Saturday, October 30, 2010

Poll Results - "What is the worst rock song of all time?"

Well, hell . . . you guys scared me for a minute. Up until the day before the poll closed, "All That She Wants" and "We Built This City" were actually TRAILING in the "worst song" competition. Fortunately at the last minute, enough of you had the good bad taste to make the right choice. Here are the results:

- "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" - 1 vote
- "My Humps" - 1 vote
- "Kokomo" - 1 vote
- "I'm Too Sexy" - 1 vote
- "Live Is Life" - 2 votes
- "The Final Countdown" - 2 votes
- "Achy Breaky Heart" - 3 votes
- "All That She Wants" - 4 votes

And the champion, the consensus Worst Rock Song of All Time:

- "We Built This City" - 5 votes

I congratulate you all for participating. I'll put together another poll soon, when I think of a good topic.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Who - Live At Leeds: Complete

I hesitate to mention this, for fear of committing rock blasphemy and losing my credibility with you musicophiles out there . . . but frankly, The Who have never done that much for me.

True, I like some of their songs, and I enjoyed seeing them play their abbreviated "greatest hits" set at the Super Bowl last year. But I've never had any interest in delving that deeply into their individual albums, searching for that obscure gem buried on, say, Side Two of The Who Sell Out or The Who By Numbers. I'm happy just listening to my copy of the hits collection Who's Better, Who's Best, and leaving the rest unplayed. To me, their concept albums, like Tommy and Quadrophenia, just seem a bit over the top. IMHO, in the late 60s, there were better bands than The Who putting out more superior concept albums addressing the state of the world and life in Britain (um, The Kinks, and The Village Green Preservation Society (for starters), anyone?).

And over the years, the whole hagiography of the band, and Keith Moon in particular, has seemed a bit overblown to me. Yes, I was sad when John Entwhistle died (I give him props, though, for going out like a true rock star - in bed in a Vegas hotel, a naked hooker to his left and a pile of blow to his right), but it wasn't as affecting to me as it was to a lot of other, bigger Who fans. I have a lot of bands that I'm really into and have made the time and effort to know more about - The Who are not one of those bands. They're a classic rock band, and rank right up there near the top . . . but so do Led Zeppelin and Cream, and those bands don't get half the quasireligious worship that The Who seems to engender.

My buddy Ed is a HUGE Who fan, though, and knows the band's music and history back and forth. He can tell you which one of the numbered guitars Pete Townshend played at which point during the Woodstock and Isle of Wight festivals, and exactly how much gunpowder was loaded into Keith Moon's drumset during the infamous Smothers Brothers show explosion in 1967 (BTW, if you've never seen it, it's an instant classic:)

Ed's all-time favorite album is Live At Leeds. Many years ago, he began hearing rumors that what was released on Live At Leeds was not the band's complete set recorded at Leeds University on February 14th, 1970. He assumed that with the release of the expanded Live At Leeds: Deluxe Edition in 2001, he would finally be hearing the full show. But even that release had issues, specifically in that it wasn't fully 'live', but "augmented" in some places in the studio to either expand the sound or hide some of the flubbed notes and sloppy riffs. Ed was still itching to get his hands on the complete, unadulterated set, complete with errors and extended stage banter. I told him I'd help him track it down. A friend of mine in the Rockies had a copy, a bootleg released on Midas Touch Records a few years ago, and at my request he immediately sent one to me.

The two-disc Live At Leeds: Complete was all that Ed had asked for, and more - the complete set from that fateful day in 1970, from start to finish. The song sequencing is different from the earlier releases of this album, and the length of the individual tracks varies according to how much studio wizardry and elimination of stage chatter was done to the originals. There's also an infamous static hum through some of the songs, a noise that was eliminated on the earlier releases, but a sound that told Ed that he was getting the original, unadulterated goods. He was completely flabbergasted and fascinated with some of the obvious (to him) changes evident on Complete, compared to the originals. He tried to point out some of them to me, but I was oblivious - shit all sounded the same to me. Still, I know he spent hours listening and relistening to each track . . . as many others have done. There are literally entire websites set up that meticulously analyze every song on this one album and track the modifications. That's getting a little too nitpicky for me, but more power to guys who are into stuff like that.

If you're one of those types of Who fans, then I guess this posting will be right up your alley. Have a listen, enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think:

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The B-52's - Bouncing Off The Satellites

[Well, I'm back . . . sort of. I'm cheating a little, by backdating this one. I originally started it early in October, but never finished it in time for the anniversary I was trying to commemorate. Sorry for being away from this thing for so long. I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to post, but a combination of more pressing matters, time spent away, and simply my own general sloth kept me from creating actual words from my thoughts. No promises on how active I'll be in the next few days/weeks - I made that mistake last month! But, for now, here you go - enjoy:]

If you read my earlier posts, you know that I absolutely love The B-52's. I've been a fan of theirs for over thirty years (God, have they been around that long (and a more pertinent question - am I THAT old?)?), and have attended a countless number of their live shows (has to be somewhere around 12-15 now). I know this band back and forth, and can speak knowledgeably about band minutiae such as the name of Kate Pierson's pre-B-52's hippie band (The Sun Donuts), and as the relative quality of their opening acts over the years (The Bongos were pretty good, Royal Crescent Mob sucked). I briefly lived in Athens, GA, the band's hometown, and while I was there I used to go to Allen's for a beer (no longer 25 cents though (and this was before "Deadbeat Club" was even recorded, so gimme a break)), and on the way into school every day, I drove by the house at the far end of Milledge Avenue where the band played their legendary first concert, out on the back porch.

Probably my favorite of all the B-52's shows I've seen was the one they played Providence in March 1982, in support of their latest album Mesopotamia (I think it was called the "Meso-Americans Tour"). At the time, I was living and going to school in Newport, RI, and I had recently turned one of my new buddies there (we'll call him "Camob") onto the band. Camob came to Rhode Island straight out of the San Fernando Valley of suburban Los Angeles, and though he did his best to hide it, his unconscious mannerisms and vocal inflections pegged him as a straight-up early '80s "Valley Boy". He was like a bigger, beefier, less aggro Billy Zabka - only if Zabka had brown hair, no karate skills and a more normal, formative childhood. Camob was also smart as hell, although he was doing his level best to murder his cerebral cortex every weekend by liberally dousing it with as much ethanol as he could procure (the man had a stinging, insatiable yen for stinkwater that was truly remarkable for someone of his tender years, and positively hair-raising for a teetotaling geek like myself back then). Couple all of that with his Devo fandom, and it's no wonder we quickly became fast friends.

Anyway, after his first taste of their music, Camob dug the Bee-Fives pretty much from the get-go, and as such, he and I decided to go to the Providence concert. He talked one of our classmates into going with us as well - not that we were particular buddies with the guy, but mainly because he had a car we could use for the trip (well, that HE could use - I still couldn't drive just yet). The evening of the show, Camob and the other guy loaded up the car with brown-bagged "supplies" (I didn't bother to ask what they were), and we all headed across the Newport Bridge, en route to the state capital.

The sold-out show was at the Providence Performing Arts Center, a beautiful old opera house-type venue with red velvet seating and a huge balcony hanging over a third of the floor seating. We got to Providence early enough to find good parking close to the theater. But instead of running right in to claim our seats and settle in for the opening act, the other two guys with me insisted on breaking into their bags of "supplies", which basically consisted of several cans of semi-cold Busch beer and a contraption consisting of a long flexible plastic tube about an inch in diameter, with a funnel at one end. Being a nondrinker, I had no idea what the thing was for - looked like some sort of mouth douche to me. But I soon found out what the deal was, as the guys plugged up one end and began pouring can after can of brewski into this contraption, which they called a "beer bong". I watched in amazement as Camob held the bong high, raised the nonfunnel end to his lips, and in a flash emptied the equivalent of four cans of beer straight into his belly, without losing a drop (my boy was very proud of his ability to "open his throat" to make that happen . . . and we'll just leave that line alone . . .).

Needless to say, by the time the show started, Camob was roaring drunk. Our driving buddy, who didn't partake as liberally as Camob did, seemed to be holding his own; of course, I hadn't had a drop. I had more than a bit of concern regarding how we were going to be able to drive back to Newport later that night, but my worries were momentarily forgotten as the curtain came up. Like I mentioned earlier, the opening band, The Bongos, were pretty good. I'd never heard of them before that show, but a lot of their songs stuck with me, including "Number With Wings".

But of course, the main reason I was there was for the headliner, and they did not disappoint. The place was going apeshit as the B-52's played classic song after classic song. Outside of "Mesopotamia", I don't recall them playing anything else off of their latest album. The set was concentrated on the big hits from their first two discs: "Private Idaho", "52 Girls", "Rock Lobster", "Dance This Mess Around". People were out of their seats the entire time, dancing in the aisles and causing such a ruckus in the PPAC balcony that Fred Schneider paused the show momentarily to implore the people up there not to bounce around so much, lest they cause the balcony to collapse on the rest of the audience! Just a great, great show.

(And as for our return trip, Camob's friend had danced and sweated off enough booze to become sober enough to get us back to Newport. I rode shotgun, still petrified, ready to grab the wheel at the first sign of the guy slipping into a sudden alcohol coma, while Camob lay prone in the backseat, mumbling to himself in a profound liquor stupor - another TKO victory recorded by the infamous beer bong. Thank God he made it back there without booting - that would have made a bad ride THAT much worse.)

I've been there and back again with this band, long before their mainstream popularity, so the death of Ricky Wilson back in 1985 was particularly affecting. The guy was a guitar genius, and while Keith Strickland has definitely picked up where Ricky left off (and saved the band in the process), to this day the band is still missing the spirit that Ricky brought to their music. I'll always be a fan, though - as will Camob, who after all of the these years is still one of their #1 acolytes.

So on the 25th anniversary of his death, I offer you the last album recorded by all five original members, Bouncing Off The Satellites, released in September 1986 on Warner Brothers Records. This album doesn't quite have the loose, party-hearty feel of their earlier albums, but there is still enough in the way of goofy ideas and good music to make up for the overall stiffness and broader lack of imagination.


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Monday, October 4, 2010

So much for my big plan . . .

to post a bunch of stuff at the end of September. Sorry, folks - circumstances conspired against me. More stuff to come this week and month, so don't give up on this blog yet!