Jul 292020

During these difficult times, it’s always a pleasure to know that relief is right around the corner via a back porch dinner with those you love, namely, the “I promise to love you no matter how much of an asshole you are now or will become in the not so distant future” wife; my sister, whose saved my ass on countless occasions; and her husband, one of those Survivor types who can do and get through anything and still have a sense of humor. Last Saturday night’s dinner was especially noteworthy because Supertramp Syndrome was finally fine tuned. It all began when Supertramp’s “Logical Song” reared its ugly head in the middle of a fairly pleasant playlist that featured a lot of surprisingly good ’70s stuff. Tem seconds into the thing was all it took to bring on a plethora of horrible feelings: physical discomfort, embarrassment, shame, etc. Hence, Supertramp Syndrome.


  80 Responses to “Coronavirus Meets Its Match: Supertramp Syndrome Defined”

  1. cherguevara

    I’m not sure I understand this concept or how Supertramp and XTC are connected. I think you’re describing songs that seem to have some basis in expressing human emotional needs but have no true sincerity, just a construct meant to be clever and failing at that, so the result is dopey and insincere. How does REM fit into this? Is this the album where Michael Stipe whines about his “hair-shirt?” I never listened to XTC for emotional connections – “One of the millions” is probably the only XTC song that hit an emotional mark for me. Andy Partridge’s “Your Dictionary” is one that I’ve seem him note as a personal song, and one that I find clumsy. I don’t have emotional connections to crossword puzzles either, but I still enjoy them. Some things are like that.

    For about a week (years ago), I had an idea of a bit I thought would be funny, an act of being a super-sensitive singer-songwriter slinging songs that only served to reveal that the performer was actually a completely insensitive, clueless clod. I got about one song verse into this before realizing it wouldn’t go over well and “battle not with monsters…”

    One thing about Supertramp is that they had that massive album just before MTV made it so that musicians had to be screen personalities too. I still remember reading about Supertramp in one of my sister’s Dynamite magazines. They said the band was selling out arenas, but fans still didn’t know who they were – the band members would walk around the venue before their set, and not be recognized by anyone. At least with Helicopter, you’re getting a lot of Andy Partridge. Logical Song, for all its vulnerability and spineless, tucked-in production, remains anonymous, there is no real sense of hurt, because we don’t know who the singer is. Fittingly, the song lyrics say as much. But since I’m not sure I understand the OP, I’m really just sporking in the dark here.

  2. Happiness Stan

    I didn’t think anyone could dislike Supertramp as strongly as I have for the last forty five years, once again EPG you have done yourself proud. My candidates would be UB40, whose vacuous and lumpen cod reggae has been turning this peaceable old hippie’s thoughts to acts of violence against their persons for crimes against gurning for almost as long. With the possible exception when I’m in the best mood ever of Rat in the Kitchen, their entire recorded output makes me want to stick my head in the dustbin until it stops, yet I’ve never been able precisely to put my finger on why I feel so strongly about something on the surface so innocuous. I feel almost as strongly about the Police, with Steely Dan and their prissy over produced turd polishing by numbers following not far behind.

    On the other hand, I recently heard the Logical Song, and, indeed Breakfast in America as well, whose line about kippers and mummy dear has always upset me more than the former, and found myself in the improbable grip of what I’ve long considered Fleetwood Mac syndrome. This was defined from the moment I realised that, having despised Rumours as representing everything punk wasn’t, and resenting every time a track from it was played on the radio in preference over something that didn’t sound like the colour beige, that not only did I not mind it any more, but I had to admit to rather liking it.

    I haven’t gone that far with Supertramp yet, but felt slightly unclean for no longer hating them as much as I always thought I would. I bet a whole album would see me right.

    I’d like to nominate UB40 for entry if I may, I think King would be my least favourite by them, but I may have just put others from my mind.

  3. Who bothers to pick on Supertramp? That’s like trying to bully the least-interesting, freckled, mousy blond kid in the schoolyard. That’s less productive than something even I would do!

    To be honest, I’ve always had a soft spot for their Breakfast in America album, which I finally broke down and bought a year or two ago. (Yes, I was wearing a false mustache and had a hat pulled down low.) In my early teens, before I got my first real summer job, I used to accompany my grandfather to the racetrack and serve as his groom and horse walker. We’d have 30 minutes to an hour and a half’s drive to whichever track he had his horses running: Atlantic City, Garden State, Keystone, Dover… My grandfather was super laid back, not the kind of person who’d pick on Supertramp or that pale, mousy haired, freckled kid. He usually let me choose what station to listen to on our trips. If a baseball game was playing, that was our first choice. Otherwise, unless he was in a rare bad mood, he was cool with something like WIOQ, which was Philly’s California-style FM rock station at the time: stuff like Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor… They mixed in some more rocking music, including some of the earliest New Wave (eg, Graham Parker & the Rumour, Tom Petty). However, the LA Mafia bed on which the station’s programming was built sounded a bit like country music, which my once-city slicker grandfather got into in his 50s, after he’d moved to a farm in South Jersey and started breeding and training thoroughbred racehorses. Every Eagles song I could tolerate, like “Take It Easy,” which went down easy with Grandpop, who now kept Willie Nelson cassettes in his pickup truck alongside the more customary Frank Sinatra albums he’d play back in Port Richmond, bought me the chance of keeping WIOQ on long enough to hear “Mercury Poisoning” or J. Geils Band’s “(Just) One Last Kiss,” which probably sounded sexier and more dangerous to my 15-year-old ears than I would think now.

    It was during this time that Breakfast in America came out. “The Logical Song,” in particular, caught my ear, but a lot of tracks from that album got played on the radio. I knew there was something really wrong with me liking any music involving a singer who sounded like Jon Anderson, but there was something jaunty and Beatle-esque about those songs compared with the worst sludge from that era of FM Corporate Rock, such as Foreigner’s “Head Games” or Pat Benetar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” There were few bands willing to declare themselves “Beatle-esque” in 1979, Remember, there was no organized effort to create and get behind mediocre power pop like Jellyfish. You had to be brave back then to write jaunty, Beatle-y pop tunes that came in at under 4 minutes, and you had to be good to make that kind of music stick in people’s ears. I admired that about Supertramp then, and I stand behind that shit now. I do NOT, to be clear, ever want to hear anything from their earlier albums, like the excruciating “Long Way Home.”

    The other thing I liked about that one Supertramp album is that I thought I heard traces of Traffic in their music. As a little boy, I spent a lot of time in my uncle’s bedroom, where he let me paint Day-Glo designs on his walls while playing Traffic albums. Then we’d go to his piano and I’d sit at his feet while he play “Glad.” I couldn’t believe anyone but Steve Winwood could play “Glad”! A few months after the release of Supertramp, by which point I was devouring every music magazine I could get my mitts on, I read an article with one of those faceless members of that band. He talked about how they wanted to pair Traffic with The Beatles. I felt really proud of myself for having heard that connection. I’ll still take Breakfast in America over any crap by Styx, even “Come Sail Away,” with the support of the beautiful scene in Freaks and Geeks that EPG referenced.

    As for EPG and his hang up with XTC, I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for any of you who think XTC is lacking in a willingness to struggle with issues of basic human desire. I even feel a bit sorry for myself for having to live in a world where people don’t get XTC. That’s OK. I love you despite this blind spot.

  4. Hi all! Just got back from the beach.

    Cher, sorry for the lack of clarity. To keep it simple, Supertramp Syndrome occurs when you’re more or less forced to listen to a piece of music in mixed company that makes you feel physically and emotionally uncomfortable. That could actually be anything, but for me, it means music that’s made by people who have no need or want for basic human desires. A fascination for all things tech is what it’s all about.

    Happiness Stan, hang in there! Me and the wife were supposed to be hanging with your around this time. Let’s try again next year.

    Moderator, you got your REM jab in, and that’s always good for a chuckle or two. But as far as anything else you went on about, I would be a tad more careful about what you choose to share about your tastes. For the record, I would take Air Supply over Supertramp (and XTC for that matter) simply because they appear to have some understanding of what it’s like to be a member of the human race and thankfully say it in less than three minutes. It’s a restraint and respect for the listener beyond comprehension for the Supertramp think tank and Partridge.

    Breakfast in America is to be appreciated because it’s jaunty and Beatlesque? But Court and Spark is unlistenable because Joni Mitchell chose to expand her horizons and work with a jazz band?

    Friday’s double date is certainly going to be interesting.

  5. “REM jab?”

    I’m reading closely here but…


  6. Oh, now I get it. Mr. Mod added the irrelevant and apparently gratuitous REM graphic to your original post.

    That was a particularly malicious act, adding a whole extra layer of confusion to what was already an incomprehensible argument.

    Be careful, people in your color scheme should minimize their time in the sun. I know that from experience.

  7. I appreciate the concern, George. That said, I love the beach. I try to get there as much as possible, even in these uncertain times.

    And Moderator, why bother to pick on Supertramp? Better yet, why bother writing five paragraphs to defend them?

  8. My aim is not to defend Supertramp, Plurbs, but to keep it real. Next week, can you analyze the lyrics of “Tutti Frutti”?

  9. Why wait? Little Richard, maybe better than anyone, celebrates the joys of getting laid by a number of highly sexually creative women. It’s an unbelievable pleasure beyond Andy’s comprehension.

  10. XTC vs. Talking Heads? Talking Heads
    XTC vs. REM? REM
    XTC vs. The Cars? The Cars
    XTC vs. Dr, Hook? Dr. Hook
    XTC vs. Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds? Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds

  11. trigmogigmo

    Mr. Moderator said: ““The Logical Song,” in particular, caught my ear, but a lot of tracks from that album got played on the radio. I knew there was something really wrong with me liking any music involving a singer who sounded like Jon Anderson, …”

    … Now I feel dumb. I actually thought that *was* Jon Anderson! (on a detour from Yes or something)

    No doubt that Andy Partridge can often write such clever wordplay as to distract from any emotional content, or write on an abundance of topics that I find neat and fantastically constructed and interesting but surely aren’t emotional lyrically; but I find numerous XTC songs of his full of emotions and wants and needs, sometimes achingly or painfully or beautifully expressed.

    “Funk Pop a Roll” is a screed full of anger against the record industry. You can imagine the spittle from his mouth, although admittedly this may not be a perspective that can be shared by 99.9% of the humans. (Side note: “Mercury Poisoning” = same topic, right?)
    “This World Over” is a sad retrospective of an alternate universe Cold War that turned out not so good.
    “Dear God” does not lack for antagonistic fury.
    “1000 Umbrellas” is quite an emotional wail.
    and finally
    “Then She Appeared” sounds to me, as a non-parent, like a pure expression of being in awe of a newborn daughter.

  12. BigSteve

    Partridge may write about love less than many songwriters, but he does do it successfully. The Mayor of Simpleton and Beating of Hearts come to mind.

  13. BigSteve

    I find it hard to believe that Happiness Stan hates Supertramp more than I do.

  14. Surprise once again, Big Steve! Looks like we have yet another thing in common besides our appreciation of the Stones’ Flowers LP!

  15. I won’t waste another keystroke commenting on Supertramp, but I will defend my beloved XTC. Andy’s high sung “Do Do Do Do Do Do” part is awful. You win, I lose on that one. The lyrics are purposefully silly nonsense that won’t win any awards, but not cringeworthy.

    Otherwise, I’m all in on that song and video. I have a high tolerance and appreciation for (many) songs that sound like they were written in a lab. It feels like a song that Andy brought to rehearsal, and the other guys all tried to craft a part that would be unexpected and in a sense unnatural to the song. Purposefully different than what came before. The high-hat and bass seem to be pulling the song in a different rhythm pattern than Andy’s guitar. I love Dave’s descending guitar riffs, and Andy’s frenetic rhythm style.

    As said, none of this sounds organic or what you would just naturally fall into playing without overthinking your part. (unlike say a CCR song that sounds like the other guys had their parts within 30 seconds of hearing it for the first time) XTC needs to chart it all out on the chalkboard first, but I really like that about them. It’s all head and no gut. Also, the energy on that video is off the charts! Thank you for sharing that video! Contrary to your intent, it reminded me of how much I love that era of them.

  16. cherguevara

    Ok, I understand now. It recalled a moment from my college years. I was in a cab riding to some North Philly bar that didn’t card. Four white kids, black driver, and the song “Just a friend” by Biz Markie came on. None of us had heard it before but the driver seemed seriously into it, so the zipped lips and facial expressions were just, “what IS this? Is this supposed to be funny? Is it ok to laugh at this song?” I have been known to slip on obnoxious music at low levels during dull family gatherings, having made good on my threat to play Ministry’s Psalm 69 album, I moved on to Florence Foster Jenkins. Good for a laugh when the conversation lulls. Asked to play background music at a music biz event, I put on that U2 album they forced onto everyone. The less people find it funny, the more hilarious it becomes to me. If you need a DJ who can clear a room in under two minutes, I’m your guy.

    I’m ignoring Mr. Mod’s Jellyfish dig – for now. I actually deleted a paragraph about them from my above post. They were (are) big XTC fans, of course.

  17. Beyond the cheap shot on Jellyfish, cher, what I was really trying to get at is that, by the mid-’80s it was as if our generation had received a government grant to make music that paid tribute to the most Beatle-y aspects of the Beatles. It became de rigueur. In the late-’70s, it wasn’t just the Clash singing about “phony Beatlemania,” it was also most of the mainstream treating that period as a relic.

  18. Cher, Chickenfrank, Moderator, Big Steve, Happiness Stan, Trigmogigmo, Geo, etc., what’s absolutely insufferable whether you’re alone or in mixed company?

  19. Insufferable musically, EPG, or do you mean generally or specific to the comments in this thread?

    If the last option, that would be your refusal to step into anyone else’s shoes that don’t match the exact size and style of your Hush Puppies. 🙂

    If the middle option, it would be – god, there are so many general qualities I find insufferable, but let’s say lack of curiosity. It really bugs me when someone is not curious to know more, excepting anything to do with math, in which case I’m absolutely insufferable.

    If the first option, I’ve grown so much through the years that my ability to suffer through music I don’t like has improved greatly, but I can’t imagine ever growing so much that I won’t feel like singing along in my most mocking blackface voice possible any time Blood, Sweat & Tears’ version of “And When I Die” comes on. I even feel compelled to break out in a Disney’s Song of the South-style dance routine when the oom-pah brass band strikes up. At that point, I’m sure *I* become absolutely insufferable.

  20. Ha! I can’t think of too many bands I find truly insufferable. I think I’d be more “offended” by someone showing a lack of originality or daring in a selection. Like if someone put a U2 album on. I would just want to say, “C’mon, try harder”. Probably your reaction if someone plays Petty’s Greatist Hits. Likewise something that was an unoriginal choice and too much of it’s time like when people might put on a Dave Matthews Band album 20 years ago. (not sure what the version of that is now)

    I do get antsy if the Grateful Dead are playing. I just don’t enjoy what I hear as the meandering nature of their music, and the whiny vocals. But there’s some good in there too.

    Santana? Again, not insufferable, but might lead me to ask “Why is this on?” But, pretty sure no one plays that anymore.

  21. The Moderator writes “It really bugs me when someone is not curious to know more, excepting anything to do with math, in which case I’m absolutely insufferable.”

    So cognitive dissonance is a part of the equation when it comes to your fascination with XTC? Just looking for further clarification.

    Chickenfrank, you’re too kind. Do you mean to tell me you could honestly remain calm at a small gathering which featured a playlist of choice Gentle Giant cuts? After 15 minutes at most, I’d actually walk up to the host and say, “Hey man, I’ve had enough. That goes or I go. You decide.”

  22. In all sincerity, EPG, what the FUCK is your problem?

  23. EPG, I honestly have absolutely no idea what Gentle Giant sounds like. Also assuming that we’re discussing what we would consider standard polite fare in the offerings of the Hall. Certainly if its an album of Satan death metal with the cookie monster vocals, or bitches and hoes rap, then I must have entered the wrong house.

  24. My apologies, Moderator. It’s just that Andy Partridge REALLY makes my skin crawl. He thinks he’s all that, and he just plain isn’t.

  25. Oh, I know. I hate the way Partridge flaunts how great and important he is when he appears on awards shows alongside Elton John and Annie Lennox. Or how he humble-brags alongside Bono as starving kids get a hot meal. Or how he talks incessantly about the agony of his mum leaving him, then getting hit by a bus just as they began to reconcile every time he appears on the cover of Rolling Stone.

    You get what I’m getting at? The guy is a cult artist. He’s clearly got social problems. He worked fucking hard, however, and demonstrated great craft in making those records you don’t like. He’s not the Shaggs, for whom it’s almost insulting to them to declare as “great.” If you occasionally have to hear him or his fans talk about his art, at least try respecting that he put work into it. Don’t tell me that there’s no emotion, no human desire in his work. You don’t have to like it. You can cut up on it all you like, but we’re grown-ass men and old friends. At least have some fun with me over it. At the risk of sounding like one of my sons, don’t invalidate me because I do get something out of his music, something that is true to me.

    Fuck, man, I apologize to all the lovers of Genesis, ZZ Top, and that album by Arthur Lee’s band that some of you go ga-ga over if I cut on that stuff in ways that denied you your own feelings. I hope I took ownership over my own inabilities to get “bullfighting music,” as I used to characterize that one album and leave you the space you needed to love that shit for all it was worth.

    EPG, as I say, I’ve probably been just as guilty, but see if you can find a way to call bullshit on music that doesn’t move you that takes some ownership of your own shortcomings. It’s not Andy Partridge’s fault or mine that you don’t get it. It’s your problem. Celebrate that for all it’s worth and cut up on the music to your heart’s content, but there are only so many times you can call someone and his or her music soulless before you begin directly insulting people whose souls, or whatever you want to call them, are lifted by that music.

    This goes for grown-ass me as much as you: sometimes, “That’s good, if you like that shit” is a decent answer. I’m not sure, however, that my classic “I can see why you’d like that” qualifies as a barely polite way of not being a complete asshole.

    Seriously, I’m trying to find my own way back into Rock Town Hall. I’m trying to find my own way into life’s homestretch. I’ll invite any of you to call bullshit on me, should I stray from a clearer way forward.

  26. So…Mr. Mod, EPG…as an outsider, I’m curious: do you guys know each other in real life? Are you brothers? ‘cuz as someone with brothers, you kinda sound like brothers.

  27. You are observant, Scott. We are close, long-time friends in real life, just about brothers. We’re those friends where our kids think of each other as cousins. Our latest public battles – and even ones from years ago on RTH – are nothing like those we had when we were bandmates. Good god that led to some killer fights!

  28. Happiness Stan

    EPG, I look forward to our summit, whenever it may occur.

    Insufferable alone or in mixed company, I can put up with just about anything. I might draw the line at a second Joni Mitchell or Roy Harper album, but I’d probably listen to the first to be polite.

    I used to go to his with mates to see bands I didn’t like much, just to be polite and hang out with mates. I recently worked a night at the theatre with an Eagles tribute band and had to beg to be excused the second half. After the last four months, I’d be happy to go to see UB40 or U2 or even Steely Dan.

    As I said, it’s Fleetwood Mac syndrome, as I’ve got older things just don’t bother me like they used to, even if I don’t understand what others see in certain music I try to stay open just like I thought I was when I was seventeen.

    Even though I don’t understand why people adore Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Grateful Dead, I’ve never given up on imagining one day getting a flash of understanding like I did when standing in front of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in the National Gallery when I was about twenty. It was something about the light, she once seen it was impossible to forget.

    I’ve made people listen to Beefheart and the Fall, so I’m hardly in a position to judge those who enjoy Supertramp or Yes or Genesis or Jon Anderson’s Elias of Sunhillow or Queen or Wishbone Ash.

  29. cherguevara

    Most overly sincere singer-songwriters make me squirm, John Gorka comes to mind – that deep, confident baritone. I can’t. There’s a balance of sensitivity and machismo that nauseates me, but despite this, I don’t mind a classic JT tune now and again.

    Cult artists are often the worst. A nasty blanket statement, I know. These artists walk down the street anonymously, unrecognizable to 999 people, then the 1000th person freaks out. That does weird things to a person.

  30. Moderator, the truth of the matter is that it is a brother issue. One of my favorite growing up stories of yours is when you told me you were really worried about your younger brother getting into Kiss. He was young and impressionable, and you were surprised that he didn’t know any better.. You had a right to be alarmed. Developing a sense of aesthetics through a Kiss lens would have caused serious brain damage. I recall that you did just about everything in your power to steer him clear of that garbage. I recall your that your efforts were successful. God bless.

    I’m truly sorry I didn’t know you when you were younger. I would have done the same for you as you did for your brother.

  31. We would have bashed a lot of sense into each other, Plurbs, had we grown up under the same roof. Hard to imagine our tastes could have been any more refined, but perhaps…

  32. Wishbone Ash. God almighty, my brother had two of their records. His high school cover band actually played a couple of their songs as well as others from similar talking long and loud and saying artistes. I always marveled at how him and his buddies could actually remember all the parts of whatever song and when to play them. It all sounded and still sounds like random, but surprisingly tight noodling from start to finish.

  33. Happiness Stan

    Wishbone Ash are still going strong, they played at a festival we go to in happier times a few years ago and I made a point of wandering over to see them with an open mind. I lasted considerably longer than I managed when attempting the same operation for the reformed classic line up of Yes, which was approximately fifteen seconds before running as fast and far away as possible.

    The lad I lived next door to when growing up told me one day I’d grow out of T Rex, Slade and Sweet and appreciate real music, like Argus, which we were listening to at the time. I still had my doubts more than forty years later, but approached them with interest, mixed with a little trepidation. I stuck it out until the second solo of their first song, although, as you infer, they’d been going for about twenty minutes. Noodling is certainly how I’d describe it, and I’m not quite sure why I love Trout Mask Replica but find Wishbone Ash such hard work, when it could well be argued they were traveling a similar road.

  34. That’s something I’d like to see the Moderator address. He’s a big Beefheart fan. I’m not one, but I feel like I should be.

    I think I’ve said this before, but I’d take out a nice chunk from my bank account to go back in time and be a fly on the wall at the Trout Mask Replica sessions. He was absolutely and positively going after something I can’t seem to wrap my mind around, and it sucks.

  35. I know why Trout Mask Replica gets all the acclaim, because it sounds like nothing else. Even if we could go into a time machine and be young and stay up all night doing drugs, I don’t think you would get that album, EPG – not because you lack intelligence or whatever, but because you don’t connect to that sort of approach by an artist trying to put the world in its place. If you could properly dig the more conventional Safe as Milk, as Andyr has always done, I may one day be able to convince you of the merits of Clear Spot or Doc at the Radar Station. At least you might see the craft behind the insanity. Then, and only then, I may be able to get you to like 8 songs by XTC.

  36. BigSteve

    “…what’s absolutely insufferable whether you’re alone or in mixed company?”

    I’m almost never in mixed company. I hang out with other music nerds. What I have a problem with is stuff other music nerds all seem to like but I can’t stand. Like Kate Bush or Harry Nilsson or Rufus Wainwright.

  37. Happiness Stan

    I took my first run at TMR after hearing the two songs on Strictly Personal that sounded when I was eighteen like musicians from from earth had been involved in the process, Ah Feel Like Ahcid and Gimme That Harp Boy. The rest was baffling, and hearingTMR for the first time was like being tortured.

    I liked those two songs enough to dig for more, so went backwards into Safe As a Milk, which I guess my head was open enough by then to hear as a collection of off kilter pop songs. If they’d recorded nothing apart from Zig Zag Wanderer and Electricity they would be remembered today. Then I had another couple of runs at Strictly Personal before heading back to TMR. It took about three listenings, which I remember as feeling like somebody was trying to tear off my head, before the light went on and I got it. I don’t think I’d work that hard now, although I still occasionally dip my toe into the works of Joni Mitchell and the Grateful Dead, where I suspect another light bulb moment resides if I could only catch them when the light conditions are right.

    Regarding XTC, I shouldn’t be without them if only for Statue of Liberty, but once Barry Andrews left they felt like they were trying to be a pop group rather than the second coming of the Magic Band, and that was what I was looking for at the time. They sounded then like they’d lost the edge that I enjoyed and Andy Partridge’s mannered vocals sounded like he was fighting to get it back, just without anything jagged enough to hang them on. At that age music was as deep and life changing as falling in love, or discovering new drugs, not buying the next new release from a band one had committed to following was like breaking up with a girlfriend and believing nobody would ever look at you again.

    I’ve got an addictive personally, which is why I don’t touch alcohol or even coffee any more. I’ve rewired my brain to be happy in the real world, but what I crave more than anything else is to find the musical fix I felt when TMR flicked the switch in my brain. I used to feel the same way about Zep as well, I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t have the patience or stamina to seek that sort of moment any more.

    Hey, Big Steve, I hear you on those three. I could never understand why Kate Bush, like Grace Slick, only spoke to me on a hormonal level, now I realise it’s because she was talking to the head and not the heart, which is great if that’s what you’re looking for in a musical relationship, and possibly explains XTC as well. As soon as I could imagine the workings on a musical blackboard, I lost interest.

    Harry Nilsson used to drive me nuts, if he was so great, why were the two songs everybody liked covers, and the only others I ever heard regularly Coconut and Cuddly Toy? If there’s anybody here who will stand up for him, please point me at something that doesn’t sound like drunken British music hall from the thirties and I’ll give it a go.

  38. I enjoy and appreciate most of the Nillson songs that I know, except for Without You. Holy crap, is that schmaltzy. Jump Into the Fire always pumps me up. I think his voice is exceptional. This is not an accusation, but isn’t some of the antipathy towards him a result of thinking; “Why couldn’t “I” be one of the Beatles best friends for no discernible reason instead of him!!” I think I previously harbored a resentment against him for that weird reason.

  39. Happiness Stan

    Thanks ChickenFrank, I’ll start there, then

  40. BigSteve, you don’t even like NILSSON SINGS NEWMAN?

  41. Happiness, Oats, Chickenfrank, etc., here’s my review of the Nilsson Schmilsson LP which I wrote some time ago. It pretty much sums up where I stand.


  42. I was scared I was going find an old comment I made on your previous post which would completely contradict my recent post. That old thread was a good read. Unlike me, you seem to have an issue against weed and saxophones.

  43. Right off the bat in that old Nillson piece I see a comment from Tonyola! Whatever happened to that Townsperson? One of the special ones who’ve passed through here!

    Happiness Stan’s comment about the two best Nillson songs being covers almost made me snarf my coffee this morning. That’s the best case against the guy I’ve ever heard. Chickenfrank also threatened to send coffee up my nose with his belief that we hold his friendship and patronage by the Beatles against him. So true I had to laugh! I can mildly appreciate his best work, but I can’t get on board with him. Plus, the whole “squandered genius” angle that’s been given to him by the rock press is a major turnoff. It bugs me when people squander even the modicum of talent they’ve been granted in this life. If anyone actually has genius-level talent and they squander it, they better not show up at my door. I want to be jealous of their talent in a good way, not both jealous and disappointed in them. That’s too much to bear.

    Big Steve’s mention of Kate Bush tells me it’s long past time when I sit myself down on the analyst’s couch and try to understand what I liked about a particular Kate Bush album at one point in my life. I’ve been afraid to listen to this album I have in mind for 30 years, for fear that I will find a rare hole in my long record of Good Taste. Let me brace myself, then I’ll ask you to brace yourselves.

  44. On the contrary, I like both quite a lot. I steer clear from the first because I know I’ll wind up liking it too much again, and I’ll start enjoying it with a frequency I had in my late teens and twenties. I can’t afford to do that anymore.

    As far as the sax is concerned, a large chunk of white guys really don’t know what to do with a sax. My brother in law accurately describes the approach as “Coke Sax”. In the past, I incorrectly called it “Michelob Sax.” It’s what comes out when you”ve got some chops, snort coke, pick up the horn, and don’t give a rat’s ass what comes out. It’s the unmemorable sound you’ll hear during the breaks between lyrics and bridge in hundreds of 70s records. Black players appear to handle it much better. I base my opinion here on my record collection which doesn’t feature much music past 1981.

    I’d like to hear what 2000 Man thinks about Bobby Keys. I think he sucks, but I have a feeling 2000 man feels differently. And speaking of 2000 man, where the fuck is he? I think I can speak for all of us when I say that he needs to get his ass back up here. I’d also like to get his input about the Coronavirus performance of the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” which I actually thought was pretty neat.

  45. Yeah, Tonyola was great. I always loved having it out with him. He had a HUGE set of balls!

  46. Kate Bush is insufferable for me as well. I’ll let Tori Amos know she should pick Kate up as well for the gathering.

  47. And one more thing I need to throw out there before I forget: we should have a ZOOM RTH session before the summer ends. Yes?

  48. Happiness Stan

    I’ve been musing over Kate Bush all day, and not for the same reasons I used to. I was kind of on board with her for the first three albums, her stock was high if only for the memory of my grandma screaming and falling off her chair when she saw her on Top of the Pops doing Wuthering Heights. Priceless. A mate always bought the albums as soon as they were released and taped them for me, I found them recently and realised I had only listened to them up to Hounds of Love. I’ve no idea what stopped me at the time, we agreed about almost everything musically, it was as if I was in some way scared of hearing them, which makes as little sense now as it did then.

    I’d be interested to hear whether any others gathered here have music which you actually own but have avoided listening to for reasons you’re unable to put a finger on, or is it just me?

    [The deleted text has been moved to the Main Stage!]

    I’m building up to a Nilsson session, I think. I’ve never been jealous of anyone who was mates with the Beatles, most of them died alarmingly young. It’s been ferociously hot again today and I took the day of work to enjoy it, but think approaching our Harry with an open mind might be better left to an hour when breathing something like fresh air becomes an option again. EPG, I’ll read your review later, but will listen to some first. I don’t mind Tori Amos generally, the early records at least, although I remember them being a bit patchy. I saw her twice at Glastonbury and both times felt like harder work than it needed to be. Last year I saw Albert Hammond, who appeared to either be in a really snotty mood or would fit your arrogant arse criteria perfectly.

  49. Happiness, I like the way you frame the Bush question, giving us ample room to go wider with the notion. Maybe I take that part out of your note and set it up as its own Main Stage thread? Let me know if you’re cool with that. Thanks.

  50. BigSteve

    For me there are just some singing voices I don’t like. People always say “But Nilsson has such a great voice.” Sorry I just don’t like the sound of it. That goes double, maybe triple for Rufus Wainwright.

  51. BigSteve

    I don’t know that I’ve ever heard all of Nilsson Sings Newman. The few songs I did hear gave me the same turn-off. I know other people have covered Randy’s songs, and I know his accountant loves it when they do, but I almost always prefer his raggedy voice singing them.

  52. Happiness Stan

    Mr Mod, I’m not only cool with that, but would be honoured.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a Rufus Wainwright song, I feel very out of touch sometimes.

  53. Just for the record, I’m definitely a fan of Beefheart’s Safe as Milk LP. Been one for quite some time. Liking that thing doesn’t take any effort whatsoever. It’s very straight forward.
    And one more thing, Moderator. Me and the wife have a doozy of a spread waiting for you and the ball and chain. No snacking.

  54. cherguevara

    I like Kate Bush and perhaps odd, but I prefer her later stuff. 50 Words for Snow is a solid album totally unconcerned with having a hit single. The recent-ish live album has some good re-thinkings of her material, though I do find the dramatization of “the 7th wave” (which is the medley on side 2 of Hounds of Love) to be a Supertramp Syndrome moment for sure. If it were a TV show, I’d refer to it as “grief porn.” Anyway. Aerial also has some good songs. She abandoned the squeaky voice around Hounds of Love, if that was what repelled you, maybe try again. Can’t take away the muso nature of it, though. I find it to be very private music, I don’t play it around other people. If you’re looking for Motorhead, you’ll get none of that here.

    Kate Bush – Never Be Mine live version:

    Not sure what to say about Nilsson. I like him, and appreciate that he is both a writer and interpreter of songs. And yes, he is shmaltzy, just embrace it. You know “Jump Into the Fire,” which is his most rocking tune. And maybe his two biggest hits were covers, but face it, Badfinger’s version of Without You isn’t that great, listen to the singer strain for those notes. And Nilsson wrote “One,” which is somebody else’s big hit, so he has that feather in his cap too. I love Nilsson sings Newman, but my favorite of his albums is the one called “Harry.”

    Rufus is a very Nilsson-esque writer, I think his first two albums are still his best. My other half LOVES him, so I have OD’d on his music and seen him live too many times. I’ve seen him be amazing, and I’ve seen him tank. He wants to operate on a grand scale, which is too bad, because he’s at his best when he keeps it simple.

    If that all isn’t enough to repel you, I’ve been listening to a bit of Curt Boettcher this week, I’m sure that this would inspire some of you to drop me head first into a trash can and roll me down a hill.

  55. Is this the same category? I don’t get Leonard Cohen at all.

  56. Oh man, later period Leonard Cohen, when he was backed by cheesy synths, is horrible! What was his late-period comeback album called, Famous Blue Raincoat? His original version of “Hallelujah” is hard enough for me to hear, then I’ve read that he originally wrote like 100 verses. Oy.

    That really early stuff, when he did “Suzanne” and “Bird on a Wire,” makes enough sense to me, although all those songs sound exactly alike to me.

  57. cherguevara

    “I’m Your Man” might be the album you have in mind? “Famous Blue Raincoat” was an album of Cohen songs sung by Jennifer Warnes, highly regarded by audiophiles, if you’re looking to ring out your stereo setup. One of his early albums, I think “Songs from a room” inexplicably has jaw harp on every song. What’s with “First we take Manhattan” – I’m down with the song until it hits a really weird bridge that kills the whole thing. He did like his Technics keyboard, very strange.

  58. I like the first Leonard Cohen album. As a matter of fact I like it a lot, but it more or less goes downhill from there. His shtick works for the first one and a half albums, and then he spends the rest of his career tinkering around with the shtick. And I never understood the so-called majesty of “Hallelujah.” If one of our beloved Autumn Carousel guys brought “Hallelujah” in for consideration, I’d have made a very, very half assed attempt at trying to figure out a bass part for it. You all know what I’m talking about. It’s one of those songs brought to the band that die a slow death because their just plain bad.

    By the way, his son if pretty intolerable as well. You’ll see what I mean should you check out his Fresh Air Terry Gross interview. He’s yet another I would invite to the gathering. I think he too might be a singer songwriter. Real full of himself with no talent to back up the smarminess.

  59. That’s the one, cherguevara, thanks! Yikes.

    EPG, that Fresh Air interview with the son is one of the worst music-related interviews ever broadcast on that show! Occasionally he actually gets a little sweet in his stories, but then he reverts to his usual gear.

    I guess it’s the first Leonard Cohen album that I have and can enjoy. It should have been titled “Suzanne and 11 Other Songs That Sound Exactly Like Suzanne.” Best use of Cohen’s music is in McCabe & Mrs Miller.


  60. That was laugh out loud funny. Nicely done! Agree with all your points, especially the best use of his music.

    At one point in the son’s interview, Terry Gross asks him to read some of his dad’s poetry, and he refuses for reasons that contradict all the insights he’s already served up about his father. He continues to successfully make an ass out himself for the rest of the interview

    We should have some kind of designated area on the site for an archive of memorable You Tube clips and sound files celebrating the best and worst of what we find endlessly entertaining.

    When you get a chance and only when you’re really, really bored and having nothing to do whatsoever, check out an early doc on Cohen, made some time around 1965 or so by Canadian public television. You will continually cringe watching him generously sharing his talents with the public. It’s absolutely and positive yet another instance of he thinks he’s all that, and he just plain isn’t.

  61. Happiness Stan

    Oh man, my experience with Leonard Cohen echoes eerily precisely Mr Mod’s with Kate Bush as described in the thread next door.

    It’s four in the morning, the beginning of August is s line even Len would have struggled to have taken somewhere without modification, but that’s what it is here as I lay in bed thinking I should get back to sleep, wondering where all the air has gone. We’re not used to heat here, it messes with our brains.

    I love that Jennifer Warnes album. If there was a category for greatest “mid-career collaborative where the hell did that come from? (female)” album, I’d probably need to flip a coin to choose between that and June Tabor and the Oyster Band’s Freedom and Rain.

  62. Warnes’ greatest work, as far as I’m concerned, is her duet with Joe Cocker, “The Time of My Life.” It is the perfect complement to the final epiphanous scene in Dirty Dancing in which a Christlike Patrick Swayze proves that mere dancing has the power to transform lives. Don’t know who’s mostly responsible for this masterwork, but his/her skillful presentation of this message is delivered with a finesse beyond the abilities of your basic art turd director.

  63. EPG – Great to see you wax poetically over your emotional movie moment…and get the singer wrong.

    Bill Medley!

  64. Thanks for the correction, George!!!! Unfortunately, I believe I’ve done that a number of times!

    I was thinking about you a few days ago. I picked up a super clean copy of that Fraser and DeBolt album that I wrote about some years back. It’s one of the few things you and I actually agree on!

  65. Happiness Stan

    Well spotted, Geo, I heard that playing in my head for hall the weekend and heard the deep voice, but hadn’t made the leap from Joe Cocker who I’ve never heard make any noise that doesn’t sound like a builder whose mate has just dropped a hod of bricks on his foot to someone who can actually sing.

  66. Happiness, that was a good one! I needed a good laugh! I never got the Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, Delaney and Bonnie, etc. smorgasboard. To me, all that’s an early version of Ringo’s All Star Band, i.e. that quantity is more important than quality.

  67. EPG – Leon Russell is good. Hell, he wrote a pop songs so slick that the Carpenters and George Benson had giant hits but still worked in his funky Oklahoma schtick. That’s deep quality.

  68. If deep quality means slick enough for the Carpenters’ and George Benson’s consideration, we’re all in serious trouble.

  69. cherguevara

    I’m glad to say I had to look this up – Warnes was the singer with Joe Cocker on another 80’s movie duet, “lift us up (where we belong).” Easy to get that mixed up.

    I should check out those June Tabor/Oyster Band records. The only June Tabor record I know is the “Silly Sisters” record she made with Maddy Prior – one from the parents’ record collection. They knew Prior from Steeleye Span, which was a transitional band for them as their tastes went from 70’s singer-songwriter like Jim Croce, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, to more traditional Irish and Scottish stuff, such as used to be played Sunday nights on WXPN.

  70. Happiness Stan

    I haven’t heard the Silly Sisters album, I only knew Steeleye Span from the All Around My Hat single in the seventies until I was implored to dive deep into their output by a boss who mainly employed me because I was the only other person he’d met who owned and admitted to enjoying An Evening With Wild Man Fischer.

    I really enjoyed them and finally, last year, got to see them live at Glastonbury, they were terrific, and Maddy Prior’s voice is still quite a force of nature.

    I’d heard some June Tabor, and the Oyster Band played several times around the corner from where I lived, I never enjoyed their records as much as I thought I should, but Freedom and Rain is a triumph, so much better than the sum of its parts it’s ridiculous. If I remember correctly there was a follow up, which didn’t really do it for me, but I’d put F&R up there with I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight in terms of Brit folk rock, and a touch more cheerful with it.

  71. @Happiness Stan. I was with Mrs. Chicken this afternoon, and she was rolling this old two-wheeled cart to take some trash to the curb. It was squeaking like mad, and she said without realizing her error, “This cart really needs some UB40.” Instead of WD40! I thought of you and how certain you are that UB40 is never going to make anything better.

  72. Happiness Stan

    Mr Chicken, that’s superb.

    If she’d fired up her phone and played a video of them to the recalcitrant barrow, it’s not impossible that the afterglow of their oleaginous smirking might have provided enough lubrication to get there and back.

    I’m going to be chuckling about that all day, thanks!

  73. cherguevara

    The problem with UB40 is that at first it seems to work well, but shortly thereafter it attracts dust, which ultimately makes the initial issue even worse.

  74. Here’s the little I can recall about UB40 when they entered my musical orbit. Me and my Harrisburg punk gang were very much into the Specials, the Selecter, Madness, and the English Beat. Actually, mostly the Specials. The other groups were good, but they didn’t have the songwriting power of the Specials. Simply put, we more or less thought UB40 was kind of like an Econobuy ska for those who didn’t know any better. When “Red, Red Wine” hit, the sports guys and gals hit the floor to show our crowd that they too were somehow in the know. That was one of the early signs that our “thing” was unraveling, and it was very nauseating.

  75. “Econobuy ska” = WORD!

  76. For all of you who know more about UB40 than I do, is that insight in the ballpark?

  77. Yes, EPG, that’s what I was getting at with my ridiculous attempt at a late-’80s/early-’90s hip-hop colloquialism.

    It’s a shame that ska so readily loses value when it’s brought back by a new generation, because it was a cool phenomenon in its time. I think the Specials did a great job with it, and English Beat got away with using it because they incorporated ska values into its broader pop music, which by the time of their third album and that hit song “Save It For Later” could stand on its own as contemporary pop.

    I suspect a rate-limiting factor in the ability to carry ska forward is that the original stuff was so dependent on its primitive production values. (This probably goes for a lot of older music any of us like, like early rock ‘n roll/rockabilly, whatever key era of country music there is for loving, etc.) Elvis Costello’s production of that first Specials album is so weird and “small” that it gives off the impression of being “old” music. By the Specials’ next album, More Specials (which I actually like a little better than the excellent debut), they had also started making music more distinctive to them, pulling in more of Jerry Dammers’ ’60s movie soundtrack-style organ parts (is the composer I have in mind Nino Rota?) and other ’60s styles. Anyone else who’s tried to make ska records since then ends up sounding too modern, like The Police.

  78. Well said, Moderator. That first Specials albums is one of my all time favorites. I don’t like the follow up as much, but it’s different, a WHOLE lot different than the first outing. Simply put, they were trying to grow, and that’s one hell of a task for a ska band, not unlike the Beach Boys who couldn’t cut that California sun and surf albatross off their collective neck.

    You were also dead on about the overall sound of their records, especially the first. Costello must have learned his chops while Nick Lowe was serving as his producer. That said, I think he went for a sound just a tad cheaper than Lowe, which gives that first album a bit of a DIY feel.

    Some time ago, I missed a reunion show. Dumb move! It’s one of the few times I can recall that I really wanted to go see a live band again.

  79. Hell, I’d go see an XTC cover band at this point, just to have some kind of normal maskless entertainment experience!

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