Sep 202020

One of Will Rogers best quotes is as follows: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad experience.”

Thankfully I learned that lesson at a very young age. Or did I?


  77 Responses to “The Completist”

  1. The era of completist is over for all but the very most compulsive among us due to reissues, expanded editions and the like. However there are are some artists that I have continued to follow further down the line than might be considered acceptable in certain quarters. Many folks have lost me somewhere along the line more due to lack of focus as my vision was diverted to new, distraction from newer things coming down the pike.

    Some artists that I once bought religiously that have shaken me off (somewhat, after a shitload of purchases): Dylan, Eno, Prince.

    Some that I still buy religiously: Waits, PJ Harvey, records with significant Petra Haden involvement,

    Some that the author of this thread will excoriate me for having any continued interest in, but I do: Costello. (I still buy his albums and find them worthwhile, although most are weak and North, well that REALLY is MLAT.

    One guy that put out a lot of very odd records in the 80’s that I bought by the fistful that eventually overwhelmed me with the sheer quantity approaching redundancy was Jah Wobble. He has continued to crank out various records with different ensembles and styles, but I’ve adequately satisfied my curiosity with the three disc compilation released when he put out his memoir in 2004 and the subsequent 6 disc compilation he put out in 2016.

    I think I’m still buying Beck stuff but his last two, Colors and Hyperspace might’ve cooled me on him. Whatever he’s doing is not working anymore. (Hey EPG, I like Midnite Vultures but you were right that it was no Mutations.)

    Another artist that I still find myself buying at least one or two new releases a year, even though he’s been dead for over 25 years and I already have 70 of his albums is Sun Ra. Does anyone know where I can find that June Tyson compilation, “Saturnian Queen of the Sun Ra Arkestra” on CD?

  2. Oh, I wanted to mention that I stuck with XTC though Apple Venus II and think that “Stupidly Happy” on that last record is better than 3/4 of the songs on Black Sea.

  3. All that’s fair enough, but what I really wanna know, as do others, is when your allegiance finally ended with Kantner and crew when the Airplane morphed into the Starship,

  4. diskojoe

    I still buy Kinks stuff, although there’s a Lola v. Powerman & the Moneygoround box set coming out & I’m not really sure if I want to get it. I also get Ray’s solo albums & I have Dave’s solo stuff in compilations only.

    I have all the Stones albums from 1964 to 1981 & have no interest in the later albums. My Who collection ends w/the By Numbers album; I have the cream of the later albums in a couple of box sets.

    As for the Beach Boys, the last album I have is Holland & the live album that followed, which I do like very much. Again, I have the cream, such as they were of the later albums in box sets.I did get solo Brian Wilson albums but I recently traded a bunch of them in.

    I was heavily into Elvis Costello until North. Now the latest album I have of his was the one w/ Burt Bacarach.

    I was also into Graham Parker & Marshall Crenshaw, but I pared their albums to their early albums & Rhino compilations.

    I do have plenty of XTC, but I haven’t upgraded to the Ape House reissues.

    I still get anything that Martin Newell has to offer, as well as Paul Weller , Ron Sexsmith & Barrence Whitfield, who recently put out a Sun Ra covers album if Geo is interested.

  5. “Blows Against the Empire, was credited to Paul Kantner/Jefferson Starship. It was a Kantner solo album with a lot of different San Francisco folks and it came out before the final Airplane album “Bark” limped out. With the exception of an occasional hearing of Miracles on the radio, I don’t approve of the actual Jefferson Starship or Starship records.

    I did know about the Barrence Whitfield but didn’t spring for it yet.

  6. Happiness Stan

    That Critics Choice book was great, I hand wrote the list and carried out around with me for a couple of years to record fairs and junk shops and it served me well. Daytime radio already warned me away from Bruce and a few others on the list, but it was a pretty good primer. I was listening to Paul Gambaccini’s show on an oldies radio station here the day before yesterday, he’s always been one of the most reliable daytime DJs over here.

    I bought everything the Stranglers breathed on until the Gospel According to the Meninblack, despite the unsavoury odours coming from their previous two albums.

    I was bitten early by completionism when I bought a second hand copy of In the City by the Jam, and a new copy of This is the Modern World came out just weeks later. It was immediately apparent even to a wide eyed Nouveau punk this was a steaming turd, so I stuck to singles by them after that. I never even bought All Mod Cons or Setting Sons, though I did my bit to help kill music by taping them from mates’ copies.

    The same almost happened with the Clash, although John Peel playing tracks from Give ‘Em Enough Rope spared me from blowing another week’s paper round money there. I went to see them on the Pier instead, and as the records became more sprawling and unlistenable they got better and better live.

    I managed to gather all of Dylan’s albums, apart from the Basement Tapes, which cost too much and never turned up secondhand, non-album singles and a huge pile of non-canonical artefacts just before Slow Train Coming crept ominously down the line, my youthful prejudice against religion winning through where even Dylan and Self Portrait failed. I tried again later with Infidels, but still think it’s not very good, and have never yet discovered the strength or inclination to approach the Time Out of Mind era. Three minutes of that godawful dirge he put out at the start of lockdown probably set that goal back at least another decade.

    Despite these formative cautionary experiences, I later developed a Fall habit, which I only broke when news reached these shores of the US tour where Mark E Smith assaulted his other half and the band walked out on him.

    I’d probably still pick up any Beefheart odds and ends if I saw them. I did find a beaten up old copy of We’re Only in it for the Money, missing its sleeve, when doing the rounds with my list, unlike you I did enjoy it, although I haven’t played it for decades. The rest of Zappa’s output reduces my temperature on first knowing twiddle, to the extent where it overrides my Beefheart habit, so I’ve never managed to bring myself to buy Bongo Fury.

  7. The last Dylan album I bought was Blood on the Tracks. Since then, he’s more or less been floundering around, not doing much of anything, but more than happy to have his back slapped, which is why he’s on tour 365 days a year. Why jeopardize the power of a back catalog with a constant output of slop?

    I’d like to have a somewhat updated version of the Gambaccini book to hand out for Christmas presents for my daughters and younger relatives. That book was a real life saver, especially for me, growing up in an area where good taste was very uncommon,

  8. Never went that OCD on any artist. I have my share of post-Beatles solo stuff that I bought out of admiration and expectation that turned me off to ever chasing a complete collection. Wonderwall on 8-track! P.U.! Goodnight Tonight 12 inch version! Double P.U!

  9. Apparently I have no sense of loyalty because I don’t think I have the complete set of any artists except for the Raspberries (4 albums on two cds) and the La’s (one cd).

    I suppose I’m more cynical than I realize because I can’t muster up blind enthusiasm even with artists I love:

    The Rolling Stones: How unfulfilled is my life due to the absence of anything after Under Cover? Am I missing some deep cuts from Steel wheels?

    The Velvet Underground: I have all of the original releases including Squeeze, the post-Lou Velvet Album. But I don’t have the reunion live album or the Quine tapes album. I feel like I got the gist of it.

    GVB: Who can keep up? Plus, I feel like it’s all started to sound the same sometime shortly after My Kind of Soldier.

    Tom Waits: I’m pretty close here but I never cared much for the 70’s hipster beatnik phase so I’m missing 3 albums from that era, and I don’t have Bad as Me. I’ve spent countless hours putting together two Tom Waits tributes that had about 30 different singers and musicians so I feel like I’m a pretty big fan but something in my brain keeps me from going all in.

    Plimsouls: Not a huge catalog yet I still couldn’t bring myself to care about the reunion album.

    Big Star: Same as the Plimsouls.

  10. 2000 Man

    I thought I’d be a Stones completist for a while in the 80’s. Then I found out that they have records that would cost me 5000 bucks, if I could find one. So I decided to just focus on what I like. With The Stones it’s most stuff, but I don’t care about Jagger solo, I think Keith’s Crosseyed Feart is awful, A Bigger Bang is pure shit and I already have a ton of bootlegs of concerts from more recent touring, so I’m not all excited about something like a 3 lp set of the Atlantic City 89 show. It’s not that great a show, and the special guests bore me. I have it on CD and it sounds pretty much perfect so I’ll save the 60 bucks or so.

    I don’t understand people saying they bought three different versions of Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station that they’ll never listen to again because it blows, just because they’re a “completist.” It just seems to me they’re actually saying they bought three different versions of something they know they don’t really like much because they’re stupid, and they admit it. If a band hasn’t let me down yet and I haven’t broken up with them, I’ll buy everything until we break up. I was thinking Lucero and I would break up, but I love their last album. I keep thinking I’m bound to break up with Blitzen Trapper because they have so many records out now, but I keep liking them. The only Bowie stuff I’m interested in anymore is live stuff from the 70’s and even all that isn’t that interesting. I broke up with him a long time ago, and I bought Heathen and it’s kind of good, but it’s also kind of boring. There’s certainly no Width of a Circle on it.

    Could you imagine being a Neil Young completist? Who wants This Note’s For You on their shelf? Shit like that will make your other records walk out on you in protest. I say stuff like this knowing damned well that I’m pretty sure I have every color variant of Some Girls on my shelf, but I got at least three of them for free!

  11. Big Star is one of those bands that I never understood. Their best work (and it’s damn good work) can easily be reduced to an EP with just three tracks: “September Girls”, :”Seventeen”, and “In the Street”. Everything else they’ve done is no better than a throwaway Harrison track like “You Like Me to Much.”

  12. 2000 man writes: “Shit like that will make your other records walk out on you in protest.” Great to see you up here again!

  13. I just realized the only “artist” I’m a completist for is ME. In fact, I own hundreds and hundreds of copies of some of my releases.

  14. Wedged in the hundreds and hundreds of your LPs, is there any chance there might be a vinyl copy of Dynagroove’s self titled workout? Nostalgia’s been kicking in as of late, and I’d like to once again experience the nausea that sets in while watching a Chestnut Cabaret Philly “party” band that makes you wish were lucky enough to forget the invitation.

  15. Ha! I don’t think I actually had the pleasure of seeing/hearing Dynagroove. Just never caught them. Same with The Daves (who were actually well-regarded) as the good time party bands they were.

    I was laughing with Mr Mod recently about how many cassettes I had collected over the 1980s from trading with local bands; ours for yours. I would almost always take these cassettes home, and tape over the punch-outs so I could have a free cassette to tape a rehearsal on over their music. What a dick.

  16. I too have taped over the locals’ punch outs many a time. That said, some of those local offerings were pretty good. Once in a while, I pull out my Baby Flamehead cassette, give it a listen, and still think its solid from beginning to end. They absolutely and positively had the goods. What happened?

    And speaking of cassettes, I’ve been listening to a lot of great old comp tapes that good friends made for me throughout the years. Just a couple of uninsightful observations: 1) they hold up, 2) they spark a lot of great memories, and 3) at times, they’re much more interesting than those best of CDs that run out of steam when the extra time is crammed with “deep trax” that lessen the oomph of the hits.

  17. Great “30 Rock” mix tape scene

    Tracy: I’m gonna make you a mix tape. You like Phil Collins?”
    Jack: I’ve got two ears and a heart, don’t I?”

  18. Happiness Stan

    2KM, I believe I have a copy of This Note’s For You. I think your point is a fair one, even if I’d rather listen to that than Trans or Mirrorball.

    EPG, with you on Big Star, one brilliant track, two good ones and five and a half sides of dull pub rock.

    I’ve been trying to locate a cassette player that doesn’t eat tapes so I can revisit some of my old bands’ output, but not without quite a lot of trepidation. I found the box just week and there are songs listed I don’t remember writing, let alone playing, and our reviews were universally terrible. Possibly we were ahead of our time.

  19. God bless, Happiness! The Big Star thing remains a mystery. Over the years, several friends have made me Big Star/Alex Chilton comp tapes to bring me into the fold, but the tapes never work. There’s simply never enough meat on the bone.

    What separates the great from the whatever is always that one uniquely wired guy or gal in the band (and hallelujah if there’s more than one) who gets bored easily, needs constant change, and continually delivers I don’t see that with Big Star in the least.

    That said, what would you classify as Big Star’s one brilliant track? For me, that would be “September Girls.”

    As far as your old band is concerned, I’d love to hear some tracks. Let us be the judge of their merit. If you’re on the tapes in any capacity whatsoever, they’ve gotta be worth hearing.

  20. A local band, who shall remain nameless, had a term called “jading.” They received a cassette from a particularly unappealing opening band band called “Jade,” (the name might’ve been a warning.) and decided that the best way to experience this cassette was to thread a couple of inches at the middle of the tape over a pencil and toss the cassette shell out the window of the van on the highway to unspool completely. Hence, the transitive verb “to jade.”

  21. diskojoe

    When I went to Memphis back in the 90s, I did the Sun Records tour. It was basically a converted storefront. The tour guide complimented me on wearing a Stax Records T-Shirt. The successor studio was right around the corner from the original studio. The Yardbirds recorded there, as well as hits such as “Wooly Bully”.

    Speaking of Stax Records, I do have all 4 of the singles box sets, as well all the Otis Redding & Sam & Dave albums, as well as box sets by them & Booker T. & the MGs. One unusual Stax Records album that I have is the one by English child singer Lena Zavoni that it put out during its desperate dying phase.

  22. 2000 Man

    CDM, I think I have all the Plimsouls except the reunion one and I don’t have any singles because I really can’t be bothered with little records. I kind of liked when Peter Case was in need of some cash and released a couple of concerts. Neither of them is as good as One Night in America, but Beg Borrow or Steal is pretty close. They just seem like such an under appreciated band to me.

    With Big Star I have the first two records, which I like completely, not just a song or two, and the soundtrack from the movie. I have a live live album, too. It’s pretty solid, but I really just wondered what the original band sounded like live. I’m sure the Posies and Alex Chilton made a good Big Star, but it’s not the same.

  23. Just finished dinner with the wife and stepbrats whilst listening to Big Star’s #1 record. Again, I really don’t get it.

  24. Why does Big Star get way more critical clout than some band like Badfinger? Again, I really don’t get it.

  25. Happiness Stan

    EPG, September Gurls, without question, it’s an awesome beast, up there with anything else ever. Alas, like There She Goes by the LAs and From the Underworld by the Herd, there’s nothing else of interest to be found, even if you scritch around with your mind open to eleven. Doubly frustrating in Chilton’s case as the Letter is another case in point, so he clearly had it in him. Badfinger deserve better, but, in my opinion, still get away with slightly more than they should. On the other hand, their bio reads like Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events already and I’ve no desire to compound it further.

    I love Teenage Fanclub, everybody goes on about their being influenced by Big Star, when what they actually mean is they’ve built a solid body of work on Big Star’s single classic song. On the other hand, why so we feel we have the right to be affronted when artists produce a joyful masterpiece but aren’t able to follow it up? Orson Welles comes to mind.

    You’re very kind, if I get any of them working I’ll put some on YouTube. There’s one I’m eager to hear again, which was me on a guitar I had no idea how to tune or play, going through an amp with a cracked speaker and a fuzz box cranked up full, and our drummer playing a broken bass drum, a warped snare without springs, detuned to a short of bouncy boingy noise, a cracked cymbal and a wooden wardrobe, while our singer warbled an improvised lyric about the desolation of living in the Arctic directly into the microphone of the cassette recorder. We played it to a lad in the year above us at school who promoted local bands and went on to become one of the biggest managers and promoters in the UK, who declined our request to join his stable.

    Our geography teacher lived a few doors down from where we rehearsed and was surprised to discover we were making music. He thought we’d been working on motorbikes.

    I’m trying to write a memoir about it, which is why I want to hear the tapes, mainly so I can remember who was in the band when, and whether we really were, as the wife of a Godfather of punk we supported once put it, “the worst band I’ve ever heard”.

    It’s messing with my head, since it’s bringing back memories of just how damned messed up and miserable those teenage years were, and how little I can now remember, although the writing is bringing a lot of it back, including the boredom and frustration. The dates on the tapes and the tickets and flyers are all too close together, like they’re contradicting my understanding of the flow of time itself.

  26. Not all of Big Star is outstanding. Some of the twee songs are really annoying, but I think Down the Street is a clear 5 star winner. The guitar riff is compelling. I love the strained aggressive vocals on the verses. The sound production is tight; so crisp and clear. There aren’t a lot of lyrics, but they are so evocative. Being young, bored, and driving around in the car looking for adventure. “Wish we had, a joint so bad”; perfect! First time ever written: the cowbell “riff” is fantastic. Top to bottom, that song is great. Sometimes I’m just flabbergasted when what I think is an obvious great song isn’t embraced by all RnR fans. e.g.: I don’t think I want to know the person who doesn’t like Day Tripper or Satisfaction. There are other very good Big Star songs, but for sure Down the Street and September Gurls are two of the best.

  27. I guess I’ve never been much of a completist. The time I had to put aside my entire Elvis Costello collection for a year to distance myself from Mighty Like a Turd and King of America has been well documented. I finally came around on King of America and, to this day, dip a toe into Costello’s output once a decade. I have long returned to spinning his classic albums on a weekly basis.

    As much as I love the Beatles, their solo output was usually disappointing outside of the radio hits. Being a completist for bands like The Clash, who only released a handful of albums, doesn’t count for much. Beside. I never bought Cut the Crap. I do, however, listen to all 6 sides of Sandinista, so that’s saying something.

    As for EPG and his Big Star issues, what can I say? I do have the first and third Big Star albums and listen to them a few times a year. Each of those albums has a couple of songs that move me, and the rest contain what I call great “junkyard content”: spare parts worth absorbing, lifting from songs that don’t quite hit the mark, and applying to one’s own songwriting.

    I have always found the second Big Star album hard to take, other than the eventually blissful closing track “September Gurls,” and don’t own it physically, only as a download. It’s sad to admit, but I’ll do so anyway: I take perverse pleasure in not owning it and being able to say that it’s overrated and the root of most of the somewhat deserved backlash people like EPG will heap on the band. On his own, I think Chris Bell was a wet dishrag, but his input on the first Big Star album is essential. Chilton, left to his own devices, is what we might call an “underachiever.” Drifting-in-the-wind Chilton at the helm of that band, however, works wonderfully on the third album, which nicely captures a specific untethered type of depression. Chris Bell wouldn’t have helped with expressing that part of their music. He would have sprinkled fake sunshine over the proceedings and then downed some barbiturates.

  28. Oh, and how did I forget XTC? Like geo, I bought their albums right up through the painful end. At their peak (or, should I say my peak of XTC fandom, from 1981-1988), I kept up with just about all of their singles. I continue to buy their classic-era 45s to this day when I’m in the UK. They almost always had cool picture sleeves! I even bought the first two volumes of Partridge’s demos and outtakes CDs, A Cupboard Full of Crisps, or whatever that series was called. I eventually had to bail, though. I refuse to buy his as-yet-unfinished collaborations with Robyn Hitchcock, Robert Pollard, and Brian Eno. I’ll always love Andy Partridge and my large XTC collection, even the lousy bits, but I had to get off that train.

  29. MOD, Funny but I like the second Big Star album the best. The third album has some good songs but I think gets more love than it deserves because “Chilton was krazy!” when he made it.

    2000K MAN: I don’t collect singles either. Are you referring to the songs on the Zero Records compilation of the Plimsouls? I scored a bootleg copy of the One Night In America album a while ago and I will rate it in the top five live albums of all time. Nothing fancy, and the recording is really hot, but it’s everything I love about rock. A tight four piece band swinging for the fences.

    Have you heard the Big Star live bootleg from the Long Island radio station? It’s in support of the second album. Worth a listen although I prefer the Live album with the Posies guys, clams and all. If you need a copy, ask the Mod to send me your contact info, of ask him for mine.

    EPG and HAPPINESS: Interesting point about Badfinger. I’m sure they are someone else’s Big Star. And I like them. But I can’t go all in because I only have so much room for a band who showed glimpses of perfection but are ultimately brought down by a combination of bad luck, industry douche-baggery, and self sabotage.

    Big Star are far from perfect. I think they have more songs than you are giving them credit for. But at this point, if you don’t like them, you don’t like them. Kind of like me with Pet Sounds. I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’m never going to “get” it. Life is too short…

    CHICKEN: Ha! I also have everything I ever recorded including all of the original cringey demos I did on my tascam 4 track, one of which I brought out of mothballs years ago when RTH posted some of our early songs. I took the request to heart and submitted the first song I ever recorded (second song I ever wrote). Not pretty.

  30. Hi all! Good points all around!

    Happiness Stan, I so look forward to hearing your stuff and reading your account regarding the trials and tribulations of your band. Have you read Lost in the Music by Giles Smith? Life in Double Time: Confessions of an American Drummer by Mark Lankford? If not, please do so. These two books are thoughtful, page turning, laugh out loud memoirs of everything that goes right and wrong when one decides to try and make it, in some way or another, in the music business. Can’t remember if the Moderator read the Lankford book, but our bond definitely tightened over our love for Smith’s book, which, at the time (late 1980s?) was very difficult to find.

    Chicken Frank, I agree with all your points. That said, two great songs shouldn’t warrant that much hoopla.

    Moderator, Costello and I called it quits after Goodbye Cruel World. I took his decision to release that lp as a personal insult.

    CDM, the same argument you use regarding Badfinger applies just as well to Big Star, maybe even more.

  31. CDM: I think I’ve purposely erased some of my own tascam demos. If I had to choose between having some of those horrendously nasal, off-key, trite, early attempts at songwriting ever being discovered, or having a photo of me buggering a cantaloupe made public; I’d have to vote cantaloupe.

  32. Chickenfrank, send me those demos! A cassette would be preferred! In a lot of cases, I find demos way more interesting than polished work. I think all that began during my early obsession with Dylan’s unreleased stuff circa 1959-1966. If I could find any of it on a boot or a cassette, I bought it.

  33. 2000K MAN, I just realized that it’s 2020 not 2005 so I checked Spotify and sure enough, the Big Star live album from Long Island is there. After listening to it with fresh ears, I’d say it’s kind of “meh”. Some good points but a bit low energy. And the sound guy takes a while to get it together so the mix on the first song is not good. Unfortunately, that first song is Sept Gurls, which I along with EPG and Happiness, think is their best song.

    Spotify also has the live set that the band played as a three piece for a rock writers’ convention in Memphis. This set opens with When My Baby’s Beside Me and the band sounds great. Chilton’s playing is fantastic and the band is locked in. Even Jody manages to keep consistent time. (I think I recall EPG calling out Jody Stevens for his drumming, and I get it. He overplays and the recorded version of September Gurls speeds up enough over the course of the song that even I can notice it. Still, he’s a great drummer for this band.) “Watch the Sunrise,” which I suspect is considered a throwaway by some, but is one of my favorites is also in this set.

  34. CDM, thank you for reminding me about Jody Stephens’ Pete Best like drumming skills. Again, whilst dining with the wife and my stepbrats, we listened to Big Star’s #1 record, and the revisitation reaffirmed my opinion of Stephens. Simply put, he’s stiffer than a teenage hillbilly’s pecker, and getting in and out of a fill, let alone playing one well, appears to be more or less rocket science.

    Hands down, as far as I’m concerned, the two most important people in a band are the singer and the drummer. One’s band will suck if either are weak.

  35. 2000 Man

    EPG says:

    Why does Big Star get way more critical clout than some band like Badfinger? Again, I really don’t get it.

    I think I can answer this. Badfinger blows.

  36. Fair enough, 2000 man. All I ask is that you explain yourself! Enlighten me, which you’ve done many a time!

  37. Badfinger. Really? No love for “No Matter What” or “Baby Blue”? Two songs I love every time I hear them.

    P.S.: The use of Baby Blue on the last episode of Breaking Bad made my eyes well up. Perfect choice.

  38. 2000 Man

    CDM – you’re spot on about Jody Stephens’ drumming, but so long as a song makes me feel good, I don’t care if the guys can play or not. You really have to blow it for me to notice because I don’t play anything. I like Big Star’s second album as much as I like the first one. I think Third is pretty dull and listening to a band fall apart and a musician lose his marbles is unappealing to me.

    I’ve got the Live At Lafayette’s Music Room show on vinyl. I think that’s the one you liked, and I think it’s good. They seem like they were taking their shot and doing everything they could to win those fans over, and it’s a good show. I listened to the Live on WLIR show on Spotify and I don’t think it’s nearly as good, but I’m really happy to have gotten two albums I really love out of them. Especially because I read about them for years and never found anything by them until that twofer CD became available back in the 90’s. Man, I’d have loved Spotify when I was a kid.

    I’ve got The Plimsouls Zero Hour EP, but the stuff Peter Case released was a collection of outtakes from his solo career that’s really good and two live Plimsouls albums. I don’t know if the Alive Records releases of The Breakaways and The Nerves were because he needed money or they just asked for them. Neither of the live shows is as good as One Night in America, but I’m with you on that one. That one proves that you never know, but any band could be the best Rock band in the world on any given night. Sometimes everything falls into place and someone actually gets a recording of a band on their absolute best night ever. There’s no budget for that record, so it’s completely live and completely perfect. I can’t think of many shows that come close to that one that aren’t by The Stones, and that’s as much praise as I can give a record.

  39. Hey 2000 man, what the fuck?! Me, the wife, and the stepbrats just finished up dinner whilst listening to that second Big Star album. That thing makes Ass by Badfinger sound like Beggars’ Banquet! Honestly, what else on there is even mildly interesting other than September Girls? Anyone who’s going to rewrite rock history through the lens of a Stones’ fan should know better! You know what I’m talking about!

  40. Jody Stephens has a really wobbly feel, clumsy, sort of like Tommy Ardolino from NRBQ but with more early 70-‘s rock influence. That said, I wouldn’t call him stiff, so much as clumsy. The second Big Star Album is also my guitar player’s favorite Bid Star, and it lines up with his own ability to become completely untethered. Stephen’s most unpredictable performance is probably “O My Soul,” but it works on that weird guitar groove of Chilton’s (that opening hammer on riff is rhythmically incomprehensible to me.) in a way that just feels good and organic. Ardolino does something similar on the NRBQ recording of “Me and the Boys,” playing fills that sound like a multi-car pile up. The difference is that most of Stephen’s fills can be identified as pretty standard early 70’s fare performed, to be kind, idiosyncratically. Ardolino is idiosyncratic through and through. While I would hate to play with either of them personally, I do appreciate how sound in the context of their respective groups. In fact, I think the main attraction of Radio City is the extreme loosey-goosey feel.

  41. Loosey goosey is absolutely and positively not for me. Furthermore, if an lp’s main attraction is a loosey goosey feel, it should most probably remain in the tape vault.

  42. Chicken, I agree about those Badfinger two songs. They are absolutely perfect. Maybe the main issue with me and the completist mentality is that I am song oriented as opposed to group or album oriented.

  43. They are absolutely perfect! And so is “Tonight” by the Raspberries!

  44. It’s feast or famine with the Raspberries, but when they are on, it’s pure pop bliss.

  45. Indeed. They were definitely listening to the right records. Eric Carmen was obviously a big fan of Steve Marriott. You can hear all that in “Tonight.”

  46. 2000 Man

    I think geo is dead on in regards to Jody Stephens’ drumming. I love NRBQ, too and I’ve used wobbly to explain their sound to friends that don’t know them. He’s got to be hard to play with, but Andy Hummel seemed to understand what he was doing and I think he holds their wobbliness together.

    EPG, you’re missing the point of the second album, I guess. September Gurls is definitely the biggest highlight, but I think Daisy Glaze is gorgeous in an “I really need to put this bong down soon” kind of way, Mod Lang is just great and so is O, My Soul. I’m in Love With a Girl is probably something an older man would never do, but Chilton was only 22 when they recorded this so I say it works. The whole record is good stuff and I’d have LOVED it if I had first heard it when I was a teenager, and that’s when I should have heard it, and would have heard it if their label could have figured out a way to get someone to play it and sell it in stores. I would have loved this next to my Artful Dodger album when I was 13, and I managed to figure out who they were and have that so Ardent really screwed the pooch there.

    Which brings me to Badfinger. Who needs them? If Paul McCartney’s solo career is mostly crap, Badfinger was aspiring to reach those heights. Bread fans think Badfinger is hard rock. Badfinger couldn’t be wobbly if you gave them free tequila. Yuck.

    Then again I’m one of the few Clevelanders my age that doesn’t care for The Raspberries. Has any song ever promised more and delivered less than Go All the Way? Wally Bryson is ready to go into overdrive and deliver the goods and Eric Carmen comes in and craps all over things. The Raspberries can’t wobble, either. The Stones can wobble but that’s not Charlie or Bill’s fault, that’s the guitar player and he can be as wobbly as he wants.

  47. 2K, you just nailed it re: both Badfinger and The Raspberries! I, too, am a fan of “I’m in Love With a Girl,” despite finding that second album frustrating.

  48. diskojoe

    It’s interesting how this topic got hijacked into the merits of Big Star, which I do like generally & have much of their albums. I also like the Rasberries & Badfinger, although w/the latter it seems that only their hits resonates w/me. Another band that I think I should like but have problems with is Shoes. On paper, they should be a great band to listen to & I’ve seen all the great reviews they have, but I don’t hear anything personally that grabs me. Does anybody else get that feeling?

  49. For the record, I too like “I’m in Love with a Girl.” It’s more or less “Son of Thirteen.” Both are very nice songs. “Thirteen” is the work of a maturing amateur. “I’m in Love with a Girl” is the work of the matured amateur who’s beginning to fall apart. For that reason and others which are more personal, it never fails to give me goosebumps.

    I have no problem with an act being wobbly, as long as it has something to bring to the table. Hence my love of the third Velvet Underground album. That may well be the masterpiece of wobble.

    The concept of the wobbler is understood and accepted. You and I just disagree about whether of not the wobbler is bringing something of quality to the table.

  50. Funny thing about Stephens, though. I think he has been sort of influential. Two drummers that I like and I think owe something of their sound are Patrick Berkery (of the Bigger Lovers and a hundred other things) and Ric Menck (of Velvet Crush and another hundred things). It’s definitely possible that the reason for the apparent influence is that the group’s they were in were using Big Star as a primary template and, consequently, their drumming complied. They do retain that heavy/loose balance in other appearances so the style must’ve taken.

  51. I’ve been laying low through much of this Big Star detour, but not because I don’t care. I’m in the middle of a decompression period after leaving my old job of nearly 16 years and getting ready to start something completely new. I have been enjoying this detour though (and to your point, diskojoe, I love when a thread gets hijacked by something completely unexpected – it’s so…Rock Town Hall of us), so let me see if I can share some thoughts after my evening walk.

    I have a special place in my heart for Big Star, having first read about #1 Record in Trouser Press, which established it as a sort of holy grail of lost ’70s albums, then finding a sparkling promo copy – complete with a press release – in a pile of records that WFMU was tossing in 1981, during my freshman year at Northwestern. It felt like the kind of album me and my friends should figure out how to make: with a lot of chiming ’60s and ’70s sounds and a personal, confessional tone that only occasionally peeked its head out on songs by Power Pop bands of the late-’70s I wish I could have liked more, such as Cheap Trick. Because an album called #1 Record was such a colossal flop, it was ready-made for answering an 18-year-old’s anxieties about possibly not reaching his aspirations.

    My friends and I studied that album over the coming years, but we weren’t slaves to their sound, necessarily – at least not the jangly thing that they would become worshipped over. We liked the full-bodied chords; the pinky rock; and the yearning, casual lyrics. If a band could make the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame for one line, that “Wish we had a joint so bad” one would get Big Star in. And it’s not just the line on paper; it’s the way they deliver it: with DESIRE. I’m a big believer in the power of desire. It’s what motivates me here at RTH, for instance: getting a read on our desires through often ridiculous discussions over music. Big Star is a DESIRE band. And, on that first album, they sound like a BAND. You can see them eating pizza and drinking beers before rehearsal. Allow me to get into complete fantasy world. They may have been careerists punching a clock for all I know! Here goes…

    They sound like they’re trying to make a #1 record, with their awkward, limited talents. Who cares if Jody Stephens is a sloppy drummer? He strikes me as the guy who could get beer for his friends while they were underage. And wasn’t he an engineer or tea boy at Ardent? Shoot, the guy probably had keys to the studio and could get the band recording time at off hours. Cut Jody a break.

    Closeted, pill-popping rich kid Chris Bell kept some order in that band. “Come on, guys, we need to practice! My dad’s working on getting us an introduction to Elton John’s manager. Short of that, he thinks he can hook us up with Leo Sayer.” Bell strikes me as the root of any delusion that would lead a bunch of young guys to call their first album #1 Record. But you know what? It’s a beautiful delusion. It’s hard for a band to do anything worthwhile if at least one guy’s not deluded.

    Chilton had hit parade cred and a lot of talent. Man, he must have been a pain in the ass to keep focused, though. What’s cool about his role in launching Big Star is that he was getting to be a boy in the band while working off a chip on his shoulder. It’s hard for a band to do anything worthwhile if at least one member doesn’t have a chip on his or her shoulder.

    Andy Hummel had good hair and could pull off surprising things, like play a great bass part while wearing a sweater. He was ahead of his time in that way. We’ll give him a pass – just barely – for “The India Song.”

    Once Bell left, for me, things get dicey. Chilton still packs DESIRE on Radio City, but almost every song is like a scene out of Bridget Jones’ Diary: Chilton slugs down a half a bottle of bourbon, working up courage to tell his woman how he really feels. He gets off to a great start on songs like “Back of My Car,” but then he falls into a babbling, drunken mess. Almost every song on that album feels like an exercise in Dutch courage.

    Big Star’s Third is one of those albums that’s come out in so many versions/sequences that we can’t be sure whether we’re talking about the same album. I think all versions, however, contain “Kangaroo.” That song is a masterpiece of Chilton’s messed-up psyche. There are a few other songs that work for me on that level. I usually object to romanticizing KEEE-RAAAAZZZEEE albums, but I’ll put that one up there with Barrett, the seond Syd Barrett solo album.

    I saw Chilton with a bassist and drummer at JC Dobbs in the mid-’80s, when he put out a half-decent album of cheesy soul covers (and “Volare,” if memory serves). By this time, too many assholes were into Big Star and the Myth of Chilton. So be it. He played about an hour’s worth of those silly soul song, then for his encore he played about 7 or 8 Big Star songs. It was so effortless. He played and sang the songs, including “Kangaroo,” with passion, showing that desire that he’d been covering up with his tongue-in-cheek soul covers that people were liking more than anyone had business liking. I felt like he gave us a little peek into his soul. Maybe he thought it was the best way to justify making a living. Whatever. I thought it was magical.

  52. diskojoe

    I always thought that one of the problems w/Big Star was that it didn’t tour a lot. What gigs they did play was mostly local, although they did play in NYC & Boston. Apparently Chris Bell thought that since the Beatles didn’t tour that they shouldn’t, forgetting the small fact that they played tons of gigs. I always thought that what they should have done was to open for the Beach Boys, especially since 1. Alex knew them from the Box Top days & could have asked for the favor & 2. The Beach Boys in the early 1970s were trying to be relevant to the current music scene & not be the hit jukebox they late became. I think that it would have been beneficial for Big Star musically to be an opening act & I think that they would have well received by the Beach Boy concert audiences.

  53. I’m pretty sure spending any time in proximity to Mike Love wouldn’t have been beneficial to someone with suicide ideation.

  54. Did any of you read that Chilton biography A Man Called Destruction? It was really good. But one of my main take-aways was how purposefully disconnected he seemed with his own career sometimes.

    Maybe this is due to his disillusionment with his time in the Box Tops, or with his lack of success with the first Big Star album but sometimes his career seems like a defense mechanism of a guy who’s afraid of getting hurt again.

    Or maybe he’s similar to how I think of Jerry Stiller. I’m not convinced that Jerry Stiller understood what made him so funny (maybe he did and he was just that good an actor). I think he had people around him who just pointed him in the right direction where his natural talents would be best suited. Maybe Chilton was similarly situated but didn’t have people around him giving him good advice.

  55. About the Raspberries: Carmen has a lot of natural talent but is a total cheeseball who just happens to get it right every now and then. I think Wally Bryson and Dave Smalley managed to offset his cheesiness enough to boost about 1/3 of their songs into very good/great range. But they easily have just as many really, really bad songs. Lucky for me, as I mentioned above, I’m a song guy, not an album guy. Out of their four albums, I could make one really classic power pop album. The rest is either dreck or just “meh”.

    Two of my favorite Dave songs

    Going Nowhere Tonight:

    Hard to Get Over a Heartbreak

  56. Well said, Moderator! My version of all that is #1 Record is all about a band with somewhat limited chops but lots of vision and grit. Radio City is all about a band with compromised chops, some vision, little grit, and an awareness that the end is near. You and I more or less agree in our overall assessment of Big Star. I’m just a tad more tough on them than you are.

    CDM, those songs are pretty good. That said, I’d rather just hear the songs than seeing the Raspberries perform them. The Raspberries look like they might be relatives of the Osmonds. Not good. Both bands were definitely shopping at the same clothes stores.

  57. 2000 Man

    Is Jerry Stiller the blueprint for Tracy Morgan?

  58. It would have been mighty interesting had Elvis had a manager who actually gave a shit about his creative growth.

    Most artists, at some point or another, need a guiding hand. I can’t think of one who didn’t need it at some point or another. That would definitely make an interesting thread: at what point should someone have stepped in to steer so and so in the right direction, and what would the suggestion have been?

    I would have loved to sit down with someone like George Harrison, around 1973 or so, to read him the riot act: ditch the Dark Horse nonsense, put away the slide guitar, and write something, anything, that doesn’t sound like filler.

    Big Star would have benefited greatly from all that.

  59. Yeah, right! Like a pep talk from you could have saved the world from Gone Troppo.

  60. Gone Troppo? As I stated previously, he needed the intervention around 1973. Come to think of it, something like that should have begun during the writing and recording of All Things Must Pass.

    Again, it would make a good thread. Honestly, wouldn’t it have been great if some trusted friend (yet another unlikely scenario) sat down with Brian Wilson and said, “You know what? Maybe it’s just me, but it’s probably not a good idea to take acid 24/7.” Think of what he might have done had he just smoked a lot of pot. I guarantee you it would have been a whole lot better than Smile.

  61. Eugene Landy?

  62. No, a well balanced trusted friend, i.e. not someone whose only motive in life is to find a cash cow and milk it until it can be milked no more.

  63. EPG – That Osmond comment is hilariously on point.

  64. BigSteve

    I remember bailing on Graham Parker after having been a huge fan. I think it was really the Rumour that I liked. A couple of albums after Squeezing Out Sparks I pulled the plug. The reunion album was a professional job, but kind of flat.

    And I think I’m done with Neil Young. Those two 2012 albums with Crazy Horse, Americana and Psychedelic Pill, I really liked. But everything after that leaves me cold. That album from last year with ‘Crazy Horse’ (with Nils Lofgren substituting for Poncho) was just ok. He’s apparently got a new EP coming out of solo recordings of songs from his back catalogue done at home on an Ipad. No thanks.

  65. CDM, the Raspberries just don’t have that hipster thing going on like Big Star does.

    Big Steve, where have you been?

    I’ve been reading the Chis Frantz memoir Remain in Love. Frankly, I was expecting more drama. There are too many passages such as the following:

    “Our accountant, Bert Padell, had told Tina and I that we should buy a house, and we found the perfect place in southern Connecticut, just an hour’s drive from New York City. The house was a barn like structure with a large room for rehearsing, It was built next to a large pond with Canada geese, wild ducks, turtles, foxes, and deer abounding. The neighborhood public schools were good and we had many well known musicians, writers, and actors living nearby,”

    Honestly, this sounds more like an excerpt from a piece written for Better Homes and Gardens.

    In another chapter, he mentions having a good time hanging out with Phil Collins. Maybe it’s just me, but I never want to hear that from anyone.

    Steer clear, the goods aren’t delivered. Know that goods are delivered in the Netflix series Cobra Kai.

    My good friend Eric had been going on and on about this thing for the last few weeks. Last night, the wife and I gave in. It’s everything he said it was. If you’re a fan of all that brat pack crap from the 80s, Swayze movies, and the like, I guarantee you’ll love this thing.

  66. Big Steve spurred me to review the Graham Parker discography after Sparks. It’s insane how many albums he’s released since then, and so many of them are live albums. I don’t have anywhere near all of them.

    Just a couple of thoughts I’d share as a fan. You want to have The Up Escalator. Plenty of good songs, and you get the Springsteen duet. The Real McCaw has the great track, Just Like a Man, and then a few other decent ones. The Mona Lisa’s Sister I rank along side all his other great albums. That one has some tremendous songs, and production and musicianship to match.

    There is a whole list of non-live albums after that I have never heard a note from. Did anyone know that he did an album of “Lost Songs of Lennon and McCartney”? Guess I’d be curious to hear that.

    I totally enjoy the Rumor reunion record, “Three Chords Good”. I like those songs, and the boys all fit together again nicely. GP’s voice has not lost a thing. He sounds just like he did in the 70s. Guess if I ever choose to go down GP’s rabbit hole, there’s a lot of untapped stuff for me to try.

  67. Chickenfrank, a couple of quick thoughts about Graham Parker.

    1) You guys do a great cover of “Stupefaction” which I actually prefer over his version.

    2) I saw him a decade or so ago at the Tin Angel. He did a cover of “I’m Your Puppet.” That’s about all I can recall in regards to the performance.

    3) I’ve never been able to sell his albums, which I don’t get because I think he’s got the goods. And I’m starting to having difficulty moving the catalog of his second cousin removed, Elvis Costello. What’s the world coming to when wallets won’t open for Get Happy?

  68. I second chickenfrank’s overview of the post-Squeezing Out Sparks records. I haven’t listened to it in ages, but The Real McCaw was pretty good. There’s also one with Grey in the title that isn’t terrible. It’s too bad, though, that he couldn’t stick with The Rumour. Parker didn’t have any space to grow, so I guess it could have gotten old for him to keep doing the same songs with the same musicians. Maybe he saw where that got the Stones.

    On my admitted Bad Attitude Front, remember when a Philly-area band, The Figgs, that was actually pretty good on their own got the job backing Parker on some tours and albums? I was so jealous of them that I’ve never made the effort to talk to their band leader, even during the years when he lived around the corner from me. By all accounts he’s a swell guy. Sad, on my part, but true!

  69. Was Parker an influence on Costello or vice versa? What came first, the chicken or the egg?

  70. Mr. Mod,

    You ARE a dick!

  71. EPG, Declan McManus was a fanboy of Brinsley Schwarz and all that would follow it their wake, like early GP and the Rumour.

  72. Thanks for the info. By the way, I have two very special gifts for you this evening: one is an lp, and the other is a recording that every big Lou Reed fan should have. Here’s hoping your double cassette deck is hooked up.

  73. BigSteve

    Graham Parker was first. Both Howlin Wind and Heat Treatment were released in 1976, and My Aim is True came out in the second half of 1977.

    One of my problems with GP is that I realized I really didn’t like his voice. On the first four albums the batting average on songwriting is high enough, and then band is hot enough, to overcome his monochromatic singing. He actually got better later as a vocalist, but not better enough for me, especially as his songwriting batting average declined. His slugging percentage went way down.

  74. You’re onto something, BigSteve. Now we need some youngster to break down Parker’s OPS and WAR.

  75. Happiness Stan

    I’ve been AWOL for a few days, catching up with nothing in particular and watching the weather turn nasty for the next six months. It’s going to be a long second lockdown.

    EPG, I read Lost in Music forever ago and remember enjoying it, I’ll look out for the Mark Lankford book, although I’ve got so many unread books staring back at me every time I wake up in the morning buying another doesn’t feel like a plan at the moment. If you’re on the market for completely insane rock memoirs, Steve Handley’s The Big Midweek about his life as bassist with the Fall. I told him how much I enjoyed it when I met him after an Extricated gig and he seemed genuinely surprised anyone had read it, which was rather endearing. I started as Costello completist but stopped abruptly after I met him.

    I trust your judgement on the Chris Grants book, I almost bought it when we visited a bookshop in Oxford recently on one of our rare to nonexistent trips to the outside world into I remembered all those other books waiting.

    Mr Mod, your comments on Big Star and Cheap Trick set me thinking about bands and artists who somehow make me feel guilty about not liking them more. I can happily live with myself just plain not liking music the rest of the world seems to, like Joni Mitchell and Queen, and even those whose music floats over me making no impact, like the Grateful Dead, who make me feel like I’ve grown a music-resistant crust.

    Most bands eventually go off the boil, I could happily live without almost all Beatles after Revolver, Stones after Sticky Fingers, Who after Who’s Next, and even then I’d lose Tommy, the Stranglers after Black and White and so on for the rest of time, it’s acts like Big Star and the Las, who showed just one glimpse of greatness but otherwise failed to deliver, who most get under my skin for leaving me wanting just one more as good as that. A bit like taking hard drugs, I imagine, though without the expense or health implications. I’d lump Talking Heads in the same category, along with Doctor Feelgood and, I don’t know why they just popped into my head, the Residents. Perhaps it was the state of my brain after watching ten minutes of that David Thomas video Mr Mod just posted.

    Re: Graham Parker, I think it’s the voice that fails to do it for me, along with a lack of any memorable songs. I think he was probably bigger in the States than here, where he had one minor hit if I remember correctly, and record shops couldn’t shift his records even when they were new. There were a lot of used copies knocking about. We had a joke at school that you could judge the quality of a secondhand record shop by the number of copies of Frampton Comes Alive they were prepared to have on display, Heat Treatment ran it a pretty close second at times.

  76. Happiness Stan

    Frantz, not Grants

  77. Good points all around. Good to have you back, Happiness!

    Moderator, you need to get moving on a diatribe concerning Rolling Stone’s latest move to gain much needed street cred. Don’t know if Jann Wenner is still at the helm, but the magazine’s latest stunt tells me that he might be. Rolling Stone has sucked since the mid seventies, when they opted to cover things like the latest CSN reunion instead of the rule changing scenes in New York, Cleveland, London, Manchester,etc. Wenner and company, who care only about accumulating as money as possible and hanging out with Jagger and other old fart has beens have used the current political climate to lessen the stench of their shitrag by rewriting rock history. Their latest endeavor has provided the public with a new list of their 500 greatest albums off all time. At the top of their politically corrected heap is Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, an lp that has three inarguable winners and nothing else but filler. Ask so called experts about the lp. Trust me. They’ll struggle to name the tracks that aren’t the hits.

    Wenner and company need to be called out on this. Moderator, again, you’re the man for the job. It needs to be done, and you need to do it asap.

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