Archive for the ‘X’ Category

Tiny Tim

Monday, November 25th, 2013

tinytimgreatballs, Tiny Tim, Reprise, Richard Perry

Listen: Great Balls Of Fire / Tiny Tim

This was the more familiar version to me than Jerry Lee Lewis’, given I was a toddler when the latter one was current. Like everyone, I was amused by Tiny Tim, and took for granted how something so different and seemingly novel could be heard by the masses. Our present anything-goes society does not, as you know, apply to radio programming. Well, in the 60′s it was different. So I heard this a few times and thought it was pretty rocking. I still think so today. His falsetto, even his hair and shape, all were brought forward twenty years and filled arenas, this time under the coincidentally similar guise of Robert Smith and The Cure.

tinytimmickey, Tiny Tim, Reprise, Richard Perry

Listen: Mickey The Monkey / Tiny Tim

Tiny Tim revered the music of the early 20th century, with a reputed encyclopedic knowledge of the work. He certainly seemed a kind and gentle fellow when he turned up at a surprise birthday party Joey Ramone had in the late 80′s. Joe knew everyone, and was right at home having a long conversation with him upon arrival. I was in flying mode, but Duane paid him more attention. I wish now I had too. ‘Mickey The Monkey’ is one of many fine, and by then, ignored follow ups to his Top 40 hit ‘Tip Toe Through The Tulips’. It’s a great example of his authenticity to ragtime ballads.

Ron DeBlasio, who managed X, also worked with Tiny Tim for a while. I recall him telling me that after shows, he would order large, lavish room service meals, and sit eating his serving while carrying on a complete conversation with the invisible person across the table whose meal would logically remain uneaten. A good eccentric indeed.

tinytimwhy, Tiny Tim, Reprise, Richard Perry, Joe Wissert, Miss Vicki

Listen: Mickey Why / Tiny Tim & Miss Vicki

His televised marriage to Miss Vicki is rather well known, but their single ‘Why’ is not.


Monday, October 8th, 2012

X - See How We Are

X - See How We Are

Listen: See How We Are / X

Let me tell you one thing. We are very, very lucky, because X still exist and tour regularly. In fact, they may be more powerful live than ever. The original lineup of Exene Cervenka, DJ Bonebrake, John Doe and Billy Zoom has been reunited for several years now and are doing deservedly great business. There’s a lot of sense in sticking out that long stretch that usually ends in legend.

Now X certainly are legends. So many reasons: right up there with Johnny and Ivy resides Billy for greatest guitarist, flawless and razor sharp at every given moment. DJ still the powerhouse metronome, Exene the most magnetic and perfect female front person of her generation, and John, one of the greatest voices ever with those ‘desert at night’ tones only Jim Morrison rivaled. When singing or harmonizing together, John and Exene would actually create a 3rd voice, their timbres meshing so perfectly. Two singers, three voices. Pretty unique. And as writers, forget it. Yes living legends. More honest, hard working, and appreciative people you will not find.

Back in the Elektra days, I was very lucky to be their A&R guy, making several albums with them, and over both lineups. After Billy left in ’86, Tony Gilkyson joined, fitting the bill effortlessly. An incredible player as well and guitarist on this track. When Tony left around ’97, Billy rejoined to present. A&Ring them was a two fold experience: always rewarding, always frustrating.

Rewarding because at the studio, you knew this was the best place in the solar system to be, watching John and Exene through the control room window mastering a vocal take on one mic live. Wow. It still gives me tingles.

But frustrating knowing how the promotion department would have a difficult time with programers, and most likely be forced to accept defeat while sharing a $100 bottle of wine with some pampered PD.

Like all the greats, X couldn’t get their fair shake from radio. Bob Krasnow loved this track when he heard it. He walked into my office late one evening around 9 pm. We were all still there, everyone stayed late. It was a company full of people who loved their jobs and glowed in the success of the label that all had contributed to in some way. No one ever got fired. We never worried about that. So Bob says “I hear you brought back some new X ruffs from LA. I want to hear them”. I handed him an unfinished version of ‘See How We Are’ on cassette and he left.

This track was actually started at Capitol Studios on Hollywood Blvd and it was haunting wandering around those halls with Exene, talking about the legends in framed pictures, that had recorded there prior. It was that work-in-progress version I had given him, and I knew the song was ace. Sure enough, ten minutes later he’s back at my door. “This is fucking incredible, they are the voices of rebellion. This, Kevin, is important stuff”.

I can hear his words as plainly now as when he spoke them, God love him. Words from the guy who had produced Ike & Tina Turner and Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, and now in praise of X. For whatever reason, we released ’4th Of July’ as the first single from the SEE HOW WE ARE album against Bob’s instincts. He thought that was too commercial, too formula when played up against ‘See How We Are’, but the radio department felt it was more palatable, singable, like Springsteen. Actually, it was all those things and yes, it too should have been a hit. He said, “You always have to put your best foot forward, you only get one chance”.

He was right. Even though as Chairman, I don’t know why he didn’t force the team to go for this single but he didn’t. Although released as a 12″ to radio, the commercial 7″ was cancelled. Only a handful of finished sleeves (pictured) and three test pressings were made. I think Howard or Alago got the third. I have the other two. You always need a safety copy.

A dealer recently asked how much one was worth to me, he wanted desperately to buy it. I said “It doesn’t have a price tag but for everything else, there’s Mastercard”. He got nasty, called me an arrogant cunt. Seriously, he did. Not exactly the way to get that second copy off me despite his admittedly accurate description of my response.

Listen: Highway 61 Revisited (Again) / X

Thanks to reader Mark Deming, his suggestion to also post ‘Highway 61 Revisted (Again)’ was a superb one. All this time, I thought it had come out as a bonus reissue track or part of a cd comp. Wrong. So here it it for all X fans to worship, as I do.


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.

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.

Sugar Pie DeSanto

Saturday, November 6th, 2010


Listen: Slip-In Mules / Sugar Pie De Santo SugarPieSlipIn.mp3

I was so taken by her name from the very first time I saw it: Sugar Pie De Santo. You see I’m a pushover when it comes to cakes, pies, basically anything from bakeries. And there are none quite like the ones in mainland Europe. I first travelled there in ’87 with X and 10,000 Maniacs and had just become an unbearable militant vegetarian, basically making all my friends uneasy whenever they ate any meat. At least I had Natalie and Exene, both vegetarians, on my side for the trip, but still, not very nice I realize now. Those bakeries were safe neutral ground for us all. The places were so good, especially the ones in Holland and Switzerland. Oh and Denmark too. I still think about them.

There was a great record store just down from The Paradiso in Amsterdam, where both bands were playing. The window was jammed with Checker/Chess records and we were just staring at all the great sleeves. It was late and the place was closed. There were at least two from Sugar Pie De Santo. And next door was a Bakery & Sweet Shoppe. It must have been there for decades. Ever since, I’ve associated her with bakeries, good ones too.

I attended the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Awards show in Philadelphia September ’08, Vivian Green was singing with Chaka Kahn. It was heaven on earth for rubbing shoulders with legends: Bill Withers, The Dixie Cups, Mable John, Aretha Franklin, The Marvelettes, Earl Van Dyke, The Soul Brothers, Martha & The Vandellas, so many, they were all there.

I had no idea until arriving that Sugar Pie De Santo was being inducted. Plus she even performed and no one was ready. She owned the place, wow, what a fireball and a voice to stop most others in their tracks. I’m inclined to say she stole the show, but Bill Withers doing ‘Grandma’s Hands’ was pretty fierce too. ‘Slip-In Mules’ has always been my favorite single by her, although I have many. Her phrasing of toes into toesies is classic.

Worth getting immediately: SUGAR PIE DE SANTO / GO GO POWER: THE COMPLETE CHESS SINGLES 1961 – 1966 (Ace CD 317). It’s all her Chess A & B sides, including this one. Pretty much a must-have.


Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Listen: 4th Of July / X X4thOfJuly.mp3

If a ’4th Of July’ post on the 4th of July appears overly clever and obvious, I understand. But the clever idea came from local rock station 101.9 WRXP. I was a few blocks from home, fired up the car radio and on it came:

This fucker sounded so good plus I love X so much and thought, any reason to honor them is just fine by me.

Man, was I lucky. Got hired by Howard at Elektra and X were the first band I got to work with. Dream come true? Never even dreamt that one in my wildest, so yeah, pretty amazing.

You couldn’t find a better bunch of people. Not only the band, but every last person involved with them as well.

Bob Krasnow, our chairman, always supported X, loved their music and rightly saw them as the label’s most important political poets.

Getting them on the radio was a very different story. Although the band got some love from the alternative rock team, when it came time to take them to the next level, more mainstream exposure and opportunity, the brakes were always applied by Dave Urso, your typical old school 80′ sleaze ball promotion head. Yes, he pretty much put a lid on their career, sort of. X still play to bigger crowds than ever and he……..uh…….

Funny thing, it was the first, but not the last time I witnessed the head of promotion actually run the company, despite the chairman thinking he was the guy in charge. You see, the way it worked was as follows: the chairman would need to decide where to put the financial investment to pay off radio for play and would get that ultimate guidance from the top radio guy. So you tell me, who’s driving that plane?

Now, of course, the public has a much stronger voice. A local station doesn’t want to play a song, no problem. Their audience flocks to myspace and hears what they want. Gone are the days when the traditional gatekeeper is in charge. How fun.

It may only be once a year, but at least X get one play. If Bruce Springsteen had written and/or recorded this classic instead of Dave Alvin, it would’ve been a monster.

Never say never I like to think. Who has the publishing on this? Maybe they need to get off their ass, find it a placement, try to keep their job.

Gladys Knight & The Pips

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Listen: Nitty Gritty / Gladys Knight & The Pips GladysNitty.mp3

What’s really proof of this record’s power: the most addicted to any other genre of music fan can’t resist instant curiosity when ‘The Nitty Gritty’ powers through a set of speakers. I had quite the time spinning singles at Brooklyn Bowl last Sunday with Lord Wardd, playing mostly 60′s – present, basically tomorrow’s sound today stuff – even the one’s from the 60′s and 70′s, when released, would have been considered that: The Small Faces, T. Rex, or X. So it’s really fun to watch a younger but musically informed crowd light up when some down and dirty funk or soul hits. Even better, a whole bunch of parents and their young kids, out bowling for a fun afternoon, suddenly doing an about face toward the DJ booth with that ‘Oh my God, I remember this’ look burned onto their face.

Gladys Knight could belt it out every time, when she was given the green light that is. Looking back on a few gems like ‘The Nitty Gritty’ need only one listen to show us why.

Some friends stuck with her from the Motown move to Buddah. Suddenly she was sounding a touch buffed around the edges for my tastes, but the pre ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ era, all that Tamla/Norman Whitfield stuff, there’s no topping it.

The Everly Brothers

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

everlywakeps, everly brothers, phil everly, don everly, cadence

Listen:  Wake Up Little Susie / The Everly Brothers EverlyWakeUp.mp3



everlycathy1,everly brothers, phil everly, don everly, cadence, warner brothers

Listen:  Cathy’s Clown / The Everly Brothers EverlyCathy.mp3



everlybabyoutjail, Everly brothers, phil everly, don everly, cadence, warner brothers

Listen: I’m Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail / The Everly Brothers EverlyJail.mp3



everlydontletwhole,Everly brothers, phil everly, don everly, cadence, warner brothers

Listen:  Don’t Let The Whole World Know / The Everly Brothers EverlyDontLet.mp3


Talk about remembering your childhood. ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ precedes mine, but I still seem to remember this record being out. I’m guessing it was played for years after hitting #1 in ’57. I’m pretty sure my babysitting cousin Peggy would let the changer keep repeating it endlessly on my parents Living Stereo console, during which she would lock me in the bathroom, while she and her boyfriend made out (I’m guessing). 

There’s something to be said about siblings, and how their voices are magic together. The McGuire Sisters, or Ray and Dave Davies – you’d think John and Exene were family members sometimes. I wonder what Ron and Russell would sound like if they sang together?

Here’s something interesting, for what sounds like the ultimate white pop music, both ‘Wake Up Little Suzie’ and ‘Cathy’s Clown’ scaled to the #1 spot on the pop AND the RnB charts. Can you believe that!!!

After the brothers bailed  for Warner Brothers in 1960, their original label, Cadence, continued to release the odd single in the hopes of grabbing another hit. One such 7″: ‘I’m Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail’ snuck out in August ’62. Not as wild as the title suggests, it’s nonetheless grown on me over the years. The record’s humble chart run and placing (6 weeks, #76) in Billboard being part of the attraction. I love a flop.

By ’63 the hits had pretty much dried up – and not surprisingly, the British Invasion crippled them as it did so many other clean cut late 50′s/early 60′s teen stars. They released a version of ‘Love Her’ in that year, only to be usurped by The Walker Brothers rendition. In fact, ‘Don’t Let The Whole World Know’, the B side to ‘You’re My Girl’ (#110, 2/65), is a total cross between The Walker Brothers and The Cramps, two acts everyone, even The Everly Brothers, wishes they were like.

The Seeds

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

A Thousand Shadows / The Seeds

Listen: A Thousand Shadows/ The Seeds

I often find myself referring to records as night time or winter. Chris Blackwell once said of Marianne Faithfull, “She’s very much a wintertime artist”, making me quite happy to hear I wasn’t the only one who thought that way. Probably stems from, particularly in the case of night time, when I’d hear the actual music the most, or at least initially.

With The Seeds, I have confidence I never heard them during the day, not once, when they were current. In the northeast, they only were played at night, when the playlists loosened up a bit. Funny, given that on the west coast, like Love and X, they were pretty much mainstream which came with being local. Those singles by The Seeds are just imprinted as night time records for me, and I like that. They have a darkness and mystery to them, every last one. All a bit menacing, due to the eerie keyboards mostly. Sky Saxon is one of a kind too, you just never mistake his voice. When ‘A Thousand Shadows’ was released in summer ’67, it coincided with my first ever radio show, Friday nights from 6 – 8 pm on the very small, very local AM station WMCR. I had successfully been blagging records off them for about two years at that point.

I lied. Told them I was from the local Children’s Hospital and seeking donations of their unplayed teen records, as their format was adult contemporary at the time. And I mean very adult, your parent’s music if you will: Mel Torme, Steve Lawrence, Eddie Fisher. We turned our nose at this stuff, but would go home and freak out to Scott Walker. In hindsight, it was pretty much the same sound but with a much better haircut admittedly. Mark Warner, then evening DJ while home from college for the summer, got me the job, I think, once he went back to school in the fall. His parents owned the station. They knew all along the donation drill was a scam, but figured they weren’t using the records anyways, and Mark’s Mom coined me that clever little boy that loves his music. That was the last time I ever heard that one, but bless her. I got a radio show out of it instead of being ratted on. Mind you, it only lasted a few weeks into the school year.

About seven years ago, December ’01 to be exact, when I went home to visit my Mom and Dad, I just drove by for the heck of it and decided to ring the bell. It was Christmas Eve, lo and behold, Mrs. Warner was there and still in charge! She was so sweet, welcomed me right inside. The place was pretty much the same, still had the two Gates turntables in the control room. She even took me downstairs to see what was left of the record library. “If you see something you really want now, I’m sure it won’t be missed”. All these years later, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

The Seeds were the first band I played, ever, on the radio. The theme of the show was to pretty much stick with the latest sounds from England, so how The Seeds got the first spin…but they did.