25 Albums – London Calls #1

The punk rock explosion lasted from 1976 until the tail end of 1979. I have done my best to chronicle those years, starting with the first Ramones album. I am sure I missed a lot of albums that other punk fans may call me out on, but for me, these were the albums that mattered to me.

This brings me to what I believe is the end of the punk era. the last great album.

It’s by a band that already made their mark on the movement. The Clash. The album was a double album. I believe, the first double album of the punks. “London Calling”. This album belongs at number one, for me, not for the fact that it is the last album of the era, but because it’s absolutely brilliant.

The Clash were always a little better than everyone else. We knew if any band was to come out with something legitimate, it would be them. And it was. They lived up to their hype, They delivered London Calling.

I can go song by song, but there is virtually no filler on this masterpiece. The production, the attitude, the energy, and the songs are just perfect.

Joe Strummer at his best, Mick Jones at his best.

Songs like “Hateful”, “Death Or Glory”, “London Calling”, “Lost In The Supermarket”, are classics. They are played on the radio today. The Clash finally cemented themselves as a legitimate band. They got the respect. They earned it. Even ass-hat Billy Joel probably respects them.

Saw The Clash in 1979. In fact, I was at the concert at The Palladium where the front photo of this album was taken. I remember seeing the Who the week before and after the Clash, saying, the Clash blew The Who away. They did.

After this album, the punk scene changed. It was over for good.

The Clash never came close to topping London Calling. “Sandanista” was an abomination, and the few that followed just didn’t work for me.

This was the end.

Rest in Peace Joe Strummer, you brilliant bastard.

The Clash – Death Or Glory http://youtu.be/MwzMuuGOsVI

25 Albums – Some Nerve #2

Since I was a loyal punk rocker I had made it a point to hate anything related to corporate rock, old-time rock stars, and anything popular. With the exception of the KinKs, who never achieved the level of popularity to be angry at, I hated all the big name stars. Even the Who to a certain extent. As much as I loved the early stuff, Pete Townshend was very outspoken about the punk movement claiming it was unoriginal. Jealousy. Billy Joel, who I hated anyway, had the audacity to put out an awful song “Still Rock n Roll To Me”, which was a blatant attack on the whole scene. again, jealousy from an irrelevant hack.

Yes, I was pissed. I only liked the new music. Anything put out by Yes, or Led Zeppelin was laughable to me. I hated it before hearing one note.

But then…

The Rolling Stones  came out  of hibernation to release an album called “Some Girls”. Believe me I wanted to hate it so bad. But I didn’t. The Stones managed to release an album that somehow was relevant in the midst of the punk explosion. This is just a fun rock n roll album. They didn’t put it down, they joined in.

The album opened up with a disco style “Miss You”. I wasn’t that impressed but I didn’t hate the song. Then, BOOOM. The Stones let loose with “When The Whip Comes Down”, “Respectable”, “Lies” and “Shattered”. These guys were as good as any of the punk bands. They should have been. They were the Rolling Stones for crying out loud.

What I really loved about this album is they didn’t try to imitate or degrade the punk movement. They just did what they did best. I was a rejuvenated Rolling Stones fan. I respect them, admire them and love them dearly. Great job Mick and Keith.

I was fortunate to see The Rolling Stones during the Some Girls tour at an unannoucned warm up gig they did at The Capital Theater in New Jersey. Alan Tesman (RIP), a buddy from Record World, got tickets from his father who worked for Warner Bros. records. It was a spur of the moment opportunity. I woke up that morning like any other morning, and that night I was in the 10th row seeing The Rolling Stones. I am still tingling as I am writing about it now. I remember saying “I could die after this show and my life would be complete”. That good.

I hope they go for another 50 years….well maybe not..

Here is my absolute favorite clip of the boys. You can’t sit down during this performance. BRILLIANT

Rolling Stones – Respectable http://youtu.be/ptDz5BwAgXQ

25 Albums – Atomic surf punk #3

It seemed like America wasn’t through being creative. Devo was just the tip of the iceberg. Other bands started to emerge from other places other than New York and London. Athens Georga was the birthplace of a band that I can only describe as Atomic beach Punk. I am speaking of one of my all-time favorite bands, The B-52’s.

Once again, introduced through a 45 called “Rock Lobster” backed with the equally amazing “52 Girls”, this was party music for the in crowd. The B-52’s really struck a chord with me. It was everything that made me love bands like Blondie and the Ramones. Just pure fun.

The album arrived. Bright yellow with the oddest collection of characters on the front cover. It looked like a cartoon from the space age. And the opening track “Planet Claire” secured my thoughts. This was space punk at it’s best.

The two girls were Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson. They wore beehive hairdos and intergalactic clothes. They howled and yelled their songs. In the middle of all this was the ever-present and flamboyant Fred Schneider, yelling back to the girls.

Ricky Wilson and Keith Strickland provided guitar work that was right out of the 50’s beach blanket bingo meets Creature from the black lagoon. It was campy, fun, stylish and smart. All the things I loved.

I can tell you that my first date with Margie was a B-52’s concert at The Paramount in bayshore. A small little bar. It was an event. What a great show.

Saw them about 5 times since and they have not changed. Still great fun. Cindy Wilson has one of the best voices in music. Underappreciated but certainly influential. listen to the Ting Tings and tell me they didn’t listen to the B-52’s.

First album was wonderful. I love every song. Wild Planet was also great. Their career was interrupted when Ricky WIlson (Cindy’s brother) died of AIDS. Cindy quit the band for years. It wasn’t the same without her.

They have since reunited and just a couple of years ago put out a fantastic album called Funplex. You should buy it. TODAY.

And they still tour and they are still one of the best live bands around.

B 52’s Planet Claire http://youtu.be/47YAcpCa5dM

Reasons I Hate Billy Joel

If you have been following my blog (which I hope you have…and it’s not too late to start now), you may have noticed my intermittent jabs at Billy Joel. I hate a lot of music. Anything mainstream, corporate or unimaginative falls into that category. I could make a list. In fact I think I will.

Top Ten Bands or Artists I hate:

10. Rush (sorry Steve D. Neil Peart puts me to sleep)

9. U2 (Joshua Tree and the first album are listenable, otherwise…blech)

8. Bruce Springsteen (stop yelling you’re gonna pop a blood vessel)

7. John Cougar Mellancamp (Deloite, Haskins and Sells)

6. Journey (please stop believing that they’re good)

5. Asia (How do members of great bands make such shitty music)

4. Kiss (can’t get more corporate than Kiss…Kiss my ass)

3. Grateful Dead (sorry…I just don’t get it)

2. Bon Jovi (the godfathers of crap rock)

NUMBER ONE MOST HATED WITH A BULLET:

1. BILLY JOEL

HATE him.

He is the poster boy for Long Island. They might as well make him the mayor and be done with it. Everybody claims to have met him, know him personally, did the plumbing in his house, knew the red-haired girl he did it with in the Chevrolet, went to high school with him. By the way, how many high schools did he go to? I have heard Westbury, Cold Spring Harbor, Hickville. Don’t answer this blog post with the correct answer. I don’t care

I hate the guy.

He is an arrogant, egotistical Elton John/Paul McCartney wannabe hack.

He divorced Christie Brinkley and his newest 23 year old hot little bride. He dated and broke up with Trish Bergin (News12 hottie..I know because I met her), and countless other beautiful women who called him a nasty fat old drunk.

People tell me he is a great songwriter. How many great songwriters stop writing songs but continue to make money in boatloads.

Billy Joel has not written a song in 16 years, a good song in 35 years.

He’s a bum who sells out stadiums doing the same old tired, overplayed, mediocre songs. He is the furthest thing from an artist in the history of music.

The ultimate insult to all things great about music is when he sold out at Citifield showing a movie of his concert at Shea Stadium. Are you kidding me?

Fuck you Billy Joel and all the tribute bands that continue to make money playing your shit ass music.

DON’T sing me a song and don’t drive anywhere near my house you drunk idiot.

I am NOT sorry…

All hate mail will be posted…so fire away…

no song clip – couldn’t find one

25 Albums – Round on the end HI in the middle #4

A steady flow of new music was coming from the UK and the New York punk scene was on its last leg. The Ramones were still brilliant. Blondie had polished up and were already a hit in the pop charts. There seemed to be nothing new and creative for at least two weeks. In those days, that was a long time.

Going to my usual spot on the Record Stop wall to see what new singles were available. Nipo points out one that he considered to be the weirdest thing he had heard. Coming from Nipo, that meant something.

The cover was guys who looked sort of robotic wearing gym shorts. Above it said De-Evolution – Jocko Homo / Mongoloid. What? Ok. Of course this had to be listened to.

The band was Devo. They were from Akron Ohio. The concept was de-evolution. the human race was devolving, or getting stupider and we would some day get to the point of no return. (like that would ever happen….um…wait)

The song was very strange. It sounded like it was recorded in a basement and had an odd synthesizer sound and the vocals were foreign to me. Like nothing I had ever heard before. Of course I loved it. No surprise there.

Devo quickly became an interesting band I wanted to know more about. They were more than just a rock band, or a punk band. Devo was a concept. Not a concept like prog-rock(ugh). More like Einstein meets David Bowie meets Brian Eno.

And of course, good old Brian Eno jumps on the bandwagon and produces the first album.

By the time Devo’s first album came out, they were already a sensation, among the knowing. Like many punk acts before, a highly anticipated debut. Also, like many punk bands before, they delivered much more than expected.

“Are We not Men, We Are Devo” is a full on assault of high-powered punk rock but with all the elements of a B-Movie and a physics lab that just blew up. If that doesn’t make any sense, it describes Devo to a tee, I think.

Devo hit Saturday Night Live and literally became an overnight sensation. I remember seeing them at the Bottom Line and the line to get in was around the block. It was a happening. It was exciting. it was the beginning of De-evolution. The 80’s were coming and Devo was the band to watch.

I loved the first album from the opening chords of “Uncontrollable Urge”, which sounded a bit like I Wanna Hold Your Hand,  to the loungy jazz of “Shrivel up”. This album is amazing. It’s clever, funny and just the right amount of sexual double entendre to make it fun.

I am proud to say I got a hold of an actual Devo suit (yellow jumpsuit) which I wore at Record World once and even to a Halloween party. needless to say, people were confused. Good times.

Devo followed up with more brilliant albums. “Duty Now For the Future” further explores the de-evolution theme and is probably my favorite Devo album. “Freedom Of Choice” exalted them into stardom with the hit “Whip It” which was celebrated more as a novelty song than art. Oh well.

Still all three albums were brilliant.

Devo still tours today and I am proud to say I have seen them recently. They are still great. They recently put out a great album, “Something For Everybody” which proves their talent was well beyond the novelty they were pegged as back in the day.

DeVo – Jocko Homo http://youtu.be/OBmRGS1CenI

25 Album – Jesus Of Cool #5

Finally, Stiff’s poster boy, Nick Lowe released an album of his own. Nick had been behind the scenes but already achieved legendary status by the hordes of fans and admirers of the new Brit movement.

We already know about Nick’s keen sense of humor. For instance, David Bowie had an album called “Low”, so Nick Lowe decided to release an EP, called “Bowi” It was this kind of tongue in cheek swipe at the corporate rock world that Nick and company had become famous for.

By this time, Nick, and Elvis had left Stiff Records and started their own Radar records in the UK. Nick Lowe’s album was entitled “Jesus of Cool”. Probably one of the greatest album titles in history. The cover was 6 frames of Nick in various poses denoting every genre of music.

But Nick wasn’t fooling anybody. This was a pop album. It had some rock n roll undertones and the punk attitude was nowhere to be found. But it didn’t matter. The quality of the songs and the smart hilarious lyrics were enough to catch my attention.

Nick Lowe followed in Elvis Costello’s footsteps by signing on to Columbia records in the States. However, they felt the title “Jesus of Cool” might be deemed as offensive. Not sure why. I mean Jesus was cool, why not Nick ?

Anyway, impressively enough, they came up with an equally clever title “Pure Pop For Now People” I am sure Nick had something to do with it.

Regardless of the title, this is a brilliant album. Filled with quirky, delightful, original pop songs. Why this album never soared to the top of the charts is beyond me, but it was out when The Village People was number one, so I guess I answered my own question.

Opening with the familiar, “So It Goes”, onto the Paul Simonesque “I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass’. Highlights are “Marie Provost” about a silent film star who died way after her star had fallen . Nobody knew she had died and her dachshund dogs ate part of her corpse. Hence the lyric “she was a winner that became the doggies dinner” Tongue implanted firmly in cheek, he continued with a tribute to The Bay City Rollers in “Rollers Show”, a pop ditty about Fidel Castro called “Nutted By Reality” and many more. This album was a joy and Nick Lowe was a delight. Unfortunately nobody caught on.

Nick teamed up with rock n roller Dave Edmunds to form Rockpile, which in my estimation, turned out to be one of the best live bands I had ever seen. Pure Chuck Berry style fun rock n roll like few others.

The story goes that Rockpile had to stop touring because every band they opened for could not follow them.

Nick made a bunch of albums but none topped his debut. He still records and tours as a country balladeer, as he calls himself. A clever, funny, talented man.

Nick Lowe – Breaking Glass http://youtu.be/JhvjTcPRYy4

25 Albums – Boots and Panties #6

Completely absorbed in everything Stiff (Records), I was buying every Stiff single. One caught me as quite amusing. An anthemic “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” by Ian Dury. A jazzy rock riff played in the back of this low gravely voiced old mannish looking deviant. I was reading a lot about the whole movement in a British magazine called Trouser Press. This weekly zine covered the newest music and was required reading. They had already grabbed onto the whole Stiff movement (ugh. hard to avoid the puns).

Ian Dury and his band The Blockheads released their first Stiff album. It had the funniest cover. An old man outside some kind of store that could have been a sex shop. The title of “New Boots And Panties” gave you an idea of what kind of theme this guy was going for. Not sure why he is standing next to a small boy, but that is a little creepy.

Once again, Stiff managed to find a diamond in the rough. Ian Dury was a pub rocker with a band called Killburn & The Highroads. He now surrounded himself with some of the finest musicians I had heard. The funky jazz pub sound of The Blockheads was infectious.

Ian Dury’s half singing/half talking vocals were a perfect fit for this seedy, depraved sound. Many of  the songs have sexual undertones. THe rest were not so subtle. This album was one of my favorites and I could not get it off the turntable.

Ian Dury was disabled. Apparently he had polio. Who they hell gets polio in 1977. It didn’t matter. The music was great. The album was great and Ian was a star, to me.

Of course he never made it in the states, other than a novelty act. He had a semi-hit with “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”, which I guess was in the collection of many a Dominatrix back in the day.

Ian Dury toured with the Stiffs Live tour which included all the Stiff artists. Apparently, he could not be followed and usually closed the show.

Unfortunately he passed away about 10 years ago after losing a battle to colon cancer.

A sad loss. What a talented man.

Ian Dury – Wake Up http://youtu.be/c-VeOakGGPQ

25 Albums – Elvis Is King #7

Stiff Records was in full swing. The first couple of albums came out. The Damned was the first album, produced by Nick Lowe, of course. The Damned were a typical punk rock, three chord band, but fun as all hell to listen to. The song “New Rose” still remains as one of my all time favorite punk songs. They went on to cult status and still make albums today.

Finally, Elvis Costello’s long anticipated first album was released. Again, Nick Lowe produced. I couldn’t wait to hear what else this guy was thinking. He was already a legend and deemed as the new “Dylan” with his apparent songwriting prowess.

“My Aim Is True” showed our hero in a Buddy Holly stance holding his guitar like a machine gun. He was ready to fire away. And he did.

From the opening assault of “Welcome To the Working Week”, My Aim is True is a masterpiece. This album is chockfull of classic Costello. “Miracle Man”, “No Dancing”, “Red Shoes”, “Waiting For The End Of The World”. Anger, bitterness, double entendre and brilliant wordplay ensued. A tender ballad called “Alison” was cleverly disguised since it was clearly about murdering an ex-girlfriend who Elvis finds is made unhappy by her new husband. “I think somebody better put out the big light cuz I can’t stand to see you this way. My aim is true” (sincerity in murder)

What an entrance Elvis made. The critics were in love. WNEW and WPIX, the only two radio stations not playing Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, were infatuated with this new find. Could this be the artist that breaks it all wide open?

Elvis was signed by Columbia Records. The corporate giant that Stiff Records worked so hard to rebel against was now embracing one of their own. I imagine there must have been some mixed emotions. It was the beginning of the end of Stiff Records, and perhaps the entire punk rock movement. Elvis went where others failed. into the mainstream. Or so it seemed.

The masses were not amused, especially in the US. They didn’t get the joke. The audacity to call himself Elvis. Who the hell is this guy? Hatred for Elvis was so evident that even I, the rebel with a cause, hid my admiration for the new King. However, the Elvis cult was already in full force.

Elvis turned out to be more than advertised. Writing a song practically every week. He released more material in three years than probably any artist in history. the guy was prolific, smart and a music aficionado. He combined styles of music and threw them in a blender and created his own sound. Lyrics about suicide, pain, guilt, anger, bitterness, stalking, and self-destruction. He didn’t get screwed over by the opposite sex. He got even. All this under the guise of pop hooks galore. Sometimes three or four different hooks in the same song.

The first four Elvis Costello albums are perfect, covering every genre with expertise. “My Aim Is True”, “This Year’s Model”, “Armed Forces” and “Get Happy” are four amazing records. He takes time to enjoy for some, but worth the time.

Through his 35 year career, he went country, jazz, opera, classical, and lounge and back to rock, pop and back to country. Elvis does what Elvis does. He has earned a ridiculous amount of respect and no hit singles. He collaborated with everybody from Burt Bacharach, Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, Allen Toussaint, and just seems to show up everywhere.

To this day, he remains one of the best songwriters of the past 35 years. Misunderstood by many, even me. He is never afraid to change direction and he fails, sometimes miserably, but he doesn’t care. I admire his tenacity and bravery.

Seen him live a dozen times and always love his performance. it’s like hanging out with an old friend.

Forever a fan, forever forgiving. Forever waiting for his next release to be something as good as those first four.

Elvis is King !

Elvis Costello – Red Shoes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ab_IO-SlK5w&feature=share&list=PL2D1651E432F8B4C2

if it ain’t stiff it ain’t worth a f**k

The UK punk scene was fast and furious. Unfortunately, it was met with resistance from the powers that be. Bands like The Vibrators, Buzzcocks and certainly The Sex Pistols were banned from many clubs due to indecency laws. The kids were turning the whole punk craze into some kind of fashion statement, wearing safety pins in their cheeks, coloring and spiking their hair. I think the music got lost in the flurry of negative attention.

However, somewhere in London, something was afoot (as Sherlock Holmes might say). a pub rock scene was emerging. Bands were cropping up in small taverns and gaining momentum but gainfully ignored by the massive corporate record companies. A couple of millionaires decided to pick up on this growing trend and started their own record company. In England, when a record didn’t hit the charts it was called a stiff. The artist rarely got a second chance. They just muddled around in the underground scene until they faded away.

With the emergence and hunger for new music, two guys named Jake Riviera and Dave Robinson formed Stiff Records and a new era was born. It was perfect timing for a genius idea. They monopolized on the idea of signing artists that were deemed as “stiffs” by the record companies. Using clever slogans such as “if it ain’t stiff it aint worth a fuck” and releasing singles almost weekly, they were building the future of some of the greatest music to come out of Britain.

Stiff singles would hit Record Stop each week and I bought them in order. Nick Lowe, crowned as the biggest stiff, had been part of a pub rock band called Brinsley Schwartz in the early 70’s and was completely ignored more than any other artist. He quickly became the poster child for Stiff Records. He recorded, produced and served as A & R and PR man, and all around office boy of Stiff.

Stiff #1 had to be by Nick Lowe. The song was “So It Goes” and it was a welcomed change from the previous punk releases from the UK. It was pop music with an edge. I immediately became a fan. I couldn’t wait for the next Stiff single. The first 10 were great. Bands like The Damned, Tyla Gang, Pink Fairies were all great, but it was Stiff #11 that changed my life, at the time.

Stiff #11 –  It was a reggae inspired pop ditty sung by this bespectacled nerdy looking guy with a funny name. Elvis Costello, “Less Than Zero”. Elvis Presley died in August of 1977. He was still fresh in the ground and this guy has the balls to call himself Elvis? I became not only quite enamored with Elvis Costello, but a huge fan for years. I have forgiven him a million times over the years, but still find him amazing. More on Elvis coming up in the next post. I loved the whole Stiff concept. Bought every single.

Stiff went on to sign many great acts like Ian Dury, Lene Lovich, Wreckless Eric, and later dug into the US with acts like Devo, Rachel Sweet and Madness.

Like anything great, egos, money, and fame destroyed Stiff records, but the legacy lives on.

Great music and some of my all-time favorite artists originated from these guys. They saved the punk explosion from becoming a footnote in rock n roll history.

They opened my eyes and ears to another genre of music.

Documentary film “If It Ain’t Stiff” Part 1 (follow it to the last part) http://youtu.be/-iSzS9lGBbo

Nick Lowe – So It Goes http://youtu.be/5yN40x82FWU