Archive for the ‘The Ramones’ Category

The Ramones

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Listen: Baby Sitter / The Ramones

Tom became a great pal as the years went by. Either with Monte, or often on his own, we’d meet near my place for an Indian buffet. Originally well under the trendy radar, all types of homestyle Northern and Southern Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Korean and Malaysian restaurants super served a massive but unhip clientele in my neck. Good food cheap basically.

Despite gentrification and Yelp, the choice and quality still holds. And so on the occasions when we’d do an impromptu mid-week lunch together, more often than not, all the air would be gasped out of the room as a nearby newbie or hipster table would suddenly realize Tommy Ramone was in the house. Without fail, a nervous approach would result. And Tom would be Tom: humble, shy, friendly, always accommodating to autographs and pictures alike.

One memorable exchange:

Shocked person, “Wow, what are you doing in Queens?”

Tom, “I live here.”

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Tommy Ramone

My Bloody Valentine

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Listen: Soon / My Bloody Valentine

Alan McGee had invited me down to an early My Bloody Valentine show at London’s ULU during February ’89, just after he’d signed the band to Creation. Seemed like every time I’d get back from the UK, there’d be a good reason to return straight away. New groups literally materialized overnight. It was a dream come true for an A&R rep with a frequent flyer miles addiction.

I timed this visit to take in the latest media invented genre, shoegazing, with My Bloody Valentine being crowned the apparent rulers. I do wish I could recall who else was on the bill that night. I want to say Silverfish and Spiritualized. Regardless, the whole thing was dead boring. Not a flipping song in sight the entire evening. Then and there, I never saw the point of this appropriately described genre. Dreadful stuff.

But fast forward a full year and a half. ‘Soon’ is the band’s new single, one of those records you hadn’t heard of when you left New York, but was everywhere upon arrival in pre-internet July ’90. Gary Crowley played me it that first afternoon. It was even on the car radio when we left his apartment. Just about every office at Island seemed to be blasting it the next day, each attempting to out hip the other. ‘Soon’ was most definitely my soundtrack to that visit.

The following winter, the band played the new Ritz in New York. By then, the club had moved uptown to 54th Street. Although most of the magic the original place had was now gone, there were still plenty of great shows. Both Jane’s Addiction and The Red Hot Chili Peppers peaked their club band periods on that stage, Primal Scream did SCREAMADELICA, the return of the original Damned and Buzzcocks happened there, The Charlatans made their US premier, Ministry playing behind a chain linked fence, daring audience members dove into the mosh pit below from the second floor balcony during The Ramones’ two nights in February ’90 and a jungle red latex clad Lux Interior drank wine from a stray hightop sneaker shot onto the stage during The Cramps LOOK MOM NO HEAD show.

So the opportunity was set for My Bloody Valentine to prove their worth, become royalty, leave a most historical stamp on the moment, the way ‘Soon’ had and has. With intense crowd angst, the band came on to a visual storm of dry ice, saturated red and purple pulsing strobes and seriously tore into ‘Soon’. For a minute or so, the shrill and volume felt painfully positive, but the intensity of high end squeals and attempted white noise was unbearable. Ears were covered, the crowd physically gasping, it was relentless, horrible, unlistenable. Confused and tortured, many, and I do mean many, hit the exits. We tried, we wanted it to be as powerful as ‘Soon’ but we were defeated too, avoiding the surge for refunds at the box office window on the way out. This wasn’t art, it was insult.

Great single though.

The Ramones

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Listen: I Wanted Everything / The Ramones

SPIN magazine put it perfectly when they named The Ramones the #2 Best Band Of All Time: “Punk exists because of the false assumption that The Ramones can be imitated”.

Or as Seymour Stein said, “A band like The Ramones don’t come along once in a lifetime, they come along once”.

We all remember how the mainstream and the old guard laughed down at The Ramones in the 70′s, accusing them of being limited to three chord simplicity. ‘I Wanted Everything’ was just one of the songs being played in the offices of WYSL when I stopped by for my weekly drill, plugging MCA’s product. My job at the time being the label’s New York State local promo guy and I just loathed most of those moronic programmers who fought hard to keep punk off their airwaves. These guys were spot checking their way through the newly released ROAD TO RUIN album, having a laugh, their self appointed intelligence wrongly assuming it was superior to the band’s.

None of them have jobs in the business now. They were yesterday’s version some of today’s musicians who dismiss electronic music for not being real or from the heart, fooling themselves into believing that their tired guitar rock sludge is. Doesn’t anyone learn from the past?

The nice thing about many of The Ramones’ singles through the years were the songs chosen for B sides. I mean, every song they ever did was single worthy, and it’s nice to discover the unexpected when playing their flips.

‘I Wanted Everything’ was coupled with ‘Needles And Pins’ and has way more than three chords. Besides not having their finger on the pulse, those 70′s radio programmers apparently couldn’t count either.


Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Listen: Brimful Of Asha (Norman Cook Remix) / Cornershop

Went to my first Knick’s game at Madison Square Garden last week. Well, in full disclosure, went to my first ever professional basketball game. As a whole, the event was flawlessly slick, very big time and an absolute wildcard of fun. It’s music programming, both intricate and super tightly timed out, literally crested the audience into cheers of excitement repeatedly. Very impressive.

I was ready to hear bits of Queen ‘We Will Rock You’ and The Ramones ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, but not ‘Brimful Of Asha’. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting, even in my wildest, to hear anything by Cornershop. Seriously, it took me by such surprise, but the sing-a-long really was the shocker. Wow, did this record sound ever so great in that huge room.

The original band version of ‘Brimful Of Asha’ fell rather flat upon release and was basically on life support until Wiija, the label, or maybe their manager or hopefully the band, had the magic idea of a timely remix. Luckily, Cornershop were groovy enough in that moment to sway a very in-demand Norman Cook toward reinvention. Credit where credit is due, he and his remix made a world of difference, turning the song into both a hit, and dare I say, the definitive version thereafter.

Lux Interior / The Cramps

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

How Come You Do Me / The Cramps

Listen: How Come You Do Me / The Cramps
Listen: How Come You Do Me / The Cramps

Lux being Lux. (Photo: Dan Blackstone)

Above: Lux being Lux (The Academy, NYC, 11/25/94) (Photo: Dan Blackstone)

The Cramps, Toad's Place, New Haven, CN. 1998 (Photo: Duane Sherwood)

Above: The Cramps, Toad’s Place, New Haven, CN. 1998 (Photo: Duane Sherwood)

Below: A postcard from John Peel in response to receiving The Cramps FLAMEJOB package.

A postcard from John Peel in response to receiving The Cramps FLAMEJOB package.

It took a bit of coaxing to get me to my first Cramps show. They played a club in my college town of Rochester, N.Y., and I wasn’t particularly into their first album, which they were touring at the time. The argument putting me over the edge was based on logic. There wasn’t really anything else to do that night, a typical problem. Coincidentally, we had mutual friends in Eric and Mel Mache from New York City. Eric recommended we go along, see them and say hello. So why not? Thank you Eric. It changed my life. I’ve never been the same.

Why did any band other than The Ramones even bother to get out of bed in the morning to compete? The truly informed didn’t. The Cramps created a sound and a theater that scared off all the competition. It would indeed be silly to imply any part was bigger than the sum, but these parts were bigger than anyone else’s and hence the sum was historical, seminal, other worldly, untouchable. Like Ivy, Lux was a one off. Many have and are professing him to be the greatest front man ever. I agree. His perfect combination of spontaneity, teetering on the edge but never losing control has gone unmatched.

Did you ever see Lux do or say the same thing twice? No.

Did you struggle to watch his every move yet still need to watch Ivy, Kid, Bryan, Candy or Slim? Yes.

Did you relive every show in your mind for days and even years after? Yes. And we all still will.

If you never saw The Cramps, you will forever live in B.C. I am deeply sorry for you.

I was lucky enough to begin a long personal journey with them after that first show. It floored us all, and we were only too happy to say hello and invite them back to our apartments (another friend lived on the same floor) for some food and record playing.

The first of endless and unique Cramps experiences happened that very night. There was a strange noise in our bedroom where Corinne was trying to sleep, having an early wake up call the next day. She came out to the living room where the band and a few friends were gathered, saying something was making a flapping noise, it was giving her the creeps and could we investigate.

Lux and I went in to check it out. It was a bat. How did a bat get into the bedroom? To this day, we have no idea. At the time, The Cramps image was very graveyard/skull & crossbones/old Hollywood’s dark side. The bat seemed strangely relevant as that aura was rumored to follow them around.

Lux segued into an involuntary mode, capturing it in a glass casserole dish. We all had a look, then he set it free out the kitchen window. This actually tells you everything about him. He was instinctive, logical, fearless, strategic, courteous, kind and gentle all at once, truly a person beyond the beyond. We had ordered two pizzas, they never came, it was a quiet city in the late 70′s. Nothing was open, so The Cramps retreated to their hotel hungry, but content and pleasant.

They came back through town again a year or so later, summer ’81, this time to promote PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE. Kid Congo was now in the band, it was one of their classic lineups. Duane Sherwood, a friend like myself from their first time through, and I met up with them prior to the show. We were beyond ecstatic at the mere thought of seeing The Cramps that night, not to mention spending some time together. We went to the venue in the late afternoon. It was a gorgeous June day. The equipment was there but the band had wandered off looking for food, so we waited. Soon, edging their way over the hill leading down to the club were, initially, three spiked/halos of hair, two black and one orange, immediately materializing into the full bodies of Lux, Kid and Ivy. Nick followed, sans the big hair. Even when not trying to make an entrance, The Cramps always would.

They seemed pleased to see us, and did some catching up, even though we didn’t really know them that well. Welcomed into the dressing room as they got ready, Lux and Kid were using industrial strength spray from a case they’d brought along to put their hair in order for the show.

This time, the set was even more jaw dropping than the year before. Nothing was compromised, didn’t matter that they were in a small town, the power was unstoppable. Lux was now on stage and his uncontainable gift was unleashed. The ceiling tiles were dismantled, he sliced himself with glass, removed pretty much every stitch of clothing, this was just how it was, nothing fake, pure raw uncensored Lux.

The Cramps were still at their beginning stages then, not playing big venues, often not working with responsible and respectful professional promoters every night. This show was no exception. A local amateur had brought them in this time, offering transportation from New York, then on to Cleveland to begin the originally scheduled tour itinerary. This was a last minute fill in date. Despite selling out the club, and honoring exactly what they been contracted to do, he chose not to be upstanding and return his professional responsibility, therefore unreachable the next day.

The Cramps were stranded with no credit cards or vehicle to get them on to Cleveland. My phone rang around 11 AM. It was Ivy. She said “Kevin, we’re in trouble. Will you help us?” After a quick update from her, I put the phone down, rang Duane and we high tailed it over to their hotel, each in our separate cars to pick them up and figure out the next move. We all came back to my house. I had an American Express card and literally $110 in the bank. I offered them the use of my credit card to rent a vehicle, the look of relief on Ivy’s face will never ever be forgotten. She promised they would pay for the car in cash once they got to Cleveland and hooked up with their crew. I trusted them. And they didn’t go back on their word, I never for a second thought they would. Our friendship was sealed. Little did that promoter know, he did the band and I the biggest favor ever via his unprofessionalism. He did not have the last laugh.

The whole day was not terrible though. Duane took Lux, Ivy and Nick junk shopping. Kid and I stayed back taping the new Siouxsie & The Banshees album. Kid was thrilled that I owned it, as it had just been released. When they returned, Lux spent some time going through my records, trading obscure anecdotes about many of the singles, seeing the sparkle in each other’s eyes as we drooled over the vinyl. His knowledge was frighteningly deep. He was not a fake. The band treated us to a late lunch before heading out of town. We saw them off, and still relive it to this day.

I would travel to New York and Toronto religiously to catch shows over the next few years. Never did this most important band, the true kings and queens of rock and roll, make me or any of their fans feel uncomfortable, or like second class citizens. By ’84 I had relocated to New York, working A&R at Elektra, then Island. I always wanted to sign them, but could never get the green light.

Then in ’92 I started my own imprint, The Medicine Label, through Warner Brothers. Timing is everything and things happen for a reason, it’s true. This was no exception. Had I been able to do a deal with them prior to Medicine, I would have always been struggling to get them the deserved attention within the label. Now I was in charge of the budgets, and could call some shots. The timing was right. Lux and Ivy agreed and we got into business together. It was one of the greatest periods of my professional and personal life. I knew they were all things good and honorable, but to experience their integrity, self respect, flawless instincts, dedication to their art, confidence in their self image, protection of their musical accomplishments, all done with great dignity, taught me much about business and life. Lux and Ivy included myself and Duane, who came to New York to work with me at Medicine, on the making of the eventual FLAMEJOB album. They had never shared this process with anyone before. I am forever honored.

Lux would spill brilliance at every turn, the littlest things had his mark all over them. He once sent along some works in progress on cassette, labeling it ‘The Cramps On Drugs’, crossing out ‘Drugs’ and writing in ‘Medicine’ above it. One of hundreds and hundreds of brilliant ideas constantly flowing from him. Lyrically, his mind was of a higher form of life.

From DRUG TRAIN: “You put one foot up, you put another foot up, you put another foot up, and you’re on board the drug train.”

From INSIDE OUT AND UPSIDE DOWN WITH YOU: “From your bottom to your top, you’re sure some lollipop.”

When the album was finally finished, Lux and Ivy had me over to their house in Los Angeles to hear it. The three of us sat in their meticulously clean and fantastically furnished home, and listened to FLAMEJOB together. They glowed with pride and they deserved to, having made their best album yet, full of all the fire it’s title accurately describes.

The Cramps were never afforded national TV or any radio play of substance. We released ‘Ultra Twist’ as a first single, and when it entered the alternative charts, the band would actually hear themselves on the radio in some cities. Either Lux or Ivy would be sure we knew. And when our publicist Lisa Barbaris, got them on Conan O’Brien, Lux was over the moon. His band was finally going to be on television, a medium he’d been so influenced by as a teenager. Warmed our hearts to deliver this for them, and they always were thankful. He asked if he should tone it down for the broadcast, “God no, go over the top”. Which he did. But to ask first, again proved his respect for others and his responsibility to those he worked with.

It’s impossible to forget the many, many pulverizing moments of Lux on stage, and also realistically impossible to chronicle them all, but here are three:

1 – Playing The Ritz in New York during the LOOK MOM NO HEAD tour, Lux was hit dead center by a hurled high top sneaker. Seamlessly strutting over to it in very high black heels and what was left of a tattered and stage weary matching pair of synthetic pants, he picked it up, filled it with red wine, drank every drop and returned it deep into the shocked audience without flinching or missing a beat.

2 – At Trenton’s City Gardens, where the stage was accessed via a walk from the dressing room through the crowd, usually along the right wall, Lux began the show in a two piece jungle red, thin rubber ensemble, with matching spikes and a string of pearls. As the mayhem progresses, he eventually breaks a bottle of wine, using the glass to slice up his outfit. First of all, the tight rubber pants, although red, had a skin-like implication, so that as he sliced, the unsettling illusion of tearing his own flesh aghast the crowd. As the pants retreated from the damage, Lux was suddenly wearing a few fringes of rubber, much like popped balloons, shamelessly revealing all. Once the sonic annihilation of encore, ‘Surfin’ Bird’, was complete, the band needed to get back to the dressing room. A bit tricky when you’ve now decimated your clothing. Not a problem for The Cramps though. A spotlight suddenly flashes onto that side wall. Lux leads the band through the now parting sea of a crowd, wearing what’s left: the heels and the pearls, and flawlessly returns to the dressing room, Ivy, Slim and Harry, equally beautiful, following behind.

3 – A real feat was accomplished by Lux over a two night engagement in ’97 at London’s Astoria. The second night being the greatest theater I have ever seen by a band in my entire life. And the first night started the process. Lux then slyly began a slow but steady loosening of the stage floor boards near the drum kit via his legendary mic stand iron works. That second night, he continued the process. Even the sight of a shirtless and joyous John Peel being body surfed atop the mosh pit could not top Lux. By the time of the final encore, ‘Surfin Bird’, Lux had chewed up one of Ivy’s boots, teething it puppy style. He picked Ivy’s strings with his teeth, as she lay on her back, arching herself in a yoga stance with Lux between her legs separated only by the guitar, simulating the most erotic oral sex imaginable, all set to a soundtrack of screeching feedback. He had now abandoned all but his g string and heels along the way. Once that sonic crescendo of white noise feedback had been reached, whereby Ivy, Slim and Harry have left the stage, Lux scales the top of the right PA, partial mic stand and 2 bottles of half drank wine in tow. He proceeds to guzzle one, then the other, pitching both onto the stage’s center, where he began the evening. Of course they smash into shards. He then dives from the PA onto the broken glass, microphone in mouth, howling as you would know him to have coined, lands front torso onto the glass, slithers himself snake-like towards the loosened floor, and with mic stand now doubling as a crow bar, proceeds to undo enough of the remaining bits to make his exit into the darkness of his self made floor cave. No one was ready for this. The roar of those 3000 people still makes me tingle. It has to be the ultimate rock and roll moment of civilization, past, present and future. Backstage after the show, Lux is sitting quietly picking bits of glass from himself, and asks humbly, “How was it tonight?”

Lux knew he was an untouchable performer, but he never used his knowledge of this talent arrogantly. He was just the most amazing spirit and always will be.

The Ramones

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Listen: Babysitter / The Ramones

Historically, there are endless B sides worthy of the preferred A side status. In the 50′s and 60′s, many were played and charted alongside their flip side counterpart. Certainly The Beatles and often The Rolling Stones achieved this.

For instance, ‘Ruby Tuesday’ was originally relegated as the flip to ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, but due to the resulting lyrical controversy over ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, combined with the undeniable songwriting strength and band arrangement/performance of ‘Ruby Tuesday’, the latter ascended up to a US #1.

Well, ‘Babysitter’ went to #1 in my world, and that of many Ramones fans as well. Despite being originally designated to the B side of ‘Do You Wanna Dance’, and never included on an album at the time, it’s arguably one of the very best songs from the Tommy Ramone era. I mean, there are so many, without a doubt, but ‘Babysitter’, well it’s hard to believe it’s seldom sighted as important. No explanation for that one.

Despite it’s intended second fiddle status, I thought it a great way to ring in the new year. Have a great 2012.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Tommy Ramone


Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Listen: The New World / X

I saw one of the greatest bands in the solar system tonight at Irving Plaza in New York, and one their greatest shows ever.


Seen them many times, worked with them at Elektra, was a fan prior. But let me tell you, there is no other punk band in the universe from the era that a) still exists in the original lineup and b) can even begin to compete. They have scared off all the competition. Deservedly so.

X are presently touring, performing the LOS ANGELES album in it’s entirety, plus a ton of greatest hits. Yes, be relieved, they have survived the hump from has beens to legends. And thank God they did. We lost The Cramps, The Ramones and The Gun Club. The White Stripes and L7 threw in the towel. Only Suicide can stand proudly next to them.

If X come to your neck, don’t fuck up your remaining years on earth and miss this one.

Thankfully, tonight they played ‘The New World’. Funny listening to the recorded version now. It’s so much faster and, dare I say, pop or slick. Still, in it’s day, who was speaking out about injustice and corrupt politics. Maybe there were others. I only remember X.

Elektra UK had half a brain then. Unlike the US side, they released ‘The New World’ as a commercial 7″ (in the US it was serviced as a promo only 12″). Half a brain? Yeah, in the era of picture sleeves, how could the company not house this in one? The UK never took to X. Their loss.

A very rare 7″, but as it probably plays out, not as rare as finding a person that wants one.

Yes, we vinyl collectors are dying off. Someday this 7″ will be in the Smithsonian. Neither of us will be around, but my bet is, it’s a Mona Lisa.

The Georgia Satellites

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Listen: Sheila / The Georgia Satellites

Warning: ignore the questionable 80′s drum sound and over all narrow time period production. Jeff Glixman had a vision as producer, fair enough. But despite Howard Thompson and myself angling to tone the drum sound down, improve it a bit or simply get rid of it’s processed tunnel effect, we did not succeed. It may be why such a potentially seminal band, untouchable as a live act in their day, didn’t stand the test of time as powerfully as they deserved to on record. That’s one opinion.

I tell you what. Dan Baird could write a song or two, or fifty. ‘Sheila’ being proof.

Just pay attention to the lyrics on ‘Sheila’ one time through. They’re the epitome of white trash America, going to the drug store to buy a diamond ring. Come on, it doesn’t get more visual or literal than that. This guy should have been grandfathered into Walgreen stock options, or dare I say, a Wal-Mart profit share.

Not to take away for the greatness of Dan Baird in any way. Good hearted soul, flawless musician, and that rare DNA gift of never ever aging. It’s a little unbelievable.

None of the above can overshadow the other guys by the way. Classic combination of great players, the sum being greater than the very great parts, like The Ramones.

Rick Richard may be one of the best guitarists in the solar system. In fact, he is.

The Ramones

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Listen: Censorshit / The Ramones
Censorshit / The Ramones

Clearly ‘Censorshit’ was yet another overlooked gem in the band’s catalog. Seems like the story of their professional life.

I was lucky enough to actually be in the studio when this song was recorded. Not the room with the desk, but the live one, where the band were set up facing one another. I recall them doing it three, four time tops, Joe singing guide vocals for the others to follow.

A few guitar overdubs happened later to enhance. Don’t recall if John did them, or if Ed Stasium (super producer, super talent, super kind human being, super friend) completed those bits.

And there you had it. The Ramones putting another stake in the heart of music history’s timeline.

Life can treat you very well, sometimes not, as we all know. Then there’s people, who sometimes can take away everything you own if they decide to.

On this particular occasion, life treated me not only well, but to a privilege bordering on miracle.

And remember, although others can take away your every possession, they can never take away your memories.

Chris Montez

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Listen: The More I See You / Chris Montez
The More I See You / Chris Montez

It was as if the guy who recorded ‘Let’s Dance’ a few years earlier was a completely different person. That song fit easily into both the surf and farfisa bubblegum spaces perfectly. A fit that suited The Ramones just fine, they covered it from nearly day one.

Along comes ‘The More I See You’ in ’66, and the first time I remember hearing it was at Carmen’s Barber Shop, the little dive my Dad took me for haircuts. The hour or so we’d spend there was rather fascinating, with me trying to figure out some of the coded adult talk amongst them all, yet with most attention being paid to the MOR station Carmen had permanently affixed on his little sound system. I believe the station call letters were WSEN or WSYR, but can’t be sure. What I am sure of is it would make for industrial strength hipster listening if only some of those shows had been air checked. Lots of Julie London, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jackie Trent with husband Tony Hatch. Seems they were the British Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, and most of their singles, both together and separately, are worth picking up if you stumble on them.

Tony Hatch in fact wrote ‘Call Me’, not only the Chris Montez single that preceded ‘The More I See You’, but the title of the album from which it came.

Turns out when switching to his A&M label in ’65, Herb Alpert suggested this more soft rock sound, possibly looking for his own version of Astrud Gilberto, who despite the slight technicality of being a different sex and therefore looked much better, sounded quite similar.

Peter Tosh

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Listen: Johnny B. Goode / Peter Tosh
Johnny B. Goode / Peter Tosh

Those first few years of MTV, when it was a free for all, the network really aired a bunch of unable-to-get-radio-play songs/acts. The Ramones’ ‘Rock N Roll High School’ and Joan Armatrading’s ‘(I Love It When You) Call Me Names’ come to mind.

EMI had made a clearly inexpensive clip for Peter Tosh’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’, looking typically washed out just like everything from Jamaica was then. Even THE HARDER THEY COME and ROCKERS films were of poor grainy quality with minimal color saturation. MTV apparently didn’t care, because this was played a lot.

Despite the rather obvious cover choice which kind of kept a tradition of reggae-ing up US pop, soul and rock hits, it was Peter Tosh.

You didn’t want to miss a Peter Tosh show in those days, with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare thundering along behind him on stage. He was always the real deal. Had Steel Pulse or Inner Circle chosen this one, we’d have all dismissed it on arrival, but not when is was the bush doctor.

Corinne loved this track, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard it as a result. Morning, noon and night. She’d definitely go with the extended 12″ version. Me, I’m loyal to the 7.

Merle Haggard / The Youngbloods

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Listen: Okie From Muskogee / Merle Haggard
Okie From Muskogee / Merle Haggard

I think it was on the Johnny Carson Show where I first encountered ‘Okie From Muskogee’ and in fact, had initially even heard of Merle Haggard. He and his song became the enemy in three short minutes. It was, at the time, a clear antagonistic attack on youth culture. And I was a member.

Many years later it became obvious that the world of country music was as twisted by drugs and sex as any other. Made Merle Haggard become something like an unregistered hypocrite. And once everyone discovered he’d been in jail and all that, he crumbled into a joke.

As it turns out, he claimed the song to be tongue in cheek, and nowadays, I guess everyone believes him. He’s certainly made a lot of good records since. Who knows – the single is quite funny in the 21st century, even hard to hate.

Listen: Hippie From Olema / The Youngbloods
Hippie From Olema / The Youngbloods

There was some relief in the day though. The Youngbloods shot back with a fantastically hysterical response in the form of ‘Hippie From Olema’, a very under heard, under appreciated non-LP track. I don’t believe it’s ever been compiled.

It was the local Syracuse University station, WAER, that started to spin it heavily. The single was perfect for campus radio. And we all glued ourselves to their frequency, given in the late 60′s, they were the only progressive format in town.

I, for one, loved the station. Half the student disc jockeys were Anglophiles jamming out Blodwyn Pig, Juicy Lucy, Chicken Shack, Taste, King Crimson etc over the airwaves. WAER was a Godsend.

The Youngbloods came to the school’s gymnasium about then as well. Despite their unwashed, American folk rock angle, I always loved their records. Never did they release a bad single either, whether it be the early, more pop intended ones (which Jesse Colin Young often accused RCA of forcing them to do) to later, underground album tracks.

So off to the show we went. Let me tell you, they were a serious live band, incredibly musical and entertaining. Collected every last release ever since.

The closing lyric: “We still take in strangers if they’re haggard” gets a SO MANY RECORDS SO LITTLE TIME lifetime lyrical achievement award for being right up there with both The Ramones’ “I don’t care about poverty, all I care about is me” and Lux Interior’s “From your bottom to your top, you’re sure some lollipop”. Congratulations guys.

Jefferson Airplane

Friday, January 21st, 2011

My Best Friend / Jefferson Airplane

Listen: My Best Friend / Jefferson Airplane
My Best Friend / Jefferson Airplane

Wintertime record. I recall it being played, late at night, on those AM stations that would switch transmission direction around 9 pm (it was some FCC rule back then), and we’d all get to hear distant programming from cities far away. I’d pick up Boston (WBZ) and Fort Wayne, Indiana (WOWO). Boston radio, in particular, was playing some adventurous west coast stuff back then like Love, The Seeds and The Leaves.

But yeah, definitely hardcore winter, which in upstate New York was most unpleasant. The freezing wind howling outside, me needing to be up for school but nonetheless listening to the transistor radio under the pillow deep into the night. (The Ramones ‘Do You Remember Rock And Roll Radio’ captures it perfectly). ‘My Best Friend’ was part of that soundtrack.

I was so excited about seeing Jefferson Airplane not long after SURREALISTIC PILLOW got released. Besides ‘My Best Friend’, ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Somebody To Love’ were sure to be show stoppers. But oh dear, their live performance was terrible. Grace Slick could not pull off these songs whatsoever. None of them could. I still wonder if they even played on this record.

Given the turnout was very small, the band seemed arrogantly comfortable with being mad at those of us who did show up.

“Where are all your friends tonight”, Grace Slick dismissively spat as she glared at a guy quite close to the stage. I would think she should have been pissed at the ones who didn’t bother to buy a ticket, instead of that poor chap.

Yes, a most disrespectful bunch. I was miserably deflated and never returned to see them again.

Still, Jefferson Airplane had a few great singles through the years, yet never quite topped this one in my book.

The Ramones

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Sheena Is A Punk Rocker - The Ramones

Listen: Sheena Is A Punk Rocker / The Ramones 06 Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.mp3

Never ever put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

I decided to get both John and Joe to hand write the ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’ lyrics, then frame them, with a copy of the record in the center. John, not surprisingly, did an immaculate job. He was a very profound autograph collector, and specific about how his name should be signed. You’ll notice on any items with his inscription, little to no variation in his signature. Even the jukebox tab shined with his neatness.

He once convinced me to go with him to an autograph collectors show near his place in LA. I got Ellie May, Tabitha from Bewitched and the three girls from Petticoat Junction to sign 8 x 10′s. It was total fun, but he didn’t succeed in switching my interest from records to one of his obsessions: autographs. Good try though.

And so, I always meant to get Joe to do those lyrics too. You know how you think, I can do that tomorrow or next week. But it never came.

We all miss Joe so very much still. Isn’t this just one of the greatest singles ever made?

Sheena Is A Punk Rocker - The Ramones Jukebox Tab

Johnny Ramones Lyrics

Above Lyrics and Jukebox Tab: Johnny Ramone


Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Listen: The Witch Queen Of New Orleans / Redbone RedboneWitch.mp3

Just a hunch here, but having worked at Columbia, Epic’s sister label, I’m betting the culture at those two companies in the 90′s and early 21st century was one that had prevailed back when Redbone were signed and molded for success. Keep it commercial. Even when they didn’t think they were doing just that….they were.

The marketing angle of a Native American band, named Redbone, was probably a bit risky, but could go off. Just polish it and get it onto the radio….it can happen. Now admittedly, the band’s music incorporated R&B, cajun, jazz, tribal, and Latin. Still, it always had a safe sheen to it.

Opinions on this will be extreme, but I’ll go to my grave believing that’s how the company saw The Clash. Punk that could be polished. It sure is how I saw them.

I recall when MTV had a daily interview/music show for a while. This would have been around the late 80′s, maybe early 90′s. No, I don’t recall it’s name. But one afternoon, The Ramones were the guests so I went along with them to the taping (Marc Almond was on that day as well). Band plays song, sits for interview like on Leno or whatever, then plays another song. That was the program’s format. It was quite good fun and really loud, with the audience full of fans.

One of the questions they asked Joey: “So you brought punk to England in ’76 and met the The Clash?”, implying that something about that meeting inspired The Ramones. His response was quick and simple “No, they met us”.

Sums it up perfectly, including my outlook on The Clash: corporate punk. Perfect for the CBS Records group.

And likewise, I’m sure Redbone would have, could have been way more earthy and dirty in the recordings, packaging and imaging if left to their own devices. Pick up an early album or two and just look at those song titles. They tell it all.

I’ve never met Redbone, or had conversation about them with anyone even remotely connected to the band. But my speculation is they were produced in every sense of the word, until the band, through the years, just gave in and went along. Eventually it paid off, hitting it out of the park with ‘Come And Get Your Love’, which I do love by the way, good pop single. Nonetheless, sadly the thing that was special about them was gone, and they comfortably blended into the assembly line of mainstream formula rock, which in two short years, would start to crack and crumble.

But the early singles, ‘The Witch Queen Of New Orleans’ being one, hint at a much darker sound and cryptic lyric that was still allowed to spill through a bit in the beginning.

The Stone Poneys / Linda Ronstadt

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Stone Ponies - Different Drum

Listen: Different Drum / The Stone Poneys StonePoneysDifferentDrum.mp3

Ok, so a follow up single isn’t always better than the hit preceding it, as was maybe the case with ‘Up To My Neck In High Muddy Water’. It’s hard to top ‘Different Drum’. In fact, Linda Ronstadt never did. At least I don’t remember her doing it, possibly due in part to my general lack of interest toward country leaning music back then.

‘Different Drum’ was indeed another story though. It became a radio staple not long after Jefferson Airplane’s somewhat similar sounding ‘White Rabbit’, and at the same time as both ‘Itchycoo Park’ by The Small Faces and ‘Zabadak’ from Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich.

‘Different Drum’ felt a bit psychedelic, even though it wasn’t. Maybe it was by association. Nick Venet was the producer and his work covered many genres. As a Capitol in house employee, seems he was handed all their youth culture signings of the day, thus slotting The Stone Poneys sessions between The Leaves, Lothar & The Hand People or Hearts & Flowers. It was one of many historic times at the Capitol Tower.

Stone Ponies - Up To My Neck picture sleeve

Listen: Up To My Neck In High Muddy Water / Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys StonePoneysUpToMyNeck.mp3

Long before Simon Cowell, the ruthless corporate machine gnawed it’s way through bands, carving out the superstar for investment and mainstream marketing, leaving the other members to survive somehow. As when Clive Davis butchered Big Brother & The Holding Company for Janis Joplin, so too, it seems, did Capitol decimate The Stone Poneys for the asset now known as Linda Ronstadt.

‘Different Drum’ by The Stone Poneys was literally still on Billboard’s Top 100 when ‘Up To My Neck In High Muddy Water’ was released as Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys. Housed in a full color sleeve, big things were expected. The record stalled at #93, but the setback was only temporary. She skyrocketed. It’s a great single despite the misery.

Linda Ronstadt was particularly critical of The Ramones, having gone to CBGB’s, catching an early performance and trashing them the very next day in a local New York paper. It was a hurtful moment that they talked about on occasion. So when Elektra threw a rather lavish party for her in New York, upon release of a successful new album, CANCIONES DE MI PADRE, the mischievous idea of inviting the band was impossible to resist and they were happy to attend.

We all met at Paul’s Lounge on 3rd and 10th, now a drug store, for a drink, then proceeded uptown to the event. Monte of course came along, Michael Alago and Arturo Vega did too. Everyone cleaned up on designer Mexican food, the album theme being traditional Mexican folk songs, and waited patiently for her to make the rounds, greeting her guests. The moment when she turned towards our table was classic, but it was too late to turn back. Obviously, she’d not been forewarned. Her look was priceless. DeeDee smiled and stared very menacingly, John just glared. Joey, after about five or ten seconds, decided to break the silence with “So Linda, long time no see”.

Nervously: “How are you guys doing?”

“We’re fine” replies John before she’s even finished her last word.

Incredible singer, successful artist but at that moment, Linda Ronstadt was stumped. Wincing, she backed away and slithered into the crowd.


The Damned

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Listen: Smash It Up (Single Version) / The Damned DamnedSmash.mp3

The other day, my super pal Brian Traister maintained the real UK punk band, best ever, were The Damned. I agree.

Every single was just flawless, for ages. Their run on Chiswick being one of those career peaks, and they had several. Produced by Roger Armstrong, I forever hassle his memory cells for details of those sessions. Talk about endless stories of greatness.

When Joey’s Mom and brother Mickey still had the promised 50th birthday party for him, which he unfairly missed by a month and four days, The Damned were the only UK band that flew themselves over to honor what they maintained in the press since day one: The Ramones were the true fathers of punk – it proved who was the real deal from England and who were the money machines, copy cats and fakes.

Hearing the roar when Little Steven announced them (all the acts were kept secret but regardless, 4400 tickets were completely sold out in fifteen minutes to Joey Ramone’s well earned honor) still brings chills. Up came the curtain, and there were The Damned.

Some things were meant to be: Roger was in NY that week, and we made sure he sat right there, in the first box, with Joey’s Mom.

God bless The Damned.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Captain Sensible


Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Listen: Rubber Bullets / 10cc 10ccRubber.mp3

I was surprised to see a recent Bob Lefsetz post about 10cc. His musical taste occasionally crosses paths with mine: The Kinks, The Ramones, The Lo Fidelity Allstars and a few others here and there. But he’s usually way west coast soft rock compared to my way east across the Atlantic preferences. A better commentary on the music industry, technology and life issues you’ll have a hard time finding. Check him out.

Surprisingly, he discovered 10cc upon their arrival in ’72, as most Americans didn’t.

‘Rubber Bullets’ was the band’s first UK #1 (US #73), back when they were on Jonathan King’s UK Records (get everything you see on his imprint), and was never off the radio or pub jukeboxes during that English summer. Just about every track by these guys had some oddly appealing production twist that was just not like anything else before and a true precursor to The Buggles. On ‘Rubber Bullets’, for instance, can you hear the drum kit other than during the rolls? Not really. And who noticed. Throw in the doo wop vocals bits (not uncommon for 10cc), bizarre lyrics and you’ve got a spot in history.

Most of their stuff was both funny and socially biting, hence way too thought provoking for the US programmer, usually religating them to radio’s embarrassingly long ignore them list.


Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Listen: Barracuda / Heart HeartB.mp3

Heart had the bad timing of critical mass appeal around ’77, just as punk was our religion. Talk about a jinx. Heart were helium coated, corporate, Lee Abrams AOR gack. They were literally nauseating. And loathed. Well, not by the masses, but those of us who felt we were in the know, with proper taste.

In hindsight, they were fascinating, for every sonic reason listed above. Now their glistening studio perfection is bizarrely intoxicating, addictive even, very much like the Roy Thomas Baker Queen productions and almost alien.

As with most of the big bands of the day, the ones radio rammed down our throats (REO Speedwagon, Journey, The Doobie Brothers), I always ended up having a guilty pleasure or two by each and every one. Heart were no exception.

Listen: Nothin’ At All / Heart Heart.mp3

I absolutely loved ‘Nothin’ At All’, right down to the apostrophy in it’s title, mainstream turned up to eleven production and all. Then there’s the picture on the sleeve. A styling faux pas representing everything that had gone horribly wrong with American AOR radio. Indeed, it exemplified why it eroded music as an important part of US culture. But I loved that single. Still do – more than ever actually.

Somewhere in the mid/late 90′s, there was a benefit at The Ritz, after it’s relocation uptown to where Studio 54 was once housed. Don’t recall the cause, but the headliners were Joey Ramone and the Wilson sisters from Heart. They had a side project at that time: The Lovemongers. And that’s who played on this occasion.

I went along with Joe. He had a bunch of friends backing him that night, playing some classics by other bands as well as a few from The Ramones, and was kinda in an ‘everyone come along for a laugh and a few beers’ mood.

Heart’s original road manager, Kelly Curtis, who went on to manage Pearl Jam, was with Ann and Nancy. Kelly and I became great friends in the early 90′s. He helped me out in life when I really needed it – in a big way and I’m always thrilled to see him, particularly as this was very unexpected (I think he was passing through town that day – or something). So he invited me into to meet Nancy and Ann.

By now, my venom for their music had long past, and it was a pleasure to sit and talk with these two incredibly lovely people. At one point, trying to make an extreme point, I quantified it with, “but don’t mind me, I love Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich”. Ann sits straight up and exclaims ‘I love Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich too’. Instant fast friends. We dug into songs, details and how we first heard them – as fans do. Somewhere in the conversation mix, I mention my other, at that time, obsession: Sunbeam mixers. Nancy’s guitar tech, in the room at that moment, whips round and says “You’re into Sunbeam – me too”. Ann says “He really is – show him”. So this guy takes off his T shirt, turns his back to me and proudly displays a ton of Sunbeam toaster tattoos across his torso. All the classic models.

Yes, hard to believe but every word of the above is true.

Tim Hardin

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Listen: You Upset The Grace Of Living When You Lie / Tim Hardin TimHardinGrace.mp3

There was once a great revolution in US radio programming, when all the underground music in the 60′s – like album tracks and singles by album type artists – started getting aired on FM stations.

Top 40 back then was a life saver compared to now, but was pretty quick to avoid anything considered too colorful or probably drug related. So off the Top 40 airwaves stayed Traffic, The Move, The Nice, early Jimi Hendrix Experience, early Cream, definitely early Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother & The Holding Company, etc. Still many of the major market Top 40s (I got WBZ/Boston clear as a bell) would open up in the evening and definitely after midnight. And to be fair, some acts got converted to regular play.

But it’s those late night listening memories I’m touching on here. Like Joey sang in ‘Do You Remember Rock n Roll Radio’: “Do you remember lying in bed / With the covers pulled up over your head / Radio playing so no one can see”. All of us that were addicted did this nightly – especially in the summer when you could sleep in the next day. This is how I discovered The Seeds (‘Mr Farmer’ and ‘Pushin Too Hard’ are still night time records for me), Jefferson Airplane (‘My Best Friend’ is a big favorite), Blue Cheer, Tim Rose (his version of ‘Hey Joe’ was the first I heard and clearly the template for the Jimi Hendrix version) and especially Tim Hardin. Yeah, I was bitten by this haunting single ‘You Upset The Grace Of Living When You Lie’. I even liked that the title was too long and the untimely fade out.

Folk was hip, I always wanted a smattering beyond Bob Dylan and I guess others did too. Did anyone really dislike Joan Baez, Richie Havens or Buffy St. Marie like they pretended? Probably not. But Tim Hardin hasn’t gotten his deserved props either. Listening with one ear attached to my transitor and the other hearing the ambience of late night, small town, upstate NY: crickets, the New York Central freight trains way off in the distance, the occasional drifting of the cars on Thruway also out there. The whole thing still comes right back to me every time, and I mean every time, I play this.