About Me

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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Crowd Of People Stood And Stared: The Relative Popularity Of VIRTUAL TICKET STUB GALLERY



My series Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery has given me an opportunity to look back at concerts I've seen, and to comment at length about what the show and performers meant to me, then and now. I've also done two sidebar entries on opening acts (with a third one coming), and two preambles to my first Paul McCartney show (Maybe I'm Amazed and Paul McCartney [introduction]). Here are links to the eight full-fledged Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery posts I've published so far, ranked from most-viewed to least-viewed.

1. Paul McCartney



The culmination of a life-long dream come true: seeing Paul McCartney in concert! The reality of this 2017 show matched the dream in my mind, resulting in an unforgettable experience that I needed to document in detail.

2. The Beatles Live 1976



My only fictional Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery to date, detailing an imaginary 1976 reunion of the act you've known for all these years. I tried to ground this in some semblance of the real world, though it is nonetheless a flight of pure fancy. It was an absolute blast to write.

3. The Monkees



When I was younger, the idea of seeing The Monkees in concert was an attractive fantasy nearly on a par with seeing The Beatles. But I wound up seeing The Monkees three times. This piece tells the story of my Monkees fandom, of seeing the Davy-Micky-Peter group in 1986 and 1987, of seeing Michael, Micky, and Peter in 2012, and of the emotional connections and personal crises wrapped up and tethered to my Monkees experiences.

4. The Ramones, The Runaways, and The Flashcubes




Easter break 1978: four bucks to see The Ramones, The Runaways, and The Flashcubes. Is it a spoiler to say this was the best four bucks I ever spent?

5. Elvis Costello & the Attractions



More teen drama, this time attached to a 1978 Elvis Costello show, and my attempts to grow up.

6. Brian Wilson, Herman's Hermits, and the Pet Sounds Of The Soul



We pause our reflections of my teen drama for a little middle-aged drama, surrounding a bad day in 2016 ameliorated a bit by an opportunity to see Brian Wilson perform Pet Sounds.

7. My First Flashcubes Show



January 28th of this month marks the 40th anniversary of the first time I saw Syracuse's own power pop powerhouse The Flashcubes take a stage and burn it down. It left a mark.

8. KISS



My first rock concert, December 1976. Yeah, Gene Simmons is a jerk. Sure, KISS isn't and has never been universally adored. Nonetheless, this show meant an awful lot to me.



I've been toying with the notion of writing a Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery about the first time I saw The Kinks, and I look forward to diving into that one soon. Take your seats before you stand on them--the show's about to start.

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You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 


Our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin' pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins' BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Relative Popularity Of THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE



One of my favorite features on Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) has been the ongoing series The Greatest Record Ever Made. These are just terrific opportunities for me to riff on whatever song captures my fancy. Pop music's appeal is timeless, but it's also gloriously ephemeral, in the moment. The song you're listening to right now can truly be The Greatest Record Ever Made. The next song you hear could very well replace that one on its perch, or you may choose to keep listening to the first song, over and over, because no other song will do, in the moment. Hence my series' tagline: An infinite number of rockin' pop records can be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns.

That said, some entries in The Greatest Record Ever Made are more popular than other entries in The Greatest Record Ever Made. Here's a ranking of all 14 TGREs to date, from most-viewed to least:

1. THE FIRST CLASS: "Beach Baby"



Not only is this the most-viewed entry in The Greatest Record Ever Made, it's the single most-viewed post in the long and storied history of Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do). I have no idea why this particular piece took off the way it did, but fans of singer Tony Burrows latched on to it and propelled it to the tippy-top.

2. BARON DAEMON & THE VAMPIRES: "The Transylvania Twist"



Why do I write a blog? So that I can experience the personal satisfaction of crafting bits like this ode to Syracuse's TV vampire Baron Daemon. I had such fun writing this, and I think my enthusiasm shows.

3. THE DAVE CLARK FIVE: "Any Way You Want It"



By the time I became a college freshman in 1977-'78, I had developed a belligerent and tenacious affection for the music of The Dave Clark Five. And I would eagerly dig in my heels to extol the virtues of The Tottenham Sound versus whatever odious gumbo of Eagles/Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage yawn-a-thon served as the soundtrack of my peers. One would presume the accumulated maturity of passing decades mighta softened my stance a smidge. But screw that. I was right. They were wrong!

4. BIG STAR: "September Gurls"



I think this was the first track I ever proclaimed The Greatest Record Ever Made, even before it dawned on me that TGREs could take turns.

5. THE RAMONES: "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker"



Of all the songs I've adored over the years, "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" is the only one I can point to and say, "That record changed my life."

6. THE BEATLES: "Hey Jude"



Perhaps the least likely for me among these choices for Greatest Record Ever Made, considering that I kinda got sick of the damned song. But looking forward to my first Paul McCartney concert in September of 2017 prompted a reassessment.

7. THE DRIFTERS: "On Broadway"



Always magic in the air! An unfortunate byproduct of my above-mentioned DC5 devotion in '77 was that I briefly considered The Dave Clark Five's cover of "On Broadway" to be the definitive version. That was crazy. I know better now.

8. THE BEATLES: "Rain"



Awright. We wanna forget about taking turns? We wanna pick ONE song that is THE Greatest Record Ever Made? Well. It's "Rain."

9. THE KINKS: "You Really Got Me"



Unless it's "You Really Got Me."

10. BADFINGER: "Baby Blue"



Badfinger's "Baby Blue" was the subject of this blog's first edition of The Greatest Record Ever Made, and the defining single from the days of my purest AM radio worship.

11. WILSON PICKETT: "In The Midnight Hour"



God, I love this record. I love the circumstances that led me to discover how much I loved it, and I love every precise but sweaty nuance of its execution.

12. CHUCK BERRY: "Promised Land"



When it comes to the subject of inductions into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, I'm a big-tent kind of guy. If an act is worthy of being nominated, I say they're worthy of being inducted. Rock 'n' roll should honor its own. But if we want to go the other way, and say that this RnRHOF can honor just one artist, and one artist only, then that artist has to be Chuck Berry. And I would be okay with that.

13. CRAZY ELEPHANT: "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'"



It occurred to me there was nothing preventing a fake studio band from somehow producing The Greatest Record Ever Made. Given how few people read this, maybe I was mistaken....

14. GRAND FUNK: "We're An American Band"



A July 4th entry, and no one took it seriously, I guess. But I meant it. In the moment, I meant it.




So far, only The Beatles have rated two separate entries in The Greatest Record Ever Made, and they'll likely appear here again (as will The Kinks). I haven't yet gotten around to TGREs by The MonkeesThe Flamin' Groovies, Dusty Springfield, Eytan MirskyP. P. ArnoldThe Beach Boys, Lulu, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, or The MC5, but their times are coming, too. Someone's gotta give "Beach Baby" a run for its money. In the moment, at least. In the moment.



TIP THE BLOGGER: CC's Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin' pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins' BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Tonight On THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO

I confess that my heart just isn't in it tonight, so Dana's assuming sole control over this week's selection of the platters that matter. But make no mistake: both Dana and I are so locked in to the vision of what This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio is and should be that it really doesn't make much difference whether it's Dana & Carl or either one of us flying solo. It's still, and always, The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet. My heart's in THAT for sure. Sunday night, 9 to Midnight Eastern, Spark WSPJ-LP Syracuse 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on line at sparksyracuse.org.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Cindy



When she was six years old, our daughter Meghan wanted a kitty. Specifically, Meghan wanted a girl kitty.

Neither Brenda nor I had ever owned a cat before. I had a dog named Bear when I was young; Brenda lived in city apartments growing up, so she never had a pet at all. Brenda and I had successfully served as catsitters for friends on a couple of isolated occasions, but were otherwise complete novices at feline care and nurture. Nonetheless, Meghan's heart was set, and we saw no reason to deny her wish. In September of 2001, the three of us ventured to the ASPCA to learn what we'd need to do to adopt a kitten. On September 8th, mother and daughter returned to the ASPCA; I met our newest family member when I got home from work that night.

She was the runt of the litter, the only female, a tiny little wisp of black fur that fit neatly in my hand. At the shelter, Meghan was asked what she was going to name her new kitten. "Sarah," she replied, adding that she had a doll named Sarah. When the person at the shelter asked her if that wouldn't be confusing, having a doll and a kitty that shared the same name, Meghan thought for a second and said, "Cindy." Welcome to the family, little Cindy.



She made herself at home by pooping on the carpet in front of our fish tank. But we loved her immediately.

The following Wednesday, September 12th, Cindy and I stayed home watching TV, my mind reeling with horror and sadness as the news coverage of 9/11 made me want to cuddle with our kitty even more. Better times would come soon enough. My heart swells as I remember the sixteen years and four months that tumbled forth thereafter. Mommy, Daddy, Meghan, and Cindy--a happy family.


We joked that Cindy was really Brenda's cat. Brenda took care of Cindy more often than Meghan or I did, and there was a bond between them that nothing could interrupt. As soon as Brenda sat down on the couch, Cindy was there, on Brenda's lap at first, then sprawled over Brenda's shoulder like a feline wrap. Brenda's shoulder was Cindy's second favorite place in the world. (Cindy's first favorite place, of course, was any warm pile of freshly-dried laundry.)

But Cindy loved Meghan and me, too. Aside from the people working at the vet's office, I was the only person in the world who ever clipped Cindy's nails. She resisted when she was little, but got used to it and, frankly, preferred me to the vet anyway. When I watched TV at night, Cindy would plop herself across my shoulder as an acceptable substitute for Mommy. Afternoons, Cindy could hear the sound of school buses outside, and she looked to the door, waiting for Meghan to return. She kept looking, even after Meghan had gone away to college. She often curled up on Meghan's bed to sleep. And she joined Brenda and me on the couch when she heard Meghan's voice on the iPad, Skyping us from school. Cindy loved all of us.






We were the only people Cindy loved, actually. Cindy viewed friends, neighbors, even family members as intruders, and shunned them. No one but the three of us ever understood how loving our kitty could be.

Saying goodbye to her is every bit as difficult as I knew it would be. Time is the enemy. Cindy was healthy for most of her life, and then, suddenly, she wasn't anymore. She deteriorated swiftly. We knew the end was near, and scheduled a final visit to the vet. She was unable to sustain herself that long. On Saturday night, surrounded by the three people she loved, the three people who loved her, Cindy took her last breath.

Someday--someday soon--the immediacy of this pain will ebb. We will ache, and we will mourn, but we will remember with even greater clarity the joy that Cindy brought into our lives. Our daughter wanted a kitty. We all got a treasure that will live in our hearts for all of our days. God bless you, Cindy.





Five Songs I've Loved (Nearly) My Entire Life

This was originally distributed to patrons of Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) on December 14, 2017, and published by Love Letters 2 Rock N Roll on January 5, 2018.

Top of the world, Ma! Er...actually my brother Rob and my Dad with me in the aftermath of the blizzard of '66, roughly two weeks after my sixth birthday, 
Love Letters 2 Rock N Roll asked its contributors to come up with lists of five songs we have loved our entire life. I will be 58 in January, so I figure anything I loved prior to turning a world-weary six years old in 1966 is fair game, provided I still love it now as I did then.

And there is indeed quite a lot I loved a lot, and never stopped loving. I mean, 1966 through 1968 encompasses a wonder world of pop music. The ensuing years and decades brought me even more. But for me, it all started before that. It was a decent time to be an apprentice pop fan, eagerly learning whatever the radio, the TV, and the family record player could teach me. 1966 would bring a whole new cascade of personal discoveries: Batman, The Monkees, Marvel ComicsLesley Gore, my first plane trip, my first surgery, and my first broken heart (courtesy of six-year-old Suzette Mauro). Before I turned six in '66? Here are but five among many that have never left me.

CAST OF WEST SIDE STORY: "America"



My earliest memories stretch back to 1963, when I was three years old. I have no conscious memory of a time before I loved music. It's likely there never was any time when I didn't love music. As a little, little kid, I used to pick up 45s and spin them on my fingers, pretending I was a record player, warbling the single aloud as it "played" in my hand.. The fact that I could match the 45 with the correct song convinced many that I could read at the age of three or four, but I'd memorized which label went with which catchy tune. I also loved my parents' Broadway show LPs; I was known to blurt out lyrics at inopportune moments in public, like the time I was in a department store and loudly and proudly sang out the line "Here's to the son of a B, tra la!" from Carnival (which is still one of my favorite plays). Yeah, I was a joy to be around. My favorite show album was actually the movie soundtrack from West Side Story. I didn't understand its urban milieu, social commentary, and Romeo & Juliet storyline until many years later; I dug the tunes immediately. "Gee, Officer Krupke" was my favorite, but I loved the song "America" nearly as much, and it has stayed with me ever since.




EYDIE GORME: "Blame It On The Bossa Nova"



Both of my parents worked. I often stayed with my Godparents the Klusyks, my Aunt Connie and Uncle Nick. I remember their house in Westvale, in Syracuse's Western suburbs. I remember my first girlfriend, four- or five-year-old Mary Rose Tamborelli, who lived across the street from the Klusyks. I remember Mary Rose's older brother playfully popping a toy percussion cap with his baseball bat in the Klusyks' garage. I remember the neighborhood teens and/or pre-teens having a party one evening in the Klusyks' basement, with li'l toddler me right down there with them, helping the big kids listen to their Four Seasons records; the music got too loud, and the adults killed the light as a warning to the kids to quiet down already. I was afraid of the dark, and this move freaked me out, prompting me to wail, upset and inconsolable. I remember the sight of my parents' car pulling into the Klusyk's driveway to take me home at the end of one of my Westvale stays. Good times.

But my most prominent memory of life at stately Klusyk Manor remains music with my Aunt Anna. Aunt Anna was Uncle Nick's sister, and she lived with Uncle Nick and Aunt Connie. Every week day that I was there, I would greet Aunt Anna when she got home from work with one simple, urgent request: "Records, Aunt Anna!" Aunt Anna had 45s. I wanted to hear those 45s, again and again. I specifically remember Chubby Checker's "The Twist" as a Fave Rave, and ditto for "Downtown" by Petula Clark. I'm sure she had some Beatles records, too. My favorite songs were "Who Stole The Keeshka?" by Frankie Yankovic and "Blame It On The Bossa Nova" by Eydie Gorme. I can't even tell you for sure whether or not those were among Aunt Anna's 7" slabs o' bliss, but the memories of all of this--all of this--dovetail together so pleasantly in my mind, a happy image of music and love, a heaven on Earth abruptly terminated when Aunt Connie died in 1965. I was devastated, and this early lesson in mortality haunted me throughout the rest of my childhood. Even today, though, hearing "Blame It On The Bossa Nova" brings a smile, and transports me back to a cherished time I recall with affection and surprising clarity.

Mary Rose Tamborelli. No? Um...Suzette Mauro maybe? No...?
THE BEATLES: "A Hard Day's Night"



Even four-year-olds knew The Beatles in 1964. The Beatles were synonymous with pop music, with radio. "All My Loving" was an early favorite, sung by that guy I thought was named Paul MilkCartoney. But the whole giddy sense of Beatlemania is best represented by "A Hard Day's Night," the title tune from a movie I saw with my brother, sister, and cousins at The North Drive-In in Cicero in '64. All the girls in all the cars were screaming at the images on screen. I've often pointed to that experience as one of my three prevailing pop music epiphanies (along with hearing "Sheena Is  Punk Rocker" by The Ramones and seeing a live show by The Flashcubes). Aside from a few brief moments of doubt in the late '70s and early '80s, there has never really been a time when I didn't regard The Beatles as the greatest group in the history of rock 'n' roll.



THE ROLLING STONES: "Get Off Of My Cloud"



1965 was pop music's best year ever. I didn't truly start to appreciate the year's bounty until more than a decade later, when I began to discover essential '65 gems by The Kinks, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Buck Owens, The Yardbirds, The Beau Brummels, The Byrds, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Fontella Bass, The Small Faces, The Dixie Cups, The Vogues, The Who, The Zombies, The Miracles, The Hollies, George Jones, Stevie Wonder, and so, so many more. Whatta year! The best stuff was popular, and the popular stuff was the best.

Even if I had to wait until teendom to understand the splendor that was all around me when I was five, there was still much I knew as it happened. I certainly knew "Get Off Of My Cloud." I may not have had reason to believe The Rolling Stones were substantively different from contemporary hitmeisters like The Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits, The Castaways, or Gary Lewis & the Playboys, but I remember that voice bellowing out of transistor radios: Don't hang around boy, two's a crowd! At five, I thought the twisting of the familiar "Two's company, three's a crowd" maxim was interesting. This record was probably my introduction to the idea of a song having swagger.



THE T-BONES: "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)"



One of 1965's final hit records was a cover of the music from an Alka Seltzer commercial. See? Best pop year ever! Granted, The T-Bones's "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)" was really a 1966 hit--its Billboard chart peak at  # 3 was in February of '66--but it was released in December 1965, so...close enough, I say. I had the 45 on the Liberty Records label, and it was The Greatest Record Ever Made. I'd play that sucker on the family hi-fi, dancing around our little living room as the song created images in my daydreamin' little head. I would close my eyes. I swear, I could see the music. I saw colors, shapes, figures, even a brightly-garbed clown a-boppin' and a-swayin' to the tune. I was a weird kid. Still am. Almost fifty-two years later, the music still means as much to me as it meant when I was five, and as when I was three, when I was twelve, eighteen, twenty-four, thirty-six, forty, fifty, and on down the dark and twisting path ahead of me. It's best played loud. No matter what shape.


No matter what shape your pin-up's in.


TIP THE BLOGGER: CC's Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 


Our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin' pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins' BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.