPPY. He just kept going on and on about how much fun it was to play with a band again. He got our phone numbers and mentioned that we should try and record together sometime. Erin was texting him every now and again until the end. We were shocked to hear only a few weeks later about his death."
Here's the show video Mr. Burba mentioned above and so kindly provided - enjoy:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Latest Poll Results: Who sported the greatest porn mustache in rock history?

The people have spoken: Freddie Mercury is the once and future king of the rock porn mustache! 

This was no contest - here are the results from our latest poll:
64% (44 votes) - Freddie Mercury
11% (  8 votes) - John Oates
  7% (  5 votes) - Jim Croce
  5% (  4 votes) - The Beatles
  2% (  2 votes) - Chuck Berry
  2% (  2 votes) - Prince
  2% (  2 votes) - Frank Zappa
  1% (  1 vote ) - Little Richard

* No votes for either Jimi Hendrix or Paul Simon
Frankly, I expected him to win, but not by THIS much; he basically swamped the competition! I thought that John Oates might give him a run for his money, but alas, it was not to be.

In honor of Mr. Mercury's crushing victory, here's the classic Queen's Greatest Hits, released by Parlophone Records (Hollywood Records in the U.S.) on October 26th, 1981, containing the band's best-selling singles released between 1974 and 1980. This disc is still the top selling album of all time in the UK, with six million copies sold, and spent nearly ten years on the charts there. In the States it went octuple-platinum (over eight million copies sold). Worldwide sales total over 25 million, making it one of the biggest selling rock albums in world history. With those kind of sales, I'm sure that most of you already have this. But if not, here you go.

Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think. I'll try to come up with another poll soon - thanks for all of the participation!

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Poll: Who sported the greatest porn mustache in rock history?

For my latest visitor poll (see sidebar at right), we'll be determining which rock act epitomized one of the greatest and most difficult looks to pull off in music - the porn mustache. It's a look that in some ways harkens back to a certain time and place (the '70s in particular), but in other ways is almost timeless, with present-day performers (such as The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Kiedis recently) occasionally bringing it back. The popular music porno mustache has been worn seriously, ironically, hilariously and badly . . . but some performers have gone the extra mile, and made it their own. That is what we are here to decide - whose was the best?

There were almost too many examples to choose from, but I finally winnowed it down to ten finalists. Before we get to them, let's all give a Brubaker-style slow clap to these performers in the "honorable mention" category, whose facial hair was deemed good, but not porno-great:
  • Mountain's Felix Pappalardi
  • Motorhead's Lemmy
  • Jerry Cantrell
  • Weezer's Rivers Cuomo (the Red Album period)
  • Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott
  • Led Zeppelin's John Bonham
  • Weird Al Yankovich
  • Foghat (the entire band), and
  • The Village People (too obvious))
OK - let's get to our contestants.  Who among these ten rock porn mustache pioneers truly wore it well?
Little Richard: One of rock's true groundbreakers, and not only musically and through his flamboyant, over-the-top performances - Richard Penniman practically invented the rock 'n' roll porn mustache.

Chuck Berry: If Little Richard was the innovator and instigator of the porn mustache in modern music, Chuck Berry was the performer who popularized it, and who laid the groundwork for making it a permanent rock fashion accessory. Through his more accessible, acceptable (to white Middle American teens), less raucous rock 'n' roll music, he did much to disassociate the look from its more controversial R&B roots and bring it into the mainstream.

The Beatles: The Fab Four sported a lot of looks during their career - leather-clad street punks, Pierre Cardin-suited mop tops, hippie chic, psychedelic-shirted mods. But my favorite Beatles image is the mid-period, Revolver/pre-Sgt. Pepper era, when the boys rocked some classic porno 'stashes (especially Paul and Ringo). Here they are in all their glory.

Jimi Hendrix: No discussion of the porn mustache in popular music can be complete without including Jimi. For a brief period in the late Sixties, Jimi's image was the quintessential look of rock music, and his soup strainer was an integral part of that.

Frank Zappa: I was never a big Zappa fan; his music is an acquired taste, to be sure. And his look during the Sixties varied from "angry hippie" to "weird proto-Arab". In this competition, he loses points, in my opinion, for the 'stache/uber-soul patch combo. But there's still enough 'porno' in his facial hair to make him a finalist.

Freddie Mercury: No need to explain why Freddie made the finals. Queen's flamboyant frontman was pretty much the gold standard for this look in the Seventies. That growth under his nose would have been the envy of Harry Reems or John Holmes!

Paul Simon: A dark horse in this contest, to be sure. But someone who, as you can see, needs to be part of the conversation. In the Seventies, Paul Simon carried some classic decadent facial hair, a look that couldn't help but make one think of patrons of seedy Times Square adult theaters and filthy peep shows. Which is really too bad, because by most accounts Simon was a pretty straight arrow. But first impressions count, nowhere moreso than here. Still Crazy After All These Years, indeed.

Jim Croce: Another '70s music icon who needs to be considered for this honor. Croce's face and hard life were a perfect fit for the music he played at the time, chronicling tales of con men, down-and-outers and others beaten down by life. His mustache veers a little too close to Gene Shalit territory for my taste . . . but it's still got enough "whacka-chicka whacka-chicka" in it for him to make the final cut.

Prince:  What else need be said about the face of His Royal Badness/Purpleness? A cross between Little Richard's and Jimi Hendrix's facial hair, in his early career Prince put it all together into the unique and innovative "chocolate milk" (or "dirty Sanchez", if you will . . .) mustache.

John Oates: While Hall & Oates was ostensibly a duo, for years Oates labored beneath the broad shadow of his arguably more talented partner Daryl Hall. But there was one area in which he completely outdid his compadre - just as Freddie Mercury owned the '70s, John Oates' mustache was the one by which all other '80s rock porn mustaches were measured. His look was straight off a Vivid Video set!
Please make your choices over to the right - you can only choose one of these ten, so choose wisely! This competition ends in mid-March, so get your votes in when you can! I look forward to publishing the results in a few weeks.

All the best to you from Pee-Pee Soaked Heckhole

Friday, October 31, 2014

Various Artists - Night Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

I've been thinking hard about becoming one of those "cord-cutters" I've been hearing so much about, and finally dumping my cable television subscription.  At this stage of my life, cable is a nearly useless frivolity nowhere near worth its monthly purchase price.  Frankly, I simply just don't watch that much TV anymore - or at least the TV the cable companies want me to watch.  I could care less about the endless variety of "reality" shows and singing/dancing contests that befoul the airwaves nowadays - I wouldn't watch Duck Dynasty, Naked & Afraid or Dancing With The Stars at gunpoint.  And don't get me started regarding network television - it's all so samey; either bland sitcoms (I once tried to sit through episodes of The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men - I didn't make it to the first commercial break) or gussied-up whodunit dramas (seriously, how many versions of CSI/NCIS/WTF do they air each week?).  If it weren't for The Daily Show, South Park, Downton Abbey and the occasional Ken Burns documentary on PBS, I'd rarely have the set on at all during the year.

In many ways, it feels odd now to feel so ambivalent about television; for folks my age, TV was an essential and formative experience in our lives from nearly the very start.

Looking back now, I'm amazed at the stuff I used to watch - and that my parents let me watch - regularly at a young age; not just kiddie fare, but some relatively sophisticated stuff (for late 60s/early 70s TV, that is . . .). For example, in addition to I Dream of Jeannie and Daniel Boone, I never missed an episode of Land Of The Giants or The Mod Squad - I was four years old at the time. The next year, when I was five, I recall being bitterly disappointed when I learned that a favorite program at the time, The New People, a hokey drama about hippies surviving a plane crash and building a new society on a desert island, had been cancelled mid-season.

As I got older and was allowed to stay up later, my taste in TV shows continued to skew to programs made and marketed for adults, moving away from fluff like Family Affair, The Courtship of Eddie's Father and Nanny & The Professor and into things that were on past 8:30 pm, like Alias Smith and Jones (alas, Pete Duel . . . he could have
been a big star), Longstreet, Kung Fu and Mannix (quite possibly the most violent network TV show ever aired).

I can't really say that absorbing these 'grown-up' shows at a young age affected me all that much. I mean, watching the fistfights, car crashes and gunplay on Mannix didn't desensitize me to violence, or turn me into some kind of sociopath later in life. I'm sure that, like me, you've heard stories of kids during the 1950s who would watch George Reeves' Superman program, then go out and injure themselves by tying capes to their necks and jumping off the roof of their homes. I've always considered those tales to be mostly apocryphal - kids aren't really as stupid and impressionable as adults think they are, and learn at a very early age what is real and possible in real life and on TV, and what's not. Even back then, I knew that commercial spaceflights, blind detectives and pretty blonde witch-wives didn't really exist. I got it - I just enjoyed the programs.

But there was one aspect about watching those sort of shows relatively late into the evening that had a profound effect on my mind and soul - the Seventies were the Golden Age of classic horror movie trailers airing during breaks, commercials seemingly tailor-made to scare the absolute piss out of any little kids who might happen to be awake that time of night. I couldn't tell you how many times I would be watching TV by myself or with my siblings in a darkened den, when suddenly one of those goddamn things would fill the screen! None of us could get out of the room fast enough, screaming with fright and holding our hands to our ears to block out the sound! It got to the point where, for a couple of years, whenever a show faded to an ad break, I would get up and stand near the doorway to the room, so I could quickly make my escape should something scary pop up on screen.

Here's a prime example of the sort of stuff that would rear its head at any time during the night; this film trailer used to jolt the absolute bejesus out of me when I was seven:

At the time, there was something about seeing a frog with a human hand hanging out of its mouth that just scared the crap out of me . . . so much so, that my dad used to tease me back then by saying "Hey, son!", then putting his arm up to his mouth so that it looked like his hand was sticking out! It never failed to upset me back then, but looking back, it seems pretty funny now.

Here's another one from later in the 70s that was also a guaranteed late-night kiddie room-clearer in my house . . . this trailer is still unnervingly creepy today - just listen to that voice:

As frightening as the movie trailers were, in many ways they had nothing on what used to appear as regular fare on the networks back then. Probably a lot of you are too young to remember, but back in the Sixties and Seventies, the Big Three used to have weekly-scheduled movie series - shows like The CBS Friday Night Movies, NBC Tuesday Night at the Movies, The ABC Movie of the Week (I used to love the opening for the latter - great music, and from what I understand, one of the first examples of computer graphics on television):

These movie anthology shows started out in the 60s, showing old Hollywood B movies and the like, but by the end of that decade, the networks wised up and stopped paying the film studios for their hoary old castoffs and box-office flops, instead producing and airing their own "made for TV" movies.  A lot of the home-grown stuff they showed on these programs was crap - tepid family fare, or pilots for possible future TV shows (long-running series like Kojak, Columbo and The Six Million Dollar Man started out as one-shot movie pilots on these programs).

But in some cases, the networks aired some pretty interesting, innovative stuff. For example, the car-truck cat-and-mouse thriller Duel, Stephen Spielberg's first big directorial effort, was a TV movie that was subsequently released to theaters. And the immortal sports classic Brian's Song, with Billy Dee Williams and James Caan as Chicago Bears running backs Gale Sayers and the doomed Brian Piccolo, also began as a Movie of the Week.

 But where these made-for-TV movie programs really kicked out the jams was with the mysteries and horror movies they sometimes aired. I recall seeing The House On Greenapple Road (a superb early '70s detective classic that led to the show Dan August) and being jolted by its rather graphic depiction (for that period) of the aftermath of a grisly murder. I remember seeing another creepfest around that time, When Michael Calls, about a woman receiving phone calls from her presumably dead son. And of course there was the still-classic Trilogy of Terror in 1975 - anyone else remember that doll with the razor-sharp teeth attacking Karen Black in her apartment?

But for me, the hands-down gold standard for made-for-TV horror when I was a kid was a movie shown on ABC in the fall of 1973, Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark:

In this film, a house full of particularly disturbing-looking goblins (that only come out at night, of course) set out to capture or kill the new tenants occupying their home. I sat and watched this one with my brother in our basement family room in Wisconsin, and for MONTHS afterwards, we couldn't enter a room at night without reaching around from the outside and switching the lights on first . . . and for a long time after that, I looked at wall heating grates with fear and apprehension.  The ending of this movie (and no, I won't give it away here) is one of the all-time great downbeat horror endings.  All in all, the tone and atmosphere of this film lived long in my memory, up until the present day (apparently, I wasn't the only one - director Guillermo Del Toro has been quoted as saying this movie scared the hell out of him as well when he was a kid).

As scary as these television movies were, I think that in some small way, I benefited from experiencing them, in that as I got older, there were fewer and fewer things that could really put the fear of God in me. Before I reached double-digits, I was a thrill ride aficionado, and couldn't wait to ride the roller coasters and other exciting rides at Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion every summer. My friends and I used to play in the woods near our homes well into the night, running through the trees in pitch blackness without trepidation. And I routinely walked home from a buddy's house on gloomy evenings through a long, dark and narrow path through a forest - I never gave it much of a thought at the time.

I look at my kids today - who refuse to ride coasters with me at amusement parks, who rarely if so much as walk across the street at dusk to see their friends, and who recoil with fear and revulsion whenever I suggest we settle in for the night with a classic scary movie like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Shining - and just shake my head sometimes. I think that kids today are scared of a lot more things for a lot longer, because so many of them have been protected for so long from experiencing frightening or disturbing things. And that's a shame. Oh well . . .

I'm a grown man now, jaded and cynical after all of these years . . . and yet there are still a couple of things that just freak me right the hell out.  For example:

A couple of years ago, when I lived in Maryland, I was flipping around the cable box one night and landed right in the middle of Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, probably the only one of his movies I never caught when it was first released in theaters - I recall that night it was airing on HBO or something. I arrived just before the first 'accident', a graphic head-on high-speed collision between Kurt Russell's "death-proof" stunt car and a sedan full of women - a crash that Tarantino felt the "artistic" need to show over and over, from different angles, to show exactly what happened to each of the auto's occupants . . . Jesus. I don't know if you all have ever seen that movie or that particular scene . . . but as bad as it sounds with my description, it's much worse actually seeing it, and it rocked me and shocked me to my core. I don't know what Quentin was trying to accomplish with that section of the film, but if it was to deliver a sickening kick to the viewer's stomachs, then mission accomplished.

I bought Death Proof on DVD a couple of years later, to complete my Tarantino collection. For the most part, it's a pretty decent, entertaining film . . . but to this day I avoid watching that particular crash scene. I can't describe how or why it gets to me - I'm not squeamish, and I don't think I'm particularly sensitive. It's just a scene and an experience I have no interest in knowing all that much detail about.

Other than Death Proof, there's probably only one other film that still fills me with the same sort of shock, horror and dread - the original Night Of The Living Dead.

"Night Of The Living Dead?", you may be asking yourself - "That cheap-ass black-and-white zombie-attack throwback from the Sixties - are you kidding? Hell, there aren't even any decent special effects in that movie!" Yes, all of that is pretty much true. But it's that lack of production values - the grainy footage, natural lighting and settings, and odd camera angles - that makes NOTLD what it is. It comes off as less a film and more of almost a documentary, a chronicle of actual events that occurred that night. There's an undercurrent of realism that runs through the movie - in the movements, mindsets and actions of the various victims in relation to their plight - that makes you feel not only like "this really happened", but also "this CAN really happen".

And despite its lack of color, the film contains some of the most shocking scenes in horror film history. It goes without saying that zombie movies as we know them today basically didn't exist before 1968. With Night Of The Living Dead, director George Romero not only invented the genre, he also introduced an unprecedented depiction of gore rarely seen before that time. Animated dead bodies feeding visibly on human flesh and entrails was jolting back then, to audiences more used to the restrained 'shock' of a Christopher Lee Hammer Horror film or a Hitchcock flick. It remains jolting today.

The scene in NOTLD that always gets me is near the end (semi-spoiler alert), when the zombiefied little girl eats her father, then hacks her mother to death with a paving trowel in the basement . . . To me, that's a profoundly messed-up segment, with the girl's arm rising and falling again and again, and the sound of the trowel entering her mother's chest, over and over - brrrr! For me, unwatchable.

Not much thought was given to compiling a Night Of The Living Dead soundtrack when the movie was completed in the late '60s. In fact, it wasn't until more than a decade later that anyone got around to doing so.  The album is full of good ol' '60s-style incidental suspense/horror film music, along with a fair amount of dialogue from the film.  Apparently, it didn't sell very well - to the best of my knowledge, this disc has never been released on CD.

So here for your listening pleasure is Night Of The Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), released on vinyl by the label Varese Sarabande in 1982. I hope that this soundtrack helps set the tone for your scary and spooky Halloween night. So have fun, and enjoy! And as always, let me know what you think.

(As for myself, I have no particular plans this evening, after the final trick-or-treater departs. I don't know . . . I guess I'll just stay in and watch some TV . . .)  

Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP:  

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Here's a fun fact: a small snippet from the final selection on this soundtrack album, "Funeral Pyre (End Title)", was used in one of the most disturbing (and yet hilarious) cartoon scenes of all time, the 'Call The Police' segment of Ren & Stimpy's "Rubber Nipple Salesmen" episode on Nickelodeon.  If you've never had the chance to experience it . . . bon appetit (and keep in mind that this was a show for children):