Apr 122007

Forever Young: The Youth Group

Sugar, Sugar: Mary Lou Lord/Semisonic

Dancing Queen: Redd Kross

Your favorite pop song covered? Discuss!

Mar 302007

“If The Bicycles have a sound it includes happiness, a little weirdness, catchy melodies, lots of harmonies, lots of parts, very short songs, and a kind of upbeat sloppiness.” (Dana Snell, Drummer for The Bicycles)

I first started hearing about the fun, quirky, and talented The Bicycles of Toronto, Ontario via my musical friend Dan Bryk who was working on a few different tracks they had recorded with him in North Carolina for their current album, maybe now well over 3 years ago. Apparently there have been a lot of big changes for the group since then, including adding new members, going out on tour with UK artist The Boy Least Likely To… among other highlights, such as making a video, working on a tribute album with Andy Kim, various side-projects and so much more…and I was so confused by the email announcement from my friend Maria’s label (Fuzzy Logic Recordings, based out of Toronto as well) for their recent release The Good, The Bad & The Cuddly that I actually thought that this was their first, second album! If that’s even possible!

Photo: Beth Hamill (rockpaperpixels.com)

Let me just say that it’s been a long time coming for this adventuresome group of B-B-Bicycles! I sent off some quick questions to Maria, and soon their talented drummer, Dana Snell, was able to answer the call and pop in for a short bit of interview Q&A…

First of all, I have to ask: who is the talented naked man dancing in the new Bicycles video?
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Mar 292007

I was catching up with one of my oldest friends, Sandy, today on the phone and we got to talking about seeing The Pogues in Detroit back in 1995. How they had reformed, were touring again, and whether it was the full old band or the new one… I’ve already missed them here, I know. I guess Cait O’Riordan is the only one who isn’t in this recent reformation of The Pogues, although everyone else is supposedly in… (and what IS Cait doing now anyway? “She left the Radiators and was replaced in February 2006 by Jesse Booth, and went on to form a band of divorcées named Prenup with Hothouse Flowers guitarist Fiachna ó Braonáin. They are currently recording their debut album for release in 2007.” – Wickipedia)

Anyway, we started talking about the ’95 show because we actually had the pleasure of meeting Shane and his girlfriend at the time, Victoria Clarke (“the girl with green eyes”) in the old restaurant/bar/dive next door. Saint Andrew’s Hall (St. Andy’s) is a three-level venue still located on Congress Street in Detroit, Michigan. They have smaller shows in The Shelter (the lower level) and bigger shows on the main floor (St. Andrew’s Hall), which has a balcony, and there was the upper level – The Burns Room, which was mostly used for the touring bands’ green room, but I’d also DJ’d up there several times in the 90s for a night that a friend started called “GO Sound”. It’s one of the main venues to play in Detroit.

When I say meeting Shane was a pleasure, Sandy and I were talking about how he should absolutely be dead by now, with all of his wanton lifestyle choices taken into consideration. Even that night, I remember he was on stage and looked like he was going to fall over during their set (white as a sheet, pale as a ghost) and even had to leave the stage at one point for more alcohol and medication, I’m guessing.

Apparently he had a toothache that was just killing him and he was on tons of meds for it. Also the fellow’s been announced nearly dead so many times in the press, it wouldn’t have been half surprising seeing him fall off the stage right then and there! For this show in particular, we were able to meet Shane beforehand (my friend Kevin was interviewing him for his print ‘zine, called Scataphobia at the time), and I remember he was lying with his head in his arms, on a table near the front of the bar (literally snoozing half-asleep/half-awake and in a puddle of his own drool), barely coherent and mumbling, and looking like death itself. A pint still clutched in his hand, and his girlfriend clucking over him like a mother hen while Kevin attempted to get a few “usable” quotes out of him.

Earlier in the afternoon, Kevin had also gotten some quotes and talked to members of the band touring with The Pogues. It was The Waltons (Lik My Tractor, was their big album, and Jason Plumb from the band actually ended up going solo finally years later when I booked him in a local venue in town). The Waltons were a weird mix to be touring with The Pogues. They were a Canadian indie band, with an alt-country kind of twist similar to that of Blue Rodeo or The Skydiggers of that time. Kev’s first question to The Waltons was to find out what they thought of touring with The Pogues – How was it going for everyone? And The Walton’s automatic answer was of course to slam Shane – “Oh, it’s a regular nightmare, he’s late all the time for soundcheck, always drinking…” blah-de-blah-de-blah…

So Kevin, not even thinking that it was Victoria Clarke who was going to introduce him to Shane starts going on about how The Waltons are bad-talking touring with The Pogues, not really having the best time, etc. Next thing you know, Sandy recounts “Don’t you remember?!! …,”

“We were standing in line and The Waltons were loading their gear OUT of the front of St. Andrew’s Hall because they had been KICKED OFF THE TOUR!”

Amazing. So much for first impressions! It was confirmed a few days later that Kevin had indeed gotten The Waltons kicked off of the tour because of his off-the-cuff “anecdotal” remarks to Victoria. Ah, The Press! Did anyone see The Pogues show here recently?

Mar 262007

Thanks to Townsman Hrrundi for sending me this video!

I’ve had just under 13 hours of sleep from hitting two shows (You Am I and last night’s bonanza of bands from afar – The Prayers (San Diego, CA), The Mint Chicks (Auckland, New Zealand), The Broken West (Los Angeles, CA), and Oppenheimer (Belfast, Ireland) this weekend, and working back-to-back mid-to-night shifts. Okay, so here is the rock story: Do musicians trying to use me for their cocaine hook-up somehow make me dirty? And no, I’m totally not into cocaine. Never touched the stuff, don’t plan to. Tim Rogers sang BOTH of my song requests on his acoustic to warm up the show! “Jaimme’s Got A Gal” and “Please Don’t Ask Me To Smile”.

Does the fact that he kissed me on the cheek after his sweaty performance and whispered my name and then, “I love you…” into my ear make me a super-fan? Was all of this just a big wet dream? I had to walk away before I became glued on the spot because Tim Rogers was walking around with an acoustic guitar and singing to a group of people remaining like a rock n’ roll version of Jens Lekman while the door-guy was trying to get everyone to leave. When I came in at 3:30 am on Friday night, I was still just shaking my head in disbelief and trying to get the ringing out of my ears.

Earlier in the day, I had packed my cassette recorder and a blue sharpie in my bag for work, as well as their album Deliverance (how do you decide which albums to get signed?), earlier in the day, with the full intention of getting autographs, an interview quote – or something!
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Mar 062007

One of my favorite rock biographies that I’ve ever read is a dog-eared copy of a book penned by former road manager Johnny Green & Garry Barker called, A Riot of Our Own: Night and Day with the Clash. I’ve passed this one on to friends and gotten it back by mail with compliments more than a few times in the past from touring bands, giving it out with the promise of a (hopeful) return. Each time someone spots it, I have the urge to give it away just so that it can be read and enjoyed by someone else.

Image from Amazon
A Riot of Our Own: Night and Day with the Clash by Johnny Green, Garry Barker

It’s made it into my all-time favorite rock biographies because of its ability to grab hold of my imagination no matter what part of the book I open a page to – The Clash in the late 1970s. Watching Rude Boy always kind of gave me that feeling too and I think that’s where this book got me as well – it sucked me right in through the eyes of Someone Who Was There, possibly getting spit on, sweat on and kicked, but there – sleeping in the tour bus, and knee-deep in the chaos. It made me feel like I was part of the crew, along for the ride. No BS, and a really strong narrative!

Image from Amazon
The Replacements’ Let It Be (33 1/3) by Colin Meloy

Another cool collection that I highly recommend, not necessarily all “rock biography” per se, but still worth a mention, are the books from the 33 1/3 series. I’ve only read The Replacements’ Let It Be, by Colin Meloy (lead singer for The Decemberists), but thoroughly enjoyed it, and I plan to pick up others. Meloy’s touching and personal essay detailed how hearing The Replacements album Let It Be impacted his life and that of his best friend in his early teens.
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