Jun 282013
Philadelphia Ukulele Orchestra, featuring cdm (smiling debonairly at left side of fez-wearing member at top center) and chickenfrank (middle row, center, sporting W.B. Mason Look).

Philadelphia Ukulele Orchestra, featuring cdm (smiling debonairly at left side of fez-wearing member at top center) and chickenfrank (middle row, center, sporting W.B. Mason Look).

I have been remiss in thoroughly touting and covering the Philadelphia Ukulele Orchestra, the brainchild of our very own Townsman cdm. The band also features chickenfrank and, possibly, others who check into the Halls of Rock on occasion. Thankfully, the Philadelphia Inquirer is on the case!

To listen to a recording of the magical Philadelphia Ukulele Orchestra is one thing. Its eponymously titled CD is a delightful Tin Pan Alley soundtrack to a make-believe movie filled with billing, cooing, and courting.

To listen in a live setting is another thing altogether. The orchestra is an awesome force to behold: 12 men and women, without camp or irony, wearing smoking jackets and fezzes while strumming and plucking their delicate instruments and crooning the most playful of early pop songs.

Read more 

This CD has been on permanent rotation in our kitchen since its release. Mrs. Moderator has whipped up dozens of amazing meals for both the family and dinner/party guests while singing along. Highly recommended!

Jan 072012

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

In this week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In a home construction job forces Mr. Moderator to confront his rock ‘n roll hoarding tendencies, pulling out forgotten tracks from CDs buried in a closet that has since been demolished. Eventually the show takes a Philly-centric turn, although out of respect for his international audience your host spares you his recent social media rants against the demise in the quality of his beloved Tastykake Kandy Kakes, a beloved local snack cake and pie company that was bought out by a Georgia company a couple of years ago. Let’s just say the Moderator’s going to be chewin’ it old school!

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/RTH-Saturday-Night-Shut-In-61.mp3|titles=RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 61]

[Note: The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player. In fact, you can even set your iTunes to search for an automatic download of each week’s podcast.]

Nov 082011

Angry Old Man

Now the story can be told: “We DID start the fire,” admits Philadelphia Daily News music columnist Jonathan Takiff, recounting the city’s role in launching the career of Billy Joel.

Takiff’s admission follows in the wake of the super-deluxe reissue of Joel’s Piano Man, featuring a bonus legendary and oft-bootlegged 1972 WMMR live-in-studio broadcast. For many area listeners this historic broadcast gave first airing to songs from Piano Man about a year and a half prior to the album’s 1973 breakthrough release date. A former WMMR DJ, Takiff describes the rush of excitement that swept the Delaware Valley on the night of this broadcast and lasted long into the ’70s, when a Philadelphia teens like a young Mr. Moderator first heard a rebroadcast of Joel’s intimate performance. Takiff describes a “special song”:

That special song was “Captain Jack,” a pungent, pitiless appraisal of wasted suburban youth. As it had at the Point, the tune killed during the Sigma radio concert. “Captain Jack” dares to murmur the word “masturbate,” a sexy shocker I’d never heard uttered in a song before. And then there’s that rousing chorus, “Captain Jack will get you high tonight.”

By the early 1980s, hip Philadelphians would feel a growing sense of shame over their role in feuling the artist’s skyrocketing journey through MOR radio. “We clutched ever so tightly to our similar role in kick-starting the career of Springsteen,” says Joey Sweeney, local tastemaker and editor/founder of the popular, hip lifestyle blog Philebrity. “The Boss maintained a bit of cool cred, whether he was getting all serious with Nebraska, dancing in the dark, or even playing with that thick-thighed guitarist from Lone Justice.”

“I was down with Piano Man and even Streetlight Serenade,” says Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, “but I couldn’t relate to ‘New York State of Mind,’ from Turnstiles. I mean, what kind of ‘Thank you’ was that to the city that first took him to her bosom?”

The Mayor promised to offer a formal apology from the City of Philadelphia for its role in Joel’s continuing pop music presence once today’s Election Day activities have settled down. “Listen,” Mayor Nutter continued, “I’m willing to let bygones be bygones, but I’d rather think of Philadelphia in the early ’70s as the town that first embraced politically minded artists like Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne.”

Jan 182011

Don't worry...

Philadelphia’s The Bigger Lovers, the town’s torchbearers for guitar-pop at the start of the millennium, have reunited for the 10th anniversary reissue of their debut album, 2001’s long-out-of-print How I Learned to Stop Worrying. The remastered vinyl and digital reissue is coming March 8, 2011 on the band’s Miles Above imprint. The digital version will include two bonus tracks. To mark the occasion the band will also release a new Maxi-Single and treat hometown fans to a March 12th show at Johnny Brenda’s. Details on all this good stuff can be found at the band’s website, thebiggerlovers.com.

For a limited time, from now through February 1, the band is offering a free download of “Little Giant,” the lead track from the Maxi-Single. You can download it here. If you find that too troubling, click on the Rock Town Hall Player, below.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/The-Bigger-Lovers-Little-Giant.mp3|titles=The Bigger Lovers, “Little Giant”]

The Little Giant Maxi Single, including 4 newly finished tunes (plus a remix), began its life in the 2005 and finally wrapped up with the help of Tony Goddess (singer-guitarist of Papas Fritas). It will be available February 1 through the band’s website and iTunes.

The reunion show at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia will take place on Saturday, March 12. Tickets are available now through the Johnny Brenda’s website. Dennis Diken (Smithereens drummer) and Bell Sound will open.

Jan 122011

I just learned from General Slocum, whose band Baby Flamehead did this killer version of the Action News theme, that this legendary theme song WE (ie, Philadelphians) grew up with was actually the theme for the syndicated Action News crew. In other words, what we thought was OUR MUSIC was, in fact, not. And same went for those in other Action News markets when Baby Flamehead toured and played that long-considered “regional” favorite in other regions! Shocking!

This reminds me, when I was a kid I thought all those Breakfast With The Beatles-type shows were cooked up by some huge Beatles fan in my backyard. A few years later I would learn this was not the case. The same went for all those Creature Double Feature-type shows on Saturday morning UHF television stations, right? On the other hand, I always knew Dr. Demento’s show was syndicated.

What musical treasures of your past actually were regional treasures and what treasures, did you later learn, were syndicated?

Sep 132010

I know most of you aren’t as mean-spirited as I am, and it’s great that most of you aren’t as tenacious and unforgiving about artists that bug you, but as you may know by now I’m no fan of Cheap Trick. Sure, they’ve got maybe 4 or 5 songs that I like, but for being a band with seemingly good intentions and a style of music that’s not too far removed from my wheelhouse they manage to bug me on a number of levels. A friend just passed along this clip by Fuse, a band Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson formed in the late-1906s, eventually recruiting remaining members of The Nazz and playing under either name, depending on which band was better known in a given region.

It figures. Yeah, yeah, it was “the times” and all that. Plenty of worthy artists went through their grandiose Deep Purple phase in 1968 and came out unscathed. But I’ve got multiple beefs with Cheap Trick, so I’m holding this part of their history against them.

This Fuse/Nazz alliance, however, does explain why some of those Cheap Trick guys landed in Philadelphia in the early 1970s. An old friend and music scene sage who still refuses to fly his freak flag in the Halls of Rock has told me about their stint tending bar at Artemis, a legendary Philly club from the early ’70s, where some of the founding members of Philadelphia’s late-’70s punk scene coallesced. So at least this exercise in continuing to collect dirt (ie, Fuse) on Cheap Trick has not been without merit. This is the life of a rock nerd.

Apr 152010

Friday night, April 16, in Philadelphia marks a long-awaited reunion show for Baby Flamehead, a late-’80s local (at least) sensation featuring two of our regular contributors. The show will be at the M Room. There’s not a whole lot more I can say about the band and how much I intend on enjoying this show. For this reason and others that I’m too classy to explain, I’m getting a headstart on our occasional Friday Flashback feature. Enjoy!

This post initially appeared 12/6/08.

General Slocum, Mrclean, and bandmates shopping for used records, sometime in the late-80s

I saw this photo of Baby Flamehead, a cool Philly band from my youth, featuring two old friends and Townspeople, General Slocum (Andy Bresnan) and Mrclean (Dean Sabatino), and took a walk down memory lane. Your memories might differ, but won’t you join me?

Baby Flamehead, “Badadadadup (Live on KCRW in 1990)”

Long before he achieved rank as General, I met the young Mr. Slocum, if memory serves, through an English class at Temple University that we blew off almost as often as we attended. The lure of checking out the latest arrivals in the record bins at the Temple bookstore sometimes took precedence over the instruction of our Paul Simon lookalike professor. For some reason the bookstore had a line on cutout Klassic ’60s Kinks albums (cheap Spanish pressings), the EMG catalog (ie, Eno, Fripp & Eno, Jon Hassel, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, etc), and some high-brow jazz (eg, Anthony Braxton) I would not otherwise have risked more than a precious $1.99-$2.99 on checking out.
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