Archive for the ‘Sire’ 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

Kevin Ayers

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Caribbean Moon / Kevin Ayers

Listen: Caribbean Moon / Kevin Ayers KevinAyersCaribbeanMoon.mp3

In summer ’73, you could hear ‘Caribbean Moon’ incessantly on BBC Radio 1. I know, I spent most days lying in Regent’s Park with a transistor clamped to my ear. Occasionally a policeman would wander by instructing me to turn it off. Radios were not allowed in the Queen’s Parks.

By late afternoon, I’d start my rounds of the used record stands in Soho market, before going to meet my girlfriend Claire as she got off work at the Scotch House on Regent Street. Over to The Ship on Wardour we’d go, to have some beers and maybe a sandwich if money permitted; then onto the Marquee for work.

Yes, my job consisted solely of collecting empty pint glasses for the kitchen. I was not the washing up fellow, so felt a bit of seniority on my side. The obvious perk, in addition to free beers for us both, was seeing the bands. And guess what, this was simply a daily routine for months. I had a job which paid £1 a night, lived in the west end of London and had access to the latest 7″ promo singles daily. It’s seldom been better.

Glued to Radio 1 morning til night meant getting to hear a lot of great records, many of which somehow never charted: The Kinks ‘Sitting In The Midday Sun’, Blue ‘Little Jody’, Writing On The Wall ‘Man Of Renown’, Frampton’s Camel ‘All Night Long’. This Kevin Ayers single unfortunately, was one as well.

I guess it wasn’t only me that thought it should have been a smash, as Harvest reissued it at least twice more within the next few years.

Listen: Take Me To Tahiti / Kevin Ayers KevinTahiti.mp3

There were a few resident dj’s at The Marquee. I want to say Ian Fleming and Jerry Floyd. Well Jerry someone, maybe Lloyd. Both guys were pretty cool, and we had a bit of a rivalry going on as to who could get the latest releases first. I did love when I flanked them after all, they were being serviced by the labels whereas I was slogging around the stalls picking singles up for 10p, maybe even a few they had handed off. All in good fun though.

I recall excitedly getting in one night, with this latest Kevin Ayers release. Radio 1 were already playing ‘Caribbean Moon’, but we were all jonsing to hear it’s B side ‘Take Me To Tahiti’. Everyone I knew was insatiable for Kevin Ayers that summer. Oh Lord did it sound spectacular playing through The Marquee’s sound system. Yes, this very single you see pictured above was the one that got spun at The Marquee that July night. Click on schedule above to enlarge, just to have a look at who was playing that month.

I’d always hinted to Jack Barrie, the club’s manager, that I should be the dj, but it never did happen.

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.


Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Listen: Northern Lights (Edit) / Renaissance

I went through a prog rock stage like every kid, but secretly never had the patience for all those long songs in private. I was playing The Kinks and The Marmalade to be honest. Even the bands exclusively part of that genre won me with their attempts at more traditional songs or singles, as they are ultimately best described.

Camel, Caravan, Curved Air, they all had great 7′s, and that’s just a few of the C’s. The likes of Yes, The Nice, Genesis, King Crimson or even Van Der Graaf Generator, when their full album sided epics got edited down for a single, probably discovered they’d essentially written a pop song. I’m guessing a few, like possibly Robert Fripp, are still shivering from the prospect.

I stumbled on a most fascinating Facebook post yesterday from a friend Bruce Garfield. He’s now managing Renaissance, a band who I would classify as prog, and remember from college. In fact, I booked them at my school and a few members came back to our apartment after the show, to buy drugs from my then girlfriend. His post centered around their new album, and how they’re raising money to record it via Kickstarter. Really impressive plan and I truly wish them well.

During the presentation, when snippets of their various songs were used, I caught a passage from ‘Northern Lights’. Blimey, I hadn’t heard it for the longest time, and so headed downstairs for a listen. A bit overlooked here at home when current in ’78, lost time is being made up for presently. If this got played once, it easily got twenty spins. Really good song, and am now planning on seeing their show in June as a result.

The band deserve a lot of respect, and they deserve a break. Turns out their label partners from those lucrative years all shut their doors and draw the blinds when they come knocking, tossing a mere dribble of royalties their way. Having worked for the majors a solid two plus decades, I know how true their claims must 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

Richard Hell & The Voidoids

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Listen: (I Belong To The) Blank Generation / Richard Hell & The Voidoids
(I Belong To The) Blank Generation / Richard Hell & The Voidoids

The other day at a friend’s office, I noticed a recently compiled anthology, punk or CBGS’s themed, or both. Can’t remember, but the packaging caught my eye. Very striking black and white design with bold, jungle red font. The real surprise was the inclusion of those most commonly eliminated bands: The Cramps, X, The Gun Club and Richard Hell & The Voidoids. I’m forever baffled that anyone with two brain cells to rub together could omit those four bands from punk anthologies, yet they do. I almost wanted a copy of this one, but having rid my life of new cd’s, I set it down and kept moving. Did make me think, will these final years of compact disc releases become collectable, as fewer and fewer get manufactured.

Richard Hell & The Voidoids ‘Another World’ was one of the first Stiff singles, the seventh (Buy 7) to be exact. That initial Stiff handful, probably issues 1-10, got worshipped by everyone. It was like a complete set, everybody needed to own the lot. With two songs on the B side, Richard Hell & The Voidoids’ seemed real value for the money. The original Craig Leon produced ‘(I Belong To The) Blank Generation’ doesn’t top the later Richard Gottehrer album and US single version, mostly due to Robert Quine’s more timid solos. I wouldn’t want a record collection without this recording though.

Listen: You Gotta Lose / Richard Hell & The Voidoids
You Gotta Lose / Richard Hell & The Voidoids

‘You Gotta Lose’, a track never to make the album, nor it’s subsequent cd reissues, might just be one of their best. From a time when guitars were the required lead instrument, Craig Leon and band certainly knew how to get those tones down right and documented well. As on the later re-recorded version of ‘(I Belong To The) Blank Generation’, the jagged Robert Quine style might have single handedly invented industrial. It wouldn’t surprise me to find Gang Of Four were fans.

Listen: Love Comes In Spurts / Richard Hell & The Voidoids
Love Comes In Spurts / Richard Hell & The Voidoids

The best punk pout I can think of and if ever there was a better play on words, let me know.

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

Jerry Lee Lewis

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

jerryleelewissmashep, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, Sirius

Listen: High School Confidential / Jerry Lee Lewis JerryLeeLewisHigh.mp3

“Sounding as good as the day it was recorded”. Bob Dylan thinks so. Me too.

Have you ever listened to Bob Dylan’s THEME TIME RADIO program on Sirius? It is the best radio I have ever heard. Honestly, right up there with a lot of the BBC’s output through the years. Mind you, he has an army of researchers helping out, and credit is due there as well. For true, THEME TIME RADIO is simply worth the price of a Sirius subscription.

So yeah, he played this one the other day – well I heard it the other day – it could’ve been a repeat. I always hoped The Cramps would cover ‘High School Confidential’. They would have shredded it.

This is from a precious, four song, promo only 7′, sent round to radio and press when Smash signed him, and licensed some of his original Sun sides for a GOLDEN HITS package. It’s a beauty, right?

But can you imagine seeing Jerry Lee Lewis in his prime? I saw him play New York about fifteen years ago, he’d signed to Sire at the time. I always say either you’re the real deal or you’re not, therefore age doesn’t really matter. Think, Little Richard vs Candlebox. And Jerry Lee Lewis is clearly the real deal. Obviously the stage show was not as physically chaotic as in the aforementioned heyday, but still he radiated a kind of ‘higher form of life’ glare.

Next day he turned up in the office to see Seymour Stein, who was just down the hall. The glare is even more intense up close, strange odor (not bad, but strange) and his skin was a grey-ish, lavender color. It was all just fantastic.

Tom Tom Club

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

TomTomBoardwalk, Tom Tom Club, Chris & Tina, David Byrne

Listen: Under The Boardwalk / Tom Tom Club TomTomUnderTheBoardwalk.mp3

God, I remember seeing Talking Heads back as a three piece. Great they were, and the stand out song, which I’d wait for anxiously every time, was ‘Pulled Up’, luckily a UK 7″. Tina just had it down, the playing and the physical grasp of her bass. Just uptight enough to create genius.

Years later, what seemed to start as a side project obviously turned into a rewarding business model. The Tom Tom Club were, still are, a true breath of freshness. ‘Wordy Rappinghood’ was so freakin’ hip, white as can be, but a perfect fit amongst the street hip hop they clearly loved. Then ‘Genius Of Love’ – I mean try topping that.

Well funny enough, in my book they did. The next single, still in the James Rizzi designed picture sleeve tradition, came their rendition of this, ‘Under The Boardwalk’. Never got much attention in the day, except Roger McCall and I spun it religiously for months on our weekly radio show. Sad to say, but forget expecting a station to give it a spin now. Proves it’s too good for just anyone.

Best part is the last third. Let me know if you agree.

Captain Sensible

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

CaptainSensibleWot, Captain Sensible, A&M, The Damned

Listen: Wot! / Captain Sensible

As Seymour Stein once loudly yelled down the hall to a certain snooty A&R guy, “Don’t lie to me you liar”.

The action never ended on that 21st floor of 75 Rockefeller Plaza, home to the Warner labels for decades. Our Medicine office was conveniently smack dab in the middle of a long hallway anchored on one end by the Warner/Reprise A&R staff and at the other, Seymour and the Sire staff. Duane and I had the best seats in the house.

And anyone who tells you they never liked The Damned is also a liar. Not mentioned as often as they should be, the band were easily an equal to The Sex Pistols when it comes to the UK punk crown. A tie.

Captain Sensible never could, never will, do any wrong. He’s hysterical, a fantastic entertainer, front man, side man, guitarist, bassist, songwriter and an all around good guy. He was a big friend of Joey Ramone’s, and it was The Damned who were the only UK band that flew themselves over from England to honor his life at Hammerstein Ballroom a month after he passed away. His Mom, brother and all his close friends never forgot.

Sometimes the good ones do get their just rewards. Who wasn’t pleased when Captain’s first solo single ‘Happy Talk’ topped the UK charts? Captain Sensible at #1! Yes.

The followup, ‘Wot!’, also a chart success, was even better. It was pure Sensible humor. Hearing it is seeing him in that two piece pink shag rug suit. Great records make you visualize the artist. Here’s the proof.

CaptainSensibleGlad, Captain Sensible, A&M, The Damned

Listen: Glad It’s All Over / Captain Sensible

Two years later, when it was looking like the solo Captain Sensible moment had passed, ‘Glad It’s All Over’, with it’s mischievous Kid Creole & The Coconuts fake intro, barreled to a UK #6. Great song, great production, great news. Again, hats off to the Captain.

This was ’84 and towards the end of a six year run, late night weekly FM radio specialty show I co-hosted with Roger McCall. We both found ourselves to be so sick of the ghettoized midnight to 2 AM life sentence of a time slot that the WCMF programmers inflicted on music which should’ve been heard all day. And so we’d end every show with ‘Glad It’s All Over’. They were so in the dark, they never did catch on.

Boney M

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

BoneyMRivers, Boney M, Atlantic, Sire

Listen: Rivers Of Babylon / Boney M BoneyMRiver.mp3

BoneyMBrown Boney M, Atlantic, Sire

Listen: Brown Girl In The Ring / Boney M BoneyMBrownGirl.mp3

If ever there was a double sider, this one qualifies. Probably by accident, Boney M’s massive worldwide success, their cover of The Melodians’ Jamaican hit ‘Rivers Of Babylon’ was coupled with ‘Brown Girl In The Ring’. Who knew? The A side was such a smash in the UK (#1) that even the flip took hold, got played and charted on it’s own right (also #1). It was a time when Boney M could do no wrong, German accents and all, one of many consistent ‘phenomenas’ in England. When they get themselves worked up, they really get themselves worked up.

Boney M was everywhere – and seemingly all walks of musical taste liked them. I know I did.

BoneyMRasputin Boney M, Atlantic, Sire
BoneyMRasputinUSA Boney M, Atlantic, Sire

Rasputin /Boney M BoneyMRasputin.mp3

Their NIGHTFLIGHT TO VENUS album contained both ‘Rivers Of Babylon’ and ‘Brown Girl In The Ring’ as well a bunch of other classics: the title track, a version of The Creation’s ‘Painter Man’, ‘He Was A Steppenwolf’ and ‘Rasputin’ (which became the followup reaching #2). One of those huge selling albums, like we don’t really have much anymore, the ‘Painter Man’ track became a single, charting at #10, a whole year after the double A whammy peaked.

BoneyMPainter, Boney M, The Creation, Atlantic

Painter Man /Boney M BoneyMPainter.mp3

Somewhere in that team, good taste prevailed. Not only did they cover The Creation, they had a go at The Smoke’s ‘My Friend Jack’, Bobby Hebb’s ‘Sunny’, The Yardbirds’ ‘Still I’m Sad’ as well as Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich’s ‘Zabadak’.

Patsy Cline / k. d. lang

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

patsycline3cigarettesusa, Patsy Cline, Decca, k. d. lang, Sire

Listen: Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray / Patsy Cline PatsyCline3Cigarettes.mp3

kdlang3cigarettesuk, Patsy Cline, Decca, k. d. lang, Sire

Listen: Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray / k.d. lang kdlang3Cigarette.mp3

It’s hard to believe that during her lifetime, Patsy Cline released 24 singles, with only one reaching Billboard’s US Top 10 Pop chart. A half dozen others did pretty well, but sadly she never saw that legendary star rise during her days on earth. ‘Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray’ always seemed like a standard, a well known smash, a hit. But it wasn’t. Never even made the Top 100.

Just as Patsy Cline belted out the final few song lyrics, so too did k.d. lang.

I’ll never forget being totally floored when she did this at The Beacon Theater, back in 1988, during the ANGEL WITH A LARIET tour. ‘Crying’ was an expected showstopper, yet somehow, this one surprised everyone even more. No one was ready. Corinne and I left there numb. This live UK B side gives you an accurate replica as to why.


Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

ministryjesusuk, ministry, sire, arista, The Ritz
ministryjesusps1, ministry, sire, arista, The Ritz

Listen: Jesus Built My Hotrod / Ministry MinistryJesus.mp3

Did you see Ministry in the early 90′s when they played behind the chain link fence for the whole set? If not, you fucked up.

They started out sounding so different than what they successfully evolved into. Remember that Arista release, sitting more comfortably with Haircut 100 than Motorhead?

Never mind Al Jourgensen, all is forgiven. One of the singles of the century.


Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Miss Chatelaine (St. Tropez Edit) / kd lang

Listen: Miss Chatelaine (St. Tropez Edit) / k. d. lang

Never have I known k. d. lang to deliver anything less than a stellar live performance. From her very first New York shows, at The Bottom Line, that vocal stamina was jaw dropping. Initially, she claimed to be the reincarnation of Patsy Cline. Couple that with an outfit not unlike Granny Clampett and it reeked of novelty. Undoubtedly the reason Howard and Krasnow weren’t interested when I brought her into Elektra as a signing consideration. I was too inexperienced to see her potential, and as this was early ’85, I’d just started my A&R career, hence had no clue about fighting to get an act signed.

I feel foolish recalling the day she and her manager, Larry Wanagas, came by my office, only for me to tell them I was passing. What a idiot.

Deservedly, Seymour Stein, then a floor below me at Sire, saw her potential very differently and brought her greatness to the world.

She has many essential singles, most in classic picture sleeves. ‘Miss Chatelaine’ was a big hit in the UK, and it was fantastic hearing it on Radio 1 at the time. A particular hard one to find, it’s B side, the appropriately titled ‘St. Tropez Remix’ is equally vital, effortlessly bringing the tropics to your speakers.


Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Scuba Scuba / Revillos

Scuba Scuba / Revillos

Listen: Scuba Scuba / Revillos 15 Scuba Scuba.mp3

I always regretted not making that very long drive – about 3 hours – to see The Rezillos open for The Ramones at Cornell University. Talk about a perfect package. Not long after, essentially the same lineup changed their name to Revillos, I think to side step a recording contract with Sire and move on to Virgin, but I may be wrong. Didn’t matter, the sound, songs, look, speed and humor remained. It was only about three years ago that I saw them at all. They luckily came over to New York and were as great as I’d hoped they’d be back then. Drums still being played so fast they didn’t even sound like drums. Faye dancing silly, but lovable too. And so many good songs. Nowadays they play both Rezillos and Revillos gems. I have a bunch of favorites, and really loved the ‘Scuba Scuba’ video the one time I saw it in 1980 on the big screen at The Peppermint Lounge a week before it closed. The Cramps were playing. I was in a youtube late night loop recently and searched for it. The video was up, but has kinda lost it’s punch, with the now outdated effects. Still, the memory was enough for me to pull the single out. Such a nice clean amphetamine sound.