Aug 062014
 
Thanks, Lee.

Thanks, Lee.

As a teenager I couldn’t fall asleep without listening to music. Every night I’d pop in a cassette of one of those King Biscuit Flower Hour concerts I’d recorded off the radio and rock myself to sleep while studying the details of how the Attractions, for instance, could skillfully bring it down behind Elvis Costello on “Motel Matches” and then burst back into the fore with a Pete Thomas snare hit. Or the way Patti Smith Group could sloppily plow their way through their cover of “My Generation” with not an ounce of finesse or style that the Who brought to the original. It didn’t matter that they sounded like they were winging it. Smith barked out the lyrics as if possessed. I imagined the guys in the band unleashing shit-eating grins after an hour-long set dedicated to the noble effort of performing silted originals that awkwardly attempted to graft Smith’s free verse poetry to musical variations of Them’s “Gloria,” their keynote cover song. As a practicing musician, I knew from experience the thrill of sloppily running through those garage-band classics.

I had to keep my cassette tape collection fresh, so once a week I’d load up a blank cassette and tape the latest King Biscuit concert off WMMR, excluding the monthly forays into up-and-coming Corporate Rock bands like Journey. WIOQ occasionally featured a newly released, vaguely New Wave album. One month I taped both a live concert and the second album by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. They seemed like a New Wave band even the traditional stoner dudes could grasp. For younger readers, I should note, the practice of taping music off the radio was the equivalent of downloading music illegally. We were the first generation to kill the record industry.

In terms of listening to music for the purpose of falling asleep, an especially counterproductive practice occurred on Sunday nights, when I tuned into the University of Pennsylvania’s WXPN for a low-wattage broadcast of Yesterday’s Now Music Today, hosted by someone named Lee Paris. I don’t recall how I stumbled across this underground show. Paris had none of the insider cool of the FM DJs I’d been getting accustomed to. He got nowhere near backstage with the Boss or Jackson Browne. He had no time for the Stones. His enthusiasm and sense of wonder were more in tune with the early ‘70s AM DJs I grew up with, but he lacked their concise professionalism and compressed, booming tone. He raved about the new music he was playing and the underground bands passing through Philadelphia’s small clubs. He likely chatted up some of these bands, but he never gave the impression that he was a confidante of the artists, the way one legendary WIOQ DJ, in particular, did when dropping tales of his latest encounter with the Boss or Billy Joel.

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Oct 102012
 

NEWS FLASH!!! An actual Allen Ravenstine-Scott Krauss-Tony Maimone–era Pere Ubu video other than “Birdies” from Urgh! A Music War has been found on YouTube! Enjoy this performance of “On the Surface” from my favorite October day album, Dub Housing, before the fog lifts. I believe David Thomas is highly protective of the band’s appearances on YouTube.

As a special bonus, this performance is from the band’s 1988 reunion tour, featuring second drummer Chris Cutler. In my frequent searches for video evidence of the many great shows I’ve witnessed by this band beginning with this particular tour, I have had trouble finding anything involving these key members other than the excellent performance of “Birdies,” with a boyishly trimmer-than-usual Thomas looking like a plump Liev Schrieber. Usually, all I find is stuff from their appearances on David Letterman and David Sandborn‘s Night Music, a couple of years later, when they tried cleaning up their sound and core members began moving on. That stuff’s not as exhilarating, although shows I saw during those years were strong.

UPDATED: HERE’S ANOTHER PERFORMANCE FROM THAT TOUR!

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May 042012
 

It’s not often we get to see Robert Fripp laugh, is it? I forgot King Crimson played on the failed early challenger to Saturday Night LiveFridays. Clearly, Fripp had a good time that night.

Collective critical wisdom probably considers Robert Fripp to be an “influential” musician, much like it does his old partner in crime, Brian Eno. However, unlike the body of work Eno produced, I’m not sure Fripp’s work as a guitarist, composer, producer, conceptualist, and iconoclast actually influenced many musicians. Who else plays in that weird scale that’s so distinctive of Fripp’s work? Who else uses Frippertronics? What other rock guitarists play seated on a stool? Eno inspired a generation of non-musicians to produce music, and he actually helped change the way we hear music. Fripp’s body of work suggests a musician needs to spend a lot of time practicing. Baby, that ain’t rock ‘n roll!

I’m not criticizing Fripp, mind you. I like his body of work. I like that one circular scale he plays repeatedly—and the other one, involving 2 notes that don’t quite go together yet move up the neck in some weird harmony. I love those soaring, melodic solos he occasionally plays on Eno records and The Roches’ “Hammond Song.” I consider Fripp to be an inspiring musician but not an influential one, if that makes sense. Along the same lines, I call bullshit on most folks who claim Captain Beefheart as an “influence.” His music is inspiring, but how can one be influenced by Beefheart without aping him? “Yeah, man, I like to stick daggers in the blues and sing ‘out there’ lyrics!” With rare exceptions (eg, Pere Ubu, early PJ Harvey), that is Beefheart more than it is influenced by Beefheart. I think he’s too idiosyncratic to be that useful an influence.

If you can get on board with this concept, are there other musicians you can think of who may be so idiosyncratic that they do not leave much room for influence, in terms of “building off” their work?

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Sep 212011
 

Everyone has their decade and judging by recent RTH threads, the 1960s topped many people’s lists for the Best Era of Rock. And although I appreciate the music of the 1960s, a large part of my heart is saved for the ’80s. Much of this connection reflects my personal experiences growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, followed by the watershed experience of receiving my first copy of the Trouser Press Record Guide. But as I’ve become older, I continue to listen to and think about a lot of this music.

So I offer this bridge to our fellow Townspersons who may sneer and consider the 1980s an era of ridiculous fashion and over-the-top musical groups. But it didn’t necessarily start out that way. I paraphrase the mighty Simon Reynolds in his stellar history, Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984, that 19781982 rivaled the years 19631967 in the amount of amazing music, the spirit of adventure and idealism, and the way the music was connected to the social and political events of the era.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the Post Punk Years:

But first, a few words about Punk music.

Continue reading »

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Sep 192008
 

Here’s a humble oldie but goodie that was initially posted with a hard-to-find Pere Ubu video that was quickly removed from YouTube, as we learned is the case with this band’s scant videos. A Kinks video that only a Kinks fan could love was put in its place, and this gets to the heart of our discussion. We’re a discerning bunch, and many of us have been known to kill off the “runts” in our favorite artists’ outputs, such as a friend’s literal shooting of his copy of London Calling, the Clash album that marked, in his mind, the band’s betrayal of their initial purpose. Who knows, on the other hand, what kepts others buying Clash records right on through Cut the Crap. Us parents call it unconditional love.

This post initially appeared 5/31/07.

No longer Maimone’s mullet, but hair treats nevertheless!

Am I incorrect in thinking that there are some long-running bands and solo artists who somehow manage not to bum out their dedicated fans? I’m thinking, in particular, of The Kinks and Richard Thompson. Do diehard fans of either band ever bum out at the release of a lesser work, or do they just “walk on by,” content with the fact that their underdog favorites have lived to see another release? Come to think of it, I probably do this for Pere Ubu, who haven’t put out a decent album that I’ve heard among occasional releases for what must be closing in on 15 years. Is there a band for which you turn the other cheek?*

*Really nice people, who never bum out over a bad turn by a favorite band, need not apply.

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