Sep 212013
Traveling through time and space...the orange singles box!

Traveling through time and space…the orange singles box!

I don’t know about you, but as righteous a practice as I know it is, I’ve never been obsessive about flipping a 45 over and checking out the B-side. Part of it may be my Darwinian leanings. Why should I get too worked up about “sloppy seconds?” Part of it may be because I like to act cool and later be surprised. Eventually I will get around to checking out the B-side, even it it takes me 40-some years, as was the case this past week.

While completing the digital transfer of the plastic orange singles box I’ve dragged through time and space, I decided to burn a lot of the B-sides as well as the better-loved sides. In some cases, I aborted the burn in mid-song. The B-side to “The Hustle,” for instance, was the lowest form of disco-era clock punching ever put to tape. “The A-side is going to buy us some swimming pools,” I imagined Van McCoy saying to his session players, “the B-side can skim for bugs and leaves!” I forget the name of the B-side. It was so bad it wasn’t even funny.

There are singles I’ve bought by favorite artists in their prime that I couldn’t wait to flip over: Elvis Costello & the Attractions‘ singles from my teenage years, for instance, always delivered the goods. The flipside of Dave Edmunds‘ version of “Girls Talk,” the Graham Parker-penned “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” is another one I couldn’t wait to hear—for good reason, as it turned out.

Then there are singles I’ve bought specifically for the hit song on the A-side, often by a 1-hit wonder or an artist whose deep cutz I have learned to put no stock in. Take Elton John. Long ago I realized that anything that’s not worthy of appearing on his Greatest Hits albums has not been worth my time. I’ve bought a couple of full Elton John albums over the years, and the album cuts never stick with me. The last thing I need to do is check out the B-side to “Someone Saved My My Life Tonight,” which come to think of it must have slipped from my orange singles box into another space in the cabinet in which I’ve loaded 45s, cassettes, DAT tapes, and other oddities.

What I’ve learned while burning singles over the past couple of weeks is that it is wise to B-ware the B-side. In some cases, I discovered or was reminded of a relative gem. In others, I thanked my lucky stars that I escaped childhood relatively untraumatized from ever having heard the lesser side.

RTH Saturday Night Shut-In 115

[Note: You can add Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your iTunes by clicking here. The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player.]

RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 115: B-ware! by Mr Moderator on Mixcloud

Jan 092013

I guess no artist is picked over more than The Beatles. I still cycle through their works a few times a year. Well beyond my teenybopper years I’ve done things like sit on the floor with Beatles albums and books spread around me, pouring over them for new meaning, new connections—both to the band’s inner workings and my own wiring. We even talk about them here once in a while.

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Jan 012013

Fonzie’s blue windbreaker.

Townspeople of a certain age knows that Fonzie was coolest in his early appearances on Happy Days, when he wore the light blue windbreaker, not the leather jacket. What’s the Fonzie’s Light Blue Windbreaker of Rock, that is, the early, underrated, almost-forgotten stylistic mark (musical or otherwise) that is actually much cooler than what an artist would be known for?


Jun 092012

One of the bittersweet delights of being a music fanatic is to be sitting on a band that history has passed over: to listen, investigate, enthuse, and have lived through the creativity of that which has been ignored by the many. It is a special and intangible intimacy.

I’ll make such a case for Felt.

[audio:|titles=Felt: Something Sends Me to Sleep] [audio:|titles=Felt: Evergreen Dazed]

Led by the eccentric and singularly named Lawrence, they are one of those groups who, despite musical talent, indie looks, and influence on others, never quite managed to garner the success they deserved. They remain fairly underestimated.

Now, your average RTH reader may find Felt an acquired taste. Clear and jangly ’80s guitars wedded with swirly organ (from future Primal Scream-er Martin Duffy), and Lawrence’s relish of failure expressed through vocals which recall The Fall, Dylan, or Tom Verlaine of Television.

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Jun 132011

I can do without the lousy chorus in The Who‘s 1972 oddball single “Relay,” as lip-synched here on Old Grey Whistle Test, and I can do without Keith Moon’s mugging for the camera in this particular performance, but after years of completely dismissing this song I watched this clip and wondered if I needed to reconsider.

The Entwistle-Townshend funky bass-guitar action is excellent! Considering that “Eminence Front” is my least-favorite Who song ever, and one of my least-favorite songs in the history of rock what I’m about to say might damn the song with faint praise, but the funky bass-guitar action in “Relay” is all that “Eminence Front” could have hoped to be.

Then there are the intangibles, including

  • Daltrey’s perfect sideburn:curly locks ratio, which may eclipse the best ratios achieved by the likes of Joe Cocker and Rob Tyner
  • The Medieval bass Entwistle plays (the headstock could kill a one-eyed giant!)
  • The dog-ugly Who patch on The Ox’s dog-ugly denim jacket
  • Daltrey’s really into it, for god knows what reason

I’m on the fence about Pete’s peasant shirt, but let me know what you think about this possibly overlooked piece of rock costume jewelry.

Feb 052010

The following piece originally appeared on Overlooked Gems of My Lifetime, a personal blog I have not updated in too long. It’s been a downer of a week on many levels, so I capped it off by revisiting this album. Then I thought, Why not revisit this piece and share it with you while I’m at it? I hope your week has not required a spin of this overlooked gem, but if it has, more power to you! Finally, let me make a special shout out to this album’s second-biggest fan (not), Townsman General Slocum. Enjoy.

This frequently derided live album marks the end of the road for the The Velvet Underground. It’s a cassette-recorded, nearly bootleg affair, in which the band plays to what sounds like a dozen Max’s regulars who are audibly more interested in scoring than checking out Lou’s last show with the band. Although the band’s better-known and cherished 1969: Velvet Underground Live is objectively “better,” Max’s has always gotten more spins on my turntable.
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May 052009

Roxy Music‘s “Love Is the Drug” was tough, stylish treat on the radio when I was growing up. It wasn’t a smash hit on Philadelphia radio in my middle school days, but it would come on now and then and fit right in with the ’70s soul and downbeat-heavy rock that I sought out as hormones raged. Later in the ’70s, I’d dig rare FM radio spins of songs like “Over You” and “Manifesto.” As bad as commercial rock radio was becoming by that time, playlists still allowed for some “play,” some experimentation. Those chart-scraping Roxy Music singles occupied a similar place in my heart with other slightly dark, soulful not-quite-hits, like J. Geils Band‘s “One Last Kiss.” Some day I need to gather all those last-gasp, blue-eyed rockin’ soul numbers of the late-70s on one mix CD.

I never got around to buying an actual Roxy Music album (or a J. Geils Band album, for that matter) while in high school. The little bit of Roxy Music I was familiar with had qualities I liked, but it required more patience than I could muster. Compared with David Bowie‘s “Young Americans,” a TSOP-influenced song that continues to excite me in an immediately gratifying way from beginning to end to this day, the super-cool “Love Is the Drug” was much more…cool. And I wasn’t that cool.

It wasn’t until freshman year in college that I first heard the mind-blowing early Roxy Music I’d only read about in magazines and books. An older friend and mentor plied me with some of the tools for deeper understanding before throwing the band’s first album on his Bang & Olufsen turntable and and CRANKING UP his super-hi-fi system. I must have been grinning and rocking back like Danny DeVito’s Martini from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
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