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Nov 292021
 

Seriously? Nobody is going to post about Get Back?

I’ve always felt like a Beatles neophyte around here. I only read my first Beatle book about 2 or 3 years ago, while some of you seem to have a wing of your personal libraries devoted to them. I don’t own all their albums. I haven’t even heard all of their songs despite the fact that they’re readily available on Spotify. But they’re the Beatles for chrissake! Even as a Stones guy I can admit that they had the greatest run of any band ever. And I’m enjoying the hell out of this unprecedented peek behind the curtain. Watching them make up songs on the spot that would go on to be so ubiquitous for the next half a century is fascinating, as is hearing them glibly sniffing around the idea of disbanding. This show is great and I can’t tell if everyone is too jaded to be impressed or has collectively moved to other platforms (I suspect the latter).

I’m only partly though the second episode but here are some of my observations so far:
– Mal Evans looks like an extra from the Benny Hill show;
– Magic Alex appears to be adding nothing of value;
– I’m increasingly nervous about the pressure being put on Glyn Johns to compensate for Magic Alex’s shenanigans;
– Michael Lindsey Hogg is terribly irritating;
– Yoko was very close to being rehabilitated in my mind but all that has now been erased. Good lord, she is the worst;
– Paul is somehow both the most annoying guy in the band and the most understanding guy in the band;
– After a solid 4 decades of being my least favorite Beatle, Ringo has emerged as my favorite. This isn’t based on Get Back alone. It’s been in the works for a while but even I’m not totally sure how I arrived here.

Anyone else care to chime in?

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Nov 192021
 

It’s just come to my attention that Martin Scorsese is directing a biopic about the Grateful Dead. In the spirit of the casting call that we had for Downtown Abbey a while back (https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/meet-the-cast-of-downtown-abbey/2/), I propose we help Marty out by providing some casting suggestions. Jonah Hill has already signed on as Jerry. I’m leaning toward Seth Rogan as Pigpen. Let’s hear your ideas!

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Nov 052021
 

Did you ever wonder what it would be like if Skunk Baxter, Jay Ferguson, Bob Welch and members of Spirit, the Doobie Brothers, REO Speedwagon, the Knack, Heart, and Manassas did a bunch of blow and then plugged in the old guitars and just fucking went for it? Me too! I’ll bet it would look a little something like this…

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Sparks Propaganda

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Nov 042021
 

I sometimes feel like it’s a failing of mine that I don’t “get” some Rock Nerd sacred cows such as Pet Sounds, Nina Simon, and most of Joni Mitchell’s catalog. These are but a few examples of art/artists held in high regard by a lot of friends with excellent and generally comparable musical tastes to mine. Why don’t I get it? Am I too musically unsophisticated? Am I shallow? Maybe, just maybe, could this be a difference of opinion and taste instead of some shameful personality deficiency?

I will revisit some of this stuff every few years to see if my tastes have evolved in a way that will allow me, for instance, to appreciate the bittersweet, openheartedness of Tony Asher’s lyrics, but for now they still sound like a Hallmark greeting card. So far, Raw Power has been the only one to break through.

I will, however, read a bio or watch a documentary about almost anyone, even if I despise their music (Twisted Sister), despise them as a person (David Crosby), or both (Papa John Phillips). And so, I ended up watching The Sparks Brothers on Netflix last night, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I first heard of them when they appeared in the mid-70s disaster movie Rollercoaster. Similar to when I saw Devo on SNL for the first time, I couldn’t tell if Sparks was a real band or a joke. Over the years, I’ve taken an occasional stab at listening to some of their stuff. I definitely do not like their music. But this documentary is great. I found their relationship with each other and their relentless pursuit of a shape-shifting muse to be really endearing. Even though I can’t find any musical common ground with them, I’m glad that I live in a world where they exist. Much like Rush, I like everything about them except for their music.

I highly recommend the movie. There have been Sparks posts on RTH in the past and our staunchest Sparks defenders are AWOL, so that leaves it to me, a non-Sparks fans to try and convince you to check it out. There will almost certainly be some moments that will annoy some of you, but I encourage you to power through to the end. It’s worth it. Come on, these guys have been at it for 50 years, can’t you spare them 2 hours?

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Mystery Date!

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Jul 242021
 

Let’s review the ground rules here. The Mystery Date song is not necessarily something I believe to be good. So feel free to rip it or praise it. Rather the song is something of interest due to the artist, influences, time period… Your job is to decipher as much as you can about the artist without research. Who do you think it is? Or, Who do you think it sounds like? When do you think it was recorded? Etc…

If you know who it is, don’t spoil it for the rest. Anyone who knows it can play the “mockcarr option.” (And I’ve got a hunch at least one of you know this one.) This option is for those of you who just can’t hold your tongue and must let everyone know just how in-the-know you are by calling it. So if you know who it is and want everyone else to know that you know, email Mr. Moderator at mrmoderator [at] rocktownhall [dot] com. If correct we will post how brilliant you are in the Comments section.

The real test of strength though is to guess as close as possible without knowing. Ready, steady, go!

Here are 3 tracks by the same Mystery Band.

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Pardon My French

 Posted by
Mar 082021
 

If we are connected on social media, some of you are already aware of this so feel free to skip to the next post.

As a side project for the past few years, I have been writing songs in French, despite the fact that I don’t speak the language. I wrote the lyrics using Google translate and a French rhyming dictionary. The music is an attempt at French Pop by a guy who just read a Wikipedia entry about it without actually hearing what it sounded like.

I recorded them them with some friends in Philadelphia who play in such diverse groups as Philadelphia Ukulele Orchestra, the actual Philadelphia Orchestra, John Train, Magnolia Electric Company, Candy Volcano, Marah, Nixon’s Head, Rome 56, Baby Flamehead, the Low Road, Slo-Mo, the Silence, etc.
Long dormant Townsman General Slocum and Chicken Frank’s better half both made excellent contributions.

I finally got 4 of them mixed (three originals and an Ramones cover) at Studio 1935, and put them out as an EP. I plan to put at least one more EP out once I get them mixed too.

These will be up on Spotify and Bandcamp soon but for now, they are on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. There’s also a video on YouTube.

Here are the links. Profitez!

Bandcamp:
https://therodins.bandcamp.com/album/jeu-prolong-extended-play

Soundcloud:

Video:

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Mar 012021
 

Talk on the recent RTH Zoom touched on the last band people saw before the pandemic shut things down. Mine was Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives and the show was spectacular.

I knew his name for years and saw him occasionally on tv when he appeared on random all-star events, but I never knew much about him other than he was the guy with the fancy hair and the scarves who owned Clarence White’s telecaster with the original b-bender in it (not to get in the weeds here but for those who aren’t familiar, a b-bender is a device that can be installed on a guitar. It has a lever attached to the guitar strap that allows the player to pull down on the strap which causes the b string to go up in pitch and makes it simulate the sound of a pedal steel).

Marty appears frequently in Ken Burns Country documentary, which I highly recommend if you’ve not seen it yet. He’s a great storyteller with a deep understanding of American popular music. It turns out he’s also a phenomenal guitar player, a great singer, and a master showman.

I love country music but, like jazz and the blues, my interest drops off pretty sharply sometime on the early to mid 60’s. Someone past that time will occasionally catch my ear, like Dwight Yoakam or Lyle Lovett, but even those guys have been around for about 40 years now so I’m not really up to date on country, nor do I care to be. As a result, I’ve never given Marty Stuart, and probably a lot of others, their fair due. Based on the documentary, and after I started poking around on the internet, I’ve come to realize that Marty Stuart is one of those guys who, not unlike Tom Petty, got bit by the bug early, realized that nothing else would do, and single mindedly willed himself into a lifelong career that started when he was 14 years old. I like some of his originals but for me, the appeal of Marty Stuart is that his profound love of music really comes through in the performances by him and his razor-sharp band. Is there still some corny “aw shucks” shenanigans on stage? Sure. But even that comes off as genuine. Here’s a random sampling of the things like by Marty Stuart.

14 years old Marty with Lester Flatt. Fantastic playing, and while this isn’t my favorite of his, I include it because it shows a guy who is talented and self-possessed enough to work his way into Lester Flatt’s band at the ripe old age of 14. Seriously, what were you doing at 14?

Country Boy Rock and Roll on the Letterman Show – A cool song and a great showcase for a band that has an ease about it but can hit the gas when necessary. Stick with it for the dual leads between Marty and Kenny Vaughn.

Rosie Flores – Crying Over You – My judgement here may be clouded by the presence of national treasure Rosie Flores, but when playing with others, this band has an effortlessness and malleability while retaining its own personality. That feels like it would be tricky to pull off. Marty is content just to be strumming an acoustic and polite enough to wait for an invite to the microphone before singing along.

Here are a few from his TV show, which I didn’t even realize existed until fairly recently. The first two are with Roger McGuinn. Mod, I know your feelings about McGuinn, and I don’t think they are necessarily wrong, but try to put them aside, ignore the fedora, and just focus on the band and the presentation of the songs. Outstanding.

You Ain’t Going Nowhere

My Back Pages

Here’s Johnny Rivers doing the Poor Side of Town. A great, smooth rendition, and frankly, Johnny seems to be taking very good care of himself.

Finally, this isn’t the best clip but it ties a bunch of conversational threads from the other night together. Marty Stuart,Elvis Costello, Brian Setzer, and Ricky Skaggs doing Honey Don’t.

I’m hoping someone who is more knowledgeable (I’m thinking of someone with a deep appreciation of country/roots music like Big Steve) can weigh in one some other tracks worth checking out.

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