Jul 192011

Et tu, Eddie?

Has any rocker ever made music of merit wearing a sleeveless shirt? Not while making music bare-chested or wearing a tank top, not bare-chested under a vest, but specifically making music while wearing a sleeveless shirt.

If you’ve clicked these opening links you’ll see that U2 drummer Larry Mullen has been known to wear the sleeveless shirt. I’ll grant that an argument can be made that U2 made some music of merit while Mullen donned such a gun-bearing fashion atrocity, but he’s a drummer. In past style pieces on Rock Town Hall, drummers have gotten a pass for all sorts of questionable fashion choices, including performing in barefeet and wearing shorts. We make some allowances for rock’s driving forces based on matters of comfort. For the purposes of this survey, we’ll give sleeveless drummers a pass. Beside, I want no part of George Hurley.

Granted, as a guy who’s never expressed his vanity through his forearms (as if I could), the whole sleeveless shirt thing mystifies me. It’s to be expected that the poster boy of Rock Town Hall’s Unfulfilled Fashion Ideas series, Alan Vega, would go sleeveless, but the style would spread to some of the coolest of the cool. How much comfort does a man need to be a rock legend? How much do we really need to know about him? Sure, sometimes even the President of the United States has to stand naked, but did Bob Dylan really need to play sleeveless?

Sleeveless shirt, leather pants, two pairs of shorts...Jerry wins this battle of Best Stage Look!

I don’t know when the sleeveless shirt craze took over, but do a search on a number of rock artists with the date “1985” following their name and I’d bet you can come up with as many shots of them sleeveless as I just did with Dylan. (BTW, I didn’t realize he was into the Bare-Chested Vest Look as early as the mid-’70s, for that Renaldo and Clare movie.) You don’t believe me? Try these:

Strummer, for all his late-period Clash fashion faux pas shouldn’t surprise me, but seeing him in sleeveless shirts still hurts. Make it stop already!

Even a search on Rock Town Hall’s patron saint of mediocrity, “Bob Seger 1985,” turns up this. I pray that’s a bare-chested hippie vest shot and not what it seems.

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Jun 142011

One of my long-unfulfilled rock performance dreams is to have a gig in which my band sets up and “performs” in rehearsal mode: that is, facing each other, playing for each other, having the right to stop songs in midstream, adjust part of an arrangement, and criticize each other. We would completely block out the crowd and just do our thing, the way our thing is meant to be done.

Every once in a while I stumble across a video of an artist rehearsing for a gig or studio recording. I LOVE THIS STUFF! As a music lover, I’m as interested in experiencing what goes on behind closed doors as I am listening to or making music myself, also behind closed doors. Don’t get me wrong, the thrill of playing out or seeing a band out in the wild can be tremendous, but there are less opportunities for catching knowing glances, intimate gestures, and tossed-off asides and fills.

If this video is labeled accurately, it’s The Who rehearsing for the first time with former Small Faces/Faces drummer Kenney Jones, who replaced the deceased Keith Moon. Talk about big shoes to fill! There’s much to examine as the band works through this new dynamic on a Classic ’70s Who–style rocker. For me, the big test is how Kenney handles the extended drum fill, beginning at the 3:15 mark, into Townshend’s noodling, which brings the song to a close. It’s not just what Kenney plays. It’s not just what Kenney doesn’t play. In replacing Moonie it’s also how Kenney doesn’t play while Pete does his thing.

What does Kenney’s performance and his new bandmates’ reaction to it foreshadow? There’s a lot more more going on here than learning the chord changes and honing dynamics!

We’re not talking about a game…The Who continue to practice…after the jump!

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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.

Jun 102011

Because of the series in which this post is being framed I run the risk of being perceived as inflammatory for no good reason—or naive or even outright idiotc. I like my share of Phil Spector‘s works; own his box set, Back to Mono; and know more than enough about his influence on The Beach Boys and beyond, including the reach of his studio cats, The Wrecking Crew.  That said, I am tempted to call bullshit on Spector and his Wall of Sound, or maybe more accurately the degree to which it’s praised.

I unabashedly like probably a baker’s dozen Phil Spector productions. The Ronettes were the best of the bunch who worked under him. Ronnie Spector has personality out the whazoo. The Crystals had some winners. He cowrote “Spanish Harlem,” which is, as Lenny Bruce put it, “so pretty, man!” His Christmas album is charming, although a couple of years ago I had my fill of it and have done my best to leave the house whenever my wife wants to play it by the yuletide. Like a lot of Spector’s work, it grows cloying over repeated listens.

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Jun 062011

One of the great byproducts of live gathering of Townspeople is the new topics for discussion that develop. Not all Townspeople type as quickly as others or have the ability to type out their observations on a given subject during the blog’s peak periods. In the presence of any combinaton of you, few rock insights and wisecracks are left unexpressed. At Saturady night’s Sausages for Sammy gathering my close, personal friend Townsman chickenfrank shared a few insights on a video that we were watching that quickly entered my mental notebook. Here’s the video that was projecting onto the wall of my garage:

As a yardful of Townspeople nodded along to this ultimate display of rock’s Power & Glory, chickenfrank, seated to my right, made the following key observation:

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Mar 042011

Let’s try another 1-2 Punch, shall we? Top 10 lists are too much; Top 5 lists invite too many opportunities for throwing in a hipster, obscuro choice to distinguish oneself from the raging masses. What I’d like to know is what TWO (2) songs you would choose from an artist’s catalog to say as much about that artist that you believe represents said artist’s core as possible? In other words, if you could only use TWO (2) songs from an artist’s catalog to explain all that said artist is about to a Venutian, what TWO (2) songs would you pick to represent said artist’s place in rock ‘n roll?

I’ll pose two artists and you—love ’em or leave ’em—give me each artist’s representative 1-2 Punch. Dig? Here goes! Continue reading »

Feb 052011

Buck Munger is one cool dude! Nearly 12 minutes of extensive research tells me that he worked for guitar and amplifier manufacturing companies. Check out his memories of working with Sunn amps and hanging with the likes of The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and The Buckinghams. Our friend Townsman Hrrundivbakshi, who will be hosting tonight’s special Thrifty Music edition of Saturday Night Shut-In, will be happy to read that Billy Gibbons was yet another intimate. I need to see if we can reach Mr. Munger. He seems like the type who would play well in the Hall.

I’ll tell you what: a 13th minute of research led me to this next video gem. Check it out…after the jump! Continue reading »


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